The Tenth Man - William Somerset Maugham - ebook
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A drawing-room at Lord Francis Etchingham’s house in Norfolk Street, Park Lane. An Adam room, with bright chintzes on the furniture, photographs on the chimney-piece and the piano, and a great many flowers. There is an archway at the back, leading into another drawing-room, and it is through this that visitors are introduced by the butler. On the left is a large bow window, and on the right a door leading into the library.

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William Somerset Maugham

The Tenth Man:

A Tragic Comedy in Three Acts

New Edition

LONDON ∙ NEW YORK ∙ TORONTO ∙ SAO PAULO ∙ MOSCOW

PARIS ∙ MADRID ∙ BERLIN ∙ ROME ∙ MEXICO CITY ∙ MUMBAI ∙ SEOUL ∙ DOHA

TOKYO ∙ SYDNEY ∙ CAPE TOWN ∙ AUCKLAND ∙ BEIJING

New Edition

Published by Sovereign Classic

This Edition

First published in 2018

Copyright © 2018 Sovereign Classic

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 9781787249257

Contents

CHARACTERS

THE FIRST ACT

THE SECOND ACT

THE THIRD ACT

CHARACTERS

George Winter, M.P.

Lord Francis Etchingham

Robert Colby, M.P.

Mr. Perigal

James Ford

Colonel Boyce

Rev. William Swalecliffe

Frederick Bennett

Edward O’Donnell

Butler at Lord Francis Etchingham’s

Waiter at the Great Northern Hotel

Catherine Winter

Lady Francis Etchingham

Anne

THE FIRST ACT

Scene: A drawing-room at Lord Francis Etchingham’s house in Norfolk Street, Park Lane. An Adam room, with bright chintzes on the furniture, photographs on the chimney-piece and the piano, and a great many flowers. There is an archway at the back, leading into another drawing-room, and it is through this that visitors are introduced by the butler. On the left is a large bow window, and on the right a door leading into the library.

Lord and Lady Francis.

Lord Francis Etchingham is a man of fifty, of the middle height, rather bald, with an amiable, weak face. He is a good-natured person, anxious to do his best in all things and to all people so long as he is not bored. He wants everything to go smoothly. He has a comfortable idea of his own capacity. Reduced circumstances have drawn him into affairs, and he regards himself as a fine man of business. Lady Francis is a handsome and well-preserved woman of the same age as her husband, with dyed red hair; she has a massive, almost an imposing, presence, and she is admirably gowned. She treats her husband with good-humoured scorn, aware of his foibles, but amused rather than annoyed by them. When the curtain rises Francis Etchingham is a prey to the liveliest vexation. He is walking nervously across the room, while his wife, with a thin smile, stands quietly watching him. With a gesture of irritation he flings himself into a chair.

Etchingham.

Why the dickens didn’t you tell me last night, Angela?

Lady Francis.

[Smiling.] I had no wish to disturb my night’s rest.

Etchingham.

Upon my soul, I don’t know what you mean. It’s incomprehensible to me that you should have slept like a top. I couldn’t have closed my eyes the whole night.

Lady Francis.

I know. And you would have taken excellent care that I shouldn’t close mine either.

Etchingham.

I should have thought I had enough to do without being pestered with a foolish woman’s matrimonial difficulties.

Lady Francis.

[With a laugh.] You really have a very detached way of looking at things, Frank. No one would imagine, to hear you speak, that the foolish woman in question was your daughter.

Etchingham.

Really, Angela, I must beg you not to make this a subject of flippancy.

Lady Francis.

[Good-humouredly.] Well, what do you propose to do?

Etchingham.

[Flying out of his chair.] Do? What do you expect me to do? You tell me that Kate came home at twelve o’clock last night without a stitch of clothing....

Lady Francis.

My dear, if I told you that I was most unwarrantably distorting the truth.

Etchingham.

[Irritably correcting himself.] In a ball dress, with an opera cloak on—without her luggage, without even a dressing-case—and informs you that she’s left her husband.... It’s absurd.

Lady Francis.

Quite absurd. And so unnecessarily dramatic.

Etchingham.

And when’s she going home?

Lady Francis.

She assures me that she’s not going home.

Etchingham.

[Almost beside himself.] She’s not going to stay here?

Lady Francis.

Those are her plans at the moment.

Etchingham.

And George?

Lady Francis.

Well?

Etchingham.

You don’t suppose her husband’s going to put up with this nonsense? Has he made no sign?

Lady Francis.

Ten minutes after she arrived he sent a messenger boy—with a toothbrush.

Etchingham.

Why a toothbrush?

Lady Francis.

I don’t know. Presumably to brush her teeth.

Etchingham.

Well, that shows he doesn’t look upon the matter as serious. Of course, it was a whim on Kate’s part. Luckily he’s coming here this morning....

Lady Francis.

[Interrupting.] Is he?

Etchingham.

Yes, he promised to fetch me in his car. We’re going to drive down to the City together. I’ll bring him in, and meanwhile you can talk to Kate. I dare say she’s thought better of it already. It only wants a little tact, and we can settle the whole thing. George is clever enough to have given some plausible explanation to the servants.

Lady Francis.

Are you really under the impression things are going to pass off in that way?

Etchingham.

Why not?

Lady Francis.

They say it’s a wise man who knows his own father, but it’s apparently a wiser man still who knows his own daughter.

Etchingham.

Angela, for goodness’ sake don’t try to be bright and amusing.

Lady Francis.

Do you know so little of Kate as to imagine she would have taken a step of this kind without having quite made up her mind?

Etchingham.

You don’t mean to say you think Kate will refuse to go back to her husband?

Lady Francis.

I do.

Etchingham.

But what reasons does she give? Why did she say she left him?

Lady Francis.

She gave no reasons. She merely stated the fact and asked if I could put her up.

Etchingham.

Well, she must go back to her husband.

Lady Francis.

[As if it were the most innocent question.] Why?

Etchingham.

Because a woman’s place is by her husband’s side, Angela. You know just as well as I do that I can’t afford to quarrel with George Winter. I’m chairman of half a dozen of his companies. The position would be intolerable. I should be expected to take Kate’s side if she were right or wrong.

Lady Francis.

I suppose you owe him money?

Etchingham.

No, not exactly.

Lady Francis.

Ah! [With a shrewd look at him and a smile.] And how much is it that you—don’t exactly owe him?

Etchingham.

We’re mixed up together in any number of business undertakings, and naturally we have a sort of running account. If we settled up I dare say I should have to find something like fifteen thousand pounds.

Lady Francis.

Good heavens, I thought you’d been making money.

Etchingham.

Yes, I did, but the fact is, we’ve been very badly hit lately. Practically all our interests are in Central America, and we couldn’t foresee that there’d be a revolution there.

Lady Francis.

The possibility might have crossed your mind.

Etchingham.

Oh, I knew you’d blame me. And I suppose you’ll blame me because a confounded earthquake smashed up one of our railways.

Lady Francis.

And how d’you propose to raise fifteen thousand pounds?

Etchingham.

That’s just it. It would be devilish awkward. And George is in a confounded tight place too.

Lady Francis.

You’d better talk to Kate. I’ll send for her.

[She touches a bell, and gives her order down a speaking tube.

Lady Francis.

Ask Mrs. Winter to be good enough to come to the drawing room.

Etchingham.

You must talk to her seriously, Angela. You must tell her that her behaviour is outrageous.

Lady Francis.

[With a chuckle.] No, my dear. You are going to talk to her.

[Catherine Winter comes in. She is a graceful woman, with a strong, passionate face; and her expression, rather tired but self-contained and resolute, suggests that she has endured great trouble and is now making a desperate effort to escape. She is very simply dressed and wears no jewellery but her wedding ring.

Catherine.

Good-morning, father.

[She goes up to Lord Francis and kisses his cheek.

Etchingham.

[With elaborate politeness.] Be so good as to sit down, Catherine.

[Catherine exchanges with her mother a glance of faint amusement and takes a seat.

Etchingham.

[With a fine assumption of paternal authority.] I want to talk to you. Your mother and I have sent for you.... [Breaking out.] Now what does all this mean? It’s ridiculous nonsense. You’re surely old enough to have learnt a little self-control.

Catherine.

[Calmly.] I’ve shown a good deal of self-control during the four years of my married life, father. I was afraid it was growing into a habit.

Etchingham.

Am I to understand that what your mother tells me is true?

Catherine.

[Quietly.] I lived with George as long as I could. I put up with more than any woman I know would have done. But there are some things no one should suffer who has any self-respect.

Etchingham.

You’ve never complained before of George’s behaviour.

Catherine.

No.

Etchingham.

Why have you never said a word to your mother about it? I can’t imagine why you shouldn’t get on with George. I don’t suppose you’ve ever expressed a whim that he hasn’t gratified. Your allowance is princely. Your pearls are the envy of every woman in London.

Catherine.

Oh, yes, he’s generous. My pearls have been a splendid advertisement.

Etchingham.

[Ignoring the second sentence and pouncing on the admission.] Then what have you got to complain of?

Catherine.

I dare say my mother knows what half London is chattering about.

Etchingham.

Well, Angela?

Lady Francis.

Oh, my dear, I hoped it was idle gossip. A man as much in the public eye as George Winter—the most prominent financier of the moment—is certain to be talked about.

Etchingham.

I suppose he’s been flirting with two or three pretty women.

Lady Francis.

I understand things are supposed to have gone rather further than that.

Etchingham.

That’s the kind of thing a tactful woman must close her eyes to. You’re a woman of the world, Kate. You know what men are. You must extend a certain degree of licence to a man of George Winter’s temperament.

Catherine.

You don’t understand, father. I bore my life till I couldn’t bear it any longer. I’m not the sort of woman to make scenes. I held my tongue, I closed my eyes, till something happened which I couldn’t endure. I’ve left him fully decided to divorce him. Nothing that you can say will move me.

Etchingham.

But you can’t divorce him. You’ve accused him of nothing but infidelity. You can’t be so ignorant of the law....

Catherine.

[Interrupting.] I’m not at all ignorant of the law. I assure you that he has complied fully with all the conditions which are needful.

Lady Francis.

Kate.

Catherine.

Please don’t ask me. I feel that my whole soul is foul with....

Etchingham.

Well, of course there are always two sides to every question.

Catherine.

Oh, father, you’re not going to tell me that that, too, is usual in polite society, for a man to.... Oh!

[She gives a gesture and a cry of disgust.

Lady Francis.

I wonder if you’d go and read your Times, Frank. I should like to talk to Katie alone.

Etchingham.

[With a look from his wife to his daughter.] Eh, very well. Perhaps you can do something with her. Tell her what it means if she persists. I suppose I shall find the Times in the library.

[He goes out.

Lady Francis.

[With a smile.] Your father has such a power of delusion. He never looks at anything but the Daily Mail, but he’s quite convinced that he reads nothing but the Times.

Catherine.

[Passionately.] Oh, mother, you’ll stand by me, won’t you? You know what I’ve gone through. If you care for me at all you must have some pity.

[Lady Francis looks at her coolly. She is quite unmoved by the vehemence of the appeal. She pauses for a moment before answering.

Lady Francis.

Why have you chosen this particular moment to leave your husband?

Catherine.

There are limits to human endurance.

Lady Francis.

You’ve lived a good deal apart. Like civilized people you’ve made the best of a mutual want of sympathy. I should have thought George interfered with you very little. I have an idea that no woman would care to undergo the—inconvenience of proceedings for divorce without a very good reason. You’ve got a peculiarly fastidious taste, Katie. It must be something rather out of the way that induces you to expose your private life to all and sundry.

Catherine.

It’s merely a choice of ignominies.

[Lady Francis pauses an instant, then raps out the question sharply.

Lady Francis.

Are you in love?

Catherine.

You have no right to ask me that, mother.

Lady Francis.

[With a slight smile.] Your indignation is almost an answer in itself, isn’t it? I suppose you want to marry.

[Catherine does not answer. She takes a step or two impatiently.

Lady Francis.

Well?

Catherine.

I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of.

Lady Francis.

In that case, I should have thought you had nothing to conceal.

Catherine.

[Defiantly.] I haven’t. When I thought that everything was over for me and that life was meaningless, I found it was only just beginning. And I thanked God for all I’d gone through because perhaps it made me less unfit for the great love that descended upon me.

Lady Francis.

It’s Robert Colby, isn’t it?

Catherine.

Yes.

Lady Francis.

And you’ve made your arrangements, I suppose, to be married as soon as the decree is made absolute?

Catherine.

We haven’t discussed the matter.

Lady Francis.

But still, I may take it that is the intention?

Catherine.

Yes.

Lady Francis.

Your father wishes me to tell you that if you quarrel with George it will ruin him. He could hardly keep the position that George has given him on his various boards.

Catherine.

You will be no worse off than before I married.

Lady Francis.

Except that it appears your father owes George fifteen thousand pounds.

Catherine.

Do you want to cheat me again out of the little happiness that seems in store for me?

Lady Francis.

I want you to do what is right in your own eyes.

Catherine.

How can you be so cruel?

George Winter.

[Opening the door.] May I come in?

[He enters with Francis Etchingham. George Winter is a man of powerful build, with fine hair and fine eyes; he wears a short red beard. He is inclined to corpulence, but bears himself with an attractive swagger. He is a jovial, bland fellow. He appears to be the best-natured person in the world, and his great astuteness suggests itself only now and then in a look of his eyes. He has admirable control over an execrable temper. Catherine turns round with a startled cry at the sound of her husband’s voice.

Catherine.

George!

George Winter.

My dear, look pleased to see me. It’s only decent.

Catherine.

It’s infamous that you should come here. If you had any decent feeling....

George Winter.

[Blandly.] My dear child, I had a business engagement with your father. It’s unreasonable to expect me not to keep it because you have temporarily abandoned the conjugal roof.

Catherine.

[To her father.] You might have warned me.

Etchingham.

My dear, I was hoping that after a talk with your mother you’d have....

Catherine.

[Interrupting.] What can I do to show you that I’ve made up my mind for good and all?

George Winter.

Even after one’s made up one’s mind, it’s not too late to listen to reason.

Lady Francis.

I think for all our sakes you should listen to anything that George has to say.

Catherine.

[To George Winter.] Do you understand what my mother means?

George Winter.

[With a little chuckle.] I dimly suspect.

Catherine.

My father owes you a lot of money. He’s chairman of half your companies. He thinks that if I divorce you he’ll have to pay that money....

George Winter.

I’m sure his sense of delicacy would prevent him from remaining in my debt.

Catherine.

And you’ll make him resign his directorships?

George Winter.

[With his tongue in his cheek.] I know him well enough to feel certain that he would never wish to retain them.

Catherine.

Oh, it’s vile.

George Winter.

Or is it common sense?

[There is a moment’s pause, and when George Winter speaks it is with great seriousness.

George Winter.

Now look here, Kate; listen to me carefully. You know that all our interests are in Central America. The Lewishams had it all their own way out there till I came along. They owned the railways and the mines and the trams—everything that was worth having. Well, I knew I couldn’t oust them, but I thought I could make them take me in. I’ve been fighting them tooth and nail for ten years. They’ve done all they could to smash me by fair means and foul, but they haven’t succeeded. And now I’m in sight of my goal. I can force them to come to terms.

Catherine.

All this is nothing to me.

George Winter.

The Lewishams got on to a big thing—a mine called the Campo del Oro. But that earthquake the other day queered their pitch, and they offered bills when hard cash was the only thing to do the trick. I thought that what was good enough for the Lewishams was good enough for me. I knew that if I could get it they’d have to take me in. I had two hours to think it over. I found the cash and bought the mine last week.

Catherine.

It doesn’t interest me.

George Winter.

It will. I sent Macdonald out there.

Etchingham.

Macdonald is George’s expert. He’s the soundest man in the profession.

George Winter.

And straight, straight as a die. I’m expecting his report every day. He may cable me at any moment. Then I shall get to work. I’m going to float the mine as a company with a capital of half a million. Your father will be chairman, and he ought to make close on fifty thousand out of it. For a reason I needn’t tell you, we can’t afford to wait. We must have ready money, and that means floating the company at once. My only chance is in Middlepool, where three parts of my backing have come from before. We shall soon be in the middle of a General Election. And you know how uncertain my seat in Middlepool is. I keep it only by my personal popularity. I’m at the mercy of the Nonconformists, and if there’s talk of a divorce it’s all U.P. with me. They’ll make me retire before the election, and if that happens the new company won’t stand a dog’s chance.

Lady Francis.

Why?

George Winter.

Because with the general public nervous, I shall have to depend on Middlepool, and there I can only float it on my personal character.

Catherine.