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Title: Three Plays

Date of first publication: 1934

Author: Joseph Conrad (1857-1924)

Date first posted: May 26, 2018

Date last updated: May 26, 2018

Faded Page eBook #20180525

This eBook was produced by: Delphine Lettau & the online Distributed Proofreaders Canada team at http://www.pgdpcanada.net

Book cover


Laughing Anne, One Day More
and The Secret Agent




First published in this form in Great Britain in 1934











DAVIDSON. About thirty-five. Plump, round face, little fair moustache. Fair hair parted on the side. Very quiet manner and voice, with a sort of habitual half-smile. Is dressed in the usual tropical white drill suit, tunic and trousers. From second button of tunic to the left side pocket a gold watch-chain across his breast. White shoes and white tropical helmet. As general definition, a kindly 'delicate soul in a comfortable envelope'.

HOLLIS: Forty. Dark, clean-shaven, close-cropped. Same kind of clothes as Davidson.

(These two men are well groomed; their white clothes spotlessly got up.)

BAMTZ: Lanky, long, loose, black beard streaked with grey over his breast. Dressed in white trousers with belt. Grey shirt. No collar. Linen jacket worn open. All this dingy. Pair of old white shoes. Lounging, casual, lazy bearing. Drawling voice. Propensity to cringe.

FECTOR: Short. A shaven, sour, little red face. Nervous, impudent bearing. Dress: white trousers and a very old shooting-jacket (which he had brought with him years ago from home). Shabby brown shoes.

NAKHODA: Smooth, round yellow face with thickish dark lips and thin drooping moustache—a few hairs only on face. Dress: a tunic like Davidson's, only instead of being white it must be made of very thin blue flannel. Instead of trousers, a Malay sarong of common check pattern (or any other for that matter). On head a small round skull-cap. On his bare brown feet a pair of patent-leather slippers. Jaunty, fatuous bearing.

(The above three men have the common characteristic of slight jumpiness.)

MAN WITHOUT HANDS: Need not be actually tall and stout but must give the impression of a big man. Large face, with rather long black hair brushed up from a high forehead. Black eyes. Moves ponderously. Dress: white trousers cut very broad at hip, very narrow at ankle, held up at waist by a faded sash. He has no shirt, but only a thin singlet, over which he wears open a roomy linen jacket with side pockets. White shoes. Overbearing manner. Deep voice.

ANNE: In First Act. A faded pink princess robe with a train and some ragged white lace trimming at neck and sleeves. (Last remnant of her old outfit.) Hair untidy. Old white satin shoes.

In Second Act. A piece of chintz made up like a chemise dress with straps over shoulders. Head tied in a red handkerchief and hair loose down her back. Straw slippers on bare feet. Necklace of yellow beads.

TONY: Dingy white blouse and short knickers, bare legs and feet. Sunburnt. Head of tight chestnut curls.



Scene represents back veranda of Macao Hotel, seen from the interior. At the back the columns of the veranda with creepers and view of the sky, between the supports of the veranda there is a balustrade; end-on to the audience two tables, of which one is covered with a white cloth. Remnants of a meal and a couple of glasses. Abreast of those tables and close to the balustrade, R. and L., there are invisible stairs leading down to the ground. R. and L. towards the proscenium two whitewashed walls, of which the L. has got a half-glazed door and the R. just a common doorway nearly flush with the wall.

DAVIDSON and HOLLIS sitting at table. DAVIDSON'S helmet and HOLLIS'S white cap on the floor. From time to time a slight breath of air stirs the creepers on the column. The light should be suggestive of bright sunshine outside.

HOLLIS. Here we have been yarning of old times for an hour or so in this damned Macao Hotel and I never asked you why you frequent such a place.

DAVIDSON. I don't frequent it. Never been here before in my life, but my ship is in dry dock. There is no cooking on board a ship in dry dock, and as I didn't want to go back to town I thought I would try to get a bite here. It's a low place but I don't suppose they put poison in one's dishes because one's a stranger.

HOLLIS (dry tone). No. Many a stranger has been drugged here though, and rooked of all his cash. Every shady loafer, ruffian and scallawag in the Islands finds his way to this place sooner or later. Don't you remember how we used to warn young fellows against being enticed in here? I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw you at the door. I wouldn't have liked to be seen coming in here. Not by myself. With you it's another matter.

DAVIDSON (faint smile). Why?

HOLLIS (jocular). Because no breath of suspicion ever rested on you. (Laughs a little.) My dear fellow, don't you remember how we used to call you 'good Davidson', 'good Davy'. To your own face, too.

DAVIDSON (placid). There was a lot of chaff flying about amongst our lot.

HOLLIS (reminiscent). Wild lot, too, we were. But you were the quietest.

DAVIDSON. Old times, now … (Sighs.)

HOLLIS (pursuing his idea. With a sort of eagerness, elbows on table). Do you remember that clever naturalist chap that now and then chummed with us? He said of you once that he had never seen such a kind soul in such a comfortable envelope. Ha ha ha! Comfortable envelope! That was good.

DAVIDSON (wipes his forehead with his handkerchief). Phew! It's hot! He had his own style of joking. He is a great scientific man at home now. I have got his famous book on board my ship. Phew! The heat!

HOLLIS. We are more likely to get a little air from the sea at the back here than in the front of the house. And anyhow I wouldn't like to be seen in public here, though, of course, with you it wouldn't matter so much.

DAVIDSON (placid smile). Am I so very respectable?

HOLLIS. No, no. I don't mean that, I mean just good. Exactly as in the old days…. You look it, you know.

DAVIDSON (mock resignation). I can't help my looks.

HOLLIS. No, you can't. Any more than the rest of us could help being wild and looking it too.

DAVIDSON (placid smile). Lively, lively. Good fellows though.

HOLLIS. Where are they all? Scattered to the four winds of heaven.

DAVIDSON (leaning on his elbows). Aye. Not enough ballast, most of them. And Harry was the most flighty of the lot. You remember Harry the Pearler?

HOLLIS. Why! Yes. The fellow with a girl of his own. He brought her out here from Western Australia or somewhere that way. She was a good sort too. But those are old times and no mistake. I wonder what became of her.

DAVIDSON (wiping brow). Phew! The heat! I fancy Harry dropped her. One used to hear of Laughing Anne turning up here and there amongst the Islands. The name stuck to her.

HOLLIS (surprised). You heard it lately?

DAVIDSON. Oh, dear, no! She vanished years ago; and Harry the Pearler is dead, and I suppose there is nobody to remember him now but you and I. And yet we two are not so very old.

HOLLIS. Years in the tropics count double, my boy. We have kept wonderfully. But the most wonderful thing is that you and I should come together in this place which is notoriously the rendezvous of all sorts of bad characters for a thousand miles round.

DAVIDSON. I tell you I came here to get something to eat, while waiting for my ship to come out of dock. (Above the level of the floor to the L. of HOLLIS'S chair appears the head of FECTOR in an old grey felt hat.)

HOLLIS. Same old ship, I suppose?

DAVIDSON. Oh, yes … Ten or twelve years now. Nice little ship. I've got very fond of her.

HOLLIS (dreamily). Yes. Same old Islands, same old reefs, same old worries, same old trade.

DAVIDSON (placid). Pretty well. Only I don't worry now. I can find my way about this part of the world with my eyes shut. However, this trip will be out of the common. It is going to be a dollar-collecting trip amongst other things. I expect I will have sixty thousand of them before I am done…. You know, packed in wooden cases.

HOLLIS (moves his chair a bit and FECTOR'S head vanishes instantly). I wouldn't talk loudly about it in a place like this.

DAVIDSON. Why? You seem as bad as my wife. She is quite nervous about the danger. (Laughs placidly.) I told her that there are no pirates nowadays in the Archipelago, except in boys' books.

HOLLIS. Well, no. All the same in a den like this I wouldn't …

DAVIDSON. What's the matter? Sixty thousand dollars in cases is not a job for a pickpocket, is it? I am having one of the ship's store-rooms fitted for the purpose of putting those cases in. (While DAVIDSON is speaking the half-glazed door comes open a little way and FECTOR puts his head through. He withdraws it at once but leaves the door ajar. The faint clicking of billiard-balls is heard periodically.)

HOLLIS (grimly). The crowd that drinks here wouldn't be up to piracy. Not they. Regular shore-sweepings they are. I noticed one or two notorious characters on the front veranda. That fellow Fector, who calls himself a journalist, was one.

DAVIDSON (surprised). A journalist!

HOLLIS (scornful). He calls himself a journalist as some receivers of stolen goods call themselves marine dealers. He has been kicked and horsewhipped in every place from Aden to Shanghai for a swindler and blackmailer…. And I am hanged if I didn't catch sight in the bar of a loafer I thought was dead long ago. Surely you would have heard of Bamtz.

DAVIDSON (doubtful). Didn't he have a great beard?

HOLLIS. Horrid! That's how I recognized him. Same old beard. There was never such a beard seen from here to Polynesia, where you can sell a beard for hard cash any day. But Bamtz used his beard for prestige—you know. There was a tale going of him wheedling trading privileges once from the late Sultan of Sulu on the strength of his beard. Damn it all! One can understand a fellow living by cadging and small swindles in towns in large communities of people, but Bamtz has been doing that trick for years in the wilderness. Cadging for his living on the edge of the virgin forest! Of course he isn't the sort that would hurt a fly. He would be afraid to tackle a fly. (Confused noises of voices through the door which is ajar. HOLLIS looks over his shoulder, gets up, shuts the door. Comes back to his seat.) Didn't notice that door wasn't shut…. Bamtz does look like a pirate, I must say, but he calls himself an accountant, book-keeper, or something of that sort. (L. door opens and FECTOR lounges in, hands in pocket, jaunty, advances to table.) Now, what do you want here?

FECTOR (assumed dignity). This is a public place.

HOLLIS. You can't ferret out anything here you could sell.

FECTOR. What do you take me for?

HOLLIS. Eavesdropper, blackmailer, forger—take your choice.

FECTOR (reeling a little as if drunk). Oh, yes, yes. I am used to hear that sort of thing. Every man with a mission is insulted. My mission always was to track out abuses and fight them. And I won't be driven out. This is the coolest place in the blamed den and I am going to sit here. (Reels slightly to the other table, sits down, throws his arms on the table and rests his head on them.)

HOLLIS (low tone). This is impossible…. Shall we go? (Gets up.)

DAVIDSON (who has been wiping his forehead, getting matches, cigar, lighting it and taking puffs, pulls out handkerchief, wipes his forehead). It's too frightfully hot yet. I think I will sit here for another hour before I go to the dock. (Slight snore from FECTOR.) I don't mind him.

HOLLIS (with a look at FECTOR. Tone of disgust). I didn't know he drank too. I can't stand that beast…. (Persuasive.) We could drive to town together.

DAVIDSON. I can't. I must walk over to the ship presently to see about that store-room for the dollars. I expect to have forty or more cases on my return trip. (He gets up to shake hands.)

HOLLIS (affectionate). Well, good luck to you, Davidson. We may not come across each other again very soon. It was good to have a yarn with you about old times. (Ready to go.)

DAVIDSON (cordial). Yes…. I say! Won't you go and see my wife? She would know your name in a moment.

HOLLIS (moving towards the stairs, R. Jocular). Do you mean to say that you talk to your wife of old times? (Moves off laughing.)

DAVIDSON (calls out after HOLLIS placidly.) She is all right.

(Exit HOLLIS. FECTOR, who had raised his head slightly while the others were taking leave of each other, drops it on his arms at once. DAVIDSON sits down heavily, giving a glance at FECTOR, and goes on smoking. After a pause FECTOR raises himself, gets up, sways very slightly.)

FECTOR (thickly). Captain Davidson, I believe? (DAVIDSON nods.) Of the steamship Sissie? (DAVIDSON hardly nods.) One of the most respected shipmasters in port. Allow me to ask …

DAVIDSON (placid.) No use. I won't give you a drink. You have had enough already.

FECTOR (pulls out a small pad and pencil from his pocket). I only want to ask your opinion of this new currency scheme.

DAVIDSON (mildly). Oh, get out.

FECTOR (change of bearing and venomous tone). That's what I am going to do. I am going out. Heat or no heat…. Where the devil's my hat? (Exit into the billiard-room, slams door behind him, leaving DAVIDSON astonished. But very soon DAVIDSON wipes his brow again, breeze rustles the creepers, DAVIDSON takes a deep breath.)

DAVIDSON. That's better. (Dozes lightly, cigar drops out of his fingers, the door on R. opens, and ANNE puts her head out, perceives a man there, draws her head in, then puts it out again, looks hard at DAVIDSON, then comes out, shuts the door after her and approaches him step by step. Stops, peers, throws her arms up, claps her hands in extreme wonder.)

ANNE. My God! It's Davy! (Somewhat shrill.)

DAVIDSON (wakes up with a start, jumps up amazed). What, what's this?

ANNE (advances arms extended, seizes him by the shoulders). Why, you have hardly changed at all. The same good Davy. (Characteristic clear laugh, a little wild.)

DAVIDSON (starts in all his limbs. Awed tone of voice). You—you are Laughing Anne!

ANNE (approaching her face to his a little). All that's left of her, Davy … all that's left of her. (Her hands slip off DAVIDSON'S shoulders, head droops. Suddenly she fumbles in pocket for rag of handkerchief, puts it to her eyes, choked voice.) It's years since I heard myself called by that name. (Drops hands again.)

DAVIDSON (looking all round, ceiling, floor, walls, still awe-struck). Where on earth did you come from?

ANNE. From that room.

DAVIDSON (dazed). Room? Where? What room?

ANNE (short peal of laughter). Through that door—there.

DAVIDSON. A door? Can't be! (Recovering himself.) Oh, that door! I thought I was dreaming.

ANNE. No dream, Davy! It's I in the flesh. The very Laughing Anne…. (Break in voice. Desolate.) Oh, Davy! Harry ought not to have cast me off. It's he who led me astray.

DAVIDSON (sympathetic. Grave face). He died some years ago. Perhaps you heard?

ANNE (nods slightly). Yes, I heard. (They look at each other with a sort of desolation, meantime the door on the R. opens and a small boy of about six or seven runs out and catches hold of ANNE'S skirt.)

DAVIDSON (starts back). What's this?

ANNE (laugh). Why! Don't you know a small boy when you see him, Davy? (Tone of anguish.) That's my Tony.

DAVIDSON (very low, after looking at the child). Harry's?

ANNE (also very low). No. Another's. What would you have? What was I to do? (Changed tone to the child.) Say how do you do to the good gentleman.

BOY (extending grimy paw to DAVIDSON. Merrily and quite unabashed). Bonjour.

DAVIDSON. Eh? (Lets go of boy's hand suddenly and looks distracted.)

ANNE. Run away now. That's a good boy. (Exit child.)

DAVIDSON. Can't he speak English?

ANNE. Oh, yes, he is picking it up. Some dear old French people in Saigon were taking care of him for me. I picked up with the skipper of a German ship, and was going with him up and down the China Sea. Then at the end of two years or so he tells me 'This is all over, mein Taubchen. I must go home and marry the girl I am engaged to.' He didn't look very happy about it, so I laughed and went ashore. We parted friends; but oh, Davy! it was no laughing matter for me. I had to take the boy away from those French people, who were going back to France; and there I was. I was tired of life and down on my luck, I can tell you, when a fellow called Bamtz turned up. I suppose even such as he want company.

DAVIDSON (making a movement of dismay). You—are—with Bamtz? (Shocked.)

ANNE (nods). Yes, I know. But it was for the kid. How could I have kept him with me if I had to knock about in towns? And this Bamtz is not a brute. He seems real fond of him…. I suppose I ought to thank God for that.

DAVIDSON (exclaims with feeling). Thank God for Bamtz! (Drop in voice.) My poor Anne.

ANNE (with a reckless wave of her arm). For the boy!… So I gave him the few poor little trinkets I had to sell and he took me away to a little native place three hundred miles from here where no white man ever comes. The Rajah there has given us a big hut to live in. There is nothing but forests all round, Davy, but like this the boy needn't ever know that his mother was a painted woman.

DAVIDSON (anxious tone). But what brought you here?

ANNE. We got a passage in a native boat. Bamtz thinks he could manage to trade enough to keep body and soul together—the three of us, out there—in the forest—out of men's sight, if he could only get a ship to call for produce now and then. Twice a year would do. Oh, Davy, you have a ship. You can do what you like; God has put you in my way. Say yes, Davy: just twice a year and that will be enough for us to live on. Shall I fetch him out to you now so that he hears it from your own mouth. Yes?… (Runs lightly to the door of the billiard-room, puts her head in. Clicking of billiard-balls heard.)

DAVIDSON (irresolute). Wait. (BAMTZ comes through the door, shutting it behind him. Slight check at sight of DAVIDSON, one hand in his pocket. ANNE drags at his other arm.)

ANNE. Come along. Captain Davidson will be our friend.

BAMTZ (jerks arm away, puts other hand in pocket. Weak face, long, streaked beard, seems as if unscrewed at the waist, careless lounging attitude which conceal his propensity to cringe. Advances towards DAVIDSON, who is looking at him fixedly). Good morning, Captain.

DAVIDSON (looking at him keenly, but in a placid voice). She tells me that you think you have some prospects of trade over there where you live.

BAMTZ (drawling). Prospects … Yaas. I know how to manage the natives, and there's a little capital—if you would only promise to call for produce.

DAVIDSON. You know you will have to behave decently.

ANNE. He has been always kind, only … (Makes a movement with her hand.)

BAMTZ (looking in the air and as if speaking to himself. Drawling). A pinch of dollars in hand—a cheap necklace—a set of bangles—a brooch or two … Here's … (jerks head at ANNE) capital.

DAVIDSON (with a sort of grim placidity). I see. (Reflects.) I could probably arrange a call, only …

ANNE (clasping her hands). Say yes, Davy. Think of that poor kid.

BAMTZ (with a little more interest in his voice, to DAVIDSON). See him, Captain? Cute little customer. (Returns to listless attitude.)

DAVIDSON. Suppose you leave me with her for a moment. (BAMTZ makes a move at once.) You had better keep clear now of that billiard-room.

BAMTZ (lounging off, hands in pockets). Yaas, a low lot in there. I never cared for them, but sometimes one must … (Lounges off into bedroom.)

DAVIDSON (placidly anxious). Would you trust him? Do you think you could stick it out?

ANNE (moves lightly to billiard-room door and turns the key, saying). A lot of these beasts there. Eavesdropping too. We have been here four days…. (With ardour.) No more paint and dyes for me, Davy, if you will do what he asks you to do. Stick it out? Can't I! You know I have always stuck to my men through thick and thin, till they had enough of me. And now look at what's left of me. But inside I am what I always was. I have acted on the square to them, one after another. I was a pal worth having. But men do get tired of one. They don't understand women. (Characteristic short peal of laughter.)

DAVIDSON (placidly anxious). Don't, Anne.

ANNE (puts her handkerchief to her eyes and sobs, while the door of the billiard-room is tried from outside and then shaken a bit). Harry is the only man I ever loved. He ought not to have cast me off.

DAVIDSON (quiet feeling). Well, I will be your friend. Tell Bamtz to expect me in a month's time. Keep him clear of that crowd and get away from here as quick as ever you can.

ANNE. We can leave to-night in a native boat. Trust me. (Seizing his hands and shaking them.) It's for the kid, Davy. It's for the kid. (Moves towards bedroom. At the door turns round to say) Isn't he a bright little chap?

(DAVIDSON wipes his forehead with pocket handkerchief. Looks at watch. While he is doing these things the door of the billiard-room is shaken again. He gives it a mere glance, puts his watch in his pocket. Picks his hat from the floor and goes downstairs R. Almost directly after, FECTOR'S head appears up the stairs L., and seeing there is no one there he strides straight to the billiard-room door, turns the key.)

FECTOR. I wonder who locked that door. (Reflects.) Would it be Bamtz. Hullo! Bamtz! You there? (Waits.) I got a dollar for you. (Door of the bedroom comes ajar and voice of BAMTZ is heard.)

BAMTZ. Let me go and see. (Comes out and at once assumes his lounging, casual, hesitating bearing.) What's that you said?

FECTOR (dollar in hand). Your winnings, I believe.

BAMTZ (looking into the air). Oh, yaas! (Extends open palm.)

FECTOR (putting dollar in his pocket). You damned fraud, you knew you had no winnings…. I only want to talk to you.

BAMTZ (concealing his discomfiture and sidling away). I'm not interested—ah—in your talk.

FECTOR. You will jolly well have to be. Why did you lock that door?

BAMTZ (alarmed). I didn't. I swear I didn't.

FECTOR. You have been plotting something in there with that woman you have got in tow. You haven't the right to lock any door in this house. It's offensive. This is a public place. Don't you want to keep friendly with the crowd?

BAMTZ (desperate). I don't want to be friends with any of you. I am done with you. Yaas. (Impressively) I had a business interview here with Captain Davidson and I am glad the door was locked—whoever locked it.

FECTOR. Captain Davidson?

BAMTZ (superior). Yaas.

FECTOR. Were you trying to cadge something out of him? Well, I'm hanged!… No! Don't go.… Stop right here.

BAMTZ (reluctant). Don't worry me. I'll have none of your tricks. I'm going to be a merchant—on the square.

FECTOR. Oh, you liar!

BAMTZ. Fact. Deal in island produce. Been discussing freights with Captain Davidson. That's the sort of man I am. He's going to call for the first lot in about a month's time.

FECTOR (shout of astonishment). No! (BAMTZ shuffling away towards the door, puts his hand on the handle.) Here! Don't go!

BAMTZ. I will have no truck with you. (Exit.)

FECTOR (stands for a moment, chin in hand, obvious hesitation, then dashes at billiard-room door, puts his head in, withdraws it with exclamation). Gone. (Runs to balustrade and shouts into garden) Hey, hey!… Yes, both of you. Come up here a moment. (He walks front of stage and stands biting his fingers nervously, while up the stairs to L. big bulk of MAN WITHOUT HANDS rises up, followed by the NAKHODA. They stand behind FECTOR, M. W. H. frowning, with his stumps rammed deep into the side pockets of jacket; NAKHODA with a sort of fatuous smile.)

M. W. H. (deep voice). Well! (Waits.) What's this infernal joke?

FECTOR (walking up and down across the stage in agony of indecision). There's a damned big job … as big as a mountain.

M. W. H. (angry bellow). Out with it, then.

FECTOR (at a distance. Wringing his hands). I don't know whether I ought to trust you fellows. (Stands still suddenly.)

M. W. H. (advancing ponderously at FECTOR, who quails, but also seems fascinated). You wouldn't dare to insult me if it hadn't been for my misfortune. (Turns away towards front of stage raising his stumps and shaking them before him. Looking up to heaven with fury.) If I had my way, you up there would be damned too. Then you would know how I feel.

FECTOR. Don't blaspheme.

M. W. H. (turns on him). If I could kill people with my eyes you wouldn't dare speak to me like this.

FECTOR. You manage to make me feel deadly sick with your beastly eyes. (Quails but holds his ground.)

M. W. H. (deep voice). Out with your story—if you have one.

FECTOR (passing him quickly to move to other side of the stage). I suppose I must. Listen. (M. W. H. spins round and NAKHODA, who persistently keeps at his elbow, preserves his fatuous air.) There will be in a month's time a ship, a little trading ship, travelling about the Java Sea with something like eighty-thousand dollars aboard of her.

M. W. H. (contemptuous). Well, what of it? What's the good of it to anybody? There must be lots of ships with dollars—and gold in them too—afloat on the seas at this very moment.

FECTOR. Yes, but I know where that particular ship will be next month—the exact spot. A lonely spot. Inhabited by an ass called Bamtz.

M. W. H. (walking up and down and gesticulating with his stumps). Bamtz! Bamtz! I know him inside out. A mere rag—dirty rag. We could do what we like with him.

NAKHODA. He's sailing with me to-night. I am giving him a passage to his home.

FECTOR (strikes in). Which is the very spot.

M. W. H. Then we must ask him for hospitality. (Laughs.) He is not a man that ever refuses anything to anybody. Man! He's a worm.

FECTOR. Eighty thousand dollars!

NAKHODA. That's twenty thousand each. Four of us. Including Bamtz.

M. W. H. You can't know how elated a poor cripple feels at the prospect of a little activity. (Ferocious) You will have to go through with it now. I will keep your livers sweet for you. (To NAKHODA) Isn't it time to get your passengers on board?

NAKHODA. Yes, we sail early to-night. I promised to come for them.

FECTOR. Well, here we are then. You have come for them. Go and get them out. (While NAKHODA goes to knock at the door on R., FECTOR and M. W. H. withdraw to L. side and watch the performance. Dusk falls. NAKHODA knocks again.)

NAKHODA (speaking at the door). Time to go on board. (The door opens and a voice from within says) We have been waiting for you (and BAMTZ comes out first carrying a very dilapidated valise in his hand and wearing a ragged overcoat over his white clothes. Behind him ANNE in very shabby tussore long coat over the pink gown. She carries a bundle tied up in a check cloth, and a native basket, and with the other hand leads TONY. They make for the stairs. NAKHODA watches them.)

M. W. H. (quiet voice across the veranda). Bamtz.

BAMTZ (starts, and is so upset that he drops the valise on the floor and leans his back against the wall.) What do you want?

M. W. H. (speaking across the veranda). I am going to resume my activities, and as I happen to need your help your fortune is as good as made.

BAMTZ. For God's sake do leave me alone. I am no good for anything. I have no nerve…. Never had any.

M. W. H. (moving across ponderously. Soft voice). What is the matter? Can't you entertain a few friends in your new home for a few days?

BAMTZ. Keep off me. Go away. Leave me alone. I won't have it.

M. W. H. (soft). Won't you? Not even for a stake of about twenty thousand dollars or so?

BAMTZ. I know you of old. You were then worse than the devil himself.

M. W. H. (taking his stumps out of his pocket and putting them close to BAMTZ'S face). See this? Well, since my misfortune I am ten times worse than before. Now then, go ahead. Move on. March. (Terrible voice.) Crawl, you worm. (TONY begins to cry. M. W. H. seems to take notice of ANNE for the first time.) Why! He's a family man. That's excellent.

ANNE (to the whimpering child). Don't be frightened, Tony. He will do you no harm. (BAMTZ has gone downstairs, NAKHODA has followed him, and M. W. H. remains standing at the head of stairs looking towards ANNE.)

M. W. H. You have a nice voice. I am sure you will make us comfortable. (Half jeering). In your retired home.

ANNE (passionately). Ah, if he were only half a man!… Don't cry, Tony. It's all right.

M. W. H. Yes, if he were. I fancy you must be the better man of the two. Never mind. It suits me first rate. You'll be friends with me. A helpless, miserable cripple longing for a companion to take care of him … always. (Puts his arm over ANNE'S shoulder and with the stump against her cheeks turns her face round and looks into it.) Frightened? No need to be. I am a harmless cripple. (Takes arm off and gives her a push towards the stairs. As ANNE, TONY, FECTOR and M. W. H. move off in single file, CURTAIN falls.)




Interior of a hut with walls of mats, unequally divided by a partition of rough mats. Wooden posts visible in corners. The biggest portion has an open doorway in wall at back, and open doorway in dividing partition. Smaller part containing ton keg, and bed-place made of wooden cases. Nightlight burning on the floor. Larger part contains oblong table in middle, four wooden chairs round it. On the table glasses, bottle, red earthenware jug, two candles. FECTOR, NAKHODA, BAMTZ and M. W. H. sitting on chairs playing cards. ANNE, holding M. W. H.'s cards for him, stands by his chair. The men are dressed as before. ANNE in loose chintz wrapper and straw slippers on bare feet. Her head tied up Malay fashion in red handkerchief, with mass of loose hair hanging behind. Long necklace of amber beads hangs on her uncovered neck.

M. W. H. Play the king of hearts.

TONY (in cot in other room. Plaintive voice). Mama.

ANNE (throwing the cards down). Coming, dear. (Passes into the other room. Seen bending over cot. FECTOR, NAKHODA, BAMTZ throw down cards.)

M. W. H. The time is drawing near. Now, listen to me once more. (Four heads in a bunch. Loud whispering, during which, without any noise, DAVIDSON appears in the outer doorway, white cap, white clothes. Stands gazing till BAMTZ, looking up, sees him and rises abruptly from his chair.)

BAMTZ (staring. Loud). Captain Davidson. (In other room ANNE seen turning her head.)

DAVIDSON (grim but placid). I haven't startled you, have I?

ANNE (in bedroom doorway). Davy! Heaven itself sends you here to-night.

BAMTZ (dropping back into his chair. Loud voice). Come in, Captain. (Falters.) Come in.

ANNE (extended arms towards DAVIDSON). My Tony's so bad. (Seizes DAVIDSON by arm and tugs at it.) Come along and see him. (M. W. H. leans back in chair. FECTOR sits sideways, arm thrown over back of his chair. NAKHODA back to audience. BAMTZ, with appearance of extreme nervousness, looks up at ANNE and DAVIDSON as they pass by.)

BAMTZ. Poor little beggar.

DAVIDSON (leaning over cot). We want a better light here.

ANNE. Yes, Davy. (Goes into big room, snatches up candle.)

FECTOR (scandalized). Hullo! Hullo!

M. W. H. Let her have it. (Meantime ANNE passes in and with DAVIDSON examines child by light of candle.)

DAVIDSON. He is a little hot. Don't you worry. Could you boil a little water for a drink?

ANNE. I have nothing here.

DAVIDSON (very loud). I will just go on board and bring you a spirit kettle and some medicine that will do him good. (Changed tone with movement of head towards the other room.) What's this, Anne?

ANNE (makes a gesture of raising hands and drops them). They would come.

DAVIDSON (very loud). There is no danger whatever. (Low voice.) I am afraid this bodes no good to you, my poor girl. What do you think they are up to?

ANNE (speaking very quickly). They are after the dollars you have in your ship.

DAVIDSON (surprised but cautious). How on earth did they know I carry dollars on this trip?

ANNE (intense). So you have dollars on board. Oh, Davy! Take your ship away quick.

DAVIDSON. Too late. The tide has left her already. Do they actually mean robbery? What do they take me for?

ANNE. That big man without hands wouldn't stick at murder. He is driving them on. He is a devil. If Tony hadn't been in this state I would have run away with him into the woods anywhere…. Oh, Davy! Will he die?

DAVIDSON. No, no. Don't get yourself in a state. You used to be plucky.

ANNE (very quick). My pluck. It seems to be going. Ha ha ha! (Little wild laugh. DAVIDSON passes to the other room, where all the men at sound of ANNE'S laugh had turned their heads in a somewhat startled way. ANNE follows him with the candle, which she puts on the table, and returns to the child.)

FECTOR. Will you join us in a drink, Captain?

DAVIDSON. I am in a hurry to fetch some drugs I have on board. (Passes through doorway at the back. All get up from their seats except M. W. H., who remains leaning back in his chair.)

M. W. H. Now, get out all of you and see where the ship is moored—at the jetty or along the bank. We ought to know beforehand.

FECTOR. One of us would do.

M. W. H. No. I want each of you to know exactly where to put his foot when we board her in the dark, presently. You are such nervous skunks that you will be missing the gangways from sheer funk. I suppose when the time comes I will have to push you on—I! A miserable cripple! But when it comes to sharing each of you will want his share.

FECTOR (muttering). Certainly. (Loud.) Confound you, you bully us here from morning to night as if you had hired us for the job, whereas when it comes to it you won't be able to do anything.

M. W. H. (shaking his stumps in front of his face). Curse my misfortune. (With affected, savage cringing.) I hope you won't try to cut down my share because I am a poor, helpless, useless cripple. (Ferocious) Get out and do what I tell you or else there will be nothing to share.

FECTOR. I will be glad when the job's over, if only to be done with your bullying.

BAMTZ. Oh, God, yes! (M. W. H. jumps up. FECTOR and BAMTZ make for the door, while NAKHODA dodges behind M. W. H. and is the last to go out.)

M. W. H. (standing by the table). Anne! (ANNE in the other room raises her head from the cot with an air of terror.) Anne! Here!

ANNE (springs up from her knees). Oh, what is it now? (Walks reluctant into the large room.)

M. W. H. Now, then, pull yourself together. Where is that weight? Did you sneak it from the store?

ANNE (faltering). I have got it there. (Points to corner.)

M. W. H. Quick then. Lose no time. Got a piece of string? (ANNE stands stock-still with a face of despair.) Ain't you going to be loyal to me? Don't you think I am man enough to be worth sticking to if I have no hands? (Threatening.) You have got to stick to me. What are you afraid of? We will go away together thousands of miles from here. Let me only see these dollars in here. On this table. Fetch that weight along now. (ANNE rummages amongst a heap of things in the corner of the hut and comes forward with a seven-pound weight and a long piece of string. M. W. H., without looking at her) Got it?

ANNE. Yes.

M. W. H. The right stump, of course. (Presents it.) Lash it on properly too. It wouldn't do for it to come off. (ANNE begins to fasten the weight with the piece of string.) You see—a resolute man with a lump of iron like this at the end of his arm can crack three skulls long before the idiots with hands have time to pull out their revolvers. See? Especially if it is he who starts the scrimmage all of a sudden. I reckon there will be precious little sharing of those dollars. We will have the lot. Make a proper knot. Done it?

ANNE. Yes.

M. W. H. (swinging his arm). Good. (Puts the stump in his pocket and throws the other arm over ANNE'S shoulder.) You are the only one with a backbone. A poor, miserable, helpless, God-forsaken cripple like me wants a companion for always … and you are the one. (ANNE wriggles free from his arm and returns to the child. M. W. H. listens.)

FECTOR (voice outside). After you, Captain. We have been out for a breath of air. Isn't it hot though? (DAVIDSON enters room with a spirit kettle in one hand and some sort of little box containing medicines.)

M. W. H. (who at first sound of voices had thrown himself back into his chair, to DAVIDSON). Isn't it unfortunate about that poor child?

DAVIDSON (with meaning). Yes, and for the woman too.

M. W. H. A mother's feeling, of course. But I can't stand seeing a child suffer. I can't bear it. But what could I do, a poor cripple! I couldn't smooth the pillow of a dying friend. How lucky you turned up, just in the nick of time. Did they expect you? I was never so surprised in my life.

DAVIDSON (who has stopped to listen). Not so much as I am. (Passes into the other room.)

FECTOR (who, with the other two, has been standing in the doorway). The night's as black as the inside of a cow. (All three approach the table.)

M. W. H. Did you make sure how the gangway is laid?

NAKHODA (fatuous tone). Yes. There's a double plank. It will be quite easy for you.

M. W. H. Shut up, you idiot. (The other subsides with a complacent smile.) Come on, sit down, let's pretend to play cards or do some damned thing or other. (They sit down, take up cards, but look nervous, distracted and jumpy.)

DAVIDSON (in the other room, to ANNE). Here are some matches. I brought you a candle too. Light it, Anne. We will boil that kettle. (Changed tone.) So they came here to wait for the ship and rob her. It's the hardest thing to believe in I ever ran against in my life. (Incredulous.) They can't mean it.

ANNE. They mean it right enough, and that man without hands has got pluck enough for the lot of them. (She busies herself in lighting the lamp under the kettle and giving some medicine out of a spoon to the child.) They think you are soft, Davy, ha ha ha. (Laughs.)

DAVIDSON (sitting on a keg by the side of the cot, looking up). I don't know about being soft, but I know that if trouble comes I will be alone. I am the only white man on board, and you know what those kalashes are. At the sound of the first shot all my crew will bolt ashore. I know them well. However, all this sounds like a fairy-tale. A vile sort of fairy-tale.

ANNE. Oh, Davy, they've been talking before me. (A moan from the child. ANNE bending over cot.) All right, Tony, Mama will give you a drink soon, a nice sweet drink. (To DAVIDSON) Poor kid. There's nothing in life for such as he. Not a dog's chance. But I couldn't let him go, Davy; I couldn't let him go. No! No!

DAVIDSON. Steady, Anne. (Looking at child.) Feel him; he is less hot, he will soon be better.

ANNE (seizing suddenly DAVIDSON'S arm for emphasis). Be careful of that devil without hands, Davy.

DAVIDSON. Well, he may be a devil, but without hands he can't do much, can he?

ANNE (impressive). Mind you don't let him come near you, that's all. (Hesitates.) Listen. The others don't know, but he has made me tie a seven-pound weight on to his right stump. Do you understand?

DAVIDSON (low whistle of astonishment). I see. H'm. All this seems more and more incredible. However …

ANNE. Davy, you may expect to see them crawling on board your ship about midnight to steal, to murder perhaps.

DAVIDSON (discreetly). I had better get on board and get ready for the visitors. If they do come.

ANNE. It's no joking matter. I will come outside the hut with them when they start, and it will be hard luck if I don't find occasion for a laugh. They are used to that from me. Laugh or cry, what's the odds. You will be able to hear me on board this quiet night.… You won't go to sleep—will you?

DAVIDSON. I will try not to. (Serious.) Don't you run any risks for me. (Pointing to the cot.) Look; he will be all right. (ANNE drops on her knees by the cot and gazes at the child while DAVIDSON passes into the other room.)

FECTOR. What about a drink now, Captain?

DAVIDSON. Thanks, I think I will go on board now and turn in. The child is better. He is sleeping. Don't make more noise than you can help.

FECTOR. Oh, we are a quiet lot; and if the invalid gets worse one of us will run down to call you so that you may play doctor again, so don't shoot at sight.

NAKHODA (fatuous tone). He hasn't the name of a shooting man.

DAVIDSON (contemptuous). I never shoot without making sure there is a good reason for it. (To BAMTZ) The boy will be all right.

BAMTZ (nervous laugh). Poor little chap. Thank you, Captain; thank you, Captain.

(M. W. H. gets up, keeping his stumps in his pockets, and makes a bow, which DAVIDSON returns with a nod. Exit DAVIDSON.)



Darkened scene with, at the back and extending nearly across, the darker shape of BAMTZ'S hut raised a little above level of the stage, with a very dim light showing the square of the doorway. To R. stern of a small ship with a gangway of two planks to the shore and a pair of mooring-ropes to the stump of a tree in the foreground. On board, a hammock swung to a boom, with a mosquito-net over it, and a bit of skylight, which is all that is shown of the ship on the stage, the rest being in the wings. A few bushes on the bank in which the wind makes a faint rustle. After the curtain has been up for some time the distant crowing of a cock is heard faintly. Again the bushes rustle. The dimly lit doorway in the distance is darkened four different times and ANNE'S characteristic laugh is heard very clear, but very faint. Then in the darkness of the stage four figures, noiseless, come stealing forward towards the plank gangway.

FECTOR (sibilant whisper). No murder. I have no mind to hang.

M. W. H. And suppose he resists?

BAMTZ (with chattering teeth). He w-w-w-on't.

NAKHODA (scared voice). He's not a shooting man.

M. W. H. Get on board, you skunks!

(The business of getting on board should be conducted with every appearance of stealth. FECTOR, as the most agile, runs suddenly up without noise, gets on deck, passes on in wing. Next NAKHODA crawls up by starts. As to BAMTZ, he hangs back and even resists a push from M. W. H. at first.)

BAMTZ (whispers). No murder.

M. W. H. You damned coward. I will do the murdering, if necessary. Get up. Don't drop the crowbar. (BAMTZ proceeds up the gangway on all fours, and sliding past the hammock follows the others into the wing out of sight. Then M. W. H. follows with deliberate noiseless pace, step by step, and once on deck stands by the hammock, on watch. A light appears very dimly in the bit of skylight that is visible on the stage and a cracking sound is heard as if some one has been prising open a door. M. W. H. makes one step forward towards hammock. Another crack. Takes another step, mutters wildly). Why not make sure? (By-play representing ferocious irresistible impulse. Swings stump up with weight and brings it down on the hammock where the head should be, also throwing himself with a savage grunt upon it, so that hammock collapses under him and is seen to be empty. M. W. H. getting a bad fall, jumps up in dismay, yells) Treason, treason! (Dashes over the gangway on to the bank yelling) We have been sold. Look out for yourselves. (Shots are heard in the wing.) Kill him, kill him! (The three others follow in a panic, falling over each other, while DAVIDSON fires repeatedly, and in a confusion and flashes of shots and screams of pain they leap on shore and vanish completely from sight, while DAVIDSON stands aft, the only person visible to the audience now. DAVIDSON has a revolver in each hand, he throws down the empty one, peers into the darkness, from which there are sounds of moans and a shout from M. W. H.) It's that damned woman that has given us away. Where are you, you damned cowards! Ha! (M. W. H., dimly seen for a moment, disappears in direction of hut.)

DAVIDSON (slapping his forehead). My God, poor Anne. (He goes ashore, and stands irresolute in the darkness. Starts at a shriek to the L. and the faintest appearance of the running figure of ANNE. Makes irresolute step to R. Shriek behind him. Spins round on his heel. Then at the back of stage there must be just enough light to show M. W. H. cutting off ANNE, who is trying to run into the house. They vanish again. A long shriek, cut dead short.) Run on board, Anne. (Silence. DAVIDSON makes a step or two when the shadow of M. W. H. jumps up from the ground and vanishes and DAVIDSON stumbles over the body of ANNE lying on her face. All the time he must convey by his action that he is in mortal terror of something jumping on him in the dark. Kneels.) Anne, Anne. (Tries to lift her.)

ANNE (weak voice). He knocked me over. Never mind me. The kid. Get the kid out, Davy. (Moan. DAVIDSON makes a step forward towards the house, spins round at an imaginary sound behind him. For a moment his heart fails him and he makes a motion as if to get back on board, then suddenly pulls himself together and with one hand extended and his head over his shoulder all the time paces stiffly on towards the dim light at back of stage and goes within. Directly he vanishes out of the light the vague form of M. W. H. appears running, stops, muttering: I must finish that job. Stoops, feels over the ground for ANNE'S body, squats over it, lifting the stump with the weight. The dim square of light in hut vanishes and directly afterwards the faint voice of child is heard calling: Mama, Mama!)

DAVIDSON. Be quiet, Tony. (His form carrying the child on his left arm and whispering again: Be quiet, Tony, comes into view. As he approaches the hardly seen figure of M. W. H. squatting over ANNE. M. W. H. jumps up. DAVIDSON fires. The child whimpers.)

M. W. H. Damn his soul! He's got me. (Deep groan; falls.)

DAVIDSON (advances, feeling with his foot for ANNE, then, with his left hand pressing the child's head to his shoulder, he kneels down and in a low voice says) Anne. (He picks up her hand. The boy in a stifled voice whimpers: Mama. DAVIDSON drops ANNE'S hand, which falls lifeless, and moves on towards the ship, shouting): On deck there! On deck! Serang!


DAVIDSON. Bring a lantern. Here, take the child. (Hands child over rail.) You curs, where have you been hiding? All of you cleared out, eh?

SERANG. They frightened. All back on board now, Tuan.

DAVIDSON (to SERANG on board). Send four men ashore. There is a dead body there which we are going to take out to sea. (He moves, carrying the lantern low, followed by four Malays in blue dungaree suits, dark faces. Stands the lantern on the ground by the body and looking down at it apostrophizes the corpse.) Poor Anne! You are on my conscience, but your boy shall have his chance.

(As the kalashes stoop to lift up the body CURTAIN falls.)




One Day More was first produced at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre on September 12th 1918.

First published in two limited editions, one of 274 copies, the other of 24 copies on Japanese vellum, signed by the author, in 1919.



CAPTAIN HAGBERD, a retired coasting skipper.

JOSIAH CARVIL, formerly a shipbuilder—a widower—blind.

HARRY HAGBERD, son of CAPTAIN HAGBERD, who, as a boy, ran away from home.




PLACE, a small seaport.

TIME, the present—early autumn, towards dusk.

STAGE REPRESENTS, to R.—two yellow brick cottages belonging to CAPTAIN HAGBERD; one is inhabited by himself, the other by the CARVILS. A lamp-post in front. The red roofs of the town in the background. A sea-wall to L.

Note.—The division into scenes is made in a purely dramatic sense. It has nothing to do with the scenery. It relates only to the varied grouping of the characters with the consequent changes into the mental and emotional atmosphere of the situation.




Curtain rises disclosing CARVIL and BESSIE moving away from sea-wall. BESSIE about twenty-five. Black dress, black straw hat. A lot of mahogany-coloured hair loosely done up. Pale face. Full figure. Very quiet. CARVIL, blind, unwieldy. Reddish whiskers. Slow, deep voice produced without effort. Immovable, big face.

CARVIL (hanging heavily on BESSIE'S arm). Careful! Go slow! (Stops; BESSIE waits patiently.) Want your poor blind father to break his neck? (Shuffles on.) In a hurry to get home and start that everlasting yarn with your chum the lunatic?

BESSIE. I am not in a hurry to get home, father.

CARVIL. Well, then, go steady with a poor blind man. Blind! Helpless! (Strikes the ground with his stick.) Never mind! I've had time to make enough money to have ham and eggs for breakfast every morning—thank God! And thank God, too, for it, girl. You haven't known a single hardship in all the days of your idle life. Unless you think that a blind, helpless father——

BESSIE. What is there for me to be in a hurry for?

CARVIL. What did you say?

BESSIE. I said there was nothing for me to hurry home for.

CARVIL. There is, though. To yarn with a lunatic. Anything to get away from your duty.

BESSIE. Captain Hagberd's talk never hurt you or anybody else.

CARVIL. Go on. Stick up for your only friend.

BESSIE. Is it my fault that I haven't another soul to speak to?

CARVIL (snarls). It's mine, perhaps. Can I help being blind? You fret because you want to be gadding about—with a helpless man left all alone at home. Your own father, too.

BESSIE. I haven't been away from you half a day since Mother died.

CARVIL (viciously). He's a lunatic, our landlord is. That's what he is. Has been for years—long before those damned doctors destroyed my sight for me. (Growls angrily, then sighs.)

BESSIE. Perhaps Captain Hagberd is not so mad as the town takes him for.

CARVIL (grimly). Don't everybody know how he came here from the North to wait till his missing son turns up—here—of all places in the world. His boy that ran away to sea sixteen years ago and never did give a sign of life since! Don't I remember seeing people dodge round corners out of his way when he came along High Street. Seeing him, I tell you. (Groan.) He bothered everybody so with his silly talk of his son being sure to come back home—next year—next spring—next month…. What is it by this time, hey?

BESSIE. Why talk about it? He bothers no one now.

CARVIL. No. They've grown too fly. You've got only to pass a remark on his sail-cloth coat to make him shut up. All the town knows it. But he's got you to listen to his crazy talk whenever he chooses. Don't I hear you two at it, jabber, jabber—mumble, mumble …

BESSIE. What is there so mad in keeping up hope?

CARVIL (scathing scorn). Not mad! Starving himself to lay money by—for that son. Filling his house with furniture he won't let any one see—for that son. Advertising in the papers every week, these sixteen years—for that son. Not mad! 'Boy', he calls him. 'Boy Harry'. His boy Harry. His lost boy Harry. Yah! Let him lose his sight to know what real trouble means. And the boy—the man, I should say—must've been put away safe in Davy Jones's locker for many a year—drowned—food for fishes—dead…. Stands to reason, or he would have been here before, smelling around the old fool's money. (Shakes BESSIE'S arm slightly.) Hey?

BESSIE. I don't know. Maybe.

CARVIL (bursting out). Damme if I don't think he ever had a son.

BESSIE. Poor man. Perhaps he never had.

CARVIL. Ain't that mad enough for you? But I suppose you think it sensible.

BESSIE. What does it matter? His talk keeps him up.

CARVIL. Aye! And it pleases you. Anything to get away from your poor blind father…. Jabber, jabber—mumble, mumble—till I begin to think you must be as crazy as he is. What do you find to talk about, you two? What's your game?

(During the scene CARVIL and BESSIE have crossed stage from L. to R. slowly with stoppages.)

BESSIE. It's warm. Will you sit out for a while?

CARVIL (viciously). Yes, I will sit out. (Insistent.) But what can be your game? What are you up to? (They pass through garden gate.) Because if it's his money you are after——

BESSIE. Father! How can you!

CARVIL (disregarding her). To make you independent of your poor blind father, then you are a fool. (Drops heavily on seat.) He's too much of a miser to ever make a will—even if he weren't mad.

BESSIE. Oh! It never entered my head. I swear it never did.

CARVIL. Never did? Hey! Then you are a still bigger fool…. I want to go to sleep! (Takes off his hat, drops it on the ground, and leans his head back against the wall.)

BESSIE. And I have been a good daughter to you. Won't you say that for me?

CARVIL (very distinctly). I want—to—go—to—sleep. I'm tired. (Closes his eyes.)

(During the scene CAPTAIN HAGBERD has been seen hesitating at the back of stage, then running quickly to the door of his cottage. He puts inside a tin kettle—from under his coat—and comes down to the railing between the two gardens, stealthily.)




CARVIL seated. BESSIE. CAPTAIN HAGBERD white beard, sail-cloth jacket.

BESSIE (knitting). You've been out this afternoon for quite a long time, haven't you?

CAPT. HAGBERD (eager). Yes, my dear. (Slyly.) Of course you saw me come back.

BESSIE. Oh, yes. I did see you. You had something under your coat.

CAPT. H. (anxiously). It was only a kettle, my dear. A tin water-kettle. I am glad I thought of it just in time. (Winks, nods.) When a husband gets back from his work he needs a lot of water for a wash. See? (Dignified.) Not that Harry'll ever need to do a hand's turn after he comes home … (Falters—casts stealthy glances on all sides) … to-morrow.

BESSIE (looks up, grave). Captain Hagberd, have you ever thought that perhaps your son will not …

CAPT. H. (paternally). I've thought of everything, my dear—of everything a reasonable young couple may need for housekeeping. Why, I can hardly turn about in my room up there, the house is that full. (Rubs his hands with satisfaction.) For my son Harry—when he comes home. One day more.

BESSIE (flattering). Oh, you are a great one for bargains. (CAPT. H. delighted.) But, Captain Hagberd—if—if—you don't know what may happen—if all that home you've got together were to be wasted—for nothing—after all. (Aside) Oh, I can't bring it out.

CAPT. H. (agitated; flings arms up, stamps feet; stuttering). What? What d'ye mean? What's going to happen to the things?

BESSIE (soothing). Nothing! Nothing! Dust—or moth—you know. Damp, perhaps. You never let any one into the house….

CAPT. H. Dust! Damp! (Has a throaty, gurgling laugh.) I light the fires and dust the things myself. (Indignant.) Let any one into the house, indeed! What would Harry say! (Walks up and down his garden hastily with tosses, flings and jerks of his whole body.)

BESSIE (with authority). Now, then, Captain Hagberd! You know I won't put up with your tantrums. (Shakes finger at him.)

CAPT. H. (subdued, but still sulky, with his back to her). You want to see the things. That's what you're after. Well, no, not even you. Not till Harry has had his first look.

BESSIE. Oh, no! I don't. (Relenting.) Not till you're willing. (Smiles at CAPT. H., who has turned half round already.) You mustn't excite yourself. (Knits.)

CAPT. H. (condescending.) And you the only sensible girl for miles and miles around. Can't you trust me? I am a domestic man. Always was, my dear. I hated the sea. People don't know what they let their boys into when they send them to sea. As soon make convicts of them at once. What sort of life is it? Most of your time you don't know what's going on at home. (Insinuating.) There's nothing anywhere on earth as good as a home, my dear. (Pause.) With a good husband …

CARVIL (heard from his seat, fragmentarily). There they go … jabber, jabber … mumble, mumble. (With a groaning effort.) Helpless! (BESSIE has glanced round at him.)

CAPT. H. (mutters). Extravagant ham-and-eggs fellow. (Louder.) Of course it isn't as if he had a son to make a home ready for. Girls are different, my dear. They don't run away, my dear, my dear. (Agitated.)

BESSIE (drops her arms, wearily). No, Captain Hagberd—they don't.

CAPT. H. (slowly). I wouldn't let my own flesh and blood go to sea. Not I.

BESSIE. And the boy ran away.

CAPT. H. (a little vacantly). Yes, my only son Harry. (Rouses himself.) Coming home to-morrow.

BESSIE (looks at him pityingly; speaks softly). Sometimes, Captain Hagberd, a hope turns out false.

CAPT. H. (uneasy). What's that got to do with Harry's coming back?

BESSIE. It's good to hope for something. But suppose now … (Feeling her way.) Yours is not the only lost son that's never …

CAPT. H. Never what? You don't believe he's drowned? (Crouches, glaring and grasping the rails.)

BESSIE (frightened, drops knitting). Captain Hagberd—don't. (Catches hold of his shoulders over the railings.) Don't—my God! he's going out of his mind! (Cries.) I didn't mean it! I don't know.

CAPT. H. (has backed away. An affected burst of laughter). What nonsense! None of us Hagberds belonged to the sea. All farmers for hundreds of years. (Paternal and cunning.) Don't alarm yourself, my dear. The sea can't get us. Look at me! I didn't get drowned. Moreover, Harry ain't a sailor at all. And if he isn't a sailor, he's bound to come back—to-morrow.

BESSIE (has been facing him; murmurs). No. I give it up. He scares me. (Aloud, sharply.) Then I would give up that advertising in the papers.

CAPT. H. (surprised and puzzled). Why, my dear? Everybody does it. His poor mother and I have been advertising for years and years. But she was an impatient woman. She died.

BESSIE. If your son's coming, as—as you say—what's the good of that expense? You had better spend that half-crown on yourself. I believe you don't eat enough.

CAPT. H. (confused). But it's the right thing to do. Look at the Sunday papers. Missing relatives on top page—all proper. (Looks unhappy.)

BESSIE (tartly). Ah, well! I declare I don't know what you live on.

CAPT. H. Are you getting impatient, my dear? Don't get impatient—like my poor wife. If she'd only been patient she'd be here. Waiting—only one day more. (Pleadingly.) Don't be impatient, my dear.

BESSIE. I've no patience with you sometimes.

CAPT. H. (flash of lucidity). Why? What's the matter? (Sympathetic.) You're tired out, my dear, that's what it is.

BESSIE. Yes, I am. Day after day. (Stands listless, arms hanging down.)

CAPT. H. (timidly). House dull?

BESSIE (apathetic). Yes.

CAPT. H. (as before). H'm. Wash, cook, scrub. Hey?

BESSIE (as before). Yes.

CAPT. H. (pointing stealthily at the sleeping CARVIL). Heavy?

BESSIE (in a dead voice). Like a millstone.

(A silence.)

CAPT. H. (burst of indignation). Why don't that extravagant fellow get you a servant?

BESSIE. I don't know.

CAPT. H. (cheerily). Wait till Harry comes home. He'll get you one.

BESSIE (almost hysterical; laughs). Why, Captain Hagberd, perhaps your son won't even want to look at me—when he comes home.

CAPT. H. (in a great voice). What! (Quite low.) The boy wouldn't dare. (Rising choler.) Wouldn't dare to refuse the only sensible girl for miles around. That stubborn jackanapes refuse to marry a girl like you! (Walks about in a fury.) You trust me, my dear, my dear, my dear. I'll make him. I'll—I'll … (splutters) cut him off with a shilling.

BESSIE. Hush! (Severe.) You mustn't talk like that. What's this? More of your tantrums?

CAPT. H. (quite humble). No, no—this isn't my tantrums—when I don't feel quite well in my head. Only I can't stand this…. I've grown as fond of you as if you'd been the wife of my Harry already. And to be told … (Can't restrain himself, shouts.) Jackanapes!

BESSIE. Sh…! Don't you worry! (Wearily.) I must give that up, too, I suppose. (Aloud.) I didn't mean it, Captain Hagberd.

CAPT. H. It's as if I were to have two children to-morrow. My son Harry—and the only sensible girl … Why, my dear, I couldn't get on without you. We two are reasonable together. The rest of the people in the town are crazy. The way they stare at you. And the grins—they're all on the grin. It makes me dislike to go out. (Bewildered.) It seems as if there was something wrong about—somewhere. My dear, is there anything wrong?—you who are sensible …

BESSIE (soothingly tender). No, no, Captain Hagberd. There is nothing wrong about you anywhere.

CARVIL (lying back). Bessie! (Sits up.) Get my hat, Bessie…. Bessie, my hat…. Bessie … Bessie … (At the first sound BESSIE picks up and puts away her knitting. She walks towards him, picks up his hat, puts it on his head.) Bessie my … (Hat on head; shouting stops.)

BESSIE (quietly). Will you go in now?

CARVIL. Help me up. Steady. I'm dizzy. It's the thundery weather. An autumn thunderstorm means a bad gale. Very fierce—and sudden. There will be shipwrecks to-night on our coast.

(Exit BESSIE and CARVIL through door of their cottage. It has fallen dusk.)

CAPT. H. (picks up spade). Extravagant fellow! And all this town is mad—perfectly mad. I found them out years ago. Thank God they don't come this way staring and grinning. I can't bear them. I'll never go again into that High Street. (Agitated.) Never, never, never. Won't need to, after to-morrow. Never! (Flings down spade in a passion.)

(While HAGBERD speaks, the bow window of the CARVILS is lit up, and BESSIE is seen settling her father in a big arm-chair. Pulls down blind. Enter LAMPLIGHTER. CAPT. H. picks up the spade and leans forward on it with both hands; very still, watching him light the lamp.)

LAMPLIGHTER (jocular). There! You will be able to dig by lamplight if the fancy takes you.

(Exit LAMPLIGHTER to back.)

CAPT. H. (disgusted). Ough! The people here … (Shudders.)

LAMPLIGHTER'S VOICE (heard loudly beyond the cottages). Yes, that's the way.

(Enter HARRY from back.)





HARRY HAGBERD (thirty-one, tall, broad shoulders, shaven face, small moustache. Blue serge suit. Coat open. Grey flannel shirt without collar and tie. No waistcoat. Belt with buckle. Black, soft felt hat, wide-brimmed, worn crushed in the crown and a little on one side. Good nature, recklessness, some swagger in the bearing. Assured, deliberate walk with a heavy tread. Slight roll in the gait. Walks down. Stops, hands in pockets. Looks about. Speaks). This must be it. Can't see anything beyond. There's somebody. (Walks up to CAPT. H.'s gate.) Can you tell me … (Manner changes. Leans elbow on gate.) Why, you must be Captain Hagberd himself.

CAPT. H. (in garden, both hands on spade, peering, startled). Yes, I am.

HARRY (slowly). You've been advertising in the papers for your son, I believe.

CAPT. H. (off his guard, nervous). Yes. My only boy Harry. He's coming home to-morrow. (Mumbles.) For a permanent stay.

HARRY (surprised). The devil he is! (Change of tone.) My word! You've grown a beard like Father Christmas himself.

CAPT. H. (impressively). Go your way. (Waves one hand loftily.) What's that to you? Go your way. (Agitated.) Go your way.

HARRY. There, there. I am not trespassing in the street—where I stand—am I? Tell you what, I fancy there's something wrong with your nerves. Suppose you let me come in—for a quiet chat, you know.

CAPT. H. (horrified). Let you—you come in!

HARRY (persuasive). Because I could give you some real information about your son. The—very—latest—tip. If you care to hear.

CAPT. H. (explodes). No! I don't care to hear. (Begins to pace to and fro, spade on shoulder. Gesticulating with his other arm.) Here's a fellow—a grinning town fellow, who says there's something wrong. (Fiercely.) I have got more information than you're aware of. I have all the information I want. I have had it for years—for years—for years—enough to last me till to-morrow! Let you come in, indeed! What would Harry say?

(BESSIE CARVIL enters at cottage door with a white wrap on her head and stands in her garden trying to see.)

BESSIE. What's the matter?

CAPT. H. (beside himself). An information fellow. (Stumbles.)

HARRY (putting out arm to steady him, gravely). Here! Steady a bit! Seems to me somebody's been trying to get at you. (Change of tone.) Hullo! What's this rig you've got on?… Storm canvas coat, by George! (He gives a big, throaty laugh.) Well, you are a character!

CAPT. H. (daunted by the allusion, looks at coat). I—I wear it for—for the time being. Till—till—to-morrow. (Shrinks away, spade in hand, to door of his cottage.)

BESSIE (advancing). And what may you want, sir?

HARRY (turns to BESSIE at once; easy manner). I'd like to know about this swindle that's going to be sprung on him. I didn't mean to startle the old man. You see, on my way here I dropped into a barber's to get a twopenny shave, and they told me there that he was something of a character. He has been a character all his life.

BESSIE (very low, wondering). What swindle?

CAPT. H. A grinning fellow! (Makes sudden dash indoors with the spade. Door slams. Lock clicks. Affected gurgling laugh within.)




BESSIE and HARRY. Later, CAPTAIN HAGBERD from window.

HARRY (after a short silence). What on earth's upset him so? What's the meaning of all this fuss? He isn't always like that, is he?

BESSIE. I don't know who you are; but I may tell you that his mind has been troubled for years about an only son who ran away from home—a long time ago. Everybody knows that here.

HARRY (thoughtfully). Troubled—for years! (Suddenly.) Well, I am the son.

BESSIE (steps back). You!… Harry!

HARRY (amused, dry tone). Got hold of my name, eh? Been making friends with the old man?

BESSIE (distressed). Yes … I … sometimes … (Rapidly.) He's our landlord.

HARRY (scornfully). Owns both them rabbit hutches, does he? Just a thing he'd be proud of…. (Earnest.) And now you had better tell me all about that chap who's coming to-morrow. Know anything of him? I reckon there's more than one in that little game. Come! Out with it! (Chaffing.) I don't take no … from women.

BESSIE (bewildered). Oh! It's so difficult…. What had I better do?

HARRY (good-humoured). Make a clean breast of it.

BESSIE (wildly, to herself). Impossible! (Starts.) You don't understand. I must think—see—try to—I—I must have time. Plenty of time.

HARRY. What for? Come. Two words. And don't be afraid for yourself. I ain't going to make it a police job. But it's the other fellow that'll get upset when he least expects it. There'll be some fun when he shows his mug here to-morrow. (Snaps fingers.) I don't care that for the old man's dollars, but right is right. You shall see me put a head on that coon, whoever he is.

BESSIE (wrings hands slightly). What had I better do? (Suddenly to HARRY.) It's you—you yourself that we—that he's waiting for. It's you who are to come to-morrow.

HARRY (slowly). Oh! it's me! (Perplexed.) There's something there I can't understand. I haven't written ahead or anything. It was my chum who showed me the advertisement with the old boy's address, this very morning—in London.

BESSIE (anxiously). How can I make it plain to you without … (Bites her lip, embarrassed.) Sometimes he talks so strangely.

HARRY (expectant). Does he? What about?

BESSIE. Only you. And he will stand no contradicting.

HARRY (stubborn). Eh? The old man hasn't changed much from what I can remember. (They stand looking at each other helplessly.)

BESSIE. He's made up his mind you would come back … to-morrow.

HARRY. I can't hang about here till morning. Got no money to get a bed. Not a cent. But why won't to-day do?

BESSIE. Because you've been too long away.

HARRY (with force). Look here, they fairly drove me out. Poor Mother nagged at me for being idle, and the old man said he would cut my soul out of my body rather than let me go to sea.

BESSIE (murmurs). He can bear no contradicting.

HARRY (continuing). Well, it looked as though he would do it, too. So I went. (Moody.) It seems to me sometimes I was born to them by a mistake … in that other rabbit hutch of a house.

BESSIE (a little mocking). And where do you think you ought to have been born by rights?

HARRY. In the open—upon a beach—upon a windy night.

BESSIE (faintly). Ah!

HARRY. They were characters, both of them, by George! Shall I try the door?

BESSIE. Wait. I must explain to you why it is to-morrow.

HARRY. Aye. That you must, or …

(Window in CAPT. H.'s cottage runs up.)

CAPT. H.'s VOICE (above). A—grinning—information—fellow coming to worry me in my own garden! What next?

(Window rumbles down.)

BESSIE. Yes. I must. (Lays hand on HARRY'S sleeve.) Let's get farther off. Nobody ever comes this way after dark.

HARRY (careless laugh). Aye. A good road for a walk with a girl.

(They turn their backs on audience and move up the stage, slowly. Close together. HARRY bends his head over BESSIE.)

BESSIE'S VOICE (beginning eagerly). People here somehow did not take kindly to him.

HARRY'S VOICE. Aye. Aye. I understand that.

(They walk slowly back towards the front.)

BESSIE. He was almost ready to starve himself for your sake.

HARRY. And I had to starve more than once for his whim.

BESSIE. I'm afraid you've a hard heart. (Remains thoughtful.)

HARRY. What for? For running away? (Indignant.) Why, he wanted to make a blamed lawyer's clerk of me.

(From here this scene goes on mainly near and about the street lamp.)

BESSIE (rousing herself). What are you? A sailor?

HARRY. Anything you like. (Proudly.) Sailor enough to be worth my salt on board any craft that swims the seas.

BESSIE. He will never, never believe it. He mustn't be contradicted.

HARRY. Always liked to have his own way. And you've been encouraging him.

BESSIE (earnestly). No!—not in everything—not really!

HARRY (vexed laugh). What about that pretty to-morrow notion? I've a hungry chum in London—waiting for me.

BESSIE (defending herself). Why should I make the poor old friendless man miserable? I thought you were far away. I thought you were dead. I didn't know but you had never been born. I … I … (HARRY turns to her. She, desperately.) It was easier to believe it myself. (Carried away.) And, after all, it's true. It's come to pass. This is the to-morrow we've been waiting for.

HARRY (half perfunctorily). Aye. Anybody can see that your heart is as soft as your voice.

BESSIE (as if unable to keep back the words). I didn't think you would have noticed my voice.

HARRY (already inattentive). H'm. Dashed scrape. This is a queer to-morrow, without any sort of to-day, as far as I can see. (Resolutely.) I must try the door.

BESSIE. Well—try, then.

HARRY (from gate, looking over shoulder at BESSIE). He ain't likely to fly out at me, is he? I would be afraid of laying my hands on him. The chaps are always telling me I don't know my own strength.

BESSIE (in front). He's the most harmless creature that ever …

HARRY. You wouldn't say so if you had seen him walloping me with a hard leather strap. (Walking up garden.) I haven't forgotten it in sixteen long years. (Rat-tat-tat, twice.) Hullo, Dad. (BESSIE intensely expectant. Rat-tat-tat.) Hullo, Dad, let me in. I am your own Harry. Straight. Your son Harry come back home—a day too soon.

(Window above rumbles up.)

CAPT. H. (seen leaning out, aiming with spade). Aha.

BESSIE (warningly). Look out, Harry! (Spade falls.) Are you hurt?

(Window rumbles down.)

HARRY (in the distance). Only grazed my hat.

BESSIE. Thank God! (Intensely.) What'll he do now?

HARRY (comes forward, slamming gate behind him). Just like old times. Nearly licked the life out of me for wanting to go away, and now I come back he shies a confounded old shovel at my head. (Fumes. Laughs a little.) I wouldn't care, only poor little Ginger—Ginger's my chum up in London—he will starve while I walk back all the way from here. (Faces BESSIE blankly.) I spent my last twopence on a shave…. Out of respect for the old man.

BESSIE. I think, if you let me, I could manage to talk him round in a week, maybe.

(A muffled periodical bellowing has been heard faintly for some time.)

HARRY (on the alert). What's this? Who's making this row? Hark! Bessie, Bessie. It's in your house, I believe.

BESSIE (without stirring, drearily). It's for me.

HARRY (discreetly, whispering). Good voice for a ship's deck in a squall. Your husband? (Steps out of lamplight.)

BESSIE. No. My father. He's blind. (Pause.) I'm not married.

(Bellowings grow louder.)

HARRY. Oh, I say. What's up? Who's murdering him?

BESSIE (calmly). I expect he's finished his tea.

(Bellowing continues regularly.)

HARRY. Hadn't you better see to it? You'll have the whole town coming out here presently. (BESSIE moves off.) I say! (BESSIE stops.) Couldn't you scare up some bread and butter for me from that tea? I'm hungry. Had no breakfast.

BESSIE (starts off at the word 'hungry', dropping to the ground the white woollen shawl). I won't be a minute. Don't go away.

HARRY (alone; picks up shawl absently, and, looking at it spread out in his hands, pronounces slowly). A—damn—silly—scrape. (Pause. Throws shawl on arm. Strolls up and down. Mutters.) No money to get back. (Louder.) Silly little Ginger'll think I've got hold of the pieces and given an old shipmate the go-by. One good shove—(makes motion of bursting in door with his shoulders)—would burst that door in—I bet. (Looks about.) I wonder where the nearest bobby is? No. They would want to bundle me neck and crop into choky. (Shudders.) Perhaps. It makes me dog sick to think of being locked up. Haven't got the nerve. Not for prison. (Leans against lamp-post.) And not a cent for my fare. I wonder if that girl now …

BESSIE (coming hastily forward, plate with bread and meat in hand). I didn't take time to get anything else.

HARRY (begins to eat). You're not standing treat to a beggar. My Dad is a rich man—you know.

BESSIE (plate in hand). You resemble your father.

HARRY. I was the very image of him in face from a boy—(eats)—and that's about as far as it goes. He was always one of your domestic characters. He looked sick when he had to go to sea for a fortnight's trip. (Laughs.) He was all for house and home.

BESSIE. And you? Have you never wished for a home? (Goes off with empty plate and puts it down hastily on CARVIL'S bench—out of sight.)

HARRY (left in front). Home! If I found myself shut up in what the old man calls a home, I would kick it down about my ears on the third day—or else go to bed and die before the week was out. Die in a house—ough!

BESSIE (returning; stops and speaks from garden railing). And where is it that you would wish to die?

HARRY. In the bush, in the sea, on some blamed mountain-top for choice. No such luck, though, I suppose.

BESSIE (from distance). Would that be luck?

HARRY. Yes! For them that make the whole world their home.

BESSIE (comes forward shyly). The world's a cold home—they say.

HARRY (a little gloomy). So it is—when a man's done for.

BESSIE. You see! (Taunting.) And a ship's not so very big after all.

HARRY. No. But the sea is great. And then what of the ship! You love her and leave her, Miss—Bessie's your name—isn't it?… I like that name.

BESSIE. You like my name! I wonder you remembered it…. That's why, I suppose.

HARRY (slight swagger in voice). What's the odds! As long as a fellow has lived. And a voyage isn't a marriage—as we sailors say.

BESSIE. So you're not married—(movement of HARRY)—to any ship.

HARRY (soft laugh). Ship! I've loved and left more of them than I can remember. I've been nearly everything you can think of but a tinker or a soldier; I've been a boundary rider; I've sheared sheep and humped my swag and harpooned a whale; I've rigged ships and skinned dead bullocks and prospected for gold—and turned my back on more money than the old man would have scraped together in his whole life.

BESSIE (thoughtfully). I could talk him over in a week …

HARRY (negligently). I dare say you could. (Joking.) I don't know but what I could make shift to wait if you only promise to talk to me now and then. I've grown quite fond of your voice. I like a right woman's voice.

BESSIE (averted head). Quite fond! (Sharply.) Talk! Nonsense! Much you'd care. (Business-like.) Of course I would have to, sometimes…. (Thoughtful again.) Yes. In a week—if—if only I knew you would try to get on with him afterwards.

HARRY (leaning against lamp-post; growls through his teeth). More humouring. Ah! well, no! (Hums significantly.)

Oh, oh, oh, Rio …
And fare thee well
My bonnie young girl,
We're bound for Rio Grande.

BESSIE (shivering). What's this?

HARRY. Why! The chorus of an up-anchor tune. Kiss and go. A deep-water ship's good-bye…. You are cold. Here's that thing of yours I've picked up and forgot here on my arm. Turn round a bit. So. (Wraps her up—commanding.) Hold the ends together in front.

BESSIE (softly). A week is not so very long.

HARRY (begins violently). You think that I … (Stops, with sidelong look at her.) I can't dodge about in ditches and live on air and water. Can I? I haven't any money—you know.

BESSIE. He's been scraping and saving up for years. All he has is for you, and perhaps …

HARRY (interrupts). Yes. If I come to sit on it like a blamed toad in a hole. Thank you.

BESSIE (angrily). What did you come for, then?

HARRY (promptly). For five quid—(pause)—after a jolly good spree.

BESSIE (scathingly). You and that—that chum of yours have been drinking.

HARRY (laughs). Don't fly out, Miss Bessie—dear. Ginger's not a bad little chap. Can't take care of himself, though. Blind three days. (Serious.) Don't think I am given that way. Nothing and nobody can get over me unless I like. I can be as steady as a rock.

BESSIE (murmurs). Oh! I don't think you are bad.

HARRY (approvingly). You're right there. (Impulsive.) Ask the girls all over … (Checks himself.) Ginger, he's long-headed too, in his way—mind you. He sees the paper this morning, and says he to me, 'Hallo! Look at that, Harry—loving parent—that's five quid sure.' So we scraped all our pockets for the fare….

BESSIE (unbelieving). You came here for that?

HARRY (surprised). What else would I want here? Five quid isn't much to ask for—once in sixteen years. (Through his teeth with a sidelong look at BESSIE) And now I am ready to go—for my fare.

BESSIE (clasping her hands). Whoever heard a man talk like this before? I can't believe you mean it.

HARRY. What? That I would go? You just try and see.

BESSIE (disregarding him). Don't you care for any one? Didn't you ever want any one in the world to care for you?

HARRY. In the world! (Boastful.) There's hardly a place you can go in the world where you wouldn't find somebody that did care for Harry Hagberd. (Pause.) I'm not of the sort that go about skulking under false names.

BESSIE. Somebody—that means a woman.

HARRY. Well! And if it did?

BESSIE (unsteadily). Oh, I see how it is. You get round them with your soft speeches, your promises, and then …

HARRY (violently). Never!

BESSIE (startled, steps back). Ah—you never …

HARRY (calm). Never yet told a lie to a woman.

BESSIE. What lie?

HARRY. Why, the lie that comes glib to a man's tongue. None of that for me. I leave the sneaking off to them soft-spoken chaps you're thinking of. No! If you love me you take me. And if you take me—why, then, the capstan-song of deep-water ships is sure to settle it all some fine day.

BESSIE (after a short pause, with effort). It's like your ships, then.

HARRY (amused). Exactly, up to now. Or else I wouldn't be here in a silly fix.

BESSIE (assumed indifference). Perhaps it's because you've never yet met … (Voice fails.)

HARRY (negligently). Maybe. And perhaps never shall…. What's the odds? It's the looking for a thing…. No matter. I love them all—ships and women. The scrapes they got me into, and the scrapes they got me out of—my word! I say, Miss Bessie, what are you thinking of?

BESSIE (lifts her head). That you are supposed never to tell a lie.

HARRY. Never, eh? You wouldn't be that hard on a chap.

BESSIE (recklessly). Never to a woman, I mean.

HARRY. Well, no. (Serious.) Never anything that matters. (Aside.) I don't seem to get any nearer to my railway fare. (Leans wearily against the lamp-post with a far-off look. BESSIE, to L., looks at him.)

BESSIE. Now what are you thinking of?

HARRY (turns his head; stares at BESSIE). Well, I was thinking what a fine figure of a girl you are.

BESSIE (looks away a moment). Is that true, or is it only one of them that don't matter?

HARRY (laughing a little). No! No! That's true. Haven't you ever been told that before? The men …

BESSIE. I hardly speak to a soul from year's end to year's end. Father's blind. He don't like strangers, and he can't bear to think of me out of his call. Nobody comes near us much.

HARRY (absent-minded). Blind—ah! of course.

BESSIE. For years and years….

HARRY (commiserating). For years and years. In one of them hutches. You are a good daughter. (Brightening up.) A fine girl altogether. You seem the sort that makes a good chum to a man in a fix. And there's not a man in this whole town who found you out? I can hardly credit it, Miss Bessie. (BESSIE shakes her head.) Man, I said! (Contemptuous.) A lot of tame rabbits in hutches I call them … (Breaks off.) I say, when's the last train up to London. Can you tell me?

BESSIE (gazes at him steadily). What for? You've no money.

HARRY. That's just it. (Leans back against post again.) Hard luck. (Insinuating.) But there was never a time in all my travels that a woman of the right sort did not turn up to help me out of a fix. I don't know why. It's perhaps because they know without telling that I love them all. (Playful.) I've almost fallen in love with you, Miss Bessie.

BESSIE (unsteady laugh). Why! How you talk! You haven't even seen my face properly. (One step towards HARRY, as if compelled.)

HARRY (bending forward, gallantly). A little pale. It suits some. (Puts out his hand, catches hold of BESSIE'S arm. Draws her to him.) Let's see…. Yes, it suits you. (It's a moment before BESSIE puts up her hands, palms out, and turns away her head.)

BESSIE (whispering). Don't. (Struggles a little. Released, stands averted.)

HARRY. No offence. (Stands, back to audience, looking at CAPT. H.'s cottage.)

BESSIE (alone in front; faces audience; whispers). My voice—my figure—my heart—my face….

(A silence. BESSIE'S face gradually lights up. Directly HARRY speaks, expression of hopeful attention.)

HARRY (from railings). The old man seems to have gone to sleep waiting for that to-morrow of his.

BESSIE. Come away. He sleeps very little.

HARRY (strolls down). He has taken an everlasting jamming hitch round the whole business. (Vexed.) Cast it loose who may. (Contemptuous exclamation.) To-morrow. Pooh! It'll be just another mad to-day.

BESSIE. It's the brooding over his hope that's done it. People teased him so. It's his fondness for you that's troubled his mind.

HARRY. Aye. A confounded shovel on the head. The old man had always a queer way of showing his fondness for me.

BESSIE. A hopeful, troubled, expecting old man—left alone—all alone.

HARRY (lower tone). Did he ever tell you what mother died of?

BESSIE. Yes. (A little bitter.) From impatience.

HARRY (makes a gesture with his arm; speaks vaguely but with feeling). I believe you have been very good to my old man….

BESSIE (tentatively). Wouldn't you try to be a son to him?

HARRY (angrily). No contradicting; is that it? You seem to know my Dad pretty well. And so do I. He's dead nuts on having his own way—and I've been used to have my own too long. It's the deuce of a fix.

BESSIE. How could it hurt you not to contradict him for a while—and perhaps in time you would get used …

HARRY (interrupts sulkily). I ain't accustomed to knuckle under. There's a pair of us. Hagberds both. I ought to be thinking of my train.

BESSIE (earnestly). Why? There's no need. Let us get away up the road a little.

HARRY (through his teeth). And no money for the fare. (Looks up.) Sky's come overcast. Black, too. It'll be a wild, windy night … to walk the highroad on. But I and wild nights are old friends wherever the free wind blows.

BESSIE (entreating). No need. No need. (Looks apprehensively at HAGBERD'S cottage. Takes a couple of steps up as if to draw HARRY farther off. HARRY follows. Both stop.)

HARRY (after waiting). What about this to-morrow whim?

BESSIE. Leave that to me. Of course all his fancies are not mad. They aren't. (Pause.) Most people in this town would think what he had set his mind on quite sensible. If he ever talks to you of it, don't contradict him. It would—it would be dangerous.

HARRY (surprised). What would he do?

BESSIE. He would—I don't know—something rash.

HARRY (startled). To himself?

BESSIE. No. It'd be against you—I fear.

HARRY (sullen). Let him.

BESSIE. Never. Don't quarrel. But perhaps he won't even try to talk to you of it. (Thinking aloud.) Who knows what I can do with him in a week! I can, I can, I can—I must.

HARRY. Come—what's this sensible notion of his that I mustn't quarrel about?

BESSIE (turns to HARRY, calm, forcible). If I make him once see that you've come back, he will be as sane as you or I. All his mad notions will be gone. But that other is quite sensible. And you mustn't quarrel over it.

(Moves up to back of stage. HARRY follows a little behind, away from audience.)

HARRY'S VOICE (calm). Let's hear what it is.

(Voices cease. Action visible as before. HARRY steps back and walks hastily down. BESSIE, at his elbow, follows with her hands clasped.)

(Loud burst of voice.)

HARRY (raving to and fro). No! Expects me—a home. Who wants his home?… What I want is hard work, or an all-fired racket, or more room than there is in the whole of England. Expects me! A man like me—for his rotten money—there ain't enough money in the world to turn me into a blamed tame rabbit in a hutch. (He stops suddenly before BESSIE, arms crossed on breast. Violently.) Don't you see it?

BESSIE (terrified, stammering faintly). Yes. Yes. Don't look at me like this. (Sudden scream.) Don't quarrel with him. He's mad!

HARRY (headlong utterance). Mad! Not he. He likes his own way. Tie me up by the neck here. Here! Ha ha ha! (Louder.) And the whole world is not a bit too big for me to spread my elbows in, I can tell you—what's your name?—Bessie. (Rising scorn.) Marry! Wants me to marry and settle…. (Scathingly.) And as likely as not he has looked out the girl, too—dash my soul. Talked to you about it—did he? And do you happen to know the Judy—may I ask?

(Window in CAPT. H.'s cottage runs up. They start and stand still.)

CAPT. H. (above, begins slowly). A grinning information fellow from a crazy town. (Voice changes.) Bessie, I see you …

BESSIE (shrilly). Captain Hagberd! Say nothing. You don't understand. For heaven's sake don't.

CAPT. H. Send him away this minute, or I will tell Harry. They know nothing of Harry in this crazy town. Harry's coming home to-morrow. Do you hear? One day more!


HARRY (mutters). Well!—he is a character.

CAPT. H. (chuckles softly). Never you fear! The boy shall marry you. (Sudden anger.) He'll have to. I'll make him. Or, if not—(furious)—I'll cut him off with a shilling, and leave everything to you. Jackanapes! Let him starve!

(Window rumbles down.)

HARRY (slowly). So it's you—the girl. It's you! Now I begin to see…. By heavens, you have a heart as soft as your woman's voice.

BESSIE (half averted, face in hands). You see! Don't come near me.

HARRY (makes a step towards her.) I must have another look at your pale face.

BESSIE (turns unexpectedly and pushes him with both hands; HARRY staggers back and stands still; fiercely). Go away.

HARRY (watching her). Directly. But women always had to get me out of my scrapes. I am a beggar now, and you must help me out of my scrape.

BESSIE (who at the word 'beggar' had begun fumbling in the pocket of her dress, speaks wildly). Here it is. Take it. Don't look at me. Don't speak to me!

HARRY (swaggers up under the lamp; looks at coin in his palm). Half a quid…. My fare!

BESSIE (hands clenched). Why are you still here?

HARRY. Well, you are a fine figure of a girl. My word. I've a good mind to stop—for a week.

BESSIE (pain and shame). Oh!… What are you waiting for? If I had more money I would give it all, all. I would give everything I have to make you go—to make you forget you had ever heard my voice and seen my face. (Covers face with hands.)

HARRY (sombre, watches her). No fear! I haven't forgotten a single one of you in the world. Some've given me more than money. No matter. You can't buy me in—and you can't buy yourself out….

(Strides towards her. Seizes her arms. Short struggle. BESSIE gives way. Hair falls loose. HARRY kisses her forehead, cheeks, lips; then releases her. BESSIE staggers against railings.)

(Exit HARRY; measured walk without haste.)





BESSIE (staring eyes, hair loose, back against railings; calls out) HARRY! (Gathers up her skirts and runs a little way.) Come back, Harry. (Staggers forward against lamp-post.) Harry! (Much lower.) Harry! (In a whisper.) Take me with you. (Begins to laugh, at first faintly, then louder.)

(Window rumbles up, and CAPT. H.'s chuckle mingles with BESSIE'S laughter, which abruptly stops.)

CAPT. H. (goes on chuckling; speaks cautiously). Is he gone yet, that information fellow? Do you see him anywhere, my dear?

BESSIE (low and stammering). N-no, no! (Totters away from lamp-post.) I don't see him.

CAPT. H. (anxious). A grinning vagabond, my dear. Good girl. It's you who drove him away. Good girl.

(Stage gradually darkens.)

BESSIE. Go in; be quiet! You have done harm enough.

CAPT. H. (alarmed). Why? Do you hear him yet, my dear?

BESSIE (sobs, drooping against the railings). No! No! I don't. I don't hear him any more.

CAPT. H. (triumphant). Now we shall be all right, my dear, till our Harry comes home to-morrow. (Affected gurgling laugh.)

BESSIE (distracted). Be quiet. Shut yourself in. You will make me mad. (Losing control of herself, repeats with rising inflection.) You make me mad. (With despair.) There is no to-morrow! (Sinks to ground near middle railings. Low sobs.)

(Stage darkens perceptibly.)

CAPT. H. (above, in a voice suddenly dismayed and shrill). What! What do you say, my dear? No to-morrow? (Broken, very feebly.) No—to-morrow? (Window runs down.)

CARVIL (heard within, muffled bellowing). Bessie—Bessie—Bessie—Bessie … (At the first call BESSIE springs up and begins to stumble blindly towards the door. A faint flash of lightning, followed by a very low rumble of thunder.) You!—Bessie!





First printed privately in a limited edition of fifty copies to secure copyright in 1921; subsequently published in the U.S.A. in 1924.






ACT I: The Private Life
ACT II: The Under World
ACT III: The Upper World
ACT IV: The Issue

ACTION: In London

TIME: A not very distant past

One month elapses after Act I. The events of the other three acts take place on the same day.







THE SECRET AGENT was first produced at the Ambassadors' Theatre, on November 2nd 1922, with the following cast:

  Miriam Lewes

  Freddie Peisley

  Ellie Royter

  H. St. Barbe West

  Frank Vosper

  Russell Thorndike

  Malcolm Morley

  George Barran

  Clifton Boyne

  Eric Attwater

  Seton Blackden

  Jevan Brandon-Thomas

  Amy Brandon-Thomas

  Julie Kean

  Natalie Moya

  Minnie Blagden

  Theodora Morrison

  Hugh Williams

  J. Drew-Carran

  Edward Manning

  E. Adams

Play produced by Benrimo





Parlour behind Mr. Verloc's shop containing a high-backed sofa to L., a plain wooden table, oil-cloth cover, in Middle; a few wooden chairs, a fireplace to R. The bottom of stairs leading to rooms above should be seen at R. as near proscenium as possible. When the curtain rises MOTHER sits on the couch, bonnet on, outdoor things by her side. WINNIE about thirty, dark hair done up very neatly, quiet bearing, good figure, plain, close-fitting dark dress, stands on one side of central table nearest her mother and facing STEVIE, who stands on the other side in shirt sleeves, green baize apron.

WINNIE. What do you want with this apron on in the afternoon? There is no work for you to do at this time of the day.

STEVIE (about seventeen, slight, fair, pale, nervous, at times a little vacant). Always is. I like to work for you, Winnie. (Solemn.) And for Mr. Verloc.

MOTHER. You could never do enough for Mr. Verloc, Stevie.

STEVIE. Because he is good? Isn't Mr. Verloc good, Winnie?

WINNIE (slowly). Yes. He is good.

MOTHER. Don't forget, Stevie, that whatever Mr. Verloc says is right.

WINNIE (over her shoulder to her mother.) That boy would go through fire and water for Mr. Verloc. (To STEVIE) Here you are all untidy, and it is getting late. Run upstairs and wash your hands and face. You must make yourself smart to take care of me in the streets. We must see mother settled in her new home. Don't you know, Stevie, that mother is leaving us to-day?

MOTHER (stifled voice, verge of tears). I thought that a little place of my own …

STEVIE (alarmed). You aren't going away because Mr. Verloc isn't good?

MOTHER. Stevie! The idea! (Handkerchief to eyes.) He is only too good to us all. I have often felt that … (Sob.)

WINNIE (looks over her shoulder at her mother.) Felt what? (To STEVIE.) Run along, Stevie. (STEVIE moves off.) Brush your coat carefully now; I will call you down when the cab is at the door. (Exit STEVIE up the stairs.) I can hardly believe it's true. (While saying this WINNIE turns about and faces her mother.) You leaving us like this! Weren't you comfortable enough with us, mother?

MOTHER. My dear, you have been the best of daughters to me; and as to Mr. Verloc—there … (Clasps her hands emotionally.)

WINNIE. Well, then, what did you want to do that extraordinary thing for, mother?

MOTHER. My dear, the best of men may get tired.

WINNIE (continuing steadily). Throwing yourself like this on a charity! Whatever will people think of us? How on earth did you manage it, mother? These almshouses aren't so easy to get into unless you've got influence.

MOTHER (after wiping eyes). I went round to all poor dad's friends that are still living.

WINNIE (always steady). That was where all the change you've been asking me for went. Half-crowns and five shillings almost every day for a month. Cab fares, I suppose?

MOTHER. My legs are failing me altogether. I am an old woman. Did Mr. Verloc perhaps …

WINNIE. Mr. Verloc doesn't worry about a few shillings. We are never short, if we make no show.

MOTHER. Yes, you never made a show. I used to wonder how this small, dark place would suit your health.

WINNIE. I am always well. (Pause.) This place suits Mr. Verloc's business.

MOTHER. I never dared to ask what his business might be. Surely it isn't this shop? It's beyond my understanding.

WINNIE. Then don't try to understand, mother. I don't trouble my head about it. (Pause, then in the same level tone.) Things don't stand looking into much…. So you went pitching a little tale of distress to everyone you ever knew in your married life! They must have been wondering who you were.

MOTHER. They recognized me after a bit, most of them. But, oh, the changes, the changes in them, my dear girl! Mr. Geoffrey now! You can't have forgotten the jolly Mr. Geoffrey. He's all thin and grey now, like a walking shadow, my dear. Still keeps the same place in Kingsland Road. He and dad used to drive to races together. Two such fine men. Poor dad was a very fine man. (Tearful.)

WINNIE (steady voice). I remember a lot, but the less you talk to me about dad the better. (Pause, very calm.) He was no end of a brute … dad was.

MOTHER. Oh, Winnie! How can you? You shouldn't…. Not of the dead!

WINNIE. I used to tell him that to his face when he was alive and I was so high.

MOTHER. You were never frightened of poor dad.

WINNIE. And a good thing too that there was somebody in the house that wasn't frightened.

MOTHER (hangs head for a moment). Yes, you could stand up to him. You were always a plucky girl, Winnie.

WINNIE. Not much. No more plucky than other people. Somebody had to stand up for the child. Oh, yes, I know what you will say, dad wasn't a bad man. No. But the drink in him was bad. Bad enough for murder, I believe. Bad and cowardly too, thank goodness for that. It was as if dad had been afraid of me. Funny thing being afraid of a little girl. Perhaps he could see I didn't care what he did. I was ready to fly at his eyes like a little cat more than once.

MOTHER. Winnie! How can you talk of this so quietly?

WINNIE. Well, I never did. But I believe he was afraid of me.

MOTHER (slight shriek). Winnie! Don't you know that the man was fond of you. Real fond of you—in his heart.

WINNIE. Was that it? Well, as long as I could keep him from being cruel to Stevie, I didn't care if it was love or fear.

MOTHER. Poor dad was so disappointed in his boy. It made him feel so small to have a weak-minded son.

WINNIE. He had a down on him. I can't stand any cruelty. The world is bad enough without fathers hating their own children. I tell you straight I was glad when dad died. (MOTHER slight groan.) Why, yes, it was drink, I suppose, but that didn't make it any easier. If he had lived a few months longer you would have found yourself on the pavement with me and Stevie, without even a few sticks of furniture to begin life again.

MOTHER (earnest). I don't know what I would have done without you, Winnie.

WINNIE (reminiscent half-smile). Letting rooms is a funny business.

MOTHER. What else could we have done to make a home for that dear sweet boy—he being a little peculiar.

WINNIE (equable). Everybody is a little peculiar. What's the use worrying about it? I don't hardly notice anything in him.

MOTHER. But I had to. Suppose you had married some young struggling man and gone away with him? What could I have done with that big house and poor Stevie on my hands? Winnie, your marrying Mr. Verloc was providential. There was never such an open-handed man. You remember—from the first.

WINNIE (slightly explanatory). He wanted me for his wife.

MOTHER. Wasn't he generous to us all! He took notice of our Stevie almost directly after he came to lodge with us. He hadn't been a month in his rooms when he tipped Stevie five shillings.

WINNIE. My brother.

MOTHER. You talk as if it was all your doing. Stevie is a nice boy. He was nice from a child.

WINNIE. And he will be a child all his life.

MOTHER (distressed). That's it. That's just it, and I am an old woman. I can't think of myself dead and of poor Stevie thrown on the streets, perhaps in a workhouse infirmary.

WINNIE. You needn't fancy things like that. I am a young woman.

MOTHER. Yes. You began to be a mother to him when you were in pinafores.

WINNIE (half-smile). I am much more fit to be a mother to him now. (Change of tone.) That time doesn't bear thinking about. I am sure I don't want to remember it. Nothing can be so bad as that used to be. The boy is safe enough now, but I believe that you like to have a worry of your own. Life does not stand much looking into. Why are you staring at me as if you didn't know me, mother? It doesn't. We have been going on very well for seven years. I am satisfied.

MOTHER. You are satisfied.

WINNIE. I would have been more satisfied if you had not taken that funny notion into your head. That boy will be missing you awfully at first. He will mope something dreadful. I can't stand him looking wretched. He had enough wretchedness when he was a little boy to last him a lifetime. What I am going to do with him I don't know.

MOTHER. Don't let him worry your husband, my dear.

WINNIE. My husband! He hardly ever takes any notice of Stevie. (Pause.) Mr. Verloc is easy to live with. That I must say.

MOTHER. I am afraid that poor boy may run out when you aren't looking and lose his way in the streets. He has been lost before. I can't bear the thought of him wandering about and getting run over, perhaps.

WINNIE. Stevie will make for the first policeman he can see. He likes policemen. I took care to tell him that policemen are good men.

MOTHER. And he stutters so when he has to speak to strangers. He's quite apt to forget where he lives too.

WINNIE. That will be all right. I have thought of something for that.

MOTHER. Winnie, you are wonderful, you think of everything.

WINNIE. Yes, I thought of everything, except of you going off and leaving your children. However, since you've made up your mind, I thought that perhaps you will want to see the boy sometimes. Remember I mayn't be always free to come with him.

MOTHER. Winnie—don't let him come alone. It's too far, there are two omnibuses to take and a walk between, he is sure to get lost for days. (Great distress.)

WINNIE. I have seen to that. (Pulls one chair back from the table. Overcoat on it. Picks it up.) Look at his overcoat, mother. I have sewn a tape with our address written as plain as can be in marking ink under the collar. I haven't put his name on it. The police would bring him straight here, of course.

MOTHER. You think of everything.

WINNIE. Well, he will be on my hands altogether.

MOTHER (deep sigh). He always was that, Winnie. He has no one to depend on now but you and Mr. Verloc. What little of my furniture there is here is all yours now (distress), my dear.

WINNIE. Stevie is safe enough with us. Don't take on so, mother.

MOTHER. I don't. (Lower.) It was my very idea to make him safe.

WINNIE. Was it? Oh, you mean by going away.

MOTHER. Yes. To leave him is the best thing I can do for him now. And it nearly breaks my old heart.

WINNIE (slowly). You have your own way of being deep, mother.

MOTHER. Believe me, my girl, that the best of men may get tired. They do. Oh, they very soon do! And of a helpless old woman at that!

WINNIE (with meaning). Mr. Verloc would have to get tired of me first.

(Short pause. The two women look at each other. WINNIE turns her head away slowly.)

MOTHER. You are very sure of yourself, my girl.

WINNIE. I suppose I am. Where's the harm?

MOTHER (deep sigh). Well, all I can say is you are very lucky.

(During the last two replicas, WINNIE, leaning, back against the table, doesn't look at her mother, but straight at the audience.)

WINNIE. Yes, I am lucky … I suppose.

MOTHER. I mean—to be loved by a man like that.

WINNIE. Yes. That's what I mean.

STEVIE (voice down the stairs). Why don't you call me down, Winnie? I have been ready a long time.

WINNIE. Wait a moment, dear. (Remains staring in front of her.)

MOTHER (half-timid). Winnie!

WINNIE (as before). What?

MOTHER (as before). I think you were fond of somebody else. You went about looking very dull. There was that young …

WINNIE (as before, but tone a little impatient). Yes, yes, I suppose I was like other girls…. And you saw it, mother?

MOTHER. You were the picture of quiet misery, my poor girl. (Emotional.) Oh, Winnie, Winnie! Haven't I a mother's eyes? And then when I looked again at that poor helpless boy I dared not breathe a word of comfort to you.

WINNIE. Of course. But I didn't want any words. Words would have been no good. I would have done worse for Stevie.

MOTHER. Don't talk like that, Winnie; you make me all of a tremble. I too have had an awful time between you two.

WINNIE. Why trouble your head about all that now? I am satisfied.

MOTHER. Providence saved us all by sending you a man like Mr. Verloc.

WINNIE (repeats with slight emphasis). I am satisfied.

(During the last few replicas STEVIE'S legs are visible at the bottom of the stairs.)

STEVIE (jumps straight into the room). Hoo!

MOTHER (slight scream). Stevie! You did give me a turn!

WINNIE (affected severity). Were you trying to frighten us, Steve?

STEVIE (exultant). Yes, and I did it too. You didn't hear me creep downstairs. You were frightened, Winnie, weren't you?

WINNIE (calm). My heart is thumping ever so.

STEVIE (delighted). I was as quiet as a mouse.

WINNIE. You bad boy. What would Mr. Verloc have said to that if he had been here.

STEVIE (crestfallen). I don't know.

WINNIE. Isn't it cruel to frighten people?

STEVIE (alarmed). No! No! Not cruel. Joke. Don't be angry, Winnie.

WINNIE. And a very nasty joke too. (Tries to push him away, but when STEVIE manages to take her face between his hands she becomes still. They look at each other for a time.) No, I am not angry. When you have done with my face. You know how to take advantage of me, Stevie.

STEVIE (caressingly). You will always be fond of me, Winnie?

WINNIE. Enough not to allow anybody to frighten you, let alone trying to frighten you myself.

STEVIE (contrite). I am sorry, Winnie. (Mobile.) Yesterday I was talking to a cabman. He had white bristles all over his face.

MOTHER (sitting with hands folded in her lap looking at WINNIE and STEVIE). What did you want to do that for, Stevie? Talk to a strange cabman….

STEVIE. No, not stranger. Friend. On the rank at the end of our street. I told him I was sorry for his horse.

WINNIE. You did!

STEVIE (loquacious). Such a poor thin horse. The cabman has a wife and four children at home. And so he must whip him. But he is not a bad man. Only poor. He called me a queer young fellow and thumped me in the chest like that. Not angry. He thumped his horse too, in the ribs, and he told me—what did he say? Oh, like this: 'hard world for horses but damn sight harder for poor chaps like me. Damn sight harder. Damn sight….'

MOTHER. Stevie! Don't repeat nasty swear words. It's wicked.

STEVIE. No, not wicked! Quite friendly. He likes me. He said so.

WINNIE (to her mother). People do take to him wonderfully.

STEVIE (continuing). He knows us. He gave me a little push and told me to go home and not interfere in things I did not understand.

WINNIE. You interfered! About what!

STEVIE. I didn't. I only stood and looked at his horse for a long time, and when the cabman asked me if I would know him again I told him he mustn't ever whip him.

WINNIE. Well, I never!

STEVIE. What is it I didn't understand, Winnie?

WINNIE (helping her mother into rusty black cloak). I don't know. (All standing up now. MOTHER handkerchief to eyes from time to time.)

STEVIE (stamps foot). Why can't I understand? I am a man now.

WINNIE (busy about her mother). Rather. (To her mother.) You have been a little too deep, mother, but I suppose now it must be. I only hope you will like your new home.

MOTHER. Like it! Don't say that, Winnie. But suppose Mr. Verloc …

WINNIE (getting bag, umbrella. Emphatic). Mr. Verloc is all right.

MOTHER. The best of men! But he hardly ever speaks. One cannot guess what he is thinking of.

WINNIE. I know how he acts…. He can't do without me.

MOTHER. Oh, Winnie! My poor girl.

WINNIE. Well, what of that? I am satisfied. I have Stevie with me.

MOTHER (sigh; low tone). Perhaps it's just as well that you had no children.

STEVIE (has been standing still in brown study. Exclaims). I do understand! Bad world for poor people. Bbbbbb … ad …

WINNIE. Stevie, don't stutter.

STEVIE. He said hard. Hard world for ppp …

WINNIE. Stop it. Don't trouble your head about it. It won't be hard for you as long as I live. Go and see if the cab is at the door. (Exit STEVIE. WINNIE to her mother.) He isn't fit to hear every kind of talk; it excites him. When Mr. Verloc's friends come here of an evening I try to keep Stevie out of the way.

MOTHER. Mr. Verloc's friends. What is it they come to talk about, Winnie? I of course always took care to keep upstairs of an evening.

WINNIE. Oh, I don't trouble my head much about their talk. It seems to me the wildest …

STEVIE (at shop door). Cab's here. My poor friend. (Walks forward.) And can nobody help poor people, Winnie?

WINNIE (collecting parcels). Not much.

STEVIE. What, not even the police?


STEVIE (aghast). Can't they? What are they for then, Winnie? What are they for then? (Agitated.) Do tell me.

WINNIE (impatient and busy). Don't you know what the police are for, Stevie?

STEVIE (anxious). What are they for?

WINNIE (as before). They are there so that them as have nothing shouldn't take anything away from them that have. (Turns away to her mother, explanatory.) I wouldn't say steal because the very word makes Stevie uncomfortable.

MOTHER. He is a good boy.

WINNIE. He doesn't know what evil means. He's a real innocent.

MOTHER (impulsive). Winnie, I believe he is the only thing you love in the world.

WINNIE (slow). Perhaps.

MOTHER (sigh). Well, you have been a good daughter to me.

(All moving towards the shop door when it opens. MR. VERLOC enters and stands aside.)

WINNIE. You are just in time to see mother, Adolf. Do tell her that nobody here wanted her to go.

MR. VERLOC (a heavy-eyed, bulky man, full face, medium height, slight stoop, sandy hair and moustache. Effort to be pleasant. Husky). Certainly. Not I. I am fond of your girl. Come to see her often. (Effort nearly breaks down.) Good-bye. (To WINNIE.) Don't be away long. I miss you out of the house.

WINNIE. I am afraid I shall have to be a little late. You will have to get your own tea.

MR. VERLOC (grunts). All right.

(Moves forward and drops into a chair. The women pass out. STEVIE lingers to gaze reverently at MR. VERLOC, who takes his hat off his head and holds it at arm's length. STEVIE rushes from behind to seize it and deposit it respectfully on the sideboard.)

WINNIE (voice outside). Come along, Stevie. It's getting late.

(STEVIE withdraws, looking over his shoulder to the last moment at MR. VERLOC'S back.)

MR. VERLOC. Shut the door behind you.

STEVIE (awed voice). Yes, Mr. Verloc. (Exit.)

(Everything still. MR. VERLOC gets up. Heavy. Morose. Overcoat unbuttoned. Head low. Walks up and down. On the first turn, R., says)

MR. VERLOC. Dog's life. (On the second turn, L., says) But I won't be a dog to anybody. (When he is in the middle of the stage, shop bell rings. He says,) Damn. (Swerves to look through glass. Remains back to audience for a moment, then walks to footlights and mutters an astonished) Well! I am damned. (Banging of stick on counter heard in shop. MR. VERLOC shouts) Coming! (But doesn't move. Door to shop opens slowly. MR. VLADIMIR looks in, then comes forward.)

MR. VLAD. (man about town, very correct, open overcoat, silk hat, rolled-up umbrella, waxed moustache, round face). Is that how you receive your customers?

(MR. VERLOC spins round. Deferential attitude sideways to audience).

MR. VERLOC (deep bass voice). How could I tell it was you, sir?

MR. VLAD. Exactly. You must have thought it was a customer. You ought to have hurried into the shop instead of merely yelling here.

MR. VERLOC. I was coming out.

MR. VLAD. H'm! I was long enough there to look at your wares. It seems to me that you are dealing in revolutionary literature and obscene photographs. I suppose you find it a good combination. Intellectual indecency and that other kind. (Moves forward; MR. VERLOC moves aside; facing each other across the table.) But I dare say it isn't so bad as it looks. I am perfectly convinced those customers of yours don't get anything like value for their money. I mean your—let us call them 'art' customers.

MR. VERLOC. Yes, that's about it.

MR. VLAD. And the politicals are even worse off. They get sold themselves. But I am your employer, and I will repeat to you what I said when I made you call on me at the Embassy the other day—that I don't intend to be cheated. Don't look so glum. I only want you to distinguish yourself. You don't look very pleased. (MR. VERLOC makes a slight movement of hands.) Why don't you offer me a chair?

MR. VERLOC. You're at home here.

MR. VLAD. Ah, yes. Our Secret Service money keeps this establishment. (Looks round.) An awful hole. What made you take to that particular kind of shop?

MR. VERLOC (heavy). I know what I am about.

MR. VLAD. Well, being at home, I will sit down. (Pulls out chair from under table. Lays down hat and umbrella. Throws himself back in chair.) For the same reason I won't ask you to sit down.

MR. VERLOC (husky tone). I know my place.

MR. VLAD. You understand French, of course.

MR. VERLOC. Of course.

MR. VLAD. Of course. We will talk English nevertheless. When I called you to the Embassy I really had no time to go into the whole question…. Let's see—I believe that years ago you obtained for my Government the confidential designs of a new French field-gun. How much did you get for that job?

MR. VERLOC (huskily). Five years' rigorous confinement in a fortress.

MR. VLAD. (recovers from surprise). That's not so very much. And anyhow it serves you right for letting yourself be caught…. What made you go in for this occupation, eh? What were you before? One isn't born a secret agent.

MR. VERLOC (husky. Apologetic). I was a mechanic, but I was young then and a fatal infatuation for an unworthy …

MR. VLAD. Aha! Cherchez la femme…. How long have you been employed by our Embassy here?

MR. VERLOC (huskily). Ever since the time of the late Baron Stott-Wartenheim.

MR. VLAD. (absently). Ever since. (Sharply.) Well, what have you got to say for yourself?

MR. VERLOC (heavily). I don't know that I have anything special to say. You summoned me by letter last week to the Embassy and I went—at eleven o'clock in the morning too! That might have been very dangerous for me.

MR. VLAD. Oh, your dear friends the revolutionists wouldn't stick at a trifle. Well, I come to you this time.

MR. VERLOC (sinister). And if you only go on like this you may yet have a corpse mixed up in this business.… Yours or mine.

MR. VLAD. Pah!… Look here, what do you mean by letting yourself get fat like this? You—a member of the starving proletariat! Never! You—a desperate socialist or anarchist—which is it?

MR. VERLOC (grunt). Anarchist.

MR. VLAD. Bosh! You wouldn't deceive an idiot.… So you began your connexion with us by stealing the French gun designs. And you got yourself caught. That must have been very annoying for our Government. You don't seem to be very smart.

MR. VERLOC (exculpatory). As I have had the honour of observing before, a fatal infatuation for a low, unworthy …

MR. VLAD. (raises a gloved hand). Oh, yes, the unlucky attachment of your youth. She got hold of all the money and then sold you to the police—for a little more money. Eh? (MR. VERLOC'S whole person droops affirmatively, with an apologetic movement of hands. MR. VLADIMIR throws ankle on knee, easy attitude.) That was not very clever of you. Perhaps your heart is too susceptible.

MR. VERLOC (veiled murmur). I am no longer young.

MR. VLAD. Oh, age doesn't cure that little weakness. But no, you have grown too fat to have ever been susceptible. I will tell you what I think is the matter; you are a lazy fellow. How long have you been drawing pay from this Embassy?

MR. VERLOC (sulky hesitation). Eleven years. I have been charged with several missions to England while His Excellency Baron Stott-Wartenheim was still Ambassador in Paris. Then when His Excellency came over here he gave me instructions to settle down in London. I am English.

MR. VLAD. You are. Are you?

MR. VERLOC (stolidly). Natural born British subject. But my father was a …

MR. VLAD. (brusquely). Never mind explaining. You are a lazy fellow. In the time of Baron Stott-Wartenheim there was a lot of soft-headed people running our Embassy, and so fellows of your sort formed a false notion of what the Secret Service is. I want to correct any such misapprehension by telling you what the Secret Service is not. It is not a philanthropic foundation. I have called here on purpose to tell you that.

MR. VERLOC (huskily). I really fail to perceive.

MR. VLAD. (sarcastic). I see you understand me perfectly. I dare say you are intelligent enough. What we want now is activity—activity. (Lays forefinger on edge of table.)

MR. VERLOC (slight movement back; booms out in great oratorical bass.) If you will only be good enough to look up my records you will see that I gave an important warning only three months ago on the occasion of the Grand Duke Archibald's visit to Paris which was telegraphed from here to the French police and …

MR. VLAD. (frowning grimace). Tut, tut! The French police had no use for your warning. Don't bellow at me like this. What the devil do you mean?

MR. VERLOC (proud humility). I beg your pardon. My voice was famous years ago. I was always put up to speak at the critical moment. With a voice like that I was naturally thought a lot of by the leaders.

MR. VLAD. (touches his bow necktie). I dare say you have the revolutionary jargon by heart. Vox et … You have never studied Latin, I suppose.

MR. VERLOC (growl). No. You didn't expect me to know it, perhaps? I belong to the million. Who knows Latin? Only a few hundred imbeciles who aren't fit to take care of themselves.

MR. VLAD. Aha, you dare be impudent. (Gets up, threateningly.) You dare! Well, I am going to speak plain English to you. Voice won't do. We don't want a voice. We want facts—startling facts—damn you.

MR. VERLOC (defending himself, downcast eyes). Don't you try to come over me with your hyperborean manners.

MR. VLAD. (nod. Smile). As far as I can judge you have done nothing to earn your money for the last four years. (MR. VERLOC raises his arms. Shop bell rings. A moment of silence.) You had better go and see. (Exit VERLOC, bustling, heavy. MR. VLADIMIR goes to glass, touches necktie, ends of moustache, looks round the room, says) Impudent, lazy brute. (Watches markedly VERLOC returning from shop. Spluttering laugh after a time and speaks.) You have been quick. What did you sell him?

MR. VERLOC (surlily), I told him I hadn't got it. It was the quickest way.

MR. VLAD. Did you? Ha ha! You will ruin your connexion. I suppose you have a little select connexion—what? Funny blind, a shop like this for your real—ah—occupation. Who put you up to it? Not the late Baron Stott-Wartenheim, what?

MR. VERLOC (standing heavily, eyes on the floor). My own notion.

MR. VLAD. Ah, natural affinity. Shop of secret wares—and a shady life. You seem to have been set apart by your temperament to be a secret agent in every way. Nice lazy trade, eh? But I have this matter in hand now and you will have to earn your money. No work—no pay.

MR. VERLOC. Permit me to observe that it isn't very wise to call me up or come to see me like this. It may destroy my usefulness. There are eyes about.… Even my wife …

MR. VLAD. (guttural). Your what?

MR. VERLOC (raised husky voice). My wife. I am married.

MR. VLAD. (astonishment). That be damned for a yarn! Married! And you a professed anarchist too. But I suppose it is just a manner of speaking. Anarchists don't marry. They can't. It would be apostasy.

MR. VERLOC. My wife isn't one. (Mumbling resentfully.) Moreover, it's no concern of yours.

MR. VLAD. (snappy). Oh, yes, it is. Why! You must have discredited yourself completely in your own world by your marriage. Couldn't you have managed without? So this is your virtuous attachment, is it? What with one sort of attachment and another you are doing away with your usefulness yourself. (Pauses. MR. VERLOC inflates his cheeks and lets the air escape.) His wife! (To MR. VERLOC.) Where is she now?

MR. VERLOC (surlily). Out with my mother-in-law. May be back any minute.

MR. VLAD. Ha ha! He has a mother-in-law too! You must be mad. You are overdoing your respectability. However, that's your affair. But don't forget that when you cease to be useful you shall cease to be employed. Yes. Right off. Cut short. You shall—(casting about for the right word, then ferociously)—you shall be chucked. (Throws himself in the chair, again very easy, clasping ankle on knee. MR. VERLOC takes handkerchief out of pocket, wipes his brow.) I came on purpose to tell you this. You give yourself for a secret agent. The proper business for an agent of your sort is to provoke. As far as I can judge from your record we have at the Embassy you have done nothing to speak of for the last four years.

MR. VERLOC (loud). Nothing! I have several times prevented what might have been …

MR. VLAD. (stops him). They have a proverb in this country that prevention is better than cure. They dislike finality in England. Don't you be too English. And in this particular instance don't be absurd. The evil is already with us. We don't want prevention. We want a cure. You know of course of the International Conference sitting now in Milan on means of repression.

MR. VERLOC (hoarse). I read the daily papers.

MR. VLAD. I suppose you understand what you read.

MR. VERLOC (grump). Of course.

MR. VLAD. As long as it is not written in Latin, I suppose.

MR. VERLOC (stolid). Or Chinese.

MR. VLAD. What we want is to administer a tonic to the anti-revolutionary Conference in Milan. Their deliberations on the suppression of political crime don't seem to get anywhere. It's England that delays us, with her sentimental regard for individual liberty. It's intolerable to think that all your friends have only to come over here to …

MR. VERLOC. In that way I have them all under my eye.

MR. VLAD. It would be much more to the point to have them all under lock and key. England must be brought into line. The imbecile bourgeois here was sentimental over the very people whose only aim is to drive them out of their houses to starve in ditches. I suppose you will agree with me that the middle classes are stupid?

MR. VERLOC (husky). They are.

MR. VLAD. They have no imagination. What we want just now is to stimulate it by a jolly good scare. What I have in my mind is a series of anarchistic outrages. Here—in England. Your friends could set all the Continent on fire without influencing English public opinion a bit. They will not look outside their backyard here. See?

MR. VERLOC (with effort). I see.

MR. VLAD. These outrages need not be sanguinary, but they must be really startling. What is the fetish of the hour? Eh, Mr. Verloc?

MR. VERLOC (shrugs shoulders slightly). I don't know.

MR. VLAD. You are too lazy to think. Pay attention to what I say. The fetish of to-day is neither royalty nor religion, therefore the palace and the church should be left alone. You understand what I mean, Mr. Verloc?

MR. VERLOC (attempts at levity). Perfectly. But what of the Embassies? A series of bombs on the Embassies would …

MR. VLAD. (grin). You can be facetious, I see. But you had better be serious with me. An attempt on a crowned head or on a president is no longer the sensational event it used to be. It's almost conventional, especially since so many presidents have been assassinated. I shall try not to talk above your head. A bomb outrage nowadays must go beyond the intention of vengeance or terrorism. You anarchists should make it clear that you are determined to make a clean sweep of the whole of mankind's creation. But how is one to get that absurd notion into the heads of the middle classes so that there should be no mistake? That is the question. By directing your blows at something outside the ordinary passions of mankind. That is the answer. A bomb in the National Gallery would raise some screaming, of course, but from whom? Artists, art critics and such-like, people of no account. Nobody minds what that kind of people say. But there is learning, science. Every imbecile does really believe that science matters somehow. It is the modern fetish. Those damned professors, too, are all radicals at heart. Let them know that their great science-panjandrum has got to go too to make room for the future of the proletariat. A howl from these intellectual idiots would spur on the Milan Conference. Blow up churches, theatres full of people—that's no good. The journalist would explain it away by personal grievances or mere class hatred. Moreover, I am a civilized man. I would never direct you to organize a mere butchery, even if I expected a good result from it. But I wouldn't expect from a butchery the result I want. Murder is always with us. It is an old and venerable institution. No, it is science that must be gone for, and the attack must be particularly gratuitous, shocking, and senseless—like blasphemy. Since bombs are your means of expression it would be really telling if one of your friends could throw a bomb into pure mathematics. However, that's impossible. But what do you think of having a go at astronomy, Mr. Verloc?

MR. VERLOC (astounded). Astronomy?

MR. VLAD. Nothing better. And nothing easier. Why not blow up the Observatory? It would combine the greatest possible regard for humanity with the most alarming display of imbecile ferocity. I defy any journalist to persuade the public that any given member of the proletariat can have a personal grievance against astronomy. Starvation itself can hardly be dragged in there. There are other advantages too. The whole world has heard of Greenwich Observatory. The very boot-blacks in Charing Cross Station know something of it. Yes. The blowing up of the first meridian is bound to raise a howl.

MR. VERLOC (mumble). A difficult business.

MR. VLAD. What's the matter? Haven't you the whole gang under your hand? I see that old terrorist Yundt almost every morning walking in Piccadilly in his green overcoat. And Michaelis, the ticket-of-leave apostle—you don't mean to say you don't know where he is? (Threatening.) Because if you don't I can tell you…. And the whole Lausanne lot, eh? Haven't they been flocking over here at the first hint of the general repressive measures on the Continent? (Quieter.) England is an absurd country.

MR. VERLOC (reflective). It would require a lot of money.

MR. VLAD. None of that! That cock won't fight! You'll get your screw and no more till something happens. And if nothing happens very soon you won't get even that. I will have your name struck off the list. (Pause. Looks markedly at MR. VERLOC. Changed tone.) And remember you are no longer young, Mr. Verloc. A secret agent who gets—how do you say it?—gets the sack—hasn't got much chance at anything else. Think of that, Mr. Verloc.

MR. VERLOC (during the preceding speech has been moving from one foot to another. Suppressed fury). I think that all you people ought to be blown up.

MR. VLAD. (negligent; detached). I dare say. And where would you be then? (Picks up hat, umbrella.) Just go and made sure that none of your friends are dodging about outside.

MR. VERLOC (gloomy). Nobody comes to see me till later in the evening.

MR. VLAD. (glances at watch). Do you know how late it is? (Buttons overcoat.) Go and have a look all the same.

(While MR. VERLOC is gone MR. VLADIMIR unsmilingly adjusts hat before glass.)

MR. VERLOC (puts his head in hastily). Oh, damn! Come out into the shop as quick as you can, sir. I see my wife coming down the street. (Comes forward, agitated.) Do go into the shop, sir. You have just time.

MR. VLAD. You are absurd with that wife of yours. Wife! Pah!

MR. VERLOC. Come, sir, you don't want to drive a man into a corner.

(Tries to hustle MR. VLADIMIR towards the door.)

MR. VLAD. That's exactly what I mean to do with you. Think over well what I have been telling you.

(As they go out street door bell is heard in the shop, and almost immediately afterwards MR. VERLOC returns preceded by STEVIE and WINNIE.)

WINNIE. We came back by bus as far as the Strand and walked the rest of the way. It isn't raining. Go upstairs and take your overcoat off, Stevie. Fold it up neatly and put it on the shelf, like a good boy.

STEVIE (in a huff). A man now, Winnie, mother told me.

WINNIE. Goodness gracious me! You needn't take offence like this, Stevie. You took care of me beautifully. But you know you are untidy when you get a chance. (STEVIE attempts to take her face in his hands. She lets him.)

STEVIE. You are not angry with me, Winnie?

WINNIE (takes his hands away gently). Never. Run along now, dear. (Exit STEVIE upstairs. WINNIE to MR. VERLOC.) Who was that foreigner? A customer?

MR. VERLOC (husky). Yes. A customer.

WINNIE. A new one then. Never saw that face before. (While she speaks she begins to take off her hat and jacket.) What did he want?

MR. VERLOC (savage). A lot of things.

WINNIE (calm). Anything you will have to go on the Continent to get?

MR. VERLOC (gloomy). I may have to go on the Continent. (Mutters.) A damned job.

WINNIE (coat and hat on arm. Turns her head to look at him). You don't look very well, Adolf. (Pause.) I say, Adolf, he wasn't one of them Embassy people that have been bothering you lately?

MR. VERLOC (astonishment and fear). Embassy! Bothering! What do you know of embassies? Who has been talking to you of Embassy people?

WINNIE (puts down hat and jacket on table. Confidential). Why, it was you—yourself. You have been talking in your sleep o' nights lately.

MR. VERLOC (uneasy). Have I? I am out of sorts. My digestion …

WINNIE. I'll have to doctor you, I see! Who was he, Adolf?

MR. VERLOC (enraged). A hyperborean swine. What you might call a—a gentleman. (Falls into brown study.)

WINNIE (calm). Well, I shan't trouble my head about him. It's you who want looking after a bit. I don't want to have you ill on my hands. I am afraid we may have a little trouble with that boy. Now mother is gone, he will be that restless. He is so useful too. With him to help me I can run this house as easy as easy. If he gets a little flighty, Adolf, I may have to ask you to speak to him. Just a word or two. The least thing from you is gospel to Stevie. You don't know how devoted he is to you, Adolf. (Raised voice.)

MR. VERLOC (starts). What, your brother? I didn't notice.

WINNIE. He is perhaps a little weak-minded, but he is not an idiot.

MR. VERLOC (absent-minded). Isn't he?… Well, perhaps he isn't.

WINNIE (earnest). And he has such a warm heart! You are, I may say, the only father he has ever known, and he thinks you are good. (Pause.) And so you have been, Adolf. We would never let him forget that, mother and I. (Pause.) What are you thinking of, dear?

MR. VERLOC. Emigrating. (Moves about restlessly.) France—or California.

WINNIE (startled). The idea! (Resolute.) Then you would have to go by yourself. I couldn't think of it! (MR. VERLOC looks at his wife as if roused from a dream.) And you know you couldn't do without me.

MR. VERLOC. No, I couldn't. (Advances towards WINNIE.)

WINNIE (extends her hand). No, not here. There is a better time for kisses. (MR. VERLOC stops short.) I suppose you will be late coming up. I expect your friends will turn up to-night. I am going to get you something to eat. We had our tea outside.

MR. VERLOC. I don't want anything to eat. I have had my fill of that—swine.

WINNIE. Don't trouble your head too much about him, Adolf. You are not a slave. Nobody is a slave in this country, for all the talk of your friends. I suppose Mr. Yundt is coming.


WINNIE. Nasty old man. It's time he was dead.

MR. VERLOC. No fear. Not while that old woman that looks after him is alive. When she goes there will be an end of Carl Yundt—not before. Michaelis too will turn up, I expect.

WINNIE. He is a dear.

MR. VERLOC (moody). The rich old lady who has taken a fancy to him is going to send him to a cottage in the country to write a book about his prison life. (Contemptuous.)

WINNIE. Well, he is a dear.

MR. VERLOC (goes on, venomous). And of course Ossipon. (WINNIE turns her back on MR. VERLOC.) Ah, that fellow will never starve as long as there are girls with savings-bank books about. (Very bitter.) He is after some poor devil of a governess now, Swede or something. Each of them has got some woman to look after him, while I …

WINNIE. You too! You can't do without me.

MR. VERLOC. That I can't. (Shop bell rings.) Ossipon, most likely. He is always first. Unless it's a customer.

WINNIE (picks up hat, coat from the table). You go, Adolf. I am off upstairs. (MR. VERLOC goes out and WINNIE doesn't move. Enter OSSIPON followed by MR. VERLOC.)

OSSIPON (blue serge suit, rather bushy fair hair under peaked cap, tall). Didn't expect to see you to-night, Mrs. Verloc. (Advances.) You don't often favour us.

WINNIE. I am going to bed.

OSSIPON. So early?

WINNIE. I have my brother to look after upstairs.

OSSIPON. Interesting creature, your brother.

WINNIE (turns round, warmed). I do like people to take notice of poor Stevie.

OSSIPON. I have been studying for a doctor at one time, you know, Mrs. Verloc. Oh, yes, he is very interesting, your brother is. (Lower tone.) Why do you always turn your back on me, Mrs. Verloc? (Whispers.) Winnie!

(Meantime MR. VERLOC tramps up and down disregarding them completely. Brown study.)

WINNIE (detached). As long as I am the only one to turn her back on you, you needn't mind.

OSSIPON (affectedly doleful). People do tell such awful tales about me. Don't you believe them, Mrs. Verloc.

WINNIE (stolid). I don't trouble my head one way or another.

OSSIPON (incredulous). Don't you? Listen! I don't care for anybody on earth …

MR. VERLOC (tramping up and down). Damn!

(OSSIPON obviously frightened. WINNIE moves off, coat and hat on arm.)

WINNIE (in passing). I wouldn't be any good to you. (Exit, stairs.)

OSSIPON (recovered). What was it you said, Verloc?

MR. VERLOC. I? I said damn!

OSSIPON (easy). You have a curious psychology and of course physiology too. Science has ascertained …

MR. VERLOC. Damn science.

OSSIPON (surprised). Why?

MR. VERLOC (grumpy). I have had too much of it lately.

OSSIPON (interested). Have you taken up a subject to study?

MR. VERLOC. Oh, yes. I have something to study. But all you fellows have some woman or other to live on, whereas I have a woman to keep.

OSSIPON. I don't see the connexion. (Shop bell rings.)

MR. VERLOC. There's not a hand's turn to be got out of any of you….

OSSIPON (exasperated and puzzled). But I don't see the connexion!

(Door to shop opens and enter MICHAELIS backward, sustaining and guiding YUNDT. MICHAELIS obese, short, clean-shaven, black bowler, grey suit. YUNDT lean, long white goatee on chin, wide-brimmed hat, worn aslant, shabby greenish havelock, shuffles feet. MICHAELIS and OSSIPON busy themselves pushing table away to left, placing chairs near fireplace; while YUNDT waits, rakish and feeble, leaning with trembling hand on a thick stick in a sort of pose.)

MR. VERLOC (stands out of the way). I hope you fellows haven't come to talk half the night here.

MICHAELIS (busy settling YUNDT on chair). He will have to wait anyhow till his guardian angel comes to fetch him.

MR. VERLOC (grumpy). Guardian old witch, you mean.

MICH. She has a beautiful devotion. The world is full of devotion if you only take the trouble to look for it. I came out after fifteen years of prison with my eyes opened.

(All sitting down, YUNDT rigid, MICHAELIS as if posed, OSSIPON legs stretched out, one arm over back of chair, cigarette in long tube. Behind him MR. VERLOC turns about like a bear in a cage, overcoat open, no hat.)

MR. VERLOC. Oh, yes, you have got the devotion of a rich old lady.

MICH. A fine soul. I am trying to blow up in her the fire of universal compassion. The spark is there, a sacred spark in a world of stones. (Leans forward, spits in the fireplace, sits back, placid.) We seem to be in the way to-night, Verloc.

MR. VERLOC (tramping behind their backs). You make me mad.

MICH. At any rate you must let us finish that discussion, Yundt and I.

OSSIPON (nonchalant). Did you two start squabbling in the street as you came along?

YUNDT (motionless, sudden croak). All those fine souls of yours, Michaelis, should be let out of their bloated idle bodies, that are fed on people's raw flesh. Let them rot, I say.

MICH. (placid). That's the very question. Should they? I think not. (Puffs at pipe.) What all the souls in the world want is training, guiding in the certain way of mercy, of the natural laws—that do not lie.

OSSIPON. Nonsense! There is no law and no certainty. The teaching propaganda be hanged. What the bulk of the people knows doesn't matter a bit—were its knowledge ever so accurate. What matters is the emotional state of the masses. Without emotion there is no action. (Pause.) I am talking now to you scientifically. Scientifically!

MR. VERLOC (tramping up and down). Damn!

OSSIPON. What did you say, Verloc?

MR. VERLOC (growl). Nothing.

(During the above scene STEVIE in trousers, shirt and socks, steals downstairs and sits on lower step, with a sheet of drawing-paper on his knees. Draws. Tongue between teeth.)

YUNDT (venomous). Do you know how I would call the present social conditions? I would call them cannibalistic. The minority, a mere handful, are nourishing their greed on the quivering flesh and warm blood of luckless human beings. You can almost hear the scrunching of the bones.

STEVIE (slight shrill shriek. Covers eyes with both arms. Perfectly still. VERLOC stops, MICHAELIS looks round, YUNDT unmoved, OSSIPON lounges over. A silence while OSSIPON stands over STEVIE, picks up the sheet and looks at it. Arms fall down. Low anguish). No, no! It can't be. Must stop it.

OSSIPON. Very good, very characteristic, absolutely typical.

MR. VERLOC. What's very good? (Drops on sofa.)

OSSIPON. This drawing. Typical of a certain form of degeneracy.

MR. VERLOC. You would call this lad a degenerate, would you?

OSSIPON. That's how he would be called scientifically. Impulsive, in a circular and interruptive form. Perfect slave to verbal suggestion. Absolutely helpless. Look at the lobes of his ears. If you read Lombroso …

YUNDT (sudden croak). Lombroso's an ass. (OSSIPON starts and stares.) For him the criminal is the prisoner! Simple, is it not? What about those who put him there? And what is crime? Does he know that—this imbecile who has got on in this world of gorged fools by writing about the ears and teeth of a lot of poor, unlucky devils. Teeth and ears mark the criminal! Do they? And what about the law that marks him still better, the branding instrument invented by the overfed to keep down the hungry. Red-hot irons on their vile skins—eh? Can't you smell and hear from here the thick hide of the people burn and sizzle?

STEVIE (jumps up, stammering). I won't have poor people hurt. It must be stopped. Mr. Michaelis, you are a nice man, stop it. (Slight scream.) Stop it! (Distracted.)

(YUNDT unmoved, rigid. MICHAELIS shifts position in chair, looks benevolent. OSSIPON superior, throws drawing negligently on table.)

MR. VERLOC (grumpy). I don't know what my wife's thinking of to let him come down.

STEVIE. Mr. Michaelis, you are a dear. Winnie says so. You stop it. Stop those cruel people. They must be punished.

MICH. (benevolent). That, my dear boy, is rather too much to hope for as yet.

MR. VERLOC (to STEVIE). Stop that fuss. (Heavily.) Go over there into that corner.

STEVIE (passing from agitation to reverence). Yes, Mr. Verloc—(stammering suddenly)—I-I-I-don't want t-t-to be any trouble.

(Passes up the stage to L. corner, MR. VERLOC watching him.)

OSSIPON (thrusting drawing at him). You had better finish this.

WINNIE (voice heard from the stairs). Have you got that boy down there? Send him up to me. I can't come down myself.

MR. VERLOC. Wait a bit. They are just going.

(General move, VERLOC one side, quite still. MICHAELIS helping YUNDT to rise.)

OSSIPON (idle, hands in pockets. To VERLOC). You are in a filthy temper to-night, Verloc.

MR. VERLOC (savage). Damned lot of gas-bags. None of you is of any use to me.

OSSIPON (a little interested). Why? You aren't thinking of anything to do? Our line is to lie low just now. (Slight cynical laugh.) We are comfortable enough here.

MICH. (passing through doorway with YUNDT). I will see him home. Good night. (Exit. MR. VERLOC follows them out into the shop.)

OSSIPON (left behind, looks at STEVIE in his corner, but speaks to the invisible WINNIE. Sentimentally). I stayed behind to say good night to you.

WINNIE (voice down the stairs, very steady). You needn't have troubled. I am not that sort of woman.

OSSIPON (as before). Interesting chap, that brother of yours.

WINNIE (voice down the stairs, softened). Isn't he? Go away, do. I want to get him to bed.

OSSIPON (insinuating). Why don't you come down to fetch him?

WINNIE (voice from above, indignant). Not likely! In my night-gown.

OSSIPON (appreciative). Oh, my word!

(In the intervals of the above dialogue sounds of voices are heard in the shop once or twice.)

MR. VERLOC (appearing at door). Come along, Ossipon. I want to lock up the place.

OSSIPON (lounging out, hands in pockets). I've been observing that boy of yours. He could be made to do any deadly thing, almost. I would keep my eye on him. He would set your place on fire as soon as not.

(Exit, past VERLOC, who follows him. The shop door bell starts ringing sharply and WINNIE steps out on the stage in night-gown buttoned at wrist and throat, ample folds, down to the ground, bare feet in slippers. Statuesque.)

WINNIE (tender voice). Stevie, darling.

(STEVIE, who has been sitting in a corner, his back to the stage, head in hands, jumps up, advances to his sister with despairing face.)

STEVIE. Winnie, it's awful, awful, awful!

WINNIE (folds him to her breast a moment, then pushes him off). Stevie, you ought not to have come down.

STEVIE. You never told me not to. But I didn't scream. Only a little. And I love you, Winnie. Say, Winnie, you love me. (Importunate.) Say, Winnie.

WINNIE (not looking at STEVIE). Love you? If I didn't love you I would die. (Brusque.) Of course I love you.

STEVIE (fierce). Then you must punish these people.

WINNIE. What people? You go upstairs to bed, Stevie.

(MR. VERLOC returns, heavy, moody. Carries in one hand a small shiny cash-box.)

STEVIE (despair). I couldn't go to sleep. (MR. VERLOC stands still behind WINNIE and STEVIE.)

WINNIE (to MR. VERLOC). Look how they have upset that boy. Wicked folly I call it. We are not down-trodden slaves here.

STEVIE (tremulous). I couldn't go to sleep. I would be afraid, Winnie.

WINNIE (steady as before). And mother's not here to sit up with him.

MR. VERLOC (growl). It's that Yundt.

WINNIE. Horrid old man. Excite the boy like this.

MR. VERLOC (growl). He has been exciting idiots all his life. Old Windbag. Never done a hand's turn since he was eighteen.

STEVIE (suddenly). Eating human flesh. That can't be allowed, can't, can't. (Dances with rage. WINNIE looks at him steadily, helpless.)

MR. VERLOC (behind his wife). Here's a circus for you.

STEVIE (suddenly still). They must be punished. It's abominable. And, Winnie, this is not the worst. They are tortured with hot irons too, and their hides burn and sizzle. (Pauses. Repeats slowly.) Burn—and—sizzle. (And shudders.)

WINNIE (over her shoulder to MR. VERLOC). See that, Adolf?

(MR. VERLOC shrugs his shoulders.)

STEVIE (nearly collapsed). Living people too. (Despair.) How can I go to bed?… Give me some work to do, Winnie.

WINNIE. The idea, at this time of the night. Go to bed, Stevie.

STEVIE (excited). Work for all night. For every night. I'll never dare go to sleep.

MR. VERLOC (behind WINNIE'S back). Here's a jolly go.

WINNIE. I never knew him out of hand like this.

STEVIE (frail, fierce, for the moment dominating the situation). I want the wretches punished. It must be. Can you do it, Winnie? No? Of course you can't! You are only a girl. You don't care.

WINNIE (first sign of distress). Stevie, if you won't believe in me, well then …

STEVIE (return of rage). The scoundrels must be punished. Every one must be punished. Who's going to do it? The police can do nothing. You told me so yourself, Winnie.

(WINNIE nonplussed.)

MR. VERLOC (moves forward one step, hoarse). But I can. (STEVIE startled.) You go quietly to bed, young fellow. I will see to it.

STEVIE (sudden awe). What? You? You yourself, Mr. Verloc?

MR. VERLOC (another step forward). I tell you I will see to it! Now you go to bed.

STEVIE (profoundly reverent, after the first astonishment). I am going this minute, Mr. Verloc. (Exulting.) As long as they are punished. Every bad man. All over the world.

(At foot of stairs, already cheered up, blows kiss to his sister. Exit.)

WINNIE. Well, well, Adolf, you have done something. (Submits to MR. VERLOC'S arms round her neck, but MR. VERLOC still preoccupied.) I always told you that this boy would go through fire and water for you. And I must say you deserve it.

MR. VERLOC. Well, then, give me a kiss.

WINNIE (sullen, coquettish). Can't you wait the time of getting up the stairs? (Gives kiss.) After all these years.

MR. VERLOC (sudden change of bearing, mutters bitterly). There is precious little time left—after all these years.

WINNIE (to MR. VERLOC'S back). I say, Adolf. (MR. VERLOC grunts.) Isn't Mr. Michaelis going away to live in a cottage in the country, somewhere beyond Greenwich?

MR. VERLOC (startled). Greenwich? (Calmer.) Yes. Greenwich. I have heard them say that his rich old lady has taken a cottage for him that way. Greenwich. Oh, yes, he has got to write a book about his prison life. (Fierce.) Bag of soft fat.

WINNIE (steady). He's a dear. Could you ask him to take Stevie to stay with him for a week or so? I want the child out of this for a while. He's thoroughly upset.

MR. VERLOC (husky). What child?… Oh, yes, I could ask Michaelis. Certainly. Greenwich.

WINNIE. I'm sure he will do it for me. (More brightly.) He and I are great friends. And then, Adolf, you could take Stevie yourself down to him next week and then come back to me. You don't look well. You want to be taken care of for a few days.

MR. VERLOC (peculiar tone). In the country. There may be something in that notion of yours. (Heavy.) Certainly.

WINNIE. It seems after all that you know how to manage that poor boy better than I. Now let us go to bed. What with mother and Stevie I have had a bad time this afternoon. And you? What sort of day have you had?

MR. VERLOC (grimly emphatic). I have had—a hell—of a day.

WINNIE (calm). Go up first, dear; I will turn out the gas. (MR. VERLOC, cash-box in hand, overcoat on, goes ponderously up the stairs, WINNIE, by gas-jet, raises arm. Interrogative.) All right, dear? May I put the light out?

MR. VERLOC (deep voice down the stairs). Put it out.






Room in a small café. PROFESSOR sitting alone before small table, red-and-white cloth, before glass mug of beer. Another unoccupied little table, match-stand on it. Through narrow archway one or two heads of customers in main part may be seen. Mechanical piano, not visible, finishes valse tune. PROFESSOR small, frail, sallow, thin whiskers, fair. Large round spectacles. Clothes very ill-fitting, extremely shabby. Deplorable, heavy boots visible under table. Arms far through sleeves, no trace of cuffs. General aspect of inferior physique and poverty contrasted through the scene with speech and demeanour of supreme self-confidence. WAITER, white apron, appears for a moment in archway, nods over his shoulder, and OSSIPON enters, folded newspaper in hand, sits down opposite PROFESSOR, puts elbow on paper, pushes cap to back of head. Piano stops. PROFESSOR takes sip of beer. They nod to each other.

OSSIPON. Were you out early to-day, Professor?

PROFESSOR. No. In bed till eleven.

OSSIPON. Did you walk all the way from Islington?


OSSIPON (restless movements, then still). Have you been sitting here long?

PROFESSOR. About an hour. (Takes pull at beer. All movements firm, precise. Markedly so.)

OSSIPON (swings round, both elbows on table). Then maybe you don't know the news I have heard just now in the street. (PROFESSOR shakes head.) I never expected to find you here.

PROFESSOR. I sit here sometimes.

OSSIPON. It's wonderful that you of all people should know nothing of it. (PROFESSOR indifferent.) You, of all people. (PROFESSOR absolutely unconcerned.) Are you in the habit of giving your explosive stuff to anybody who chooses to ask you for it? (Confidential tone.)

PROFESSOR. I never refuse my stuff to anybody, as long as I have a pinch by me. (Pause.) On principle.

OSSIPON. And you think it's a sound principle?

PROFESSOR. Perfectly. Always. Under any circumstances. Why should I think twice about it?

OSSIPON (gasp). Do you mean that you would hand it over to a detective, if one came along to ask you for your wares?

PROFESSOR (smiles). Let them try it on. But no fear. Not one of them will come near me.

OSSIPON. Why won't they?

PROFESSOR. Because they know very well that I never part with the last handful of what you call 'my wares'. I carry it always on me. (Touches breast of coat.) In a glass flask. Enough to turn this place into rubble and shambles.

OSSIPON (interested). So I have been told.

PROFESSOR. But they know. I shall never be arrested. The game isn't good enough for any policeman of them all. I mean one of the best, such as Inspector Heat, for instance. To deal with a man like me you require sheer, naked, inglorious heroism.

OSSIPON (slight impatience). Or recklessness—or simply ignorance. They have only to find somebody for the job who does not know you carry enough of your stuff about you to blow yourself and everything within sixty yards to pieces.

PROFESSOR. But that wouldn't be an arrest. Besides, it's not so easy as it looks.

OSSIPON. Bah! Suppose half a dozen of them jumped on you from behind, in the street, what could you do with your arms pinned to your sides? Nothing.

PROFESSOR. Oh, yes, I could. I am seldom out in the dark. I walk always with my right hand closed round an india-rubber ball I have in my trousers pocket. I never let it go. The pressing of this ball would actuate the detonator of the glass bomb I carry in the breast pocket of my coat. (Throws open coat.) The tube leads like this, see!

OSSIPON. I see. Instantaneous, of course.

PROFESSOR. Sorry to say it isn't. About seven seconds must elapse from the moment I press the ball to the explosion.

OSSIPON (shudders). Ough! Wait seven seconds! Horrors! I should go crazy.

PROFESSOR. Wouldn't matter if you did. (Vexed.) The detonators are always the weak point with us. I am trying now to invent a detonator that would adjust itself to all conditions of action, and even to unexpected changes of condition. A variable, yet perfectly precise mechanism. A really intelligent detonator.

OSSIPON (still appalled). Seven seconds! Ough! And then …

PROFESSOR. Nobody in this house could hope to escape. (Cranes neck.) I can see a man and a woman in the other room, going up the stairs now. They would vanish into mere shreds. (Pause, air of calm sufficiency.) In the last instance it's character alone that makes for one's safety. There are very few people in the world with a character so well established as mine.

OSSIPON (growl). I wonder how you manage it.

PROFESSOR. Force of personality. (Sips beer.) I have the means to make myself deadly, but that by itself is no protection. What is effective is the absolute belief those people have in my will to use the means. That's their impression—therefore I am deadly.

OSSIPON. There are individuals of character amongst the police too.

PROFESSOR. Possibly, but it is a matter of degree, obviously, since I, for instance, am not impressed by them. They are my inferiors. Their character is built on traditional morality. It clings to social order. Mine stands free from everything artificial. They are bound in all sorts of conventions. They depend on life, which is complex, and open to attack at every point. Whereas, I depend on death, which is simple and cannot be attacked. (Very calm.) My superiority is evident.

OSSIPON. A pretty transcendental way of putting it. I have heard Carl Yundt spout very much in the same way.

PROFESSOR (ostentatious disdain). Carl Yundt has been a posturing shadow all his life. There are three of you delegates for revolutionary propaganda, aren't there? The trouble with you is that you can no more think independently than any grocer or journalist of them all, and that you have no character whatever.

OSSIPON (indignant). But what do you want from us? And what is it you are after yourself?

PROFESSOR. A perfect detonator. What do you make that face for? You see, you can't even bear the mention of anything conclusive.

OSSIPON. I am not making a face.

PROFESSOR. You revolutionists are the slaves of convention as much as the police. The other day I met Chief Inspector Heat at the corner of Tottenham Court Road. He looked at me very steadily, but I did not look at him. He meant as little to me as your Carl Yundt. Like to like. The revolutionist and the policeman both come from the same basket. Revolution, legality—counter-moves in the same game. The police plays its little game—so do you revolutionists. But I don't play! I work fourteen hours a day and go hungry sometimes. My experiments cost money and then I must do without food for a day or two. You are looking at my beer? Yes, I have had two glasses already and shall have another presently. This is a little holiday and I celebrate it alone. Why not? I have the grit to work alone. I have worked alone for years.

OSSIPON (sneer). At the perfect detonator, eh?

PROFESSOR (calm). Yes. It's a good enough definition. You couldn't find anything half so precise to define your activity with all your committees and delegations. It is I who am the true propagandist.

OSSIPON (loftily). We won't discuss that point. (Slower, watching PROFESSOR.) I am afraid I will have to spoil your holiday though. A man has been blown up at Greenwich Park this morning. They have been yelling the news in the streets. I bought the paper and just ran in here. Never expected to see you. (Displays paper.) Here it is. Not much so far. Bomb in Greenwich Park. Foggy morning. Explosion felt as far as Romney Road and Park Place. Enormous hole in the ground. A lot of smashed roots and broken branches mixed up with fragments of a man's body. Blown to bits. H'm, h'm, that's all. The rest merely newspaper gup. No doubt, a wicked attempt to blow up the Observatory, they say. That's hardly credible. (Passes paper to PROFESSOR, who puts it down abstractedly.) The fragments of only one man you note. Ergo, blew himself up. Were you expecting that sort of move in this country? I hadn't the slightest notion. Under the present circumstances it's simply criminal.

PROFESSOR (lifts eyebrows, calm scorn). Criminal! What's that? What is crime? What can be the meaning of such an assertion?

OSSIPON (exasperated). How am I to express myself? One must use the current words. This business may affect our position very badly in this country. Isn't that crime enough for you? I verily believe you have been giving away some of your damned stuff lately. (PROFESSOR lowers and raises head slowly.) You have! (Intense.) No! And are you really handing it over at large like this, for the asking, to the first fool that comes along?

PROFESSOR. Just so. I would give the stuff with both my hands to every man, woman or child that comes along. The damned social order has not been made with paper and ink, and I don't fancy that a propaganda of paper and ink will ever put an end to it—whatever you may think. You revolutionists—you plan the future. Whereas, what's needed is a clean sweep, and a clear start for an unfettered life. Therefore, I would shovel my stuff in heaps at the corners of the streets if I had enough for that. But as I haven't, I do my best to perfect a really dependable detonator.

OSSIPON. Oh, yes, your detonators. I shouldn't wonder if it was one of your detonators that made a clean sweep of the man in the park.

PROFESSOR (vexation). My difficulty is precisely in experimenting practically with the various kinds. Detonators have to be tried, after all. Besides …

OSSIPON (interrupting). Who could that fellow be? I assure you that we, in London, had no knowledge of anything being arranged. Couldn't you describe the person you last gave the stuff to?

PROFESSOR (sip of beer, slowly). Describe him! I don't think there can be the slightest objection now. (OSSIPON rises slightly in his seat.) I can describe him to you in one word—Verloc.

OSSIPON (drops back on seat suddenly). Verloc? Impossible!

PROFESSOR (two nods). That's the person. Surely this isn't a case of giving my stuff to the first fool that came along. He was a prominent member of your group, I understand.

OSSIPON (distracted). Yes. No. Prominent. You don't know anything. You don't keep in touch with anybody, Professor. You … (Controlling himself.) Did he say anything to you, as to his intentions?

PROFESSOR (calm). Told me it was going to be a demonstration against a building. I had hardly a sufficient quantity for a destructive result. But he was so earnest about it that I prepared for him a varnish can that could be carried open in the hand. The detonator was connected with the screw top of the can. It would act both to time and shock. Rather ingenious. I explained the system to him.

OSSIPON (abrupt). What do you think has happened?

PROFESSOR. Can't tell. Screwed the top on tight, which would make the connexion, and then forgot the time. It was set for twenty minutes. On the other hand, the time contact, having been made, a sharp shock would cause explosion at once. He either ran the time too close, or simply let the thing fall.

OSSIPON (awed). Verloc! I hadn't seen him for a month. It seems impossible that he should be gone. (Musing.) Intellectually a nonentity. He certainly had a talent for keeping on terms with the police. Here, for instance, they did not look after him at all, except as a man with a shop of that sort. Do you know, Professor, that he was regularly married?

PROFESSOR (gesture of indifference). Didn't know.

OSSIPON (reflective). I have a notion that she must have had a little money, and that it was with that that he started that shop. Risky trade. He seemed to make it pay though.

PROFESSOR (detached). Some men succeed. Inferior men.

OSSIPON. He was that.

PROFESSOR (very calm). Whereas I have been treated all my life with revolting injustice.

OSSIPON (angrily). The only policy for the revolutionary group is to disclaim all connexion with this damned freak. How to make the disclaimer convincing enough is what bothers me.

PROFESSOR (sarcastic). You might ask the police for a testimonial of good conduct. They know where every one of you slept last night.

OSSIPON (bitter). No doubt they are perfectly aware we had nothing to do with this. What they will say is another thing. And I don't even know how to lay hands on Michaelis at once.

PROFESSOR. Michaelis. He is in the country. Writing a book. I went to see him the other day. He filled a tiny cage of a room, which had a litter of paper on the floor. I noticed a half-eaten raw carrot on the table near him. His breakfast. He lives on a diet of raw carrots and a little milk now.

OSSIPON (listless). How does he look on it?

PROFESSOR. Angelic…. I picked up a handful of his pages from the floor. Only fancy! he has divided his book into three parts, entitled, Faith, Hope, and Charity. He has planned a world like an enormous and nice hospital with gardens and flowers, in which the strong are to devote themselves to the nursing of the weak. (Pause.) Conceive you this folly, Ossipon! The weak! The source of all evil on this earth. I told him I had planned a world where the weak would be taken in hand for utter extermination. (Finishes beer.) Do you understand, Ossipon? The weak! They are our sinister masters, the flabby, the silly, the cowardly, the faint of heart and the slavish of mind. They have the power. They are the multitude. Theirs is the Kingdom of the earth. Exterminate! exterminate! Follow me, Ossipon: first the blind must go; then the deaf and dumb; then the halt and the maimed; every taint, every vice, every prejudice, every convention must meet its doom. (Resumes his calm.)

OSSIPON. And what remains? (Knocks his glass on table.)

PROFESSOR. I remain—if I am strong enough. (Taps breast pocket of jacket.) I am a force. But the time, the time! Give me time! Ah, that vile multitude! Sometimes I think they have everything on their side. (Enter WAITER.) Everything—even death—my own weapon.

OSSIPON (absent-minded). Have some more beer.

PROFESSOR. Beer, you say! So be it! Let us drink and be merry, for we are strong, and to-morrow we die.

OSSIPON (holds up two fingers to WAITER, who exits). I must organize a little meeting of comrades and get Michaelis to town. He will speak. The public has a sentimental regard for that fellow. Of course, he talks utter bosh, but it goes down with them.

PROFESSOR (grim). Like treacle. Why do you worry yourself about Verloc? Haven't you got anything better to do? Have you abandoned your collection of women? (Jovial.) They are the weak who feed the strong—what? (WAITER brings beer. They nod and drink.) Tell me, Ossipon, terrible man, has ever one of your victims killed herself for you, or are your triumphs so far incomplete? For blood alone puts a seal on greatness. Blood. Death. Look at history.

OSSIPON (staring before him). You be damned.

PROFESSOR. Why damn me? Damnation is the hope of the weak whose theology has invented hell for the strong. (Chaffing.) Ossipon, my feeling for you is friendly contempt. You couldn't kill a fly. (Stands up, raises glass.) To the destruction of what is! (Finishes beer. Buttons coat.)

OSSIPON (remains seated, elbow on table.) I am damned if you don't seem to kill everybody, simply by setting eyes on them. Look at that ass Verloc. You made him blow himself to bits.

PROFESSOR (hands in pockets, ready to go). Not a bad death.

OSSIPON (musingly). I wonder what that woman will do now. (PROFESSOR motionless.) He was an ass to leave such an imbecile business on my hands. Yundt has been laid up with bronchitis. It will finish him, I think. Michaelis is away, and probably will not even see a paper. He never looks at a paper.

PROFESSOR (quietly sarcastic). They make him too sad, he says.

OSSIPON. And I am rather short of cash for the moment…. (Slowly.) I wonder what I had better do.

PROFESSOR (grim). Do! Fasten yourself on the woman for all she is worth.

(Mechanical piano begins to play. OSSIPON sits up suddenly. PROFESSOR moves towards archway.)



Special Crimes Department. On the stage a large desk or writing-table, with a lamp on it. Double inkstand. On the side of the desk, arm-chair, on the other side a chair, carpet under desk. ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER seated sideways to desk, facing audience. Thin, tall, long face, small moustache, dark, silvery head. HEAT stands on the other side of desk, facing it, profile to audience.

ASSIST. COM. I did not expect to see you so soon. (Turns head to look at HEAT.)

HEAT (a powerful, well-set-up, deliberate man, shaved cheeks and chin, long, drooping fair moustache. Dark overcoat. Umbrella and hat in hand). I started at eight and have been at it without a break. After what I have seen, I didn't seem to care for food. (Lays hat, umbrella on chair.)

ASSIST. COM. You come straight from there?

HEAT. Straight from the Greenwich Police Station, sir.

ASSIST. COM. Could you identify the man.

HEAT. Oh Lord, sir! Impossible. They had to collect him with a shovel. The coroner's jury will have a treat. (Shudders slightly.)

ASSIST. COM. And we shall have nothing to tell them about him. Person unknown, eh?

HEAT (stolid). I am afraid it will have to be that, sir. Why, there were only the two legs below the knee that they could pick up. The rest of him they had to gather into a waterproof sheet, all mixed up with a lot of gravel—no use talking about that. The thing he was carrying must have gone off right under his chest, when he stumbled and fell.

ASSIST. COM. You know that he was carrying something in his hand? (Turns head to face audience again.)

HEAT. Yes, sir. A gallon varnish tin. I got it all from the porters at Maze Hill Station. Only three people got out of that train. One of them was a fish-hawker, from Gravesend. The porters saw him every day. Then there were two others: a heavy man of fifty …

ASSIST. COM. Did the porters tell you that?

HEAT. Tell me what, sir?

ASSIST. COM. His age.

HEAT (after a pause). Well, I got that notion somehow from the ticket collector, who had a good look at him. He got out backwards, out of a third-class compartment, with a bright tin can in his hand. Looked like a small tradesman or a better sort of mechanic. He gave the can to carry to the slight, fair-haired, young chap who was with him. He gave up the two tickets at the barrier. A heavy fog was coming on at the time.

ASSIST. COM. We have had these fogs for a month. It's too awful.

HEAT. Yes, sir. Horrible weather.

ASSIST. COM. (head leaning on hand). Horrible.

HEAT (picking up the thread). An old woman noticed those two, near Maze Hill Station. That we know. Half an hour later, a local constable was standing at the door of the King William Street lodge, talking to the keeper. He saw what he says was like a heavy flash of lightning in the fog. He ran between the trees as fast as his legs would carry him, till he came to a big hole in the ground and—well, the rest of it. He got a labourer with a shovel to help him clear up the mess. No sign, of course, of the other man. It looks as if he had brought the young chap to within a hundred yards of the Observatory wall, and then left him to do the job single-handed. Reckoning the time carefully, I judge that the other man might have been actually at Greenwich Park Station, ready to catch the next train up, at the very moment his friend destroyed himself so thoroughly.

ASSIST. COM. Very thoroughly, eh?

HEAT. There were enough bits of tin and fair hair left to make it certain that it was the young chap.

ASSIST. COM. (meditative). To remain unknown.

HEAT. What can you expect, sir? And, moreover, he must have been a rank outsider. I consider it quite unfair outsiders taking a hand in that business.

ASSIST. COM. (sideways to HEAT, head still leaning on hand). You said something about the legs being picked up. There were his boots on them.

HEAT (slight movement). I didn't look at his boots, because … (Pauses.) Well, to tell you the truth, sir, I had had about enough of it. I am not squeamish as a rule, but this turned me faint; I got away as quick as I could. And, moreover, it wouldn't have been much use, anyway. He bought them probably second-hand, or third-hand for that matter.

ASSIST. COM. (same attitude. Change of tone, but mildly equable). The worst feature of this affair, Inspector Heat, is that only a fortnight ago I assured the Secretary of State that no outbreak of anarchist activity was to be apprehended. I made that statement on your authority, naturally. Assistant commissioners come and go, as you know by experience.

HEAT (appreciative). Yes, sir, I have seen some changes in my time.

ASSIST. COM. (continuing). But Chief Inspector Heat remains. You are our greatest expert. You assured me that there wasn't one of them that our Department couldn't lay hands on at any time of the day or night. And I repeated that to the Secretary of State. He was very pleased. Pleased enough to smile. If you had seen that smile, Inspector Heat, the recollection of it would be very annoying to you, now.

HEAT. I am vexed enough as it is, sir, but gentlemen like Sir William forget that you may watch an anarchist inch by inch for years, but there is bound to come a moment when you lose sight and touch of him for a few hours, and then some confounded accident is sure to happen. When I was younger I had charge of burglary and murder cases, and I assure you, sir, I only wish I could go back again….

ASSIST. COM. Go back to your thieves?

HEAT. Anyway, one can understand what they are after. Whereas with this anarchist lot you may think and think…. I don't believe they know themselves what they are after. They are just making themselves a nuisance, and even at that they are but bunglers. Why, if the thieves didn't know their trade better they would starve.

ASSIST. COM. (slight smile but without looking at HEAT). I believe you were very successful in the world of thieves.

HEAT (instant of hesitation). I will tell you how it was, sir. I was respected. I knew them and they knew me. They played their game and I played my game, and they could not deny that I played it fair. It takes a man to make a good burglar, but any damn fool may turn terrorist from one day to another. That lot don't know what the word 'fair' means. (Slightly animated.) The other evening I met one of them in a little street. He was a fellow they call the Professor. He carries about half a pound of his best explosive in his pocket, they say. Boasts of it. (Contemptuous.) I don't know what he was doing there. Slinking home, probably. He hires a room from two old maids, dressmakers, Islington way. If the two old girls knew who they had got there, they would die in fits. He is really one of the kill-at-any-price lunatics. He backed into the corner of a doorway, and says he to me: 'Why don't you arrest me now; fine opportunity?' I told him that when I wanted him, I would know where to find him. And then, I promised him, I would handle him without gloves, exactly as if he were a decent thief. He looked a cornered, starved rat of a fellow. 'If you lay your hands on me,' says he, 'we will get so mixed up that they will have to bury us in the same grave.' I said to him: 'Those are tales to scare little children with.' (Disgusted.) Pah, that's the sort of talk one gets from that lot. That's their greatest man!

ASSIST. COM. (sitting very still, nursing cheek in hand. Even tone). He had nothing to do with this regrettable affair.

HEAT (slight hesitation). Strictly speaking, nothing whatever.

ASSIST. COM. (as before). Ah, strictly speaking. What does that mean?

HEAT. Mean, sir? I mean he is constantly watched. We know all his little habits. Can't bring him into this. In fact, I may tell you at once that none of the lot that we are looking after had anything to do with this.

ASSIST. COM. Positively?

HEAT. Yes, sir. (Pause.) Except one, perhaps. We have a pretty correct notion where every one of them slept the night before.

ASSIST. COM. (weary). That's excellent, as far as it goes. Yes, obviously there were two men…. You are sure there were two men.

HEAT. Positive, sir. But how is one to guard oneself if rank outsiders begin to take a hand in the game?

ASSIST. COM. (lowers arm gently on desk). Two outsiders.

HEAT (stolid). That's what we must believe, sir.

ASSIST. COM. One of them is not likely to give us trouble again.

HEAT (fidgety). No, sir.

ASSIST. COM. (musingly). Two men, let us call them outsiders, dropped from the blue, to perpetrate this perfectly futile outrage, which nevertheless is extremely vexing, extremely annoying, and very serious, from the fact that Sir William has been made angry. He told me that our ideas of efficiency here seemed to consist of making the Secretary of State look a fool. I had a very unpleasant interview. Very unpleasant indeed.

HEAT. That was very unjust, sir. Very unjust to the Department. (Calm.) In this case anyhow. (Discreet smile.) Gentlemen like Sir William don't quite understand that not everything is fit to be told, and to speak the whole truth, sir, they are so high up that they are not fit to hear everything. What the people at the top never get to know would make a long story. For instance, there are things that don't happen. Just missed happening, I mean. They don't hear of them. I myself have squashed things that if I hadn't held my tongue …

ASSIST. COM. You have all a devoted servant's mistrust of your superiors, I see.

HEAT. Well, sir, it's we who do the work. A man must have his own way sometimes. Those at the top don't always understand that. They have their own troubles, I dare say. High matters. But this I must say for myself, that I often took personal risks: yes, sir, risks of my good name being lost for the sake of the work.

ASSIST. COM. The loftiest kind of zeal, this. It is generally admitted that you made the reputation of this Department.

HEAT. Not alone, sir. I have had to do with gentlemen under whom it was a pride and a pleasure to work.

ASSIST. COM. Yes. I am a new man here, but I feel sure that you have not wasted your morning altogether in Greenwich.

HEAT. Not altogether. (Hesitation.)

ASSIST. COM. Come, Inspector Heat. Don't try to keep me in the dark. Of course, in the end everything gets reduced to writing. But meantime, let us regard this conversation as unofficial. (HEAT, a little startled.) You mentioned somebody you connect with this affair. Now, between ourselves, who is it?

HEAT. The ex-convict Michaelis.

ASSIST. COM. Oh, nonsense!

HEAT (slightly bitter). He's a public pet, I know. But it's difficult to resist evidence.

ASSIST. COM. Evidence! You got evidence against Michaelis?

HEAT. Enough for us to deal with a convict out on licence. I don't say it's much. Here are the two railway tickets those fellows gave up. (Hands over two railway tickets to ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER, who extends his hand to take them, looks at them and lays them on the table.)

ASSIST. COM. It's the name of some small station, isn't it? Strange they should have come from there.

HEAT. Not so strange if you know, sir, that Michaelis's cottage is a short half mile from it. He is supposed to be writing a book there.

ASSIST. COM. Yes, I have heard of that. (Pause.) That's awkward.

HEAT. A man like that is fair game.

ASSIST. COM. (changes position facing HEAT square across writing-table. Slight change of tone). Come, Inspector Heat. Was there nothing else?

HEAT (on defensive). There was the body of a man blown to bits.

ASSIST. COM. Yes, the unknown. I have an idea that you didn't examine that very closely.

HEAT. I was glad to get away as quick as I could, sir. Anybody would have been. Of course, if there is a reason of which I know nothing for not interfering with the convict Michaelis perhaps it's just as well I didn't start the police after him.

ASSIST. COM. No reason whatever that I know of. You're finessing with me. It's highly improper on your part, and, what's worse, it's also unfair, you know. Really, I am surprised. (Smooth tone.) Those tickets are all very well. Let us come now to what you discovered on the spot.

HEAT (staring hard basilisk stare. Movement of checked indignation. Visible effort.) I am coming now to that part of my investigation, sir.

ASSIST. COM. That's right. Well, what have you brought away from it? (Kindly tone.)

HEAT (recovered. Assuming business-like tone). I have brought away an address. (Produces from pocket ragged piece of dark blue cloth.) This is the collar of the overcoat the fellow who got himself blown up was wearing. Of course the overcoat might not have been his, and it might even have been stolen, but … (Steps up to table, smoothes cloth with hand.) See, sir? There's a piece of linen sewn on with an address written on it in marking-ink.

ASSIST. COM. By Jove! (Pause.) I understand now why you didn't trouble about his boots. What an extraordinary thing! Why should he have gone about labelled like this?

HEAT. I once knew an old gentleman who had his address on all his coats. He was afraid of losing his memory suddenly.

ASSIST. COM. (who has been looking at the piece of cloth. Reads.) 32 Brett Street. (Comments.) A rather disreputable neighbourhood. (Looks hard at HEAT.) What is 32 Brett Street?

HEAT (visible effort). It's a shop, sir. A small shop.

ASSIST. COM. I have a pretty good idea what sort of commerce that must be. You haven't been there yet, have you?

HEAT. No, sir. (Rather sulky.) I know all about it. (Pause.) I know the man who keeps it. I have known him for years. He associates with a lot of anarchists. He has been of use to me more than once. (Noticing the intensely scrutinizing gaze of ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER.) I have got to do my work in any way that offers, sir.

ASSIST. COM. The Department has no record of that man?

HEAT. No, sir.

ASSIST. COM. Was any of my predecessors aware of what you have told me now? (Puts elbows on table and clasps hands before face.)

HEAT. No, sir. What would have been the good? A man like that can't very well be produced publicly. I knew who he was and I made use of him—for the public good.

ASSIST. COM. (interrogative but gentle). You think that sort of private connexion consistent with your public character?

HEAT. Perfectly, sir. Quite proper. Let me take the liberty to tell you, sir, that I am looked upon as a man who knows his duty. A personal friend of mine in the French police gave me the hint years ago that the fellow was an Embassy spy. Private friendship, private information, private use of it—that's how I look on it.

ASSIST. COM. (slowly). I see. (Leans cheek on joined hands.) Well, then, between you and me, privately, you know—how long have you been in private touch with this Embassy spy?

HEAT (innocently). Long before the time of the Assistant Commissioner that was here before you, sir. (Business-like.) The first time I saw him was more than seven years ago. I had charge then of two Imperial Highnesses and the Imperial Chancellor on a visit here who were staying at the Embassy. Baron Stott-Wartenheim was Ambassador then. A very nervous old gentleman. One evening two days before the Guildhall banquet, he sent me word he wanted to see me very particularly. I was downstairs. The carriages were at the door to take the Imperial Highnesses and the Chancellor to the opera. However, I ran up and found the late Baron in his bedroom in a great state, walking up and down. He assured me he had the greatest confidence in our police, but a man had just come over from Paris and he wanted me to hear what that man had to say. With that he takes me into his bathroom, and there I see a big fellow sitting on a chair and holding his hat and stick in one hand. The Baron said to him in French: 'Speak, my friend.' Well, it was very startling news. I just turned my head for a moment to speak to the Baron and when I turned round again, lo and behold, the fellow was gone like a ghost. Got up quietly behind my back and sneaked out. There was no time to run after him. I had to hurry down the big staircase with the Baron and see the Imperial party start for the opera. I acted on the information of course. Very likely it saved us from very ugly trouble on the day of the banquet.

ASSIST. COM. (interested). Very likely. (Nods.) Well?

HEAT (conversational). A few months afterwards I saw in the Strand a man I seemed to know coming out in a hurry from a jeweller's shop. I had one of our men with me and I just told him to find out something about this fellow and report. The very next day I was told that the fellow had married his landlady's daughter at a registry office and had gone to Margate for a week. Our man had watched the luggage put on the roof of the cab and had noticed some old Paris labels on a Gladstone bag. All this stuck in my mind somehow; so the very next time I went to Paris on duty I spoke to a friend of mine in the Paris police. He thought that it must be a certain Verloc, a well-known hanger-on to the Revolutionary Red Committee. They had an idea in Paris that he might have been a secret agent of one of the foreign embassies. This woke up my memory. He was the fellow I had seen in the Baron's bathroom. Afterwards my Paris friend ferreted out that man's complete record for me. But I don't suppose you want to hear his history, sir.

ASSIST. COM. Your relations with that personage are the only thing that interests me now.

HEAT (slightly bitter). Nothing official about them, sir. One evening I dropped into his shop and reminded him of our first meeting. He told me that he was married and settled and all he wanted was not to be interfered with in his little business. I took it upon myself to promise him that as long as he didn't get mixed up with anything outrageous the police would take no notice of his shop. That was worth something to him, because a hint from us to the Custom-house people would have got some of the packages he gets from Brussels opened in Dover, with confiscation to follow for certain.

ASSIST. COM. That's a very precarious trade. Why did he go in for that?

HEAT. Most likely got a connexion on the Continent with people who deal in such wares. He's a lazy dog too, like most of them anarchists.

ASSIST. COM. What do you get from him in exchange for your protection?

HEAT (reserved). What I get wouldn't be much good to anybody but myself. One has got to know a good deal beforehand to make use of that sort of information. (ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER nods.) I haven't spoken to him three times in the last two years. (ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER nods.) I drop him an unsigned note and he answers me in the same way at my private address. (ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER nods.) Whenever I had reason to think there was anything in the wind I always found he could tell me something worth knowing.

ASSIST. COM. (significantly). He failed you this time.

HEAT. Neither had I wind of anything in any other way. I asked him nothing, so he could tell me nothing. It isn't as if he was in our pay.

ASSIST. COM. No. He is a secret agent in the pay of a foreign government. Employed to organize political crime most likely. Really those Embassy people are too impossible. What do they mean by importing their methods of Crim-Tartary here? It's perfectly devilish.

HEAT. When it comes to that, sir, I would deal with the devil himself and take the consequences.

ASSIST. COM. Your idea of secrecy seems to be to keep the chief of your Department in the dark. That's stretching it a little too far, isn't it? (Sharply.) He lives over his shop?

HEAT (assumed indifference). Who? Verloc? Oh, yes. They live over the shop. The wife's mother I fancy lives with them. But I haven't been near the place for years. My opinion is that he knows nothing of this affair.

ASSIST. COM. How do you account for the address on this? (Points finger at cloth rag on table.)

HEAT. I don't account for it at all, sir. It can't be explained by what I know privately.

ASSIST. COM. There is something under the surface of this affair which strikes me as exceptional. I think, Inspector Heat, that this case must be dealt with in a special way.

HEAT (very stolid). Yes, sir.

ASSIST. COM. (irritable). These fellows are a perfect pest.

HEAT (with deep feeling). That's what I have always said, sir.

ASSIST. COM. (pauses, looks hard at HEAT). Whom are you thinking about, Chief Inspector?

HEAT. Why, of those terrorists.

ASSIST. COM. I was thinking of secret agents. I would like to get at the people who employ them and give them a rap on the knuckles—something that they would remember.

HEAT (obstinately). I still think that the man who had most to do with this will turn out to be Michaelis.

ASSIST. COM. That would make the case very simple.

HEAT. Yes, sir.

ASSIST. COM. Well, you know, Inspector Heat, I don't feel that it is simple. I intend to see the Secretary of State at once, and …

HEAT (extreme and ominous deference). Am I to understand, sir, that there is the idea of taking the case out of my hands?

ASSIST. COM. (indulgent). Now, you know, this is a most improper thing for you to have said, Inspector Heat. But I will answer you. No. Nothing of the kind. All I have to tell you now, officially, is to make no move of any kind for the next twelve hours.

HEAT. Officially?

ASSIST. COM. Oh, yes. (Change of tone.) You may follow the Michaelis track. You are still thinking of Michaelis.

HEAT. Yes, sir. It's a plain way; a blind man could not make a mistake, and Michaelis is fair game.

ASSIST. COM. (amused). Oh, by the by, I can tell you where Michaelis will spend this evening. In Belgrave Square. Of course you know about Michaelis's friendship with a great lady?

HEAT (sour). All the world knows of it, sir. There is no accounting for their tastes … or for their whims either.

ASSIST. COM. I know this because I have been asked to dine at her house. But I have the notion, Inspector Heat, that I will have to go without my dinner to-day.

HEAT (extremely stolid). That is as you please, sir.

ASSIST. COM. (gets up brusquely). That's all, Chief Inspector. I haven't any time to lose. (Goes out hurriedly—R.)

HEAT (stares after him. Takes step forward, picks up cloth rag off desk, murmuring viciously the words). Unofficial, indeed! (Exit L.)

ASSIST. COM. (enters immediately, hat on head, gloves in hand, proceeds to look all over writing-table. Glances about floor). Gone! (Laugh.) It's like his damned impudence.

(Takes quick step to L. as if to go after HEAT—then checks himself and makes gestures as if, after all, it didn't matter.)






LADY MABEL'S drawing-room, well lighted. Couch to R. LADY MABEL black dinner-dress, a little old lace, white hair, young eyes. Couch, old gold brocade, on which MAID is settling LADY MABEL. Three women guests in room. Just come in.

LADY MABEL. Thank you. Now this light shawl over my feet, please.

MAID. Mr. Michaelis is wandering about in the hall, my lady. I saw him just now.

LADY MABEL. A man who has spent so many years in prison cannot be like other people.

MAID. He is very unassuming. I am sure he will sit down on the stairs as quiet as can be.

LADY MABEL. His greatest need is sympathy.

MAID. Indeed one can't help liking him, my lady.

LADY MABEL. He can't be left there. He had better join us here at once.

MAID (small laugh). It would be charity to let him. The poor man looks so lost down there.

LADY MABEL. Tell him I want to have a quiet talk with him here.

(Exit MAID. LADY MABEL reclines on elbow. Woman's voice in the group.)

1ST WOMAN'S VOICE. You have read about the bomb outrage in Greenwich Park?

2ND WOMAN'S VOICE. No, I have only just heard. Thank God there were no victims.

1ST WOMAN'S VOICE. The horrid anarchist blew himself up apparently. How stupid of him. The man who took me in to dinner—I didn't catch his name …

3RD WOMAN'S VOICE. Mr. Vladimir, First Secretary of an Embassy.

1ST WOMAN'S VOICE. Oh! Indeed! He was very interesting about it. He explained to me that the very stupidity of this outrage makes it extremely significant. Most serious!

3RD WOMAN'S VOICE (high-pitched). Serious! I should think so. Poor Sir George had a narrow escape.

1ST WOMAN'S VOICE. The Astronomer Royal? Was he anywhere near?

3RD WOMAN'S VOICE. I suppose so. Such a charming man. Did you ever hear him lecture? I never went. Astronomy is so difficult, so remote from one's other interests.

1ST WOMAN'S VOICE. Isn't it? I can't see how it can have any connexion with politics. Those anarchists must be simply mad. Mad people are the most dangerous of all.

(MICHAELIS enters and crosses room to couch. Sudden pause in the voices.)

1ST WOMAN'S VOICE. Dear Lady Mabel pushes eccentricity too far.

3RD WOMAN'S VOICE. Oh, don't say that. It is so amusing.

(They move to second plan and sit down together. MICHAELIS shakes hands with LADY MABEL and sits down carefully in arm-chair at foot of couch. Benign.)

MICH. I heard voices behind the doors and so I stayed in the hall.

LADY MABEL. I couldn't have guessed you were shy, Mr. Michaelis.

MICH. (placid). It isn't exactly that, but I am not used to see many faces at once. I thought you would be alone this evening, ma'am.

LADY MABEL. It isn't necessary to do it really, but why don't you address me as Lady Mabel like my other friends?

MICH. It seems so familiar to use your Christian name.

LADY MABEL. Is that the reason? I thought you didn't recognize social distinctions.

MICH. It isn't exactly that. (Benevolent smile.) The only great man I knew for years and years was the governor of the jail. There were two in my time.

LADY MABEL. Your awful time!

MICH. (placid). You see, the worst of it was that I was so young when they locked me up. There were my old people and the girl that was to marry me. We had just made up our minds to set up a home. There were all the young fellows, chums that one was fond of. Thoughtless perhaps. (Pause.) The poor haven't got much time to think.

LADY MABEL. No … I suppose not.

MICH. At first their faces crowded on me rather; till I couldn't breathe—for a long, long time. Then something seemed to go within me and then they all went too and I had nothing but my own company. (Pause.) For years and years.

LADY MABEL (tone of awe). This is appalling.

MICH. (placidly concerned). Don't upset yourself—there's a dear. You don't quite understand. In all those years I was locked up in a cell, but it was you that was in prison: your kind and charitable soul. It is in prison yet. (Makes a circular gesture indicating the room.) I would give something to make you free.

LADY MABEL. I am a crippled old woman.

MICH. (bends forward in seat, seizes LADY MABEL'S hand in both his hands. Impulsive deep feeling in voice). I do feel for you. I do indeed, ma'am—Mabel—Lady Mabel. (Pause.) I get confused in my head a little, sometimes.

LADY MABEL. Call me what you like. You may well do that. I won't call myself sinful to you, because I am not a canting old woman. But, truly, I do not feel myself a prisoner in this world which has been so cruel and unjust to you.

MICH. (placidly earnest, leans forward a little). I wish no evil to the world.

LADY MABEL. What? No ruin? No destruction?

MICH. No, no. It isn't that, ma'am—Lady Mabel. (Pause.) Not exactly.

LADY MABEL. Not exactly! Well, really, I don't care what happens; but I love to watch what the world is coming to. This world. And what do you think its end will be? A lake of pitch and brimstone?

MICH. Poor woman! Poor woman! What a life you must have had in your prison to talk like that. (Very placid.) I had a vision of this poor earth blossoming in the glorious firmament like a flower full of sweet honey for every bee. (Abrupt pause.) I used to have visions in my cell, you know.

LADY MABEL (even voice). I haven't the slightest doubt you had.

MICH. I am trying to set down all this in my book. It's difficult to get it exactly right.

LADY MABEL. But you are getting on with it?

MICH. Yes, I suppose I am. There's a big lot done. Writing's no trouble to me.

LADY MABEL. I hope you have been comfortable in the cottage.

MICH. I was very happy. I like to be alone. I am setting down now things about Justice and Retribution.

LADY MABEL. What things? Visions?

MICH. Yes. Visions and—and thoughts. I forget the time for days together. I have had such a nice lad staying with me. Not exactly the son of a friend. But my friend is like a father to him. He looked after me a bit. Ah, he has a great notion of justice and retribution, that boy! And so young too, eighteen or so, and they say not exactly right…. (Touches forehead with finger.) But I don't see it! Of course any tale of the world's cruelty makes him get excited. Anger! Punishment! When he is older he will know better, he will have more hope. It was pleasant to have him about.

LADY MABEL. I can't tell you how glad I am to hear you have been comfortable and not altogether alone during this last month.

MICH. You have been good to me.

LADY MABEL. You mustn't talk like this. The world can never make up to you…. (MICHAELIS raises hand placidly.)

MICH. It isn't exactly me…. There are millions of them and there is no such another woman as you. Well, well…. I am sorry to say my friend came along early this morning and took that boy away. I was up and at my writing already. My friend shouted up the staircase that they were going. I didn't even see the dear lad. Something made me restless, and so when I got your letter at noon I just came up. A comrade will give me a shake-down for the night, no doubt, and to-morrow I'll go back. I can't keep away for long from that blessed writing. (Dreamily.) Justice and Retribution.

LADY MABEL. You will take a humane view of both. That I am sure of. I suppose you have heard of the dynamite outrage in Greenwich Park? (Tentatively.) Do you really think that that sort of thing …

MICH. (with feeling). I wish I had never heard of it. It's difficult to see the exact way. But there is a way!

LADY MABEL. Yes. There is. Love and forbearance.

(During the last few replicas three men have entered the room, amongst them MR. VLADIMIR. Then ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER comes in. Approaches couch and seeing the two absorbed in conversation waits with his hand on the back of empty arm-chair.)

LADY MABEL (raises her eyes). Oh, it's you, Harold. (Pause, slightly embarrassed.) This is Mr. Michaelis. (MICHAELIS gets up very friendly.)

MICH. How do you do? How do you do? (They shake hands. Turns to LADY MABEL and bends over the couch.) Good night, dear friend. I shall smoke my evening pipe in the streets. You are a great soul. Good night. (Moves off across the room, where everybody turns to look at him.)

LADY MABEL. Good-bye.

ASSIST. COM. (smiling, takes seat in arm-chair). This is the only place I should think in the whole world where a Commissioner of Police could meet a convict.

LADY MABEL (with animation). And that officially is supposed to be a terrorist. What nonsense!

ASSIST. COM. (gentle). Not a dangerous one, perhaps.

LADY MABEL. Not dangerous! I should think not indeed. He is a mere believer. It's the temperament of a saint. And they kept him shut up for twenty years. One shudders at the stupidity of it. And now they have let him out his people are all dead, his friends are gone, the girl he was to marry has disappeared. He told me it was the hardest thing of all. He has lost the skill necessary for his manual occupation. He speaks of all this with the sweetest patience. If that's the stuff revolutionists are made of some of us may well go on our knees to them. (All faces turn towards couch with smiles.) The poor creature is obviously no longer able to take care of himself. Somebody must look after him.

A MAN (lean face, grey moustache, approaches couch. Soldierly voice). He should be recommended to follow a treatment of some sort. Over eighteen stone, and not five foot six. (With feeling.) The man is virtually a cripple.

WOMAN'S VOICE. Monstrous.

ANOTHER WOMAN'S VOICE. Most painful to see.

ANOTHER MAN'S VOICE (mincingly). Absolutely grotesque.

LADY MABEL. I was anxious to send him to Marienbad this year, but the police objected because of the Prince, who was taking his cure there. As though poor Michaelis could poison the air by breathing in it. (All faces grave; groups re-form at back of stage.)

ASSIST. COM. Did you have him to dinner?

LADY MABEL. No, he came late—like you. But then you at least did send a note. A most exciting little note about this Greenwich outrage. Tell me, what is it, this horror.

ASSIST. COM. It may yet become a cause célèbre.

LADY MABEL (eager). Do tell me. I am extremely curious. I believe it is curiosity that keeps me alive. But what detained you? What had you to do to keep you away?

ASSIST. COM. To begin with, I had to do a very difficult thing.

LADY MABEL. And what was that?

ASSIST. COM. I had to smooth down Sir William. He was furious with the Department.

LADY MABEL. I remember him in his young days. He was an admirable dancer. Better than any one. He seemed to live for it. It was quite extraordinary. (Musing tones.) And now he is Secretary of State! Quite an ordinary sort of thing.

ASSIST. COM. Yes. But he can be extraordinarily angry. He looked much more dangerous than any terrorist could ever be. However …

LADY MABEL. You have been clever enough to placate him.

ASSIST. COM. No. I only managed to turn his anger into another channel.

LADY MABEL. Very well. But why didn't you come to dinner after you had done that?

ASSIST. COM. You forget the other things I had to do. Before I went to see Sir William I had a long interview with Chief Inspector Heat. The result was that I shocked and disgusted him.

LADY MABEL. He's a great detective.

ASSIST. COM. He has a great reputation. I don't say it is undeserved. I am afraid I made for myself an enemy there.


ASSIST. COM. I will tell you. He was reporting to me on his investigation of this case, and at last he let out something which made me think of you.

LADY MABEL. Of me? What have I to do with the case?

ASSIST. COM. It's very simple. He tried to drag Michaelis into it.

LADY MABEL. Impossible.

ASSIST. COM. Just possible. I was startled. I thought to myself that if Heat had his way Michaelis would be laid hold of again and you would never forgive me.

LADY MABEL (impulsively). Never.

ASSIST. COM. Inspector Heat thinks that a man of that sort has no business to be at large.

LADY MABEL. That's sheer wickedness.

ASSIST. COM. No. It's the Departmental point of view. However, my affection for you sharpened my wits. We fenced for a bit, and then Heat ended by admitting to me that he had gathered in Greenwich another indication. A bit of an overcoat with an address on it. A trifle. But it led Inspector Heat to talk to me about a certain Embassy spy. You know my hatred of spies and informers and still more for the people who employ them. That a secret agent will fabricate his information is a mere commonplace. They are a pest—but the people who employ them are a still greater pest! I made up my mind to ask Sir William to let me deal personally with this man Verloc, the secret agent with whom Inspector Heat had been in touch for several years. (Pause.) Funny to think that the reputation of Chief Inspector Heat of the Special Crimes Department is perhaps the work of Mr. Verloc, an obscure Embassy spy.

LADY MABEL. What a strange thing. And did you actually go yourself? Were you disguised?

ASSIST. COM. Well, I did not go in these clothes. I had on a shabby jacket and a soft felt hat, very old too. Yes, I started in search of that secret agent. At last I found my way into the parlour of a very dark, small public-house.

LADY MABEL. And what did you find there?

ASSIST. COM. Physically, a bulky sort of man vaguely resembling Chief Inspector Heat. He took me at first for an anarchist from the Continent.

LADY MABEL (shocked). Harold!

ASSIST. COM. (resigned voice). I suppose there must be something in my appearance. Moreover, the way I addressed him at first made it excusable. He had been sitting in that hole, solitary, ever since eleven o'clock, when he returned from Greenwich. When I told him I wished to speak to him about the bomb outrage he became speechless with fright and astonishment. He couldn't possibly imagine by any effort of mind how on earth his connexion with it was known so soon, or even at all.

LADY MABEL. Harold, you are telling me most unheard-of things.

(Sounds of well-bred laughter from a group.)

ASSIST. COM. He is certainly the agent of an Embassy. (Bending over couch.) And its First Secretary is in your drawing-room now. He can be very amusing.

LADY MABEL. What! Mr. Vladimir? It's perfectly shocking.

ASSIST. COM. (glance over shoulder). He is having a great success.

LADY MABEL (distractedly). One of the wittiest men …

(More sounds of laughter.)

ASSIST. COM. Evidently. He can also, it seems, be a very terrible bully. He drove that spy almost crazy with his menaces. Did it ever occur to you, Lady Mabel, what a vulnerable person a secret agent is?

LADY MABEL. Yes. No…. I have never in my life given a thought to such people.

ASSIST. COM. Well, that secret agent was in a state of moral and physical collapse which surprised me. He had worked up the feelings of a poor half-witted boy to throw that bomb as a sort of retribution for social injustice. He didn't expect the accident. It upset him terribly. We are here faced by a domestic situation, dear Lady Mabel. The man has a wife. The boy was her brother.

LADY MABEL. A secret agent! A wife! Is she an anarchist, or a terrorist, or whatever you call these people, too?

ASSIST. COM. I don't know. It seems incredible that she should know his real character. A secret agent is a being apart. It's the nearest thing to living under a curse. A secret curse.

LADY MABEL (interested). It didn't occur to me. I had no idea. Have such people any human feelings at all—I wonder.

ASSIST. COM. At bottom I imagine they must be very commonplace. (Pause.) Like the great mass of mankind. What struck me as peculiar was that he couldn't keep her out of the conversation.

LADY MABEL. You mean his wife? Could it be that he is very much attached to her?

ASSIST. COM. Well, that in itself would not be so peculiar. Attached to her? Very likely. She is the only possession that he may really call his own. Everything else he possesses in the world, and even his life itself, are at the mercy of a whispered hint, of an accidental indiscretion, of a rash word. For he is a secret agent! The very breath in his body depends on his employers. What was peculiar was seemingly his conviction that he was loved for himself.

LADY MABEL (amazed). Loved for himself! Did he tell you this in so many words?

ASSIST. COM. Well, no. Still I got the impression. Most men at some time or other feel the need of confession. This Verloc, as soon as he understood who I was, flung himself, figuratively speaking, on my breast. His one idea was revenge.

LADY MABEL. And you? What did you do?

ASSIST. COM. I am a hunter of criminals. I feel for my game. I advised him to go home and make all his arrangements, and told him I would see him later. Then I went again to Sir William with my, or rather Verloc's, tale. Sir William was a brick.

LADY MABEL (sigh). He danced divinely.

ASSIST. COM. Yes. But was there ever such another Secretary of State! He is a brick because he has given me my head. Mr. Verloc will be arrested to-morrow. There will be a trial, with startling disclosures. A cause célèbre. Rather! The Secretary of a great Embassy, discovered at the bottom of a terrorist outrage! Such a thing was never heard of … (Calming down.) I wouldn't say it has never happened.

LADY MABEL. My dear Harold, it's you who are a great detective. What an awful light this throws …

ASSIST. COM. Yes. And I shall watch it all from the shadow of the office. I managed to break away from my desk for a few hours. In another hour or so, after I have seen Mr. Verloc once more, I shall go back to it…. (Pause.) For the rest of my days. That sort of thing does not happen twice in one's life.

LADY MABEL. But won't your man run away?

ASSIST. COM. No, Lady Mabel, he will not run away. Prison for a couple of years is the safest place for him. Indeed, he longs for it. Afterwards he will disappear in the way such men vanish.

LADY MABEL. With that woman?

ASSIST. COM. With—or without. It'll depend on how much he is loved. (Pause. Grim.) It occurs to me that Mr. Vladimir will vanish even before Mr. Verloc. The London clubs and drawing-rooms will not know Mr. Vladimir much longer.

(A couple which has been waiting during the last three replicas, approaches to take leave. ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER gets up. General leave-taking. Murmurs, handshakes, bows. During that time MR. VLADIMIR and LADY GUEST remain seated together extreme L. of stage. As others go out they rise and approach the couch.)

ASSIST. COM. (to LADY MABEL). I am sure everybody is scandalized at the way I have been monopolizing you this evening. Did you notice how everybody looked intrigued by our long conference?

LADY MABEL. They may think what they like. My eccentricity is well known. (MR. VLADIMIR and LADY GUEST very close to couch.) I believe you have met before. (ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER and MR. VLADIMIR bow to each other.)

MR. VLAD. I had the pleasure—once.

LADY GUEST (indicating MR. VLADIMIR with fan). He has been frightening me.

ASSIST. COM. (deliberate scrutiny). You don't look frightened.

LADY GUEST. Well, at least he tried to.

ASSIST. COM. Force of habit, perhaps.

LADY MABEL. Sit down for a moment, Ethel, it isn't late yet.

LADY GUEST (sits down). He has been threatening society with all sorts of horrors. It seems we all ought to quake in our shoes at the fate which waits for us if this terrorism is not suppressed. I had no idea this Greenwich Park affair was such a grave symptom.

ASSIST. COM. I have no doubt Mr. Vladimir has an exact notion of the gravity of this affair.

MR. VLAD. (turns to ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER. Extreme urbanity). You mean, we have a great experience of these revolutionists? Yes, indeed, we have suffered greatly in my country from their activity, while you … (witty smile)… suffer their presence gladly in your midst.

ASSIST. COM. (moves away a little). Yes, I know we are being accused of too much lenity. And in this connexion I should like to tell you … (Pauses, expectant. MR. VLADIMIR motionless, head over shoulder. ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER louder.) We have got hold of a man called Verloc.

MR. VLAD. (hurried movement to join ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER). Eh? What?

ASSIST. COM. (casual). You know him, it seems.

MR. VLAD. (taken aback). What makes you say that?

ASSIST. COM. (as before). I don't. It's Verloc who says that.

MR. VLAD. (affecting contempt). A lying dog of some sort.

ASSIST. COM. (as before). What pleases me in this affair is that it's such an excellent starting-point for ridding this country of political spies, secret agents, and all that sort of … dogs. We will be able to make ourselves unpleasant to their employers, too. The thing has become indecent as well as dangerous.

MR. VLAD. (checking movement of retreat). What do you mean? How can you prove that?

ASSIST. COM. The prosecution of this Verloc will demonstrate to the public both the danger and the indecency.

MR. VLAD. (unbelieving). Prosecution! Are you speaking seriously?

ASSIST. COM. Perfectly. We have got the man and we shall go on to the end.

MR. VLAD. (protesting). Prosecution! (Loquacious.) You will only be feeding the lying spirit of these revolutionary scoundrels. What do you want to make a public scandal for? From morality or what? (Agitated.)

ASSIST. COM. We don't intend to let ourselves be bothered by shams under any pretext whatever.

MR. VLAD. (furious). For my part, I can't admit your point of view. It's selfish. We ought to be good Europeans. I am a good European.

ASSIST. COM. (perfect composure). Yes. Only you look at Europe from its other end. (Good-natured.) But you can't complain of our police now. This case was specially difficult to deal with inasmuch as it was a sham. We have already established the identity of a man literally blown to shreds, have found the organizer of the attempt, and have obtained the certitude of the inciter behind him. I mention this business to you because it is your Government that grumbles most at our police. You see that we are not so bad. I wanted particularly to tell you of our success.

MR. VLAD. (not looking at ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER. Surly mutter). Much obliged, I am sure.

ASSIST. COM. (pulls watch out. Smile). I have a hansom at the door. Can I put you down at the Club?

MR. VLAD. (surly, dazed). I am not going to any damned … (Violent.) I will walk.

(Remains thunderstruck. Stony stare. ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER moves towards couch to take leave. LADY GUEST looks at him over back of her chair. LADY MABEL extends her hand to him with a smile.)






Curtain rises on back parlour of VERLOC'S, as in Act I. Gas-jet lighted. WINNIE finishes laying tea. Pauses at clatter of shop door bell. Expectant. MR. VERLOC enters from the shop, unbuttoned overcoat, hat on back of head, harassed aspect, drops on sofa, stares at his wife.

WINNIE (attentive). Oh, here you are. I expected you at one o'clock.

MR. VERLOC (drops eyes. Great effort). Couldn't.… Business.

WINNIE (calm). I don't worry myself about the hours you keep. (Goes to corner cupboard and opens it.) What a wretched day it has been.

MR. VERLOC (shuddering. Mutters). Like a nightmare.

WINNIE (turns round, a plate in hand). Have you been getting wet?

MR. VERLOC. Wet? I don't know. No. (Shudders.)

WINNIE (watchful). I shall have you laid up on my hands. Come to the fire.

MR. VERLOC (bangs hat on couch, goes over). Laid up? No fear. I am tougher than you think. (Menacing.) And so they will all find. (Sits down and hangs over grate.)

WINNIE (puts dish with beef on table). You ought to be hungry, having been away all day. I have some cold meat for your tea.

MR. VERLOC (huddling over the fire). I am not hungry. Couldn't eat anything.

WINNIE. You had better try presently. You should feed your cold.

MR. VERLOC (shivering). I haven't got a cold.

WINNIE (going on laying table. Unconcerned). Where have you been to-day?

MR. VERLOC. Nowhere…. (Mumbles.) Lots of places. (Louder.) I have been to the bank.

WINNIE (calm). To the bank? What did you want at the bank to-day?

MR. VERLOC (reluctant). Draw some money out.

WINNIE. I didn't know you had to pay anything to-day.

MR. VERLOC (mumbling). Well, I drew it out.

WINNIE (slightly startled). What, all of it?

MR. VERLOC (sits up). Yes, all of it.

WINNIE (slowly). What did you do that for?

MR. VERLOC (huddled up again). To have it handy. (Snuffle.) May need it. (Shudder.) There is no saying what may happen.

WINNIE (standing still between table and cupboard). I don't know what you mean.

MR. VERLOC (speaking into the grate). You know you can trust me.

WINNIE (turns slowly to cupboard. Deliberate). Oh, yes, I can trust you. (Turns away from cupboard, carving-knife and fork in her hand.) If I hadn't trusted you I wouldn't have married you. (Picks up kettle and makes tea.) Adolf.


WINNIE. Come to your tea.

MR. VERLOC (gets up, staggers a little, sits down heavily in chair at end of table. Gesture of disgust). I don't want anything.

WINNIE (after waiting a while). Aren't your feet wet? (MR. VERLOC grunts.) You aren't going out any more this evening, surely?

MR. VERLOC (raises head). Going out? I have had enough of going out. I wish I had never gone out. (Slight pause.) No, it isn't of going out that I am thinking. What I want is to go away for good. Get out altogether—out of this—away to the devil—Australia—California. (Morose.) France would do.

WINNIE (surprised but placid). You have been harping on that for more than a month past, Adolf. Emigrating. What would be the good of that?

MR. VERLOC. I am sick of this life. I have had enough of it—I have …

WINNIE. You have a bad cold. You will feel different in a couple of days. You shouldn't make yourself a slave to all those foreign people. Nobody needs do that in this country. Why should you? This business isn't so bad. You have a comfortable home. (Pause.) And you are not tired of me. (Takes his hand from behind and presses her lips to MR. VERLOC'S forehead. MR. VERLOC grips the edges of chair with both hands while the kiss lasts. Clatter of shop door bell. They start apart. MR. VERLOC gets up heavily. Husky tone.)

MR. VERLOC. You know how to hold me.

WINNIE (urgent). Shop, Adolf. You go. (Pause.) You go, I have got my apron on…. Customer?

MR. VERLOC (goes to door, peeps through curtain. Speaks from door. Agitated). Not a customer. (Advancing towards his wife.) I am afraid he will want me to go out again to-night.

WINNIE (calm but forcible). Nonsense; you aren't well enough.

MR. VERLOC (distracted). Must—if he asks me to. Business.

WINNIE. There you go again. A regular slave. Go and change your boots at least.

MR. VERLOC (hesitating). Can't leave him out there. Wouldn't do, in the shop.

WINNIE (gives him a slight push). All right. You go upstairs. I will see to that. (As MR. VERLOC disappears upstairs WINNIE takes apron off, goes to door, peeps through before opening it. Very loud.) Will you come in here, please, to wait? (Pause.) You understand English, don't you? (Moves back.)

ASSIST. COM. (following her into the parlour and shutting the door behind him). Oh, yes, I understand English.

WINNIE. You've just come from the Continent, perhaps. (ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER smiles. WINNIE sits down, hands on lap.) You knew Mr. Verloc before, didn't you?

ASSIST. COM. (observing her). We met already to-day. It was for the first time. I promised to call for him. We have a very important business matter to settle—without delay.

WINNIE (with calm assurance). My husband will see you through whatever it is. He will be down in a moment.

ASSIST. COM. (Smiles. Then very grave). I hope to persuade him to do so.

WINNIE. You speak very good English.

ASSIST. COM. (after pause). I say, your husband hasn't gone out, perhaps.

WINNIE (surprised). He couldn't. This is the only way out.

(Heavy footsteps overhead. They wait in silence.)

MR. VERLOC (hair brushed down, overcoat buttoned). You keep your word.

ASSIST. COM. (significant but friendly tone). You didn't think you were going to be dropped. I have settled the matter to your—advantage. But I think we had better not talk here. One of your friends might drop in.

MR. VERLOC. No, we can't talk here. (Stands still.)

ASSIST. COM. Well, let us go to the same place where we talked before. (Slight bow to WINNIE. Moves off. MR. VERLOC follows.)

WINNIE (watches them, then suddenly). Adolf. Here!

MR. VERLOC (to ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER). Just a minute. I will follow you.

(Exit ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER through parlour door.)

WINNIE (crosses stage to sofa). Adolf, you weren't going out without your hat? (Gives him hat. MR. VERLOC holds it in both hands as if he didn't know what to do with a hat.) He isn't of that Embassy lot, is he?

MR. VERLOC. Embassy! No! Embassy lot! I would cut their hearts out one after another. But let them look out! I have got a tongue in my head.

WINNIE (looking at him). You are not yourself; you are feverish. Well, get rid of the man, whoever he is, and come back to me. You want looking after. (Pause.) Do get it over.

MR. VERLOC (starts. Rams hat on head. Mutters). Yes, that will be best.

WINNIE. I say, have you thought of leaving the money upstairs?

MR. VERLOC. Eh, what? (Stupidly.) I left nothing upstairs.

WINNIE (extending open palm). Hadn't you better leave it with me? I don't like you to go out with all that in your pocket.

MR. VERLOC. Oh, the money I drew? I didn't know what you meant. (Plunges hand in breast pocket and puts into wife's palm pocket-book.) Yes, yes, of course. (Hurries out through parlour door.)

(WINNIE, alone, peeps into pocket-book, looks all round room. Obvious hesitation. A movement towards staircase, a movement towards sideboard. Finally undoes two buttons of her bodice and slips pocket-book there. Picks up a bit of white needlework from chair and turns gas down. Passes out slowly to shop.)



The shop door to street on R. Counter on L. Door to back parlour in middle wall. Dependent gas-jet in middle. Shop window next to street door. One chair behind counter, another on shop side of counter. Rest of space clear. Shelves behind counter sparsely occupied by cardboard boxes mostly, a few books and miscellaneous objects of glass. On counter two or three piles of newspapers, bottles of marking-ink, photographs, etc., etc.

WINNIE enters at once from parlour with the piece of white sewing in her hand. Sits down behind counter. Takes three or four stitches. While she is doing this a distant voice outside is heard, high-pitched:

Greenwich Park Outrage. All the details! (WINNIE sews on. Shrill voice nearer.) Bomb in Greenwich Park. (Fainter.) Latest edition. Bomb … (Dies out. WINNIE lets hands fall on lap and remains lost in thought. The street door opens with clatter of bell. HEAT enters, closes door behind him, advances middle of shop. Swift glance round. Amiably. Business-like.)

HEAT. Nasty weather…. Good evening, Mrs. Verloc.

WINNIE (on her feet behind the counter. Perfunctory attitude). Good evening.

HEAT (conversational). It has been trying to rain all day. (Advances to counter.) Husband at home, Mrs. Verloc?

WINNIE (not looking at him). Mr. Verloc's out.

HEAT. Out? Is he? (Markedly.) I am sorry for that. (WINNIE turns to shelves. HEAT a little louder.) You are certain he is out?

WINNIE (over her shoulder). Of course. (Doubtful.) I haven't seen you before, have I?

HEAT (curt). I am sure I don't know. (Good-humoured again.) I remember seeing you. I have been at least three times here since your husband opened this shop, on a matter of private business. Strictly private. I bet he hasn't forgotten me. Well, here I am again and I am very disappointed to hear he is out. (Slightly confidential.) I am come again in my private capacity, you know, and you may just as well tell me the truth.

WINNIE. Well, he is out. (Pushes a box into its place and turns about.)

HEAT. I am in want of a little private information. I went home early, being, as it were, chucked out of a case. However, on thinking it over I felt I must look up your husband. I did expect to find him at home this evening. (Pause.) I would wait for him if I were sure he wouldn't be long.

WINNIE. He never tells me.

HEAT. It's quite a private call. You understand what I mean? Couldn't you give me some notion where he has gone to?

WINNIE (shakes head). I can't say.

HEAT. Or what took him out?

WINNIE (turning away again). I don't know.

HEAT (louder). But I suppose you do know who I am? (WINNIE glances over her shoulder. HEAT impatient.) Come! You know well enough I am in the police.

WINNIE. I don't trouble my head much about these things. (Faces HEAT. Hands hanging idle.) What can I do for you?

HEAT. My name is Heat—Chief Inspector Heat of the Special Crimes Department. I want a little information.

WINNIE. Mr. Verloc went out about a quarter of an hour ago.

HEAT. And he didn't say when he would be back?

WINNIE (casually). He didn't go out alone.

HEAT. Went out with a friend?

WINNIE (touches back of her head). No. Stranger called. (Pause.) By appointment, I fancy.

HEAT. Indeed? What was his appearance? Would you mind giving me an idea?

WINNIE (indifferent). He was a thin, tall man, with a long face. His moustaches were turned up. A foreigner, I think. Spoke very good English.

HEAT (stamps foot). Dash me if I didn't think he would!… Thank you, Mrs. Verloc…. I know who that is. (Angry.) I am damned if I ever heard of an old servant being treated in that way. (Change of tone.) I dare say you wonder, Mrs. Verloc, why I should take on so.

WINNIE. It has nothing to do with me.

HEAT (with meaning). Hasn't it? (Pause.) I don't think I will wait for your husband. As likely as not those two will be coming back together. What do you think, Mrs. Verloc?

WINNIE. I don't trouble my head. (Listless.)

HEAT (after a pause). You don't know anything?


HEAT. You don't? (WINNIE shakes head.) You put it on very well, Mrs. Verloc, but all the same I fancy you could give me a pretty good notion of what's going on if you liked.

WINNIE. Going on? What is going on?

HEAT. Don't you ever look at a paper?

WINNIE. Not every day. Was there anything in the papers this morning?

HEAT. No. In the evening papers. Lots about an attempt to damage the Greenwich Observatory by means of a bomb. And you haven't heard yet? Why! There was a newsboy yelling at the end of your street, just as I came along. The Greenwich Park Outrage they call it. Revolutionists. Anarchs.

WINNIE. I call it silly—their talk and the newspapers, and all. We ain't down-trodden slaves here.

HEAT (watchful stare). And your husband didn't mention anything of it to you when he came home? Nothing about the man blown to pieces?

WINNIE (aloof). No. I would just as soon not know. (Nonchalant.)

HEAT (provoked). I see…. (Grim tone.) There is another small matter I would have spoken to your husband about if he had been at home. But you will do. There came into our hands a—what we believe—may be a stolen overcoat.

WINNIE (touches lightly her dress, under which is the pocket-book. Calm). We have lost no overcoat.

HEAT. That's funny. (Picking up small bottle off the counter.) I see you keep marking-ink in stock. Purple, isn't it? That overcoat had a label sewn in under the collar with your address written in purple marking-ink.

WINNIE (leans over counter). Oh! (Louder.) That's Stevie's. That's my brother's coat.

HEAT (briskly). Is your brother about? Could I see him for a minute?

WINNIE. He isn't at home…. I sewed that label in his overcoat myself.

HEAT. But your brother's living with you, isn't he?

WINNIE. He's gone away for a few days, to stay with—with a friend in the country.

HEAT. The overcoat comes from the country. Who's that friend of yours? What's his name?

WINNIE (reluctant). Mr. Michaelis.

HEAT (low whistle). Exactly. And your brother now, what's he like—a thick-set, dark chap?

WINNIE (with fervour). Oh, no. That must be the thief. Stevie's slight and fair.

HEAT. Good. I should like to know a little more about him. He isn't deaf and dumb, is he?

WINNIE (fearful, steady stare at HEAT). Who are you talking about?

HEAT. I am asking you about your brother.

WINNIE (faltering voice). He is all right.

HEAT (slightly excited). Why this label then? Suffer from fits?

WINNIE. You have got hold of somebody else, I tell you! Stevie's the nicest … (Voice drops.) He is a little forgetful at times.

HEAT. I see. Easily excitable, isn't he?

WINNIE (effort to regain calm). Sometimes. A little with strangers. Do you know how the thief came by the coat? (Louder.) How did you come by it?

HEAT (pulls out folded pink newspaper from pocket, throws it on counter, plunges hand in pocket again and brings out piece of overcoat, as in Act II). I suppose you recognize this?

WINNIE (takes it in both hands, walks out to middle of shop, under gas, looks at the cloth and says) Yes. (Steps back a pace and says slowly) Why is it torn out like this?

(The position now is HEAT and WINNIE, instead of facing each other across the counter on the L. of the stage, are in middle of shop. HEAT having turned round as WINNIE moved out from behind counter they again face each other under gas-jet, but this time WINNIE is on the R. and HEAT on L.)

HEAT (snatches cloth out of WINNIE'S hands, saying) Identification perfect. (Forcible tone.) Mrs. Verloc, it strikes me that you may know more of this bomb affair than you yourself are aware of.

WINNIE (staggers backwards. Staring eyes, still face, changed voice). Bomb affair? What has it to do with Stevie's overcoat?

(MR. VERLOC enters street door in clatter of bell, shuts door behind him, stands with his back to it looking at HEAT, who looks at him. Then moves forward.)

MR. VERLOC (husky). You here! Who are you after?

HEAT (curt). Nobody. (Hurriedly.) I must have a word or two with you.

MR. VERLOC (without looking at WINNIE. Sulky). What about?

HEAT (indignant). You ask what about! (Low tone, touching lightly with his forefinger MR. VERLOC'S breast.) You are the other man of the park, Verloc! You understand me! The other man.

(Short pause. WINNIE stands still, with mouth a little open.)

MR. VERLOC. Come into the parlour then.

(They move towards the parlour door and exit one after another. HEAT last. Door shut. Simultaneously WINNIE totters towards counter, seizes folded paper. Falls on chair, trembling from head to foot. Unfolding paper convulsively tears it in two and drops it on the floor. Glazed part of parlour door, which was dim before, lights up brightly, and a shadow arm or hat flits on it. WINNIE jumps up, runs to door, falls on her knees against it with ear to keyhole and profile to audience.)



Parlour as before. During this scene HEAT and MR. VERLOC are in a state of imperfectly suppressed excitement. For the most part they talk loudly, only now and then dropping their voices. There is a certain similarity in their personal appearance, both big men, clothes same sort of cut, dark blue overcoats and round hats on. My intention is that both should remain at the back, as near as possible to the door leading into the shop. Also it must be remembered that in the action there is no interval. Therefore when the scene shifts HEAT is still holding the handle of the door which he has just shut. MR. VERLOC is still very close to him when the dialogue begins.

HEAT. By heavens! You are the other man.

MR. VERLOC (agitated, turns gas up full and speaks like a man beside himself). I bolted out of the park and didn't stop till I got to Maze Hill Station. A train came in. (Gasps.)

HEAT (moves forward one pace from the door. With conviction). You must have been mad to go in for a thing like that.

MR. VERLOC. I have been driven to it. I was mad, for more than a month. But it's all over now! Everything shall come out—and hang the consequences!

HEAT. Phew! Is that the game you are going to play?

MR. VERLOC. That's the game. Game for game. Driving a man crazy. That was his game.

HEAT. Whose game?

MR. VERLOC (venomous). A pretty, pink-faced gentleman. (Hits table with fist.) An Embassy swine.

HEAT (warning). Don't make so much noise.

MR. VERLOC (continuing, shaking fist). I will do for the lot of them. They will all get fired out.

HEAT (calm). Really…. I am perfectly aware who you have been out with just now. (Wags forefinger.) Well—don't trust too much to what you have been promised by that gentleman. He's as cute as they make them.

MR. VERLOC (fierce). He's all right. I must trust somebody.

HEAT (as before). Remember that at this game you will give yourself away also. Before a month's out you may be knifed by one of your sweet anarch friends. That's what will happen to you.

MR. VERLOC (gloomy). Jail's the safest place for me. That's where I want to be. Out of all this. I have been promised a light sentence—a year or so. (Passionately.) I wish you would take me away now. This minute. I would go with you like a lamb.

HEAT. I dare say. (Jerks head towards shop door.) Listen. You have always been straight with me. I have been circumvented and chucked out of this case. I am talking to you privately. Private citizen Heat. Clear out. Vanish.

MR. VERLOC. Vanish where? There would be no time to fix it up.

HEAT. Let me tell you, always privately, that all the blamed gang of your friends think you are no longer in this world.

MR. VERLOC. They do? (Startled.) Why?

HEAT (contemptuous). Of course. Didn't you go for your silly bomb to the Professor? What else did you expect them to think? It was I that spotted the truth, about two hours after you ran out of the park.

MR. VERLOC (jerks head up. Very loud). How on earth did you?

HEAT (ironic). Miracle! What? (Triumphant, loud, pulling piece of overcoat out of his pocket.) What about this? Look at this label. Your wife …

MR. VERLOC. Shh! Not so loud. (Awed tone.) Who would have thought she would have hit on a dodge like that? (Looks down on the ground. Overcome.)

HEAT. I saw that done only once before. A very old gentleman who liked to roam about the town alone. Good dodge that.

MR. VERLOC (still looking down). It served your turn.

HEAT. I tell you I am out of this case. I would have roped in half a dozen of your fellows over this affair if I had been left alone. I don't mean you. I have known you too long. You meant no harm.

MR. VERLOC (jerks head up). Look here! The boy was half an idiot. If he had been caught it would have been the asylum for him, nothing worse. I told him what to do twenty times over. Made him repeat it all that morning. Then I left him and went away to wait till he had done it. It was foggy early this morning. We could have both got clear. I was waiting for him.

HEAT (interested). The bang startled you. Eh? Came too soon.

MR. VERLOC (hoarse). Yes, it came too soon. I knew then that he was gone, and I ran down Chesterfield Walk. I don't think I met any one till I was past the end of George Street.

HEAT (marvelling). So easy as that! We think he stumbled against a tree root, you know. And you are right. He was gone pretty completely. The head they picked up and his feet too, but as for the rest … (Voice rising.) They had to actually scrape most of him together with the earth with a shovel, into waterproof sheet. Flesh, mud, bits of sticks and bones—I saw it. Pah!

MR. VERLOC. Not so loud.

HEAT (lowers voice). The best thing for you is to be gone too, while your friends still think that you are dead. None of our people will try to stop you.

MR. VERLOC (looking straight at HEAT). I am not a single man.

HEAT (after a silence). I see! Well, I will be off. (Casual.) I suppose you expect to be arrested to-morrow.

MR. VERLOC (eyes again on the ground, head low). I suppose …

(HEAT turns towards door when it opens and WINNIE appears. HEAT stands aside to let her pass, then exit, shutting the door behind him. WINNIE walks forward. Appearance of sleep-walker. Drops on sofa, upright, hands in lap for a moment. Street door bell clatters in shop. WINNIE hides face in hands. Not till then does MR. VERLOC make a movement which brings him to the front of the stage. He walks away R., then comes back L. to address WINNIE.)

MR. VERLOC (stopping in front of sofa). Winnie! Don't take on so. You had a shock—hadn't you? It's that damned Heat. Blurting it out like this to a woman. (Heavily.) Well, it can't be helped. Nothing can be helped now. (Walks away R., comes back. Earnest. Husky.) I made myself ill thinking how to break it to you. I sat for hours in the parlour of the 'Cheshire Cheese' thinking out the best way. Do you think I feel particularly gay just now? (WINNIE'S visible heave of chest. MR. VERLOC walks away again R., comes back, always stepping heavily and head low. Stops again.) Listen, Winnie. We have got to think of to-morrow. You will need all your wits presently, for I may be taken away from you to-morrow. (Bends towards WINNIE a little.) Yes, put in prison for a year or two. For my own safety. Certainly. (Sudden passion.) I am going to give the whole show away. (Spins round, walks away, returns. Change of tone.) Do be brave, Winnie. What would it have been if you had lost me? (Steps back, looks at WINNIE.) And it might very well have happened any time this last month. I was getting desperate. It might have happened! (Turns round once more and walks off.)

WINNIE (uncovers her face for a minute). You—took—the boy—away from—me—(slight shriek)—to murder him. (Covers face again.)

MR. VERLOC (faces about). I!… I!… And it's you who say that? (Quick step forward.) You daren't say that and look me in the face. (Seizes WINNIE'S wrist and tugs without success. Suddenly WINNIE jumps up, gives him a push. MR. VERLOC totters back, overturns chair behind him, and WINNIE exit quickly up the stairs. MR. VERLOC instinctively picks up chair, moves to stairs. Shouts) Winnie! (Waits a moment, returns to table, says) What's a fellow to do? (Sits down, cuts a piece of meat off, takes a mouthful. Quick footsteps overhead. MR. VERLOC looks up. More quick footsteps. Lays down knife and fork, gets up.) What's a fellow to do? (Goes to foot of stairs.) Winnie. (Waits.) You aren't going to bed? (Waits.) Well, don't come down again till you can hear reason. (Waits. Shouts up the stairs) You must understand that a man gets desperate sometimes. (Waits. Shouts) You don't know what a brute I had to deal with. An ignorant, overbearing swine. (Waits. Shouts) If I hadn't thought of you I would have taken the bullying scoundrel by the throat and rammed his head into the fireplace. (Expectant. Again rapid sound of footsteps above. Discouraged. Mutters.) She must get over it the best she can. (While he walks heavily L. towards the sofa, WINNIE appears at foot of stairs R. Same dress but hat on and a close veil. Umbrella in hand, old gloves on. Stands still. MR. VERLOC turns at L. and perceives her. Astounded.) What? You've got your hat on? You don't think I will let you go out to-night? I suppose it's your mother you want to run to. Well, it's too late. That sort of news can wait till next day. And what about leaving me in my trouble? I couldn't stand being alone in the house. (Gloomy.) I need company. (Stands with hanging head.) Your company. I can't do without you this evening.

WINNIE (in the stair doorway. Very white. Monotonous, impersonal voice). And I thought he had caught a cold. (Steps out into the room.)

MR. VERLOC (starts). What did you say? Where are you going? (Disregarded. Shouts) Sit down! (WINNIE sits down on chair near fireplace. MR. VERLOC remains on farther side of table from WINNIE.)

(It is to be observed that during the whole scene MR. VERLOC speaks like a man completely absorbed in himself and his own view of the situation. WINNIE must be characterized by a visible rigidity of body. Her voice when coming through the veil is blank in expression. When veil is down her face is white, her eyes by contrast very black. General expression set and unchangeable.)

MR. VERLOC (beginning again suddenly). You didn't think I would let you go out to-night?

WINNIE (behind the veil. Impersonal). He will never let me go.

MR. VERLOC (sudden change of tone). I had to do with a venomous beast. Some of the highest of the land have to thank me for walking on their two legs to-day. That's the kind of man you've got married to, my girl. Drive me into a ditch to starve! A man like me! I have been playing my head at that game any day these ten years. You didn't know, and quite right too. I am not a chap to worry a woman that's fond of me. You had no business to know. The scoundrel! I would have bashed his face in as he sat here if I had not loved you.

WINNIE (voice of dead fear behind the veil). What is he talking about?

MR. VERLOC (much aggrieved). What do you take me for? A murderer, or what? I hunted this town high and low. I ran the risk of giving myself away to find somebody for that accursed job. I couldn't find any one hungry enough or crazy enough. Do you think I wanted the boy to blow himself up?

WINNIE (wail behind her veil). O-o-o-oh. (Sits perfectly motionless.)

MR. VERLOC (frightened). Don't. (Earnest.) It's as much an accident as if he had been run over by a bus while crossing the street.

WINNIE (voice behind veil, vibrating). He walked down the street with him. (Gasp.) I watched them. (Break of voice.) Might have been father and son.

MR. VERLOC (who had been steadying himself with one hand on the edge of the table, leans forward with both hands on it. Forcible). Your carrying on in this way won't bring him back again. (WINNIE jumps up and sits down again.) He's dead. His troubles are over. Ours are just going to begin, I tell you. Precisely because of that … (hesitates) … that accident.

WINNIE (behind the veil, despairing tone). Might have been father and son.

MR. VERLOC (dispassionately). I was fond too of the boy. Enough of this. I have told you now the truth of it all. What more do you want?

WINNIE (impersonal tone). I want to die.

MR. VERLOC (movement of impatience). No, you don't. You have got me. (Begins to move ponderously towards WINNIE across front of stage.) There's lots of things we must talk over; and to begin with take this damned thing off your face. (Stops.) Take it off, I say. (WINNIE perfectly still. MR. VERLOC advances one step more.) One can't tell who one is talking to. I am not tired of your face. What's this nonsense? (Pulls veil off.)

(It is to be observed that at that precise moment MR. VERLOC presents his back to the audience and masks his wife from it. There is no brutality expressed in the swift action. When MR. VERLOC steps aside he discloses WINNIE in the same rigid pose, white face, black eyes, veil hanging down like a rag against right cheek. MR. VERLOC then on extreme R. of stage leans against the end of mantelpiece.)

(Speaks quietly.) That's better. (Looks away from WINNIE. Ponderous and feeling.) What you want is a good cry. (Sigh.) But just now there is no time for tears. We must talk over our future. There may be years before us yet. (WINNIE opens her lips as if to scream and shuts them again without any other movement. MR. VERLOC pursues, looking downwards, semi-confidential, semi-forcible, husky voice.) For a time you will have to manage to live alone. In a year or so they will let me out quietly, and then we will clear out, somewhere, anywhere. You will stand by me. (Deep conviction but no sentimentality.) I did try to be a good husband to you.

(WINNIE gets up with restrained movements, extends her right arm towards her husband, but MR. VERLOC has already moved away towards L. of stage and WINNIE, turning slowly, leans her back against mantelpiece without a word. Begins to pull off her right glove.)

MR. VERLOC (from L., approving). That's right, but why won't you say something? (Pause.) You have a devilish way of holding your tongue sometimes. Some men would get mad with a woman for it. But I am fond of you. How could I let you go out in that state galloping off to your mother with some crazy tale or other about me? (Change of tone. More animation.) And when it comes to that it's as much your doing as mine. Strike me dead if I ever would have thought of the lad if you had not kept on shoving him on to me. One would think you were doing it on purpose to make me fond of him. Hang me if I wasn't beginning to be. Devil only knows what you had in your head. There's no saying how much you know of what's going on with your don't-care-a-damn way of looking on and saying nothing at all. (Sudden passion. Takes hat off and throws it in corner of room. Excitement subsides. Weary tone.) Lord, I am tired. Ever since six o'clock this morning on the go. And from one shock to another, and thinking of you sitting at home. (Blows air from cheeks.) And then you meet me with that deaf-and-dumb trick of yours as if you hadn't loved me for seven years. (Drops on sofa. Leans back. Another change of tone.) I suppose I might have cleared out straight away. They think I have blown myself to pieces.

WINNIE (face motionless but voice near a scream). All in the mud. (Puts backs of hands to her eyes for a moment and lets them fall again. No other change or movement.)

MR. VERLOC (awed for a moment). Damn that Heat. (Louder.) I tell you that if I hadn't been so sure of you being fond of me I could never have faced the music. (Ponderous.) If I had caught sight of that Embassy swine as I was dragging myself home to you I would have knifed him in the street.

WINNIE (sudden movement; then motionless. Blank voice). Knifed!… Yes.

MR. VERLOC (half reclines on sofa. Easier tone). We must make up our minds to get over it. And quickly too, old girl. Life won't wait.

WINNIE (as before). Life…. Yes.

MR. VERLOC (puts feet up on sofa). I wish to goodness I had never seen or heard of Greenwich Park. You believe me—don't you?

WINNIE (as before). Park…. Yes.

MR. VERLOC (wriggles comfortable position. Hand under cheek). At least you needn't worry about me. I have made it so that the very police are on my side. Nothing can touch me at present. (Pause.) Come here—will you?

WINNIE (slight movement forward). Yes. (Begins to walk, then stops close against the table.)

MR. VERLOC (movement to make room on the sofa. Waits a moment. Imperative). Come here.

WINNIE (moves forward). I am coming. (As she passes on towards couch her hand grasps the carving knife. Face slightly distorted.)



The shop, exactly as before, with newspaper torn on the floor, gas burning. Glass door to parlour is brightly lit. A shadow falls on the glass. Door comes open. WINNIE stumbles in, looking over her shoulder. Flings door to with a crash, makes as if to run across the shop but falters and drops into chair on shop side of counter, powerless. Her face is very white and set. The veil still hangs down against her right cheek. She closes her eyes the time to count three, then opens them very wide straight at the audience. Stare of terror. Jumps up with a feverish mutter. No! That must never be! No! That must never be! Steals to the street door. At moment of opening it listens, and, apparently frightened at something she has heard, lets go door handle, steals back across the shop to L. as far as the counter. Hangs on to it, looking back over her shoulder. Takes fresh start, repeating: To the bridge, and over I go! To the bridge, and over … Is near the door when it opens unexpectedly, with a clatter of the bell. WINNIE leaps aside.

OSSIPON (opens door just enough to slip through. Advances to middle of shop before looking behind him. Perceives WINNIE with her hands to her ears. Immensely surprised). Hullo, Mrs. Verloc….

WINNIE (gasping cry). No. No. That must never be.

OSSIPON. Why, Mrs. Verloc! Don't you know me?

WINNIE (cry of relief). Mr. Ossipon! (Crazy laugh.) I was going to run out. (Totters.)

OSSIPON (attentive). Hadn't you better sit down? (Assists WINNIE to chair.)

WINNIE (looking up at him). I was going to run out. (Loud, distracted.) To the bridge and over … (Voice dies out.)

OSSIPON (puzzled). Over the bridge? On your way to your mother's? You didn't mean to walk that distance.

WINNIE. I would run to the end of the world.

OSSIPON (sincere). What on earth for? (Catching himself up.) You are unstrung by your terrible loss, I see. But can one run away from sorrow? (Tender accents.) I too couldn't rest till I had seen you! An irresistible sympathy…. (Deep feeling.) Can't you guess what brought me here, dear—Mrs. Verloc.

WINNIE (nervous). No. What brought you here?

OSSIPON (slightly checked). Why, just what I've said. The thought of your cruel loss. The suddenness….

WINNIE (breaks in). Loss! You thought of me! You know already! You! How did you know?

OSSIPON (a little impatient). Calm yourself. I saw the evening paper, and then the Professor—you know him, a miserable little bit of a man—told me he had supplied lately our poor friend. It was easy to guess then. And at once I felt I must come to you. (Tender.) I always think of you. (Takes her hand. Hand passive. Drops it.) My dear Mrs…. (Brusque.) I don't see why I should call you Mrs. Verloc…. your husband is gone and my love for you made me hate the name, my dear….

WINNIE (intense). I have hated it for years.

OSSIPON (checked. Recovers). My dear, dear Winnie!

WINNIE (repressed cry). Then you will save me?

OSSIPON (surprised. Hesitates). Certainly.

WINNIE. Other people have friends. Even murderers have relations, friends, somewhere to go. (Broken voice.) But I have nothing—(desolation)—and no one.

OSSIPON (softly). You have me. I am here! If I were a boy I would say I am at your feet. But I am a man and I will stand by your side. (Doubtful look at WINNIE, who doesn't seem to hear him at all.) For life. (Waits for some sort of response, steps back a pace.) I dare say you have seen how serious my love was. (Sigh.) But you were always so distant.

WINNIE (sudden burst out). What else did you expect me to be? Distant? (Drop of voice.) I was a respectable woman…. Till he made me what I am.

OSSIPON (slightly puzzled). Anybody could see that you were worthy of a better fate.

WINNIE. Better fate! I have been cheated out of seven years of life.

OSSIPON (concealing surprise). You seemed to live so happily together. It's that which made me timid with you. You seemed to love him.

WINNIE (cry). Love him! (Voice drops.) I have been a good wife. (Sombre.) You thought I loved? You did? (Explosive.) Look here, Tom….

OSSIPON (makes movement forward as if to embrace WINNIE, but something in her aspect checks him. Tenderly). Dearest Winnie.

WINNIE (still face. Begins to speak). A young girl with two people depending on her. What could I do? Could I've gone on the streets? Two helpless people, mother and the boy. (Voice rises.) My Stevie. (Voice drops.) He was much more mine than mother's. Nights and nights I sat up with him on my lap, all alone upstairs, when I wasn't more than twelve years old myself. (Passionately.) He was mine, I tell you. You can't understand that. (Lower.) No man can understand that. (Louder.) What was I to do? (Hides her face in her hands a moment, then drops them in her lap. Narrates.) There was a young fellow. He was the man I loved. Five and twenty shillings a week! And his father threatened to kick him out of the business if he was fool enough to marry a girl with a crippled mother and an idiot brother on her hands. He would hang about me, till one evening I found the courage to slam the door in his face. I had to do it. I loved him dearly. Five and twenty shillings a week! There was that other man, a good lodger. He seemed good-natured. He was free with his money. He wanted me anyhow. What is a girl to do? (Renewed agitation.) Seven years! A good wife to him. The kind, the good, the generous … (Choking sound.) And he loved me! Oh, yes, he loved me—till I sometimes wished myself … (Voice rising.) Seven years. Seven years a wife to him. (Jumps up, seizes OSSIPON'S arms below shoulders. Vehement.) And do you know what he was—that dear friend of yours? Do you know what he was? (Sinister drop in voice.) He was a devil!

OSSIPON (stupidly). No, I didn't know. (Recovers himself. False sentiment.) Unhappy woman. (Second thought.) Unhappy, brave woman. (More cheerful.) Ah! But you are free now.

WINNIE (who had let him go, seizes his forearm again. Wildly). A free woman? And you—you—you guessed what I had to do. (Shrill.) Had to! (Hangs on OSSIPON'S arm.)

OSSIPON (at a loss. Conversational). How did you first come to hear of that silly … I mean that horrible explosion in Greenwich Park?

WINNIE (droops, listless). From the police. A man came—Chief Inspector Heat he said he was. He showed me…. (Falters.) Blown to little bits. (Shudders.)

OSSIPON (finds his tongue). The police? You mean to say the police have been here already? Chief Inspector Heat! (Stares.)

WINNIE (listless as before). Yes, he came. He didn't care. He showed me a piece of overcoat. 'Do you know this?' he says—just like that.

OSSIPON (unbelieving). Heat! Heat himself!… And what did he do?

WINNIE (drooping). Nothing. He did nothing. He went away. (Hopeless.) The police were on that man's side. Another fellow came too.

OSSIPON (more scared). Another! Another inspector, do you mean?

WINNIE. I don't know. He looked like a foreigner. Perhaps one of them Embassy people.

OSSIPON (profoundly amazed). Embassy? Are you aware what you are saying? What on earth do you mean by Embassy?

WINNIE. It's some place in Chesham Square. What does it matter?

OSSIPON. And that fellow, what did he want?

WINNIE (utterly weary). I don't remember…. Nothing…. I don't care. Don't ask me.

OSSIPON (after a moment's thought, very resolute). All right. I won't. This is a bit too deep for me. And—it is all over. I suppose you have laid something by in all this time. (Pause. Glib.) Savings, I mean. It is of your future that I am thinking, Winnie, dear. Anarchists of my sort are not a rich lot.

WINNIE (who has not heard). Tom! You must take me away from here.

OSSIPON (startled). Take you away? Do you mean to-night?

WINNIE. At once! I have got only you.

OSSIPON (impressed). Take you away! Where?

WINNIE. Away from this horror—from that room. On to the Continent. Anywhere.

OSSIPON. On the Continent…. (Slowly.) Not a bad idea.

WINNIE (urgent). To-night, this minute. Do you know what was in my mind just before you came? I was saying to myself: 'To the bridge and over I go!' Unless you let me come with you at once I am lost!

OSSIPON. You want to come with me! (Diplomatic.) The trouble is, my dear, that I share a room with a friend. I couldn't possibly take you there. One could try for a lodging somewhere. But the truth is, my dear, that I have only sevenpence on me. (Philosophical.) That's so, my darling Winnie. I have no money.

WINNIE (start. Clutch at dress. Cry). But I have. (Rapidly.) I have the money. I have enough money. Tom! Let us go away from here. (Drags at him.) Save me!

OSSIPON (resists. Cautiously). How much money have you got?

WINNIE (vehement). I have the money, I tell you. All the money.

OSSIPON (incredulous). What do you mean? All that Verloc had in the bank, or what?

WINNIE (distracted). Yes. Yes. I have got it all. Save me.

OSSIPON. Got it already? How on earth …

WINNIE (subdued. Trembling. Whispers). He gave it to me himself.

OSSIPON (slowly). Well—then—we'll be all right.

WINNIE. You will save me, Tom? (Sinks on OSSIPON'S breast. OSSIPON gives her a kiss. They come apart. WINNIE seizes lapels of OSSIPON'S coat.) Save me! Don't let them get hold of me. Rather kill me first. I am afraid of it.

OSSIPON (uneasy. Voice surly). What the devil are you afraid of?

WINNIE. Can't you guess? And yet you felt at once what I had to do with him. Had to do … (Voice drops. Sombre tone.) I won't have it. I won't. You must kill me first. (Shakes lapels of his coat.) It must never be.

OSSIPON (perplexed. Grumpy). You don't want any promises from me. I have loved you for years. I will do anything you like.

WINNIE (distracted). Look, Tom! Look! I forgot. Look!

OSSIPON. Look at what?

WINNIE. The light … the light there! Go and put it out or I will go screaming mad! I daren't. Put it out before we go from here.

OSSIPON. Why! Of course! We must put out the lights and lock the shop door—(moves off to parlour door carelessly)—before we go.

WINNIE (motionless). For ever.

OSSIPON (stops. Sudden thought). What have you done with that money?

WINNIE. I have it on me. Quick, Tom! Quick! (Gives OSSIPON slight push.)

OSSIPON (still looking at her, extends arm, opens door. Turns head. Instant of immobility. Faint yell). Verloc! (Leaps back.)

WINNIE (seizes hold of him and pushes him against the counter). What have you seen? Isn't he dead?

OSSIPON (nearly collapsed. Painful gasps). On the sofa! He's shamming sleep on the sofa. (Distracted; sudden energy.) What are you two up to? You have trapped me—with your money. Let me go. (Struggles.) Police! Embassies! Let me…!

WINNIE (holding him against counter). He is dead. Haven't I killed him?

OSSIPON (nearly overcome). You! You! (Exhausted.) He was not blown up then!… not blown … (Faintness.)

WINNIE. Didn't he look dead enough to you lying there? Didn't he?

OSSIPON (recovering). He … he looked … comfortable. (Gives way to horrible fascination, tiptoes to door. Peeps. Immobility.)

WINNIE (harsh voice). Look down at the floor.

OSSIPON (withdraws his head suddenly and shuts the door.) Ough! (Retches.) Most horrible mess. (Spits.)

WINNIE (whisper). Yes! I ran away from it when it began to trickle. (Cry.) Don't let them hang me, Tom! That must never be!

OSSIPON (scared glance, moment of thought. Business-like). And you have done this thing quite by yourself?

WINNIE. Yes. (Piteous.) Take me away. I'll work for you. I have no one in the world. Who will look at me if you don't?

OSSIPON (awed tone). Then you took the money away from him?

WINNIE (vacant. Fixed stare of terror. Points at her breast). Money? It's here. I'll love you.

OSSIPON (hollow voice). Was he asleep?

WINNIE. He! Asleep! (Rapid utterance.) He had been talking, talking, talking—after taking the boy away under my very eyes to kill him—the loving, harmless, innocent boy. My own boy, I tell you. He lay on the couch easy—after killing the boy—my boy. And he says to me, 'Come here', after telling me I had helped to kill the boy. Do you hear me, Tom? He says like this: 'Come here'. (Vehement.) After taking my very heart out of me along with the boy to smash in the dirt. (Desolate pause. Hands drop.) Blood and dirt … blood and dirt.

OSSIPON (sudden comprehension). Your brother! The degenerate? Heavens! (Astonishment.) Everybody's been fooled all round.

WINNIE (beginning again). Come here!… I saw the knife on the table and I thought I would come if he wanted me so much. Oh, yes! I did come—for the last time … (forcible) … with the knife.

OSSIPON (mutters). This is awful. (Wipes perspiration from forehead.) Continent. Continent…. Now I understand.

WINNIE (shrill). Help, Tom. Save me. I won't be hanged. That must never be.

OSSIPON (catches hold of her round the waist, puts hand on her mouth). Don't make that noise. A policeman may be passing.

WINNIE (slides out of his arms on to her knees and embraces OSSIPON'S legs). Tom, you can't throw me off. I'll slave for you. (Shamefaced tone.) I'll never ask you to marry me.

OSSIPON (nervous). Get up. (Helps her up with the air of a man who has made up his mind.) Save you? Certainly. Are you calm enough now to understand what I say?

WINNIE (eager. Breathless). Oh, Tom, every word!

OSSIPON (glances at WINNIE). You haven't got that knife about you?

WINNIE (low exclamation). Haven't you seen it? I ran from him, I tell you.

OSSIPON (nervous). Devil only knows how you have done it. Pull yourself together. My love will save you. We will slip out presently to catch a train. Are you listening? Railway station … h'm … yes. You will have to walk straight into the ladies' waiting-room. See? (WINNIE nods and seizes his forearm.) I'll walk behind you. Don't be afraid. Then I will leave you for a moment to get our tickets for … for the Continent. Do you follow me? (Effort.) My dear Mrs. … (Effort.) My darling Winnie. (WINNIE, gazing at him, nods slightly.) Tickets of course cost money, my poor darling. (Pause.) Well?

WINNIE. Yes, yes. Oh, Tom, when I struck him I felt as free as air. A free woman. (Shudder.) Ready to be hanged. (Low and vehement.) I won't be hanged.

OSSIPON (forced calm.) If I only had enough money for the tickets I would answer for that. (Exasperated.) I suppose you mean to hand that money to me. I want it for the tickets.

WINNIE (feverish eagerness. Tearing at dress till buttons fall off). Yes, money. Yes, here!

OSSIPON (takes pocket-book. Peeps in, hands trembling). Be calm … you are safe. (Puts money in his pocket. Remains at a loss. WINNIE seizes his forearm again.)

WINNIE. The light … the light. You must put it out. Go in, Tom.

OSSIPON (moves towards parlour door. Stops). I am damned if I do. There is that horrible mess on the floor there. Might step into it. That would be a pretty thing. (Reflects.) Where's your meter?

WINNIE. Behind the counter. Hurry up, Tom, or I will go mad.

(OSSIPON moves behind the counter. Dives out of sight, and suddenly both lights in parlour and shop go out. Directly this happens it is seen that a street lamp throws a dim sheen through the various objects in the window into the shop.)

WINNIE (deep sigh). At last. (OSSIPON emerges and with stealthy steps and turned head, watching all the time the motionless WINNIE, makes his way towards the door of the shop, puts hand on handle but instead turns the key very startled. Loud whisper.) Policeman!

WINNIE (cry of terror). Save me, Tom.

OSSIPON (terrified too). Shh … keep quiet. (Rushes at WINNIE. WINNIE seizes him round the body. OSSIPON holds WINNIE by the neck with one arm and puts the other over her face. They sway a little, perfectly silent, while the door of the shop is being tried, then bull's-eye light flashes through front window. Measured footsteps go away. OSSIPON releases WINNIE.)

WINNIE (remains clinging to him). My legs are giving way, Tom. Hold me up. I am done.

OSSIPON. Damned scare! (Looks round shop like a cornered man.) Sit a moment in this chair. (Helping her towards chair.) How am I to save you if you give way like this?

(Settles WINNIE in chair on shop side of counter, facing L. OSSIPON bends over back of chair to give WINNIE a kiss on the cheek.)

WINNIE (without looking at him). You will get me off, Tom? (Has taken no notice of the kiss.)

OSSIPON (behind her, between chair and street door). Certainly … (Exhausted.) Have you a drop of brandy anywhere? (Looks at parlour door. Horrified.) No, never mind. (Takes handkerchief, wipes his brow.)

WINNIE (grieved voice). Oh, Tom, how is it that I am afraid to die now when my poor Stevie has been taken away from me so cruelly? Oh!…

OSSIPON (short step backwards. Extends arm behind WINNIE'S back). Now, don't shriek … be calm if you want to be saved. Sit still. We must give that confounded bobby time to get clear. I don't suppose the place is particularly watched.

WINNIE (monotonous, broken voice). Tom. I tried. And I couldn't. Am I hard? Isn't it enough horror for such as me? Oh, Stevie, Stevie!

OSSIPON (takes a step backwards). Uncommon lad that brother of yours. Sit still; you must rest before we go. Most interesting young fellow. A perfect type in a way. I observed him closely. Perfect.

WINNIE (more feeling in voice). He was that indeed. He was everything. You took a lot of notice of him, Tom, I know, and I couldn't help loving you for it. (Makes a slight movement.)

OSSIPON. Loving me…. Then trust me. Collect your strength. No train for a good while yet. (Another step backwards.) You resembled each other wonderfully—you and your poor brother.

WINNIE (dry sob). Did we? He was to me like my heart in my body…. And I can't find a tear for him. Not a tear. Not one!

OSSIPON (feeling behind him for the key of door). Tears, indeed. Let yourself go. Your feelings, I mean.

WINNIE (emotion creeping into tone). Stevie, my own darling, my own life. All my feelings are gone away from me with you …

OSSIPON (watchful, has found the key. Softly.) Yes … (Turns key, but WINNIE makes a movement and OSSIPON'S hand comes back. He even takes a step forward.)

WINNIE (falling cadence). Taken away from me … to be murdered. (Flings arms on counter, drops head on arms. Heart-rending tone.) Smashed in blood and dirt. (OSSIPON, sudden and swift, flings door open, leaps out into street, leaving door nearly wide. WINNIE, still head on arms, continuing) But I am too hard to cry! Oh, Tom, I will live all the days of my life for you. (Gust of wind inside. WINNIE raises head.) Tom! Tom! (Jumps up. Wild.) Tom! (Amazed.) Tom, you must save me! (Runs to open door to the very threshold. A distant shout and the blowing of a whistle heard. Shriek.) I won't be hanged. (Runs back and leans with shoulder against wall R., panting, back to audience. Whole attitude must be expressive of still terror. For a moment the open doorway empty, then INSPECTOR HEAT and CONSTABLE with bull's-eye appear together.)

HEAT (walks right into middle of shop). Anybody here? (Peers.) Ah! Is it you, Mrs. Verloc? (CONSTABLE flashes bull's-eye on WINNIE.) We must have a light here. (Gets box out of pocket, strikes match.) Why, it's turned on. (Drops match.)

CONSTABLE. Must be off at the meter, sir. (Goes behind counter. Stoops.) Try now, sir.

HEAT (ready with another match. Gas lighted. Moving towards WINNIE, who holds her head down. Speaks to CONSTABLE). Better have a look in the back shop. Gas might have been left on there too.

CONSTABLE. Yes, sir. (Steps into parlour.)

HEAT (to WINNIE). Mrs. Verloc, what's the matter with you? (Attentive.) Where's your husband? (Lifts WINNIE'S chin with finger and looks at her face.) Ah! that's bad.

CONSTABLE (speaking from the parlour). A man apparently drunk and asleep in here, sir. (Parlour lights up. Startled tone.) The man's dead, sir.

WINNIE (whispering voice). I won't be hanged. I won't! That must never be.

HEAT (holding up WINNIE in his arms. Very loud). All right. I know what that is. Just come back here. (CONSTABLE reappears.) Shut that street door. (HEAT lowers slowly WINNIE to the floor, where she crouches, profile to audience. HEAT moves away, picks up piece of torn newspaper from floor and tosses it to the CONSTABLE, who has shut the door.) Here! Stuff that infernal bell with this.

WINNIE (loud, pointing with finger. Crouching attitude). Look there. The light…. The door … it's open.… The door … the light. (Low voice.) I shall go mad.

HEAT (goes to shut the parlour door, returns middle of stage, saying). What the devil's up out there?

OSSIPON (screaming in the street). Not from here. I haven't been in this place to-night. (CONSTABLE opens door. OSSIPON led in between DETECTIVE and 2ND CONSTABLE.)

DETECTIVE. I was passing by the corner when I heard a woman screaming and saw a man running out of this street. We soon got hold of him. I know who he is.

HEAT (mutters). I should think you would.

DETECTIVE. I was sure he would have come out of this shop.

OSSIPON (no cap, dishevelled, muddy, torn collar. Scream). I haven't been near this place for a month. I haven't been near … (Falters.)

DETECTIVE. That's so. None of our men noticed him about here lately.

OSSIPON. I know nothing. I have done nothing…. I was running for dear life. She's deadly.

HEAT (very softly). Mrs. Verloc, look this way. Have you seen this man to-night?

WINNIE. Light … light … I shall go mad. Put it out. Save me. (Hides her eyes with the backs of her hands.)

DETECTIVE (tone of wonder). He's behaving like a lunatic. Yet he recognized me at once…. What's the matter with you?

OSSIPON (wildly). I just managed to get away from that devil. (Groan.) Give me a drink.

HEAT (curt). Found anything on him?

DETECTIVE. Yes. A brand-new pocket-book with quite a number of notes in it.

OSSIPON (shriek). Propaganda funds. Inspector Heat, you know who I am.

DETECTIVE. He edits a little paper—that's a fact.

HEAT (grim). Yes. But there is a murdered man lying here, so in view of that fact you had better take him away.

OSSIPON. I didn't know! I didn't do it! She did it! She's a degenerate! I was terrified. I was running away from her.

(While he is shouting DETECTIVE and 2ND CONSTABLE are dragging him to the street door. 1ST CONSTABLE opens it.)

DETECTIVE. Why don't you behave yourself? It isn't as if you didn't know me.

OSSIPON (exhausted voice). A murdering degenerate. I was terrified.


HEAT (vexed tone). If this goes on we'll have a crowd in the street presently.

WINNIE (loud, blank voice). Blood and dirt.

HEAT (bending over WINNIE takes her hands away from eyes). Mrs. Verloc, you know me. I am Inspector Heat.

WINNIE (loud whisper). I won't be hanged. Save me. Save me.

HEAT. I would, with all my heart. (Stands up. Turning head to CONSTABLE.) No law can hurt her now.

CONSTABLE. I suppose not, sir. (Door handle rattles. CONSTABLE steps back. Door opens masterfully. Enter PROFESSOR.)

PROFESSOR (walks right on to the stage). Well, I confess I didn't expect to see you here, Inspector Heat. (Looks round.) But we have met before, and we shall no doubt meet many times yet. Do I intrude?

HEAT. You are the very man that ought to be here to-night. You certainly had a finger in this pie. Aren't you proud of it?

PROFESSOR (shrugs shoulders). I, proud? I know no pride—no shame—no God—no master…. Isn't that Verloc's wife? (Points at WINNIE.)

HEAT (grim). No. That's a mad woman.

PROFESSOR (leans back against the counter). I expected to see the whole lazy gang here. (Composed.) What have you done with Verloc's remains?

HEAT. You may see Verloc if you like, in the back parlour. He has got a carving knife stuck into his side up to the handle. If you had stuck it there yourself you could be no more guilty of that death.

PROFESSOR (movement of genuine surprise). Verloc! Here! Hasn't he blown himself up?… Oh, don't explain. I am not interested. Somebody's killed him—and what is that to me?

WINNIE (from the floor. Loud). The drop given was fourteen feet. The drop … No! That must never be.

HEAT (to PROFESSOR). You hear what she says?

WINNIE (as before). I won't be hanged.

PROFESSOR (ironic). Seems to have preserved a notion of social justice though!

HEAT. No law can touch her—and no man can help her. Your work.

PROFESSOR (easy. Crisp). Come, Inspector Heat, none of your sentimental humbug with me. What do I care? I am a starving bomb-maker. I am a force. Why don't you try to arrest me now?

HEAT. When the time comes you won't find me afraid of the death you are supposed to carry in your pocket. But if I were to take you now I would be no better than you.

PROFESSOR. Ah, I know. You play the game.

HEAT (austere). Yes, like a man. But I will be damned if I know what your game is.

PROFESSOR. Of course you don't. You have made your name by not knowing what our game is. (Moves towards door.)

WINNIE (sudden cry). Blood and dirt.

HEAT (pointing finger at PROFESSOR). She has named it.

CONSTABLE (at the door). A tidy lot has collected there already, sir.

HEAT (to PROFESSOR). Some day maybe a crowd will tear you to pieces.

WINNIE (a wail). Nothing! Nothing but blood and dirt!

PROFESSOR. Oh, yes. The vile crowd. The countless multitude, unconscious, blind…. Well—let them!

(CONSTABLE opens door a little. Exit PROFESSOR, and CONSTABLE shuts the door. Confused murmur of the crowd in the street.)

STERN VOICE (outside). Pass on…. Pass along there!

HEAT (to CONSTABLE). Nip out and bring a four-wheeler here as quick as you can.

CONSTABLE. Yes, sir. (Exit. Murmur of crowd swells and dies.)

WINNIE (despairing cry). No! That must never be! (HEAT turns to WINNIE at the sound.)

STERN VOICE (outside). Pass along there!

(HEAT, his hand on his chin, stands looking down profoundly at the crouching WINNIE.)


Printed by Jarrold & Sons, Limited, Norwich




[The end of Three Plays by Joseph Conrad]