SCENE--The Grove farm house, and its stable. In the background, a stubble-field. Enter MR. WINCHESTER and GEORGE FIELDING. They have been riding; WINCHESTER wears boots and spurs, FIELDING carries a whip.
WINCH: The Grove is a bad farm, Fielding.
FIELD: Don't say so, sir.
WINCH: Go with me to Australia, and you shall have five hundred sheep and a run for them; and cost you nothing.
FIELD: It's a handsome offer, sir, and like yourself. But emigrate? Leave England and the plough to keep sheep in the wilderness? Why, la, sir, you might as well try to transplant an old oak-tree, as a Berkshire farmer. Besides--you know, sir--there is my cousin Susanna (he looks down).
WINCH: I know there is. And there is my cousin Flora. Why, what do any of us go to Australia for? To lay our bones there? No. To make a lot of money; and then come back and marry our Susans and Floras.
FIELD: That is common sense, sir.
WINCH: I am serious, farmer; but we can talk about it as we go along. Please to show me the blacksmith's shop: I'm going to Australia; so I must learn to shoe a horse.
FIELD: Well, I never. The son of an earl, and the first nob in Berkshire, a learning to shoe horses.
WINCH: Why, an earl's son has got an arm, and ten fingers: so why not learn to use them?
FIELD: That is common sense again. This way, sir. (Exeunt.)
(Enter CRAWLEY, peeping.)
CRAW: Another year gone by, and (with amazement) I'm not struck off the rolls! I can't account for it. (Snaps his fingers.) That for the rolls! I have got Mr. Meadows. That is to say, he has got me. A great man. A wonderful man. The way he enlisted me shows that. He saw I was a clever man--a clever little man; but unfortunate; fond of a drop. He bought up my debts, took out execution, held the axe of the law over my head with his right hand, and with his left offered me his friendship--on one condition; that I should be his slave, his white nigger. Well, I am. This great man and I, we do a deal of dirty work together. But I get all the credit. I am an attorney of wood, a puppet attorney; he pulls my strings out of sight and I do the movements. Where shall we all go to? My orders today were to meet him here, and keep out of sight till I see him alone. I have been close to him once, and heard him tell old Mr. Merton--Humph! Here he comes alone at last.
(Enter JOHN MEADOWS)
CRAW: (obsequiously) Good morning, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: Seen George Fielding?
CRAW: Yes, Mr. Meadows, just caught sight of his back, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: Follow him. And serve him with this. His rent is half a year behind. (Gives him a writ.)
CRAW: (examining it) Why, your name is not here, sir.
MEAD: My name, fool? Am I a man to leave my footprints everywhere I walk?
CRAW: Oh, no, Mr. Meadows, you are a wonderful man, an invisible man. You have but one little, little fault; you trust nobody, not even your faithful Crawley.
MEAD: (sharply) What do you want to know? And why?
CRAW: Well, sir, with a view to co-operation, sir, and not impertinent curiosity, I should like to know why you ran down the Grove farm to old Mr. Merton just now, and why you told him Will Fielding was at the bank this morning, and the bank wouldn't cash their draft, and why--
MEAD: (sternly) So you have been listening to me.
CRAW: (frightened) Being ordered to play peep-bo; and--and--with a view to co-operate; not impertinent curiosity.
MEAD: (reflecting) You ask--me--to tell you what I scarce dare whisper to myself. Well: I will. For it burns my heart; and you will not betray me.
CRAW: Count on my fidelity, Mr. Meadows!
MEAD: I count on this: if you opened your lips, I'd-- (he stamps on the ground as if crushing something.)
CRAW: (trembling) That is about it, I believe.
MEAD: The secret is this. Come this way. I love George Fielding's sweetheart, Susan Merton.
CRAW: You love a woman? What are we all coming to? A great man, an iron man like you, love so small a thing--compared with yourself--as a woman?
MEAD: Crawley, I love her with all my heart, and soul, and brain. I love her with more force than such as you can hate.
CRAW: Oh, Mr. Meadows, little men can hate pretty hard. And I suppose you hate George Fielding.
MEAD: Not I; he is in my way, that is all. And whatever gets in my way--
CRAW: Gets kicked out of your way, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: (sternly) You see the game. Serve the writ. Go!
CRAW: I fly, sir. Oh, how sweet to be trusted by a great man, (aside) and get him into my power in turn. (Exit.)
(MEADOWS, his hands behind him, begins to walk off thoughtfully when he is hailed by HITCHIN, the village constable, and a LONDON POLICEMAN in plain clothes. HITCHIN is heated.)
HITCH: Master Meadows, sir, I have news for you. Your pocket was picked last Martinmas Fair?
HITCH: Should you know any of the money?
MEAD: I could swear to three notes of the Farnborough Bank.
HITCH: (showing a note) Is this one of them?
MEAD: It is. Who passed it?
HITCH: George Fielding's lodger, Robinson, if that is his name: but I suspect he is a London thief, taking an airing. Gentleman from Bow Street, come to see if he knows him.
MEAD: Is he at home?
HITCH: No--he is out fishing. We'll hang about the farm till he comes back, and then we'll take him.
POLICE: You had better be at hand, sir, to identify the notes.
MEAD: I will not leave the premises. Stop--be cautious! If he is an old hand, he will know the officer.
POLICE: Oh? I am dark, sir. He won't know me till I have got the darbies on him.
(Exeunt POLICEMAN and HITCHIN.)
MEAD: Here's luck! This stone will kill two birds: get me back my notes, and sting George Fielding. He has often been warned against this Robinson; but he never would listen. His friend a thief? He will be ready to fly the village for shame. Hallo! Here comes another rival I am putting out of my way; the old Jew.
(Enter ISAAC LEVI.)
LEVI: (bowing low) Good morning, sir.
MEAD: (abruptly) Good morning! If it is about that house, you may keep your breath to cool your broth. The house is mine now.
LEVI: It is, sir. But I have lived there twenty years. I pay a fair rent; but if you think anyone would give more, you shall lose nothing by me. I will pay a little more; and you know your rent is sure.
MEAD: I do.
LEVI: Thank you, sir. Well, then--
MEAD: Well, then, next Lady Day you turn out bag and baggage!
LEVI: Nay, sir, hear me, for you are younger than I. When the hair on this white head was brown, I travelled in the east: I sojourned in Madras and Benares, in Baghdad, Ispahan, Mecca, and Bassora, and found no rest. When my hair began to turn grey, I traded in Petersburg, and Rome, and Paris, in Vienna and Lisbon, and other western cities, and, like my nation, found no rest. I came to this little town, where least of all I thought to pitch my tent for life. But here, sir, the god of my fathers gave me my wife, and here he took her to himself again.
MEAD: (roughly) What the deuce is all this to me, man?
LEVI: Much, sir, if you are what men say--for men speak well of you. Be patient, and hear me. In the house you have bought, two children were born to me, and died from me; and there my Leah died also; and there at times in the silent hours, I seem to hear their voices and their feet. In another house I shall never hear them--I shall be quite alone. Have pity on me, sir, an aged and a lonely man! Tear me not from the shadows of my dead! (pause) Let me prevail with you.
LEVI: No? Then you must be an enemy of old Isaac Levi.
LEVI: Ha! What have I done to gain your enmity?
MEAD: You lend money.
LEVI: A little, sir, now and then; a very little.
MEAD: That is to say, you have no money in hand when the security is bad; but, when the security is good, no person has ever found the bottom of Isaac Levi's purse. Well, what you do on the sly, I do on the sly, old sixty per cent.
LEVI: The world is wide enough for us both, good sir.
MEAD: It is, and it lies before you. Go where you like; for the little town of Farnborough is not wide enough for me and any man that works my business for his own pocket.
LEVI: This is not enmity, sir; it is but a matter of profit and loss. Let me stay there, and I swear to you by the tables of the law you shall not lose one shilling per annum by me. Trust me!
MEAD: I'll trust you as far as I can fling a bull by the tail. You gave me your history--here's mine. I have always put my foot on whatever thing and whatever man has stood in my path. I was poor; I am rich--and that is my policy.
LEVI: It is a frail policy. Some man will be sure to put his foot on you sooner or later.
MEAD: What? Do ye threaten me?
LEVI: No, sir; but I tell you what these old eyes have seen in every nation, and read in books that never lie. Goliath defied armies, yet he fell by a shepherd boy's sling. Samson tore a lion with his bare hands; but a woman laid him low. No man can deny his kind. The strong man is sure to find one as strong, and more skilful; the cunning man one as adroit, and stronger than himself. Be advised, then; do not trample on one of my people. Nations and men that oppress us never thrive. Let me rather have to bless you. An old man's blessing is gold. See these grey hairs! My sorrows have been as many as they are; his share of the curse that is on his tribe has fallen on Isaac Levi; I have been driven to and fro, like a leaf, many years; and now I long for rest. Let me rest in my little tent, till I rest for ever. Oh! Let me die where those I loved have died, and there let me be buried!
MEAD: If you like to hang yourself before next Lady Day, I give you leave; but after Lady Day, no more Jewish dogs shall die in my house, or be buried for manure in my garden.
LEVI: (giving way to his pent-up wrath) Irreverent cur! D'ye rail on the afflicted of heaven? The founder of your creed would abhor ye, and I curse ye. Be accursed (he throws his hands up). Whatever is the secret wish of your black heart, heaven wither it! Ah, ha! You wince already! All men have secret wishes. May all the good luck you have be wormwood, for want of that--that--that! May you be near it--close to it--upon it--burn for it--and lose it! May it sport, and smile, and laugh, and play with you (re-enter GEORGE FIELDING, attracted by the speaker) --till Gehenna burns your soul upon earth.
MEAD: (whose wrath has been visibly rising) I'll smash your viper's tongue! (He aims a blow at LEVI with his stick.)
FIELD: (coolly parrying the blow) Not if I know it! You are joking, Master Meadows. Why the man is twice your age, and nothing in his hand but his fist. (To LEVI) Who are you, old man? And what do you want?
MEAD: He insults me because I won't have him for a tenant. Who is he? A villainous old Jew.
LEVI: Yes, young man, I am Isaac Levi, a Jew. (To MEADOWS) And what are you? D'ye call yourself a heathen? Ye lie, ye cur! The heathen were not without their starlight from heaven: they respected sorrow and grey hairs.
MEAD: You shall smart for this. I'll show you what my religion is.
FIELD: Now don't you be so aggravating, daddy. And you, Master Meadows, should know how to make light of an old man's tongue. It is like a woman's--it is all he has got to hit with.
LEVI: See--see! He can't look you in the face. Any man that has read men from east to west, can see "lion" in your eye, young man, and "cowardly wolf" in his.
MEAD: (trembling with rage) Lady Day, Master Isaac; Lady Day!
FIELD: Lady Day? Confound Lady Day, and every day of the sort! There, don't be so spiteful, old man. Why, if he isn't all of a tremble! (He calls.) Sarah! (SARAH opens the door.) Take the old man in, and give him the best that is going, and his mug and his pipe; and don't go lumping down the chine under his nose, now. Forget all your trouble by my fireside, my poor old man.
LEVI: I must not eat with you, but I thank you, young man. Yes; I will go in and compose myself; for passion is unseemly at my years. (He stops suddenly at the door.) Peace be under this roof, and comfort and love follow me into this dwelling! (He turns suddenly and gives FIELDING his hand.) Isaac Levi is your friend. (Exit into house, FIELDING looking after him.)
MEAD: (aside) One more down to your account, George Fielding. (Exit.)
FIELD: Old man's words seem to knock against my breast. Master Meadows--gone, eh? That man has everybody's good word; parson's and all; but somehow I never thought he was the right stuff, and now I'm sure. . . Oh, here's Bill at last with the money, thank heaven! (Enter WILLIAM FIELDING.) Better late than never.
WILL: I couldn't get away before. Here's the money for the sheep--thirteen pound ten. No offer for the cow. Jem's driving her home.
FIELD: Well, but the money: the eighty pounds?
WILL: I haven't got it. Here's your draft: the bank wouldn't take it.
FIELD: They wouldn't take it? Ay, our credit's down: the whole town knows our rent is overdue. What's to be done? I suppose you know money must be got some way.
WILL: Ask a loan of a neighbour.
FIELD: Oh, Bill! To ask a loan of a neighbour, and be denied! It is bitterer than death! Who can I ask?
WILL: Uncle Merton, or Meadows, the corn factor. It would not be much to either of them.
FIELD: Show my empty pockets to Susanna's father? Oh, Will! . . . And I've just offended Meadows a bit. Besides, he's a hard man; a man that never knew trouble or ill luck. They are like flints, all that sort.
WILL: I'll ask him, if you will try Uncle: the first that meets his man to begin.
FIELD: That is fair: I agree.
(Exit WILLIAM. Enter MR. MERTON.)
MERT: George, you are threshing out new wheat!
FIELD: (looking down) Yes.
MERT: That is a bad look-out: a farmer has no business to go to his barn door for rent.
FIELD: Where is he to go, then? To the church door, and ask for a miracle?
MERT: No, to his ship-fold, to be sure.
FIELD: You can do that: you have grass, and water, and everything to hand.
MERT: And so must you do it, or you won't die a farmer. Now, George, I must speak to you seriously: you are a fine lad, and I like you very well; but I love my own daughter better. I have seen a pretty while how things are going here; and, if she marries you, she will have to keep you instead of you her. You are too much of a man, I hope, to eat a woman's bread; and, if you are not, I am man enough to keep the girl from it.
FIELD: Those are hard words to bear, so near my own door.
MERT: Well, plain speaking is best when the mind is made up. Good morning, George. (Exit.)
FIELD: Good morning, uncle! My mother took him out of the dirt, or he'd not have a ship-fold to brag of--the ungrateful old hunks.
(Re-enter WILLIAM, peeping.)
WILL: Well, will he lend it you?
FIELD: I never asked him. Bill, he begun upon me at once--he sees we're going down hill--and he as good as bade me not to speak to Susan any more.
WILL: It was your business to own the truth, and ask him to help us over the stile. A bargain's a bargain. I asked Meadows, and he said no: you fell talking with uncle about Susan, and never put the question to him at all. Who is false, eh?
FIELD: If you call me false I'll knock your ugly head off, sulky Bill.
WILL: You're false, and a fool into the bargain, bragging George.
FIELD: What! You will have it, then?
WILL: If you can give it me.
FIELD: Well, if it is to be, I'll give you something to put you on your mettle. The best man shall farm the Grove, and the second best shall be a servant on it--for I'm sick of this.
WILL: And so am I! And have been this two years.
(They shake hands, and then begin to spar. Suddenly FIELDING drops his hands, looking very sheepish.)
FIELD: Susan! (WILLIAM puts his hands in his pockets, looks uneasy, and takes a step or two.)
(SUSANNA MERTON enters rapidly, and stands between WILLIAM and FIELDING.)
SUSAN: What is this?
FIELD: Oh, nothing. William was showing me a trick he learned at the fair; that is all Susan.
SUSAN: That is a falsehood, George. You were fighting, you two; I saw your eyes flash. (They exchange a rueful look.) Oh, fie, fie! Brothers fighting in a Christian land, within a stone's throw of a church where brotherly love is preached as a debt we owe to strangers, let alone our own kin. What a ruffian you must be, to shed your brother's blood.
FIELD: La, Susan, I wasn't going to shed the beggar's blood--I was only going to give him a hiding for his impudence.
WILL: (calmly) Or take one for your own. (FIELDING shakes his fist at WILLIAM.)
SUSAN: Take his hand this instant.
FIELD: (deprecatingly) Well, why not? Don't you go in a passion, Susan, about nothing. (They take hands.)
SUSAN: Now, you stay so, whilst I speak a word to you. You ought both to go on your knees, and thank providence, that sent me here to prevent so great a crime. Your character must change greatly, George Fielding, before I trust myself to live in a house of yours.
FIELD: Ah! It is always poor George that does all the wrong.
SUSAN: Oh, I could scold William too, if you think I am as much interested in his conduct as yours.
FIELD: No, no! Don't scold anybody but me, Susan! I couldn't bear that. I'll tell you, Susan, and then, perhaps, you'll forgive me--and Bill, I ask your pardon.
WILL: No more about it, George, if you please.
FIELD: Susan, you don't know all I have to bear. My heart is sore. Uncle twitted me this morning with my ill luck, and as good as bade me speak to you no more; and that is why, when William came at me on the top of such a blow, it was more than I could bear; and, Susan, Uncle said you would stand to whatever he said.
SUSAN: George, I am sorry my father was so unkind.
FIELD: Thank ye, Susan, kindly; that is the first drop of dew that has fallen on me today.
SUSAN: But obedience to parents is a great duty, and I hope I shall never disobey my father.
FIELD: (testily) Oh! I don't want any girl to be kind to me that doesn't love me. I am so unlucky, it wouldn't be worth her while, you know.
SUSAN: (sharply) Well, I don't think it would be worth any girl's while, till your character and temper undergo a change.
FIELD: Enough said! I have no friend upon earth. I am in everybody's way here (turning up stage).
ROB: Everybody is, in this country. It is so small: two steps, and into the sea. For the fiftieth time, will you come to California, and make your fortune?
SUSAN: You have been there, and did not make yours.
ROB: I beg pardon, miss, I made it--or how could I have spent it?
WILL: Ay! They say what comes by the wind goes by the water.
ROB: Alluding to the dust?
SUSAN: Gold dust especially.
ROB: That is not bad for Berkshire; but the ladies are sharp in every latitude. Miss Merton, a crop of gold does not come by the wind any more than a crop of wheat; gold takes harder digging than your potatoes. You should have seen our shirts in California after a day's digging; if we had wore them in the river they wouldn't have been wetter, and the little boys in California wanted two shillings a shirt for washing them: so we sent them to China in ships; she did 'em for fourpence. We sent them Monday morning, just as we do here--only, in stead of Saturday, we get 'em back Saturday six weeks.
SUSAN: Two shillings a shirt? Why they make them, and wash them, and sell them for that here.
ROB: Very much to the credit of the old country--over the left. Well, you see, miss, work is rewarded in California: here it is snubbed. This very morning, I heard one of your clodhoppers say, "The squire is a good gentleman: he often gives me a day's work"--Gives me a day's work! I should think it was the clodhoppers gave the gentleman the day's work, and the gentleman give him a shilling, and he made five by it. (WILLIAM scratches his head.) Ay, rake that idea into your upper soil, Master Will. And that is why I want my friend George to take his muscle, wind, pluck, backbone, and self out of this miserable country, and come where the best man has a chance to win.
SUSAN: It is very interfering of you.
ROB: Oh? I'll bring him back again. Come, George, England is the spot, if you happen to be married to a duke's daughter: and got fifty thousand a year--and two horses--and a coach--and a curricule--and a brougham--and ten brace of pointers--and a telescope, so big, that the stars have to move for it, instead of it for the stars--and no end of pretty housemaids--and a butler, with a poultice round his neck, and whiskers like a mophead--and green peas all the year round--and a pew in the church, warmed with boiling eau de cologne--and a pianoforte in every blessed room in the house--and a silver tub full of rose-water to sit in and read the Morning Post. But this island is the Dead Sea to a poor man. Open one eye, George. This hole you are in is all poor, hungry, arable land, without a blade of grass--you can't work it; cut it. Beg, borrow, or take five hundred pounds. Carry out a cargo of pea-jackets and fourpenny bits, to swap for gold dust; a few tools, a stout heart, and a light pair of--oh, no! "Their name is never heard"--and we'll soon fill both pockets with the shiners in California.
(Enter SARAH from the house, ringing a handbell.)
ROB: (stopping his ears) Come, dinner! dinner! Oh, that horrid bell will never stop.
SUSAN: I want to speak to George first.
(Exeunt WILLIAM and ROBINSON.)
SUSAN: That is a very bad acquaintance for you, I'm sure. Father says he has no business or trade, and he is not a gentleman: so he can't be good for much.
FIELD: Uncle is not my friend. Robinson is my friend: that is his fault. He is the only creature that has spoken kind words to me today. Oh! I saw how bitter you looked at him for taking my part.
SUSAN: (whimpering) You are a fool, George. You don't know how to read a woman, nor her words, nor her looks either (going, with her handkerchief to her eyes).
FIELD: Forgive me, Susan! My heart feels like lead. And words have been said to me that will never go out of my heart. Your father has turned my blood to gall. I begin to hate the place where I was born. I loved it well till today. And I feel as if everything was turning cold and slippery, and gliding from my hand in spite of me!
SUSAN: (uneasily) Nonsense, George! You want to make me cry. Now you take my hand, and come to dinner. (Exeunt, hand in hand.)
(Enter MEADOWS and CRAWLEY.)
MEAD: Now before I turn you off, and beggar you, and send you to prison, for dawdling with my business, have you any excuse to make?
CRAW: (trembling) Yes, Mr. Meadows. The weakness of human nature. I have watched George Fielding like an eagle; and I have followed him--like a dog; but I couldn't serve the distress.
MEAD: Why not?
CRAW: He had his horsewhip in his hand. He would not put it down.
MEAD: What is that to me?
CRAW: Oh, nothing, Mr. Meadows. You are a great man; you don't serve your own writs. But I am a little one, and do. And it was a big horsewhip; and it is a legal maxim, "Never serve a little writ on a big horsewhip."
MEAD: Coward! (He reflects.) Run down to the river-side and you will see the constable with a stranger. Tell them from me, their man is come home.
CRAW: Yes, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: Don't you wait for them, but run back here, and serve the writ on George Fielding before them all. I'll be here and protect you, horsewhip or no horsewhip.
CRAW: You are a great man, Mr. Meadows. (Exit hastily.)
(Enter a CARTER, dragging in JOSEPHS.)
CART: Oh, here ye be, master. We ha' found how the taters went out o' the cart. This young shaver took 'em. So I ha' took he; and here he be.
JOSEPHS: Oh, please forgive me this once; oh, pray let me go.
MEAD: I'll let you go to jail, you young thief. You have been at my potatoes this fortnight. There has been a hole made in them every night.
ROB: What do I hear? A thief. What, are there thieves down here among the daisies?
MEAD: Weeds grow on every land, Mr. Robinson.
JOSEPHS: No, no! I'm not a thief. (To ROBINSON) Oh, good gentleman, speak for me. Mother has nothing to eat. I only took a handful for her, no more than a meal.
ROB: Naughty little boy! What, steal a handful of potatoes? That is degrading the business.
MEAD: There, lock him in the stable till the constable comes this way; he won't be long.
JOSEPHS: Oh, no, no, no! Oh, pray don't send me to prison. I will be a good boy. I'll starve sooner than take a tatoe for mother again. I will be a good boy! (He struggles with the CARTER.)
ROB: (coming close to him) Hold your tongue, you young rogue, (aside) I'll let you out, boy. (He makes himself very busy locking JOSEPHS in the stable.)
MEAD: (ironically) Much obliged for your assistance, Mr. Robinson.
ROB: (politely) You are welcome, Mr. Meadows. Should be happy to do as much for yourself. You hardened brute.
(Enter SUSAN, followed by FIELDING and WILLIAM.)
SUSAN: Why, what is the matter? We heard someone crying.
ROB: Only a poor little fellow that has been taking a few potatoes out of a rich man's cart, without leave.
SUSAN: (looking him keenly in the face) We call that stealing here, sir.
CRAW: He has dropped his whip. I have got something for you, Mr. Fielding.
(CRAWLEY serves his writ. FIELDING takes it, reads it, and staggers.)
FIELD: A distress on the farm! On my father's farm; where we have lived honest so many years. (He hides his head in his hands.)
SUSAN: George! George! Don't despair! Can nothing be done? Where is my father gone? He is rich; he will help you. (She runs up stage calling.) Father, father! Ah, there he is. Father! (Enter MERTON.) Oh, father! Poor George!
MERT: Lawyer Crawley here! I guess how it is. You had better come home with me, girl.
SUSAN: What, when he is in trouble? No, father, I am too uppish with him in prosperity to be unkind in hard times. I shall stay.
CRAW: (aside to MEADOWS) Do you hear that, Mr. Meadows?
MEAD: Curse it.
MERT: Well, George, I told you how it would end.
FIELD: (fiercely) What, do you come here to insult over me? I must be a long way lower than I am, before I shall be as low as you were when my mother took you out of the workhouse and made a man of you!
SUSAN: Oh, George, stop, for pity's sake, before you say words that will separate us for ever! Father, how can you push poor George so hard? Hush! Hush!
(Enter a SERVANT with a letter for FIELDING.)
SERV: You are to send an answer, if you please.
FIELD: From the Honourable Mr. Winchester.
MERT: What, does he write to you?
FIELD: So it seems, (reading) "George Fielding, my fine fellow, do think of it again. I have got two berths in the ship that sails from Southampton tomorrow; you will have every comfort on the voyage. I'll do what I said for you, and after one year, you will farm on your own account." He promised me five hundred sheep and a run for them, (reading) "I must have an honest man, and where can I find as honest a man as George Fielding?" Thank you, Mr. Winchester--thank you, sir. (He looks round on them all.) "You saved my life; I can do nothing for you here, and you are doing no good--everybody says so." Everybody says so! "My heart is pretty stout, but home is home; and I wait with some anxiety to know whether my eyes are to look on nothing but water for the next four months, or are to be cheered by the sight of something from home; the face of a thoroughbred English yeoman; and a friend and--and -" (he falters).
SUSAN: (taking the letter from him she reads) "An upright, downright honest man." And so you are, George! "If the answer is favourable, a word is enough. Meet me this evening at the "Crown" at Reading, and I will drive you tomorrow morning in Lord Tewkesbury's trap, which is gone forward for that purpose."
FIELD: (to SERVANT) The answer is "Yes!" (Exit SERVANT.)
SUSAN: Yes? What do you mean by yes? He is asking you to leave us all and go to--oh, George!
FIELD: This gentleman respects me, if worse folk don't; but it isn't the great bloodhounds and greyhounds that bark at misfortune's heels, it is only the village curs, when all is done. There lies my path--I'll pack up my clothes and go. (Exit FIELDING.)
SUSAN: Oh, father, what have you done?
MERT: No more than my duty, girl, and I hope you will do no less than yours.
WILL: George will forget her out there, and she him. Heaven forgive me for being glad of my brother's going.
ROB: Go to Australia? He's mad! There's no good to be done there. I wouldn't go there (re-enter HITCHIN and OFFICER, cautiously) if my passage was paid, a new suit of clothes found me, and a house provided for my reception, and the governor's gig to take me from the ship. Australia!
(The CONSTABLE and the OFFICER take him. SUSAN, who was about to follow FIELDING, looks back in dismay.)
ROB: (with a look of disgust) Ugh!
POLICE: To Australia you'll go, Tom Lyon, alias Scott, alias Robinson, and you'll have the new suit of clothes, and voyage paid, and a large house ashore made ready for your reception (he puts handcuffs on ROBINSON).
ROB: (with dignity) What am I to understand by this violence, from gentlemen who are perfect strangers to me?
CONST: (taking bank notes out of his pocket) Mr. Meadows, what were the numbers of the notes you were robbed of?
MEAD: 381, 2, and 3.
CONST: 382 passed by this gentleman at the "White Lion," and the others found upon him. Better leave them with the officer for the present.
ROB: (snuffling) Appearances are against me, Miss Merton, but my innocence will emerge all the brighter for this temporary cloud.
SUSAN: Oh! (Turns away from him and exit.)
ROB: (drily) Well, Jacobs, you seem pleased, and I am content. I would rather have gone to California, but any place is better than England. Let chaps that never saw the world, and the heavenly countries there are in it, snivel at leaving this isle of rocks and fogs, and taxes and nobs; the rich man's paradise; the poor man's . . . I never swear, it's vulgar.
(Re-enter FIELDING and SUSAN.)
FIELD: A thief? Have I taken the hand of a thief?
ROB: It is a business, like any other.
FIELD: If you have no shame, I have. Oh, how I long to be gone from this nest of insults.
ROB: Did ever I take tithe from you, George? You have got a silver caudle-cup, a heavenly old coffee pot, no end of spoons, double the weight the rogues of silver-smiths make 'em now. They are in a box under your bed--count 'em--they are all right; and, Miss Merton, your bracelet, the gold one with the cameo, I could have had a hundred times. Miss Merton, ask him to shake hands with me at parting. I am so fond of him; and, perhaps, I shall never see him again.
FIELD: Shake hands with you? If your hands were loose I should ram my fist down your throat. But there, you are not worth a thought, at such a time. You are a man in trouble, and so am I. I forgive you, and I pray heaven I may never see your face again (he turns his back scornfully on ROBINSON, and exit).
ROB: Well, Mr. Jacobs, am I to be put in the pillory here? You should spare the feelings of an old friend--I may say a brother--for you were in my line once, you know. I say, do you remember cracking the silver-smith's shop in Lambeth, along with Jem Salisbury, and--
POLICE: There, enough chaff! On you go!
MEAD: (opening stable door) Here is another: you can take the two rogues together.
ROB: We leave worse rogues behind us. Don't snivel, boy. You will only get three months.
(Music plays. A LAD comes out of the house with a carpet-bag, followed by SARAH. She puts a bottle into the bag, then raises her apron to her eyes, and exit. The LAD crosses the stage, and exit. They all turn and watch him.)
SUSAN: Father, I thought it was a dream; but he is going; he is really going. Oh, have mercy on us both! Speak him fair--his spirit is so high, father! (Re-enter FIELDING.)
MERT: Susan, the lad thinks me his enemy, but I am not. My daughter shall not marry a bankrupt farmer; but you bring home a thousand pounds, George--just one thousand pounds, to show me you are not a fool--and then you shall have my daughter, and she shall have my blessing.
FIELD: Your hand on that, Uncle, before heaven and earth! (Takes his hand.) You give me new life.
SUSAN: But your words are sending him away from me, father.
FIELD: Susan, I am to go. My path is clear. But don't forget, it is for your sake I go, my darling Susan.
(Re-enter ISAAC LEVI from the house.)
LEVI: No. You shall not wander forth from the home of your fathers. I have sat in your house, and watched my friend and my enemy; and these old eyes have seen deeper than yours. You are honest; all men say so; I will lend you monies for your rent (sharply) upon fair interest; and the maiden who loves you will bless me.
CRAW: All our web undone in a moment, Mr. Meadows.
FIELD: (after a long pause) No, sir! I am honest, though unfortunate; and proud, though you have seen me put to shame in my own homestead. To borrow without a chance of paying is next door to stealing. And I should never pay you. My eyes are open in spite of my heart. I can't farm "The Grove" with wheat at forty shillings. I have tried all I know, and I can't do it. Bill, there, is dying to try; and he shall try--and heaven speed his plough better than it has poor George's.
LEVI: Young man, think what you do! You leave enemies behind you. A word in your ear (they whisper, and glance towards MEADOWS).
MERT: Good-bye, George, and good luck be with you!
MEAD: (uneasily) I'll go with you, Mr. Merton.
FIELD: (thoughtfully) No, sir; stay if you please: you are as good a witness as I could choose of what I am going to say to my brother William.
MEAD: (aside) I doubt what is coming. The keen old Jew has blown on me. I wish I could sink into the earth!
WILL: (uneasily) George! (aside) It is about the farm. Oh, yes, it must be about the farm!
FIELD: I've often had it on my mind to speak to you, but I was ashamed--now that's the truth. But now I am going away from her, I must unload my heart, and I will, (pause) William!
FIELD: (very slowly and deliberately) You have taken a fancy to my lass, William.
(WILLIAM looks up suddenly, then covers his face with his hands.)
SUSAN: George--what nonsense! I am sure poor William . . .
(FIELDING points to WILLIAM, and SUSAN, in silence, looks down ashamed.)
FIELD: Oh, it isn't to reproach you, my poor lad. Who could be near her, and not warm to her? But she is my lass, Bill, and no other man's. It is three years since she said the word, and though it was my hard luck there should be some coolness between us this bitter day, she will think kindly of me when the ocean rolls between us, if no villain undermines me.
WILL: Villain! George, that is a hard word to come out of your mouth.
FIELD: So 'tis, Will. But ye see, I must speak in time. It shan't be a mistake, or a misunderstanding--it shall be villainy, if it is done. Speak, Susan, before these witnesses, Mr. Meadows especially.
SUSAN: Oh, George, you shall not go in doubt of me! We are betrothed this three years, and I glory in it; and now I give you my word again, in the sight of heaven, and these men, William, and good Mr. Meadows: so long as you are true, I live for you--take my ring, and my promise, my own George--there was no coolness between us, dear; you only fancied so; you don't know what fools women are--how they delight to tease the man they love, and so torment themselves. I always loved you dearly, but never as I do this day. So honest! So proud! So unfortunate! I love you, I honour you. I adore you! (She clasps him in her arms, and kisses him; he kisses her.)
CRAW: Do you see that, Mr. Meadows?
MEAD: Ay, and all my joy is wormwood.
(FIELDING wipes SUSAN's eyes, and she his, with the same handkerchief.)
FIELD: Do you hear, William?
WILL: I hear, George.
FIELD: (to SUSAN) Then, Susan, here's your brother, (to WILLIAM) William, here's my life. Let no man rob me of it, if you believe one mother really bore us two.
WILL: Never! S'help me God! She's my sister--no more, no less; and may the red blight fall upon my heart and arm, if I, or any man, rob you of her. A man? Sooner than a hundred men should take her from you while I am here, I'd die at their feet a hundred times!
FIELD: I believe you! I trust you! I thank you! (He goes to shake hands, but throws his arm round WILLIAM's neck.)
CRAW: (whispers) Do you see that, Mr. Meadows?
MEAD: (whispers) I see it, and I am in hell. But yet she shall be mine.
FIELD: And now, Will, you have given me strength to go, and I'll go; farewell, friends and well wishers all. Farewell, enemies, if I have got any, and may they never feel what I feel this day! Bless all the village, from the oldest man in it down to Luke Dodd's little girl that was born yesterdaynight. I never knew how I loved it till now. (From here to the fall of the act drop, the air "Home Sweet Home" is played softly in full orchestra.) Good-bye, little homestead where I was born. Good-bye, little village church where I went to church, man and boy. Good-bye, churchyard where my mother lies. There will be no church bells, Susan, where I am going, no Sunday bells to mind me of my soul and home. (Bells ring a merry peal.) Why, what is that for? Are they mocking me? No. I mind it is Tom Clerk and Esther Borghirst married today. They have only kept company a year, and Susan and me we have kept company three years; and Tom and Esther are married today. But what are George and Susan doing today? (He sobs.)
SUSAN: Oh, George, my pride is all gone! Don't go! Don't think to go! Have pity on us both, and don't go!
FIELD: Shame on me! I that ought to comfort her! Bless you, Susan, darling (he kisses her). William, help me! I'm cold as ice. (He beckons to WILLIAM, who comes and takes SUSAN's hand.) Heaven help us both!
(He tears himself away, and runs sobbing out. SUSAN sinks fainting on WILLIAM's arm. LEVI turns and lifts his hands in blessing upon FIELDING.)
MEAD: (advancing towards SUSAN) Mine! Mine!
LEVI: (turning suddenly, and striking his staff on the ground between MEADOWS and SUSAN) No!
(MEADOWS recoils one step, and they eye each other defiantly.)
A small apartment, MEADOWS's study, late that of ISAAC LEVI. MEADOWS is discovered seated, and writing.
MEAD: I am one against two. Will Fielding watches me, and if ever I get alone with Susan, up he comes and sticks to us like a leech. Old Levi has bought the neighbour house to this, and he watches me. I'll outwit them both. I am creeping to my mark by a by-road their shallow cunning will never think of; patiently, patiently, slowly, slowly: like a mole in the ground. Meantime, I'll remove the smaller obstacles, Will Fielding among them. (He takes up a whistle from the table, and whistles cautiously.)
(Enter CRAWLEY who stands beside him.
MEAD: (without looking up or ceasing to write) Is Will Fielding in the town?
CRAW: Sure to be, sir; why, it's market-day.
MEAD: You got him to sign judgement for that money we lent him?
CRAW: Fell into the trap like a lamb.
MEAD: You had better take him at once. He is in my way.
CRAW: (joyfully) I will. I'll teach him to get in a great man's way.
MEAD: (looking suddenly up, and eyeing him keenly) You have got a spite against this man.
CRAW: No, sir; nothing to speak of.
MEAD: Crawley, who are you trying to deceive?
CRAW: The devil. Well, sir, he did put a little affront on me. Called me a pettifogger.
MEAD: Oh, is that all?
CRAW: No, he warned me off his premises: and threatened to horsewhip me next time he caught me there.
MEAD: Oho. Is that where the shoe pinches?
CRAW: No, but he altered his mind--and did horsewhip me then and there--without witnesses, curse him!
(MEADOWS seizes CRAWLEY by the collar. CRAWLEY goes instantly from fury to mean terror.)
MEAD: And do you mix your paltry quarrels up with my business? How dare you go in a rage?
CRAW: I am not: I'm in a fright.
MEAD: (relaxing his hold) Come out of it then!
CRAW: I'm c-c-coming as fast as I can.
MEAD: You are my instrument. You shall have no more anger, nor fear, nor any other passion than my razor has.
CRAW: Well, I won't. You are a great man, Mr. Meadows; for you I put my passions in my pocket.
MEAD: (reflecting) I shall postpone his arrest.
CRAW: Oh, don't say that, Mr. Meadows; have some mercy. I'll take him as genteel as if he had never leathered me. (clasping his hands) What would life be worth to a little man if he could never serve a big one out? (aside) I hope to serve you out some day, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: What are ye muttering? And you have been drinking too.
CRAW: Drinking, sir? Not a drop has passed these lips this two days, u-pon my--soul! (aside) Where shall we all go to?
MEAD: Liar! Why the smell of it comes through your very skin.
CRAW: Oh, Mr. Meadows; you have got a nose like a hawk, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: The next time a public-house tempts you, say to yourself, Peter Crawley, that is not a public-house to you: that is a workhouse, a gaol, a hospital, a dunghill. For if you go in there, John Meadows that is your friend, will be your enemy, and trample you to perdition.
CRAW: Don't mention trampling, Mr. Meadows; it makes my blood run cold, (with enthusiasm) Sooner shall the poor little moon snap her fingers at the sun, which keeps her from going out altogether, than I disobey you, Mr. Meadows: only if you would but let me--now and then--have a glimmer of a notion what I am doing, and why I am doing it, I could co-operate better.
MEAD: I doubt it. A tool is a tool. However; I'll give you a trial. What do you want explained?
CRAW: Well, sir, If you would condescend so far as to give me a glimpse, why I have been decoying old Mr. Merton into rotten speculations, and why I have made him from a man of wheat-ricks to a man of straw. But above all, why I keep going on lending him your money; as if he was still a man of wheat, instead of a man of straw.
MEAD: Are you really so shallow as not to see why you are ruining old Merton?
(Enter SERVANT GIRL.)
SERV: Mr. Jeffries, the postmaster, sir. He says you sent for him.
MEAD: I did. Show him up. (Exit SERVANT.) Now stand aside there, and watch the game close.
(CRAWLEY goes and listens from behind a door. Enter JEFFRIES, speaking.)
JEFF: Well, sir, don't keep me long; for I have got a letter for Miss Merton, and she is next door.
MEAD: You will not deliver that letter then.
JEFF: Won't I, though? What, when I know a pretty girl has been waiting months for it? Why, Mr. Meadows, for what do you take me? Would you have a government officer keep a letter back?
MEAD: It would not be the first. Do you know this note? (Shows him a bank note.)
JEFF: Not I.
MEAD: Why it passed through your hands.
JEFF: A good many do that. I wish some of them would stop on the road.
MEAD: This one did: it stuck to your fingers.
JEFF: (violently) Take care what you say, sir. I'll bring my action of slander against you in half a minute if you dare to breathe a word against my official character.
MEAD: Hold your tongue, you fool, and don't trumpet yourself into gaol. One or two in this town lost money coming through the post. They complained to me. I took a thought, and I said, "Jeffries is a man that often talks about his conscience: he will be the thief." I baited six traps, and you took five. This note came from Ireland. Don't you remember it now?
JEFF: I am ruined! I am ruined!
MEAD: The letter from Australia. (He holds out his hand, and JEFFRIES reluctantly hands it over.) You changed the note at the grocer's (opening the letter slowly).
JEFF: Why, you wouldn't ever open Miss Merton's letter?
MEAD: (smoothing the letter to read it) The other baits were single sovereigns, all marked; you spared three, and nailed two. Ah!
JEFF: Oh, Mr. Meadows! Have pity on an unfortunate man, and his family.
MEAD: Talk to Crawley, talk to Crawley. (Exit hastily, reading the letter.)
JEFF: (walking wildly to and fro) What will become of me? Madman! To think I could escape detection! Ruined! Undone! He has me in his power; I cannot escape him. (CRAWLEY appears, and stands watching him.)
CRAW: Of course not; he is too great a man.
JEFF: Oh, Mr. Crawley! Nobody knows my misfortune but you and Mr. Meadows. Do pray stand my friend, sir. Get me off this once and I'll take an oath on my bended knees never to make such a mistake again.
CRAW: Well, Jeffries, it is not easy to turn such a man as Meadows. But if anybody can, I can. You see I'm at the bottom of all his secrets. (aside) Where shall we all go to?
JEFF: Bless you, sir! Bless you!
CRAW: What will you do for me if I should succeed?
JEFF: Anything, sir--anything--your own terms.
CRAW: Well, then, every letter that comes from Australia you must bring to Mr. Meadows with your own hand.
JEFF: (sadly) I will, sir.
CRAW: And (aside) humph! I'll help myself as well as Meadows--(aloud) You must find me ten pounds.
JEFF: Ten pounds! I must pinch to get that.
CRAW: Pinch away! And let me have it directly.
JEFF: I will, sir. Before the day's out.
CRAW: And you mustn't tell Meadows you feed me to plead your cause, or he will be angry with me, and smash you.
JEFF: No, sir, I won't. Is that all?
CRAW: That is all.
JEFF: Then I'm very grateful. I'll go and get the money.
CRAW: The sooner the better. (Exit JEFFRIES.) That's a shuttlecock (pointing after him). And Meadows and I are the battledores, and knock him to and fro. Bang! Bang! Bang! (contemptuously) Fancy being a shuttlecock.
(Enter MEADOWS hastily, with his hat and whip.)
MEAD: Crawley, you wanted to see to the bottom of my plans.
CRAW: Ah, Mr. Meadows, it is too far for any man to see with the naked eye.
MEAD: Not when it suits my book. Have I told you the object of my heart, and of all my schemes?
CRAW: Oh, yes, Mr. Meadows, I'm down upon that; but what puzzles me is, how you mean to succeed, with Mr. Levi, and Will Fielding, and the girl herself against you.
MEAD: By using two hands instead of one. My right hand shall work here in Berkshire. Thus. I have got the post-office under my thumb. (CRAWLEY nods.) I stop every letter to Susan from Australia. Then in four months I raise a report George Fielding is dead.
CRAW: (roaring) Capital, (in a low voice) Where shall we all go to?
MEAD: In two months more comes a letter from Australia, telling somebody--not me--that George Fielding isn't dead but married (going).
CRAW: Beautiful! But who is to write it?
MEAD: (at the door) My left hand. (Exit MEADOWS.)
CRAW: His left hand? (suddenly pretending to understand, and bawling after him) Sublime! What a fool I was to think that old Jew was as great a man as Mr. Meadows. (MEADOWS returns with a bottle and two glasses.)
MEAD: Next I make some tool of mine threaten old Merton with gaol. Then I step in and offer to pay his debts and start him afresh, if he will be my father-in-law. I own to Susan I always loved her, but hid it for conscience while George was true. She will be mine.
CRAW: She will. She is. (Fills his glass.) There, ring the church bells for the beautiful Miss Merton, and the great Mr. Meadows!
MEAD: Stop a bit. Suppose George Fielding should come home with the thousand pounds?
CRAW: (depressed) Why, he'll kick all our schemes into toothpicks, that is all. (violently) He mustn't come home. He shan't come home; and-- (dejectedly) who is to hinder him from coming home?
MEAD: My left hand.
CRAW: Your left hand? (He looks at MEADOWS's left hand.) Oh, this is lovely. It is like looking down into the deep, deep sea (he drinks).
MEAD: (Tapping CRAWLEY on the shoulder) You are my left hand.
CRAW: (puzzled) Honoured and proud! (He inspects his own left hand.)
MEAD: This paper contains full instructions. My very brains lie here. Put it in your pocket.
CRAW: Your brains in my pocket, sir! (He pockets the paper.) Ah, if I could only keep 'em there!
MEAD: And this is a cheque-book. You will draw on me for a hundred pounds a month.
CRAW: (excited) No. Shall I? Mr. Meadows, you are a king. (He puts the cheque-book in his breast pocket and slaps it.)
MEAD: You are going a journey.
CRAW: (in high spirits) All the better. Changes are lightsome.
MEAD: A long journey.
CRAW: The longer the better, (aside) I shall be the farther from you, and the nearer the public house.
MEAD: My left hand must not fear a little sea and wind.
CRAW: (exalted) The sea be hanged, and the wind be blowed! With your talent in my eye, and your cheque-book in my bosom, and your courage in my heart (he slaps his bosom), and your brains in my pocket (he slaps his pocket), I could--I feel--I feel--I could kick the world over the moon. (He kicks.) Come, when shall I start? When shall I start?
MEAD: This afternoon.
CRAW: (Drinks.) All right. Where to?
MEAD: To Australia. (CRAWLEY drops the glass and breaks it.)
CRAW: To Aus--stra--I--I--beg your pardon. Where (rising)?
CRAW: Oh, certainly! To Australia, (aside) Ugh!
MEAD: What, daunted already?
CRAW: (violently) Not a bit, sir; not a bit. Look! See? I'm off. (He walks rapidly and confusedly to the wrong door, and opens it.)
MEAD: (calmly) That is not Australia; that's my bedroom.
CRAW: Cur-cur-curious mistake! Here g-g-goes for Australia.
MEAD: Australia. And (quietly and grimly), as you seem confused, I will attend you to the rail.
CRAW: What an honour. (aside) No escape.
MEAD: And take you to London, and put you on board the ship, which sails tonight.
CRAW: (faintly) How kind! Sails--for--Australia?
(CRAWLEY makes for the remaining glass, but MEADOWS interposes sternly and points him off with his riding-whip.)
MEAD: For Australia.
CRAW: It is where w-we are all g-going to.
(Exeunt CRAWLEY, with uneven steps, and MEADOWS walking slowly and calmly behind him.)
A line of cell doors in the corridor of the borough gaol. Enter SUSAN and EVANS, reading a card.
EVANS: Oh, then, it is the chaplain you want to see, miss?
SUSAN: Yes, sir, if you please. He lodged with us when he was curate for a little while in our village; and I have made bold to bring him some home-made bread, and some fresh eggs, and some flowers, if he will accept of them.
EVANS: I'll take you to his study, miss. Step aside a moment till these prisoners pass.
SUSAN: Oh, sir, please stand by me. I'm afraid of them.
(Mournful music plays. Enter a TURNKEY, followed by several prisoners wearing their caps, who pass slowly and in silence across the scene, and then exeunt.)
SUSAN: Poor things!
EVANS: Now, miss, if you please. (Exeunt.)
(Enter, meeting, MR. HAWES and FRY. FRY touches his cap, and hands HAWES a paper.)
FRY: Reports, sir
HAW: Humph! No. 7; refractory in chapel.
FRY: Will persist in saying the responses. I tell him we are on the silent system here; but he says he has always been used to say "amen" in church, and it will pop out.
HAW: Then pop him--into the black-hole.
FRY: (writing in his memorandum book) Yes, sir. Seven, for saying "amen," after hex-pos-tu-lation; black-'ole.
HAW: Eleven and twelve refractory at the crank.
FRY: Not done their full number. Eleven says he is sick; twelve says he won't.
HAW: Sick and sulky: I'll grind them. What is this? Nineteen has been defacing his slate? (FRY nods.) What, destroying the Queen's property? Break her slate?
FRY: I didn't say break it, sir. I said deface it; drew a figure on it.
HAW: With his knife?
FRY: Knife, sir, no. With his slate pencil.
HAW: Humph! Well, after all, that is defacing it: for if I was to draw another face on your face, that would be defacing you.
FRY: That is how I argee, sir. Besides, it was a hugly figure, a very hugly figure, and one as smelt refractory. (lowering his voice, and looking askant at the other turnkey) Figure of a prisoner a hanging himself, contrary to law.
HAW: What did the young viper mean by that?
FRY: That is just what I asked him, sir: and says he, "Why, sir, it is what you are driving us all to, ain't ye?", and looks up in my face as innocent; shut me up, the young varmint did; for (lowering his voice) certainly they do hang themselves in this gaol uncommon.
HAW: What, Fry, do you falter? Do you doubt the system? The great separate and silent system, which is working such wonders on the convict mind?
FRY: Laws forbid, sir. The system is a grand system, a beautiful system, dissolves the varmints into tears, and grinds 'em into bible texts and bone dust; but somehow they do hang themselves systematic, to get out of the system. I book all such hirregularities; and (inspecting his book) here's fourteen of 'em has tried it on since you came to the gaol; and (lowering his voice) four done it.
HAW: The ruffians only hang themselves to spite me. (calling off) Hy! Evans, you send eleven and twelve here to me.
FRY: Now he is out o' hearing, sir, keep your eye on that Bill Evans; he is turning soft. Ever since he had the fever, and the chaplain went twice a day and palavered by his bedside, he fawns on his Reverence like a dog; and you know his Reverence is not a friend to the system.
HAW: Oh, hang him. The visiting justices will be here tomorrow. At my request they are going to turn his Reverence out of the gaol. And I'll kick Evans out at the parson's heels.
FRY: And good riddance of bad rubbish, both of 'em.
(Enter ROBINSON with a moody, depressed air. He salutes HAWES and remains silent. HAWES eyes him.)
HAW: So, number twelve, you have been refractory at the crank again; only done 3,350 revolutions out of your 3,500.
ROB: (trembling) I did my best, sir, believe me.
HAW: No excuses. Hold your tongue.
ROB: And be belied; what shall I gain by that?
HAW: You'll gain that you won't be put in the black-hole. Separate and silent--that is the system. Twelve, you have been refractory at the crank; and--
ROB: But, sir, you don't know; I am only just recovering from a fever; it has left me very weak, and my crank is a heavy one, or I should have done my whole task to the minute; upon my honour.
HAW: A prisoner's honour! (coldly) Fry, bread and water for three days, and short allowance of that.
ROB: Man, man! How is a poor fellow to get back his strength to do such hard work if you starve him at top of his fever?
HAW: And take away his gas ten nights for answering me!
ROB: (whispering) May the eternal curse--
HAW: And take away his bed for muttering. (ROBINSON gasps, but says nothing, and goes out dejected.) Curse 'em, I'll break 'em. (Enter JOSEPH, with EVANS.) So, eleven, refractory again!
JOSEPHS: Me, sir?
HAW: Ay, ay, sham innocent! You told Fry here you wouldn't turn the crank.
JOSEPHS: Oh, Mr. Fry, how can you say that? You know I never said I wouldn't; I said I couldn't; that crank is a man's crank; it is too heavy for a lad like me.
HAW: Did eleven say wouldn't or couldn't, Fry?
FRY: I am not very sure.
HAW: Very well, couldn't or wouldn't, it comes to the same thing; for I say you can and shall. Give eleven the punishment jacket.
JOSEPHS: Oh, no, no, no, anything but that! It chokes me, it cuts me, it robs my breath, it crushes my heart, it makes me faint away. It kills me by inches: I cannot go on like this--first the jacket till I faint away; then buckets of water thrown over me, and to lie all night in my wet clothes; then starved, and then the jacket again, because you have starved me down too weak to work. Oh, pray, pray have mercy on me and hang me! You mean to kill me; why not have a little, little, little pity, and kill me quicker! (Sobs and clings to HAWES's knees. FRY hangs his head.)
HAW: You refractory young vagabond: how dare you break the system, kicking up this row? You will get it double for that! Take him away, I tell you. (FRY and the TURNKEY tear him away.)
(Enter MR. EDEN.)
JOSEPHS: (struggling) Oh, no, no! Murder! Murder! Murder! (Exeunt)
EDEN: (gently, but with emotion) What has the poor boy done, sir?
HAW: What is that to you?
EDEN: Everything. I am here to see the laws of heaven and of man respected. And it is my painful duty to tell you that they are constantly violated by your order.
HAW: Have you done preaching? Then hear me! Whenever you come between a prisoner and me, it shall always be the worse for the prisoner. I'll show you who is master here, you or I.
EDEN: Neither, Mr. Hawes. The law is your master and mine; and since my repeated, and, permit me to add, courteous though earnest remonstrances are met with contempt, I shall not trouble the visiting justices; for they, alas, see only with your eyes, and hear with your ears.
HAW: Oh, you have found that out, have you?
EDEN: But I shall appeal to the Home Secretary.
HAW: Ay, do. Write to old Circumbendibus. And he will tie your letter up in lots of red tape and send it round back down to the visiting justices; and they will refer it to me.
EDEN: In that case I shall appeal to the Crown.
HAW: And suppose the Crown takes you for a madman?
EDEN: Then I shall appeal to the people. I give you my honour this great question, whether or not the law can penetrate a prison, shall be sifted to the bottom.
HAW: Do your best--do your worst--and be--
EDEN: (interrupting him calmly and politely) I'll do my best, Mr. Hawes. (He salutes HAWES politely, and exit.)
HAW: Won't I serve the prisoners out for this. I'll make their lives hell. (Exit.)
A double scene, representing a line of cell doors, with a corridor in the centre. Gas-lights over the cells are not lighted. The interiors of ROBINSON's and JOSEPHS's cells are visible to right and left. JOSEPHS is discovered strapped to the wall. ROBINSON is seated gloomily in the cell.
ROB: If what they say is true, that the devil walks the earth, and grins at his children's works, let him look in here, and take a hint for improving his prisons below. They keep a poor fellow from the sound of his neighbour's voice, ay, even from his own. They hide the light of day. The seasons change outside that gloomy wall, but no change pierces here; our summer is winter, and our day is night. (He sighs.) Overworked, and then starved for not being able to do more than a man's work, then on the top of starvation set a heavier task. Driven to despair, and then punished for despairing. When I first came here, I hadn't a bad heart, though my conduct was bad. I was a felon, but I was a man. And I had a secret respect for the law; who hasn't? Unless he is a fool as well as a rogue. But here I find the law as great a felon as any of my pals. Here the law breaks the law; steals a prisoner's food contrary to the law, and claps a prisoner in a black-hole contrary to the law, and crucifies him against a wall contrary to the law, and forces him to self-murder contrary to law. So now (he starts to his feet) I despise the law; because it is a liar and a thief. I loathe the law; because it is a murderer. I hate the human race; and but for good Mr. Eden, I should hate Him who made them the heartless miscreants I find them here. (He sits down shuddering.) Ah, I am going mad: that is how we end under Hawes and his system. Mad?--Mad!
EVANS: (coming down) What is all this, number twelve? Why, you are communicating!
ROB: I was not communicating. I was muttering. Mayn't I commune with my own heart?
EVANS: (Scratches his head.) I don't know. I'll ask the governor. But you mustn't commune with your own art hout loud. You mustn't do nothing hout loud. It's against the system.
ROB: (softly) Curse the system. There, that is not loud, but deep.
EVANS: Come, drop it, my lad: and, number twelve, why is your door ajar? "Prisoners to shut their own doors," see rule nine.
ROB: Oh, every man to his own turnkey. And what shall I gain by that?
EVANS: You'll gain as you won't be put on bread and water in the black-hole, refractory.
ROB: Curse you all (he slams the door).
EVANS: (shaking his head) You will break out before long. I know the signs. (He inspects JOSEPHS.) Ah, my poor little bloke, yours is a hard time. (Exit slowly.)
ROB: If I was not to get a peep at the corridor now and then, I should go melancholy mad. Their new-fashioned doors shut with a spring like a mouse-trap. But a cracksman's science can beat theirs. I've nicked the tongue of the spring bolt, and when I shut the door, in goes my bit of string with it. (JOSEPHS groans.) And now I pull the string--back comes the bolt and open comes the scientific mouse-trap. (JOSEPHS groans.) Ah! What is that? (He recoils.) (in a whisper) It is only some poor soul they are tormenting. Why, it is in this corridor. Are they watching? (He steals cautiously out, and peeps.) Oh, the villains! If I dared, I'd loose him. His head droops; he is choking. I must risk it. (He runs to JOSEPHS, and begins to undo his straps.)
JOSEPHS: (after a look of surprise) Why, it's Robinson. No, no, let me alone! You will catch it if you unloose me.
ROB: But you'll die, boy, you'll die.
JOSEPHS: No such luck: no such luck. I am only fainting. Many's the time I've done that in this terrible jacket; but I can't die. Oh, dear, I can't die.
ROB: Die? Why of course not. Keep up your heart. I'll loose the straps anyway. I daren't take you down. But they won't find out I've loosened you.
JOSEPHS: Oh, what a relief! Bless you!
ROB: Poor soul! Josephs, don't you give way to despair. Listen. I've broken a great bit of stone in the floor of my cell; and it is ready at a moment's notice.
JOSEPHS: (with curiosity) What to do?
ROB: Why, to smash that beast's skull.
JOSEPHS: Oh, Robinson, why that would be murder!
ROB: And isn't he murdering us inch by inch? It is his life or mine.
HAW: Why, what is this? Prisoners communicating!
ROB: (hastily) No, sir, but he was choking, and nobody was by. So I thought you would be angry if I stood looking, and did nothing.
HAW: (stamping) Turnkey! (Enter FRY and EVANS.) Seize number twelve. (They seize him.)
ROB: Well, you need not be so rough, am I resisting?
HAW: And take him to the black-hole.
ROB: Oh, no, no, not to the black-hole! Any torture but that. Leave me my reason, if you take my life.
HAW: To the black-hole!
(ROBINSON gives a cry of despair, then trips FRY and EVANS, and takes a posture of defence. HAWES blows on a silver whistle. EVANS and FRY run at ROBINSON, one after the other. He knocks FRY down with his fist, and butts his head into EVANS's stomach, who staggers back. Enter two more TURNKEYS, at the sight of whom, ROBINSON strikes HAWES in the face, and dashes into his cell, slamming the door in the face of EVANS and FRY, who are close at his heels. ROBINSON then takes up a great stone from the floor of his cell, and stands with it uplifted.)
HAW: Oh, oh, oh! (He whistles.) Oh, oh! (He whistles.) Open his cell.
FRY: Hadn't we better wait till he cools?
HAW: Cowards! Give me the key and you stand by.
(HAWES goes softly and peeps through the hole made in the cell door for that purpose. ROBINSON takes a stride forward, stone in hand. HAWES recoils.)
HAW: Strap up the boy!
JOSEPHS: Oh, no! Pray don't give me any more. I didn't do it.
HAW: Hold your tongue! If you break the system with your noise, I'll strap you up in the black-hole, and ten times tighter. (JOSEPHS moans.) Now, mind, turnkeys, the door of that cell is not to be opened by anybody but me. (He marks ROBINSON's door with a piece of chalk.) And no food enters in there till he goes on his knees and begs for the black-hole, and then he shall have it, and six ounces of bread and water to live on in it. D'ye hear that, ye vagabond? (ROBINSON who has been listening, groans. JOSEPHS moans. HAWES looks from one to the other.) Now, who is master here?
(Enter EDEN, quietly.)
EDEN: The law! (They all turn round.)
HAW: The devil!
EDEN: How is it, Mr. Hawes, you have inflicted this illegal punishment? Poor child! I can feel the straps cutting into his young flesh.
JOSEPHS: Oh, Mr. Eden, oh, oh, oh! (He bursts out crying.)
HAW: Mind your own business, parson.
EDEN: I will. The law is my business; and the Gospel is my business; and--in both their sacred names--I loose this victim of unchristian, lawless, tyranny. (He takes down JOSEPHS, whom he has loosed while speaking.)
HAW: Turnkeys, do your duty. Part those two.
EDEN: (calmly) Stand behind me, Josephs. (The TURNKEYS hesitate.)
HAW: I command you to seize that prisoner, and let those who protect him take the consequences.
(The TURNKEYS reluctantly step forward. EVANS suddenly interposes.)
EVANS: (sulkily) That won't do, sir. They mustn't lay a finger on his Reverence.
HAW: What, mutiny in my own officers! Stand aside, Evans, or you are ruined for life.
FRY: (aside to HAWES) Have you lost your head?
HAW: (stamping) In the name of the Crown, seize William Evans, and Francis Eden!
EDEN: (sternly) In the name of the law, forbear all violence, or you shall answer it to the law.
ROB: (opening his door, stone in hand) Didn't I hear some scoundrel threatening his Reverence? (HAWES slips out alarmed.)
EDEN: (gravely) You will be so good as to retire into your cell, and not get yourself into worse trouble than you are in at present.
ROB: (meekly) Yes, your Reverence. (He retires.)
EDEN: Turnkeys, oblige me by returning to your duties in the prison. (Exeunt TURNKEYS after saluting EDEN. Then, to JOSEPHS) My dear, go to your cell and pray heaven to forgive your own sins, and the cruelty of your persecutors. (JOSEPHS kisses EDEN's coat, and exit into cell, but staggers at the cell door.)
EVANS: A card for your Reverence. I had almost forgot it with all this row.
(The lights are gradually lowered.)
EDEN: (reading) "The Honourable Charles Elliott."
EVANS: (mysteriously) Gentleman from the Home Office; I have not told anybody.
EDEN: Good Evans, worthy Evans: all this misery and cruelty will end today. (Exit hastily, followed by EVANS.)
JOSEPHS: (who has been kneeling with his face on his bed) I don't know how it is, but all my right side seems cold. I think it is dead. Perhaps if I lie on it I may get it warm (he coils himself up on his bed).
ROB: What a fool I was to obey his Reverence! But somehow there is no disobeying him. That man would lead old Nick to heaven with a packthread.
(Enter EVANS with a light. He lights the lamps in the corridor, and the small gas-light in JOSEPHS's cell. Then he whistles at ROBINSON's cell, opens a plate in the door, and throws in a lucifer match. Exit.)
ROB: (groping for the lucifer, and finding it) Bless you! Bless you, bless you, whoever you are! (he strikes the lucifer, and lights the small gas-light in his cell). Welcome little spark of light: you keep hope alive in my darkened bosom.
(Enter HAWES who goes to JOSEPHS's cell, and opens it.)
HAW: Why, how is this? Gas! Didn't I order you should have no gas for fourteen days?
JOSEPHS: No, sir. What for? Oh, please don't rob me of my gas. It is the only bit of comfort I have in this dreadful place.
HAW: Oh, it is, is it? Then to teach you not to defy me, out goes your comfort. (He turns off the gas, and exit.)
JOSEPHS: I won't live this life much longer. There's one way out of this, and any way is better than no way. Dark! Dark! Dark!
(Enter EDEN, who opens ROBINSON's cell.)
EDEN: Robinson, your troubles here are at an end. In a few minutes you leave for Portsmouth, where your ship lies, bound for Australia.
ROB: What, what? The open air, the sun, the sea, the blue sky! Ha, ha, ha, ha, oh, oh, oh!
EDEN: Be calm. You have often told me you repent, and will labour with your hands, and will steal no more.
ROB: Oh, never, your Reverence, never. I'll never take another farthing, nor farthing's worth while I live--for your sake.
EDEN: Alas, many such a vow has been made to me in this very cell; made in sincerity, but broken in weakness.
ROB: No, no, sir. If I could but have an honest pal! But what honest man would take up with me now? That is where we poor fellows are beat. Honesty gives us the cold shoulder, and theft opens its arms to us; then comes drink and does the rest.
EDEN: I know it. You shall have an honest companion. There is a friend of mine, a young lady, in my room, writing a letter to a very honest man, one George Fielding.
ROB: George Fielding! Oh, that is like your Reverence! But no, George will never speak to me.
EDEN: What, not when you take him a letter from his sweetheart? Come, you shall see her.
(EDEN opens the door, and beckons ROBINSON out, but ROBINSON hesitates.)
ROB: But what will Hawes say? He will black-hole me for life.
EDEN: Mr. Hawes will lose this very day the power he has abused. (Exeunt.)
(Enter FRY, peeping.)
FRY: Now you have put your foot in it, Master Parson. I'll just execute my orders in this cell, and then I'll bring the governor down on you. (He goes into JOSEPHS's cell.) Now then, youngster, I want your bed (he lays hold of it).
JOSEPHS: Oh, no! Oh, pray don't rob me of my bed.
FRY: Rob you, you young dog! Why it isn't your bed. It is the Queen's.
JOSEPHS: Then how dare you steal it?
FRY: (Staggered, scratches his head.) Well, it is the governor's orders. You are to have no bed, nor gas, for fourteen days.
JOSEPHS: Ha, ha, ha!
FRY: What, that makes you laugh, does it?
JOSEPHS: Yes, I laugh at your thinking you can rob me of light and sleep for fourteen days--a poor worn-out boy like me. You tell the governor I'll find a bed in spite of him long before fourteen days.
FRY: Come, you mustn't sauce the officers. The governor will serve you out quite enough without that. He says he has got another rod in pickle for you--tomorrow.
JOSEPHS: Oh, tomorrow, eh? There is my hand, Mr. Fry. (FRY looks at his hand.) Come, take it. Surely, surely, if I can take your hand after all you have done, you can take mine. (with sudden dignity) Take it, sir, or you will never rue it but once, and that will be all your life.
FRY: (puzzled) Why, Josephs, you needn't spit fire. I don't say no. Only it seems odd to take your bed, and then take your hand. There it is. (giving his hand; aside) He is turning cranky. Now what good will that do you? (FRY takes his bed out. JOSEPHS sinks to his knees. FRY has gone a little way, when suddenly he stops.) It goes against me, and him taking my hand. I was born of a woman, though this place have hardened me to stone. I'll take the bed no farther than the next cell; and I'll leave his door ajar: he must be a precious fool if he doesn't take the hint. (He approaches softly and unlocks JOSEPHS's door.)
JOSEPHS: (in a whisper) They are watching me. (FRY retires.) Now is the time. Tomorrow there is to be some new torture for me. Well, tomorrow I'll be beyond their reach. I'm going the road so many have took to get out of this gaol. (He gets up on a stool with much difficulty.) There is the moon; how beautiful she shines! Who wouldn't go up to where she is, rather than bide in misery here by night and day? But will they let me come up there, a poor wicked boy like me? Perhaps they will serve Hawes out for this instead of me. Anyway, they can't be as cruel up there as they are here. I must look sharp, or I shan't have the strength. One side of me seems dead. (He takes his handkerchief from his neck, and, while speaking, ties it to the bars, stopping every now and then.) Some folks live to be eighty, I am only fifteen, (sadly) That is a long odds, (doggedly) But I can't help it. Hawes won't let me live. Mr. Eden will be sorry. But I can't help it. Bless him! Mother will fret (he weeps). But I hope someone will tell her what I went through, and then she'll say better I should die so than live to be tortured every day. Heaven forgive me; for I can't help it. Oh, dear! What is this? The power is all out of me--my other side is turning cold now. Ah, they have got me! They have got me still. (He falls against the door, which flies open and leaves him lying half in and half out of his cell.)
(Enter hastily HAWES, FRY, and a TURNKEY.)
HAW: (looking sharply round) Why there are two cells open: you only told me of one.
FRY: (aside) Confound the little fool!
(HAWES runs into ROBINSON's cell, and comes out again immediately.)
HAW: Gone, sure enough. I'll give it him. (He runs to JOSEPHS's cell.) I'll give it them both. (Enter EDEN and ROBINSON.) Hallo! (uneasily) What is the little vagabond up to now? (EDEN, concern marked in his face, moves quickly to JOSEPHS whom he raises in his arms.) Ah, he heard us coming, so now he is shamming, eh!
EDEN: (solemnly) No, sir, he is not shamming; he is dying.
EDEN: (to HAWES) And you are his murderer.
ROB: Dying? Then may the eternal judge torture you as you tortured him. (He falls suddenly to his knees.) May your name be shame, may your life be pain, and your death loathsome; may your skin rot from your flesh, your flesh from your bones, and your bones from your body, and your black soul split for ever on the rock of--
EDEN: (sternly) Silence, miserable man! Who are you that invoke curses on your fellow sinner, and disturb a soul that is passing away from earth and its evil passion? (gently) Peace, all of you: be still; we are in the presence of death.
JOSEPHS: (feebly) That is his Reverence's voice, my only friend.
EDEN: No, not your only friend, nor your best friend. Oh, Josephs, die like a Christian boy, forgiving your enemies.
JOSEPHS: I will; I do.
EDEN: Then put your poor hands together and pray for them as I taught you.
JOSEPHS: (putting his hands feebly together) Heaven forgive me, as I forgive Mr. Hawes and the rest. Good-bye, your Reverence; bless you! Good-bye, dear Robinson. Oh, dear, he is crying! Never mind me, Robinson. I am happy now: no more pain; no more trouble. Only I feel so tired.
HAW: (aside) The young viper has done it to spite me. (aloud) But I won't be insulted by you--I'll soon have you in the black-hole (he whistles) for breaking out of your cell. (Enter EVANS and TURNKEY.) Seize that prisoner!
EDEN: No. Conduct Mr. Hawes out of the prison instead. (He gives ROBINSON the office paper to give to HAWES.) He is dismissed Her Majesty's service.
(HAWES takes the paper, reads it, and staggers back.)
HAWES: (after a long pause) Discharged! Is this the end of all my faithful services? Curse you! Curse all the world! (Exit, followed by EVANS, pointing to the door.)
VOICE: (off) Prisoners for Portsmouth. The van is at the gate.
EDEN: Leave Robinson alone a moment with me--and with him. (They retire softly to the back of the stage, except for ROBINSON. Then, in a broken voice) My poor erring brother, you are going far from me; you are going to Australia--kneel there. (EDEN signs to ROBINSON to kneel on JOSEPHS's other side.)
(Music plays softly to the end of the act.)
EDEN: Take your dying comrade's hand (ROBINSON trembles, but obeys), and by that pledge promise me to live, as he is dying now--penitent.
ROB: (sobbing) I promise.
EDEN: But, above all, never despair. Despair, it is the soul's worst enemy. My last word to you here--perhaps my last word to you in this world--is it is never too late to mend.
(At these words ROBINSON's face expresses high resolve, and rapturous hope.)
The interior of FIELDING's hut. There is a rude truckle bed, a chair, and a table. Enter GEORGE FIELDING, staggering, and sinking into a chair.
FIELD: It is no use: the sheep are all tainted. I've done the work of three, anointing and washing them night and day. I'm spent, and Susan lost. (Enter JACKY with a pair of coat-sleeves turned into bags, and carried round his neck like a yoke.) Jacky, you and Abner must do my work today--why, what have you done with your sleeves?
JACK: Made bags ob 'em. You and Jacky, carry pertatoes home. Pertatoes a good deal troublesome to carry outside black-fellow; so Jacky make bags. (He lumps the bags down on the table.) Now, suppose you want pertatoes to eat, Jacky undo bags in a little while direckly. (He falls on them with sudden fury, and hacks one of the bags with his tomahawk.)
FIELD: That will do. (with a feeble smile) I don't eat 'em mashed. Where's the coat that owned these sleeves?
JACK: Oh, thrown him away: he was a good deal hot.
FIELD: (angrily) Thrown it away? Why it was bran' new.
JACK: Yes, Massa George, he was ban new, but he was dam hot. So Jacky threw him in the river. Dat cool him. Den the fishes dey can wear him if dey like.
FIELD: Now, Jacky, it was only hot because it is noon. It will be cold at night, and then you will come shivering again to me as you did last night.
JACK: (after scratching his head) When Jacky a good deal hot here (feeling himself) he can't feel a berry little cold a berry long way off there (he points with his heel backward). Jacky not a white-fellow.
FIELD: Little I heed the colour of a friend: give me the skin with gratitude beneath it before the skin that is fair and false. You haven't forgotten Twofold bay, Jacky, have you now?
JACK: (puzzled) Two fool bay? Yes: sometimes I hunt near Two fool bay.
FIELD: Nay, but the time I mean, you weren't hunting; you were being hunted. (JACKY scratches his head.) Why, if he hasn't forgotten the very shark that was swimming after him, and nearly made a meal of him.
JACK: Shark? Shark? No; I see him a good way behind. Jacky in water, so (he swims on the floor, looking fearfully behind him). Shark, he come after--so--and open um mouth for Jacky--so. (He turns on his back.) They you come roaring with stones (he jumps up, and acts FIELDING's part). And fling, and fling, and say dam a good deal cos you a white-fellow; den one stone hit shark on um nose a good deal debbilich hard, so, and down he go (he falls suddenly flat), so. Den Jacky dive with knife in um hand, and tickle shark a good deal so--and so--and so. Den he float up dead, so. Den we light a fire, and Jacky roast shark, and eat him: that a good deal more delicious than shark eat Jacky. Yah, yah, yah, yah, yah! (with sudden pomposity) Jacky turn white man--Jacky see a good deal dam long way off behind um back this time.
FIELD: I am glad of it; for now you will do me a kindness in return. Jacky, all my poor sheep must be slaughtered directly, and boiled down before they pine their grease away. (He groans.) Now I'm of a breed that is good at work, but bad at bloodshed. I'm man enough to take a Leicester ewe in these two hands, and fling her in the water for her good; but I'm not man enough to cut her throat for my own. But you can bear the sight of blood, you know.
JACK: Iss, Massa George (cheerfully); a little blood now and den, dat a good deal good for Jacky.
FIELD: Well then, while you and Abner spill their blood, and my means, like water, I'll lie here. For, oh, Jacky, I'm bad--I'm bad this day. I've abused my strength, flinging ten score sheep into the water, without help. You say it is a hot day: well I declare I'm as cold as ice: and, Jacky, my head swims, and I've got such a pain in my back, it cuts my breath.
JACK: Den you send away dat pain direckly, or you make Jacky a good deal angry. When black man have that pain in um back, he always die.
FIELD: (solemnly) Like enough, like enough! (Enter ABNER.) Come, take your knife, Abner; there is no way left but that.
ABNER: I am a poor man myself, and must look out for the best.
FIELD: (struggling with his indignation) Ay, but there is a time for everything. You let somebody's tainted sheep in among mine by bad management. And now you can't ever think to leave me in the trouble your want of skill has brought me to. If ye do, don't hope to thrive, go where you will.
ABNER: Words, words! There is no agreement between you and me. However, as you're down in the world, I'll stay just a week, to oblige you.
FIELD: You'll oblige me, will you? Then oblige me by taking your ugly face out of my sight. Stop, there are your wages up to twelve o'clock. (He flings them at ABNER--ABNER stoops for them, and FIELDING starts to his feet.) Now begone, or I may be tempted to dirty my hands with your mean carcass. (Exit ABNER hastily. FIELDING follows, and cries after him.) And wherever you go, may sorrow and sickness-- No, I leave that to heaven. (As he turns round, JACKY puts the double-barrelled gun into his hands.) What is that for?
JACK: (calmly) Shoot um!
FIELD: What, take his life?
JACK: Iss, Massa George. He got too much bungality and impudence; shoot him dead. After dat you feel so comfordable (he smiles affectionately).
FIELD: Oh, fie! Heaven forbid I should do the man any harm. But when I think how kind you and I were to him in his sickness, and now to leave us in so sore a strait. Oh! (He sits on the bed and sighs.)
JACK: (sitting close beside him, gravely) Now you listen a me: this one time I speak a good many words. Massa Abner know nothing, and because you no shoot him you very stupid. One, he know nothing wid dese (pointing to his eyes), or else he see the bad sheep come among your sheep. One more, he know nothing wid dis (touching his tongue), for when Jacky speak him good words, he speak Jacky bad words. One more, he know nothing wid dese (indicates his hands and arms), for after you do him good things, he do you bad things. All this make Jacky a good deal angry. Since Jacky know you, Jacky turn good, very good (proudly), dam good; a good deal gooder dan other black-fellows. But when that stupid fellow know nothing, and now you cry, dat make good Jacky angry, and good Jacky go hunting a little, not much, direckly. (He snatches up a spear, and is about to go off immediately.)
FIELD: What, today? Oh, don't desert me today. Don't set me against flesh and blood altogether.
JACK: Jacky must hunt a little deal (whining). Jacky feel so very uncomfordable.
FIELD: I say no more. He knows no better. Poor Jacky, take my hand. I shall never see you again.
JACK: That is a good deal very ridicalous--you will see me when I've done hunting a very little, not a great deal, close behind this very minute direckly. (Exit JACKY.)
FIELD: He thinks he will come back. But when he gets on the track of a kangaroo or a wild turkey, his poor shallow brain will forget his sick friend. Oh, my head, how it swims. My father was a strong man, like me; but he abused his strength, and he was took just like this, one Wednesday night, and was gone in four-and-twenty hours. And I've abused my strength, and now I'm laid low. (gasping) Dover Cliffs--Farnborough Steeple--I am not to see you again. (very feebly) My poor Susan . . . (he becomes unconscious. "Home Sweet Home" is played very softly.)
(Enter JACKY radiant.)
JACK: Dere, Massa George, me comfordable now. Hunting soon done. Massa Abner he not go a great deal fast, (angrily) Dat stupid fellow always know nothing: dis time he not know hunter behind him. Jacky come crawling a good deal soft, and go so (he strikes with his tomahawk), and Massa Abner (falls flat) go so, and Jacky feels so comfordable. (He looks towards FIELDING.) What for you say nothing? Dat a good deal bad manaahs. (He goes to inspect him.) White-fellow gone asleep before the sun. Yah, yah, yah! Massa George! (He shakes him.) Massa George! (alarmed) Oh, dear! Massa George! Massa George! Jacky's getting a good deal ex-pos-tulated at your sleeping so dam sound before de sun, Massa George! Massa George! Massa George! How white he feels! How cold he look? (He runs to heap blankets on FIELDING, horror-struck.) Massa George! Massa George! (He shakes him.) Massa George! (with sudden calmness and solemnity) He has left Jacky. He has gone to the happy hunting fields where de good white-fellows go. (whispering) What do I do for him now to show I lub him? I put his make-thunder by his side. (He tip-toes to fetch it.) Den he shoot a good deal and neber be hungry in that country. And what else he want? (Whispers.) Here his book what he speak good words out ob to Jacky. Dat book often make him comfordable: so I put that close to him hand. Poor George! Dere, now I go away bery swift. (peevishly) I so very uncomfordable here. Something hurt me inside in my middle. I go hunt in de big woods a great way off. (He goes rapidly to the door, and then returns.) Why I go hunting that stupid Massa Abner? Why I leave good white-fellow, and not hear him last word before he go? Oh, I so uncomfordable; no more can breathe, and want to do like the gins do; but don't know how. My troat--he bite me a good deal. Oh, Massa George! Why you go away so swift? Why you leave poor Jacky all alone like dat? Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh! (He bursts into violent sobbing, and buries his head in the clothes.)
(Music plays. Enter TOM ROBINSON, who peeps into the hut.)
ROB: Anybody at home? (He enters the hut, peering about, and at last discovers JACKY.) Hallo, Blacky! Does George Fielding live here?
JACK: (without moving) Yes, Massa white-fellow, oh, oh!
ROB: Where is he?
JACK: (sorrowfully) Gone away, so swift as a bird.
ROB: Gone! Where to?
JACK: Gone dead. Oh, oh, oh!
ROB: Heaven forbid! Why there he lies. (He uncovers FIELDING's face.) What is this? Have I come all this way to bury him? No; I can't think he is dead. Did you close his eyes?
JACK: No. Dey shut themselves all at one time, while I go hunting a very little deal. (He sobs.)
ROB: All the better. Stay, I've got a bit of a glass. (He takes out a round mirror about the size of his hand, and holds it to FIELDING's lips. JACKY watches with great curiosity.) Hurrah; he is in the world yet. Come, jump out of that, you darkie, and light a fire; he is frozen.
JACK: Yes, Massa Nobody, I make fire in one moment, a good deal swift, direckly. (JACKY runs and gets a light by friction, after the manner of savages, and lights a fire. ROBINSON takes out his flask, and sprinkles FIELDING's face with it repeatedly. FIELDING sighs, and comes gradually to consciousness.)
FIELD: Who are you, kind sir?
ROB: (putting his hand over his eyes) The doctor. Drink. (FIELDING drinks)
FIELD: It runs through me like fire. Why, it is neat brandy, doctor.
ROB: Bad food, but first-rate physic, George.
FIELD: Why, Robinson! Well I never thought to see you under a roof of mine.
ROB: That is just the welcome I expected. Well, when I've delivered my message, I won't trouble your house long.
FIELD: (humbly) I meant no offence, sir. 'Twould be much mistimed. Jacky, warm some soup for Mr. Robinson and me, if you please.
ROB: (apart, and grinding his teeth) Mr. Robinson! I dare say you'll think me a great fool, but I've walked one hundred and sixty miles just to bring you a letter, Mr. Fielding.
FIELD: (feebly) Then I call that very kind of you. Who from? Not from her--not from my dear Susan?
ROB: Well, it is like to be from some pretty girl or other. I'm not the post. (He fumbles in his pocket for the letter.) I don't carry waste paper from Jack to Jill all round creation. (He gives the letter to FIELDING.)
FIELD: (suddenly reviving) It is--it is! (He opens the letter eagerly and reads and kisses it alternately. ROBINSON smiles.)
JACK: How you's eyes spark. White-fellow not dead yet.
FIELD: You're a good fellow to bring me such a treasure in the wilderness. (He kisses the letter again. Then, firmly) I'll never forget it as long as I live. (He reads.) Why, there's something about you in it! Susan says you never had a father--not to say a father.
ROB: She says true, George.
FIELD: And--poor fellow--she says they came between your sweetheart and you. (ROBINSON sighs.) No wonder you went astray after that. What would become of me if I lost my Susan?
ROB: Bless her little heart for making excuses for a poor fellow; but she was always a charitable, kind-hearted young lady.
FIELD: Wasn't she, Tom.
ROB: And what sweet eyes! Brimful of heaven. And when she used to smile on you, Master George, oh, the ivories she brought to light!
FIELD: Now you just take my hand: and don't be long about it. There, I'll let you read it yourself, that I will, for your goodness in bringing it to me.
ROB: (reading) "And, George, Mr. Eden says he is well-disposed, but weak; do keep him by you--to oblige me, George."
FIELD: Will you stay with me, Tom? I'm not a lucky man; but while I've a shilling, there's a sixpence for the man that brought me this dew in the desert.
ROB: I will, George; and I'll be even with you and Susan for this, or say I'm not a man (he walks excitedly, and full of thought).
JACK: Now Jacky want to speak words; not many, but a good deal wise.
ROB: Hear, hear! Go it, darky!
JACK: A little behind, dis white-fellow whiter nor ever; cos um dead, bery dead, extremely dead as mutton. Den dis Susan come here in a physic paper; den dis dead man not eat dat paper, he only bite the words a little, and speak 'em out; and now he a good deal red, and talk like a gin, chatter, chatter, chatter, and not die neber no more. Amen.
FIELD: Die? I never was better in my life.
JACK: Den Jacky says, says Jacky, dis Susan what is made of black and white paper, he is a bery good doctor, yah!
ROB: And no mistake.
JACK: A bery unmassiful, good doctor, an uncommon, abominable, ridicalous, dam good doctor. Yah, yah, yah!
ROB: And let us drink that doctor's health (he gives JACKY the flask).
JACK: Dat am one more good physic. Paper doctor good for white-fellow. Dis doctor best for Jacky. (He puts the flask on his other side, and drinks from it from time to time.) Now Jacky want to talk to that other lilly doctor what tell you Massa George not quite dead yet.
ROB: The mirror! Hand it him, George. Always encourage laudable curiosity.
(ROBINSON takes out a box of lucifer matches and his pipe. FIELDING gives JACKY the mirror. JACKY looks into it, utters a loud yell, flings it down, hacks it to pieces with his tomahawk, and dances round it in great excitement.)
FIELD: What is that for? Ye little mischievous monkey.
ROB: (good-humouredly, but not best pleased) Come, I say, furniture is cheap where you come from.
JACK: Oh, Massa George, Massa Tom; Jacky seen the dibble (he glares horribly).
JACK: In dere. Him nasty, ugly, ingenious beast, so black as never was.
ROB: Compliments pass when gentlefolks meet.
FIELD: He, he! Why, Jacky, it was yourself you saw.
JACK: (with a haughty wave of the hand) Massa George, you not quite alive yet; you a little dead as mutton still: why, dat a good deal stupid: when I here, how can I be dere? Tellee twas a nasty, ugly, black debble. But I doctor him, yah, yah, yah! Dis is de physic which cures 'em of live too long (he flourishes his tomahawk). Cure Massa Abner of dat, bery near, not quite, almost.
(FIELDING and ROBINSON look at one another and burst out laughing, in the midst of which ROBINSON lets off a lucifer match on the floor, close to Jacky's nose, who is on his knees, gravely inspecting the fragments of the glass. JACKY rolls head over heels with a howl, then springs to his feet and dances round ROBINSON, flourishing his tomahawk.)
ROB: (snatching up the box) Come, none o' that now. My lucifers ain't devils; and if you tomahawk me-- (calmly) I'll punch your head. (ROBINSON lights his pipe. JACKY retires to a corner and sits amazed, and glaring at the lucifer box. FIELDING still reads and kisses the letter.) Now then, to business. (He smokes.) How far have you got towards your thousand pounds?
FIELD: Oh, Tom, I shall never make it. Here my sheep are all dying, and I'm forced to boil them all down into a tallow and sell them for the price of a wild duck. Why did you remind me? I have left my Susan, and I've lost her.
ROB: I am glad of it.
FIELD: What d'ye mean?
ROB: Because now I shall be the one to find you the thousand pounds. You shall bless the hour you listened to your own good heart, and that sweet girl's letter, and gave a penitent thief the warm hand instead of the cold shoulder. Listen, George: you know I was a miner in California; well, of course I know the signs of gold; and here they are in this part, thick and three-fold.
FIELD: Gold? What, hereabouts? Nonsense, Tom. What signs?
ROB: The shape of the hills, for one thing. You could not tell them from the golden range of California; the stuff they are made of for another: granite, mica, and quartz. And scarce a stone-throw from your door I picked up a pale old Joey. Here it is (he shows him).
JACK: (aside) Punch your head? Punch your head? I never heard him before. Punch your head!
FIELD: (after inspecting it) Why, it is only a shell: I can show you them by the score.
ROB: By the score? Don't, George, don't! You put me all in a flutter. Wherever these shells lie beside mica and quartz, there is gold to be found by those that know how to look for it.
FIELD: I don't believe there is an ounce of gold in all Australia. But drowning men catch at straws. If you are game to look for it, I am.
ROB: Then take your spade and give me that iron pan, and we'll go prospecting this very minute.
FIELD: So be it. (He shoulders his spade.) Come along, Jacky. (to ROBINSON) I never leave him alone in the hut; he is no more to be trusted than a child.
JACK: (following, deep in thought) Punch your head! (Exeunt, JACKY last.)
(Music plays. JACKY slips back and eyes the lucifer box: he makes ready his tomahawk, he goes on all fours and creeps cunningly till he gets within reach of it; then he raises his tomahawk, and threatens it, but finding it does not resist, he takes hold of it gently with his left hand. He then sits down, and with considerable nervousness, strikes the ground with the wrong end. He throws it away indignantly.)
JACK: Dat one look at me and see I not a white-fellow. Dat why he not make fire for me. (He takes another.) Suppose you not make fire for me, I punch your head. (He ignites it, and is startled.) Loramassy! (He ignites another.) Loramassy! Jacky clebber fella, make fire like white man.
(He proceeds to ignite them one after another as fast as he can, laughing and crowing all the time, and flinging the burning matches recklessly about. Enter FIELDING and ROBINSON, who watch him.)
FIELD: (pointing to him) Didn't I tell you? He will burn the house to tinder, if we don't mind. (They each take one of JACKY's arms, and quietly march him off.)
JACK: (to ROBINSON, as they go out) I like you a good deal, Massa Tom! You clebbaar fellaar. I punch your head.
ROB: (drily) You'd better.
(Exeunt arm in arm, JACKY in the centre. The white men stoop a little; JACKY as erect as a dart.)
A front scene. Enter CRAWLEY, shabby and tattered, with a flask slung round his neck, and a large umbrella.
CRAW: Little men be warned by me, and keep clear of great ones. Don't you think to creep into their schemes ankle deep, and then out again: for, presently, souse you go over head and ears. Here am I, Mr. Meadows's left hand--only his left hand--yet already I'm accessory to a pair of felonies. When I left England I little thought to go in for the indictable. But this country does look so beautiful, all mountains and valleys and purling streams, and no Newgates nor Horsemonger Lanes to sully the prospect, that one feels unprofessional, and frolics with the law. Ah, what is that? What is that? That is the worst of it: I am always seeing something, or hearing something, when there is nothing. This is the cause (he taps the flask). And this is the cure (he drinks). Where shall we all go to?
(BOB HUDSON, who has entered on tip-toe, touches him quickly on the shoulder, then passes quickly by.)
CRAW: Ah! Oh! Ugh. (recovering himself) Where are you going so fast?
BOB: What is that to you?
CRAW: Now, that is polite, Mr. Hudson. You seem in a communicative mood; tell me where I can find Black Will and the rest of the gang--I beg pardon--the confederates.
BOB: Take my advice, and keep out of their way just now.
CRAW: Can't afford it. In a word, there is £50 waiting for them; and nothing to do for it but burn a hut and rob the inmate.
BOB: Well they won't leave their work for a dirty little fifty pounder, and I've no time to waste gabbling. (He runs off.)
CRAW: Leave work? Work? Why, they would die sooner than work, every man Jack of them. Here's some strange mystery. A dirty little fifty pounder? Where do you expect to go to, Master Bob? I'm all curiosity. I must fathom this. I'll find them, if they are above ground. (Exit on tip-toe.)
A ravine, seen in perspective, crossed at the back by a bridge, underneath which there is a meandering brook, and above it the outline of distant hills. There is a heap of quartz boulders intermixed with moss, and a large flowering bush. At the back there is a section of a large and lofty gum-tree. There is a bank of earth and stone, and the gurgling of water is faintly heard. BLACK WILL, JEM, and JACK, stripped to their shirts and trousers, and plastered all over with clay, are discovered at the back of the scene, washing for gold. One shovels the quartz gravel into a heap, another transfers it with a trowel into a calabash and shakes it, and pours out the water which a third pours in from a bucket. The scene opens in dead silence. The men, when they do speak, show, by their earnest whispers, as well as by their anxious and eager deportment, that their souls are in their work. Music plays at the opening of the scene.
B. WILL: Water!
JEM: Here. (They wash for gold.) I see a speck. How does it feel?
B. WILL: Pretty heavy. More water; we shall soon know.
JEM: Ah! It is all right. (He draws a knife from his girdle, puts the gold dust on it, and holds it up to his mate.) What d'ye think of that? Half an ounce at one washing.
JACK: (at some distance) Ah!
B. WILL: What is it?
(Enter CRAWLEY softly.)
JACK: A nugget, a nugget, as big as a bean! (He throws it down. The other two inspect it eagerly.)
CRAW: (laughing) Oh, that's the mystery, is it?
(They rush on him furiously with uplifted knives; he sinks, yelling, on his knees.)
CRAW: Mercy, mercy! It is Smith. It's your friend. What have I done?
B. WILL: Dug your own grave, ye prying fool.
CRAW: No, no, I won't betray your secret; I don't know what I have found out--never, never, never, mercy!
JEM: He must die, or else take the oath.
CRAW: I'll take a thousand oaths sooner than be killed once.
(JEM and WILL whisper together. JACK holds CRAWLEY, who is shaking with terror, and whining like a dog.)
B. WILL: If you had been a stranger, nothing should have saved you: but as we have drunk together--give him a knife, Jem. (A knife is given to him.) Get up, ye cur! Cross steel with us. (They cross their knives-- CRAWLEY's hand trembles.) Swear never to tell that there is gold in this country, on pain of death.
CRAW: (bawling) I swear. (Whimpers aside.) Oh, dear!
B. WILL: Swear to cut the throat of brother, friend, or pal who shall betray this secret.
CRAW: I swear. (aside) Where shall we all go to?
B. WILL: Now you are one of us: you will have to clean our boots, and cook our vittels: there's the cross-sticks, go and set the pot on. (CRAWLEY goes feebly in the indicated direction, and disappears.) After all, pals, we wanted a servant. Come, waste no more time. (They recommence their work.)
CRAW: (peering into the wings) Why, it is: it is Fielding and his new visitor.
B. WILL: Who are you prying into now?
CRAW: Two strangers coming this way.
JEM: Where? Where? (They all come to look off.)
B. WILL: Remember our oath!
JEM: Nonsense: dozens pass this way and are none the wiser.
B. WILL: Ay, with their noses in the air, but one of these is a notice-taking fellow; his eyes are forever on the ground, in the creeks and gullies. He have been in the same oven as us.
JEM: Not likely; but if it is so, there are no two ways (he touches the knife in his girdle). A secret is no secret when all the world do know it.
B. WILL: They are coming this way, curse them! Hide in the cave and watch them. (Exeunt.)
CRAW: Something horrible will happen. I feel it. It--it--it's not my fault. (He crawls under a bush.)
(Enter over the pass ROBINSON, with an iron pan, and FIELDING with a spade.)
ROB: Hallo! Where have they vanished to? I don't like gentlemen that vanish into the bowels of the earth like that.
FIELD: What, bushrangers again! You suspect everybody. You'll end by going about armed to the teeth, as some of our farmers do.
ROB: Not so green. I carry my sting out o' sight like a bumble-bee. This looks well; but I see a place that is like the mouth of a purse. Look yonder at that old dried up watercourse; well, that was a river and washed gold down a hundred years before Adam was born. I'll look at it a little closer. (He goes slowly past CRAWLEY, who shrinks in.)
FIELD: Go without me, Tom, or I shall spoil your chance. I'm so unlucky; if I want rain, comes drought: if I want sun, look for a deluge: if there is money to be made by a thing, I am out of it: to be lost, I am in it. If I loved a vixen she'd drop into my arms like a medlar. I love an angel, so I shall never have her, never, never! From a game o' marbles to the game of life and love I never had a grain of luck like other men: Hallo, here's a calabash.
ROB: (turning round) Eh?
FIELD: And here is a spade. Who belongs to this, I wonder.
(ROBINSON comes to him, and after a moment's eager inspection gives a great shout.)
ROB: Ah! Miners been prospecting here. D'ye believe me now? George, they must have found something, or they wouldn't have stayed so long at one place. (He uses the calabash.) Here's a sediment in this calabash. Water! Quick, let us test it. Ah! A speck, a seed; but it is the stuff--it is the true stuff. Here is more. Why, the quartz is full of it. These bunglers don't know where to look for the heavy gold. They are only washers. We are in the very home of the gold here. The quartz is like a honeycomb with it. Gold! Gold! I've found it. I, Tom Robinson, a thief that was, offer it to its rightful owner, and that is all the world. Here, gold! Gold! Gold!
FIELD: Oh, Susan, gold, gold! (Excitedly they shake hands over it.)
(BLACK WILL, JEM, and JACK run on with drawn knives.)
ROB: (whipping out a revolver) Ah! (The men recoil a little. FIELDING lifts the spade in an attitude of defence.) Ay, where there's gold there's blood.
B. WILL: (grinding his teeth) You noisy, babbling idiots, it's your lives or ours.
ROB: (sadly, but never taking his eye off the men) Why need it come to that? (He cocks another barrel.) There's enough for us all, and thousands more. Keep cool, George, no running in among their knives. Keep 'em out.
B. WILL: How long will you do that? (to JACK) Go round.
(As JACK is going round, and the other two are making sham advances to divert the attention of FIELDING and ROBINSON, JACKY leaps onto the stage with one bound and a ferocious yell, and fells JACK with a blow of a club. He poises a spear which he is about to throw at BLACK WILL. At the same time FIELDING and ROBINSON advance on WILL and JEM.)
B. WILL: Quarter, quarter!
ROB: On your knees, then, ye scoundrels. (They fall on their knees.) Throw down your knives. Throw 'em down, I say, or I'll blow the roof off your skulls. (He presents the revolver: they throw down their knives.) Spread your wipe, George. (FIELDING spreads his handkerchief.) Now, my lads, you wanted to take our lives, which didn't belong to you, so we'll take something from you which doesn't belong to us; out with the swag, or-- (He presents his pistol. They take several small nuggets out of their pockets and throw them sulkily down) Now, mark my words: I take this creek, and I warn you off it.
B. WILL: Why, there's enough for us all. Won't you let us live as well as yourselves?
ROB: Yes, but not at our door, ye blood-thirsty varmint. Do you see that ridge half a mile west? It is full of gold. Work there. If we catch you this side of it we'll shoot you down like wolves; and if we catch one of you alone we'll hang him to the first tree like a wild cat. Come, mizzle. (He presents the revolver.)
B. WILL: Our turn next.
(They go off, crestfallen. Meantime JACK has come to, and looks about him with a dazzled air.)
ROB: (with his hands on his knees) Oh! What, you are too honest to cheat the gallows, you are! I thought you had settled his hash, darky.
JACKY: I punch his head--yah, yah!
ROB: Oh, did you? Then next time I'll trouble you to punch it a little harder. (The man gets up, and runs off staggering after his comrades.)
JACKY: Now, please, you tell Jacky what you white-fellows fight for dis time?
ROB: For this, my lad, for the king of metals (showing him a nugget).
JACKY: (inspecting it) For dat little yellow stone? Den white-fellow more bigger great fool dan black-fellow--dat's all. I find you good deal bigger yellow stone dan dat without fighting for him at all. One day I see him not far off. Dar, you sit down and do nothing at all. I go look 'bout for yellow stone. (carelessly) Massa Tom, suppose I find him so big as your head, what you give me for him?
ROB: (incredulously) As big as my head? I'll give you my box of lucifers. He! He!
JACKY: (excited) Den I find him a good deal soon, all at one time direckly.
(While speaking he runs to the tree and mounts it rapidly by cutting nicks with his tomahawk and putting his toe in each nick alternately, and grasping the tree. Meantime FIELDING and ROBINSON seat themselves on the heap of boulders.)
ROB: He is poking fun at us, of course.
FIELD: I am not so sure of that, Tom. These poor savages have got an eye like a hawk for everything in nature; and Jacky is on his mettle now; he is dying for those lucifers.
JACKY: (high up in the tree) Yah, yah, I find him. (He descends.)
ROB: What, a nugget up a gum-tree, like an opossum; none o' your chaff, darky.
(JACKY comes towards them.)
JACKY: There he is, look!
(FIELDING and ROBINSON turn round and round where they sit. JACKY puts his tomahawk in between them--they look down with incredulous amazement.)
JACKY: Dis moss grow over him nose a lilly bit since I saw him last, hide all but one yellow eye.
(FIELDING and ROBINSON fall on their knees and, tearing the moss away, reveal part of a nugget imbedded.)
ROB: All right; here is a pound weight of gold if there is an ounce. Come, my lad, out you come! Out you--(he examines it closer, and trembles)--why this is only the point of the nugget, it lies perpendicularly, not flat, George. I can't move it. (roaring) The spade! The spade!
FIELD: (shouting) Stand clear! (He drives the spade down and presses slowly on the handle.) Is it jammed any way?
ROB: No, no, it is its own weight.
FIELD: Well, then, it is over a hundredweight.
ROB: (agitated) Don't be a fool, now; there's no such thing in nature.
FIELD: Tell 'ee there's a hundredweight of something over my spade. Now she comes; catch hold 't.
ROB: Oh, oh, oh! (He rolls it out.) We are made men; we are gentlemen for life.
FIELD: Oh, Tom, is it worth a thousand pounds?
ROB: (contemptuously) A thousand fiddles! Say six thousand pounds, and more. (He kneels down and turns it over.) It is the wonder of the world.
FIELD: (kneeling on the other side) You beauty, I see my Susan's eyes in you. (He kisses the nugget.)
ROB: Hush! Quick, throw your wipe over it; hide it or it will cost us our lives. The sight of it will turn honest men to rogues. (They throw the handkerchief over it.)
FIELD: Shake hands over it, old fellow. (They shake hands over it and dance round it.) Stop a bit! Oh, dear! It is Jacky's, he found it.
JACKY: What for you dance? What for you pull one another? First you bite yellow stone, den you red, den you white, den you kick up such a bobbery, all because we pull up yellow stone. All dis a good deal dam ridicalous. (with majestic indifference) Jacky give him all to you.
ROB: (Embraces him.) You are a noble fellow. (agitated) George, here is a true philosopher. Here's Ebony despises Gold. My dear boy, accept as a faint tribute of my respect, this box of lucifers. (JACKY rubs his hands with delight. They both dance: one round the gold, the other round the box.)
FIELD: And, dear Jacky, accept my hut and furniture, and all my sheep, and all my cattle, and my blessing, with all my heart. Come, let me pack up my bundle, and away to England and Susan! Hurrah, hurrah! (Exeunt.)
(CRAWLEY creeps out.)
CRAW: A hundredweight of gold! It made the perspiration run down my very back. And going home to Susan directly. What will Meadows say to that? What will he do to me? I'll tell the gang. I beg their pardon, my masters (shivering)--my very worthy, and approved good masters. And if I do, there will be murder: the wholesale article. Ugh! I won't do it, Mr. Meadows. I'm losing all taste for felony: the best dish gets insipid in time. You have got a right hand, Mr. Meadows, take and murder folk with that! Ah, but the one he'll murder will be me, if they get home safe with their weight in gold. I'll tell the gang; it is no business of mine what they do. I wash my hands of the coming felony. (Exit, then he returns.) These knives are awkward things lying about. Some honest men might cut themselves (he picks them up). These are only fit for such fellows as Black Will-- Where shall we all go to? (Exit.)
(Staccato music plays. Enter JACKY, crawling. He jumps yelling into the bush, and hacks furiously with his tomahawk. Then he brings out CRAWLEY's umbrella.)
JACKY: Where de oder? Dis not the same white-fellow I see hiding dere, when I up dat gum-tree. Oh, dear, I bery uncomfordable. I come back all alone a good deal soft to punch his head, cos Massa George not like too much punch; and now him gone, head and all, and now I not punch nobody nothing, (whining) I bery uncomfordable. (He sits down disconsolate, and plays with the umbrella. Then, brightening up) Dis like a bird's wings; first him open, den him shut, den him open--now like a pigeon; now like a crow; now like an eagle, now him--Loramassy! (The umbrella having opened entirely with a snick, JACKY drops it, starts to his feet, and dances round it, flourishing his tomahawk and threatening it.) Yah, yah, now I know him. Dis is de lilly tree what grow all at one time out of a white-fellow, when it a good deal wet. Rain make dis tree grow bery swift. Call him a rumberelle. Always I see him a good deal fat like so: nebbare I see him thin. (He reflects with his finger to his forehead.) He makes himself thin to hide in that dere lilly bush dere. (He utters shrill savage whistles.)
(Enter male and female savages. JACKY stands with his back to the audience, his umbrella up, and his tomahawk held behind his back. He waves them majestically to be seated, and they sink suddenly down on their hams in a semicircle.)
JACKY: Listen a me, you black-fellows, and also likewise you gins into the bargain. White-fellows call me Jacky; black-fellows call me Kalingaloonga. (The SAVAGES incline their heads gravely.) In de next place, the consequence is my white name is called Jacky, my black name Kalingaloonga are a great chief--he are a bery great chief--a regular unscrupulous good chief. (He goes to the SAVAGE at the extreme right of the semicircle.) Now, sar, me ask you lilly question: who de most great comparative big chief you ebbare see?
JACKY: Dat you was answer true. Bery good. Who de most iniquitous, good, abominable chief you know, sar?
JACKY: Dat was true answer. (To one of the GINS) Who de most unreasonable, good, expeditious, dam long, venerable, bandy-legged chief you know? Speak loud, lilly lub. I not hear. (At the least hesitation the tomahawk wags behind his back in a threatening way.)
JACKY: Who de most preposterous, good, sanguinary, delicious, obscene chief you know?
JACKY: Dat a good deal curious, how you all know the right question to what I answer you, quite correct, (aside) Suppose one not know, den I punch dat one's head. (He seats himself under his umbrella.) Lilly black-fellow, you watch up gum-tree, see nobody come to bother dis here un-justifiable chief when he want to chatter. (A little SAVAGE runs and mounts the tree.) Now listen a me. White-fellows give me a good many tings. But I give you all one half a piece cos I a most avaricious good chief. One, he give me him house--dat bery good useless ting--cos--suppose him dark; time to sleep: den you put dat house between you and de wind, and dat house keep off wind most as good as a rock, or a lilly high bank. Suppose you cold, den dere a good deal wood in de house, which is called tables and chairs: you bring out dis here table and chairs, you burn him, and he make you a good deal warm. Suppose you hungry, you go up softly to one of the sheep which was de white-fellow's by and by, but presently it is Kalingaloonga's, and you punch his head, and he make haste and die: after dat you eat him first and den roast him wid white-fellow's fire sticks. (He produces the lucifer box.) Yah! Now you shut your eyes wide open, and see Kalingaloonga make fire like a white-fellow.
(They glare with expectation. He strikes a lucifer. They shriek and roll over--all but a GIN who pinches one SAVAGE, and sinks gracefully on the shoulder of another. The box is passed gravely round the semi-circle and back, like a snuff-box, several times, each enjoying the felicity of igniting one of the matches, till the little SAVAGE in the tree gives an alarm.)
JACKY: What dat?
L. SAV: (pointing off) White-fellows coming this way--one, two, three, four, five. Got knives: seen um shine.
JACKY: What dat for? Lie down you, a good deal quick. (They all fall flat. JACKY cuts a hole in the umbrella, and raising himself, cautiously peers through it. Then, angrily) How they dare come here after Massa Tom tell 'em stay there? What for they come here with knives--ah! (with a wild and savage snarl) War!
JACKY: Give Kalingaloonga his war-paint. (A GIN gives him colours from her purse.) Soft--soft--soft! (They glide off the stage.)
(The air, "Home Sweet Home" is heard, soft at first, but louder by degrees, in orchestra.)
FIELD: (off) It is pretty heavy to carry, Tom.
ROB: The heavier the better for us.
(Enter FIELDING and ROBINSON, carrying a carpet-bag on a short pole. FIELDING has a staff.)
FIELD: Well, change shoulders, then, to cross the bridge. (They let down the load, and when they have resumed it and taken one step forward. FIELDING stops and looks about him.) I say, Tom, didn't we leave those vagabonds' knives somewhere hereabouts?
ROB: Ay, we thought of nothing but the gold--nobody ever does. What is come of them knives, I wonder?
B. WILL: (off) They are here.
(BLACK WILL, JEM, JACK, BOB HUDSON, and ABNER enter, running with drawn knives. At the sound of WILL's voice, FIELDING and ROBINSON drop the carpet-bag with a cry of dismay. It falls heavily. The men attack at the run without an instant's pause. ROBINSON fires, and ABNER falls wounded. FIELDING fells his first assailant with his staff, and thrusts it in another's face, causing him to stagger back. Then he seizes the hands of BLACK WILL which are raised to stab him. They struggle. ROBINSON's pistol misses fire the second time, but he strikes one assailant down with the butt; another recovers from FIELDING's blow and closes with ROBINSON: they struggle a long time. ABNER, wounded in the thigh, crawls to FIELDING, and, seizing his legs, pulls him down. ABNER raises a knife to stab FIELDING, whose hands are occupied still with BLACK WILL. Suddenly the SAVAGES come leaping in from all sides. They are fully armed, and horribly painted. KALINGALOONGA springs, yelling, on ABNER, and knocks him flat. Another disables ROBINSON's adversary. FIELDING wrenches the knife from BLACK WILL, throws it away, and thrusts WILL off with his foot. They start up, and WILL strikes at FIELDING with his fist. FIELDING parries the blow, and strikes WILL with his fist; WILL staggers back towards ROBINSON, who hits him on the neck and drives him forward towards FIELDING. FIELDING then deliberately knocks him down. Meantime the others, except ABNER, have got up, but after a short engagement are overpowered by the SAVAGES. ABNER lies motionless. A SAVAGE darts off with a whoop.
FIELD: (breathless) Don't kill them, Jacky; but keep them close prisoners--till--our gold--and our lives--are beyond their reach.
JACKY: (with dignity) Kalingaloonga want to punch their heads a good deal more, but he will do what you say, because after dis he links Massa George will speak no more good words to him friend Kalingaloonga.
(JACKY hangs his head sorrowfully, and motions to the other SAVAGES who drag and drive the men, except ABNER, into the centre, and encircle them with extended weapons. FIELDING and ROBINSON take up the bag and go out. A great outcry is heard, and CRAWLEY enters, screaming and writhing, with a spear sticking in his back like a tail, followed by the SAVAGE who has thrown it; he falls on his knees. JACKY kicks him into the circle. This done, FIELDING and ROBINSON appear on the bridge going homeward; they stand triumphant and wave their caps.)
FIELD: Hurrah for home and Susan, hurrah!
(The orchestra plays a very spirited "The Girl I Left Behind Me," and the caps are waved during the music. The tune is played again after the act drop falls, to prolong the leading sentiment.)
MR. MEADOWS's study, a girl enters with candles and letters. She places them on his desk, orders them, dusts his chair etcetera, and exit. MEADOWS enters, throws himself into his chair, and buries his head in his hands a moment.
MEAD: Ay, Susan is cold as marble. She believes me; she marries me; but she shrinks from me. It is my wedding eve; and I am sick of my life. (He opens his letters.) What is this? Will Fielding was in the town today, and vows he will stand at the church porch tomorrow and part the bride and bridegroom with his horsewhip. Says if she will take a dog instead of a man, it shall be a beaten dog. Will ye so? Will ye so? After the wedding I'll cram your brag down your throat with my fist. But, meantime--(He touches his hand-bell, and writes a hasty note. Enter the SERVANT.) Send Jem with this to lawyer Smeaton on the instant. (Exit SERVANT. MEADOWS rises.) He'll part Susan and me tomorrow? Tonight I put him in the county gaol. I have spared you this eighteen months, Master Will, but you will have it; take it, then. Ah, that has done me good. Susan's pale face and cold words unman me; but threats and difficulties they turn me to steel.
SERV: Mr. Jeffries, sir. The postmaster.
MEAD: Send him up. (Exit SERVANT.) My mind misgives me. What does he want?
(Enter JEFFRIES wildly, and holding out his hand at MEADOWS in a threatening way.)
JEFF: I can carry this game on no longer; and I won't. To see the poor girl come to me, month after month, with her pale face and begging eyes, "Oh, Mr. Jeffries, do have a letter for me!" Better to sleep in gaol with a clean breast, than to lie all night without a wink as I do, tasting eternal torment before my time, and your villainy; yes, yours; for you are the tempter. I'm but the tool, the miserable tool.
MEAD: (calmly) I, Jeffries? What d'ye mean? It is you that have abused the public confidence, not I. So, if you are such a fool and a sneak as to cut your own throat, and your family's, by peaching on yourself, I'll cry louder than you, and show you have emptied letters as well as stopped them. Go home to your wife, and keep quiet, or I'll smash both you and her.
JEFF: Oh, I know you are without mercy; and I dare not speak out while I live; but I'll beat you yet, you cruel monster. I will send my wife this moment to Miss Merton, to confess all, and tell her George is true, and you are the false one; and I'll blow out my brains tonight in the office.
MEAD: (aside) I'm lost. (He puts his hand in his breast pocket.) Jeffries, I don't think you are game to take your own life.
JEFF: Tomorrow will show.
MEAD: I must know before that. (He seizes JEFFRIES in an iron grasp and puts a pistol barrel to his head.)
JEFF: Oh, no! Mercy, mercy! No! No!
MEAD: (coolly) All right: you won't kill yourself--you are fool enough to do it, but you are too great a cur. Give over shaking like an aspen, and talk sense. You are in debt; you have accepted bills; I've bought 'em. Here they are (shows them cautiously). Come to me after the wedding tomorrow, and we'll light our pipes with them.
JEFF: Oh, Mr. Meadows, that would be a load off my mind. (He sighs.)
MEAD: You are short of cash, too. Come to me after the wedding, and I'll hand you a fifty pound note.
JEFF: You are very liberal, sir. Would it were in a better cause.
MEAD: Now go to bed; and don't be a sneak, and an idiot, till after the wedding; or I'll sell the bed from under your wife's back, and send you to the stone-jug. Be off! (MEADOWS points him off, then draws himself up to his full height and shouts.) Are there any more of you that hope to conquer John Meadows? Then come on! Come at me a thousand strong, with the devil at your back--and then I'll beat you. (CRAWLEY, now shaved, and neater in his dress, opens a secret door. MEADOWS hears him, turns quietly, and sees him.) Crawley!
CRAW: (softly) Yes, Mr. Meadows.
MEAD: Hush! I had better close the staircase door. (He disappears for an instant, and then returns to confront CRAWLEY. In a half whisper) Well? Well? Well?
CRAW: Well, sir, I give you joy. They say two heads are better than one. But I say two hands are better than one; your two have done the trick between them.
MEAD: But why did you come back without orders? Tell me all.
CRAW: All, Mr. Meadows? Why it's volumes. I've served you as no great man was ever served before. I bribed his shepherd, and his sheep all died. I tempted Black Will and Co. to rob him, and that nearly led to--murder--ugh! For you I flung the professional to the winds, and went in for the indictable like mother's milk; and (opening his eyes) swam in felony. But there, they go safe to Sydney by a miracle, and on board for England: and then I crawled into the ship after them, stiff and sore--for I was wounded in your service. Wounded? I was skewered like a fillet o' veal. Six inches of a bone-headed spear in me, and cut out with a cheese knife, and bled a bucketful--and there I lay all the voyage, scheming in vain, and groaning, and saying, "How shall I ever face that great man?" I came down here to warn you. But the first thing I saw was you and Miss Merton at a distance, walking arm in arm. I knew it was all right then; I went to the barber's crying, oh, be joyful! Well, sir, and when did the event come off?
MEAD: What event?
CRAW: The happy event, the marriage, you and the lady. She is worth all the trouble she has cost us.
MEAD: You fool, we are not married.
CRAW: Don't say so! Now don't say so.
MEAD: No matter, we shall be tomorrow morning.
CRAW: We are ruined! We are undone! Why, man alive, they are in the town.
CRAW: Why, George Fielding and his mate.
MEAD: Are you drunk?
CRAW: No. I wish I was. They are not ten doors from where we sit. They are at the Red Lion. It was a sharp race. I beat them by an hour. But by then I had gone to the barber's and civilized myself to visit you--there they were.
MEAD: (leaning his head on his hand) What is to be done?
CRAW: Do, sir? Why--nolle prosequi!
MEAD: (confused) Do what?
CRAW: Nolle prosequi--abandon the suit. The lady won't marry us if defendant is sitting at the wedding breakfast; and he will be. These farmers rise with the sun. Luckily no blood has been spilt, except mine; so there is no harm done. Go and say you are de-light-ed to find George Fielding has been belied by some villain. Lay particular stress on the villain, to divert suspicion; and go give the girl up with a flourish; keep dark, and nobody will ever know the little game we have been at.
MEAD: What, soil myself with all these crimes for nothing; lie, and feign, and intercept letters; and rob, and all but assassinate--and fail? Wade in sin up to my middle, and then wade back again without the prize? Never. Do you see this pistol? If she and I are ever parted it shall be this way--I'll send her to heaven with one barrel, and myself to hell with the other. There, you need not look so scared; ten to one if it ever comes to that. I shall try all I know first. You look tired, my good Crawley: you shall have a bottle of my old port: and I am a little staggered myself, but it is only for a moment. My heart is often sick and cold; but my will is unconquerable. (Exit, and is heard to descend, his heavy tread becoming fainter and fainter. The lights dim.)
CRAW: Mr. Meadows is getting wildish. It frightens me to see a cool hand like him burst out like that. He is not to be trusted with a loaded pistol. Ah, and I am in his secrets; deep in them! Great men often sweep away little rubbishy men, that know too much. I never saw him with a pistol before. (He takes off the caps.) I'll take off the caps for fear it should go off by accident, and kill me on purpose.
(Enter MEADOWS with a bottle and two glasses. He motions CRAWLEY to be seated, lights a candle, and pours out some wine, keeping the bottle on his side. NOTE: no comic business is admissible just here.)
MEAD: (thoughtfully) The loss of his sheep must have ruined George Fielding. So at all events he comes back without the thousand pounds.
CRAW: What, haven't you heard of the great nugget of gold? Why, London was ringing with it when I came through.
MEAD: Yes, I read it in the paper. But what has that to do with George Fielding?
CRAW: Why, he is the finder. He and his mate. Mr. Meadows, I lay hid in a thornbush and saw those two pull that nugget out of a heap of stone that five hundred shepherds had sat on, five thousand times, eating bread and cheese, and seen nothing; the idiots! I've sat on it myself often, and none the wiser.
MEAD: What will they get for that one nugget? Not the--the--thousand pounds?
CRAW: (groaning) They sold it in Sydney for seven thousand pounds, (coaxing) Come, come, what can't be cured, must be endured. Nolle prosequi.
MEAD: You must have been four months in one ship with them--and could you think of nothing?
CRAW: You underrate my zeal, sir. When force failed, I tried skill. I retained a returned convict that I found in the ship; he agreed to hocuss them and then rob them. Look here! (He puts a small white substance on the table.) Put that in a man's glass of grog, and in ten minutes you might take the clothes off his back. Well, sir, we soon found where the money was.
CRAW: His friend carries it in a square pocket-book inside his shirt. Well, the gentleman I retained watched and watched all the voyage for a chance. It was no go. Teetotal, or next thing to it. Mr. Meadows, the last card is played. Give the girl up. She is like all the women; costs a great deal more than she is worth.
(MEADOWS fills his own glass and CRAWLEY's, and while the latter is drinking, quietly puts the white substance in his waistcoat pocket. He then rises and empties his own glass at a draught.)
MEAD: (sternly) Stay here, Crawley, till I come back. (at the door, gloomily) On my return I shall perhaps take your advice and resign her I love: if I do, I shall leave the country tomorrow and take you with me. (Exit MEADOWS.)
CRAW: Thank you, Mr. Meadows. Well, and so he ought. (He drinks.) I hope he won't be long gone. I can't bear to be alone. How dark it is. (He lights the other candle.) I hate night-time. For then it is I see such cu-rious sights. I know they are only brandybubbles. But they are awful ones (he drinks). Sometimes it is a judge, with furrowed brow and flowing wig, and grey shaggy eyebrows, and, oh, such a strike-me-off-the-rolls-and-give-me-ten-years-penal-servitude eye, like a cold, grey diamond. Sometimes it is a policeman, all of a colour, and all of a piece, with a pair of handcuffs bright as silver; there he stands stock-still, like Fate clear-starched, calm, inevitable, immoveable, half in, half out of the wall, as much as to say, "Go on, go on, Peter; run out to the end o' your little chain, Peter; Bobby can wait: to these iron bracelets you must come at last." (He drinks eagerly.) But the worst is when the air seems to fill with a thin blue smoke: it clears, and then out comes, plainer and plainer, blacker and blacker, a horrible figure (he lowers his voice to a whisper), with hoofs--and horns--and eyes like rubies afire, and teeth of white-hot iron, and a grin, oh, such a grin, it freezes your soul! (He covers his face with his hands.) It is only the drink. But what am I the better for its being only the drink? I see these horrible things as plain as I see this bottle, or that wall there. (He fills a glass and is about to drink, but stops, and points with trembling hand at the wall in an awe-struck manner.) Something is coming now; that is how it mostly begins; the wall opens gradually, and the phantom sits or stands in it, and eyes me, and eyes me, and eyes me, till I am dead with terror. (He shrinks flat against the wall as a panel is opening very slowly indeed.) Curse Meadows for leaving me! No--running away makes them stronger. Your only chance is to face them, go at them! (He puts his arm before his face and goes staggering at the panel.) Go at 'em, and butt 'em like a ram! (He runs his nose nearly against ISAAC LEVI's face which is protruded through the open panel.) Ah, ah! (He runs and tumbles over. LEVI closes the aperture noiselessly, CRAWLEY looks fearfully around.) Vanished, thank heaven! Go at 'em is your only chance! (Looking over his shoulder, he goes to his chair, and sits down.) That was a new one. (He drinks.) My little stock of 'em is increasing. It was an apparition of that terrible old Jew. I'd as soon see Old Nick any day. (MEADOWS bursts in through the secret door, pale and wild.) No, no! Mercy, mercy! (He runs away.)
MEAD: (sinking into a chair) Perdition seize the hour I first saw her!
CRAW: (gasping, and aside) It is only my captain. I thought it was our Commander-in-chief.
MEAD: (with an unnatural calm) Crawley, when the enemy of man buys a soul, how much does he give? A good round lump I hear. (He flings down a roll of banknotes. Then, furiously) Count those, and tell me what mine has gone for.
CRAW: Why, they are all hundred pound notes, new and bright as silver. Oh, beautiful, beautiful! However did you get them? (He counts them carefully.)
MEAD: (shaking his head) Too easily. I used that drug you gave me. I drugged their liquor in the bar. George Fielding was in bed. The other was alone and fast asleep--a sleep like death. I took them out and stuffed the pocket-book and put it back into his breast. Crawley, he I robbed--of thousands--was Robinson, the man I sent to prison for picking my pocket of fifteen pounds. (He groans.)
CRAW: (who has been counting while MEADOWS was speaking) Report spoke true for once: it is seven thousand pounds.
MEAD: Seven thousand! This will be a dear job to me.
CRAW: Say a dear job to them, but a glorious haul to you.
MEAD: Why, you fool, do you think I am going to keep the man's money?
CRAW: Keep it? Why, of course: or why take it at all at such a risk?
MEAD: You are as blind as a mole. Don't you see I have made George Fielding penniless again, and that old Merton will not let him have Susan. He was to come back with a thousand pounds: 'stead o' that, he comes back without a penny. And, as he can never marry her, I shall, soon or late; and that same afternoon seven thousand pounds will be put into George Fielding's hand; he won't know by whom, but you and I shall. I am a villain, but I am not a thief. (CRAWLEY gives a dissatisfied grunt.) Enough chat. There's the fire: burn them this moment; then they will tell no tales.
CRAW: (agitated) No, no, sir; don't think of it! Talk of crime? What are all the little crimes we have done together compared with this? You would not burn a wheat-rick, sir, not your greatest enemy's, I am sure you would not, you are too good a man. But this is as bad: the good money, the great money, the beautiful money that heaven has given, in its bounty, for the good of man.
MEAD: Come, no more of this folly! Burn them this moment! (He seizes CRAWLEY.)
CRAW: (falling on his knees) Mercy, mercy, think of me, of your poor faithful servant, who has risked a halter, and been pierced with a javelin, and has stuck at nothing for you. Oh, how ungrateful great men are!
MEAD: Can you look me in the face and tell me that?
CRAW: Never till now, but now I can. (He rises, and with desperate courage, screaming) To whom do you owe them? To me. You would never have had them but for my drug. Yet you would burn them before my eyes: a fortune to poor me.
MEAD: To you? Give them you?
CRAW: Yes. What does it matter to you, so he never sees them again? Give them me, and in twelve hours I will be in France with them. You won't miss me. My work is done; and it will be prudent of you, for since I left you I have taken to drinking. (threatening) I might let out something we should both be sorry for. Send me away to foreign countries, where I can keep travelling towards the sun, and so make it always summer. I hate the long nights; for when it is dark I see such curious things. O pray let me go and take them away with me, and you shall never see them nor me again! (He kneels.)
MEAD: Humph! On conditions.
CRAW: Yes, sir; yes.
MEAD: (taking out his watch) That you go to London by the mail train which starts in one hour, and over to France this evening.
CRAW: (starting up) I will, sir. Hurrah! Hurrah!
MEAD: Wrap them in paper, hide them next your skin, and begone. Oh, I am worn out; I must snatch an hour's sleep, then off to Grassmere and make Susan mine. Farewell, my poor Crawley, for ever! (Exit with a candle.)
(CRAWLEY comes down stage, runs his fingers over the notes, folds them, and puts them in his bosom. During which, the panel opens, and a hand comes out and points at him.)
CRAW: (during the business) Is it a dream? No; I have really got seven thousand pounds. They are mine, honestly mine! For I have saved them from destruction. Good-bye, England. They call you a cold country; you are too hot for me. (He takes a candle, and exit by the secret door on tip-toe.)
A front scene, opposite a railway station, lighted by two feeble lamps, and with a central door. Enter CRAWLEY in a great-coat, with a small bag. He walks to and fro.
CRAW: Half an hour to wait. Office shut: no fire; no light. Confound these railways! I'll write to the Times from Paris. (He stamps to warm his feet.) Call those lamps, the winking, blinking owls? (A POLICEMAN appears at the side.) Who are you? (CRAWLEY recoils a step, and glares.) Oh--I see--only a small trifle--of--an apparition. Got a bull's eye this time. Left--your--handcuffs -down below--eh? Bub a bub a Bobby? (with a ghastly attempt at humour) Your most obedient: good-bye till the sun rises. (Another POLICEMAN appears noiselessly at the other side and confronts him as he turns that way.) Another "Bobby can wait," (violently) N-n-now what is the use of this--my good--souls? It is only done to harass the defendant. The sun is just rising, and then you know you must walk your chalks, ye cursed blue devils; whether you like or not (despairingly) They will make me cut my throat some dark night.
(ISAAC LEVI enters softly through the door, and stands in the centre of the stage.)
CRAW: (stealing a look to right and left, and seeing the POLICEMEN motionless) Oh, very well; then I shall just turn my back on both of you till daylight, that is all. (almost screaming) Curse the sun! Why don't he rise? (ISAAC LEVI motions with both hands and the two POLICEMEN advance a step or two.) Coming nearer? Oh, Gammon! Shadows don't wear nailed boots. (He shuts his ears with his fingers.)
(The POLICEMEN each take one of CRAWLEY's wrists, and CRAWLEY trembles violently, his knees shaking. The POLICEMEN each raise a bull's-eye lantern with their disengaged hands, and throw the full light on to CRAWLEY.)
CRAW: (aside) It is only flesh and blood! (haughtily) Well, what is it? Don't ye know me? (ISAAC LEVI's hand glides over CRAWLEY's left shoulder, tapping him here and there. CRAWLEY eyes it with terror.) What, a Bobby with three hands! Fiends! Demons! (He slews his head round and sees LEVI.) Ah, ah, ah, ah! (The POLICEMEN produce hand-cuffs.) Oh, oh, oh! (They hand-cuff him. LEVI waves to them to take him off. They each put an arm under him and almost support him off. In a faint voice) Let me say a word to Mr. Levi. Mr. Levi, you are a much greater man than that amorous fool Meadows. I enter your service; my great uncle was a Jew. You see my zeal; it only wants guiding with your sagacity. Do retain me, Mr. Levi. I ask no fee, only the honour of the connection. Mercy!
(LEVI stands with his back to the audience, and waves him contemptuously off. Exeunt CRAWLEY and the POLICEMEN. LEVI follows thoughtfully with his arms folded.)
In front of MERTON's farm. The lights are gradually raised as day dawns. Birds are chirping, and music plays. Enter MR. MERTON, calling.
MERT: Here, Josh! Josh!
(Enter JOSH, the carter's lad.)
JOSH: Here I be.
MERT: Got the ringers?
MERT: Mind and see they have plenty o' beer.
JOSH: That I wool. And 'elp 'em drink it.
(Enter RUSTICS, male and female, cheering, and looking off.)
MERT: Who is it?
JOSH: Bridegroom's party just drove up.
(Enter SUSAN MERTON, dressed for a wedding.)
SUSAN: Oh, father, please don't leave the table: they congratulate me, and they make jests. Jests, and I am expected to smile! Pray don't leave me. I need to see your dear face all the time, to remind me that I am making you happy, at all events.
MERT: That you are, girl. (Church bells ring in the distance, and SUSAN bursts out crying.) Don't let the bridegroom see you cry, whatever. He'll be affronted.
SUSAN: (sobbing) No, no. I won't cry before the folk.
MERT: There, I'll come to you in a moment. (Exit SUSAN.)
(The RUSTICS cheer.)
MERT: Who is that?
JOSH: Parson has gone into the church. (The bells ring.)
(Exit MERTON, but his voice is presently heard saying:)
MERT: Come now, make the line. Let us go in form.
(Enter the wedding party. MERTON arranges the procession, headed by SUSAN and MEADOWS. They move in line. A faint cheer is heard outside, followed by a murmur of voices. Enter FIELDING and ROBINSON, meeting the procession at the wing.)
FIELD: Susan, dear Susan!
SUSAN: Ah! (She withdraws her arm from MEADOWS, and, starting back, stands paralysed.)
FIELD: Why, what's in all this? And what are you doing on that man's arm?
SUSAN: What am I doing? What have you done? You deserted me and married another. Father, neighbours, ask this man why he comes here now, to disturb my peace, and make me insult the honest man who honours me with his respect. Oh, my face, where shall I hide it? (She covers her face with her hands. The whole party gets out of order, and stare, and pry, and interchange whispers.)
ROB: Stop a bit! Stop a bit! George false to you, miss? Why, all his cry night and day has been Susan! Susan! And when he found the great nugget, he kisses it; and, says he, that is not because you are gold, but because you take me to Susan.
FIELD: Hold your tongue, Tom; who puts me on my defence? Has any man here been telling her I ever had a thought of any girl but her? (He looks round defiantly.) If there is, let him stand out now and say it to my face if he dares. (There is a pause.) There's a lie without a backer, it seems. (very gravely) And now, Susan, once more, what are you doing on that man's arm?
SUSAN: Kill me! Kill me!
MEAD: Miss Merton and I are to be married this morning; that is why she is on my arm.
FIELD: She thought me false. But now she sees I am true. Blindfold choice is no choice at all, Mr. Meadows. (He advances to SUSAN.) Susan, I say nothing about the promises that have passed between us, and the ring that you gave me. (turning sharply) Haven't I one friend in all this parish to stop those bells a minute?
(JOSH runs off.)
SUSAN: You have kept my ring?
FIELD: Here 'tis. No man ever loved a woman truer than I love you, Susan; but, for all that, I would not give a snap of the finger to have you if your will is towards another--would you, sir? So, please yourself, my girl, and don't cry like that. I could cry myself when I think all that has passed between you and me; but this must end, and end it shall; I won't live in doubt a moment, no, nor half a moment. You are free as air, Susan (he flings down the ring). And, being free, choose between John Meadows and George Fielding.
SUSAN: Oh, George, what choice can there be? The moment I saw your face, and truth still shining in it, I forgot there was a John Meadows in the world. (She tears off her gloves, and, becoming hysterical, is supported by the BRIDESMAIDS. FIELDING picks up the ring again. The bells stop.)
JOSH: (running in) Hurrah!
MEAD: Curse them!
MERT: But I am to be consulted too. George, I have been an imprudent fool. It is no use hiding what can't be concealed. I owe two thousand pounds. We heard you had changed your mind: and Meadows offers to clear his wife's father.
MEAD: Why, of course, sir. My wife's father is my father; I know no odds.
FIELD: Your word, Uncle. I crossed the seas on the faith of it. Says you, bring back a thousand pounds, to show me you are not a fool, and you shall have my daughter, and she shall have my blessing.
MERT: Did I say so?
FIELD: Ask Mr. Meadows. He was there.
MEAD: (hanging his head.) I can't deny it. Those were the words.
MERT: Well, but you haven't brought it.
ROB: Oh, hasn't he? But I say he has brought, not one thousand, but seven thousand pounds. (exclamations) They are not all his; but they should be sooner than true lovers be parted. (He takes out a very plump pocket-book. The bridal party surrounds him. Slapping it) There is a buster. (There is laughter.) Here they are--seventy new hundred-pound notes. (The RUSTICS cheer.) All as crimp as a parson's neck-cloth. Why, I never put these in! (He takes out square pieces of newspaper, and lets them fall.) Oh!
FIELD: Why, Tom!
ROB: Robbed! Am I dreaming. It has never left me a moment, night or day. Robbed, robbed! Kill me, George; I have ruined you! (Murmurs.)
FIELD: I can't speak.
MERT: But I can. Don't tell me of a London thief being robbed. You are a couple of impostors. Ye haven't got a thousand pence, and never had. So if you are a man at all, nevvy, leave things as they are. I say--if so be you don't hate Susan, as well as me--then don't stand in the poor girl's light. Do, for pity's sake, leave me and my daughter in peace.
FIELD: You are right, old man. My head is confused. But I seem to see it will be kindest to Susan for me to go back to Australia. Come, Tom, honest Tom. That for their gibes and their mean suspicion--let us, you and I, go back together.
SUSAN: (quietly) And if you do, I shall go with you. Friends, I am a simple girl. I have been blinded by one I now see to be a monster of deceit; but I was never false-hearted, nor inconstant. I am yours, George, for better for worse, if you think me still worthy to be your wife; and, oh, for my part, I am glad you have not a farthing. What signifies wealth to us? We have willing hearts to work for one another, and we have our youth, and our health, and our love--and this is the only happy moment I have known since we parted, two weary years ago. (They embrace. The RUSTICS cheer loudly.)
MEAD: My patience is gone. Since you scorn my love, let us see how you can bear my hate. (Furious, he goes to leave, but is stopped by a POLICEMAN.)
POLICE: Stay a moment, Mr. Meadows!
MEAD: What for?
POLICE: Why, I don't exactly know; but I believe you are wanted. (Meantime, HITCHIN has entered, and pauses close to ROBINSON in passing.)
HITCH: (to ROBINSON) All right. Keep dark, and let us work. (ROBINSON looks amazed, but hopeful.) There is a warrant taken out against you, Mr. Meadows, by one Robinson.
MEAD: Is this a jest, Hitchin
HITCH: You know best, sir. Is it you that were robbed of seven thousand pounds at the Red Lion?
ROB: I and my mate.
FIELD: How did he know?
ROB: Hush, George. Let the Bobbies work.
FIELD: No, I won't hush! If he knows we have been robbed, he may know who is the thief.
(Enter ISAAC LEVI.)
LEVI: The thief is--Mr. Meadows! (There are exclamations of "Meadows!") He drugged your liquor, and stole your money in the coffee-room of the Red Lion.
ROB: It is true. It must be true. I awoke in that coffee-room at past midnight, with my head splitting, and my feet as cold as ice.
MEAD: Well, malice goes a long way. Mr. Levi is my known enemy. Now, I ask you, is this credible? I have got sixty thousand pounds. Why should I steal? (There are assenting murmurs from the RUSTICS.)
LEVI: To beggar your rival. Why did you stop Susannah's letters at the post-office? We don't know what any man will do till he is tempted, Mr. Meadows. (More assenting murmurs.)
MEAD: That is an old saying, and true to slanderers, Mr. Levi. Where did you pick up that tale of my intercepting letters?
LEVI: You drove the old Jew from his house, and from the shadows of his dead, and this you did, not from need, but hate. So he made that house a trap; he took the next house, and bored a hole in the party wall, and caught you in your villainy. I saw you give Crawley the notes.
MEAD: How generous! I might as well have kept them to myself. (aside) Crawley is hundreds of miles off by this. Well, you find Crawley with seven thousand pounds, and then I'll believe I have been walking in my sleep, and picking people's pockets for other people's benefit. (The RUSTICS laugh, incredulously.)
LEVI: So be it, Mr. Meadows. The test you propose is fair. (He pauses, and then, loudly) Bring in the prisoner! (CRAWLEY is brought in, handcuffed.) Is he as he was when you took him? (The OFFICER nods.) If the missing notes be not found in that man's bosom, on the left side thereof, then I am a slanderer, and Mr. Meadows is not a thief.
ROB: Stop, sir--to make sure--the notes ran from number 1560 to number 1629. (HITCHIN takes the notes out of CRAWLEY's bosom, and holds them up, then examines them.)
HITCH: (to ROBINSON) They answer to your description. (He gives them to ROBINSON, who crams them with ludicrous haste into FIELDING's hands, saying:)
ROB: Confound them. (There are general exclamations.)
MEAD: (aside) If I could but catch his eye.
LEVI: Crawley, where did you get them?
CRAW: I had them from a man of property, a wealthy man. How could I suspect any harm? Mr. Meadows gave them to me to take to his banker in London.
MEAD: Liar! Ungrateful miscreant!
LEVI: A word with Mr. Meadows before he goes to gaol. You had no mercy on the afflicted of heaven.
MEAD: Yes, you have caught me, but you shall never cage me. (He levels his pistol at his head. The women scream. Both barrels miss fire. With a despairing cry) Foiled, foiled! (He hangs his head.)
CRAW: I took the caps off, Mr. Meadows. (They begin to handcuff MEADOWS. There are low murmurs.)
MEAD: Ay, take me to gaol, but you can't make me live there. Respected all these years, and now to be a felon. Take me where I may hide my head and die. (He moves off in despair.)
CRAW: (running after him) A fine end of all your manoeuvring, you poor bungler. Here am I, an innocent man, ruined through knowing a thief--a thief--a thief!
(MEADOWS turns at the wing, and lifts up his handcuffed hands with a mute expression of anguish and reproach. FIELDING strides up to CRAWLEY and takes him by the shoulder.)
FIELD: Ye little snake. (He sends CRAWLEY spinning.) Let the man alone. (Exit MEADOWS, guarded.)
CRAW: (after a malignant look, obsequiously) Yes, Mr. Fielding. You are a good natured man; don't appear against us at the assizes, Mr. Fielding. What is the use? We are harmless. You've got the lady and the money; and you deserve them nobly, Mr. Fielding. (HITCHIN bundles him off, struggling and shouting) I'll draw your marriage contract, for nothing, Mr. Fielding. (Exeunt CRAWLEY and POLICE.)
(The bells ring again, louder than at first.)
SUSAN: Ah, it is for your return they are ringing now, George. Oh, Mr. Levi, bless you, bless you!
LEVI: Susannah, man sees but a little way before him; my revenge, so long desired, gives me no joy, now it is come. But warms my aged breast to see the roses come back to your pale cheek, and to hear the sweet bells ring--(He takes her hand and FIELDING's, and joins them)--for these two constant hearts made happy.
FIELD: (with emotion) Happy? Sir, there's my hand, read it if ye can, for the words ain't made that can speak my heart to you. (He turns to the RUSTICS.) Neighbours, Mr. Meadows was an able man, and I a poor simple fellow; yet you see he ends in trouble, and I am in heaven, or next door to it. So let us take to heart the old adage, "Honesty is the best policy."
ROB: And when you look at me, yokels, you may see the truth of another old saying, "It is never too late to mend."
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