ANN. [in low siren tones] He asked me who would I have as my guardian before he made that will. I chose you!
TANNER. The will is yours then! The trap was laid from the beginning.
ANN. [concentrating all her magic] From the beginning from our childhood—for both of us—by the Life Force.
TANNER. I will not marry you. I will not marry you.
ANN. Oh; you will, you will.
TANNER. I tell you, no, no, no.
ANN. I tell you, yes, yes, yes.
ANN. [coaxing—imploring—almost exhausted] Yes. Before it is too late for repentance. Yes.
TANNER. [struck by the echo from the past] When did all this happen to me before? Are we two dreaming?
ANN. [suddenly losing her courage, with an anguish that she does not conceal] No. We are awake; and you have said no: that is all.
TANNER. [brutally] Well?
ANN. Well, I made a mistake: you do not love me.
TANNER. [seizing her in his arms] It is false: I love you. The Life Force enchants me: I have the whole world in my arms when I clasp you. But I am fighting for my freedom, for my honor, for myself, one and indivisible.
ANN. Your happiness will be worth them all.
TANNER. You would sell freedom and honor and self for happiness?
ANN. It will not be all happiness for me. Perhaps death.
TANNER. [groaning] Oh, that clutch holds and hurts. What have you grasped in me? Is there a father's heart as well as a mother's?
ANN. Take care, Jack: if anyone comes while we are like this, you will have to marry me.
TANNER. If we two stood now on the edge of a precipice, I would hold you tight and jump.
ANN. [panting, failing more and more under the strain] Jack: let me go. I have dared so frightfully—it is lasting longer than I thought. Let me go: I can't bear it.
TANNER. Nor I. Let it kill us.
ANN. Yes: I don't care. I am at the end of my forces. I don't care. I think I am going to faint.
At this moment Violet and Octavius come from the villa with Mrs Whitefield, who is wrapped up for driving. Simultaneously Malone and Ramsden, followed by Mendoza and Straker, come in through the little gate in the paling. Tanner shamefacedly releases Ann, who raises her hand giddily to her forehead.
MALONE. Take care. Something's the matter with the lady.
RAMSDEN. What does this mean?
VIOLET. [running between Ann and Tanner] Are you ill?
ANN. [reeling, with a supreme effort] I have promised to marry Jack. [She swoons. Violet kneels by her and chafes her band. Tanner runs round to her other hand, and tries to lift her bead. Octavius goes to Violet's assistance, but does not know what to do. Mrs Whitefield hurries back into the villa. Octavius, Malone and Ramsden run to Ann and crowd round her, stooping to assist. Straker coolly comes to Ann's feet, and Mendoza to her head, both upright and self-possessed].
STRAKER. Now then, ladies and gentlemen: she don't want a crowd round her: she wants air—all the air she can git. If you please, gents— [Malone and Ramsden allow him to drive them gently past Ann and up the lawn towards the garden, where Octavius, who has already become conscious of his uselessness, joins them. Straker, following them up, pauses for a moment to instruct Tanner]. Don't lift er ed, Mr Tanner: let it go flat so's the blood can run back into it.
MENDOZA. He is right, Mr Tanner. Trust to the air of the Sierra. [He withdraws delicately to the garden steps].
TANNER. [rising] I yield to your superior knowledge of physiology, Henry. [He withdraws to the corner of the lawn; and Octavius immediately hurries down to him].
TAVY. [aside to Tanner, grasping his hand] Jack: be very happy.
TANNER. [aside to Tavy] I never asked her. It is a trap for me. [He goes up the lawn towards the garden. Octavius remains petrified].
MENDOZA. [intercepting Mrs Whitefield, who comes from the villa with a glass of brandy] What is this, madam [he takes it from her]?
MRS WHITEFIELD. A little brandy.
MENDOZA. The worst thing you could give her. Allow me. [He swallows it]. Trust to the air of the Sierra, madam.
For a moment the men all forget Ann and stare at Mendoza.
ANN. [in Violet's ear, clutching her round the neck] Violet, did Jack say anything when I fainted?
ANN. Ah! [with a sigh of intense relief she relapses].
MRS WHITEFIELD. Oh, she's fainted again.
They are about to rush back to her; but Mendoza stops them with a warning gesture.
ANN. [supine] No I haven't. I'm quite happy.
TANNER. [suddenly walking determinedly to her, and snatching her hand from Violet to feel her pulse] Why, her pulse is positively bounding. Come, getup. What nonsense! Up with you. [He gets her up summarily].
ANN. Yes: I feel strong enough now. But you very nearly killed me, Jack, for all that.
MALONE. A rough wooer, eh? They're the best sort, Miss Whitefield. I congratulate Mr Tanner; and I hope to meet you and him as frequent guests at the Abbey.
ANN. Thank you. [She goes past Malone to Octavius] Ricky Ticky Tavy: congratulate me. [Aside to him] I want to make you cry for the last time.
TAVY. [steadfastly] No more tears. I am happy in your happiness. And I believe in you in spite of everything.
RAMSDEN. [coming between Malone and Tanner] You are a happy man, Jack Tanner. I envy you.
MENDOZA. [advancing between Violet and Tanner] Sir: there are two tragedies in life. One is not to get your heart's desire. The other is to get it. Mine and yours, sir.
TANNER. Mr Mendoza: I have no heart's desires. Ramsden: it is very easy for you to call me a happy man: you are only a spectator. I am one of the principals; and I know better. Ann: stop tempting Tavy, and come back to me.
ANN. [complying] You are absurd, Jack. [She takes his proffered arm].
TANNER. [continuing] I solemnly say that I am not a happy man. Ann looks happy; but she is only triumphant, successful, victorious. That is not happiness, but the price for which the strong sell their happiness. What we have both done this afternoon is to renounce tranquillity, above all renounce the romantic possibilities of an unknown future, for the cares of a household and a family. I beg that no man may seize the occasion to get half drunk and utter imbecile speeches and coarse pleasantries at my expense. We propose to furnish our own house according to our own taste; and I hereby give notice that the seven or eight travelling clocks, the four or five dressing cases, the salad bowls, the carvers and fish slices, the copy of Tennyson in extra morocco, and all the other articles you are preparing to heap upon us, will be instantly sold, and the proceeds devoted to circulating free copies of the Revolutionist's Handbook. The wedding will take place three days after our return to England, by special license, at the office of the district superintendent registrar, in the presence of my solicitor and his clerk, who, like his clients, will be in ordinary walking dress.
VIOLET. [with intense conviction] You are a brute, Jack.
ANN. [looking at him with fond pride and caressing his arm] Never mind her, dear. Go on talking.