Meet us on:
Entire Site
    Try our fun game

    Dueling book covers…may the best design win!

    Random Quote
    "Speak when you are angry--and you will make the best speech you'll ever regret."

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Follow us on Twitter

    Never miss a good book again! Follow Read Print on Twitter

    Act I

    • Rate it:
    Launch Reading Mode
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    A lady and gentleman are sitting together on a chesterfield in a
    retired corner of the lounge of a seaside hotel. It is a summer
    night: the French window behind them stands open. The terrace
    without overlooks a moonlit harbor. The lounge is dark. The
    chesterfield, upholstered in silver grey, and the two figures on
    it in evening dress, catch the light from an arc lamp somewhere;
    but the walls, covered with a dark green paper, are in gloom.
    There are two stray chairs, one on each side. On the gentleman's
    right, behind him up near the window, is an unused fireplace.
    Opposite it on the lady's left is a door. The gentleman is on the
    lady's right.

    The lady is very attractive, with a musical voice and soft
    appealing manners. She is young: that is, one feels sure that she
    is under thirty-five and over twenty-four. The gentleman does not
    look much older. He is rather handsome, and has ventured as far
    in the direction of poetic dandyism in the arrangement of his
    hair as any man who is not a professional artist can afford to in
    England. He is obviously very much in love with the lady, and is,
    in fact, yielding to an irresistible impulse to throw his arms
    around her.


    THE LADY. Don't--oh don't be horrid. Please, Mr. Lunn [she rises
    from the lounge and retreats behind it]! Promise me you won't be

    GREGORY LUNN. I'm not being horrid, Mrs. Juno. I'm not going to
    be horrid. I love you: that's all. I'm extraordinarily happy.

    MRS. JUNO. You will really be good?

    GREGORY. I'll be whatever you wish me to be. I tell you I love
    you. I love loving you. I don't want to be tired and sorry, as I
    should be if I were to be horrid. I don't want you to be tired
    and sorry. Do come and sit down again.

    MRS. JUNO [coming back to her seat]. You're sure you don't want
    anything you oughtn't to?

    GREGORY. Quite sure. I only want you [she recoils]. Don't be
    alarmed. I like wanting you. As long as I have a want, I have a
    reason for living. Satisfaction is death.

    MRS. JUNO. Yes; but the impulse to commit suicide is sometimes

    GREGORY. Not with you.

    MRS. JUNO. What!

    GREGORY. Oh, it sounds uncomplimentary; but it isn't really. Do
    you know why half the couples who find themselves situated as we
    are now behave horridly?

    MRS. JUNO. Because they can't help it if they let things go too

    GREGORY. Not a bit of it. It's because they have nothing else to
    do, and no other way of entertaining each other. You don't know
    what it is to be alone with a woman who has little beauty and
    less conversation. What is a man to do? She can't talk
    interestingly; and if he talks that way himself she doesn't
    understand him. He can't look at her: if he does, he only finds
    out that she isn't beautiful. Before the end of five minutes they
    are both hideously bored. There's only one thing that can save
    the situation; and that's what you call being horrid. With a
    beautiful, witty, kind woman, there's no time for such follies.
    It's so delightful to look at her, to listen to her voice, to
    hear all she has to say, that nothing else happens. That is why
    the woman who is supposed to have a thousand lovers seldom has
    one; whilst the stupid, graceless animals of women have dozens.

    MRS. JUNO. I wonder! It's quite true that when one feels in
    danger one talks like mad to stave it off, even when one doesn't
    quite want to stave it off.

    GREGORY. One never does quite want to stave it off. Danger is
    delicious. But death isn't. We court the danger; but the real
    delight is in escaping, after all.

    MRS. JUNO. I don't think we'll talk about it any more. Danger is
    all very well when you do escape; but sometimes one doesn't. I
    tell you frankly I don't feel as safe as you do--if you really

    GREGORY. But surely you can do as you please without injuring
    anyone, Mrs. Juno. That is the whole secret of your extraordinary
    charm for me.

    MRS. JUNO. I don't understand.

    GREGORY. Well, I hardly know how to begin to explain. But the
    root of the matter is that I am what people call a good man.

    MRS. JUNO. I thought so until you began making love to me.

    GREGORY. But you knew I loved you all along.

    MRS. JUNO. Yes, of course; but I depended on you not to tell me
    so; because I thought you were good. Your blurting it out spoilt
    it. And it was wicked besides.

    GREGORY. Not at all. You see, it's a great many years since I've
    been able to allow myself to fall in love. I know lots of
    charming women; but the worst of it is, they're all married.
    Women don't become charming, to my taste, until they're fully
    developed; and by that time, if they're really nice, they're
    snapped up and married. And then, because I am a good man, I have
    to place a limit to my regard for them. I may be fortunate enough
    to gain friendship and even very warm affection from them; but my
    loyalty to their husbands and their hearths and their happiness
    obliges me to draw a line and not overstep it. Of course I value
    such affectionate regard very highly indeed. I am surrounded with
    women who are most dear to me. But every one of them has a post
    sticking up, if I may put it that way, with the inscription
    Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted. How we all loathe that notice! In
    every lovely garden, in every dell full of primroses, on every
    fair hillside, we meet that confounded board; and there is always
    a gamekeeper round the corner. But what is that to the horror of
    meeting it on every beautiful woman, and knowing that there is a
    husband round the corner? I have had this accursed board standing
    between me and every dear and desirable woman until I thought I
    had lost the power of letting myself fall really and
    wholeheartedly in love.

    MRS. JUNO. Wasn't there a widow?

    GREGORY. No. Widows are extraordinarily scarce in modern society.
    Husbands live longer than they used to; and even when they do
    die, their widows have a string of names down for their next.

    MRS. JUNO. Well, what about the young girls?

    GREGORY. Oh, who cares for young girls? They're sympathetic.
    They're beginners. They don't attract me. I'm afraid of them.

    MRS. JUNO. That's the correct thing to say to a woman of my age.
    But it doesn't explain why you seem to have put your scruples in
    your pocket when you met me.

    GREGORY. Surely that's quite clear. I--

    MRS. JUNO. No: please don't explain. I don't want to know. I take
    your word for it. Besides, it doesn't matter now. Our voyage is
    over; and to-morrow I start for the north to my poor father's

    GREGORY [surprised]. Your poor father! I thought he was alive.

    MRS. JUNO. So he is. What made you think he wasn't?

    GREGORY. You said your POOR father.

    MRS. JUNO. Oh, that's a trick of mine. Rather a silly trick, I
    Suppose; but there's something pathetic to me about men: I find
    myself calling them poor So-and-So when there's nothing whatever
    the matter with them.

    GREGORY [who has listened in growing alarm]. But--I--is?--
    wa--? Oh, Lord!

    MRS. JUNO. What's the matter?

    GREGORY. Nothing.

    MRS. JUNO. Nothing! [Rising anxiously]. Nonsense: you're ill.

    GREGORY. No. It was something about your late husband--

    MRS. JUNO. My LATE husband! What do you mean? [clutching him,
    horror-stricken]. Don't tell me he's dead.

    GREGORY [rising, equally appalled]. Don't tell me he's alive.

    MRS. JUNO. Oh, don't frighten me like this. Of course he's
    alive--unless you've heard anything.

    GREGORY. The first day we met--on the boat--you spoke to me of
    your poor dear husband.

    MRS. JUNO [releasing him, quite reassured]. Is that all?

    GREGORY. Well, afterwards you called him poor Tops. Always poor
    Tops, Our poor dear Tops. What could I think?

    MRS. JUNO [sitting down again]. I wish you hadn't given me such a
    shock about him; for I haven't been treating him at all well.
    Neither have you.

    GREGORY [relapsing into his seat, overwhelmed]. And you mean to
    tell me you're not a widow!

    MRS. JUNO. Gracious, no! I'm not in black.

    GREGORY. Then I have been behaving like a blackguard. I have
    broken my promise to my mother. I shall never have an easy
    conscience again.

    MRS. JUNO. I'm sorry. I thought you knew.

    GREGORY. You thought I was a libertine?

    MRS. JUNO. No: of course I shouldn't have spoken to you if I had
    thought that. I thought you liked me, but that you knew, and
    would be good.

    GREGORY [stretching his hands towards her breast]. I thought the
    burden of being good had fallen from my soul at last. I saw
    nothing there but a bosom to rest on: the bosom of a lovely woman
    of whom I could dream without guilt. What do I see now?

    MRS. JUNO. Just what you saw before.

    GREGORY [despairingly]. No, no.

    MRS. JUNO. What else?

    GREGORY. Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted: Trespassers Will Be

    MRS. JUNO. They won't if they hold their tongues. Don't be such a
    coward. My husband won't eat you.

    GREGORY. I'm not afraid of your husband. I'm afraid of my

    MRS. JUNO [losing patience]. Well! I don't consider myself at all
    a badly behaved woman; for nothing has passed between us that was
    not perfectly nice and friendly; but really! to hear a grown-up
    man talking about promises to his mother!

    GREGORY [interrupting her]. Yes, Yes: I know all about that. It's
    not romantic: it's not Don Juan: it's not advanced; but we feel
    it all the same. It's far deeper in our blood and bones than all
    the romantic stuff. My father got into a scandal once: that was
    why my mother made me promise never to make love to a married
    woman. And now I've done it I can't feel honest. Don't pretend to
    despise me or laugh at me. You feel it too. You said just now
    that your own conscience was uneasy when you thought of your
    husband. What must it be when you think of my wife?

    MRS. JUNO [rising aghast]. Your wife!!! You don't dare sit there
    and tell me coolly that you're a married man!

    GREGORY. I never led you to believe I was unmarried.

    MRS. JUNO. Oh! You never gave me the faintest hint that you had a

    GREGORY. I did indeed. I discussed things with you that only
    married people really understand.

    MRS. JUNO. Oh!!

    GREGORY. I thought it the most delicate way of letting you know.

    MRS. JUNO. Well, you ARE a daisy, I must say. I suppose that's
    vulgar; but really! really!! You and your goodness! However, now
    we've found one another out there's only one thing to be done.
    Will you please go?

    GREGORY [rising slowly]. I OUGHT to go.

    MRS. JUNO. Well, go.

    GREGORY. Yes. Er--[he tries to go]. I--I somehow can't. [He sits
    down again helplessly]. My conscience is active: my will is
    paralyzed. This is really dreadful. Would you mind ringing the
    bell and asking them to throw me out? You ought to, you know.

    MRS. JUNO. What! make a scandal in the face of the whole hotel!
    Certainly not. Don't be a fool.

    GREGORY. Yes; but I can't go.

    MRS. JUNO. Then I can. Goodbye.

    GREGORY [clinging to her hand]. Can you really?

    MRS. JUNO. Of course I--[she wavers]. Oh, dear! [They contemplate
    one another helplessly]. I can't. [She sinks on the lounge, hand
    in hand with him].

    GREGORY. For heaven's sake pull yourself together. It's a
    question of self-control.

    MRS. JUNO [dragging her hand away and retreating to the end of
    the chesterfield]. No: it's a question of distance. Self-control
    is all very well two or three yards off, or on a ship, with
    everybody looking on. Don't come any nearer.

    GREGORY. This is a ghastly business. I want to go away; and I

    MRS. JUNO. I think you ought to go [he makes an effort; and she
    adds quickly] but if you try I shall grab you round the neck and
    disgrace myself. I implore you to sit still and be nice.

    GREGORY. I implore you to run away. I believe I can trust myself
    to let you go for your own sake. But it will break my heart.

    MRS. JUNO. I don't want to break your heart. I can't bear to
    think of your sitting here alone. I can't bear to think of
    sitting alone myself somewhere else. It's so senseless--so
    ridiculous--when we might be so happy. I don't want to be wicked,
    or coarse. But I like you very much; and I do want to be
    affectionate and human.

    GREGORY. I ought to draw a line.

    MRS. JUNO. So you shall, dear. Tell me: do you really like me? I
    don't mean LOVE me: you might love the housemaid--

    GREGORY [vehemently]. No!

    MRS. JUNO. Oh, yes you might; and what does that matter, anyhow?
    Are you really fond of me? Are we friends--comrades? Would you be
    sorry if I died?

    GREGORY [shrinking]. Oh, don't.

    MRS. JUNO. Or was it the usual aimless man's lark: a mere
    shipboard flirtation?

    GREGORY. Oh, no, no: nothing half so bad, so vulgar, so wrong. I
    assure you I only meant to be agreeable. It grew on me before I
    noticed it.

    MRS. JUNO. And you were glad to let it grow?

    GREGORY. I let it grow because the board was not up.

    MRS. JUNO. Bother the board! I am just as fond of Sibthorpe as--

    GREGORY. Sibthorpe!

    MRS. JUNO. Sibthorpe is my husband's Christian name. I oughtn't
    to call him Tops to you now.

    GREGORY [chuckling]. It sounded like something to drink. But I
    have no right to laugh at him. My Christian name is Gregory,
    which sounds like a powder.

    MRS. JUNO [chilled]. That is so like a man! I offer you my
    heart's warmest friendliest feeling; and you think of nothing but
    a silly joke. A quip like that makes you forget me.

    GREGORY. Forget you! Oh, if I only could!

    MRS. JUNO. If you could, would you?

    GREGORY [burying his shamed face in his hands]. No: I'd die
    first. Oh, I hate myself.

    MRS. JUNO. I glory in myself. It's so jolly to be reckless. CAN a
    man be reckless, I wonder.

    GREGORY [straightening himself desperately]. No. I'm not
    reckless. I know what I'm doing: my conscience is awake. Oh,
    where is the intoxication of love? the delirium? the madness that
    makes a man think the world well lost for the woman he adores? I
    don't think anything of the sort: I see that it's not worth it: I
    know that it's wrong: I have never in my life been cooler, more

    MRS. JUNO. [opening her arms to him] But you can't resist me.

    GREGORY. I must. I ought [throwing himself into her arms]. Oh, my
    darling, my treasure, we shall be sorry for this.

    MRS. JUNO. We can forgive ourselves. Could we forgive ourselves
    if we let this moment slip?

    GREGORY. I protest to the last. I'm against this. I have been
    pushed over a precipice. I'm innocent. This wild joy, this
    exquisite tenderness, this ascent into heaven can thrill me to
    the uttermost fibre of my heart [with a gesture of ecstasy she
    hides her face on his shoulder]; but it can't subdue my mind or
    corrupt my conscience, which still shouts to the skies that I'm
    not a willing party to this outrageous conduct. I repudiate the
    bliss with which you are filling me.

    MRS. JUNO. Never mind your conscience. Tell me how happy you are.

    GREGORY. No, I recall you to your duty. But oh, I will give you
    my life with both hands if you can tell me that you feel for me
    one millionth part of what I feel for you now.

    MRS. JUNO. Oh, yes, yes. Be satisfied with that. Ask for no more.
    Let me go.

    GREGORY. I can't. I have no will. Something stronger than either
    of us is in command here. Nothing on earth or in heaven can part
    us now. You know that, don't you?

    MRS. JUNO. Oh, don't make me say it. Of course I know. Nothing--
    not life nor death nor shame nor anything can part us.

    be it.

    The two recover with a violent start; release one another; and
    spring back to opposite sides of the lounge.

    GREGORY. That did it.

    MRS. JUNO [in a thrilling whisper] Sh--sh--sh! That was my
    husband's voice.

    GREGORY. Impossible: it's only our guilty fancy.

    A WOMAN'S VOICE. This is the way to the lounge. I know it.

    GREGORY. Great Heaven! we're both mad. That's my wife's voice.

    MRS. JUNO. Ridiculous! Oh! we're dreaming it all. We [the door
    opens; and Sibthorpe Juno appears in the roseate glow of the
    corridor (which happens to be papered in pink) with Mrs. Lunn,
    like Tannhauser in the hill of Venus. He is a fussily energetic
    little man, who gives himself an air of gallantry by greasing the
    points of his moustaches and dressing very carefully. She is a
    tall, imposing, handsome, languid woman, with flashing dark eyes
    and long lashes. They make for the chesterfield, not noticing the
    two palpitating figures blotted against the walls in the gloom on
    either side. The figures flit away noiselessly through the window
    and disappear].

    JUNO [officiously] Ah: here we are. [He leads the way to the
    sofa]. Sit down: I'm sure you're tired. [She sits]. That's right.
    [He sits beside her on her left]. Hullo! [he rises] this sofa's
    quite warm.

    MRS. LUNN [bored] Is it? I don't notice it. I expect the sun's
    been on it.

    JUNO. I felt it quite distinctly: I'm more thinly clad than you.
    [He sits down again, and proceeds, with a sigh of satisfaction].
    What a relief to get off the ship and have a private room! That's
    the worst of a ship. You're under observation all the time.

    MRS. LUNN. But why not?

    JUNO. Well, of course there's no reason: at least I suppose not.
    But, you know, part of the romance of a journey is that a man
    keeps imagining that something might happen; and he can't do that
    if there are a lot of people about and it simply can't happen.

    MRS. LUNN. Mr. Juno: romance is all very well on board ship; but
    when your foot touches the soil of England there's an end of it.

    JUNO. No: believe me, that's a foreigner's mistake: we are the
    most romantic people in the world, we English. Why, my very
    presence here is a romance.

    MRS. LUNN [faintly ironical] Indeed?

    JUNO. Yes. You've guessed, of course, that I'm a married man.

    MRS. LUNN. Oh, that's all right. I'm a married woman.

    JUNO. Thank Heaven for that! To my English mind, passion is not
    real passion without guilt. I am a red-blooded man, Mrs. Lunn: I
    can't help it. The tragedy of my life is that I married, when
    quite young, a woman whom I couldn't help being very fond of. I
    longed for a guilty passion--for the real thing--the wicked
    thing; and yet I couldn't care twopence for any other woman when
    my wife was about. Year after year went by: I felt my youth
    slipping away without ever having had a romance in my life; for
    marriage is all very well; but it isn't romance. There's nothing
    wrong in it, you see.

    MRS. LUNN. Poor man! How you must have suffered!

    JUNO. No: that was what was so tame about it. I wanted to suffer.
    You get so sick of being happily married. It's always the happy
    marriages that break up. At last my wife and I agreed that we
    ought to take a holiday.

    MRS. LUNN. Hadn't you holidays every year?

    JUNO. Oh, the seaside and so on! That's not what we meant. We
    meant a holiday from one another.

    MRS. LUNN. How very odd!

    JUNO. She said it was an excellent idea; that domestic felicity
    was making us perfectly idiotic; that she wanted a holiday, too.
    So we agreed to go round the world in opposite directions. I
    started for Suez on the day she sailed for New York.

    MRS. LUNN [suddenly becoming attentive] That's precisely what
    Gregory and I did. Now I wonder did he want a holiday from me!
    What he said was that he wanted the delight of meeting me after a
    long absence.

    JUNO. Could anything be more romantic than that? Would anyone
    else than an Englishman have thought of it? I daresay my
    temperament seems tame to your boiling southern blood--

    MRS. LUNN. My what!

    JUNO. Your southern blood. Don't you remember how you told me,
    that night in the saloon when I sang "Farewell and adieu to you
    dear Spanish ladies," that you were by birth a lady of Spain?
    Your splendid Andalusian beauty speaks for itself.

    MRS. LUNN. Stuff! I was born in Gibraltar. My father was Captain
    Jenkins. In the artillery.

    JUNO [ardently] It is climate and not race that determines the
    temperament. The fiery sun of Spain blazed on your cradle; and it
    rocked to the roar of British cannon.

    MRS. LUNN. What eloquence! It reminds me of my husband when he
    was in love before we were married. Are you in love?

    JUNO. Yes; and with the same woman.

    MRS. LUNN. Well, of course, I didn't suppose you were in love
    with two women.

    JUNO. I don't think you quite understand. I meant that I am in
    love with you.

    MRS. LUNN [relapsing into deepest boredom] Oh, that! Men do fall
    in love with me. They all seem to think me a creature with
    volcanic passions: I'm sure I don't know why; for all the
    volcanic women I know are plain little creatures with sandy hair.
    I don't consider human volcanoes respectable. And I'm so tired of
    the subject! Our house is always full of women who are in love
    with my husband and men who are in love with me. We encourage it
    because it's pleasant to have company.

    JUNO. And is your husband as insensible as yourself?

    MRS. LUNN. Oh, Gregory's not insensible: very far from it; but I
    am the only woman in the world for him.

    JUNO. But you? Are you really as insensible as you say you are?

    MRS. LUNN. I never said anything of the kind. I'm not at all
    insensible by nature; but (I don't know whether you've noticed
    it) I am what people call rather a fine figure of a woman.

    JUNO [passionately] Noticed it! Oh, Mrs. Lunn! Have I been able
    to notice anything else since we met?

    MRS. LUNN. There you go, like all the rest of them! I ask you,
    how do you expect a woman to keep up what you call her
    sensibility when this sort of thing has happened to her about
    three times a week ever since she was seventeen? It used to upset
    me and terrify me at first. Then I got rather a taste for it. It
    came to a climax with Gregory: that was why I married him. Then
    it became a mild lark, hardly worth the trouble. After that I
    found it valuable once or twice as a spinal tonic when I was run
    down; but now it's an unmitigated bore. I don't mind your
    declaration: I daresay it gives you a certain pleasure to make
    it. I quite understand that you adore me; but (if you don't mind)
    I'd rather you didn't keep on saying so.

    JUNO. Is there then no hope for me?

    MRS. LUNN. Oh, yes. Gregory has an idea that married women keep
    lists of the men they'll marry if they become widows. I'll put
    your name down, if that will satisfy you.

    JUNO. Is the list a long one?

    MRS. LUNN. Do you mean the real list? Not the one I show to
    Gregory: there are hundreds of names on that; but the little
    private list that he'd better not see?

    JUNO. Oh, will you really put me on that? Say you will.

    MRS. LUNN. Well, perhaps I will. [He kisses her hand]. Now don't
    begin abusing the privilege.

    JUNO. May I call you by your Christian name?

    MRS. LUNN. No: it's too long. You can't go about calling a woman

    JUNO [ecstatically] Seraphita!

    MRS. LUNN. I used to be called Sally at home; but when I married
    a man named Lunn, of course that became ridiculous. That's my one
    little pet joke. Call me Mrs. Lunn for short. And change the
    subject, or I shall go to sleep.

    JUNO. I can't change the subject. For me there is no other
    subject. Why else have you put me on your list?

    MRS. LUNN. Because you're a solicitor. Gregory's a solicitor. I'm
    accustomed to my husband being a solicitor and telling me things
    he oughtn't to tell anybody.

    JUNO [ruefully] Is that all? Oh, I can't believe that the voice
    of love has ever thoroughly awakened you.

    MRS. LUNN. No: it sends me to sleep. [Juno appeals against this
    by an amorous demonstration]. It's no use, Mr. Juno: I'm
    hopelessly respectable: the Jenkinses always were. Don't you
    realize that unless most women were like that, the world couldn't
    go on as it does?

    JUNO [darkly] You think it goes on respectably; but I can tell
    you as a solicitor--

    MRS. LUNN. Stuff! of course all the disreputable people who get
    into trouble go to you, just as all the sick people go to the
    doctors; but most people never go to a solicitor.

    JUNO [rising, with a growing sense of injury] Look here, Mrs.
    Lunn: do you think a man's heart is a potato? or a turnip? or a
    ball of knitting wool? that you can throw it away like this?

    MRS. LUNN. I don't throw away balls of knitting wool. A man's
    heart seems to me much like a sponge: it sops up dirty water as
    well as clean.

    JUNO. I have never been treated like this in my life. Here am I,
    a married man, with a most attractive wife: a wife I adore, and
    who adores me, and has never as much as looked at any other man
    since we were married. I come and throw all this at your feet.
    I! I, a solicitor! braving the risk of your husband putting me
    into the divorce court and making me a beggar and an outcast! I
    do this for your sake. And you go on as if I were making no
    sacrifice: as if I had told you it's a fine evening, or asked you
    to have a cup of tea. It's not human. It's not right. Love has
    its rights as well as respectability [he sits down again, aloof
    and sulky].

    MRS. LUNN. Nonsense! Here, here's a flower [she gives him one].
    Go and dream over it until you feel hungry. Nothing brings people
    to their senses like hunger.

    JUNO [contemplating the flower without rapture] What good's this?

    MRS. LUNN [snatching it from him] Oh! you don't love me a bit.

    JUNO. Yes I do. Or at least I did. But I'm an Englishman; and I
    think you ought to respect the conventions of English life.

    MRS. LUNN. But I am respecting them; and you're not.

    JUNO. Pardon me. I may be doing wrong; but I'm doing it in a
    proper and customary manner. You may be doing right; but you're
    doing it in an unusual and questionable manner. I am not prepared
    to put up with that. I can stand being badly treated: I'm no
    baby, and can take care of myself with anybody. And of course I
    can stand being well treated. But the thing I can't stand is
    being unexpectedly treated, It's outside my scheme of life. So
    come now! you've got to behave naturally and straightforwardly
    with me. You can leave husband and child, home, friends, and
    country, for my sake, and come with me to some southern isle--or
    say South America--where we can be all in all to one another. Or
    you can tell your husband and let him jolly well punch my head if
    he can. But I'm damned if I'm going to stand any eccentricity.
    It's not respectable.

    GREGORY [coming in from the terrace and advancing with dignity to
    his wife's end of the chesterfield]. Will you have the goodness,
    sir, in addressing this lady, to keep your temper and refrain
    from using profane language?

    MRS. LUNN [rising, delighted] Gregory! Darling [she enfolds him
    in a copious embrace]!

    JUNO [rising] You make love to another man to my face!

    MRS. LUNN. Why, he's my husband.

    JUNO. That takes away the last rag of excuse for such conduct. A
    nice world it would be if married people were to carry on their
    endearments before everybody!

    GREGORY. This is ridiculous. What the devil business is it of
    yours what passes between my wife and myself? You're not her
    husband, are you?

    JUNO. Not at present; but I'm on the list. I'm her prospective
    husband: you're only her actual one. I'm the anticipation: you're
    the disappointment.

    MRS. LUNN. Oh, my Gregory is not a disappointment. [Fondly] Are
    you, dear?

    GREGORY. You just wait, my pet. I'll settle this chap for you.
    [He disengages himself from her embrace, and faces Juno. She sits
    down placidly]. You call me a disappointment, do you? Well, I
    suppose every husband's a disappointment. What about yourself?
    Don't try to look like an unmarried man. I happen to know the
    lady you disappointed. I travelled in the same ship with her;

    JUNO. And you fell in love with her.

    GREGORY [taken aback] Who told you that?

    JUNO. Aha! you confess it. Well, if you want to know, nobody told
    me. Everybody falls in love with my wife.

    GREGORY. And do you fall in love with everybody's wife?

    JUNO. Certainly not. Only with yours.

    MRS. LUNN. But what's the good of saying that, Mr. Juno? I'm
    married to him; and there's an end of it.

    JUNO. Not at all. You can get a divorce.

    MRS. LUNN. What for?

    JUNO. For his misconduct with my wife.

    GREGORY [deeply indignant] How dare you, sir, asperse the
    character of that sweet lady? a lady whom I have taken under my

    JUNO. Protection!

    MRS. JUNO [returning hastily] Really you must be more careful
    what you say about me, Mr. Lunn.

    JUNO. My precious! [He embraces her]. Pardon this betrayal of my
    feeling; but I've not seen my wife for several weeks; and she is
    very dear to me.

    GREGORY. I call this cheek. Who is making love to his own wife
    before people now, pray?

    MRS. LUNN. Won't you introduce me to your wife, Mr. Juno?

    MRS. JUNO. How do you do? [They shake hands; and Mrs. Juno sits
    down beside Mrs. Lunn, on her left].

    MRS. LUNN. I'm so glad to find you do credit to Gregory's taste.
    I'm naturally rather particular about the women he falls in love

    JUNO [sternly] This is no way to take your husband's
    unfaithfulness. [To Lunn] You ought to teach your wife better.
    Where's her feelings? It's scandalous.

    GREGORY. What about your own conduct, pray?

    JUNO. I don't defend it; and there's an end of the matter.

    GREGORY. Well, upon my soul! What difference does your not
    defending it make?

    JUNO. A fundamental difference. To serious people I may appear
    wicked. I don't defend myself: I am wicked, though not bad at
    heart. To thoughtless people I may even appear comic. Well, laugh
    at me: I have given myself away. But Mrs. Lunn seems to have no
    opinion at all about me. She doesn't seem to know whether I'm
    wicked or comic. She doesn't seem to care. She has no more sense.
    I say it's not right. I repeat, I have sinned; and I'm prepared
    to suffer.

    MRS. JUNO. Have you really sinned, Tops?

    MRS. LUNN [blandly] I don't remember your sinning. I have a
    shocking bad memory for trifles; but I think I should remember
    that--if you mean me.

    JUNO [raging] Trifles! I have fallen in love with a monster.

    GREGORY. Don't you dare call my wife a monster.

    MRS. JUNO [rising quickly and coming between them]. Please don't
    lose your temper, Mr. Lunn: I won't have my Tops bullied.

    GREGORY. Well, then, let him not brag about sinning with my wife.
    [He turns impulsively to his wife; makes her rise; and takes her
    proudly on his arm]. What pretension has he to any such honor?

    JUNO. I sinned in intention. [Mrs. Juno abandons him and resumes
    her seat, chilled]. I'm as guilty as if I had actually sinned.
    And I insist on being treated as a sinner, and not walked over as
    if I'd done nothing, by your wife or any other man.

    MRS. LUNN. Tush! [She sits down again contemptuously].

    JUNO [furious] I won't be belittled.

    MRS. LUNN [to Mrs. Juno] I hope you'll come and stay with us now
    that you and Gregory are such friends, Mrs. Juno.

    JUNO. This insane magnanimity--

    MRS. LUNN. Don't you think you've said enough, Mr. Juno? This is
    a matter for two women to settle. Won't you take a stroll on the
    beach with my Gregory while we talk it over. Gregory is a
    splendid listener.

    JUNO. I don't think any good can come of a conversation between
    Mr. Lunn and myself. We can hardly be expected to improve one
    another's morals. [He passes behind the chesterfield to Mrs.
    Lunn's end; seizes a chair; deliberately pushes it between
    Gregory and Mrs. Lunn; and sits down with folded arms, resolved
    not to budge].

    GREGORY. Oh! Indeed! Oh, all right. If you come to that--[he
    crosses to Mrs. Juno; plants a chair by her side; and sits down
    with equal determination].

    JUNO. Now we are both equally guilty.

    GREGORY. Pardon me. I'm not guilty.

    JUNO. In intention. Don't quibble. You were guilty in intention,
    as I was.

    GREGORY. No. I should rather describe myself guilty in fact, but
    not in intention.

    JUNO { rising and } What!
    MRS. JUNO { exclaiming } No, really--
    MRS. LUNN { simultaneously } Gregory!

    GREGORY. Yes: I maintain that I am responsible for my intentions
    only, and not for reflex actions over which I have no control.
    [Mrs. Juno sits down, ashamed]. I promised my mother that I would
    never tell a lie, and that I would never make love to a married
    woman. I never have told a lie--

    MRS. LUNN [remonstrating] Gregory! [She sits down again].

    GREGORY. I say never. On many occasions I have resorted to
    prevarication; but on great occasions I have always told the
    truth. I regard this as a great occasion; and I won't be
    intimidated into breaking my promise. I solemnly declare that I
    did not know until this evening that Mrs. Juno was married. She
    will bear me out when I say that from that moment my intentions
    were strictly and resolutely honorable; though my conduct, which
    I could not control and am therefore not responsible for, was
    disgraceful--or would have been had this gentleman not walked in
    and begun making love to my wife under my very nose.

    JUNO [flinging himself back into his chair] Well, I like this!

    MRS. LUNN. Really, darling, there's no use in the pot calling
    the kettle black.

    GREGORY. When you say darling, may I ask which of us you are

    MRS. LUNN. I really don't know. I'm getting hopelessly confused.

    JUNO. Why don't you let my wife say something? I don't think she
    ought to be thrust into the background like this.

    MRS. LUNN. I'm sorry, I'm sure. Please excuse me, dear.

    MRS. JUNO [thoughtfully] I don't know what to say. I must think
    over it. I have always been rather severe on this sort of thing;
    but when it came to the point I didn't behave as I thought I
    should behave. I didn't intend to be wicked; but somehow or
    other, Nature, or whatever you choose to call it, didn't take
    much notice of my intentions. [Gregory instinctively seeks her
    hand and presses it]. And I really did think, Tops, that I was
    the only woman in the world for you.

    JUNO [cheerfully] Oh, that's all right, my precious. Mrs. Lunn
    thought she was the only woman in the world for him.

    GREGORY [reflectively] So she is, in a sort of a way.

    JUNO [flaring up] And so is my wife. Don't you set up to be a
    better husband than I am; for you're not. I've owned I'm wrong.
    You haven't.

    MRS. LUNN. Are you sorry, Gregory?

    GREGORY [perplexed] Sorry?

    MRS. LUNN. Yes, sorry. I think it's time for you to say you're
    sorry, and to make friends with Mr. Juno before we all dine

    GREGORY. Seraphita: I promised my mother--

    MRS. JUNO [involuntarily] Oh, bother your mother! [Recovering
    herself] I beg your pardon.

    GREGORY. A promise is a promise. I can't tell a deliberate lie. I
    know I ought to be sorry; but the flat fact is that I'm not
    sorry. I find that in this business, somehow or other, there is a
    disastrous separation between my moral principles and my

    JUNO. There's nothing disastrous about it. It doesn't matter
    about your principles if your conduct is all right.

    GREGORY. Bosh! It doesn't matter about your principles if your
    conduct is all right.

    JUNO. But your conduct isn't all right; and my principles are.

    GREGORY. What's the good of your principles being right if they
    won't work?

    JUNO. They WILL work, sir, if you exercise self-sacrifice.

    GREGORY. Oh yes: if, if, if. You know jolly well that
    self-sacrifice doesn't work either when you really want a thing.
    How much have you sacrificed yourself, pray?

    MRS. LUNN. Oh, a great deal, Gregory. Don't be rude. Mr. Juno is
    a very nice man: he has been most attentive to me on the voyage.

    GREGORY. And Mrs. Juno's a very nice woman. She oughtn't to be;
    but she is.

    JUNO. Why oughtn't she to be a nice woman, pray?

    GREGORY. I mean she oughtn't to be nice to me. And you oughtn't
    to be nice to my wife. And your wife oughtn't to like me. And my
    wife oughtn't to like you. And if they do, they oughtn't to go on
    liking us. And I oughtn't to like your wife; and you oughtn't to
    like mine; and if we do we oughtn't to go on liking them. But we
    do, all of us. We oughtn't; but we do.

    JUNO. But, my dear boy, if we admit we are in the wrong where's
    the harm of it? We're not perfect; but as long as we keep the
    ideal before us--

    GREGORY. How?

    JUNO. By admitting we were wrong.

    MRS. LUNN [springing up, out of patience, and pacing round the
    lounge intolerantly] Well, really, I must have my dinner. These
    two men, with their morality, and their promises to their
    mothers, and their admissions that they were wrong, and their
    sinning and suffering, and their going on at one another as if it
    meant anything, or as if it mattered, are getting on my nerves.
    [Stooping over the back of the chesterfield to address Mrs. Juno]
    If you will be so very good, my dear, as to take my sentimental
    husband off my hands occasionally, I shall be more than obliged
    to you: I'm sure you can stand more male sentimentality than I
    can. [Sweeping away to the fireplace] I, on my part, will do my
    best to amuse your excellent husband when you find him tiresome.

    JUNO. I call this polyandry.

    MRS. LUNN. I wish you wouldn't call innocent things by offensive
    names, Mr. Juno. What do you call your own conduct?

    JUNO [rising] I tell you I have admitted--

    GREGORY { } What's the good of keeping on at that?
    MRS. JUNO { together } Oh, not that again, please.
    MRS. LUNN { } Tops: I'll scream if you say that again.

    JUNO. Oh, well, if you won't listen to me--! [He sits down

    MRS. JUNO. What is the position now exactly? [Mrs. Lunn shrugs
    her shoulders and gives up the conundrum. Gregory looks at Juno.
    Juno turns away his head huffily]. I mean, what are we going to

    MRS. LUNN. What would you advise, Mr. Juno?

    JUNO. I should advise you to divorce your husband.

    MRS. LUNN. Do you want me to drag your wife into court and
    disgrace her?

    JUNO. No: I forgot that. Excuse me; but for the moment I thought
    I was married to you.

    GREGORY. I think we had better let bygones be bygones. [To Mrs.
    Juno, very tenderly] You will forgive me, won't you? Why should
    you let a moment's forgetfulness embitter all our future life?

    MRS. JUNO. But it's Mrs. Lunn who has to forgive you.

    GREGORY. Oh, dash it, I forgot. This is getting ridiculous.

    MRS. LUNN. I'm getting hungry.

    MRS. JUNO. Do you really mind, Mrs. Lunn?

    MRS. LUNN. My dear Mrs. Juno, Gregory is one of those terribly
    uxorious men who ought to have ten wives. If any really nice
    woman will take him off my hands for a day or two occasionally, I
    shall be greatly obliged to her.

    GREGORY. Seraphita: you cut me to the soul [he weeps].

    MRs. LUNN. Serve you right! You'd think it quite proper if it cut
    me to the soul.

    MRS. JUNO. Am I to take Sibthorpe off your hands too, Mrs. Lunn?

    JUNO [rising] Do you suppose I'll allow this?

    MRS. JUNO. You've admitted that you've done wrong, Tops. What's
    the use of your allowing or not allowing after that?

    JUNO. I do not admit that I have done wrong. I admit that what I
    did was wrong.

    GREGORY. Can you explain the distinction?

    JUNO. It's quite plain to anyone but an imbecile. If you tell me
    I've done something wrong you insult me. But if you say that
    something that I did is wrong you simply raise a question of
    morals. I tell you flatly if you say I did anything wrong you
    will have to fight me. In fact I think we ought to fight anyhow.
    I don't particularly want to; but I feel that England expects us

    GREGORY. I won't fight. If you beat me my wife would share my
    humiliation. If I beat you, she would sympathize with you and
    loathe me for my brutality.

    MRS. LUNN. Not to mention that as we are human beings and not
    reindeer or barndoor fowl, if two men presumed to fight for us we
    couldn't decently ever speak to either of them again.

    GREGORY. Besides, neither of us could beat the other, as we
    neither of us know how to fight. We should only blacken each
    other's eyes and make fools of ourselves.

    JUNO. I don't admit that. Every Englishman can use his fists.

    GREGORY. You're an Englishman. Can you use yours?

    JUNO. I presume so: I never tried.

    MRS. JUNO. You never told me you couldn't fight, Tops. I thought
    you were an accomplished boxer.

    JUNO. My precious: I never gave you any ground for such a belief.

    MRS. JUNO. You always talked as if it were a matter of course.
    You spoke with the greatest contempt of men who didn't kick other
    men downstairs.

    JUNO. Well, I can't kick Mr. Lunn downstairs. We're on the ground

    MRS. JUNO. You could throw him into the harbor.

    GREGORY. Do you want me to be thrown into the harbor?

    MRS. JUNO. No: I only want to show Tops that he's making a
    ghastly fool of himself.

    GREGORY [rising and prowling disgustedly between the chesterfield
    and the windows] We're all making fools of ourselves.

    JUNO [following him] Well, if we're not to fight, I must insist
    at least on your never speaking to my wife again.

    GREGORY. Does my speaking to your wife do you any harm?

    JUNO. No. But it's the proper course to take. [Emphatically]. We
    MUST behave with some sort of decency.

    MRS. LUNN. And are you never going to speak to me again, Mr.

    JUNO. I'm prepared to promise never to do so. I think your
    husband has a right to demand that. Then if I speak to you after,
    it will not be his fault. It will be a breach of my promise; and
    I shall not attempt to defend my conduct.

    GREGORY [facing him] I shall talk to your wife as often as she'll
    let me.

    MRS. JUNO. I have no objection to your speaking to me, Mr. Lunn.

    JUNO. Then I shall take steps.

    GREGORY. What steps?

    Juno. Steps. Measures. Proceedings. What steps as may seem

    MRS. LUNN [to Mrs. Juno] Can your husband afford a scandal, Mrs.

    MRS. JUNO. No.

    MRS. LUNN. Neither can mine.

    GREGORY. Mrs. Juno: I'm very sorry I let you in for all this. I
    don't know how it is that we contrive to make feelings like ours,
    which seems to me to be beautiful and sacred feelings, and which
    lead to such interesting and exciting adventures, end in vulgar
    squabbles and degrading scenes.

    JUNO. I decline to admit that my conduct has been vulgar or

    GREGORY. I promised--

    JUNO. Look here, old chap: I don't say a word against your
    mother; and I'm sorry she's dead; but really, you know, most
    women are mothers; and they all die some time or other; yet that
    doesn't make them infallible authorities on morals, does it?

    GREGORY. I was about to say so myself. Let me add that if you do
    things merely because you think some other fool expects you to do
    them, and he expects you to do them because he thinks you expect
    him to expect you to do them, it will end in everybody doing what
    nobody wants to do, which is in my opinion a silly state of

    JUNO. Lunn: I love your wife; and that's all about it.

    GREGORY. Juno: I love yours. What then?

    JUNO. Clearly she must never see you again.

    MRS. JUNO. Why not?

    JUNO. Why not! My love: I'm surprised at you.

    MRS. JUNO. Am I to speak only to men who dislike me?

    JUNO. Yes: I think that is, properly speaking, a married woman's

    MRS. JUNO. Then I won't do it: that's flat. I like to be liked. I
    like to be loved. I want everyone round me to love me. I don't
    want to meet or speak to anyone who doesn't like me.

    JUNO. But, my precious, this is the most horrible immorality.

    MRS. LUNN. I don't intend to give up meeting you, Mr. Juno. You
    amuse me very much. I don't like being loved: it bores me. But I
    do like to be amused.

    JUNO. I hope we shall meet very often. But I hope also we shall
    not defend our conduct.

    MRS. JUNO [rising] This is unendurable. We've all been flirting.
    Need we go on footling about it?

    JUNO [huffily] I don't know what you call footling--

    MRS. JUNO [cutting him short] You do. You're footling. Mr. Lunn
    is footling. Can't we admit that we're human and have done with

    JUNO. I have admitted it all along. I--

    MRS. JUNO [almost screaming] Then stop footling.

    The dinner gong sounds.

    MRS. LUNN [rising] Thank heaven! Let's go in to dinner. Gregory:
    take in Mrs. Juno.

    GREGORY. But surely I ought to take in our guest, and not my own

    MRS. LUNN. Well, Mrs. Juno is not your wife, is she?

    GREGORY. Oh, of course: I beg your pardon. I'm hopelessly
    confused. [He offers his arm to Mrs. Juno, rather

    MRS. JUNO. You seem quite afraid of me [she takes his arm].

    GREGORY. I am. I simply adore you. [They go out together; and as
    they pass through the door he turns and says in a ringing voice
    to the other couple] I have said to Mrs. Juno that I simply adore
    her. [He takes her out defiantly].

    MRS. LUNN [calling after him] Yes, dear. She's a darling. [To
    Juno] Now, Sibthorpe.

    JUNO [giving her his arm gallantly] You have called me
    Sibthorpe! Thank you. I think Lunn's conduct fully justifies me
    in allowing you to do it.

    MRS. LUNN. Yes: I think you may let yourself go now.

    JUNO. Seraphita: I worship you beyond expression.

    MRS. LUNN. Sibthorpe: you amuse me beyond description. Come.
    [They go in to dinner together].
    Chapter 2
    Previous Chapter
    If you're writing a George Bernard Shaw essay and need some advice, post your George Bernard Shaw essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

    Top 5 Authors

    Top 5 Books

    Book Status
    Want to read

    Are you sure you want to leave this group?