The Pigeon (Play in the Third Series), by John Galsworthy
This etext was produced by David Widger
PLAYS OF JOHN GALSWORTHY--SERIES 3
A Fantasy in Three Acts
By John Galsworthy
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
CHRISTOPHER WELLWYN, an artist
ANN, his daughter
GUINEVERE MEGAN, a flower-seller
RORY MEGAN, her husband
FERRAND, an alien
TIMSON, once a cabman
EDWARD BERTLEY, a Canon
ALFRED CALWAY, a Professor
SIR THOMAS HOXTON, a Justice of the Peace
Also a police constable, three humble-men, and some curious persons
The action passes in Wellwyn's Studio, and the street outside.
ACT I. Christmas Eve.
ACT II. New Year's Day.
ACT III. The First of April.
It is the night of Christmas Eve, the SCENE is a Studio, flush
with the street, having a skylight darkened by a fall of snow.
There is no one in the room, the walls of which are whitewashed,
above a floor of bare dark boards. A fire is cheerfully
burning. On a model's platform stands an easel and canvas.
There are busts and pictures; a screen, a little stool, two arm.
chairs, and a long old-fashioned settle under the window. A
door in one wall leads to the house, a door in the opposite wall
to the model's dressing-room, and the street door is in the
centre of the wall between. On a low table a Russian samovar is
hissing, and beside it on a tray stands a teapot, with glasses,
lemon, sugar, and a decanter of rum. Through a huge uncurtained
window close to the street door the snowy lamplit street can be
seen, and beyond it the river and a night of stars.
The sound of a latchkey turned in the lock of the street door,
and ANN WELLWYN enters, a girl of seventeen, with hair tied in a
ribbon and covered by a scarf. Leaving the door open, she turns
up the electric light and goes to the fire. She throws of her
scarf and long red cloak. She is dressed in a high evening
frock of some soft white material. Her movements are quick and
substantial. Her face, full of no nonsense, is decided and
sincere, with deep-set eyes, and a capable, well-shaped
forehead. Shredding of her gloves she warms her hands.
In the doorway appear the figures of two men. The first is
rather short and slight, with a soft short beard, bright soft
eyes, and a crumply face. Under his squash hat his hair is
rather plentiful and rather grey. He wears an old brown ulster
and woollen gloves, and is puffing at a hand-made cigarette. He
is ANN'S father, WELLWYN, the artist. His companion is a
well-wrapped clergyman of medium height and stoutish build, with
a pleasant, rosy face, rather shining eyes, and rather chubby
clean-shaped lips; in appearance, indeed, a grown-up boy. He is
the Vicar of the parish--CANON BERTLEY.
BERTLEY. My dear Wellwyn, the whole question of reform is full of
difficulty. When you have two men like Professor Calway and Sir
Thomas Hoxton taking diametrically opposite points of view, as we've
seen to-night, I confess, I----
WELLWYN. Come in, Vicar, and have some grog.
BERTLEY. Not to-night, thanks! Christmas tomorrow! Great
temptation, though, this room! Goodnight, Wellwyn; good-night, Ann!
ANN. [Coming from the fire towards the tea-table.] Good-night,
[He goes out, and WELLWYN, shutting the door after him,
approaches the fire.]
ANN. [Sitting on the little stool, with her back to the fire, and
making tea.] Daddy!
WELLWYN. My dear?
ANN. You say you liked Professor Calway's lecture. Is it going to
do you any good, that's the question?
WELLWYN. I--I hope so, Ann.
ANN. I took you on purpose. Your charity's getting simply awful.
Those two this morning cleared out all my housekeeping money.
WELLWYN. Um! Um! I quite understand your feeling.
ANN. They both had your card, so I couldn't refuse--didn't know what
you'd said to them. Why don't you make it a rule never to give your
card to anyone except really decent people, and--picture dealers, of
WELLWYN. My dear, I have--often.
ANN. Then why don't you keep it? It's a frightful habit. You are
naughty, Daddy. One of these days you'll get yourself into most
WELLWYN. My dear, when they--when they look at you?
ANN. You know the house wants all sorts of things. Why do you speak
to them at all?
WELLWYN. I don't--they speak to me.
[He takes of his ulster and hangs it over the back of an
ANN. They see you coming. Anybody can see you coming, Daddy.
That's why you ought to be so careful. I shall make you wear a hard
hat. Those squashy hats of yours are hopelessly inefficient.
WELLWYN. [Gazing at his hat.] Calway wears one.
ANN. As if anyone would beg of Professor Calway.
WELLWYN. Well-perhaps not. You know, Ann, I admire that fellow.
Wonderful power of-of-theory! How a man can be so absolutely tidy in
his mind! It's most exciting.
ANN. Has any one begged of you to-day?
WELLWYN. [Doubtfully.] No--no.
ANN. [After a long, severe look.] Will you have rum in your tea?
WELLWYN. [Crestfallen.] Yes, my dear--a good deal.
ANN. [Pouring out the rum, and handing him the glass.] Well, who
WELLWYN. He didn't beg of me. [Losing himself in recollection.]
Interesting old creature, Ann--real type. Old cabman.
WELLWYN. Just on the Embankment.
ANN. Of course! Daddy, you know the Embankment ones are always
WELLWYN. Yes, my dear; but this wasn't.
ANN. Did you give him your card?
ANN. Did you, Daddy?
WELLWYN. I'm rather afraid I may have!
ANN. May have! It's simply immoral.
WELLWYN. Well, the old fellow was so awfully human, Ann. Besides, I
didn't give him any money--hadn't got any.
ANN. Look here, Daddy! Did you ever ask anybody for anything? You
know you never did, you'd starve first. So would anybody decent.
Then, why won't you see that people who beg are rotters?
WELLWYN. But, my dear, we're not all the same. They wouldn't do it
if it wasn't natural to them. One likes to be friendly. What's the
use of being alive if one isn't?
ANN. Daddy, you're hopeless.
WELLWYN. But, look here, Ann, the whole thing's so jolly
complicated. According to Calway, we're to give the State all we can
spare, to make the undeserving deserving. He's a Professor; he ought
to know. But old Hoxton's always dinning it into me that we ought to
support private organisations for helping the deserving, and damn the
undeserving. Well, that's just the opposite. And he's a J.P.
Tremendous experience. And the Vicar seems to be for a little bit of
both. Well, what the devil----? My trouble is, whichever I'm with,
he always converts me. [Ruefully.] And there's no fun in any of
ANN. [Rising.] Oh! Daddy, you are so--don't you know that you're
the despair of all social reformers? [She envelops him.] There's a
tear in the left knee of your trousers. You're not to wear them
WELLWYN. Am I likely to?
ANN. I shouldn't be a bit surprised if it isn't your only pair.
D'you know what I live in terror of?
[WELLWYN gives her a queer and apprehensive look.]
ANN. That you'll take them off some day, and give them away in the
street. Have you got any money? [She feels in his coat, and he his
trousers--they find nothing.] Do you know that your pockets are one
WELLWYN. Oh! Ah! H'm!
ANN. [Severely.] Now, look here, Daddy! [She takes him by his
lapels.] Don't imagine that it isn't the most disgusting luxury on
your part to go on giving away things as you do! You know what you
really are, I suppose--a sickly sentimentalist!
WELLWYN. [Breaking away from her, disturbed.] It isn't sentiment.
It's simply that they seem to me so--so--jolly. If I'm to give up
feeling sort of--nice in here [he touches his chest] about people--it
doesn't matter who they are--then I don't know what I'm to do.
I shall have to sit with my head in a bag.
ANN. I think you ought to.
WELLWYN. I suppose they see I like them--then they tell me things.
After that, of course you can't help doing what you can.
ANN. Well, if you will love them up!
WELLWYN. My dear, I don't want to. It isn't them especially--why, I
feel it even with old Calway sometimes. It's only Providence that he
doesn't want anything of me--except to make me like himself--confound
ANN. [Moving towards the door into the house--impressively.] What
you don't see is that other people aren't a bit like you.
WELLWYN. Well, thank God!
ANN. It's so old-fashioned too! I'm going to bed--I just leave you
to your conscience.
ANN. [Opening the door-severely.] Good-night--[with a certain
weakening] you old--Daddy!
[She jumps at him, gives him a hug, and goes out.]
[WELLWYN stands perfectly still. He first gazes up at the
skylight, then down at the floor. Slowly he begins to shake his
head, and mutter, as he moves towards the fire.]
WELLWYN. Bad lot. . . . Low type--no backbone, no stability!
[There comes a fluttering knock on the outer door. As the sound
slowly enters his consciousness, he begins to wince, as though
he knew, but would not admit its significance. Then he sits
down, covering his ears. The knocking does not cease. WELLWYN
drops first one, then both hands, rises, and begins to sidle
towards the door. The knocking becomes louder.]
WELLWYN. Ah dear! Tt! Tt! Tt!
[After a look in the direction of ANN's disappearance, he opens
the street door a very little way. By the light of the lamp
there can be seen a young girl in dark clothes, huddled in a
shawl to which the snow is clinging. She has on her arm a
basket covered with a bit of sacking.]
WELLWYN. I can't, you know; it's impossible.
[The girl says nothing, but looks at him with dark eyes.]
WELLWYN. [Wincing.] Let's see--I don't know you--do I?
[The girl, speaking in a soft, hoarse voice, with a faint accent
of reproach: "Mrs. Megan--you give me this---" She holds out a
dirty visiting card.]
WELLWYN. [Recoiling from the card.] Oh! Did I? Ah! When?
MRS. MEGAN. You 'ad some vi'lets off of me larst spring. You give
me 'arf a crown.
[A smile tries to visit her face.]
WELLWYN. [Looking stealthily round.] Ah! Well, come in--just for a
minute--it's very cold--and tell us what it is.
[She comes in stolidly, a Sphinx-like figure, with her pretty
tragic little face.]
WELLWYN. I don't remember you. [Looking closer.] Yes, I do. Only--
you weren't the same-were you?
MRS. MEGAN. [Dully.] I seen trouble since.
WELLWYN. Trouble! Have some tea?
[He looks anxiously at the door into the house, then goes
quickly to the table, and pours out a glass of tea, putting rum
WELLWYN. [Handing her the tea.] Keeps the cold out! Drink it off!
[MRS. MEGAN drinks it of, chokes a little, and almost
immediately seems to get a size larger. WELLWYN watches her
with his head held on one side, and a smile broadening on his
WELLWYN. Cure for all evils, um?
MRS. MEGAN. It warms you. [She smiles.]
WELLWYN. [Smiling back, and catching himself out.] Well! You know,
MRS. MEGAN. [Conscious of the disruption of his personality, and
withdrawing into her tragic abyss.] I wouldn't 'a come, but you told
me if I wanted an 'and----
WELLWYN. [Gradually losing himself in his own nature.] Let me
see--corner of Flight Street, wasn't it?
MRS. MEGAN. [With faint eagerness.] Yes, sir, an' I told you about
me vi'lets--it was a luvly spring-day.
WELLWYN. Beautiful! Beautiful! Birds singing, and the trees, &c.!
We had quite a talk. You had a baby with you.
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. I got married since then.
WELLWYN. Oh! Ah! Yes! [Cheerfully.] And how's the baby?
MRS. MEGAN. [Turning to stone.] I lost her.
WELLWYN. Oh! poor--- Um!
MRS. MEGAN. [Impassive.] You said something abaht makin' a picture
of me. [With faint eagerness.] So I thought I might come, in case
WELLWYN. [Looking at, her intently.] Things going badly?
MRS. MEGAN. [Stripping the sacking off her basket.] I keep 'em
covered up, but the cold gets to 'em. Thruppence--that's all I've
WELLWYN. Ho! Tt! Tt! [He looks into the basket.] Christmas, too!
MRS. MEGAN. They're dead.
WELLWYN. [Drawing in his breath.] Got a good husband?
MRS. MEGAN. He plays cards.
WELLWYN. Oh, Lord! And what are you doing out--with a cold like
that? [He taps his chest.]
MRS. MEGAN. We was sold up this morning--he's gone off with 'is
mates. Haven't took enough yet for a night's lodgin'.
WELLWYN. [Correcting a spasmodic dive into his pockets.] But who
buys flowers at this time of night?
[MRS. MEGAN looks at him, and faintly smiles.]
WELLWYN. [Rumpling his hair.] Saints above us! Here! Come to the
[She follows him to the fire. He shuts the street door.]
WELLWYN. Are your feet wet? [She nods.] Well, sit down here, and
take them off. That's right.
[She sits on the stool. And after a slow look up at him, which
has in it a deeper knowledge than belongs of right to her years,
begins taking off her shoes and stockings. WELLWYN goes to the
door into the house, opens it, and listens with a sort of
stealthy casualness. He returns whistling, but not out loud.
The girl has finished taking off her stockings, and turned her
bare toes to the flames. She shuffles them back under her
WELLWYN. How old are you, my child?
MRS. MEGAN. Nineteen, come Candlemas.
WELLWYN. And what's your name?
MRS. MEGAN. Guinevere.
WELLWYN. What? Welsh?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes--from Battersea.
WELLWYN. And your husband?
MRS. MEGAN. No. Irish, 'e is. Notting Dale, 'e comes from.
WELLWYN. Roman Catholic?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. My 'usband's an atheist as well.
WELLWYN. I see. [Abstractedly.] How jolly! And how old is he--this
young man of yours?
MRS. MEGAN. 'E'll be twenty soon.
WELLWYN. Babes in the wood! Does he treat you badly?
MRS. MEGAN. No.
WELLWYN. Nor drink?
MRS. MEGAN. No. He's not a bad one. Only he gets playin'
cards then 'e'll fly the kite.
WELLWYN. I see. And when he's not flying it, what does he do?
MRS. MEGAN. [Touching her basket.] Same as me. Other jobs tires 'im.
WELLWYN. That's very nice! [He checks himself.] Well, what am I to
do with you?
MRS. MEGAN. Of course, I could get me night's lodging if I like to
do--the same as some of them.
WELLWYN. No! no! Never, my child! Never!
MRS. MEGAN. It's easy that way.
WELLWYN. Heavens! But your husband! Um?
MRS. MEGAN. [With stoical vindictiveness.] He's after one I know of.
WELLWYN. Tt! What a pickle!
MRS. MEGAN. I'll 'ave to walk about the streets.
WELLWYN. [To himself.] Now how can I?
[MRS. MEGAN looks up and smiles at him, as if she had already
discovered that he is peculiar.]
WELLWYN. You see, the fact is, I mustn't give you anything--because
--well, for one thing I haven't got it. There are other reasons, but
that's the--real one. But, now, there's a little room where my
models dress. I wonder if you could sleep there. Come, and see.
[The Girl gets up lingeringly, loth to leave the warmth. She
takes up her wet stockings.]
MRS. MEGAN. Shall I put them on again?
WELLWYN. No, no; there's a nice warm pair of slippers. [Seeing the
steam rising from her.] Why, you're wet all over. Here, wait a
[He crosses to the door into the house, and after stealthy
listening, steps through. The Girl, like a cat, steals back to
the warmth of the fire. WELLWYN returns with a candle, a
canary-coloured bath gown, and two blankets.]
WELLWYN. Now then! [He precedes her towards the door of the model's
room.] Hsssh! [He opens the door and holds up the candle to show
her the room.] Will it do? There's a couch. You'll find some
washing things. Make yourself quite at home. See!
[The Girl, perfectly dumb, passes through with her basket--and
her shoes and stockings. WELLWYN hands her the candle,
blankets, and bath gown.]
WELLWYN. Have a good sleep, child! Forget that you're alive!
[He closes the door, mournfully.] Done it again! [He goes to the
table, cuts a large slice of cake, knocks on the door, and hands it
in.] Chow-chow! [Then, as he walks away, he sights the opposite
door.] Well--damn it, what could I have done? Not a farthing on me!
[He goes to the street door to shut it, but first opens it wide to
confirm himself in his hospitality.] Night like this!
[A sputter of snow is blown in his face. A voice says:
"Monsieur, pardon!" WELLWYN recoils spasmodically. A figure
moves from the lamp-post to the doorway. He is seen to be young
and to have ragged clothes. He speaks again: "You do not
remember me, Monsieur? My name is Ferrand--it was in Paris, in
the Champs-Elysees--by the fountain . . . . When you came to
the door, Monsieur--I am not made of iron . . . . Tenez,
here is your card I have never lost it." He holds out to WELLWYN
an old and dirty wing card. As inch by inch he has advanced
into the doorway, the light from within falls on him, a tall
gaunt young pagan with fair hair and reddish golden stubble of
beard, a long ironical nose a little to one side, and large,
grey, rather prominent eyes. There is a certain grace in his
figure and movements; his clothes are nearly dropping off him.]
WELLWYN. [Yielding to a pleasant memory.] Ah! yes. By the
fountain. I was sitting there, and you came and ate a roll, and
drank the water.
FERRAND. [With faint eagerness.] My breakfast. I was in poverty--
veree bad off. You gave me ten francs. I thought I had a little the
right [WELLWYN makes a movement of disconcertion] seeing you said
that if I came to England----
WELLWYN. Um! And so you've come?
FERRAND. It was time that I consolidated my fortunes, Monsieur.
WELLWYN. And you--have----
[He stops embarrassed. FERRAND. [Shrugging his ragged
shoulders.] One is not yet Rothschild.
WELLWYN. [Sympathetically.] No. [Yielding to memory.] We talked
FERRAND. I have not yet changed my opinion. We other vagabonds, we
are exploited by the bourgeois. This is always my idea, Monsieur.
WELLWYN. Yes--not quite the general view, perhaps! Well----
[Heartily.] Come in! Very glad to see you again.
FERRAND. [Brushing his arms over his eyes.] Pardon, Monsieur--your
goodness--I am a little weak. [He opens his coat, and shows a belt
drawn very tight over his ragged shirt.] I tighten him one hole for
each meal, during two days now. That gives you courage.
WELLWYN. [With cooing sounds, pouring out tea, and adding rum.] Have
some of this. It'll buck you up. [He watches the young man drink.]
FERRAND. [Becoming a size larger.] Sometimes I think that I will
never succeed to dominate my life, Monsieur--though I have no vices,
except that I guard always the aspiration to achieve success. But I
will not roll myself under the machine of existence to gain a nothing
every day. I must find with what to fly a little.
WELLWYN. [Delicately.] Yes; yes--I remember, you found it difficult
to stay long in any particular--yes.
FERRAND. [Proudly.] In one little corner? No--Monsieur--never!
That is not in my character. I must see life.
WELLWYN. Quite, quite! Have some cake?
[He cuts cake.]
FERRAND. In your country they say you cannot eat the cake and have
it. But one must always try, Monsieur; one must never be content.
[Refusing the cake.] 'Grand merci', but for the moment I have no
stomach--I have lost my stomach now for two days. If I could smoke,
Monsieur! [He makes the gesture of smoking.]
WELLWYN. Rather! [Handing his tobacco pouch.] Roll yourself one.
FERRAND. [Rapidly rolling a cigarette.] If I had not found you,
Monsieur--I would have been a little hole in the river to-night--
I was so discouraged. [He inhales and puffs a long luxurious whif of
smoke. Very bitterly.] Life! [He disperses the puff of smoke with
his finger, and stares before him.] And to think that in a few
minutes HE will be born! Monsieur! [He gazes intently at WELLWYN.]
The world would reproach you for your goodness to me.
WELLWYN. [Looking uneasily at the door into the house.] You think
FERRAND. Monsieur, if HE himself were on earth now, there would be a
little heap of gentlemen writing to the journals every day to call
Him sloppee sentimentalist! And what is veree funny, these gentlemen
they would all be most strong Christians. [He regards WELLWYN
deeply.] But that will not trouble you, Monsieur; I saw well from
the first that you are no Christian. You have so kind a face.
WELLWYN. Oh! Indeed!
FERRAND. You have not enough the Pharisee in your character. You do
not judge, and you are judged.
[He stretches his limbs as if in pain.]
WELLWYN. Are you in pain?
FERRAND. I 'ave a little the rheumatism.
WELLWYN. Wet through, of course! [Glancing towards the house.] Wait
a bit! I wonder if you'd like these trousers; they've--er--they're
[He passes through the door into the house. FERRAND stands at
the fire, with his limbs spread as it were to embrace it,
smoking with abandonment. WELLWYN returns stealthily, dressed
in a Jaeger dressing-gown, and bearing a pair of drawers, his
trousers, a pair of slippers, and a sweater.]
WELLWYN. [Speaking in a low voice, for the door is still open.] Can
you make these do for the moment?
FERRAND. 'Je vous remercie', Monsieur. [Pointing to the screen.]
May I retire?
WELLWYN. Yes, yes.
[FERRAND goes behind the screen. WELLWYN closes the door into
the house, then goes to the window to draw the curtains. He
suddenly recoils and stands petrified with doubt.]
WELLWYN. Good Lord!
[There is the sound of tapping on glass. Against the
window-pane is pressed the face of a man. WELLWYN motions to him
to go away. He does not go, but continues tapping. WELLWYN
opens the door. There enters a square old man, with a red,
pendulous jawed, shaking face under a snow besprinkled bowler
hat. He is holding out a visiting card with tremulous hand.]
WELLWYN. Who's that? Who are you?
TIMSON. [In a thick, hoarse, shaking voice.] 'Appy to see you, sir;
we 'ad a talk this morning. Timson--I give you me name. You invited
of me, if ye remember.
WELLWYN. It's a little late, really.
TIMSON. Well, ye see, I never expected to 'ave to call on yer. I
was 'itched up all right when I spoke to yer this mornin', but bein'
Christmas, things 'ave took a turn with me to-day. [He speaks with
increasing thickness.] I'm reg'lar disgusted--not got the price of a
bed abaht me. Thought you wouldn't like me to be delicate--not at my
WELLWYN. [With a mechanical and distracted dive of his hands into
his pockets.] The fact is, it so happens I haven't a copper on me.
TIMSON. [Evidently taking this for professional refusal.] Wouldn't
arsk you if I could 'elp it. 'Ad to do with 'orses all me life.
It's this 'ere cold I'm frightened of. I'm afraid I'll go to sleep.
WELLWYN. Well, really, I----
TIMSON. To be froze to death--I mean--it's awkward.
WELLWYN. [Puzzled and unhappy.] Well--come in a moment, and let's--
think it out. Have some tea!
[He pours out the remains of the tea, and finding there is not
very much, adds rum rather liberally. TIMSON, who walks a
little wide at the knees, steadying his gait, has followed.]
TIMSON. [Receiving the drink.] Yer 'ealth. 'Ere's--soberiety!
[He applies the drink to his lips with shaking hand. Agreeably
surprised.] Blimey! Thish yer tea's foreign, ain't it?
FERRAND. [Reappearing from behind the screen in his new clothes of
which the trousers stop too soon.] With a needle, Monsieur, I would
soon have with what to make face against the world.
WELLWYN. Too short! Ah!
[He goes to the dais on which stands ANN's workbasket, and takes
from it a needle and cotton.]
[While he is so engaged FERRAND is sizing up old TIMSON, as one
dog will another. The old man, glass in hand, seems to have
lapsed into coma.]
FERRAND. [Indicating TIMSON] Monsieur!
[He makes the gesture of one drinking, and shakes his head.]
WELLWYN. [Handing him the needle and cotton.] Um! Afraid so!
[They approach TIMSON, who takes no notice.]
FERRAND. [Gently.] It is an old cabby, is it not, Monsieur? 'Ceux
sont tous des buveurs'.
WELLWYN. [Concerned at the old man's stupefaction.] Now, my old
friend, sit down a moment. [They manoeuvre TIMSON to the settle.]
Will you smoke?
TIMSON. [In a drowsy voice.] Thank 'ee-smoke pipe of 'baccer. Old
'orse--standin' abaht in th' cold.
[He relapses into coma.]
FERRAND. [With a click of his tongue.] 'Il est parti'.
WELLWYN. [Doubtfully.] He hasn't really left a horse outside, do
FERRAND. Non, non, Monsieur--no 'orse. He is dreaming. I know very
well that state of him--that catches you sometimes. It is the warmth
sudden on the stomach. He will speak no more sense to-night. At the
most, drink, and fly a little in his past.
WELLWYN. Poor old buffer!
FERRAND. Touching, is it not, Monsieur? There are many brave gents
among the old cabbies--they have philosophy--that comes from 'orses,
and from sitting still.
WELLWYN. [Touching TIMSON's shoulder.] Drenched!
FERRAND. That will do 'im no 'arm, Monsieur-no 'arm at all. He is
well wet inside, remember--it is Christmas to-morrow. Put him a rug,
if you will, he will soon steam.
[WELLWYN takes up ANN's long red cloak, and wraps it round the
TIMSON. [Faintly roused.] Tha's right. Put--the rug on th' old
[He makes a strange noise, and works his head and tongue.]
WELLWYN. [Alarmed.] What's the matter with him?
FERRAND. It is nothing, Monsieur; for the moment he thinks 'imself a
'orse. 'Il joue "cache-cache,"' 'ide and seek, with what you call--
WELLWYN. But what's to be done with him? One can't turn him out in
FERRAND. If you wish to leave him 'ere, Monsieur, have no fear. I
charge myself with him.
WELLWYN. Oh! [Dubiously.] You--er--I really don't know, I--hadn't
contemplated--You think you could manage if I--if I went to bed?
FERRAND. But certainly, Monsieur.
WELLWYN. [Still dubiously.] You--you're sure you've everything you
FERRAND. [Bowing.] 'Mais oui, Monsieur'.
WELLWYN. I don't know what I can do by staying.
FERRAND. There is nothing you can do, Monsieur. Have confidence in
WELLWYN. Well-keep the fire up quietly--very quietly. You'd better
take this coat of mine, too. You'll find it precious cold, I expect,
about three o'clock. [He hands FERRAND his Ulster.]
FERRAND. [Taking it.] I shall sleep in praying for you, Monsieur.
WELLWYN. Ah! Yes! Thanks! Well-good-night! By the way, I shall
be down rather early. Have to think of my household a bit, you know.
FERRAND. 'Tres bien, Monsieur'. I comprehend. One must well be
regular in this life.
WELLWYN. [With a start.] Lord! [He looks at the door of the
model's room.] I'd forgotten----
FERRAND. Can I undertake anything, Monsieur?
WELLWYN. No, no! [He goes to the electric light switch by the outer
door.] You won't want this, will you?
FERRAND. 'Merci, Monsieur'.
[WELLWYN switches off the light.]
FERRAND. 'Bon soir, Monsieur'!
WELLWYN. The devil! Er--good-night!
[He hesitates, rumples his hair, and passes rather suddenly
FERRAND. [To himself.] Poor pigeon! [Looking long at old TIMSON]
'Espece de type anglais!'
[He sits down in the firelight, curls up a foot on his knee, and
taking out a knife, rips the stitching of a turned-up end of
trouser, pinches the cloth double, and puts in the preliminary
stitch of a new hem--all with the swiftness of one well-
accustomed. Then, as if hearing a sound behind him, he gets up
quickly and slips behind the screen. MRS. MEGAN, attracted by
the cessation of voices, has opened the door, and is creeping
from the model's room towards the fire. She has almost reached
it before she takes in the torpid crimson figure of old TIMSON.
She halts and puts her hand to her chest--a queer figure in the
firelight, garbed in the canary-coloured bath gown and rabbit's-
wool slippers, her black matted hair straggling down on her
neck. Having quite digested the fact that the old man is in a
sort of stupor, MRS. MEGAN goes close to the fire, and sits on
the little stool, smiling sideways at old TIMSON. FERRAND,
coming quietly up behind, examines her from above, drooping his
long nose as if enquiring with it as to her condition in life;
then he steps back a yard or two.]
FERRAND. [Gently.] 'Pardon, Ma'moiselle'.
MRS. MEGAN. [Springing to her feet.] Oh!
FERRAND. All right, all right! We are brave gents!
TIMSON. [Faintly roused.] 'Old up, there!
FERRAND. Trust in me, Ma'moiselle!
[MRS. MEGAN responds by drawing away.]
FERRAND. [Gently.] We must be good comrades. This asylum--it is
better than a doss-'ouse.
[He pushes the stool over towards her, and seats himself.
Somewhat reassured, MRS. MEGAN again sits down.]
MRS. MEGAN. You frightened me.
TIMSON. [Unexpectedly-in a drowsy tone.] Purple foreigners!
FERRAND. Pay no attention, Ma'moiselle. He is a philosopher.
MRS. MEGAN. Oh! I thought 'e was boozed.
[They both look at TIMSON]
FERRAND. It is the same-veree 'armless.
MRS. MEGAN. What's that he's got on 'im?
FERRAND. It is a coronation robe. Have no fear, Ma'moiselle. Veree
MRS. MEGAN. I wouldn't be afraid of him. [Challenging FERRAND.] I'm
afraid o' you.
FERRAND. It is because you do not know me, Ma'moiselle. You are
wrong, it is always the unknown you should love.
MRS. MEGAN. I don't like the way you-speaks to me.
FERRAND. Ah! You are a Princess in disguise?
MRS. MEGAN. No fear!
FERRAND. No? What is it then you do to make face against the
necessities of life? A living?
MRS. MEGAN. Sells flowers.
FERRAND. [Rolling his eyes.] It is not a career.
MRS. MEGAN. [With a touch of devilry.] You don't know what I do.
FERRAND. Ma'moiselle, whatever you do is charming.
[MRS. MEGAN looks at him, and slowly smiles.]
MRS. MEGAN. You're a foreigner.
FERRAND. It is true.
MRS. MEGAN. What do you do for a livin'?
FERRAND. I am an interpreter.
MRS. MEGAN. You ain't very busy, are you?
FERRAND. [With dignity.] At present I am resting.
MRS. MEGAN. [Looking at him and smiling.] How did you and 'im come
FERRAND. Ma'moiselle, we would ask you the same question.
MRS. MEGAN. The gentleman let me. 'E's funny.
FERRAND. 'C'est un ange' [At MRS. MEGAN's blank stare he
interprets.] An angel!
MRS. MEGAN. Me luck's out-that's why I come.
FERRAND. [Rising.] Ah! Ma'moiselle! Luck! There is the little
God who dominates us all. Look at this old! [He points to TIMSON.]
He is finished. In his day that old would be doing good business.
He could afford himself--[He maker a sign of drinking.]--Then come
the motor cars. All goes--he has nothing left, only 'is 'abits of a
TIMSON. [With a vague gesture--drowsily.] Kick the foreign beggars
FERRAND. A real Englishman . . . . And look at me! My father
was merchant of ostrich feathers in Brussels. If I had been content
to go in his business, I would 'ave been rich. But I was born to
roll--"rolling stone"to voyage is stronger than myself. Luck! . .
And you, Ma'moiselle, shall I tell your fortune? [He looks in her
face.] You were born for 'la joie de vivre'--to drink the wines of
life. 'Et vous voila'! Luck!
[Though she does not in the least understand what he has said,
her expression changes to a sort of glee.]
FERRAND. Yes. You were born loving pleasure. Is it not? You see,
you cannot say, No. All of us, we have our fates. Give me your
hand. [He kneels down and takes her hand.] In each of us there is
that against which we cannot struggle. Yes, yes!
[He holds her hand, and turns it over between his own.
MRS. MEGAN remains stolid, half fascinated, half-reluctant.]
TIMSON. [Flickering into consciousness.] Be'ave yourselves! Yer
crimson canary birds!
[MRS. MEGAN would withdraw her hand, but cannot.]
FERRAND. Pay no attention, Ma'moiselle. He is a Puritan.
[TIMSON relapses into comatosity, upsetting his glass, which
falls with a crash.]
MRS. MEGAN. Let go my hand, please!
FERRAND. [Relinquishing it, and staring into the fore gravely.]
There is one thing I have never done--'urt a woman--that is hardly in
my character. [Then, drawing a little closer, he looks into her
face.] Tell me, Ma'moiselle, what is it you think of all day long?
MRS. MEGAN. I dunno--lots, I thinks of.
FERRAND. Shall I tell you? [Her eyes remain fixed on his, the
strangeness of him preventing her from telling him to "get along."
He goes on in his ironic voice.] It is of the streets--the lights--
the faces--it is of all which moves, and is warm--it is of colour--it
is [he brings his face quite close to hers] of Love. That is for you
what the road is for me. That is for you what the rum is for that
old--[He jerks his thumb back at TIMSON. Then bending swiftly
forward to the girl.] See! I kiss you--Ah!
[He draws her forward off the stool. There is a little
struggle, then she resigns her lips. The little stool,
overturned, falls with a clatter. They spring up, and move
apart. The door opens and ANN enters from the house in a blue
dressing-gown, with her hair loose, and a candle held high above
her head. Taking in the strange half-circle round the stove,
she recoils. Then, standing her ground, calls in a voice
sharpened by fright: "Daddy--Daddy!"]
TIMSON. [Stirring uneasily, and struggling to his feet.] All right!
FERRAND. Have no fear, Madame!
[In the silence that follows, a clock begins loudly striking
twelve. ANN remains, as if carved in atone, her eyes fastened
on the strangers. There is the sound of someone falling
downstairs, and WELLWYN appears, also holding a candle above his
WELLWYN. Yes, yes, my dear! It--it happened.
ANN. [With a sort of groan.] Oh! Daddy!
[In the renewed silence, the church clock ceases to chime.]
FERRAND. [Softly, in his ironic voice.] HE is come, Monsieur! 'Appy
Christmas! Bon Noel!
[There is a sudden chime of bells. The Stage is blotted dark.]
It is four o'clock in the afternoon of New Year's Day. On the raised
dais MRS. MEGAN is standing, in her rags; with bare feet and ankles,
her dark hair as if blown about, her lips parted, holding out a
dishevelled bunch of violets. Before his easel, WELLWYN is painting
her. Behind him, at a table between the cupboard and the door to the
model's room, TIMSON is washing brushes, with the movements of one
employed upon relief works. The samovar is hissing on the table by
the stove, the tea things are set out.
WELLWYN. Open your mouth.
[MRS. MEGAN opens her mouth.]
ANN. [In hat and coat, entering from the house.] Daddy!
[WELLWYN goes to her; and, released from restraint, MRS. MEGAN
looks round at TIMSON and grimaces.]
WELLWYN. Well, my dear?
[They speak in low voices.]
ANN. [Holding out a note.] This note from Canon Bentley. He's going
to bring her husband here this afternoon. [She looks at MRS. MEGAN.]
WELLWYN. Oh! [He also looks at MRS. MEGAN.]
ANN. And I met Sir Thomas Hoxton at church this morning, and spoke
to him about Timson.
[They look at TIMSON. Then ANN goes back to the door, and
WELLWYN follows her.]
ANN. [Turning.] I'm going round now, Daddy, to ask Professor Calway
what we're to do with that Ferrand.
WELLWYN. Oh! One each! I wonder if they'll like it.
ANN. They'll have to lump it.
[She goes out into the house.]
WELLWYN. [Back at his easel.] You can shut your mouth now.
[MRS. MEGAN shuts her mouth, but opens it immediately to smile.]
WELLWYN. [Spasmodically.] Ah! Now that's what I want. [He dabs
furiously at the canvas. Then standing back, runs his hands through
his hair and turns a painter's glance towards the skylight.] Dash!
Light's gone! Off you get, child--don't tempt me!
[MRS. MEGAN descends. Passing towards the door of the model's
room she stops, and stealthily looks at the picture.]
TIMSON. Ah! Would yer!
WELLWYN. [Wheeling round.] Want to have a look? Well--come on!
[He takes her by the arm, and they stand before the canvas.
After a stolid moment, she giggles.]
WELLWYN. Oh! You think so?
MRS. MEGAN. [Who has lost her hoarseness.] It's not like my picture
that I had on the pier.
WELLWYN. No-it wouldn't be.
MRS. MEGAN. [Timidly.] If I had an 'at on, I'd look better.
WELLWYN. With feathers?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes.
WELLWYN. Well, you can't! I don't like hats, and I don't like
[MRS. MEGAN timidly tugs his sleeve. TIMSON, screened as he
thinks by the picture, has drawn from his bulky pocket a bottle
and is taking a stealthy swig.]
WELLWYN. [To MRS. MEGAN, affecting not to notice.] How much do I owe
MRS. MEGAN. [A little surprised.] You paid me for to-day-all 'cept
WELLWYN. Well! Here it is. [He gives her a coin.] Go and get your
MRS. MEGAN. You've give me 'arf a crown.
WELLWYN. Cut away now!
[MRS. MEGAN, smiling at the coin, goes towards the model's room.
She looks back at WELLWYN, as if to draw his eyes to her, but he
is gazing at the picture; then, catching old TIMSON'S sour
glance, she grimaces at him, kicking up her feet with a little
squeal. But when WELLWYN turns to the sound, she is demurely
passing through the doorway.]
TIMSON. [In his voice of dubious sobriety.] I've finished these yer
brushes, sir. It's not a man's work. I've been thinkin' if you'd
keep an 'orse, I could give yer satisfaction.
WELLWYN. Would the horse, Timson?
TIMSON. [Looking him up and down.] I knows of one that would just
suit yer. Reel 'orse, you'd like 'im.
WELLWYN. [Shaking his head.] Afraid not, Timson! Awfully sorry,
though, to have nothing better for you than this, at present.
TIMSON. [Faintly waving the brushes.] Of course, if you can't
afford it, I don't press you--it's only that I feel I'm not doing
meself justice. [Confidentially.] There's just one thing, sir; I
can't bear to see a gen'leman imposed on. That foreigner--'e's not
the sort to 'ave about the place. Talk? Oh! ah! But 'e'll never
do any good with 'imself. He's a alien.
WELLWYN. Terrible misfortune to a fellow, Timson.
TIMSON. Don't you believe it, sir; it's his fault I says to the
young lady yesterday: Miss Ann, your father's a gen'leman [with a
sudden accent of hoarse sincerity], and so you are--I don't mind
sayin' it--but, I said, he's too easy-goin'.
TIMSON. Well, see that girl now! [He shakes his head.] I never did
believe in goin' behind a person's back--I'm an Englishman--but
[lowering his voice] she's a bad hat, sir. Why, look at the street
she comes from!
WELLWYN. Oh! you know it.
TIMSON. Lived there meself larst three years. See the difference a
few days' corn's made in her. She's that saucy you can't touch 'er
WELLWYN. Is there any necessity, Timson?
TIMSON. Artful too. Full o' vice, I call'er. Where's 'er 'usband?
WELLWYN. [Gravely.] Come, Timson! You wouldn't like her to----
TIMSON. [With dignity, so that the bottle in his pocket is plainly
visible.] I'm a man as always beared inspection.
WELLWYN. [With a well-directed smile.] So I see.
TIMSON. [Curving himself round the bottle.] It's not for me to say
nothing--but I can tell a gen'leman as quick as ever I can tell an
WELLWYN. [Painting.] I find it safest to assume that every man is a
gentleman, and every woman a lady. Saves no end of self-contempt.
Give me the little brush.
TIMSON. [Handing him the brush--after a considerable introspective
pause.] Would yer like me to stay and wash it for yer again? [With
great resolution.] I will--I'll do it for you--never grudged workin'
for a gen'leman.
WELLWYN. [With sincerity.] Thank you, Timson--very good of you, I'm
sure. [He hands him back the brush.] Just lend us a hand with this.
[Assisted by TIMSON he pushes back the dais.] Let's see! What do I
TIMSON. [Reluctantly.] It so 'appens, you advanced me to-day's
WELLWYN. Then I suppose you want to-morrow's?
TIMSON. Well, I 'ad to spend it, lookin' for a permanent job. When
you've got to do with 'orses, you can't neglect the publics, or you
might as well be dead.
WELLWYN. Quite so!
TIMSON. It mounts up in the course o' the year.
WELLWYN. It would. [Passing him a coin.] This is for an exceptional
TIMSON. [Touching his forehead.] Certainly, sir. I quite
understand. I'm not that sort, as I think I've proved to yer, comin'
here regular day after day, all the week. There's one thing, I ought
to warn you perhaps--I might 'ave to give this job up any day.
[He makes a faint demonstration with the little brush, then puts
it, absent-mindedly, into his pocket.]
WELLWYN. [Gravely.] I'd never stand in the way of your bettering
yourself, Timson. And, by the way, my daughter spoke to a friend
about you to-day. I think something may come of it.
TIMSON. Oh! Oh! She did! Well, it might do me a bit o' good. [He
makes for the outer door, but stops.] That foreigner! 'E sticks in
my gizzard. It's not as if there wasn't plenty o' pigeons for 'im to
pluck in 'is own Gawd-forsaken country. Reg-lar jay, that's what I
calls 'im. I could tell yer something----
[He has opened the door, and suddenly sees that FERRAND himself
is standing there. Sticking out his lower lip, TIMSON gives a
roll of his jaw and lurches forth into the street. Owing to a
slight miscalculation, his face and raised arms are plainly
visible through the window, as he fortifies himself from his
battle against the cold. FERRAND, having closed the door,
stands with his thumb acting as pointer towards this spectacle.
He is now remarkably dressed in an artist's squashy green hat, a
frock coat too small for him, a bright blue tie of knitted silk,
the grey trousers that were torn, well-worn brown boots, and a
WELLWYN. What luck to-day?
FERRAND. [With a shrug.] Again I have beaten all London, Monsieur-
-not one bite. [Contemplating himself.] I think perhaps, that, for
the bourgeoisie, there is a little too much colour in my costume.
WELLWYN. [Contemplating him.] Let's see--I believe I've an old top
FERRAND. Ah! Monsieur, 'merci', but that I could not. It is
scarcely in my character.
FERRAND. I have been to merchants of wine, of tabac, to hotels, to
Leicester Square. I have been to a Society for spreading Christian
knowledge--I thought there I would have a chance perhaps as
interpreter. 'Toujours meme chose', we regret, we have no situation
for you--same thing everywhere. It seems there is nothing doing in
WELLWYN. I've noticed, there never is.
FERRAND. I was thinking, Monsieur, that in aviation there might be a
career for me--but it seems one must be trained.
WELLWYN. Afraid so, Ferrand.
FERRAND. [Approaching the picture.] Ah! You are always working at
this. You will have something of very good there, Monsieur. You
wish to fix the type of wild savage existing ever amongst our high
civilisation. 'C'est tres chic ca'! [WELLWYN manifests the quiet
delight of an English artist actually understood.] In the figures
of these good citizens, to whom she offers her flower, you would
give the idea of all the cage doors open to catch and make tame the
wild bird, that will surely die within. 'Tres gentil'! Believe me,
Monsieur, you have there the greatest comedy of life! How anxious
are the tame birds to do the wild birds good. [His voice changes.]
For the wild birds it is not funny. There is in some human souls,
Monsieur, what cannot be made tame.
WELLWYN. I believe you, Ferrand.
[The face of a young man appears at the window, unseen.
Suddenly ANN opens the door leading to the house.]
ANN. Daddy--I want you.
WELLWYN. [To FERRAND.] Excuse me a minute!
[He goes to his daughter, and they pass out. FERRAND remains
at the picture. MRS. MEGAN dressed in some of ANN's discarded
garments, has come out of the model's room. She steals up
behind FERRAND like a cat, reaches an arm up, and curls it
round his mouth. He turns, and tries to seize her; she
disingenuously slips away. He follows. The chase circles the
tea table. He catches her, lifts her up, swings round with
her, so that her feet fly out; kisses her bent-back face, and
sets her down. She stands there smiling. The face at the
FERRAND. La Valse!
[He takes her with both hands by the waist, she puts her hands
against his shoulders to push him of--and suddenly they are
whirling. As they whirl, they bob together once or twice, and
kiss. Then, with a warning motion towards the door, she
wrenches herself free, and stops beside the picture, trying
desperately to appear demure. WELLWYN and ANN have entered.
The face has vanished.]
FERRAND. [Pointing to the picture.] One does not comprehend all
this, Monsieur, without well studying. I was in train to interpret
for Ma'moiselle the chiaroscuro.
WELLWYN. [With a queer look.] Don't take it too seriously,
FERRAND. It is a masterpiece.
WELLWYN. My daughter's just spoken to a friend, Professor Calway.
He'd like to meet you. Could you come back a little later?
FERRAND. Certainly, Ma'moiselle. That will be an opening for me, I
trust. [He goes to the street door.]
ANN. [Paying no attention to him.] Mrs. Megan, will you too come
back in half an hour?
FERRAND. 'Tres bien, Ma'moiselle'! I will see that she does. We
will take a little promenade together. That will do us good.
[He motions towards the door; MRS. MEGAN, all eyes, follows him
ANN. Oh! Daddy, they are rotters. Couldn't you see they were
having the most high jinks?
WELLWYN. [At his picture.] I seemed to have noticed something.
ANN. [Preparing for tea.] They were kissing.
WELLWYN. Tt! Tt!
ANN. They're hopeless, all three--especially her. Wish I hadn't
given her my clothes now.
WELLWYN. [Absorbed.] Something of wild-savage.
ANN. Thank goodness it's the Vicar's business to see that married
people live together in his parish.
WELLWYN. Oh! [Dubiously.] The Megans are Roman Catholic-Atheists,
ANN. [With heat.] Then they're all the more bound. [WELLWYN gives
a sudden and alarmed whistle.]
ANN. What's the matter?
WELLWYN. Didn't you say you spoke to Sir Thomas, too. Suppose he
comes in while the Professor's here. They're cat and dog.
ANN. [Blankly.] Oh! [As WELLWYN strikes a match.] The samovar is
lighted. [Taking up the nearly empty decanter of rum and going to
the cupboard.] It's all right. He won't.
WELLWYN. We'll hope not.
[He turns back to his picture.]
ANN. [At the cupboard.] Daddy!
ANN. There were three bottles.
ANN. Well! Now there aren't any.
WELLWYN. [Abstracted.] That'll be Timson.
ANN. [With real horror.] But it's awful!
WELLWYN. It is, my dear.
ANN. In seven days. To say nothing of the stealing.
WELLWYN. [Vexed.] I blame myself-very much. Ought to have kept it
ANN. You ought to keep him locked up!
[There is heard a mild but authoritative knock.]
WELLWYN. Here's the Vicar!
ANN. What are you going to do about the rum?
WELLWYN. [Opening the door to CANON BERTLEY.] Come in, Vicar!
Happy New Year!
BERTLEY. Same to you! Ah! Ann! I've got into touch with her
young husband--he's coming round.
ANN. [Still a little out of her plate.] Thank Go---Moses!
BERTLEY. [Faintly surprised.] From what I hear he's not really a
bad youth. Afraid he bets on horses. The great thing, WELLWYN,
with those poor fellows is to put your finger on the weak spot.
ANN. [To herself-gloomily.] That's not difficult. What would you
do, Canon Bertley, with a man who's been drinking father's rum?
BERTLEY. Remove the temptation, of course.
WELLWYN. He's done that.
BERTLEY. Ah! Then--[WELLWYN and ANN hang on his words] then I
ANN. [Abruptly.] Remove him.
BERTLEY. Before I say that, Ann, I must certainly see the
WELLWYN. [Pointing to the window.] There he is!
[In the failing light TIMSON'S face is indeed to be seen
pressed against the window pane.]
ANN. Daddy, I do wish you'd have thick glass put in. It's so
disgusting to be spied at! [WELLWYN going quickly to the door, has
opened it.] What do you want? [TIMSON enters with dignity. He is
TIMSON. [Slowly.] Arskin' yer pardon-thought it me duty to come
back-found thish yer little brishel on me. [He produces the little
ANN. [In a deadly voice.] Nothing else?
[TIMSON accords her a glassy stare.]
WELLWYN. [Taking the brush hastily.] That'll do, Timson, thanks!
TIMSON. As I am 'ere, can I do anything for yer?
ANN. Yes, you can sweep out that little room. [She points to the
model's room.] There's a broom in there.
TIMSON. [Disagreeably surprised.] Certainly; never make bones
about a little extra--never 'ave in all me life. Do it at onsh, I
will. [He moves across to the model's room at that peculiar broad
gait so perfectly adjusted to his habits.] You quite understand me
--couldn't bear to 'ave anything on me that wasn't mine.
[He passes out.]
ANN. Old fraud!
WELLWYN. "In" and "on." Mark my words, he'll restore the--bottles.
BERTLEY. But, my dear WELLWYN, that is stealing.
WELLWYN. We all have our discrepancies, Vicar.
ANN. Daddy! Discrepancies!
WELLWYN. Well, Ann, my theory is that as regards solids Timson's an
Individualist, but as regards liquids he's a Socialist . . . or
'vice versa', according to taste.
BERTLEY. No, no, we mustn't joke about it. [Gravely.] I do think
he should be spoken to.
WELLWYN. Yes, but not by me.
BERTLEY. Surely you're the proper person.
WELLWYN. [Shaking his head.] It was my rum, Vicar. Look so
[There sound a number of little tat-tat knocks.]
WELLWYN. Isn't that the Professor's knock?
[While Ann sits down to make tea, he goes to the door and opens
it. There, dressed in an ulster, stands a thin, clean-shaved
man, with a little hollow sucked into either cheek, who, taking
off a grey squash hat, discloses a majestically bald forehead,
which completely dominates all that comes below it.]
WELLWYN. Come in, Professor! So awfully good of you! You know
Canon Bentley, I think?
CALWAY. Ah! How d'you do?
WELLWYN. Your opinion will be invaluable, Professor.
ANN. Tea, Professor Calway?
[They have assembled round the tea table.]
CALWAY. Thank you; no tea; milk.
[He pours rum into CALWAY's milk.]
CALWAY. A little-thanks! [Turning to ANN.] You were going to show
me some one you're trying to rescue, or something, I think.
ANN. Oh! Yes. He'll be here directly--simply perfect rotter.
CALWAY. [Smiling.] Really! Ah! I think you said he was a
WELLWYN. [With great interest.] What!
ANN. [Low.] Daddy! [To CALWAY.] Yes; I--I think that's what you
CALWAY. Not old?
ANN. No; and quite healthy--a vagabond.
CALWAY. [Sipping.] I see! Yes. Is it, do you think chronic
unemployment with a vagrant tendency? Or would it be nearer the
mark to say: Vagrancy----
WELLWYN. Pure! Oh! pure! Professor. Awfully human.
CALWAY. [With a smile of knowledge.] Quite! And--er----
ANN. [Breaking in.] Before he comes, there's another----
BERTLEY. [Blandly.] Yes, when you came in, we were discussing what
should be done with a man who drinks rum--[CALWAY pauses in the act
of drinking]--that doesn't belong to him.
CALWAY. Really! Dipsomaniac?
BERTLEY. Well--perhaps you could tell us--drink certainly changing
thine to mine. The Professor could see him, WELLWYN?
ANN. [Rising.] Yes, do come and look at him, Professor CALWAY.
He's in there.
[She points towards the model's room. CALWAY smiles
ANN. No, really; we needn't open the door. You can see him through
the glass. He's more than half----
CALWAY. Well, I hardly----
ANN. Oh! Do! Come on, Professor CALWAY! We must know what to do
with him. [CALWAY rises.] You can stand on a chair. It's all
[She draws CALWAY to the model's room, which is lighted by a
glass panel in the top of the high door. CANON BERTLEY also
rises and stands watching. WELLWYN hovers, torn between
respect for science and dislike of espionage.]
ANN. [Drawing up a chair.] Come on!
CALWAY. Do you seriously wish me to?
ANN. Rather! It's quite safe; he can't see you.
CALWAY. But he might come out.
[ANN puts her back against the door. CALWAY mounts the chair
dubiously, and raises his head cautiously, bending it more and
CALWAY. He appears to be---sitting on the floor.
WELLWYN. Yes, that's all right!
[BERTLEY covers his lips.]
CALWAY. [To ANN--descending.] By the look of his face, as far as
one can see it, I should say there was a leaning towards mania. I
know the treatment.
[There come three loud knocks on the door. WELLWYN and ANN
exchange a glance of consternation.]
ANN. Who's that?
WELLWYN. It sounds like Sir Thomas.
CALWAY. Sir Thomas Hoxton?
WELLWYN. [Nodding.] Awfully sorry, Professor. You see, we----
CALWAY. Not at all. Only, I must decline to be involved in
argument with him, please.
BERTLEY. He has experience. We might get his opinion, don't you
CALWAY. On a point of reform? A J.P.!
BERTLEY. [Deprecating.] My dear Sir--we needn't take it.
[The three knocks resound with extraordinary fury.]
ANN. You'd better open the door, Daddy.
[WELLWYN opens the door. SIR, THOMAS HOXTON is disclosed in a
fur overcoat and top hat. His square, well-coloured face is
remarkable for a massive jaw, dominating all that comes above
it. His Voice is resolute.]
HOXTON. Afraid I didn't make myself heard.
WELLWYN. So good of you to come, Sir Thomas. Canon Bertley! [They
greet.] Professor CALWAY you know, I think.
HOXTON. [Ominously.] I do.
[They almost greet. An awkward pause.]
ANN. [Blurting it out.] That old cabman I told you of's been
drinking father's rum.
BERTLEY. We were just discussing what's to be done with him, Sir
Thomas. One wants to do the very best, of course. The question of
reform is always delicate.
CALWAY. I beg your pardon. There is no question here.
HOXTON. [Abruptly.] Oh! Is he in the house?
ANN. In there.
HOXTON. Works for you, eh?
HOXTON. Let's have a look at him!
[An embarrassed pause.]
BERTLEY. Well--the fact is, Sir Thomas----
CALWAY. When last under observation----
ANN. He was sitting on the floor.
WELLWYN. I don't want the old fellow to feel he's being made a show
of. Disgusting to be spied at, Ann.
ANN. You can't, Daddy! He's drunk.
HOXTON. Never mind, Miss WELLWYN. Hundreds of these fellows before
me in my time. [At CALWAY.] The only thing is a sharp lesson!
CALWAY. I disagree. I've seen the man; what he requires is steady
control, and the bobbins treatment.
[WELLWYN approaches them with fearful interest.]
HOXTON. Not a bit of it! He wants one for his knob! Brace 'em up!
It's the only thing.
BERTLEY. Personally, I think that if he were spoken to seriously
CALWAY. I cannot walk arm in arm with a crab!
HOXTON. [Approaching CALWAY.] I beg your pardon?
CALWAY. [Moving back a little.] You're moving backwards, Sir
Thomas. I've told you before, convinced reactionaryism, in these
[There comes a single knock on the street door.]
BERTLEY. [Looking at his watch.] D'you know, I'm rather afraid
this may be our young husband, WELLWYN. I told him half-past four.
WELLWYN. Oh! Ah! Yes. [Going towards the two reformers.] Shall
we go into the house, Professor, and settle the question quietly
while the Vicar sees a young man?
CALWAY. [Pale with uncompleted statement, and gravitating
insensibly in the direction indicated.] The merest sense of
continuity--a simple instinct for order----
HOXTON. [Following.] The only way to get order, sir, is to bring
the disorderly up with a round turn. [CALWAY turns to him in the
doorway.] You people without practical experience----
CALWAY. If you'll listen to me a minute.
HOXTON. I can show you in a mo----
[They vanish through the door.]
WELLWYN. I was afraid of it.
BERTLEY. The two points of view. Pleasant to see such keenness.
I may want you, WELLWYN. And Ann perhaps had better not be present.
WELLWYN. [Relieved.] Quite so! My dear!
[ANN goes reluctantly. WELLWYN opens the street door. The
lamp outside has just been lighted, and, by its gleam, is seen
the figure of RORY MEGAN, thin, pale, youthful. ANN turning at
the door into the house gives him a long, inquisitive look,
WELLWYN. Is that Megan?
WELLWYN. Come in.
[MEGAN comes in. There follows an awkward silence, during
which WELLWYN turns up the light, then goes to the tea table
and pours out a glass of tea and rum.]
BERTLEY. [Kindly.] Now, my boy, how is it that you and your wife
are living apart like this?
MEGAN. I dunno.
BERTLEY. Well, if you don't, none of us are very likely to, are we?
MEGAN. That's what I thought, as I was comin' along.
WELLWYN. [Twinkling.] Have some tea, Megan? [Handing him the
glass.] What d'you think of her picture? 'Tisn't quite finished.
MEGAN. [After scrutiny.] I seen her look like it--once.
WELLWYN. Good! When was that?
MEGAN. [Stoically.] When she 'ad the measles.
WELLWYN. [Ruminating.] I see--yes. I quite see feverish!
BERTLEY. My dear WELLWYN, let me--[To, MEGAN.] Now, I hope you're
willing to come together again, and to maintain her?
MEGAN. If she'll maintain me.
BERTLEY. Oh! but--I see, you mean you're in the same line of
BERTLEY. And lean on each other. Quite so!
MEGAN. I leans on 'er mostly--with 'er looks.
BERTLEY. Indeed! Very interesting--that!
MEGAN. Yus. Sometimes she'll take 'arf a crown off of a toff. [He
looks at WELLWYN.]
WELLWYN. [Twinkling.] I apologise to you, Megan.
MEGAN. [With a faint smile.] I could do with a bit more of it.
BERTLEY. [Dubiously.] Yes! Yes! Now, my boy, I've heard you bet
MEGAN. No, I don't.
BERTLEY. Play cards, then? Come! Don't be afraid to acknowledge
MEGAN. When I'm 'ard up--yus.
BERTLEY. But don't you know that's ruination?
MEGAN. Depends. Sometimes I wins a lot.
BERTLEY. You know that's not at all what I mean. Come, promise me
to give it up.
MEGAN. I dunno abaht that.
BERTLEY. Now, there's a good fellow. Make a big effort and throw
the habit off!
MEGAN. Comes over me--same as it might over you.
BERTLEY. Over me! How do you mean, my boy?
MEGAN. [With a look up.] To tork!
[WELLWYN, turning to the picture, makes a funny little noise.]
BERTLEY. [Maintaining his good humour.] A hit! But you forget,
you know, to talk's my business. It's not yours to gamble.
MEGAN. You try sellin' flowers. If that ain't a--gamble
BERTLEY. I'm afraid we're wandering a little from the point.
Husband and wife should be together. You were brought up to that.
Your father and mother----
MEGAN. Never was.
WELLWYN. [Turning from the picture.] The question is, Megan: Will
you take your wife home? She's a good little soul.
MEGAN. She never let me know it.
[There is a feeble knock on the door.]
WELLWYN. Well, now come. Here she is!
[He points to the door, and stands regarding MEGAN with his
MEGAN. [With a gleam of responsiveness.] I might, perhaps, to
please you, sir.
BERTLEY. [Appropriating the gesture.] Capital, I thought we should
get on in time.
[WELLWYN opens the door. MRS. MEGAN and FERRAND are revealed.
They are about to enter, but catching sight of MEGAN,
BERTLEY. Come in! Come in!
[MRS. MEGAN enters stolidly. FERRAND, following, stands apart
with an air of extreme detachment. MEGAN, after a quick glance
at them both, remains unmoved. No one has noticed that the
door of the model's room has been opened, and that the unsteady
figure of old TIMSON is standing there.]
BERTLEY. [A little awkward in the presence of FERRAND--to the
MEGANS.] This begins a new chapter. We won't improve the occasion.
[MEGAN, turning towards his wife, makes her a gesture as if to
say: "Here! let's get out of this!"]
BENTLEY. Yes, yes, you'll like to get home at once--I know. [He
holds up his hand mechanically.]
TIMSON. I forbids the banns.
BERTLEY, [Startled.] Gracious!
TIMSON. [Extremely unsteady.] Just cause and impejiment. There 'e
stands. [He points to FERRAND.] The crimson foreigner! The mockin'
TIMSON. You're a gen'leman--I'm aweer o' that but I must speak the
truth--[he waves his hand] an' shame the devil!
BERTLEY. Is this the rum--?
TIMSON. [Struck by the word.] I'm a teetotaler.
WELLWYN. Timson, Timson!
TIMSON. Seein' as there's ladies present, I won't be conspicuous.
[Moving away, and making for the door, he strikes against the dais,
and mounts upon it.] But what I do say, is: He's no better than 'er
and she's worse.
BERTLEY. This is distressing.
FERRAND. [Calmly.] On my honour, Monsieur!
WELLWYN. Now, now, Timson!
TIMSON. That's all right. You're a gen'leman, an' I'm a gen'leman,
but he ain't an' she ain't.
WELLWYN. We shall not believe you.
BERTLEY. No, no; we shall not believe you.
TIMSON. [Heavily.] Very well, you doubts my word. Will it make
any difference, Guv'nor, if I speaks the truth?
BERTLEY. No, certainly not--that is--of course, it will.
TIMSON. Well, then, I see 'em plainer than I see [pointing at
BERTLEY] the two of you.
WELLWYN. Be quiet, Timson!
BERTLEY. Not even her husband believes you.
MEGAN. [Suddenly.] Don't I!
WELLWYN. Come, Megan, you can see the old fellow's in Paradise.
BERTLEY. Do you credit such a--such an object?
[He points at TIMSON, who seems falling asleep.]
[Unseen by anybody, ANN has returned.]
BERTLEY. Well, then, my boy?
MEGAN. I seen 'em meself.
BERTLEY. Gracious! But just now you were will----
MEGAN. [Sardonically.] There wasn't nothing against me honour,
then. Now you've took it away between you, cumin' aht with it like
this. I don't want no more of 'er, and I'll want a good deal more
of 'im; as 'e'll soon find.
[He jerks his chin at FERRAND, turns slowly on his heel, and
goes out into the street.]
[There follows a profound silence.]
ANN. What did I say, Daddy? Utter! All three.
[Suddenly alive to her presence, they all turn.]
TIMSON. [Waking up and looking round him.] Well, p'raps I'd better
[Assisted by WELLWYN he lurches gingerly off the dais towards
the door, which WELLWYN holds open for him.]
TIMSON. [Mechanically.] Where to, sir?
[Receiving no answer he passes out, touching his hat; and the
door is closed.]
[ANN goes back whence she came.]
[BERTLEY, steadily regarding MRS. MEGAN, who has put her arm up
in front of her face, beckons to FERRAND, and the young man
comes gravely forward.]
BERTLEY. Young people, this is very dreadful. [MRS. MEGAN lowers
her arm a little, and looks at him over it.] Very sad!
MRS. MEGAN. [Dropping her arm.] Megan's no better than what I am.
BERTLEY. Come, come! Here's your home broken up! [MRS. MEGAN
Smiles. Shaking his head gravely.] Surely-surely-you mustn't
smile. [MRS. MEGAN becomes tragic.] That's better. Now, what is
to be done?
FERRAND. Believe me, Monsieur, I greatly regret.
BERTLEY. I'm glad to hear it.
FERRAND. If I had foreseen this disaster.
BERTLEY. Is that your only reason for regret?
FERRAND. [With a little bow.] Any reason that you wish, Monsieur.
I will do my possible.
MRS. MEGAN. I could get an unfurnished room if [she slides her eyes
round at WELLWYN] I 'ad the money to furnish it.
BERTLEY. But suppose I can induce your husband to forgive you, and
take you back?
MRS. MEGAN. [Shaking her head.] 'E'd 'it me.
BERTLEY. I said to forgive.
MRS. MEGAN. That wouldn't make no difference. [With a flash at
BERTLEY.] An' I ain't forgiven him!
BERTLEY. That is sinful.
MRS. MEGAN. I'm a Catholic.
BERTLEY. My good child, what difference does that make?
FERRAND. Monsieur, if I might interpret for her.
[BERTLEY silences him with a gesture. MRS. MEGAN.]
[Sliding her eyes towards WELLWYN.] If I 'ad the money to buy
some fresh stock.]
BERTLEY. Yes; yes; never mind the money. What I want to find in
you both, is repentance.
MRS. MEGAN. [With a flash up at him.] I can't get me livin' off of
BERTLEY. Now, now! Never say what you know to be wrong.
FERRAND. Monsieur, her soul is very simple.
BERTLEY. [Severely.] I do not know, sir, that we shall get any
great assistance from your views. In fact, one thing is clear to
me, she must discontinue your acquaintanceship at once.
FERRAND. Certainly, Monsieur. We have no serious intentions.
BERTLEY. All the more shame to you, then!
FERRAND. Monsieur, I see perfectly your point of view. It is very
natural. [He bows and is silent.]
MRS. MEGAN. I don't want'im hurt'cos o' me. Megan'll get his mates
to belt him--bein' foreign like he is.
BERTLEY. Yes, never mind that. It's you I'm thinking of.
MRS. MEGAN. I'd sooner they'd hit me.
WELLWYN. [Suddenly.] Well said, my child!
MRS. MEGAN. 'Twasn't his fault.
FERRAND. [Without irony--to WELLWYN.] I cannot accept that
Monsieur. The blame--it is all mine.
ANN. [Entering suddenly from the house.] Daddy, they're having an
[The voices of PROFESSOR CALWAY and SIR THOMAS HOXTON are
CALWAY. The question is a much wider one, Sir Thomas.
HOXTON. As wide as you like, you'll never----
[WELLWYN pushes ANN back into the house and closes the door
behind her. The voices are still faintly heard arguing on the
BERTLEY. Let me go in here a minute, Wellyn. I must finish
speaking to her. [He motions MRS. MEGAN towards the model's room.]
We can't leave the matter thus.
FERRAND. [Suavely.] Do you desire my company, Monsieur?
[BERTLEY, with a prohibitive gesture of his hand, shepherds the
reluctant MRS. MEGAN into the model's room.]
WELLWYN. [Sorrowfully.] You shouldn't have done this, Ferrand. It
wasn't the square thing.
FERRAND. [With dignity.] Monsieur, I feel that I am in the wrong.
It was stronger than me.
[As he speaks, SIR THOMAS HOXTON and PROFESSOR CALWAY enter
from the house. In the dim light, and the full cry of
argument, they do not notice the figures at the fire. SIR
THOMAS HOXTON leads towards the street door.]
HOXTON. No, Sir, I repeat, if the country once commits itself to
your views of reform, it's as good as doomed.
CALWAY. I seem to have heard that before, Sir Thomas. And let me
say at once that your hitty-missy cart-load of bricks regime----
HOXTON. Is a deuced sight better, sir, than your grand-motherly
methods. What the old fellow wants is a shock! With all this
socialistic molly-coddling, you're losing sight of the individual.
CALWAY. [Swiftly.] You, sir, with your "devil take the hindmost,"
have never even seen him.
[SIR THOMAS HOXTON, throwing back a gesture of disgust, steps
out into the night, and falls heavily PROFESSOR CALWAY,
hastening to his rescue, falls more heavily still.]
[TIMSON, momentarily roused from slumber on the doorstep, sits
HOXTON. [Struggling to his knees.] Damnation!
CALWAY. [Sitting.] How simultaneous!
[WELLWYN and FERRAND approach hastily.]
FERRAND. [Pointing to TIMSON.] Monsieur, it was true, it seems.
They had lost sight of the individual.
[A Policeman has appeared under the street lamp. He picks up
CONSTABLE. Anything wrong, sir?
HOXTON. [Recovering his feet.] Wrong? Great Scott! Constable!
Why do you let things lie about in the street like this? Look here,
[They all scrutinize TIMSON.]
WELLWYN. It's only the old fellow whose reform you were discussing.
HOXTON. How did he come here?
CONSTABLE. Drunk, sir. [Ascertaining TIMSON to be in the street.]
Just off the premises, by good luck. Come along, father.
TIMSON. [Assisted to his feet-drowsily.] Cert'nly, by no means;
take my arm.
[They move from the doorway. HOXTON and CALWAY re-enter, and
go towards the fire.]
ANN. [Entering from the house.] What's happened?
CALWAY. Might we have a brush?
HOXTON. [Testily.] Let it dry!
[He moves to the fire and stands before it. PROFESSOR CALWAY
following stands a little behind him. ANN returning begins to
brush the PROFESSOR's sleeve.]
WELLWYN. [Turning from the door, where he has stood looking after
the receding TIMSON.] Poor old Timson!
FERRAND. [Softly.] Must be philosopher, Monsieur! They will but
run him in a little.
[From the model's room MRS. MEGAN has come out, shepherded by
BERTLEY. Let's see, your Christian name is----.
MRS. MEGAN. Guinevere.
BERTLEY. Oh! Ah! Ah! Ann, take Gui--take our little friend into
the study a minute: I am going to put her into service. We shall
make a new woman of her, yet.
ANN. [Handing CANON BERTLEY the brush, and turning to MRS. MEGAN.]
[She leads into the house, and MRS. MEGAN follows Stolidly.]
BERTLEY. [Brushing CALWAY'S back.] Have you fallen?
BERTLEY. Dear me! How was that?
HOXTON. That old ruffian drunk on the doorstep. Hope they'll give
him a sharp dose! These rag-tags!
[He looks round, and his angry eyes light by chance on FERRAND.]
FERRAND. [With his eyes on HOXTON--softly.] Monsieur, something
tells me it is time I took the road again.
WELLWYN. [Fumbling out a sovereign.] Take this, then!
FERRAND. [Refusing the coin.] Non, Monsieur. To abuse 'ospitality
is not in my character.
BERTLEY. We must not despair of anyone.
HOXTON. Who talked of despairing? Treat him, as I say, and you'll
CALWAY. The interest of the State----
HOXTON. The interest of the individual citizen sir----
BERTLEY. Come! A little of both, a little of both!
[They resume their brushing.]
FERRAND. You are now debarrassed of us three, Monsieur. I leave
you instead--these sirs. [He points.] 'Au revoir, Monsieur'!
[Motioning towards the fire.] 'Appy New Year!
[He slips quietly out. WELLWYN, turning, contemplates the
three reformers. They are all now brushing away, scratching
each other's backs, and gravely hissing. As he approaches
them, they speak with a certain unanimity.]
HOXTON. My theory----!
CALWAY. My theory----!
BERTLEY. My theory----!
[They stop surprised. WELLWYN makes a gesture of discomfort,
as they speak again with still more unanimity.]
HOXTON. My----! CALWAY. My----! BERTLEY. My----!
[They stop in greater surprise. The stage is blotted dark.]
It is the first of April--a white spring day of gleams and driving
showers. The street door of WELLWYN's studio stands wide open, and,
past it, in the street, the wind is whirling bits of straw and paper
bags. Through the door can be seen the butt end of a stationary
furniture van with its flap let down. To this van three humble-men
in shirt sleeves and aprons, are carrying out the contents of the
studio. The hissing samovar, the tea-pot, the sugar, and the nearly
empty decanter of rum stand on the low round table in the
fast-being-gutted room. WELLWYN in his ulster and soft hat, is
squatting on the little stool in front of the blazing fire, staring
into it, and smoking a hand-made cigarette. He has a moulting air.
Behind him the humble-men pass, embracing busts and other articles
CHIEF H'MAN. [Stopping, and standing in the attitude of
expectation.] We've about pinched this little lot, sir. Shall we
[He indicates the samovar.]
WELLWYN. Ah! [Abstractedly feeling in his pockets, and finding
coins.] Thanks--thanks--heavy work, I'm afraid.
H'MAN. [Receiving the coins--a little surprised and a good deal
pleased.] Thank'ee, sir. Much obliged, I'm sure. We'll 'ave to
come back for this. [He gives the dais a vigorous push with his
foot.] Not a fixture, as I understand. Perhaps you'd like us to
leave these 'ere for a bit. [He indicates the tea things.]
WELLWYN. Ah! do.
[The humble-men go out. There is the sound of horses being
started, and the butt end of the van disappears. WELLWYN stays
on his stool, smoking and brooding over the fare. The open
doorway is darkened by a figure. CANON BERTLEY is standing
BERTLEY. WELLWYN! [WELLWYN turns and rises.] It's ages since I
saw you. No idea you were moving. This is very dreadful.
WELLWYN. Yes, Ann found this--too exposed. That tall house in
Flight Street--we're going there. Seventh floor.
[WELLWYN shakes his head.]
BERTLEY. Dear me! No lift? Fine view, no doubt. [WELLWYN nods.]
You'll be greatly missed.
WELLWYN. So Ann thinks. Vicar, what's become of that little
flower-seller I was painting at Christmas? You took her into
BERTLEY. Not we--exactly! Some dear friends of ours. Painful
BERTLEY. Yes. She got the footman into trouble.
WELLWYN. Did she, now?
BERTLEY. Disappointing. I consulted with CALWAY, and he advised me
to try a certain institution. We got her safely in--excellent
place; but, d'you know, she broke out three weeks ago. And since--
I've heard [he holds his hands up] hopeless, I'm afraid--quite!
WELLWYN. I thought I saw her last night. You can't tell me her
address, I suppose?
BERTLEY. [Shaking his head.] The husband too has quite passed out
of my ken. He betted on horses, you remember. I'm sometimes
tempted to believe there's nothing for some of these poor folk but
to pray for death.
[ANN has entered from the house. Her hair hangs from under a
knitted cap. She wears a white wool jersey, and a loose silk
BERTLEY. Ah! Ann. I was telling your father of that poor little
ANN. Is she dead?
BERTLEY. Worse I fear. By the way--what became of her accomplice?
ANN. We haven't seen him since. [She looks searchingly at
WELLWYN.] At least--have you--Daddy?
WELLWYN. [Rather hurt.] No, my dear; I have not.
BERTLEY. And the--old gentleman who drank the rum?
ANN. He got fourteen days. It was the fifth time.
BERTLEY. Dear me!
ANN. When he came out he got more drunk than ever. Rather a score
for Professor Calway, wasn't it?
BERTLEY. I remember. He and Sir Thomas took a kindly interest in
the old fellow.
ANN. Yes, they fell over him. The Professor got him into an
ANN. He was perfectly sober all the time he was there.
WELLWYN. My dear, they only allow them milk.
ANN. Well, anyway, he was reformed.
ANN. [Terribly.] Daddy! You've been seeing him!
WELLWYN. [With dignity.] My dear, I have not.
ANN. How do you know, then?
WELLWYN. Came across Sir Thomas on the Embankment yesterday; told
me old Timso--had been had up again for sitting down in front of a
WELLWYN. Well, you see, as soon as he came out of the what d'you
call 'em, he got drunk for a week, and it left him in low spirits.
BERTLEY. Do you mean he deliberately sat down, with the
WELLWYN. Said he was tired of life, but they didn't believe him.
ANN. Rather a score for Sir Thomas! I suppose he'd told the
Professor? What did he say?
WELLWYN. Well, the Professor said [with a quick glance at BERTLEY]
he felt there was nothing for some of these poor devils but a lethal
BERTLEY. [Shocked.] Did he really!
[He has not yet caught WELLWYN' s glance.]
WELLWYN. And Sir Thomas agreed. Historic occasion. And you, Vicar
ANN. [To herself.] Well, there isn't.
BERTLEY. And yet! Some good in the old fellow, no doubt, if one
could put one's finger on it. [Preparing to go.] You'll let us
know, then, when you're settled. What was the address? [WELLWYN
takes out and hands him a card.] Ah! yes. Good-bye, Ann.
Good-bye, Wellyn. [The wind blows his hat along the street.] What
a wind! [He goes, pursuing.]
ANN. [Who has eyed the card askance.] Daddy, have you told those
other two where we're going?
WELLWYN. Which other two, my dear?
ANN. The Professor and Sir Thomas.
WELLWYN. Well, Ann, naturally I----
ANN. [Jumping on to the dais with disgust.] Oh, dear! When I'm
trying to get you away from all this atmosphere. I don't so much
mind the Vicar knowing, because he's got a weak heart----
[She jumps off again. ]
WELLWYN. [To himself.] Seventh floor! I felt there was something.
ANN. [Preparing to go.] I'm going round now. But you must stay
here till the van comes back. And don't forget you tipped the men
after the first load.
WELLWYN. Oh! Yes, yes. [Uneasily.] Good sorts they look, those
ANN. [Scrutinising him.] What have you done?
WELLWYN. Nothing, my dear, really----!
WELLWYN. I--I rather think I may have tipped them twice.
ANN. [Drily.] Daddy! If it is the first of April, it's not
necessary to make a fool of oneself. That's the last time you ever
do these ridiculous things. [WELLWYN eyes her askance.] I'm going
to see that you spend your money on yourself. You needn't look at
me like that! I mean to. As soon as I've got you away from here,
WELLWYN. Don't rub it in, Ann!
ANN. [Giving him a sudden hug--then going to the door--with a sort
of triumph.] Deeds, not words, Daddy!
[She goes out, and the wind catching her scarf blows it out
beneath her firm young chin. WELLWYN returning to the fire,
stands brooding, and gazing at his extinct cigarette.]
WELLWYN. [To himself.] Bad lot--low type! No method! No theory!
[In the open doorway appear FERRAND and MRS. MEGAN. They
stand, unseen, looking at him. FERRAND is more ragged, if
possible, than on Christmas Eve. His chin and cheeks are
clothed in a reddish golden beard. MRS. MEGAN's dress is not
so woe-begone, but her face is white, her eyes dark-circled.
They whisper. She slips back into the shadow of the doorway.
WELLWYN turns at the sound, and stares at FERRAND in
FERRAND. [Advancing.] Enchanted to see you, Monsieur. [He looks
round the empty room.] You are leaving?
WELLWYN. [Nodding--then taking the young man's hand.] How goes it?
FERRAND. [Displaying himself, simply.] As you see, Monsieur. I
have done of my best. It still flies from me.
WELLWYN. [Sadly--as if against his will.] Ferrand, it will always
[The young foreigner shivers suddenly from head to foot; then
controls himself with a great effort.]
FERRAND. Don't say that, Monsieur! It is too much the echo of my
WELLWYN. Forgive me! I didn't mean to pain you.
FERRAND. [Drawing nearer the fire.] That old cabby, Monsieur, you
remember--they tell me, he nearly succeeded to gain happiness the
FERRAND. And those Sirs, so interested in him, with their theories?
He has worn them out? [WELLWYN nods.] That goes without saying.
And now they wish for him the lethal chamber.
WELLWYN. [Startled.] How did you know that?
[There is silence.]
FERRAND. [Staring into the fire.] Monsieur, while I was on the
road this time I fell ill of a fever. It seemed to me in my illness
that I saw the truth--how I was wasting in this world--I would never
be good for any one--nor any one for me--all would go by, and I
never of it--fame, and fortune, and peace, even the necessities of
life, ever mocking me.
[He draws closer to the fire, spreading his fingers to the
flame. And while he is speaking, through the doorway MRS.
MEGAN creeps in to listen.]
FERRAND. [Speaking on into the fire.] And I saw, Monsieur, so
plain, that I should be vagabond all my days, and my days short, I
dying in the end the death of a dog. I saw it all in my fever--
clear as that flame--there was nothing for us others, but the herb
of death. [WELLWYN takes his arm and presses it.] And so,
Monsieur, I wished to die. I told no one of my fever. I lay out on
the ground--it was verree cold. But they would not let me die on
the roads of their parishes--they took me to an Institution,
Monsieur, I looked in their eyes while I lay there, and I saw more
clear than the blue heaven that they thought it best that I should
die, although they would not let me. Then Monsieur, naturally my
spirit rose, and I said: "So much the worse for you. I will live a
little more." One is made like that! Life is sweet, Monsieur.
WELLWYN. Yes, Ferrand; Life is sweet.
FERRAND. That little girl you had here, Monsieur [WELLWYN nods.]
in her too there is something of wild-savage. She must have joy of
life. I have seen her since I came back. She has embraced the life
of joy. It is not quite the same thing. [He lowers his voice.]
She is lost, Monsieur, as a stone that sinks in water. I can see,
if she cannot. [As WELLWYN makes a movement of distress.] Oh! I
am not to blame for that, Monsieur. It had well begun before I knew
WELLWYN. Yes, yes--I was afraid of it, at the time.
[MRS. MEGAN turns silently, and slips away.]
FEERRAND. I do my best for her, Monsieur, but look at me! Besides,
I am not good for her--it is not good for simple souls to be with
those who see things clear. For the great part of mankind, to see
WELLWYN. Even for you, it seems.
FERRAND. No, Monsieur. To be so near to death has done me good; I
shall not lack courage any more till the wind blows on my grave.
Since I saw you, Monsieur, I have been in three Institutions. They
are palaces. One may eat upon the floor--though it is true--for
Kings--they eat too much of skilly there. One little thing they
lack--those palaces. It is understanding of the 'uman heart. In
them tame birds pluck wild birds naked.
WELLWYN. They mean well.
FERRAND. Ah! Monsieur, I am loafer, waster--what you like--for all
that [bitterly] poverty is my only crime. If I were rich, should
I not be simply veree original, 'ighly respected, with soul above
commerce, travelling to see the world? And that young girl, would
she not be "that charming ladee," "veree chic, you know!" And the
old Tims--good old-fashioned gentleman--drinking his liquor well.
Eh! bien--what are we now? Dark beasts, despised by all. That is
life, Monsieur. [He stares into the fire.]
WELLWYN. We're our own enemies, Ferrand. I can afford it--you
can't. Quite true!
FERRAND. [Earnestly.] Monsieur, do you know this? You are the
sole being that can do us good--we hopeless ones.
WELLWYN. [Shaking his head.] Not a bit of it; I'm hopeless too.
FERRAND. [Eagerly.] Monsieur, it is just that. You understand.
When we are with you we feel something--here--[he touches his
heart.] If I had one prayer to make, it would be, Good God, give me
to understand! Those sirs, with their theories, they can clean our
skins and chain our 'abits--that soothes for them the aesthetic
sense; it gives them too their good little importance. But our
spirits they cannot touch, for they nevare understand. Without
that, Monsieur, all is dry as a parched skin of orange.
WELLWYN. Don't be so bitter. Think of all the work they do!
FERRAND. Monsieur, of their industry I say nothing. They do a good
work while they attend with their theories to the sick and the tame
old, and the good unfortunate deserving. Above all to the little
children. But, Monsieur, when all is done, there are always us
hopeless ones. What can they do with me, Monsieur, with that girl,
or with that old man? Ah! Monsieur, we, too, 'ave our qualities,
we others--it wants you courage to undertake a career like mine, or
like that young girl's. We wild ones--we know a thousand times more
of life than ever will those sirs. They waste their time trying to
make rooks white. Be kind to us if you will, or let us alone like
Mees Ann, but do not try to change our skins. Leave us to live, or
leave us to die when we like in the free air. If you do not wish of
us, you have but to shut your pockets and--your doors--we shall die
WELLWYN. [With agitation.] But that, you know--we can't do--now
FERRAND. If you cannot, how is it our fault? The harm we do to
others--is it so much? If I am criminal, dangerous--shut me up!
I would not pity myself--nevare. But we in whom something moves--
like that flame, Monsieur, that cannot keep still--we others--we are
not many--that must have motion in our lives, do not let them make
us prisoners, with their theories, because we are not like them--it
is life itself they would enclose! [He draws up his tattered
figure, then bending over the fire again.] I ask your pardon; I am
talking. If I could smoke, Monsieur!
[WELLWYN hands him a tobacco pouch; and he rolls a cigarette
with his yellow-Stained fingers.]
FERRAND. The good God made me so that I would rather walk a whole
month of nights, hungry, with the stars, than sit one single day
making round business on an office stool! It is not to my
advantage. I cannot help it that I am a vagabond. What would you
have? It is stronger than me. [He looks suddenly at WELLWYN.]
Monsieur, I say to you things I have never said.
WELLWYN. [Quietly.] Go on, go on. [There is silence.]
FERRAND. [Suddenly.] Monsieur! Are you really English? The
English are so civilised.
WELLWYN. And am I not?
FERRAND. You treat me like a brother.
[WELLWYN has turned towards the street door at a sound of feet,
and the clamour of voices.]
TIMSON. [From the street.] Take her in 'ere. I knows 'im.
[Through the open doorway come a POLICE CONSTABLE and a LOAFER,
bearing between them the limp white faced form of MRS. MEGAN,
hatless and with drowned hair, enveloped in the policeman's
waterproof. Some curious persons bring up the rear, jostling
in the doorway, among whom is TIMSON carrying in his hands the
policeman's dripping waterproof leg pieces.]
FERRAND. [Starting forward.] Monsieur, it is that little girl!
WELLWYN. What's happened? Constable! What's happened!
[The CONSTABLE and LOAFER have laid the body down on the dais;
with WELLWYN and FERRAND they stand bending over her.]
CONSTABLE. 'Tempted sooicide, sir; but she hadn't been in the water
'arf a minute when I got hold of her. [He bends lower.] Can't
understand her collapsin' like this.
WELLWYN. [Feeling her heart.] I don't feel anything.
FERRAND. [In a voice sharpened by emotion.] Let me try, Monsieur.
CONSTABLE. [Touching his arm.] You keep off, my lad.
WELLWYN. No, constable--let him. He's her friend.
CONSTABLE. [Releasing FERRAND--to the LOAFER.] Here you! Cut off
for a doctor-sharp now! [He pushes back the curious persons.] Now
then, stand away there, please--we can't have you round the body.
Keep back--Clear out, now!
[He slowly moves them back, and at last shepherds them through
the door and shuts it on them, TIMSON being last.]
FERRAND. The rum!
[WELLWYN fetches the decanter. With the little there is left
FERRAND chafes the girl's hands and forehead, and pours some
between her lips. But there is no response from the inert
FERRAND. Her soul is still away, Monsieur!
[WELLWYN, seizing the decanter, pours into it tea and boiling
CONSTABLE. It's never drownin', sir--her head was hardly under; I
was on to her like knife.
FERRAND. [Rubbing her feet.] She has not yet her philosophy,
Monsieur; at the beginning they often try. If she is dead! [In a
voice of awed rapture.] What fortune!
CONSTABLE. [With puzzled sadness.] True enough, sir--that! We'd
just begun to know 'er. If she 'as been taken--her best friends
couldn't wish 'er better.
WELLWYN. [Applying the decanter to her dips.] Poor little thing!
I'll try this hot tea.
FERRAND. [Whispering.] 'La mort--le grand ami!'
WELLWYN. Look! Look at her! She's coming round!
[A faint tremor passes over MRS. MEGAN's body. He again
applies the hot drink to her mouth. She stirs and gulps.]
CONSTABLE. [With intense relief.] That's brave! Good lass!
She'll pick up now, sir.
[Then, seeing that TIMSON and the curious persons have again
opened the door, he drives them out, and stands with his back
against it. MRS. MEGAN comes to herself.]
WELLWYN. [Sitting on the dais and supporting her--as if to a
child.] There you are, my dear. There, there--better now! That's
right. Drink a little more of this tea.
[MRS. MEGAN drinks from the decanter.]
FERRAND. [Rising.] Bring her to the fire, Monsieur.
[They take her to the fire and seat her on the little stool.
From the moment of her restored animation FERRAND has resumed
his air of cynical detachment, and now stands apart with arms
WELLWYN. Feeling better, my child?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes.
WELLWYN. That's good. That's good. Now, how was it? Um?
MRS. MEGAN. I dunno. [She shivers.] I was standin' here just now
when you was talkin', and when I heard 'im, it cam' over me to do
WELLWYN. Ah, yes I know.
MRS. MEGAN. I didn't seem no good to meself nor any one. But when
I got in the water, I didn't want to any more. It was cold in
WELLWYN. Have you been having such a bad time of it?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. And listenin' to him upset me. [She signs with
her head at FERRAND.] I feel better now I've been in the water.
[She smiles and shivers.]
WELLWYN. There, there! Shivery? Like to walk up and down a
[They begin walking together up and down.]
WELLWYN. Beastly when your head goes under?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. It frightened me. I thought I wouldn't come up
WELLWYN. I know--sort of world without end, wasn't it? What did
you think of, um?
MRS. MEGAN. I wished I 'adn't jumped--an' I thought of my baby--
that died--and--[in a rather surprised voice] and I thought of
[Her mouth quivers, her face puckers, she gives a choke and a
WELLWYN. [Stopping and stroking her.] There, there--there!
[For a moment her face is buried in his sleeve, then she
MRS. MEGAN. Then 'e got hold o' me, an' pulled me out.
WELLWYN. Ah! what a comfort--um?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. The water got into me mouth.
[They walk again.] I wouldn't have gone to do it but for him.
[She looks towards FERRAND.] His talk made me feel all funny,
as if people wanted me to.
WELLWYN. My dear child! Don't think such things! As if anyone
MRS. MEGAN. [Stolidly.] I thought they did. They used to look at
me so sometimes, where I was before I ran away--I couldn't stop
there, you know.
WELLWYN. Too cooped-up?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. No life at all, it wasn't--not after sellin'
flowers, I'd rather be doin' what I am.
WELLWYN. Ah! Well-it's all over, now! How d'you feel--eh?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes. I feels all right now.
[She sits up again on the little stool before the fire.]
WELLWYN. No shivers, and no aches; quite comfy?
MRS. MEGAN. Yes.
WELLWYN. That's a blessing. All well, now, Constable--thank you!
CONSTABLE. [Who has remained discreetly apart at the
door-cordially.] First rate, sir! That's capital! [He approaches
and scrutinises MRS. MEGAN.] Right as rain, eh, my girl?
MRS. MEGAN. [Shrinking a little.] Yes.
CONSTABLE. That's fine. Then I think perhaps, for 'er sake, sir,
the sooner we move on and get her a change o' clothin', the better.
WELLWYN. Oh! don't bother about that--I'll send round for my
daughter--we'll manage for her here.
CONSTABLE. Very kind of you, I'm sure, sir. But [with
embarrassment] she seems all right. She'll get every attention at
WELLWYN. But I assure you, we don't mind at all; we'll take the
greatest care of her.
CONSTABLE. [Still more embarrassed.] Well, sir, of course, I'm
thinkin' of--I'm afraid I can't depart from the usual course.
WELLWYN. [Sharply.] What! But-oh! No! No! That'll be all right,
Constable! That'll be all right! I assure you.
CONSTABLE. [With more decision.] I'll have to charge her, sir.
WELLWYN. Good God! You don't mean to say the poor little thing has
got to be----
CONSTABLE. [Consulting with him.] Well, sir, we can't get over the
facts, can we? There it is! You know what sooicide amounts to--
it's an awkward job.
WELLWYN. [Calming himself with an effort.] But look here,
Constable, as a reasonable man--This poor wretched little girl--you
know what that life means better than anyone! Why! It's to her
credit to try and jump out of it!
[The CONSTABLE shakes his head.]
WELLWYN. You said yourself her best friends couldn't wish her
better! [Dropping his voice still more.] Everybody feels it! The
Vicar was here a few minutes ago saying the very same thing--the
Vicar, Constable! [The CONSTABLE shakes his head.] Ah! now, look
here, I know something of her. Nothing can be done with her. We
all admit it. Don't you see? Well, then hang it--you needn't go
and make fools of us all by----
FERRAND. Monsieur, it is the first of April.
CONSTABLE. [With a sharp glance at him.] Can't neglect me duty,
sir; that's impossible.
WELLWYN. Look here! She--slipped. She's been telling me. Come,
Constable, there's a good fellow. May be the making of her, this.
CONSTABLE. I quite appreciate your good 'eart, sir, an' you make it
very 'ard for me--but, come now! I put it to you as a gentleman,
would you go back on yer duty if you was me?
[WELLWYN raises his hat, and plunges his fingers through and
through his hair.]
WELLWYN. Well! God in heaven! Of all the d---d topsy--turvy--!
Not a soul in the world wants her alive--and now she's to be
prosecuted for trying to be where everyone wishes her.
CONSTABLE. Come, sir, come! Be a man!
[Throughout all this MRS. MEGAN has sat stolidly before the
fire, but as FERRAND suddenly steps forward she looks up at
FERRAND. Do not grieve, Monsieur! This will give her courage.
There is nothing that gives more courage than to see the irony of
things. [He touches MRS. MEGAN'S shoulder.] Go, my child; it will
do you good.
[MRS. MEGAN rises, and looks at him dazedly.]
CONSTABLE. [Coming forward, and taking her by the hand.] That's my
good lass. Come along! We won't hurt you.
MRS. MEGAN. I don't want to go. They'll stare at me.
CONSTABLE. [Comforting.] Not they! I'll see to that.
WELLWYN. [Very upset.] Take her in a cab, Constable, if you must-
-for God's sake! [He pulls out a shilling.] Here!
CONSTABLE. [Taking the shilling.] I will, sir, certainly. Don't
think I want to----
WELLWYN. No, no, I know. You're a good sort.
CONSTABLE. [Comfortable.] Don't you take on, sir. It's her first
try; they won't be hard on 'er. Like as not only bind 'er over in
her own recogs. not to do it again. Come, my dear.
MRS. MEGAN. [Trying to free herself from the policeman's cloak.] I
want to take this off. It looks so funny.
[As she speaks the door is opened by ANN; behind whom is dimly
seen the form of old TIMSON, still heading the curious
ANN. [Looking from one to the other in amazement.] What is it?
What's happened? Daddy!
FERRAND. [Out of the silence.] It is nothing, Ma'moiselle! She
has failed to drown herself. They run her in a little.
WELLWYN. Lend her your jacket, my dear; she'll catch her death.
[ANN, feeling MRS. MEGAN's arm, strips of her jacket, and helps
her into it without a word.]
CONSTABLE. [Donning his cloak.] Thank you. Miss--very good of
you, I'm sure.
MRS. MEGAN. [Mazed.] It's warm!
[She gives them all a last half-smiling look, and Passes with
the CONSTABLE through the doorway.]
FERRAND. That makes the third of us, Monsieur. We are not in luck.
To wish us dead, it seems, is easier than to let us die.
[He looks at ANN, who is standing with her eyes fixed on her
father. WELLWYN has taken from his pocket a visiting card.]
WELLWYN. [To FERRAND.] Here quick; take this, run after her! When
they've done with her tell her to come to us.
FERRAND. [Taking the card, and reading the address.] "No. 7, Haven
House, Flight Street!" Rely on me, Monsieur--I will bring her
myself to call on you. 'Au revoir, mon bon Monsieur'!
[He bends over WELLWYN's hand; then, with a bow to ANN goes
out; his tattered figure can be seen through the window,
passing in the wind. WELLWYN turns back to the fire. The
figure of TIMSON advances into the doorway, no longer holding
in either hand a waterproof leg-piece.]
TIMSON. [In a croaky voice.] Sir!
WELLWYN. What--you, Timson?
TIMSON. On me larst legs, sir. 'Ere! You can see 'em for yerself!
Shawn't trouble yer long....
WELLWYN. [After a long and desperate stare.] Not now--TIMSON not
now! Take this! [He takes out another card, and hands it to
TIMSON] Some other time.
TIMSON. [Taking the card.] Yer new address! You are a gen'leman.
[He lurches slowly away.]
[ANN shuts the street door and sets her back against it. The
rumble of the approaching van is heard outside. It ceases.]
ANN. [In a fateful voice.] Daddy! [They stare at each other.] Do
you know what you've done? Given your card to those six rotters.
WELLWYN. [With a blank stare.] Six?
ANN. [Staring round the naked room.] What was the good of this?
WELLWYN. [Following her eyes---very gravely.] Ann! It is stronger
[Without a word ANN opens the door, and walks straight out.
With a heavy sigh, WELLWYN sinks down on the little stool
before the fire. The three humble-men come in.]
CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN. [In an attitude of expectation.] This is the
larst of it, sir.
WELLWYN. Oh! Ah! yes!
[He gives them money; then something seems to strike him, and
he exhibits certain signs of vexation. Suddenly he recovers,
looks from one to the other, and then at the tea things. A
faint smile comes on his face.]
WELLWYN. You can finish the decanter.
[He goes out in haste.]
CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN. [Clinking the coins.] Third time of arskin'!
April fool! Not 'arf! Good old pigeon!
SECOND HUMBLE-MAN. 'Uman being, I call 'im.
CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN. [Taking the three glasses from the last
packing-case, and pouring very equally into them.] That's right.
Tell you wot, I'd never 'a touched this unless 'e'd told me to, I
wouldn't--not with 'im.
SECOND HUMBLE-MAN. Ditto to that! This is a bit of orl right!
[Raising his glass.] Good luck!
THIRD HUMBLE-MAN. Same 'ere!
[Simultaneously they place their lips smartly against the liquor,
and at once let fall their faces and their glasses.]
CHIEF HUMBLE-MAN. [With great solemnity.] Crikey! Bill! Tea!
.....'E's got us!
[The stage is blotted dark.]
Back to Full Books