Love's Logic and Other Stories/Love's Logic

First published in Windsor magazine, 1905.

LOVE'S LOGIC[1]

The Scene is a hall or corridor lying between two conservatories one on the right, the other on the left. Besides plants and other ornaments, the corridor is furnished with a couch and a small round table with an arm-chair by it. The time is between eleven and twelve in the evening.
Mr. Marchesson's back is visible in the doorway leading to the conservatory on the right.

MR. M. (Speaking to unseen person in the conservatory.) So awfully sorry, but I absolutely promised to meet a man at the club. (Pause.) Beg pardon? Oh, a fellow named Smith—you don't know him. (Pause.) Yes, I hope we shall meet soon, but I'm rather afraid I may have to go out of town. (Pause.) Good-night. (Backs a little further into the corridor.) Phew!

Miss Grainger's back appears in the doorway leading to the conservatory on the left.

Miss G. (Speaking to unseen person in the conservatory.) Yes, of course we shall be friends. What? (Pause.) Oh yes, great friends. What? (Pause.) I don't know—I may be going out of town. Good-night. (She backs into the corridor throws her eyes upwards and draws in her breath with a long sigh.)

Mr. M. meanwhile has taken out a cigarette and is just about to light it when they turn and see one another. Both start, smile, and then become grave and rather formal in manner.

Mr. M. (Putting his hands—with the cigarette and the match-box—behind him.) Oh, I beg pardon! I didn't think anybody—(He turns as if to retreat into the conservatory.)

Miss G. Please don't go—and please do smoke. It's so nice and cool here, isn't it? (She sits down on the couch and fans herself gently.)

Mr. M. May I really? (He comes forward a little, holding up his cigarette.) You're sure you don't mind?

(She nods. He lights the cigarette.)

Miss G. It's so warm in that conservatory. (Pointing to the left.)

Mr. M. (With feeling.) So it was in that one. (Pointing to the right. He wipes his brow, she fans herself assiduously.) Ouf!

Miss G. You do look rather—flustered.

Mr. M. Well—in fact—so do you.

(They look at one another trying to remain grave but presently both give a short embarrassed laugh. Mr. M. comes a step nearer, placing his hand on the back of the chair.)

I've got it! I know the signs!

(She looks at him inquiringly and with amusement. He nods toward the conservatory on the left.) You've been refusing some fellow in there.

Miss G. Have I? (Pointing to the conservatory on the right.) And what have you been doing in there?

Mr. M. (After a careful glance over his shoulder.) As you didn't see the lady, I don't mind admitting that I've been doing the same thing.

Miss G. (Raising her brows.) Refusing?

Mr. M. Refusing—to ask.

Miss G. Oh!

Mr. M. (He smokes vigorously then throws his cigarette into a receptacle.) It's a precious lot easier for you than for us, though. I say, I must sound like a conceited idiot, I know, but—well, you see, the fact is——

Miss G. That you're Mr. Marchesson?

Mr. M. (Pleased.) You know my name?

Miss G. Oh yes. Mine's Grainger.

Mr. M. Yes. I—I know your name, Miss Grainger.

Miss G. You're diamonds? (She touches some that she is wearing as she speaks. He nods gloomily.)

I'm soap. (He glances for a brief instant at his hand.) So, of course—! (She shrugs her shoulders and closes her fan. A moment's pause.)

Mr. M. Beastly, isn't it.

Miss G. Well, it's monotonous.

Mr. M. It's worse than that. It's degrading, it's heartbreaking, it's ruin to the character. It saps my faith in humanity, it trammels my actions, it confines my affections, it cuts me off from friendship, from the pleasant and innocent companionships which my nature longs for. I alone mayn't look with the eye of honest admiration on a pretty girl, I alone mayn't——

Miss G. Sit in a conservatory?

Mr. M. (With a shudder.) Above all—not that! I tell you it's kept me single for years! And you for——

Miss G. Years?

Mr. M. (Smiling.) Months! All last season and most of this! Take your case now——

Miss G. (Eagerly leaning forward.) Oh yes, let's!

Mr. M. You'd naturally enjoy men's society, you'd like their friendship, their company, their admiration. You'd enjoy an innocent but piquant flirtation.

Miss G. Should I?

Mr. M. (Looking at her.) Well, yes, I think you would. You daren't venture on it!

Miss G. It is generally fatal, I admit.

Mr. M. The plain truth is that the thing's intolerable. I shall stick a placard on my waistcoat—"Not for sale."

Miss G. And I'd better become a hospital nurse!

Mr. M. That's rather an odd remedy. Miss Grainger. But, in some form or other, celibacy—public and avowed celibacy—is our only chance. (He throws himself down in the chair.)

Miss G. (Low.) Unless there was somebody who——

Mr. M. Didn't know who you were? Not to be done in these days, with the illustrated press! And—you'll excuse my referring to it?—but your fond father put you on the wrappings of the soap. And owing to the large sale of the article——

Miss G. Yes, I know. But I meant—if there was somebody who didn't—didn't care about the money?

Mr. M. (Half under his breath.) Said he didn't!

Miss G. And who—who really did care just for—for one's self alone? Oh, I must sound romantic and absurd; but you—you know what I mean, Mr. Marchesson? There are such men, aren't there?

Mr. M. Well, admitting there was one—and it's a handsome admission, which I limit entirely to the male sex—in the first place you wouldn't believe in him half the time, and in the second he wouldn't believe in himself half the time, and in the third none of your friends would believe in him any of the time.

Miss G. That would be horrid—especially the friends, I mean.

Mr. M. Female friends!

Miss G. Of course.

Mr. M. Another disgusting aspect of the business. Do you—do I—ever get legitimate credit for our personal attractions? Never! Never!

Miss G. (With conviction.) That's awfully true.

Mr. M. So even your paragon, if you found him, wouldn't meet the case. And as for my paragon nobody but Diogenes would take on the job of finding her.

Miss G. (Musing.) Is nobody indifferent to money?

Mr. M. Only if they've got more than they want. (He gives a glance at her, unperceived by her, rises, puts his hands in his pockets, and looks at her.) Only the unhappy rich.

Miss G. (Roused from abstraction.) I beg pardon, what?

Mr. M. Imagine a man surfeited, cloyed, smothered in it; a man who has to pay six other men to look after it; a man who can't live because of the income tax, and daren't die because of the death duties; a man overwhelmed with houses he can't live in, yachts he can't sail, horses he can't ride; a man in whom the milk of human kindness is soured by impostors, and for whom even "deserving cases" have lost their charm; a man who's been round the d—d world—I beg your pardon, really I beg your pardon—who's been round the wretched world twice, and shot every beast on it at least once; who is sick of playing, and daren't work for fear of making a profit——

Miss G. It almost sounds as if you were describing yourself.

Mr. M. Oh, no, no! No! At least—er—if at all, quite accidentally. I'll describe you now, if you like.

Miss G. I get absolutely no thrill out of a new frock!

Mr. M. There it is—in a nutshell, by Jingo! Miss Grainger, we have found the people we want, the people who are indifferent to money, and would,—that is, might—marry us for love alone.

Miss G. (Laughing.) You mean—one another? That's really rather an amusing end to our philosophizing, isn't it? (She rises, laughing still, and holds out her hand.) Good-night.

Mr. M. (Indignantly.) Good-night be—! Why, our talk's just got to the most interesting point!

Miss G. Well, you ought to know—you've been doing most of it yourself.

Mr. M. Oh, but don't go! I—I'll do it better—and perhaps quicker too—if you'll stay a bit.

Miss G. (Sitting again with a laugh.) I'll give you just five minutes to wind up the argument.

Mr. M. The conclusion's obvious in logic. I ought to offer you my hand in marriage, and you ought to accept.

Miss G. (Laughing.) Logic is logic, of course, Mr. Marchesson—but we've never even been introduced. I don't think you need feel absolutely compelled to go through the ceremony you suggest. We'll be illogical, and say good-night.

Mr. M. You admit the logic? You see the force of it?

Miss G. Women don't act by logic, though.

Mr. M. It's always at least a good excuse.

Miss G. If you want one, yes. (She is about to rise again.)

Mr. M. I do want one.

(She shakes her head, laughing.)

I'm serious.

Miss G. You don't really want me to think that? The very first time we meet? The lady in there (pointing to the conservatory on the right) must have frightened you terribly indeed.

Mr. M. Until the logic of the thing struck me—which happened only to-night—I thought it no good to try to know you.

Miss G. I don't suppose you ever thought about it at all.

Mr. M. I had nothing to give you—and you had nothing to give me! So it seemed in the days of illogicality. Now it's all different. So I insist on—the ceremony.

Miss G. (Laughing but a little agitated.) Go on, then. But your logic doesn't bind me, you know.

(He comes and sits on the couch by her.)

Yes, that's quite right—but don't put too much feeling into it. It—it's only logic! No, I—I don't think I want you to go on. I—don't think it's a good joke.

Mr. M. It's not a joke. I've never been introduced to you, you say. I've never spoken to you before to-night, I know. But you're not a stranger to me. There have been very few days in the last three months when I haven't managed to see you——

Miss G. (Low.) Managed to see me—managed?

Mr. M. Yes—though I must say you go to some places which but for your presence would be very dull. I stuck at none of them. Miss Grainger. I swallowed every one! Did you ever notice me?

Miss G. Of course not.

(He looks at her.)

Of course I've seen you, but I never noticed you.

(He continues to look at her.)

Not especially, at any rate.

Mr. M. I suppose I must have been there a hundred times. How often did you notice me?

Miss G. How absurd! I'm sure I don't remember. Very seldom.

Mr. M. Don't you remember even the first time?

Miss G. Oh yes, that was at the—No; certainly I don't.

Mr. M. Yes; it was at the Phillips'!

(She smiles against her will. He also smiles.)

I'm glad you remember.

Miss G. You stared so—as you may perhaps remember.

Mr. M. Have I stared every time?

Miss G. Very often anyhow.

Mr. M. You noticed that?

Miss G. Every time I noticed you, I noticed that.

Mr. M. And you noticed that very often! Therefore you noticed me——

Miss G. Please, no more logic!

Mr. M. And yet you try to treat me as a stranger!

Miss G. It is rather a matter of trying with you, isn't it? You're not very susceptible to the treatment.

Mr. M. And pretend to be surprised at my wanting to marry you! If the logic of it still leaves you doubtful——

Miss G. Doubtful! I never said I was doubtful!

Mr. M. Look at the romantic side! How romantic it would be to throw yourself away on riches! Did you never think about that? Not when I—stared?

Miss G. I didn't exactly mean that you exactly stared. You—you—you—Oh, you really might help me out! What did you do?

Mr. M. I'd so much rather hear you say it.

Miss G. Well, right from the beginning there was something in your look—I mean the way you looked at me—I can't describe it, but it got more and more like that.

Mr. M. Yes, I believe I meant it to.

Miss G. Never forward or—or impertinent. Just nice, Mr. Marchesson.

Mr. M. I say, was that a good chap you refused in there (indicating the conservatory to the left) a thousand years ago?

Miss G. Very—so handsome! I liked him awfully. And the girl you refused——

Mr. M. To ask——

Miss G. In there? (Indicating the conservatory to the right.)

Mr. M. Really, you know—impartially speaking—a ripper! Why did we?

Miss G. What?

Mr. M. I said, "Why did we?"

Miss G. Was it—a thousand years ago? Yes?

Mr. M. Which certainly makes it absurd to call us strangers.

Miss G. I wasn't thinking any more about that. Oh, you do——?

Mr. M. I do—mean it.

Miss G. (Rising.) I think that—after all—it wouldn't be so bad in—in——

Mr. M. The conservatory?

(They look at one another and laugh.)

Miss G. It's terribly absurd even to think about it.

Mr. M. It's absolutely logical! And, by the way, it's time I put my question.

Miss G. Haven't you?

Mr. M. Then it's time you gave your answer.

Miss G. (Putting her hands in his.) Haven't I?

Mr. M. There'll be a great deal of talk about this to-morrow! (He offers her his arm, and they go toward the conservatory on the left.) Oh, your conservatory? No!

Miss G. Yours would be just as bad.

Mr. M. Then stay here.

Miss G. Take me to my carriage. And—and come and see if I'm not perfectly logical to-morrow.

(He releases her arm and kisses her hand. She adds in a low voice:) And—somehow—it is absurd—so wonderfully happy to-night! Will you come with me?

Mr. M. Will I live? Come! Quick—through your conservatory! (He puts his arm round her waist.) Come!

(They disappear into the conservatory on the left.)

Curtain

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