ROBERT. By God, but I call myself summat—I’M
THAT’S WOT I AM!
VICAR [feverishly]. You shall not go! . . .
ROBERT. Why, wot is there to fear? Ain’t it worth while, to move away that load o’ muck!
VICAR. The stench—the horror—the darkness . . .
ROBERT. What’s it matter, if the comrides up above ‘av’ light an’ joy an’ a breath of ’olesome air to sing by? . . .
VICAR. Hour by hour—dying—alone . . .
ROBERT. The comrides up in the spans an arches, joinin’ ’ands . . .
VICAR. Fainter and fainter, below there, and at last—an endless silence! . . .
ROBERT. ’Igh in the dome, the ’ammerin’s of the comrides as ‘av’ climbed aloft!
AUNTIE. William, there is yet one other way! . . .
VICAR. Yes, yes, I see: I see! . . . [To ROBERT]. Then—you mean to go?
ROBERT. By ’Eaven, yus!
VICAR. Then, by God and all the powers of grace, you shall not go alone! Off with these lies and make-believes! Off with these prisoner’s shackles! They cramp, they stifle me! Freedom! Freedom! This is no priest’s work—it calls for a man! . . .
[He tears off his parson’s coat and collar, casting them furiously aside. He rolls up his sleeves.]
Now, if you’re ready, Comrade: you and I together!
AUNTIE. God’s might go with you, William! Accept him, Christ!
[There is a silence. Then ROBERT speaks with slow consideration.]
ROBERT. I—don’t—know. It’s dangerous, you understand!
VICAR. I go with you.
ROBERT. This ain’t psalms an ‘ymns an’ ole maids’ tea-parties, mind you! It may mean typhoid!
VICAR. I understand.
ROBERT. They don’t leave you alone:
they got teeth,
remember—poison in ’em!
VICAR. I will go with you.
[A slight pause. Then ROBERT, dropping into a quite ordinary tone, says.]
ROBERT. Then let’s ‘av’ summat so eat, an’ get along. There’s nuthin’ more to say.
MARY [inspired]. Yes, there is!
ROBERT. What do you mean, miss?
MARY. I mean that I understand: that I know who you are.
ROBERT. Me? . . .
MARY [simply]. Yes, you are my father.
ROBERT. ‘Ow the everlastin’ did you know that?
MARY [going up to him]. Because you are my wish come true: because you are brave, because you are very beautiful, because you are good!
ROBERT. My little kid! My little kid!
[They embrace each other.]
VICAR. Robert! [Taking his left hand].
AUNTIE. Brother! [Taking his other hand.]
[They form a kind of cross.]
[MANSON and ROGERS re-enter with table-cloth, etc., for lunch.]