Part 2 out of 2
mitigation of sentence. I don't know if your lordship thinks I can
add anything to what I have said to the jury on the score of the
prisoner's youth, and the great stress under which he acted.
THE JUDGE. I don't think you can, Mr. Frome.
FROME. If your lordship says so--I do most earnestly beg your
lordship to give the utmost weight to my plea. [He sits down.]
THE JUDGE. [To the CLERK] Call upon him.
THE CLERK. Prisoner at the bar, you stand convicted of felony. Have
you anything to say for yourself, why the Court should not give you
judgment according to law? [FALDER shakes his head]
THE JUDGE. William Falder, you have been given fair trial and found
guilty, in my opinion rightly found guilty, of forgery. [He pauses;
then, consulting his notes, goes on] The defence was set up that you
were not responsible for your actions at the moment of committing
this crime. There is no, doubt, I think, that this was a device to
bring out at first hand the nature of the temptation to which you
succumbed. For throughout the trial your counsel was in reality
making an appeal for mercy. The setting up of this defence of course
enabled him to put in some evidence that might weigh in that
direction. Whether he was well advised to so is another matter. He
claimed that you should be treated rather as a patient than as a
criminal. And this plea of his, which in the end amounted to a
passionate appeal, he based in effect on an indictment of the march
of Justice, which he practically accused of confirming and completing
the process of criminality. Now, in considering how far I should
allow weight to his appeal; I have a number of factors to take into
account. I have to consider on the one hand the grave nature of your
offence, the deliberate way in which you subsequently altered the
counterfoil, the danger you caused to an innocent man--and that, to
my mind, is a very grave point--and finally I have to consider the
necessity of deterring others from following your example. On the
other hand, I have to bear in mind that you are young, that you have
hitherto borne a good character, that you were, if I am to believe
your evidence and that of your witnesses, in a state of some
emotional excitement when you committed this crime. I have every
wish, consistently with my duty--not only to you, but to the
community--to treat you with leniency. And this brings me to what
are the determining factors in my mind in my consideration of your
case. You are a clerk in a lawyer's office--that is a very serious
element in this case; there can be no possible excuse made for you on
the ground that you were not fully conversant with the nature of the
crime you were committing, and the penalties that attach to it. It
is said, however, that you were carried away by your emotions. The
story has been told here to-day of your relations with this--er--Mrs.
Honeywill; on that story both the defence and the plea for mercy were
in effect based. Now what is that story? It is that you, a young
man, and she, a young woman, unhappily married, had formed an
attachment, which you both say--with what truth I am unable to gauge-
-had not yet resulted in immoral relations, but which you both admit
was about to result in such relationship. Your counsel has made an
attempt to palliate this, on the ground that the woman is in what he
describes, I think, as "a hopeless position." As to that I can
express no opinion. She is a married woman, and the fact is patent
that you committed this crime with the view of furthering an immoral
design. Now, however I might wish, I am not able to justify to my
conscience a plea for mercy which has a basis inimical to morality.
It is vitiated 'ab initio', and would, if successful, free you for
the completion of this immoral project. Your counsel has made an
attempt to trace your offence back to what he seems to suggest is a
defect in the marriage law; he has made an attempt also to show that
to punish you with further imprisonment would be unjust. I do not
follow him in these flights. The Law is what it is--a majestic
edifice, sheltering all of us, each stone of which rests on another.
I am concerned only with its administration. The crime you have
committed is a very serious one. I cannot feel it in accordance with
my duty to Society to exercise the powers I have in your favour. You
will go to penal servitude for three years.
FALDER, who throughout the JUDGE'S speech has looked at him
steadily, lets his head fall forward on his breast. RUTH starts
up from her seat as he is taken out by the warders. There is a
bustle in court.
THE JUDGE. [Speaking to the reporters] Gentlemen of the Press, I
think that the name of the female witness should not be reported.
The reporters bow their acquiescence. THE JUDGE. [To RUTH, who
is staring in the direction in which FALDER has disappeared] Do
you understand, your name will not be mentioned?
COKESON. [Pulling her sleeve] The judge is speaking to you.
RUTH turns, stares at the JUDGE, and turns away.
THE JUDGE. I shall sit rather late to-day. Call the next case.
CLERK of ASSIZE. [To a warder] Put up John Booley.
To cries of "Witnesses in the case of Booley":
The curtain falls.
A prison. A plainly furnished room, with two large barred
windows, overlooking the prisoners' exercise yard, where men, in
yellow clothes marked with arrows, and yellow brimless caps, are
seen in single file at a distance of four yards from each other,
walking rapidly on serpentine white lines marked on the concrete
floor of the yard. Two warders in blue uniforms, with peaked
caps and swords, are stationed amongst them. The room has
distempered walls, a bookcase with numerous official-looking
books, a cupboard between the windows, a plan of the prison on
the wall, a writing-table covered with documents. It is
The GOVERNOR, a neat, grave-looking man, with a trim, fair
moustache, the eyes of a theorist, and grizzled hair, receding
from the temples, is standing close to this writing-table
looking at a sort of rough saw made out of a piece of metal.
The hand in which he holds it is gloved, for two fingers are
missing. The chief warder, WOODER, a tall, thin, military-
looking man of sixty, with grey moustache and melancholy,
monkey-like eyes, stands very upright two paces from him.
THE GOVERNOR. [With a faint, abstracted smile] Queer-looking
affair, Mr. Wooder! Where did you find it?
WOODER. In his mattress, sir. Haven't come across such a thing for
two years now.
THE GOVERNOR. [With curiosity] Had he any set plan?
WOODER. He'd sawed his window-bar about that much. [He holds up his
thumb and finger a quarter of an inch apart]
THE GOVERNOR. I'll see him this afternoon. What's his name?
Moaney! An old hand, I think?
WOODER. Yes, sir-fourth spell of penal. You'd think an old lag like
him would have had more sense by now. [With pitying contempt]
Occupied his mind, he said. Breaking in and breaking out--that's all
they think about.
THE GOVERNOR. Who's next him?
WOODER. O'Cleary, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. The Irishman.
WOODER. Next him again there's that young fellow, Falder--star
class--and next him old Clipton.
THE GOVERNOR. Ah, yes! "The philosopher." I want to see him about
WOODER. Curious thing, sir: they seem to know when there's one of
these tries at escape going on. It makes them restive--there's a
regular wave going through them just now.
THE GOVERNOR. [Meditatively] Odd things--those waves. [Turning to
look at the prisoners exercising] Seem quiet enough out here!
WOODER. That Irishman, O'Cleary, began banging on his door this
morning. Little thing like that's quite enough to upset the whole
lot. They're just like dumb animals at times.
THE GOVERNOR. I've seen it with horses before thunder--it'll run
right through cavalry lines.
The prison CHAPLAIN has entered. He is a dark-haired, ascetic
man, in clerical undress, with a peculiarly steady, tight-lipped
face and slow, cultured speech.
THE GOVERNOR. [Holding up the saw] Seen this, Miller?
THE CHAPLAIN. Useful-looking specimen.
THE GOVERNOR. Do for the Museum, eh! [He goes to the cupboard and
opens it, displaying to view a number of quaint ropes, hooks, and
metal tools with labels tied on them] That'll do, thanks, Mr.
WOODER. [Saluting] Thank you, sir. [He goes out]
THE GOVERNOR. Account for the state of the men last day or two,
Miller? Seems going through the whole place.
THE CHAPLAIN. No. I don't know of anything.
THE GOVERNOR. By the way, will you dine with us on Christmas Day?
THE CHAPLAIN. To-morrow. Thanks very much.
THE GOVERNOR. Worries me to feel the men discontented. [Gazing at
the saw] Have to punish this poor devil. Can't help liking a man
who tries to escape. [He places the saw in his pocket and locks the
THE CHAPLAIN. Extraordinary perverted will-power--some of them.
Nothing to be done till it's broken.
THE GOVERNOR. And not much afterwards, I'm afraid. Ground too hard
WOODER comes in again.
WOODER. Visitor who's been seeing Q 3007 asks to speak to you, sir.
I told him it wasn't usual.
THE GOVERNOR. What about?
WOODER. Shall I put him off, sir?
THE GOVERNOR. [Resignedly] No, no. Let's see him. Don't go,
WOODER motions to some one without, and as the visitor comes in
The visitor is COKESON, who is attired in a thick overcoat to
the knees, woollen gloves, arid carries a top hat.
COKESON. I'm sorry to trouble you. I've been talking to the young
THE GOVERNOR. We have a good many here.
COKESON. Name of Falder, forgery. [Producing a card, and handing it
to the GOVERNOR] Firm of James and Walter How. Well known in the
THE GOVERNOR. [Receiving the card-with a faint smile] What do you
want to see me about, sir?
COKESON. [Suddenly seeing the prisoners at exercise] Why! what a
THE GOVERNOR. Yes, we have that privilege from here; my office is
being done up. [Sitting down at his table] Now, please!
COKESON. [Dragging his eyes with difficulty from the window] I
wanted to say a word to you; I shan't keep you long.
[Confidentially] Fact is, I oughtn't to be here by rights. His
sister came to me--he's got no father and mother--and she was in some
distress. "My husband won't let me go and see him," she said; "says
he's disgraced the family. And his other sister," she said, "is an
invalid." And she asked me to come. Well, I take an interest in
him. He was our junior--I go to the same chapel--and I didn't like
to refuse. And what I wanted to tell you was, he seems lonely here.
THE GOVERNOR. Not unnaturally.
COKESON. I'm afraid it'll prey on my mind. I see a lot of them
about working together.
THE GOVERNOR. Those are local prisoners. The convicts serve their
three months here in separate confinement, sir.
COKESON. But we don't want to be unreasonable. He's quite
downhearted. I wanted to ask you to let him run about with the
THE GOVERNOR. [With faint amusement] Ring the bell-would you,
Miller? [To COKESON] You'd like to hear what the doctor says about
THE CHAPLAIN. [Ringing the bell] You are not accustomed to prisons,
it would seem, sir.
COKESON. No. But it's a pitiful sight. He's quite a young fellow.
I said to him: "Before a month's up" I said, "you'll be out and about
with the others; it'll be a nice change for you." "A month!" he said
--like that! "Come!" I said, "we mustn't exaggerate. What's a
month? Why, it's nothing!" "A day," he said, "shut up in your cell
thinking and brooding as I do, it's longer than a year outside. I
can't help it," he said; "I try--but I'm built that way, Mr.
COKESON." And, he held his hand up to his face. I could see the
tears trickling through his fingers. It wasn't nice.
THE CHAPLAIN. He's a young man with large, rather peculiar eyes,
isn't he? Not Church of England, I think?
THE CHAPLAIN. I know.
THE GOVERNOR. [To WOODER, who has come in] Ask the doctor to be
good enough to come here for a minute. [WOODER salutes, and goes
out] Let's see, he's not married?
COKESON. No. [Confidentially] But there's a party he's very much
attached to, not altogether com-il-fa. It's a sad story.
THE CHAPLAIN. If it wasn't for drink and women, sir, this prison
might be closed.
COKESON. [Looking at the CHAPLAIN over his spectacles] Ye-es, but I
wanted to tell you about that, special. He had hopes they'd have let
her come and see him, but they haven't. Of course he asked me
questions. I did my best, but I couldn't tell the poor young fellow
a lie, with him in here--seemed like hitting him. But I'm afraid
it's made him worse.
THE GOVERNOR. What was this news then?
COKESON. Like this. The woman had a nahsty, spiteful feller for a
husband, and she'd left him. Fact is, she was going away with our
young friend. It's not nice--but I've looked over it. Well, when he
was put in here she said she'd earn her living apart, and wait for
him to come out. That was a great consolation to him. But after a
month she came to me--I don't know her personally--and she said:
"I can't earn the children's living, let alone my own--I've got no
friends. I'm obliged to keep out of everybody's way, else my
husband'd get to know where I was. I'm very much reduced," she said.
And she has lost flesh. "I'll have to go in the workhouse!" It's a
painful story. I said to her: "No," I said, "not that! I've got a
wife an' family, but sooner than you should do that I'll spare you a
little myself." "Really," she said--she's a nice creature--" I don't
like to take it from you. I think I'd better go back to my husband."
Well, I know he's a nahsty, spiteful feller--drinks--but I didn't
like to persuade her not to.
THE CHAPLAIN. Surely, no.
COKESON. Ye-es, but I'm sorry now; it's upset the poor young fellow
dreadfully. And what I wanted to say was: He's got his three years
to serve. I want things to be pleasant for him.
THE CHAPLAIN. [With a touch of impatience] The Law hardly shares
your view, I'm afraid.
COKESON. But I can't help thinking that to shut him up there by
himself'll turn him silly. And nobody wants that, I s'pose. I don't
like to see a man cry.
THE CHAPLAIN. It's a very rare thing for them to give way like that.
COKESON. [Looking at him-in a tone of sudden dogged hostility]
I keep dogs.
THE CHAPLAIN. Indeed?
COKESON. Ye-es. And I say this: I wouldn't shut one of them up all
by himself, month after month, not if he'd bit me all over.
THE CHAPLAIN. Unfortunately, the criminal is not a dog; he has a
sense of right and wrong.
COKESON. But that's not the way to make him feel it.
THE CHAPLAIN. Ah! there I'm afraid we must differ.
COKESON. It's the same with dogs. If you treat 'em with kindness
they'll do anything for you; but to shut 'em up alone, it only makes
THE CHAPLAIN. Surely you should allow those who have had a little
more experience than yourself to know what is best for prisoners.
COKESON. [Doggedly] I know this young feller, I've watched him for
years. He's eurotic--got no stamina. His father died of
consumption. I'm thinking of his future. If he's to be kept there
shut up by himself, without a cat to keep him company, it'll do him
harm. I said to him: "Where do you feel it?" "I can't tell you, Mr.
COKESON," he said, "but sometimes I could beat my head against the
wall." It's not nice.
During this speech the DOCTOR has entered. He is a
medium-Sized, rather good-looking man, with a quick eye.
He stands leaning against the window.
THE GOVERNOR. This gentleman thinks the separate is telling on
Q 3007--Falder, young thin fellow, star class. What do you say,
THE DOCTOR. He doesn't like it, but it's not doing him any harm.
COKESON. But he's told me.
THE DOCTOR. Of course he'd say so, but we can always tell. He's
lost no weight since he's been here.
COKESON. It's his state of mind I'm speaking of.
THE DOCTOR. His mind's all right so far. He's nervous, rather
melancholy. I don't see signs of anything more. I'm watching him
COKESON. [Nonplussed] I'm glad to hear you say that.
THE CHAPLAIN. [More suavely] It's just at this period that we are
able to make some impression on them, sir. I am speaking from my
COKESON. [Turning bewildered to the GOVERNOR] I don't want to be
unpleasant, but having given him this news, I do feel it's awkward.
THE GOVERNOR. I'll make a point of seeing him to-day.
COKESON. I'm much obliged to you. I thought perhaps seeing him
every day you wouldn't notice it.
THE GOVERNOR. [Rather sharply] If any sign of injury to his health
shows itself his case will be reported at once. That's fully
provided for. [He rises]
COKESON. [Following his own thoughts] Of course, what you don't see
doesn't trouble you; but having seen him, I don't want to have him on
THE GOVERNOR. I think you may safely leave it to us, sir.
COKESON. [Mollified and apologetic] I thought you'd understand me.
I'm a plain man--never set myself up against authority. [Expanding
to the CHAPLAIN] Nothing personal meant. Good-morning.
As he goes out the three officials do not look at each other,
but their faces wear peculiar expressions.
THE CHAPLAIN. Our friend seems to think that prison is a hospital.
COKESON. [Returning suddenly with an apologetic air] There's just
one little thing. This woman--I suppose I mustn't ask you to let him
see her. It'd be a rare treat for them both. He's thinking about
her all the time. Of course she's not his wife. But he's quite safe
in here. They're a pitiful couple. You couldn't make an exception?
THE GOVERNOR. [Wearily] As you say, my dear sir, I couldn't make an
exception; he won't be allowed another visit of any sort till he goes
to a convict prison.
COKESON. I see. [Rather coldly] Sorry to have troubled you.
[He again goes out]
THE CHAPLAIN. [Shrugging his shoulders] The plain man indeed, poor
fellow. Come and have some lunch, Clements?
He and the DOCTOR go out talking.
The GOVERNOR, with a sigh, sits down at his table and takes up a
The curtain falls.
Part of the ground corridor of the prison. The walls are
coloured with greenish distemper up to a stripe of deeper green
about the height of a man's shoulder, and above this line are
whitewashed. The floor is of blackened stones. Daylight is
filtering through a heavily barred window at the end. The doors
of four cells are visible. Each cell door has a little round
peep-hole at the level of a man's eye, covered by a little round
disc, which, raised upwards, affords a view o f the cell. On
the wall, close to each cell door, hangs a little square board
with the prisoner's name, number, and record.
Overhead can be seen the iron structures of the first-floor and
The WARDER INSTRUCTOR, a bearded man in blue uniform, with an
apron, and some dangling keys, is just emerging from one of the
INSTRUCTOR. [Speaking from the door into the cell] I'll have
another bit for you when that's finished.
O'CLEARY. [Unseen--in an Irish voice] Little doubt o' that, sirr.
INSTRUCTOR. [Gossiping] Well, you'd rather have it than nothing, I
O'CLEARY. An' that's the blessed truth.
Sounds are heard of a cell door being closed and locked, and of
INSTRUCTOR. [In a sharp, changed voice] Look alive over it!
He shuts the cell door, and stands at attention.
The GOVERNOR comes walking down the corridor, followed by
THE GOVERNOR. Anything to report?
INSTRUCTOR. [Saluting] Q 3007 [he points to a cell] is behind
with his work, sir. He'll lose marks to-day.
The GOVERNOR nods and passes on to the end cell. The INSTRUCTOR
THE GOVERNOR. This is our maker of saws, isn't it?
He takes the saw from his pocket as WOODER throws open the door
of the cell. The convict MOANEY is seen lying on his bed,
athwart the cell, with his cap on. He springs up and stands in
the middle of the cell. He is a raw-boned fellow, about
fifty-six years old, with outstanding bat's ears and fierce,
staring, steel-coloured eyes.
WOODER. Cap off! [MOANEY removes his cap] Out here! [MOANEY Comes
to the door]
THE GOVERNOR. [Beckoning him out into the corridor, and holding up
the saw--with the manner of an officer speaking to a private]
Anything to say about this, my man? [MOANEY is silent] Come!
MOANEY. It passed the time.
THE GOVERNOR. [Pointing into the cell] Not enough to do, eh?
MOANEY. It don't occupy your mind.
THE GOVERNOR. [Tapping the saw] You might find a better way than
MOANEY. [Sullenly] Well! What way? I must keep my hand in against
the time I get out. What's the good of anything else to me at my
time of life? [With a gradual change to civility, as his tongue
warms] Ye know that, sir. I'll be in again within a year or two,
after I've done this lot. I don't want to disgrace meself when I'm
out. You've got your pride keeping the prison smart; well, I've got
mine. [Seeing that the GOVERNOR is listening with interest, he goes
on, pointing to the saw] I must be doin' a little o' this. It's no
harm to any one. I was five weeks makin' that saw--a, bit of all
right it is, too; now I'll get cells, I suppose, or seven days' bread
and water. You can't help it, sir, I know that--I quite put meself
in your place.
THE GOVERNOR. Now, look here, Moaney, if I pass it over will you
give me your word not to try it on again? Think! [He goes into the
cell, walks to the end of it, mounts the stool, and tries the
THE GOVERNOR. [Returning] Well?
MOANEY. [Who has been reflecting] I've got another six weeks to do
in here, alone. I can't do it and think o' nothing. I must have
something to interest me. You've made me a sporting offer, sir, but
I can't pass my word about it. I shouldn't like to deceive a
gentleman. [Pointing into the cell] Another four hours' steady work
would have done it.
THE GOVERNOR. Yes, and what then? Caught, brought back, punishment.
Five weeks' hard work to make this, and cells at the end of it, while
they put anew bar to your window. Is it worth it, Moaney?
MOANEY. [With a sort of fierceness] Yes, it is.
THE GOVERNOR. [Putting his hand to his brow] Oh, well! Two days'
cells-bread and water.
MOANEY. Thank 'e, sir.
He turns quickly like an animal and slips into his cell.
The GOVERNOR looks after him and shakes his head as WOODER
closes and locks the cell door.
THE GOVERNOR. Open Clipton's cell.
WOODER opens the door of CLIPTON'S cell. CLIPTON is sitting on
a stool just inside the door, at work on a pair of trousers. He
is a small, thick, oldish man, with an almost shaven head, and
smouldering little dark eyes behind smoked spectacles. He gets
up and stands motionless in the doorway, peering at his
THE GOVERNOR. [Beckoning] Come out here a minute, Clipton.
CLIPTON, with a sort of dreadful quietness, comes into the
corridor, the needle and thread in his hand. The GOVERNOR signs
to WOODER, who goes into the cell and inspects it carefully.
THE GOVERNOR. How are your eyes?
CLIFTON. I don't complain of them. I don't see the sun here. [He
makes a stealthy movement, protruding his neck a little] There's
just one thing, Mr. Governor, as you're speaking to me. I wish you'd
ask the cove next door here to keep a bit quieter.
THE GOVERNOR. What's the matter? I don't want any tales, Clipton.
CLIPTON. He keeps me awake. I don't know who he is. [With
contempt] One of this star class, I expect. Oughtn't to be here
THE GOVERNOR. [Quietly] Quite right, Clipton. He'll be moved when
there's a cell vacant.
CLIPTON. He knocks about like a wild beast in the early morning.
I'm not used to it--stops me getting my sleep out. In the evening
too. It's not fair, Mr. Governor, as you're speaking to me.
Sleep's the comfort I've got here; I'm entitled to take it out full.
WOODER comes out of the cell, and instantly, as though
extinguished, CLIPTON moves with stealthy suddenness back into
WOODER. All right, sir.
THE GOVERNOR nods. The door is closed and locked.
THE GOVERNOR. Which is the man who banged on his door this morning?
WOODER. [Going towards O'CLEARY'S cell] This one, sir; O'Cleary.
He lifts the disc and glances through the peephole.
THE GOVERNOR. Open.
WOODER throws open the door. O'CLEARY, who is seated at a
little table by the door as if listening, springs up and stands
at attention jest inside the doorway. He is a broad-faced,
middle-aged man, with a wide, thin, flexible mouth, and little
holes under his high cheek-bones.
THE GOVERNOR. Where's the joke, O'Cleary?
O'CLEARY. The joke, your honour? I've not seen one for a long time.
THE GOVERNOR. Banging on your door?
O'CLEARY. Oh! that!
THE GOVERNOR. It's womanish.
O'CLEARY. An' it's that I'm becoming this two months past.
THE GOVERNOR. Anything to complain of?
O'CLEARY. NO, Sirr.
THE GOVERNOR. You're an old hand; you ought to know better.
O'CLEARY. Yes, I've been through it all.
THE GOVERNOR. You've got a youngster next door; you'll upset him.
O'CLEARY. It cam' over me, your honour. I can't always be the same
THE GOVERNOR. Work all right?
O'CLEARY. [Taking up a rush mat he is making] Oh! I can do it on me
head. It's the miserablest stuff--don't take the brains of a mouse.
[Working his mouth] It's here I feel it--the want of a little noise
--a terrible little wud ease me.
THE GOVERNOR. You know as well as I do that if you were out in the
shops you wouldn't be allowed to talk.
O'CLEARY. [With a look of profound meaning] Not with my mouth.
THE GOVERNOR. Well, then?
O'CLEARY. But it's the great conversation I'd have.
THE GOVERNOR. [With a smile] Well, no more conversation on your
O'CLEARY. No, sirr, I wud not have the little wit to repeat meself.
THE GOVERNOR. [Turning] Good-night.
O'CLEARY. Good-night, your honour.
He turns into his cell. The GOVERNOR shuts the door.
THE GOVERNOR. [Looking at the record card] Can't help liking the
WOODER. He's an amiable man, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. [Pointing down the corridor] Ask the doctor to come
here, Mr. Wooder.
WOODER salutes and goes away down the corridor.
The GOVERNOR goes to the door of FALDER'S cell. He raises his
uninjured hand to uncover the peep-hole; but, without uncovering
it, shakes his head and drops his hand; then, after scrutinising
the record board, he opens the cell door. FALDER, who is
standing against it, lurches forward.
THE GOVERNOR. [Beckoning him out] Now tell me: can't you settle
FALDER. [In a breathless voice] Yes, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. You know what I mean? It's no good running your head
against a stone wall, is it?
FALDER. No, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. Well, come.
FALDER. I try, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. Can't you sleep?
FALDER. Very little. Between two o'clock and getting up's the worst
THE GOVERNOR. How's that?
FALDER. [His lips twitch with a sort of smile] I don't know, sir. I
was always nervous. [Suddenly voluble] Everything seems to get such
a size then. I feel I'll never get out as long as I live.
THE GOVERNOR. That's morbid, my lad. Pull yourself together.
FALDER. [With an equally sudden dogged resentment] Yes--I've got to.
THE GOVERNOR. Think of all these other fellows?
FALDER. They're used to it.
THE GOVERNOR. They all had to go through it once for the first time,
just as you're doing now.
FALDER. Yes, sir, I shall get to be like them in time, I suppose.
THE GOVERNOR. [Rather taken aback] H'm! Well! That rests with
you. Now come. Set your mind to it, like a good fellow. You're
still quite young. A man can make himself what he likes.
FALDER. [Wistfully] Yes, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. Take a good hold of yourself. Do you read?
FALDER. I don't take the words in. [Hanging his head] I know it's
no good; but I can't help thinking of what's going on outside. In my
cell I can't see out at all. It's thick glass, sir.
THE GOVERNOR. You've had a visitor. Bad news?
THE GOVERNOR. You mustn't think about it.
FALDER. [Looking back at his cell] How can I help it, sir?
He suddenly becomes motionless as WOODER and the DOCTOR
approach. The GOVERNOR motions to him to go back into his cell.
FALDER. [Quick and low] I'm quite right in my head, sir. [He goes
back into his cell.]
THE GOVERNOR. [To the DOCTOR] Just go in and see him, Clements.
The DOCTOR goes into the cell. The GOVERNOR pushes the door to,
nearly closing it, and walks towards the window.
WOODER. [Following] Sorry you should be troubled like this, sir.
Very contented lot of men, on the whole.
THE GOVERNOR. [Shortly] You think so?
WOODER. Yes, sir. It's Christmas doing it, in my opinion.
THE GOVERNOR. [To himself] Queer, that!
WOODER. Beg pardon, sir?
THE GOVERNOR. Christmas!
He turns towards the window, leaving WOODER looking at him with
a sort of pained anxiety.
WOODER. [Suddenly] Do you think we make show enough, sir? If you'd
like us to have more holly?
THE GOVERNOR. Not at all, Mr. Wooder.
WOODER. Very good, sir.
The DOCTOR has come out of FALDER's Cell, and the GOVERNOR
beckons to him.
THE GOVERNOR. Well?
THE DOCTOR. I can't make anything much of him. He's nervous, of
THE GOVERNOR. Is there any sort of case to report? Quite frankly,
THE DOCTOR. Well, I don't think the separates doing him any good;
but then I could say the same of a lot of them--they'd get on better
in the shops, there's no doubt.
THE GOVERNOR. You mean you'd have to recommend others?
THE DOCTOR. A dozen at least. It's on his nerves. There's nothing
tangible. That fellow there [pointing to O'CLEARY'S cell], for
instance--feels it just as much, in his way. If I once get away from
physical facts--I shan't know where I am. Conscientiously, sir, I
don't know how to differentiate him. He hasn't lost weight. Nothing
wrong with his eyes. His pulse is good. Talks all right.
THE GOVERNOR. It doesn't amount to melancholia?
THE DOCTOR. [Shaking his head] I can report on him if you like; but
if I do I ought to report on others.
THE GOVERNOR. I see. [Looking towards FALDER'S cell] The poor
devil must just stick it then.
As he says thin he looks absently at WOODER.
WOODER. Beg pardon, sir?
For answer the GOVERNOR stares at him, turns on his heel, and
walks away. There is a sound as of beating on metal.
THE GOVERNOR. [Stopping] Mr. Wooder?
WOODER. Banging on his door, sir. I thought we should have more of
He hurries forward, passing the GOVERNOR, who follows closely.
The curtain falls.
FALDER's cell, a whitewashed space thirteen feet broad by seven
deep, and nine feet high, with a rounded ceiling. The floor is
of shiny blackened bricks. The barred window of opaque glass,
with a ventilator, is high up in the middle of the end wall. In
the middle of the opposite end wall is the narrow door. In a
corner are the mattress and bedding rolled up [two blankets, two
sheets, and a coverlet]. Above them is a quarter-circular
wooden shelf, on which is a Bible and several little devotional
books, piled in a symmetrical pyramid; there are also a black
hair brush, tooth-brush, and a bit of soap. In another corner
is the wooden frame of a bed, standing on end. There is a dark
ventilator under the window, and another over the door.
FALDER'S work [a shirt to which he is putting buttonholes] is
hung to a nail on the wall over a small wooden table, on which
the novel "Lorna Doone" lies open. Low down in the corner by
the door is a thick glass screen, about a foot square, covering
the gas-jet let into the wall. There is also a wooden stool, and
a pair of shoes beneath it. Three bright round tins are set
under the window.
In fast-failing daylight, FALDER, in his stockings, is seen
standing motionless, with his head inclined towards the door,
listening. He moves a little closer to the door, his stockinged
feet making no noise. He stops at the door. He is trying
harder and harder to hear something, any little thing that is
going on outside. He springs suddenly upright--as if at a
sound-and remains perfectly motionless. Then, with a heavy
sigh, he moves to his work, and stands looking at it, with his
head doom; he does a stitch or two, having the air of a man so
lost in sadness that each stitch is, as it were, a coming to
life. Then turning abruptly, he begins pacing the cell, moving
his head, like an animal pacing its cage. He stops again at the
door, listens, and, placing the palms of hip hands against it
with his fingers spread out, leans his forehead against the
iron. Turning from it, presently, he moves slowly back towards
the window, tracing his way with his finger along the top line
of the distemper that runs round the wall. He stops under the
window, and, picking up the lid of one of the tins, peers into
it. It has grown very nearly dark. Suddenly the lid falls out
of his hand with a clatter--the only sound that has broken the
silence--and he stands staring intently at the wall where the
stuff of the shirt is hanging rather white in the darkness--he
seems to be seeing somebody or something there. There is a
sharp tap and click; the cell light behind the glass screen has
been turned up. The cell is brightly lighted. FALDER is seen
gasping for breath.
A sound from far away, as of distant, dull beating on thick
metal, is suddenly audible. FALDER shrinks back, not able to
bear this sudden clamour. But the sound grows, as though some
great tumbril were rolling towards the cell. And gradually it
seems to hypnotise him. He begins creeping inch by inch
nearer to the door. The banging sound, travelling from cell to
cell, draws closer and closer; FALDER'S hands are seen moving as
if his spirit had already joined in this beating, and the sound
swells till it seems to have entered the very cell. He suddenly
raises his clenched fists. Panting violently, he flings himself
at his door, and beats on it.
The curtain falls.
The scene is again COKESON'S room, at a few minutes to ten of a
March morning, two years later. The doors are all open.
SWEEDLE, now blessed with a sprouting moustache, is getting the
offices ready. He arranges papers on COKESON'S table; then goes
to a covered washstand, raises the lid, and looks at himself in
the mirror. While he is gazing his full RUTH HONEYWILL comes in
through the outer office and stands in the doorway. There seems
a kind of exultation and excitement behind her habitual
SWEEDLE. [Suddenly seeing her, and dropping the lid of the washstand
with a bang] Hello! It's you!
SWEEDLE. There's only me here! They don't waste their time hurrying
down in the morning. Why, it must be two years since we had the
pleasure of seeing you. [Nervously] What have you been doing with
RUTH. [Sardonically] Living.
SWEEDLE. [Impressed] If you want to see him [he points to COKESON'S
chair], he'll be here directly--never misses--not much. [Delicately]
I hope our friend's back from the country. His time's been up these
three months, if I remember. [RUTH nods] I was awful sorry about
that. The governor made a mistake--if you ask me.
RUTH. He did.
SWEEDLE. He ought to have given him a chanst. And, I say, the judge
ought to ha' let him go after that. They've forgot what human
nature's like. Whereas we know. [RUTH gives him a honeyed smile]
SWEEDLE. They come down on you like a cartload of bricks, flatten
you out, and when you don't swell up again they complain of it. I
know 'em--seen a lot of that sort of thing in my time. [He shakes
his head in the plenitude of wisdom] Why, only the other day the
But COKESON has come in through the outer office; brisk with
east wind, and decidedly greyer.
COKESON. [Drawing off his coat and gloves] Why! it's you! [Then
motioning SWEEDLE out, and closing the door] Quite a stranger! Must
be two years. D'you want to see me? I can give you a minute. Sit
down! Family well?
RUTH. Yes. I'm not living where I was.
COKESON. [Eyeing her askance] I hope things are more comfortable at
RUTH. I couldn't stay with Honeywill, after all.
COKESON. You haven't done anything rash, I hope. I should be sorry
if you'd done anything rash.
RUTH. I've kept the children with me.
COKESON. [Beginning to feel that things are not so jolly as ha had
hoped] Well, I'm glad to have seen you. You've not heard from the
young man, I suppose, since he came out?
RUTH. Yes, I ran across him yesterday.
COKESON. I hope he's well.
RUTH. [With sudden fierceness] He can't get anything to do. It's
dreadful to see him. He's just skin and bone.
COKESON. [With genuine concern] Dear me! I'm sorry to hear that.
[On his guard again] Didn't they find him a place when his time was
RUTH. He was only there three weeks. It got out.
COKESON. I'm sure I don't know what I can do for you. I don't like
to be snubby.
RUTH. I can't bear his being like that.
COKESON. [Scanning her not unprosperous figure] I know his relations
aren't very forthy about him. Perhaps you can do something for him,
till he finds his feet.
RUTH. Not now. I could have--but not now.
COKESON. I don't understand.
RUTH. [Proudly] I've seen him again--that's all over.
COKESON. [Staring at her--disturbed] I'm a family man--I don't want
to hear anything unpleasant. Excuse me--I'm very busy.
RUTH. I'd have gone home to my people in the country long ago, but
they've never got over me marrying Honeywill. I never was waywise,
Mr. Cokeson, but I'm proud. I was only a girl, you see, when I
married him. I thought the world of him, of course . . . he used
to come travelling to our farm.
COKESON. [Regretfully] I did hope you'd have got on better, after
you saw me.
RUTH. He used me worse than ever. He couldn't break my nerve, but I
lost my health; and then he began knocking the children about. I
couldn't stand that. I wouldn't go back now, if he were dying.
COKESON. [Who has risen and is shifting about as though dodging a
stream of lava] We mustn't be violent, must we?
RUTH. [Smouldering] A man that can't behave better than that--
[There is silence]
COKESON. [Fascinated in spite of himself] Then there you were! And
what did you do then?
RUTH. [With a shrug] Tried the same as when I left him before...,
making skirts... cheap things. It was the best I could get, but I
never made more than ten shillings a week, buying my own cotton and
working all day; I hardly ever got to bed till past twelve. I kept
at it for nine months. [Fiercely] Well, I'm not fit for that; I
wasn't made for it. I'd rather die.
COKESON. My dear woman! We mustn't talk like that.
RUTH. It was starvation for the children too--after what they'd
always had. I soon got not to care. I used to be too tired. [She is
COKESON. [With fearful curiosity] Why, what happened then?
RUTH. [With a laugh] My employer happened then--he's happened ever
COKESON. Dear! Oh dear! I never came across a thing like this.
RUTH. [Dully] He's treated me all right. But I've done with that.
[Suddenly her lips begin to quiver, and she hides them with the back
of her hand] I never thought I'd see him again, you see. It was just
a chance I met him by Hyde Park. We went in there and sat down, and
he told me all about himself. Oh! Mr. Cokeson, give him another
COKESON. [Greatly disturbed] Then you've both lost your livings!
What a horrible position!
RUTH. If he could only get here--where there's nothing to find out
COKESON. We can't have anything derogative to the firm.
RUTH. I've no one else to go to.
COKESON. I'll speak to the partners, but I don't think they'll take
him, under the circumstances. I don't really.
RUTH. He came with me; he's down there in the street. [She points to
COKESON. [On his dignity] He shouldn't have done that until he's
sent for. [Then softening at the look on her face] We've got a
vacancy, as it happens, but I can't promise anything.
RUTH. It would be the saving of him.
COKESON. Well, I'll do what I can, but I'm not sanguine. Now tell
him that I don't want him till I see how things are. Leave your
address? [Repeating her] 83 Mullingar Street? [He notes it on
RUTH. Thank you.
She moves towards the door, turns as if to speak, but does not,
and goes away.
COKESON. [Wiping his head and forehead with a large white cotton
handkerchief] What a business! [Then looking amongst his papers, he
sounds his bell. SWEEDLE answers it]
COKESON. Was that young Richards coming here to-day after the
COKESON. Well, keep him in the air; I don't want to see him yet.
SWEEDLE. What shall I tell him, sir?
COKESON. [With asperity] invent something. Use your brains. Don't
stump him off altogether.
SWEEDLE. Shall I tell him that we've got illness, sir?
COKESON. No! Nothing untrue. Say I'm not here to-day.
SWEEDLE. Yes, sir. Keep him hankering?
COKESON. Exactly. And look here. You remember Falder? I may be
having him round to see me. Now, treat him like you'd have him treat
you in a similar position.
SWEEDLE. I naturally should do.
COKESON. That's right. When a man's down never hit 'im. 'Tisn't
necessary. Give him a hand up. That's a metaphor I recommend to you
in life. It's sound policy.
SWEEDLE. Do you think the governors will take him on again, sir?
COKESON. Can't say anything about that. [At the sound of some one
having entered the outer office] Who's there?
SWEEDLE. [Going to the door and looking] It's Falder, sir.
COKESON. [Vexed] Dear me! That's very naughty of her. Tell him to
call again. I don't want----
He breaks off as FALDER comes in. FALDER is thin, pale, older,
his eyes have grown more restless. His clothes are very worn
SWEEDLE, nodding cheerfully, withdraws.
COKESON. Glad to see you. You're rather previous. [Trying to keep
things pleasant] Shake hands! She's striking while the iron's hot.
[He wipes his forehead] I don't blame her. She's anxious.
FALDER timidly takes COKESON's hand and glances towards the
COKESON. No--not yet! Sit down! [FALDER sits in the chair at the
aide of COKESON's table, on which he places his cap] Now you are
here I'd like you to give me a little account of yourself. [Looking
at him over his spectacles] How's your health?
FALDER. I'm alive, Mr. Cokeson.
COKESON. [Preoccupied] I'm glad to hear that. About this matter.
I don't like doing anything out of the ordinary; it's not my habit.
I'm a plain man, and I want everything smooth and straight. But I
promised your friend to speak to the partners, and I always keep my
FALDER. I just want a chance, Mr. Cokeson. I've paid for that job a
thousand times and more. I have, sir. No one knows. They say I
weighed more when I came out than when I went in. They couldn't
weigh me here [he touches his head] or here [he touches--his heart,
and gives a sort of laugh]. Till last night I'd have thought there
was nothing in here at all.
COKESON. [Concerned] You've not got heart disease?
FALDER. Oh! they passed me sound enough.
COKESON. But they got you a place, didn't they?
FALSER. Yes; very good people, knew all about it--very kind to me.
I thought I was going to get on first rate. But one day, all of a
sudden, the other clerks got wind of it.... I couldn't stick it, Mr.
COKESON, I couldn't, sir.
COKESON. Easy, my dear fellow, easy!
FALDER. I had one small job after that, but it didn't last.
COKESON. How was that?
FALDER. It's no good deceiving you, Mr. Cokeson. The fact is, I
seem to be struggling against a thing that's all round me. I can't
explain it: it's as if I was in a net; as fast as I cut it here, it
grows up there. I didn't act as I ought to have, about references;
but what are you to do? You must have them. And that made me
afraid, and I left. In fact, I'm--I'm afraid all the time now.
He bows his head and leans dejectedly silent over the table.
COKESON. I feel for you--I do really. Aren't your sisters going to
do anything for you?
FALDER. One's in consumption. And the other----
COKESON. Ye...es. She told me her husband wasn't quite pleased with
FALDER. When I went there--they were at supper--my sister wanted to
give me a kiss--I know. But he just looked at her, and said: "What
have you come for? "Well, I pocketed my pride and I said: "Aren't
you going to give me your hand, Jim? Cis is, I know," I said. "Look
here!" he said, "that's all very well, but we'd better come to an
understanding. I've been expecting you, and I've made up my mind.
I'll give you fifteen pounds to go to Canada with." "I see," I
said-"good riddance! No, thanks; keep your fifteen pounds."
Friendship's a queer thing when you've been where I have.
COKESON. I understand. Will you take the fifteen pound from me?
[Flustered, as FALDER regards him with a queer smile] Quite without
prejudice; I meant it kindly.
FALDER. I'm not allowed to leave the country.
COKESON. Oh! ye...es--ticket-of-leave? You aren't looking the
FALDER. I've slept in the Park three nights this week. The dawns
aren't all poetry there. But meeting her--I feel a different man
this morning. I've often thought the being fond of hers the best
thing about me; it's sacred, somehow--and yet it did for me. That's
queer, isn't it?
COKESON. I'm sure we're all very sorry for you.
FALDER. That's what I've found, Mr. Cokeson. Awfully sorry for me.
[With quiet bitterness] But it doesn't do to associate with
COKESON. Come, come, it's no use calling yourself names. That never
did a man any good. Put a face on it.
FALDER. It's easy enough to put a face on it, sir, when you're
independent. Try it when you're down like me. They talk about
giving you your deserts. Well, I think I've had just a bit over.
COKESON. [Eyeing him askance over his spectacles] I hope they haven't
made a Socialist of you.
FALDER is suddenly still, as if brooding over his past self; he
utters a peculiar laugh.
COKESON. You must give them credit for the best intentions. Really
you must. Nobody wishes you harm, I'm sure.
FALDER. I believe that, Mr. Cokeson. Nobody wishes you harm, but
they down you all the same. This feeling--[He stares round him, as
though at something closing in] It's crushing me. [With sudden
impersonality] I know it is.
COKESON. [Horribly disturbed] There's nothing there! We must try
and take it quiet. I'm sure I've often had you in my prayers. Now
leave it to me. I'll use my gumption and take 'em when they're
jolly. [As he speaks the two partners come in]
COKESON [Rather disconcerted, but trying to put them all at ease]
I didn't expect you quite so soon. I've just been having a talk with
this young man. I think you'll remember him.
JAMES. [With a grave, keen look] Quite well. How are you, Falder?
WALTER. [Holding out his hand almost timidly] Very glad to see you
FALDER. [Who has recovered his self-control, takes the hand] Thank
COKESON. Just a word, Mr. James. [To FALDER, pointing to the
clerks' office] You might go in there a minute. You know your way.
Our junior won't be coming this morning. His wife's just had a
FALDER, goes uncertainly out into the clerks' office.
COKESON. [Confidentially] I'm bound to tell you all about it. He's
quite penitent. But there's a prejudice against him. And you're not
seeing him to advantage this morning; he's under-nourished. It's
very trying to go without your dinner.
JAMES. Is that so, COKESON?
COKESON. I wanted to ask you. He's had his lesson. Now we know all
about him, and we want a clerk. There is a young fellow applying,
but I'm keeping him in the air.
JAMES. A gaol-bird in the office, COKESON? I don't see it.
WALTER. "The rolling of the chariot-wheels of Justice!" I've never
got that out of my head.
JAMES. I've nothing to reproach myself with in this affair. What's
he been doing since he came out?
COKESON. He's had one or two places, but he hasn't kept them. He's
sensitive--quite natural. Seems to fancy everybody's down on him.
JAMES. Bad sign. Don't like the fellow--never did from the first.
"Weak character"'s written all over him.
WALTER. I think we owe him a leg up.
JAMES. He brought it all on himself.
WALTER. The doctrine of full responsibility doesn't quite hold in
JAMES. [Rather grimly] You'll find it safer to hold it for all
that, my boy.
WALTER. For oneself, yes--not for other people, thanks.
JAMES. Well! I don't want to be hard.
COKESON. I'm glad to hear you say that. He seems to see something
[spreading his arms] round him. 'Tisn't healthy.
JAMES. What about that woman he was mixed up with? I saw some one
uncommonly like her outside as we came in.
COKESON. That! Well, I can't keep anything from you. He has met
JAMES. Is she with her husband?
JAMES. Falder living with her, I suppose?
COKESON. [Desperately trying to retain the new-found jollity] I
don't know that of my own knowledge. 'Tisn't my business.
JAMES. It's our business, if we're going to engage him, COKESON.
COKESON. [Reluctantly] I ought to tell you, perhaps. I've had the
party here this morning.
JAMES. I thought so. [To WALTER] No, my dear boy, it won't do. Too
COKESON. The two things together make it very awkward for you--I see
WALTER. [Tentatively] I don't quite know what we have to do with
his private life.
JAMES. No, no! He must make a clean sheet of it, or he can't come
WALTER. Poor devil!
COKESON. Will you--have him in? [And as JAMES nods] I think I can
get him to see reason.
JAMES. [Grimly] You can leave that to me, COKESON.
WALTER. [To JAMES, in a low voice, while COKESON is summoning
FALDER] His whole future may depend on what we do, dad.
FALDER comes in. He has pulled himself together, and presents a
JAMES. Now look here, Falder. My son and I want to give you another
chance; but there are two things I must say to you. In the first
place: It's no good coming here as a victim. If you've any notion
that you've been unjustly treated--get rid of it. You can't play
fast and loose with morality and hope to go scot-free. If Society
didn't take care of itself, nobody would--the sooner you realise that
FALDER. Yes, sir; but--may I say something?
FALDER. I had a lot of time to think it over in prison. [He stops]
COKESON. [Encouraging him] I'm sure you did.
FALDER. There were all sorts there. And what I mean, sir, is, that
if we'd been treated differently the first time, and put under
somebody that could look after us a bit, and not put in prison, not a
quarter of us would ever have got there.
JAMES. [Shaking his head] I'm afraid I've very grave doubts of that,
FALDER. [With a gleam of malice] Yes, sir, so I found.
JAMES. My good fellow, don't forget that you began it.
FALDER. I never wanted to do wrong.
JAMES. Perhaps not. But you did.
FALDER. [With all the bitterness of his past suffering] It's knocked
me out of time. [Pulling himself up] That is, I mean, I'm not what
JAMES. This isn't encouraging for us, Falder.
COKESON. He's putting it awkwardly, Mr. James.
FALDER. [Throwing over his caution from the intensity of his
feeling] I mean it, Mr. Cokeson.
JAMES. Now, lay aside all those thoughts, Falder, and look to the
FALDER. [Almost eagerly] Yes, sir, but you don't understand what
prison is. It's here it gets you.
He grips his chest.
COKESON. [In a whisper to James] I told you he wanted nourishment.
WALTER. Yes, but, my dear fellow, that'll pass away. Time's
FALDER. [With his face twitching] I hope so, sir.
JAMES. [Much more gently] Now, my boy, what you've got to do is to
put all the past behind you and build yourself up a steady
reputation. And that brings me to the second thing. This woman you
were mixed up with you must give us your word, you know, to have done
with that. There's no chance of your keeping straight if you're
going to begin your future with such a relationship.
FALDER. [Looking from one to the other with a hunted expression] But
sir . . . but sir . . . it's the one thing I looked forward to
all that time. And she too . . . I couldn't find her before last
During this and what follows COKESON becomes more and more
JAMES. This is painful, Falder. But you must see for yourself that
it's impossible for a firm like this to close its eyes to everything.
Give us this proof of your resolve to keep straight, and you can come
FALDER. [After staring at JAMES, suddenly stiffens himself] I
couldn't give her up. I couldn't! Oh, sir!
I'm all she's got to look to. And I'm sure she's all I've got.
JAMES. I'm very sorry, Falder, but I must be firm. It's for the
benefit of you both in the long run. No good can come of this
connection. It was the cause of all your disaster.
FALDER. But sir, it means-having gone through all that-getting
broken up--my nerves are in an awful state--for nothing. I did it
JAMES. Come! If she's anything of a woman she'll see it for
herself. She won't want to drag you down further. If there were a
prospect of your being able to marry her--it might be another thing.
FALDER. It's not my fault, sir, that she couldn't get rid of him
--she would have if she could. That's been the whole trouble from
the beginning. [Looking suddenly at WALTER] . . . If anybody
would help her! It's only money wants now, I'm sure.
COKESON. [Breaking in, as WALTER hesitates, and is about to speak] I
don't think we need consider that--it's rather far-fetched.
FALDER. [To WALTER, appealing] He must have given her full cause
since; she could prove that he drove her to leave him.
WALTER. I'm inclined to do what you say, Falder, if it can be
FALDER. Oh, sir!
He goes to the window and looks down into the street.
COKESON. [Hurriedly] You don't take me, Mr. Walter. I have my
FALDER. [From the window] She's down there, sir. Will you see her?
I can beckon to her from here.
WALTER hesitates, and looks from COKESON to JAMES.
JAMES. [With a sharp nod] Yes, let her come.
FALDER beckons from the window.
COKESON. [In a low fluster to JAMES and WALTER] No, Mr. James.
She's not been quite what she ought to ha' been, while this young
man's been away. She's lost her chance. We can't consult how to
swindle the Law.
FALDER has come from the window. The three men look at him in a
sort of awed silence.
FALDER. [With instinctive apprehension of some change--looking from
one to the other] There's been nothing between us, sir, to prevent
it . . . . What I said at the trial was true. And last night we
only just sat in the Park.
SWEEDLE comes in from the outer office.
COKESON. What is it?
SWEEDLE. Mrs. Honeywill. [There is silence]
JAMES. Show her in.
RUTH comes slowly in, and stands stoically with FALDER on one
side and the three men on the other. No one speaks. COKESON
turns to his table, bending over his papers as though the burden
of the situation were forcing him back into his accustomed
JAMES. [Sharply] Shut the door there. [SWEEDLE shuts the door]
We've asked you to come up because there are certain facts to be
faced in this matter. I understand you have only just met Falder
RUTH. Yes--only yesterday.
JAMES. He's told us about himself, and we're very sorry for him.
I've promised to take him back here if he'll make a fresh start.
[Looking steadily at RUTH] This is a matter that requires courage,
RUTH, who is looking at FALDER, begins to twist her hands in front of
her as though prescient of disaster.
FALDER. Mr. Walter How is good enough to say that he'll help us to
get you a divorce.
RUTH flashes a startled glance at JAMES and WALTER.
JAMES. I don't think that's practicable, Falder.
FALDER. But, Sir----!
JAMES. [Steadily] Now, Mrs. Honeywill. You're fond of him.
RUTH. Yes, Sir; I love him.
She looks miserably at FALDER.
JAMES. Then you don't want to stand in his way, do you?
RUTH. [In a faint voice] I could take care of him.
JAMES. The best way you can take care of him will be to give him up.
FALDER. Nothing shall make me give you up. You can get a divorce.
There's been nothing between us, has there?
RUTH. [Mournfully shaking her head-without looking at him] No.
FALDER. We'll keep apart till it's over, sir; if you'll only help
JAMES. [To RUTH] You see the thing plainly, don't you? You see
what I mean?
RUTH. [Just above a whisper] Yes.
COKESON. [To himself] There's a dear woman.
JAMES. The situation is impossible.
RUTH. Must I, Sir?
JAMES. [Forcing himself to look at her] I put it to you, ma'am. His
future is in your hands.
RUTH. [Miserably] I want to do the best for him.
JAMES. [A little huskily] That's right, that's right!
FALDER. I don't understand. You're not going to give me up--after
all this? There's something--[Starting forward to JAMES] Sir, I
swear solemnly there's been nothing between us.
JAMES. I believe you, Falder. Come, my lad, be as plucky as she is.
FALDER. Just now you were going to help us. [He starts at RUTH, who
is standing absolutely still; his face and hands twitch and quiver as
the truth dawns on him] What is it? You've not been
JAMES. [Hurriedly] There, there! That'll do, that'll do! I'll
give you your chance, Falder. Don't let me know what you do with
yourselves, that's all.
FALDER. [As if he has not heard] Ruth?
RUTH looks at him; and FALDER covers his face with his hands.
There is silence.
COKESON. [Suddenly] There's some one out there. [To RUTH] Go in
here. You'll feel better by yourself for a minute.
He points to the clerks' room and moves towards the outer
office. FALDER does not move. RUTH puts out her hand timidly.
He shrinks back from the touch. She turns and goes miserably
into the clerks' room. With a brusque movement he follows,
seizing her by the shoulder just inside the doorway. COKESON
shuts the door.
JAMES. [Pointing to the outer office] Get rid of that, whoever it
SWEEDLE. [Opening the office door, in a scared voice] Detective-
The detective enters, and closes the door behind him.
WISTER. Sorry to disturb you, sir. A clerk you had here, two years
and a half ago: I arrested him in, this room.
JAMES. What about him?
WISTER. I thought perhaps I might get his whereabouts from you.
[There is an awkward silence]
COKESON. [Pleasantly, coming to the rescue] We're not responsible
for his movements; you know that.
JAMES. What do you want with him?
WISTER. He's failed to report himself this last four weeks.
WALTER. How d'you mean?
WISTER. Ticket-of-leave won't be up for another six months, sir.
WALTER. Has he to keep in touch with the police till then?
WISTER. We're bound to know where he sleeps every night. I dare say
we shouldn't interfere, sir, even though he hasn't reported himself.
But we've just heard there's a serious matter of obtaining employment
with a forged reference. What with the two things together--we must
Again there is silence. WALTER and COKESON steal glances at
JAMES, who stands staring steadily at the detective.
COKESON. [Expansively] We're very busy at the moment. If you could
make it convenient to call again we might be able to tell you then.
JAMES. [Decisively] I'm a servant of the Law, but I dislike
peaching. In fact, I can't do such a thing. If you want him you
must find him without us.
As he speaks his eye falls on FALDER'S cap, still lying on the
table, and his face contracts.
WISTER. [Noting the gesture--quietly] Very good, sir. I ought to
warn you that, having broken the terms of his licence, he's still a
convict, and sheltering a convict.
JAMES. I shelter no one. But you mustn't come here and ask
questions which it's not my business to answer.
WISTER. [Dryly] I won't trouble you further then, gentlemen.
COKESON. I'm sorry we couldn't give you the information. You quite
understand, don't you? Good-morning!
WISTER turns to go, but instead of going to the door of the
outer office he goes to the door of the clerks' room.
COKESON. The other door.... the other door!
WISTER opens the clerks' door. RUTHS's voice is heard: "Oh,
do!" and FALDER,'S: "I can't !" There is a little pause; then,
with sharp fright, RUTH says: "Who's that?"
WISTER has gone in.
The three men look aghast at the door.
WISTER [From within] Keep back, please!
He comes swiftly out with his arm twisted in FALDER'S. The
latter gives a white, staring look at the three men.
WALTER. Let him go this time, for God's sake!
WISTER. I couldn't take the responsibility, sir.
FALDER. [With a queer, desperate laugh] Good!
Flinging a look back at RUTH, he throws up his head, and goes
out through the outer office, half dragging WISTER after him.
WALTER. [With despair] That finishes him. It'll go on for ever
SWEEDLE can be seen staring through the outer door. There are
sounds of footsteps descending the stone stairs; suddenly a dull
thud, a faint "My God!" in WISTER's voice.
JAMES. What's that?
SWEEDLE dashes forward. The door swings to behind him. There
is dead silence.
WALTER. [Starting forward to the inner room] The woman-she's
He and COKESON support the fainting RUTH from the doorway of the
COKESON. [Distracted] Here, my dear! There, there!
WALTER. Have you any brandy?
COKESON. I've got sherry.
WALTER. Get it, then. Quick!
He places RUTH in a chair--which JAMES has dragged forward.
COKESON. [With sherry] Here! It's good strong sherry. [They try to
force the sherry between her lips.]
There is the sound of feet, and they stop to listen.
The outer door is reopened--WISTER and SWEEDLE are seen carrying
JAMES. [Hurrying forward] What is it?
They lay the burden doom in the outer office, out of sight, and
all but RUTH cluster round it, speaking in hushed voices.
WISTER. He jumped--neck's broken.
WALTER. Good God!
WISTER. He must have been mad to think he could give me the slip
like that. And what was it--just a few months!
WALTER. [Bitterly] Was that all?
JAMES. What a desperate thing! [Then, in a voice unlike his own]
Run for a doctor--you! [SWEEDLE rushes from the outer office] An
WISTER goes out. On RUTH's face an expression of fear and
horror has been seen growing, as if she dared not turn towards
the voices. She now rises and steals towards them.
WALTER. [Turning suddenly] Look!
The three men shrink back out of her way, one by one, into
COKESON'S room. RUTH drops on her knees by the body.
RUTH. [In a whisper] What is it? He's not breathing. [She
crouches over him] My dear! My pretty!
In the outer office doorway the figures of men am seen standing.
RUTH. [Leaping to her feet] No, no! No, no! He's dead!
[The figures of the men shrink back]
COKESON. [Stealing forward. In a hoarse voice] There, there, poor
At the sound behind her RUTH faces round at him.
COKESON. No one'll touch him now! Never again! He's safe with
RUTH stands as though turned to stone in the doorway staring at
COKESON, who, bending humbly before her, holds out his hand as
one would to a lost dog.
The curtain falls.