BUILDER's study is dim and neglected-looking; the window is still
open, though it has become night. A street lamp outside shines in,
and the end of its rays fall on BUILDER asleep. He is sitting in a
high chair at the fireside end of the writing-table, with his elbows
on it, and his cheek resting on his hand. He is still unshaven, and
his clothes unchanged. A Boy's head appears above the level of the
window-sill, as if beheaded and fastened there.
BOY'S VOICE [In a forceful whisper] Johnny Builder!
BUILDER stirs uneasily. The Boy's head vanishes. BUILDER, raising
his other hand, makes a sweep before his face, as if to brush away a
mosquito. He wakes. Takes in remembrance, and sits a moment
staring gloomily before him. The door from the hall is opened and
TOPPING comes in with a long envelope in his hand.
TOPPING [Approaching] From the "Comet," sir. Proof of your interview,
sir; will you please revise, the messenger says; he wants to take it back
TOPPING withdraws. BUILDER turns up a standard lamp on the table,
opens the envelope, and begins reading the galley slip. The signs
of uneasiness and discomfort grow on him.
Did I say that? Muck! Muck! [He drops the proof, sits a
moment moving his head and rubbing one hand uneasily on the surface of
the table, then reaches out for the telephone receiver] Town, 245.
[Pause] The "Comet"? John Builder. Give me the Editor. [Pause] That
you, Mr Editor? John Builder speaking. That interview. I've got the
proof. It won't do. Scrap the whole thing, please. I don't want to say
anything. [Pause] Yes. I know I said it all; I can't help that.
[Pause] No; I've changed my mind. Scrap it, please. [Pause] No,
I will not say anything. [Pause] You can say what you dam' well please.
[Pause] I mean it; if you put a word into my mouth, I'll sue you for
defamation of character. It's undignified muck. I'm tearing it up.
Good-night. [He replaces the receiver, and touches a bell; then, taking
up the galley slip, he tears it viciously across into many pieces, and
rams them into the envelope.]
Well, you--you made it difficult for me. 'Ang it all! Put
yourself into my place!
BUILDER [Grimly] I'd rather put you into mine, as it was last night.
Yes, yes! I know; but the Bench has got a name to keep up--must
stand well in the people's eyes. As it is, I sailed very near the wind.
Suppose we had an ordinary person up before us for striking a woman?
I didn't strike a woman--I struck my daughter.
Well, but she's not a child, you know. And you did resist the
police, if no worse. Come! You'd have been the first to maintain
British justice. Shake 'ands!
Splendid isolation. No wife, no daughters, no Councillorship,
no Magistracy, no future--[With a laugh] not even a French maid. And
why? Because I tried to exercise a little wholesome family authority.
That's the position you're facing, Mayor.
Dear, dear! You're devilish bitter, Builder. It's unfortunate,
this publicity. But it'll all blow over; and you'll be back where you
were. You've a good sound practical sense underneath your temper. [A
pause] Come, now! [A pause] Well, I'll say good-night, then.
BUILDER remains motionless for a minute, then resumes his seat at
the side of the writing table, leaning his head on his hands.
The Boy's head is again seen rising above the level of the window-
sill, and another and another follows, till the three, as if
decapitated, heads are seen in a row.
BOYS' VOICES [One after another in a whispered crescendo] Johnny
Builder! Johnny Builder! Johnny Builder!
BUILDER rises, turns and stares at them. The THREE HEADS disappear,
and a Boy's voice cries shrilly: "Johnny Builder!" BUILDER moves
towards the window; voices are now crying in various pitches and
keys: "Johnny Builder!" "Beatey Builder!" "Beat 'is wife-er!"
BUILDER stands quite motionless, staring, with the street lamp
lighting up a queer, rather pitiful defiance on his face. The
voices swell. There comes a sudden swish and splash of water, and
broken yells of dismay.
TOPPING [Filling the pipe] You'll excuse me, sir; the Missis--has come
BUILDER stares at him and TOPPING stops. He hands BUILDER the
filled pipe and a box of matches.
BUILDER [With a shiver] Light the fire, Topping. I'm chilly.
While TOPPING lights the fire BUILDER puts the pipe in his mouth and
applies a match to it. TOPPING, having lighted the fire, turns to
go, gets as far as half way, then comes back level with the table
and regards the silent brooding figure in the chair.
BUILDER [Suddenly] Give me that paper on the table. No; the other
TOPPING has gone. BUILDER sits drawing at his pipe between the
firelight and the light from the standard lamp. He takes the pipe
out of his mouth and a quiver passes over his face. With a half
angry gesture he rubs the back of his hand across his eyes.
BUILDER [To himself] Pluck! Pluck! [His lips quiver again. He
presses them hard together, puts his pipe back into his mouth, and,
taking the Will, thrusts it into the newly-lighted fire and holds it
there with a poker.]
While he is doing this the door from the hall is opened quietly, and
MRS BUILDER enters without his hearing her. She has a work bag in
her hand. She moves slowly to the table, and stands looking at him.
Then going up to the curtains she mechanically adjusts them, and
still keeping her eyes on BUILDER, comes down to the table and pours
out his usual glass of whisky toddy. BUILDER, who has become
conscious of her presence, turns in his chair as she hands it to
him. He sits a moment motionless, then takes it from her, and
squeezes her hand. MRS BUILDER goes silently to her usual chair
below the fire, and taking out some knitting begins to knit.
BUILDER makes an effort to speak, does not succeed, and sits drawing
at his pipe.