Wheeler. [Hesitating.] You don’t think
[Nodding at the door.]
Marlow. [Stoutly.] I don’t——I never believes anything of anybody.
Wheeler. But the master’ll have to be told.
Marlow. You wait a bit, and see if it don’t turn up. Suspicion’s no business of ours. I set my mind against it.
The curtain falls.
The curtain rises again at once.
Barthwick and Mrs. Barthwick are seated at the breakfast table. He is a man between fifty and sixty; quietly important, with a bald forehead, and pince-nez, and the “Times” in his hand. She is a lady of nearly fifty, well dressed, with greyish hair, good features, and a decided manner. They face each other.
Barthwick. [From behind his paper.] The Labour man has got in at the by-election for Barnside, my dear.
Mrs. Barthwick. Another Labour? I can’t think what on earth the country is about.
Barthwick. I predicted it. It’s not a matter of vast importance.
Mrs. Barthwick. Not? How can you take it so calmly, John? To me it’s simply outrageous. And there you sit, you Liberals, and pretend to encourage these people!
Barthwick. [Frowning.] The representation of all parties is necessary for any proper reform, for any proper social policy.
Mrs. Barthwick. I’ve no patience with your talk of reform—all that nonsense about social policy. We know perfectly well what it is they want; they want things for themselves. Those Socialists and Labour men are an absolutely selfish set of people. They have no sense of patriotism, like the upper classes; they simply want what we’ve got.
Barthwick. Want what we’ve got! [He stares into space.] My dear, what are you talking about? [With a contortion.] I ’m no alarmist.
Mrs. Barthwick. Cream? Quite uneducated men! Wait until they begin to tax our investments. I ’m convinced that when they once get a chance they will tax everything—they ’ve no feeling for the country. You Liberals and Conservatives, you ’re all alike; you don’t see an inch before your noses. You’ve no imagination, not a scrap of imagination between you. You ought to join hands and nip it in the bud.
Barthwick. You ’re talking nonsense! How is it possible for Liberals and Conservatives to join hands, as you call it? That shows how absurd it is for women——Why, the very essence of a Liberal is to trust in the people!
Mrs. Barthwick. Now, John, eat your breakfast. As if there were any real difference between you and the Conservatives. All the upper classes have the same interests to protect, and the same principles. [Calmly.] Oh! you’re sitting upon a volcano, John.