OCTAVIUS. We feel that, as you may imagine, pretty deeply.
RAMSDEN. [testily] It is some young fool who has not enough experience to know what mystifications of this kind lead to.
HECTOR. [with strong symptoms of moral repugnance] I hope so. A man need be very young and pretty foolish too to be excused for such conduct. You take a very lenient view, Mr Ramsden. Too lenient to my mind. Surely marriage should ennoble a man.
TANNER. [sardonically] Ha!
HECTOR. Am I to gather from that cacchination that you don't agree with me, Mr Tanner?
TANNER. [drily] Get married and try. You may find it delightful for a while: you certainly won't find it ennobling. The greatest common measure of a man and a woman is not necessarily greater than the man's single measure.
HECTOR. Well, we think in America that a woman's moral number is higher than a man's, and that the purer nature of a woman lifts a man right out of himself, and makes him better than he was.
OCTAVIUS. [with conviction] So it does.
TANNER. No wonder American women prefer to live in Europe! It's more comfortable than standing all their lives on an altar to be worshipped. Anyhow, Violet's husband has not been ennobled. So what's to be done?
HECTOR. [shaking his head] I can't dismiss that man's conduct as lightly as you do, Mr Tanner. However, I'll say no more. Whoever he is, he's Miss Robinson's husband; and I should be glad for her sake to think better of him.
OCTAVIUS. [touched; for he divines a secret sorrow] I'm very sorry, Malone. Very sorry.
HECTOR. [gratefully] You're a good fellow, Robinson, Thank you.
TANNER. Talk about something else. Violet's coming from the house.
HECTOR. I should esteem it a very great favor, men, if you would take the opportunity to let me have a few words with the lady alone. I shall have to cry off this trip; and it's rather a delicate—
RAMSDEN. [glad to escape] Say no more. Come Tanner, Come, Tavy. [He strolls away into the park with Octavius and Tanner, past the motor car].
Violet comes down the avenue to Hector.
VIOLET. Are they looking?
She kisses him.
VIOLET. Have you been telling lies for my sake?
HECTOR. Lying! Lying hardly describes it. I overdo it. I get carried away in an ecstasy of mendacity. Violet: I wish you'd let me own up.
VIOLET. [instantly becoming serious and resolute] No, no. Hector: you promised me not to.
HECTOR. I'll keep my promise until you release me from it. But I feel mean, lying to those men, and denying my wife. Just dastardly.
VIOLET. I wish your father were not so unreasonable.
HECTOR. He's not unreasonable. He's right from his point of view. He has a prejudice against the English middle class.
VIOLET. It's too ridiculous. You know how I dislike saying such things to you, Hector; but if I were to—oh, well, no matter.
HECTOR. I know. If you were to marry the son of an English manufacturer of office furniture, your friends would consider it a misalliance. And here's my silly old dad, who is the biggest office furniture man in the world, would show me the door for marrying the most perfect lady in England merely because she has no handle to her name. Of course it's just absurd. But I tell you, Violet, I don't like deceiving him. I feel as if I was stealing his money. Why won't you let me own up?
VIOLET. We can't afford it. You can be as romantic as you please about love, Hector; but you mustn't be romantic about money.
HECTOR. [divided between his uxoriousness and his habitual elevation of moral sentiment] That's very English. [Appealing to her impulsively] Violet: Dad's bound to find us out some day.
VIOLET. Oh yes, later on of course. But don't let's go over this every time we meet, dear. You promised—
HECTOR. All right, all right, I—
VIOLET. [not to be silenced] It is I and not you who suffer by this concealment; and as to facing a struggle and poverty and all that sort of thing I simply will not do it. It's too silly.
HECTOR. You shall not. I'll sort of borrow the money from my dad until I get on my own feet; and then I can own up and pay up at the same time.
VIOLET. [alarmed and indignant] Do you mean to work? Do you want to spoil our marriage?
HECTOR. Well, I don't mean to let marriage spoil my character. Your friend Mr Tanner has got the laugh on me a bit already about that; and—
VIOLET. The beast! I hate Jack Tanner.
HECTOR. [magnanimously] Oh, he's all right: he only needs the love of a good woman to ennoble him. Besides, he's proposed a motoring trip to Nice; and I'm going to take you.
VIOLET. How jolly!
HECTOR. Yes; but how are we going to manage? You see, they've warned me off going with you, so to speak. They've told me in confidence that you're married. That's just the most overwhelming confidence I've ever been honored with.
Tanner returns with Straker, who goes to his car.
TANNER. Your car is a great success, Mr Malone. Your engineer is showing it off to Mr Ramsden.
HECTOR. [eagerly—forgetting himself] Let's come, Vi.
VIOLET. [coldly, warning him with her eyes] I beg your pardon, Mr Malone, I did not quite catch—
HECTOR. [recollecting himself] I ask to be allowed the pleasure of showing you my little American steam car, Miss Robinson.
VIOLET. I shall be very pleased. [They go off together down the avenue].
TANNER. About this trip, Straker.
STRAKER. [preoccupied with the car] Yes?
TANNER. Miss Whitefield is supposed to be coming with me.
STRAKER. So I gather.
TANNER. Mr Robinson is to be one of the party.
TANNER. Well, if you can manage so as to be a good deal occupied with me, and leave Mr Robinson a good deal occupied with Miss Whitefield, he will be deeply grateful to you.
STRAKER. [looking round at him] Evidently.
TANNER. "Evidently!" Your grandfather would have simply winked.
STRAKER. My grandfather would have touched his at.
TANNER. And I should have given your good nice respectful grandfather a sovereign.
STRAKER. Five shillins, more likely. [He leaves the car and approaches Tanner]. What about the lady's views?
TANNER. She is just as willing to be left to Mr Robinson as Mr Robinson is to be left to her. [Straker looks at his principal with cool scepticism; then turns to the car whistling his favorite air]. Stop that aggravating noise. What do you mean by it? [Straker calmly resumes the melody and finishes it. Tanner politely hears it out before he again addresses Straker, this time with elaborate seriousness]. Enry: I have ever been a warm advocate of the spread of music among the masses; but I object to your obliging the company whenever Miss Whitefield's name is mentioned. You did it this morning, too.
STRAKER. [obstinately] It's not a bit o use. Mr Robinson may as well give it up first as last.
STRAKER. Garn! You know why. Course it's not my business; but you needn't start kiddin me about it.
TANNER. I am not kidding. I don't know why.
STRAKER. [Cheerfully sulky] Oh, very well. All right. It ain't my business.
TANNER. [impressively] I trust, Enry, that, as between employer and engineer, I shall always know how to keep my proper distance, and not intrude my private affairs on you. Even our business arrangements are subject to the approval of your Trade Union. But don't abuse your advantages. Let me remind you that Voltaire said that what was too silly to be said could be sung.
STRAKER. It wasn't Voltaire: it was Bow Mar Shay.
TANNER. I stand corrected: Beaumarchais of course. Now you seem to think that what is too delicate to be said can be whistled. Unfortunately your whistling, though melodious, is unintelligible. Come! there's nobody listening: neither my genteel relatives nor the secretary of your confounded Union. As man to man, Enry, why do you think that my friend has no chance with Miss Whitefield?
STRAKER. Cause she's arter summun else.
TANNER. Bosh! who else?
STRAKER. Mean to tell me you didn't know? Oh, come, Mr Tanner!
TANNER. [in fierce earnest] Are you playing the fool, or do you mean it?
STRAKER. [with a flash of temper] I'm not playin no fool. [More coolly] Why, it's as plain as the nose on your face. If you ain't spotted that, you don't know much about these sort of things. [Serene again] Ex-cuse me, you know, Mr Tanner; but you asked me as man to man; and I told you as man to man.
TANNER. [wildly appealing to the heavens] Then I—I am the bee, the spider, the marked down victim, the destined prey.
STRAKER. I dunno about the bee and the spider. But the marked down victim, that's what you are and no mistake; and a jolly good job for you, too, I should say.
TANNER. [momentously] Henry Straker: the moment of your life has arrived.
STRAKER. What d'y'mean?
TANNER. That record to Biskra.
STRAKER. [eagerly] Yes?
TANNER. Break it.
STRAKER. [rising to the height of his destiny] D'y'mean it?
TANNER. I do.
TANNER. Now. Is that machine ready to start?
STRAKER. [quailing] But you can't—
TANNER. [cutting him short by getting into the car] Off we go. First to the bank for money; then to my rooms for my kit; then to your rooms for your kit; then break the record from London to Dover or Folkestone; then across the channel and away like mad to Marseilles, Gibraltar, Genoa, any port from which we can sail to a Mahometan country where men are protected from women.
STRAKER. Garn! you're kiddin.
TANNER. [resolutely] Stay behind then. If you won't come I'll do it alone. [He starts the motor].
STRAKER. [running after him] Here! Mister! arf a mo! steady on! [he scrambles in as the car plunges forward].
Evening in the Sierra Nevada. Rolling slopes of brown, with olive trees instead of apple trees in the cultivated patches, and occasional prickly pears instead of gorse and bracken in the wilds. Higher up, tall stone peaks and precipices, all handsome and distinguished. No wild nature here: rather a most aristocratic mountain landscape made by a fastidious artist-creator. No vulgar profusion of vegetation: even a touch of aridity in the frequent patches of stones: Spanish magnificence and Spanish economy everywhere.
Not very far north of a spot at which the high road over one of the passes crosses a tunnel on the railway from Malaga to Granada, is one of the mountain amphitheatres of the Sierra. Looking at it from the wide end of the horse-shoe, one sees, a little to the right, in the face of the cliff, a romantic cave which is really an abandoned quarry, and towards the left a little hill, commanding a view of the road, which skirts the amphitheatre on the left, maintaining its higher level on embankments and on an occasional stone arch. On the hill, watching the road, is a man who is either a Spaniard or a Scotchman. Probably a Spaniard, since he wears the dress of a Spanish goatherd and seems at home in the Sierra Nevada, but very like a Scotchman for all that. In the hollow, on the slope leading to the quarry-cave, are about a dozen men who, as they recline at their cave round a heap of smouldering white ashes of dead leaf and brushwood, have an air of being conscious of themselves as picturesque scoundrels honoring the Sierra by using it as an effective pictorial background. As a matter of artistic fact they are not picturesque; and the mountains tolerate them as lions tolerate lice. An English policeman or Poor Law Guardian would recognize them as a selected band of tramps and ablebodied paupers.
This description of them is not wholly contemptuous. Whoever has intelligently observed the tramp, or visited the ablebodied ward of a workhouse, will admit that our social failures are not all drunkards and weaklings. Some of them are men who do not fit the class they were born into. Precisely the same qualities that make the educated gentleman an artist may make an uneducated manual laborer an ablebodied pauper. There are men who fall helplessly into the workhouse because they are good far nothing; but there are also men who are there because they are strongminded enough to disregard the social convention (obviously not a disinterested one on the part of the ratepayer) which bids a man live by heavy and badly paid drudgery when he has the alternative of walking into the workhouse, announcing himself as a destitute person, and legally compelling the Guardians to feed, clothe and house him better than he could feed, clothe and house himself without great exertion. When a man who is born a poet refuses a stool in a stockbroker's office, and starves in a garret, spunging on a poor landlady or on his friends and relatives rather than work against his grain; or when a lady, because she is a lady, will face any extremity of parasitic dependence rather than take a situation as cook or parlormaid, we make large allowances for them. To such allowances the ablebodied pauper and his nomadic variant the tramp are equally entitled.
Further, the imaginative man, if his life is to be tolerable to him, must have leisure to tell himself stories, and a position which lends itself to imaginative decoration. The ranks of unskilled labor offer no such positions. We misuse our laborers horribly; and when a man refuses to be misused, we have no right to say that he is refusing honest work. Let us be frank in this matter before we go on with our play; so that we may enjoy it without hypocrisy. If we were reasoning, farsighted people, four fifths of us would go straight to the Guardians for relief, and knock the whole social system to pieces with most beneficial reconstructive results. The reason we do got do this is because we work like bees or ants, by instinct or habit, not reasoning about the matter at all. Therefore when a man comes along who can and does reason, and who, applying the Kantian test to his conduct, can truly say to us, If everybody did as I do, the world would be compelled to reform itself industrially, and abolish slavery and squalor, which exist only because everybody does as you do, let us honor that man and seriously consider the advisability of following his example. Such a man is the able-bodied, able-minded pauper. Were he a gentleman doing his best to get a pension or a sinecure instead of sweeping a crossing, nobody would blame him; for deciding that so long as the alternative lies between living mainly at the expense of the community and allowing the community to live mainly at his, it would be folly to accept what is to him personally the greater of the two evils.
We may therefore contemplate the tramps of the Sierra without prejudice, admitting cheerfully that our objects—briefly, to be gentlemen of fortune—are much the same as theirs, and the difference in our position and methods merely accidental. One or two of them, perhaps, it would be wiser to kill without malice in a friendly and frank manner; for there are bipeds, just as there are quadrupeds, who are too dangerous to be left unchained and unmuzzled; and these cannot fairly expect to have other men's lives wasted in the work of watching them. But as society has not the courage to kill them, and, when it catches them, simply wreaks on them some superstitious expiatory rites of torture and degradation, and than lets them loose with heightened qualifications for mischief; it is just as well that they are at large in the Sierra, and in the hands of a chief who looks as if he might possibly, on provocation, order them to be shot.
This chief, seated in the centre of the group on a squared block of stone from the quarry, is a tall strong man, with a striking cockatoo nose, glossy black hair, pointed beard, upturned moustache, and a Mephistophelean affectation which is fairly imposing, perhaps because the scenery admits of a larger swagger than Piccadilly, perhaps because of a certain sentimentality in the man which gives him that touch of grace which alone can excuse deliberate picturesqueness. His eyes and mouth are by no means rascally; he has a fine voice and a ready wit; and whether he is really the strongest man in the party, or not, he looks it. He is certainly, the best fed, the best dressed, and the best trained. The fact that he speaks English is not unexpected in spite of the Spanish landscape; for with the exception of one man who might be guessed as a bullfighter ruined by drink and one unmistakable Frenchman, they are all cockney or American; therefore, in a land of cloaks and sombreros, they mostly wear seedy overcoats, woollen mufflers, hard hemispherical hats, and dirty brown gloves. Only a very few dress after their leader, whose broad sombrero with a cock's feather in the band, and voluminous cloak descending to his high boots, are as un-English as possible. None of them are armed; and the ungloved ones keep their hands in their pockets because it is their national belief that it must be dangerously cold in the open air with the night coming on. (It is as warm an evening as any reasonable man could desire).
Except the bullfighting inebriate there is only one person in the company who looks more than, say, thirty-three. He is a small man with reddish whiskers, weak eyes, and the anxious look of a small tradesman in difficulties. He wears the only tall hat visible: it shines in the sunset with the sticky glow of some sixpenny patent hat reviver, often applied and constantly tending to produce a worse state of the original surface than the ruin it was applied to remedy. He has a collar and cuff of celluloid; and his brown Chesterfield overcoat, with velvet collar, is still presentable. He is pre-eminently the respectable man of the party, and is certainly over forty, possibly over fifty. He is the corner man on the leader's right, opposite three men in scarlet ties on his left. One of these three is the Frenchman. Of the remaining two, who are both English, one is argumentative, solemn, and obstinate; the other rowdy and mischievous.
The chief, with a magnificent fling of the end of his cloak across his left shoulder, rises to address them. The applause which greets him shows that he is a favorite orator.
THE CHIEF. Friends and fellow brigands. I have a proposal to make to this meeting. We have now spent three evenings in discussing the question Have Anarchists or Social-Democrats the most personal courage? We have gone into the principles of Anarchism and Social-Democracy at great length. The cause of Anarchy has been ably represented by our one Anarchist, who doesn't know what Anarchism means [laughter]—
THE ANARCHIST. [rising] A point of order, Mendoza—
MENDOZA. [forcibly] No, by thunder: your last point of order took half an hour. Besides, Anarchists don't believe in order.
THE ANARCHIST. [mild, polite but persistent: he is, in fact, the respectable looking elderly man in the celluloid collar and cuffs] That is a vulgar error. I can prove—
MENDOZA. Order, order.
THE OTHERS [shouting] Order, order. Sit down. Chair! Shut up.
The Anarchist is suppressed.
MENDOZA. On the other hand we have three Social-Democrats among us. They are not on speaking terms; and they have put before us three distinct and incompatible views of Social-Democracy.
THE MAJORITY. [shouting assent] Hear, hear! So we are. Right.
THE ROWDY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. [smarting under oppression] You ain't no Christian. You're a Sheeny, you are.
MENDOZA. [with crushing magnanimity] My friend; I am an exception to all rules. It is true that I have the honor to be a Jew; and, when the Zionists need a leader to reassemble our race on its historic soil of Palestine, Mendoza will not be the last to volunteer [sympathetic applause—hear, hear, etc.]. But I am not a slave to any superstition. I have swallowed all the formulas, even that of Socialism; though, in a sense, once a Socialist, always a Socialist.
THE SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS. Hear, hear!
MENDOZA. But I am well aware that the ordinary man—even the ordinary brigand, who can scarcely be called an ordinary man [Hear, hear!]—is not a philosopher. Common sense is good enough for him; and in our business affairs common sense is good enough for me. Well, what is our business here in the Sierra Nevada, chosen by the Moors as the fairest spot in Spain? Is it to discuss abstruse questions of political economy? No: it is to hold up motor cars and secure a more equitable distribution of wealth.
THE SULKY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. All made by labor, mind you.
MENDOZA. [urbanely] Undoubtedly. All made by labor, and on its way to be squandered by wealthy vagabonds in the dens of vice that disfigure the sunny shores of the Mediterranean. We intercept that wealth. We restore it to circulation among the class that produced it and that chiefly needs it—the working class. We do this at the risk of our lives and liberties, by the exercise of the virtues of courage, endurance, foresight, and abstinence—especially abstinence. I myself have eaten nothing but prickly pears and broiled rabbit for three days.
THE SULKY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. [Stubbornly] No more ain't we.
MENDOZA. [indignantly] Have I taken more than my share?
THE SULKY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. [unmoved] Why should you?
THE ANARCHIST. Why should he not? To each according to his needs: from each according to his means.
THE FRENCHMAN. [shaking his fist at the anarchist] Fumiste!
MENDOZA. [diplomatically] I agree with both of you.
THE GENUINELY ENGLISH BRIGANDS. Hear, hear! Bravo, Mendoza!
MENDOZA. What I say is, let us treat one another as gentlemen, and strive to excel in personal courage only when we take the field.
THE ROWDY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. [derisively] Shikespear.
A whistle comes from the goatherd on the hill. He springs up and points excitedly forward along the road to the north.
THE GOATHERD. Automobile! Automobile! [He rushes down the hill and joins the rest, who all scramble to their feet].
MENDOZA. [in ringing tones] To arms! Who has the gun?
THE SULKY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. [handing a rifle to Mendoza] Here.
MENDOZA. Have the nails been strewn in the road?
THE ROWDY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. Two ahnces of em.
MENDOZA. Good! [To the Frenchman] With me, Duval. If the nails fail, puncture their tires with a bullet. [He gives the rifle to Duval, who follows him up the hill. Mendoza produces an opera glass. The others hurry across to the road and disappear to the north].
MENDOZA. [on the hill, using his glass] Two only, a capitalist and his chauffeur. They look English.
DUVAL. Angliche! Aoh yess. Cochons! [Handling the rifle] Faut tire, n'est-ce-pas?
MENDOZA. No: the nails have gone home. Their tire is down: they stop.
DUVAL. [shouting to the others] Fondez sur eux, nom de Dieu!
MENDOZA. [rebuking his excitement] Du calme, Duval: keep your hair on. They take it quietly. Let us descend and receive them.
Mendoza descends, passing behind the fire and coming forward, whilst Tanner and Straker, in their motoring goggles, leather coats, and caps, are led in from the road by brigands.
TANNER. Is this the gentleman you describe as your boss? Does he speak English?
THE ROWDY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. Course he does. Y'don't suppowz we Hinglishmen lets ahrselves be bossed by a bloomin Spenniard, do you?
MENDOZA. [with dignity] Allow me to introduce myself: Mendoza, President of the League of the Sierra! [Posing loftily] I am a brigand: I live by robbing the rich.
TANNER. [promptly] I am a gentleman: I live by robbing the poor. Shake hands.
THE ENGLISH SOCIAL-DEMOCRATS. Hear, hear!
General laughter and good humor. Tanner and Mendoza shake hands. The Brigands drop into their former places.
STRAKER. Ere! where do I come in?
TANNER. [introducing] My friend and chauffeur.
THE SULKY SOCIAL-DEMOCRAT. [suspiciously] Well, which is he? friend or show-foor? It makes all the difference you know.
MENDOZA. [explaining] We should expect ransom for a friend. A professional chauffeur is free of the mountains. He even takes a trifling percentage of his princpal's ransom if he will honor us by accepting it.
STRAKER. I see. Just to encourage me to come this way again. Well, I'll think about it.
DUVAL. [impulsively rushing across to Straker] Mon frere! [He embraces him rapturously and kisses him on both cheeks].
STRAKER. [disgusted] Ere, git out: don't be silly. Who are you, pray?
DUVAL. Duval: Social-Democrat.
STRAKER. Oh, you're a Social-Democrat, are you?
THE ANARCHIST. He means that he has sold out to the parliamentary humbugs and the bourgeoisie. Compromise! that is his faith.
DUVAL. [furiously] I understand what he say. He say Bourgeois. He say Compromise. Jamais de la vie! Miserable menteur—
STRAKER. See here, Captain Mendoza, ow much o this sort o thing do you put up with here? Are we avin a pleasure trip in the mountains, or are we at a Socialist meetin?
THE MAJORITY. Hear, hear! Shut up. Chuck it. Sit down, etc. etc. [The Social-Democrats and the Anarchist are hurtled into the background. Straker, after superintending this proceeding with satisfaction, places himself on Mendoza's left, Tanner being on his right].
MENDOZA. Can we offer you anything? Broiled rabbit and prickly pears—
TANNER. Thank you: we have dined.
MENDOZA. [to his followers] Gentlemen: business is over for the day. Go as you please until morning.
The Brigands disperse into groups lazily. Some go into the cave. Others sit down or lie down to sleep in the open. A few produce a pack of cards and move off towards the road; for it is now starlight; and they know that motor cars have lamps which can be turned to account for lighting a card party.
STRAKER. [calling after them] Don't none of you go fooling with that car, d'ye hear?
MENDOZA. No fear, Monsieur le Chauffeur. The first one we captured cured us of that.
STRAKER. [interested] What did it do?
MENDOZA. It carried three brave comrades of ours, who did not know how to stop it, into Granada, and capsized them opposite the police station. Since then we never touch one without sending for the chauffeur. Shall we chat at our ease?
TANNER. By all means.
Tanner, Mendoza, and Straker sit down on the turf by the fire. Mendoza delicately waives his presidential dignity, of which the right to sit on the squared stone block is the appanage, by sitting on the ground like his guests, and using the stone only as a support for his back.
MENDOZA. It is the custom in Spain always to put off business until to-morrow. In fact, you have arrived out of office hours. However, if you would prefer to settle the question of ransom at once, I am at your service.
TANNER. To-morrow will do for me. I am rich enough to pay anything in reason.
MENDOZA. [respectfully, much struck by this admission] You are a remarkable man, sir. Our guests usually describe themselves as miserably poor.
TANNER. Pooh! Miserably poor people don't own motor cars.
MENDOZA. Precisely what we say to them.
TANNER. Treat us well: we shall not prove ungrateful.
STRAKER. No prickly pears and broiled rabbits, you know. Don't tell me you can't do us a bit better than that if you like.
MENDOZA. Wine, kids, milk, cheese and bread can be procured for ready money.
STRAKER. [graciously] Now you're talking.
TANNER. Are you all Socialists here, may I ask?
MENDOZA. [repudiating this humiliating misconception] Oh no, no, no: nothing of the kind, I assure you. We naturally have modern views as to the justice of the existing distribution of wealth: otherwise we should lose our self-respect. But nothing that you could take exception to, except two or three faddists.
TANNER. I had no intention of suggesting anything discreditable. In fact, I am a bit of a Socialist myself.
STRAKER. [drily] Most rich men are, I notice.
MENDOZA. Quite so. It has reached us, I admit. It is in the air of the century.
STRAKER. Socialism must be looking up a bit if your chaps are taking to it.
MENDOZA. That is true, sir. A movement which is confined to philosophers and honest men can never exercise any real political influence: there are too few of them. Until a movement shows itself capable of spreading among brigands, it can never hope for a political majority.
TANNER. But are your brigands any less honest than ordinary citizens?
MENDOZA. Sir: I will be frank with you. Brigandage is abnormal. Abnormal professions attract two classes: those who are not good enough for ordinary bourgeois life and those who are too good for it. We are dregs and scum, sir: the dregs very filthy, the scum very superior.
STRAKER. Take care! some o the dregs'll hear you.
MENDOZA. It does not matter: each brigand thinks himself scum, and likes to hear the others called dregs.
TANNER. Come! you are a wit. [Mendoza inclines his head, flattered]. May one ask you a blunt question?
MENDOZA. As blunt as you please.
TANNER. How does it pay a man of your talent to shepherd such a flock as this on broiled rabbit and prickly pears? I have seen men less gifted, and I'll swear less honest, supping at the Savoy on foie gras and champagne.
MENDOZA. Pooh! they have all had their turn at the broiled rabbit, just as I shall have my turn at the Savoy. Indeed, I have had a turn there already—as waiter.
TANNER. A waiter! You astonish me!
MENDOZA. [reflectively] Yes: I, Mendoza of the Sierra, was a waiter. Hence, perhaps, my cosmopolitanism. [With sudden intensity] Shall I tell you the story of my life?
STRAKER. [apprehensively] If it ain't too long, old chap—
TANNER. [interrupting him] Tsh-sh: you are a Philistine, Henry: you have no romance in you. [To Mendoza] You interest me extremely, President. Never mind Henry: he can go to sleep.
MENDOZA. The woman I loved—
STRAKER. Oh, this is a love story, is it? Right you are. Go on: I was only afraid you were going to talk about yourself.
MENDOZA. Myself! I have thrown myself away for her sake: that is why I am here. No matter: I count the world well lost for her. She had, I pledge you my word, the most magnificent head of hair I ever saw. She had humor; she had intellect; she could cook to perfection; and her highly strung temperament made her uncertain, incalculable, variable, capricious, cruel, in a word, enchanting.
STRAKER. A six shillin novel sort o woman, all but the cookin. Er name was Lady Gladys Plantagenet, wasn't it?
MENDOZA. No, sir: she was not an earl's daughter. Photography, reproduced by the half-tone process, has made me familiar with the appearance of the daughters of the English peerage; and I can honestly say that I would have sold the lot, faces, dowries, clothes, titles, and all, for a smile from this woman. Yet she was a woman of the people, a worker: otherwise—let me reciprocate your bluntness—I should have scorned her.
TANNER. Very properly. And did she respond to your love?
MENDOZA. Should I be here if she did? She objected to marry a Jew.
TANNER. On religious grounds?
MENDOZA. No: she was a freethinker. She said that every Jew considers in his heart that English people are dirty in their habits.
TANNER. [surprised] Dirty!
MENDOZA. It showed her extraordinary knowledge of the world; for it is undoubtedly true. Our elaborate sanitary code makes us unduly contemptuous of the Gentile.
TANNER. Did you ever hear that, Henry?
STRAKER. I've heard my sister say so. She was cook in a Jewish family once.
MENDOZA. I could not deny it; neither could I eradicate the impression it made on her mind. I could have got round any other objection; but no woman can stand a suspicion of indelicacy as to her person. My entreaties were in vain: she always retorted that she wasn't good enough for me, and recommended me to marry an accursed barmaid named Rebecca Lazarus, whom I loathed. I talked of suicide: she offered me a packet of beetle poison to do it with. I hinted at murder: she went into hysterics; and as I am a living man I went to America so that she might sleep without dreaming that I was stealing upstairs to cut her throat. In America I went out west and fell in with a man who was wanted by the police for holding up trains. It was he who had the idea of holding up motors cars—in the South of Europe: a welcome idea to a desperate and disappointed man. He gave me some valuable introductions to capitalists of the right sort. I formed a syndicate; and the present enterprise is the result. I became leader, as the Jew always becomes leader, by his brains and imagination. But with all my pride of race I would give everything I possess to be an Englishman. I am like a boy: I cut her name on the trees and her initials on the sod. When I am alone I lie down and tear my wretched hair and cry Louisa—
STRAKER. [startled] Louisa!
MENDOZA. It is her name—Louisa—Louisa Straker—
STRAKER. [scrambling up on his knees most indignantly] Look here: Louisa Straker is my sister, see? Wot do you mean by gassin about her like this? Wot she got to do with you?
MENDOZA. A dramatic coincidence! You are Enry, her favorite brother!
STRAKER. Oo are you callin Enry? What call have you to take a liberty with my name or with hers? For two pins I'd punch your fat ed, so I would.
MENDOZA. [with grandiose calm] If I let you do it, will you promise to brag of it afterwards to her? She will be reminded of her Mendoza: that is all I desire.
TANNER. This is genuine devotion, Henry. You should respect it.
STRAKER. [fiercely] Funk, more likely.
MENDOZA. [springing to his feet] Funk! Young man: I come of a famous family of fighters; and as your sister well knows, you would have as much chance against me as a perambulator against your motor car.
STRAKER. [secretly daunted, but rising from his knees with an air of reckless pugnacity] I ain't afraid of you. With your Louisa! Louisa! Miss Straker is good enough for you, I should think.
MENDOZA. I wish you could persuade her to think so.
STRAKER. [exasperated] Here—
TANNER. [rising quickly and interposing] Oh come, Henry: even if you could fight the President you can't fight the whole League of the Sierra. Sit down again and be friendly. A cat may look at a king; and even a President of brigands may look at your sister. All this family pride is really very old fashioned.
STRAKER. [subdued, but grumbling] Let him look at her. But wot does he mean by makin out that she ever looked at im? [Reluctantly resuming his couch on the turf] Ear him talk, one ud think she was keepin company with him. [He turns his back on them and composes himself to sleep].
MENDOZA. [to Tanner, becoming more confidential as he finds himself virtually alone with a sympathetic listener in the still starlight of the mountains; for all the rest are asleep by this time] It was just so with her, sir. Her intellect reached forward into the twentieth century: her social prejudices and family affections reached back into the dark ages. Ah, sir, how the words of Shakespear seem to fit every crisis in our emotions!
I loved Louisa: 40,000 brothers Could not with all their quantity of love Make up my sum.
And so on. I forget the rest. Call it madness if you will—infatuation. I am an able man, a strong man: in ten years I should have owned a first-class hotel. I met her; and you see! I am a brigand, an outcast. Even Shakespear cannot do justice to what I feel for Louisa. Let me read you some lines that I have written about her myself. However slight their literary merit may be, they express what I feel better than any casual words can. [He produces a packet of hotel bills scrawled with manuscript, and kneels at the fire to decipher them, poking it with a stick to make it glow].
TANNER. [clapping him rudely on the shoulder] Put them in the fire, President.
MENDOZA. [startled] Eh?
TANNER. You are sacrificing your career to a monomania.
MENDOZA. I know it.
TANNER. No you don't. No man would commit such a crime against himself if he really knew what he was doing. How can you look round at these august hills, look up at this divine sky, taste this finely tempered air, and then talk like a literary hack on a second floor in Bloomsbury?
MENDOZA. [shaking his head] The Sierra is no better than Bloomsbury when once the novelty has worn off. Besides, these mountains make you dream of women—of women with magnificent hair.
TANNER. Of Louisa, in short. They will not make me dream of women, my friend: I am heartwhole.
MENDOZA. Do not boast until morning, sir. This is a strange country for dreams.
TANNER. Well, we shall see. Goodnight. [He lies down and composes himself to sleep].
Mendoza, with a sigh, follows his example; and for a few moments there is peace in the Sierra. Then Mendoza sits up suddenly and says pleadingly to Tanner—
MENDOZA. Just allow me to read a few lines before you go to sleep. I should really like your opinion of them.
TANNER. [drowsily] Go on. I am listening.
MENDOZA. I saw thee first in Whitsun week Louisa, Louisa—
TANNER. [roaring himself] My dear President, Louisa is a very pretty name; but it really doesn't rhyme well to Whitsun week.
MENDOZA. Of course not. Louisa is not the rhyme, but the refrain.
TANNER. [subsiding] Ah, the refrain. I beg your pardon. Go on.
MENDOZA. Perhaps you do not care for that one: I think you will like this better. [He recites, in rich soft tones, and to slow time]
Louisa, I love thee. I love thee, Louisa. Louisa, Louisa, Louisa, I love thee. One name and one phrase make my music, Louisa. Louisa, Louisa, Louisa, I love thee.
Mendoza thy lover, Thy lover, Mendoza, Mendoza adoringly lives for Louisa. There's nothing but that in the world for Mendoza. Louisa, Louisa, Mendoza adores thee.
[Affected] There is no merit in producing beautiful lines upon such a name. Louisa is an exquisite name, is it not?
TANNER. [all but asleep, responds with a faint groan].
O wert thou, Louisa, The wife of Mendoza, Mendoza's Louisa, Louisa Mendoza, How blest were the life of Louisa's Mendoza! How painless his longing of love for Louisa!
That is real poetry—from the heart—from the heart of hearts. Don't you think it will move her?
[Resignedly] Asleep, as usual. Doggrel to all the world; heavenly music to me! Idiot that I am to wear my heart on my sleeve! [He composes himself to sleep, murmuring] Louisa, I love thee; I love thee, Louisa; Louisa, Louisa, Louisa, I—
Straker snores; rolls over on his side; and relapses into sleep. Stillness settles on the Sierra; and the darkness deepens. The fire has again buried itself in white ash and ceased to glow. The peaks show unfathomably dark against the starry firmament; but now the stars dim and vanish; and the sky seems to steal away out of the universe. Instead of the Sierra there is nothing; omnipresent nothing. No sky, no peaks, no light, no sound, no time nor space, utter void. Then somewhere the beginning of a pallor, and with it a faint throbbing buzz as of a ghostly violoncello palpitating on the same note endlessly. A couple of ghostly violins presently take advantage of this bass
(a staff of music is supplied here)
and therewith the pallor reveals a man in the void, an incorporeal but visible man, seated, absurdly enough, on nothing. For a moment he raises his head as the music passes him by. Then, with a heavy sigh, he droops in utter dejection; and the violins, discouraged, retrace their melody in despair and at last give it up, extinguished by wailings from uncanny wind instruments, thus:—
It is all very odd. One recognizes the Mozartian strain; and on this hint, and by the aid of certain sparkles of violet light in the pallor, the man's costume explains itself as that of a Spanish nobleman of the XV-XVI century. Don Juan, of course; but where? why? how? Besides, in the brief lifting of his face, now hidden by his hat brim, there was a curious suggestion of Tanner. A more critical, fastidious, handsome face, paler and colder, without Tanner's impetuous credulity and enthusiasm, and without a touch of his modern plutocratic vulgarity, but still a resemblance, even an identity. The name too: Don Juan Tenorio, John Tanner. Where on earth—-or elsewhere—have we got to from the XX century and the Sierra?
Another pallor in the void, this time not violet, but a disagreeable smoky yellow. With it, the whisper of a ghostly clarionet turning this tune into infinite sadness:
(Here there is another musical staff.)
The yellowish pallor moves: there is an old crone wandering in the void, bent and toothless; draped, as well as one can guess, in the coarse brown frock of some religious order. She wanders and wanders in her slow hopeless way, much as a wasp flies in its rapid busy way, until she blunders against the thing she seeks: companionship. With a sob of relief the poor old creature clutches at the presence of the man and addresses him in her dry unlovely voice, which can still express pride and resolution as well as suffering.
THE OLD WOMAN. Excuse me; but I am so lonely; and this place is so awful.
DON JUAN. A new comer?
THE OLD WOMAN. Yes: I suppose I died this morning. I confessed; I had extreme unction; I was in bed with my family about me and my eyes fixed on the cross. Then it grew dark; and when the light came back it was this light by which I walk seeing nothing. I have wandered for hours in horrible loneliness.
DON JUAN. [sighing] Ah! you have not yet lost the sense of time. One soon does, in eternity.
THE OLD WOMAN. Where are we?
DON JUAN. In hell.
THE OLD WOMAN [proudly] Hell! I in hell! How dare you?
DON JUAN. [unimpressed] Why not, Senora?
THE OLD WOMAN. You do not know to whom you are speaking. I am a lady, and a faithful daughter of the Church.
DON JUAN. I do not doubt it.
THE OLD WOMAN. But how then can I be in hell? Purgatory, perhaps: I have not been perfect: who has? But hell! oh, you are lying.
DON JUAN. Hell, Senora, I assure you; hell at its best that is, its most solitary—though perhaps you would prefer company.
THE OLD WOMAN. But I have sincerely repented; I have confessed.
DON JUAN. How much?
THE OLD WOMAN. More sins than I really committed. I loved confession.
DON JUAN. Ah, that is perhaps as bad as confessing too little. At all events, Senora, whether by oversight or intention, you are certainly damned, like myself; and there is nothing for it now but to make the best of it.
THE OLD WOMAN [indignantly] Oh! and I might have been so much wickeder! All my good deeds wasted! It is unjust.
DON JUAN. No: you were fully and clearly warned. For your bad deeds, vicarious atonement, mercy without justice. For your good deeds, justice without mercy. We have many good people here.
THE OLD WOMAN. Were you a good man?
DON JUAN. I was a murderer.
THE OLD WOMAN. A murderer! Oh, how dare they send me to herd with murderers! I was not as bad as that: I was a good woman. There is some mistake: where can I have it set right?
DON JUAN. I do not know whether mistakes can be corrected here. Probably they will not admit a mistake even if they have made one.
THE OLD WOMAN. But whom can I ask?
DON JUAN. I should ask the Devil, Senora: he understands the ways of this place, which is more than I ever could.
THE OLD WOMAN. The Devil! I speak to the Devil!
DON JUAN. In hell, Senora, the Devil is the leader of the best society.
THE OLD WOMAN. I tell you, wretch, I know I am not in hell.
DON JUAN. How do you know?
THE OLD WOMAN. Because I feel no pain.
DON JUAN. Oh, then there is no mistake: you are intentionally damned.
THE OLD WOMAN. Why do you say that?
DON JUAN. Because hell, Senora, is a place for the wicked. The wicked are quite comfortable in it: it was made for them. You tell me you feel no pain. I conclude you are one of those for whom Hell exists.
THE OLD WOMAN. Do you feel no pain?
DON JUAN. I am not one of the wicked, Senora; therefore it bores me, bores me beyond description, beyond belief.
THE OLD WOMAN. Not one of the wicked! You said you were a murderer.
DON JUAN. Only a duel. I ran my sword through an old man who was trying to run his through me.
THE OLD WOMAN. If you were a gentleman, that was not a murder.
DON JUAN. The old man called it murder, because he was, he said, defending his daughter's honor. By this he meant that because I foolishly fell in love with her and told her so, she screamed; and he tried to assassinate me after calling me insulting names.
THE OLD WOMAN. You were like all men. Libertines and murderers all, all, all!
DON JUAN. And yet we meet here, dear lady.
THE OLD WOMAN. Listen to me. My father was slain by just such a wretch as you, in just such a duel, for just such a cause. I screamed: it was my duty. My father drew on my assailant: his honor demanded it. He fell: that was the reward of honor. I am here: in hell, you tell me that is the reward of duty. Is there justice in heaven?
DON JUAN. No; but there is justice in hell: heaven is far above such idle human personalities. You will be welcome in hell, Senora. Hell is the home of honor, duty, justice, and the rest of the seven deadly virtues. All the wickedness on earth is done in their name: where else but in hell should they have their reward? Have I not told you that the truly damned are those who are happy in hell?
THE OLD WOMAN. And are you happy here?
DON JUAN. [Springing to his feet] No; and that is the enigma on which I ponder in darkness. Why am I here? I, who repudiated all duty, trampled honor underfoot, and laughed at justice!
THE OLD WOMAN. Oh, what do I care why you are here? Why am I here? I, who sacrificed all my inclinations to womanly virtue and propriety!
DON JUAN. Patience, lady: you will be perfectly happy and at home here. As with the poet, "Hell is a city much like Seville."
THE OLD WOMAN. Happy! here! where I am nothing! where I am nobody!
DON JUAN. Not at all: you are a lady; and wherever ladies are is hell. Do not be surprised or terrified: you will find everything here that a lady can desire, including devils who will serve you from sheer love of servitude, and magnify your importance for the sake of dignifying their service—the best of servants.
THE OLD WOMAN. My servants will be devils.
DON JUAN. Have you ever had servants who were not devils?
THE OLD WOMAN. Never: they were devils, perfect devils, all of them. But that is only a manner of speaking. I thought you meant that my servants here would be real devils.
DON JUAN. No more real devils than you will be a real lady. Nothing is real here. That is the horror of damnation.
THE OLD WOMAN. Oh, this is all madness. This is worse than fire and the worm.
DON JUAN. For you, perhaps, there are consolations. For instance: how old were you when you changed from time to eternity?
THE OLD WOMAN. Do not ask me how old I was as if I were a thing of the past. I am 77.
DON JUAN. A ripe age, Senora. But in hell old age is not tolerated. It is too real. Here we worship Love and Beauty. Our souls being entirely damned, we cultivate our hearts. As a lady of 77, you would not have a single acquaintance in hell.
THE OLD WOMAN. How can I help my age, man?
DON JUAN. You forget that you have left your age behind you in the realm of time. You are no more 77 than you are 7 or 17 or 27.
THE OLD WOMAN. Nonsense!
DON JUAN. Consider, Senora: was not this true even when you lived on earth? When you were 70, were you really older underneath your wrinkles and your grey hams than when you were 30?
THE OLD WOMAN. No, younger: at 30 I was a fool. But of what use is it to feel younger and look older?
DON JUAN. You see, Senora, the look was only an illusion. Your wrinkles lied, just as the plump smooth skin of many a stupid girl of 17, with heavy spirits and decrepit ideas, lies about her age? Well, here we have no bodies: we see each other as bodies only because we learnt to think about one another under that aspect when we were alive; and we still think in that way, knowing no other. But we can appear to one another at what age we choose. You have but to will any of your old looks back, and back they will come.
THE OLD WOMAN. It cannot be true.
DON JUAN. Try.
THE OLD WOMAN. Seventeen!
DON JUAN. Stop. Before you decide, I had better tell you that these things are a matter of fashion. Occasionally we have a rage for 17; but it does not last long. Just at present the fashionable age is 40—or say 37; but there are signs of a change. If you were at all good-looking at 27, I should suggest your trying that, and setting a new fashion.
THE OLD WOMAN. I do not believe a word you are saying. However, 27 be it. [Whisk! the old woman becomes a young one, and so handsome that in the radiance into which her dull yellow halo has suddenly lightened one might almost mistake her for Ann Whitefield].
DON JUAN. Dona Ana de Ulloa!
ANA. What? You know me!
DON JUAN. And you forget me!
ANA. I cannot see your face. [He raises his hat]. Don Juan Tenorio! Monster! You who slew my father! even here you pursue me.
DON JUAN. I protest I do not pursue you. Allow me to withdraw [going].
ANA. [reining his arm] You shall not leave me alone in this dreadful place.
DON JUAN. Provided my staying be not interpreted as pursuit.
ANA. [releasing him] You may well wonder how I can endure your presence. My dear, dear father!
DON JUAN. Would you like to see him?
ANA. My father HERE!!!
DON JUAN. No: he is in heaven.
ANA. I knew it. My noble father! He is looking down on us now. What must he feel to see his daughter in this place, and in conversation with his murderer!
DON JUAN. By the way, if we should meet him—
ANA. How can we meet him? He is in heaven.
DON JUAN. He condescends to look in upon us here from time to time. Heaven bores him. So let me warn you that if you meet him he will be mortally offended if you speak of me as his murderer! He maintains that he was a much better swordsman than I, and that if his foot had not slipped he would have killed me. No doubt he is right: I was not a good fencer. I never dispute the point; so we are excellent friends.
ANA. It is no dishonor to a soldier to be proud of his skill in arms.
DON JUAN. You would rather not meet him, probably.
ANA. How dare you say that?
DON JUAN. Oh, that is the usual feeling here. You may remember that on earth—though of course we never confessed it—the death of anyone we knew, even those we liked best, was always mingled with a certain satisfaction at being finally done with them.
ANA. Monster! Never, never.
DON JUAN. [placidly] I see you recognize the feeling. Yes: a funeral was always a festivity in black, especially the funeral of a relative. At all events, family ties are rarely kept up here. Your father is quite accustomed to this: he will not expect any devotion from you.
ANA. Wretch: I wore mourning for him all my life.
DON JUAN. Yes: it became you. But a life of mourning is one thing: an eternity of it quite another. Besides, here you are as dead as he. Can anything be more ridiculous than one dead person mourning for another? Do not look shocked, my dear Ana; and do not be alarmed: there is plenty of humbug in hell (indeed there is hardly anything else); but the humbug of death and age and change is dropped because here WE are all dead and all eternal. You will pick up our ways soon.
ANA. And will all the men call me their dear Ana?
DON JUAN. No. That was a slip of the tongue. I beg your pardon.
ANA. [almost tenderly] Juan: did you really love me when you behaved so disgracefully to me?
DON JUAN. [impatiently] Oh, I beg you not to begin talking about love. Here they talk of nothing else but love—its beauty, its holiness, its spirituality, its devil knows what!—excuse me; but it does so bore me. They don't know what they're talking about. I do. They think they have achieved the perfection of love because they have no bodies. Sheer imaginative debauchery! Faugh!
ANA. Has even death failed to refine your soul, Juan? Has the terrible judgment of which my father's statue was the minister taught you no reverence?
DON JUAN. How is that very flattering statue, by the way? Does it still come to supper with naughty people and cast them into this bottomless pit?
ANA. It has been a great expense to me. The boys in the monastery school would not let it alone: the mischievous ones broke it; and the studious ones wrote their names on it. Three new noses in two years, and fingers without end. I had to leave it to its fate at last; and now I fear it is shockingly mutilated. My poor father!
DON JUAN. Hush! Listen! [Two great chords rolling on syncopated waves of sound break forth: D minor and its dominant: a round of dreadful joy to all musicians]. Ha! Mozart's statue music. It is your father. You had better disappear until I prepare him. [She vanishes].
From the void comes a living statue of white marble, designed to represent a majestic old man. But he waives his majesty with infinite grace; walks with a feather-like step; and makes every wrinkle in his war worn visage brim over with holiday joyousness. To his sculptor he owes a perfectly trained figure, which he carries erect and trim; and the ends of his moustache curl up, elastic as watchsprings, giving him an air which, but for its Spanish dignity, would be called jaunty. He is on the pleasantest terms with Don Juan. His voice, save for a much more distinguished intonation, is so like the voice of Roebuck Ramsden that it calls attention to the fact that they are not unlike one another in spite of their very different fashion of shaving.
DON JUAN. Ah, here you are, my friend. Why don't you learn to sing the splendid music Mozart has written for you?
THE STATUE. Unluckily he has written it for a bass voice. Mine is a counter tenor. Well: have you repented yet?
DON JUAN. I have too much consideration for you to repent, Don Gonzalo. If I did, you would have no excuse for coming from Heaven to argue with me.
THE STATUE. True. Remain obdurate, my boy. I wish I had killed you, as I should have done but for an accident. Then I should have come here; and you would have had a statue and a reputation for piety to live up to. Any news?
DON JUAN. Yes: your daughter is dead.
THE STATUE. [puzzled] My daughter? [Recollecting] Oh! the one you were taken with. Let me see: what was her name?
DON JUAN. Ana.
THE STATUE. To be sure: Ana. A goodlooking girl, if I recollect aright. Have you warned Whatshisname—her husband?
DON JUAN. My friend Ottavio? No: I have not seen him since Ana arrived.
Ana comes indignantly to light.
ANA. What does this mean? Ottavio here and YOUR friend! And you, father, have forgotten my name. You are indeed turned to stone.
THE STATUE. My dear: I am so much more admired in marble than I ever was in my own person that I have retained the shape the sculptor gave me. He was one of the first men of his day: you must acknowledge that.
ANA. Father! Vanity! personal vanity! from you!
THE STATUE. Ah, you outlived that weakness, my daughter: you must be nearly 80 by this time. I was cut off (by an accident) in my 64th year, and am considerably your junior in consequence. Besides, my child, in this place, what our libertine friend here would call the farce of parental wisdom is dropped. Regard me, I beg, as a fellow creature, not as a father.
ANA. You speak as this villain speaks.
THE STATUE. Juan is a sound thinker, Ana. A bad fencer, but a sound thinker.
ANA. [horror creeping upon her] I begin to understand. These are devils, mocking me. I had better pray.
THE STATUE. [consoling her] No, no, no, my child: do not pray. If you do, you will throw away the main advantage of this place. Written over the gate here are the words "Leave every hope behind, ye who enter." Only think what a relief that is! For what is hope? A form of moral responsibility. Here there is no hope, and consequently no duty, no work, nothing to be gained by praying, nothing to be lost by doing what you like. Hell, in short, is a place where you have nothing to do but amuse yourself. [Don Juan sighs deeply]. You sigh, friend Juan; but if you dwelt in heaven, as I do, you would realize your advantages.
DON JUAN. You are in good spirits to-day, Commander. You are positively brilliant. What is the matter?
THE STATUE. I have come to a momentous decision, my boy. But first, where is our friend the Devil? I must consult him in the matter. And Ana would like to make his acquaintance, no doubt.
ANA. You are preparing some torment for me.
DON JUAN. All that is superstition, Ana. Reassure yourself. Remember: the devil is not so black as he is painted.
THE STATUE. Let us give him a call.
At the wave of the statue's hand the great chords roll out again but this time Mozart's music gets grotesquely adulterated with Gounod's. A scarlet halo begins to glow; and into it the Devil rises, very Mephistophelean, and not at all unlike Mendoza, though not so interesting. He looks older; is getting prematurely bald; and, in spite of an effusion of goodnature and friendliness, is peevish and sensitive when his advances are not reciprocated. He does not inspire much confidence in his powers of hard work or endurance, and is, on the whole, a disagreeably self-indulgent looking person; but he is clever and plausible, though perceptibly less well bred than the two other men, and enormously less vital than the woman.
THE DEVIL. [heartily] Have I the pleasure of again receiving a visit from the illustrious Commander of Calatrava? [Coldly] Don Juan, your servant. [Politely] And a strange lady? My respects, Senora.
ANA. Are you—
THE DEVIL. [bowing] Lucifer, at your service.
ANA. I shall go mad.
THE DEVIL. [gallantly] Ah, Senora, do not be anxious. You come to us from earth, full of the prejudices and terrors of that priest-ridden place. You have heard me ill spoken of; and yet, believe me, I have hosts of friends there.
ANA. Yes: you reign in their hearts.
THE DEVIL. [shaking his head] You flatter me, Senora; but you are mistaken. It is true that the world cannot get on without me; but it never gives me credit for that: in its heart it mistrusts and hates me. Its sympathies are all with misery, with poverty, with starvation of the body and of the heart. I call on it to sympathize with joy, with love, with happiness, with beauty.
DON JUAN. [nauseated] Excuse me: I am going. You know I cannot stand this.
THE DEVIL. [angrily] Yes: I know that you are no friend of mine.
THE STATUE. What harm is he doing you, Juan? It seems to me that he was talking excellent sense when you interrupted him.
THE DEVIL. [warmly shaking the statue's hand] Thank you, my friend: thank you. You have always understood me: he has always disparaged and avoided me.
DON JUAN. I have treated you with perfect courtesy.
THE DEVIL. Courtesy! What is courtesy? I care nothing for mere courtesy. Give me warmth of heart, true sincerity, the bond of sympathy with love and joy—
DON JUAN. You are making me ill.
THE DEVIL. There! [Appealing to the statue] You hear, sir! Oh, by what irony of fate was this cold selfish egotist sent to my kingdom, and you taken to the icy mansions of the sky!
THE STATUE. I can't complain. I was a hypocrite; and it served me right to be sent to heaven.
THE DEVIL. Why, sir, do you not join us, and leave a sphere for which your temperament is too sympathetic, your heart too warm, your capacity for enjoyment too generous?
THE STATUE. I have this day resolved to do so. In future, excellent Son of the Morning, I am yours. I have left Heaven for ever.
THE DEVIL. [again grasping his hand] Ah, what an honor for me! What a triumph for our cause! Thank you, thank you. And now, my friend—I may call you so at last—could you not persuade HIM to take the place you have left vacant above?
THE STATUE. [shaking his head] I cannot conscientiously recommend anybody with whom I am on friendly terms to deliberately make himself dull and uncomfortable.
THE DEVIL. Of course not; but are you sure HE would be uncomfortable? Of course you know best: you brought him here originally; and we had the greatest hopes of him. His sentiments were in the best taste of our best people. You remember how he sang? [He begins to sing in a nasal operatic baritone, tremulous from an eternity of misuse in the French manner].
Vivan le femmine! Viva il buon vino!
THE STATUE. [taking up the tune an octave higher in his counter tenor]
Sostegno a gloria D'umanita.
THE DEVIL. Precisely. Well, he never sings for us now.
DON JUAN. Do you complain of that? Hell is full of musical amateurs: music is the brandy of the damned. May not one lost soul be permitted to abstain?
THE DEVIL. You dare blaspheme against the sublimest of the arts!
DON JUAN. [with cold disgust] You talk like a hysterical woman fawning on a fiddler.
THE DEVIL. I am not angry. I merely pity you. You have no soul; and you are unconscious of all that you lose. Now you, Senor Commander, are a born musician. How well you sing! Mozart would be delighted if he were still here; but he moped and went to heaven. Curious how these clever men, whom you would have supposed born to be popular here, have turned out social failures, like Don Juan!
DON JUAN. I am really very sorry to be a social failure.
THE DEVIL. Not that we don't admire your intellect, you know. We do. But I look at the matter from your own point of view. You don't get on with us. The place doesn't suit you. The truth is, you have—I won't say no heart; for we know that beneath all your affected cynicism you have a warm one.
DON JUAN. [shrinking] Don't, please don't.
THE DEVIL. [nettled] Well, you've no capacity for enjoyment. Will that satisfy you?
DON JUAN. It is a somewhat less insufferable form of cant than the other. But if you'll allow me, I'll take refuge, as usual, in solitude.
THE DEVIL. Why not take refuge in Heaven? That's the proper place for you. [To Ana] Come, Senora! could you not persuade him for his own good to try a change of air?
ANA. But can he go to Heaven if he wants to?
THE DEVIL. What's to prevent him?
ANA. Can anybody—can I go to Heaven if I want to?
THE DEVIL. [rather contemptuously] Certainly, if your taste lies that way.
ANA. But why doesn't everybody go to Heaven, then?
THE STATUE. [chuckling] I can tell you that, my dear. It's because heaven is the most angelically dull place in all creation: that's why.
THE DEVIL. His excellency the Commander puts it with military bluntness; but the strain of living in Heaven is intolerable. There is a notion that I was turned out of it; but as a matter of fact nothing could have induced me to stay there. I simply left it and organized this place.
THE STATUE. I don't wonder at it. Nobody could stand an eternity of heaven.
THE DEVIL. Oh, it suits some people. Let us be just, Commander: it is a question of temperament. I don't admire the heavenly temperament: I don't understand it: I don't know that I particularly want to understand it; but it takes all sorts to make a universe. There is no accounting for tastes: there are people who like it. I think Don Juan would like it.
DON JUAN. But—pardon my frankness—could you really go back there if you desired to; or are the grapes sour?
THE DEVIL. Back there! I often go back there. Have you never read the book of Job? Have you any canonical authority for assuming that there is any barrier between our circle and the other one?
ANA. But surely there is a great gulf fixed.
THE DEVIL. Dear lady: a parable must not be taken literally. The gulf is the difference between the angelic and the diabolic temperament. What more impassable gulf could you have? Think of what you have seen on earth. There is no physical gulf between the philosopher's class room and the bull ring; but the bull fighters do not come to the class room for all that. Have you ever been in the country where I have the largest following—England? There they have great racecourses, and also concert rooms where they play the classical compositions of his Excellency's friend Mozart. Those who go to the racecourses can stay away from them and go to the classical concerts instead if they like: there is no law against it; for Englishmen never will be slaves: they are free to do whatever the Government and public opinion allows them to do. And the classical concert is admitted to be a higher, more cultivated, poetic, intellectual, ennobling place than the racecourse. But do the lovers of racing desert their sport and flock to the concert room? Not they. They would suffer there all the weariness the Commander has suffered in heaven. There is the great gulf of the parable between the two places. A mere physical gulf they could bridge; or at least I could bridge it for them (the earth is full of Devil's Bridges); but the gulf of dislike is impassable and eternal. And that is the only gulf that separates my friends here from those who are invidiously called the blest.
ANA. I shall go to heaven at once.
THE STATUE. My child; one word of warning first. Let me complete my friend Lucifer's similitude of the classical concert. At every one of those concerts in England you will find rows of weary people who are there, not because they really like classical music, but because they think they ought to like it. Well, there is the same thing in heaven. A number of people sit there in glory, not because they are happy, but because they think they owe it to their position to be in heaven. They are almost all English.
THE DEVIL. Yes: the Southerners give it up and join me just as you have done. But the English really do not seem to know when they are thoroughly miserable. An Englishman thinks he is moral when he is only uncomfortable.
THE STATUE. In short, my daughter, if you go to Heaven without being naturally qualified for it, you will not enjoy yourself there.
ANA. And who dares say that I am not naturally qualified for it? The most distinguished princes of the Church have never questioned it. I owe it to myself to leave this place at once.
THE DEVIL. [offended] As you please, Senora. I should have expected better taste from you.
ANA. Father: I shall expect you to come with me. You cannot stay here. What will people say?
THE STATUE. People! Why, the best people are here—princes of the church and all. So few go to Heaven, and so many come here, that the blest, once called a heavenly host, are a continually dwindling minority. The saints, the fathers, the elect of long ago are the cranks, the faddists, the outsiders of to-day.
THE DEVIL. It is true. From the beginning of my career I knew that I should win in the long run by sheer weight of public opinion, in spite of the long campaign of misrepresentation and calumny against me. At bottom the universe is a constitutional one; and with such a majority as mine I cannot be kept permanently out of office.
DON JUAN. I think, Ana, you had better stay here.
ANA. [jealously] You do not want me to go with you.
DON JUAN. Surely you do not want to enter Heaven in the company of a reprobate like me.
ANA. All souls are equally precious. You repent, do you not?
DON JUAN. My dear Ana, you are silly. Do you suppose heaven is like earth, where people persuade themselves that what is done can be undone by repentance; that what is spoken can be unspoken by withdrawing it; that what is true can be annihilated by a general agreement to give it the lie? No: heaven is the home of the masters of reality: that is why I am going thither.
ANA. Thank you: I am going to heaven for happiness. I have had quite enough of reality on earth.
DON JUAN. Then you must stay here; for hell is the home of the unreal and of the seekers for happiness. It is the only refuge from heaven, which is, as I tell you, the home of the masters of reality, and from earth, which is the home of the slaves of reality. The earth is a nursery in which men and women play at being heros and heroines, saints and sinners; but they are dragged down from their fool's paradise by their bodies: hunger and cold and thirst, age and decay and disease, death above all, make them slaves of reality: thrice a day meals must be eaten and digested: thrice a century a new generation must be engendered: ages of faith, of romance, and of science are all driven at last to have but one prayer, "Make me a healthy animal." But here you escape the tyranny of the flesh; for here you are not an animal at all: you are a ghost, an appearance, an illusion, a convention, deathless, ageless: in a word, bodiless. There are no social questions here, no political questions, no religious questions, best of all, perhaps, no sanitary questions. Here you call your appearance beauty, your emotions love, your sentiments heroism, your aspirations virtue, just as you did on earth; but here there are no hard facts to contradict you, no ironic contrast of your needs with your pretensions, no human comedy, nothing but a perpetual romance, a universal melodrama. As our German friend put it in his poem, "the poetically nonsensical here is good sense; and the Eternal Feminine draws us ever upward and on"—without getting us a step farther. And yet you want to leave this paradise!
ANA. But if Hell be so beautiful as this, how glorious must heaven be!
The Devil, the Statue, and Don Juan all begin to speak at once in violent protest; then stop, abashed.
DON JUAN. I beg your pardon.
THE DEVIL. Not at all. I interrupted you.
THE STATUE. You were going to say something.
DON JUAN. After you, gentlemen.
THE DEVIL. [to Don Juan] You have been so eloquent on the advantages of my dominions that I leave you to do equal justice to the drawbacks of the alternative establishment.
DON JUAN. In Heaven, as I picture it, dear lady, you live and work instead of playing and pretending. You face things as they are; you escape nothing but glamor; and your steadfastness and your peril are your glory. If the play still goes on here and on earth, and all the world is a stage, Heaven is at least behind the scenes. But Heaven cannot be described by metaphor. Thither I shall go presently, because there I hope to escape at last from lies and from the tedious, vulgar pursuit of happiness, to spend my eons in contemplation—
THE STATUE. Ugh!
DON JUAN. Senor Commander: I do not blame your disgust: a picture gallery is a dull place for a blind man. But even as you enjoy the contemplation of such romantic mirages as beauty and pleasure; so would I enjoy the contemplation of that which interests me above all things namely, Life: the force that ever strives to attain greater power of contemplating itself. What made this brain of mine, do you think? Not the need to move my limbs; for a rat with half my brains moves as well as I. Not merely the need to do, but the need to know what I do, lest in my blind efforts to live I should be slaying myself.
THE STATUE. You would have slain yourself in your blind efforts to fence but for my foot slipping, my friend.
DON JUAN. Audacious ribald: your laughter will finish in hideous boredom before morning.
THE STATUE. Ha ha! Do you remember how I frightened you when I said something like that to you from my pedestal in Seville? It sounds rather flat without my trombones.
DON JUAN. They tell me it generally sounds flat with them, Commander.
ANA. Oh, do not interrupt with these frivolities, father. Is there nothing in Heaven but contemplation, Juan?
DON JUAN. In the Heaven I seek, no other joy. But there is the work of helping Life in its struggle upward. Think of how it wastes and scatters itself, how it raises up obstacles to itself and destroys itself in its ignorance and blindness. It needs a brain, this irresistible force, lest in its ignorance it should resist itself. What a piece of work is man! says the poet. Yes: but what a blunderer! Here is the highest miracle of organization yet attained by life, the most intensely alive thing that exists, the most conscious of all the organisms; and yet, how wretched are his brains! Stupidity made sordid and cruel by the realities learnt from toil and poverty: Imagination resolved to starve sooner than face these realities, piling up illusions to hide them, and calling itself cleverness, genius! And each accusing the other of its own defect: Stupidity accusing Imagination of folly, and Imagination accusing Stupidity of ignorance: whereas, alas! Stupidity has all the knowledge, and Imagination all the intelligence.
THE DEVIL. And a pretty kettle of fish they make of it between them. Did I not say, when I was arranging that affair of Faust's, that all Man's reason has done for him is to make him beastlier than any beast. One splendid body is worth the brains of a hundred dyspeptic, flatulent philosophers.
DON JUAN. You forget that brainless magnificence of body has been tried. Things immeasurably greater than man in every respect but brain have existed and perished. The megatherium, the icthyosaurus have paced the earth with seven-league steps and hidden the day with cloud vast wings. Where are they now? Fossils in museums, and so few and imperfect at that, that a knuckle bone or a tooth of one of them is prized beyond the lives of a thousand soldiers. These things lived and wanted to live; but for lack of brains they did not know how to carry out their purpose, and so destroyed themselves.
THE DEVIL. And is Man any the less destroying himself for all this boasted brain of his? Have you walked up and down upon the earth lately? I have; and I have examined Man's wonderful inventions. And I tell you that in the arts of life man invents nothing; but in the arts of death he outdoes Nature herself, and produces by chemistry and machinery all the slaughter of plague, pestilence and famine. The peasant I tempt to-day eats and drinks what was eaten and drunk by the peasants of ten thousand years ago; and the house he lives in has not altered as much in a thousand centuries as the fashion of a lady's bonnet in a score of weeks. But when he goes out to slay, he carries a marvel of mechanism that lets loose at the touch of his finger all the hidden molecular energies, and leaves the javelin, the arrow, the blowpipe of his fathers far behind. In the arts of peace Man is a bungler. I have seen his cotton factories and the like, with machinery that a greedy dog could have invented if it had wanted money instead of food. I know his clumsy typewriters and bungling locomotives and tedious bicycles: they are toys compared to the Maxim gun, the submarine torpedo boat. There is nothing in Man's industrial machinery but his greed and sloth: his heart is in his weapons. This marvellous force of Life of which you boast is a force of Death: Man measures his strength by his destructiveness. What is his religion? An excuse for hating ME. What is his law? An excuse for hanging YOU. What is his morality? Gentility! an excuse for consuming without producing. What is his art? An excuse for gloating over pictures of slaughter. What are his politics? Either the worship of a despot because a despot can kill, or parliamentary cockfighting. I spent an evening lately in a certain celebrated legislature, and heard the pot lecturing the kettle for its blackness, and ministers answering questions. When I left I chalked up on the door the old nursery saying—"Ask no questions and you will be told no lies." I bought a sixpenny family magazine, and found it full of pictures of young men shooting and stabbing one another. I saw a man die: he was a London bricklayer's laborer with seven children. He left seventeen pounds club money; and his wife spent it all on his funeral and went into the workhouse with the children next day. She would not have spent sevenpence on her children's schooling: the law had to force her to let them be taught gratuitously; but on death she spent all she had. Their imagination glows, their energies rise up at the idea of death, these people: they love it; and the more horrible it is the more they enjoy it. Hell is a place far above their comprehension: they derive their notion of it from two of the greatest fools that ever lived, an Italian and an Englishman. The Italian described it as a place of mud, frost, filth, fire, and venomous serpents: all torture. This ass, when he was not lying about me, was maundering about some woman whom he saw once in the street. The Englishman described me as being expelled from Heaven by cannons and gunpowder; and to this day every Briton believes that the whole of his silly story is in the Bible. What else he says I do not know; for it is all in a long poem which neither I nor anyone else ever succeeded in wading through. It is the same in everything. The highest form of literature is the tragedy, a play in which everybody is murdered at the end. In the old chronicles you read of earthquakes and pestilences, and are told that these showed the power and majesty of God and the littleness of Man. Nowadays the chronicles describe battles. In a battle two bodies of men shoot at one another with bullets and explosive shells until one body runs away, when the others chase the fugitives on horseback and cut them to pieces as they fly. And this, the chronicle concludes, shows the greatness and majesty of empires, and the littleness of the vanquished. Over such battles the people run about the streets yelling with delight, and egg their Governments on to spend hundreds of millions of money in the slaughter, whilst the strongest Ministers dare not spend an extra penny in the pound against the poverty and pestilence through which they themselves daily walk. I could give you a thousand instances; but they all come to the same thing: the power that governs the earth is not the power of Life but of Death; and the inner need that has nerved Life to the effort of organizing itself into the human being is not the need for higher life but for a more efficient engine of destruction. The plague, the famine, the earthquake, the tempest were too spasmodic in their action; the tiger and crocodile were too easily satiated and not cruel enough: something more constantly, more ruthlessly, more ingeniously destructive was needed; and that something was Man, the inventor of the rack, the stake, the gallows, and the electrocutor; of the sword and gun; above all, of justice, duty, patriotism and all the other isms by which even those who are clever enough to be humanely disposed are persuaded to become the most destructive of all the destroyers.
DON JUAN. Pshaw! all this is old. Your weak side, my diabolic friend, is that you have always been a gull: you take Man at his own valuation. Nothing would flatter him more than your opinion of him. He loves to think of himself as bold and bad. He is neither one nor the other: he is only a coward. Call him tyrant, murderer, pirate, bully; and he will adore you, and swagger about with the consciousness of having the blood of the old sea kings in his veins. Call him liar and thief; and he will only take an action against you for libel. But call him coward; and he will go mad with rage: he will face death to outface that stinging truth. Man gives every reason for his conduct save one, every excuse for his crimes save one, every plea for his safety save one; and that one is his cowardice. Yet all his civilization is founded on his cowardice, on his abject tameness, which he calls his respectability. There are limits to what a mule or an ass will stand; but Man will suffer himself to be degraded until his vileness becomes so loathsome to his oppressors that they themselves are forced to reform it.
THE DEVIL. Precisely. And these are the creatures in whom you discover what you call a Life Force!
DON JUAN. Yes; for now comes the most surprising part of the whole business.
THE STATUE. What's that?
DON JUAN. Why, that you can make any of these cowards brave by simply putting an idea into his head.
THE STATUE. Stuff! As an old soldier I admit the cowardice: it's as universal as sea sickness, and matters just as little. But that about putting an idea into a man's head is stuff and nonsense. In a battle all you need to make you fight is a little hot blood and the knowledge that it's more dangerous to lose than to win.
DON JUAN. That is perhaps why battles are so useless. But men never really overcome fear until they imagine they are fighting to further a universal purpose—fighting for an idea, as they call it. Why was the Crusader braver than the pirate? Because he fought, not for himself, but for the Cross. What force was it that met him with a valor as reckless as his own? The force of men who fought, not for themselves, but for Islam. They took Spain from us, though we were fighting for our very hearths and homes; but when we, too, fought for that mighty idea, a Catholic Church, we swept them back to Africa.
THE DEVIL. [ironically] What! you a Catholic, Senor Don Juan! A devotee! My congratulations.
THE STATUE. [seriously] Come come! as a soldier, I can listen to nothing against the Church.
DON JUAN. Have no fear, Commander: this idea of a Catholic Church will survive Islam, will survive the Cross, will survive even that vulgar pageant of incompetent schoolboyish gladiators which you call the Army.
THE STATUE. Juan: you will force me to call you to account for this.
DON JUAN. Useless: I cannot fence. Every idea for which Man will die will be a Catholic idea. When the Spaniard learns at last that he is no better than the Saracen, and his prophet no better than Mahomet, he will arise, more Catholic than ever, and die on a barricade across the filthy slum he starves in, for universal liberty and equality.
THE STATUE. Bosh!
DON JUAN. What you call bosh is the only thing men dare die for. Later on, Liberty will not be Catholic enough: men will die for human perfection, to which they will sacrifice all their liberty gladly.
THE DEVIL. Ay: they will never be at a loss for an excuse for killing one another.
DON JUAN. What of that? It is not death that matters, but the fear of death. It is not killing and dying that degrade us, but base living, and accepting the wages and profits of degradation. Better ten dead men than one live slave or his master. Men shall yet rise up, father against son and brother against brother, and kill one another for the great Catholic idea of abolishing slavery.
THE DEVIL. Yes, when the Liberty and Equality of which you prate shall have made free white Christians cheaper in the labor market than by auction at the block.
DON JUAN. Never fear! the white laborer shall have his turn too. But I am not now defending the illusory forms the great ideas take. I am giving you examples of the fact that this creature Man, who in his own selfish affairs is a coward to the backbone, will fight for an idea like a hero. He may be abject as a citizen; but he is dangerous as a fanatic. He can only be enslaved whilst he is spiritually weak enough to listen to reason. I tell you, gentlemen, if you can show a man a piece of what he now calls God's work to do, and what he will later on call by many new names, you can make him entirely reckless of the consequences to himself personally.
ANA. Yes: he shirks all his responsibilities, and leaves his wife to grapple with them.
THE STATUE. Well said, daughter. Do not let him talk you out of your common sense.
THE DEVIL. Alas! Senor Commander, now that we have got on to the subject of Woman, he will talk more than ever. However, I confess it is for me the one supremely interesting subject.
DON JUAN. To a woman, Senora, man's duties and responsibilities begin and end with the task of getting bread for her children. To her, Man is only a means to the end of getting children and rearing them.
ANA. Is that your idea of a woman's mind? I call it cynical and disgusting materialism.
DON JUAN. Pardon me, Ana: I said nothing about a woman's whole mind. I spoke of her view of Man as a separate sex. It is no more cynical than her view of herself as above all things a Mother. Sexually, Woman is Nature's contrivance for perpetuating its highest achievement. Sexually, Man is Woman's contrivance for fulfilling Nature's behest in the most economical way. She knows by instinct that far back in the evolutional process she invented him, differentiated him, created him in order to produce something better than the single-sexed process can produce. Whilst he fulfils the purpose for which she made him, he is welcome to his dreams, his follies, his ideals, his heroisms, provided that the keystone of them all is the worship of woman, of motherhood, of the family, of the hearth. But how rash and dangerous it was to invent a separate creature whose sole function was her own impregnation! For mark what has happened. First, Man has multiplied on her hands until there are as many men as women; so that she has been unable to employ for her purposes more than a fraction of the immense energy she has left at his disposal by saving him the exhausting labor of gestation. This superfluous energy has gone to his brain and to his muscle. He has become too strong to be controlled by her bodily, and too imaginative and mentally vigorous to be content with mere self-reproduction. He has created civilization without consulting her, taking her domestic labor for granted as the foundation of it.
ANA. THAT is true, at all events.
THE DEVIL. Yes; and this civilization! what is it, after all?
DON JUAN. After all, an excellent peg to hang your cynical commonplaces on; but BEFORE all, it is an attempt on Man's part to make himself something more than the mere instrument of Woman's purpose. So far, the result of Life's continual effort not only to maintain itself, but to achieve higher and higher organization and completer self-consciousness, is only, at best, a doubtful campaign between its forces and those of Death and Degeneration. The battles in this campaign are mere blunders, mostly won, like actual military battles, in spite of the commanders.
THE STATUE. That is a dig at me. No matter: go on, go on.
DON JUAN. It is a dig at a much higher power than you, Commander. Still, you must have noticed in your profession that even a stupid general can win battles when the enemy's general is a little stupider.
THE STATUE. [very seriously] Most true, Juan, most true. Some donkeys have amazing luck.
DON JUAN. Well, the Life Force is stupid; but it is not so stupid as the forces of Death and Degeneration. Besides, these are in its pay all the time. And so Life wins, after a fashion. What mere copiousness of fecundity can supply and mere greed preserve, we possess. The survival of whatever form of civilization can produce the best rifle and the best fed riflemen is assured.
THE DEVIL. Exactly! the survival, not of the most effective means of Life but of the most effective means of Death. You always come back to my point, in spite of your wrigglings and evasions and sophistries, not to mention the intolerable length of your speeches.
DON JUAN. Oh come! who began making long speeches? However, if I overtax your intellect, you can leave us and seek the society of love and beauty and the rest of your favorite boredoms.
THE DEVIL. [much offended] This is not fair, Don Juan, and not civil. I am also on the intellectual plane. Nobody can appreciate it more than I do. I am arguing fairly with you, and, I think, utterly refuting you. Let us go on for another hour if you like.
DON JUAN. Good: let us.
THE STATUE. Not that I see any prospect of your coming to any point in particular, Juan. Still, since in this place, instead of merely killing time we have to kill eternity, go ahead by all means.
DON JUAN. [somewhat impatiently] My point, you marbleheaded old masterpiece, is only a step ahead of you. Are we agreed that Life is a force which has made innumerable experiments in organizing itself; that the mammoth and the man, the mouse and the megatherium, the flies and the fleas and the Fathers of the Church, are all more or less successful attempts to build up that raw force into higher and higher individuals, the ideal individual being omnipotent, omniscient, infallible, and withal completely, unilludedly self-conscious: in short, a god?
THE DEVIL. I agree, for the sake of argument.
THE STATUE. I agree, for the sake of avoiding argument.
ANA. I most emphatically disagree as regards the Fathers of the Church; and I must beg you not to drag them into the argument.
DON JUAN. I did so purely for the sake of alliteration, Ana; and I shall make no further allusion to them. And now, since we are, with that exception, agreed so far, will you not agree with me further that Life has not measured the success of its attempts at godhead by the beauty or bodily perfection of the result, since in both these respects the birds, as our friend Aristophanes long ago pointed out, are so extraordinarily superior, with their power of flight and their lovely plumage, and, may I add, the touching poetry of their loves and nestings, that it is inconceivable that Life, having once produced them, should, if love and beauty were her object, start off on another line and labor at the clumsy elephant and the hideous ape, whose grandchildren we are?
ANA. Aristophanes was a heathen; and you, Juan, I am afraid, are very little better.
THE DEVIL. You conclude, then, that Life was driving at clumsiness and ugliness?
DON JUAN. No, perverse devil that you are, a thousand times no. Life was driving at brains—at its darling object: an organ by which it can attain not only self-consciousness but self-understanding.
THE STATUE. This is metaphysics, Juan. Why the devil should—[to the Devil] I BEG your pardon.
THE DEVIL. Pray don't mention it. I have always regarded the use of my name to secure additional emphasis as a high compliment to me. It is quite at your service, Commander.
THE STATUE. Thank you: that's very good of you. Even in heaven, I never quite got out of my old military habits of speech. What I was going to ask Juan was why Life should bother itself about getting a brain. Why should it want to understand itself? Why not be content to enjoy itself?
DON JUAN. Without a brain, Commander, you would enjoy yourself without knowing it, and so lose all the fun.
THE STATUE. True, most true. But I am quite content with brain enough to know that I'm enjoying myself. I don't want to understand why. In fact, I'd rather not. My experience is that one's pleasures don't bear thinking about.
DON JUAN. That is why intellect is so unpopular. But to Life, the force behind the Man, intellect is a necessity, because without it he blunders into death. Just as Life, after ages of struggle, evolved that wonderful bodily organ the eye, so that the living organism could see where it was going and what was coming to help or threaten it, and thus avoid a thousand dangers that formerly slew it, so it is evolving to-day a mind's eye that shall see, not the physical world, but the purpose of Life, and thereby enable the individual to work for that purpose instead of thwarting and baffling it by setting up shortsighted personal aims as at present. Even as it is, only one sort of man has ever been happy, has ever been universally respected among all the conflicts of interests and illusions.
THE STATUE. You mean the military man.
DON JUAN. Commander: I do not mean the military man. When the military man approaches, the world locks up its spoons and packs off its womankind. No: I sing, not arms and the hero, but the philosophic man: he who seeks in contemplation to discover the inner will of the world, in invention to discover the means of fulfilling that will, and in action to do that will by the so-discovered means. Of all other sorts of men I declare myself tired. They're tedious failures. When I was on earth, professors of all sorts prowled round me feeling for an unhealthy spot in me on which they could fasten. The doctors of medicine bade me consider what I must do to save my body, and offered me quack cures for imaginary diseases. I replied that I was not a hypochondriac; so they called me Ignoramus and went their way. The doctors of divinity bade me consider what I must do to save my soul; but I was not a spiritual hypochondriac any more than a bodily one, and would not trouble myself about that either; so they called me Atheist and went their way. After them came the politician, who said there was only one purpose in Nature, and that was to get him into parliament. I told him I did not care whether he got into parliament or not; so he called me Mugwump and went his way. Then came the romantic man, the Artist, with his love songs and his paintings and his poems; and with him I had great delight for many years, and some profit; for I cultivated my senses for his sake; and his songs taught me to hear better, his paintings to see better, and his poems to feel more deeply. But he led me at last into the worship of Woman.
DON JUAN. Yes: I came to believe that in her voice was all the music of the song, in her face all the beauty of the painting, and in her soul all the emotion of the poem.
ANA. And you were disappointed, I suppose. Well, was it her fault that you attributed all these perfections to her?
DON JUAN. Yes, partly. For with a wonderful instinctive cunning, she kept silent and allowed me to glorify her; to mistake my own visions, thoughts, and feelings for hers. Now my friend the romantic man was often too poor or too timid to approach those women who were beautiful or refined enough to seem to realize his ideal; and so he went to his grave believing in his dream. But I was more favored by nature and circumstance. I was of noble birth and rich; and when my person did not please, my conversation flattered, though I generally found myself fortunate in both.
THE STATUE. Coxcomb!
DON JUAN. Yes; but even my coxcombry pleased. Well, I found that when I had touched a woman's imagination, she would allow me to persuade myself that she loved me; but when my suit was granted she never said "I am happy: my love is satisfied": she always said, first, "At last, the barriers are down," and second, "When will you come again?"
ANA. That is exactly what men say.
DON JUAN. I protest I never said it. But all women say it. Well, these two speeches always alarmed me; for the first meant that the lady's impulse had been solely to throw down my fortifications and gain my citadel; and the second openly announced that henceforth she regarded me as her property, and counted my time as already wholly at her disposal.
THE DEVIL. That is where your want of heart came in.
THE STATUE. [shaking his head] You shouldn't repeat what a woman says, Juan.
ANA. [severely] It should be sacred to you.
THE STATUE. Still, they certainly do always say it. I never minded the barriers; but there was always a slight shock about the other, unless one was very hard hit indeed.
DON JUAN. Then the lady, who had been happy and idle enough before, became anxious, preoccupied with me, always intriguing, conspiring, pursuing, watching, waiting, bent wholly on making sure of her prey—I being the prey, you understand. Now this was not what I had bargained for. It may have been very proper and very natural; but it was not music, painting, poetry and joy incarnated in a beautiful woman. I ran away from it. I ran away from it very often: in fact I became famous for running away from it.
ANA. Infamous, you mean.
DON JUAN. I did not run away from you. Do you blame me for running away from the others?
ANA. Nonsense, man. You are talking to a woman of 77 now. If you had had the chance, you would have run away from me too—if I had let you. You would not have found it so easy with me as with some of the others. If men will not be faithful to their home and their duties, they must be made to be. I daresay you all want to marry lovely incarnations of music and painting and poetry. Well, you can't have them, because they don't exist. If flesh and blood is not good enough for you you must go without: that's all. Women have to put up with flesh-and-blood husbands—and little enough of that too, sometimes; and you will have to put up with flesh-and-blood wives. The Devil looks dubious. The Statue makes a wry face. I see you don't like that, any of you; but it's true, for all that; so if you don't like it you can lump it.
DON JUAN. My dear lady, you have put my whole case against romance into a few sentences. That is just why I turned my back on the romantic man with the artist nature, as he called his infatuation. I thanked him for teaching me to use my eyes and ears; but I told him that his beauty worshipping and happiness hunting and woman idealizing was not worth a dump as a philosophy of life; so he called me Philistine and went his way.
ANA. It seems that Woman taught you something, too, with all her defects.
DON JUAN. She did more: she interpreted all the other teaching for me. Ah, my friends, when the barriers were down for the first time, what an astounding illumination! I had been prepared for infatuation, for intoxication, for all the illusions of love's young dream; and lo! never was my perception clearer, nor my criticism more ruthless. The most jealous rival of my mistress never saw every blemish in her more keenly than I. I was not duped: I took her without chloroform.
ANA. But you did take her.
DON JUAN. That was the revelation. Up to that moment I had never lost the sense of being my own master; never consciously taken a single step until my reason had examined and approved it. I had come to believe that I was a purely rational creature: a thinker! I said, with the foolish philosopher, "I think; therefore I am." It was Woman who taught me to say "I am; therefore I think." And also "I would think more; therefore I must be more."
THE STATUE. This is extremely abstract and metaphysical, Juan. If you would stick to the concrete, and put your discoveries in the form of entertaining anecdotes about your adventures with women, your conversation would be easier to follow.
DON JUAN. Bah! what need I add? Do you not understand that when I stood face to face with Woman, every fibre in my clear critical brain warned me to spare her and save myself. My morals said No. My conscience said No. My chivalry and pity for her said No. My prudent regard for myself said No. My ear, practised on a thousand songs and symphonies; my eye, exercised on a thousand paintings; tore her voice, her features, her color to shreds. I caught all those tell-tale resemblances to her father and mother by which I knew what she would be like in thirty years time. I noted the gleam of gold from a dead tooth in the laughing mouth: I made curious observations of the strange odors of the chemistry of the nerves. The visions of my romantic reveries, in which I had trod the plains of heaven with a deathless, ageless creature of coral and ivory, deserted me in that supreme hour. I remembered them and desperately strove to recover their illusion; but they now seemed the emptiest of inventions: my judgment was not to be corrupted: my brain still said No on every issue. And whilst I was in the act of framing my excuse to the lady, Life seized me and threw me into her arms as a sailor throws a scrap of fish into the mouth of a seabird.