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A Family Man (from the 5th Series Plays) by John Galsworthy

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BUILDER. [Uneasily] That! You were just kids.

MAUD. Perhaps you'd like to begin again?

BUILDER. Don't twist my tail, Maud. I had the most painful scene with
Athene this morning. Now come! Give up this silly notion! It's really
too childish!

MAUD. [Looking at him curiously] I've heard you say ever so many times
that no man was any good who couldn't make his own way, father. Well,
women are the same as men, now. It's the law of the country. I only
want to make my own way.

BUILDER. [Trying to subdue his anger] Now, Maud, don't be foolish.
Consider my position here--a Town Councillor, a Magistrate, and Mayor
next year. With one daughter living with a man she isn't married to--

MAUD. [With lively interest] Oh! So you did catch them out?

BUILDER. D'you mean to say you knew?

MAUD. Of course.

BUILDER. My God! I thought we were a Christian family.

MAUD. Oh! father.

BUILDER. Don't sneer at Christianity!

MAUD. There's only one thing wrong with Christians--they aren't!

BUILDER Seizes her by the shoulders and shakes her vigorously. When he
drops her shoulders, she gets up, gives him a vicious look, and suddenly
stamps her foot on his toe with all her might.

BUILDER. [With a yowl of pain] You little devil!

MAUD. [Who has put the table between them] I won't stand being shaken.

BUILDER. [Staring at her across the table] You've got my temper up and
you'll take the consequences. I'll make you toe the line.

MAUD. If you knew what a Prussian expression you've got!

BUILDER passes his hand across his face uneasily, as if to wipe
something off.

No! It's too deep!

BUILDER. Are you my daughter or are you not?

MAUD. I certainly never wanted to be. I've always disliked you, father,
ever since I was so high. I've seen through you. Do you remember when
you used to come into the nursery because Jenny was pretty? You think we
didn't notice that, but we did. And in the schoolroom--Miss Tipton. And
d'you remember knocking our heads together? No, you don't; but we do.
And--

BUILDER. You disrespectful monkey! Will you be quiet?

MAUD. No; you've got to hear things. You don't really love anybody but
yourself, father. What's good for you has to be good for everybody.
I've often heard you talk about independence, but it's a limited company
and you've got all the shares.

BUILDER. Rot; only people who can support themselves have a right to
independence.

MAUD. That's why you don't want me to support myself.

BUILDER. You can't! Film, indeed! You'd be in the gutter in a year.
Athene's got her pittance, but you--you've got nothing.

MAUD. Except my face.

BUILDER. It's the face that brings women to ruin, my girl.

MAUD. Well, when I'm there I won't come to you to rescue me.

BUILDER. Now, mind--if you leave my house, I've done with you.

MAUD. I'd rather scrub floors now, than stay.

BUILDER. [Almost pathetically] Well, I'm damned! Look here, Maud--
all this has been temper. You got my monkey up. I'm sorry I shook you;
you've had your revenge on my toes. Now, come! Don't make things worse
for me than they are. You've all the liberty you can reasonably want
till you marry.

MAUD. He can't see it--he absolutely can't!

BUILDER. See what?

MAUD. That I want to live a life of my own.

He edges nearer to her, and she edges to keep her distance.

BUILDER. I don't know what's bitten you.

MAUD. The microbe of freedom; it's in the air.

BUILDER. Yes, and there it'll stay--that's the first sensible word
you've uttered. Now, come! Take your hat off, and let's be friends!

MAUD looks at him and slowly takes off her hat.

BUILDER. [Relaxing his attitude, with a sigh of relief] That's right!
[Crosses to fireplace].

MAUD. [Springing to the door leading to the hall] Good-bye, father!

BUILDER. [Following her] Monkey!

At the sound of a bolt shot, BUILDER goes up to the window. There
is a fumbling at the door, and CAMILLE appears.

BUILDER. What's the matter with that door? CAMILLE. It was bolted,
Monsieur.

BUILDER. Who bolted it?

CAMILLE. [Shrugging her shoulders] I can't tell, Monsieur.

She collects the cups, and halts close to him. [Softly] Monsieur
is not 'appy.

BUILDER. [Surprised] What? No! Who'd be happy in a household like
mine?

CAMILLE. But so strong a man--I wish I was a strong man, not a weak
woman.

BUILDER. [Regarding her with reluctant admiration] Why, what's the
matter with you?

CAMILLE. Will Monsieur have another glass of brandy before I take it?

BUILDER. No! Yes--I will.

She pours it out, and he drinks it, hands her the glass and sits
down suddenly in an armchair. CAMILLE puts the glass on a tray, and
looks for a box of matches from the mantelshelf.

CAMILLE. A light, Monsieur?

BUILDER. Please.

CAMILLE. [She trips over his feet and sinks on to his knee] Oh!
Monsieur!

BUILDER flames up and catches her in his arms

Oh! Monsieur--

BUILDER. You little devil!

She suddenly kisses him, and he returns the kiss. While they are
engaged in this entrancing occupation, MRS BUILDER opens the door
from the hall, watches unseen for a few seconds, and quietly goes
out again.

BUILDER. [Pushing her back from him, whether at the sound of the door or
of a still small voice] What am I doing?

CAMILLE. Kissing.

BUILDER. I--I forgot myself.

They rise.

CAMILLE. It was na-ice.

BUILDER. I didn't mean to. You go away--go away!

CAMILLE. Oh! Monsieur, that spoil it.

BUILDER. [Regarding her fixedly] It's my opinion you're a temptation of
the devil. You know you sat down on purpose.

CAMILLE. Well, perhaps.

BUILDER. What business had you to? I'm a family man.

CAMILLE. Yes. What a pity! But does it matter?

BUILDER. [Much beset] Look here, you know! This won't do! It won't
do! I--I've got my reputation to think of!

CAMILLE. So 'ave I! But there is lots of time to think of it in
between.

BUILDER. I knew you were dangerous. I always knew it.

CAMILLE. What a thing to say of a little woman!

BUILDER. We're not in Paris.

CAMILLE. [Clasping her hands] Oh! 'Ow I wish we was!

BUILDER. Look here--I can't stand this; you've got to go. Out with you!
I've always kept a firm hand on myself, and I'm not going to--

CAMILLE. But I admire you so!

BUILDER. Suppose my wife had come in?

CAMILLE. Oh! Don't suppose any such a disagreeable thing! If you were
not so strict, you would feel much 'appier.

BUILDER. [Staring at her] You're a temptress!

CAMILLE. I lofe pleasure, and I don't get any. And you 'ave such a
duty, you don't get any sport. Well, I am 'ere!

She stretches herself, and BUILDER utters a deep sound.

BUILDER. [On the edge of succumbing] It's all against my--I won't do
it! It's--it's wrong!

CAMILLE. Oh! La, la!

BUILDER. [Suddenly revolting] No! If you thought it a sin--I--might.
But you don't; you're nothing but a--a little heathen.

CAMILLE. Why should it be better if I thought it a sin?

BUILDER. Then--then I should know where I was. As it is--

CAMILLE. The English 'ave no idea of pleasure. They make it all so
coarse and virtuous.

BUILDER. Now, out you go before I--! Go on!

He goes over to the door and opens it. His wife is outside in a hat
and coat. She comes in.

[Stammering] Oh! Here you are--I wanted you.

CAMILLE, taking up the tray, goes out Left, swinging her hips a very
little.

BUILDER. Going out?

MRS BUILDER. Obviously.

BUILDER. Where?

MRS BUILDER. I don't know at present.

BUILDER. I wanted to talk to you about Maud.

MRS BUILDER. It must wait.

BUILDER. She's-she's actually gone and--

MRS BUILDER. I must tell you that I happened to look in a minute ago.

BUILDER. [In absolute dismay] You! You what?

MRS BUILDER. Yes. I will put no obstacle in the way of your pleasures.

BUILDER. [Aghast] Put no obstacle? What do you mean? Julia, how can
you say a thing like that? Why, I've only just--

MRS BUILDER. Don't! I saw.

BUILDER. The girl fell on my knees. Julia, she did. She's--she's a
little devil. I--I resisted her. I give you my word there's been
nothing beyond a kiss, under great provocation. I--I apologise.

MRS BUILDER. [Bows her head] Thank you! I quite understand. But you
must forgive my feeling it impossible to remain a wet blanket any longer.

BUILDER. What! Because of a little thing like that--all over in two
minutes, and I doing my utmost.

MRS BUILDER. My dear John, the fact that you had to do your utmost is
quite enough. I feel continually humiliated in your house, and I want to
leave it--quite quietly, without fuss of any kind.

BUILDER. But--my God! Julia, this is awful--it's absurd! How can you?
I'm your husband. Really--your saying you don't mind what I do--it's not
right; it's immoral!

MRS BUILDER. I'm afraid you don't see what goes on in those who live
with you. So, I'll just go. Don't bother!

BUILDER. Now, look here, Julia, you can't mean this seriously. You
can't! Think of my position! You've never set yourself up against me
before.

MRS BUILDER. But I do now.

BUILDER. [After staring at her] I've given you no real reason. I'll
send the girl away. You ought to thank me for resisting a temptation
that most men would have yielded to. After twenty-three years of married
life, to kick up like this--you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

MRS BUILDER. I'm sure you must think so.

BUILDER. Oh! for heaven's sake don't be sarcastic! You're my wife, and
there's an end of it; you've no legal excuse. Don't be absurd!

MRS BUILDER. Good-bye!

BUILDER. D'you realise that you're encouraging me to go wrong? That's a
pretty thing for a wife to do. You ought to keep your husband straight.

MRS BUILDER. How beautifully put!

BUILDER. [Almost pathetically] Don't rile me Julia! I've had an awful
day. First Athene--then Maud--then that girl--and now you! All at once
like this! Like a swarm of bees about one's head. [Pleading] Come,
now, Julia, don't be so--so im practicable! You'll make us the laughing-
stock of the whole town. A man in my position, and can't keep his own
family; it's preposterous!

MRS BUILDER. Your own family have lives and thoughts and feelings of
their own.

BUILDER. Oh! This damned Woman's business! I knew how it would be when
we gave you the vote. You and I are married, and our daughters are our
daughters. Come, Julia. Where's your commonsense? After twenty-three
years! You know I can't do without you!

MRS BUILDER. You could--quite easily. You can tell people what you
like.

BUILDER. My God! I never heard anything so immoral in all my life from
the mother of two grownup girls. No wonder they've turned out as they
have! What is it you want, for goodness sake?

MRS BUILDER. We just want to be away from you, that's all. I assure you
it's best. When you've shown some consideration for our feelings and
some real sign that we exist apart from you--we could be friends again--
perhaps--I don't know.

BUILDER. Friends! Good heavens! With one's own wife and daughters!
[With great earnestness] Now, look here, Julia, you haven't lived with
me all this time without knowing that I'm a man of strong passions; I've
been a faithful husband to you--yes, I have. And that means resisting
all sorts of temptations you know nothing of. If you withdraw from my
society I won't answer for the consequences. In fact, I can't have you
withdrawing. I'm not going to see myself going to the devil and losing
the good opinion of everybody round me. A bargain's a bargain. And
until I've broken my side of it, and I tell you I haven't--you've no
business to break yours. That's flat. So now, put all that out of your
head.

MRS BUILDER. No.

BUILDER. [Intently] D'you realise that I've supported you in luxury and
comfort?

MRS BUILDER. I think I've earned it.

BUILDER. And how do you propose to live? I shan't give you a penny.
Come, Julia, don't be such an idiot! Fancy letting a kiss which no man
could have helped, upset you like this!

MRS BUILDER. The Camille, and the last straw!

BUILDER. [Sharply] I won't have it. So now you know.

But MRS BUILDER has very swiftly gone.

Julia, I tell you-- [The outer door is heard being c1osed] Damnation!
I will not have it! They're all mad! Here--where's my hat?

He looks distractedly round him, wrenches open the door, and a
moment later the street door is heard to shut with a bang.

CURTAIN.

ACT III

SCENE I

Ten o'clock the following morning, in the study of the Mayor of
Breconridge, a panelled room with no window visible, a door Left
back and a door Right forward. The entire back wall is furnished
with books from floor to ceiling; the other walls are panelled and
bare. Before the fireplace, Left, are two armchairs, and other
chairs are against the walls. On the Right is a writing-bureau at
right angles to the footlights, with a chair behind it. At its back
corner stands HARRIS, telephoning.

HARRIS. What--[Pause] Well, it's infernally awkward, Sergeant. . . .
The Mayor's in a regular stew. . . . [Listens] New constable?
I should think so! Young fool! Look here, Martin, the only thing to do
is to hear the charge here at once. I've sent for Mr Chantrey; he's on
his way. Bring Mr Builder and the witnesses round sharp. See? And, I
say, for God's sake keep it dark. Don't let the Press get on to it. Why
you didn't let him go home--! Black eye? The constable? Well, serve
him right. Blundering young ass! I mean, it's undermining all
authority. . . . Well, you oughtn't--at least, I . . . Damn it
all!--it's a nine days' wonder if it gets out--! All right! As soon as
you can. [He hangs up the receiver, puts a second chair behind the
bureau, and other chairs facing it.] [To himself] Here's a mess! Johnny
Builder, of all men! What price Mayors!

The telephone rings.

Hallo? . . . Poaching charge? Well, bring him too; only, I say, keep
him back till the other's over. By the way, Mr Chantrey's going
shooting. He'll want to get off by eleven. What? . . Righto !

As he hangs up the receiver the MAYOR enters. He looks worried, and
is still dressed with the indefinable wrongness of a burgher.

MAYOR. Well, 'Arris?

HARRIS. They'll be over in five minutes, Mr Mayor.

MAYOR. Mr Chantrey?

HARRIS. On his way, sir.

MAYOR. I've had some awkward things to deal with in my time, 'Arris, but
this is just about the [Sniffs] limit.

HARRIS. Most uncomfortable, Sir; most uncomfortable!

MAYOR. Put a book on the chair, 'Arris; I like to sit 'igh.

HARRIS puts a volume of Eneyclopaedia on the Mayor's chair behind
the bureau.

[Deeply] Our fellow-magistrate! A family man! In my shoes next year.
I suppose he won't be, now. You can't keep these things dark.

HARRIS. I've warned Martin, sir, to use the utmost discretion. Here's
Mr Chantrey.

By the door Left, a pleasant and comely gentleman has entered,
dressed with indefinable rightness in shooting clothes.

MAYOR. Ah, Chantrey!

CHANTREY. How de do, Mr Mayor? [Nodding to HARRIS] This is
extraordinarily unpleasant.

The MAYOR nods.

What on earth's he been doing?

HARRIS. Assaulting one of his own daughters with a stick; and resisting
the police.

CHANTREY. [With a low whistle] Daughter! Charity begins at home.

HARRIS. There's a black eye.

MAYOR. Whose?

HARRIS. The constable's.

CHANTREY. How did the police come into it?

HARRIS. I don't know, sir. The worst of it is he's been at the police
station since four o'clock yesterday. The Superintendent's away, and
Martin never will take responsibility.

CHANTREY. By George! he will be mad. John Builder's a choleric fellow.

MAYOR. [Nodding] He is. 'Ot temper, and an 'igh sense of duty.

HARRIS. There's one other charge, Mr Mayor--poaching. I told them to
keep that back till after.

CHANTREY. Oh, well, we'll make short work of that. I want to get off by
eleven, Harris. I shall be late for the first drive anyway. John
Builder! I say, Mayor--but for the grace of God, there go we!

MAYOR. Harris, go out and bring them in yourself; don't let the
servants--

HARRIS goes out Left. The MAYOR takes the upper chair behind the
bureau, sitting rather higher because of the book than CHANTREY, who
takes the lower. Now that they are in the seats of justice, a sort
of reticence falls on them, as if they were afraid of giving away
their attitudes of mind to some unseen presence.

MAYOR. [Suddenly] H'm!

CHANTREY. Touch of frost. Birds ought to come well to the guns--no
wind. I like these October days.

MAYOR. I think I 'ear them. H'm.

CHANTREY drops his eyeglass and puts on a pair of "grandfather"
spectacles. The MAYOR clears his throat and takes up a pen. They
neither of them look up as the door is opened and a little
procession. files in. First HARRIS; then RALPH BUILDER, ATHENE,
HERRINGHAME, MAUD, MRS BUILDER, SERGEANT MARTIN, carrying a heavy
Malacca cane with a silver knob; JOHN BUILDER and the CONSTABLE
MOON, a young man with one black eye. No funeral was ever attended
by mutes so solemn and dejected. They stand in a sort of row.

MAYOR. [Without looking up] Sit down, ladies; sit down.

HARRIS and HERRINGHAME succeed in placing the three women in chairs.
RALPH BUILDER also sits. HERRINGHAME stands behind. JOHN BUILDER
remains standing between the two POLICEMEN. His face is unshaved
and menacing, but he stands erect staring straight at the MAYOR.
HARRIS goes to the side of the bureau, Back, to take down the
evidence.

MAYOR. Charges!

SERGEANT. John Builder, of The Cornerways, Breconridge, Contractor and
Justice of the Peace, charged with assaulting his daughter Maud Builder
by striking her with a stick in the presence of Constable Moon and two
other persons; also with resisting Constable Moon in the execution of his
duty, and injuring his eye. Constable Moon!

MOON. [Stepping forward-one, two--like an automaton, and saluting] In
River Road yesterday afternoon, Your Worship, about three-thirty p.m., I
was attracted by a young woman callin' "Constable" outside a courtyard.
On hearing the words "Follow me, quick," I followed her to a painter's
studio inside the courtyard, where I found three persons in the act of
disagreement. No sooner 'ad I appeared than the defendant, who was
engaged in draggin' a woman towards the door, turns to the young woman
who accompanied me, with violence. "You dare, father," she says;
whereupon he hit her twice with the stick the same which is produced, in
the presence of myself and the two other persons, which I'm given to
understand is his wife and other daughter.

MAYOR. Yes; never mind what you're given to understand.

MOON. No, sir. The party struck turns to me and says, "Come in. I give
this man in charge for assault." I moves accordingly with the words:
"I saw you. Come along with me." The defendant turns to me sharp and
says: "You stupid lout--I'm a magistrate." "Come off it," I says to the
best of my recollection. "You struck this woman in my presence," I says,
"and you come along!" We were then at close quarters. The defendant
gave me a push with the words: "Get out, you idiot!" "Not at all," I
replies, and took 'old of his arm. A struggle ensues, in the course of
which I receives the black eye which I herewith produce. [He touches his
eye with awful solemnity.]

The MAYOR clears his throat; CHANTREY'S eyes goggle; HARRIS bends
over and writes rapidly.

During the struggle, Your Worship, a young man has appeared on the scene,
and at the instigation of the young woman, the same who was assaulted,
assists me in securing the prisoner, whose language and resistance was
violent in the extreme. We placed him in a cab which we found outside,
and I conveyed him to the station.

CHANTREY. What was his--er--conduct in the--er--cab?

MOON. He sat quiet.

CHANTREY. That seems--

MOON. Seein' I had his further arm twisted behind him.

MAYOR [Looking at BUILDER] Any questions to ask him?

BUILDER makes not the faintest sign, and the MAYOR drops his glance.

MAYOR. Sergeant?

MOON steps back two paces, and the SERGEANT steps two paces forward.

SERGEANT. At ten minutes to four, Your Worship, yesterday afternoon,
Constable Moon brought the defendant to the station in a four-wheeled
cab. On his recounting the circumstances of the assault, they were
taken down and read over to the defendant with the usual warning. The
defendant said nothing. In view of the double assault and the condition
of the constable's eye, and in the absence of the Superintendent,
I thought it my duty to retain the defendant for the night.

MAYOR. The defendant said nothing?

SERGEANT. He 'as not opened his lips to my knowledge, Your Worship, from
that hour to this.

MAYOR. Any questions to ask the Sergeant?

BUILDER continues to stare at the MAYOR without a word.

MAYOR. Very well!

The MAYOR and CHANTREY now consult each other inaudibly, and the
Mayor nods.

MAYOR. Miss Maud Builder, will you tell us what you know of this--er--
occurrence?

MAUD. [Rising; with eyes turning here and there] Must I?

MAYOR. I'm afraid you must.

MAUD. [After a look at her father, who never turns his eyes from the
MAYOR's face] I--I wish to withdraw the charge of striking me, please.
I--I never meant to make it. I was in a temper--I saw red.

MAYOR. I see. A--a domestic disagreement. Very well, that charge is
withdrawn. You do not appear to have been hurt, and that seems to me
quite proper. Now, tell me what you know of the assault on the
constable. Is his account correct?

MAUD. [Timidly] Ye-yes. Only--

MAYOR. Yes? Tell us the truth.

MAUD. [Resolutely] Only, I don't think my father hit the constable.
I think the stick did that.

MAYOR. Oh, the stick? But--er--the stick was in 'is 'and, wasn't it?

MAUD. Yes; but I mean, my father saw red, and the constable saw red, and
the stick flew up between them and hit him in the eye.

CHANTREY. And then he saw black?

MAYOR. [With corrective severity] But did 'e 'it 'im with the stick?

MAUD. No--no. I don't think he did.

MAYOR. Then who supplied the--er--momentum?

MAUD. I think there was a struggle for the cane, and it flew up.

MAYOR. Hand up the cane.

The SERGEANT hands up the cane. The MAYOR and CHANTREY examine it.
MAYOR. Which end--do you suggest--inflicted this injury?

MAUD. Oh! the knob end, sir.

MAYOR. What do you say to that, constable?

MOON. [Stepping the mechanical two paces] I don't deny there was a
struggle, Your Worship, but it's my impression I was 'it.

CHANTREY. Of course you were bit; we can see that. But with the cane or
with the fist?

MOON. [A little flurried] I--I--with the fist, sir.

MAYOR. Be careful. Will you swear to that?

MOON. [With that sudden uncertainty which comes over the most honest in
such circumstances] Not--not so to speak in black and white, Your
Worship; but that was my idea at the time.

MAYOR. You won't swear to it?

MOON. I'll swear he called me an idiot and a lout; the words made a deep
impression on me.

CHANTREY. [To himself] Mort aux vaches!

MAYOR. Eh? That'll do, constable; stand back. Now, who else saw the
struggle? Mrs Builder. You're not obliged to say anything unless you
like. That's your privilege as his wife.

While he is speaking the door has been opened, and HARRIS has gone
swiftly to it, spoken to someone and returned. He leans forward to
the MAYOR.

Eh? Wait a minute. Mrs Builder, do you wish to give evidence?

MRS BUILDER. [Rising] No, Mr Mayor.

MRS BUILDER Sits.

MAYOR. Very good. [To HARRIS] Now then, what is it?

HARRIS says something in a low and concerned voice. The MAYOR'S face
lengthens. He leans to his right and consults CHANTREY, who gives a
faint and deprecating shrug. A moment's silence.

MAYOR. This is an open Court. The Press have the right to attend if
they wish.

HARRIS goes to the door and admits a young man in glasses, of a
pleasant appearance, and indicates to him a chair at the back. At
this untimely happening BUILDER's eyes have moved from side to side,
but now he regains his intent and bull-like stare at his fellow-
justices.

MAYOR. [To Maud] You can sit down, Miss Builder.

MAUD resumes her seat.

Miss Athene Builder, you were present, I think?

ATHENE. [Rising] Yes, Sir.

MAYOR. What do you say to this matter?

ATHENE. I didn't see anything very clearly, but I think my sister's
account is correct, sir.

MAYOR. Is it your impression that the cane inflicted the injury?

ATHENE. [In a low voice] Yes.

MAYOR. With or without deliberate intent?

ATHENE. Oh! without.

BUILDER looks at her.

MAYOR. But you were not in a position to see very well?

ATHENE. No, Sir.

MAYOR. Your sister having withdrawn her charge, we needn't go into that.
Very good!

He motions her to sit down. ATHENE, turning her eyes on her
Father's impassive figure, sits.

MAYOR. Now, there was a young man. [Pointing to HERRINGHAME] Is this
the young man?

MOON. Yes, Your Worship.

MAYOR. What's your name?

GUY. Guy Herringhame.

MAYOR. Address?

GUY. Er--the Aerodrome, Sir. MAYOR. Private, I mean?

The moment is one of considerable tension.

GUY. [With an effort] At the moment, sir, I haven't one. I've just
left my diggings, and haven't yet got any others.

MAYOR. H'm! The Aerodrome. How did you come to be present?

GUY. I--er

BUILDER's eyes go round and rest on him for a moment.

It's in my sister's studio that Miss Athene Builder is at present
working, sir. I just happened to--to turn up.

MAYOR. Did you appear on the scene, as the constable says, during the
struggle?

GUY. Yes, sir.

MAYOR. Did he summon you to his aid?

GUY. Yes--No, sir. Miss Maud Builder did that.

MAYOR. What do you say to this blow?

GUY. [Jerking his chin up a little] Oh! I saw that clearly.

MAYOR. Well, let us hear.

GUY. The constable's arm struck the cane violently and it flew up and
landed him in the eye.

MAYOR. [With a little grunt] You are sure of that?

GUY. Quite sure, sir.

MAYOR. Did you hear any language?

GUY. Nothing out of the ordinary, sir. One or two damns and blasts.

MAYOR. You call that ordinary?

GUY. Well, he's a--magistrate, sir.

The MAYOR utters a profound grunt. CHANTREY smiles. There is a
silence. Then the MAYOR leans over to CHANTREY for a short
colloquy.

CHANTREY. Did you witness any particular violence other than a
resistance to arrest?

GUY. No, sir.

MAYOR. [With a gesture of dismissal] Very well, That seems to be the
evidence. Defendant John Builder--what do you say to all this?

BUILDER. [In a voice different from any we have heard from him] Say!
What business had he to touch me, a magistrate? I gave my daughter two
taps with a cane in a private house, for interfering with me for taking
my wife home--

MAYOR. That charge is not pressed, and we can't go into the
circumstances. What do you wish to say about your conduct towards
the constable?

BUILDER. [In his throat] Not a damned thing!

MAYOR. [Embarrassed] I--I didn't catch.

CHANTREY. Nothing--nothing, he said, Mr Mayor.

MAYOR. [Clearing his throat] I understand, then, that you do not wish to
offer any explanation?

BUILDER. I consider myself abominably treated, and I refuse to say
another word.

MAYOR. [Drily] Very good. Miss Maud Builder.

MAUD stands up.

MAYOR. When you spoke of the defendant seeing red, what exactly did you
mean?

MAUD. I mean that my father was so angry that he didn't know what he was
doing.

CHANTREY. Would you say as angry as he--er--is now?

MAUD. [With a faint smile] Oh! much more angry.

RALPH BUILDER stands up.

RALPH. Would you allow me to say a word, Mr Mayor?

MAYOR. Speaking of your own knowledge, Mr Builder?

RALPH. In regard to the state of my brother's mind--yes, Mr Mayor. He
was undoubtedly under great strain yesterday; certain circumstances,
domestic and otherwise--

MAYOR. You mean that he might have been, as one might say, beside
himself?

RALPH. Exactly, Sir.

MAYOR. Had you seen your brother?

RALPH. I had seen him shortly before this unhappy business.

The MAYOR nods and makes a gesture, so that MAUD and RALPH sit down;
then, leaning over, he confers in a low voice with CHANTREY. The
rest all sit or stand exactly as if each was the only person in the
room, except the JOURNALIST, who is writing busily and rather
obviously making a sketch of BUILDER.

MAYOR. Miss Athene Builder.

ATHENE stands up.

This young man, Mr Herringhame, I take it, is a friend of the family's?

A moment of some tension.

ATHENE. N--no, Mr Mayor, not of my father or mother.

CHANTREY. An acquaintance of yours?

ATHENE. Yes.

MAYOR. Very good. [He clears his throat] As the defendant, wrongly, we
think, refuses to offer his explanation of this matter, the Bench has to
decide on the evidence as given. There seems to be some discrepancy as
to the blow which the constable undoubtedly received. In view of this,
we incline to take the testimony of Mr--

HARRIS prompts him.

Mr 'Erringhame--as the party least implicated personally in the affair,
and most likely to 'ave a cool and impartial view. That evidence is to
the effect that the blow was accidental. There is no doubt, however,
that the defendant used reprehensible language, and offered some
resistance to the constable in the execution of his duty. Evidence 'as
been offered that he was in an excited state of mind; and it is possible
--I don't say that this is any palliation--but it is possible that he may
have thought his position as magistrate made him--er--

CHANTREY. [Prompting] Caesar's wife.

MAYOR. Eh? We think, considering all the circumstances, and the fact
that he has spent a night in a cell, that justice will be met by--er--
discharging him with a caution.

BUILDER. [With a deeply muttered] The devil you do!

Walks out of the room. The JOURNALIST, grabbing his pad, starts up
and follows. The BUILDERS rise and huddle, and, with HERRINGHAME,
are ushered out by HARRIS.

MAYOR. [Pulling out a large handkerchief and wiping his forehead]
My Aunt!

CHANTREY. These new constables, Mayor! I say, Builder'll have to go!
Damn the Press, how they nose everything out! The Great Unpaid!--
We shall get it again! [He suddenly goes off into a fit of laughter]
"Come off it," I says, "to the best of my recollection." Oh! Oh!
I shan't hit a bird all day! That poor devil Builder! It's no joke for
him. You did it well, Mayor; you did it well. British justice is safe
in your hands. He blacked the fellow's eye all right. "Which I herewith
produce." Oh! my golly! It beats the band!

His uncontrollable laughter and the MAYOR'S rueful appreciation are
exchanged with lightning rapidity for a preternatural solemnity, as
the door opens, admitting SERGEANT MARTIN and the lugubrious object
of their next attentions.

MAYOR. Charges.

SERGEANT steps forward to read the charge as

The CURTAIN falls.

SCENE II

Noon the same day.

BUILDER'S study. TOPPING is standing by the open window, looking up
and down the street. A newspaper boy's voice is heard calling the
first edition of his wares. It approaches from the Right.

TOPPING. Here!

BOY'S VOICE. Right, guv'nor! Johnny Builder up before the beaks!
[A paper is pushed up].

TOPPING. [Extending a penny] What's that you're sayin'? You take care!

BOY'S VOICE. It's all 'ere. Johnny Builder--beatin' his wife!
Dischawged.

TOPPING. Stop it, you young limb!

BOY'S VOICE. 'Allo! What's the matter wiv you? Why, it's Johnny
Builder's house! [Gives a cat-call] 'Ere, buy anuvver! 'E'll want to
read about 'isself. [Appealing] Buy anuvver, guv'nor!

TOPPING. Move on!

He retreats from the window, opening the paper.

BOY'S VOICE. [Receding] Payper! First edition! J.P. chawged! Payper!

TOPPING. [To himself as he reads] Crimes! Phew! That accounts for them
bein' away all night.

While he is reading, CAMILLE enters from the hall. Here! Have you
seen this, Camel--in the Stop Press?

CAMILLE. No.

They read eagerly side by side.

TOPPING. [Finishing aloud] "Tried to prevent her father from forcing her
mother to return home with him, and he struck her for so doing. She did
not press the charge. The arrested gentleman, who said he acted under
great provocation, was discharged with a caution." Well, I'm blowed!
He has gone and done it!

CAMILLE. A black eye!

TOPPING. [Gazing at her] Have you had any hand in this? I've seen you
making your lovely black eyes at him. You foreigners--you're a loose
lot!

CAMILLE. You are drunk!

TOPPING. Not yet, my dear. [Reverting to the paper; philosophically]
Well, this little lot's bust up! The favourites will fall down. Johnny
Builder! Who'd have thought it?

CAMILLE. He is an obstinate man.

TOPPING. Ah! He's right up against it now. Comes of not knowin' when
to stop bein' firm. If you meet a wall with your 'ead, it's any odds on
the wall, Camel. Though, if you listened to some, you wouldn't think it.
What'll he do now, I wonder? Any news of the mistress?

CAMILLE. [Shaking her head] I have pack her tr-runks.

TOPPING. Why?

CAMILLE. Because she take her jewels yesterday.

TOPPING. Deuce she did! They generally leave 'em. Take back yer gifts!
She throws the baubles at 'is 'ead. [Again staring at her] You're a
deep one, you know!

There is the sound of a cab stopping.

Wonder if that's him! [He goes towards the hall. CAMILLE watchfully
shifts towards the diningroom door. MAUD enters.]

MAUD. Is my father back, Topping?

TOPPING. Not yet, Miss.

MAUD. I've come for mother's things.

CAMILLE. They are r-ready.

MAUD. [Eyeing her] Topping, get them down, please.

TOPPING, after a look at them both, goes out into the hall.

Very clever of you to have got them ready.

CAMILLE. I am clevare.

MAUD. [Almost to herself] Yes--father may, and he may not.

CAMILLE. Look! If you think I am a designing woman, you are mistook.
I know when things are too 'ot. I am not sorry to go.

MAUD. Oh! you are going?

CAMILLE. Yes, I am going. How can I stay when there is no lady in the
'ouse?

MAUD. Not even if you're asked to?

CAMILLE. Who will ask me?

MAUD. That we shall see.

CAMILLE. Well, you will see I have an opinion of my own.

MAUD. Oh! yes, you're clear-headed enough.

CAMILLE. I am not arguing. Good-morning!

Exits up Left.

MAUD regards her stolidly as she goes out into the dining-room, then
takes up the paper and reads.

MAUD. Horrible!

TOPPING re-enters from the hall.

TOPPING. I've got 'em on the cab, Miss. I didn't put your ten bob on
yesterday, because the animal finished last. You cant depend on horses.

MAUD. [Touching the newspaper] This is a frightful business, Topping.

TOPPING. Ah! However did it happen, Miss Maud?

MAUD. [Tapping the newspaper] It's all true. He came after my mother
to Miss Athene's, and I--I couldn't stand it. I did what it says here;
and now I'm sorry. Mother's dreadfully upset. You know father as well
as anyone, Topping; what do you think he'll do now?

TOPPING. [Sucking in his cheeks] Well, you see, Miss, it's like this:
Up to now Mr Builder's always had the respect of everybody--

MAUD moves her head impatiently.

outside his own house, of course. Well, now he hasn't got it.
Pishchologically that's bound to touch him.

MAUD. Of course; but which way? Will he throw up the sponge, or try and
stick it out here?

TOPPING. He won't throw up the sponge, Miss; more likely to squeeze it
down the back of their necks.

MAUD. He'll be asked to resign, of course.

The NEWSPAPER BOY'S VOICE is heard again approaching: "First
edition! Great sensation! Local magistrate before the Bench!
Pay-per!"

Oh, dear! I wish I hadn't! But I couldn't see mother being--

TOPPING. Don't you fret, Miss; he'll come through. His jaw's above his
brow, as you might say.

MAUD. What?

TOPPING. [Nodding] Phreenology, Miss. I rather follow that. When the
jaw's big and the brow is small, it's a sign of character. I always
think the master might have been a Scotchman, except for his fishionomy.

MAUD. A Scotsman?

TOPPING. So down on anything soft, Miss. Haven't you noticed whenever
one of these 'Umanitarians writes to the papers, there's always a
Scotchman after him next morning. Seems to be a fact of 'uman nature,
like introducin' rabbits into a new country and then weasels to get rid
of 'em. And then something to keep down the weasels. But I never can
see what could keep down a Scotchman! You seem to reach the hapex there!

MAUD. Miss Athene was married this morning, Topping. We've just come
from the Registrar's.

TOPPING. [Immovably] Indeed, Miss. I thought perhaps she was about to
be.

MAUD. Oh!

TOPPING. Comin' events. I saw the shadder yesterday.

MAUD. Well, it's all right. She's coming on here with my uncle.

A cab is heard driving up.

That's them, I expect. We all feel awful about father.

TOPPING. Ah! I shouldn't be surprised if he feels awful about you,
Miss.

MAUD. [At the window] It is them.

TOPPING goes out into the hall; ATHENE and RALPH enter Right.

MAUD. Where's father, Uncle Ralph?

RALPH. With his solicitor.

ATHENE. We left Guy with mother at the studio. She still thinks she
ought to come. She keeps on saying she must, now father's in a hole.

MAUD. I've got her things on the cab; she ought to be perfectly free to
choose.

RALPH. You've got freedom on the brain, Maud.

MAUD. So would you, Uncle Ralph, if you had father about.

RALPH. I'm his partner, my dear.

MAUD. Yes; how do you manage him?

RALPH. I've never yet given him in charge.

ATHENE. What do you do, Uncle Ralph?

RALPH. Undermine him when I can.

MAUD. And when you can't?

RALPH. Undermine the other fellow. You can't go to those movie people
now, Maud. They'd star you as the celebrated Maud Builder who gave her
father into custody. Come to us instead, and have perfect freedom, till
all this blows over.

MAUD. Oh! what will father be like now?

ATHENE. It's so queer you and he being brothers, Uncle Ralph.

RALPH. There are two sides to every coin, my dear. John's the head-and
I'm the tail. He has the sterling qualities. Now, you girls have got to
smooth him down, and make up to him. You've tried him pretty high.

MAUD. [Stubbornly] I never wanted him for a father, Uncle.

RALPH. They do wonderful things nowadays with inherited trouble. Come,
are you going to be nice to him, both of you?

ATHENE. We're going to try.

RALPH. Good! I don't even now understand how it happened.

MAUD. When you went out with Guy, it wasn't three minutes before he
came. Mother had just told us about--well, about something beastly.
Father wanted us to go, and we agreed to go out for five minutes while he
talked to mother. We went, and when we came back he told me to get a cab
to take mother home. Poor mother stood there looking like a ghost, and
he began hunting and hauling her towards the door. I saw red, and
instead of a cab I fetched that policeman. Of course father did black
his eye. Guy was splendid.

ATHENE. You gave him the lead.

MAUD. I couldn't help it, seeing father standing there all dumb.

ATHENE. It was awful! Uncle, why didn't you come back with Guy?

MAUD. Oh, yes! why didn't you, Uncle?

ATHENE. When Maud had gone for the cab, I warned him not to use force.
I told him it was against the law, but he only said: "The law be damned!"

RALPH. Well, it all sounds pretty undignified.

MAUD. Yes; everybody saw red.

They have not seen the door opened from the hall, and BUILDER
standing there. He is still unshaven, a little sunken in the face,
with a glum, glowering expression. He has a document in his hand.
He advances a step or two and they see him.

ATHENE and MAUD. [Aghast] Father!

BUILDER. Ralph, oblige me! See them off the premises!

RALPH. Steady, John!

BUILDER. Go!

MAUD. [Proudly] All right! We thought you might like to know that
Athene's married, and that I've given up the movies. Now we'll go.

BUILDER turns his back on them, and, sitting down at his writing-
table, writes.

After a moment's whispered conversation with their Uncle, the two
girls go out.

RALPH BUILDER stands gazing with whimsical commiseration at his
brother's back. As BUILDER finishes writing, he goes up and puts
his hand on his brother's shoulder.

RALPH. This is an awful jar, old man!

BUILDER. Here's what I've said to that fellow: "MR MAYOR,--You had the
effrontery to-day to discharge me with a caution--forsooth!--your fellow
--magistrate. I've consulted my solicitor as to whether an action will
lie for false imprisonment. I'm informed that it won't. I take this
opportunity of saying that justice in this town is a travesty. I have no
wish to be associated further with you or your fellows; but you are
vastly mistaken if you imagine that I shall resign my position on the
Bench or the Town Council.--Yours,
"JOHN BUILDER."

RALPH. I say--keep your sense of humour, old boy.

BUILDER. [Grimly] Humour? I've spent a night in a cell. See this!
[He holds out the document] It disinherits my family.

RALPH. John!

BUILDER. I've done with those two ladies. As to my wife--if she doesn't
come back--! When I suffer, I make others suffer.

RALPH. Julia's very upset, my dear fellow; we all are. The girls came
here to try and--

BUILDER. [Rising] They may go to hell! If that lousy Mayor thinks I'm
done with--he's mistaken! [He rings the bell] I don't want any soft
sawder. I'm a fighter.

RALPH. [In a low voice] The enemy stands within the gate, old chap.

BUILDER. What's that?

RALPH. Let's boss our own natures before we boss those of other people.
Have a sleep on it, John, before you do anything.

BUILDER. Sleep? I hadn't a wink last night. If you'd passed the night
I had--

RALPH. I hadn't many myself.

TOPPING enters.

BUILDER. Take this note to the Mayor with my compliments, and don't
bring back an answer. TOPPING. Very good, sir. There's a gentleman
from the "Comet" in the hall, sir. Would you see him for a minute, he
says.

BUILDER. Tell him to go to--

A voice says, "Mr Builder!" BUILDER turns to see the figure of the
JOURNALIST in the hall doorway. TOPPING goes out.

JOURNALIST. [Advancing with his card] Mr Builder, it's very good of you
to see me. I had the pleasure this morning--I mean--I tried to reach you
when you left the Mayor's. I thought you would probably have your own
side of this unfortunate matter. We shall be glad to give it every
prominence.

TOPPING has withdrawn, and RALPH BUILDER, at the window, stands
listening.

BUILDER. [Drily, regarding the JOURNALIST, who has spoken in a pleasant
and polite voice] Very good of you!

JOURNALIST. Not at all, sir. We felt that you would almost certainly
have good reasons of your own which would put the matter in quite a
different light.

BUILDER. Good reasons? I should think so! I tell you--a very little
more of this liberty--licence I call it--and there isn't a man who'll be
able to call himself head of a family.

JOURNALIST. [Encouragingly] Quite!

BUILDER. If the law thinks it can back up revolt, it's damned well
mistaken. I struck my daughter--I was in a passion, as you would have
been.

JOURNALIST. [Encouraging] I'm sure--

BUILDER. [Glaring at him] Well, I don't know that you would; you look a
soft sort; but any man with any blood in him.

JOURNALIST. Can one ask what she was doing, sir? We couldn't get that
point quite clear.

BUILDER. Doing? I just had my arm round my wife, trying to induce her
to come home with me after a little family tiff, and this girl came at
me. I lost my temper, and tapped her with my cane. And--that policeman
brought by my own daughter--a policeman! If the law is going to enter
private houses and abrogate domestic authority, where the hell shall we
be?

JOURNALIST. [Encouraging] No, I'm sure--I'm sure!

BUILDER. The maudlin sentimentality in these days is absolutely rotting
this country. A man can't be master in his own house, can't require his
wife to fulfil her duties, can't attempt to control the conduct of his
daughters, without coming up against it and incurring odium. A man can't
control his employees; he can't put his foot down on rebellion anywhere,
without a lot of humanitarians and licence-lovers howling at him.

JOURNALIST. Excellent, Sir; excellent!

BUILDER. Excellent? It's damnable. Here am I--a man who's always tried
to do his duty in private life and public--brought up before the Bench--
my God! because I was doing that duty; with a little too much zeal,
perhaps--I'm not an angel!

JOURNALIST. No! No! of course.

BUILDER. A proper Englishman never is. But there are no proper
Englishmen nowadays.

He crosses the room in his fervour.

RALPH. [Suddenly] As I look at faces--

BUILDER. [Absorbed] What! I told this young man I wasn't an angel.

JOURNALIST. [Drawing him on] Yes, Sir; I quite understand.

BUILDER. If the law thinks it can force me to be one of your weak-kneed
sentimentalists who let everybody do what they like--

RALPH. There are a good many who stand on their rights left, John.

BUILDER. [Absorbed] What! How can men stand on their rights left?

JOURNALIST. I'm afraid you had a painful experience, sir.

BUILDER. Every kind of humiliation. I spent the night in a stinking
cell. I haven't eaten since breakfast yesterday. Did they think I was
going to eat the muck they shoved in? And all because in a moment of
anger--which I regret, I regret!--I happened to strike my daughter, who
was interfering between me and my wife. The thing would be funny if it
weren't so disgusting. A man's house used to be sanctuary. What is it
now? With all the world poking their noses in?

He stands before the fire with his head bent, excluding as it were his
interviewer and all the world.

JOURNALIST. [Preparing to go] Thank you very much, Mr Builder. I'm
sure I can do you justice. Would you like to see a proof?

BUILDER. [Half conscious of him] What?

JOURNALIST. Or will you trust me?

BUILDER. I wouldn't trust you a yard.

JOURNALIST. [At the door] Very well, sir; you shall have a proof, I
promise. Good afternoon, and thank you.

BUILDER. Here!

But he is gone, and BUILDER is left staring at his brother, on whose
face is still that look of whimsical commiseration.

RALPH. Take a pull, old man! Have a hot bath and go to bed.

BUILDER. They've chosen to drive me to extremes, now let them take the
consequences. I don't care a kick what anybody thinks.

RALPH. [Sadly] Well, I won't worry you anymore, now.

BUILDER. [With a nasty laugh] No; come again to-morrow!

RALPH. When you've had a sleep. For the sake of the family name, John,
don't be hasty.

BUILDER. Shut the stable door? No, my boy, the horse has gone.

RALPH. Well, Well!

With a lingering look at his brother, who has sat down sullenly at
the writing table, he goes out into the hall.

BUILDER remains staring in front of him. The dining-room door
opens, and CAMILLE's head is thrust in. Seeing him, she draws back,
but he catches sight of her.

BUILDER. Here!

CAMILLE comes doubtfully up to the writing table. Her forehead is
puckered as if she were thinking hard.

BUILDER. [Looking at her, unsmiling] So you want to be my mistress,
do you?

CAMILLE makes a nervous gesture.

Well, you shall. Come here.

CAMILLE. [Not moving] You f--frighten me.

BUILDER. I've paid a pretty price for you. But you'll make up for it;
you and others.

CAMILLE. [Starting back] No; I don't like you to-day! No!

BUILDER. Come along! [She is just within reach and he seizes her arm]
All my married life I've put a curb on myself for the sake of
respectability. I've been a man of principle, my girl, as you saw
yesterday. Well, they don't want that! [He draws her close] You can sit
on my knee now.

CAMILLE. [Shrinking] No; I don't want to, to-day.

BUILDER. But you shall. They've asked for it!

CAMILLE. [With a supple movement slipping away from him] They? What is
all that? I don't want any trouble. No, no; I am not taking any.

She moves back towards the door. BUILDER utters a sardonic laugh.

Oh! you are a dangerous man! No, no! Not for me! Good-bye, sare!

She turns swiftly and goes out. BUILDER again utters his glum
laugh. And then, as he sits alone staring before him, perfect
silence reigns in the room. Over the window-sill behind him a BOY'S
face is seen to rise; it hangs there a moment with a grin spreading
on it.

BOY'S VOICE. [Sotto] Johnny Builder!

As BUILDER turns sharply, it vanishes.

'Oo beat 'is wife?

BUILDER rushes to the window.

BOY'S VOICE. [More distant and a little tentative] Johnny Builder!

BUILDER. You little devil! If I catch you, I'll wring your blasted
little neck!

BOY'S VOICE. [A little distant] 'Oo blacked the copper's eye?

BUILDER, in an ungovernable passion, seizes a small flower-pot from
the sill and dings it with all his force. The sound of a crash.

BOY'S VOICE. [Very distant] Ya-a-ah! Missed!

BUILDER stands leaning out, face injected with blood, shaking his
fist.

The CURTAIN falls for a few seconds.

SCENE III

Evening the same day.

BUILDER's study is dim and neglected-looking; the window is still
open, though it has become night. A street lamp outside shines in,
and the end of its rays fall on BUILDER asleep. He is sitting in a
high chair at the fireside end of the writing-table, with his elbows
on it, and his cheek resting on his hand. He is still unshaven, and
his clothes unchanged. A Boy's head appears above the level of the
window-sill, as if beheaded and fastened there.

BOY'S VOICE. [In a forceful whisper] Johnny Builder!

BUILDER stirs uneasily. The Boy's head vanishes. BUILDER, raising
his other hand, makes a sweep before his face, as if to brush away a
mosquito. He wakes. Takes in remembrance, and sits a moment
staring gloomily before him. The door from the hall is opened and
TOPPING comes in with a long envelope in his hand.

TOPPING. [Approaching] From the "Comet," sir. Proof of your interview,
sir; will you please revise, the messenger says; he wants to take it back
at once.

BUILDER. [Taking it] All right. I'll ring.

TOPPING. Shall I close in, sir?

BUILDER. Not now.

TOPPING withdraws. BUILDER turns up a standard lamp on the table,
opens the envelope, and begins reading the galley slip. The signs
of uneasiness and discomfort grow on him.

BUILDER. Did I say that? Muck! Muck! [He drops the proof, sits a
moment moving his head and rubbing one hand uneasily on the surface of
the table, then reaches out for the telephone receiver] Town, 245.
[Pause] The "Comet"? John Builder. Give me the Editor. [Pause] That
you, Mr Editor? John Builder speaking. That interview. I've got the
proof. It won't do. Scrap the whole thing, please. I don't want to say
anything. [Pause] Yes. I know I said it all; I can't help that.
[Pause] No; I've changed my mind. Scrap it, please. [Pause] No,
I will not say anything. [Pause] You can say what you dam' well please.
[Pause] I mean it; if you put a word into my mouth, I'll sue you for
defamation of character. It's undignified muck. I'm tearing it up.
Good-night. [He replaces the receiver, and touches a bell; then, taking
up the galley slip, he tears it viciously across into many pieces, and
rams them into the envelope.]

TOPPING enters.

Here, give this to the messenger-sharp, and tell him to run with it.

TOPPING. [Whose hand can feel the condition of the contents, with a
certain surprise] Yes, sir.

He goes, with a look back from the door.

The Mayor is here, sir. I don't know whether you would wish

BUILDER, rising, takes a turn up and down the room.

BUILDER. Nor do I. Yes! I'll see him.

TOPPING goes out, and BUILDER stands over by the fender, with his
head a little down.

TOPPING. [Re-entering] The Mayor, sir.

He retires up Left. The MAYOR is overcoated, and carries, of all
things, a top hat. He reaches the centre of the room before he
speaks.

MAYOR. [Embarrassed] Well, Builder?

BUILDER. Well?

MAYOR. Come! That caution of mine was quite parliamentary. I 'ad to
save face, you know.

BUILDER. And what about my face?

MAYOR. Well, you--you made it difficult for me. 'Ang it all! Put
yourself into my place!

BUILDER. [Grimly] I'd rather put you into mine, as it was last night.

MAYOR. Yes, yes! I know; but the Bench has got a name to keep up--must
stand well in the people's eyes. As it is, I sailed very near the wind.
Suppose we had an ordinary person up before us for striking a woman?

BUILDER. I didn't strike a woman--I struck my daughter.

MAYOR. Well, but she's not a child, you know. And you did resist the
police, if no worse. Come! You'd have been the first to maintain
British justice. Shake 'ands!

BUILDER. Is that what you came for?

MAYOR. [Taken aback] Why--yes; nobody can be more sorry than I--

BUILDER. Eye-wash! You came to beg me to resign.

MAYOR. Well, it's precious awkward, Builder. We all feel--

BUILDER. Save your powder, Mayor. I've slept on it since I wrote you
that note. Take my resignations.

MAYOR. [In relieved embarrassment] That's right. We must face your
position.

BUILDER. [With a touch of grim humour] I never yet met a man who
couldn't face another man's position.

MAYOR. After all, what is it?

BUILDER. Splendid isolation. No wife, no daughters, no Councillorship,
no Magistracy, no future--[With a laugh] not even a French maid. And
why? Because I tried to exercise a little wholesome family authority.
That's the position you're facing, Mayor.

MAYOR. Dear, dear! You're devilish bitter, Builder. It's unfortunate,
this publicity. But it'll all blow over; and you'll be back where you
were. You've a good sound practical sense underneath your temper. [A
pause] Come, now! [A pause] Well, I'll say good-night, then.

BUILDER. You shall have them in writing tomorrow.

MAYOR. [With sincerity] Come! Shake 'ands.

BUILDER, after a long look, holds out his hand. The two men exchange a
grip.

The MAYOR, turning abruptly, goes out.

BUILDER remains motionless for a minute, then resumes his seat at
the side of the writing table, leaning his head on his hands.

The Boy's head is again seen rising above the level of the window-
sill, and another and another follows, till the three, as if
decapitated, heads are seen in a row.

BOYS' VOICES. [One after another in a whispered crescendo] Johnny
Builder! Johnny Builder! Johnny Builder!

BUILDER rises, turns and stares at them. The THREE HEADS disappear,
and a Boy's voice cries shrilly: "Johnny Builder!" BUILDER moves
towards the window; voices are now crying in various pitches and
keys: "Johnny Builder!" "Beatey Builder!" "Beat 'is wife-er!"
"Beatey Builder!"

BUILDER stands quite motionless, staring, with the street lamp
lighting up a queer, rather pitiful defiance on his face. The
voices swell. There comes a sudden swish and splash of water, and
broken yells of dismay.

TOPPING'S VOICE. Scat! you young devils!

The sound of scuffling feet and a long-drawnout and distant
"Miaou!"

BUILDER stirs, shuts the window, draws the curtains, goes to the
armchair before the fireplace and sits down in it.

TOPPING enters with a little tray on which is a steaming jug of
fluid, some biscuits and a glass. He comes stealthily up level with
the chair. BUILDER stirs and looks up at him.

TOPPING. Excuse me, sir, you must 'ave digested yesterday morning's
breakfast by now--must live to eat, sir.

BUILDER. All right. Put it down.

TOPPING. [Putting the tray down on the table and taking up BUILDER'S
pipe] I fair copped those young devils.

BUILDER. You're a good fellow.

TOPPING. [Filling the pipe] You'll excuse me, sir; the Missis--has come
back, sir--

BUILDER stares at him and TOPPING stops. He hands BUILDER the
filled pipe and a box of matches.

BUILDER. [With a shiver] Light the fire, Topping. I'm chilly.

While TOPPING lights the fire BUILDER puts the pipe in his mouth and
applies a match to it. TOPPING, having lighted the fire, turns to
go, gets as far as half way, then comes back level with the table
and regards the silent brooding figure in the chair.

BUILDER. [Suddenly] Give me that paper on the table. No; the other
one--the Will.

TOPPING takes up the Will and gives it to him.

TOPPING. [With much hesitation] Excuse me, sir. It's pluck that get's
'em 'ome, sir--begging your pardon.

BUILDER has resumed his attitude and does not answer.

[In a voice just touched with feeling] Good-night, sir.

BUILDER. [Without turning his head] Good-night.

TOPPING has gone. BUILDER sits drawing at his pipe between the
firelight and the light from the standard lamp. He takes the pipe
out of his mouth and a quiver passes over his face. With a half
angry gesture he rubs the back of his hand across his eyes.

BUILDER. [To himself] Pluck! Pluck! [His lips quiver again. He
presses them hard together, puts his pipe back into his mouth, and,
taking the Will, thrusts it into the newly-lighted fire and holds it
there with a poker.]

While he is doing this the door from the hall is opened quietly, and
MRS BUILDER enters without his hearing her. She has a work bag in
her hand. She moves slowly to the table, and stands looking at him.
Then going up to the curtains she mechanically adjusts them, and
still keeping her eyes on BUILDER, comes down to the table and pours
out his usual glass of whisky toddy. BUILDER, who has become
conscious of her presence, turns in his chair as she hands it to
him. He sits a moment motionless, then takes it from her, and
squeezes her hand. MRS BUILDER goes silently to her usual chair
below the fire, and taking out some knitting begins to knit.
BUILDER makes an effort to speak, does not succeed, and sits drawing
at his pipe.

The CURTAIN falls.

ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:

Comes of not knowin' when to stop bein' firm
I knew how it would be when we gave you the vote
If you meet a wall with your 'ead, it's any odds on the wall
Isn't it always a mistake to lose one's temper
Marriage does wonders
Men don't like freedom for anybody but themselves
Never let me stand in your way, or stand in mine
Never yet met a man who couldn't face another man's position
No talk will change such things
Not lacking in geniality when things go his way
Sense of property so deep that they don't know they've got it
She would never stand that Even wives object, nowadays
That condition of first-pipe serenity
That's because he wants you You wait till he doesn't
There's only one thing wrong with Christians--they aren't
This is outrageous! Truth often is
Weakness of an Englishman; he can't keep up his resentments
What's good for you has to be good for everybody
When to stand on my dignity and when to sit on it

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