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An Inspector Calls by J.B. Priestly

A wealthy family are interrupted in their peace and happiness while celebrating their daughter's engagement by the unexpected arrival of a police inspector. His interruption drastically changes the situation in the family and affects the conscience of all those present at the family gathering.
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The play is set in early 20th century England, this morality parable is timeless and could have taken place anywhere at any time. It deals with man as a social animal and our obligations to each other, and consequently it raises the kind of questions that everyone in some way has to face and tackle at some stage in life.

The writer of the play, J.B. Priestley (1894-1984), was a man of social convictions who considered himself to be a spokesman for the common sense of the common man. A prolific and versatile writer, J.B. Priestley was highly regarded for his novels, plays, essays, travel books and journalism. The novel The Good Companions (1929) and the play An Inspector Calls (1947) mark the highlights of a long and distinguished literary career. His output includes some 70 books of essays, literary criticism, fiction, travel and autobiography, and over 40 plays.


Arthur Birling
Sybil Birling, his wife
Sheila Birling, his daughter
Eric Birling, his son
Gerald Croft
Inspector Goole

The play is set in the diningroom of the Birling's house in Brumley, an industrial city in the North Midlands. It is an evening in spring 1912.

An Inspector Calls - audio

"An Inspector Calls - Part One" as plain text

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.

"An Inspector Calls - Part Two" as plain text

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 ...

CC BY-SASkrevet av Åse Elin Langeland.
Sist faglig oppdatert 31.01.2019


Murder Mystery