The curtain rises on the BARTHWICK'S dining-room, large, modern, and well furnished; the window curtains drawn. Electric light is burning. On the large round dining-table is set out a tray with whisky, a syphon, and a silver cigarette-box. It is past midnight. A fumbling is heard outside the door. It is opened suddenly; JACK BARTHWICK seems to fall into the room. He stands holding by the door knob, staring before him, with a beatific smile. He is in evening dress and opera hat, and carries in his hand a sky-blue velvet lady's reticule. His boyish face is freshly coloured and clean-shaven. An overcoat is hanging on his arm.
JACK. Hello! I've got home all ri——[Defiantly.] Who says I sh'd never 've opened th' door without 'sistance. [He staggers in, fumbling with the reticule. A lady's handkerchief and purse of crimson silk fall out.] Serve her joll' well right—everything droppin' out. Th' cat. I 've scored her off—I 've got her bag. [He swings the reticule.] Serves her joly' well right. [He takes a cigarette out of the silver box and puts it in his mouth.] Never gave tha' fellow anything! [He hunts through all his pockets and pulls a shilling out; it drops and rolls away. He looks for it.] Beastly shilling! [He looks again.] Base ingratitude! Absolutely nothing. [He laughs.] Mus' tell him I've got absolutely nothing.
[He lurches through the door and down a corridor, and presently returns, followed by JONES, who is advanced in liquor. JONES, about thirty years of age, has hollow cheeks, black circles round his eyes, and rusty clothes: He looks as though he might be unemployed, and enters in a hang-dog manner.]
JACK. Sh! sh! sh! Don't you make a noise, whatever you do. Shu' the door, an' have a drink. [Very solemnly.] You helped me to open the door—I 've got nothin, for you. This is my house. My father's name's Barthwick; he's Member of Parliament—Liberal Member of Parliament: I've told you that before. Have a drink! [He pours out whisky and drinks it up.] I'm not drunk [Subsiding on a sofa.] Tha's all right. Wha's your name? My name's Barthwick, so's my father's; I'm a Liberal too—wha're you?
JONES. [In a thick, sardonic voice.] I'm a bloomin' Conservative. My name's Jones! My wife works 'ere; she's the char; she works 'ere.
JACK. Jones? [He laughs.] There's 'nother Jones at College with me. I'm not a Socialist myself; I'm a Liberal—there's ve—lill difference, because of the principles of the Lib—Liberal Party. We're all equal before the law—tha's rot, tha's silly. [Laughs.] Wha' was I about to say? Give me some whisky.
[JONES gives him the whisky he desires, together with a squirt of syphon.]
Wha' I was goin' tell you was—I 've had a row with her. [He waves the reticule.] Have a drink, Jonessh 'd never have got in without you—tha 's why I 'm giving you a drink. Don' care who knows I've scored her off. Th' cat! [He throws his feet up on the sofa.] Don' you make a noise, whatever you do. You pour out a drink—you make yourself good long, long drink—you take cigarette—you take anything you like. Sh'd never have got in without you. [Closing his eyes.] You're a Tory—you're a Tory Socialist. I'm Liberal myself—have a drink—I 'm an excel'nt chap.
[His head drops back. He, smiling, falls asleep, and JONES stands looking at him; then, snatching up JACK's glass, he drinks it off. He picks the reticule from off JACK'S shirt-front, holds it to the light, and smells at it.]
JONES. Been on the tiles and brought 'ome some of yer cat's fur. [He stuffs it into JACK's breast pocket.]
JACK. [Murmuring.] I 've scored you off! You cat!
[JONES looks around him furtively; he pours out whisky and drinks it. From the silver box he takes a cigarette, puffs at it, and drinks more whisky. There is no sobriety left in him.]
JONES. Fat lot o' things they've got 'ere! [He sees the crimson purse lying on the floor.] More cat's fur. Puss, puss! [He fingers it, drops it on the tray, and looks at JACK.] Calf! Fat calf! [He sees his own presentment in a mirror. Lifting his hands, with fingers spread, he stares at it; then looks again at JACK, clenching his fist as if to batter in his sleeping, smiling face. Suddenly he tilts the rest o f the whisky into the glass and drinks it. With cunning glee he takes the silver box and purse and pockets them.] I 'll score you off too, that 's wot I 'll do!
[He gives a little snarling laugh and lurches to the door. His shoulder rubs against the switch; the light goes out. There is a sound as of a closing outer door.]
The curtain falls.
The curtain rises again at once.
In the BARTHWICK'S dining-room. JACK is still asleep; the morning light is coming through the curtains. The time is half-past eight. WHEELER, brisk person enters with a dust-pan, and MRS. JONES more slowly with a scuttle.
WHEELER. [Drawing the curtains.] That precious husband of yours was round for you after you'd gone yesterday, Mrs. Jones. Wanted your money for drink, I suppose. He hangs about the corner here half the time. I saw him outside the "Goat and Bells" when I went to the post last night. If I were you I would n't live with him. I would n't live with a man that raised his hand to me. I wouldn't put up with it. Why don't you take your children and leave him? If you put up with 'im it'll only make him worse. I never can see why, because a man's married you, he should knock you about.
MRS. JONES. [Slim, dark-eyed, and dark-haired; oval-faced, and with a smooth, soft, even voice; her manner patient, her way of talking quite impersonal; she wears a blue linen dress, and boots with holes.] It was nearly two last night before he come home, and he wasn't himself. He made me get up, and he knocked me about; he didn't seem to know what he was saying or doing. Of course I would leave him, but I'm really afraid of what he'd do to me. He 's such a violent man when he's not himself.
WHEELER. Why don't you get him locked up? You'll never have any peace until you get him locked up. If I were you I'd go to the police court tomorrow. That's what I would do.
MRS. JONES. Of course I ought to go, because he does treat me so badly when he's not himself. But you see, Bettina, he has a very hard time—he 's been out of work two months, and it preys upon his mind. When he's in work he behaves himself much better. It's when he's out of work that he's so violent.
WHEELER. Well, if you won't take any steps you 'll never get rid of him.
MRS. JONES. Of course it's very wearing to me; I don't get my sleep at nights. And it 's not as if I were getting help from him, because I have to do for the children and all of us. And he throws such dreadful things up at me, talks of my having men to follow me about. Such a thing never happens; no man ever speaks to me. And of course, it's just the other way. It's what he does that's wrong and makes me so unhappy. And then he 's always threatenin' to cut my throat if I leave him. It's all the drink, and things preying on his mind; he 's not a bad man really. Sometimes he'll speak quite kind to me, but I've stood so much from him, I don't feel it in me to speak kind back, but just keep myself to myself. And he's all right with the children too, except when he's not himself.
WHEELER. You mean when he's drunk, the beauty.
MRS. JONES. Yes. [Without change of voice] There's the young gentleman asleep on the sofa.
[They both look silently at Jack.]
MRS. JONES. [At last, in her soft voice.] He does n't look quite himself.
WHEELER. He's a young limb, that's what he is. It 's my belief he was tipsy last night, like your husband. It 's another kind of bein' out of work that sets him to drink. I 'll go and tell Marlow. This is his job.
[She goes.] [Mrs. Jones, upon her knees, begins a gentle sweeping.]
JACK. [Waking.] Who's there? What is it?
MRS. JONES. It's me, sir, Mrs. Jones.
JACK. [Sitting up and looking round.] Where is it—what—what time is it?
MRS. JONES. It's getting on for nine o'clock, sir.
JACK. For nine! Why—what! [Rising, and loosening his tongue; putting hands to his head, and staring hard at Mrs. Jones.] Look here, you, Mrs.——Mrs. Jones—don't you say you caught me asleep here.
MRS. JONES. No, sir, of course I won't sir.
JACK. It's quite an accident; I don't know how it happened. I must have forgotten to go to bed. It's a queer thing. I 've got a most beastly headache. Mind you don't say anything, Mrs. Jones.
[Goes out and passes MARLOW in the doorway. MARLOW is young and quiet; he is cleanshaven, and his hair is brushed high from his forehead in a coxcomb. Incidentally a butler, he is first a man. He looks at MRS. JONES, and smiles a private smile.]
MARLOW. Not the first time, and won't be the last. Looked a bit dicky, eh, Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. He did n't look quite himself. Of course I did n't take notice.
MARLOW. You're used to them. How's your old man?
MRS. JONES. [Softly as throughout.] Well, he was very bad last night; he did n't seem to know what he was about. He was very late, and he was most abusive. But now, of course, he's asleep.
MARLOW. That's his way of finding a job, eh?
MRS. JONES. As a rule, Mr. Marlow, he goes out early every morning looking for work, and sometimes he comes in fit to drop—and of course I can't say he does n't try to get it, because he does. Trade's very bad. [She stands quite still, her fan and brush before her, at the beginning and the end of long vistas of experience, traversing them with her impersonal eye.] But he's not a good husband to me—last night he hit me, and he was so dreadfully abusive.
MARLOW. Bank 'oliday, eh! He 's too fond of the "Goat and Bells," that's what's the matter with him. I see him at the corner late every night. He hangs about.
MRS. JONES. He gets to feeling very low walking about all day after work, and being refused so often, and then when he gets a drop in him it goes to his head. But he shouldn't treat his wife as he treats me. Sometimes I 've had to go and walk about at night, when he wouldn't let me stay in the room; but he's sorry for it afterwards. And he hangs about after me, he waits for me in the street; and I don't think he ought to, because I 've always been a good wife to him. And I tell him Mrs. Barthwick wouldn't like him coming about the place. But that only makes him angry, and he says dreadful things about the gentry. Of course it was through me that he first lost his place, through his not treating me right; and that's made him bitter against the gentry. He had a very good place as groom in the country; but it made such a stir, because of course he did n't treat me right.
MARLOW. Got the sack?
MRS. JONES. Yes; his employer said he couldn't keep him, because there was a great deal of talk; and he said it was such a bad example. But it's very important for me to keep my work here; I have the three children, and I don't want him to come about after me in the streets, and make a disturbance as he sometimes does.
MARLOW. [Holding up the empty decanter.] Not a drain! Next time he hits you get a witness and go down to the court——
MRS. JONES. Yes, I think I 've made up my mind. I think I ought to.
MARLOW. That's right. Where's the ciga——?
[He searches for the silver box; he looks at MRS. JONES, who is sweeping on her hands and knees; he checks himself and stands reflecting. From the tray he picks two half-smoked cigarettes, and reads the name on them.]
Nestor—where the deuce——?
[With a meditative air he looks again at MRS. JONES, and, taking up JACK'S overcoat, he searches in the pockets. WHEELER, with a tray of breakfast things, comes in.]
MARLOW. [Aside to WHEELER.] Have you seen the cigarette-box?
MARLOW. Well, it's gone. I put it on the tray last night. And he's been smoking. [Showing her the ends of cigarettes.] It's not in these pockets. He can't have taken it upstairs this morning! Have a good look in his room when he comes down. Who's been in here?
WHEELER. Only me and Mrs. Jones.
MRS. JONES. I 've finished here; shall I do the drawing-room now?
WHEELER. [Looking at her doubtfully.] Have you seen——Better do the boudwower first.
[MRS. JONES goes out with pan and brush. MARLOW and WHEELER look each other in the face.]
MARLOW. It'll turn up.
WHEELER. [Hesitating.] You don't think she—— [Nodding at the door.]
MARLOW. [Stoutly.] I don't——I never believes anything of anybody.
WHEELER. But the master'll have to be told.
MARLOW. You wait a bit, and see if it don't turn up. Suspicion's no business of ours. I set my mind against it.
The curtain falls.
The curtain rises again at once.
BARTHWICK and MRS. BARTHWICK are seated at the breakfast table. He is a man between fifty and sixty; quietly important, with a bald forehead, and pince-nez, and the "Times" in his hand. She is a lady of nearly fifty, well dressed, with greyish hair, good features, and a decided manner. They face each other.
BARTHWICK. [From behind his paper.] The Labour man has got in at the by-election for Barnside, my dear.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Another Labour? I can't think what on earth the country is about.
BARTHWICK. I predicted it. It's not a matter of vast importance.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Not? How can you take it so calmly, John? To me it's simply outrageous. And there you sit, you Liberals, and pretend to encourage these people!
BARTHWICK. [Frowning.] The representation of all parties is necessary for any proper reform, for any proper social policy.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I've no patience with your talk of reform—all that nonsense about social policy. We know perfectly well what it is they want; they want things for themselves. Those Socialists and Labour men are an absolutely selfish set of people. They have no sense of patriotism, like the upper classes; they simply want what we've got.
BARTHWICK. Want what we've got! [He stares into space.] My dear, what are you talking about? [With a contortion.] I 'm no alarmist.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Cream? Quite uneducated men! Wait until they begin to tax our investments. I 'm convinced that when they once get a chance they will tax everything—they 've no feeling for the country. You Liberals and Conservatives, you 're all alike; you don't see an inch before your noses. You've no imagination, not a scrap of imagination between you. You ought to join hands and nip it in the bud.
BARTHWICK. You 're talking nonsense! How is it possible for Liberals and Conservatives to join hands, as you call it? That shows how absurd it is for women——Why, the very essence of a Liberal is to trust in the people!
MRS. BARTHWICK. Now, John, eat your breakfast. As if there were any real difference between you and the Conservatives. All the upper classes have the same interests to protect, and the same principles. [Calmly.] Oh! you're sitting upon a volcano, John.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I read a letter in the paper yesterday. I forget the man's name, but it made the whole thing perfectly clear. You don't look things in the face.
BARTHWICK. Indeed! [Heavily.] I am a Liberal! Drop the subject, please!
MRS. BARTHWICK. Toast? I quite agree with what this man says: Education is simply ruining the lower classes. It unsettles them, and that's the worst thing for us all. I see an enormous difference in the manner of servants.
BARTHWICK, [With suspicious emphasis.] I welcome any change that will lead to something better. [He opens a letter.] H'm! This is that affair of Master Jack's again. "High Street, Oxford. Sir, We have received Mr. John Barthwick, Senior's, draft for forty pounds!" Oh! the letter's to him! "We now enclose the cheque you cashed with us, which, as we stated in our previous letter, was not met on presentation at your bank. We are, Sir, yours obediently, Moss and Sons, Tailors." H 'm! [Staring at the cheque.] A pretty business altogether! The boy might have been prosecuted.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Come, John, you know Jack did n't mean anything; he only thought he was overdrawing. I still think his bank ought to have cashed that cheque. They must know your position.
BARTHWICK. [Replacing in the envelope the letter and the cheque.] Much good that would have done him in a court of law.
[He stops as JACK comes in, fastening his waistcoat and staunching a razor cut upon his chin.]
JACK. [Sitting down between them, and speaking with an artificial joviality.] Sorry I 'm late. [He looks lugubriously at the dishes.] Tea, please, mother. Any letters for me? [BARTHWICK hands the letter to him.] But look here, I say, this has been opened! I do wish you would n't——
BARTHWICK. [Touching the envelope.] I suppose I 'm entitled to this name.
JACK. [Sulkily.] Well, I can't help having your name, father! [He reads the letter, and mutters.] Brutes!
BARTHWICK. [Eyeing him.] You don't deserve to be so well out of that.
JACK. Haven't you ragged me enough, dad?
MRS. BARTHWICK. Yes, John, let Jack have his breakfast.
BARTHWICK. If you hadn't had me to come to, where would you have been? It's the merest accident—suppose you had been the son of a poor man or a clerk. Obtaining money with a cheque you knew your bank could not meet. It might have ruined you for life. I can't see what's to become of you if these are your principles. I never did anything of the sort myself.
JACK. I expect you always had lots of money. If you've got plenty of money, of course——
BARTHWICK. On the contrary, I had not your advantages. My father kept me very short of money.
JACK. How much had you, dad?
BARTHWICK. It's not material. The question is, do you feel the gravity of what you did?
JACK. I don't know about the gravity. Of course, I 'm very sorry if you think it was wrong. Have n't I said so! I should never have done it at all if I had n't been so jolly hard up.
BARTHWICK. How much of that forty pounds have you got left, Jack?
JACK. [Hesitating.] I don't know—not much.
BARTHWICK. How much?
JACK. [Desperately.] I have n't got any.
JACK. I know I 've got the most beastly headache.
[He leans his head on his hand.]
MRS. BARTHWICK. Headache? My dear boy! Can't you eat any breakfast?
JACK. [Drawing in his breath.] Too jolly bad!
MRS. BARTHWICK. I'm so sorry. Come with me; dear; I'll give you something that will take it away at once.
[They leave the room; and BARTHWICK, tearing up the letter, goes to the fireplace and puts the pieces in the fire. While he is doing this MARLOW comes in, and looking round him, is about quietly to withdraw.]
BARTHWICK. What's that? What d 'you want?
MARLOW. I was looking for Mr. John, sir.
BARTHWICK. What d' you want Mr. John for?
MARLOW. [With hesitation.] I thought I should find him here, sir.
BARTHWICK. [Suspiciously.] Yes, but what do you want him for?
MARLOW. [Offhandedly.] There's a lady called—asked to speak to him for a minute, sir.
BARTHWICK. A lady, at this time in the morning. What sort of a lady?
MARLOW. [Without expression in his voice.] I can't tell, sir; no particular sort. She might be after charity. She might be a Sister of Mercy, I should think, sir.
BARTHWICK. Is she dressed like one?
MARLOW. No, sir, she's in plain clothes, sir.
BARTHWICK. Did n't she say what she wanted?
MARLOW. No sir.
BARTHWICK. Where did you leave her?
MARLOW. In the hall, sir.
BARTHWICK. In the hall? How do you know she's not a thief—not got designs on the house?
MARLOW. No, sir, I don't fancy so, sir.
BARTHWICK. Well, show her in here; I'll see her myself.
[MARLOW goes out with a private gesture of dismay. He soon returns, ushering in a young pale lady with dark eyes and pretty figure, in a modish, black, but rather shabby dress, a black and white trimmed hat with a bunch of Parma violets wrongly placed, and fuzzy-spotted veil. At the Sight of MR. BARTHWICK she exhibits every sign of nervousness. MARLOW goes out.]
UNKNOWN LADY. Oh! but—I beg pardon there's some mistake—I [She turns to fly.]
BARTHWICK. Whom did you want to see, madam?
UNKNOWN. [Stopping and looking back.] It was Mr. John Barthwick I wanted to see.
BARTHWICK. I am John Barthwick, madam. What can I have the pleasure of doing for you?
UNKNOWN. Oh! I—I don't [She drops her eyes. BARTHWICK scrutinises her, and purses his lips.]
BARTHWICK. It was my son, perhaps, you wished to see?
UNKNOWN. [Quickly.] Yes, of course, it's your son.
BARTHWICK. May I ask whom I have the pleasure of speaking to?
UNKNOWN. [Appeal and hardiness upon her face.] My name is——oh! it does n't matter—I don't want to make any fuss. I just want to see your son for a minute. [Boldly.] In fact, I must see him.
BARTHWICK. [Controlling his uneasiness.] My son is not very well. If necessary, no doubt I could attend to the matter; be so kind as to let me know——
UNKNOWN. Oh! but I must see him—I 've come on purpose—[She bursts out nervously.] I don't want to make any fuss, but the fact is, last—last night your son took away—he took away my [She stops.]
BARTHWICK. [Severely.] Yes, madam, what?
UNKNOWN. He took away my—my reticule.
BARTHWICK. Your reti——?
UNKNOWN. I don't care about the reticule; it's not that I want—I 'm sure I don't want to make any fuss—[her face is quivering]—but —but—all my money was in it!
BARTHWICK. In what—in what?
UNKNOWN. In my purse, in the reticule. It was a crimson silk purse. Really, I wouldn't have come—I don't want to make any fuss. But I must get my money back—mustn't I?
BARTHWICK. Do you tell me that my son——?
UNKNOWN. Oh! well, you see, he was n't quite I mean he was
[She smiles mesmerically.]
BARTHWICK. I beg your pardon.
UNKNOWN. [Stamping her foot.] Oh! don't you see—tipsy! We had a quarrel.
BARTHWICK. [Scandalised.] How? Where?
UNKNOWN. [Defiantly.] At my place. We'd had supper at the——and your son——
BARTHWICK. [Pressing the bell.] May I ask how you knew this house? Did he give you his name and address?
UNKNOWN. [Glancing sidelong.] I got it out of his overcoat.
BARTHWICK. [Sardonically.] Oh! you got it out of his overcoat. And may I ask if my son will know you by daylight?
UNKNOWN. Know me? I should jolly—I mean, of course he will! [MARLOW comes in.]
BARTHWICK. Ask Mr. John to come down.
[MARLOW goes out, and BARTHWICK walks uneasily about.]
And how long have you enjoyed his acquaintanceship?
UNKNOWN. Only since—only since Good Friday.
BARTHWICK. I am at a loss—I repeat I am at a——
[He glances at this unknown lady, who stands with eyes cast down, twisting her hands And suddenly Jack appears. He stops on seeing who is here, and the unknown lady hysterically giggles. There is a silence.]
BARTHWICK. [Portentously.] This young—er—lady says that last night—I think you said last night madam—you took away——
UNKNOWN. [Impulsively.] My reticule, and all my money was in a crimson silk purse.
JACK. Reticule. [Looking round for any chance to get away.] I don't know anything about it.
BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] Come, do you deny seeing this young lady last night?
JACK. Deny? No, of course. [Whispering.] Why did you give me away like this? What on earth did you come here for?
UNKNOWN. [Tearfully.] I'm sure I didn't want to—it's not likely, is it? You snatched it out of my hand—you know you did—and the purse had all my money in it. I did n't follow you last night because I did n't want to make a fuss and it was so late, and you were so——
BARTHWICK. Come, sir, don't turn your back on me—explain!
JACK. [Desperately.] I don't remember anything about it. [In a low voice to his friend.] Why on earth could n't you have written?
UNKNOWN. [Sullenly.] I want it now; I must have, it—I 've got to pay my rent to-day. [She looks at BARTHWICK.] They're only too glad to jump on people who are not—not well off.
JACK. I don't remember anything about it, really. I don't remember anything about last night at all. [He puts his hand up to his head.] It's all—cloudy, and I 've got such a beastly headache.
UNKNOWN. But you took it; you know you did. You said you'd score me off.
JACK. Well, then, it must be here. I remember now—I remember something. Why did I take the beastly thing?
BARTHWICK. Yes, why did you take the beastly——[He turns abruptly to the window.]
UNKNOWN. [With her mesmeric smile.] You were n't quite were you?
JACK. [Smiling pallidly.] I'm awfully sorry. If there's anything I can do——
BARTHWICK. Do? You can restore this property, I suppose.
JACK. I'll go and have a look, but I really don't think I 've got it.
[He goes out hurriedly. And BARTHWICK, placing a chair, motions to the visitor to sit; then, with pursed lips, he stands and eyes her fixedly. She sits, and steals a look at him; then turns away, and, drawing up her veil, stealthily wipes her eyes. And Jack comes back.]
JACK. [Ruefully holding out the empty reticule.] Is that the thing? I 've looked all over—I can't find the purse anywhere. Are you sure it was there?
UNKNOWN. [Tearfully.] Sure? Of course I'm sure. A crimson silk purse. It was all the money I had.
JACK. I really am awfully sorry—my head's so jolly bad. I 've asked the butler, but he has n't seen it.
UNKNOWN. I must have my money——
JACK. Oh! Of course—that'll be all right; I'll see that that's all right. How much?
UNKNOWN. [Sullenly.] Seven pounds-twelve—it's all I 've got in the world.
JACK. That'll be all right; I'll—send you a cheque.
UNKNOWN. [Eagerly.] No; now, please. Give me what was in my purse; I've got to pay my rent this morning. They won't' give me another day; I'm a fortnight behind already.
JACK. [Blankly.] I'm awfully sorry; I really have n't a penny in my pocket.
[He glances stealthily at BARTHWICK.]
UNKNOWN. [Excitedly.] Come I say you must—it's my money, and you took it. I 'm not going away without it. They 'll turn me out of my place.
JACK. [Clasping his head.] But I can't give you what I have n't got. Don't I tell you I have n't a beastly cent.
UNKNOWN. [Tearing at her handkerchief.] Oh! do give it me! [She puts her hands together in appeal; then, with sudden fierceness.] If you don't I'll summons you. It's stealing, that's what it is!
BARTHWICK. [Uneasily.] One moment, please. As a matter of—-er —principle, I shall settle this claim. [He produces money.] Here is eight pounds; the extra will cover the value of the purse and your cab fares. I need make no comment—no thanks are necessary.
[Touching the bell, he holds the door ajar in silence. The unknown lady stores the money in her reticule, she looks from JACK to BARTHWICK, and her face is quivering faintly with a smile. She hides it with her hand, and steals away. Behind her BARTHWICK shuts the door.]
BARTHWICK. [With solemnity.] H'm! This is nice thing to happen!
JACK. [Impersonally.] What awful luck!
BARTHWICK. So this is the way that forty pounds has gone! One thing after another! Once more I should like to know where you 'd have been if it had n't been for me! You don't seem to have any principles. You—you're one of those who are a nuisance to society; you—you're dangerous! What your mother would say I don't know. Your conduct, as far as I can see, is absolutely unjustifiable. It's—it's criminal. Why, a poor man who behaved as you've done —d' you think he'd have any mercy shown him? What you want is a good lesson. You and your sort are—[he speaks with feeling]—a nuisance to the community. Don't ask me to help you next time. You're not fit to be helped.
JACK. [Turning upon his sire, with unexpected fierceness.] All right, I won't then, and see how you like it. You would n't have helped me this time, I know, if you had n't been scared the thing would get into the papers. Where are the cigarettes?
BARTHWICK. [Regarding him uneasily.] Well I 'll say no more about it. [He rings the bell.] I 'll pass it over for this once, but—— [MARLOW Comes in.] You can clear away.
[He hides his face behind the "Times."]
JACK. [Brightening.] I say, Marlow, where are the cigarettes?
MARLOW. I put the box out with the whisky last night, sir, but this morning I can't find it anywhere.
JACK. Did you look in my room?
MARLOW. Yes, sir; I've looked all over the house. I found two Nestor ends in the tray this morning, so you must have been smokin' last night, sir. [Hesitating.] I 'm really afraid some one's purloined the box.
JACK. [Uneasily.] Stolen it!
BARTHWICK. What's that? The cigarette-box! Is anything else missing?
MARLOW. No, sir; I 've been through the plate.
BARTHWICK. Was the house all right this morning? None of the windows open?
MARLOW. No, sir. [Quietly to JACK.] You left your latch-key in the door last night, sir.
[He hands it back, unseen by BARTHWICK]
BARTHWICK. Who's been in the room this morning?
MARLOW. Me and Wheeler, and Mrs. Jones is all, sir, as far as I know.
BARTHWICK. Have you asked Mrs. Barthwick?
[To JACK.] Go and ask your mother if she's had it; ask her to look and see if she's missed anything else.
[JACK goes upon this mission.]
Nothing is more disquieting than losing things like this.
MARLOW. No, sir.
BARTHWICK. Have you any suspicions?
MARLOW, No, sir.
BARTHWICK. This Mrs. Jones—how long has she been working here?
MARLOW. Only this last month, sir.
BARTHWICK. What sort of person?
MARLOW. I don't know much about her, sir; seems a very quiet, respectable woman.
BARTHWICK. Who did the room this morning?
MARLOW. Wheeler and Mrs. Jones, Sir.
BARTHWICK. [With his forefinger upraised.] Now, was this Mrs. Jones in the room alone at any time?
MARLOW. [Expressionless.] Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. How do you know that?
MARLOW. [Reluctantly.] I found her here, sir.
BARTHWICK. And has Wheeler been in the room alone?
MARLOW. No, sir, she's not, sir. I should say, sir, that Mrs. Jones seems a very honest——
BARTHWICK. [Holding up his hand.] I want to know this: Has this Mrs. Jones been here the whole morning?
MARLOW. Yes, sir—no, sir—she stepped over to the greengrocer's for cook.
BARTHWICK. H'm! Is she in the house now?
MARLOW. Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. Very good. I shall make a point of clearing this up. On principle I shall make a point of fixing the responsibility; it goes to the foundations of security. In all your interests——
MARLOW. Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. What sort of circumstances is this Mrs. Jones in? Is her husband in work?
MARLOW. I believe not, sir.
BARTHWICK. Very well. Say nothing about it to any one. Tell Wheeler not to speak of it, and ask Mrs. Jones to step up here.
MARLOW. Very good, sir.
[MARLOW goes out, his face concerned; and BARTHWICK stays, his face judicial and a little pleased, as befits a man conducting an inquiry. MRS. BARTHWICK and hey son come in.]
BARTHWICK. Well, my dear, you've not seen it, I suppose?
MRS. BARTHWICK. No. But what an extraordinary thing, John! Marlow, of course, is out of the question. I 'm certain none of the maids as for cook!
BARTHWICK. Oh, cook!
MRS. BARTHWICK. Of course! It's perfectly detestable to me to suspect anybody.
BARTHWICK. It is not a question of one's feelings. It's a question of justice. On principle——
MRS. BARTHWICK. I should n't be a bit surprised if the charwoman knew something about it. It was Laura who recommended her.
BARTHWICK. [Judicially.] I am going to have Mrs. Jones up. Leave it to me; and—er—remember that nobody is guilty until they're proved so. I shall be careful. I have no intention of frightening her; I shall give her every chance. I hear she's in poor circumstances. If we are not able to do much for them we are bound to have the greatest sympathy with the poor. [MRS. JONES comes in.] [Pleasantly.] Oh! good morning, Mrs. Jones.
MRS. JONES. [Soft, and even, unemphatic.] Good morning, sir! Good morning, ma'am!
BARTHWICK. About your husband—he's not in work, I hear?
MRS. JONES. No, sir; of course he's not in work just now.
BARTHWICK. Then I suppose he's earning nothing.
MRS. JONES. No, sir, he's not earning anything just now, sir.
BARTHWICK. And how many children have you?
MRS. JONES. Three children; but of course they don't eat very much sir. [A little silence.]
BARTHWICK. And how old is the eldest?
MRS. JONES. Nine years old, sir.
BARTHWICK. Do they go to school?
MRS. JONES, Yes, sir, they all three go to school every day.
BARTHWICK. [Severely.] And what about their food when you're out at work?
MRS. JONES. Well, Sir, I have to give them their dinner to take with them. Of course I 'm not always able to give them anything; sometimes I have to send them without; but my husband is very good about the children when he's in work. But when he's not in work of course he's a very difficult man.
BARTHWICK. He drinks, I suppose?
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir. Of course I can't say he does n't drink, because he does.
BARTHWICK. And I suppose he takes all your money?
MRS. JONES. No, sir, he's very good about my money, except when he's not himself, and then, of course, he treats me very badly.
BARTHWICK. Now what is he—your husband?
MRS. JONES. By profession, sir, of course he's a groom.
BARTHWICK. A groom! How came he to lose his place?
MRS. JONES. He lost his place a long time ago, sir, and he's never had a very long job since; and now, of course, the motor-cars are against him.
BARTHWICK. When were you married to him, Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. Eight years ago, sir that was in——
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] Eight? You said the eldest child was nine.
MRS. JONES. Yes, ma'am; of course that was why he lost his place. He did n't treat me rightly, and of course his employer said he couldn't keep him because of the example.
BARTHWICK. You mean he—ahem——
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir; and of course after he lost his place he married me.
MRS. BARTHWICK. You actually mean to say you—you were——
BARTHWICK. My dear——
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Indignantly.] How disgraceful!
BARTHWICK. [Hurriedly.] And where are you living now, Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. We've not got a home, sir. Of course we've been obliged to put away most of our things.
BARTHWICK. Put your things away! You mean to—to—er—to pawn them?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, to put them away. We're living in Merthyr Street—that is close by here, sir—at No. 34. We just have the one room.
BARTHWICK. And what do you pay a week?
MRS. JONES. We pay six shillings a week, sir, for a furnished room.
BARTHWICK. And I suppose you're behind in the rent?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, we're a little behind in the rent.
BARTHWICK. But you're in good work, aren't you?
MRS. JONES. Well, Sir, I have a day in Stamford Place Thursdays. And Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays I come here. But to-day, of course, is a half-day, because of yesterday's Bank Holiday.
BARTHWICK. I see; four days a week, and you get half a crown a day, is that it?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, and my dinner; but sometimes it's only half a day, and that's eighteen pence.
BARTHWICK. And when your husband earns anything he spends it in drink, I suppose?
MRS. JONES. Sometimes he does, sir, and sometimes he gives it to me for the children. Of course he would work if he could get it, sir, but it seems there are a great many people out of work.
BARTHWICK. Ah! Yes. We—er—won't go into that. [Sympathetically.] And how about your work here? Do you find it hard?
MRS. JONES. Oh! no, sir, not very hard, sir; except of course, when I don't get my sleep at night.
BARTHWICK. Ah! And you help do all the rooms? And sometimes, I suppose, you go out for cook?
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. And you 've been out this morning?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, of course I had to go to the greengrocer's.
BARTHWICK. Exactly. So your husband earns nothing? And he's a bad character.
MRS. JONES. No, Sir, I don't say that, sir. I think there's a great deal of good in him; though he does treat me very bad sometimes. And of course I don't like to leave him, but I think I ought to, because really I hardly know how to stay with him. He often raises his hand to me. Not long ago he gave me a blow here [touches her breast] and I can feel it now. So I think I ought to leave him, don't you, sir?
BARTHWICK. Ah! I can't help you there. It's a very serious thing to leave your husband. Very serious thing.
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, of course I 'm afraid of what he might do to me if I were to leave him; he can be so very violent.
BARTHWICK. H'm! Well, that I can't pretend to say anything about. It's the bad principle I'm speaking of——
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir; I know nobody can help me. I know I must decide for myself, and of course I know that he has a very hard life. And he's fond of the children, and its very hard for him to see them going without food.
BARTHWICK. [Hastily.] Well—er—thank you, I just wanted to hear about you. I don't think I need detain you any longer, Mrs. Jones.
MRS. JONES. No, sir, thank you, sir.
BARTHWICK. Good morning, then.
MRS. JONES. Good morning, sir; good morning, ma'am.
BARTHWICK. [Exchanging glances with his wife.] By the way, Mrs. Jones—I think it is only fair to tell you, a silver cigarette-box —er—is missing.
MRS. JONES. [Looking from one face to the other.] I am very sorry, sir.
BARTHWICK. Yes; you have not seen it, I suppose?
MRS. JONES. [Realising that suspicion is upon her; with an uneasy movement.] Where was it, sir; if you please, sir?
BARTHWICK. [Evasively.] Where did Marlow say? Er—in this room, yes, in this room.
MRS. JONES. No, Sir, I have n't seen it—of course if I 'd seen it I should have noticed it.
BARTHWICK. [Giving hey a rapid glance.] You—you are sure of that?
MRS. JONES. [Impassively.] Yes, Sir. [With a slow nodding of her head.] I have not seen it, and of course I don't know where it is.
[She turns and goes quietly out.]
[The three BARTHWICKS avoid each other's glances.]
The curtain falls.