Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Vagabonds
By John Galsworthy (1867–1933)
From ‘The Pigeon,’ Act III.

FERRAND—The good God made me so that I would rather walk a whole month of nights, hungry, with the stars, than sit one single day making round business on an office stool! It is not to my advantage. I cannot help it that I am a vagabond. What would you have? It is stronger than me.  [He looks suddenly at Wellwyn.]  Monsieur, I say to you things I have never said.  1
  Wellwyn  [quietly]—Go on, go on.  [There is silence.]  2
  Ferrand  [suddenly]—Monsieur! Are you really English? The English are so civilized.  3
  Wellwyn—And am I not?  4
  Ferrand—You treat me like a brother.  5
[Wellwyn has turned towards the street door at a sound of feet, and the clamor of voices.]
  Timson  [from the street]—Take her in ’ere. I nows ’im.
[Through the open doorway come a Police Constable and a Loafer, bearing between them the limp while-faced form of Mrs. Megan, hatless and with drowned hair, enveloped in the policeman’s waterproof.  Some curious persons bring up the rear, jostling in the doorway, among whom is Timson carrying in his hands the policeman’s dripping waterproof leg pieces.]
  Ferrand  [starling forward]—Monsieur, it is that little girl!
  Wellwyn—What’s happened? Constable! What’s happened!  8
[The Constable and Loafer have laid the body down on the dais; with Wellwyn and Ferrand they stand bending over her.]
  Constable—’Tempted sooicide, sir; but she hadn’t been in the water ’arf a minute when I got hold of her.  [He bends lower.]  Can’t understand her collapsin’ like this.
  Wellwyn  [feeling her heart]—I don’t feel anything.  10
  Ferrand  [in a voice sharpened by emotion]—Let me try, Monsieur.  11
  Constable  [touching his arm]—You keep off, my lad.  12
  Wellwyn—No, constable—let him. He’s her friend.  13
  Constable  [releasing Ferrand—to the Loafer]—Here you! Cut off for a doctor—sharp now!  [He pushes back the curious persons.]  Now then, stand away there, please—we can’t have you round the body. Keep back—Clear out, now!  14
[He slowly moves them back, and at last shepherds them through the door and shuts it on them, Timson being last.]
  Ferrand—The rum!
[Wellwyn fetches the decanter.  With the little there is left Ferrand chafes the girl’s hands and forehead, and pours some between her lips.  But there is no response from the inert body.]
  Ferrand—Her soul is still away, Monsieur!
[Wellwyn, seizing the decanter, pours into it tea and boiling water.]
  Constable—It’s never drownin’, sir—her head was hardly under; I was on to her like a knife.
  Ferrand  [rubbing her feet]—She has not yet her philosophy, Monsieur; at the beginning they often try. If she is dead!  [In a voice of awed rapture.]  What fortune!  18
  Constable  [with puzzled sadness]—True enough, sir—that! We’d just begun to know ’er. If she ’as been taken—her best friends couldn’t wish ’er better.  19
  Wellwyn  [applying the decanter to her lips]—Poor little thing! I’ll try this hot tea.  20
  Ferrand  [whispering]—La mort—le grand ami!  21
  Wellwyn—Look! Look at her! She’s coming round!  22
[A faint tremor passes over Mrs. Megan’s body.  He again applies the hot drink to her mouth.  She stirs and gulps.]
  Constable  [with intense relief]—That’s brave! Good lass! She’ll pick up now, sir.
[Then, seeing that Timson and the curious persons have again opened the door, he drives them out, and stands with his back against it.  Mrs. Megan comes to herself.]
  Wellwyn  [sitting on the dais and supporting her—as if to a child]—There you are, my dear. There, there—better now! Drink a little more of this tea.  [Mrs. Megan drinks from the decanter.]
  Ferrand  [rising]—Bring her to the fire, Monsieur.  25
[They take her to the fire and seat her on the little stool.  From the moment of her restored animation Ferrand has resumed his air of cynical detachment, and now stands apart with arms folded, watching.]
  Wellwyn—Feeling better, my child?
  Mrs. Megan—Yes.  27
  Wellwyn—That’s good. That’s good. Now, how was it? Um?  28
  Mrs. Megan—I dunno.  [She shivers.]  I was standin’ here just now when you was talkin’, and when I heard ’im, it cam’ over me to do it—like.  29
  Wellwyn—Ah, yes, I know.  30
  Mrs. Megan—I didn’t seem no good to meself nor anyone. But when I got in the water, I didn’t want to any more. It was cold in there.  31
  Wellwyn—Have you been having such a bad time of it?  32
  Mrs. Megan—Yes. And listenin’ to him upset me.  [She signs with her head at Ferrand.]  I feel better now I’ve been in the water.  [She smiles and shivers.]  33
  Wellwyn—There, there— Shivery? Like to walk up and down a little?  [They begin walking together up and down.]  34
  Wellwyn—Beastly when your head goes under?  35
  Mrs. Megan—Yes. It frightened me. I thought I wouldn’t come up again.  36
  Wellwyn—I know—sort of world without end, wasn’t it? What did you think of, um?  37
  Mrs. Megan—I wished I ’adn’t jumped—an’ I thought of my baby—that died—and—[in a rather surprised voice]  and I thought of d-dancin’.  38
[Her mouth quivers, her face puckers, she gives a choke and a little sob.]
  Wellwyn  [slopping and stroking her]—There, there—there!
[For a moment her face is buried in his sleeve, then she recovers herself.]
  Mrs. Megan—Then ’e got hold o’ me, an’ pulled me out.
  Wellwyn—Ah! what a comfort—um?  41
  Mrs. Megan—Yes. The water got into me mouth.  [They walk again.]  I wouldn’t have gone to do it but for him.  [She looks towards Ferrand.]  His talk made me feel all funny, as if people wanted me to.  42
  Wellwyn—My dear child! Don’t think such things! As if anyone would——!  43
  Mrs. Megan  [stolidly]—I thought they did. They used to look at me so sometimes, where I was before I ran away—I couldn’t stop there, you know.  44
  Wellwyn—Too cooped-up?  45
  Mrs. Megan—Yes. No life at all, it wasn’t—not after sellin’ flowers, I’d rather be doin’ what I am.  46
  Wellwyn—Ah! Well—it’s all over, now! How d’you feel—eh? Better?  47
  Mrs. Megan—Yes, I feels all right now.  48
[She sits up again on the little stool before the fire.]
  Wellwyn—No shivers, and no aches; quite comfy?
  Mrs. Megan—Yes.  50
  Wellwyn—That’s a blessing. All well now, Constable—thank you!  51
  Constable  [who has remained discreetly apart at the door—cordially]—First rate, sir! That’s capital!  [He approaches and scrutinizes Mrs. Megan.]  Right as rain, eh, my girl?  52
  Mrs. Megan  [shrinking a little]—Yes.  53
  Constable—That’s fine. Then I think perhaps, for ’er sake, the sooner we move on and get her a change o’ clothin’, the better.  54
  Wellwyn—Oh! don’t bother about that—I’ll send round for my daughter—we’ll manage for her here.  55
  Constable—Very kind of you, I’m sure, sir. But  [with embarrassment]  she seems all right. She’ll get every attention at the station.  56
  Wellwyn—But I assure you, we don’t mind at all; we’ll take the greatest care of her.  57
  Constable  [still more embarrassed]—Well, sir, of course, I’m afraid I can’t depart from the usual course.  58
  Wellwyn  [sharply]—What! But—oh! No! No! That’ll be all right, Constable! That’ll be all right! I assure you.  59
  Constable  [with more decision]—I’ll have to charge her, sir.  60
  Wellwyn—Good God! You don’t mean to say the poor little thing has got to be——  61
  Constable  [consulting with him]—Well, sir, we can’t get over the facts, can we? There it is! You know what sooicide amounts to—it’s an awkward job.  62
  Wellwyn  [calming himself with an effort]—But look here, Constable, as a reasonable man.—This poor wretched little girl—you know what that life means better than anyone! Why! It’s to her credit to try and jump out of it!  [The Constable shakes his head.]  63
  Wellwyn—You said yourself her best friends couldn’t wish her better!  [Dropping his voice still more.]  Everybody feels it! The Vicar was here a few minutes ago saying the very same thing—the Vicar, Constable!  [The Constable shakes his head.]  Ah! now, look here, I know something of her. Nothing can be done with her. We all admit it. Don’t you see? Well, then, hang it—you needn’t go and make fools of us all by——  64
  Ferrand—Monsieur, it is the first of April.  65
  Constable  [with a sharp glance at him]—Can’t neglect me duty, sir; that’s impossible.  66
  Wellwyn—Look here! She—slipped. She’s been telling me. Come, Constable, there’s a good fellow. May be the making of her, this.  67
  Constable—I quite appreciate your good ’eart, sir, an’ you make it very ’ard for me—but, come now! I put it to you as a gentleman, would you go back on yer duty if you was me?  68
[Wellwyn raises his hat, and plunges his fingers through his hair.]
  Wellwyn—Well! God in heaven! Of all the d—d topsy-turvy! Not a soul in the world wants her alive—and now she’s to be prosecuted for trying to be where everyone wishes her.
  Constable—Come, sir, come! Be a man!  70
[Throughout all this Mrs. Megan has sat stolidly before the fire, but as Ferrand suddenly steps forward she looks up at him.]
  Ferrand—Do not grieve, Monsieur! This will give her courage. There is nothing that gives more courage than to see the irony of things.  [He touches Mrs. Megan’s shoulder.]  Go, my child; it will do you good.
[Mrs. Megan rises, and looks at him dazedly.]
  Constable  [coming forward, and taking her by the hand]—That’s my good lass. Come along! We won’t hurt you.

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