Part 2 out of 2
ROUS. [With a choke.] Then, Begod, I can!
[He turns and rushes off.]
[MADGE Stands, with a faint smile on her face, looking after
him. She turns to MRS. ROBERTS.]
MADGE. I have done for Roberts!
MRS. ROBERTS. [Scornfully.] Done for my man, with that----!
[She sinks back.]
MADGE. [Running to her, and feeling her hands.] You're as cold as a
stone! You want a drop of brandy. Jan, run to the "Lion"; say, I
sent you for Mrs. Roberts.
MRS. ROBERTS. [With a feeble movement.] I'll just sit quiet, Madge.
MADGE. [Giving JAN a slice of bread.] There, ye little rascal.
Hold your piping. [Going to the fire, she kneels.] It's going out.
MRS. ROBERTS. [With a faint smile.] 'T is all the same!
[JAN begins to blow his whistle.]
MADGE. Tsht! Tsht!--you
MRS. ROBERTS. [Smiling.] Let 'im play, Madge.
MADGE. [On her knees at the fire, listening.] Waiting an' waiting.
I've no patience with it; waiting an' waiting--that's what a woman
has to do! Can you hear them at it--I can!
[JAN begins again to play his whistle; MADGE gets up; half
tenderly she ruffles his hair; then, sitting, leans her elbows
on the table, and her chin on her hands. Behind her, on MRS.
ROBERTS'S face the smile has changed to horrified surprise. She
makes a sudden movement, sitting forward, pressing her hands
against her breast. Then slowly she sinks' back; slowly her
face loses the look of pain, the smile returns. She fixes her
eyes again on JAN, and moves her lips and finger to the tune.]
The curtain falls.
It is past four. In a grey, failing light, an open muddy space
is crowded with workmen. Beyond, divided from it by a barbed-
wire fence, is the raised towing-path of a canal, on which is
moored a barge. In the distance are marshes and snow-covered
hills. The "Works" high wall runs from the canal across the
open space, and ivy the angle of this wall is a rude platform of
barrels and boards. On it, HARNESS is standing. ROBERTS, a
little apart from the crowd, leans his back against the wall.
On the raised towing-path two bargemen lounge and smoke
HARNESS. [Holding out his hand.] Well, I've spoken to you straight.
If I speak till to-morrow I can't say more.
JAGO. [A dark, sallow, Spanish-looking man with a short, thin
beard.] Mister, want to ask you! Can they get blacklegs?
BULGIN. [Menacing.] Let 'em try.
[There are savage murmurs from the crowd.]
BROWN. [A round-faced man.] Where could they get 'em then?
EVANS. [A small, restless, harassed man, with a fighting face.]
There's always blacklegs; it's the nature of 'em. There's always men
that'll save their own skins.
[Another savage murmur. There is a movement, and old THOMAS,
joining the crowd, takes his stand in front.]
HARNESS. [Holding up his hand.] They can't get them. But that
won't help you. Now men, be reasonable. Your demands would have
brought on us the burden of a dozen strikes at a time when we were
not prepared for them. The Unions live by justice, not to one, but
all. Any fair man will tell you--you were ill-advised! I don't say
you go too far for that which you're entitled to, but you're going
too far for the moment; you've dug a pit for yourselves. Are you to
stay there, or are you to climb out? Come!
LEWIS. [A clean-cut Welshman with a dark moustache.] You've hit it,
Mister! Which is it to be?
[Another movement in the crowd, and ROUS, coming quickly, takes
his stand next THOMAS.]
HARNESS. Cut your demands to the right pattern, and we 'll see you
through; refuse, and don't expect me to waste my time coming down
here again. I 'm not the sort that speaks at random, as you ought to
know by this time. If you're the sound men I take you for--no matter
who advises you against it--[he fixes his eyes on ROBERTS] you 'll
make up your minds to come in, and trust to us to get your terms.
Which is it to be? Hands together, and victory--or--the starvation
you've got now?
[A prolonged murmur from the crowd.]
JAGO. [Sullenly.] Talk about what you know.
HARNESS. [Lifting his voice above the murmur.] Know? [With cold
passion.] All that you've been through, my friend, I 've been
through--I was through it when I was no bigger than [pointing to a
youth] that shaver there; the Unions then were n't what they are
now. What's made them strong? It's hands together that 's made them
strong. I 've been through it all, I tell you, the brand's on my
soul yet. I know what you 've suffered--there's nothing you can tell
me that I don't know; but the whole is greater than the part, and you
are only the part. Stand by us, and we will stand by you.
[Quartering them with his eyes, he waits. The murmuring swells;
the men form little groups. GREEN, BULGIN, and LEWIS talk
LEWIS. Speaks very sensible, the Union chap.
GREEN. [Quietly.] Ah! if I 'd a been listened to, you'd 'ave 'eard
sense these two months past.
[The bargemen are seen laughing. ]
LEWIS. [Pointing.] Look at those two blanks over the fence there!
BULGIN. [With gloomy violence.] They'd best stop their cackle, or I
'll break their jaws.
JAGO. [Suddenly.] You say the furnace men's paid enough?
HARNESS. I did not say they were paid enough; I said they were paid
as much as the furnace men in similar works elsewhere.
EVANS. That's a lie! [Hubbub.] What about Harper's?
HARNESS. [With cold irony.] You may look at home for lies, my man.
Harper's shifts are longer, the pay works out the same.
HENRY ROUS. [A dark edition of his brother George.] Will ye support
us in double pay overtime Saturdays?
HARNESS. Yes, we will.
JAGO. What have ye done with our subscriptions?
HARNESS. [Coldly.] I have told you what we will do with them.
EVANS. Ah! will, it's always will! Ye'd have our mates desert us.
BULGIN. [Shouting.] Hold your row!
[EVANS looks round angrily.]
HARNESS. [Lifting his voice.] Those who know their right hands from
their lefts know that the Unions are neither thieves nor traitors.
I 've said my say. Figure it out, my lads; when you want me you know
where I shall be.
[He jumps down, the crowd gives way, he passes through them, and
goes away. A BARGEMAN looks after him jerking his pipe with a
derisive gesture. The men close up in groups, and many looks
are cast at ROBERTS, who stands alone against the wall.]
EVANS. He wants ye to turn blacklegs, that's what he wants. He
wants ye to go back on us. Sooner than turn blackleg--I 'd starve, I
BULGIN. Who's talkin' o' blacklegs--mind what you're saying, will
BLACKSMITH. [A youth with yellow hair and huge arms.] What about
EVANS. They can stand what we can stand, I suppose, can't they?
BLACKSMITH. Ye've no wife?
EVANS. An' don't want one!
THOMAS. [Raising his voice.] Aye! Give us the power to come to
terms with London, lads.
DAVIES. [A dark, slow-fly, gloomy man.] Go up the platform, if you
got anything to say, go up an' say it.
[There are cries of "Thomas!" He is pushed towards the
platform; he ascends it with difficulty, and bares his head,
waiting for silence. A hush.]
RED-HAIRED YOUTH. [suddenly.] Coot old Thomas!
[A hoarse laugh; the bargemen exchange remarks; a hush again,
and THOMAS begins speaking.]
THOMAS. We are all in the tepth together, and it iss Nature that has
put us there.
HENRY ROUS. It's London put us there!
EVANS. It's the Union.
THOMAS. It iss not Lonton; nor it iss not the Union--it iss Nature.
It iss no disgrace whateffer to a potty to give in to Nature. For
this Nature iss a fery pig thing; it is pigger than what a man is.
There iss more years to my hett than to the hett of any one here.
It is fery pat, look you, this Going against Nature. It is pat to
make other potties suffer, when there is nothing to pe cot py it.
[A laugh. THOMAS angrily goes on.]
What are ye laughing at? It is pat, I say! We are fighting for a
principle; there is no potty that shall say I am not a peliever in
principle. Putt when Nature says "No further," then it is no coot
snapping your fingers in her face.
[A laugh from ROBERTS, and murmurs of approval.]
This Nature must pe humort. It is a man's pisiness to pe pure,
honest, just, and merciful. That's what Chapel tells you. [To
ROBERTS, angrily.] And, look you, David Roberts, Chapel tells you ye
can do that without Going against Nature.
JAGO. What about the Union?
THOMAS. I ton't trust the Union; they haf treated us like tirt.
"Do what we tell you," said they. I haf peen captain of the furnace-
men twenty years, and I say to the Union--[excitedly]--"Can you tell
me then, as well as I can tell you, what iss the right wages for the
work that these men do?" For fife and twenty years I haf paid my
moneys to the Union and--[with great excitement]--for nothings! What
iss that but roguery, for all that this Mr. Harness says!
EVANS. Hear, hear.
HENRY ROUS. Get on with you! Cut on with it then!
THOMAS. Look you, if a man toes not trust me, am I going to trust
JAGO. That's right.
THOMAS. Let them alone for rogues, and act for ourselves.
BLACKSMITH. That's what we been doin', haven't we?
THOMAS. [With increased excitement.] I wass brought up to do for
meself. I wass brought up to go without a thing, if I hat not moneys
to puy it. There iss too much, look you, of doing things with other
people's moneys. We haf fought fair, and if we haf peen beaten, it
iss no fault of ours. Gif us the power to make terms with London for
ourself; if we ton't succeed, I say it iss petter to take our peating
like men, than to tie like togs, or hang on to others' coat-tails to
make them do our pisiness for us!
EVANS. [Muttering.] Who wants to?
THOMAS. [Craning.] What's that? If I stand up to a potty, and he
knocks me town, I am not to go hollering to other potties to help me;
I am to stand up again; and if he knocks me town properly, I am to
stay there, is n't that right?
JAGO. No Union!
HENRY ROUS. Union!
[Others take up the shout.]
[BULGIN and the BLACKSMITH shake their fists at EVANS.]
THOMAS. [With a gesture.] I am an olt man, look you.
[A sudden silence, then murmurs again.]
LEWIS. Olt fool, with his "No Union!"
BULGIN. Them furnace chaps! For twopence I 'd smash the faces o'
the lot of them.
GREEN. If I'd a been listened to at the first!
THOMAS. [Wiping his brow.] I'm comin' now to what I was going to
DAVIES. [Muttering.] An' time too!
THOMAS. [Solemnly.] Chapel says: Ton't carry on this strife! Put
an end to it!
JAGO. That's a lie! Chapel says go on!
THOMAS. [Scornfully.] Inteet! I haf ears to my head.
RED-HAIRED YOUTH. Ah! long ones!
JAGO. Your ears have misbeled you then.
THOMAS. [Excitedly.] Ye cannot be right if I am, ye cannot haf it
RED-HAIRED YOUTH. Chapel can though!
["The Shaver" laughs; there are murmurs from the crowd.]
THOMAS. [Fixing his eyes on "The Shaver."] Ah! ye 're Going the
roat to tamnation. An' so I say to all of you. If ye co against
Chapel I will not pe with you, nor will any other Got-fearing man.
[He steps down from the platform. JAGO makes his way towards
it. There are cries of "Don't let 'im go up!"]
JAGO. Don't let him go up? That's free speech, that is. [He goes
up.] I ain't got much to say to you. Look at the matter plain; ye
've come the road this far, and now you want to chuck the journey.
We've all been in one boat; and now you want to pull in two. We
engineers have stood by you; ye 're ready now, are ye, to give us the
go-by? If we'd aknown that before, we'd not a-started out with you
so early one bright morning! That's all I 've got to say. Old man
Thomas a'n't got his Bible lesson right. If you give up to London,
or to Harness, now, it's givin' us the chuck--to save your skins--you
won't get over that, my boys; it's a dirty thing to do.
[He gets down; during his little speech, which is ironically
spoken, there is a restless discomfort in the crowd. ROUS,
stepping forward, jumps on the platform. He has an air of
fierce distraction. Sullen murmurs of disapproval from the
ROUS. [Speaking with great excitement.] I'm no blanky orator,
mates, but wot I say is drove from me. What I say is yuman nature.
Can a man set an' see 'is mother starve? Can 'e now?
ROBERTS. [Starting forward.] Rous!
ROUS. [Staring at him fiercely.] Sim 'Arness said fair! I've
changed my mind!
ROBERTS. Ah! Turned your coat you mean!
[The crowd manifests a great surprise.]
LEWIS. [Apostrophising Rous.] Hallo! What's turned him round?
ROUS. [Speaking with intense excitement.] 'E said fair. "Stand by
us," 'e said, "and we'll stand by you." That's where we've been
makin' our mistake this long time past; and who's to blame fort? [He
points at ROBERTS] That man there! "No," 'e said, "fight the
robbers," 'e said, "squeeze the breath out o' them!" But it's not the
breath out o' them that's being squeezed; it's the breath out of us
and ours, and that's the book of truth. I'm no orator, mates, it's
the flesh and blood in me that's speakin', it's the heart o' me.
[With a menacing, yet half-ashamed movement towards ROBERTS.] He'll
speak to you again, mark my words, but don't ye listen. [The crowd
groans.] It's hell fire that's on that man's tongue. [ROBERTS is
seen laughing.] Sim 'Arness is right. What are we without the
Union--handful o' parched leaves--a puff o' smoke. I'm no orator,
but I say: Chuck it up! Chuck it up! Sooner than go on starving the
women and the children.
[The murmurs of acquiescence almost drown the murmurs of
EVANS. What's turned you to blacklegging?
ROUS. [With a furious look.] Sim 'Arness knows what he's talking
about. Give us power to come to terms with London; I'm no orator,
but I say--have done wi' this black misery!
[He gives his muter a twist, jerks his head back, and jumps off
the platform. The crowd applauds and surges forward. Amid
cries of "That's enough!" "Up Union!" "Up Harness!" ROBERTS
quietly ascends the platform. There is a moment of silence.]
BLACKSMITH. We don't want to hear you. Shut it!
HENRY Rous. Get down!
[Amid such cries they surge towards the platform.]
EVANS. [Fiercely.] Let 'im speak! Roberts! Roberts!
BULGIN. [Muttering.] He'd better look out that I don't crack his
[ROBERTS faces the crowd, probing them with his eyes till they
gradually become silent. He begins speaking. One of the
bargemen rises and stands.]
ROBERTS. You don't want to hear me, then? You'll listen to Rous and
to that old man, but not to me. You'll listen to Sim Harness of the
Union that's treated you so fair; maybe you'll listen to those men
from London? Ah! You groan! What for? You love their feet on your
necks, don't you? [Then as BULGIN elbows his way towards the
platform, with calm bathos.] You'd like to break my jaw, John
Bulgin. Let me speak, then do your smashing, if it gives you
pleasure. [BULGIN Stands motionless and sullen.] Am I a liar, a
coward, a traitor? If only I were, ye'd listen to me, I'm sure.
[The murmurings cease, and there is now dead silence.] Is there a
man of you here that has less to gain by striking? Is there a man of
you that had more to lose? Is there a man of you that has given up
eight hundred pounds since this trouble here began? Come now, is
there? How much has Thomas given up--ten pounds or five, or what?
You listened to him, and what had he to say? "None can pretend," he
said, "that I'm not a believer in principle--[with biting irony]--but
when Nature says: 'No further, 't es going agenst Nature.'" I tell
you if a man cannot say to Nature: "Budge me from this if ye can!"--
[with a sort of exaltation]his principles are but his belly. "Oh,
but," Thomas says, "a man can be pure and honest, just and merciful,
and take off his hat to Nature! "I tell you Nature's neither pure
nor honest, just nor merciful. You chaps that live over the hill,
an' go home dead beat in the dark on a snowy night--don't ye fight
your way every inch of it? Do ye go lyin' down an' trustin' to the
tender mercies of this merciful Nature? Try it and you'll soon know
with what ye've got to deal. 'T es only by that--[he strikes a blow
with his clenched fist]--in Nature's face that a man can be a man.
"Give in," says Thomas, "go down on your knees; throw up your foolish
fight, an' perhaps," he said, "perhaps your enemy will chuck you down
EVANS. Curse them!
THOMAS. I nefer said that.
ROBERTS. [Bitingly.] If ye did not say it, man, ye meant it.
An' what did ye say about Chapel? "Chapel's against it," ye said.
"She 's against it!" Well, if Chapel and Nature go hand in hand,
it's the first I've ever heard of it. That young man there--
[pointing to ROUS]--said I 'ad 'ell fire on my tongue. If I had I
would use it all to scorch and wither this talking of surrender.
Surrendering 's the work of cowards and traitors.
HENRY ROUS. [As GEORGE ROUS moves forward.] Go for him, George--
don't stand his lip!
ROBERTS. [Flinging out his finger.] Stop there, George Rous, it's
no time this to settle personal matters. [ROUS stops.] But there
was one other spoke to you--Mr. Simon Harness. We have not much to
thank Mr. Harness and the Union for. They said to us "Desert your
mates, or we'll desert you." An' they did desert us.
EVANS. They did.
ROBERTS. Mr. Simon Harness is a clever man, but he has come too
late. [With intense conviction.] For all that Mr. Simon Harness
says, for all that Thomas, Rous, for all that any man present here
can say--We've won the fight!
[The crowd sags nearer, looking eagerly up.]
[With withering scorn.] You've felt the pinch o't in your bellies.
You've forgotten what that fight 'as been; many times I have told
you; I will tell you now this once again. The fight o' the country's
body and blood against a blood-sucker. The fight of those that spend
themselves with every blow they strike and every breath they draw,
against a thing that fattens on them, and grows and grows by the law
of merciful Nature. That thing is Capital! A thing that buys the
sweat o' men's brows, and the tortures o' their brains, at its own
price. Don't I know that? Wasn't the work o' my brains bought for
seven hundred pounds, and has n't one hundred thousand pounds been
gained them by that seven hundred without the stirring of a finger.
It is a thing that will take as much and give you as little as it
can. That's Capital! A thing that will say--"I'm very sorry for
you, poor fellows--you have a cruel time of it, I know," but will not
give one sixpence of its dividends to help you have a better time.
That's Capital! Tell me, for all their talk, is there one of them
that will consent to another penny on the Income Tax to help the
poor? That's Capital! A white-faced, stony-hearted monster! Ye
have got it on its knees; are ye to give up at the last minute to
save your miserable bodies pain? When I went this morning to those
old men from London, I looked into their very 'earts. One of them
was sitting there--Mr. Scantlebury, a mass of flesh nourished on us:
sittin' there for all the world like the shareholders in this
Company, that sit not moving tongue nor finger, takin' dividends a
great dumb ox that can only be roused when its food is threatened.
I looked into his eyes and I saw he was afraid--afraid for himself
and his dividends; afraid for his fees, afraid of the very
shareholders he stands for; and all but one of them's afraid--like
children that get into a wood at night, and start at every rustle of
the leaves. I ask you, men--[he pauses, holding out his hand till
there is utter silence]--give me a free hand to tell them: "Go you
back to London. The men have nothing for you!" [A murmuring.] Give
me that, an' I swear to you, within a week you shall have from London
all you want.
EVANS, JAGO, and OTHERS. A free hand! Give him a free hand! Bravo-
ROBERTS. 'T is not for this little moment of time we're fighting
[the murmuring dies], not for ourselves, our own little bodies, and
their wants, 't is for all those that come after throughout all time.
[With intense sadness.] Oh! men--for the love o' them, don't roll
up another stone upon their heads, don't help to blacken the sky, an'
let the bitter sea in over them. They're welcome to the worst that
can happen to me, to the worst that can happen to us all, are n't
they--are n't they? If we can shake [passionately] that white-faced
monster with the bloody lips, that has sucked the life out of
ourselves, our wives, and children, since the world began. [Dropping
the note of passion but with the utmost weight and intensity.] If we
have not the hearts of men to stand against it breast to breast, and
eye to eye, and force it backward till it cry for mercy, it will go
on sucking life; and we shall stay forever what we are [in almost a
whisper], less than the very dogs.
[An utter stillness, and ROBERTS stands rocking his body
slightly, with his eyes burning the faces of the crowd.]
EVANS and JAGO. [Suddenly.] Roberts! [The shout is taken up.]
[There is a slight movement in the crowd, and MADGE passing
below the towing-path, stops by the platform, looking up at
ROBERTS. A sudden doubting silence.]
ROBERTS. "Nature," says that old man, "give in to Nature." I tell
you, strike your blow in Nature's face--an' let it do its worst!
[He catches sight of MADGE, his brows contract, he looks away.]
MADGE. [In a low voice-close to the platform.] Your wife's dying!
[ROBERTS glares at her as if torn from some pinnacle of
ROBERTS. [Trying to stammer on.] I say to you--answer them--answer
[He is drowned by the murmur in the crowd.]
THOMAS. [Stepping forward.] Ton't you hear her, then?
ROBERTS. What is it? [A dead silence.]
THOMAS. Your wife, man!
[ROBERTS hesitates, then with a gesture, he leaps down, and goes
away below the towing-path, the men making way for him. The
standing bargeman opens and prepares to light a lantern.
Daylight is fast failing.]
MADGE. He need n't have hurried! Annie Roberts is dead. [Then in
the silence, passionately.] You pack of blinded hounds! How many
more women are you going to let to die?
[The crowd shrinks back from her, and breaks up in groups, with
a confused, uneasy movement. MADGE goes quickly away below the
towing-path. There is a hush as they look after her.]
LEWIS. There's a spitfire, for ye!
BULGIN. [Growling.] I'll smash 'er jaw.
GREEN. If I'd a-been listened to, that poor woman----
THOMAS. It's a judgment on him for going against Chapel. I tolt him
how 't would be!
EVANS. All the more reason for sticking by 'im. [A cheer.] Are you
goin' to desert him now 'e 's down? Are you going to chuck him over,
now 'e 's lost 'is wife?
[The crowd is murmuring and cheering all at once.]
ROUS. [Stepping in front of platform.] Lost his wife! Aye! Can't
ye see? Look at home, look at your own wives! What's to save them?
Ye'll have the same in all your houses before long!
LEWIS. Aye, aye!
HENRY ROUS. Right! George, right!
[There are murmurs of assent.]
ROUS. It's not us that's blind, it's Roberts. How long will ye put
up with 'im!
HENRY, ROUS, BULGIN, DAVIES. Give 'im the chuck!
[The cry is taken up.]
EVANS. [Fiercely.] Kick a man that's down? Down?
HENRY ROUS. Stop his jaw there!
[EVANS throws up his arm at a threat from BULGIN. The bargeman,
who has lighted the lantern, holds it high above his head.]
ROUS. [Springing on to the platform.] What brought him down then,
but 'is own black obstinacy? Are ye goin' to follow a man that can't
see better than that where he's goin'?
EVANS. He's lost 'is wife.
ROUS. An' who's fault's that but his own. 'Ave done with 'im, I
say, before he's killed your own wives and mothers.
DAVIES. Down 'im!
HENRY ROUS. He's finished!
BROWN. We've had enough of 'im!
BLACKSMITH. Too much!
[The crowd takes up these cries, excepting only EVANS, JAGO, and
GREEN, who is seen to argue mildly with the BLACKSMITH.]
ROUS. [Above the hubbub.] We'll make terms with the Union, lads.
EVANS. [Fiercely.] Ye blacklegs!
BULGIN. [Savagely-squaring up to him.] Who are ye callin'
[EVANS throws up his fists, parries the blow, and returns it.
They fight. The bargemen are seen holding up the lantern and
enjoying the sight. Old THOMAS steps forward and holds out his
THOMAS. Shame on your strife!
[The BLACKSMITH, BROWN, LEWIS, and the RED-HAIRED YOUTH pull
EVANS and BULGIN apart. The stage is almost dark.]
The curtain falls.
It is five o'clock. In the UNDERWOODS' drawing-room, which is
artistically furnished, ENID is sitting on the sofa working at a
baby's frock. EDGAR, by a little spindle-legged table in the
centre of the room, is fingering a china-box. His eyes are
fixed on the double-doors that lead into the dining-room.
EDGAR. [Putting down the china-box, and glancing at his watch.]
Just on five, they're all in there waiting, except Frank. Where's
ENID. He's had to go down to Gasgoyne's about a contract. Will you
EDGAR. He can't help us. This is a director's job. [Motioning
towards a single door half hidden by a curtain.] Father in his room?
EDGAR. I wish he'd stay there, Enid.
[ENID looks up at him. This is a beastly business, old girl?]
[He takes up the little box again and turns it over and over.]
ENID. I went to the Roberts's this afternoon, Ted.
EDGAR. That was n't very wise.
ENID. He's simply killing his wife.
EDGAR. We are you mean.
ENID. [Suddenly.] Roberts ought to give way!
EDGAR. There's a lot to be said on the men's side.
ENID. I don't feel half so sympathetic with them as I did before I
went. They just set up class feeling against you. Poor Annie was
looking dread fully bad--fire going out, and nothing fit for her to
[EDGAR walks to and fro.]
But she would stand up for Roberts. When you see all this
wretchedness going on and feel you can do nothing, you have to shut
your eyes to the whole thing.
EDGAR. If you can.
ENID. When I went I was all on their side, but as soon as I got
there I began to feel quite different at once. People talk about
sympathy with the working classes, they don't know what it means to
try and put it into practice. It seems hopeless.
EDGAR. Ah! well.
ENID. It's dreadful going on with the men in this state. I do hope
the Dad will make concessions.
EDGAR. He won't. [Gloomily.] It's a sort of religion with him.
Curse it! I know what's coming! He'll be voted down.
ENID. They would n't dare!
EDGAR. They will--they're in a funk.
ENID. [Indignantly.] He'd never stand it!
EDGAR. [With a shrug.] My dear girl, if you're beaten in a vote,
you've got to stand it.
ENID. Oh! [She gets up in alarm.] But would he resign?
EDGAR. Of course! It goes to the roots of his beliefs.
ENID. But he's so wrapped up in this company, Ted! There'd be
nothing left for him! It'd be dreadful!
[EDGAR shrugs his shoulders.]
Oh, Ted, he's so old now! You must n't let them!
EDGAR. [Hiding his feelings in an outburst.] My sympathies in this
strike are all on the side of the men.
ENID. He's been Chairman for more than thirty years! He made the
whole thing! And think of the bad times they've had; it's always
been he who pulled them through. Oh, Ted, you must!
EDGAR. What is it you want? You said just now you hoped he'd make
concessions. Now you want me to back him in not making them. This
is n't a game, Enid!
ENID. [Hotly.] It is n't a game to me that the Dad's in danger of
losing all he cares about in life. If he won't give way, and he's
beaten, it'll simply break him down!
EDGAR. Did n't you say it was dreadful going on with the men in this
ENID. But can't you see, Ted, Father'll never get over it! You must
stop them somehow. The others are afraid of him. If you back him
EDGAR. [Putting his hand to his head.] Against my convictions--
against yours! The moment it begins to pinch one personally----
ENID. It is n't personal, it's the Dad!
EDGAR. Your family or yourself, and over goes the show!
ENID. [Resentfully.] If you don't take it seriously, I do.
EDGAR. I am as fond of him as you are; that's nothing to do with it.
ENID. We can't tell about the men; it's all guess-work. But we know
the Dad might have a stroke any day. D' you mean to say that he
isn't more to you than----
EDGAR. Of course he is.
ENID. I don't understand you then.
ENID. If it were for oneself it would be different, but for our own
Father! You don't seem to realise.
EDGAR. I realise perfectly.
ENID. It's your first duty to save him.
EDGAR. I wonder.
ENID. [Imploring.] Oh, Ted? It's the only interest he's got left;
it'll be like a death-blow to him!
EDGAR. [Restraining his emotion.] I know.
EDGAR. I'll do what I can.
[He turns to the double-doors.]
[The curtained door is opened, and ANTHONY appears. EDGAR opens
the double-doors, and passes through.]
[SCANTLEBURY'S voice is faintly heard: "Past five; we shall
never get through--have to eat another dinner at that hotel!"
The doors are shut. ANTHONY walks forward.]
ANTHONY. You've been seeing Roberts, I hear.
ANTHONY. Do you know what trying to bridge such a gulf as this is
[ENID puts her work on the little table, and faces him.]
Filling a sieve with sand!
ANTHONY. You think with your gloved hands you can cure the trouble
of the century.
[He passes on. ]
[ANTHONY Stops at the double doors.]
I'm only thinking of you!
ANTHONY. [More softly.] I can take care of myself, my dear.
ENID. Have you thought what'll happen if you're beaten--
[she points]--in there?
ANTHONY. I don't mean to be.
ENID. Oh! Father, don't give them a chance. You're not well; need
you go to the meeting at all?
ANTHONY. [With a grim smile.] Cut and run?
ENID. But they'll out-vote you!
ANTHONY. [Putting his hand on the doors.] We shall see!
ENID. I beg you, Dad! Won't you?
[ANTHONY looks at her softly.]
[ANTHONY shakes his head. He opens the doors. A buzz of voices
SCANTLEBURY. Can one get dinner on that 6.30 train up?
TENCH. No, Sir, I believe not, sir.
WILDER. Well, I shall speak out; I've had enough of this.
EDGAR. [Sharply.] What?
[It ceases instantly. ANTHONY passes through, closing the doors
behind him. ENID springs to them with a gesture of dismay. She
puts her hand on the knob, and begins turning it; then goes to
the fireplace, and taps her foot on the fender. Suddenly she
rings the bell. FROST comes in by the door that leads into the
FROST. Yes, M'm?
ENID. When the men come, Frost, please show them in here; the
hall 's cold.
FROST. I could put them in the pantry, M'm.
ENID. No. I don't want to--to offend them; they're so touchy.
FROST. Yes, M'm. [Pause.] Excuse me, Mr. Anthony's 'ad nothing to
eat all day.
ENID. I know Frost.
FROST. Nothin' but two whiskies and sodas, M'm.
ENID. Oh! you oughtn't to have let him have those.
FROST. [Gravely.] Mr. Anthony is a little difficult, M'm. It's not
as if he were a younger man, an' knew what was good for 'im; he will
have his own way.
ENID. I suppose we all want that.
FROST. Yes, M'm. [Quietly.] Excuse me speakin' about the strike.
I'm sure if the other gentlemen were to give up to Mr. Anthony, and
quietly let the men 'ave what they want, afterwards, that'd be the
best way. I find that very useful with him at times, M'm.
[ENID shakes hey head.]
If he's crossed, it makes him violent. [with an air of discovery],
and I've noticed in my own case, when I'm violent I'm always sorry
for it afterwards.
ENID. [With a smile.] Are you ever violent, Frost?
FROST. Yes, M'm; oh! sometimes very violent.
ENID. I've never seen you.
FROST. [Impersonally.] No, M'm; that is so.
[ENID fidgets towards the back of the door.]
[With feeling.] Bein' with Mr. Anthony, as you know, M'm, ever since
I was fifteen, it worries me to see him crossed like this at his age.
I've taken the liberty to speak to Mr. Wanklin [dropping his voice]--
seems to be the most sensible of the gentlemen--but 'e said to me:
"That's all very well, Frost, but this strike's a very serious
thing," 'e said. "Serious for all parties, no doubt," I said, "but
yumour 'im, sir," I said, "yumour 'im. It's like this, if a man
comes to a stone wall, 'e does n't drive 'is 'ead against it, 'e gets
over it." "Yes," 'e said, "you'd better tell your master that."
[FROST looks at his nails.] That's where it is, M'm. I said to Mr.
Anthony this morning: "Is it worth it, sir?" "Damn it," he said to
me, "Frost! Mind your own business, or take a month's notice!" Beg
pardon, M'm, for using such a word.
ENID. [Moving to the double-doors, and listening.] Do you know that
man Roberts, Frost?
FROST. Yes, M'm; that's to say, not to speak to. But to look at 'im
you can tell what he's like.
ENID. [Stopping.] Yes?
FROST. He's not one of these 'ere ordinary 'armless Socialists.
'E's violent; got a fire inside 'im. What I call "personal." A man
may 'ave what opinions 'e likes, so long as 'e 's not personal; when
'e 's that 'e 's not safe.
ENID. I think that's what my father feels about Roberts.
FROST. No doubt, M'm, Mr. Anthony has a feeling against him.
[ENID glances at him sharply, but finding him in perfect
earnest, stands biting her lips, and looking at the double-
It 's, a regular right down struggle between the two. I've no
patience with this Roberts, from what I 'ear he's just an ordinary
workin' man like the rest of 'em. If he did invent a thing he's no
worse off than 'undreds of others. My brother invented a new kind o'
dumb-waiter--nobody gave him anything for it, an' there it is, bein'
used all over the place.
[ENID moves closer to the double-doors.]
There's a kind o' man that never forgives the world, because 'e
wasn't born a gentleman. What I say is--no man that's a gentleman
looks down on another because 'e 'appens to be a class or two above
'im, no more than if 'e 'appens to be a class or two below.
ENID. [With slight impatience.] Yes, I know, Frost, of course.
Will you please go in and ask if they'll have some tea; say I sent
FROST. Yes, M'm.
[He opens the doors gently and goes in. There is a momentary
sound of earnest, gather angry talk.]
WILDER. I don't agree with you.
WANKLIN. We've had this over a dozen times.
EDGAR. [Impatiently.] Well, what's the proposition?
SCANTLEBURY. Yes, what does your father say? Tea? Not for me, not
WANKLIN. What I understand the Chairman to say is this----
[FROST re-enters closing the door behind him.]
ENID. [Moving from the door.] Won't they have any tea, Frost?
[She goes to the little table, and remains motionless, looking
at the baby's frock.]
[A parlourmaid enters from the hall.]
PARLOURMAID. A Miss Thomas, M'm
ENID. [Raising her head.] Thomas? What Miss Thomas--d' you
PARLOURMAID. Yes, M'm.
ENID. [Blankly.] Oh! Where is she?
PARLOURMAID. In the porch.
ENID. I don't want----[She hesitates.]
FROST. Shall I dispose of her, M'm?
ENID. I 'll come out. No, show her in here, Ellen.
[The PARLOUR MAID and FROST go out. ENID pursing her lips, sits
at the little table, taking up the baby's frock. The
PARLOURMAID ushers in MADGE THOMAS and goes out; MADGE stands by
ENID. Come in. What is it. What have you come for, please?
MADGE. Brought a message from Mrs. Roberts.
ENID. A message? Yes.
MADGE. She asks you to look after her mother.
ENID. I don't understand.
MADGE. [Sullenly.] That's the message.
MADGE. Annie Roberts is dead.
[There is a silence.]
ENID. [Horrified.] But it's only a little more than an hour since I
MADGE. Of cold and hunger.
ENID. [Rising.] Oh! that's not true! the poor thing's heart----
What makes you look at me like that? I tried to help her.
MADGE. [With suppressed savagery.] I thought you'd like to know.
ENID. [Passionately.] It's so unjust! Can't you see that I want to
help you all?
MADGE. I never harmed any one that had n't harmed me first.
ENID. [Coldly.] What harm have I done you? Why do you speak to me
MADGE. [With the bitterest intensity.] You come out of your comfort
to spy on us! A week of hunger, that's what you want!
ENID. [Standing her ground.] Don't talk nonsense!
MADGE. I saw her die; her hands were blue with the cold.
ENID. [With a movement of grief.] Oh! why wouldn't she let me help
her? It's such senseless pride!
MADGE. Pride's better than nothing to keep your body warm.
ENID. [Passionately.] I won't talk to you! How can you tell what I
feel? It's not my fault that I was born better off than you.
MADGE. We don't want your money.
ENID. You don't understand, and you don't want to; please to go
MADGE. [Balefully.] You've killed her, for all your soft words, you
and your father
ENID. [With rage and emotion.] That's wicked! My father is
suffering himself through this wretched strike.
MADGE. [With sombre triumph.] Then tell him Mrs. Roberts is dead!
That 'll make him better.
ENID. Go away!
MADGE. When a person hurts us we get it back on them.
[She makes a sudden and swift movement towards ENID, fixing her
eyes on the child's frock lying across the little table. ENID
snatches the frock up, as though it were the child itself. They
stand a yard apart, crossing glances.]
MADGE. [Pointing to the frock with a little smile.] Ah! You felt
that! Lucky it's her mother--not her children--you've to look after,
is n't it. She won't trouble you long!
ENID. Go away!
MADGE. I've given you the message.
[She turns and goes out into the hall. ENID, motionless till
she has gone, sinks down at the table, bending her head over the
frock, which she is still clutching to her. The double-doors
are opened, and ANTHONY comes slowly in; he passes his daughter,
and lowers himself into an arm-chair. He is very flushed.]
ENID. [Hiding her emotion-anxiously.] What is it, Dad?
[ANTHONY makes a gesture, but does not speak.]
Who was it?
[ANTHONY does not answer. ENID going to the double-doors meets
EDGAR Coming in. They speak together in low tones.]
What is it, Ted?
EDGAR. That fellow Wilder! Taken to personalities! He was
ENID. What did he say?
EDGAR. Said, Father was too old and feeble to know what he was
doing! The Dad's worth six of him!
ENID. Of course he is.
[They look at ANTHONY.]
[The doors open wider, WANKLIN appears With SCANTLEBURY.]
SCANTLEBURY. [Sotto voce.] I don't like the look of this!
WANKLIN. [Going forward.] Come, Chairman! Wilder sends you his
apologies. A man can't do more.
[WILDER, followed by TENCH, comes in, and goes to ANTHONY.]
WILDER. [Glumly.] I withdraw my words, sir. I'm sorry.
[ANTHONY nods to him.]
ENID. You have n't come to a decision, Mr. Wanklin?
[WANKLIN shakes his head.]
WANKLIN. We're all here, Chairman; what do you say? Shall we get on
with the business, or shall we go back to the other room?
SCANTLEBURY. Yes, yes; let's get on. We must settle something.
[He turns from a small chair, and settles himself suddenly in
the largest chair with a sigh of comfort.]
[WILDER and WANKLIN also sit; and TENCH, drawing up a straight-
backed chair close to his Chairman, sits on the edge of it with
the minute-book and a stylographic pen.]
ENID. [Whispering.] I want to speak to you a minute, Ted.
[They go out through the double-doors.]
WANKLIN. Really, Chairman, it's no use soothing ourselves with a
sense of false security. If this strike's not brought to an end
before the General Meeting, the shareholders will certainly haul us
over the coals.
SCANTLEBURY. [Stirring.] What--what's that?
WANKLIN. I know it for a fact.
ANTHONY. Let them!
WILDER. And get turned out?
WANKLIN. [To ANTHONY.] I don't mind martyrdom for a policy in which
I believe, but I object to being burnt for some one else's
SCANTLEBURY. Very reasonable--you must see that, Chairman.
ANTHONY. We owe it to other employers to stand firm.
WANKLIN. There's a limit to that.
ANTHONY. You were all full of fight at the start.
SCANTLEBURY. [With a sort of groan.] We thought the men would give
in, but they-have n't!
ANTHONY. They will!
WILDER. [Rising and pacing up and down.] I can't have my reputation
as a man of business destroyed for the satisfaction of starving the
men out. [Almost in tears.] I can't have it! How can we meet the
shareholders with things in the state they are?
SCANTLEBURY. Hear, hear--hear, hear!
WILDER. [Lashing himself.] If any one expects me to say to them
I've lost you fifty thousand pounds and sooner than put my pride in
my pocket I'll lose you another. [Glancing at ANTHONY.] It's--it's
unnatural! I don't want to go against you, sir.
WANKLIN. [Persuasively.] Come Chairman, we 're not free agents.
We're part of a machine. Our only business is to see the Company
earns as much profit as it safely can. If you blame me for want of
principle: I say that we're Trustees. Reason tells us we shall never
get back in the saving of wages what we shall lose if we continue
this struggle--really, Chairman, we must bring it to an end, on the
best terms we can make.
[There is a pause of general dismay.]
WILDER. It's a deadlock then. [Letting his hands drop with a sort
of despair.] Now I shall never get off to Spain!
WANKLIN. [Retaining a trace of irony.] You hear the consequences of
your victory, Chairman?
WILDER. [With a burst of feeling.] My wife's ill!
SCANTLEBURY. Dear, dear! You don't say so.
WILDER. If I don't get her out of this cold, I won't answer for the
[Through the double-doors EDGAR comes in looking very grave.]
EDGAR. [To his Father.] Have you heard this, sir? Mrs. Roberts is
[Every one stages at him, as if trying to gauge the importance
of this news.]
Enid saw her this afternoon, she had no coals, or food, or anything.
[There is a silence, every one avoiding the other's eyes, except
ANTHONY, who stares hard at his son.]
SCANTLEBURY. You don't suggest that we could have helped the poor
WILDER. [Flustered.] The woman was in bad health. Nobody can say
there's any responsibility on us. At least--not on me.
EDGAR. [Hotly.] I say that we are responsible.
ANTHONY. War is war!
EDGAR. Not on women!
WANKLIN. It not infrequently happens that women are the greatest
EDGAR. If we knew that, all the more responsibility rests on us.
ANTHONY. This is no matter for amateurs.
EDGAR. Call me what you like, sir. It's sickened me. We had no
right to carry things to such a length.
WILDER. I don't like this business a bit--that Radical rag will
twist it to their own ends; see if they don't! They'll get up some
cock and bull story about the poor woman's dying from starvation. I
wash my hands of it.
EDGAR. You can't. None of us can.
SCANTLEBURY. [Striking his fist on the arm of his chair.] But I
protest against this!
EDGAR. Protest as you like, Mr. Scantlebury, it won't alter facts.
ANTHONY. That's enough.
EDGAR. [Facing him angrily.] No, sir. I tell you exactly what I
think. If we pretend the men are not suffering, it's humbug; and if
they're suffering, we know enough of human nature to know the women
are suffering more, and as to the children--well--it's damnable!
[SCANTLEBURY rises from his chair.]
I don't say that we meant to be cruel, I don't say anything of the
sort; but I do say it's criminal to shut our eyes to the facts. We
employ these men, and we can't get out of it. I don't care so much
about the men, but I'd sooner resign my position on the Board than go
on starving women in this way.
[All except ANTHONY are now upon their feet, ANTHONY sits
grasping the arms of his chair and staring at his son.]
SCANTLEBURY. I don't--I don't like the way you're putting it, young
WANKLIN. You're rather overshooting the mark.
WILDER. I should think so indeed!
EDGAR. [Losing control.] It's no use blinking things! If you want
to have the death of women on your hands--I don't!
SCANTLEBURY. Now, now, young man!
WILDER. On our hands? Not on mine, I won't have it!
EDGAR. We are five members of this Board; if we were four against
it, why did we let it drift till it came to this? You know perfectly
well why--because we hoped we should starve the men out. Well, all
we've done is to starve one woman out!
SCANTLEBURY. [Almost hysterically.] I protest, I protest! I'm a
humane man--we're all humane men!
EDGAR. [Scornfully.] There's nothing wrong with our humanity. It's
our imaginations, Mr. Scantlebury.
WILDER. Nonsense! My imagination's as good as yours.
EDGAR. If so, it is n't good enough.
WILDER. I foresaw this!
EDGAR. Then why didn't you put your foot down!
WILDER. Much good that would have done.
[He looks at ANTHONY.]
EDGAR. If you, and I, and each one of us here who say that our
imaginations are so good--
SCANTLEBURY. [Flurried.] I never said so.
EDGAR. [Paying no attention.]--had put our feet down, the thing
would have been ended long ago, and this poor woman's life wouldn't
have been crushed out of her like this. For all we can tell there
may be a dozen other starving women.
SCANTLEBURY. For God's sake, sir, don't use that word at a--at a
Board meeting; it's--it's monstrous.
EDGAR. I will use it, Mr. Scantlebury.
SCANTLEBURY. Then I shall not listen to you. I shall not listen!
It's painful to me.
[He covers his ears.]
WANKLIN. None of us are opposed to a settlement, except your Father.
EDGAR. I'm certain that if the shareholders knew----
WANKLIN. I don't think you'll find their imaginations are any better
than ours. Because a woman happens to have a weak heart----
EDGAR. A struggle like this finds out the weak spots in everybody.
Any child knows that. If it hadn't been for this cut-throat policy,
she need n't have died like this; and there would n't be all this
misery that any one who is n't a fool can see is going on.
[Throughout the foregoing ANTHONY has eyed his son; he now moves
as though to rise, but stops as EDGAR speaks again.]
I don't defend the men, or myself, or anybody.
WANKLIN. You may have to! A coroner's jury of disinterested
sympathisers may say some very nasty things. We mustn't lose sight
of our position.
SCANTLEBURY. [Without uncovering his ears.] Coroner's jury! No,
no, it's not a case for that!
EDGAR. I 've had enough of cowardice.
WANKLIN. Cowardice is an unpleasant word, Mr. Edgar Anthony. It
will look very like cowardice if we suddenly concede the men's
demands when a thing like this happens; we must be careful!
WILDER. Of course we must. We've no knowledge of this matter,
except a rumour. The proper course is to put the whole thing into
the hands of Harness to settle for us; that's natural, that's what we
should have come to any way.
SCANTLEBURY. [With dignity.] Exactly! [Turning to EDGAR.] And as
to you, young sir, I can't sufficiently express my--my distaste for
the way you've treated the whole matter. You ought to withdraw!
Talking of starvation, talking of cowardice! Considering what our
views are! Except your own is--is one of goodwill--it's most
irregular, it's most improper, and all I can say is it's--it's given
[He places his hand over his heart.]
EDGAR. [Stubbornly.] I withdraw nothing.
[He is about to say mote when SCANTLEBURY once more coveys up
his ears. TENCH suddenly makes a demonstration with the minute-
book. A sense of having been engaged in the unusual comes over
all of them, and one by one they resume their seats. EDGAR
alone remains on his feet.]
WILDER. [With an air of trying to wipe something out.] I pay no
attention to what young Mr. Anthony has said. Coroner's jury! The
idea's preposterous. I--I move this amendment to the Chairman's
Motion: That the dispute be placed at once in the hands of Mr. Simon
Harness for settlement, on the lines indicated by him this morning.
Any one second that?
[TENCH writes in his book.]
WANKLIN. I do.
WILDER. Very well, then; I ask the Chairman to put it to the Board.
ANTHONY. [With a great sigh-slowly.] We have been made the subject
of an attack. [Looking round at WILDER and SCANTLEBURY with ironical
contempt.] I take it on my shoulders. I am seventy-six years old.
I have been Chairman of this Company since its inception two-and-
thirty years ago. I have seen it pass through good and evil report.
My connection with it began in the year that this young man was born.
[EDGAR bows his head. ANTHONY, gripping his chair, goes on.]
I have had do to with "men" for fifty years; I've always stood up to
them; I have never been beaten yet. I have fought the men of this
Company four times, and four times I have beaten them. It has been
said that I am not the man I was. [He looks at Wilder.] However
that may be, I am man enough to stand to my guns.
[His voice grows stronger. The double-doors are opened. ENID
slips in, followed by UNDERWOOD, who restrains her.]
The men have been treated justly, they have had fair wages, we have
always been ready to listen to complaints. It has been said that
times have changed; if they have, I have not changed with them.
Neither will I. It has been said that masters and men are equal!
Cant! There can only be one master in a house! Where two men meet
the better man will rule. It has been said that Capital and Labour
have the same interests. Cant! Their interests are as wide asunder
as the poles. It has been said that the Board is only part of a
machine. Cant! We are the machine; its brains and sinews; it is for
us to lead and to determine what is to be done, and to do it without
fear or favour. Fear of the men! Fear of the shareholders! Fear of
our own shadows! Before I am like that, I hope to die.
[He pauses, and meeting his son's eyes, goes on.]
There is only one way of treating "men"--with the iron hand. This
half and half business, the half and half manners of this generation,
has brought all this upon us. Sentiment and softness, and what this
young man, no doubt, would call his social policy. You can't eat
cake and have it! This middle-class sentiment, or socialism, or
whatever it may be, is rotten. Masters are masters, men are men!
Yield one demand, and they will make it six. They are [he smiles
grimly] like Oliver Twist, asking for more. If I were in their
place I should be the same. But I am not in their place. Mark my
words: one fine morning, when you have given way here, and given way
there--you will find you have parted with the ground beneath your
feet, and are deep in the bog of bankruptcy; and with you,
floundering in that bog, will be the very men you have given way to.
I have been accused of being a domineering tyrant, thinking only of
my pride--I am thinking of the future of this country, threatened
with the black waters of confusion, threatened with mob government,
threatened with what I cannot see. If by any conduct of mine I help
to bring this on us, I shall be ashamed to look my fellows in the
[ANTHONY stares before him, at what he cannot see, and there is
perfect stillness. FROST comes in from the hall, and all but
ANTHONY look round at him uneasily.]
FROST. [To his master.] The men are here, sir. [ANTHONY makes a
gesture of dismissal.] Shall I bring them in, sir?
[FROST goes out, ANTHONY turns to face his son.]
I come to the attack that has been made upon me.
[EDGAR, with a gesture of deprecation, remains motionless with
his head a little bowed.]
A woman has died. I am told that her blood is on my hands; I am told
that on my hands is the starvation and the suffering of other women
and of children.
EDGAR. I said "on our hands," sir.
ANTHONY. It is the same. [His voice grows stronger and stronger,
his feeling is more and more made manifest.] I am not aware that if
my adversary suffer in a fair fight not sought by me, it is my fault.
If I fall under his feet--as fall I may--I shall not complain. That
will be my look-out--and this is--his. I cannot separate, as I
would, these men from their women and children. A fair fight is a
fair fight! Let them learn to think before they pick a quarrel!
EDGAR. [In a low voice.] But is it a fair fight, Father? Look at
them, and look at us! They've only this one weapon!
ANTHONY. [Grimly.] And you're weak-kneed enough to teach them how
to use it! It seems the fashion nowadays for men to take their
enemy's side. I have not learnt that art. Is it my fault that they
quarrelled with their Union too?
EDGAR. There is such a thing as Mercy.
ANTHONY. And justice comes before it.
EDGAR. What seems just to one man, sir, is injustice to another.
ANTHONY. [With suppressed passion.] You accuse me of injustice--of
what amounts to inhumanity--of cruelty?
[EDGAR makes a gesture of horror--a general frightened
WANKLIN. Come, come, Chairman.
ANTHONY. [In a grim voice.] These are the words of my own son.
They are the words of a generation that I don't understand; the words
of a soft breed.
[A general murmur. With a violent effort ANTHONY recovers his
EDGAR. [Quietly.] I said it of myself, too, Father.
[A long look is exchanged between them, and ANTHONY puts out his
hand with a gesture as if to sweep the personalities away; then
places it against his brow, swaying as though from giddiness.
There is a movement towards him. He moves them back.]
ANTHONY. Before I put this amendment to the Board, I have one more
word to say. [He looks from face to face.] If it is carried, it
means that we shall fail in what we set ourselves to do. It means
that we shall fail in the duty that we owe to all Capital. It means
that we shall fail in the duty that we owe ourselves. It means that
we shall be open to constant attack to which we as constantly shall
have to yield. Be under no misapprehension--run this time, and you
will never make a stand again! You will have to fly like curs before
the whips of your own men. If that is the lot you wish for, you will
vote for this amendment.
[He looks again, from face to face, finally resting his gaze on
EDGAR; all sit with their eyes on the ground. ANTHONY makes a
gesture, and TENCH hands him the book. He reads.]
"Moved by Mr. Wilder, and seconded by Mr. Wanklin: 'That the men's
demands be placed at once in the hands of Mr. Simon Harness for
settlement on the lines indicated by him this morning.'" [With
sudden vigour.] Those in favour: Signify the same in the usual way!
[For a minute no one moves; then hastily, just as ANTHONY is
about to speak, WILDER's hand and WANKLIN'S are held up, then
SCANTLEBURY'S, and last EDGAR'S who does not lift his head.]
[ANTHONY lifts his own hand.]
[In a clear voice.] The amendment is carried. I resign my position
on this Board.
[ENID gasps, and there is dead silence. ANTHONY sits
motionless, his head slowly drooping; suddenly he heaves as
though the whole of his life had risen up within him.]
Fifty years! You have disgraced me, gentlemen. Bring in the men!
[He sits motionless, staring before him. The Board draws
hurriedly together, and forms a group. TENCH in a frightened
manner speaks into the hall. UNDERWOOD almost forces ENID from
WILDER. [Hurriedly.] What's to be said to them? Why isn't Harness
here? Ought we to see the men before he comes? I don't----
TENCH. Will you come in, please?
[Enter THOMAS, GREEN, BULGIN, and ROUS, who file up in a row
past the little table. TENCH sits down and writes. All eyes
are foxed on ANTHONY, who makes no sign.]
WANKLIN. [Stepping up to the little table, with nervous cordiality.]
Well, Thomas, how's it to be? What's the result of your meeting?
ROUS. Sim Harness has our answer. He'll tell you what it is. We're
waiting for him. He'll speak for us.
WANKLIN. Is that so, Thomas?
THOMAS. [Sullenly.] Yes. Roberts will not pe coming, his wife is
SCANTLEBURY. Yes, yes! Poor woman! Yes! Yes!
FROST. [Entering from the hall.] Mr. Harness, Sir!
[As HARNESS enters he retires.]
[HARNESS has a piece of paper in his hand, he bows to the
Directors, nods towards the men, and takes his stand behind the
little table in the very centre of the room.]
HARNESS. Good evening, gentlemen.
[TENCH, with the paper he has been writing, joins him, they
speak together in low tones.]
WILDER. We've been waiting for you, Harness. Hope we shall come to
FROST. [Entering from the hall.] Roberts!
[ROBERTS comes hastily in, and stands staring at ANTHONY. His
face is drawn and old.]
ROBERTS. Mr. Anthony, I am afraid I am a little late, I would have
been here in time but for something that--has happened. [To the
men.] Has anything been said?
THOMAS. No! But, man, what made ye come?
ROBERTS. Ye told us this morning, gentlemen, to go away and
reconsider our position. We have reconsidered it; we are here to
bring you the men's answer. [To ANTHONY.] Go ye back to London. We
have nothing for you. By no jot or tittle do we abate our demands,
nor will we until the whole of those demands are yielded.
[ANTHONY looks at him but does not speak. There is a movement
amongst the men as though they were bewildered.]
ROBERTS. [Glancing fiercely at him, and back to ANTHONY.] Is that
clear enough for ye? Is it short enough and to the point? Ye made a
mistake to think that we would come to heel. Ye may break the body,
but ye cannot break the spirit. Get back to London, the men have
nothing for ye?
[Pausing uneasily he takes a step towards the unmoving ANTHONY.]
EDGAR. We're all sorry for you, Roberts, but----
ROBERTS. Keep your sorrow, young man. Let your father speak!
HARNESS. [With the sheet of paper in his hand, speaking from behind
the little table.] Roberts!
ROBERT. [TO ANTHONY, with passionate intensity.] Why don't ye
ROBERTS. [Turning sharply.] What is it?
HARNESS. [Gravely.] You're talking without the book; things have
travelled past you.
[He makes a sign to TENCH, who beckons the Directors. They
quickly sign his copy of the terms.]
Look at this, man! [Holding up his sheet of paper.] "Demands
conceded, with the exception of those relating to the engineers and
furnace-men. Double wages for Saturday's overtime. Night-shifts as
they are." These terms have been agreed. The men go back to work
again to-morrow. The strike is at an end.
ROBERTS. [Reading the paper, and turning on the men. They shrink
back from him, all but ROUS, who stands his ground. With deadly
stillness.] Ye have gone back on me? I stood by ye to the death; ye
waited for that to throw me over!
[The men answer, all speaking together.]
ROUS. It's a lie!
THOMAS. Ye were past endurance, man.
GREEN. If ye'd listen to me!
BULGIN. (Under his breath.) Hold your jaw!
ROBERTS. Ye waited for that!
HARNESS. [Taking the Director's copy of the terms, and handing his
own to TENCH.] That's enough, men. You had better go.
[The men shuffle slowly, awkwardly away.]
WILDER. [In a low, nervous voice.] There's nothing to stay for now,
I suppose. [He follows to the door.] I shall have a try for that
train! Coming, Scantlebury?
SCANTLEBURY. [Following with WANKLIN.] Yes, yes; wait for me. [He
stops as ROBERTS speaks.]
ROBERTS. [To ANTHONY.] But ye have not signed them terms! They
can't make terms without their Chairman! Ye would never sign them
terms! [ANTHONY looks at him without speaking.] Don't tell me ye
have! for the love o' God! [With passionate appeal.] I reckoned on
HARNESS. [Holding out the Director's copy of the teems.] The Board
[ROBERTS looks dully at the signatures--dashes the paper from
him, and covers up his eyes.]
SCANTLEBURY. [Behind his hand to TENCH.] Look after the Chairman!
He's not well; he's not well--he had no lunch. If there's any fund
started for the women and children, put me down for--for twenty
[He goes out into the hall, in cumbrous haste; and WANKLIN, who
has been staring at ROBERTS and ANTHONY With twitchings of his
face, follows. EDGAR remains seated on the sofa, looking at the
ground; TENCH, returning to the bureau, writes in his minute--
book. HARNESS stands by the little table, gravely watching
ROBERTS. Then you're no longer Chairman of this Company! [Breaking
into half-mad laughter.] Ah! ha-ah, ha, ha! They've thrown ye over
thrown over their Chairman: Ah-ha-ha! [With a sudden dreadful calm.]
So--they've done us both down, Mr. Anthony?
[ENID, hurrying through the double-doors, comes quickly to her
ANTHONY. Both broken men, my friend Roberts!
HARNESS. [Coming down and laying his hands on ROBERTS'S sleeve.]
For shame, Roberts! Go home quietly, man; go home!
ROBERTS. [Tearing his arm away.] Home? [Shrinking together--in a
ENID. [Quietly to her father.] Come away, dear! Come to your room
[ANTHONY rises with an effort. He turns to ROBERTS who looks at
him. They stand several seconds, gazing at each other fixedly;
ANTHONY lifts his hand, as though to salute, but lets it fall.
The expression of ROBERTS'S face changes from hostility to
wonder. They bend their heads in token of respect. ANTHONY
turns, and slowly walks towards the curtained door. Suddenly
he sways as though about to fall, recovers himself, and is
assisted out by EDGAR and ENID; UNDERWOOD follows, but stops at
the door. ROBERTS remains motionless for several seconds,
staring intently after ANTHONY, then goes out into the hall.]
TENCH. [Approaching HARNESS.] It's a great weight off my mind, Mr.
Harness! But what a painful scene, sir! [He wipes his brow.]
[HARNESS, pale and resolute, regards with a grim half-smile the
TENCH. It's all been so violent! What did he mean by: "Done us both
down?" If he has lost his wife, poor fellow, he oughtn't to have
spoken to the Chairman like that!
HARNESS. A woman dead; and the two best men both broken!
TENCH. [Staring at him-suddenly excited.] D'you know, sir--these
terms, they're the very same we drew up together, you and I, and put
to both sides before the fight began? All this--all this--and--and
HARNESS. [In a slow grim voice.] That's where the fun comes in!
[UNDERWOOD without turning from the door makes a gesture of
The curtain falls.