Builder. Nor do I. Yes! I’ll see him.
Topping goes out,
and builder stands over by the fender, with his
head a little down.
Topping. [Re-entering] The Mayor, sir.
He retires up Left.
The Mayor is overcoated, and carries, of all
things, a top hat. He reaches the centre of the room before he
Mayor. [Embarrassed] Well, Builder?
Mayor. Come! That caution of mine was quite parliamentary. I ’ad to save face, you know.
Builder. And what about my face?
Mayor. Well, you—you made it difficult for me. ’Ang it all! Put yourself into my place!
Builder. [Grimly] I’d rather put you into mine, as it was last night.
Mayor. Yes, yes! I know; but the Bench has got a name to keep up—must stand well in the people’s eyes. As it is, I sailed very near the wind. Suppose we had an ordinary person up before us for striking a woman?
Builder. I didn’t strike a woman—I struck my daughter.
Mayor. Well, but she’s not a child, you know. And you did resist the police, if no worse. Come! You’d have been the first to maintain British justice. Shake ’ands!
Builder. Is that what you came for?
Mayor. [Taken aback] Why—yes; nobody can be more sorry than I—
Builder. Eye-wash! You came to beg me to resign.
Mayor. Well, it’s precious awkward, Builder. We all feel—
Builder. Save your powder, Mayor. I’ve slept on it since I wrote you that note. Take my resignations.
Mayor. [In relieved embarrassment] That’s right. We must face your position.
Builder. [With a touch of grim humour] I never yet met a man who couldn’t face another man’s position.
Mayor. After all, what is it?
Builder. Splendid isolation. No wife, no daughters, no Councillorship, no Magistracy, no future—[With a laugh] not even a French maid. And why? Because I tried to exercise a little wholesome family authority. That’s the position you’re facing, Mayor.
Mayor. Dear, dear! You’re devilish bitter, Builder. It’s unfortunate, this publicity. But it’ll all blow over; and you’ll be back where you were. You’ve a good sound practical sense underneath your temper. [A pause] Come, now! [A pause] Well, I’ll say good-night, then.
Builder. You shall have them in writing tomorrow.
Mayor. [With sincerity] Come! Shake ’ands.
Builder, after a long look, holds out his hand. The two men exchange a grip.
The Mayor, turning abruptly, goes out.
motionless for a minute, then resumes his seat at
the side of the writing table, leaning his head on his hands.