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a scene from

by John Galsworthy

[A Girl, sits crouched over her knees on a stile close to a river. A MAN with a silver badge stands beside her, clutching the worn top plank. THE GIRL'S level brows are drawn together; her eyes see her memories. THE MAN's eyes see THE GIRL; he has a dark, twisted face. The bright sun shines; the quiet river flows; the Cuckoo is calling; the mayflower is in bloom along the hedge that ends in the stile on the towing-path.]

THE GIRL: God knows what 'e'll say, Jim.

THE MAN: Let 'im. 'E's come too late, that's all.

THE GIRL: He couldn't come before. I'm frightened. 'E was fond o' me.

THE MAN: And aren't I fond of you?

THE GIRL: I ought to 'a waited, Jim; with 'im in the fightin'.

THE MAN: [Passionately] And what about me? Aren't I been in the fightin'—earned all I could get?

THE GIRL: [Touching him] Ah!

THE MAN: Did you—? [He cannot speak the words.]

THE GIRL: Not like you, Jim—not like you.

THE MAN: Have a spirit, then.

THE GIRL: I promised him.

THE MAN: One man's luck's another's poison.

THE GIRL: I ought to 'a waited. I never thought he'd come back from the fightin'.

THE MAN: [Grimly] Maybe 'e'd better not 'ave.

THE GIRL: [Looking back along the tow-path] What'll he be like, I wonder?

THE MAN: [Gripping her shoulder] Daisy, don't you never go back on me, or I should kill you, and 'im too.

[THE GIRL looks at him, shivers, and puts her lips to his.]

THE GIRL: I never could.

THE MAN: Will you run for it? 'E'd never find us!

[THE GIRL shakes her head.]

THE MAN: [Dully] What's the good o' stayin'? The world's wide.

THE GIRL: I'd rather have it off me mind, with him home.

THE MAN: [Clenching his hands] It's temptin' Providence.

THE GIRL: What's the time, Jim?

THE MAN: [Glancing at the sun] 'Alf past four.

THE GIRL: [Looking along the towing-path] He said four o'clock. Jim, you better go.

THE MAN: Not I. I've not got the wind up. I've seen as much of hell as he has, any day. What like is he?

THE GIRL: [Dully] I dunno, just. I've not seen him these three years. I dunno no more, since I've known you.

THE MAN: Big or little chap?

THE GIRL: 'Bout your size. Oh! Jim, go along!

THE MAN: No fear! What's a blighter like that to old Fritz's shells? We didn't shift when they was comin'. If you'll go, I'll go; not else.

[Again she shakes her head.]

THE GIRL: Jim, do you love me true?

[For answer THE MAN takes her avidly in his arms.]

I ain't ashamed—I ain't ashamed. If 'e could see me 'eart.

THE MAN: Daisy! If I'd known you out there, I never could 'a stuck it. They'd 'a got me for a deserter. That's how I love you!

THE GIRL: Jim, don't lift your hand to 'im! Promise!

THE MAN: That's according.

THE GIRL: Promise!

THE MAN: If 'e keeps quiet, I won't. But I'm not accountable—not always, I tell you straight—not since I've been through that.

THE GIRL: [With a shiver] Nor p'raps he isn't.

THE MAN: Like as not. It takes the lynch pins out, I tell you.

THE GIRL: God 'elp us!

THE MAN: [Grimly] Ah! We said that a bit too often. What we want we take, now; there's no one else to give it us, and there's no fear'll stop us; we seen the bottom of things.

THE GIRL: P'raps he'll say that too.

THE MAN: Then it'll be 'im or me.

THE GIRL: I'm frightened:

THE MAN: [Tenderly] No, Daisy, no! The river's handy. One more or less. 'E shan't 'arm you; nor me neither. [He takes out a knife.]

THE GIRL: [Seizing his hand] Oh, no! Give it to me, Jim!

THE MAN: [Smiling] No fear! [He puts it away] Shan't 'ave no need for it like as not. All right, little Daisy; you can't be expected to see things like what we do. What's life, anyway? I've seen a thousand lives taken in five minutes. I've seen dead men on the wires like flies on a flypaper. I've been as good as dead meself a hundred times. I've killed a dozen men. It's nothin'. He's safe, if 'e don't get my blood up. If he does, nobody's safe; not 'im, nor anybody else; not even you. I'm speakin' sober.

THE GIRL: [Softly] Jim, you won't go fightin' in the sun, with the birds all callin'?

THE MAN: That depends on 'im.

* * *

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