Hopp til innhold

An Inspector Calls, Part Two

An Inspector Calls

J.B. Priestly

Part two

Inspector: Mrs Birling, you're a member - a prominent member of the Brumley Women's Charity Organization, aren't you?
Mrs B: What has that to do with this investigation?
Inspector: There was a meeting of the interviewing committee two weeks ago. You were in the chair.

Mrs B: And if I was, what business is it of yours?

Birling: Is there any reason why my wife should answer questions from you, Inspector?

Inspector: Yes, a very good reason. You'll remember that Mr Croft told us - quite truthfully, I believe - that he hadn't spoken to or seen Eva Smith since last September. But Mrs Birling spoke to and saw her only two weeks ago. The girl in this photograph, Mrs Birling. Do you recognize her?

Sheila: Mother!

Birling: Is this true?

Mrs B: (After a pause) Yes, quite true.

Inspector: She appealed to your organization for help?

Mrs B: Yes.

Inspector: Not as Eva Smith?

Mrs B: Nor as Daisy Renton.

Inspector: As what then?

Mrs B: First, she called herself Mrs Birling ...

Birling: Mrs Birling!

Mrs B: Yes. I think it was simply a piece of gross impertinence - quite deliberate - and naturally that was one of the things that prejudiced me against her case.

Birling: And I should think so! Damned impudence!

Inspector: Why did she want help?

Mrs B: I don't think we need discuss it.

Inspector: You have no hope of not discussing it, Mrs Birling.

Mrs B: I've done nothing wrong - and you know it.

Inspector: (Very deliberately) I think you did something terribly wrong - and that you're going to spend the rest of your life regretting it. I wish you had been with me tonight in the infIrmary. You'd have seen the girl...

Sheila: No, no, please! Not that again. I've imagined it enough already.

Inspector: Then the next time you imagine it, just remember that this girl was going to have a child.

Sheila: No! Oh - horrible - horrible! How could she have wanted to kill herself?

Inspector: Because she had been turned out and turned down too many times. This was the end.

Sheila: Mother, you must have known.

Inspector: It was because she was going to have a child that she went for assistance to your mother's committee.

Birling: Look here, this wasn't Gerald's.

Inspector: No, no. Nothing to do with him.

Sheila: Thank goodness for that!

Inspector: And you've nothing further to tell me, Mrs Birling?

Mrs B: I'll tell you what I told her. Go and look for the father of the child. It's his responsibility.

Inspector: That doesn't make it any the less yours. She came to you for help, at a time when no woman could have needed it more.

Mrs B: She knew who the father was, and so I told her it was her business to make him responsible. If he refused to marry her - and in my opinion he ought to be compelled to - then he must at least support her.

Inspector: And what did she reply to that?

Mrs B: Oh, a lot of silly nonsense. I lost all patience with her. She was claiming elaborate fine feelings and scruples that were simply absurd in a girl in her position.

Inspector: Her position now is that she lies with a burnt-out inside on a slab. What did she say?

Mrs B: She said that the father was only a youngster - silly and wild and drinking too much. There wouldn't be any question of marrying him - it would be wrong for them both. He had given her money, but she didn't want to take any more money from him.

Inspector: Why not?

Mrs B: Her story was that it wasn't his money. He'd stolen it.

Inspector: So she'd come to you for assistance because she didn't want to take stolen money?

Mrs B: That's the story she finally told.

Inspector: But if her story is true, then she came to you for help, because she wanted to keep this youngster out of any more trouble - isn't that so?

Mrs B: Possibly. But it sounded ridiculous to me. So I was perfectly justfied in advising my committee not to allow her claim for assistance.

Inspector: You're not even sorry now, when you know what happened to the girl?

Mrs B: I'm sorry she should have come to such a horrible end. But I accept no blame for it at all.

Inspector: Who is to blame then?

Mrs B: First, the girl herself.

Sheila: (Bitterly) Oh, for letting father and me have her chucked out of her jobs!

Mrs B: Secondly, I blame the young man who was the father of the child she was going to have. He should be made an example of. If the girl's death is due to anybody, then it's due to him.

Inspector: And if her story is true - that he was stealing money ...

Mrs B: (Agitated) There's no point in assuming that.

Inspector: But suppose we do, what then?

Mrs B: Then he'd be entirely responsible - because the girl wouldn't have come to us and been refused assistance, if it hadn't been for him ...

Inspector: So he's the chief culprit anyhow.

Mrs B: Certainly. And he ought to be dealt with very severely.

Sheila: Mother ... stop ... stop!

Birling: Be quiet, Sheila!

Mrs B: And, Inspector, if you'd take some steps to find this young man and then make sure that he's compelled to confess in public his responsibility ... instead of staying here asking quite unnecessary questions ... then you really would be doing your duty.

Inspector: Don't worry, Mrs Birling. I shall do my duty.

Mrs B: I'm glad to hear it. And now no doubt you'd like to say goodnight.

Inspector: Not yet.

Mrs B: What are you waiting for?

Inspector: To do my duty.

Sheila: Mother, don't you see?

Mrs B: (Understanding at last) But surely ... I mean ... it's ridiculous ... you don't mean that my son Eric ...

Birling: Look, Inspector, you're not trying to tell us that my boy ... is mixed up in this?

Inspector: If he is, then we know what to do, don't we? Mrs Birling has jus told us.

Mrs B: Eric, I can't believe it. There must be some mistake.

Eric: No, mother. No mistake. You know, don't you, Inspector?

Inspector: Yes, I know. When did you first meet this girl?

Eric: One night last November.

Inspector: Where did you meet her?

Eric: In the Palace bar. I'd been there an hour or so with two or three chaps. I was a bit squiffy. I began talking to her, and stood her a few drinks.

Inspector: Was she drunk too?

Eric: She told me afterwards that she was a bit, chiefly because she'd not had much to eat that day.

Inspector: You went with her to her lodgings that night?

Eric: Yes, I insisted ... it seems. I'm not very clear about it, but afterwards she told me she didn't want me to go in but that - well, I was in that state when a chap easily turns nasty... and I threatened to make a row.

Inspector: So she let you in?

Eric: Yes. And that's when it happened. Oh, my God! How stupid it all is!

Mrs B: Oh, Eric ... how could you?

Inspector: When did you meet her again?

Eric: About a fortnight afterwards. I happened to see her again in the Palace bar.

Inspector: More drinks?

Eric: Yes, though that time I wasn't so bad.

Inspector: But you took her home again?

Eric: Yes. And this time we talked a bit. She told me something about herself, and I talked too. Told her my name and what I did.

Inspector: And you made love again?

Eric: Yes. I wasn't in love with her or anything ... but I liked her ... she was pretty and a good sport...

Inspector: Did you arrange to see each other after that?

Eric: Yes. And the next time - or was it the time after that? - she told me she thought she was going to have a baby. She wasn't quite sure. And then she was.

Inspector: And then of course she was very worried about it?

Eric: Yes, and so was I. I was in a hell of a state about it.

Inspector: Did you suggest that you ought to marry her?

Eric: No. She didn't want me to marry her. Said I didn't love her ... and all that. In a way, she treated me ... as if I were a kid. Though I was nearly as old as she was.

Inspector: So what did you propose to do?

Eric: Well, she hadn't a job ... and she'd no money left... so I insisted on giving her enough money to keep her going ... until she refused to take any more.

Inspector: How much did you give her altogether?

Eric: I suppose - about £50 all told.

Birling: £50! Where did you get £50 from?

Eric: I got it from the office.

Birling: My office?

Eric: Yes.

Inspector: You mean ... you stole the money?

Mrs B: Eric!

Eric: Not really.

Birling: You damned fool... why didn't you come to me when you found yourself in this mess?

Eric: Because you're not the kind of father a chap could go to when he's in trouble ... that's why.

Birling: Don't talk to me like that. Your trouble is ... you've been spoilt...

Inspector: Just one last question, that's all. The girl discovered that this money you were giving her was stolen, didn't she?

Eric: Yes. That was the worst of all. She wouldn't take any more, and she didn't want to see me again.

Inspector: And she went to your mother's committee for help, after she'd done with you. Your mother refused that help.

Eric: You killed her, mother. She came to you to protect me ... and you turned her away ... yes, and you killed her ... and the child she was going to have ... my child ... your own grandchild ... you killed

them both ... damn you, damn you.

Mrs B: No ... Eric ... please ... I didn't know .. . I didn't understand .. .

Eric: You don't understand anything. You never did. You never even tried ... you ...

Sheila: Eric, don't... don't...

Birling: Why, you hysterical young fool... get back. ..

Inspector: Stop! And be quiet for a moment and listen to me. I don't need to know any more. Neither do you. This girl killed herself... and died a horrible death. But each of you helped to kill her. Remember that. Never forget it. But then I don't think you ever will.

Birling: Look, Inspector ... I'd give thousands ... yes, thousands ...

Inspector: You're offering money at the wrong time, Mr Birling. Eva Smith's gone. You can't do her any more harm. And you can't do her any good now, either. You can't even say "I'm sorry, Eva Smith."

Sheila: (Crying quietly) That's the worst of it.

Inspector: But just remember this. One Eva Smith has gone ... but there are millions and millions and millions of Eva Smiths and John Smiths still left with us, with their lives, their hopes and fears, their suffering and chance of happiness, all intertwined with our lives, with what we think and say and do. We don't live alone. We are members of one body. We are responsible for each other. And I tell you that the time will soon come when, if men will not learn that lesson, then they will be taught it in fire and blood and anguish. (Going) Goodnight.

Birling: Eric, you're the one I blame for this.

Eric: I'll bet I am.

Mrs B: Eric, I'm absolutely ashamed of you.

Eric: Don't forget I'm ashamed of you as well... yes, both of you.

Birling: Drop that. There's every excuse for what both your mother and I did ... it turned out unfortunately, that's all.

Sheila: That's all?

Birling: Well, what have you to say?

Sheila: Oh, I don' t know where to begin.

Birling: Then don't begin. Nobody wants you to.

Sheila: I behaved badly too. I know I did. I'm ashamed of it. But I wonder?

Mrs B: Now, what's the matter, Sheila?

Sheila: It's queer ... very queer. Oh, it doesn't much matter now, of course ... but was he really a police inspector?

Birling: Well, if he wasn't it matters a devil of a lot. Makes all the difference.

Sheila: No, it doesn't.

Birling: Don't talk rubbish. Of course it does.

Sheila: Well, it doesn't to me. And it oughtn't to you either. Don't you see, if all that has come out tonight is true, then it doesn't much matter who it was who made us confess. And it was true, wasn't it? That's what's important... and not whether a man is a police inspector or not.

Eric: He was our police inspector all right.

Birling: I'm going to make certain of this.

Mrs B: What are you going to do?

Birling: Ring up the Chief Constable ...Colonel Roberts. (Telephones) Hello? Brumley 8752.

Mrs B: Careful what you say, dear.

Birling: Of course. I was going to do this anyhow. I've had my suspicions all along. Oh, hello ... Colonel Roberts, please. Mr Arthur Birling here ... Oh, Roberts - Birling here. Sorry to ring you up so late, but can you tell me if an Inspector Goole has joined your staff lately ... Goole - G-O-O-L-E ... yes, a new man ... tall, clean-shaven. I see, yes ... well, that settles it... No, no, no, just a little argument we are having here ... Good night!

Birling: There's no Inspector Goole on the police. That man definitely wasn't a police inspector at all. We've been had. Somebody put that fellow up to coming here and hoaxing us. There are people in this town who dislike me enough to do that. But we've found him out... and all we have to do is to keep our heads. Now it's our turn.

Sheila: Our turn to do what?

Mrs B: To behave sensibly, Sheila ... which is more than you're doing.

Eric: What's the use of talking about behaving sensibly. You're beginning to pretend now that nothing's really happened at all. And I can't see it like that. This girl's still dead, isn't she? Nobody's brought her to life, have they?

Sheila: That's just how I feel, Eric. And it's what they don't seem to understand.

Eric: It's still the same rotten story whether it's been told to a police inspector or to somebody else.

Birling: Look. .. for God's sake!

Mrs B: Arthur!

Birling: Well, my dear, they're so damned exasperating. They just won't try to understand our position or to see the difference between a lot of stuff like this coming out in private and a downright public scandal.

Eric: And I say the girl's dead and we all helped to kill her ... and that's what matters ...

Sheila: And don't let's start dodging and pretending now. Between us, we drove that girl to commit suicide.

Gerald: Did we? Who says so? Because I say ... there's no more real evidence we did than there was that that chap was a police inspector.

Sheila: Of course there is.

Gerald: No, there isn't. Look at it. A man comes here pretending to be a police officer. It's a hoax of some kind. Now what does he do? Very artfully, working on bits of information he picked up here and there, he bluffs us into confessing that we've all been mixed up in this girl's life in one way or another.

Eric: And so we have.

Gerald: But how do you know it's the same girl?

Birling: Gerald's dead right. He could have used a different photograph each time he showed it to one of us and we'd be none the wiser. We may all have been recognizing different girls. The whole thing can have been a piece of bluff.

Eric: How can it? The girl's dead, isn't she?

Gerald: We can settle that at once.

Sheila: How?

Gerald: By ringing up the infirmary. Either there's a dead girl there or there isn't.

Mrs B: And if there isn't?

Gerald: Anyway, we'll see. - Brumley 8986 ... Is that the Infirmary? This is Mr Gerald Croft of Crofts Limited ... Yes ... we're rather worried about one of our employees. Have you had a girl brought

in this afternoon who committed suicide? Yes, I'll wait.

Eric: Oh, Lord, I hate this.

Sheila: This is gruesome.

Gerald: Sh! Yes ... You're certain of that... I see. Well, thank you very much ... Good night. No girl has died in there today. Nobody's been brought in after drinking disinfectant. They've not had a suicide for months.

Birling: There you are! Proof positive. The whole story is just a lot of moonshine. Nothing but an elaborate sell! (Sighs enormously with relief) Gerald, have a drink.

Gerald: Thanks. I think I could just do with one now. Come on, Sheila, don't look like that. All over now.

Sheila: The worst part is. But you're forgetting one thing I still can't forget. Everything we said had happened, really had happened. If it didn't end tragically, then that's lucky for us. But it might have done.

Birling: (Jovially) But the whole thing's different now. Come, come, you can see that, can't you? What did that inspector chap say? "You all helped to kill her." (Laughing.) And I wish you could have seen the look on your faces when he said that.

Sheila: (Passionately) You're pretending everything's just as it was before. I tell you - whoever that inspector was, it was anything but a joke. And it frightens me the way you talk, and I can't listen to any more of it.

Eric: And I agree with Sheila. Oh, it frightens me too.

Birling: Well, go to bed then, and don't stand there being hysterical.

Mrs B: They're over-tired. In the morning they'll be as amused as we are.

Gerald: Everything's all right now, Sheila.

Birling: Now look at the pair of them - the famous younger generation who know it all.

And they can't even take a joke.

Telephone rings sharply. A moment of complete silence.

Birling: Yes? .. Mr Birling speaking ... What? Here ... They've gone... (Panicstricken) That was the police. A girl has just died ... on her way to the Infirmary ... after swallowing some disinfectant... And a police inspector is on his way here ... to ask some ... questions ...