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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesAn Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XII
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An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XII Post by :PPBRONXNYC Category :Long Stories Author :George Bernard Shaw Date :June 2011 Read :3028

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An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XII


On the following Thursday Gertrude, Agatha, and Jane met for the
first time since they had parted at Alton College. Agatha was the
shyest of the three, and externally the least changed. She
fancied herself very different from the Agatha of Alton; but it
was her opinion of herself that had altered, not her person.
Expecting to find a corresponding alteration in her friends, she
had looked forward to the meeting with much doubt and little hope
of its proving pleasant.

She was more anxious about Gertrude than about Jane, concerning
whom, at a brief interview in London, she had already discovered
that Lady Brandon's manner, mind, and speech were just what Miss
Carpenter's had been. But, even from Agatha, Jane commanded more
respect than before, having changed from an overgrown girl into a
fine woman, and made a brilliant match in her first season,
whilst many of her pretty, proud, and clever contemporaries, whom
she had envied at school, were still unmarried, and were having
their homes made uncomfortable by parents anxious to get rid of
the burthen of supporting them, and to profit in purse or
position by their marriages.

This was Gertrude's case. Like Agatha, she had thrown away her
matrimonial opportunities. Proud of her rank and exclusiveness,
she had resolved to have as little as possible to do with persons
who did not share both with her. She began by repulsing the
proffered acquaintance of many families of great wealth and
fashion, who either did not know their grandparents or were
ashamed of them. Having shut herself out of their circle, she was
presented at court, and thenceforth accepted the invitations of
those only who had, in her opinion, a right to the same honor.
And she was far stricter on that point than the Lord Chamberlain,
who had, she held, betrayed his trust by practically turning
Leveller. She was well educated, refined in her manners and
habits, skilled in etiquette to an extent irritating to the
ignorant, and gifted with a delicate complexion, pearly teeth,
and a face that would have been Grecian but for a slight upward
tilt of the nose and traces of a square, heavy type in the jaw.
Her father was a retired admiral, with sufficient influence to
have had a sinecure made by a Conservative government expressly
for the maintenance of his son pending alliance with some
heiress. Yet Gertrude remained single, and the admiral, who had
formerly spent more money than he could comfortably afford on her
education, and was still doing so upon her state and personal
adornment, was complaining so unpleasantly of her failure to get
taken off his hands, that she could hardly bear to live at home,
and was ready to marry any thoroughbred gentleman, however
unsuitable his age or character, who would relieve her from her
humiliating dependence. She was prepared to sacrifice her natural
desire for youth, beauty, and virtue in a husband if she could
escape from her parents on no easier terms, but she was resolved
to die an old maid sooner than marry an upstart.

The difficulty in her way was pecuniary. The admiral was poor. He
had not quite six thousand a year, and though he practiced the
utmost economy in order to keep up the most expensive habits, he
could not afford to give his daughter a dowry. Now the well born
bachelors of her set, having more blue bood, but much less
wealth, than they needed, admired her, paid her compliments,
danced with her, but could not afford to marry her. Some of them
even told her so, married rich daughters of tea merchants, iron
founders, or successful stocktrokers, and then tried to make
matches between her and their lowly born brothers-in-law.

So, when Gertrude met Lady Brandon, her lot was secretly
wretched, and she was glad to accept an invitation to Brandon
Beeches in order to escape for a while from the admiral's daily
sarcasms on the marriage list in the "Times." The invitation was
the more acceptable because Sir Charles was no mushroom noble,
and, in the schooldays which Gertrude now remembered as the
happiest of her life, she had acknowledged that Jane's family and
connections were more aristocratic than those of any other
student then at Alton, herself excepted. To Agatha, whose
grandfather had amassed wealth as a proprietor of gasworks
(novelties in his time), she had never offered her intimacy.
Agatha had taken it by force, partly moral, partly physical. But
the gasworks were never forgotten, and when Lady Brandon
mentioned, as a piece of delightful news, that she had found out
their old school companion, and had asked her to join them,
Gertrude was not quite pleased. Yet, when they met, her eyes were
the only wet ones there, for she was the least happy of the
three, and, though she did not know it, her spirit was somewhat
broken. Agatha, she thought, had lost the bloom of girlhood, but
was bolder, stronger, and cleverer than before. Agatha had, in
fact, summoned all her self-possession to hide her shyness. She
detected the emotion of Gertrude, who at the last moment did not
try to conceal it. It would have been poured out freely in words,
had Gertrude's social training taught her to express her feelings
as well as it had accustomed her to dissemble them.

"Do you remember Miss Wilson?" said Jane, as the three drove from
the railway station to Brandon Beeches. "Do you remember Mrs.
Miller and her cat? Do you remember the Recording Angel? Do you
remember how I fell into the canal?"

These reminiscences lasted until they reached the house and went
together to Agatha's room. Here Jane, having some orders to give
in the household, had to leave them--reluctantly; for she was
jealous lest Gertrude should get the start of her in the renewal
of Agatha's affection. She even tried to take her rival away with
her; but in vain. Gertrude would not budge.

"What a beautiful house and splendid place!" said Agatha when
Jane was gone. "And what a nice fellow Sir Charles is! We used to
laugh at Jane, but she can afford to laugh at the luckiest of us
now. I always said she would blunder into the best of everything.
Is it true that she married in her first season?"

"Yes. And Sir Charles is a man of great culture. I cannot
understand it. Her size is really beyond everything, and her
manners are bad."

"Hm!" said Agatha with a wise air. "There was always something
about Jane that attracted men. And she is more knave than fool.
But she is certainly a great ass."

Gertrude looked serious, to imply that she had grown out of the
habit of using or listening to such language. Agatha, stimulated
by this, continued:

"Here are you and I, who consider ourselves twice as presentable
and conversable as she, two old maids." Gertrude winced, and
Agatha hastened to add: "Why, as for you, you are perfectly
lovely! And she has asked us down expressly to marry us."

"She would not presume--"

"Nonsense, my dear Gertrude. She thinks that we are a couple of
fools who have mismanaged our own business, and that she, having
managed so well for herself, can settle us in a jiffy. Come, did
she not say to you, before I came, that it was time for me to be
getting married?"

"Well, she did. But--"

"She said exactly the same thing to me about yon when she invited

"I would leave her house this moment," said Gertrude, "if I
thought she dared meddle in my affairs. What is it to her whether
I am married or not?"

"Where have you been living all these years, if you do not know
that the very first thing a woman wants to do when she has made a
good match is to make ones for all her spinster friends. Jane
does not mean any harm. She does it out of pure benevolence."

"I do not need Jane's benevolence."

"Neither do I; but it doesn't do any harm, and she is welcome to
amuse herself by trotting out her male acquaintances for my
approval. Hush! Here she comes."

Gertrude subsided. She could not quarrel with Lady Brandon
without leaving the house, and she could not leave the house
without returning to her home. But she privately resolved to
discourage the attentions of Erskine, suspecting that instead of
being in love with her as he pretended, he had merely been
recommended by Jane to marry her.

Chichester Erskine had made sketches in Palestine with Sir
Charles, and had tramped with him through many European picture
galleries. He was a young man of gentle birth, and had inherited
fifteen hundred a year from his mother, the bulk of the family
property being his elder brother's. Having no profession, and
being fond of books and pictures, he had devoted himself to fine
art, a pursuit which offered him on the cheapest terms a high
opinion of the beauty and capacity of his own nature. He had
published a tragedy entitled, "The Patriot Martyrs," with an
etched frontispiece by Sir Charles, and an edition of it had been
speedily disposed of in presentations to the friends of the
artist and poet, and to the reviews and newspapers. Sir Charles
had asked an eminent tragedian of his acquaintance to place the
work on the stage and to enact one of the patriot martyrs. But
the tragedian had objected that the other patriot martyrs had
parts of equal importance to that proposed for him. Erskine had
indignantly refused to cut these parts down or out, and so the
project had fallen through.

Since then Erskine had been bent on writing another drama,
without regard to the exigencies of the stage, but he had not yet
begun it, in consequence of his inspiration coming upon him at
inconvenient hours, chiefly late at night, when he had been
drinking, and had leisure for sonnets only. The morning air and
bicycle riding were fatal to the vein in which poetry struck him
as being worth writing. In spite of the bicycle, however, the
drama, which was to be entitled "Hypatia," was now in a fair way
to be written, for the poet had met and fallen in love with
Gertrude Lindsay, whose almost Grecian features, and some
knowledge of the different calculua which she had acquired at
Alton, helped him to believe that she was a fit model for his

When the ladies came downstairs they found their host and Erskine
in the picture gallery, famous in the neighborhood for the sum it
had cost Sir Charles. There was a new etching to be admired, and
they were called on to observe what the baronet called its tones,
and what Agatha would have called its degrees of smudginess. Sir
Charles's attention often wandered from this work of art. He
looked at his watch twice, and said to his wife:

"I have ordered them to be punctual with the luncheon."

"Oh, yes; it's all right," said Lady Brandon, who had given
orders that luncheon was not to be served until the arrival of
another gentleman. "Show Agatha the picture of the man in the--"

"Mr. Trefusis," said a servant.

Mr. Trefusis, still in snuff color, entered; coat unbuttoned and
attention unconstrained; exasperatingly unconscious of any
occasion for ceremony.

"Here you are at last," said Lady Brandon. "You know everybody,
don't you?"

"How do you do?" said Sir Charles, offering his hand as a severe
expression of his duty to his wife's guest, who took it
cordially, nodded to Erskine, looked without recognition at
Gertrude, whose frosty stillness repudiated Lady Brandon's
implication that the stranger was acquainted with her, and turned
to Agatha, to whom he bowed. She made no sign; she was paralyzed.
Lady Brandon reddened with anger. Sir Charles noted his guest's
reception with secret satisfaction, but shared the embarrassment
which oppressed all present except Trefusis, who seemed quite
indifferent and assured, and unconsciously produced an impression
that the others had not been equal to the occasion, as indeed
they had not.

"We were looking at some etchings when you came in," said Sir
Charles, hastening to break the silence. "Do you care for such
things?" And he handed him a proof.

Trefusis looked at it as if he had never seen such a thing before
and did not quite know what to make of it. "All these scratches
seem to me to have no meaning," he said dubiously.

Sir Charles stole a contemptuous smile and significant glance at
Erskine. He, seized already with an instinctive antipathy to
Trefusis, said emphatically:

"There is not one of those scratches that has not a meaning."

"That one, for instance, like the limb of a daddy-long-legs. What
does that mean?"

Erskine hesitated a moment; recovered himself; and said:
"Obviously enough--to me at least--it indicates the marking of
the roadway."

"Not a bit of it," said Trefusis. "There never was such a mark as
that on a road. It may be a very bad attempt at a briar, but
briars don't straggle into the middle of roads frequented as that
one seems to be--judging by those overdone ruts." He put the
etching away, showing no disposition to look further into the
portfolio, and remarked, "The only art that interests me is

Erskine and Sir Charles again exchanged glances, and the former

"Photography is not an art in the sense in which I understand the
term. It is a process."

"And a much less troublesome and more perfect process than that,"
said Trefusis, pointing to the etching. "The artists are sticking
to the old barbarous, difficult, and imperfect processes of
etching and portrait painting merely to keep up the value of
their monopoly of the required skill. They have left the new,
more complexly organized, and more perfect, yet simple and
beautiful method of photography in the hands of tradesmen,
sneering at it publicly and resorting to its aid surreptitiously.
The result is that the tradesmen are becoming better artists than
they, and naturally so; for where, as in photography, the drawing
counts for nothing, the thought and judgment count for
everything; whereas in the etching and daubing processes, where
great manual skill is needed to produce anything that the eye can
endure, the execution counts for more than the thought, and if a
fellow only fit to carry bricks up a ladder or the like has
ambition and perseverance enough to train his hand and push into
the van, you cannot afford to put him back into his proper place,
because thoroughly trained hands are so scarce. Consider the
proof of this that you have in literature. Our books are manually
the work of printers and papermakers; you may cut an author's
hand off and he is as good an author as before. What is the
result? There is more imagination in any number of a penny
journal than in half-a-dozen of the Royal Academy rooms in the
season. No author can live by his work and be as empty-headed as
an average successful painter. Again, consider our implements of
music--our pianofortes, for example. Nobody but an acrobat will
voluntarily spend years at such a difficult mechanical puzzle as
the keyboard, and so we have to take our impressions of
Beethoven's sonatas from acrobats who vie with each other in the
rapidity of their prestos, or the staying power of their left
wrists. Thoughtful men will not spend their lives acquiring
sleight-of-hand. Invent a piano which will respond as delicately
to the turning of a handle as our present ones do to the pressure
of the fingers, and the acrobats will be driven back to their
carpets and trapezes, because the sole faculty necessary to the
executant musician will be the musical faculty, and no other will
enable him to obtain a hearing."

The company were somewhat overcome by this unexpected lecture.
Sir Charles, feeling that such views bore adversely on him, and
were somehow iconoclastic and low-lived, was about to make a
peevish retort, when Erskine forestalled him by asking Trefusis
what idea he had formed of the future of the arts. He replied
promptly. "Photography perfected in its recently discovered power
of reproducing color as well as form! Historical pictures
replaced by photographs of tableaux vivants formed and arranged
by trained actors and artists, and used chiefly for the
instruction of children. Nine-tenths of painting as we understand
it at present extinguished by the competition of these
photographs, and the remaining tenth only holding its own against
them by dint of extraordinary excellence! Our mistuned and
unplayable organs and pianofortes replaced by harmonious
instruments, as manageable as barrel organs! Works of fiction
superseded by interesting company and conversation, and made
obsolete by the human mind outgrowing the childishness that
delights in the tales told by grownup children such as novelists
and their like! An end to the silly confusion, under the one name
of Art, of the tomfoolery and make-believe of our play-hours with
the higher methods of teaching men to know themselves! Every
artist an amateur, and a consequent return to the healthy old
disposition to look on every man who makes art a means of
money-getting as a vagabond not to be entertained as an equal by
honest men!"

"In which case artists will starve, and there will be no more

"Sir," said Trefusis, excited by the word, "I, as a Socialist,
can tell you that starvation is now impossible, except where, as
in England, masterless men are forcibly prevented from producing
the food they need. And you, as an artist, can tell me that at
present great artists invariably do starve, except when they are
kept alive by charity, private fortune, or some drudgery which
hinders them in the pursuit of their vocation."

"Oh!" said Erskine. "Then Socialists have some little sympathy
with artists after all."

"I fear," said Trefusis, repressing himself and speaking quietly
again, "that when a Socialist hears of a hundred pounds paid for
a drawing which Andrea del Sarto was glad to sell for tenpence,
his heart is not wrung with pity for the artist's imaginary loss
as that of a modern capitalist is. Yet that is the only way
nowadays of enlisting sympathy for the old masters. Frightful
disability, to be out of the reach of the dearest market when you
want to sell your drawings! But," he added, giving himself a
shake, and turning round gaily, "I did not come here to talk
shop. So--pending the deluge--let us enjoy ourselves after our

"No," said Jane. "Please go on about Art. It's such a relief to
hear anyone talking sensibly about it. I hate etching. It makes
your eyes sore--at least the acid gets into Sir Charles's, and
the difference between the first and second states is nothing but
imagination, except that the last state is worse than the--here's

They went downstairs then. Trefusis sat between Agatha and Lady
Brandon, to whom he addressed all his conversation. They chatted
without much interruption from the business of the table; for
Jane, despite her amplitude, had a small appetite, and was
fearful of growing fat; whilst Trefusis was systematically
abstemious. Sir Charles was unusually silent. He was afraid to
talk about art, lest he should be contradicted by Trefusis, who,
he already felt, cared less and perhaps knew more about it than
he. Having previously commented to Agatha on the beauty of the
ripening spring, and inquired whether her journey had fatigued
her, he had said as much as he could think of at a first meeting.
For her part, she was intent on Trefusis, who, though he must
know, she thought, that they were all hostile to him except Jane,
seemed as confident now as when he had befooled her long ago.
That thought set her teeth on edge. She did not doubt the
sincerity of her antipathy to him even when she detected herself
in the act of protesting inwardly that she was not glad to meet
him again, and that she would not speak to him. Gertrude,
meanwhile, was giving short answers to Erskine and listening to
Trefusis. She had gathered from the domestic squabbles of the
last few days that Lady Brandon, against her husband's will, had
invited a notorious demagogue, the rich son of a successful
cotton-spinner, to visit the Beeches. She had made up her mind to
snub any such man. But on recognizing the long-forgotten Smilash,
she had been astonished, and had not known what to do. So, to
avoid doing anything improper, she had stood stilly silent and
done nothing, as the custom of English ladies in such cases is.
Subsequently, his unconscious self-assertion had wrought with her
as with the others, and her intention of snubbing him had faded
into the limbo of projects abandoned without trial. Erskine alone
was free from the influence of the intruder. He wished himself
elsewhere; but beside Gertrude the presence or absence of any
other person troubled him very little.

"How are the Janseniuses?" said Trefusis, suddenly turning to

"They are quite well, thank you," she said in measured tones.

"I met John Jansenius in the city lately. You know Jansenius?" he
added parenthetically to Sir Charles. "Cotman's bank--the last
Cotman died out of the firm before we were born. The Chairman of
the Transcanadian Railway Company."

"I know the name. I am seldom in the city."

"Naturally," assented Trefusis; "for who would sadden himself by
pushing his way through a crowd of such slaves, if he could help
it? I mean slaves of Mammon, of course. To run the gauntlet of
their faces in Cornhill is enough to discourage a thoughtful man
for hours. Well, Jansenius, being high in the court of Mammon, is
looking out for a good post in the household for his son.
Jansenius, by-the-bye is Miss Wylie's guardian and the father of
my late wife."

Agatha felt inclined to deny this; but, as it was true, she had
to forbear. Resolved to show that the relations between her
family and Trefusis were not cordial ones, she asked
deliberately, "Did Mr. Jansenius speak to you?"

Gertrude looked up, as if she thought this scarcely ladylike.

"Yes," said Trefusis. "We are the best friends in the world--as
good as possible, at any rate. He wanted me to subscribe to a
fund for relieving the poor at the east end of London by
assisting them to emigrate."

"I presume you subscribed liberally," said Erskine. "It was an
opportunity of doing some practical good."

"I did not," said Trefusis, grinning at the sarcasm. "This
Transcanadian Railway Company, having got a great deal of spare
land from the Canadian government for nothing, thought it would
be a good idea to settle British workmen on it and screw rent out
of them. Plenty of British workmen, supplanted in their
employment by machinery, or cheap foreign labor, or one thing or
another, were quite willing to go; but as they couldn't afford to
pay their passages to Canada, the Company appealed to the
benevolent to pay for them by subscription, as the change would
improve their miserable condition. I did not see why I should pay
to provide a rich company with tenant farmers, and I told
Jansenius so. He remarked that when money and not talk was
required, the workmen of England soon found out who were their
real friends."

"I know nothing about these questions," said Sir Charles, with an
air of conclusiveness; "but I see no objection to emigration" The
fact is," said Trefusis, "the idea of emigration is a dangerous
one for us. Familiarize the workman with it, and some day he may
come to see what a capital thing it would be to pack off me, and
you, with the peerage, and the whole tribe of unprofitable
proprietors such as we are, to St. Helena; making us a handsome
present of the island by way of indemnity! We are such a
restless, unhappy lot, that I doubt whether it would not prove a
good thing for us too. The workmen would lose nothing but the
contemplation of our elegant persons, exquisite manners, and
refined tastes. They might provide against that loss by picking
out a few of us to keep for ornament's sake. No nation with a
sense of beauty would banish Lady Brandon, or Miss Lindsay, or
Miss Wylie."

"Such nonsense!" said Jane.

"You would hardly believe how much I have spent in sending
workmen out of the country against my own view of the country's
interest," continued Trefusis, addressing Erskine. "When I make a
convert among the working classes, the first thing he does is to
make a speech somewhere declaring his new convictions. His
employer immediately discharges him--'gives him the sack' is the
technical phrase. The sack is the sword of the capitalist, and
hunger keeps it sharp for him. His shield is the law, made for
the purpose by his own class. Thus equipped, he gives the worst
of it to my poor convert, who comes ruined to me for assistance.
As I cannot afford to pension him for life, I get rid of him by
assisting him to emigrate. Sometimes he prospers and repays me;
sometimes I hear no more of him; sometimes he comes back with his
habits unsettled. One man whom I sent to America made his
fortune, but he was not a social democrat; he was a clerk who had
embezzled, and who applied to me for assistance under the
impression that I considered it rather meritorious to rob the
till of a capitalist."

"He was a practical Socialist, in fact," said Erskine.

"On the contrary, he was a somewhat too grasping Individualist.
Howbeit, I enabled him to make good his defalcation--in the city
they consider a defalcation made good when the money is
replaced--and to go to New York. I recommended him not to go
there; but he knew better than I, for he made a fortune by
speculating with money that existed only in the imagination of
those with whom he dealt. He never repaid me; he is probably far
too good a man of business to pay money that cannot be extracted
from him by an appeal to the law or to his commercial credit. Mr.
Erskine," added Trefusis, lowering his voice, and turning to the
poet, "you are wrong to take part with hucksters and
money-hunters against your own nature, even though the attack
upon them is led by a man who prefers photography to etching."

"But I assure you--You quite mistake me," said Erskine, taken
aback. "I--"

He stopped,looked to Sir Charles for support, and then said
airily: "I don't doubt that you are quite right. I hate business
and men of business; and as to social questions, I have only one
article of belief, which is, that the sole refiner of human
nature is fine art."

"Whereas I believe that the sole refiner of art is human nature.
Art rises when men rise, and grovels when men grovel. What is
your opinion?"

"I agree with you in many ways," replied Sir Charles nervously;
for a lack of interest in his fellow-creatures, and an excess of
interest in himself, had prevented him from obtaining that power
of dealing with social questions which, he felt, a baronet ought
to possess, and he was consequently afraid to differ from anyone
who alluded to them with confidence. "If you take an interest in
art, I believe I can show you a few things worth seeing."

"Thank you. In return I will some day show you a remarkable
collection of photographs I possess; many of them taken by me. I
venture to think they will teach you something."

"No doubt," said Sir Charles. "Shall we return to the gallery? I
have a few treasures there that photography is not likely to
surpass for some time yet."

"Let's go through the conservatory," said Jane. "Don't you like
flowers, Mr. Smi--I never can remember your proper name."

"Extremely," said Trefusis.

They rose and went out into a long hothouse. Here Lady Brandon,
finding Erskine at her side, and Sir Charles before her with
Gertrude, looked round for Trefusis, with whom she intended to
enjoy a trifling flirtation under cover of showing him the
flowers. He was out of sight; but she heard his footsteps in the
passage on the opposite side of the greenhouse. Agatha was also
invisible. Jane, not daring to rearrange their procession lest
her design should become obvious, had to walk on with Erskine.

Agatha had turned unintentionally into the opposite alley to that
which the others had chosen. When she saw what she had done, and
found herself virtually alone with Trefusis, who had followed
her, she blamed him for it, and was about to retrace her steps
when he said coolly:

"Were you shocked when you heard of Henrietta's sudden death?"

Agatha struggled with herself for a moment, and then said in a
suppressed voice: "How dare you speak to me?"

"Why not?" said he, astonished.

"I am not going to enter into a discussion with you. You know
what I mean very well."

"You mean that you are offended with me; that is plain enough.
But when I part with a young lady on good terms, and after a
lapse of years, during which we neither meet nor correspond, she
asks me how I dare speak to her, I am naturally startled."

"We did not part on good terms."

Trefusis stretched his eyebrows, as if to stretch his memory. "If
not," he said, "I have forgotten it, on my honor. When did we
part, and what happened? It cannot have been anything very
serious, or I should remember it."

His forgetfulness wounded Agatha. "No doubt you are well
accustomed to--" She checked herself, and made a successful
snatch at her normal manner with gentlemen. "I scarcely remember
what it was, now that I begin to think. Some trifle, I suppose.
Do you like orchids?"

"They have nothing to do with our affairs at present. You are not
in earnest about the orchids, and you are trying to run away from
a mistake instead of clearing it up. That is a short-sighted
policy, always."

Agatha grew alarmed, for she felt his old influence over her
returning. "I do not wish to speak of it," she said firmly.

Her firmness was lost on him. "I do not even know what it means
yet," he said, "and I want to know, for I believe there is some
misunderstanding between us, and it is the trick of your sex to
perpetuate misunderstandings by forbidding all allusions to them.
Perhaps, leaving Lyvern so hastily, I forgot to fulfil some
promise, or to say farewell, or something of that sort. But do
you know how suddenly I was called away? I got a telegram to say
that Henrietta was dying, and I had only time to change my
clothes--you remember my disguise--and catch the express. And,
after all, she was dead when I arrived."

"I know that," said Agatha uneasily. "Please say no more about

"Not if it distresses you. Just let me hope that you did not
suppose I blamed you for your share in the matter or that I told
the Janseniuses of it. I did not. Yes, I like orchids. A plant
that can subsist on a scrap of board is an instance of natural

"YOU blame ME!" cried Agatha. "_I never told the Janseniuses.
What would they have thought of you if I had?"

"Far worse of you than of me, however unjustly. You were the
immediate cause of the tragedy; I only the remote one. Jansenius
is not far-seeing when his feelings are touched. Few men are."

"I don't understand you in the least. What tragedy do you mean?"

"Henrietta's death. I call it a tragedy conventionally.
Seriously, of course, it was commonplace enough."

Agatha stopped and faced him. "What do you mean by what you said
just now? You said that I was the immediate cause of the tragedy,
and you say that you were talking of Henrietta's--of Henrietta. I
had nothing to do with her illness."

Trefusis looked at her as if considering whether he would go any
further. Then, watching her with the curiosity of a vivisector,
he said: "Strange to say, Agatha," (she shrank proudly at the
word), "Henrietta might have been alive now but for you. I am
very glad she is not; so you need not reproach yourself on my
account. She died of a journey she made to Lyvern in great
excitement and distress, and in intensely cold weather. You
caused her to make that journey by writing her a letter which
made her jealous."

"Do you mean to accuse me--"

"No; stop!" he said hastily, the vivisecting spirit in him
exorcised by her shaking voice; "I accuse you of nothing. Why do
you not speak honestly to me when you are at your ease? If you
confess your real thoughts only under torture, who can resist the
temptation to torture you? One must charge you with homicide to
make you speak of anything but orchids."

But Agatha had drawn the new inference from the old facts, and
would not be talked out of repudiating it. "It was not my fault,"
she said. "It was yours--altogether yours."

"Altogether," he assented, relieved to find her indignant instead
of remorseful.

She was not to be soothed by a verbal acquiescence. "Your
behavior was most unmanly, and I told you so, and you could not
deny it. You pretended that you--You pretended to have
feelings--You tried to make me believe that Oh, I am a fool to
talk to you; you know perfectly well what I mean."

"Perfectly. I tried to make you believe that I was in love with
you. How do you know I was not?"

She disdained to answer; but as he waited calmly she said, "You
had no right to be."

"That does not prove that I was not. Come, Agatha, you pretended
to like me when you did not care two straws about me. You
confessed as much in that fatal letter, which I have somewhere at
home. It has a great rent right across it, and the mark of her
heel; she must have stamped on it in her rage, poor girl! So that
I can show your own hand for the very deception you accused
me--without proof--of having practiced on you."

"You are clever, and can twist things. What pleasure does it give
you to make me miserable?"

"Ha!" he exclaimed, in an abrupt, sardonic laugh. "I don't know;
you bewitch me, I think."

Agatha made no reply, but walked on quickly to the end of the
conservatory, where the others were waiting for them.

"Where have you been, and what have you been doing all this
time?" said Jane, as Trefusis came up, hurrying after Agatha. "I
don't know what you call it, but I call it perfectly

Sir Charles reddened at his wife's bad taste, and Trefusis
replied gravely: "We have been admiring the orchids, and talking
about them. Miss Wylie takes an interest in them."

Content of CHAPTER XII (George Bernard Shaw's novel: An Unsocial Socialist)

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An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XIII An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XIII

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XIII
CHAPTER XIIIOne morning Gertrude got a letter from her father:"My Dear Gerty: I have just received a bill for L110 from MadameSmith for your dresses. May I ask you how long this sort of thingis to go on? I need not tell you that I have not the means tosupport you in such extravagance. I am, as you know, alwaysanxious that you should go about in a style worthy of yourposition, but unless you can manage without calling on me to payaway hundreds of pounds every season to Madame Smith, you hadbetter give up society and stay at home. I positively

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XI An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XI

An Unsocial Socialist - Chapter XI
CHAPTER XIBrandon Beeches, in the Thames valley, was the seat of SirCharles Brandon, seventh baronet of that name. He had lost hisfather before attaining his majority, and had married shortlyafterwards; so that in his twenty-fifth year he was father tothree children. He was a little worn, in spite of his youth, buthe was tall and agreeable, had a winning way of taking a kind andsoothing view of the misfortunes of others, could tell a storywell, liked music and could play and sing a little, loved thearts of design and could sketch a little in water colors, readevery magazine from London to