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Chapter 6 The Twilight of the God

  • _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.
  • Warland. Oberville—Oberville—!
  • 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.
  • Warland. Whew!
  • _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—
  • Isabel. Well?
  • 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?
  • Warland. Stay?
  • 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.)
  • Isabel. Boating?
  • 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.
  • Griscom's illness.
  • 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.
  • Oberville. Ah—
  • 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.
  • Oberville. Not—?
  • Isabel. I had remembered.
  • Oberville. Isabel!
  • 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.
  • Oberville. 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.
  • Warland.
  • 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?