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Scene I

In the BURLACOMBES' hall-sitting-room the curtains are drawn, a lamp burns, and the door stands open. BURLACOMBE and his wife are hovering there, listening to the sound of mingled cheers and groaning.

MRS BURLACOMBE
Aw! my gudeness--what a thing t'appen! I'd saner 'a lost all me ducks. [She makes towards the inner door] I can't never face 'im.

BURLACOMBE
'E can't expect nothin' else, if 'e act like that.

MRS BURLACOMBE
'Tes only duin' as 'e'd be done by.

BURLACOMBE
Aw! Yu can't go on forgivin' 'ere, an' forgivin' there. 'Tesn't nat'ral.

MRS BURLACOMBE
'Tes the mischief 'e'm a parson. 'Tes 'im bein' a lamb o' God--or 'twidden be so quare for 'im to be forgivin'.

BURLACOMBE
Yu goo an' make un a gude 'ot drink.

MRS BURLACOMBE
Poor soul! What'll 'e du now, I wonder? [Under her breath] 'E's cumin'!

[She goes hurriedly. BURLACOMBE, with a startled look back, wavers and makes to follow her, but stops undecided in the inner doorway. STRANGWAY comes in from the darkness. He turns to the window and drops overcoat and hat and the church key on the windowseat, looking about him as men do when too hard driven, and never fixing his eyes long enough on anything to see it. BURLACOMBE, closing the door into the house, advances a step. At the sound STRANGWAY faces round.]

BURLACOMBE
I wanted for yu to know, zurr, that me an' mine 'adn't nothin' to du wi' that darned fulishness, just now.

STRANGWAY
[With a ghost of a smile] Thank you, Burlacombe. It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter a bit.

BURLACOMBE
I 'ope yu won't take no notice of it. Like a lot o' silly bees they get. [After an uneasy pause] Yu'll excuse me spakin' of this mornin', an' what 'appened. 'Tes a brave pity it cam' on yu so sudden-like before yu 'ad time to think. 'Tes a sort o' thing a man shude zet an' chew upon. Certainly 'tes not a bit o' yuse goin' against human nature. Ef yu don't stand up for yureself there's no one else not goin' to. 'Tes yure not 'avin' done that 'as made 'em so rampageous. [Stealing another look at STRANGWAY] Yu'll excuse me, zurr, spakin' of it, but 'tes amazin' sad to zee a man let go his own, without a word o' darin'. 'Tea as ef 'e 'ad no passions- like.

STRANGWAY
Look at me, Burlacombe.

[BURLACOMBE looks up, trying hard to keep his eyes on STRANGWAY'S, that seem to burn in his thin face.]

STRANGWAY
Do I look like that? Please, please! [He touches his breast] I've too much here. Please!

BURLACOMBE
[With a sort of startled respect] Well, zurr, 'tes not for me to zay nothin', certainly.

[He turns and after a slow look back at STRANGWAY goes out.]

STRANGWAY
[To himself] Passions! No passions! Ha!

[The outer door is opened and IVY BURLACOMBE appears, and, seeing him, stops. Then, coming softly towards him, she speaks timidly.]

IVY
Oh! Mr. Strangway, MRS Bradmere's cumin' from the Rectory. I ran an' told 'em. Oh! 'twas awful.

[STRANGWAY starts, stares at her, and turning on his heel, goes into the house. Ivy's face is all puckered, as if she were on the point of tears. There is a gentle scratching at the door, which has not been quite closed.]

VOICE OF GLADYS
[Whispering] Ivy! Come on Ivy. I won't.

VOICE OF MERCY
Yu must. Us can't du without Yu.

Ivy. [Going to the door] I don't want to.

VOICE OF GLADYS
"Naughty maid, she won't come out," Ah! du 'ee!

VOICE OF CREMER
Tim Clyst an' Bobbie's cumin'; us'll only be six anyway. Us can't dance "figure of eight" without yu.

Ivy. [Stamping her foot] I don't want to dance at all! I don't.

MERCY
Aw! She's temper. Yu can bang on tambourine, then!

GLADYS
[Running in] Quick, Ivy! Here's the old grey mare cumin' down the green. Quick.

[With whispering and scuffling; gurgling and squeaking, the reluctant Ivy's hand is caught and she is jerked away. In their haste they have left the door open behind them.]

VOICE OF MRS BRADMERE
[Outside] Who's that?

[She knocks loudly, and rings a bell; then, without waiting, comes in through the open door.]

[Noting the overcoat and hat on the window-sill she moves across to ring the bell. But as she does so, MRS BURLACOMBE, followed by BURLACOMBE, comes in from the house.]

MRS BRADMERE
This disgraceful business! Where's Mr. Strangway? I see he's in.

MRS BURLACOMBE
Yes, m'm, he'm in--but--but Burlacombe du zay he'm terrible upset.

MRS BRADMERE
I should think so. I must see him--at once.

MRS BURLACOMBE
I doubt bed's the best place for 'un, an' gude 'ot drink. Burlacombe zays he'm like a man standin' on the edge of a cliff; and the lasts tipsy o' wind might throw un over.

MRS BRADMERE
[To BURLACOMBE] You've seen him, then?

BURLACOMBE
Yeas; an' I don't like the luke of un--not a little bit, I don't.

MRS BURLACOMBE
[Almost to herself] Poor soul; 'e've a-'ad to much to try un this yer long time past. I've a-seen 'tis sperrit cumin' thru 'is body, as yu might zay. He's torn to bits, that's what 'tis.

BURLACOMBE
'Twas a praaper cowardly thing to hiss a man when he's down. But 'twas natural tu, in a manner of spakin'. But 'tesn't that troublin' 'im. 'Tes in here [touching his forehead], along of his wife, to my thinkin'. They zay 'e've a-known about 'er a-fore she went away. Think of what 'e've 'ad to kape in all this time. 'Tes enough to drive a man silly after that. I've a-locked my gun up. I see a man like--like that once before--an' sure enough 'e was dead in the mornain'!

MRS BRADMERE
Nonsense, Burlacombe! [To MRS BURLACOMBE] Go and tell him I want to see him--must see him. [MRS BURLACOMBE goes into the house] And look here, Burlacombe; if we catch any one, man or woman, talking of this outside the village, it'll be the end of their tenancy, whoever they may be. Let them all know that. I'm glad he threw that drunken fellow out of the window, though it was a little----

BURLACOMBE
Aye! The nuspapers would be praaper glad of that, for a tiddy bit o' nuse.

MRS BRADMERE
My goodness! Yes! The men are all up at the inn. Go and tell them what I said--it's not to get about. Go at once, Burlacombe.

BURLACOMBE
Must be a turrable job for 'im, every one's knowin' about 'is wife like this. He'm a proud man tu, I think. 'Tes a funny business altogether!

MRS BRADMERE
Horrible! Poor fellow! Now, come! Do your best, Burlacombe!

[BURLACOMBE touches his forelock and goes. MRS BRADMERE stands quite still, thinking. Then going to the photograph, she stares up at it.]

MRS BRADMERE
You baggage!

[STRANGWAY has come in noiselessly, and is standing just behind her. She turns, and sees him. There is something so still, so startlingly still in his figure and white face, that she cannot for the moment fond her voice.]

MRS BRADMERE
[At last] This is most distressing. I'm deeply sorry. [Then, as he does not answer, she goes a step closer] I'm an old woman; and old women must take liberties, you know, or they couldn't get on at all. Come now! Let's try and talk it over calmly and see if we can't put things right.

STRANGWAY
You were very good to come; but I would rather not.

MRS BRADMERE
I know you're in as grievous trouble as a man can be.

STRANGWAY
Yes.

MRS BRADMERE
[With a little sound of sympathy] What are you-- thirty-five? I'm sixty-eight if I'm a day--old enough to be your mother. I can feel what you must have been through all these months, I can indeed. But you know you've gone the wrong way to work. We aren't angels down here below! And a son of the Church can't act as if for himself alone. The eyes of every one are on him.

STRANGWAY
[Taking the church key from the window.] Take this, please.

MRS BRADMERE
No, no, no! Jarland deserved all he got. You had great provocation.

STRANGWAY
It's not Jarland. [Holding out the key] Please take it to the Rector. I beg his forgiveness. [Touching his breast] There's too much I can't speak of--can't make plain. Take it to him, please.

MRS BRADMERE
Mr. Strangway--I don't accept this. I am sure my husband--the Church--will never accept----

STRANGWAY
Take it!

MRS BRADMERE
[Almost unconsciously taking it] Mind! We don't accept it. You must come and talk to the Rector to-morrow. You're overwrought. You'll see it all in another light, then.

STRANGWAY
[With a strange smile] Perhaps. [Lifting the blind] Beautiful night! Couldn't be more beautiful!

MRS BRADMERE
[Startled-softly] Don't turn sway from these who want to help you! I'm a grumpy old woman, but I can feel for you. Don't try and keep it all back, like this! A woman would cry, and it would all seem clearer at once. Now won't you let me----?

STRANGWAY
No one can help, thank you.

MRS BRADMERE
Come! Things haven't gone beyond mending, really, if you'll face them. [Pointing to the photograph] You know what I mean. We dare not foster immorality.

STRANGWAY
[Quivering as at a jabbed nerve] Don't speak of that!

MRS BRADMERE
But think what you've done, Mr. Strangway! If you can't take your wife back, surely you must divorce her. You can never help her to go on like this in secret sin.

STRANGWAY
Torture her--one way or the other?

MRS BRADMERE
No, no; I want you to do as the Church--as all Christian society would wish. Come! You can't let this go on. My dear man, do your duty at all costs!

STRANGWAY
Break her heart?

MRS BRADMERE
Then you love that woman--more than God!

STRANGWAY
[His face quivering] Love!

MRS BRADMERE
They told me----Yes, and I can see you're is a bad way. Come, pull yourself together! You can't defend what you're doing.

STRANGWAY
I do not try.

MRS BRADMERE
I must get you to see! My father was a clergyman; I'm married to one; I've two sons in the Church. I know what I'm talking about. It's a priest's business to guide the people's lives.

STRANGWAY
[Very low] But not mine! No more!

MRS BRADMERE
[Looking at him shrewdly] There's something very queer about you to-night. You ought to see doctor.

STRANGWAY
[A smile awning and going on his lips] If I am not better soon----

MRS BRADMERE
I know it must be terrible to feel that everybody----

[A convulsive shiver passes over STRANGWAY, and he shrinks against the door]

But come! Live it down!

[With anger growing at his silence]

Live it down, man! You can't desert your post--and let these villagers do what they like with us? Do you realize that you're letting a woman, who has treated you abominably;--yes, abominably --go scot-free, to live comfortably with another man? What an example!

STRANGWAY
Will you, please, not speak of that!

MRS BRADMERE
I must! This great Church of ours is based on the rightful condemnation of wrongdoing. There are times when forgiveness is a sin, Michael Strangway. You must keep the whip hand. You must fight!

STRANGWAY
Fight! [Touching his heart] My fight is here. Have you ever been in hell? For months and months--burned and longed; hoped against hope; killed a man in thought day by day? Never rested, for love and hate? I--condemn! I--judge! No! It's rest I have to find--somewhere--somehow-rest! And how--how can I find rest?

MRS BRADMERE
[Who has listened to his outburst in a soft of coma] You are a strange man! One of these days you'll go off your head if you don't take care.

STRANGWAY
[Smiling] One of these days the flowers will grow out of me; and I shall sleep.

[MRS BRADMERE stares at his smiling face a long moment in silence, then with a little sound, half sniff, half snort, she goes to the door. There she halts.]

MRS BRADMERE
And you mean to let all this go on----Your wife----

STRANGWAY
Go! Please go!

MRS BRADMERE
Men like you have been buried at cross-roads before now! Take care! God punishes!

STRANGWAY
Is there a God?

MRS BRADMERE
Ah! [With finality] You must see a doctor.

[Seeing that the look on his face does not change, she opens the door, and hurries away into the moonlight.]

[STRANGWAY crosses the room to where his wife's picture hangs, and stands before it, his hands grasping the frame. Then he takes it from the wall, and lays it face upwards on the window seat.]

STRANGWAY
[To himself] Gone! What is there, now?

[The sound of an owl's hooting is floating in, and of voices from the green outside the inn.]

STRANGWAY
[To himself] Gone! Taken faith--hope--life!

[JIM BERE comes wandering into the open doorway.]

JIM BERE
Gude avenin', zurr.

[At his slow gait, with his feeble smile, he comes in, and standing by the window-seat beside the long dark coat that still lies there, he looks down at STRANGWAY with his lost eyes.]

JIM
Yu threw un out of winder. I cud 'ave, once, I cud.

[STRANGWAY neither moves nor speaks; and JIM BERE goes on with his unimaginably slow speech]

They'm laughin' at yu, zurr. An' so I come to tell 'ee how to du. 'Twas full mune--when I caught 'em, him an' my girl. I caught 'em. [With a strange and awful flash of fire] I did; an' I tuk un [He taken up STRANGWAY'S coat and grips it with his trembling hands, as a man grips another's neck] like that--I tuk un. As the coat falls, like a body out of which the breath has been squeezed, STRANGWAY, rising, catches it.

STRANGWAY
[Gripping the coat] And he fell!

[He lets the coat fall on the floor, and puts his foot on it. Then, staggering back, he leans against the window.]

JIM
Yu see, I loved 'er--I did. [The lost look comes back to his eyes] Then somethin'--I dunno--and--and----[He lifts his hand and passes it up and down his side] Twas like this for ever.

[They gaze at each other in silence.]

JIM
[At last] I come to tell yu. They'm all laughin' at yu. But yu'm strong--yu go over to Durford to that doctor man, an' take un like I did. [He tries again to make the sign of squeezing a man's neck] They can't laugh at yu no more, then. Tha's what I come to tell yu. Tha's the way for a Christian man to du. Gude naight, zurr. I come to tell yee.

[STRANGWAY motions to him in silence. And, very slowly, JIM BERE passes out.]

[The voices of men coming down the green are heard.]

VOICES
Gude night, Tam. Glide naight, old Jim!

VOICES
Gude might, Mr. Trustaford. 'Tes a wonderful fine mune.

VOICE OF TRUSTAFORD
Ah! 'Tes a brave mune for th' poor old curate!

VOICE
"My 'eart 'E lighted not!"

[TRUSTAFORD'S laugh, and the rattling, fainter and fainter, of wheels. A spasm seizes on STRANGWAY'S face, as he stands there by the open door, his hand grips his throat; he looks from side to side, as if seeking a way of escape.]

CURTAIN.

John Galsworthy

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