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 Judas.
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 certain taste.
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 bust-up?
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 in them.
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 an iconoclast.
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 the Walsalls'.
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 happiness?
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 happy.
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 liar!
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 scrap.
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 evening.
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 of society.
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 the office?
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, sir.
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 with you?
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 consideration.
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 Antananarivo.
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 that—-
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 prophet?
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 laugh?
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 you see?
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 say—-
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 being!
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 the skim.
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 it!
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 own.
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 Keating's?
VOICES. Shut it! Shut it up! Stop thy face! Hold thy gab!—Go on, Job Arthur.
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' vermin?
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 sacrament—-
VOICES. Ay—serve him right—serve the beggar right! Shove it down's throttle—ay!
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!— bow-wow!—wet-whiskers!——
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 disappears.)
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 uneasily.)
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 forrard.
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 of men.
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 gentlemen.
VOICES. Quiet!—quiet!—Sh-h-h! Sh-h-h!—Answer pretty—answer pretty now!—Quiet!—Shh-h-h!
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 beg pardon!
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 advance.
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 GERALD.)
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 prolonging this?
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 you? (Silence.)
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 vermin!
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 roar.)
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 yourselves.
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 you.
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 has got.
VOICE. No, because you've got everything.
GERALD. Where's my coat? Now then, step out of the way. (They move towards the car.)