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Full Online Book HomePlaysThe Silver Box: A Comedy In Three Acts - Act 2 - Scene 1
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The Silver Box: A Comedy In Three Acts - Act 2 - Scene 1 Post by :Gerald_Yancey Category :Plays Author :John Galsworthy Date :May 2012 Read :845

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The Silver Box: A Comedy In Three Acts - Act 2 - Scene 1

ACT II - SCENE I

(The JONES's lodgings, Merthyr Street, at half-past two o'clock.

The bare room, with tattered oilcloth and damp, distempered walls, has an air of tidy wretchedness. On the bed lies JONES, half-dressed; his coat is thrown across his feet, and muddy boots are lying on the floor close by. He is asleep. The door is opened and MRS. JONES comes in, dressed in a pinched black jacket and old black sailor hat; she carries a parcel wrapped up in the "Times." She puts her parcel down, unwraps an apron, half a loaf, two onions, three potatoes, and a tiny piece of bacon. Taking a teapot from the cupboard, she rinses it, shakes into it some powdered tea out of a screw of paper, puts it on the hearth, and sitting in a wooden chair quietly begins to cry.)

JONES. (Stirring and yawning.) That you? What's the time?

MRS. JONES. (Drying her eyes, and in her usual voice.) Half-past two.

JONES. What you back so soon for?

MRS. JONES. I only had the half day to-day, Jem.

JONES. (On his back, and in a drowsy voice.) Got anything for dinner?

MRS. JONES. Mrs. BARTHWICK's cook gave me a little bit of bacon. I'm going to make a stew. (She prepares for cooking.) There's fourteen shillings owing for rent, James, and of course I 've only got two and fourpence. They'll be coming for it to-day.

JONES. (Turning towards her on his elbow.) Let 'em come and find my surprise packet. I've had enough o' this tryin' for work. Why should I go round and round after a job like a bloomin' squirrel in a cage. "Give us a job, sir"--"Take a man on"--"Got a wife and three children." Sick of it I am! I 'd sooner lie here and rot. "Jones, you come and join the demonstration; come and 'old a flag, and listen to the ruddy orators, and go 'ome as empty as you came." There's some that seems to like that--the sheep! When I go seekin' for a job now, and see the brutes lookin' me up an' down, it's like a thousand serpents in me. I 'm not arskin' for any treat. A man wants to sweat hisself silly and not allowed that's a rum start, ain't it? A man wants to sweat his soul out to keep the breath in him and ain't allowed--that's justice that's freedom and all the rest of it! (He turns his face towards the wall.) You're so milky mild; you don't know what goes on inside o' me. I'm done with the silly game. If they want me, let 'em come for me!

(MRS. JONES stops cooking and stands unmoving at the table.)

I've tried and done with it, I tell you. I've never been afraid of what 's before me. You mark my words--if you think they've broke my spirit, you're mistook. I 'll lie and rot sooner than arsk 'em again. What makes you stand like that--you long-sufferin', Gawd-forsaken image--that's why I can't keep my hands off you. So now you know. Work! You can work, but you have n't the spirit of a louse!

MRS. JONES. (Quietly.) You talk more wild sometimes when you're yourself, James, than when you 're not. If you don't get work, how are we to go on? They won't let us stay here; they're looking to their money to-day, I know.

JONES. I see this BARTHWICK o' yours every day goin' down to Pawlyment snug and comfortable to talk his silly soul out; an' I see that young calf, his son, swellin' it about, and goin' on the razzle-dazzle. Wot 'ave they done that makes 'em any better than wot I am? They never did a day's work in their lives. I see 'em day after day.

MRS. JONES. And I wish you wouldn't come after me like that, and hang about the house. You don't seem able to keep away at all, and whatever you do it for I can't think, because of course they notice it.

JONES. I suppose I may go where I like. Where may I go? The other day I went to a place in the Edgware Road. "Gov'nor," I says to the boss, "take me on," I says. "I 'aven't done a stroke o' work not these two months; it takes the heart out of a man," I says; "I 'm one to work; I 'm not afraid of anything you can give me!" "My good man," 'e says, "I 've had thirty of you here this morning. I took the first two," he says, "and that's all I want." "Thank you, then rot the world!" I says. "Blasphemin'," he says, "is not the way to get a job. Out you go, my lad!" (He laughs sardonically.) Don't you raise your voice because you're starvin'; don't yer even think of it; take it lyin' down! Take it like a sensible man, carn't you? And a little way down the street a lady says to me: (Pinching his voice) "D' you want to earn a few pence, my man?" and gives me her dog to 'old outside a shop-fat as a butler 'e was--tons o' meat had gone to the makin' of him. It did 'er good, it did, made 'er feel 'erself that charitable, but I see 'er lookin' at the copper standin' alongside o' me, for fear I should make off with 'er bloomin' fat dog. (He sits on the edge of the bed and puts a boot on. Then looking up.) What's in that head o' yours? (Almost pathetically.) Carn't you speak for once?

(There is a knock, and MRS. SEDDON, the landlady, appears, an anxious, harassed, shabby woman in working clothes.)

MRS. SEDDON. I thought I 'eard you come in, MRS. JONES. I 've spoke to my 'usband, but he says he really can't afford to wait another day.

JONES. (With scowling jocularity.) Never you mind what your 'usband says, you go your own way like a proper independent woman. Here, jenny, chuck her that.

(Producing a sovereign from his trousers pocket, he throws it to his wife, who catches it in her apron with a gasp. JONES resumes the lacing of his boots.)

MRS. JONES. (Rubbing the sovereign stealthily.) I'm very sorry we're so late with it, and of course it's fourteen shillings, so if you've got six that will be right.

(MRS. SEDDON takes the sovereign and fumbles for the change.)

JONES. (With his eyes fixed on his boots.) Bit of a surprise for yer, ain't it?

MRS. SEDDON. Thank you, and I'm sure I'm very much obliged. (She does indeed appear surprised.) I 'll bring you the change.

JONES. (Mockingly.) Don't mention it.

MRS. SEDDON. Thank you, and I'm sure I'm very much obliged. (She slides away.)

(MRS. JONES gazes at JONES who is still lacing up his boots.)

JONES. I 've had a bit of luck. (Pulling out the crimson purse and some loose coins.) Picked up a purse--seven pound and more.

MRS. JONES. Oh, James!

JONES. Oh, James! What about Oh, James! I picked it up I tell you. This is lost property, this is!

MRS. JONES. But is n't there a name in it, or something?

JONES. Name? No, there ain't no name. This don't belong to such as 'ave visitin' cards. This belongs to a perfec' lidy. Tike an' smell it. (He pitches her the purse, which she puts gently to her nose.) Now, you tell me what I ought to have done. You tell me that. You can always tell me what I ought to ha' done, can't yer?

MRS. JONES. (Laying down the purse.) I can't say what you ought to have done, James. Of course the money was n't yours; you've taken somebody else's money.

JONES. Finding's keeping. I 'll take it as wages for the time I 've gone about the streets asking for what's my rights. I'll take it for what's overdue, d' ye hear? (With strange triumph.) I've got money in my pocket, my girl.

(MRS. JONES goes on again with the preparation of the meal, JONES looking at her furtively.)

Money in my pocket! And I 'm not goin' to waste it. With this 'ere money I'm goin' to Canada. I'll let you have a pound.

(A silence.)

You've often talked of leavin' me. You 've often told me I treat you badly--well I 'ope you 'll be glad when I 'm gone.

MRS. JONES. (Impassively.) You have, treated me very badly, James, and of course I can't prevent your going; but I can't tell whether I shall be glad when you're gone.

JONES. It'll change my luck. I 've 'ad nothing but bad luck since I first took up with you. (More softly.) And you've 'ad no bloomin' picnic.

MRS. JONES. Of course it would have been better for us if we had never met. We were n't meant for each other. But you're set against me, that's what you are, and you have been for a long time. And you treat me so badly, James, going after that Rosie and all. You don't ever seem to think of the children that I 've had to bring into the world, and of all the trouble I 've had to keep them, and what 'll become of them when you're gone.

JONES. (Crossing the room gloomily.) If you think I want to leave the little beggars you're bloomin' well mistaken.

MRS. JONES. Of course I know you're fond of them.

JONES. (Fingering the purse, half angrily.) Well, then, you stow it, old girl. The kids 'll get along better with you than when I 'm here. If I 'd ha' known as much as I do now, I 'd never ha' had one o' them. What's the use o' bringin' 'em into a state o' things like this? It's a crime, that's what it is; but you find it out too late; that's what's the matter with this 'ere world.

(He puts the purse back in his pocket.)

MRS. JONES. Of course it would have been better for them, poor little things; but they're your own children, and I wonder at you talkin' like that. I should miss them dreadfully if I was to lose them.

JONES. (Sullenly.) An' you ain't the only one. If I make money out there--(Looking up, he sees her shaking out his coat--in a changed voice.) Leave that coat alone!

(The silver box drops from the pocket, scattering the cigarettes upon the bed. Taking up the box she stares at it; he rushes at her and snatches the box away.)

MRS. JONES. (Cowering back against the bed.) Oh, Jem! oh, Jem!

JONES. (Dropping the box onto the table.) You mind what you're sayin'! When I go out I 'll take and chuck it in the water along with that there purse. I 'ad it when I was in liquor, and for what you do when you 're in liquor you're not responsible-and that's Gawd's truth as you ought to know. I don't want the thing--I won't have it. I took it out o' spite. I 'm no thief, I tell you; and don't you call me one, or it'll be the worse for you.

MRS. JONES. (Twisting her apron strings.) It's Mr. Barthwick's! You've taken away my reputation. Oh, Jem, whatever made you?

JONES. What d' you mean?

MRS. JONES. It's been missed; they think it's me. Oh! whatever made you do it, Jem?

JONES. I tell you I was in liquor. I don't want it; what's the good of it to me? If I were to pawn it they'd only nab me. I 'm no thief. I 'm no worse than wot that young Barthwick is; he brought 'ome that purse that I picked up--a lady's purse--'ad it off 'er in a row, kept sayin' 'e 'd scored 'er off. Well, I scored 'im off. Tight as an owl 'e was! And d' you think anything'll happen to him?

MRS. JONES. (As though speaking to herself.) Oh, Jem! it's the bread out of our mouths!

JONES. Is it then? I'll make it hot for 'em yet. What about that purse? What about young BARTHWICK?

(MRS. JONES comes forward to the table and tries to take the box; JONES prevents her.) What do you want with that? You drop it, I say!

MRS. JONES. I 'll take it back and tell them all about it. (She attempts to wrest the box from him.)

JONES. Ah, would yer?

(He drops the box, and rushes on her with a snarl. She slips back past the bed. He follows; a chair is overturned. The door is opened; Snow comes in, a detective in plain clothes and bowler hat, with clipped moustaches. JONES drops his arms, MRS. JONES stands by the window gasping; SNOW, advancing swiftly to the table, puts his hand on the silver box.)

SNOW. Doin' a bit o' skylarkin'? Fancy this is what I 'm after. J. B., the very same. (He gets back to the door, scrutinising the crest and cypher on the box. To MRS. JONES.) I'm a police officer. Are you Mrs. Jones?

MRS. JONES. Yes, Sir.

SNOW. My instructions are to take you on a charge of stealing this box from J. BARTHWICK, Esquire, M.P., of 6, Rockingham Gate. Anything you say may be used against you. Well, Missis?

MRS. JONES. (In her quiet voice, still out of breath, her hand upon her breast.) Of course I did not take it, sir. I never have taken anything that did n't belong to me; and of course I know nothing about it.

SNOW. You were at the house this morning; you did the room in which the box was left; you were alone in the room. I find the box 'ere. You say you did n't take it?

MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, of course I say I did not take it, because I did not.

SNOW. Then how does the box come to be here?

MRS. JONES. I would rather not say anything about it.

SNOW. Is this your husband?

MRS. JONES. Yes, sir, this is my husband, sir.

SNOW. Do you wish to say anything before I take her?

(JONES remains silent, with his head bend down.)

Well then, Missis. I 'll just trouble you to come along with me quietly.

MRS. JONES. (Twisting her hands.) Of course I would n't say I had n't taken it if I had--and I did n't take it, indeed I did n't. Of course I know appearances are against me, and I can't tell you what really happened: But my children are at school, and they'll be coming home--and I don't know what they'll do without me.

SNOW. Your 'usband'll see to them, don't you worry. (He takes the woman gently by the arm.)

JONES. You drop it--she's all right! (Sullenly.) I took the thing myself.

SNOW. (Eyeing him) There, there, it does you credit. Come along, Missis.

JONES. (Passionately.) Drop it, I say, you blooming teck. She's my wife; she 's a respectable woman. Take her if you dare!

SNOW. Now, now. What's the good of this? Keep a civil tongue, and it'll be the better for all of us.

(He puts his whistle in his mouth and draws the woman to the door.)

JONES. (With a rush.) Drop her, and put up your 'ands, or I 'll soon make yer. You leave her alone, will yer! Don't I tell yer, I took the thing myself.

SNOW. (Blowing his whistle.) Drop your hands, or I 'll take you too. Ah, would you?

(JONES, closing, deals him a blow. A Policeman in uniform appears; there is a short struggle and JONES is overpowered. MRS. JONES raises her hands avid drops her face on them.)

(The curtain falls.)

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