“I’ll bet you anything,” he said, “I know what’s going to happen now. You’ll have that old ass—what’s his name?—lunching off cutlets and champagne to fortify himself—for a lecture to the wife. He’ll show her how unhealthy her feelings are—I know him—and he’ll take her hand and say, ’Dear lady, is there anything in this poor world but the good opinion of Society?’ and he’ll pretend to laugh at himself for saying it; but you’ll see perfectly well that the old woman means it. And then he’ll put her into a set of circumstances that are n’t her own but his version of them, and show her the only way of salvation is to kiss her husband”; and Shelton grinned. “Anyway, I’ll bet you anything he takes her hand and says, ‘Dear lady.’”
Halidome turned on him the disapproval of his eyes, and again he said,
“I think Pirbright ’s ripping!”
But as Shelton had predicted, so it turned out, amidst great applause.
THE GOOD CITIZEN
Leaving the theatre, they paused a moment in the hall to don their coats; a stream of people with spotless bosoms eddied round the doors, as if in momentary dread of leaving this hothouse of false morals and emotions for the wet, gusty streets, where human plants thrive and die, human weeds flourish and fade under the fresh, impartial skies. The lights revealed innumerable solemn faces, gleamed innumerably on jewels, on the silk of hats, then passed to whiten a pavement wet with newly-fallen rain, to flare on horses, on the visages of cabmen, and stray, queer objects that do not bear the light.
“Shall we walk?” asked Halidome.
“Has it ever struck you,” answered Shelton, “that in a play nowadays there’s always a ‘Chorus of Scandalmongers’ which seems to have acquired the attitude of God?”
Halidome cleared his throat, and there was something portentous in the sound.
“You’re so d—–d fastidious,” was his answer.
“I’ve a prejudice for keeping the two things separate,” went on Shelton. “That ending makes me sick.”
“Why?” replied Halidome. “What other end is possible? You don’t want a play to leave you with a bad taste in your mouth.”
“But this does.”
Halidome increased his stride, already much too long; for in his walk, as in all other phases of his life, he found it necessary to be in front.
“How do you mean?” he asked urbanely; “it’s better than the woman making a fool of herself.”
“I’m thinking of the man.”
“What ’s the matter with him? He was a bit of a bounder, certainly.”
“I can’t understand any man wanting to live with a woman who doesn’t want him.”
Some note of battle in Shelton’s voice, rather than the sentiment itself, caused his friend to reply with dignity:
“There’s a lot of nonsense talked about that sort of thing. Women don’t really care; it’s only what’s put into their heads.”