FALDER turns and goes back into his own room. As he shuts the
door JAMES gives the cashier an interrogative look, and the
JAMES. Sure? This isn't as we suspected.
COWLEY. Quite. He knew me. I suppose he can't slip out of that
COKESON. [Gloomily] There's only the window--a whole floor and a
The door of FALDER'S room is quietly opened, and FALDER, with
his hat in his hand, moves towards the door of the outer office.
JAMES. [Quietly] Where are you going, Falder?
FALDER. To have my lunch, sir.
JAMES. Wait a few minutes, would you? I want to speak to you about
FALDER. Yes, sir. [He goes back into his room.]
COWLEY. If I'm wanted, I can swear that's the young man who cashed
the cheque. It was the last cheque I handled that morning before my
lunch. These are the numbers of the notes he had. [He puts a slip
of paper on the table; then, brushing his hat round] Good-morning!
JAMES. Good-morning, Mr. Cowley!
COWLEY. [To COKESON] Good-morning.
COKESON. [With Stupefaction] Good-morning.
The cashier goes out through the outer office. COKESON sits down
in his chair, as though it were the only place left in the
morass of his feelings.
WALTER. What are you going to do?
JAMES. Have him in. Give me the cheque and the counterfoil.
COKESON. I don't understand. I thought young Davis----
JAMES. We shall see.
WALTER. One moment, father: have you thought it out?
JAMES. Call him in!
COKESON. [Rising with difficulty and opening FALDER'S door;
hoarsely] Step in here a minute.
FALDER. [Impassively] Yes, sir?
JAMES. [Turning to him suddenly with the cheque held out] You know
this cheque, Falder?
FALDER. No, sir.
JADES. Look at it. You cashed it last Friday week.
FALDER. Oh! yes, sir; that one--Davis gave it me.
JAMES. I know. And you gave Davis the cash?
FALDER. Yes, sir.
JAMES. When Davis gave you the cheque was it exactly like this?
FALDER. Yes, I think so, sir.
JAMES. You know that Mr. Walter drew that cheque for nine pounds?
FALDER. No, sir--ninety.
JAMES. Nine, Falder.
FALDER. [Faintly] I don't understand, sir.
JAMES. The suggestion, of course, is that the cheque was altered;
whether by you or Davis is the question.
COKESON. Take your time, take your time.
FALDER. [Regaining his impassivity] Not by me, sir.
JAMES. The cheque was handed to--Cokeson by Mr. Walter at one
o'clock; we know that because Mr. Cokeson's lunch had just arrived.
COKESON. I couldn't leave it.
JAMES. Exactly; he therefore gave the cheque to Davis. It was
cashed by you at 1.15. We know that because the cashier recollects
it for the last cheque he handled before his lunch.
FALDER. Yes, sir, Davis gave it to me because some friends were
giving him a farewell luncheon.
JAMES. [Puzzled] You accuse Davis, then?
FALDER. I don't know, sir--it's very funny.
WALTER, who has come close to his father, says something to him
in a low voice.
JAMES. Davis was not here again after that Saturday, was he?
COKESON. [Anxious to be of assistance to the young man, and seeing
faint signs of their all being jolly once more] No, he sailed on the
JAMES. Was he, Falder?
FALDER. [Very faintly] No, sir.
JAMES. Very well, then, how do you account for the fact that this
nought was added to the nine in the counterfoil on or after Tuesday?
COKESON. [Surprised] How's that?
FALDER gives a sort of lurch; he tries to pull himself together,
but he has gone all to pieces.
JAMES. [Very grimly] Out, I'm afraid, Cokeson. The cheque-book
remained in Mr. Walter's pocket till he came back from Trenton on
Tuesday morning. In the face of this, Falder, do you still deny that
you altered both cheque and counterfoil?
FALDER. No, sir--no, Mr. How. I did it, sir; I did it.
COKESON. [Succumbing to his feelings] Dear, dear! what a thing to
FALDER. I wanted the money so badly, sir. I didn't know what I was
COKESON. However such a thing could have come into your head!
FALDER. [Grasping at the words] I can't think, sir, really! It was
just a minute of madness.
JAMES. A long minute, Falder. [Tapping the counterfoil] Four days
FALDER. Sir, I swear I didn't know what I'd done till afterwards,
and then I hadn't the pluck. Oh! Sir, look over it! I'll pay the
money back--I will, I promise.
JAMES. Go into your room.
FALDER, with a swift imploring look, goes back into his room.
There is silence.
JAMES. About as bad a case as there could be.
COKESON. To break the law like that-in here!
WALTER. What's to be done?
JAMES. Nothing for it. Prosecute.
WALTER. It's his first offence.
JAMES. [Shaking his head] I've grave doubts of that. Too neat a
piece of swindling altogether.
COKESON. I shouldn't be surprised if he was tempted.
JAMES. Life's one long temptation, Cokeson.
COKESON. Ye-es, but I'm speaking of the flesh and the devil, Mr.
James. There was a woman come to see him this morning.
WALTER. The woman we passed as we came in just now. Is it his wife?
COKESON. No, no relation. [Restraining what in jollier
circumstances would have been a wink] A married person, though.
WALTER. How do you know?
COKESON. Brought her children. [Scandalised] There they were
outside the office.
JAMES. A real bad egg.
WALTER. I should like to give him a chance.
JAMES. I can't forgive him for the sneaky way be went to work--
counting on our suspecting young Davis if the matter came to light.
It was the merest accident the cheque-book stayed in your pocket.
WALTER. It must have been the temptation of a moment. He hadn't
JAMES. A man doesn't succumb like that in a moment, if he's a clean
mind and habits. He's rotten; got the eyes of a man who can't keep
his hands off when there's money about.
WALTER. [Dryly] We hadn't noticed that before.
JAMES. [Brushing the remark aside] I've seen lots of those fellows
in my time. No doing anything with them except to keep 'em out of
harm's way. They've got a blind spat.
WALTER. It's penal servitude.
COKESON. They're nahsty places-prisons.
JAMES. [Hesitating] I don't see how it's possible to spare him. Out
of the question to keep him in this office--honesty's the 'sine qua
COKESON. [Hypnotised] Of course it is.
JAMES. Equally out of the question to send him out amongst people
who've no knowledge of his character. One must think of society.
WALTER. But to brand him like this?
JAMES. If it had been a straightforward case I'd give him another
chance. It's far from that. He has dissolute habits.
COKESON. I didn't say that--extenuating circumstances.
JAMES. Same thing. He's gone to work in the most cold-blooded way
to defraud his employers, and cast the blame on an innocent man. If
that's not a case for the law to take its course, I don't know what
WALTER. For the sake of his future, though.
JAMES. [Sarcastically] According to you, no one would ever
WALTER. [Nettled] I hate the idea of it.
COKESON. That's rather 'ex parte', Mr. Walter! We must have
JAMES. This is degenerating into talk.
He moves towards the partners' room.
WALTER. Put yourself in his place, father.
JAMES. You ask too much of me.
WALTER. We can't possibly tell the pressure there was on him.
JAMES. You may depend on it, my boy, if a man is going to do this
sort of thing he'll do it, pressure or no pressure; if he isn't
nothing'll make him.
WALTER. He'll never do it again.
COKESON. [Fatuously] S'pose I were to have a talk with him. We
don't want to be hard on the young man.
JAMES. That'll do, Cokeson. I've made up my mind. [He passes into
the partners' room.
COKESON. [After a doubtful moment] We must excuse your father. I
don't want to go against your father; if he thinks it right.
WALTER. Confound it, Cokeson! why don't you back me up? You know
COKESON. [On his dignity] I really can't say what I feel.
WALTER. We shall regret it.
COKESON. He must have known what he was doing.
WALTER. [Bitterly] "The quality of mercy is not strained."
COKESON. [Looking at him askance] Come, come, Mr. Walter. We must
try and see it sensible.
SWEEDLE. [Entering with a tray] Your lunch, sir.
COKESON. Put it down!
While SWEEDLE is putting it down on COKESON's table, the
detective, WISTER, enters the outer office, and, finding no one
there, comes to the inner doorway. He is a square, medium-sized
man, clean-shaved, in a serviceable blue serge suit and strong
COKESON. [Hoarsely] Here! Here! What are we doing?
WISTER. [To WALTER] From Scotland Yard, sir. Detective-Sergeant
WALTER. [Askance] Very well! I'll speak to my father.
He goes into the partners' room. JAMES enters.
JAMES. Morning! [In answer to an appealing gesture from COKESON]
I'm sorry; I'd stop short of this if I felt I could. Open that door.
[SWEEDLE, wondering and scared, opens it] Come here, Mr. Falder.
As FALDER comes shrinkingly out, the detective in obedience to a
sign from JAMES, slips his hand out and grasps his arm.
FALDER. [Recoiling] Oh! no,--oh! no!
WALTER. Come, come, there's a good lad.
JAMES. I charge him with felony.
FALTER. Oh, sir! There's some one--I did it for her. Let me be
JAMES motions with his hand. At that sign of hardness, FALDER
becomes rigid. Then, turning, he goes out quietly in the
detective's grip. JAMES follows, stiff and erect. SWEEDLE,
rushing to the door with open mouth, pursues them through the
outer office into the corridor. When they have all disappeared
COKESON spins completely round and makes a rush for the outer
COKESON: [Hoarsely] Here! What are we doing?
There is silence. He takes out his handkerchief and mops the
sweat from his face. Going back blindly to his table, sits
down, and stares blankly at his lunch.
The curtain falls.