Act IV. The dining-room of More’s house, late afternoon.
Aftermath. The corner of a square, at dawn.
Between acts I and II some days elapse.
Between acts II and III three months.
Between act III scene I and act III scene II no time.
Between acts III and IV a few hours.
Between acts IV and aftermath an indefinite period.
It is half-past nine of a July evening. In a dining-room lighted by sconces, and apparelled in wall-paper, carpet, and curtains of deep vivid blue, the large French windows between two columns are open on to a wide terrace, beyond which are seen trees in darkness, and distant shapes of lighted houses. On one side is a bay window, over which curtains are partly drawn. Opposite to this window is a door leading into the hall. At an oval rosewood table, set with silver, flowers, fruit, and wine, six people are seated after dinner. Back to the bay window is Stephen more, the host, a man of forty, with a fine-cut face, a rather charming smile, and the eyes of an idealist; to his right, sir, John Julian, an old soldier, with thin brown features, and grey moustaches; to sir JOHN’s right, his brother, the Dean of stour, a tall, dark, ascetic-looking Churchman: to his right Katherine is leaning forward, her elbows on the table, and her chin on her hands, staring across at her husband; to her right sits Edward Mendip, a pale man of forty-five, very bald, with a fine forehead, and on his clear-cut lips a smile that shows his teeth; between him and more is Helen Julian, a pretty dark-haired young woman, absorbed in thoughts of her own. The voices are tuned to the pitch of heated discussion, as the curtain rises.
The Dean. I disagree with you, Stephen; absolutely, entirely disagree.
More. I can’t help it.
Mendip. Remember a certain war, Stephen! Were your chivalrous notions any good, then? And, what was winked at in an obscure young Member is anathema for an Under Secretary of State. You can’t afford——
More. To follow my conscience? That’s new, Mendip.
Mendip. Idealism can be out of place, my friend.
The Dean. The Government is dealing here with a wild lawless race, on whom I must say I think sentiment is rather wasted.
More. God made them, Dean.
Mendip. I have my doubts.
The Dean. They have proved themselves faithless. We have the right to chastise.
More. If I hit a little man in the eye, and he hits me back, have I the right to chastise him?
Sir John. We didn’t begin this business.