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Scene II

At out eleven o'clock the following night an WANDA'S room on the ground floor in Soho. In the light from one close-shaded electric bulb the room is but dimly visible. A dying fire burns on the left. A curtained window in the centre of the back wall. A door on the right. The furniture is plush-covered and commonplace, with a kind of shabby smartness. A couch, without back or arms, stands aslant, between window and fire.

[On this WANDA is sitting, her knees drawn up under her, staring at the embers. She has on only her nightgown and a wrapper over it; her bare feet are thrust into slippers. Her hands are crossed and pressed over her breast. She starts and looks up, listening. Her eyes are candid and startled, her face alabaster pale, and its pale brown hair, short and square-cut, curls towards her bare neck. The startled dark eyes and the faint rose of her lips are like colour-staining on a white mask.]

[Footsteps as of a policeman, very measured, pass on the pavement outside, and die away. She gets up and steals to the window, draws one curtain aside so that a chink of the night is seen. She opens the curtain wider, till the shape of a bare, witch-like tree becomes visible in the open space of the little Square on the far side of the road. The footsteps are heard once more coming nearer. WANDA closes the curtains and cranes back. They pass and die again. She moves away and looking down at the floor between door and couch, as though seeing something there; shudders; covers her eyes; goes back to the couch and down again just as before, to stare at the embers. Again she is startled by noise of the outer door being opened. She springs up, runs and turns the light by a switch close to the door. By the glimmer of the fire she can just be seen standing by the dark window-curtains, listening. There comes the sound of subdued knocking on her door. She stands in breathless terror. The knocking is repeated. The sound of a latchkey in the door is heard. Her terror leaves her. The door opens; a man enters in a dark, fur overcoat.]

WANDA
[In a voice of breathless relief, with a rather foreign accent] Oh! it's you, Larry! Why did you knock? I was so frightened. Come in! [She crosses quickly, and flings her arms round his neck] [Recoiling--in a terror-stricken whisper] Oh! Who is it?

KEITH
[In a smothered voice] A friend of Larry's. Don't be frightened.

She has recoiled again to the window; and when he finds the switch and turns the light up, she is seen standing there holding her dark wrapper up to her throat, so that her face has an uncanny look of being detached from the body.

[Gently] You needn't be afraid. I haven't come to do you harm-- quite the contrary. [Holding up the keys] Larry wouldn't have given me these, would he, if he hadn't trusted me?

WANDA does not move, staring like a spirit startled out of the flesh.

[After looking round him] I'm sorry to have startled you.

WANDA
[In a whisper] Who are you, please?

KEITH
Larry's brother.

WANDA, with a sigh of utter relief, steals forward to the couch and sinks down. KEITH goes up to her.

He'd told me.

WANDA
[Clasping her hands round her knees.] Yes?

KEITH
An awful business!

WANDA
Yes; oh, yes! Awful--it is awful!

KEITH
[Staring round him again.] In this room?

WANDA
Just where you are standing. I see him now, always falling.

KEITH
[Moved by the gentle despair in her voice] You--look very young. What's your name?

WANDA
Wanda.

KEITH
Are you fond of Larry?

WANDA
I would die for him!

[A moment's silence.]

KEITH
I--I've come to see what you can do to save him.

WANDA
[Wistfully] You would not deceive me. You are really his brother?

KEITH
I swear it.

WANDA
[Clasping her hands] If I can save him! Won't you sit down?

KEITH
[Drawing up a chair and sitting] This, man, your--your husband, before he came here the night before last--how long since you saw him?

WANDA
Eighteen month.

KEITH
Does anyone about here know you are his wife?

WANDA
No. I came here to live a bad life. Nobody know me. I am quite alone.

KEITH
They've discovered who he was--you know that?

WANDA
No; I have not dared to go out.

KEITH
Well, they have; and they'll look for anyone connected with him, of course.

WANDA
He never let people think I was married to him. I don't know if I was--really. We went to an office and signed our names; but he was a wicked man. He treated many, I think, like me.

KEITH
Did my brother ever see him before?

WANDA
Never! And that man first went for him.

KEITH
Yes. I saw the mark. Have you a servant?

WANDA
No. A woman come at nine in the morning for an hour.

KEITH
Does she know Larry?

WANDA
No. He is always gone.

KEITH
Friends--acquaintances?

WANDA
No; I am verree quiet. Since I know your brother, I see no one, sare.

KEITH
[Sharply] Do you mean that?

WANDA
Oh, yes! I love him. Nobody come here but him for a long time now.

KEITH
How long?

WANDA
Five month.

KEITH
So you have not been out since----?

[WANDA shakes her head.]

What have you been doing?

WANDA
[Simply] Crying. [Pressing her hands to her breast] He is in danger because of me. I am so afraid for him.

KEITH
[Checking her emotion] Look at me.

[She looks at him.]

If the worst comes, and this man is traced to you, can you trust yourself not to give Larry away?

WANDA
[Rising and pointing to the fire] Look! I have burned all the things he have given me--even his picture. Now I have nothing from him.

KEITH
[Who has risen too] Good! One more question. Do the police know you--because--of your life?

[She looks at him intently, and shakes her, head.]

You know where Larry lives?

WANDA
Yes.

KEITH
You mustn't go there, and he mustn't come to you.

[She bows her head; then, suddenly comes close to him.]

WANDA
Please do not take him from me altogether. I will be so careful. I will not do anything to hurt him. But if I cannot see him sometimes, I shall die. Please do not take him from me.

[She catches his hand and presses it desperately between her own.]

KEITH
Leave that to me. I'm going to do all I can.

WANDA
[Looking up into his face] But you will be kind?

Suddenly she bends and kisses his hand. KEITH draws his hand away, and she recoils a little humbly, looking up at him again. Suddenly she stands rigid, listening.

[In a whisper] Listen! Someone--out there!

She darts past him and turns out the light. There is a knock on the door. They are now close together between door and window.

[Whispering] Oh! Who is it?

KEITH
[Under his breath] You said no one comes but Larry.

WANDA
Yes, and you have his keys. Oh! if it is Larry! I must open!

KEITH shrinks back against the wall. WANDA goes to the door.

[Opening the door an inch] Yes? Please? Who?

A thin streak of light from a bull's-eye lantern outside plays over the wall. A Policeman's voice says: "All right, Miss. Your outer door's open. You ought to keep it shut after dark, you know."

WANDA
Thank you, air.

[The sound of retreating footsteps, of the outer door closing. WANDA shuts the door.]

A policeman!

KEITH
[Moving from the wall] Curse! I must have left that door. [Suddenly-turning up the light] You told me they didn't know you.

WANDA
[Sighing] I did not think they did, sir. It is so long I was not out in the town; not since I had Larry.

KEITH gives her an intent look, then crosses to the fire. He stands there a moment, looking down, then turns to the girl, who has crept back to the couch.

KEITH
[Half to himself] After your life, who can believe---? Look here! You drifted together and you'll drift apart, you know. Better for him to get away and make a clean cut of it.

WANDA
[Uttering a little moaning sound] Oh, sir! May I not love, because I have been bad? I was only sixteen when that man spoiled me. If you knew----

KEITH
I'm thinking of Larry. With you, his danger is much greater. There's a good chance as things are going. You may wreck it. And for what? Just a few months more of--well--you know.

WANDA
[Standing at the head of the couch and touching her eyes with her hands] Oh, sir! Look! It is true. He is my life. Don't take him away from me.

KEITH
[Moved and restless] You must know what Larry is. He'll never stick to you.

WANDA
[Simply] He will, sir.

KEITH
[Energetically] The last man on earth to stick to anything! But for the sake of a whim he'll risk his life and the honour of all his family. I know him.

WANDA
No, no, you do not. It is I who know him.

KEITH
Now, now! At any moment they may find out your connection with that man. So long as Larry goes on with you, he's tied to this murder, don't you see?

WANDA
[Coming close to him] But he love me. Oh, sir! he love me!

KEITH
Larry has loved dozens of women.

WANDA
Yes, but---- [Her face quivers].

KEITH
[Brusquely] Don't cry! If I give you money, will you disappear, for his sake?

WANDA
[With a moan] It will be in the water, then. There will be no cruel men there.

KEITH
Ah! First Larry, then you! Come now. It's better for you both. A few months, and you'll forget you ever met.

WANDA
[Looking wildly up] I will go if Larry say I must. But not to live. No! [Simply] I could not, sir.

[KEITH, moved, is silent.]

I could not live without Larry. What is left for a girl like me-- when she once love? It is finish.

KEITH
I don't want you to go back to that life.

WANDA
No; you do not care what I do. Why should you? I tell you I will go if Larry say I must.

KEITH
That's not enough. You know that. You must take it out of his hands. He will never give up his present for the sake of his future. If you're as fond of him as you say, you'll help to save him.

WANDA
[Below her breath] Yes! Oh, yes! But do not keep him long from me--I beg! [She sinks to the floor and clasps his knees.]

KEITH
Well, well! Get up.

[There is a tap on the window-pane]

Listen!

[A faint, peculiar whistle. ]

WANDA
[Springing up] Larry! Oh, thank God!

[She runs to the door, opens it, and goes out to bring him in. KEITH stands waiting, facing the open doorway.]

[LARRY entering with WANDA just behind him.]

LARRY
Keith!

KEITH
[Grimly] So much for your promise not to go out!

LARRY
I've been waiting in for you all day. I couldn't stand it any longer.

KEITH
Exactly!

LARRY
Well, what's the sentence, brother? Transportation for life and then to be fined forty pounds'?

KEITH
So you can joke, can you?

LARRY
Must.

KEITH
A boat leaves for the Argentine the day after to-morrow; you must go by it.

LARRY
[Putting his arms round WANDA, who is standing motionless with her eyes fixed on him] Together, Keith?

KEITH
You can't go together. I'll send her by the next boat.

LARRY
Swear?

KEITH
Yes. You're lucky they're on a false scent.

LARRY
What?

KEITH
You haven't seen it?

LARRY
I've seen nothing, not even a paper.

KEITH
They've taken up a vagabond who robbed the body. He pawned a snake-shaped ring, and they identified this Walenn by it. I've been down and seen him charged myself.

LARRY
With murder?

WANDA
[Faintly] Larry!

KEITH
He's in no danger. They always get the wrong man first. It'll do him no harm to be locked up a bit--hyena like that. Better in prison, anyway, than sleeping out under archways in this weather.

LARRY
What was he like, Keith?

KEITH
A little yellow, ragged, lame, unshaven scarecrow of a chap. They were fools to think he could have had the strength.

LARRY
What! [In an awed voice] Why, I saw him--after I left you last night.

KEITH
You? Where?

LARRY
By the archway.

KEITH
You went back there?

LARRY
It draws you, Keith.

KERRA
You're mad, I think.

LARRY
I talked to him, and he said, "Thank you for this little chat. It's worth more than money when you're down." Little grey man like a shaggy animal. And a newspaper boy came up and said: "That's right, guv'nors! 'Ere's where they found the body--very spot. They 'yn't got 'im yet."

[He laughs; and the terrified girl presses herself against him.]

An innocent man!

KEITH
He's in no danger, I tell you. He could never have strangled---- Why, he hadn't the strength of a kitten. Now, Larry! I'll take your berth to-morrow. Here's money [He brings out a pile of notes and puts them on the couch] You can make a new life of it out there together presently, in the sun.

LARRY
[In a whisper] In the sun! "A cup of wine and thou." [Suddenly] How can I, Keith? I must see how it goes with that poor devil.

KEITH
Bosh! Dismiss it from your mind; there's not nearly enough evidence.

LARRY
Not?

KmTa. No. You've got your chance. Take it like a man.

LARRY
[With a strange smile-to the girl] Shall we, Wanda?

WANDA
Oh, Larry!

LARRY
[Picking the notes up from the couch] Take them back, Keith.

KEITH
What! I tell you no jury would convict; and if they did, no judge would hang. A ghoul who can rob a dead body, ought to be in prison. He did worse than you.

LARRY
It won't do, Keith. I must see it out.

KEITH
Don't be a fool!

LARRY
I've still got some kind of honour. If I clear out before I know, I shall have none--nor peace. Take them, Keith, or I'll put them in the fire.

KEITH
[Taking back the notes; bitterly] I suppose I may ask you not to be entirely oblivious of our name. Or is that unworthy of your honour?

LARRY
[Hanging his head] I'm awfully sorry, Keith; awfully sorry, old man.

KEITH
[sternly] You owe it to me--to our name--to our dead mother- -to do nothing anyway till we see what happens.

LARRY
I know. I'll do nothing without you, Keith.

KEITH
[Taking up his hat] Can I trust you? [He stares hard at his brother.]

LARRY
You can trust me.

KEITH
Swear?

LARRY
I swear.

KEITH
Remember, nothing! Good night!

LARRY
Good night!

KEITH goes. LARRY Sits down on the couch sand stares at the fire. The girl steals up and slips her arms about him.

LARRY
An innocent man!

WANDA
Oh, Larry! But so are you. What did we want--to kill that man? Never! Oh! kiss me!

[LARRY turns his face. She kisses his lips.]

I have suffered so--not seein' you. Don't leave me again--don't! Stay here. Isn't it good to be together?--Oh! Poor Larry! How tired you look! --Stay with me. I am so frightened all alone. So frightened they will take you from me.

LARRY
Poor child!

WANDA
No, no! Don't look like that!

LARRY
You're shivering.

WANDA
I will make up the fire. Love me, Larry! I want to forget.

LARRY
The poorest little wretch on God's earth--locked up--for me! A little wild animal, locked up. There he goes, up and down, up and down--in his cage--don't you see him?--looking for a place to gnaw his way through--little grey rat. [He gets up and roams about.]

WANDA
No, no! I can't bear it! Don't frighten me more!

[He comes back and takes her in his arms.]

LARRY
There, there! [He kisses her closed eyes.]

WANDA
[Without moving] If we could sleep a little--wouldn't it be nice?

LARRY
Sleep?

WANDA
[Raising herself] Promise to stay with me--to stay here for good, Larry. I will cook for you; I will make you so comfortable. They will find him innocent. And then--Oh, Larry! in the sun-right away--far from this horrible country. How lovely! [Trying to get him to look at her] Larry!

LARRY
[With a movement to free 'himself] To the edge of the world-and---over!

WANDA
No, no! No, no! You don't want me to die, Larry, do you? I shall if you leave me. Let us be happy! Love me!

LARRY
[With a laugh] Ah! Let's be happy and shut out the sight of him. Who cares? Millions suffer for no mortal reason. Let's be strong, like Keith. No! I won't leave you, Wanda. Let's forget everything except ourselves. [Suddenly] There he goes-up and down!

WANDA
[Moaning] No, no! See! I will pray to the Virgin. She will pity us!

She falls on her knees and clasps her hands, praying. Her lips move. LARRY stands motionless, with arms crossed, and on his face are yearning and mockery, love and despair.

LARRY
[Whispering] Pray for us! Bravo! Pray away!

[Suddenly the girl stretches out her arms and lifts her face with a look of ecstasy.]

What?

WANDA
She is smiling! We shall be happy soon.

LARRY
[Bending down over her] Poor child! When we die, Wanda, let's go together. We should keep each other warm out in the dark.

WANDA
[Raising her hands to his face] Yes! oh, yes! If you die I could not--I could not go on living!

CURTAIN

John Galsworthy

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