A Drama in Four Acts
The Stepney Gas Chamber. Midnight.
|SCENE. — The Gas Chamber at Stepney. A large, dark, grimy room on
an upper floor of an old building backing on wharves etc. Plaster cracking
off, masonry piers or chimney showing. As uncanny and gruesome appearance
as possible. Heavy beams and timbers showing. Door leads to the landing
and then to the entrance. Another door leads to a small cupboard. The walls
of the cupboard can be seen when the door is opened. Large window, closed.
Grimy and dirty glass so nothing can be seen through it. The window is
nailed with spike nails securely shut. Black backing — no light behind.
Strong bars outside back of windows, to show when window is broken. These
bars must not be seen through the glass. Trash all over the room. The only
light in the room on the rise of the curtain is from a dim lantern — carried
on by McTAGUE.
Characteristic Music for Curtain.
CRAIGIN and LEARY are discovered. CRAIGIN is sitting on a box. He sits glum and motionless, waiting. LEARY is sitting on table his feet on the chair in front of it.
McTAGUE enters with safety lamp. He stops just within a moment, glancing around in the dimness. Soon moves up near a masonry pier, a little above the door, and leans against it, waiting. CRAIGIN, LEARY and McTAGUE are dressed in dark clothes and wear felt -soled shoes.
LEARY: What’s McTague doing ‘ere?
McTAGUE: I was sent ‘ere.
(All dialogue in this part of Act in low tones, but distinct, to give a weird effect, echoing through the large grimy room among the deep shadows.)
LEARY: I thought the Seraph was with us in this job.
CRAIGIN: ‘E ain’t.
LEARY: Who was the last you put the gas on?
CRAIGIN: I didn’t ‘ear ‘is name. (Pause.) ‘E’d been ‘oldin’ back money on a ‘aul out some railway place.
McTAGUE: What’s this ‘ere job he wants done? (Sits on box, placing lamp on floor by his side.)
CRAIGIN: I ain’t been told.
LEARY: As long as it’s ‘ere we know what it’s likely to be.
(Door opens slowly and hesitatingly. Enter SID PRINCE. He stands just within door, and looks about a little suspiciously as if uncertain what to do. Pause. He notices that the door is slowly closing behind him and quietly holds it back. But he must not burlesque this movement with funny business. McTAGUE holds lantern up to see who it is, at the same time rising and coming down near PRINCE.)
PRINCE: Does any one of you blokes know if this is the place where I meet Alf Bassick?
(Pause. Neither of the other men take notice of PRINCE. McTAGUE goes back to where he was sitting before PRINCE’S entrance.)
(After waiting a moment.) From wot you say, I take it you don’t.
CRAIGIN: We ain’t knowin’ no such man. ‘E may be ‘ere and ‘e may not.
PRINCE: Oh! (Comes a little farther into room and lets the door close.) It’s quite right then, thank you. (Pause. No one speaks.) Nice old place to find, this ‘ere is. (No one answers him.) And when you do find it — (looks about) — I can’t say it’s any too cheerful. (He thereupon pulls out a cigarette-case, puts a cigarette in his mouth, and feels in pocket for matches. Finds one. About to light it. Has moved a few steps during this.)
CRAIGIN: Here! ...
Don’t light that! … It ain’t safe!
(PRINCE stops motionless, where above speech caught him, for an instant. Pause. PRINCE begins to turn his head slowly and only a little way, glances carefully about, as if expecting to see tins of nitro-glycerine. He sees nothing on either side, and finally turns towards CRAIGIN.)
PRINCE: If it ain’t askin’ too much wot’s the matter with the place? It looks all roight to me.
CRAIGIN: Well don’t light no matches, and it’ll stay lookin’ the same.
(Pause. Door opens, and BASSICK enters hurriedly. He looks quickly about.)
BASSICK: Oh, Prince, you’re here. I was looking for you outside.
PRINCE: You told me to be ‘ere, sir. That was ‘ow the last arrangement stood.
BASSICK: Very well! (Going across PRINCE and glancing about to see that the other men are present.) You’ve got the rope Craigin?
(Voices are still kept low.)
CRAIGIN (pointing to bunch of loose rope on floor near him): It’s ’ere.
BASSICK: That you, Leary?
LEARY: ‘Ere, sir!
BASSICK: And McTague?
McTAGUE: ‘Ere, sir!
BASSICK: You want to be very careful with it to-night — you’ve got a tough one.
CRAIGIN: You ain’t said who, as I’ve ‘eard.
BASSICK (low voice): Sherlock Holmes.
CRAIGIN (after the pause): You mean that, sir?
BASSICK: Indeed, I do!
CRAIGIN: We’re goin’ to count ‘im out.
BASSICK: Well, if you don’t and he gets away — I’m sorry for you, that’s all.
CRAIGIN: I’ll be cursed glad to put the gas on ‘im — I tell you that.
LEARY: I say the same myself.
(Sound of MORIARTY and LARRABEE coming.)
BASSICK: Sh! Professor Moriarty’s coming.
(McTAGUE places lamp on box.)
LEARY: Not the guv’nor?
BASSICK: Yes. He wanted to see this.
(The three men retire a little up stage, waiting. BASSICK moves to meet MORIARTY. PRINCE moves up out of way. Door opens. Enter MORIARTY, followed by LARRABEE. Door slowly closes behind them. LARRABEE waits a moment near door and then retires up near PRINCE. They watch the following scene. All speeches low — quiet — in undertone.)
MORIARTY: Where’s Craigin?
(CRAIGIN steps forward.)
Have you got your men?
CRAIGIN: All ‘ere, sir.
MORIARTY: No mistakes to-night.
CRAIGIN: I’ll be careful o’ that.
MORIARTY (quick glance about): That door, Bassick. (Points up, back to audience.)
BASSICK: A small cupboard, sir. (Goes quickly up and opens the door wide to show it.)
(LEARY catches up lantern and swings it near the cupboard door.)
MORIARTY: No outlet?
BASSICK: None whatever, sir.
(LEARY swings lantern almost inside cupboard to let MORIARTY See. All this dialogue in very low tones, but distinct and Impressive. BASSICK closes door after lantern business.)
MORIARTY (turns and points): That window?
BASSICK (moving over a little): Nailed down, sir!
(LEARY turns and swings the lantern near window so that MORIARTY can see.)
MORIARTY: A man might break the glass.
BASSICK: If he did that he’d come against heavy iron bars outside.
CRAIGIN: We’ll ‘ave ‘im tied down afore ‘e could break any glass sir.
MORIARTY (who has turned to CRAIGIN): Ah! You’ve used it before. Of course you know if it’s airtight?
BASSICK: Every crevice is caulked sir.
MORIARTY (turns and points as if at something directly over footlights) And that door?
(LEARY comes down and gives lantern a quick swing as if lighting place indicated)
BASSICK (from same position): The opening is planked up solid sir as you can see and double thickness.
MORIARTY: Ah! (Satisfaction. Glances at door through which he entered) When the men turn the gas on him they leave by that door?
BASSICK: Yes sir.
MORIARTY: It can be made quite secure?
BASSICK: Heavy bolts on the outside sir and solid bars over all.
MORIARTY: Let me see how quick you can operate them.
BASSICK: They tie the man down, sir — there’s no need to hurry.
MORIARTY (same voice) Let me see how quick you can operate them.
BASSICK (quick order): Leary! (Motions him to door)
LEARY (handing lamp to CRAIGIN): Yes sir! (He jumps to and goes out closing it at once and immediately the sound of sliding bolts and the dropping of bars are heard from outside)
(This is a very important effect as it is repeated at the end of the Act. CRAIGIN places lamp on box)
MORIARTY: That s all.
(Sounds of bolts withdrawn and LEARY enters and waits)
(Goes to CRAIGIN.) Craigin — you’ll take your men outside that door and wait till Mr. Larrabee has had a little business interview with the gentleman. Take them up the passage to the left so Holmes does not see them as he comes in. (To BASSICK.) Who’s driving the cab to night?
BASSICK: I sent O’Hagan. His orders are to drive him about for an hour so he doesn’t know the distance or the direction he’s going, and then stop at the small door at upper Swandem Lane. He’s going to get him out there and show him to this door.
MORIARTY: The cab windows were covered, of course?
BASSICK: Wooden shutters, sir, bolted and secure. There isn’t a place he can see through the size of a pin.
MORIARTY (satisfied): Ah! … (Looks about.) We must have a lamp here.
BASSICK: Better not, sir — there might be some gas left.
MORIARTY: You’ve got a light there. (Pointing to miner’s safety lamp on box.)
BASSICK: It’s a safety lamp, sir.
MORIARTY: A safety lamp! You mustn’t have that here! The moment he sees that he’ll know what you’re doing and make trouble. (Sniffs.) There’s hardly any gas. Go and tell Lascar we must have a good lamp.
(BASSICK goes out.)
(Looks about.) Bring that table over here.
(CRAIGIN and McTAGUE bring table.)
Now, Craigin — and the rest of you — One thing remember. No shooting to-night! Not a single shot. It can be heard in the alley below. The first thing is to get his revolver away before he has a chance to use it. Two of you attract his attention in front — the other come up on him from behind and snatch it out of his pocket. Then you have him. Arrange that, Craigin.
CRAIGIN: I’ll attend to it, sir.
(The three men retire. Enter BASSICK with large lamp. Glass shade to lamp of whitish colour. BASSICK crosses to table and Places lamp on it.)
BASSICK (to McTAGUE): Put out that lamp.
(McTAGUE is about to pick up lamp.)
We’ll want it when the other’s taken away.
BASSICK: He mustn’t see it, understand.
MORIARTY: Don’t put it out — cover it with something.
CRAIGIN: Here! (He goes up, takes lantern, and pulling out a large box from several others places lantern within and pushes the open side against the wall so that no light from lantern can be seen from front.)
MORIARTY: That will do.
BASSICK (approaching MORIARTY): You mustn’t stay longer, sir. O’Hagan might be a little early.
MORIARTY: Mr. Larrabee — (Moving a step forward.) You understand! — they wait for you.
LARRABEE (low — quiet): I understand, sir.
MORIARTY: I give you this opportunity to get what you can for your trouble. But anything that is found on him after you have finished — is subject — (glances at CRAIGIN and others) — to the usual division.
LARRABEE: That’s all I want.
MORIARTY: When you have quite finished and got your money suppose you blow that little whistle which I observe hanging from your watch chain — and these gentlemen will take their turn.
(BASSICK holds door open for MORIARTY. LARRABEE moves up out of way as MORIARTY crosses.)
(Crosses to door. At door, turning to CRAIGIN.) And, Craigin —
(CRAIGIN crosses to MORIARTY.)
At the proper moment present my compliments to Mr. Sherlock Holmes, and say that I wish him a pleasant journey to the other side. (Goes out, followed by BASSICK.)
(LARRABEE glances about critically. As MORIARTY goes, PRINCE throws cigarette on floor in disgust, which LEARY picks up as he goes later, putting it in his pocket.)
LARRABEE: You’d better put that rope out of sight.
(CRAIGIN picks up rope, which he carries with him until he goes out later. LEARY and McTAGUE move across noiselessly at back. CRAIGIN stops an instant up stage to examine the window, looking at the caulking, etc., and shaking the frames to see that they are securely spiked. Others wait near door. He finishes at window. LARRABEE is examining package near lamp, which he has taken from his pocket. As LEARY crosses he picks up rope which was lying up centre and hides it in barrel. McTAGUE in crossing bumps up against PRINCE, and both look momentarily at each other very much annoyed.)
CRAIGIN (joins LEARY and McTAGUE at door. Speaks to LARRABEE from door): You understand, sir, we’re on this floor just around the far turn of the passage — so ‘e won’t see us as ‘e’s commin’ up.
LARRABEE: I understand. (Turning to CRAIGIN.)
CRAIGIN: An’ it’s w’en we ‘ears that whistle, eh?
LARRABEE: When you hear this whistle.
(CRAIGIN, LEARY and McTAGUE go out noiselessly. Pause. Door remains open. PRINCE, who has been very quiet during foregoing scene, begins to move a little nervously and looks about. He looks at his watch and then glances about again. LARRABEE is still near lamp, looking at package of papers which he took from his pocket.)
PRINCE (coming down in a grumpy manner, head down, not looking at LARRABEE): Look ‘ere, Jim, this sort of thing ain’t so much in my line.
LARRABEE (at table): I suppose not.
PRINCE (still eyes about without looking at LARRABEE): When it comes to a shy at a safe or drillin’ into bank vaults, I feels perfectly at ‘ome, but I don’t care so much to see a man — (Stops — hesitates.) Well, it ain’t my line!
LARRABEE (turning): Here! (Going to him and urging him toward door and putting package away.) All I want of you is to go down on the corner below and let me know when he comes.
PRINCE (stops and turns to LARRABEE): ‘Ow will I let you know?
LARRABEE: Have you got a whistle?
PRINCE (pulls one out of pocket): Cert’nly.
LARRABEE: Well when you see O’Hagan driving with him Come down the alley there and blow it twice. (Urging PRINCE a little nearer door.)
PRINCE: Yes—but ain’t it quite loikely to call a cab at the same time?
LARRABEE: What more do you want — take the cab and go home.
PRINCE: Oh, then you won’t need me ‘ere again.
(PRINCE turns to go.)
PRINCE (going to door — very much relieved): Oh, very well — then I’ll tear myself away. (Goes out.)
(Music. Pathetic, melodramatic, agitato, pp.)
(LARRABEE crosses to table and looks at lamp, gets two chairs and places them on either side of table; As he places second chair he stops dead as if having heard a noise outside, listens, and is satisfied all is well. Then thinking of the best way to conduct negotiations with Holmes, takes out cigar, and holds it a moment unlighted as he thinks. Then takes out match and is about to light it when ALICE FAULKNER enters. He starts up and looks at her. She stands looking at him, frightened and excited.)
LARRABEE: What do you want?
ALICE: It’s true, then?
LARRABEE: How did you get to this place?
ALICE: I followed you — in a cab.
LARRABEE: What have you been doing since I came up here? Informing the police, perhaps.
ALICE: No — I was afraid he’d come — so I waited.
LARRABEE: Oh — to warn him very likely?
ALICE: Yes. (Pause.) To warn him. (Looks about room.)
LARRABEE: Then it’s just as well you came up.
ALICE: I came to make sure — (Glances about.)
LARRABEE: Of what?
ALICE: That something else — is not going to be done besides — what they told me.
LARRABEE: Ah — somebody told you that something else was going to be done?
LARRABEE: So! We’ve got another spy in the house.
ALICE: You’re going to swindle and deceive him — I know that. Is there anything more? (Advancing to him a little.)
LARRABEE: What could you do if there was?
ALICE: I could buy you off. Such men as you are always open to sale.
LARABEE: How much would you give?
ALICE: The genuine package — the real ones. All the proofs — everything
LARRABEE (advancing above table, quietly but with quick interest): Have you got it with you?
ALICE: No, but I can get it.
LARRABEE: Oh — (Going to table. Slightly disappointed.) So you’ll do all that for this man? You think he’s your friend, I suppose?
ALICE: I haven’t thought of it.
LARRABEE: Look what he’s doing now. Coming here to buy those things off me.
ALICE: They’re false. They’re counterfeit.
LARRABEE: He thinks they’re genuine, doesn’t he? He’d hardly come here to buy them if he didn’t.
ALICE: He may ask my permission still.
LARRABEE: Ha! (Sneer—turning away.) He won’t get the chance.
ALICE (suspicious again): Won’t get the chance. Then there is something else.
LARRABEE: Something else! (Turning to her.) Why, you see me here myself, don’t you? I’m going to talk to him on a little business. How could I do him any harm?
ALICE (advancing): Where are those men who came up here?
LARRABEE: What men?
ALICE: Three villainous looking men — I saw them go in at the street door —
LARRABEE: Oh — those men. They went up the other stairway. (Pointing over shoulder.) You can see them in the next building — if you look out of this window. (Indicating window.)
(ALICE at once goes rapidly toward the window and making a hesitating pause near table as she sees LARRABEE crossing above her but moving on again quickly LARRABEE at same time crosses well up stage, keeping his eye on ALICE as she moves towards the window and tries to look out, but finding she cannot she turns at once to LARRABEE. He is standing near door.)
(Music. Melodramatic. Danger. Keep down. pp Agitato)
(Hold this an instant where they stand looking at one another, ALICE beginning to see she has been trapped.)
ALICE (starting toward door): I’ll look in the passage-way, if you please.
LARRABEE (taking one step down before door, quietly): Yes — but I don’t please.
ALICE (stops before him): You wouldn’t dare to keep me here.
LARRABEE: I might dare — but I won’t. You’d be in the way.
ALICE: Where are those men?
LARRABEE: Stay where you are and you’ll see them very soon.
(LARRABEE goes to door and blows whistle as quietly as possible. Short pause. No footsteps heard, as the men move noiselessly. Enter CRAIGIN, McTAGUE and LEARY, appearing suddenly noiselessly. They stand looking in some astonishment at ALICE.)
ALICE: I knew it. (Moving back a step, seeing from this that they are going to attack Holmes.) Ah! (Under breath. After pause she turns and hurries to window, trying to look out or give an alarm. Then runs to cupboard door. LARRABEE watching her movements. Desperately.) You’re going to do him some harm.
LARRABEE: Oh no, it’s only a little joke — at his expense.
ALICE (moving toward him a little): You wanted the letters,
the package I had in the safe! I’ll get it for you. Let me go and I’ll
bring it here — or whatever you tell me — (LARRABEE sneers meaningly.)
LARRABEE (without moving): You needn’t take the trouble to get it — but you can tell me where it is — and you’ll have to be quick about it too—
ALICE: Yes — if you’ll promise not to go on with this.
LARRABEE: Of course! That’s understood.
ALICE (excitedly): You promise!
LARRABEE: Certainly I promise. Now where is it?
ALICE: Just outside my bedroom window — just outside on the left, fastened between the shutter and the wall — you can easily find it.
LARRABEE: Yes — I can easily find it.
ALICE: Now tell them — tell them to go.
LARRABEE (going down to men): Tie her up so she can’t
make a noise. Keep her out there until we have Holmes in here, and then
let O’Hagan keep her in his cab. She mustn’t get back to the house
(ALICE listens dazed, astonished.)
CRAIGIN (speaks low): Go an’ get a hold, Leary. Hand me a piece of that rope.
(McTAGUE brings rope from under his coat. Business of getting rapidly ready to gag and tie ALICE. Much time must not be spent on this; quick, business-like. McTAGUE takes handkerchief from pocket to use as gag.)
LARRABEE (taking a step or two down before ALICE so as to attract her attention front): Now then, my pretty bird— (ALICE begins to move back in alarm and looking at LARRABEE.)
ALICE: You said — you said if I told you —
LARRABEE: Well — we haven’t done him any harm yet, have we?
(LEARY is moving quietly round behind her.)
ALICE: Then send them away.
LARRABEE: Certainly. Go away now, boys, there’s no more work for you to-night.
ALICE (looking at them terrified): They don’t obey you. They are —
(LEARY seizes her. She screams and resists, but CRAIGIN and McTAGUE come at once, so that she is quickly subdued and gagged with handkerchief, etc., and her hands tied. As the Struggle takes place, men work up to near cupboard with ALICE. LARRABEE also eagerly watching them tie ALICE up. This is not prolonged more than is absolutely necessary. Just as they finish, a shrill whistle is heard in distance outside at back, as if from street far below. All stop — listening —picture.)
CRAIGIN: Now out of the door with her — (Starting to door)
(The prolonged shrill whistle is heard again)
LARRABEE: By God, he’s here.
LARRABEE: That’s Sid Prince, I put him on the watch.
CRAIGIN: We won’t have time to get her out.
LARRABEE: Shut her in there (Pointing to cupboard)
LEARY: Yes — that’ll do.
CRAIGIN: In with her.
(LEARY and CRAIGIN, almost on the word, take her to cup board. McTAGUE goes and keeps watch at door.)
(As he holds ALICE.) Open that door! Open that door!
(LEARY goes and opens cupboard door. As LEARY leaves she breaks away from CRAIGIN and gets almost to right when CRAIGIN catches her again. As he takes hold of her she faints, and he throws her into cupboard in a helpless condition. LEARY closes cupboard door and they stand before it.)
LEARY (still at cupboard door. Others have turned so as to avoid suspicion if Holmes comes in on them): There ain’t no lock on this ‘ere door.
LARRABEE: No lock!
LARRABEE: Drive something in.
CRAIGIN: Here, this knife. (Hands LEARY a large clasp-knife, opened ready.)
LARRABEE: A knife won’t hold it.
CRAIGIN: Yes, it will. Drive it in strong.
(LEARY drives blade in door frame with all his force)
LEARY: ‘E’ll have to find us ‘ere.
CRAIGIN: Yes — and he won’t either — we’ll go on and do ‘im up. (Going to door)
LARRABEE: No, you won’t.
(Men stop. Pause.)
I’ll see him first, if you please.
(CRAIGIN and LARRABEE facing each other savagely an instant well down stage.)
McTAGUE: Them was orders, Craigin.
LEARY: So it was.
McTAGUE: There might be time to get back in the passage. (He listens at door and cautiously looks off — turns back into room.) They ain’t got up one flight yet.
LEARY: Quick then. (Moving toward door.)
(McTAGUE, LEARY and CRAIGIN go out. Door does not close. LARRABEE glances at door anxiously. Makes a quick dash up to it, and forces knife in with all his strength. Quickly pulls off coat and hat, throwing them on boxes, and sits quietly chewing an end of cigar. Enter SHERLOCK HOLMES at door, walking easily as though on some ordinary business.)
HOLMES (seeing the apartment with a glance as he enters and Pausing, disappointed. His little laugh, with no smile): How the devil is it that you crooks always manage to hit on the same places for your scoundrelly business? (Chuckles of amusement.) Well! I certainly thought, after all this driving about in a closed cab you’d show me something new.
LARRABEE (looking up nonchalantly): Seen it before, have you?
HOLMES (standing still): Well, I should think so! (Moves easily about recalling dear old times.) I nabbed a friend of yours in this place while he was trying to drop himself out of that window. Ned Colvin, the cracksman.
LARRABEE: Colvin. I never heard of him before.
HOLMES: No? Ha! ha! Well, you certainly never heard of him after. A brace of counterfeiters used these regal chambers in the spring of ‘90. One of them hid in the cupboard. We pulled him out by the heels.
LARRABEE (trying to get in on the nonchalance): Ah! Did you? And the other?
HOLMES: The other? He was more fortunate.
LARRABEE: Ah — he got away, I suppose.
HOLMES: Yes, he got away. We took his remains out through that door to the street. (Indicating door.)
LARRABEE: Quite interesting. (Drawled a little — looks at end of his cigar.)
(HOLMES is looking about.)
Times have changed since then.
(HOLMES darts a lightning glance at LARRABEE. Instantly easy again and glancing about as before.)
HOLMES (dropping down near LARRABEE): So they have, Mr. Larrabee — so they have. (A little confidentially.) Then it was only cracksmen, counterfeiters, and petty swindlers of various kinds — Now — (Pause, looking at LARRABEE.)
(LARRABEE turns and looks at HOLMES.)
LARRABEE: Well? What now?
HOLMES: Well — (Mysteriously.) Between you and me, Larrabee — we’ve heard some not altogether agreeable rumors; rumours of some pretty shady work not far from here — a murder or two of a very peculiar kind — and I’ve always had a suspicion — (Stops. Sniffs very delicately. Motionless pause. Nods ominously to LARRABEE, who is looking about, and gets over towards window. When within reach he runs his hand lightly along the frame) My surmise was correct — it is.
LARRABEE (turning to HOLMES) It is what?
LARRABEE: What does that signify to us?
HOLMES: Nothing to us, Mr. Larrabee, nothing to us, but it might signify a good deal to some poor devil who’s been caught in this trap.
LARRABEE: Well if it’s nothing to us suppose we leave it and get to business. My time is limited.
HOLMES: Quite so, of course. I should have realized that reflections could not possibly appeal to you. But it so happens I take a deep interest in anything that pertains to what are known as the criminal classes and this same interest makes me rather curious to know —(looking straight at LARRABEE, who looks up at him) — how you happened to select such a singularly gruesome place for an ordinary business transaction.
LARRABEE (looking at HOLMES across the table): I selected this places Mr. Holmes, because I thought you might not be disposed to take such liberties here as you practised in my own house last night.
HOLMES: Quite so, quite so. (Looks innocently at LARRABEE.) But why not?
(They look at one another an instant.)
LARRABEE: (significantly): You might not feel quite so much at home.
HOLMES: Oh — ha! (A little laugh.) You’ve made a singular miscalculation. I feel perfectly at home, Mr. Larrabee! Perfectly! (He seats himself at table in languid and leisurely manner, takes cigar from pocket and lights it.)
LARRABEE (looks at him an instant): Well, I’m very glad to hear it.
(LARRABEE now takes out the counterfeit package of papers, etc., and tosses it on the table before them. HOLMES looks on floor slightly by light of match, unobserved by LARRABEE.)
Here is the little packet which is the object of this meeting. (He glances at HOLMES to see effect of its production.)
(HOLMES looks at it calmly as he smokes.)
I haven’t opened it yet, but Miss Faulkner tells me everything is there.
HOLMES: Then there is no need of opening it, Mr. Larrabee.
LARRABEE: Oh, well — I want to see you satisfied.
HOLMES: That is precisely the condition in which you now behold me. Miss Faulkner is a truthful young lady. Her word is sufficient.
LARRABEE: Very well. Now what shall we say, Mr. Holmes? (Pause.) Of course, we want a pretty large price for this. Miss Faulkner is giving up everything. She would not be satisfied unless the result justified it.
HOLMES (pointedly): Suppose, Mr. Larrabee, that as Miss Faulkner knows nothing whatever about this affair, we omit her name from the discussion.
(Slight pause of two seconds.)
LARRABEE: Who told you she doesn’t know?
HOLMES: You did. Every look, tone, gesture — everything you have said and done since I have been in this room has informed me that she has never consented to this transaction. It is a little speculation of your own. (Tapping his fingers on end of table.)
LARRABEE: Ha! (Sneer.) I suppose you think you can read me like a book.
HOLMES: No — like a primer.
LARRABEE: Well, let that pass. How much’ll you give?
HOLMES: A thousand pounds.
LARRABEE: I couldn’t take it.
HOLMES: What do you ask?
LARRABEE: Five thousand.
HOLMES (shakes head): I couldn’t give it.
LARRABEE: Very well — (Rises.) We’ve had all this trouble for nothing. (As if about to put up the packet.)
HOLMES (leaning back in chair and remonstrating): Oh — don’t say that, Mr. Larrabee! To me the occasion has been doubly interesting. I have not only had the pleasure of meeting you again but I have also availed myself of the opportunity of making observations regarding this place which may not come amiss.
(LARRABEE looks at HOLMES contemptuously. He places chair under table.)
LARRABEE: Why, I’ve been offered four thousand for this little—
HOLMES: Why didn’t you take it?
LARRABEE: Because I intend to get more.
HOLMES: That’s too bad.
LARRABEE: If they offered four thousand they’ll give five.
HOLMES: They won’t give anything.
LARRABEE: Why not?
HOLMES: They’ve turned the case over to me.
LARRABEE: Will you give three thousand?
HOLMES (rising): Mr. Larrabee, strange as it may appear, my time is limited as well as yours. I have brought with me the sum of One thousand pounds, which is all that I wish to pay. If it is your desire to sell at this figure kindly appraise me of the fact at once. If not, permit me to wish you a very good evening.
(Pause. LARRABEE looks at him.)
LARRABEE (after the pause glances nervously round once, fearing he heard something): Go on! (Tosses packet on table.) You can have them. It’s too small a matter to haggle over.
(HOLMES reseats himself at once, back of table, and takes wallet from his pocket, from which he produces a bunch of bank notes. LARRABEE stands watching him with glittering eye. HOLMES counts out ten one hundred pound notes and lays the remainder of the notes on the table with elbow on them, while he counts the first over again.)
(Sneeringly.) Oh—I thought you said you had brought just a thousand.
HOLMES (not looking up; counting the notes): I did. This is it.
LARRABEE: You brought a trifle more, I see.
HOLMES (counting notes): Quite so. I didn’t say I hadn’t brought any more.
LARRABEE: Ha! (Sneers.) You can do your little tricks when it comes to it, can’t you?
HOLMES: It depends on who I’m dealing with. (Hands LARRABEE one thousand pounds in notes.)
(LARRABEE takes money and keeps a close watch at same time on the remaining pile of notes lying at HOLMES’ left. HOLMES, after handing the notes to LARRABEE, lays cigar he was smoking on the table, picks up packet which he puts in his pocket with his right hand, and is almost at the same time reaching with his left hand for the notes he placed upon the table when LARRABEE makes a Sudden lunge and snatches the pile of bank notes, jumping back On the instant. HOLMES springs to his feet at the same time.)
Now I’ve got you where I want you, Jim Larrabee! You’ve been so cunning and so cautious and so wise, we couldn’t find a thing to hold you for — but this little slip will get you in for robbery —
LARRABEE: Oh! You’ll have me in, will you? (Short sneering laugh.) What are your views about being able to get away from here yourself?
HOLMES: I do not anticipate any particular difficulty.
LARRABEE (significantly): Perhaps you’ll change your mind about that.
HOLMES: Whether I change my mind or not, I certainly shall leave this place, and your arrest will shortly follow.
LARRABEE: My arrest? Ha, ha! Robbery, eh — Why, even if you got away from here you haven’t got a witness. Not a witness to your name.
HOLMES (slowly backing, keeping his eyes sharply on LARRABEE as he does so): I’m not so sure of that, Mr. Larrabee! — Do you usually fasten that door with a knife? (Pointing toward door with left arm and hand, but eyes on LARRABEE.)
(LARRABEE turns front as if bewildered. Tableau an instant. Very faint moan from within cupboard. HOLMES listens motionless an instant, then makes quick dash to door and seizing knife wrenches it out and flings it on the floor. LARRABEE seeing HOLMES start toward door of cupboard springs up to head him off)
LARRABEE: Come away from that door.
(But HOLMES has the door torn open and ALICE FAULKNER out before LARRABEE gets near.)
HOLMES: Stand back! (Turning to LARRABEE, supporting ALICE at same time.) You contemptible scoundrel! What does this mean!
LARRABEE: I’ll show you what it means cursed quick. (Taking a step or two, blows the little silver whistle attached to his watch chain.)
HOLMES (untying ALICE quickly) I’m afraid you’re badly hurt Miss Faulkner.
(Enter CRAIGIN. He stands there a moment near door, watching HOLMES. He makes a signal with hand to others outside door and then moves noiselessly. McTAGUE enters noiselessly, and remains a little behind CRAIGIN below door. ALICE shakes her head quickly, thinking of what she sees, and tries to call HOLMES attention to CRAIGIN and McTAGUE.)
ALICE: No! — Mr. Holmes. (Pointing to CRAIGIN and McTAGUE.)
HOLMES (glances round): Ah, Craigin — delighted to see you.
(CRAIGIN gives slight start.)
And you too McTague. I infer from your presence here at this particular juncture that I am not dealing with Mr. Larrabee alone.
LARRABEE: Your inference is quite correct, Mr. Holmes.
HOLMES: It is not difficult to imagine who is at the bottom of such a conspiracy as this.
(CRAIGIN begins to steal across noiselessly. McTAGUE remains before door, HOLMES turns to ALICE again.)
I hope you’re beginning to feel a little more yourself, Miss Faulkner—because we shall leave here very soon.
ALICE (who has been shrinking from the sight of CRAIGIN and McTAGUE): Oh yes — do let us go, Mr. Holmes.
CRAIGIN (low, deep voice, intense): You’ll ‘ave to wait a bit, Mr. ‘Olmes. We ‘ave a little matter of business we’d like to talk over.
(HOLMES turning to CRAIGIN.)
(Enter LEARY and glides up side in the shadow and begins to move towards HOLMES. In approaching from corner he glides behind door of cupboard as it stands open and from there down on HOLMES at cue. As HOLMES turns to CRAIGIN, ALICE leans against wall of cupboard .)
HOLMES: All right, Craigin, I’ll see you to-morrow morning in your cell at Bow Street.
CRAIGIN (threateningly): Werry sorry sir but I cawn’t wait till morning Its got to be settled to night.
HOLMES (looks at CRAIGIN an instant): All right, Craigin, we’ll settle it to-night.
CRAIGIN: It’s so werry himportant, Mr. ‘Olmes — so werry important indeed that you’ll ‘ave to ‘tend to it now.
(At this instant ALICE sees LEARY approaching rapidly from behind and screams. HOLMES turns, but LEARY is upon him at the same time. There is a very short struggle and HOLMES throws LEARY violently off, but LEARY has got HOLMES’ revolver. As they struggle ALICE steps back to side of room up stage. A short deadly pause. HOLMES motionless, regarding the men. ALICE’S back against wall. After the pause LEARY begins to revive.)
(Low voice to LEARY.) ‘Ave you got his revolver?
LEARY (showing revolver): ‘Ere it is. (Getting slowly to his feet.)
HOLMES (recognizing LEARY in the dim light): Ah, Leary! It is a pleasure indeed. It needed only your blithe personality to make the party complete. (Sits and writes rapidly on pocket pad, pushing lamp away a little and picking up cigar which he had left on the table, and which he keeps in his mouth as he writes.) There is only one other I could wish to welcome here, and that is the talented author of this midnight carnival. We shall have him however, by to-morrow night.
CRAIGIN: Though ‘e ain’t ‘ere, Mr. ‘Olmes, ‘e gave me a message for yer. ‘E presented his koindest compliments wished yer a pleasant trip across.
HOLMES (writing — cigar in mouth): That’s very kind of him, I’m sure. (Writes.)
LARRABEE (sneeringly): You’re writing your will, I suppose?
HOLMES (writing — with quick glances at the rest) No (Shakes head.) Only a brief description of one or two of you gentlemen for the police. We know the rest.
LEARY: And when will you give it ‘em, Mr. ‘Olmes?
HOLMES (writes): In nine or nine and a half minutes, Leary.
LARRABEE: Oh, you expect to leave here in nine minutes, eh?
HOLMES: No. (Writing.) In one. It will take me eight minutes to find a policeman. This is a dangerous neighbourhood.
LARRABEE: Well, when you’re ready to start, let us know.
HOLMES (rising and putting pad in pocket): I’m ready (Buttoning up coat.)
(CRAIGIN. McTAGUE and LEARY suddenly brace themselves for action, and stand ready to make a run for HOLMES. LARRABEE also is ready to join in the struggle if necessary. HOLMES moves backward from table a little to ALICE — she drops down a step towards HOLMES)
CRAIGIN: Wait a bit. You’d better listen to me, Mr. ‘Olmes. We’re going to tie yer down nice and tight to the top o’ that table.
HOLMES: Well, by Jove! I don’t think you will, That’s my idea, you know.
CRAIGIN: An’ you’ll save yourself a deal of trouble if ye submit quiet and easy like — because if ye don’t ye moight get knocked about a bit —
ALICE (under her breath): Oh — Mr. Holmes! (Coming closer to HOLMES.)
LARRABEE (to ALICE): Come away from him! Come over here if you don’t want to get hurt.
HOLMES (to ALICE, without looking round, but reaching her with left hand): My child, if you don’t want to get hurt, don’t leave me for a second.
(ALICE moves closer to HOLMES.)
LARRABEE: Aren’t you coming?
ALICE (breathlessly): No!
CRAIGIN: You’d better look out, Miss — he might get killed.
ALICE: Then you can kill me too.
(HOLMES makes a quick turn to her, with sudden exclamation under breath. For an instant only he looks in her face — then a quick turn back to CRAIGIN and men.)
HOLMES (low voice — not taking eyes from men before him): I’m afraid you don’t mean that, Miss Faulkner.
ALICE: Yes, I do.
HOLMES (eyes on men — though they shift about rapidly, but never toward ALICE): No. (Shakes head a trifle.) You would not say it — at another time or place.
ALICE: I would say it anywhere — always.
CRAIGIN: So you’ll ‘ave it out with us, eh?
HOLMES: Do you imagine for one moment, Craigin, that I won’t have it out with you?
CRAIGIN: Well then — I’ll ‘ave to give you one — same as I did yer right-’and man this afternoon. (Approaching HOLMES.)
HOLMES (to ALICE without turning — intense, rapid): Ah!
(CRAIGIN stops dead.)
You heard him say that. Same as he did my right-hand man this afternoon.
ALICE (under breath): Yes! yes!
HOLMES: Don’t forget that face. (Pointing to CRAIGIN.) In three days I shall ask you to identify it in the prisoner’s dock.
CRAIGIN (enraged): Ha! (Turning away as if to hide his face.)
HOLMES (very sharp — rapid): Yes — and the rest of you with him. You surprise me, gentlemen — thinking you’re sure of anybody in this room, and never once taking the trouble to look at that window. If you wanted to make it perfectly safe, you should have had those missing bars put in.
(HOLMES whispers something to ALICE, indicating her to make for door.)
(Music till end of Act.)
(CRAIGIN, LEARY, McTAGUE and LARRABEE make very slight move and say “Eh?” but instantly at tension again, and all motionless, ready to spring on HOLMES. HOLMES and ALICE motionless, facing them. This is held an instant.)
LARRABEE: Bars or no bars, you’re not going to get out of here as easy as you expect.
(HOLMES moves easily down near table.)
HOLMES: There are so many ways, Mr. Larrabee, I hardly know which to choose.
CRAIGIN (louder — advancing): Well, you’d better choose quick — I can tell you that.
HOLMES (sudden — strong — sharp): I’ll choose at once, Mr. Craigin — and my choice — (quickly seizing chair) — falls on this. (On the word he brings the chair down upon the lamp frightful crash, extinguishing light instantly.)
(Every light out. Only the glow of HOLMES’ cigar remains where he stands at the table. He at once begins to move toward window keeping cigar so that it will show to men and to front.)
CRAIGIN (loud sharp voice to others): Trace ‘im by the cigar. (Moving at once toward window.) Follow the cigar.
LARRABEE: Look out. He’s going for the window.
(LEARY goes quickly to window. McTAGUE goes and is ready by safety lamp. HOLMES quickly fixes cigar in a crack or joint at side of window so that it is still seen — smash of the window glass is heard. Instantly glides across, well up stage, and down side to the door where he finds ALICE. On crash of window CRAIGIN and LEARY give quick shout of exclamation — they spring up stage toward the light of cigar — sound of quick scuffle and blows in darkness.)
LARRABEE: Get that light.
CRAIGIN (clear and distinct): The safety lamp. Where is it?
(Make this shout for lantern very strong and audible to front. McTAGUE kicks over box which concealed the safety lamp — lights up. HOLMES and ALICE at door. ALICE just going out.)
HOLMES (turning at door and pointing to window): You’ll find that cigar in a crevice by the window.
(All start towards HOLMES with exclamations, oaths, etc. He makes quick exit with ALICE and slams door after him. Sounds of heavy bolts outside sliding quickly into place, and heavy bars dropping into position. CRAIGIN, McTAGUE and LEARY rush against door and make violent efforts to open it. After the first excited effort they turn quickly back. As McTAGUE crosses he throws safely lamp on table. LARRABEE, who has stopped near when he saw door closed, turns front with a look of hatred on his face and mad with rage.)