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Jpreeentefc to 

Xibran? 

of tbe 

;nm\>er6it of Toronto 

bs 

Bertram 1R, Bavis 

from tbe boofce of 

tbe late Xionel Davia, lk* 



WIDOWERS' HOUSES 



Widowers' Houses: A Play 
By Bernard Shaw. 



*%* ^ 



^Constable and Company 
Ltd. London: 1914. 






6/s- 



\Thisplay has been publicly performed within the United Kingdom. It is 
entered at Stationers' Hall and the Library of Congress, U.S.d. All rights 



Printed by R. & R. CLARK, LIMITED, Edinburgh. 



WIDOWERS' HOUSES 



ACT I 

In the garden restaurant of a hotel at Remagen on the 
Rhine, on a fine afternoon in August in the eighteen-eighties. 
Looking down the Rhine towards Bonn, the gate leading from 
the garden to the riverside is seen on the right. The hotel is 
on the left. It has a wooden annexe with an entrance marked 
Table d'Hote. A waiter is in attendance. 

A couple of English tourists come out of the hotel. The 
younger, Dr Harry Trench, is about 24, stoutly built, thick 
in the neck, close-cropped and black in the hair, with un- 
dignified medical-student manners, frank, hasty, rather boyish. 
The other, Mr William de Burgh Cokane, is older probably 
over 40, possibly 50 an ill-nourished, scanty-haired gentle- 
man, with affected manners ; fidgety, touchy, and constitu- 
tionally ridiculous in uncompassionate eyes. 

COKANE [on the threshold of the hotel, calling peremptorily 
to the waiter\ Two beers for us out here. \The waiter goes 
for the beer. Cokane comes into the garden]. We have 
got the room with the best view in the hotel, Harry, 
thanks to my tact. We'll leave in the morning and do 
Mainz and Frankfurt. There is a very graceful female 
statue in the private house of a nobleman in Frankfurt. 
Also a zoo. Next day, Nuremberg ! finest collection of 
instruments of torture in the world. 



4 Widowers' Houses Act I 

TRENCH. All right. You look out the trains, will you ? 
[He takes out a Continental Brads haw, and tosses it on one of 
the tables}. 

COKANE [baulking himself in the act of sitting down} 
Pah ! the seat is all dusty. These foreigners are deplor- 
ably unclean in their habits. 

TRENCH [buoyantly'] Never mind : it dont matter, old 
chappie. Buck up, Billy, buck up. Enjoy yourself. 
[He throws Cokane into the chair, and sits down opposite him, 
taking out his pipe, and singing noisily'} 

Pour out the Rhine wine : let it flow 
Like a free and bounding river 

COKANE [scandalized} In the name of common decency, 
Harry, will you remember that you are a gentleman and 
not a coster on Hampstead Heath on Bank Holiday ? 
Would you dream of behaving like this in London ? 

TRENCH. Oh, rot ! Ive come abroad to enjoy myself. 
So would you if youd just passed an examination after four 
years in the medical school and walking the hospital. 
[He again bursts into song}. 

COKANE [rising} Trench : either you travel as a gentle- 
man, or you travel alone. This is what makes Englishmen 
unpopular on the Continent. It may not matter before 
the natives ; but the people who came on board the 
steamer at Bonn are English. I have been uneasy all the 
afternoon about what they must think of us. Look at our 
appearance. 

TRENCH. Whats wrong with our appearance ? 

COKANE. Neglige, my dear fellow, neglige. On the 
steamboat a little neglige was quite en regie ; but here, in 
this hotel, some of them are sure to dress for dinner ; and 
you have nothing but that Norfolk jacket. How are they 
to know that you are well connected if you do not shew 
it by your manners ? 

TRENCH. Pooh ! the steamboat people were the scum 
of the earth Americans and all sorts. They may go 



Act I Widowers' Houses 5 

hang themselves, Billy. I shall not bother about them. 
[He strikes a match, and proceeds to light his pipe]. 

COKANE. Do drop calling me Billy in public, Trench. 
My name is Cokane. I am sure they were persons of 
consequence : you were struck with the distinguished 
appearance of the father yourself. 

TRENCH [sobered at once~\ What ! those people ? [He 
blows out the match and puts up his pipe]. 

COKANE {following up his advantage triumphantly] Here, 
Harry, here: at this hotel. I recognized the father's 
umbrella in the hall. 

TRENCH [with a touch of genuine shame] I suppose I 
ought to have brought a change. But a lot of luggage is 
such a nuisance ; and [rising abruptly] at all events we 
can go and have a wash. [He turns to go into the hotel, 
but stops in consternation, seeing some people coming up to the 
riverside gate]. Oh, I say ! Here they are. 

[A lady and gentleman, followed by a porter with some light 
parcels, not luggage, but shop purchases, come into the garden. 
They are apparently father and daughter. The gentleman 
is 50, tall, well preserved, and of upright carriage. His 
incisive, domineering utterance and imposing style, with his 
strong aquiline nose and resolute clean-shaven mouth, give 
him an air of importance. He wears a light grey frock-coat 
with silk linings, a white hat, and a field-glass slung in a new 
leather case. A self-made man, formidable to servants, not 
easily accessible to anyone. His daughter is a well-dressed, 
well-fed, good-looking, strong-minded young woman, presentably 
ladylike, but still her father's daughter. Nevertheless fresh 
and attractive, and none the worse for being vital and energetic 
rather than delicate and refined]. 

COKANE [quickly taking the arm of Trench, who is staring 
as if transfixed] Recollect yourself, Harry : presence of 
mind, presence of mind ! [He strolls with him towards the 
hotel. The waiter comes out with the beer]. Kellner: ceci-la 
est notre table. Est ce que vous comprenez Fran^ais ? 

WAITER. Yes, zare. Oil right, zare. 



6 Widowers' Houses Act I 

THE GENTLEMAN [to his porter} Place those things on 
that table. [The porter does not understand}, 

WAITER [interposing] Zese zhentellmen are using zis 
table, zare. Vould you mind 

THE GENTLEMAN [severely} You should have told me so 
before. [To Cokane, with fierce condescension} I regret the 
mistake, sir. 

COKANE. Dont mention it, my dear sir : dont mention 
it. Retain the place, I beg. 

THE GENTLEMAN {coldly turning his back on him} Thank you. 
[To the porter} Place them on that table. [The porter 
makes no movement until the gentleman points to the parcels 
and peremptorily raps on another table, nearer the gate]. 

PORTER. Ja wohl, gnad'g' Herr. [He puts down the 
parcels}. 

THE GENTLEMAN [taking out a handful of money} Waiter. 

WAITER [awestruck] Yes, zare. 

THE GENTLEMAN. Tea. For two. Out here. 

WAITER. Yes, zare. [He goes into the hotel}. 

[ The gentleman selects a small coin from his handful of 
money, and gives it to the porter, who receives it with a sub- 
missive touch to his cap, and goes out, not daring to speak. His 
daughter sits down and opens a parcel of photographs. The 
gentleman takes out a Baedeker; places a chair for himself; 
and then, before sitting down, looks truculently at Cokane, 
as if waiting for him to take himself off. Cokane, not at 
all abashed, resumes his place at the other table with an air 
of modest good breeding, and calls to Trench, who is prowling 
irresolutely in the background}. 

COKANE. Trench, my dear fellow : your beer is waiting 
for you. [He drinks}. 

TRENCH [glad of the excuse to come back to his chair} 
Thank you, Cokane. [He also drinks}. 

COKANE. By the way, Harry, I have often meant to ask 
you : is Lady Roxdale your mother's sister or your father's ? 
[This shot tells immediately. The gentleman is perceptibly 
interested}. 



Act I Widowers' Houses 7 

TRENCH. My mother's, of course. What put that into 
your head? 

COKANE. Nothing. I was just thinking hm ! She will 
expect you to marry, Harry : a doctor ought to marry. 

TRENCH. What has she got to do with it ? 

COKANE. A great deal, dear boy. She looks forward to 
floating your wife in society in London. 

TRENCH. What rot ! 

COKANE. Ah, you are young, dear boy : you dont know 
the importance of these things apparently idle cere- 
monial trifles, really the springs and wheels of a great 
aristocratic system. [The waiter comes back with the 
tea things, which he brings to the gentleman's table. Cokane 
rises and addresses the gentleman]. My dear sir, excuse my 
addressing you ; but I cannot help feeling that you prefer 
this table and that we are in your way. 

THE GENTLEMAN [grafious/y] Thank you. Blanche : this 
gentleman very kindly offers us his table, if you would 
prefer it. 

BLANCHE. Oh, thanks : it makes no difference. 

THE GENTLEMAN [to Cokane~\ We are fellow travellers, I 
believe, sir. 

COKANE. Fellow travellers and fellow countrymen. Ah, 
we rarely feel the charm of our own tongue until it 
reaches our ears under a foreign sky. You have no doubt 
noticed that ? 

THE GENTLEMAN [a little puzzled] Hm ! From a 
romantic point of view, possibly, very possibly. As a 
matter of fact, the sound of English makes me feel at 
home ; and I dislike feeling at home when I am abroad. It 
is not precisely what one goes to the expense for. [He looks 
at Trench"]. I think this gentleman travelled with us also. 

COKANE [acting as master of the ceremonies~\ My valued 
friend, Dr Trench. [The gentleman and Trench rise]. 
Trench, my dear fellow, allow me to introduce you to 
er ? [He looks enquiringly at the gentleman, waiting 
for the name\ 



8 Widowers' Houses Act I 

THE GENTLEMAN. Permit me to shake your hand, Dr 
Trench. My name is Sartorius ; and I have the honor of 
being known to Lady Roxdale, who is, I believe, a near 
relative of yours. Blanche. [Six looks up]. Dr Trench. 
[They bow}. 

TRENCH. Perhaps I should introduce my friend Cokane 
to you, Mr Sartorius : Mr William de Burgh Cokane. 
[Cokane makes an elaborate bow. Sartorius accepts it with 
dignity. The waiter meanwhile returns with teapot, hot 
water, etc.]. 

SARTORIUS [to the waiter] Two more cups. 

WAITER. Yes, zare. [He goes into the hotel}. 

BLANCHE. Do you take sugar, Mr Cokane ? 

COKANE. Thank you. [To Sartorius} This is really 
too kind. Harry : bring your chair round. 

SARTORIUS. You are very welcome. [Trench brings his 
chair to the tea table ; and they all sit round it. The waiter 
returns with two more cups}. 

WAITER. Table d'hote at 'alf past zix, zhentellmenn. 
Ahnyzing else now, zare ? 

SARTORIUS. No. You can go. [ The waiter goes}. 

COKANE [very agreeably} Do you contemplate a long 
stay here, Miss Sartorius ? 

BLANCHE. We were thinking of going on to Rolandseck. 
Is it as nice as this place ? 

COKANE. Harry : the Baedeker. Thank you. [He 
consults the index, and looks out Rolandseck}. 

BLANCHE. Sugar, Dr Trench ? 

TRENCH. Thanks. [She hands him the cup, and looks 
meaningly at Lim for an instant. He looks down hastily, and 
glances apprehensively at Sartorius, who is preoccupied with a 
piece of bread and butter}. 

COKANE. Rolandseck appears to be an extremely inter- 
esting place. [Rereads} "It is one of the most beauti- 
ful and frequented spots on the river, and is surrounded 
with numerous villas and pleasant gardens, chiefly belong- 
ing to wealthy merchants from the Lower Rhine, and 



Act I Widowers' Houses 9 

extending along the wooded slopes at the back of the 
village." 

BLANCHE. That sounds civilized and comfortable. I 
vote we go there. 

SARTORIUS. Quite like our place at Surbiton, my dear. 

BLANCHE. Quite. 

COKANE. You have a place down the river ? Ah, I envy 
you. 

SARTORIUS. No : I have merely taken a furnished villa 
at Surbiton for the summer. I live in Bedford Square. 
I am a vestryman and must reside in the parish. 

BLANCHE. Another cup, Mr Cokane ? 

COKANE. Thank you, no. [To Sartorius] I presume 
you have been round this little place. Not much to see 
here, except the Apollinaris Church. 

SARTORIUS [scandalized] The what ! 

COKANE. The Apollinaris Church. 

SARTORIUS. A strange name to give a church. Very 
continental, I must say. 

COKANE. Ah, yes, yes, yes. That is where our neigh- 
bors fall short sometimes, Mr Sartorius : taste taste is 
what they occasionally fail in. But in this instance they 
are not to blame. The water is called after the church, 
not the church after the water. 

SARTORIUS [as if this were an extenuating circumstance^ but 
not a complete excuse] I am glad to hear it. Is the church 
a celebrated one ? 

COKANE. Baedeker stars it. 

SARTORIUS [respectfully} Oh, in that case I should like 
to see it. 

COKANE [reading] " erected in 1839 by Zwirner, 
the late eminent architect of the cathedral of Cologne, at 
the expense of Count Fiirstenberg-Stammheim." 

SARTORIUS [much impressed] We must certainly see that, 
Mr Cokane. I had no idea that the architect of Cologne 
cathedral lived so recently. 

BLANCHE. Dont let us bother about any more churches, 



i o Widowers' Houses Act 1 

papa. Theyre all the same ; and I'm tired to death of 
them. 

SARTORIUS. Well, my dear, if you think it sensible to 
take a long and expensive journey to see what there is to 
be seen, and then go away without seeing it 

BLANCHE. Not this afternoon, papa, please. 

SARTORIUS. My dear : I should like you to see every- 
thing. It is part of your education 

BLANCHE [rising, with a petulant sigh] Oh, my education ! 
Very well, very well : I suppose I must go through with 
it. Are you coming, Dr Trench I [With a grimace"] I'm 
sure the Johannis Church will be a treat for you. 

COKANE [laughing softly and archly] Ah, excellent, ex- 
cellent : very good, indeed. [Seriously] But do you know, 
Miss Sartorius, there actually are Johannis churches here 
several of them as well as Apollinaris ones ? 

SARTORIUS [sententiously, taking out his fold-glass and 
leading the way to the gate] There is many a true word 
spoken in jest, Mr Cokane. 

COKANE [accompanying him] How true ! How true ! 
[ They go out together, ruminating profoundly. Blanche makes 
no movement to follow them. She watches until they are 
safely out of sight, and then posts herself before Trench, looking 
at him with an enigmatic smile, which he returns with a ha(f 
sheepish, half conceited grin] . 

BLANCHE. Well ! So you have done it at last. 

TRENCH. Yes. At least Cokane's done it. I told you 
he'd manage it. He's rather an ass in some ways ; but lie 
has tremendous tact. 

BLANCHE [contemptuously] Tact ! Thats not tact : thats 
inquisitiveness. Inquisitive people always have a lot of 
practice in getting into conversation with strangers. Why 
didnt you speak to my father yourself on the boat ? You 
were ready enough to speak to me without any introduction, 

TRENCH. I didnt particularly want to talk to him. 

BLANCHE. It didnt occur to you, I suppose, that you put 
me in a false position by that. 



Act I Widowers' Houses 1 1 

TRENCH. Oh, I dont see that, exactly. Besides, your 
father isnt an easy man to tackle. Of course, now that I 
know him, I see that he's pleasant enough ; but then 
youve got to know him first, havnt you ? 

BLANCHE [impatiently'] Everybody is afraid of papa : I'm 
sure I dont know why. [She sits down again, pouting a 
little]. 

TRENCH [tenderly] However, it's all right now : isnt 
it ? [He sits near her]. 

BLANCHE [sharply] I dont know. How should I ? You 
had no right to speak to me that day on board the steamer. 
You thought I was alone, because [with false pathos] I had 
no mother with me. 

TRENCH [protesting] Oh, I say ! Come ! It was you 
who spoke to me. Of course I was only too glad of the 
chance ; but on my word I shouldnt have moved an eye- 
lid if you hadnt given me a lead. 

BLANCHE. I only asked you the name of a castle. There 
was nothing unladylike in that. 

TRENCH. Of course not. Why shouldnt you ? [With 
renewed tenderness] But it's all right now : isnt it ? 

BLANCHE [softly, looking subtly at him] Is it ? 

TRENCH [suddenly becoming shy] I I suppose so. By 
the way, what about the Apollinaris Church ? Your father 
expects us to follow him, doesnt he ? 

BLANCHE [with suppressed resentment] Dont let me de- 
tain you if you wish to see it. 

TRENCH. Wont you come ? 

BLANCHE. No. [She turns her face away moodily]. 

TRENCH [alarmed] I say : youre not offended, are you ? 
[ She looks round at him for a moment with a reproachful film 
on her eyes]. Blanche. [She bristles instantly ; overdoes it ; 
and frightens him], I beg your pardon for calling you by 
your name ; but I er [She corrects her mistake by 
softening her expression eloquently. He responds with a gush] 
You dont mind, do you ? I felt sure you wouldnt, some- 
how. Well, look here. I have no idea how you will 



1 2 Widowers' Houses Act I 

receive this : it must seem horribly abrupt ; but the cir- 
cumstances do not admit of the fact is, my utter want of 
tact [he founders more and more, unable to see that she can 
hardly contain her eagerness]. Now, if it were Cokane 

BLANCHE [impatiently] Cokane ! 

TRENCH [terrified] No, not Cokane. Though I assure 
you I was only going to say about him that 

BLANCHE. That he will be back presently with papa. 

TRENCH [stupidly] Yes : they cant be very long now. I 
hope I'm not detaining you. 

BLANCHE. I thought you were detaining me because you 
had something to say. 

TRENCH [totally unnerved] Not at all. At least, nothing 
very particular. That is, I'm afraid you wouldnt think it 
very particular. Another time, perhaps 

BLANCHE. What other time ? How do you know that 
we shall ever meet again ? [Desperately] Tell me now. 
I want you to tell me now. 

TRENCH. Well, I was thinking that if we could make up 
our minds to or not to at least er [His nervous- 
ness deprives him of the power of speech], 

BLANCHE [giving him up as hopeless] I dont think theres 
much danger of your making up your mind, Dr 
Trench. 

TRENCH [stammering] I only thought [He stops and 
looks at her piteous ly. She hesitates a moment , and then puts 
her hands into his with calculated impulsiveness. He catches 
her in his arms with a cry of relief]. Dear Blanche ! - I 
thought I should never have said it. I believe I should 
have stood stuttering here all day if you hadnt helped me 
out with it. 

BLANCHE [trying to get away from him] I didnt help you 
out with it. 

TRENCH [holding her] I dont mean that you did it on 
purpose, of course. Only instinctively. 

BLANCHE [still a little anxious] But you havnt said 
anything. 



Act I Widowers' Houses 13 

TRENCH. What more can I say than this ? [He kisses 
her again]. 

BLANCHE [overcome by the kiss, but holding on to her point] 
But Harry 

TRENCH [delighted at the name] Yes. 

BLANCHE. When shall we be married ? 

TRENCH. At the first church we meet : the Apollinaris 
Church, if you like. 

BLANCHE. No, but seriously. This is serious, Harry : 
you musnt joke about it. 

TRENCH [looking suddenly round to the riverside gate and 
quickly releasing her]. Sh ! Here they are back again. 

BLANCHE. Oh, d [The word is drowned by the clangor 
of a bell from within the hotel. The waiter appears on the 
steps, ringing it. Cokane and Sartorius are seen returning by 
the river gate]. 

WAITER. Table d'h6te in dwendy minutes, ladies and 
zhentellmenn. [He goes into the hotel]. 

SARTORIUS [gravely] I intended you to accompany us, 
Blanche. 

BLANCHE. Yes, papa. We were just about to start. 

SARTORIUS. We are rather dusty : we must make our- 
selves presentable at the table d'hote. I think you. had 
better come in with me, my child. Come. [He offers 
Blanche his arm. The gravity of his manner overawes them 
all. Blanche silently takes his arm and goes into the hotel with 
him. Cokane, hardly less momentous than Sartorius himself, 
contemplates Trench with the severity of a judge], 

COKANE [with reprobation] No, my dear boy. No, no. 
Never. I blush for you was never so ashamed in my 
life. You have been taking advantage of that unprotected 
girl. 

TRENCH [hotly] Cokane ! 

COKANE [inexorable] Her father seems to be a perfect 
gentleman. I obtained the privilege of his acquaintance : 
I introduced you : I allowed him to believe that he might 
leave his daughter in your charge with absolute confidence. 



14 Widowers' Houses Act I 

And what did I see on our return ? what did her father 
see ? Oh, Trench, Trench ! No, my dear fellow, no, no. 
Bad taste, Harry, bad form ! 

TRENCH. Stuff! There was nothing to see. 

COKANE. Nothing to see ! She, a perfect lady, a person 
of the highest breeding, actually in your arms ; and you say 
there was nothing to see ! with a waiter there actually 
ringing a heavy bell to call attention to his presence. 
[Lecturing him with redoubled severity] Have you no 
principles, Trench ? Have you no religious convictions ? 
Have you no acquaintance with the usages of society ? 
You actually kissed 

TRENCH. You didnt see me kiss her. 

COKANE. We not only saw but heard it: the report 
positively reverberated down the Rhine. Dont condescend 
to subterfuge, Trench. 

TRENCH. Nonsense, my dear Billy. You 

COKANE. There you go again. Dont use that low 
abbreviation. How am I to preserve the respect of fellow 
travellers of position and wealth, if I am to be Billied at 
every turn ? My name is William : William de Burgh 
Cokane. 

TRENCH. Oh, bother ! There : dont be offended, old 
chap. Whats the use of putting your back up at every 
trifle ? It comes natural to me to call you Billy : it suits 
you, somehow. 

COKANE [mortified] You have no delicacy of feeling, 
Trench no tact. I never mention it to anyone ; but 
nothing, I am afraid, will ever make a true gentleman of 
you. [Sartorius appears on the threshold of the hotel]. Here 
is my friend Sartorius, coming, no doubt, to ask you for 
an explanation of your conduct. I really should not have 
been surprised to see him bring a horsewhip with him. I 
shall not intrude on the painful scene. 

TRENCH. Dont go, confound it. I dont want to meet 
him alone just now. 

COKANE [shaking his head] Delicacy, Harry, delicacy ! 



Act I Widowers' Houses 1 5 

Good taste ! Savoir faire ! [He walks away. Trench tries 
to escape in the opposite direction by strolling off towards the 
garden entrance}. 

SARTORIUS [mesmerifaUy] Dr Trench. 

TRENCH [stopping and fuming] Oh, is that you, Mr Sar- 
torius ? How did you find the church ? 

[Sartorius, without a word, points to a seat. Trench, half 
hypnotized by his own nervousness and the impressiveness of 
Sartorius, sits down helplessly}. 

SARTORIUS {also seating himself} You have been speaking 
to my daughter, Dr Trench. 

TRENCH [with an attempt at ease of manner} Yes : we had 
a conversation quite a chat, in fact whilst you were 
at the church with Cokane. How did you get on with 
Cokane, Mr Sartorius ? I always think he has such won- 
derful tact. 

SARTORIUS [ignoring the digression} I have just had a 
word with my daughter, Dr Trench ; and I find her under 
the impression that something has passed between you 
which it is my duty as a father the father of a motherless 
girl to inquire into at once. My daughter, perhaps 
foolishly, has taken you quite seriously ; and 

TRENCH. But 

SARTORIUS. One moment, if you will be so good. I 
have been a young man myself younger, perhaps, than 
you would suppose from my present appearance. I mean, 
of course, in character. If you were not serious 

TRENCH [ingenuously} But I was perfectly serious. I 
want to marry your daughter, Mr Sartorius. I hope you 
dont object. 

SARTORIUS [condescending to Trench's humility from the mere 
instinct to seize an advantage, and yet deferring to Lady Rox- 
dale 1 s relative} So far, no. I may say that your proposal 
seems to be an honorable and straightforward one, and 
that it is very gratifying to me personally. 

TRENCH [agreeably surprised} Then I suppose we may 
consider the affair as settled. It's really very good of you. 



1 6 Widowers' Houses Act I 

SARTORIUS. Gently, Dr Trench, gently. Such a trans- 
action as this cannot be settled off-hand. 

TRENCH. Not off-hand, no. There are settlements and 
things, of course. But it may be regarded as settled be- 
tween ourselves, maynt it ? 

SARTORIUS. Hm ! Have you nothing further to mention ? 

TRENCH. Only that that No : I dont know that I 
have, except that I love 

SARTORIUS [interrupting] Anything about your family, 
for example ? You do not anticipate any objection on 
their part, do you ? 

TRENCH. Oh, they have nothing to do with it. 

SARTORIUS \warmly\ Excuse me, sir : they have a great 
deal to do with it. \Trench is abashed], I am resolved 
that my daughter shall approach no circle in which she 
will not be received with the full consideration to which 
her education and her breeding [here his self-control slips a 
little ; and he repeats, as if Trench had contradicted hini\ I 
say, her breeding entitle her. 

TRENCH {bewildered] Of course not. But what makes 
you think my family wont like Blanche ? Of course my 
father was a younger son ; and Ive had to take to a pro- 
fession and all that ; so my people wont expect us to 
entertain them : theyll know we cant afford it. But theyll 
entertain us : they always ask me. 

SARTORIUS. That wont do for me, sir. Families often 
think it due to themselves to turn their backs on new- 
comers whom they may not think quite good enough for 
them. 

TRENCH. But I assure you my people arnt a bit 
snobbish. Blanche is a lady : thatll be good enough for 
them. 

SARTORIUS \moved~\ I am glad you think so. [He offers his 
hand. Trench, astonished, takes if]. I think so myself. 
[He presses Trenctis hand gratefully and releases it\. And 
now, Dr Trench, since you have acted handsomely, you 
shall have no cause to complain of me. There shall be 



Act I Widowers' Houses 1 7 

no difficulty about money : you shall entertain as much as 
you please : I will guarantee all that. But I must have a 
guarantee on my side that she will be received on equal 
terms by your family. 

TRENCH. Guarantee ! 

SARTORIUS. Yes, a reasonable guarantee. I shall expect 
you to write to your relatives explaining your intention, 
and adding what you think proper as to my daughter's 
fitness for the best society. When you can shew me a 
few letters from the principal members of your family, 
congratulating you in a fairly cordial way, I shall be satis- 
fied. Can I say more ? 

TRENCH [much puzzled, but grateful] No indeed. You 
are really very good. Many thanks. Since you wish it, 
I'll write to my people. But I assure you youll find them 
as jolly as possible over it. I'll make them write by return. 

SARTORIUS. Thank you. In the meantime, I must ask 
you not to regard the matter as settled. 

TRENCH. Oh ! Not to regard the I see. You mean 
between Blanche and 

SARTORIUS. I mean between you and Miss Sartorius. 
When I interrupted your conversation here some time ago, 
you and she were evidently regarding it as settled. In 
case difficulties arise, and the match you see I call it a 
match be broken off, I should not wish Blanche to think 
that she had allowed a gentleman to to [Trench nods 
sympathetically] Quite so. May I depend on you to keep 
a fair distance, and so spare me the necessity of having to 
restrain an intercourse which promises to be very pleasant 
to us all ? 

TRENCH. Certainly; since you prefer it. [They sha-ke 
hands on it]. 

SARTORIUS [rising] You will write to-day, I think you 
said ? 

TRENCH [eagerly] I'll write now, before I leave here 
straight ofF. 

SARTORIUS. I will leave you to yourself then. [He hesi- 

VOL. i c 



1 8 Widowers' Houses Act I 

tates, the conversation having made him self-conscious and 
embarrassed; then recovers himself with an effort and adds with 
dignity, as he turns to go] I am pleased to have come to 
an understanding with you. [He goes into the hotel; and 
Cokane, who has been hanging about inquisitively , emerges from 
the shrubbery}. 

TRENCH \exciudly\ Billy, old chap : youre just in time 
to do me a favour. I want you to draft a letter for me to 
copy out. 

COKANE. I came with you on this tour as a friend, 
Trench : not as a secretary. 

TRENCH. Well, youll write as a friend. It's to my 
Aunt Maria, about Blanche and me. To tell her, you 
know. 

COKANE. Tell her about Blanche and you ! Tell her 
about your conduct ! Betray you, my friend ; and forget 
that I am writing to a lady ? Never ! 

TRENCH. Bosh, Billy : dont pretend you dont under- 
stand. We're engaged engaged, my boy: what do 
you think of that ? I must write by to-night's post. You 
are the man to tell me what to say. Come, old chap 
\coaxing him to sit down at one of the tables} : here's a pencil. 
Have you a bit of oh, here : thisll do : write it on the 
back of the map. [He tears the map out of his Baedeker and 
spreads it face downwards on the table. Cokane takes the pencil 
and prepares to write']. Thats right. Thanks awfully, old 
chap ! Now fire away. [Anxiously} Be careful how you 
word it, though, Cokane. 

COKANE [putting down the pencil} If you doubt my 
ability to express myself becomingly to Lady Roxdale 

TRENCH [propitiating him} All right, old fellow, all 
right : theres not a man alive who could do it half so well 
as you. I only wanted to explain. You see, Sartorius has 
got it into his head, somehow, that my people will snub 
Blanche ; and he wont consent unless they send letters 
and invitations and congratulations and the deuce knows 
what not. So just put it in such a way that Aunt Maria 



Act I Widowers' Houses 19 

will write by return saying she is delighted, and asking us 
Blanche and me, you know to stay with her, and so 
forth. You know what I mean. Just tell her all about 
it in a chatty way ; and 

COKANE [crushingly] If you will tell me all about it in 
a chatty way, I daresay I can communicate it to Lady 
Roxdale with proper delicacy. What is Sartorius ? 

TRENCH [taken aback] I dont know : I didnt ask. It's 
a sort of question you cant very well put to a man at 
least a man like him. Do you think you could word 
the letter so as to pass all that over ? I really dont like to 
ask him. 

COKANE. I can pass it over if you wish. Nothing easier. 
But if you think Lady Roxdale will pass it over, I differ 
from you. I may be wrong : no doubt I am. I generally 
am wrong, I believe ; but that is my opinion. 

TRENCH [much perplexed] Oh, confound it ! What the 
deuce am I to do ? Cant you say he's a gentleman : that 
wont commit us to anything. If you dwell on his being 
well off, and Blanche an only child, Aunt Maria will be 
satisfied. 

COKANE. Henry Trench : when will you begin to get a 
little sense ? This is a serious business. Act responsibly, 
Harry : act responsibly. 

TRENCH. Bosh ! Dont be moral ! 

COKANE. I am not moral, Trench. At least I am not a 
moralist : that is the expression I should have used moral, 
but not a moralist. If you are going to get money with 
your wife, doesnt it concern your family to know how that 
money was made ? Doesnt it concern you you, Harry ? 
[Trench looks at him helplessly, twisting his fngers nervously. 
Cokane throws down the pencil and leans back with ostentatious 
indifference]. Of course it is no business of mine : I only 
throw out the suggestion. Sartorius may be a retired 
burglar for all I know. [Sartorius and Blanche, ready for 
dinner, come from the hotel]. 

TRENCH. Sh ! Here they come. Get the letter finished 



2O Widowers' Houses Act I 

before dinner, like a good old chappie : I shall be awfully 
obliged to you. 

COKANE [impatiently] Leave me, leave me : you disturb 
me. [He waves him off and begins to write]. 

TRENCH \humbfy and gratefully} Yes, old chap. Thanks 
awfully. 

[By this time Blanche has left her father and is strolling of 
towards the riverside. Sartorius comes down the garden, 
Baedeker in hand, and sits near Cokane, reading. Trench 
addresses him}. You wont mind my taking Blanche in to 
dinner, I hope, sir ? 

SARTORIUS. By all means, Dr Trench. Pray do so. 
[He graciously waves him off to join Blanche. Trench hurries 
after her through the gate. The light reddens as the Rhenish 
sunset begins. Cokane, making wry faces in the agonies of 
composition, is disconcerted to find Sartorius' s eye upon hini\. 

SARTORIUS. I do not disturb you, I hope, Mr Cokane. 

COKANE. By no means. Our friend Trench has en- 
trusted me with a difficult and delicate task. He has 
requested me, as a friend of the family, to write to them 
on a subject that concerns you. 

SARTORIUS. Indeed, Mr Cokane. Well, the communi- 
cation could not be in better hands. 

COKANE [with an air of modesty] Ah, that is going too 
far, my dear sir, too far. Still, you see what Trench is. 
A capital fellow in his way, Mr Sartorius, an excellent 
young fellow. But family communications like these 
require good manners. They require tact ; and tact is 
Trench's weak point. He has an excellent heart, but no 
tact none whatever. Everything depends on the way 
the matter is put to Lady Roxdale. But as to that, you 
may rely on me. I understand the sex. 

SARTORIUS. Well, however she may receive it and I 
care as little as any man, Mr Cokane, how people may 
choose to receive me I trust I may at least have the 
pleasure of seeing you sometimes at my house when we 
return to England. 



Act I Widowers' Houses 21 

COKANE [overwhelmed] My dear sir! You express 
yourself in the true spirit of an English gentleman. 

SARTORIUS. Not at all. You will always be most 
welcome. But I fear I have disturbed you in the com- 
position of your letter. Pray resume it. I shall leave you 
to yourself. [He pretends to rise, but checks himself to add] 
Unless indeed I can assist you in any way ? by clearing 
up any point on which you are not informed, for instance ; 
or even, if I may so far presume on my years, giving you 
the benefit of my experience as to the best way of wording 
the matter. [Cokane looks a little surprised at this. Sartorius 
looks hard at him, and continues deliberately and meaningly] 
I shall always be happy to help any friend of Dr Trench's, 
in any way, to the best of my ability and of my 
means. 

COKANE. My dear sir : you are really very good. Trench 
and I were putting our heads together over the letter just 
now ; and there certainly were one or two points on which 
we were a little in the dark. [Scrupulously] But I would 
not permit Harry to question you. No. I pointed out to 
him that, as a matter of taste, it would be more delicate to 
wait until you volunteered the necessary information. 

SARTORIUS. Hm ! May I ask what you have said, so far ? 

COKANE. " My dear Aunt Maria." That is, Trench's 
dear Aunt Maria, my friend Lady Roxdale. You under- 
stand that I am only drafting a letter for Trench to copy. 

SARTORIUS. Quite so. Will you proceed ; or would it 
help you if I were to suggest a word or two ? 

COKANE [effusively] Your suggestions will be most valu- 
able, my dear sir, most welcome. 

SARTORIUS. I think I should begin in some such way as 
this. " In travelling with my friend Mr Cokane up the 
Rhine" 

COKANE [murmuring as he -writes] Invaluable, invaluable. 
The very thing. " my friend Mr Cokane up the 
Rhine" 

SARTORIUS. "I have made the acquaintance of" or 



22 Widowers' Houses Act I 

you may say "picked up," or "come across," if you think 
that would suit your friend's style better. We must not 
be too formal. 

COKANE. " Picked up " ! oh no : too degage, Mr Sar- 
torius, too degage. I should say "had the privilege of 
becoming acquainted with." 

SARTORIUS [quickly'] By no means : Lady Roxdale must 
judge of that for herself. Let it stand as I said. " I have 
made the acquaintance of a young lady, the daughter of " 
[He hesitates}. 

COKANE [writing] "acquaintance of a young lady, the 
daughter of" yes ? 

SARTORIUS. "of" you had better say "a gentleman." 

COKANE [surprised} Of course. 

SARTORIUS [with sudden passion] It is not of course, sir, 
[Cokane, startled, looks at him with dawning suspicion. Sar- 
torius recovers himself somewhat shamefacedly}. Hm ! " of 
a gentleman of considerable wealth and position " 

COKANE [echoing him with a new note of coldness in his voice 
as he writes the last words} " and position " 

SARTORIUS. "which, however, he has made entirely for 
himself." [Cokane, now fully enlightened, stares at him instead 
of writing}. Have you written that ? 

COKANE [expanding into an attitude of patronage and en- 
couragement} Ah, indeed. Quite so, quite so. [He writes} 
" entirely for himself." Just so. Proceed, Mr Sar- 
torius, proceed. Very clearly expressed. 

SARTORIUS. "The young lady will inherit the bulk of 
her father's fortune, and will be liberally treated on her 
marriage. Her education has been of the most expensive 
and complete kind obtainable ; and her surroundings have 
been characterized by the strictest refinement. She is in 
every essential particular " 

COKANE [interrupting} Excuse the remark ; but dont 
you think this is rather too much in the style of a pro- 
spectus of the young lady ? I throw out the suggestion as 
a matter of taste. 



Act I Widowers' Houses 23 

SARTORIUS [troubled] Perhaps you are right. I am of 
course not dictating the exact words ; 

COKANE. Of course not : of course not. 

SARTORIUS. but I desire that there may be no wrong 
impression as to my daughter's er breeding. As to 
myself 

COKANE. Oh, it will be sufficient to mention your pro- 
fession, or pursuits, or [He pauses; and they look pretty 
hard at one another]. 

SARTORIUS [very deliberately'] My income, sir, is derived 
from the rental of a very extensive real estate in London. 
Lady Roxdale is one of the head landlords ; and Dr 
Trench holds a mortgage from which, if I mistake not, his 
entire income is derived. The truth is, Mr Cokane, I 
am quite well acquainted with Dr Trench's position and 
affairs ; and I have long desired to know him personally. 

COKANE [again obsequious, but still inquisitive} What a 
remarkable coincidence ! In what quarter is the estate 
situated, did you say ? 

SARTORIUS. In London, sir. Its management occu- 
pies as much of my time as is not devoted to the ordinary 
pursuits of a gentleman. [He rises and takes out his card 
case]. The rest I leave to your discretion. [He leaves a card 
on the table]. That is my address at Surbiton. If it should 
unfortunately happen, Mr Cokane, that this leads to noth- 
ing but a disappointment for Blanche, probably she would 
rather not see you afterwards. But if all turns out as we 
hope, Dr Trench's best friends will then be our best 
friends. 

COKANE [rising and confronting Sartorius confidently, pencil 
and paper in hand] Rely on me, Mr Sartorius. The letter 
is already finished here [pointing to his brain]. In five 
minutes it will be finished there [He points to the paper ; 
nods to emphasize the assertion ; and begins to pace up and down 
the garden, writing, and tapping his forehead from time to time 
as he goes, with every appearance of severe intellectual 
exertion]. 



24 Widowers' Houses Acti 

SARTORIUS [falling through the gate after a glance at his 
watch] Blanche. 

BLANCHE [replying in the distance] Yes ? 

SARTORIUS. Time, my dear. [He goes into the table 
d'hote]. 

BLANCHE [nearer] Coming. [She comes back through the 
gate, followed by Trench], 

TRENCH [in a half whisper, as Blanche goes towards the 
table d'hote] Blanche : stop one moment. [She stops]. 
We must be careful when your father is by. I had to 
promise him not to regard anything as settled until I hear 
from my people at home. 

BLANCHE [chilled] Oh, I see. Your family may object 
to me ; and then it will be all over between us. They 
are almost sure to. 

TRENCH [anxiously] Dont say that, Blanche : it sounds 
as if you didnt care. I hope you regard it as settled. 
You havnt made any promise, you know. 

BLANCHE [earnestly] Yes, I have : / promised papa too. 
But I have broken my promise for your sake. I suppose I 
am not so conscientious as you. And if the matter is not 
to be regarded as settled, family or no family, promise or 
no promise, let us break it off here and now. 

TRENCH [intoxicated with affection] Blanche : on my 
most sacred honor, family or no family, promise or no 
promise [ The waiter reappears at the table d'hote entrance, 
ringing his bell loudly]. Damn that noise ! 

COKANE [as he comes to them, flourishing the letter] Finished, 
dear boy, finished. Done to a turn, punctually to the 
second. C'est fini, mon cher ga^on, c'est fini. [Sartorius 
returns]. 

SARTORIUS. Will you take Blanche in, Dr Trench ? 
[Trench takes Blanche into the table d'hote]. Is the letter 
finished, Mr Cokane ? 

COKANE [with an author's pride, handing his draft to Sar- 
torius] There ! [Sartorius reads it, nodding gravely over 
it with complete approval]. 



Act I Widowers' Houses 25 

SARTORIUS [returning the draft} Thank you, Mr Cokane. 
You have the pen of a ready writer. 

COKANE [as they go in together'] Not at all, not at all. A 
little tact, Mr Sartorius ; a little knowledge of the world ; 
a little experience of women [They disappear into the 
annexe]. 



ACT II 

In the library of a handsomely appointed villa at Surbiton 
on a sunny forenoon in September. Sartorius is busy at a 
writing table, littered with business letters. The fireplace, 
decorated for summer, is close behind him : the window is in the 
opposite wall. Between the table and the window Blanche, 
in her prettiest frock, sits reading The Queen. The door, 
painted, like all the woodwork, in the blackest shade of red, 
with brass fittings and moulded posts and pediment, is in the 
middle. All the walls are lined with shelves of smartly tooled 
books, fitting into their places like bricks. A library ladder 
stands in the corner. 

SARTORIUS. Blanche. 

BLANCHE. Yes, papa. 

SARTORIUS. I have some news here. 

BLANCHE. What is it ? 

SARTORIUS. I mean news for you from Trench. 

BLANCHE [with affected indifference'] Indeed ? 

SARTORIUS. "Indeed?" ! Is that all you have to say to 
me ? Oh, very well. [He resumes his work. Silence}. 

BLANCHE. What do his people say, papa ? 

SARTORIUS. His people ! I dont know. [Still busy. 
Another pause]. 

BLANCHE. What does he say? 

SARTORIUS. He ! He says nothing. [He folds a letter 
leisurely and looks for the envelope}. He prefers to com- 
municate the result of his where did I put oh, 



Act II Widowers' Houses 27 

here. Yes : he prefers to communicate the result in 
person. 

BLANCHE [springing up] Oh, papa ! When is he 
coming ? 

SARTORIUS. If he walks from the station, he may arrive 
in the course of the next half-hour. If he drives, he may 
be here at any moment. 

BLANCHE [making hastily for the door] Oh ! 

SARTORIUS. Blanche. 

BLANCHE. Yes, papa. 

SARTORIUS. You will of course not meet him until he 
has spoken to me. 

BLANCHE [hypocritically] Of course not, papa. I shouldnt 
have thought of such a thing. 

SARTORIUS. That is all. [She is going, when he puts out 
his hand, and says with fatherly emotion] My dear child. 
[She responds by going over to kiss him. A tap at the door]. 
Come in. [Lickcheese enters, carrying a black handbag. 
He is a shabby, needy man, with dirty face and linen, scrubby 
beard and whiskers, going bald. A nervous, wiry, pertinacious 
sort of human terrier, judged by his mouth and eyes, but miser- 
ably apprehensive and servile before Sartorius. He bids 
Blanche " Good morning, miss " / and she passes out with a 
slight and contemptuous recognition of him]. 

LICKCHEESE. Good morning, sir. 

SARTORIUS [harsh and peremptory] Good morning. 

LICKCHEESE [taking a little sack of money from his bag] 
Not much this morning, sir. I have just had the honor of 
making Dr Trench's acquaintance, sir. 

SARTORIUS [looking up from his writing, displeased] In- 
deed ? 

LICKCHEESE. Yes, sir. Dr Trench asked his way of me, 
and was kind enough to drive me from the station. 

SARTORIUS. Where is he, then ? 

LICKCHEESE. I left him in the hall, with his friend, sir. 
I should think he is speaking to Miss Sartorius. 

SARTORIUS. Hm ! What do you mean by his friend ? 



28 Widowers' Houses Act II 

LICKCHEESE. There is a Mr Cokane with him, sir. 
SARTORIUS. I see you have been talking to him, eh ? 
LICKCHEESE. As we drove along : yes, sir. 
SARTORIUS [sharply] Why did you not come by the nine 
o'clock train ? 

LICKCHEESE. I thought 

SARTORIUS. It cannot be helped now ; so never mind 
what you thought. But do not put off my business again 
to the last moment. Has there been any further trouble 
about the St Giles property ? 

LICKCHEESE. The Sanitary Inspector has been complain- 
ing again about No. 13 Robbins's Row. He says he'll 
bring it before the vestry. 

SARTORIUS. Did you tell him that I am on the vestry ? 

LICKCHEESE. Yes, Sir. 

SARTORIUS. What did he say to that ? 

LICKCHEESE. Said he supposed so, or you wouldnt dare 
to break the law so scand'lous. I only tell you what he 
said. 

SARTORIUS. Hm ! Do you know his name ! 

LICKCHEESE. Yes, sir. Speakman. 

SARTORIUS. Write it down in the diary for the day of 
the next meeting of the Health Committee. I will teach 
Mr Speakman his duty to members of the vestry. 

LICKCHEESE \doubtfully\ The vestry cant hurt him, sir. 
He's under the Local Government Board. 

SARTORIUS. I did not ask you that. Let me see the 
books. [Lickcheese produces the rent book, and hands it- to 
Sartorius ; then makes the desired entry in the diary on the 
table, watching Sartorius with misgiving as the rent book is 
examined. Sartorius rises, frowning\ l 14.5. for repairs 
to No. 13. What does this mean ? 

LICKCHEESE. Well, sir, it was the staircase on the third 
floor. It was downright dangerous : there werent but 
three whole steps in it, and no handrail. I thought it best 
to have a few boards put in. 

SARTORIUS. Boards ! Firewood, sir, firewood ! They 



Act II Widowers' Houses 29 

will burn every stick of it. You have spent twenty-four 
shillings of my money on firewood for them. 

LICKCHEESE. There ought to be stone stairs, sir : it 
would be a saving in the long run. The clergyman 
says 

SARTORIUS. What! who says? 

LICKCHEESE. The clergyman, sir, only the clergyman. 
Not that I make much account of him ; but if you 
knew how he has worried me over that staircase 

SARTORIUS. I am an Englishman ; and I will suffer no 
priest to interfere in my business. [He turns suddenly 
on Lickcheese]. Now look here, Mr Lickcheese ! This is 
the third time this year that you have brought me a bill of 
over a pound for repairs. I have warned you repeatedly 
against dealing with these tenement houses as if they were 
mansions in a West-End square. I have had occasion to 
warn you too against discussing my affairs with strangers. 
You have chosen to disregard my wishes. You are dis- 
charged. 

LICKCHEESE [dismayed] Oh, sir, dont say that. 

SARTORIUS [fiercely] You are discharged. 

LICKCHEESE. Well, Mr Sartorius, it is hard, so it is. 
No man alive could have screwed more out of them poor 
destitute devils for you than I have, or spent less in doing 
it. I have dirtied my hands at it until theyre not fit for 
clean work hardly ; and now you turn me 

SARTORIUS [interrupting him menacingly] What do you 
mean by dirtying your hands ? If I find that you have 
stepped an inch outside the letter of the law, Mr Lick- 
cheese, I will prosecute you myself. The way to keep 
your hands clean is to gain the confidence of your em- 
ployers. You will do well to bear that in mind in your 
next situation. 

THE PARLOR MAID [opening the door] Mr Trench and 
Mr Cokane. [Cokane and Trench come in: Trench festively 
dressed and in buoyant spirits, Cokane highly self-satisfed]. 

SARTORIUS. How do you do, Dr Trench ? Good morning, 



30 Widowers' Houses Act II 

Mr Cokane. I am pleased to see you here. Mr Lick- 
cheese : you will place your accounts and money on the 
table : I will examine them and settle with you presently. 
[Lickcheese retires to the table, and begins to arrange his accounts, 
greatly depressed]. 

TRENCH [glancing at Lickcheese] I hope we're not in the 
way. 

SARTORIUS. By no means. Sit down, pray. I fear you 
have been kept waiting. 

TRENCH {taking Blanche's chair] Not at all. Weve 
only just come in. [He takes out a packet of letters and 
begins untying them]. 

COKANE [going to a chair nearer the window, but stopping to 
look admiringly round before sitting down] You must be 
happy here with all these books, Mr Sartorius. A literary 
atmosphere. 

SARTORIUS [resuming his seat] I have not looked into 
them. They are pleasant for Blanche occasionally when 
she wishes to read. I chose the house because it is on 
gravel. The death-rate is very low. 

TRENCH [triumphantly] I have any amount of letters for 
you. All my people are delighted that I am going to settle. 
Aunt Maria wants Blanche to be married from her house. 
[He hands Sartorius a letter]. 

SARTORIUS. Aunt Maria ? 

COKANE. Lady Roxdale, my dear sir : he means Lady 
Roxdale. Do express yourself with a little more tact, my 
dear fellow. 

TRENCH. Lady Roxdale, of course. Uncle Harry 

COKANE. Sir Harry Trench. His godfather, my dear 
sir, his godfather. 

TRENCH. Just so. The pleasantest fellow for his age 
you ever met. He offers us his house at St Andrews for 
a couple of months, if we care to pass our honeymoon 
there. [He hands Sartorius another letter]. It's the sort of 
house nobody can live in, you know ; but it's a nice thing 
for him to offer. Dont you think so ? 



Act II Widowers' Houses 3 1 

SARTORIUS {dissembling a thrill at the titles] No doubt. 
These seem very gratifying, Dr Trench. 

TRENCH. Yes, arnt they ? Aunt Maria has really behaved 
like a brick. If you read the postscript youll see she 
spotted Cokane's hand in my letter. [Chuckling] He wrote 
it for me. 

SARTORIUS {glancing at Cokane] Indeed ! Mr Cokane 
evidently did it with great tact. 

COKANE [returning the glance\ Dont mention it. 

TRENCH [gleefully] Well, what do you say now, Mr 
Sartorius ? May we regard the matter as settled at last ? 

SARTORIUS. Quite settled. [He rises and offers his hand. 
Trench, glowing with gratitude, rises and shakes it vehemently, 
unable to find words for his feelings']. 

COKANE [coming between them]. Allow me to congratulate 
you both. [He shakes hands with the two at the same time]. 

SARTORIUS. And now, gentlemen, I have a word to say 
to my daughter. Dr Trench : you will not, I hope, grudge 
me the pleasure of breaking this news to her : I have had 
to disappoint her more than once since I last saw you. 
Will you excuse me for ten minutes ? 

COKANE [in a flush of friendly protest] My dear sir : can 
you ask ? 

TRENCH. Certainly. 

SARTORIUS. Thank you. [He goes out]. 

TRENCH [chuckling again] He wont have any news to 
break, poor old boy : she's seen all the letters already. 

COKANE. I must say your behavior has been far from 
straightforward, Harry. You have been carrying on a 
clandestine correspondence. 

LICKCHEESE [stealthily] Gentlemen 

COKANE 1 [* urnin & ' % had forgotten his presence] Hallo! 

LICKCHEESE [coming between them very humbly, but in mortal 
anxiety and haste] Look here, gentlemen. [To Trench] 
You, sir, I address myself to more particlar. Will you say 
a word in my favor to the guvnor ? He's just given me 



32 Widowers' Houses Act II 

the sack ; and I have four children looking to me for their 
bread. A word from you, sir, on this happy day, might get 
him to take me on again. 

TRENCH [embarrassed] Well, you see, Mr Lickcheese, 
I dont see how I can interfere. I'm very sorry, of course. 

COKANE. Certainly you cannot interfere. It would be 
in the most execrable taste. 

LICKCHEESE. Oh, gentlemen, youre young ; and you 
dont know what loss of employment means to the like of 
me. What harm would it do you to help a poor man ? 
Just listen to the circumstances, sir. I only 

TRENCH [moved, but snatching at an excuse for taking a high 
tone in avoiding the unpleasantness of helping hirn\ No : I had 
rather not. Excuse my saying plainly that I think Mr 
Sartorius is not a man to act hastily or harshly. I have 
always found him very fair and generous ; and I believe he 
is a better judge of the circumstances than I am. 

COKANE [inquisitive} I think you ought to hear the cir- 
cumstances, Harry. It can do no harm. Hear the cir- 
cumstances by all means. 

LICKCHEESE. Never mind, sir : it aint any use. When 
I hear that man called generous and fair ! well, never 
mind. 

TRENCH [severely] If you wish me to do anything for 
you, Mr Lickcheese, let me tell you that you are not 
going the right way about it in speaking ill of Mr Sar- 
torius. 

LICKCHEESE. Have I said one word against him, sir ? I 
leave it to your friend : have I said a word ? 

COKANE. True : true. Quite true. Harry: be just. 

LICKCHEESE. Mark my words, gentlemen : he'll find 
what a man he's lost the very first week's rents the new 
man'll bring him. Youll find the difference yourself, Dr 
Trench, if you or your children come into the property. 
Ive took money there when no other collector alive would 
have wrung it out. And this is the thanks I get for it ! 
Why, see here, gentlemen ! Look at that bag of money 



Act II Widowers' Houses 33 

on the table. Hardly a penny of that but there was a 
hungry child crying for the bread it would have bought. 
But I got it for him screwed and worried and bullied 
it out of them. I look here, gentlemen : I'm pretty 
seasoned to the work ; but theres money there that I 
couldnt have taken if it hadnt been for the thought of my 
own children depending on me for giving him satisfaction. 
And because I charged him four-and-twenty shillin' to 
mend a staircase that three women have been hurt on, and 
that would have got him prosecuted for manslaughter if 
it had been let go much longer, he gives me the sack. 
Wouldnt listen to a word, though I would have offered to 
make up the money out of my own pocket aye, and am 
willing to do it still if you will only put in a word for 
me. 

TRENCH \aghast\ You took money that ought to have 
fed starving children ! Serve you right ! If I had been 
the father of one of those children, I'd have given you 
something worse than the sack. I wouldnt say a word to 
save your soul, if you have such a thing. Mr Sartorius 
was quite right. 

LICKCHEESE [staring at him, surprised into contemptuous 
amusement in the midst of his anxiety] Just listen to this ! 
Well, you are an innocent young gentleman. Do you 
suppose he sacked me because I was too hard ? Not a bit 
on it : it was because I wasnt hard enough. I never 
heard him say he was satisfied yet : no, nor he wouldnt, 
not if I skinned em alive, I dont say he's the worst land- 
lord in London : he couldnt be worse than some ; but 
he's no better than the worst I ever had to do with. 
And, though I say it, I'm better than the best collector he 
ever done business with. Ive screwed more and spent 
less on his properties than anyone would believe that 
knows what such properties are. I know my merits, Dr 
Trench, and will speak for myself if no one else will. 

COKANE. What description of properties ? Houses ? 

LICKCHEESE. Tenement houses, let from week to week 

VOL. I D 



34 Widowers' Houses Act II 

by the room or half room aye, or quarter room. It pays 
when you know how to work it, sir. Nothing like it. It's 
been calculated on the cubic foot of space, sir, that you 
can get higher rents letting by the room than you can for 
a mansion in Park Lane. 

TRENCH. I hope Mr Sartorius hasnt much of that sort 
of property, however it may pay. 

LICKCHEESE. He has nothing else, sir ; and he shews his 
sense in it, too. Every few hundred pounds he could 
scrape together he bought old houses with houses that 
you wouldnt hardly look at without holding your nose. 
He has em in St Giles's : he has em in Marylebone : he 
has em in Bethnal Green. Just look how he lives himself, 
and youll see the good of it to him. He likes a low 
death-rate and a gravel soil for himself, he does. You 
come down with me to Robbins's Row ; and I'll shew you 
a soil and a death-rate, so I will ! And, mind you, it's 
me that makes it pay him so well. Catch him going 
down to collect his own rents ! Not likely ! 

TRENCH. Do you mean to say that all his property 
all his means come from this sort of thing ? 

LICKCHEESE. Every penny of it, sir. \Trcncb, over- 
whelmed, has to sit down\. 

COKANE [looking compassionately at him] Ah, my dear 
fellow, the love of money is the root of all evil. 

LICKCHEESE. Yes, sir ; and we'd all like to have the tree 
growing in our garden. 

COKANE [revolted] Mr Lickcheese : I did not address 
myself to you. I do not wish to be severe with you ; but 
there is something peculiarly repugnant to my feelings in 
the calling of a rent collector. 

LICKCHEESE. It's no worse than many another. I have 
my children looking to me. 

COKANE. True : I admit it. So has our friend Sartorius. 
His affection for his daughter is a redeeming point a 
redeeming point, certainly. 

LICKCHEESE. She's a lucky daughter, sir. Many another 



Act II Widowers' Houses 35 

daughter has been turned out upon the streets to gratify 
his affection for her. Thats what business is, sir, you see. 
Come, sir : I think your friend will say a word for me now 
he knows I'm not in fault. 

TRENCH [rising angrily'] I will not. It's a damnable 
business from beginning to end ; and you deserve no better 
luck for helping in it. Ive seen it all among the out- 
patients at the hospital ; and it used to make my blood 
boil to think that such things couldnt be prevented. 

LICKCHEESE [his suffftssedspltetl breaking out] Oh indeed, 
sir. But I suppose youll take your share when you 
marry Miss Blanche, all the same. [Furiously] Which of 
us is the worse, I should like to know me that wrings 
the money out to keep a home over my children, or you 
that spend it and try to shove the blame on to me ? 

COKANE. A most improper observation to address to a 
gentleman, Mr Lickcheese ! A most revolutionary senti- 
ment ! 

LICKCHEESE. Perhaps so. But then Robbins's Row aint 
a school for manners. You collect a week or two there 
youre welcome to my place if I cant keep it for myself 
and youll hear a little plain speaking, so you will. 

COKANE [with dignity] Do you know to whom you are 
speaking, my good man ? 

LICKCHEESE [recklessly] I know well enough who I'm 
speaking to. What do I care for you, or a thousand such ? 
I'm poor : thats enough to make a rascal of me. No con- 
sideration for me nothing to be got by saying a word for 
me ! [Suddenly cringing to Trench] Just a word, sir. It 
would cost you nothing. [Sarforius appears at the door, un- 
observed]. Have some feeling for the poor. 

TRENCH. I'm afraid you have shewn very little, by your 
own confession. 

LICKCHEESE [breaking out again] More than your precious 
father-in-law, anyhow. I [Sartorius's voice, striking in 
with deadly coldness, paralyzes him]. 

SARTORIUS. You will come here to-morrow not later 



36 Widowers' Houses Act II 

than ten, Mr Lickcheese, to conclude our business. I 
shall trouble you no further to-day. {Lickcheese, cowed, 
goes out amid dead silence. Sartorius continues, after an 
awkward pause] He is one of my agents, or rather was ; 
for I have unfortunately had to dismiss him for repeatedly 
disregarding my instructions. [Trench says nothing. Sar- 
torius throws of his embarrassment, and assumes a jocose, 
rallying air, unbecoming to him under any circumstances, and 
just now almost unbearably jarring], Blanche will be down 
presently, Harry [Trench recoils'] I suppose I must call 
you Harry now. What do you say to a stroll through the 
garden, Mr Cokane ? We are celebrated here for our 
flowers. 

COKANE. Charmed, my dear sir, charmed. Life here is 
an idyll a perfect idyll. We were just dwelling 
on it. 

SARTORIUS [y^j] Harry can follow with Blanche. She 
will be down directly. 

TRENCH [hastily] No. I cant face her just now. 

SARTORIUS [rallying him] Indeed ! Ha, ha ! [ The laugh, 
the frst they have heard from him', sets Trench's teeth on edge. 
Cokane is taken aback, but instantly recovers himself]. 

COKANE. Ha ! ha ! ha ! Ho ! ho ! 

TRENCH. But you dont understand. 

SARTORIUS. Oh, I think we do, I think we do. Eh, Mr 
Cokane? Ha! ha! 

COKANE. I should think we do. Ha ! ha ! ha ! 

[They go out together, laughing at him. He collapses into- 
a chair, shuddering in every nerve. Blanche appears at the 
door. Her face lights up when she sees that he is alone. She 
trips noiselessly to the back of his chair and clasps her hands 
over his eyes. With a convulsive start and exclamation he 
springs up and breaks away from her]. 

BLANCHE [astonished] Harry ! 

TRENCH [with distracted politeness] I beg your pardon. I 
was thinking wont you sit down ? 

BLANCHE [looking suspiciously at him] Is anything the 



Act II Widowers' Houses 37 

matter? [She sits down slowly near the writing table. He 
takes Cokane's chair']. 

TRENCH. No. Oh no. 

BLANCHE. Papa has not been disagreeable, I hope. 

TRENCH. No : I have hardly spoken to him since I was 
with you. [He rises; takes up his chair; and plants it 
beside hers. This pleases her better. She looks at him with 
her most winning smile. A sort of sob breaks from him ; and 
he catches her hands and kisses them passionately. Then, look- 
ing into her eyes with intense earnestness, he says] Blanche : 
are you fond of money ? 

BLANCHE [gaily] Very. Are you going to give me any ? 

TRENCH [wincing] Dont make a joke of it : I'm serious. 
Do you know that we shall be very poor ? 

BLANCHE. Is that what made you look as if you had 
neuralgia ? 

TRENCH [pleadingly] My dear : it's no laughing matter. 
Do you know that I have a bare seven hundred a year to 
live on ? 

BLANCHE. How dreadful ! 

TRENCH. Blanche : it's very serious indeed : I assure 
you it is. 

BLANCHE. It would keep me rather short in my house- 
keeping, dearest boy, if I had nothing of my own. But 
papa has promised me that I shall be richer than ever 
when we are married. 

TRENCH. We must do the best we can with seven 
hundred. I think we ought to be self-supporting. 

BLANCHE. Thats just what I mean to be, Harry. If I 
were to eat up half your ^700, I should be making you 
twice as poor ; but I'm going to make you twice as rich 
instead. [He shakes his head]. Has papa made any diffi- 
culty ? 

TRENCH [rising with a sigh and taking his chair back to its 
former place] No, none at all. [He sits down dejectedly. 
When Blanche speaks again her face and voice betray the 
beginning of a struggle with her temper]. 



38 Widowers' Houses Act II 

BLANCHE. Harry : are you too proud to take money 
from my father ? 

TRENCH. Yes, Blanche : I am too proud. 

BLANCHE [after a pause] That is not nice to me, Harry. 

TRENCH. You must bear with me, Blanche. I I cant 
explain. After all, it's very natural. 

BLANCHE. Has it occurred to you that I may be proud, 
too? 

TRENCH. Oh, thats nonsense. No one will accuse you 
of marrying for money. 

BLANCHE. No one would think the worse of me if I 
did, or of you either. [She rises and begins to walk restlessly 
about}. We really cannot live on seven hundred a year, 
Harry ; and I dont think it quite fair of you to ask me 
merely because youre afraid of people talking. 

TRENCH. It's not that alone, Blanche. 

BLANCHE. What else is it, then ? 

TRENCH. Nothing. I 

BLANCHE [getting behind him, and speaking with forced 
playfulness as she bends over him, her hands on his shoulders} 
Of course it's nothing. Now dont be absurd, Harry : be 
good ; and listen to me : I know how to settle it. You 
are too proud to owe anything to me ; and I am too proud 
to owe anything to you. You have seven hundred a year. 
Well, I will take just seven hundred a year from papa at 
first ; and then we shall be quits. Now, now, Harry, you 
know youve not a word to say against that. 

TRENCH. It's impossible. 

BLANCHE. Impossible ! 

TRENCH. Yes, impossible. I have resolved not to take 
any money from your father. 

BLANCHE. But he'll give the money to me, not to you. 

TRENCH. It's the same thing. \With an effort to be senti- 
mental} I love you too well to see any distinction. [He 
puts up his hand half-heartedly : she takes it over his shoulder 
with equal indecision* They are both trying hard to conciliate 
one another}. 



Act II Widowers' Houses 39 

BLANCHE. Thats a very nice way of putting it, Harry ; 
but I'm sure theres something I ought to know. Has 
papa been disagreeable ? 

TRENCH. No : he has been very kind to me, at least. 
It's not that. It's nothing you can guess, Blanche. It 
would only pain you perhaps offend you. I dont mean, 
of course, that we shall live always on seven hundred a 
year. I intend to go at my profession in earnest, and work 
my fingers to the bone. 

BLANCHE [playing with his fingers, still over his shoulder] 
But I shouldnt like you with your fingers worked to the 
bone, Harry. I must be told what the matter is. [He 
takes his hand quickly away : she flushes angrily ; and her 
voice is no longer even an imitation of the voice of a lady as 
she exclaims~\ I hate secrets ; and I dont like to be treated 
as if I were a child. 

TRENCH [annoyed by her tone~\ Theres nothing to tell. 
I dont choose to trespass on your father's generosity : thats 
all. 

BLANCHE. You had no objection half an hour ago, when 
you met me in the hall, and shewed me all the letters. 
Your family doesnt object. Do you object? 

TRENCH [earnestly'] I do not indeed. It's only a question 
of money. 

BLANCHE [imploringly, the voice softening and refining for 
the last time] Harry : theres no use in our fencing in this 
way. Papa will never consent to my being absolutely 
dependent on you ; and I dont like the idea of it myself. 
If you even mention such a thing to him you will break 
off the match : you will indeed. 

TRENCH [obstinately'] I cant help that. 

BLANCHE [white with rage] You cant help ! Oh, I'm 
beginning to understand. I will save you the trouble. 
You can tell papa that / have broken off the match ; and 
then there will be no further difficulty. 

TRENCH [taken aback] What do you mean, Blanche ? 
Are you offended ? 



40 Widowers' Houses Act II 

BLANCHE. Offended ! How dare you ask me ? 

TRENCH. Dare ! 

BLANCHE. How much more manly it would have been 
to confess that you were trifling with me that time on the 
Rhine ! Why did you come here to-day ? Why did you 
write to your people ? 

TRENCH. Well, Blanche, if you are going to lose your 
temper 

BLANCHE. Thats no answer. You depended on your 
family to get you out of your engagement ; and they did 
not object : they were only too glad to be rid of you. 
You were not mean enough to stay away, and not manly 
enough to tell the truth. You thought you could provoke 
me to break the engagement: thats so like a man to 
try to put the woman in the wrong. Well, you have 
your way : I release you. I wish youd opened my eyes 
by downright brutality by striking me by anything 
rather than shuffling as you have done. 

TRENCH [hotly] Shuffle ! If I'd thought you capable of 
turning on me like this, I'd never have spoken to you. Ive 
a good mind never to speak to you again. 

BLANCHE. You shall not not ever. I will take care of 
that [going to the door\. 

TRENCH \alarmed\ What are you going to do ? 

BLANCHE. To get your letters your false letters, and 
your presents your hateful presents, to return them to 
you. I'm very glad it's all broken off; and if [as she 
puts her hand to the door it is opened from without by Sartorius, 
who enters and shuts it behind him]. 

SARTORIUS [interrupting her severely] Hush, pray, 
Blanche : you are forgetting yourself: you can be heard 
all over the house. What is the matter ? 

BLANCHE [too angry to care whether she is overheard or not] 
You had better ask him. He has some excuse about 
money. 

SARTORIUS. Excuse ! Excuse for what ? 

BLANCHE. For throwing me over. 



Act II Widowers' Houses 41 

TRENCH [vehemently] I declare I never 

BLANCHE [interrupting him still more vehemently"] You 
did. You did. You are doing nothing else [Trench 
begins repeating his contradiction and she her assertion ; so that 
they both speak angrily together]. 

SARTORIUS [in desperation at the noise] Silence. [Still 
more formidably] Silence. [They obey. He proceeds frmly] 
Blanche : you must control your temper : I will not have 
these repeated scenes within hearing of the servants. Dr 
Trench will answer for himself to me. You had better 
leave us. [He opens the door, and calls'] Mr Cokane : will 
you kindly join us here. 

COKANE [in the conservatory] Coming, my dear sir, 
coming. [He appears at the door]. 

BLANCHE. I'm sure I have no wish to stay. I hope I 
shall find you alone when I come back. \_An inarticulate 
exclaf-.-tion bursts from Trench. She goes out, passing Cokane 
resentfully. He looks after her in surprise ; then looks ques- 
tioningly at the two men. Sartorius shuts the door with an 
angry stroke, and turns to Trench]. 

SARTORIUS [aggressively] Sir 

TRENCH [interrupting him more aggressively] Well, 
sir ? 

COKANE [getting between them] Gently, dear boy, gently. 
Suavity, Harry, suavity. 

SARTORIUS [mastering himself] If you have anything to 
say to me, Dr Trench, I will listen to you patiently. 
You will then allow me to say what I have to say on my 
part. 

TRENCH [ashamed] I beg your pardon. Of course, yes. 
Fire away. 

SARTORIUS. May I take it that you have refused to fulfil 
your engagement with my daughter ? 

TRENCH. Certainly not : your daughter has refused to 
fulfil her engagement with me. But the match is broken 
off, if thats what you mean. 

SARTORIUS. Dr Trench : I will be plain with you. I 



42 Widowers' Houses Act n 

know that Blanche has a quick temper. It is part of her 
strong character and her physical courage, which is greater 
than that of most men, I can assure you. You must be 
prepared for that. If this quarrel is only Blanche's temper, 
you may take my word for it that it will be over before 
to-morrow. But I understood from what she said jtfst 
now that you have made some difficulty on the score of 
money. 

TRENCH [with renewed excitement} It was Miss Sar- 
torius who made the difficulty. I shouldnt have minded 
that so much, if it hadnt been for the things she said. She 
shewed that she doesnt care that [snapping his fingers] for 
me. 

COKANE [soothingly] Dear boy 

TRENCH. Hold your tongue, Billy : it's enough to make 
a man wish he'd never seen a woman. Look here, Mr 
Sartorius : I put the matter to her as delicately and con- 
siderately as possible, never mentioning a word of my 
reasons, but just asking her to be content to live on my 
own little income ; and yet she turned on me as if I'd 
behaved like a savage. 

SARTORIUS. Live on your income ! Impossible : my 
daughter is accustomed to a proper establishment. Did I 
not expressly undertake to provide for that ? Did she not 
tell you I promised her to do so ? 

TRENCH. Yes, I know all about that, Mr Sartorius ; 
and I'm greatly obliged to you ; but I'd rather not take 
anything from you except Blanche herself. 

SARTORIUS. And why did you not say so before ? 

TRENCH. No matter why. Let us drop the subject. 

SARTORIUS. No matter ! But it does matter, sir. I 
insist on an answer. Why did you not say so before ? 

TRENCH. I didnt know before. 

SARTORIUS [provoked] Then you ought to have known 
your own mind before entering into such a very serious 
engagement. [He flings angrily away across the room and 
back]. 



Act II Widowers' Houses 43 

TRENCH [much injured] I ought to have known ! 
Cokane : is this reasonable ? [Cokane's features are con- 
torted by an air of judicial consideration ; but he ?ays nothing ; 
and Trench again addresses Sartorius, this time with a marked 
diminution of respect]. How the deuce could I have known ? 
You didnt tell me. 

SARTORIUS. You are trifling with me, sir. You say that 
you did not know your own mind before. 

TRENCH. I say nothing of the sort. I say that I did not 
know where your money came from before. 

SARTORIUS. That is not true, sir. I 

COKANE. Gently, my dear sir. Gently, Harry, dear 
boy. Suaviter in modo : fort 

TRENCH. Let him begin, then. What does he mean by 
attacking me in this fashion ? 

SARTORIUS. Mr Cokane : you will bear me out. I was 
explicit on the point. I said I was a self-made man ; and 
I am not ashamed of it. 

TRENCH. You are nothing of the sort. I found out 
this morning from your man Lickcheese, or whatever 
his confounded name is that your fortune has been 
made out of a parcel of unfortunate creatures that have 
hardly enough to keep body and soul together made by 
screwing, and bullying, and driving, and all sorts of petti- 
fogging tyranny. 

SARTORIUS [outraged] Sir ! \They confront one another 
threateningly ] . 

COKANE [softly] Rent must be paid, dear boy. It is 
inevitable, Harry, inevitable. [ Trench turns away petulantly. 
Bartorius looks after him reflectively for a moment ; then resumes 
his former deliberate and dignified manner, and addresses Trench 
with studied consideration, but with a perceptible condescension 
to his youth and folly]. 

SARTORIUS. I am afraid, Dr Trench, that you are a very 
young hand at business ; and I am sorry I forgot that for a 
moment or so. May I ask you to suspend your judgment 
until we have a little quiet discussion of this sentimental 



44 Widowers' Houses Act n 

notion of yours ? if you will excuse me for calling it so. 
[He takes a chair, and motions Trench to another on his right], 

COKANE. Very nicely put, my dear sir. Come, Harry : 
sit down and listen ; and consider the matter calmly and 
judicially. Dont be headstrong. 

TRENCH. I have no objection to sit down and listen ; 
but I dont see how that can make black white ; and I am 
tired of being turned on as if I were in the wrong. [He 
sits down. Cokane sits at his elbow, on his right. They com- 
pose themselves for a conference}. 

SARTORIUS. I assume, to begin with, Dr Trench, that 
you are not a Socialist, or anything of that sort. 

TRENCH. Certainly not. I'm a Conservative at least, 
if I ever took the trouble to vote, I should vote for the 
Conservative and against the other fellow. 

COKANE. True blue, Harry, true blue ! 

SARTORIUS. I am glad to find that so far we are in perfect 
sympathy. I am, of course, a Conservative ; not a narrow 
or prejudiced one, I hope, nor at all opposed to true pro- 
gress, but still a sound Conservative. As to Lickcheese, I 
need say no more about him than that I have dismissed 
him from my service this morning for a breach of trust ; 
and you will hardly accept his testimony as friendly or 
disinterested. As to my business, it is simply to provide 
homes suited to the small means of very poor people, who 
require roofs to shelter them just like other people. Do 
you suppose I can keep up those roofs for nothing ? 

TRENCH. Yes : thats all very fine ; but the point is, 
what sort of homes do you give them for their money ? 
People must live somewhere, or else go to jail. Advantage 
is taken of that to make them pay for houses that are not 
fit for dogs. Why dont you build proper dwellings, and 
give fair value for the money you take ? 

SARTORIUS [pitying his innocence~\ My young friend: these 
poor people do not know how to live in proper dwellings : 
they would wreck them in a week. You doubt me : try 
it for yourself. You are welcome to replace all the 



Act II Widowers' Houses 45 

missing bannisters, handrails, cistern lids and dusthole tops 
at your own expense ; and you will find them missing again 
in less than three days burnt, sir, every stick of them. 
I do not blame the poor creatures : they need fires, and 
often have no other way of getting them. But I really 
cannot spend pound after pound in repairs for them to pull 
down, when I can barely get them to pay me four and 
sixpence a week for a room, which is the recognized fair 
London rent. No, gentlemen : when people are very 
poor, you cannot help them, no matter how much you 
may sympathize with them. It does them more harm than 
good in the long run. I prefer to save my money in 
order to provide additional houses for the homeless, and to 
lay by a little for Blanche. [He looks at them. They 
are silent: Trench unconvinced, but talked down; Cokane 
humanely perplexed. Sartorius bends his brows ; comes forward 
in his chair as if gathering himself together for a spring; and 
addresses himself, with impressive significance, to Trench]. 
And now, Dr Trench, may I ask what your income is 
derived from ! 

TRENCH {defiantly} From interest not from houses. M y 
hands are clean as far as that goes. Interest on a mortgage. 

SARTORIUS [forcibly] Yes: a mortgage on my property. 
When I, to use your own words, screw, and bully, and 
drive these people to pay what they have freely undertaken 
to pay me, I cannot touch one penny of the money they 
give me until I have first paid you your ^700 out of it. 
What Lickcheese did for me, I do for you. He and I are 
alike intermediaries : you are the principal. It is because 
of the risks I run through the poverty of my tenants that 
you exact interest from me at the monstrous and exorbitant 
rate of seven per cent, forcing me to exact the uttermost 
farthing in my turn from the tenants. And yet, Dr 
Trench, you have not hesitated to speak contemptuously of 
me because I have applied my industry and forethought to 
the management of our property, and am maintaining it 
by the same honorable means. 



4 6 



Widowers' Houses Act II 



COKANE [greatly relieved} Admirable, my dear sir, excel- 
lent ! I felt instinctively that Trench was talking unprac- 
tical nonsense. Let us drop the subject, my dear boy : 
you only make an ass of yourself when you meddle in 
business matters. I told you it was inevitable. 

TRENCH {dazed] Do you mean to say that I am just as 
bad as you are ? 

COKANE. Shame, Harry, shame ! Grossly bad taste ! 
Be a gentleman. Apologize. 

SARTORIUS. Allow me, Mr Cokane. [To Trench] If, 
when you say you are just as bad as I am, you mean that 
you are just as powerless to alter the state of society, then 
you are unfortunately quite right. [Trench does not at once 
reply. He stares at S art onus, and then hangs his head and 
gazes stupidly at the floor, morally beggared, with his clasped 
knuckles between his knees, a living picture of disillusion. 
Cokane comes sympathetically to him and puts an encouraging 
hand on his shoulder]. 

COKANE [gently] Come, Harry, come ! Pull yourself 
together. You owe a word to Mr Sartorius. 

TRENCH \still stupefed, slowly unlaces his flngers ; puts his 
hands on his knees, and lifts himself upright ; pulls his waistcoat 
straight with a tug; and tries to take his disenchantment 
philosophically as he turns to Sartorius]. Well, people who 
live in glass houses have no right to throw stones. But, on 
my honor, I never knew that my house was a glass one 
until you pointed it out. I beg your pardon. [He offers 
his hand]. 

SARTORIUS. Say no more, Harry : your feelings do you 
credit : I assure you I feel exactly as you do, myself. 
Every man who has a heart must wish that a better state of 
things was practicable. But unhappily it is not. 

TRENCH [a little consoled] I suppose not. 

COKANE. Not a doubt of it, my dear sir : not a doubt of 
it. The increase of the population is at the bottom of 
it all. 

SARTORIUS [to Trench] I trust I have convinced you that 



Act II Widowers' Houses 47 

you need no more object to Blanche sharing my fortune, 
than I need object to her sharing yours. 

TRENCH [with dull wistfulness] It seems so. We're all 
in the same swim, it appears. I hope youll excuse my 
making such a fuss. 

SARTORIUS. Not another word. In fact, I thank you for 
refraining from explaining the nature of your scruples to 
Blanche : I admire that in you, Harry. Perhaps it will 
be as well to leave her in ignorance. 

TRENCH [anxiously] But I must explain now. You saw 
how angry she was. 

SARTORIUS. You had better leave that to me. [He looks 
at his watch, and rings the bell]. Lunch is nearly due : 
while you are getting ready for it I can see Blanche ; and 
I hope the result will be quite satisfactory to us all. [The 
parlor maid answers the bell: he addresses her with his habitual 
peremptoriness] Tell Miss Blanche I want her. 

THE PARLOR MAID [her face falling expressively] Yes, sir. 
[ She turns reluctantly to go]. 

SARTORIUS [on second thoughts] Stop. [She stops]. My 
love to Miss Blanche ; and I am alone here and would 
like to see her for a moment if she is not busy. 

THE PARLOR MAID [relieved] Yes, sir. [She goes out]. 

SARTORIUS. I will shew you your room, Harry. I hope 
you will soon be perfectly at home in it. You also, Mr 
Cokane, must learn your way about here. Let us go before 
Blanche comes. [He leads the way to the door]. 

COKANE [cheerily, following him] Our little discussion 
has given me quite an appetite. 

TRENCH [moodily] It's taken mine away. [They go out, 
Sartorius holding the door for them. He is following when the 
parlor maid reappears. She is a snivelling, sympathetic creature, 
and is on the verge of tears]. 

SARTORIUS. Well : is Miss Blanche coming ? 

THE PARLOR MAID. Yes, sir. I think so, sir. 

SARTORIUS. Wait here until she comes ; and tell her that 
I will be back in a moment. 



48 Widowers' Houses Act II 

THE PARLOR MAID. Yes, SIT. [She comes into the room. 
Sartorius looks suspiciously at her as she passes him. He half 
closes the door and follows her]. 

SARTORIUS [lowering his voice'] Whats the matter with 
you ? 

THE PARLOR MAID [whimpering] Nothing, sir. 

SARTORIUS [at the same pitch, more menacingly] Take care 
how you behave yourself when there are visitors present. 
Do you hear ? 

THE PARLOR MAID. Yes, sir. [Sartorius goes out~\. 

SARTORIUS [outside] Excuse me : I had a word to say to 
the servant. [Trench is heard replying " Not at all" Cokane 
" Dont mention it, my dear sirT The murmur of their voices 
passes out of hearing. The parlor maid sniffs ; dries her eyes ; 
goes to one of the bookcases ; and takes some brown paper and a 
ball of string from a drawer. 8 he puts them on the table and 
wrestles with another sob. Blanche comes in, with a jewel box 
in her hands. Her expression is that of a strong and deter- 
mined woman in an intense passion. The maid looks at her 
with a mixture of abject wounded affection and bodily terror]. 

BLANCHE [looking round] Where's my father ? 

THE PARLOR MAID [tremulously propitiatory'] He left word 
he'd be back directly, miss. I'm sure he wont be long. 
Here's the paper and string all ready, miss. [She spreads 
the paper on the table] Can I do the parcel for you, miss ? 

BLANCHE. No. Mind your own business. [She empties 
the box on the sheet of brown paper. It contains a packet of 
letters and some jewellery. She plucks a ring from her finger 
and throws it down on the heap so angrily that it rolls away 
and falls on the carpet. The maid submissively picks it up 
and puts it on the table, again sniffing and drying her eyes], 
What are you crying for ? 

THE PARLOR MAID [plaintively] You speak so brutal to 
me, Miss Blanche ; and I do love you so. I'm sure no 
one else would stay and put up with what I have to put 
up with. 

BLANCHE. Then go. I dont want you. Do you hear. Go. 



Act II Widowers' Houses 49 

THE PARLOR MAID [piteously, falling on her knees} Oh no, 
Miss Blanche. Dont send me away from you : dont 

BLANCHE [with fierce disgust} Agh ! I hate the sight of 
you. [The maid, wounded to the heart, cries bitterly}. Hold 
your tongue. Are those two gentlemen gone ? 

THE PARLOR MAID [weeping] Oh, how could you say such 
a thing to me, Miss Blanche : me that 

BLANCHE [seizing her by the hair and throat} Stop that 
noise, I tell you, unless you want me to kill you. 

THE PARLOR MAID [protesting and imploring, but in a 
carefully subdued voice] Let me go, Miss Blanche : you 
know youll be sorry : you always are. Remember how 
dreadfully my head was cut last time. 

BLANCHE [raging] Answer me, will you. Have they 
gone ? 

THE PARLOR MAID. Lickcheese has gone, looking dreadf 
[she breaks off with a stifled cry as Blanche's fingers tighten 
furiously on her}. 

BLANCHE. Did I ask you about Lickcheese ? You beast : 
you know who I mean : youre doing it on purpose. 

THE PARLOR MAID [in a gasp~\ Theyre staying to lunch. 

BLANCHE [looking intently into her face] He ? 

THE PARLOR MAID [whispering with a sympathetic nod} 
Yes, miss. [Blanche slowly releases her and stands upright 
with clenched fists and set face. The parlor maid, recognizing 
the passing of the crisis of passion, and fearing no further 
violence, sits discomfitedly on her heels, and tries to arrange her 
hair and cap, whimpering a little with exhaustion and soreness]. 
Now youve set my hands all trembling ; and I shall jingle 
the things on the tray at lunch so that everybody will 
notice me. It's too bad of you, Miss Bl [Sartorius coughs 
outside]. 

BLANCHE [quickly] Sh ! Get up. [The parlor maid 
hastily gets up, and goes out as demurely as she can, passing 
Sartorius on her way to the door. He glances sternly at her 
and comes to Blanche. The parlor maid shuts the door softly 
behind her}. 

VOL. I E 



50 Widowers' Houses Act II 

SARTORIUS [mournfully] My dear : can you not make a 
little better fight with your temper ? 

BLANCHE [panting with the subsidence of her fit} No I 
cant. I wont. I do my best. Nobody who really cares 
for me gives me up because of my temper. I never shew 
my temper to any of the servants but that girl ; and she is 
the only one that will stay with us. 

SARTORIUS. But, my dear, remember that we have to 
meet our visitors at luncheon presently. I have run down 
before them to say that I have arranged that little difficulty 
with Trench. It was only a piece of mischief made by 
Lickcheese. Trench is a young fool ; but it is all right 
now. 

BLANCHE. I dont want to marry a fool. 

SARTORIUS. Then you will have to take a husband over 
thirty, Blanche. You must not expect too much, my 
child. You will be richer than your husband, and, I 
think, cleverer too. I am better pleased that it should 
be so. 

BLANCHE [seizing his arm\ Papa. 

SARTORIUS. Yes, my dear. 

BLANCHE. May I do as I like about this marriage ; or 
must I do as you like ? 

SARTORIUS [uneasily] Blanche 

BLANCHE. No, papa : you must answer me. 

SARTORIUS [abandoning his self-control, and giving way 
recklessly to his affection for her] You shall do as you like 
now and always, my beloved child. I only wish to do as 
my own darling pleases. 

BLANCHE. Then I will not marry him. He has played 
fast and loose with me. He thinks us beneath him : he is 
ashamed of us : he dared to object to being benefited by 
you as if it were not natural for him to owe you every- 
thing ; and yet the money tempted him after all. [She 
throws her arms hysterically about his neck] Papa : I dont 
want to marry : I only want to stay with you and be 
happy as we have always been. I hate the thought of 



Act II Widowers' Houses 5 1 

being married : I dont care for him : I dont want to leave 
you. [Trench and Cokane come in; but she can hear nothing 
but her own voice and does not notice them]. Only send him 
away : promise me that you will send him away and keep 
me here with you as we have always [seeing Trench\ 
Oh ! [She hides her face on her father's breast']. 

TRENCH [nervously] I hope we are not intruding. 

SARTORIUS [formidably] Dr Trench : my daughter has 
changed her mind. 

TRENCH [disconcerted] Am I to understand 

COKANE [striking in in his most vinegary manner] I think, 
Harry, under the circumstances, we have no alternative 
but to seek luncheon elsewhere. 

TRENCH. But, Mr Sartorius, have you explained ? 

SARTORIUS [straight in Trench's face] I have explained, 
sir. Good morning. [Trench, outraged, advances a step. 
Blanche sinks away from her father into a chair. Sartorius 
stands his ground rigidly] 

TRENCH [turning away indignantly] Come on, Cokane. 

COKANE. Certainly, Harry, certainly. [Trench goes out, 
very angry. The parlor maid, with a tray jingling in her 
hands, passes outside] You have disappointed me, sir, very 
acutely. Good morning. [He follows Trench], 



ACT III 

The drawing-room in Sartorius's house in Bedford Square. 
Winter evening: Jire burning, curtains drawn and lamps 
lighted. Sartorius and Blanche are sitting glumly near the 
fire. The par lor maid, who has just brought in coffee, is placing 
it on a small table between them. There is a large table in the 
middle of the room. Looking from it towards the two windows, 
the pianoforte, a grand, is on the right, with a photographic 
portrait of Blanche on a miniature easel on the top. There 
are two doors, one on the left, further forward than the fire- 
place, leading to the study ; the other by the corner nearest the 
right hand window, leading to the lobby. Blanche has her work 
basket at hand, and is knitting. Sartorius, closer to the fire, 
has a newspaper. The parlor maid goes out. 

SARTORIUS. Blanche, my love. 

BLANCHE. YeS. 

SARTORIUS. I had a long talk to the doctor to-day about 
our going abroad. 

BLANCHE \impatiently\ I am quite well ; and I will not 
go abroad. I loathe the very thought of the Continent. 
Why will you bother me so about my health ? 

SARTORIUS. It was not about your health, Blanche, but 
about my own. 

BLANCHE [rising"] Yours ! [She goes anxiously to him]. 
Oh, papa, theres nothing the matter with you, I hope ? 

SARTORIUS. There will be there must be, Blanche, 
long before you begin to consider yourself an old woman. 

BLANCHE. But theres nothing the matter now ? 



Act ill Widowers' Houses 53 

SARTORIUS. Well, my dear, the doctor says I need 
change, travel, excitement 

BLANCHE. Excitement! You need excitement ! [She 
laughs joylessly, and sits down on the rug at his feet]. How is 
it, papa, that you, who are so clever with everybody else, 
are not a bit clever with me ? Do you think I cant see 
through your little plan to take me abroad ? Since I will 
not be the invalid and allow you to be the nurse, you are 
to be the invalid and I am to be the nurse. 

SARTORIUS. Well, Blanche, if you will have it that you 
are well and have nothing preying on your spirits, I must 
insist on being ill and have something preying on mine. 
And indeed, my girl, there is no use in our going on as we 
have for the last four months. You have not been happy ; 
and I have been far from comfortable. [Blanche's face 
clouds : she turns away from him and sits dumb and brooding. 
He waits in vain for some reply ; then adds in a lower tone] 
Need you be so inflexible, Blanche ? 

BLANCHE. I thought you admired inflexibility: you have 
always prided yourself on it. 

SARTORIUS. Nonsense, my dear, nonsense. I have had 
to give in often enough. And I could shew you plenty of 
soft fellows who have done as well as I, and enjoyed them- 
selves more, perhaps. If it is only for the sake of inflexi- 
bility that you are standing out 

BLANCHE. I am not standing out. I dont know what 
you mean. [She tries to rise and go away]. 

SARTORIUS [catching her arm and arresting her on her knees] 
Come, my child : you must not trifle with me as if I 
were a stranger. You are fretting because 

BLANCHE [violently twisting herself free and speaking as she 
rises] If you say it, papa, I will kill myself. It is not true. 
If he were here on his knees to-night, I would walk out of 
the house sooner than endure it. [She goes out excitedly. 
Sartorius, greatly troubled, turns again to thefre with a heavy 
sigh]. 

SARTORIUS [gazing gloomily into the glow] Now if I fight 



54 Widowers' Houses Act III 

it out with her, no more comfort for months ! I might as 
well live with my clerk or my servant. And if I give in 
now, I shall have to give in always. Well ! I cant help it. 
I have stuck to having my own way all my life ; but there 
must be an end to that drudgery some day. She is young : 
let her have her turn at it. \fhe parlor maid comes in}. 

THE PARLOR MAID. Please, sir, Mr Lickcheese wants to 
see you very particlar. On important business your 
business, he told me to say. 

SARTORIUS. Mr Lickcheese ! Do you mean Lickcheese 
who used to come here on my business ? 

THE PARLOR MAID. Yes, sir. But indeed, sir, youd 
scarcely know him. 

SARTORIUS [frowning] Hm ! Starving, I suppose. Come 
to beg ? 

THE PARLOR MAID [intensely repudiating the idea\ O-o-o-o-h 
NO, sir. Quite the gentleman, sir ! Sealskin overcoat, sir ! 
Come in a hansom, all shaved and clean ! I'm sure he's 
come into a fortune, sir. 

SARTORIUS. Hm ! Shew him up. 

[Lickcheese, who has been waiting at the door, instantly comes 
in. The change in his appearance is dazzling. He is in even- 
ing dress, with an overcoat lined throughout with furs pre- 
senting all the hues of the tiger. His shirt is fastened at the 
breast with a single diamond stud. His silk hat is of the 
glossiest black ; a handsome gold watch-chain hangs like a gar- 
land on his jilled-out waistcoat ; he has shaved his whiskers and 
grown a moustache, the ends of which are waxed and pointed. 
As Sartorius stares speechless at him, he stands, smiling, to be 
admired, intensely enjoying the effect he is producing. The 
parlor maid, hardly less pleased with her own share in this 
coup-de-theatre, goes out beaming, full of the news for the 
kitchen. Lickcheese clinches the situation by a triumphant nod 
at Sartorius~\. 

SARTORIUS [bracing himself hostile] Well ? 

LICKCHEESE. Quite well, Sartorius, thankee. 

SARTORIUS. I was not asking after your health, sir, as 



Act III Widowers' Houses 55 

you know, I think, as well as I do. What is your 
business ? 

LICKCHEESE. Business that I can take elsewhere if I meet 
with less civility than I please to put up with, Sartorius. 
You and me is man and man now. It was money that 
used to be my master, and not you : dont think it. Now 
that I'm independent in respect of money 

SARTORIUS [crossing determinedly to tke door, and holding it 
open] You can take your independence out of my house, 
then. I wont have it here. 

LICKCHEESE [indulgently] Come, Sartorius : dont be 
stiffhecked. I come here as a friend to put money in your 
pocket. No use in your lettin on to me that youre above 
money. Eh ? 

SARTORIUS [hesitates, and at last shuts the door, saying 
guardedly] How much money ? 

LICKCHEESE [victorious, going to Blanche' s chair and taking 
off his overcoat] Ah ! there you speak like yourself, Sartorius. 
Now suppose you ask me to sit down and make myself 
comfortable. 

SARTORIUS [coming from the door] I have a mind to put 
you downstairs by the back of your neck, you infernal 
blackguard. 

LICKCHEESE \not a bit rujjled, hangs his overcoat on the 
back of Blanche's chair, pulling a cigar case out of one of the 
pockets as he does so]. You and me is too much of a pair 
for me to take anything you say in bad part, Sartorius. 
'Ave a cigar. 

SARTORIUS. No smoking here : this is my daughter's 
room. However, sit down, sit down. [They sit]. 

LICKCHEESE. I* bin gittin on a little since I saw you last. 

SARTORIUS. So I see. 

LICKCHEESE. I owe it partly to you, you know. Does 
that surprise you ? 

SARTORIUS. It doesnt concern me. 

LICKCHEESE. So you think, Sartorius ; because it never 
did concern you how / got on, so long as I got you on 



56 Widowers' Houses Act in 

by bringin in the rents. But I picked up something for 
myself down at Robbins's Row. 

SARTORIUS. I always thought so. Have you come to 
make restitution ? 

LICKCHEESE. You wouldnt take it if I offered it to you, 
Sartorius. It wasnt money : it was knowledge know- 
ledge of the great public question of the Housing of the 
Working Classes. You know theres a Royal Commission 
on it, dont you ? 

SARTORIUS. Oh, I see. Youve been giving evidence. 

LICKCHEESE. Giving evidence ! Not me. What good 
would that do me ? Only my expenses ; and that not on 
the professional scale, neither. No : I gev no evidence. 
But I'll tell you what I did. I kep it back, jest to 
oblige one or two people whose feelins would a bin urt 
by seein their names in a bluebook as keepin a fever 
den. Their Agent got so friendly with me over it that he 
put his name on a bill of mine to the tune of well, no 
matter : it gev me a start ; and a start was all I ever 
wanted to get on my feet. Ive got a copy of the first 
report of the Commission in the pocket of my overcoat. 
[He rises and gets at his overcoat, from a pocket of which he 
takes a bluebook\. I turned down the page to shew you : 
I thought youd like to see it. [He doubles the book back at 
the place indicated, and hands it to Sartorius']. 

SARTORIUS. So blackmail is the game, eh ? [He puts the 
book on the table without looking at it, and strikes it emphatically 
with his fst\. I dont care that for my name being in 
bluebooks. My friends dont read them ; and I'm neither a 
Cabinet Minister nor a candidate for Parliament. Theres 
nothing to be got out of me on that lay. 

LICKCHEESE \sbocked\ Blackmail ! Oh, Mr Sartorius, 
do you think I would let out a word about your premises ? 
Round on an old pal ! no : that aint Lickcheese's way. 
Besides, they know all about you already. Them stairs 
that you and me quarrelled about, they was a whole arter- 
noon examinin the clergyman that made such a fuss you 



Act III Widowers' Houses 57 

remember ? about the women that was urt on it. He 
made the worst he could of it, in an ungentlemanly, un- 
christian spirit. I wouldnt have that clergyman's disposi- 
tion for worlds. Oh no : thats not what was in my 
thoughts. 

SARTORIUS. Come, come, man : what was in your 
thoughts ? Out with it. 

LICKCHEESE [with provoking deliberation, smiling and look- 
ing mysteriously at him} You aint spent a few hundreds 
in repairs since we parted, ave you ? [Sartorius, losing 
patience, makes a threatening movement]. Now dont fly out 
at me. I know a landlord that owned as beastly a slum 
as you could find in London, down there by the Tower. 
By my advice that man put half the houses into first-class 
repair, and let the other half to a new Company : the 
North Thames Iced Mutton Depot Company, of which I 
hold a few shares promoters' shares. And what was the 
end of it, do you think ? 

SARTORIUS. Smash, I suppose. 

LICKCHEESE. Smash ! not a bit of it. Compensation, 
Mr Sartorius, compensation. Do you understand that ? 

SARTORIUS. Compensation for what ? 

LICKCHEESE. Why, the land was wanted for an extension 
of the Mint ; and the Company had to be bought out, and 
the buildings compensated for. Somebody has to know 
these things beforehand, you know, no matter how dark 
theyre kept. 

SARTORIUS [interested, but cautious} Well ? 

LICKCHEESE. Is that all you have to say to me, Mr Sar- 
torius ? " Well " ! as if I was next door's dog ! Suppose 
I'd got wind of a new street that would knock down 
Robbins's Row and turn Burke's Walk into a frontage worth 
thirty pound a foot ! would you say no more to me than 
[mimicking'] "Well " ? [Sartorius hesitates, looking at him in 
great doubt : Lickcheese rises and exhibits himself \ Come : 
look at my get-up, Mr Sartorius. Look at this watch- 
chain ! Look at the corporation Ive got on me ! Do you 



58 Widowers' Houses Act III 

think all that came from keeping my mouth shut ? No: it 
came from keeping my ears and eyes open. [Blanche comes 
in, followed by the parlor maid, who has a silver tray on which 
she collects the coffee cups. Sartorius, impatient at the interrup- 
tion, rises and motions Lickcheese to the door of the study]. 

SARTORIUS. Sh ! We must talk this over in the study. 
There is a good fire there ; and you can smoke. Blanche : 
an old friend of ours. 

LICKCHEESE. And a kind one to me. I hope I see you 
well, Miss Blanche. 

BLANCHE. Why, it's Mr Lickcheese ! I hardly knew 
you. 

LICKCHEESE. I find you a little changed yourself, miss. 

BLANCHE [hastily'] Oh, I am the same as ever. How are 
Mrs Lickcheese and the chil 

SARTORIUS [impatiently'] We have business to transact, 
Blanche. You can talk to Mr Lickcheese afterwards. 
Come on. [Sartorius and Lickcheese go into the study. 
Blanche, surprised at her father's abruptness, looks after them 
for a moment. Then, seeing Lickcheese' 's overcoat on her chair, 
she takes it up, amused, and looks at the fur], 

THE PARLOR MAID. Oh, we are fine, aint we, Miss 
Blanche ? I think Mr Lickcheese must have come into a 
legacy. [Confidentially] I wonder what he can want with 
the master, Miss Blanche ! He brought him this big book. 
[8 he shews the bluebook to Blanche}. 

BLANCHE [her curiosity roused] Let me see. [She takes 
the book and looks at it]. Theres something about papa in 
it. [She sits down and begins to read]. 

THE PARLOR MAID [folding the tea-table and putting it out 
of the way] He looks ever s'much younger, Miss Blanche, 
dont he ? I couldnt help laughing when I saw him with 
his whiskers shaved off : it do look so silly when youre not 
accustomed to it. [No answer from Blanche]. You havnt 
finished your coffee, miss : I suppose I may take it away ? 
[No answer]. Oh, you are interested in Mr Lickcheese's 
book, miss. [Blanche springs up. The parlor maid looks at 



Act III Widowers' Houses 59 

her face, and instantly hurries out of the room on tiptoe with 
her fray]. 

BLANCHE. So that was why he would not touch the 
money. [She tries to tear the book across ; but that is impos- 
sible ; so she throws it violently into the fireplace. It falls 
into the fender]. Oh, if only a girl could have no father, 
no family, just as I have no mother ! Clergyman ! beast ! 
" The worst slum landlord in London." " Slum land- 
lord." Oh ! [She covers her face with her hands and sinks 
shuddering into the chair on which the overcoat lies. The study 
door opens]. 

LICKCHEESE [/ the study] You just wait five minutes : 
I'll fetch him. [Blanche snatches a piece of work from her 
basket and sits erect and quiet, stitching at it. Lickcheese 
comes back, speaking to Bartorius, who follows him]. He 
lodges round the corner in Gower Street ; and my private 
ansom's at the door. By your leave, Miss Blanche [pulling 
gently at his overcoat], 

BLANCHE [rising] I beg your pardon. I hope I havnt 
crushed it. 

LICKCHEESE [gallantly, as he gets into the coat] Youre wel- 
come to crush it again now, Miss Blanche. Dont say 
good evenin to me, miss : I'm comin back presently 
me and a friend or two. Ta ta, Sartorius: I shant be long. 
[He goes out. Bartorius looks about for the blue book]. 

BLANCHE. I thought we were done with Lickcheese. 

SARTORIUS. Not quite yet, I think. He left a book here 
for me to look over, a large book in a blue paper cover. 
Has the girl put it away ? [He sees it in the fender ; looks 
at Blanche; and adds~\ Have you seen it ? 

BLANCHE. No. Yes. [Angrily] No : I have not seen 
it. What have I to do with it ? [Sartorius picks the book 
up and dusts it; then sits down quietly to read. After a 
glance up and down the columns, he nods assentingly, as if he 
found there exactly what he expected]. 

SARTORIUS. It's a curious thing, Blanche, that the Par- 
liamentary gentlemen who write such books as these should 



60 Widowers' Houses Act ill 

be so ignorant of practical business. One would suppose, 
to read this, that we are the most grasping, grinding, heart- 
less pair in the world, you and I. 

BLANCHE. .Is it not true about the state of the houses, 
I mean ? 

SARTORIUS [calmly] Oh, quite true. 

BLANCHE. Then it is not our fault ? 

SARTORIUS. My dear : if we made the houses any better, 
the rents would have to be raised so much that the poor 
people would be unable to pay, and would be thrown 
homeless on the streets. 

BLANCHE. Well, turn them out and get in a respectable 
class of people. Why should we have the disgrace of 
harbouring such wretches? 

SARTORIUS [opening his eyes] That sounds a little hard 
on them, doesnt it, my child ? 

BLANCHE. Oh, I hate the poor. At least, I hate those 
dirty, drunken, disreputable people who live like pigs. If 
they must be provided for, let other people look after them. 
How can you expect anyone to think well of us when 
such things are written about us in that infamous book ? 

SARTORIUS [coldly and a little wistfully] I see I have made 
a real lady of you, Blanche. 

BLANCHE [defiantly] Well, are you sorry for that ? 

SARTORIUS. No, my dear : of course not. But do you 
know, Blanche, that my mother was a very poor woman, 
and that her poverty was not her fault ? 

BLANCHE. I suppose not ; but the people we want to 
mix with now dont know that. And it was not my fault ; 
so I dont see why / should be made to suffer for it. 

SARTORIUS [enraged'] Who makes you suffer for it, miss ? 
What would you be now but for what your grandmother 
did for me when she stood at her wash-tub for thirteen 
hours a day and thought herself rich when she made fifteen 
shillings a week ? 

BLANCHE [angrily] I suppose I should have been down 
on her level instead of being raised above it, as I am now. 



Act ill Widowers' Houses 6 1 

Would you like us to go and live in that place in the book 
for the sake of grandmamma ? I hate the idea of such things. 
I dont want to know about them. I love you because you 
brought me up to something better. [Half aside, as she 
turns a way from him\ I should hate you if you had not. 

SARTORIUS [giving in\ Well, my child, I suppose it is 
natural for you to feel that way, after your bringing up. 
It is the ladylike view of the matter. So dont let us quarrel, 
my girl. You shall not be made to suffer any more. I 
have made up my mind to improve the property, and get 
in quite a new class of tenants. There ! does that satisfy 
you ? I am only waiting for the consent of the ground 
landlord, Lady Roxdale. 

BLANCHE. Lady Roxdale ! 

SARTORIUS. Yes. But I shall expect the mortgagee to 
take his share of the risk. 

BLANCHE. The mortgagee ! Do you mean [She cannot 
finish the sentence : Bartorius does it for her\. 

SARTORIUS. Harry Trench. Yes. And remember, 
Blanche : if he consents to join me in the scheme, I shall 
have to be friends with him. 

BLANCHE. And to ask him to the house ? 

SARTORIUS. Only on business. You need not meet 
him unless you like. 

BLANCHE [overwhelmed^ When is he coming ? 

SARTORIUS. There is no time to be lost. Lickcheese 
has gone to ask him to come round. 

BLANCHE [in dismay} Then he will be here in a few 
minutes ! What shall I do ? 

SARTORIUS. I advise you to receive him as if nothing 
had happened, and then go out and leave us to our busi- 
ness. You are not afraid to meet him ? 

BLANCHE. Afraid ! No, most certainly not. But 
[Lickcheese y s voice is heard without} Here they are. Dont 
say I'm here, papa. [ She rushes away into the study. Lickcheese 
comes in with Trench and Cokane. Cokane shakes hands 
effusively with Bartorius. Trench, who is coarsened and sullen, 



62 Widowers' Houses Act III 

and has evidently not been making the best of his disappointment, 
bows shortly and resentfully. Lickcheese covers the general 
embarrassment by talking cheerfully until they are all seated 
round the large table : Trench nearest the freplace ; Cokane 
nearest the piano ; and the other two between them, with Lick- 
cheese next Cokane~\. 

LICKCHEESE. Here we are, all friends round St Paul's. 
You remember Mr Cokane : he does a little business for 
me now as a friend, and gives me a help with my corre- 
spondence sekketerry we call it. Ive no litery style, and 
thats the truth ; so Mr Cokane kindly puts it into my 
letters and draft prospectuses and advertisements and the 
like. Dont you, Cokane ? Of course you do : why 
shouldnt you ? He's been helping me to-night to persuade 
his old friend, Dr Trench, about the matter we were 
speaking of. 

COKANE [austerely"] No, Mr Lickcheese, not trying to 
persuade him. No : this is a matter of principle with me. 
I say it is your duty, Henry your duty to put those 
abominable buildings into proper and habitable repair. As 
a man of science you owe it to the community to perfect 
the sanitary arrangements. In questions of duty there is 
no room for persuasion, even from the oldest friend. 

SARTORIUS [to Trench\ I certainly feel, as Mr Cokane 
puts it, that it is our duty : one which I have perhaps too 
long neglected out of regard for the poorest class of tenants. 

LICKCHEESE. Not a doubt of it, gents, a dooty. I can 
be as sharp as any man when it's a question of business ; 
but dooty's another thing. 

TRENCH. Well, I dont see that it's any more my duty 
now than it was four months ago. I look at it simply as 
a question of so much money. 

COKANE. Shame, Harry, shame ! Shame ! 

TRENCH. Oh, shut up, you fool. [Cokane springs up. 
Lickcheese catches his coat and holds him\ 

LICKCHEESE. Steady, steady, Mr Sekketerry. Dr Trench 
is only joking. 



Act ill Widowers' Houses 63 

COKANE. I insist on the withdrawal of that expression. 
I have been called a fool. 

TRENCH [morosely'] So you are a fool. 

COKANE. Then you are a damned fool. Now, sir ! 

TRENCH. All right. Now weve settled that. [Cokane, 
with a snort, sits down\. What I mean is this. Dont lets 
have any nonsense about this job. As I understand it, 
Robbins's Row is to be pulled down to make way for the 
new street into the Strand ; and the straight tip now is to 
go for compensation. 

LICKCHEESE \chuckling\ That'so, Dr Trench. Thats it. 

TRENCH {continuing} Well, it appears that the dirtier a 
place is the more rent you get ; and the decenter it is, 
the more compensation you get. So we're to give up dirt 
and go in for decency. 

SARTORIUS. I should not put it exactly in that way ; 
but 

COKANE. Quite right, Mr Sartorius, quite right. The 
case could not have been stated in worse taste or with less 
tact. 

LICKCHEESE. Sh-sh-sh-sh ! 

SARTORIUS. I do not quite go with you there, Mr 
Cokane. Dr Trench puts the case frankly as a man of 
business. I take the wider view of a public man. We 
live in a progressive age ; and humanitarian ideas are 
advancing and must be taken into account. But my 
practical conclusion is the same as his. I should hardly 
feel justified in making a large claim for compensation 
under existing circumstances. 

LICKCHEESE. Of course not ; and you wouldnt get it if 
you did. You see, it's like this, Dr Trench. Theres no 
doubt that the Vestries has legal powers to play old Harry 
with slum properties, and spoil the houseknacking game if 
they please. That didnt matter in the good old times, 
because the Vestries used to be us ourselves. Nobody 
ever knew a word about the election ; and we used to get 
ten of us into a room and elect one another, and do what 



64 Widowers' Houses Act ill 

we liked. Well, that cock wont fight any longer ; and, 
to put it short, the game is up for men in the position of 
you and Mr Sartorius. My advice to you is, take the 
present chance of getting out of it. Spend a little money 
on the block at the Cribbs Market end enough to make 
it look like a model dwelling ; and let the other block to 
me on fair terms for a depot of the North Thames Iced 
Mutton Company. Theyll be knocked down inside of 
two year to make room for the new north and south main 
thoroughfare ; and youll be compensated to the tune of 
double the present valuation, with the cost of the im- 
provements thrown in. Leave things as they are ; and 
you stand a good chance of being fined, or condemned, or 
pulled down before long. Now's your time. 

COKANE. Hear, hear ! Hear, hear ! Hear, hear ! 
Admirably put from the business point of view ! I re- 
cognize the uselessness of putting the moral point of view 
to you, Trench ; but even you must feel the cogency of 
Mr Lickcheese's business statement. 

TRENCH. But why cant you act without me ? What 
have I got to do with it ? I'm only a mortgagee. 

SARTORIUS. There is a certain risk in this compensation 
investment, Dr Trench. The County Council may alter 
the line of the new street. If that happens, the money 
spent in improving the houses will be thrown away 
simply thrown away. Worse than thrown away, in fact ; 
for the new buildings may stand unlet or half let for years. 
But you will expect your seven per cent as usual. 

TRENCH. A man must live. 

COCKANE. Je n'en vois pas la necessite. 

TRENCH. Shut up, Billy ; or else speak some language 
you understand. No, Mr Sartorius : I should be very 
glad to stand in with you if I could afford it ; but I cant ; 
so theres an end of that. 

LICKCHEESE. Well, all I can say is that youre a very 
foolish young man. 

COKANE. What did I tell you, Harry ? 



Act Til Widowers' Houses 65 

TRENCH. I dont see that it's any business of yours, Mr 
Lickcheese. 

LICKCHEESE. It's a free country : every man has a right to 
his opinion. \Cokane cries "Hear, hear!"] Come: wheres 
your feelins for them poor people, Dr Trench ? Re- 
member how it went to your heart when I first told you 
about them. What ! are you going to turn hard? 

TRENCH. No : it wont do : you cant get over me that 
way. You proved to me before that there was no use in 
being sentimental over that slum shop of ours ; and it's no 
good your turning round on the philanthropic tack now 
that you want me to put my capital into your speculation. 
Ive had my lesson ; and I'm going to stick to my present 
income. It's little enough for me as it is. 

SARTORIUS. It really matters nothing to me, Dr Trench, 
how you decide. I can easily raise the money elsewhere 
and pay you off. Then, since you are resolved to run no 
risks, you can invest your ^10,000 in Consols and get 
250 a year for it instead of 700. \Trench, completely 
outwitted, stares at them in consternation. Cokane breaks the 
silence]. 

COKANE. This is what comes of being avaricious, Harry. 
Two thirds of your income gone at one blow. And I must 
say it serves you right. 

TRENCH. Thats all very fine ; but I dont understand it. 
If you can do this to me, why didnt you do it long ago ? 

SARTORIUS. Because, as I should probably have had to 
borrow at the same rate, I should have saved nothing ; 
whereas you would have lost over .400 a very serious 
matter for you. I had no desire to be unfriendly ; and 
even now I should be glad to let the mortgage stand, were 
it not that the circumstances mentioned by Mr Lickcheese 
force my hand. Besides, Dr Trench, I hoped for some 
time that our interests might be joined by closer ties even 
than those of friendship. 

LICKCHEESE [jumping up, relieved] There ! Now the 
murder's out. Excuse me, Dr Trench. Ex-cuse me, 

VOL. I F 



66 Widowers' Houses Act in 

Mr Sartorius : excuse my freedom. Why not Dr Trench 
marry Miss Blanche, and settle the whole affair that way ? 
[Sensation. Lickcheese sits down triumphant}. 

COKANE. You forget, Mr Lickcheese, that the young 
lady, whose taste has to be considered, decisively objected 
to him. 

TRENCH. Oh ! Perhaps you think she was struck with 
you. 

COKANE. I do not say so, Trench. No man of any 
delicacy would suggest such a thing. You have an un- 
tutored mind, Trench, an untutored mind. 

TRENCH. Well, Cokane : Ive told you my opinion of 
you already. 

COKANE {rising wildly'} And I have told you my opinion 
of you. I will repeat it if you wish. I am ready to 
repeat it. 

LICKCHEESE. Come, Mr Sekketerry : you and me, as 
married men, is out of the unt as far as young ladies is 
concerned. I know Miss Blanche : she has her father's 
eye for business. Explain this job to her ; and she'll 
make it up with Dr Trench. Why not have a bit of 
romance in business when it costs nothing ? We all have 
our feelins : we aint mere calculatin machines. 

SARTORIUS [revolted] Do you think, Lickcheese, that my 
daughter is to be made part of a money bargain between 
you and these gentlemen ? 

LICKCHEESE. Oh come, Sartorius : dont talk as if you 
was the only father in the world. I have a daughter too ; 
and my feelins in that matter is just as fine as yours. I 
propose nothing but what is for Miss Blanche's advantage 
and Dr Trench's. 

COKANE. Lickcheese expresses himself roughly, Mr 
Sartorius ; but his is a sterling nature ; and what he says 
is to the point. If Miss Sartorius can really bring herself 
to care for Harry, I am far from desiring to stand in the 
way of such an arrangement. 

TRENCH. Why, what have you got to do with it ? 



Act III Widowers' Houses 67 

LICKCHEESE. Easy, Dr Trench, easy. We want your 
opinion. Are you still on for marrying Miss Blanche if 
she's agreeable ? 

TRENCH [shortly"] I dont know that I am. [Sartorius 
rises indignantly]. 

LICKCHEESE. Easy one moment, Mr Sartorius. [To 
Trench\ Come, Dr Trench : you say you dont know that 
you are. But do you know that you aint ? thats what we 
want to know. 

TRENCH [sulkily] I wont have the relations between 
Miss Sartorius and myself made part of a bargain. [He 
rises to leave the table]. 

LICKCHEESE [rising] Thats enough : a gentleman could 
say no less. [Insinuatingly] Now, would you mind me 
and Cokane and the guvnor steppin into the study to 
arrange about the lease to the North Thames Iced Mutton 
Company ? 

TRENCH. Oh, / dont mind. I'm going home. Theres 
nothing else to say. 

LICKCHEESE. No, dont go. Only just a minute : me 
and Cokane will be back in no time to see you home. 
Youll wait for us, wont you ? theres a good fellow ! 

TRENCH. Well, if you wish, yes. 

LICKCHEESE [cheerily] Didnt I know you would ! 

SARTORIUS [at the study door, to Cokane] After you, sir. 
[Cokane bows formally and goes into the study]. 

LICKCHEESE [at the door, aside to Sartorius] You never 
ad such a managin man as me, Sartorius. [He goes into 
the study chuckling, followed by Sartorius]. 

[Trench, left alone, looks round carefully and listens a 
moment. Then he goes on tiptoe to the piano and leans upon it 
with folded arms, gazing at Blanche's portrait. Blanche her- 
self appears presently at the study door. When she sees how he 
is occupied, she closes it softly and steals over to him, watching 
him intently. He rises from his leaning attitude, and takes the 
portrait from the easel, holding it out before him at arms length ; 
then, taking a second look round to reassure himself that nobcdy 



68 Widowers' Houses Act III 

is watching him, finds Blanche close upon him. He drops 
the portrait and stares at her without the least presence of 
mind]. 

BLANCHE [shrewishly] Well ? So you have come back 
here. You have had the meanness to come into this 
house again. [He flushes and retreats a step. 8 he follows 
him up remorselessly]. What a poor spirited creature you 
must be ! Why dont you go ? [Red and wincing, he starts 
huffily to get his hat from the table ; but when he turns to the 
door with it she deliberately gets in his way, so that he has to 
stop~\. I dont want you to stay. [For a moment they stand 
face to face ', quite close to one another, she provocative, taunting, 
half defying, half inviting him to advance, in a flush of undis- 
guised animal excitement. It suddenly flashes on him that all 
this ferocity is erotic that she is making love to him. His eye 
lights up: a cunning expression comes into the corners of his 
mouth : with a heavy assumption of indifference he walks 
straight back to his chair, and plants himself in it with his arms 
folded. She comes down the room after him]. But I forgot : 
you have found that there is some money to be made here. 
Lickcheese told you. You, who were so disinterested, 
so independent, that you could not accept anything from 
my father ! [At the end of every sentence she waits to see 
what execution she has done]. I suppose you will try to 
persuade me that you have come down here on a great 
philanthropic enterprise to befriend the poor by having 
those houses rebuilt, eh ? [Trench maintains his attitude and 
makes no sign]. Yes : when my father makes you do -it. 
And when Lickcheese has discovered some way of making 
it profitable. Oh, I know papa ; and I know you. And 
for the sake of that, you come back here into the house 
where you were refused ordered out. [Trench's face 
darkens : her eyes gleam as she sees it]. Aha ! you remember 
that. You know it's true : you cant deny it. [She sits 
down, and softens her tone a little as she affects to pity him]. 
Ah, let me tell you that you cut a poor figure, a very, 
very poor figure, Harry. [At the word "Harry" he 



Act III Widowers' Houses 69 

relaxes the fold of his arms ; and a faint grin of anticipated 
victory appears on his face}. And you, too, a gentleman ! 
so highly connected ! with such distinguished relations ! 
so particular as to where your money comes from ! I 
wonder at you. I really wonder at you. I should have 
thought that if your family brought you nothing else, it 
might at least have brought you some sense of personal 
dignity. Perhaps you think you look dignified at present, 
eh ? [No reply}. Well, I can assure you that you dont : 
you look most ridiculous as foolish as a man could look 
you dont know what to say ; and you dont know what to 
do. But after all, I really dont see what anyone could 
say in defence of such conduct. [He looks straight in front 
of him, and purses up his lips as if whistling. This annoys 
her ; and she becomes affectedly polite}. I am afraid I am in 
your way, Dr Trench. [She rises}. I shall not intrude on 
you any longer. You seem so perfectly at home that I 
need make no apology for leaving you to yourself. [She 
makes a feint of going to the door ; but he does not budge ; and 
she returns and comes behind his chair}. Harry. [He does 
not turn. She comes a step nearer}. Harry : I want you to 
answer me a question. [Earnestly, stooping over him} 
Look me in the face. [No reply}. Do you hear ? [Putting 
her hand on his shoulder} Look me in the face. 
[He still stares straight in front of him. She suddenly kneels 
down beside him with her breast against his right shoulder, 
and, taking his face in her hands, twists it sharply towards 
her}. Harry : what were you doing with my photograph 
just now, when you thought you were alone ? [His face 
writhes as he tries hard not to smile. She flings her arms 
round him, and crushes him in an ecstatic embrace as she 
adds, with furious tenderness} How dare you touch any- 
thing belonging to me? [The study door opens and voices 
are heard}. 

TRENCH. I hear some one coming. [She regains her 
chair with a bound, and pushes it back as far as possible. 
Cokane, Lickcheese and Sartorius come from the study. Sartorius 



70 Widowers' Houses Act III 

and Liekcheese come to Trench. Cokane crosses to Blanche in 
his most killing manner"]. 

COKANE. How do you do, Miss Sartorius ? Nice 
weather for the return of Penfant prodigue, eh ? 

BLANCHE. Capital, Mr Cokane. So glad to see you. 
[She gives him her hand, which he kisses with gallantry]. 

LICKCHEESE [on Trench's left, in a low voice] Any noos for 
us, Mr Trench? 

TRENCH [to Sartorius, on his right] I'll stand in, com- 
pensation or no compensation. [He shakes Sartorius' s hand. 
The parlor maid has just appeared at the door]. 

BLANCHE. Supper is ready, papa. 

COKANE. Allow me. 

[Exeunt omnes : Blanche on Cokane 1 s arm ; Liekcheese 
jocosely taking Sartorius on one arm, and Trench on the other]. 







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Shaw, George Bernard 
Widowers' houses 



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