A Play in One Act.
SCENE: A drawing room in Mrs. Vivyan’s house.
JACK and Mrs. VIVYAN are
having tea. LOTTIE is a rather
elaborately dressed woman of eight-and twenty, handsome and self-
possessed. She has an easy manner which suggests that she has
consorted with men rather than with women. JACK RAYNER is
thirty-two; there is about him a certain weariness as if he had lived
hard and found life difficult. His face is sunburnt, somewhat lined
JACK: I say, Lottie, has it occurred to you that this is
our last day of single blessedness?
LOTTIE: Of course it has. I’ve been thinking of noth-
ing else for a week.
JACK: Are you glad?
LOTTIE: I think I’m anxious. I want to have it over
safely. I’m so afraid that something will happen.
JACK (with a laugh): What nonsense! The
help being friendly at last.
LOTTIE: I’ve gone through so much. I’ve lost all
confidence in my luck.
JACK: And you’re solemnly going to swear that you
will love, honour and obey me. By Jove, I’m a nice object to
LOTTIE: I think I can, Jack; and love and obey you
JACK: That’s very good of you, old girl. I doubt
whether either of us has many illusions; but we’ll do our best.
LOTTIE: A breath of country air and they’ll all come
JACK: I hope to goodness they don’t. Illusions are like
umbrellas, you no sooner get them than you lose them; and
the loss always leaves a little painful wound. But don’t let us
be sentimental. . . . How shall we celebrate the last of
LOTTIE: Do you want to do anything? You’re so
JACK: Shall we dine out and go to the Empire, and then
on to the Covent Garden?
LOTTIE (with sudden passion): Oh no, I
it. I’m sick of the Empire, sick to death. I want never to
go to a music-hall again. I want to live in the country, and
bathe my hands in the long grass, and gather butter-cups and
JACK (smiling): As it was in the beginning.
LOTTIE: Oh, I shall be so glad to get back to it after
these sultry years of London. I often think of myself in a
large sun-bonnet, milking the cows as I did when I was a girl.
JACK: But cows are milked by machinery now, aren’t
they? And it’s sure to rain when you want to put on your
LOTTIE: Oh, Jack dear, don’t be cynical or bitter. Let
us try to be simple. We won’t say smart things to one
another; but just dodder along stupidly and peacefully.
JACK: When I was in Africa and the sun beat down
pitilessly, I used to think of the green lanes and the silver
mists of England. . . . But don’t you think you’ll be
LOTTIE: Jack, have you no faith in me?
JACK (going to her and taking her
hands): I’ve got more
faith in you than in anyone else in this blessed world; but I’m
afraid I haven’t much in anybody. Ah, Lottie, you must
teach me to have faith—faith in my fellows.
LOTTIE: I want to teach you to have faith in yourself.
JACK: I’m afraid it’s too late for that. But for goodness
sake, don’t let us sentimentalise. It hurts too much.
(He walks away and then, regaining his composure,
JACK: Did I tell you that I’ve asked Herbert Paton to
tea, so that I might introduce him to you?
LOTTIE: It’s odd that I should never have met him.
Did you know him before you went to the Cape?
JACK: Yes, rather! We were at school together. I’m
sure you’ll like him. He’s the very worthiest chap I know.
LOTTIE: That sounds a little dull.
JACK: Oh, but we’re going to cultivate respectability
SERVANT (enters and announces): Mr. Paton.
(Herbert comes in. He is a grave, youngish man—
soberly dressed, a little heavy, and without any
great sense of humour.)
JACK (going towards him): We were just
you. Allow me to introduce you: Mr. Paton, Mrs. Vivyan.
(Herbert bows and Lottie smiles cordially,
her hand. He hesitates a moment and then takes it.)
LOTTIE (shaking hands): It’s so good of
you to come.
I was most anxious to make your acquaintance.
HERBERT (gravely): It was very kind of you to ask me.
JACK: I want you to be great friends. I always insist
that the people I like shall like one another.
LOTTIE (pouring it out): You’ll have
some tea, won’t
(She gives him a cup.)
LOTTIE: Jack has told me a great deal about you.
HERBERT: I hope nothing to my discredit.
LOTTIE: On the contrary, he’s so full of your praise
that I’m almost jealous.
JACK: You know, Lottie, I’ve asked Herbert to be best
LOTTIE: And has he accepted?
JACK: Certainly! He accepted straight off, before even
he knew your name.
LOTTIE: You’re a very confiding man, Mr. Paton. I
might have been dreadfully disreputable.
HERBERT: And have you finally decided to be married
to-morrow? Your preparations have been very rapid.
LOTTIE: There were none to make. Everything is
going to be quite private, you know. There’ll only be one
person beside yourself.
HERBERT: And aren’t you even going to have a brides-
maid, Mrs. Vivyan?
LOTTIE (looking at him quickly): Er—No!
it’s not usual.
(The Servant comes in and brings a letter to Jack.)
SERVANT: The man’s waiting for an answer, Sir.
JACK (opening the letter): Oh—I’ll just
go and write a
line, Lottie. I’ll be back in two minutes.
(The Servant goes out.)
LOTTIE: Very well! Mr. Paton and I will say unkind
things of you while you’re gone; so don’t be long.
JACK (laughing): All right!
(He goes out.)
LOTTIE (making room on the sofa upon which she
sitting): Now, come and sit by me and we’ll talk, Mr. Paton.
It was so good of you to come and see me.
HERBERT (sitting not beside her, but on a chair near
the sofa): I was most anxious to make your acquaintance.
LOTTIE: One always is curious to see what the people
are like whom one’s friends are going to marry.
HERBERT: It was not for that reason that I wished to
LOTTIE (slightly surprised): Oh!
HERBERT: I’m glad Jack has left us alone; I wanted
to have a little talk with you.
LOTTIE: I’m sure I shall be delighted.
HERBERT: You know. Jack is my best and oldest
LOTTIE: Yes, he told me so; that’s why I want you
to like me too.
HERBERT: We were at school together, and afterwards
at the ’Varsity; and then we shared diggings in London.
(He pauses for a moment.)
LOTTIE (smiling): Well?
HERBERT: I tell you all this in justification of myself.
LOTTIE: How very mysterious you are! Jack didn’t
mention that in the catalogue of your virtues.
(Herbert gets up and walks up and down.)
HERBERT: You can’t imagine how delighted I was
when Jack told me he was going to be married. He’s had
rather a rough time of late, and I thought it was the best
thing possible that he should settle down. I asked him what
on earth he was going to marry on and he said you had
twelve hundred a year.
LOTTIE (with a laugh): Fortunately!
Jack lets money slip through his fingers like water; and I’m
sure he’ll never be able to earn a cent.
HERBERT: And I asked him who you were.
LOTTIE: What did he tell you?
HERBERT: Nothing! He seemed astonishingly ignor-
ant about you. He knew your name, and that’s nearly all.
LOTTIE: He’s a wise man who asks no questions.
HERBERT: Perhaps! But I did; I made enquiries.
LOTTIE: D’you think that was very nice of you? How
did you do it? Did you employ a private detective?
HERBERT: Unfortunately there was no need for that.
The information I sought was all over London. Jack must
be the only person in town who has not heard it.
LOTTIE (laughing icily): I always look
upon myself as
safe from the scandalmongers. You see, they can never say
anything about me half so bad as the truth.
HERBERT (looking at her steadily): I
found out, Mrs.
Vivyan, how you obtained the money upon which you and
Jack are proposing to live.
LOTTIE: You must be quite a Sherlock Holmes. How
clever you are!
HERBERT: I want you to pardon me for what I am
going to do, Mrs. Vivyan?
LOTTIE (very coldly): Pray don’t apologise?
HERBERT: I know its a beastly thing, it makes me feel
an utter cad; but I must do it for Jack’s sake. It’s my duty
LOTTIE: Doubtless it is very praiseworthy to do one’s
duty. I notice people are always more inclined to do it when
they will inflict pain upon others.
HERBERT: For God’s sake don’t sneer Mrs. Vivyan.
LOTTIE (bursting out violently): You do
thing, and you expect me to pat you on the back.
HERBERT: I don’t want to hurt you. I haven’t the
least animosity towards you. That’s why I came here to-day.
LOTTIE: But really I don’t understand you.
HERBERT: I should have thought it plain enough.
Isn’t it clear that Jack can’t marry you?
LOTTIE (with scornful surprise): Good
HERBERT: Do you wish me to tell you to your face
what I learnt about you?
LOTTIE: In the course of your—discreditable enquiries?
Well, what is it?
HERBERT: I wished to spare you this.
LOTTIE (scornfully): Oh no, I’m sure
you wished to
spare me nothing. Far be it from the virtuous to refrain from
trampling on the wicked.
HERBERT: If you insist then, I know that this money
was settled on you by Lord Feaverham when he married.
HERBERT: Do you deny it?
LOTTIE: Why should I when you probably have proof
that it is true?
HERBERT: I also know that Lord Feaverham had good
reason to do this. . . . Oh, you hate me and think me
a cad and brute; but what can I do? If you knew what agony
it has caused me? I believe Jack loves you, and I daresay you
love him. For all I know he may hate me for what I’m doing
now. I wish with all my heart there were some other way
out of it.
LOTTIE: Do you wish me to sympathise with you?
HERBERT: Oh, you’re stone-cold. I only come to you
because I want to be your friend. And even if you’d married
Jack he must have found out sooner or later, and then it would
have been a thousand times worse.
LOTTIE (angrily): What d’you want me to do?
HERBERT: Break off the marriage of your own accord.
Don’t let him know the reason. Let us try to save him from
the humiliation and the pain. Write to him and say you don’t
love him enough. It’s so easy.
LOTTIE: But I haven’t the faintest wish to break off
my marriage with Jack.
HERBERT: It’s not a matter of wish; it’s a matter of
necessity. The marriage is utterly impossible—for his sake,
for the sake of his people. It means absolute social ruin to him.
LOTTIE: What you say sounds to me excessively
impertinent, Mr. Paton.
HERBERT: I’m sorry, I have no wish to be so.
LOTTIE: And you want me to go to Jack and say I
won’t marry him?
HERBERT: It’s the only thing you can do. Otherwise
he must find out. It’s the only thing you can do if you want
to save your honour in his estimation.
LOTTIE (scornfully): I should be as it
but not disgraced.
HERBERT: It’s for your own sake.
LOTTIE: Then let me tell you that I haven’t the least
intention of giving Jack up.
HERBERT: But you must.
HERBERT (violently): He can’t marry
you. It would
LOTTIE: How dare you say such things to me! You
come to my house and I try to be friends with you, and you
insult me. You dishonour yourself.
HERBERT: I came here to give you a chance of retire
ing from the engagement without the real reasons being known.
LOTTIE (passionately): What business is
it of yours?
Why yo you come here and interfere with us? D’you think
we’re fools and simpletons? Why don’t you leave us alone?
Who are you that you should preach and moralise? You’re
ridiculous, you’re simply absurd.
HERBERT: I’ve tried to do my best for you, Mrs.
LOTTIE: You’ve behaved like a perfect gentleman.
HERBERT: You can say or think of me what you
choose, Mrs. Vivyan. I’ve shielded you as much as I could.
But my business is to stop this marriage, and by God, I mean
to do it.
LOTTIE: You don’t think of me!
HERBERT: It can make no difference to you.
LOTTIE (about to break out passionately, but
effort restraining herself): Oh, what a fool I am to let myself
be disturbed by what you say! It’s all nonsense. And how,
pray, are you going to prevent me from marrying Jack?
HERBERT: I have only one way left; and you’ve
driven me to it. I shall tell him everything I know.
LOTTIE (bursting into a shriek of ironical
Very well. You shall tell him now — immediately.
(She touches the bell and the Servant comes in,)
LOTTIE: Ask Mr. Rayner to come here?
(Servant goes out,)
LOTTIE (smiling scornfully): I warn you
going to make an absolute fool of yourself, Mr. Paton.
(Herbert bows,) But perhaps that experience will not be
(Jack comes in.)
LOTTIE: What a time you’ve been, Jack. If it weren’t
for the high character that Mr. Paton has been giving you, I
should fear that you had been writing love-letters. Mr. Paton
wishes to speak to you on matters of importance.
JACK: That sounds rather formidable. What does he
want to talk about?
LOTTIE: About me.
JACK (laughing): That is indeed a matter of importance.
LOTTIE: Shall I leave you alone? Mr. Paton would
much rather say ill-natured things of me behind my back.
HERBERT: On the contrary, I should like you to stay,
Mrs. Vivyan. I am quite willing to say before your face all I
have to say.
LOTTIE (sitting down): Very well. To me
it’s a matter
of perfect indifference.
JACK: Good Heavens, you’ve not been quarrelling already?
LOTTIE: No, of course not! Go on, Mr. Paton.
HERBERT (after a momentary pause): I
surprised to hear of your engagement, Jack.
JACK: To tell you the truth I was rather surprised
myself. The thing was a bit sudden.
LOTTIE: The idea had never entered Jack’s head till I
indelicately proposed to him.
JACK: But I accepted with great alacrity.
HERBERT: Have you known one another long?
HERBERT: And who was Mr. Vivyan?
JACK: My dear Herbert, what are you talking about?
LOTTIE: Answer his question, Jack. It’s better.
JACK: But I can’t. I hav’nt the least idea who the
lamented Mr. Vivyan was.
HERBERT: Have you never spoken to your fiancee on
JACK: Well, you know, in such a case as this, one
doesn’t very much care to talk about one’s predecessor. I
believe he was a merchant.
LOTTIE (smiling quietly): Something in the city.
JACK: Of course! How stupid of me to forget. I re-
member now quite well.
HERBERT: And on his death he left his widow a
LOTTIE: Twelve hundred a year.
HERBERT (to Jack): You must consider
yourself a very
JACK: I do, I can tell you.
HERBERT: I wonder if you would have married Mrs.
Vivyan if she had been penniless.
LOTTIE: If I had been I should never have felt justified
in asking him.
JACK: What on earth are you trying to get at, Herbert?
LOTTIE: He wants to know whether we are passion-
ately in love with one another. … I don’t think we are,
Mr. Paton. We’ve both gone through a good deal and we’re
rather tired of love. It makes one too unhappy. The man a
woman loves seems always to treat her badly. We’re content
to be very good friends.
HERBERT: That makes it easier for me.
JACK: What the Devil d’you mean?
HERBERT: D’you know how Mrs. Vivyan got this
(Jack looks at Herbert without speaking.
towards him earnestly.)
HERBERT: Are you quite sure there has ever been a
JACK: Look here, Herbert, I can hear nothing to Mrs.
HERBERT: You must! It affects you honour.
JACK: I don’t care. I don’t want to know anything.
LOTTIE: Let him go on, Jack. It was bound to come
out sooner or later.
HERBERT: I’m awfully sorry for you old man. I
know what a horrible shock and grief it must be to you.
When you told me you were going to marry Mrs. Vivyan I
asked people who she was. I found out—things which made
me enquire more particularly.
JACK: Why the Devil didn’t you mind your own
HERBERT: It was for your sake, Jack. I couldn’t let
you be entrapped in a scandalous marriage.
LOTTIE: Go on, Mr. Paton.
HERBERT: Mrs. Vivyan has never been married. The
name is assumed. Oh God, I don’t know how to tell you!
Mrs. Vivyan, please leave us. I can’t stand it. I can’t say
these things before you, and I must say them. It will be
better for all of us if you leave us alone.
LOTTIE: Oh no, you asked me to stay, when I offered
to go. Now I want to hear all you’ve got to say.
HERBERT (with an effort): She’s the
daughter of a
Vet., Jack. She got mixed up with a man at Oxford, and then
came to town. Four years ago, she made the acquaintance
of Lord Feaverham. And when he got married he settled on
her the sum of twelve hundred a year.
(A pause. Jack has now become calm again, and
stonily at Herbert.)
HERBERT: What’s the matter, Jack? You don’t seem
JACK (passionately): Haven’t you made
it clear, damn
you? How can I fail to understand.
HERBERT: Why d’you look at me like that?
JACK (very calmly and slowly): You’ve
told me nothing
which I did not know before.
HERBERT (horror-stricken): Jack, you’re mad!
JACK (passionately): Confound you;
don’t you hear! I
tell you that you’ve said nothing which I did not know before.
HERBERT: You don’t mean to say you knew what
the woman was whom you were going to marry?
JACK: I knew everything.
HERBERT: Good God, Jack, you can’t marry another
man’s cast off. . .
JACK (interrupting): I’d rather you
didn’t call her ugly
names, Herbert, because, you know, she’s going to be my wife.
HERBERT: But why, why, man? Oh, it’s infamous!
You say you’re not passionately in love with her.
JACK (to Lottie): What shall I say to him, Lottie?
(Lottie shrugs her shoulders.)
JACK: Well, if you want the least creditable part of the
whole business. . . .
LOTTIE (interrupting bitterly): He doubtless does.
JACK: Remember that for a penniless chap like me she’s
a rich woman.
HERBERT (with horror): Oh! (Then, as if gradually
understanding): But you’re selling yourself; you’re selling
yourself as she sold herself. Oh, how can you! Why man,
you’re going to live on the very price of her shame.
JACK (almost in an undertone): One must live.
HERBERT: Oh, Jack, what has come over you! Have
you no honour? It’s bad enough to marry the woman, yet do
that if you love her; but don’t take the damned money. I
never dreamt you could do such a thing. All the time I was
thinking that this woman had enveigled you; and my heart
bled to think of the pain you must suffer when you knew the
JACK: I’m very sorry.
HERBERT: Why didn’t you tell me?
JACK: One doesn’t care about making such things more
public than necessary.
JACK (going up to Lottie): Why do you listen to all this,
LOTTIE: Oh, I’ve had hard things said to me for years.
I can bear it, and I don’t want to run away.
JACK: You’re very brave, my dear, (turning to
If you’ll sit down quietly and not make a beastly fuss, I’ll try
and explain to you how it all came about. I don’t want you
to think too badly of me.
LOTTIE: Oh, don’t, Jack. It will only pain you. What
does it matter what he thinks?
JACK: I should like to say it once and for all; and then
I can forget it. To-morrow we bury the past for ever, and
begin a new life.
HERBERT (sitting down): Well?
JACK: You know, when I was a boy I thought myself
prodigiously clever. At Oxford I was a shining light. And
when I came to town, I was eager for honour and glory. It
took me five long years to discover I was a fool. Oh, what
anguish of heart it was, when the fact stared me in the face
that I was a failure, a miserable, hopeless failure! I had thought
myself so much cleverer than the common run of men. I had
looked down on them from the height of my superiority, and
now I was obliged to climb down and confess that I was less
than the most vulgar money-grubber of them all. Ah, what a
lucky chap you are, Herbert. You were never under the delu-
sion that you had genius. You were so deliberately normal.
You always did the right thing, and the thing that was expected
of you. And now, you see, I’m a poor, broken-down scamp,
while you are a pillar of society. And you play golf and go to
church regularly. You do play golf and go to church?
JACK: I knew it. And you’re engaged to a model, upright
English girl with fair hair and blue eyes, the daughter of a
HERBERT: The daughter of a doctor.
JACK: Same thing; the species is just the same. And
she’s strong and healthy, and plays tennis, and rides a bike,
and has muscles like a prize-fighter. Oh, I know it. Then
you’ll get married and help to over-populate the island. You’ll
rear children upright and healthy and strong and honest like
yourselves. And when you die they’ll put on your tombstone:
“Here lies an honourable man.” Thank your stars that you
were never cursed with ideals, but were content to work hard
and be respectable. Oh, it’s a long, hard fall when one tumbles
back to earth, trying to climb to heaven. . . . And the
result of it all is, that you have an income and honour; while
I, as you remarked—
HERBERT: I didn’t mean to be rough on you in what
I said just now, Jack.
JACK: No, I know you didn’t, old chap; but nothing
very much affects me now. When one has to stand one’s own
contempt, it is easy enough to put up with other people’s. Oh,
if you knew how awful those years were, when I tried and
tried and could do no good. At last I despaired and went to
the Cape. But I muddled away my money there as I had
muddled everything in England; and then I had to work and
earn my bread as best I could. Sometimes I couldn’t and I
HERBERT: Why didn’t you write? I should have been
so glad to help you, Jack.
JACK: I couldn’t. I couldn’t accept money from you.
One needs to have pawned one’s shirt for bread before one can
lend money like a gentleman. Lottie found out I was in
distress and sent me twenty pounds.
LOTTIE: He never used it, Mr. Paton. He kept it for
two months so as not to hurt my feelings, and then returned
it with effusive thanks. I noticed they were the same four
notes as I sent out.
JACK (with a slight laugh): Well, I
managed to get on
somehow. I tried farming, I went to the mines, I was a bar-
tender. Imagine the shining light of Oxford debating-societies
mixing drinks in his shirt-sleeves and a white apron. A
merciful Providence has destined me to be one of life’s failures.
HERBERT: It sounds awful. I never knew.
LOTTIE: Of course you never knew! People like you
don’t. You, with your income and your respectability, what
do you know of the struggles and the agony of those who go
under? You can’t judge, you don’t know how many tempta-
tions we resist for the one we fall to.
JACK: After all, it wasn’t so bad—when one got used to
it. And I had the edifying spectacle of my fellows. Army
men, shady people from the city, any amount of parsons’ sons,
‘Varsity men by the score, and now and again a noble lord.
Oh, we were a select body, I can tell you—the failures, and the
blackguards, and the outcasts. Most of them take to drink,
and that’s the best thing they can do, for then they don’t mind.
HERBERT: Thank God you escaped that.
JACK: By no fault of mine, old chap. I should have
been only too glad to drink myself to death, only spirits make
me so beastly ill that I have to keep sober. . . . Anyhow,
now I’m back in England again, and three or four weeks ago
I met Lottie.
LOTTIE: At a night-club, Mr. Paton.
JACK: Well, we’d been pals in the old days, and she
asked me to go and see her. We soon were as great friends
as ever. She told me all about herself, and I told her about
myself. It was an edifying story on both sides. She spoke
of the settlement, and one day suggested that I should marry
HERBERT: And you agreed?
JACK: Oh, I was tired of this miserable existence of
mine. I was sick to death of being always alone. I wanted
someone to care for me, someone to belong to me and stand
by me. And it’s so awful to be poor, perpetually to have
starvation staring you in the face, not to have the smallest
comfort or anything that makes life pleasant and beautiful.
You, who’ve always been well off, don’t know what a man
can do to get money. I tell you such abject poverty is madden-
ing. I couldn’t stand it any longer; I would rather have
killed myself. I’m tired of all this effort, I want to live in
peace and quiet.
HERBERT: And the price you pay is dishonour.
JACK: Dishonour! I’m not such an honourable creature
as all that. I’ve done mean enough things in my life. I
wonder what I haven’t done! I haven’t stolen; but that’s
because I was afraid of being found out, and I never had the
pluck to take my chance.
HERBERT: How can you live together with the recol-
lection of the past?
JACK: Oh, damn the past! (to Lottie):
You know me
for what I am, dear, and you know I have no cause to despise
LOTTIE (with her hands on Jack’s
both rather tired of the world, and we’ve both gone through
a good deal, I think we shall be forbearing to one another.
HERBERT: I wonder if you can possibly be happy?
JACK: I hope I shall make Lottie as good a husband as
I think she will make me a good wife.
LOTTIE (smiling): Was I right, Mr.
Paton, when I
prophesied you would make a fool of yourself?
HERBERT: Perhaps! I don’t know. Good-bye.
(He gives his hand to Jack and walks out Jack
to Lottie and she puts her hands on his shoulders.)
LOTTIE: I’m afraid you’ll have to do without a best
man, old chap. Respectability and virtue have turned their
backs upon us.
JACK: Oh, give them time and they’ll come round. They
only want feeding. You can get a bishop to dine with you if
you give good enough dinners.
LOTTIE (sighing): They’re so hard, all
people. Their moral sense isn’t satisfied unless they see the
sinner actually roasting in Hell. As if Hell were needful when
every little sin so quickly brings upon this earth its bitter
JACK: Let us forget it all. What does the world matter
when we have ourselves. Why did you tell Herbert we were
only friends? We’re so much more than that.
LOTTIE (smiling sadly): Are we? Perhaps
but if love comes let it come very slowly.
LOTTIE: Because I want it to last for ever.
(Jack puts his arms round her, and she rests
against his shoulder,)
JACK: I will try to be a good husband to you, dearest.
LOTTIE: Oh Jack, Jack, I want your love so badly.
W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM.
Maugham, Somerset. “Marriages are Made in Heaven.” The Venture: an Annual of Art and Literature, vol. 1, 1903, pp. 209-230. Venture Digital Edition, edited by Lorraine Janzen Kooistra, 2019-2021. Yellow Nineties 2.0, Ryerson University Centre for Digital Humanities, 2021, https://1890s.ca/vv1-maugham-heaven