Ebooks, Fiction, Non-Fiction 1000s of Free books and stories online to read now ~ Main Page



Pyramus And Thisbe by By Henry James



Stephen Young (33), Journalist.

Catherine West (26), Teacher of Music.

(Miss West's apartment; plainly but comfortably furnished; a few prints and photographs on the walls; a sofa, a piano. Enter Catherine, in walking-dress, with a roll of music in her hand.]

CATHERINE. Dear me! this dreadful smell of tobacco again! When it doesn't come in one way, it comes another; when it isn't the door it's the window. There he sits at his own window, puffing his great pipe. I saw him as I crossed the street. And the wind always our way. I'm always to windward of that pipe. What's a poor girl to do? (Shuts her window with a loud crash.) There! perhaps he'll hear that! What am I to do? I can't go to my lessons smelling like a bar-room; and certainly I can't ask my little girls to come and take their lessons in this blinding cloud of smoke. Pshaw! it's worse with the Window shut than with it open. If I'm doomed to suffocate, I might as well do it comfortably. (Raises the window violently.) Of course he'll hear that, too. (Taking off her bonnet at the mirror.) Heigho! what a dreadful humour I'm in! And on my birthday, too! Well, why shouldn't one be out of sorts on one's birthday as well as at any other time? Is it such a mighty privilege to have been born? Is life so easy and pleasant that I must make it a courtesy whenever I meet it with its grim old stare on the threshold of another year? Another year! another year added to twenty-five makes—-makes—-upon my word it might as well make thirty at once—-when you're so tired, tired, tired! That, by the way, is for not having gone to sleep till four o'clock in the morning—-for having a neighbour who turns night into day, talks for the benefit of the whole town, and has a dozen intimate friends against whom he'll nightly measure his lungs on any topic in the range of human ken. It was actually as much as I could do to help throwing my slipper in good earnest against the wall. That would have been scandal, I suppose. But to lie tossing, and sighing, and listening to Mr. Young's interminable sentences-it was all one sentence, I declare, from nine o'clock until three—-and to wake up on your birthday with a headache, and a pale face, and hollow eyes—-that, of course, is perfect propriety. (Still at the glass.) Dear me! I've actually fretted and fumed a real bit of colour into my face. (Looking at her image in silence.) Nay, I'm not thirty, after all! I've four good years of youth yet! And my hair is certainly very pretty, and life—-life, on this soft spring evening—-well, life, I do make you my very best courtesy, and if you'll promise to be very good I'll give you a little music. (Seats herself at the piano and plays with violence. While she is playing the door opens and Stephen Young looks in. Seeing Miss West he advances a few steps—-leaving the door ajar—-and stops a moment looking at her and listening. lie carries a small bouquet in his hand. Finally he speaks.)

Stephen . Bravo! bravo!

Catherine (starting up). You, Mr. Young!

Stephen . Excuse me. If it wasn't for my flowers I'd clap you.

Catherine . If it wasn't for your flowers, I'm afraid I should ask you to walk out. Pray, who let you in?

Stephen . I let myself in. I knocked three times, but you were playing with such extraordinary fury—

Catherine (archly). Oh, you can make yourself heard when you wish, Mr. Young!

Stephen . Now I verily believe that's a reproach.

Catherine . Of course it is.

Stephen . Ah, my dear Miss West, two can play at that game. In the way of noise there's not much, I fancy, to choose between us; there's six of one and—-

Catherine . I'll admit that there are six of one, but certainly a dozen of the other—-especially when there are two of you.

Stephen . Bless my stars! it's no more than fair. You have your piano—-I have my friend.

Catherine . Your bass-drum, you might call him.

Stephen . I assure you, he's a very nice fellow.

Catherine . I hope, for your sake, he is so long as he stays till three o'clock in the morning.

Stephen . Ah, poor Ellis! Do you mean you actually heard us?

Catherine . Distinctly. I came near throwing something at the wall.

Stephen . I doubt that we should have heard it, any more than you heard me just now.

Catherine . Happily for you, it never would have occurred to me to walk in in person.

Stephen . You would surely have been excusable if you had come on so harmless an errand as this of mine. (Holds up his flowers.)

Catherine . Your flowers are very pretty.

Stephen . They are none of mine. When I came in, a couple of hours ago, I found them in my room, on my table. You see they've lost their first freshness. Here is a little card affixed, denoting their proper destination, which the messenger seems, through some extraordinary inadvertence, to have overlooked; as if any, one would send me flowers!

Catherine (taking the bouquet and reading the card). “Miss West, with affectionate good wishes. A. T.” I'm much obliged to you for repairing the error.

Stephen . I confess there is some virtue in it. To give a young lady a bouquet of your own making, or your own buying, is assuredly it's own reward. But to serve as a mere bald go-between; to present a bunch of lilies and roses on the part of another a mysterious unknown to act, as it were, as the senseless clod of earth in which they're wrapped for transportation, and not as their thrilling, teeming, conscious parent soil, this, Miss West, I assure you, is to make a terrible sacrifice to vanity.

Catherine . I appreciate the sacrifice, and I repeat my thanks.

Stephen . I might have kept them, you know.

Catherine (placing the flowers in water). Nay, it would have been a pity to spoil them.

Stephen . Spoil them? What do you mean?

Catherine (taking the bouquet out of the water and presenting it to his nose). What should you call the prevailing odour?

Stephen . Geranium—-heliotrope—-jasmine, I should say.

Catherine . I see your sense is completely blunted.

Stephen . Why, what should you call it?

Catherine (replacing the flowers). Tobacco, Mr. Young. Flowers are like women; they don't like you to smoke in their faces.

Stephen . Dear me! Do you really object to smoke?

Catherine . Object to it? I hate it!

Stephen . And do you ever perceive my pipe?

Catherine . Constantly, Mr. Young.

Stephen . Alas! what a terrible neighbour I am! I'm extremely sorry; but what can I do? I strongly suspect that I can't give up talking, and I'm profoundly convinced that I can't give up smoking.

Catherine . Don't for a moment suppose that I suggest any such abnegation. If I'm uncomfortable there's an easy remedy.

Stephen . Exactly. Patience, my dear Miss West, comes just short, in a woman's life, of being a transcendent virtue, only because, as you so truly say, it's so easy.

Catherine . You perfectly express my own sentiments. I regard patience as quite a secondary virtue. There's another that I prize infinitely higher.

Stephen . Oh, you go too far.

Catherine . I mean action, Mr. Young.

Stephen . The deuce! You mean to seek a remedy in action?

Catherine . Oh, don't be frightened. I mean nothing very terrible. I mean that I can move away and take another lodging.

Stephen . Oh, that would never do. We must bear and forbear, Miss West. Without a few mutual concessions we shall find but little comfort in life.

Catherine . That's doubtless very true, Mr. Young; but, really, are you quite the person to say it?

Stephen . Why, if it's the truth, I certainly can't afford to let it pass.

Catherine . Well, if it's not impertinent, I should like to know to whom your own concessions are made.

Stephen . Oh, to every one.

Catherine . They say that every one is no one.

Stephen . By no means. It includes, to begin with, my very next neighbour—-yourself.

Catherine (laughing). Truly? I'm actually the object of your generosity? Your charity, I might call it, since it begins so near home. I confess I never suspected it.

Stephen . Well, Miss West, the fact is—-

Catherine . Alas! what can the fact be?

Stephen . I hate music.

Catherine . You hate music! (Laughing violently.)

Stephen (provoked) I absolutely detest it.

Catherine. Poor Mr. Young! Well—-I pity you.

Stephen. You would pity me if you knew what I have suffered.

Catherine. From my piano?

Stephen. From your piano.

Catherine (after a pause). Decidedly, one of us must move.

Stephen . One of us? Good; here comes a chance for concession.

Catherine . I said just now that I should go.

Stephen . That was à propos of your own sufferings.

Catherine . Well, in spite of yours, I still think I had better go.

Stephen . I oughtn't to consent to it.

Catherine (laughing). So you detest music, Mr. Young? I don't know why I should laugh; I feel much more like crying. it's too provoking. I protest I don't understand it. I don't see what such people are made of.

Stephen . Of good flesh and blood, Miss West—-

Catherine . Yes, and not much else.

Stephen . In that case, then, they have no tempers to lose. But what call under heaven have I to enjoy the strumming of a piano? I make my bread, you know, by scribbling for the newspapers. Every morning, as I sit down to my table you sit down to that tuneful battery. The very first rattle of the keys is like a scathing fusillade, under which my poor old ideas—-maimed and tattered veterans—-fall prostrate to the ground. I pick them up and dress their wounds, and coax them once more to the front. The battle rages generally some three or four hours. I deem myself very lucky if, at the end of that time, a small fraction of my little army have escaped with their lives. Once in awhile, in the afternoon, when the fire has subsided, one of the missing turns up, and comes limping back to camp. But, I confess, the whole temper of the service is so utterly demoralized that, instead of being shot for an arrant deserter, the rascal is welcomed like a prodigal son, and the calf that was being so tenderly fatted for the whole regiment is sacrificed to this poor makeshift of a hero.

Catherine . The meaning of all this is that you can't write except in absolute silence.

Stephen . Why, there's something between absolute silence and—-absolute sound.

Catherine . I should like to see some of your writing.

Stephen . It's very kind of you to say so, after my attack on your music.

Catherine . Oh, you make it out to be so bad that I speak from curiosity.

Stephen . At any rate it would not be very pleasant for you to reflect that its your own fault that it's no better.

Catherine . Whose fault is it, Mr. Young, that you're no wiser?

Stephen . Well, I'm as heaven made me; were all of us that; and heaven made me, as I say, to hate a piano.

(Catherine (out of patience). Oh, it's my opinion that heaven didn't make you at all! Upon my word, you deserve that I should sit here forever and thump out music from morning till night.

Stephen . Is that a threat?

Catherine . Take it as you please.

Stephen . I take it as a declaration of war; of course in that case I shall choose my own arms. I shall forthwith lay siege to your comfort.

Catherine . Oh, my comforts gone in advance. What comfort shall I have in playing for your annoyance, when I think that I might be playing for my own pleasure? But my revenge will remain.

Stephen . Heaven help us, it will be a hard fight.

Catherine . Another Waterloo, I assure you. Within a fortnight I shall look for your retreat.

Stephen . Oh, I sha'n't give you more than a week.

Catherine. I must make the most of time, then! Quick, to your own lines. I mean to open fire. (She runs to the piano, seats herself and begins to play furiously. Stephen claps his hands to his ears and hurries out. Catherine continues to play for several moments, and then in the midst of a movement suddenly stops short.) I wonder whether my playing really disturbs him, or whether he invented it all in return for my complaint of his talking and smoking—-surely it wasn't the best taste in the world for me to mention those foolish little troubles. If they are a real annoyance, all I have to do is to hold my tongue and change my quarters. I certainly have no right to ask favours of Mr. Young, and I should be very sorry to find myself in his debt. ( Leaving the piano.) I'll just quietly move away; I can easily find a better room. This one has a dozen inconveniences; it's out of the way, and it's up too high. And yet I'm attached to the old place. When you've occupied a room for five years you seem to have made over a portion of your innermost self to it's keeping. It knows you so well; it has all your secrets, and there's no getting them back either; if you go away you leave them for others. I feel as if I had grown up between these four walls. Here I came after my mother died; here I've learned to know myself. and, thinking over my days adventures every evening, to know, as far as I do know it, the world; here I've tasted both the bitterness and the sweetness of solitude—-all the more reason, by the way, for my not resenting poor Mr. Young's proximity. What on earth has got into me? I came in from the street with my senses thrilling with the whispery and perfumes of spring; I cross the threshold and happen to catch a whiff of my neighbour's cigar—-a puff of harmless incense to the season—-and straightway I fall into a passion. Decidedly, I've made a fool of myself; and to save my dignity I must decamp. As for this dingy old chamber, I hate it. I shall go and begin life afresh somewhere else. I wonder what Mr. Young means to do? What can he do? I'm curious to see. If he really suffers from my piano, I have the advantage. It's not his fault, after all, if he objects to music. But it's such an odd turn of mind. It's really pleasanter though, under the circumstances, than if he happened to have a passion for it. When I play, I feel, I think, I talk, I express my moods, my fancies, my regrets, my desires. I can imagine nothing more disagreeable than to know that some totally superfluous little gentleman may be sitting behind that partition, deciphering my notes and very possibly enjoying them—-that I am treating his worship, in short, to a perpetual serenade! I'm spared that annoyance, at any rate! And yet—-and yet—-and yet I confess that there would be a harmless sweetness in having, once in a while, some other auditor than Susie, and Jennie, and Josie. But what's this? (Going to the table.) How came it here? (Takes up a small parcel.) Stephen Young, Esq. He can't have left it here ; he brought in nothing but the flowers. Pah It's his everlasting tobacco. I must get rid of it without loss of time. (Goes to her door and calls into the entry.) Mr. Young. ( A pause.) Mr. Young!

Stephen (without). At your service, madam! (Catherine returns and replaces the package on the table; Stephen reappears with an open letter in his hand.) No proposals for a compromise, I hope!

Catherine (pointing to the package). Be so good as to possess yourself of your own property. How it came here I'm at loss to say.

Stephen . Why, it's evident; your flowers and my tobacco arrived together. The young woman who brought them up committed the pardonable error of giving you my parcel, and me yours.

Catherine . Pardonable! it's easy for you to say.

Stephen . Perfectly so, inasmuch as it has given me a pretext for another visit.

Catherine . You're reading a letter. I'm sorry to have interrupted you.

Stephen . The interruption is most à propos. The letter concerns us both. It's like King and Emperor in the middle ages. They prepare with a great flourish and rumpus to knock each other's heads off when up comes the Pope and knocks off their crowns, without which, of course, their heads are worthless. This letter is the Pope's bull.

Catherine . What on earth do you mean?

Stephen . Our good landlord is the Pope. May I request your attention for five minutes? This morning, as I went out, I deposited below the amount of my monthly bill, which had been some days due. This answer has just been put into my hands. (Reads.) “My dear Mr. Young, I return your bill receipted, with thanks. I take this occasion to make a communication which I have been for some time contemplating, and which it is important you should receive without further delay. I have just sold my house to a party who proposes to convert the ground-floor into a store, and the upper portion into offices, and who will therefore be unable to retain any of my present lodgers. As I have granted immediate occupation I shall be able to allow them to continue or to renew their present leases only to three weeks from this date; namely, to the fifth of May. I have little doubt but that in this interval, my rooms all being let singly, they will find other quarters. I shall immediately advise them to this effect. Yours, etc.” What do you think of that?

Catherine . Think, Mr. Young? Why, it's horrible, monstrous!

Stephen . Man proposes, but landlords dispose. I'm very much afraid we shall have to make peace, in spite of ourselves.

Catherine . Peace? Oh, I shall know nothing of peace until I find another resting place. It's very hard to have to leave this old room.

Stephen . I had no idea you were so fond of it.

Catherine . I beg you to believe that I am fond of it. it's very unreasonable, but when was there any reason in fondness? The room is intensely disagreeable, but, nevertheless, I like it, and I don't choose to be swept out like old rubbish in a house-cleaning.

Stephen . The room in itself; or rather, perhaps, in something that isn't exactly itself, is charming. If you were only to see mine!

Catherine . For a man, it's different. You have only to stuff a few clothes into a valise and to take it in your hand and march off in search of fortune.

Stephen . You put it rather strong, perhaps—-the independence of men. Nevertheless, I confess that, compared with you, I can transplant myself with but little trouble. I have no piano, no sofa, no pictures, no curtains, no little worktables, or other gimcracks.

Catherine . I declare, I could sit down and cry. (Seats herself)

Stephen . Oh, come, don't say that, or I shall begin to entertain feelings with regard to our wronger which, if they insist upon being expressed, may subject me to the penalties of the law. Perhaps I'd better not have read you the letter.

Catherine . It was as well to hear it from you as from that—-that wretch!

Stephen . To-morrow, probably~ he'll give you warning.

Catherine . I shall have gained a day, at any rate, or lost one; I hardly know which.

Stephen . How, lost one?

Catherine . Well, if you wish particularly to know, to-day is my birthday.

Stephen . Ah, yes. Well?

Catherine . Well, that's all.

Stephen . Ah, I see, and I've spoiled it by that detestable piece of news.

Catherine . Oh, there was little enough to spoil, after all.

Stephen (after a pause). Ah, so to-day's your birthday!

Catherine . Dear me, it's a nice time to talk about birthdays.

Stephen . That accounts, of course, for those flowers.

Catherine . Exactly; if there is any need to account for them.

Stephen . I might have guessed at something of the sort.

Catherine. Something of the sort! You're not very polite. How many anniversaries do you think I keep?

Stephen . Upon my word, if I had known this was your birthday I wouldn't have read you that letter.

Catherine . The letter was better than nothing. Besides, it is a rule that my birthdays should be the grimmest possible reminders of mortality. Last year I was laid up with a sick headache; the year before I lost my best pupil, who dismissed me in a polite little note; the year before my chimney caught fire—-this very chimney. It was a late cold spring, you remember; we had fires into June; I was sitting here alone; I heaped on the coal, for company's sake. In half an hour, I assure you, I had company enough—-the landlord, all the lodgers, a dozen firemen, and three or four policemen. That was before you came.

Stephen . Why, you've been through everything in this little room. What was it the year before that?

Catherine . That year I had no birthday. My mother died. After that, I came here.

Stephen . That was three years ago. You must have been lonely.

Catherine . At first I was lonely, indeed. Then I began to get lessons, and I had no time. Only sometimes in the evening I missed a few old associations; and now I have got used to it.

Stephen . There's nothing you miss, then?

Catherine . Nothing—-nothing, at least, that I have ever had.

Stephen . You're contented, then. I'll be hanged if I am! O happy woman!

Catherine . O stupid man! There's a difference between missing the past and longing for the future. We get used to being without the things that have passed away; we never get used to being without the things that have not yet come; we end by ceasing to think of those; we never cease to think of these; and, as regards them at least, we are never contented.

Stephen . Why, you're quite a philosopher! (Hesitates a moment and then seats himself)

Catherine (rising). You'll admit that I need to be a philosopher with such a landlord! (Moves out a small table, takes a cloth from the drawer and lays it.)

Stephen . What are you going to do now?

Catherine . I'm going, by your leave, to have my tea.

Stephen . Ah, yes, by all means; even a philosopher must eat. Do you actually make your tea this way every evening?

Catherine (smiling). Actually. Tea isn't a thing one has by fits and starts.

Stephen . It's something I never have at all. I dine at six, at an eating-house, where I take a cup of very bad coffee. But I haven't really sat down to tea since—-since I was young.

Catherine . I dine at half-past two, at a school where I give lessons. After running about all the afternoon, of course by this hour I'm quite ready for this little ceremony. it's very pleasant to be able at last to have tea by daylight.

Stephen . So I suppose; just as it's disagreeable not to be able to dine by lamplight.

Catherine . Ah, me! to dine by lamplight is the dream of my life; but I suppose I shall never do it till I'm old and rich.

Stephen . As the days grow longer I put off my dinner. In fact, I haven't dined yet.

Catherine (laughing). Good heaven! what a life! (During the above, she has been passing to and fro between the cupboard and the table, setting out the articles necessary for tea. Among other things, she has placed a small kettle, and kindled the lamp beneath it.)

Stephen . It's certain that at my eating-house they don't give me a tablecloth like that.

Catherine . I suppose they make it up by other things. Ah, there's a little hole in the middle!

Stephen . The great Goethe has wisely remarked that man loves freedom and woman order.

Catherine . I'll cover it up with my bouquet. (Places the vase of flowers. ) What do you say about Goethe?

Stephen . I knew you were going to do something with those flowers.

Catherine . It was knowledge easily gained. Don't look at the kettle, now, or it won't boil.

Stephen . Of course I'll not look at the kettle when I can look at you. What are you going to have for tea?

Catherine . Nothing to speak of; bread and butter. There's at least an hour of daylight left; if you are very hungry, you are welcome to a share of my loaf; en attendant your dinner.

Stephen . Oh, I'm terribly hungry.

Catherine . Dear me, if it's as bad as that you'd better go at once to your eating-house. Stay; do you like sardines?

Stephen . Particularly.

Catherine . And guava jelly?

Stephen . Extravagantly.

Catherine . Well, then, perhaps we can blunt the edge of your voracity. ( Returns to the cupboard and takes out a box of sardines and a pot of guava jelly.)

Stephen . Ah, the kettle boils.

Catherine (setting down the above). Be so good, then, as to move your chair up to the table. Luckily, I have things for two. (Lays cup and saucer, plate, etc.)

Stephen . I suppose that once in a while you have a visitor.

Catherine (seated). No one but the cat. You must excuse it, but that's the cat's saucer. Frequently, in the evening, she comes up to drink tea with me. I make her a dish of it just as I do for myself; and she sips it up like a perfect lady. When I move I must have a cat of my own. I shall feel so much more complete.

Stephen . Good heaven! if that's all you need to feel complete—-

Catherine . How do you like your tea?

Stephen . Strong, please—-as strong as Samson unshorn.

Catherine . You mean by that, I suppose, that you want neither cream nor sugar?

Stephen . Cream and sugar are the wiles of Delilah.

Catherine . I must say, then, that Delilah is a much-abused person.

Stephen . It's no more than natural that you should stand up for her. You yourself, Miss West—-

Catherine . Very well—-I myself—-(Laughing). I declare I believe you want me to compare you to Samson. But, I assure you, my respect for the sacred legends of Scripture forbids me to do it.

Stephen . Don't laugh at me now, or I shall pull down the roof on your head.

Catherine . À propos of pulling down roofs, our charming landlord is the man to claim the title. Oh, to think of it!

Stephen . I protest; I stick to my idea. Delilah was, of course, a very charming woman. To begin with, you and she have that in common.

Catherine . Granted. Pursue your argument.

Stephen . Well, the long and short of it is that you, being, as I say, a charming woman, here I sit breaking your bread and drinking your tea, as if we were the best friends in the world.

Catherine . I must say that you're a very weak Samson. I've treated you with no more than common decency. I couldn't do less than ask you to have a cup of tea.

Stephen . No, thank heaven, that you couldn't; but, you know, we had so fiercely resolved, in our future intercourse, to violate the commonest civilities; and then I hated you so!

Catherine . From the moment that a term was so suddenly set to our acquaintance, it seemed a great relief to throw those troublesome resolutions overboard. I call them troublesome, for I assure you I felt none of the inspiration of hatred.

Stephen . Really, then, I hardly know whether your implacable attitude was the more or the less to your credit.

Catherine . Implacable? You use hard words; not that I admit, however, that I was not quite right.

Stephen . Oh, it was very becoming. Of course you felt no sordid human passion. You figured simply your divine protectress—-the canonized Muse—-outraged, insulted, discredited; but cold, relentless and dispassionate. I confess that I felt a good earthly spite.

Catherine . I forgive you. Your cause needed it. After all, this new turn of events has saved us some confusion.

Stephen . One of us, certainly.

Catherine . Well, one of us, if you will. There could have been no graceful termination to our quarrel. And so farewell to the whole business.

Stephen . Farewell! You pronounce the word with singular unction.

Catherine . I know but one way of pronouncing it.

Stephen . Well, I wish you a better neighbour next time; some unappreciated Mozart, some undeveloped Rossini.

Catherine . I'm much obliged to you for your wishes, but my own are very different. I had rather have no neighbour at all. it's much simpler.

Stephen . I'm quite of your mind. So long as contiguity subsists the parties are bitter enemies, and when they come to part they find suddenly that they are great friends. If I could afford it, I should go and take a house and occupy it alone. Failing that, I don't know what's left for me but to perch like St. Simeon on the summit of some lonely column.

Catherine . I shall go to work to-morrow, and if I don't find a lodging before the sun goes down, I shall consent to pass for a very silly creature. I shall not stay here a moment longer than I can help.

Stephen . I applaud your spirit. I shall do as much. We can perhaps be of some assistance to each other. I shall doubtless see a number of apartments that are far too nice for such as me. I will note them down and hand you the list. You, on the other hand, will see a great many that you could never think of occupying; you can give me a hint of their whereabouts.

Catherine . I had no idea there was that vast difference in our needs.

Stephen . Ah, nothing is too nice for you, Miss West.

Catherine . Come, you're extravagant.

Stephen . And nothing too rough, too dingy, too common for me.

Catherine . Oh, do favour me with a reason for this wild antithesis!

Stephen . Why, you see, during this half hour that I've been spending in your room, I've gradually become penetrated with the spirit of the place—-the simple elegance, the unerring good taste that lurks in the disposition of every little ornament, in every fold of drapery. There isn't a thing—-down to the very piano—-that I don't profoundly respect.

Catherine . Upon my word, Mr. Young, you have a brilliant imagination.

Stephen . You wouldn't say so if you were to see the musty, dusty, absolutely naked little hole on the other side of that wall, in which I spend my days and nights. In the middle, a rickety table, with a book under one foot to keep it steady, littered with the direst confusion of dust-covered books and papers, and literally constellated with an infinite diversity of ink blots. A row of bookshelves, with the books thrust in any way but the right way; a cane-seated armchair, a stuffed ditto, a stove, a bed, a washstand, a trunk, a window, four walls, a ceiling and a floor. There you have a complete inventory; that is, it would be complete if I could represent, by any form of words, the lonely, grimy, dingy, late-of-a-November-afternoon expression of the whole place!

Catherine . You have what you need, I suppose. Men's and women's requirements are different. Women, even the most inveterate gad-a-bouts, are essentially stay-at-home creatures. Even wretched, shiftless peripatetics like myself cherish a secret ideal of domesticity. I may tramp about half the day, from house to house, but I like to think that I have a little sanctuary at home where I may hang up a few votive knick-knacks to the household gods. This little room is the home of my fancy; it wants no wider, field; it calls it's guests sometimes from a distance, but it never goes beyond the threshold to meet them. With you it's quite another matter. A man living alone, as you do, can't make a home; he can't live in his shell; he has only one foot at his fireside, the other is in the world.

Stephen . One foot here—-one foot a mile off! You'll admit that it's a deucedly uncomfortable position.

Catherine (laughing). I don't pretend to deny it. Nevertheless, I declare I mortally despise a man whose conversation is forever stretched, as they say, on four pins; who has all his little properties neatly brushed and ticketed and classified. There's nothing I admire so much as a certain generous disorder!

Stephen . Heavenly power! If you only knew me how much you would admire me! It's a very happy arrangement, by the way, this exquisite human faculty of admiration. How it amplifies the soul!—-how it doubles ones existence ! Personally, as you say—-as I see for myself—-you're the very patron saint of neatness and elegance; you make cleanliness picturesque; you make symmetry natural. And yet, seated in the midst of your native paradise, you bestow an approving smile on the dreary chaos of my unblessed existence. And so, on my side, from the depths of that chaos, I gaze in wonder and worship on the unforced harmony, the tranquil comfort which you shed upon your pathway, and which encircles you with a gentle radiance like that of some wholesome daylight saint.

Catherine . It's very strange that precisely those qualities which are most natural to us, and which from long usage have lost every vestige of mystery and charm, and have become as flat and cold as the muffins of this mornings breakfast, should be the very points of attraction to the minds of others, and appear to them as bright and blooming as untrodden islands. Ah, Mr. Young, I'm dismally prosaic, if you only knew me.

Stephen . I have a passion for good prose. I've swallowed in my time an amount of indifferent verse!

Catherine . I declare I'm quite tired of myself and my lonely, fussy little virtues. Do knock over something and break it, Mr. Young!

Stephen . Willingly; if on my side I could only bespeak the touch of those helping, healing hands

Catherine (rising). By the way, it's one of my virtues not to leave my table standing a moment after I've had my tea. If you'll be so good as to rise.

Stephen (rising). Give me that vase of flowers and I'll break it.

Catherine . Gladly, it's very ugly. (Takes out the bouquet and offers the vase.)

Stephen . Oh, I mean the flowers themselves.

Catherine . Ah, barbarian! is that the way you understand me?

Stephen . Now don't tell me I've made a great mistake.

Catherine . It certainly is a mistake to suppose that a woman will ever submit to see flowers wantonly destroyed—-unless when, for some good reason, she destroys them herself.

Stephen . There's an excellent reason why you should do me a favour.

Catherine . What is the favour, pray?

Stephen . Throw that bouquet out of the window.

Catherine . Dear me! is that all? And what is the reason?

Stephen . That I particularly desire it.

Catherine . They are quite worthy of each other. The favour must be less, Mr. Young, or the reason greater.

Stephen . Tell me, then, who sent you the bouquet?

Catherine . The request is peremptory, but I'll satisfy you! Hem! a very dear young friend.

Stephen . Do you call that satisfying me?

Catherine . Upon my word, you're very exacting.

Stephen . And you, Miss West, are very exasperating!

Catherine . Good, so our quarrel is open again!

Stephen (very serious). I assure you, as far as I'm concerned, it has never been closed.

Catherine . Just as you please. I have no time for such trifles now. I have a heavy care on my mind and a long day's work on my hands.

Stephen (with energy). By Heaven! I could positively howl when I hear you talk so.

Catherine . My talk, it seems to me, is quite as reasonable as yours.

Stephen . Doubtless, and your feelings even more so.

Catherine . Farewell, Mr. Young.

Stephen (after a pause, looking at her). You said just now that there is but one way of pronouncing that word. I confess I don't know it.

Catherine . Very well, I excuse you.

Stephen . The best way is not to try it; I'm sure I should break down. In the name of pity, don't you understand me?

Catherine . Not in the least. In one word, are we friends or enemies?

Stephen . I wish to heaven I could say we were neither.

Catherine . Come, Mr. Young, you're foolish.

Stephen . Desperately so, I'm a lover.

Catherine . Oh, oh!

Stephen . Of course, you don't believe it.

Catherine . Of course? (A pause.) Excuse me, you're no lover.

Stephen . Of course you do, then.

Catherine . Worse and worse.

Stephen . Confound it! Perhaps you do, perhaps you don't!

Catherine (after a pause). Perhaps I do. You'll excuse me if I'm not perfectly sure. The events of the last hour—-

Stephen . The events of the last hour, believe me, are proof conclusive of my passion. I've known for the last month that it is a passion, but only this evening have I read it aright. The sunlight of your presence has cleared up my misty doubts, my dusky illusions. Now, that there is a menace in the air of my losing you, I see that that troubling, tuneful presence, which I took to be the torment of my life, was, in truth, it's motive and it's delight. I assure you I thought of you far more than your music warranted. We need some other explanation. Do accept this one—-that I love you with all my soul.

Catherine (smiling). It's very true that, considering that that's a good stout wall, we have been singularly conscious of each other's—-idiosyncrasies.

Stephen . Divinely conscious!

Catherine . I must say, however, that it's a pity you have such an aversion to a piano.

Stephen . My dear Catherine, the secret of the matter was that I couldn't turn your leaves. By the way, you'll perhaps get used to my smoking.

Catherine . You best of men! I promise to light your cigar.

Stephen . Ah, life will be too sweet. But now that I've stepped into authority, I demand as a right that you tell me the history of that nosegay.

Catherine . Why, like that of Viola's love, in “Twelfth Night,” it's well nigh “a blank, my lord!” It was sent me as a birthday token by a pupil, a very good little girl of ten.

Stephen . Bless her kind little heart! Well, my dear, you may keep it as a farewell.