Генри Артур Джонс. ​Michael and his Lost Angel

Генри Артур Джонс. ​Michael and his Lost Angel




Villagers, Congregation, Choristers, Priests.

(Four months pass.)
(Two nights and a day pass.)
(A year passes.)
(Ten months pass.)

SCENE.-_The Vicarage parlour at Cleveheddon. An old-fashioned comfortable room in an old English house. A large window, with low broad sill, takes up nearly all the back of the stage, showing to the right a part of Cleveheddon Minster in ruins. To the left a stretch of West Country landscape. A door, right, leading to house. A fireplace, right. A door, left. Table with chairs, right. A portrait of MICHAEL'S mother hangs on wall at a height of about nine feet. It is a very striking painting of a lady about twenty-eight, very delicate and spirituelle. Time.-A fine spring morning. Discover at the window, looking off right, with face turned away from audience, and in an attitude of strained attention to something outside, ANDREW GIBBARD.

Enter FANNY CLOVER, the vicarage servant, showing in the REVEREND MARK

DOCWRAY, a middle-aged clergyman.

FANNY. Mr. Feversham is over to the church, sir, but he'll be back



MARK. Andrew

(ANDREW turns round, an odd, rather seedy, carelessly-dressed man, a little over forty, rather gaunt, longish hair, an intelligent face with something slightly sinister about it. He shows signs of great recent sorrow and distress.)

MARK. Andrew, what is it?

ANDR. I'd rather not tell you, Mr. Docwray.

MARK. Nothing has happened to Mr. Feversham?


MARK. Come! Come! What's the matter?

ANDR. My daughter

MARK. What ails her? Where is she?

ANDR. Over at the church.

MARK. What is she doing?

ANDR. Making a public confession.

MARK. Public confession-of what?

ANDR. You'll be sure to hear all about it, so I may as well tell you myself. Perhaps it was my fault, perhaps I neglected her. All my time is given to Mr. Feversham in the library here. While I was buried in my work, and sometimes staying here half the night with Mr. Feversham, a scoundrel ruined my girl. Of course my only thought was to hide it. Was I wrong?

MARK. Go on. Tell me all.

ANDR. Well, right or wrong, I sent her away to the other end of England. Her child only lived a few weeks. And I brought her back home thinking it was all hushed up.

MARK. But it became known?

ANDR. Yes. Little by little, things began to leak out. Well, you may blame me if you like-I lied about it; and the more lies I told, the more I had to tell to cover them. Mr. Feversham heard of it and questioned us. Like a fool I lied to him. It wasn't like lying, it was like murdering the truth to tell lies to him. And she had to lie, too. Of course he believed us and defended us against everybody. And then we daredn't tell him the truth.

MARK. Go on. What else?

ANDR. There's nothing else. It all had to come out at last.

MARK. What did Mr. Feversham do?

ANDR. He persuaded us that we could never be right with ourselves, or right with our neighbours, or right with our God, till we had unsaid all our lies, and undone our deceit. So we've confessed it this morning.

MARK. In church? In public?

ANDR. Yes. I wouldn't have minded it for myself. But was it necessary for her-for Rose? Was it bound to be in public before all her companions, before all who had watched her grow up from a child?

MARK. You may be sure Mr. Feversham wouldn't have urged it unless he had felt it to be right and necessary.

ANDR. I wouldn't have done it for anybody else in the world. I feel almost as if I were quits with him for all his favours to me.

MARK. You mustn't speak like this. Remember all he has done for you.

ANDR. Oh, I don't forget it. I don't forget that I was his scout's son, and that he educated me and made me his friend and companion and helper-there isn't a crumb I eat or a thread I wear that I don't owe to him. I don't forget it. But after this morning, I feel it isn't I who am in Mr. Feversham's debt-it's he who is in my debt. (A penitential hymn, with organ accompaniment, is sung in church outside.)

ANDR. (looking off). It's over. They're coming out.

MARK. Why aren't you there, in church, by her side?

ANDR. I was. I went to church with her. I stood up first and answered all his questions, and then I stood aside, and it was her turn. I saw her step forward, and I noticed a little twitch of her lip like her mother used to have, and then-I couldn't bear it any longer-I came away. I know it was cowardly, but I couldn't stay. (Looking off.) Hark! They're coming! She's coming with the sister who is going to take her away.

MARK. Take her away?

ANDR. Mr. Feversham thinks it better for her to be away from the gossip of the village, so he has found a home for her with some sisters in London. She's going straight off there. Perhaps it's best. I don't know.

(ROSE GIBBARD, sobbing, with her face in her hands, passes the window from right to left, supported by an Anglican sister. The REVEREND MICHAEL FEVERSHAM follows them and passes window. A crowd of villagers come up to the window and look in. A moment or two later, ROSE GIBBARD enters left, supported by the sister. ROSE is a pretty delicate girl of about twenty, with rather refined features and bearing.)

ANDR. (holding out his arms to her). Bear up, my dear. Don't cry! It breaks my heart to see you.

Enter the REVEREND MICHAEL FEVERSHAM about forty; pale, strong, calm, ascetic, scholarly face, with much sweetness and spirituality of expression; very dignified, gentle manners, calm, strong, persuasive voice, rarely raised above an ordinary speaking tone. His whole presence and bearing denote great strength of character, great dignity, great gentleness, and great self-control. The villagers gather round the outside of the window and look in with mingled curiosity, rudeness, and respect. MICHAEL goes up to left window, opens it. The villagers draw back a little.

MICH. (speaking in a very calm voice). Those of you who are filled with idle foolish curiosity, come and look in. (They fall back.) Those of you who have been moved by the awful lesson of this morning, go to your homes, ponder it in your hearts, so that all your actions and all your thoughts from this time forth may be as open as the day, as clear as crystal, as white as snow.

(They all go away gradually. MICHAEL comes away from the window, leaving it open, goes to MARK.)

MICH. Mark! (Cordial handshake.) You've come to stay, I hope?

MARK. A few days. You have a little business here?

(Glancing at the group of ROSE, ANDREW, and Sister.)

MICH. It's nearly finished. Leave me with them for a few moments.

MARK. I'll get rid of the dust of my journey and come back to you.

(Exit MARK. MICHAEL turns towards ROSE with great tenderness.)

MICH. Poor child!

(She comes towards him with evident effort; the Sister brings a chair and she sinks into it, sobbing.)

MICH. (bending over her with great tenderness). I know what you have suffered this morning. I would willingly have borne it for you, but that would not have made reparation to those whom you have deceived, or given you peace in your own soul. (She continues sobbing.) Hush! Hush! All the bitterness is past! Look only to the future! Think of the happy newness and whiteness of your life from this moment! Think of the delight of waking in the morning and knowing that you have nothing to hide! Be sure you have done right to own your sin. There won't be a softer pillow in England to-night than the one your head rests upon. (She becomes quieter. MICHAEL turns to the Sister.)

Watch over her very carefully. Keep her from brooding. Let her be occupied constantly with work. And write to me very often to tell me how she is. (Turns to ROSE.) The carriage is ready. It's time to say good-bye.

ROSE. Good-bye, sir. Thank you for all your kindness. I've been very wicked

MICH. Hush! That is all buried now.

ROSE. Good-bye, father.

(Throws her arms round ANDREW'S neck, clings to him, sobs convulsively for some moments in a paroxysm of grief. MICHAEL watches them for some moments.)

MICH. (intercepts, gently separates them). It's more than she can bear. Say good-bye, and let her go.

ANDR. (breaking down). Good-bye, my dear! (Kissing her.) Good-bye-I-I-I

(Tears himself away, goes up to window, stands back to audience.)

MICH. (To ROSE.) No more tears! Tears are for evil and sin, and yours are all past! Write to me and tell me how you get on, and how you like the work. It will bring you great peace-great peace. Why, you are comforted already-I think I see one of your old happy smiles coming. What do you think, sister, isn't that the beginning of a smile?

SISTER. Yes, sir. I think it is.

ROSE. Good-bye, sir-thank you for all your goodness. I-I (Beginning to sob again.)

MICH. No, no, you are forgetting. I must see a little smile before you go. Look, Andrew. (ANDREW turns round.) For your father's sake. When you have gone you will like him to remember that the last time he saw your face it wore a smile. That's brave! Good-bye! Good-bye!

(ROSE with great effort forces a smile and goes off with the Sister. A moment or two later she is seen to pass the window sobbing in the Sister's arms.)

ANDR. Look! Oh, sir, was it bound to be in public, before everybody who knew her?

MICH. Believe me, Andrew, if my own sister, if my own child had been in your daughter's place, I would have counselled her to act as your daughter has done.

ANDR. She'll never hold up her head again.

MICH. Would you rather that she held up her head in deceit and defiance, or that she held it down in grief and penitence? Think what you and she have endured this last year, the deceit, the agony, the shame, the guilt!

ANDR. I can't think of anything except her standing up in the church. I shall never forget it.

MICH. Tell me you know I would willingly have spared you and her if it had been possible.

ANDR. Then it wasn't possible?

MICH. I have done to you this morning as I would wish to be done by if I had followed a course of continued deception.

ANDR. Ah, sir, it's easy for you to talk. You aren't likely to be tempted, so you aren't likely to fall.

MICH. I trust not! I pray God to keep me. But if ever I did, I should think him my true friend who made me confess and rid my soul of my guilt. And you think me your true friend, don't you, Andrew? (Holding out hand.) Won't you shake hands with me?

(ANDREW takes MICHAEL'S hand reluctantly, shakes it half-heartedly; is going off at door.)

MICH. (calls). Andrew, it will be very lonely in your own house now your daughter has gone. Come and live with me here. There is the large visitors' room. Take it for your own, and make this your home. You will be nearer to our work, and you will be nearer to me, my friend.

MARK enters.

MARK (at door). Am I interrupting?

MICH. No. Come in. My little talk with Andrew is finished. (To ANDREW.) Say you know I have done what is right and best for you and her.

ANDR. You've done what you thought was best for us, sir. I've never doubted that. I can't see anything straight or clear this morning.


MARK. You've had a painful business here?

MICH. Terrible! But I was bound to go through with it. The whole village was talking of it. I believed in her innocence and defended her to the last. So when the truth came out I daren't hush it up. I should have been accused of hiding sin in my own household. But that poor child! My heart bled for her! Don't let us speak any more of it. Tell me about yourself and the work in London.

MARK. You must come and join us there.

(MICHAEL shakes his head.)

MICH. I couldn't live there. Every time I go up for a day or two I come back more and more sickened and frightened and disheartened. Besides, you forget my Eastern studies. They are my real work. I couldn't pursue them in the hurry and fever of London.

MARK. How are you getting on with the Arabic translations?

MICH. Slowly but surely. Andrew is invaluable to me. In spite of his bringing up, he has the true instincts of the scholar.

MARK. Well, you know best. But we want you in London. You'd soon raise the funds for restoring the Minster.

MICH. (shakes his head). I can't go round with the hat.

MARK. How's the work getting on?

MICH. Very slowly. I'm afraid I shall never live to finish it. By the bye, I received fifty pounds anonymously only yesterday.

MARK. Have you any idea where it came from?

MICH. No. The Bank advised me that it had been paid to my credit by a reader of my "Hidden Life," who desired to remain anonymous.

MARK. The book is having an enormous influence. Nothing else is talked about. And it has gained you one very rich proselyte-this Mrs. Lesden. She's living here, isn't she?

MICH. Yes. Curious woman

MARK. Have you seen much of her?

MICH. I called, of course. I've met her once or twice at dinner. She has called here three or four times, and wasted several good hours for me.

MARK. How wasted?

MICH. Kept me from my work. I wish the woman would take herself back to London.

MARK. Why?

MICH. Her frivolity and insincerity repel me. No-not insincerity. I recall that. For she said one or two things that seemed to show a vein of true, deep feeling. But on the whole I dislike her-I think I dislike her very much.

MARK. Why?

MICH. She comes regularly to church

MARK. Surely there's no very great harm in that

MICH. No; but I don't know whether she's mocking, or criticising, or worshipping; or whether she's merely bored, and thinking that my surplice is not enough starched, or starched too much.

MARK. She's very rich, and would be an immense help to our movement. I should try and cultivate her.

MICH. I can't cultivate people. What do you think of her?

MARK. A very clever society woman, all the more clever that she was not born in society.

MICH. What do you know of her?

MARK. Merely what I wrote you in my letter. That she was the only daughter of an Australian millionaire. Her great-grandfather, I believe, was an Australian convict. She was sent to England to be educated, went back to Australia, married, lost her husband and father, came back to England a widow, took a house in Mayfair, entertained largely, gave largely to charities, read your book, "The Hidden Life," came down to see the country round here, made up her mind to live here, and wanted an introduction to you-which I gave her.

Enter FANNY, announcing SIR LYOLF FEVERSHAM, an English country gentleman, about sixty-five, a little old-fashioned in manners and dress. Exit FANNY.

SIR LYOLF. Michael-Mr. Docwray! Glad to see you. You're talking business, or rather religion, which is your business. Am I in the way?

MICH. No, we're not talking business. We're discussing a woman.

SIR LYOLF. Aren't women nine-tenths of a parson's business? (MICHAEL looks a little shocked.) Excuse me, my dear boy. (To MARK.) I quite believe in all Michael is doing. I accept all his new doctrines, I'm prepared to go all lengths with him, on condition that I indulge the latent old Adam in me with an occasional mild joke at his expense. But (with great feeling) he knows how proud I am of him, and how thankful I am to God for having given me a son who is shaping religious thought throughout England today, and who (with a change to sly humour) will never be a bishop-not even an archdeacon- I don't believe he'll be so much as a rural dean. What about this woman you were discussing? I'll bet -(coughs himself up)- I should say, I'll wager-(MICHAEL looks shocked, SIR LYOLF shrugs his shoulders at MARK, proceeds in a firm voice)-without staking anything, I will wager I know who the lady is-Mrs. Lesden? Am I right?

MICH. Yes.

SIR LYOLF. Well, I haven't heard your opinion of her. But I'll give you mine-without prejudice-(with emphasis) very queer lot.

MARK. Michael had just said she was a curious creature.

MICH. I don't understand her.

SIR LYOLF. When you don't understand a woman, depend upon it there's something not quite right about her.

MICH. She seems to have immense possibilities of good and evil.

SIR LYOLF. Nonsense. There are all sorts of men, but, believe me, there are only two sorts of women-good and bad.

MICH. You can't divide women into two classes like that.

SIR LYOLF. But I do-sheep and goats. Sheep on the right hand-goats on the left.

MICH. (shaking his head). Women's characters have greater subtlety than you suppose.

SIR LYOLF. Subtlety is the big cant word of our age. Depend upon it, there's nothing in subtlety. It either means hair-splitting or it means downright evil. The devil was the first subtle character we meet with in history.

MICH. And he has still something to do with the shaping of character in this world.

SIR LYOLF. I don't doubt it. And I think he has very likely something to do with the shaping of Mrs. Lesden's.

MICH. Hasn't he something to do with the shaping of all our characters? Don't all our souls swing continually between heaven and hell?

SIR LYOLF. Well, the woman whose soul swings continually between heaven and hell is not the woman whom I would choose to sit at my fireside or take the head of my table. Though I don't say I wouldn't ask her to dinner occasionally. That reminds me, how long are you staying, Mr. Docwray?

MARK. Only till Friday.

SIR LYOLF. You'll dine with me to-morrow evening?

MARK. Delighted.

SIR LYOLF. You too, Michael. I'll ask the Standerwicks, and (suddenly) suppose I ask this lady?

MICH. Mrs. Lesden? I would rather you didn't.

SIR LYOLF. Why not? If her soul is swinging between heaven and hell, it would only be kind of you to give it a jog towards heaven.

MICH. Very well-ask her. But I would rather you didn't speak lightly of

SIR LYOLF. Of her soul?

MICH. Of anyone's soul?

SIR LYOLF. I won't-even of a woman's. But I wish they wouldn't swing about. Women's souls oughtn't to swing anywhere, except towards heaven. Ah, Michael, you must let me have my fling. Remember when I was a boy, religion was a very simple, easy-going affair. Parson-clerk-old three-decker pulpit-village choir. What a village choir! I suppose it was all wrong-but they were very comfortable old days.

MICH. Religion is not simple-or easy-going.

SIR LYOLF. No. Subtlety again. I want a plain "yes" or "no," a plain black or white, a plain right or wrong, and none of our teachers or preachers is prepared to give it to me. Oh dear! This world has grown too subtle for me! I'll step over to Island House and ask Mrs. Lesden to dinner to-morrow.

MARK. I'll come with you and pay my respects to her. You don't mind, Michael?

MICH. Not at all. I want to set Andrew to work at once to keep him from dwelling on his trouble.

SIR LYOLF. I didn't come to the church this morning. I felt it would be too painful. (Glancing up at portrait.) What would she have said about it?

MICH. I think she approves what I have done.

SIR LYOLF (looks at portrait, sighs, turns away). Come, Mr. Docwray. I can't say I like this Mrs. Lesden of yours-I wonder why I'm going to ask her to dinner.


MARK (who has been looking intently at portrait). What a wonderful portrait that is of your mother! It seems as if she were alive!

MICH. She is.

(Exit MARK after SIR LYOLF.)




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