[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.]
[The relieving officer Steps into the witness-box.]
Usher. The evidence you give to the Court shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God! Kiss the book!
[The book is kissed.]
Relieving officer. [In a monotone, pausing slightly at each sentence end, that his evidence may be inscribed.] About ten o’clock this morning, your Worship, I found these two little girls in Blue Street, Fulham, crying outside a public-house. Asked where their home was, they said they had no home. Mother had gone away. Asked about their father. Their father had no work. Asked where they slept last night. At their aunt’s. I ’ve made inquiries, your Worship. The wife has broken up the home and gone on the streets. The husband is out of work and living in common lodging-houses. The husband’s sister has eight children of her own, and says she can’t afford to keep these little girls any longer.
Magistrate. [Returning to his seat beneath the canopy of justice.] Now, let me see. You say the mother is on the streets; what evidence have you of that?
Relieving officer. I have the husband here, your Worship.
Magistrate. Very well; then let us see him.
[There are cries of “Livens.” The magistrate leans forward, and stares with hard compassion at the little girls. Livens comes in. He is quiet, with grizzled hair, and a muffler for a collar. He stands beside the witness-box.]
And you, are their father? Now, why don’t you keep your little girls at home. How is it you leave them to wander about the streets like this?