The Silver Box (Play in the First Series)
Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE SILVER BOX
THE SILVER BOX
A COMEDY IN THREE ACTS
By John Galsworthy
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
JOHN BARTHWICK, M.P., a wealthy Liberal
MRS. BARTHWICK, his wife
JACK BARTHWICK, their son
ROPER, their solicitor
MRS. JONES, their charwoman
MARLOW, their manservant
WHEELER, their maidservant
JONES, the stranger within their gates
MRS. SEDDON, a landlady
SNOW, a detective
A POLICE MAGISTRATE
AN UNKNOWN LADY, from beyond
TWO LITTLE GIRLS, homeless
LIVENS, their father
A RELIEVING OFFICER
A MAGISTRATE'S CLERK
POLICEMEN, CLERKS, AND OTHERS
TIME: The present. The action of the first two Acts takes place on
Easter Tuesday; the action of the third on Easter Wednesday week.
SCENE I. Rockingham Gate. John Barthwick's dining-room.
SCENE II. The same.
SCENE III. The same.
SCENE I. The Jones's lodgings, Merthyr Street.
SCENE II. John Barthwick's dining-room.
ACT III. A London police court.
The curtain rises on the BARTHWICK'S dining-room, large,
modern, and well furnished; the window curtains drawn.
Electric light is burning. On the large round dining-table is
set out a tray with whisky, a syphon, and a silver
cigarette-box. It is past midnight.
A fumbling is heard outside the door. It is opened suddenly;
JACK BARTHWICK seems to fall into the room. He stands holding
by the door knob, staring before him, with a beatific smile.
He is in evening dress and opera hat, and carries in his hand a
sky-blue velvet lady's reticule. His boyish face is freshly
coloured and clean-shaven. An overcoat is hanging on his arm.
JACK. Hello! I've got home all ri----[Defiantly.] Who says I sh
'd never 've opened th' door without 'sistance. [He staggers in,
fumbling with the reticule. A lady's handkerchief and purse of
crimson silk fall out.] Serve her joll' well right--everything
droppin' out. Th' cat. I 've scored her off--I 've got her bag.
[He swings the reticule.] Serves her joly' well right. [He takes a
cigarette out of the silver box and puts it in his mouth.] Never
gave tha' fellow anything! [He hunts through all his pockets and
pulls a shilling out; it drops and rolls away. He looks for it.]
Beastly shilling! [He looks again.] Base ingratitude! Absolutely
nothing. [He laughs.] Mus' tell him I've got absolutely nothing.
[He lurches through the door and down a corridor, and presently
returns, followed by JONES, who is advanced in liquor. JONES,
about thirty years of age, has hollow cheeks, black circles
round his eyes, and rusty clothes: He looks as though he might
be unemployed, and enters in a hang-dog manner.]
JACK. Sh! sh! sh! Don't you make a noise, whatever you do. Shu'
the door, an' have a drink. [Very solemnly.] You helped me to open
the door--I 've got nothin, for you. This is my house. My father's
name's Barthwick; he's Member of Parliament--Liberal Member of
Parliament: I've told you that before. Have a drink! [He pours out
whisky and drinks it up.] I'm not drunk [Subsiding on a sofa.]
Tha's all right. Wha's your name? My name's Barthwick, so's my
father's; I'm a Liberal too--wha're you?
JONES. [In a thick, sardonic voice.] I'm a bloomin' Conservative.
My name's Jones! My wife works 'ere; she's the char; she works
JACK. Jones? [He laughs.] There's 'nother Jones at College with
me. I'm not a Socialist myself; I'm a Liberal--there's ve--lill
difference, because of the principles of the Lib--Liberal Party.
We're all equal before the law--tha's rot, tha's silly. [Laughs.]
Wha' was I about to say? Give me some whisky.
[JONES gives him the whisky he desires, together with a squirt
Wha' I was goin' tell you was--I 've had a row with her. [He waves
the reticule.] Have a drink, Jonessh 'd never have got in without
you--tha 's why I 'm giving you a drink. Don' care who knows I've
scored her off. Th' cat! [He throws his feet up on the sofa.]
Don' you make a noise, whatever you do. You pour out a drink--you
make yourself good long, long drink--you take cigarette--you take
anything you like. Sh'd never have got in without you. [Closing
his eyes.] You're a Tory--you're a Tory Socialist. I'm Liberal
myself--have a drink--I 'm an excel'nt chap.
[His head drops back. He, smiling, falls asleep, and JONES
stands looking at him; then, snatching up JACK's glass, he
drinks it off. He picks the reticule from off JACK'S
shirt-front, holds it to the light, and smells at it.]
JONES. Been on the tiles and brought 'ome some of yer cat's fur.
[He stuffs it into JACK's breast pocket.]
JACK. [Murmuring.] I 've scored you off! You cat!
[JONES looks around him furtively; he pours out whisky and
drinks it. From the silver box he takes a cigarette, puffs at
it, and drinks more whisky. There is no sobriety left in him.]
JONES. Fat lot o' things they've got 'ere! [He sees the crimson
purse lying on the floor.] More cat's fur. Puss, puss! [He
fingers it, drops it on the tray, and looks at JACK.] Calf! Fat
calf! [He sees his own presentment in a mirror. Lifting his hands,
with fingers spread, he stares at it; then looks again at JACK,
clenching his fist as if to batter in his sleeping, smiling face.
Suddenly he tilts the rest o f the whisky into the glass and drinks
it. With cunning glee he takes the silver box and purse and pockets
them.] I 'll score you off too, that 's wot I 'll do!
[He gives a little snarling laugh and lurches to the door. His
shoulder rubs against the switch; the light goes out. There is
a sound as of a closing outer door.]
The curtain falls.
The curtain rises again at once.
In the BARTHWICK'S dining-room. JACK is still asleep; the
morning light is coming through the curtains. The time is
half-past eight. WHEELER, brisk person enters with a dust-pan,
and MRS. JONES more slowly with a scuttle.
WHEELER. [Drawing the curtains.] That precious husband of yours
was round for you after you'd gone yesterday, Mrs. Jones. Wanted
your money for drink, I suppose. He hangs about the corner here
half the time. I saw him outside the "Goat and Bells" when I went
to the post last night. If I were you I would n't live with him. I
would n't live with a man that raised his hand to me. I wouldn't
put up with it. Why don't you take your children and leave him? If
you put up with 'im it'll only make him worse. I never can see why,
because a man's married you, he should knock you about.
MRS. JONES. [Slim, dark-eyed, and dark-haired; oval-faced, and with
a smooth, soft, even voice; her manner patient, her way of talking
quite impersonal; she wears a blue linen dress, and boots with
holes.] It was nearly two last night before he come home, and he
wasn't himself. He made me get up, and he knocked me about; he
didn't seem to know what he was saying or doing. Of course I would
leave him, but I'm really afraid of what he'd do to me. He 's such
a violent man when he's not himself.
WHEELER. Why don't you get him locked up? You'll never have any
peace until you get him locked up. If I were you I'd go to the
police court tomorrow. That's what I would do.
MRS. JONES. Of course I ought to go, because he does treat me so
badly when he's not himself. But you see, Bettina, he has a very
hard time--he 's been out of work two months, and it preys upon his
mind. When he's in work he behaves himself much better. It's when
he's out of work that he's so violent.
WHEELER. Well, if you won't take any steps you 'll never get rid of
MRS. JONES. Of course it's very wearing to me; I don't get my sleep
at nights. And it 's not as if I were getting help from him,
because I have to do for the children and all of us. And he throws
such dreadful things up at me, talks of my having men to follow me
about. Such a thing never happens; no man ever speaks to me. And
of course, it's just the other way. It's what he does that's wrong
and makes me so unhappy. And then he 's always threatenin' to cut
my throat if I leave him. It's all the drink, and things preying on
his mind; he 's not a bad man really. Sometimes he'll speak quite
kind to me, but I've stood so much from him, I don't feel it in me
to speak kind back, but just keep myself to myself. And he's all
right with the children too, except when he's not himself.
WHEELER. You mean when he's drunk, the beauty.
MRS. JONES. Yes. [Without change of voice] There's the young
gentleman asleep on the sofa.
[They both look silently at Jack.]
MRS. JONES. [At last, in her soft voice.] He does n't look quite
WHEELER. He's a young limb, that's what he is. It 's my belief he
was tipsy last night, like your husband. It 's another kind of
bein' out of work that sets him to drink. I 'll go and tell Marlow.
This is his job.
[Mrs. Jones, upon her knees, begins a gentle sweeping.]
JACK. [Waking.] Who's there? What is it?
MRS. JONES. It's me, sir, Mrs. Jones.
JACK. [Sitting up and looking round.] Where is it--what--what time
MRS. JONES. It's getting on for nine o'clock, sir.
JACK. For nine! Why--what! [Rising, and loosening his tongue;
putting hands to his head, and staring hard at Mrs. Jones.] Look
here, you, Mrs.----Mrs. Jones--don't you say you caught me asleep
MRS. JONES. No, sir, of course I won't sir.
JACK. It's quite an accident; I don't know how it happened. I must
have forgotten to go to bed. It's a queer thing. I 've got a most
beastly headache. Mind you don't say anything, Mrs. Jones.
[Goes out and passes MARLOW in the doorway. MARLOW is young
and quiet; he is cleanshaven, and his hair is brushed high from
his forehead in a coxcomb. Incidentally a butler, he is first
a man. He looks at MRS. JONES, and smiles a private smile.]
MARLOW. Not the first time, and won't be the last. Looked a bit
dicky, eh, Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. He did n't look quite himself. Of course I did n't
MARLOW. You're used to them. How's your old man?
MRS. JONES. [Softly as throughout.] Well, he was very bad last
night; he did n't seem to know what he was about. He was very late,
and he was most abusive. But now, of course, he's asleep.
MARLOW. That's his way of finding a job, eh?
MRS. JONES. As a rule, Mr. Marlow, he goes out early every morning
looking for work, and sometimes he comes in fit to drop--and of
course I can't say he does n't try to get it, because he does.
Trade's very bad. [She stands quite still, her fan and brush before
her, at the beginning and the end of long vistas of experience,
traversing them with her impersonal eye.] But he's not a good
husband to me--last night he hit me, and he was so dreadfully
MARLOW. Bank 'oliday, eh! He 's too fond of the "Goat and Bells,"
that's what's the matter with him. I see him at the corner late
every night. He hangs about.
MRS. JONES. He gets to feeling very low walking about all day after
work, and being refused so often, and then when he gets a drop in
him it goes to his head. But he shouldn't treat his wife as he
treats me. Sometimes I 've had to go and walk about at night, when
he wouldn't let me stay in the room; but he's sorry for it
afterwards. And he hangs about after me, he waits for me in the
street; and I don't think he ought to, because I 've always been a
good wife to him. And I tell him Mrs. Barthwick wouldn't like him
coming about the place. But that only makes him angry, and he says
dreadful things about the gentry. Of course it was through me that
he first lost his place, through his not treating me right; and
that's made him bitter against the gentry. He had a very good place
as groom in the country; but it made such a stir, because of course
he did n't treat me right.
MARLOW. Got the sack?
MRS. JONES. Yes; his employer said he couldn't keep him, because
there was a great deal of talk; and he said it was such a bad
example. But it's very important for me to keep my work here; I
have the three children, and I don't want him to come about after me
in the streets, and make a disturbance as he sometimes does.
MARLOW. [Holding up the empty decanter.] Not a drain! Next time
he hits you get a witness and go down to the court----
MRS. JONES. Yes, I think I 've made up my mind. I think I ought
MARLOW. That's right. Where's the ciga----?
[He searches for the silver box; he looks at MRS. JONES, who is
sweeping on her hands and knees; he checks himself and stands
reflecting. From the tray he picks two half-smoked cigarettes,
and reads the name on them.]
Nestor--where the deuce----?
[With a meditative air he looks again at MRS. JONES, and,
taking up JACK'S overcoat, he searches in the pockets.
WHEELER, with a tray of breakfast things, comes in.]
MARLOW. [Aside to WHEELER.] Have you seen the cigarette-box?
MARLOW. Well, it's gone. I put it on the tray last night. And
he's been smoking. [Showing her the ends of cigarettes.] It's not
in these pockets. He can't have taken it upstairs this morning!
Have a good look in his room when he comes down. Who's been in
WHEELER. Only me and Mrs. Jones.
MRS. JONES. I 've finished here; shall I do the drawing-room now?
WHEELER. [Looking at her doubtfully.] Have you seen----Better do
the boudwower first.
[MRS. JONES goes out with pan and brush. MARLOW and WHEELER
look each other in the face.]
MARLOW. It'll turn up.
WHEELER. [Hesitating.] You don't think she----
[Nodding at the door.]
MARLOW. [Stoutly.] I don't----I never believes anything of
WHEELER. But the master'll have to be told.
MARLOW. You wait a bit, and see if it don't turn up. Suspicion's
no business of ours. I set my mind against it.
The curtain falls.
The curtain rises again at once.
BARTHWICK and MRS. BARTHWICK are seated at the breakfast table.
He is a man between fifty and sixty; quietly important, with a
bald forehead, and pince-nez, and the "Times" in his hand. She
is a lady of nearly fifty, well dressed, with greyish hair,
good features, and a decided manner. They face each other.
BARTHWICK. [From behind his paper.] The Labour man has got in at
the by-election for Barnside, my dear.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Another Labour? I can't think what on earth the
country is about.
BARTHWICK. I predicted it. It's not a matter of vast importance.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Not? How can you take it so calmly, John? To me
it's simply outrageous. And there you sit, you Liberals, and
pretend to encourage these people!
BARTHWICK. [Frowning.] The representation of all parties is
necessary for any proper reform, for any proper social policy.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I've no patience with your talk of reform--all that
nonsense about social policy. We know perfectly well what it is
they want; they want things for themselves. Those Socialists and
Labour men are an absolutely selfish set of people. They have no
sense of patriotism, like the upper classes; they simply want what
BARTHWICK. Want what we've got! [He stares into space.] My dear,
what are you talking about? [With a contortion.] I 'm no alarmist.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Cream? Quite uneducated men! Wait until they
begin to tax our investments. I 'm convinced that when they once
get a chance they will tax everything--they 've no feeling for the
country. You Liberals and Conservatives, you 're all alike; you
don't see an inch before your noses. You've no imagination, not a
scrap of imagination between you. You ought to join hands and nip
it in the bud.
BARTHWICK. You 're talking nonsense! How is it possible for
Liberals and Conservatives to join hands, as you call it? That
shows how absurd it is for women----Why, the very essence of a
Liberal is to trust in the people!
MRS. BARTHWICK. Now, John, eat your breakfast. As if there were
any real difference between you and the Conservatives. All the
upper classes have the same interests to protect, and the same
principles. [Calmly.] Oh! you're sitting upon a volcano, John.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I read a letter in the paper yesterday. I forget
the man's name, but it made the whole thing perfectly clear. You
don't look things in the face.
BARTHWICK. Indeed! [Heavily.] I am a Liberal! Drop the subject,
MRS. BARTHWICK. Toast? I quite agree with what this man says:
Education is simply ruining the lower classes. It unsettles them,
and that's the worst thing for us all. I see an enormous difference
in the manner of servants.
BARTHWICK, [With suspicious emphasis.] I welcome any change that
will lead to something better. [He opens a letter.] H'm! This is
that affair of Master Jack's again. "High Street, Oxford. Sir, We
have received Mr. John Barthwick, Senior's, draft for forty pounds!"
Oh! the letter's to him! "We now enclose the cheque you cashed with
us, which, as we stated in our previous letter, was not met on
presentation at your bank. We are, Sir, yours obediently, Moss and
Sons, Tailors." H 'm! [Staring at the cheque.] A pretty business
altogether! The boy might have been prosecuted.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Come, John, you know Jack did n't mean anything; he
only thought he was overdrawing. I still think his bank ought to
have cashed that cheque. They must know your position.
BARTHWICK. [Replacing in the envelope the letter and the cheque.]
Much good that would have done him in a court of law.
[He stops as JACK comes in, fastening his waistcoat and
staunching a razor cut upon his chin.]
JACK. [Sitting down between them, and speaking with an artificial
joviality.] Sorry I 'm late. [He looks lugubriously at the
dishes.] Tea, please, mother. Any letters for me? [BARTHWICK
hands the letter to him.] But look here, I say, this has been
opened! I do wish you would n't----
BARTHWICK. [Touching the envelope.] I suppose I 'm entitled to
JACK. [Sulkily.] Well, I can't help having your name, father! [He
reads the letter, and mutters.] Brutes!
BARTHWICK. [Eyeing him.] You don't deserve to be so well out of
JACK. Haven't you ragged me enough, dad?
MRS. BARTHWICK. Yes, John, let Jack have his breakfast.
BARTHWICK. If you hadn't had me to come to, where would you have
been? It's the merest accident--suppose you had been the son of a
poor man or a clerk. Obtaining money with a cheque you knew your
bank could not meet. It might have ruined you for life. I can't
see what's to become of you if these are your principles. I never
did anything of the sort myself.
JACK. I expect you always had lots of money. If you've got plenty
of money, of course----
BARTHWICK. On the contrary, I had not your advantages. My father
kept me very short of money.
JACK. How much had you, dad?
BARTHWICK. It's not material. The question is, do you feel the
gravity of what you did?
JACK. I don't know about the gravity. Of course, I 'm very sorry
if you think it was wrong. Have n't I said so! I should never have
done it at all if I had n't been so jolly hard up.
BARTHWICK. How much of that forty pounds have you got left, Jack?
JACK. [Hesitating.] I don't know--not much.
BARTHWICK. How much?
JACK. [Desperately.] I have n't got any.
JACK. I know I 've got the most beastly headache.
[He leans his head on his hand.]
MRS. BARTHWICK. Headache? My dear boy! Can't you eat any
JACK. [Drawing in his breath.] Too jolly bad!
MRS. BARTHWICK. I'm so sorry. Come with me; dear; I'll give you
something that will take it away at once.
[They leave the room; and BARTHWICK, tearing up the letter,
goes to the fireplace and puts the pieces in the fire. While
he is doing this MARLOW comes in, and looking round him, is
about quietly to withdraw.]
BARTHWICK. What's that? What d 'you want?
MARLOW. I was looking for Mr. John, sir.
BARTHWICK. What d' you want Mr. John for?
MARLOW. [With hesitation.] I thought I should find him here, sir.
BARTHWICK. [Suspiciously.] Yes, but what do you want him for?
MARLOW. [Offhandedly.] There's a lady called--asked to speak to
him for a minute, sir.
BARTHWICK. A lady, at this time in the morning. What sort of a
MARLOW. [Without expression in his voice.] I can't tell, sir; no
particular sort. She might be after charity. She might be a Sister
of Mercy, I should think, sir.
BARTHWICK. Is she dressed like one?
MARLOW. No, sir, she's in plain clothes, sir.
BARTHWICK. Did n't she say what she wanted?
MARLOW. No sir.
BARTHWICK. Where did you leave her?
MARLOW. In the hall, sir.
BARTHWICK. In the hall? How do you know she's not a thief--not got
designs on the house?
MARLOW. No, sir, I don't fancy so, sir.
BARTHWICK. Well, show her in here; I'll see her myself.
[MARLOW goes out with a private gesture of dismay. He soon
returns, ushering in a young pale lady with dark eyes and
pretty figure, in a modish, black, but rather shabby dress, a
black and white trimmed hat with a bunch of Parma violets
wrongly placed, and fuzzy-spotted veil. At the Sight of MR.
BARTHWICK she exhibits every sign of nervousness. MARLOW goes
UNKNOWN LADY. Oh! but--I beg pardon there's some mistake--I [She
turns to fly.]
BARTHWICK. Whom did you want to see, madam?
UNKNOWN. [Stopping and looking back.] It was Mr. John Barthwick I
wanted to see.
BARTHWICK. I am John Barthwick, madam. What can I have the
pleasure of doing for you?
UNKNOWN. Oh! I--I don't [She drops her eyes. BARTHWICK
scrutinises her, and purses his lips.]
BARTHWICK. It was my son, perhaps, you wished to see?
UNKNOWN. [Quickly.] Yes, of course, it's your son.
BARTHWICK. May I ask whom I have the pleasure of speaking to?
UNKNOWN. [Appeal and hardiness upon her face.] My name is----oh!
it does n't matter--I don't want to make any fuss. I just want to
see your son for a minute. [Boldly.] In fact, I must see him.
BARTHWICK. [Controlling his uneasiness.] My son is not very well.
If necessary, no doubt I could attend to the matter; be so kind as
to let me know----
UNKNOWN. Oh! but I must see him--I 've come on purpose--[She bursts
out nervously.] I don't want to make any fuss, but the fact is,
last--last night your son took away--he took away my [She stops.]
BARTHWICK. [Severely.] Yes, madam, what?
UNKNOWN. He took away my--my reticule.
BARTHWICK. Your reti----?
UNKNOWN. I don't care about the reticule; it's not that I want--I
'm sure I don't want to make any fuss--[her face is quivering]--but-
-but--all my money was in it!
BARTHWICK. In what--in what?
UNKNOWN. In my purse, in the reticule. It was a crimson silk
purse. Really, I wouldn't have come--I don't want to make any fuss.
But I must get my money back--mustn't I?
BARTHWICK. Do you tell me that my son----?
UNKNOWN. Oh! well, you see, he was n't quite I mean he was
[She smiles mesmerically.]
BARTHWICK. I beg your pardon.
UNKNOWN. [Stamping her foot.] Oh! don't you see--tipsy! We had a
BARTHWICK. [Scandalised.] How? Where?
UNKNOWN. [Defiantly.] At my place. We'd had supper at the----and
BARTHWICK. [Pressing the bell.] May I ask how you knew this house?
Did he give you his name and address?
UNKNOWN. [Glancing sidelong.] I got it out of his overcoat.
BARTHWICK. [Sardonically.] Oh! you got it out of his overcoat.
And may I ask if my son will know you by daylight?
UNKNOWN. Know me? I should jolly--I mean, of course he will!
[MARLOW comes in.]
BARTHWICK. Ask Mr. John to come down.
[MARLOW goes out, and BARTHWICK walks uneasily about.]
And how long have you enjoyed his acquaintanceship?
UNKNOWN. Only since--only since Good Friday.
BARTHWICK. I am at a loss--I repeat I am at a----
[He glances at this unknown lady, who stands with eyes cast
down, twisting her hands And suddenly Jack appears. He stops
on seeing who is here, and the unknown lady hysterically
giggles. There is a silence.]
BARTHWICK. [Portentously.] This young--er--lady says that last
night--I think you said last night madam--you took away----
UNKNOWN. [Impulsively.] My reticule, and all my money was in a
crimson silk purse.
JACK. Reticule. [Looking round for any chance to get away.] I
don't know anything about it.
BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] Come, do you deny seeing this young lady
JACK. Deny? No, of course. [Whispering.] Why did you give me
away like this? What on earth did you come here for?
UNKNOWN. [Tearfully.] I'm sure I didn't want to--it's not likely,
is it? You snatched it out of my hand--you know you did--and the
purse had all my money in it. I did n't follow you last night
because I did n't want to make a fuss and it was so late, and you
BARTHWICK. Come, sir, don't turn your back on me--explain!
JACK. [Desperately.] I don't remember anything about it. [In a
low voice to his friend.] Why on earth could n't you have written?
UNKNOWN. [Sullenly.] I want it now; I must have, it--I 've got to
pay my rent to-day. [She looks at BARTHWICK.] They're only too glad
to jump on people who are not--not well off.
JACK. I don't remember anything about it, really. I don't remember
anything about last night at all. [He puts his hand up to his
head.] It's all--cloudy, and I 've got such a beastly headache.
UNKNOWN. But you took it; you know you did. You said you'd score
JACK. Well, then, it must be here. I remember now--I remember
something. Why did I take the beastly thing?
BARTHWICK. Yes, why did you take the beastly----[He turns abruptly
to the window.]
UNKNOWN. [With her mesmeric smile.] You were n't quite were you?
JACK. [Smiling pallidly.] I'm awfully sorry. If there's anything
I can do----
BARTHWICK. Do? You can restore this property, I suppose.
JACK. I'll go and have a look, but I really don't think I 've got
[He goes out hurriedly. And BARTHWICK, placing a chair,
motions to the visitor to sit; then, with pursed lips, he
stands and eyes her fixedly. She sits, and steals a look at
him; then turns away, and, drawing up her veil, stealthily
wipes her eyes. And Jack comes back.]
JACK. [Ruefully holding out the empty reticule.] Is that the
thing? I 've looked all over--I can't find the purse anywhere. Are
you sure it was there?
UNKNOWN. [Tearfully.] Sure? Of course I'm sure. A crimson silk
purse. It was all the money I had.
JACK. I really am awfully sorry--my head's so jolly bad. I 've
asked the butler, but he has n't seen it.
UNKNOWN. I must have my money----
JACK. Oh! Of course--that'll be all right; I'll see that that's
all right. How much?
UNKNOWN. [Sullenly.] Seven pounds-twelve--it's all I 've got in
JACK. That'll be all right; I'll--send you acheque.
UNKNOWN. [Eagerly.] No; now, please. Give me what was in my
purse; I've got to pay my rent this morning. They won't' give me
another day; I'm a fortnight behind already.
JACK. [Blankly.] I'm awfully sorry; I really have n't a penny in
[He glances stealthily at BARTHWICK.]
UNKNOWN. [Excitedly.] Come I say you must--it's my money, and you
took it. I 'm not going away without it. They 'll turn me out of
JACK. [Clasping his head.] But I can't give you what I have n't
got. Don't I tell you I have n't a beastly cent.
UNKNOWN. [Tearing at her handkerchief.] Oh! do give it me! [She
puts her hands together in appeal; then, with sudden fierceness.]
If you don't I'll summons you. It's stealing, that's what it is!
BARTHWICK. [Uneasily.] One moment, please. As a matter of---er-
principle, I shall settle this claim. [He produces money.] Here is
eight pounds; the extra will cover the value of the purse and your
cab fares. I need make no comment--no thanks are necessary.
[Touching the bell, he holds the door ajar in silence. The
unknown lady stores the money in her reticule, she looks from
JACK to BARTHWICK, and her face is quivering faintly with a
smile. She hides it with her hand, and steals away. Behind
her BARTHWICK shuts the door.]
BARTHWICK. [With solemnity.] H'm! This is nice thing to happen!
JACK. [Impersonally.] What awful luck!
BARTHWICK. So this is the way that forty pounds has gone! One
thing after another! Once more I should like to know where you 'd
have been if it had n't been for me! You don't seem to have any
principles. You--you're one of those who are a nuisance to society;
you--you're dangerous! What your mother would say I don't know.
Your conduct, as far as I can see, is absolutely unjustifiable.
It's--it's criminal. Why, a poor man who behaved as you've done----
d' you think he'd have any mercy shown him? What you want is a good
lesson. You and your sort are--[he speaks with feeling]--a nuisance
to the community. Don't ask me to help you next time. You're not
fit to be helped.
JACK. [Turning upon his sire, with unexpected fierceness.] All
right, I won't then, and see how you like it. You would n't have
helped me this time, I know, if you had n't been scared the thing
would get into the papers. Where are the cigarettes?
BARTHWICK. [Regarding him uneasily.] Well I 'll say no more about
it. [He rings the bell.] I 'll pass it over for this once, but----
[MARLOW Comes in.] You can clear away.
[He hides his face behind the "Times."]
JACK. [Brightening.] I say, Marlow, where are the cigarettes?
MARLOW. I put the box out with the whisky last night, sir, but this
morning I can't find it anywhere.
JACK. Did you look in my room?
MARLOW. Yes, sir; I've looked all over the house. I found two
Nestor ends in the tray this morning, so you must have been smokin'
last night, sir. [Hesitating.] I 'm really afraid some one's
purloined the box.
JACK. [Uneasily.] Stolen it!
BARTHWICK. What's that? The cigarette-box! Is anything else
MARLOW. No, sir; I 've been through the plate.
BARTHWICK. Was the house all right this morning? None of the
MARLOW. No, sir. [Quietly to JACK.] You left your latch-key in
the door last night, sir.
[He hands it back, unseen by BARTHWICK]
BARTHWICK. Who's been in the room this morning?
MARLOW. Me and Wheeler, and Mrs. Jones is all, sir, as far as I
BARTHWICK. Have you asked Mrs. Barthwick?
[To JACK.] Go and ask your mother if she's had it; ask her to look
and see if she's missed anything else.
[JACK goes upon this mission.]
Nothing is more disquieting than losing things like this.
MARLOW. No, sir.
BARTHWICK. Have you any suspicions?
MARLOW, No, sir.
BARTHWICK. This Mrs. Jones--how long has she been working here?
MARLOW. Only this last month, sir.
BARTHWICK. What sort of person?
MARLOW. I don't know much about her, sir; seems a very quiet,
BARTHWICK. Who did the room this morning?
MARLOW. Wheeler and Mrs. Jones, Sir.
BARTHWICK. [With his forefinger upraised.] Now, was this Mrs.
Jones in the room alone at any time?
MARLOW. [Expressionless.] Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. How do you know that?
MARLOW. [Reluctantly.] I found her here, sir.
BARTHWICK. And has Wheeler been in the room alone?
MARLOW. No, sir, she's not, sir. I should say, sir, that Mrs.
Jones seems a very honest----
BARTHWICK. [Holding up his hand.] I want to know this: Has this
Mrs. Jones been here the whole morning?
MARLOW. Yes, sir--no, sir--she stepped over to the greengrocer's
BARTHWICK. H'm! Is she in the house now?
MARLOW. Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. Very good. I shall make a point of clearing this up.
On principle I shall make a point of fixing the responsibility; it
goes to the foundations of security. In all your interests----
MARLOW. Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. What sort of circumstances is this Mrs. Jones in? Is
her husband in work?
MARLOW. I believe not, sir.
BARTHWICK. Very well. Say nothing about it to any one. Tell
Wheeler not to speak of it, and ask Mrs. Jones to step up here.
MARLOW. Very good, sir.
[MARLOW goes out, his face concerned; and BARTHWICK stays, his
face judicial and a little pleased, as befits a man conducting
an inquiry. MRS. BARTHWICK and hey son come in.]
BARTHWICK. Well, my dear, you've not seen it, I suppose?
MRS. BARTHWICK. No. But what an extraordinary thing, John!
Marlow, of course, is out of the question. I 'm certain none of the
maids as for cook!
BARTHWICK. Oh, cook!
MRS. BARTHWICK. Of course! It's perfectly detestable to me to
BARTHWICK. It is not a question of one's feelings. It's a question
of justice. On principle----
MRS. BARTHWICK. I should n't be a bit surprised if the charwoman
knew something about it. It was Laura who recommended her.
BARTHWICK. [Judicially.] I am going to have Mrs. Jones up. Leave
it to me; and--er--remember that nobody is guilty until they're
proved so. I shall be careful. I have no intention of frightening
her; I shall give her every chance. I hear she's in poor
circumstances. If we are not able to do much for them we are bound
to have the greatest sympathy with the poor. [MRS. JONES comes in.]
[Pleasantly.] Oh! good morning, Mrs. Jones.
MRS. JONES. [Soft, and even, unemphatic.] Good morning, sir! Good
BARTHWICK. About your husband--he's not in work, I hear?
MRS. JONES. No, sir; of course he's not in work just now.
BARTHWICK. Then I suppose he's earning nothing.
MRS. JONES. No, sir, he's not earning anything just now, sir.
BARTHWICK. And how many children have you?
MRS. JONES. Three children; but of course they don't eat very much
sir. [A little silence.]
BARTHWICK. And how old is the eldest?
MRS. JONES. Nine years old, sir.
BARTHWICK. Do they go to school?
MRS. JONES, Yes, sir, they all three go to school every day.
BARTHWICK. [Severely.] And what about their food when you're out
MRS. JONES. Well, Sir, I have to give them their dinner to take
with them. Of course I 'm not always able to give them anything;
sometimes I have to send them without; but my husband is very good
about the children when he's in work. But when he's not in work of
course he's a very difficult man.
BARTHWICK. He drinks, I suppose?
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir. Of course I can't say he does n't drink,
because he does.
BARTHWICK. And I suppose he takes all your money?
MRS. JONES. No, sir, he's very good about my money, except when
he's not himself, and then, of course, he treats me very badly.
BARTHWICK. Now what is he--your husband?
MRS. JONES. By profession, sir, of course he's a groom.
BARTHWICK. A groom! How came he to lose his place?
MRS. JONES. He lost his place a long time ago, sir, and he's never
had a very long job since; and now, of course, the motor-cars are
BARTHWICK. When were you married to him, Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. Eight years ago, sir that was in----
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] Eight? You said the eldest child was
MRS. JONES. Yes, ma'am; of course that was why he lost his place.
He did n't treat me rightly, and of course his employer said he
couldn't keep him because of the example.
BARTHWICK. You mean he--ahem----
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir; and of course after he lost his place he
MRS. BARTHWICK. You actually mean to say you--you were----
BARTHWICK. My dear----
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Indignantly.] How disgraceful!
BARTHWICK. [Hurriedly.] And where are you living now, Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. We've not got a home, sir. Of course we've been
obliged to put away most of our things.
BARTHWICK. Put your things away! You mean to--to--er--to pawn
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, to put them away. We're living in Merthyr
Street--that is close by here, sir--at No. 34. We just have the one
BARTHWICK. And what do you pay a week?
MRS. JONES. We pay six shillings a week, sir, for a furnished room.
BARTHWICK. And I suppose you're behind in the rent?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, we're a little behind in the rent.
BARTHWICK. But you're in good work, aren't you?
MRS. JONES. Well, Sir, I have a day in Stamford Place Thursdays.
And Mondays and Wednesdays and Fridays I come here. But to-day, of
course, is a half-day, because of yesterday's Bank Holiday.
BARTHWICK. I see; four days a week, and you get half a crown a day,
is that it?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, and my dinner; but sometimes it's only half
a day, and that's eighteen pence.
BARTHWICK. And when your husband earns anything he spends it in
drink, I suppose?
MRS. JONES. Sometimes he does, sir, and sometimes he gives it to me
for the children. Of course he would work if he could get it, sir,
but it seems there are a great many people out of work.
BARTHWICK. Ah! Yes. We--er--won't go into that.
[Sympathetically.] And how about your work here? Do you find it
MRS. JONES. Oh! no, sir, not very hard, sir; except of course,
when I don't get my sleep at night.
BARTHWICK. Ah! And you help do all the rooms? And sometimes, I
suppose, you go out for cook?
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir.
BARTHWICK. And you 've been out this morning?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, of course I had to go to the greengrocer's.
BARTHWICK. Exactly. So your husband earns nothing? And he's a bad
MRS. JONES. No, Sir, I don't say that, sir. I think there's a
great deal of good in him; though he does treat me very bad
sometimes. And of course I don't like to leave him, but I think I
ought to, because really I hardly know how to stay with him. He
often raises his hand to me. Not long ago he gave me a blow here
[touches her breast] and I can feel it now. So I think I ought to
leave him, don't you, sir?
BARTHWICK. Ah! I can't help you there. It's a very serious thing
to leave your husband. Very serious thing.
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, of course I 'm afraid of what he might do to
me if I were to leave him; he can be so very violent.
BARTHWICK. H'm! Well, that I can't pretend to say anything about.
It's the bad principle I'm speaking of----
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir; I know nobody can help me. I know I must
decide for myself, and of course I know that he has a very hard
life. And he's fond of the children, and its very hard for him to
see them going without food.
BARTHWICK. [Hastily.] Well--er--thank you, I just wanted to hear
about you. I don't think I need detain you any longer, Mrs. Jones.
MRS. JONES. No, sir, thank you, sir.
BARTHWICK. Good morning, then.
MRS. JONES. Good morning, sir; good morning, ma'am.
BARTHWICK. [Exchanging glances with his wife.] By the way, Mrs.
Jones--I think it is only fair to tell you, a silver cigarette-box
MRS. JONES. [Looking from one face to the other.] I am very sorry,
BARTHWICK. Yes; you have not seen it, I suppose?
MRS. JONES. [Realising that suspicion is upon her; with an uneasy
movement.] Where was it, sir; if you please, sir?
BARTHWICK. [Evasively.] Where did Marlow say? Er--in this room,
yes, in this room.
MRS. JONES. No, Sir, I have n't seen it--of course if I 'd seen it
I should have noticed it.
BARTHWICK. [Giving hey a rapid glance.] You--you are sure of that?
MRS. JONES. [Impassively.] Yes, Sir. [With a slow nodding of her
head.] I have not seen it, and of course I don't know where it is.
[She turns and goes quietly out.]
[The three BARTHWICKS avoid each other's glances.]
The curtain falls.
The JONES's lodgings, Merthyr Street, at half-past two o'clock.
The bare room, with tattered oilcloth and damp, distempered
walls, has an air of tidy wretchedness. On the bed lies JONES,
half-dressed; his coat is thrown across his feet, and muddy
boots are lying on the floor close by. He is asleep. The door
is opened and MRS. JONES comes in, dressed in a pinched black
jacket and old black sailor hat; she carries a parcel wrapped
up in the "Times." She puts her parcel down, unwraps an apron,
half a loaf, two onions, three potatoes, and a tiny piece of
bacon. Taking a teapot from the cupboard, she rinses it,
shakes into it some powdered tea out of a screw of paper, puts
it on the hearth, and sitting in a wooden chair quietly begins
JONES. [Stirring and yawning.] That you? What's the time?
MRS. JONES. [Drying her eyes, and in her usual voice.] Half-past
JONES. What you back so soon for?
MRS. JONES. I only had the half day to-day, Jem.
JONES. [On his back, and in a drowsy voice.] Got anything for
MRS. JONES. Mrs. BARTHWICK's cook gave me a little bit of bacon.
I'm going to make a stew. [She prepares for cooking.] There's
fourteen shillings owing for rent, James, and of course I 've only
got two and fourpence. They'll be coming for it to-day.
JONES. [Turning towards her on his elbow.] Let 'em come and find
my surprise packet. I've had enough o' this tryin' for work. Why
should I go round and round after a job like a bloomin' squirrel in
a cage. "Give us a job, sir"--"Take a man on"--"Got a wife and
three children." Sick of it I am! I 'd sooner lie here and rot.
"Jones, you come and join the demonstration; come and 'old a flag,
and listen to the ruddy orators, and go 'ome as empty as you came."
There's some that seems to like that--the sheep! When I go seekin'
for a job now, and see the brutes lookin' me up an' down, it's like
a thousand serpents in me. I 'm not arskin' for any treat. A man
wants to sweat hisself silly and not allowed that's a rum start,
ain't it? A man wants to sweat his soul out to keep the breath in
him and ain't allowed--that's justice that's freedom and all the
rest of it! [He turns his face towards the wall.] You're so milky
mild; you don't know what goes on inside o' me. I'm done with the
silly game. If they want me, let 'em come for me!
[MRS. JONES stops cooking and stands unmoving at the table.]
I've tried and done with it, I tell you. I've never been afraid of
what 's before me. You mark my words--if you think they've broke my
spirit, you're mistook. I 'll lie and rot sooner than arsk 'em
again. What makes you stand like that--you long-sufferin', Gawd-
forsaken image--that's why I can't keep my hands off you. So now
you know. Work! You can work, but you have n't the spirit of a
MRS. JONES. [Quietly.] You talk more wild sometimes when you're
yourself, James, than when you 're not. If you don't get work, how
are we to go on? They won't let us stay here; they're looking to
their money to-day, I know.
JONES. I see this BARTHWICK o' yours every day goin' down to
Pawlyment snug and comfortable to talk his silly soul out; an' I see
that young calf, his son, swellin' it about, and goin' on the
razzle-dazzle. Wot 'ave they done that makes 'em any better than
wot I am? They never did a day's work in their lives. I see 'em
day after day.
MRS. JONES. And I wish you wouldn't come after me like that, and
hang about the house. You don't seem able to keep away at all, and
whatever you do it for I can't think, because of course they notice
JONES. I suppose I may go where I like. Where may I go? The other
day I went to a place in the Edgware Road. "Gov'nor," I says to the
boss, "take me on," I says. "I 'aven't done a stroke o' work not
these two months; it takes the heart out of a man," I says; "I 'm
one to work; I 'm not afraid of anything you can give me!" "My good
man," 'e says, "I 've had thirty of you here this morning. I took
the first two," he says, "and that's all I want." "Thank you, then
rot the world!" I says. "Blasphemin'," he says, "is not the way to
get a job. Out you go, my lad!" [He laughs sardonically.] Don't
you raise your voice because you're starvin'; don't yer even think
of it; take it lyin' down! Take it like a sensible man, carn't you?
And a little way down the street a lady says to me: [Pinching his
voice] "D' you want to earn a few pence, my man?" and gives me her
dog to 'old outside a shop-fat as a butler 'e was--tons o' meat had
gone to the makin' of him. It did 'er good, it did, made 'er feel
'erself that charitable, but I see 'er lookin' at the copper
standin' alongside o' me, for fear I should make off with 'er
bloomin' fat dog. [He sits on the edge of the bed and puts a boot
on. Then looking up.] What's in that head o' yours? [Almost
pathetically.] Carn't you speak for once?
[There is a knock, and MRS. SEDDON, the landlady, appears, an
anxious, harassed, shabby woman in working clothes.]
MRS. SEDDON. I thought I 'eard you come in, Mrs. Jones. I 've
spoke to my 'usband, but he says he really can't afford to wait
JONES. [With scowling jocularity.] Never you mind what your
'usband says, you go your own way like a proper independent woman.
Here, jenny, chuck her that.
[Producing a sovereign from his trousers pocket, he throws it
to his wife, who catches it in her apron with a gasp. JONES
resumes the lacing of his boots.]
MRS. JONES. [Rubbing the sovereign stealthily.] I'm very sorry
we're so late with it, and of course it's fourteen shillings, so if
you've got six that will be right.
[MRS. SEDDON takes the sovereign and fumbles for the change.]
JONES. [With his eyes fixed on his boots.] Bit of a surprise for
yer, ain't it?
MRS. SEDDON. Thank you, and I'm sure I'm very much obliged. [She
does indeed appear surprised.] I 'll bring you the change.
JONES. [Mockingly.] Don't mention it.
MRS. SEDDON. Thank you, and I'm sure I'm very much obliged. [She
[MRS. JONES gazes at JONES who is still lacing up his boots.]
JONES. I 've had a bit of luck. [Pulling out the crimson purse and
some loose coins.] Picked up a purse--seven pound and more.
MRS. JONES. Oh, James!
JONES. Oh, James! What about Oh, James! I picked it up I tell
you. This is lost property, this is!
MRS. JONES. But is n't there a name in it, or something?
JONES. Name? No, there ain't no name. This don't belong to such
as 'ave visitin' cards. This belongs to a perfec' lidy. Tike an'
smell it. [He pitches her the purse, which she puts gently to her
nose.] Now, you tell me what I ought to have done. You tell me
that. You can always tell me what I ought to ha' done, can't yer?
MRS. JONES. [Laying down the purse.] I can't say what you ought to
have done, James. Of course the money was n't yours; you've taken
somebody else's money.
JONES. Finding's keeping. I 'll take it as wages for the time I
've gone about the streets asking for what's my rights. I'll take
it for what's overdue, d' ye hear? [With strange triumph.] I've
got money in my pocket, my girl.
[MRS. JONES goes on again with the preparation of the meal,
JONES looking at her furtively.]
Money in my pocket! And I 'm not goin' to waste it. With this 'ere
money I'm goin' to Canada. I'll let you have a pound.
You've often talked of leavin' me. You 've often told me I treat
you badly--well I 'ope you 'll be glad when I 'm gone.
MRS. JONES. [Impassively.] You have, treated me very badly, James,
and of course I can't prevent your going; but I can't tell whether I
shall be glad when you're gone.
JONES. It'll change my luck. I 've 'ad nothing but bad luck since
I first took up with you. [More softly.] And you've 'ad no
MRS. JONES. Of course it would have been better for us if we had
never met. We were n't meant for each other. But you're set
against me, that's what you are, and you have been for a long time.
And you treat me so badly, James, going after that Rosie and all.
You don't ever seem to think of the children that I 've had to bring
into the world, and of all the trouble I 've had to keep them, and
what 'll become of them when you're gone.
JONES. [Crossing the room gloomily.] If you think I want to leave
the little beggars you're bloomin' well mistaken.
MRS. JONES. Of course I know you're fond of them.
JONES. [Fingering the purse, half angrily.] Well, then, you stow
it, old girl. The kids 'll get along better with you than when I 'm
here. If I 'd ha' known as much as I do now, I 'd never ha' had one
o' them. What's the use o' bringin' 'em into a state o' things like
this? It's a crime, that's what it is; but you find it out too late;
that's what's the matter with this 'ere world.
[He puts the purse back in his pocket.]
MRS. JONES. Of course it would have been better for them, poor
little things; but they're your own children, and I wonder at you
talkin' like that. I should miss them dreadfully if I was to lose
JONES. [Sullenly.] An' you ain't the only one. If I make money
out there--[Looking up, he sees her shaking out his coat--in a
changed voice.] Leave that coat alone!
[The silver box drops from the pocket, scattering the
cigarettes upon the bed. Taking up the box she stares at it;
he rushes at her and snatches the box away.]
MRS. JONES. [Cowering back against the bed.] Oh, Jem! oh, Jem!
JONES. [Dropping the box onto the table.] You mind what you're
sayin'! When I go out I 'll take and chuck it in the water along
with that there purse. I 'ad it when I was in liquor, and for what
you do when you 're in liquor you're not responsible-and that's
Gawd's truth as you ought to know. I don't want the thing--I won't
have it. I took it out o' spite. I 'm no thief, I tell you; and
don't you call me one, or it'll be the worse for you.
MRS. JONES. [Twisting her apron strings.] It's Mr. Barthwick's!
You've taken away my reputation. Oh, Jem, whatever made you?
JONES. What d' you mean?
MRS. JONES. It's been missed; they think it's me. Oh! whatever
made you do it, Jem?
JONES. I tell you I was in liquor. I don't want it; what's the
good of it to me? If I were to pawn it they'd only nab me. I 'm no
thief. I 'm no worse than wot that young Barthwick is; he brought
'ome that purse that I picked up--a lady's purse--'ad it off 'er in
a row, kept sayin' 'e 'd scored 'er off. Well, I scored 'im off.
Tight as an owl 'e was! And d' you think anything'll happen to him?
MRS. JONES. [As though speaking to herself.] Oh, Jem! it's the
bread out of our mouths!
JONES. Is it then? I'll make it hot for 'em yet. What about that
purse? What about young BARTHWICK?
[MRS. JONES comes forward to the table and tries to take the box;
JONES prevents her.] What do you want with that? You drop it, I
MRS. JONES. I 'll take it back and tell them all about it. [She
attempts to wrest the box from him.]
JONES. Ah, would yer?
[He drops the box, and rushes on her with a snarl. She slips
back past the bed. He follows; a chair is overturned. The
door is opened; Snow comes in, a detective in plain clothes and
bowler hat, with clipped moustaches. JONES drops his arms,
MRS. JONES stands by the window gasping; SNOW, advancing
swiftly to the table, puts his hand on the silver box.]
SNOW. Doin' a bit o' skylarkin'? Fancy this is what I 'm after.
J. B., the very same. [He gets back to the door, scrutinising the
crest and cypher on the box. To MRS. JONES.] I'm a police officer.
Are you Mrs. Jones?
MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir.
SNOW. My instructions are to take you on a charge of stealing this
box from J. BARTHWICK, Esquire, M.P., of 6, Rockingham Gate.
Anything you say may be used against you. Well, Missis?
MRS. JONES. [In her quiet voice, still out of breath, her hand
upon. her breast.] Of course I did not take it, sir. I never have
taken anything that did n't belong to me; and of course I know
nothing about it.
SNOW. You were at the house this morning; you did the room in which
the box was left; you were alone in the room. I find the box 'ere.
You say you did n't take it?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, of course I say I did not take it, because I
SNOW. Then how does the box come to be here?
MRS. JONES. I would rather not say anything about it.
SNOW. Is this your husband?
MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, this is my husband, sir.
SNOW. Do you wish to say anything before I take her?
[JONES remains silent, with his head bend down.]
Well then, Missis. I 'll just trouble you to come along with me
MRS. JONES. [Twisting her hands.] Of course I would n't say I had
n't taken it if I had--and I did n't take it, indeed I did n't. Of
course I know appearances are against me, and I can't tell you what
really happened: But my children are at school, and they'll be
coming home--and I don't know what they'll do without me.
SNOW. Your 'usband'll see to them, don't you worry. [He takes the
woman gently by the arm.]
JONES. You drop it--she's all right! [Sullenly.] I took the thing
SNOW. [Eyeing him] There, there, it does you credit. Come along,
JONES. [Passionately.] Drop it, I say, you blooming teck. She's
my wife; she 's a respectable woman. Take her if you dare!
SNOW. Now, now. What's the good of this? Keep a civil tongue, and
it'll be the better for all of us.
[He puts his whistle in his mouth and draws the woman to the
JONES. [With a rush.] Drop her, and put up your 'ands, or I 'll
soon make yer. You leave her alone, will yer! Don't I tell yer, I
took the thing myself.
SNOW. [Blowing his whistle.] Drop your hands, or I 'll take you
too. Ah, would you?
[JONES, closing, deals him a blow. A Policeman in uniform
appears; there is a short struggle and JONES is overpowered.
MRS. JONES raises her hands avid drops her face on them.]
The curtain falls.
The BARTHWICKS' dining-room the same evening. The BARTHWICKS
are seated at dessert.
MRS. BARTHWICK. John! [A silence broken by the cracking of nuts.]
BARTHWICK. I wish you'd speak about the nuts they're uneatable.
[He puts one in his mouth.]
MRS. BARTHWICK. It's not the season for them. I called on the
[BARTHWICK fills his glass with port.]
JACK. Crackers, please, Dad.
[BARTHWICK passes the crackers. His demeanour is reflective.]
MRS. BARTHWICK. Lady Holyrood has got very stout. I 've noticed it
coming for a long time.
BARTHWICK. [Gloomily.] Stout? [He takes up the crackers--with
transparent airiness.] The Holyroods had some trouble with their
servants, had n't they?
JACK. Crackers, please, Dad.
BARTHWICK. [Passing the crackers.] It got into the papers. The
cook, was n't it?
MRS. BARTHWICK. No, the lady's maid. I was talking it over with
Lady Holyrood. The girl used to have her young man to see her.
BARTHWICK. [Uneasily.] I'm not sure they were wise----
MRS. BARTHWICK. My dear John, what are you talking about? How
could there be any alternative? Think of the effect on the other
BARTHWICK. Of course in principle--I wasn't thinking of that.
JACK. [Maliciously.] Crackers, please, Dad.
[BARTHWICK is compelled to pass the crackers.]
MRS. BARTHWICK. Lady Holyrood told me: "I had her up," she said; "I
said to her, 'You'll leave my house at once; I think your conduct
disgraceful. I can't tell, I don't know, and I don't wish to know,
what you were doing. I send you away on principle; you need not
come to me for a character.' And the girl said: 'If you don't give
me my notice, my lady, I want a month's wages. I'm perfectly
respectable. I've done nothing.'"'--Done nothing!
MRS. BARTHWICK. Servants have too much license. They hang together
so terribly you never can tell what they're really thinking; it's as
if they were all in a conspiracy to keep you in the dark. Even with
Marlow, you feel that he never lets you know what's really in his
mind. I hate that secretiveness; it destroys all confidence. I
feel sometimes I should like to shake him.
JACK. Marlow's a most decent chap. It's simply beastly every one
knowing your affairs.
BARTHWICK. The less you say about that the better!
MRS. BARTHWICK. It goes all through the lower classes. You can not
tell when they are speaking the truth. To-day when I was shopping
after leaving the Holyroods, one of these unemployed came up and
spoke to me. I suppose I only had twenty yards or so to walk to the
carnage, but he seemed to spring up in the street.
BARTHWICK. Ah! You must be very careful whom you speak to in these
MRS. BARTHWICK. I did n't answer him, of course. But I could see
at once that he wasn't telling the truth.
BARTHWICK. [Cracking a nut.] There's one very good rule--look at
JACK. Crackers, please, Dad.
BARTHWICK. [Passing the crackers.] If their eyes are straight-
forward I sometimes give them sixpence. It 's against my
principles, but it's most difficult to refuse. If you see that
they're desperate, and dull, and shifty-looking, as so many of them
are, it's certain to mean drink, or crime, or something
MRS. BARTHWICK. This man had dreadful eyes. He looked as if he
could commit a murder. "I 've 'ad nothing to eat to-day," he said.
Just like that.
BARTHWICK. What was William about? He ought to have been waiting.
JACK. [Raising his wine-glass to his nose.] Is this the '63, Dad?
[BARTHWICK, holding his wine-glass to his eye, lowers it and
passes it before his nose.]
MRS. BARTHWICK. I hate people that can't speak the truth. [Father
and son exchange a look behind their port.] It 's just as easy to
speak the truth as not. I've always found it easy enough. It makes
it impossible to tell what is genuine; one feels as if one were
continually being taken in.
BARTHWICK. [Sententiously.] The lower classes are their own
enemies. If they would only trust us, they would get on so much
MRS. BARTHWICK. But even then it's so often their own fault. Look
at that Mrs. Jones this morning.
BARTHWICK. I only want to do what's right in that matter. I had
occasion to see Roper this afternoon. I mentioned it to him. He's
coming in this evening. It all depends on what the detective says.
I've had my doubts. I've been thinking it over.
MRS. BARTHWICK. The woman impressed me most unfavourably. She
seemed to have no shame. That affair she was talking about--she and
the man when they were young, so immoral! And before you and Jack!
I could have put her out of the room!
BARTHWICK. Oh! I don't want to excuse them, but in looking at
these matters one must consider----
MRS. BARTHWICK. Perhaps you'll say the man's employer was wrong in
BARTHWICK. Of course not. It's not there that I feel doubt. What
I ask myself is----
JACK. Port, please, Dad.
BARTHWICK. [Circulating the decanter in religious imitation of the
rising and setting of the sun.] I ask myself whether we are
sufficiently careful in making inquiries about people before we
engage them, especially as regards moral conduct.
JACK. Pass the-port, please, Mother!
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Passing it.] My dear boy, are n't you drinking
[JACK fills his glass.]
MARLOW. [Entering.] Detective Snow to see you, Sir.
BARTHWICK. [Uneasily.] Ah! say I'll be with him in a minute.
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Without turning.] Let him come in here, Marlow.
[SNOW enters in an overcoat, his bowler hat in hand.]
BARTHWICK. [Half-rising.] Oh! Good evening!
SNOW. Good evening, sir; good evening, ma'am. I 've called round to
report what I 've done, rather late, I 'm afraid--another case took
me away. [He takes the silver box out o f his pocket, causing a
sensation in the BARTHWICK family.] This is the identical article,
BARTHWICK. Certainly, certainly.
SNOW. Havin' your crest and cypher, as you described to me, sir, I
'd no hesitation in the matter.
BARTHWICK. Excellent. Will you have a glass of [he glances at the
waning port]--er--sherry-[pours out sherry]. Jack, just give Mr.
[JACK rises and gives the glass to SNOW; then, lolling in his
chair, regards him indolently.]
SNOW. [Drinking off wine and putting down the glass.] After seeing
you I went round to this woman's lodgings, sir. It's a low
neighborhood, and I thought it as well to place a constable below--
and not without 'e was wanted, as things turned out.
SNOW. Yes, Sir, I 'ad some trouble. I asked her to account for the
presence of the article. She could give me no answer, except to
deny the theft; so I took her into custody; then her husband came
for me, so I was obliged to take him, too, for assault. He was very
violent on the way to the station--very violent--threatened you and
your son, and altogether he was a handful, I can till you.
MRS. BARTHWICK. What a ruffian he must be!
SNOW. Yes, ma'am, a rough customer.
JACK. [Sipping his mine, bemused.] Punch the beggar's head.
SNOW. Given to drink, as I understand, sir.
MRS. BARTHWICK. It's to be hoped he will get a severe punishment.
SNOW. The odd thing is, sir, that he persists in sayin' he took the
BARTHWICK. Took the box himself! [He smiles.] What does he think
to gain by that?
SNOW. He says the young gentleman was intoxicated last night
[JACK stops the cracking of a nut, and looks at SNOW.]
[BARTHWICK, losing his smile, has put his wine-glass down;
there is a silence--SNOW, looking from face to face, remarks]
--took him into the house and gave him whisky; and under the
influence of an empty stomach the man says he took the box.
MRS. BARTHWICK. The impudent wretch!
BARTHWICK. D' you mean that he--er--intends to put this forward
SNOW. That'll be his line, sir; but whether he's endeavouring to
shield his wife, or whether [he looks at JACK] there's something in
it, will be for the magistrate to say.
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Haughtily.] Something in what? I don't
understand you. As if my son would bring a man like that into the
BARTHWICK. [From the fireplace, with an effort to be calm.] My son
can speak for himself, no doubt. Well, Jack, what do you say?
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] What does he say? Why, of course, he
says the whole story's stuff!
JACK. [Embarrassed.] Well, of course, I--of course, I don't know
anything about it.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I should think not, indeed! [To Snow.] The man is
an audacious ruffian!
BARTHWICK. [Suppressing jumps.] But in view of my son's saying
there's nothing in this--this fable--will it be necessary to proceed
against the man under the circumstances?
SNOW. We shall have to charge him with the assault, sir. It would
be as well for your son to come down to the Court. There'll be a
remand, no doubt. The queer thing is there was quite a sum of money
found on him, and a crimson silk purse.
[BARTHWICK starts; JACK rises and sits dozen again.]
I suppose the lady has n't missed her purse?
BARTHWICK. [Hastily.] Oh, no! Oh! No!
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Dreamily.] No! [To SNOW.] I 've been inquiring
of the servants. This man does hang about the house. I shall feel
much safer if he gets a good long sentence; I do think we ought to
be protected against such ruffians.
BARTHWICK. Yes, yes, of course, on principle but in this case we
have a number of things to think of. [To SNOW.] I suppose, as you
say, the man must be charged, eh?
SNOW. No question about that, sir.
BARTHWICK. [Staring gloomily at JACK.] This prosecution goes very
much against the grain with me. I have great sympathy with the
poor. In my position I 'm bound to recognise the distress there is
amongst them. The condition of the people leaves much to be
desired. D' you follow me? I wish I could see my way to drop it.
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] John! it's simply not fair to other
people. It's putting property at the mercy of any one who likes to
BARTHWICK. [Trying to make signs to her aside.] I 'm not defending
him, not at all. I'm trying to look at the matter broadly.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Nonsense, John, there's a time for everything.
SNOW. [Rather sardonically.] I might point out, sir, that to
withdraw the charge of stealing would not make much difference,
because the facts must come out [he looks significantly at JACK] in
reference to the assault; and as I said that charge will have to go
BARTHWICK. [Hastily.] Yes, oh! exactly! It's entirely on the
woman's account--entirely a matter of my own private feelings.
SNOW. If I were you, sir, I should let things take their course.
It's not likely there'll be much difficulty. These things are very
BARTHWICK. [Doubtfully.] You think so--you think so?
JACK. [Rousing himself.] I say, what shall I have to swear to?
SNOW. That's best known to yourself, sir. [Retreating to the
door.] Better employ a solicitor, sir, in case anything should
arise. We shall have the butler to prove the loss of the article.
You'll excuse me going, I 'm rather pressed to-night. The case may
come on any time after eleven. Good evening, sir; good evening,
ma'am. I shall have to produce the box in court to-morrow, so if
you'll excuse me, sir, I may as well take it with me.
[He takes the silver box and leaves them with a little bow.]
[BARTHWICK makes a move to follow him, then dashing his hands
beneath his coat tails, speaks with desperation.]
BARTHWICK. I do wish you'd leave me to manage things myself. You
will put your nose into matters you know nothing of. A pretty mess
you've made of this!
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Coldly.] I don't in the least know what you're
talking about. If you can't stand up for your rights, I can. I 've
no patience with your principles, it's such nonsense.
BARTHWICK. Principles! Good Heavens! What have principles to do
with it for goodness sake? Don't you know that Jack was drunk last
MRS. BARTHWICK. [In horror rising.] Jack!
JACK. Look here, Mother--I had supper. Everybody does. I mean to
say--you know what I mean--it's absurd to call it being drunk. At
Oxford everybody gets a bit "on" sometimes----
MRS. BARTHWICK. Well, I think it's most dreadful! If that is
really what you do at Oxford?
JACK. [Angrily.] Well, why did you send me there? One must do as
other fellows do. It's such nonsense, I mean, to call it being
drunk. Of course I 'm awfully sorry. I 've had such a beastly
headache all day.
BARTHWICK. Tcha! If you'd only had the common decency to remember
what happened when you came in. Then we should know what truth
there was in what this fellow says--as it is, it's all the most
JACK. [Staring as though at half-formed visions.] I just get a--
and then--it 's gone----
MRS. BARTHWICK. Oh, Jack! do you mean to say you were so tipsy you
can't even remember----
JACK. Look here, Mother! Of course I remember I came--I must have
BARTHWICK. [Unguardedly, and walking up and down.] Tcha!--and that
infernal purse! Good Heavens! It'll get into the papers. Who on
earth could have foreseen a thing like this? Better to have lost a
dozen cigarette-boxes, and said nothing about it. [To his wife.]
It's all your doing. I told you so from the first. I wish to
goodness Roper would come!
MRS. BARTHWICK. [Sharply.] I don't know what you're talking about,
BARTHWICK. [Turning on her.] No, you--you--you don't know
anything! [Sharply.] Where the devil is Roper? If he can see a
way out of this he's a better man than I take him for. I defy any
one to see a way out of it. I can't.
JACK. Look here, don't excite Dad--I can simply say I was too
beastly tired, and don't remember anything except that I came in and
[in a dying voice] went to bed the same as usual.
BARTHWICK. Went to bed? Who knows where you went--I 've lost all
confidence. For all I know you slept on the floor.
JACK. [Indignantly.] I did n't, I slept on the----
BARTHWICK. [Sitting on the sofa.] Who cares where you slept; what
does it matter if he mentions the--the--a perfect disgrace?
MRS. BARTHWICK. What? [A silence.] I insist on knowing.
JACK. Oh! nothing.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Nothing? What do you mean by nothing, Jack?
There's your father in such a state about it!
JACK. It's only my purse.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Your purse! You know perfectly well you have n't
JACK. Well, it was somebody else's--it was all a joke--I did n't
want the beastly thing.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Do you mean that you had another person's purse,
and that this man took it too?
BARTHWICK. Tcha! Of course he took it too! A man like that Jones
will make the most of it. It'll get into the papers.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I don't understand. What on earth is all the fuss
about? [Bending over JACK, and softly.] Jack now, tell me dear!
Don't be afraid. What is it? Come!
JACK. Oh, don't Mother!
MRS. BARTHWICK. But don't what, dear?
JACK. It was pure sport. I don't know how I got the thing. Of
course I 'd had a bit of a row--I did n't know what I was doing--I
was--I Was--well, you know--I suppose I must have pulled the bag out
of her hand.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Out of her hand? Whose hand? What bag--whose bag?
JACK. Oh! I don't know--her bag--it belonged to--[in a desperate
and rising voice] a woman.
MRS. BARTHWICK. A woman? Oh! Jack! No!
JACK. [Jumping up.] You would have it. I did n't want to tell
you. It's not my fault.
[The door opens and MARLOW ushers in a man of middle age,
inclined to corpulence, in evening dress. He has a ruddy, thin
moustache, and dark, quick-moving little eyes. His eyebrows
MARLOW. Mr. Roper, Sir. [He leaves the room.]
ROPER. [With a quick look round.] How do you do?
[But neither JACK nor MRS. BARTHWICK make a sign.]
BARTHWICK. [Hurrying.] Thank goodness you've come, Roper. You
remember what I told you this afternoon; we've just had the
ROPER. Got the box?
BARTHWICK. Yes, yes, but look here--it was n't the charwoman at
all; her drunken loafer of a husband took the things--he says that
fellow there [he waves his hand at JACK, who with his shoulder
raised, seems trying to ward off a blow] let him into the house last
night. Can you imagine such a thing.
[Roper laughs. ]
BARTHWICK. [With excited emphasis.]. It's no laughing matter,
Roper. I told you about that business of Jack's too--don't you see
the brute took both the things--took that infernal purse. It'll get
into the papers.
ROPER. [Raising his eyebrows.] H'm! The purse! Depravity in high
life! What does your son say?
BARTHWICK. He remembers nothing. D--n! Did you ever see such a
mess? It 'll get into the papers.
MRS. BARTHWICK. [With her hand across hey eyes.] Oh! it's not
[BARTHWICK and ROPER turn and look at her.]
BARTHWICK. It's the idea of that woman--she's just heard----
[ROPER nods. And MRS. BARTHWICK, setting her lips, gives a
slow look at JACK, and sits down at the table.]
What on earth's to be done, Roper? A ruffian like this Jones will
make all the capital he can out of that purse.
MRS. BARTHWICK. I don't believe that Jack took that purse.
BARTHWICK. What--when the woman came here for it this morning?
MRS. BARTHWICK. Here? She had the impudence? Why was n't I told?
[She looks round from face to face--no one answers hey, there
is a pause.]
BARTHWICK. [Suddenly.] What's to be done, Roper?
ROPER. [Quietly to JACK.] I suppose you did n't leave your latch-
key in the door?
JACK. [Sullenly.] Yes, I did.
BARTHWICK. Good heavens! What next?
MRS. BARTHWICK. I 'm certain you never let that man into the house,
Jack, it's a wild invention. I'm sure there's not a word of truth
in it, Mr. Roper.
ROPER. [Very suddenly.] Where did you sleep last night?
JACK. [Promptly.] On the sofa, there--[hesitating]--that is--I----
BARTHWICK. On the sofa? D' you mean to say you did n't go to bed?
BARTHWICK. If you don't remember anything, how can you remember
JACK. Because I woke up there in the morning.
MRS. BARTHWICK. Oh, Jack!
BARTHWICK. Good Gracious!
JACK. And Mrs. Jones saw me. I wish you would n't bait me so.
ROPER. Do you remember giving any one a drink?
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