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Title: Dealing in Futures - A Play in Three Acts
Author: Brighouse, Harold
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Dealing in Futures - A Play in Three Acts" ***

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DEALING IN FUTURES

A Play In Three Acts

By Harold Brighouse

New York: Samuel French Publisher

1913

[Illustration: 0005]



DEALING IN FUTURES

A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

CHARACTERS

Jabez Thompson....................A Chemical Manufacturer.

Rosie Thompson....................His Daughter.

John Bunting......................A Master Dyer.

Charlie Bunting...................His Son.

Walter Clavering..................A Young Doctor.

The Scene is laid in an outlying Lancashire village and the action of
the play takes place within a space of twenty-six hours.



ACT I

_The dining-room of Jabez Thompson's; the room is luxuriously furnished
and combines comfort with ostentation; the door is left, and at the back
a large doorway curtained off leads to the billiard-room. (A plan of
this and the other scenes in the play will be found at the end of the
book.) The table is littered with the debris of dinner, and at it sit
Jabez Thompson (l.), and Rosie his daughter (l.), facing each other.
Jabez is elderly, corpulent, bearded, of florid face and general
prosperous appearance; he wears a frock coat, light grey trousers, and
has a heavy gold watch chain. He speaks with all the assertiveness of
life-long success._

Rosie _is dark and highly coloured, her face strong rather than
beautiful. She dresses with taste, avoiding her fathers scarcely veiled
vulgarity, and wears a high dress of some amber material. She inherits
her father's strength of will, and though outwardly cultured, has not
been able to subdue entirely a naturally violent temper. Her voice is
a little shrill and shrewish, and Jabez is obviously rather afraid of
her._

Mallinson, _the butler, enters with coffee, which he places on the table
by Rosie. Rosie pours coffee. Butler puts cup by Jabez._

*****

Butler. Mr. Lomax, from the works, has arrived, sir.

Jabez. Very well, put him in the library. I'll be there in a moment to
sign the letters.

Butler. Yes, sir.

Jabez. Oh, give him this and tell him to look through it. (_Gives folded
paper from his pocket._)

Butler. Yes, sir. (_Takes paper and exit._)

Jabez (_Sips coffee, lights cigar, and turns chair to face audience_).
By the way, Rosie, I asked Charlie to come round after dinner and to
bring his father.

Rosie (_Interested_). Oh! Why?

Jabez. I'm not satisfied with him. I want to have a chat with the pair
of them to see if we can't get things on a better basis.

Rosie. What's the matter with Charlie?

Jabez. Oh, you wouldn't understand. It's a business question.

Rosie. I see. You'd rather I wasn't here?

Jabez. Yes. If you don't mind. We can't do better than stick to the rule
even where Charlie's concerned, eh?

Rosie. Oh, I shan't intrude on a business talk.

Jabez. Thanks, my dear, thanks. (_Encouraged to go on._) Do you know,
Rosie, I'm not a bit happy over this engagement of yours to Charlie.

Rosie (_Curtly_). Why?

Jabez (_Apologetically_). He's a queer fellow. I can't size him up. I
can't think why on earth you got engaged to him.

Rosie. That's my business, isn't it?

Jabez Yes, my dear. I suppose it is. But that doesn't stop me from
wishing you'd taken a fancy to some one else.

Rosie. I've told you before I won't have you interfering in my affairs,
father. I'm quite capable of managing them myself.

Jabez (_Meekly_). I try not to, my dear. I do try not to. Only this
matter--it's not as if you had a mother, is it now?

Rosie. Oh, you can trust me to judge whether a man comes because he
wants me or whether he's only a vulgar fortune-hunter. Whatever Charlie
is or isn't, he's not after my money.

Jabez. No, Charlie never is after money. You're easily the better
business man. He's always got his head full of ideas about pampering the
men instead of thinking of the welfare of the firm.

Rosie (_Snappishly_). You needn't think you can get me to break it off,
so don't try. You can say what you like to him so long as you remember
I'm going to marry him.

Jabez. Well, well, I must see what I can make of Charlie. (_Drinks._)
I'll tell you one thing, my dear, you're a good deal more eager about it
than he is.

Rosie. Possibly. You needn't worry about that.

Jabez. But I do worry, my dear. How can I help it? (_Rosie moves
impatiently._) Now don't fly in a temper. He _is_ taking his time in
coming up to scratch. Let me ask you one thing?

Rosie. Yes?

Jabez. When are you going to be married?

Rosie. I really don't know.

Jabez. No, and it's time you did. You've been engaged long enough.

Rosie. Is that what you are going to talk to him about to-night?

Jabez. Amongst other things. I'm tired of his playing about with the
thing. If your mind's made up, what's there to wait for? People are
beginning to talk.

Rosie. Let them.

Jabez. That's all very well, but people in our position must consider
public opinion. You don't object to my settling it, do you?

Rosie. Oh, do what you want. But don't you dare to bully Charlie. I
won't have him bullied.

Jabez. Oh, I shan't hurt him. A good talking to _'_ull do him no harm.

(_Enter Butler, l._)

Butler (_At door l._). Dr. Clavering has called, sir. Wishes to speak to
you.

Jabez (_Surprised_) Clavering? Well, show him up.

Butler. Yes, sir.

(_Exit Butler._)

Jabez. What's the matter with Clavering? He doesn't often condescend
to leave his precious research work in the evenings. (_Rosie shrugs her
shoulders contemptuously. Enter Butler._)

Butler (_Announcing_). Dr. Clavering.

(_Enter Clavering. Exit Butler. Clavering is a young doctor with keen
clever face, clean-shaven, with a general air of self-reliance. He is a
practical man of a fairs whose business happens to be doctoring._)

Clavering. Good evening, Mr. Thompson.

Jabez (_Rising_). Good evening, Dr. Clavering. (_They shake hands, and
Jabez, turning his chair sits sideways to the table._)

Clav. Good evening, Miss Thompson. (_Rosie murmurs and bows coldly._)

Jabez. Well, what can I do for you, doctor? Sit down.

Clav. (_Sits on sofa l._) The fact is--it's rather a liberty--I hope
you won't mind.

Jabez. Out with it man! What's to do?

Clav. I've come to see you about one of your men--a fellow named Alcott.

Jabez (_Reflectively_). Alcott? Alcott?

Clav. You don't just call him to mind?

Jabez. No, but I will.

Clav. That won't matter. It's just----

Jabez (_rising_). But it does matter; if I talk about a man I like
to know who I'm talking about. I shan't be a moment. My record book's
handy.

Clav. Record book? You keep it here?

Jabez. Yes; I've every man's record in that book. I don't risk leaving
a thing like that at the works, safe or no safe. (_Crossing and reaching
door l._) I'll go and look the name up. Lomax is here too with the
letters for signing, but that won't detain me long. (_Exit taking hunch
of keys from his trousers' pocket._)

Clav. Miss Thompson, I'm glad your father's gone. It gives me an
opportunity----

Rosie (_Eagerly_). Yes? Any illness amongst the men, doctor?

Clav. Only this Alcott. I'll discuss that with Mr. Thompson. Don't let's
waste time now. (_Rises and moves to back of table._) I hoped so much to
see you alone. I never get a chance.

Rosie. There's always the telephone.

Clav. I can't see your face through the telephone, and it's always
about others. What a great heart you have, Miss Thompson! (_Sits above
table._)

Rosie. I? Oh, one does what one can.

Clav. For others.

Rosie. Others?

Clav. Yes; for me it's the telephone--always the telephone. So and so's
ill--a name passes, an address, and we ring off. I never get the chance
of seeing you alone.

Rosie. Doctors are such busy people, aren't they?

Clav. Not too busy to be human, to desire to see in the flesh the woman
one's always communicating with through a cold-blooded telephone. We're
allies, you know, Miss Thompson, fellow-conspirators, aren't we? That
makes a bond between us.

Rosie (_Conventionally_). It's very good of you to let me know so
promptly when any of the men fall ill and to keep it a secret between
us--even from Charlie.

Clav. (_Contemptuously_). Oh, Charlie!

Rosie (_Quickly_). He doesn't know, of course?

Clav. No, he knows nothing.

Rosie. I was just afraid. You're such close friends, and this book
you've been writing must have brought you closer together. I thought you
might have let it slip out.

Clav. Oh, no. I kept the bond.

Rosie. I can never thank you sufficiently.

Clav. You could if you would.

Rosie. How? Tell me.

Clav. As you said, I'm a busy man, but I'm not too busy to use my
eyes. A man can't join hands with a good woman in the great work of
alleviating suffering without conceiving an admiration for her, without
longing--

Rosie (_Coldly_). Need we waste time in compliments, Dr. Clavering? My
father may be back at any moment, and if you've, anything to say to me,
won't you come to the point?

Clav. I want to know if I may hope for a reward.

Rosie. Surely a doctor doesn't ask reward for helping to do good.

Clav. Virtue its own reward? Come, Miss Thompson, isn't that one of the
maxims all of us apply to others rather than to ourselves?

Rosie (_Rising_). If you want to be paid for your services to me,
doctor, perhaps you will send in an account.

Clav. You're misunderstanding wilfully. (_Rising._) Can't we be frank
with one another, we coworkers in the same field? Must you wear before
me the mask you put on to suit your father?

Rosie. I wear a mask to suit my father? I think you're labouring under
some mistake.

Clav. Then the reward I aim at is---- Oh, don't you see?

Rosie. I hope I don't. (_Crossing to door R. at back._) I think we'd
both better forget this conversation, Dr. Clavering.

Clav. (_Following_). You shan't put me off. I----

(_Enter Jabez with a small red bound book, keeping a place in it with
his finger. Clavering leaves Rosie promptly and stands above table._)

Jabez. I'm primed now, doctor. (_He sits and puts the book open on the
table._) There's not much worth knowing about my men that this friend
can't tell me (_Tapping the book_). But it doesn't tell me much good
about Mr. Alcott (_Emphasizing the "Mr." sarcastically_).

Clav. Sorry to hear that. Poor chap, he's in a bad way. (_Rosie looks
interested._) eh?

Jabez. Oh, you've been to see him professionally,

Clav. I don't go to see Brixham's Buildings, they come to me. Surgery
hours are just over.

Rosie (_Softly, sitting at writing-table r., taking a piece of note
paper and writing_). Brixham's Buildings.

Jabez. Well?

CLAV. (_Sitting above table with elbows on it and fingertips at chin_).
The work doesn't suit him. What that fellow needs is a good dose of
fresh air. When I told him so, he said he'd lose his job if he asked off
for a month. I've come to see if something cant be arranged for him, Mr.
Tompson.

Jabez (_Coldly_). In what way?

Clav. Couldn't you give him sick leave for a month or so?

Jabez. What's the matter with him?

Clav. (_Glancing at Rosie as if for a sign of approval_). Oh my cases
here are all the same. I know them off by heart. Dyspepsia and faintness
to begin with and paralysis to follow. I could give that man no advice
except to clear out of this. He told me he'd got to live.

Jabez (_Whose signs of irritation have increased_).

Rosie, do you mind leaving me to settle this with the doctor? It's a
works question, you know.

Rosie (_Rising with the note doubled in her hand_) Yes.

Clav. (_Protestingly_). Oh, but----

Rosie. Don't get up, Dr. Clavering. (_Clavering rises and holds back
curtain at door r.c._)

(_Exit Rosie, r.c. Clavering returns to table._)

Jabez. The fat's in the fire this time.

Clav. I beg your pardon.

Jabez. I thought you'd more sense than to come-here with a tale of this
sort. These things upset a woman. I do all I can to keep them from her,
and here you spin this yarn before I've time to stop you. You should
have come to me at the office.

Clav. (_Apologetically, sitting again above table_). I rather hoped Miss
Thompson might have put in a word for me.

Jabez (_Brusquely_). Nonsense. You know very well that I don't allow my
daughter to interfere with business. I'd as soon start messing with her
housekeeping. That's a woman's place if you like--the home. We'd to
make a rule of it, years ago, Rosie and I. She got asking fool questions
about things she didn't understand and worrying me silly till we both
agreed it was best for her to steer clear of the works. We've each our
place now. I've the works and she's the home. You've made a bad mistake,
sir.

Clav. I'm sorry. I do hope you'll not let this prejudice Alcott's
chances of a month off.

Jabez. I shouldn't dream of doing such a thing. A month off for a
labourer! It's absurd.

Clav. (_Seriously_). I can't answer for the man's life if you don't, Mr.
Thompson.

Jabez. My dear sir, you're looking at the individual case. I can't do
that. I've to see all my men at once and I know what they are. Give
these fellows an inch and they take an ell. I can't make an exception
for Alcott. I'd have to do the same for every man who fell sick and for
Heaven knows how many malingerers as well; once I began that sort of
thing, I'd never know when I'd end. Clav. Then you won't----

Jabez (_Interrupting_). It's not that I won't, I can't, and there's an
end of it.

(_Enter Butler, l._)

Butler. Mr. Bunting.

(_Enter John Bunting. John bears some outward signs of similarity to
Jabez. Like Jabez, he is elderly and corpulent. But, though hardly less
assertive in tone at first, there is an underlying furtiveness, and
he is extremely deferential to Jabez even while assuming an equal
camaraderie with him. He wears a frock coat and has evidently modelled
himself on Jabez. Clavering rises and goes r.c._)

Jabez (_Patronizingly_). Oh, good evening, John. (_Jabez does not
rise._)

John. Good evening. (_Crossing r._) Good evening, Dr. Clavering.
(_Clavering bows--the Butler remains._)

Jabez. What's the matter, Mallinson?

Butler (_Very importantly_). Dr. Clavering's housekeeper, sir, have
telephoned from his surgery as he's wanted.

Clav. (_Briskly_). Oh, I'll come at once. Excuse me, won't you?
(_Crossing to door l._)

Butler (_Raising his hand. Clavering stops astonished_). It's at the
works you're wanted, sir. An accident, I believe.

Clav. The works! (_To Jabez._) Shall you come? Jabez. I? Certainly not.
You're the man they want, not I. Sit down, John. (_Jabez moves John to
the chair Rosie had occupied at table r. John sits._)

Clav. Oh, all right. I'll report later.

Jabez. You needn't trouble. Bad news travels fast enough. Good night.

Clav. (_Shortly_). Good night.

(_Exit Clavering, l., followed by Butler._)

Jabez. That young man's growing officious. A whisky, John. (_Pours._)
Have a cigar?

John. Thanks. Yours are too good to refuse. Jabez. Where's Charlie?
Isn't he with you? John. No. He's not been home to dinner. Still at the
works I suppose.

Jabez. Yes. (_Pause._) I always did say a good cigar was the best part
of a dinner.

John. You're right there. When all's said and done, Jabez a good liver's
got a lot to do with happiness. Thank goodness, mine doesn't trouble me.

Jabez. Nor mine. I've no patience with these modern fads--mustn't eat
this and that and all that kind of rubbish. If I fancied a thing I
had it, and damn the expense. Look at me to-day, sir. (_Smacking his
chest._) Sound, sir, sound as a bell.

John (_Playing up to him_). We've lived, Jabez, there's no doubt about
it. We've gone the pace in our time.

Jabez (_Fiercely, as if contradicted_). And why not? You tell me that.
Give me a good time, I say. That's my motto, and by Heaven I've lived up
to it.

John (_Admiringly_). You always were a warm man.

Jabez. Warm? I believe you. Damme, sir, if I had my time over again
I'd do the same. I wish I had, too. I'd show the young 'uns a thing or
three, eh, John? They think they're pretty wide awake, but I'll gamble
we old cocks could give them a long start and win hands down. Eh, well,
what's the good of wishes? (_Pours himself some whisky soda._)

John. Yes we've got to face it, old man. You and I have come to the time
of life when a man makes his will and begins to think a bit about who's
going to step into his shoes when he's done with them.

Jabez. That's the very thing I want to talk to you about. What I always
say is if you've got a bit of business to do with a man, let him come
and talk things over with you in your own house. Many's the deal I've
made that way in my time. Get a man feeling at home with himself, with
some good wine inside him and a good cigar in his lips, and you can have
your own way with him. Not that I mean that personally, John. (_John
waves deprecatingly._)

Jabez. Only as a general thing.

John. Of course. To be sure.

Jabez. Yes. We've got to think of the young _'_uns. Rosie, now. Rosie's
a good girl--been well brought up. No expense spared--same as if she'd
been a bov.

John. You've done well by her, if she did disappoint you by being a girl
instead of a boy.

Jabez. Aye, aye. That's an old sore now. And If I haven't a boy, John,
you have.

John (_Shifting uneasily_). Yes, yes, I know I have.

Jabez. Well?

John. Well, what?

Jabez. Look here, John, it's no good beating about the bush. We know
each other by this time, and you're not the man to take offence at a bit
of straight talk. That lad of yours wants speaking to, and damme, you're
the man to do it.

John. What's the'matter _with_ him?

Jabez. Nothing except that he's a fool. (_John leaps up._)

John. I say----

Jabez (_interrupting_). Now sit down, John. (_John sits._) Here's a lad
I took a fancy to when he was a youngster. I take him to the works
and give him every chance. It's understood he's to have Rosie and the
business, too, when I've done with it. Here's Rosie sick for love of
him. And what's he doing? Shillyshallying round and can't be got to name
the day. That's not all, either, but it'ull do to go on with. What do
you make of it, John? What's the matter with him?

John. The boy's sound enough at bottom. Give him time to come round.
It's not the thing nowadays to get married as young as it was in our
day. And Charlie's in love with his work.

Jabez. I know he is, the young fool.

John. Come, steady on, Jabez.

Jabez. Oh, well--Yes, all right, John. But what sort of work is it?
Laboratory experiments!

John. Yes, and jolly useful they are, too. You're bound to have a
chemist. Give the devil his due, Jabez, Charlie's discoveries have been
the making of the business.

Jabez. They've had their uses.

John. I should think they have. Why, man, you simply ran the place for a
couple of years on that cheap fast red of his.

Jabez. Hang it all, experimenting's all right, but a fellow needs a
business head as well; what's the good of his finding new processes if
he can't exploit _'_em?

John. _You_ exploit them.

Jabez. I know I do. But I shan't be here for ever. Charlie _'_ud be a
catspaw in the hands of a smart business man. He's the sort of fool
a clever fellow likes to get hold of. I want him to help me in the
management, in selling the stuff and handling the men, and I can't get
him to stir a finger. What's the use of a man like that at the head of a
business concern?

John (_gruffly_). Then don't put him there.

Jabez (_irritated--rising and pacing about_). By God, I will, though.
(_Turning abruptly to John._) Why? (_l.c._) I'll tell you why, John.
Nothing queers a man for business like the knowledge that thing's aren't
right at home, and that girl of mine's fretting (_u.l._). I tell you
I'm not very particular who she marries so long as I know she's married
happily, but she's set her heart on Charlie, so Charlie it must be, and
I'm damned if I'll have him putting her off any longer. It's upsetting
Rosie and it's upsetting me. That's why I want Charlie to be a man
instead of a skulking chemist. (_Pause--dropping down l._) The fellow
wants some backbone, John. Managing a works isn't all plain sailing
to-day, same as it was when the men knew their places. It wants a strong
hand and a quick brain to see how to give _'_em the little things that
don't matter and to keep from them the big things that do. I'm getting
old, John. I'd like a rest. You'll speak to him, now, won't you?

(_Sits l. of table._)

John. Very well. I'll do my best.

Jabez. Just make him see which side his bread's buttered. He's too
clever by half. I can't make him out sometimes. He's got notions in his
head about coddling the men and giving them better wages before they
ask for them, as if it wasn't enough to have the Factory Acts and the
Government Inspectors poking their noses round. Dangerous trades! It was
good enough for their fathers, and, by God! it _'_ull have to be good
enough for them. I don't run my place for charity, and the sooner they
get that into their thick heads the better. (_Irritably._) Where the
devil _is_ Charlie?

John. He said he'd come on here from the works if he wasn't home to
dinner.

Jabez. Then why isn't he here?

John. Experimenting again, I suppose.

Jabez. Hang his experiments!

(_Enter l. Charlie Bunting greatly excited. He has the face of a
visionary and his high forehead contrasts with a weak, receding chin; he
has convictions and ideals, but it is doubtful if he has the courage to
live up to them._)

Jabez. Oh, there you are, sir. About time, too. (_Seeing Charlie's
agitation._) Hello, what's wrong with you?

Charlie. There's been an accident. (_He gasps._) Jabez. Fatal?

Charlie. Yes.

Jabez. Curse their carelessness. (_Irritably._) Another inquest, of
course, and headlines in the papers and questions from the Coroner. What
is it this time? Another, drunken fool walked into the vitriol tanks?

Charlie (_bitterly_). Oh, no, this needn't trouble you. We don't often
kill men suddenly. We poison them by gradual degrees.

Jabez. What was it? Am I ever going to know?

Charlie. The lift gave way.

Jabez. The lift? Oh, we're not responsible for that. It was inspected
only last week. We hold a certificate of efficiency.

Charlie. Oh, yes, it was examined right enough. Only the men tell me the
inspector was drunk when he came.

Jabez. They can't prove it.

Charlie. Not they. You needn't worry. They'll not have the pluck to
repeat it in court. (_Up stage L._)

Jabez. Certainly not; a coroner's court isn't the place for
irresponsible gossip of that kind.

Charlie (_down to sofa_). No, the verdict will be accidental death right
enough, with polite expressions of sympathy and a rider exonerating us
from blame.

Jabez (_settling himself comfortably in his chair_). Of course. Very
proper, very proper. And we've the Insurance Company to fall back on. I
tell you what, Charlie, they'll be raising our premium if things go on
like this. Two fatal accidents in a mouth. I suppose there's a widow.
There usually is.

Charlie. Yes. There's a widow and six children. (_Going up l._)

Jabez. (_Turning to John_) I don't know how it is, but it always is the
married men who get killed. (_To Charlie._) Well, I don't see what there
is to make all this fuss about, Charlie. Accidents will happen. Upon my
word, you quite frightened me for a moment. Ring the bell and have some
dinner.

Charlie (_shuddering_). I can't eat. I've just seen a man killed. Oh,
it's horrible, horrible. (_Sits on sofa l., burying head in hands._)

Jabez. Nonsense, man. Pull yourself together. It's deplorable, of
course--a most distressing occurrence--but no reason for going without
your dinner. What did I tell you, John? Charlie's too soft for this
world.

Charlie (_raising head_). Don't you understand? I saw the lift crash
down. I was there when they got out the poor, broken, mangled body from
amongst the blood-stained splinters. I saw----

Jabez. Excuse me, Charlie, but I've just had my dinner. Kindly have the
delicacy not to enter into, details.

Charlie. Very well. I--oh, I think I'll go home. Good night. (_Going._)

John. Wait a moment, Charlie. (_Charlie's hand is on the door-knob L._)
We were just speaking about you. Hadn't we better thrash this matter out
now, Jabez?

Jabez (_grimly_). I'm agreeable if Charlie is.

John. Sit down, Charlie. (_Charlie sits meanly on sofa._)

Charlie. What is it?

John. Well, it's like this. Jabez tells me he considers you're wasting
your time. He doesn t call you lazy--not exactly lazy, do you, Jabez?
He wants you to widen your interests and broaden your ideas. That's it,
isn't it?

Charlie (_to Jabez_). Oh, that's it, is it?

Jabez. It's one way of putting it. I don't know whether it's laziness or
what it is, but you certainly fight shy of a bit of honest work.

Charlie (_leaping up fierily_). Work? What else do I do from early
morning when I enter the laboratory till late at night when I leave it?

Jabez (_smoothly_). Quietly, quietly. Yes, that's all very well, but
that's not what I call work. Charlie. What do you call it then?

Jabez. It's not work to you. You like doing it. Charlie. I loathe it
from the bottom of my Soul.

Jabez. Then why do it?

Charlie. Well, as you put me into the works you ought to be able to
answer that better than I can. I'd no taste for the work at all, but the
laboratory was the department I detested least. I suppose I naturally
drifted to it.

Jabez. Look here, my lad, I asked you a plain question, and I'll thank
you for a plain answer. Charlie. I thought I'd given you one.

Jabez. What made you choose the laboratory? Charlie. I thought I saw
some shadowy hope of doing good there.

Jabez. Well, you've done a bit. I'll give you credit for that.

Charlie. Not that kind of good. That was accidental. I only hit by
chance on the processes which happened to prove profitable to you.

Jabez. By chance? Then what the devil were you driving at with my time
and my chemicals?

Charlie. I hoped to find some means of accomplishing what we do here
by less dangerous methods to let a little health into the work. I saw
strong workmen brought to these works in the prime of life and health,
and in a few years turned away, broken, worn-out invalids. I worked to
find a way out.

Jabez (_contemptuously_). You fool.

Charlie. I quite agree. (_Rises and paces up and down._) Yes, fool,
fool, fool. Fool as much as if I'd sought the philosopher's stone or the
elixir of life. I did seek the elixir of life, and I will go on seeking
it--life for those helpless hundreds driven by the need to live to
certain death. Let me go on. Let me hope; but do not ask me to assist in
getting orders for our deadly production. Every contract you sign your
name to is the death-warrant of a workman. (_Sitting on arm of sofa._)

John (_imploringly_). Charlie!

Jabez. Have a little common sense, man. You're seeing things to-night.
This accident's got on your nerves. (_Rises._) After all, I think you
had better go home. We'll talk this over another time. I haven't lost
my temper yet and I don't want to. (_Putting his hand on Charlie's
shoulder._) Come now, admit that you're not quite yourself.

Charlie. You treat me like a child. Having been naughty, I'm sent to bed
to sleep oft my tantrums.

Jabez. And I'm the ogre in the fairy story who makes bread of people's
bones, eh, Charlie? Yes, you'll laugh at this to-morrow. Really, you've
been making an awful ass of yourself. You _'_ll see things in a better
perspective in the morning.

Charlie (_bitterly_). With myself as a respectable member of the
governing classes, I suppose, with nice clean hands and a dirty
conscience.

Jabez. For Heaven's sake, Charlie, drop that silly twaddle. We've had
enough of your platform manner for one night. You talk like a Hyde Park
orator, only they're paid to make fools of themselves and you're not.

Charlie. (_Pulling himself together_) No. Let's have this out. I didn't
begin it, but now we've gone so far I must know where we stand.

Jabez. You're not fit for it. But it's as you like. (_Sits l. of
table._)

Charlie. I do like. Now, Mr. Thompson, it's understood that I meant what
I said. You must let me continue my laboratory work. I still hope to
find less dangerous methods. I may also drop across a few more novelties
for you to exploit. But I definitely decline to have a hand in coercing
my fellow creatures to do the work as it is done at present, or in
procuring orders necessitating such work.

Jabez. But it is necessary work, Charlie. You must see that.

Charlie. No work involving risk of death and the certaintv of ill health
is necessary.

Jabez. Ours is. If the supply of our productions was cut short huge
industries would be automatically dislocated. How are people to run
their bleaching works and dye works if they can't get dye stuffs?

Charlie. Never mind. That wouldn't matter.

Jabez. Oh, the boy's mad. This is what comes of debating societies and
political meetings for infants. Look here, Charlie, it's one thing to
get on your legs and spout revolutionary rot to a roomful of fantastic
fools as hare-brained as yourself, but it's a very different pair of
steps to come here and ask me to take you seriously. If it wasn't for
Rosie, I'd take you at your word and send you packing. As it is, I'll
try something else first. John, this is your affair now. You've got to
bring this fellow to his senses. (_Rises and goes round table to John,
r._)

John. I'll try, Jabez, I'll try.

Jabez. (_Threateningly_) You'll succeed. (_Going up to door r.c._)

John (_Looking up at him_) What do you mean?

Jabez. You know as well as I do. I'm sorry, old man, but I've got to
put the screw on. You can't expect me to keep my patience for ever if he
won't hear reason. You can't blame me. I'll go and join Rosie while you
straighten things out a bit between you.

(_Exit through door centre. John sinks back into his seat and buries his
head in his hands on the table. Charlie goes behind table to him and
tries to raise him up._)

Charlie (_Softly_). Dad.

John (_slowly removing his hands from his face and raising his eyes to
Charlie_). You haven't called me that since you were a little boy.

Charlie. Dear old dad. I don't want to know what it is. Let him think
he's got hold of something. I don't care. .

John. But you must know. I'm absolutely in his power. He can ruin me if
he likes.

Charlie. How?

John. It's my dye works, Charlie. Jabez finances it. No one knows
it's not my own, but if he cut off supplies I'd have to close it down
to-morrow, and call my creditors together. I make a living out of it,
but the capital's all his. I couldn't meet a tenth of my liabilities
without his aid.

Charlie. Never mind, dad. (_Sits above table._) We'll fight it together,
shoulder to shoulder, you and I against the world. What does poverty
matter if we can be independent?

John (_terrified_). No, no. You can't mean that. You can't mean to bring
disgrace upon your father's grey hairs. Think of my position, Charlie--a
public man in my own way; not such a big pot as Jabez, but I have my
feelings just the same. The Black-more Dye Works is a small enough
concern compared with Jabez's Chemical Works, but it's meant the world
to me. Every one thinks the business is mine. What will people say when
they learn that I'm practically penniless?

Charlie. What does it matter what people say?

John (_ignoring him_). And Jabez is a man of his word. He means it. He's
never threatened to do this before.

Charlie. And what makes him do it now?

John. Oh, you must do what he wants, Charlie.

Charlie. But why does he want it? Why won't he see that I'm unfit for
the position he offers me? I can't and I won't fill it to his orders.
Oh, it's my own fault, I suppose. He's quite right. I'm soft--too soft
for this horrible, inhuman world. I yielded at first because I hoped to
do some good, and I've gone on yielding ever since. It seemed so easy to
acquiesce and to hope for the best. And this is where my cursed weakness
has landed me.

John. Yes. Jabez has us at his mercy.

Charlie. I'm as far as ever from seeing why he's doing it.

John. Oh, that's plain enough. He's a good sort, is Jabez.

Charlie (_staggered_). What!

John. Oh, yes, really a good sort, only he likes to play boss. That's
why he kept mum about my business--so that he could do as he liked with
me. And then Rosie took a fancy to you; so old Jabez steps in to play
providence to a pair of lovers. He's meant well all along.

Charlie. He's a sentimental ass. Curse his good intentions.

John. You may curse them, but you'll not alter them. Jabez will have his
way. Right or wrong, he will have his way, he always does. You may call
him obstinate, pig-headed, anything you like, but, mark my words, it's
no use fighting against him.

Charlie (_contemptuously_). You're frightened of him.

John (_with conviction_). Terribly.

Charlie. Well, I'm not.

John (_coming to him_). Charlie, you must give way. Remember me. Can't
you see that all these years have been hell upon earth to me? I've been
his slave, his dog, and all the time he professed friendship for me,
nay, he was my friend. He patted me with one hand, but the dog-whip was
in the other. You can't force him to speak now, Charlie. Oh, say you
can't.

Charlie. But--oh, I don't understand. If you had imagination enough to
see all this and to writhe under it, and strength enough to keep your
hands off him, couldn't you see there was a way out? Why couldn't you
leave him, leave this place, and make a fresh start somewhere else
without his cursed money?

John. I might have done that at first. But well--like father like son,
Charlie.

Charlie. What's that supposed to mean?

John. _You've_ acquiesced. _You've_ gone on hoping for the best. So did
I till the cords which held me were bound more closely, till I became
a man of substance here, looked up to by my neighbours. They made me
sidesman at the Church and then a magistrate. I loved these things,
Charlie, the little honours I had won. I clung to them. Your mother
died, and as you grew up and drifted from me full of ideas I could not
understand, I clung more closely to the little things life held for me.
Its all I have, Charlie. Don't take that away from me Charlie. Why
shouldn't people know it? There's no disgrace in having your business
financed by another man.

John. Well, if you must know, there's another reason.

Charlie (_suddenly alarmed_). It's a paying concern, isn't it?

John. Yes, but I can't prove it.

Charlie. Why not?

John. I've no figures to show. Any one I approached would want to see
accounts--audited accounts.

Charlie. Well, haven't you got them?

John. No. It was enough for Jabez to know that he got a good return on
his money. I've never had auditors in the place. Jabez never asked it.

Charlie. That doesn't justify your carrying on the thing in a slipshod
manner. It only shows how absolutely content you were to remain in
abject dependence on Thompson. Any tin-pot grocer keeps his books
properly and gets them audited.

John. Charlie, I'm your father.

Charlie. Oh, it's all right. I'm going to stick by you. I'm going to be
a pawn in Thompson's game. But I can't pretend that I can do it with a
good grace. Your point of view's all wrong. You've been sailing under
false colours all your life, and now I'm to cave in to Thompson so that
you can go on living a lie to the end, and a silly lie at that.

John (_with dignity_). Charlie, remember who you are speaking to.

Charlie. I do. I haven't the slightest hope of making you see it as
I do, but I can't go licking Thompson's boots on your behalf without
letting you know I'm not doing it for fun. And there's Rosie. I suppose
Rosie's included in the bargain.

John. You engaged yourself to her, didn't you?

Charlie. No. She did all the engaging there was about it. But it amounts
to the same thing. I shall have to go through with it.

John. Well, for the life of me I can't see what you have to complain of.
Rosie's a nice girl.

Charlie. That's no reason for marrying her. A man can't marry all the
nice girls he knows.

John. But you've always been fond of her, ever since you were children
together. You used to call her your little friend.

Charlie (_lightly_). Mere boy and girl flirtation.

John. It looked more serious than that.

Charlie (_Exasperated_). Serious? Of course it was serious. What do you
take me for? Do you think I'd have consented to an engagement at any
price if I hadn't loved her to distraction? I've tried to cease loving
her, to school myself to hate her because of what she is--Thompson's
daughter--and I've failed. The love I hoped to conquer only conquered
me. It's no good fighting it. I know that now. John (_triumphantly_).
Very well then, if you love the girl----

Charlie (_At bay_) Wait a bit. We were engaged before my eyes were
opened, before I'd seen the horrible injustice of the men's lives in the
works. I tell you it's wrong, all wrong. From the first moment that I
realized it, I dedicated my life to the men. All personal desires were
at an end. Rosie--everything went by the board. It was the men, the men,
always the men.

John. Pssh!

Charlie. I can't serve two masters. I can't waste time on marriage. I've
a lifelong duty to perform. I've to battle for reform; and how can I be
single-purposed in the fight if I'm tied to Rosie and accept a share of
Thompson's tainted money?

John (_hopelessly_). Well, I can't understand. I never could, and I'm
sure I don't want to interfere between you, but Jabez seems to think
you've been engaged long enough.

Charlie. I can't help that. There are two ways of ending an engagement,
anyhow.

John. Charlie, you promised.

Charlie. Yes, if she insists. It's Rosie I'm engaged to, not Thompson.
I'm not going to start married life on a lie, (_Enter Rosie centre._)
and I shan't start it at all if I can help it. I----

Rosie. What are you two talking about so seriously? Father's sent me to
see.

John. Has he, my dear? (_Rising and moving as though he had suddenly
grown twenty years older._) I think I will go to him. (_Walking towards
the door and mumbling again._) Yes, I think I will go to him.

(_Exit John by door r.c. A slight pause. Rosie looks at Charlie._)

Rosie. Well, haven't you a word to throw at a dog? (_Charlie is
silent._) Charlie, you're not ill, are you?

Charlie. Ill? No. I'm all right.

Rosie. Well, suppose you say "Good evening" to me.

Charlie (_collecting himselj_). I'm sorry. (_He crosses over and kisses
her per junctorily, then sits down absent-mindedly on soja. Rosie
watches him for a moment._)

Rosie. You're not very brilliant to-night.

Charlie. There's a depressing feeling in the air. Have you felt it?

Rosie (_compassionately_). You poor boy! Father worries you with
problems all day at the works, and when you come here in the evening its
business again. No wonder you're depressed. (_Going and sitting on the
arm of the soja._) Let me cheer you up. I'm not business, am I?

Charlie. No. But I think sometimes the problems I face in the laboratory
are child's play to those I've to face outside it.

Rosie. Is it anything I can help with? Let me try.

Charlie. It is you.

Rosie. Am I a problem? (_Rising and moving slightly away_) How exciting!

Charlie. It's not exciting. It's serious.

Rosie (_soberly, above soja_). And I'm not? All right. I'll be serious,
Charlie. What's the matter?

Charlie. Rosie, it's about--about our engagement. We've been engaged
quite a long time now.

Rosie. Two years.

Charlie. Yes. It seems people are wondering why we don't get married.

Rosie (_simply_). I'm ready when you are, Charlie.

Charlie. Yes--yes. That's just it.

Rosie. What?

Charlie. It's a difficult thing to say, but I'm not ready.

Rosie (_sympathetically, standing in front of sofa_). I don't think I
mind very much what people say, Charlie. If you want me to wait a little
longer, I can wait. I don't want to hurry you. You must choose your own
time. (_More lightly._) So that's all right and the cloud's passed now.

Charlie (_moved_). Oh--if you only knew how hard you're making it for
me. You're too good, too true to realize what a weakling I am, what a
criminal fool I've been to let things go on to this stage.

Rosie (_startled_). Charlie, what do you mean?

Charlie (_rising and crossing to Rosie_). I'm going to hurt you, Rosie.
It's all my cursed fault. Try to think of me as kindly as you can.
Rosie, it's not a case of waiting a little longer. I wish to God it was.
It's that I can't marry you at all.

Rosie. You can't marry me!

Charlie. Oh, don't think worse of me than you must. It's not another
woman. It never was and it never can be. I shall never love any one but
you.

Rosie. Then why, why?

Charlie. My life's too full.

Rosie (_wonderingly_). Your life?

Charlie. Yes. How shall I put it? (_Crossing to soja l._) A Catholic
priest doesn't marry lest marriage distract him from his wrestle
with the devil. I too am going to wrestle with a devils the devil of
industrialism. I've things to do in the world, a battle to fight which
can only be fought in the strength of loneliness.

Rosie (_a little hardly_). Yet you engaged yourself to me.

Charlie. Two years ago. I didn't see it then Day by day it has become
clearer. The task I have to do reveals itself. Oh, I dare say I don't
put things well. I know I must show up like a blackguard for not telling
you before. It's been inevitable for months, but I let things slide and
there it is. We're up against it now. (_Pause._)

Rosie. Yes. We're up against it now. Only it takes two to make a
bargain, Charlie. If you can be obstinate, so can I.

Charlie. What do you mean?

Rosie. I mean that I know you better than you know yourself and a
hundred times better than you know me. You and your Catholic priest! In
the Church I belong to priests marry, and I've yet to learn that they
fight the devil any the worse for it. I don't believe that the strongest
man is he who stands most alone when there's a woman in love with him.
You don't know me yet, Charlie. If you think I'd let you go for the sake
of your wrestle with the devil, you're mistaken. The devil might throw
you if you wrestled him alone, but he'll have less chance if I'm there
to pull his tail.

Charlie. You won't release me?

Rosie. Never. Oh, you needn't be afraid. I dare say I've a surprise in
store for you. You'll be none the worse for having a woman by your
side and I know I'm the right woman. There's only one way of making you
believe it, and that is by marrying you and proving it. I'm not afraid.

Charlie. Well, I am. (_Crossing to r.c._) You're assuming that I'm the
ordinary sort of fool who thinks money's everything. I may be a lunatic,
but I'm not that brand. I want to be left alone. I want a decent chance
of living my life in my own way. As things are, I'm caged. I'm at the
bottom of an infamous well, and there's a window somewhere far up, but
I can't reach it. I can't find the way out. (_Rosie smiles
compassionately._) Now, you're laughing at me. You! Rosie, harmless,
necessary Rosie, whom I've always thought of as the type of bread and
butter miss.

Rosie. And you're surprised to find her a woman with a will of her own?

Charlie. You won't let me go? (_Crossing to l.c._)

Rosie. Never.

Charlie. Do you know what you are doing?

Rosie (_confidently_). Oh, yes.

Charlie. You don't. You think you're being my guardian angel. You think
you're helping me. As a matter of fact, you're hanging a millstone round
my neck which will drag me down to the lowest depths of human misery. If
it wasn't so utterly tragic I could laugh for a week at the silliness of
it all. I'm not allowed an opinion of my own. I'm not to diverge by one
hand's breadth from the path laid down for me. I'm to marry the wife you
choose and do the work you choose and own the wealth you choose and take
the place in society laid down for me. I'm not a man. I'm a specimen in
a case with a pin through my body. I'm clay in the hands of the potter.
I'm----

Rosie. You're the man I love. (_Charlie collapses into chair l. of
table._)

Charlie. That's the last straw. I suppose I shall have that thrown in my
face all my life.

Rosie (_reflectively_). Let me see. Shall we say April 25? Lent will be
over by then.

Charlie. Say what you like. I haven't a kick left in me.

Rosie (_going to door c. and calling_). Father, father!

(_Enter Jabez and John in their shirt-sleeves with billiard cues._)

Jabez. Well, my dear. What is it? (_c. behind table, John crosses R.c.
Rosie is back l.c._)

Rosie. Father, Charlie wants us to be married on April 25.

Jabez. The young scamp. What a hurry he's in. Well, well, young people
will be young people, eh, John? (_Nudges John._)

John. Thank you, my boy, thank you. You don't know what this means to
me.

Jabez. Yes, this saves a lot of trouble, Charlie. You're going to be a
sensible fellow, after all.

(_Patting Charlie's shoulder. John turns gratefully to Rosie._)


CURTAIN.



ACT II.

_The next morning. Thompson's office at the works. Doors l. and at the
extreme R.C. Opposite the door L. is a desk with revolving arm-chair.
Fireplace at the back centre, table against the wall by the fireplace.
A couple of revolving arm-chairs. Carpet on floor. Jabez believes in
working in comfort. Small hat-rack attached to wall by the door l.
Telephone receiver on the desk, speaking tube protruding from the wall
by the chair and handbell on desk, which is open. Clock on mantelpiece
points to 9.55._

Lomax _is an elderly man with iron-grey hair, cleanshaven, and has the
appearance, of a confidential head clerk or cashier, which in fact he
is. He arranges a few open letters on the desk and puts a paper weight
on them as Charlie enters l. bringing in Mrs. Wilcock, a careworn woman
of thirty, dressed in black with shabby skirt, heavy incongruous mantle
and beaded bonnet. A considerable nervousness is added to her distress._

Charlie. (_Sympathetically_) Come in here, Mrs. Wilcock.

Mrs. Wilcock (_Entering shyly, seeing Lomax and "bobbing" towards him_)
Thank ye, sir.

Charlie. Sit down. Make yourself comfortable. (_Pulling chair across
towards fire._) Good morning, Mr. Lomax.

Lomax (_crossing to l._). Good morning, sir.

(_Exit Lomax, l. Mrs. Wilcock sits on the edge of the chair._)

Mrs. Wil. (_Anxiously_) Do you think as A'm doing the reeght thing, Mr.
Bunting, sir?

Charlie (_Standing by her r._). Oh, yes, quite right, Mrs. Wilcock.

Mrs. Wil. (_volubly_). They all told me A mun coom an' see the master.
A weren't sure if it were proper. But there's not above a two three
shilling in th' _'_ouse, an' wheer money's to coom from for th' burying
A dunno. Six childer to find black for an' all, an' none of _'_em old
enough to be earning.

Charlie (_with his back to fire_). Don't let that trouble you, Mrs.
Wilcock. I'll see to that.

Mrs. Wil. It's all coom so sudden. He coom out to his work as cheerful
as could be, an' when they browt him whoam to me a steam roller might
a'gone o'er 'im.

Charlie (_shuddering_). Yes, yes. I saw him.

Mrs. Wil. The neighbours _'_as been that good to me you wouldn't
believe. One's lent me this cape an' another's loaned me this bonnet.
A'd nobbut a skirt masel' as was anyways black. It's not as if we'd
been in a buryin' club. Takes us folk all our time to go on livin' when
theer's six young mouths to fill an' another comin'.

Charlie. Well, you mustn't distress yourself about the funeral, Mrs.
Wilcock. I'll make that my business.

Mrs. Wil. (_with tears_). Bless you, sir, tha's taken a load off my
mind. A couldn't abide thowt o' my man's not bein' buried proper.

Charlie. What you've got to talk to Mr. Thompson about is the future.

Mrs. Wil. (_resignedly_). It'll 'ave to be th' 'ouse for me.

Charlie. Oh, nonsense. You'll get compensation.

Mrs. Wil. Must A ask the master for it, sir?

Charlie. Certainly.

Mrs. Wil. A misdoubt A'll never 'ave th' face to do it.

Charlie. You've nothing to be' afraid of. It'll be all right, Mrs.
Wdcock.

Mrs. Wil. (_dolefully_). A never thowt as mine 'ud be workus children.

Charlie. They won't be. You needn't fear that. (_Dowden, a young clerk
of about twenty-eight, opens the door l. He is cirefully dressed, but
his clothes have seen better days._)

Dowden. Dr. Clavering to see you, sir.

(_Enter Clavering, l. Dowden shuts the door._)

Charlie. Hullo, old man!

Clavering. Good morning.

Charlie. This is Mrs. Wilcock.

Clav. (_properly sympathetic_). Oh, yes. Good morning. Very sorry to
hear about your husband, Mrs. Wilcock. (_r.c._)

Mrs. Wil. (_tearfully_). Yes, sir. (_Charlie goes to the door l. and
opens it._)

Charlie. Oh, Dowden. (_Dowden appears._)

Dowden. Yes, sir?

Charlie. Just give Mrs. Wilcock a chair by the counting house fire,
till Mr. Thompson comes, will you? Go with this gentleman, Mrs. Wilcock.
(_She rises and he walks with her to the door._) Now, don't you fret.
You won't have to go to the workhouse.

Mrs. Wil. Thank you, sir. (_She goes out with Dowden, l._)

Clav. Are you sure of that?

Charlie. God knows, but the insurance people shan't rob her if I can
help it. Isn't it damnable, Clavering?

Clav. Yes. But it won't last for ever.

Charlie. The book, you mean. (_Taking a book from his pocket._)

Clav. Yes, the book. Hullo, do you carry it about with you?

Charlie. I'm going to give this to Thompson to-day.

Clav. Are you?

Charlie (_a little anxiously_). It's all right, I suppose? About the
publication?

Clav. Oh, yes. I heard from Mitchell this morning. It will be published
to-morrow.

Charlie. That's good.

Clav. Yes. What I came to show you was this. (_Taking paper from an
envelope from his inside pocket._) It's simply gorgeous.

Charlie. What is it?

Clav. Well, I've a friend on the _London Morning News_, and I got
Mitchell to see he had a copy of the book.

Charlie. Yes?

Clav. (_handing him the proof_). He sent me a proof of his review by
this morning's post. That's it. He's done us well.

Charlie. By Jove. That's luck.

Clav. Yes. It's a storming notice.

Charlie. Things are going to move a bit now the book's coming out. It'll
waken people up to a realization of the kind of thing that's done in the
name of profit.

Clav. (_impatiently_). Yes. I haven't time to stay now. I must get on
with my round.

Charlie. Of course. Don't let me detain you, old man. I'll read this at
once. Thanks for bringing it.

Clav. Right you are. Good-bye. I'll go this way. It's shorter. (_Opening
door at hack R.C._)

Charlie. Do. Good-bye.

(_Exit Clavering, r.c. Charlie unfolds the proof and reads it, moving
towards the door at hack. Enter Lomax._)

Lomax. Mr. Thompson has just come in, sir. (_Crossing to desk._)

Charlie. All right. Let him know Mrs. Wilcock's there. I shall be in the
laboratory if he asks for me.

(_Exit Charlie, r.c. Lomax fusses about the desk for a moment. Jabez
comes in L. takes off his hat and coat and hangs them by the door. Lomax
stands to attention at the desk._)

Jabez. Good morning, Lomax.

Lomax (_deferentially_). Good morning, sir. (_Pause._) Jabez. Anything
fresh there?

Lomax. Not very much, I'm afraid.

Jabez. There's not much trade about, these days. (_Sitting at his
desk._)

Lomax. No, sir. Cranbury's haven't sent their cheque again.

Jabez. Haven't they? Well, I'm waiting no longer. You'd better ring up
Charlton and get him to take it in hand. You might attend to this lot.
(_Handing him some letters._)

Lomax. Yes, sir.

Jabez. That's all. (_Lomax coughs._) Well, what is it?

Lomax. That matter of young Dowden sir. You said you would speak to him
to-day.

Jabez. Oh, yes, of course. (_Takes down speaking tube and blows: then
puts it to his mouth._) Send Dowden to me. (_Replaces tube._) Let me see
invoice desk, isn't he?

Lomax. Yes, sir.

Jabez. You're quite sure he's getting restive? Lomax. Absolutely. I
thought he'd ask for a rise last week. It's been on his tongue three
or four times or I shouldn't have mentioned it to you. A look from me
generally keeps them quiet if they only half mean it.

Jabez. What does he get?

Lomax. Twenty-two shillings.

Jabez. What's he likely to ask for?

Lomax. I shouldn't wonder if he asked thirty, sir. For one thing it's
three years since he had a rise, and for another he keeps his mother.

Jabez. Has she got any money?

Lomax. I fancy not, sir.

Jabez. Good. That'll keep him steady That's the kind we want, Lomax. He
can't afford to take risks. Good worker of course?

Lomax. Excellent. None better.

Jabez. Age?

Lomax. Twenty-eight, sir. (_A knock._) Shall I go, sir?

Jabez. No. Stay here. (_Calling._) Come in.

(_Enter Dowden, l. he is obviously extremely nervous over his
"carpeting" before his employer. Lomax stands above desk._)

Jabez (_beaming paternally on him, with his elbows on the arms of his
chair and his finger-tips together._) Come in, Dowden. Don't be nervous,
man. No one's going to hurt you. (_Dowden shuts door and moves towards
Jabez._) This is one of those pleasant interludes in the life of an
employer which make it worth the living. You have pleased me, Dowden.

Dowden. Very good of you to say so, I'm sure, sir.

Jabez. Mr. Lomax has spoken most favourably of you. Good lad, good lad.
We've been putting our heads together and we're going to raise your
salary to--twenty-five shillings a week.

Dowden. Thank you, sir. Thank you very much indeed. (_Nervously._) Only,
sir, I was going to ask----

Jabez (_interrupting_). Don't thank me, Dowden. You owe it to your
own good work. Go on in the same way and you may come to me again in
a year's time, I'll see you right. Mr. Lomax just make a note of that,
will you? That will do, Dowden.

Dowden. Yes, sir, and thank you, sir.

(_Exit Dowden, l._)

Jabez. Settled his hash for a year anyhow, Lomax. Just let me know of
any similar symptoms in good men. It always pays to take time by the
forelock in these little matters.

Lomax. It does that, sir. You prove it. You've the cheapest office staff
in the country for its size.

Jabez (_chaffing him genially_). You think so, Lomax?

Lomax. I'm sure of it, sir.

Jabez. I sometimes think the cashier makes a big hole in the salary
list, eh, Lomax?

Lomax (_alarmed_). I'm sure I----

Jabez. Yes, yes. I'm not thinking of cutting you down, Lomax. Only, one
has to fix a limit. You might bear that in mind.

Lomax. Yes, sir.

Jabez. That will do then. (_Lomax turns to go._) Oh, by the way, is Mr.
Charles in his room? Lomax. I think so, sir.

Jabez. You might ask him to step this way. Lomax. Yes, sir.

(_Exit Lomax, r.c. Jabez opens a side drawer in his desk, takes out a
cigar box, selects and lights a cigar, and goes to fireplace and turns
back to fire with the air of a man who, having done a good mornings
work, may legitimately permit himself some reward. Enter Charlie, r.c._)

Jabez. Good morning, Charlie. Hope you slept well.

Charlie. Good morning. Can't say I did.

Jabez. You'll soon get over that. At your age a night's rest more or
less makes no difference. Did I interrupt some particularly promising
experiment?

Charlie. No. I haven't been experimenting to-day. I've been engaged with
some of the men.

Jabez. Really? Well, there's no accounting for tastes. You're a queer
fish.

Charlie. You didn't send for me to tell me that, I suppose?

Jabez (_blowing smoke and watching it rise_). Eh? No, I suppose I
didn't. Have a cigar?

Charlie. No thanks.

Jabez. No? Well, now that you've come to your senses the thing is to see
about what arrangements we must make. To begin with, I think we'd better
fix you up a desk in here.

Charlie' (_wearily_). Yes.

Jabez. We'll have that table out and one put there. Or is that too near
the fire for you?

Charlie. Oh, anywhere.

Jabez. You see, you'll have to work under my supervision at first and
then begin gradually to take the responsibility off my shoulders. I
shall be glad of a rest, Charlie.

Charlie. Don't you think you are taking a good deal for granted?

Jabez. Why?

Charlie. I told you I'd not slept. A man can do a lot of thinking in
eight hours.

Jabez. What, you mean to say----

Charlie. That I've thought the whole thing over.

Jabez. Well?

Charlie. It's not good enough. It's--it's dishonourable.

Jabez (_angrily_). Dishonourable, sir? What the devil do you mean?

Charlie. I'm the only bulwark the men have. If I marry Rosie--sell
myself to you--it means pushing the men back into their old places just
when they're ready to make some show of fighting and want all the help I
can give them.

Jabez. For God's sake do leave the men out of it for one moment. It's
you I'm talking about, not them. You gave me your word last night.

Charlie. I know I did.

Jabez (_sneeringly_) You needn't talk so much about honour.

Charlie. Oh, there are things I value more than an empty phrase. That
lift accident made me realize once again how much I'm needed and how
little I could do if I married Rosie. I've seen Mrs. Wilcock this
morning. Oh, it's pitiful!

Jabez. Now, could I help the lift breaking down?

Charlie. No, but you could help a hundred other things happening, only
safety apparatus costs money and men are cheap. Last night's accident
was only the last straw. The men need me and I won't forsake them.

Jabez. Who's asking you to forsake them? I'm only asking you to carry
out your engagement. Good heavens, it's a chance any man in his senses
would jump at.

Charlie. I'm sorry I don't agree.

Jabez. You play fast and loose with me, my lad, and I'll ruin your
father for it. Don't forget that.

Charlie. Look here, suppose I let you force my hand. Suppose I married
Rosie under compulsion, what sort of a time do you fancy she'd have?
What's to prevent me taking it out of you by cruelty to the daughter you
love?

Jabez (_recovering his temper_). No you don't, my boy. It's very clever
of you. Upon my word, I'm glad to hear you talk like that. After all,
you've the makings of a business man about you, but I'm too old a bird
to be caught by a bluff like that. You know very well you're talking
through your hat. You couldn't do it. Besides, even if I wasn't sure of
you I'm sure of Rosie. I'm a long way more frightened for you than I am
for her, my boy. She's managed me all her life, and if there's going to
be any bullying when you're married, take my word, it's not you that'll
do it. You see, I know Rosie.

Charlie. Very well then. You compel me to take other measures.

Jabez. What, still fighting? You're getting quite pugnacious, Charlie.
(_Crossing to cupboard l. and unlocking it._)

Charlie. Don't laugh at me. I won't be laughed at.

Jabez. Then don't make yourself ridiculous, my boy. Every man feels like
you do when he's booked his passage. But most of us have it out with
ourselves. We don't talk about it, but we all get a fit of funk and
want to back out if we can. It's a natural reaction. Come, pull yourself
together, Charlie. Have a whisky and soda. (_He takes a decanter, glass
and syphon from cupboard and places on top of it._)

Charlie (_for a moment half laughing at himself_). You make very certain
that I'm not an embryonic wife-beater.

Jabez (_with the decanter in his hand_). You won't?

Charlie. No thanks. (_Jabez mixes a drink for himself._)

Jabez (_meditatively_). Yes, I think a desk will do very well in place
of that table.

Charlie. I refuse to sit at it.

Jabez. Oh, I don't think so. (_Walking up with drink and sitting l. of
fire, putting glass on mantel._) You see, Charlie, your father's so
very respectable; he simply radiates respectability. Gad, I shall never
forget old John's face when he was up in town with me for the first time
and I took him to the Empire. He got used to it later on, though.
But it's different down here. He's the champion bazaar opener of the
district. Quite a great man in his way is old John. Yes, we can't have a
scandal, Charlie. It really would not do.

Charlie. You must do as you like about that. It's his affair. And anyhow
it's absurd to talk of it as a scandal.

Jabez. He wouldn't say so. How shockingly unfilial you are!

Charlie. Possibly. I've myself to look after.

Jabez. Still fighting? (_He takes a drink._)

Charlie. Yes. If I can't touch you through Rosie, I can touch you
through something still dearer.

Jabez (_sarcastically_). And what may that be?

Charlie. Your pocket.

Tabez. What do you mean?

Charlie. Oh, you shall know. I'll give you fair warning.

Jabez (_rising_). What is it?

Charlie. The men. They're not blind. They're no longer the passive fools
their fathers were.

Tabez. Well?

Charlie. You were pleased to be angry with me last night when I
explained why I undertook laboratory work. I can't help that. My
sympathies are all with the men, not the master. If it comes to a fight,
I shall be on their side, not yours. You--oh, I don't expect you to
understand, but with me altruism is a religion.

Jabez. A religion! Is that all.

Charlie. What more can it be?

Jabez. My dear fellow, religion is a respectable pastime for Sundays,
but it's got nothing to do with every-day life except for parsons and
old women In this country, you can be a Mohammedan or a Mormon if you
like, but I can't see that it any material difference in your ordinary
conduct.

Charlie. Can't you? I'm different My religion is a thing I believe in on
weekdays, a thing I act upon and live up to as far as I can.

Jabez. Aren't we getting away from the point?

Charlie. The point is the men.

Tabez. Exactly. I'll have no tampering with the men Charlie, no putting
ideas above their station into their heads.

Charlie. It's fifty years too late to talk like that. As a matter of
fact, I'm going to address a meeting of the men to-night. And I shall
take their part. They know it. I've the gifts of the mob orator.
(_Chuckle from Jabez._) God knows it's a sorry gift to boast about, but
it will serve my turn. I can sway a crowd. I've done it time and again
in debates.

Jabez. (_Pause, then_) Where is this meeting? (_Crosses to desk, sitting
to face audience._)

Charlie. The Assembly Hall. I am as certain as I stand here that I can
work my will upon them. I shall advise a strike, and strike they shall
unless----

Jabez. Oh, you've got your price then? (_Sneeringly._)

Charlie. Yes. It's cowardly, but I have. It's against my convictions,
but, as you say, I have my price.

Jabez. What is it?

Charlie. Freedom of action. (_Crosing towards Jabez._) Laboratory work
and no other and release from the mockery of an engagement with Rosie.
(_Enter John, l._)

Jabez. Hullo, John. Good morning. Glad you called. (_Charlie goes to
fireplace._)

John. Good morning, Jabez. (_Crossing to Jabez._) Yes, I called about
the monthly accounts. I've got the total here, if you'll sign me a
cheque.

Jabez (_grimly_). You'd better talk to Charlie about that.

John. Charlie!

Jabez. Yes. Here he is with a bee in his bonnet as usual. Look at him,
John.

John. What is it, Charlie? Wasn't everything settled last night?

Jabez. Oh, you're not quite up to date, John. We move fast nowadays,
don't we, Charlie?

Charlie. I wish to God we did. (_Sitting on armchair l. of fire._)

Jabez. The latest is that some fools amongst the men want to strike.
Lord knows what they think they'll get by striking, but let me introduce
you. John, to the strike leader.

John. Charlie, you couldn't----

Jabez. Oh, he believes in variety, John, that's what it is. Last night
Rosie, this morning no Rosie. The men are the latest love. It's off with
the old and on with the new.

John. Don't be hard on me, Jabez. I can't bear it.

Jabez. I've to look after number one, John.

John (_appealingly_). Charlie!

Charlie. It's no good, father. I can't betray my principles.

Jabez. And I can't sign that cheque, John. Perhaps Charlie's prepared to
be your banker.

John. It means---- (_Sitting l. of desk._)

Jabez. Oh, I know what it means. (_Rises, goes c., drains glass and
turns on Charlie._) Listen to me, Charlie. I'll have no meddling with
the men. That's all over and done with. Understand once for all that
it's hands off the men. I'll have no discontent amongst my men. I don't
want men who'll think. I want men who'll work. (_Down l. to cupboard and
putting glass on top of it._)

Charlie. To think is to be discontented. Discontent is divine.

Jabez. Don't talk rubbish, sir. We are told to be content with the
station into which it has pleased Providence to place us.

Charlie (_passionately_). Virtue on ten thousand a year! This is your
rich man's God, who is at home to you in his church one day a week from
10.30 to 12 and 6.30 to 8. You don't go because you hope to get a
little dirt washed off your shop-soiled soul. You go because it isn't
respectable to stop away. For six days you serve Mammon, and on the
seventh you follow your gregarious instincts and crowd into a church
in your sleek broadcloth, and only the effort of keeping a properly
sanctimonious expression on your well-fed face prevents you from falling
asleep in your padded pew. That's your middle-class religion and your
middle-class Providence. Don't talk to me of Providence till you can
show me a Providence which provides.

Jabez, Rank blasphemy, sir. (_Going up to Charlie, settling his collar
irritably._) Don't talk to me as if I was a nonconformist.

Charlie. Nonconformist? No, you conform to everything. You began in a
rut and you'll stay in the rut till you die.

Jabez. A rut!

Charlie, Yes, the gutter where you poke in slime for sixpences, afraid
to look up at God's blue sky or about you at your fellow-men lest some
one else should pick up a sixpence while your head's turned. Oh, you
conform right enough. You do nothing else. You conform to Success and
Respectability, and they're the stronghold of the Devil.

Jabez (_recovering his temper, sitting down at desk and rubbing his
hands genially, looking at John, laughing._) Sit down, Charlie.

Charlie. Thanks, I can say all I have to say standing.

Jabez. Oh, but this is delightful. As good as a pantomime, isn't it,
John? Go on, Charlie. It's amusing you and doing me no harm.

Charlie. Yes, that's the pity of it. It's doing you no harm. You'll have
your dog's day. You'll go on accumulating the money you've no need of
because you're in the grip of the money habit. You couldn't stop mobbing
your impotent employés if you wanted to. The looting instinct's in your
blood.

Jabez (_calmly._) I am doing what I conceive to be my duty, the duty
of every man--to make as much as I can by honourable and business-like
methods.

My father did it and his father before him. My son would do it if I had
one.

Charlie. Hereditary money-grubbing. That's typical. It's our idea of
progress and self-reliance and thinking things out for one's self. (_He
pauses, hand on mantel, looking into fire._)

Jabez (_pause_). What, dried up? Well, I've let you have your fling. You
are like any other child, Charlie. You've been hurt and you're crying,
only you put your squeal into words. A child only howls, while the
natural impulse of the adult is to curse something or somebody. Have you
said all you wanted to?

John. Charlie, for Heaven's sake----

Charlie (_facing Jabez_). Oh, I'd more to say. But that will do. I've
wasted my breath, but it's done me good to give it you straight from
the shoulder for once. After all, you're not a millionaire or a trust
president. You're precious small beer as employers go nowadays.

Jabez. Oh, so that's all right, and I'm put in my proper place, eh,
Charlie? And you've let off steam now instead of to the men to-night.

Charlie. That's as may be. I've not done yet.

Jabez (_to John_). This fellow's solved the problem of perpetual motion,
John. What is it this time?

Charlie (_taking a small book from his pocket_). Do you know what this
is?

Jabez. It looks like a book.

Charlie. It is. Just have a look at it. (_Offering it._)

Jabez. I'm not interested in literature.

Charlie. This will interest you. (_Holding the book out towards him._)

Jabez. (_snatching it and reading the title_). "An Inquiry into
the Condition of the Workers in our Chemical Industries, by Walter
Clavering, M.D." What's this? Clavering? This isn't like what I know of
Clavering. I wonder what his game is?

Charlie. He hasn't got a game, as you call it. Clavering's in earnest
about it. (_Going up to fire._)

Jabez. I'm afraid you're a bad judge of character, Charlie. (_Turning
over the pages._) What's this? "Illustrated by Photographs by Charles
Bunting."

Charlie. Oh, yes. I had a hand in it.

Jabez. You damned young scamp.

Charlie. That's an advance copy. The book's not published yet.

Jabez. I'll take good care it never is.

Charlie (_smiling_). It will be published to-morrow. Here's a proof of
a review of it by a chum of Clavering's. This review will appear in a
London paper to-morrow. It will tell you all about the book. Shall I
read it to you? (_Taking a proof sheet from his breast pocket._)

Jabez. Go ahead.

Charlie (_reading from the proof as if selecting detached sentences,
mumbling a few words between each_). "The book bears on every page the
sign-manual of sincerity. Its facts are an incontrovertible proof of the
inadequacy of our factory law administration to cope with the rapacity
and unscrupulousness of manufacturers. A book to read not only with the
eyes, but with the heart. The authors has drawn public attention to a
festering sore in our midst. The great heart of the public cannot fail
to be moved by such an exposure of man's inhumanity to man. Something
must be done to counteract such infamy. There can be no delay."
(_Mumbling, as if looking for a further selection._)

Jabez. Stop! This is intimidation. It's blackmail. Clavering--you know
very well he came to me with some cranky respirator he'd patented. This
is his revenge on me for refusing to take up his rotten patent. It's
libel. I'll ruin him for it.

Charlie. Hadn't you better read the book before you talk like that?

Jabez. That for your book. (_Throwing it in the paper basket._) I'll buy
up the edition. I'll suppress it. I'll----

Charlie. No, you won't. The publisher happens to be an honest man.

Jabez. What the devil do you mean by taking a hand in this game? Haven't
I trouble enough as it is with the factory acts and their confounded
regulations? The men are pampered like lords with their grandmotherly
legislation.

Charlie. They're poisoned, and you know it. You refused to use his
safety device, and he's naturally taken the only course open to him of
arousing public opinion and forcing your hand. I was glad to help him.

Jabez. You young idiot. Can't you see through his game? He wants to
make money out of his patent safety respirator. He doesn't care a hang
for the condition of the men. If he did, he wouldn't have put the
price up by patenting his thing. No, my friend, he wants to do his
philanthropy on twenty-five per cent, terms at some one else's expense.

Jabez (_con._). And you fall into his trap like the blessed innocent you
are and help him to blackmail me.

Charlie. You're wrong. Everybody's not as mercenary as you. You've
got so used to expressing every idea in terms of L.S.D. that you can't
understand a man's doing anything from higher motives than money.

Jabez. Look here, Charlie, where do you think I'd be if I took up every
notion that every crank brings along to me? The men are insured, aren't
they?

Charlie. Yes, and a bad bargain the insurance people have of it.

Jabez. Then what do the fellows want with safety devices? They get their
compensation. The business won't stand more expense, Charlie. You'd know
that if you'd done as I wished and taken an interest in the management.
Goodness knows it's hard enough to get profits as it is.

Charlie. Then don't try. Close down.

Jabez. And throw the men out of work? Fine remedy that _'_ud be. They'd
thank me for that, wouldn't they? (_After a slight pause, rising._) That
doctor's got to be muzzled though.

Charlie. You can't muzzle a man. You can only muzzle dogs.

Jabez. Can't I? I'll bet you I get him to suppress that book if it's
really dangerous. I'll have a look at it in a moment. And I'll tell you
something more, my lad. If I catch you meddling with the men, I'll make
your father sit up for it.

Charlie. I shall address the men to-night. Jabez. I don't think you
will. Look here, John, you'd better try again. See if you can't make a
better job of it than you did last night, and I'll sign the cheque in
the morning. If not---- (_John makes a gesture of appeal to Charlie._)

Charlie. It's no good, father.

Jabez. I leave it with you, John. Take him off to your laboratory,
Charlie, and talk it over. (_Charlie drops forward to John._)

Charlie. Come along, Dad.

(_Exeunt Charlie and John, r.c. Jabez loosens his collar mechanically,
puts his hands in his pockets, takes a handful of coins from one pocket,
rolls it in his hands and transfers it to the other; then sits at his
desk, takes up the speaking tube, blows and speaks through it._)

Jabez. Just telephone to Dr. Clavering and say I'll be obliged if he
will step round here and see me at once.

(_He replaces the tube. Jabez takes the book from the paper basket and
turns its pages over while speaking to Lomax. Enter Lomax, r.c._)

Jabez. Oh, about that accident last night, Lomax. (_Looks up from the
book and turns round on his chair to face Lomax._)

Lomax. Yes, sir. I was coming to you about it when you were disengaged.
Mrs. Wilcock is waiting in the office.

Jabez. Who's Mrs. Wilcock? The widow?

Lomax. Yes.

Jabez. Oh, I can't be bothered with her. That's the insurance people's
job. Send her away. (_Lomax bows and is going l., he turns as Jabez
rises, crosses to fire and speaks again._) Have you--do you happen to
have heard what the men make of the accident?

Lomax. No, sir. That is, not'exactly.

Jabez. Speak up, man. Are they grumbling?

Lomax (_coughing_). I understand that there have been a few remarks
passed.

Jabez. Strong ones, eh? Um---- Got your notebook?

Lomax. No, sir. I'll---- (_Turning towards door l._)

Jabez. Never mind. Sit down here. (_Lomax sits in Jabez's chair._)
Write. (_Lomax bends to write._) Wait a moment. (_Lomax looks up._)
When's the inquest fixed for?

Lomax. Wednesday, sir.

Jabez. That's the 17th. Funeral the next day, I suppose?

Lomax. Yes, sir.

Jabez. Very well. (_Motioning him to write. Lomax bends over and writes.
Jabez crosses to desk and stands over Lomax, dictating._)

"In view of the distressing accident which occurred last night, it has
been decided to grant a halfholiday to the entire staff with full pay on
the afternoon of the 18th inst., in order----"

Lomax. One moment, sir.

Jabez. Got that?

Lomax. "The 18th inst." Yes, sir.

Jabez. "In order to give all an opportunity of attending the funeral
ceremony." Finished?

Lomax (_pause, then, rising_). Yes, sir.

Jabez (_crossing hack to fire_). Do you chance to know, Lomax, if there
happens to be a football match that afternoon?

Lomax (_coughing deprecatorily_). I don't follow the sport myself, but I
fancy it's the usual mid-week day.

Jabez. Ah. Have twenty copies of that notice typed and bring them
here. I'll sign them myself. Then send them out to the departments,
and--er--you might see that one comes in the way of the reporters at the
inquest.

Lomax. Yes, sir. (_Going._)

Jabez (_sitting_). Oh, and,'Lomax! (_Lomax turns at door._) Just mention
casually to one or two of the foremen that attendance at the funeral is
not compulsory. No names will be taken. And let me know if you happen to
learn how the announcement is received.

Lomax. Certainly, sir.

Jabez. That will do.

(_Exit Lomax, l. Jabez continues interested in his book. A whistle at
the tube. Jabez replies and puts it to his ear, then speaks down it._)

Jabez. Show Dr. Clavering in here. (_Replaces tube. Presently Dowden
opens the door l. and Dr. Clavering enters. Dowden closes the door
after him and goes without speaking. Jabez rises and meets Clavering
genially._)

Jabez. Ah, come in, doctor. I'm glad you were able to come so quickly.
(_They shake hands._)

Clavering. I'd just got in when your message came, so I was able to come
at once. How are you, Mr. Thompson?

Jabez. Eh? (_Surprised at the professional tone._)

Oh, I'm all right. There's never anything the matter with me.

Clav. Oh, it's not yourself, then. I understood you wished to see me
personally. Is there another accident case?

Jabez. Oh, no, there's nothing wrong. Er--have you a few moments to
spare? I'd like a word with you.

Clav. I'm at your service unless I'm telephoned for from the surgery.

Jabez. Sit down, doctor.

Clav. (_sitting r. of fire_), Thank you.

Jabez (_sitting l. of fire_). I understand you've been writing a book,
Dr. Clavering?

Clav. Oh, that's it, is it? You've heard from my collaborator?

Jabez. Your collaborator?

Clav. Mr. Bunting.

Jabez. Oh, yes, of course. Just so. Now, speaking as a business man,
doctor, I suppose you'd some object in writing that book?

Clav. (_grimly_). I want better conditions for chemical workers.

Jabez. I said "speaking as a business man."

Clav. Well, sir?

Jabez. I've not read the book yet. But I suppose I shan't be wrong in
assuming it deals largely with the advantages of the Clavering patent
respirator.

Clav. Naturally.

Jabez. I thought so. Of course, you're convinced of its advantages?

Clav. I use it myself. So does Mr. Bunting in his laboratory. Look at
us. We're well. Then look at your men. They don't use it. I'd just come
from seeing another of them when I got your message.

That man is being slowly poisoned to earn his bread. It's a typical
case.

Jabez. It's' very sad, very sad. Well now, doctor, can you propose
anything?

Clav. I can propose the respirator. It's not ideal, I don't pretend it
is--but it _'_ull give the poor devils a chance.

Jabez. We must certainly have the respirator.

Clav. (_surprised,_). You refused it when it was offered you.

Jabez. My dear sir, I get safety devices sent me every day. I can't
use 'em all. You never told me you used your thing yourself. It makes a
world of difference. And you hadn't written a book about it.

Clav. I see.

Jabez. I thought you would. Come, we're getting on famously. Now if I
adopt the respirator, do you think the book need be published?

Clav. (_curtly_). Yes.

Jabez. Oh, come, doctor, don't be stupid.

Clav. (_pause_). I'll tell you what I _will_ do, if you like. I'll wire
the publisher to postpone its issue and have a note put in stating that
it's been adopted here. But I'll not cancel my book.

Jabez. That might do.

Clav. (_reflectively_). It'll be a good advertisement for the
respirator.

Jabez. And a good thing for the patentee, eh, doctor?

Clav. I hope so.

Jabez. I've no doubt of it. So that's satisfactory to both parties. By
the way, doctor, don't think me rude if I put a rather personal question
to you. I've a reason for asking. Do you consider your practice here a
valuable one?

Clav. That rather depends on what you mean by valuable. It's numerous
enough in all conscience. There's plenty of ill-health about. But
valuable, no, I can't say it is. Your men get paid too little and they
die too fast for a doctor to grow fat amongst them.

Jabez. I've a notion we might come to some arrangement. I've had an idea
of adding a medical officer permanently to the staff. What do you say,
doctor?

Clav. I'll think it over.

Jabez (_rising_). Do. With the respirator at work you should have more
leisure on your hands for research, eh, doctor? I know what beggars you
medical men are for experiments, and you can't have over much time at
present. Suppose you telephone me later. We shan't quarrel over terms.
Or, stay, come in to dinner to-night? (_Rises and crosses R._)

Clav. Thanks. I will. (_Rising and going l._)

Jabez. You quite understand what this means, doctor?

Clav. Er--in what way?

Jabez. Well, it's the end of your literary career. I want no more books.

Clav. Nor I. This one will put the respirator on the market; that's all
I want.

Jabez. I thought as much. There's nothing like candour after you've
gained your point. (_Sitting at desk._) Oh, by the way, there's a
meeting of the men to-night.

Clav. So I hear.

Jabez. I'm going to speak there.

Clav. You!

Jabez. Yes, and I want you to come with me.

Clav. It's not quite in my line, sir.

Jabez (_persuasively_). Oh, just to tell 'em about this little
arrangement of ours.

Clav. I see.

Jabez. Charlie's speaking, you know. Some one's got to speak against
him. Er--I'll see it's a handsome salary, doctor.

Clav. I'll be there, Mr. Thompson. (_Moving to r.c. by desk._) May I ask
you something?

Jabez. Yes?

Clav. Is Charlie _still_ engaged to Miss Thompson? Jabez. I believe so.

Clav. Oh!

Jabez. What was it?

Clav. I was going to ask if I might speak to her myself.

Jabez. You hadn't much success last time, had you?

Clav. No. There's no harm in asking two or three times.

Jabez. Oh, you can ask.

Clav. But Charlie----

Jabez. As you say, there's no harm in asking. But understand it's
between you and her. You're not to use my name.

Clav. That's all I want.

Jabez. I'll see you to-night, then?

Clav. Yes.

Jabez. Right. Good morning, doctor.

Clav. Good morning, sir.

(_Exit Clavering, l. Jabez rubs his hands together with a satisfied air.
Lomax enters l. as Clavering goes out. He has a number of papers in his
hand._)

Lomax. Will you sign the announcements now, sir?

Jabez (_genially_). I will that. (_Commences to sign as Lomax hands them
to him one by one._)


CURTAIN.



ACT III.

_The same evening. The ante-room of the Assembly Hall--a dingy place,
used on occasion as a dressing-room, and containing a small deal table
and a few battered cane-bottomed chairs. Two gas-brackets project from
the wall at the right and wire netting protects the lights. A door r.
gives access and one c. up three stairs leads on to the platform. A
rough hat-rack under the left gas-jet bears two ancient bowler hats
and a cloth cap. Their owners are three members of the mens
executive--Robert Jones, James Pullen and Joseph Livesey. Pullen, the
owner of the cap, is smoking a clay pipe. He is a stoutish man of about
forty, obviously no teetotaller, with a moustache and an obstinate jaw.
Jones and Livesey, the leaders of the strike movement, are perhaps ten
years his juniors and just a shade more educated in their accents. All
are roughly dressed, but in their evening, not their working clothes.
Livesey wearing a very much cut away black coat and a waistcoat adorned
with a silver watch chain. Pullen has a scarf and no collar, but the
other pair wear celluloid collars over cotton shirts. Pullen is sitting
at the table sideways, r. Jones has his back to the fire, l. and
Livesey is walking about above table._

Pullen. What 'A says is this 'ere. Maister Thompson's a jolly good
sort. Gives us 'af-day Thursday to play us in, with full brass an' all.
'And-some, A calls it, 'andsome. (_He emphasizes by striking his fist on
the table._)

Jones. Tha's a fule, Jim Pullen. Tha's allays drawin' red 'erring?
across the trail. Tha makes me tired. _'_Ere's a mate o' ours walks into
th' _'_oist same as it might be thee or me an' th' next minute _'_e's
gone to kingdom come. Thompson gives us an _'_af-day off to attend th'
buryin' if us wants to, an' theer's thou an' a few like thee ready to
lick _'_is boots because _'_e's yeard us snarlin' an' chucked us a bone
to shut our jaws on. Can't tha see _'_is game?

Livesey (_behind table_). Oh, A'm noan sayin' nought about that. That
were an accident like what might _'_appen anywheers. It's th' whole
system we want altered.

Pullen. System is it? Aye, tha find me a system as'll give us more beer
an' more easy time to sup it in an' A'm with thee.

Livesey. It's not so much for usselves as for our childer.

Pullen (_shuffling irritably_). A'm noan wed. 'Ad more sense. If you
young 'uns will marry, you mun tak' consequences.

Livesey (_sitting behind table r. side_). The kids! That's the point,
Jones. We're ould.

Pullen (_contemptuously_). Thee ould! Why, lad, tha were nobbut breeched
t'other day.

Livesey (_turning on him_). Yes, we are--we're ould as life goes here.
We're done. But th' kids have a reeght to summat better. We canna see
our way out. We're nobbut a silly crowd o' fuies.

Pullen (_interposing_). Tha are that.

Livesey (_continuing_). But if we could nobbut educate our childer.
They'd find a way.

Pullen. 'Ere, mister, my lad, what's tha gettin' at? The kids gets their
schooling, don't they?

Jones. Aye, till they're legally ould enough to coom to work an' forget
in a year all as they've 'ad shoved into their yeads in eight. (_Spits
in fire._) They've a reeght to a better chance than we _'_ad an' we
can't give it 'em. We're not paid enough. We're livin' on hope, an'
hope's like ivy. It clings to ruins.

Livesey. That's good. Tha remember yon an' give it 'em in theer in thy
speech. (_Jerking his thumb towards the door c._)

Jones (_going on as though speaking to a meeting_). Th' bosses 'ave got
us down and they're sitting on our yeads. It's about time we woke oop
an' showed _'_em the working man's not such a blamed fool as _'_e looks.

Livesey. Aye. Now tha' talkin'.

Jones. We keep body an' soul together and that's the limit.

(_Enter R. Job Alcott, another workman, quite roughly dressed and
apparently of the most poorly paid class. He looks ill._)

Alcott. Good evening.

Livesey. Tha doesn't look so rosy to-neeght, lad. What's oop wi' thee?

Alcott (_wearily, hanging his cap up, then sitting in chair R. by
table_). Oh, th' usual thing. You all know. Can't relish my food an'
yeadache an' faint feelin'. Rum taste in my mouth, an' all.

Livesey. Aye. We all know that taste.

Pullen. Beer's th' stuff to wash it out o' your mouth. (_Crosses to fire
and sits R. of it._)

Alcott. A saw doctor last neeght.

Jones. Aye. What's 'e say?

Alcott (_bitterly_). Tould me A'd no chance if A went on 'ere. Get
soom fresh air for a month or two, 'e says. Get away out o' this into
country, 'e says. Country! Likely isn't it? A'm a labourer. Ask off for
a month, supposin' A'd got th' brass to keep me which A've not, an' A'll
get sack sharp. They've only to send to the next big town an' a thousand
poor chaps as is out o' collar 'ull coom trampin' out after my bloomin'
eighteen bob a week an' be damned glad to get it an' all.

Livesey. Shame!

Jones. It's a cryin' shame. Why, look at me wi' eighteen bob a week same
as him, an' the mouths A've got to fill. Ma missus as 'ad eleven of 'em
in _'_er time. A were wed at eighteen, A were.

Pullen (_quarrelsomely_). Tha's never got eleven childer. Don't try to
kid me.

Jones. Not livin', A haven't. Some of _'_em's dead--thank God.

Livesey. Coom, draw it mild, lad. Yon's blasphemy.

Jones (_sullenly_). No, _'_tisn't, neither. A do thank God for it. Poor
little beggars, they're better dead nor alive an' starvin' wi' th'
rest. A man can pull his belt oop a hole an' suck a pebble if he's
hunger-mad. Th' kids can't do that.

Livesey. They wouldn't need if tha'd keep off the booze.

Jones (_fiercely_). A don't drink. A don't like beer. It turns
my'stomach. (_Up stage round R._)

Pullen (_rising disgustedly and walking away as if from a portent_).
Call thasel' a mon and don't like beer? (_He turns to light his pipe at
a gas, but fails to get it through the wire, mutters "Blast," and takes
a match out and lights up._)

Livesey. Then what dost take It for.

Jones. What for? To mak' me forget. (_Going down to sit l. of table._) A
must forget soomtimes. A'd go crazed if A didn't forget. (_Sitting._)

Pullen (_at the gas_), Blast.

Livesey. It's a weary life.

Alcott (_rising and going up c._) It's a hell. Damn Thompson. Damn him an'
all that's hissen.

Jones (_protestingly_). Damn _him_, aye, but not all that's hissen. That
means Miss Thompson, an' she's a blessed angel.

Pullen (_coming forward_). Bah! Her an angel, her wi' her 'ard proud mug
goin' about as if we was dirt at 'er feet.

Jones. Aye, an angel, lad. That's her; 'ard as nails she looks an proud
as Lucifer but tha's not wed; tha's not seed yon wench sittin' i' thy
kitchen nussin' thy kids. Maybe she's never sent thee fine grub when tha
was sick.

Pullen. A'm never sick.

Jones No, but she'd know if tha wert, an tha'd know she knowed it, an'
all. Not as she maks a fuss about it It's all done quiet. A dunno if
Thompson _'_isself so much as knows a word about it. Alcott (_l.c. at
back_). Aye, that's reeght. Sorry A cursed _'_er. Theer were a two three
bottles of champagne an' soom jelly an' stuff waitin to whoam for me
last neeght when A get theer from docto? Not a word about who'd sent
them, but----

Pullen. Eh! _'_Ere lads, A feels bad. Took sudden, some road.

Livesey. What's to do?

Pullen. A dunno. Thowt o' that champagne, A reckon.

(_Enter R. Mrs. Jones--a slight careworn woman of about thirty with
pinched features and wears clogs, and a drab cloth skirt, blouse and a
shawl over her head, all well worn. She crosses quickly to Jones shakes
his should, violently, speaking in a shrill voice._)

Mrs. Jones. Thee coom whoam, Bob Jones. Coom 'ome, A tell thee.

Alcott. Eh! missus, what's to do? Mrs Jones (_turning on him_). Thee
shut tha ugly mug, and don't put thy spoke in atween man an wife. (_To
Jones._) Now then, art coomin.

Jones. What's oop wi' thee, lass?

Mrs. Jones. Tha knows. A tould thee A'd coom an' fetch thee whoam if
tha dared to shove tha nose in at meetin'. Strike indeed, tha great
leatherhead! Wait till A get thee to whoam. A'll give thee strike.

Livesey. Leave 'im be, missus. Tha don't know what tha's talkin' about.

Mrs. Jones. Don't A, ma lad? (_Her arms go akimbo._) Maybe A knows more
than the lot o' you put together. Ma faither were on strike onct when
A were nobbut a young wench. A knows what strikes means. Strikes means
clemmin', and ma childer shallna clem as A'd to clem then if A can 'elp
it. Now, then, ar't coomin'?

Jones (_rising_). Leave be. This 'ere's not wimmen's business.

Mrs. Jones. No, but it's a woman's business to see as 'er childer gets
their baggin', an' it's a woman's business to sit an' watch 'em clem if
theer's no baggin' to give 'em. It's you men as does th' silly things
an' us women an' childer as pays for 'em. Thee coom whoam an' quit
makkin' a fool o' thasel'. (_Pulling Jones towards door._)

Jones. _'_Ere, missus, see yon door? Well, get thasel' 't'other side o'
it sharp. Tha's no reeght in 'ere at all.

Mrs. Jones. A've the reeght o' a moother wi young bellies to fill. Tha
coom whoam or tha'll get rough side o' ma tongue till tha'll wish tha'd
never, bin born. Wait while A get hold o' yon Bunting chap, an' all.
A'll give 'im strikes. What does 'e want wi' interferin' in other folk's
business wantin' folks to strike--'im as 'as allays gone fed an' warm
clothed an' doan't know what clemmin' means? A'll strike _'_im, A will.

Livesey. Tha don't understand, Mrs. Jones.

Jones. Coom on now. Let's 'ave no more o' it. Outside.

Mrs. Jones. A don't stir a foot.

Jones. Don't thee, by gum? (_Picking her up._) It's all same to me which
way tha goes. (_Crossing to door r., carrying her struggling._)

Mrs. Jones (_as they go out_). Wait till A get thee whoam, my lad. (_He
carries her out. For a moment the altercation continues off r._)

Pullen. (_coming forward and sitting below table l. side_). Yon wench is
reeght, tha knows. A'm not goin' to 'ave nought to do wi' it. Man an'
boy, A've worked for Maister Thompson thirty year an' A'm noan goin' to
turn again ma ouid maister at ma time o' life. A know ma place, A do.

Livesey. Oh, A've no patience wi' thee.

Pullen. (_Obstinately_) It's all reeght, Mr. Livesey. None o' your
strikes fur me. A can see through a ladder as clear as most. An' A'll
tell thee summat as is mebbe news to thee. Theer's above a few as thinks
along o' me, too, only they don't gas about it so loud as you.

Livesey. Very well, if theer are, theer'll be no strike. (_Going up c.
to door. Jones returns a little shamefacedly. The others avoid looking
at him. He goes up to c._)

Pullen. No. A 'll bet theer'll not.

Livesey. We'll soon see who's reeght.

Jones. Aye, coom on. Let's be startin' th' meetin'. (_Crossing to door
c._)

Livesey (_consulting a silver watch_). Wait a bit. Wheer's Mr. Bunting?
We canna staryt wi'out 'im. Give us another five minutes. How's room?
Open door theer and see.

Jones (_opening door c. Confused murmur as of a crowd is heard through
it_). Pretty nigh packed. They'll noan thank us for bein' late.

Livesey. Close th' door.

(_Jones closes the door and shuts off the sound, dropping R.C._)

Livesey. Tha'd best begin, Bob. A'll follow thee, an' Mr. Bunting can
say 'is bit when A've done. Then we'll put it to the vote, strike or no
strike.

Pullen (_sourly_). Tha's no need to trouble. Theer'll be no strike.

Livesey. That remains to be seen. We'll give _'_em every chance. No use
startin' a strike wi'out weighin' things oop proper first. What'll tha
say Bob?

Jones (_takes notes from his pocket_). This 'ere's what Mr. Bunting give
me to say. A'm straight fur striking. Tha knows that.

Alcott. Aye.

Pullen. Well, A say it's noan reeght, Joe Livesey. Tha's goin' to shoot
th' mon first an' tell 'im why arterwards. Give 'im a chance. It's th'
least us can do. 'E's a real good sort, is ould Thompson.

(_Enter r. Clavering and Charlie. They put coats and hats on the rack
R._)

Charlie. Good evening. Meeting not begun yet, I see.

Jones. We were nobbut waitin' on you, sir. (_He looks at Clavering._)

Charlie. All right. I met the doctor on the doorstep and brought him
along to say a few words.

Livesey (_to Clavering_). Glad to see you with us, sir.

Clav. (_nervously_). Er--yes. I'd like to speak to Mr. Bunting first if
you don't mind. Suppose you fellows go on to the platform and set the
ball rolling. We'll follow.

Jones. All reeght. (_A little awkwardly._) Tha'll noan be long wilta?
We's none on us much at speakin' on our own, tha knows.

Charlie (_reassuringly_). Don't be afraid of me, I'll do the talking. If
the men don't strike, it won't be my fault..

Livesey. That's the ticket. (_Passing to door c._)

Alcott. Give it 'em hot, sir. (_Following him._)

Jones. It will mean a lot coomin' from thee. (_Following._)

Charlie. We'll do our best, both of us.

(_Exeunt c. Livesey, Alcott and Jones. A burst of cheering is heard,
then Jones closes the door._)

Pullen. (_following the others, stopping before Charlie_) If this not
above takin' a bit o' advice from me, Maister Banting, tha'll be careful
what tha says about striking. Theer's me an' a good few others as
'ave put our yeads together, and we're gom to see as this business o'
striking gets no forrader.

Charlie. (_surprised_). What's this? (_Clavering paces about
impatiently._)

Pullen. We don't want no strike. If us wants brass, let's ask un for it
fair an' straight. Striking's not th' square thing.

Charlie (_roused and speaking passionately_). Are you blind, man?
Is Thompson straight with you. Do you expect a bloated bigwig of the
British belly class to give you your rights before you force him into
it? (_Clavering makes a gesture of despair._) In the whole history of
industrial employment have employers ever given employés their rights
until they were forced to? (_Clavering tries to cheek the stream
in vain._) They tell you of humane legislation, of factory acts and
sanitary regulations. Humane legislation! What was it but the capitalist
ruling classes giving way inch by inch before the pressure of the
masses?

(_Clavering puts his hand on Charlie s shoulder. Pullen has been
retreating step by step before the flow of eloquence and now stands
cornered and unaole to escape in the left hand corner. Charlie swings
round irritably on Clavering._)

Charlie. What's the matter?

Clav. (_soothingly_). Yes, yes, yes, old man. Keep all that for in
there. (_Nodding at door c._) Don t waste it on the desert air of an
ante-room. Let Pullen go. I want to talk to you.

Pullen. Aye. Soom one _'_ad best talk to _'_im if _'_e means to go on
that gait in theer.

Clav. (_impatiently_). Yes. All right, my man. Won't you go on to the
platform now?

Pullen. Aye. (_Crossing._) A'm going. (_He opens the door c. Livesey is
heard speaking inside._)

Livesey (_off, c., his back visible to audience as he stands speaking_).
Comrades, a strike is a terrible thing. Do not let us mak' light o'
it. When we call on you to decide whether to strike or not-------------
(_With a gesture of disgust and a muttered "Yah," Pullen goes out c. and
closes the door behind him._)

Charlie. Thank goodness they're not all that type--pig-headed, beery
lout. Now, old man, I suppose you want to talk about our speeches. It's
no good both saying the same thing. .

Clav. There's no fear of my saying the same as you.

Charlie. Oh, I don't know. It's as well to have a plan. (_Breaking off
in a kind of exultation._) Oh, Clavering, Clavering, isn't it great?
This is my night, my night of nights. Tell me I deserve it, old chap.
Haven't I worked for it? It's been no joke to wake those fellows up from
their lethargy, their ignorance, their ridiculous submission. But I did
it, I alone. Oh, you've done something--the book--but you left me the
men. That was what I wanted. They were mine. How I argued, wrestled,
fought with them till they saw the truth, till I lighted up their dull
intelligence and fanned the spark till it became the flame that this
night's work shall cause to blaze and demolish! (_Clavering stands in a
noncommittal attitude, but Charlie does not note his detachment._)
You mustn't grudge it me, Clavering. It's my night of triumph, the
culminating point of all my efforts. I haven't a doubt in me. I'm so
right, so utterly right. Nothing can stand before me now. They've tried
to stop me--my father, Thompson--and they've failed. Truth must out.
There must be justice at all costs, Clavering, at all costs. This is the
dawn of a new era for Thompson's men. Congratulate me, my ally! Oh, but
I don't want your help. It's kind of you to come, but tonight I need no
aid. I'm strong. I could sweep them off their feet in there. But yes,
you must come with me. Come, let us go. (_Clutching Clavering as if to
carry him bodily in._)

Clay (_eluding him_). Not yet.

Charlie (_astonished_). Why not?

Clav. I cannot come with you.

Charlie. But why? We've the same ideas about these things.

Clav. (_significantly_). We had.

Charlie (_puzzled_). We had? What do you mean?

Clav. Don't be angry with me. I've been thinking over the thing
and--well--things have been happening.

Charlie. You don't--no, it can't be true--I can't believe it. You! The
book! (_Realizing it._) Good God, he's bought you off.

Clav. (_firmly_). The book's all right and I don't allow such language,
Charlie.

Charlie (_bitterly_). I could have staked my life on your sincerity.
I--I hope you got a good price for your silence, Dr. Clavering.

Clav. Don't be a fool. I tell you I'm not going to be silent. The book
will appear right enough, and there'll be a note in it to say that the
respirator's in use at Thompson's works.

Charlie (_staggered_). What!

Clav. Yes. Come, now, haven't we got what we wanted? Isn't it worth
while to be bribed?

Charlie (_recovering himself_). Not by that man.

Clav. Oh, you're an extremist. (_Crossing over to fire._)

Charlie. Yes, where Thompson's concerned I am. (_By door c._)

Clav. Well, I'm not. His way's only relatively bad and if he adopts the
respirator--

Charlie (_interrupting_). His way is the way of the slave-driver. He
trades in the lives of men.

Clav. Oh, rot, man. You're drunk with words.

Charlie (_laughing bitterly_). You're defending your last ditch now. You
can't refute me; you can only revile, and the average coalheaver could
give you points at that.

Clav. That doesn't get us much further.

Charlie. Well, it doesn't matter much. After all, you're only one more
against me, and I'm not afraid. Nothing can stand in my path to-night.
I didn't feel the need for you. I can do without your speaking, Dr.
Clavering.

Clav. Oh, I'm going to speak. Mr. Thompson asked me to speak.

Charlie. (_Controlling himself visibly_). What are you going to say?

Clav. I've to tell them I'm appointed medical officer at the works. That
means free doctoring for the men. (_Cynically._) They didn't often
pay me anyhow, but it's officially free now instead of being a private
benevolence of mine.

Charlie. Yes, he's bought you by the respirator and made you his
creature by offering you a salary; (_Bitterly._) And I thought you were
an honest man!

Clav. (_quietly_). I've got to look after myself like everybody else.

(_Enter John r., palpably agitated and panting._)

John (_seeing Charlie_). Thank God I'm in time.

Charlie (_coldly_). In time for what?

John. To stop you. You've not spoken yet, have you?

Charlie. No, but you'll not stop me.

John. Dr. Clavering, tell him he mustn't. You're his friend, he'll
listen to you. Won't you help me to stop this folly?

Clav. I can't, Mr. Bunting. You can't cork up Niagara.

John (_distractedly_). Charlie, remember what this means to me. Jabez
will have no mercy if you incite his men to rebel against him. Think of
your father, my boy.

(_Clavering with a shrug strolls to the hack and stands aloof._)

Charlie. I can't betray my principles even to save you, whatever other
people can do when it suits their interests. (_With a backward glance at
Clavering, who smiles cynically._)

John (_pitiably_). You're throwing away my life. I can't face the
disgrace, Charlie.

Charlie (_firmly_). Nevertheless, I must speak. (_Going up l.c. by c.
doors._)

John. For mercy's sake, be reasonable.

Charlie (_Hotly_) Reasonable! What do you mean by "reasonable"? That I
should put your petty pride before the health and wellbeing of scores
of men and women. No, father, I can't be "reasonable." I've nailed my
colours to the mast and I shall speak--speak as I've never spoken yet,
speak with all my heart and soul. I've to fight Thompson in there,
Thompson and his renegade, this turncoat, Clavering, and I shall fight
to win. Right is with me and I'm not afraid to fight without the gloves.
(_He goes off c. in a kind of frenzied exultation. A burst of cheering
greets him cut off by his closing the door._)

Clav. (_sneeringly_). Melodramatic ass!

John (_sinking into a chair r. of table, and burying his face in his
hands on the table_). What shall I do? What shall I do?

Clav. Umph! It's a pity he's too big an infant to have some sense
whipped into him, Mr. Bunting.

John. Don't mock an old man's ruin.

(_Enter r. Rose and then Jabez._)

Jabez (_briskly_). Oh, here you are, Clavering. Sit down, Rosie. Dirty
hole it is. I can't think why on earth you insisted on coming here.
(_Clavering dusts a chair R. with his hand and places it for her._)

Rosie. Thanks. (_To Jabez._) Of course I came. I couldn't stay away.
I had to know what happened, and I knew you'd never tell me. (_Jabez
snorts and looks round, seeing John, who had again sunk his face wrapt
up in his misery. Clavering shuts the door which Jabez had left open.
John rises and approaches Jabez appealingly. Jabez sees him with
surprise._)

Jabez. Hullo, John.

John (_rising_). Jabez, for pity's sake.

Jabez (_impatiently_). Oh, I've no time to waste now, John, (_John
goes l. and leans head on mantelpiece._) I'll see you later. (_To
Clavering_). I suppose Charlie's on his hind legs by now? (_Up to c.
doors._)

Clav. Yes. That's the platform entrance. (_He crosses to it._)

Jabez. Wait a bit. Don't go yet. (_Clavering stops._) Open the door and
let's listen to him. (_Clavering opens doors, disclosing Charlie's hack
as he stands speaking on platform._)

Charlie (_off, c._). Your trade's dangerous. You don't make old bones.
If you're not poisoned by fumes at forty, you're chucked on the scrap
heap because you're no longer strong enough to work. Don't you deserve
some compensation when you risk your lives every day you work, when
you're only fit to work while you're young? Life is a handicap where the
weakest starts at scratch and the devil takes the hindmost. (_Cheers.
Clavering makes a questioning gesture._)

Jabez. No. Hear him out. (_Clavering nods, still holding the door
open._)

Charlie (_off, c._). You're not dogs. You're men. (_Cheers._) You want
decent homes and a bit of pleasure in life and something to put by for
the time when you can't work! How are you going to do it?

Livesey (_off, c._). Demand higher wages. Strike! (_Cries off of
"Strike," "More wages," "Vote."_)

Jabez (_motioning Clavering_). That'll do, Clavering. (_Clavering shuts
the door and comes down stairs._)

John (_putting out his hand in timid appeal_). Jabez!

Jabez (_impatiently_). Well, what is it?

John. Don't be hard on me, Jabez. I've tried to stop him. I've done my
best, indeed I have.

Jabez (_impatiently_). Oh, I've no time to waste now, John. Anyhow you'd
better come in yonder with me. It'll show 'em you're not of the same
mind as Charlie.

John (_eagerly_). Anything, Jabez. I'll do anything if you won't throw
me over.

Jabez. Well, we'll see about that later. Come along.

(_Exit Jabez c., John following. Slight murmurs and hoots. Clavering
goes up the stairs, hesitates, then closes the door and turns, looking
at Rosie._)

Clav. Miss Thompson!

Rosie (_coldly, looking up_). Did you speak to me, Dr. Clavering?

Clav. (_smilingly_). Yes. Mayn't I? (_Coming forward._)

Rosie (_huffily_). You can speak if you like. I don't undertake to
reply.

Clav. I'm sorry if I've offended you. Won't you tell me why?

Rosie. You've treated Mr. Bunting very shabbily, and I really don't wish
to hear another word from you.

Clav. Oh, don't say that. I've tried so often to get a chance of
speaking to you alone. I've hungered for it, but it never came. Your
radiant health stood in the way of even a professional visit. I found an
excuse to come last night.

Rosie. So Alcott's illness was only an excuse. Isn't he ill?

Clav. Of course he's ill. What does Alcott matter? He's only one more
ground up in the mill--and your father sent you from the room because I
broke his absurd rule of mentioning a works affair in your presence. I
knew the rule, and I risked his displeasure on the chance of seeing you
alone to plead my cause.

Rosie. Your cause was Alcott, wasn't it?

Clav. My cause was myself. You've not forgotten, have you, what I asked
you once before, how I came to you two years ago----?

Rosie. What do you mean? I think it is you who forget. Must I remind you
that I am engaged to be married to Mr. Bunting? (_Clavering gets chair
r. of table and sits facing Rosie._)

Clav. Of course I know that nominally you are engaged to him. (_Rosie
tries to interrupt in vain._) _I_ know how it all happened--an old
standing idea between your father and his. But really, really, these
family arrangements are out of date. I tell you, Miss Thompson, if I
could think for one moment that you were satisfied to marry Charlie, I'd
pluck my tongue out rather than speak to you like this. I won't believe
it. It's an "arrangement" which suits neither of you. Charlie kicks
openly against the pricks. Your splendid loyalty makes you submit in
silence. Loyalty and submission have their uses, but you must never let
this relic of bygone days survive to wreck our happiness.

Rosie. _Our_ happiness!

Clav. Oh, if you want proof of my devotion, haven't I given it to you?
I kept my bond. I've let you know of all illness amongst your father's
hands, and I've seen that no word of your ministrations reached his ear.
You mustn't think of Charlie. He's an inconsequential wobbler. Oh! he
sees what he wants all right, but his only idea of getting it is to bash
at everything in his way with a battering ram. He can't finesse.

Rosie. No. I think that's rather fine of him myself.

Clav. Fine! What good's he done? See what I've done already without your
help. The respirator's going to be used and the men get free doctoring.
I've done that. I alone. Charlie's only talked about it. Think how much
more I could do for the men if I had the help of your influence with
your father, if I were--your husband.

Rosie (_rising. Clavering rises_). Dr. Clavering, before I was engaged
to Charlie you asked me to marry you. You remember my answer?

Clav. Yes, but circumstances have changed. Rosie. Yes, they've changed.
Your proposal then was an honourable one, for I was free to choose, and
I refused you gently, hoping to spare you pain. To-day my answer is the
same, with this addition, that were I free to choose as I was then, I
should choose an honest man, a man who couldn't "finesse".

(_Enter John, c. Shouts and clapping heard. Jabez' back seen as he
stands speaking._)

Clav. (_recovering himself with an effort_). Well, Mr. Bunting, how are
things going in there?

John. Listen. Jabez is speaking now.

Jabez (_off c. speaking in a genial way_). It is like this, lads. I
always like to think of myself as the father of my men. I'm proud of you
fellows. The way you back me up when the spying factory inspectors come
round is a thing any man would be proud of....

Pullen (_off_). We're glad to do it for you, sir. (_Clavering whistles
softly and looks at Rosie, who avoids his eye._)

Jabez (_off_). We're just a big family, and I'd like to think we're
a happy-one. But in a big family there's bound to be some selfish lad
who's discontented and tries to make others discontented. I'll name no
names.

Clav. (_Softly_) That's one for Master Charlie.

Jabez (_Off_) I tell you I'm a sight poorer in yon hall than you
fellows in your cosy cottages. You think you'd like to change
places with me. I wish some of you could, and see how you'd like the
responsibility of finding work to keep the shop going for a week or two.
Damn it, lads, I'm a raven. I know that as well as you do, but I've got
to dress up in peacock's feathers and pretend. I'm no end of a swell
for your sakes. It's all bluff--it's the way business is done nowadays.
Appearances count.

(_Cries off of "That's right, that's right." "Good old Thompson!" "Go
on." He proceeds with a threat in his voice._)

Many a time I've been that worried over getting in the orders I've had
half a mind to shut up shop. Don't drive me too far or I'll do it. Where
_'_ud you be then? There's enough working men walking the streets.
How _'_ud you fellows like to join 'em? I know it's not an easy life.
(_Plaintively._) I'm doing my level best to make it easier. Only to-day
I've arranged with Dr. Clavering----

Clav. That's my cue. I'd better show up.

Jabez (_continuing_). To give him an appointment as medical officer to
my works. You'll get free doctoring. (_Clavering goes out c. quickly,
closing the door._)

John (_looking at Rosie appealingly_). Rosie!

Rosie. Yes, Mr. Bunting? (_Rises._)

John (_pitifully_). Don't let him be hard on me, my dear. I've done my
best. If only you will speak to him. You can always have your way with
your father. (_He puts out his hands appealingly._)

Rosie (_taking his hand in hers and patting it as if soothing a
frightened child_). Don't be afraid. Do you think I'd let you two old
gentlemen quarrel about nothing? Charlie's father and mine must always
be good friends.

John (_relieved and almost tearful_). Oh, my dear! (_Distressed again_).
But Charlie------(_He breaks off._)

Rosie (_encouragingly_). Yes?

John. You're not going to marry him after what's happened.

Rosie. Why, of course I am.

John (_bewildered_). But--I don't know anything--I thought he'd----

Rosie (_soothingly_). Never mind, Mr. Bunting. I promise you father
shan't be nasty to you.

John (_pressing her hand._) Bless you, my dear, bless you. You don't
know what that means to me. (_He goes out r., blunderingly. The murmur
of great applause comes from c. Rosie looks off c. expectantly. The door
opens and the sound increases. Enter Jabez visibly glowing with heat and
triumph, Clavering all smiles, and a little behind Charlie, very much
dejected. The door remains open and the sound dies down gradually._)

Jabez. Thanks, Clavering. You did that very neatly.

Clav. (_obsequiously_). You'd done the trick before I opened my mouth,
sir. (_Charlie goes to the back with the evident intention of effacing
himself._)

Jabez (_briskly_). Well, nothing to stay here for. We'd better be going,
Rosie.

Clav. It's all over but the shouting. (_A cry heard off--"Douse 'un in
th' 'orse-trough."_)

Jabez (_skarply_). What's that?

(_Enter Pullen c._)

Clav. Some of the shouting.

Pullen. There's going to be no strike, sir.

Jabez. Of course not. There never was the least chance of it. (_Charlie
stands near door r._)

Pullen (_scratching his head_). A dunno about that. A thowt it a pretty
near thing at one time afore tha coom in.

Jabez (_confidently_). Rubbish, man. Mere talk. Never deceived me for a
moment.

(_Enter c. Livesey, Jones and Alcott. They look sidelong at Jabez and
slink behind to their hats. Livesey goes to Charlie._)

Livesey. They're talking yonder o' dousing thee in _'_th
_'_orse-trough, Mr. Bunting. Tha'd best be off whoam sharp. (_Gets his
cap, r._)

Alcott. Aye, theer's none on us lot finished oop what tha might call
_'_ot favourites.

Jabez (_turning_). Oh, Livesey, that you? Shake hands. No malice, I
hope? (_Livesey puts out his hand shyly, Jabez shakes it cordially,
shaking after with Jones and Alcott, the latter of whom rubs his
hand first on his trouser leg._) Good night, lads. (_Charlie sits r.
dejectedly._)

Jones. Good night, sir. (_They go out r._)

Alcott. (_Then comes to Jabez with hand extended. Jabez off-handedly,
dismissing him_).

Jabez. Good night, Pullen.

Pullen (_drawing back disappointedly on seeing he is not to shake
hands_). Good night, sir.

(_Exit Pullen r._)

Jabez (_to Clavering_). There'll be no more trouble with those fellows.
They know they're marked men now.

Clav. (_flatteringly_). You do know how to manage them, sir.

Jabez. It's cheap at a handshake. You might cut along after them and
talk to the men as they come out. See what I mean? (_Walking with
Clavering to the door r._). We can't make too sure of a thing.
(_Clavering nods and goes out r., lifting coat and hat from rack r. as
he goes. Jabez turns and sees Charlie._) Well, Charlie, not sulking, are
you? (_Claps Charlie on the shoulder._)

Charlie (_rises_). You'd no right to speak, Mr. Thompson. It was my
meeting, not yours.

Jabez. Oh come, Charlie. All's fair in love and war. You can't tell me
I didn't give you your chance. You'd done before I went in. Come, shake
hands and be friends. You're fairly beaten. Take your gruel like a man.

Charlie (_Jerking his head up_). Yes, I'm beaten this time. But
it won't be so always, and you needn't think it will. Ingrained
conservatism and a silly tradition of loyalty have won for you this
time. You've bamboozled the majority to-night; but to-night's majority
is the minority of to-morrow.

Jabez. Look here, Charlie. Take an old man's advice and give it up.
You've had your fling with the men and a pretty hash you've made of it.

Charlie. Oh, I'm giving it up all right. You needn't worry about that.
I'm going away.

Rosie (_involuntarily_). Going away! (_She makes a slight move
forward._)

Jabez. Where?

Charlie (_ignoring Rosie--to Jabez_). Oh, I don't know. I'm clearing out
of this. I haven't thought where. What does that matter?

Rosie. But why, Charlie?

Jabez. Oh, that's as plain as the nose on his face. (_To Charlie._)
You're frightened of the men. You've been taught to-night that your
second-hand, second-rate ideas may look very pretty in a book, but they
won't wash in real life, and instead of facing it like a man and staying
here to live this down, you can think of nothing better than running
away.

Charlie. If you're going to insult me by telling me I'm afraid of a few
fools whose only idea of argument is physical force, I'd better say good
night. (_Turning as if to go r._)

Jabez. You think you've done something fine, don't you? (_r.c._) I
shouldn't wondor if you consider yourself quite a hero, eh, Charlie?

Charlie. No. (_Crossing to Jabez._) I'm a man looking for a job.

Jabez. You won't keep it long if you can't learn to mind your own
business.

Charlie. My business is Chemical Research. It was you who wanted me to
leave it and mix myself up with other matters.

Jabez. I wanted you to be a rational member of society, sir, not a
damned labour agitator and a failure at that. You boasted you could sway
a mob. Sway a mob! Why, man, you couldn't sway a child. You don't know
the A.B.C. of public speaking.

Charlie. Oh, you've a right to boast. Vae Victis.

Jabez. Yes, vanquished on your own ground, Charlie. You said you'd
speak, and you've spoken. A fat lot better off you are too. Now look
here, Charlie, you're a young fool, but I've alwrays been fond of you,
and I'm ready to take a lenient view of this.

Charlie (_r.c._). Lenient view!

Jabez. Yes... I've tumbled to what your silly twaddle really is. You've
simply been sowing your wild oats like any other young fellow, only it
wouldn't be you if you did things like other people. Most fellows do it
over cards or a woman or a lot of women. You've done it over my workmen.
And the point is, the point is that you _have_ sown them, that it's done
with, ended for good and all--------(_Charlie turns to speak._) Confound
you, don't interrupt. You've had your innings, now it's my turn. You're
going to drop your cursed--what's it called?--altruism--and you'll
settle down cosily and comfortably with Rosie. That's your programme, my
boy.

Charlie. To be not only a fool myself, but a breeder of fools! (_Rosie
turns to fire._) It's no good, Mr. Thompson. I tell you I am going
away. I must slip the cable if I'm to have any respect for myself after
to-night's work. (_Going p. to coat rack._)

Rosie (_turning, quietly_). Father, how long is it since you had a
cigar?

Jabez. I don't know.

Rosie. I am sure it's time you had another. (_Jabez takes case out._)

Jabez. Thank you, my dear.

Rosie (_apparently shocked_). Oh, but you mustn't smoke here. Go to the
air and smoke your cigar on the step till I come. (_Gently manoeuvring
him towards the dao? r._)

Jabez (_going reluclantly_) But what are you going to do?

Rosie. It will be all right. You see, this isn't a works' affair any
longer, is it?

Jabez. No. I suppose it isn't.

Rosie. So it's quite right for mc to speak to Charlie now. I shan't be
long. (_Jabez goes out r., his bearing indicating that he does so under
proest. Rosie closes the door behind him and faces Charlie._)

Rosie. Now, Charlie!

Charlie (_trying to escape_). I must be going. Good night, Miss
Thompson, and good-by. (_Holding his hand out._)

Rosie (_ignoring the hand standing with her back to the door she has
just closed._) Don't be silly, Charlie.

Charlie. There's another door, you know. (_Looking c._)

Rosie. The main entrance will be locked long since.

Charlie (_accepting the situation._) What do you want with me?

Rosie (_coming forward from the door and speaking softly._) I want to
help you.

Charlie. I don't want your help. I want to be alone. Can't you
understand my wanting to crawl away and hide? Won't you let me go?

Rosie (_sympathetically_). I want to help you.

Charlie. Your father's right, Rosie. I've made a hash of things. There's
nothing left for me to do here now. I've shot my bolt.

Rosie. What do you propose to do?

Chaelie (_irritably_). Oh, I don't know yet. Go on living, I suppose. I
shan't starve. I'm a qualified chemist. That's worth something anywhere.
(_Sitting l.c. on corner oj table._)

Rosie. You're worth more here.

Charlie. Here! I can never hold my head up again after to-night. You
don't understand what it is I've tried to do.

Rosie. I understand very well, and I don't quarrel with what you wished
to do, but you've gone about it in the wrong way. You were wrong,
utterly wrong, in talking to my father as you did. What made you do it?

Charlie. I only told him the truth.

Rosie. The truth! Don't you know that there are times when it's criminal
to tell the truth?

Charlie. Never!

Rosie. You won't persuade a man like my father to see the error of his
ways by blurting out a bundle of unpleasant truths. You're a reformer
in a hurry. You won't realize that his convictions are just as strong as
yours and that he is too old to alter.

Charlie (_With some slight return of spirit_) And I'm too young
to alter. We've got beyond the point when wisdom was regarded as the
monopoly of senile decay. I won't turn back. (_Rising from table and
going l._)

Rosie. My dear boy, I don't ask you to. I only ask you to advance
intelligently, (_over to Charlie, l._) to understand that the odds
against you are too great for you to fight single-handed.

Charlie (_gloomily_). You're quite right. I'm a broken gambler. I'm
bankrupt for this fight now--bankrupt with no assets. Your father's got
them all.

Rosie. No, Charlie, not all. You've one asset that he'd give half his
wealth to have.

Charlie. I have? What's that?

Rosie. You've youth. You can afford to wait. You mustn't throw up the
sponge and fly at a first reverse.

Charlie. It seems so hopeless to try to do anything here. I thought I'd
got hold of the men. Tonight's work has settled all that. I shall never
recover my influence. I don't know--of course one never does--but there
might be some place in the world where I could be of use. There's just
a chance, and I want to try again--to redeem all this. These things
mean so much to me--more than anything else in the world.
Suffering--poverty--I see them so clearly. Whenever I think of other
things, things I desire, my own personal wishes--they get in the way.

Rosie. And are you alone blessed with eyesight? Do you think me blind?
Do you combine your modern socialism with a mediaeval conception of
women? Charlie, if the men's condition has been an obsession with you,
with me it's been the passion of a lifetime. It's gone near to wrecking
my life.

Charlie (_involuntarily_). How?

Rosie. Because I needed help and I sought an instrument. A woman's
handicapped. I can do a lot with my father, but I never dared to
interfere openly at the works. That was his territory, and I knew he'd
stand no petticoat government there. I wanted a man's help. I wanted
you.

Charlie. Why didn't you tell me this before? We could have done so much?

Rosie. Charlie, do you realize that I'd to live with my father? You
had your differences with him, but at any rate they were confined to
business hours. For me, there was no escape. I lived under the same roof
with him, so I'd to do my good by stealth unknown to him.

Charlie. But why keep it from me?

Rosie (_pityingly_). My dear boy!

Charlie. Well?

Rosie. You, with your passion for the truth!

Charlie (_a little hotly_). Do you object to that?

Rosie. I like it. But it made it impossible for me to tell you this
before.

Charlie. Why? (_Pause._)

Rosie. Charlie, if I had told you, would you have kept it to yourself?

Charlie. Why should I do that?

Rosie. Exactly. Sooner or later you'd have blurted it all out to my
father, and I could have done no more good, no more little charities,
no more small alleviations. What sort of a life do you suppose I should
have had if he'd learnt that I had broken through his rule, that I was
doing all I could to soften his harsh management and to make things
easier for his pecple when they fell ill?

Charlie. You've been doing that? How little I knew you!

Rosie. It wasn't much, but I did what I could.

Charlie. What a sweep I've been!

Rosie. You're going to stay?

Charlie. Yes, I'm going to stay. I've been a fool. I thought I hadn't
time for marriage. I thought a wife would be a drag. I--I thought myself
a tower of strength.

Rosie (_smiling_). It had to be, Charlie. A poet always marries a cook.

Charlie. You mustn't talk like that. I'm not fit for you. I've played
with you. I thought of you as Thompson's daughter, content with him and
all he stands for. And all the time I wanted you, wanted you horribly.
Only that stood in the way. I loved you while I tried to hate you for
what I thought you were. I know you better now. You're going to help me.
That's kind, that's generous of you. I need you so much, Rosie.

Rosie. I'm ready now, father.

Jabez. About time, too.

Rosie. Charlie's coming home with us father.

Jabez. But the men are all outside, they'll all see,

Rosie. Why shouldn't they? Have you forgotten that we're going to be
married on April 25? Come along, Charie. (_She takes arm and urges him
to door Jabez staves aghast, then follows Charlies hat and coat._)


CURTAIN.





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