Malise. It is not.
Clare. To make use of you in such a way! No.
[She moves towards the door]
Malise. Where are you going?
Clare does not
answer. She is breathing rapidly. There
change in her, a sort of excitement beneath her calmness.
Malise. Not back to him? [Clare shakes her head] Thank God! But where? To your people again?
Clare. Oh! no.
Malise. Then what—tell me—come!
Clare. I don’t know. Women manage somehow.
Malise. But you—poor dainty thing!
Clare. It’s all right! Don’t be unhappy! Please!
Malise. [Seizing her arm] D’you imagine they’ll let you off, out there—you with your face? Come, trust me trust me! You must!
Clare. [Holding out her hand] Good-bye!
Malise. [Not taking that hand] This great damned world, and—you! Listen! [The sound of the traffic far down below is audible in the stillness] Into that! alone—helpless—without money. The men who work with you; the men you make friends of—d’you think they’ll let you be? The men in the streets, staring at you, stopping you—pudgy, bull-necked brutes; devils with hard eyes; senile swine; and the “chivalrous” men, like me, who don’t mean you harm, but can’t help seeing you’re made for love! Or suppose you don’t take covert but struggle on in the open. Society! The respectable! The pious! Even those who love you! Will they let you be? Hue and cry! The hunt was joined the moment you broke away! It will never let up! Covert to covert—till they’ve run you down, and you’re back in the cart, and God pity you!
Clare. Well, I’ll die running!
Malise. No, no! Let me shelter you! Let me!
Clare. [Shaking her head and smiling] I’m
going to seek my fortune.
Wish me luck!
Malise. I can’t let you go.
Clare. You must.
He looks into her face;
then, realizing that she means it,
suddenly bends down to her fingers, and puts his lips to them.
Malise. Good luck, then! Good luck!
He releases her hand. Just touching his bent head with her other hand, Clare turns and goes. Malise remains with bowed head, listening to the sound of her receding footsteps. They die away. He raises himself, and strikes out into the air with his clenched fist.
MALISE’S sitting-room. An afternoon, three months later. On the table are an open bottle of claret, his hat, and some tea-things. Down in the hearth is a kettle on a lighted spirit-stand. Near the door stands Haywood, a short, round-faced man, with a tobacco-coloured moustache; Malise, by the table, is contemplating a piece of blue paper.
Haywood. Sorry to press an old customer, sir, but a year and an ’alf without any return on your money——