OCTAVIUS. We feel that, as you may imagine, pretty deeply.
RAMSDEN. [testily] It is some young fool who has not enough experience to know what mystifications of this kind lead to.
HECTOR. [with strong symptoms of moral repugnance] I hope so. A man need be very young and pretty foolish too to be excused for such conduct. You take a very lenient view, Mr Ramsden. Too lenient to my mind. Surely marriage should ennoble a man.
TANNER. [sardonically] Ha!
HECTOR. Am I to gather from that cacchination that you don't agree with me, Mr Tanner?
TANNER. [drily] Get married and try. You may find it delightful for a while: you certainly won't find it ennobling. The greatest common measure of a man and a woman is not necessarily greater than the man's single measure.
HECTOR. Well, we think in America that a woman's moral number is higher than a man's, and that the purer nature of a woman lifts a man right out of himself, and makes him better than he was.
OCTAVIUS. [with conviction] So it does.
TANNER. No wonder American women prefer to live in Europe! It's more comfortable than standing all their lives on an altar to be worshipped. Anyhow, Violet's husband has not been ennobled. So what's to be done?
HECTOR. [shaking his head] I can't dismiss that man's conduct as lightly as you do, Mr Tanner. However, I'll say no more. Whoever he is, he's Miss Robinson's husband; and I should be glad for her sake to think better of him.
OCTAVIUS. [touched; for he divines a secret sorrow] I'm very sorry, Malone. Very sorry.
HECTOR. [gratefully] You're a good fellow, Robinson, Thank you.
TANNER. Talk about something else. Violet's coming from the house.
HECTOR. I should esteem it a very great favor, men, if you would take the opportunity to let me have a few words with the lady alone. I shall have to cry off this trip; and it's rather a delicate —
RAMSDEN. [glad to escape] Say no more. Come Tanner, Come, Tavy. [He strolls away into the park with Octavius and Tanner, past the motor car].
Violet comes down the avenue to Hector.
VIOLET. Are they looking?
She kisses him.
VIOLET. Have you been telling lies for my sake?
HECTOR. Lying! Lying hardly describes it. I overdo it. I get carried away in an ecstasy of mendacity. Violet: I wish you'd let me own up.
VIOLET. [instantly becoming serious and resolute] No, no. Hector: you promised me not to.
HECTOR. I'll keep my promise until you release me from it. But I feel mean, lying to those men, and denying my wife. Just dastardly.
VIOLET. I wish your father were not so unreasonable.
HECTOR. He's not unreasonable. He's right from his point of view. He has a prejudice against the English middle class.
VIOLET. It's too ridiculous. You know how I dislike saying such things to you, Hector; but if I were to — oh, well, no matter.
HECTOR. I know. If you were to marry the son of an English manufacturer of office furniture, your friends would consider it a misalliance. And here's my silly old dad, who is the biggest office furniture man in the world, would show me the door for marrying the most perfect lady in England merely because she has no handle to her name. Of course it's just absurd. But I tell you, Violet, I don't like deceiving him. I feel as if I was stealing his money. Why won't you let me own up?
VIOLET. We can't afford it. You can be as romantic as you please about love, Hector; but you mustn't be romantic about money.
HECTOR. [divided between his uxoriousness and his habitual elevation of moral sentiment] That's very English. [Appealing to her impulsively] Violet: Dad's bound to find us out some day.
VIOLET. Oh yes, later on of course. But don't let's go over this every time we meet, dear. You promised —
HECTOR. All right, all right, I —
VIOLET. [not to be silenced] It is I and not you who suffer by this concealment; and as to facing a struggle and poverty and all that sort of thing I simply will not do it. It's too silly.
HECTOR. You shall not. I'll sort of borrow the money from my dad until I get on my own feet; and then I can own up and pay up at the same time.
VIOLET. [alarmed and indignant] Do you mean to work? Do you want to spoil our marriage?
HECTOR. Well, I don't mean to let marriage spoil my character. Your friend Mr Tanner has got the laugh on me a bit already about that; and —
VIOLET. The beast! I hate Jack Tanner.
HECTOR. [magnanimously] Oh, he's all right: he only needs the love of a good woman to ennoble him. Besides, he's proposed a motoring trip to Nice; and I'm going to take you.
VIOLET. How jolly!
HECTOR. Yes; but how are we going to manage? You see, they've warned me off going with you, so to speak. They've told me in confidence that you're married. That's just the most overwhelming confidence I've ever been honored with.
Tanner returns with Straker, who goes to his car.
TANNER. Your car is a great success, Mr Malone. Your engineer is showing it off to Mr Ramsden.
HECTOR. [eagerly — forgetting himself] Let's come, Vi.
VIOLET. [coldly, warning him with her eyes] I beg your pardon, Mr Malone, I did not quite catch —
HECTOR. [recollecting himself] I ask to be allowed the pleasure of showing you my little American steam car, Miss Robinson.
VIOLET. I shall be very pleased. [They go off together down the avenue].
TANNER. About this trip, Straker.
STRAKER. [preoccupied with the car] Yes?
TANNER. Miss Whitefield is supposed to be coming with me.
STRAKER. So I gather.
TANNER. Mr Robinson is to be one of the party.
TANNER. Well, if you can manage so as to be a good deal occupied with me, and leave Mr Robinson a good deal occupied with Miss Whitefield, he will be deeply grateful to you.
STRAKER. [looking round at him] Evidently.
TANNER. "Evidently!" Your grandfather would have simply winked.
STRAKER. My grandfather would have touched his at.
TANNER. And I should have given your good nice respectful grandfather a sovereign.
STRAKER. Five shillins, more likely. [He leaves the car and approaches Tanner]. What about the lady's views?
TANNER. She is just as willing to be left to Mr Robinson as Mr Robinson is to be left to her. [Straker looks at his principal with cool scepticism; then turns to the car whistling his favorite air]. Stop that aggravating noise. What do you mean by it? [Straker calmly resumes the melody and finishes it. Tanner politely hears it out before he again addresses Straker, this time with elaborate seriousness]. Enry: I have ever been a warm advocate of the spread of music among the masses; but I object to your obliging the company whenever Miss Whitefield's name is mentioned. You did it this morning, too.
STRAKER. [obstinately] It's not a bit o use. Mr Robinson may as well give it up first as last.