English Literature: Victorians and Moderns

English Literature: Victorians and Moderns

Dr. James Sexton

Contents

1

Acknowledgements

The author wishes to thank his project manager, Amanda Coolidge; his co-editors Dr. Alix Hawley (Virigina Woolf); Ms. Kate Soles (Appendix: Glossary of Literary Terms); Dr. Derek Soles (Conrad, Yeats, Eliot, Appendix: Writing an Analysis of a Poem, Story or Play); and Drs. Brad Congdon, David Leon Higdon, Mary E. Kapke, Carol Lowe, Jerome Meckier, Colin Norman, Willi Real, as well as the editors of Aldous Huxley Annual (LIT Verlag), and English Studies in Canada for permission to reprint previously published essays in this open textbook.

2

About the Book

English Literature was written by James Sexton. The creation is a part of the B.C. Open Textbook project.

The B.C. Open Textbook Project began in 2012 with the goal of making post-secondary education in British Columbia more accessible by reducing student cost through the use of openly licensed textbooks. The BC Open Textbook Project is administered by BCcampus and funded by the British Columbia Ministry of Advanced Education.

Open textbooks are open educational resources (OER); they are instructional resources created and shared in ways so that more people have access to them. This is a different model than traditionally copyrighted materials. OER are defined as teaching, learning, and research resources that reside in the public domain or have been released under an intellectual property license that permits their free use and re-purposing by others (Hewlett Foundation). Our open textbooks are openly licensed using a Creative Commons license, and are offered in various e-book formats free of charge, or as printed books that are available at cost.  For more information about this project, please contact opentext@bccampus.ca. If you are an instructor who is using this book for a course, please let us know.

 

3

Preface

This open textbook was originally planned as a stand-alone anthology for various one-semester second-year Modern English Literature courses in the British Columbia colleges and universities system, but it can also be used elsewhere and at other levels, or as a supplementary text for the Victorians and Moderns portions of British literature survey courses. Besides its portability, searchability, and compatibility with smart phones, tablets, e-readers, and laptop or desktop computers, students should welcome its free availability online anywhere in the world, providing instant access to a variety of enriching photographic, audio, and video resources via the Internet. Another key feature is the series of six appendices, containing three mini-casebooks, a glossary of literary terms, and practical guides to writing literary essays and documenting them in correct MLA format. These “controlled” research casebooks and guides should be particularly helpful to students without easy access to the resources of large academic libraries. Its defects are wholly the responsibility of the editor. In the explanatory apparatus, he has tried to avoid the faults attributed by Aldous Huxley to certain editors, whom he chides for fulsomely explaining and discussing “the obvious points” while passing over “the hard passages, about which one might want to know something,…in the silence of sheer ignorance” (Limbo 197).

Such a project would not have been possible without those whose labours have resulted in the invaluable Internet digital libraries and resources such as Archive.org, Professor George Landow’s The Victorian Web, Oxford University’s First World War Poetry Digital Archive, the Poets.org site of the American Academy of Poets, various BBC and British Library educational sites, Wikimedia Commons and its sister sites, as well as numerous other helpful public Internet sites maintained by universities and individuals.

James Sexton

Vancouver, September 12, 2014

I

The Victorian Era 1832–1901

1

Introduction

Although Queen Victoria did not ascend to the throne until 1837, it is common to refer to the Victorian era as beginning in 1832, the year of both the First Reform Bill and the death of Sir Walter Scott, a major writer of the Romantic era. The main topics for this unit on the Victorians are Industrialism, Religious Doubt, The Role of Women (“The Woman Question”) and Imperialism. This is not to say that these issues were peculiar to that era; indeed, we will see them reappearing in later units; for example, the “Woman Question” in the Virginia Woolf and Katherine Mansfield chapters, Industrialism in Shaw’s play Major Barbara and in Huxley’s Brave New World, and Imperialism and Religious Doubt in the Orwell and Eliot chapters respectively.

As one critic puts it, the following developments characterize the Victorian era:

Resources

Industrialism

Religious Doubt

Women’s Rights

Imperialism

A Comprehensive general Victorians Site from Saylor.org English 410 Resources Page.

http://www.saylor.org/courses/engl410/?ismissing=0&resourcetype=1

 

II

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806–1861)

2

Biography

Born in 1806 at Coxhoe Hall, Durham, England, Elizabeth Barrett was an English poet influenced by the Romantic movement. The oldest of 12 children, Elizabeth was the first in her family born in England in over 200 years. For centuries, the Barrett family, who were part Creole, had lived in Jamaica, where they owned sugar plantations and relied on slave labor. Elizabeth’s father, Edward Barrett Moulton Barrett, chose to raise his family in England while his fortune grew in Jamaica.

Educated at home, Elizabeth apparently had read passages from Paradise Lost and a number of Shakespearean plays, among other great works, before the age of 10. By her 12th year she had written her first “epic” poem, which consisted of four books of rhyming couplets. Two years later, Elizabeth developed a lung ailment that plagued her for the rest of her life. Doctors began treating her with morphine, which she would take until her death. While saddling a pony when she was 15, Elizabeth also suffered a spinal injury. Despite her ailments, her education continued to flourish. Throughout her teenage years, Elizabeth taught herself Hebrew so that she could read the Old Testament; her interests later turned to Greek studies. Accompanying her appetite for the classics was a passionate enthusiasm for her Christian faith, and she became active in the Bible and missionary societies of her church.

In 1826 Elizabeth anonymously published her collection An Essay on Mind and Other Poems. Two years later, her mother passed away. The slow abolition of slavery in England and mismanagement of the plantations depleted the Barrett’s income, and in 1832, Elizabeth’s father sold his rural estate at a public auction. He moved his family to a coastal town and rented cottages for the next three years before settling permanently in London. While living on the sea coast, Elizabeth published her translation of Prometheus Bound (1833), by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus.

Gaining attention for her work in the 1830s, Elizabeth continued to live in her father’s London house under his tyrannical rule. He began sending Elizabeth’s younger siblings to Jamaica to help with the family’s estates. Elizabeth bitterly opposed slavery and did not want her siblings sent away. During this time, she wrote The Seraphim and Other Poems (1838), expressing Christian sentiments in the form of classical Greek tragedy. Due to her weakening disposition, she was forced to spend a year at the sea in Torquay accompanied by her brother Edward, whom she referred to as “Bro.” He drowned later that year while sailing, and Elizabeth returned home emotionally broken, becoming an invalid and a recluse. She spent the next five years in her bedroom at her father’s home. She continued writing, however, and in 1844 produced a collection entitled simply Poems. This volume gained the attention of poet Robert Browning, whose work Elizabeth had praised in one of her poems, and he wrote her a letter.

Elizabeth and Robert, who was six years her junior, exchanged 574 letters over the next 20 months. Immortalized in 1930 in the play The Barretts of Wimpole Street, by Rudolf Besier (1878–1942), their romance was bitterly opposed by her father, who did not want any of his children to marry. In 1846, the couple eloped and settled in Florence, Italy, where Elizabeth’s health improved and she bore a son, Robert Wideman Browning. Her father never spoke to her again. Elizabeth’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, dedicated to her husband and written in secret before her marriage, was published in 1850. Critics generally consider the Sonnets—one of the most widely known collections of love lyrics in English—to be her best work. Admirers have compared her imagery to Shakespeare and her use of the Italian form to Petrarch.

Political and social themes embody Elizabeth’s later work. She expressed her intense sympathy for the struggle for the unification of Italy in Casa Guidi Windows (1848–1851) and Poems Before Congress (1860). In 1857, Browning published her verse novel Aurora Leigh, which portrays male domination of a woman. In her poetry, she also addressed the oppression of the Italians by the Austrians, the child labor mines and mills of England, and slavery, among other social injustices. Although this decreased her popularity, Elizabeth was read and recognized around Europe.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in Florence on June 29, 1861.

Reprinted with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY. www.poets.org.

3

Sonnets from the Portuguese

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

XXI

Say over again, and yet once over again,

That thou dost love me. Though the word repeated

Should seem a “cuckoo-song,Repetitious.” as thou dost treat it,

Remember, never to the hill or plain,

Valley and wood, without her cuckoo-strain

Comes the fresh Spring in all her green completed.

Beloved, I, amid the darkness greeted

By a doubtful spirit-voice, in that doubt’s pain

Cry, “Speak once more—thou lovest!” Who can fear

Too many stars, though each in heaven shall roll,

Too many flowers, though each shall crown the year?

Say thou dost love me, love me, love me—toll

The silver iterance!—only minding, Dear,

To love me also in silence with thy soul.

 

XXII

When our two souls stand up erect and strong,

Face to face, silent, drawing nigh and nigher,

Until the lengthening wings break into fire

At either curved point,—what bitter wrong

Can the earth do to us, that we should not long

Be here contented? Think! In mounting higher,

The angels would press on us and aspire

To drop some golden orb of perfect song

Into our deep, dear silence. Let us stay

Rather on earth, Beloved,—where the unfit

Contrarious moods of men recoil away

And isolate pure spirits, and permit

A place to stand and love in for a day,

With darkness and the death-hour rounding it.

 

XXXII

The first time that the sun rose on thine oath

To love me, I looked forward to the moon

To slacken all those bonds which seemed too soon

And quickly tied to make a lasting troth.

Quick-loving hearts, I thought, may quickly loathe;

And, looking on myself, I seemed not one

For such man’s love!—more like an out-of-tune

Worn viol, a good singer would be wroth

To spoil his song with, and which, snatched in haste,

Is laid down at the first ill-sounding note.

I did not wrong myself so, but I placed

A wrong on thee. For perfect strains may float

‘Neath master-hands, from instruments defaced,—

And great souls, at one stroke, may do and doat.

XLIII

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of Being and ideal Grace.

I love thee to the level of everyday’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candlelight.

I love thee freely, as men strive for Right;

I love thee purely, as they turn from Praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints,—I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life!—and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

—1845-47, 1850

4

The Cry of the Children

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

“Φηῦ, φηῦ, τί προσδέρκεσθέ μ’ ὄμμασιν, τέκνα;”—MedeaThe title and first line are taken from the Chorus in response to the murders being committed in Euripedes’ tragedy, Medea. Browning wrote the poem in response to The Report of the Children’s Employment Commission (1843) by her friend, the poet Richard Henry Horne, who exposed the abuses against children employed in British mines and factories..

[Alas, alas, why do you gaze at me with your eyes, my children?]

Do ye hear the children weeping, O my brothers,

Ere the sorrow comes with years?

They are leaning their young heads against their mothers,

And that cannot stop their tears.

The young lambs are bleating in the meadows;

The young birds are chirping in the nest,

The young fawns are playing with the shadow,

The young flowers are blowing toward the west—

But the young, young children, O my brothers,

They are weeping bitterly!

They are weeping in the playtime of the others,

In the country of the free.

 

Do you question the young children in the sorrow

Why their tears are falling so?

The old man may weep for his to-morrow

Which is lost in Long Ago;

The old tree is leafless in the forest,

The old year is ending in the frost,

The old wound, if stricken, is the sorest,

The old hope is hardest to be lost:

But the young, young children, O my brothers,

Do you ask them why they stand

Weeping sore before the bosoms of their mothers,

In our happy Fatherland?

 

They look up with their pale and sunken faces,

And their looks are sad to see,

For the man’s hoary anguish draws and presses

Down the cheeks of infancy;

“Your old earth,” they say, “is very dreary,

Our young feet,” they say, “are very weak;

Few paces have we taken, yet are weary—

Our grave-rest is very far to seek:

Ask the aged why they weep, and not the children,

For the outside earth is cold,

And we young ones stand without, in our bewildering,

And the graves are for the old!”

 

“True,” say the children, “it may happen

That we die before our time:

Little Alice died last year, her grave is shapen

Like a snowball, in the rime.Frost.

We looked into the pit prepared to take her:

Was no room for any work in the close clay!

From the sleep wherein she lieth none will wake her,

Crying, ‘Get up, little Alice! it is day.’

If you listen by that grave, in sun and shower,

With your ear down, little Alice never cries;

Could we see her face, be sure we should not know her,

For the smile has time for growing in her eyes,—

And merry go her moments, lulled and stilled in

The shroud, by the kirk-chime!Church bell.

“It is good when it happens,” say the children,

“That we die before our time.”

 

Alas, alas, the children! they are seeking

Death in life, as best to have!

They are binding up their hearts away from breaking,

With a cerementShroud. from the grave.

Go out, children, from the mine and from the city,

Sing out, children, as the little thrushes do;

Pluck you handfuls of the meadow-cowslips pretty,

Laugh aloud, to feel your fingers let them through!

But they answer, “Are your cowslips of the meadows

Like our weeds anear the mine?

Leave us quiet in the dark of the coal-shadows,

From your pleasures fair and fine!

 

“For oh,” say the children, “we are weary,

And we cannot run or leap;

If we cared for any meadows, it were merely

To drop down in them and sleep.

Our knees tremble sorely in the stooping,

We fall upon our faces, trying to go;

And, underneath our heavy eyelids drooping,

The reddest flower would look as pale as snow.

For, all day, we drag our burden tiring,

Through the coal-dark, underground;

Or, all day, we drive the wheels of iron

In the factories, round and round.”

 

“For all day, the wheels are droning, turning;

Their wind comes in our faces,

Till our hearts turn, our heads with pulses burning,

And the walls turn in their places:

Turns the sky in the high window blank and reeling,

Turns the long light that drops adown the wall,

Turn the black flies that crawl along the ceiling;

All are turning, all the day, and we with all.

And all day, the iron wheels are droning,

And sometimes we could pray,

‘O ye wheels,’ (breaking out in a mad moaning),

‘Stop! be silent for to-day !’ ”

 

Ay! be silent ! Let them hear each other breathing

For a moment, mouth to mouth!

Let them touch each other’s hands, in a fresh wreathing

Of their tender human youth!

Let them feel that this cold metallic motion

Is not all the life God fashions or reveals:

Let them prove their living souls against the notion

That they live in you, or under you, O wheels!

Still, all day, the iron wheels go onward,

Grinding life down from its mark;

And the children’s souls, which God is calling sunward,

Spin on blindly in the dark.

 

Now tell the poor young children, O my brothers,

To look up to Him and pray;

So the blessed One who blesseth all the others,

Will bless them another day.

They answer, “Who is God that He should hear us,

While the rushing of the iron wheels is stirred?

When we sob aloud, the human creatures near us

Pass by, hearing not, or answer not a word!

And we hear not (for the wheels in their resounding)

Strangers speaking at the door:

Is it likely God, with angels singing round Him,

Hears our weeping any more?

 

“Two words, indeed, of praying we remember,

And at midnight’s hour of harm,

‘Our Father,’ looking upward in the chamber,

We say softly for a charm.

We know no other words, except ‘Our Father,’

And we think that, in some pause of angels’ song,

God may pluck them with the silence sweet to gather,

And hold both within His right hand which is strong.

‘Our Father!’ If He heard us, He would surely

(For they call Him good and mild)

Answer, smiling down the steep world very purely,

‘Come and rest with me, my child.’

 

“But, no!” say the children, weeping faster,

“He is speechless as a stone:

And they tell us, of His image is the master

Who commands us to work on.

Go to!” say the children,— “up in Heaven,

Dark, wheel-like, turning clouds are all we find.

Do not mock us; grief has made us unbelieving:

We look up for God, but tears have made us blind.”

Do ye hear the children weeping and disproving,

O my brothers, what ye preach?

For God’s possible is taught by His world’s loving —

And the children doubt of each.

 

And well may the children weep before you!

They are weary ere they run;

They have never seen the sunshine, nor the glory

Which is brighter than the sun:

They know the grief of man, without its wisdom;

They sink in man’s despair, without its calm;

Are slaves, without the liberty in Christdom,

Are martyrs, by the pang without the palm:

Are worn, as if with age, yet unretrievingly

The harvest of its memories cannot reap,—

Are orphans of the earthly love and heavenly:

Let them weep! let them weep!

 

They look up, with their pale and sunken faces,

And their look is dread to see,

For they mind you of their angels in high places,

With eyes turned on Deity.

“How long,” they say, “how long, O cruel nation,

Will you stand, to move the world, on a child’s heart, —

Stifle down with a mailed heel its palpitation,

And tread onward to your throne amid the mart?

Our blood splashes upward, O gold-heaper,

And your purplecf. Donne, invoking Herod’s slaughter of the children in Matthew 2: 16: “...hast thou since/Purpled thy nail in blood of innocence?”, “The Flea.” shows your path!

But the child’s sob in the silence curses deeper

Than the strong man in his wrath!”

—1843

5

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

Sonnets from the Portuguese

1.  Determine the rhyme scheme for each of these sonnets. To what type do the Sonnets from the Portuguese belong—the English or the Petrarchan form?

2.  Log on to the Wikisource page for all 43 sonnets. Do any of the sonnets break from the standard rhyme scheme used in sonnets 21, 22, 32, and 43 above?

3.  In terms of form, especially rhyme scheme, which English sonneteer does Barrett Browning most resemble: Sidney, Spenser, or Shakespeare? For Sidney, see Astrophil and Stella, Sonnets 31, 52, 74, http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/stella.html. For Spenser, see any of the sonnets in Amoretti, http://darkwing.uoregon.edu/~rbear/amoretti.html#1. For Shakespeare, see http://www.opensourceshakespeare.org/views/sonnets/sonnet_view.php?Sonnet=1

4.  Barrett Browning knew the poetry of John Donne very well. Do any of the above sonnets resemble Donne’s “sonnets” in terms of style or imagery?
5.  In a short essay, compare and contrast one sonnet by Browning and one by either Shakespeare, Sidney, or Spenser.

 

Cry of the Children

Professor Florence Boos maintains an extensive site on Victorian literature, with helpful questions on many Victorian authors. The index to her study guides is well worth downloading. It can be found at the bottom of her page devoted to E.B. Browning’s “Cry of the Children” and “The Runaway Slave”  below:

http://www.uiowa.edu/~boosf/questions/ebbrunawayweb.htm

1.  In particular, are there ways in which the rhythms reinforce the theme of noisy, dirty, and unpleasant factory conditions?
2.  What metaphors or recurrent themes does the author use to make her points (nature; death; youth and age; whirring of machinery)?
3.  In what ways is the children’s viewpoint different from that of adults? What is their view of death, and how does this reinforce the poem’s themes? How do they respond to the death of little Alice?
4.  What view of religion does the author seem to espouse? Who is responsible for the fact that the children are unable to conceive of a beneficent divine being?

Activities/Further Essay Topics

1.  Compare the document from the Victorian Web about child labour with “Cry of the Children”; then discuss which is the more likely to make the reader take action against the abuses:

2.  Compare Barrett Browning’s description of child labour with Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience, particularly in the poems “Holy Thursday” and “Chimney Sweeper.” Compare the children’s attitude toward religion in both authors’ works. Compare the last line of “The Chimney Sweeper” with the last stanza of  “The Cry of the Children.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Chimney_Sweeper

 

References

Figure 1:
Elizabeth Barrett Browning by Project Gutenberg (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Elizabeth_Barrett_Browning_2.jpg) is in the Public Domain

III

Robert Browning (1812–1889)

6

Biography

 

Robert Browning was born on May 7, 1812, in Camberwell, England. His mother was an accomplished pianist and a devout evangelical Christian. His father worked as a bank clerk and was also an artist, scholar, antiquarian, and collector of books and pictures. His rare book collection of more than 6,000 volumes included works in Greek, Hebrew, Latin, French, Italian, and Spanish. Much of Browning’s education came from his well-read father. It is believed that he was already proficient at reading and writing by the age of five. A bright and anxious student, Browning learned Latin, Greek, and French by the time he was 14. From 14 to 16, he was educated at home, attended to by various tutors in music, drawing, dancing, and horsemanship. At the age of 12, he wrote a volume of Byronic verse entitled Incondita, which his parents attempted, unsuccessfully, to have published. In 1825, a cousin gave Browning a collection of Shelley’s poetry; Browning was so taken with the book that he asked for the rest of Shelley’s works for his 13th birthday, and declared himself a vegetarian and an atheist in emulation of the poet. Despite this early passion, he apparently wrote no poems between the ages of 13 and 20. In 1828, Browning enrolled at the University of London, but he soon left, anxious to read and learn at his own pace. The random nature of his education later surfaced in his writing, leading to criticism of his poems’ obscurities.

In 1833, Browning anonymously published his first major published work, Pauline, and in 1840 he published Sordello, which was widely regarded as a failure. He also tried his hand at drama, but his plays, including Strafford, which ran for five nights in 1837, and the Bells and Pomegranates series, were for the most part unsuccessful. Nevertheless, the techniques he developed through his dramatic monologues—especially his use of diction, rhythm, and symbol—are regarded as his most important contribution to poetry, influencing such major poets of the twentieth century as Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Robert Frost.

After reading Elizabeth Barrett’s Poems (1844) and corresponding with her for a few months, Browning met her in 1845. They were married in 1846, against the wishes of Barrett’s father. The couple moved to Pisa and then Florence, where they continued to write. They had a son, Robert “Pen” Browning, in 1849, the same year Browning’s Collected Poems was published. Elizabeth inspired Robert’s collection of poems Men and Women (1855), which he dedicated to her. Now regarded as one of Browning’s best works, the book was received with little notice at the time; its author was then primarily known as Elizabeth Barrett’s husband.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning died in 1861, and Robert and Pen Browning moved to London soon after. Browning went on to publish Dramatis Personae (1863), and The Ring and the Book (1868). The latter, based on a  17th century Italian murder trial, received wide critical acclaim, finally earning Browning renown and respect in the twilight of his career. The Browning Society was founded while he still lived, in 1881, and he was awarded honorary degrees by Oxford University in 1882 and the University of Edinburgh in 1884. Robert Browning died on the same day that his final volume of verse, Asolando, was published, in 1889.

Reprinted with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY. www.poets.org.

7

Porphyria's Lover

Robert Browning

The rain set early in to-night,

The sullen wind was soon awake,

It tore the elm-tops down for spite,

And did its worst to vex the lake:

I listened with heart fit to break.

When glided in Porphyria; straight

She shut the cold out and the storm,

And kneeled and made the cheerless grate

Blaze up, and all the cottage warm;

Which done, she rose, and from her form

Withdrew the dripping cloak and shawl,

And laid her soiled gloves by, untied

Her hat and let the damp hair fall,

And, last, she sat down by my side

And called me. When no voice replied,

She put my arm about her waist,

And made her smooth white shoulder bare,

And all her yellow hair displaced,

And, stooping, made my cheek lie there,

And spread, o’er all, her yellow hair,

Murmuring how she loved me — she

Too weak, for all her heart’s endeavour,

To set its struggling passion free

From pride, and vainer ties dissever,

And give herself to me for ever.

But passion sometimes would prevail,

Nor could to-night’s gay feast restrain

A sudden thought of one so pale

For love of her, and all in vain:

So, she was come through wind and rain.

Be sure I looked up at her eyes

Happy and proud; at last I knew

Porphyria worshipped me; surprise

Made my heart swell, and still it grew

While I debated what to do.

That moment she was mine, mine, fair,

Perfectly pure and good: I found

A thing to do, and all her hair

In one long yellow string I wound

Three times her little throat around,

And strangled her. No pain felt she;

I am quite sure she felt no pain.

As a shut bud that holds a bee,

I warily oped her lids: again

Laughed the blue eyes without a stain.

And I untightened next the tress

About her neck; her cheek once more

Blushed bright beneath my burning kiss:

I propped her head up as before,

Only, this time my shoulder bore

Her head, which droops upon it still:

The smiling rosy little head,

So glad it has its utmost will,

That all it scorned at once is fled,

And I, its love, am gained instead!

Porphyria’s love: she guessed not how

Her darling one wish would be heard.

And thus we sit together now,

And all night long we have not stirred,

And yet God has not said a word!

—1836, 1842

 

8

My Last Duchess

Robert Browning

FERRARA

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,

Looking as if she were alive. IThe Duke is based upon Alfonso II, fifth Duke of Ferrara (1533-97). In 1558, he married 14-year-old Lucrezia de’ Medici, who died in 1561 under suspicious circumstances. call

That piece a wonder, now; Fra PandolfBrother Pandolf, a fictitious painter from a monastic order.’s hands

Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

Will’t please you sit and look at her? I said

“Fra Pandolf ” by design, for never read

Strangers like you that pictured countenance,

The depth and passion of its earnest glance,

But to myself they turned (since none puts by

The curtain I have drawn for you, but I)

And seemed as they would ask me, if they durst,

How such a glance came there; so, not the first

Are you to turn and ask thus. Sir, ’twas not

Her husband’s presence only, called that spot

Of joy into the Duchess’ cheek; perhaps

Fra Pandolf chanced to say, “Her mantle laps

Over my lady’s wrist too much,” or “Paint

Must never hope to reproduce the faint

Half-flush that dies along her throat.” Such stuff

Was courtesy, she thought, and cause enough

For calling up that spot of joy. She had

A heart—how shall I say?— too soon made glad,

Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er

She looked on, and her looks went everywhere.

Sir, ’twas all one! My favour at her breast,

The dropping of the daylight in the West,

The bough of cherries some officious fool

Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule

She rode with round the terrace—all and each

Would draw from her alike the approving speech,

Or blush, at least. She thanked men—good! but thanked

Somehow—I know not how—as if she ranked

My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name

With anybody’s gift. Who’d stoop to blame

This sort of trifling? Even had you skill

In speech—which I have not—to make your will

Quite clear to such an one, and say, “Just this

Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss,

Or there exceed the mark”—and if she let

Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set

Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse—

E’en then would be some stooping; and I choose

Never to stoop. Oh, sir, she smiled, no doubt,

Whene’er I passed her; but who passed without

Much the same smile? This grew; I gave commands;

Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands

As if alive. Will’t please you rise? We’ll meet

The company below, then. I repeat,

The Count your master’s known munificence

Is ample warrant that no just pretense

Of mine for dowry will be disallowed;

Though his fair daughter’s self, as I avowed

At starting, is my object. Nay, we’ll go

Together down, sir. Notice NeptuneRoman sea god, here depicted as subduing a mythical beast, half horse, half fish., though,

Taming a sea-horse, thought a rarity,

Which Claus of InnsbruckAn imaginary sculptor. The reference may be an indirect compliment to Frederick of Innsbruck, Count of Tyrol, whose daughter Alfonso married in 1565. cast in bronze for me!

—1842

9

The Bishop Orders His Tomb at Saint Praxed’s Church

Robert Browning

RomeThe Basilica of Santa Prassede, commemorating a virgin saint who gave her wealth to the poor, is in Rome. It has no tomb such as that imagined by Browning’s Bishop. 15–

Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!cf. Ecclesiastes 1.2: “Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher...all is vanity.”
Draw round my bed: is AnselmOne of the bishop’s illegitimate sons, euphemistically referred to as “nephews.” keeping back?
Nephews — sons mine . . . ah God, I know not! Well —
She, men would have to be your mother once,
Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
What’s done is done, and she is dead beside,
Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,
And as she died so must we die ourselves,
And thence ye may perceive the world’s a dream.
Life, how and what is it? As here I lie 10
In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
“Do I live, am I dead?” Peace, peace seems all.
Saint Praxed’s ever was the church for peace;
And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought
With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:
— Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;
Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South
He graced his carrion with. God curse the same!
Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence 20
One sees the pulpit o’ the epistle-sideThe people’s right side of the altar from which the Epistle is read during Mass.,
And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,
And up into the aery dome where live
The angels, and a sunbeam’s sure to lurk;
And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
And ‘neath my tabernacleCanopy over a tomb. take my rest,
With those nine columns round me, two and two,
The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:
Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe
As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse. 30
— Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stoneCheap marble.,
Put me where I may look at him! True peach,
Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!
Draw close: that conflagration of my church
— What then? So much was saved if aught were missed!
My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig
The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood,
Drop water gently till the surface sink,
And if ye find . . . Ah God, I know not, I! . . .
Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft, 40
And corded up in a tight olive-frail,
Some lump, ah God, of , lapis lazuliSemi-precious blue stone.,
Big as a Jew’s head cut off at the nape,
Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast . . .
Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all,
That brave FrascatiA resort town near Rome. villa with its bath,
So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
Like God the Father’s globe on both his hands
Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay,
For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst! 50
Swift as a weaver’s shuttlecf. Job 7.9: “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope.” fleet our years:
Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?
Did I say basaltGreenish or brown-black rock often used for tombstones. for my slab, sons? Black —
‘T was ever antique-blackBlack stone, costlier than basalt. I meant! How else
Shall ye contrast my friezeA band of painted or sculpted decoration. to come beneath?
The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,
Those Pans and NymphsPan, Greek god of the forest, often associated with sexual license. Nymphs are beautiful maidens. Here the bishop confuses the worldly with the spiritual, the pagan with the Christian, in his ideas for the bas-relief sculptures. ye wot of, and perchance
Some tripod, thyrsusOrnamented staff of Bacchus., with a vase or so,
The Saviour at his sermon on the mount,
Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan 60
Ready to twitch the Nymph’s last garment off,
And Moses with the tables . . . but I know
Ye mark me not! What do they whisper thee,
Child of my bowels, Anselm? Ah, ye hope
To revel down my villas while I gasp
Bricked o’er with beggar’s mouldy travertineLimestone.
Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at!
Nay, boys, ye love me — all of jasperTranslucent green quartz., then!
‘T is jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve.
My bath must needs be left behind, alas! 70
One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut,
There’s plenty jasper somewhere in the world —
And have I not Saint Praxed’s ear to pray
Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts,
And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs?
— That’s if ye carve my epitaph aright,
Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully’sMarcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Great Roman philosopher, linguist, and orator. every word,
No gaudy ware like Gandolf’s second line —
Tully, my masters? UlpianDomitius Ulpianus (AD 170-228). A Roman jurist whose style was considered inferior to that of Cicero. serves his need!
And then how I shall lie through centuries, 80
And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
And see God made and eatenSlurring allusion to the doctrine of transubstantiation. all day long,
And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste
Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke!
For as I lie here, hours of the dead night,
Dying in state and by such slow degrees,
I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook,
And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can pointThe tomb would be surmounted by a recumbent effigy of the occupant.,
And let the bedclothes, for a mortcloth, drop
Into great laps and folds of sculptor’s-work: 90
And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts
Grow, with a certain humming in my ears,
About the life before I lived this life,
And this life too, popes, cardinals and priests,
Saint Praxed at his sermon on the mountThe bishop confuses St. Praxed, a woman, with Christ, who gave the Sermon on the Mount.,
Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes,
And new-found agate urns as fresh as day,
And marble’s language, Latin pure, discreet,
— Aha, ELUCESCEBAT“He was illustrious,” the Ulpian Latin chosen for Gandolf’s tomb by the bishop. Ciceronian Latin would be “elucebat.” quoth our friend?
No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best! 100
Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage.cf. Genesis 47.9.
All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope
My villas! Will ye ever eat my heart?
Ever your eyes were as a lizard’s quick,
They glitter like your mother’s for my soul,
Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze,
Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase
With grapes, and add a vizor and a TermA vizor is the mask of a helmet; “Term” refers to a bust on a pedestal, erected to honour Terminus, the Roman god of boundaries.,
And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx
That in his struggle throws the thyrsus down, 110
To comfort me on my entablaturePlatform.
Whereon I am to lie till I must ask
“Do I live, am I dead?” There, leave me, there!
For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude
To death — ye wish it — God, ye wish it! Stone —
GritstoneCheap sandstone., a-crumble! Clammy squares which sweat
As if the corpse they keep were oozing through —
And no more lapis to delight the world!
Well go! I bless ye. Fewer tapers there,
But in a row: and, going, turn your backs 120
— Ay, like departing altar-ministrants,
And leave me in my church, the church for peace,
That I may watch at leisure if he leers —
Old Gandolf, at me, from his onion-stone,
As still he envied me, so fair she was!

—1845

 

10

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

Robert Browning

Gr-r-r—there go, my heart’s abhorrence!

Water your damned flower-pots, do!

If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,

God’s blood, An archaic oath, often “’sblood”; similar to Gadzooks (God’s hooks) or Zounds (His wounds).would not mine kill you!

What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?

Oh, that rose has prior claims—

Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?

Hell dry you up with its flames!

 

At the meal we sit together;

Salve tibi!Latin, “Hail to you.” All italicized words are those of Brother Lawrence. I must hear

Wise talk of the kind of weather,

Sort of season, time of year:

Not a plenteous cork crop: scarcely

Dare we hope oak-galls,Swellings on diseased oak leaves, yielding tannin, used in dyeing. I doubt;

What’s the Latin name for “parsley”?

What’s the Greek name for “swine’s snout”?Translation of the Latin—rostrum porcinum—for dandelion.

 

Whew! We’ll have our platter burnished,

Laid with care on our own shelf!

With a fire-new spoon we’re furnished,

And a goblet for ourself,

Rinsed like something sacrificial

Ere ‘tis fit to touch our chapsJaws, mouth.

Marked with L. for our initial!

(He-he! There his lily snaps!)

 

Saint, forsooth! While brown Dolores

Squats outside the Convent bank

With Sanchicha, telling stories,

Steeping tresses in the tank,

Blue-black, lustrous, thick like horsehairs,

—Can’t I see his dead eye glow,

Bright as ‘twere a Barbary corsair’s?Pirate of Africa’s Barbary Coast of northern Africa, renowned for fierceness and lechery.

(That is, if he’d let it show!)

 

When he finishes refection,The taking of food and drink, refreshment.

Knife and fork he never lays

Cross-wise, to my recollection,

As do I, in Jesu’s praise.

I the Trinity illustrate,

Drinking watered orange pulp—

In three sips the ArianHeresy which denied the doctrine of the Trinity by asserting that the Son of God was a subordinate entity to God the Father. frustrate;

While he drains his at one gulp!

 

Oh, those melons! if he’s able

We’re to have a feast; so nice!

One goes to the Abbot’s table,

All of us get each a slice.

How go on your flowers? None double?

Not one fruit-sort can you spy?

Strange!—And I, too, at such trouble,

Keep them close-nipped on the sly!

 

There’s a great text in Galatians,cf. Galatians 5:19-21, which lists numerous mortal sins.

Once you trip on it, entails

Twenty-nine distinct damnations,

One sure, if another fails;

If I trip him just a-dying,

Sure of heaven as sure can be,

Spin him round and send him flying

Off to hell, a Manichee?A heretic. The Manichean holds that the universe is controlled by equally balanced forces of good and evil.The speaker hopes to trick Brother Lawrence into uttering such a heresy before Lawrence can recant.

 

Or, my scrofulous French novel

On grey paper with blunt type!

Simply glance at it, you grovel

Hand and foot in Belial’s The Devil’s grip. gripe;

If I double down its pages

At the woeful sixteenth print,

When he gathers his greengages,

Ope a sieve and slip it in’t?

 

Or, there’s Satan!—one might venture

Pledge one’s soul to him, yet leave

Such a flaw in the indentureThe speaker considers selling his soul to Satan in exchange for Lawrence’s damnation, but would leave a loophole through which he can escape damnation himself.

As he’d miss till, past retrieve,

Blasted lay that rose-acacia

We’re so proud of! Hy, Zy, Hine…Probably the opening words of a curse against Lawrence.

‘St, there’s Vespers! Plena gratia

Ave, Virgo! “Full of grace; Hail, Virgin!” Gr-r-r—you swine!

 

—1842

 

11

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

Porphyria’s Lover

  1. Why does the speaker murder Porphyria?
  2. Read the following essay, which argues that Shakespeare’s Othello is another source for Browning’s “Porphyria’s Lover.” http://www.cswnet.com/~erin/rb6.htm

My Last Duchess

  1. What is the rhyme scheme in this poem?
  2. Give some examples of enjambment in the poem. What purpose does enjambment serve in this poem?
  3. What is the dramatic situation in the poem? Who is speaking and to whom?
  4. Is there any dramatic movement in the poem?
  5. What were the duchess’s alleged faults?
  6. How does Browning engage our sympathies for the duchess?

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

  1. What is the speaker’s dominant characteristic?
  2. What is the main characteristic of Brother Lawrence?
  3. In what way might Browning have used Friar Lawrence in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to characterize his own Brother Lawrence?

The Bishop Orders His Tomb

  1. Who is Anselm?
  2. Is Browning criticizing aspects of 16th century Roman culture?
  3. Of what sins is the bishop guilty?
  4. Why is the choice of St. Praxed as the site of this bishop’s tomb ironic?
  5. List a few appropriately conventional sentiments uttered by the bishop.
  6. List some surprisingly unconventional sentiments he utters.
  7. How do you explain line 95: “St. Praxed at his sermon on the mount”?

Essay topics

Write an essay of 1,000 to 1,500 words on irony in “My Last Duchess,” “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” and “The Bishop Orders His Tomb.”

Philip Allingham notes, “Browning is noted as a writer of Dramatic Monologues, in which a single ‘actor’ or persona (rather than the poet) speaks to an implied auditor and is, as it were, overheard by the reader (who has no authorial comment to shape his or her interpretation of the characters and their circumstances).” However, this poem is called a entitled a “soliloquy.” What features of “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister” render the poem a soliloquy rather than a dramatic monologue? In particular, who is the poem’s “implied auditor”? Please refer to a good glossary of literary terms, and then in an essay of 1,000 to 1500 words, discuss any two of “My Last Duchess,” “Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister,” and “The Bishop Orders His Tomb” as dramatic monologues.

Compare any one of Browning’s dramatic monologues to one by Donne, such as “The Flea” or “The Canonization.” http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/flea.php

http://www.luminarium.org/sevenlit/donne/canonization.php

Resources

Film Treatments:

The Bishop Orders His Tomb

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-lN48Xzh70

qrcode-the-bishop-orders-his-tomb

Porphyria’s Lover

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rWiPuE1zjuo

qrcode-porphyrias-lover

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1SlZidobhM

qrcode-soliloquy-of-spanish-cloister

Resources

http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/poetryperformance/browning/josephinehart/aboutbrowning.html

 

 

References

Figure 1:
Robert Browning 1865 by Julia Margaret Cameron (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Robert_Browning_1865.jpg) is in the Public Domain

IV

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809–1892)

12

Biography

 

Born on August 6, 1809, in Somersby, Lincolnshire, England, Alfred Tennyson is one of the best-loved Victorian poets. Tennyson, the fourth of 12 children, showed an early talent for writing. At the age of 12 he wrote a 6,000-line epic poem. His father, the Reverend George Tennyson, tutored his sons in classical and modern languages. In the 1820s, however, Tennyson’s father began to suffer frequent mental breakdowns that were exacerbated by alcoholism. One of Tennyson’s brothers had violent quarrels with his father, a second was later confined to an insane asylum, and another became an opium addict.

Tennyson escaped home in 1827 to attend Trinity College, Cambridge. In that same year, he and his brother Charles published Poems by Two Brothers. Although the poems in the book were mostly juvenilia, they attracted the attention of the “Apostles,” an undergraduate literary club led by Arthur Hallam. The Apostles provided Tennyson, who was tremendously shy, with much needed friendship and confidence as a poet. Hallam and Tennyson became the best of friends; they toured Europe together in 1830 and again in 1832. Hallam’s sudden death in 1833 greatly affected the young poet. The long elegy In Memoriam and many of Tennyson’s other poems are tributes to Hallam.

In 1830, Tennyson published Poems, Chiefly Lyrical, and in 1832 he published a second volume entitled simply Poems. Some reviewers condemned these books as “affected” and “obscure.” Tennyson, stung by the reviews, would not publish another book for nine years. In 1836, he became engaged to Emily Sellwood, but when he lost his inheritance on a bad investment in 1840, Sellwood’s family called off the engagement. In 1842, however, Tennyson’s Poems in two volumes was a tremendous critical and popular success. In 1850, with the publication of In Memoriam, Tennyson became one of Britain’s most popular poets. He was selected Poet Laureate in succession to Wordsworth. In that same year, he finally married Emily Sellwood. They had two sons, Hallam and Lionel.

At the age of 41, Tennyson had established himself as the most popular poet of the Victorian era. The money from his poetry (at times exceeding 10,000 pounds per year) allowed him to purchase a house in the country and to write in relative seclusion. His physical appearance—he was a large and bearded man and he regularly wore a cloak and a broad-brimmed hat—enhanced his notoriety. He read his poetry with a booming voice, which was often compared to that of Dylan Thomas In 1859, Tennyson published the first poems of Idylls of the Kings, which sold more than 10,000 copies in one month. In 1884 he accepted a peerage, becoming Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Tennyson died on October 6, 1892, and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Reprinted with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY. www.poets.org.

13

The Lady of Shalott

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Part I

On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the woldA plain. and meet the sky;
And through the field the road runs by
To many-towered Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blowBloom.
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.

Willows whitenThe white underside of the willow leaves are lifted by the wind. , aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Through the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four grey walls, and four grey towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.

By the margin, willow-veiled,
Slide the heavy barges trailed
By slow horses; and unhailed
The shallopA small, open boat propelled by oars or sails and used mainly in shallow waters. flitteth silken-sailed
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?

Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to towered Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers “‘Tis the fairy
Lady of Shalott.”

Part II

There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stayPause.
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.

And moving through a mirrorAt her loom, the lady faces the back of her tapestry, and weaves by consulting a mirror in which the design is reflected. clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churlsPeasants.,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.

Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-haired page in crimson clad,
Goes by to towered Camelot;
And sometimes through the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.

But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror’s magic sights,
For often through the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed;
“I am half sick of shadows,” said
The Lady of Shalott.

Part III

A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling through the leaves,
And flamed upon the brazen greavesArmour for the leg below the knee.
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneeled
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.

The gemmy bridle glittered free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazoned baldricA belt worn over one shoulder to support a sword or bugle. slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.

All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewelled shone the saddle-leather,
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burned like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often through the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.

His broad clear brow in sunlight glowed;
On burnished hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flowed
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flashed into the crystal mirror,
“Tirra lirraIn Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, (4.3: 11-12), Autolycus sings about “tumbling in the hay” with his “aunts” (whores).,” by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.

She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces through the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She looked down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror cracked from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.

Part IV

In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining,
Heavily the low sky raining
Over towered Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
The Lady of Shalott.

And down the river’s dim expanse,
Like some bold seër in a trance
Seeing all his own mischance—
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.

Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right—
The leaves upon her falling light—
Through the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.

Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darkened wholly,
Turned to towered Camelot.
For ere she reached upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.

Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.

Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they crossed themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, “She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott.”
—1832, 1842

 

14

From the Princess

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

‘Blame not thyself too much,’ I said, ‘nor blame

Too much the sons of men and barbarous laws;

These were the rough ways of the world till now.

Henceforth thou hast a helper, me, that know

The woman’s cause is man’s: they rise or sink

Together, dwarfed or godlike, bond or free:

For she that out of Lethe scales with man

The shining steps of Nature, shares with man

His nights, his days, moves with him to one goal,

Stays all the fair young planet in her hands—

If she be small, slight-natured, miserable,

How shall men grow? but work no more alone!

Our place is much: as far as in us lies

We two will serve them both in aiding her—

Will clear away the parasitic forms

That seem to keep her up but drag her down—

Will leave her space to burgeon out of all

Within her—let her make herself her own

To give or keep, to live and learn and be

All that not harms distinctive womanhood.

For woman is not undevelopt man,

But diverse: could we make her as the man,

Sweet Love were slain: his dearest bond is this,

Not like to like, but like in difference.

Yet in the long years liker must they grow;

The man be more of woman, she of man;

He gain in sweetness and in moral height,

Nor lose the wrestling thews that throw the world;

She mental breadth, nor fail in childward care,

Nor lose the childlike in the larger mind;

Till at the last she set herself to man,

Like perfect music unto noble words;

And so these twain, upon the skirts of Time,

Sit side by side, full-summed in all their powers,

Dispensing harvest, sowing the To-be,

Self-reverent each and reverencing each,

Distinct in individualities,

But like each other even as those who love.

Then comes the statelier Eden back to men:

Then reign the world’s great bridals, chaste and calm:

Then springs the crowning race of humankind.

May these things be!’

Sighing she spoke ‘I fear

They will not.’

‘Dear, but let us type them now

In our own lives, and this proud watchword rest

Of equal; seeing either sex alone

Is half itself, and in true marriage lies

Nor equal, nor unequal: each fulfils

Defect in each, and always thought in thought,

Purpose in purpose, will in will, they grow,

The single pure and perfect animal,

The two-celled heart beating, with one full stroke,

Life.’

And again sighing she spoke: ‘A dream

That once was mind! what woman taught you this?’

—1847

 

15

The Lotos-Eaters

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

This poem is based on Homer’s Odyssey, Chapter 9, which describes a visit by Ulysses and his men to the home of the Lotos-eaters (also “lotus”) on their way home from the Trojan War. Those who ate of the honey-sweet fruit of the lotos tree became indolent and forgot their home.

 

 

“Courage!” heOdysseus, legendary Greek king of Ithaca, known also by his Roman name Ulysses. said, and pointed toward the land,
“This mounting wave will roll us shoreward soon.”
In the afternoon they came unto a land
In which it seemed always afternoon.
All round the coast the languid air did swoon,
Breathing like one that hath a weary dream.
Full-faced above the valley stood the moon;
And like a downward smoke, the slender stream
Along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.

A land of streams! some, like a downward smoke,
Slow-dropping veils of thinnest lawnSheer linen., did go;
And some thro’ wavering lights and shadows broke,
Rolling a slumbrous sheet of foam below.
They saw the gleaming river seaward flow
From the inner land: far off, three mountain-tops,
Three silent pinnacles of aged snow,
Stood sunset-flush’d: and, dew’d with showery drops,
Up-clomb the shadowy pine above the woven copse.

The charmed sunset linger’d low adown
In the red West: thro’ mountain clefts the dale
Was seen far inland, and the yellow down
Border’d with palm, and many a winding vale
And meadow, set with slender galingaleAn aromatic plant resembling ginger.;
A land where all things always seem’d the same!
And round about the keel with faces pale,
Dark faces pale against that rosy flame,
The mild-eyed melancholy Lotos-eaters came.

Branches they bore of that enchanted stem,
Laden with flower and fruit, whereof they gave
To each, but whoso did receive of them,
And taste, to him the gushing of the wave
Far far away did seem to mourn and rave
On alien shores; and if his fellow spake,
His voice was thin, as voices from the grave;
And deep-asleep he seem’d, yet all awake,
And music in his ears his beating heart did make.

They sat them down upon the yellow sand,
Between the sun and moon upon the shore;
And sweet it was to dream of Fatherland,
Of child, and wife, and slave; but evermore
Most weary seem’d the sea, weary the oar,
Weary the wandering fields of barren foam.
Then some one said, “We will return no more”;
And all at once they sang, “Our island homeIthaca, an island on the west coast of Greece.
Is far beyond the wave; we will no longer roam.”

Choric SongSung by the mariners.

I

There is sweet music here that softer falls
Than petals from blown roses on the grass,
Or night-dews on still waters between walls
Of shadowy granite, in a gleaming pass;
Music that gentlier on the spirit lies,
Than tir’d eyelids upon tir’d eyes;
Music that brings sweet sleep down from the blissful skies.
Here are cool mosses deep,
And thro’ the moss the ivies creep,
And in the stream the long-leaved flowers weep,
And from the craggy ledge the poppy hangs in sleep.

II

Why are we weigh’d upon with heaviness,
And utterly consumed with sharp distress,
While all things else have rest from weariness?
All things have rest: why should we toil alone,
We only toil, who are the first of things,
And make perpetual moan,
Still from one sorrow to another thrown:
Nor ever fold our wings,
And cease from wanderings,
Nor steep our brows in slumber’s holy balm;
Nor harken what the inner spirit sings,
“There is no joy but calm!”
Why should we only toil, the roof and crown of things?

III

Lo! in the middle of the wood,
The folded leaf is woo’d from out the bud
With winds upon the branch, and there
Grows green and broad, and takes no care,
Sun-steep’d at noon, and in the moon
Nightly dew-fed; and turning yellow
Falls, and floats adown the air.
Lo! sweeten’d with the summer light,
The full-juiced apple, waxing over-mellow,
Drops in a silent autumn night.
All its allotted length of days
The flower ripens in its place,
Ripens and fades, and falls, and hath no toil,
Fast-rooted in the fruitful soil.

IV

Hateful is the dark-blue sky,
Vaulted o’er the dark-blue sea.
Death is the end of life; ah, why
Should life all labour be?
Let us alone. Time driveth onward fast,
And in a little while our lips are dumb.
Let us alone. What is it that will last?
All things are taken from us, and become
Portions and parcels of the dreadful past.
Let us alone. What pleasure can we have
To war with evil? Is there any peace
In ever climbing up the climbing wave?
All things have rest, and ripen toward the grave
In silence; ripen, fall and cease:
Give us long rest or death, dark death, or dreamful ease.

V

How sweet it were, hearing the downward stream,
With half-shut eyes ever to seem
Falling asleep in a half-dream
To dream and dream, like yonder amber light,
Which will not leave the myrrh-bush on the height;
To hear each other’s whisper’d speech;
Eating the Lotos day by day,
To watch the crisping ripples on the beach,
And tender curving lines of creamy spray;
To lend our hearts and spirits wholly
To the influence of mild-minded melancholy;
To muse and brood and live again in memory,
With those old faces of our infancy
Heap’d over with a mound of grass,
Two handfuls of white dust, shut in an urn of brass!

VI

Dear is the memory of our wedded lives,
And dear the last embraces of our wives
And their warm tears: but all hath suffer’d change:
For surely now our household hearths are cold,
Our sons inherit us: our looks are strange:
And we should come like ghosts to trouble joy.
Or else the island princes over-bold
Have eat our substance, and the minstrel sings
Before them of the ten years’ war in Troy,
And our great deeds, as half-forgotten things.
Is there confusion in the little isle?
Let what is broken so remain.
The Gods are hard to reconcile:
‘Tis hard to settle order once again.
There is confusion worse than death,
Trouble on trouble, pain on pain,
Long labour unto aged breath,
Sore task to hearts worn out by many wars
And eyes grown dim with gazing on the pilot-stars.

VII

But, propt on beds of amaranthAn imaginary flower said never to fade. and molyHermes gave Ulysses this magical flower to protect him from the wiles of Circe, the enchantress in Chapter 10 of Odyssey.,
How sweet (while warm airs lull us, blowing lowly)
With half-dropt eyelid still,
Beneath a heaven dark and holy,
To watch the long bright river drawing slowly
His waters from the purple hill—
To hear the dewy echoes calling
From cave to cave thro’ the thick-twined vine—
To watch the emerald-colour’d water falling
Thro’ many a wov’n acanthus-wreath divine!
Only to hear and see the far-off sparkling brine,
Only to hear were sweet, stretch’d out beneath the pine.

VIII

The Lotos blooms below the barren peak:
The Lotos blows by every winding creek:
All day the wind breathes low with mellower tone:
Thro’ every hollow cave and alley lone
Round and round the spicy downs the yellow Lotos-dust is blown.
We have had enough of action, and of motion we,
Roll’d to starboard, roll’d to larboard, when the surge was seething free,
Where the wallowing monster spouted his foam-fountains in the sea.
Let us swear an oath, and keep it with an equal mind,
In the hollow Lotos-land to live and lie reclined
On the hills like Gods together, careless of mankind.
For they lie beside their nectar, and the bolts are hurl’d
Far below them in the valleys, and the clouds are lightly curl’d
Round their golden houses, girdled with the gleaming world:
Where they smile in secret, looking over wasted lands,
Blight and famine, plague and earthquake, roaring deeps and fiery sands,
Clanging fights, and flaming towns, and sinking ships, and praying hands.
But they smile, they find a music centred in a doleful song
Steaming up, a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong,
Like a tale of little meaning tho’ the words are strong;
Chanted from an ill-used race of men that cleave the soil,
Sow the seed, and reap the harvest with enduring toil,
Storing yearly little dues of wheat, and wine and oil;
Till they perish and they suffer—some, ’tis whisper’d—down in hell
Suffer endless anguish, others in ElysianValleys of the Elysian fields, or Greek paradise. valleys dwell,
Resting weary limbs at last on beds of asphodelHomer describes the meadows of the afterlife as being covered with asphodel, a narcissus-like plant..
Surely, surely, slumber is more sweet than toil, the shore
Than labour in the deep mid-ocean, wind and wave and oar;
O, rest ye, brother mariners, we will not wander more.

 

16

Ulysses

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

The main source of this dramatic monologue is Dante’s Inferno XXVI, 94-126. Here Ulysses sets out westward through the Pillars of Hercules: “When I left Circe….not fondness for my son, …nor Penelope’s claim to the joys of love could drive out of my mind the lust to experience the far-flung world….I put out on the…open sea/with a single ship/and only those few souls/who stayed true when the rest deserted me.” But Tennyson melds details of this account with those of Homer’s Odyssey 19-24, after he has returned to Ithaca and been reunited with his wife and son and resumed his duties as king.

 

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,
Match’d with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.

I cannot rest from travel: I will drink
Life to the lees; all times I have enjoy’d
Greatly, have suffer’d greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro’ scudding drifts the rainy HyadesA cluster of stars in Taurus, associated by the ancients with rainy weather.
Vext the dim sea: I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour’d of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy,
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro’
Gleams that untravell’d world, whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an endcf. Ulysses’ speech in Shakespeare’s Troilus and Cressida 3.3. 144-47: “Perseverance.../Keeps honour bright. To have done is to hang/Quite out of fashion, like a rusty mail/In monumental mockery.”,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life. Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains: but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.

This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
To whom I leave the scepter and the isle—
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfil
This labour, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro’ soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.

There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail:
There gloom the dark broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil’d, and wrought, and thought with me—
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads—youThe companions of Ulysses. and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honour and his toil;
Death closes all: but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks:
The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy IslesThe Elysian Fields, or Greek paradise.,
And see the great AchillesGreek hero of the Iliad who defeated Hector in the Trojan War. When he died, his arms went to Ulysses., whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

—1833, 1842

 

17

Break, Break, Break

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Break, break, break,
On thy cold gray stones, O Sea!
And I would that my tongue could utter
The thoughts that arise in me.

O well for the fisherman’s boy,
That he shouts with his sister at play!
O well for the sailor lad,
That he sings in his boat on the bay!

And the stately ships go on
To their haven under the hill;
But O for the touch of a vanish’d handLike “Ulysses” and “In Memoriam,” this poem was inspired by the death of Arthur Hallam.,
And the sound of a voice that is still!

Break, break, break,
At the foot of thy crags, O sea!
But the tender grace of a day that is dead
Will never come back to me.

—1834, 1842

 

18

from In Memoriam A. H. H.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Obiit MDCCCXXXIIIHe died in 1883.

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shadeSun and moon.;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him: thou art just.

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Our little systemsSystems of philosophy. have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of thee,
And thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
But more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as beforeBefore mind and soul came to sing different tunes with the advent of science.,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock thee when we do not fear:
But help thy foolish ones to bear;
Help thy vain worlds to bear thy light.

Forgive what seem’d my sin in me;
What seem’d my worth since I began;
For merit lives from man to man,
And not from man, O Lord, to thee.

Forgive my grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom I found so fair.
I trust he lives in thee, and there
I find him worthier to be loved.

Forgive these wild and wandering cries,
Confusions of a wasted youth;
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make me wise.

1849.The 11 stanzas that Tennyson wrote as a prologue were written after the rest of the poem was complete.

I

I held it truth, with him who sings
To one clear harp in divers tonesJohann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).,
That men may rise on stepping-stones
Of their dead selves to higher things.

But who shall so forecast the years
And find in loss a gain to match?
Or reach a hand thro’ time to catch
The far-off interest of tears?

Let Love clasp Grief lest both be drown’d,
Let darkness keep her raven gloss:
Ah, sweeter to be drunk with loss,
To dance with death, to beat the ground,

Than that the victor Hours should scorn
The long result of love, and boast,
‘Behold the man that loved and lost,
But all he was is overworn.’

 

II

Old Yew, which graspest at the stones
That name the under-lying dead,
Thy fibres net the dreamless head,
Thy roots are wrapt about the bones.

The seasons bring the flower again,
And bring the firstling to the flock;
And in the dusk of thee, the clockThe clock of the church tower behind the yew.
Beats out the little lives of men.

O, not for thee the glow, the bloom,
Who changest not in any gale,
Nor branding summer suns avail
To touch thy thousand years of gloomThe yew tree, symbolic of grief, has a very long life.:

And gazing on thee, sullen tree,
Sick for thy stubborn hardihood,
I seem to fail from out my blood
And grow incorporate into thee.

III

O Sorrow, cruel fellowship,
O Priestess in the vaults of Death,
O sweet and bitter in a breath,
What whispers from thy lying lip?

‘The stars,’ she whispers, ‘blindly runcf. “Planets and Suns run blindly thro’ the sky,” Pope, “Essay on Man”, I. 252.;
A web is wov’n across the sky;
From out waste places comes a cry,
And murmurs from the dying sun:

‘And all the phantom, Nature, stands?
With all the music in her tone,
A hollow echo of my own,?
A hollow form with empty hands.’

And shall I take a thing so blind,
Embrace her as my natural good;
Or crush her, like a vice of blood,
Upon the threshold of the mind?

 

IV

To Sleep I give my powers away;
My will is bondsman to the dark;
I sit within a helmless bark,
And with my heart I muse and say:

O heart, how fares it with thee now,
That thou should’st fail from thy desire,
Who scarcely darest to inquire,
‘What is it makes me beat so low?’

Something it is which thou hast lost,
Some pleasure from thine early years.
Break, thou deep vase of chilling tears,
That grief hath shaken into frost!

Such clouds of nameless trouble cross
All night below the darken’d eyes;
With morning wakes the will, and cries,
‘Thou shalt not be the fool of loss.’

 

V

I sometimes hold it half a sin
To put in words the grief I feel;
For words, like Nature, half reveal
And half conceal the Soul within.

But, for the unquiet heart and brain,
A use in measured language lies;
The sad mechanic exercise,
Like dull narcotics, numbing pain.

In words, like weedsMourning clothes., I’ll wrap me o’er,
Like coarsest clothes against the cold:
But that large grief which these enfold
Is given in outline and no more.

 

VI

One writes, that ‘Other friends remain,’
That ‘Loss is common to the race’?
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

O father, wheresoe’er thou be,
Who pledgest now thy gallant son;
A shot, ere half thy draught be done,
Hath still’d the life that beat from thee.

O mother, praying God will save
Thy sailor,—while thy head is bow’d,
His heavy-shotted hammock-shroudSailors were often buried in their own hammocks, which were weighted to allow the corpse to sink.
Drops in his vast and wandering grave.

Ye know no more than I who wrought
At that last hour to please him well;
Who mused on all I had to tell,
And something written, something thought;

Expecting still his advent home;
And ever met him on his way
With wishes, thinking, ‘here to-day,’
Or ‘here to-morrow will he come.’

O somewhere, meek, unconscious doveTennyson’s sister Emilia (1811-87), who had been engaged to Hallam. She later married Richard Jesse, a British naval officer, and their eldest son was given the names Arthur Henry Hallam.,
That sittest ranging golden hair;
And glad to find thyself so fair,
Poor child, that waitest for thy love!

For now her father’s chimney glows
In expectation of a guest;
And thinking ‘this will please him best,’
She takes a riband or a rose;

For he will see them on to-night;
And with the thought her colour burns;
And, having left the glass, she turns
Once more to set a ringlet right;

And, even when she turn’d, the curse
Had fallen, and her future Lord
Was drown’d in passing thro’ the ford,
Or kill’d in falling from his horse.

O what to her shall be the end?
And what to me remains of good?
To her, perpetual maidenhood,
And unto me no second friend.

VII

Dark houseThe house at 67 Wimpole Street where Hallam had lived., by which once more I stand
Here in the long unlovely street,
Doors, where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, waiting for a hand,

A hand that can be clasp’d no more?
Behold me, for I cannot sleep,
And like a guilty thing I creep
At earliest morning to the door.

He is not here; but far away
The noise of life begins again,
And ghastly thro’ the drizzling rain
On the bald street breaks the blank day.

VIII

A happy lover who has come
To look on her that loves him well,
Who ‘lights and rings the gateway bell,
And learns her gone and far from home;

He saddens, all the magic light
Dies off at once from bower and hall,
And all the place is dark, and all
The chambers emptied of delight:

So find I every pleasant spot
In which we two were wont to meet,
The field, the chamber, and the street,
For all is dark where thou art not.

Yet as that other, wandering there
In those deserted walks, may find
A flower beat with rain and wind,
Which once she foster’d up with care;

So seems it in my deep regret,
O my forsaken heart, with thee
And this poor flower of poesy
Which little cared for fades not yet.

But since it pleased a vanish’d eyeHallam wrote a positive review of Tennyson’s early poems in 1831.,
I go to plant it on his tomb,
That if it can it there may bloom,
Or, dying, there at least may die.

 

IX

Fair ship, that from the Italian shoreHallam’s body was brought back by ship from Trieste, the Italian port.
Sailest the placid ocean-plains
With my lost Arthur’s loved remains,
Spread thy full wings, and waft him o’er.

So draw him home to those that mourn
In vain; a favourable speed
Ruffle thy mirror’d mast, and lead
Thro’ prosperous floods his holy urn.

All night no ruder air perplex
Thy sliding keel, till PhosphorThe morning star., bright
As our pure love, thro’ early light
Shall glimmer on the dewy decks.

Sphere all your lights around, above;
Sleep, gentle heavens, before the prow;
Sleep, gentle winds, as he sleeps now,
My friend, the brother of my love;

My Arthur, whom I shall not see
Till all my widow’d race be run;
Dear as the mother to the son,
More than my brothers are to me.

 

X

I hear the noise about thy keel;
I hear the bell struck in the night:
I see the cabin-window bright;
I see the sailor at the wheel.

Thou bring’st the sailor to his wife,
And travell’d men from foreign lands;
And letters unto trembling hands;
And, thy dark freight, a vanish’d life.

So bring him; we have idle dreams:
This look of quiet flatters thus
Our home-bred fancies. O to us,
The fools of habit, sweeter seems

To rest beneath the clover sod,
That takes the sunshine and the rains,
Or where the kneeling hamlet drains
The chalice of the grapes of God;

Than if with thee the roaring wells
Should gulf him fathom-deep in brine;
And hands so often clasp’d in mine,
Should toss with tangle and with shells.

 

XI

Calm is the morn without a sound,
Calm as to suit a calmer grief,
And only thro’ the faded leaf
The chestnut pattering to the ground:

Calm and deep peace on this high woldAn upland plain.,
And on these dews that drench the furzeA spiny evergreen shrub.,
And all the silvery gossamers
That twinkle into green and gold:

Calm and still light on yon great plain
That sweeps with all its autumn bowers,
And crowded farms and lessening towers,
To mingle with the bounding main:

Calm and deep peace in this wide air,
These leaves that redden to the fall;
And in my heart, if calm at all,
If any calm, a calm despair:

Calm on the seas, and silver sleep,
And waves that sway themselves in rest,
And dead calm in that noble breast
Which heaves but with the heaving deep.

XII

Lo, as a dove when up she springs
To bear thro’ Heaven a tale of woe,
Some dolorous message knit below
The wild pulsation of her wings;

Like her I go; I cannot stay;
I leave this mortal ark behind,
A weight of nerves without a mind,
And leave the cliffs, and haste away

O’er ocean-mirrors rounded large,
And reach the glow of southern skies,
And see the sails at distance rise,
And linger weeping on the marge,

And saying; ‘Comes he thus, my friend?
Is this the end of all my care?’
And circle moaning in the air:
‘Is this the end? Is this the end?’

And forward dart again, and play
About the prow, and back return
To where the body sits, and learn
That I have been an hour away.

 

XIII

Tears of the widower, when he sees
A late-lost form that sleep reveals,
And moves his doubtful arms, and feels
Her place is empty, fall like these;

Which weep a loss for ever new,
A void where heart on heart reposed;
And, where warm hands have prest and closed,
Silence, till I be silent too.

Which weep the comrade of my choice,
An awful thought, a life removed,
The human-hearted man I loved,
A Spirit, not a breathing voice.

Come, Time, and teach me, many years,
I do not suffer in a dream;
For now so strange do these things seem,
Mine eyes have leisure for their tears;

My fancies time to rise on wing,
And glance about the approaching sails,
As tho’ they brought but merchants’ bales,
And not the burthen that they bring.

 

XIV

If one should bring me this report,
That thou hadst touch’d the land to-day,
And I went down unto the quay,
And found thee lying in the port;

And standing, muffled round with woe,
Should see thy passengers in rank
Come stepping lightly down the plank,
And beckoning unto those they know;

And if along with these should come
The man I held as half-divine;
Should strike a sudden hand in mine,
And ask a thousand things of home;

And I should tell him all my pain,
And how my life had droop’d of late,
And he should sorrow o’er my state
And marvel what possess’d my brain;

And I perceived no touch of change,
No hint of death in all his frame,
But found him all in all the same,
I should not feel it to be strange.

 

XV

To-night the winds begin to rise
And roar from yonder dropping day:
The last red leaf is whirl’d away,
The rooks are blown about the skies;

The forest crack’d, the waters curl’d,
The cattle huddled on the lea;
And wildly dash’d on tower and tree
The sunbeam strikes along the world:

And but for fancies, which aver
That all thy motions gently pass
Athwart a plane of molten glassCalm sea.,
I scarce could brook the strain and stir

That makes the barren branches loud;
And but for fear it is not so,
The wild unrest that lives in woe
Would dote and pore on yonder cloud

That rises upward always higher,
And onward drags a labouring breast,
And topples round the dreary west,
A looming bastion fringed with fire.

 

XIX

The Danube to the SevernHallam died in Vienna, on the Danube River, and was buried in the church at Clevedon on the Severn River in southwest England. gave
The darken’d heart that beat no more;
They laid him by the pleasant shore,
And in the hearing of the wave.

There twice a day the Severn fills;
The salt sea-water passes by,
And hushes half the babbling Wye,
And makes a silence in the hills.

The Wye is hush’d nor moved along,
And hush’d my deepest grief of all,
When fill’d with tears that cannot fall,
I brim with sorrow drowning song.

The tide flows down, the wave again
Is vocal in its wooded walls;
My deeper anguish also falls,
And I can speak a little then.

 

 

XXIV

And was the day of my delight
As pure and perfect as I say?
The very source and fount of Day
Is dash’d with wandering isles of night.

If all was good and fair we met,
This earth had been the Paradise
It never look’d to human eyes
Since our first Sun arose and set.

And is it that the haze of grief
Makes former gladness loom so great?
The lowness of the present state,
That sets the past in this relief?

Or that the past will always win
A glory from its being far;
And orb into the perfect star
We saw not, when we moved therein?

 

XXVII

I envy not in any moods
The captive void of noble rage,
The linnet born within the cage,
That never knew the summer woods:

I envy not the beast that takes
His license in the field of time,
Unfetter’d by the sense of crime,
To whom a conscience never wakes;

Nor, what may count itself as blest,
The heart that never plighted troth
But stagnates in the weeds of sloth;
Nor any want-begotten rest.

I hold it true, whate’er befall;
I feel it, when I sorrow most;
‘Tis better to have loved and lost
Than never to have loved at all.

XXVIII

The time draws near the birth of ChristAs the first Christmas (1833) after Hallam’s death approaches, the poet listens to the church bells from four villages. A.C. Bradley suggests that the second part of "In Memoriam" begins here in XXVIII. A Commentary on Tennyson’s In Memoriam.:
The moon is hid; the night is still;
The Christmas bells from hill to hill
Answer each other in the mist.

Four voices of four hamlets round,
From far and near, on mead and moor,
Swell out and fail, as if a door
Were shut between me and the sound:

Each voice four changesArrangements of church bell ringing. on the wind,
That now dilate, and now decrease,
Peace and goodwill, goodwill and peace,
Peace and goodwill, to all mankind.

This year I slept and woke with pain,
I almost wish’d no more to wake,
And that my hold on life would break
Before I heard those bells again:

But they my troubled spirit rule,
For they controll’d me when a boy;
They bring me sorrow touch’d with joy,
The merry merry bells of Yule.

 

XXX

With trembling fingers did we weave
The holly round the Chrismas hearth;
A rainy cloud possess’d the earth,
And sadly fell our Christmas-eve.

At our old pastimes in the hall
We gambol’d, making vain pretence
Of gladness, with an awful sense
Of one mute Shadow watching all.

We paused: the winds were in the beech:
We heard them sweep the winter land;
And in a circle hand-in-hand
Sat silent, looking each at each.

Then echo-like our voices rang;
We sung, tho’ every eye was dim,
A merry song we sang with him
Last year: impetuously we sang:

We ceased: a gentler feeling crept
Upon us: surely rest is meet:
‘They rest,’ we said, ‘their sleep is sweet,’
And silence follow’d, and we wept.

Our voices took a higher range;
Once more we sang: ‘They do not die
Nor lose their mortal sympathy,
Nor change to us, although they change;

‘Rapt from the fickle and the frail
With gather’d power, yet the same,
Pierces the keen seraphic flame
From orb to orb, from veil to veil.’

Rise, happy morn, rise, holy morn,
Draw forth the cheerful day from night:
O Father, touch the east, and light
The light that shone when Hope was born.

 

XXXIV

My own dim life should teach me this,
That life shall live for evermore,
Else earth is darkness at the core,
And dust and ashes all that is;

This round of green, this orb of flame,
Fantastic beauty such as lurks
In some wild Poet, when he works
Without a conscience or an aim.

What then were God to such as I?
‘Twere hardly worth my while to choose
Of things all mortal, or to use
A tattle patience ere I die;

‘Twere best at once to sink to peace,
Like birds the charming serpent draws,
To drop head-foremost in the jaws
Of vacant darkness and to cease.

 

XXXIX

Old warderThe churchyard yew. This section was written in 1868; cf. II. of these buried bones,
And answering now my random stroke
With fruitful cloud and living smoke,
Dark yew, that graspest at the stones

And dippest toward the dreamless head,
To thee too comes the golden hour
When flower is feeling after flower;
But Sorrow?fixt upon the dead,

And darkening the dark graves of men,?
What whisper’d from her lying lips?
Thy gloom is kindled at the tips,
And passes into gloom again.

 

L

Be near me when my light is low,
When the blood creeps, and the nerves prick
And tingle; and the heart is sick,
And all the wheels of Being slow.

Be near me when the sensuous frame
Is rack’d with pangs that conquer trust;
And Time, a maniac scattering dust,
And Life, a Fury slinging flame.

Be near me when my faith is dry,
And men the flies of latter spring,
That lay their eggs, and sting and sing
And weave their petty cells and die.

Be near me when I fade away,
To point the term of human strife,
And on the low dark verge of life
The twilight of eternal day.

LIV

Oh yet we trust that somehow good
Will be the final goal of ill,
To pangs of nature, sins of will,
Defects of doubt, and taints of blood;

That nothing walks with aimless feet;
That not one life shall be destroy’d,
Or cast as rubbish to the void,
When God hath made the pile complete;

That not a worm is cloven in vain;
That not a moth with vain desire
Is shrivell’d in a fruitless fire,
Or but subserves another’s gain.

Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.

So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.

 

LV

The wish, that of the living whole
No life may fail beyond the grave,
Derives it not from what we have
The likest God within the soulThe inner consciousness—the divine in man [Tennyson’s note].?

Are God and Nature then at strife,
That Nature lends such evil dreams?
So careful of the typeSpecies; i.e., Nature ensures the preservation of the species but is indifferent to the fate of the individual. she seems,
So careless of the single life;

That I, considering everywhere
Her secret meaning in her deeds,
And finding that of fifty seeds
She often brings but one to bear,

I falter where I firmly trod,
And falling with my weight of cares
Upon the great world’s altar-stairs
That slope thro’ darkness up to God,

I stretch lame hands of faith, and grope,
And gather dust and chaff, and call
To what I feel is Lord of all,
And faintly trust the larger hopeTennyson’s son Hallam writes in the biography of his father, “...by ‘the larger hope’ that the whole human race would through, perhaps, ages of suffering, be at length purified and saved” (Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, I, 321-22)..

 

LVI

‘So careful of the type?’ but no.
From scarpèd cliff and quarried stone
SheNature. cries, ‘A thousand types are goneThe new science of geology, particularly in Charles Lyell’s Principles of Geology (1830) , which Tennyson had read, was providing evidence that countless forms of life have disappeared from the earth.:
I care for nothing, all shall go.

‘Thou makest thine appeal to me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does but mean the breath:
I know no more.’ And he, shall he,

Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanesTemples. of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law?
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed?

Who loved, who suffer’d countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal’d within the iron hills?

No more? A monster then, a dream,
A discord. Dragons of the prime,
That tare each other in their slime,
Were mellow music match’d with him.

O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for thy voice to soothe and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil.

 

LIX

O Sorrow, wilt thou live with me
No casual mistress, but a wife,
My bosom-friend and half of life;
As I confess it needs must be;

O Sorrow, wilt thou rule my blood,
Be sometimes lovely like a bride,
And put thy harsher moods aside,
If thou wilt have me wise and good.

My centred passion cannot move,
Nor will it lessen from to-day;
But I’ll have leave at times to play
As with the creature of my love;

And set thee forth, for thou art mine,
With so much hope for years to come,
That, howsoe’er I know thee, some
Could hardly tell what name were thine.

 

 

LXVII

When on my bed the moonlight falls,
I know that in thy place of rest
By that broad water of the westHallam was buried near the Severn River in southwestern England.,
There comes a glory on the walls;

Thy marble bright in dark appears,
As slowly steals a silver flame
Along the letters of thy name,
And o’er the number of thy years.

The mystic glory swims away;
From off my bed the moonlight dies;
And closing eaves of wearied eyes
I sleep till dusk is dipt in gray;

And then I know the mist is drawn
A lucid veil from coast to coast,
And in the dark church like a ghost
Thy tablet glimmers to the dawn.

 

LXXII

Risest thou thus, dim dawn, againThe first anniversary of Hallam’s death, September 15, 1884.,
And howlest, issuing out of night,
With blasts that blow the poplar white,
And lash with storm the streaming pane?

Day, when my crown’d estateState of happiness. begun
To pine in that reverse of doomReversal of fortunes as the result of Hallam’s death.,
Which sicken’d every living bloom,
And blurr’d the splendour of the sun;

Who usherest in the dolorous hour
With thy quick tears that make the rose
Pull sideways, and the daisy close
Her crimson fringes to the shower;

Who might’st have heaved a windless flame
Up the deep East, or, whispering, play’d
A chequer-work of beam and shade
Along the hills, yet look’d the same.

As wan, as chill, as wild as now;
Day, mark’d as with some hideous crime,
When the dark hand struck down thro’ time,
And cancell’d nature’s best: but thou,

Lift as thou may’st thy burthen’d brows
Thro’ clouds that drench the morning star,
And whirl the ungarner’d sheaf afar,
And sow the sky with flying boughs,

And up thy vault with roaring sound
Climb thy thick noon, disastrous day;
Touch thy dull goal of joyless gray,
And hide thy shame beneath the ground.

 

LXXVIII

Again at ChristmasThe second Christmas (1884) after Hallam’s death. did we weave
The holly round the Christmas hearth;
The silent snow possess’d the earth,
And calmly fell our Christmas-eve:

The yule-clogYule log. sparkled keen with frost,
No wing of wind the region swept,
But over all things brooding slept
The quiet sense of something lost.

As in the winters left behind,
Again our ancient games had place,
The mimic picture’sTableau-vivant; literally, “living picture," a silent and motionless group of people arranged to represent a scene or incident. breathing grace,
And dance and song and hoodman-blind.

Who show’d a token of distress?
No single tear, no mark of pain:
O sorrow, then can sorrow wane?
O grief, can grief be changed to less?

O last regret, regret can die!
No—mixt with all this mystic frame,
Her deep relations are the same,
But with long use her tears are dry.

LXXX

If any vague desire should rise,
That holy Death ere Arthur died
Had moved me kindly from his side,
And dropt the dust on tearless eyes;

Then fancy shapes, as fancy can,
The grief my loss in him had wrought,
A grief as deep as life or thought,
But stay’d in peace with God and man.

I make a picture in the brain;
I hear the sentence that he speaks;
He bears the burthen of the weeks
But turns his burthen into gain.

His credit thus shall set me free;
And, influence-rich to soothe and save,
Unused example from the grave
Reach out dead hands to comfort me.

 

 

LXXXVI

Sweet after showersThis poem signals “the full new life which is beginning to revive in the poet’s heart and to dispel the last shadow of the evil dreams which Nature seemed to lend when he was under the sway of...Doubt and Death” (Bradley, 223)., ambrosial air,
That rollest from the gorgeous gloom
Of evening over brake and bloom
And meadow, slowly breathing bare

The round of space, and rapt below
Thro’ all the dewy-tassell’d wood,
And shadowing down the horned flood
In ripples, fan my brows and blow

The fever from my cheek, and sigh
The full new life that feeds thy breath
Throughout my frame, till Doubt and Death,
Ill brethren, let the fancy fly

From belt to belt of crimson seas
On leagues of odour streaming far,
To where in yonder orient star
A hundred spirits whisper ‘Peace.’

 

LXXXIX

Witch-elms that counterchange the floor
Of this flat lawn with dusk and bright;
And thou, with all thy breadth and height
Of foliage, towering sycamore;

How often, hither wandering down,
My Arthur found your shadows fair,
And shook to all the liberal air
The dust and din and steam of town:

He brought an eye for all he saw;
He mixt in all our simple sports;
They pleased him, fresh from brawling courts
And dusty purlieus of the lawAfter leaving Cambridge, Hallam became a law student in London..

O joy to him in this retreat,
Inmantled in ambrosial dark,
To drink the cooler air, and mark
The landscape winking thro’ the heat:

O sound to rout the brood of cares,
The sweep of scythe in morning dew,
The gust that round the garden flew,
And tumbled half the mellowing pears!

O bliss, when all in circle drawn
About him, heart and ear were fed
To hear him, as he lay and read
The Tuscan poetsDante and Petrarch. on the lawn:

Or in the all-golden afternoon
A guest, or happy sister, sung,
Or here she brought the harp and flung
A ballad to the brightening moon:

Nor less it pleased in livelier moods,
Beyond the bounding hill to stray,
And break the livelong summer day
With banquet in the distant woods;

Whereat we glanced from theme to theme,
Discuss’d the books to love or hate,
Or touch’d the changes of the state,
Or threaded some Socratic dream;

But if I praised the busy town,
He loved to rail against it still,
For ‘ground in yonder social mill
We rub each other’s angles down,

‘And merge,’ he said, ‘in form and gloss
The picturesque of man and man.’
We talk’d: the stream beneath us ran,
The wine-flask lying couch’d in moss,

Or cool’d within the glooming wave;
And last, returning from afar,
Before the crimson-circled star
Had fall’n into her father’s grave,

And brushing ankle-deep in flowers,
We heard behind the woodbine veil
The milk that bubbled in the pail,
And buzzings of the honied hours.

 

XCIII

I shall not see thee. Dare I say
No spirit ever brake the band
That stays him from the native land
Where first he walk’d when claspt in clay?

No visual shade of some one lost,
But he, the Spirit himself, may come
Where all the nerve of sense is numb;
Spirit to Spirit, Ghost to Ghost.

O, therefore from thy sightless range
With gods in unconjectured bliss,
O, from the distance of the abyss
Of tenfold-complicated change,

Descend, and touch, and enter; hear
The wish too strong for words to name;
That in this blindness of the frame
My Ghost may feel that thine is near.

 

XCIV

How pure at heart and sound in head,
With what divine affections bold
Should be the man whose thought would hold
An hour’s communion with the dead.

In vain shalt thou, or any, call
The spirits from their golden day,
Except, like them, thou too canst say,
My spirit is at peace with all.

They haunt the silence of the breast,
Imaginations calm and fair,
The memory like a cloudless air,
The conscience as a sea at rest:

But when the heart is full of din,
And doubt beside the portal waits,
They can but listen at the gates
And hear the household jar within.

 

XCV

By night we linger’d on the lawn,
For underfoot the herb was dry;
And genial warmth; and o’er the sky
The silvery haze of summer drawn;

And calm that let the tapers burn
Unwavering: not a cricket chirr’d:
The brook alone far-off was heard,
And on the board the fluttering urnVessel for boiling water for tea or coffee.:

And bats went round in fragrant skies,
And wheel’d or lit the filmy shapes
That haunt the dusk, with ermine capes
And woolly breasts and beaded eyes;

While now we sang old songs that peal’d
From knoll to knoll, where, couch’d at ease,
The white kineCows. glimmer’d, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field.

But when those others, one by one,
Withdrew themselves from me and night,
And in the house light after light
Went out, and I was all alone,

A hunger seized my heart; I read
Of that glad year which once had been,
In those fall’n leaves which kept their green,
The noble letters of the dead:

And strangely on the silence broke
The silent-speaking words, and strange
Was love’s dumb cry defying change
To test his worth; and strangely spoke

The faith, the vigour, bold to dwell
On doubts that drive the coward back,
And keen thro’ wordy snares to track
Suggestion to her inmost cell.

So word by word, and line by line,
The dead man touch’d me from the past,
And all at once it seem’d at last
The living soul was flash’d on mine,

And mine in his was wound, and whirl’d
About empyreal heights of thought,
And came on that which is, and caught
The deep pulsations of the world,

Aeonian musicAge-old music. measuring out
The steps of Time—the shocks of Chance—
The blows of Death. At length my trance
Was cancell’d, stricken thro’ with doubt.

Vague words! but ah, how hard to frame
In matter-moulded forms of speech,
Or ev’n for intellect to reach
Thro’ memory that which I became:

Till now the doubtful dusk reveal’d
The knolls once more where, couch’d at ease,
The white kine glimmer’d, and the trees
Laid their dark arms about the field;

And suck’d from out the distant gloom
A breeze began to tremble o’er
The large leaves of the sycamore,
And fluctuate all the still perfume,

And gathering freshlier overhead,
Rock’d the full-foliaged elms, and swung
The heavy-folded rose, and flung
The lilies to and fro, and said,

‘The dawn, the dawn,’ and died away;
And East and West, without a breath,
Mixt their dim lights, like life and death,
To broaden into boundless day.

 

XCVI

You say, but with no touch of scorn,
Sweet-hearted, you, whose light-blue eyes
Are tender over drowning flies,
You tell me, doubt is Devil-born.

I know not: oneHallam. indeed I knew
In many a subtle question versed,
Who touch’d a jarring lyre at first,
But ever strove to make it true:

Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds.

He fought his doubts and gather’d strength,
He would not make his judgment blind,
He faced the spectres of the mind
And laid them: thus he came at length

To find a stronger faith his own;
And Power was with him in the night,
Which makes the darkness and the light,
And dwells not in the light alone,

But in the darkness and the cloud,
As over Sinai’s peaks of old,
While Israel made their gods of gold,
Altho’ the trumpet blew so loud.

XCIX

Risest thou thus, dim dawn, againSeptember 15, 1835, the second anniversary of Hallam’s death.,
So loud with voices of the birds,
So thick with lowings of the herds,
Day, when I lost the flower of men;

Who tremblest thro’ thy darkling red
On yon swoll’n brook that bubbles fast
By meadows breathing of the past,
And woodlands holy to the dead;

Who murmurest in the foliaged eaves
A song that slights the coming care,
And Autumn laying here and there
A fiery finger on the leaves;

Who wakenest with thy balmy breath
To myriads on the genial earth,
Memories of bridal, or of birth,
And unto myriads more, of death.

O, wheresoever those may be,
Betwixt the slumber of the poles,
To-day they count as kindred souls;
They know me not, but mourn with me.

 

CIV

The time draws near the birth of ChristThe third Christmas since Hallam’s death.;
The moon is hid, the night is still;
A single churchWaltham Abbey. below the hill
Is pealing, folded in the mist.

A single peal of bells below,
That wakens at this hour of rest
A single murmur in the breast,
That these are not the bells I knowTennyson’s family has moved to a new home in Epping, Surrey, where they spent their first Christmas in 1837, four years after Hallam’s death..

Like strangers’ voices here they sound,
In lands where not a memory strays,
Nor landmark breathes of other days,
But all is new unhallow’d ground.

 

CV

To-night ungather’d let us leave
This laurel, let this holly stand:
We live within the stranger’s land,
And strangely falls our Christmas-eve.

Our father’s dust is left alone
And silent under other snows:
There in due time the woodbine blows,
The violet comes, but we are gone.

No more shall wayward grief abuse
The genial hour with mask and mime,
For change of place, like growth of time,
Has broke the bond of dying use.

Let cares that petty shadows cast,
By which our lives are chiefly proved,
A little spare the night I loved,
And hold it solemn to the past.

But let no footstep beat the floor,
Nor bowl of wassail mantle warm;
For who would keep an ancient form
Thro’ which the spirit breathes no more?

Be neither song, nor game, nor feast;
Nor harp be touch’d, nor flute be blown;
No dance, no motion, save alone
What lightens in the lucid east

Of rising worlds by yonder wood.
Long sleeps the summer in the seed;
Run out your measured arcs, and lead
The closing cycle rich in good.

 

CVI

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him dieNew Year’s resolutions. Tennyson is determined “to re-shape his attitude to Hallam’s death: ‘let him die….Year by year, Tennyson’s cause has been to keep Hallam’s memory alive; all of a sudden, he sounds resolved to let his memory fade in the comforting knowledge that he lives forever in Christ’ (‘Ring in the Christ that is meant to be’)” (Cash 9)..

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;
Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

 

CVII

It is the day when he was bornFebruary 1, Hallam’s birthday.,
A bitter day that early sank
Behind a purple-frosty bank
Of vapour, leaving night forlorn.

The time admits not flowers or leaves
To deck the banquet. Fiercely flies
The blast of North and East, and ice
Makes daggers at the sharpen’d eaves,

And bristles all the brakes and thorns
To yon hard crescent, as she hangs
Above the wood which grides and clangs
Its leafless ribs and iron horns

Together, in the drifts that pass
To darken on the rolling brine
That breaks the coast. But fetch the wine,
Arrange the board and brim the glass;

Bring in great logs and let them lie,
To make a solid core of heat;
Be cheerful-minded, talk and treat
Of all things ev’n as he were by;

We keep the day. With festal cheer,
With books and music, surely we
Will drink to him, whate’er he be,
And sing the songs he loved to hear.

 

CVIII

I will not shut me from my kind,
And, lest I stiffen into stone,
I will not eat my heart alone,
Nor feed with sighs a passing wind:

What profit lies in barren faith,
And vacant yearning, tho’ with might
To scale the heaven’s highest height,
Or dive below the wells of Death?

What find I in the highest place,
But mine own phantom chanting hymns?
And on the depths of death there swims
The reflex of a human face.

I’ll rather take what fruit may be
Of sorrow under human skies:
‘Tis held that sorrow makes us wise,
Whatever wisdom sleep with thee.

 

 

CXV

Now fades the last long streak of snow,
Now burgeons every maze of quickHawthorn hedge.
About the flowering squaresFields., and thick
By ashen roots the violets blow.

Now rings the woodland loud and long,
The distance takes a lovelier hue,
And drown’d in yonder living blue
The lark becomes a sightless song.

Now dance the lights on lawn and lea,
The flocks are whiter down the vale,
And milkier every milky sail
On winding stream or distant sea;

Where now the seamewSeabird. pipes, or dives
In yonder greening gleam, and fly
The happy birds, that change their sky
To build and brood; that live their lives

From land to land; and in my breast
Spring wakens too; and my regret
Becomes an April violet,
And buds and blossoms like the rest.

 

CXVII

O days and hours, your work is this
To hold me from my proper place,
A little while from his embrace,
For fuller gain of after bliss:

That out of distance might ensue
Desire of nearness doubly sweet;
And unto meeting when we meet,
Delight a hundredfold accrue,

For every grain of sand that runs,
And every span of shade that steals,
And every kiss of toothed wheels,
And all the courses of the suns.

 

CXVIII

Contèmplate all this work of TimeThe Titan giant Cronus (Saturn) regarded as the god of devouring time.,
The giant labouring in his youth;
Nor dream of human love and truth,
As dying Nature’s earth and limeDo not dream that love and fidelity are merely transient things.;

But trust that those we call the dead
Are breathers of an ampler day
For ever nobler ends. TheyScientists. say,
The solid earth whereon we tread

In tracts of fluent heat began,
And grew to seeming-random forms,
The seeming prey of cyclic storms,
Till at the last arose the man;

Who throve and branch’d from clime to clime,
The herald of a higher race,
And of himself in higher place,
If so he typePrefigures. this work of time

Within himself, from more to more;
Or, crown’d with attributes of woe
Like glories, move his course, and show
That life is not as idle ore,

But iron dug from central gloom,
And heated hot with burning fears,
And dipt in baths of hissing tears,
And batter’d with the shocks of doom

To shape and use. Arise and fly
The reeling FaunFaunus. Also Pan, Roman god of country life, half-beast, half man., the sensual feast;
Move upward, working out the beast,
And let the ape and tiger die.

 

CXIX

DoorsThe doors of Hallam’s London house at 67 Wimpole Street, to which Tennyson has returned., where my heart was used to beat
So quickly, not as one that weeps
I come once more; the city sleeps;
I smell the meadow in the street;

I hear a chirp of birds; I see
Betwixt the black fronts long-withdrawn
A light-blue lane of early dawn,
And think of early days and thee,

And bless thee, for thy lips are bland,
And bright the friendship of thine eye;
And in my thoughts with scarce a sigh
I take the pressure of thine hand.

 

CXX

I trust I have not wasted breath:
I think we are not wholly brain,
Magnetic mockeriesAutomatons.; not in vain,
Like Paul with beasts, I fought with Death;

Not only cunning casts in clay:
Let Science prove we are, and then
What matters Science unto men,
At least to me? I would not stay.

Let him, the wiser man who springs
Hereafter, up from childhood shape
His action like the greater ape,
But I was born to other things.

 

CXXIII

There rolls the deep where grew the tree.
O earth, what changes hast thou seen!
There where the long street roars, hath been
The stillness of the central sea.

The hills are shadows, and they flow
From form to form, and nothing stands;
They melt like mist, the solid lands,
Like clouds they shape themselves and go.

But in my spirit will I dwell,
And dream my dream, and hold it true;
For tho’ my lips may breathe adieu,
I cannot think the thing farewell.

 

CXXIV

That which we dare invoke to bless;
Our dearest faith; our ghastliest doubt;
He, They, One, All; within, without;
The Power in darkness whom we guess,—

I found Him not in world or sun,
Or eagle’s wing, or insect’s eyeTennyson rejects the argument of God’s existence from the design of nature and hence the need for a designer.,
Nor thro’ the questions men may try,
The petty cobwebs we have spun.

If e’er when faith had fall’n asleep,
I heard a voice ‘believe no more,’
And heard an ever-breaking shore
That tumbled in the Godless deep,

A warmth within the breast would melt
The freezing reason’s colder part,
And like a man in wrath the heart
Stood up and answer’d ‘I have felt.’

No, like a child in doubt and fear:
But that blind clamour made me wise;
Then was I as a child that cries,
But, crying, knows his father near;

And what I am beheld again
What is, and no man understands;
And out of darkness came the hands
That reach thro’ nature, moulding men.

CXXX

Thy voice is on the rolling air;
I hear thee where the waters run;
Thou standest in the rising sun,
And in the setting thou art fair.

What art thou then? I cannot guess;
But tho’ I seem in star and flower
To feel thee some diffusive power,
I do not therefore love thee less.

My love involves the love before;
My love is vaster passion now;
Tho’ mix’d with God and Nature thou,
I seem to love thee more and more.

Far off thou art, but ever nigh;
I have thee still, and I rejoice;
I prosper, circled with thy voice;
I shall not lose thee tho’ I die.

CXXXI

O living willTennyson equated this with “Free-will, the higher and enduring part of man” (Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, I, 319). that shalt endure
When all that seems shall suffer shock,
Rise in the spiritual rockChrist. cf. 1 Corinthians: 10.4,
Flow thro’ our deeds and make them pure,

That we may lift from out of dust
A voice as unto him that hears,
A cry above the conquer’d years
To one that with us works, and trust,

With faith that comes of self-control,
The truths that never can be proved
Until we close with all we loved,
And all we flow from, soul in soul.

 

[from EpilogueThe poem comes full circle with a description of the wedding of Tennyson’s sister Cecilia to Edward Lushington and to the birth which will result from their union.]

...And rise, O moon, from yonder down,
Till over down and over dale
All night the shining vapour sail
And pass the silent-lighted town,

The white-faced halls, the glancing rills,
And catch at every mountain head,
And o'er the friths that branch and spread
Their sleeping silver thro' the hills;

And touch with shade the bridal doors,
With tender gloom the roof, the wall;
And breaking let the splendour fall
To spangle all the happy shores

By which they rest, and ocean sounds,
And, star and system rolling past,
A soul shall draw from out the vast
And strike his being into bounds,

And, moved thro' life of lower phase,
Result in man, be born and think,
And act and love, a closer link
Betwixt us and the crowning race

Of those that, eye to eye, shall look
On knowledge, under whose command
Is Earth and Earth's, and in their hand
Is Nature like an open book;

No longer half-akin to brute,
For all we thought and loved and did,
And hoped, and suffer'd, is but seed
Of what in them is flower and fruit;

Whereof the man, that with me trod
This planet, was a noble type
Appearing ere the times were ripe,
That friend of mine who lives in God,

That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.

—1833-50, 1850

 

19

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
‘Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns’ he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’
Was there a man dismay’d?
Not tho’ the soldiers knew
Some one had blunder’d:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash’d all their sabres bare,
Flash’d as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army while
All the world wonder’d:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro’ the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel’d from the sabre-stroke
Shatter’d and sunder’d.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley’d and thunder’d;
Storm’d at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro’ the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder’d.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!

20

Crossing the Bar

Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Hallam Tennyson gives this account of the writing of this hymn:”‘Crossing the Bar,’ was written…on a day in October [1889] when we came from Aldworth to Farringford. Before reaching Farringford he had the moaning of the bay in his mind, and after dinner he showed me this poem written out. I said, ‘That is the crown of your life’s work.’ He answered, ‘It came in a moment.’ He explained the ‘Pilot’ as ‘That Divine and Unseen Who is always guiding us.’ … A few days before my father’s death [1892] he said to me, ‘Mind you put “Crossing the Bar” at the end of all editions of my poems…'” (Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, II, 366).

 

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear callA summons to duty, here that of God. for me!

And may there be no moaning of the barA bar is a sandbank across a harbour mouth. Charles Kingsley, in his poem “The Three Fishers,” refers to the common estuary in Barnstaple Bay, where the joining of two rivers and the incoming sea produces a loud moaning sound.,

When I put out to sea,

 

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,

Too full for sound and foam,

When that which drew from out the boundless deep

Turns again home.

 

Twilight and evening bell,

And after that the dark!

And may there be no sadness of farewell,

When I embark;

 

For tho’ from out our bourneLife on Earth. of Time and Place

The flood may bear me far,

I hope to see my Pilot face to face

When I have crost the bar.

—1889

 

21

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

The Lady of Shalott: The original 1833 published version next to 1842 revised version http://d.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/text/tennyson-shalott-comparison   “The Man Behind the Lady.” An interesting exhibit about “The Lady of Shalott,” with several paintings on the subject. http://www.nines.org/exhibits/The_Man_Behind_The_Lady_?page=1

  1. After looking at both published versions of the poem, might you, as did George Eliot, express a preference for any of the original lines, published in 1833? If so, which ones would you wish Tennyson had not revised?
  2. What are features of the poem’s meter and diction? How do these add to the magical or eerie effect?
  3. What might the striking image of the tower symbolize? the mirror? What is significant about the lady’s being  enclosed in a high tower?
  4. What was the result of Sir Lancelot’s adulterous relationship with King Arthur’s queen, Guinevere?
  5. What irony is associated with Lancelot?
  6. After looking at the link above—isolate some details that support the contention that the poem deals with “the Woman Question”;  that is, the position of Victorian women?
  7. What details might support an allegorical interpretation pertaining to art versus life?
  8. Why do you think the Lady of Shalott became the subject of so many Victorian paintings (Hunt, Rossetti, Waterhouse)? First, see the link above:  “The Man Behind the Lady.”
  9. Listen to Loreena McKennitt’s musical adaptation of “The Lady of Shalott,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0rVNQw1DQM

qrcode-lady-of-shalott

Short Essay Topics

  1. Houghton and Stange interpret the poem as an allegory about art versus life: that the artist must remain in aloof detachment, observing life only in the mirror of the  imagination, not mixing in it directly. Once the artist attempts to lead the life of ordinary men, his poetic gift, it would seem, dies. Do you agree or disagree with this interpretation?
  2. Does “The Lady of Shalott” address the “Woman Question”? Does it uphold patriarchal assumptions about gender relationships as in, say, the words of the king in Tennyson’s The Princess: A Medley, published in 1847, five years after the appearance of the revised version of “The Lady of Shalott”?:

Man for the field and woman for the hearth: Man for the sword and for the needle she: Man with the head and woman with the heart: Man to command and woman to obey; All else confusion. (“The Princess,” V, 427–31)

The Lotos-Eaters

  1. Are the first two lines meant to be a commentary on the rest of the poem?
  2. Who is the “he” of line 1?
  3. What is the dominant rhyme scheme in the many 9-line stanzas? Compare this pattern with that of Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, Book II, canto 6 (Phaedria’s Isle and Lake of Idleness.)
  4. Give examples of sibilance, onomatopoeia, repeated masculine end rhymes, sensuous imagery. What is their effect?
  5. Why do the Lotos-Eaters wish to resemble the gods? What aspects of divinity do they project onto these deities? How might a Victorian reader have been expected to react to this notion of “godhead,” and how would this have affected his or her view of the Lotus-Eaters’ choice?
  6. The second stanza of the choric Song (sung by the mariners who had eaten of the lotos): “We only toil, who are the first of things” (ll. 57-69) recalls similar lines in F.Q., II, Canto 6, Stanza 17, “Why then dost thou, O Man, that of them all/Art lord…” What point is being made in both poems?
  7. In what ways do both “The Lotos-Eaters” and Spenser’s F.Q., II, Canto 6 invite comparison/contrast with parts of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:25-34, especially “Take… no thought for the morrow” (34), which is echoed in Tennyson’s l. “…takes no care” in l. 73 of “The Lotos-Eaters”?
  8. How do you interpret the mariners’ complaint in the Choric Song, VI: “Is there confusion in the little isle? Let what is broken so remain. . . ’Tis hard to settle order once again.” Is this line referring to Britain? Is the line ironic?
  9. What is the poem’s theme? Contrast this poem with “Ulysses”?

Ulysses

  1. Tennyson is quoted as saying that “Ulysses” was “written soon after Arthur Hallam’s death, and gave my feeling about the need of going forward, and braving the struggle of life perhaps more simply than anything in ‘In Memoriam’” (Memoir, I, 196). To which section of “In Memoriam” is “Ulysses” most parallel?
  2. Some critics argue that the poem is not wholly a dramatic monologue. Looking at it section by section (i.e., ll. 1–32; ll. 33–43, and ll. 44–70), which section is most clearly a dramatic monologue?
  3. In a short essay, compare and contrast “The Lotos-Eaters” and “Ulysses.”

Break, Break, Break

  1. What feelings of loss does the speaker feel?
  2. How does the speaker’s state of mind contrast with those of the fisherman’s boy and the sailor lad?
  3. How do the breaking waves symbolize the speaker’s melancholy?

The Princess

See http://diamond.boisestate.edu/gas/princess_ida/html/tentogilbert.html

  1. Read the relevant portion of the table that contrasts Tennyson’s poem and W.S. Gilbert’s “per-version” of the poem (i.e., Pt VII). Do you agree with the author’s assessment of Tennyson’s view of the relations between the sexes—“often cited as a key text in debates about Victorian constructs of masculinity and femininity?” [NAEL, 9, 1184].
  2. In what way is Gilbert’s “per-version” of “The Princess” just that, in terms of theme?

In Memoriam

  1. Download Gatty’s A Key to In Memoriam as well as a searchable Project Gutenberg e-text of In Memoriam:
  • Gatty http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/36637
  • In Memoriam https://archive.org/details/inmemoriambyalfr00tennuoft
  • In her excellent notes on In Memoriam, <http://www.uiowa.edu/~boosf/questions/tennyinmem.htm> Professor Florence Boos states, “According to Tennyson, the poem fell naturally into the following 10 sections, with 1–77; 78–103; and 104–131 forming the three main sections:
    • Sections 1–8, ending with a sense of hope; 9–20, ending with a sense of hope; 21–27, ending with a sense of hope; 28–49, ending with a sense of despair; 50–58; 59–71; 72–98; 99–103; 104–131; Epilogue.
  • Find examples to support the following assertion. “Whereas the first Christmas (28–77) was marked overwhelmingly by grief, the second cycle (78–103) beginning with the second Christmas since Hallam’s death, marks a turning point in the poem, as from here on the poet begins to move more steadily towards hope and consolation”. Compare sections 30 and 78, as well as 7 and 119, in particular.
  • Look in a glossary of literary terms and then find examples of anaphora in Parts 11 and 101.
  • The Cambridge History of English Literature (CHEL), (XIII, II, 3) states that Ben Jonson and Lord Herbert of Cherbury used the so-called “In Memoriam stanza” before Tennyson. Find one example of Jonson’s and Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s use of the “In Memoriam stanza.” See Edward Hirsch, A Poet’s Glossary (Google books). See also Hallam Tennyson, Alfred Lord Tennyson: A Memoir, I, 305 for Tennyson’s own discussion of what is now known as the “In Memoriam stanza.” https://archive.org/stream/alfredlordtennys01tennuoft#page/300/mode/2up. Be sure to use quotes before and after your search terms when using the “search inside” box inside the Memoir.

Essay Topics

  1. Focus on sections 75, 87, 89, 95, 107, and 109–114 to discuss Tennyson’s characterization of Hallam.
  2. Does Tennyson move beyond the bleakness of the survival of the fittest view of the universe in 55 and 56? What does he offer to contradict the vision of a seemingly purposeless universe?
  3. Analyze section 118 as a kind of key to the science versus religion aspect of the poem.
  4. Compare elegiac elements in In Memoriam and either one of the following elegies: Milton’s “Lycidas”; Shelley’s “Adonais”, Matthew Arnold’s “Thyrsis.” Essay Topic on Tennyson and Imperialism
  5. Read Tennyson’s 106-line poem, “The Defence of Lucknow”, written in 1879, http://www.bartleby.com/297/629.html. In an essay, discuss whether you think Tennyson avoids the larger ethical questions underlying European Imperialism and instead gives in to typical Victorian imperialist sentiments.

 

Resources

In Memoriam Numerous articles from Victorian Web on In Memoriam http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/tennyson/im/lq.html BBC Radio In Our Time “In Memoriam” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0124pnq

The Charge of the Light Brigade http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Charge_of_the_Light_Brigade_%28article%29 ___ “Charge of the Light Brigade” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b008md8x

 

References

Figure 1: Alfred Tennyson by nach einem Gemälde von P.Krämer herausgegeben von Friedrich Bruckmann Verlag München Berlin (Carte de Visite – Foto 6,0 x 8,4 cm) (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alfred_Tennyson..jpg) is in the Public Domain

Figure 2: W.E.F. Britten – The Early Poems of Alfred, Lord Tennyson – The Lotos-Eaters by William Edward Frank Britten (1848–1916) Adam Cuerden (restoration) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/W._E._F._Britten#mediaviewer/File:W.E.F._Britten_-_The_Early_Poems_of_Alfred,_Lord_Tennyson_-_The_Lotos-Eaters.jpg) is in the Public Domain

V

Charles Dickens (1812–1870)

22

Biography

Charles John Huffam Dickens was born in Landport, Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812. Charles was the second of eight children to John Dickens (1786–1851), a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, and his wife Elizabeth Dickens (1789–1863). The Dickens family moved to London in 1814 and two years later to Chatham, Kent, where Charles spent early years of his childhood. Due to financial difficulties, they moved back to London in 1822, where they settled in Camden Town, a poor neighborhood of London.

The defining moment of Dickens’s life occurred when he was 12 years old. His father, who had a difficult time managing money and was constantly in debt, was imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison in 1824. Consequently, Charles was withdrawn from school and forced to work in a warehouse that handled “blacking” or shoe polish to help support the family. This experience left profound psychological and sociological effects on Charles. It gave him a firsthand acquaintance with poverty and made him the most vigorous and influential voice of the working classes of his time.

After a few months, Dickens’s father was released from prison and Charles was allowed to go back to school. At age 15, his formal education ended and he found employment as an office boy at a law office. During this time, he studied shorthand at night, and from 1830 he worked as a shorthand reporter in the courts and afterwards as a parliamentary and newspaper reporter.

In 1833, Dickens began to contribute short stories and essays to periodicals. “A Dinner at Popular Walk” was Dickens’s first published story. It appeared in the Monthly Magazine in December 1833. In 1834, still a newspaper reporter, he adopted the soon-to-be famous pseudonym Boz. Dickens’s first book, a collection of stories titled Sketches by Boz, was published in 1836. In the same year, he married Catherine Hogarth, daughter of the editor of the Evening Chronicle. Together they had 10 children before they separated in 1858.

Although Dickens’s main profession was as a novelist, he continued his journalistic work until the end of his life, editing The Daily News, Household Words, and All the Year Round. His connections to various magazines and newspapers gave him the opportunity to begin publishing his own fiction at the beginning of his career.

The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club was published in monthly parts from April 1836 to November 1837. Pickwick became one of the most popular works of the time, continuing to be so after it was published in book form in 1837. After the success of Pickwick, Dickens embarked on a full-time career as a novelist, producing work of increasing complexity at an incredible rate: Oliver Twist (1837–39), Nicholas Nickleby (1838–39), The Old Curiosity Shop, and Barnaby Rudge as part of the Master Humphrey’s Clock series (1840–41), all being published in monthly installments before being made into books.

In 1842, he travelled with his wife to the United States and Canada, which led to his publishing the controversial American Notes (1842), which is the basis of some of the episodes in Martin Chuzzlewit. Dickens’s series of five Christmas Books were soon to follow: A Christmas Carol (1843), The Chimes (1844), The Cricket on the Hearth (1845), The Battle of Life (1846), and The Haunted Man (1848). After living briefly abroad in Italy (1844) and Switzerland (1846), Dickens continued his success with Dombey and Son (1848), the largely autobiographical David Copperfield (1849-50), Bleak House (1852-53), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861).

In 1856 his success allowed him to buy Gad’s Hill Place, an estate he had admired since childhood. In 1858 Dickens began a series of paid readings, which became instantly popular. In all, Dickens performed more than 400 times. In that year, after a long period of difficulties, he separated from his wife. It was also around that time that Dickens became involved in an affair with a young actress named Ellen Ternan. The exact nature of their relationship is unclear, but it was clearly central to Dickens’s personal and professional life.

In the closing years of his life Dickens worsened his declining health by giving numerous readings. During his readings in 1869 he collapsed, showing symptoms of mild stroke. He retreated to Gad’s Hill and began to work on Edwin Drood, which was never completed.

Charles Dickens died at home on June 9, 1870, after suffering a stroke. Contrary to his wish to be buried in Rochester Cathedral, he was laid to rest in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abbey. The inscription on his tomb reads:

“He was a sympathiser to the poor, the suffering, and the oppressed; and by his death, one of England’s greatest writers is lost to the world.”

Used with permission, biography written by Gregor Brdnik, http://www.dickens-online.info/charles-dickens-biography.htm

 

23

A Christmas Carol: Stave 1

Charles Dickens

Marley’s Ghost

Marley was dead, to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it. And Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change"Change": a place of (financial or commercial) exchange, as in the King's or Queen's Exchange (1601); a money changer's office (1569); the "Burse" or Exchange built in London by Sir Thomas Gresham in 1566 received from Queen Elizabeth I the name of the Royal Exchange., for anything he chose to put his hand to.

Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.

Scrooge knew he was dead? Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole assign, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend, and sole mourner. And even Scrooge was not so dreadfully cut up by the sad event, but that he was an excellent man of business on the very day of the funeral, and solemnised it with an undoubted bargain.

The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come of the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s Father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot – say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance – literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.

Scrooge never painted out Old Marley’s name. There it stood, years afterwards, above the warehouse door: Scrooge and Marley. The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.

Oh! But he was a tight-fisted hand at the grindstone, Scrooge! a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner! Hard and sharp as flint, from which no steel had ever struck out generous fire; secret, and self-contained, and solitary as an oyster. The cold within him froze his old features, nipped his pointed nose, shrivelled his cheek, stiffened his gait; made his eyes red, his thin lips blue; and spoke out shrewdly in his grating voice. A frosty rime was on his head, and on his eyebrows, and his wiry chin. He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

External heat and cold had little influence on Scrooge. No warmth could warm, no wintry weather chill him. No wind that blew was bitterer than he, no falling snow was more intent upon its purpose, no pelting rain less open to entreaty. Foul weather didn’t know where to have him. The heaviest rain, and snow, and hail, and sleet, could boast of the advantage over him in only one respect. They often came down“to come down”: slang, “to give money.” handsomely, and Scrooge never did.

Nobody ever stopped him in the street to say, with gladsome looks, ‘My dear Scrooge, how are you? When will you come to see me?’ No beggars implored him to bestow a trifle, no children asked him what it was o’clock, no man or woman ever once in all his life inquired the way to such and such a place, of Scrooge. Even the blind men’s dogs appeared to know him; and when they saw him coming on, would tug their owners into doorways and up courts; and then would wag their tails as though they said, ‘No eye at all is better than an evil eye, dark master!’

But what did Scrooge care? It was the very thing he liked. To edge his way along the crowded paths of life, warning all human sympathy to keep its distance, was what the knowing ones call ‘nuts’“nuts to someone”: slang, a source of pleasure. to Scrooge.

Once upon a time – of all the good days in the year, on Christmas Eve – old Scrooge sat busy in his counting-house. It was cold, bleak, biting weather: foggy withal: and he could hear the people in the court outside, go wheezing up and down, beating their hands upon their breasts, and stamping their feet upon the pavement stones to warm them. The city clocks had only just gone three, but it was quite dark already – it had not been light all day – and candles were flaring in the windows of the neighbouring offices, like ruddy smears upon the palpable brown air. The fog came pouring in at every chink and keyhole, and was so dense without, that although the court was of the narrowest, the houses opposite were mere phantoms. To see the dingy cloud come drooping down, obscuring everything, one might have thought that Nature lived hard by, and was brewing on a large scale.

The door of Scrooge’s counting-houseThe office in which the accounts and money of a business are kept. was open that he might keep his eye upon his clerk, who in a dismal little cell beyond, a sort of tank, was copying letters. Scrooge had a very small fire, but the clerk’s fire was so very much smaller that it looked like one coal. But he couldn’t replenish it, for Scrooge kept the coal-box in his own room; and so surely as the clerk came in with the shovel, the master predicted that it would be necessary for them to part. Wherefore the clerk put on his white comforter, and tried to warm himself at the candle; in which effort, not being a man of a strong imagination, he failed.

‘A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!’ cried a cheerful voice. It was the voice of Scrooge’s nephew, who came upon him so quickly that this was the first intimation he had of his approach.

‘Bah!’ said Scrooge, ‘HumbugA hoax or sham.!’

He had so heated himself with rapid walking in the fog and frost, this nephew of Scrooge’s, that he was all in a glow; his face was ruddy and handsome; his eyes sparkled, and his breath smoked again.

‘Christmas a humbug, uncle!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘You don’t mean that, I am sure?’

‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘Merry Christmas! What right have you to be merry? What reason have you to be merry? You’re poor enough.’

‘Come, then,’ returned the nephew gaily. ‘What right have you to be dismal? What reason have you to be morose? You’re rich enough.’

Scrooge having no better answer ready on the spur of the moment, said, ‘Bah!’ again; and followed it up with ‘Humbug!’

‘Don’t be cross, uncle,’ said the nephew.

‘What else can I be,’ returned the uncle, ‘when I live in such a world of fools as this? Merry Christmas! Out upon merry Christmas. What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older, but not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in them through a round dozen of months presented dead against you? If I could work my will,’ said Scrooge indignantly,’every idiot who goes about with ‘Merry Christmas’ on his lips, should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart. He should!’

‘Uncle!’ pleaded the nephew.

‘Nephew!’ returned the uncle, sternly, ‘keep Christmas in your own way, and let me keep it in mine.’

‘Keep it!’ repeated Scrooge’s nephew. ‘But you don’t keep it.’

‘Let me leave it alone, then,’ said Scrooge. ‘Much good may it do you! Much good it has ever done you!’

‘There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited, I dare say,’ returned the nephew. ‘Christmas among the rest. But I am sure I have always thought of Christmas time, when it has come round– apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that–as a good time; a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys. And therefore, uncle, though it has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe that it has done me good, and will do me good; and I say, God bless it!’

The clerk in the tank involuntarily applauded. Becoming immediately sensible of the impropriety, he poked the fire, and extinguished the last frail spark for ever.

‘Let me hear another sound from you,’ said Scrooge, ‘and you’ll keep your Christmas by losing your situationJob, position.! You’re quite a powerful speaker, sir,’ he added, turning to his nephew. ‘I wonder you don’t go into Parliament.

‘Don’t be angry, uncle. Come! Dine with us tomorrow.’

Scrooge said that he would see him–yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.

‘But why?’ cried Scrooge’s nephew. ‘Why?’

‘Why did you get married?’ said Scrooge.

‘Because I fell in love.’

‘Because you fell in love!’ growled Scrooge, as if that were the only one thing in the world more ridiculous than a merry Christmas. ‘Good afternoon!’

‘Nay, uncle, but you never came to see me before that happened. Why give it as a reason for not coming now?’

‘Good afternoon,’ said Scrooge.

‘I want nothing from you; I ask nothing of you; why cannot we be friends?’

‘Good afternoon,’ said Scrooge.

‘I am sorry, with all my heart, to find you so resolute. We have never had any quarrel, to which I have been a party. But I have made the trial in homage to Christmas, and I’ll keep my Christmas humour to the last. So A Merry Christmas, uncle!’

‘Good afternoon.’ said Scrooge.

‘And A Happy New Year!’

‘Good afternoon!’ said Scrooge.

His nephew left the room without an angry word, notwithstanding. He stopped at the outer door to bestow the greeting of the season on the clerk, who, cold as he was, was warmer than Scrooge; for he returned them cordially.

‘There’s another fellow,’ muttered Scrooge; who overheard him: ‘my clerk, with fifteen shillings a week, and a wife and family, talking about a merry Christmas. I’ll retire to Bedlam.’A lunatic hospital endowed by Henry VIII in 1547, derived from St. Mary of Bethlehem Hospital, which took in lunatics as early as 1377.

The clerk, in letting Scrooge’s nephew out, had let two other people in. They were portly gentlemen, pleasant to behold, and now stood, with their hats off, in Scrooge’s office. They had books and papers in their hands, and bowed to him.

‘Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe,’ said one of the gentlemen, referring to his list. ‘Have I the pleasure of addressing Mr Scrooge, or Mr Marley?’

‘Mr Marley has been dead these seven years,’ Scrooge replied. ‘He died seven years ago, this very night.’

‘We have no doubt his liberality is well represented by his surviving partner,’ said the gentleman, presenting his credentials.

It certainly was, for they had been two kindred spirits. At the ominous word liberality, Scrooge frowned, and shook his head, and handed the credentials back.

‘At this festive season of the year, Mr Scrooge,’ said the gentleman, taking up a pen, ‘it is more than usually desirable that we should make some slight provision for the Poor and destitute, who suffer greatly at the present time. Many thousands are in want of common necessaries; hundreds of thousands are in want of common comforts, sir.’

‘Are there no prisons?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Plenty of prisons,’ said the gentleman, laying down the pen again.

‘And the Union workhouses.Under the Poor Law Amendment Act of 1834, workhouses for the reception of the destitute were set up by 21 administrative districts in England and Wales. Notorious for denying civil liberties, they often separated family members and destroyed human dignity. As a result, most of the poorest people went to great lengths to avoid this degrading solution.’ demanded Scrooge. ‘Are they still in operation?’

‘They are. Still,’ returned the gentleman,’ I wish I could say they were not.’

‘The Treadmill and the Poor Law are in full vigour, then?’ said Scrooge.

‘Both very busy, sir.’

‘Oh. I was afraid, from what you said at first, that something had occurred to stop them in their useful course,’ said Scrooge. ‘I’m very glad to hear it.’

‘Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,’ returned the gentleman, ‘a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?’

‘Nothing!’ Scrooge replied.

‘You wish to be anonymous?’

‘I wish to be left alone,’ said Scrooge. ‘Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don’t make merry myself at Christmas and I can’t afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned–they cost enough; and those who are badly off must go there.’

‘Many can’t go there; and many would rather die.’

‘If they would rather die,’ said Scrooge, ‘they had better do it, and decrease the surplus populationSince the first appearance of Thomas Malthus’s Essay on the Principle of Population in 1803, concern grew that Britain had too many mouths to feed. See Malthus: “A man who is born into a world already possessed, if he cannot get subsistence from his parents, on whom he has a just demand, and if society do not want his labour, has no claim of right to the smallest portion of food, and, in fact, has no business to be where he is. At nature’s mighty feast there is no vacant cover for him. She tells him to be gone…"(503).. Besides–excuse me–I don’t know that.’

‘But you might know it,’ observed the gentleman.

‘It’s not my business,’ Scrooge returned. ‘It’s enough for a man to understand his own business, and not to interfere with other people’s. Mine occupies me constantly. Good afternoon, gentlemen!’

Seeing clearly that it would be useless to pursue their point, the gentlemen withdrew. Scrooge resumed his labours with an improved opinion of himself, and in a more facetious temper than was usual with him.

Meanwhile the fog and darkness thickened so, that people ran about with flaring links, proffering their services to go before horses in carriages, and conduct them on their way. The ancient tower of a church, whose gruff old bell was always peeping slily down at Scrooge out of a gothic window in the wall, became invisible, and struck the hours and quarters in the clouds, with tremulous vibrations afterwards as if its teeth were chattering in its frozen head up there. The cold became intense. In the main street, at the corner of the court, some labourers were repairing the gas-pipes, and had lighted a great fire in a brazier, round which a party of ragged men and boys were gathered: warming their hands and winking their eyes before the blaze in rapture. The water-plug being left in solitude, its overflowing sullenly congealed, and turned to misanthropic ice. The brightness of the shops where holly sprigs and berries crackled in the lamp heat of the windows, made pale faces ruddy as they passed. Poulterers’ and grocers’ trades became a splendid joke: a glorious pageant, with which it was next to impossible to believe that such dull principles as bargain and sale had anything to do. The Lord Mayor, in the stronghold of the might Mansion House, gave orders to his fifty cooks and butlers to keep Christmas as a Lord Mayor’s household should; and even the little tailor, whom he had fined five shillings on the previous Monday for being drunk and bloodthirsty in the streets, stirred up tomorrow’s pudding in his garret, while his lean wife and the baby sallied out to buy the beef.

Foggier yet, and colder. Piercing, searching, biting cold. If the good Saint DunstanSt. Dunstan (924-988). Patron saint of smiths. Legend recounts that he clamped red hot tongs on the devil’s nose. had but nipped the Evil Spirit’s nose with a touch of such weather as that, instead of using his familiar weapons, then indeed he would have roared to lusty purpose. The owner of one scant young nose, gnawed and mumbled by the hungry cold as bones are gnawed by dogs, stooped down at Scrooge’s keyhole to regale him with a Christmas carol: but at the first sound of

‘God bless you, merry gentleman.

May nothing you dismay!’

Scrooge seized the ruler with such energy of action, that the singer fled in terror, leaving the keyhole to the fog and even more congenial frost.

At length the hour of shutting up the counting-house arrived. With an ill-will Scrooge dismounted from his stool, and tacitly admitted the fact to the expectant clerk in the Tank, who instantly snuffed his candle out, and put on his hat.

‘You’ll want all day tomorrow, I suppose?’ said Scrooge.

‘If quite convenient, sir.’

‘It’s not convenient,’ said Scrooge, ‘and it’s not fair. If I was to stop half-a-crown for it, you’d think yourself ill-used, I’ll be bound?’

The clerk smiled faintly.

‘And yet,’ said Scrooge, ‘you don’t think me ill-used, when I pay a day’s wages for no work.’

The clerk observed that it was only once a year.

‘A poor excuse for picking a man’s pocket every twenty-fifth of December!’ said Scrooge, buttoning his great-coat to the chin. ‘But I suppose you must have the whole day. Be here all the earlier next morning.’

The clerk promised that he would; and Scrooge walked out with a growl. The office was closed in a twinkling, and the clerk, with the long ends of his white comforter dangling below his waist (for he boasted no great-coat), went down a slide on Cornhill, at the end of a lane of boys, twenty times, in honour of its being Christmas Eve, and then ran home to Camden Town as hard as he could pelt, to play at blindman’s buff.

Scrooge took his melancholy dinner in his usual melancholy tavern; and having read all the newspapers, and beguiled the rest of the evening with his banker’s-book, went home to bed. He lived in chambers which had once belonged to his deceased partner. They were a gloomy suite of rooms, in a lowering pile of building up a yard, where it had so little business to be, that one could scarcely help fancying it must have run there when it was a young house, playing at hide-and-seek with other houses, and forgotten the way out again. It was old enough now, and dreary enough, for nobody lived in it but Scrooge, the other rooms being all let out as offices. The yard was so dark that even Scrooge, who knew its every stone, was fain to grope with his hands. The fog and frost so hung about the black old gateway of the house, that it seemed as if the Genius of the Weather sat in mournful meditation on the threshold.

Now, it is a fact, that there was nothing at all particular about the knocker on the door, except that it was very large. It is also a fact, that Scrooge had seen it, night and morning, during his whole residence in that place; also that had as little of what is called fancyImagination. In Hard Times (1854), Dickens’s satire on the overly materialistic philosophy of certain political economists, fancy was discouraged in favour of facts. See esp., HT, I, 2. about him as any man in the city of London, even including–which is a bold word–the corporation, aldermen, and livery. Let it also be borne in mind that Scrooge had not bestowed one thought on Marley, since his last mention of his seven-year’s dead partner that afternoon. And then let any man explain to me, if he can, how it happened that Scrooge, having his key in the lock of the door, saw in the knocker, without its undergoing any intermediate process of change-not a knocker, but Marley’s face.

Marley’s face. It was not in impenetrable shadow as the other objects in the yard were, but had a dismal light about it, like a bad lobster in a dark cellar. It was not angry or ferocious, but looked at Scrooge as Marley used to look: with ghostly spectacles turned up on its ghostly forehead. The hair was curiously stirred, as if by breath or hot air; and, though the eyes were wide open, they were perfectly motionless. That, and its livid colour, made it horrible; but its horror seemed to be in spite of the face and beyond its control, rather than a part of its own expression.

As Scrooge looked fixedly at this phenomenon, it was a knocker again.

To say that he was not startled, or that his blood was not conscious of a terrible sensation to which it had been a stranger from infancy, would be untrue. But he put his hand upon the key he had relinquished, turned it sturdily, walked in, and lighted his candle.

He did pause, with a moment’s irresolution, before he shut the door; and he did look cautiously behind it first, as if he half expected to be terrified with the sight of Marley’s pigtail sticking out into the hall. But there was nothing on the back of the door, except the screws and nuts that held the knocker on, so he said ’Pooh, pooh,’ and closed it with a bang.

The sound resounded through the house like thunder. Every room above, and every cask in the wine-merchant’s cellars below, appeared to have a separate peal of echoes of its own. Scrooge was not a man to be frightened by echoes. He fastened the door, and walked across the hall, and up the stairs; slowly too: trimming his candle as he went.

You may talk vaguely about driving a coach-and-six up a good old flight of stairs, or through a bad young Act of Parliament; but I mean to say you might have got a hearse up that staircase, and taken it broadwise, with the splinter-bar towards the wall and the door towards the balustrades: and done it easy. There was plenty of width for that, and room to spare; which is perhaps the reason why Scrooge thought he saw a locomotive hearse going on before him in the gloom. Half-a-dozen gas-lamps out of the street wouldn’t have lighted the entry too well, so you may suppose that it was pretty dark with Scrooge’s dip.

Up Scrooge went, not caring a button for that. Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it. But before he shut his heavy door, he walked through his rooms to see that all was right. He had just enough recollection of the face to desire to do that.

Sitting-room, bed-room, lumber-roomA room where disused or bulky items are kept.. All as they should be. Nobody under the table, nobody under the sofa; a small fire in the grate; spoon and basin ready; and the little saucepan of gruel (Scrooge has a cold in his head) upon the hob. Nobody under the bed; nobody in the closet’; nobody in his dressing-gown, which was hanging up in a suspicious attitude against the wall. Lumber-room as usual. Old fire-guard, old shoes, two fish-baskets, washing-stand on three legs, and a poker.

Quite satisfied, he closed his door, and locked himself in; double-locked himself in, which was not his custom. Thus secured against surprise, he took off his cravat; put on his dressing-gown and slippers, and his nightcap; and sat down before the fire to take his gruel.

It was a very low fire indeed; nothing on such a bitter night. He was obliged to sit close to it, and brood over it, before he could extract the least sensation of warmth from such a handful of fuel. The fireplace was an old one, built by some Dutch merchant long ago, and paved all round with quaint Dutch tiles, designed to illustrate the Scriptures. There were Cains and Abels, Pharaoh’s daughters, Queens of Sheba, Angelic messengers descending through the air on clouds like feather-beds, Abrahams, Belshazzars, Apostles putting off to sea in butter-boatsA three-piece porcelain container that used water to keep butter soft and spreadable., hundreds of figures to attract his thoughts; and yet that face of Marley, seven years dead, came like the ancient Prophet’s rodA reference to Exodus 7:12 in which Aaron’s rod, transformed into a serpent, swallowed up all the serpents produced by the magicians of the Pharoah., and swallowed up the whole. If each smooth tile had been a blank at first, with power to shape some picture on its surface from the disjointed fragments of his thoughts, there would have been a copy of old Marley’s head on every one.

‘Humbug!’ said Scrooge; and walked across the room.

After several turns, he sat down again. As he threw his head back in the chair, his glance happened to rest upon a bell, a disused bell, that hung in the room, and communicated for some purpose now forgotten with a chamber in the highest story of the building. It was with great astonishment, and with a strange, inexplicable dread, that as he looked, he saw this bell begin to swing. It swung so softly in the outset that it scarcely made a sound; but soon it rang out loudly, and so did every bell in the house.

This might have lasted half a minute, or a minute, but it seemed an hour. The bells ceased as they had begun, together. They were succeeded by a clanking noise, deep down below; as if some person were dragging a heavy chain over the casks in the wine-merchant’s cellar. Scrooge then remembered to have heard that ghosts in haunted houses were described as dragging chains.

The cellar-door flew open with a booming sound, and then he heard the noise much louder, on the floors below; then coming up the stairs; then coming straight towards his door.

‘It’s humbug still!’ said Scrooge. ‘I won’t believe it.’

His colour changed though, when, without a pause, it came on through the heavy door, and passed into the room before his eyes. Upon its coming in, the dying flame leaped up, as though it cried, ‘I know him; Marley’s Ghost!’ and fell again.

The same face: the very same. Marley in his pigtail, usual waistcoat, tights and boots; the tassels on the latter bristling, like his pigtail, and his coat-skirts, and the hair upon his head. The chain he drew was clasped about his middle. It was long, and wound about him like a tail; and it was made (for Scrooge observed it closely) of cash-boxes, keys, padlocks, ledgers, deeds, and heavy purses wrought in steel. His body was transparent; so that Scrooge, observing him, and looking through his waistcoat, could see the two buttons on his coat behind.

Scrooge had often heard it said that Marley had no bowels, but he had never believed it until now.

No, nor did he believe it even now. Though he looked the phantom through and through, and saw it standing before him; though he felt the chilling influence of its death-cold eyes; and marked the very texture of the folded kerchief bound about its head and chin, which wrapper he had not observed before; he was still incredulous, and fought against his senses.

‘How now.’ said Scrooge, caustic and cold as ever. ‘What do you want with me?’

‘Much.’–Marley’s voice, no doubt about it.

‘Who are you?’

‘Ask me who I was.’

‘Who were you then?’ said Scrooge, raising his voice. ‘You’re particular, for a shade.’ He was going to say ‘to a shade,’ but substituted this, as more appropriate.

‘In life I was your partner, Jacob Marley.’

‘Can you–can you sit down?’ asked Scrooge, looking doubtfully at him.

‘I can.’

‘Do it, then.’

Scrooge asked the question, because he didn’t know whether a ghost so transparent might find himself in a condition to take a chair; and felt that in the event of its being impossible, it might involve the necessity of an embarrassing explanation. But the ghost sat down on the opposite side of the fireplace, as if he were quite used to it.

‘You don’t believe in me,’ observed the Ghost.

‘I don’t,’ said Scrooge.

‘What evidence would you have of my reality beyond that of your senses?’

‘I don’t know,’ said Scrooge.

‘Why do you doubt your senses?’

‘Because,’ said Scrooge, ‘a little thing affects them. A slight disorder of the stomach makes them cheats. You may be an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato. There’s more of gravy than of grave about you, whatever you are!’

Scrooge was not much in the habit of cracking jokes, nor did he feel, in his heart, by any means waggish then. The truth is, that he tried to be smart, as a means of distracting his own attention, and keeping down his terror; for the spectre’s voice disturbed the very marrow in his bones.

To sit, staring at those fixed glazed eyes, in silence for a moment, would play, Scrooge felt, the very deuce with him. There was something very awful, too, in the spectre’s being provided with an infernal atmosphere of its own. Scrooge could not feel it himself, but this was clearly the case; for though the Ghost sat perfectly motionless, its hair, and skirts, and tassels, were still agitated as by the hot vapour from an oven.

‘You see this toothpick.’ said Scrooge, returning quickly to the charge, for the reason just assigned; and wishing, though it were only for a second, to divert the vision’s stony gaze from himself.

‘I do,’ replied the Ghost.

‘You are not looking at it,’ said Scrooge.

‘But I see it,’ said the Ghost, ‘notwithstanding.’

‘Well.’ returned Scrooge, ‘I have but to swallow this, and be for the rest of my days persecuted by a legion of goblins, all of my own creation. Humbug, I tell you, humbug!’

At this the spirit raised a frightful cry, and shook its chain with such a dismal and appalling noise, that Scrooge held on tight to his chair, to save himself from falling in a swoon. But how much greater was his horror, when the phantom taking off the bandage round its head, as if it were too warm to wear in-doors, its lower jaw dropped down upon its breast.

Scrooge fell upon his knees, and clasped his hands before his face.

‘Mercy!’ he said. ‘Dreadful apparition, why do you trouble me?’ ‘Man of the worldly mind!’ replied the Ghost, ‘do you believe in me or not?’

‘I do,’ said Scrooge. ‘I must. But why do spirits walk the earth, and why do they come to me?’

‘It is required of every man,’ the Ghost returned, ‘that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel far and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world–oh, woe is me!–and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.’

Again the spectre raised a cry, and shook its chain and wrung its shadowy hands.

‘You are fettered,’ said Scrooge, trembling. ‘Tell me why?’

‘I wear the chain I forged in life,’ replied the Ghost. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it. Is its pattern strange to you?’

Scrooge trembled more and more.

‘Or would you know,’ pursued the Ghost, ‘the weight and length of the strong coil you bear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!’

Scrooge glanced about him on the floor, in the expectation of finding himself surrounded by some fifty or sixty fathoms of iron cable: but he could see nothing.

‘Jacob,’ he said, imploringly. ‘Old Jacob Marley, tell me more. Speak comfort to me, Jacob.’

‘I have none to give,’ the Ghost replied. ‘It comes from other regions, Ebenezer Scrooge, and is conveyed by other ministers, to other kinds of men. Nor can I tell you what I would. A very little more is all permitted to me. I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere. My spirit never walked beyond out counting-house–mark me!– in life my spirit never roved beyond the narrow limits of our money-changing hole; and weary journeys lie before me.’

It was a habit with Scrooge, whenever he became thoughtful, to put his hands in his breeches pockets. Pondering on what the Ghost had said, he did so now, but without lifting up his eyes, or getting off his knees.

‘You must have been very slow about it, Jacob,’ Scrooge observed, in a business-like manner, though with humility and deference.

‘Slow!’ the Ghost repeated.

‘Seven years dead,’ mused Scrooge. ‘And travelling all the time?’

‘The whole time,’ said the Ghost. ‘No rest, no peace. Incessant torture of remorse.’

‘You travel fast?’ said Scrooge.

‘On the wings of the wind,’ replied the Ghost.

‘You might have got over a great quantity of ground in seven years,’ said Scrooge.

The Ghost, on hearing this, set up another cry, and clanked its chain so hideously in the dead silence of the night, that the WardA patrolman employed by the ward or administrative division of a town or city. would have been justified in indicting it for a nuisance.

‘Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed,’ cried the phantom, ‘not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed! Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness! Not to know that no space of regret can make amends for one life’s opportunity misused! Yet such was I! Oh! such was I!’

‘But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,’ faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

‘Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!’

It held up its chain at arm’s length, as if that were the cause of all its unavailing grief, and flung it heavily upon the ground again.

‘At this time of the rolling year,’ the spectre said, ‘I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the Wise Mencf. Matthew 2: 1-3. to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?’

Scrooge was very much dismayed to hear the spectre going on at this rate, and began to quake exceedingly.

‘Hear me!’ cried the Ghost. ‘My time is nearly gone.’

‘I will,’ said Scrooge. ‘But don’t be hard upon me. Don’t be flowery, Jacob! Pray!’

‘How it is that I appear before you in a shape that you can see, I may not tell. I have sat invisible beside you many and many a day.’

It was not an agreeable idea. Scrooge shivered, and wiped the perspiration from his brow.

‘That is no light part of my penance,’ pursued the Ghost. ‘I am here to-night to warn you, that you have yet a chance and hope of escaping my fate. A chance and hope of my procuring, Ebenezer.’

‘You were always a good friend to me,’ said Scrooge. ‘Thank’ee.’

‘You will be haunted,’ resumed the Ghost, ‘by Three Spirits.’

Scrooge’s countenance fell almost as low as the Ghost’s had done.

‘Is that the chance and hope you mentioned, Jacob?’ he demanded, in a faltering voice.

‘It is.’

‘I–I think I’d rather not,’ said Scrooge.

‘Without their visits,’ said the Ghost, ‘you cannot hope to shun the path I tread. Expect the first to-morrow, when the bell tolls One.’

‘Couldn’t I take them all at once, and have it over, Jacob?’ hinted Scrooge.

‘Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate. Look to see me no more; and look that, for your own sake, you remember what has passed between us!’

When it had said these words, the spectre took its wrapper from the table, and bound it round its head, as before. Scrooge knew this, by the smart sound its teeth made, when the jaws were brought together by the bandage. He ventured to raise his eyes again, and found his supernatural visitor confronting him in an erect attitude, with its chain wound over and about its arm.

The apparition walked backward from him; and at every step it took, the window raised itself a little, so that when the spectre reached it, it was wide open.

It beckoned Scrooge to approach, which he did. When they were within two paces of each other, Marley’s Ghost held up its hand, warning him to come no nearer. Scrooge stopped.

Not so much in obedience, as in surprise and fear: for on the raising of the hand, he became sensible of confused noises in the air; incoherent sounds of lamentation and regret; wailings inexpressibly sorrowful and self-accusatory. The spectre, after listening for a moment, joined in the mournful dirge; and floated out upon the bleak, dark night.

Scrooge followed to the window: desperate in his curiosity. He looked out.

The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. Every one of them wore chains like Marley’s Ghost; some few (they might be guilty governments) were linked together; none were free.

Many had been personally known to Scrooge in their lives. He had been quite familiar with one old ghost, in a white waistcoat, with a monstrous iron safe attached to its ankle, who cried piteously at being unable to assist a wretched woman with an infant, whom it saw below, upon a door-step. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost the power for ever.

Whether these creatures faded into mist, or mist enshrouded them, he could not tell. But they and their spirit voices faded together; and the night became as it had been when he walked home.

Scrooge closed the window, and examined the door by which the Ghost had entered. It was double-locked, as he had locked it with his own hands, and the bolts were undisturbed. He tried to say ‘Humbug!’ but stopped at the first syllable. And being, from the emotion he had undergone, or the fatigues of the day, or his glimpse of the Invisible World, or the dull conversation of the Ghost, or the lateness of the hour, much in need of repose; went straight to bed, without undressing, and fell asleep upon the instant.

 

24

A Christmas Carol: Stave 2

Charles Dickens

The First of the Three Spirits

When Scrooge awoke, it was so dark, that looking out of bed, he could scarcely distinguish the transparent window from the opaque walls of his chamber. He was endeavouring to pierce the darkness with his ferret eyes, when the chimes of a neighbouring church struck the four quarters. So he listened for the hour.

To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he went to bed. The clock was wrong. An icicle must have got into the works. Twelve!

He touched the spring of his repeaterWatch., to correct this most preposterous clock. Its rapid little pulse beat twelve: and stopped.

‘Why, it isn’t possible,’ said Scrooge, ‘that I can have slept through a whole day and far into another night. It isn’t possible that anything has happened to the sun, and this is twelve at noon!’

The idea being an alarming one, he scrambled out of bed, and groped his way to the window. He was obliged to rub the frost off with the sleeve of his dressing-gown before he could see anything; and could see very little then. All he could make out was, that it was still very foggy and extremely cold, and that there was no noise of people running to and to and fro, and making a great stir, as there unquestionably would have been if night had beaten off bright day, and taken possession of the world. This was a great relief, because “Three days after sight of this First of Exchange pay to Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge or his order,” and so forth, would have become a mere United States securityIn 1837, many individual states had to default on loans from English lenders. if there were no days to count by.

Scrooge went to bed again, and thought, and thought, and thought it over and over, and could make nothing of it. The more he thought, the more perplexed he was; and, the more he endeavoured not to think, the more he thought.

Marley’s Ghost bothered him exceedingly. Every time he resolved within himself, after mature inquiry, that it was all a dream, his mind flew back again, like a strong spring released, to its first position, and presented the same problem to be worked all through, ‘Was it a dream or not?’

Scrooge lay in this state until the chime had gone three quarters more, when he remembered, on a sudden, that the Ghost had warned him of a visitation when the bell tolled one. He resolved to lie awake until the hour was passed; and, considering that he could no more go to sleep than go to Heaven, this was, perhaps, the wisest resolution in his power.

The quarter was so long, that he was more than once convinced he must have sunk into a doze unconsciously, and missed the clock. At length it broke upon his listening ear.

‘Ding, dong!’

‘A quarter past,’ said Scrooge, counting.

‘Ding, dong!’

‘Half-past!’ said Scrooge.

‘Ding, dong!’

‘A quarter to it,’ said Scrooge.

‘Ding, dong!’

‘The hour itself,’ said Scrooge triumphantly, ‘and nothing else!’

He spoke before the hour bell sounded, which it now did with a deep, dull, hollow, melancholy One. Light flashed up in the room upon the instant, and the curtains of his bed were drawn.

The curtains of his bed were drawn aside, I tell you, by a hand. Not the curtains at his feet, nor the curtains at his back, but those to which his face was addressed. The curtains of his bed were drawn aside; and Scrooge, starting up into a half-recumbent attitude, found himself face to face with the unearthly visitor who drew them: as close to it as I am now to you, and I am standing in the spirit at your elbow.

It was a strange figure–like a child: yet not so like a child as like an old man, viewed through some supernatural medium, which gave him the appearance of having receded from the view, and being diminished to a child’s proportions. Its hair, which hung about its neck and down its back, was white as if with age; and yet the face had not a wrinkle in it, and the tenderest bloom was on the skin. The arms were very long and muscular; the hands the same, as if its hold were of uncommon strength. Its legs and feet, most delicately formed, were, like those upper members, bare. It wore a tunic of the purest white; and round its waist was bound a lustrous belt, the sheen of which was beautiful. It held a branch of fresh green holly in its hand; and, in singular contradiction of that wintry emblem, had its dress trimmed with summer flowers. But the strangest thing about it was, that from the crown of its head there sprung a bright clear jet of light, by which all this was visible; and which was doubtless the occasion of its using, in its duller moments, a great extinguisherCandle snuffer. for a cap, which it now held under its arm.

Even this, though, when Scrooge looked at it with increasing steadiness, was not its strangest quality. For as its belt sparkled and glittered now in one part and now in another, and what was light one instant, at another time was dark, so the figure itself fluctuated in its distinctness: being now a thing with one arm, now with one leg, now with twenty legs, now a pair of legs without a head, now a head without a body: of which dissolving parts, no outline would be visible in the dense gloom wherein they melted away. And in the very wonder of this, it would be itself again; distinct and clear as ever.

‘Are you the Spirit, sir, whose coming was foretold to me?’ asked Scrooge.

‘I am.’

The voice was soft and gentle. Singularly low, as if instead of being so close beside him, it were at a distance.

‘Who, and what are you?’ Scrooge demanded.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.’

‘Long Past?’ inquired Scrooge: observant of its dwarfish stature.

‘No. Your past.’

Perhaps, Scrooge could not have told anybody why, if anybody could have asked him; but he had a special desire to see the Spirit in his cap; and begged him to be covered.

‘What!’ exclaimed the Ghost, ‘would you so soon put out, with worldly hands, the light I give. Is it not enough that you are one of those whose passions made this cap, and force me through whole trains of years to wear it low upon my brow?’

Scrooge reverently disclaimed all intention to offend or any knowledge of having wilfully bonnetedTo crush down a person’s hat over his or her eyes. the Spirit at any period of his life. He then made bold to inquire what business brought him there.

‘Your welfare!’ said the Ghost.

Scrooge expressed himself much obliged, but could not help thinking that a night of unbroken rest would have been more conducive to that end. The Spirit must have heard him thinking, for it said immediately:

‘Your reclamation, then. Take heed!’

It put out its strong hand as it spoke, and clasped him gently by the arm.

‘Rise! and walk with me!’

It would have been in vain for Scrooge to plead that the weather and the hour were not adapted to pedestrian purposes; that bed was warm, and the thermometer a long way below freezing; that he was clad but lightly in his slippers, dressing-gown, and nightcap; and that he had a cold upon him at that time. The grasp, though gentle as a woman’s hand, was not to be resisted. He rose: but finding that the Spirit made towards the window, clasped his robe in supplication.

‘I am mortal,’ Scrooge remonstrated, ‘and liable to fall.’

‘Bear but a touch of my hand there,’ said the Spirit, laying it upon his heart, ‘and you shall be upheld in more than this!’

As the words were spoken, they passed through the wall, and stood upon an open country road, with fields on either hand. The city had entirely vanished. Not a vestige of it was to be seen. The darkness and the mist had vanished with it, for it was a clear, cold, winter day, with snow upon the ground.

‘Good Heaven!’ said Scrooge, clasping his hands together, as he looked about him. ‘I was bred in this place. I was a boy here!’

The Spirit gazed upon him mildly. Its gentle touch, though it had been light and instantaneous, appeared still present to the old man’s sense of feeling. He was conscious of a thousand odours floating in the air, each one connected with a thousand thoughts, and hopes, and joys, and cares long, long, forgotten.

‘Your lip is trembling,’ said the Ghost. ‘And what is that upon your cheek?’

Scrooge muttered, with an unusual catching in his voice, that it was a pimple; and begged the Ghost to lead him where he would.

‘You recollect the way?’ inquired the Spirit.

‘Remember it!’ cried Scrooge with fervour; ‘ I could walk it blindfold.’

‘Strange to have forgotten it for so many years!’ observed the Ghost. ‘Let us go on.’

They walked along the road, Scrooge recognising every gate, and post, and tree; until a little market-town appeared in the distance, with its bridge, its church, and winding river. Some shaggy ponies now were seen trotting towards them with boys upon their backs, who called to other boys in country gigs and carts, driven by farmers. All these boys were in great spirits, and shouted to each other, until the broad fields were so full of merry music, that the crisp air laughed to hear it.

‘These are but shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost. ‘They have no consciousness of us.’

The jocund travellers came on; and as they came, Scrooge knew and named them every one. Why was he rejoiced beyond all bounds to see them? Why did his cold eye glisten, and his heart leap up as they went past? Why was he filled with gladness when he heard them give each other Merry Christmas, as they parted at cross-roads and bye-ways, for their several homes? What was merry Christmas to Scrooge? Out upon merry Christmas! What good had it ever done to him?

‘The school is not quite deserted,’ said the Ghost. ‘A solitary child, neglected by his friends, is left there still.’

Scrooge said he knew it. And he sobbed.

They left the high-road, by a well-remembered lane, and soon approached a mansion of dull red brick, with a little weathercock-surmounted cupola, on the roof, and a bell hanging in it. It was a large house, but one of broken fortunes; for the spacious offices were little used, their walls were damp and mossy, their windows broken, and their gates decayed. Fowls clucked and strutted in the stables; and the coach-houses and sheds were over-run with grass. Nor was it more retentive of its ancient state, within; for entering the dreary hall, and glancing through the open doors of many rooms, they found them poorly furnished, cold, and vast. There was an earthy savour in the air, a chilly bareness in the place, which associated itself somehow with too much getting up by candle-light, and not too much to eat.

They went, the Ghost and Scrooge, across the hall, to a door at the back of the house. It opened before them, and disclosed a long, bare, melancholy room, made barer still by lines of plain deal forms and desks. At one of these a lonely boy was reading near a feeble fire; and Scrooge sat down upon a form, and wept to see his poor forgotten self as he used to be.

Not a latent echo in the house, not a squeak and scuffle from the mice behind the panelling, not a drip from the half-thawed water-spout in the dull yard behind, not a sigh among the leafless boughs of one despondent poplar, not the idle swinging of an empty store-house door, no, not a clicking in the fire, but fell upon the heart of Scrooge with a softening influence, and gave a freer passage to his tears.

The Spirit touched him on the arm, and pointed to his younger self, intent upon his reading. Suddenly a man, in foreign garments: wonderfully real and distinct to look at: stood outside the window, with an axe stuck in his belt, and leading by the bridle an ass laden with wood.

‘Why, it’s Ali BabaHero of a story in the Arabian Nights.!’ Scrooge exclaimed in ecstasy. ‘It’s dear old honest Ali Baba! Yes, yes, I know. One Christmas time, when yonder solitary child was left here all alone, he did come, for the first time, just like that. Poor boy! And Valentine,’ said Scrooge, ‘and his wild brother, OrsonValentine and Orson were the main characters in an old French romance.; there they go! And what’s his name, who was put down in his drawers, asleep, at the Gate of Damascus; don’t you see him? And the Sultan’s Groom turned upside down by the Genii; there he is upon his head! Serve him right! I’m glad of it. What business had he to be married to the Princess?Further characters from Arabian Nights (“Noureddin Ali of Cairo and His Son Bedreddin Hassan”).

To hear Scrooge expending all the earnestness of his nature on such subjects, in a most extraordinary voice between laughing and crying; and to see his heightened and excited face; would have been a surprise to his business friends in the city, indeed.

‘There’s the Parrot!’ cried Scrooge. ‘Green body and yellow tail, with a thing like a lettuce growing out of the top of his head; there he is! Poor Robin Crusoe, he called him, when he came home again after sailing round the island. ‘Poor Robin Crusoe, where have you been, Robin Crusoe?’ The man thought he was dreaming, but he wasn’t. It was the Parrot, you know. There goes Friday, running for his life to the little creek! Halloa! Hoop! Hallo!’

Then, with a rapidity of transition very foreign to his usual character, he said, in pity for his former self, ‘Poor boy!’ and cried again.

‘I wish,’ Scrooge muttered, putting his hand in his pocket, and looking about him, after drying his eyes with his cuff: ‘but it’s too late now.’

‘What is the matter?’ asked the Spirit.

‘Nothing,’ said Scrooge. ‘Nothing. There was a boy singing a Christmas Carol at my door last night. I should like to have given him something: that’s all.’

The Ghost smiled thoughtfully, and waved its hand: saying as it did so, ‘Let us see another Christmas!’

Scrooge’s former self grew larger at the words, and the room became a little darker and more dirty. The panels shrunk, the windows cracked; fragments of plaster fell out of the ceiling, and the naked laths were shown instead; but how all this was brought about, Scrooge knew no more than you do. He only knew that it was quite correct; that everything had happened so; that there he was, alone again, when all the other boys had gone home for the jolly holidays.

He was not reading now, but walking up and down despairingly. Scrooge looked at the Ghost, and with a mournful shaking of his head, glanced anxiously towards the door.

It opened; and a little girl, much younger than the boy, came darting in, and putting her arms about his neck, and often kissing him, addressed him as her ‘Dear, dear brother.’

‘I have come to bring you home, dear brother!’ said the child, clapping her tiny hands, and bending down to laugh. ‘To bring you home, home, home!’

‘Home, little Fan?’ returned the boy.

‘Yes!’ said the child, brimful of glee. ‘Home, for good and all. Home, for ever and ever. Father is so much kinder than he used to be, that home’s like Heaven! He spoke so gently to me one dear night when I was going to bed, that I was not afraid to ask him once more if you might come home; and he said Yes, you should; and sent me in a coach to bring you. And you’re to be a man!’ said the child, opening her eyes, ‘and are never to come back here; but first, we’re to be together all the Christmas long, and have the merriest time in all the world.’

‘You are quite a woman, little Fan!’ exclaimed the boy.

She clapped her hands and laughed, and tried to touch his head; but being too little, laughed again, and stood on tiptoe to embrace him. Then she began to drag him, in her childish eagerness, towards the door; and he, nothing loth to go, accompanied her.

A terrible voice in the hall cried. ‘Bring down Master Scrooge’s box, there!’ and in the hall appeared the schoolmaster himself, who glared on Master Scrooge with a ferocious condescension, and threw him into a dreadful state of mind by shaking hands with him. He then conveyed him and his sister into the veriest old well of a shivering best-parlour that ever was seen, where the maps upon the wall, and the celestial and terrestrial globes in the windows, were waxy with cold. Here he produced a decanter of curiously light wine, and a block of curiously heavy cake, and administered instalments of those dainties to the young people: at the same time, sending out a meagre servant to offer a glass of something to the postboy, who answered that he thanked the gentleman, but if it was the same tap as he had tasted before, he had rather not. Master Scrooge’s trunk being by this time tied on to the top of the chaise, the children bade the schoolmaster good-bye right willingly; and getting into it, drove gaily down the garden-sweepA carriage driveway through a garden.: the quick wheels dashing the hoar-frost and snow from off the dark leaves of the evergreens like spray.

‘Always a delicate creature, whom a breath might have withered,’ said the Ghost. ‘But she had a large heart.’

‘So she had,’ cried Scrooge. ‘You’re right. I will not gainsay it, Spirit. God forbid!’

‘She died a woman,’ said the Ghost, ‘and had, as I think, children.’

‘One child,’ Scrooge returned.

‘True,’ said the Ghost. ‘Your nephew.’

Scrooge seemed uneasy in his mind; and answered briefly, ‘Yes.’

Although they had but that moment left the school behind them, they were now in the busy thoroughfares of a city, where shadowy passengers passed and repassed; where shadowy carts and coaches battle for the way, and all the strife and tumult of a real city were. It was made plain enough, by the dressing of the shops, that here too it was Christmas time again; but it was evening, and the streets were lighted up.

The Ghost stopped at a certain warehouse door, and asked Scrooge if he knew it.

‘Know it!’ said Scrooge. ‘Was I apprenticed here?’

They went in. At sight of an old gentleman in a Welsh wigA close-fitting woollen cap., sitting behind such a high desk, that if he had been two inches taller he must have knocked his head against the ceiling, Scrooge cried in great excitement:

‘Why, it’s old Fezziwig! Bless his heart; it’s Fezziwig alive again!’

Old Fezziwig laid down his pen, and looked up at the clock, which pointed to the hour of seven. He rubbed his hands; adjusted his capacious waistcoat; laughed all over himself, from his shoes to his organ of benevolenceTop of the head, according to phrenology, a pseudo-science that purported to be able to determine one’s character based on the shape of the skull.; and called out in a comfortable, oily, rich, fat, jovial voice:

‘Yo ho, there! Ebenezer! Dick!’

Scrooge’s former self, now grown a young man, came briskly in, accompanied by his fellow-prentice.

‘Dick Wilkins, to be sure.’ said Scrooge to the Ghost. ‘Bless me, yes. There he is. He was very much attached to me, was Dick. Poor Dick. Dear, dear.’

‘Yo ho, my boys!’ said Fezziwig. ‘No more work to-night. Christmas Eve, Dick. Christmas, Ebenezer! Let’s have the shutters up,’ cried old Fezziwig, with a sharp clap of his hands, ‘before a man can say Jack Robinson!’

You wouldn’t believe how those two fellows went at it! They charged into the street with the shutters–one, two, three–had them up in their places-four, five, six–barred them and pinned ’em–seven, eight, nine–and came back before you could have got to twelve, panting like race-horses.

‘Hilli-ho!’ cried old Fezziwig, skipping down from the high desk, with wonderful agility. ‘Clear away, my lads, and let’s have lots of room here! Hilli-ho, Dick! Chirrup, Ebenezer!’

Clear away! There was nothing they wouldn’t have cleared away, or couldn’t have cleared away, with old Fezziwig looking on. It was done in a minute. Every movable was packed off, as if it were dismissed from public life for evermore; the floor was swept and watered, the lamps were trimmed, fuel was heaped upon the fire; and the warehouse was as snug, and warm, and dry, and bright a ball-room, as you would desire to see upon a winter’s night.

In came a fiddler with a music-book, and went up to the lofty desk, and made an orchestra of it, and tuned like fifty stomach-aches. In came Mrs Fezziwig, one vast substantial smile. In came the three Miss Fezziwigs, beaming and lovable. In came the six young followers whose hearts they broke. In came all the young men and women employed in the business. In came the housemaid, with her cousin, the baker. In came the cook, with her brother’s particular friend, the milkman. In came the boy from over the way, who was suspected of not having board enough from his master; trying to hide himself behind the girl from next door but one, who was proved to have had her ears pulled by her mistress. In they all came, one after another; some shyly, some boldly, some gracefully, some awkwardly, some pushing, some pulling; in they all came, anyhow and everyhow. Away they all went, twenty couple at once; hands half round and back again the other way; down the middle and up again; round and round in various stages of affectionate grouping; old top couple always turning up in the wrong place; new top couple starting off again, as soon as they got there; all top couples at last, and not a bottom one to help them. When this result was brought about, old Fezziwig, clapping his hands to stop the dance, cried out, ‘Well done,’ and the fiddler plunged his hot face into a pot of porter, especially provided for that purpose. But scorning rest, upon his reappearance, he instantly began again, though there were no dancers yet, as if the other fiddler had been carried home, exhausted, on a shutter, and he were a bran-new man resolved to beat him out of sight, or perish.

There were more dances, and there were forfeits, and more dances, and there was cake, and there was negusA punch made of sweetened wine, hot water, spices, and lemon., and there was a great piece of Cold Roast, and there was a great piece of Cold Boiled, and there were mince-pies, and plenty of beer. But the great effect of the evening came after the Roast and Boiled, when the fiddler (an artful dog, mind. The sort of man who knew his business better than you or I could have told it him!) struck up ‘Sir Roger de Coverley.The name of an English country dance.’ Then old Fezziwig stood out to dance with Mrs Fezziwig. Top couple, too; with a good stiff piece of work cut out for them; three or four and twenty pair of partners; people who were not to be trifled with; people who would dance, and had no notion of walking.

But if they had been twice as many–ah, four times– old Fezziwig would have been a match for them, and so would Mrs Fezziwig. As to her, she was worthy to be his partner in every sense of the term. If that’s not high praise, tell me higher, and I’ll use it. A positive light appeared to issue from Fezziwig’s calves. They shone in every part of the dance like moons. You couldn’t have predicted, at any given time, what would have become of them next. And when old Fezziwig and Mrs Fezziwig had gone all through the dance; advance and retire, both hands to your partner, bow and curtsey, corkscrew, thread-the-needle, and back again to your place; Fezziwig ‘cut’A leap in the air while wiggling the legs back and forth before descending.—cut so deftly, that he appeared to wink with his legs, and came upon his feet again without a stagger.

When the clock struck eleven, this domestic ball broke up. Mr and Mrs Fezziwig took their stations, one on either side of the door, and shaking hands with every person individually as he or she went out, wished him or her a Merry Christmas. When everybody had retired but the two prentices, they did the same to them; and thus the cheerful voices died away, and the lads were left to their beds; which were under a counter in the back-shop.

During the whole of this time, Scrooge had acted like a man out of his wits. His heart and soul were in the scene, and with his former self. He corroborated everything, remembered everything, enjoyed everything, and underwent the strangest agitation. It was not until now, when the bright faces of his former self and Dick were turned from them, that he remembered the Ghost, and became conscious that it was looking full upon him, while the light upon its head burnt very clear.

‘A small matter,’ said the Ghost, ‘to make these silly folks so full of gratitude.’

‘Small!’ echoed Scrooge.

The Spirit signed to him to listen to the two apprentices, who were pouring out their hearts in praise of Fezziwig: and when he had done so, said,

‘Why! Is it not? He has spent but a few pounds of your mortal money: three or four perhaps. Is that so much that he deserves this praise?’

‘It isn’t that,’ said Scrooge, heated by the remark, and speaking unconsciously like his former, not his latter, self. ‘It isn’t that, Spirit. He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome; a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count them up: what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great as if it cost a fortune.’

He felt the Spirit’s glance, and stopped.

‘What is the matter?’ asked the Ghost.

‘Nothing in particular,’ said Scrooge.

‘Something, I think?’ the Ghost insisted.

‘No,’ said Scrooge, ‘No. I should like to be able to say a word or two to my clerk just now. That’s all.’

His former self turned down the lamps as he gave utterance to the wish; and Scrooge and the Ghost again stood side by side in the open air.

‘My time grows short,’ observed the Spirit. ‘Quick!’

This was not addressed to Scrooge, or to any one whom he could see, but it produced an immediate effect. For again Scrooge saw himself. He was older now; a man in the prime of life. His face had not the harsh and rigid lines of later years; but it had begun to wear the signs of care and avarice. There was an eager, greedy, restless motion in the eye, which showed the passion that had taken root, and where the shadow of the growing tree would fall.

He was not alone, but sat by the side of a fair young girl in a mourning-dress: in whose eyes there were tears, which sparkled in the light that shone out of the Ghost of Christmas Past.

‘It matters little,’ she said, softly. ‘To you, very little. Another idol has displaced me; and if it can cheer and comfort you in time to come, as I would have tried to do, I have no just cause to grieve.’

‘What Idol has displaced you?’ he rejoined.

‘A golden one.’

‘This is the even-handed dealing of the world.’ he said. ‘There is nothing on which it is so hard as poverty; and there is nothing it professes to condemn with such severity as the pursuit of wealth!’

‘You fear the world too much,’ she answered, gently. ‘All your other hopes have merged into the hope of being beyond the chance of its sordid reproach. I have seen your nobler aspirations fall off one by one, until the master-passion, Gain, engrosses you. Have I not?’

‘What then?’ he retorted. ‘Even if I have grown so much wiser, what then? I am not changed towards you.’

She shook her head.

‘Am I?’

‘Our contract is an old one. It was made when we were both poor and content to be so, until, in good season, we could improve our worldly fortune by our patient industry. You are changed. When it was made, you were another man.’

‘I was a boy,’ he said impatiently.

‘Your own feeling tells you that you were not what you are,’ she returned. ‘I am. That which promised happiness when we were one in heart, is fraught with misery now that we are two. How often and how keenly I have thought of this, I will not say. It is enough that I have thought of it, and can release you.’

‘Have I ever sought release?’

‘In words. No. Never.’

‘In what, then?’

‘In a changed nature; in an altered spirit; in another atmosphere of life; another Hope as its great end. In everything that made my love of any worth or value in your sight. If this had never been between us,’ said the girl, looking mildly, but with steadiness, upon him; ‘tell me, would you seek me out and try to win me now. Ah, no!’

He seemed to yield to the justice of this supposition, in spite of himself. But he said with a struggle, ‘You think not.’

‘I would gladly think otherwise if I could,’ she answered, ‘Heaven knows! When I have learned a Truth like this, I know how strong and irresistible it must be. But if you were free to-day, to-morrow, yesterday, can even I believe that you would choose a dowerless girl–you who, in your very confidence with her, weigh everything by Gain: or, choosing her, if for a moment you were false enough to your one guiding principle to do so, do I not know that your repentance and regret would surely follow? I do; and I release you. With a full heart, for the love of him you once were.’

He was about to speak; but with her head turned from him, she resumed.

‘You may–the memory of what is past half makes me hope you will–have pain in this. A very, very brief time, and you will dismiss the recollection of it, gladly, as an unprofitable dream, from which it happened well that you awoke. May you be happy in the life you have chosen!’

She left him, and they parted.

‘Spirit!’ said Scrooge, ‘show me no more! Conduct me home. Why do you delight to torture me?’

‘One shadow more!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

‘No more!’ cried Scrooge. ‘No more, I don’t wish to see it. Show me no more!’

But the relentless Ghost pinioned him in both his arms, and forced him to observe what happened next.

They were in another scene and place; a room, not very large or handsome, but full of comfort. Near to the winter fire sat a beautiful young girl, so like that last that Scrooge believed it was the same, until he saw her, now a comely matron, sitting opposite her daughter. The noise in this room was perfectly tumultuous, for there were more children there, than Scrooge in his agitated state of mind could count; and, unlike the celebrated herd in the poemAn allusion to the first stanza of Wordsworth’s poem “Written in March”: “The cattle are grazing,/Their heads never raising;/There are forty feeding like one!”, they were not forty children conducting themselves like one, but every child was conducting itself like forty. The consequences were uproarious beyond belief; but no one seemed to care; on the contrary, the mother and daughter laughed heartily, and enjoyed it very much; and the latter, soon beginning to mingle in the sports, got pillaged by the young brigands most ruthlessly. What would I not have given to one of them! Though I never could have been so rude, no, no! I wouldn’t for the wealth of all the world have crushed that braided hair, and torn it down; and for the precious little shoe, I wouldn’t have plucked it off, God bless my soul. to save my life. As to measuring her waist in sport, as they did, bold young brood, I couldn’t have done it; I should have expected my arm to have grown round it for a punishment, and never come straight again. And yet I should have dearly liked, I own, to have touched her lips; to have questioned her, that she might have opened them; to have looked upon the lashes of her downcast eyes, and never raised a blush; to have let loose waves of hair, an inch of which would be a keepsake beyond price: in short, I should have liked, I do confess, to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet to have been man enough to know its value.

But now a knocking at the door was heard, and such a rush immediately ensued that she with laughing face and plundered dress was borne towards it the centre of a flushed and boisterous group, just in time to greet the father, who came home attended by a man laden with Christmas toys and presents. Then the shouting and the struggling, and the onslaught that was made on the defenceless porter! The scaling him with chairs for ladders to dive into his pockets, despoil him of brown-paper parcels, hold on tight by his cravat, hug him round his neck, pommel his back, and kick his legs in irrepressible affection! The shouts of wonder and delight with which the development of every package was received! The terrible announcement that the baby had been taken in the act of putting a doll’s frying-pan into his mouth, and was more than suspected of having swallowed a fictitious turkey, glued on a wooden platter! The immense relief of finding this a false alarm! The joy, and gratitude, and ecstasy! They are all indescribable alike. It is enough that by degrees the children and their emotions got out of the parlour, and by one stair at a time, up to the top of the house; where they went to bed, and so subsided.

And now Scrooge looked on more attentively than ever, when the master of the house, having his daughter leaning fondly on him, sat down with her and her mother at his own fireside; and when he thought that such another creature, quite as graceful and as full of promise, might have called him father, and been a spring-time in the haggard winter of his life, his sight grew very dim indeed.

‘Belle,’ said the husband, turning to his wife with a smile, ‘I saw an old friend of yours this afternoon.’

‘Who was it?’

‘Guess!’

‘How can I? Tut, don’t I know?’ she added in the same breath, laughing as he he laughed. ‘Mr Scrooge.’

‘Mr Scrooge it was. I passed his office window; and as it was not shut up, and he had a candle inside, I could scarcely help seeing him. His partner lies upon the point of death, I hear; and there he sat alone. Quite alone in the world, I do believe.’

‘Spirit!’ said Scrooge in a broken voice, ‘remove me from this place.’

‘I told you these were shadows of the things that have been,’ said the Ghost. ‘That they are what they are, do not blame me!’

‘Remove me!’ Scrooge exclaimed, ‘I cannot bear it!’

He turned upon the Ghost, and seeing that it looked upon him with a face, in which in some strange way there were fragments of all the faces it had shown him, wrestled with it.

‘Leave me! Take me back! Haunt me no longer!’

In the struggle, if that can be called a struggle in which the Ghost with no visible resistance on its own part was undisturbed by any effort of its adversary, Scrooge observed that its light was burning high and bright; and dimly connecting that with its influence over him, he seized the extinguisher-cap, and by a sudden action pressed it down upon its head.

The Spirit dropped beneath it, so that the extinguisher covered its whole form; but though Scrooge pressed it down with all his force, he could not hide the light, which streamed from under it, in an unbroken flood upon the ground.

He was conscious of being exhausted, and overcome by an irresistible drowsiness; and, further, of being in his own bedroom. He gave the cap a parting squeeze, in which his hand relaxed; and had barely time to reel to bed, before he sank into a heavy sleep.

 

25

A Christmas Carol: Stave 3

Charles Dickens

The Second of the Three Spirits

Awaking in the middle of a prodigiously tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One. He felt that he was restored to consciousness in the right nick of time, for the especial purpose of holding a conference with the second messenger despatched to him through Jacob Marley’s intervention. But, finding that he turned uncomfortably cold when he began to wonder which of his curtains this new spectre would draw back, he put them every one aside with his own hands, and lying down again, established a sharp look-out all round the bed. For, he wished to challenge the Spirit on the moment of its appearance, and did not wish to be taken by surprise, and made nervous.

Gentlemen of the free-and-easy sort, who plume themselves on being acquainted with a move or two, and being usually equal to the time-of-day, express the wide range of their capacity for adventure by observing that they are good for anything from pitch-and-toss to manslaughter; between which opposite extremes, no doubt, there lies a tolerably wide and comprehensive range of subjects. Without venturing for Scrooge quite as hardily as this, I don’t mind calling on you to believe that he was ready for a good broad field of strange appearances, and that nothing between a baby and rhinoceros would have astonished him very much.

Now, being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and, consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quater of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the clock proclaimed the hour; and which, being only light, was more alarming than a dozen ghosts, as he was powerless to make out what it meant, or would be at; and was sometimes apprehensive that he might be at that very moment an interesting case of spontaneous combustionSelf-ignition. Hay and coal can self-ignite, but Dickens claimed that human bodies could do so as well. See the preface to Bleak House, in which he states that 30 such cases are on record., without having the consolation of knowing it. At last, however, he began to think–as you or I would have thought at first; for it is always the person not in the predicament who knows what ought to have been done in it, and would unquestionably have done it too–at last, I say, he began to think that the source and secret of this ghostly light might be in the adjoining room, from whence, on further tracing it, it seemed to shine. This idea taking full possession of his mind, he got up softly and shuffled in his slippers to the door.

The moment Scrooge’s hand was on the lock, a strange voice called him by his name, and bade him enter. He obeyed.

It was his own room. There was no doubt about that. But it had undergone a surprising transformation. The walls and ceiling were so hung with living green, that it looked a perfect grove; from every part of which, bright gleaming berries glistened. The crisp leaves of holly, mistletoe, and ivy reflected back the light, as if so many little mirrors had been scattered there; and such a mighty blaze went roaring up the chimney, as that dull petrification of a hearth had never known in Scrooge’s time, or Marley’s, or for many and many a winter season gone. Heaped up on the floor, to form a kind of throne, were turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, sucking-pigs, long wreaths of sausages, mince-pies, plum-puddings, barrels of oysters, red-hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakesA decorated cake made for a Twelfth Night (January 5, the eve of Epiphany) celebration., and seething bowls of punch, that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam. In easy state upon this couch, there sat a jolly Giant, glorious to see, who bore a glowing torch, in shape not unlike Plenty’s horn, and held it up, high up, to shed its light on Scrooge, as he came peeping round the door.

‘Come in!’ exclaimed the Ghost. ‘Come in! and know me better, man.’

Scrooge entered timidly, and hung his head before this Spirit. He was not the dogged Scrooge he had been; and though the Spirit’s eyes were clear and kind, he did not like to meet them.

‘I am the Ghost of Christmas Present,’ said the Spirit. ‘Look upon me!’

Scrooge reverently did so. It was clothed in one simple green robe, or mantle, bordered with white fur. This garment hung so loosely on the figure, that its capacious breast was bare, as if disdaining to be warded or concealed by any artifice. Its feet, observable beneath the ample folds of the garment, were also bare; and on its head it wore no other covering than a holly wreath, set here and there with shining icicles. Its dark brown curls were long and free; free as its genial face, its sparkling eye, its open hand, its cheery voice, its unconstrained demeanour, and its joyful air. Girded round its middle was an antique scabbard; but no sword was in it, and the ancient sheath was eaten up with rust.

‘You have never seen the like of me before!’ exclaimed the Spirit.

‘Never,’ Scrooge made answer to it.

‘Have never walked forth with the younger members of my family; meaning (for I am very young) my elder brothers born in these later years?’ pursued the Phantom.

‘I don’t think I have,’ said Scrooge. ‘I am afraid I have not. Have you had many brothers, Spirit?’

‘More than eighteen hundred,’ said the Ghost.

‘A tremendous family to provide for,’ muttered Scrooge.

The Ghost of Christmas Present rose.

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge submissively, ‘conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion, and I learnt a lesson which is working now. To-night, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.’

‘Touch my robe!’

Scrooge did as he was told, and held it fast.

Holly, mistletoe, red berries, ivy, turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, meat, pigs, sausages, oysters, pies, puddings, fruit, and punch, all vanished instantly. So did the room, the fire, the ruddy glow, the hour of night, and they stood in the city streets on Christmas morning, where (for the weather was severe) the people made a rough, but brisk and not unpleasant kind of music, in scraping the snow from the pavement in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses, whence it was mad delight to the boys to see it come plumping down into the road below, and splitting into artificial little snow-storms.

The house fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground; which last deposit had been ploughed up in deep furrows by the heavy wheels of carts and waggons; furrows that crossed and recrossed each other hundreds of times where the great streets branched off; and made intricate channels, hard to trace in the thick yellow mud and icy water. The sky was gloomy, and the shortest streets were choked up with a dingy mist, half thawed, half frozen, whose heavier particles descended in shower of sooty atoms, as if all the chimneys in Great Britain had, by one consent, caught fire, and were blazing away to their dear hearts’ content. There was nothing very cheerful in the climate or the town, and yet was there an air of cheerfulness abroad that the clearest summer air and brightest summer sun might have endeavoured to diffuse in vain.

For, the people who were shovelling away on the housetops were jovial and full of glee; calling out to one another from the parapets, and now and then exchanging a facetious snowball–better-natured missile far than many a wordy jest– laughing heartily if it went right and not less heartily if it went wrong. The poulterers’ shops were still half open, and the fruiterers’ were radiant in their glory. There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples, clustered high in blooming pyramids; there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water gratis as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown, recalling, in their fragrance, ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shufflings ankle deep through withered leaves; there were Norfolk BiffinsA variety of apple., squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and, in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. The very gold and silver fish, set forth among these choice fruits in a bowl, though members of a dull and stagnant-blooded race, appeared to know that there was something going on; and, to a fish, went gasping round and round their little world in slow and passionless excitement.

The Grocers’! oh the Grocers’! nearly closed, with perhaps two shutters down, or one; but through those gaps such glimpses. It was not alone that the scales descending on the counter made a merry sound, or that the twine and roller parted company so briskly, or that the canisters were rattled up and down like juggling tricks, or even that the blended scents of tea and coffee were so grateful to the nose, or even that the raisins were so plentiful and rare, the almonds so extremely white, the sticks of cinnamon so long and straight, the other spices so delicious, the candied fruits so caked and spotted with molten sugar as to make the coldest lookers-on feel faint and subsequently bilious. Nor was it that the figs were moist and pulpy, or that the French plums blushed in modest tartness from their highly-decorated boxes, or that everything was good to eat and in its Christmas dress; but the customers were all so hurried and so eager in the hopeful promise of the day, that they tumbled up against each other at the door, crashing their wicker baskets wildly, and left their purchases upon the counter, and came running back to fetch them, and committed hundreds of the like mistakes, in the best humour possible; while the Grocer and his people were so frank and fresh that the polished hearts with which they fastened their aprons behind might have been their own, worn outside for general inspection, and for Christmas dawscf. Othello, 1.1. 65-66: “But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve/For daws to peck at.” A daw, or jackdaw, is a common black and grey bird. to peck at if they chose.

But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shopsBakers were forbidden to bake bread on Sundays and holidays, but for a small fee they allowed people to bring meals to be cooked in their bakery ovens.. The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!

In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker’s oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.

‘Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?’ asked Scrooge.

‘There is. My own.’

‘Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?’ asked Scrooge.

‘To any kindly given. To a poor one most.’

‘Why to a poor one most?’ asked Scrooge.

‘Because it needs it most.’

‘Spirit?’ said Scrooge, after a moment’s thought, ‘I wonder you, of all the beings in the many worlds about us, should desire to cramp these people’s opportunities of innocent enjoyment.’

‘I!’ cried the Spirit.

‘You would deprive them of their means of dining every seventh dayIn his pamphlet, “Sunday Under Three Heads,” Dickens opposed attempts to pass a Sunday Observance Bill, which would have limited people’s right to enjoy leisure activities and to buy bread on Sundays., often the only day on which they can be said to dine at all,’ said Scrooge. ‘Wouldn’t you?’

‘I!’ cried the Spirit.

‘You seek to close these places on the Seventh Day,’ said Scrooge. ‘And it comes to the same thing.’

‘I seek!’ exclaimed the Spirit.

‘Forgive me if I am wrong. It has been done in your name, or at least in that of your family,’ said Scrooge.

‘There are some upon this earth of yours,’ returned the Spirit, ‘who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all out kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.’

Scrooge promised that he would; and they went on, invisible, as they had been before, into the suburbs of the town. It was a remarkable quality of the Ghost (which Scrooge had observed at the baker’s), that notwithstanding his gigantic size, he could accommodate himself to any place with ease; and that he stood beneath a low roof quite as gracefully and like a supernatural creature, as it was possible he could have done in any lofty hall.

And perhaps it was the pleasure the good Spirit had in showing off this power of his, or else it was his own kind, generous, hearty nature, and his sympathy with all poor men, that led him straight to Scrooge’s clerk’s; for there he went, and took Scrooge with him, holding to his robe; and on the threshold of the door the Spirit smiled, and stopped to bless Bob Cratchit’s dwelling with the sprinkling of his torch. Think of that. Bob had but fifteen bobSlang for one shilling. a-week himself; he pocketed on Saturdays but fifteen copies of his Christian name; and yet the Ghost of Christmas Present blessed his four-roomed house.

Then up rose Mrs Cratchit, Cratchit’s wife, dressed out but poorly in a twice-turned gownA worn out and remade dress., but brave in ribbons, which are cheap and make a goodly show for sixpence; and she laid the cloth, assisted by Belinda Cratchit, second of her daughters, also brave in ribbons; while Master Peter Cratchit plunged a fork into the saucepan of potatoes, and getting the corners of his monstrous shirt collar (Bob’s private property, conferred upon his son and heir in honour of the day) into his mouth, rejoiced to find himself so gallantly attired, and yearned to show his linen in the fashionable Parks. And now two smaller Cratchits, boy and girl, came tearing in, screaming that outside the baker’s they had smelt the goose, and known it for their own; and basking in luxurious thoughts of sage and onion, these young Cratchits danced about the table, and exalted Master Peter Cratchit to the skies, while he (not proud, although his collars nearly choked him) blew the fire, until the slow potatoes bubbling up, knocked loudly at the saucepan-lid to be let out and peeled.

‘What has ever got your precious father then?’ said Mrs Cratchit. ‘And your brother, Tiny Tim? And Martha warn’t as late last Christmas Day by half-an-hour!’

‘Here’s Martha, mother!’ said a girl, appearing as she spoke.

‘Here’s Martha, mother!’ cried the two young Cratchits. ‘Hurrah! There’s such a goose, Martha!’

‘Why, bless your heart alive, my dear, how late you are.’ said Mrs Cratchit, kissing her a dozen times, and taking off her shawl and bonnet for her with officious zeal.

‘We’d a deal of work to finish up last night,’ replied the girl, ‘and had to clear away this morning, mother.’

‘Well! Never mind so long as you are come,’ said Mrs Cratchit. ‘Sit ye down before the fire, my dear, and have a warm, Lord bless ye!’

‘No, no! There’s father coming,’ cried the two young Cratchits, who were everywhere at once. ‘Hide, Martha, hide!’

So Martha hid herself, and in came little Bob, the father, with at least three feet of comforter exclusive of the fringe, hanging down before him; and his threadbare clothes darned up and brushed, to look seasonable; and Tiny Tim upon his shoulder. Alas for Tiny Tim, he bore a little crutch, and had his limbs supported by an iron frame!

‘Why, where’s our Martha?’ cried Bob Cratchit, looking round.

‘Not coming,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘Not coming!’ said Bob, with a sudden declension in his high spirits; for he had been Tim’s blood horse all the way from church, and had come home rampant. ‘Not coming upon Christmas Day!’

Martha didn’t like to see him disappointed, if it were only in joke; so she came out prematurely from behind the closet door, and ran into his arms, while the two young Cratchits hustled Tiny Tim, and bore him off into the wash-house, that he might hear the pudding singing in the copper.

‘And how did little Tim behave? asked Mrs Cratchit, when she had rallied Bob on his credulity, and Bob had hugged his daughter to his heart’s content.

‘As good as gold,’ said Bob, ‘and better. Somehow he gets thoughtful, sitting by himself so much, and thinks the strangest things you ever heard. He told me, coming home, that he hoped the people saw him in the church, because he was a cripple, and it might be pleasant to them to remember upon Christmas Day, who made lame beggars walk, and blind men see.’

Bob’s voice was tremulous when he told them this, and trembled more when he said that Tiny Tim was growing strong and hearty.

His active little crutch was heard upon the floor, and back came Tiny Tim before another word was spoken, escorted by his brother and sister to his stool before the fire; and while Bob, turning up his cuffs–as if, poor fellow, they were capable of being made more shabby–compounded some hot mixture in a jug with gin and lemons, and stirred it round and round and put it on the hob to simmer; Master Peter, and the two ubiquitous young Cratchits went to fetch the goose, with which they soon returned in high procession.

Such a bustle ensued that you might have thought a goose the rarest of all birds; a feathered phenomenon, to which a black swan was a matter of course-and in truth it was something very like it in that house. Mrs Cratchit made the gravy (ready beforehand in a little saucepan) hissing hot; Master Peter mashed the potatoes with incredible vigour; Miss Belinda sweetened up the apple-sauce; Martha dusted the hot plates; Bob took Tiny Tim beside him in a tiny corner at the table; the two young Cratchits set chairs for everybody, not forgetting themselves, and mounting guard upon their posts, crammed spoons into their mouths, lest they should shriek for goose before their turn came to be helped. At last the dishes were set on, and grace was said. It was succeeded by a breathless pause, as Mrs Cratchit, looking slowly all along the carving-knife, prepared to plunge it in the breast; but when she did, and when the long expected gush of stuffing issued forth, one murmur of delight arose all round the board, and even Tiny Tim, excited by the two young Cratchits, beat on the table with the handle of his knife, and feebly cried Hurrah!

 

There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs Cratchit left the room alone–too nervous to bear witnesses–to take the pudding up and bring it in.

Suppose it should not be done enough! Suppose it should break in turning out. Suppose somebody should have got over the wall of the back-yard, and stolen it, while they were merry with the goose–a supposition at which the two young Cratchits became livid! All sorts of horrors were supposed.

Hallo! A great deal of steam! The pudding was out of the copper. A smell like a washing-day! That was the cloth. A smell like an eating-house and a pastrycook’s next door to each other, with a laundress’s next door to that! That was the pudding! In half a minute Mrs Cratchit entered–flushed, but smiling proudly–with the pudding, like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half of half-a-quartern of ignited brandy, and bedight with Christmas holly stuck into the top.

Oh, a wonderful pudding! Bob Cratchit said, and calmly too, that he regarded it as the greatest success achieved by Mrs Cratchit since their marriage. Mrs Cratchit said that now the weight was off her mind, she would confess she had had her doubts about the quantity of flour. Everybody had something to say about it, but nobody said or thought it was at all a small pudding for a large family. It would have been flat heresy to do so. Any Cratchit would have blushed to hint at such a thing.

At last the dinner was all done, the cloth was cleared, the hearth swept, and the fire made up. The compound in the jug being tasted, and considered perfect, apples and oranges were put upon the table, and a shovel-full of chestnuts on the fire. Then all the Cratchit family drew round the hearth, in what Bob Cratchit called a circle, meaning half a one; and at Bob Cratchit’s elbow stood the family display of glass. Two tumblers, and a custard-cup without a handle.

These held the hot stuff from the jug, however, as well as golden goblets would have done; and Bob served it out with beaming looks, while the chestnuts on the fire sputtered and cracked noisily. Then Bob proposed:

‘A Merry Christmas to us all, my dears. God bless us!’

Which all the family re-echoed.

‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.

He sat very close to his father’s side upon his little stool. Bob held his withered little hand in his, as if he loved the child, and wished to keep him by his side, and dreaded that he might be taken from him.

‘Spirit,’ said Scrooge, with an interest he had never felt before, ‘tell me if Tiny Tim will live.’

‘I see a vacant seat,’ replied the Ghost,’ in the poor chimney-corner, and a crutch without an owner, carefully preserved. If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, the child will die.’

‘No, no,’ said Scrooge. ‘Oh, no, kind Spirit! say he will be spared.’

‘If these shadows remain unaltered by the Future, none other of my race,’ returned the Ghost, ‘will find him here. What then. If he be like to die, he had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.’

Scrooge hung his head to hear his own words quoted by the Spirit, and was overcome with penitence and grief.

‘Man,’ said the Ghost, ‘if man you be in heart, not adamant, forbear that wicked cant until you have discovered What the surplus is, and Where it is. Will you decide what men shall live, what men shall die? It may be, that in the sight of Heaven, you are more worthless and less fit to live than millions like this poor man’s child. Oh God! to hear the Insect on the leaf pronouncing on the too much life among his hungry brothers in the dust.’

Scrooge bent before the Ghost’s rebuke, and trembling cast his eyes upon the ground. But he raised them speedily, on hearing his own name.

‘Mr Scrooge!’ said Bob; ‘I’ll give you Mr Scrooge, the Founder of the Feast!’

‘The Founder of the Feast indeed!’ cried Mrs Cratchit, reddening. ‘I wish I had him here. I’d give him a piece of my mind to feast upon, and I hope he’d have a good appetite for it.’

‘My dear,’ said Bob, ‘the children! Christmas Day.’

‘It should be Christmas Day, I am sure,’ said she, ‘on which one drinks the health of such an odious, stingy, hard, unfeeling man as Mr Scrooge. You know he is, Robert. Nobody knows it better than you do, poor fellow.’

‘My dear,’ was Bob’s mild answer, ‘Christmas Day.’

‘I’ll drink his health for your sake and the Day’s,’ said Mrs Cratchit,’ not for his. Long life to him! A merry Christmas and a happy new year!–he’ll be very merry and very happy, I have no doubt!’

The children drank the toast after her. It was the first of their proceedings which had no heartiness. Tiny Tim drank it last of all, but he didn’t care twopence for it. Scrooge was the Ogre of the family. The mention of his name cast a dark shadow on the party, which was not dispelled for full five minutes.

After it had passed away, they were ten times merrier than before, from the mere relief of Scrooge the Baleful being done with. Bob Cratchit told them how he had a situation in his eye for Master Peter, which would bring in, if obtained, full five-and-sixpence weekly. The two young Cratchits laughed tremendously at the idea of Peter s being a man of business; and Peter himself looked thoughtfully at the fire from between his collars, as if he were deliberating what particular investments he should favour when he came into the receipt of that bewildering income. Martha, who was a poor apprentice at a milliner’s, then told them what kind of work she had to do, and how many hours she worked at a stretch, and how she meant to lie abed to-morrow morning for a good long rest; to-morrow being a holiday she passed at home. Also how she had seen a countess and a lord some days before, and how the lord ‘was much about as tall as Peter;’ at which Peter pulled up his collars so high that you couldn’t have seen his head if you had been there. All this time the chestnuts and the jug went round and round; and by-and-bye they had a song, about a lost child travelling in the snow, from Tiny Tim, who had a plaintive little voice, and sang it very well indeed.

There was nothing of high mark in this. They were not a handsome family; they were not well dressed; their shoes were far from being water-proof; their clothes were scanty; and Peter might have known, and very likely did, the inside of a pawnbroker’s. But, they were happy, grateful, pleased with one another, and contented with the time; and when they faded, and looked happier yet in the bright sprinklings of the Spirit’s torch at parting, Scrooge had his eye upon them, and especially on Tiny Tim, until the last.

By this time it was getting dark, and snowing pretty heavily; and as Scrooge and the Spirit went along the streets, the brightness of the roaring fires in kitchens, parlours, and all sorts of rooms, was wonderful. Here, the flickering of the blaze showed preparations for a cosy dinner, with hot plates baking through and through before the fire, and deep red curtains, ready to be drawn to shut out cold and darkness. There all the children of the house were running out into the snow to meet their married sisters, brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, and be the first to greet them. Here, again, were shadows on the window-blind of guests assembling; and there a group of handsome girls, all hooded and fur-booted, and all chattering at once, tripped lightly off to some near neighbour’s house; where, woe upon the single man who saw them enter-–artful witches, well they knew it –- in a glow!

But, if you had judged from the numbers of people on their way to friendly gatherings, you might have thought that no one was at home to give them welcome when they got there, instead of every house expecting company, and piling up its fires half-chimney high. Blessings on it, how the Ghost exulted! How it bared its breadth of breast, and opened its capacious palm, and floated on, outpouring, with a generous hand, its bright and harmless mirth on everything within its reach! The very lamplighter, who ran on before, dotting the dusky street with specks of light, and who was dressed to spend the evening somewhere, laughed out loudly as the Spirit passed, though little kenned the lamplighter that he had any company but Christmas.

And now, without a word of warning from the Ghost, they stood upon a bleak and desert moor, where monstrous masses of rude stone were cast about, as though it were the burial-place of giants; and water spread itself wheresoever it listed, or would have done so, but for the frost that held it prisoner; and nothing grew but moss and furzeA spiny evergreen shrub., and coarse rank grass. Down in the west the setting sun had left a streak of fiery red, which glared upon the desolation for an instant, like a sullen eye, and frowning lower, lower, lower yet, was lost in the thick gloom of darkest night.

‘What place is this?’ asked Scrooge.

‘A place where Miners live, who labour in the bowels of the earth,’ returned the Spirit. ‘But they know me. See!’

Alight shone from the window of a hut, and swiftly they advanced towards it. Passing through the wall of mud and stone, they found a cheerful company assembled round a glowing fire. An old, old man and woman, with their children and their children’s children, and another generation beyond that, all decked out gaily in their holiday attire. The old man, in a voice that seldom rose above the howling of the wind upon the barren waste, was singing them a Christmas song–it had been a very old song when he was a boy!-and from time to time they all joined in the chorus. So surely as they raised their voices, the old man got quite blithe and loud; and so surely as they stopped, his vigour sank again.

The Spirit did not tarry here, but bade Scrooge hold his robe, and passing on above the moor, sped – whither. Not to sea. To sea. To Scrooge’s horror, looking back, he saw the last of the land, a frightful range of rocks, behind them; and his ears were deafened by the thundering of water, as it rolled and roared, and raged among the dreadful caverns it had worn, and fiercely tried to undermine the earth.

Built upon a dismal reef of sunken rocks, some league or so from shore, on which the waters chafed and dashed, the wild year through, there stood a solitary lighthouse. Great heaps of sea-weed clung to its base, and storm-birds– born of the wind one might suppose, as sea-weed of the water–rose and fell about it, like the waves they skimmed.

But even here, two men who watched the light had made a fire, that through the loophole in the thick stone wall shed out a ray of brightness on the awful sea. Joining their horny hands over the rough table at which they sat, they wished each other Merry Christmas in their can of grog; and one of them: the elder, too, with his face all damaged and scarred with hard weather, as the figure-head of an old ship might be: struck up a sturdy song that was like a Gale in itself.

Again the Ghost sped on, above the black and heaving sea –on, on–until, being far away, as he told Scrooge, from any shore, they lighted on a ship. They stood beside the helmsman at the wheel, the look-out in the bow, the officers who had the watch; dark, ghostly figures in their several stations; but every man among them hummed a Christmas tune, or had a Christmas thought, or spoke below his breath to his companion of some bygone Christmas Day, with homeward hopes belonging to it. And every man on board, waking or sleeping, good or bad, had had a kinder word for another on that day than on any day in the year; and had shared to some extent in its festivities; and had remembered those he cared for at a distance, and had known that they delighted to remember him.

It was a great surprise to Scrooge, while listening to the moaning of the wind, and thinking what a solemn thing it was to move on through the lonely darkness over an unknown abyss, whose depths were secrets as profound as Death: it was a great surprise to Scrooge, while thus engaged, to hear a hearty laugh. It was a much greater surprise to Scrooge to recognise it as his own nephew’s and to find himself in a bright, dry, gleaming room, with the Spirit standing smiling by his side, and looking at that same nephew with approving affability.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed Scrooge’s nephew. ‘Ha, ha, ha!’

If you should happen, by any unlikely chance, to know a man more blest in a laugh than Scrooge’s nephew, all I can say is, I should like to know him too. Introduce him to me, and I’ll cultivate his acquaintance.

It is a fair, even-handed, noble adjustment of things, that while there is infection in disease and sorrow, there is nothing in the world so irresistibly contagious as laughter and good-humour. When Scrooge’s nephew laughed in this way: holding his sides, rolling his head, and twisting his face into the most extravagant contortions: Scrooge’s niece, by marriage, laughed as heartily as he. And their assembled friends being not a bit behindhand, roared out lustily.

‘Ha, ha! Ha, ha, ha, ha!’

‘He said that Christmas was a humbug, as I live!’ cried Scrooge’s nephew. ‘He believed it too!’

‘More shame for him, Fred!’ said Scrooge’s niece, indignantly. Bless those women; they never do anything by halves. They are always in earnest.

She was very pretty: exceedingly pretty. With a dimpled, surprised-looking, capital face; a ripe little mouth, that seemed made to be kissed–as no doubt it was; all kinds of good little dots about her chin, that melted into one another when she laughed; and the sunniest pair of eyes you ever saw in any little creature’s head. Altogether she was what you would have called provoking, you know; but satisfactory, too. Oh, perfectly satisfactory!

‘He’s a comical old fellow,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘that’s the truth: and not so pleasant as he might be. However, his offences carry their own punishment, and I have nothing to say against him.’

‘I’m sure he is very rich, Fred,’ hinted Scrooge’s niece. ‘At least you always tell me so.’

‘What of that, my dear!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘His wealth is of no use to him. He don’t do any good with it. He don’t make himself comfortable with it. He hasn’t the satisfaction of thinking–ha, ha, ha!–that he is ever going to benefit us with it.’

‘I have no patience with him,’ observed Scrooge’s niece. Scrooge’s niece’s sisters, and all the other ladies, expressed the same opinion.

‘Oh, I have!’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘I am sorry for him; I couldn’t be angry with him if I tried. Who suffers by his ill whims? Himself, always. Here, he takes it into his head to dislike us, and he won’t come and dine with us. What’s the consequence? He don’t lose much of a dinner.’

‘Indeed, I think he loses a very good dinner,’ interrupted Scrooge’s niece. Everybody else said the same, and they must be allowed to have been competent judges, because they had just had dinner; and, with the dessert upon the table, were clustered round the fire, by lamplight.

‘Well. I’m very glad to hear it,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘because I haven’t great faith in these young housekeepers. What do you say, Topper?’

Topper had clearly got his eye upon one of Scrooge’s niece’s sisters, for he answered that a bachelor was a wretched outcast, who had no right to express an opinion on the subject. Whereat Scrooge’s niece’s sister -– the plump one with the lace tuckerA piece of lace or the like worn around or within the top of the bodice.: not the one with the roses–blushed.

‘Do go on, Fred,’ said Scrooge’s niece, clapping her hands. ‘He never finishes what he begins to say! He is such a ridiculous fellow!’

Scrooge’s nephew revelled in another laugh, and as it was impossible to keep the infection off; though the plump sister tried hard to do it with aromatic vinegar; his example was unanimously followed.

‘I was only going to say,’ said Scrooge’s nephew, ‘that the consequence of his taking a dislike to us, and not making merry with us, is, as I think, that he loses some pleasant moments, which could do him no harm. I am sure he loses pleasanter companions than he can find in his own thoughts, either in his mouldy old office, or his dusty chambers. I mean to give him the same chance every year, whether he likes it or not, for I pity him. He may rail at Christmas till he dies, but he can’t help thinking better of it–I defy him–if he finds me going there, in good temper, year after year, and saying Uncle Scrooge, how are you. If it only puts him in the vein to leave his poor clerk fifty pounds, that’s something; and I think I shook him yesterday.’

It was their turn to laugh now at the notion of his shaking Scrooge. But being thoroughly good-natured, and not much caring what they laughed at, so that they laughed at any rate, he encouraged them in their merriment, and passed the bottle joyously.

After tea they had some music. For they were a musical family, and knew what they were about, when they sung a Glee or CatchA glee is a song sung by three or more; a catch is a round, a song in which two or more voices sing the same melody but with each voice beginning at different times, as in “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”, I can assure you: especially Topper, who could growl away in the bass like a good one, and never swell the large veins in his forehead, or get red in the face over it. Scrooge’s niece played well upon the harp; and played among other tunes a simple little air (a mere nothing: you might learn to whistle it in two minutes), which had been familiar to the child who fetched Scrooge from the boarding-school, as he had been reminded by the Ghost of Christmas Past. When this strain of music sounded, all the things that Ghost had shown him, came upon his mind; he softened more and more; and thought that if he could have listened to it often, years ago, he might have cultivated the kindnesses of life for his own happiness with his own hands, without resorting to the sexton’s spade that buried Jacob Marley.

But they didn’t devote the whole evening to music. After a while they played at forfeits; for it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at at Christmas, when its mighty Founder was a child himself. Stop! There was first a game at blind-man’s buff. Of course there was. And I no more believe Topper was really blind than I believe he had eyes in his boots. My opinion is, that it was a done thing between him and Scrooge’s nephew; and that the Ghost of Christmas Present knew it. The way he went after that plump sister in the lace tucker, was an outrage on the credulity of human nature. Knocking down the fire-irons, tumbling over the chairs, bumping against the piano, smothering himself among the curtains, wherever she went, there went he. He always knew where the plump sister was. He wouldn’t catch anybody else. If you had fallen up against him (as some of them did), on purpose, he would have made a feint of endeavouring to seize you, which would have been an affront to your understanding, and would instantly have sidled off in the direction of the plump sister. She often cried out that it wasn’t fair; and it really was not. But when at last, he caught her; when, in spite of all her silken rustlings, and her rapid flutterings past him, he got her into a corner whence there was no escape; then his conduct was the most execrable. For his pretending not to know her; his pretending that it was necessary to touch her head-dress, and further to assure himself of her identity by pressing a certain ring upon her finger, and a certain chain about her neck; was vile, monstrous! No doubt she told him her opinion of it, when, another blind-man being in office, they were so very confidential together, behind the curtains.

Scrooge’s niece was not one of the blind-man’s buff party, but was made comfortable with a large chair and a footstool, in a snug corner, where the Ghost and Scrooge were close behind her. But she joined in the forfeits, and loved her love to admiration with all the letters of the alphabet. Likewise at the game of How, When, and Where, she was very great, and to the secret joy of Scrooge’s nephew, beat her sisters hollow: though they were sharp girls too, as could have told you. There might have been twenty people there, young and old, but they all played, and so did Scrooge; for wholly forgetting in the interest he had in what was going on, that his voice made no sound in their ears, he sometimes came out with his guess quite loud, and very often guessed quite right, too; for the sharpest needle, best Whitechapel, warranted not to cut in the eye, was not sharper than Scrooge; blunt as he took it in his head to be.

The Ghost was greatly pleased to find him in this mood, and looked upon him with such favour, that he begged like a boy to be allowed to stay until the guests departed. But this the Spirit said could not be done.

‘Here is a new game,’ said Scrooge. ‘One half hour, Spirit, only one!’

It was a Game called Yes and No, where Scrooge’s nephew had to think of something, and the rest must find out what; he only answering to their questions yes or no, as the case was. The brisk fire of questioning to which he was exposed, elicited from him that he was thinking of an animal, a live animal, rather a disagreeable animal, a savage animal, an animal that growled and grunted sometimes, and talked sometimes, and lived in London, and walked about the streets, and wasn’t made a show of, and wasn’t led by anybody, and didn’t live in a menagerie, and was never killed in a market, and was not a horse, or an ass, or a cow, or a bull, or a tiger, or a dog, or a pig, or a cat, or a bear. At every fresh question that was put to him, this nephew burst into a fresh roar of laughter; and was so inexpressibly tickled, that he was obliged to get up off the sofa and stamp. At last the plump sister, falling into a similar state, cried out:

‘I have found it out! I know what it is, Fred! I know what it is!’

‘What is it?’ cried Fred.

‘It’s your Uncle Scrooge!’

Which it certainly was. Admiration was the universal sentiment, though some objected that the reply to ‘Is it a bear?’ ought to have been ‘Yes;’ inasmuch as an answer in the negative was sufficient to have diverted their thoughts from Mr Scrooge, supposing they had ever had any tendency that way.

‘He has given us plenty of merriment, I am sure,’ said Fred, ‘and it would be ungrateful not to drink his health. Here is a glass of mulled wine ready to our hand at the moment; and I say,”Uncle Scrooge!” ‘

‘Well. Uncle Scrooge!’ they cried.

‘A Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to the old man, whatever he is.’ said Scrooge’s nephew. ‘He wouldn’t take it from me, but may he have it, nevertheless. Uncle Scrooge!’

Uncle Scrooge had imperceptibly become so gay and light of heart, that he would have pledged the unconscious company in return, and thanked them in an inaudible speech, if the Ghost had given him time. But the whole scene passed off in the breath of the last word spoken by his nephew; and he and the Spirit were again upon their travels.

Much they saw, and far they went, and many homes they visited, but always with a happy end. The Spirit stood beside sick beds, and they were cheerful; on foreign lands, and they were close at home; by struggling men, and they were patient in their greater hope; by poverty, and it was rich. In almshouse, hospital, and jail, in misery’s every refuge, where vain man in his little brief authoritycf. Measure for Measure, 2.2:121-22, “But man, proud man,/Dress’d in a little brief authority.” had not made fast the door, and barred the Spirit out, he left his blessing, and taught Scrooge his precepts.

It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together. It was strange, too, that while Scrooge remained unaltered in his outward form, the Ghost grew older, clearly older. Scrooge had observed this change, but never spoke of it, until they left a children’s Twelfth Night party, when, looking at the Spirit as they stood together in an open place, he noticed that its hair was grey.

‘Are spirits’ lives so short?’ asked Scrooge.

‘My life upon this globe, is very brief,’ replied the Ghost. ‘It ends to-night.’

‘To-night!’ cried Scrooge.

‘To-night at midnight. Hark! The time is drawing near.’

The chimes were ringing the three quarters past eleven at that moment.

‘Forgive me if I am not justified in what I ask,’ said Scrooge, looking intently at the Spirit’s robe, ‘but I see something strange, and not belonging to yourself, protruding from your skirts. Is it a foot or a claw?’

‘It might be a claw, for the flesh there is upon it,’ was the Spirit’s sorrowful reply. ‘Look here.’

From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment.

‘Oh, Man! look here! Look, look, down here!’ exclaimed the Ghost.

They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread.

Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.

‘Spirit, are they yours?’ Scrooge could say no more.

‘They are Man’s,’ said the Spirit, looking down upon them. ‘And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it!’ cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. ‘Slander those who tell it ye! Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse! And abide the end!’

‘Have they no refuge or resource?’ cried Scrooge.

‘Are there no prisons?’ said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. ‘Are there no workhouses?’

The bell struck twelve.

Scrooge looked about him for the Ghost, and saw it not. As the last stroke ceased to vibrate, he remembered the prediction of old Jacob Marley, and lifting up his eyes, beheld a solemn Phantom, draped and hooded, coming, like a mist along the ground, towards him.

 

26

A Christmas Carol: Stave 4

Charles Dickens

The Last of the Spirits

The Phantom slowly, gravely, silently approached. When it came, Scrooge bent down upon his knee; for in the very air through which this Spirit moved it seemed to scatter gloom and mystery.

It was shrouded in a deep black garment, which concealed its head, its face, its form, and left nothing of it visible save one outstretched hand. But for this it would have been difficult to detach its figure from the night, and separate it from the darkness by which it was surrounded.

He felt that it was tall and stately when it came beside him, and that its mysterious presence filled him with a solemn dread. He knew no more, for the Spirit neither spoke nor moved.

‘I am in the presence of the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come?’ said Scrooge.

The Spirit answered not, but pointed onward with its hand.

‘You are about to show me shadows of the things that have not happened, but will happen in the time before us,’ Scrooge pursued. ‘Is that so, Spirit?’

The upper portion of the garment was contracted for an instant in its folds, as if the Spirit had inclined its head. That was the only answer he received.

Although well used to ghostly company by this time, Scrooge feared the silent shape so much that his legs trembled beneath him, and he found that he could hardly stand when he prepared to follow it. The Spirit pauses a moment, as observing his condition, and giving him time to recover.

But Scrooge was all the worse for this. It thrilled him with a vague uncertain horror, to know that behind the dusky shroud, there were ghostly eyes intently fixed upon him, while he, though he stretched his own to the utmost, could see nothing but a spectral hand and one great heap of black.

‘Ghost of the Future!’ he exclaimed, ‘I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?’

It gave him no reply. The hand was pointed straight before them.

‘Lead on!’ said Scrooge. ‘Lead on! The night is waning fast, and it is precious time to me, I know. Lead on, Spirit!’

The Phantom moved away as it had come towards him. Scrooge followed in the shadow of its dress, which bore him up, he thought, and carried him along.

They scarcely seemed to enter the city; for the city rather seemed to spring up about them, and encompass them of its own act. But there they were, in the heart of it; on ‘Change, amongst the merchants; who hurried up and down, and chinked the money in their pockets, and conversed in groups, and looked at their watches, and trifled thoughtfully with their great gold seals; and so forth, as Scrooge had seen them often.

The Spirit stopped beside one little knot of business men. Observing that the hand was pointed to them, Scrooge advanced to listen to their talk.

‘No,’ said a great fat man with a monstrous chin, ‘I don’t know much about it, either way. I only know he’s dead.’

‘When did he die?’ inquired another.

‘Last night, I believe.’

‘Why, what was the matter with him?’ asked a third, taking a vast quantity of snuff out of a very large snuff-box. ‘I thought he’d never die.’

‘God knows,’ said the first, with a yawn.

‘What has he done with his money?’ asked a red-faced gentleman with a pendulous excrescence on the end of his nose, that shook like the gills of a turkey-cock.

‘I haven’t heard,’ said the man with the large chin, yawning again. ‘Left it to his company, perhaps. He hasn’t left it to me. That’s all I know.’

This pleasantry was received with a general laugh.

‘It’s likely to be a very cheap funeral,’ said the same speaker; ‘for upon my life I don’t know of anybody to go to it. Suppose we make up a party and volunteer?’

‘I don’t mind going if a lunch is provided,’ observed the gentleman with the excrescence on his nose. ‘But I must be fed, if I make one.’

Another laugh.

‘Well, I am the most disinterested among you, after all,’ said the first speaker, ‘for I never wear black gloves, and I never eat lunch. But I’ll offer to go, if anybody else will. When I come to think of it, I’m not at all sure that I wasn’t his most particular friend; for we used to stop and speak whenever we met. Bye, bye!’

Speakers and listeners strolled away, and mixed with other groups. Scrooge knew the men, and looked towards the Spirit for an explanation.

The Phantom glided on into a street. Its finger pointed to two persons meeting. Scrooge listened again, thinking that the explanation might lie here.

He knew these men, also, perfectly. They were men of business: very wealthy, and of great importance. He had made a point always of standing well in their esteem: in a business point of view, that is; strictly in a business point of view.

‘How are you?’ said one.

‘How are you?’ returned the other.

‘Well!’ said the first. ‘Old ScratchThe devil. has got his own at last, hey?’

‘So I am told,’ returned the second. ‘Cold, isn’t it?’

‘Seasonable for Christmas time. You’re not a skater, I suppose?’

‘No. No. Something else to think of. Good morning!’

Not another word. That was their meeting, their conversation, and their parting.

Scrooge was at first inclined to be surprised that the Spirit should attach importance to conversations apparently so trivial; but feeling assured that they must have some hidden purpose, he set himself to consider what it was likely to be. They could scarcely be supposed to have any bearing on the death of Jacob, his old partner, for that was Past, and this Ghost’s province was the Future. Nor could he think of any one immediately connected with himself, to whom he could apply them. But nothing doubting that to whomsoever they applied they had some latent moral for his own improvement, he resolved to treasure up every word he heard, and everything he saw; and especially to observe the shadow of himself when it appeared. For he had an expectation that the conduct of his future self would give him the clue he missed, and would render the solution of these riddles easy.

He looked about in that very place for his own image; but another man stood in his accustomed corner, and though the clock pointed to his usual time of day for being there, he saw no likeness of himself among the multitudes that poured in through the Porch. It gave him little surprise, however; for he had been revolving in his mind a change of life, and thought and hoped he saw his new-born resolutions carried out in this.

Quiet and dark, beside him stood the Phantom, with its outstretched hand. When he roused himself from his thoughtful quest, he fancied from the turn of the hand, and its situation in reference to himself, that the Unseen Eyes were looking at him keenly. It made him shudder, and feel very cold.

They left the busy scene, and went into an obscure part of the town, where Scrooge had never penetrated before, although he recognised its situation, and its bad repute. The ways were foul and narrow; the shops and houses wretched; the people half-naked, drunken, slipshod, ugly. Alleys and archways, like so many cesspools, disgorged their offences of smell, and dirt, and life, upon the straggling streets; and the whole quarter reeked with crime, with filth, and misery.

Far in this den of infamous resort, there was a low-browed, beetling shop, below a pent-house roofA roof sloping out from a building., where iron, old rags, bottles, bones, and greasy offal, were bought. Upon the floor within, were piled up heaps of rusty keys, nails, chains, hinges, files, scales, weights, and refuse iron of all kinds. Secrets that few would like to scrutinise were bred and hidden in mountains of unseemly rags, masses of corrupted fat, and sepulchres of bones. Sitting in among the wares he dealt in, by a charcoal stove, made of old bricks, was a grey-haired rascal, nearly seventy years of age; who had screened himself from the cold air without, by a frousy curtaining of miscellaneous tatters, hung upon a line; and smoked his pipe in all the luxury of calm retirement.

Scrooge and the Phantom came into the presence of this man, just as a woman with a heavy bundle slunk into the shop. But she had scarcely entered, when another woman, similarly laden, came in too; and she was closely followed by a man in faded black, who was no less startled by the sight of them, than they had been upon the recognition of each other. After a short period of blank astonishment, in which the old man with the pipe had joined them, they all three burst into a laugh.

‘Let the charwoman alone to be the first!’ cried she who had entered first. ‘Let the laundress alone to be the second; and let the undertaker’s man alone to be the third. Look here, old Joe, here’s a chance! If we haven’t all three met here without meaning it!’

‘You couldn’t have met in a better place,’ said old Joe, removing his pipe from his mouth. ‘Come into the parlour. You were made free of it long ago, you know; and the other two an’t strangers. Stop till I shut the door of the shop. Ah! How it skreeks! There an’t such a rusty bit of metal in the place as its own hinges, I believe; and I’m sure there’s no such old bones here, as mine. Ha, ha! We’re all suitable to our calling, we’re well matched. Come into the parlour. Come into the parlour.’

The parlour was the space behind the screen of rags. The old man raked the fire together with an old stair-rod, and having trimmed his smoky lamp (for it was night), with the stem of his pipe, put it in his mouth again.

While he did this, the woman who had already spoken threw her bundle on the floor, and sat down in a flaunting manner on a stool; crossing her elbows on her knees, and looking with a bold defiance at the other two.

‘What odds then? What odds, Mrs Dilber?’ said the woman. ‘Every person has a right to take care of themselves. He always did!’

‘That’s true, indeed!’ said the laundress. ‘No man more so.’

‘Why then, don’t stand staring as if you was afraid, woman; who’s the wiser? We’re not going to pick holes in each other’s coats, I suppose?’

‘No, indeed!’ said Mrs Dilber and the man together. ‘We should hope not.’

‘Very well, then!’ cried the woman. ‘That’s enough. Who’s the worse for the loss of a few things like these? Not a dead man, I suppose?’

‘No, indeed,’ said Mrs Dilber, laughing.

‘If he wanted to keep them after he was dead, a wicked old screw,’ pursued the woman, ‘why wasn’t he natural in his lifetime? If he had been, he’d have had somebody to look after him when he was struck with Death, instead of lying gasping out his last there, alone by himself.’

‘It’s the truest word that ever was spoke,’ said Mrs Dilber. ‘It’s a judgment on him.’

‘I wish it was a little heavier judgment,’ replied the woman;’ and it should have been, you may depend upon it, if I could have laid my hands on anything else. Open that bundle, old Joe, and let me know the value of it. Speak out plain. I’m not afraid to be the first, nor afraid for them to see it. We know pretty well that we were helping ourselves, before we met here, I believe. It’s no sin. Open the bundle, Joe.’

But the gallantry of her friends would not allow of this; and the man in faded black, mounting the breach first, produced his plunder. It was not extensive. A seal or two, a pencil-case, a pair of sleeve-buttons, and a brooch of no great value, were all. They were severally examined and appraised by old Joe, who chalked the sums he was disposed to give for each, upon the wall, and added them up into a total when he found there was nothing more to come.

‘That’s your account,’ said Joe, ‘and I wouldn’t give another sixpence, if I was to be boiled for not doing it. Who’s next?’

Mrs Dilber was next. Sheets and towels, a little wearing apparel, two old-fashioned silver teaspoons, a pair of sugar-tongs, and a few boots. Her account was stated on the wall in the same manner.

‘I always give too much to ladies. It’s a weakness of mine, and that’s the way I ruin myself,’ said old Joe. ‘That’s your account. If you asked me for another penny, and made it an open question, I’d repent of being so liberal and knock off half-a-crown.’

‘And now undo my bundle, Joe,’ said the first woman.

Joe went down on his knees for the greater convenience of opening it, and having unfastened a great many knots, dragged out a large and heavy roll of some dark stuff.

‘What do you call this?’ said Joe. ‘Bed-curtains?’

‘Ah,’ returned the woman, laughing and leaning forward on her crossed arms. ‘Bed-curtains!’

‘You don’t mean to say you took them down, rings and all, with him lying there?’ said Joe.

‘Yes I do,’ replied the woman. ‘Why not?’

‘You were born to make your fortune,’ said Joe, ‘and you’ll certainly do it.’

‘I certainly shan’t hold my hand, when I can get anything in it by reaching it out, for the sake of such a man as he was, I promise you, Joe,’ returned the woman coolly. ‘Don’t drop that oil upon the blankets, now.’

‘His blankets?’ asked Joe.

‘Whose else’s do you think?’ replied the woman. ‘He isn’t likely to take cold without them, I dare say.’

‘I hope he didn’t die of any thing catching? Eh?’ said old Joe, stopping in his work, and looking up.

‘Don’t you be afraid of that,’ returned the woman. ‘I an’t so fond of his company that I’d loiter about him for such things, if he did. Ah! you may look through that shirt till your eyes ache; but you won’t find a hole in it, nor a threadbare place. It’s the best he had, and a fine one too. They’d have wasted it, if it hadn’t been for me.’

‘What do you call wasting of it?’ asked old Joe.

‘Putting it on him to be buried in, to be sure,’ replied the woman with a laugh. ‘Somebody was fool enough to do it, but I took it off again. If calico an’t good enough for such a purpose, it isn’t good enough for anything. It’s quite as becoming to the body. He can’t look uglier than he did in that one.’

Scrooge listened to this dialogue in horror. As they sat grouped about their spoil, in the scanty light afforded by the old man’s lamp, he viewed them with a detestation and disgust, which could hardly have been greater, though they demons, marketing the corpse itself.

‘Ha, ha!’ laughed the same woman, when old Joe, producing a flannel bag with money in it, told out their several gains upon the ground. ‘This is the end of it, you see. He frightened every one away from him when he was alive, to profit us when he was dead! Ha, ha, ha!’

‘Spirit!’ said Scrooge, shuddering from head to foot. ‘I see, I see. The case of this unhappy man might be my own. My life tends that way, now. Merciful Heaven, what is this?’

He recoiled in terror, for the scene had changed, and now he almost touched a bed: a bare, uncurtained bed: on which, beneath a ragged sheet, there lay a something covered up, which, though it was dumb, announced itself in awful language.

The room was very dark, too dark to be observed with any accuracy, though Scrooge glanced round it in obedience to a secret impulse, anxious to know what kind of room it was. A pale light, rising in the outer air, fell straight upon the bed; and on it, plundered and bereft, unwatched, unwept, uncared for, was the body of this man.

Scrooge glanced towards the Phantom. Its steady hand was pointed to the head. The cover was so carelessly adjusted that the slightest raising of it, the motion of a finger upon Scrooge’s part, would have disclosed the face. He thought of it, felt how easy it would be to do, and longed to do it; but had no more power to withdraw the veil than to dismiss the spectre at his side.

Oh cold, cold, rigid, dreadful Death, set up thine altar here, and dress it with such terrors as thou hast at thy command: for this is thy dominion! But of the loved, revered, and honoured head, thou canst not turn one hair to thy dread purposes, or make one feature odious. It is not that the hand is heavy and will fall down when released; it is not that the heart and pulse are still; but that the hand was open, generous, and true; the heart brave, warm, and tender; and the pulse a man’s. Strike, Shadow, strike! And see his good deeds springing from the wound, to sow the world with life immortal!

No voice pronounced these words in Scrooge’s ears, and yet he heard them when he looked upon the bed. He thought, if this man could be raised up now, what would be his foremost thoughts? Avarice, hard-dealing, griping cares? They have brought him to a rich end, truly!

He lay, in the dark empty house, with not a man, a woman, or a child, to say that he was kind to me in this or that, and for the memory of one kind word I will be kind to him. A cat was tearing at the door, and there was a sound of gnawing rats beneath the hearth-stone. What they wanted in the room of death, and why they were so restless and disturbed, Scrooge did not dare to think.

‘Spirit!’ he said, ‘this is a fearful place. In leaving it, I shall not leave its lesson, trust me. Let us go!’

Still the Ghost pointed with an unmoved finger to the head.

‘I understand you,’ Scrooge returned, ‘and I would do it, if I could. But I have not the power, Spirit. I have not the power.’

Again it seemed to look upon him.

‘If there is any person in the town, who feels emotion caused by this man’s death,’ said Scrooge quite agonised, ‘show that person to me, Spirit, I beseech you!’

The Phantom spread its dark robe before him for a moment, like a wing; and withdrawing it, revealed a room by daylight, where a mother and her children were.

She was expecting some one, and with anxious eagerness; for she walked up and down the room; started at every sound; looked out from the window; glanced at the clock; tried, but in vain, to work with her needle; and could hardly bear the voices of the children in their play.

At length the long-expected knock was heard. She hurried to the door, and met her husband; a man whose face was careworn and depressed, though he was young. There was a remarkable expression in it now; a kind of serious delight of which he felt ashamed, and which he struggled to repress.

He sat down to the dinner that had been boarding for him by the fire; and when she asked him faintly what news (which was not until after a long silence), he appeared embarrassed how to answer.

‘Is it good.’ she said, ‘or bad?’ — to help him.

‘Bad,’ he answered.

‘We are quite ruined?’

‘No. There is hope yet, Caroline.’

‘If he relents,’ she said, amazed, ‘there is! Nothing is past hope, if such a miracle has happened.’

‘He is past relenting,’ said her husband. ‘He is dead.’

She was a mild and patient creature if her face spoke truth; but she was thankful in her soul to hear it, and she said so, with clasped hands. She prayed forgiveness the next moment, and was sorry; but the first was the emotion of her heart.

‘What the half-drunken woman whom I told you of last night, said to me, when I tried to see him and obtain a week’s delay; and what I thought was a mere excuse to avoid me; turns out to have been quite true. He was not only very ill, but dying, then.’

‘To whom will our debt be transferred?’

‘I don’t know. But before that time we shall be ready with the money; and even though we were not, it would be a bad fortune indeed to find so merciless a creditor in his successor. We may sleep to-night with light hearts, Caroline!’

 

Yes. Soften it as they would, their hearts were lighter. The children’s faces, hushed and clustered round to hear what they so little understood, were brighter; and it was a happier house for this man’s death! The only emotion that the Ghost could show him, caused by the event, was one of pleasure.

‘Let me see some tenderness connected with a death,’ said Scrooge;’ or that dark chamber, Spirit, which we left just now, will be for ever present to me.’

The Ghost conducted him through several streets familiar to his feet; and as they went along, Scrooge looked here and there to find himself, but nowhere was he to be seen. They entered poor Bob Cratchit’s house; the dwelling he had visited before; and found the mother and the children seated round the fire.

Quiet. Very quiet. The noisy little Cratchits were as still as statues in one corner, and sat looking up at Peter, who had a book before him. The mother and her daughters were engaged in sewing. But surely they were very quiet!

‘And he took a child, and set him in the midst of them.cf. Mark 9: 36. See also Matthew 18:2-3, “And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, “...Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”

Where had Scrooge heard those words? He had not dreamed them. The boy must have read them out, as he and the Spirit crossed the threshold. Why did he not go on?

The mother laid her work upon the table, and put her hand up to her face.

‘The colour hurts my eyes,’ she said.

The colour? Ah, poor Tiny Tim!

‘They’re better now again,’ said Cratchit’s wife. ‘It makes them weak by candle-light; and I wouldn’t show weak eyes to your father when he comes home, for the world. It must be near his time.’

‘Past it rather,’ Peter answered, shutting up his book. ‘But I think he has walked a little slower than he used, these few last evenings, mother.’

They were very quiet again. At last she said, and in a steady, cheerful voice, that only faltered once:

‘I have known him walk with–I have known him walk with Tiny Tim upon his shoulder, very fast indeed.’

‘And so have I,’ cried Peter. ‘Often.’

‘And so have I,’ exclaimed another. So had all.

‘But he was very light to carry,’ she resumed, intent upon her work, ‘and his father loved him so, that it was no trouble–no trouble. And there is your father at the door!’

She hurried out to meet him; and little Bob in his comforter – he had need of it, poor fellow – came in. His tea was ready for him on the hob, and they all tried who should help him to it most. Then the two young Cratchits got upon his knees and laid, each child a little cheek, against his face, as if they said, ‘Don’t mind it, father. Don’t be grieved!’

Bob was very cheerful with them, and spoke pleasantly to all the family. He looked at the work upon the table, and praised the industry and speed of Mrs Cratchit and the girls. They would be done long before Sunday, he said.

‘Sunday! You went to-day, then, Robert?’ said his wife.

‘Yes, my dear,’ returned Bob. ‘I wish you could have gone. It would have done you good to see how green a place it is. But you’ll see it often. I promised him that I would walk there on a Sunday. My little, little child!’ cried Bob. ‘My little child!’

He broke down all at once. He couldn’t help it. If he could have helped it, he and his child would have been farther apart perhaps than they were.

He left the room, and went up-stairs into the room above, which was lighted cheerfully, and hung with Christmas. There was a chair set close beside the child, and there were signs of some one having been there, lately. Poor Bob sat down in it, and when he had thought a little and composed himself, he kissed the little face. He was reconciled to what had happened, and went down again quite happy.

They drew about the fire, and talked; the girls and mother working still. Bob told them of the extraordinary kindness of Mr Scrooge’s nephew, whom he had scarcely seen but once, and who, meeting him in the street that day, and seeing that he looked a little–‘just a little down you know,’ said Bob, inquired what had happened to distress him. ‘On which,’ said Bob, ‘for he is the pleasantest-spoken gentleman you ever heard, I told him. ‘I am heartily sorry for it, Mr Cratchit,’ he said, ‘and heartily sorry for your good wife.’ By the bye, how he ever knew that, I don’t know.’

‘Knew what, my dear.’

‘Why, that you were a good wife,’ replied Bob.

‘Everybody knows that,’ said Peter.

‘Very well observed, my boy,’ cried Bob. ‘I hope they do. ‘Heartily sorry,’ he said, ‘for your good wife. If I can be of service to you in any way,’ he said, giving me his card, ‘that’s where I live. Pray come to me.’ Now, it wasn’t,’ cried Bob, ‘for the sake of anything he might be able to do for us, so much as for his kind way, that this was quite delightful. It really seemed as if he had known our Tiny Tim, and felt with us.’

‘I’m sure he’s a good soul!’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘You would be surer of it, my dear,’ returned Bob, ‘if you saw and spoke to him. I shouldn’t be at all surprised – mark what I say! – if he got Peter a better situation.’

‘Only hear that, Peter,’ said Mrs Cratchit.

‘And then,’ cried one of the girls, ‘Peter will be keeping company with some one, and setting up for himself.’

‘Get along with you!’ retorted Peter, grinning.

‘It’s just as likely as not,’ said Bob, ‘one of these days; though there’s plenty of time for that, my dear. But however and when ever we part from one another, I am sure we shall none of us forget poor Tiny Tim – shall we – or this first parting that there was among us?’

‘Never, father!’ cried they all.

‘And I know,’ said Bob, ‘I know, my dears, that when we recollect how patient and how mild he was; although he was a little, little child; we shall not quarrel easily among ourselves, and forget poor Tiny Tim in doing it.’

‘No, never, father!’ they all cried again.

‘I am very happy,’ said little Bob, ‘I am very happy!’

Mrs Cratchit kissed him, his daughters kissed him, the two young Cratchits kissed him, and Peter and himself shook hands. Spirit of Tiny Tim, thy childish essence was from God!

‘Spectre,’ said Scrooge, ‘something informs me that our parting moment is at hand. I know it, but I know not how. Tell me what man that was whom we saw lying dead?’

The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come conveyed him, as before – though at a different time, he thought: indeed, there seemed no order in these latter visions, save that they were in the Future – into the resorts of business men, but showed him not himself. Indeed, the Spirit did not stay for anything, but went straight on, as to the end just now desired, until besought by Scrooge to tarry for a moment.

‘This courts,’ said Scrooge, ‘through which we hurry now, is where my place of occupation is, and has been for a length of time. I see the house. Let me behold what I shall be, in days to come.’

The Spirit stopped; the hand was pointed elsewhere.

‘The house is yonder,’ Scrooge exclaimed. ‘Why do you point away?’

The inexorable finger underwent no change.

Scrooge hastened to the window of his office, and looked in. It was an office still, but not his. The furniture was not the same, and the figure in the chair was not himself. The Phantom pointed as before.

He joined it once again, and wondering why and whither he had gone, accompanied it until they reached an iron gate. He paused to look round before entering.

A churchyard. Here, then, the wretched man whose name he had now to learn, lay underneath the ground. It was a worthy place. Walled in by houses; overrun by grass and weeds, the growth of vegetation’s death, not life; choked up with too much burying; fat with repleted appetite. A worthy place!

The Spirit stood among the graves, and pointed down to One. He advanced towards it trembling. The Phantom was exactly as it had been, but he dreaded that he saw new meaning in its solemn shape.

‘Before I draw nearer to that stone to which you point,’ said Scrooge, ‘answer me one question. Are these the shadows of the things that Will be, or are they shadows of things that May be, only?’

Still the Ghost pointed downward to the grave by which it stood.

‘Men’s courses will foreshadow certain ends, to which, if persevered in, they must lead,’ said Scrooge. ‘But if the courses be departed from, the ends will change. Say it is thus with what you show me!’

The Spirit was immovable as ever.

Scrooge crept towards it, trembling as he went; and following the finger, read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, Ebenezer Scrooge.

‘Am I that man who lay upon the bed?’ he cried, upon his knees.

The finger pointed from the grave to him, and back again.

‘No, Spirit! Oh no, no!’

The finger still was there.

‘Spirit!’ he cried, tight clutching at its robe, ‘hear me! I am not the man I was. I will not be the man I must have been but for this intercourse. Why show me this, if I am past all hope?’

For the first time the hand appeared to shake.

‘Good Spirit,’ he pursued, as down upon the ground he fell before it: ‘Your nature intercedes for me, and pities me. Assure me that I yet may change these shadows you have shown me, by an altered life?’

The kind hand trembled.

‘I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!’

In his agony, he caught the spectral hand. It sought to free itself, but he was strong in his entreaty, and detained it. The Spirit, stronger yet, repulsed him.

Holding up his hands in a last prayer to have his fate reversed, he saw an alteration in the Phantom’s hood and dress. It shrunk, collapsed, and dwindled down into a bedpost.

 

27

A Christmas Carol: Stave 5

Charles Dickens

The End of It

Yes! and the bedpost was his own. The bed was his own, the room was his own. Best and happiest of all, the Time before him was his own, to make amends in!

‘I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future!’ Scrooge repeated, as he scrambled out of bed. ‘The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. Oh, Jacob Marley! Heaven, and the Christmas Time be praised for this! I say it on my knees, old Jacob, on my knees!’

He was so fluttered and so glowing with his good intentions, that his broken voice would scarcely answer to his call. He had been sobbing violently in his conflict with the Spirit, and his face was wet with tears.

‘They are not torn down.’ cried Scrooge, folding one of his bed-curtains in his arms, ‘they are not torn down, rings and all. They are here – I am here – the shadows of the things that would have been, may be dispelled. They will be. I know they will!’

His hands were busy with his garments all this time; turning them inside out, putting them on upside down, tearing them, mislaying them, making them parties to every kind of extravagance.

‘I don’t know what to do!’ cried Scrooge, laughing and crying in the same breath; and making a perfect Laocoön of himself with his stockingsScrooge struggles with his stockings as Laocoön struggles with the two sea serpents (Aeneid, Bk. 2).. ‘I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a schoolboy. I am as giddy as a drunken man. A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world! Hallo here! Whoop! Hallo!’

He had frisked into the sitting-room, and was now standing there: perfectly winded.

‘There’s the saucepan that the gruel was in!’ cried Scrooge, starting off again, and going round the fireplace. ‘There’s the door, by which the Ghost of Jacob Marley entered! There’s the corner where the Ghost of Christmas Present sat! There’s the window where I saw the wandering Spirits! It’s all right, it’s all true, it all happened. Ha ha ha!’

Really, for a man who had been out of practice for so many years, it was a splendid laugh, a most illustrious laugh. The father of a long, long line of brilliant laughs!

‘I don’t know what day of the month it is.’ said Scrooge. ‘I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits. I don’t know anything. I’m quite a baby. Never mind. I don’t care. I’d rather be a baby. Hallo! Whoop! Hallo here!’

He was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer; ding, dong, bell! Bell, dong, ding; hammer, clang, clash! Oh, glorious, glorious!

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head. No fog, no mist; clear, bright, jovial, stirring, cold; cold, piping for the blood to dance to; Golden sunlight; Heavenly sky; sweet fresh air; merry bells. Oh, glorious! Glorious!

‘What’s to-day?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

‘Eh?’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder.

‘What’s to-day, my fine fellow?’ said Scrooge.

‘To-day?’ replied the boy. ‘Why, Christmas Day.’

‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The Spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like. Of course they can. Of course they can. Hallo, my fine fellow!’

‘Hallo!’ returned the boy.

‘Do you know the Poulterer’s, in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.

‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.

‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there? – Not the little prize Turkey: the big one?’

‘What, the one as big as me?’ returned the boy.

‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’

‘It’s hanging there now,’ replied the boy.

‘Is it?’ said Scrooge. ‘Go and buy it.’

‘Walk-erA Victorian cockney expression, indicating amused incredulity; more fully, “Hooky Walker.” [O.E.D.]!’ exclaimed the boy.

‘No, no,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am in earnest. Go and buy it, and tell them to bring it here, that I may give them the direction where to take it. Come back with the man, and I’ll give you a shilling. Come back with him in less than five minutes and I’ll give you half-a-crown!’

The boy was off like a shot. He must have had a steady hand at a trigger who could have got a shot off half so fast.

‘I’ll send it to Bob Cratchit’s,’ whispered Scrooge, rubbing his hands, and splitting with a laugh. ‘He sha’nt know who sends it. It’s twice the size of Tiny Tim. Joe MillerJoe Miller (1684-1738). A famous comic actor. In 1739, John Mottley published a joke book, Joe Miller’s Jests. Due to the wide sales of the book, many popular jokes came to be known as Joe Millers never made such a joke as sending it to Bob’s will be!’

The hand in which he wrote the address was not a steady one, but write it he did, somehow, and went down-stairs to open the street door, ready for the coming of the poulterer’s man. As he stood there, waiting his arrival, the knocker caught his eye.

‘I shall love it, as long as I live!’ cried Scrooge, patting it with his hand. ‘I scarcely ever looked at it before. What an honest expression it has in its face. It’s a wonderful knocker. – Here’s the Turkey. Hallo! Whoop! How are you? Merry Christmas!’

It was a Turkey! He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped them short off in a minute, like sticks of sealing-wax.

‘Why, it’s impossible to carry that to Camden Town,’ said Scrooge. ‘You must have a cab.’

The chuckle with which he said this, and the chuckle with which he paid for the Turkey, and the chuckle with which he paid for the cab, and the chuckle with which he recompensed the boy, were only to be exceeded by the chuckle with which he sat down breathless in his chair again, and chuckled till he cried.

Shaving was not an easy task, for his hand continued to shake very much; and shaving requires attention, even when you don’t dance while you are at it. But if he had cut the end of his nose off, he would have put a piece of sticking-plaister over it, and been quite satisfied.

He dressed himself all in his best, and at last got out into the streets. The people were by this time pouring forth, as he had seen them with the Ghost of Christmas Present; and walking with his hands behind him, Scrooge regarded every one with a delighted smile. He looked so irresistibly pleasant, in a word, that three or four good-humoured fellows said, ‘Good morning, sir! A merry Christmas to you!’ And Scrooge said often afterwards, that of all the blithe sounds he had ever heard, those were the blithest in his ears.

He had not gone far, when coming on towards him he beheld the portly gentleman, who had walked into his counting-house the day before, and said, ‘Scrooge and Marley’s, I believe.’ It sent a pang across his heart to think how this old gentleman would look upon him when they met; but he knew what path lay straight before him, and he took it.

‘My dear sir,’ said Scrooge, quickening his pace, and taking the old gentleman by both his hands. ‘How do you do? I hope you succeeded yesterday. It was very kind of you. A merry Christmas to you, sir!’

‘Mr Scrooge?’

‘Yes,’ said Scrooge. ‘That is my name, and I fear it may not be pleasant to you. Allow me to ask your pardon. And will you have the goodness’ – here Scrooge whispered in his ear.

‘Lord bless me!’ cried the gentleman, as if his breath were taken away. ‘My dear Mr Scrooge, are you serious?’

‘If you please,’ said Scrooge. ‘Not a farthing less. A great many back-payments are included in it, I assure you. Will you do me that favour?’

‘My dear sir,’ said the other, shaking hands with him. ‘I don’t know what to say to such munificence-’

‘Don’t say anything please,’ retorted Scrooge. ‘Come and see me. Will you come and see me?’

‘I will!’ cried the old gentleman. And it was clear he meant to do it.

‘Thank you,’ said Scrooge. ‘I am much obliged to you. I thank you fifty times. Bless you!’

He went to church, and walked about the streets, and watched the people hurrying to and fro, and patted children on the head, and questioned beggars, and looked down into the kitchens of houses, and up to the windows, and found that everything could yield him pleasure. He had never dreamed that any walk – that anything – could give him so much happiness. In the afternoon he turned his steps towards his nephew’s house.

He passed the door a dozen times, before he had the courage to go up and knock. But he made a dash, and did it:

‘Is your master at home, my dear?’ said Scrooge to the girl. Nice girl! Very.

‘Yes, sir.’

‘Where is he, my love?’ said Scrooge.

‘He’s in the dining-room, sir, along with mistress. I’ll show you up-stairs, if you please.’

‘Thank you. He knows me,’ said Scrooge, with his hand already on the dining-room lock. ‘I’ll go in here, my dear.’

He turned it gently, and sidled his face in, round the door. They were looking at the table (which was spread out in great array); for these young housekeepers are always nervous on such points, and like to see that everything is right.

‘Fred!’ said Scrooge.

Dear heart alive, how his niece by marriage started! Scrooge had forgotten, for the moment, about her sitting in the corner with the footstool, or he wouldn’t have done it, on any account.

‘Why bless my soul!’ cried Fred, ‘who’s that?’

‘It’s I. Your uncle Scrooge. I have come to dinner. Will you let me in, Fred?’

Let him in! It is a mercy he didn’t shake his arm off. He was at home in five minutes. Nothing could be heartier. His niece looked just the same. So did Topper when he came. So did the plump sister when she came. So did every one when they came. Wonderful party, wonderful games, wonderful unanimity, wonderful happiness!

But he was early at the office next morning. Oh, he was early there. If he could only be there first, and catch Bob Cratchit coming late! That was the thing he had set his heart upon.

And he did it; yes, he did! The clock struck nine. No Bob. A quarter past. No Bob. He was full eighteen minutes and a half behind his time. Scrooge sat with his door wide open, that he might see him come into the Tank.

His hat was off, before he opened the door; his comforter too. He was on his stool in a jiffy; driving away with his pen, as if he were trying to overtake nine o’clock.

‘Hallo!’ growled Scrooge, in his accustomed voice, as near as he could feign it. ‘What do you mean by coming here at this time of day?’

‘I am very sorry, sir,’ said Bob. ‘I am behind my time.’

‘You are!’ repeated Scrooge. ‘Yes. I think you are. Step this way, sir, if you please.’

‘It’s only once a year, sir,’ pleaded Bob, appearing from the Tank. ‘It shall not be repeated. I was making rather merry yesterday, sir.’

‘Now, I’ll tell you what, my friend,’ said Scrooge, ‘I am not going to stand this sort of thing any longer. And therefore,’ he continued, leaping from his stool, and giving Bob such a dig in the waistcoat that he staggered back into the Tank again; ‘and therefore I am about to raise your salary!’

Bob trembled, and got a little nearer to the ruler. He had a momentary idea of knocking Scrooge down with it, holding him, and calling to the people in the court for help and a strait-waistcoat.

‘A merry Christmas, Bob!’ said Scrooge, with an earnestness that could not be mistaken, as he clapped him on the back. ‘A merrier Christmas, Bob, my good fellow, than I have given you for many a year! I’ll raise your salary, and endeavour to assist your struggling family, and we will discuss your affairs this very afternoon, over a Christmas bowl of smoking bishopA hot punch made of red wine, oranges, sugar, and spice. The liquid is the same colour as a bishop’s cassock; hence the name., Bob! Make up the fires, and buy another coal-scuttle before you dot another i, Bob Cratchit!’

Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!

 

28

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

Stave 1

  1. If the purpose of the ghost of Hamlet’s father is to incite revenge, what is the purpose of Marley’s ghost?
  2. What is the thematic significance of the narrator’s early insistence on certainty and proof?
  3. How is his nephew Fred a foil to Scrooge?
  4. How does Scrooge justify his refusal to donate money to the two canvassers?
  5. Give some examples of humour in Stave 1.
  6. Why is Bob Cratchit expected to show up for work on December 26? In what year did it become a statutory holiday in Britain?
  7. Give some examples to demonstrate Scrooge’s avarice.
  8. What does Scrooge mean when he remarks to Marley’s ghost, “You’re particular for a shade”?
  9. How do the ghost and Scrooge hold opposing views on the purpose of life?
  10. At what different times does Marley tell Scrooge the three ghosts will arrive?

Stave 2

  1. Give an example or two of the ghost’s playing devil’s advocate and Scrooge correcting him.
  2. Why does Scrooge resent Fred?
  3. Why does Scrooge’s fiancée release him from the engagement?
  4. What do the child-man images, especially with the Ghost of Christmas Past, symbolize? See especially, “I should have liked…to have had the lightest licence of a child, and yet been man enough to know its value.” [cf. Wordsworth, “The child is father of the man…Matthew 18:3.]
  5. Who is Belle? You might use the word search function if you are using an e-text.

Stave 3

  1. What is the autobiographical connection to the Cratchit family’s living in Camden Town? (See the brief biography that precedes the text of A Christmas Carol.)
  2. Describe the Ghost of Christmas Present. How does he differ from the first spirit?
  3. How does Scrooge reproach this spirit before they visit the Cratchit home?
  4. Under what condition will the prophecy of Tiny Tim’s death come to pass?
  5. What is ironic about the ghost’s words to Scrooge regarding the surplus population?
  6. What is the effect of the short descriptions of the miners and the sailors?
  7. How does the scene at Fred’s party echo the scene at the Cratchit family dinner?
  8. Whose offspring are the boy Ignorance and the girl Want?

Stave 4

  1. How does the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come differ in appearance from the two other ghosts?
  2. What do the charwoman, the laundress, and the undertaker’s man have in common with Scrooge?
  3. Why is the charwoman Mrs. Dilber’s role expanded in the 1951 film?
  4. What is the ironic purpose of the scene with Caroline and her husband?
  5. What is the green place to which Bob refers?
  6. What lines in this scene strike you as overly sentimental? (cf. Oscar Wilde’s apocryphal aphorism, “’One would have to have a heart of stone to read the death of little Nell without dissolving into tears…of laughter.” Little Nell is the impossibly good child in Dickens’s novel The Old Curiosity Shop (1841).

Stave 5

  1. Does the subtitle of Stave 5 have a double meaning?
  2. How is the apparent contradiction in the last question of Stanza 1 resolved after Scrooge learns what day it is?
  3. Does the reborn Scrooge hesitate to spend on himself as well as on others?
  4. What does Scrooge say to the canvasser that he rebuffed in his counting house?
  5. What does Scrooge fear when he asks to be admitted to Fred’s party?
  6. What is the first kindness that Scrooge shows to Bob Cratchit on Boxing Day?

Essay Topics and Activities

View both the 1935 and 1984 film adaptations of A Christmas Carol linked below. Then write a short paper (750 to 1,000 words) contrasting the same scene in each version. Which version does a better job in terms of atmosphere, characterization, or theme? If you prefer to gain access to the 1951 version, then substitute it for either the 1935 or 1984 versions.
http://charlesdickenspage.com/dickens_on_film.html#carol

Write a research essay of 1,500 to 2,500 words showing how Dickens criticizes contemporary attitudes to the poor. Be sure to consider the ideas of Thomas Malthus and those of the Sabbatarians. For Malthus, begin with the footnotes 8 and 9 in Stave 1 of your edition. For Sabbatarianism, see George Landow’s article:
http://www.victorianweb.org/religion/sabbatarianism.html

Then read the following excerpt from Dickens’s account of his visit to a London workhouse on May 5, 1850. His article, “A Walk in a Workhouse,” appeared in his Household Words magazine on May 25.
http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/dickens/poorlaw.html

Compare and contrast the early story of Gabriel Grub in Chapter 29 of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (“The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton”) with A Christmas Carol. Limit your topic to theme, characterization, or another element of fiction.
http://www.gutenberg.org/files/580/580-h/580-h.htm#link2HCH0029

There is also an audio adaptation of “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton”.

 

 

References

Figure 1:
Dickens by Watkins detail by George Herbert Watkins (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Charles_Dickens_3.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Dickens_by_Watkins_detail.jpg) is in the Public Domain

VI

Christina Rossetti (1830–1894)

29

Biography

On December 5, 1830, Christina Rossetti was born in London, England, one of four children of Italian parents. Her father was the poet Gabriele Rossetti; her brother Dante Gabriel Rossetti also became a poet and a painter. Rossetti’s first poems were written in 1842 and printed in the private press of her grandfather. In 1850, under the pseudonym Ellen Alleyne, she contributed seven poems to the Pre-Raphaelite journal The Germ, which had been founded by her brother William Michael and his friends.

Rossetti is best known for her ballads and her mystic religious lyrics. Her poetry is marked by symbolism and intense feeling. Rossetti’s best-known work, Goblin Market and Other Poems, was published in 1862. The collection established Rossetti as a significant voice in Victorian poetry. The Prince’s Progress and Other Poems appeared in 1866 and was followed by Sing-Song, a collection of verse for children, in 1872 (with illustrations by Arthur Hughes).

By the 1880s, recurrent bouts of Graves’ disease, a thyroid disorder, made Rossetti an invalid and ended her attempts to work as a governess. While the illness restricted her social life, she continued to write poems. Among her later works were A Pageant and Other Poems (1881), and The Face of the Deep (1892). Rossetti also wrote religious prose works, such as Seek and Find (1879), Called to Be Saints (1881), and The Face of the Deep (1892). In 1891, Rossetti developed cancer, of which she died in London on December 29, 1894. Rossetti’s brother, William Michael, edited her collected works in 1904, but the Complete Poems were not published until 1979.

Christina Rossetti is increasingly being reconsidered a major Victorian poet. She has been compared to Emily Dickinson, but the similarity is more in the choice of spiritual topics than in poetic approach, Rossetti’s poetry being one of intense feelings, and her technique refined within the forms established in her time.

Reprinted with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY. www.poets.org.

30

Goblin Market

Christina Rossetti

Morning and evening
Maids heard the goblins cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy:
Apples and quinces, 5
Lemons and oranges,
Plump unpecked cherries,
Melons and raspberries,
Bloom-down-cheeked peaches,
Swart-headed mulberries, 10
Wild free-born cranberries,
Crab-apples, dewberries,
Pine-apples, blackberries,
Apricots, strawberries;—
All ripe together 15
In summer weather,—
Morns that pass by,
Fair eves that fly;
Come buy, come buy:
Our grapes fresh from the vine, 20
Pomegranates full and fine,
Dates and sharp bullacesBullaces, greengages, damsons are all varieties of plum. A bilberry resembles a blueberry.,
Rare pears and greengages,
[4]Damsons and bilberries,
Taste them and try: 25
Currants and gooseberries,
Bright-fire-like barberriesOblong red berries of a barberry shrub.,
Figs to fill your mouth,
Citrons from the South,
Sweet to tongue and sound to eye; 30
Come buy, come buy.”

Evening by evening
Among the brookside rushes,
Laura bowed her head to hear,
Lizzie veiled her blushes: 35
Crouching close together
In the cooling weather,
With clasping arms and cautioning lips,
With tingling cheeks and finger-tips.
“Lie close,” Laura said, 40
Pricking up her golden head:
“We must not look at goblin men,
We must not buy their fruits:
Who knows upon what soil they fed
Their hungry thirsty roots?” 45
“Come buy,” call the goblins
Hobbling down the glen.
“O,” cried Lizzie, “Laura, Laura,
You should not peep at goblin men.”
Lizzie covered up her eyes, 50
Covered close lest they should look;
Laura reared her glossy head,
[5]And whispered like the restless brook:
“Look, Lizzie, look, Lizzie,
Down the glen tramp little men. 55
One hauls a basket,
One bears a plate,
One lugs a golden dish
Of many pounds’ weight.
How fair the vine must grow 60
Whose grapes are so luscious;
How warm the wind must blow
Through those fruit bushes.”
“No,” said Lizzie, “no, no, no;
Their offers should not charm us, 65
Their evil gifts would harm us.”
She thrust a dimpled finger
In each ear, shut eyes and ran:
Curious Laura chose to linger
Wondering at each merchant man. 70
One had a cat’s face,
One whisked a tail,
One tramped at a rat’s pace,
One crawled like a snail,
One like a wombatA burrowing marsupial resembling a small bear. prowled obtuse and furry, 75
One like a ratelA nocturnal animal resembling a badger. Pronounced “ray-tell.” tumbled hurry-scurry.
She heard a voice like voice of doves
Cooing all together:
They sounded kind and full of loves
In the pleasant weather. 80

Laura stretched her gleaming neck
[6]Like a rush-imbedded swan,
Like a lily from the beckA small brook.,
Like a moonlit poplar branch,
Like a vessel at the launch 85
When its last restraint is gone.

Backwards up the mossy glen
Turned and trooped the goblin men,
With their shrill repeated cry,
“Come buy, come buy.” 90
When they reached where Laura was
They stood stock still upon the moss,
Leering at each other,
Brother with queer brother;
Signalling each other, 95
Brother with sly brother.
One set his basket down,
One reared his plate;
One began to weave a crown
Of tendrils, leaves, and rough nuts brown 100
(Men sell not such in any town);
One heaved the golden weight
Of dish and fruit to offer her:
“Come buy, come buy,” was still their cry.
Laura stared but did not stir, 105
Longed but had no money:
The whisk-tailed merchant bade her taste
In tones as smooth as honey,
The cat-faced purr’d,
The rat-paced spoke a word 110
[7]Of welcome, and the snail-paced even was heard;
One parrot-voiced and jolly
Cried “Pretty Goblin” still for “Pretty Polly”;—
One whistled like a bird.

But sweet-tooth Laura spoke in haste: 115
“Good folk, I have no coin;
To take were to purloin:
I have no copper in my purse,
I have no silver either,
And all my gold is on the furze 120
That shakes in windy weather
Above the rusty heather.”
“You have much gold upon your head,”
They answered altogether:
“Buy from us with a golden curl.” 125
She clipped a precious golden lock,
She dropped a tear more rare than pearl,
Then sucked their fruit globes fair or red:
Sweeter than honey from the rockcf. Deuteronomy 32:13, “...suck honey out of the rock.”,
Stronger than man-rejoicing wine, 130
Clearer than water flowed that juice;
She never tasted such before,
How should it cloy with length of use?
She sucked and sucked and sucked the more
Fruits which that unknown orchard bore; 135
She sucked until her lips were sore;
Then flung the emptied rinds away,
But gathered up one kernel stone,
And knew not was it night or day
As she turned home alone. 140
[8]Lizzie met her at the gate
Full of wise upbraidings:
“Dear, you should not stay so late,
Twilight is not good for maidens;
Should not loiter in the glen 145
In the haunts of goblin men.
Do you not remember Jeanie,
How she met them in the moonlight,
Took their gifts both choice and many,
Ate their fruits and wore their flowers 150
Plucked from bowers
Where summer ripens at all hours?
But ever in the noonlight
She pined and pined away;
Sought them by night and day, 155
Found them no more, but dwindled and grew gray,
Then fell with the first snow,
While to this day no grass will grow
Where she lies low:
I planted daisies there a year ago 160
That never blow.
You should not loiter so.”
“Nay, hush,” said Laura:
“Nay, hush, my sister:
I ate and ate my fill, 165
Yet my mouth waters still;
To-morrow night I will
Buy more,”—and kissed her.
“Have done with sorrow;
I’ll bring you plums to-morrow 170
[9]Fresh on their mother twigs,
Cherries worth getting;
You cannot think what figs
My teeth have met in,
What melons icy-cold 175
Piled on a dish of gold
Too huge for me to hold,
What peaches with a velvet nap,
Pellucid grapes without one seed:
Odorous indeed must be the mead 180
Whereon they grow, and pure the wave they drink,
With lilies at the brink,
And sugar-sweet their sap.”

Golden head by golden head,
Like two pigeons in one nest 185
Folded in each other’s wings,
They lay down in their curtained bed:
Like two blossoms on one stem,
Like two flakes of new-fallen snow,
Like two wands of ivory 190
Tipped with gold for awful kings.
Moon and stars gazed in at them,
Wind sang to them lullaby,
Lumbering owls forbore to fly,
Not a bat flapped to and fro 195
Round their rest:
Cheek to cheek and breast to breast
Locked together in one nest.
[10]Early in the morning
When the first cock crowed his warning, 200
Neat like bees, as sweet and busy,
Laura rose with Lizzie:
Fetched in honey, milked the cows,
Aired and set to rights the house,
Kneaded cakes of whitest wheat, 205
Cakes for dainty mouths to eat,
Next churned butter, whipped up cream,
Fed their poultry, sat and sewed;
Talked as modest maidens should:
Lizzie with an open heart, 210
Laura in an absent dream,
One content, one sick in part;
One warbling for the mere bright day’s delight,
One longing for the night.

At length slow evening came: 215
They went with pitchers to the reedy brook;
Lizzie most placid in her look,
Laura most like a leaping flame.
They drew the gurgling water from its deep;
Lizzie plucked purple and rich golden flagsIrises., 220
Then turning homeward said: “The sunset flushes
Those furthest loftiest crags;
Come, Laura, not another maiden lags,
No wilful squirrel wags,
The beasts and birds are fast asleep.” 225
But Laura loitered still among the rushes
And said the bank was steep.
[11]And said the hour was early still,
The dew not fallen, the wind not chill:
Listening ever, but not catching 230
The customary cry,
“Come buy, come buy,”
With its iterated jingle
Of sugar-baited words:
Not for all her watching 235
Once discerning even one goblin
Racing, whisking, tumbling, hobbling;
Let alone the herds
That used to tramp along the glen,
In groups or single, 240
Of brisk fruit-merchant men.

Till Lizzie urged: “O Laura, come;
I hear the fruit-call, but I dare not look:
You should not loiter longer at this brook:
Come with me home. 245
The stars rise, the moon bends her arc,
Each glow-worm winks her spark,
Let us get home before the night grows dark;
For clouds may gather
Though this is summer weather,250
Put out the lights and drench us through;
Then if we lost our way what should we do?”

Laura turned cold as stone
To find her sister heard that cry alone,
That goblin cry, 255
[12]”Come buy our fruits, come buy.”
Must she then buy no more such dainty fruit?
Must she no more such succousSucculent. pasture find,
Gone deaf and blind?
Her tree of life drooped from the root: 260
She said not one word in her heart’s sore ache;
But peering thro’ the dimness, naught discerning,
Trudged home, her pitcher dripping all the way;
So crept to bed, and lay
Silent till Lizzie slept; 265
Then sat up in a passionate yearning,
And gnashed her teeth for balked desire, and wept
As if her heart would break.

Day after day, night after night,
Laura kept watch in vain, 270
In sullen silence of exceeding pain.
She never caught again the goblin cry:
“Come buy, come buy”;—
She never spied the goblin men
Hawking their fruits along the glen: 275
But when the noon waxed bright
Her hair grew thin and gray;
She dwindled, as the fair full moon doth turn
To swift decay, and burn
Her fire away. 280

One day remembering her kernel-stone
She set it by a wall that faced the south;
Dewed it with tears, hoped for a root,
[13]Watched for a waxing shoot,
But there came none; 285
It never saw the sun,
It never felt the trickling moisture run:
While with sunk eyes and faded mouth
She dreamed of melons, as a traveller sees
False waves in desert drouth 290
With shade of leaf-crowned trees,
And burns the thirstier in the sandful breeze.

She no more swept the house,
Tended the fowls or cows,
Fetched honey, kneaded cakes of wheat, 295
Brought water from the brook:
But sat down listless in the chimney-nook
And would not eat.

Tender Lizzie could not bear
To watch her sister’s cankerous care, 300
Yet not to share.
She night and morning
Caught the goblins’ cry:
“Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy.” 305
Beside the brook, along the glen,
She heard the tramp of goblin men,
The voice and stir
Poor Laura could not hear;
Longed to buy fruit to comfort her, 310
But feared to pay too dear.
[14]She thought of Jeanie in her grave,
Who should have been a bride;
But who for joys brides hope to have
Fell sick and died 315
In her gay prime,
In earliest winter-time,
With the first glazing rime,
With the first snow-fall of crisp winter-time.

Till Laura, dwindling, 320
Seemed knocking at Death’s door:
Then Lizzie weighedConsidered. no more
Better and worse,
But put a silver penny in her purse,
Kissed Laura, crossed the heath with clumps of furze 325
At twilight, halted by the brook;
And for the first time in her life
Began to listen and look.

Laughed every goblin
When they spied her peeping: 330
Came towards her hobbling,
Flying, running, leaping,
Puffing and blowing,
Chuckling, clapping, crowing,
Clucking and gobbling, 335
Mopping and mowing,
Full of airs and graces,
Pulling wry faces,
Demure grimaces,
[15]Cat-like and rat-like, 340
Ratel and wombat-like,
Snail-paced in a hurry,
Parrot-voiced and whistler,
Helter-skelter, hurry-skurry,
Chattering like magpies, 345
Fluttering like pigeons,
Gliding like fishes,—
Hugged her and kissed her;
Squeezed and caressed her;
Stretched up their dishes, 350
Panniers and plates:
“Look at our apples
Russet and dun,
Bob at our cherries,
Bite at our peaches, 355
Citrons and dates,
Grapes for the asking,
Pears red with basking
Out in the sun,
Plums on their twigs; 360
Pluck them and suck them,
Pomegranates, figs.”

“Good folk,” said Lizzie,
Mindful of Jeanie,
“Give me much and many”;— 365
Held out her apron,
Tossed them her penny.
“Nay, take a seat with us,
[16]Honor and eat with us,”
They answered grinning: 370
“Our feast is but beginning.
Night yet is early,
Warm and dew-pearly,
Wakeful and starry:
Such fruits as these 375
No man can carry;
Half their bloom would fly,
Half their dew would dry,
Half their flavor would pass by.
Sit down and feast with us, 380
Be welcome guest with us,
Cheer you and rest with us.”
“Thank you,” said Lizzie; “but one waits
At home alone for me:
So, without further parleying, 385
If you will not sell me any
Of your fruits though much and many,
Give me back my silver penny
I tossed you for a fee.”
They began to scratch their pates, 390
No longer wagging, purring,
But visibly demurring,
Grunting and snarling.
One called her proud,
Cross-grained, uncivil; 395
Their tones waxed loud,
Their looks were evil.
Lashing their tails
[17]They trod and hustled her,
Elbowed and jostled her, 400
Clawed with their nails,
Barking, mewing, hissing, mocking,
Tore her gown and soiled her stocking,
Twitched her hair out by the roots,
Stamped upon her tender feet, 405
Held her hands and squeezed their fruits
Against her mouth to make her eat.

White and golden Lizzie stood,
Like a lily in a flood,—
Like a rock of blue-veined stone 410
Lashed by tides obstreperously,—
Like a beacon left alone
In a hoary roaring sea,
Sending up a golden fire,—
Like a fruit-crowned orange-tree 415
White with blossoms honey-sweet
Sore beset by wasp and bee,—
Like a royal virgin town
Topped with gilded dome and spire
Close beleaguered by a fleet 420
Mad to tug her standard down.

One may lead a horse to water,
Twenty cannot make him drink.
Though the goblins cuffed and caught her,
Coaxed and fought her, 425
Bullied and besought her,
[18]Scratched her, pinched her black as ink,
Kicked and knocked her,
Mauled and mocked her,
Lizzie uttered not a word; 430
Would not open lip from lip
Lest they should cram a mouthful in;
But laughed in heart to feel the drip
Of juice that syrupped all her face,
And lodged in dimples of her chin, 435
And streaked her neck which quaked like curd.
At last the evil people,
Worn out by her resistance,
Flung back her penny, kicked their fruit
Along whichever road they took, 440
Not leaving root or stone or shoot.
Some writhed into the ground,
Some dived into the brook
With ring and ripple,
Some scudded on the gale without a sound, 445
Some vanished in the distance.

In a smart, ache, tingle,
Lizzie went her way;
Knew not was it night or day;
Sprang up the bank, tore through the furze, 450
Threaded copse and dingle,
And heard her penny jingle
Bouncing in her purse,—
Its bounce was music to her ear.
She ran and ran 455
[19]As if she feared some goblin man
Dogged her with gibe or curse
Or something worse:
But not one goblin skurried after,
Nor was she pricked by fear; 460
The kind heart made her windy-paced
That urged her home quite out of breath with haste
And inward laughter.

She cried “Laura,” up the garden,
“Did you miss me? 465
Come and kiss me.
Never mind my bruises,
Hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
Squeezed from goblin fruits for you,
Goblin pulp and goblin dew. 470
Eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me:
For your sake I have braved the glen
And had to do with goblin merchant men.”

Laura started from her chair, 475
Flung her arms up in the air,
Clutched her hair:
“Lizzie, Lizzie, have you tasted
For my sake the fruit forbidden?
Must your light like mine be hidden, 480
Your young life like mine be wasted,
Undone in mine undoing
And ruined in my ruin,
[20]Thirsty, cankered, goblin-ridden?”
She clung about her sister, 485
Kissed and kissed and kissed her:
Tears once again
Refreshed her shrunken eyes,
Dropping like rain
After long sultry drouth; 490
Shaking with aguishFeverish. fear, and pain,
She kissed and kissed her with a hungry mouth.

Her lips began to scorch,
That juice was wormwood to her tongue,
She loathed the feast: 495
Writhing as one possessed she leaped and sung,
Rent all her robe, and wrung
Her hands in lamentable haste,
And beat her breast.
Her locks streamed like the torch 500
Borne by a racer at full speed,
Or like the mane of horses in their flight,
Or like an eagle when she stems the light
Straight toward the sun,
Or like a caged thing freed, 505
Or like a flying flag when armies run.

Swift fire spread through her veins, knocked at her heart,
Met the fire smouldering there
And overbore its lesser flame;
She gorged on bitterness without a name: 510
[21]Ah! fool, to choose such part
Of soul-consuming care!
Sense failed in the mortal strife:
Like the watch-tower of a town
Which an earthquake shatters down, 515
Like a lightning-stricken mast,
Like a wind-uprooted tree
Spun about,
Like a foam-topped water-spout
Cast down headlong in the sea, 520
She fell at last;
Pleasure past and anguish past,
Is it death or is it life?

Life out of death.
That night long Lizzie watched by her, 525
Counted her pulse’s flagging stir,
Felt for her breath,
Held water to her lips, and cooled her face
With tears and fanning leaves:
But when the first birds chirped about their eaves, 530
And early reapers plodded to the place
Of golden sheaves,
And dew-wet grass
Bowed in the morning winds so brisk to pass,
And new buds with new day 535
Opened of cup-like lilies on the stream,
Laura awoke as from a dream,
Laughed in the innocent old way,
Hugged Lizzie but not twice or thrice;
[22]Her gleaming locks showed not one thread of gray, 540
Her breath was sweet as May,
And light danced in her eyes.

Days, weeks, months, years
Afterwards, when both were wives
With children of their own; 545
Their mother-hearts beset with fears,
Their lives bound up in tender lives;
Laura would call the little ones
And tell them of her early prime,
Those pleasant days long gone 550
Of not-returning time:
Would talk about the haunted glen,
The wicked, quaintStrange. fruit-merchant men,
Their fruits like honey to the throat,
But poison in the blood; 555
(Men sell not such in any town;)
Would tell them how her sister stood
In deadly peril to do her good,
And win the fiery antidote:
Then joining hands to little hands 560
Would bid them cling together,
“For there is no friend like a sister,
In calm or stormy weather,
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray, 565
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands.”
—1859

 

31

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes.”

Look at John Keats’s “The Eve of St. Agnes.” What influence do you think this poem had on Rossetti, especially with regard to style and imagery? See especially Stanza 30, Porphyro’s magical feast: http://www.bartleby.com/126/39.html

  1. What does the fruit symbolize”?
  2. What is significant about the fact that the goblin men only want to sell the fruit and not give it away?
  3. Compare and contrast the two sisters. How are they similar? Different?
  4. Describe the imagery in the scene of Laura and the goblin men.
  5. When can Laura no longer hear the goblins? Why can she no longer hear the cry?
  6. Compare Laura and Jeanie.
  7. Why does Laura escape a similar fate?

Essay Questions

  1. Download Katja Brandt’s 2006 Ph.D. dissertation: http://www.doria.fi/bitstream/handle/10024/4103/TMP.objres.67.pdf?sequence
    Read pages 17 to 23 (“Psychosexual Readings of Goblin Market”) or pages 23 to 27 (“Feminist Readings”). Summarize the main points for and against EITHER the psychosexual readings or the feminist readings.
  2. This poem is often discussed in the context of the Victorian period and “the Woman Question.” Give an interpretation of this poem after reading the main biographical details about Rossetti, (whom the American poet Sara Teasdale characterized as “a born celibate”)—especially her piety, her relationship with her sister Maria, and the fact that she renounced two suitors at least in part because of her scruples about the quality of their religious faith.
  3. Discuss Christian symbolism in “Goblin Market,” especially eucharistic symbolism.
  4. Use a good glossary of literary terms to identify epic characteristics, then argue that “Goblin Market” is an epic in miniature or modified “epyllion”).
  5. Find autobiographical elements in the poem (e.g., her work at the Highgate Home for Fallen Women; her relationship with her sister Maria). You may also wish to consult Brandt’s thesis.
  6. Summarize the main findings in this essay on capitalist deception, especially in the food industry during the Victorian period:
    http://www.18thconnect.org/exhibits/Rebecca_Stern_Adulterations

 

Resources

QR_CODE_bleak-midwinter

 

References

Figure 1:
Portrait of Christina Rossetti by her brother (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christina_Rossetti#mediaviewer/File:Christina_Rossetti_3.jpg) is in the Public Domain

VII

Henry James (1843–1916)

32

Biography

 

Known for his sophisticated style, precise language, extraordinary productivity, and innovative attention to the novel form, Henry James ranks among the greatest American writers. He was born in the mid-19th century in New York City. His father, Henry James Sr., was a wealthy and eccentric philosopher who initiated his young son into what would become a lifelong habit of travel. The family, eventually consisting of five children, crossed the Atlantic Ocean repeatedly before 1860, and the James children were brought up and educated in Europe almost as much as they were in America.

When the family returned to America just before the Civil War, two of James’s brothers enlisted in the Union Army, but Henry himself stayed out of the war because of an injury. After a brief period studying law at Harvard, he began publishing stories and reviews in the major American magazines of his day, and by 1869, he had committed himself to a literary career. He travelled back and forth between Europe and America several times before finally deciding to settle in England, first in London and eventually at Lamb House, an 18th-century mansion located in a coastal town southeast of London. He became a naturalized British subject near the end of his life.

James always maintained an active social life (he was famous for dining out almost every night of the week) and had a close relationship with his family, especially with his brother William, a pioneering American psychologist who was an important influence on James. But despite his familial and social ties, James spent much of his time alone at his writing desk. He never married, and he poured most of his emotional energy into his work.

Scholars traditionally have divided James’s career into three phases: a lengthy apprenticeship (1864–1881), the middle years (1882–1895), and his major phase (1896–2016). James first achieved international fame with his story “Daisy Miller: A Study” (1878), which deals with the contrast between European and American manners by exploring a young girl’s disregard for social codes. Although some readers considered the story shocking, it was widely reprinted. James’s early phase culminated with Portrait of a Lady (1881), a novel which many critics regard as one of his masterpieces. During what James referred to as his middle years, he produced several long political novels (none of which sold well), numerous short stories, some of his most influential literary criticism (including “The Art of Fiction”), and a disastrously unsuccessful play. James’s major phase is characterized by his increasing complexity and subtlety as a writer and by the culmination of his development of a new modernist aesthetic for the novel form. It was also a period of intense productivity: he wrote 37 stories, some of his most famous novellas (including the ghost story The Turn of the Screw), and several of his most important novels. Between 1906 and 1910, James embarked on the monumental project of revising his own work for publication in the 24-volume New York edition of his Collected Works.

Throughout his career, James maintained an interest in contrasting European and American manners, and in exploring the ways psychologically complex characters deal with ambiguous social and intellectual problems. James has sometimes been criticized for the rarefied quality of his work. For some readers, he seems to neglect “flesh and blood” problems in order to focus on the neurotic anxieties of over-privileged, self-absorbed characters. But for James, the value of fiction writing lay in providing “a personal, a direct impression of life,” which to him was best achieved not by chronicling material conditions but rather by examining the subjective, psychological complexities of human beings. His interest in psychology led him to develop the use of limited third-person narration, which is often regarded as one of his major contributions to American fiction. By relying on narrators who are not omniscient but instead render descriptions and observations through the limitations of the central character, James opens his stories to ambiguity. Readers must do more work–and involve themselves more in the process of meaning-making–to understand the relationship of the stories to their narration.

http://www.learner.org/amerpass/unit09/authors-6.html

33

Turn of the Screw: Introduction

Henry James

The story had held us, round the fire, sufficiently breathless, but except the obvious remark that it was gruesome, as, on Christmas Eve in an old house, a strange tale should essentially be, I remember no comment uttered till somebody happened to say that it was the only case he had met in which such a visitation had fallen on a child. The case, I may mention, was that of an apparition in just such an old house as had gathered us for the occasion — an appearance, of a dreadful kind, to a little boy sleeping in the room with his mother and waking her up in the terror of it; waking her not to dissipate his dread and soothe him to sleep again, but to encounter also, herself, before she had succeeded in doing so, the same sight that had shaken him. It was this observation that drew from Douglas — not immediately, but later in the evening — a reply that had the interesting consequence to which I call attention. Someone else told a story not particularly effective, which I saw he was not following. This I took for a sign that he had himself something to produce and that we should only have to wait. We waited in fact till two nights later, but that same evening, before we scattered, he brought out what was in his mind.

“I quite agree — in regard to Griffin’s ghost, or whatever it was — that its appearing first to the little boy, at so tender an age, adds a particular touch. But it’s not the first occurrence of its charming kind that I know to have involved a child. If the child gives the effect another turn of the screw, what do you say to two children — ?”

“We say, of course,” somebody exclaimed, “that they give two turns! Also that we want to hear about them.”

I can see Douglas there before the fire, to which he had got up to present his back, looking down at his interlocutor with his hands in his pockets. “Nobody but me, till now, has ever heard. It’s quite too horrible.” This, naturally, was declared by several voices to give the thing the utmost price, and our friend, with quiet art, prepared his triumph by turning his eyes over the rest of us and going on: “It’s beyond everything. Nothing at all that I know touches it.”

“For sheer terror?” I remember asking.

He seemed to say it was not so simple as that; to be really at a loss how to qualify it. He passed his hand over his eyes, made a little wincing grimace. “For dreadful — dreadfulness!”

“Oh, how delicious!” cried one of the women.

He took no notice of her; he looked at me, but as if, instead of me, he saw what he spoke of. “For general uncanny ugliness and horror and pain.”

“Well then,” I said, “just sit right down and begin.”

He turned round to the fire, gave a kick to a log, watched it an instant. Then as he faced us again: “I can’t begin. I shall have to send to town.” There was a unanimous groan at this, and much reproach; after which, in his preoccupied way, he explained. “The story’s written. It’s in a locked drawer — it has not been out for years. I could write to my man and enclose the key; he could send down the packet as he finds it.” It was to me in particular that he appeared to propound this — appeared almost to appeal for aid not to hesitate. He had broken a thickness of ice, the formation of many a winter; had had his reasons for a long silence. The others resented postponement, but it was just his scruples that charmed me. I adjured him to write by the first post and to agree with us for an early hearing; then I asked him if the experience in question had been his own. To this his answer was prompt. “Oh, thank God, no!”

“And is the record yours? You took the thing down?”

“Nothing but the impression. I took that here” — he tapped his heart. “I’ve never lost it.”

“Then your manuscript — ?”

“Is in old, faded ink, and in the most beautiful hand.” He hung fire again. “A woman’s. She has been dead these twenty years. She sent me the pages in question before she died.” They were all listening now, and of course there was somebody to be arch, or at any rate to draw the inference. But if he put the inference by without a smile it was also without irritation. “She was a most charming person, but she was ten years older than I. She was my sister’s governess,” he quietly said. “She was the most agreeable woman I’ve ever known in her position; she would have been worthy of any whatever. It was long ago, and this episode was long before. I was at TrinityA constituent college of the University of Cambridge, founded by King Henry VIII in 1546., and I found her at home on my coming down the second summer. I was much there that year — it was a beautiful one; and we had, in her off-hours, some strolls and talks in the garden — talks in which she struck me as awfully clever and nice. Oh yes; don’t grin: I liked her extremely and am glad to this day to think she liked me, too. If she hadn’t she wouldn’t have told me. She had never told anyone. It wasn’t simply that she said so, but that I knew she hadn’t. I was sure; I could see. You’ll easily judge why when you hear.”

“Because the thing had been such a scare?”

He continued to fix me. “You’ll easily judge,” he repeated: “you will.”

I fixed him, too. “I see. She was in love.”

He laughed for the first time. “You are acute. Yes, she was in love. That is, she had been. That came out — she couldn’t tell her story without its coming out. I saw it, and she saw I saw it; but neither of us spoke of it. I remember the time and the place — the corner of the lawn, the shade of the great beeches and the long, hot summer afternoon. It wasn’t a scene for a shudder; but oh — !” He quitted the fire and dropped back into his chair.

“You’ll receive the packet Thursday morning?” I inquired.

“Probably not till the second post.”

“Well then; after dinner — ”

“You’ll all meet me here?” He looked us round again. “Isn’t anybody going?” It was almost the tone of hope. “Everybody will stay!”

I will — and I will!” cried the ladies whose departure had been fixed. Mrs. Griffin, however, expressed the need for a little more light. “Who was it she was in love with?”

“The story will tell,” I took upon myself to reply.

“Oh, I can’t wait for the story!”

“The story won’t tell,” said Douglas; “not in any literal, vulgar way.”

“More’s the pity, then. That’s the only way I ever understand.”

“Won’t you tell, Douglas?” somebody else inquired.

He sprang to his feet again. “Yes — tomorrow. Now I must go to bed. Good night.” And quickly catching up a candlestick, he left us slightly bewildered. From our end of the great brown hall we heard his step on the stair; whereupon Mrs. Griffin spoke. “Well, if I don’t know who she was in love with, I know who he was.”

“She was ten years older,” said her husband.

Raison de plusAll the more reason.— at that age! But it’s rather nice, his long reticence.”

“Forty years!” Griffin put in.

“With this outbreak at last.”

“The outbreak,” I returned, “will make a tremendous occasion of Thursday night;” and everyone so agreed with me that, in the light of it, we lost all attention for everything else. The last story, however incomplete and like the mere opening of a serial, had been told; we handshook and “candlestuck,” as somebody said, and went to bed.

I knew the next day that a letter containing the key had, by the first post, gone off to his London apartments; but in spite of — or perhaps just on account of — the eventual diffusion of this knowledge we quite let him alone till after dinner, till such an hour of the evening, in fact, as might best accord with the kind of emotion on which our hopes were fixed. Then he became as communicative as we could desire and indeed gave us his best reason for being so. We had it from him again before the fire in the hall, as we had had our mild wonders of the previous night. It appeared that the narrative he had promised to read us really required for a proper intelligence a few words of prologue. Let me say here distinctly, to have done with it, that this narrative, from am exact transcript of my own made much later, is what I shall presently give. Poor Douglas, before his death — when it was in sight — committed to me the manuscript that reached him on the third of these days and that, on the same spot, with immense effect, he began to read to our hushed little circle on the night of the fourth. The departing ladies who had said they would stay didn’t, of course, thank heaven, stay: they departed, in consequence of arrangements made, in a rage of curiosity, as they professed, produced by the touches with which he had already worked us up. But that only made his little final auditory more compact and select, kept it, round the hearth, subject to a common thrill.

The first of these touches conveyed that the written statement took up the tale at a point after it had, in a manner, begun. The fact to be in possession of was therefore that his old friend, the youngest of several daughters of a poor country parson, had, at the age of twenty, on taking service for the first time in the schoolroom, come up to London, in trepidation, to answer in person an advertisement that had already placed her in brief correspondence with the advertiser. This person proved, on her presenting herself, for judgment, at a house in Harley Street, that impressed her as vast and imposing — this prospective patron proved a gentleman, a bachelor in the prime of life, such a figure as had never risen, save in a dream or an old novel, before a fluttered, anxious girl out of a Hampshire vicarage. One could easily fix this type; it never, happily, dies out. He was handsome and bold and pleasant, offhand and gay and kind. He struck her, inevitably, as gallant and splendid, but what took her most of all and gave her the courage she afterward showed was that he put the whole thing to her as a kind of favor, an obligation he should gratefully incur. She conceived him as rich, but as fearfully extravagant — saw him all in a glow of high fashion, of good looks, of expensive habits, of charming ways with women. He had for his own town residence a big house filled with the spoils of travel and the trophies of the chase; but it was to his country home, an old family place in Essex, that he wished her immediately to proceed.

He had been left, by the death of their parents in India, guardian to a small nephew and a small niece, children of a younger, a military brother, whom he had lost two years before. These children were, by the strangest of chances for a man in his position — a lone man without the right sort of experience or a gram of patience — very heavily on his hands. It had all been a great worry and, on his own part doubtless, a series of blunders, but he immensely pitied the poor chicks and had done all he could; had in particular sent them down to his other house, the proper place for them being of course the country, and kept them there, from the first, with the best people he could find to look after them, parting even with his own servants to wait on them and going down himself, whenever he might, to see how they were doing. The awkward thing was that they had practically no other relations and that his own affairs took up all his time. He had put them in possession of Bly, which was healthy and secure, and had placed at the head of their little establishment — but below stairs only — an excellent woman, Mrs. Grose, whom he was sure his visitor would like and who had formerly been maid to his mother. She was now housekeeper and was also acting for the time as superintendent to the little girl, of whom, without children of her own, she was, by good luck, extremely fond. There were plenty of people to help, but of course the young lady who should go down as governess would be in supreme authority. She would also have, in holidays, to look after the small boy, who had been for a term at school — young as he was to be sent, but what else could be done? — and who, as the holidays were about to begin, would be back from one day to the other. There had been for the two children at first a young lady whom they had had the misfortune to lose. She had done for them quite beautifully — she was a most respectable person — till her death, the great awkwardness of which had, precisely, left no alternative but the school for little Miles. Mrs. Grose, since then, in the way of manners and doings, had done as she could for Flora; and there were, further, a cook, a housemaid, a dairywoman, an old pony, an old groom, and an old gardener, all likewise thoroughly respectable.

So far had Douglas presented his picture when someone put a question. “And what did the former governess die of? — of so much respectability?”

Our friend’s answer was prompt. “That will come out. I don’t anticipate.”

“Excuse me — I thought that was just what you are doing.”

“In her successor’s place,” I suggested, “I should have wished to learn if the office brought with it — ”

“Necessary danger to life?” Douglas completed my thought. “She did wish to learn, and she did learn. You shall hear tomorrow what she learned. Meanwhile, of course, the prospect struck her as slightly grim. She was young, untried, nervous: it was a vision of serious duties and little company, of really great loneliness. She hesitated — took a couple of days to consult and consider. But the salary offered much exceeded her modest measure, and on a second interview she faced the music, she engaged.” And Douglas, with this, made a pause that, for the benefit of the company, moved me to throw in —

“The moral of which was of course the seduction exercised by the splendid young man. She succumbed to it.”

He got up and, as he had done the night before, went to the fire, gave a stir to a log with his foot, then stood a moment with his back to us. “She saw him only twice.”

“Yes, but that’s just the beauty of her passion.”

A little to my surprise, on this, Douglas turned round to me. “It was the beauty of it. There were others,” he went on, “who hadn’t succumbed. He told her frankly all his difficulty — that for several applicants the conditions had been prohibitive. They were, somehow, simply afraid. It sounded dull — it sounded strange; and all the more so because of his main condition.”

“Which was — ?”

“That she should never trouble him — but never, never: neither appeal nor complain nor write about anything; only meet all questions herself, receive all moneys from his solicitor, take the whole thing over and let him alone. She promised to do this, and she mentioned to me that when, for a moment, disburdened, delighted, he held her hand, thanking her for the sacrifice, she already felt rewarded.

“But was that all her reward?” one of the ladies asked.

“She never saw him again.”

“Oh!” said the lady; which, as our friend immediately left us again, was the only other word of importance contributed to the subject till, the next night, by the corner of the hearth, in the best chair, he opened the faded red cover of a thin old-fashioned gilt-edged album. The whole thing took indeed more nights than one, but on the first occasion the same lady put another question. “What is your title?”

“I haven’t one.”

“Oh, I have!” I said. But Douglas, without heeding me, had begun to read with a fine clearness that was like a rendering to the ear of the beauty of his author’s hand.

34

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 1

Henry James

I remember the whole beginning as a succession of flights and drops, a little seesaw of the right throbs and the wrong. After rising, in town, to meet his appeal, I had at all events a couple of very bad days — found myself doubtful again, felt indeed sure I had made a mistake. In this state of mind I spent the long hours of bumping, swinging coach that carried me to the stopping place at which I was to be met by a vehicle from the house. This convenience, I was told, had been ordered, and I found, toward the close of the June afternoon, a commodious flyA spacious carriage. in waiting for me. Driving at that hour, on a lovely day, through a country to which the summer sweetness seemed to offer me a friendly welcome, my fortitude mounted afresh and, as we turned into the avenue, encountered a reprieve that was probably but a proof of the point to which it had sunk. I suppose I had expected, or had dreaded, something so melancholy that what greeted me was a good surprise. I remember as a most pleasant impression the broad, clear front, its open windows and fresh curtains and the pair of maids looking out; I remember the lawn and the bright flowers and the crunch of my wheels on the gravel and the clustered treetops over which the rooks circled and cawed in the golden sky. The scene had a greatness that made it a different affair from my own scant home, and there immediately appeared at the door, with a little girl in her hand, a civil person who dropped me as decent a curtsy as if I had been the mistress or a distinguished visitor. I had received in Harley Street a narrower notion of the place, and that, as I recalled it, made me think the proprietor still more of a gentleman, suggested that what I was to enjoy might be something beyond his promise.

I had no drop again till the next day, for I was carried triumphantly through the following hours by my introduction to the younger of my pupils. The little girl who accompanied Mrs. Grose appeared to me on the spot a creature so charming as to make it a great fortune to have to do with her. She was the most beautiful child I had ever seen, and I afterward wondered that my employer had not told me more of her. I slept little that night — I was too much excited; and this astonished me, too, I recollect, remained with me, adding to my sense of the liberality with which I was treated. The large, impressive room, one of the best in the house, the great state bed, as I almost felt it, the full, figured draperies, the long glasses in which, for the first time, I could see myself from head to foot, all struck me — like the extraordinary charm of my small charge — as so many things thrown in. It was thrown in as well, from the first moment, that I should get on with Mrs. Grose in a relation over which, on my way, in the coach, I fear I had rather brooded. The only thing indeed that in this early outlook might have made me shrink again was the clear circumstance of her being so glad to see me. I perceived within half an hour that she was so glad — stout, simple, plain, clean, wholesome woman — as to be positively on her guard against showing it too much. I wondered even then a little why she should wish not to show it, and that, with reflection, with suspicion, might of course have made me uneasy.

But it was a comfort that there could be no uneasiness in a connection with anything so beatific as the radiant image of my little girl, the vision of whose angelic beauty had probably more than anything else to do with me restlessness that, before morning, made me several times rise and wander about my room to take in the whole picture and prospect; to watch, from my open window, the faint summer dawn, to look at such portions of the rest of the house as I could catch, and to listen, while, in the fading dusk, the first birds began to twitter, for the possible recurrence of a sound or two, less natural and not without, but within, that I had fancied I heard. There had been a moment when I believed I recognized, faint and far, the cry of a child; there had been another when I found myself just consciously starting as at the passage, before my door, of a light footstep. But these fancies were not marked enough not to be thrown off, and it is only in the light, or the gloom, I should rather say, of other and subsequent matters that they now come back to me. To watch, teach, “form” little Flora would too evidently be the making of a happy and useful life. It had been agreed between us downstairs that after this first occasion I should have her as a matter of course at night, her small white bed being already arranged, to that end, in my room. What I had undertaken was the whole care of her, and she had remained, just this last time, with Mrs. Grose only as an effect of our consideration for my inevitable strangeness and her natural timidity. In spite of this timidity — which the child herself, in the oddest way in the world, had been perfectly frank and brave about, allowing it, without a sign of uncomfortable consciousness, with the deep, sweet serenity indeed of one of Raphael’sRaffaello Sanzio (1483-1520). Italian painter of the High Renaissance. His “Madonna of the Goldfinch” depicts two children: Christ and John the Baptist, admiring a bird under Mary’s gaze. holy infants, to be discussed, to be imputed to her, and to determine us — I felt quite sure she would presently like me. It was part of what I already liked Mrs. Grose herself for, the pleasure I could see her feel in my admiration and wonder as I sat at supper with four tall candles and with my pupil, in a high chair and a bib, brightly facing me, between them, over bread and milk. There were naturally things that in Flora’s presence could pass between us only as prodigious and gratified looks, obscure and roundabout allusions.

“And the little boy — does he look like her? Is he too so very remarkable?”

One wouldn’t flatter a child. “Oh, miss, most remarkable. If you think well of this one!” — and she stood there with a plate in her hand, beaming at our companion, who looked from one of us to the other with placid heavenly eyes that contained nothing to check us.

“Yes; if I do — ?”

“You will be carried away by the little gentleman!”

“Well, that, I think, is what I came for — to be carried away. I’m afraid, however,” I remember feeling the impulse to add, “I’m rather easily carried away. I was carried away in London!”

I can still see Mrs. Grose’s broad face as she took this in. “In Harley Street?”

“In Harley Street.”

“Well, miss, you’re not the first — and you won’t be the last.”

“Oh, I’ve no pretension,” I could laugh, “to being the only one. My other pupil, at any rate, as I understand, comes back tomorrow?”

“Not tomorrow — Friday, miss. He arrives, as you did, by the coach, under care of the guard, and is to be met by the same carriage.”

I forthwith expressed that the proper as well as the pleasant and friendly thing would be therefore that on the arrival of the public conveyance I should be in waiting for him with his little sister; an idea in which Mrs. Grose concurred so heartily that I somehow took her manner as a kind of comforting pledge — never falsified, thank heaven! — that we should on every question be quite at one. Oh, she was glad I was there!

What I felt the next day was, I suppose, nothing that could be fairly called a reaction from the cheer of my arrival; it was probably at the most only a slight oppression produced by a fuller measure of the scale, as I walked round them, gazed up at them, took them in, of my new circumstances. They had, as it were, an extent and mass for which I had not been prepared and in the presence of which I found myself, freshly, a little scared as well as a little proud. Lessons, in this agitation, certainly suffered some delay; I reflected that my first duty was, by the gentlest arts I could contrive, to win the child into the sense of knowing me. I spent the day with her out-of-doors; I arranged with her, to her great satisfaction, that it should be she, she only, who might show me the place. She showed it step by step and room by room and secret by secret, with droll, delightful, childish talk about it and with the result, in half an hour, of our becoming immense friends. Young as she was, I was struck, throughout our little tour, with her confidence and courage with the way, in empty chambers and dull corridors, on crooked staircases that made me pause and even on the summit of an old machicolatedAn opening in a projecting wall from which stones or boiling water could be dropped upon invaders. square tower that made me dizzy, her morning music, her disposition to tell me so many more things than she asked, rang out and led me on. I have not seen Bly since the day I left it, and I daresay that to my older and more informed eyes it would now appear sufficiently contracted. But as my little conductress, with her hair of gold and her frock of blue, danced before me round corners and pattered down passages, I had the view of a castle of romance inhabited by a rosy sprite, such a place as would somehow, for diversion of the young idea, take all color out of storybooks and fairytales. Wasn’t it just a storybook over which I had fallen adoze and adream? No; it was a big, ugly, antique, but convenient house, embodying a few features of a building still older, half-replaced and half-utilized, in which I had the fancy of our being almost as lost as a handful of passengers in a great drifting ship. Well, I was, strangely, at the helm!

35

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 2

Henry James

This came home to me when, two days later, I drove over with Flora to meet, as Mrs. Grose said, the little gentleman; and all the more for an incident that, presenting itself the second evening, had deeply disconcerted me. The first day had been, on the whole, as I have expressed, reassuring; but I was to see it wind up in keen apprehension. The postbag, that evening — it came late — contained a letter for me, which, however, in the hand of my employer, I found to be composed but of a few words enclosing another, addressed to himself, with a seal still unbroken. “This, I recognize, is from the headmaster, and the headmaster’s an awful bore. Read him, please; deal with him; but mind you don’t report. Not a word. I’m off!” I broke the seal with a great effort — so great a one that I was a long time coming to it; took the unopened missive at last up to my room and only attacked it just before going to bed. I had better have let it wait till morning, for it gave me a second sleepless night. With no counsel to take, the next day, I was full of distress; and it finally got so the better of me that I determined to open myself at least to Mrs. Grose.

“What does it mean? The child’s dismissed his school.”

She gave me a look that I remarked at the moment; then, visibly, with a quick blankness, seemed to try to take it back. “But aren’t they all — ?”

“Sent home — yes. But only for the holidays. Miles may never go back at all.”

Consciously, under my attention, she reddened. “They won’t take him?”

“They absolutely decline.”

At this she raised her eyes, which she had turned from me; I saw them fill with good tears. “What has he done?”

I hesitated; then I judged best simply to hand her my letter — which, however, had the effect of making her, without taking it, simply put her hands behind her. She shook her head sadly. “Such things are not for me, miss.”

My counselor couldn’t read! I winced at my mistake, which I attenuated as I could, and opened my letter again to repeat it to her; then, faltering in the act and folding it up once more, I put it back in my pocket. “Is he really bad?

The tears were still in her eyes. “Do the gentlemen say so?”

“They go into no particulars. They simply express their regret that it should be impossible to keep him. That can have only one meaning.” Mrs. Grose listened with dumb emotion; she forbore to ask me what this meaning might be; so that, presently, to put the thing with some coherence and with the mere aid of her presence to my own mind, I went on: “That he’s an injury to the others.”

At this, with one of the quick turns of simple folk, she suddenly flamed up. “Master Miles! him an injury?”

There was such a flood of good faith in it that, though I had not yet seen the child, my very fears made me jump to the absurdity of the idea. I found myself, to meet my friend the better, offering it, on the spot, sarcastically. “To his poor little innocent mates!”

“It’s too dreadful,” cried Mrs. Grose, “to say such cruel things! Why, he’s scarce ten years old.”

“Yes, yes; it would be incredible.”

She was evidently grateful for such a profession. “See him, miss, first. Then believe it!” I felt forthwith a new impatience to see him; it was the beginning of a curiosity that, for all the next hours, was to deepen almost to pain. Mrs. Grose was aware, I could judge, of what she had produced in me, and she followed it up with assurance. “You might as well believe it of the little lady. Bless her,” she added the next moment — “look at her!”

I turned and saw that Flora, whom, ten minutes before, I had established in the schoolroom with a sheet of white paper, a pencil, and a copy of nice “round o’s,” now presented herself to view at the open door. She expressed in her little way an extraordinary detachment from disagreeable duties, looking to me, however, with a great childish light that seemed to offer it as a mere result of the affection she had conceived for my person, which had rendered necessary that she should follow me. I needed nothing more than this to feel the full force of Mrs. Grose’s comparison, and, catching my pupil in my arms, covered her with kisses in which there was a sob of atonement.

Nonetheless, the rest of the day I watched for further occasion to approach my colleague, especially as, toward evening, I began to fancy she rather sought to avoid me. I overtook her, I remember, on the staircase; we went down together, and at the bottom I detained her, holding her there with a hand on her arm. “I take what you said to me at noon as a declaration that you’ve never known him to be bad.”

She threw back her head; she had clearly, by this time, and very honestly, adopted an attitude. “Oh, never known him — I don’t pretend that!

I was upset again. “Then you have known him — ?”

“Yes indeed, miss, thank God!”

On reflection I accepted this. “You mean that a boy who never is — ?”

“Is no boy for me!

I held her tighter. “You like them with the spirit to be naughty?” Then, keeping pace with her answer, “So do I!” I eagerly brought out. “But not to the degree to contaminate — ”

“To contaminate?” — my big word left her at a loss. I explained it. “To corrupt.”

She stared, taking my meaning in; but it produced in her an odd laugh. “Are you afraid he’ll corrupt you?” She put the question with such a fine bold humor that, with a laugh, a little silly doubtless, to match her own, I gave way for the time to the apprehension of ridicule.

But the next day, as the hour for my drive approached, I cropped up in another place. “What was the lady who was here before?”

“The last governess? She was also young and pretty — almost as young and almost as pretty, miss, even as you.”

“Ah, then, I hope her youth and her beauty helped her!” I recollect throwing off. “He seems to like us young and pretty!”

“Oh, he did,” Mrs. Grose assented — “it was the way he liked everyone!” She had no sooner spoken indeed than she caught herself up. “I mean that’s his way — the master’s.”

I was struck. “But of whom did you speak first?”

She looked blank, but she colored. “Why, of him.

“Of the master?”

“Of who else?”

There was so obviously no one else that the next moment I had lost my impression of her having accidentally said more than she meant — and I merely asked what I wanted to know. “Did she see anything in the boy — ?”

“That wasn’t right? She never told me.”

I had a scruple, but I overcame it. “Was she careful — particular?”

Mrs. Grose appeared to try to be conscientious. “About some things — yes.”

“But not about all?”

Again she considered. “Well, miss — she’s gone. I won’t tell tales.”

“I quite understand your feeling,” I hastened to reply; but I thought it, after an instant, not opposed to this concession to pursue: “Did she die here?”

“No — she went off.”

I don’t know what there was in this brevity of Mrs. Grose’s that struck me as ambiguous. “Went off to die?” Mrs. Grose looked straight out of the window, but I felt that, hypothetically, I had a right to know what young persons engaged for Bly were expected to do. “She was taken ill, you mean, and went home?”

“She was not taken ill, so far as appeared, in this house. She left it, at the end of the year, to go home, as she said, for a short holiday, to which the time she had put in had certainly given her a right. We had then a young woman a nursemaid who had stayed on and who was a good girl and clever; and she took the children altogether for the interval. But our young lady never came back, and at the very moment I was expecting her I heard from the master that she was dead.”

I turned this over. “But of what?”

“He never told me! But please, miss,” said Mrs. Grose, “I must get to my work.”

36

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 3

Henry James

Her thus turning her back on me was fortunately not, for my just preoccupations, a snub that could check the growth of our mutual esteem. We met, after I had brought home little Miles, more intimately than ever on the ground of my stupefaction, my general emotion: so monstrous was I then ready to pronounce it that such a child as had now been revealed to me should be under an interdict. I was a little late on the scene, and I felt, as he stood wistfully looking out for me before the door of the inn at which the coach had put him down, that I had seen him, on the instant, without and within, in the great glow of freshness, the same positive fragrance of purity, in which I had, from the first moment, seen his little sister. He was incredibly beautiful, and Mrs. Grose had put her finger on it: everything but a sort of passion of tenderness for him was swept away by his presence. What I then and there took him to my heart for was something divine that I have never found to the same degree in any child — his indescribable little air of knowing nothing in the world but love. It would have been impossible to carry a bad name with a greater sweetness of innocence, and by the time I had got back to Bly with him I remained merely bewildered — so far, that is, as I was not outraged — by the sense of the horrible letter locked up in my room, in a drawer. As soon as I could compass a private word with Mrs. Grose I declared to her that it was grotesque.

She promptly understood me. “You mean the cruel charge — ?”

“It doesn’t live an instant. My dear woman, look at him!”

She smiled at my pretention to have discovered his charm. “I assure you, miss, I do nothing else! What will you say, then?” she immediately added.

“In answer to the letter?” I had made up my mind. “Nothing.”

“And to his uncle?”

I was incisive. “Nothing.”

“And to the boy himself?”

I was wonderful. “Nothing.”

She gave with her apron a great wipe to her mouth. “Then I’ll stand by you. We’ll see it out.”

“We’ll see it out!” I ardently echoed, giving her my hand to make It a vow.

She held me there a moment, then whisked up her apron again with her detached hand. “Would you mind, miss, if I used the freedom — ”

“To kiss me? No!” I took the good creature in my arms and, after we had embraced like sisters, felt still more fortified and indignant.

This, at all events, was for the time: a time so full that, as I recall the way it went, it reminds me of all the art I now need to make it a little distinct. What I look back at with amazement is the situation I accepted. I had undertaken, with my companion, to see it out, and I was under a charm, apparently, that could smooth away the extent and the far and difficult connections of such an effort. I was lifted aloft on a great wave of infatuation and pity. I found it simple, in my ignorance, my confusion, and perhaps my conceit, to assume that I could deal with a boy whose education for the world was all on the point of beginning. I am unable even to remember at this day what proposal I framed for the end of his holidays and the resumption of his studies. Lessons with me, indeed, that charming summer, we all had a theory that he was to have; but I now feel that, for weeks, the lessons must have been rather my own. I learned something — at first, certainly — that had not been one of the teachings of my small, smothered life; learned to be amused, and even amusing, and not to think for the morrow. It was the first time, in a manner, that I had known space and air and freedom, all the music of summer and all the mystery of nature. And then there was consideration — and consideration was sweet. Oh, it was a trap — not designed, but deep — to my imagination, to my delicacy, perhaps to my vanity; to whatever, in me, was most excitable. The best way to picture it all is to say that I was off my guard. They gave me so little trouble — they were of a gentleness so extraordinary. I used to speculate — but even this with a dim disconnectedness — as to how the rough future (for all futures are rough!) would handle them and might bruise them. They had the bloom of health and happiness; and yet, as if I had been in charge of a pair of little grandees, of princes of the blood, for whom everything, to be right, would have to be enclosed and protected, the only form that, in my fancy, the afteryears could take for them was that of a romantic, a really royal extension of the garden and the park. It may be, of course, above all, that what suddenly broke into this gives the previous time a charm of stillness — that hush in which something gathers or crouches. The change was actually like the spring of a beast.

In the first weeks the days were long; they often, at their finest, gave me what I used to call my own hour, the hour when, for my pupils, teatime and bedtime having come and gone, I had, before my final retirement, a small interval alone. Much as I liked my companions, this hour was the thing in the day I liked most; and I liked it best of all when, as the light faded — or rather, I should say, the day lingered and the last calls of the last birds sounded, in a flushed sky, from the old trees — I could take a turn into the grounds and enjoy, almost with a sense of property that amused and flattered me, the beauty and dignity of the place. It was a pleasure at these moments to feel myself tranquil and justified; doubtless, perhaps, also to reflect that by my discretion, my quiet good sense and general high propriety, I was giving pleasure — if he ever thought of it! — to the person to whose pressure I had responded. What I was doing was what he had earnestly hoped and directly asked of me, and that I could, after all, do it proved even a greater joy than I had expected. I daresay I fancied myself, in short, a remarkable young woman and took comfort in the faith that this would more publicly appear. Well, I needed to be remarkable to offer a front to the remarkable things that presently gave their first sign.

It was plump, one afternoon, in the middle of my very hour: the children were tucked away, and I had come out for my stroll. One of the thoughts that, as I don’t in the least shrink now from noting, used to be with me in these wanderings was that it would be as charming as a charming story suddenly to meet someone. Someone would appear there at the turn of a path and would stand before me and smile and approve. I didn’t ask more than that — I only asked that he should know and the only way to be sure he knew would be to see it, and the kind light of it, in his handsome face. That was exactly present to me — by which I mean the face was — when, on the first of these occasions, at the end of a long June day, I stopped short on emerging from one of the plantations and coming into view of the house. What arrested me on the spot — and with a shock much greater than any vision had allowed for — was the sense that my imagination had, in a flash, turned real. He did stand there! — but high up, beyond the lawn and at the very top of the tower to which, on that first morning, little Flora had conducted me. This tower was one of a pair — square, incongruous, crenelatedHaving battlements or open spaces surmounting a wall and used for defense. structures — that were distinguished, for some reason, though I could see little difference, as the new and the old. They flanked opposite ends of the house and were probably architectural absurdities, redeemed in a measure indeed by not being wholly disengaged nor of a height too pretentious, dating, in their gingerbread antiquity, from a romantic revivalRevival of interest in "gothic" architecture, such as the structure at Twickenham, “Strawberry Hill,” built by Horace Walpole, author of an early gothic novel, The Castle of Otranto (1764). that was already a respectable past. I admired them, had fancies about them, for we could all profit in a degree, especially when they loomed through the dusk, by the grandeur of their actual battlements; yet it was not at such an elevation that the figure I had so often invoked seemed most in place.

It produced in me, this figure, in the clear twilight, I remember, two distinct gasps of emotion, which were, sharply, the shock of my first and that of my second surprise. My second was a violent perception of the mistake of my first: the man who met my eyes was not the person I had precipitately supposed. There came to me thus a bewilderment of vision of which, after these years, there is no living view that I can hope to give. An unknown man in a lonely place is a permitted object of fear to a young woman privately bred; and the figure that faced me was — a few more seconds assured me — as little anyone else I knew as it was the image that had been in my mind. I had not seen it in Harley Street — I had not seen it anywhere. The place, moreover, in the strangest way in the world, had, on the instant, and by the very fact of its appearance, become a solitude. To me at least, making my statement here with a deliberation with which I have never made it, the whole feeling of the moment returns. It was as if, while I took in — what I did take in — all the rest of the scene had been stricken with death. I can hear again, as I write, the intense hush in which the sounds of evening dropped. The rooks stopped cawing in the golden sky, and the friendly hour lost, for the minute, all its voice. But there was no other change in nature, unless indeed it were a change that I saw with a stranger sharpness. The gold was still in the sky, the clearness in the air, and the man who looked at me over the battlements was as definite as a picture in a frame. That’s how I thought, with extraordinary quickness, of each person that he might have been and that he was not. We were confronted across our distance quite long enough for me to ask myself with intensity who then he was and to feel, as an effect of my inability to say, a wonder that in a few instants more became intense.

The great question, or one of these, is, afterward, I know, with regard to certain matters, the question of how long they have lasted. Well, this matter of mine, think what you will of it, lasted while I caught at a dozen possibilities, none of which made a difference for the better, that I could see, in there having been in the house — and for how long, above all? — a person of whom I was in ignorance. It lasted while I just bridled a little with the sense that my office demanded that there should be no such ignorance and no such person. It lasted while this visitant, at all events — and there was a touch of the strange freedom, as I remember, in the sign of familiarity of his wearing no hat — seemed to fix me, from his position, with just the question, just the scrutiny through the fading light, that his own presence provoked. We were too far apart to call to each other, but there was a moment at which, at shorter range, some challenge between us, breaking the hush, would have been the right result of our straight mutual stare. He was in one of the angles, the one away from the house, very erect, as it struck me, and with both hands on the ledge. So I saw him as I see the letters I form on this page; then, exactly, after a minute, as if to add to the spectacle, he slowly changed his place — passed, looking at me hard all the while, to the opposite corner of the platform. Yes, I had the sharpest sense that during this transit he never took his eyes from me, and I can see at this moment the way his hand, as he went, passed from one of the crenelations to the next. He stopped at the other corner, but less long, and even as he turned away still markedly fixed me. He turned away; that was all I knew.

37

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 4

Henry James

It was not that I didn’t wait, on this occasion, for more, for I was rooted as deeply as I was shaken. Was there a “secret” at Bly — a mystery of Udolpho or an insane, an unmentionable relative kept in unsuspected confinement?The allusions here are to Gothic elements in The Mystery of Udolpho (1794), by Ann Radcliffe, and to Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (1847). I can’t say how long I turned it over, or how long, in a confusion of curiosity and dread, I remained where I had had my collision; I only recall that when I re-entered the house darkness had quite closed in. Agitation, in the interval, certainly had held me and driven me, for I must, in circling about the place, have walked three miles; but I was to be, later on, so much more overwhelmed that this mere dawn of alarm was a comparatively human chill. The most singular part of it, in fact — singular as the rest had been — was the part I became, in the hall, aware of in meeting Mrs. Grose. This picture comes back to me in the general train — the impression, as I received it on my return, of the wide white panelled space, bright in the lamplight and with its portraits and red carpet, and of the good surprised look of my friend, which immediately told me she had missed me. It came to me straightway, under her contact, that, with plain heartiness, mere relieved anxiety at my appearance, she knew nothing whatever that could bear upon the incident I had there ready for her. I had not suspected in advance that her comfortable face would pull me up, and I somehow measured the importance of what I had seen by my thus finding myself hesitate to mention it. Scarce anything in the whole history seems to me so odd as this fact that my real beginning of fear was one, as I may say, with the instinct of sparing my companion. On the spot, accordingly, in the pleasant hall and with her eyes on me, I, for a reason that I couldn’t then have phrased, achieved an inward resolution — offered a vague pretext for my lateness and, with the plea of the beauty of the night and of the heavy dew and wet feet, went as soon as possible to my room.

Here it was another affair; here, for many days after, it was a queer affair enough. There were hours, from day to day — or at least there were moments, snatched even from clear duties — when I had to shut myself up to think. It was not so much yet that I was more nervous than I could bear to be as that I was remarkably afraid of becoming so; for the truth I had now to turn over was, simply and clearly, the truth that I could arrive at no account whatever of the visitor with whom I had been so inexplicably and yet, as it seemed to me, so intimately concerned. It took little time to see that I could sound without forms of inquiry and without exciting remark any domestic complication. The shock I had suffered must have sharpened all my senses; I felt sure, at the end of three days and as the result of mere closer attention, that I had not been practiced upon by the servants nor made the object of any “game.” Of whatever it was that I knew, nothing was known around me. There was but one sane inference: someone had taken a liberty rather gross. That was what, repeatedly, I dipped into my room and locked the door to say to myself. We had been, collectively, subject to an intrusion; some unscrupulous traveler, curious in old houses, had made his way in unobserved, enjoyed the prospect from the best point of view, and then stolen out as he came. If he had given me such a bold hard stare, that was but a part of his indiscretion. The good thing, after all, was that we should surely see no more of him.

This was not so good a thing, I admit, as not to leave me to judge that what, essentially, made nothing else much signify was simply my charming work. My charming work was just my life with Miles and Flora, and through nothing could I so like it as through feeling that I could throw myself into it in trouble. The attraction of my small charges was a constant joy, leading me to wonder afresh at the vanity of my original fears, the distaste I had begun by entertaining for the probable gray prose of my office. There was to be no gray prose, it appeared, and no long grind; so how could work not be charming that presented itself as daily beauty? It was all the romance of the nursery and the poetry of the school room. I don’t mean by this, of course, that we studied only fiction and verse; I mean I can express no otherwise the sort of interest my companions inspired. How can I describe that except by saying that instead of growing used to them — and it’s a marvel for a governess: I call the sisterhood to witness! — I made constant fresh discoveries. There was one direction, assuredly, in which these discoveries stopped: deep obscurity continued to cover the region of the boy’s conduct at school. It had been promptly given me, I have noted, to face that mystery without a pang. Perhaps even it would be nearer the truth to say that — without a word — he himself had cleared it up. He had made the whole charge absurd. My conclusion bloomed there with the real rose flush of his innocence: he was only too fine and fair for the little horrid, unclean school world, and he had paid a price for it. I reflected acutely that the sense of such differences, such superiorities of quality, always, on the part of the majority — which could include even stupid, sordid headmasters — turns infallibly to the vindictive.

Both the children had a gentleness (it was their only fault, and it never made Miles a muffThe Oxford English Dictionary gives this colloquial definition of "muff": “a...feeble, or incompetent person.") that kept them — how shall I express it? almost impersonal and certainly quite unpunishable. They were like the cherubs of the anecdote, who had — morally, at any rate — nothing to whack!The anecdote in question is recorded by Charles Lamb (1775-1834) in his essay, “Christ’s Hospital Five-and-Thirty Years Ago." Lamb recalls the reaction of Samuel Taylor Coleridge on learning that their former headmaster, James Boyer, a great advocate of corporal punishment, was dying: “Poor J.B.!—may all his faults be forgiven. And may he be wafted to bliss by little cherub boys, all head and wings, with no bottoms to reproach his sublunary infirmities.” I remember feeling with Miles in especial as if he had had, as it were, no history. We expect of a small child a scant one, but there was in this beautiful little boy something extraordinarily sensitive, yet extraordinarily happy, that, more than in any creature of his age I have seen, struck me as beginning anew each day. He had never for a second suffered. I took this as a direct disproof of his having really been chastised. If he had been wicked he would have “caught” it, and I should have caught it by the rebound — I should have found the trace. I found nothing at all, and he was therefore an angel. He never spoke of his school, never mentioned a comrade or a master; and I, for my part, was quite too much disgusted to allude to them. Of course I was under the spell, and the wonderful part is that, even at the time, I perfectly knew I was. But I gave myself up to it; it was an antidote to any pain, and I had more pains than one. I was in receipt in these days of disturbing letters from home, where things were not going well. But with my children, what things in the world mattered? That was the question I used to put to my scrappy retirements. I was dazzled by their loveliness.

There was a Sunday — to get on — when it rained with such force and for so many hours that there could be no procession to church; in consequence of which, as the day declined, I had arranged with Mrs. Grose that, should the evening show improvement, we would attend together the late service. The rain happily stopped, and I prepared for our walk, which, through the park and by the good road to the village, would be a matter of twenty minutes. Coming downstairs to meet my colleague in the hall, I remembered a pair of gloves that had required three stitches and that had received them — with a publicity perhaps not edifying — while I sat with the children at their tea, served on Sundays, by exception, in that cold, clean temple of mahogany and brass, the “grown-up” dining room. The gloves had been dropped there, and I turned in to recover them. The day was gray enough, but the afternoon light still lingered, and it enabled me, on crossing the threshold, not only to recognize, on a chair near the wide window, then closed, the articles I wanted, but to become aware of a person on the other side of the window and looking straight in. One step into the room had sufficed; my vision was instantaneous; it was all there. The person looking straight in was the person who had already appeared to me. He appeared thus again with I won’t say greater distinctness, for that was impossible, but with a nearness that represented a forward stride in our intercourse and made me, as I met him, catch my breath and turn cold. He was the same — he was the same, and seen, this time, as he had been seen before, from the waist up, the window, though the dining room was on the ground floor, not going down to the terrace on which he stood. His face was close to the glass, yet the effect of this better view was, strangely, only to show me how intense the former had been. He remained but a few seconds — long enough to convince me he also saw and recognized; but it was as if I had been looking at him for years and had known him always. Something, however, happened this tune that had not happened before; his stare into my face, through the glass and across the room, was as deep and hard as then, but it quitted me for a moment during which I could still watch it, see it fix successively several other things. On the spot there came to me the added shock of a certitude that it was not for me he had come there. He had come for someone else.

The flash of this knowledge — for it was knowledge in the midst of dread — produced in me the most extraordinary effect, started, as I stood there, a sudden vibration of duty and courage. I say courage because I was beyond all doubt already far gone. I bounded straight out of the door again, reached that of the house, got, in an instant, upon the drive, and, passing along the terrace as fast as I could rush, turned a corner and came full in sight. But it was in sight of nothing now — my visitor had vanished. I stopped, I almost dropped, with the real relief of this; but I took in the whole scene — I gave him time to reappear. I call it time, but how long was it? I can’t speak to the purpose today of the duration of these things. That kind of measure must have left me: they couldn’t have lasted as they actually appeared to me to last. The terrace and the whole place, the lawn and the garden beyond it, all I could see of the park, were empty with a great emptiness. There were shrubberies and big trees, but I remember the clear assurance I felt that none of them concealed him. He was there or was not there: not there if I didn’t see him. I got hold of this; then, instinctively, instead of returning as I had come, went to the window. It was confusedly present to me that I ought to place myself where he had stood. I did so; I applied my face to the pane and looked, as he had looked, into the room. As if, at this moment, to show me exactly what his range had been, Mrs. Grose, as I had done for himself just before, came in from the hall. With this I had the full image of a repetition of what had already occurred. She saw me as I had seen my own visitant; she pulled up short as I had done; I gave her something of the shock that I had received. She turned white, and this made me ask myself if I had blanched as much. She stared, in short, and retreated on just my lines, and I knew she had then passed out and come round to me and that I should presently meet her. I remained where I was, and while I waited I thought of more things than one. But there’s only one I take space to mention. I wondered why she should be scared.

38

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 5

Henry James

Oh, she let me know as soon as, round the corner of the house, she loomed again into view. “What in the name of goodness is the matter — ?” She was now flushed and out of breath.

I said nothing till she came quite near. “With me?” I must have made a wonderful face. “Do I show it?”

“You’re as white as a sheet. You look awful.”

I considered; I could meet on this, without scruple, any innocence. My need to respect the bloom of Mrs. Grose’s had dropped, without a rustle, from my shoulders, and if I wavered for the instant it was not with what I kept back. I put out my hand to her and she took it; I held her hard a little, liking to feel her close to me. There was a kind of support in the shy heave of her surprise. “You came for me for church, of course, but I can’t go.”

“Has anything happened?”

“Yes. You must know now. Did I look very queer?”

“Through this window? Dreadful!”

“Well,” I said, “I’ve been frightened.” Mrs. Grose’s eyes expressed plainly that she had no wish to be, yet also that she knew too well her place not to be ready to share with me any marked inconvenience. Oh, it was quite settled that she must share! “Just what you saw from the dining room a minute ago was the effect of that. What I saw — just before — was much worse.”

Her hand tightened. “What was it?”

“An extraordinary man. Looking in.”

“What extraordinary man?”

“I haven’t the least idea.”

Mrs. Grose gazed round us in vain. ‘Then where is he gone?”

“I know still less.”

“Have you seen him before?”

“Yes — once. On the old tower.”

She could only look at me harder. “Do you mean he’s a stranger?”

“Oh, very much!”

“Yet you didn’t tell me?”

“No — for reasons. But now that you’ve guessed — ”

Mrs. Grose’s round eyes encountered this charge. “Ah, I haven’t guessed!” she said very simply. “How can I if you don’t imagine?”

“I don’t in the very least.”

“You’ve seen him nowhere but on the tower?”

“And on this spot just now.”

Mrs. Grose looked round again. “What was he doing on the tower?”

“Only standing there and looking down at me.”

She thought a minute. “Was he a gentleman?”

I found I had no need to think. “No.” She gazed in deeper wonder. “No.”

“Then nobody about the place? Nobody from the village?”

“Nobody — nobody. I didn’t tell you, but I made sure.”

She breathed a vague relief: this was, oddly, so much to the good. It only went indeed a little way, “But if he isn’t a gentleman — ”

“What is he? He’s a horror.”

“A horror?”

“He’s — God help me if I know what he is!”

Mrs. Grose looked round once more; she fixed her eyes on the duskier distance, then, pulling herself together, turned to me with abrupt inconsequence. “It’s time we should be at church.”

“Oh, I’m not fit for church!”

“Won’t it do you good?”

“It won’t do them — !” I nodded at the house.

“The children?”

“I can’t leave them now.”

“You’re afraid — ?”

I spoke boldly. “I’m afraid of him.

Mrs. Grose’s large face showed me, at this, for the first time, the faraway faint glimmer of a consciousness more acute: I somehow made out in it the delayed dawn of an idea I myself had not given her and that was as yet quite obscure to me, It comes back to me that I thought instantly of this as something I could get from her; and I felt it to be connected with the desire she presently showed to know more. “When was it — on the tower?”

“About the middle of the month. At this same hour.”

“Almost at dark,” said Mrs. Grose.

“Oh, no, not nearly. I saw him as I see you.”

“Then how did he get in?”

“And how did he get out?” I laughed. “I had no opportunity to ask him! This evening, you see,” I pursued, “he has not been able to get in.”

“He only peeps?”

“I hope it will be confined to that!” She had now let go my hand; she turned away a little. I waited an instant; then I brought out: “Go to church. Goodbye. I must watch.”

Slowly she faced me again. “Do you fear for them?”

We met in another long look, “Don’t you?” Instead of answering she came nearer to the window and, for a minute, applied her face to the glass. “You see how he could see,” I meanwhile went on.

She didn’t move. “How long was he here?”

“Till I came out. I came to meet him.”

Mrs. Grose at last turned round, and there was still more in her face. “I couldn’t have come out.”

“Neither could l!” I laughed again. “But I did come. I have my duty.”

“So have I mine,” she replied; after which she added “What is he like?”

“I’ve been dying to tell you. But he’s like nobody.”

“Nobody?” she echoed.

“He has no hat.” Then seeing in her face that she already, in this, with a deeper dismay, found a touch of picture, I quickly added stroke to stroke. “He has red hair, very red, close-curling, and a pale face, long in shape, with straight, good features and little, rather queer whiskers that are as red as his hair. His eyebrows are, somehow, darker; they look particularly arched and as if they might move a good deal. His eyes are sharp, strange — awfully; but I only know clearly that they’re rather small and very fixed. His mouth’s wide, and his lips are thin, and except for his little whiskers he’s quite clean-shaven. He gives me a sort of sense of looking like an actor.”

“An actor!” It was impossible to resemble one less, at least, than Mrs. Grose at that moment.

“I’ve never seen one, but so I suppose them. He’s tall, active, erect,” I continued, “but never — no, never! — a gentleman.”

My companion’s face had blanched as I went on; her round eyes started and her mild mouth gaped. “A gentleman?” she gasped, confounded, stupefied: “a gentleman he?

“You know him then?”

She visibly tried to hold herself. “But he is handsome?”

I saw the way to help her. “Remarkably!”

“And dressed — ?”

“In somebody’s clothes. They’re smart, but they’re not his own.”

She broke into a breathless affirmative groan: “They’re the master’s!”

I caught it up. “You do know him?”

She faltered but a second. “Quint!” she cried.

“Quint?”

“Peter Quint — his own man, his valet, when he was here!”

“When the master was?”

Gaping still, but meeting me, she pieced it all together. “He never wore his hat, but he did wear — well, there were waistcoats missed. They were both here — last year. Then the master went, and Quint was alone.”

I followed, but halting a little. “Alone?”

“Alone with us.” Then, as from a deeper depth, “In charge,” she added.

“And what became of him?”

She hung fire so long that I was still more mystified. “He went, too,” she brought out at last.

“Went where?”

Her expression, at this, became extraordinary. “God knows where! He died.”

“Died?” I almost shrieked.

She seemed fairly to square herself, plant herself more firmly to utter the wonder of it. “Yes. Mr. Quint is dead.”

39

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 6

Henry James

It took of course more than that particular passage to place us together in presence of what we had now to live with as we could — my dreadful liability to impressions of the order so vividly exemplified, and my companion’s knowledge, henceforth — a knowledge half consternation and half compassion — of that liability. There had been, this evening, after the revelation that left me, for an hour, so prostrate — there had been, for either of us, no attendance on any service but a little service of tears and vows, of prayers and promises, a climax to the series of mutual challenges and pledges that had straightway ensued on our retreating together to me schoolroom and shutting ourselves up there to have everything out. The result of our having everything out was simply to reduce our situation to the last rigor of its elements. She herself had seen nothing, not the shadow of a shadow, and nobody in the house but the governess was in the governess’s plight; yet she accepted without directly impugning my sanity the truth as I gave it to her, and ended by showing me, on this ground, an awestricken tenderness, an expression of the sense of my more than questionable privilege, of which the very breath has remained with me as that of the sweetest of human charities.

What was settled between us, accordingly, that night, was that we thought we might bear things together; and I was not even sure that, in spite of her exemption, it was she who had the best of the burden. I knew at this hour, I think, as well as I knew later, what I was capable of meeting to shelter my pupils; but it took me some time to be wholly sure of what my honest ally was prepared for to keep terms with so compromising a contract, I was queer company enough — quite as queer as the company I received; but as I trace over what we went through I see how much common ground we must have found in the one idea that, by good fortune, could steady us. It was the idea, the second movement, that led me straight out, as I may say, of the inner chamber of my dread. I could take the air in the court, at least, and there Mrs. Grose could join me. Perfectly can I recall now the particular way strength came to me before we separated for the night. We had gone over and over every feature of what I had seen.

“He was looking for someone else, you say — someone who was not you?”

“He was looking for little Miles.” A portentous clearness now possessed me. “That’s whom he was looking for.”

“But how do you know?”

“I know, I know, I know!” My exaltation grew. “And you know, my dear!”

She didn’t deny this, but I required, I felt, not even so much telling as that. She resumed in a moment, at any rate: “What if he should see him?”

“Little Miles? That’s what he wants!”

She looked immensely scared again. “The child?”

“Heaven forbid! The man. He wants to appear to them.” That he might was an awful conception, and yet, somehow, I could keep it at bay; which, moreover, as we lingered there, was what I succeeded in practically proving, I had an absolute certainty that I should see again what I had already seen, but something within me said that by offering myself bravely as the sole subject of such experience, by accepting, by inviting, by surmounting it all, I should serve as an expiatory victim and guard the tranquility of my companions. The children, in especial I should thus fence about and absolutely save. I recall one of the last things I said that night to Mrs. Grose.

“It does strike me that my pupils have never mentioned — ”

She looked at me hard as I musingly pulled up. “His having been here and the time they were with him?”

“The time they were with him, and his name, his presence, his history, in any way.”

“Oh, the little lady doesn’t remember. She never heard or knew.”

“The circumstances of his death?” I thought with some intensity. “Perhaps not. But Miles would remember — Miles would know.”

“Ah, don’t try him!” broke from Mrs. Grose

I returned her the look she had given me. “Don’t be afraid.” I continued to think. “It is rather odd.”

“That he has never spoken of him?”

“Never by the least allusion. And you tell me they were ‘great friends’?”

“Oh, it wasn’t him!” Mrs. Grose with emphasis declared. “It was Quint’s own fancy. To play with him, I mean — to spoil him,” She paused a moment; then she added: “Quint was much too free.”

This gave me, straight from my vision of his face — such a face! — a sudden sickness of disgust. “Too free with my boy?”

“Too free with everyone!”

I forbore, for the moment, to analyze this description further than by the reflection that a part of it applied to several of the members of the household, of the half-dozen maids and men who were still of our small colony. But there was everything, for our apprehension, in the lucky fact that no discomfortable legend, no perturbation of scullions, had ever, within anyone’s memory attached to the kind old place. It had neither bad name nor ill fame, and Mrs. Grose, most apparently, only desired to cling to me and to quake in silence. I even put her, the very last thing of all, to the test. It was when, at midnight, she had her hand on the schoolroom door to take leave. “I have it from you then — for it’s of great importance — that he was definitely and admittedly bad?”

“Oh, not admittedly. I knew it — but the master didn’t.”

“And you never told him?”

“Well, he didn’t like tale-bearing — he hated complaints. He was terribly short with anything of that kind, and if people were all right to him — ”

“He wouldn’t be bothered with more?” This squared well enough with my impression of him: he was not a trouble-loving gentleman, nor so very particular perhaps about some of the company he kept. All the same, I pressed my interlocutress, “I promise you I would have told!”

She felt my discrimination. “I daresay I was wrong. But, really, I was afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Of things that man could do. Quint was so clever — he was so deep.”

I took this in still more than, probably, I showed. “You weren’t afraid of anything else? Not of his effect — ?”

“His effect?” she repeated with a face of anguish and waiting while I faltered.

“On innocent little precious lives. They were in your charge.”

“No, they were not in mine!” she roundly and distressfully returned. “The master believed in him and placed him here because he was supposed not to be well and the country air so good for him. So he had everything to say. Yes” — she let me have it — “even about them.

“Them — that creature?” I had to smother a kind of howl. “And you could bear it!”

“No. I couldn’t — and I can’t now!” And the poor woman burst into tears.

A rigid control, from the next day, was, as I have said, to follow them; yet how often and how passionately, for a week, we came back together to the subject! Much as we had discussed it that Sunday night, I was, in the immediate later hours in especial — for it may be imagined whether I slept — still haunted with the shadow of something she had not told me. I myself had kept back nothing, but there was a word Mrs. Grose had kept back. I was sure, moreover, by morning, that this was not from a failure of frankness, but because on every side there were fears. It seems to me indeed, in retrospect, that by the time the morrow’s sun was high I had restlessly read into the fact before us almost all the meaning they were to receive from subsequent and more cruel occurrences. What they gave me above all was just the sinister figure of the living man — the dead one would keep awhile! — and of the months he had continuously passed at Bly, which, added up, made a formidable stretch. The limit of this evil time had arrived only when, on the dawn of a winter’s morning, Peter Quint was found, by a laborer going to early work, stone dead on the road from the village: a catastrophe explained — superficially at least — by a visible wound to his head; such a wound as might have been produced — and as, on the final evidence, had been — by a fatal slip, in the dark and after leaving the public house, on the steepish icy slope, a wrong path altogether, at the bottom of which he lay. The icy slope, the turn mistaken at night and in liquor, accounted for much — practically, in the end and after the inquest and boundless chatter, for everything; but there had been matters in his life — strange passages and perils, secret disorders, vices more than suspected — that would have accounted for a good deal more.

I scarce know how to put my story into words that shall be a credible picture of my state of mind; but I was in these days literally able to find a joy in the extraordinary flight of heroism the occasion demanded of me, I now saw that I had been asked for a service admirable and difficult; and there would be a greatness in letting it be seen — oh, in the right quarter! — that I could succeed where many another girl might have failed. It was an immense help to me — I confess I rather applaud myself as I look back! — that I saw my service so strongly and so simply. I was there to protect and defend the little creatures in the world the most bereaved and the most lovable, the appeal of whose helplessness had suddenly become only too explicit, a deep, constant ache of one’s own committed heart. We were cut off, really, together; we were united in our danger. They had nothing but me, and I — well, I had them. It was in short a magnificent chance. This chance presented itself to me in an image richly material. I was a screen — I was to stand before them. The more I saw, the less they would. I began to watch them in a stifled suspense, a disguised excitement that might well, had it continued too long, have turned to something like madness. What saved me, as I now see, was that it turned to something else altogether. It didn’t last as suspense — it was superseded by horrible proofs. Proofs, I say, yes — from the moment I really took hold.

This moment dated from an afternoon hour that I happened to spend in the grounds with the younger of my pupils alone. We had left Miles indoors, on the red cushion of a deep window seat; he had wished to finish a book, and I had been glad to encourage a purpose so laudable in a young man whose only defect was an occasional excess of the restless. His sister, on the contrary, had been alert to come out, and I strolled with her half an hour, seeking the shade, for the sun was still high and the day exceptionally warm. I was aware afresh, with her, as we went, of how, like her brother, she contrived — it was the charming thing in both children — to let me alone without appearing to drop me and to accompany me without appearing to surround. They were never importunate and yet never listless. My attention to them all really went to seeing them amuse themselves immensely without me: this was a spectacle they seemed actively to prepare and that engaged me as an active admirer. I walked in a world of their invention — they had no occasion whatever to draw upon mine; so that my time was taken only with being, for them, some remarkable person or thing that the game of the moment required and that was merely, thanks to my superior, my exalted stamp, a happy and highly distinguished sinecure. I forget what I was on the present occasion; I only remember that I was something very important and very quiet and that Flora was playing very hard. We were on the edge of the lake, and, as we had lately begun geography, the lake was the Sea of AzofA shallow part of the Black Sea..

Suddenly, in these circumstances, I became aware that, on the other side of the Sea of Azof, we had an interested spectator. The way this knowledge gathered in me was the strangest thing in the world — the strangest, that is, except the very much stranger in which it quickly merged itself. I had sat down with a piece of work — for I was something or other that could sit — on the old stone bench which overlooked the pond; and in this position I began to take in with certitude, and yet without direct vision, the presence, at a distance, of a third person. The old trees, the thick shrubbery, made a great and pleasant shade, but it was all suffused with the brightness of the hot, still hour. There was no ambiguity in anything; none whatever, at least, in the conviction I from one moment to another found myself forming as to what I should see straight before me and across the lake as a consequence of raising my eyes. They were attached at this juncture to the stitching in which I was engaged, and I can feel once more the spasm of my effort not to move them till I should so have steadied myself as to be able to make up my mind what to do. There was an alien object in view — a figure whose right of presence I instantly, passionately questioned. I recollect counting over perfectly the possibilities, reminding myself that nothing was more natural, for instance, than the appearance of one of the men about the place, or even of a messenger, a postman, or a tradesman’s boy, from the village. That reminder had as little effect on my practical certitude as I was conscious — still even without looking — of its having upon the character and attitude of our visitor. Nothing was more natural than that these things should be the other things that they absolutely were not.

Of the positive identity of the apparition I would assure myself as soon as the small clock of my courage should have ticked out the right second; meanwhile, with an effort that was already sharp enough, I transferred my eyes straight to little Flora, who, at the moment, was about ten yards away. My heart had stood still for an instant with the wonder and terror of the question whether she too would see; and I held my breath while I waited for what a cry from her, what some sudden innocent sign either of interest or of alarm, would tell me. I waited, but nothing came; then, in the first place — and there is something more dire in this, I feel, than in anything I have to relate — I was determined by a sense that, within a minute, all sounds from her had previously dropped; and, in the second, by the circumstance that, also within the minute, she had, in her play, turned her back to the water. This was her attitude when I at last looked at her — looked with the confirmed conviction that we were still, together, under direct personal notice. She had picked up a small flat piece of wood, which happened to have in it a little hole that had evidently suggested to her the idea of sticking in another fragment that might figure as a mast and make the thing a boat This second morsel, as I watched her, she was very markedly and intently attempting to tighten in its place. My apprehension of what she was doing sustained me so that after some seconds I felt I was ready for more. Then I again shifted my eyes — I faced what I had to face.

40

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 7

Henry James

I got hold of Mrs. Grose as soon after this as I could; and I can give no intelligible account of how I fought out the interval. Yet I still hear myself cry as I fairly threw myself into her arms: “They know — it’s too monstrous: they know, they know!”

“And what on earth — ?” I felt her incredulity as she held me.

“Why, all that we know — and heaven knows what else besides!” Then, as she released me, I made it out to her, made it out perhaps only now with full coherency even to myself. “Two hours ago, in the garden” — I could scarce articulate — “Flora saw!

Mrs. Grose took it as she might have taken a blow in the stomach. “She has told you?” she panted.

“Not a word — that’s the horror. She kept it to herself! The child of eight, that child!” Unutterable still, for me, was the stupefaction of it.

Mrs. Grose, of course, could only gape the wider. “Then how do you know?”

“I was there — I saw with my eyes: saw that she was perfectly aware.”

“Do you mean aware of him?

“No — of her.” I was conscious as I spoke that I looked prodigious things, for I got the slow reflection of them in my companion’s face. “Another person — this time; but a figure of quite as unmistakable horror and evil: a woman in black, pale and dreadful — with such an air also, and such a face! — on the other side of the lake. I was there with the child — quiet for the hour; and in the midst of it she came.”

“Came how — from where?”

“From where they come from! She just appeared and stood there — but not so near.”

“And without coming nearer?”

“Oh, for the effect and the feeling, she might have been as close as you!”

My friend, with an odd impulse, fell back a step. “Was she someone you’ve never seen?”

“Yes. But someone the child has. Someone you have. Then, to show how I had thought it all out: “My predecessor — the one who died.”

“Miss Jessel?”

“Miss Jessel. You don’t believe me?” I pressed.

She turned right and left in her distress. “How can you be sure?”

This drew from me, in the state of my nerves, a flash of impatience. “Then ask Flora — she’s sure!” But I had no sooner spoken than I caught myself up. “No, for God’s sake, don’t! She’ll say she isn’t — she’ll lie!”

Mrs. Grose was not too bewildered instinctively to protest “Ah, how can you?”

“Because I’m clear. Flora doesn’t want me to know.”

“It’s only then to spare you.”

“No, no — there are depths, depths! The more I go over it, the more I see in it, and the more I see in it, the more I fear. I don’t know what I don’t see — what I don’t fear!”

Mrs. Grose tried to keep up with me. “You mean you’re afraid of seeing her again?”

“Oh, no; that’s nothing — now!” Then I explained. “It’s of not seeing her.”

But my companion only looked wan. “I don’t understand you.”

“Why, it’s that the child may keep it up — and that the child assuredly will — without my knowing it.”

At the image of this possibility Mrs. Grose for a moment collapsed, yet presently to pull herself together again, as if from the positive force of the sense of what, should we yield an inch, there would really be to give way to. “Dear, dear — we must keep our heads! And after all, if she doesn’t mind it — !” She even tried a grim joke. “Perhaps she likes it!”

“Likes such things — a scrap of an infant!”

“Isn’t it just a proof of her blessed innocence?” my friend bravely inquired.

She brought me, for the instant, almost round. “Oh, we must clutch at that — we must cling to it! If it isn’t a proof of what you say, it’s a proof of — God knows what! For the woman’s a horror of horrors.”

Mrs. Grose, at this, fixed her eyes a minute on the ground; then at last raising them, “Tell me how you know,” she said.

“Then you admit it’s what she was?” I cried.

“Tell me how you know,” my friend simply repeated.

“Know? By seeing her! By the way she looked.”

“At you, do you mean — so wickedly?”

“Dear me, no — I could have borne that. She gave me never a glance. She only fixed the child.”

Mrs. Grose tried to see it. “Fixed her?”

“Ah, with such awful eyes!”

She stared at mine as if they might really have resembled them. “Do you mean of dislike?”

“God help us, no. Of something much worse.”

“Worse than dislike?” — this left her indeed at a loss.

“With a determination — indescribable. With a kind of fury of intention.”

I made her turn pale. “Intention?”

“To get hold of her.” Mrs. Grose — her eyes just lingering on mine — gave a shudder and walked to the window; and while she stood there looking out I completed my statement. “That’s what Flora knows.”

After a little she turned round. “The person was in black, you say?”

“In mourning — rather poor, almost shabby. But — yes — with extraordinary beauty.” I now recognized to what I had at last, stroke by stroke, brought the the victim of my confidence, for she quite visibly weighed this. “Oh, handsome — very, very,” I insisted; “wonderfully handsome. But infamous.”

She slowly came back to me. “Miss Jessel — was infamous.” She once more took my hand in both her own, holding it as tight as if to fortify me against the increase of alarm I might draw from this disclosure. “They were both infamous,” she finally said.

So, for a little, we faced it once more together; and I found absolutely a degree of help in seeing it now so straight. “I appreciate,” I said, “the great decency of your not having hitherto spoken; but the time has certainly come to give me the whole thing.” She appeared to assent to this, but still only in silence; seeing which I went on: “I must have it now. Of what did she die? Come, there was something between them.”

“There was everything.”

“In spite of the difference — ?”

“Oh, of their rank, their condition” — she brought it woefully out. “She was a lady.”

I turned it over; I again saw. “Yes — she was a lady.”

“And he so dreadfully below,” said Mrs. Grose.

I felt that I doubtless needn’t press too hard, in such company, on the place of a servant in the scale; but there was nothing to prevent an acceptance of my companion’s own measure of my predecessor’s abasement. There was a way to deal with that, and I dealt; the more readily for my full vision — on the evidence — of our employer’s late clever, good-looking “own” man; impudent, assured, spoiled, depraved. “The fellow was a hound.”

Mrs. Grose considered as if it were perhaps a little a case for a sense of shades. “I’ve never seen one like him. He did what he wished.”

“With her?

“With them all.”

It was as if now in my friend’s own eyes Miss Jessel had again appeared. I seemed at any rate, for an instant, to see their evocation of her as distinctly as I had seen her by the pond; and I brought out with decision: “It must have been also what she wished!”

Mrs. Grose’s face signified that it had been indeed, but she said at the same time: “Poor woman — she paid for it!”

“Then you do know what she died of?” I asked.

“No — I know nothing. I wanted not to know; I was glad enough I didn’t; and I thanked heaven she was well out of this!”

“Yet you had, then, your idea — ”

“Of her real reason for leaving? Oh, yes — as to that. She couldn’t have stayed. Fancy it here — for a governess! And afterward I imagined — and I still imagine. And what I imagine is dreadful.”

“Not so dreadful as what I do,” I replied; on which I must have shown her — as I was indeed but too conscious — a front of miserable defeat. It brought out again all her compassion for me, and at the renewed touch of her kindness my power to resist broke down. I burst, as I had, the other time, made her burst, into tears; she took me to her motherly breast, and my lamentation overflowed. “I don’t do it!” I sobbed in despair; “I don’t save or shield them! It’s far worse than I dreamed — they’re lost!”

41

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 8

Henry James

What I had said to Mrs. Grose was true enough: there were in the matter I had put before her depths and possibilities that I lacked resolution to sound; so that when we met once more in the wonder of it we were of a common mind about the duty of resistance to extravagant fancies. We were to keep our heads if we should keep nothing else — difficult indeed as that might be in the face of what, in our prodigious experience, was least to be questioned. Late that night, while the house slept, we had another talk in my room, when she went all the way with me as to its being beyond doubt that I had seen exactly what I had seen. To hold her perfectly in the pinch of that, I found I had only to ask her how, if I had “made it up,” I came to be able to give, of each of the persons appearing to me, a picture disclosing, to the last detail, their special marks — a portrait on the exhibition of which she had instantly recognized and named them. She wished of course — small blame to her! — to sink the whole subject; and I was quick to assure her that my own interest in it had now violently taken the form of a search for the way to escape from it. I encountered her on the ground of a probability that with recurrence — for recurrence we took for granted — I should get used to my danger, distinctly professing that my personal exposure had suddenly become the least of my discomforts. It was my new suspicion that was intolerable; and yet even to this complication the later hours of the day had brought a little ease.

On leaving her, after my first outbreak, I had of course returned to my pupils, associating the right remedy for my dismay with that sense of their charm which I had already found to be a thing I could positively cultivate and which had never failed me yet. I had simply, in other words, plunged afresh into Flora’s special society and there become aware — it was almost a luxury! — that she could put her little conscious hand straight upon the spot that ached. She had looked at me in sweet speculation and then had accused me to my face of having “cried.” I had supposed I had brushed away the ugly signs: but I could literally — for the time, at all events — rejoice, under this fathomless charity, that they had not entirely disappeared. To gaze into the depths of blue of the child’s eyes and pronounce their loveliness a trick of premature cunning was to be guilty of a cynicism in preference to which I naturally preferred to abjure my judgment and, so far as might be, my agitation. I couldn’t abjure for merely wanting to, but I could repeat to Mrs. Grose as I did there, over and over, in the small hours — that with their voices in the air, their pressure on one’s heart, and their fragrant faces against one’s cheek, everything fell to the ground but their incapacity and their beauty. It was a pity that, somehow, to settle this once for all, I had equally to re-enumerate the signs of subtlety that, in the afternoon, by the lake, had made a miracle of my show of self-possession. It was a pity to be obliged to reinvestigate the certitude of the moment itself and repeat how it had come to me as a revelation that the inconceivable communion I then surprised was a matter, for either party, of habit. It was a pity that I should have had to quaver out again the reasons for my not having, in my delusion, so much as questioned that the little girl saw our visitant even as I actually saw Mrs. Grose herself, and that she wanted, by just so much as she did thus see, to make me suppose she didn’t, and at the same time, without showing anything, arrive at a guess as to whether I myself did! It was a pity that I needed once more to describe the portentous little activity by which she sought to divert my attention — the perceptible increase of movement, the greater intensity of play, the singing, the gabbling of nonsense, and the invitation to romp.

Yet if I had not indulged, to prove there was nothing in it, in this review, I should have missed the two or three dim elements of comfort that still remained to me. I should not for instance have been able to asseverate to my friend that I was certain — which was so much to the good — that I at least had not betrayed myself. I should not have been prompted, by stress of need, by desperation of mind — I scarce know what to call it — to invoke such further aid to intelligence as might spring from pushing my colleague fairly to the wall. She had told me, bit by bit, under pressure, a great deal; but a small shifty spot on the wrong side of it all still sometimes brushed my brow like the wing of a bat; and I remember how on this occasion — for the sleeping house and the concentration alike of our danger and our watch seemed to help — felt the importance of giving the last jerk to the curtain. “I don’t believe anything so horrible,” I recollect saying; “no, let us put it definitely, my dear, that I don’t. But if I did, you know, there’s a thing I should require now, just without sparing you the least bit more — , not a scrap, come! — to get out of you. What was it you had in mind when, in our distress, before Miles came back, over the letter from his school, you said, under my insistence, that you didn’t pretend for him that he had not literally ever been ‘bad’? He has not literally ‘ever,’ in these weeks that I myself have lived with him and so closely watched him; he has been an imperturbable little prodigy of delightful, lovable goodness. Therefore you might perfectly have made the claim for him if you had not, as it happened, seen an exception to take. What was your exception, and to what passage in your personal observation of him did you refer?”

It was a dreadfully austere inquiry, but levity was not our note, and, at any rate, before the gray dawn admonished us to separate I had got my answer. What my friend had had in mind proved to be immensely to the purpose. It was neither more nor less than the circumstance that for a period of several months Quint and the boy had been perpetually together. It was in fact the very appropriate truth that she had ventured to criticize the propriety, to hint at the incongruity, of so close an alliance, and even to go so far on the subject as a frank overture to Miss Jessel. Miss Jessel had, with a most strange manner, requested her to mind her business, and the good woman had, on this, directly approached little Miles. What she had said to him, since I pressed, was that she liked to see young gentlemen not forget their station.

I pressed again, of course, at this. “You reminded him that Quint was only a base menial?”

“As you might say! And it was his answer, for one thing, that was bad.”

“And for another thing?” I waited. “He repeated your words to Quint?”

“No, not that. It’s just what he wouldn’t!” she could still impress upon me. “I was sure, at any rate,” she added, “that he didn’t. But he denied certain occasions.”

“What occasions?”

“When they had been about together quite as if Quint were his tutor — and a very grand one — and Miss Jessel only for the little lady. When he had gone off with the fellow, I mean, and spent hours with him.”

“He then prevaricated about it — he said he hadn’t?” Her assent was clear enough to cause me to add in a moment: “I see. He lied.”

“Oh!” Mrs. Grose mumbled. This was a suggestion that it didn’t matter; which indeed she backed up by a further remark. “You see, after all, Miss Jessel didn’t mind. She didn’t forbid him.”

I considered. “Did he put that to you as a justification?”

At this she dropped again. “No, he never spoke of it.”

“Never mentioned her in connection with Quint?”

She saw, visibly flushing, where I was coming out. “Well, he didn’t show anything. He denied,” she repeated — “he denied.”

Lord, how I pressed her now! “So that you could see he knew what was between the two wretches?”

“I don’t know — I don’t know!” the poor woman groaned.

“You do know, you dear thing,” I replied; “only you haven’t my dreadful boldness of mind, and you keep back, out of timidity and modesty and delicacy, even the impression that, in the past, when you had, without my aid, to flounder about in silence, most of all made you miserable. But I shall get it out of you yet! There was something in the boy that suggested to you,” I continued, “that he covered and concealed their relation.”

“Oh, he couldn’t prevent — ”

“Your learning the truth? I daresay! But, heavens,” I fell, with vehemence, athinking, “what it shows that they must, to that extent, have succeeded in making of him!”

“Ah, nothing that’s not nice now!” Mrs. Grose lugubriously pleaded.

“I don’t wonder you looked queer,” I persisted, “when I mentioned to you the letter from his school!”

“I doubt if I looked as queer as you!” she retorted with homely force. “And if he was so bad then as that comes to, how is he such an angel now?”

“Yes, indeed — and if he was a fiend at school! How, how, how? Well,” I said in my torment, “you must put it to me again, but I shall not be able to tell you for some days. Only, put it to me again!” I cried in a way that made my friend stare. “There are directions in which I must not for the present let myself go.” Meanwhile I returned to her first example — the one to which she had just previously referred — of the boy’s happy capacity for an occasional slip. “If Quint — on your remonstrance at the time you speak of — was a base menial, one of the things Miles said to you, I find myself guessing, was that you were another.” Again her admission was so adequate that I continued: “And you forgave him that?”

“Wouldn’t you?

“Oh, yes!” And we exchanged there, in the stillness, a sound of the oddest amusement. Then I went on: “At all events, while he was with the man — ”

“Miss Flora was with the woman. It suited them all!” It suited me, too, I felt, only too well; by which I mean that it suited exactly the particularly deadly view I was in the very act of forbidding myself to entertain. But I so far succeeded in checking the expression of this view that I will throw, just here, no further light on it than may be offered by the mention of my final observation to Mrs. Grose. “His having lied and been impudent are, I confess, less engaging specimens than I had hoped to have from you of the outbreak in him of the little natural man. Still,” I mused, “They must do, for they make me feel more than ever that I must watch.”

It made me blush, the next minute, to see in my friend’s face how much more unreservedly she had forgiven him than her anecdote struck me as presenting to my own tenderness an occasion for doing. This came out when, at the schoolroom door, she quitted me. “Surely you don’t accuse him — ”

“Of carrying on an intercourse that he conceals from me? Ah, remember that, until further evidence, I now accuse nobody.” Then, before shutting her out to go, by another passage, to her own place, “I must just wait,” I wound up.

42

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 9

Henry James

I waited and waited, and the days, as they elapsed, took something from my consternation. A very few of them, in fact, passing, in constant sight of my pupils, without a fresh incident sufficed to give to grievous fancies and even to odious memories a kind of brush of the sponge. I have spoken of the surrender to their extraordinary childish grace as a thing I could actively cultivate, and it may be imagined if I neglected now to address myself to this source for whatever it would yield. Stranger than I can express, certainly, was the effort to struggle against my new lights; it would doubtless have been, however, a greater tension still had it not been so frequently successful. I used to wonder how my little charges could help guessing that I thought strange things about them; and the circumstance that these things only made them more interesting was not by itself a direct aid to keeping them in the dark. I trembled lest they should see that they were so immensely more interesting. Putting things at the worst, at all events, as in meditation I so often did, any clouding of their innocence could only be — blameless and foredoomed as they were — a reason the more for taking risks. There were moments when, by an irresistible impulse, I found myself catching them up and pressing them to my heart. As soon as I had done so I used to say to myself: “What will they think of that? Doesn’t it betray too much?” It would have been easy to get into a sad, wild tangle about how much I might betray; but the real account, I feel, of the hours of peace that I could still enjoy was that the immediate charm of my companions was a beguilement still effective even under the shadow of the possibility that it was studied. For if it occurred to me that I might occasionally excite suspicion by the little outbreaks of my sharper passion for them, so too I remember wondering if I mightn’t see a queerness in the traceable increase of their own demonstrations.

They were at this period extravagantly and preternaturally fond of me; which, after all, I could reflect, was no more than a graceful response in children perpetually bowed over and hugged. The homage of which they were so lavish succeeded, in truth, for my nerves, quite as well as if I never appeared to myself, as I may say, literally to catch them at a purpose in it. They had never, I think, wanted to do so many things for their poor protectress; I mean — though they got their lessons better and better, which was naturally what would please her most — in the way of diverting, entertaining, surprising her; reading her passages, telling her stories, acting her charades, pouncing out at her, in disguises, as animals and historical characters, and above all astonishing her by the “pieces” they had secretly got by heart and could interminably recite. I should never get to the bottom — were I to let myself go even now — of the prodigious private commentary, all under still more private correction, with which, in these days, I overscored their full hours. They had shown me from the first a facility for everything, a general faculty which, taking a fresh start, achieved remarkable flights. They got their little tasks as if they loved them, and indulged, from the mere exuberance of the gift, in the most unimposed little miracles of memory. They not only popped out at me as tigers and as Romans, but as Shakespeareans, astronomers, and navigators. This was so singularly the case that it had presumably much to do with the fact as to which, at the present day, I am at a loss for a different explanation: I allude to my unnatural composure on the subject of another school for Miles. What I remember is that I was content not, for the time, to open the question, and that contentment must have sprung from the sense of his perpetually striking show of cleverness. He was too clever for a bad governess, for a parson’s daughter, to spoil; and the strangest if not the brightest thread in the pensive embroidery I just spoke of was the impression I might have got, if I had dared to work it out, that he was under some influence operating in his small intellectual life as a tremendous incitement.

If it was easy to reflect, however, that such a boy could postpone school, it was at least as marked that for such a boy to have been “kicked out” by a school master was a mystification without end. Let me add that in their company now — and I was careful almost never to be out of it — I could follow no scent very far. We lived in a cloud of music and love and success and private theatricals. The musical sense in each of the children was of the quickest, but the elder in especial had a marvelous knack of catching and repeating. The schoolroom piano broke into all gruesome fancies; and when that failed there were confabulations in corners, with a sequel of one of them going out in the highest spirits in order to “come in” as something new. I had had brothers myself, and it was no revelation to me that little girls could be slavish idolaters of little boys. What surpassed everything was that there was a little boy in the world who could have for the inferior age, sex, and intelligence so fine a consideration. They were extraordinarily at one, and to say that they never either quarreled or complained is to make the note of praise coarse for their quality of sweetness. Sometimes, indeed, when I dropped into coarseness, I perhaps came across traces of little understandings between them by which one of them should keep me occupied while the other slipped away. There is a naive side, I suppose, in all diplomacy; but if my pupils practiced upon me, it was surely with the minimum of grossness. It was all in the other quarter that, after a lull, the grossness broke out.

I find that I really hang back; but I must take my plunge. In going on with the record of what was hideous at Bly, I not only challenge the most liberal faith — for which I little care; but — and this is another matter — I renew what I myself suffered, I again push my way through it to the end. There came suddenly an hour after which, as I look back, the affair seems to me to have been all pure suffering; but I have at least reached the heart of it, and the straightest road out is doubtless to advance. One evening — with nothing to lead up or to prepare it — I felt the cold touch of the impression that had breathed on me the night of my arrival and which, much lighter then, as I have mentioned, I should probably have made little of in memory had my subsequent sojourn been less agitated. I had not gone to bed; I sat reading by a couple of candles. There was a roomful of old books at Bly — last-century fiction, some of it, which, to the extent of a distinctly deprecated renown, but never to so much as that of a stray specimen, had reached the sequestered home and appealed to the unavowed curiosity of my youth. I remember that the book I had in my hand was Fielding’s Amelia, also that I was wholly awake. I recall further both a general conviction that it was horribly late and a particular objection to looking at my watch. I figure, finally, that the white curtain draping, in the fashion of those days, the head of Flora’s little bed, shrouded, as I had assured myself long before, the perfection of childish rest. I recollect in short that, though I was deeply interested in my author, I found myself, at the turn of a page and with his spell all scattered, looking straight up from him and hard at the door of my room. There was a moment during which I listened, reminded of the faint sense I had had, the first night, of there being something undefinably astir in the house, and noted the soft breath of the open casement just move the half-drawn blind. Then, with all the marks of a deliberation that must have seemed magnificent had there been anyone to admire it, I laid down my book, rose to my feet, and, taking a candle, went straight out of the room and, from the passage, on which my light made little impression, noiselessly closed and locked the door.

I can say now neither what determined nor what guided me, but I went straight along the lobby, holding my candle high, till I came within sight of the tall window that presided over the great turn of the staircase. At this point I precipitately found myself aware of three things. They were practically simultaneous, yet they had flashes of succession. My candle, under a bold flourish, went out, and I perceived, by the uncovered window, that the yielding dusk of earliest morning rendered it unnecessary. Without it, the next instant, I saw that there was someone on the stair. I speak of sequences, but I required no lapse of seconds to stiffen myself for a third encounter with Quint. The apparition had reached the landing halfway up and was therefore on the spot nearest the window, where at sight of me, it stopped short and fixed me exactly as it had fixed me from the tower and from the garden. He knew me as well as I knew him; and so, in the cold, faint twilight, with a glimmer in the high glass and another on the polish of the oak stair below, we faced each other in our common intensity. He was absolutely, on this occasion, a living, detestable, dangerous presence. But that was not the wonder of wonders; I reserve this distinction for quite another circumstance: the circumstance that dread had unmistakably quitted me and that there was nothing in me there that didn’t meet and measure him.

I had plenty of anguish after that extraordinary moment, but I had, thank God, no terror. And he knew I had not — I found myself at the end of an instant magnificently aware of this. I felt, in a fierce rigor of confidence, that if I stood my ground a minute I should cease — for the time, at least — to have him to reckon with; and during the minute, accordingly, the thing was as human and hideous as a real interview: hideous just because it was human, as human as to have met alone, in the small hours, in a sleeping house, some enemy, some adventurer, some criminal. It was the dead silence of our long gaze at such close quarters that gave the whole horror, huge as it was, its only note of the unnatural. If I had met a murderer in such a place and at such an hour, we still at least would have spoken. Something would have passed, in life, between us; if nothing had passed, one of us would have moved. The moment was so prolonged that it would have taken but little more to make me doubt if even I were in life. I can’t express what followed it save by saying that the silence itself — which was indeed in a manner an attestation of my strength — became the element into which I saw the figure disappear; in which I definitely saw it turn as I might have seen the low wretch to which it had once belonged turn on receipt of an order, and pass, with my eyes on the villainous back that no hunch could have more disfigured, straight down the staircase and into the darkness in which the next bend was lost.

43

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 10

Henry James

I remained awhile at the top of the stair, but with the effect presently of understanding that when my visitor had gone, he had gone: then I returned to my room. The foremost thing I saw there by the light of the candle I had left burning was that Flora’s little bed was empty; and on this I caught my breath with all the terror that, five minutes before, I had been able to resist. I dashed at the place in which I had left her lying and over which (for the small silk counterpane and the sheets were disarranged) the white curtains had been deceivingly pulled forward; then my step, to my unutterable relief, produced an answering sound: I perceived an agitation of the window blind, and the child, ducking down, emerged rosily from the other side of it. She stood there in so much of her candor and so little of her nightgown, with her pink bare feet and the golden glow of her curls. She looked intensely grave, and I had never had such a sense of losing an advantage acquired (the thrill of which had just been so prodigious) as on my consciousness that she addressed me with a reproach. “You naughty: where have you been?” — instead of challenging her own irregularity I found myself arraigned and explaining. She herself explained, for that matter, with the loveliest, eagerest simplicity. She had known suddenly, as she lay there, that I was out of the room, and had jumped up to see what had become of me. I had dropped, with the joy of her reappearance, back into my chair — feeling then, and then only, a little faint; and she had pattered straight over to me, thrown herself upon my knee, given herself to be held with the flame of the candle full in the wonderful little face that was still flushed with sleep. I remember closing my eyes an instant, yieldingly, consciously, as before the excess of something beautiful that shone out of the blue of her own. “You were looking for me out of the window?” I said. “You thought I might be walking in the grounds?”

“Well, you know, I thought someone was” — she never blanched as she smiled out that at me.

Oh, how I looked at her now! “And did you see anyone?”

“Ah, no!” she returned, almost with the full privilege of childish inconsequence, resentfully, though with a long sweetness in her little drawl of the negative.

At that moment, in the state of my nerves, I absolutely believed she lied; and if I once more closed my eyes it was before the dazzle of the three or four possible ways in which I might take this up. One of these, for a moment, tempted me with such singular intensity that, to withstand it, I must have gripped my little girl with a spasm that, wonderfully, she submitted to without a cry or a sign of fright. Why not break out at her on the spot and have it all over? — give it to her straight in her lovely little lighted face? “You see, you see, you know that you do and that you already quite suspect I believe it; therefore, why not frankly confess it to me, so that we may at least live with it together and learn perhaps, in the strangeness of our fate, where we are and what it means?” This solicitation dropped, alas, as it came: if I could immediately have succumbed to it I might have spared myself — well, you’ll see what. Instead of succumbing I sprang again to my feet, looked at her bed, and took a helpless middle way. “Why did you pull the curtain over the place to make me think you were still there?”

Flora luminously considered, after which, with her little divine smile: “Because I don’t like to frighten you!”

“But if I had, by your idea, gone out — ?”

She absolutely declined to be puzzled, she turned her eyes to the name of the candle as if the question were as irrelevant, or at any rate as impersonal, as Mrs. MarcetJane Marcet (1769-1858). Author of many popular introductory textbooks on science, mainly for children. or nine-times-nine. “Oh, but you know,” she quite adequately answered, “that you might come back, you dear, and that you have!” And after a little, when she had got into bed, I had, for a long time, by almost sitting on her to hold her hand, to prove that I recognized the pertinence of my return.

You may imagine the general complexion, from that moment, of my nights. I repeatedly sat up till I didn’t know when; I selected moments when my roommate unmistakably slept, and, stealing out, took noiseless turns in the passage and even pushed as far as to where I had last met Quint. But I never met him there again, and I may as well say at once that I on no other occasion saw him in the house. I just missed, on the staircase, on the other hand, a different adventure. Looking down it from the top I once recognized the presence of a woman seated on one of the lower steps with her back presented to me, her body half-bowed and her head, in an attitude of woe, in her hands. I had been there but an instant, however, when she vanished without looking round at me. I knew, nonetheless, exactly what dreadful face she had to show; and I wondered whether, if instead of being above I had been below, I should have had, for going up, the same nerve I had lately shown Quint. Well, there continued to be plenty of chance for nerve. On the eleventh night after my latest encounter with that gentleman — they were all numbered now — I had an alarm that perilously skirted it and that indeed, from the particular quality of its unexpectedness, proved quite my sharpest shock. It was precisely the first night during this series that, weary with watching, I had felt that I might again without laxity lay myself down at my old hour. I slept immediately and, as I afterward knew, till about one o’clock; but when I woke it was to sit straight up, as completely roused as if a hand had shook me. I had left a light burning, but it was now out, and I felt an instant certainty that Flora had extinguished it. This brought me to my feet and straight, in the darkness, to her bed, which I found she had left. A glance at the window enlightened me further, and the striking of a match completed the picture.

The child had again got up — this time blowing out the taper, and had again, for some purpose of observation or response, squeezed in behind the blind and was peering out into the night. That she now saw — as she had not, I had satisfied myself, the previous time — was proved to me by the fact that she was disturbed neither by my reillumination nor by the haste I made to get into slippers and into a wrap. Hidden, protected, absorbed, she evidently rested on the sill — the casement opened forward — and gave herself up. There was a great still moon to help her, and this fact had counted in my quick decision. She was face to face with the apparition we had met at the lake, and could now communicate with it as she had not then been able to do. What I, on my side, had to care for was, without disturbing her, to reach, from the corridor, some other window in the same quarter. I got to the door without her hearing me; I got out of it, closed it, and listened, from the other side, for some sound from her. While I stood in the passage I had my eyes on her brother’s door, which was but ten steps off and which, indescribably, produced in me a renewal of the strange impulse that I lately spoke of as my temptation. What if I should go straight in and march to his window? — what if, by risking to his boyish bewilderment a revelation of my motive, I should throw across the rest of the mystery the long halter of my boldness?

This thought held me sufficiently to make me cross to his threshold and pause again. I preternaturally listened; I figured to myself what might portentously be; I wondered if his bed were also empty and he too were secretly at watch. It was a deep, soundless minute, at the end of which my impulse failed. He was quiet; he might be innocent; the risk was hideous; I turned away. There was a figure in the grounds — a figure prowling for a sight, the visitor with whom Flora was engaged; but it was not the visitor most concerned with my boy. I hesitated afresh, but on other grounds and only a few seconds; then I had made my choice. There were empty rooms at Bly, and it was only a question of choosing the right one. The right one suddenly presented itself to me as the lower one — though high above the gardens — in the solid corner of the house that I have spoken of as the old tower. This was a large, square chamber, arranged with some state as a bedroom, the extravagant size of which made it so inconvenient that it had not for years, though kept by Mrs. Grose in exemplary order, been occupied. I had often admired it and I knew my way about in it; I had only, after just faltering at the first chill gloom of its disuse, to pass across it and unbolt as quietly as I could one of the shutters. Achieving this transit, I uncovered the glass without a sound and, applying my face to the pane, was able, the darkness without being much less than within, to see that I commanded the right direction. Then I saw something more. The moon made the night extraordinarily penetrable and showed me on the lawn a person, diminished by distance, who stood there motionless and as if fascinated, looking up to where I had appeared — looking, that is, not so much straight at me as at something that was apparently above me. There was clearly another person above me — there was a person on the tower; but the presence on the lawn was not in the least what I had conceived and had confidently hurried to meet. The presence on the lawn — I felt sick as I made it out — was poor little Miles himself.

44

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 11

Henry James

It was not till late next day that I spoke to Mrs. Grose; the rigor with which I kept my pupils in sight making it often difficult to meet her privately, and the more as we each felt the importance of not provoking — on the part of the servants quite as much as on that of the children — any suspicion of a secret flurry or of a discussion of mysteries. I drew a great security in this particular from her mere smooth aspect. There was nothing in her fresh face to pass on to others my horrible confidences. She believed me, I was sure, absolutely: if she hadn’t I don’t know what would have become of me, for I couldn’t have borne the business alone. But she was a magnificent monument to the blessing of a want of imagination, and if she could see in our little charges nothing but their beauty and amiability, their happiness and cleverness, she had no direct communication with the sources of my trouble. If they had been at all visibly blighted or battered, she would doubtless have grown, on tracing it back, haggard enough to match them; as matters stood, however, I could feel her, when she surveyed them, with her large white arms folded and the habit of serenity in all her look, thank the Lord’s mercy that if they were ruined the pieces would still serve. Flights of fancy gave place, in her mind, to a steady fireside glow, and I had already begun to perceive how, with the development of the conviction that — as time went on without a public accident — our young things could, after all, look out for themselves, she addressed her greatest solicitude to the sad case presented by their instructress. That, for myself, was a sound simplification: I could engage that, to the world, my face should tell no tales, but it would have been, in the conditions, an immense added strain to find myself anxious about hers.

At the hour I now speak of she had joined me, under pressure, on the terrace, where, with the lapse of the season, the afternoon sun was now agreeable; and we sat there together while, before us, at a distance, but within call if we wished, — the children strolled to and fro in one of their most manageable moods. They moved slowly, in unison, below us, over the lawn, the boy, as they went, reading aloud from a storybook and passing his arm round his sister to keep her quite in touch. Mrs. Grose watched them with positive placidity; then I caught the suppressed intellectual creak with which she conscientiously turned to take from me a view of the back of the tapestry. I had made her a receptacle of lurid things, but there was an odd recognition of my superiority — my accomplishments and my function — in her patience under my pain. She offered her mind to my disclosures as, had I wished to mix a witch’s broth and proposed it with assurance, she would have held out a large clean saucepan. This had become thoroughly her attitude by the time that, in my recital of the events of the night, I reached the point of what Miles had said to me when, after seeing him, at such a monstrous hour almost on the very spot where he happened now to be, I had gone down to bring him in; choosing then, at the window, with a concentrated need of not alarming the house, rather that method than a signal more resonant I had left her meanwhile in little doubt of my small hope of representing with success even to her actual sympathy my sense of the real splendor of the little inspiration with which, after I had got him into the house, the boy met my final articulate challenge. As soon as I appeared in the moonlight on the terrace, he had come to me as straight as possible; on which I had taken his hand without a word and led him, through the dark spaces, up the staircase where Quint had so hungrily hovered for him, along the lobby where I had listened and trembled, and so to his forsaken room.

Not a sound, on the way, had passed between us, and I had wondered — oh, how I had wondered! — if he were groping about in his little mind for something plausible and not too grotesque. It would tax his invention, certainly, and I felt, this time, over his real embarrassment, a curious thrill of triumph. It was a sharp trap for the inscrutable! He couldn’t play any longer at innocence; so how the deuce would he get out of it? There beat in me indeed, with the passionate throb of this question, an equal dumb appeal as to how the deuce I should. I was confronted at last, as never yet, with all the risk attached even now to sounding my own horrid note. I remember in fact that as we pushed into his little chamber, where the bed had not been slept in at all and the window, uncovered to the moonlight, made the place so clear that there was no need of striking a match — I remember how I suddenly dropped, sank upon the edge of the bed from the force of the idea that he must know how he really, as they say, “had” me. He could do what he liked, with all his cleverness to help him, so long as I should continue to defer to the old tradition of the criminality of those caretakers of the young who minister to superstitions and fears. He “had” me indeed, and in a cleft stick; for who would ever absolve me, who would consent that I should go unhung, if, by the faintest tremor of an overture, I were the first to introduce into our perfect intercourse an element so dire? No, no: it was useless to attempt to convey to Mrs. Grose, just as it is scarcely less so to attempt to suggest here, how, in our short, stiff brush in the dark, he fairly shook me with admiration. I was of course thoroughly kind and merciful; never, never yet had I placed on his little shoulders hands of such tenderness as those with which, while I rested against the bed, I held him there well under fire. I had no alternative but, in form at least, to put it to him.

“You must tell me now — and all the truth. What did you go out for? What were you doing there?”

I can still see his wonderful smile, the whites of his beautiful eyes, and the uncovering of his little teeth shine to me in the dusk. “If I tell you why, will you understand?” My heart, at this, leaped into my mouth. Would he tell me why? I found no sound on my lips to press it, and I was aware of replying only with a vague, repeated, grimacing nod. He was gentleness itself, and while I wagged my head at him he stood there more than ever a little fairy prince. It was his brightness indeed that gave me a respite. Would it be so great if he were really going to tell me? “Well,” he said at last, “just exactly in order that you should do this.”

“Do what?”

“Think me — for a change — bad!” I shall never forget the sweetness and gaiety with which he brought out the word, nor how, on top of it, he bent forward and kissed me. It was practically the end of everything. I met his kiss and I had to make, while I folded him for a minute in my arms, the most stupendous effort not to cry. He had given exactly the account of himself that permitted least of my going behind it, and it was only with the effect of confirming my acceptance of it that, as I presently glanced about the room, I could say —

“Then you didn’t undress at all?”

He fairly glittered in the gloom. “Not at all. I sat up and read.”

“And when did you go down?”

“At midnight. When I’m bad I am bad!”

“I see, I see it’s charming. But how could you be sure I would know it?”

“Oh, I arranged that with Flora.” His answers rang out with a readiness! “She was to get up and look out.”

“Which is what she did do.” It was I who fell into the trap!”

“So she disturbed you, and, to see what she was looking at, you also looked — you saw.”

“While you,” I concurred, “caught your death in the night air!”

He literally bloomed so from this exploit that he could afford radiantly to assent. “How otherwise should I have been bad enough?” he asked. Then, after another embrace, the incident and our interview dosed on my recognition of all the reserves of goodness that, for his joke, he had been able to draw upon.

45

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 12

Henry James

The particular impression I had received proved in the morning light, I repeat, not quite successfully presentable to Mrs. Grose, though I reinforced it with the mention of still another remark that he had made before we separated. “It all lies in half a dozen words,” I said to her, “words that really settle the matter. ‘Think, you know, what I might do!’ He threw that off to show me how good he is. He knows down to the ground what he ‘might’ do. That’s what he gave them a taste of at school.”

“Lord, you do change!” cried my friend.

“I don’t change — I simply make it out. The four, depend upon it, perpetually meet. If on either of these last nights you had been with either child, you would clearly have understood. The more I’ve watched and waited the more I’ve felt that if there were nothing else to make it sure it would be made so by the systematic silence of each. Never, by a slip of the tongue, have they so much as alluded to either of their old friends, any more than Miles has alluded to his expulsion. Oh, yes, we may sit here and look at them, and they may show off to us there to their fill; but even while they pretend to be lost in their fairytale they’re steeped in their vision of the dead restored. He’s not reading to her,” I declared; “they’re talking of them — they’re talking horrors! I go on, I know, as if I were crazy; and it’s a wonder I’m not. What I’ve seen would have made you so; but it has only made me more lucid, made me get hold of still other things.”

My lucidity must have seemed awful, but the charming creatures who were victims of it, passing and repassing in their interlocked sweetness, gave my colleague something to hold on by; and I felt how tight she held as, without stirring in the breath of my passion, she covered them still with her eyes. “Of what other things have you got hold?”

“Why, of the very things that have delighted, fascinated, and yet, at bottom, as I now so strangely see, mystified and troubled me. Their more than earthly beauty, their absolutely unnatural goodness. It’s a game,” I went on; “it’s a policy and a fraud!”

“On the part of little darlings — ?”

“As yet mere lovely babies? Yes, mad as that seems!” The very act of bringing it out really helped me to trace it — follow it all up and piece it all together. “They haven’t been good — they’ve only been absent. It has been easy to live with them, because they’re simply leading a life of their own. They’re not mine — they’re not ours. They’re his and they’re hers!”

“Quint’s and that woman’s?”

“Quint’s and that woman’s. They want to get to them.”

Oh, how, at this, poor Mrs. Grose appeared to study them! “But for what?”

“For the love of all the evil that, in those dreadful days, the pair put into them. And to ply them with that evil still, to keep up the work of demons, is what brings the others back.”

“Laws!” said my friend under her breath. The exclamation was homely, but it revealed a real acceptance of my further proof of what, in the bad time — for there had been a worse even than this! — must have occurred. There could have been no such justification for me as the plain assent of her experience to whatever depth of depravity I found credible in our brace of scoundrels. It was in obvious submission of memory that she brought out after a moment: “They were rascals! But what can they now do?” she pursued.

“Do?” I echoed so loud that Miles and Flora, as they passed at their distance, paused an instant in their walk and looked at us. “Don’t they do enough?” I demanded in a lower tone, while the children, having smiled and nodded and kissed hands to us, resumed their exhibition. We were held by it a minute; then I answered: “They can destroy them!” At this my companion did turn, but the inquiry she launched was a silent one, the effect of which was to make me more explicit. “They don’t know, as yet, quite how — but they’re trying hard. They’re seen only across, as it were, and beyond — in strange places and on high places, the top of towers, the roof of houses, the outside of windows, the further edge of pools; but there’s a deep design, on either side, to shorten the distance and overcome the obstacle; and the success of the tempters is only a question of time. They’ve only to keep to their suggestions of danger.”

“For the children to come?”

“And perish in the attempt!” Mrs. Grose slowly got up, and I scrupulously added: “Unless, of course, we can prevent!”

Standing there before me while I kept my seat, she visibly turned things over. “Their uncle must do the preventing. He must take them away.”

“And who’s to make him?”

She had been scanning the distance, but she now dropped on me a foolish face. “You, miss.”

“By writing to him that his house is poisoned and his little nephew and niece mad?”

“But if they are, miss?”

“And if I am myself, you mean? That’s charming news to be sent him by a governess whose prime undertaking was to give him no worry.”

Mrs. Grose considered, following the children again. “Yes, he do hate worry. That was the great reason — ”

“Why those fiends took him in so long? No doubt, though his indifference must have been awful. As I’m not a fiend, at any rate, I shouldn’t take him in.”

My companion, after an instant and for all answer, sat down again and grasped my arm. “Make him at any rate come to you.”

I stared. “To me?” I had a sudden fear of what she might do. “‘Him’?”

“He ought to be here — he ought to help.”

I quickly rose, and I think I must have shown her a queerer face than ever yet. “You see me asking him for a visit?” No, with her eyes on my face she evidently couldn’t. Instead of it even — as a woman reads another — she could see what I myself saw: his derision, his amusement, his contempt for the breakdown of my resignation at being left alone and for the fine machinery I had set in motion to attract his attention to my slighted charms. She didn’t know — no one knew — how proud I had been to serve him and to stick to our terms; yet she nonetheless took the measure, I think, of the warning I now gave her. “If you should so lose your head as to appeal to him for me — ”

She was really frightened. “Yes, miss?”

“I would leave, on the spot, both him and you.”

46

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 13

Henry James

It was all very well to join them, but speaking to them proved quite as much as ever an effort beyond my strength — offered, in close quarters, difficulties as insurmountable as before. This situation continued a month, and with new aggravations and particular notes, the note above all, sharper and sharper, of the small ironic consciousness on the part of my pupils. It was not, I am as sure today as I was sure then, my mere infernal imagination: it was absolutely traceable that they were aware of my predicament and that this strange relation made, in a manner, for a long time, the air in which we moved. I don’t mean that they had their tongues in their cheeks or did anything vulgar, for that was not one of their dangers: I do mean, on the other hand, that the element of the unnamed and untouched became, between us, greater than any other, and that so much avoidance could not have been so successfully effected without a great deal of tacit arrangement. It was as if, at moments, we were perpetually coming into sight of subjects before which we must stop short, turning suddenly out of alleys that we perceived to be blind, closing with a little bang that made us look at each other — for, like all bangs, it was something louder than we had intended — the doors we had indiscreetly opened. All roads lead to Rome, and there were times when it might have struck us that almost every branch of study or subject of conversation skirted forbidden ground. Forbidden ground was the question of the return of the dead in general and of whatever, in especial, might survive, in memory, of the friends little children had lost. There were days when I could have sworn that one of them had, with a small invisible nudge, said to the other: “She thinks she’ll do it this time — but she won’t!” To “do it” would have been to indulge for instance — and for once in a way — in some direct reference to the lady who had prepared them for my discipline. They had a delightful endless appetite for passages in my own history, to which I had again and again treated them; they were in possession of everything that had ever happened to me, had had, with every circumstance the story of my smallest adventures and of those of my brothers and sisters and of the cat and the dog at home, as well as many particulars of the eccentric nature of my father, of the furniture and arrangement of our house, and of the conversation of the old women of our village. There were things enough, taking one with another, to chatter about, if one went very fast and knew by instinct when to go round. They pulled with an art of their own the strings of my invention and my memory; and nothing else perhaps, when I thought of such occasions afterward, gave me so the suspicion of being watched from under cover. It was in any case over my life, my past, and my friends alone that we could take anything like our ease — a state of affairs that led them sometimes without the least pertinence to break out into sociable reminders. I was invited — with no visible connection — to repeat afresh Goody Gosling’s celebrated mot or to confirm the details already supplied as to the cleverness of the vicarage pony.

It was partly at such junctures as these and partly at quite different ones that, with the turn my matters had now taken, my predicament, as I have called it, grew most sensible. The fact that the days passed for me without another encounter ought, it would have appeared, to have done something toward soothing my nerves. Since the light brush, that second night on the upper landing, of the presence of a woman at the foot of the stair, I had seen nothing, whether in or out of the house, that one had better not have seen. There was many a corner round which I expected to come upon Quint, and many a situation that, in a merely sinister way, would have favored the appearance of Miss Jessel. The summer had turned, the summer had gone, the autumn had dropped upon Bly and had blown out half our lights. The place, with its gray sky and withered garlands, its bared spaces and scattered dead leaves, was like a theater after the performance — all strewn with crumpled playbills. There were exactly states of the air, conditions of sound and of stillness, unspeakable impressions of the kind of ministering moment, that brought back to me, long enough to catch it, the feeling of the medium in which, that June evening out of doors, I had had my first sight of Quint, and in which, too, at those other instants, I had, after seeing him through the window, looked for him in vain in the circle of shrubbery. I recognized the signs, the portents — I recognized the moment, the spot. But they remained unaccompanied and empty, and I continued unmolested; if unmolested one could call a young woman whose sensibility had, in the most extraordinary fashion, not declined but deepened. I had said in my talk with Mrs. Grose on that horrid scene of Flora’s by the lake and had perplexed her by so saying — that it would from that moment distress me much more to lose my power than to keep it. I had then expressed what was vividly in my mind: the truth that, whether the children really saw or not — since, that is, it was not yet definitely proved — I greatly preferred, as a safeguard, the fullness of my own exposure. I was ready to know the very worst that was to be known. What I had then had an ugly glimpse of was that my eyes might be sealed just while theirs were most opened. Well, my eyes were sealed, it appeared, at present — a consummation for which it seemed blasphemous not to thank God. There was, alas, a difficulty about that: I would have thanked him with all my soul had I not had in a proportionate measure this conviction of the secret of my pupils.

How can I retrace today the strange steps of my obsession? There were times of our being together when I would have been ready to swear that, literally, in my presence, but with my direct sense of it closed, they had visitors who were known and were welcome. Then it was that, had I not been deterred by the very chance that such an injury might prove greater than the injury to be averted, my exultation would have broken out. “They’re here, they’re here, you little wretches,” I would have cried, “and you can’t deny it now!” The little wretches denied it with all the added volume of their sociability and their tenderness, in just the crystal depths of which — like the flash of a fish in a stream — the mockery of their advantage peeped up. The shock, in truth, had sunk into me still deeper than I knew on the night when, looking out to see either Quint or Miss Jessel under the stars, I had beheld the boy over whose rest I watched and who had immediately brought in with him — had straightway, there, turned it on me the lovely upward look with which, from the battlements above me, the hideous apparition of Quint had played. If it was a question of a scare, my discovery on this occasion had scared me more than any other, and it was in the condition of nerves produced by it that I made my actual inductions. They harassed me so that sometimes, at odd moments, I shut myself up audibly to rehearse — it was at once a fantastic relief and a renewed despair — the manner in which I might come to the point. I approached it from one side and the other while, in my room, I flung myself about, but I always broke down in the monstrous utterance of names. As they died away on my lips, I said to myself that I should indeed help them to represent something infamous if, by pronouncing them, I should violate as rare a little case of instinctive delicacy as any school-room, probably, had ever known. When I said to myself: “They have the manners to be silent, and you, trusted as you are, the baseness to speak!” I felt myself crimson and I covered my face with my hands. After these secret scenes I chattered more than ever, going on volubly enough till one of our prodigious, palpable hushes occurred — I can call them nothing else — the strange, dizzy lift or swim (I try for terms!) into a stillness, a pause of all life, that had nothing to do with the more or less noise that at the moment we might be engaged in making and that I could hear through any deepened exhilaration or quickened recitation or louder strum of the piano. Then it was that the others, the outsiders, were there. Though they were not angels, they “passed,” as the French say causing me, while they stayed, to tremble with the fear of their addressing to their younger victims some yet more infernal message or more vivid image than they had thought good enough for myself.

What it was most impossible to get rid of was the cruel idea that, whatever I had seen, Miles and Flora saw more — things terrible and unguessable and that sprang from dreadful passages of intercourse in the past. Such things naturally left on the surface, for the time, a child which we vociferously denied that we felt; and we had, all three, with repetition, got into such splendid training that we went, each time, almost automatically, to mark the close of the incident, through the very same movements. It was striking of the children, at all events to kiss me inveterately with a kind of wild irrelevance and never to fail — one or the other — of the precious question that had helped us through many a peril. “When do you think he will come? Don’t you think we ought to write?” — there was nothing like that inquiry, we found by experience, for carrying off an awkwardness. “He” of course was their uncle in Harley Street; and we lived in much profusion of theory that he might at any moment arrive to mingle in our circle. It was impossible to have given less encouragement than he had done to such a doctrine, but if we had not had the doctrine to fall back upon we should have deprived each other of some of our finest exhibitions. He never wrote to them — that may have been selfish, but it was a part of the flattery of his trust of me; for the way in which a man pays his highest tribute to a woman is apt to be but by the more festal celebration of one of the sacred laws of his comfort; and I held that I carried out the spirit of the pledge given not to appeal to him when I let my charges understand that their own letters were but charming literary exercises. They were too beautiful to be posted; I kept them myself; I have them all to this hour. This was a rule indeed which only added to the satiric effect of my being plied with the supposition that he might at any moment be among us. It was exactly as if my charges knew how almost more awkward than anything else that might be for me. There appears to me, moreover, as I look back, no note in all this more extraordinary than the mere fact that, in spite of my tension and of their triumph, I never lost patience with them. Adorable they must in truth have been, I now reflect, that I didn’t in these days hate them! Would exasperation, however, if relief had longer been postponed, finally have betrayed me? It little matters, for relief arrived. I call it relief, though it was only the relief that a snap brings to a strain or the burst of a thunderstorm to a day of suffocation. It was at least change, and it came with a rush.

47

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 14

Henry James

Walking to church a certain Sunday morning, I had little Miles at my side and his sister, in advance of us and at Mrs. Grose’s, well in sight. It was a crisp, clear day, the first of its order for some time; the night had brought a touch of frost, and the autumn air, bright and sharp, made the church bells almost gay. It was an odd accident of thought that I should have happened at such a moment to be particularly and very gratefully struck with the obedience of my little charges. Why did they never resent my inexorable, my perpetual society? Something or other had brought nearer home to me that I had all but pinned the boy to my shawl and that, in the way our companions were marshaled before me, I might have appeared to provide against some danger of rebellion. I was like a gaoler with an eye to possible surprises and escapes. But all this belonged — I mean their magnificent little surrender — just to the special array of the facts that were most abysmal. Turned out for Sunday by his uncle’s tailor, who had had a free hand and a notion of pretty waistcoats and of his grand little air, Miles’s whole title to independence, the rights of his sex and situation, were so stamped upon him that if he had suddenly struck for freedom I should have had nothing to say. I was by the strangest of chances wondering how I should meet him when the revolution unmistakably occurred. I call it a revolution because I now see how, with the word he spoke, the curtain rose on the last act of my dreadful drama, and the catastrophe was precipitated. “Look here, my dear, you know,” he charmingly said, “when in the world, please, am I going back to school?”

Transcribed here the speech sounds harmless enough, particularly as uttered in the sweet, high, casual pipe with which, at all interlocutors, but above all at his eternal governess, he threw off intonations as if he were tossing roses. There was something in them that always made one “catch,” and I caught, at any rate, now so effectually that I stopped as short as if one of the trees of the park had fallen across the road. There was something new, on the spot, between us, and he was perfectly aware that I recognized it, though, to enable me to do so, he had no need to look a whit less candid and charming than usual. I could feel in him how he already, from my at first finding nothing to reply, perceived the advantage he had gained. I was so slow to find anything that he had plenty of time, after a minute, to continue with his suggestive but inconclusive smile: “You know, my dear, that for a fellow to be with a lady always — !” His “my dear” was constantly on his lips for me, and nothing could have expressed more the exact shade of the sentiment with which I desired to inspire my pupils than its fond familiarity. It was so respectfully easy.

But, oh, how I felt that at present I must pick my own phrases! I remember that, to gain time, I tried to laugh, and I seemed to see in the beautiful face with which he watched me how ugly and queer I looked. “And always with the same lady?” I returned.

He neither blanched nor winked. The whole thing was virtually out between us. “Ah, of course, she’s a jolly, ‘perfect’ lady; but, after all, I’m a fellow, don’t you see? that’s — well, getting on.”

I lingered there with him an instant ever so kindly. “Yes, you’re getting on.” Oh, but I felt helpless!

I have kept to this day the heartbreaking little idea of how he seemed to know that and to play with it. “And you can’t say I’ve not been awfully good, can you?”

I laid my hand on his shoulder, for, though I felt how much better it would have been to walk on, I was not yet quite able. “No, I can’t say that, Miles.”

“Except just that one night, you know — !”

“That one night?” I couldn’t look as straight as he.

“Why, when I went down — went out of the house.”

“Oh, yes. But I forget what you did it for.”

“You forget?” — he spoke with the sweet extravagance of childish reproach. “Why, it was to show you I could!”

“Oh, yes, you could.”

“And I can again.”

I felt that I might, perhaps, after all, succeed in keeping my wits about me. “Certainly. But you won’t.”

“No, not that again. It was nothing.”

“It was nothing,” I said. “But we must go on.”

He resumed our walk with me, passing his hand into my arm. “Then when am I going back?”

I wore, in turning it over, my most responsible air. “Were you very happy at school?”

He just considered. “Oh, I’m happy enough anywhere!”

“Well, then,” I quavered, “if you’re just as happy here — ”

“Ah, but that isn’t everything! Of course you know a lot — ”

“But you hint that you know almost as much?” I risked as he paused.

“Not half I want to!” Miles honestly professed. “But it isn’t so much that.”

“What is it, then?”

“Well — I want to see more life.”

“I see; I see.” We had arrived within sight of the church and of various persons, including several of the household of Bly, on their way to it and clustered about the door to see us go in. I quickened our step; I wanted to get there before the question between us opened up much further; I reflected hungrily that, for more than an hour, he would have to be silent; and I thought with envy of the comparative dusk of the pew and of the almost spiritual help of the hassock on which I might bend my knees. I seemed literally to be running a race with some confusion to which he was about to reduce me, but I felt that he had got in first when, before we had even entered the churchyard, he threw out —

“I want my own sort!”

It literally made me bound forward. “There are not many of your own sort, Miles!” I laughed. “Unless perhaps dear little Flora!”

“You really compare me to a baby girl?”

This found me singularly weak. “Don’t you, then, love our sweet Flora?”

“If I didn’t — and you, too; if I didn’t — !” he repeated as if retreating for a jump, yet leaving his thought so unfinished that, after we had come into the gate, another stop, which he imposed on me by the pressure of his arm, had become inevitable. Mrs. Grose and Flora had passed into the church, the other worshippers had followed, and we were, for the minute, alone among the old, thick graves. We had paused, on the path from the gate, by a low, oblong, tablelike tomb.

“Yes, if you didn’t — ?”

He looked, while I waited, about at the graves. “Well, you know what!” But he didn’t move, and he presently produced something that made me drop straight down on the stone slab, as if suddenly to rest. “Does my uncle think what you think?”

I markedly rested. “How do you know what I think?”

“Ah, well, of course I don’t; for it strikes me you never tell me. But I mean does he know?”

“Know what, Miles?”

“Why, the way I’m going on.”

I perceived quickly enough that I could make, to this inquiry, no answer that would not involve something of a sacrifice of my employer. Yet it appeared to me that we were all, at Bly, sufficiently sacrificed to make that venial. “I don’t think your uncle much cares.”

Miles, on this, stood looking at me. “Then don’t you think he can be made to?”

“In what way?”

“Why, by his coming down.”

“But who’ll get him to come down?”

I will!” the boy said with extraordinary brightness and emphasis. He gave me another look charged with that expression and then marched off alone into church.

48

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 15

Henry James

The business was practically settled from the moment I never followed him. It was a pitiful surrender to agitation, but my being aware of this had somehow no power to restore me. I only sat there on my tomb and read into what my little friend had said to me the fullness of its meaning; by the time I had grasped the whole of which I had also embraced, for absence, the pretext that I was ashamed to offer my pupils and the rest of the congregation such an example of delay. What I said to myself above all was that Miles had got something out of me and that the proof of it, for him, would be just this awkward collapse. He had got out of me that there was something I was much afraid of and that he should probably be able to make use of my fear to gain, for his own purpose, more freedom. My fear was of having to deal with the intolerable question of the grounds of his dismissal from school, for that was really but the question of the horrors gathered behind. That his uncle should arrive to treat with me of these things was a solution that, strictly speaking, I ought now to have desired to bring on; but I could so little face the ugliness and the pain of it that I simply procrastinated and lived from hand to mouth. The boy, to my deep discomposure, was immensely in the right, was in a position to say to me: “Either you clear up with my guardian the mystery of this interruption of my studies, or you cease to expect me to lead with you a life that’s so unnatural for a boy.” What was so unnatural for the particular boy I was concerned with was this sudden revelation of a consciousness and a plan.

That was what really overcame me, what prevented my going in. I walked round the church, hesitating, hovering; I reflected that I had already, with him, hurt myself beyond repair. Therefore I could patch up nothing, and it was too extreme an effort to squeeze beside him into the pew: he would be so much more sure than ever to pass his arm into mine and make me sit there for an hour in close, silent contact with his commentary on our talk. For the first minute since his arrival I wanted to get away from him. As I paused beneath the high east window and listened to the sounds of worship, I was taken with an impulse that might master me, I felt, completely should I give it the least encouragement. I might easily put an end to my predicament by getting away altogether. Here was my chance; there was no one to stop me; I could give the whole thing up — turn my back and retreat. It was only a question of hurrying again, for a few preparations, to the house which the attendance at church of so many of the servants would practically have left unoccupied. No one, in short, could blame me if I should just drive desperately off. What was it to get away if I got away only till dinner? That would be in a couple of hours, at the end of which — I had the acute prevision — my little pupils would play at innocent wonder about my nonappearance in their train.

“What did you do, you naughty, bad thing? Why in the world, to worry us so — and take our thoughts off, too, don’t you know? — did you desert us at the very door?” I couldn’t meet such questions nor, as they asked them, their false little lovely eyes; yet it was all so exactly what I should have to meet that, as the prospect grew sharp to me, I at last let myself go.

I got, so far as the immediate moment was concerned, away; I came straight out of the churchyard and, thinking hard, retraced my steps through the park. It seemed to me that by the time I reached the house I had made up my mind I would fly. The Sunday stillness both of the approaches and of the interior, in which I met no one, fairly excited me with a sense of opportunity. Were I to get off quickly, this way, I should get off without a scene, without a word. My quickness would have to be remarkable, however, and the question of a conveyance was the great one to settle. Tormented, in the hall, with difficulties and obstacles, I remember sinking down at the foot of the staircase — suddenly collapsing there on the lowest step and then, with a revulsion, recalling that it was exactly where more than a month before, in the darkness of night and just so bowed with evil things I had seen the specter of the most horrible of women. At this I was able to straighten my self; I went the rest of the way up; I made, in my bewilderment, for the schoolroom, where there were objects belonging to me that I should have to take. But I opened the door to find again, in a flash, my eyes unsealed. In the presence of what I saw I reeled straight back upon my resistance.

Seated at my own table in clear noonday light I saw a person whom without my previous experience I should have taken at the first blush for some housemaid who might have stayed at home to look after the place and who, availing herself of rare relief from observation and of the schoolroom table and my pens, ink, and paper, had applied herself to the considerable effort of a letter to her sweetheart. There was an effort in the way that, while her arms rested on the table, her hands with evident weariness supported her head; but at the moment I took this in I had already become aware that, in spite of my entrance, her attitude strangely persisted. Then it was — with the very act of its announcing itself — that her identity flared up in a change of posture. She rose, not as if she had heard me, but with an indescribable grand melancholy of indifference and detachment, and, within a dozen feet of me, stood there as my vile predecessor. Dishonored and tragic, she was all before me; but even as I fixed and, for memory, secured it, the awful image passed away. Dark as midnight in her black dress her haggard beauty and her unutterable woe, she had looked at me long enough to appear to say that her right to sit at my table was as good as mine to sit at hers. While these instants lasted, indeed, I had the extraordinary chill of feeling that it was I who was the intruder. It was as a wild protest against it that, I actually addressing her — “You terrible, miserable woman!” — I heard myself break into a sound that, by the open door, rang through the long passage and the empty house. She looked at me as if she heard me, but I had recovered myself and cleared the air. There was nothing in the room the next minute but the sunshine and a sense that I must stay.

49

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 16

Henry James

I had so perfectly expected that the return of my pupils would be marked by a demonstration that I was freshly upset at having to take into account that they were dumb about my absence. Instead of gaily denouncing and caressing me, they made no allusion to my having failed them, and I was left, for the time, on perceiving that she too said nothing, to study Mrs. Grose’s odd face. I did this to such purpose that I made sure they had in some way bribed her to silence; a silence that, however, I would engage to break down on the first private opportunity. This opportunity came before tea: I secured five minutes with her in the housekeeper’s room, where, in the twilight, amid a smell of lately baked bread, but with the place all swept and garnishedPossible allusion to Matthew 12:44. Jesus tells the Pharisees that they are inhabited by an unclean spirit who returns to the house despite the fact that it is “swept, and garnished.”, I found her sitting in pained placidity before the fire. So I see her still, so I see her best: facing the flame from her straight chair in the dusky, shining room, a large clean image of the “put away” — of drawers closed and locked and rest without a remedy.

“Oh, yes, they asked me to say nothing; and to please them — so long as they were there — of course I promised. But what had happened to you?”

“I only went with you for the walk,” I said. “I had then to come back to meet a friend.”

She showed her surprise. “A friend — you?

“Oh, yes, I have a couple!” I laughed. “But did the children give you a reason?”

“For not alluding to your leaving us? Yes; they said you would like it better. Do you like it better?”

My face had made her rueful. “No, I like it worse!” But after an instant I added: “Did they say why I should like it better?”

“No; Master Miles only said, ‘We must do nothing but what she likes!’ ”

“I wish indeed he would! And what did Flora say?”

“Miss Flora was too sweet. She said, ‘Oh, of course, of course!’ — and I said the same.”

I thought a moment. “You were too sweet, too. I can hear you all. But nonetheless, between Miles and me, it’s now all out.”

“All out?” My companion stared. “But what, miss?”

“Everything. It doesn’t matter. I’ve made up my mind. I came home, my dear,” I went on, “for a talk with Miss Jessel.”

I had by this time formed the habit of having Mrs. Grose literally well in hand in advance of my sounding that note: so that even now, as she bravely blinked under the signal of my word, I could keep her comparatively firm. “A talk! Do you mean she spoke?”

“It came to that. I found her, on my return, in the schoolroom.”

“And what did she say?” I can hear the good woman still, and the candor of her stupefaction.

“That she suffers the torments — !”

It was this, of a truth, that made her, as she filled out my picture, gape. “Do you mean,” she faltered, ” — of the lost?”

“Of the lost. Of the damned. And that’s why, to share them — ” I faltered myself with the horror of it.

But my companion, with less imagination, kept me up. “To share them — ?”

“She wants Flora.” Mrs. Grose might, as I gave it to her, fairly have fallen away from me had I not been prepared. I still held her there, to show I was. “As I’ve told you, however, it doesn’t matter.”

“Because you’ve made up your mind? But to what?”

“To everything.”

“And what do you call ‘everything’?”

“Why, sending for their uncle.”

“Oh, miss, in pity do,” my friend broke out.

“Ah, but I will, I will! I see it’s the only way. What’s ‘out,’ as I told you, with Miles is that if he thinks I’m afraid to and has ideas of what he gains by that — he shall see he’s mistaken. Yes, yes; his uncle shall have it here from me on the spot (and before the boy himself, if necessary) that if I’m to be reproached with having done nothing again about more school — ”

“Yes, miss — ” my companion pressed me.

“Well, there’s that awful reason.”

There were now clearly so many of these for my poor colleague that she was excusable for being vague. “But — a — which?”

“Why, the letter from his old place.”

“You’ll show it to the master?”

“I ought to have done so on the instant.”

“Oh, no!” said Mrs. Grose with decision.

“I’ll put it before him,” I went on inexorably, “that I can’t undertake to work the question on behalf of a child who has been expelled — ”

“For we’ve never in the least known what!” Mrs. Grose declared.

“For wickedness. For what else — when he’s so clever and beautiful and perfect? Is he stupid? Is he untidy? Is he infirm? Is he ill-natured? He’s exquisite — so it can be only that; and that would open up the whole thing. After all,” I said, “it’s their uncle’s fault. If he left here such people — !”

“He didn’t really in the least know them. The fault’s mine” She had turned quite pale.

“Well, you shan’t suffer,” I answered.

“The children shan’t!” she emphatically returned.

I was silent awhile; we looked at each other, “Then what am I to tell him?”

“You needn’t tell him anything. I’ll tell him.”

I measured this. “Do you mean you’ll write — ?” Remembering she couldn’t, I caught myself up. “How do you communicate?”

“I tell the bailiff. He writes.”

“And should you like him to write our story?”

My question had a sarcastic force that I had not fully intended, and it made her, after a moment, inconsequently break down. The tears were again in her eyes. “Ah, miss, you write!”

“Well — tonight,” I at last answered; and on this we separated.

50

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 17

Henry James

I went so far, in the evening, as to make a beginning. The weather had changed back, a great wind was abroad, and beneath the lamp, in my room, with Flora at peace beside me, I sat for a long time before a blank sheet of paper and listened to the lash of the rain and the batter of the gusts. Finally I went out, taking a candle; I crossed the passage and listened a minute at Miles’s door. What, under my endless obsession, I had been impelled to listen for was some betrayal of his not being at rest, and I presently caught one, but not in the form I had expected. His voice tinkled out. “I say, you there — come in.” It was a gaiety in the gloom!

I went in with my light and found him, in bed, very wide awake, but very much at his ease. “Well, what are you up to?” he asked with a grace of sociability in which it occurred to me that Mrs. Grose, had she been present, might have looked in vain for proof that anything was “out.”

I stood over him with my candle. “How did you know I was there?”

“Why, of course I heard you. Did you fancy you made no noise? You’re like a troop of cavalry!” he beautifully laughed.

“Then you weren’t asleep?”

“Not much! I lie awake and think.”

I had put my candle, designedly, a short way off, and then, as he held out his friendly old hand to me, had sat down on the edge of his bed. “What is it,” I asked, “that you think of?”

“What in the world, my dear, but you?

“Ah, the pride I take in your appreciation doesn’t insist on that! I had so far rather you slept.”

“Well, I think also, you know, of this queer business of ours.”

I marked the coolness of his firm little hand. “Of what queer business, Miles?”

“Why, the way you bring me up. And all the rest!”

I fairly held my breath a minute, and even from my glimmering taper there was light enough to show how he smiled up at me from his pillow. “What do you mean by all me rest?”

“Oh, you know, you know!”

I could say nothing for a minute, though I felt, as I held his hand and our eyes continued to meet, that my silence had all the air of admitting his charge and that nothing in the whole world of reality was perhaps at that moment so fabulous as our actual relation. “Certainly you shall go back to school,” I said, “if it be that that troubles you. But not to the old place — we must find another, a better. How could I know it did trouble you, this question, when you never told me so, never spoke of it at all?” His dear, listening face, framed in its smooth whiteness, made him for the minute as appealing as some wistful patient in a children’s hospital; and I would have given, as the resemblance came to me, all I possessed on earth really to be the nurse or the sister of charity who might have helped to cure him. Well, even as it was, I perhaps might help! “Do you know you’ve never said a word to me about your school — I mean the old one; never mentioned it in any way?”

He seemed to wonder; he smiled with the same loveliness. But he clearly gained time; he waited, he called for guidance. “Haven’t I?” It wasn’t for me to help him — it was for the thing I had met!

Something in his tone and the expression of his face, as I got this from him, set my heart aching with such a pang as it had never yet known; so unutterably touching was it to see his little brain puzzled and his little resources taxed to play, under the spell laid on him, a part of innocence and consistency. “No, never — from the hour you came back, You’ve never mentioned to me one of your masters, one of your comrades, nor the least little thing that ever happened to you at school. Never, little Miles — no, never — have you given me an inkling of anything that may have happened there. Therefore you can fancy how much I’m in the dark. Until you came out, that way, this morning, you had, since the first hour I saw you, scarce even made a reference to anything in your previous life. You seemed so perfectly to accept the present.” It was extraordinary how my absolute conviction of his secret precocity (or whatever I might call the poison of an influence that I dared but half to phrase) made him, in spite of the faint breath of his inward trouble, appear as accessible as an older person — imposed him almost as an intellectual equal. “I thought you wanted to go on as you are.”

It struck me that at this he just faintly colored. He gave, at any rate, like a convalescent slightly fatigued, a languid shake of his head. “I don’t — I don’t. I want to get away.”

“You’re tired of Bly?”

“Oh, no, I like Bly.”

“Well, then — ?”

“Oh, you know what a boy wants!”

I felt that I didn’t know so well as Miles, and I took temporary refuge. “You want to go to your uncle?”

Again, at this, with his sweet ironic face, he made a movement on the pillow. “Ah, you can’t get off with that!”

I was silent a little, and it was I, now, I think, who changed color. “My dear, I don’t want to get off!”

“You can’t, even if you do. You can’t, you can’t!” — he lay beautifully staring. “My uncle must come down, and you must completely settle things.”

“If we do,” I returned with some spirit, “you may be sure it will be to take you quite away.”

“Well, don’t you understand that that’s exactly what I’m working for? You’ll have to tell him — about the way you’ve let it all drop: you’ll have to tell him a tremendous lot!”

The exultation with which he uttered this helped me somehow, for the instant, to meet him rather more. “And how much will you, Miles, have to tell him? There are things he’ll ask you!”

He turned it over. “Very likely. But what things?”

“The things you’ve never told me. To make up his mind what to do with you. He can’t send you back — ”

“Oh, I don’t want to go back!” he broke in. “I want a new field.”

He said it with admirable serenity, with positive unimpeachable gaiety; and doubtless it was that very note that most evoked for me the poignancy, the unnatural childish tragedy, of his probable reappearance at the end of three months with all this bravado and still more dishonor. It overwhelmed me now that I should never be able to bear that, and it made me let myself go. I threw myself upon him and in the tenderness of my pity I embraced him. “Dear little Miles, dear little Miles — !”

My face was close to his, and he let me kiss him, simply taking it with indulgent good humor. “Well, old lady?”

“Is there nothing — nothing at all that you want to tell me?”

He turned off a little, facing round toward the wall and holding up his hand to look at as one had seen sick children look. “I’ve told you — I told you this morning.”

Oh, I was sorry for him! “That you just want me not to worry you?”

He looked round at me now, as if in recognition of my understanding him; then ever so gently, “To let me alone,” he replied.

There was even a singular little dignity in it, something that made me release him, yet, when I had slowly risen, linger beside him. God knows I never wished to harass him, but I felt that merely, at this, to turn my back on him was to abandon or, to put it more truly, to lose him “I’ve just begun a letter to your uncle,” I said.

“Well, then, finish it!”

I waited a minute. “What happened before?”

He gazed up at me again. “Before what?”

“Before you came back. And before you went away ”

For some time he was silent, but he continued to meet my eyes. “What happened?”

It made me, the sound of the words, in which it seemed to me that I caught for the very first time a small faint quaver of consenting consciousness — it made me drop on my knees beside the bed and seize once more the chance of possessing him. “Dear little Miles, dear little Miles, if you knew how I want to help you! It’s only that, it’s nothing but that, and I’d rather die than give you a pain or do you a wrong — I’d rather die than hurt a hair of you. Dear little Miles” — oh, I brought it out now even if I should go too far — “I just want you to help me to save you!” But I knew in a moment after this that I had gone too far. The answer to my appeal was instantaneous, but it came in the form of an extraordinary blast and chill, a gust of frozen air, and a shake of the room as great as if, in the wild wind, the casement had crashed in. The boy gave a loud, high shriek, which, lost in the rest of the shock of sound, might have seemed, indistinctly, though I was so close to him, a note either of jubilation or of terror. I jumped to my feet again and was conscious of darkness. So for a moment we remained, while I stared about me and saw mat the drawn curtains were unstirred and the window tight. “Why, the candle’s out!” I then cried.

“It was I who blew it, dear!” said Miles.

51

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 18

Henry James

The next day, after lessons, Mrs. Grose found a moment to say to me quietly: “Have you written, miss?”

“Yes — I’ve written.” But I didn’t add — for the hour — that my letter, sealed and directed, was still in my pocket. There would be time enough to send it before the messenger should go to the village. Meanwhile there had been, on the part of my pupils, no more brilliant, more exemplary morning. It was exactly as if they had both had at heart to gloss over any recent little friction. They performed the dizziest feats of arithmetic, soaring quite out of my feeble range, and perpetrated, in higher spirits than ever, geographical and historical jokes. It was conspicuous of course in Miles in particular that he appeared to wish to show how easily he could let me down. This child, to my memory, really lives in a setting of beauty and misery that no words can translate; there was a distinction all his own in every impulse he revealed; never was a small natural creature, to the uninitiated eye all frankness and freedom, a more ingenious, a more extraordinary little gentleman. I had perpetually to guard against the wonder of contemplation into which my initiated view betrayed me; to check the irrelevant gaze and discouraged sigh in which I constantly both attacked and renounced the enigma of what such a little gentleman could have done that deserved a penalty. Say that, by the dark prodigy I knew, the imagination of all evil had been opened up to him: all the justice within me ached for the proof that it could ever have flowered into an act.

He had never, at any rate, been such a little gentleman as when, after our early dinner on this dreadful day, he came round to me and asked if I shouldn’t like him, for half an hour, to play to me. David playing to SaulSee 1 Samuel 16:23. “And whenever the evil spirit...was upon Saul, David took the lyre and played it with his hand; so Saul...was well, and the evil spirit departed from him.” could never have shown a finer sense of the occasion. It was literally a charming exhibition of tact, of magnanimity, and quite tantamount to his saying outright: “The true knights we love to read about never push an advantage too far. I know what you mean now: you mean that — to be let alone yourself and not followed up — you’ll cease to worry and spy upon me, won’t keep me so close to you, will let me go and come. Well, I ‘come,’ you see — but I don’t go! There’ll be plenty of time for that. I do really delight in your society, and I only want to show you that I contended for a principle.” It may be imagined whether I resisted this appeal or failed to accompany him again, hand in hand, to the schoolroom. He sat down at the old piano and played as he had never played; and if there are those who think he had better have been kicking a football I can only say that I wholly agree with them. For at the end of a time that under his influence I had quite ceased to measure, I started up with a strange sense of having literally slept at my post. It was after luncheon, and by the schoolroom fire, and yet I hadn’t really, in the least, slept: I had only done something much worse — I had forgotten. Where, all this time, was Flora? When I put the question to Miles, he played on a minute before answering and then could only say: “Why, my dear, how do I know?” — breaking moreover into a happy laugh which, immediately after, as if it were a vocal accompaniment, he prolonged into incoherent, extravagant song.

I went straight to my room, but his sister was not there; then, before going downstairs, I looked into several others. As she was nowhere about she would surely be with Mrs. Grose, whom, in the comfort of that theory, I accordingly proceeded in quest of. I found her where I had found her the evening before, but she met my quick challenge with blank, scared ignorance. She had only supposed that, after the repast, I had carried off both the children; as to which she was quite in her right, for it was the very first time I had allowed the little girl out of my sight without some special provision. Of course now indeed she might be with the maids, so that the immediate thing was to look for her without an air of alarm. This we promptly arranged between us; but when, ten minutes later and in pursuance of our arrangement, we met in the hall, it was only to report on either side that after guarded inquiries we had altogether failed to trace her. For a minute there, apart from observation, we exchanged mute alarms, and I could feel with what high interest my friend returned me all those I had from the first given her.

“She’ll be above,” she presently said — “in one of the rooms you haven’t searched.”

“No; she’s at a distance.” I had made up my mind. “She has gone out.”

Mrs. Grose stared. “Without a hat?”

I naturally also looked volumes. “Isn’t that woman always without one?”

“She’s with her?

“She’s with her!” I declared. “We must find them.”

My hand was on my friend’s arm, but she failed for the moment, confronted with such an account of the matter, to respond to my pressure. She communed, on the contrary, on the spot, with her uneasiness. “And where’s Master Miles?”

“Oh, he’s with Quint. They’re in the schoolroom.”

“Lord, miss!” My view, I was myself aware — and therefore I suppose my tone — had never yet reached so calm an assurance.

“The trick’s played,” I went on; “they’ve successfully worked their plan. He found the most divine little way to keep me quiet while she went off.”

“‘Divine’?” Mrs. Grose bewilderedly echoed.

“Infernal, then!” I almost cheerfully rejoined. “He has provided for himself as well. But come!”

She had helplessly gloomed at the upper regions. “You leave him — ?”

“So long with Quint? Yes — I don’t mind that now.”

She always ended, at these moments, by getting possession of my hand, and in this manner she could at present still stay me. But after gasping an instant at my sudden resignation, “Because of your letter?” she eagerly brought out.

I quickly, by way of answer, felt for my letter, drew it forth, held it up, and then, freeing myself, went and laid it on the great hall table. “Luke will take it,” I said as I carne back. I reached the house door and opened it; I was already on the steps.

My companion still demurred: the storm of the night and the early morning had dropped, but the afternoon was damp and gray. I came down to the drive while she stood in the doorway. “You go with nothing on?”

“What do I care when the child has nothing? I can’t wait to dress,” I cried, “and if you must do so, I leave you. Try meanwhile, yourself, upstairs.”

“With them?” Oh, on this, the poor woman promptly joined me!

52

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 19

Henry James

We went straight to the lake, as it was called at Bly, and I daresay rightly called, though I reflect that it may in fact have been a sheet of water less remarkable than it appeared to my untraveled eyes. My acquaintance with sheets of water was small, and the pool of Bly, at all events on the few occasions of my consenting, under the protection of my pupils, to affront its surface in the old flat-bottomed boat moored there for our use, had impressed me both with its extent and its agitation. The usual place of embarkation was half a mile from the house, but I had an intimate conviction that, wherever Flora might be, she was not near home. She had not given me the slip for any small adventure, and, since the day of the very great one that I had shared with her by the pond, I had been aware, in our walks, of the quarter to which she most inclined. This was why I had now given to Mrs. Grose’s steps so marked a direction — a direction that made her, when she perceived it, oppose a resistance that showed me she was freshly mystified. “You’re going to the water, Miss?. — you think she’s in — ?”

“She may be, though the depth is, I believe, nowhere very great. But what I judge most likely is that she’s on the spot from which, the other day, we saw together what I told you.”

“When she pretended not to see — ?”

“With that astounding self-possession? I’ve always been sure she wanted to go back alone. And now her brother has managed it for her.”

Mrs. Grose still stood where she had stopped. “You suppose they really talk of them?”

I could meet this with a confidence! “They say things that, if we heard them, would simply appal us.”

“And if she is there — ?”

“Yes?”

“Then Miss Jessel is?”

“Beyond a doubt. You shall see.”

“Oh, thank you!” my friend cried, planted so firm that, taking it in, I went straight on without her. By the time I reached the pool, however, — she was close behind me, and I knew that, whatever, to her apprehension, might befall me, the exposure of my society struck her as her least danger. She exhaled a moan of relief as we at last came in sight of the greater part of the water without a sight of the child. There was no trace of Flora on that nearer side of the bank where my observation of her had been most startling, and none on the opposite edge, where, save for a margin of some twenty yards, a thick copse came down to the water. The pond, oblong in shape, had a width so scant compared to its length that, with its ends out of view, it might have been taken for a scant river. We looked at the empty expanse, and then I felt the suggestion of my friend’s eyes. I knew what she meant and I replied with a negative headshake.

“No, no; wait! She has taken the boat.”

My companion stared at the vacant mooring place and then again across the lake. “Then where is it?”

“Our not seeing it is the strongest of proofs. She has used it to go over, and then has managed to hide it.”

“All alone — that child?”

“She’s not alone, and at such times she’s not a child: she’s an old, old woman.” I scanned all the visible shore while Mrs. Grose took again, into the queer element I offered her, one of her plunges of submission; then I pointed out that the boat might perfectly be in a small refuge formed by one of the recesses of the pool, an indentation masked, for the hither side, by a projection of the bank and by a clump of trees growing close to the water.

“But if the boat’s there, where on earth’s she?” my colleague anxiously asked.

“That’s exactly what we must learn.” And I started to walk further.

“By going all the way round?”

“Certainly, far as it is. It will take us but ten minutes, but it’s far enough to have made the child prefer not to walk. She went straight over.”

“Laws!” cried my friend again; the chain of my logic was ever too much for her. It dragged her at my heels even now, and when we had got halfway round — a devious, tiresome process, on ground much broken and by a path choked with overgrowth — I paused to give her breath. I sustained her with a grateful arm, assuring her that she might hugely help me; and this started us afresh, so that in the course of but few minutes more we reached a point from which we found the boat to be where I had supposed it. It had been intentionally left as much as possible out of sight and was tied to one of the stakes of a fence that came, just there, down to the brink and that had been an assistance to disembarking. I recognized, as I looked at the pair of short, thick oars, quite safely drawn up, the prodigious character of the feat for a little girl; but I had lived, by this time, too long among wonders and had panted to too many livelier measures. There was a gate in the fence, through which we passed, and that brought us, after a trifling interval, more into the open. Then, “There she is!” we both exclaimed at once.

Flora, a short way off, stood before us on the grass and smiled as if her performance was now complete. The next thing she did, however, was to stoop straight down and pluck — quite as if it were all she was there for — a big, ugly spray of withered fern. I instantly became sure she had just come out of the copse. She waited for us, not herself taking a step, and I was conscious of the rare solemnity with which we presently approached her. She smiled and smiled, and we met; but it was all done in a silence by this time flagrantly ominous. Mrs. Grose was the first to break the spell: she threw herself on her knees and, drawing the child to her breast, clasped in a long embrace the little tender, yielding body. While this dumb convulsion lasted I could only watch it — which I did the more intently when I saw Flora’s face peep at me over our companion’s shoulder. It was serious now — the flicker had left it; but it strengthened the pang with which I at that moment envied Mrs. Grose the simplicity of her relation. Still, all this while, nothing more passed between us save that Flora had let her foolish fern again drop to the ground. What she and I had virtually said to each other was that pretexts were useless now. When Mrs. Grose finally got up she kept the child’s hand, so that the two were still before me; and the singular reticence of our communion was even more marked in the frank look she launched me. “I’ll be hanged,” it said, “if I’ll speak!”

It was Flora who, gazing all over me in candid wonder, was the first. She was struck with our bareheaded aspect. “Why, where are your things?”

“Where yours are, my dear!” I promptly returned.

She had already got back her gaiety, and appeared to take this as an answer quite sufficient, “And where’s Miles?” she went on.

There was something in the small valor of it that quite finished me: these three words from her were, in a flash like the glitter of a drawn blade, the jostle of the cup that my hand, for weeks and weeks, had held high and full to the brim and that now, even before speaking, I felt overflow in a deluge. “I’ll tell you if you’ll tell me — ” I heard myself say, then heard the tremor in which it broke.

“Well, what?”

Mrs. Grose’s suspense blazed at me, but it was too late now, and I brought the thing out handsomely. “Where, my pet, is Miss Jessel?”

53

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 20

Henry James

Just as in the churchyard with Miles, the whole thing was upon us. Much as I had made of the fact that this name had never once, between us, been sounded, the quick, smitten glare with which the child’s face now received it fairly likened my breach of the silence to the smash of a pane of glass. It added to the interposing cry, as if to stay the blow, that Mrs. Grose, at the same instant, uttered over my violence — the shriek of a creature scared, or rather wounded, which, in turn, within a few seconds, was completed by a gasp of my own. I seized my colleague’s arm. “She’s there, she’s there!”

Miss Jessel stood before us on the opposite bank exactly as she had stood the other time, and I remember, strangely, as the first feeling now produced in me, my thrill of joy at having brought on a proof. She was there, and I was justified; she was there, and I was neither cruel nor mad. She was there for poor scared Mrs. Grose, but she was mere most for Flora; and no moment of my monstrous time was perhaps so extraordinary as that in which I consciously threw out to her — with the sense that, pale and ravenous demon as she was, she would catch and understand it — an inarticulate message of gratitude. She rose erect on the spot my friend and I had lately quitted, and mere was not, in all the long reach of her desire, an inch of her evil that fell short. This first vividness of vision and emotion were things of a few seconds, during which Mrs. Grose’s dazed blink across to where I pointed struck me as a sovereign sign that she too at last saw, just as it carried my own eyes precipitately to the child. The revelation then of the manner in which Flora was affected startled me, in truth, far more than it would have done to find her also merely agitated, for direct dismay was of course not what I had expected. Prepared and on her guard as our pursuit had actually made her, she would repress every betrayal; and I was therefore shaken, on the spot, by my first glimpse of the particular one for which I had not allowed. To see her, without a convulsion of her small pink face, not even feign to glance in the direction of the prodigy I announced, but only, instead of that, turn at me an expression of hard, still gravity, am expression absolutely new and unprecedented and that appeared to read and accuse and judge me — this was a stroke that somehow converted the little girl herself into the very presence that could make me quail. I quailed even though my certitude that she thoroughly saw was never greater than at that instant, and in the immediate need to defend myself I called it passionately to witness. “She’s there, you little unhappy thing — there, there, there, and you see her as well as you see me!” I had said shortly before to Mrs. Grose that she was not at these times a child, but an old, old woman, and that description of her could not have been more strikingly confirmed than in the way in which, for all answer to this, she simply showed me, without a concession, an admission, of her eyes, a countenance of deeper and deeper, of indeed suddenly quite fixed, reprobation. I was by this time — if I can put the whole thing at all together — more appalled at what I may properly call her manner than at anything else, though it was simultaneously with this that I became aware of having Mrs. Grose also, and very formidably, to reckon with. My elder companion, the next moment, at any rate, blotted out everything but her own flushed face and her loud, shocked protest, a burst of high disapproval. “What a dreadful turn, to be sure, miss! Where on earth do you see anything?”

I could only grasp her more quickly yet, for even while she spoke the hideous plain presence stood undimmed and undaunted. It had already lasted a minute, and it lasted while I continued, seizing my colleague, quite thrusting her at it and presenting her to it, to insist with my pointing hand. “You don’t see her exactly as we see? — you mean to say you don’t now — now? She’s as big as a blazing fire! Only look, dearest woman, look — !” She looked, even as I did, and gave me, with her deep groan of negation, repulsion, compassion — the mixture with her pity of her relief at her exemption — a sense, touching to me even then, that she would have backed me up if she could. I might well have needed that, for with this hard blow of the proof that her eyes were hopelessly sealed I felt my own situation horribly crumble, I felt — I saw — my livid predecessor press, from her position, on my defeat, and I was conscious, more than all, of what I should have from this instant to deal with in the astounding little attitude of Flora. Into this attitude Mrs. Grose immediately and violently entered, breaking, even while there pierced through my sense of ruin a prodigious private triumph, into breathless reassurance.

“She isn’t there, little lady, and nobody’s there and you never see nothing, my sweet! How can poor Miss Jessel — when poor Miss Jessel’s dead and buried? We know, don’t we, love?” — and she appealed, blundering in, to the child. “It’s all a mere mistake and a worry and a joke — and we’ll go home as fast as we can!”

Our companion, on this, had responded with a strange, quick primness of propriety, and they were again, with Mrs. Grose on her feet, united, as it were, in pained opposition to me. Flora continued to fix me with her small mask of reprobation, and even at that minute I prayed God to forgive me for seeming to see that, as she stood there holding tight to our friend’s dress, her incomparable childish beauty had suddenly failed, had quite vanished. I’ve said it already — she was literally, she was hideously, hard; she had turned common and almost ugly. “I don’t know what you mean. I see nobody. I see nothing. I never have. I think you’re cruel. I don’t like you!” Then, after this deliverance, which might have been that of a vulgarly pert little girl in the street, she hugged Mrs. Grose more closely and buried in her skirts the dreadful little face. In this position she produced an almost furious wail. “Take me away, take me away — oh, take me away from her!

“From me?” I panted.

“From you — from you!” she cried.

Even Mrs. Grose looked across at me dismayed, while I had nothing to do but communicate again with the figure that, on the opposite bank, without a movement, as rigidly still as if catching, beyond the interval, our voices, was as vividly there for my disaster as it was not there for my service. The wretched child had spoken exactly as if she had got from some outside source each of her stabbing little words, and I could therefore, in the full despair of all I had to accept, but sadly shake my head at her. “If I had ever doubted, all my doubt would at present have gone. I’ve been living with the miserable truth, and now it has only too much closed round me. Of course I’ve lost you: I’ve interfered, and you’ve seen — under her dictation” — with which I faced, over the pool again, our infernal witness — “the easy and perfect way to meet it. I’ve done my best, but I’ve lost you. Goodbye.” For Mrs. Grose I had am imperative, am almost frantic “Go, go!” before which, in infinite distress, but mutely possessed of the little girl and clearly convinced, in spite of her blindness, that something awful had occurred and some collapse engulfed us, she retreated, by the way we had come, as fast as she could move.

Of what first happened when I was left alone I had no subsequent memory. I only knew that at the end of, I suppose, a quarter of an hour, an odorous dampness and roughness, chilling and piercing my trouble, had made me understand that I must have thrown myself, on my face, on the ground and given way to a wildness of grief. I must have lain there long and cried and sobbed, for when I raised my head the day was almost done. I got up and looked a moment, through the twilight, at the gray pool and its blank, haunted edge, and then I took, back to the house, my dreary and difficult course. When I reached the gate in the fence the boat, to my surprise, was gone, so that I had a fresh reflection to make on Flora’s extraordinary command of the situation. She passed that night, by the most tacit, and I should add, were not the word so grotesque a false note, the happiest of arrangements, with Mrs. Grose. I saw neither of them on my return, but, on the other hand, as by an ambiguous compensation, I saw a great deal of Miles. I saw — I can use no other phrase — so much of him that it was as if it were more than it had ever been. No evening I had passed at Bly had the portentous quality of this one; in spite of which — and in spite also of the deeper depths of consternation that had opened beneath my feet — there was literally, in the ebbing actual, an extraordinarily sweet sadness. On reaching the house I had never so much as looked for the boy; I had simply gone straight to my room to change what I was wearing and to take in, at a glance, much material testimony to Flora’s rupture. Her little belongings had all been removed. When later, by the schoolroom fire, I was served with tea by the usual maid, I indulged, on the article of my other pupil, in no inquiry whatever. He had his freedom now — he might have it to the end! Well, he did have it; and it consisted — in part at least — of his coming in at about eight o’clock and sitting down with me in silence. On the removal of the tea things I had blown out the candles and drawn my chair closer: I was conscious of a mortal coldness and felt as if I should never again be warm. So, when he appeared, I was sitting in the glow with my thoughts. He paused a moment by the door as if to look at me; then — as if to share them came to the other side of the hearth and sank into a chair. We sat there in absolute stillness, yet he wanted, I felt, to be with me.

54

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 21

Henry James

Before a new day, in my room, had fully broken, my eyes opened to Mrs. Grose, who had come to my bedside with worse news. Flora was so markedly feverish that an illess was perhaps at hand; she had passed a night of extreme unrest, a night agitated above all by fears that had for their subject not in the least her former, but wholly her present, governess. It was not against the possible re-entrance of Miss Jessel on the scene that she protested — it was conspicuously and passionately against mine. I was promptly on my feet of course, and with an immense deal to ask; the more that my friend had discernibly now girded her loins to meet me once more. This I felt as soon as I had put to her the question of her sense of the child’s sincerity as against my own. “She persists in denying to you that she saw, or has ever seen, anything?”

My visitor’s trouble, truly, was great. “Ah, miss, it isn’t a matter on which I can push her! Yet it isn’t either, I must say, as if I much needed to. It has made her, every inch of her, quite old.”

“Oh, I see her perfectly from here. She resents, for all the world like some high little personage, the imputation on her truthfulness and, as it were, her respectability. ‘Miss Jessel indeed — she!‘ Ah, she’s ‘respectable,’ the chit! The impression she gave me there yesterday was, I assure you, the very strangest of all; it was quite beyond any of the others. I did put my foot in it! She’ll never speak to me again.”

Hideous and obscure as it all was, it held Mrs. Grose briefly silent; then she granted my point with a frankness which, I made sure, had more behind it. “I think indeed, miss, she never will. She do have a grand manner about it!

“And that manner” — I summed it up — “is practically what’s the matter with her now!”

Oh, that manner, I could see in my visitor’s face, and not a little else besides! “She asks me every three minutes if I think you’re coming in.”

“I see — I see.” I, too, on my side, had so much more than worked it out. “Has she said to you since yesterday — except to repudiate her familiarity with anything so dreadful — a single other word about Miss Jessel?”

“Not one, miss. And of course you know,” my friend added, “I took it from her, by the lake, that, just then and there at least, there was nobody.”

“Rather! And, naturally, you take it from her still.”

“I don’t contradict her. What else can I do?”

“Nothing in the world! You’ve the cleverest little person to deal with. They’ve made them — their two friends, I mean — still cleverer even than nature did; for it was wondrous material to play on! Flora has now her grievance, and she’ll work it to the end.”

“Yes, miss; but to what end?”

“Why, that of dealing with me to her uncle. She’ll make me out to him the lowest creature — !”

I winced at the fair show of the scene in Mrs. Grose’s face; she looked for a minute as if she sharply saw them together. “And him who thinks so well of you!”

“He has an odd way — it comes over me now,” I laughed, ” — of proving it! But that doesn’t matter. What Flora wants, of course, is to get rid of me.”

My companion bravely concurred. “Never again to so much as look at you.”

“So that what you’ve come to me now for,” I asked, “is to speed me on my way?” Before she had time to reply, however, I had her in check. “I’ve a better idea — the result of my reflections. My going would seem the right thing, and on Sunday I was terribly near it. Yet that won’t do. It’s you who must go. You must take Flora.”

My visitor, at this, did speculate. “But where in the world — ?”

“Away from here. Away from them. Away, even most of all, now, from me. Straight to her uncle.”

“Only to tell on you — ?”

“No, not ‘only’! To leave me, in addition, with my remedy.”

She was still vague. “And what is your remedy?”

“Your loyalty, to begin with. And then Miles’s.”

She looked at me hard. “Do you think he — ?”

“Won’t, if he has the chance, turn on me? Yes, I venture still to think it. At all events, I want to try. Get off with his sister as soon as possible and leave me with him alone.” I was amazed, myself, at the spirit I had still in reserve, and therefore perhaps a trifle the more disconcerted at the way in which, in spite of this fine example of it, she hesitated. “There’s one thing, of course,” I went on: “they mustn’t, before she goes, see each other for three seconds.” Then it came over me that, in spite of Flora s presumable sequestration from the instant of her return from the pool, it might already be too late. “Do you mean,” I anxiously asked, “that they have met?”

At this she quite flushed. “Ah, miss, I’m not such a fool as that! If I’ve been obliged to leave her three or four times, it has been each time with one of the maids, and at present, though she’s alone, she’s locked in safe. And yet — and yet!” There were too many things.

“And yet what?”

“Well, are you so sure of the little gentleman?”

“I’m not sure of anything but you. But I have, since last evening, a new hope. I think he wants to give me an opening. I do believe that — poor little exquisite wretch! — he wants to speak. Last evening, in the firelight and the silence, he sat with me for two hours as if it were just coming.”

Mrs. Grose looked hard, through the window, at the gray, gathering day. “And did it come?”

“No, though I waited and waited, I confess it didn’t, and it was without a breach of the silence or so much as a faint allusion to his sister’s condition and absence that we at last kissed for good night. All the same,” I continued, “I can’t, if her uncle sees her, consent to his seeing her brother without my having given the boy — and most of all because things have got so bad — a little more time.”

My friend appeared on this ground more reluctant than I could quite understand. “What do you mean by more time?”

“Well, a day or two — really to bring it out. He’ll then be on my side — of which you see the importance. If nothing comes, I shall only fail, and you will, at the worst, have helped me by doing, on your arrival in town, whatever yon may have found possible.” So I put it before her, but she continued for a little so inscrutably embarrassed that I came again to her aid. “Unless, indeed,” I wound up, “you really want not to go.”

I could see it, in her face, at last clear itself; she put out her hand to me as a pledge. “I’ll go — I’ll go. I’ll go this morning.”

I wanted to be very just. “If you should wish still to wait, I would engage she shouldn’t see me.”

“No, no: it’s the place itself. She must leave it.” She held me a moment with heavy eyes, then brought out the rest. “Your idea’s the right one. I myself, miss — ”

“Well?”

“I can’t stay.”

The look she gave me with it made me jump at possibilities. “You mean that, since yesterday, you have seen — ?”

She shook her head with dignity. “I’ve heard — !”

“Heard?”

“From that child — horrors! There!” she sighed with tragic relief. “On my honor, miss, she says things — !” But at this evocation she broke down; she dropped, with a sudden sob, upon my sofa and, as I had seen her do before, gave way to all the grief of it.

It was quite in another manner that I, for my part, let myself go. “Oh, thank God!”

She sprang up again at this, drying her eyes with a groan. “‘Thank God’?”

“It so justifies me!”

“It does that, miss!”

I couldn’t have desired more emphasis, but I just hesitated. “She’s so horrible?”

I saw my colleague scarce knew how to put it. “Really shocking.”

“And about me?”

“About you, miss — since you must have it. It’s beyond everything, for a young lady; and I can’t think wherever she must have picked up — ”

“The appalling language she applied to me? I can, then!” I broke in with a laugh that was doubtless significant enough.

It only, in truth, left my friend still more grave. “Well, perhaps I ought to also — since I’ve heard some of it before! Yet I can’t bear it,” the poor woman went on while, with the same movement, she glanced, on my dressing table, at the face of my watch. “But I must go back.”

I kept her, however. “Ah, if you can’t bear it — !”

“How can I stop with her, you mean? Why, just for that: to get her away. Far from this,” she pursued, “far from them — ”

“She may be different? She may be free?” I seized her almost with joy. “Then, in spite of yesterday, you believe — ”

“In such doings?” Her simple description of them required, in the light of her expression, to be carried no further, and she gave me the whole thing as she had never done. “I believe.”

Yes, it was a joy, and we were still shoulder to shoulder: if I might continue sure of that I should care but little what else happened. My support in the presence of disaster would be the same as it had been in my early need of confidence, and if my friend would answer for my honesty, I would answer for all the rest. On the point of taking leave of her, nonetheless, I was to some extent embarrassed. “There’s one thing, of course — it occurs to me — to remember. My letter, giving the alarm, will have reached town before you.”

I now perceived still more how she had been beating about the bush and how weary at last it had made her. “Your letter won’t have got there. Your letter never went.”

“What then became of it?”

“Goodness knows! Master Miles — ”

“Do you mean he took it?” I gasped.

She hung fire, but she overcame her reluctance. “I mean that I saw yesterday, when I came back with Miss Flora, that it wasn’t where you had put it. Later in the evening I had the chance to question Luke, and he declared that he had neither noticed nor touched it.” We could only exchange, on this, one of our deeper mutual soundings, and it was Mrs. Grose who first brought up the plumb with an almost elated “You see!”

“Yes, I see that if Miles took it instead he probably will have read it and destroyed it.”

“And don’t you see anything else?”

I faced her a moment with a sad smile. “It strikes me that by this time your eyes are open even wider than mine.”

They proved to be so indeed, but she could still blush, almost, to show it. “I make out now what he must have done at school.” And she gave, in her simple sharpness, an almost droll disillusioned nod. “He stole!”

I turned it over — I tried to be more judicial. “Well — perhaps.”

She looked as if she found me unexpectedly calm. “He stole letters!”

She couldn’t know my reasons for a calmness after all pretty shallow; so I showed them off as I might. “I hope then it was to more purpose than in this case! The note, at any rate, that I put on me table yesterday,” I pursued, “will have given him so scant an advantage — for it contained only the bare demand for an interview — that he is already much ashamed of having gone so far for so little, and that what he had on his mind last evening was precisely the need of confession.” I seemed to myself, for me instant, to have mastered it, to see it all. “Leave us, leave us” — I was already, at the door, hurrying her off. “I’ll get it out of him. He’ll meet me — he’ll confess. If he confesses, he’s saved. And if he’s saved — ”

“Then you are?” The dear woman kissed me on this, and I took her farewell. “I’ll save you without him!” she cried as she went.

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Turn of the Screw: Chapter 22

Henry James

Yet it was when she had got off — and I missed her on the spot — that the great pinch really came. If I had counted on what it would give me to find myself alone with Miles, I speedily perceived, at least, that it would give me a measure. No hour of my stay in fact was so assailed with apprehensions as that of my coming down to learn that the carriage containing Mrs. Grose and my younger pupil had already rolled out of the gates. Now I was, I said to myself, face to face with the elements, and for much of the rest of the day, while I fought my weakness, I could consider that I had been supremely rash. It was a tighter place still than I had yet turned round in; all the more that, for the first time, I could see in the aspect of others a confused reflection of the crisis. What had happened naturally caused them all to stare; there was too little of the explained, throw out whatever we might, in the suddenness of my colleague’s act. The maids and the men looked blank; the effect of which on my nerves was an aggravation until I saw the necessity of making it a positive aid. It was precisely, in short, by just clutching the helm that I avoided total wreck; and I dare say that, to bear up at all, I became, that morning, very grand and very dry. I welcomed the consciousness that I was charged with much to do, and I caused it to be known as well that, left thus to myself, I was quite remarkably firm. I wandered with that manner, for the next hour or two, all over the place and looked, I have no doubt, as if I were ready for any onset. So, for the benefit of whom it might concern, I paraded with a sick heart.

The person it appeared least to concern proved to be, till dinner, little Miles himself. My perambulations had given me, meanwhile, no glimpse of him, but they had tended to make more public the change taking place in our relation as a consequence of his having at the piano the day before, kept me, in Flora’s interest, so beguiled and befooled. The stamp of publicity had of course been fully given by her confinement and departure, and the change itself was now ushered in by our nonobservance of the regular custom of the schoolroom. He had already disappeared when, on my way down, I pushed open his door, and I learned below that he had breakfasted — in the presence of a couple of the maids — with Mrs. Grose and his sister. He had then gone out, as he said, for a stroll than which nothing, I reflected, could better have expressed his frank view of the abrupt transformation of my office. What he would now permit this office to consist of was yet to be settled: there was a queer relief, at all events — I mean for myself in especial — in the renouncement of one pretension. If so much had sprung to the surface, I scarce put it too strongly in saying that what had perhaps sprung highest was the absurdity of our prolonging the fiction that I had anything more to teach him. It sufficiently stuck out that, by tacit little tricks in which even more than myself he carried out the care for my dignity, I had had to appeal to him to let me off straining to meet him on the ground of his true capacity.

He had at any rate his freedom now; I was never to touch it again; as I had amply shown, moreover, when, on his joining me in the schoolroom the previous night, I had uttered, on the subject of the interval just concluded, neither challenge nor hint. I had too much, from this moment, my other ideas. Yet when he at last arrived, the difficulty of applying them, the accumulations of my problem, were brought straight home to me by the beautiful little presence on which what had occurred had as yet, for the eye, dropped neither stain nor shadow.

To mark, for the house, the high state I cultivated I decreed that my meals with the boy should be served, as we called it, downstairs; so that I had been awaiting him in the ponderous pomp of the room outside of the window of which I had had from Mrs. Grose, that first scared Sunday, my flash of something it would scarce have done to call light. Here at present I felt afresh — for I had felt it again and again — how my equilibrium depended on the success of my rigid will, the will to shut my eyes as tight as possible to the truth that what I had to deal with was, revoltingly, against nature. I could only get on at all by taking “nature” into my confidence and my account, by treating my monstrous ordeal as a push in a direction unusual, of course, and unpleasant, but demanding, after all, for a fair front, only another turn of the screw of ordinary human virtue. No attempt, nonetheless, could well require more tact than just this attempt to supply, one’s self, all the nature. How could I put even a little of that article into a suppression of reference to what had occurred? How, on the other hand, could I make reference without a new plunge into the hideous obscure? Well, a sort of answer, after a time, had come to me, and it was so far confirmed as that I was met, incontestably, by the quickened vision of what was rare in my little companion. It was indeed as if he had found even now — as he had so often found at lessons — still some other delicate way to ease me off. Wasn’t there light in the fact which, as we shared our solitude, broke out with a specious glitter it had never yet quite worn? — the fact that (opportunity aiding, precious opportunity which had now come) it would be preposterous, with a child so endowed, to forego the help one might wrest from absolute intelligence? What had his intelligence been given him for but to save him? Mightn’t one, to reach his mind, risk the stretch of an angular arm over his character? It was as if, when we were face to face in the dining room, he had literally shown me the way, The roast mutton was on the table, and I had dispensed with attendance. Miles, before he sat down, stood a moment with his hands in his pockets and looked at the joint, on which he seemed on the point of passing some humorous judgment. But what he presently produced was: “I say, my dear, is she really very awfully ill?”

“Little Flora? Not so bad but that she’ll presently be better. London will set her up. Bly had ceased to agree with her. Come here and take your mutton.

He alertly obeyed me, carried the plate carefully to ms seat, and, when he was established, went on. Did Bly disagree with her so terribly suddenly?

“Not so suddenly as you might think. One had seen it coming on.”

“Then why didn’t you get her off before?”

“Before what?”

“Before she became too ill to travel.”

I found myself prompt. “She’s not too ill to travel: she only might have become so if she had stayed. This was just the moment to seize. The journey will dissipate the influence” — oh, I was grand! — “and carry it off.”

“I see, I see” — Miles, for that matter, was grand, too. He settled to his repast with the charming little “table manner” that, from the day of his arrival, had relieved me of all grossness of admonition. Whatever he had been driven from school for, it was not for ugly feeding. He was irreproachable, as always, today; but he was unmistakably more conscious. He was discernibly trying to take for granted more things than he found, without assistance, quite easy; and he dropped into peaceful silence while he felt his situation. Our meal was of the briefest — mine a vain pretense, and I had the things immediately removed. While this was done Miles stood again with his hands in his little pockets and his back to me — stood and looked out of the wide window through which, that other day, I had seen what pulled me up. We continued silent while the maid was with us — as silent, it whimsically occurred to me, as some young couple who, on their wedding journey, at the inn, feel shy in the presence of the waiter. He turned round only when the waiter had left us. “Well — so we’re alone!”

56

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 23

Henry James

“Oh, more or less.” I fancy my smile was pale. “Not absolutely. We shouldn’t like that!” I went on.

“No — I suppose we shouldn’t. Of course we have the others.”

“We have the others — we have indeed the others,” I concurred.

“Yet even though we have them,” he returned, still with his hands in his pockets and planted there in front of me, “they don’t much count, do they?”

I made the best of it, but I felt wan. “It depends on what you call ‘much!’.”

“Yes” — with all accommodation — “everything depends!” On this, however, he faced to the window again and presently reached it with his vague, restless, cogitating step. He remained there awhile, with his forehead against the glass, in contemplation of the stupid shrubs I knew and the dull things of November. I had always my hypocrisy of “work,” behind which, now, I gained the sofa. Steadying myself with it there as I had repeatedly done at those moments of torment that I have described as the moments of my knowing me children to be given to something from which I was barred, I sufficiently obeyed my habit of being prepared for the worst. But an extraordinary impression dropped on me as I extracted a meaning from the boy’s embarrassed back — none other than the impression that I was not barred now. This influence grew in a few minutes to sharp intensity and seemed bound up with the direct perception that it was positively he who was. The frames and squares of the great window were a kind of image, for him, of a kind of failure. I felt that I saw him, at any rate, shut in or shut out. He was admirable, but not comfortable: I took it in with a throb of hope. Wasn’t he looking, through the haunted pane, for something he couldn’t see? — and wasn’t it the first time in the whole business that he had known such a lapse? The first, the very first: I found it a splendid portent. It made him anxious, though he watched himself; he had been anxious all day and, even while in his usual sweet little manner he sat at table, had needed all his small strange genius to give it a gloss. When he at last turned round to meet me, it was almost as if this genius had succumbed. “Well, I think I’m glad Bly agrees with me!

“You would certainly seem to have seen, these twenty-four hours, a good deal more of it than for some time before. I hope,” I went on bravely, “that you’ve been enjoying yourself.”

“Oh, yes, I’ve been ever so far; all round about — miles and miles away. I’ve never been so free.”

He had really a manner of his own, and I could only try to keep up with him. “Well, do you like it?”

He stood there smiling; then at last he put into two words — “Do you?” — more discrimination than I had ever heard two words contain. Before I had time to deal with that, however, he continued as if with the sense that this was an impertinence to be softened. “Nothing could be more charming than the way you take it, for of course if we’re alone together now it’s you that are alone most. But I hope,” he threw in, “yon don’t particularly mind!”

“Having to do with you?” I asked. “My dear child, how can I help minding? Though I’ve renounced all claim to your company — you’re so beyond me — I at least greatly enjoy it. What else should I stay on for?”

He looked at me more directly, and the expression of his face, graver now, struck me as the most beautiful I had ever found in it. “You stay on just for that?

“Certainly. I stay on as your friend and from the tremendous interest I take in you till something can be done for you that may be more worth your while. That needn’t surprise you.” My voice trembled so that I felt it impossible to suppress the shake. “Don’t you remember how I told you, when I came and sat on your bed the night of the storm, that there was nothing in the world I wouldn’t do for you?”

“Yes, yes!” He, on his side, more and more visibly nervous, had a tone to master; but he was so much more successful than I that, laughing out through his gravity, he could pretend we were pleasantly jesting. “Only that, I think, was to get me to do something for you!

“It was partly to get you to do something,” I conceded. “But you know, you didn’t do it.”

“Oh, yes,” he said with the brightest superficial eagerness, “you wanted me to tell you something.”

“That’s it. Out, straight out. What you have on your mind, you know.”

“Ah, then, is that what you’ve stayed over for?”

He spoke with a gaiety through which I could still catch the finest little quiver of resentful passion; but I can’t begin to express the effect upon me of an implication of surrender even so faint. It was as if what I had yearned for had come at last only to astonish me. “Well, yes — I may as well make a clean breast of it. It was precisely for that.”

He waited so long that I supposed it for the purpose of repudiating the assumption on which my action had been founded; but what he finally said was: “Do you mean now — here?”

“There couldn’t be a better place or time.” He looked round him uneasily, and I had the rare — oh, the queer — impression of the very first symptom I had seen in him of the approach of immediate fear. It was as if he were suddenly afraid of me — which struck me indeed as perhaps the best thing to make him. Yet in the very pang of the effort I felt it vain to try sternness, and I heard myself the next instant so gentle as to be almost grotesque “You want so to go out again?”

“Awfully!” He smiled at me heroically, and the touching little bravery of it was enhanced by his actually flushing with pain. He had picked up his hat, which he had brought in, and stood twirling it in a way that gave me, even as I was just nearly reaching port, a perverse horror of what I was doing. To do it in any way was an act of violence, for what did it consist of but the obtrusion of the idea of grossness and guilt on a small helpless creature who had been for me a revelation of the possibilities of beautiful intercourse? Wasn’t it base to create for a being so exquisite a mere alien awkwardness? I suppose I now read into our situation a clearness it couldn’t have had at the time, for I seem to see our poor eyes already lighted with some spark of a prevision of the anguish that was to come. So we circled about, with terrors and scruples, like fighters not daring to close. But it was for each other we feared! That kept us a little longer suspended and unbruised. “I’ll tell you everything,” Miles said — “I mean I’ll tell you anything you like. You’ll stay on with me, and we shall both be all right; and I will tell you — I will. But not now.”

“Why not now?”

My insistence turned him from me and kept him once more at his window in a silence during which, between us, you might have heard a pin drop. Then he was before me again with the air of a person for whom, outside, someone who had frankly to be reckoned with was waiting. “I have to see Luke.”

I had not yet reduced him to quite so vulgar a lie, and I felt proportionately ashamed. But, horrible as it was, his lies made up my truth. I achieved thoughtfully a few loops of my knitting. “Well, then, go to Luke, and I’ll wait for what you promise. Only, in return for that, satisfy, before you leave me, one very much smaller request.”

He looked as if he felt he had succeeded enough to be able still a little to bargain. “Very much smaller — ?”

“Yes, a mere fraction of the whole. Tell me” — oh, my work preoccupied me, and I was offhand! — “if, yesterday afternoon, from the table in the hall, you took, you know, my letter.”

57

Turn of the Screw: Chapter 24

Henry James

My sense of how he received this suffered for a minute from something that I can describe only as a fierce split of my attention — a stroke that at first, as I sprang straight up, reduced me to the mere blind movement of getting hold of him, drawing him close, and, while I just fell for support against the nearest piece of furniture, instinctively keeping him with his back to the window. The appearance was full upon us that I had already had to deal with here: Peter Quint had come into view like a sentinel before a prison. The next thing I saw was that, from outside, he had reached the window, and then I knew that, close to the glass and glaring in through it, he offered once more to the room his white face of damnation. It represents but grossly what took place within me at the sight to say that on the second my decision was made; yet I believe that no woman so overwhelmed ever in so short a time recovered her grasp of the act. It came to me in the very horror of the immediate presence that the act would be, seeing and facing what I saw and faced, to keep the boy himself unaware. The inspiration — I can call it by no other name — was that I felt how voluntarily, how transcentently, I might. It was like fighting with a demon for a human soul, and when I had fairly so appraised it I saw how the human soul — held out, in the tremor of my hands, at arm’s length — had a perfect dew of sweat on a lovely childish forehead. The face that was close to mine was as white as the face against the glass, and out of it presently came a sound, not low nor weak, but as if from much further away, that I drank like a waft of fragrance.

“Yes I took it.”

At this, with a moan of joy, I enfolded, I drew him close; and while I held him to my breast, where I could feel in the sudden fever of his little body the tremendous pulse of his little heart, I kept my eyes on the thing at the window and saw it move and shift its posture. I have likened it to a sentinel, but its slow wheel, for a moment, was rather the prowl of a baffled beast. My present quickened courage, however, was such that, not too much to let it through, I had to shade, as it were, my flame. Meanwhile the glare of the face was again at the window, the scoundrel fixed as if to watch and wait. It was the very confidence that I might now defy him, as well as the positive certitude, by this time, of the child’s unconsciousness, that made me go on, “What did you take it for?”

‘To see what you said about me.”

“You opened the letter?”

“I opened it.”

My eyes were now, as I held him off a little again, on Miles’s own face, in which the collapse of mockery showed me how complete was the ravage of uneasiness. What was prodigious was that at last, by my success, his sense was sealed and his communication stopped: he knew that he was in presence, but knew not of what, and knew still less that I also was and that I did know. And what did this strain of trouble matter when my eyes went back to the window only to see that the air was clear again and — by my personal triumph — the influence quenched? There was nothing there. I felt that the cause was mine and that I should surely get all. “And you found nothing!” — I let my elation out.

He gave the most mournful, thoughtful little headshake. “Nothing.”

“Nothing, nothing!” I almost shouted in my joy.

‘Nothing, nothing,” he sadly repeated.

I kissed his forehead; it was drenched. “So what have you done with it?”

“I’ve burned it.”

“Burned it?” It was now or never. “Is that what you did at school?”

Oh, what this brought up! “At school?”

“Did you take letters? or other things?”

“Other things?” He appeared now to be thinking of something far off and that reached him only through the pressure of his anxiety. Yet it did reach him. “Did I steal?

I felt myself redden to the roots of my hair as well as wonder if it were more strange to put to a gentleman such a question or to see him take it with allowances that gave the very distance of his fall in the world. “Was it for that you mightn’t go back?”

The only thing he felt was rather a dreary little surprise. “Did you know I mightn’t go back?”

“I know everything.”

He gave me at this the longest and strangest look. “Everything?”

“Everything. Therefore did you — ?” But I couldn’t say it again.

Miles could, very simply. “No. I didn’t steal.”

My face must have shown him I believed him utterly; yet my hands — but it was for pure tenderness — shook him as if to ask him why, if it was all for nothing, he had condemned me to months of torment. “What then did you do?”

He looked in vague pain all round the top of the room and drew his breath, two or three times over, as if with difficulty. He might have been standing at the bottom of the sea and raising his eyes to some faint green twilight. “Well — I said things.”

“Only that?”

“They thought it was enough!”

“To turn you out for?”

Never, truly, had a person “turned out” shown so little to explain it as this little person! He appeared to weigh my question, but in a manner quite detached and almost helpless. “Well, I suppose I oughtn’t.”

But to whom did you say them?”

He evidently tried to remember, but it dropped — he had lost it. “I don’t know!”

He almost smiled at me in the desolation of his surrender, which was indeed practically, by this time, so complete that I ought to have left it there. But I was infatuated — I was blind with victory, though even then the very effect that was to have brought him so much nearer was already that of added separation. “Was it to everyone?” I asked.

“No; it was only to — ” But he gave a sick little headshake. “I don’t remember their names.”

“Were they then so many?”

“No — only a few. Those I liked.”

Those he liked? I seemed to float not into clearness, but into a darker obscure, and within a minute there had come to me out of my very pity the appalling alarm of his being perhaps innocent. It was for the instant confounding and bottomless, for if he were innocent, what then on earth was I? Paralyzed, while it lasted, by the mere brush of the question, I let him go a little, so that, with a deep-drawn sigh, he turned away from me again; which, as he faced toward the clear window, I suffered, feeling that I had nothing now there to keep him from. “And did they repeat what you said?” I went on after a moment.

He was soon at some distance from me, still breathing hard and again with the air, though now without anger for it, of being confined against his will. Once more, as he had done before, he looked up at the dim day as if, of what had hitherto sustained him, nothing was left but an unspeakable anxiety. “Oh, yes,” he nevertheless replied — “they must have repeated them. To those they liked,” he added.

There was, somehow, less of it than I had expected; but I turned it over. “And these things came round — ?”

“To the masters? Oh, yes!” he answered very simply. “But I didn’t know they’d tell.”

“The masters? They didn’t — they’ve never told. That’s why I ask you.”

He turned to me again his little beautiful fevered face. “Yes, it was too bad.”

“Too bad?”

“What I suppose I sometimes said. To write home.”

I can’t name the exquisite pathos of the contradiction given to such a speech by such a speaker; I only know that the next instant I heard myself throw off with homely force: “Stuff and nonsense!” But the next after that I must have sounded stern enough. “What were these things?”

My sternness was all for his judge, his executioner; yet it made him avert himself again, and that movement made me, with a single bound and an irrepressible cry, spring straight upon him. For there again, against the glass, as if to blight his confession and stay his answer, was the hideous author of our woe — the white face of damnation. I felt a sick swim at the drop of my victory and all the return of my battle, so that the wildness of my veritable leap only served as a great betrayal. I saw him, from the midst of my act, meet it with a divination, and on the perception that even now he only guessed, and that the window was still to his own eyes free, I let the impulse flame up to convert the climax of his dismay into the very proof of his liberation. “No more, no more, no more!” I shrieked, as I tried to press him against me, to my visitant.

“Is she here?” Miles panted as he caught with his sealed eyes the direction of my words. Then as his strange “she” staggered me and, with a gasp, I echoed it, “Miss Jessel, Miss Jessel!” he with a sudden fury gave me back.

I seized, stupefied, his supposition some sequel to what we had done to Flora, but this made me only want to show him that it was better still than that. “It’s not Miss Jessel! But it’s at the window — straight before us. It’s there — the coward horror, there for the last time!”

At this, after a second in which his head made the movement of a baffled dog’s on a scent and then gave a frantic little shake for air and light, he was at me in a white rage, bewildered, glaring vainly over the place and missing wholly, though it now, to my sense, filled the room like the taste of poison, the wide, overwhelming presence. “It’s he?

I was so determined to have all my proof that I flashed into ice to challenge him. “Whom do you mean by ‘he’?”

“Peter Quint — you devil!” His face gave again, round the room, its convulsed supplication. “Where?

They are in my ears still, his supreme surrender of the name and his tribute to my devotion. “What does he matter now, my own? — what will he ever matter? I have you,” I launched at the beast, “but he has lost you forever!” Then, for the demonstration of my work, “There, there!” I said to Miles.

But he had already jerked straight round, stared, glared again, and seen but the quiet day. With the stroke of the loss I was so proud of he uttered the cry of a creature hurled over an abyss, and the grasp with which I recovered him might have been that of catching him in his fall. I caught him, yes, I held him — it may be imagined with what a passion; but at the end of a minute I began to feel what it truly was that I held. We were alone with the quiet day, and his little heart, dispossessed, had stopped.

58

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

  1. List some of the character names you think are symbolic or at least significant because of the connotations/associations of their names.
  2. What do you think of the children’s uncle? What does the governess think of him?
  3. Why do you think Miles was expelled from his school?
  4. Did Miles survive to adulthood and become Douglas?
  5. What images relating to Peter Quint might be interpreted symbolically or clinically in a Freudian way?
  6. Are the children liars?
  7. When Flora is seen at the lake, are her playthings symbolic?
  8. Does anyone else beside the governess ever admit to seeing the ghosts?
  9. What is gained by having the governess relate the story?
  10. What are some of the novels the governess alludes to, and what do they have in common?
  11. When Miles shouts, “Peter Quint—you devil!”, to whom is he speaking?
  12. Describe the circumstances surrounding each appearance of an apparition.

 

Short Essay Topic (750-1000 words)

C.G. Jung theorizes that “neuroses are the results of the person’s failure to confront and to accept some archetypal component of the unconscious. Instead of assimilating this unconscious element to their consciousness, neurotic individuals persist in projecting it upon some other person…” (Guerin, et al. A Handbook of Critical Approaches to Literature, 3rd ed., p. 169). Discuss characterization within a framework of Jung’s triad of shadow, persona, and anima.

 Resources

Turn of the Screw Mini Casebook. See the three suggested “controlled research topics” in the mini-casebook on Turn of the Screw in Appendices.

 

Attributions

Figure 1
Henry James by John Singer Sargent cleaned by John Singer Sargent (died 1925) (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_James_by_John_Singer_Sargent_cleaned.jpg) is in the Public Domain

VIII

Oscar Wilde (1854–1900)

59

Biography

 

Biography

Oscar Wilde, the son of an eminent Dublin surgeon, stands out among the fraternity of Victorian dramatists, which includes fellow-Irishman Dion Boucicault (1820–1890), James Robinson Planché (1796–1880), Tom Robertson (1829–1871), Tom Taylor (1817–1880), W.S. Gilbert (1836–1911), and Arthur Wing Pinero (1859–1934). After studying at Trinity College, Dublin, Wilde attended Magdalen College, Oxford, where as a disciple of Walter Pater, he participated in the Aesthetic Movement, which advocated “art for art’s sake.” His aesthetic idiosyncrasies (such as his wearing his hair long, dressing colourfully, and carrying flowers while lecturing) were parodied by Gilbert and Sullivan in their operetta Patience (1881), for which Wilde acted as a “front man” by delivering lectures on aestheticism in advance of the road tour of the operetta.

After his marriage to Constance Lloyd in 1884, Wilde published several children’s books, and in 1891 the tale of a hedonistic Adonis with the tormented soul of a satyr, The Picture of Dorian Gray. In a brilliant series of domestic comedies — Lady Windermere’s Fan (1892),  A Woman of No Importance (1893), and An Ideal Husband (1894) — Wilde took the London stage by storm with his witty, epigrammatic style, insolent ease of utterance, and suave urbanity. Wilde described Lady Windermere’s Fan as “one of those modern drawing-room plays with pink lampshades.” Its combination of polished social drama and corruscatingly witty dialogue was repeated in 1895 in the two hits that he had on the London stage simultaneously, An Ideal Husband and The Importance of Being Earnest.

Later that same year, Wilde’s tragic downfall was precipitated by an accusation of homosexuality by the Marquis of Queensbury, father of Wilde’s intimate, Lord Alfred Douglas. The irate peer left a card at Wilde’s club addressed thus: “To Oscar Wilde posing as a Somdomite” (sic). Wilde, taking it that the writer meant “Sodomite,” made the catastrophic error of deciding to sue the peer for libel. After a sensational trial, Wilde was sentenced to two years’ hard labour for homosexual practices. Sent to Wandsworth Prison in November 1895, Wilde was subsequently transferred to Reading Gaol (image). Bankrupt and ruined in health, Wilde left prison in 1897 and settled, bitter and broken, in Paris under the pseudonym Sebastian Melmoth (the name of his favourite martyr from Melmoth the Wanderer, a novel written by his great-uncle, Charles Maturin, in 1820).

Of his time as a prisoner, he wrote in “The Ballad of Reading Gaol” (1898):

I never saw a man who looked
With such a wistful eye
Under the little tent of blue
Which prisoners call the sky.

All that we know who lie in gaol
Is that the wall is strong;
And that each day is like a year,
A year whose days are long.

Used with permission from: Victorian Web http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/wilde/pva94.html and Philip V. Allingham, Faculty of Education, Lakehead University (Canada)

 

60

The Importance of Being Earnest: Act I

Oscar Wilde

A Trivial Comedy for Serious People

THE PERSONS IN THE PLAY

John Worthing, J.P.Justice of the Peace, presumably as with Justice Shallow in 2 Henry IV, a local position based on land ownership and position in the community. Jack’s surname alludes to the seaside resort south of London where Wilde wrote the play in the summer of 1894.
Algernon Moncrieff
Rev. Canon Chasuble, D.D.
Merriman, Butler
Lane, Manservant
LadyAll daughters of dukes, marquesses, and earls are styled Lady. Bracknell
HonHonourable. Daughters of barons and viscounts such as Lord Bracknell, were allowed this designation, though never used in direct address.. Gwendolen Fairfax
Cecily Cardew
Miss Prism, Governess

THE SCENES OF THE PLAY

ACT I.  Algernon Moncrieff’s Flat in Half-Moon Street, W.A fashionable street in London’s Mayfair district. “W” is an abbreviation for “West,” designating postal district.

ACT II.  The Garden at the Manor House, Woolton.

ACT III.  Drawing-Room at the Manor House, Woolton.

TIME: The Present.

 

FIRST ACT

SCENE

Morning-room in Algernon’s flat in Half-Moon Street.  The room is luxuriously and artistically furnished.  The sound of a piano is heard in the adjoining room.

[Lane is arranging afternoon tea on the table, and after the music has ceased, Algernon enters.]

Algernon.  Did you hear what I was playing, Lane?

Lane.  I didn’t think it polite to listen, sir.

Algernon.  I’m sorry for that, for your sake.  I don’t play accurately—any one can play accurately—but I play with wonderful expression.  As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte.  I keep science for Life.

Lane.  Yes, sir.

Algernon.  And, speaking of the science of Life, have you got the cucumber sandwiches cut for Lady Bracknell?

Lane.  Yes, sir.  [Hands them on a salver.]

Algernon.  [Inspects them, takes two, and sits down on the sofa.]  Oh! . . . by the way, Lane, I see from your book that on Thursday night, when Lord Shoreman and Mr. Worthing were dining with me, eight bottles of champagne are entered as having been consumed.

Lane.  Yes, sir; eight bottles and a pint.

Algernon.  Why is it that at a bachelor’s establishment the servants invariably drink the champagne?  I ask merely for information.

Lane.  I attribute it to the superior quality of the wine, sir.  I have often observed that in married households the champagne is rarely of a first-rate brand.

Algernon.  Good heavens!  Is marriage so demoralising as that?

Lane.  I believe it is a very pleasant state, sir.  I have had very little experience of it myself up to the present.  I have only been married once.  That was in consequence of a misunderstanding between myself and a young person.

Algernon.  [Languidly.]  I don’t know that I am much interested in your family life, Lane.

Lane.  No, sir; it is not a very interesting subject.  I never think of it myself.

Algernon.  Very natural, I am sure.  That will do, Lane, thank you.

Lane.  Thank you, sir.  [Lane goes out.]

Algernon.  Lane’s views on marriage seem somewhat lax.  Really, if the lower orders don’t set us a good example, what on earth is the use of them?  They seem, as a class, to have absolutely no sense of moral responsibility.

[Enter Lane.]

Lane.  Mr. Ernest Worthing.

[Enter Jack.]

[Lane goes out.]

Algernon.  How are you, my dear Ernest?  What brings you up to town?

Jack.  Oh, pleasure, pleasure!  What else should bring one anywhere?  Eating as usual, I see, Algy!

Algernon.  [Stiffly.]  I believe it is customary in good society to take some slight refreshment at five o’clock.  Where have you been since last Thursday?

Jack.  [Sitting down on the sofa.]  In the country.

Algernon.  What on earth do you do there?

Jack.  [Pulling off his gloves.]  When one is in town one amuses oneself.  When one is in the country one amuses other people.  It is excessively boring.

Algernon.  And who are the people you amuse?

Jack.  [Airily.]  Oh, neighbours, neighbours.

Algernon.  Got nice neighbours in your part of Shropshire?

Jack.  Perfectly horrid!  Never speak to one of them.

Algernon.  How immensely you must amuse them!  [Goes over and takes sandwich.]  By the way, Shropshire is your county, is it not?

Jack.  Eh?  Shropshire?  Yes, of course.  Hallo!  Why all these cups?  Why cucumber sandwiches?  Why such reckless extravagance in one so young?  Who is coming to tea?

Algernon.  Oh! merely Aunt Augusta and Gwendolen.

Jack.  How perfectly delightful!

Algernon.  Yes, that is all very well; but I am afraid Aunt Augusta won’t quite approve of your being here.

Jack.  May I ask why?

Algernon.  My dear fellow, the way you flirt with Gwendolen is perfectly disgraceful.  It is almost as bad as the way Gwendolen flirts with you.

Jack.  I am in love with Gwendolen.  I have come up to town expressly to propose to her.

Algernon.  I thought you had come up for pleasure? . . . I call that business.

Jack.  How utterly unromantic you are!

Algernon.  I really don’t see anything romantic in proposing.  It is very romantic to be in love.  But there is nothing romantic about a definite proposal.  Why, one may be accepted.  One usually is, I believe.  Then the excitement is all over.  The very essence of romance is uncertainty.  If ever I get married, I’ll certainly try to forget the fact.

Jack.  I have no doubt about that, dear Algy.  The Divorce Court was specially invented for people whose memories are so curiously constituted.

Algernon.  Oh! there is no use speculating on that subject.  Divorces are made in Heaven—[Jack puts out his hand to take a sandwich.  Algernon at once interferes.]  Please don’t touch the cucumber sandwiches.  They are ordered specially for Aunt Augusta.  [Takes one and eats it.]

Jack.  Well, you have been eating them all the time.

Algernon.  That is quite a different matter.  She is my aunt.  [Takes plate from below.]  Have some bread and butter.  The bread and butter is for Gwendolen.  Gwendolen is devoted to bread and butter.

Jack.  [Advancing to table and helping himself.]  And very good bread and butter it is too.

Algernon.  Well, my dear fellow, you need not eat as if you were going to eat it all.  You behave as if you were married to her already.  You are not married to her already, and I don’t think you ever will be.

Jack.  Why on earth do you say that?

Algernon.  Well, in the first place girls never marry the men they flirt with.  Girls don’t think it right.

Jack.  Oh, that is nonsense!

Algernon.  It isn’t.  It is a great truth.  It accounts for the extraordinary number of bachelors that one sees all over the place.  In the second place, I don’t give my consent.

Jack.  Your consent!

Algernon.  My dear fellow, Gwendolen is my first cousin.  And before I allow you to marry her, you will have to clear up the whole question of Cecily.  [Rings bell.]

Jack.  Cecily!  What on earth do you mean?  What do you mean, Algy, by Cecily!  I don’t know any one of the name of Cecily.

[Enter Lane.]

Algernon.  Bring me that cigarette case Mr. Worthing left in the smoking-room the last time he dined here.

Lane.  Yes, sir.  [Lane goes out.]

Jack.  Do you mean to say you have had my cigarette case all this time?  I wish to goodness you had let me know.  I have been writing frantic letters to Scotland Yard about it.  I was very nearly offering a large reward.

Algernon.  Well, I wish you would offer one.  I happen to be more than usually hard up.

Jack.  There is no good offering a large reward now that the thing is found.

[Enter Lane with the cigarette case on a salver.  Algernon takes it at once.  Lane goes out.]

Algernon.  I think that is rather mean of you, Ernest, I must say.  [Opens case and examines it.]  However, it makes no matter, for, now that I look at the inscription inside, I find that the thing isn’t yours after all.

Jack.  Of course it’s mine.  [Moving to him.]  You have seen me with it a hundred times, and you have no right whatsoever to read what is written inside.  It is a very ungentlemanly thing to read a private cigarette case.

Algernon.  Oh! it is absurd to have a hard and fast rule about what one should read and what one shouldn’t.  More than half of modern culture depends on what one shouldn’t read.

Jack.  I am quite aware of the fact, and I don’t propose to discuss modern culture.  It isn’t the sort of thing one should talk of in private.  I simply want my cigarette case back.

Algernon.  Yes; but this isn’t your cigarette case.  This cigarette case is a present from some one of the name of Cecily, and you said you didn’t know any one of that name.

Jack.  Well, if you want to know, Cecily happens to be my aunt.

Algernon.  Your aunt!

Jack.  Yes.  Charming old lady she is, too.  Lives at Tunbridge WellsSpa town in Kent, southeast of London..  Just give it back to me, Algy.

Algernon.  [Retreating to back of sofa.]  But why does she call herself little Cecily if she is your aunt and lives at Tunbridge Wells?  [Reading.]  ‘From little Cecily with her fondest love.’

Jack.  [Moving to sofa and kneeling upon it.]  My dear fellow, what on earth is there in that?  Some aunts are tall, some aunts are not tall.  That is a matter that surely an aunt may be allowed to decide for herself.  You seem to think that every aunt should be exactly like your aunt!  That is absurd!  For Heaven’s sake give me back my cigarette case.  [Follows Algernon round the room.]

Algernon.  Yes.  But why does your aunt call you her uncle?  ‘From little Cecily, with her fondest love to her dear Uncle Jack.’  There is no objection, I admit, to an aunt being a small aunt, but why an aunt, no matter what her size may be, should call her own nephew her uncle, I can’t quite make out.  Besides, your name isn’t Jack at all; it is Ernest.

Jack.  It isn’t Ernest; it’s Jack.

Algernon.  You have always told me it was Ernest.  I have introduced you to every one as Ernest.  You answer to the name of Ernest.  You look as if your name was Ernest.  You are the most earnest-looking person I ever saw in my life.  It is perfectly absurd your saying that your name isn’t Ernest.  It’s on your cards.  Here is one of them.  [Taking it from case.]  ‘Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The Albany.Prestigious block of bachelor flats in Mayfair. Lord Byron once lived there.’  I’ll keep this as a proof that your name is Ernest if ever you attempt to deny it to me, or to Gwendolen, or to any one else.  [Puts the card in his pocket.]

Jack.  Well, my name is Ernest in town and Jack in the country, and the cigarette case was given to me in the country.

Algernon.  Yes, but that does not account for the fact that your small Aunt Cecily, who lives at Tunbridge Wells, calls you her dear uncle.  Come, old boy, you had much better have the thing out at once.

Jack.  My dear Algy, you talk exactly as if you were a dentist.  It is very vulgar to talk like a dentist when one isn’t a dentist.  It produces a false impression.

Algernon.  Well, that is exactly what dentists always do.  Now, go on!  Tell me the whole thing.  I may mention that I have always suspected you of being a confirmed and secret Bunburyist; and I am quite sure of it now.

Jack.  Bunburyist? What on earth do you mean by a Bunburyist?

Algernon.  I’ll reveal to you the meaning of that incomparable expression as soon as you are kind enough to inform me why you are Ernest in town and Jack in the country.

Jack.  Well, produce my cigarette case first.

Algernon.  Here it is.  [Hands cigarette case.]  Now produce your explanation, and pray make it improbable.  [Sits on sofa.]

Jack.  My dear fellow, there is nothing improbable about my explanation at all.  In fact it’s perfectly ordinary.  Old Mr. Thomas Cardew, who adopted me when I was a little boy, made me in his will guardian to his grand-daughter, Miss Cecily Cardew.  Cecily, who addresses me as her uncle from motives of respect that you could not possibly appreciate, lives at my place in the country under the charge of her admirable governess, Miss Prism.

Algernon.  Where is that place in the country, by the way?

Jack.  That is nothing to you, dear boy.  You are not going to be invited . . . I may tell you candidly that the place is not in Shropshire.

Algernon.  I suspected that, my dear fellow!  I have Bunburyed all over Shropshire on two separate occasions.  Now, go on.  Why are you Ernest in town and Jack in the country?

Jack.  My dear Algy, I don’t know whether you will be able to understand my real motives.  You are hardly serious enough.  When one is placed in the position of guardian, one has to adopt a very high moral tone on all subjects.  It’s one’s duty to do so.  And as a high moral tone can hardly be said to conduce very much to either one’s health or one’s happiness, in order to get up to town I have always pretended to have a younger brother of the name of Ernest, who lives in the Albany, and gets into the most dreadful scrapes.  That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth pure and simple.

Algernon.  The truth is rarely pure and never simple.  Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!

Jack.  That wouldn’t be at all a bad thing.

Algernon.  Literary criticism is not your forte, my dear fellow.  Don’t try it.  You should leave that to people who haven’t been at a University.  They do it so well in the daily papers.  What you really are is a Bunburyist.  I was quite right in saying you were a Bunburyist.  You are one of the most advanced Bunburyists I know.

Jack.  What on earth do you mean?

Algernon.  You have invented a very useful younger brother called Ernest, in order that you may be able to come up to town as often as you like.  I have invented an invaluable permanent invalid called Bunbury, in order that I may be able to go down into the country whenever I choose.  Bunbury is perfectly invaluable.  If it wasn’t for Bunbury’s extraordinary bad health, for instance, I wouldn’t be able to dine with you at Willis’s to-night, for I have been really engaged to Aunt Augusta for more than a week.

Jack.  I haven’t asked you to dine with me anywhere to-night.

Algernon.  I know.  You are absurdly careless about sending out invitations.  It is very foolish of you.  Nothing annoys people so much as not receiving invitations.

Jack.  You had much better dine with your Aunt Augusta.

Algernon.  I haven’t the smallest intention of doing anything of the kind.  To begin with, I dined there on Monday, and once a week is quite enough to dine with one’s own relations.  In the second place, whenever I do dine there I am always treated as a member of the family, and sent downDinner guests were sent down from the drawing room; each gentleman was assigned a lady to escort for the evening. with either no woman at all, or two.  In the third place, I know perfectly well whom she will place me next to, to-night.  She will place me next Mary Farquhar, who always flirts with her own husband across the dinner-table.  That is not very pleasant.  Indeed, it is not even decent . . . and that sort of thing is enormously on the increase.  The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous.  It looks so bad.  It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.  Besides, now that I know you to be a confirmed Bunburyist I naturally want to talk to you about Bunburying.  I want to tell you the rules.

Jack.  I’m not a Bunburyist at all.  If Gwendolen accepts me, I am going to kill my brother, indeed I think I’ll kill him in any case.  Cecily is a little too much interested in him.  It is rather a bore.  So I am going to get rid of Ernest.  And I strongly advise you to do the same with Mr. . . . with your invalid friend who has the absurd name.

Algernon.  Nothing will induce me to part with Bunbury, and if you ever get married, which seems to me extremely problematic, you will be very glad to know Bunbury.  A man who marries without knowing Bunbury has a very tedious time of it.

Jack.  That is nonsense.  If I marry a charming girl like Gwendolen, and she is the only girl I ever saw in my life that I would marry, I certainly won’t want to know Bunbury.

Algernon.  Then your wife will.  You don’t seem to realise, that in married life three is company and two is none.

Jack.  [Sententiously.]  That, my dear young friend, is the theory that the corrupt French DramaThe French drama of the time frequently dealt with marital infidelity. has been propounding for the last fifty years.

Algernon.  Yes; and that the happy English home has proved in half the time.

Jack.  For heaven’s sake, don’t try to be cynical.  It’s perfectly easy to be cynical.

Algernon.  My dear fellow, it isn’t easy to be anything nowadays.  There’s such a lot of beastly competition about.  [The sound of an electric bell is heard.]  Ah! that must be Aunt Augusta.  Only relatives, or creditors, ever ring in that WagnerianPortentous, loud, as in an opera by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). manner.  Now, if I get her out of the way for ten minutes, so that you can have an opportunity for proposing to Gwendolen, may I dine with you to-night at Willis’sAn elegant restaurant near the St. James theatre.?

Jack.  I suppose so, if you want to.

Algernon.  Yes, but you must be serious about it.  I hate people who are not serious about meals.  It is so shallow of them.

[Enter Lane.]

Lane.  Lady Bracknell and Miss Fairfax.

[Algernon goes forward to meet them.  Enter Lady Bracknell and Gwendolen.]

Lady Bracknell.  Good afternoon, dear Algernon, I hope you are behaving very well.

Algernon.  I’m feeling very well, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell.  That’s not quite the same thing.  In fact the two things rarely go together.  [Sees Jack and bows to him with icy coldness.]

Algernon.  [To Gwendolen.]  Dear me, you are smart!

Gwendolen.  I am always smart!  Am I not, Mr. Worthing?

Jack.  You’re quite perfect, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen.  Oh! I hope I am not that.  It would leave no room for developments, and I intend to develop in many directions.  [Gwendolen and Jack sit down together in the corner.]

Lady Bracknell.  I’m sorry if we are a little late, Algernon, but I was obliged to call on dear Lady Harbury.  I hadn’t been there since her poor husband’s death.  I never saw a woman so altered; she looks quite twenty years younger.  And now I’ll have a cup of tea, and one of those nice cucumber sandwiches you promised me.

Algernon.  Certainly, Aunt Augusta.  [Goes over to tea-table.]

Lady Bracknell.  Won’t you come and sit here, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen.  Thanks, mamma, I’m quite comfortable where I am.

Algernon.  [Picking up empty plate in horror.]  Good heavens!  Lane!  Why are there no cucumber sandwiches?  I ordered them specially.

Lane.  [Gravely.]  There were no cucumbers in the market this morning, sir.  I went down twice.

Algernon.  No cucumbers!

Lane.  No, sir.  Not even for ready moneyCash, not credit.

Algernon.  That will do, Lane, thank you.

Lane.  Thank you, sir.  [Goes out.]

Algernon.  I am greatly distressed, Aunt Augusta, about there being no cucumbers, not even for ready money.

Lady Bracknell.  It really makes no matter, Algernon.  I had some crumpets with Lady Harbury, who seems to me to be living entirely for pleasure now.

Algernon.  I hear her hair has turned quite gold from grief.

Lady Bracknell.  It certainly has changed its colour.  From what cause I, of course, cannot say.  [Algernon crosses and hands tea.]  Thank you.  I’ve quite a treat for you to-night, Algernon.  I am going to send you down with Mary Farquhar.  She is such a nice woman, and so attentive to her husband.  It’s delightful to watch them.

Algernon.  I am afraid, Aunt Augusta, I shall have to give up the pleasure of dining with you to-night after all.

Lady Bracknell.  [Frowning.]  I hope not, Algernon.  It would put my table completely out.  Your uncle would have to dine upstairs.  Fortunately he is accustomed to that.

Algernon.  It is a great bore, and, I need hardly say, a terrible disappointment to me, but the fact is I have just had a telegram to say that my poor friend Bunbury is very ill again.  [Exchanges glances with Jack.]  They seem to think I should be with him.

Lady Bracknell.  It is very strange.  This Mr. Bunbury seems to suffer from curiously bad health.

Algernon.  Yes; poor Bunbury is a dreadful invalid.

Lady Bracknell.  Well, I must say, Algernon, that I think it is high time that Mr. Bunbury made up his mind whether he was going to live or to die.  This shilly-shallying with the question is absurd.  Nor do I in any way approve of the modern sympathy with invalids.  I consider it morbid.  Illness of any kind is hardly a thing to be encouraged in others.  Health is the primary duty of life.  I am always telling that to your poor uncle, but he never seems to take much notice . . . as far as any improvement in his ailment goes.  I should be much obliged if you would ask Mr. Bunbury, from me, to be kind enough not to have a relapse on Saturday, for I rely on you to arrange my music for me.  It is my last reception, and one wants something that will encourage conversation, particularly at the end of the seasonThe London Season is the part of the year when the Court and fashionable society generally are in town: May through July. when every one has practically said whatever they had to say, which, in most cases, was probably not much.

Algernon.  I’ll speak to Bunbury, Aunt Augusta, if he is still conscious, and I think I can promise you he’ll be all right by Saturday.  Of course the music is a great difficulty.  You see, if one plays good music, people don’t listen, and if one plays bad music people don’t talk.  But I’ll run over the programme I’ve drawn out, if you will kindly come into the next room for a moment.

Lady Bracknell.  Thank you, Algernon.  It is very thoughtful of you.  [Rising, and following Algernon.]  I’m sure the programme will be delightful, after a few expurgations.  French songs I cannot possibly allow.  People always seem to think that they are improper, and either look shocked, which is vulgar, or laugh, which is worse.  But German sounds a thoroughly respectable language, and indeed, I believe is so.  Gwendolen, you will accompany me.

Gwendolen.  Certainly, mamma.

[Lady Bracknell and Algernon go into the music-room, Gwendolen remains behind.]

Jack.  Charming day it has been, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen.  Pray don’t talk to me about the weather, Mr. Worthing.  Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else.  And that makes me so nervous.

Jack.  I do mean something else.

Gwendolen.  I thought so.  In fact, I am never wrong.

Jack.  And I would like to be allowed to take advantage of Lady Bracknell’s temporary absence . . .

Gwendolen.  I would certainly advise you to do so.  Mamma has a way of coming back suddenly into a room that I have often had to speak to her about.

Jack.  [Nervously.]  Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

Gwendolen.  Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.  And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative.  For me you have always had an irresistible fascination.  Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.  [Jack looks at her in amazement.]  We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals.  The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.  There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.  The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

Jack.  You really love me, Gwendolen?

Gwendolen.  Passionately!

Jack.  Darling!  You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

Gwendolen.  My own Ernest!

Jack.  But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

Gwendolen.  But your name is Ernest.

Jack.  Yes, I know it is.  But supposing it was something else?  Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

Gwendolen.  [Glibly.]  Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

Jack.  Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.

Gwendolen.  It suits you perfectly.  It is a divine name.  It has a music of its own.  It produces vibrations.

Jack.  Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names.  I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

Gwendolen.  Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed.  It does not thrill.  It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain.  Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!  And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.  She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.  The only really safe name is Ernest.

Jack.  Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once.  There is no time to be lost.

Gwendolen.  Married, Mr. Worthing?

Jack.  [Astounded.]  Well . . . surely.  You know that I love you, and you led me to believe, Miss Fairfax, that you were not absolutely indifferent to me.

Gwendolen.  I adore you.  But you haven’t proposed to me yet.  Nothing has been said at all about marriage.  The subject has not even been touched on.

Jack.  Well . . . may I propose to you now?

Gwendolen.  I think it would be an admirable opportunity.  And to spare you any possible disappointment, Mr. Worthing, I think it only fair to tell you quite frankly before-hand that I am fully determined to accept you.

Jack.  Gwendolen!

Gwendolen.  Yes, Mr. Worthing, what have you got to say to me?

Jack.  You know what I have got to say to you.

Gwendolen.  Yes, but you don’t say it.

Jack.  Gwendolen, will you marry me?  [Goes on his knees.]

Gwendolen.  Of course I will, darling.  How long you have been about it!  I am afraid you have had very little experience in how to propose.

Jack.  My own one, I have never loved any one in the world but you.

Gwendolen.  Yes, but men often propose for practice.  I know my brother Gerald does.  All my girl-friends tell me so.  What wonderfully blue eyes you have, Ernest!  They are quite, quite, blue.  I hope you will always look at me just like that, especially when there are other people present.  [Enter Lady Bracknell.]

Lady Bracknell.  Mr. Worthing!  Rise, sir, from this semi-recumbent posture.  It is most indecorous.

Gwendolen.  Mamma!  [He tries to rise; she restrains him.]  I must beg you to retire.  This is no place for you.  Besides, Mr. Worthing has not quite finished yet.

Lady Bracknell.  Finished what, may I ask?

Gwendolen.  I am engaged to Mr. Worthing, mamma.  [They rise together.]

Lady Bracknell.  Pardon me, you are not engaged to any one.  When you do become engaged to some one, I, or your father, should his health permit him, will inform you of the fact.  An engagement should come on a young girl as a surprise, pleasant or unpleasant, as the case may be.  It is hardly a matter that she could be allowed to arrange for herself . . . And now I have a few questions to put to you, Mr. Worthing.  While I am making these inquiries, you, Gwendolen, will wait for me below in the carriage.

Gwendolen.  [Reproachfully.]  Mamma!

Lady Bracknell.  In the carriage, Gwendolen!  [Gwendolen goes to the door.  She and Jack blow kisses to each other behind Lady Bracknell’s back.  Lady Bracknell looks vaguely about as if she could not understand what the noise was.  Finally turns round.]  Gwendolen, the carriage!

Gwendolen.  Yes, mamma.  [Goes out, looking back at Jack.]

Lady Bracknell.  [Sitting down.]  You can take a seat, Mr. Worthing.

[Looks in her pocket for note-book and pencil.]

Jack.  Thank you, Lady Bracknell, I prefer standing.

Lady Bracknell.  [Pencil and note-book in hand.]  I feel bound to tell you that you are not down on my list of eligible young men, although I have the same list as the dear Duchess of Bolton has.  We work together, in fact.  However, I am quite ready to enter your name, should your answers be what a really affectionate mother requires.  Do you smoke?

Jack.  Well, yes, I must admit I smoke.

Lady Bracknell.  I am glad to hear it.  A man should always have an occupation of some kind.  There are far too many idle men in London as it is.  How old are you?

Jack.  Twenty-nine.

Lady Bracknell.  A very good age to be married at.  I have always been of opinion that a man who desires to get married should know either everything or nothing.  Which do you know?

Jack.  [After some hesitation.]  I know nothing, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  I am pleased to hear it.  I do not approve of anything that tampers with natural ignorance.  Ignorance is like a delicate exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.  The whole theory of modern education is radically unsound.  Fortunately in England, at any rate, education produces no effect whatsoever.  If it did, it would prove a serious danger to the upper classes, and probably lead to acts of violence in Grosvenor Square.  What is your income?

Jack.  Between seven and eight thousand a year.

Lady Bracknell.  [Makes a note in her book.]  In land, or in investments?

Jack.  In investments, chiefly.

Lady Bracknell.  That is satisfactory.  What between the duties expected of one during one’s lifetime, and the duties exacted from one after one’s deathDeath duties were inheritance taxes., land has ceased to be either a profit or a pleasure.  It gives one position, and prevents one from keeping it up.  That’s all that can be said about land.

Jack.  I have a country house with some land, of course, attached to it, about fifteen hundred acres, I believe; but I don’t depend on that for my real income.  In fact, as far as I can make out, the poachers are the only people who make anything out of it.

Lady Bracknell.  A country house!  How many bedrooms?  Well, that point can be cleared up afterwards.  You have a town house, I hope?  A girl with a simple, unspoiled nature, like Gwendolen, could hardly be expected to reside in the country.

Jack.  Well, I own a house in Belgrave Square, but it is let by the year to Lady Bloxham.  Of course, I can get it back whenever I like, at six months’ notice.

Lady Bracknell.  Lady Bloxham?  I don’t know her.

Jack.  Oh, she goes about very little.  She is a lady considerably advanced in years.

Lady Bracknell.  Ah, nowadays that is no guarantee of respectability of character.  What number in Belgrave SquareAnother fashionable district in London’s West End, south of Mayfair.?

Jack.  149.

Lady Bracknell.  [Shaking her head.]  The unfashionable side.  I thought there was something.  However, that could easily be altered.

Jack.  Do you mean the fashion, or the side?

Lady Bracknell.  [Sternly.]  Both, if necessary, I presume.  What are your politics?

Jack.  Well, I am afraid I really have none.  I am a Liberal UnionistA political party formed in 1885 by a Liberal Party split on the matter of home rule for Ireland. The Unionists sided with the Tories, hence they “count as Tories,” the party favoured by the highly conservative Lady Bracknell..

Lady Bracknell.  Oh, they count as Tories.  They dine with us.  Or come in the evening, at any rate.  Now to minor matters.  Are your parents living?

Jack.  I have lost both my parents.

Lady Bracknell.  To lose one parent, Mr. Worthing, may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.  Who was your father?  He was evidently a man of some wealth.  Was he born in what the Radical papers call the purple of commerce, or did he rise from the ranks of the aristocracy?

Jack.  I am afraid I really don’t know.  The fact is, Lady Bracknell, I said I had lost my parents.  It would be nearer the truth to say that my parents seem to have lost me . . . I don’t actually know who I am by birth.  I was . . . well, I was found.

Lady Bracknell.  Found!

Jack.  The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a very charitable and kindly disposition, found me, and gave me the name of Worthing, because he happened to have a first-class ticket for Worthing in his pocket at the time.  Worthing is a place in Sussex.  It is a seaside resort.

Lady Bracknell.  Where did the charitable gentleman who had a first-class ticket for this seaside resort find you?

Jack.  [Gravely.]  In a hand-bag.

Lady Bracknell.  A hand-bag?

Jack.  [Very seriously.]  Yes, Lady Bracknell.  I was in a hand-bag—a somewhat large, black leather hand-bag, with handles to it—an ordinary hand-bag in fact.

Lady Bracknell.  In what locality did this Mr. James, or Thomas, Cardew come across this ordinary hand-bag?

Jack.  In the cloak-room at Victoria StationA West End railway terminal with regularly scheduled departures to Brighton, a seaside town in Sussex, south of London..  It was given to him in mistake for his own.

Lady Bracknell.  The cloak-room at Victoria Station?

Jack.  Yes.  The Brighton line.

Lady Bracknell.  The line is immaterial.  Mr. Worthing, I confess I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me.  To be born, or at any rate bred, in a hand-bag, whether it had handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life that reminds one of the worst excesses of the French Revolution.  And I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to?  As for the particular locality in which the hand-bag was found, a cloak-room at a railway station might serve to conceal a social indiscretion—has probably, indeed, been used for that purpose before now—but it could hardly be regarded as an assured basis for a recognised position in good society.

Jack.  May I ask you then what you would advise me to do?  I need hardly say I would do anything in the world to ensure Gwendolen’s happiness.

Lady Bracknell.  I would strongly advise you, Mr. Worthing, to try and acquire some relations as soon as possible, and to make a definite effort to produce at any rate one parent, of either sex, before the season is quite over.

Jack.  Well, I don’t see how I could possibly manage to do that.  I can produce the hand-bag at any moment.  It is in my dressing-room at home.  I really think that should satisfy you, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  Me, sir!  What has it to do with me?  You can hardly imagine that I and Lord Bracknell would dream of allowing our only daughter—a girl brought up with the utmost care—to marry into a cloak-room, and form an alliance with a parcel?  Good morning, Mr. Worthing!

[Lady Bracknell sweeps out in majestic indignation.]

Jack.  Good morning!  [Algernon, from the other room, strikes up the Wedding March.  Jack looks perfectly furious, and goes to the door.]  For goodness’ sake don’t play that ghastly tune, Algy.  How idiotic you are!

[The music stops and Algernon enters cheerily.]

Algernon.  Didn’t it go off all right, old boy?  You don’t mean to say Gwendolen refused you?  I know it is a way she has.  She is always refusing people.  I think it is most ill-natured of her.

Jack.  Oh, Gwendolen is as right as a trivetColloquialism; steady. A trivet is a three-legged stand for a pot or kettle..  As far as she is concerned, we are engaged.  Her mother is perfectly unbearable.  Never met such a GorgonHideous monsters in Greek mythology whose glance turned men into stone. . . . I don’t really know what a Gorgon is like, but I am quite sure that Lady Bracknell is one.  In any case, she is a monster, without being a myth, which is rather unfair . . . I beg your pardon, Algy, I suppose I shouldn’t talk about your own aunt in that way before you.

Algernon.  My dear boy, I love hearing my relations abused.  It is the only thing that makes me put up with them at all.  Relations are simply a tedious pack of people, who haven’t got the remotest knowledge of how to live, nor the smallest instinct about when to die.

Jack.  Oh, that is nonsense!

Algernon.  It isn’t!

Jack.  Well, I won’t argue about the matter.  You always want to argue about things.

Algernon.  That is exactly what things were originally made for.

Jack.  Upon my word, if I thought that, I’d shoot myself . . . [A pause.]  You don’t think there is any chance of Gwendolen becoming like her mother in about a hundred and fifty years, do you, Algy?

Algernon.  All women become like their mothers.  That is their tragedy.  No man does.  That’s his.

Jack.  Is that clever?

Algernon.  It is perfectly phrased! and quite as true as any observation in civilised life should be.

Jack.  I am sick to death of cleverness.  Everybody is clever nowadays.  You can’t go anywhere without meeting clever people.  The thing has become an absolute public nuisance.  I wish to goodness we had a few fools left.

Algernon.  We have.

Jack.  I should extremely like to meet them.  What do they talk about?

Algernon.  The fools?  Oh! about the clever people, of course.

Jack.  What fools!

Algernon.  By the way, did you tell Gwendolen the truth about your being Ernest in town, and Jack in the country?

Jack.  [In a very patronising manner.]  My dear fellow, the truth isn’t quite the sort of thing one tells to a nice, sweet, refined girl.  What extraordinary ideas you have about the way to behave to a woman!

Algernon.  The only way to behave to a woman is to make love to her, if she is pretty, and to some one else, if she is plain.

Jack.  Oh, that is nonsense.

Algernon.  What about your brother?  What about the profligate Ernest?

Jack.  Oh, before the end of the week I shall have got rid of him.  I’ll say he died in Paris of apoplexy.  Lots of people die of apoplexy, quite suddenly, don’t they?

Algernon.  Yes, but it’s hereditary, my dear fellow.  It’s a sort of thing that runs in families.  You had much better say a severe chill.

Jack.  You are sure a severe chill isn’t hereditary, or anything of that kind?

Algernon.  Of course it isn’t!

Jack.  Very well, then.  My poor brother Ernest to carried off suddenly, in Paris, by a severe chill.  That gets rid of him.

Algernon.  But I thought you said that . . . Miss Cardew was a little too much interested in your poor brother Ernest?  Won’t she feel his loss a good deal?

Jack.  Oh, that is all right.  Cecily is not a silly romantic girl, I am glad to say.  She has got a capital appetite, goes long walks, and pays no attention at all to her lessons.

Algernon.  I would rather like to see Cecily.

Jack.  I will take very good care you never do.  She is excessively pretty, and she is only just eighteen.

Algernon.  Have you told Gwendolen yet that you have an excessively pretty ward who is only just eighteen?

Jack.  Oh! one doesn’t blurt these things out to people.  Cecily and Gwendolen are perfectly certain to be extremely great friends.  I’ll bet you anything you like that half an hour after they have met, they will be calling each other sister.

Algernon.  Women only do that when they have called each other a lot of other things first.  Now, my dear boy, if we want to get a good table at Willis’s, we really must go and dress.  Do you know it is nearly seven?

Jack.  [Irritably.]  Oh!  It always is nearly seven.

Algernon.  Well, I’m hungry.

Jack.  I never knew you when you weren’t . . .

Algernon.  What shall we do after dinner?  Go to a theatre?

Jack.  Oh no!  I loathe listening.

Algernon.  Well, let us go to the Club?

Jack.  Oh, no!  I hate talking.

Algernon.  Well, we might trot round to the EmpirePopular music hall (vaudeville theatre) in Leicester Square on eastern edge of the West End. at ten?

Jack.  Oh, no!  I can’t bear looking at things.  It is so silly.

Algernon.  Well, what shall we do?

Jack.  Nothing!

Algernon.  It is awfully hard work doing nothing.  However, I don’t mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind.

[Enter Lane.]

Lane.  Miss Fairfax.

[Enter GwendolenLane goes out.]

Algernon.  Gwendolen, upon my word!

Gwendolen.  Algy, kindly turn your back.  I have something very particular to say to Mr. Worthing.

Algernon.  Really, Gwendolen, I don’t think I can allow this at all.

Gwendolen.  Algy, you always adopt a strictly immoral attitude towards life.  You are not quite old enough to do that.  [Algernon retires to the fireplace.]

Jack.  My own darling!

Gwendolen.  Ernest, we may never be married.  From the expression on mamma’s face I fear we never shall.  Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them.  The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out.  Whatever influence I ever had over mamma, I lost at the age of three.  But although she may prevent us from becoming man and wife, and I may marry some one else, and marry often, nothing that she can possibly do can alter my eternal devotion to you.

Jack.  Dear Gwendolen!

Gwendolen.  The story of your romantic origin, as related to me by mamma, with unpleasing comments, has naturally stirred the deeper fibres of my nature.  Your Christian name has an irresistible fascination.  The simplicity of your character makes you exquisitely incomprehensible to me.  Your town address at the Albany I have.  What is your address in the country?

Jack.  The Manor House, WooltonA community in Shropshire, south of Liverpool and not in Hertfordshire., Hertfordshire.

[Algernon, who has been carefully listening, smiles to himself, and writes the address on his shirt-cuff.  Then picks up the Railway Guide.]

Gwendolen.  There is a good postal service, I suppose?  It may be necessary to do something desperate.  That of course will require serious consideration.  I will communicate with you daily.

Jack.  My own one!

Gwendolen.  How long do you remain in town?

Jack.  Till Monday.

Gwendolen.  Good!  Algy, you may turn round now.

Algernon.  Thanks, I’ve turned round already.

Gwendolen.  You may also ring the bell.

Jack.  You will let me see you to your carriage, my own darling?

Gwendolen.  Certainly.

Jack.  [To Lane, who now enters.]  I will see Miss Fairfax out.

Lane.  Yes, sir.  [Jack and Gwendolen go off.]

[Lane presents several letters on a salver to Algernon.  It is to be surmised that they are bills, as Algernon, after looking at the envelopes, tears them up.]

Algernon.  A glass of sherry, Lane.

Lane.  Yes, sir.

Algernon.  To-morrow, Lane, I’m going Bunburying.

Lane.  Yes, sir.

Algernon.  I shall probably not be back till Monday.  You can put up my dress clothes, my smoking jacket, and all the Bunbury suits . . .

Lane.  Yes, sir.  [Handing sherry.]

Algernon.  I hope to-morrow will be a fine day, Lane.

Lane.  It never is, sir.

Algernon.  Lane, you’re a perfect pessimist.

Lane.  I do my best to give satisfaction, sir.

[Enter JackLane goes off.]

Jack.  There’s a sensible, intellectual girl! the only girl I ever cared for in my life.  [Algernon is laughing immoderately.]  What on earth are you so amused at?

Algernon.  Oh, I’m a little anxious about poor Bunbury, that is all.

Jack.  If you don’t take care, your friend Bunbury will get you into a serious scrape some day.

Algernon.  I love scrapes.  They are the only things that are never serious.

Jack.  Oh, that’s nonsense, Algy.  You never talk anything but nonsense.

Algernon.  Nobody ever does.

[Jack looks indignantly at him, and leaves the room.  Algernon lights a cigarette, reads his shirt-cuff, and smiles.]

61

The Importance of Being Earnest: Act II

Oscar Wilde

SCENE

Garden at the Manor House.  A flight of grey stone steps leads up to the house.  The garden, an old-fashioned one, full of roses.  Time of year, July.  Basket chairs, and a table covered with books, are set under a large yew-tree.

[Miss PrismThe prim and proper Mrs. Prism calls to mind Mrs. General in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit (1857), a teacher of manners for young ladies, who has the Dorrit girls repeat “prunes and prism” in order to give a pretty form to the lips. discovered seated at the table.  Cecily is at the back watering flowers.]

Miss Prism.  [Calling.]  Cecily, Cecily!  Surely such a utilitarian occupation as the watering of flowers is rather Moulton’s duty than yours?  Especially at a moment when intellectual pleasures await you.  Your German grammar is on the table.  Pray open it at page fifteen.  We will repeat yesterday’s lesson.

Cecily.  [Coming over very slowly.]  But I don’t like German.  It isn’t at all a becoming language.  I know perfectly well that I look quite plain after my German lesson.

Miss Prism.  Child, you know how anxious your guardian is that you should improve yourself in every way.  He laid particular stress on your German, as he was leaving for town yesterday.  Indeed, he always lays stress on your German when he is leaving for town.

Cecily.  Dear Uncle Jack is so very serious!  Sometimes he is so serious that I think he cannot be quite well.

Miss Prism.  [Drawing herself up.]  Your guardian enjoys the best of health, and his gravity of demeanour is especially to be commended in one so comparatively young as he is.  I know no one who has a higher sense of duty and responsibility.

Cecily.  I suppose that is why he often looks a little bored when we three are together.

Miss Prism.  Cecily!  I am surprised at you.  Mr. Worthing has many troubles in his life.  Idle merriment and triviality would be out of place in his conversation.  You must remember his constant anxiety about that unfortunate young man his brother.

Cecily.  I wish Uncle Jack would allow that unfortunate young man, his brother, to come down here sometimes.  We might have a good influence over him, Miss Prism.  I am sure you certainly would.  You know German, and geology, and things of that kind influence a man very much.  [Cecily begins to write in her diary.]

Miss Prism.  [Shaking her head.]  I do not think that even I could produce any effect on a character that according to his own brother’s admission is irretrievably weak and vacillating.  Indeed I am not sure that I would desire to reclaim him.  I am not in favour of this modern mania for turning bad people into good people at a moment’s notice.  As a man sows so let him reapcf. Galatians 6:7, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”.  You must put away your diary, Cecily.  I really don’t see why you should keep a diary at all.

Cecily.  I keep a diary in order to enter the wonderful secrets of my life.  If I didn’t write them down, I should probably forget all about them.

Miss Prism.  Memory, my dear Cecily, is the diary that we all carry about with us.

Cecily.  Yes, but it usually chronicles the things that have never happened, and couldn’t possibly have happened.  I believe that Memory is responsible for nearly all the three-volume novels that MudieA lending library, founded in 1842 by Charles Mudie. sends us.

Miss Prism.  Do not speak slightingly of the three-volume novel, Cecily.  I wrote one myself in earlier days.

Cecily.  Did you really, Miss Prism?  How wonderfully clever you are!  I hope it did not end happily?  I don’t like novels that end happily.  They depress me so much.

Miss Prism.  The good ended happily, and the bad unhappily.  That is what Fiction means.

Cecily.  I suppose so.  But it seems very unfair.  And was your novel ever published?

Miss Prism.  Alas! no.  The manuscript unfortunately was abandoned.  [Cecily starts.]  I use the word in the sense of lost or mislaid.  To your work, child, these speculations are profitless.

Cecily.  [Smiling.]  But I see dear Dr. ChasubleThe main vestment worn by the priest when celebrating mass. coming up through the garden.

Miss Prism.  [Rising and advancing.]  Dr. Chasuble!  This is indeed a pleasure.

[Enter Canon Chasuble.]

Chasuble.  And how are we this morning?  Miss Prism, you are, I trust, well?

Cecily.  Miss Prism has just been complaining of a slight headache.  I think it would do her so much good to have a short stroll with you in the Park, Dr. Chasuble.

Miss Prism.  Cecily, I have not mentioned anything about a headache.

Cecily.  No, dear Miss Prism, I know that, but I felt instinctively that you had a headache.  Indeed I was thinking about that, and not about my German lesson, when the Rector came in.

Chasuble.  I hope, Cecily, you are not inattentive.

Cecily.  Oh, I am afraid I am.

Chasuble.  That is strange.  Were I fortunate enough to be Miss Prism’s pupil, I would hang upon her lips.  [Miss Prism glares.]  I spoke metaphorically.—My metaphor was drawn from bees.  Ahem!  Mr. Worthing, I suppose, has not returned from town yet?

Miss Prism.  We do not expect him till Monday afternoon.

Chasuble.  Ah yes, he usually likes to spend his Sunday in London.  He is not one of those whose sole aim is enjoyment, as, by all accounts, that unfortunate young man his brother seems to be.  But I must not disturb EgeriaProverbially a guide or counsellor, after the nymph who instructed Numa Pompilius, second king of Rome (753-673 BC). and her pupil any longer.

Miss Prism.  Egeria?  My name is Lætitia, Doctor.

Chasuble.  [Bowing.]  A classical allusion merely, drawn from the Pagan authors.  I shall see you both no doubt at Evensong?

Miss Prism.  I think, dear Doctor, I will have a stroll with you.  I find I have a headache after all, and a walk might do it good.

Chasuble.  With pleasure, Miss Prism, with pleasure.  We might go as far as the schools and back.

Miss Prism.  That would be delightful.  Cecily, you will read your Political EconomyEconomics. in my absence.  The chapter on the Fall of the Rupee you may omit.  It is somewhat too sensational.  Even these metallic problems have their melodramatic side.

[Goes down the garden with Dr. Chasuble.]

Cecily.  [Picks up books and throws them back on table.]  Horrid Political Economy!  Horrid Geography!  Horrid, horrid German!

[Enter Merriman with a card on a salver.]

Merriman.  Mr. Ernest Worthing has just driven over from the station.  He has brought his luggage with him.

Cecily.  [Takes the card and reads it.]  ‘Mr. Ernest Worthing, B. 4, The Albany, W.’  Uncle Jack’s brother!  Did you tell him Mr. Worthing was in town?

Merriman.  Yes, Miss.  He seemed very much disappointed.  I mentioned that you and Miss Prism were in the garden.  He said he was anxious to speak to you privately for a moment.

Cecily.  Ask Mr. Ernest Worthing to come here.  I suppose you had better talk to the housekeeper about a room for him.

Merriman.  Yes, Miss.

[Merriman goes off.]

Cecily.  I have never met any really wicked person before.  I feel rather frightened.  I am so afraid he will look just like every one else.

[Enter Algernon, very gay and debonnair.]  He does!

Algernon.  [Raising his hat.]  You are my little cousin Cecily, I’m sure.

Cecily.  You are under some strange mistake.  I am not little.  In fact, I believe I am more than usually tall for my age.  [Algernon is rather taken aback.]  But I am your cousin Cecily.  You, I see from your card, are Uncle Jack’s brother, my cousin Ernest, my wicked cousin Ernest.

Algernon.  Oh! I am not really wicked at all, cousin Cecily.  You mustn’t think that I am wicked.

Cecily.  If you are not, then you have certainly been deceiving us all in a very inexcusable manner.  I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being really good all the time.  That would be hypocrisy.

Algernon.  [Looks at her in amazement.]  Oh!  Of course I have been rather reckless.

Cecily.  I am glad to hear it.

Algernon.  In fact, now you mention the subject, I have been very bad in my own small way.

Cecily.  I don’t think you should be so proud of that, though I am sure it must have been very pleasant.

Algernon.  It is much pleasanter being here with you.

Cecily.  I can’t understand how you are here at all.  Uncle Jack won’t be back till Monday afternoon.

Algernon.  That is a great disappointment.  I am obliged to go up by the first train on Monday morning.  I have a business appointment that I am anxious . . . to miss?

Cecily.  Couldn’t you miss it anywhere but in London?

Algernon.  No: the appointment is in London.

Cecily.  Well, I know, of course, how important it is not to keep a business engagement, if one wants to retain any sense of the beauty of life, but still I think you had better wait till Uncle Jack arrives.  I know he wants to speak to you about your emigrating.

Algernon.  About my what?

Cecily.  Your emigrating.  He has gone up to buy your outfit.

Algernon.  I certainly wouldn’t let Jack buy my outfit.  He has no taste in neckties at all.

Cecily.  I don’t think you will require neckties.  Uncle Jack is sending you to Australia.

Algernon.  Australia!  I’d sooner die.

Cecily.  Well, he said at dinner on Wednesday night, that you would have to choose between this world, the next world, and Australia.

Algernon.  Oh, well!  The accounts I have received of Australia and the next world, are not particularly encouraging.  This world is good enough for me, cousin Cecily.

Cecily.  Yes, but are you good enough for it?

Algernon.  I’m afraid I’m not that.  That is why I want you to reform me.  You might make that your mission, if you don’t mind, cousin Cecily.

Cecily.  I’m afraid I’ve no time, this afternoon.

Algernon.  Well, would you mind my reforming myself this afternoon?

Cecily.  It is rather Quixotic of you.  But I think you should try.

Algernon.  I will.  I feel better already.

Cecily.  You are looking a little worse.

Algernon.  That is because I am hungry.

Cecily.  How thoughtless of me.  I should have remembered that when one is going to lead an entirely new life, one requires regular and wholesome meals.  Won’t you come in?

Algernon.  Thank you.  Might I have a buttonholeA flower worn in the buttonhole of the lapel of a jacket. A trademark of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau (1919-2000). first?  I never have any appetite unless I have a buttonhole first.

Cecily.  A Marechal NielA yellow rose.?  [Picks up scissors.]

Algernon.  No, I’d sooner have a pink rose.

Cecily.  Why?  [Cuts a flower.]

Algernon.  Because you are like a pink rose, Cousin Cecily.

Cecily.  I don’t think it can be right for you to talk to me like that.  Miss Prism never says such things to me.

Algernon.  Then Miss Prism is a short-sighted old lady.  [Cecily puts the rose in his buttonhole.]  You are the prettiest girl I ever saw.

Cecily.  Miss Prism says that all good looks are a snare.

Algernon.  They are a snare that every sensible man would like to be caught in.

Cecily.  Oh, I don’t think I would care to catch a sensible man.  I shouldn’t know what to talk to him about.

[They pass into the house.  Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble return.]

Miss Prism.  You are too much alone, dear Dr. Chasuble.  You should get married.  A misanthrope I can understand—a womanthrope, never!

Chasuble.  [With a scholar’s shudder.]  Believe me, I do not deserve so neologisticNewly coined word. Chasuble would have expected “misogynist.” a phrase.  The precept as well as the practice of the Primitive ChurchEarly Christian church of the first to fourth centuries. was distinctly against matrimony.

Miss Prism.  [Sententiously.]  That is obviously the reason why the Primitive Church has not lasted up to the present day.  And you do not seem to realise, dear Doctor, that by persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation.  Men should be more careful; this very celibacy leads weaker vessels astray.

Chasuble.  But is a man not equally attractive when married?

Miss Prism.  No married man is ever attractive except to his wife.

Chasuble.  And often, I’ve been told, not even to her.

Miss Prism.  That depends on the intellectual sympathies of the woman.  Maturity can always be depended on.  Ripeness can be trusted.  Young women are green.  [Dr. Chasuble starts.]  I spoke horticulturally.  My metaphor was drawn from fruits.  But where is Cecily?

Chasuble.  Perhaps she followed us to the schools.

[Enter Jack slowly from the back of the garden.  He is dressed in the deepest mourning, with crape hatband and black gloves.]

Miss Prism.  Mr. Worthing!

Chasuble.  Mr. Worthing?

Miss Prism.  This is indeed a surprise.  We did not look for you till Monday afternoon.

Jack.  [Shakes Miss Prism’s hand in a tragic manner.]  I have returned sooner than I expected.  Dr. Chasuble, I hope you are well?

Chasuble.  Dear Mr. Worthing, I trust this garb of woe does not betoken some terrible calamity?

Jack.  My brother.

Miss Prism.  More shameful debts and extravagance?

Chasuble.  Still leading his life of pleasure?

Jack.  [Shaking his head.]  Dead!

Chasuble.  Your brother Ernest dead?

Jack.  Quite dead.

Miss Prism.  What a lesson for him!  I trust he will profit by it.

Chasuble.  Mr. Worthing, I offer you my sincere condolence.  You have at least the consolation of knowing that you were always the most generous and forgiving of brothers.

Jack.  Poor Ernest!  He had many faults, but it is a sad, sad blow.

Chasuble.  Very sad indeed.  Were you with him at the end?

Jack.  No.  He died abroad; in Paris, in fact.  I had a telegram last night from the manager of the Grand Hotel.

Chasuble.  Was the cause of death mentioned?

Jack.  A severe chill, it seems.

Miss Prism.  As a man sows, so shall he reap.

Chasuble.  [Raising his hand.]  Charity, dear Miss Prism, charity!  None of us are perfect.  I myself am peculiarly susceptible to draughts.  Will the interment take place here?

Jack.  No.  He seems to have expressed a desire to be buried in Paris.

Chasuble.  In Paris!  [Shakes his head.]  I fear that hardly points to any very serious state of mind at the last.  You would no doubt wish me to make some slight allusion to this tragic domestic affliction next Sunday.  [Jack presses his hand convulsively.]  My sermon on the meaning of the mannaMiraculous food provided for the children of Israel in their journey from Egypt to the Holy Land. See Exodus16: 14-36. in the wilderness can be adapted to almost any occasion, joyful, or, as in the present case, distressing.  [All sigh.]  I have preached it at harvest celebrations, christenings, confirmations, on days of humiliation and festal days.  The last time I delivered it was in the Cathedral, as a charity sermon on behalf of the Society for the Prevention of Discontent among the Upper Orders.  The Bishop, who was present, was much struck by some of the analogies I drew.

Jack.  Ah! that reminds me, you mentioned christenings I think, Dr. Chasuble?  I suppose you know how to christen all right?  [Dr. Chasuble looks astounded.]  I mean, of course, you are continually christening, aren’t you?

Miss Prism.  It is, I regret to say, one of the Rector’s most constant duties in this parish.  I have often spoken to the poorer classes on the subject.  But they don’t seem to know what thrift is.

Chasuble.  But is there any particular infant in whom you are interested, Mr. Worthing?  Your brother was, I believe, unmarried, was he not?

Jack.  Oh yes.

Miss Prism.  [Bitterly.]  People who live entirely for pleasure usually are.

Jack.  But it is not for any child, dear Doctor.  I am very fond of children.  No! the fact is, I would like to be christened myself, this afternoon, if you have nothing better to do.

Chasuble.  But surely, Mr. Worthing, you have been christened already?

Jack.  I don’t remember anything about it.

Chasuble.  But have you any grave doubts on the subject?

Jack.  I certainly intend to have.  Of course I don’t know if the thing would bother you in any way, or if you think I am a little too old now.

Chasuble.  Not at all.  The sprinkling, and, indeed, the immersion of adults is a perfectly canonical practice.

Jack.  Immersion!

Chasuble.  You need have no apprehensions.  Sprinkling is all that is necessary, or indeed I think advisable.  Our weather is so changeable.  At what hour would you wish the ceremony performed?

Jack.  Oh, I might trot round about five if that would suit you.

Chasuble.  Perfectly, perfectly!  In fact I have two similar ceremonies to perform at that time.  A case of twins that occurred recently in one of the outlying cottages on your own estate.  Poor Jenkins the carter, a most hard-working man.

Jack.  Oh!  I don’t see much fun in being christened along with other babies.  It would be childish.  Would half-past five do?

Chasuble.  Admirably!  Admirably!  [Takes out watch.]  And now, dear Mr. Worthing, I will not intrude any longer into a house of sorrow.  I would merely beg you not to be too much bowed down by grief.  What seem to us bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.

Miss Prism.  This seems to me a blessing of an extremely obvious kind.

[Enter Cecily from the house.]

Cecily.  Uncle Jack!  Oh, I am pleased to see you back.  But what horrid clothes you have got on!  Do go and change them.

Miss Prism.  Cecily!

Chasuble.  My child! my child!  [Cecily goes towards Jack; he kisses her brow in a melancholy manner.]

Cecily.  What is the matter, Uncle Jack?  Do look happy!  You look as if you had toothache, and I have got such a surprise for you.  Who do you think is in the dining-room?  Your brother!

Jack.  Who?

Cecily.  Your brother Ernest.  He arrived about half an hour ago.

Jack.  What nonsense!  I haven’t got a brother.

Cecily.  Oh, don’t say that.  However badly he may have behaved to you in the past he is still your brother.  You couldn’t be so heartless as to disown him.  I’ll tell him to come out.  And you will shake hands with him, won’t you, Uncle Jack?  [Runs back into the house.]

Chasuble.  These are very joyful tidings.

Miss Prism.  After we had all been resigned to his loss, his sudden return seems to me peculiarly distressing.

Jack.  My brother is in the dining-room?  I don’t know what it all means.  I think it is perfectly absurd.

[Enter Algernon and Cecily hand in hand.  They come slowly up to Jack.]

Jack.  Good heavens!  [Motions Algernon away.]

Algernon.  Brother John, I have come down from town to tell you that I am very sorry for all the trouble I have given you, and that I intend to lead a better life in the future.  [Jack glares at him and does not take his hand.]

Cecily.  Uncle Jack, you are not going to refuse your own brother’s hand?

Jack.  Nothing will induce me to take his hand.  I think his coming down here disgraceful.  He knows perfectly well why.

Cecily.  Uncle Jack, do be nice.  There is some good in every one.  Ernest has just been telling me about his poor invalid friend Mr. Bunbury whom he goes to visit so often.  And surely there must be much good in one who is kind to an invalid, and leaves the pleasures of London to sit by a bed of pain.

Jack.  Oh! he has been talking about Bunbury, has he?

Cecily.  Yes, he has told me all about poor Mr. Bunbury, and his terrible state of health.

Jack.  Bunbury!  Well, I won’t have him talk to you about Bunbury or about anything else.  It is enough to drive one perfectly frantic.

Algernon.  Of course I admit that the faults were all on my side.  But I must say that I think that Brother John’s coldness to me is peculiarly painful.  I expected a more enthusiastic welcome, especially considering it is the first time I have come here.

Cecily.  Uncle Jack, if you don’t shake hands with Ernest I will never forgive you.

Jack.  Never forgive me?

Cecily.  Never, never, never!

Jack.  Well, this is the last time I shall ever do it.  [Shakes with Algernon and glares.]

Chasuble.  It’s pleasant, is it not, to see so perfect a reconciliation?  I think we might leave the two brothers together.

Miss Prism.  Cecily, you will come with us.

Cecily.  Certainly, Miss Prism.  My little task of reconciliation is over.

Chasuble.  You have done a beautiful action to-day, dear child.

Miss Prism.  We must not be premature in our judgments.

Cecily.  I feel very happy.  [They all go off except Jack and Algernon.]

Jack.  You young scoundrel, Algy, you must get out of this place as soon as possible.  I don’t allow any Bunburying here.

[Enter Merriman.]

Merriman.  I have put Mr. Ernest’s things in the room next to yours, sir.  I suppose that is all right?

Jack.  What?

Merriman.  Mr. Ernest’s luggage, sir.  I have unpacked it and put it in the room next to your own.

Jack.  His luggage?

Merriman.  Yes, sir.  Three portmanteaus, a dressing-case, two hat-boxes, and a large luncheon-basket.

Algernon.  I am afraid I can’t stay more than a week this time.

Jack.  Merriman, order the dog-cartA light, horse-drawn carriage, with a box for carrying dogs, originally used for hunting. at once.  Mr. Ernest has been suddenly called back to town.

Merriman.  Yes, sir.  [Goes back into the house.]

Algernon.  What a fearful liar you are, Jack.  I have not been called back to town at all.

Jack.  Yes, you have.

Algernon.  I haven’t heard any one call me.

Jack.  Your duty as a gentleman calls you back.

Algernon.  My duty as a gentleman has never interfered with my pleasures in the smallest degree.

Jack.  I can quite understand that.

Algernon.  Well, Cecily is a darling.

Jack.  You are not to talk of Miss Cardew like that.  I don’t like it.

Algernon.  Well, I don’t like your clothes.  You look perfectly ridiculous in them.  Why on earth don’t you go up and change?  It is perfectly childish to be in deep mourning for a man who is actually staying for a whole week with you in your house as a guest.  I call it grotesque.

Jack.  You are certainly not staying with me for a whole week as a guest or anything else.  You have got to leave . . . by the four-five train.

Algernon.  I certainly won’t leave you so long as you are in mourning.  It would be most unfriendly.  If I were in mourning you would stay with me, I suppose.  I should think it very unkind if you didn’t.

Jack.  Well, will you go if I change my clothes?

Algernon.  Yes, if you are not too long.  I never saw anybody take so long to dress, and with such little result.

Jack.  Well, at any rate, that is better than being always over-dressed as you are.

Algernon.  If I am occasionally a little over-dressed, I make up for it by being always immensely over-educated.

Jack.  Your vanity is ridiculous, your conduct an outrage, and your presence in my garden utterly absurd.  However, you have got to catch the four-five, and I hope you will have a pleasant journey back to town.  This Bunburying, as you call it, has not been a great success for you.

[Goes into the house.]

Algernon.  I think it has been a great success.  I’m in love with Cecily, and that is everything.

[Enter Cecily at the back of the garden.  She picks up the can and begins to water the flowers.]  But I must see her before I go, and make arrangements for another Bunbury.  Ah, there she is.

Cecily.  Oh, I merely came back to water the roses.  I thought you were with Uncle Jack.

Algernon.  He’s gone to order the dog-cart for me.

Cecily.  Oh, is he going to take you for a nice drive?

Algernon.  He’s going to send me away.

Cecily.  Then have we got to part?

Algernon.  I am afraid so.  It’s a very painful parting.

Cecily.  It is always painful to part from people whom one has known for a very brief space of time.  The absence of old friends one can endure with equanimity.  But even a momentary separation from anyone to whom one has just been introduced is almost unbearable.

Algernon.  Thank you.

[Enter Merriman.]

Merriman.  The dog-cart is at the door, sir.  [Algernon looks appealingly at Cecily.]

Cecily.  It can wait, Merriman for . . . five minutes.

Merriman.  Yes, Miss.  [Exit Merriman.]

Algernon.  I hope, Cecily, I shall not offend you if I state quite frankly and openly that you seem to me to be in every way the visible personification of absolute perfection.

Cecily.  I think your frankness does you great credit, Ernest.  If you will allow me, I will copy your remarks into my diary.  [Goes over to table and begins writing in diary.]

Algernon.  Do you really keep a diary?  I’d give anything to look at it.  May I?

Cecily.  Oh no.  [Puts her hand over it.]  You see, it is simply a very young girl’s record of her own thoughts and impressions, and consequently meant for publication.  When it appears in volume form I hope you will order a copy.  But pray, Ernest, don’t stop.  I delight in taking down from dictation.  I have reached ‘absolute perfection’.  You can go on.  I am quite ready for more.

Algernon.  [Somewhat taken aback.]  Ahem!  Ahem!

Cecily.  Oh, don’t cough, Ernest.  When one is dictating one should speak fluently and not cough.  Besides, I don’t know how to spell a cough.  [Writes as Algernon speaks.]

Algernon.  [Speaking very rapidly.]  Cecily, ever since I first looked upon your wonderful and incomparable beauty, I have dared to love you wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.

Cecily.  I don’t think that you should tell me that you love me wildly, passionately, devotedly, hopelessly.  Hopelessly doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it?

Algernon.  Cecily!

[Enter Merriman.]

Merriman.  The dog-cart is waiting, sir.

Algernon.  Tell it to come round next week, at the same hour.

Merriman.  [Looks at Cecily, who makes no sign.]  Yes, sir.

[Merriman retires.]

Cecily.  Uncle Jack would be very much annoyed if he knew you were staying on till next week, at the same hour.

Algernon.  Oh, I don’t care about Jack.  I don’t care for anybody in the whole world but you.  I love you, Cecily.  You will marry me, won’t you?

Cecily.  You silly boy!  Of course.  Why, we have been engaged for the last three months.

Algernon.  For the last three months?

Cecily.  Yes, it will be exactly three months on Thursday.

Algernon.  But how did we become engaged?

Cecily.  Well, ever since dear Uncle Jack first confessed to us that he had a younger brother who was very wicked and bad, you of course have formed the chief topic of conversation between myself and Miss Prism.  And of course a man who is much talked about is always very attractive.  One feels there must be something in him, after all.  I daresay it was foolish of me, but I fell in love with you, Ernest.

Algernon.  Darling!  And when was the engagement actually settled?

Cecily.  On the 14th of February last.  Worn out by your entire ignorance of my existence, I determined to end the matter one way or the other, and after a long struggle with myself I accepted you under this dear old tree here.  The next day I bought this little ring in your name, and this is the little bangle with the true lover’s knot I promised you always to wear.

Algernon.  Did I give you this?  It’s very pretty, isn’t it?

Cecily.  Yes, you’ve wonderfully good taste, Ernest.  It’s the excuse I’ve always given for your leading such a bad life.  And this is the box in which I keep all your dear letters.  [Kneels at table, opens box, and produces letters tied up with blue ribbon.]

Algernon.  My letters!  But, my own sweet Cecily, I have never written you any letters.

Cecily.  You need hardly remind me of that, Ernest.  I remember only too well that I was forced to write your letters for you.  I wrote always three times a week, and sometimes oftener.

Algernon.  Oh, do let me read them, Cecily?

Cecily.  Oh, I couldn’t possibly.  They would make you far too conceited.  [Replaces box.]  The three you wrote me after I had broken off the engagement are so beautiful, and so badly spelled, that even now I can hardly read them without crying a little.

Algernon.  But was our engagement ever broken off?

Cecily.  Of course it was.  On the 22nd of last March.  You can see the entry if you like. [Shows diary.]  ‘To-day I broke off my engagement with Ernest.  I feel it is better to do so.  The weather still continues charming.’

Algernon.  But why on earth did you break it off?  What had I done?  I had done nothing at all.  Cecily, I am very much hurt indeed to hear you broke it off.  Particularly when the weather was so charming.

Cecily.  It would hardly have been a really serious engagement if it hadn’t been broken off at least once.  But I forgave you before the week was out.

Algernon.  [Crossing to her, and kneeling.]  What a perfect angel you are, Cecily.

Cecily.  You dear romantic boy.  [He kisses her, she puts her fingers through his hair.]  I hope your hair curls naturally, does it?

Algernon.  Yes, darling, with a little help from others.

Cecily.  I am so glad.

Algernon.  You’ll never break off our engagement again, Cecily?

Cecily.  I don’t think I could break it off now that I have actually met you.  Besides, of course, there is the question of your name.

Algernon.  Yes, of course.  [Nervously.]

Cecily.  You must not laugh at me, darling, but it had always been a girlish dream of mine to love some one whose name was Ernest.  [Algernon rises, Cecily also.]  There is something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence.  I pity any poor married woman whose husband is not called Ernest.

Algernon.  But, my dear child, do you mean to say you could not love me if I had some other name?

Cecily.  But what name?

Algernon.  Oh, any name you like—Algernon—for instance . . .

Cecily.  But I don’t like the name of Algernon.

Algernon.  Well, my own dear, sweet, loving little darling, I really can’t see why you should object to the name of Algernon.  It is not at all a bad name.  In fact, it is rather an aristocratic name.  Half of the chaps who get into the Bankruptcy Court are called Algernon.  But seriously, Cecily . . . [Moving to her] . . . if my name was Algy, couldn’t you love me?

Cecily.  [Rising.]  I might respect you, Ernest, I might admire your character, but I fear that I should not be able to give you my undivided attention.

Algernon.  Ahem!  Cecily!  [Picking up hat.]  Your Rector here is, I suppose, thoroughly experienced in the practice of all the rites and ceremonials of the Church?

Cecily.  Oh, yes.  Dr. Chasuble is a most learned man.  He has never written a single book, so you can imagine how much he knows.

Algernon.  I must see him at once on a most important christening—I mean on most important business.

Cecily.  Oh!

Algernon.  I shan’t be away more than half an hour.

Cecily.  Considering that we have been engaged since February the 14th, and that I only met you to-day for the first time, I think it is rather hard that you should leave me for so long a period as half an hour.  Couldn’t you make it twenty minutes?

Algernon.  I’ll be back in no time.

[Kisses her and rushes down the garden.]

Cecily.  What an impetuous boy he is!  I like his hair so much.  I must enter his proposal in my diary.

[Enter Merriman.]

Merriman.  A Miss Fairfax has just called to see Mr. Worthing.  On very important business, Miss Fairfax states.

Cecily.  Isn’t Mr. Worthing in his library?

Merriman.  Mr. Worthing went over in the direction of the Rectory some time ago.

Cecily.  Pray ask the lady to come out here; Mr. Worthing is sure to be back soon.  And you can bring tea.

Merriman.  Yes, Miss.  [Goes out.]

Cecily.  Miss Fairfax!  I suppose one of the many good elderly women who are associated with Uncle Jack in some of his philanthropic work in London.  I don’t quite like women who are interested in philanthropic work.  I think it is so forward of them.

[Enter Merriman.]

Merriman.  Miss Fairfax.

[Enter Gwendolen.]

[Exit Merriman.]

Cecily.  [Advancing to meet her.]  Pray let me introduce myself to you.  My name is Cecily Cardew.

Gwendolen.  Cecily Cardew?  [Moving to her and shaking hands.]  What a very sweet name!  Something tells me that we are going to be great friends.  I like you already more than I can say.  My first impressions of people are never wrong.

Cecily.  How nice of you to like me so much after we have known each other such a comparatively short time.  Pray sit down.

Gwendolen.  [Still standing up.]  I may call you Cecily, may I not?

Cecily.  With pleasure!

Gwendolen.  And you will always call me Gwendolen, won’t you?

Cecily.  If you wish.

Gwendolen.  Then that is all quite settled, is it not?

Cecily.  I hope so.  [A pause.  They both sit down together.]

Gwendolen.  Perhaps this might be a favourable opportunity for my mentioning who I am.  My father is Lord Bracknell.  You have never heard of papa, I suppose?

Cecily.  I don’t think so.

Gwendolen.  Outside the family circle, papa, I am glad to say, is entirely unknown.  I think that is quite as it should be.  The home seems to me to be the proper sphere for the man.  And certainly once a man begins to neglect his domestic duties he becomes painfully effeminate, does he not?  And I don’t like that.  It makes men so very attractive.  Cecily, mamma, whose views on education are remarkably strict, has brought me up to be extremely short-sighted; it is part of her system; so do you mind my looking at you through my glasses?

Cecily.  Oh! not at all, Gwendolen.  I am very fond of being looked at.

Gwendolen.  [After examining Cecily carefully through a lorgnette.]  You are here on a short visit, I suppose.

Cecily.  Oh no!  I live here.

Gwendolen.  [Severely.]  Really?  Your mother, no doubt, or some female relative of advanced years, resides here also?

Cecily.  Oh no!  I have no mother, nor, in fact, any relations.

Gwendolen.  Indeed?

Cecily.  My dear guardian, with the assistance of Miss Prism, has the arduous task of looking after me.

Gwendolen.  Your guardian?

Cecily.  Yes, I am Mr. Worthing’s ward.

Gwendolen.  Oh!  It is strange he never mentioned to me that he had a ward.  How secretive of him!  He grows more interesting hourly.  I am not sure, however, that the news inspires me with feelings of unmixed delight.  [Rising and going to her.]  I am very fond of you, Cecily; I have liked you ever since I met you!  But I am bound to state that now that I know that you are Mr. Worthing’s ward, I cannot help expressing a wish you were—well, just a little older than you seem to be—and not quite so very alluring in appearance.  In fact, if I may speak candidly—

Cecily.  Pray do!  I think that whenever one has anything unpleasant to say, one should always be quite candid.

Gwendolen.  Well, to speak with perfect candour, Cecily, I wish that you were fully forty-two, and more than usually plain for your age.  Ernest has a strong upright nature.  He is the very soul of truth and honour.  Disloyalty would be as impossible to him as deception.  But even men of the noblest possible moral character are extremely susceptible to the influence of the physical charms of others.  Modern, no less than Ancient History, supplies us with many most painful examples of what I refer to.  If it were not so, indeed, History would be quite unreadable.

Cecily.  I beg your pardon, Gwendolen, did you say Ernest?

Gwendolen.  Yes.

Cecily.  Oh, but it is not Mr. Ernest Worthing who is my guardian.  It is his brother—his elder brother.

Gwendolen.  [Sitting down again.]  Ernest never mentioned to me that he had a brother.

Cecily.  I am sorry to say they have not been on good terms for a long time.

Gwendolen.  Ah! that accounts for it.  And now that I think of it I have never heard any man mention his brother.  The subject seems distasteful to most men.  Cecily, you have lifted a load from my mind.  I was growing almost anxious.  It would have been terrible if any cloud had come across a friendship like ours, would it not?  Of course you are quite, quite sure that it is not Mr. Ernest Worthing who is your guardian?

Cecily.  Quite sure.  [A pause.]  In fact, I am going to be his.

Gwendolen.  [Inquiringly.]  I beg your pardon?

Cecily.  [Rather shy and confidingly.]  Dearest Gwendolen, there is no reason why I should make a secret of it to you.  Our little county newspaper is sure to chronicle the fact next week.  Mr. Ernest Worthing and I are engaged to be married.

Gwendolen.  [Quite politely, rising.]  My darling Cecily, I think there must be some slight error.  Mr. Ernest Worthing is engaged to me.  The announcement will appear in the Morning Post on Saturday at the latest.

Cecily.  [Very politely, rising.]  I am afraid you must be under some misconception.  Ernest proposed to me exactly ten minutes ago.  [Shows diary.]

Gwendolen.  [Examines diary through her lorgnettte carefully.]  It is certainly very curious, for he asked me to be his wife yesterday afternoon at 5.30.  If you would care to verify the incident, pray do so.  [Produces diary of her own.]  I never travel without my diary.  One should always have something sensational to read in the train.  I am so sorry, dear Cecily, if it is any disappointment to you, but I am afraid I have the prior claim.

Cecily.  It would distress me more than I can tell you, dear Gwendolen, if it caused you any mental or physical anguish, but I feel bound to point out that since Ernest proposed to you he clearly has changed his mind.

Gwendolen.  [Meditatively.]  If the poor fellow has been entrapped into any foolish promise I shall consider it my duty to rescue him at once, and with a firm hand.

Cecily.  [Thoughtfully and sadly.]  Whatever unfortunate entanglement my dear boy may have got into, I will never reproach him with it after we are married.

Gwendolen.  Do you allude to me, Miss Cardew, as an entanglement?  You are presumptuous.  On an occasion of this kind it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one’s mind.  It becomes a pleasure.

Cecily.  Do you suggest, Miss Fairfax, that I entrapped Ernest into an engagement?  How dare you?  This is no time for wearing the shallow mask of manners.  When I see a spade I call it a spade.

Gwendolen.  [Satirically.]  I am glad to say that I have never seen a spade.  It is obvious that our social spheres have been widely different.

[Enter Merriman, followed by the footman.  He carries a salver, table cloth, and plate stand.  Cecily is about to retort.  The presence of the servants exercises a restraining influence, under which both girls chafe.]

Merriman.  Shall I lay tea here as usual, Miss?

Cecily.  [Sternly, in a calm voice.]  Yes, as usual.  [Merriman begins to clear table and lay cloth.  A long pause.  Cecily and Gwendolen glare at each other.]

Gwendolen.  Are there many interesting walks in the vicinity, Miss Cardew?

Cecily.  Oh! yes! a great many.  From the top of one of the hills quite close one can see five counties.

Gwendolen.  Five counties!  I don’t think I should like that; I hate crowds.

Cecily.  [Sweetly.]  I suppose that is why you live in town?  [Gwendolen bites her lip, and beats her foot nervously with her parasol.]

Gwendolen.  [Looking round.]  Quite a well-kept garden this is, Miss Cardew.

Cecily.  So glad you like it, Miss Fairfax.

Gwendolen.  I had no idea there were any flowers in the country.

Cecily.  Oh, flowers are as common here, Miss Fairfax, as people are in London.

Gwendolen.  Personally I cannot understand how anybody manages to exist in the country, if anybody who is anybody does.  The country always bores me to death.

Cecily.  Ah!  This is what the newspapers call agricultural depressionA period of economic adversity in agriculture from the mid-1870s to the mid-1890s., is it not?  I believe the aristocracy are suffering very much from it just at present.  It is almost an epidemic amongst them, I have been told.  May I offer you some tea, Miss Fairfax?

Gwendolen.  [With elaborate politeness.]  Thank you.  [Aside.]  Detestable girl!  But I require tea!

Cecily.  [Sweetly.]  Sugar?

Gwendolen.  [Superciliously.]  No, thank you.  Sugar is not fashionable any more. [Cecily looks angrily at her, takes up the tongs and puts four lumps of sugar into the cup.]

Cecily.  [Severely.]  Cake or bread and butter?

Gwendolen.  [In a bored manner.]  Bread and butter, please.  Cake is rarely seen at the best houses nowadays.

Cecily.  [Cuts a very large slice of cake, and puts it on the tray.]  Hand that to Miss Fairfax.

[Merriman does so, and goes out with footman.  Gwendolen drinks the tea and makes a grimace.  Puts down cup at once, reaches out her hand to the bread and butter, looks at it, and finds it is cake.  Rises in indignation.]

Gwendolen.  You have filled my tea with lumps of sugar, and though I asked most distinctly for bread and butter, you have given me cake.  I am known for the gentleness of my disposition, and the extraordinary sweetness of my nature, but I warn you, Miss Cardew, you may go too far.

Cecily.  [Rising.]  To save my poor, innocent, trusting boy from the machinations of any other girl there are no lengths to which I would not go.

Gwendolen.  From the moment I saw you I distrusted you.  I felt that you were false and deceitful.  I am never deceived in such matters.  My first impressions of people are invariably right.

Cecily.  It seems to me, Miss Fairfax, that I am trespassing on your valuable time.  No doubt you have many other calls of a similar character to make in the neighbourhood.

[Enter Jack.]

Gwendolen.  [Catching sight of him.]  Ernest!  My own Ernest!

Jack.  Gwendolen!  Darling!  [Offers to kiss her.]

Gwendolen.  [Draws back.]  A moment!  May I ask if you are engaged to be married to this young lady?  [Points to Cecily.]

Jack.  [Laughing.]  To dear little Cecily!  Of course not!  What could have put such an idea into your pretty little head?

Gwendolen.  Thank you.  You may!  [Offers her cheek.]

Cecily.  [Very sweetly.]  I knew there must be some misunderstanding, Miss Fairfax.  The gentleman whose arm is at present round your waist is my guardian, Mr. John Worthing.

Gwendolen.  I beg your pardon?

Cecily.  This is Uncle Jack.

Gwendolen.  [Receding.]  Jack!  Oh!

[Enter Algernon.]

Cecily.  Here is Ernest.

Algernon.  [Goes straight over to Cecily without noticing any one else.]  My own love!  [Offers to kiss her.]

Cecily.  [Drawing back.]  A moment, Ernest!  May I ask you—are you engaged to be married to this young lady?

Algernon.  [Looking round.]  To what young lady?  Good heavens!  Gwendolen!

Cecily.  Yes! to good heavens, Gwendolen, I mean to Gwendolen.

Algernon.  [Laughing.]  Of course not!  What could have put such an idea into your pretty little head?

Cecily.  Thank you.  [Presenting her cheek to be kissed.]  You may.  [Algernon kisses her.]

Gwendolen.  I felt there was some slight error, Miss Cardew.  The gentleman who is now embracing you is my cousin, Mr. Algernon Moncrieff.

Cecily.  [Breaking away from Algernon.]  Algernon Moncrieff!  Oh!  [The two girls move towards each other and put their arms round each other’s waists as if for protection.]

Cecily.  Are you called Algernon?

Algernon.  I cannot deny it.

Cecily.  Oh!

Gwendolen.  Is your name really John?

Jack.  [Standing rather proudly.]  I could deny it if I liked.  I could deny anything if I liked.  But my name certainly is John.  It has been John for years.

Cecily.  [To Gwendolen.]  A gross deception has been practised on both of us.

Gwendolen.  My poor wounded Cecily!

Cecily.  My sweet wronged Gwendolen!

Gwendolen.  [Slowly and seriously.]  You will call me sister, will you not?  [They embrace.  Jack and Algernon groan and walk up and down.]

Cecily.  [Rather brightly.]  There is just one question I would like to be allowed to ask my guardian.

Gwendolen.  An admirable idea!  Mr. Worthing, there is just one question I would like to be permitted to put to you.  Where is your brother Ernest?  We are both engaged to be married to your brother Ernest, so it is a matter of some importance to us to know where your brother Ernest is at present.

Jack.  [Slowly and hesitatingly.]  Gwendolen—Cecily—it is very painful for me to be forced to speak the truth.  It is the first time in my life that I have ever been reduced to such a painful position, and I am really quite inexperienced in doing anything of the kind.  However, I will tell you quite frankly that I have no brother Ernest.  I have no brother at all.  I never had a brother in my life, and I certainly have not the smallest intention of ever having one in the future.

Cecily.  [Surprised.]  No brother at all?

Jack.  [Cheerily.]  None!

Gwendolen.  [Severely.]  Had you never a brother of any kind?

Jack.  [Pleasantly.]  Never.  Not even of an kind.

Gwendolen.  I am afraid it is quite clear, Cecily, that neither of us is engaged to be married to any one.

Cecily.  It is not a very pleasant position for a young girl suddenly to find herself in.  Is it?

Gwendolen.  Let us go into the house.  They will hardly venture to come after us there.

Cecily.  No, men are so cowardly, aren’t they?

[They retire into the house with scornful looks.]

Jack.  This ghastly state of things is what you call Bunburying, I suppose?

Algernon.  Yes, and a perfectly wonderful Bunbury it is.  The most wonderful Bunbury I have ever had in my life.

Jack.  Well, you’ve no right whatsoever to Bunbury here.

Algernon.  That is absurd.  One has a right to Bunbury anywhere one chooses.  Every serious Bunburyist knows that.

Jack.  Serious Bunburyist!  Good heavens!

Algernon.  Well, one must be serious about something, if one wants to have any amusement in life.  I happen to be serious about Bunburying.  What on earth you are serious about I haven’t got the remotest idea.  About everything, I should fancy.  You have such an absolutely trivial nature.

Jack.  Well, the only small satisfaction I have in the whole of this wretched business is that your friend Bunbury is quite exploded.  You won’t be able to run down to the country quite so often as you used to do, dear Algy.  And a very good thing too.

Algernon.  Your brother is a little off colour, isn’t he, dear Jack?  You won’t be able to disappear to London quite so frequently as your wicked custom was.  And not a bad thing either.

Jack.  As for your conduct towards Miss Cardew, I must say that your taking in a sweet, simple, innocent girl like that is quite inexcusable.  To say nothing of the fact that she is my ward.

Algernon.  I can see no possible defence at all for your deceiving a brilliant, clever, thoroughly experienced young lady like Miss Fairfax.  To say nothing of the fact that she is my cousin.

Jack.  I wanted to be engaged to Gwendolen, that is all.  I love her.

Algernon.  Well, I simply wanted to be engaged to Cecily.  I adore her.

Jack.  There is certainly no chance of your marrying Miss Cardew.

Algernon.  I don’t think there is much likelihood, Jack, of you and Miss Fairfax being united.

Jack.  Well, that is no business of yours.

Algernon.  If it was my business, I wouldn’t talk about it.  [Begins to eat muffins.]  It is very vulgar to talk about one’s business.  Only people like stock-brokers do that, and then merely at dinner parties.

Jack.  How can you sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble, I can’t make out.  You seem to me to be perfectly heartless.

Algernon.  Well, I can’t eat muffins in an agitated manner.  The butter would probably get on my cuffs.  One should always eat muffins quite calmly.  It is the only way to eat them.

Jack.  I say it’s perfectly heartless your eating muffins at all, under the circumstances.

Algernon.  When I am in trouble, eating is the only thing that consoles me.  Indeed, when I am in really great trouble, as any one who knows me intimately will tell you, I refuse everything except food and drink.  At the present moment I am eating muffins because I am unhappy.  Besides, I am particularly fond of muffins.  [Rising.]

Jack.  [Rising.]  Well, that is no reason why you should eat them all in that greedy way. [Takes muffins from Algernon.]

Algernon.  [Offering tea-cake.]  I wish you would have tea-cake instead.  I don’t like tea-cake.

Jack.  Good heavens!  I suppose a man may eat his own muffins in his own garden.

Algernon.  But you have just said it was perfectly heartless to eat muffins.

Jack.  I said it was perfectly heartless of you, under the circumstances.  That is a very different thing.

Algernon.  That may be.  But the muffins are the same.  [He seizes the muffin-dish from Jack.]

Jack.  Algy, I wish to goodness you would go.

Algernon.  You can’t possibly ask me to go without having some dinner.  It’s absurd.  I never go without my dinner.  No one ever does, except vegetarians and people like that.  Besides I have just made arrangements with Dr. Chasuble to be christened at a quarter to six under the name of Ernest.

Jack.  My dear fellow, the sooner you give up that nonsense the better.  I made arrangements this morning with Dr. Chasuble to be christened myself at 5.30, and I naturally will take the name of Ernest.  Gwendolen would wish it.  We can’t both be christened Ernest.  It’s absurd.  Besides, I have a perfect right to be christened if I like.  There is no evidence at all that I have ever been christened by anybody.  I should think it extremely probable I never was, and so does Dr. Chasuble.  It is entirely different in your case.  You have been christened already.

Algernon.  Yes, but I have not been christened for years.

Jack.  Yes, but you have been christened.  That is the important thing.

Algernon.  Quite so.  So I know my constitution can stand it.  If you are not quite sure about your ever having been christened, I must say I think it rather dangerous your venturing on it now.  It might make you very unwell.  You can hardly have forgotten that some one very closely connected with you was very nearly carried off this week in Paris by a severe chill.

Jack.  Yes, but you said yourself that a severe chill was not hereditary.

Algernon.  It usen’t to be, I know—but I daresay it is now.  Science is always making wonderful improvements in things.

Jack.  [Picking up the muffin-dish.]  Oh, that is nonsense; you are always talking nonsense.

Algernon.  Jack, you are at the muffins again!  I wish you wouldn’t.  There are only two left.  [Takes them.]  I told you I was particularly fond of muffins.

Jack.  But I hate tea-cake.

Algernon.  Why on earth then do you allow tea-cake to be served up for your guests?  What ideas you have of hospitality!

Jack.  Algernon!  I have already told you to go.  I don’t want you here.  Why don’t you go!

Algernon.  I haven’t quite finished my tea yet! and there is still one muffin left.  [Jack groans, and sinks into a chair.  Algernon still continues eating.]

ACT DROP

62

The Importance of Being Earnest: Act III

Oscar Wilde

THIRD ACT

SCENE

Morning-roomA room used as a sitting room during the morning. Later in the day, visitors were received in the more formal drawing room. at the Manor House.

[Gwendolen and Cecily are at the window, looking out into the garden.]

Gwendolen.  The fact that they did not follow us at once into the house, as any one else would have done, seems to me to show that they have some sense of shame left.

Cecily.  They have been eating muffins.  That looks like repentance.

Gwendolen.  [After a pause.]  They don’t seem to notice us at all.  Couldn’t you cough?

Cecily.  But I haven’t got a cough.

Gwendolen.  They’re looking at us.  What effrontery!

Cecily.  They’re approaching.  That’s very forward of them.

Gwendolen.  Let us preserve a dignified silence.

Cecily.  Certainly.  It’s the only thing to do now.  [Enter Jack followed by Algernon.  They whistle some dreadful popular air from a British OperaProbably referring to a tune from an operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan. They had spoofed Wilde and the Aesthetic Movement in Patience (1881). According to one character in the operetta, to be deemed an aesthete, one must “lie upon the daisies, and discourse in novel phrases of your complicated state of mind,/The meaning doesn’t matter if it’s only idle chatter of a transcendental kind.”.]

Gwendolen.  This dignified silence seems to produce an unpleasant effect.

Cecily.  A most distasteful one.

Gwendolen.  But we will not be the first to speak.

Cecily.  Certainly not.

Gwendolen.  Mr. Worthing, I have something very particular to ask you.  Much depends on your reply.

Cecily.  Gwendolen, your common sense is invaluable.  Mr. Moncrieff, kindly answer me the following question.  Why did you pretend to be my guardian’s brother?

Algernon.  In order that I might have an opportunity of meeting you.

Cecily.  [To Gwendolen.]  That certainly seems a satisfactory explanation, does it not?

Gwendolen.  Yes, dear, if you can believe him.

Cecily.  I don’t.  But that does not affect the wonderful beauty of his answer.

Gwendolen.  True.  In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity is the vital thing.  Mr. Worthing, what explanation can you offer to me for pretending to have a brother?  Was it in order that you might have an opportunity of coming up to town to see me as often as possible?

Jack.  Can you doubt it, Miss Fairfax?

Gwendolen.  I have the gravest doubts upon the subject.  But I intend to crush them.  This is not the moment for German scepticismA reference to 19th-century German scholarship that raised doubts about the truth of the Bible..  [Moving to Cecily.]  Their explanations appear to be quite satisfactory, especially Mr. Worthing’s.  That seems to me to have the stamp of truth upon it.

Cecily.  I am more than content with what Mr. Moncrieff said.  His voice alone inspires one with absolute credulity.

Gwendolen.  Then you think we should forgive them?

Cecily.  Yes.  I mean no.

Gwendolen.  True!  I had forgotten.  There are principles at stake that one cannot surrender.  Which of us should tell them?  The task is not a pleasant one.

Cecily.  Could we not both speak at the same time?

Gwendolen.  An excellent idea!  I nearly always speak at the same time as other people.  Will you take the time from me?

Cecily.  Certainly.  [Gwendolen beats time with uplifted finger.]

Gwendolen and Cecily [Speaking together.]  Your Christian names are still an insuperable barrier.  That is all!

Jack and Algernon [Speaking together.]  Our Christian names!  Is that all?  But we are going to be christened this afternoon.

Gwendolen.  [To Jack.]  For my sake you are prepared to do this terrible thing?

Jack.  I am.

Cecily.  [To Algernon.]  To please me you are ready to face this fearful ordeal?

Algernon.  I am!

Gwendolen.  How absurd to talk of the equality of the sexes!  Where questions of self-sacrifice are concerned, men are infinitely beyond us.

Jack.  We are.  [Clasps hands with Algernon.]

Cecily.  They have moments of physical courage of which we women know absolutely nothing.

Gwendolen.  [To Jack.]  Darling!

Algernon.  [To Cecily.]  Darling!  [They fall into each other’s arms.]

[Enter Merriman.  When he enters he coughs loudly, seeing the situation.]

Merriman.  Ahem!  Ahem!  Lady Bracknell!

Jack.  Good heavens!

[Enter Lady Bracknell.  The couples separate in alarm.  Exit Merriman.]

Lady Bracknell.  Gwendolen!  What does this mean?

Gwendolen.  Merely that I am engaged to be married to Mr. Worthing, mamma.

Lady Bracknell.  Come here.  Sit down.  Sit down immediately.  Hesitation of any kind is a sign of mental decay in the young, of physical weakness in the old.  [Turns to Jack.]  Apprised, sir, of my daughter’s sudden flight by her trusty maid, whose confidence I purchased by means of a small coin, I followed her at once by a luggage train.  Her unhappy father is, I am glad to say, under the impression that she is attending a more than usually lengthy lecture by the University Extension Scheme on the Influence of a permanent income on Thought.  I do not propose to undeceive him.  Indeed I have never undeceived him on any question.  I would consider it wrong.  But of course, you will clearly understand that all communication between yourself and my daughter must cease immediately from this moment.  On this point, as indeed on all points, I am firm.

Jack.  I am engaged to be married to Gwendolen Lady Bracknell!

Lady Bracknell.  You are nothing of the kind, sir.  And now, as regards Algernon! . . . Algernon!

Algernon.  Yes, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell.  May I ask if it is in this house that your invalid friend Mr. Bunbury resides?

Algernon.  [Stammering.]  Oh!  No!  Bunbury doesn’t live here.  Bunbury is somewhere else at present.  In fact, Bunbury is dead.

Lady Bracknell.  Dead!  When did Mr. Bunbury die?  His death must have been extremely sudden.

Algernon.  [Airily.]  Oh!  I killed Bunbury this afternoon.  I mean poor Bunbury died this afternoon.

Lady Bracknell.  What did he die of?

Algernon.  Bunbury?  Oh, he was quite exploded.

Lady Bracknell.  Exploded!  Was he the victim of a revolutionary outrage?  I was not aware that Mr. Bunbury was interested in social legislation.  If so, he is well punished for his morbidity.

Algernon.  My dear Aunt Augusta, I mean he was found out!  The doctors found out that Bunbury could not live, that is what I mean—so Bunbury died.

Lady Bracknell.  He seems to have had great confidence in the opinion of his physicians.  I am glad, however, that he made up his mind at the last to some definite course of action, and acted under proper medical advice.  And now that we have finally got rid of this Mr. Bunbury, may I ask, Mr. Worthing, who is that young person whose hand my nephew Algernon is now holding in what seems to me a peculiarly unnecessary manner?

Jack.  That lady is Miss Cecily Cardew, my ward.  [Lady Bracknell bows coldly to Cecily.]

Algernon.  I am engaged to be married to Cecily, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell.  I beg your pardon?

Cecily.  Mr. Moncrieff and I are engaged to be married, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  [With a shiver, crossing to the sofa and sitting down.]  I do not know whether there is anything peculiarly exciting in the air of this particular part of Hertfordshire, but the number of engagements that go on seems to me considerably above the proper average that statistics have laid down for our guidance.  I think some preliminary inquiry on my part would not be out of place.  Mr. Worthing, is Miss Cardew at all connected with any of the larger railway stations in London?  I merely desire information.  Until yesterday I had no idea that there were any families or persons whose origin was a Terminus.  [Jack looks perfectly furious, but restrains himself.]

Jack.  [In a clear, cold voice.]  Miss Cardew is the grand-daughter of the late Mr. Thomas Cardew of 149 Belgrave Square, S.W.; Gervase Park, Dorking, Surrey; and the Sporran, Fifeshire, N.B.

Lady Bracknell.  That sounds not unsatisfactory.  Three addresses always inspire confidence, even in tradesmen.  But what proof have I of their authenticity?

Jack.  I have carefully preserved the Court GuidesAn annual publication listing the names and London addresses of British royalty, aristocracy, and gentry. of the period.  They are open to your inspection, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  [Grimly.]  I have known strange errors in that publication.

Jack.  Miss Cardew’s family solicitors are Messrs. Markby, Markby, and Markby.

Lady Bracknell.  Markby, Markby, and Markby?  A firm of the very highest position in their profession.  Indeed I am told that one of the Mr. Markby’s is occasionally to be seen at dinner parties.  So far I am satisfied.

Jack.  [Very irritably.]  How extremely kind of you, Lady Bracknell!  I have also in my possession, you will be pleased to hear, certificates of Miss Cardew’s birth, baptism, whooping cough, registration, vaccination, confirmation, and the measles; both the German and the English variety.

Lady Bracknell.  Ah! A life crowded with incident, I see; though perhaps somewhat too exciting for a young girl.  I am not myself in favour of premature experiences.  [Rises, looks at her watch.]  Gwendolen! the time approaches for our departure.  We have not a moment to lose.  As a matter of form, Mr. Worthing, I had better ask you if Miss Cardew has any little fortune?

Jack.  Oh! about a hundred and thirty thousand pounds in the FundsGovernment stocks, similar to savings bonds, that offered a stable if modest yield..  That is all.  Goodbye, Lady Bracknell.  So pleased to have seen you.

Lady Bracknell.  [Sitting down again.]  A moment, Mr. Worthing.  A hundred and thirty thousand pounds!  And in the Funds!  Miss Cardew seems to me a most attractive young lady, now that I look at her.  Few girls of the present day have any really solid qualities, any of the qualities that last, and improve with time.  We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces.  [To Cecily.]  Come over here, dear.  [Cecily goes across.]  Pretty child! your dress is sadly simple, and your hair seems almost as Nature might have left it.  But we can soon alter all that.  A thoroughly experienced French maid produces a really marvellous result in a very brief space of time.  I remember recommending one to young Lady Lancing, and after three months her own husband did not know her.

Jack.  And after six months nobody knew her.

Lady Bracknell.  [Glares at Jack for a few moments.  Then bends, with a practised smile, to Cecily.]  Kindly turn round, sweet child.  [Cecily turns completely round.]  No, the side view is what I want.  [Cecily presents her profile.]  Yes, quite as I expected.  There are distinct social possibilities in your profile.  The two weak points in our age are its want of principle and its want of profile.  The chin a little higher, dear.  Style largely depends on the way the chin is worn.  They are worn very high, just at present.  Algernon!

Algernon.  Yes, Aunt Augusta!

Lady Bracknell.  There are distinct social possibilities in Miss Cardew’s profile.

Algernon.  Cecily is the sweetest, dearest, prettiest girl in the whole world.  And I don’t care twopence about social possibilities.

Lady Bracknell.  Never speak disrespectfully of Society, Algernon.  Only people who can’t get into it do that.  [To Cecily.]  Dear child, of course you know that Algernon has nothing but his debts to depend upon.  But I do not approve of mercenary marriages.  When I married Lord Bracknell I had no fortune of any kind.  But I never dreamed for a moment of allowing that to stand in my way.  Well, I suppose I must give my consent.

Algernon.  Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell.  Cecily, you may kiss me!

Cecily.  [Kisses her.]  Thank you, Lady Bracknell.

Lady Bracknell.  You may also address me as Aunt Augusta for the future.

Cecily.  Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell.  The marriage, I think, had better take place quite soon.

Algernon.  Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Cecily.  Thank you, Aunt Augusta.

Lady Bracknell.  To speak frankly, I am not in favour of long engagements.  They give people the opportunity of finding out each other’s character before marriage, which I think is never advisable.

Jack.  I beg your pardon for interrupting you, Lady Bracknell, but this engagement is quite out of the question.  I am Miss Cardew’s guardian, and she cannot marry without my consent until she comes of age.  That consent I absolutely decline to give.

Lady Bracknell.  Upon what grounds may I ask?  Algernon is an extremely, I may almost say an ostentatiously, eligible young man.  He has nothing, but he looks everything.  What more can one desire?

Jack.  It pains me very much to have to speak frankly to you, Lady Bracknell, about your nephew, but the fact is that I do not approve at all of his moral character.  I suspect him of being untruthful.  [Algernon and Cecily look at him in indignant amazement.]

Lady Bracknell.  Untruthful!  My nephew Algernon?  Impossible!  He is an OxonianAn alumnus of Oxford University..

Jack.  I fear there can be no possible doubt about the matter.  This afternoon during my temporary absence in London on an important question of romance, he obtained admission to my house by means of the false pretence of being my brother.  Under an assumed name he drank, I’ve just been informed by my butler, an entire pint bottle of my Perrier-Jouet, Brut, ’89; wine I was specially reserving for myself.  Continuing his disgraceful deception, he succeeded in the course of the afternoon in alienating the affections of my only ward.  He subsequently stayed to tea, and devoured every single muffin.  And what makes his conduct all the more heartless is, that he was perfectly well aware from the first that I have no brother, that I never had a brother, and that I don’t intend to have a brother, not even of any kind.  I distinctly told him so myself yesterday afternoon.

Lady Bracknell.  Ahem!  Mr. Worthing, after careful consideration I have decided entirely to overlook my nephew’s conduct to you.

Jack.  That is very generous of you, Lady Bracknell.  My own decision, however, is unalterable.  I decline to give my consent.

Lady Bracknell.  [To Cecily.]  Come here, sweet child.  [Cecily goes over.]  How old are you, dear?

Cecily.  Well, I am really only eighteen, but I always admit to twenty when I go to evening parties.

Lady Bracknell.  You are perfectly right in making some slight alteration.  Indeed, no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age.  It looks so calculating . . . [In a meditative manner.]  Eighteen, but admitting to twenty at evening parties.  Well, it will not be very long before you are of age and free from the restraints of tutelage.  So I don’t think your guardian’s consent is, after all, a matter of any importance.

Jack.  Pray excuse me, Lady Bracknell, for interrupting you again, but it is only fair to tell you that according to the terms of her grandfather’s will Miss Cardew does not come legally of age till she is thirty-five.

Lady Bracknell.  That does not seem to me to be a grave objection.  Thirty-five is a very attractive age.  London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.  Lady Dumbleton is an instance in point.  To my own knowledge she has been thirty-five ever since she arrived at the age of forty, which was many years ago now.  I see no reason why our dear Cecily should not be even still more attractive at the age you mention than she is at present.  There will be a large accumulation of property.

Cecily.  Algy, could you wait for me till I was thirty-five?

Algernon.  Of course I could, Cecily.  You know I could.

Cecily.  Yes, I felt it instinctively, but I couldn’t wait all that time.  I hate waiting even five minutes for anybody.  It always makes me rather cross.  I am not punctual myself, I know, but I do like punctuality in others, and waiting, even to be married, is quite out of the question.

Algernon.  Then what is to be done, Cecily?

Cecily.  I don’t know, Mr. Moncrieff.

Lady Bracknell.  My dear Mr. Worthing, as Miss Cardew states positively that she cannot wait till she is thirty-five—a remark which I am bound to say seems to me to show a somewhat impatient nature—I would beg of you to reconsider your decision.

Jack.  But my dear Lady Bracknell, the matter is entirely in your own hands.  The moment you consent to my marriage with Gwendolen, I will most gladly allow your nephew to form an alliance with my ward.

Lady Bracknell.  [Rising and drawing herself up.]  You must be quite aware that what you propose is out of the question.

Jack.  Then a passionate celibacy is all that any of us can look forward to.

Lady Bracknell.  That is not the destiny I propose for Gwendolen.  Algernon, of course, can choose for himself.  [Pulls out her watch.]  Come, dear, [Gwendolen rises] we have already missed five, if not six, trains.  To miss any more might expose us to comment on the platform.

[Enter Dr. Chasuble.]

Chasuble.  Everything is quite ready for the christenings.

Lady Bracknell.  The christenings, sir!  Is not that somewhat premature?

Chasuble.  [Looking rather puzzled, and pointing to Jack and Algernon.]  Both these gentlemen have expressed a desire for immediate baptism.

Lady Bracknell.  At their age?  The idea is grotesque and irreligious!  Algernon, I forbid you to be baptized.  I will not hear of such excesses.  Lord Bracknell would be highly displeased if he learned that that was the way in which you wasted your time and money.

Chasuble.  Am I to understand then that there are to be no christenings at all this afternoon?

Jack.  I don’t think that, as things are now, it would be of much practical value to either of us, Dr. Chasuble.

Chasuble.  I am grieved to hear such sentiments from you, Mr. Worthing.  They savour of the heretical views of the Anabaptists, views that I have completely refuted in four of my unpublished sermons.  However, as your present mood seems to be one peculiarly secular, I will return to the church at once.  Indeed, I have just been informed by the pew-opener that for the last hour and a half Miss Prism has been waiting for me in the vestry.

Lady Bracknell.  [Starting.]  Miss Prism!  Did I hear you mention a Miss Prism?

Chasuble.  Yes, Lady Bracknell.  I am on my way to join her.

Lady Bracknell.  Pray allow me to detain you for a moment.  This matter may prove to be one of vital importance to Lord Bracknell and myself.  Is this Miss Prism a female of repellent aspect, remotely connected with education?

Chasuble.  [Somewhat indignantly.]  She is the most cultivated of ladies, and the very picture of respectability.

Lady Bracknell.  It is obviously the same person.  May I ask what position she holds in your household?

Chasuble.  [Severely.]  I am a celibate, madam.

Jack.  [Interposing.]  Miss Prism, Lady Bracknell, has been for the last three years Miss Cardew’s esteemed governess and valued companion.

Lady Bracknell.  In spite of what I hear of her, I must see her at once.  Let her be sent for.

Chasuble.  [Looking off.]  She approaches; she is nigh.

[Enter Miss Prism hurriedly.]

Miss Prism.  I was told you expected me in the vestry, dear Canon.  I have been waiting for you there for an hour and three-quarters.  [Catches sight of Lady Bracknell, who has fixed her with a stony glare.  Miss Prism grows pale and quails.  She looks anxiously round as if desirous to escape.]

Lady Bracknell.  [In a severe, judicial voice.]  Prism!  [Miss Prism bows her head in shame.]  Come here, Prism!  [Miss Prism approaches in a humble manner.]  Prism!  Where is that baby?  [General consternation.  The Canon starts back in horror.  Algernon and Jack pretend to be anxious to shield Cecily and Gwendolen from hearing the details of a terrible public scandal.]  Twenty-eight years ago, Prism, you left Lord Bracknell’s house, Number 104, Upper Grosvenor Street, in charge of a perambulator that contained a baby of the male sex.  You never returned.  A few weeks later, through the elaborate investigations of the Metropolitan police, the perambulator was discovered at midnight, standing by itself in a remote corner of Bayswater.  It contained the manuscript of a three-volume novel of more than usually revolting sentimentality.  [Miss Prism starts in involuntary indignation.]  But the baby was not there!  [Every one looks at Miss Prism.]  Prism!  Where is that baby?  [A pause.]

Miss Prism.  Lady Bracknell, I admit with shame that I do not know.  I only wish I did.  The plain facts of the case are these.  On the morning of the day you mention, a day that is for ever branded on my memory, I prepared as usual to take the baby out in its perambulator.  I had also with me a somewhat old, but capacious hand-bag in which I had intended to place the manuscript of a work of fiction that I had written during my few unoccupied hours.  In a moment of mental abstraction, for which I never can forgive myself, I deposited the manuscript in the basinette, and placed the baby in the hand-bag.

Jack.  [Who has been listening attentively.]  But where did you deposit the hand-bag?

Miss Prism.  Do not ask me, Mr. Worthing.

Jack.  Miss Prism, this is a matter of no small importance to me.  I insist on knowing where you deposited the hand-bag that contained that infant.

Miss Prism.  I left it in the cloak-room of one of the larger railway stations in London.

Jack.  What railway station?

Miss Prism.  [Quite crushed.]  Victoria.  The Brighton line.  [Sinks into a chair.]

Jack.  I must retire to my room for a moment.  Gwendolen, wait here for me.

Gwendolen.  If you are not too long, I will wait here for you all my life.  [Exit Jack in great excitement.]

Chasuble.  What do you think this means, Lady Bracknell?

Lady Bracknell.  I dare not even suspect, Dr. Chasuble.  I need hardly tell you that in families of high position strange coincidences are not supposed to occur.  They are hardly considered the thing.

[Noises heard overhead as if some one was throwing trunks about.  Every one looks up.]

Cecily.  Uncle Jack seems strangely agitated.

Chasuble.  Your guardian has a very emotional nature.

Lady Bracknell.  This noise is extremely unpleasant.  It sounds as if he was having an argument.  I dislike arguments of any kind.  They are always vulgar, and often convincing.

Chasuble.  [Looking up.]  It has stopped now.  [The noise is redoubled.]

Lady Bracknell.  I wish he would arrive at some conclusion.

Gwendolen.  This suspense is terrible.  I hope it will last.  [Enter Jack with a hand-bag of black leather in his hand.]

Jack.  [Rushing over to Miss Prism.]  Is this the hand-bag, Miss Prism?  Examine it carefully before you speak.  The happiness of more than one life depends on your answer.

Miss Prism.  [Calmly.]  It seems to be mine.  Yes, here is the injury it received through the upsetting of a Gower Street omnibus in younger and happier days.  Here is the stain on the lining caused by the explosion of a temperance beverage, an incident that occurred at Leamington.  And here, on the lock, are my initials.  I had forgotten that in an extravagant mood I had had them placed there.  The bag is undoubtedly mine.  I am delighted to have it so unexpectedly restored to me.  It has been a great inconvenience being without it all these years.

Jack.  [In a pathetic voice.]  Miss Prism, more is restored to you than this hand-bag.  I was the baby you placed in it.

Miss Prism.  [Amazed.]  You?

Jack.  [Embracing her.]  Yes . . . mother!

Miss Prism.  [Recoiling in indignant astonishment.]  Mr. Worthing!  I am unmarried!

Jack.  Unmarried!  I do not deny that is a serious blow.  But after all, who has the right to cast a stone against one who has suffered?  Cannot repentance wipe out an act of folly?  Why should there be one law for men, and another for women?  Mother, I forgive you.  [Tries to embrace her again.]

Miss Prism.  [Still more indignant.]  Mr. Worthing, there is some error.  [Pointing to Lady Bracknell.]  There is the lady who can tell you who you really are.

Jack.  [After a pause.]  Lady Bracknell, I hate to seem inquisitive, but would you kindly inform me who I am?

Lady Bracknell.  I am afraid that the news I have to give you will not altogether please you.  You are the son of my poor sister, Mrs. Moncrieff, and consequently Algernon’s elder brother.

Jack.  Algy’s elder brother!  Then I have a brother after all.  I knew I had a brother!  I always said I had a brother!  Cecily,—how could you have ever doubted that I had a brother?  [Seizes hold of Algernon.]  Dr. Chasuble, my unfortunate brother.  Miss Prism, my unfortunate brother.  Gwendolen, my unfortunate brother.  Algy, you young scoundrel, you will have to treat me with more respect in the future.  You have never behaved to me like a brother in all your life.

Algernon.  Well, not till to-day, old boy, I admit.  I did my best, however, though I was out of practice.

[Shakes hands.]

Gwendolen.  [To Jack.]  My own!  But what own are you?  What is your Christian name, now that you have become some one else?

Jack.  Good heavens! . . . I had quite forgotten that point.  Your decision on the subject of my name is irrevocable, I suppose?

Gwendolen.  I never change, except in my affections.

Cecily.  What a noble nature you have, Gwendolen!

Jack.  Then the question had better be cleared up at once.  Aunt Augusta, a moment.  At the time when Miss Prism left me in the hand-bag, had I been christened already?

Lady Bracknell.  Every luxury that money could buy, including christening, had been lavished on you by your fond and doting parents.

Jack.  Then I was christened!  That is settled.  Now, what name was I given?  Let me know the worst.

Lady Bracknell.  Being the eldest son you were naturally christened after your father.

Jack.  [Irritably.]  Yes, but what was my father’s Christian name?

Lady Bracknell.  [Meditatively.]  I cannot at the present moment recall what the General’s Christian name was.  But I have no doubt he had one.  He was eccentric, I admit.  But only in later years.  And that was the result of the Indian climate, and marriage, and indigestion, and other things of that kind.

Jack.  Algy!  Can’t you recollect what our father’s Christian name was?

Algernon.  My dear boy, we were never even on speaking terms.  He died before I was a year old.

Jack.  His name would appear in the Army Lists of the period, I suppose, Aunt Augusta?

Lady Bracknell.  The General was essentially a man of peace, except in his domestic life.  But I have no doubt his name would appear in any military directory.

Jack.  The Army Lists of the last forty years are here.  These delightful records should have been my constant study.  [Rushes to bookcase and tears the books out.]  M. Generals . . . Mallam, Maxbohm, Magley, what ghastly names they have—Markby, Migsby, Mobbs, Moncrieff!  Lieutenant 1840, Captain, Lieutenant-Colonel, Colonel, General 1869, Christian names, Ernest John.  [Puts book very quietly down and speaks quite calmly.]  I always told you, Gwendolen, my name was Ernest, didn’t I?  Well, it is Ernest after all.  I mean it naturally is Ernest.

Lady Bracknell.  Yes, I remember now that the General was called Ernest, I knew I had some particular reason for disliking the name.

Gwendolen.  Ernest!  My own Ernest!  I felt from the first that you could have no other name!

Jack.  Gwendolen, it is a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.  Can you forgive me?

Gwendolen.  I can.  For I feel that you are sure to change.

Jack.  My own one!

Chasuble.  [To Miss Prism.]  Lætitia!  [Embraces her]

Miss Prism.  [Enthusiastically.]  Frederick!  At last!

Algernon.  Cecily!  [Embraces her.]  At last!

Jack.  Gwendolen!  [Embraces her.]  At last!

Lady Bracknell.  My nephew, you seem to be displaying signs of triviality.

Jack.  On the contrary, Aunt Augusta, I’ve now realised for the first time in my life the vital Importance of Being Earnest.

TABLEAU

63

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

The Importance of Being Earnest

Act l

  1. Discuss the significance of some of the characters’ names. What do Jack and Algernon connote? Is Wilde alluding to Swinburne, and if so, why?
  2. Find an example of a paradox with reference to Lady Harbury? Is Wilde commenting on one aspect of the “Woman Question” here?
  3. Give two examples of irony in Act I.
  4. Wilde’s characters often create a witty line by standing familiar proverbs on their heads. Choose two or three of the following lines and show how they ridicule conventional moral beliefs:

a. “Divorces are made in Heaven.”

b. “Produce your explanation and pray make it improbable.”

c. “The amount of women in London who flirt with their own husbands is perfectly scandalous. It looks so bad. It is simply washing one’s clean linen in public.”

d. “You don’t seem to realize that in married life three is company and two none.”

e. “I don’t mind hard work where there is no definite object of any kind.”

f. “Few parents nowadays pay any regard to what their children say to them. The old-fashioned respect for the young is fast dying out.”

5. Compare the way Jack uses his brother, Ernest, with the way Algernon uses Bunbury.

6. Contrast Lady Bracknell’s attitude to marriage with that of Algernon.

 

Brief Writing Assignments

  1. Choose one line or piece of dialogue that you think is especially clever or funny and explore your reasons for liking it.
  2. A conventional feature of most social comedy is the “blocking character”— often a parent or rival who opposes the romantic aspirations of the younger lovers. They often provide the basis for much of the comic action. Discuss Lady Bracknell as a blocking character. Who else in the play might be considered to be a blocking character?
  3. Comment on the significance of Lord Bracknell, who never actually appears on stage.
  4. Comment on the comic significance of Miss Prism and Dr. Chasuble.

 

Essay Topics

Suggested length: 1,500 to 2,500 words. [Modified from P. Allingham, Essay Topics for The Importance of Being Earnest, Victorian Web]

1. According to Karl Beckson, “Central to Wilde’s life and art was the idea of the dandy as the embodiment of the heroic ideal as well as of the aesthetic temperament hostile to bourgeois sentiment and morality” (p. 205). Which of the characters in the play embodies this aesthetic principle, and how? From your consideration of these characters’ utterances and actions, develop an appropriate essay topic. Starting point: Consult this Internet definition of Dandy:<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dandy >. Pay particular attention to Baudelaire’s definition. For Gilbert and Sullivan, aestheticism was a subject for parody. See the operetta Patience (1881), particularly the song, “If You’re Anxious for to Shine…” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eu_Xk_Vl6fk

qrcode-if-youre-anxious-for-to-shine

2. William Keach contends that Lady Bracknell’s “cross-examination of Jack lays the groundwork for much of the rest of the plot” (p. 184), and that the underlying tension of the play depends upon “the contrast of city and country so important to the double lives being led” (p. 183). Explain these two points, then develop one of them into a suitable essay topic.

3. Otto Reinert claims that “Wilde’s basic formula for satire is [his characters’] assumption of a code of behavior that represents the reality that Victorian convention pretends to ignore.” Reinert argues that in this play Wilde is principally concerned with the difference between conventional and actual manners and morality. Discuss these points, then refine this “formula for satire” into an essay topic.

4. Using three examples drawn from the play, show how Algernon uses Wilde’s aesthetic principles to transform his life into a work of art.

Resources

A useful study guide to the play. http://www.penguin.com/static/pdf/teachersguides/the_importance_of_being_earnest.pdf

Robert F. Dietrich British Drama chapter on Earnest. http://www.rfd2.net/britishdrama2.htm#Earnest

The Importance of Being Earnest (1952 Film). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JyM9LgHFbBs

qrcode-importance-of-being-earnest-film

References

Beckson, Karl. “Oscar Wilde.” Modern British Dramatists, 1900-1945. Part 2: M-Z. Dictionary of Literary Biography. Vol. 10. 204-218.

Keach, William. Teacher’s Manual: Adventures in English Literature. New York: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1980. 183-7.

Reinert, Otto. “Satiric Strategy in The Importance Of Being Earnest.” College English 18, 1 (Oct., 1956): 14-18.

 

 

Attributions

Figure 1
Oscar Wilde portrait by Notwist (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Oscar_Wilde_portrait.jpg) is in the Public Domain

IX

Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936)

64

Biography

 

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was born December 30, 1865, in Bombay, India, to a British family. When he was five years old, he was taken to England to begin his education, where he suffered deep feelings of abandonment and confusion after leaving a pampered lifestyle as a colonial. He returned to India at the age of 17 to work as a journalist and editor for the Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore. Kipling published his first collection of verse, Departmental Ditties and Other Verses, in 1886, and his first collection of stories, Plain Tales from the Hills, in 1888.

In the early 1890s, some of his poems were published in William Ernest Henley’s National Observer and later collected in Barrack-Room Ballads (1892), an immensely popular collection that contained “Gunga Din” and “Mandalay.” In 1892, Kipling married and moved to Vermont, where he published the two Jungle Books and began work on Kim. He returned to England with his family in 1896 and published another novel, Captains Courageous. Kipling visited South Africa during the Boer War, editing a newspaper there and writing the Just So Stories. Kim, Kipling’s most successful novel (and his last), appeared in 1901. The Kipling family moved to Sussex permanently in 1902, and he devoted the rest of his life to writing poetry and short stories, including his most famous poem, “If—.” He died on January 18, 1936; his ashes are buried in Westminster Abbey.

Reprinted with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY. www.poets.org.

65

Fuzzy-Wuzzy

Rudyard Kipling

Soudan Expeditionary force. Early campaign

We’ve fought with many men acrost the seas,
An’ some of ’em was brave an’ some was not.
The PaythanPathans, people on the northwest frontier of India. an’ the Zulu an’ Burmese;
But the FuzzySudanese followers of the Mahdi, so called because of their frizzled hair (Durand, Ralph. A Handbook to the Poetry of Rudyard Kipling [London: 1914]). was the finest o’ the lot.
We never got a ha’porth’sA halfpenny’s worth. change of ‘im:
‘E squatted in the scrub an’ ‘ocked our ‘orses,
‘E cut our sentries up at SuakimA port in northeast Sudan on the Red Sea, it was the headquarters of British and Egyptian troops operating in the eastern Sudan against the dervishes in 1884 (Durand, 22).,
An’ ‘e played the cat an’ banjo with our forces.
So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen but a first-class fightin’ man;
We gives you your certificate, an’ if you want it signed
We’ll come an’ ‘ave a romp with you whenever you’re inclined.

We took our chanst among the Kyber’illsKhyber Mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan.,
The BoersDutch-speaking settlers in South Africa who fought against the British in the Boer Wars. knocked us silly at a mile,
The Burman give us Irriwady chillsIn the Burmese campaign, the British forces came down with malaria near the Irrawady River.,
An’ a Zulu impiA regiment of the Zulus, a Bantu ethnic group in South Africa. dished us up in style:
But all we ever got from such as they
Was popGinger beer. to what the Fuzzy made us swallerSwallow.;
We ‘eld our bloomin’ own, the papers say,
But man for man the Fuzzy knocked us ‘oller.
Then ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ the missis and the kid;
Our orders was to break you, an’ of course we went an’ did.
We sloshed you with MartinisA rifle in general use in the British Army from 1871-1888., an’ it wasn’t ‘ardly fair;
But for all the odds agin’ you, Fuzzy-Wuz, you broke the squareIn 1884, near Tamai, the Sudanese army broke into the first British brigade square (a formation of soldiers) and “temporarily captured the naval guns” (Durand, 23)..

‘E ‘asn’t got no papers of ‘is own,
‘E ‘asn’t got no medals nor rewards,
So we must certify the skill ‘e’s shown
In usin’ of ‘is long two-‘anded swords:
When ‘e’s ‘oppin’ in an’ out among the bush
With ‘is coffin-‘eaded shield an’ shovel-spear,
An ‘appy day with Fuzzy on the rush
Will last an ‘ealthy TommyColloquial term for a British soldier. for a year.
So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, an’ your friends which are no more,
If we ‘adn’t lost some messmates we would ‘elp you to deplore;
But give an’ take’s the gospel, an’ we’ll call the bargain fair,
For if you ‘ave lost more than us, you crumpled up the square!

‘E rushes at the smoke when we let drive,
An’, before we know, ‘e’s ‘ackin’ at our ‘ead;
‘E’s all ‘ot sand an’ ginger when alive,
An’ ‘e’s generally shammin’Pretending. when ‘e’s dead.
‘E’s a daisyGood fellow., ‘e’s a duckyNice chap., ‘e’s a lambDarling.!
‘E’s a injia-rubber idiot on the spreeA drunken binge.,
‘E’s the on’y thing that doesn’t give a damn
For a Regiment o’ British Infantree!
So ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, at your ‘ome in the Soudan;
You’re a pore benighted ‘eathen, but a first-class fightin’ man;
An’ ‘ere’s to you, Fuzzy-Wuzzy, with your ‘ayrick ‘ead of ‘air—
You big black boundin’ beggar—for you broke a British square!

—1892.

[The editor is indebted to Representative Poetry, ed. Ian Lancashire for many of the notes to this poem].

66

Recessional

Rudyard Kipling

God of our fathers, known of old,

Lord of our far-flung battle-line,

Beneath whose awful Hand we hold

DominionSupreme power or sovereignty. See Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image...and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea...and over all the earth....” over palm and pine—

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

LestFor fear that. we forget—lest we forgetSee Deuteronomy 4:9, “[T]ake heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen....”!

 

The tumult and the shouting dies;

The Captains and the Kings depart:

Still stands Thine ancient sacrifice,

An humble and a contrite heart.

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

Far-called, our navies melt away;

On dune and headland sinks the fireThe poem was written to mark the diamond jubilee celebrations commemorating the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign. Bonfires or “beacons” were kindled on high ground all over Britain on the night of the jubilee, just as they had also marked the occasion of Queen Victoria’s 50th, or golden jubilee, in 1887. See the first poem in Housman’s “A Shropshire Lad.”:

Lo, all our pomp of yesterday

Is one with Nineveh and TyreBoth cities were once capitals of great empires. Ninevah had once been the largest city in the world. In 1847, Sir Austen Henry Layard (1817-1894) there rediscovered the lost palaces of Sennacherib and Ashurbanipal.!

Judge of the Nations, spare us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

If, drunk with sight of power, we loose

Wild tongues that have not Thee in awe,

Such boastings as the Gentiles use,

Or lesser breeds without the LawSee Romans 2:14. “...The Gentiles, which have not the law...are a law unto themselves.”

Lord God of Hosts, be with us yet,

Lest we forget—lest we forget!

 

For heathen heart that puts her trust

In reeking tube and iron shard,

All valiant dust that builds on dust,

And guarding, calls not Thee to guard,

For frantic boast and foolish word—

Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord!

 

—1897

67

The White Man’s Burden

Rudyard Kipling

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Send forth the best ye breed—
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives’ need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild—
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
In patience to abide,
To veil the threat of terror
And check the show of pride;
By open speech and simple,
An hundred times made plain
To seek another’s profit,
And work another’s gain.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
The savage wars of peace—
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
No tawdry rule of kings,
But toil of serf and sweeper—
The tale of common things.
The ports ye shall not enter,
The roads ye shall not tread,
Go mark them with your living,
And mark them with your dead.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard—
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:—
“Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?In Exodus 16: 2-3, the Israelites, suffering from hunger in the wilderness, criticized Moses and Aaron for taking them from the relative comfort of slavery in Egypt.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Ye dare not stoop to less—
Nor call too loud on Freedom
To cloke your weariness;
By all ye cry or whisper,
By all ye leave or do,
The silent, sullen peoples
Shall weigh your gods and you.

Take up the White Man’s burden—
Have done with childish days—
The lightly proferred laurelClassical symbol of victory and peace.,

The easy, ungrudged praise.
Comes now, to search your manhood
Through all the thankless years
Cold, edged with dear-bought wisdom,
The judgment of your peers!

—1899

68

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

Fuzzy-Wuzzy

Prof. Florence Boos points out that “the British had fought several “wars” of conquest in Africa, including a Zulu war in which natives overran a British army with spears. In the 1890s, the British – motivated by the desire to control territory near the Suez Canal – authorized an expeditionary force to conquer the Sudan. Britain remained in control of the region until 1956.” http://www.uiowa.edu/~boosf/questions/index3.htm

 

  1. Who is the poem’s speaker? Why would Kipling have chosen him to represent British presence in the Nile region?
  2. The term “Fuzzy-Wuzzy” refers to the Sudanese Hadandoa tribesmen of the upper Nile, who charged into battle with their hair arranged to look as fearsome as possible. What is the effect of the speaker’s use of this term? Of his reference to his enemy in the singular?
  3. What do we know about the speaker from his use of language?
  4. What attitudes are ascribed to the speaker as he says, “We’ll come an’ ‘have romp with you whenever you’re inclined”? What other attitudes seemingly appropriate for a British soldier does he exhibit?
  5. On what grounds does the speaker respect his enemy? Are the Hadandoa expected to successfully defend their homeland? What are the implications of praising the tribesmen for breaking “a British square” (a reference to the victory of the Sudanese in the battle of Tamai, 1884)?
  6. How do the poem’s stanza form and rhythms convey or complement its meaning?
  7. In reading this poem, what attitude toward the issue of imperialist wars is the Victorian reader expected to take?

Recessional

  1. What are implications of the poem’s title? A recessional is a hymn or solemn musical piece at the conclusion of a service or program.
  2. Who is the poem’s speaker? What effect is created by the fact that the poem is a prayer?
  3. To what “verities” and past historical events does the poem allude in the first stanza? What relationship does the “Lord of Hosts” have to the British Empire?
  4. What does the speaker predict will be the fate of the British empire? What does he fear will be forgotten?
  5. In stanza 4, what dreaded fate does the speaker fear will overtake the British? In this context, who are the “Gentiles,” and “lesser breeds without the Law”? Is this law political or religious?
  6. What are the “reeking tube and iron shard”? For what do the speaker’s people require mercy?
  7. Who are the “People” of the poem’s final line? What is the poem’s final tone? What is its view of the nature and value of the “imperial project”?

The White Man’s Burden

Originally, Kipling began this poem to commemorate Queen Victoria’s 60th jubilee in 1897, but he abandoned it, later taking it up again as a response to events that led to the Spanish-American War in 1899.

  1. According to Kipling, and in your own words, what was the “White Man’s Burden”?
  2. What reward did Kipling suggest the “White Man” get for carrying his “burden”?
  3. Who did Kipling think would read his poem? What do you think that this audience might have said in response to it? Look up McClure’s Magazine online: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McClure%27s
  4. Read the original publication of the poem in McClure’s Magazine. Be sure to download pages 290 and 291 for the full poem: http://www.unz.org/Pub/McClures-1899feb-00290
  5. Next, read two parodies of Kipling’s poem: George McNeill, “The Poor Man’s Burden” (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5475/) and H.T. Johnson, “The Black Man’s Burden” (http://historymatters.gmu.edu/d/5476/).
  6. For what audiences do you think McNeill and Johnson wrote their poems? How do you think those audiences might have responded to “The Black Man’s Burden” and “The Poor Man’s Burden”?

Resources

Recessional.

Watch the following video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V8V6VJLIC6M

qrcodest-bartholomews-church

 

Attributions

Figure 1
Rudyard Kipling by Current History of the War v.I (December 1914 – March 1915). New York: New York Times Company (http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rudyard_Kipling.jpg) is in the Public Domain

X

Thomas Hardy (1840–1928)

69

Biography

Thomas Hardy, the son of a stonemason, was born in Dorset, England, on June 2, 1840. He trained as an architect and worked in London and Dorset for 10 years. Hardy began his writing career as a novelist, publishing Desperate Remedies in 1871, and was soon successful enough to leave the field of architecture for writing. His novels Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891) and Jude the Obscure (1895), which are considered literary classics today, received negative reviews upon publication, and Hardy was criticized for being too pessimistic and preoccupied with sex. He left fiction writing for poetry and published eight collections, including Wessex Poems (1898) and Satires of Circumstance (1912).

Hardy’s poetry explores a fatalist outlook against the dark, rugged landscape of his native Dorset. He rejected the Victorian belief of a benevolent God, and much of his poetry reads as a sardonic lament on the bleakness of the human condition. A traditionalist in technique, he nevertheless forged a highly original style, combining rough-hewn rhythms and colloquial diction with an extraordinary variety of meters and stanzaic forms. He was a significant influence on later poets (including Robert Frost, W. H. Auden, Dylan Thomas, and Philip Larkin), and that influence increased during the course of the 20th century, offering an alternative—more down-to-earth, less rhetorical—to the more mystical and aristocratic precedent of Yeats. Thomas Hardy died on January 11, 1928.

Reprinted with the permission of the Academy of American Poets, 75 Maiden Lane, Suite 901, New York, NY. www.poets.org.

 

70

Hap

Thomas Hardy

Chance, happenstance.

If but some vengeful god would call to me
From up the sky, and laugh: “Thou suffering thing,
Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy,
That thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting!”

Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die,
Steeled by the sense of ireAnger, wrath. unmerited;
Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I
Had willed and metedGiven. me the tears I shed.

But not so.   How arrives it joy lies slain,
And why unblooms the best hope ever sown?
—Crass CasualtyChance. obstructs the sun and rain,
And dicing Time for gladness casts a moan. . . .
These purblind DoomstersPartly blind and obtuse judges. had as readily strown
Blisses about my pilgrimage as pain.

— 1898

71

Drummer Hodge

Thomas Hardy

I

They throw in Drummer Hodge, to rest
Uncoffined – just as found:
His landmark is a kopje-crestAfrikaans for "small hill."
That breaks the veldtSouth African grassland. around;
And foreign constellations west
Each night above his mound.

II

Young Hodge the Drummer never knew –
Fresh from his Wessex home –
The meaning of the broad KarooSemi-desert region of South Africa.,
The Bush, the dusty loam,
And why uprose to nightly view
Strange stars amid the gloam.

III

Yet portion of that unknown plain
Will Hodge forever be;
His homely Northern breast and brain
Grow to some Southern tree,
And strange-eyed constellations reign
His stars eternally.

— 1901

72

The Subalterns

Thomas Hardy

A person holding a subordinate position. In the British Army, an officer ranked below captain.

I
‘Poor wanderer,’ said the leaden sky,
‘I fainGladly. would lighten thee,
But there are laws in force on high
Which say it must not be.’

II

-‘I would not freeze thee, shorn one,’ cried
The North, ‘knew I but how
To warm my breath, to slack my stride;
But I am ruled as thou.’

III

-‘To-morrow I attack thee, wight,’
Said Sickness. ‘Yet I swear
I bear thy little ark no spite,
But am bid enter there.’

IV

-‘Come hither, Son,’ I heard Death say;
‘I did not will a grave
Should end thy pilgrimage to-day,
But I, too, am a slave!’

V

We smiled upon each other then,
And life to me had less
Of that fell look it wore ere when
They owned their passiveness.

— 1901

73

The Ruined Maid

Thomas Hardy

“O ‘MeliaShort and familiar form of Amelia., my dear, this does everything crown!
Who could have supposed I should meet you in Town?
And whence such fair garments, such prosperi-ty?” —
“O didn’t you know I’d been ruined?” said she.

— “You left us in tatters, without shoes or socks,
Tired of digging potatoes, and spudding up docksWeeds.;
And now you’ve gay bracelets and bright feathers three!” —
“Yes: that’s how we dress when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “At home in the bartonFarmyard. you said thee’ and thou,’
And thik oon,’ and theäs oon,’ and t’other’; but now
Your talking quite fits ‘ee for high compa-ny!” —
“Some polish is gained with one’s ruin,” said she.

— “Your hands were like paws then, your face blue and bleak
But now I’m bewitched by your delicate cheek,
And your little gloves fit as on any la-dy!” —
“We never do work when we’re ruined,” said she.

— “You used to call home-life a hag-ridden dream,
And you’d sigh, and you’d sockSigh.; but at present you seem
To know not of megrimsLow spirits. or melancho-ly!” —
“True. One’s pretty lively when ruined,” said she.

— “I wish I had feathers, a fine sweeping gown,
And a delicate face, and could strut about Town!” —
“My dear — a raw country girl, such as you be,
Cannot quite expect that. You ain’t ruined,” said she.

— 1901

74

The Impercipient

Thomas Hardy

(at a Cathedral Service)

That from this bright believing band
An outcast I should be,
That faiths by which my comrades stand
Seem fantasies to me,
And mirage-mists their Shining Land,
Is a drear destiny.

Why thus my soul should be consigned
To infelicity,
Why always I must feel as blind
To sights my brethren see,
Why joys they’ve found I cannot find,
AbidesRemains. a mystery.

Since heart of mine knows not that ease
Which they know; since it be
That He who breathes All’s Well to these
Breathes no All’s Well to me,
My lack might move their sympathies
And Christian charity!

I am like a gazer who should mark
An inland company
Standing upfingered, with, “Hark! hark!
The glorious distant sea!”
And feel, “Alas, ’tis but yon dark
And wind-swept pine to me!”

Yet I would bear my shortcomings
With meet tranquillity,
But for the charge that blessed things
I’d lieferRather. have unbe.

O, doth a bird deprived of wings
Go earth-bound wilfully!
. . . .
Enough. As yet disquiet clings
About us. Rest shall we.

— 1898

75

Mad Judy

Thomas Hardy

When the hamlet hailed a birth
Judy used to cry:
When she heard our christening mirth
She would kneel and sigh.
She was crazed, we knew, and we
Humoured her infirmity.

When the daughters and the sons
Gathered them to wed,
And we like-intending ones
Danced till dawn was red,
She would rock and mutter, “More
Comers to this stony shore!”

When old HeadsmanExecutioner. Death laid hands
On a babe or twainPoetical form of “two.”,
She would feast, and by her brandsBurning pieces of wood.
Sing her songs again.
What she liked we let her do,
Judy was insane, we knew.

— 1901

76

The Going

Thomas Hardy

Why did you give no hint that night
That quickly after the morrow’s dawn,
And calmly, as if indifferent quite,
YouHardy’s first wife, Emma. They married in 1874, and she died in 1912. would close your term here, up and be gone
Where I could not follow
With wing of swallow
To gain one glimpse of you ever anon!

Never to bid good-bye
Or lip me the softest call,
Or utter a wish for a word, while I
Saw morning harden upon the wall,
Unmoved, unknowing
That your great going
Had place that moment, and altered all.

Why do you make me leave the house
And think for a breath it is you I see
At the end of the alley of bending boughs
Where so often at dusk you used to be;
Till in darkening dankness
The yawning blankness
Of the perspective sickens me!

You were she who abode
By those red-veined rocks far West,
You were the swan-necked one who rode
Along the beetling Beeny CrestA cliff on the sea coast of northern Cornwall near the village where Hardy first met and began courting Emma Gifford. Hardy’s biographer notes that Emma was a fine horsewoman, who enjoyed “galloping over the hills on her beloved mare...bright hair streaming” (Halliday, p. 56).,
And, reining nigh me,
Would muse and eye me,
While Life unrolled us its very best.

Why, then, latterly did we not speak,
Did we not think of those days long dead,
And ere your vanishing strive to seek
That time’s renewal?  We might have said,

“In this bright spring weather
We’ll visit together
Those places that once we visited.”

Well, well!  All’s past amend,
Unchangeable.  It must go.
I seem but a dead man held on end
To sink down soon. . . .  O you could not know
That such swift fleeing
No soul foreseeing—
Not even I—would undo me so!

— 1912

77

The Haunter

Thomas Hardy

He does not think that I haunt here nightly:
How shall I let him know
That whither his fancy sets him wandering
I, too, alertly go?—
Hover and hover a few feet from him
Just as I used to do,
But cannot answer his words addressed me —
Only listen thereto!

When I could answer he did not say them:
When I could let him know
How I would like to join in his journeys
Seldom he wished to go.
Now that he goes and wants me with him
More than he used to do,
Never he sees my faithful phantom
Though he speaks thereto.

Yes, I accompany him to places
Only dreamers know,
Where the shy hares limp long paces,
Where the night rooks go;
Into old aisles where the past is all to him,
Close as his shade can do,
Always lacking the power to call to him,
Near as I reach thereto!

What a good haunter I am, O tell him,
Quickly make him know
If he but sigh since my loss befell him
Straight to his side I go.
Tell him a faithful one is doing
All that love can do
Still that his path may be worth pursuing,
And to bring peace thereto.

— 1912

78

The Convergence of the Twain

Thomas Hardy

 (Lines on the loss of the Titanic)

I

In a solitude of the sea
Deep from human vanity,
And the Pride of Life that planned her, stilly couches she.

II

Steel chambers, late the pyres
Of her salamandrine fires,
Cold currents thrid, and turn to rhythmic tidal lyres.

III

Over the mirrors meant
To glass the opulent
The sea-worm crawls — grotesque, slimed, dumb, indifferent.

IV

Jewels in joy designed
To ravish the sensuous mind
Lie lightless, all their sparkles bleared and black and blind.

V

Dim moon-eyed fishes near
Gaze at the gilded gear
And query: “What does this vaingloriousness down here?” …

VI

Well: while was fashioning
This creature of cleaving wing,
The Immanent Will that stirs and urges everything

VII

Prepared a sinister mate
For her — so gaily great —
A Shape of Ice, for the time far and dissociate.

VIII

And as the smart ship grew
In stature, grace, and hue,
In shadowy silent distance grew the Iceberg too.

IX

Alien they seemed to be;
No mortal eye could see
The intimate welding of their later history,

X

Or sign that they were bent
By paths coincident
On being anon twin halves of one august event,

XI

Till the Spinner of the Years
Said “Now!” And each one hears,
And consummation comes, and jars two hemispheres.

— 1914

79

Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?

Thomas Hardy

“Ah, are you digging on my grave,
My loved one? — planting rueA strong-scented, woody herb. Also, sorrow, regret.?”
— “No: yesterday he went to wed
One of the brightest wealth has bred.
‘It cannot hurt her now,’ he said,
‘That I should not be true.'”

“Then who is digging on my grave,
My nearest dearest kin?”
— “Ah, no: they sit and think, ‘What use!
What good will planting flowers produce?
No tendance of her mound can loose
Her spirit from Death’s ginA trap..'”

“But someone digs upon my grave?
My enemy? — prodding sly?”
— “Nay: when she heard you had passed the Gate
That shuts on all flesh soon or late,
She thought you no more worth her hate,
And cares not where you lie.

“Then, who is digging on my grave?
Say — since I have not guessed!”
— “O it is I, my mistress dear,
Your little dog , who still lives near,
And much I hope my movements here
Have not disturbed your rest?”

“Ah yes! You dig upon my grave…
Why flashed it not to me
That one true heart was left behind!
What feeling do we ever find
To equal among human kind
A dog’s fidelity!”

“Mistress, I dug upon your grave
To bury a bone, in case
I should be hungry near this spot
When passing on my daily trot.
I am sorry, but I quite forgot
It was your resting place.”

— 1914

80

Let Me Enjoy

Thomas Hardy

I

Let me enjoy the earth no less
Because the all-enacting Might
That fashioned forth its loveliness
Had other aims than my delight.

II

About my path there flits a Fair,
Who throws me not a word or sign;
I’ll charm me with her ignoring air,
And laud the lips not meant for mine.

III

From manuscripts of moving song
Inspired by scenes and dreams unknown
I’ll pour out raptures that belong
To others, as they were my own.

IV

And some day hence, towards Paradise
And all its blest — if such should be —
I will lift glad, afar-off eyes
Though it contain no place for me.

—1909

81

Channel Firing

Thomas Hardy

The title refers to gunnery practice in the English Channel in April 1914. World War I began on August 4, 1914.

That night your great guns, unawares,
Shook all our coffins as we lay,
And broke the chancelPart of the church nearest the altar. window-squares,
We thought it was the Judgment-day

And sat upright. While drearisome
Arose the howl of wakened hounds:
The mouse let fall the altar-crumb,
The worms drew back into the mounds,

The glebeA portion of land assigned to a clergyman as part of his benefice. cow drooled. Till God called, “No;
It’s gunnery practice out at sea
Just as before you went below;
The world is as it used to be:

“All nations striving strong to make
Red war yet redder. Mad as hatters
They do no more for Christés sake
Than you who are helpless in such matters.

“That this is not the judgment-hour
For some of them’s a blessed thing,
For if it were they’d have to scour
Hell’s floor for so much threatening….

“Ha, ha. It will be warmer when
I blow the trumpet (if indeed
I ever do; for you are men,
And rest eternal sorely need).”

So down we lay again. “I wonder,
Will the world ever saner be,”
Said one, “than when He sent us under
In our indifferent century!”

And many a skeleton shook his head.
“Instead of preaching forty year,”
My neighbour Parson Thirdly said,
“I wish I had stuck to pipes and beer.”

Again the guns disturbed the hour,
Roaring their readiness to avenge,
As far inland as Stourton TowerKing Alfred’s Tower was built near Stourton in the county of Wiltshire, to celebrate a victory by the Saxon, King Alfred, over the Danes in AD 878. Camelot was the legendary site of King Arthur’s court, and Stonehenge is the site of the prehistoric stone circle at Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain.,
And Camelot, and starlit Stonehenge.

— 1914

82

The Man He Killed

Thomas Hardy

“Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!

“But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.

“I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although

“He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —
Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

“Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.”

— 1901

83

Study Questions, Activities, and Resources

Study Questions and Activities

Drummer Hodge

  1. What place and what war make up the setting?
  2. Compare the point of stanza 3 to a similar point made in Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier.”

The Subalterns

  1. Clarify Hardy’s use of personification in each stanza.
  2. Define the adjective “fell” in the last stanza, then paraphrase the sentence that comprises the last stanza.

The Ruined Maid

  1. What are some meanings of the word “ruined”?
  2. Look up the word “maid.” What does the word mean in the title?
  3. Describe the structure: the number of speakers, the use of dashes, who speaks first, who speaks last.
  4. Describe the two former co-workers.
  5. Can you distinguish between the two women’s speech patterns?
  6. What is the main irony?

The Impercipient

  1. Look up the word “percipient,” then state the significance of the prefix “im.”
  2. In stanza 2, focus on the word “infelicity.” Look up “felicity” in the Oxford English Dictionary, and then consider the importance of the prefix “in.”
  3. In stanza 3, why does the speaker feel it might be appropriate to be the object of Christian charity?
  4. Suggest synonyms for the verb “mark” in stanza 4 and the adjective “meet” in stanza 5.
  5. What is the meaning of “liefer” in stanza 5?
  6. In stanza 5, what charge or accusation against the speaker adds insult to injury?
  7. Paraphrase the last two lines. What is their overall tone?

Mad Judy

  1. Who is the speaker?
  2. In stanza 2, Judy uses the metaphor “this stony shore.” To what does she refer?
  3. Look up “brands” and “headsman” in a good dictionary.
  4. Explain the irony in the poem. Which of the three types of irony is it?

The Going  and The Haunter

  1. Read the discussion of the poems about Emma by Andrew Moore at the following link: http://www.universalteacher.org.uk/poetry/hardy
  2. Who was Emma Gifford (1840-1912)?

The Convergence of the Twain

  1. In what year did the Titanic sink?
  2. Define both nouns in the title.
  3. Paraphrase the first stanza, placing the grammatical subject at the beginning of the sentence.
  4. Who is guilty of pride?
  5. How does alliteration emphasize theme?
  6. How is the deity depicted? How is the deity depicted in “Let Me Enjoy”?
  7. What is the “creature of cleaving wing”?
  8. Clarify the marriage metaphor in the poem.

Ah, Are You Digging on My Grave?

  1. Clarify the major irony and its type in this poem.
  2. Compare this poem with Housman’s “Is My Team Ploughing?”

Channel Firing

  1. To what promised biblical event does the poem refer?
  2. Who is the speaker?
  3. How does Hardy use humour to make serious points about war?
  4. How is this a pessimistic poem?
  5. Discuss the thematic significance of the three places mentioned in the last two lines.

The Man He Killed

  1. Comment on how the speaker’s diction characterizes him.
  2. Why did the soldier enlist?
  3. Give specific examples of irony in the third stanza and final stanzas. What are the denotations of “quaint” and “curious”?
  4. How does Hardy’s use of dashes affect the metre and theme?

 

Resources

Hap

Read the sample student essay on “Hap”: http://blue.utb.edu/gibson/Hap.htm

Let Me Enjoy

Listen to this poem as it was set to music by Gerald Finzi (1901-56):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DWt6Ov70LM0

qrcode-let-me-enjoy

 

Attributions

Figure 1
Thomas Hardy restored by Bain News Service, publisher (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Thomashardy_restored.jpg) is in the Public Domain

XI

George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)

84

Biography

 

G. Bernard Shaw (he hated the “George” and never used it, either personally or professionally) was born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland, in a lower-middle-class family of Scottish-Protestant ancestry. His father was a failed corn merchant, with a drinking problem and a squint (which Oscar Wilde’s father, a leading Dublin surgeon, tried unsuccessfully to correct); his mother was a professional singer, the sole disciple of Vandeleur Lee, a voice teacher claiming to have a unique and original approach to singing.

When Shaw was just short of his 16th birthday, his mother left her husband and son and moved with Vandeleur Lee to London, where the two set up a household, along with Shaw’s older sister, Lucy (who later became a successful music hall singer). Shaw remained in Dublin with his father, completing his schooling (which he hated passionately), and working as a clerk for an estate office (which he hated just as much as school).

It may not be accidental, then, that Shaw’s plays, including Misalliance, are filled with problematic parent-child relationships: with children who are brought up in isolation from their parents; with foundlings, orphans, and adopted heirs; and with parents who wrongly presume that they are entitled to their children’s obedience and affection.

In 1876, Shaw left Dublin and his father and moved to London, moving in with his mother’s menage. There he lived off his mother and sister while pursuing a career in journalism and writing. The first medium he tried as a creative writer was prose, completing five novels (the first one appropriately titled Immaturity) before any of them were published. He read voraciously, in public libraries and in the British Museum reading room. He also became involved in progressive politics. Standing on a soapbox at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park and at socialist rallies, he learned to overcome his stagefright and his stammer. And, to hold the attention of the crowd, he developed an energetic and aggressive speaking style that is evident in all of his writing.

With Beatrice and Sidney Webb, Shaw founded the Fabian Society, a socialist political organization dedicated to transforming Britain into a socialist state, not by revolution but by systematic progressive legislation, bolstered by persuasion and mass education. The Fabian Society would later be instrumental in founding the London School of Economics and the Labour Party. Shaw lectured for the Fabian Society and wrote pamphlets on the progressive arts, including The Perfect Wagnerite, an interpretation of Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle, and The Quintessence of Ibsenism, based on a series of lectures about the progressive Norwegian playwright, Henrik Ibsen. Meanwhile, as a journalist, Shaw worked as an art critic, then as a music critic (writing under the pseudonym “Corno di Bassetto”), and finally, from 1895 to 1898, as theatre critic for Saturday Review, where his reviews appeared over the infamous initials “GBS.”

In 1891, at the invitation of J. T. Grein, a merchant, theatre critic, and director of a progressive private new-play society, the Independent Theatre, Shaw wrote his first play, Widower’s Houses. Over the next 12 years, he wrote close to a dozen plays, though he generally failed to persuade the managers of the London theatres to produce them. A few were produced abroad; one (Arms and the Man) was produced under the auspices of an experimental management; one (Mrs Warren’s Profession) was censored by the Lord Chamberlain’s Examiner of Plays (the civil servant who, from 1737 until 1967, was empowered with the prior censorship of all spoken drama in England); and several were presented in single performances by private societies.

In 1898, after a serious illness, Shaw resigned as theatre critic and moved out of his mother’s house (where he was still living) to marry Charlotte Payne-Townsend, an Irish woman of independent means. Their marriage (quite possibly unconsummated) lasted until Charlotte’s death in 1943.

In 1904, Harley Granville Barker, an actor, director, and playwright 20 years younger than Shaw who had appeared in a private theatre society’s production of Shaw’s Candida, took over the management of the Court Theatre on Sloane Square in Chelsea (outside of the “theatreland” of the fashionable West End) and set it up as an experimental theatre specializing in new and progressive drama. Over the next three seasons, Barker produced 10 plays by Shaw (with Barker officially listed as director, but with Shaw actually directing his own plays), and Shaw began writing new plays with Barker’s management specifically in mind. Over the next 10 years, all but one of Shaw’s plays (Pygmalion in 1914) was produced either by Barker or by Barker’s friends and colleagues in the other experimental theater managements around England. With the royalty income from his plays, Shaw, who had become financially independent on marrying, became quite wealthy. Throughout the decade, he remained active in the Fabian Society, in city government (he served as vestryman for the London borough of St. Pancras), and on committees dedicated to ending dramatic censorship and to establishing a subsidized national theatre.

The outbreak of war in 1914 changed Shaw’s life. For Shaw, the war represented the bankruptcy of the capitalist system, the last desperate gasps of the 19th-century empires, and a tragic waste of young lives, all under the guise of patriotism. He expressed his opinions in a series of newspaper articles under the title Common Sense about the War. These articles proved to be a disaster for Shaw’s public stature: he was treated as an outcast in his adopted country, and there was even talk of his being tried for treason. His dramatic output ground to a halt, and he succeeded in writing only one major play during the war years, Heartbreak House, into which he projected his bitterness and despair about British politics and society.

After the war, Shaw found his dramatic voice again and rebuilt his reputation, first with a series of five plays about “creative evolution,” Back to Methuselah, and then, in 1923, with Saint Joan. In 1925, he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. (Not needing the money, he donated the cash award toward an English translation of the works of  the Swedish playwright August Strindberg, who had never been recognized with a Nobel prize by the Swedish Academy). Shaw’s plays were regularly produced and revived in London. As well, several theatre companies in the United States began producing his plays, old and new, on a regular basis (most notably the Theatre Guild in New York, and the Hedgerow Theatre, in Rose Valley, Pennsylvania, which became internationally known for its advocacy of the plays of Shaw and of the Irish playwright Sean O’Casey). In the late 1920s, a Shaw festival was established in Malvern, England.

Shaw lived the rest of his life as an international celebrity, travelling the world, continually involved in local and international politics. He visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of Stalin, and he visited the United States briefly at the invitation of William Randolph Hearst, stepping on shore only twice, for a lecture at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York, and for lunch at Hearst’s castle in San Simeon in California. He continued to write thousands of letters and over a dozen more plays.

In 1950, Shaw fell off a ladder while trimming a tree on his property at Ayot St. Lawrence in Hertfordshire, outside of London, and he died a few days later of complications from the injury at age 94. He had been at work on yet another play (Why She Would Not). In his will, he left a large part of his estate to a project to revamp the English alphabet. (Only one volume was published with the new “Shaw Alphabet”: a parallel text edition of Shaw’s Androcles and the Lion). After that project failed, the estate was divided among the other beneficiaries in his will: the National Gallery of Ireland, the British Museum, and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Royalties from Shaw’s plays, and from the musical My Fair Lady, based on Shaw’s Pygmalion, have helped to balance the budgets of these institutions ever since.

Reprinted with permission. Mazer, Cary. Bernard Shaw: A Brief Biography. University of Pennsylvania. Web. 23 May 2014. http://www.english.upenn.edu/~cmazer/mis1.html

85

Major Barbara: Act I

George Bernard Shaw

It is after dinner on a January night, in the library in Lady BritomartHeroine of Edmund Spenser’s The  Faerie Queene, Book 3, she represents English virtue (chastity) but also military power (Brit + Mars). She is “destined to secure the future for her children.” (Wise and Walker, Broadview Anth., p. 227.) She is modelled on Rosalind Howard, Countess of Carlisle (1845-1921), a Liberal advocate of women’s suffrage and supporter of temperance. Undershaft’s house in Wilton CrescentA wealthy residential area in London’s Belgravia district.. A large and comfortable settee is in the middle of the room, upholstered in dark leather. A person sitting on it [it is vacant at present] would have, on his right, Lady Britomart’s writing table, with the lady herself busy at it; a smaller writing table behind him on his left; the door behind him on Lady Britomart’s side; and a window with a window seat directly on his left. Near the window is an armchair.

Lady Britomart is a woman of fifty or thereabouts, well dressed and yet careless of her dress, well bred and quite reckless of her breeding, well mannered and yet appallingly outspoken and indifferent to the opinion of her interlocutory, amiable and yet peremptory, arbitrary, and high-tempered to the last bearable degree, and withal a very typical managing matron of the upper class, treated as a naughty child until she grew into a scolding mother, and finally settling down with plenty of practical ability and worldly experience, limited in the oddest way with domestic and class limitations, conceiving the universe exactly as if it were a large house in Wilton Crescent, though handling her corner of it very effectively on that assumption, and being quite enlightened and liberal as to the books in the library, the pictures on the walls, the music in the portfolios, and the articles in the papers.

Her son, Stephen, comes in. He is a gravely correct young man under 25, taking himself very seriously, but still in some awe of his mother, from childish habit and bachelor shyness rather than from any weakness of character.

Stephen. What’s the matter?

Lady Britomart. Presently, Stephen.

Stephen submissively walks to the settee and sits down. He takes up The SpeakerA Liberal weekly newspaper..

Lady Britomart. Don’t begin to read, Stephen. I shall require all your attention.

Stephen. It was only while I was waiting —

Lady Britomart. Don’t make excuses, Stephen. [He puts down The Speaker]. Now! [She finishes her writing; rises; and comes to the settee]. I have not kept you waiting very long, I think.

Stephen. Not at all, mother.

Lady Britomart. Bring me my cushion. [He takes the cushion from the chair at the desk and arranges it for her as she sits down on the settee]. Sit down. [He sits down and fingers his tie nervously]. Don’t fiddle with your tie, Stephen: there is nothing the matter with it.

Stephen. I beg your pardon. [He fiddles with his watch chain instead].

Lady Britomart. Now are you attending to me, Stephen?

Stephen. Of course, mother.

Lady Britomart. No: it’s not of course. I want something much more than your everyday matter-of-course attention. I am going to speak to you very seriously, Stephen. I wish you would let that chain alone.

Stephen [hastily relinquishing the chain] Have I done anything to annoy you, mother? If so, it was quite unintentional.

Lady Britomart [astonished] Nonsense! [With some remorse] My poor boy, did you think I was angry with you?

Stephen. What is it, then, mother? You are making me very uneasy.

Lady Britomart [squaring herself at him rather aggressively] Stephen: may I ask how soon you intend to realize that you are a grown-up man, and that I am only a woman?

Stephen [amazed] Only a —

Lady Britomart. Don’t repeat my words, please: It is a most aggravating habit. You must learn to face life seriously, Stephen. I really cannot bear the whole burden of our family affairs any longer. You must advise me: you must assume the responsibility.

Stephen. I!

Lady Britomart. Yes, you, of course. You were 24 last June. You’ve been at HarrowFamous public (independent) boarding school for boys. School to eight former British prime ministers. Located in the town of Harrow in northwest London. and Cambridge. You’ve been to India and Japan. You must know a lot of things now; unless you have wasted your time most scandalously. Well, advise me.

Stephen [much perplexed] You know I have never interfered in the household —

Lady Britomart. No: I should think not. I don’t want you to order the dinner.

Stephen. I mean in our family affairs.

Lady Britomart. Well, you must interfere now; for they are getting quite beyond me.

Stephen [troubled] I have thought sometimes that perhaps I ought; but really, mother, I know so little about them; and what I do know is so painful — it is so impossible to mention some things to you —[he stops, ashamed].

Lady Britomart. I suppose you mean your father.

Stephen [almost inaudibly] Yes.

Lady Britomart. My dear: we can’t go on all our lives not mentioning him. Of course you were quite right not to open the subject until I asked you to; but you are old enough now to be taken into my confidence, and to help me to deal with him about the girls.

Stephen. But the girls are all right. They are engaged.

Lady Britomart [complacently] Yes: I have made a very good match for Sarah. Charles Lomax will be a millionaire at 35. But that is ten years ahead; and in the meantime his trustees cannot under the terms of his father’s will allow him more than 800 pounds a year.

Stephen. But the will says also that if he increases his income by his own exertions, they may double the increase.

Lady Britomart. Charles Lomax’s exertions are much more likely to decrease his income than to increase it. Sarah will have to find at least another 800 pounds a year for the next ten years; and even then they will be as poor as church mice. And what about Barbara? I thought Barbara was going to make the most brilliant career of all of you. And what does she do? Joins the Salvation Army; discharges her maid; lives on a pound a week; and walks in one evening with a professor of Greek whom she has picked up in the street, and who pretends to be a Salvationist, and actually plays the big drum for her in public because he has fallen head over ears in love with her.

Stephen. I was certainly rather taken aback when I heard they were engaged. Cusins is a very nice fellow, certainly: nobody would ever guess that he was born in Australia; but —

Lady Britomart. Oh, Adolphus Cusins will make a very good husband. After all, nobody can say a word against Greek: it stamps a man at once as an educated gentleman. And my family, thank Heaven, is not a pig-headed Tory one. We are WhigsNames for political groups dating back to the 17th century; the Tories are now identified with the Conservatives, the Whigs with the Liberals., and believe in liberty. Let snobbish people say what they please: Barbara shall marry, not the man they like, but the man I like.

Stephen. Of course I was thinking only of his income. However, he is not likely to be extravagant.

Lady Britomart. Don’t be too sure of that, Stephen. I know your quiet, simple, refined, poetic people like Adolphus — quite content with the best of everything! They cost more than your extravagant people, who are always as mean as they are second rate. No: Barbara will need at least 2000 pounds a year. You see it means two additional households. Besides, my dear, you must marry soon. I don’t approve of the present fashion of philandering bachelors and late marriages; and I am trying to arrange something for you.

Stephen. It’s very good of you, mother; but perhaps I had better arrange that for myself.

Lady Britomart. Nonsense! you are much too young to begin matchmaking: you would be taken in by some pretty little nobody. Of course I don’t mean that you are not to be consulted: you know that as well as I do. [Stephen closes his lips and is silent]. Now don’t sulk, Stephen.

Stephen. I am not sulking, mother. What has all this got to do with — with — with my father?

Lady Britomart. My dear Stephen: where is the money to come from? It is easy enough for you and the other children to live on my income as long as we are in the same house; but I can’t keep four families in four separate houses. You know how poor my father is: he has barely seven thousand a year now; and really, if he were not the Earl of Stevenage, he would have to give up society. He can do nothing for us: he says, naturally enough, that it is absurd that he should be asked to provide for the children of a man who is rolling in money. You see, Stephen, your father must be fabulously wealthy, because there is always a war going on somewhere.

Stephen. You need not remind me of that, mother. I have hardly ever opened a newspaper in my life without seeing our name in it. The Undershaft torpedo! The Undershaft quick firers! The Undershaft ten inch! the Undershaft disappearing rampart gun! the Undershaft submarine! and now the Undershaft aerial battleship! At Harrow they called me the Woolwich InfantA cannon weighing 35 tons, made at Woolich Arsenal in southeast London, considered nearly obsolete in 1905.. At Cambridge it was the same. A little brute at King’sKing’s College, Cambridge. who was always trying to get up revivals, spoilt my Bible — your first birthday present to me — by writing under my name, “Son and heir to Undershaft and LazarusAn allusion to the partnership between the Christian Undershaft and the Jewish Lazarus. See Luke 16 for Lazarus, the poor man. Another biblical Lazarus was the man Christ raised from the dead in John 11:44., Death and Destruction Dealers: address, Christendom and Judea.” But that was not so bad as the way I was kowtowed to everywhere because my father was making millions by selling cannons.

Lady Britomart. It is not only the cannons, but the war loans that Lazarus arranges under cover of giving credit for the cannons. You know, Stephen, it’s perfectly scandalous. Those two men, Andrew Undershaft and Lazarus, positively have Europe under their thumbs. That is why your father is able to behave as he does. He is above the law. Do you think Bismarck or Gladstone or DisraeliLeading 19th-century statesmen: Prince Otto von Bismarck (1815-1998), Germany’s “Iron Chancellor”; William Gladstone (1809-1998), leader of the Liberal Party and former Prime Minister; Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), leader of the Conservative Party, also a former prime minister. could have openly defied every social and moral obligation all their lives as your father has? They simply wouldn’t have dared. I asked Gladstone to take it up. I asked The Times to take it up. I asked the Lord Chamberlain to take it up. But it was just like asking them to declare war on the Sultan. They WOULDN’T. They said they couldn’t touch him. I believe they were afraid.

Stephen. What could they do? He does not actually break the law.

Lady Britomart. Not break the law! He is always breaking the law. He broke the law when he was born: his parents were not married.

Stephen. Mother! Is that true?

Lady Britomart. Of course it’s true: that was why we separated.

Stephen. He married without letting you know this!

Lady Britomart [rather taken aback by this inference] Oh no. To do Andrew justice, that was not the sort of thing he did. Besides, you know the Undershaft motto: Unashamed. Everybody knew.

Stephen. But you said that was why you separated.

Lady Britomart. Yes, because he was not content with being a foundling himself: he wanted to disinherit you for another foundling. That was what I couldn’t stand.

Stephen [ashamed] Do you mean for — for — for —

Lady Britomart. Don’t stammer, Stephen. Speak distinctly.

Stephen. But this is so frightful to me, mother. To have to speak to you about such things!

Lady Britomart. It’s not pleasant for me, either, especially if you are still so childish that you must make it worse by a display of embarrassment. It is only in the middle classes, Stephen, that people get into a state of dumb helpless horror when they find that there are wicked people in the world. In our class, we have to decide what is to be done with wicked people; and nothing should disturb our self possession. Now ask your question properly.

Stephen. Mother: you have no consideration for me. For Heaven’s sake either treat me as a child, as you always do, and tell me nothing at all; or tell me everything and let me take it as best I can.

Lady Britomart. Treat you as a child! What do you mean? It is most unkind and ungrateful of you to say such a thing. You know I have never treated any of you as children. I have always made you my companions and friends, and allowed you perfect freedom to do and say whatever you liked, so long as you liked what I could approve of.

Stephen [desperately] I daresay we have been the very imperfect children of a very perfect mother; but I do beg you to let me alone for once, and tell me about this horrible business of my father wanting to set me aside for another son.

Lady Britomart [amazed] Another son! I never said anything of the kind. I never dreamt of such a thing. This is what comes of interrupting me.

Stephen. But you said —

Lady Britomart [cutting him short] Now be a good boy, Stephen, and listen to me patiently. The Undershafts are descended from a foundlingAn infant found after its unknown parents have deserted it, and usually presumed to be illegitimate. in the parish of St. Andrew UndershaftSt. Andrew Undershaft is a historic Church of England church in the City of London. It survived both the Great Fire of London (1666) and the Blitz. in the city. That was long ago, in the reign of James the FirstKing James VI of Scotland (1566-1625), James I of England after the Act of Union between Scotland and England in 1603.. Well, this foundling was adopted by an armorer and gun-maker. In the course of time the foundling succeeded to the business; and from some notion of gratitude, or some vow or something, he adopted another foundling, and left the business to him. And that foundling did the same. Ever since that, the cannon business has always been left to an adopted foundling named Andrew Undershaft.

Stephen. But did they never marry? Were there no legitimate sons?

Lady Britomart. Oh yes: they married just as your father did; and they were rich enough to buy land for their own children and leave them well provided for. But they always adopted and trained some foundling to succeed them in the business; and of course they always quarrelled with their wives furiously over it. Your father was adopted in that way; and he pretends to consider himself bound to keep up the tradition and adopt somebody to leave the business to. Of course I was not going to stand that. There may have been some reason for it when the Undershafts could only marry women in their own class, whose sons were not fit to govern great estates. But there could be no excuse for passing over my son.

Stephen [dubiously] I am afraid I should make a poor hand of managing a cannon foundry.

Lady Britomart. Nonsense! you could easily get a manager and pay him a salary.

Stephen. My father evidently had no great opinion of my capacity.

Lady Britomart. Stuff, child! you were only a baby: it had nothing to do with your capacity. Andrew did it on principle, just as he did every perverse and wicked thing on principle. When my father remonstrated, Andrew actually told him to his face that history tells us of only two successful institutions: one the Undershaft firm, and the other the Roman Empire under the AntoninesThe Roman emperors Antoninus Pius (reigned 138-161) and his adopted son and heir Marcus Aurelius (reigned 161-180).. That was because the Antonine emperors all adopted their successors. Such rubbish! The Stevenages are as good as the Antonines, I hope; and you are a Stevenage. But that was Andrew all over. There you have the man! Always clever and unanswerable when he was defending nonsense and wickedness: always awkward and sullen when he had to behave sensibly and decently!

Stephen. Then it was on my account that your home life was broken up, mother. I am sorry.

Lady Britomart. Well, dear, there were other differences. I really cannot bear an immoral man. I am not a PhariseeA self-righteous, hypocritical person, after the strict Pharisee sect in the New Testament., I hope; and I should not have minded his merely doing wrong things: we are none of us perfect. But your father didn’t exactly do wrong things: he said them and thought them: that was what was so dreadful. He really had a sort of religion of wrongness just as one doesn’t mind men practising immorality so long as they own that they are in the wrong by preaching morality; so I couldn’t forgive Andrew for preaching immorality while he practised morality. You would all have grown up without principles, without any knowledge of right and wrong, if he had been in the house. You know, my dear, your father was a very attractive man in some ways. Children did not dislike him; and he took advantage of it to put the wickedest ideas into their heads, and make them quite unmanageable. I did not dislike him myself: very far from it; but nothing can bridge over moral disagreement.

Stephen. All this simply bewilders me, mother. People may differ about matters of opinion, or even about religion; but how can they differ about right and wrong? Right is right; and wrong is wrong; and if a man cannot distinguish them properly, he is either a fool or a rascal: that’s all.

Lady Britomart [touched] That’s my own boy [she pats his cheek]! Your father never could answer that: he used to laugh and get out of it under cover of some affectionate nonsense. And now that you understand the situation, what do you advise me to do?

Stephen. Well, what can you do?

Lady Britomart. I must get the money somehow.

Stephen. We cannot take money from him. I had rather go and live in some cheap place like Bedford SquareBedford Square and Hampstead were recently established "garden suburbs" of London, which would have been considered vulgar by the upper-class Stephen. or even Hampstead than take a farthing of his money.

Lady Britomart. But after all, Stephen, our present income comes from Andrew.

Stephen [shocked] I never knew that.

Lady Britomart. Well, you surely didn’t suppose your grandfather had anything to give me. The Stevenages could not do everything for you. We gave you social position. Andrew had to contribute something. He had a very good bargain, I think.

Stephen [bitterly] We are utterly dependent on him and his cannons, then!

Lady Britomart. Certainly not: the money is settledUndershaft relinquished control over this money in a marriage settlement before marrying Lady B.. But he provided it. So you see it is not a question of taking money from him or not: it is simply a question of how much. I don’t want any more for myself.

Stephen. Nor do I.

Lady Britomart. But Sarah does; and Barbara does. That is, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins will cost them more. So I must put my pride in my pocket and ask for it, I suppose. That is your advice, Stephen, is it not?

Stephen. No.

Lady Britomart [sharply] Stephen!

Stephen. Of course if you are determined —

Lady Britomart. I am not determined: I ask your advice; and I am waiting for it. I will not have all the responsibility thrown on my shoulders.

Stephen [obstinately] I would die sooner than ask him for another penny.

Lady Britomart [resignedly] You mean that I must ask him. Very well, Stephen: It shall be as you wish. You will be glad to know that your grandfather concurs. But he thinks I ought to ask Andrew to come here and see the girls. After all, he must have some natural affection for them.

Stephen. Ask him here!!!

Lady Britomart. Do not repeat my words, Stephen. Where else can I ask him?

Stephen. I never expected you to ask him at all.

Lady Britomart. Now don’t tease, Stephen. Come! you see that it is necessary that he should pay us a visit, don’t you?

Stephen [reluctantly] I suppose so, if the girls cannot do without his money.

Lady Britomart. Thank you, Stephen: I knew you would give me the right advice when it was properly explained to you. I have asked your father to come this evening. [Stephen bounds from his seat] Don’t jump, Stephen: it fidgets me.

Stephen [in utter consternation] Do you mean to say that my father is coming here to-night — that he may be here at any moment?

Lady Britomart [looking at her watch] I said nine. [He gasps. She rises]. Ring the bell, please. [Stephen goes to the smaller writing table; presses a button on it; and sits at it with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands, outwitted and overwhelmed]. It is ten minutes to nine yet; and I have to prepare the girls. I asked Charles Lomax and Adolphus to dinner on purpose that they might be here. Andrew had better see them in case he should cherish any delusions as to their being capable of supporting their wives. [The butler enters: Lady Britomart goes behind the settee to speak to him]. Morrison: go up to the drawingroom and tell everybody to come down here at once. [Morrison withdraws. Lady Britomart turns to Stephen]. Now remember, Stephen, I shall need all your countenance and authority. [He rises and tries to recover some vestige of these attributes]. Give me a chair, dear. [He pushes a chair forward from the wall to where she stands, near the smaller writing table. She sits down; and he goes to the armchair, into which he throws himself]. I don’t know how Barbara will take it. Ever since they made her a major in the Salvation Army she has developed a propensity to have her own way and order people about which quite cows me sometimes. It’s not ladylike: I’m sure I don’t know where she picked it up. Anyhow, Barbara shan’t bully me; but still it’s just as well that your father should be here before she has time to refuse to meet him or make a fuss. Don’t look nervous, Stephen, it will only encourage Barbara to make difficulties. I am nervous enough, goodness knows; but I don’t show it.

Sarah and Barbara come in with their respective young men, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins. Sarah is slender, bored, and mundane. Barbara is robuster, jollier, much more energetic. Sarah is fashionably dressed: Barbara is in Salvation Army uniform. Lomax, a young man about town, is like many other young men about town. He is affected with a frivolous sense of humor which plunges him at the most inopportune moments into paroxysms of imperfectly suppressed laughter. Cusins is a spectacled student, slight, thin haired, and sweet voiced, with a more complex form of Lomax’s complaint. His sense of humor is intellectual and subtle, and is complicated by an appalling temper. The lifelong struggle of a benevolent temperament and a high conscience against impulses of inhuman ridicule and fierce impatience has set up a chronic strain which has visibly wrecked his constitution. He is a most implacable, determined, tenacious, intolerant person who by mere force of character presents himself as — and indeed actually is — considerate, gentle, explanatory, even mild and apologetic, capable possibly of murder, but not of cruelty or coarseness. By the operation of some instinct which is not merciful enough to blind him with the illusions of love, he is obstinately bent on marrying Barbara. Lomax likes Sarah and thinks it will be rather a lark to marry her. Consequently he has not attempted to resist Lady Britomart’s arrangements to that end.

All four look as if they had been having a good deal of fun in the drawingroom. The girls enter first, leaving the swainsMale admirers or suitors, used facetiously here. outside. Sarah comes to the settee. Barbara comes in after her and stops at the door.

Barbara. Are Cholly and Dolly to come in?

Lady Britomart [forcibly] Barbara: I will not have Charles called Cholly: the vulgarity of it positively makes me ill.

Barbara. It’s all right, mother. Cholly is quite correct nowadays. Are they to come in?

Lady Britomart. Yes, if they will behave themselves.

Barbara [through the door] Come in, Dolly, and behave yourself.

Barbara comes to her mother’s writing table. Cusins enters smiling, and wanders towards Lady Britomart.

Sarah [calling] Come in, Cholly. [Lomax enters, controlling his features very imperfectly, and places himself vaguely between Sarah and Barbara].

Lady Britomart [peremptorily] Sit down, all of you. [They sit. Cusins crosses to the window and seats himself there. Lomax takes a chair. Barbara sits at the writing table and Sarah on the settee]. I don’t in the least know what you are laughing at, Adolphus. I am surprised at you, though I expected nothing better from Charles Lomax.

Cusins [in a remarkably gentle voice] Barbara has been trying to teach me the West HamWorking-class district in London’s East End. Salvation March.

Lady Britomart. I see nothing to laugh at in that; nor should you if you are really converted.

Cusins [sweetly] You were not present. It was really funny, I believe.

Lomax. Ripping.

Lady Britomart. Be quiet, Charles. Now listen to me, children. Your father is coming here this evening. [General stupefaction].

Lomax [remonstrating] Oh I say!

Lady Britomart. You are not called on to say anything, Charles.

Sarah. Are you serious, mother?

Lady Britomart. Of course I am serious. It is on your account, Sarah, and also on Charles’s. [Silence. Charles looks painfully unworthy]. I hope you are not going to object, Barbara.

Barbara. I! why should I? My father has a soul to be saved like anybody else. He’s quite welcome as far as I am concerned. [She sits on the table , and softly whistles ‘Onward Christian Soldiers’Popular hymn, with lyrics by Sabine Baring-Gould (1834-1924) and music by Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900).]

Lomax [still remonstrant] But really, don’t you know! Oh I say!

Lady Britomart [frigidly] What do you wish to convey, Charles?

Lomax. Well, you must admit that this is a bit thick.

Lady Britomart [turning with ominous suavity to Cusins] Adolphus: you are a professor of Greek. Can you translate Charles Lomax’s remarks into reputable English for us?

Cusins [cautiously] If I may say so, Lady Brit, I think Charles has rather happily expressed what we all feel. Homer, speaking of AutolycusSee The Iliad, Book 10. Autolycus, a thief, goes to a “thick” or strongly fortified house., uses the same phrase.

Lomax [handsomely] Not that I mind, you know, if Sarah don’t.

Lady Britomart [crushingly] Thank you. Have I your permission, Adolphus, to invite my own husband to my own house?

Cusins [gallantly] You have my unhesitating support in everything you do.

Lady Britomart. Sarah: have you nothing to say?

Sarah. Do you mean that he is coming regularly to live here?

Lady Britomart. Certainly not. The spare room is ready for him if he likes to stay for a day or two and see a little more of you; but there are limits.

Sarah. Well, he can’t eat us, I suppose. I don’t mind.

Lomax [chuckling] I wonder how the old man will take it.

Lady Britomart. Much as the old woman will, no doubt, Charles.

Lomax [abashed] I didn’t mean — at least —

Lady Britomart. You didn’t think, Charles. You never do; and the result is, you never mean anything. And now please attend to me, children. Your father will be quite a stranger to us.

Lomax. I suppose he hasn’t seen Sarah since she was a little kid.

Lady Britomart. Not since she was a little kid, Charles, as you express it with that elegance of diction and refinement of thought that seem never to desert you. Accordingly — er — [impatiently] Now I have forgotten what I was going to say. That comes of your provoking me to be sarcastic, Charles. Adolphus: will you kindly tell me where I was.

Cusins [sweetly] You were saying that as Mr Undershaft has not seen his children since they were babies, he will form his opinion of the way you have brought them up from their behavior to-night, and that therefore you wish us all to be particularly careful to conduct ourselves well, especially Charles.

Lomax. Look here: Lady Brit didn’t say that.

Lady Britomart [vehemently] I did, Charles. Adolphus’s recollection is perfectly correct. It is most important that you should be good; and I do beg you for once not to pair off into opposite corners and giggle and whisper while I am speaking to your father.

Barbara. All right, mother. We’ll do you credit.

Lady Britomart. Remember, Charles, that Sarah will want to feel proud of you instead of ashamed of you.

Lomax. Oh I say! There’s nothing to be exactly proud of, don’t you know.

Lady Britomart. Well, try and look as if there was.

Morrison, pale and dismayed, breaks into the room in unconcealed disorder.

Morrison. Might I speak a word to you, my lady?

Lady Britomart. Nonsense! Show him up.

Morrison. Yes, my lady. [He goes].

Lomax. Does Morrison know who he is?

Lady Britomart. Of course. Morrison has always been with us.

Lomax. It must be a regular corkerSlang. Something that closes a discussion...a thing one cannot get over. Hence something very striking or astonishing. for him, don’t you know.

Lady Britomart. Is this a moment to get on my nerves, Charles, with your outrageous expressions?

Lomax. But this is something out of the ordinary, really —

Morrison [at the door] The — er — Mr Undershaft. [He retreats in confusion].

Andrew Undershaft comes in. All rise. Lady Britomart meets him in the middle of the room behind the settee.

Andrew is, on the surface, a stoutish, easygoing elderly man, with kindly patient manners, and an engaging simplicity of character. But he has a watchful, deliberate, waiting, listening face, and formidable reserves of power, both bodily and mental, in his capacious chest and long head. His gentleness is partly that of a strong man who has learnt by experience that his natural grip hurts ordinary people unless he handles them very carefully, and partly the mellowness of age and success. He is also a little shy in his present very delicate situation.

Lady Britomart. Good evening, Andrew.

Undershaft. How d’ye do, my dear.

Lady Britomart. You look a good deal older.

Undershaft [apologetically] I AM somewhat older. [With a touch of courtship] Time has stood still with you.

Lady Britomart [promptly] Rubbish! This is your family.

Undershaft [surprised] Is it so large? I am sorry to say my memory is failing very badly in some things. [He offers his hand with paternal kindness to Lomax].

Lomax [jerkily shaking his hand] Ahdedoo.

Undershaft. I can see you are my eldest. I am very glad to meet you again, my boy.

Lomax [remonstrating] No but look here don’t you know —[Overcome] Oh I say!

Lady Britomart [recovering from momentary speechlessness] Andrew: do you mean to say that you don’t remember how many children you have?

Undershaft. Well, I am afraid I—. They have grown so much — er. Am I making any ridiculous mistake? I may as well confess: I recollect only one son. But so many things have happened since, of course — er —

Lady Britomart [decisively] Andrew: you are talking nonsense. Of course you have only one son.

Undershaft. Perhaps you will be good enough to introduce me, my dear.

Lady Britomart. That is Charles Lomax, who is engaged to Sarah.

Undershaft. My dear sir, I beg your pardon.

Lomax. Not at all. Delighted, I assure you.

Lady Britomart. This is Stephen.

Undershaft [bowing] Happy to make your acquaintance, Mr Stephen. Then [going to Cusins] you must be my son. [Taking Cusins’ hands in his] How are you, my young friend? [To Lady Britomart] He is very like you, my love.

Cusins. You flatter me, Mr Undershaft. My name is Cusins: engaged to Barbara. [Very explicitly] That is Major Barbara Undershaft, of the Salvation Army. That is Sarah, your second daughter. This is Stephen Undershaft, your son.

Undershaft. My dear Stephen, I beg your pardon.

Stephen. Not at all.

Undershaft. Mr Cusins: I am much indebted to you for explaining so precisely. [Turning to Sarah] Barbara, my dear —

Sarah [prompting him] Sarah.

Undershaft. Sarah, of course. [They shake hands. He goes over to Barbara] Barbara — I am right this time, I hope.

Barbara. Quite right. [They shake hands].

Lady Britomart [resuming command] Sit down, all of you. Sit down, Andrew. [She comes forward and sits on the settle. Cusins also brings his chair forward on her left. Barbara and Stephen resume their seats. Lomax gives his chair to Sarah and goes for another].

Undershaft. Thank you, my love.

Lomax [conversationally, as he brings a chair forward between the writing table and the settee, and offers it to Undershaft] Takes you some time to find out exactly where you are, don’t it?

Undershaft [accepting the chair] That is not what embarrasses me, Mr Lomax. My difficulty is that if I play the part of a father, I shall produce the effect of an intrusive stranger; and if I play the part of a discreet stranger, I may appear a callous father.

Lady Britomart. There is no need for you to play any part at all, Andrew. You had much better be sincere and natural.

Undershaft [submissively] Yes, my dear: I daresay that will be best. [Making himself comfortable] Well, here I am. Now what can I do for you all?

Lady Britomart. You need not do anything, Andrew. You are one of the family. You can sit with us and enjoy yourself.

Lomax’s too long suppressed mirth explodes in agonized neighings.

Lady Britomart [outraged] Charles Lomax: if you can behave yourself, behave yourself. If not, leave the room.

Lomax. I’m awfully sorry, Lady Brit; but really, you know, upon my soul! [He sits on the settee between Lady Britomart and Undershaft, quite overcome].

Barbara. Why don’t you laugh if you want to, Cholly? It’s good for your inside.

Lady Britomart. Barbara: you have had the education of a lady. Please let your father see that; and don’t talk like a street girl.

Undershaft. Never mind me, my dear. As you know, I am not a gentleman; and I was never educated.

Lomax [encouragingly] Nobody’d know it, I assure you. You look all right, you know.

Cusins. Let me advise you to study Greek, Mr Undershaft. Greek scholars are privileged men. Few of them know Greek; and none of them know anything else; but their position is unchallengeable. Other languages are the qualifications of waiters and commercial travellers: Greek is to a man of position what the hallmarkOriginally, “Hall Mark,” the official mark stamped on gold and silver articles to attest their purity, done at the Goldsmith’s Hall. is to silver.

Barbara. Dolly: don’t be insincere. Cholly: fetch your concertina and play something for us.

Lomax [doubtfully to Undershaft] Perhaps that sort of thing isn’t in your line, eh?

Undershaft. I am particularly fond of music.

Lomax [delighted] Are you? Then I’ll get it. [He goes upstairs for the instrument].

Undershaft. Do you play, Barbara?

Barbara. Only the tambourine. But Cholly’s teaching me the concertina.

Undershaft. Is Cholly also a member of the Salvation Army?

Barbara. No: he says it’s bad form to be a dissenterMember of any nonconformist Protestant body, such as the Salvation Army, that dissents from the doctrines of the Church of England.. But I don’t despair of Cholly. I made him come yesterday to a meeting at the dock gates, and take the collection in his hat.

Lady Britomart. It is not my doing, Andrew. Barbara is old enough to take her own way. She has no father to advise her.

Barbara. Oh yes she has. There are no orphans in the Salvation Army.

Undershaft. Your father there has a great many children and plenty of experience, eh?

Barbara [looking at him with quick interest and nodding] Just so. How did you come to understand that? [Lomax is heard at the door trying the concertina].

Lady Britomart. Come in, Charles. Play us something at once.

Lomax. Righto! [He sits down in his former place, and preludes].

Undershaft. One moment, Mr Lomax. I am rather interested in the Salvation Army. Its motto might be my own: Blood and Fire"Through Blood and Fire," the motto of the Salvation Army, alludes to the redeeming blood of Christ and the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit..

Lomax [shocked] But not your sort of blood and fire, you know.

Undershaft. My sort of blood cleanses: my sort of fire purifies.

Barbara. So do ours. Come down to-morrow to my shelter — the West Ham shelter — and see what we’re doing. We’re going to march to a great meeting in the Assembly Hall at Mile End. Come and see the shelter and then march with us: it will do you a lot of good. Can you play anything?

Undershaft. In my youth I earned pennies, and even shillings occasionally, in the streets and in public house parlors by my natural talent for stepdancing. Later on, I became a member of the Undershaft orchestral society, and performed passably on the tenor trombone.

Lomax [scandalized] Oh I say!

Barbara. Many a sinner has played himself into heaven on the trombone, thanks to the Army.

Lomax [to Barbara, still rather shocked] Yes; but what about the cannon business, don’t you know? [To Undershaft] Getting into heaven is not exactly in your line, is it?

Lady Britomart. Charles!!!

Lomax. Well; but it stands to reason, don’t it? The cannon business may be necessary and all that: we can’t get on without cannons; but it isn’t right, you know. On the other hand, there may be a certain amount of tosh about the Salvation Army — I belong to the Established Church myself — but still you can’t deny that it’s religion; and you can’t go against religion, can you? At least unless you’re downright immoral, don’t you know.

Undershaft. You hardly appreciate my position, Mr Lomax —

Lomax [hastily] I’m not saying anything against you personally, you know.

Undershaft. Quite so, quite so. But consider for a moment. Here I am, a manufacturer of mutilation and murder. I find myself in a specially amiable humor just now because, this morning, down at the foundry, we blew twenty-seven dummy soldiers into fragments with a gun which formerly destroyed only thirteen.

Lomax [leniently] Well, the more destructive war becomes, the sooner it will be abolished, eh?

Undershaft. Not at all. The more destructive war becomes the more fascinating we find it. No, Mr Lomax, I am obliged to you for making the usual excuse for my trade; but I am not ashamed of it. I am not one of those men who keep their morals and their business in watertight compartments. All the spare money my trade rivals spend on hospitals, cathedrals and other receptacles for conscience money, I devote to experiments and researches in improved methods of destroying life and property. I have always done so; and I always shall. Therefore your Christmas card moralities of peace on earth and goodwill among men are of no use to me. Your Christianity, which enjoins you to resist not evil, and to turn the other cheek, would make me a bankrupt. My morality — my religion — must have a place for cannons and torpedoes in it.

Stephen [coldly — almost sullenly] You speak as if there were half a dozen moralities and religions to choose from, instead of one true morality and one true religion.

Undershaft. For me there is only one true morality; but it might not fit you, as you do not manufacture aerial battleships. There is only one true morality for every man; but every man has not the same true morality.

Lomax [overtaxed] Would you mind saying that again? I didn’t quite follow it.

Cusins. It’s quite simple. As Euripides says, one man’s meat is another man’s poison morally as well as physically.

Undershaft. Precisely.

Lomax. Oh, that. Yes, yes, yes. True. True.

Stephen. In other words, some men are honest and some are scoundrels.

Barbara. Bosh. There are no scoundrels.

Undershaft. Indeed? Are there any good men?

Barbara. No. Not one. There are neither good men nor scoundrels: there are just children of one Father; and the sooner they stop calling one another names the better. You needn’t talk to me: I know them. I’ve had scores of them through my hands: scoundrels, criminals, infidels, philanthropists, missionaries, county councillors, all sorts. They’re all just the same sort of sinner; and there’s the same salvation ready for them all.

Undershaft. May I ask have you ever saved a maker of cannons?

Barbara. No. Will you let me try?

Undershaft. Well, I will make a bargain with you. If I go to see you to-morrow in your Salvation Shelter, will you come the day after to see me in my cannon works?

Barbara. Take care. It may end in your giving up the cannons for the sake of the Salvation Army.

Undershaft. Are you sure it will not end in your giving up the Salvation Army for the sake of the cannons?

Barbara. I will take my chance of that.

Undershaft. And I will take my chance of the other. [They shake hands on it]. Where is your shelter?

Barbara. In West Ham. At the sign of the cross. Ask anybody in Canning TownDistrict of east London, near West Ham.. Where are your works?

Undershaft. In Perivale St AndrewsPerivale is a London suburb in the borough of Ealing.. At the sign of the sword. Ask anybody in Europe.

Lomax. Hadn’t I better play something?

Barbara. Yes. Give us Onward, Christian Soldiers.

Lomax. Well, that’s rather a strong order to begin with, don’t you know. Suppose I sing Thou’rt passing hence, my brotherPoem by Felicia Hemans (1783-1835). As with "Onward Christian Soldiers," it too was set to music by Arthur Sullivan.. It’s much the same tune.

Barbara. It’s too melancholy. You get saved, Cholly; and you’ll pass hence, my brother, without making such a fuss about it.

Lady Britomart. Really, Barbara, you go on as if religion were a pleasant subject. Do have some sense of propriety.

Undershaft. I do not find it an unpleasant subject, my dear. It is the only one that capable people really care for.

Lady Britomart [looking at her watch] Well, if you are determined to have it, I insist on having it in a proper and respectable way. Charles: ring for prayersAccording to Nicholas Grene, “to ring for prayers” was to summon the servants to the family gathering for prayers (customary in some upper-class households)” (Major Barbara, London: Methuen, 2008, p. 30.). [General amazement. Stephen rises in dismay].

Lomax [rising] Oh I say!

Undershaft [rising] I am afraid I must be going.

Lady Britomart. You cannot go now, Andrew: it would be most improper. Sit down. What will the servants think?

Undershaft. My dear: I have conscientious scruples. May I suggest a compromise? If Barbara will conduct a little service in the drawingroom, with Mr Lomax as organist, I will attend it willingly. I will even take part, if a trombone can be procured.

Lady Britomart. Don’t mock, Andrew.

Undershaft [shocked — to Barbara] You don’t think I am mocking, my love, I hope.

Barbara. No, of course not; and it wouldn’t matter if you were: half the Army came to their first meeting for a lark. [Rising] Come along. Come, Dolly. Come, Cholly. [She goes out with Undershaft, who opens the door for her. Cusins rises].

Lady Britomart. I will not be disobeyed by everybody. Adolphus: sit down. Charles: you may go. You are not fit for prayers: you cannot keep your countenance.

Lomax. Oh I say! [He goes out].

Lady Britomart [continuing] But you, Adolphus, can behave yourself if you choose to. I insist on your staying.

Cusins. My dear Lady Brit: there are things in the family prayer book that I couldn’t bear to hear you say.

Lady Britomart. What things, pray?

Cusins. Well, you would have to say before all the servants that we have done things we ought not to have done, and left undone things we ought to have done, and that there is no health in us. I cannot bear to hear you doing yourself such an unjustice, and Barbara such an injustice. As for myself, I flatly deny it: I have done my best. I shouldn’t dare to marry Barbara — I couldn’t look you in the face — if it were true. So I must go to the drawingroom.

Lady Britomart [offended] Well, go. [He starts for the door]. And remember this, Adolphus [he turns to listen]: I have a very strong suspicion that you went to the Salvation Army to worship Barbara and nothing else. And I quite appreciate the very clever way in which you systematically humbug me. I have found you out. Take care Barbara doesn’t. That’s all.

Cusins [with unruffled sweetness] Don’t tell on me. [He goes out].

Lady Britomart. Sarah: if you want to go, go. Anything’s better than to sit there as if you wished you were a thousand miles away.

Sarah [languidly] Very well, mamma. [She goes].

Lady Britomart, with a sudden flounce, gives way to a little gust of tears.

Stephen [going to her] Mother: what’s the matter?

Lady Britomart [swishing away her tears with her handkerchief] Nothing. Foolishness. You can go with him, too, if you like, and leave me with the servants.

Stephen. Oh, you mustn’t think that, mother. I— I don’t like him.

Lady Britomart. The others do. That is the injustice of a woman’s lot. A woman has to bring up her children; and that means to restrain them, to deny them things they want, to set them tasks, to punish them when they do wrong, to do all the unpleasant things. And then the father, who has nothing to do but pet them and spoil them, comes in when all her work is done and steals their affection from her.

Stephen. He has not stolen our affection from you. It is only curiosity.

Lady Britomart [violently] I won’t be consoled, Stephen. There is nothing the matter with me. [She rises and goes towards the door].

Stephen. Where are you going, mother?

Lady Britomart. To the drawingroom, of course. [She goes out. Onward, Christian Soldiers, on the concertina, with tambourine accompaniment, is heard when the door opens]. Are you coming, Stephen?

Stephen. No. Certainly not. [She goes. He sits down on the settee, with compressed lips and an expression of strong dislike].

86

Major Barbara: Act II

George Bernard Shaw

The yard of the West Ham shelter of the Salvation Army is a cold place on a January morning. The building itself, an old warehouse, is newly whitewashed. Its gabled end projects into the yard in the middle, with a door on the ground floor, and another in the loft above it without any balcony or ladder, but with a pulley rigged over it for hoisting sacks. Those who come from this central gable end into the yard have the gateway leading to the street on their left, with a stone horse-trough just beyond it, and, on the right, a penthouse shielding a table from the weather. There are formsBenches. at the table; and on them are seated a man and a woman, both much down on their luck, finishing a meal of bread [one thick slice each, with margarine and golden syrup] and diluted milk.

The man, a workman out of employment, is young, agile, a talker, a poser, sharp enough to be capable of anything in reason except honesty or altruistic considerations of any kind. The woman is a commonplace old bundle of poverty and hard-worn humanity. She looks sixty and probably is forty-five. If they were rich people, gloved and muffed and well wrapped up in furs and overcoats, they would be numbed and miserable; for it is a grindingly cold, raw, January day; and a glance at the background of grimy warehouses and leaden sky visible over the whitewashed walls of the yard would drive any idle rich person straight to the Mediterranean. But these two, being no more troubled with visions of the Mediterranean than of the moon, and being compelled to keep more of their clothes in the pawnshop, and less on their persons, in winter than in summer, are not depressed by the cold: rather are they stung into vivacity, to which their meal has just now given an almost jolly turn. The man takes a pull at his mug, and then gets up and moves about the yard with his hands deep in his pockets, occasionally breaking into a stepdance.

The Woman. Feel better arterAfter. your meal, sir?

The Man. No. Call that a meal! Good enough for you, praps; but wot is it to me, an intelligent workin man.

The Woman. Workin man! Wot are you?

The Man. Painter.

The Woman [sceptically] Yus, I dessay.

The Man. Yus, you dessay! I know. Every loafer that can’t do nothink calls isself a painter. Well, I’m a real painter: grainer, finisher, thirty-eight bob a week when I can get it.

The Woman. Then why don’t you go and get it?

The Man. I’ll tell you why. Fust: I’m intelligent — fffff! it’s rotten cold here [he dances a step or two]— yes: intelligent beyond the station o life into which it has pleased the capitalists to call me; and they don’t like a man that sees through em. Second, an intelligent bein needs a doo share of appiness; so I drink somethink cruel when I get the chawnce. Third, I stand by my class and do as little as I can so’s to leave arf the job for me fellow workers. Fourth, I’m flyClever. enough to know wots inside the law and wots outside it; and inside it I do as the capitalists do: pinch wot I can lay me ands on. In a proper state of society I am sober, industrious and honest: in Rome, so to speak, I do as the Romans do. Wots the consequence? When trade is bad — and it’s rotten bad just now — and the employers az to sack arf their men, they generally start on me.

The Woman. What’s your name?

The Man. Price. Bronterre O’Brien PricePrice was named after James Bronterre O’Brien (1805-1964), an Irish journalist and Chartist leader.. Usually called Snobby Price, for short.

The Woman. Snobby’s a carpenter, ain’t it? You said you was a painter.

Price. Not that kind of snob, but the genteel sort. I’m too uppish, owing to my intelligence, and my father being a ChartistChartism was a workng-class movement beginnng in 1837, whose six demands were listed in The People’s Charter of 1838. Their demands included manhood suffrage, vote by ballot, and abolition of property qualification for MPs. and a reading, thinking man: a stationer, too. I’m none of your common hewers of wood and drawers of water; and don’t you forget it. [He returns to his seat at the table, and takes up his mug]. Wots YOUR name?

The Woman. Rummy Mitchens, sir.

Price [quaffing the remains of his milk to her] Your elth, Miss Mitchens.

Rummy [correcting him] Missis Mitchens.

Price. Wot! Oh Rummy, Rummy! Respectable married woman, Rummy, gittin rescued by the Salvation Army by pretendin to be a bad un. Same old game!

Rummy. What am I to do? I can’t starve. Them Salvation lasses is dear good girls; but the better you are, the worse they likes to think you were before they rescued you. Why shouldn’t they av a bit o credit, poor loves? They’re worn to rags by their work. And where would they get the money to rescue us if we was to let on we’re no worse than other people? You know what ladies and gentlemen are.

Price. Thievin swine! Wish I ad their job, Rummy, all the same. Wot does Rummy stand for? Pet name props?

Rummy. Short for Romola.

Price. For wot!?

Rummy. Romola. It was out of a new bookRomola (1863). A novel by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans).. Somebody me mother wanted me to grow up like.

Price. We’re companions in misfortune, Rummy. Both on us got names that nobody cawnt pronounce. Consequently I’m Snobby and you’re Rummy because Bill and Sally wasn’t good enough for our parents. Such is life!

Rummy. Who saved you, Mr. Price? Was it Major Barbara?

Price. No: I come here on my own. I’m goin to be Bronterre O’Brien Price, the converted painter. I know wot they like. I’ll tell em how I blasphemed and gambled and wopped my poor old mother —

Rummy [shocked] Used you to beat your mother?

Price. Not likely. She used to beat me. No matter: you come and listen to the converted painter, and you’ll hear how she was a pious woman that taught me me prayers at er knee, an how I used to come home drunk and drag her out o bed be er snow white airs, an lam into er with the poker.

Rummy. That’s what’s so unfair to us women. Your confessions is just as big lies as ours: you don’t tell what you really done no more than us; but you men can tell your lies right out at the meetins and be made much of for it; while the sort o confessions we az to make az to be wispered to one lady at a time. It ain’t right, spite of all their piety.

Price. Right! Do you spose the Army’d be allowed if it went and did right? Not much. It combs our air and makes us good little blokes to be robbed and put upon. But I’ll play the game as good as any of em. I’ll see somebody struck by lightnin, or hear a voice sayin “Snobby Price: where will you spend eternity?” I’ll ave a time of it, I tell you.

Rummy. You won’t be let drink, though.

Price. I’ll take it out in gorspellinGospelling, preaching., then. I don’t want to drink if I can get fun enough any other way.

Jenny Hill, a pale, overwrought, pretty Salvation lass of 18, comes in through the yard gate, leading Peter Shirley, a half hardened, half worn-out elderly man, weak with hunger.

Jenny [supporting him] Come! pluck up. I’ll get you something to eat. You’ll be all right then.

Price [rising and hurrying officiously to take the old man off Jenny’s hands] Poor old man! Cheer up, brother: you’ll find rest and peace and appiness ere. Hurry up with the food, miss: e’s fair done. [Jenny hurries into the shelter]. Ere, buck up, daddy! She’s fetchin y’a thick slice o breadn treacle, an a mug o skyblueSkimmed milk.. [He seats him at the corner of the table].

Rummy [gaily] Keep up your old art! Never say die!

Shirley. I’m not an old man. I’m ony 46. I’m as good as ever I was. The grey patch come in my hair before I was thirty. All it wants is three pennorth o hair dye: am I to be turned on the streets to starve for it? Holy God! I’ve worked ten to twelve hours a day since I was thirteen, and paid my way all through; and now am I to be thrown into the gutter and my job given to a young man that can do it no better than me because I’ve black hair that goes white at the first change?

Price [cheerfully] No good jawrinJawing, talking. about it. You’re ony a jumped-up, jerked-off, orspittleHospital. Turned away by the hospitals.-turned-out incurable of an ole workin man: who cares about you? Eh? Make the thievin swine give you a meal: they’ve stole many a one from you. Get a bit o your own back. [Jenny returns with the usual meal]. There you are, brother. Awsk a blessin an tuck that into you.

Shirley [looking at it ravenously but not touching it, and crying like a child] I never took anything before.

Jenny [petting him] Come, come! the Lord sends it to you: he wasn’t above taking bread from his friends; and why should you be? Besides, when we find you a job you can pay us for it if you like.

Shirley [eagerly] Yes, yes: that’s true. I can pay you back: it’s only a loan. [Shivering] Oh Lord! oh Lord! [He turns to the table and attacks the meal ravenously].

Jenny. Well, Rummy, are you more comfortable now?

Rummy. God bless you, lovey! You’ve fed my body and saved my soul, haven’t you? [Jenny, touched, kisses her] Sit down and rest a bit: you must be ready to drop.

Jenny. I’ve been going hard since morning. But there’s more work than we can do. I mustn’t stop.

Rummy. Try a prayer for just two minutes. You’ll work all the better after.

Jenny [her eyes lighting up] Oh isn’t it wonderful how a few minutes prayer revives you! I was quite lightheaded at twelve o’clock, I was so tired; but Major Barbara just sent me to pray for five minutes; and I was able to go on as if I had only just begun. [To Price] Did you have a piece of bread?

Paige [with unction] Yes, miss; but I’ve got the piece that I value more; and that’s the peace that passeth hall hannerstennin“The peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7)..

Rummy [fervently] Glory Hallelujah!

Bill Walker, a rough customer of about 25, appears at the yard gate and looks malevolently at Jenny.

Jenny. That makes me so happy. When you say that, I feel wicked for loitering here. I must get to work again.

She is hurrying to the shelter, when the new-comer moves quickly up to the door and intercepts her. His manner is so threatening that she retreats as he comes at her truculently, driving her down the yard.

Bill. I know you. You’re the one that took away my girl. You’re the one that set er agen me. Well, I’m goin to av er outThat is, have her out of the shelter.. Not that I care a curse for her or you: see? But I’ll let er know; and I’ll let you know. I’m goin to give er a doin that’ll teach er to cut away from me. Now in with you and tell er to come out afore I come in and kick er out. Tell er Bill Walker wants er. She’ll know what that means; and if she keeps me waitin it’ll be worse. You stop to jaw back at me; and I’ll start on you: d’ye hear? There’s your way. In you go. [He takes her by the arm and slings her towards the door of the shelter. She falls on her hand and knee. Rummy helps her up again].

Price [rising, and venturing irresolutely towards Bill]. Easy there, mate. She ain’t doin you no arm.

Bill. Who are you callin mate? [Standing over him threateningly]. You’re goin to stand up for her, are you? Put up your ands.

Rummy [running indignantly to him to scold him]. Oh, you great brute — [He instantly swings his left hand back against her face. She screams and reels back to the trough, where she sits down, covering her bruised face with her hands and rocking and moaning with pain].

Jenny [going to her]. Oh God forgive you! How could you strike an old woman like that?

Bill [seizing her by the hair so violently that she also screams, and tearing her away from the old woman]. You Gawd forgive me again and I’ll Gawd forgive you one on the jaw that’ll stop you prayin for a week. [Holding her and turning fiercely on Price]. Av you anything to say agen it? Eh?

Price [intimidated]. No, matey: she ain’t anything to do with me.

Bill. Good job for you! I’d put two meals into you and fight you with one finger after, you starved cur. [To Jenny] Now are you goin to fetch out Mog HabbijamThe name of Walker’s girlfriend. Possibly Maude Havisham or Haversham.; or am I to knock your face off you and fetch her myself?

Jenny [writhing in his grasp] Oh please someone go in and tell Major Barbara —[she screams again as he wrenches her head down; and Price and Rummy, flee into the shelter].

Bill. You want to go in and tell your Major of me, do you?

Jenny. Oh please don’t drag my hair. Let me go.

Bill. Do you or don’t you? [She stifles a scream]. Yes or no.

Jenny. God give me strength —

Bill [striking her with his fist in the face] Go and show her that, and tell her if she wants one like it to come and interfere with me. [Jenny, crying with pain, goes into the shed. He goes to the form and addresses the old man]. Here: finish your mess; and get out o my way.

Shirley [springing up and facing him fiercely, with the mug in his hand] You take a liberty with me, and I’ll smash you over the face with the mug and cut your eye out. Ain’t you satisfied — young whelps like you — with takin the bread out o the mouths of your elders that have brought you up and slaved for you, but you must come shovin and cheekin and bullyin in here, where the bread o charity is sickenin in our stummicks?

Bill [contemptuously, but backing a little] Wot good are you, you old palsy mug? Wot good are you?

Shirley. As good as you and better. I’ll do a day’s work agen you or any fat young soaker of your age. Go and take my job at HorrocksesHorrocks, a cotton mill in Preston, Lancashire., where I worked for ten year. They want young men there: they can’t afford to keep men over forty-five. They’re very sorry — give you a characterLetter of reference. and happy to help you to get anything suited to your years — sure a steady man won’t be long out of a job. Well, let em try you. They’ll find the differ. What do you know? Not as much as how to beeyave yourself — layin your dirty fist across the mouth of a respectable woman!

Bill. Don’t provoke me to lay it acrost yours: d’ye hear?

Shirley [with blighting contempt] Yes: you like an old man to hit, don’t you, when you’ve finished with the women. I ain’t seen you hit a young one yet.

Bill [stung] You lie, you old soupkitchener, you. There was a young man here. Did I offer to hit him or did I not?

Shirley. Was he starvin or was he not? Was he a man or only a crosseyed thief an a loafer? Would you hit my son-in-law’s brother?

Bill. Who’s he?

Shirley. Todger Fairmile o Balls PondA road in Hackney, northeast London.. Him that won 20 pounds off the Japanese wrastler at the music hall by standin out 17 minutes 4 seconds agen him.

Bill [sullenly] I’m no music hall wrastler. Can he box?

Shirley. Yes: an you can’t.

Bill. Wot! I can’t, can’t I? Wot’s that you say [threatening him]?

Shirley [not budging an inch] Will you box Todger Fairmile if I put him on to you? Say the word.

Bill. [subsiding with a slouch] I’ll stand up to any man alive, if he was ten Todger Fairmiles. But I don’t set up to be a perfessional.

Shirley [looking down on him with unfathomable disdain] YOU box! Slap an old woman with the back o your hand! You hadn’t even the sense to hit her where a magistrate couldn’t see the mark of it, you silly young lump of conceit and ignorance. Hit a girl in the jaw and ony make her cry! If Todger Fairmile’d done it, she wouldn’t a got up inside o ten minutes, no more than you would if he got on to you. Yah! I’d set about you myself if I had a week’s feedin in me instead o two months starvation. [He returns to the table to finish his meal].

Bill [following him and stooping over him to drive the taunt in] You lie! you have the bread and treacle in you that you come here to beg.

Shirley [bursting into tears] Oh God! it’s true: I’m only an old pauper on the scrap heap. [Furiously] But you’ll come to it yourself; and then you’ll know. You’ll come to it sooner than a teetotaller like me, fillin yourself with gin at this hour o the mornin!

Bill. I’m no gin drinker, you old liar; but when I want to give my girl a bloomin good idin I like to av a bit o devil in me: see? An here I am, talkin to a rotten old blighter like you sted o givin her wot forA beating.. [Working himself into a rage] I’m goin in there to fetch her out. [He makes vengefully for the shelter door].

Shirley. You’re goin to the station on a stretcher, more likely; and they’ll take the gin and the devil out of you there when they get you inside. You mind what you’re about: the major here is the Earl o Stevenage’s granddaughter.

Bill [checked] Garn!

Shirley. You’ll see.

Bill [his resolution oozing] Well, I ain’t done nothin to er.

Shirley. Spose she said you did! who’d believe you?

Bill [very uneasy, skulking back to the corner of the penthouse] Gawd! There’s no jastice in this country. To think wot them people can do! I’m as good as er.

Shirley. Tell her so. It’s just what a fool like you would do.

Barbara, brisk and businesslike, comes from the shelter with a note book, and addresses herself to Shirley. Bill, cowed, sits down in the corner on a form, and turns his back on them.

Barbara. Good morning.

Shirley [standing up and taking off his hat] Good morning, miss.

Barbara. Sit down: make yourself at home. [He hesitates; but she puts a friendly hand on his shoulder and makes him obey]. Now then! since you’ve made friends with us, we want to know all about you. Names and addresses and trades.

Shirley. Peter Shirley. Fitter. Chucked out two months ago because I was too old.

Barbara [not at all surprised] You’d pass still. Why didn’t you dye your hair?

Shirley. I did. Me age come out at a coroner’s inquest on me daughter.

Barbara. Steady?

Shirley. Teetotaller. Never out of a job before. Good worker. And sent to the knackersA knacker’s yard is a slaughterhouse for horses. like an old horse!

Barbara. No matter: if you did your part God will do his.

Shirley [suddenly stubborn] My religion’s no concern of anybody but myself.

Barbara [guessing] I know. SecularistAn ethical system founded on natural morality and opposed to the tenets of revealed religion.?

Shirley [hotly] Did I offer to deny it?

Barbara. Why should you? My own father’s a Secularist, I think. Our Father — yours and mine — fulfils himself in many ways; and I daresay he knew what he was about when he made a Secularist of you. So buck up, Peter! we can always find a job for a steady man like you. [Shirley, disarmed, touches his hat. She turns from him to Bill]. What’s your name?

Bill [insolently] Wot’s that to you?

Barbara [calmly making a note] Afraid to give his name. Any trade?

Bill. Who’s afraid to give his name? [Doggedly, with a sense of heroically defying the House of Lords in the person of Lord Stevenage] If you want to bring a charge agen me, bring it. [She waits, unruffled]. My name’s Bill Walker.

Barbara [as if the name were familiar: trying to remember how] Bill Walker? [Recollecting] Oh, I know: you’re the man that Jenny Hill was praying for inside just now. [She enters his name in her note book].

Bill. Who’s Jenny Hill? And what call has she to pray for me?

Barbara. I don’t know. Perhaps it was you that cut her lip.

Bill [defiantly] Yes, it was me that cut her lip. I ain’t afraid o you.

Barbara. How could you be, since you’re not afraid of God? You’re a brave man, Mr. Walker. It takes some pluck to do our work here; but none of us dare lift our hand against a girl like that, for fear of her father in heaven.

Bill [sullenly] I want none o your cantin jaw. I suppose you think I come here to beg from you, like this damaged lot here. Not me. I don’t want your bread and scrape and catlapMilk.. I don’t believe in your Gawd, no more than you do yourself.

Barbara [sunnily apologetic and ladylike, as on a new footing with him] Oh, I beg your pardon for putting your name down, Mr. Walker. I didn’t understand. I’ll strike it out.

Bill [taking this as a slight, and deeply wounded by it] Eah! you let my name alone. Ain’t it good enough to be in your book?

Barbara [considering] Well, you see, there’s no use putting down your name unless I can do something for you, is there? What’s your trade?

Bill [still smarting] That’s no concern o yours.

Barbara. Just so. [very businesslike] I’ll put you down as [writing] the man who — struck — poor little Jenny Hill — in the mouth.

Bill [rising threateningly] See here. I’ve ad enough o this.

Barbara [quite sunny and fearless] What did you come to us for?

Bill. I come for my girl, see? I come to take her out o this and to break er jaws for her.

Barbara [complacently] You see I was right about your trade. [Bill, on the point of retorting furiously, finds himself, to his great shame and terror, in danger of crying instead. He sits down again suddenly]. What’s her name?

Bill [dogged] Er name’s Mog Abbijam: thats wot her name is.

Barbara. Oh, she’s gone to Canning Town, to our barracks there.

Bill [fortified by his resentment of Mog’s perfidy] is she? [Vindictively] Then I’m goin to Kennintahn arter her. [He crosses to the gate; hesitates; finally comes back at Barbara]. Are you lyin to me to get shut o me?

Barbara. I don’t want to get shut of you. I want to keep you here and save your soul. You’d better stay: you’re going to have a bad time today, Bill.

Bill. Who’s goin to give it to me? You, praps.

Barbara. Someone you don’t believe in. But you’ll be glad afterwards.

Bill [slinking off] I’ll go to Kennintahn to be out o the reach o your tongue. [Suddenly turning on her with intense malice] And if I don’t find Mog there, I’ll come back and do two years for you, selp me Gawd if I don’t!

Barbara [a shade kindlier, if possible] It’s no use, Bill. She’s got another bloke.

Bill. Wot!

Barbara. One of her own converts. He fell in love with her when he saw her with her soul saved, and her face clean, and her hair washed.

Bill [surprised] Wottud she wash it for, the carroty slut? It’s red.

Barbara. It’s quite lovely now, because she wears a new look in her eyes with it. It’s a pity you’re too late. The new bloke has put your nose out of joint, Bill.

Bill. I’ll put his nose out o joint for him. Not that I care a curse for her, mind that. But I’ll teach her to drop me as if I was dirt. And I’ll teach him to meddle with my Judy. Wots iz bleedin name?

Barbara. Sergeant Todger Fairmile.

Shirley [rising with grim joy] I’ll go with him, miss. I want to see them two meet. I’ll take him to the infirmary when it’s over.

Bill [to Shirley, with undissembled misgiving] Is that im you was speakin on?

Shirley. That’s him.

Bill. Im that wrastled in the music all?

Shirley. The competitions at the National Sportin Club was worth nigh a hundred a year to him. He’s gev em up now for religion; so he’s a bit fresh for want of the exercise he was accustomed to. He’ll be glad to see you. Come along.

Bill. Wots is weight?

Shirley. Thirteen four13 stone = 13 x 14 pounds plus 4, or 186 pounds. One stone is equal to 14 pounds.. [Bill’s last hope expires].

Barbara. Go and talk to him, Bill. He’ll convert you.

Shirley. He’ll convert your head into a mashed potato.

Bill [sullenly] I ain’t afraid of him. I ain’t afraid of ennybody. But he can lick me. She’s done me. [He sits down moodily on the edge of the horse trough].

Shirley. You ain’t goin. I thought not. [He resumes his seat].

Barbara [calling] Jenny!

Jenny [appearing at the shelter door with a plaster on the corner of her mouth] Yes, Major.

Barbara. Send Rummy Mitchens out to clear away here.

Jenny. I think she’s afraid.

Barbara [her resemblance to her mother flashing out for a moment] Nonsense! she must do as she’s told.

Jenny [calling into the shelter] Rummy: the Major says you must come.

Jenny comes to Barbara, purposely keeping on the side next Bill, lest he should suppose that she shrank from him or bore malice.

Barbara. Poor little Jenny! Are you tired? [Looking at the wounded cheek] Does it hurt?

Jenny. No: it’s all right now. It was nothing.

Barbara [critically] It was as hard as he could hit, I expect. Poor Bill! You don’t feel angry with him, do you?

Jenny. Oh no, no, no: indeed I don’t, Major, bless his poor heart! [Barbara kisses her; and she runs away merrily into the shelter. Bill writhes with an agonizing return of his new and alarming symptoms, but says nothing. Rummy Mitchens comes from the shelter].

Barbara [going to meet Rummy] Now Rummy, bustle. Take in those mugs and plates to be washed; and throw the crumbs about for the birds.

Rummy takes the three plates and mugs; but Shirley takes back his mug from her, as there it still some milk left in it.

Rummy. There ain’t any crumbs. This ain’t a time to waste good bread on birds.

Price [appearing at the shelter door] Gentleman come to see the shelter, Major. Says he’s your father.

Barbara. All right. Coming. [Snobby goes back into the shelter, followed by Barbara].

Rummy [stealing across to Bill and addressing him in a subdued voice, but with intense conviction] I’d av the lorThe law. of you, you flat eared pignosed potwalloper, if she’d let me. You’re no gentleman, to hit a lady in the face. [Bill, with greater things moving in him, takes no notice].

Shirley [following her] Here! in with you and don’t get yourself into more trouble by talking.

Rummy [with hauteur] I ain’t ad the pleasure o being hintroduced to you, as I can remember. [She goes into the shelter with the plates].

Bill [savagely] Don’t you talk to me, d’ye hear. You lea me alone, or I’ll do you a mischief. I’m not dirt under your feet, anyway.

Shirley [calmly] Don’t you be afeerd. You ain’t such prime company that you need expect to be sought after. [He is about to go into the shelter when Barbara comes out, with Undershaft on her right].

Barbara. Oh there you are, Mr Shirley! [Between them] This is my father: I told you he was a Secularist, didn’t I? Perhaps you’ll be able to comfort one another.

Undershaft [startled] A Secularist! Not the least in the world: on the contrary, a confirmed mystic.

Barbara. Sorry, I’m sure. By the way, papa, what is your religion — in case I have to introduce you again?

Undershaft. My religion? Well, my dear, I am a Millionaire. That is my religion.

Barbara. Then I’m afraid you and Mr Shirley wont be able to comfort one another after all. You’re not a Millionaire, are you, Peter?

Shirley. No; and proud of it.

Undershaft [gravely] Poverty, my friend, is not a thing to be proud of.

Shirley [angrily] Who made your millions for you? Me and my like. What’s kep us poor? Keepin you rich. I wouldn’t have your conscience, not for all your income.

Undershaft. I wouldn’t have your income, not for all your conscience, Mr Shirley. [He goes to the penthouse and sits down on a form].

Barbara [stopping Shirley adroitly as he is about to retort] You wouldn’t think he was my father, would you, Peter? Will you go into the shelter and lend the lasses a hand for a while: we’re worked off our feet.

Shirley [bitterly] Yes: I’m in their debt for a meal, ain’t I?

Barbara. Oh, not because you’re in their debt; but for love of them, Peter, for love of them. [He cannot understand, and is rather scandalized]. There! Don’t stare at me. In with you; and give that conscience of yours a holiday [bustling him into the shelter].

Shirley [as he goes in] Ah! it’s a pity you never was trained to use your reason, miss. You’d have been a very takingConvincing. lecturer on Secularism.

Barbara turns to her father.

Undershaft. Never mind me, my dear. Go about your work; and let me watch it for a while.

Barbara. All right.

Undershaft. For instance, what’s the matter with that out-patient over there?

Barbara [looking at Bill, whose attitude has never changed, and whose expression of brooding wrath has deepened] Oh, we shall cure him in no time. Just watch. [She goes over to Bill and waits. He glances up at her and casts his eyes down again, uneasy, but grimmer than ever]. It would be nice to just stamp on Mog Habbijam’s face, wouldn’t it, Bill?

Bill [starting up from the trough in consternation] It’s a lie: I never said so. [She shakes her head]. Who told you wot was in my mind?

Barbara. Only your new friend.

Bill. Wot new friend?

Barbara. The devil, Bill. When he gets round people they get miserable, just like you.

Bill [with a heartbreaking attempt at devil-may-care cheerfulness] I ain’t miserable. [He sits down again, and stretches his legs in an attempt to seem indifferent].

Barbara. Well, if you’re happy, why don’t you look happy, as we do?

Bill [his legs curling back in spite of him] I’m appy enough, I tell you. Why don’t you lea me alown? Wot av I done to you? I ain’t smashed your face, av I?

Barbara [softly: wooing his soul] It’s not me that’s getting at you, Bill.

Bill. Who else is it?

Barbara. Somebody that doesn’t intend you to smash women’s faces, I suppose. Somebody or something that wants to make a man of you.

Bill [blustering] Make a man o ME! Ain’t I a man? eh? ain’t I a man? Who sez I’m not a man?

Barbara. There’s a man in you somewhere, I suppose. But why did he let you hit poor little Jenny Hill? That wasn’t very manly of him, was it?

Bill [tormented] Av done with it, I tell you. ChockChuck, stop. it. I’m sick of your Jenny Ill and er silly little face.

Barbara. Then why do you keep thinking about it? Why does it keep coming up against you in your mind? You’re not getting converted, are you?

Bill [with conviction] Not ME. Not likely. Not arf.

Barbara. That’s right, Bill. Hold out against it. Put out your strength. Don’t let’s get you cheap. Todger Fairmile said he wrestled for three nights against his Salvation harder than he ever wrestled with the Jap at the music hall. He gave in to the Jap when his arm was going to break. But he didn’t give in to his salvation until his heart was going to break. Perhaps you’ll escape that. You haven’t any heart, have you?

Bill. Wot dye mean? Wy ain’t I got a art the same as ennybody else?

Barbara. A man with a heart wouldn’t have bashed poor little Jenny’s face, would he?

Bill [almost crying] Ow, will you lea me alown? Av I ever offered to meddle with you, that you come noggin and provowkin me lawk this? [He writhes convulsively from his eyes to his toes].

Barbara [with a steady soothing hand on his arm and a gentle voice that never lets him go] It’s your soul that’s hurting you, Bill, and not me. We’ve been through it all ourselves. Come with us, Bill. [He looks wildly round]. To brave manhood on earth and eternal glory in heaven. [He is on the point of breaking down]. Come. [A drum is heard in the shelter; and Bill, with a gasp, escapes from the spell as Barbara turns quickly. Adolphus enters from the shelter with a big drum]. Oh! there you are, Dolly. Let me introduce a new friend of mine, Mr Bill Walker. This is my bloke, Bill: Mr Cusins. [Cusins salutes with his drumstick].

Bill. Goin to marry im?

Barbara. Yes.

Bill [fervently] Gawd elp im! Gawd elp im!

Barbara. Why? Do you think he won’t be happy with me?

Bill. I’ve only ad to stand it for a mornin: e’ll av to stand it for a lifetime.

Cusins. That is a frightful reflection, Mr Walker. But I can’t tear myself away from her.

Bill. Well, I can. [To Barbara] Eah! do you know where I’m goin to, and wot I’m goin to do?

Barbara. Yes: you’re going to heaven; and you’re coming back here before the week’s out to tell me so.

Bill. You lie. I’m goin to Kennintahn, to spit in Todger Fairmile’s eye. I bashed Jenny Ill’s face; and now I’ll get me own face bashed and come back and show it to er. E’ll it me ardern I it er. That’ll make us square. [To Adolphus] Is that fair or is it not? You’re a genlmn: you oughter know.

Barbara. Two black eyes wont make one white one, Bill.

Bill. I didn’t ast you. Cawn’t you never keep your mahth shut? I ast the genlmn.

Cusins [reflectively] Yes: I think you’re right, Mr Walker. Yes: I should do it. It’s curious: it’s exactly what an ancient Greek would have done.

Barbara. But what good will it do?

Cusins. Well, it will give Mr Fairmile some exercise; and it will satisfy Mr Walker’s soul.

Bill. Rot! there ain’t no sach a thing as a soul. Ah kin you tell wether I’ve a soul or not? You never seen it.

Barbara. I’ve seen it hurting you when you went against it.

Bill [with compressed aggravation] If you was my girl and took the word out o me mahth lawk thet, I’d give you suthink you’d feel urtin, so I would. [To Adolphus] You take my tip, mate. Stop er jawr; or you’ll die afore your time. [With intense expression] Wore aht: thets wot you’ll be: wore aht. [He goes away through the gate].

Cusins [looking after him] I wonder!

Barbara. Dolly! [indignant, in her mother’s manner].

Cusins. Yes, my dear, it’s very wearing to be in love with you. If it lasts, I quite think I shall die young.

Barbara. Should you mind?

Cusins. Not at all. [He is suddenly softened, and kisses her over the drum, evidently not for the first time, as people cannot kiss over a big drum without practice. Undershaft coughs].

Barbara. It’s all right, papa, we’ve not forgotten you. Dolly: explain the place to papa: I haven’t time. [She goes busily into the shelter].

Undershaft and Adolphus now have the yard to themselves. Undershaft, seated on a form, and still keenly attentive, looks hard at Adolphus. Adolphus looks hard at him.

Undershaft. I fancy you guess something of what is in my mind, Mr Cusins. [Cusins flourishes his drumsticks as if in the art of beating a lively rataplan, but makes no sound]. Exactly so. But suppose Barbara finds you out!

Cusins. You know, I do not admit that I am imposing on Barbara. I am quite genuinely interested in the views of the Salvation Army. The fact is, I am a sort of collector of religions; and the curious thing is that I find I can believe them all. By the way, have you any religion?

Undershaft. Yes.

Cusins. Anything out of the common?

Undershaft. Only that there are two things necessary to Salvation.

Cusins [disappointed, but polite] Ah, the Church Catechism. Charles Lomax also belongs to the Established Church.

Undershaft. The two things are —

Cusins. Baptism and —

Undershaft. No. Money and gunpowder.

Cusins [surprised, but interested] That is the general opinion of our governing classes. The novelty is in hearing any man confess it.

Undershaft. Just so.

Cusins. Excuse me: is there any place in your religion for honor, justice, truth, love, mercy and so forth?

Undershaft. Yes: they are the graces and luxuries of a rich, strong, and safe life.

Cusins. Suppose one is forced to choose between them and money or gunpowder?

Undershaft. Choose money and gunpowder; for without enough of both you cannot afford the others.

Cusins. That is your religion?

Undershaft. Yes.

The cadence of this reply makes a full close in the conversation. Cusins twists his face dubiously and contemplates Undershaft. Undershaft contemplates him.

Cusins. Barbara won’t stand that. You will have to choose between your religion and Barbara.

Undershaft. So will you, my friend. She will find out that that drum of yours is hollow.

Cusins. Father Undershaft: you are mistaken: I am a sincere Salvationist. You do not understand the Salvation Army. It is the army of joy, of love, of courage: it has banished the fear and remorse and despair of the old hellridden evangelical sects: it marches to fight the devil with trumpet and drum, with music and dancing, with banner and palm, as becomes a sally from heaven by its happy garrison. It picks the waster out of the public house and makes a man of him: it finds a worm wriggling in a back kitchen, and lo! a woman! Men and women of rank too, sons and daughters of the Highest. It takes the poor professor of Greek, the most artificial and self-suppressed of human creatures, from his meal of roots, and lets loose the rhapsodist in him; reveals the true worship of DionysosGreek god of wine, religious ecstasy, and theater. to him; sends him down the public street drumming dithyrambsWild, impetuous lyric in praise of Dionysos (Bacchus). [he plays a thundering flourish on the drum].

Undershaft. You will alarm the shelter.

Cusins. Oh, they are accustomed to these sudden ecstasies of piety. However, if the drum worries you — [he pockets the drumsticks; unhooks the drum; and stands it on the ground opposite the gateway].

Undershaft. Thank you.

Cusins. You remember what Euripides says about your money and gunpowder?

Undershaft. No.

Cusins [declaiming]

One and another

In money and guns may outpass his brother;

And men in their millions float and flow

And seethe with a million hopes as leaven;

And they win their will; or they miss their will;

And their hopes are dead or are pined for still:

But whoe’er can know

As the long days go

That to live is happy, has found his heaven.

My translationFrom Euripides’ play The Bacchae (405 BC). Shaw uses here the 1904 translation of his friend, the Australian-born classicist Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), upon whom he based the character Adolphus Cusins.: what do you think of it?

Undershaft. I think, my friend, that if you wish to know, as the long days go, that to live is happy, you must first acquire money enough for a decent life, and power enough to be your own master.

Cusins. You are damnably discouraging. [He resumes his declamation].

Is it so hard a thing to see

That the spirit of God — whate’er it be —

The Law that abides and changes not, ages long,

The Eternal and Nature-born: these things be strong.

What else is Wisdom? What of Man’s endeavor,

Or God’s high grace so lovely and so great?

To stand from fear set free? to breathe and wait?

To hold a hand uplifted over Fate?

And shall not Barbara be loved for ever?

Undershaft. Euripides mentions Barbara, does he?

Cusins. It is a fair translation. The word means Loveliness.

Undershaft. May I ask — as Barbara’s father — how much a year she is to be loved for ever on?

Cusins. As Barbara’s father, that is more your affair than mine. I can feed her by teaching Greek: that is about all.

Undershaft. Do you consider it a good match for her?

Cusins [with polite obstinacy] Mr Undershaft: I am in many ways a weak, timid, ineffectual person; and my health is far from satisfactory. But whenever I feel that I must have anything, I get it, sooner or later. I feel that way about Barbara. I don’t like marriage: I feel intensely afraid of it; and I don’t know what I shall do with Barbara or what she will do with me. But I feel that I and nobody else must marry her. Please regard that as settled.— Not that I wish to be arbitrary; but why should I waste your time in discussing what is inevitable?

Undershaft. You mean that you will stick at nothing not even the conversion of the Salvation Army to the worship of Dionysos.

Cusins. The business of the Salvation Army is to save, not to wrangle about the name of the pathfinder. Dionysos or another: what does it matter?

Undershaft [rising and approaching him] Professor Cusins you are a young man after my own heart.

Cusins. Mr Undershaft: you are, as far as I am able to gather, a most infernal old rascal; but you appeal very strongly to my sense of ironic humor.

Undershaft mutely offers his hand. They shake.

Undershaft [suddenly concentrating himself] And now to business.

Cusins. Pardon me. We were discussing religion. Why go back to such an uninteresting and unimportant subject as business?

Undershaft. Religion is our business at present, because it is through religion alone that we can win Barbara.

Cusins. Have you, too, fallen in love with Barbara?

Undershaft. Yes, with a father’s love.

Cusins. A father’s love for a grown-up daughter is the most dangerous of all infatuations. I apologize for mentioning my own pale, coy, mistrustful fancy in the same breath with it.

Undershaft. Keep to the point. We have to win her; and we are neither of us MethodistsGen. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was originally a Methodist. Methodism was a reformist sect founded by John Wesley (1703-1791) from within the Church of England..

Cusins. That doesn’t matter. The power Barbara wields here — the power that wields Barbara herself — is not Calvinism, not Presbyterianism, not Methodism —

Undershaft. Not Greek Paganism either, eh?

Cusins. I admit that. Barbara is quite original in her religion.

Undershaft [triumphantly] Aha! Barbara Undershaft would be. Her inspiration comes from within herself.

Cusins. How do you suppose it got there?

Undershaft [in towering excitement] It is the Undershaft inheritance. I shall hand on my torch to my daughter. She shall make my converts and preach my gospel.

Cusins. What! Money and gunpowder!

Undershaft. Yes, money and gunpowder; freedom and power; command of life and command of death.

Cusins [urbanely: trying to bring him down to earth] This is extremely interesting, Mr Undershaft. Of course you know that you are mad.

Undershaft [with redoubled force] And you?

Cusins. Oh, mad as a hatter. You are welcome to my secret since I have discovered yours. But I am astonished. Can a madman make cannons?

Undershaft. Would anyone else than a madman make them? And now [with surging energy] question for question. Can a sane man translate Euripides?

Cusins. No.

Undershaft [reining him by the shoulder] Can a sane woman make a man of a waster or a woman of a worm?

Cusins [reeling before the storm] Father Colossus — Mammoth Millionaire —

Undershaft [pressing him] Are there two mad people or three in this Salvation shelter to-day?

Cusins. You mean Barbara is as mad as we are!

Undershaft [pushing him lightly off and resuming his equanimity suddenly and completely] Pooh, Professor! let us call things by their proper names. I am a millionaire; you are a poet; Barbara is a savior of souls. What have we three to do with the common mob of slaves and idolaters? [He sits down again with a shrug of contempt for the mob].

Cusins. Take care! Barbara is in love with the common people. So am I. Have you never felt the romance of that love?

Undershaft [cold and sardonic] Have you ever been in love with Poverty, like St Francis? Have you ever been in love with Dirt, like St Simeon? Have you ever been in love with disease and suffering, like our nurses and philanthropists? Such passions are not virtues, but the most unnatural of all the vices. This love of the common people may please an earl’s granddaughter and a university professor; but I have been a common man and a poor man; and it has no romance for me. Leave it to the poor to pretend that poverty is a blessing: leave it to the coward to make a religion of his cowardice by preaching humility: we know better than that. We three must stand together above the common people: how else can we help their children to climb up beside us? Barbara must belong to us, not to the Salvation Army.

Cusins. Well, I can only say that if you think you will get her away from the Salvation Army by talking to her as you have been talking to me, you don’t know Barbara.

Undershaft. My friend: I never ask for what I can buy.

Cusins [in a white fury] Do I understand you to imply that you can buy Barbara?

Undershaft. No; but I can buy the Salvation Army.

Cusins. Quite impossible.

Undershaft. You shall see. All religious organizations exist by selling themselves to the rich.

Cusins. Not the Army. That is the Church of the poor.

Undershaft. All the more reason for buying it.

Cusins. I don’t think you quite know what the Army does for the poor.

Undershaft. Oh yes I do. It draws their teeth: that is enough for me — as a man of business —

Cusins. Nonsense! It makes them sober —

Undershaft. I prefer sober workmen. The profits are larger.

Cusins. — honest —

Undershaft. Honest workmen are the most economical.

Cusins. — attached to their homes —

Undershaft. So much the better: they will put up with anything sooner than change their shop.

Cusins. — happy —

Undershaft. An invaluable safeguard against revolution.

Cusins. — unselfish —

Undershaft. Indifferent to their own interests, which suits me exactly.

Cusins. — with their thoughts on heavenly things —

Undershaft [rising] And not on Trade Unionism nor Socialism. Excellent.

Cusins [revolted] You really are an infernal old rascal.

Undershaft [indicating Peter Shirley, who has just came from the shelter and strolled dejectedly down the yard between them] And this is an honest man!

Shirley. Yes; and what av I got by it? [he passes on bitterly and sits on the form, in the corner of the penthouse].

Snobby Price, beaming sanctimoniously, and Jenny Hill, with a tambourine full of coppers, come from the shelter and go to the drum, on which Jenny begins to count the money.

Undershaft [replying to Shirley] Oh, your employers must have got a good deal by it from first to last. [He sits on the table, with one foot on the side form. Cusins, overwhelmed, sits down on the same form nearer the shelter. Barbara comes from the shelter to the middle of the yard. She is excited and a little overwrought].

Barbara. We’ve just had a splendid experience meeting at the other gate in Cripps’s lane. I’ve hardly ever seen them so much moved as they were by your confession, Mr Price.

Price. I could almost be glad of my past wickedness if I could believe that it would elp to keep hathers stright.

Barbara. So it will, Snobby. How much, Jenny?

Jenny. Four and tenpence, Major.

Barbara. Oh Snobby, if you had given your poor mother just one more kick, we should have got the whole five shillings!

Price. If she heard you say that, mi