WALTER. Good-morning, Cokeson.
COKESON. Morning, Mr. Walter.
WALTER. My father here?
COKESON. [Always with a certain patronage as to a young man who
might be doing better] Mr. James has been here since eleven o'clock.
WALTER. I've been in to see the pictures, at the Guildhall.
COKESON. [Looking at him as though this were exactly what was to be
expected] Have you now--ye--es. This lease of Boulter's--am I to
send it to counsel?
WALTER. What does my father say?
COKESON. 'Aven't bothered him.
WALTER. Well, we can't be too careful.
COKESON. It's such a little thing--hardly worth the fees. I thought
you'd do it yourself.
WALTER. Send it, please. I don't want the responsibility.
COKESON. [With an indescribable air of compassion] Just as you
like. This "right-of-way" case--we've got 'em on the deeds.
WALTER. I know; but the intention was obviously to exclude that bit
of common ground.
COKESON. We needn't worry about that. We're the right side of the
WALTER. I don't like it,
COKESON. [With an indulgent smile] We shan't want to set ourselves
up against the law. Your father wouldn't waste his time doing that.
As he speaks JAMES How comes in from the partners' room. He is
a shortish man, with white side-whiskers, plentiful grey hair,
shrewd eyes, and gold pince-nez.
JAMES. Morning, Walter.
WALTER. How are you, father?
COKESON. [Looking down his nose at the papers in his hand as though
deprecating their size] I'll just take Boulter's lease in to young
Falder to draft the instructions. [He goes out into FALDER'S room.]
WALTER. About that right-of-way case?
JAMES. Oh, well, we must go forward there. I thought you told me
yesterday the firm's balance was over four hundred.
WALTER. So it is.
JAMES. [Holding out the pass-book to his son] Three--five--one, no
recent cheques. Just get me out the cheque-book.
WALTER goes to a cupboard, unlocks a drawer and produces a
JAMES. Tick the pounds in the counterfoils. Five, fifty-four,
seven, five, twenty-eight, twenty, ninety, eleven, fifty-two,
WALTER. [Nodding] Can't understand. Made sure it was over four
JAMES. Give me the cheque-book. [He takes the check-book and cons
the counterfoils] What's this ninety?
WALTER. Who drew it?
WALTER. [Taking the cheque-book] July 7th? That's the day I went
down to look over the Trenton Estate--last Friday week; I came back
on the Tuesday, you remember. But look here, father, it was nine I
drew a cheque for. Five guineas to Smithers and my expenses. It
just covered all but half a crown.
JAMES. [Gravely] Let's look at that ninety cheque. [He sorts the
cheque out from the bundle in the pocket of the pass-book] Seems all
right. There's no nine here. This is bad. Who cashed that
WALTER. [Puzzled and pained] Let's see! I was finishing Mrs.
Reddy's will--only just had time; yes--I gave it to Cokeson.
JAMES. Look at that 't' 'y': that yours?
WALTER. [After consideration] My y's curl back a little; this
JAMES. [As COKESON re-enters from FALDER'S room] We must ask him.
Just come here and carry your mind back a bit, Cokeson. D'you
remember cashing a cheque for Mr. Walter last Friday week--the day
he went to Trenton?
COKESON. Ye-es. Nine pounds.
JAMES. Look at this. [Handing him the cheque.]
COKESON. No! Nine pounds. My lunch was just coming in; and of
course I like it hot; I gave the cheque to Davis to run round to the
bank. He brought it back, all gold--you remember, Mr. Walter, you
wanted some silver to pay your cab. [With a certain contemptuous
compassion] Here, let me see. You've got the wrong cheque.
He takes cheque-book and pass-book from WALTER.
WALTER. Afraid not.
COKESON. [Having seen for himself] It's funny.
JAMES. You gave it to Davis, and Davis sailed for Australia on
Monday. Looks black, Cokeson.
COKESON. [Puzzled and upset] why this'd be a felony! No, no!
there's some mistake.
JAMES. I hope so.
COKESON. There's never been anything of that sort in the office the
twenty-nine years I've been here.
JAMES. [Looking at cheque and counterfoil] This is a very clever
bit of work; a warning to you not to leave space after your figures,
WALTER. [Vexed] Yes, I know--I was in such a tearing hurry that
COKESON. [Suddenly] This has upset me.
JAMES. The counterfoil altered too--very deliberate piece of
swindling. What was Davis's ship?
WALTER. 'City of Rangoon'.
JAMES. We ought to wire and have him arrested at Naples; he can't be
COKESON. His poor young wife. I liked the young man. Dear, oh
dear! In this office!
WALTER. Shall I go to the bank and ask the cashier?
JAMES. [Grimly] Bring him round here. And ring up Scotland Yard.
He goes out through the outer office. JAMES paces the room. He
stops and looks at COKESON, who is disconsolately rubbing the
knees of his trousers.
JAMES. Well, Cokeson! There's something in character, isn't there?
COKESON. [Looking at him over his spectacles] I don't quite take
JAMES. Your story, would sound d----d thin to any one who didn't
COKESON. Ye-es! [He laughs. Then with a sudden gravity] I'm sorry
for that young man. I feel it as if it was my own son, Mr. James.
JAMES. A nasty business!
COKESON. It unsettles you. All goes on regular, and then a thing
like this happens. Shan't relish my lunch to-day.
JAMES. As bad as that, Cokeson?
COKESON. It makes you think. [Confidentially] He must have had
JAMES. Not so fast. We haven't convicted him yet.
COKESON. I'd sooner have lost a month's salary than had this happen.
JAMES. I hope that fellow will hurry up.
COKESON. [Keeping things pleasant for the cashier] It isn't fifty
yards, Mr. James. He won't be a minute.
JAMES. The idea of dishonesty about this office it hits me hard,
He goes towards the door of the partners' room.
SWEEDLE. [Entering quietly, to COKESON in a low voice] She's popped
up again, sir-something she forgot to say to Falder.
COKESON. [Roused from his abstraction] Eh? Impossible. Send her
JAMES. What's that?
COKESON. Nothing, Mr. James. A private matter. Here, I'll come
myself. [He goes into the outer office as JAMES passes into the
partners' room] Now, you really mustn't--we can't have anybody just
RUTH. Not for a minute, sir?
COKESON. Reely! Reely! I can't have it. If you want him, wait
about; he'll be going out for his lunch directly.
RUTH. Yes, sir.
WALTER, entering with the cashier, passes RUTH as she leaves the
COKESON. [To the cashier, who resembles a sedentary dragoon]
Good-morning. [To WALTER] Your father's in there.
WALTER crosses and goes into the partners' room.
COKESON. It's a nahsty, unpleasant little matter, Mr. Cowley. I'm
quite ashamed to have to trouble you.
COWLEY. I remember the cheque quite well. [As if it were a liver]
Seemed in perfect order.
COKESON. Sit down, won't you? I'm not a sensitive man, but a thing
like this about the place--it's not nice. I like people to be open
and jolly together.
COWLEY. Quite so.
COKESON. [Buttonholing him, and glancing toward the partners' room]
Of course he's a young man. I've told him about it before now--
leaving space after his figures, but he will do it.
COWLEY. I should remember the person's face--quite a youth.
COKESON. I don't think we shall be able to show him to you, as a
matter of fact.
JAMES and WALTER have come back from the partners' room.
JAMES. Good-morning, Mr. Cowley. You've seen my son and myself,
you've seen Mr. Cokeson, and you've seen Sweedle, my office-boy. It
was none of us, I take it.
The cashier shakes his head with a smile.
JAMES. Be so good as to sit there. Cokeson, engage Mr. Cowley in
conversation, will you?
He goes toward FALDER'S room.
COKESON. Just a word, Mr. James.
COKESON. You don't want to upset the young man in there, do you?
He's a nervous young feller.
JAMES. This must be thoroughly cleared up, Cokeson, for the sake of
Falder's name, to say nothing of yours.
COKESON. [With Some dignity] That'll look after itself, sir. He's
been upset once this morning; I don't want him startled again.
JAMES. It's a matter of form; but I can't stand upon niceness over a
thing like this--too serious. Just talk to Mr. Cowley.
He opens the door of FALDER'S room.
JAMES. Bring in the papers in Boulter's lease, will you, Falder?
COKESON. [Bursting into voice] Do you keep dogs?
The cashier, with his eyes fixed on the door, does not answer.
COKESON. You haven't such a thing as a bulldog pup you could spare
me, I suppose?
At the look on the cashier's face his jaw drops, and he turns to
see FALDER standing in the doorway, with his eyes fixed on
COWLEY, like the eyes of a rabbit fastened on a snake.
FALDER. [Advancing with the papers] Here they are, sir!
JAMES. [Taking them] Thank you.
FALDER. Do you want me, sir?
JAMES. No, thanks!