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Dialogue following No. 6


At the end of his song, Patience enters. He sees her.

Bunthorne. Ah! Patience, come hither. I am pleased with thee. The bitter-hearted one, who finds all else hollow, is pleased with thee. For you are not hollow. Are you?

Patience. No, thanks, I have dined; but — I beg your pardon — I interrupt you.

Bunthorne. Life is made up of interruptions. The tortured soul, yearning for solitude, writhes under them. Oh, but my heart is a-weary! Oh, I am a cursed thing! Don't go.

Patience. Really, I'm very sorry.

Bunthorne. Tell me, girl, do you ever yearn?

Patience. (misunderstanding him) I earn my living.

Bunthorne. (impatiently) No, no! Do you know what it is to be heart- hungry? Do you know what it is to yearn for the Indefinable, and yet to be brought face to face, daily, with the Multiplication Table? Do you know what it is to seek oceans and to find puddles? — to long for whirlwinds and yet have to do the best you can with the bellows? That's my case. Oh, I am a cursed thing! Don't go.

Patience. If you please, I don't understand you — you frighten me!

Bunthorne. Don't be frightened — it's only poetry.

Patience. Well, if that's poetry, I don't like poetry.

Bunthorne. (eagerly) Don't you? (aside) Can I trust her? (aloud) Patience, you don't like poetry — well, between you and me, I don't like poetry. It's hollow, unsubstantial — unsatisfactory. What's the use of yearning for Elysian Fields when you know you can't get 'em, and would only let `em out on building leases if you had `em?

Patience. Sir, I —

Bunthorne. Patience, I have long loved you. Let me tell you a secret. I am not as bilious as I look. If you like, I will cut my hair. There is more innocent fun within me than a casual spectator would imagine. You have never seen me frolicsome. Be a good
girl — a very good girl — and one day you shall. If you are fond of touch-and-go jocularity — this is the shop for it.

Patience. Sir, I will speak plainly. In the matter of love I am untaught. I have never loved but my great-aunt. But I am quite certain that, under any circumstances, I couldn't possibly love you.

Bunthorne. Oh, you think not?

Patience. I'm quite sure of it. Quite sure. Quite.

Bunthorne. Very good. Life is henceforth a blank. I don't care what becomes of me. I have only to ask that you will not abuse my confidence; though you despise me, I am extremely popular with the other young ladies.

Patience. I only ask that you will leave me and never renew the subject.

Bunthorne. Certainly. Broken-hearted and desolate, I go. (Recites.)

"Oh, to be wafted away,
From this black Aceldama of sorrow,
Where the dust of an earthy to-day
Is the earth of a dusty to-morrow!"

It is a little thing of my own. I call it "Heart Foam". I shall not publish it. Farewell! Patience, Patience, farewell!

Exit Bunthorne.

Patience. What on earth does it all mean? Why does he love me? Why does he expect me to love him? He's not a relation! It frightens me!

Enter Angela.

Angela. Why, Patience, what is the matter?

Patience. Lady Angela, tell me two things. Firstly, what on earth is this love that upsets everybody; and, secondly, how is it to be distinguished from insanity?

Angela. Poor blind child! Oh, forgive her, Eros! Why, love is of all passions the most essential! It is the embodiment of purity, the abstraction of refinement! It is the one unselfish emotion in this whirlpool of grasping greed!

Patience. Oh, dear, oh! (Beginning to cry.)

Angela. Why are you crying?

Patience. To think that I have lived all these years without having experienced this ennobling and unselfish passion! Why, what a wicked girl I must be! For it is unselfish, isn't it?

Angela. Absolutely! Love that is tainted with selfishness is no love. Oh, try, try, try to love! It really isn't difficult if you give your whole mind to it.

Patience. I'll set about it at once. I won't go to bed until I'm head over ears in love with somebody.

Angela. Noble girl! But is it possible that you have never loved anybody?

Patience. Yes, one.

Angela. Ah! Whom?

Patience. My great-aunt —

Angela. Great-aunts don't count.

Patience. Then there's nobody. At least — no, nobody. Not since I was a baby. But that doesn't count, I suppose.

Angela. I don't know. Tell me about it.

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