It is five o'clock. In the UNDERWOODS' drawing-room, which is artistically furnished, ENID is sitting on the sofa working at a baby's frock. EDGAR, by a little spindle-legged table in the centre of the room, is fingering a china-box. His eyes are fixed on the double-doors that lead into the dining-room.
EDGAR. [Putting down the china-box, and glancing at his watch.] Just on five, they're all in there waiting, except Frank. Where's he?
ENID. He's had to go down to Gasgoyne's about a contract. Will you want him?
EDGAR. He can't help us. This is a director's job. [Motioning towards a single door half hidden by a curtain.] Father in his room?
EDGAR. I wish he'd stay there, Enid.
[ENID looks up at him. This is a beastly business, old girl?]
[He takes up the little box again and turns it over and over.]
ENID. I went to the Roberts's this afternoon, Ted.
EDGAR. That was n't very wise.
ENID. He's simply killing his wife.
EDGAR. We are you mean.
ENID. [Suddenly.] Roberts ought to give way!
EDGAR. There's a lot to be said on the men's side.
ENID. I don't feel half so sympathetic with them as I did before I went. They just set up class feeling against you. Poor Annie was looking dread fully bad--fire going out, and nothing fit for her to eat.
[EDGAR walks to and fro.]
But she would stand up for Roberts. When you see all this wretchedness going on and feel you can do nothing, you have to shut your eyes to the whole thing.
EDGAR. If you can.
ENID. When I went I was all on their side, but as soon as I got there I began to feel quite different at once. People talk about sympathy with the working classes, they don't know what it means to try and put it into practice. It seems hopeless.
EDGAR. Ah! well.
ENID. It's dreadful going on with the men in this state. I do hope the Dad will make concessions.
EDGAR. He won't. [Gloomily.] It's a sort of religion with him. Curse it! I know what's coming! He'll be voted down.
ENID. They would n't dare!
EDGAR. They will--they're in a funk.
ENID. [Indignantly.] He'd never stand it!
EDGAR. [With a shrug.] My dear girl, if you're beaten in a vote, you've got to stand it.
ENID. Oh! [She gets up in alarm.] But would he resign?
EDGAR. Of course! It goes to the roots of his beliefs.
ENID. But he's so wrapped up in this company, Ted! There'd be nothing left for him! It'd be dreadful!
[EDGAR shrugs his shoulders.]
Oh, Ted, he's so old now! You must n't let them!
EDGAR. [Hiding his feelings in an outburst.] My sympathies in this strike are all on the side of the men.
ENID. He's been Chairman for more than thirty years! He made the whole thing! And think of the bad times they've had; it's always been he who pulled them through. Oh, Ted, you must!
EDGAR. What is it you want? You said just now you hoped he'd make concessions. Now you want me to back him in not making them. This is n't a game, Enid!
ENID. [Hotly.] It is n't a game to me that the Dad's in danger of losing all he cares about in life. If he won't give way, and he's beaten, it'll simply break him down!
EDGAR. Did n't you say it was dreadful going on with the men in this state?
ENID. But can't you see, Ted, Father'll never get over it! You must stop them somehow. The others are afraid of him. If you back him up----
EDGAR. [Putting his hand to his head.] Against my convictions-- against yours! The moment it begins to pinch one personally----
ENID. It is n't personal, it's the Dad!
EDGAR. Your family or yourself, and over goes the show!
ENID. [Resentfully.] If you don't take it seriously, I do.
EDGAR. I am as fond of him as you are; that's nothing to do with it.
ENID. We can't tell about the men; it's all guess-work. But we know the Dad might have a stroke any day. D' you mean to say that he isn't more to you than----
EDGAR. Of course he is.
ENID. I don't understand you then.
ENID. If it were for oneself it would be different, but for our own Father! You don't seem to realise.
EDGAR. I realise perfectly.
ENID. It's your first duty to save him.
EDGAR. I wonder.
ENID. [Imploring.] Oh, Ted? It's the only interest he's got left; it'll be like a death-blow to him!
EDGAR. [Restraining his emotion.] I know.
EDGAR. I'll do what I can.
[He turns to the double-doors.]
[The curtained door is opened, and ANTHONY appears. EDGAR opens the double-doors, and passes through.]
[SCANTLEBURY'S voice is faintly heard: "Past five; we shall never get through--have to eat another dinner at that hotel!" The doors are shut. ANTHONY walks forward.]
ANTHONY. You've been seeing Roberts, I hear.
ANTHONY. Do you know what trying to bridge such a gulf as this is like?
[ENID puts her work on the little table, and faces him.]
Filling a sieve with sand!
ANTHONY. You think with your gloved hands you can cure the trouble of the century.
[He passes on. ]
[ANTHONY Stops at the double doors.]
I'm only thinking of you!
ANTHONY. [More softly.] I can take care of myself, my dear.
ENID. Have you thought what'll happen if you're beaten-- [she points]--in there?
ANTHONY. I don't mean to be.
ENID. Oh! Father, don't give them a chance. You're not well; need you go to the meeting at all?
ANTHONY. [With a grim smile.] Cut and run?
ENID. But they'll out-vote you!
ANTHONY. [Putting his hand on the doors.] We shall see!
ENID. I beg you, Dad! Won't you?
[ANTHONY looks at her softly.]
[ANTHONY shakes his head. He opens the doors. A buzz of voices comes in.]
SCANTLEBURY. Can one get dinner on that 6.30 train up?
TENCH. No, Sir, I believe not, sir.
WILDER. Well, I shall speak out; I've had enough of this.
EDGAR. [Sharply.] What?
[It ceases instantly. ANTHONY passes through, closing the doors behind him. ENID springs to them with a gesture of dismay. She puts her hand on the knob, and begins turning it; then goes to the fireplace, and taps her foot on the fender. Suddenly she rings the bell. FROST comes in by the door that leads into the hall.]
FROST. Yes, M'm?
ENID. When the men come, Frost, please show them in here; the hall 's cold.
FROST. I could put them in the pantry, M'm.
ENID. No. I don't want to--to offend them; they're so touchy.
FROST. Yes, M'm. [Pause.] Excuse me, Mr. Anthony's 'ad nothing to eat all day.
ENID. I know Frost.
FROST. Nothin' but two whiskies and sodas, M'm.
ENID. Oh! you oughtn't to have let him have those.
FROST. [Gravely.] Mr. Anthony is a little difficult, M'm. It's not as if he were a younger man, an' knew what was good for 'im; he will have his own way.
ENID. I suppose we all want that.
FROST. Yes, M'm. [Quietly.] Excuse me speakin' about the strike. I'm sure if the other gentlemen were to give up to Mr. Anthony, and quietly let the men 'ave what they want, afterwards, that'd be the best way. I find that very useful with him at times, M'm.
[ENID shakes hey head.]
If he's crossed, it makes him violent. [with an air of discovery], and I've noticed in my own case, when I'm violent I'm always sorry for it afterwards.
ENID. [With a smile.] Are you ever violent, Frost?
FROST. Yes, M'm; oh! sometimes very violent.
ENID. I've never seen you.
FROST. [Impersonally.] No, M'm; that is so.
[ENID fidgets towards the back of the door.]
[With feeling.] Bein' with Mr. Anthony, as you know, M'm, ever since I was fifteen, it worries me to see him crossed like this at his age. I've taken the liberty to speak to Mr. Wanklin [dropping his voice]-- seems to be the most sensible of the gentlemen--but 'e said to me: "That's all very well, Frost, but this strike's a very serious thing," 'e said. "Serious for all parties, no doubt," I said, "but yumour 'im, sir," I said, "yumour 'im. It's like this, if a man comes to a stone wall, 'e does n't drive 'is 'ead against it, 'e gets over it." "Yes," 'e said, "you'd better tell your master that." [FROST looks at his nails.] That's where it is, M'm. I said to Mr. Anthony this morning: "Is it worth it, sir?" "Damn it," he said to me, "Frost! Mind your own business, or take a month's notice!" Beg pardon, M'm, for using such a word.
ENID. [Moving to the double-doors, and listening.] Do you know that man Roberts, Frost?
FROST. Yes, M'm; that's to say, not to speak to. But to look at 'im you can tell what he's like.
ENID. [Stopping.] Yes?
FROST. He's not one of these 'ere ordinary 'armless Socialists. 'E's violent; got a fire inside 'im. What I call "personal." A man may 'ave what opinions 'e likes, so long as 'e 's not personal; when 'e 's that 'e 's not safe.
ENID. I think that's what my father feels about Roberts.
FROST. No doubt, M'm, Mr. Anthony has a feeling against him.
[ENID glances at him sharply, but finding him in perfect earnest, stands biting her lips, and looking at the double-doors.]
It 's, a regular right down struggle between the two. I've no patience with this Roberts, from what I 'ear he's just an ordinary workin' man like the rest of 'em. If he did invent a thing he's no worse off than 'undreds of others. My brother invented a new kind o' dumb-waiter--nobody gave him anything for it, an' there it is, bein' used all over the place.
[ENID moves closer to the double-doors.]
There's a kind o' man that never forgives the world, because 'e wasn't born a gentleman. What I say is--no man that's a gentleman looks down on another because 'e 'appens to be a class or two above 'im, no more than if 'e 'appens to be a class or two below.
ENID. [With slight impatience.] Yes, I know, Frost, of course. Will you please go in and ask if they'll have some tea; say I sent you.
FROST. Yes, M'm.
[He opens the doors gently and goes in. There is a momentary sound of earnest, gather angry talk.]
WILDER. I don't agree with you.
WANKLIN. We've had this over a dozen times.
EDGAR. [Impatiently.] Well, what's the proposition?
SCANTLEBURY. Yes, what does your father say? Tea? Not for me, not for me!
WANKLIN. What I understand the Chairman to say is this----
[FROST re-enters closing the door behind him.]
ENID. [Moving from the door.] Won't they have any tea, Frost?
[She goes to the little table, and remains motionless, looking at the baby's frock.]
[A parlourmaid enters from the hall.]
PARLOURMAID. A Miss Thomas, M'm
ENID. [Raising her head.] Thomas? What Miss Thomas--d' you mean a----?
PARLOURMAID. Yes, M'm.
ENID. [Blankly.] Oh! Where is she?
PARLOURMAID. In the porch.
ENID. I don't want----[She hesitates.]
FROST. Shall I dispose of her, M'm?
ENID. I 'll come out. No, show her in here, Ellen.
[The PARLOUR MAID and FROST go out. ENID pursing her lips, sits at the little table, taking up the baby's frock. The PARLOURMAID ushers in MADGE THOMAS and goes out; MADGE stands by the door.]
ENID. Come in. What is it. What have you come for, please?
MADGE. Brought a message from Mrs. Roberts.
ENID. A message? Yes.
MADGE. She asks you to look after her mother.
ENID. I don't understand.
MADGE. [Sullenly.] That's the message.
MADGE. Annie Roberts is dead.
[There is a silence.]
ENID. [Horrified.] But it's only a little more than an hour since I saw her.
MADGE. Of cold and hunger.
ENID. [Rising.] Oh! that's not true! the poor thing's heart---- What makes you look at me like that? I tried to help her.
MADGE. [With suppressed savagery.] I thought you'd like to know.
ENID. [Passionately.] It's so unjust! Can't you see that I want to help you all?
MADGE. I never harmed any one that had n't harmed me first.
ENID. [Coldly.] What harm have I done you? Why do you speak to me like that?
MADGE. [With the bitterest intensity.] You come out of your comfort to spy on us! A week of hunger, that's what you want!
ENID. [Standing her ground.] Don't talk nonsense!
MADGE. I saw her die; her hands were blue with the cold.
ENID. [With a movement of grief.] Oh! why wouldn't she let me help her? It's such senseless pride!
MADGE. Pride's better than nothing to keep your body warm.
ENID. [Passionately.] I won't talk to you! How can you tell what I feel? It's not my fault that I was born better off than you.
MADGE. We don't want your money.
ENID. You don't understand, and you don't want to; please to go away!
MADGE. [Balefully.] You've killed her, for all your soft words, you and your father!
ENID. [With rage and emotion.] That's wicked! My father is suffering himself through this wretched strike.
MADGE. [With sombre triumph.] Then tell him Mrs. Roberts is dead! That 'll make him better.
ENID. Go away!
MADGE. When a person hurts us we get it back on them.
[She makes a sudden and swift movement towards ENID, fixing her eyes on the child's frock lying across the little table. ENID snatches the frock up, as though it were the child itself. They stand a yard apart, crossing glances.]
MADGE. [Pointing to the frock with a little smile.] Ah! You felt that! Lucky it's her mother--not her children--you've to look after, is n't it. She won't trouble you long!
ENID. Go away!
MADGE. I've given you the message.
[She turns and goes out into the hall. ENID, motionless till she has gone, sinks down at the table, bending her head over the frock, which she is still clutching to her. The double-doors are opened, and ANTHONY comes slowly in; he passes his daughter, and lowers himself into an arm-chair. He is very flushed.]
ENID. [Hiding her emotion-anxiously.] What is it, Dad?
[ANTHONY makes a gesture, but does not speak.]
Who was it?
[ANTHONY does not answer. ENID going to the double-doors meets EDGAR Coming in. They speak together in low tones.]
What is it, Ted?
EDGAR. That fellow Wilder! Taken to personalities! He was downright insulting.
ENID. What did he say?
EDGAR. Said, Father was too old and feeble to know what he was doing! The Dad's worth six of him!
ENID. Of course he is.
[They look at ANTHONY.]
[The doors open wider, WANKLIN appears With SCANTLEBURY.]
SCANTLEBURY. [Sotto voce.] I don't like the look of this!
WANKLIN. [Going forward.] Come, Chairman! Wilder sends you his apologies. A man can't do more.
[WILDER, followed by TENCH, comes in, and goes to ANTHONY.]
WILDER. [Glumly.] I withdraw my words, sir. I'm sorry.
[ANTHONY nods to him.]
ENID. You have n't come to a decision, Mr. Wanklin?
[WANKLIN shakes his head.]
WANKLIN. We're all here, Chairman; what do you say? Shall we get on with the business, or shall we go back to the other room?
SCANTLEBURY. Yes, yes; let's get on. We must settle something.
[He turns from a small chair, and settles himself suddenly in the largest chair with a sigh of comfort.]
[WILDER and WANKLIN also sit; and TENCH, drawing up a straight-backed chair close to his Chairman, sits on the edge of it with the minute-book and a stylographic pen.]
ENID. [Whispering.] I want to speak to you a minute, Ted.
[They go out through the double-doors.]
WANKLIN. Really, Chairman, it's no use soothing ourselves with a sense of false security. If this strike's not brought to an end before the General Meeting, the shareholders will certainly haul us over the coals.
SCANTLEBURY. [Stirring.] What--what's that?
WANKLIN. I know it for a fact.
ANTHONY. Let them!
WILDER. And get turned out?
WANKLIN. [To ANTHONY.] I don't mind martyrdom for a policy in which I believe, but I object to being burnt for some one else's principles.
SCANTLEBURY. Very reasonable--you must see that, Chairman.
ANTHONY. We owe it to other employers to stand firm.
WANKLIN. There's a limit to that.
ANTHONY. You were all full of fight at the start.
SCANTLEBURY. [With a sort of groan.] We thought the men would give in, but they-have n't!
ANTHONY. They will!
WILDER. [Rising and pacing up and down.] I can't have my reputation as a man of business destroyed for the satisfaction of starving the men out. [Almost in tears.] I can't have it! How can we meet the shareholders with things in the state they are?
SCANTLEBURY. Hear, hear--hear, hear!
WILDER. [Lashing himself.] If any one expects me to say to them I've lost you fifty thousand pounds and sooner than put my pride in my pocket I'll lose you another. [Glancing at ANTHONY.] It's--it's unnatural! I don't want to go against you, sir.
WANKLIN. [Persuasively.] Come Chairman, we 're not free agents. We're part of a machine. Our only business is to see the Company earns as much profit as it safely can. If you blame me for want of principle: I say that we're Trustees. Reason tells us we shall never get back in the saving of wages what we shall lose if we continue this struggle--really, Chairman, we must bring it to an end, on the best terms we can make.
[There is a pause of general dismay.]
WILDER. It's a deadlock then. [Letting his hands drop with a sort of despair.] Now I shall never get off to Spain!
WANKLIN. [Retaining a trace of irony.] You hear the consequences of your victory, Chairman?
WILDER. [With a burst of feeling.] My wife's ill!
SCANTLEBURY. Dear, dear! You don't say so.
WILDER. If I don't get her out of this cold, I won't answer for the consequences.
[Through the double-doors EDGAR comes in looking very grave.]
EDGAR. [To his Father.] Have you heard this, sir? Mrs. Roberts is dead!
[Every one stages at him, as if trying to gauge the importance of this news.]
Enid saw her this afternoon, she had no coals, or food, or anything. It's enough!
[There is a silence, every one avoiding the other's eyes, except ANTHONY, who stares hard at his son.]
SCANTLEBURY. You don't suggest that we could have helped the poor thing?
WILDER. [Flustered.] The woman was in bad health. Nobody can say there's any responsibility on us. At least--not on me.
EDGAR. [Hotly.] I say that we are responsible.
ANTHONY. War is war!
EDGAR. Not on women!
WANKLIN. It not infrequently happens that women are the greatest sufferers.
EDGAR. If we knew that, all the more responsibility rests on us.
ANTHONY. This is no matter for amateurs.
EDGAR. Call me what you like, sir. It's sickened me. We had no right to carry things to such a length.
WILDER. I don't like this business a bit--that Radical rag will twist it to their own ends; see if they don't! They'll get up some cock and bull story about the poor woman's dying from starvation. I wash my hands of it.
EDGAR. You can't. None of us can.
SCANTLEBURY. [Striking his fist on the arm of his chair.] But I protest against this!
EDGAR. Protest as you like, Mr. Scantlebury, it won't alter facts.
ANTHONY. That's enough.
EDGAR. [Facing him angrily.] No, sir. I tell you exactly what I think. If we pretend the men are not suffering, it's humbug; and if they're suffering, we know enough of human nature to know the women are suffering more, and as to the children--well--it's damnable!
[SCANTLEBURY rises from his chair.]
I don't say that we meant to be cruel, I don't say anything of the sort; but I do say it's criminal to shut our eyes to the facts. We employ these men, and we can't get out of it. I don't care so much about the men, but I'd sooner resign my position on the Board than go on starving women in this way.
[All except ANTHONY are now upon their feet, ANTHONY sits grasping the arms of his chair and staring at his son.]
SCANTLEBURY. I don't--I don't like the way you're putting it, young sir.
WANKLIN. You're rather overshooting the mark.
WILDER. I should think so indeed!
EDGAR. [Losing control.] It's no use blinking things! If you want to have the death of women on your hands--I don't!
SCANTLEBURY. Now, now, young man!
WILDER. On our hands? Not on mine, I won't have it!
EDGAR. We are five members of this Board; if we were four against it, why did we let it drift till it came to this? You know perfectly well why--because we hoped we should starve the men out. Well, all we've done is to starve one woman out!
SCANTLEBURY. [Almost hysterically.] I protest, I protest! I'm a humane man--we're all humane men!
EDGAR. [Scornfully.] There's nothing wrong with our humanity. It's our imaginations, Mr. Scantlebury.
WILDER. Nonsense! My imagination's as good as yours.
EDGAR. If so, it is n't good enough.
WILDER. I foresaw this!
EDGAR. Then why didn't you put your foot down!
WILDER. Much good that would have done.
[He looks at ANTHONY.]
EDGAR. If you, and I, and each one of us here who say that our imaginations are so good--
SCANTLEBURY. [Flurried.] I never said so.
EDGAR. [Paying no attention.]--had put our feet down, the thing would have been ended long ago, and this poor woman's life wouldn't have been crushed out of her like this. For all we can tell there may be a dozen other starving women.
SCANTLEBURY. For God's sake, sir, don't use that word at a--at a Board meeting; it's--it's monstrous.
EDGAR. I will use it, Mr. Scantlebury.
SCANTLEBURY. Then I shall not listen to you. I shall not listen! It's painful to me.
[He covers his ears.]
WANKLIN. None of us are opposed to a settlement, except your Father.
EDGAR. I'm certain that if the shareholders knew----
WANKLIN. I don't think you'll find their imaginations are any better than ours. Because a woman happens to have a weak heart----
EDGAR. A struggle like this finds out the weak spots in everybody. Any child knows that. If it hadn't been for this cut-throat policy, she need n't have died like this; and there would n't be all this misery that any one who is n't a fool can see is going on.
[Throughout the foregoing ANTHONY has eyed his son; he now moves as though to rise, but stops as EDGAR speaks again.]
I don't defend the men, or myself, or anybody.
WANKLIN. You may have to! A coroner's jury of disinterested sympathisers may say some very nasty things. We mustn't lose sight of our position.
SCANTLEBURY. [Without uncovering his ears.] Coroner's jury! No, no, it's not a case for that!
EDGAR. I 've had enough of cowardice.
WANKLIN. Cowardice is an unpleasant word, Mr. Edgar Anthony. It will look very like cowardice if we suddenly concede the men's demands when a thing like this happens; we must be careful!
WILDER. Of course we must. We've no knowledge of this matter, except a rumour. The proper course is to put the whole thing into the hands of Harness to settle for us; that's natural, that's what we should have come to any way.
SCANTLEBURY. [With dignity.] Exactly! [Turning to EDGAR.] And as to you, young sir, I can't sufficiently express my--my distaste for the way you've treated the whole matter. You ought to withdraw! Talking of starvation, talking of cowardice! Considering what our views are! Except your own is--is one of goodwill--it's most irregular, it's most improper, and all I can say is it's--it's given me pain----
[He places his hand over his heart.]
EDGAR. [Stubbornly.] I withdraw nothing.
[He is about to say mote when SCANTLEBURY once more coveys up his ears. TENCH suddenly makes a demonstration with the minute-book. A sense of having been engaged in the unusual comes over all of them, and one by one they resume their seats. EDGAR alone remains on his feet.]
WILDER. [With an air of trying to wipe something out.] I pay no attention to what young Mr. Anthony has said. Coroner's jury! The idea's preposterous. I--I move this amendment to the Chairman's Motion: That the dispute be placed at once in the hands of Mr. Simon Harness for settlement, on the lines indicated by him this morning. Any one second that?
[TENCH writes in his book.]
WANKLIN. I do.
WILDER. Very well, then; I ask the Chairman to put it to the Board.
ANTHONY. [With a great sigh-slowly.] We have been made the subject of an attack. [Looking round at WILDER and SCANTLEBURY with ironical contempt.] I take it on my shoulders. I am seventy-six years old. I have been Chairman of this Company since its inception two-and-thirty years ago. I have seen it pass through good and evil report. My connection with it began in the year that this young man was born.
[EDGAR bows his head. ANTHONY, gripping his chair, goes on.]
I have had do to with "men" for fifty years; I've always stood up to them; I have never been beaten yet. I have fought the men of this Company four times, and four times I have beaten them. It has been said that I am not the man I was. [He looks at Wilder.] However that may be, I am man enough to stand to my guns.
[His voice grows stronger. The double-doors are opened. ENID slips in, followed by UNDERWOOD, who restrains her.]
The men have been treated justly, they have had fair wages, we have always been ready to listen to complaints. It has been said that times have changed; if they have, I have not changed with them. Neither will I. It has been said that masters and men are equal! Cant! There can only be one master in a house! Where two men meet the better man will rule. It has been said that Capital and Labour have the same interests. Cant! Their interests are as wide asunder as the poles. It has been said that the Board is only part of a machine. Cant! We are the machine; its brains and sinews; it is for us to lead and to determine what is to be done, and to do it without fear or favour. Fear of the men! Fear of the shareholders! Fear of our own shadows! Before I am like that, I hope to die.
[He pauses, and meeting his son's eyes, goes on.]
There is only one way of treating "men"--with the iron hand. This half and half business, the half and half manners of this generation, has brought all this upon us. Sentiment and softness, and what this young man, no doubt, would call his social policy. You can't eat cake and have it! This middle-class sentiment, or socialism, or whatever it may be, is rotten. Masters are masters, men are men! Yield one demand, and they will make it six. They are [he smiles grimly] like Oliver Twist, asking for more. If I were in their place I should be the same. But I am not in their place. Mark my words: one fine morning, when you have given way here, and given way there--you will find you have parted with the ground beneath your feet, and are deep in the bog of bankruptcy; and with you, floundering in that bog, will be the very men you have given way to. I have been accused of being a domineering tyrant, thinking only of my pride--I am thinking of the future of this country, threatened with the black waters of confusion, threatened with mob government, threatened with what I cannot see. If by any conduct of mine I help to bring this on us, I shall be ashamed to look my fellows in the face.
[ANTHONY stares before him, at what he cannot see, and there is perfect stillness. FROST comes in from the hall, and all but ANTHONY look round at him uneasily.]
FROST. [To his master.] The men are here, sir. [ANTHONY makes a gesture of dismissal.] Shall I bring them in, sir?
[FROST goes out, ANTHONY turns to face his son.]
I come to the attack that has been made upon me.
[EDGAR, with a gesture of deprecation, remains motionless with his head a little bowed.]
A woman has died. I am told that her blood is on my hands; I am told that on my hands is the starvation and the suffering of other women and of children.
EDGAR. I said "on our hands," sir.
ANTHONY. It is the same. [His voice grows stronger and stronger, his feeling is more and more made manifest.] I am not aware that if my adversary suffer in a fair fight not sought by me, it is my fault. If I fall under his feet--as fall I may--I shall not complain. That will be my look-out--and this is--his. I cannot separate, as I would, these men from their women and children. A fair fight is a fair fight! Let them learn to think before they pick a quarrel!
EDGAR. [In a low voice.] But is it a fair fight, Father? Look at them, and look at us! They've only this one weapon!
ANTHONY. [Grimly.] And you're weak-kneed enough to teach them how to use it! It seems the fashion nowadays for men to take their enemy's side. I have not learnt that art. Is it my fault that they quarrelled with their Union too?
EDGAR. There is such a thing as Mercy.
ANTHONY. And justice comes before it.
EDGAR. What seems just to one man, sir, is injustice to another.
ANTHONY. [With suppressed passion.] You accuse me of injustice--of what amounts to inhumanity--of cruelty?
[EDGAR makes a gesture of horror--a general frightened movement.]
WANKLIN. Come, come, Chairman.
ANTHONY. [In a grim voice.] These are the words of my own son. They are the words of a generation that I don't understand; the words of a soft breed.
[A general murmur. With a violent effort ANTHONY recovers his control.]
EDGAR. [Quietly.] I said it of myself, too, Father.
[A long look is exchanged between them, and ANTHONY puts out his hand with a gesture as if to sweep the personalities away; then places it against his brow, swaying as though from giddiness. There is a movement towards him. He moves them back.]
ANTHONY. Before I put this amendment to the Board, I have one more word to say. [He looks from face to face.] If it is carried, it means that we shall fail in what we set ourselves to do. It means that we shall fail in the duty that we owe to all Capital. It means that we shall fail in the duty that we owe ourselves. It means that we shall be open to constant attack to which we as constantly shall have to yield. Be under no misapprehension--run this time, and you will never make a stand again! You will have to fly like curs before the whips of your own men. If that is the lot you wish for, you will vote for this amendment.
[He looks again, from face to face, finally resting his gaze on EDGAR; all sit with their eyes on the ground. ANTHONY makes a gesture, and TENCH hands him the book. He reads.]
"Moved by Mr. Wilder, and seconded by Mr. Wanklin: 'That the men's demands be placed at once in the hands of Mr. Simon Harness for settlement on the lines indicated by him this morning.'" [With sudden vigour.] Those in favour: Signify the same in the usual way!
[For a minute no one moves; then hastily, just as ANTHONY is about to speak, WILDER's hand and WANKLIN'S are held up, then SCANTLEBURY'S, and last EDGAR'S who does not lift his head.]
[ANTHONY lifts his own hand.]
[In a clear voice.] The amendment is carried. I resign my position on this Board.
[ENID gasps, and there is dead silence. ANTHONY sits motionless, his head slowly drooping; suddenly he heaves as though the whole of his life had risen up within him.]
Fifty years! You have disgraced me, gentlemen. Bring in the men!
[He sits motionless, staring before him. The Board draws hurriedly together, and forms a group. TENCH in a frightened manner speaks into the hall. UNDERWOOD almost forces ENID from the room.]
WILDER. [Hurriedly.] What's to be said to them? Why isn't Harness here? Ought we to see the men before he comes? I don't----
TENCH. Will you come in, please?
[Enter THOMAS, GREEN, BULGIN, and ROUS, who file up in a row past the little table. TENCH sits down and writes. All eyes are foxed on ANTHONY, who makes no sign.]
WANKLIN. [Stepping up to the little table, with nervous cordiality.] Well, Thomas, how's it to be? What's the result of your meeting?
ROUS. Sim Harness has our answer. He'll tell you what it is. We're waiting for him. He'll speak for us.
WANKLIN. Is that so, Thomas?
THOMAS. [Sullenly.] Yes. Roberts will not pe coming, his wife is dead.
SCANTLEBURY. Yes, yes! Poor woman! Yes! Yes!
FROST. [Entering from the hall.] Mr. Harness, Sir!
[As HARNESS enters he retires.]
[HARNESS has a piece of paper in his hand, he bows to the Directors, nods towards the men, and takes his stand behind the little table in the very centre of the room.]
HARNESS. Good evening, gentlemen.
[TENCH, with the paper he has been writing, joins him, they speak together in low tones.]
WILDER. We've been waiting for you, Harness. Hope we shall come to some----
FROST. [Entering from the hall.] Roberts!
[ROBERTS comes hastily in, and stands staring at ANTHONY. His face is drawn and old.]
ROBERTS. Mr. Anthony, I am afraid I am a little late, I would have been here in time but for something that--has happened. [To the men.] Has anything been said?
THOMAS. No! But, man, what made ye come?
ROBERTS. Ye told us this morning, gentlemen, to go away and reconsider our position. We have reconsidered it; we are here to bring you the men's answer. [To ANTHONY.] Go ye back to London. We have nothing for you. By no jot or tittle do we abate our demands, nor will we until the whole of those demands are yielded.
[ANTHONY looks at him but does not speak. There is a movement amongst the men as though they were bewildered.]
ROBERTS. [Glancing fiercely at him, and back to ANTHONY.] Is that clear enough for ye? Is it short enough and to the point? Ye made a mistake to think that we would come to heel. Ye may break the body, but ye cannot break the spirit. Get back to London, the men have nothing for ye?
[Pausing uneasily he takes a step towards the unmoving ANTHONY.]
EDGAR. We're all sorry for you, Roberts, but----
ROBERTS. Keep your sorrow, young man. Let your father speak!
HARNESS. [With the sheet of paper in his hand, speaking from behind the little table.] Roberts!
ROBERT. [TO ANTHONY, with passionate intensity.] Why don't ye answer?
ROBERTS. [Turning sharply.] What is it?
HARNESS. [Gravely.] You're talking without the book; things have travelled past you.
[He makes a sign to TENCH, who beckons the Directors. They quickly sign his copy of the terms.]
Look at this, man! [Holding up his sheet of paper.] "Demands conceded, with the exception of those relating to the engineers and furnace-men. Double wages for Saturday's overtime. Night-shifts as they are." These terms have been agreed. The men go back to work again to-morrow. The strike is at an end.
ROBERTS. [Reading the paper, and turning on the men. They shrink back from him, all but ROUS, who stands his ground. With deadly stillness.] Ye have gone back on me? I stood by ye to the death; ye waited for that to throw me over!
[The men answer, all speaking together.]
ROUS. It's a lie!
THOMAS. Ye were past endurance, man.
GREEN. If ye'd listen to me!
BULGIN. (Under his breath.) Hold your jaw!
ROBERTS. Ye waited for that!
HARNESS. [Taking the Director's copy of the terms, and handing his own to TENCH.] That's enough, men. You had better go.
[The men shuffle slowly, awkwardly away.]
WILDER. [In a low, nervous voice.] There's nothing to stay for now, I suppose. [He follows to the door.] I shall have a try for that train! Coming, Scantlebury?
SCANTLEBURY. [Following with WANKLIN.] Yes, yes; wait for me. [He stops as ROBERTS speaks.]
ROBERTS. [To ANTHONY.] But ye have not signed them terms! They can't make terms without their Chairman! Ye would never sign them terms! [ANTHONY looks at him without speaking.] Don't tell me ye have! for the love o' God! [With passionate appeal.] I reckoned on ye!
HARNESS. [Holding out the Director's copy of the teems.] The Board has signed!
[ROBERTS looks dully at the signatures--dashes the paper from him, and covers up his eyes.]
SCANTLEBURY. [Behind his hand to TENCH.] Look after the Chairman! He's not well; he's not well--he had no lunch. If there's any fund started for the women and children, put me down for--for twenty pounds.
[He goes out into the hall, in cumbrous haste; and WANKLIN, who has been staring at ROBERTS and ANTHONY With twitchings of his face, follows. EDGAR remains seated on the sofa, looking at the ground; TENCH, returning to the bureau, writes in his minute-- book. HARNESS stands by the little table, gravely watching ROBERTS.]
ROBERTS. Then you're no longer Chairman of this Company! [Breaking into half-mad laughter.] Ah! ha-ah, ha, ha! They've thrown ye over thrown over their Chairman: Ah-ha-ha! [With a sudden dreadful calm.] So--they've done us both down, Mr. Anthony?
[ENID, hurrying through the double-doors, comes quickly to her father.]
ANTHONY. Both broken men, my friend Roberts!
HARNESS. [Coming down and laying his hands on ROBERTS'S sleeve.] For shame, Roberts! Go home quietly, man; go home!
ROBERTS. [Tearing his arm away.] Home? [Shrinking together--in a whisper.] Home!
ENID. [Quietly to her father.] Come away, dear! Come to your room
[ANTHONY rises with an effort. He turns to ROBERTS who looks at him. They stand several seconds, gazing at each other fixedly; ANTHONY lifts his hand, as though to salute, but lets it fall. The expression of ROBERTS'S face changes from hostility to wonder. They bend their heads in token of respect. ANTHONY turns, and slowly walks towards the curtained door. Suddenly he sways as though about to fall, recovers himself, and is assisted out by EDGAR and ENID; UNDERWOOD follows, but stops at the door. ROBERTS remains motionless for several seconds, staring intently after ANTHONY, then goes out into the hall.]
TENCH. [Approaching HARNESS.] It's a great weight off my mind, Mr. Harness! But what a painful scene, sir! [He wipes his brow.]
[HARNESS, pale and resolute, regards with a grim half-smile the quavering.]
TENCH. It's all been so violent! What did he mean by: "Done us both down?" If he has lost his wife, poor fellow, he oughtn't to have spoken to the Chairman like that!
HARNESS. A woman dead; and the two best men both broken!
TENCH. [Staring at him-suddenly excited.] D'you know, sir--these terms, they're the very same we drew up together, you and I, and put to both sides before the fight began? All this--all this--and--and what for?
HARNESS. [In a slow grim voice.] That's where the fun comes in!
[UNDERWOOD without turning from the door makes a gesture of assent.]
The curtain falls.
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