The curtain falls.
Part of the ground corridor of the prison. The walls are coloured with greenish distemper up to a stripe of deeper green about the height of a man's shoulder, and above this line are whitewashed. The floor is of blackened stones. Daylight is filtering through a heavily barred window at the end. The doors of four cells are visible. Each cell door has a little round peep-hole at the level of a man's eye, covered by a little round disc, which, raised upwards, affords a view o f the cell. On the wall, close to each cell door, hangs a little square board with the prisoner's name, number, and record.
Overhead can be seen the iron structures of the first-floor and second-floor corridors.
The WARDER INSTRUCTOR, a bearded man in blue uniform, with an apron, and some dangling keys, is just emerging from one of the cells.
INSTRUCTOR [Speaking from the door into the cell] I'll have another bit for you when that's finished.
O'CLEARY [Unseen--in an Irish voice] Little doubt o' that, sirr.
INSTRUCTOR [Gossiping] Well, you'd rather have it than nothing, I s'pose.
O'CLEARY An' that's the blessed truth.
Sounds are heard of a cell door being closed and locked, and of approaching footsteps.
INSTRUCTOR [In a sharp, changed voice] Look alive over it!
He shuts the cell door, and stands at attention.
The GOVERNOR comes walking down the corridor, followed by WOODER.
THE GOVERNOR Anything to report?
INSTRUCTOR [Saluting] Q 3007 [he points to a cell] is behind with his work, sir. He'll lose marks to-day.
The GOVERNOR nods and passes on to the end cell. The INSTRUCTOR goes away.
THE GOVERNOR This is our maker of saws, isn't it?
He takes the saw from his pocket as WOODER throws open the door of the cell. The convict MOANEY is seen lying on his bed, athwart the cell, with his cap on. He springs up and stands in the middle of the cell. He is a raw-boned fellow, about fifty-six years old, with outstanding bat's ears and fierce, staring, steel-coloured eyes.
WOODER Cap off! [MOANEY removes his cap] Out here! [MOANEY Comes to the door]
THE GOVERNOR [Beckoning him out into the corridor, and holding up the saw--with the manner of an officer speaking to a private] Anything to say about this, my man? [MOANEY is silent] Come!
MOANEY It passed the time.
THE GOVERNOR [Pointing into the cell] Not enough to do, eh?
MOANEY It don't occupy your mind.
THE GOVERNOR [Tapping the saw] You might find a better way than this.
MOANEY [Sullenly] Well! What way? I must keep my hand in against the time I get out. What's the good of anything else to me at my time of life? [With a gradual change to civility, as his tongue warms] Ye know that, sir. I'll be in again within a year or two, after I've done this lot. I don't want to disgrace meself when I'm out. You've got your pride keeping the prison smart; well, I've got mine. [Seeing that the GOVERNOR is listening with interest, he goes on, pointing to the saw] I must be doin' a little o' this. It's no harm to any one. I was five weeks makin' that saw--a, bit of all right it is, too; now I'll get cells, I suppose, or seven days' bread and water. You can't help it, sir, I know that--I quite put meself in your place.
THE GOVERNOR Now, look here, Moaney, if I pass it over will you give me your word not to try it on again? Think! [He goes into the cell, walks to the end of it, mounts the stool, and tries the window-bars]
THE GOVERNOR [Returning] Well?
MOANEY [Who has been reflecting] I've got another six weeks to do in here, alone. I can't do it and think o' nothing. I must have something to interest me. You've made me a sporting offer, sir, but I can't pass my word about it. I shouldn't like to deceive a gentleman. [Pointing into the cell] Another four hours' steady work would have done it.
THE GOVERNOR Yes, and what then? Caught, brought back, punishment. Five weeks' hard work to make this, and cells at the end of it, while they put anew bar to your window. Is it worth it, Moaney?
MOANEY [With a sort of fierceness] Yes, it is.
THE GOVERNOR [Putting his hand to his brow] Oh, well! Two days' cells-bread and water.
MOANEY Thank 'e, sir.
He turns quickly like an animal and slips into his cell.
The GOVERNOR looks after him and shakes his head as WOODER closes and locks the cell door.
THE GOVERNOR Open Clipton's cell.
WOODER opens the door of CLIPTON'S cell. CLIPTON is sitting on a stool just inside the door, at work on a pair of trousers. He is a small, thick, oldish man, with an almost shaven head, and smouldering little dark eyes behind smoked spectacles. He gets up and stands motionless in the doorway, peering at his visitors.
THE GOVERNOR [Beckoning] Come out here a minute, Clipton.
CLIPTON, with a sort of dreadful quietness, comes into the corridor, the needle and thread in his hand. The GOVERNOR signs to WOODER, who goes into the cell and inspects it carefully.
THE GOVERNOR How are your eyes?
CLIFTON I don't complain of them. I don't see the sun here. [He makes a stealthy movement, protruding his neck a little] There's just one thing, Mr. Governor, as you're speaking to me. I wish you'd ask the cove next door here to keep a bit quieter.
THE GOVERNOR What's the matter? I don't want any tales, Clipton.
CLIPTON He keeps me awake. I don't know who he is. [With contempt] One of this star class, I expect. Oughtn't to be here with us.
THE GOVERNOR [Quietly] Quite right, Clipton. He'll be moved when there's a cell vacant.
CLIPTON He knocks about like a wild beast in the early morning. I'm not used to it--stops me getting my sleep out. In the evening too. It's not fair, Mr. Governor, as you're speaking to me. Sleep's the comfort I've got here; I'm entitled to take it out full.
WOODER comes out of the cell, and instantly, as though extinguished, CLIPTON moves with stealthy suddenness back into his cell.
WOODER All right, sir.
THE GOVERNOR nods. The door is closed and locked.
THE GOVERNOR Which is the man who banged on his door this morning?
WOODER [Going towards O'CLEARY'S cell] This one, sir; O'Cleary.
He lifts the disc and glances through the peephole.
THE GOVERNOR Open.
WOODER throws open the door. O'CLEARY, who is seated at a little table by the door as if listening, springs up and stands at attention jest inside the doorway. He is a broad-faced, middle-aged man, with a wide, thin, flexible mouth, and little holes under his high cheek-bones.
THE GOVERNOR Where's the joke, O'Cleary?
O'CLEARY The joke, your honour? I've not seen one for a long time.
THE GOVERNOR Banging on your door?
O'CLEARY Oh! that!
THE GOVERNOR It's womanish.
O'CLEARY An' it's that I'm becoming this two months past.
THE GOVERNOR Anything to complain of?
O'CLEARY NO, Sirr.
THE GOVERNOR You're an old hand; you ought to know better.
O'CLEARY Yes, I've been through it all.
THE GOVERNOR You've got a youngster next door; you'll upset him.
O'CLEARY It cam' over me, your honour. I can't always be the same steady man.
THE GOVERNOR Work all right?
O'CLEARY [Taking up a rush mat he is making] Oh! I can do it on me head. It's the miserablest stuff--don't take the brains of a mouse. [Working his mouth] It's here I feel it--the want of a little noise --a terrible little wud ease me.
THE GOVERNOR You know as well as I do that if you were out in the shops you wouldn't be allowed to talk.
O'CLEARY [With a look of profound meaning] Not with my mouth.
THE GOVERNOR Well, then?
O'CLEARY But it's the great conversation I'd have.
THE GOVERNOR [With a smile] Well, no more conversation on your door.
O'CLEARY No, sirr, I wud not have the little wit to repeat meself.
THE GOVERNOR [Turning] Good-night.
O'CLEARY Good-night, your honour.
He turns into his cell. The GOVERNOR shuts the door.
THE GOVERNOR [Looking at the record card] Can't help liking the poor blackguard.
WOODER He's an amiable man, sir.
THE GOVERNOR [Pointing down the corridor] Ask the doctor to come here, Mr. Wooder.
WOODER salutes and goes away down the corridor.
The GOVERNOR goes to the door of FALDER'S cell. He raises his uninjured hand to uncover the peep-hole; but, without uncovering it, shakes his head and drops his hand; then, after scrutinising the record board, he opens the cell door. FALDER, who is standing against it, lurches forward.
THE GOVERNOR [Beckoning him out] Now tell me: can't you settle down, Falder?
FALDER [In a breathless voice] Yes, sir.
THE GOVERNOR You know what I mean? It's no good running your head against a stone wall, is it?
FALDER No, sir.
THE GOVERNOR Well, come.
FALDER I try, sir.
THE GOVERNOR Can't you sleep?
FALDER Very little. Between two o'clock and getting up's the worst time.
THE GOVERNOR How's that?
FALDER [His lips twitch with a sort of smile] I don't know, sir. I was always nervous. [Suddenly voluble] Everything seems to get such a size then. I feel I'll never get out as long as I live.
THE GOVERNOR That's morbid, my lad. Pull yourself together.
FALDER [With an equally sudden dogged resentment] Yes--I've got to.
THE GOVERNOR Think of all these other fellows?
FALDER They're used to it.
THE GOVERNOR They all had to go through it once for the first time, just as you're doing now.
FALDER Yes, sir, I shall get to be like them in time, I suppose.
THE GOVERNOR [Rather taken aback] H'm! Well! That rests with you. Now come. Set your mind to it, like a good fellow. You're still quite young. A man can make himself what he likes.
FALDER [Wistfully] Yes, sir.
THE GOVERNOR Take a good hold of yourself. Do you read?
FALDER I don't take the words in. [Hanging his head] I know it's no good; but I can't help thinking of what's going on outside. In my cell I can't see out at all. It's thick glass, sir.
THE GOVERNOR You've had a visitor. Bad news?
THE GOVERNOR You mustn't think about it.
FALDER [Looking back at his cell] How can I help it, sir?
He suddenly becomes motionless as WOODER and the DOCTOR approach. The GOVERNOR motions to him to go back into his cell.
FALDER [Quick and low] I'm quite right in my head, sir. [He goes back into his cell.]
THE GOVERNOR [To the DOCTOR] Just go in and see him, Clements.
The DOCTOR goes into the cell. The GOVERNOR pushes the door to, nearly closing it, and walks towards the window.
WOODER [Following] Sorry you should be troubled like this, sir. Very contented lot of men, on the whole.
THE GOVERNOR [Shortly] You think so?
WOODER Yes, sir. It's Christmas doing it, in my opinion.
THE GOVERNOR [To himself] Queer, that!
WOODER Beg pardon, sir?
THE GOVERNOR Christmas!
He turns towards the window, leaving WOODER looking at him with a sort of pained anxiety.
WOODER [Suddenly] Do you think we make show enough, sir? If you'd like us to have more holly?
THE GOVERNOR Not at all, Mr. Wooder.
WOODER Very good, sir.
The DOCTOR has come out of FALDER's Cell, and the GOVERNOR beckons to him.
THE GOVERNOR Well?
THE DOCTOR I can't make anything much of him. He's nervous, of course.
THE GOVERNOR Is there any sort of case to report? Quite frankly, Doctor.
THE DOCTOR Well, I don't think the separates doing him any good; but then I could say the same of a lot of them--they'd get on better in the shops, there's no doubt.
THE GOVERNOR You mean you'd have to recommend others?
THE DOCTOR A dozen at least. It's on his nerves. There's nothing tangible. That fellow there [pointing to O'CLEARY'S cell], for instance--feels it just as much, in his way. If I once get away from physical facts--I shan't know where I am. Conscientiously, sir, I don't know how to differentiate him. He hasn't lost weight. Nothing wrong with his eyes. His pulse is good. Talks all right.
THE GOVERNOR It doesn't amount to melancholia?
THE DOCTOR [Shaking his head] I can report on him if you like; but if I do I ought to report on others.
THE GOVERNOR I see. [Looking towards FALDER'S cell] The poor devil must just stick it then.
As he says thin he looks absently at WOODER.
WOODER Beg pardon, sir?
For answer the GOVERNOR stares at him, turns on his heel, and walks away. There is a sound as of beating on metal.
THE GOVERNOR [Stopping] Mr. Wooder?
WOODER Banging on his door, sir. I thought we should have more of that.
He hurries forward, passing the GOVERNOR, who follows closely.