MARGARET. You shouldnt have prayed for me to be enlightened if you didnt want me to be enlightened. If the truth were known, I suspect we all want our prayers to be answered only by halves: the agreeable halves. Your prayer didnt get answered by halves, mother. Youve got more than you bargained for in the way of enlightenment. I shall never be the same again. I shall never speak in the old way again. Ive been set free from this silly little hole of a house and all its pretences. I know now that I am stronger than you and Papa. I havnt found that happiness of yours that is within yourself; but Ive found strength. For good or evil I am set free; and none of the things that used to hold me can hold me now.
Knox comes back, unable to bear his suspense.
KNOX. How long more are you going to keep me waiting, Amelia? Do you think I’m made of iron? Whats the girl done? What are we going to do?
MRS KNOX. Shes beyond my control, Jo, and beyond yours. I cant even pray for her now; for I dont know rightly what to pray for.
KNOX. Dont talk nonsense, woman: is this a time for praying? Does anybody know? Thats what we have to consider now. If only we can keep it dark, I don’t care for anything else.
MARGARET. Dont hope for that, father. Mind: I’ll tell everybody. It ought to be told. It must be told.
KNOX. Hold your tongue, you young hussy; or go out of my house this instant.
MARGARET. I’m quite ready. [She takes her hat and turns to the door].
KNOX. [throwing himself in front of it] Here! where are you going?
MRS KNOX. [rising] You mustnt turn her out, Jo! I’ll go with her if she goes.
KNOX. Who wants to turn her out? But is she going to ruin us? To let everybody know of her disgrace and shame? To tear me down from the position Ive made for myself and you by forty years hard struggling?
MARGARET. Yes: I’m going to tear it all down. It stands between us and everything. I’ll tell everybody.
KNOX. Magsy, my child: dont bring down your father’s hairs with sorrow to the grave. Theres only one thing I care about in the world: to keep this dark. I’m your father. I ask you here on my knees—in the dust, so to speak—not to let it out.
MARGARET. I’ll tell everybody.
Knox collapses in despair. Mrs Knox tries to pray and cannot. Margaret stands inflexible.
Again in the Gilbeys’ dining-room. Afternoon. The table is not laid: it is draped in its ordinary cloth, with pen and ink, an exercise-book, and school-books on it. Bobby Gilbey is in the arm-chair, crouching over the fire, reading an illustrated paper. He is a pretty youth, of very suburban gentility, strong and manly enough by nature, but untrained and unsatisfactory, his parents having imagined that domestic restriction is what they call “bringing up.” He has learnt nothing from it except a habit of evading it by deceit.