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Full Online Book HomePlaysA Family Man - Act 3 Scene 2
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A Family Man - Act 3 Scene 2 Post by :workforprofit Category :Plays Author :John Galsworthy Date :May 2012 Read :2298

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A Family Man - Act 3 Scene 2

ACT III SCENE II

(Noon the same day.)

(BUILDER'S study. TOPPING is standing by the open window, looking up and down the street. A newspaper boy's voice is heard calling the first edition of his wares. It approaches from the Right.)


TOPPING. Here!

BOY'S VOICE. Right, guv'nor! Johnny Builder up before the beaks! (A paper is pushed up).

TOPPING. (Extending a penny) What's that you're sayin'? You take care!

BOY'S VOICE. It's all 'ere. Johnny Builder--beatin' his wife! Dischawged.

TOPPING. Stop it, you young limb!

BOY'S VOICE. 'Allo! What's the matter wiv you? Why, it's Johnny Builder's house! (Gives a cat-call) 'Ere, buy anuvver! 'E'll want to read about 'isself. (Appealing) Buy anuvver, guv'nor!

TOPPING. Move on!

(He retreats from the window, opening the paper.)

BOY'S VOICE. (Receding) Payper! First edition! J.P. chawged! Payper!

TOPPING. (To himself as he reads) Crimes! Phew! That accounts for them bein' away all night.

(While he is reading, CAMILLE enters from the hall. Here! Have you seen this, Camel--in the Stop Press?)

CAMILLE. No.

(They read eagerly side by side.)

TOPPING. (Finishing aloud) "Tried to prevent her father from forcing her mother to return home with him, and he struck her for so doing. She did not press the charge. The arrested gentleman, who said he acted under great provocation, was discharged with a caution." Well, I'm blowed! He has gone and done it!

CAMILLE. A black eye!

TOPPING. (Gazing at her) Have you had any hand in this? I've seen you making your lovely black eyes at him. You foreigners--you're a loose lot!

CAMILLE. You are drunk!

TOPPING. Not yet, my dear. (Reverting to the paper; philosophically) Well, this little lot's bust up! The favourites will fall down. Johnny Builder! Who'd have thought it?

CAMILLE. He is an obstinate man.

TOPPING. Ah! He's right up against it now. Comes of not knowin' when to stop bein' firm. If you meet a wall with your 'ead, it's any odds on the wall, Camel. Though, if you listened to some, you wouldn't think it. What'll he do now, I wonder? Any news of the mistress?

CAMILLE. (Shaking her head) I have pack her tr-runks.

TOPPING. Why?

CAMILLE. Because she take her jewels yesterday.

TOPPING. Deuce she did! They generally leave 'em. Take back yer gifts! She throws the baubles at 'is 'ead. (Again staring at her) You're a deep one, you know!

(There is the sound of a cab stopping.)

Wonder if that's him!

(He goes towards the hall. CAMILLE watchfully shifts towards the diningroom door. MAUD enters.)

MAUD. Is my father back, Topping?

TOPPING. Not yet, Miss.

MAUD. I've come for mother's things.

CAMILLE. They are r-ready.

MAUD. (Eyeing her) Topping, get them down, please.

(TOPPING, after a look at them both, goes out into the hall.)

Very clever of you to have got them ready.

CAMILLE. I am clevare.

MAUD. (Almost to herself) Yes--father may, and he may not.

CAMILLE. Look! If you think I am a designing woman, you are mistook. I know when things are too 'ot. I am not sorry to go.

MAUD. Oh! you are going?

CAMILLE. Yes, I am going. How can I stay when there is no lady in the 'ouse?

MAUD. Not even if you're asked to?

CAMILLE. Who will ask me?

MAUD. That we shall see.

CAMILLE. Well, you will see I have an opinion of my own.

MAUD. Oh! yes, you're clear-headed enough.

CAMILLE. I am not arguing. Good-morning!

(Exits up Left.)

(MAUD regards her stolidly as she goes out into the dining-room, then takes up the paper and reads.)

MAUD. Horrible!

(TOPPING re-enters from the hall.)

TOPPING. I've got 'em on the cab, Miss. I didn't put your ten bob on yesterday, because the animal finished last. You cant depend on horses.

MAUD. (Touching the newspaper) This is a frightful business, Topping.

TOPPING. Ah! However did it happen, Miss Maud?

MAUD. (Tapping the newspaper) It's all true. He came after my mother to Miss Athene's, and I--I couldn't stand it. I did what it says here; and now I'm sorry. Mother's dreadfully upset. You know father as well as anyone, Topping; what do you think he'll do now?

TOPPING. (Sucking in his cheeks) Well, you see, Miss, it's like this: Up to now Mr Builder's always had the respect of everybody--

(MAUD moves her head impatiently.)

outside his own house, of course. Well, now he hasn't got it. Pishchologically that's bound to touch him.

MAUD. Of course; but which way? Will he throw up the sponge, or try and stick it out here?

TOPPING. He won't throw up the sponge, Miss; more likely to squeeze it down the back of their necks.

MAUD. He'll be asked to resign, of course.

(The NEWSPAPER BOY'S VOICE is heard again approaching: "First edition! Great sensation! Local magistrate before the Bench! Pay-per!")

Oh, dear! I wish I hadn't! But I couldn't see mother being--

TOPPING. Don't you fret, Miss; he'll come through. His jaw's above his brow, as you might say.

MAUD. What?

TOPPING. (Nodding) Phreenology, Miss. I rather follow that. When the jaw's big and the brow is small, it's a sign of character. I always think the master might have been a Scotchman, except for his fishionomy.

MAUD. A Scotsman?

TOPPING. So down on anything soft, Miss. Haven't you noticed whenever one of these 'Umanitarians writes to the papers, there's always a Scotchman after him next morning. Seems to be a fact of 'uman nature, like introducin' rabbits into a new country and then weasels to get rid of 'em. And then something to keep down the weasels. But I never can see what could keep down a Scotchman! You seem to reach the hapex there!

MAUD. Miss Athene was married this morning, Topping. We've just come from the Registrar's.

TOPPING. (Immovably) Indeed, Miss. I thought perhaps she was about to be.

MAUD. Oh!

TOPPING. Comin' events. I saw the shadder yesterday.

MAUD. Well, it's all right. She's coming on here with my uncle.

(A cab is heard driving up.)

That's them, I expect. We all feel awful about father.

TOPPING. Ah! I shouldn't be surprised if he feels awful about you, Miss.

MAUD. (At the window) It is them.

(TOPPING goes out into the hall; ATHENE and RALPH enter Right.)

MAUD. Where's father, Uncle Ralph?

RALPH. With his solicitor.

ATHENE. We left Guy with mother at the studio. She still thinks she ought to come. She keeps on saying she must, now father's in a hole.

MAUD. I've got her things on the cab; she ought to be perfectly free to choose.

RALPH. You've got freedom on the brain, Maud.

MAUD. So would you, Uncle Ralph, if you had father about.

RALPH. I'm his partner, my dear.

MAUD. Yes; how do you manage him?

RALPH. I've never yet given him in charge.

ATHENE. What do you do, Uncle Ralph?

RALPH. Undermine him when I can.

MAUD. And when you can't?

RALPH. Undermine the other fellow. You can't go to those movie people now, Maud. They'd star you as the celebrated Maud Builder who gave her father into custody. Come to us instead, and have perfect freedom, till all this blows over.

MAUD. Oh! what will father be like now?

ATHENE. It's so queer you and he being brothers, Uncle Ralph.

RALPH. There are two sides to every coin, my dear. John's the head-and I'm the tail. He has the sterling qualities. Now, you girls have got to smooth him down, and make up to him. You've tried him pretty high.

MAUD. (Stubbornly) I never wanted him for a father, Uncle.

RALPH. They do wonderful things nowadays with inherited trouble. Come, are you going to be nice to him, both of you?

ATHENE. We're going to try.

RALPH. Good! I don't even now understand how it happened.

MAUD. When you went out with Guy, it wasn't three minutes before he came. Mother had just told us about--well, about something beastly. Father wanted us to go, and we agreed to go out for five minutes while he talked to mother. We went, and when we came back he told me to get a cab to take mother home. Poor mother stood there looking like a ghost, and he began hunting and hauling her towards the door. I saw red, and instead of a cab I fetched that policeman. Of course father did black his eye. Guy was splendid.

ATHENE. You gave him the lead.

MAUD. I couldn't help it, seeing father standing there all dumb.

ATHENE. It was awful! Uncle, why didn't you come back with Guy?

MAUD. Oh, yes! why didn't you, Uncle?

ATHENE. When Maud had gone for the cab, I warned him not to use force. I told him it was against the law, but he only said: "The law be damned!"

RALPH. Well, it all sounds pretty undignified.

MAUD. Yes; everybody saw red.

(They have not seen the door opened from the hall, and BUILDER standing there. He is still unshaven, a little sunken in the face, with a glum, glowering expression. He has a document in his hand. He advances a step or two and they see him.)

ATHENE and MAUD. (Aghast) Father!

BUILDER. Ralph, oblige me! See them off the premises!

RALPH. Steady, John!

BUILDER. Go!

MAUD. (Proudly) All right! We thought you might like to know that Athene's married, and that I've given up the movies. Now we'll go.

(BUILDER turns his back on them, and, sitting down at his writing-table, writes.)

(After a moment's whispered conversation with their Uncle, the two girls go out.)

(RALPH BUILDER stands gazing with whimsical commiseration at his brother's back. As BUILDER finishes writing, he goes up and puts his hand on his brother's shoulder.)

RALPH. This is an awful jar, old man!

BUILDER. Here's what I've said to that fellow:

"MR MAYOR,--You had the effrontery to-day to discharge me with a caution--forsooth!--your fellow --magistrate. I've consulted my solicitor as to whether an action will lie for false imprisonment. I'm informed that it won't. I take this opportunity of saying that justice in this town is a travesty. I have no wish to be associated further with you or your fellows; but you are vastly mistaken if you imagine that I shall resign my position on the Bench or the Town Council.--Yours, "JOHN BUILDER."

RALPH. I say--keep your sense of humour, old boy.

BUILDER. (Grimly) Humour? I've spent a night in a cell. See this! (He holds out the document) It disinherits my family.

RALPH. John!

BUILDER. I've done with those two ladies. As to my wife--if she doesn't come back--! When I suffer, I make others suffer.

RALPH. Julia's very upset, my dear fellow; we all are. The girls came here to try and--

BUILDER. (Rising) They may go to hell! If that lousy Mayor thinks I'm done with--he's mistaken! (He rings the bell) I don't want any soft sawder. I'm a fighter.

RALPH. (In a low voice) The enemy stands within the gate, old chap.

BUILDER. What's that?

RALPH. Let's boss our own natures before we boss those of other people. Have a sleep on it, John, before you do anything.

BUILDER. Sleep? I hadn't a wink last night. If you'd passed the night I had--

RALPH. I hadn't many myself.

(TOPPING enters.)

BUILDER. Take this note to the Mayor with my compliments, and don't bring back an answer. TOPPING. Very good, sir. There's a gentleman from the "Comet" in the hall, sir. Would you see him for a minute, he says.

BUILDER. Tell him to go to--

(A voice says, "Mr Builder!" BUILDER turns to see the figure of the JOURNALIST in the hall doorway. TOPPING goes out.)

JOURNALIST. (Advancing with his card) Mr Builder, it's very good of you to see me. I had the pleasure this morning--I mean--I tried to reach you when you left the Mayor's. I thought you would probably have your own side of this unfortunate matter. We shall be glad to give it every prominence.

(TOPPING has withdrawn, and RALPH BUILDER, at the window, stands listening.)

BUILDER. (Drily, regarding the JOURNALIST, who has spoken in a pleasant and polite voice) Very good of you!

JOURNALIST. Not at all, sir. We felt that you would almost certainly have good reasons of your own which would put the matter in quite a different light.

BUILDER. Good reasons? I should think so! I tell you--a very little more of this liberty--licence I call it--and there isn't a man who'll be able to call himself head of a family.

JOURNALIST. (Encouragingly) Quite!

BUILDER. If the law thinks it can back up revolt, it's damned well mistaken. I struck my daughter--I was in a passion, as you would have been.

JOURNALIST. (Encouraging) I'm sure--

BUILDER. (Glaring at him) Well, I don't know that you would; you look a soft sort; but any man with any blood in him.

JOURNALIST. Can one ask what she was doing, sir? We couldn't get that point quite clear.

BUILDER. Doing? I just had my arm round my wife, trying to induce her to come home with me after a little family tiff, and this girl came at me. I lost my temper, and tapped her with my cane. And--that policeman brought by my own daughter--a policeman! If the law is going to enter private houses and abrogate domestic authority, where the hell shall we be?

JOURNALIST. (Encouraging) No, I'm sure--I'm sure!

BUILDER. The maudlin sentimentality in these days is absolutely rotting this country. A man can't be master in his own house, can't require his wife to fulfil her duties, can't attempt to control the conduct of his daughters, without coming up against it and incurring odium. A man can't control his employees; he can't put his foot down on rebellion anywhere, without a lot of humanitarians and licence-lovers howling at him.

JOURNALIST. Excellent, Sir; excellent!

BUILDER. Excellent? It's damnable. Here am I--a man who's always tried to do his duty in private life and public--brought up before the Bench-- my God! because I was doing that duty; with a little too much zeal, perhaps--I'm not an angel!

JOURNALIST. No! No! of course.

BUILDER. A proper Englishman never is. But there are no proper Englishmen nowadays.

(He crosses the room in his fervour.)

RALPH. (Suddenly) As I look at faces--

BUILDER. (Absorbed) What! I told this young man I wasn't an angel.

JOURNALIST. (Drawing him on) Yes, Sir; I quite understand.

BUILDER. If the law thinks it can force me to be one of your weak-kneed sentimentalists who let everybody do what they like--

RALPH. There are a good many who stand on their rights left, John.

BUILDER. (Absorbed) What! How can men stand on their rights left?

JOURNALIST. I'm afraid you had a painful experience, sir.

BUILDER. Every kind of humiliation. I spent the night in a stinking cell. I haven't eaten since breakfast yesterday. Did they think I was going to eat the muck they shoved in? And all because in a moment of anger--which I regret, I regret!--I happened to strike my daughter, who was interfering between me and my wife. The thing would be funny if it weren't so disgusting. A man's house used to be sanctuary. What is it now? With all the world poking their noses in?

(He stands before the fire with his head bent, excluding as it were his interviewer and all the world.)

JOURNALIST. (Preparing to go) Thank you very much, Mr Builder. I'm sure I can do you justice. Would you like to see a proof?

BUILDER. (Half conscious of him) What?

JOURNALIST. Or will you trust me?

BUILDER. I wouldn't trust you a yard.

JOURNALIST. (At the door) Very well, sir; you shall have a proof, I promise. Good afternoon, and thank you.

BUILDER. Here!

(But he is gone, and BUILDER is left staring at his brother, on whose face is still that look of whimsical commiseration.)

RALPH. Take a pull, old man! Have a hot bath and go to bed.

BUILDER. They've chosen to drive me to extremes, now let them take the consequences. I don't care a kick what anybody thinks.

RALPH. (Sadly) Well, I won't worry you anymore, now.

BUILDER. (With a nasty laugh) No; come again to-morrow!

RALPH. When you've had a sleep. For the sake of the family name, John, don't be hasty.

BUILDER. Shut the stable door? No, my boy, the horse has gone.

RALPH. Well, Well!

(With a lingering look at his brother, who has sat down sullenly at the writing table, he goes out into the hall.)

(BUILDER remains staring in front of him. The dining-room door opens, and CAMILLE's head is thrust in. Seeing him, she draws back, but he catches sight of her.)

BUILDER. Here!

CAMILLE comes doubtfully up to the writing table. Her forehead is puckered as if she were thinking hard.

BUILDER. (Looking at her, unsmiling) So you want to be my mistress, do you?

(CAMILLE makes a nervous gesture.)

Well, you shall. Come here.

CAMILLE. (Not moving) You f--frighten me.

BUILDER. I've paid a pretty price for you. But you'll make up for it; you and others.

CAMILLE. (Starting back) No; I don't like you to-day! No!

BUILDER. Come along! (She is just within reach and he seizes her arm) All my married life I've put a curb on myself for the sake of respectability. I've been a man of principle, my girl, as you saw yesterday. Well, they don't want that! (He draws her close) You can sit on my knee now.

CAMILLE. (Shrinking) No; I don't want to, to-day.

BUILDER. But you shall. They've asked for it!

CAMILLE. (With a supple movement slipping away from him) They? What is all that? I don't want any trouble. No, no; I am not taking any.

(She moves back towards the door. BUILDER utters a sardonic laugh.)

Oh! you are a dangerous man! No, no! Not for me! Good-bye, sare!

(She turns swiftly and goes out. BUILDER again utters his glum laugh. And then, as he sits alone staring before him, perfect silence reigns in the room. Over the window-sill behind him a BOY'S face is seen to rise; it hangs there a moment with a grin spreading on it.)

BOY'S VOICE. (Sotto) Johnny Builder!

(As BUILDER turns sharply, it vanishes.)

'Oo beat 'is wife?

(BUILDER rushes to the window.)

BOY'S VOICE. (More distant and a little tentative) Johnny Builder!

BUILDER. You little devil! If I catch you, I'll wring your blasted little neck!

BOY'S VOICE. (A little distant) 'Oo blacked the copper's eye?

(BUILDER, in an ungovernable passion, seizes a small flower-pot from the sill and dings it with all his force. The sound of a crash.)

BOY'S VOICE. (Very distant) Ya-a-ah! Missed!

(BUILDER stands leaning out, face injected with blood, shaking his fist.)

(The CURTAIN falls for a few seconds.)

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