As act 3 of Candida begins, both Candida and Marchbanks are sitting in chairs near the fire. She invites him to sit on the hearth-rug and talk his usual sort of “moonshine,” or romantic ideas, to amuse her. Nervously, he accepts, and she shifts her chair to make room for him. The young man stretches out on the rug, face up, and places his head on her knees so that he is gazing upward at Candida. Rather at a loss for words, Marchbanks tries to figure out how to begin his declaration of love.
Opting for irony, he tells the older woman that he is “ever so much older” than she is—presumably through the strength of his emotions. At this point, he turns over onto his knees, and clasps his hands together and places them in her lap. Her husband soon enters and is distressed to find them in that position.