Part 3 out of 3
The biggest back-'ander, I ever did 'av', swelp me! . . .
[They hang on his words expectantly.]
IT AIN'T NO DRAIN AT ALL!
ALL [breathlessly]. Why, what is it, then? . . .
ROBERT. IT'S A GRIVE!
ALL. A grave! . . .
ROBERT. Yus, one o' them whoppin' great beer-vaults as you shove
big bugses' corpses inter! What d'yer think o' that now?
MARY. ) Oh! . . .
AUNTIE. ) Horrible! . . .
VICAR. I seem to remember some tradition . . .
ROBERT, You'd 'a' said so if you'd seen wot I seen! Talk abaht
corfins an' shrouds an' bones an' dead men gone to rot, they wasn't
in it, wot I saw dahn there! Madame Twosoes is a flea-bite to it!
Lord!--I never thought there could be such a lot o' muck an' dead
things all in one place before! It was a fair treat, it was, I tek
my oath! . . .
[Rapturously]. Why--why, it may cost a man 'is LIFE to deal with
that little job!
VICAR. My God! The thing's impossible!
ROBERT. Impossible! Means a bit of work, that's all!
VICAR. Why, no one would ever dare . . .
ROBERT. Dare! Why, wot d'you think I come 'ere for? . . .
VICAR. _You_! . . .
ROBERT. Yus--makin' myself unpleasant . . .
VICAR. Do you mean . . . Do I understand . . .
ROBERT. I mean as I've found _my place_, or I don't know a good
thing when I see it!
AUNTIE. What! To go into that dreadful vault, and . . .
ROBERT. Why not: ain't it my job?
AUNTIE. But you said--perhaps--_death_ . . .
ROBERT. It's worth it, it's a lovely bit of work!
VICAR. No, ten thousand times, no! The sacrifice is too much!
ROBERT. You call that sacrifice?--It's fun: not 'arf!
VICAR. I had rather see the church itself . . .
ROBERT. What, you call yourself a clergyman!
VICAR. I call myself nothing: I _am_ nothing--less than nothing in
all this living world!
ROBERT. By God, but I call myself summat--I'M THE _DRAIN-MAN_,
THAT'S WOT I AM!
VICAR [feverishly]. You shall not go! . . .
ROBERT. Why, wot is there to fear? Ain't it worth while, to move
away that load o' muck!
VICAR. The stench--the horror--the darkness . . .
ROBERT. What's it matter, if the comrides up above 'av' light an'
joy an' a breath of 'olesome air to sing by? . . .
VICAR. Hour by hour--dying--alone . . .
ROBERT. The comrides up in the spans an arches, joinin' 'ands . . .
VICAR. Fainter and fainter, below there, and at last--an endless
silence! . . .
ROBERT. 'Igh in the dome, the 'ammerin's of the comrides as 'av'
AUNTIE. William, there is yet one other way! . . .
VICAR. Yes, yes, I see: I see! . . . [To ROBERT]. Then--you mean
ROBERT. By 'Eaven, yus!
VICAR. Then, by God and all the powers of grace, you shall not go
alone! Off with these lies and make-believes! Off with these
prisoner's shackles! They cramp, they stifle me! Freedom!
Freedom! This is no priest's work--it calls for a man! . . .
[He tears off his parson's coat and collar, casting them furiously
aside. He rolls up his sleeves.]
Now, if you're ready, Comrade: you and I together!
AUNTIE. God's might go with you, William! Accept him, Christ!
[There is a silence. Then ROBERT speaks with slow consideration.]
ROBERT. I--don't--know. It's dangerous, you understand!
VICAR. I go with you.
ROBERT. This ain't psalms an 'ymns an' ole maids' tea-parties,
mind you! It may mean typhoid!
VICAR. I understand.
ROBERT. They don't leave you alone: they got teeth,
remember--poison in 'em!
VICAR. I will go with you.
[A slight pause. Then ROBERT, dropping into a quite ordinary tone,
ROBERT. Then let's 'av' summat so eat, an' get along. There's
nuthin' more to say.
MARY [inspired]. Yes, there is!
ROBERT. What do you mean, miss?
MARY. I mean that I understand: that I know who you are.
ROBERT. Me? . . .
MARY [simply]. Yes, you are my father.
ROBERT. 'Ow the everlastin' did you know that?
MARY [going up to him]. Because you are my wish come true: because
you are brave, because you are very beautiful, because you are good!
ROBERT. My little kid! My little kid!
[They embrace each other.]
VICAR. Robert! [Taking his left hand].
AUNTIE. Brother! [Taking his other hand.]
[They form a kind of cross.]
[MANSON and ROGERS re-enter with table-cloth, etc., for lunch.]
MANSON. Come along, Rogers. Take that end.
[They lay the cloth, as it were with ceremonial gravity, MANSON
being at the upper end of the table. They pay no heed to the
others, who watch them interestedly.]
ROBERT. I could just do with a good, square feed. My work meks me
MANSON. Flowers, Rogers.
[ROGERS brings vase from side-board and places it on the VICAR'S
side of the table. MANSON removes it to a more communal position.
Presently looking up, he sees the group to his left watching him.]
Oh, beg pardon, sir: perhaps you'd like to know--the Bishop of
Benares is here.
VICAR. What, already! Let's have him in at once!
[MANSON deliberates with the flowers before he speaks.]
MANSON. He is here.
[The VICAR crosses towards him.]
VICAR. What do you mean? Where is he?
[MANSON looks at him over the flowers.]
[The VICAR steps back, gazing at him. After a moment he gasps.]
VICAR. In God's name, who are you?
MANSON. In God's Name--your brother.
[He holds out his hand. The VICAR takes it, sinking to his knees
and sobbing as one broken yet healed.]
[The curtain descends slowly.]