Hopp til innhold

An Inspector Calls, Part One

An Inspector Calls

J.B. Priestly

Part one

Narrator: The home of a prosperous manufacturer in England, nearly sixty years ago. Mr and Mrs Arthur Birling, their daughter Sheila, and their son Eric, are celebrating Sheila's engagement to
Gerald Croft. They have just finished dinner.

Birling: Well, well - this is very nice. Very nice. Good dinner, too, Sybil. Tell cook from me.

Gerald: Absolutely first-class.

Mrs B: Arthur, you're not supposed to say such things ...

Birling: Oh - come, come. I'm treating Gerald like one of the family. And I'm sure he won't object.

Sheila: (With mock aggressiveness) Go on, Gerald ... just you object!

Gerald: Wouldn't dream of it. In fact, I insist upon being one of the family now. I've been trying long enough, haven't I?

Sheila: (Half serious, half playfully) Yes, except for all last summer, when you never came near me, and I wondered what had happened to you.

Gerald: And I've told you ... I was awfully busy at the works all that time.

Sheila: Yes, that's what you say.

Mrs B: Now, Sheila, don't tease him. Arthur, what about this famous toast of yours?

Birling: Yes, of course. (Clears his throat) Well, Gerald, I know you agreed that we should only have this quiet little family party. It's a pity your parents, Sir George and Lady Croft, can't be with us, but they're abroad and so it can't be helped. Well, Gerald, your engagement to Sheila means a tremendous lot to me. She'll make you happy, and I'm sure you'll make her happy.

All: Hear, hear!

Birling: You're just the kind of son-in-law I always wanted.

Gerald: Thank you, sir.

Birling: Your father and I have been friendly rivals in business for some time now.

Sheila: Now, Dad, we don't want you talking business on an occasion like this.

Birling: Quite so, I agree with you. I only mentioned it in passing. What I did want to say was that Sheila's a lucky girl. .. and I think you're a pretty fortunate young man too, Gerald.

Gerald: I know I am.

Birling: (Raising his glass) So here's wishing the pair of you ... the very best that life can bring. Gerald and Sheila.

All: Gerald and Sheila.

Mrs B: Our congratulations and very best wishes.

Eric: All the best! She's got a nasty temper sometimes ...

Sheila: Chump!

Eric: But she's not bad really. Good old Sheila!

Sheila: I can't drink to this, can I? When do I drink?

Gerald: You can drink to me.

Sheila: Oh, darling ...

Birling: I hope it won't be too long before you're married. When you marry, you'll be marrying at a very good time, and soon it'll be an even better time. Just because the miners came out on strike last month, there's a lot of wild talk about possible labour trouble in the near future. Don't worry, and we're in for a time of steadily increasing prosperity.

Gerald: I believe you're right, sir.

Mrs B: Arthur!

Birling: Yes, my dear, I know ... I'm talking shop. But this is the point. What so many of you young fellows don't seem to understand now, when things are so much easier, is that a man has to make his own way ... has to look after himself ... and his family too, of course, when he has one ... and so long as he does that he won't come to much harm. But the way some of these cranks talk and write now, these Bernard Shaws and H. G. Wellses, you'd think everybody has to look after everybody else, as if we were all mixed up together ... like bees in a hive-community and all that nonsense. But take my word for it, you youngsters ... and I've learned in the good hard school of experience ... that a man has to mind his own business and look after himself and his own ... and ...

Doorbell rings

Eric: Somebody at the front door.
Birling: Edna'll answer it. As I was saying ...
Mrs B: Don't you think, dear, you've given the boys enough advice for one night.
Sheila: Yes, Daddy.
Eric: You've piled it on a bit, tonight, Father.
Birling: Ah, special occasion. And feeling contented, for once, I wanted you to have the benefit of my experience. Yes, what is it, Edna?

Edna: Please, sir, an inspector's called.

Birling: An inspector? (Laughs) What kind of inspector?

Edna: A police inspector. He says his name is Inspector Goole.

Birling: Don't know him. Does he want to see me?

Edna: Yes, sir. He says it's important.

Birling: All right, Edna. Show him in here. I'm still on the Bench. It may be something about a warrant.

Gerald: Sure to be. Unless Eric's been up to something.

Eric: (Sharply) What do you mean?

Gerald: Only joking, old man.

Eric: Well, I don't think it's very funny.

Birling: What's the matter with you?

Eric: Nothing.

Edna: (Opening door, and announcing) Inspector Goole.

Inspector: Mr Birling?

Birling: Yes. My wife, my son and daughter and Mr Gerald Croft.

Inspector: How do you do?

Birling: Sit down, Inspector.

Inspector: Thank you, sir.

Birling: Have a glass of port ... or a little whisky?

Inspector: No, thank you, Mr Birling. I'm on duty.

Birling: You're new, aren't you?

Inspector: Yes, sir. Only recently transferred.

Birling: Yes, I thought you must be. Well, what can I do for you? Some trouble about a warrant?

Inspector: No, Mr Birling.

Birling: (Impatiently) What is it then?

Inspector: I'd like some information, if you don't mind, Mr Birling. Two hours ago a young woman died in the infirmary. She'd been taken there this afternoon because she'd swallowed a lot of strong disinfectant. Burnt her inside out, of course. She was in great agony. They did everything they could for her at the infirmary, but she died. Suicide of course.

Birling: (Rather impatiently) Yes, yes, yes. Horrible business. But I don't understand why you have come here, Inspector.

Inspector: I've been round to the room she had, and she'd left a letter there and a sort of diary. Like a lot of these young women who get into various kinds of trouble, she'd used more than one name.

But her original name ... her real name ... was Eva Smith.

Birling: Eva Smith?

Inspector: Do you remember her, Mr Birling?

Birling: No ... I seem to remember hearing that name ... Eva Smith ... somewhere. But it doesn't convey anything to me. And I... I don't see where I come into this.

Inspector: She was employed in your works at one time.

Birling: Oh ... that's it, is it? Well, we've several hundred young women there, you know, and they keep changing.

Inspector: This young woman, Eva Smith, was a bit out of the ordinary. I found this photograph of her in her lodgings.

Birling: Thank you. Mmmm.

Inspector: I think you remember Eva Smith now, don't you, Mr Birling?

Birling: Yes, yes, yes, I do. She was one of my employees and then I

discharged her, nearly two years ago. But obviously that has nothing

whatever to do with the wretched girl's suicide. Eh, Inspector?

Inspector: No, sir. I can't agree with you there.

Birling: Why not?

Inspector: Because what happened to her then may have determined what happened to her afterwards, and what happened to her afterwards may have driven her to suicide. A chain of events.

Birling: Oh well- put like that, there's something in what you say. Still, I can't accept any responsibility. If we were all responsible for everything that happened to everybody we'd had anything to do with, it would be very awkward, wouldn't it?

Inspector: Very awkward.

Birling: Now ... about this girl, Eva Smith. I remember her quite well now. She was a lively good-looking girl... county-bred, I fancy ... and she'd been working in one of our machine shops for over a year. A good worker too. In fact, the foreman there told me he was ready to promote her into what we call a leading operator. .. head of a small group of girls. But after they came back from their holidays that August, they were all rather restless, and they suddenly decided to ask for more money. They were averaging about... twenty-two and six, which was neither more nor less than paid generally in our industry. They wanted the rates raised so that they could average about twentyfive shillings a week. I refused, of course. So they went on strike. That didn't last long, of course.

Gerald: Not if it was just after the holidays. They'd all be broke ... if I know them.

Birling: Right, Gerald. They mostly were. And so was the strike, after a week or two. Pitiful affair. Well, we let them all come back. .. at the old rates, except the four or five ringleaders, who'd started the trouble. I went down myself and told them to clear out. And this girl, Eva Smith, was one of them. She'd had a lot to say ... far too much ... so she had to go. If you don't come down sharply on some of these people, they'd soon be asking for the earth. I told the girl to clear out, and she went. That's the last I heard of her.

Gerald: You couldn't have done anything else.

Eric: He could. He could have kept her on instead of throwing her out. I call it tough luck.

Sheila: I think it was a mean thing to do, Daddy. Perhaps that spoilt everything for her.

Birling: Rubbish! Inspector, do you know what happened to the girl after she left my works?

Inspector: Yes. She was out of work for the next two months. Both her parents were dead so she had no home to go back to. And she hadn't been able to save much out of what Birling and Company had paid her. So that after two months, with no work, no money coming in, and living in lodgings, with no relatives to help her, few friends, lonely, half-starved, she was feeling desperate.

Sheila: I should think so. It's a rotten shame.

Inspector: There are a lot of young women living that sort of existence in every city and big town in this country, Miss Birling. If there weren't the factories and warehouses wouldn't know where to look for cheap labour. Ask your father.

Sheila: But these girls aren't cheap labour ... they're people.

Inspector: I have had that notion myself from time to time.

Sheila: What happened to her then?

Inspector: She had what seemed to her a wonderful stroke of luck. She was taken on in a shop ... and a good shop too ... Milwards.

Sheila: Milwards! We go there. Yes, she was lucky to get taken on at Milwards.

Inspector: That's what she thought. It seemed she liked working there. It was a nice change from a factory. She enjoyed being among pretty clothes, I've no doubt. And now she felt she was making a good fresh start. You can imagine how she felt.

Sheila: Yes, of course.

Inspector: After about a couple of months, just when she felt she was settling down nicely, they told her she'd have to go. A customer complained about her ... so she had to go.

Sheila: When was this?

Inspector: At the end of January ... last year.

Sheila: What... what did this girl look like?

Inspector: If you' ll come over here to the light, I'll show you. Here's her photograph.

Sheila: Oh ... good heavens. It's her. The girl in Milwards. I got her dismissed. You knew it was me, didn't you?

Inspector: I had an idea it might be ... from something the girl herself wrote.

Sheila: Did it make much difference to her?

Inspector: Yes, I'm afraid it did. It was the last real steady job she had. When she lost it... for no reason that she could discover... she decided she might as well try ... another kind of life. Sheila: So I'm really responsible?

Inspector: No, not entirely. A good deal happened to her after that. But you were partly to blame. Just as your father is.

Eric: What happened at Milwards? What did Sheila do?

Sheila: I'd gone in to try a dress on. It was an idea of my own - mother had been against it, and so had the assistant. .. but I insisted. As soon as I tried it on, I knew they'd been right. It just didn't suit me at all. I looked silly in the thing. Well, this girl had brought the dress up from the workroom, and when the assistant... Miss Francis ... had asked her something about it, this girl, to show us what she meant, had held the dress up, as if she was wearing it. And it just suited her. She was the right type for it, just as I was the wrong type. She was a very pretty girl too ... with big dark eyes ... and that didn't make it any better. Well, when I tried the thing on and looked at myself and knew it was all wrong, I caught sight of this girl smiling at Miss Francis ... as if to say: «Doesn't she look awful» ... and I was absolutely furious. I was very rude to both of them, and then I went to the manager and told him that this girl had been very impertinent... and ... and ... (She almost breaks down, but just controls herself.) How could I know what would happen afterwards? If she'd been some plain little creature, I don't suppose I'd have done it. But she was very pretty and ... and ... looked as if she could take care of herself. I couldn't be sorry for her.

Inspector: In fact, in a kind of way, you might be said to have been jealous of her.

Sheila: Yes, I suppose so.

Inspector: And so you used the power you had, as a daughter of a good customer and also of a man well-known in the town, to punish the girl just because she made you feel like that.

Sheila: Yes, but it didn't seem to be anything very terrible at the time. Don't you understand? And if I could help her now, I would ...

Inspector: (Harshly) Yes, but you can't. It's too late. She's dead.

Sheila: I know, I know. It's the only time I've ever done anything like that, and I'll never, never do it again to anybody. Oh ... why had this to happen?

Inspector: (Sternly) That's what I asked myself tonight when I was

looking at that dead girl. And then I said to myself: «Well, we'll try to understand why it had to happen.» And that's why I am here and why I'm not going until I know all that happened. (Slight pause.)

Birling: Well?

Inspector: So first Eva Smith changed her name to Daisy Renton ...

Gerald: What?

Inspector: I said, she changed her name to Daisy Renton.

Sheila: Well, Gerald?

Gerald: Well, what, Sheila?

Sheila: How did you come to know this girl... Eva Smith?

Gerald: I didn't.

Sheila: Daisy Renton then ... it's the same thing.

Gerald: Why should I have known her?

Sheila: Oh, don't be stupid. You gave yourself away as soon as the inspector mentioned her other name.

Inspector: Mr Croft, when did you first get to know her?

Gerald: Where did you get the idea that I did know her?

Sheila: It's no use, Gerald. You're wasting your time. He knows. Of course he knows. And I hate to think how much he knows that we don't know yet. Oh, you'll see.

Inspector: As Miss Birling said, Mr Croft, as soon as I mentioned the name Daisy Renton, it was obvious you'd known her. You gave yourself away at once.

Sheila: (Bitterly) Of course he did.

Inspector: And anyhow, I knew already. When and where did you first meet her?

Gerald: All right, if you must have it. I met her first, some time in March last year, in the bar at the Palace Music Hall here in Brumley. It's a favourite haunt of women on the town.

Inspector: What happened?

Gerald: I didn't propose to stay long down there. I hate those hard-eyed dough-faced women. But then I noticed a girl who looked quite different. She was very pretty ... soft brown hair and big dark eyes ... (Breaks off) My God!

Inspector: What's the matter?

Gerald: Sorry ... I... well, I've suddenly realised ... taken it in properly ... that she is dead .. .

Inspector: (Harshly) Yes, she's dead. Go on.

Gerald: She looked young and fresh and charming and altogether out of place down there. So I suggested she'd better let me take her out of there. She agreed at once.

Inspector: Where did you go?

Gerald: We went along to the County Hotel, which I knew would be quiet at that time of night, and we had a drink or two and talked.

Inspector: She talked about herself?

Gerald: Yes. She told me her name was Daisy Renton, that she'd lost both her parents, that she came originally from somewhere outside Brumley. I couldn't get any exact details about her past life.

What she did let slip ... though she didn't mean to ... was that she was desperately hard up and at that moment was actually hungry. I made the people at the hotel find some food for her.

Inspector: And then you decided to keep her as ... as your mistress?

Mrs B: What?

Sheila: Of course, Mother. It was obvious from the start. Go on, Gerald. Don't mind Mother.

Gerald: I discovered that in fact she hadn' t a penny and was going to be turned out of the miserable back room she had. So I insisted that she moved into a set of rooms belonging to a friend of mine. He'd gone off to Canada for six months and had let me have the key. I made her take some money to keep her going there. I want you to understand that I didn't install her there so that I could make love to her. I was sorry for her, and didn't like the idea of her going back to the Palace bar. I didn't ask for anything in return.

Inspector: But she became your mistress?

Gerald: Yes. I suppose it was inevitable. She was young and pretty and warm-hearted ... and intensely grateful. I became at once the most important person in her life ... you ... you ... understand?

Inspector: Yes. She was a woman. She was lonely. Were you in love with her?

Gerald: It's hard to say. I didn't feel about her as she felt about me.

Inspector: When did this affair end?

Gerald: In the first week of September. I had to go away for several weeks then - on business - and by that time Daisy knew that it was coming to an end. So I broke it off definitely before I went.

Inspector: How did she take it?

Gerald: She told me she'd been happier than she'd ever been before ... but she knew it couldn't last - hadn't expected it to last. She didn't blame me at all. I wish to God she had now. Perhaps I'd

feel better about it.

Inspector: Did she tell you what she proposed to do after you'd left her?

Gerald: No. She refused to talk about that. Do you know?

Inspector: Yes. She went away for about two months. To some seaside place.

Gerald: By herself?

Inspector: Yes. I think she went away - to be alone, to be quiet, to remember all that happened between you.

Gerald: How do you know that?

Inspector: She kept a rough sort of diary. And she said there that she had to go away and be quiet and remember "just to make it last longer." She felt that there'd never be anything as good again - so she had to make it last longer.

Gerald: I see. Well, I never saw her again, and that's all I can tell you.

Inspector: It's all I want to know from you.

Mrs B: Well, really, I don't know! I think we've just about come to the end of this wretched business.

Inspector: I don't think so.