_A Newport drawing-room. Tapestries, flowers, bric-a-brac. Through th_indows, a geranium-edged lawn, the cliffs and the sea_. Isabel Warland sit_eading. Lucius Warland _enters in flannels and a yachting-cap_.
Isabel. Back already?
Warland. The wind dropped—it turned into a drifting race. Langham took me of_he yacht on his launch. What time is it? Two o'clock? Where's Mrs. Raynor?
Isabel. On her way to New York.
Warland. To New York?
Isabel. Precisely. The boat must be just leaving; she started an hour ago an_ook Laura with her. In fact I'm alone in the house—that is, until thi_vening. Some people are coming then.
Warland. But what in the world—
Isabel. Her aunt, Mrs. Griscom, has had a fit. She has them constantly.
They're not serious—at least they wouldn't be, if Mrs. Griscom were not s_ich—and childless. Naturally, under the circumstances, Marian feels _eculiar sympathy for her; her position is such a sad one; there's positivel_o one to care whether she lives or dies—except her heirs. Of course they al_ush to Newburgh whenever she has a fit. It's hard on Marian, for she live_he farthest away; but she has come to an understanding with the housekeeper, who always telegraphs her first, so that she gets a start of several hours.
She will be at Newburgh to-night at ten, and she has calculated that th_thers can't possibly arrive before midnight.
Warland. You have a delightful way of putting things. I suppose you'd talk o_e like that.
Isabel. Oh, no. It's too humiliating to doubt one's husband'_isinterestedness.
Warland. I wish I had a rich aunt who had fits.
Isabel. If I were wishing I should choose heart-disease.
Warland. There's no doing anything without money or influence.
_Isabel (picking up her book)_. Have you heard from Washington?
Warland. Yes. That's what I was going to speak of when I asked for Mrs.
Raynor. I wanted to bid her good-bye.
Isabel. You're going?
Warland. By the five train. Fagott has just wired me that the Ambassador wil_e in Washington on Monday. He hasn't named his secretaries yet, but ther_sn't much hope for me. He has a nephew—
Isabel. They always have. Like the Popes.
Warland. Well, I'm going all the same. You'll explain to Mrs. Raynor if sh_ets back before I do? Are there to be people at dinner? I don't suppose i_atters. You can always pick up an extra man on a Saturday.
Isabel. By the way, that reminds me that Marian left me a list of the peopl_ho are arriving this afternoon. My novel is so absorbing that I forgot t_ook at it. Where can it be? Ah, here—Let me see: the Jack Merringtons, Adelaide Clinton, Ned Lender—all from New York, by seven P.M. train. Lewi_arley to-night, by Fall River boat. John Oberville, from Boston at five P.M.
Why, I didn't know—
_Warland (excitedly)_. John Oberville? John Oberville? Here? To-day at fiv_'clock? Let me see—let me look at the list. Are you sure you're not mistaken?
Why, she never said a word! Why the deuce didn't you tell me?
Isabel. I didn't know.
Isabel. Why, what difference does it make?
Warland. What difference? What difference? Don't look at me as if you didn'_nderstand English! Why, if Oberville's coming—(a pause) Look here, Isabel, didn't you know him very well at one time?
Isabel. Very well—yes.
Warland. I thought so—of course—I remember now; I heard all about it before _et you. Let me see—didn't you and your mother spend a winter in Washingto_hen he was Under-secretary of State?
Isabel. That was before the deluge.
Warland. I remember—it all comes back to me. I used to hear it said that h_dmired you tremendously; there was a report that you were engaged. Don't yo_emember? Why, it was in all the papers. By Jove, Isabel, what a match tha_ould have been!
Isabel. You are disinterested!
Warland. Well, I can't help thinking—
Isabel. That I paid you a handsome compliment?
_Warland (preoccupied)_. Eh?—Ah, yes—exactly. What was I saying? Oh— about th_eport of your engagement. _(Playfully.)_ He was awfully gone on you, wasn'_e?
Isabel. It's not for me to diminish your triumph.
Warland. By Jove, I can't think why Mrs. Raynor didn't tell me he was coming.
A man like that—one doesn't take him for granted, like the piano- tuner! _onder I didn't see it in the papers.
Isabel. Is he grown such a great man?
Warland. Oberville? Great? John Oberville? I'll tell you what he is—the powe_ehind the throne, the black Pope, the King-maker and all the rest of it.
Don't you read the papers? Of course I'll never get on if you won't interes_ourself in politics. And to think you might have married that man!
Isabel. And got you your secretaryship!
Warland. Oberville has them all in the hollow of his hand.
Isabel. Well, you'll see him at five o'clock.
Warland. I don't suppose he's ever heard of me, worse luck! (A silence.) Isabel, look here. I never ask questions, do I? But it was so long ago—an_berville almost belongs to history—he will one of these days at any rate.
Just tell me—did he want to marry you?
Isabel. Since you answer for his immortality—(_after a pause_) I was very muc_n love with him.
Warland. Then of course he did. (Another pause.) But what in the world—
_Isabel (musing)_. As you say, it was so long ago; I don't see why I shouldn'_ell you. There was a married woman who had—what is the correc_xpression?—made sacrifices for him. There was only one sacrifice she objecte_o making—and he didn't consider himself free. It sounds rather rococo, doesn't it? It was odd that she died the year after we were married.
_Isabel (following her own thoughts)_. I've never seen him since; it must b_en years ago. I'm certainly thirty-two, and I was just twenty-two then. It'_urious to talk of it. I had put it away so carefully. How it smells o_amphor! And what an old-fashioned cut it has! _(Rising.)_ Where's the list, Lucius? You wanted to know if there were to be people at dinner tonight—
Warland. Here it is—but never mind. Isabel—(_silence_) Isabel—
Warland. It's odd he never married.
Isabel. The comparison is to my disadvantage. But then I met you.
Warland. Don't be so confoundedly sarcastic. I wonder how he'll feel abou_eeing you. Oh, I don't mean any sentimental rot, of course… but you're a_ncommonly agreeable woman. I daresay he'll be pleased to see you again; you're fifty times more attractive than when I married you.
Isabel. I wish your other investments had appreciated at the same rate.
Unfortunately my charms won't pay the butcher.
Warland. Damn the butcher!
Isabel. I happened to mention him because he's just written again; but I migh_s well have said the baker or the candlestick-maker. The candlestick-maker—_onder what he is, by the way? He must have more faith in human nature tha_he others, for I haven't heard from him yet. I wonder if there is _reditor's Polite Letter-writer which they all consult; their style is s_xactly alike. I advise you to pass through New York incognito on your way t_ashington; their attentions might be oppressive.
Warland. Confoundedly oppressive. What a dog's life it is! My poor Isabel—
Isabel. Don't pity me. I didn't marry yon for a home.
_Warland (after a pause_). What did you marry me for, if you cared fo_berville? _(Another pause_.) Eh?
Isabel, Don't make me regret my confidence.
Warland. I beg your pardon.
Isabel. Oh, it was only a subterfuge to conceal the fact that I have n_istinct recollection of my reasons. The fact is, a girl's motives in marryin_re like a passport—apt to get mislaid. One is so seldom asked for either. Bu_ine certainly couldn't have been mercenary: I never heard a mother praise yo_o her daughters.
Warland. No, I never was much of a match.
Isabel. You impugn my judgment.
Warland. If I only had a head for business, now, I might have done somethin_y this time. But I'd sooner break stones in the road.
Isabel. It must be very hard to get an opening in that profession. So many o_y friends have aspired to it, and yet I never knew any one who actually di_t.
Warland. If I could only get the secretaryship. How that kind of life woul_uit you! It's as much for you that I want it—
Isabel. And almost as much for the butcher. Don't belittle the circle of you_enevolence. (She walks across the room.) Three o'clock already— and Maria_sked me to give orders about the carriages. Let me see—Mr. Oberville is th_irst arrival; if you'll ring I will send word to the stable. I suppose you'l_tay now?
Isabel. Not go to Washington. I thought you spoke as if he could help you.
Warland. He could settle the whole thing in five minutes. The President can'_efuse him anything. But he doesn't know me; he may have a candidate of hi_wn. It's a pity you haven't seen him for so long—and yet I don't know; perhaps it's just as well. The others don't arrive till seven? It seems a_f—How long is he going to be here? Till to-morrow night, I suppose? I wonde_hat he's come for. The Merringtons will bore him to death, and Adelaide, o_ourse, will be philandering with Lender. I wonder (_a pause_) if Darley like_oating. (Rings the bell.)
Warland. Oh, I was only thinking—Where are the matches? One may smoke here, _uppose? _(He looks at his wife.)_ If I were you I'd put on that black gown o_ours to-night—the one with the spangles.—It's only that Fred Langham asked m_o go over to Narragansett in his launch to-morrow morning, and I was thinkin_hat I might take Darley; I always liked Darley.
_Isabel (to the footman who enters)_. Mrs. Raynor wishes the dog-cart sent t_he station at five o'clock to meet Mr. Oberville.
Footman. Very good, m'm. Shall I serve tea at the usual time, m'm?
Isabel. Yes. That is, when Mr. Oberville arrives.
_Footman (going out)_. Very good, m'm.
_Warland (to Isabel, who is moving toward the door)_. Where are you going?
Isabel. To my room now—for a walk later.
Warland. Later? It's past three already.
Isabel. I've no engagement this afternoon.
Warland. Oh, I didn't know. (As she reaches the door.) You'll be back, _uppose?
Isabel. I have no intention of eloping.
Warland. For tea, I mean?
Isabel. I never take tea. (Warland shrugs his shoulders.)
_The same drawing-room. Isabel enters from the lawn in hat and gloves. Th_ea-table is set out, and the footman just lighting the lamp under th_ettle_.
Isabel. You may take the tea-things away. I never take tea.
Footman. Very good, m'm. (He hesitates.) I understood, m'm, that Mr. Obervill_as to have tea?
Isabel. Mr. Oberville? But he was to arrive long ago! What time is it?
Footman. Only a quarter past five, m'm.
Isabel. A quarter past five? (She goes up to the clock.) Surely you'r_istaken? I thought it was long after six. (To herself.) I walked and walked—_ust have walked too fast … (To the Footman.) I'm going out again. When Mr.
Oberville arrives please give him his tea without waiting for me. I shall no_e back till dinner-time.
Footman. Very good, m'm. Here are some letters, m'm.
_Isabel (glancing at them with a movement of disgust)_. You may send them u_o my room.
Footman. I beg pardon, m'm, but one is a note from Mme. Fanfreluche, and th_an who brought it is waiting for an answer.
Isabel. Didn't you tell him I was out?
Footman. Yes, m'm. But he said he had orders to wait till you came in.
Isabel. Ah—let me see. (She opens the note.) Ah, yes. (A pause.) Please sa_hat I am on my way now to Mme Fanfreluche's to give her the answer in person.
You may tell the man that I have already started. Do you understand? Alread_tarted.
Footman. Yes, m'm.
Isabel. And—wait. (With an effort.) You may tell me when the man has started.
I shall wait here till then. Be sure you let me know.
Footman. Yes, m'm. (He goes out.)
_Isabel (sinking into a chair and hiding her face)_. Ah! (_After a moment sh_ises, taking up her gloves and sunshade, and walks toward the window whic_pens on the lawn_.) I'm so tired. (She hesitates and turns back into th_oom.) Where can I go to? (_She sits down again by the tea- table, and bend_ver the kettle. The clock strikes half-past five_.)
_Isabel (picking up her sunshade, walks back to the window)_. If I must mee_ne of them…
_Oberville (speaking in the hall)_. Thanks. I'll take tea first. (_He enter_he room, and pauses doubtfully on seeing Isabel_.)
_Isabel (stepping towards him with a smile)_. It's not that I've changed, o_ourse, but only that I happened to have my back to the light. Isn't that wha_ou are going to say?
Oberville. Mrs. Warland!
Isabel. So you really have become a great man! They always remember people'_ames.
Oberville. Were you afraid I was going to call you Isabel?
Isabel. Bravo! _Crescendo!_
Oberville. But you have changed, all the same.
Isabel. You must indeed have reached a dizzy eminence, since you can indulg_ourself by speaking the truth!
Oberville. It's your voice. I knew it at once, and yet it's different.
Isabel. I hope it can still convey the pleasure I feel in seeing an ol_riend. (_She holds out her hand. He takes it_.) You know, I suppose, tha_rs. Raynor is not here to receive you? She was called away this morning ver_uddenly by her aunt's illness.
Oberville. Yes. She left a note for me. (Absently.) I'm sorry to hear of Mrs.
Isabel. Oh, Mrs. Griscom's illnesses are less alarming than her recoveries.
But I am forgetting to offer you any tea. (She hands him a cup.) I remembe_ou liked it very strong.
Oberville. What else do you remember?
Isabel. A number of equally useless things. My mind is a store-room o_bsolete information.
Oberville. Why obsolete, since I am providing you with a use for it?
Isabel. At any rate, it's open to question whether it was worth storing fo_hat length of time. Especially as there must have been others more fitted—b_pportunity—to undertake the duty.
Oberville. The duty?
Isabel. Of remembering how you like your tea.
_Oberville (with a change of tone)_. Since you call it a duty—I may remind yo_hat it's one I have never asked any one else to perform.
Isabel. As a duty! But as a pleasure?
Oberville. Do you really want to know?
Isabel. Oh, I don't require and charge you.
Oberville. You dislike as much as ever having the _i_'s dotted?
Isabel. With a handwriting I know as well as yours!
_Oberville (recovering his lightness of manner)_. Accomplished woman! (H_xamines her approvingly.) I'd no idea that you were here. I never was mor_urprised.
Isabel. I hope you like being surprised. To my mind it's an overrate_leasure.
Oberville. Is it? I'm sorry to hear that.
Isabel. Why? Have you a surprise to dispose of?
Oberville. I'm not sure that I haven't.
Isabel. Don't part with it too hastily. It may improve by being kept.
_Oberville (tentatively)_. Does that mean that you don't want it?
Isabel. Heaven forbid! I want everything I can get.
Oberville. And you get everything you want. At least you used to.
Isabel. Let us talk of your surprise.
Oberville. It's to be yours, you know. (_A pause. He speaks gravely_.) I fin_hat I've never got over having lost you.
_Isabel (also gravely)_. And is that a surprise—to you too?
Oberville. Honestly—yes. I thought I'd crammed my life full. I didn't kno_here was a cranny left anywhere. At first, you know, I stuffed in everythin_ could lay my hands on—there was such a big void to fill. And after all _aven't filled it. I felt that the moment I saw you. (A pause.) I'm talkin_tupidly.
Isabel. It would be odious if you were eloquent.
Oberville. What do you mean?
Isabel. That's a question you never used to ask me.
Oberville. Be merciful. Remember how little practise I've had lately.
Isabel. In what?
Oberville. Never mind! (_He rises and walks away; then comes back and stand_n front of her_.) What a fool I was to give you up!
Isabel. Oh, don't say that! I've lived on it!
Oberville. On my letting you go?
Isabel. On your letting everything go—but the right.
Oberville. Oh, hang the right! What is truth? We had the right to be happy!
_Isabel (with rising emotion)_. I used to think so sometimes.
Oberville. Did you? Triple fool that I was!
Isabel. But you showed me—
Oberville. Why, good God, we belonged to each other—and I let you go! It'_abulous. I've fought for things since that weren't worth a crooked sixpence; fought as well as other men. And you—you—I lost you because I couldn't face _cene! Hang it, suppose there'd been a dozen scenes—I might have survive_hem. Men have been known to. They're not necessarily fatal.
Isabel. A scene?
Oberville. It's a form of fear that women don't understand. How you must hav_espised me!
Isabel. You were—afraid—of a scene?
Oberville. I was a damned coward, Isabel. That's about the size of it.
Isabel. Ah—I had thought it so much larger!
Oberville. What did you say?
_Isabel. I said that you have forgotten to drink your tea. It must be quit_old.
Isabel. Let me give you another cup.
_Oberville (collecting himself)_. No—no. This is perfect.
Isabel. You haven't tasted it.
_Oberville (falling into her mood) _. You always made it to perfection. Onl_ou never gave me enough sugar.
Isabel. I know better now. (She puts another lump in his cup.)
_Oberville (drinks his tea, and then says, with an air of reproach)_. Isn'_ll this chaff rather a waste of time between two old friends who haven't me_or so many years?
_Isabel (lightly)_. Oh, it's only a _hors d'oeuvre_—the tuning of th_nstruments. I'm out of practise too.
Oberville. Let us come to the grand air, then. (Sits down near her.) Tell m_bout yourself. What are you doing?
Isabel. At this moment? You'll never guess. I'm trying to remember you.
Oberville. To remember me?
Isabel. Until you came into the room just now my recollection of you was s_ivid; you were a living whole in my thoughts. Now I am engaged in gatherin_p the fragments—in laboriously reconstructing you… .
Oberville. I have changed so much, then?
Isabel. No, I don't believe that you've changed. It's only that I see yo_ifferently. Don't you know how hard it is to convince elderly people that th_ype of the evening paper is no smaller than when they were young?
Oberville. I've shrunk then?
Isabel. You couldn't have grown bigger. Oh, I'm serious now; you needn'_repare a smile. For years you were the tallest object on my horizon. I use_o climb to the thought of you, as people who live in a flat country mount th_hurch steeple for a view. It's wonderful how much I used to see from there!
And the air was so strong and pure!
Oberville. And now?
Isabel. Now I can fancy how delightful it must be to sit next to you a_inner.
Oberville. You're unmerciful. Have I said anything to offend you?
Isabel. Of course not. How absurd!
Oberville. I lost my head a little—I forgot how long it is since we have met.
When I saw you I forgot everything except what you had once been to me. (Sh_s silent.) I thought you too generous to resent that. Perhaps I hav_vertaxed your generosity. (A pause.) Shall I confess it? When I first saw yo_ thought for a moment that you had remembered—as I had. You see I can onl_xcuse myself by saying something inexcusable.
_Isabel (deliberately)_. Not inexcusable.
Isabel. I had remembered.
Isabel. But now—
Oberville. Ah, give me a moment before you unsay it!
Isabel. I don't mean to unsay it. There's no use in repealing an obsolete law.
That's the pity of it! You say you lost me ten years ago. (A pause.) I neve_ost you till now.
Isabel. Only this morning you were my supreme court of justice; there was n_ppeal from your verdict. Not an hour ago you decided a case for me—agains_yself! And now—. And the worst of it is that it's not because you've changed.
How do I know if you've changed? You haven't said a hundred words to me. Yo_aven't been an hour in the room. And the years must have enriched you—_aresay you've doubled your capital. You've been in the thick of life, and th_etal you're made of brightens with use. Success on some men looks like _orrowed coat; it sits on you as though it had been made to order. I see al_his; I know it; but I don't feel it. I don't feel anything… anywhere… I'_umb. (A pause.) Don't laugh, but I really don't think I should know now i_ou came into the room—unless I actually saw you. (They are both silent.)
_Oberville (at length)_. Then, to put the most merciful interpretation upo_our epigrams, your feeling for me was made out of poorer stuff than mine fo_ou.
Isabel. Perhaps it has had harder wear.
Oberville. Or been less cared for?
Isabel. If one has only one cloak one must wear it in all weathers.
Oberville. Unless it is so beautiful and precious that one prefers to go col_nd keep it under lock and key.
Isabel. In the cedar-chest of indifference—the key of which is usually lost.
Oberville. Ah, Isabel, you're too pat! How much I preferred your hesitations.
Isabel. My hesitations? That reminds me how much your coming has simplifie_hings. I feel as if I'd had an auction sale of fallacies.
Oberville. You speak in enigmas, and I have a notion that your riddles are th_everse of the sphinx's—more dangerous to guess than to give up. And yet _sed to find your thoughts such good reading.
Isabel. One cares so little for the style in which one's praises are written.
Oberville. You've been praising me for the last ten minutes and I find you_tyle detestable. I would rather have you find fault with me like a frien_han approve me like a dilettante.
Isabel. A dilettante! The very word I wanted!
Oberville. I am proud to have enriched so full a vocabulary. But I am stil_aiting for the word I want. (He grows serious.) Isabel, look in you_eart—give me the first word you find there. You've no idea how much a begga_an buy with a penny!
Isabel. It's empty, my poor friend, it's empty.
Oberville. Beggars never say that to each other.
Isabel. No; never, unless it's true.
_Oberville (after another silence)_. Why do you look at me so curiously?
Isabel. I'm—what was it you said? Approving you as a dilettante. Don't b_larmed; you can bear examination; I don't see a crack anywhere. After all, it's a satisfaction to find that one's idol makes a handsome bibelot.
_Oberville (with an attempt at lightness)_. I was right then—you're _ollector?
_Isabel (modestly)_. One must make a beginning. I think I shall begin wit_ou. (She smiles at him.) Positively, I must have you on my mantel- shelf!
(She rises and looks at the clock.) But it's time to dress for dinner. (_Sh_olds out her hand to him and he kisses it. They look at each other, and it i_lear that he does not quite understand, but is watching eagerly for hi_ue_.)
_Warland (coming in)_. Hullo, Isabel—you're here after all?
Isabel. And so is Mr. Oberville. (She looks straight at Warland.) I stayed i_n purpose to meet him. My husband—(The two men bow.)
_Warland (effusively)_. So glad to meet you. My wife talks of you so often.
She's been looking forward tremendously to your visit.
Oberville. It's a long time since I've had the pleasure of seeing Mrs.
Isabel. But now we are going to make up for lost time. (As he goes to th_oor.) I claim you to-morrow for the whole day.
Oberville bows and goes out.
Isabel. Lucius… I think you'd better go to Washington, after all. (Musing.) Narragansett might do for the others, though… . Couldn't you get Fred Langha_o ask all the rest of the party to go over there with him to-morrow morning?
I shall have a headache and stay at home. (He looks at her doubtfully.) Mr.
Oberville is a bad sailor.
Warland advances demonstratively.
_Isabel (drawing back)_. It's time to go and dress. I think you said the blac_own with spangles?