Arthur Birling lowered the telephone slowly and looked, panic-stricken, at the others, ‘That was a police inspector. A girl has just died- on her way to the Infirmary- after swallowing some disinfectant. And one of their inspectors is on there way here- to ask some- questions.’ Mrs Birling immediately spluttered but just could not find the words to convey her initial thoughts to the extremely unexpected news. Birling slowly strolled back to his large old chair at the head of the table and poured a drink of port from the decanter. He took a large, deep breath and brushed his hand through his thin, grey hair, all the while looking eminently worried, with thoughts rushing directly through his head.
A discreet knock on the dining room door was heard. ‘What?’ Birling sharply blasted out, in a very aggressive tone, not even peering round to see who it was. Edna politely walked in and wondered what she had done wrong, much to the anger of Birling, who felt in the middle of a painful crisis. Quietly asked in an extremely courteous and friendly manner: ‘Would any one would care for some coffee?’ ‘NO!’ replied Mr Birling in an instant, in a very bold tone, feeling very frustrated while he shook his head.
A quiet voice was heard from the opposite side of the table. ‘No thank you, Edna’, said Sheila politely, while smiling gently and glancing at her father. Edna quickly departed from the depressed room instantly, and shut the old wooden door discretely behind her. ‘How long did they say until they would be here?’ asked Mrs Birling, extremely confused and staring directly at her tense and anxious husband. Birling replied in a firm tone while placing one of his hands on his sweated forehead.
‘Well- well- I told you just what they just told me.’ Sheila, who had sat delicately down in her chair, at the opposite end of the dining table to her father, bolted up immediately. She spoke out to everyone in a wise manner, while she looked at each of her parents. ‘Arguing or being dismissive is not going to achieve anything and in less than an hour we will have to be speaking to a police inspector- again.’ She was frustrated at the tension between her parents.
‘Less than that,’ added Eric firmly as he raised his head. ‘Do be quiet, Eric,’ answered Mrs Birling in a very perplexed tone. ‘All we can do is to prepare, unlike last time when the words came out of our mouths before we even thought about our speech.’ ‘Thanks to you,’ muttered Eric, in a sardonic voice, while he grinned as if he had proved a point. ‘No,’ replied Mrs Birling confidently as she quickly turned her face to Eric, looking pleased with her self, ‘I knew exactly what he was after. I was not going to fall into his trap, and I didn’t.’
‘Come on darling, stop thinking about the past. The inspector will be here any second and we will have to go where he takes us. Really, what hope do any of us have?’ Birling felt very down and expressed his true thoughts, staring around the table and glancing at each individual.’ Gerald spoke for the first time since the telephone call, tring to impress Birling even greater than he already had: ‘Mr Birling, with the respect that everyone has towards you and with my intelligence, we will have no problem discussing the mix up to the inspector.’ Birling smiled, raised his eyebrows and nodded his head. Sheila opposed Gerald’s point, while feeling very tensed and retaliated, ‘Would a police inspector really come round at this time of night- just to ask why- we made a phone call?’
‘You know, I know, we all know, that we all took part in the death of Eva Smith or what ever her name is,’ added Eric to discard Gerald, in a firm tone of voice, while staring at his father and Gerald. ‘Eric, stop looking at the negative side. In a couple of years time the business will be booming, record high profits and life will be great for us all, I hope, including you too, Eric.’ Birling’s voice was positive yet cynical and he raised his glass, drinking to what he said and slowly turned his face to Gerald with a nod with his head. Gerald half smiled politely back to Birling.