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Act I


A number of women are sitting working together in a big room not
unlike an old English tithe barn in its timbered construction,
but with windows high up next the roof. It is furnished as a
courthouse, with the floor raised next the walls, and on this
raised flooring a seat for the Sheriff, a rough jury box on his
right, and a bar to put prisoners to on his left. In the well in
the middle is a table with benches round it. A few other benches
are in disorder round the room. The autumn sun is shining warmly
through the windows and the open door. The women, whose dress and
speech are those of pioneers of civilisation in a territory of
the United States of America, are seated round the table and on
the benches, shucking nuts. The conversation is at its height.

**

BABSY [a bumptious young slattern, with some good looks] I say
that a man that would steal a horse would do anything.

LOTTIE [a sentimental girl, neat and clean] Well, I never should
look at it in that way. I do think killing a man is worse any day
than stealing a horse.

HANNAH [elderly and wise] I dont say it's right to kill a man. In
a place like this, where every man has to have a revolver, and
where theres so much to try people's tempers, the men get to be a
deal too free with one another in the way of shooting. God knows
it's hard enough to have to bring a boy into the world and nurse
him up to be a man only to have him brought home to you on a
shutter, perhaps for nothing, or only just to shew that the man
that killed him wasn't afraid of him. But men are like children
when they get a gun in their hands: theyre not content til theyve
used it on somebody.

JESSIE [a good-natured but sharp-tongued, hoity-toity young
woman; Babsy's rival in good looks and her superior in tidiness]
They shoot for the love of it. Look at them at a lynching. Theyre
not content to hang the man; but directly the poor creature is
swung up they all shoot him full of holes, wasting their
cartridges that cost solid money, and pretending they do it in
horror of his wickedness, though half of them would have a
rope round their own necks if all they did was known--let alone
the mess it makes.

LOTTIE. I wish we could get more civilized. I don't like all this
lynching and shooting. I don't believe any of us like it, if the
truth were known.

BABSY. Our Sheriff is a real strong man. You want a strong man
for a rough lot like our people here. He aint afraid to shoot and
he aint afraid to hang. Lucky for us quiet ones, too.

JESSIE. Oh, don't talk to me. I know what men are. Of course he
aint afraid to shoot and he aint afraid to hang. Wheres the risk
in that with the law on his side and the whole crowd at his back
longing for the lynching as if it was a spree? Would one of them
own to it or let him own to it if they lynched the wrong man? Not
them. What they call justice in this place is nothing but a
breaking out of the devil thats in all of us. What I want to see
is a Sheriff that aint afraid not to shoot and not to hang.

EMMA [a sneak who sides with Babsy or Jessie, according to the
fortune of war] Well, I must say it does sicken me to see Sheriff
Kemp putting down his foot, as he calls it. Why don't he put it
down on his wife? She wants it worse than half the men he
lynches. He and his Vigilance Committee, indeed!

BABSY [incensed] Oh, well! if people are going to take the part
of horse-thieves against the Sheriff--!

JESSIE. Who's taking the part of horse-thieves against the
Sheriff?

BABSY. You are. Waitle your own horse is stolen, and youll know
better. I had an uncle that died of thirst in the sage brush
because a negro stole his horse. But they caught him and burned
him; and serve him right, too.

EMMA. I have known that a child was born crooked because its
mother had to do a horse's work that was stolen.

BABSY. There! You hear that? I say stealing a horse is ten times
worse than killing a man. And if the Vigilance Committee ever
gets hold of you, youd better have killed twenty men than as much
as stole a saddle or bridle, much less a horse.

[Elder Daniels comes in.]

ELDER DANIELS. Sorry to disturb you, ladies; but the Vigilance
Committee has taken a prisoner; and they want the room to try him
in.

JESSIE. But they cant try him til Sheriff Kemp comes back from
the wharf.

ELDER DANIELS. Yes; but we have to keep the prisoner here til he
comes.

BABSY. What do you want to put him here for? Cant you tie him up
in the Sheriff's stable?

ELDER DANIELS. He has a soul to be saved, almost like the rest of
us. I am bound to try to put some religion into him before he
goes into his Maker's presence after the trial.

HANNAH. What has he done, Mr Daniels?

ELDER DANIELS. Stole a horse.

BABSY. And are we to be turned out of the town hall for a horse-
thief? Aint a stable good enough for his religion?

ELDER DANIELS. It may be good enough for his, Babsy; but, by your
leave, it is not good enough for mine. While I am Elder here, I
shall umbly endeavour to keep up the dignity of Him I serve to
the best of my small ability. So I must ask you to be good enough
to clear out. Allow me. [He takes the sack of husks and put it
out of the way against the panels of the jury box].

THE WOMEN [murmuring] Thats always the way. Just as we'd settled
down to work. What harm are we doing? Well, it is tiresome. Let
them finish the job themselves. Oh dear, oh dear! We cant have a
minute to ourselves. Shoving us out like that!

HANNAH. Whose horse was it, Mr Daniels?

ELDER DANIELS [returning to move the other sack] I am sorry to
say that it was the Sheriff's horse--the one he loaned to young
Strapper. Strapper loaned it to me; and the thief stole it,
thinking it was mine. If it had been mine, I'd have forgiven him
cheerfully. I'm sure I hoped he would get away; for he had two
hours start of the Vigilance Committee. But they caught him. [He
disposes of the other sack also].

JESSIE. It cant have been much of a horse if they caught him with
two hours start.

ELDER DANIELS [coming back to the centre of the group] The
strange thing is that he wasn't on the horse when they took him.
He was walking; and of course he denies that he ever had the
horse. The Sheriff's brother wanted to tie him up and lash him
till he confessed what he'd done with it; but I couldn't allow
that: it's not the law.

BABSY. Law! What right has a horse-thief to any law? Law is
thrown away on a brute like that.

ELDER DANIELS. Dont say that, Babsy. No man should be made to
confess by cruelty until religion has been tried and failed.
Please God I'll get the whereabouts of the horse from him if
youll be so good as to clear out from this. [Disturbance
outside]. They are bringing him in. Now ladies! please, please.

[They rise reluctantly. Hannah, Jessie, and Lottie retreat to the
Sheriff's bench, shepherded by Daniels; but the other women crowd
forward behind Babsy and Emma to see the prisoner.

Blanco Posnet it brought in by Strapper Kemp, the Sheriff's
brother, and a cross-eyed man called Squinty. Others follow.
Blanco is evidently a blackguard. It would be necessary to clean
him to make a close guess at his age; but he is under forty, and
an upturned, red moustache, and the arrangement of his hair in a
crest on his brow, proclaim the dandy in spite of his intense
disreputableness. He carries his head high, and has a fairly
resolute mouth, though the fire of incipient delirium tremens is
in his eye.

His arms are bound with a rope with a long end, which Squinty
holds. They release him when he enters; and he stretches himself
and lounges across the courthouse in front of the women. Strapper
and the men remain between him and the door.]

BABSY [spitting at him as he passes her] Horse-thief! horse-
thief!

OTHERS. You will hang for it; do you hear? And serve you right.
Serve you right. That will teach you. I wouldn't wait to try you.
Lynch him straight off, the varmint. Yes, yes. Tell the boys.
Lynch him.

BLANCO [mocking] "Angels ever bright and fair--"

BABSY. You call me an angel, and I'll smack your dirty face for
you.

BLANCO. "Take, oh take me to your care."

EMMA. There wont be any angels where youre going to.

OTHERS. Aha! Devils, more likely. And too good company for a
horse-thief.

ALL. Horse-thief! Horse-thief! Horse-thief!

BLANCO. Do women make the law here, or men? Drive these heifers
out.

THE WOMEN. Oh! [They rush at him, vituperating, screaming
passionately, tearing at him. Lottie puts her fingers in her ears
and runs out. Hannah follows, shaking her head. Blanco is thrown
down]. Oh, did you hear what he called us? You foul-mouthed
brute! You liar! How dare you put such a name to a decent woman?
Let me get at him. You coward! Oh, he struck me: did you see
that? Lynch him! Pete, will you stand by and hear me called names
by a skunk like that? Burn him: burn him! Thats what I'd do with
him. Aye, burn him!

THE MEN [pulling the women away from Blanco, and getting them out
partly by violence and partly by coaxing] Here! come out of this.
Let him alone. Clear the courthouse. Come on now. Out with you.
Now, Sally: out you go. Let go my hair, or I'll twist your arm
out. Ah, would you? Now, then: get along. You know you must go.
Whats the use of scratching like that? Now, ladies, ladies,
ladies. How would you like it if you were going to be hanged?

[At last the women are pushed out, leaving Elder Daniels, the
Sheriff's brother Strapper Kemp, and a few others with Blanco.
Strapper is a lad just turning into a man: strong, selfish,
sulky, and determined.]

BLANCO [sitting up and tidying himself]--


Oh woman, in our hours of ease.
Uncertain, coy, and hard to please--

Is my face scratched? I can feel their damned claws all over me
still. Am I bleeding? [He sits on the nearest bench].

ELDER DANIELS. Nothing to hurt. Theyve drawn a drop or two under
your left eye.

STRAPPER. Lucky for you to have an eye left in your head.

BLANCO [wiping the blood off]--


When pain and anguish wring the brow,
A ministering angel thou.

Go out to them, Strapper Kemp; and tell them about your big
brother's little horse that some wicked man stole. Go and cry in
your mammy's lap.

STRAPPER [furious] You jounce me any more about that horse,
Blanco Posnet; and I'll--I'll--

BLANCO. Youll scratch my face, wont you? Yah! Your brother's the
Sheriff, aint he?

STRAPPER. Yes, he is. He hangs horse-thieves.

BLANCO [with calm conviction] He's a rotten Sheriff. Oh, a rotten
Sheriff. If he did his first duty he'd hang himself. This is a
rotten town. Your fathers came here on a false alarm of gold-
digging; and when the gold didn't pan out, they lived by licking
their young into habits of honest industry.

STRAPPER. If I hadnt promised Elder Daniels here to give him a
chance to keep you out of Hell, I'd take the job of twisting your
neck off the hands of the Vigilance Committee.

BLANCO [with infinite scorn] You and your rotten Elder, and your
rotten Vigilance Committee!

STRAPPER. Theyre sound enough to hang a horse-thief, anyhow.

BLANCO. Any fool can hang the wisest man in the country. Nothing
he likes better. But you cant hang me.

STRAPPER. Cant we?

BLANCO. No, you cant. I left the town this morning before
sunrise, because it's a rotten town, and I couldn't bear to see
it in the light. Your brother's horse did the same, as any
sensible horse would. Instead of going to look for the horse, you
went looking for me. That was a rotten thing to do, because the
horse belonged to your brother--or to the man he stole it from--
and I don't belong to him. Well, you found me; but you didn't
find the horse. If I had took the horse, I'd have been on the
horse. Would I have taken all that time to get to where I did if
I'd a horse to carry me?

STRAPPER. I dont believe you started not for two hours after you
say you did.

BLANCO. Who cares what you believe or dont believe? Is a man
worth six of you to be hanged because youve lost your big
brother's horse, and youll want to kill somebody to relieve your
rotten feelings when he licks you for it? Not likely. Till you
can find a witness that saw me with that horse you cant touch me;
and you know it.

STRAPPER. Is that the law, Elder?

ELDER DANIELS. The Sheriff knows the law. I wouldnt say for sure;
but I think it would be more seemly to have a witness. Go and
round one up, Strapper; and leave me here alone to wrestle with
his poor blinded soul.

STRAPPER. I'll get a witness all right enough. I know the road he
took; and I'll ask at every house within sight of it for a mile
out. Come boys.

[Strapper goes out with the others, leaving Blanco and Elder
Daniels together. Blanco rises and strolls over to the Elder,
surveying him with extreme disparagement.]

BLANCO. Well, brother? Well, Boozy Posnet, alias Elder Daniels?
Well, thief? Well, drunkard?

ELDER DANIELS. It's no good, Blanco. Theyll never believe we're
brothers.

BLANCO. Never fear. Do you suppose I want to claim you? Do you
suppose I'm proud of you? Youre a rotten brother, Boozy Posnet.
All you ever did when I owned you was to borrow money from me to
get drunk with. Now you lend money and sell drink to other
people. I was ashamed of you before; and I'm worse ashamed of you
now, I wont have you for a brother. Heaven gave you to me; but I
return the blessing without thanks. So be easy: I shant blab. [He
turns his back on him and sits down].

ELDER DANIELS. I tell you they wouldn't believe you; so what does
it matter to me whether you blab or not? Talk sense, Blanco:
theres no time for your foolery now; for youll be a dead man an
hour after the Sheriff comes back. What possessed you to steal
that horse?

BLANCO. I didnt steal it. I distrained on it for what you owed
me. I thought it was yours. I was a fool to think that you owned
anything but other people's property. You laid your hands on
everything father and mother had when they died. I never asked
you for a fair share. I never asked you for all the money I'd
lent you from time to time. I asked you for mother's old necklace
with the hair locket in it. You wouldn't give me that: you
wouldn't give me anything. So as you refused me my due I took it,
just to give you a lesson.

ELDER DANIELS. Why didnt you take the necklace if you must steal
something? They wouldnt have hanged you for that.

BLANCO. Perhaps I'd rather be hanged for stealing a horse than
let off for a damned piece of sentimentality.

ELDER DANIELS. Oh, Blanco, Blanco: spiritual pride has been your
ruin. If youd only done like me, youd be a free and respectable
man this day instead of laying there with a rope round your neck.

BLANCO [turning on him] Done like you! What do you mean? Drink
like you, eh? Well, Ive done some of that lately. I see things.

ELDER DANIELS. Too late, Blanco: too late. [Convulsively] Oh, why
didnt you drink as I used to? Why didnt you drink as I was led to
by the Lord for my good, until the time came for me to give it
up? It was drink that saved my character when I was a young man;
and it was the want of it that spoiled yours. Tell me this. Did I
ever get drunk when I was working?

BLANCO. No; but then you never worked when you had money enough
to get drunk.

ELDER DANIELS. That just shews the wisdom of Providence and the
Lord's mercy. God fulfils himself in many ways: ways we little
think of when we try to set up our own shortsighted laws against
his Word. When does the Devil catch hold of a man? Not when he's
working and not when he's drunk; but when he's idle and sober.
Our own natures tell us to drink when we have nothing else to do.
Look at you and me! When we'd both earned a pocketful of money,
what did we do? Went on the spree, naturally. But I was humble
minded. I did as the rest did. I gave my money in at the drink-
shop; and I said, "Fire me out when I have drunk it all up." Did
you ever see me sober while it lasted?

BLANCO. No; and you looked so disgusting that I wonder it didn't
set me against drink for the rest of my life.

ELDER DANIELS. That was your spiritual pride, Blanco. You never
reflected that when I was drunk I was in a state of innocence.
Temptations and bad company and evil thoughts passed by me like
the summer wind as you might say: I was too drunk to notice them.
When the money was gone, and they fired me out, I was fired out
like gold out of the furnace, with my character unspoiled and
unspotted; and when I went back to work, the work kept me steady.
Can you say as much, Blanco? Did your holidays leave your
character unspoiled? Oh, no, no. It was theatres: it was
gambling: it was evil company, it was reading in vain romances:
it was women, Blanco, women: it was wrong thoughts and gnawing
discontent. It ended in your becoming a rambler and a gambler: it
is going to end this evening on the gallows tree. Oh, what a
lesson against spiritual pride! Oh, what a--[Blanco throws his
hat at him].

BLANCO. Stow it, Boozy. Sling it. Cut it. Cheese it. Shut up.
"Shake not the dying sinner's hand."

ELDER DANIELS. Aye: there you go, with your scraps of lustful
poetry. But you cant deny what I tell you. Why, do you think I
would put my soul in peril by selling drink if I thought it did
no good, as them silly temperance reformers make out, flying in
the face of the natural tastes implanted in us all for a good
purpose? Not if I was to starve for it to-morrow. But I know
better. I tell you, Blanco, what keeps America to-day the purest
of the nations is that when she's not working she's too drunk to
hear the voice of the tempter.

BLANCO. Dont deceive yourself, Boozy. You sell drink because you
make a bigger profit out of it than you can by selling tea. And
you gave up drink yourself because when you got that fit at
Edwardstown the doctor told you youd die the next time; and that
frightened you off it.

ELDER DANIELS [fervently] Oh thank God selling drink pays me! And
thank God he sent me that fit as a warning that my drinking time
was past and gone, and that he needed me for another service!

BLANCO. Take care, Boozy. He hasnt finished with you yet. He
always has a trick up His sleeve--

ELDER DANIELS. Oh, is that the way to speak of the ruler of the
universe--the great and almighty God?

BLANCO. He's a sly one. He's a mean one. He lies low for you. He
plays cat and mouse with you. He lets you run loose until you
think youre shut of him; and then, when you least expect it, he's
got you.

ELDER DANIELS. Speak more respectful, Blanco--more reverent.

BLANCO [springing up and coming at him] Reverent! Who taught you
your reverent cant? Not your Bible. It says He cometh like a
thief in the night--aye, like a thief--a horse-thief--

ELDER DANIELS [shocked] Oh!

BLANCO [overhearing him] And it's true. Thats how He caught me
and put my neck into the halter. To spite me because I had no use
for Him--because I lived my own life in my own way, and would
have no truck with His "Dont do this," and "You mustnt do that,"
and "Youll go to Hell if you do the other." I gave Him the go-bye
and did without Him all these years. But He caught me out at
last. The laugh is with Him as far as hanging me goes. [He
thrusts his hands into his pockets and lounges moodily away from
Daniels, to the table, where he sits facing the jury box].

ELDER DANIELS. Dont dare to put your theft on Him, man. It was
the Devil tempted you to steal the horse.

BLANCO. Not a bit of it. Neither God nor Devil tempted me to take
the horse: I took it on my own. He had a cleverer trick than that
ready for me. [He takes his hands out of his pockets and clenches
his fists]. Gosh! When I think that I might have been safe and
fifty miles away by now with that horse; and here I am waiting to
be hung up and filled with lead! What came to me? What made me
such a fool? Thats what I want to know. Thats the great secret.

ELDER DANIELS [at the opposite side of the table] Blanco: the
great secret now is, what did you do with the horse?

BLANCO [striking the table with his fist] May my lips be blighted
like my soul if ever I tell that to you or any mortal men! They
may roast me alive or cut me to ribbons; but Strapper Kemp shall
never have the laugh on me over that job. Let them hang me. Let
them shoot. So long as they are shooting a man and not a
sniveling skunk and softy, I can stand up to them and take all
they can give me--game.

ELDER DANIELS. Dont be headstrong, Blanco. Whats the use? [Slyly]
They might let up on you if you put Strapper in the way of
getting his brother's horse back.

BLANCO. Not they. Hanging's too big a treat for them to give up a
fair chance. Ive done it myself. Ive yelled with the dirtiest of
them when a man no worse than myself was swung up. Ive emptied my
revolver into him, and persuaded myself that he deserved it and
that I was doing justice with strong stern men. Well, my turn's
come now. Let the men I yelled at and shot at look up out of Hell
and see the boys yelling and shooting at me as I swing up.

ELDER DANIELS. Well, even if you want to be hanged, is that any
reason why Strapper shouldn't have his horse? I tell you I'm
responsible to him for it. [Bending over the table and coaxing
him]. Act like a brother, Blanco: tell me what you done with it.

BLANCO [shortly, getting up and leaving the table] Never you mind
what I done with it. I was done out of it. Let that be enough for
you.

ELDER DANIELS [following him] Then why don't you put us on to the
man that done you out of it?

BLANCO. Because he'd be too clever for you, just as he was too
clever for me.

FEEMY [reddening, and disengaging her arm from Strapper's] I'm
clean enough to hang you, anyway. [Going over to him
threateningly]. Youre no true American man, to insult a woman
like that.

BLANCO. A woman! Oh Lord! You saw me on a horse, did you?

FEEMY. Yes I did.

BLANCO. Got up early on purpose to do it, didn't you?

FEEMY. No I didn't: I stayed up late on a spree.

BLANCO. I was on a horse, was I?

FEEMY. Yes you were; and if you deny it youre a liar.

BLANCO [to Strapper] She saw a man on a horse when she was too
drunk to tell which was the man and which was the horse--

FEEMY [breaking in] You lie. I wasn't drunk--at least not as drunk
as that.

BLANCO [ignoring the interruption]--and you found a man without a
horse. Is a man on a horse the same as a man on foot? Yah! Take
your witness away. Who's going to believe her? Shove her into the
dustbin. Youve got to find that horse before you get a rope round
my neck. [He turns away from her contemptuously, and sits at the
table with his back to the jury box].

FEEMY [following him] I'll hang you, you dirty horse-thief; or
not a man in this camp will ever get a word or a look from me
again. Youre just trash: thats what you are. White trash.

BLANCO. And what are you, darling? What are you? Youre a worse
danger to a town like this than ten horse-thieves.

FEEMY. Mr Kemp: will you stand by and hear me insulted in that
low way? [To Blanco, spitefully] I'll see you swung up and I'll
see you cut down: I'll see you high and I'll see you low, as
dangerous as I am. [He laughs]. Oh you neednt try to brazen it
out. Youll look white enough before the boys are done with you.

BLANCO. You do me good. Feemy. Stay by me to the end, wont you?
Hold my hand to the last; and I'll die game. [He puts out his
hand: she strikes savagely at it; but he withdraws it in time and
laughs at her discomfiture].

FEEMY. You--

ELDER DANIELS. Never mind him, Feemy: he's not right in his head
to-day. [She receives the assurance with contemptuous credulity,
and sits down on the step of the Sheriff's dais].

Sheriff Kemp comes in: a stout man, with large flat ears, and a
neck thicker than his head.

ELDER DANIELS. Morning, Sheriff.

THE SHERIFF. Morning, Elder. [Passing on.] Morning, Strapper.
[Passing on]. Morning, Miss Evans. [Stopping between Strapper and
Blanco]. Is this the prisoner?

BLANCO [rising] Thats so. Morning, Sheriff.

THE SHERIFF. Morning. You know, I suppose, that if you've stole a
horse and the jury find against you, you wont have any time to
settle your affairs. Consequently, if you feel guilty, youd
better settle em now.

BLANCO. Affairs be damned! Ive got none.

THE SHERIFF. Well, are you in a proper state of mind? Has the
Elder talked to you?

BLANCO. He has. And I say it's against the law. It's torture:
thats what it is.

ELDER DANIELS. He's not accountable. He's out of his mind,
Sheriff. He's not fit to go into the presence of his Maker.

THE SHERIFF. You are a merciful man, Elder; but you wont take the
boys with you there. [To Blanco]. If it comes to hanging you,
youd better for your own sake be hanged in a proper state of mind
than in an improper one. But it wont make any difference to us:
make no mistake about that.

BLANCO. Lord keep me wicked till I die! Now Ive said my little
prayer. I'm ready. Not that I'm guilty, mind you; but this is a
rotten town, dead certain to do the wrong thing.

THE SHERIFF. You wont be asked to live long in it, I guess. [To
Strapper] Got the witness all right, Strapper?

STRAPPER. Yes, got everything.

BLANCO. Except the horse.

THE SHERIFF. Whats that? Aint you got the horse?

STRAPPER. No. He traded it before we overtook him, I guess. But
Feemy saw him on it.

FEEMY. She did.

STRAPPER. Shall I call in the boys?

BLANCO. Just a moment, Sheriff. A good appearance is everything
in a low-class place like this. [He takes out a pocket comb and
mirror, and retires towards the dais to arrange his hair].

ELDER DANIELS. Oh, think of your immortal soul, man, not of your
foolish face.

BLANCO. I cant change my soul, Elder: it changes me--sometimes.
Feemy: I'm too pale. Let me rub my cheek against yours, darling.

FEEMY. You lie: my color's my own, such as it is. And a pretty
color youll be when youre hung white and shot red.

BLANCO. Aint she spiteful, Sheriff?

THE SHERIFF. Time's wasted on you. [To Strapper] Go and see if
the boys are ready. Some of them were short of cartridges, and
went down to the store to buy them. They may as well have their
fun; and itll be shorter for him.

STRAPPER. Young Jack has brought a boxful up. Theyre all ready.

THE SHERIFF [going to the dais and addressing Blanco] Your place
is at the bar there. Take it. [Blanco bows ironically and goes to
the bar]. Miss Evans: youd best sit at the table. [She does so,
at the corner nearest the bar. The Elder takes the opposite
corner. The Sheriff takes his chair]. All ready, Strapper.

STRAPPER [at the door] All in to begin.

(The crowd comes in and fills the court. Babsy, Jessie, and Emma
come to the Sheriff's right; Hannah and Lottie to his left.)

THE SHERIFF. Silence there. The jury will take their places as
usual. [They do so].

BLANCO. I challenge this jury, Sheriff.

THE FOREMAN. Do you, by Gosh?

THE SHERIFF. On what ground?

BLANCO. On the general ground that it's a rotten jury.
[Laughter].

THE SHERIFF. Thats not a lawful ground of challenge.

THE FOREMAN. It's a lawful ground for me to shoot yonder skunk at
sight, first time I meet him, if he survives this trial.

BLANCO. I challenge the Foreman because he's prejudiced.

THE FOREMAN. I say you lie. We mean to hang you, Blanco Posnet;
but you will be hanged fair.

THE JURY. Hear, hear!

STRAPPER [to the Sheriff] George: this is rot. How can you get an
unprejudiced jury if the prisoner starts by telling them theyre
all rotten? If theres any prejudice against him he has himself to
thank for it.

THE BOYS. Thats so. Of course he has. Insulting the court!
Challenge be jiggered! Gag him.

NESTOR [a juryman with a long white beard, drunk, the oldest man
present] Besides, Sheriff, I go so far as to say that the man
that is not prejudiced against a horse-thief is not fit to sit on
a jury in this town.

THE BOYS. Right. Bully for you, Nestor! Thats the straight truth.
Of course he aint. Hear, hear!

THE SHERIFF. That is no doubt true, old man. Still, you must get
as unprejudiced as you can. The critter has a right to his
chance, such as he is. So now go right ahead. If the prisoner
don't like this jury, he should have stole a horse in another
town; for this is all the jury he'll get here.

THE FOREMAN. Thats so, Blanco Posnet.

THE SHERIFF [to Blanco] Dont you be uneasy. You will get justice
here. It may be rough justice; but it is justice.

BLANCO. What is justice?

THE SHERIFF. Hanging horse-thieves is justice; so now you know.
Now then: weve wasted enough time. Hustle with your witness
there, will you?

BLANCO [indignantly bringing down his fist on the bar] Swear the
jury. A rotten Sheriff you are not to know that the jury's got to
be sworn.

THE FOREMAN [galled] Be swore for you! Not likely. What do you
say, old son?

NESTOR [deliberately and solemnly] I say: GUILTY!!!

THE BOYS [tumultuously rushing at Blanco] Thats it. Guilty,
guilty. Take him out and hang him. He's found guilty. Fetch a
rope. Up with him. [They are about to drag him from the bar].

THE SHERIFF [rising, pistol in hand] Hands off that man. Hands
off him, I say, Squinty, or I drop you, and would if you were my
own son. [Dead silence], I'm Sheriff here; and it's for me to say
when he may lawfully be hanged. [They release him].

BLANCO. As the actor says in the play, "a Daniel come to
judgment." Rotten actor he was, too.

THE SHERIFF. Elder Daniel is come to judgment all right, my lad.
Elder: the floor is yours. [The Elder rises]. Give your evidence.
The truth and the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help
you God.

ELDER DANIELS. Sheriff: let me off this. I didn't ought to swear
away this man's life. He and I are, in a manner of speaking,
brothers.

THE SHERIFF. It does you credit, Elder: every man here will
acknowledge it. But religion is one thing: law is another. In
religion we're all brothers. In law we cut our brother off when
he steals horses.

THE FOREMAN. Besides, you neednt hang him, you know. Theres
plenty of willing hands to take that job off your conscience. So
rip ahead, old son.

STRAPPER. Youre accountable to me for the horse until you clear
yourself, Elder: remember that.

BLANCO. Out with it, you fool.

ELDER DANIELS. You might own up, Blanco, as far as my evidence
goes. Everybody knows I borrowed one of the Sheriff's horses from
Strapper because my own's gone lame. Everybody knows you arrived
in the town yesterday and put up in my house. Everybody knows
that in the morning the horse was gone and you were gone.

BLANCO [in a forensic manner] Sheriff: the Elder, though known to
you and to all here as no brother of mine and the rottenest liar
in this town, is speaking the truth for the first time in his
life as far as what he says about me is concerned. As to the
horse, I say nothing; except that it was the rottenest horse you
ever tried to sell.

THE SHERIFF. How do you know it was a rotten horse if you didn't
steal it?

BLANCO. I don't know of my own knowledge. I only argue that if
the horse had been worth its keep, you wouldn't have lent it to
Strapper, and Strapper wouldn't have lent it to this eloquent and
venerable ram. [Suppressed laughter]. And now I ask him this. [To
the Elder] Did we or did we not have a quarrel last evening about
a certain article that was left by my mother, and that I
considered I had a right to more than you? And did you say one
word to me about the horse not belonging to you?

ELDER DANIELS. Why should I? We never said a word about the horse
at all. How was I to know what it was in your mind to do?

BLANCO. Bear witness all that I had a right to take a horse from
him without stealing to make up for what he denied me. I am no
thief. But you havnt proved yet that I took the horse. Strapper
Kemp: had I the horse when you took me, or had I not?

STRAPPER. No, nor you hadnt a railway train neither. But Feemy
Evans saw you pass on the horse at four o'clock twenty-five miles
from the spot where I took you at seven on the road to Pony
Harbor. Did you walk twenty-five miles in three hours? That so,
Feemy, eh?

FEEMY. Thats so. At four I saw him. [To Blanco] Thats done for
you.

THE SHERIFF. You say you saw him on my horse?

FEEMY. I did.

BLANCO. And I ate it, I suppose, before Strapper fetched up with
me. [Suddenly and dramatically] Sheriff: I accuse Feemy of
immoral relations with Strapper.

FEEMY. Oh you liar!

BLANCO. I accuse the fair Euphemia of immoral relations with
every man in this town, including yourself, Sheriff. I say this
is a conspiracy to kill me between Feemy and Strapper because I
wouldn't touch Feemy with a pair of tongs. I say you darent hang
any white man on the word of a woman of bad character. I stand
on the honor and virtue of my American manhood. I say that she's
not had the oath, and that you darent for the honor of the town
give her the oath because her lips would blaspheme the holy Bible
if they touched it. I say thats the law; and if you are a proper
United States Sheriff and not a low-down lyncher, youll hold up
the law and not let it be dragged in the mud by your brother's
kept woman.

[Great excitement among the women. The men much puzzled.]

JESSIE. Thats right. She didn't ought to be let kiss the Book.

EMMA. How could the like of her tell the truth?

BABSY. It would be an insult to every respectable woman here to
believe her.

FEEMY. It's easy to be respectable with nobody ever offering you
a chance to be anything else.

THE WOMEN [clamoring all together] Shut up, you hussy. Youre a
disgrace. How dare you open your lips to answer your betters?
Hold your tongue and learn your place, miss. You painted slut!
Whip her out of the town!

THE SHERIFF. Silence. Do you hear? Silence. [The clamor ceases].
Did anyone else see the prisoner with the horse?

FEEMY [passionately] Aint I good enough?

BABSY. No. Youre dirt: thats what you are.

FEEMY. And you--

THE SHERIFF. Silence. This trial is a man's job; and if the women
forget their sex they can go out or be put out. Strapper and Miss
Evans: you cant have it two ways. You can run straight, or you
can run gay, so to speak; but you cant run both ways together.
There is also a strong feeling among the men of this town that a
line should be drawn between those that are straight wives and
mothers and those that are, in the words of the Book of Books,
taking the primrose path. We don't wish to be hard on any woman;
and most of us have a personal regard for Miss Evans for the sake
of old times; but theres no getting out of the fact that she has
private reasons for wishing to oblige Strapper, and that--if she
will excuse my saying so--she is not what I might call morally
particular as to what she does to oblige him. Therefore I ask the
prisoner not to drive us to give Miss Evans the oath. I ask him
to tell us fair and square, as a man who has but a few minutes
between him and eternity, what he done with my horse.

THE BOYS. Hear, hear! Thats right. Thats fair. That does it. Now
Blanco. Own up.

BLANCO. Sheriff: you touch me home. This is a rotten world; but
there is still one thing in it that remains sacred even to the
rottenest of us, and that is a horse.

THE BOYS. Good. Well said, Blanco. Thats straight.

BLANCO. You have a right to your horse, Sheriff; and if I could
put you in the way of getting it back, I would. But if I had that
horse I shouldn't be here. As I hope to be saved, Sheriff--or
rather as I hope to be damned; for I have no taste for pious
company and no talent for playing the harp--I know no more of
that horse's whereabouts than you do yourself.

STRAPPER. Who did you trade him to?

BLANCO. I did not trade him. I got nothing for him or by him. I
stand here with a rope round my neck for the want of him. When
you took me, did I fight like a thief or run like a thief; and
was there any sign of a horse on me or near me?

STRAPPER. You were looking at a rainbow, like a damned silly fool
instead of keeping your wits about you; and we stole up on you
and had you tight before you could draw a bead on us.

THE SHERIFF. That don't sound like good sense. What would he look
at a rainbow for?

BLANCO. I'll tell you, Sheriff. I was looking at it because there
was something written on it.

SHERIFF. How do you mean written on it?

BLANCO. The words were, "Ive got the cinch on you this time,
Blanco Posnet." Yes, Sheriff, I saw those words in green on the
red streak of the rainbow; and as I saw them I felt Strapper's
grab on my arm and Squinty's on my pistol.

THE FOREMAN. He's shammin mad: thats what he is. Aint it about
time to give a verdict and have a bit of fun, Sheriff?

THE BOYS. Yes, lets have a verdict. We're wasting the whole
afternoon. Cut it short.

THE SHERIFF [making up his mind] Swear Feemy Evans, Elder. She
don't need to touch the Book. Let her say the words.

FEEMY. Worse people than me has kissed that Book. What wrong Ive
done, most of you went shares in. Ive to live, havnt I? same as
the rest of you. However, it makes no odds to me. I guess the
truth is the truth and a lie is a lie, on the Book or off it.

BABSY. Do as youre told. Who are you, to be let talk about it?

THE SHERIFF. Silence there, I tell you. Sail ahead, Elder.

ELDER DANIELS. Feemy Evans: do you swear to tell the truth and
the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help you God?

FEEMY. I do, so help me--

SHERIFF. Thats enough. Now, on your oath, did you see the
prisoner on my horse this morning on the road to Pony Harbor?

FEEMY. On my oath--[Disturbance and crowding at the door].

AT THE DOOR. Now then, now then! Where are you shovin to? Whats
up? Order in court. Chuck him out. Silence. You cant come in
here. Keep back.

(Strapper rushes to the door and forces his way out.)

SHERIFF [savagely] Whats this noise? Cant you keep quiet there?
Is this a Sheriff's court or is it a saloon?

BLANCO. Dont interrupt a lady in the act of hanging a gentleman.
Wheres your manners?

FEEMY. I'll hang you, Blanco Posnet. I will. I wouldn't for fifty
dollars hadnt seen you this morning. I'll teach you to be civil
to me next time, for all I'm not good enough to kiss the Book.

BLANCO. Lord keep me wicked till I die! I'm game for anything
while youre spitting dirt at me, Feemy.

RENEWED TUMULT AT THE DOOR. Here, whats this? Fire them out. Not
me. Who are you that I should get out of your way? Oh, stow it.
Well, she cant come in. What woman? What horse? Whats the good of
shoving like that? Who says? No! you don't say!

THE SHERIFF. Gentlemen of the Vigilance Committee: clear that
doorway. Out with them in the name of the law.

STRAPPER [without] Hold hard, George. [At the door] Theyve got
the horse. [He comes in, followed by Waggoner Jo, an elderly
carter, who crosses the court to the jury side. Strapper pushes
his way to the Sheriff and speaks privately to him].

THE BOYS. What! No! Got the horse! Sheriff's horse? Who took it,
then? Where? Get out. Yes it is, sure. I tell you it is. It's the
horse all right enough. Rot. Go and look. By Gum!

THE SHERIFF [to Strapper] You don't say!

STRAPPER. It's here, I tell you.

WAGGONER JO. It's here all right enough, Sheriff.

STRAPPER. And theyve got the thief too.

ELDER DANIELS. Then it aint Blanco.

STRAPPER. No: it's a woman. [Blanco yells and covers his eyes
with his hands].

THE WHOLE CROWD. A woman!

THE SHERIFF. Well, fetch her in. [Strapper goes out. The Sheriff
continues, to Feemy] And what do you mean, you lying jade, by
putting up this story on us about Blanco?

FEEMY. I aint put up no story on you. This is a plant: you see if
it isnt.

[Strapper returns with a woman. Her expression of intense grief
silences them as they crane over one another's heads to see her.
Strapper takes her to the corner of the table. The Elder moves up
to make room for her.]

BLANCO [terrified]: that woman aint real. You take care. That
woman will make you do what you never intended. Thats the rainbow
woman. Thats the woman that brought me to this.

THE SHERIFF. Shut your mouth, will you. Youve got the horrors.
[To the woman] Now you. Who are you? and what are you doing with
a horse that doesn't belong to you?

THE WOMAN. I took it to save my child's life. I thought it would
get me to a doctor in time. It was choking with croup.

BLANCO [strangling, and trying to laugh] A little choker: thats
the word for him. His choking wasn't real: wait and see mine. [He
feels his neck with a sob].

THE SHERIFF. Where's the child?

STRAPPER. On Pug Jackson's bench in his shed. He's makin a coffin
for it.

BLANCO [with a horrible convulsion of the throat--frantically]
Dead! The little Judas kid! The child I gave my life for! [He
breaks into hideous laughter].

THE SHERIFF [jarred beyond endurance by the sound] Hold you
noise! will you? Shove his neckerchief into his mouth if he don't
stop. [To the woman] Dont you mind him, maam: he's mad with drink
and devilment. I suppose theres no fake about this, Strapper. Who
found her?

WAGGONER JO. I did, Sheriff. Theres no fake about it. I came on
her on the track round by Red Mountain. She was settin on the
ground with the dead body on her lap, stupid-like. The horse was
grazin on the other side of the road.

THE SHERIFF [puzzled] Well, this is blamed queer. [To the woman]
What call had you to take the horse from Elder Daniels' stable to
find a doctor? Theres a doctor in the very next house.

BLANCO [mopping his dabbled red crest and trying to be ironically
gay] Story simply wont wash, my angel. You got it from the man
that stole the horse. He gave it to you because he was a softy
and went to bits when you played off the sick kid on him. Well, I
guess that clears me. I'm not that sort. Catch me putting my neck
in a noose for anybody's kid!

THE FOREMAN. Dont you go putting her up to what to say. She said
she took it.

THE WOMAN. Yes: I took it from a man that met me. I thought God
sent him to me. I rode here joyfully thinking so all the time to
myself. Then I noticed that the child was like lead in my arms.
God would never have been so cruel as to send me the horse to
disappoint me like that.

BLANCO. Just what He would do.

STRAPPER. We aint got nothin to do with that. This is the man,
aint he? [pointing to Blanco].

THE WOMAN [pulling herself together after looking scaredly at
Blanco, and then at the Sheriff and at the jury] No.

THE FOREMAN. You lie.

THE SHERIFF. Youve got to tell us the truth. Thats the law, you
know.

THE WOMAN. The man looked a bad man. He cursed me; and he cursed
the child: God forgive him! But something came over him. I was
desperate, I put the child in his arms; and it got its little
fingers down his neck and called him Daddy and tried to kiss him;
for it was not right in its head with the fever. He said it was a
little Judas kid, and that it was betraying him with a kiss, and
that he'd swing for it. And then he gave me the horse, and went
away crying and laughing and singing dreadful dirty wicked words
to hymn tunes like as if he had seven devils in him.

STRAPPER. She's lying. Give her the oath, George.

THE SHERIFF. Go easy there. Youre a smart boy, Strapper; but
youre not Sheriff yet. This is my job. You just wait. I submit
that we're in a difficulty here. If Blanco was the man, the lady
cant, as a white woman, give him away. She oughtnt to be put in
the position of having either to give him away or commit perjury.
On the other hand, we don't want a horse-thief to get off
through a lady's delicacy.

THE FOREMAN. No we don't; and we don't intend he shall. Not while
I am foreman of this jury.

BLANCO [with intense expression] A rotten foreman! Oh, what a
rotten foreman!

THE SHERIFF. Shut up, will you. Providence shows us a way out
here. Two women saw Blanco with a horse. One has a delicacy about
saying so. The other will excuse me saying that delicacy is not
her strongest holt. She can give the necessary witness. Feemy
Evans: you've taken the oath. You saw the man that took the
horse.

FEEMY. I did. And he was a low-down rotten drunken lying hound
that would go further to hurt a woman any day than to help her.
And if he ever did a good action it was because he was too drunk
to know what he was doing. So it's no harm to hang him. She
said he cursed her and went away blaspheming and singing things
that were not fit for the child to hear.

BLANCO [troubled] I didn't mean them for the child to hear, you
venomous devil.

THE SHERIFF. All thats got nothing to do with us. The question
you have to answer is, was that man Blanco Posnet?

THE WOMAN. No. I say no. I swear it. Sheriff: don't hang that
man: oh don't. You may hang me instead if you like: Ive nothing
to live for now. You darent take her word against mine. She never
had a child: I can see it in her face.

FEEMY [stung to the quick] I can hang him in spite of you,
anyhow. Much good your child is to you now, lying there on Pug
Jackson's bench!

BLANCO [rushing at her with a shriek] I'll twist your heart out
of you for that. [They seize him before he can reach her].

FEEMY [mocking at him as he struggles to get at her] Ha, ha,
Blanco Posnet. You cant touch me; and I can hang you. Ha, ha! Oh,
I'll do for you. I'll twist your heart and I'll twist your neck.
[He is dragged back to the bar and leans on it, gasping and
exhausted.] Give me the oath again, Elder. I'll settle him. And
do you [to the woman] take your sickly face away from in front
of me.

STRAPPER. Just turn your back on her there, will you?

THE WOMAN. God knows I don't want to see her commit murder. [She
folds her shawl over her head].

THE SHERIFF. Now, Miss Evans: cut it short. Was the prisoner the
man you saw this morning or was he not? Yes or no?

FEEMY [a little hysterically] I'll tell you fast enough. Dont
think I'm a softy.

THE SHERIFF [losing patience] Here: weve had enough of this. You
tell the truth, Feemy Evans; and let us have no more of your lip.
Was the prisoner the man or was he not? On your oath?

FEEMY. On my oath and as I'm a living woman--[flinching] Oh God!
he felt the little child's hands on his neck--I cant [bursting
into a flood of tears and scolding at the other woman] It's you
with your snivelling face that has put me off it. [Desperately]
No: it wasn't him. I only said it out of spite because he
insulted me. May I be struck dead if I ever saw him with the
horse!

[Everybody draws a long breath. Dead silence.]

BLANCO [whispering at her] Softy! Cry-baby! Landed like me! Doing
what you never intended! [Taking up his hat and speaking in his
ordinary tone] I presume I may go now, Sheriff.

STRAPPER. Here, hold hard.

THE FOREMAN. Not if we know it, you don't.

THE BOYS [barring the way to the door] You stay where you are.
Stop a bit, stop a bit. Dont you be in such a hurry. Dont let him
go. Not much.

[Blanco stands motionless, his eye fixed, thinking hard, and
apparently deaf to what is going on.]

THE SHERIFF [rising solemnly] Silence there. Wait a bit. I take
it that if the Sheriff is satisfied and the owner of the horse is
satisfied, theres no more to be said. I have had to remark on
former occasions that what is wrong with this court is that
theres too many Sheriffs in it. To-day there is going to be one,
and only one; and that one is your humble servant. I call that to
the notice of the Foreman of the jury, and also to the notice
of young Strapper. I am also the owner of the horse. Does any man
say that I am not? [Silence]. Very well, then. In my opinion, to
commandeer a horse for the purpose of getting a dying child to a
doctor is not stealing, provided, as in the present case, that
the horse is returned safe and sound. I rule that there has
been no theft.

NESTOR. That aint the law.

THE SHERIFF. I fine you a dollar for contempt of court, and will
collect it myself off you as you leave the building. And as the
boys have been disappointed of their natural sport, I shall give
them a little fun by standing outside the door and taking up a
collection for the bereaved mother of the late kid that shewed up
Blanco Posnet.

THE BOYS. A collection. Oh, I say! Calls that sport? Is this a
mothers' meeting? Well, I'll be jiggered! Where does the sport
come in?

THE SHERIFF [continuing] The sport comes in, my friends, not so
much in contributing as in seeing others fork out. Thus each
contributes to the general enjoyment; and all contribute to his.
Blanco Posnet: you go free under the protection of the Vigilance
Committee for just long enough to get you out of this town, which
is not a healthy place for you. As you are in a hurry, I'll sell
you the horse at a reasonable figure. Now, boys, let nobody go
out till I get to the door. The court is adjourned. [He goes
out].

STRAPPER [to Feemy, as he goes to the door] I'm done with you. Do
you hear? I'm done with you. [He goes out sulkily].

FEEMY [calling after him] As if I cared about a stingy brat like
you! Go back to the freckled maypole you left for me: you've
been fretting for her long enough.

THE FOREMAN [To Blanco, on his way out] A man like you makes me
sick. Just sick. [Blanco makes no sign. The Foreman spits
disgustedly, and follows Strapper out. The Jurymen leave the box,
except Nestor, who collapses in a drunken sleep].

BLANCO [Suddenly rushing from the bar to the table and jumping up
on it] Boys, I'm going to preach you a sermon on the moral of
this day's proceedings.

THE BOYS [crowding round him] Yes: lets have a sermon. Go ahead,
Blanco. Silence for Elder Blanco. Tune the organ. Let us pray.

NESTOR [staggering out of his sleep] Never hold up your head in
this town again. I'm done with you.

BLANCO [pointing inexorably to Nestor] Drunk in church.
Disturbing the preacher. Hand him out.

THE BOYS [chivying Nestor out] Now, Nestor, outside. Outside,
Nestor. Out you go. Get your subscription ready for the Sheriff.
Skiddoo, Nestor.

NESTOR. Afraid to be hanged! Afraid to be hanged! [At the door]
Coward! [He is thrown out].

BLANCO. Dearly beloved brethren--

A BOY. Same to you, Blanco. [Laughter].

BLANCO. And many of them. Boys: this is a rotten world.

ANOTHER BOY. Lord have mercy on us, miserable sinners. [More
laughter].

BLANCO [Forcibly] No: thats where youre wrong. Dont flatter
yourselves that youre miserable sinners. Am I a miserable sinner?
No: I'm a fraud and a failure. I started in to be a bad man like
the rest of you. You all started in to be bad men or you wouldn't
be in this jumped-up, jerked-off, hospital-turned-out camp that
calls itself a town. I took the broad path because I thought I
was a man and not a snivelling canting turning-the-other-cheek
apprentice angel serving his time in a vale of tears. They talked
Christianity to us on Sundays; but when they really meant
business they told us never to take a blow without giving it
back, and to get dollars. When they talked the golden rule to me,
I just looked at them as if they werent there, and spat. But when
they told me to try to live my life so that I could always look
my fellowman straight in the eye and tell him to go to hell, that
fetched me.

THE BOYS. Quite right. Good. Bully for you, Blanco, old son.
Right good sense too. Aha-a-ah!

BLANCO. Yes; but whats come of it all? Am I a real bad man? a man
of game and grit? a man that does what he likes and goes over or
through other people to his own gain? or am I a snivelling cry-
baby that let a horse his life depended on be took from him by a
woman, and then sat on the grass looking at the rainbow and let
himself be took like a hare in a trap by Strapper Kemp: a lad
whose back I or any grown man here could break against his knee?
I'm a rottener fraud and failure than the Elder here. And youre
all as rotten as me, or youd have lynched me.

A BOY. Anything to oblige you, Blanco.

ANOTHER. We can do it yet if you feel really bad about it.

BLANCO. No: the devil's gone out of you. We're all frauds. Theres
none of us real good and none of us real bad.

ELDER DANIELS. There is One above, Blanco.

BLANCO. What do you know about Him? you that always talk as if He
never did anything without asking your rotten leave first? Why
did the child die? Tell me that if you can. He cant have wanted
to kill the child. Why did He make me go soft on the child if
He was going hard on it Himself? Why should He go hard on the
innocent kid and go soft on a rotten thing like me? Why did I go
soft myself? Why did the Sheriff go soft? Why did Feemy go soft?
Whats this game that upsets our game? For seems to me theres two
games bein played. Our game is a rotten game that makes me feel
I'm dirt and that youre all as rotten dirt as me. T'other game
may be a silly game; but it aint rotten. When the Sheriff played
it he stopped being rotten. When Feemy played it the paint nearly
dropped off her face. When I played it I cursed myself for a
fool; but I lost the rotten feel all the same.

ELDER DANIELS. It was the Lord speaking to your soul, Blanco.

BLANCO. Oh yes: you know all about the Lord, don't you? Youre in
the Lord's confidence. He wouldn't for the world do anything to
shock you, would He, Boozy dear? Yah! What about the croup? It
was early days when He made the croup, I guess. It was the best
He could think of then; but when it turned out wrong on His hands
He made you and me to fight the croup for him. You bet He didn't
make us for nothing; and He wouldn't have made us at all if He
could have done His work without us. By Gum, that must be what
we're for! He'd never have made us to be rotten drunken
blackguards like me, and good-for-nothing rips like Feemy. He
made me because He had a job for me. He let me run loose til the
job was ready; and then I had to come along and do it, hanging or
no hanging. And I tell you it didn't feel rotten: it felt bully,
just bully. Anyhow, I got the rotten feel off me for a minute of
my life; and I'll go through fire to get it off me again. Look
here! which of you will marry Feemy Evans?

THE BOYS [uproariously] Who speaks first? Who'll marry Feemy?
Come along, Jack. Nows your chance, Peter. Pass along a husband
for Feemy. Oh my! Feemy!

FEEMY [shortly] Keep your tongue off me, will you?

BLANCO. Feemy was a rose of the broad path, wasn't she? You all
thought her the champion bad woman of this district. Well, she's
a failure as a bad woman; and I'm a failure as a bad man. So let
Brother Daniels marry us to keep all the rottenness in the
family. What do you say, Feemy?

FEEMY. Thank you; but when I marry I'll marry a man that could do
a decent action without surprising himself out of his senses.
Youre like a child with a new toy: you and your bit of human
kindness!

THE WOMAN. How many would have done it with their life at stake?

FEEMY. Oh well, if youre so much taken with him, marry him
yourself. Youd be what people call a good wife to him, wouldn't
you?

THE WOMAN. I was a good wife to the child's father. I don't think
any woman wants to be a good wife twice in her life. I want
somebody to be a good husband to me now.

BLANCO. Any offer, gentlemen, on that understanding? [The boys
shake their heads]. Oh, it's a rotten game, our game. Here's a
real good woman; and she's had enough of it, finding that it only
led to being put upon.

HANNAH. Well, if there was nothing wrong in the world there
wouldn't be anything left for us to do, would there?

ELDER DANIELS. Be of good cheer, brothers. Fight on. Seek the
path.

BLANCO. No. No more paths. No more broad and narrow. No more good
and bad. Theres no good and bad; but by Jiminy, gents, theres a
rotten game, and theres a great game. I played the rotten game;
but the great game was played on me; and now I'm for the great
game every time. Amen. Gentlemen: let us adjourn to the saloon. I
stand the drinks. [He jumps down from the table].

THE BOYS. Right you are, Blanco. Drinks round. Come along, boys.
Blanco's standing. Right along to the Elder's. Hurrah! [They rush
out, dragging the Elder with them].

BLANCO [to Feemy, offering his hand] Shake, Feemy.

FEEMY. Get along, you blackguard.

BLANCO. It's come over me again, same as when the kid touched me.
Shake, Feemy.

FEEMY. Oh well, here. [They shake hands].

CURTAIN.

George Bernard Shaw

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