Mrs. Barthwick. Rubbish! You have n’t any! Your principles are nothing in the world but sheer fright!
Barthwick. [Walking to the window.] I’ve never been frightened in my life. You heard what Roper said. It’s enough to upset one when a thing like this happens. Everything one says and does seems to turn in one’s mouth—it’s—it’s uncanny. It’s not the sort of thing I’ve been accustomed to. [As though stifling, he throws the window open. The faint sobbing of a child comes in.] What’s that?
Mrs. Barthwick. [Sharply.] I can’t stand that crying. I must send Marlow to stop it. My nerves are all on edge. [She rings the bell.]
Barthwick. I’ll shut the window; you’ll hear nothing. [He shuts the window. There is silence.]
Mrs. Barthwick. [Sharply.] That’s no good! It’s on my nerves. Nothing upsets me like a child’s crying.
[Marlow comes in.]
What’s that noise of crying, Marlow? It sounds like a child.
Barthwick. It is a child. I can see it against the railings.
Marlow. [Opening the window, and looking out quietly.] It’s Mrs. Jones’s little boy, ma’am; he came here after his mother.
Mrs. Barthwick. [Moving quickly to the window.] Poor little chap! John, we ought n’t to go on with this!
Barthwick. [Sitting heavily in a chair.] Ah! but it’s out of our hands!
[Mrs. Barthwick turns her back to the window. There is an expression of distress on hey face. She stands motionless, compressing her lips. The crying begins again. Barthwick coveys his ears with his hands, and Marlow shuts the window. The crying ceases.]
The curtain falls.
Eight days have passed, and the scene is a London Police Court at one o’clock. A canopied seat of Justice is surmounted by the lion and unicorn. Before the fire a worn-looking magistrate is warming his coat-tails, and staring at two little girls in faded blue and orange rags, who are placed before the dock. Close to the witness-box is a relieving officer in an overcoat, and a short brown beard. Beside the little girls stands a bald police constable. On the front bench are sitting Barthwick and Roper, and behind them jack. In the railed enclosure are seedy-looking men and women. Some prosperous constables sit or stand about.
Magistrate. [In his paternal and ferocious voice, hissing his s’s.] Now let us dispose of these young ladies.
Usher. Theresa Livens, Maud Livens.
[The bald constable
indicates the little girls, who remain
silent, disillusioned, inattentive.]