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Novel to Film

The American
Newman and Claire's Romance
Excerpted from Act II

Newman: (With his knee on the ottoman.) It will be time to call my success universal when you have given me the supreme proof of it. (Claire rising, he makes her sink down again.) Let me talk to you about that -- quietly, tenderly, reasonably -- on your own terms. Listen me, trust me -- I'll check you through! I know you've seen me, as yet, comparatively little -- so little that there may even be, to your mind, a kind of failure of respect, or at least of ceremony, in my breaking out this way. That's my misfortune; for I could almost have done so the first time I saw you. The fact is, there was no first time. I had seen you before -- I had seen you always, in imagination, in secret ambitions; you seemed an old friend! I felt like that dear old boy Columbus (you know I'm named after him: it's a good omen!) when the ascertained fact bore out his general conclusions and he sighted the New World. Like him I had exercised our national genius (he must have bequeathed it to us!) -- I had calculated. (Stands.)

Claire: (Laughing.) Your national genius is very great!

Newman: Of course it is. Otherwise I'm perfectly aware, I shouldn't stand where I do. I had, like Columbus, a theory that my new world was here (bends over Claire; she rises); so that as soon as you rose, pale and lovely, above my horizon, I said to myself: "Old man, I told you so!" You were the very woman I had figured out -- except that you were a far bigger result. (Movement from Claire.) You hold your head just as that tantalizing creature has always held hers. You say just the things that I have listened to on her lips. (Claire moves to centre.) You walk about the room as I've seen her walk. (She stops.) You stop as I have seen her stop -- you wear exactly the garments I have seen her wear! In short, you come up to the mark, and (taking her hand) I tell you, my mark was high!

Claire: (Smiling.) I'm glad I come up to the mark!

Newman: I don't express it well; but you know what I mean.

Claire: Not a bit, I assure you, when you talk of your secret ambitions. What ambition can I possibly gratify?

Newman: Every one I possess -- the wildest I ever entertained. No doubt you'll have to renounce your own; but I'll make that up to you.

Claire: I haven't an ambition left (takes away her hand and seats herself by table, left) -- not the dimmest ghost of one -- unless it be to pass unnoticed!

Newman: (Laughing.) Well, if it will help my case to promise it, I'll lock you up in my safe -- I'll keep you back awhile. There's nothing to keep back about me, you know -- the whole thing can come out. I'm all here, and wherever I am, I'm all there! I've no hidden vices nor nasty tricks. I'm kind (his hand on her left shoulder) -- kind -- (takes her hand) -- kind. (Carries her hand to his breast.)

Claire: (Slowly, after remaining silent a moment.) It's strange, Mr. Newman -- you don't know how strange it is!

Newman: That I should be in love with you? It would be a queer show if I wasn't!

Claire: (Rising.) I don't mean that -- I mean that I should trust you as I do.

Newman: You do trust me? (Putting both hands out -- taking both her hands.) That's just what I wanted to see!

Claire: (Going to fireplace.) There are not many people I trust.

Newman: You have had unhappy days -- you have had unhappy years; I know that! But what on earth have you to do with them now? Turn your back on them forever!

Claire: (With her head on the mantelshelf.) I'm afraid of happiness -- that's what I trust least.

Newman: It will return you good for evil! Is it the cruel failure that met you on the very threshold of life that has made you sceptical? -- the fact that, ten years ago, you put your spare cash into a concern that turned out a swindle?

Claire: I was only seventeen. But let that horrible time alone!

Newman: I speak of it only to remind you that it's a reason the more for your having a better time now. The joys we've missed in youth are like back numbers and lost umbrellas; we mustn't spend the rest of life wondering where they are! (The music ceases. Claire turns.) Ah, Claire! (Movement to embrace her.)

Claire: (Stopping him with both hands up.) Don't ask me why I say it, but please simply believe that I can't listen to you further till you have spoken to those whom I make it my law not to defy. (Goes up, centre.)


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