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During this and what follows COKESON becomes more and more
uneasy.

JAMES. This is painful, Falder. But you must see for yourself that
it's impossible for a firm like this to close its eyes to everything.
Give us this proof of your resolve to keep straight, and you can come
back--not otherwise.

FALDER. [After staring at JAMES, suddenly stiffens himself] I
couldn't give her up. I couldn't! Oh, sir!

I'm all she's got to look to. And I'm sure she's all I've got.

JAMES. I'm very sorry, Falder, but I must be firm. It's for the
benefit of you both in the long run. No good can come of this
connection. It was the cause of all your disaster.

FALDER. But sir, it means-having gone through all that-getting
broken up--my nerves are in an awful state--for nothing. I did it
for her.

JAMES. Come! If she's anything of a woman she'll see it for
herself. She won't want to drag you down further. If there were a
prospect of your being able to marry her--it might be another thing.

FALDER. It's not my fault, sir, that she couldn't get rid of him
--she would have if she could. That's been the whole trouble from
the beginning. [Looking suddenly at WALTER] . . . If anybody
would help her! It's only money wants now, I'm sure.

COKESON. [Breaking in, as WALTER hesitates, and is about to speak] I
don't think we need consider that--it's rather far-fetched.

FALDER. [To WALTER, appealing] He must have given her full cause
since; she could prove that he drove her to leave him.

WALTER. I'm inclined to do what you say, Falder, if it can be
managed.

FALDER. Oh, sir!

He goes to the window and looks down into the street.

COKESON. [Hurriedly] You don't take me, Mr. Walter. I have my
reasons.

FALDER. [From the window] She's down there, sir. Will you see her?
I can beckon to her from here.

WALTER hesitates, and looks from COKESON to JAMES.

JAMES. [With a sharp nod] Yes, let her come.

FALDER beckons from the window.

COKESON. [In a low fluster to JAMES and WALTER] No, Mr. James.
She's not been quite what she ought to ha' been, while this young
man's been away. She's lost her chance. We can't consult how to
swindle the Law.

FALDER has come from the window. The three men look at him in a
sort of awed silence.

FALDER. [With instinctive apprehension of some change--looking from
one to the other] There's been nothing between us, sir, to prevent
it . . . . What I said at the trial was true. And last night we
only just sat in the Park.

SWEEDLE comes in from the outer office.

COKESON. What is it?

SWEEDLE. Mrs. Honeywill. [There is silence]

JAMES. Show her in.

RUTH comes slowly in, and stands stoically with FALDER on one
side and the three men on the other. No one speaks. COKESON
turns to his table, bending over his papers as though the burden
of the situation were forcing him back into his accustomed
groove.

JAMES. [Sharply] Shut the door there. [SWEEDLE shuts the door]
We've asked you to come up because there are certain facts to be
faced in this matter. I understand you have only just met Falder
again.

RUTH. Yes--only yesterday.

JAMES. He's told us about himself, and we're very sorry for him.
I've promised to take him back here if he'll make a fresh start.
[Looking steadily at RUTH] This is a matter that requires courage,
ma'am.

RUTH, who is looking at FALDER, begins to twist her hands in front of
her as though prescient of disaster.

FALDER. Mr. Walter How is good enough to say that he'll help us to
get you a divorce.

RUTH flashes a startled glance at JAMES and WALTER.

JAMES. I don't think that's practicable, Falder.

FALDER. But, Sir----!

JAMES. [Steadily] Now, Mrs. Honeywill. You're fond of him.

RUTH. Yes, Sir; I love him.

She looks miserably at FALDER.

JAMES. Then you don't want to stand in his way, do you?

RUTH. [In a faint voice] I could take care of him.

JAMES. The best way you can take care of him will be to give him up.

FALDER. Nothing shall make me give you up. You can get a divorce.
There's been nothing between us, has there?

RUTH. [Mournfully shaking her head-without looking at him] No.

FALDER. We'll keep apart till it's over, sir; if you'll only help
us--we promise.

JAMES. [To RUTH] You see the thing plainly, don't you? You see
what I mean?

RUTH. [Just above a whisper] Yes.

COKESON. [To himself] There's a dear woman.

JAMES. The situation is impossible.

RUTH. Must I, Sir?

JAMES. [Forcing himself to look at her] I put it to you, ma'am. His
future is in your hands.

RUTH. [Miserably] I want to do the best for him.

JAMES. [A little huskily] That's right, that's right!

FALDER. I don't understand. You're not going to give me up--after
all this? There's something--[Starting forward to JAMES] Sir, I
swear solemnly there's been nothing between us.

JAMES. I believe you, Falder. Come, my lad, be as plucky as she is.

FALDER. Just now you were going to help us. [He starts at RUTH, who
is standing absolutely still; his face and hands twitch and quiver as
the truth dawns on him] What is it? You've not been

WALTER. Father!

JAMES. [Hurriedly] There, there! That'll do, that'll do! I'll
give you your chance, Falder. Don't let me know what you do with
yourselves, that's all.

FALDER. [As if he has not heard] Ruth?

RUTH looks at him; and FALDER covers his face with his hands.
There is silence.

COKESON. [Suddenly] There's some one out there. [To RUTH] Go in
here. You'll feel better by yourself for a minute.

He points to the clerks' room and moves towards the outer
office. FALDER does not move. RUTH puts out her hand timidly.
He shrinks back from the touch. She turns and goes miserably
into the clerks' room. With a brusque movement he follows,
seizing her by the shoulder just inside the doorway. COKESON
shuts the door.

JAMES. [Pointing to the outer office] Get rid of that, whoever it
is.

SWEEDLE. [Opening the office door, in a scared voice] Detective-
Sergeant blister.

The detective enters, and closes the door behind him.

WISTER. Sorry to disturb you, sir. A clerk you had here, two years
and a half ago: I arrested him in, this room.

JAMES. What about him?

WISTER. I thought perhaps I might get his whereabouts from you.
[There is an awkward silence]

COKESON. [Pleasantly, coming to the rescue] We're not responsible
for his movements; you know that.

JAMES. What do you want with him?

WISTER. He's failed to report himself this last four weeks.

WALTER. How d'you mean?

WISTER. Ticket-of-leave won't be up for another six months, sir.

WALTER. Has he to keep in touch with the police till then?

WISTER. We're bound to know where he sleeps every night. I dare say
we shouldn't interfere, sir, even though he hasn't reported himself.
But we've just heard there's a serious matter of obtaining employment
with a forged reference. What with the two things together--we must
have him.

Again there is silence. WALTER and COKESON steal glances at
JAMES, who stands staring steadily at the detective.

COKESON., [Expansively] We're very busy at the moment. If you could
make it convenient to call again we might be able to tell you then.

JAMES. [Decisively] I'm a servant of the Law, but I dislike
peaching. In fact, I can't do such a thing. If you want him you
must find him without us.

As he speaks his eye falls on FALDER'S cap, still lying on the
table, and his face contracts.

WISTER. [Noting the gesture--quietly] Very good, sir. I ought to
warn you that, having broken the terms of his licence, he's still a
convict, and sheltering a convict.

JAMES. I shelter no one. But you mustn't come here and ask
questions which it's not my business to answer.

WISTER. [Dryly] I won't trouble you further then, gentlemen.

COKESON. I'm sorry we couldn't give you the information. You quite
understand, don't you? Good-morning!

WISTER turns to go, but instead of going to the door of the
outer office he goes to the door of the clerks' room.

COKESON. The other door.... the other door!

WISTER opens the clerks' door. RUTHS's voice is heard: "Oh,
do!" and FALDER,'S: "I can't !" There is a little pause; then,
with sharp fright, RUTH says: "Who's that?"

WISTER has gone in.

The three men look aghast at the door.

WISTER [From within] Keep back, please!

He comes swiftly out with his arm twisted in FALDER'S. The
latter gives a white, staring look at the three men.

WALTER. Let him go this time, for God's sake!

WISTER. I couldn't take the responsibility, sir.

FALDER. [With a queer, desperate laugh] Good!

Flinging a look back at RUTH, he throws up his head, and goes
out through the outer office, half dragging WISTER after him.

WALTER. [With despair] That finishes him. It'll go on for ever
now.

SWEEDLE can be seen staring through the outer door. There are
sounds of footsteps descending the stone stairs; suddenly a dull
thud, a faint "My God!" in WISTER's voice.

JAMES. What's that?

SWEEDLE dashes forward. The door swings to behind him. There
is dead silence.

WALTER. [Starting forward to the inner room] The woman-she's
fainting!

He and COKESON support the fainting RUTH from the doorway of the
clerks' room.

COKESON. [Distracted] Here, my dear! There, there!

WALTER. Have you any brandy?

COKESON. I've got sherry.

WALTER. Get it, then. Quick!

He places RUTH in a chair--which JAMES has dragged forward.

COKESON. [With sherry] Here! It's good strong sherry. [They try to
force the sherry between her lips.

There is the sound of feet, and they stop to listen.

The outer door is reopened--WISTER and SWEEDLE are seen carrying
some burden.

JAMES. [Hurrying forward] What is it?

They lay the burden doom in the outer office, out of sight, and
all but RUTH cluster round it, speaking in hushed voices.

WISTER. He jumped--neck's broken.

WALTER. Good God!

WISTER. He must have been mad to think he could give me the slip
like that. And what was it--just a few months!

WALTER. [Bitterly] Was that all?

JAMES. What a desperate thing! [Then, in a voice unlike his own]
Run for a doctor--you! [SWEEDLE rushes from the outer office] An
ambulance!

WISTER goes out. On RUTH's face an expression of fear and
horror has been seen growing, as if she dared not turn towards
the voices. She now rises and steals towards them.

WALTER. [Turning suddenly] Look!

The three men shrink back out of her way, one by one, into
COKESON'S room. RUTH drops on her knees by the body.

RUTH. [In a whisper] What is it? He's not breathing. [She
crouches over him] My dear! My pretty!

In the outer office doorway the figures of men am seen standing.

RUTH. [Leaping to her feet] No, no! No, no! He's dead!

[The figures of the men shrink back]

COKESON. [Stealing forward. In a hoarse voice] There, there, poor
dear woman!

At the sound behind her RUTH faces round at him.

COKESON. No one'll touch him now! Never again! He's safe with
gentle Jesus!

RUTH stands as though turned to stone in the doorway staring at
COKESON, who, bending humbly before her, holds out his hand as
one would to a lost dog.



The curtain falls.



The End





Justice by John Galsworthy
Category:
Plays
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