Contents:Pyramus And ThisbeStill WatersA Change of HeartDaisy MillerTenantsDisengagedThe AlbumThe ReprobateGuy DomvilleSummersoftThe High BidThe Outcry
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Pyramus And Thisbe
A Change of Heart
The High Bid
henry james’ plays
Stephen Young (thirty-three), journalist
Catherine West (twenty-six), teacher of music
Miss West’s apartment; plainly but comfortably furnished; a few prints and photographs on the walls; a sofa, a piano. Enter Catherine, in walking-dress, with a roll of music in her hand.
Catherine. Dear me! this dreadful smell of tobacco again! When it doesn’t come in one way, it comes another; when it isn’t the door it’s the window. There he sits at his own window, puffing his great pipe. I saw him as I crossed the street. And the wind always our way. I’m always to windward of that pipe. What’s a poor girl to do? (Shuts her window with a loud crash.) There! perhaps he’ll hear that! What am I to do? I can’t go to my lessons smelling like a bar-room; and certainly I can’t ask my little girls to come and take their lessons in this blinding cloud of smoke. Pshaw! it’s worse with the window shut than with it open. If I’m doomed to suffocate, I might as well do it comfortably. (Raises the window violently.) Of course he’ll hear that, too. (Taking off her bonnet at the mirror.) Heigho! what a dreadful humor I’m in! And on my birthday, too! Well, why shouldn’t one be out of sorts on one’s birthday as well as at any other time? Is it such a mighty privilege to have been born? Is life so easy and pleasant that I must make it a courtesy whenever I meet it with its grim old stare on the threshold of another year? Another year! another year added to twenty-five makes—makes—upon my word it might as well make thirty at once—when you’re so tired, tired, tired! That, by the way, is for not having gone to sleep till four o’clock in the morning—for having a neighbor who turns night into day, talks for the benefit of the whole town, and has a dozen intimate friends against whom he’ll nightly measure his lungs on any topic in the range of human ken. It was actually as much as I could do to help throwing my slipper in good earnest against the wall. That would have been scandal, I suppose. But to lie tossing, and sighing, and listening to Mr. Young’s interminable sentences—it was all one sentence, I declare, from nine o’clock until three—and to wake up on your birthday with a headache, and a pale face, and hollow eyes—that, of course, is perfect propriety. (Still at the glass.) Dear me! I’ve actually fretted and fumed a real bit of color into my face. (.Looking at her image in silence.) Nay, I’m not thirty, after all! I’ve four good years of youth yet! And my hair is certainly very pretty, and life—life, on this soft spring evening—well, life, I do make you my very best courtesy, and if you’ll promise to be very good I’ll give you a little music. (Seats herself at the piano and plays with violence. While she is playing the door opens and Stephen Young looks in. Seeing Miss West, he advances a few steps—leaving the door ajar—and stops a moment looking at her and listening. He carries a small bouquet in his hand. Finally he speaks.)
Stephen. Bravo! bravo!
Catherine. (Starting up.) You, Mr. Young!
Stephen. Excuse me. If it wasn’t for my flowers I’d clap you.
Catherine. If it wasn’t for your flowers, I’m afraid I should ask you to walk out. Pray, who let you in?
Stephen. I let myself in. I knocked three times, but you were playing with such extraordinary fury—
Catherine. (Archly.) Oh, you can make yourself heard when you wish, Mr. Young!
Stephen. Now I verily believe that’s a reproach.
Catherine. Of course it is.
Stephen. Ah, my dear Miss West, two can play at that game. In the way of noise there’s not much, I fancy, to choose between us; there’s six of one and—
Catherine. I’ll admit that there are six of one, but certainly a dozen of the other—especially when there are two of you.
Stephen. Bless my stars! It’s no more than fair. You have your piano—I have my friend.
Catherine. Your bass-drum, you might call him.
Stephen. I assure you, he’s a very nice fellow.
Catherine. I hope, for your sake, he is—so long as he stays till three o’clock in the morning.
Stephen. Ah, poor Ellis! Do you mean you actually heard us?
Catherine. Distinctly. I came near throwing something at the wall.
Stephen. I doubt that we should have heard it, any more than you heard me just now.
Catherine. Happily for you, it never would have occurred to me to walk in in person.
Stephen. You would surely have been excusable if you had come on so harmless an errand as this of mine. (Holds up his flowers.)
Catherine. Your flowers are very pretty.
Stephen. They are none of mine. When I came in, a couple of hours ago, I found them in my room, on my table. You see they’ve lost their first freshness. Here is a little card affixed, denoting their proper destination, which the messenger seems, through some extraordinary inadvertence, to have overlooked; as if any one would send me flowers!
Catherine. (Taking the bouquet and reading the card.) “Miss West, with affectionate good wishes. A. T.” I’m much obliged to you for repairing the error.
Stephen. I confess there is some virtue in it. To give a young lady a bouquet of your own making, or your own buying, is assuredly its own reward. But to serve as a mere bald go-between; to present a bunch of lilies and roses on the part of another—a mysterious unknown—to act, as it were, as the senseless clod of earth in which they’re wrapped for transportation, and not as their thrilling, teeming, conscious parent soil, this, Miss West, I assure you, is to make a terrible sacrifice to vanity.
Catherine. I appreciate the sacrifice, and I repeat my thanks.
Stephen. I might have kept them, you know.
Catherine. (Placing the flowers in water.) Nay, it would have been a pity to spoil them.
Stephen. Spoil them? What do you mean?
Catherine. (Taking the bouquet out of the water and presenting it to his nose.) What should you call the prevailing odor?
Stephen. Geranium—heliotrope—jasmine, I should say.
Catherine. I see your sense is completely blunted.
Stephen. Why, what should you call it?
Catherine. (Replacing the flowers.) Tobacco, Mr. Young. Flowers are like women; they don’t like you to smoke in their faces.
Stephen. Dear me! Do you really object to smoke?
Catherine. Object to it? I hate it!
Stephen. And do you ever perceive my pipe?
Catherine. Constantly, Mr. Young.
Stephen. Alas! what a terrible neighbor I am! I’m extremely sorry; but what can I do? I strongly suspect that I can’t give up talking, and I’m profoundly convinced that I can’t give up smoking.
Catherine. Don’t for a moment suppose that I suggest any such abnegation. If I’m uncomfortable there’s an easy remedy.
Stephen. Exactly. Patience, my dear Miss West, comes just short, in a woman’s life, of being a transcendent virtue, only because, as you so truly say, it’s so easy.
Catherine. You perfectly express my own sentiments. I regard patience as quite a secondary virtue. There’s another that I prize infinitely higher.
Stephen. Oh, you go too far.
Catherine. I mean action, Mr. Young.
Stephen. The deuce! You mean to seek a remedy in action?
Catherine. Oh, don’t be frightened. I mean nothing very terrible. I mean that I can move away and take another lodging.
Stephen. Oh, that would never do. We must bear and forbear, Miss West. Without a few mutual concessions we shall find but little comfort in life.
Catherine. That’s doubtless very true, Mr. Young; but, really, are you quite the person to say it?
Stephen. Why, if it’s the truth, I certainly can’t afford to let it pass.
Catherine. Well, if it’s not impertinent, I should like to know to whom your own concessions are made.
Stephen. Oh, to every one.
Catherine. They say that every one is no one.
Stephen. By no means. It includes, to begin with, my very next neighbor—yourself.
Catherine. (Laughing.) Truly? I’m actually the object of your generosity? Your charity, I might call it, since it begins so near home. I confess I never suspected it.
Stephen. Well, Miss West, the fact is—
Catherine. Alas! what can the fact be?
Stephen. I hate music.
Catherine. You hate music! (Laughing violently.)
Stephen. (Provoked.) I absolutely detest it.
Catherine. Poor Mr. Young! Well—I pity you.
Stephen. You would pity me if you knew what I have suffered.
Catherine. From my piano?
Stephen. From your piano.
Catherine. (After a pause.) Decidedly, one of us must move.
Stephen. One of us? Good; here comes a chance for concession.
Catherine. I said just now that I should go-
Stephen. That was à propos of your own sufferings.
Catherine. Well, in spite of yours, I still think I had better go.
Stephen. I oughtn’t to consent to it.
Catherine. (Laughing.) So you detest music, Mr. Young? I don’t know why I should laugh; I feel much more like crying. It’s too provoking. I protest I don’t understand it. I don’t see what such people are made of.
Stephen. Of good flesh and blood, Miss West—
Catherine. Yes, and not much else.
Stephen. In that case, then, they have no tempers to lose. But what call under heaven have I to enjoy the strumming of a piano? I make my bread, you know, by scribbling for the newspapers. Every morning, as I sit down to my table you sit clown to that tuneful battery. The very first rattle of the keys is like a scathing fusillade, under which my poor old ideas—maimed and tattered veterans—fall prostrate to the ground. I pick them up and dress their wounds, and coax them once more to the front. The battle rages generally some three or four hours. I deem myself very lucky if, at the end of that time, a small fraction of my little army have escaped with their lives. Once in awhile, in the afternoon, when the fire has subsided, one of the missing turns up, and comes limping back to camp. But, I confess, the whole temper of the service is so utterly demoralized that, instead of being shot for an arrant deserter, the rascal is welcomed like a prodigal son, and the calf that was being so tenderly fatted for the whole regiment is sacrificed to this poor makeshift of a hero.
Catherine. The meaning of all this is that you can’t write except in absolute silence.
Stephen. Why, there’s something between absolute silence and—absolute sound.
Catherine. I should like to see some of your writing.
Stephen. It’s very kind of you to say so, after my attack on your music.
Catherine. Oh, you make it out to be so bad that I speak from curiosity.
Stephen. At any rate it would not be very pleasant for you to reflect that it’s your own fault that it’s no better.
Catherine. Whose fault is it, Mr. Young, that you’re no wiser?
Stephen. Well, I’m as heaven made me; we’re all of us that; and heaven made me, as I say, to hate a piano.
Catherine. (Out of patience.) Oh, it’s my opinion that heaven didn’t make you at all! Upon my word, you deserve that I should sit here forever and thump out music from morning till night.
Stephen. IS that a threat?
Catherine. Take it as you please.
Stephen. I take it as a declaration of war; of course in that case I shall choose my own arms. I shall forthwith lay siege to your comfort.
Catherine. Oh, my comfort’s gone in advance. What comfort shall I have in playing for your annoyance, when I think that I might be playing for my own pleasure? But my revenge will remain.
Stephen. Heaven help us, it will be a hard fight.
Catherine. Another Waterloo, I assure you. Within a fortnight I shall look for your retreat.
Stephen. Oh, I shan’t give you more than a week.
Catherine. I must make the most of time, then! Quick, to your own lines. I mean to open fire. (She runs to the piano, seats herself, and begins to play furiously. Stephen claps his hands to his ears and hurries out. Catherine continues to play for several moments, and then in the midst of a movement suddenly stops short.) I wonder whether my playing really disturbs him, or whether he invented it all in return for my complaint of his talking and smoking—surely it wasn’t the best taste in the world for me to mention those foolish little troubles. If they are a real annoyance, all I have to do is to hold my tongue and change my quarters. I certainly have no right to ask favors of Mr. Young, and I should be very sorry to find myself in his debt. (Leaving the piano.) I’ll just quietly move away; I can easily find a better room. This one has a dozen inconveniences; it’s out of the way, and it’s up too high. And yet I’m attached to the old place. When you’ve occupied a room for five years you seem to have made over a portion of your innermost self to its keeping. It knows you so well; it has all your secrets, and there’s no getting them back either; if you go away you leave them for others. I feel as if I had grown up between these four walls. Here I came after my mother died; here I’ve learned to know myself, and, thinking over my day’s adventures every evening, to know, as far as I do know it, the world; here I’ve tasted both the bitterness and the sweetness of solitude—all the more reason, by the way, for my not resenting poor Mr. Young’s proximity. What on earth has got into me? I came in from the street with my senses thrilling with the whispery and perfumes of spring; I cross the threshold and happen to catch a whiff of my neighbor’s cigar—a puff of harmless incense to the season—and straightway I fall into a passion. Decidedly, I’ve made a fool of myself, and to save my dignity I must decamp. As for this dingy old chamber, I hate it. I shall go and begin life afresh somewhere else. I wonder what Mr. Young means to do? What can he do? I’m curious to see. If he really suffers from my piano, I have the advantage. It’s not his fault, after all, if he objects to music. But it’s such an odd turn of mind. It’s really pleasanter though, under the circumstances, than if he happened to have a passion for it. When I play, I feel, I think, I talk, I express my moods, my fancies, my regrets, my desires. I can imagine nothing more disagreeable than to know that some totally superfluous little gentleman may be sitting behind that partition, deciphering my notes and very possibly enjoying them—that I am treating his worship, in short, to a perpetual serenade! I’m spared that annoyance, at any rate! And yet—and yet—and yet I confess that there would be a harmless sweetness in having, once in a while, some other auditor than Susie, and Jennie, and Josie. But what’s this? (Going to the table.) How came it here? (Takes up a small parcel.) “Stephen Young, Esq.” He can’t have left it here; he brought in nothing but the flowers. Pah! it’s his everlasting tobacco. I must get rid of it without loss of time. (Goes to her door and calls into the entry.) Mr. Young. (A pause.) Mr. Young!
Stephen. (Without.) At your service, madam! (Catherine returns and replaces the package on the table; Stephen reappears with an open letter in his hand.) No proposals for a compromise, I hope!
Catherine. (Pointing to the package.) Be so good as to possess yourself of your own property. How it came here I’m at loss to say.
Stephen. Why, it’s evident; your flowers and my tobacco arrived together. The young woman who brought them up committed the pardonable error of giving you my parcel, and me yours.
Catherine. Pardonable! It’s easy for you to say.
Stephen. Perfectly so, inasmuch as it has given me a pretext for another visit.
Catherine. You’re reading a letter. I’m sorry to have interrupted you.
Stephen. The interruption is most a propos. The letter concerns us both. It’s like King and Emperor in the middle ages. They prepare with a great flourish and rumpus to knock each other’s heads off, when up comes the Pope and knocks off their crowns, without which, of course, their heads are worthless. This letter is the Pope’s bull.
Catherine. What on earth do you mean?
Stephen. Our good landlord is the Pope. May I request your attention for five minutes? This morning, as I went out, I deposited below the amount of my monthly bill, which had been some days due. This answer has just been put into my hands. (Reads.) “My dear Mr. Young, I return your bill receipted, with thanks. I take this occasion to make a communication which I have been for some time contemplating, and which it is important you should receive without further delay. I have just sold my house to a party who proposes to convert the ground-floor into a store, and the upper portion into offices, and who will therefore be unable to retain any of my present lodgers. As I have granted immediate occupation I shall be able to allow them to continue or to renew their present leases only to three weeks from this date; namely, to the fifth of May. I have little doubt but that in this interval, my rooms all being let singly, they will find other quarters. I shall immediately advise them to this effect. Yours, etc.” What do you think of that?
Catherine. Think, Mr. Young? Why, it’s horrible, monstrous!
Stephen. Man proposes, but landlords dispose. I’m very much afraid we shall have to make peace, in spite of ourselves.
Catherine. Peace? Oh, I shall know nothing of peace until I find another resting place. It’s very hard to have to leave this old room.
Stephen. I had no idea you were so fond of it.
Catherine. I beg you to believe that I am fond of it. It’s very unreasonable, but when was there any reason in fondness? The room is intensely disagreeable, but, nevertheless, I like it, and I don’t choose to be swept out like old rubbish in a house-cleaning.
Stephen. The room in itself, or rather, perhaps, in something that isn’t exactly itself, is charming. If you were only to see mine!
Catherine. For a man, it’s different. You have only to stuff a few clothes into a valise and to take it in your hand and march off in search of fortune.
Stephen. You put it rather strong, perhaps—the independence of men. Nevertheless, I confess that, compared with you, I can transplant myself with but little trouble. I have no piano, no sofa, no pictures, no curtains, no little work-tables, or other gimcracks.
Catherine. I declare, I could sit down and cry. (Seats herself.)
Stephen. Oh, come, don’t say that, or I shall begin to entertain feelings with regard to our wronger which, if they insist upon being expressed, may subject me to the penalties of the law. Perhaps I’d better not have read you the letter.
Catherine. It was as well to hear it from you as from that—that wretch!
Stephen. To-morrow, probably, he’ll give you warning.
Catherine. I shall have gained a day, at any rate, or lost one; I hardly know which.
Stephen. How, lost one?
Catherine. Well, if you wish particularly to know, to-day is my birthday.
Stephen. Ah, yes. Well?
Catherine. Well, that’s all.
Stephen. Ah, I see, and I’ve spoiled it by that detestable piece of news.
Catherine. Oh, there was little enough to spoil, after all.
Stephen. (After a pause.) Ah, so to-day’s your birthday!
Catherine. Dear me, it’s a nice time to talk about birthdays.
Stephen. That accounts, of course, for those flowers.
Catherine. Exactly; if there is any need to account for them.
Stephen. I might have guessed at something of the sort.
Catherine. Something of the sort! You’re not very polite. How many anniversaries do you think I keep?
Stephen. Upon my word, if I had known this was your birthday I wouldn’t have read you that letter.
Catherine. The letter was better than nothing. Besides, it is a rule that my birthdays should be the grimmest possible reminders of mortality. Last year I was laid up with a sick headache; the year before I lost my best pupil, who dismissed me in a polite little note; the year before my chimney caught fire—this very chimney. It was a late cold spring, you remember; we had fires into June; I was sitting here alone; I heaped on the coal, for company’s sake. In half an hour, I assure you, I had company enough—the landlord, all the lodgers, a dozen firemen, and three or four policemen. That was before you came.
Stephen. Why, you’ve been through everything in this little room. What was it the year before that?
Catherine. That year I had no birthday. My mother died. After that, I came here.
Stephen. That was three years ago. You must have been lonely.
Catherine. At first I was lonely, indeed. Then I began to get lessons, and I had no time. Only sometimes in the evening I missed a few old associations; and now I have got used to it.
Stephen. There’s nothing you miss, then?
Catherine. Nothing—nothing, at least, that I have ever had.
Stephen. You’re contented, then. I’ll be hanged if I am! O happy woman!
Catherine. O stupid man! There’s a difference between missing the past and longing for the future. We get used to being without the things that have passed away; we never get used to being without the things that have not yet come; w7e end by ceasing to think of those; we never cease to think of these; and, as regards them at least, we are never contented.
Stephen. Why, you’re quite a philosopher! (Hesitates a moment and then seats himself.)
Catherine. (Rising.) You’ll admit that I need to be a philosopher with such a landlord! (Moves out a small table, takes a cloth from the drawer and lays it.)
Stephen. What are you going to do now?
Catherine. I’m going, by your leave, to have my tea.
Stephen. Ah, yes, by all means; even a philosopher must eat. Do you actually make your tea this way every evening?
Catherine. (Smiling.) Actually. Tea isn’t a thing one has by fits and starts.
Stephen. It’s something I never have at all. I dine at six, at an eating-house, where I take a cup of very bad coffee. But I haven’t really sat down to tea since—since I was young.
Catherine. I dine at half-past two, at a school where I give lessons. After running about all the afternoon, of course by this hour I’m quite ready for this little ceremony. It’s very pleasant to be able at last to have tea by daylight.
Stephen. So I suppose; just as it’s disagreeable not to be able to dine by lamp-light.
Catherine. Ah, me! to dine by lamplight is the dream of my life; but I suppose I shall never do it till I’m old and rich.
Stephen. AS the days grow longer I put off my dinner. In fact, I haven’t dined yet.
Catherine. (Laughing.) Good heaven! what a life! (During the above, she has been passing to and fro between the cupboard and the table, setting out the articles necessary for tea. Among other things, she has placed a small kettle, and kindled the lamp beneath it.)
Stephen. It’s certain that at my eating-house they don’t give me a tablecloth like that.
Catherine. I suppose they make it up by other things. Ah, there’s a little hole in the middle!
Stephen. The great Goethe has wisely remarked that man loves freedom and woman order.
Catherine. I’ll cover it up with my bouquet. (Places the vase of flowers.) What do you say about Goethe?
Stephen. I knew you were going to do something with those flowers.
Catherine. It was knowledge easily gained. Don’t look at the kettle, now, or it won’t boil.
Stephen. Of course I’ll not look at the kettle when I can look at you. What are you going to have for tea?
Catherine. Nothing to speak of; bread and butter. There’s at least an hour of daylight left; if you are very hungry, you are welcome to share of my loaf, en attendant your dinner.
Stephen. Oh, I’m terribly hungry.
Catherine. Dear me, if it’s as bad as that you’d better go at once to your eating-house. Stay; do you like sardines?
Catherine. And guava jelly?
Catherine. Well, then, perhaps we can blunt the edge of your voracity. (Returns to the cupboard and takes out a box of sardines and a pot of guava jelly.)
Stephen. Ah, the kettle boils.
Catherine. (Setting down the above.) Be so good, then, as to move your chair up to the table. Luckily, I have things for two. (Lays cup and saucer, plate, etc.)
Stephen. I suppose that once in a while you have a visitor.
Catherine. (Seated.) No one but the cat. You must excuse it, but that’s the cat’s saucer. Frequently, in the evening, she comes up to drink tea with me. I make her a dish of it just as I do for myself, and she sips it up like a perfect lady. When I move I must have a cat of my own. I shall feel so much more complete.
Stephen. Good heaven! if that’s all you need to feel complete—
Catherine. How do you like your tea?
Stephen. Strong, please—as strong as Samson unshorn.
Catherine. You mean by that, I suppose, that you want neither cream nor sugar?
Stephen. Cream and sugar are the wiles of Delilah.
Catherine. I must say, then, that Delilah is a much-abused person.
Stephen. It’s no more than natural that you should stand up for her. You yourself, Miss West—
Catherine. Very well—I myself—(Laughing.) I declare I believe you want me to compare you to Samson. But, I assure you, my respect for the sacred legends of Scripture forbids me to do it.
Stephen. Don’t laugh at me now, or I shall pull down the roof on your head.
Catherine. A propos of pulling down roofs, our charming landlord is the man to claim the title. Oh, to think of it!
Stephen. I protest; I stick to my idea. Delilah was, of course, a very charming woman. To begin with, you and she have that in common.
Catherine. Granted. Pursue your argument.
Stephen. Well, the long and short of it is that you, being, as I say, a charming woman, here I sit breaking your bread and drinking your tea, as if we were the best friends in the world.
Catherine. I must say that you’re a very weak Samson. I’ve treated you with no more than common decency. I couldn’t do less than ask you to have a cup of tea.
Stephen. No, thank heaven, that you couldn’t; but, you know, we had so fiercely resolved, in our future intercourse, to violate the commonest civilities; and then I hated you so!
Catherine. From the moment that a term was so suddenly set to our acquaintance, it seemed a great relief to throw those troublesome resolutions overboard. I call them troublesome, for I assure you I felt none of the inspiration of hatred.
Stephen. Really, then, I hardly know whether your implacable attitude was the more or the less to your credit.
Catherine. Implacable? You use hard words; not that I admit, however, that I quite as reasonable as yours.
Stephen. Doubtless, and your feelings even more so.
Catherine. Farewell, Mr. Young.
Stephen. (After a pause, looking at her.) You said just now that there is but one way of pronouncing that word. I confess I don’t know it.
Catherine. Very well, I excuse you.
Stephen. The best way is not to try it; I’m sure I should break down. In the name of pity, don’t you understand me?
Catherine. Not in the least. In one word, are we friends or enemies?
Stephen. I wish to heaven I could say we were neither.
Catherine. Come, Mr. Young, you’re foolish.
Stephen. Desperately so, I’m a lover.
Catherine. Oh, oh!
Stephen. Of course, you don’t believe it.
Catherine. Of course? (A pause.) Excuse me, you’re no lover.
Stephen. Of course you do, then.
Catherine. Worse and worse.
Stephen. Confound it! Perhaps you do, perhaps you don’t!
Catherine. (After a pause.) Perhaps I do. You’ll excuse me if I’m not perfectly sure. The events of the last hour—
Stephen. The events of the last hour, believe me, are proof conclusive of my passion. I’ve known for the last month that it is a passion, but only this evening have I read it aright. The sunlight of your presence has cleared up my misty doubts, my dusky illusions. Now, that there is a menace in the air of my losing you, I see that that troubling, tuneful presence, which I took to be the torment of my life, was, in truth, its motive and its delight. I assure you I thought of you far more than your music warranted. We need some other explanation. Do accept this one—that I love you with all my soul.
Catherine. (Smiling.) It’s very true that, considering that that’s a good stout wall, we have been singularly conscious of each other’s—idiosyncracies.
Stephen. Divinely conscious!
Catherine. I must say, however, that it’s a pity you have such an aversion to a piano.
Stephen. My dear Catherine, the secret of the matter was that I couldn’t turn your leaves. By the way, you’ll perhaps get used to my smoking.
Catherine. You best of men! I promise to light your cigar.
Stephen. Ah, life will be too sweet. But now that I’ve stepped into authority, I demand as a right that you tell me the history of that nosegay.
Catherine. Why, like that of Viola’s love, in “Twelfth Night,” it’s well nigh “a blank, my lord!” It was sent me as a birthday token by a pupil, a very good little girl of ten.
Stephen. Bless her kind little heart! Well, my dear, you may keep it as a farewell.
henry james’ plays
By the seaside; the piazza of a cottage overlooking the water; an awning, a hammock, chairs, a divan, books; a beautiful view.—A Sunday afternoon, last of August. Felix seated with a portfolio, sketching the prospect.
Felix. (Gaping formidably.) A long Sunday afternoon! What is a man to do? Poor Mrs. Meredith shut up with a dreadful headache; croquet of course forbidden; the poor little surveyor as timid and about as conversational as a squirrel; and Miss Emma—I suppose—taking care of her sister. No great loss, either, at that. Who was it told me she was pretty? Upon my word, I don’t see it. A nice little face enough, if one were to take a magnifying glass to it. She’ll never fairly look at you. I haven’t to this hour the smallest idea of the color of her eyes. And then the way she blushes when you speak to her! What does she think I want to say? (Yawning again.) Heigh ho! This sort of thing can’t last forever.Haven’t they any neighbors? Where does the pretty girl live who called last evening in the phaeton? “If you are going to stay, we shall be very glad to see you.” Those were the pretty girl’s identical words. What does she do on Sunday afternoons? Does she take a nap, or read Robertson’s Sermons? Perhaps at that house they do play croquet.—Decidedly, my sketch is a failure. My rocks on the bosom of the deep look like cows ruminating in a field. I think I might put in a tree, rising straight from the waters, with perfect vraisemblance.—Hallo! who is the young person wandering so pensively on the shore? She has a little girl by the hand. Not a nursery-maid evidently, or she’d have a parasol. Nay, by Jove! the young lady of the phaeton. Is she coming up here? No, she sits; she leans her cheek upon her hand and gazes at the horizon. Surely, I may venture to approach her. I’ll stick my pencil in my ear, and pretend I’ve come down to ascertain, for my sketch, the texture of that pudding-stone. (He lays down his portfolio.)
(Enter Horace from the parlor window.)
Horace. Oh! Don’t let me disturb you. I thought I should find Miss Emma.
Felix. No, my dear sir, not where I am. Miss Emma is not so fond of my society.
Horace. Oh, indeed!—You know poor Mrs. Meredith has a dreadful headache, and Miss Emma—
Felix. No! it dates, I regret to say, from before the headache. But perhaps our talking here disturbs the headache. She’s capital company. It’s a great bore having her laid up.
Horace. I’m in hopes she’s asleep. I’ve just been down to the druggist’s, in the village, to get this prescription. (Takes out a little phial wrapped up.)
Felix. Ah, you’ve walked to the village! Isn’t it extremely hot?
Horace. (Wiping his brow.) A little warmish. But I took an umbrella.
Felix. Oh, you took an umbrella! (Aside.) Confound him! My young lady is moving away.
Horace. You’ve been sketching, I see.
Felix. A man must do something, you know, of a Sunday afternoon. (Eagerly.) By the way—you’re an engineer, you sketch yourself,—wouldn’t you like to turn over my drawings? ( Thrusts the portfolio at him.)
Horace. Oh, you’re very kind.
Felix. Dear me! Who is the young lady there on the rocks? Really, I think it’s Miss—what’s-her-name?—who was here last evening. Isn’t it rather unsafe down there, wandering about at haphazard? There’s a hole there—you come upon it suddenly! Excuse me, I’ll go down and tell her about that hole. (Disappears in the direction of the shore.)
Horace. (Holding the portfolio and looking after him.) Happy man!—happy, stupid, clever man! (Turning over the drawings.) More stupid than clever, in the matter of drawing. If I were to make such a sketch as that, people would laugh at me. I’m little and modest and ugly! But he! he’s six feet high, with enormous whiskers and a still more enormous impudence,—and so, with all his enormities, people swallow him whole. I’m a gnat and he’s a camel! Emma, poor girl, she has swallowed him whole; but she finds him hard fare. (Looking a while at Felix’s sketch.) Come; is she in love with the man who has drawn those rocks like parlor settees and that shimmering ocean like parlor carpet? She’s in love with some one, that’s very plain; and not with me, that’s plainer still. With whom then, but with Mr. Felix?—Mr. Felicissimus! And he, under the circumstances—the dromedary!—he can think of nothing more to the point than to go down under her very nose to pick up a flirtation on the rocks. Oh, sensibility! She avoids him, forsooth! Hasn’t the man half an eye? Wait till you’re in love, Mr. Felix! You may be a little crazy, but you’ll not be so idiotic. (Laying down the portfolio, he sees on the bench a little book, which he takes up.) Adelaide Proctor’s poems. Dear me! Miss Emma’s own, and with marginal notes and elucidations, in her own sweet, sloping hand. Lovely womanish scratches and dashes! Happy Miss Adelaide Proctor! I should like immensely to puzzle out her notes. I wonder whether she would miss it. She’ll think it’s Felix, and that will make her happy,—half-happy, half-miserable, as people are when they’re in love—even when the loved object is absolutely indifferent, or, what is worse, partial to another! Poor girl, I ought to feel for her! As she is, I am; shadows chasing shadows. I’ll borrow the book for an hour and take it down to the rocks and read these divine hieroglyphics. (Just as he has put the volume into his pocket, Emma appears.)
Emma. (Entering eagerly, but stopping with an air of impatience.) O Horace, here you are! We didn’t know what had become of you.
Horace. It was a little hot, Miss Emma. I was unable to walk as fast as I should have liked to do. But I’ve got the medicine. I hope Mrs. Meredith is better.
Emma. Better! my dear Horace, headaches don’t go off like that! She’s trying to sleep. (Looking round her.) I thought Mr. Felix was here.
Horace. (Aside.) I’ve no doubt she did. Behold the pure essence of love! Runs away when he comes and runs after him when he goes. He was here, a few moments ago, but he went down to the rocks. He seems a little—a little bored, if I may say so.
Emma. Poor fellow! You ought to try and amuse him, Horace.
Horace. I never amused any one.
Emma. Yes, you’re very odd, sometimes. Oh, I see him from here, and a lady too! What lady is that?
Horace. The young lady, I believe, who was here last evening. So said Mr. Felix.
Emma. He must have very good eyes, to recognize her from here.
Horace. He has an eye for distant objects.
Emma. (Aside.) Yes, rather than for near ones. What does he find to say to Miss Walsingham all this while? He hardly knows her.
Horace. He is warning her against that hole.
Emma. What hole, pray?
Horace. The great hole in the rocks, which one may so easily fall into.
Emma. My poor Horace, what are you talking about? There is no hole within a mile. Ah! whose sketch is that?
Horace. Not mine, I assure you.
Emma. (Taking it up.) Of course not,—how interesting!
Horace. There is a lot more in the portfolio. Look them over; I know you want to.
Emma. (Coloring.) You know I want to! Pray, sir, what do you mean?
Horace. (Aside.) Ah, that blush! Could any one make her blush so for me? Here comes the great painter, himself. You can tell him how much you like it. (Felix, crossing the lawn, reappears on the piazza.)
Emma. I can’t stay: I must be off with my medicine. (She lingers, however, and, to give herself a pretext, unwraps the little bottle which Horace has given her.)
Felix. (Strolling forward.) It wasn’t Miss Walsingham, after all. But I saw a very pretty face for my trouble.
Horace. I’ve been seeing a prettier one, with no trouble at all.
Felix. (Staring, aside.) Compliments! What is the man up to?
Emma. (After a silence, turning away, to herself.) Has he nothing to say to that? But I’m not pretty, after all. (She has unwrapped her bottle, with a little cry.) Why, Horace!
Horace. Dear me! have I erred?
Emma. Altogether. I told you essence, a dozen times—essence, essence, essence; and you’ve brought me tincture.
Felix. My dear fellow, how could you?
Horace. Dear me! can’t she take that?
Emma. Why, they have directly opposite effects.
Felix. One’s a sedative—the other’s a stimulant.
Horace. Why, I thought you said tincture, you know! I went along repeating to myself—tincture, tincture, tincture!
Emma. I’m sorry. I would send Michael, but unfortunately, Sunday afternoons—
Felix. He goes in search of a certain tincture on his own account!
Horace. Oh, I’ve made the mistake! I shall be happy to repair it.
Emma. That’s a good fellow.
Horace. (Aside.) A good fellow! Blessed mistake!—I shall be back in no time.
Emma. Don’t hurry; you know it’s hot. Essence, remember.
Horace. Quintessence, I promise you!
Felix. (Aside.) The squirrel hath a witl By the way, since you’re going into the village again, perhaps you wouldn’t mind doing me a favor. Do get me a state-room on to-night’s boat. A good one, you know, away from the engine.
Emma. (Starting.) Ah! Mr. Felix, you’re going?
Felix. I’m afraid I must be off.
Emma. (After a pause.) My sister will be sorry.
Horace. (Aside.) Her sister! Divine mendacity!
Felix. I’ve just remembered an engagement.
Horace. (Aside.) An engagement. O thou dull Moor! I’ll get him the very next state-room to the engine. It takes an engine to affect him!
Felix. Please disburse for me and I’ll repay you.
Emma. (Aside.) Perhaps, so late as this, there are no state-rooms. Horace, you’ll find me here.
Horace. (Aside.) This last hour she seizes! (Looking at her.) Since you’ll kindly allow me, I’ll walk slowly. (He goes away through the house. Emma, slightly embarrassed, strolls to the etid of the piazza. Felix, not at all embarrassed, proceeds to collect his drawing materials.)
Emma. (Softly.) He’s going because he’s bored. What can I do? I wish I were only a little brighter! He thinks me a common creature! This last hour! I may never see him again. I could do something wild! Surely, he’s not going to march off to his room. I saw, as I was passing, an uncut novel on his table. Is he going up to read it? Ah, my poor little novel, he’ll not cut you! Oh, stupid, smiling sea! I could cry—I could cry! (Turning suddenly.) My sister will scold me dreadfully for letting you go-
Felix. Pray tell her to keep her scoldings for me. I’m extremely sorry she’s under the weather.
Emma. She’s sure to have a headache whenever anything—anything pleasant occurs.
Felix. It’s enough to make one regret one is pleasant.
Emma. (Aside.) How nicely he turns things! (A pause. Felix continues to arrange his portfolio.) I should like immensely to have one of his drawings. If I were to ask for one? Indelicate! But it would be delicate to have it, and to keep it in a locked drawer.—I have been looking at your sketch; I hope you don’t mind.
Felix. Not in the least.
Emma. (Aside.) If he would only offer it to me!
Felix. By the way, I’m stealing off without seeing your sister; suppose you give her this sketch, with my compliments, as a peace-offering. (Emma takes the sketch and looks at it in silence.) I hope you like it.
Emma. (After an interval.) To tell the truth,—I don’t.
Felix. (Staring but smiling.) Brava! There’s nothing I like so much as a little criticism.
Emma. I am no critic; but I don’t like it. I hate it.
Felix. (Laughing.) Nay, that’s not criticism; it’s passion.
Emma. Passion? Well, then, passion! Look at that superb blue sea, Mr. Felix; was there ever such a blue?
Felix. Never, never, never! (Aside.) Her eyes, at last! Blue as well. I don’t know about the sea, after all.
Emma. I can’t draw or paint of course; but if I could, it seeems to me I would sketch that sea and sky and the rocks and the surge almost as I did then; the blue flashing dark, and the white surf flashing bright, and the sky above clear and vast—
Felix. And you think my clumsy pencilling a very poor substitute for all that! I quite agree with you. It was the work of a stupid, disconsolate man.
Emma. You’ve had a very dull visit.
Felix. No. I’ve been a very dull visitor. You’ll be glad to get rid of me.
Emma. (After a silence.) I shall not particularly miss you.
Felix. (Aside.) Upon my word, she’s coming out. In point of fact, you haven’t felt an overwhelming obligation to entertain me.
Emma. It seems to me, it was rather your place to entertain me.
Felix. (Laughing.) Oh, I beg your pardon. I came down here—
Emma. Oh, but not by my invitation!
Felix. Dear me! if you stand on the letter of the law!
Emma. (Blushing deeply, but smiling.) Mr. Felix, have I been rude? (Aside.) If he could only think so!
Felix. (Smiling back.) Rude! Rude’s a strong word!
Emma. I needn’t say I haven’t meant it. My sister said to me an hour ago, “Do try, and do something for that poor man!” I went and sat down in my room, and thought it over.—What can I do? what can I do? It was too hot, to propose to you to walk—and, besides, would it have been proper?
Felix. Just improper enough to have made me assent, in spite of the heat!
Emma. I don’t play, I don’t sing, I could have offered you no music. Besides, it’s Sunday. I don’t mind croquet, but if people had heard our balls—
Felix. We should have been lost! I would gladly have shared perdition with you. But in fact, my dear young lady, you were shooting quite beyond the mark. Croquet and music and a formal walk! I can be happy with less machinery. Your mere presence—
Emma. My mere presence! Would you really have observed it?
Felix. Most attentively!
Emma. (After a silence.) I’ve been unjust. I beg a thousand pardons.
Felix. I forgive you, but the next time I come don’t treat me as a monster, to be fed at the end of a long pole.
Emma. Will you come again?
Felix. DO you invite me?
Emma. DO you accept?
Felix. Not till I’m invited.—What a jolly sunset!
Emma. You had better sketch it.
Felix. Come, that’s rough! I must be off.
Emma. How the crimson deepens as you look at it!
Felix. Like a pretty girl, blushing as you stare! I feel as if it were impolite. I must go in and put up my things.
Emma. You’re more polite to your pretty girl than to me.
Felix. (Looking at her while he hesitates.) Her eyes are not light blue either—they are dark blue.—If you like, I’ll bring down my valise and my duds and pack them up here. Pack them up I must!
Emma. (Turning away a moment, to herself.) Does he wish to force me to ask him to stay? Is there, in men, such a thing as coquetry? We have missed the sweet afternoon,—but the evening here will be sweet!—You insist on my formally inviting you. It’s simpler to do so while you’re in sight and in mind; simpler, too, for you to stay than to go and come again.
Felix. You have really a genius for simplification. I wish I could solve the problem of existence as I used, as a boy, to do my algebra on the blackboard, by striking a chalk mark over the bothersome quantities. If I were to stay, you see, it would be easy ciphering; but I shouldn’t get my sum total!
Emma. Oh, if it’s a matter of mathematics!
Felix. It will be a matter of mathematics for a poor man to cover the void in his finances left by the five dollars our friend Horace has been expending on my stateroom. I’m a poor man!
Emma. (Hesitating a moment; then, half-bitter, half-arch.) You’ll have to pay five dollars, you know, to come again.
Felix. (Aside.) Is she laughing at me? Confound her! Must I stay to be civil to her? Bah! I’ve rather put my foot in it; but consistency is dignity! Perhaps, by that time, I may have sold a picture!
Emma. (With the same tone.) Dear me, if you wait till then!
Felix. You may be gentle! Excuse me. I shall see you, of course, for farewell. (Emma makes him a grave courtesy and he enters the house. She looks after him for a moment and then drops on the divan, with her hands to her face.)
Emma. “Gentle"l Possibly! I shall be wretched, and wretchedness makes one gentle! Then I shall play no part. Does he wish me to go down on my knees to him! Ah, sir, thank Heaven you’re going; it’s time. Thank Heaven you’re utterly insensate and cruel! A little gleam,—a hint, a word, a smile; that would be enough. Where is he going? where away on the wings of that fierce indifference? Heaven bless him! Heaven help me! (She bursts into tears.) Oh, folly! Have I come to this,—to sit crying out my silliness before the solemn sea, which murmurs nothing to his ear? You’ve seen it all, now, gray glass of ocean! Now let him come! Am I to bid him farewell with red eyes? Where is my precious Adelaide? (Looking.) Gone? Surely it was here I left it. Can he have taken it—with all my scribblings? It must have been he. I can’t imagine Horace with Adelaide Proctor! Ah, my poor little notes and crosses! Am I to endure every humiliation? Ah, Horace! (Horace comes out from the parlor ivindow.) I wonder if he has got him a state-room.
Horace. (Giving her the phial.) This time, I believe it’s right. (Aside.) Tears? At last! Poor wounded heart—can I touch it?
Emma. Thank you for your trouble. (Aside.) How he looked at me! Does he notice? Not he, thank Heaven! (With forced gayety.) Are you tired? Did you see the sunset? I hope you found a good stateroom.
Horace. The best that was left. I met on the way Mrs. Jay: she bade me tell you that she expected you to come this evening. Her son is at home: they are to have some sacred music.
Emma. Her son—some sacred music! Much obliged.
Horace. About eight o’clock.
Emma. About eight o’clock. You’d better go.
Horace. Oh, you know I don’t go to parties.
Emma. No more do I. I’ve given it up. If you were a girl, I’d make you a present of my finery.
Horace. Since when have you given up finery?
Emma. Never mind; you must go. It will be stupid here. I shall be upstairs.
Horace. (Aside.) Upstairs, crying again! If I could only speak to her—or speak for her! Now that her heart is wounded and tender, might I say a word for myself? It’s hard lines to be able neither to console her nor to help her,—to see it and be powerless! Friend Felix! I wish I had a little more of your superb stolidity.—(With great softness.) Emma!
Emma. (Unwrapping the phial.) What is this stuff? Is it laudanum? I think I’ll take some.
Horace. Are you crazy?
Emma. I believe I am.
Horace. (Snatching at the phial.) Give it to me!
Emma. DO you think I’m serious? Simpleton! (She passes rapidly into the house.)
Horace. (Sits down on the divan and folds his arms.) “Simpleton”! That’s the best she can say to me! Poor bewildered little mind! She has given it all up! she has given up gayety, and joy, and happiness—and all for him—or rather for the thankless, senseless memory of him! That such a blossom as that maiden’s heart of hers should sit trembling on its stem, unnoticed, unplucked! What possesses the man? Is it simple dulness of vision or is it cruel hardness of heart? If I might say a word! Assuredly, in the name of my own poor throttled passion, I have a right to speak. Anything rather than see her lose her color, her smile, her prettiness! What, after all, do I risk? Would waiting twenty years serve my own cause? That’s lost in advance. My love was born a cripple, to sit on a stool in a dark corner—hers with the wings of Ariel to flutter and frolic in the light. And the poor wings are ruffled and bound and bleeding! If it weren’t Sunday, I should like to swear a bit! (Felix, at this moment, comes out from the house.)
Felix. Our young lady is gone! I want to bid her farewell. You got me a stateroom, I suppose? (Taking the ticket which Horace silently offers him and presenting a bank-note.) Permit me to reimburse you. I’m extremely obliged to you.
Horace. DO you know how you can express your obligation?—By allowing me to remark—(Pausing a moment.)
Felix. Anything you please!
Horace. That you’re an absolute fool!
Felix. Upon my word—you exact good measure!
Horace. Wait a moment and you’ll agree that I put it mildly. You wish to bid Emma good-by, eh?
Felix. I certainly can’t go away without—
Horace. You’ll just go up to her, and say,—“Ah, Miss Emma, good-by!” and march off! You are an absolute fool! Were you ever in love?
Felix. If, as you so graciously affirm, I am an absolute fool, need you ask the question.
Horace. You know then, that the wind bloweth where it listeth.
Felix. Like your wit, my friend. What are you driving at?
Horace. DO you think that young girl pretty?
Felix. Pretty enough. I confess I only noticed just now the remarkable shade of her eyes—a lovely liquid blue.
Horace. Liquid indeed! especially when they are streaming with tears.
Felix. With tears? what do you mean?
Horace. I mean that something has been going on here, fit to make angels groan! I mean that the sweetest of girls has been crying her eyes out for the dullest of brutes! I mean that love has kindled its altar fires beneath your very nose, and that the pale vestal has scattered her ambrosial incense upon the very air you breathe. Isn’t the air faint and sweet with its violet fumes? Isn’t the evening breeze scented with a maiden’s sighs? Don’t the breaking waves murmur of a breaking heart? Doesn’t your cheek turn crimson at my words? Where are your wits, your senses, your manhood? I confess I can stand it no longer. Common pity cries out! No words of mine can make you over, or turn a log into a lover. I don’t speak for your sake, but for hers. Either, when she appears, go down on your knees to her, or vanish this instant without speaking to her, without seeing her, without forcing upon her again a sense of your colossal ingratitude!
Felix. Tears, sighs, incense, perfumes! Emma in love! Are you sure?
Horace. You may believe I wouldn’t speak without a fair certainty.
Felix. (Tapping his forehead, with a smile not untinged with fatuity.) With me—with me!
Horace. With you, incredible as it may seem.
Felix. Now I think, I assure you it’s not the least incredible. Admirable girl! Of course she is! By the way, my boy, to give me the news you needn’t have put on the air of the angel Gabriel. In the angel Gabriel himself your tone would have been a bit pompous. But I forgive you. I wondered what the deuce was the matter with her; avoiding me; blushing at nothing, at everything; flitting to and fro; now effacing herself altogether and then speaking up as clear as crystal and breaking into that agony of modesty,—that divine impertinence! Ah, the ewig Weibliche! You’re a passive feminine creature, Horace; you have a fellow-feeling for lovelorn maidens. Seriously, I’m extremely obliged to you. This is real friendship. I fancied you were rather afraid of me; I shouldn’t have expected you to muster courage.
Horace. Why, at heart, we’re all in love with you. Happy man!
Felix. Let me tell you, I haven’t been so insensible as I seemed. I felt something; a yearning; a burning! I thought it was Miss Walsingham. You’ll see what I can do! I’ve packed up my valise, but I shan’t go. See the moon just above the ocean!
Horace. (Aside.) Heavens! I can’t stand this. I shall pack up my valise. You mean to stay?
Felix. My dear fellow, do you take me for a brute?
Horace. Give me your ticket, then. I believe I’ll use it. And here is your money again.
Felix. (Laughing.) Let me beg of you to keep it. You’ve earned as much!
Horace. Oh, I’ve earned a little more! But I don’t insist. Excuse me, I have only time to tie up my bundle. (Enters the house.)
Felix. Yes, there was something the matter with me. Why was I so bored? I don’t generally find myself such poor company. It was that she was at hand—was and yet wasn’t. And then I wanted to make her ask me to stay; I wanted, for my heart’s pleasure, to hear her say the very words. But she was proud and I was modest! How the light flashes back into it all! I’ll give her a touch of audacity! Here she comes through the parlor. The pale vestal—that’s a pretty notion of his! But now for the blushes! (Emma steps upon the piazza and, going up to the young man, offers him her hand.)
Emma. I hope I’ve not kept you waiting. I believe you have still time.
Felix. (Aside.) How shall I say it?—Plenty of time. I’m not going.
Emma. Ah, you’ve thought better of it?
Felix. I never meant really to go.
Emma. (Aside.) What has happened?—Your valise nevertheless is standing packed at your door.
Felix. (Aside.) I can’t say I love her outright à propos of a valise. Dear young lady, I have been reading my heart. (Aside.) How her blue eyes expand!—Emma, you’re terribly pretty.
Emma. Dear me, it’s very sudden!
Felix. It’s very sudden you’re looking as pretty as you do. Paleness becomes you.
Emma. That’s a consolation.
Felix. Nay, now you blush, it’s even more becoming!
Emma. Spare me, sir, or I shall blush quite too red for good looks. It’s a great honor to have you noticing my complexion.
Felix. For these three days I have done nothing else; your complexion, your movements, the sound of your voice, everything that makes you the charming girl you are.
Emma. (Aside.) Gentle Heaven! do I dream?—You’re hard to understand.
Felix. Let me be plain. I love you!
Emma. Felix!—Weigh your words. I have a heart. Have a conscience!
Felix. I love you, I love you; on my conscience, I love you! (Falls on his knees.)
Emma. But you don’t know me. You’ve hardly exchanged a hundred words with me.
Felix. I have studied you in silence. Not a glance, not a movement, has escaped me. I held my tongue; I wished to be sure. I’m not wrong, Emma? You do care for me?
Emma. (After a silence.) A little.
Felix. (Rising, to himself.) She doesn’t quite fall into my arms! There are women for you. Neglect them and they adore you; adore them—and they are not so sure! I’ve been brutal, haven’t I? But if you knew what it cost me! Don’t look at me so solemnly, with your unfathomable eyes. Tell me you love me.
Emma. I suppose I’m very happy; happiness stupefies a little. And what did you think of me, all the while? I must have seemed a gracious, winning creature.
Felix. Your very reticence and reserve were charming. I wouldn’t have had you running after me.
Emma. No, indeed, I hope not! I have a proper pride.
Felix. It’s not yet quite melted away. Come, flatter a man a bit. Confess you don’t quite hate me.
Emma. Ah, the voracious vanity of men! Nay, I kept my secret well; I grew almost fond of it. It’s even hard to part with it at such short notice. Felix, you’d better know it; I’ve a passion for dignity.
Felix. Dignity as a passion has a ravishing effect. It gives one the brightest little peeps and glimpses of the mysterious background of the heart.
Emma. If I thought any one had had a glimpse of my heart!
Felix. I have had, my dear—far off in the blue distance. I saw it lying in the shadow, but being a modest man, I hesitated to assume that the shadow was my shadow. Fortunately fate sent me a little telescope.
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