ANN. I don’t understand in the least: it sounds like the Life Guards.
TANNER. Why don’t you marry Tavy? He is willing. Can you not be satisfied unless your prey struggles?
ANN (turning to him as if to let him into a secret) Tavy will never marry. Haven’t you noticed that that sort of man never marries?
TANNER. What! a man who idolizes women! who sees nothing in nature but romantic scenery for love duets! Tavy, the chivalrous, the faithful, the tenderhearted and true! Tavy, never marry! Why, he was born to be swept up by the first pair of blue eyes he meets in the street.
ANN. Yes, I know. All the same, Jack, men like that always live in comfortable bachelor lodgings with broken hearts, and are adored by their landladies, and never get married. Men like you always get married.
TANNER (smiting his brow) How frightfully, horribly true! It has been staring me in the face all my life; and I never saw it before.
ANN. Oh, it’s the same with women. The poetic temperament’s a very nice temperament, very amiable, very harmless and poetic, I daresay; but it’s an old maid’s temperament.
TANNER. Barren. The Life Force passes it by.
ANN. If that’s what you mean by the Life Force, yes.
TANNER. You don’t care for Tavy?
ANN (looking round carefully to make sure that Tavy is not within earshot) No.
TANNER. And you do care for me?
ANN (rising quietly and shaking her finger at him) Now, Jack! Behave yourself.
TANNER. Infamous, abandoned woman! Devil!
ANN. Boa-constrictor! Elephant!
ANN (softly) I must be, for my future husband’s sake.
TANNER. For mine! (Correcting himself savagely) I mean for his.
ANN (ignoring the correction) Yes, for yours. You had better marry what you call a hypocrite, Jack. Women who are not hypocrites go about in rational dress and are insulted and get into all sorts of hot water. And then their husbands get dragged in too, and live in continual dread of fresh complications. Wouldn’t you prefer a wife you could depend on?
TANNER. No: a thousand times no: hot water is the revolutionist’s element. You clean men as you clean milk-pails, by scalding them.
ANN. Cold water has its uses too. It’s healthy.
TANNER (despairingly) Oh, you are witty: at the supreme moment the Life Force endows you with every quality. Well, I too can be a hypocrite. Your father’s will appointed me your guardian, not your suitor. I shall be faithful to my trust.
ANN (in low siren tones) He asked me who I would have as my guardian before he made that will. I chose you!
TANNER. The will is yours then! The trap was laid from the beginning. 324
ANN (concentrating all her magic) From the beginning—from our childhood—for both of us—by the Life Force.
TANNER. I will not marry you. I will not marry you.
ANN. Oh, you will, you will.
TANNER. I tell you, no, no, no.
ANN. I tell you, yes, yes, yes.
ANN (coaxing—imploring—almost exhausted) Yes. Before it is too late for repentance. Yes.
TANNER (struck by the echo from the past) When did all this happen to me before? Are we two dreaming?
ANN (suddenly losing her courage, with an anguish that she does not conceal) No. We are awake; and you have said no: that is all.
TANNER (brutally) Well?
ANN. Well, I made a mistake: you do not love me.
TANNER (seizing her in his arms) It is false: I love you. The Life Force enchants me: I have the whole world in my arms when I clasp you. But I am fighting for my freedom, for my honor, for my self, one and indivisible.
ANN. Your happiness will be worth them all.