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!
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.
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--
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.
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!
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
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.
It's so queer you and he being brothers, Uncle 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.
They do wonderful things nowadays with inherited trouble. Come,
are you going to be nice to him, both of you?
Good! I don't even now understand how it happened.
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.
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.
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,
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
TOPPING has withdrawn, and RALPH BUILDER, at the window, stands
BUILDER [Drily, regarding the JOURNALIST, who has spoken in a pleasant
and polite voice] Very good of you!
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
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.
BUILDER,/b>[Glaring at him] Well, I don't know that you would; you look a
soft sort; but any man with any blood in him.
Can one ask what she was doing, sir? We couldn't get that
point quite clear.
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
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.
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!
BUILDER [Absorbed] What! I told this young man I wasn't an angel.
JOURNALIST [Drawing him on] Yes, Sir; I quite understand.
If the law thinks it can force me to be one of your weak-kneed
sentimentalists who let everybody do what they like--
There are a good many who stand on their rights left, John.
BUILDER [Absorbed] What! How can men stand on their rights left?
I'm afraid you had a painful experience, sir.
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?
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!
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 [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