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FLORA: They won't, Mrs. Soderström. Go back to the hall. FRU SODERSTRÖM: Fifty dollars? A hundred dollars? (To Magnus, fiercely): Very well, a hundred dollars, but you must go now, immediately, and leave us sleep.
MAGNUS (curtly, indicating Fru Soderström): Miss Flecker! (Miss Flecker and Sarah Bodie lead her gently by each arm.) FRU SODERSTROM: They have no right whatever. None at
(A young woman carrying a sleeping child in her arms descends the stairs.)
MAGNUS: Miss Flecker, who is this?
MISS FLECKER: Mrs. Miller, she calls herself.
MAGNUS: Ask her to be seated on the stairs. (Miss Flecker goes to her; they hold a whispered conversation. Miss Flecker walks away and Mrs. Miller's terrified face is seen peering through the banisters. She catches sight of Flora and calls her name in loud whispers, but Flora does not respond. Magnus adds, sourly): Ask Mrs. Miller to be silent.
(Mr. Gaylord descends the stairs with a kitten on his shoulder.)
GAYLORD (on the lowest step): God forgive you for making this noise! What do you want with me? (seeing Magnus): Ah-ha! You're the man. You're the old man. Sneakin' and creepin' around the house, weren't you? I saw you.
MAGNUS: Who is this man, Miss Flecker?
MISS FLECKER: Gaylord's his name. He's not straight in the head, at all.
MAGNUS: Sit down on the stairs, Mr. Gaylord.
GAYLORD: You've no right in this house, sir. It's not yours. I saw you snoopin' in nights.
MAGNUS (suddenly, smiting the table): Sit down.
GAYLORD (weak again, snivelling): Why didn't y' come o' day-time?
MAGNUS: Remove the filthy cat from his shoulder, officer. This is no time for pets. Do you recognize the man, officer?
DEXTER: Yes, sir. His daughters have been complaining of him often.
GAYLORD (straightening): Rot them! Rot them! God rot them!
MAGNUS (tremendously): Silence! The name of God shall be invoked here by me only.
GAYLORD: You can't take it away from anyone. It's the last thing a poor man has. For justice' sake!
MISS FLECKER: He's speaking of the kitten, Mr. Magnus. MAGNUS: Leave him the kitten! I seemed to be hearing a sublime defense of everyman's right to the name of God, but it was a kitten he wanted.
MISS FLECHER: Yes, sir. It's his life.
(Miss Del Valle appears on the stairs; she descends them, looking about her with unmoved expression.)
DEXTER: We know this woman well, Mr. Magnus. To think she's been living in your house! It's a wonder we didn't notice it. A common woman, sir. It's a shame we didn't notice her comin'-and-goin' in here before.
MISS DEL VALLE (hoarsely):
Well, what is it?
DEXTER: Sit down on the stairs, ma'am, and shut your mouth. I warned you the time you tried to get into Mrs. Bonner's to keep out of respectable houses. You wait 'til you hear what the Head says of this. Now go and sit on the stairs.
MISS DEL VALLE: What is it you want? I have a cough; I cannot stay down here.
DEXTER: Go, and get something to wrap yourself in and come back.
(She turns without a word and goes up the stairs. Other roomers descend, inquiring anxiously of those already seated.) MAGNUS: Who is the large man with the black beard? MISS FLECKER: His name is Horace Dabney. He was a sailor once.
DEXTER (rubbing his hands): Great! We've been looking for him, on both sides, for seven years, Mr. Magnus. When he was captain he deserted his ship in mid-occean. Bringing over a pack of immigrants he struck a derelict. The firm he sailed for's wanted him, too. (To an officer, who salutes him from down the hall): What is it, Penniman?
PENNIMAN: We've taken a young man at the back gate, sir, trying to get away. In ship's uniform, he is, sir. Name of Proctor.
MAGNUS: Have him wait, Dexter. We'll all be glad to see Proctor later, especially this girl.
FLORA (jumping up in terror): I won't see him! I can't look at him again. (She stumbles over to Magnus' table, where she falls upon her knees and stretching her arms across it, cries): Do what you like, Mr. Magnus. Kill me. Kill me right now, but don't bring him in here. It's all over; let him go. I'll give up everything I've taken. Put me in prison; kill me, anything. You've got me now, so let him go.
MAGNUS (the corners of his mouth drawn down, unmoved): Assist the woman back to her chair, Dexter.
FLORA (to Dexter, who approaches her): Go back. Don't touch me! (She raises herself clumsily, and goes back to the chair, covering her face with her hands. Nestor descends the stairs, giving a few last peals on his shell, and presents himself to Magnus, his face beaming with satisfaction.)
NESTOR: They're all downstairs now, sir.
NESTOR: Yes, sir. Except a boy of ten. He has fits, sir; and he's screaming so, I locked him in his room. He'll quiet down and go off to sleep all right. I haven't told them what it's all about.
MAGNUS: Thank you. I'll address a few words to them. Draw to one side. (Nestor seats himself on the floor and watches proceedings with delight. Magnus rises and turning toward the panic-stricken roomers, exclaims with scorn): What! Is there not one of you with sufficient conviction of his own innocence to defy this tribunal? Are you all then conscious of having committed some punishable offense, that you dare not claim the mere, inalienable right of quiet? Cowed and submissive; surrendered, before you have been indicted! Ah, then I shall tell you why you are awakened at midnight, and summoned before a court-of-law. I shall tell you. (He pauses a moment, gratified by the perfect silence.) For a month and a half you have been rejoicing and making free in another's house; in my house. Ah, you say, but we did not know it. But, men and women, you had evidences and warnings. Did not drawn blinds and secret entrances lead you to suspect anything? Did not they suggest that you were taking your liberty at the expense
of another's rights? No, you cannot plead your ignorance in the face of such conditions. You went on; you held your breaths, and smiled and said: he'll not be back; we're safe for another month.-Well! I am the owner of the house, returned. Let me tell you right now that I forgive you. I am the only person injured by your intrusion and I forgive it you. As far as living in the house is concerned, you are absolved. If that is your total fault, you may return to your beds and sleep. But there are others among you whom I can forgive, but not absolve,-the thievish, the fraudulent, the blasphemers, and the filthy. These men and women it is the duty of citizenship to punish; perhaps to extirpate. Mr. Dexter, do you find anyone you recognize on the first three steps?
DEXTER: The woman with the child, sir.
MISS FLECKER (helpfully): Mrs. Miller.
MAGNUS: Mrs. Miller, come forward. (Mrs. Miller consigns her child to the arms of a neighbor. She is a pretty young woman, with a precocious malevolent face. She has thrown d long winter coat over her bathrobe; her feet are thrust into slippers. Her hair has been hastily twisted into a knot.)
DEXTER: We had this woman twice in the last five years, Mr. Magnus. She lifts things off the counters of stores, and makes herself generally acquisitive.
MAGNUS: What have you to say, Mrs. Miller?
MRS. MILLER (loudly): I did. Yes, I used to. But I ain't come away with anything for two years. You can't do anything to me without proving it. You know you can't.
DEXTER (calmly, with contempt): No, Mrs. Miller, we can't prove anything on you until we take you around to some of the stores, and let the sales-people identify you.
MRS. MILLER: Aw, now, you can't do that. Those women'ld pretend to recognize anybody. I tell you in truth I ain't touched nothing in two years. And as for you, sir, how could I know this wasn't a regular boarding-house? I wouldn't 'a come here. if I thought it was your home. All I wanted was a place to be quiet in, and the baby growing up. (Turning on Flora) It's that girl that's done the whole thing, sir. It's she lied to us, and took money for it. You're not going to let her spoil my chances for living straight, are you?
FLORA: Go back to your room, Gracey Miller. You're all right, I can tell them. I can tell 'em your money comes straight from your father-in-law, regular.
MRS. MILLER (seizing it): There! You see? Even she says I'm level.
FLORA: It's true. I told her I owned the place. You're not going to let me be the cause of her going back to jail?
MRS. MILLER: She says so herself! Aw, Mister, you got to let me go on that. You can't let me go to jail on account of her. (She waits expectantly while Magnus beckons to Dexter, and the two hold a whispered conference; Dexter, being persuaded, finally accedes to Magnus' decision, and goes back to his place.)
MAGNUS (briefly): That'll be all, Mrs. Miller. In the morning all the money you paid to Miss Storey will be returned to you.
MRS. MILLER (hysterical): God bless you, sir.
MAGNUS: Make arrangements to leave this house before
MRS. MILLER: I knew you wouldn't be hard on us, sir. God bless you. (Crying happily she hurries to the stairs, snatches up her child, and mounts out of sight.)
MAGNUS (in a bad humor): Next, Mr. Dexter.
(In a general awe-struck silence Horace Dabney picks his way down the stairs, carrying himself with unabated dignity. Advancing only a few steps into the room, he says:)
DABNEY: I am Horace Dabney.
MAGNUS: Step forward, Mr. Dabney. Into the room, please. DABNEY (without moving): Do with me what you wish, Mr. Magnus. Any power of law that is in your control, or any conception of justice, cannot reach me. I await a tribunal that is afar off. Only that Judge in whose hands are the morning and the evening star shall weigh me, shall hear my defense.
DEXTER (smiting the table sharply): Hold your tongue. You are not here to talk about God. You are here to explain why you deserted a foundering vessel in mid-ocean.
DABNEY: Then I have nothing to say
DEXTER (Sneering): No.!
DABNEY: -to you! I take the liberty of addressing Mr.