Touch and Go
D. H. Lawrence
A nice phrase: "A People's Theatre." But what about it? There's no
such thing in existence as a People's Theatre: or even on the way to
existence, as far as we can tell. The name is chosen, the baby isn't
even begotten: nay, the would-be parents aren't married, nor yet
A People's Theatre. Note the indefinite article. It isn't The People's
Theatre, but A People's Theatre. Not the theatre of Plebs, the
proletariat, but the theatre of A People. What people? Quel peuple
donc?--A People's Theatre. Translate it into French for yourself.
A People's Theatre. Since we can't produce it, let us deduce it.
Major premise: the seats are cheap. Minor premiss: the plays are
good. Conclusion: A People's Theatre. How much will you give me for my
syllogism? Not a slap in the eye, I hope.
We stick to our guns. The seats are cheap. That has a nasty proletarian
look about it. But appearances are deceptive. The proletariat isn't
poor. Everybody is poor except Capital and Labour. Between these upper
and nether millstones great numbers of decent people are squeezed.
The seats are cheap: in decency's name. Nobody wants to swank, to sit
in the front of a box like a geranium on a window-sill--"the cynosure
of many eyes." Nobody wants to profiteer. We all feel that it is as
humiliating to pay high prices as to charge them. No man consents in
his heart to pay high prices unless he feels that what he pays with his
right hand he will get back with his left, either out of the pocket of
a man who isn't looking, or out of the envy of the poor neighbour who IS
looking, but can't afford the figure. The seats are cheap. Why should A
People, fabulous and lofty giraffe, want to charge or pay high
prices? If it were THE PEOPLE now.--But it isn't. It isn't Plebs, the
proletariat. The seats are cheap.
The plays are good. Pah!--this has a canting smell. Any play is good
to the man who likes to look at it. And at that rate Chu Chin Chow is
extra-super-good. What about your GOOD plays? Whose good? PFUI to your
That minor premiss is a bad egg: it will hatch no bird. Good plays? You
might as well say mimsy bomtittle plays, you'd be saying as much. The
plays are--don't say good or you'll be beaten. The plays--the plays of
A People's Theatre are--oh heaven, what are they?--not popular nor
populous nor plebian nor proletarian nor folk nor parish plays. None of
that adjectival spawn.
The only clue-word is People's for all that. A People's---Chaste word,
it will bring forth no adjective. The plays of A People's Theatre are
People's plays. The plays of A People's Theatre are plays about people.
It doesn't look much, at first sight. After all--people! Yes, People!
Not THE PEOPLE, i.e. Plebs, nor yet the Upper Ten. People. Neither
Piccoli nor Grandi in our republic. People.
People, ah God! Not mannequins. Not lords nor proletariats nor bishops
nor husbands nor co-respondents nor virgins nor adultresses nor uncles
nor noses. Not even white rabbits nor presidents. People.
Men who are somebody, not men who are something. Men who HAPPEN to be
bishops or co-respondents, women who happen to be chaste, just as they
happen to freckle, because it's one of their innumerable odd qualities.
Even men who happen, by the way, to have long noses. But not noses on
two legs, not burly pairs of gaiters, stuffed and voluble, not
white meringues of chastity, not incarnations of co-respondence. Not
proletariats, petitioners, president's, noses, bits of fluff. Heavens,
what an assortment of bits! And aren't we sick of them!
People, I say. And after all, it's saying something. It's harder to be
a human being than to be a president or a bit of fluff. You can be a
president, or a bit of fluff, or even a nose, by clockwork. Given
a role, a PART, you can play it by clockwork. But you can't have a
clockwork human being.
We're dead sick of parts. It's no use your protesting that there is a
man behind the nose. We can't see him, and he can't see himself. Nothing
but nose. Neither can you make us believe there is a man inside the
gaiters. He's never showed his head yet.
It may be, in real life, the gaiters wear the man, as the nose wears
Cyrano. It may be Sir Auckland Geddes and Mr. J. H. Thomas are only
clippings from the illustrated press. It may be that a miner is a
complicated machine for cutting coal and voting on a ballot-paper. It
may be that coal-owners are like the petit bleu arrangement, a system
of vacuum tubes for whooshing Bradburys about from one to the other.
It may be that everybody delights in bits, in parts, that the public
insists on noses, gaiters, white rabbits, bits of fluff, automata and
gewgaws. If they do, then let 'em. Chu Chin Chow for ever!
In spite of them all: A People's Theatre. A People's Theatre shows men,
and not parts. Not bits, nor bundles of bits. A whole bunch of roles
tied into one won't make an individual. Though gaiters perish, we will
Although most miners may be pick-cum-shovel-cum-ballot implements,
and no more, still, among miners there must be two or three living
individuals. The same among the masters. The majority are suction-tubes
for Bradburys. But is this Sodom of Industrialism there are surely ten
men, all told. My poor little withered grain of mustard seed, I am half
afraid to take you across to the seed-testing department!
And if there are men, there is A People's Theatre.
How many tragic situations did Goethe say were possible? Something like
thirty-two. Which seems a lot. Anyhow, granted that men are men still,
that not all of them are bits, parts, machine-sections, then we have
added another tragic possibility to the list: the Strike situation. As
yet no one tackles this situation. It is a sort of Medusa head, which
turns--no, not to stone, but to sloppy treacle. Mr. Galsworthy had a
peep, and sank down towards bathos.
Granted that men are still men, Labour v. Capitalism is a tragic
struggle. If men are no more than implements, it is non-tragic and
merely disastrous. In tragedy the man is more than his part. Hamlet is
more than Prince of Denmark, Macbeth is more than murderer of Duncan.
The man is caught in the wheels of his part, his fate, he may be torn
asunder. He may be killed, but the resistant, integral soul in him is
not destroyed. He comes through, though he dies. He goes through with
his fate, though death swallows him. And it is in this facing of fate,
this going right through with it, that tragedy lies. Tragedy is not
disaster. It is a disaster when a cart-wheel goes over a frog, but it is
not a tragedy, not the hugest; not the death of ten million men. It is
only a cartwheel going over a frog. There must be a supreme STRUGGLE.
In Shakespeare's time it was the people versus king storm that was
brewing. Majesty was about to have its head off. Come what might, Hamlet
and Macbeth and Goneril and Regan had to see the business through.
Now a new wind is getting up. We call it Labour versus Capitalism. We
say it is a mere material struggle, a money-grabbing affair. But this
is only one aspect of it. In so far as men are merely mechanical,
the struggle is one which, though it may bring disaster and death to
millions, is no more than accident, an accidental collision of forces.
But in so far as men are men, the situation is tragic. It is not really
the bone we are fighting for. We are fighting to have somebody's head
off. The conflict is in pure, passional antagonism, turning upon the
poles of belief. Majesty was only hors d'oevres to this tragic repast.
So, the strike situation has this dual aspect. First it is a
mechanico-material struggle, two mechanical forces pulling asunder
from the central object, the bone. All it can result in is the pulling
asunder of the fabric of civilisation, and even of life, without any
creative issue. It is no more than a frog under a cart-wheel. The
mechanical forces, rolling on, roll over the body of life and squash it.
The second is the tragic aspect. According to this view, we see more
than two dogs fighting for a bone, and life hopping under the Juggernaut
wheel. The two dogs are making the bone a pretext for a fight with each
other. That old bull-dog, the British capitalist, has got the bone in
his teeth. That unsatisfied mongrel, Plebs, the proletariat, shivers
with rage not so much at the sight of the bone, as at sight of the great
wrinkled jowl that holds it. There is the old dog, with his knowing look
and his massive grip on the bone: and there is the insatiable mongrel,
with his great splay paws. The one is all head and arrogance, the other
all paws and grudge. The bone is only the pretext. A first condition of
the being of Bully is that he shall hate the prowling great paws of the
Plebs, whilst Plebs by inherent nature goes mad at the sight of Bully's
jowl. "Drop it!" cries Plebs. "Hands off!" growls Bully. It is hands
against head, the shambling, servile body in a rage of insurrection at
last against the wrinkled, heavy head.
Labour not only wants his debt. He wants his pound of flesh. It is a
quandary. In our heart of hearts we must admit the debt. We must admit
that it is long overdue. But this last condition! In vain we study our
anatomy to see which part we can best spare.
Where is our Portia, to save us with a timely quibble? We've plenty of
Portias. They've recited their heads off--"The quality of mercy is not
strained." But the old Shylock of the proletariat persists. He pops up
again, and says, "All right, I can't have my pound of flesh with the
blood. But then you can't keep my pound of flesh with your blood--you
owe it to me. It is your business to deliver the goods. Deliver it
then--with or without blood--deliver it." The Portia scratches her head,
and thinks again.
What's the solution? There is no solution. But still there is a choice.
There's a choice between a mess and a tragedy. If Plebs and Bully hang
on one to each end of the bone, and pull for grim life, they will
at last tear the bone to atoms: in short, destroy the whole material
substance of life, and so perish by accident, no better than a frog
under the wheel of destiny. That may be a disaster, but it is only a
mess for all that.
On the other hand, if they have a fight to fight they might really drop
the bone. Instead of wrangling the bone to bits they might really go
straight for one another. They are like hostile parties on board a ship,
who both proceed to scuttle the ship so as to sink the other party. Down
goes the ship, with all the bally lot on board. A few survivors swim and
squeal among the bubbles--and then silence.
It is too much to suppose that the combatants will ever drop the
obvious old bone. But it is not too much to imagine that some men might
acknowledge the bone to be merely a pretext, and hollow casus belli.
If we really could know what we were fighting for, if we if we could
deeply believe in what we were fighting for, then the struggle might
have dignity, beauty, satisfaction for us. If it were a profound
struggle for something that was coming to life in us, a struggle that
we were convinced would bring us to a new freedom, a new life, then it
would be a creative activity, a creative activity in which death is a
climax in the progression towards new being. And this is tragedy.
Therefore, if we could but comprehend or feel the tragedy in the great
Labour struggle, the intrinsic tragedy of having to pass through death
to birth, our souls would still know some happiness, the very happiness
of creative suffering. Instead of which we pile accident on accident,
we tear the fabric of our existence fibre by fibre, we confidently look
forward to the time when the whole great structure will come down on our
heads. Yet after all that, when we are squirming under the debris, we
shall have no more faith or hope or satisfaction than we have now. We
shall crawl from under one cart-wheel straight under another.
The essence of tragedy, which is creative crisis, is that a man should
go through with his fate, and not dodge it and go bumping into an
accident. And the whole business of life, at the great critical periods
of mankind, is that men should accept and be one with their tragedy.
Therefore we should open our hearts. For one thing we should have a
People's Theatre. Perhaps it would help us in this hour of confusion
better than anything.
MR. BARLOW (his father).
JOB ARTHUR FREER.
WILLIAM (a butler).
CLERKS, MINERS, etc.
EVA (a maid).
TOUCH AND GO
Sunday morning. Market-place of a large mining village in the
Midlands. A man addressing a small gang of colliers from the
foot of a stumpy memorial obelisk. Church bells heard.
Churchgoers passing along the outer pavements.
WILLIE HOUGHTON. What's the matter with you folks, as I've told you
before, and as I shall keep on telling you every now and again, though
it doesn't make a bit of difference, is that you've got no idea of
freedom whatsoever. I've lived in this blessed place for fifty years,
and I've never seen the spark of an idea, nor of any response to an
idea, come out of a single one of you, all the time. I don't know what
it is with colliers--whether it's spending so much time in the bowels
of the earth--but they never seem to be able to get their thoughts above
their bellies. If you've got plenty to eat and drink, and a bit over to
keep the missis quiet, you're satisfied. I never saw such a satisfied
bloomin' lot in my life as you Barlow & Wasall's men are, really. Of
course you can growse as well as anybody, and you do growse. But you
don't do anything else. You're stuck in a sort of mud of contentment,
and you feel yourselves sinking, but you make no efforts to get out. You
bleat a bit, like sheep in a bog--but you like it, you know. You like
sinking in--you don't have to stand on your own feet then.
I'll tell you what'll happen to you chaps. I'll give you a little
picture of what you'll be like in the future. Barlow & Walsall's 'll
make a number of compounds, such as they keep niggers in in South
Africa, and there you'll be kept. And every one of you'll have a little
brass collar round his neck, with a number on it. You won't have names
any more. And you'll go from the compound to the pit, and from the
pit back again to the compound. You won't be allowed to go outside the
gates, except at week-ends. They'll let you go home to your wives on
Saturday nights, to stop over Sunday. But you'll have to be in again
by half-past nine on Sunday night; and if you're late, you'll have your
next week-end knocked off. And there you'll be--and you'll be quite
happy. They'll give you plenty to eat, and a can of beer a day, and a
bit of bacca--and they'll provide dominoes and skittles for you to play
with. And you'll be the most contented set of men alive.--But you won't
be men. You won't even be animals. You'll go from number one to number
three thousand, a lot of numbered slaves--a new sort of slaves---
VOICE. An' wheer shall thee be, Willie?
WILLIE. Oh, I shall be outside the palings, laughing at you. I shall
have to laugh, because it'll be your own faults. You'll have nobody but
yourself to thank for it. You don't WANT to be men. You'd rather NOT be
free--much rather. You're like those people spoken of in Shakespeare:
"Oh, how eager these men are to be slaves!" I believe it's
Shakespeare--or the Bible--one or the other--it mostly is---
ANABEL WRATH (she was passing to church). It was Tiberius.
ANABEL. Tiberius said it.
WILLIE. Tiberius!--Oh, did he? (Laughs.) Thanks! Well, if Tiberius said
it, there must be something in it, and he only just missed being in the
Bible anyway. He was a day late, or they'd have had him in. "Oh, how
eager these men are to be slaves!"--It's evident the Romans deserved all
they got from Tiberius--and you'll deserve all you get, every bit of
it. But don't you bother, you'll get it. You won't be at the mercy
of Tiberius, you'll be at the mercy of something a jolly sight worse.
Tiberius took the skin off a few Romans, apparently. But you'll have
the soul taken out of you--every one of you. And I'd rather lose my skin
than my soul, any day. But perhaps you wouldn't.
VOICE. What art makin' for, Willie? Tha seems to say a lot, but tha goes
round it. Tha'rt like a donkey on a gin. Tha gets ravelled.
WILLIE. Yes, that's just it. I am precisely like a donkey on a gin--a
donkey that's trying to wind a lot of colliers up to the surface.
There's many a donkey that's brought more colliers than you up to see
daylight, by trotting round.--But do you want to know what I'm making
for? I can soon tell you that. You Barlow & Wasall's men, you haven't a
soul to call your own. Barlow & Wasall's have only to say to one of you,
Come, and he cometh, Go, and he goeth, Lie VOICE. Ay--an' what about it?
Tha's got a behind o' thy own, hasn't yer?
WILLIE. Do you stand there and ask me what about it, and haven't the
sense to alter it? Couldn't you set up a proper Government to-morrow, if
you liked? Couldn't you contrive that the pits belonged to you, instead
of you belonging to the pits, like so many old pit-ponies that stop down
till they are blind, and take to eating coal-slack for meadow-grass, not
knowing the difference? If only you'd learn to think, I'd respect you.
As you are, I can't, not if I try my hardest. All you can think of is
to ask for another shilling a day. That's as far as your imagination
carries you. And perhaps you get sevenpence ha'penny, but pay for it
with half-a-crown's worth of sweat. The masters aren't fools--as you
are. They'll give you two-thirds of what you ask for, but they'll get
five-thirds of it back again--and they'll get it out of your flesh and
blood, too, in jolly hard work. Shylock wasn't in it with them. He only
wanted a pound of flesh. But you cheerfully give up a pound a week, each
one of you, and keep on giving it up.--But you don't seem to see these
things. You can't think beyond your dinners and your 'lowance. You think
if you can get another shilling a day you're set up. You make me tired,
I tell you.
JOB ARTHUR FREER. We think of others besides ourselves.
WILLIE. Hello, Job Arthur--are you there? I didn't recognise you without
your frock-coat and silk hat--on the Sabbath.--What was that you said?
You think of something else, besides yourselves?--Oh ay--I'm glad to
hear it. Did you mean your own importance?
(A motor car, GERALD BARLOW driving, OLIVER TURTON with him has
JOB ARTHUR (glancing at the car). No, I didn't.
WILLIE. Didn't you, though?--Come, speak up, let us have it. The more
the merrier. You were going to say something.
JOB ARTHUR. Nay, you were doing the talking.
WILLIE. Yes, so I was, till you interrupted, with a great idea on the
tip of your tongue. Come, spit it out. No matter if Mr. Barlow hears
you. You know how sorry for you we feel, that you've always got to make
your speeches twice--once to those above, and once to us here below I
didn't meant the angels and the devils, but never mind. Speak up, Job
JOB ARTHUR. It's not everybody as has as much to say as you, Mr.
WILLIE. No, not in the open--that's a fact. Some folks says a great deal
more, in semi-private. You were just going to explain to me, on
behalf of the men, whom you so ably represent and so wisely lead, Job
Arthur--we won't say by the nose--you were just going to tell me--on
behalf of the men, of course, not of the masters--that you think of
others, besides yourself. Do you mind explaining WHAT others?
JOB ARTHUR. Everybody's used to your talk, Mr. Houghton, and for that
reason it doesn't make much impression. What I meant to say, in plain
words, was that we have to think of what's best for everybody, not only
WILLIE. Oh, I see. What's best for everybody! I see! Well, for myself,
I'm much obliged--there's nothing for us to do, gentlemen, but for all
of us to bow acknowledgments to Mr. Job Arthur Freer, who so kindly has
ALL our interests at heart.
JOB ARTHUR. I don't profess to be a red-rag Socialist. I don't pretend
to think that if the Government had the pits it would be any better for
us. No. What I mean is, that the pits are there and every man on this
place depends on them, one way or another. They're the cow that gives
the milk. And what I mean is, how every man shall have a proper share
of the milk, which is food and living. It's like killing the goose that
laid the golden egg. I want to keep the cow healthy and strong. And the
cow is the pits, and we're the men that depend on the pits.
WILLIE. Who's the cat that's going to lick the cream?
JOB ARTHUR. My position is this--and I state it before masters and
men--that it's our business to strike such a balance between the
interests of the men and the interests of the masters that the pits
remain healthy, and everybody profits.
WILLIE. You're out for the millennium, I can see--with Mr. Job Arthur
Freer striking the balance. We all see you, Job Arthur, one foot on
either side of the fence, balancing the see-saw, with masters at one
end and men at the other. You'll have to give one side a lot of
pudding.--But go back a bit, to where we were before the motor car took
your breath away. When you said, Job Arthur, that you think of others
besides yourself, didn't you mean, as a matter of fact, the office men?
Didn't you mean that the colliers, led--we won't mention noses--by you,
were going to come out in sympathy with the office clerks, supposing
they didn't get the rise in wages which they've asked for--the office
clerks? Wasn't that it?
JOB ARTHUR. There's been some talk among the men of standing by the
office. I don't know what they'll do. But they'll do it of their own
decision, whatever it is.
WILLIE. There's not a shadow of doubt about it, Job Arthur. But it's a
funny thing the decisions all have the same foxy smell about them, Job
OLIVER TURTON (calling from the car). What was the speech about, in the
WILLIE. I beg pardon?
OLIVER. What was the address about, to begin with?
WILLIE. Oh, the same old hat--Freedom. But partly it's given to
annoy the Unco Guid, as they pass to their Sabbath banquet of
OLIVER. What ABOUT Freedom?
WILLIE. Very much as usual, I believe. But you should have been here ten
minutes sooner, before we began to read the lessons. (Laughs.)
ANABEL W. (moving forward, and holding out her hand). You'd merely have
been told what Freedom ISN'T; and you know that already. How are you,
OLIVER. Good God, Anabel!--are you part of the meeting? How long have
you been back in England?
ANABEL. Some months, now. My family have moved here, you know.
OLIVER. Your family! Where have they moved from?--from the moon?
ANABEL. No, only from Derby.--How are you, Gerald?
(GERALD twists in his seat to give her his hand.)
GERALD. I saw you before.
ANABEL. Yes, I know you did.
(JOB ARTHUR has disappeared. The men disperse sheepishly into groups,
to stand and sit on their heels by the walls and the causeway
edge. WILLIE HOUGHTON begins to talk to individuals.)
OLIVER. Won't you get in and drive on with us a little way?
ANABEL. No, I was going to church.
OLIVER. Going to church! Is that a new habit?
ANABEL. Not a habit. But I've been twice since I saw you last.
OLIVER. I see. And that's nearly two years ago. It's an annual thing,
like a birthday?
ANABEL. No. I'll go on, then.
OLIVER. You'll be late now.
ANABEL. Shall I? It doesn't matter.
OLIVER. We are going to see you again, aren't we?
ANABEL (after a pause). Yes, I hope so, Oliver.
OLIVER. How have you been these two years--well?--happy?
ANABEL. No, neither. How have you?
OLIVER. Yes, fairly happy. Have you been ill?
ANABEL. Yes, in France I was very ill.
OLIVER. Your old neuritis?
ANABEL. No. My chest. Pneumonia--oh, a complication.
OLIVER. How sickening! Who looked after you? Is it better?
ANABEL. Yes, it's a great deal better.
OLIVER. But, Anabel--we must fix a meeting. I say, wait just a moment.
Could I call on your people? Go into town with me one day. I don't know
whether Gerald intends to see you--whether he intends to ask you to
GERALD. Oh, it's all right.
ANABEL. He's no need. I'm fixed up there already.
GERALD. What do you mean?
ANABEL. I am at Lilley Close every day--or most days--to work with your
sister Winifred in the studio.
GERALD. What?--why, how's that?
ANABEL. Your father asked me. My father was already giving her some
GERALD. And you're at our house every day?
ANABEL. Most days.
GERALD. Well, I'm--well, I'll be--you managed it very sharp, didn't you?
I've only been away a fort-night.
ANABEL. Your father asked me--he offered me twelve pounds a month--I
wanted to do something.
GERALD. Oh yes, but you didn't hire yourself out at Lilley Close as a
sort of upper servant just for twelve pounds a month.
ANABEL. You're wrong--you're wrong. I'm not a sort of upper servant at
all--not at all.
GERALD. Oh, yes, you are, if you're paid twelve pounds a month--three
pounds a week. That's about what father's sick-nurse gets, I believe.
You don't do it for twelve pounds a month. You can make twelve pounds
in a day, if you like to work at your little models: I know you can sell
your statuette things as soon as you make them.
ANABEL. But I CAN'T make them. I CAN'T make them. I've lost the
spirit--the--joi de vivre--I don't know what, since I've been ill. I
tell you I've GOT to earn something.
GERALD. Nevertheless, you won't make me believe, Anabel, that you've
come and buried yourself in the provinces--SUCH provinces--just to earn
father's three pounds a week. Why don't you admit it, that you came back
to try and take up the old threads.
OLIVER. Why not, Gerald? Don't you think we ought to take up the old
GERALD. I don't think we ought to be left without choice. I don't think
Anabel ought to come back and thrust herself on me--for that's what it
amounts to, after all--when one remembers what's gone before.
ANABEL. I DON'T thrust myself on you at all. I know I'm a fool, a fool,
to come back. But I wanted to. I wanted to see you again. Now I know
I've presumed. I've made myself CHEAP to you. I wanted to--I wanted to.
And now I've done it, I won't come to Lilley Close again, nor anywhere
where you are. Tell your father I have gone to France again--it will be
GERALD. You play tricks on me--and on yourself. You know you do. You
do it for the pure enjoyment of it. You're making a scene here in this
filthy market-place, just for the fun of it. You like to see these
accursed colliers standing eyeing you, and squatting on their heels. You
like to catch me out, here where I'm known, where I've been the object
of their eyes since I was born. This is a great coup de main for you.
I knew it the moment I saw you here.
OLIVER. After all, we ARE making a scene in the market-place. Get in,
Anabel, and we'll settle the dispute more privately. I'm glad you came
back, anyhow. I'm glad you came right down on us. Get in, and let us run
down to Whatmore.
ANABEL. No, Oliver. I don't want to run down to Whatmore. I wanted to
see you--I wanted to see Gerald--and I've seen him--and I've heard
him. That will suffice me. We'll make an end of the scene in the
market-place. (She turns away.)
OLIVER. I knew it wasn't ended. I knew she would come back and tell us
she'd come. But she's done her bit--now she'll go again. My God, what a
fool of a world!--You go on, Gerald--I'll just go after her and see it
out. (Calls.) One moment, Anabel.
ANABEL (calling). Don't come, Oliver. (Turns.)
GERALD. Anabel! (Blows the horn of the motor car violently and
agitatively--she looks round--turns again as if frightened.) God damn
the woman! (Gets down from the car.) Drive home for me, Oliver.
WINIFRED'S studio at Lilley Close. ANABEL and WINIFRED working
at a model in clay.
WINIFRED. But isn't it lovely to be in Paris, and to have exhibitions,
and to be famous?
ANABEL. Paris WAS a good place. But I was never famous.
WINIFRED. But your little animals and birds were famous. Jack said so.
You know he brought us that bronze thrush that is singing, that is in
his room. He has only let me see it twice. It's the loveliest thing I've
ever seen. Oh, if I can do anything like that!--I've worshipped it, I
have. It is your best thing?
ANABEL. One of the best.
WINIFRED. It must be. When I see it, with its beak lifted, singing,
something comes loose in my heart, and I feel as if I should cry, and
fly up to heaven. Do you know what I mean? Oh, I'm sure you do, or you
could never have made that thrush. Father is so glad you've come to show
me how to work. He says now I shall have a life-work, and I shall be
happy. It's true, too.
ANABEL. Yes, till the life-work collapses.
WINIFRED. Oh, it can't collapse. I can't believe it could collapse. Do
tell me about something else you made, which you loved--something you
sculpted. Oh, it makes my heart burn to hear you!--Do you think I might
call you Anabel? I should love to. You do call me Winifred already.
ANABEL. Yes, do.
WINIFRED. Won't you tell me about something else you made--something
ANABEL. Well, I did a small kitten--asleep--with its paws crossed. You
know, Winifred, that wonderful look that kittens have, as if they were
blown along like a bit of fluff--as if they weighed nothing at all, just
wafted about--and yet so ALIVE--do you know---?
WINIFRED. Darlings--darlings--I love them!
ANABEL. Well my kitten really came off--it had that quality. It looked
as if it had just wafted there.
WINIFRED. Oh, yes!--oh, I know! And was it in clay?
ANABEL. I cut it in soft grey stone as well. I love my kitten. An
Armenian bought her.
WINIFRED. And where is she now?
ANABEL. I don't know--in Armenia, I suppose, if there is such a place.
It would have to be kept under glass, because the stone wouldn't
polish--and I didn't want it polished. But I dislike things under
WINIFRED. Yes, I do. We had a golden clock, but Gerald wouldn't have the
glass cover, and Daddy wouldn't have it without. So now the clock is in
father's room. Gerald often went to Paris. Oliver used to have a studio
there. I don't care much for painting, do you?
ANABEL. No. I want something I can touch, if it's something outside me.
WINIFRED. Yes, isn't it wonderful, when things are substantial. Gerald
and Oliver came back yesterday from Yorkshire. You know we have a
ANABEL. Yes, I believe I've heard.
WINIFRED. I want to introduce you to Gerald, to see if you like him.
He's good at the bottom, but he's very overbearing and definite.
ANABEL. Is he?
WINIFRED. Terribly clever in business. He'll get awfully rich.
ANABEL. Isn't he rich enough already?
WINIFRED. Oh, yes, because Daddy is rich enough, really. I think if
Gerald was a bit different, he'd be really nice. Now he's so MANAGING.
It's sickening. Do you dislike managing people, Anabel?
ANABEL. I dislike them extremely, Winifred.
WINIFRED. They're such a bore.
ANABEL. What does Gerald manage?
WINIFRED. Everything. You know he's revolutionised the collieries and
the whole Company. He's made a whole new thing of it, so MODERN. Father
says he almost wishes he'd let it die out--let the pits be closed. But
I suppose things MUST be modernised, don't you think? Though it's very
unpeaceful, you know, really.
ANABEL. Decidedly unpeaceful, I should say.
WINIFRED. The colliers work awfully hard. The pits are quite wonderful
now. Father says it's against nature--all this electricity and so on.
Gerald adores electricity. Isn't it curious?
ANABEL. Very. How are you getting on?
WINIFRED. I don't know. It's so hard to make things BALANCE as if they
were alive. Where IS the balance in a thing that's alive?
ANABEL. The poise? Yes, Winifred--to me, all the secret of life is in
that--just the--the inexpressible poise of a living thing, that makes
it so different from a dead thing. To me it's the soul, you know--all
living things have it--flowers, trees as well. It makes life always
WINIFRED. Ah, yes!--ah, yes! If only I could put it in my model.
ANABEL. I think you will. You are a sculptor, Winifred.--Isn't there
WINIFRED (running to the door). Oh, Oliver!
OLIVER. Hello, Winnie! Can I come in? This is your sanctum: you can keep
us out if you like.
WINIFRED. Oh, no. Do you know Miss Wrath, Oliver? She's a famous
OLIVER. Is she? We have met.--Is Winifred going to make a sculptress, do
ANABEL. I do.
OLIVER. Good! I like your studio, Winnie. Awfully nice up here over the
out-buildings. Are you happy in it?
WINIFRED. Yes, I'm perfectly happy--only I shall NEVER be able to make
real models, Oliver--it's so difficult.
OLIVER. Fine room for a party--Give us a studio party one day, Win, and
WINIFRED (flying to him). Yes, Oliver, do let us dance. What shall we
OLIVER. Dance?--Dance Vigni-vignons--we all know that. Ready?
(They begin to sing, dancing meanwhile, in a free little ballet-manner,
a wine-dance, dancing separate and then together.)
De terre en vigne,
La voila la jolie vigne,
Vigni-vignons--vignons le vin,
La voila la jolie vigne au vin,
La voila la jolie vigne.
OLIVER. Join in--join in, all.
(ANABEL joins in; the three dance and move in rhythm.)
WINIFRED. I love it--I love it! Do Ma capote a trois boutons--you know
it, don't you, Anabel? Ready--now---
(They begin to dance to a quick little march-rhythm, all singing and
dancing till they are out of breath.)
OLIVER. Oh!--tired!--let us sit down.
WINIFRED. Oliver!--oh, Oliver!--I LOVE you and Anabel.
OLIVER. Oh, Winifred, I brought you a present--you'll love me more now.
WINIFRED. Yes, I shall. Do give it me.
OLIVER. I left it in the morning-room. I put it on the mantel-piece for
WINIFRED. Shall I go for it?
OLIVER. There it is, if you want it.
WINIFRED. Yes--do you mind? I won't be long. (Exit.)
OLIVER. She's a nice child.
ANABEL. A VERY nice child.
OLIVER. Why did you come back, Anabel?
ANABEL. Why does the moon rise, Oliver?
OLIVER. For some mischief or other, so they say.
ANABEL. You think I came back for mischief's sake?
OLIVER. Did you?
ANABEL. Tell me, Oliver, how is everything now?--how is it with
you?--how is it between us all?
OLIVER. How is it between us all?--How ISN'T it, is more the mark.
OLIVER. You made a fool of us.
ANABEL. Of whom?
OLIVER. Well--of Gerald particularly--and of me.
ANABEL. How did I make a fool of you, Oliver?
OLIVER. That you know best, Anabel.
ANABEL. No, I don't know. Was it ever right between Gerald and me, all
the three years we knew each other--we were together?
OLIVER. Was it all wrong?
ANABEL. No, not all. But it was terrible. It was terrible, Oliver. You
don't realise. You don't realise how awful passion can be, when it never
resolves, when it never becomes anything else. It is hate, really.
OLIVER. What did you want the passion to resolve into?
ANABEL. I was blinded--maddened. Gerald stung me and stung me till I
was mad. I left him for reason's sake, for sanity's sake. We should have
killed one another.
OLIVER. You, stung him, too, you know--and pretty badly, at the last:
you dehumanised him.
ANABEL. When? When I left him, you mean?
OLIVER. Yes, when you went away with that Norwegian--playing your game a
little too far.
ANABEL. Yes, I knew you'd blame me. I knew you'd be against me. But
don't you see, Oliver, you helped to make it impossible for us.
OLIVER. Did I? I didn't intend to.
ANABEL. Ha, ha, Oliver! Your good intentions! They are too good to
bear investigation, my friend. Ah, but for your good and friendly
OLIVER. You mean my friendship with Gerald went against you?
ANABEL. Yes. And your friendship with me went against Gerald.
OLIVER. So I am the devil in the piece.
ANABEL. You see, Oliver, Gerald loved you far too well ever to love me
altogether. He loved us both. But the Gerald that loved you so dearly,
old, old friends as you were, and TRUSTED you, he turned a terrible face
of contempt on me. You don't know, Oliver, the cold edge of Gerald's
contempt for me--because he was so secure and strong in his old
friendship with you. You don't know his sneering attitude to me in the
deepest things with you. He had a passion for me. But he loved you.
OLIVER. Well, he doesn't any more. We went apart after you had gone. The
friendship has become almost casual.
ANABEL. You see how bitterly you speak.
OLIVER. Yet you didn't hate me, Anabel.
ANABEL. No, Oliver--I was AWFULLY fond of you. I trusted you--and I
trust you still. You see I knew how fond Gerald was of you. And I had
to respect this feeling. So I HAD to be aware of you: and I HAD to be
conscious of you: in a way, I had to love you. You understand how I
mean? Not with the same fearful love with which I loved Gerald. You
seemed to me warm and protecting--like a brother, you know--but a
brother one LOVES.
OLIVER. And then you hated me?
ANABEL. Yes, I had to hate you.
OLIVER. And you hated Gerald?
ANABEL. Almost to madness--almost to madness.
OLIVER. Then you went away with that Norwegian. What of him?
ANABEL. What of him? Well, he's dead.
OLIVER. Ah! That's why you came back?
ANABEL. No, no. I came back because my only hope in life was in coming
back. Baard was beautiful--and awful. You know how glisteningly blond he
was. Oliver, have you ever watched the polar bears? He was cold as iron
when it is so cold that it burns you. Coldness wasn't negative with him.
It was positive--and awful beyond expression--like the aurora borealis.
OLIVER. I wonder you ever got back.
ANABEL. Yes, so do I. I feel as if I'd fallen down a fissure in the ice.
Yet I have come back, haven't I?
OLIVER. God knows! At least, Anabel, we've gone through too much ever to
start the old game again. There'll be no more sticky love between us.
ANABEL. No, I think there won't, either.
OLIVER. And what of Gerald?
ANABEL. I don't know. What do you think of him?
OLIVER. I can't think any more. I can only blindly go from day to day,
ANABEL. So can I. Do you think I was wrong to come back? Do you think I
OLIVER. No. I'm glad you came. But I feel I can't KNOW anything. We must
just go on.
ANABEL. Sometimes I feel I ought never to have come to Gerald
OLIVER. Just left the gap?--Perhaps, if everything has to come asunder.
But I think, if ever there is to be life--hope,--then you had to come
back. I always knew it. There is something eternal between you and him;
and if there is to be any happiness, it depends on that. But perhaps
there is to BE no happiness--for our part of the world.
ANABEL (after a pause). Yet I feel hope--don't you?
OLIVER. Yes, sometimes.
ANABEL. It seemed to me, especially that winter in Norway,--I can hardly
express it,--as if any moment life might give way under one, like thin
ice, and one would be more than dead. And then I knew my only hope was
here--the only hope.
OLIVER. Yes, I believe it. And I believe---
(Enter MRS. BARLOW.)
MRS. BARLOW. Oh, I wanted to speak to you, Oliver.
OLIVER. Shall I come across?
MRS. BARLOW. No, not now. I believe father is coming here with Gerald.
OLIVER. Is he going to walk so far?
MRS. BARLOW. He will do it.--I suppose you know Oliver?
ANABEL. Yes, we have met before.
MRS. BARLOW (to OLIVER). You didn't mention it. Where have you met Miss
Wrath? She's been about the world, I believe.
ANABEL. About the world?--no, Mrs. Barlow. If one happens to know Paris
MRS. BARLOW. Paris and London! Well, I don't say you are all together
an adventuress. My husband seems very pleased with you--for Winifred's
sake, I suppose--and he's wrapped up in Winifred.
ANABEL. Winifred is an artist.
MRS. BARLOW. All my children have the artist in them. They get it from
my family. My father went mad in Rome. My family is born with a black
fate--they all inherit it.
OLIVER. I believe one is master of one's fate sometimes, Mrs. Barlow.
There are moments of pure choice.
MRS. BARLOW. Between two ways to the same end, no doubt. There's no
changing the end.
OLIVER. I think there is.
MRS. BARLOW. Yes, you have a parvenu's presumptuousness somewhere
OLIVER. Well, better than a blue-blooded fatalism.
MRS. BARLOW. The fate is in the blood: you can't change the blood.
WINIFRED. Oh, thank you, Oliver, for the wolf and the goat, thank you so
much!--The wolf has sprung on the goat, Miss Wrath, and has her by the
ANABEL. The wolf?
OLIVER. It's a little marble group--Italian--in hard marble.
WINIFRED. The wolf--I love the wolf--he pounces so beautifully. His
backbone is so terribly fierce. I don't feel a bit sorry for the goat,
OLIVER. I didn't. She is too much like the wrong sort of clergyman.
WINIFRED. Yes--such a stiff, long face. I wish he'd kill her.
MRS. BARLOW. There's a wish!
WINIFRED. Father and Gerald are coming. That's them, I suppose.
(Enter MR. BARLOW and GERALD.)
MR. BARLOW. Ah, good morning--good morning--quite a little gathering!
OLIVER. The steps tire you, Mr. Barlow.
MR. BARLOW. A little--a little--thank you.--Well, Miss Wrath, are you
quite comfortable here?
ANABEL. Very comfortable, thanks.
GERALD. It was clever of you, father, to turn this place into a studio.
MR. BARLOW. Yes, Gerald. You make the worldly schemes, and I the homely.
Yes, it's a delightful place. I shall come here often if the two young
ladies will allow me.--By the way, Miss Wrath, I don't know if you
have been introduced to my son Gerald. I beg your pardon. Miss Wrath,
Gerald--my son, Miss Wrath. (They bow.) Well, we are quite a gathering,
quite a pleasant little gathering. We never expected anything so
delightful a month ago, did we, Winifred, darling?
WINIFRED. No, daddy, it's much nicer than expectations.
MR. BARLOW. So it is, dear--to have such exceptional companionship
and such a pleasant retreat. We are very happy to have Miss Wrath with
GERALD. A studio's awfully nice, you know; it is such a retreat. A
newspaper has no effect in it--falls quite flat, no matter what the
MR. BARLOW. Quite true, Gerald, dear. It is a sanctum the world cannot
invade--unlike all other sanctuaries, I am afraid.
GERALD. By the way, Oliver--to go back to profanities--the colliers
really are coming out in support of the poor, ill-used clerks.
MR. BARLOW. No, no, Gerald--no, no! Don't be such an alarmist. Let us
leave these subjects before the ladies. No, no: the clerks will have
their increase quite peacefully.
GERALD. Yes, dear father--but they can't have it peacefully now. We've
been threatened already by the colliers--we've already received an
MR. BARLOW. Nonsense, my boy--nonsense! Don't let us split words. You
won't go against the clerks in such a small matter. Always avoid trouble
over small matters. Don't make bad feeling--don't make bad blood.
MRS. BARLOW. The blood is already rotten in the neighbourhood. What
it needs is letting out. We need a few veins opening, or we shall have
mortification setting in. The blood is black.
MR. BARLOW. We won't accept your figure of speech literally, dear. No,
Gerald, don't go to war over trifles.
GERALD. It's just over trifles that one must make war, father. One can
yield gracefully over big matters. But to be bullied over trifles is a
sign of criminal weakness.
MR. BARLOW. Ah, not so, not so, my boy. When you are as old as I am, you
will know the comparative insignificance of these trifles.
GERALD. The older I get, father, the more such trifles stick in my
MR. BARLOW. Ah, it is an increasingly irritable disposition in you, my
child. Nothing costs so bitterly, in the end, as a stubborn pride.
MRS. BARLOW. Except a stubborn humility--and that will cost you
more. Avoid humility, beware of stubborn humility: it degrades. Hark,
Gerald--fight! When the occasion comes, fight! If it's one against five
thousand, fight! Don't give them your heart on a dish! Never! If they
want to eat your heart out, make them fight for it, and then give it
them poisoned at last, poisoned with your own blood.--What do you say,
ANABEL. Is it for me to speak, Mrs. Barlow?
MRS. BARLOW. Weren't you asked?
ANABEL. Certainly I would NEVER give the world my heart on a dish. But
can't there ever be peace--real peace?
MRS. BARLOW. No--not while there is devilish enmity.
MR. BARLOW. You are wrong, dear, you are wrong. The peace can come, the
peace that passeth all understanding.
MRS. BARLOW. That there is already between me and Almighty God. I am
at peace with the God that made me, and made me proud. With men who
humiliate me I am at war. Between me and the shameful humble there
is war to the end, though they are millions and I am one. I hate the
people. Between my race and them and my children--for ever war, for ever
MR. BARLOW. Ah, Henrietta--you have said all this before.
MRS. BARLOW. And say it again. Fight, Gerald. You have my blood in you,
thank God. Fight for it, Gerald. Spend it as if it were costly, Gerald,
drop by drop. Let no dogs lap it.--Look at your father. He set his heart
on a plate at the door, for the poorest mongrel to eat up. See him now,
wasted and crossed out like a mistake--and swear, Gerald, swear to be
true to my blood in you. Never lie down before the mob, Gerald. Fight it
and stab it, and die fighting. It's a lost hope--but fight!
GERALD. Don't say these things here, mother.
MRS. BARLOW. Yes, I will--I will. I'll say them before you, and the
child Winifred--she knows. And before Oliver and the young woman--they
MR. BARLOW. You see, dear, you can never understand that, although I
am weak and wasted, although I may be crossed out from the world like a
mistake, I still have peace in my soul, dear, the peach that passeth all
MRS. BARLOW. And what right have you to it? All very well for you to
take peace with you into the other world. What do you leave for your
sons to inherit?
MR. BARLOW. The peace of God, Henrietta, if there is no peace among men.
MRS. BARLOW. Then why did you have children? Why weren't you celibate?
They have to live among men. If they have no place among men, why have
you put them there? If the peace of God is no more than the peace of
death, why are your sons born of you? How can you have peace with God,
if you leave no peace for your sons--no peace, no pride, no place on
GERALD. Nay, mother, nay. You shall never blame father on my behalf.
MRS. BARLOW. Don't trouble--he is blameless--I, a hulking, half-demented
woman, I am GLAD when you blame me. But don't blame me when I tell you
to fight. Don't do that, or you will regret it when you must die. Ah,
your father was stiff and proud enough before men of better rank than
himself. He was overbearing enough with his equals and his betters. But
he humbled himself before the poor, he made me ashamed. He must hear
it--he must hear it! Better he should hear it than die coddling himself
with peace. His humility, and my pride, they have made a nice ruin of
each other. Yet he is the man I wanted to marry--he is the man I
would marry again. But never, never again would I give way before his
goodness. Gerald, if you must be true to your father, be true to me as
well. Don't set me down at nothing because I haven't a humble case.
GERALD. No, mother--no, dear mother. You see, dear mother, I have rather
a job between the two halves of myself. When you come to have the wild
horses in your own soul, mother, it makes it difficult.
MRS. BARLOW. Never mind, you'll have help.
GERALD. Thank you for the assurance, darling.--Father, you don't mind
what mother says, I hope. I believe there's some truth in it--don't you?
MR. BARLOW. I have nothing to say.
WINIFRED. I think there's some truth in it, daddy. You were always
worrying about those horrid colliers, and they didn't care a bit about
you. And they OUGHT to gave cared a million pounds.
MR. BARLOW. You don't understand, my child.
SCENE: Evening of the same day. Drawing-room at Lilly Close. MR.
BARLOW, GERALD, WINIFRED, ANABEL OLIVER present. Butler pours
MR. BARLOW. And you are quite a stranger in these parts, Miss Wrath?
ANABEL. Practically. But I was born at Derby.
MR. BARLOW. I was born in this house--but it was a different affair
then: my father was a farmer, you know. The coal has brought us
what moderate wealth we have. Of course, we were never poor or
needy--farmers, substantial farmers. And I think we were happier
so--yes.--Winnie, dear, hand Miss Wrath the sweets. I hope they're good.
I ordered them from London for you.--Oliver, my boy, have you everything
you like? That's right.--It gives me such pleasure to see a little
festive gathering in this room again. I wish Bertie and Elinor might be
here. What time is it, Gerald?
GERALD. A quarter to nine, father.
MR. BARLOW. Not late yet. I can sit with you another half-hour. I am
feeling better to-day. Winifred, sing something for us.
WINIFRED. Something jolly, father?
MR. BARLOW. Very jolly, darling.
WINIFRED. I'll sing "The Lincolnshire Poacher," shall I?
MR. BARLOW. Do, darling, and we'll all join in the chorus.--Will you
join in the chorus, Miss Wrath?
ANABEL. I will. It is a good song.
MR. BARLOW. Yes, isn't it!
WINIFRED. All dance for the chorus, as well as singing.
(They sing; some pirouette a little for the chorus.)
MR. BARLOW. Ah, splendid! Splendid! There is nothing like gaiety.
WINIFRED. I do love to dance about. I know: let us do a little
ballet--four of us--oh, do!
GERALD. What ballet, Winifred?
WINIFRED. Any. Eva can play for us. She plays well.
MR. BARLOW. You won't disturb your mother? Don't disturb Eva if she
is busy with your mother. (Exit WINIFRED.) If only I can see Winifred
happy, my heart is at rest: if only I can hope for her to be happy in
GERALD. Oh, Winnie's all right, father--especially now she has Miss
Wrath to initiate her into the mysteries of life and labour.
ANABEL. Why are you ironical?
MR. BARLOW. Oh, Miss Wrath, believe me, we all feel that--it is the
greatest possible pleasure to me that you have come.
GERALD. I wasn't ironical, I assure you.
MR. BARLOW. No, indeed--no, indeed! We have every belief in you.
ANABEL. But why should you have?
MR. BARLOW. Ah, my dear child, allow us the credit of our own
discernment. And don't take offence at my familiarity. I am afraid I am
spoilt since I am an invalid.
(Re-enter WINIFRED, with EVA.)
MR. BARLOW. Come, Eva, you will excuse us for upsetting your evening.
Will you be so good as to play something for us to dance to?
EVA. Yes, sir. What shall I play?
WINIFRED. Mozart--I'll find you the piece. Mozart's the saddest musician
in the world--but he's the best to dance to.
MR. BARLOW. Why, how is it you are such a connoisseur in sadness,
GERALD. She isn't. She's a flagrant amateur.
(EVA plays; they dance a little ballet.)
MR. BARLOW. Charming--charming, Miss Wrath:--will you allow me to
say Anabel, we shall all feel so much more at home? Yes--thank
you--er--you enter into the spirit of it wonderfully, Anabel, dear. The
others are accustomed to play together. But it is not so easy to come in
on occasion as you do.
GERALD. Oh, Anabel's a genius!--I beg your pardon, Miss
Wrath--familiarity is catching.
MR. BARLOW. Gerald, my boy, don't forget that you are virtually host
EVA. Did you want any more music, sir?
GERALD. No, don't stay, Eva. We mustn't tire father. (Exit EVA.)
MR. BARLOW. I am afraid, Anabel, you will have a great deal to excuse
in us, in the way of manners. We have never been a formal household. But
you have lived in the world of artists: you will understand, I hope.
ANABEL. Oh, surely---
MR. BARLOW. Yes, I know. We have been a turbulent family, and we have
had our share of sorrow, even more, perhaps, than of joys. And sorrow
makes one indifferent to the conventionalities of life.
GERALD. Excuse me, father: do you mind if I go and write a letter I have
on my conscience?
MR. BARLOW. No, my boy. (Exit GERALD.) We have had our share of sorrow
and of conflict, Miss Wrath, as you may have gathered.
ANABEL. Yes--a little.
MR. BARLOW. The mines were opened when my father was a boy--the
first--and I was born late, when he was nearly fifty. So that all my
life has been involved with coal and colliers. As a young man, I was
gay and thoughtless. But I married young, and we lost our first child
through a terrible accident. Two children we have lost through sudden
and violent death. (WINIFRED goes out unnoticed.) It made me reflect.
And when I came to reflect, Anabel, I could not justify my position in
life. If I believed in the teachings of the New Testament--which I
did, and do--how could I keep two or three thousand men employed and
underground in the mines, at a wage, let us say, of two pounds a week,
whilst I lived in this comfortable house, and took something like two
thousand pounds a year--let us name any figure---
ANABEL. Yes, of course. But is it money that really matters, Mr. Barlow?
MR. BARLOW. My dear, if you are a working man, it matters. When I
went into the homes of my poor fellows, when they were ill or had had
accidents--then I knew it mattered. I knew that the great disparity was
wrong--even as we are taught that it is wrong.
ANABEL. Yes, I believe that the great disparity is a mistake. But take
their lives, Mr. Barlow. Do you thing they would LIVE more, if they had
more money? Do you think the poor live less than the rich?--is their
MR. BARLOW. Surely their lives would be better, Anabel.
OLIVER. All our lives would be better, if we hadn't to hang on in
the perpetual tug-of-war, like two donkeys pulling at one carrot. The
ghastly tension of possessions, and struggling for possession, spoils
life for everybody.
MR. BARLOW. Yes, I know now, as I knew then, that it was wrong. But
how to avoid the wrong? If I gave away the whole of my income, it would
merely be an arbitrary dispensation of charity. The money would still be
mine to give, and those that received it would probably only be weakened
instead of strengthened. And then my wife was accustomed to a certain
way of living, a certain establishment. Had I any right to sacrifice
her, without her consent?
ANABEL. Why, no!
MR. BARLOW. Again, if I withdrew from the Company, if I retired on a
small income, I knew that another man would automatically take my place,
and make it probably harder for the men.
ANABEL. Of course--while the system stands, if one makes self-sacrifice
one only panders to the system, makes it fatter.
MR. BARLOW. One panders to the system--one panders to the system. And
so, you see, the problem is too much. One man cannot alter or affect the
system; he can only sacrifice himself to it. Which is the worst thing
probably that he can do.
OLIVER. Quite. But why feel guilty for the system?--everybody supports
it, the poor as much as the rich. If every rich man withdrew from the
system, the working class and socialists would keep it going, every man
in the hope of getting rich himself at last. It's the people that are
wrong. They want the system much more than the rich do--because they are
much more anxious to be rich--never having been rich, poor devils.
MR. BARLOW. Just the system. So I decided at last that the best way was
to give every private help that lay in my power. I would help my men
individually and personally, wherever I could. Not one of them came
to me and went away unheard; and there was no distress which could be
alleviated that I did not try to alleviate. Yet I am afraid that the
greatest distress I never heard of, the most distressed never came to
me. They hid their trouble.
ANABEL. Yes, the decent ones.
MR. BARLOW. But I wished to help--it was my duty. Still, I think that,
on the whole, we were a comfortable and happy community. Barlow &
Walsall's men were not unhappy in those days, I believe. We were
liberal; the men lived.
OLIVER. Yes, that is true. Even twenty years ago the place was still
MR. BARLOW. And then, when Gerald was a lad of thirteen, came the great
lock-out. We belonged to the Masters' Federation--I was but one man on
the Board. We had to abide by the decision. The mines were closed till
the men would accept the reduction.--Well, that cut my life across. We
were shutting the men out from work, starving their families, in order
to force them to accept a reduction. It may be the condition of
trade made it imperative. But, for myself, I would rather have
lost everything.--Of course, we did what we could. Food was very
cheap--practically given away. We had open kitchen here. And it was
mercifully warm summer-time. Nevertheless, there was privation and
suffering, and trouble and bitterness. We had the redcoats down--even
to guard this house. And from this window I saw Whatmore head-stocks
ablaze, and before I could get to the spot the soldiers had shot two
poor fellows. They were not killed, thank God---
OLIVER. Ah, but they enjoyed it--they enjoyed it immensely. I remember
what grand old sporting weeks they were. It was like a fox-hunt,
so lively and gay--bands and tea-parties and excitement everywhere,
pit-ponies loose, men all over the country-side---
MR. BARLOW. There was a great deal of suffering, which you were too
young to appreciate. However, since that year I have had to acknowledge
a new situation--a radical if unspoken opposition between masters and
men. Since that year we have been split into opposite camps. Whatever I
might privately feel, I was one of the owners, one of the masters,
and therefore in the opposite camp. To my men I was an oppressor, a
representative of injustice and greed. Privately, I like to think that
even to this day they bear me no malice, that they have some lingering
regard for me. But the master stands before the human being, and the
condition of war overrides individuals--they hate the master, even
whilst, as a human being, he would be their friend. I recognise the
inevitable justice. It is the price one has to pay.
ANABEL. Yes, it is difficult--very.
MR. BARLOW. Perhaps I weary you?
ANABEL. Oh, no--no.
MR. BARLOW. Well--then the mines began to pay badly. The seams ran thin
and unprofitable, work was short. Either we must close down or introduce
a new system, American methods, which I dislike so extremely. Now it
really became a case of men working against machines, flesh and blood
working against iron, for a livelihood. Still, it had to be done--the
whole system revolutionised. Gerald took it in hand--and now I hardly
know my own pits, with the great electric plants and strange
machinery, and the new coal-cutters--iron men, as the colliers call
them--everything running at top speed, utterly dehumanised, inhuman.
Well, it had to be done; it was the only alternative to closing down and
throwing three thousand men out of work. And Gerald has done it. But I
can't bear to see it. The men of this generation are not like my men.
They are worn and gloomy; they have a hollow look that I can't bear
to see. They are a great grief to me. I remember men even twenty years
ago--a noisy, lively, careless set, who kept the place ringing. I feel
it is unnatural; I feel afraid of it. And I cannot help feeling guilty.
ANABEL. Yes--I understand. It terrifies me.
MR. BARLOW. Does it?--does it?--Yes.--And as my wife says, I leave it
all to Gerald--this terrible situation. But I appeal to God, if anything
in my power could have averted it, I would have averted it. I would have
made any sacrifice. For it is a great and bitter trouble to me.
ANABEL. Ah, well, in death there is no industrial situation. Something
must be different there.
MR. BARLOW. Yes--yes.
OLIVER. And you see sacrifice isn't the slightest use. If only people
would be sane and decent.
MR. BARLOW. Yes, indeed.--Would you be so good as to ring, Oliver? I
think I must go to bed.
ANABEL. Ah, you have over-tired yourself.
MR. BARLOW. No, my dear--not over-tired. Excuse me if I have burdened
you with all this. I relieves me to speak of it.
ANABEL. I realise HOW terrible it is, Mr. Barlow--and how helpless one
MR. BARLOW. Thank you, my dear, for your sympathy.
OLIVER. If the people for one minute pulled themselves up and conquered
their mania for money and machine excitement, the whole thing would be
solved.--Would you like me to find Winnie and tell her to say good night
MR. BARLOW. If you would be so kind. (Exit OLIVER.) Can't you find
a sweet that you would like, my dear? Won't you take a little cherry
ANABEL. Thank you.
WILLIAM. You will go up, sir?
MR. BARLOW. Yes, William.
WILLIAM. You are tired to-night, sir.
MR. BARLOW. It has come over me just now.
WILLIAM. I wish you went up before you became so over-tired, sir. Would
you like nurse?
MR. BARLOW. No, I'll go with you, William. Good night, my dear.
ANABEL. Good night, Mr. Barlow. I am so sorry if you are over-tired.
(Exit BUTLER and MR. BARLOW. ANABEL takes a drink and goes to
GERALD. Father gone up?
GERALD. I thought I heard him. Has he been talking too much?--Poor
father, he will take things to heart.
ANABEL. Tragic, really.
GERALD. Yes, I suppose it is. But one can get beyond tragedy--beyond the
state of feeling tragical, I mean. Father himself is tragical. One feels
he is mistaken--and yet he wouldn't be any different, and be himself, I
suppose. He's sort of crucified on an idea of the working people. It's
rather horrible when he's one's father.--However, apart from tragedy,
how do you like being here, in this house?
ANABEL. I like the house. It's rather too comfortable.
GERALD. Yes. But how do you like being here?
ANABEL. How do you like my being in your home?
GERALD. Oh, I think you're very decorative.
ANABEL. More decorative than comfortable?
GERALD. Perhaps. But perhaps you give the necessary finish to the
ANABEL. Like the correct window-curtains?
GERALD. Yes, something like that. I say, why did you come, Anabel? Why
did you come slap-bang into the middle of us?--It's not expostulation--I
want to know.
ANABEL. You mean you want to be told?
GERALD. Yes, I want to be told.
ANABEL. That's rather mean of you. You should savvy, and let it go
GERALD. Yes, but I don't savvy.
ANABEL. Then wait till you do.
GERALD. No, I want to be told. There's a difference in you, Anabel, that
puts me out, rather. You're sort of softer and sweeter--I'm not sure
whether it isn't a touch of father in you. There's a little sanctified
smudge on your face. Are you really a bit sanctified?
ANABEL. No, not sanctified. It's true I feel different. I feel I want
a new way of life--something more dignified, more religious, if you
like--anyhow, something POSITIVE.
GERALD. Is it the change of heart, Anabel?
ANABEL. Perhaps it is, Gerald.
GERALD. I'm not sure that I like it. Isn't it like a berry that decides
to get very sweet, and goes soft?
ANABEL. I don't think so.
GERALD. Slightly sanctimonious. I think I liked you better before. I
don't think I like you with this touch of aureole. People seem to me so
horribly self-satisfied when they get a change of heart--they take such
a fearful lot of credit to themselves on the strength of it.
ANABEL. I don't think I do.--Do you feel no different, Gerald?
GERALD. Radically, I can't say I do. I feel very much more INdifferent.
ANABEL. What to?
ANABEL. You're still angry--that's what it is.
GERALD. Oh, yes, I'm angry. But that is part of my normal state.
ANABEL. Why are you angry?
GERALD. Is there any reason why I shouldn't be angry? I'm angry because
you treated me--well, so impudently, really--clearing out and leaving
one to whistle to the empty walls.
ANABEL. Don't you think it was time I cleared out, when you became so
violent, and really dangerous, really like a madman?
GERALD. Time or not time, you went--you disappeared and left us high and
dry--and I am still angry.--But I'm not only angry about that. I'm angry
with the colliers, with Labour for its low-down impudence--and I'm angry
with father for being so ill--and I'm angry with mother for looking such
a hopeless thing--and I'm angry with Oliver because he thinks so much---
ANABEL. And what are you angry with yourself for?
GERALD. I'm angry with myself for being myself--I always was that. I was
always a curse to myself.
ANABEL. And that's why you curse others so much?
GERALD. You talk as if butter wouldn't melt in your mouth.
ANABEL. You see, Gerald, there has to be a change. You'll have to
GERALD. Change of heart?--Well, it won't be to get softer, Anabel.
ANABEL. You needn't be softer. But you can be quieter, more sane even.
There ought to be some part of you that can be quiet and apart from the
world, some part that can be happy and gentle.
GERALD. Well, there isn't. I don't pretend to be able to extricate a
soft sort of John Halifax, Gentleman, out of the machine I'm mixed up
in, and keep him to gladden the connubial hearth. I'm angry, and I'm
angry right through, and I'm not going to play bo-peep with myself,
pretending not to be.
ANABEL. Nobody asks you to. But is there no part of you that can be a
bit gentle and peaceful and happy with a woman?
GERALD. No, there isn't.--I'm not going to smug with you--no, not I.
You're smug in your coming back. You feel virtuous, and expect me to
rise to it. I won't.
ANABEL. Then I'd better have stayed away.
GERALD. If you want me to virtuise and smug with you, you had.
ANABEL. What DO you want, then?
GERALD. I don't know. I know I don't want THAT.
ANABEL. Oh, very well. (Goes to the piano; begins to play.)
(Enter MRS. BARLOW.)
GERALD. Hello, mother! Father HAS gone to bed.
MRS. BARLOW. Oh, I thought he was down here talking. You two alone?
GERALD. With the piano for chaperone, mother.
MRS. BARLOW. That's more than I gave you credit for. I haven't come to
chaperone you either, Gerald.
GERALD. Chaperone ME, mother! Do you think I need it?
MRS. BARLOW. If you do, you won't get it. I've come too late to be of
any use in that way, as far as I hear.
GERALD. What have you heard, mother?
MRS. BARLOW. I heard Oliver and this young woman talking.
GERALD. Oh, did you? When? What did they say?
MRS. BARLOW. Something about married in the sight of heaven, but
couldn't keep it up on earth.
GERALD. I don't understand.
MRS. BARLOW. That you and this young woman were married in the sight of
heaven, or through eternity, or something similar, but that you couldn't
make up your minds to it on earth.
GERALD. Really! That's very curious, mother.
MRS. BARLOW. Very common occurrence, I believe.
GERALD. Yes, so it is. But I don't think you heard quite right, dear.
There seems to be some lingering uneasiness in heaven, as a matter of
fact. We'd quite made up our minds to live apart on earth. But where did
you hear this, mother?
MRS. BARLOW. I heard it outside the studio door this morning.
GERALD. You mean you happened to be on one side of the door while Oliver
and Anabel were talking on the other?
MRS. BARLOW. You'd make a detective, Gerald--you're so good at putting
two and two together. I listened till I'd heard as much as I wanted.
I'm not sure I didn't come down here hoping to hear another conversation
GERALD. Listen outside the door, darling?
MRS. BARLOW. There'd be nothing to listen to if I were inside.
GERALD. It isn't usually done, you know.
MRS. BARLOW. I listen outside doors when I have occasion to be
interested--which isn't often, unfortunately for me.
GERALD. But I've a queer feeling that you have a permanent occasion to
be interested in me. I only half like it.
MRS. BARLOW. It's surprising how uninteresting you are, Gerald, for a
man of your years. I have not had occasion to listen outside a door, for
you, no, not for a great while, believe me.
GERALD. I believe you implicitly, darling. But do you happen to know
me through and through, and in and out, all my past and present doings,
mother? Have you a secret access to my room, and a spy-hole, and all
those things? This is uncomfortably thrilling. You take on a new lustre.
MRS. BARLOW. Your memoirs wouldn't make you famous, my son.
GERALD. Infamous, dear?
MRS. BARLOW. Good heavens, no! What a lot you expect from your very mild
sins! You and this young woman have lived together, then?
GERALD. Don't say "this young woman," mother dear--it's slightly vulgar.
It isn't for me to compromise Anabel by admitting such a thing, you
MRS. BARLOW. Do you ask me to call her Anabel? I won't.
GERALD. Then say "this person," mother. It's more becoming.
MRS. BARLOW. I didn't come to speak to you, Gerald. I know you. I came
to speak to this young woman.
GERALD. "Person," mother.--Will you curtsey, Anabel? And I'll twist my
handkerchief. We shall make a Cruikshank drawing, if mother makes her
hair a little more slovenly.
MRS. BARLOW. You and Gerald were together for some time?
GERALD. Three years, off and on, mother.
MRS. BARLOW. And then you suddenly dropped my son, and went away?
GERALD. To Norway, mother--so I have gathered.
MRS. BARLOW. And now you have come back because that last one died?
GERALD. Is he dead, Anabel? How did he die?
ANABEL. He was killed on the ice.
GERALD. Oh, God!
MRS. BARLOW. Now, having had your fill of tragedy, you have come back to
be demure and to marry Gerald. Does he thank you?
GERALD. You must listen outside the door, mother, to find that out.
MRS. BARLOW. Well, it's your own affair.
GERALD. What a lame summing up, mother!--quite unworthy of you.
ANABEL. What did you wish to say to me, Mrs. Barlow? Please say it.
MRS. BARLOW. What did I wish to say! Ay, what did I wish to say! What
is the use of my saying anything? What am I but a buffoon and a slovenly
caricature in the family?
GERALD. No, mother dear, don't climb down--please don't. Tell Anabel
what you wanted to say.
MRS. BARLOW. Yes--yes--yes. I came to say--don't be good to my
son--don't be too good to him.
GERALD. Sounds weak, dear--mere contrariness.
MRS. BARLOW. Don't presume to be good to my son, young woman. I won't
have it, even if he will. You hear me?
ANABEL. Yes. I won't presume, then.
GERALD. May she presume to be bad to me, mother?
MRS. BARLOW. For that you may look after yourself.--But a woman who was
good to him would ruin him in six months, take the manhood out of him.
He has a tendency, a secret hankering, to make a gift of himself to
somebody. He sha'n't do it. I warn you. I am not a woman to be despised.
ANABEL. No--I understand.
MRS. BARLOW. Only one other thing I ask. If he must fight--and fight
he must--let him alone: don't you try to shield him or save him. DON'T
INTERFERE--do you hear?
ANABEL. Not till I must.
MRS. BARLOW. NEVER. Learn your place, and keep it. Keep away from him,
if you are going to be a wife to him. Don't go too near. And don't let
him come too near. Beat him off if he tries. Keep a solitude in your
heart even when you love him best. Keep it. If you lose it, you lose
GERALD. But that isn't love, mother.
MRS. BARLOW. What?
GERALD. That isn't love.
MRS. BARLOW. WHAT? What do you know of love, you ninny? You only know
the feeding-bottle. It's what you want, all of you--to be brought up by
hand, and mew about love. Ah, God!--Ah, God!--that you should none of
you know the only thing which would make you worth having.
GERALD. I don't believe in your only thing, mother. But what is it?
MRS. BARLOW. What you haven't got--the power to be alone.
GERALD. Sort of megalomania, you mean?
MRS. BARLOW. What? Megalomania! What is your LOVE but a megalomania,
flowing over everybody and everything like spilt water? Megalomania!
I hate you, you softy! I would BEAT you (suddenly advancing on him and
beating him fiercely)--beat you into some manhood--beat you---
GERALD. Stop, mother--keep off.
MRS. BARLOW. It's the men who need beating nowadays, not the children.
Beat the softness out of him, young woman. It's the only way, if you
love him enough--if you love him enough.
GERALD. You hear, Anabel?
Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes.
MRS. BARLOW (catching up a large old fan, and smashing it about his
head). You softy--you piffler--you will never have had enough! Ah, you
should be thrust in the fire, you should, to have the softness and the
brittleness burnt out of you!
(The door opens--OLIVER TURTON enters, followed by JOB ARTHUR FREER.
MRS. BARLOW is still attacking GERALD. She turns, infuriated.)
Go out! Go out! What do you mean by coming in unannounced? Take him
upstairs--take that fellow into the library, Oliver Turton.
GERALD. Mother, you improve our already pretty reputation. Already they
say you are mad.
MRS. BARLOW (ringing violently). Let me be mad then. I am mad--driven
mad. One day I shall kill you, Gerald.
GERALD. You won't, mother because I sha'n't let you.
MRS. BARLOW. Let me!--let me! As if I should wait for you to let me!
GERALD. I am a match for you even in violence, come to that.
MRS. BARLOW. A match! A damp match. A wet match.
WILLIAM. You rang, madam?
MRS. BARLOW. Clear up those bits.--Where are you going to see that
white-faced fellow? Here?
GERALD. I think so.
MRS. BARLOW. You will STILL have them coming to the house, will you? You
will still let them trample in our private rooms, will you? Bah! I ought
to leave you to your own devices. (Exit.)
GERALD. When you've done that, William, ask Mr. Freer to come down here.
WILLIAM. Yes, sir. (A pause. Exit WILLIAM.)
GERALD. So-o-o. You've had another glimpse of the family life.
ANABEL. Yes. Rather--disturbing.
GERALD. Not at all, when you're used to it. Mother isn't as mad as she
pretends to be.
ANABEL. I don't think she's mad at all. I think she has most desperate
GERALD. "Courage" is good. That's a new term for it.
ANABEL. Yes, courage. When a man says "courage" he means the courage to
die. A woman means the courage to live. That's what women hate men most
for, that they haven't the courage to live.
GERALD. Mother takes her courage in both hands rather late.
ANABEL. We're a little late ourselves.
GERALD. We are, rather. By the way, you seem to have had plenty of
the courage of death--you've played a pretty deathly game, it seems to
me--both when I knew you and afterwards, you've had your finger pretty
deep in the death-pie.
ANABEL. That's why I want a change of--of---
GERALD. Of heart?--Better take mother's tip, and try the poker.
ANABEL. I will.
(Enter OLIVER and FREER.)
Oh, come in. Don't be afraid; it's a charade. (ANABEL rises.) No, don't
go, Anabel. Corraggio! Take a seat, Mr. Freer.
JOB ARTHUR. Sounds like a sneezing game, doesn't it?
GERALD. It is. Do you know the famous rhyme:
Speak roughly to your little boy,
And beat him when he sneezes?
JOB ARTHUR. No, I can't say I do.
GERALD. My mother does. Will you have anything to drink? Will you help
JOB ARTHUR. Well--no--I don't think I'll have anything, thanks.
GERALD. A cherry brandy?--Yes?--Anabel, what's yours?
ANABEL. Did I see Kummel?
GERALD. You did. (They all take drinks.) What's the latest, Mr. Freer?
JOB ARTHUR. The latest? Well, I don't know, I'm sure---
GERALD. Oh, yes. Trot it out. We're quite private.
JOB ARTHUR. Well--I don't know. There's several things.
GERALD. The more the merrier.
JOB ARTHUR. I'm not so sure. The men are in a very funny temper, Mr.
GERALD. Coincidence--so am I. Not surprising, is it?
JOB ARTHUR. The men, perhaps not.
GERALD. What else, Job Arthur?
JOB ARTHUR. You know the men have decided to stand by the office men?
JOB ARTHUR. They've agreed to come out next Monday.
GERALD. Have they?
JOB ARTHUR. Yes; there was no stopping them. They decided for it like
GERALD. How was that?
JOB ARTHUR. That's what surprises me. They're a jolly sight more certain
over this than they've ever been over their own interests.
GERALD. All their love for the office clerks coming out in a rush?
JOB ARTHUR. Well, I don't know about love; but that's how it is.
GERALD. What is it, if it isn't love?
JOB ARTHUR. I can't say. They're in a funny temper. It's hard to make
GERALD. A funny temper, are they? Then I suppose we ought to laugh.
JOB ARTHUR. No, I don't think it's a laughing matter. They're coming out
on Monday for certain.
GERALD. Yes--so are the daffodils.
JOB ARTHUR. Beg pardon?
JOB ARTHUR. No, I don't follow what you mean.
GERALD. Don't you? But I thought Alfred Breffitt and William Straw were
not very popular.
JOB ARTHUR. No, they aren't--not in themselves. But it's the principle
of the thing--so it seems.
GERALD. What principle?
JOB ARTHUR. Why, all sticking together, for one thing--all Barlow &
Walsall's men holding by one another.
GERALD. United we stand?
JOB ARTHUR. That's it. And then it's the strong defending the weak as
well. There's three thousand colliers standing up for thirty-odd office
men. I must say I think it's sporting myself.
GERALD. You do, do you? United we stand, divided we fall. What do they
stand for really? What is it?
JOB ARTHUR. Well--for their right to a living wage. That's how I see it.
GERALD. For their right to a living wage! Just that?
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, sir--that's how I see it.
GERALD. Well, that doesn't seem so preposterously difficult does it?
JOB ARTHUR. Why, that's what I think myself, Mr. Gerald. It's such a
GERALD. Quite. I suppose the men themselves are to judge what is a
JOB ARTHUR. Oh, I think they're quite reasonable, you know.
GERALD. Oh, yes, eminently reasonable. Reason's their strong point.--And
if they get their increase they'll be quite contented?
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, as far as I know, they will.
GERALD. As far as you know? Why, is there something you don't
know?--something you're not sure about?
JOB ARTHUR. No--I don't think so. I think they'll be quite satisfied
GERALD. Why this time? Is there going to be a next
time--every-day-has-its-to-morrow kind of thing?
JOB ARTHUR. I don't know about that. It's a funny world, Mr. Barlow.
GERALD. Yes, I quite believe it. How do you see it so funny?
JOB ARTHUR. Oh, I don't know. Everything's in a funny state.
GERALD. What do you mean by everything?
JOB ARTHUR. Well--I mean things in general--Labour, for example.
GERALD. You think Labour's in a funny state, do you? What do you think
it wants? What do you think, personally?
JOB ARTHUR. Well, in my own mind, I think it wants a bit of its own
GERALD. And how does it mean to get it?
JOB ARTHUR. Ha! that's not so easy to say. But it means to have it, in
the long run.
GERALD. You mean by increasing demands for higher wages?
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, perhaps that's one road.
GERALD. Do you see any other?
JOB ARTHUR. Not just for the present.
GERALD. But later on?
JOB ARTHUR. I can't say about that. The men will be quiet enough for a
bit, if it's all right about the office men, you know.
GERALD. Probably. But have Barlow & Walsall's men any special grievance
apart from the rest of the miners?
JOB ARTHUR. I don't know. They've no liking for you, you know, sir.
JOB ARTHUR. They think you've got a down on them.
GERALD. Why should they?
JOB ARTHUR. I don't know, sir; but they do.
GERALD. So they have a personal feeling against me? You don't think all
the colliers are the same, all over the country?
JOB ARTHUR. I think there's a good deal of feeling---
GERALD. Of wanting their own back?
JOB ARTHUR. That's it.
GERALD. But what can they do? I don't see what they can do. They can go
out on strike--but they've done that before, and the owners, at a pinch,
can stand it better than they can. As for the ruin of the industry,
if they do ruin it, it falls heaviest on them. In fact, it leaves them
destitute. There's nothing they can do, you know, that doesn't hit them
worse than it hits us.
JOB ARTHUR. I know there's something in that. But if they had a strong
man to lead them, you see---
GERALD. Yes, I've heard a lot about that strong man--but I've never come
across any signs of him, you know. I don't believe in one strong man
appearing out of so many little men. All men are pretty big in an age,
or in a movement, which produces a really big man. And Labour is a great
swarm of hopelessly little men. That's how I see it.
JOB ARTHUR. I'm not so sure about that.
GERALD. I am. Labour is a thing that can't have a head. It's a sort of
unwieldy monster that's bound to run its skull against the wall sooner
or later, and knock out what bit of brain it's got. You see, you need
wit and courage and real understanding if you're going to do anything
positive. And Labour has none of these things--certainly it shows no
signs of them.
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, when it has a chance, I think you'll see plenty of
courage and plenty of understanding.
GERALD. It always had a chance. And where one sees a bit of courage,
there's no understanding; and where there's some understanding, there's
absolutely no courage. It's hopeless, you know--it would be far best if
they'd all give it up, and try a new line.
JOB ARTHUR. I don't think they will.
GERALD. No, I don't, either. They'll make a mess and when they've made
it, they'll never get out of it. They can't--they're too stupid.
JOB ARTHUR. They've never had a try yet.
GERALD. They're trying every day. They just simply couldn't control
modern industry--they haven't the intelligence. They've no LIFE
intelligence. The owners may have little enough, but Labour has none.
They're just mechanical little things that can make one or two motions,
and they're done. They've no more idea of life than a lawn-mower has.
JOB ARTHUR. It remains to be seen.
GERALD. No, it doesn't. It's perfectly obvious--there's nothing remains
to be seen. All that Labour is capable of, is smashing things up. And
even for that I don't believe it has either the energy or the courage or
the bit of necessary passion, or slap-dash--call it whatever you will.
However, we'll see.
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, sir. Perhaps you see now why you're not so very
popular, Mr. Gerald.
GERALD. We can't all be popular, Job Arthur. You're very high up in
popularity, I believe.
JOB ARTHUR. Not so very. They listen to me a bit. But you never know
when they'll let you down. I know they'll let me down one day--so it
won't be a surprise.
GERALD. I should think not.
JOB ARTHUR. But about the office men, Mr. Gerald. You think it'll be all
GERALD. Oh, yes, that'll be all right.
JOB ARTHUR. Easiest for this time, anyhow, sir. We don't want bloodshed,
GERALD. I shouldn't mind at all. It might clear the way to something.
But I have absolutely no belief in the power of Labour even to bring
about anything so positive as bloodshed.
JOB ARTHUR. I don't know about that--I don't know. Well.
GERALD. Have another drink before you go.--Yes, do. Help yourself.
JOB ARTHUR. Well--if you're so pressing. (Helps himself.) Here's luck,
GERALD. Take a cigar--there's the box. Go on--take a handful--fill your
JOB ARTHUR. They're a great luxury nowadays, aren't they? Almost beyond
a man like me.
GERALD. Yes, that's the worst of not being a bloated capitalist. Never
mind, you'll be a Cabinet Minister some day.--Oh, all right--I'll open
the door for you.
JOB ARTHUR. Oh, don't trouble. Good night--good night. (Exeunt.)
OLIVER. Oh, God, what a world to live in!
ANABEL. I rather liked him. What is he?
OLIVER. Checkweighman--local secretary for the Miner's Federation--plays
the violin well, although he was a collier, and it spoilt his hands.
They're a musical family.
ANABEL. But isn't he rather nice?
OLIVER. I don't like him. But I confess he's a study. He's the modern
ANABEL. Don't you think he likes Gerald?
OLIVER. I'm sure he does. The way he suns himself here--like a cat
purring in his luxuriation.
ANABEL. Yes--I don't mind it. It shows a certain sensitiveness and a
OLIVER. Yes, he has both--touch of the artist, as Mrs. Barlow says. He
loves refinement, culture, breeding, all those things--loves them--and a
presence, a fine free manner.
ANABEL. But that is nice in him.
OLIVER. Quite. But what he loves, and what he admires, and what he
aspires to, he MUST betray. It's his fatality. He lives for the moment
when he can kiss Gerald in the Garden of Olives, or wherever it was.
ANABEL. But Gerald shouldn't be kissed.
OLIVER. That's what I say.
ANABEL. And that's what his mother means as well, I suppose.
GERALD. Well--you've heard the voice of the people.
ANABEL. He isn't the people.
GERALD. I think he is, myself--the epitome.
OLIVER. No, he's a special type.
GERALD. Ineffectual, don't you think?
ANABEL. How pleased you are, Gerald! How pleased you are with yourself!
You love the turn with him.
GERALD. It's rather stimulating, you know.
ANABEL. It oughtn't to be, then.
OLIVER. He's you Judas, and you love him.
GERALD. Nothing so deep. He's just a sort of AEolian harp that sings to
the temper of the wind. I find him amusing.
ANABEL. I think it's boring.
OLIVER. And I think it's nasty.
GERALD. I believe you're both jealous of him. What do you think of the
working man, Oliver?
OLIVER. It seems to me he's in nearly as bad a way as the British
employer: he's nearly as much beside the point.
GERALD. What point?
OLIVER. Oh, just life.
GERALD. That's too vague, my boy. Do you think they'll ever make a
OLIVER. I can't tell. I don't see any good in it, if they do.
GERALD. It might clear the way--and it might block the way for ever:
depends what comes through. But, sincerely, I don't think they've got it
ANABEL. They may have something better.
GERALD. That suggestion doesn't interest me, Anabel. Ah, well, we shall
see what we shall see. Have a whisky and soda with me, Oliver, and let
the troubled course of this evening run to a smooth close. It's quite
like old times. Aren't you smoking, Anabel?
ANABEL. No, thanks.
GERALD. I believe you're a reformed character. So it won't be like old
times, after all.
ANABEL. I don't want old times. I want new ones.
GERALD. Wait till Job Arthur has risen like Anti-christ, and proclaimed
the resurrection of the gods.--Do you see Job Arthur proclaiming
Dionysos and Aphrodite?
ANABEL. It bores me. I don't like your mood. Good night.
GERALD. Oh, don't go.
ANABEL. Yes, good night. (Exit.)
OLIVER. She's NOT reformed, Gerald. She's the same old moral
character--moral to the last bit of her, really--as she always was.
GERALD. Is that what it is?--But one must be moral.
OLIVER. Oh, yes. Oliver Cromwell wasn't as moral as Anabel is--nor such
GERALD. Poor old Anabel!
OLIVER. How she hates the dark gods!
GERALD. And yet they cast a spell over her. Poor old Anabel! Well,
Oliver, is Bacchus the father of whisky?
OLIVER. I don't know.--I don't like you either. You seem to smile all
over yourself. It's objectionable. Good night.
GERALD. Oh, look here, this is censorious.
OLIVER. You smile to yourself. (Exit.)
An old park. Early evening. In the background a low Georgian
hall, which has been turned into offices for the Company, shows
windows already lighted. GERALD and ANABEL walk along the path.
ANABEL. How beautiful this old park is!
GERALD. Yes, it is beautiful--seems so far away from everywhere, if one
doesn't remember that the hall is turned into offices.--No one has lived
here since I was a little boy. I remember going to a Christmas party at
ANABEL. Has it been shut up so long?
GERALD. The Walsalls didn't like it--too near the ugliness. They were
county, you know--we never were: father never gave mother a chance,
there. And besides, the place is damp, cellars full of water.
ANABEL. Even now?
GERALD. No, not now--they've been drained. But the place would be too
damp for a dwelling-house. It's all right as offices. They burn enormous
fires. The rooms are quite charming. This is what happens to the stately
homes of England--they buzz with inky clerks, or their equivalent.
Stateliness is on its last legs.
ANABEL. Yes, it grieves me--though I should be bored if I had to
be stately, I think.--Isn't it beautiful in this light, like an
eighteenth-century aquatint? I'm sure no age was as ugly as this, since
the world began.
GERALD. For pure ugliness, certainly not. And I believe none has been
so filthy to live in.--Let us sit down a minute, shall we? and watch the
rooks fly home. It always stirs sad, sentimental feelings in me.
ANABEL. So it does in me.--Listen! one can hear the coal-carts on the
road--and the brook--and the dull noise of the town--and the beating of
New London pit--and voices--and the rooks--and yet it is so still. We
seem so still here, don't we?
ANABEL. Don't you think we've been wrong?
ANABEL. In the way we've lived--and the way we've loved.
GERALD. It hasn't been heaven, has it? Yet I don't know that we've been
wrong, Anabel. We had it to go through.
ANABEL. Perhaps.--And, yes, we've been wrong, too.
GERALD. Probably. Only, I don't feel it like that.
ANABEL. Then I think you ought. You ought to feel you've been wrong.
GERALD. Yes, probably. Only, I don't. I can't help it. I think we've
gone the way we had to go, following our own natures.
ANABEL. And where has it landed us?
ANABEL. And where is that?
GERALD. Just on this bench in the park, looking at the evening.
ANABEL. But what next?
GERALD. God knows! Why trouble?
ANABEL. One must trouble. I want to feel sure.
GERALD. What of?
ANABEL. Of you--and of myself.
GERALD. Then BE sure.
ANABEL. But I can't. Think of the past--what it's been.
GERALD. This isn't the past.
ANABEL. But what is it? Is there anything sure in it? Is there any real
GERALD. Why not?
ANABEL. But how can you ask? Think of what our life has been.
GERALD. I don't want to.
ANABEL. No, you don't. But what DO you want?
GERALD. I'm all right, you know, sitting here like this.
ANABEL. But one can't sit here forever, can one?
GERALD. I don't want to.
ANABEL. And what will you do when we leave here?
GERALD. God knows! Don't worry me. Be still a bit.
ANABEL. But I'M worried. You don't love me.
GERALD. I won't argue it.
ANABEL. And I'm not happy.
GERALD. Why not, Anabel?
ANABEL. Because you don't love me--and I can't forget.
GERALD. I do love you--and to-night I've forgotten.
ANABEL. Then make me forget, too. Make me happy.
GERALD. I CAN'T make you--and you know it.
ANABEL. Yes, you can. It's your business to make me happy. I've made you
GERALD. You want to make me unhappy.
ANABEL. I DO think you're the last word in selfishness. If I say I can't
forget, you merely say, "I'VE forgotten"; and if I say I'm unhappy, all
YOU can answer is that I want to make YOU unhappy. I don't in the least.
I want to be happy myself. But you don't help me.
GERALD. There is no help for it, you see. If you WERE happy with me here
you'd be happy. As you aren't, nothing will make you--not genuinely.
ANABEL. And that's all you care.
GERALD. No--I wish we could both be happy at the same moment. But
apparently we can't.
ANABEL. And why not?--Because you're selfish, and think of nothing but
yourself and your own feelings.
GERALD. If it is so, it is so.
ANABEL. Then we shall never be happy.
GERALD. Then we sha'n't. (A pause.)
ANABEL. Then what are we going to do?
ANABEL. Do you want me to be with you?
ANABEL. Are you sure?
ANABEL. Then why don't you want me to be happy?
GERALD. If you'd only BE happy, here and now---
ANABEL. How can I?
GERALD. How can't you?--You've got a devil inside you.
ANABEL. Then make me not have a devil.
GERALD. I've know you long enough--and known myself long enough--to know
I can make you nothing at all, Anabel: neither can you make me. If
the happiness isn't there--well, we shall have to wait for it, like
a dispensation. It probably means we shall have to hate each other a
little more.--I suppose hate is a real process.
ANABEL. Yes, I know you believe more in hate than in love.
GERALD. Nobody is more weary of hate than I am--and yet we can't fix our
own hour, when we shall leave off hating and fighting. It has to work
itself out in us.
ANABEL. But I don't WANT to hate and fight with you any more. I don't
BELIEVE in it--not any more.
GERALD. It's a cleansing process--like Aristotle's Katharsis. We shall
hate ourselves clean at last, I suppose.
ANABEL. Why aren't you clean now? Why can't you love? (He laughs.) DO
you love me?
ANABEL. Do you want to be with me for ever?
GERALD. Quite sure.
ANABEL. Why are you so cool about it?
GERALD. I'm not. I'm only sure--which you are not.
ANABEL. Yes, I am--I WANT to be married to you.
GERALD. I know you want me to want you to be married to me. But whether
off your own bat you have a positive desire that way, I'm not sure. You
keep something back--some sort of female reservation--like a dagger up
your sleeve. You want to see me in transports of love for you.
ANABEL. How can you say so? There--you see--there--this is the man that
pretends to love me, and then says I keep a dagger up my sleeve. You
GERALD. I do love you--and you do keep a dagger up your sleeve--some
devilish little female reservation which spies at me from a distance, in
your soul, all the time, as if I were an enemy.
ANABEL. How CAN you say so?--Doesn't it show what you must be yourself?
Doesn't it show?--What is there in your soul?
GERALD. I don't know.
ANABEL. Love, pure love?--Do you pretend it's love?
GERALD. I'm so tired of this.
ANABEL. So am I, dead tired: you self-deceiving, self complacent thing.
Ha!--aren't you just the same? You haven't altered one scrap not a
GERALD. All right--you are always free to change yourself.
ANABEL. I HAVE changed I AM better, I DO love you--I love you wholly and
unselfishly--I do--and I want a good new life with you.
GERALD. You're terribly wrapped up in your new goodness. I wish you'd
make up your mind to be downright bad.
ANABEL. Ha!--Do you?--You'd soon see. You'd soon see where you'd be
if---- There's somebody coming. (Rises.)
GERALD. Never mind; it's the clerks leaving work, I suppose. Sit still.
ANABEL. Won't you go?
GERALD. No. (A man draws near, followed by another.)
CLERK. Good evening, sir. (Passes on.) Good evening, Mr. Barlow.
ANABEL. They are afraid.
GERALD. I suppose their consciences are uneasy about this strike.
ANABEL. Did you come to sit here just to catch them, like a spider
waiting for them?
GERALD. No. I wanted to speak to Breffitt.
ANABEL. I believe you're capable of any horridness.
GERALD. All right, you believe it. (Two more figures approach.) Good
CLERKS. Good night, sir. (One passes, one stops.) Good evening, Mr.
Barlow. Er--did you want to see Mr. Breffitt, sir?
GERALD. Not particularly.
CLERK. Oh! He'll be out directly, sir--if you'd like me to go back and
tell him you wanted him?
GERALD. No, thank you.
CLERK. Good night, sir. Excuse me asking.
GERALD. Good night.
ANABEL. Who is Mr. Breffitt?
GERALD. He is the chief clerk--and cashier--one of father's old pillars
ANABEL. Don't you like him?
GERALD. Not much.
ANABEL. Why?--You seem to dislike very easily.
GERALD. Oh, they all used to try to snub me, these old buffers. They
detest me like poison, because I am different from father.
ANABEL. I believe you enjoy being detested.
GERALD. I do. (Another clerk approaches--hesitates--stops.)
CLERK. Good evening, sir. Good evening, Mr. Barlow. Er--did you want
anybody at the office, sir? We're just closing.
GERALD. No, I didn't want anybody.
CLERK. Oh, no, sir. I see. Er--by the way, sir--er--I hope you don't
think this--er--bother about an increase--this strike threat--started in
GERALD. Where did it start?
CLERK. I should think it started--where it usually starts, Mr.
Barlow--among a few loud-mouthed people who think they can do as they
like with the men. They're only using the office men as a cry--They've
no interest in us. They want to show their power.--That's how it is,
GERALD. Oh, yes.
CLERK. We're powerless, if they like to make a cry out of us.
CLERK. We're as much put out about it as anybody.
GERALD. Of course.
CLERK. Yes--well--good night, sir. (Clerks draw near--there is a sound
of loud young voices and bicycle bells. Bicycles sweep past.)
CLERKS. Good night, sir.--Good night, sir.
GERALD. Good night.--They're very bucked to see me sitting here with
a woman--a young lady as they'll say. I guess your name will be flying
round to-morrow. They stop partly to have a good look at you. Do they
know you, do you think?
CLERKS. Mr. Breffitt's just coming, sir.--Good night, sir.--Good night,
sir. (Another bicycle passes.)
ANABEL. The bicycles don't see us.--Isn't it rather hateful to be a
master? The attitude of them all is so ugly. I can quite see that it
makes you rather a bully.
GERALD. I suppose it does. (Figure of a large man approaches.)
BREFFITT. Oh--ah--it's Mr. Gerald!--I couldn't make out who it
was.--Were you coming up to the office, sir? Do you want me to go back
GERALD. No, thank you--I just wanted a word with you about this
agitation. It'll do just as well here. It's a pity it started--that the
office should have set it going, Breffitt.
BREFFITT. It's none of the office's doing, I think you'll find, Mr.
Gerald. The office men did nothing but ask for a just advance--at any
rate, time and prices being what they are, I consider it a fair advance.
If the men took it up, it's because they've got a set of loud-mouthed
blatherers and agitators among them like Job Arthur Freer, who deserve
to be hung--and hanging they'd get, if I could have the judging of them.
GERALD. Well--it's very unfortunate--because we can't give the clerks
their increase now, you know.
BREFFITT. Can't you?--can't you? I can't see that it would be anything
out of the way, if I say what I think.
GERALD. No. They won't get any increase now. It shouldn't have been
allowed to become a public cry with the colliers. We can't give in now.
BREFFITT. Have the Board decided that?
GERALD. They have--on my advice.
BREFFITT. Hm!--then the men will come out.
GERALD. We will see.
BREFFITT. It's trouble for nothing--it's trouble that could be avoided.
The clerks could have their advance, and it would hurt nobody.
GERALD. Too late now.--I suppose if the men come out, the clerks will
come out with them?
BREFFITT. They'll have to--they'll have to.
GERALD. If they do, we may then make certain alterations in the office
staff which have needed making for some time.
BREFFITT. Very good--very good. I know what you mean.--I don't know how
your father bears all this, Mr. Gerald.
GERALD. We keep it from him as much as possible.--You'll let the clerks
know the decision. And if they stay out with the men, I'll go over the
list of the staff with you. It has needed revising for a long time.
BREFFITT. I know what you mean--I know what you mean--I believe I
understand the firm's interest in my department. I ought, after forty
years studying it. I've studied the firm's interest for forty years, Mr.
Gerald. I'm not likely to forget them now.
GERALD. Of course.
BREFFITT. But I think it's a mistake--I think it's a mistake, and I'm
bound to say it, to let a great deal of trouble rise for a very small
cause. The clerks might have had what they reasonably asked her.
GERALD. Well, it's too late now.
BREFFITT. I suppose it is--I suppose it is. I hope you'll remember, sir,
that I've put the interest of the firm before everything--before every
GERALD. Of course, Breffitt.
BREFFITT. But you've not had any liking for the office staff, I'm
afraid, sir--not since your father put you amongst us for a few
months.--Well, sir, we shall weather this gale, I hope, as we've
weathered those in the past. Times don't become better, do they? Men are
an ungrateful lot, and these agitators should be lynched. They would, if
I had my way.
GERALD. Yes, of course. Don't wait.
BREFFITT. Good night to you. (Exit.)
GERALD. Good night.
ANABEL. He's the last, apparently.
GERALD. We'll hope so.
ANABEL. He puts you in a fury.
GERALD. It's his manner. My father spoilt them--abominable old limpets.
And they're so self-righteous. They think I'm a sort of criminal who has
instigated this new devilish system which runs everything so close
and cuts it so fine--as if they hadn't made this inevitable by their
shameless carelessness and wastefulness in the past. He may well boast
of his forty years--forty years' crass, stupid wastefulness.
(Two or three more clerks pass, talking till they approach the seat,
then becoming silent after bidding good night.)
ANABEL. But aren't you a bit sorry for them?
GERALD. Why? If they're poor, what does it matter in a world of chaos?
ANABEL. And aren't you an obstinate ass not to give them the bit they
want. It's mere stupid obstinacy.
GERALD. It may be. I call it policy.
ANABEL. Men always do call their obstinacy policy.
GERALD. Well, I don't care what happens. I wish things would come to a
head. I only fear they won't.
ANABEL. Aren't you rather wicked?--ASKING for strife?
GERALD. I hope I am. It's quite a relief to me to feel that I may be
wicked. I fear I'm not. I can see them all anticipating victory, in
their low-down fashion wanting to crow their low-down crowings. I'm
afraid I feel it's a righteous cause, to cut a lot of little combs
before I die.
ANABEL. But if they're right in what they want?
GERALD. In the right--in the right!--They're just greedy, incompetent,
stupid, gloating in a sense of the worst sort of power. They're like
vicious children, who would like to kill their parents so that they
could have the run of the larder. The rest is just cant.
ANABEL. If you're the parent in the case, I must say you flow over with
loving-kindness for them.
GERALD. I don't--I detest them. I only hope they will fight. If they
would, I'd have some respect for them. But you'll see what it will be.
ANABEL. I wish I needn't, for it's very sickening.
GERALD. Sickening beyond expression.
ANABEL. I wish we could go right away.
GERALD. So do I--If one could get oneself out of this. But one
can't. It's the same wherever you have industrialism--and you have
industrialism everywhere, whether it's in Timbuctoo or Paraguay or
ANABEL. No, it isn't: you exaggerate.
JOB ARTHUR (suddenly approaching from the other side). Good evening, Mr.
Barlow. I heard you were in here. Could I have a word with you?
GERALD. Get on with it, then.
JOB ARTHUR. Is it right that you won't meet the clerks?
JOB ARTHUR. Not in any way?
GERALD. Not in any way whatsoever.
JOB ARTHUR. But--I thought I understood from you the other night---
GERALD. It's all the same what you understood.
JOB ARTHUR. Then you take it back, sir?
GERALD. I take nothing back, because I gave nothing.
JOB ARTHUR. Oh, excuse me, excuse me, sir. You said it would be all
right about the clerks. This lady heard you say it.
GERALD. Don't you call witnesses against me.--Besides, what does it
matter to you? What in the name of---
JOB ARTHUR. Well, sir, you said it would be all right, and I went on
GERALD. You went on that! Where did you go to?
JOB ARTHUR. The men'll be out on Monday.
GERALD. So shall I.
JOB ARTHUR. Oh, yes, but--where's it going to end?
GERALD. Do you want me to prophesy? When did I set up for a public
JOB ARTHUR. I don't know, sir. But perhaps you're doing more than you
know. There's a funny feeling just now among the men.
GERALD. So I've heard before. Why should I concern myself with their
feelings? Am I to cry when every collier bumps his funny-bone--or to
JOB ARTHUR. It's no laughing matter, you see.
GERALD. An I'm sure it's no crying matter--unless you want to cry, do
JOB ARTHUR. Ah, but, very likely, it wouldn't be me would cry.--You
don't know what might happen, now.
GERALD. I'm waiting for something to happen. I should like something to
happen--very much--very much indeed.
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, but perhaps you'd be sorry if it did happen.
GERALD. Is that warning or a threat?
JOB ARTHUR. I don't know--it might be a bit of both. What I mean to
GERALD (suddenly seizing him by the scruff of the neck and shaking him).
What do you mean to say?--I mean you to say less, do you see?--a great
deal less--do you see? You've run on with your saying long enough: that
clock had better run down. So stop your sayings--stop your sayings,
I tell you--or you'll have them shaken out of you--shaken out of
you--shaken out of you, do you see? (Suddenly flings him aside.)
(JOB ARTHUR, staggering, falls.)
ANABEL. Oh, no!--oh, no!
GERALD. Now get up, Job Arthur; and get up wiser than you went down.
You've played your little game and your little tricks and made your
little sayings long enough. You're going to stop now. We've had quite
enough of strong men of your stamp, Job Arthur--quite enough--such
labour leaders as you.
JOB ARTHUR. You'll be sorry, Mr. Barlow--you'll be sorry. You'll wish
you'd not attacked me.
GERALD. Don't you trouble about me and my sorrow. Mind your own.
JOB ARTHUR. You will--you'll be sorry. You'll be sorry for what you've
done. You'll wish you'd never begun this.
GERALD. Begun--begun?--I'd like to finish, too, that I would. I'd like
to finish with you, too--I warn YOU.
JOB ARTHUR. I warn you--I warn you. You won't go on much longer. Every
parish has its own vermin.
JOB ARTHUR. Every parish has its own vermin; it lies with every parish
to destroy its own. We sha'n't have a clean parish till we've destroyed
the vermin we've got.
GERALD. Vermin? The fool's raving. Vermin!--Another phrase-maker, by
God! Another phrase-maker to lead the people.--Vermin? What vermin? I
know quite well what I mean by vermin, Job Arthur. But what do you
mean? Vermin? Explain yourself.
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, vermin. Vermin is what lives on other people's lives,
living on their lives and profiting by it. We've got 'em in every
parish--vermin, I say--that live on the sweat and blood of the
people--live on it, and get rich on it--get rich through living on other
people's lives, the lives of the working men--living on the bodies
of the working men--that's vermin--if it isn't, what is it? And every
parish must destroy its own--every parish must destroy its own vermin.
GERALD. The phrase, my God! the phrase.
JOB ARTHUR. Phrase or not phrase, there it is, and face it out if you
can. There it is--there's not one in every parish--there's more than
one--there's a number---
GERALD (suddenly kicking him). Go! (Kicks him.) Go! (Kicks him.) go!
(JOB ARTHUR falls.) Get out! (Kicks him.) Get out, I say! Get out, I
tell you! Get out! Get out!--Vermin!--Vermin!--I'll vermin you! I'll put
my foot through your phrases. Get up, I say, get up and go--GO!
JOB ARTHUR. It'll be you as'll go, this time.
GERALD. What? What?--By God! I'll kick you out of this park like a
rotten bundle if you don't get up and go.
ANABEL. No, Gerald, no. Don't forget yourself. It's enough now. It's
enough now.--Come away. Do come away. Come away--leave him---
JOB ARTHUR (still on the ground). It's your turn to go. It's you as'll
go, this time.
GERALD (looking at him). One can't even tread on you.
ANABEL. Don't, Gerald, don't--don't look at him.--Don't say any more,
you, Job Arthur.--Come away, Gerald. Come away--come--do come.
GERALD (turning). THAT a human being! My God!--But he's right--it's
I who go. It's we who go, Anabel. He's still there.--My God! a human
Market-place as in Act I. WILLIE HOUGHTON, addressing a large
crowd of men from the foot of the obelisk.
WILLIE. And now you're out on strike--now you've been out for a week
pretty nearly, what further are you? I heard a great deal of talk about
what you were going to do. Well, what ARE you going to do? You don't
know. You've not the smallest idea. You haven't any idea whatsoever.
You've got your leaders. Now then, Job Arthur, throw a little light
on the way in front, will you: for it seems to me we're lost in a bog.
Which way are we to steer? Come--give the word, and let's gee-up.
JOB ARTHUR. You ask me which way we are to go. I say we can't go our own
way, because of the obstacles that lie in front. You've got to remove
the obstacles from the way.
WILLIE. So said Balaam's ass. But you're not an ass--beg pardon; and
you're not Balaam--you're Job. And we've all got to be little Jobs,
learning how to spell patience backwards. We've lost our jobs and we've
found a Job. It's picking up a scorpion when you're looking for an
egg.--Tell us what you propose doing.... Remove an obstacle from the
way! What obstacle? And whose way?
JOB ARTHUR. I think it's pretty plain what the obstacle is.
WILLIE. Oh, ay. Tell us then.
JOB ARTHUR. The obstacle to Labour is Capital.
WILLIE. And how are we going to put salt on Capital's tail?
JOB ARTHUR. By Labour we mean us working men; and by Capital we mean
those that derive benefit from us, take the cream off us and leave us
WILLIE. Oh, yes.
JOB ARTHUR. So that, if you're going to remove the obstacle, you've
got to remove the masters, and all that belongs to them. Does everybody
agree with me?
VOICES (loud). Ah, we do--yes--we do that--we do an' a'--yi--yi--that's
WILLIE. Agreed unanimously. But how are we going to do it? Do you
propose to send for Williamson's furniture van, to pack them in? I
should think one pantechnicon would do, just for this parish. I'll
drive. Who'll be the vanmen to list and carry?
JOB ARTHUR. It's no use fooling. You've fooled for thirty years, and
we're no further. What's got to be done will have to be begun. It's for
every man to sweep in front of his own doorstep. You can't call your
neighbours dirty till you've washed your own face. Every parish has got
its own vermin, and it's the business of every parish to get rid of its
VOICES. That's it--that's it--that's the ticket--that's the style!
WILLIE. And are you going to comb 'em out, or do you propose to use
VOICES. Shut it! Shut it up! Stop thy face! Hold thy gab!--Go on, Job
JOB ARTHUR. How it's got to be done is for us all to decide. I'm not one
for violence, except it's a force-put. But it's like this. We've been
travelling for years to where we stand now--and here the road stops.
There's a precipice below and a rock-face above. And in front of us
stand the masters. Now there's three things we can do. We can either
throw ourselves over the precipice; or we can lie down and let the
masters walk over us; or we can GET ON.
WILLIE. Yes. That's all right. But how are you going to get on?
JOB ARTHUR. Well--we've either got to throw the obstacle down the
cliff--or walk over it.
VOICES. Ay--ay--ay--yes--that's a fact.
WILLIE. I quite follow you, Job Arthur. You've either got to do for the
masters--or else just remove them, and put them somewhere else.
VOICES. Get rid on 'em--drop 'em down the shaft--sink 'em--ha' done
wi' 'em--drop 'em down the shaft--bust the beggars--what do you do wi'
WILLIE. Supposing you begin. Supposing you take Gerald Barlow, and
hang him up from his lamp-post, with a piece of coal in his mouth for a
VOICES. Ay--serve him right--serve the beggar right! Shove it down's
WILLIE. Supposing you do it--supposing you've done it--and supposing you
aren't caught and punished--even supposing that--what are you going to
do next?--THAT'S the point.
JOB ARTHUR. We know what we're going to do. Once we can get our hands
free, we know what we're going to do.
WILLIE. Yes, so do I. You're either going to make SUCH a mess that we
shall never get out of it--which I don't think you will do, for the
English working man is the soul of obedience and order, and he'd behave
himself to-morrow as if he was at Sunday school, no matter what he does
to-day.--No, what you'll do, Job Arthur, you'll set up another lot of
masters, such a jolly sight worse than what we've got now. I'd rather be
mastered by Gerald Barlow, if it comes to mastering, than by Job Arthur
Freer--oh, SUCH a lot! You'll be far less free with Job Arthur for
your boss than ever you were with Gerald Barlow. You'll be far more
degraded.--In fact, though I've preached socialism in the market-place
for thirty years--if you're going to start killing the masters to set
yourselves up as bosses--why, kill me along with the masters. For
I'd rather die with somebody who has one tiny little spark of decency
left--though it IS a little tiny spark--than live to triumph with those
that have none.
VOICES. Shut thy face, Houghton--shut it up--shut him up--hustle
the beggar! Hoi!--hoi-ee!--whoo!--whoam-it, whoam-it!--whoo!--
WILLIE. And it's no use you making fool of yourselves---- (His words are
heard through an ugly, jeering, cold commotion.)
VOICE (loudly). He's comin'.
VOICE. Barlow.--See 's motor?--comin' up--sithee?
WILLIE. If you've any sense left---- (Suddenly and violently
VOICES. Sorry!--he's comin'--'s comin'--sorry, ah! Who's in?--That's
Turton drivin'--yi, he's behind wi' a woman--ah, he's comin'--he'll none
go back--hold on. Sorry!--wheer's 'e comin'?--up from Loddo--ay---- (The
cries die down--the motor car slowly comes into sight, OLIVER driving,
GERALD and ANABEL behind. The men stand in a mass in the way.)
OLIVER. Mind yourself, there. (Laughter.)
GERALD. Go ahead, Oliver.
VOICE. What's yer 'urry?
(Crowd sways and surges on the car. OLIVER is suddenly dragged out.
GERALD stands up--he, too, is seized from behind--he wrestles--is
torn out of his greatcoat--then falls--disappears. Loud cries--
"Hi!--hoi!--hoiee!"--all the while. The car shakes and presses
VOICE. Stop the blazin' motor, somebody.
VOICE. Here y' are!--hold a minute. (A man jumps in and stops the
engine--he drops in the driver's seat.)
COLLIER (outside the car). Step down, miss.
ANABEL. I am Mrs. Barlow.
COLLIER. Missis, then. (Laugh.) Step done--lead 'er forrard. Take 'em
JOB ARTHUR. Ay, make a road.
GERALD. You're makin' a proper fool of yourself now, Freer.
JOB ARTHUR. You've brought it on yourself. YOU'VE made fools of plenty
COLLIERS. Come on, now--come on! Whoa!--whoa!--he's a jibber--go pretty
now, go pretty!
VOICES (suddenly). Lay hold o' Houghton--nab 'im--seize
'im--rats!--rats!--bring 'im forrard!
ANABEL (in a loud, clear voice). I never knew anything so RIDICULOUS.
VOICES (falsetto). Ridiculous! Oh, ridiculous! Mind the step, dear!--I'm
Mrs. Barlow!--Oh, are you?--Tweet--tweet!
JOB ARTHUR. Make a space, boys, make a space, boys, make a space.
(He stands with prisoners in a cleared space before the obelisk.)
Now--now--quiet a minute--we want to ask a few questions of these
VOICES. Quiet!--quiet!--Sh-h-h! Sh-h-h!--Answer pretty--answer pretty
JOB ARTHUR. We want to ask you, Mr. Gerald Barlow, why you have given
occasion for this present trouble.
GERALD. You are a fool.
VOICES. Oh!--oh!--naughty Barlow!--naughty baa-lamb--answer pretty--be
good baa-lamb--baa--baa!--answer pretty when gentleman asks you.
JOB ARTHUR. Quiet a bit Sh-h-h!--We put this plain question to you,
Mr. Barlow. Why did you refuse to give the clerks this just and fair
advance, when you knew that by refusing you would throw three thousand
men out of employment?
GERALD. You are a fool, I say.
VOICES. Oh!--oh!--won't do--won't do, Barlow--wrong answer--wrong
answer--be good baa-lamb--naughty boy--naughty boy!
JOB ARTHUR. Quiet a bit now!--If three thousand men ask you a just,
straightforward question, do you consider they've no right to an answer?
GERALD. I would answer you with my foot.
VOICES (amid a threatening scuffle). Da-di-da! Hark ye--hark ye!
Oh--whoa--whoa a bit!--won't do!--won't do!--naughty--naughty--say
you're sorry--say you're sorry--kneel and say you're sorry--kneel and
JOB ARTHUR. Hold on a bit--keep clear!
VOICES. Make him kneel--make him kneel--on his knees with him!
JOB ARTHUR. I think you'd better kneel down.
(The crowd press on GERALD--he struggles--they hit him behind the
knees, force him down.)
OLIVER. This is shameful and unnecessary.
VOICES. All of 'em--on your knees--all of' em--on their knees!
(The seize OLIVER and WILLIE and ANABEL, hustling. ANABEL kneels
quietly--the others struggle.)
WILLIE. Well, of all the damned, dirty, cowardly---
VOICES. Shut up, Houghton--shut him up--squeeze him!
OLIVER. Get off me--let me alone--I'll kneel.
VOICES. Good little doggies--nice doggies--kneel and beg
pardon--yap-yap--answer--make him answer!
JOB ARTHUR (holding up his hand for silence). It would be better if you
answered straight off, Barlow. We want to know why you prevented that
VOICES (after a pause). Nip his neck! Make him yelp!
OLIVER. Let me answer, then.--Because it's worse, perhaps, to be bullied
by three thousand men than by one man.
VOICES. Oh!--oh!--dog keeps barking--stuff his mouth--stop him
up--here's a bit of paper--answer, Barlow--nip his neck--stuff his
mug--make him yelp--cork the bottle!
(They press a lump of newspaper into OLIVER'S mouth, and bear down on
JOB ARTHUR. Quiet--quiet--quiet a minute, everybody. We give him a
minute--we give him a minute to answer.
VOICES. Give him a minute--a holy minute--say your prayers,
Barlow--you've got a minute--tick-tick, says the clock--time him!
JOB ARTHUR. Keep quiet.
WILLIE. Of all the damned, cowardly---
VOICES. Sh-h-h!--Squeeze him--throttle him! Silence is golden,
Houghton.--Close the shutters, Willie's dead.--Dry up, wet whiskers!
JOB ARTHUR. You've fifteen seconds.
VOICES. There's a long, long trail a-winding---
JOB ARTHUR. The minute's up.--We ask you again, Gerald Barlow, why you
refused a just and fair demand, when you know it was against the wishes
of three thousand men all as good as yourself.
VOICES. And a sight better--I don't think--we're not all vermin--we're
not all crawlers, living off the sweat of other folks--we're not all
parish vermin--parish vermin.
JOB ARTHUR. And on what grounds do you think you have no occasion to
answer the straightforward question we put you here?
ANABEL (after a pause). Answer them, Gerald. What's the use of
GERALD. I've nothing to answer.
VOICES. Nothing to answer--Gerald, darling--Gerald, duckie--oh,
lovey-dovey--I've nothing to answer--no, by God--no, by God, he
hasna--nowt to answer--ma'e him find summat, then--answer for him--gi'e
him's answer--let him ha'e it--go on--mum--mum--lovey-dovey--rub his
nose in it--kiss the dirt, ducky--bend him down--rub his nose in--he's
saying something--oh, no, he isn't--sorry I spoke--bend him down!
JOB ARTHUR. Quiet a bit--quiet everybody--he's got to answer--keep
quiet.--Now---- (A silence.) Now then, Barlow, will you answer, or won't
ANABEL. Answer them, Gerald--never mind.
VOICES. Sh-h-h! Sh-h-h! (Silence.)
JOB ARTHUR. You won't answer, Barlow?
VOICE. Down the beggar!
VOICES. Down him--put his nose down--flatten him!
(The crowd surges and begins to howl--they sway dangerously--GERALD
is spread-eagled on the floor, face down.)
JOB ARTHUR. Back--back--back a minute--back--back! (They recoil.)
WILLIE. I HOPE there's a God in heaven.
VOICES. Put him down--flatten him!
(WILLIE is flattened on the ground.)
JOB ARTHUR. Now, then--now then--if you won't answer, Barlow, I can't
stand here for you any more.--Take your feet off him, boys, and turn
him over--let us look at him. Let us see if he CAN speak. (They turn him
over, with another scuffle.) Now then, Barlow--you can see the sky above
you. Now do you think you're going to play with three thousand men,
with their lives and with their souls?--now do you think you're going to
answer them with your foot?--do you--do you?
(The crowd has begun to sway and heave dangerously, with a low,
muffled roar, above which is heard JOB ARTHUR'S voice. As he
ceases, the roar breaks into a yell--the crowd heaves.)
VOICES. Down him--crack the vermin--on top of him--put your foot on the
ANABEL (with a loud, piercing cry, suddenly starting up). Ah, no! Ah,
no! Ah-h-h-h no-o-o-o! Ah-h-h-h no-o-o-o! Ah-h-h-h no-o-o-o! No-o-o-o!
No-o-o-o! No-o! No-o-o!--Ah-h-h-h!--it's enough, it's enough, it's
enough--he's a man as you are. He's a man as you are. He's a man as you
are. (Weeps--a breath of silence.)
OLIVER. Let us stop now--let us stop now. Let me stand up. (Silence.) I
want to stand up. (A muffled noise.)
VOICE. Let him get up. (OLIVER rises.)
OLIVER. Be quiet. Be quiet.--Now--choose! Choose! Choose! Choose what
you will do! Only choose! Choose!--it will be irrevocable. (A moment's
pause.) Thank God we haven't gone too far.--Gerald, get up. (Men still
hold him down.)
JOB ARTHUR. Isn't he to answer us? Isn't he going to answer us?
OLIVER. Yes, he shall answer you. He shall answer you. But let him stand
up. No more of this. Let him stand up. He must stand up. (Men still hold
GERALD down.) OLIVER takes hold of their hands and removes them.)
Let go--let go now. Yes, let go--yes--I ask you to let go. (Slowly,
sullenly, the men let go. GERALD is free, but he does not move.)
There--get up, Gerald! Get up! You aren't hurt, are you? You must get
up--it's no use. We're doing our best--you must do yours. When things
are like this, we have to put up with what we get. (GERALD rises slowly
and faces the mob. They roar dully.) You ask why the clerks didn't get
this increase? Wait! Wait! Do you still wish for any answer, Mr. Freer?
JOB ARTHUR. Yes, that's what we've been waiting for.
OLIVER. Then answer, Gerald.
GERALD. They've trodden on my face.
OLIVER. No matter. Job Arthur will easily answer that you've trodden
on their souls. Don't start an altercation. (The crowd is beginning to
GERALD. You want to know why the clerks didn't get their rise?--Because
you interfered and attempted to bully about it, do you see. That's why.
VOICES. You want bullying.--You'll get bullying, you will.
OLIVER. Can't you see it's no good, either side? It's no mortal use.
We might as well all die to-morrow, or to-day, or this minute, as go on
bullying one another, one side bullying the other side, and the other
side bullying back. We'd BETTER all die.
WILLIE. And a great deal better. I'm damned if I'll take sides with
anybody against anything, after this. If I'm to die, I'll die by myself.
As for living, it seems impossible.
JOB ARTHUR. Have the men nothing to be said for their side?
OLIVER. They have a great deal--but not EVERYTHING, you see.
JOB ARTHUR. Haven't they been wronged? And AREN'T they wronged?
OLIVER. They have--and they are. But haven't they been wrong themselves,
too?--and aren't they wrong now?
JOB ARTHUR. How?
OLIVER. What about this affair? Do you call it right?
JOB ARTHUR. Haven't we been driven to it?
OLIVER. Partly. And haven't you driven the masters to it, as well?
JOB ARTHUR. I don't see that.
OLIVER. Can't you see that it takes two to make a quarrel? And as long
as each party hangs on to its own end of the stick and struggles to get
full hold of the stick, the quarrel will continue. It will continue till
you've killed one another. And even then, what better shall you be? What
better would you be, really, if you'd killed Gerald Barlow just now? You
wouldn't, you know. We're all human beings, after all. And why can't we
try really to leave off struggling against one another, and set up a new
state of things?
JOB ARTHUR. That's all very well, you see, while you've got the goods.
OLIVER. I've got very little, I assure you.
JOB ARTHUR. Well, if you haven't, those you mix with have. They've got
the money, and the power, and they intend to keep it.
OLIVER. As for power, somebody must have it, you know. It only rests
with you to put it into the hands of the best men, the men you REALLY
believe in.--And as for money, it's life, it's living that matters, not
simply having money.
JOB ARTHUR. You can't live without money.
OLIVER. I know that. And therefore why can't we have the decency to
agree simply about money--just agree to dispose of it so that all men
could live their own lives.
JOB ARTHUR. That's what we want to do. But the others, such as Gerald
Barlow, they keep the money--AND the power.
OLIVER. You see, if you wanted to arrange things so that money flowed
more naturally, so that it flowed naturally to every man, according to
his needs, I think we could all soon agree. But you don't. What you
want is to take it away from one set and give it to another--or keep it
JOB ARTHUR. We want every man to have his proper share.
OLIVER. I'm sure I do. I want every man to be able to live and be
free. But we shall never manage it by fighting over the money. If you
want what is natural and good, I'm sure the owners would soon agree with
JOB ARTHUR. What? Gerald Barlow agree with us?
OLIVER. Why not? I believe so.
JOB ARTHUR. You ask him.
OLIVER. Do you think, Gerald, that if the men really wanted a whole,
better way, you would agree with them?
GERALD. I want a better way myself--but not their way.
JOB ARTHUR. There, you see!
VOICES. Ah-h! look you!--That's him--that's him all over.
OLIVER. You want a better way,--but not his way: he wants a better
way--but not your way. Why can't you both drop your buts, and simply say
you want a better way, and believe yourselves and one another when you
say it? Why can't you?
GERALD. Look here! I'm quite as tired of my way of life as you are of
yours. If you make me believe you want something better, then I assure
you I do: I want what you want. But Job Arthur Freer's not the man
to lead you to anything better. You can tell what people want by the
leaders they choose, do you see? You choose leaders whom I respect, and
I'll respect you, do you see? As it is, I don't. And now I'm going.
VOICES. Who says?--Oh ay!--Who says goin'?
GERALD. Yes, I'm going. About this affair here we'll cry quits; no more
said about it. About a new way of life, a better way all round--I tell
you I want it and need it as much as ever you do. I don't care about
money really. But I'm never going to be bullied.
VOICE. Who doesn't care about money?
GERALD. I don't. I think we ought to be able to alter the whole
system--but not by bullying, not because one lot wants what the other
VOICE. No, because you've got everything.
GERALD. Where's my coat? Now then, step out of the way. (They move
towards the car.)