A Fantastic Comedy
THE REV. CYRIL SMITH
HASTINGS, the Duke's Secretary
The action takes place in the Duke's Drawing-room.
THIS play was presented under the management of Kenelm Foss at The
Little Theatre, London, on November 7, 1913, with the following cast:
THE STRANGER FRANKLIN DYALL
PATRICIA CARLEON MISS GRACE CROFT
THE REV. CYRIL SMITH O.P. HEGGIE
DR. GRIMTHORPE WILLIAM FARREN
THE DUKE FRED LEWIS
HASTINGS FRANK RANDELL
MORRIS CARLEON LYONEL WATTS
SCENE: A plantation of thin young trees, in a misty and rainy
twilight; some woodland blossom showing the patches on the earth
between the stems.
THE STRANGER is discovered, a cloaked figure with a pointed hood.
His costume might belong to modern or any other time, and the
conical hood is so drawn over the head that little can be seen of
A distant voice, a woman's, is heard, half-singing, half-chanting,
unintelligible words. The cloaked figure raises its head and
listens with interest. The song draws nearer and PATRICIA CARLEON
enters. She is dark and slight, and has a dreamy expression.
Though she is artistically dressed, her hair is a little wild. She
has a broken branch of some flowering tree in her hand. She does
not notice the stranger, and though he has watched her with
interest, makes no sign. Suddenly she perceives him and starts
PATRICIA. Oh! Who are you?
STRANGER. Ah! Who am I? [Commences to mutter to himself, and maps out
the ground with his staff.]
I have a hat, but not to wear;
I wear a sword, but not to slay,
And ever in my bag I bear
A pack of cards, but not to play.
PATRICIA. What are you? What are you saying?
STRANGER. It is the language of the fairies, O daughter of Eve.
PATRICIA. But I never thought fairies were like you. Why, you are taller
than I am.
STRANGER. We are of such stature as we will. But the elves grow small,
not large, when they would mix with mortals.
PATRICIA. You mean they are beings greater than we are.
STRANGER. Daughter of men, if you would see a fairy as he truly is, look
for his head above all the stars and his feet amid the floors of the
sea. Old women have taught you that the fairies are too small to be
seen. But I tell you the fairies are too mighty to be seen. For they are
the elder gods before whom the giants were like pigmies. They are the
Elemental Spirits, and any one of them is larger than the world. And you
look for them in acorns and on toadstools and wonder that you never see
PATRICIA. But you come in the shape and size of a man?
STRANGER. Because I would speak with a woman.
PATRICIA. [Drawing back in awe.] I think you are growing taller as you
[The scene appears to fade away, and give place to the milieu of
ACT ONE, the Duke's drawing-room, an apartment with open French
windows or any opening large enough to show a garden and one house
fairly near. It is evening, and there is a red lamp lighted in the
house beyond. The REV. CYRIL SMITH is sitting with hat and
umbrella beside him, evidently a visitor. He is a young man with
the highest of High Church dog-collars and all the qualities of a
restrained fanatic. He is one of the Christian Socialist sort and
takes his priesthood seriously. He is an honest man, and not an
[To him enters MR. HASTINGS with papers in his hand.
HASTINGS. Oh, good evening. You are Mr. Smith. [Pause.] I mean you are
the Rector, I think.
SMITH. I am the Rector.
HASTINGS. I am the Duke's secretary. His Grace asks me to say that he
hopes to see you very soon; but he is engaged just now with the Doctor.
SMITH. Is the Duke ill?
HASTINGS. [Laughing.] Oh, no; the Doctor has come to ask him to help
some cause or other. The Duke is never ill.
SMITH. Is the Doctor with him now?
HASTINGS. Why, strictly speaking, he is not. The Doctor has gone over
the road to fetch a paper connected with his proposal. But he hasn't far
to go, as you can see. That's his red lamp at the end of his grounds.
SMITH. Yes, I know. I am much obliged to you. I will wait as long as is
HASTINGS. [Cheerfully.] Oh, it won't be very long.
[Enter by the garden doors DR. GRIMTHORPE reading an open paper.
He is an old-fashioned practitioner, very much of a gentleman and
very carefully dressed in a slightly antiquated style. He is about
sixty years old and might have been a friend of Huxley's.
DOCTOR. [Folding up the paper.] I beg your pardon, sir, I did not
notice there was anyone here.
SMITH. [Amicably.] I beg yours. A new clergyman cannot expect to be
expected. I only came to see the Duke about some local affairs.
DOCTOR. [Smiling.] And so, oddly enough, did I. But I suppose we
should both like to get hold of him by a separate ear.
SMITH. Oh, there's no disguise as far as I'm concerned. I've joined this
league for starting a model public-house in the parish; and in plain
words, I've come to ask his Grace for a subscription to it.
DOCTOR. [Grimly.] And, as it happens, I have joined in the petition
against the erection of a model public-house in this parish. The
similarity of our position grows with every instant.
SMITH. Yes, I think we must have been twins.
DOCTOR. [More good-humouredly.] Well, what is a model public-house? Do
you mean a toy?
SMITH. I mean a place where Englishmen can get decent drink and drink it
decently. Do you call that a toy?
DOCTOR. No; I should call that a conjuring trick. Or, in apology to your
cloth, I will say a miracle.
SMITH. I accept the apology to my cloth. I am doing my duty as a priest.
How can the Church have a right to make men fast if she does not allow
them to feast?
DOCTOR. [Bitterly.] And when you have done feasting them, you will
send them to me to be cured.
SMITH. Yes; and when you've done curing them you'll send them to me to
DOCTOR. [After a pause, laughing.] Well, you have all the old
doctrines. It is only fair you should have all the old jokes too.
SMITH. [Laughing also.] By the way, you call it a conjuring trick that
poor people should drink moderately.
DOCTOR. I call it a chemical discovery that alcohol is not a food.
SMITH. You don't drink wine yourself?
DOCTOR. [Mildly startled.] Drink wine! Well--what else is there to
SMITH. So drinking decently is a conjuring trick that you can do,
DOCTOR. [Still good-humouredly.] Well, well, let us hope so. Talking
about conjuring tricks, there is to be conjuring and all kinds of things
here this afternoon.
SMITH. Conjuring? Indeed? Why is that?
Enter HASTINGS with a letter in each hand.
HASTINGS. His Grace will be with you presently. He asked me to deal with
the business matter first of all.
[He gives a note to each of them.
SMITH. [Turning eagerly to the DOCTOR.] But this is rather splendid.
The Duke's given £50 to the new public-house.
HASTINGS. The Duke is very liberal.
DOCTOR. [Examining his cheque.] Very. But this is rather curious. He
has also given £50 to the league for opposing the new public-house.
HASTINGS. The Duke is very liberal-minded.
SMITH. [Staring at his cheque.] Liberal-minded!... Absent-minded, I
should call it.
DOCTOR. [Sitting down and lighting a cigar.] Well, yes. The Duke does
suffer a little from absence [puts his cigar in his mouth and pulls
during the pause] of mind. He is all for compromise. Don't you know the
kind of man who, when you talk to him about the five best breeds of dog,
always ends up by buying a mongrel? The Duke is the kindest of men, and
always trying to please everybody. He generally finishes by pleasing
SMITH. Yes; I think I know the sort of thing.
DOCTOR. Take this conjuring, for instance. You know the Duke has two
wards who are to live with him now?
SMITH. Yes. I heard something about a nephew and niece from Ireland.
DOCTOR. The niece came from Ireland some months ago, but the nephew
comes back from America to-night. [He gets up abruptly and walks about
the room.] I think I will tell you all about it. In spite of your
precious public-house you seem to me to be a sane man. And I fancy I
shall want all the sane men I can get to-night.
SMITH. [Rising also.] I am at your service. Do you know, I rather
guessed you did not come here only to protest against my precious
DOCTOR. [Striding about in subdued excitement.] Well, you guessed
right. I was family physician to the Duke's brother in Ireland. I knew
the family pretty well.
SMITH. [Quietly.] I suppose you mean you knew something odd about the
DOCTOR. Well, they saw fairies and things of that sort.
SMITH. And I suppose, to the medical mind, seeing fairies means much the
same as seeing snakes?
DOCTOR. [With a sour smile.] Well, they saw them in Ireland. I suppose
it's quite correct to see fairies in Ireland. It's like gambling at
Monte Carlo. It's quite respectable. But I do draw the line at their
seeing fairies in England. I do object to their bringing their ghosts
and goblins and witches into the poor Duke's own back garden and within
a yard of my own red lamp. It shows a lack of tact.
SMITH. But I do understand that the Duke's nephew and niece see witches
and fairies between here and your lamp.
[He walks to the garden window and looks out.
DOCTOR. Well, the nephew has been in America. It stands to reason you
can't see fairies in America. But there is this sort of superstition in
the family, and I am not easy in my mind about the girl.
SMITH. Why, what does she do?
DOCTOR. Oh, she wanders about the park and the woods in the evenings.
Damp evenings for choice. She calls it the Celtic twilight. I've no use
for the Celtic twilight myself. It has a tendency to get on the chest.
But what is worse, she is always talking about meeting somebody, some
elf or wizard or something. I don't like it at all.
SMITH. Have you told the Duke?
DOCTOR. [With a grim smile.] Oh, yes, I told the Duke. The result was
SMITH. [With amazement.] The conjurer?
DOCTOR. [Puts down his cigar in the ash-tray.] The Duke is
indescribable. He will be here presently, and you shall judge for
yourself. Put two or three facts or ideas before him, and the thing he
makes out of them is always something that seems to have nothing to do
with it. Tell any other human being about a girl dreaming of the fairies
and her practical brother from America, and he would settle it in some
obvious way and satisfy some one: send her to America or let her have
her fairies in Ireland. Now the Duke thinks a conjurer would just meet
the case. I suppose he vaguely thinks it would brighten things up, and
somehow satisfy the believers' interest in supernatural things and the
unbelievers' interest in smart things. As a matter of fact the
unbeliever thinks the conjurer's a fraud, and the believer thinks he's a
fraud, too. The conjurer satisfies nobody. That is why he satisfies the
[Enter the DUKE, with HASTINGS, carrying papers. The DUKE is
a healthy, hearty man in tweeds, with a rather wandering eye. In
the present state of the peerage it is necessary to explain that
the DUKE, though an ass, is a gentleman.
DUKE. Good-morning, Mr. Smith. So sorry to have kept you waiting, but
we're rather in a rush to-day. [Turns to HASTINGS, who has gone over
to a table with the papers.] You know Mr. Carleon is coming this
HASTINGS. Yes, your Grace. His train will be in by now. I have sent the
DUKE. Thank you. [Turning to the other two.] My nephew, Dr.
Grimthorpe, Morris, you know, Miss Carleon's brother from America. I
hear he's been doing great things out there. Petrol, or something. Must
move with the times, eh?
DOCTOR. I'm afraid Mr. Smith doesn't always agree with moving with the
DUKE. Oh, come, come! Progress, you know, progress! Of course I know how
busy you are; you mustn't overwork yourself, you know. Hastings was
telling me you laughed over those subscriptions of mine. Well, well, I
believe in looking at both sides of a question, you know. Aspects, as
old Buffle called them. Aspects. [With an all-embracing gesture of the
arm.] You represent the tendency to drink in moderation, and you do
good in your way. The Doctor represents the tendency not to drink at
all; and he does good in his way. We can't be Ancient Britons, you
[A prolonged and puzzled silence, such as always follows the more
abrupt of the DUKE'S associations or disassociations of thought.
SMITH. [At last, faintly.] Ancient Britons....
DOCTOR. [To SMITH in a low voice.] Don't bother. It's only his
DUKE. [With unabated cheerfulness.] I saw the place you're putting up
for it, Mr. Smith. Very good work. Very good work, indeed. Art for the
people, eh? I particularly liked that woodwork over the west door--I'm
glad to see you're using the new sort of graining ... why, it all
reminds one of the French Revolution.
[Another silence. As the DUKE lounges alertly about the room,
SMITH speaks to the DOCTOR in an undertone.
SMITH. Does it remind you of the French Revolution?
DOCTOR. As much as of anything else. His Grace never reminds me of
[A young and very high American voice is heard calling in the
garden. "Say, could somebody see to one of these trunks?"
[MR. HASTINGS goes out into the garden. He returns with MORRIS
CARLEON, a very young man: hardly more than a boy, but with very
grown-up American dress and manners. He is dark, smallish, and
active; and the racial type under his Americanism is Irish.
MORRIS. [Humorously, as he puts in his head at the window.] See here,
does a Duke live here?
DOCTOR. [Who is nearest to him, with great gravity.] Yes, only one.
MORRIS. I reckon he's the one I want, anyhow. I'm his nephew.
[The DUKE, who is ruminating in the foreground, with one eye
rather off, turns at the voice and shakes MORRIS warmly by the
DUKE. Delighted to see you, my dear boy. I hear you've been doing very
well for yourself.
MORRIS. [Laughing.] Well, pretty well, Duke; and better still for Paul
T. Vandam, I guess. I manage the old man's mines out in Arizona, you
DUKE. [Shaking his head sagaciously.] Ah, very go-ahead man! Very
go-ahead methods, I'm told. Well, I dare say he does a great deal of
good with his money. And we can't go back to the Spanish Inquisition.
[Silence, during which the three men look at each other.
MORRIS. [Abruptly.] And how's Patricia?
DUKE. [A little hazily.] Oh, she's very well, I think. She....
[He hesitates slightly.
MORRIS. [Smiling.] Well, then, where's Patricia?
[There is a slightly embarrassed pause, and the DOCTOR speaks.
DOCTOR. Miss Carleon is walking about the grounds, I think.
[MORRIS goes to the garden doors and looks out.
MORRIS. It's a mighty chilly night to choose. Does my sister commonly
select such evenings to take the air--and the damp?
DOCTOR. [After a pause.] If I may say so, I quite agree with you. I
have often taken the liberty of warning your sister against going out in
all weathers like this.
DUKE. [Expansively waving his hands about.] The artist temperament!
What I always call the artistic temperament! Wordsworth, you know, and
MORRIS. [Staring.] All what?
DUKE. [Continuing to lecture with enthusiasm.] Why, everything's
temperament, you know! It's her temperament to see the fairies. It's my
temperament not to see the fairies. Why, I've walked all round the
grounds twenty times and never saw a fairy. Well, it's like that about
this wizard or whatever she calls it. For her there is somebody there.
For us there would not be somebody there. Don't you see?
MORRIS. [Advancing excitedly.] Somebody there! What do you mean?
DUKE. [Airily.] Well, you can't quite call it a man.
MORRIS. [Violently.] A man!
DUKE. Well, as old Buffle used to say, what is a man?
MORRIS. [With a strong rise of the American accent.] With your
permission, Duke, I eliminate old Buffle. Do you mean that anybody has
had the tarnation coolness to suggest that some man....
DUKE. Oh, not a man, you know. A magician, something mythical, you
SMITH. Not a man, but a medicine man.
DOCTOR. [Grimly.] I am a medicine man.
MORRIS. And you don't look mythical, Doc.
[He bites his finger and begins to pace restlessly up and down the
DUKE. Well, you know, the artistic temperament....
MORRIS. [Turning suddenly.] See here, Duke! In most commercial ways
we're a pretty forward country. In these moral ways we're content to be
a pretty backward country. And if you ask me whether I like my sister
walking about the woods on a night like this! Well, I don't.
DUKE. I am afraid you Americans aren't so advanced as I'd hoped. Why! as
old Buffle used to say....
[As he speaks a distant voice is heard singing in the garden; it
comes nearer and nearer, and SMITH turns suddenly to the DOCTOR.
SMITH. Whose voice is that?
DOCTOR. It is no business of mine to decide!
MORRIS. [Walking to the window.] You need not trouble. I know who it
Enter PATRICIA CARLEON
[Still agitated.] Patricia, where have you been?
PATRICIA. [Rather wearily.] Oh! in Fairyland.
DOCTOR. [Genially.] And whereabouts is that?
PATRICIA. It's rather different from other places. It's either nowhere
or it's wherever you are.
MORRIS. [Sharply.] Has it any inhabitants?
PATRICIA. Generally only two. Oneself and one's shadow. But whether he
is my shadow or I am his shadow is never found out.
MORRIS. He? Who?
PATRICIA. [Seeming to understand his annoyance for the first time, and
smiling.] Oh, you needn't get conventional about it, Morris. He is not
MORRIS. What's his name?
PATRICIA. We have no names there. You never really know anybody if you
know his name.
MORRIS. What does he look like?
PATRICIA. I have only met him in the twilight. He seems robed in a long
cloak, with a peaked cap or hood like the elves in my nursery stories.
Sometimes when I look out of the window here, I see him passing round
this house like a shadow; and see his pointed hood, dark against the
sunset or the rising of the moon.
SMITH. What does he talk about?
PATRICIA. He tells me the truth. Very many true things. He is a wizard.
MORRIS. How do you know he's a wizard? I suppose he plays some tricks on
PATRICIA. I should know he was a wizard if he played no tricks. But once
he stooped and picked up a stone and cast it into the air, and it flew
up into God's heaven like a bird.
MORRIS. Was that what first made you think he was a wizard?
PATRICIA. Oh, no. When I first saw him he was tracing circles and
pentacles in the grass and talking the language of the elves.
MORRIS. [Sceptically.] Do you know the language of the elves?
PATRICIA. Not until I heard it.
MORRIS. [Lowering his voice as if for his sister, but losing patience
so completely that he talks much louder than he imagines.] See here,
Patricia, I reckon this kind of thing is going to be the limit. I'm just
not going to have you let in by some blamed tramp or fortune-teller
because you choose to read minor poetry about the fairies. If this gipsy
or whatever he is troubles you again....
DOCTOR. [Putting his hand on MORRIS'S shoulder.] Come, you must
allow a little more for poetry. We can't all feed on nothing but petrol.
DUKE. Quite right, quite right. And being Irish, don't you know, Celtic,
as old Buffle used to say, charming songs, you know, about the Irish
girl who has a plaid shawl--and a Banshee. [Sighs profoundly.] Poor
[Silence as usual.
SMITH. [Speaking to DOCTOR.] I thought you yourself considered the
family superstition bad for the health?
DOCTOR. I consider a family superstition is better for the health than a
family quarrel. [He walks casually across to PATRICIA.] Well, it must
be nice to be young and still see all those stars and sunsets. We old
buffers won't be too strict with you if your view of things sometimes
gets a bit--mixed up, shall we say? If the stars get loose about the
grass by mistake; or if, once or twice, the sunset gets into the east.
We should only say, "Dream as much as you like. Dream for all mankind.
Dream for us who can dream no longer. But do not quite forget the
PATRICIA. What difference?
DOCTOR. The difference between the things that are beautiful and the
things that are there. That red lamp over my door isn't beautiful; but
it's there. You might even come to be glad it is there, when the stars
of gold and silver have faded. I am an old man now, but some men are
still glad to find my red star. I do not say they are the wise men.
PATRICIA. [Somewhat affected.] Yes, I know you are good to everybody.
But don't you think there may be floating and spiritual stars which will
last longer than the red lamps?
SMITH. [With decision.] Yes. But they are fixed stars.
DOCTOR. The red lamp will last my time.
DUKE. Capital! Capital! Why, it's like Tennyson. [Silence.] I remember
when I was an undergrad....
[The red light disappears; no one sees it at first except
PATRICIA, who points excitedly.
MORRIS. What's the matter?
PATRICIA. The red star is gone.
MORRIS. Nonsense! [Rushes to the garden doors.] It's only somebody
standing in front of it. Say, Duke, there's somebody standing in the
PATRICIA. [Calmly.] I told you he walked about the garden.
MORRIS. If it's that fortune-teller of yours....
[Disappears into the garden, followed by the DOCTOR.
DUKE. [Staring.] Somebody in the garden! Really, this Land
[MORRIS reappears rather breathless.
MORRIS. A spry fellow, your friend. He slipped through my hands like a
PATRICIA. I told you he was a shadow.
MORRIS. Well, I guess there's going to be a shadow hunt. Got a lantern,
PATRICIA. Oh, you need not trouble. He will come if I call him.
[She goes out into the garden and calls out some half-chanted and
unintelligible words, somewhat like the song preceding her
entrance. The red light reappears; and there is a slight sound as
of fallen leaves shuffled by approaching feet. The cloaked
STRANGER with the pointed hood is seen standing outside the garden
PATRICIA. You may enter all doors.
[The figure comes into the room
MORRIS. [Shutting the garden doors behind him.] Now, see here, wizard,
we've got you. And we know you're a fraud.
SMITH. [Quietly.] Pardon me, I do not fancy that we know that. For
myself I must confess to something of the Doctor's agnosticism.
MORRIS. [Excited, and turning almost with a snarl.] I didn't know you
parsons stuck up for any fables but your own.
SMITH. I stick up for the thing every man has a right to. Perhaps the
only thing that every man has a right to.
MORRIS. And what is that?
SMITH. The benefit of the doubt. Even your master, the petroleum
millionaire, has a right to that. And I think he needs it more.
MORRIS. I don't think there's much doubt about the question, Minister.
I've met this sort of fellow often enough--the sort of fellow who
wheedles money out of girls by telling them he can make stones
DOCTOR. [To the STRANGER.] Do you say you can make stones disappear?
STRANGER. Yes. I can make stones disappear.
MORRIS. [Roughly.] I reckon you're the kind of tough who knows how to
make a watch and chain disappear.
STRANGER. Yes; I know how to make a watch and chain disappear.
MORRIS. And I should think you were pretty good at disappearing
STRANGER. I have done such a thing.
MORRIS. [With a sneer.] Will you disappear now?
STRANGER. [After reflection.] No, I think I'll appear instead. [He
throws back his hood, showing the head of an intellectual-looking man,
young but rather worn. Then he unfastens his cloak and throws it off,
emerging in complete modern evening dress. He advances down the room
towards the DUKE, taking out his watch as he does so.] Good-evening,
your Grace. I'm afraid I'm rather too early for the performance. But
this gentleman [with a gesture towards MORRIS] seemed rather impatient
for it to begin.
DUKE. [Rather at a loss.] Oh, good-evening. Why, really--are you
STRANGER. [Bowing.] Yes. I am the Conjurer.
[There is general laughter, except from PATRICIA. As the others
mingle in talk, the STRANGER goes up to her.
STRANGER. [Very sadly.] I am very sorry I am not a wizard.
PATRICIA. I wish you were a thief instead.
STRANGER. Have I committed a worse crime than thieving?
PATRICIA. You have committed the cruellest crime, I think, that there
STRANGER. And what is the cruellest crime?
PATRICIA. Stealing a child's toy.
STRANGER. And what have I stolen?
PATRICIA. A fairy tale.
The same room lighted more brilliantly an hour later in the
evening. On one side a table covered with packs of cards, pyramids,
etc., at which the CONJURER in evening dress is standing quietly
setting out his tricks. A little more in the foreground the DUKE;
and HASTINGS with a number of papers.
HASTINGS. There are only a few small matters. Here are the programmes of
the entertainment your Grace wanted. Mr. Carleon wishes to see them very
DUKE. Thanks, thanks. [Takes the programmes.]
HASTINGS. Shall I carry them for your Grace?
DUKE. No, no; I shan't forget, I shan't forget. Why, you've no idea how
businesslike I am. We have to be, you know. [Vaguely.] I know you're a
bit of a Socialist; but I assure you there's a good deal to do--stake
in the country, and all that. Look at remembering faces now! The King
never forgets faces. [Waves the programmes about.] I never forget
faces. [Catches sight of the CONJURER and genially draws him into the
discussion.] Why, the Professor here who performs before the King
[puts down the programmes]--you see it on the caravans, you
know--performs before the King almost every night, I suppose....
CONJURER. [Smiling.] I sometimes let his Majesty have an evening off.
And turn my attention, of course, to the very highest nobility. But
naturally I have performed before every sovereign potentate, white and
black. There never was a conjurer who hadn't.
DUKE. That's right, that's right! And you'll say with me that the great
business for a King is remembering people?
CONJURER. I should say it was remembering which people to remember.
DUKE. Well, well, now.... [Looks round rather wildly for something.]
Being really businesslike....
HASTINGS. Shall I take the programmes for your Grace?
DUKE. [Picking them up.] No, no, I shan't forget. Is there anything
HASTINGS. I have to go down the village about the wire to Stratford. The
only other thing at all urgent is the Militant Vegetarians.
DUKE. Ah! The Militant Vegetarians! You've heard of them, I'm sure.
Won't obey the law [to the CONJURER] so long as the Government serves
CONJURER. Let them be comforted. There are a good many people who don't
get much meat.
DUKE. Well, well, I'm bound to say they're very enthusiastic. Advanced,
too--oh, certainly advanced. Like Joan of Arc.
[Short silence, in which the CONJURER stares at him.]
CONJURER. Was Joan of Arc a Vegetarian?
DUKE. Oh, well, it's a very high ideal, after all. The Sacredness of
Life, you know--the Sacredness of Life. [Shakes his head.] But they
carry it too far. They killed a policeman down in Kent.
CONJURER. Killed a policeman? How Vegetarian! Well, I suppose it was, so
long as they didn't eat him.
HASTINGS. They are asking only for small subscriptions. Indeed, they
prefer to collect a large number of half-crowns, to prove the popularity
of their movement. But I should advise....
DUKE. Oh, give them three shillings, then.
HASTINGS. If I might suggest....
DUKE. Hang it all! We gave the Anti-Vegetarians three shillings. It
seems only fair.
HASTINGS. If I might suggest anything, I think your Grace will be wise
not to subscribe in this case. The Anti-Vegetarians have already used
their funds to form gangs ostensibly to protect their own meetings. And
if the Vegetarians use theirs to break up the meetings--well, it will
look rather funny that we have paid roughs on both sides. It will be
rather difficult to explain when it comes before the magistrate.
DUKE. But I shall be the magistrate. [CONJURER stares at him again.]
That's the system, my dear Hastings, that's the advantage of the system.
Not a logical system--no Rousseau in it--but see how well it works! I
shall be the very best magistrate that could be on the Bench. The others
would be biassed, you know. Old Sir Lawrence is a Vegetarian himself;
and might be hard on the Anti-Vegetarian roughs. Colonel Crashaw would
be sure to be hard on the Vegetarian roughs. But if I've paid both of
'em, of course I shan't be hard on either of 'em--and there you have it.
Just perfect impartiality.
HASTINGS. [Restrainedly.] Shall I take the programmes, your Grace?
DUKE. [Heartily.] No, no; I won't forget 'em. [Exit HASTINGS.] Well,
Professor, what's the news in the conjuring world?
CONJURER. I fear there is never any news in the conjuring world.
DUKE. Don't you have a newspaper or something? Everybody has a newspaper
now, you know. The--er--Daily Sword-Swallower or that sort of thing?
CONJURER. No, I have been a journalist myself; but I think journalism
and conjuring will always be incompatible.
DUKE. Incompatible--Oh, but that's where I differ--that's where I take
larger views! Larger laws, as old Buffle said. Nothing's incompatible,
you know--except husband and wife and so on; you must talk to Morris
about that. It's wonderful the way incompatibility has gone forward in
CONJURER. I only mean that the two trades rest on opposite principles.
The whole point of being a conjurer is that you won't explain a thing
that has happened.
DUKE. Well, and the journalist?
CONJURER. Well, the whole point of being a journalist is that you do
explain a thing that hasn't happened.
DUKE. But you'll want somewhere to discuss the new tricks.
CONJURER. There are no new tricks. And if there were we shouldn't want
DUKE. I'm afraid you're not really advanced. Are you interested in
CONJURER. Yes. We are interested in all tricks done by illusion.
DUKE. Well, well, I must go and see how Morris is. Pleasure of seeing
[Exit DUKE, leaving the programmes.
CONJURER. Why are nice men such asses? [Turns to arrange the table.]
That seems all right. The pack of cards that is a pack of cards. And the
pack of cards that isn't a pack of cards. The hat that looks like a
gentleman's hat. But which, in reality, is no gentleman's hat. Only my
hat; and I am not a gentleman. I am only a conjurer, and this is only a
conjurer's hat. I could not take off this hat to a lady. I can take
rabbits out of it, goldfish out of it, snakes out of it. Only I mustn't
take my own head out of it. I suppose I'm a lower animal than a rabbit
or a snake. Anyhow they can get out of the conjurer's hat; and I can't.
I am a conjurer and nothing else but a conjurer. Unless I could show I
was something else, and that would be worse.
[He begins to dash the cards rather irregularly about the table.
PATRICIA. [Coldly] I beg your pardon. I came to get some programmes.
My uncle wants them.
[She walks swiftly across and takes up the programmes.
CONJURER. [Still dashing cards about the table.] Miss Carleon, might I
speak to you a moment? [He puts his hands in his pockets, stares at the
table; and his face assumes a sardonic expression.] The question is
PATRICIA. [Pausing at the door.] I can hardly imagine what the
question can be.
CONJURER. I am the question.
PATRICIA. And what have I to do with that?
CONJURER. You have everything to do with it. I am the question: you....
PATRICIA. [Angrily.] Well, what am I?
CONJURER. You are the answer.
PATRICIA. The answer to what?
CONJURER. [Coming round to the front of the table and sitting against
it.] The answer to me. You think I'm a liar because I walked about the
fields with you and said I could make stones disappear. Well, so I can.
I'm a conjurer. In mere point of fact, it wasn't a lie. But if it had
been a lie I should have told it just the same. I would have told twenty
such lies. You may or may not know why.
PATRICIA. I know nothing about such lies.
[She puts her hand on the handle of the door, but the CONJURER,
who is sitting on the table and staring at his boots, does not
notice the action, and goes on as in a sincere soliloquy.
CONJURER. I don't know whether you have any notion of what it means to a
man like me to talk to a lady like you, even on false pretences. I am an
adventurer. I am a blackguard, if one can earn the title by being in all
the blackguard societies of the world. I have thought everything out by
myself, when I was a guttersnipe in Fleet Street, or, lower still, a
journalist in Fleet Street. Before I met you I never guessed that rich
people ever thought at all. Well, that is all I have to say. We had some
good conversations, didn't we? I am a liar. But I told you a great deal
of the truth.
[He turns and resumes the arrangement of the table.
PATRICIA. [Thinking.] Yes, you did tell me a great deal of the truth.
You told me hundreds and thousands of truths. But you never told me the
truth that one wants to know.
CONJURER. And what is that?
PATRICIA. [Turning back into the room.] You never told me the truth
about yourself. You never told me you were only the Conjurer.
CONJURER. I did not tell you that because I do not even know it. I do
not know whether I am only the Conjurer....
PATRICIA. What do you mean?
CONJURER. Sometimes I am afraid I am something worse than the Conjurer.
PATRICIA. [Seriously.] I cannot think of anything worse than a
conjurer who does not call himself a conjurer.
CONJURER. [Gloomily.] There is something worse. [Rallying himself.]
But that is not what I want to say. Do you really find that very
unpardonable? Come, let me put you a case. Never mind about whether it
is our case. A man spends his time incessantly in going about in
third-class carriages to fifth-rate lodgings. He has to make up new
tricks, new patter, new nonsense, sometimes every night of his life.
Mostly he has to do it in the beastly black cities of the Midlands and
the North, where he can't get out into the country. Now and again he
does it at some gentleman's country-house, where he can get out into the
country. Well, you know that actors and orators and all sorts of people
like to rehearse their effects in the open air if they can. [Smiles.]
You know that story of the great statesman who was heard by his own
gardener saying, as he paced the garden, "Had I, Mr. Speaker, received
the smallest intimation that I could be called upon to speak this
evening...." [PATRICIA controls a smile, and he goes on with
overwhelming enthusiasm.] Well, conjurers are just the same. It takes
some time to prepare an impromptu. A man like that walks about the
woods and fields doing all his tricks beforehand, and talking all sorts
of gibberish because he thinks he is alone. One evening this man found
he was not alone. He found a very beautiful child was watching him.
PATRICIA. A child?
CONJURER. Yes. That was his first impression. He is an intimate friend
of mine. I have known him all my life. He tells me he has since
discovered she is not a child. She does not fulfil the definition.
PATRICIA. What is the definition of a child?
CONJURER. Somebody you can play with.
PATRICIA. [Abruptly.] Why did you wear that cloak with the hood up?
CONJURER. [Smiling.] I think it escaped your notice that it was
PATRICIA. [Smiling faintly.] And what did this friend of yours do?
CONJURER. You have already told me what he did. He destroyed a fairy
tale, for he created a fairy tale that he was bound to destroy.
[Swinging round suddenly on the table.] But do you blame a man very
much, Miss Carleon, if he enjoyed the only fairy tale he had had in his
life? Suppose he said the silly circles he was drawing for practice
were really magic circles? Suppose he said the bosh he was talking was
the language of the elves? Remember, he has read fairy tales as much as
you have. Fairy tales are the only democratic institutions. All the
classes have heard all the fairy tales. Do you blame him very much if
he, too, tried to have a holiday in fairyland?
PATRICIA. [Simply.] I blame him less than I did. But I still say there
can be nothing worse than false magic. And, after all, it was he who
brought the false magic.
CONJURER. [Rising from his seat.] Yes. It was she who brought the real
[Enter MORRIS, in evening-dress. He walks straight up to the
conjuring-table; and picks up one article after another, putting
each down with a comment.
MORRIS. I know that one. I know that. I know that. Let's see, that's the
false bottom, I think. That works with a wire. I know that; it goes up
the sleeve. That's the false bottom again. That's the substituted pack
PATRICIA. Really, Morris, you mustn't talk as if you knew everything.
CONJURER. Oh, I don't mind anyone knowing everything, Miss Carleon.
There is something that is much more important than knowing how a thing
MORRIS. And what's that?
CONJURER. Knowing how to do it.
MORRIS. [Becoming nasal again in anger.] That's so, eh? Being the
high-toned conjurer because you can't any longer take all the sidewalk
as a fairy.
PATRICIA. [Crossing the room and speaking seriously to her brother.]
Really, Morris, you are very rude. And it's quite ridiculous to be rude.
This gentleman was only practising some tricks by himself in the garden.
[With a certain dignity.] If there was any mistake, it was mine. Come,
shake hands, or whatever men do when they apologize. Don't be silly. He
won't turn you into a bowl of goldfish.
MORRIS. [Reluctantly.] Well, I guess that's so. [Offering his hand.]
Shake. [They shake hands.] And you won't turn me into a bowl of
goldfish anyhow, Professor. I understand that when you do produce a
bowl of goldfish, they are generally slips of carrot. That is so,
CONJURER. [Sharply.] Yes. [Produces a bowl of goldfish from his tail
pockets and holds it under the other's nose.] Judge for yourself.
MORRIS. [In monstrous excitement.] Very good! Very good! But I know
how that's done--I know how that's done. You have an india-rubber cap,
you know, or cover....
[Goes back gloomily to his table and sits on it, picking up a pack
of cards and balancing it in his hand.
MORRIS. Ah, most mysteries are tolerably plain if you know the
apparatus. [Enter DOCTOR and SMITH, talking with grave faces, but
growing silent as they reach the group.] I guess I wish we had all the
old apparatus of all the old Priests and Prophets since the beginning of
the world. I guess most of the old miracles and that were a matter of
just panel and wires.
CONJURER. I don't quite understand you. What old apparatus do you want
MORRIS. [Breaking out with all the frenzy of the young free-thinker.]
Well, sir, I just want that old apparatus that turned rods into snakes.
I want those smart appliances, sir, that brought water out of a rock
when old man Moses chose to hit it. I guess it's a pity we've lost the
machinery. I would like to have those old conjurers here that called
themselves Patriarchs and Prophets in your precious Bible....
PATRICIA. Morris, you mustn't talk like that.
MORRIS. Well, I don't believe in religion....
DOCTOR. [Aside.] Hush, hush. Nobody but women believe in religion.
PATRICIA. [Humorously.] I think this is a fitting opportunity to show
you another ancient conjuring trick.
DOCTOR. Which one is that?
PATRICIA. The Vanishing Lady!
SMITH. There is one part of their old apparatus I regret especially
MORRIS. [Still excited.] Yes!
SMITH. The apparatus for writing the Book of Job.
MORRIS. Well, well, they didn't know everything in those old times.
SMITH. No, and in those old times they knew they didn't. [Dreamily.]
Where shall wisdom be found, and what is the place of understanding?
CONJURER. Somewhere in America, I believe.
SMITH. [Still dreamily.] Man knoweth not the price thereof; neither is
it found in the land of the living. The deep sayeth it is not in me, the
sea sayeth it is not with me. Death and destruction say we have heard
tell of it. God understandeth the way thereof and He knoweth the place
thereof. For He looketh to the ends of the earth and seeth under the
whole Heaven. But to man He hath said: Behold the fear of the Lord that
is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding. [Turns suddenly to
the DOCTOR.] How's that for Agnosticism, Dr. Grimthorpe? What a pity
that apparatus is lost.
MORRIS. Well, you may just smile how you choose, I reckon. But I say the
Conjurer here could be the biggest man in the big blessed centuries if
he could just show us how the Holy old tricks were done. We must say
this for old man Moses, that he was in advance of his time. When he did
the old tricks they were new tricks. He got the pull on the public. He
could do his tricks before grown men, great bearded fighting men who
could win battles and sing Psalms. But this modern conjuring is all
behind the times. That's why they only do it with schoolboys. There
isn't a trick on that table I don't know. The whole trade's as dead as
mutton; and not half so satisfying. Why he [pointing to the CONJURER]
brought out a bowl of goldfish just now--an old trick that anybody could
CONJURER. Oh, I quite agree. The apparatus is perfectly simple. By the
way, let me have a look at those goldfish of yours, will you?
MORRIS. [Angrily.] I'm not a paid play-actor come here to conjure. I'm
not here to do stale tricks; I'm here to see through 'em. I say it's an
old trick and....
CONJURER. True. But as you said, we never show it except to schoolboys.
MORRIS. And may I ask you, Professor Hocus Pocus, or whatever your name
is, whom you are calling a schoolboy?
CONJURER. I beg your pardon. Your sister will tell you I am sometimes
mistaken about children.
MORRIS. I forbid you to appeal to my sister.
CONJURER. That is exactly what a schoolboy would do.
MORRIS. [With abrupt and dangerous calm.] I am not a schoolboy,
Professor. I am a quiet business man. But I tell you in the country I
come from, the hand of a quiet business man goes to his hip pocket at an
insult like that.
CONJURER. [Fiercely.] Let it go to his pocket! I thought the hand of a
quiet business man more often went to someone else's pocket.
[Puts his hand to his hip. The DOCTOR puts his hand on his
DOCTOR. Gentlemen, I think you are both forgetting yourselves.
CONJURER. Perhaps. [His tone sinks suddenly to weariness.] I ask
pardon for what I said. It was certainly in excess of the young
gentleman's deserts. [Sighs.] I sometimes rather wish I could forget
MORRIS. [Sullenly, after a pause.] Well, the entertainment's coming
on; and you English don't like a scene. I reckon I'll have to bury the
blamed old hatchet too.
DOCTOR. [With a certain dignity, his social type shining through his
profession.] Mr. Carleon, you will forgive an old man, who knew your
father well, if he doubts whether you are doing yourself justice in
treating yourself as an American Indian, merely because you have lived
in America. In my old friend Huxley's time we of the middle classes
disbelieved in reason and all sorts of things. But we did believe in
good manners. It is a pity if the aristocracy can't. I don't like to
hear you say you are a savage and have buried a tomahawk. I would rather
hear you say, as your Irish ancestors would have said, that you have
sheathed your sword with the dignity proper to a gentleman.
MORRIS. Very well. I've sheathed my sword with the dignity proper to a
CONJURER. And I have sheathed my sword with the dignity proper to a
MORRIS. How does the Conjurer sheath a sword?
CONJURER. Swallows it.
DOCTOR. Then we all agree there shall be no quarrel.
SMITH. May I say a word? I have a great dislike of a quarrel, for a
reason quite beyond my duty to my cloth.
MORRIS. And what is that?
SMITH. I object to a quarrel because it always interrupts an argument.
May I bring you back for a moment to the argument? You were saying that
these modern conjuring tricks are simply the old miracles when they have
once been found out. But surely another view is possible. When we speak
of things being sham, we generally mean that they are imitations of
things that are genuine. Take that Reynolds over there of the Duke's
great-grandfather. [Points to a picture on the wall.] If I were to say
it was a copy....
MORRIS. Wal, the Duke's real amiable; but I reckon you'd find what you
call the interruption of an argument.
SMITH. Well, suppose I did say so, you wouldn't take it as meaning that
Sir Joshua Reynolds never lived. Why should sham miracles prove to us
that real Saints and Prophets never lived. There may be sham magic and
real magic also.
[The CONJURER raises his head and listens with a strange air of
SMITH. There may be turnip ghosts precisely because there are real
ghosts. There may be theatrical fairies precisely because there are real
fairies. You do not abolish the Bank of England by pointing to a forged
MORRIS. I hope the Professor enjoys being called a forged bank-note.
CONJURER. Almost as much as being called the Prospectus of some American
DOCTOR. Gentlemen! Gentlemen!
CONJURER. I am sorry.
MORRIS. Wal, let's have the argument first, then I guess we can have the
quarrel afterwards. I'll clean this house of some encumbrances. See
here, Mr. Smith, I'm not putting anything on your real miracle notion. I
say, and Science says, that there's a cause for everything. Science will
find out that cause, and sooner or later your old miracle will look
mighty mean. Sooner or later Science will botanise a bit on your turnip
ghosts; and make you look turnips yourselves for having taken any. I
DOCTOR. [In a low voice to SMITH.] I don't like this peaceful argument
of yours. The boy is getting much too excited.
MORRIS. You say old man Reynolds lived; and Science don't say no. [He
turns excitedly to the picture.] But I guess he's dead now; and you'll
no more raise your Saints and Prophets from the dead than you'll raise
the Duke's great-grandfather to dance on that wall.
[The picture begins to sway slightly to and fro on the wall.
DOCTOR. Why, the picture is moving!
MORRIS. [Turning furiously on the CONJURER.] You were in the room
before us. Do you reckon that will take us in? You can do all that with
CONJURER. [Motionless and without looking up from the table.] Yes, I
could do all that with wires.
MORRIS. And you reckoned I shouldn't know. [Laughs with a high crowing
laugh.] That's how the derned dirty Spiritualists do all their tricks.
They say they can make the furniture move of itself. If it does move
they move it; and we mean to know how.
[A chair falls over with a slight crash.
[MORRIS almost staggers and momentarily fights for breath and
MORRIS. You ... why ... that ... every one knows that ... a sliding
plank. It can be done with a sliding plank.
CONJURER. [Without looking up.] Yes. It can be done with a sliding
[The DOCTOR draws nearer to MORRIS, who faces about,
addressing him passionately.
MORRIS. You were right on the spot, Doc, when you talked about that red
lamp of yours. That red lamp is the light of science that will put out
all the lanterns of your turnip ghosts. It's a consuming fire, Doctor,
but it is the red light of the morning. [Points at it in exalted
enthusiasm.] Your priests can no more stop that light from shining or
change its colour and its radiance than Joshua could stop the sun and
moon. [Laughs savagely.] Why, a real fairy in an elfin cloak strayed
too near the lamp an hour or two ago; and it turned him into a common
society clown with a white tie.
[The lamp at the end of the garden turns blue. They all look at it
MORRIS. [Splitting the silence on a high unnatural note.] Wait a bit!
Wait a bit! I've got you! I'll have you!... [He strides wildly up and
down the room, biting his finger.] You put a wire ... no, that can't be
DOCTOR. [Speaking to him soothingly.] Well, well, just at this moment
we need not inquire....
MORRIS. [Turning on him furiously.] You call yourself a man of
science, and you dare to tell me not to inquire!
SMITH. We only mean that for the moment you might let it alone.
MORRIS. [Violently.] No, Priest, I will not let it alone. [Pacing the
room again.] Could it be done with mirrors? [He clasps his brow.] You
have a mirror.... [Suddenly, with a shout.] I've got it! I've got it!
Mixture of lights! Why not? If you throw a green light on a red
SMITH. [Quietly to the DOCTOR.] You don't get blue.
DOCTOR. [Stepping across to the CONJURER.] If you have done this
trick, for God's sake undo it.
[After a silence, the light turns red again.
MORRIS. [Dashing suddenly to the glass doors and examining them.] It's
the glass! You've been doing something to the glass!
[He stops suddenly and there is a long silence.
CONJURER. [Still without moving.] I don't think you will find anything
wrong with the glass.
MORRIS. [Bursting open the glass doors with a crash.] Then I'll find
out what's wrong with the lamp.
[Disappears into the garden.
DOCTOR. It is still a wet night, I am afraid.
SMITH. Yes. And somebody else will be wandering about the garden now.
[Through the broken glass doors MORRIS can be seen marching
backwards and forwards with swifter and swifter steps.
SMITH. I suppose in this case the Celtic twilight will not get on the
DOCTOR. Oh, if it were only the chest!
PATRICIA. Where is my brother?
[There is an embarrassed silence, in which the CONJURER
CONJURER. I am afraid he is walking about in Fairyland.
PATRICIA. But he mustn't go out on a night like this; it's very
CONJURER. Yes, it is very dangerous. He might meet a fairy.
PATRICIA. What do you mean?
CONJURER. You went out in this sort of weather and you met this sort of
fairy, and so far it has only brought you sorrow.
PATRICIA. I am going out to find my brother.
[She goes out into the garden through the open doors.
SMITH. [After a silence, very suddenly.] What is that noise? She is
not singing those songs to him, is she?
CONJURER. No. He does not understand the language of the elves.
SMITH. But what are all those cries and gasps I hear?
CONJURER. The normal noises, I believe, of a quiet business man.
DOCTOR. Sir, I can understand your being bitter, for I admit you have
been uncivilly received; but to speak like that just now....
[PATRICIA reappears at the garden doors, very pale.
PATRICIA. Can I speak to the Doctor?
DOCTOR. My dear lady, certainly. Shall I fetch the Duke?
PATRICIA. I would prefer the Doctor.
SMITH. Can I be of any use?
PATRICIA. I only want the Doctor.
[She goes out again, followed by DR. GRIMTHORPE. The others look
at each other.
SMITH. [Quietly.] That last was a wonderful trick of yours.
CONJURER. Thank you. I suppose you mean it was the only one you didn't
SMITH. Something of the kind, I confess. Your last trick was the best
trick I have ever seen. It is so good that I wish you had not done it.
CONJURER. And so do I.
SMITH. How do you mean? Do you wish you had never been a conjurer?
CONJURER. I wish I had never been born.
[A silence. The DOCTOR enters, very grave.
DOCTOR. It is all right so far. We have brought him back.
SMITH. [Drawing near to him.] You told me there was mental trouble
with the girl.
DOCTOR. [Looking at him steadily.] No. I told you there was mental
trouble in the family.
SMITH. [After a silence.] Where is Mr. Morris Carleon?
DOCTOR. I have got him into bed in the next room. His sister is looking
SMITH. His sister! Oh, then do you believe in fairies?
DOCTOR. Believe in fairies? What do you mean?
SMITH. At least you put the person who does believe in them in charge of
the person who doesn't.
DOCTOR. Well, I suppose I do.
SMITH. You don't think she'll keep him awake all night with fairy tales?
DOCTOR. Certainly not.
SMITH. You don't think she'll throw the medicine-bottle out of window
and administer--er--a dewdrop, or anything of that sort? Or a
four-leaved clover, say?
DOCTOR. No; of course not.
SMITH. I only ask because you scientific men are a little hard on us
clergymen. You don't believe in a priesthood; but you'll admit I'm more
really a priest than this Conjurer is really a magician. You've been
talking a lot about the Bible and the Higher Criticism. But even by the
Higher Criticism the Bible is older than the language of the
elves--which was, as far as I can make out, invented this afternoon. But
Miss Carleon believed in the wizard. Miss Carleon believed in the
language of the elves. And you put her in charge of an invalid without
a flicker of doubt: because you trust women.
DOCTOR. [Very seriously.] Yes, I trust women.
SMITH. You trust a woman with the practical issues of life and death,
through sleepless hours when a shaking hand or an extra grain would
SMITH. But if the woman gets up to go to early service at my church, you
call her weak-minded and say that nobody but women can believe in
DOCTOR. I should never call this woman weak-minded--no, by God, not even
if she went to church.
SMITH. Yet there are many as strong-minded who believe passionately in
going to church.
DOCTOR. Weren't there as many who believed passionately in Apollo?
SMITH. And what harm came of believing in Apollo? And what a mass of
harm may have come of not believing in Apollo? Does it never strike you
that doubt can be a madness, as well be faith? That asking questions may
be a disease, as well as proclaiming doctrines? You talk of religious
mania! Is there no such thing as irreligious mania? Is there no such
thing in the house at this moment?
DOCTOR. Then you think no one should question at all.
SMITH. [With passion, pointing to the next room.] I think that is
what comes of questioning! Why can't you leave the universe alone and
let it mean what it likes? Why shouldn't the thunder be Jupiter? More
men have made themselves silly by wondering what the devil it was if it
DOCTOR. [Looking at him.] Do you believe in your own religion?
SMITH. [Returning the look equally steadily.] Suppose I don't: I
should still be a fool to question it. The child who doubts about Santa
Claus has insomnia. The child who believes has a good night's rest.
DOCTOR. You are a Pragmatist.
Enter DUKE, absent-mindedly.
SMITH. That is what the lawyers call vulgar abuse. But I do appeal to
practise. Here is a family over which you tell me a mental calamity
hovers. Here is the boy who questions everything and a girl who can
believe anything. Upon which has the curse fallen?
DUKE. Talking about the Pragmatists. I'm glad to hear.... Ah, very
forward movement! I suppose Roosevelt now.... [Silence.] Well, we move
you know, we move! First there was the Missing Link. [Silence.] No!
First there was Protoplasm--and then there was the Missing Link; and
Magna Carta and so on. [Silence.] Why, look at the Insurance Act!
DOCTOR. I would rather not.
DUKE. [Wagging a playful finger at him.] Ah, prejudice, prejudice! You
doctors, you know! Well, I never had any myself.
DOCTOR. [Breaking the silence in unusual exasperation.] Any what?
DUKE. [Firmly.] Never had any Marconis myself. Wouldn't touch 'em.
[Silence.] Well, I must speak to Hastings.
[Exit DUKE, aimlessly.
DOCTOR. [Exploding.] Well, of all the.... [Turns to SMITH.] You
asked me just now which member of the family had inherited the family
SMITH. Yes; I did.
DOCTOR. [In a low, emphatic voice.] On my living soul, I believe it
must be the Duke.
Room partly darkened, a table with a lamp on it, and an empty
chair. From room next door faint and occasional sounds of the
tossing or talking of the invalid.
Enter DOCTOR GRIMTHORPE with a rather careworn air, and a
medicine bottle in his hand. He puts it on the table, and sits down
in the chair as if keeping a vigil.
Enter CONJURER, carrying his bag, and cloaked for departure. As he
crosses the room the DOCTOR rises and calls after him.
DOCTOR. Forgive me, but may I detain you for one moment? I suppose you
are aware that--[he hesitates] that there have been rather grave
developments in the case of illness which happened after your
performance. I would not say, of course, because of your performance.
CONJURER. Thank you.
DOCTOR. [Slightly encouraged, but speaking very carefully.]
Nevertheless, mental excitement is necessarily an element of importance
in physiological troubles, and your triumphs this evening were really so
extraordinary that I cannot pretend to dismiss them from my patient's
case. He is at present in a state somewhat analogous to delirium, but in
which he can still partially ask and answer questions. The question he
continually asks is how you managed to do your last trick.
CONJURER. Ah! My last trick!
DOCTOR. Now I was wondering whether we could make any arrangement which
would be fair to you in the matter. Would it be possible for you to give
me in confidence the means of satisfying this--this fixed idea he seems
to have got. [He hesitates again, and picks his words more slowly.]
This special condition of semi-delirious disputation is a rare one, and
connected in my experience with rather unfortunate cases.
CONJURER. [Looking at him steadily.] Do you mean he is going mad?
DOCTOR. [Rather taken aback for the first time.] Really, you ask me an
unfair question. I could not explain the fine shades of these things to
a layman. And even if--if what you suggest were so, I should have to
regard it as a professional secret.
CONJURER. [Still looking at him.] And don't you think you ask me a
rather unfair question, Dr. Grimthorpe? If yours is a professional
secret, is not mine a professional secret too? If you may hide truth
from the world, why may not I? You don't tell your tricks. I don't tell
DOCTOR. [With some heat.] Ours are not tricks.
CONJURER. [Reflectively.] Ah, no one can be sure of that till the
tricks are told.
DOCTOR. But the public can see a doctor's cures as plain as....
CONJURER. Yes. As plain as they saw the red lamp over his door this
DOCTOR. [After a pause.] Your secret, of course, would be strictly
kept by every one involved.
CONJURER. Oh, of course. People in delirium always keep secrets
DOCTOR. No one sees the patient but his sister and myself.
CONJURER. [Starts slightly.] Yes, his sister. Is she very anxious?
DOCTOR. [In a lower voice.] What would you suppose?
[CONJURER throws himself into the chair, his cloak slipping back
from his evening dress. He ruminates for a short space and then
CONJURER. Doctor, there are about a thousand reasons why I should not
tell you how I really did that trick. But one will suffice, because it
is the most practical of all.
DOCTOR. Well? And why shouldn't you tell me?
CONJURER. Because you wouldn't believe me if I did.
[A silence, the DOCTOR looking at him curiously.
[Enter the DUKE with papers in his hand. His usual gaiety of
manner has a rather forced air, owing to the fact that by some
vague sick-room associations he walks as if on tip-toe and begins
to speak in a sort of loud or shrill whisper. This he fortunately
forgets and falls into his more natural voice.
DUKE. [To CONJURER.] So very kind of you to have waited, Professor. I
expect Dr. Grimthorpe has explained the little difficulty we are in
much better than I could. Nothing like the medical mind for a scientific
statement. [Hazily.] Look at Ibsen.
DOCTOR. Of course the Professor feels considerable reluctance in the
matter. He points out that his secrets are an essential part of his
DUKE. Of course, of course. Tricks of the trade, eh? Very proper, of
course. Quite a case of noblesse oblige [Silence.] But I dare say we
shall be able to find a way out of the matter. [He turns to the
CONJURER.] Now, my dear sir, I hope you will not be offended if I say
that this ought to be a business matter. We are asking you for a piece
of your professional work and knowledge, and if I may have the pleasure
of writing you a cheque....
CONJURER. I thank your Grace, I have already received my cheque from
your secretary. You will find it on the counterfoil just after the
cheque you so kindly gave to the Society for the Suppression of
DUKE. Now I don't want you to take it in that way. I want you to take
it in a broader way. Free, you know. [With an expansive gesture.]
Modern and all that! Wonderful man, Bernard Shaw!
DOCTOR. [With a slight cough, resuming.] If you feel any delicacy the
payment need not be made merely to you. I quite respect your feelings in
DUKE. [Approvingly.] Quite so, quite so. Haven't you got a Cause or
something? Everybody has a cause now, you know. Conjurers' widows or
something of that kind.
CONJURER. [With restraint.] No; I have no widows.
DUKE. Then something like a pension or annuity for any widows you
may--er--procure. [Gaily opening his cheque-book and talking slang to
show there is no ill-feeling.] Come, let me call it a couple of thou.
[The CONJURER takes the cheque and looks at it in a grave and
doubtful way. As he does so the RECTOR comes slowly into the
CONJURER. You would really be willing to pay a sum like this to know
the way I did that trick?
DUKE. I would willingly pay much more.
DOCTOR. I think I explained to you that the case is serious.
CONJURER. [More and more thoughtful.] You would pay much more....
[Suddenly.] But suppose I tell you the secret and you find there's
nothing in it?
DOCTOR. You mean that it's really quite simple? Why, I should say that
that would be the best thing that could possibly happen. A little
healthy laughter is the best possible thing for convalescence.
CONJURER. [Still looking gloomily at the cheque.] I do not think you
DUKE. [Reasoning genially.] But as you say it is something quite
CONJURER. It is the simplest thing there is in the world. That is why
you will not laugh.
DOCTOR. [Almost nervously.] Why, what do you mean? What shall we do?
CONJURER. [Gravely.] You will disbelieve it.
DOCTOR. And why?
CONJURER. Because it is so simple. [He springs suddenly to his feet,
the cheque still in his hand.] You ask me how I really did the last
trick. I will tell you how I did the last trick. I did it by magic.
[The DUKE and DOCTOR stare at him motionless; but the REV.
SMITH starts and takes a step nearer the table. The CONJURER
pulls his cloak round his shoulders. This gesture, as of
departure, brings the DOCTOR to his feet.
DOCTOR. [Astonished and angry.] Do you really mean that you take the
cheque and then tell us it was only magic?
CONJURER. [Pulling the cheque to pieces.] I tear the cheque, and I
tell you it was only magic.
DOCTOR. [With violent sincerity.] But hang it all, there's no such
CONJURER. Yes there is. I wish to God I did not know that there is.
DUKE. [Rising also.] Why, really, magic....
CONJURER. [Contemptuously.] Yes, your Grace, one of those larger laws
you were telling us about.
[He buttons his cloak up at his throat and takes up his bag. As he
does so the REV. SMITH steps between him and the door and stops
him for a moment.
SMITH. [In a low voice.] One moment, sir.
CONJURER. What do you want?
SMITH. I want to apologize to you. I mean on behalf of the company. I
think it was wrong to offer you money. I think it was more wrong to
mystify you with medical language and call the thing delirium. I have
more respect for conjurer's patter than for doctor's patter. They are
both meant to stupify; but yours only to stupify for a moment. Now I put
it to you in plain words and on plain human Christian grounds. Here is a
poor boy who may be going mad. Suppose you had a son in such a position,
would you not expect people to tell you the whole truth if it could help
CONJURER. Yes. And I have told you the whole truth. Go and find out if
it helps you.
[Turns again to go, but more irresolutely.
SMITH. You know quite well it will not help us.
CONJURER. Why not?
SMITH. You know quite well why not. You are an honest man; and you have
said it yourself. Because he would not believe it.
CONJURER. [With a sort of fury.] Well, does anybody believe it? Do you
SMITH. [With great restraint.] Your question is quite fair. Come, let
us sit down and talk about it. Let me take your cloak.
CONJURER. I will take off my cloak when you take off your coat.
SMITH. [Smiling.] Why? Do you want me to fight?
CONJURER. [Violently.] I want you to be martyred. I want you to bear
witness to your own creed. I say these things are supernatural. I say
this was done by a spirit. The Doctor does not believe me. He is an
agnostic; and he knows everything. The Duke does not believe me; he
cannot believe anything so plain as a miracle. But what the devil are
you for, if you don't believe in a miracle? What does your coat mean, if
it doesn't mean that there is such a thing as the supernatural? What
does your cursed collar mean if it doesn't mean that there is such a
thing as a spirit? [Exasperated.] Why the devil do you dress up like
that if you don't believe in it? [With violence.] Or perhaps you don't
believe in devils?
SMITH. I believe.... [After a pause.] I wish I could believe.
CONJURER. Yes. I wish I could disbelieve.
[Enter PATRICIA pale and in the slight négligée of the amateur
PATRICIA. May I speak to the Conjurer?
SMITH. [Hastening forward.] You want the Doctor?
PATRICIA. No, the Conjurer.
DOCTOR. Are there any developments?
PATRICIA. I only want to speak to the Conjurer.
[They all withdraw, either at the garden or the other doors.
PATRICIA walks up to CONJURER.
PATRICIA. You must tell me how you did the trick. You will. I know you
will. O, I know my poor brother was rude to you. He's rude to everybody!
[Breaks down.] But he's such a little, little boy!
CONJURER. I suppose you know there are things men never tell to women.
They are too horrible.
PATRICIA. Yes. And there are things women never tell to men. They also
are too horrible. I am here to hear them all.
CONJURER. Do you really mean I may say anything I like? However dark it
is? However dreadful it is? However damnable it is?
PATRICIA. I have gone through too much to be terrified now. Tell me the
CONJURER. I will tell you the very worst. I fell in love with you when I
first saw you.
[Sits down and crosses his legs.
PATRICIA. [Drawing back.] You told me I looked like a child and....
CONJURER. I told a lie.
PATRICIA. O; this is terrible.
CONJURER. I was in love, I took an opportunity. You believed quite
simply that I was a magician? but I....
PATRICIA. It is terrible. It is terrible. I never believed you were a
CONJURER. [Astounded.] Never believed I was a magician...!
PATRICIA. I always knew you were a man.
CONJURER. [Doing whatever passionate things people do on the stage.] I
am a man. And you are a woman. And all the elves have gone to elfland,
and all the devils to hell. And you and I will walk out of this great
vulgar house and be married.... Every one is crazy in this house
to-night, I think. What am I saying? As if you could marry me! O my
PATRICIA. This is the first time you have failed in courage.
CONJURER. What do you mean?
PATRICIA. I mean to draw your attention to the fact that you have
recently made an offer, I accept it.
CONJURER. Oh, it's nonsense, it's nonsense. How can a man marry an
archangel, let alone a lady. My mother was a lady and she married a
dying fiddler who tramped the roads; and the mixture plays the cat and
banjo with my body and soul. I can see my mother now cooking food in
dirtier and dirtier lodgings, darning socks with weaker and weaker eyes
when she might have worn pearls by consenting to be a rational person.
PATRICIA. And she might have grown pearls, by consenting to be an
CONJURER. [Seriously.] There was little pleasure in her life.
PATRICIA. There is little, a very little, in everybody's. The question
is, what kind? We can't turn life into a pleasure. But we can choose
such pleasures as are worthy of us and our immortal souls. Your mother
chose and I have chosen.
CONJURER. [Staring.] Immortal souls!... And I suppose if I knelt down
to worship you, you and every one else would laugh.
PATRICIA. [With a smile of perversity.] Well, I think this is a more
comfortable way. [She sits down suddenly beside him in a sort of
domestic way and goes on talking.] Yes. I'll do everything your mother
did, not so well, of course; I'll darn that conjurer's hat--does one
darn hats?--and cook the Conjurer's dinner. By the way, what is a
Conjurer's dinner? There's always the goldfish, of course....
CONJURER. [With a groan.] Carrots.
PATRICIA. And, of course, now I come to think of it, you can always take
rabbits out of the hat. Why, what a cheap life it must be! How do you
cook rabbits? The Duke is always talking about poached rabbits. Really,
we shall be as happy as is good for us. We'll have confidence in each
other at least, and no secrets. I insist on knowing all the tricks.
CONJURER. I don't think I know whether I'm on my head or my heels.
PATRICIA. And now, as we're going to be so confidential and comfortable,
you'll just tell me the real, practical, tricky little way you did that
CONJURER. [Rising, rigid with horror.] How I did that trick? I did it
by devils. [Turning furiously on PATRICIA.] You could believe in
fairies. Can't you believe in devils?
PATRICIA. [Seriously.] No, I can't believe in devils.
CONJURER. Well, this room is full of them.
PATRICIA. What does it all mean?
CONJURER. It only means that I have done what many men have done; but
few, I think, have thriven by. [He sits down and talks thoughtfully.]
I told you I had mixed with many queer sets of people. Among others, I
mixed with those who pretend, truly and falsely, to do our tricks by the
aid of spirits. I dabbled a little in table-rapping and table-turning.
But I soon had reason to give it up.
PATRICIA. Why did you give it up?
CONJURER. It began by giving me headaches. And I found that every
morning after a Spiritualist séance I had a queer feeling of lowness
and degradation, of having been soiled; much like the feeling, I
suppose, that people have the morning after they have been drunk. But I
happen to have what people call a strong head; and I have never been
PATRICIA. I am glad of that.
CONJURER. It hasn't been for want of trying. But it wasn't long before
the spirits with whom I had been playing at table-turning, did what I
think they generally do at the end of all such table-turning.
PATRICIA. What did they do?
CONJURER. They turned the tables. They turned the tables upon me. I
don't wonder at your believing in fairies. As long as these things were
my servants they seemed to me like fairies. When they tried to be my
masters.... I found they were not fairies. I found the spirits with whom
I at least had come in contact were evil ... awfully, unnaturally evil.
PATRICIA. Did they say so?
CONJURER. Don't talk of what they said. I was a loose fellow, but I had
not fallen so low as such things. I resisted them; and after a pretty
bad time, psychologically speaking, I cut the connexion. But they were
always tempting me to use the supernatural power I had got from them.
It was not very great, but it was enough to move things about, to alter
lights, and so on. I don't know whether you realize that it's rather a
strain on a man to drink bad coffee at a coffee-stall when he knows he
has just enough magic in him to make a bottle of champagne walk out of
an empty shop.
PATRICIA. I think you behaved very well.
CONJURER. [Bitterly.] And when I fell at last it was for nothing half
so clean and Christian as champagne. In black blind pride and anger and
all kinds of heathenry, because of the impudence of a schoolboy, I
called on the fiends and they obeyed.
PATRICIA. [Touches his arm.] Poor fellow!
CONJURER. Your goodness is the only goodness that never goes wrong.
PATRICIA. And what are we to do with Morris? I--I believe you now, my
dear. But he--he will never believe.
CONJURER. There is no bigot like the atheist. I must think.
[Walks towards the garden windows. The other men reappear to
arrest his movement.
DOCTOR. Where are you going?
CONJURER. I am going to ask the God whose enemies I have served if I am
still worthy to save a child.
[Exit into garden. He paces up and down exactly as MORRIS has
done. As he does so, PATRICIA slowly goes out; and a long silence
follows, during which the remaining men stir and stamp very
restlessly. The darkness increases. It is long before anyone
DOCTOR. [Abruptly.] Remarkable man that Conjurer. Clever man. Curious
man. Very curious man. A kind of man, you know.... Lord bless us! What's
DUKE. What's what, eh? What's what?
DOCTOR. I swear I heard a footstep.
Enter HASTINGS with papers.
DUKE. Why, Hastings--Hastings--we thought you were a ghost. You must
be--er--looking white or something.
HASTINGS. I have brought back the answer of the Anti-Vegetarians ... I
mean the Vegetarians.
[Drops one or two papers.
DUKE. Why, Hastings, you are looking white.
HASTINGS. I ask your Grace's pardon. I had a slight shock on entering
DOCTOR. A shock? What shock?
HASTINGS. It is the first time, I think, that your Grace's work has been
disturbed by any private feelings of mine. I shall not trouble your
Grace with them. It will not occur again.
DUKE. What an extraordinary fellow. I wonder if....
[Suddenly stops speaking.
DOCTOR. [After a long silence, in a low voice to SMITH.] How do you
SMITH. I feel I must have a window shut or I must have it open, and I
don't know which it is.
[Another long silence.
SMITH. [Crying out suddenly in the dark.] In God's name, go!
DOCTOR. [Jumping up rather in a tremble.] Really, sir, I am not used
to being spoken to....
SMITH. It was not you whom I told to go.
DOCTOR. No. [Pause.] But I think I will go. This room is simply
[He marches towards the door.
DUKE. [Jumping up and bustling about, altering cards, papers, etc., on
tables.] Room horrible? Room horrible? No, no, no. [Begins to run
quicker round the room, flapping his hands like fins.] Only a little
crowded. A little crowded. And I don't seem to know all the people. We
can't like everybody. These large at-homes....
[Tumbles on to a chair.
CONJURER. [Reappearing at the garden doors.] Go back to hell from
which I called you. It is the last order I shall give.
DOCTOR. [Rising rather shakily.] And what are you going to do?
CONJURER. I am going to tell that poor little lad a lie. I have found
in the garden what he did not find in the garden. I have managed to
think of a natural explanation of that trick.
DOCTOR. [Warmly moved.] I think you are something like a great man.
Can I take your explanation to him now?
CONJURER. [Grimly.] No thank you. I will take it myself.
[Exit into the other room.
DUKE. [Uneasily.] We all felt devilish queer just now. Wonderful
things there are in the world. [After a pause.] I suppose it's all
[Silence as usual.
SMITH. I think there has been more than electricity in all this.
Enter PATRICIA, still pale, but radiant.
PATRICIA. Oh, Morris is ever so much better! The Conjurer has told him
such a good story of how the trick was done.
DUKE. Professor, we owe you a thousand thanks!
DOCTOR. Really, you have doubled your claim to originality!
SMITH. It is much more marvellous to explain a miracle than to work a
miracle. What was your explanation, by the way?
CONJURER. I shall not tell you.
SMITH. [Starting.] Indeed? Why not?
CONJURER. Because God and the demons and that Immortal Mystery that you
deny has been in this room to-night. Because you know it has been here.
Because you have felt it here. Because you know the spirits as well as I
do and fear them as much as I do.
CONJURER. Because all this would not avail. If I told you the lie I told
Morris Carleon about how I did that trick....
CONJURER. YOU would believe it as he believed it. You cannot think
[pointing to the lamp] how that trick could be done naturally. I alone
found out how it could be done--after I had done it by magic. But if I
tell you a natural way of doing it....
CONJURER. Half an hour after I have left this house you will be all
saying how it was done.
[CONJURER buttons up his cloak and advances to PATRICIA.
PATRICIA. I shall not say good-bye.
PATRICIA. Yes. That fairy tale has really and truly come to an end.
[Looks at him a little in the old mystical manner.] It is very hard
for a fairy tale to come to an end. If you leave it alone it lingers
everlastingly. Our fairy tale has come to an end in the only way a fairy
tale can come to an end. The only way a fairy tale can leave off being a
CONJURER. I don't understand you.
PATRICIA. It has come true.