It is six o'clock of a November evening, in KEITH DARRANT'S
study. A large, dark-curtained room where the light from a single
reading-lamp falling on Turkey carpet, on books beside a large
armchair, on the deep blue-and-gold coffee service, makes a sort of
oasis before a log fire. In red Turkish slippers and an old brown
velvet coat, KEITH DARRANT sits asleep. He has a dark, clean-cut,
clean-shaven face, dark grizzling hair, dark twisting eyebrows.
[The curtained door away out in the dim part of the room behind
him is opened so softly that he does not wake. LARRY DARRANT
enters and stands half lost in the curtain over the door. A
thin figure, with a worn, high cheek-boned face, deep-sunk blue
eyes and wavy hair all ruffled--a face which still has a certain
beauty. He moves inwards along the wall, stands still again and
utters a gasping sigh. KEITH stirs in his chair.]
KEITH [Rising, with his back to the fire, and staring at his
brother] What is it, man ? [Then with a brutality born of nerves
suddenly ruffled] Have you committed a murder that you stand there
like a fish?
KEITH [With vigorous disgust] By Jove ! Drunk again ! [In a
voice changed by sudden apprehension] What do you mean by coming
here in this state? I told you---- If you weren't my brother----!
Come here, where I can we you! What's the matter with you, Larry?
With a lurch LARRY leaves the shelter of the wall and sinks into
a chair in the circle of light.
A Polish girl. She--her father died over here when she was
sixteen, and left her all alone. There was a mongrel living in the
same house who married her--or pretended to. She's very pretty,
Keith. He left her with a baby coming. She lost it, and nearly
starved. Then another fellow took her on, and she lived with him two
years, till that brute turned up again and made her go back to him.
He used to beat her black and blue. He'd left her again when--I met
her. She was taking anybody then. [He stops, passes his hand over
his lips, looks up at KEITH, and goes on defiantly] I never met a
sweeter woman, or a truer, that I swear. Woman! She's only twenty
now! When I went to her last night, that devil had found her out
again. He came for me--a bullying, great, hulking brute. Look!
[He touches a dark mark on his forehead] I took his ugly throat, and
when I let go--[He stops and his hands drop.]
Good God! Why, I saw it in the paper this morning. They
were talking of it in the Courts! [He snatches the evening paper
from his armchair, and runs it over anal reads] Here it is again.
"Body of a man was found this morning under an archway in Glove Lane.
>From marks about the throat grave suspicion of foul play are
entertained. The body had apparently been robbed. "My God!
[Suddenly he turns] You saw this in the paper and dreamed it. D'you
understand, Larry?--you dreamed it.
LARRY [Drawing au envelope from his pocket] This dropped out while
we were struggling.
KEITH [Snatching it and reading] "Patrick Walenn"--Was that his
name? "Simon's Hotel, Farrier Street, London." [Stooping, he puts it
in the fire] No!--that makes me---- [He bends to pluck it out, stays
his hand, and stamps it suddenly further in with his foot] What in
God's name made you come here and tell me? Don't you know I'm--I'm
within an ace of a Judgeship?
LARRY [Simply] Yes. You must know what I ought to do. I didn't,
mean to kill him, Keith. I love the girl--I love her. What shall I
LARRY [In a flash] Love!--That swinish brute! A million creatures
die every day, and not one of them deserves death as he did. But but
I feel it here. [Touching his heart] Such an awful clutch, Keith.
Help me if you can, old man. I may be no good, but I've never hurt a
fly if I could help it. [He buries his face in his hands.]
Steady, Larry! Let's think it out. You weren't seen, you
LARRY [Fiercely] So am I. I tell you she's devoted. Did you ever
pick up a lost dog? Well, she has the lost dog's love for me. And I
for her; we picked each other up. I've never felt for another woman
what I feel for her--she's been the saving of me!
KEITH [With a shrug] What made you choose that archway?
KEITH [Grimly] Half-quarter day--yes, your quarter's always spent
by then. If you're to get away--never mind, I can manage the money.
LARRY [Humbly] You're very good, Keith; you've always been very
good to me--I don't know why.
KEITH [Sardonically] Privilege of A brother. As it happens, I'm
thinking of myself and our family. You can't indulge yourself in
killing without bringing ruin. My God! I suppose you realise that
you've made me an accessory after the fact--me, King's counsel--sworn
to the service of the Law, who, in a year or two, will have the
trying of cases like yours! By heaven, Larry, you've surpassed
LARRY [Bringing out a little box] I'd better have done with it.
LARRY [With a strange smite] No. [He holds up a tabloid between
finger and thumb] White magic, Keith! Just one--and they may do
what they like to you, and you won't know it. Snap your fingers at
all the tortures. It's a great comfort! Have one to keep by you?
LARRY [Replacing the box] Not quite! You've never killed a man,
you see. [He gives that crazy laugh.] D'you remember that hammer
when we were boys and you riled me, up in the long room? I had luck
then. I had luck in Naples once. I nearly killed a driver for
beating his poor brute of a horse. But now--! My God! [He covers
KEITH touched, goes up and lays a hand on his shoulder.