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Title: Six Plays
Author: Darwin, Florence Henrietta Fisher, Lady
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Transcribed from the 1921 W. Heffer & Sons edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org

                          [Picture: Book cover]

                   [Picture: Florence Henrietta Darwin]



                                SIX PLAYS
                       By FLORENCE HENRIETTA DARWIN
                    and an Introduction by CECIL SHARP


                    Memoir and Portrait of the Author

                                * * * * *

W. HEFFER & SONS LTD.,
CAMBRIDGE, 1921.

                               SIX PLAYS

                                  BY
                       FLORENCE HENRIETTA DARWIN
                The Plays may be had in paper covers at
                         1s. 6d. net as under

1.  LOVERS’ TASKS

2.  BUSHES & BRIARS

3.  MY MAN JOHN

4.  PRINCESS ROYAL }

5.  THE SEEDS OF LOVE } In one volume

6.  THE NEW YEAR
                         W. HEFFER & SONS LTD.
                               CAMBRIDGE

INTRODUCTION


I HAVE been asked to write a few lines of introduction to these volumes
of Country Plays, and I do so, not because I can claim any right to speak
with authority on the subject of drama, but in order that I may associate
myself and express my sympathy with the endeavour which the author has
made to restore to his rightful estate the English peasant with whom my
work for twenty years or more has brought me into close relations.

There have been few serious attempts to depict English country life on
the stage.  Nor, for that matter, can it be said that the English peasant
has fared over well in our literature.  Nevertheless, the English
countryman has qualities all his own, no less distinctive nor less
engaging than those of his Irish, Scottish, Russian, or Continental
neighbours, even though his especial characteristics have hitherto been
for the most part either ignored or grossly travestied by the playwright.
Now in these plays, as it seems to me, he has at last come into his own
kingdom and is painted, perhaps for the first time on the stage, in his
true colours, neither caricatured on the one hand, nor, on the other,
sentimentalised, but faithfully portrayed by a peculiarly sympathetic and
skilful hand.

It is well, too, that an authentic record should be preserved of the life
that has been lived in our country villages year in year out for
centuries before its last vestiges—and they are all that now remain—have
been completely submerged in the oncoming tide of modern civilisation and
progress.  Moreover, the songs and dances of the English peasantry that
have become widely known in the last few years have awakened a general
interest and curiosity in all that concerns the lives and habits of
country people and there are many who will be glad to know what manner of
men and women were they who created things of so rare and delicate a
beauty.

These plays are very simple plays.  With one exception, “The New Year,”
they rest for their effects upon dialogue rather than upon dramatic
action or plot.  There is nothing harrowing, problematical, or
pathological about any of them.  The stories are as simple, obvious and
naïve, and have the same happy endings as those which the folk delight to
sing about in their own songs, and from which, indeed, judging by the
titles she has given to her plays, the author drew her inspiration.

It will be noticed that Lady Darwin has eliminated dialect from the
speech which she has put into the mouths of her characters.  This is not
because the English villager has no vernacular of his own—there are as
many dialects in England as there are counties—but because dialect, as no
doubt Lady Darwin knew full well, is not of the essence of speech.  It is
the way in which language is used for the purpose of expression, the
order in which words are strung together, the subtle, elusive turns of
speech, the character of its figures and metaphors, rather than local
peculiarities of intonation and pronunciation, which betray and illumine
character.  And it is upon these, the essential characteristics of
speech, that the author of these plays has wisely and, for the most part,
wholly, relied to give life and character to the actors of her dramas.
The results she has achieved by these means is nothing less than amazing.
So accurately has she caught the peculiar inflections, the inversions,
the curious meanderings and involutions of peasant speech, so
penetrating—uncanny at times—is her insight into the structure and
working of the peasant mind, that, did one not know that this was
scarcely the fact, one would have been tempted to suspect that the author
had herself been born and bred in a country village and lived all her
days amongst those whose characters and habits of mind she has described
with such fidelity.

Take, for instance, the lesson on courtship which My Man John gives to
his master—is not the actual phrasing almost photographic in its
accuracy?  Note, too, the frequent use of homely metaphor:—

    ’Tis with the maids as ’tis with the fowls when they be come out from
    moult.  They be bound to pick about this way and that in their new
    feathers.

    I warrant she be gone shy as a May bettel when ’tis daylight.

    Ah, you take and let her go quiet, same as I lets th’ old mare when
    her first comes up from grass.

    I likes doing things my own way, mother.  Womenfolk, they be so
    buzzing.  ’Tis like a lot of insects around of any one on a summer’s
    day.  A-saying this way and that—whilst a man do go at everything
    quiet and calm-like.

and the following typical sentences:—

    Well, mother, I count I’m back a smartish bit sooner nor what you did
    expect.

    There was a cow—well, ’tis a smartish lot of cows as I’ve seen in my
    time, but this one, why, the king haven’t got the match to she in all
    his great palace, and that’s the truth, so ’tis.

    I bain’t one as can judge of that, my lord, seeing that I be got a
    poor old badger of a man, and the days when I was young and did carry
    a heart what could beat with love, be ahind of I, and the feel of
    them clean forgot.

The task of selection has not been an easy one.  “The New Year” is the
only Country play on large and ambitious lines which Lady Darwin left
behind her, and it is on this account, as well as for its own merits,
which I venture to think are very considerable, that it has been
included.  “Princess Royal” was written for a special occasion, and is
frankly more conventional and artificial than the others, but it will
nevertheless appeal to folk-dancers, and for that reason, rather than
perhaps for its intrinsic value, room has been found for it.  The
remaining four are, in their several ways, typical of the author’s work,
and I for one have little doubt but that they will make a wide appeal,
more especially perhaps to those simple-minded people (of whom I am
persuaded there are many, even in these latter-days) who are able to
appreciate the unpretentious beauty of an art that is well-nigh artless
in its simplicity.  Some of them may be too slight in design, too
delicate in texture, their beauty too elusive, to succeed on the
professional stage; I do not know.  But there is a large demand for plays
of a non-professional character; and that Lady Darwin’s will be acted
with pleasure and listened to with delight in hut or hall or
country-house of a winter’s evening, I cannot doubt.

                                                              CECIL SHARP.



FLORENCE HENRIETTA DARWIN


FLORENCE HENRIETTA FISHER was born at 3, Onslow Square, London, in the
year 1864; but to those of a younger generation it seemed that nearly the
whole of her youth had been spent in the New Forest, so largely did it
figure in her stories of the past.  It was at Whitley Ridge,
Brockenhurst, that her earliest plays were written, and many marvellous
characters created; their names still live.  It was there that she became
a very good violin player, as well as a musician in a wider sense.  It
was in Brockenhurst Church that, in 1886, she married Frederic William
Maitland, later Downing professor of the laws of England.

Mr. and Mrs. Maitland lived in Cambridge; for the first two years at
Brookside, and afterwards in the West Lodge of Downing College.

Along with her love of music there had begun, and there continued a love
of animals, and, from Moses, a dog of Brockenhurst days, there stretched
down a long procession of dogs, cats, monkeys, foxes, moles, merecats,
mongeese, bush cats and marmosets, accompanied by a variety of birds.  If
such a thing as a dumb animal has ever existed it certainly was not one
of hers, for, besides what they were able to say for themselves, they
spoke much through her.  Not only were they able to recount all that had
happened to them in past home or jungle, they were perfectly able to give
advice in every situation and to join in every discussion.  Neither were
their pens less ready than their tongues, and many were the letters of
flamboyant script and misspelt word that came forth from cage or basket.

Frederic William Maitland possessed a small property at Brookthorpe,
Gloucestershire; and near this property, in a house in the village of
Edge and at the top of the Horsepools hill, he and his wife and their two
children spent most of their holidays.  They were happy days.  Animals
increased in number and rejoiced in freedom, fairs were attended, dancing
bears and bird carts came at intervals to the door, gipsies were
delighted in and protected, and it was there that many friendships with
country people were made.  Several days a week would find Mrs. Maitland
driving down to Brookthorpe in donkey or pony cart to see tenants, to
enquire for or feed the sick, to visit the school, to advise and be
advised in the many difficulties of human life.  With a wonderful memory
and power of reproducing that which she had heard, she brought back rare
harvest from these expeditions.  All through her days she was told more
in a week than many people hear in a life-time.

After much illness, Professor Maitland was told that he must leave
England, and in 1898 the Maitlands set sail to the island of Grand
Canary; and it was there that they spent each winter, with the exception
of one in Madeira, until Professor Maitland’s death in 1906.  The beauty
and warmth of the island were a joy to Mrs. Maitland, washing out all the
difficulties of housekeeping and the labour of cooking.  The day of
hardest work still left her time to set forth, accompanied by a faithful
one-legged hen, to seek the shade of chestnut or loquat tree, and there
to write.  The song of frogs rising from watery palm grove, the hot dusty
scent of pepper tree, the cool scent of orange, the mountains sharp and
black against the evening sky, the brightly coloured houses crowded to
the brink of still brighter sea, were all things she loved, and their
images remained with her always.  She became an expert talker of what she
called kitchen Spanish, and her store of country history increased
greatly, for, from Candelaria, the washer-woman to Don Luis the grocer,
she met no one who was not ready to tell her all the marvels that ever
they knew.

In 1906 Frederic William Maitland landed on the island too ill to reach
the house that Mrs. Maitland had gone out earlier to prepare for him.  He
was taken to an hotel in the city of Las Palmas, and there, on December
the 19th, he died.

In the spring of 1907 Mrs. Maitland returned to England.

In 1909 she added on to a small farm house at Brookthorpe, and there she
went to live.  She was thus able to renew many friendships, and in some
slight degree take up the life that had been so dear to her.  It was
during these last eleven years at Brookthorpe that she wrote all her
plays dealing with country people; the first for a class of village
children to whom she taught singing, the later ones in response to a
growing demand not only from other Gloucestershire villages, but from
village clubs and institutes scattered over a large part of England.  She
saw several of her plays acted by the Oakridge and the Sapperton players,
and these performances and letters from other performers gave her great
pleasure.

In 1913 she married Sir Francis Darwin.  Their life at Brookthorpe was
varied by months spent at his house in Cambridge.  It was there that she
died on March 5th, 1920.

During her last years she had much illness to contend with.  Unable to
play her violin, she turned to the spinet.  She practised for hours,
wrote plays, and attended to her house when many would have lain in their
beds.

Her religion became of increasingly great comfort and interest to her,
and it was in that light that she came, more and more, to look at all
things.

In the minds of many who knew her in those years rose up the words: I
have fought a good fight.

                                                                     E. M.



THE LOVERS’ TASKS


CHARACTERS


FARMER DANIEL,

ELIZABETH, _his wife_.

MILLIE, _her daughter_.

ANNET, _his niece_.

MAY, _Annet’s sister_, _aged ten_.

GILES, _their brother_.

ANDREW, _a rich young farmer_.

GEORGE _and_ JOHN, _servants to Giles_.

AN OLD MAN.



ACT I.—Scene 1.


                       _The parlour at Camel Farm_.

                      _Time_: _An afternoon in May_.

ELIZABETH _is sewing by the table with_ ANNET.  _At the open doorway_ MAY
_is polishing a bright mug_.

ELIZABETH.  [_Looking up_.]  There’s Uncle, back from the Fair.

MAY.  [_Looking out of the door_.]  O Uncle’s got some rare big packets
in his arms, he has.

ELIZABETH.  Put down that mug afore you damage it, May; and, Annet, do
you go and help your uncle in.

MAY.  [_Setting down the mug_.]  O let me go along of her too—[ANNET
_rises and goes to the door followed by_ MAY, _who has dropped her
polishing leather upon the ground_.

ELIZABETH.  [_Picking it up and speaking to herself in exasperation_.]
If ever there was a careless little wench, ’tis she.  I never did hold
with the bringing up of other folks children and if I’d had my way, ’tis
to the poor-house they’d have went, instead of coming here where I’ve
enough to do with my own.

[_The_ FARMER _comes in followed by_ ANNET _and_ MAY _carrying large
parcels_.

DANIEL.  Well Mother, I count I’m back a smartish bit sooner nor what you
did expect.

ELIZABETH.  I’m not one that can be taken by surprise, Dan.  May, lay
that parcel on the table at once, and put away your uncle’s hat and
overcoat.

DAN.  Nay, the overcoat’s too heavy for the little maid—I’ll hang it up
myself.

[_He takes off his coat and goes out into the passage to hang it up_.
_May runs after him with his hat_.

ANNET.  I do want to know what’s in all those great packets, Aunt.

ELIZABETH.  I daresay you’ll be told all in good season.  Here, take up
and get on with that sewing, I dislike to see young people idling away
their time.

[_The_ FARMER _and_ MAY _come back_.

MAY.  And now, untie the packets quickly, uncle.

DANIEL.  [_Sinking into a big chair_.]  Not so fast, my little maid, not
so fast—’tis a powerful long distance as I have journeyed this day, and
’tis wonderful warm for the time of year.

ELIZABETH.  I don’t hold with drinking nor with taking bites atween
meals, but as your uncle has come a good distance, and the day is warm,
you make take the key of the pantry, Annet, and draw a glass of cider for
him.

[_She takes the key from her pocket and hands it to_ ANNET, _who goes
out_.

DANIEL.  That’s it, Mother—that’s it.  And when I’ve wetted my mouth a
bit I’ll be able the better to tell you all about how ’twas over there.

MAY.  O I’d dearly like to go to a Fair, I would.  You always said that
you’d take me the next time you went, Uncle.

DANIEL.  Ah and so I did, but when I comed to think it over, Fairs baint
the place for little maids, I says to mother here—and no, that they
baint, she answers back.  But we’ll see how ’tis when you be growed a bit
older, like.  Us’ll see how ’twill be then, won’t us Mother?

ELIZABETH.  I wouldn’t encourage the child in her nonsense, if I was you,
Dan.  She’s old enough to know better than to ask to be taken to such
places.  Why in all my days I never set my foot within a fair, pleasure
or business, nor wanted to, either.

MAY.  And never rode on the pretty wood horses, Aunt, all spotted and
with scarlet bridles to them?

ELIZABETH.  Certainly not.  I wonder at your asking such a question, May.
But you do say some very unsuitable things for a little child of your
age.

MAY.  And did you get astride of the pretty horses at the Fair, Uncle?

DANIEL.  Nay, nay,—they horses be set in the pleasure part of the Fair,
and where I goes ’tis all for doing business like.

[ANNET _comes back with the glass of cider_.  DANIEL _takes it from her_.

DANIEL.  [_Drinking_.]  You might as well have brought the jug, my girl.

ELIZABETH.  No, Father, ’twill spoil your next meal as it is.

[_The girls sit down at the table_, _taking up their work_.

DANIEL.  [_Putting down his glass_.]  But, bless my soul, yon was a Fair
in a hundred.  That her was.

BOTH GIRLS.  O do tell us of all that you did see there, Uncle.

DANIEL.  There was a cow—well, ’tis a smartish lot of cows as I’ve seen
in my time, but this one, why, the King haven’t got the match to she in
all his great palace, and that’s the truth, so ’tis.

ANNET.  O don ’t tell us about the cows, Uncle, we want to know about all
the other things.

MAY.  The shows of acting folk, and the wild animals, and the nice
sweets.

ELIZABETH.  They don’t want to hear about anything sensible, Dan.
They’re like all the maids now, with their thoughts set on pleasuring and
foolishness.

DANIEL.  Ah, the maids was different in our day, wasn’t they Mother?

ELIZABETH.  And that they were.  Why, when I was your age, Annet, I
should have been ashamed if I couldn’t have held my own in any proper or
suitable conversation.

DANIEL.  Ah, you was a rare sensible maid in your day, Mother.  Do you
mind when you comed along of me to Kingham sale?  “You’re never going to
buy an animal with all that white to it,” Dan, you says to me.

ELIZABETH.  Ah—I recollect.

DANIEL.  “’Tis true her has a whitish leg,” I says, “but so have I, and
so have you, Mother—and who’s to think the worse on we for that?”  Ah, I
could always bring you round to look at things quiet and reasonable in
those days—that I could.

ELIZABETH.  And a good thing if there were others of the same pattern
now, I’m thinking.

DANIEL.  So ’twould be—so ’twould be.  But times do bring changes in the
forms of the cattle and I count ’tis the same with the womenfolk.  ’Tis
one thing this year and ’tis t’other in the next.

MAY.  Do tell us more of what you did see at the Fair, Uncle.

DANIEL.  There was a ram.  My word! but the four feet of he did cover a
good two yards of ground; just as it might be, standing.

ELIZABETH.  Come, Father.

DANIEL.  And the horns upon the head of he did reach out very nigh as far
as might do the sails of one of they old wind-mills.

MAY.  O Uncle, and how was it with the wool of him?

DANIEL.  The wool, my wench, did stand a good three foot from all around
of the animal.  You might have set a hen with her eggs on top of it—and
that you might.  And now I comes to recollect how ’twas, you could have
set a hen one side of the wool and a turkey t’other.

MAY.  O Uncle, that must have been a beautiful animal!  And what was the
tail of it?

DANIEL.  The tail, my little maid?  Why ’twas longer nor my arm and as
thick again—’twould have served as a bell rope to the great bell yonder
in Gloucester church—and so ’twould.  Ah, ’twas sommat like a tail, I
reckon, yon.

ELIZABETH.  Come, Father, such talk is hardly suited to little girls, who
should know better than to ask so many teasing questions.

ANNET.  ’Tisn’t only May, Aunt, I do love to hear what uncle tells, when
he has been out for a day or two.

ELIZABETH.  And did you have company on the way home, Father?

DANIEL.  That I did.  ’Twas along of young Andrew as I did come back.

ELIZABETH.  Along of Andrew?  Girls, you may now go outside into the
garden for a while.  Yes, put aside your work.

MAY.  Can’t we stop till the packets are opened?

ELIZABETH.  You heard what I said?  Go off into the garden, and stop
there till I send for you.  And take uncle’s glass and wash it at the
spout as you go.

ANNET.  [_Taking the glass_.]  I’ll wash it, Aunt.  Come May, you see
aunt doesn’t want us any longer.

MAY.  Now they’re going to talk secrets together.  O I should dearly love
to hear the secrets of grown-up people.  [ANNET _and_ MAY _go out
together_.

DANIEL.  Annet be got a fine big wench, upon my word.  Now haven’t her,
Mother?

ELIZABETH.  She’s got old enough to be put to service, and if I’d have
had my way, ’tis to service she’d have gone this long time since, and
that it is.

DANIEL.  ’Twould be poor work putting one of dead sister’s wenches out to
service, so long as us have a roof over the heads of we and plenty to eat
on the table.

ELIZABETH.  Well, you must please yourself about it Father, as you do
most times.  But ’tis uncertain work taking up with other folks children
as I told you from the first.  See what a lot of trouble you and me have
had along of Giles.

DANIEL.  Giles be safe enough in them foreign parts where I did send him.
You’ve no need to trouble your head about he, Mother—unless ’tis a letter
as he may have got sending to Mill.

ELIZABETH.  No, Father, Giles has never sent a letter since the day he
left home.  But very often there is no need for letters to keep
remembrance green.  ’Tis a plant what thrives best on a soil that is
bare.

DANIEL.  Well, Mother, and what be you a-driving at?  I warrant as Mill
have got over them notions as she did have once.  And, look you here,
’twas with young Andrew as I did journey back from the Fair.  And he be
a-coming up presently for to get his answer.

ELIZABETH.  All I say is that I hope he may get it then.

DANIEL.  Ah, I reckon as ’tis rare put about as he have been all this
long while, and never a downright “yes” to what he do ask.

[MAY _comes softly in and hides behind the door_.

ELIZABETH.  Well, that’s not my fault, Father.

DANIEL.  But her’ll have to change her note this day, that her’ll have.
For I’ve spoke for she, and ’tis for next month as I’ve pitched the
wedding day.

ELIZABETH.  And you may pitch, Father.  You may lead the mare down to the
pond, but she’ll not drink if she hasn’t the mind to.  You know what
Millie is.  ’Tisn’t from my side that she gets it either.

DANIEL.  And ’tain’t from me.  I be all for easy going and each one to
his self like.

ELIZABETH.  Yes, there you are, Father.

DANIEL.  But I reckon as the little maid will hearken to what I says.
Her was always a wonderful good little maid to her dad.  And her did
always know, that when her dad did set his foot down, well, there ’twas.
’Twas down.

ELIZABETH.  Well, if you think you can shew her that, Father, ’tis a
fortunate job on all sides.

[_They suddenly see_ MAY _who has been quiet behind the door_.

ELIZABETH.  May, what are you a-doing here I should like to know?  Didn’t
I send you out into the garden along of your sister?

MAY.  Yes, Auntie, but I’ve comed back.

ELIZABETH.  Then you can be off again, and shut the door this time, do
your hear?

DANIEL.  That’s it, my little maid.  Run along—and look you, May, just
you tell Cousin Millie as we wants her in here straight away.  And who
knows bye and bye whether there won’t be sommat in yon great parcel for a
good little wench.

MAY.  O Uncle—I’d like to see it now.

DANIEL.  Nay, nay—this is not a suitable time—Aunt and me has business
what’s got to be settled like.  Nay—’tis later on as the packets is to be
opened.

ELIZABETH.  Get along off, you tiresome child.—One word might do for
some, but it takes twenty to get you to move.—Run along now, do you hear
me?

[MAY _goes_.

Well, Father, I’ve done my share with Millie and she don’t take a bit of
notice of what I say.  So now it’s your turn.

DANIEL.  Ah, I count ’tis more man’s work, this here, so ’tis.  There be
things which belongs to females and there be others which do not.  You
get and leave it all to me.  I’ll bring it off.

ELIZABETH.  All right, Father, just you try your way—I’ll have nothing
more to do with it.  [MILLIE _comes in_.]

MILLIE.  Why, Father, you’re back early from the Fair.

DANIEL.  That’s so, my wench.  See that package over yonder?

MILLIE.  O, that I do, Father.

DANIEL.  Yon great one’s for you, Mill.

MILLIE.  O Father, what’s inside it?

DANIEL.  ’Tis a new, smart bonnet, my wench.

MILLIE.  For me, Father?

DANIEL.  Ah—who else should it be for, Mill?

MILLIE.  O Father, you are good to me.

DANIEL.  And a silk cloak as well.

MILLIE.  A silken cloak, and a bonnet—O Father, ’tis too much for you to
give me all at once, like.

DANIEL.  Young Andrew did help me with the choice, and ’tis all to be
worn on this day month, my girl.

MILLIE.  Why, Father, what’s to happen then?

DANIEL.  ’Tis for you to go along to church in, Mill.

MILLIE.  To church, Father?

DANIEL.  Ah, that ’tis—you in the cloak and bonnet, and upon the arm of
young Andrew, my wench.

MILLIE.  O no, Father.

DANIEL.  But ’tis “yes” as you have got to learn, my wench.  And quickly
too.  For ’tis this very evening as Andrew be coming for his answer.  And
’tis to be “yes” this time.

MILLIE.  O no, Father.

DANIEL.  You’ve an hour before you, my wench, in which to get another
word to your tongue.

MILLIE.  I can’t learn any word that isn’t “no,” Father.

DANIEL.  Look at me, my wench.  My foot be down.  I means what I says—

MILLIE.  And I mean what I say, too, Father.  And I say, No!

DANIEL.  Millie, I’ve set down my foot.

MILLIE.  And so have I, Father.

DANIEL.  And ’tis “yes” as you must say to young Andrew when he do come
a-courting of you this night.

MILLIE.  That I’ll never say, Father.  I don’t want cloaks nor bonnets,
nor my heart moved by gifts, or tears brought to my eyes by fair words.
I’ll not wed unless I can give my love along with my hand.  And ’tis not
to Andrew I can give that, as you know.

DANIEL.  And to whom should a maid give her heart if ’twasn’t to Andrew?
A finer lad never trod in a pair of shoes.  I’ll be blest if I do know
what the wenches be a-coming to.

ELIZABETH.  There, Father, I told you what to expect.

DANIEL.  But ’tis master as I’ll be, hark you, Mother, hark you, Mill.
And ’tis “Yes” as you have got to fit your tongue out with my girl, afore
’tis dark.  [_Rising_.]  I be a’going off to the yard, but, Mother,
her’ll know what to say to you, her will.

MILLIE.  Dad, do you stop and shew me the inside of my packet.  Let us
put Andrew aside and be happy—do!

DANIEL.  Ah, I’ve got other things as is waiting to be done nor breaking
in a tricksome filly to run atween the shafts.  ’Tis fitter work for
females, and so ’tis.

ELIZABETH.  And so I told you, Father, from the start.

MILLIE.  And ’tis “No” that I shall say.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT I.—Scene 2.


                    _It is dusk on the same evening_.

MILLIE _is standing by the table folding up the silken cloak_.  ANNET
_sits watching her_, _on her knees lies a open parcel disclosing a
woollen shawl_.  _In a far corner of the room_ MAY _is seated on a stool
making a daisy chain_.

ANNET.  ’Twas very good of Uncle to bring me this nice shawl, Millie.

MILLIE.  You should have had a cloak like mine, Annet, by rights.

ANNET.  I’m not going to get married, Millie.

MILLIE.  [_Sitting down with a sudden movement of despondence and
stretching her arms across the table_.]  O don’t you speak to me of that,
Annet.  ’Tis more than I can bear to-night.

ANNET.  But, Millie, he’s coming for your answer now.  You musn’t let him
find you looking so.

MILLIE.  My face shall look as my heart feels.  And that is all sorrow,
Annet.

ANNET.  Can’t you bring yourself round to fancy Andrew, Millie?

MILLIE.  No, that I cannot, Annet, I’ve tried a score of times, I
have—but there it is—I cannot.

ANNET.  Is it that you’ve not forgotten Giles, then?

MILLIE.  I never shall forget him, Annet.  Why, ’tis a five year this day
since father sent him off to foreign parts, and never a moment of all
that time has my heart not remembered him.

ANNET.  I feared ’twas so with you, Millie.

MILLIE.  O I’ve laid awake of nights and my tears have wetted the pillow
all over so that I’ve had to turn it t’other side up.

ANNET.  And Giles has never written to you, nor sent a sign nor nothing?

MILLIE.  Your brother Giles was never very grand with the pen, Annet.
But, O, he’s none the worse for that.

ANNET.  Millie, I never cared for to question you, but how was it when
you and he did part, one with t’other?

MILLIE.  I did give him my ring, Annet—secret like—when we were walking
in the wood.

ANNET.  What, the one with the white stones to it?

MILLIE.  Yes, grandmother’s ring, that she left me.  And I did say to
him—if ever I do turn false to you and am like to wed another, Giles—look
you at these white stones.

ANNET.  Seven of them, there were, Millie.

MILLIE.  And the day that I am like to wed another, Giles, I said to him,
the stones shall darken.  But you’ll never see that day.  [_She begins to
cry_.

ANNET.  Don’t you give way, Millie, for, look you, ’tis very likely that
Giles has forgotten you for all his fine words, and Andrew,—well, Andrew
he’s as grand a suitor as ever maid had.  And ’tis Andrew you have got to
wed, you know.

MILLIE.  Andrew, Andrew—I’m sick at the very name of him.

ANNET.  See the fine house you’ll live in.  Think on the grand parlour
that you’ll sit in all the day with a servant to wait on you and naught
but Sunday clothes on your back.

MILLIE.  I’d sooner go in rags with Giles at the side of me.

ANNET.  Come, you must hearten up.  Andrew will soon be here.  And Uncle
says that you have got to give him his answer to-night for good and all.

MILLIE.  O I cannot see him—I’m wearied to death of Andrew, and that’s
the very truth it is.

ANNET.  O Millie—I wonder how ’twould feel to be you for half-an-hour and
to have such a fine suitor coming to me and asking for me to say Yes.

MILLIE.  O I wish ’twas you and not me that he was after, Annet.

ANNET.  ’Tisn’t likely that anyone such as Master Andrew will ever come
courting a poor girl like me, Millie.  But I’d dearly love to know how
’twould feel.

[MILLIE _raises her head and looks at her cousin for a few minutes in
silence_, _then her face brightens_.

MILLIE.  Then you shall, Annet.

ANNET.  Shall what, Mill?

MILLIE.  Know how it feels.  Look here—’Tis sick to death I am with
courting, when ’tis from the wrong quarter, and if I’m to wed Andrew come
next month, I’ll not be tormented with him before that time,—so ’tis you
that shall stop and talk with him this evening, Annet, and I’ll slip out
to the woods and gather flowers.

ANNET.  How wild and unlikely you do talk, Mill.

MILLIE.  In the dusk he’ll never know that ’tisn’t me.  Being cousins, we
speak after the same fashion, and in the shape of us there’s not much
that’s amiss.

ANNET.  But in the clothing of us, Mill—why, ’tis a grand young lady that
you look—whilst I—

MILLIE.  [_Taking up the silken cloak_.]  Here—put this over your gown,
Annet.

ANNET.  [_Standing up_.]  I don’t mind just trying it on, like.

MILLIE.  [_Fastening it_.]  There—and now the bonnet, with the veil
pulled over the face.

[_She ties the bonnet and arranges the veil on_ ANNET.

MILLIE.  [_Standing back and surveying her cousin_.]  There, Annet, there
May, who is to tell which of us ’tis?

MAY.  [_Coming forward_.]  O I should never know that ’twasn’t you,
Cousin Mill.

MILLIE.  And I could well mistake her for myself too, so listen, Annet.
’Tis you that shall talk with Master Andrew when he comes to-night.  And
’tis you that shall give him my answer.  I’ll not burn my lips by
speaking the word he asks of me.

ANNET.  O Mill—I cannot—no I cannot.

MILLIE.  Don’t let him have it very easily, Annet.  Set him a ditch or
two to jump before he gets there.  And let the thorns prick him a bit
before he gathers the flower.  You know my way with him.

MAY.  And I know it too, Millie—Why, your tongue, ’tis very near as sharp
as when Aunt do speak.

ANNET.  O Millie, take off these things—I cannot do it, that’s the truth.

MAY.  [_Looking out through the door_.]  There’s Andrew a-coming over the
mill yard.

MILLIE.  Here, sit down, Annet, with the back of you to the light.

[_She pushes_ ANNET _into a chair beneath the window_.

MAY.  Can I get into the cupboard and listen to it, Cousin Mill?

MILLIE.  If you promise to bide quiet and to say naught of it afterwards.

MAY.  O I promise, I promise—I’ll just leave a crack of the door open for
to hear well.

[MAY _gets into the cupboard_.  MILLIE _takes up_ ANNET’S _new shawl and
puts it all over her_.

MILLIE.  No one will think that ’tisn’t you, in the dusk.

ANNET.  O Millie, what is it that you’ve got me to do?

MILLIE.  Never you mind, Annet—you shall see what ’tis to have a grand
suitor and I shall get a little while of quiet out yonder, where I can
think on Giles.

[_She runs out of the door just as_ ANDREW _comes up_.  ANDREW _knocks
and then enters the open door_.

ANDREW.  Where’s Annet off to in such a hurry?

ANNET.  [_Very faintly_.]  I’m sure I don’t know.  [ANDREW _lays aside
his hat and comes up to the window_.  _He stands before_ ANNET _looking
down on her_.  _She becomes restless under his gaze_, _and at last signs
to him to sit down_.

ANDREW.  [_Sitting down on a chair a little way from her_.]  The Master
said that I might come along to-night, Millie—Otherwise—[ANNET _is still
silent_.

Otherwise I shouldn’t have dared do so.

[ANNET _sits nervously twisting the ribbons of her cloak_.

The Master said, as how may be, your feeling for me, Millie, might be
changed like.  [ANNET _is still silent_.

And that if I was to ask you once more, very likely ’twould be something
different as you might say.

[_A long silence_.

Was I wrong in coming, Millie?

ANNET.  [_Faintly_.]  ’Twould have been better had you stayed away like.

ANDREW.  Then there isn’t any change in your feelings towards me, Millie?

ANNET.  O, there’s a sort of a change, Andrew.

ANDREW.  [_Slowly_.]  O Mill, that’s good hearing.  What sort of a change
is it then?

ANNET.  ’Tis very hard to say, Andrew.

ANDREW.  Look you, Mill, ’tis more than a five year that I’ve been
a-courting of you faithful.

ANNET.  [_Sighing_.]  Indeed it is, Andrew.

ANDREW.  And I’ve never got naught but blows for my pains.

ANNET.  [_Beginning to speak in a gentle voice and ending sharply_.]  O
I’m so sorry—No—I mean—’Tis your own fault, Andrew.

ANDREW.  But I would sooner take blows from you than sweet words from
another, Millie.

ANNET.  I could never find it in my heart to—I mean, ’tis as well that
you should get used to blows, seeing we’re to be wed, Andrew.

ANDREW.  Then ’tis to be!  O Millie, this is brave news—Why, I do
scarcely know whether I be awake or dreaming.

ANNET.  [_Very sadly_.]  Very likely you’ll be glad enough to be dreaming
a month from now, poor Andrew.

ANDREW.  [_Drawing nearer_.]  I am brave, Millie, now that you speak to
me so kind and gentle, and I’ll ask you to name the day.

ANNET.  [_Shrinking back_.]  O ’twill be a very long distance from now,
Andrew.

ANDREW.  Millie, it seems to be your pleasure to take up my heart and
play with it same as a cat does with the mouse.

ANNET.  [_Becoming gay and hard in her manner_.]  Your heart, Andrew?
’Twill go all the better afterwards if ’tis tossed about a bit first.

ANDREW.  Put an end to this foolishness, Mill, and say when you’ll wed
me.

ANNET.  [_Warding him off with her hand_.]  You shall have my answer in a
new song Andrew, which I have been learning.

[ANDREW _sits down despondently and prepares to listen_.

ANNET.  Now hark you to this, Andrew, and turn it well over in your mind.
[_She begins to sing_:

   Say can you plough me an acre of land
   Sing Ivy leaf, Sweet William and Thyme.
   Between the sea and the salt sea strand
   And you shall be a true lover of mine?

[_A slight pause_.  ANNET _looks questioningly at_ ANDREW, _who turns
away with a heavy sigh_.

ANNET.  [_Singing_.]

   Yes, if you plough it with one ram’s horn
   Sing Ivy Leaf, Sweet William and Thyme
   And sow it all over with one peppercorn
   And you shall be a true lover of mine.

ANDREW.  ’Tis all foolishness.

ANNET.  [_Singing_.]

   Say can you reap with a sickle of leather
   Sing Ivy Leaf, Sweet William and Thyme
   And tie it all up with a Tom-tit’s feather
   And you shall be a true lover of mine.

ANDREW.  [_Rises up impatiently_.]  I can stand no more.  You’ve danced
upon my heart till ’tis fairly brittle, and ready to be broke by a
feather.

ANNET.  [_Very gently_.]  O Andrew, I’ll mend your heart one day.

ANDREW.  Millie, the sound of those words has mended it already.

ANNET.  [_In a harder voice_.]  But very likely there’ll be a crack left
to it always.

[FARMER DANIEL _and_ ELIZABETH _come into the room_.

DANIEL.  Well my boy, well Millie?

ANDREW.  [_Boldly_.]  ’Tis for a month from now.

DANIEL.  Bless my soul.  Hear that, Mother?  Hear that?

ELIZABETH.  I’m not deaf, Father.

DANIEL.  [_Shaking_ ANDREW’S _hand_.]  Ah my boy, I knowed as you’d bring
the little maid to the senses of she.

ELIZABETH.  Millie has not shown any backwardness in clothing herself as
though for church.

DANIEL.  ’Tis with the maids as ’tis with the fowls when they be come out
from moult.  They be bound to pick about this way and that in their new
feathers.

ELIZABETH.  Well, ’tis to be hoped the young people have fixed it up for
good and all this time.

DANIEL.  Come Mill, my wench, you be wonderful quiet.  Where’s your
tongue?

ELIZABETH.  I think we’ve all had quite enough of Millie’s tongue,
Father.  Let her give it a rest if she’ve a mind.

DANIEL.  I warrant she be gone as shy as a May bettel when ’tis daylight.
But us’ll take it as she have fixed it up in her own mind like.  Come,
Mother, such a time as this, you won’t take no objection to the drawing
of a jug of cider.

ELIZABETH.  And supper just about to be served?  I’m surprised at you,
Father.  No, I can’t hear of cider being drawn so needless like.

DANIEL.  Well, well,—have it your own way—but I always says, and my
father used to say it afore I, a fine deed do call for a fine drink, and
that’s how ’twas in my time.

ELIZABETH.  Millie, do you call your cousins in to supper.

DANIEL.  Ah, and where be the maids gone off to this time of night,
Mother?

ANDREW.  Annet did pass me as I came through the yard, Master

[MAY, _quietly opens the cupboard door and comes out_.

ELIZABETH.  So that’s where you’ve been, you deceitful little wench.

ANDREW.  Well, to think of that, Millie.

ELIZABETH.  And how long may you have bid there, I should like to know?

DANIEL.  Come, come, my little maid, ’tis early days for you to be
getting a lesson in courtship.

MAY.  O there wasn’t any courtship, Uncle, and I didn’t hear nothing at
all to speak of.

ELIZABETH.  There, run along quick and find your sister.  Supper’s late
already, and that it is.

ANNET.  I’ll go with her.

[_She starts forward and hurriedly moves towards the door_.

ELIZABETH.  Stop a moment, Millie.  What are you thinking of to go
trailing out in the dew with that beautiful cloak and bonnet.  Take and
lay them in the box at once, do you hear?

DANIEL.  That’s it, Mill.  ’Twouldn’t do for to mess them up afore the
day.  ’Twas a fair price as I gived for they, and that I can tell you, my
girl.

[ANNET _stops irresolutely_.  MAY _seizes her hand_.

MAY.  Come off, come off, “Cousin Millie”; ’tis not damp outside, and O
I’m afeared to cross the rickyard by myself.

[_She pulls_ ANNET _violently by the hand and draws her out of the door_.

ELIZABETH.  Off with the cloak this minute, Millie.

MAY.  [_Calling back_.]  She’s a-taking of it off, Aunt, she is.

ELIZABETH.  I don’t know what’s come to the maid.  She don’t act like
herself to-day.

DANIEL.  Ah, that be asking too much of a maid, to act like herself, and
the wedding day close ahead of she.

ELIZABETH.  I’d be content with a suitable behaviour, Father.  I’m not
hard to please.

DANIEL.  Ah, you take and let her go quiet, same as I lets th’ old mare
when her first comes up from grass.

ELIZABETH.  ’Tis all very well for you to talk, Father but ’tis I who
have got to do.

DANIEL.  Come Mother, come Andrew, I be sharp set.  And ’tis the feel of
victuals and no words as I wants in my mouth.

ELIZABETH.  Well, Father, I’m not detaining you.  There’s the door, and
the food has been cooling on the table this great while.

DANIEL.  Come you, Andrew, come you, Mother.  Us’ll make a bit of a
marriage feast this night.

[_He leads the way and the others follow him out_.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT II.—Scene 1.


_A woodland path_.  GILES _comes forward with his two servants_, GEORGE
_and_ JOHN, _who are carrying heavy packets_.

GILES.  ’Tis powerful warm to-day.  We will take a bit of rest before we
go further.

GEORGE.  [_Setting down his packet_.]  That’s it, master.  ’Tis a rare
weight as I’ve been carrying across my back since dawn.

JOHN.  [_Also setting down his burden_.]  Ah, I be pleased for to lay
aside yon.  ’Tis wonderful heavy work, this journeying to and fro with
gold and silver.

GILES.  Our travelling is very nigh finished.  There lies the road which
goes to Camel Farm.

GEORGE.  Oh, I count as that must be a rare sort of a place, master.

JOHN.  Seeing as us haven’t stopped scarce an hour since us landed off
the sea.

GEORGE.  But have come running all the while same as the fox may run in
th’ early morning towards the poultry yard.

JOHN.  Nor broke bread, nor scarce got a drop of drink to wet th’ insides
of we.

GILES.  ’Tis very little further that you have got to journey, my good
lads.  We are nigh to the end of our wayfaring.

GEORGE.  And what sort of a place be we a-coming to, master?

GILES.  ’Tis the place out of all the world to me.

JOHN.  I count ’tis sommat rare and fine in that case, seeing as we be
come from brave foreign parts, master.

GILES.  ’Tis rarer, and finer than all the foreign lands that lie beneath
the sun, my lads.

GEORGE.  That’s good hearing, master.  And is the victuals like to be as
fine as the place?

GILES.  O, you’ll fare well enough yonder.

JOHN.  I was never one for foreign victuals, nor for the drink that was
over there neither.

GILES.  Well, the both of you shall rest this night beneath the grandest
roof that ever sheltered a man’s head.  And you shall sit at a table
spread as you’ve not seen this many a year.

GEORGE.  That’ll be sommat to think on, master, when us gets upon our
legs again.

JOHN.  I be thinking of it ahead as I lies here, and that’s the truth.

[_The two servants stretch themselves comfortably beneath the trees_.
_GILES walks restlessly backwards and forwards as though impatient at any
delay_.  _From time to time he glances at a ring which he wears_,
_sighing heavily as he does so_.

[_An old man comes up_, _leaning on his staff_.

OLD MAN.  Good-morning to you, my fine gentlemen.

GILES.  Good-morning, master.

OLD MAN.  ’Tis a wonderful warm sun to-day.

GILES.  You’re right there, master.

OLD MAN.  I warrant as you be journeying towards the same place where I
be going, my lord.

GILES.  And where is that, old master?

OLD MAN.  Towards Camel Farm.

GILES.  You’re right.  ’Tis there and nowhere else that we are going.

OLD MAN.  Ah, us’ll have to go smartish if us is to be there in time.

GILES.  In time for what, my good man?

OLD MAN.  In time for to see the marrying, my lord.

GILES.  The marrying?  What’s that you’re telling me?

OLD MAN.  ’Tis at noon this day that she’s to be wed.

GILES.  Who are you speaking of, old man?

OLD MAN.  And where is your lordship journeying this day if ’tis not to
the marrying?

GILES.  Who’s getting wed up yonder, tell me quickly?

OLD MAN.  ’Tis th’ old farmer’s daughter what’s to wed come noon-tide.

GILES.  [_Starting_.]  Millie!  O that is heavy news.  [_Looking at his
hand_.]  Then ’tis as I feared, for since daybreak yesterday the
brightness has all gone from out of the seven stones.  That’s how ’twould
be, she told me once.

[_He turns away from the others in deep distress of mind_.

GEORGE.  Us’ll see no Camel Farm this day.

JOHN.  And th’ inside of I be crying out for victuals.

OLD MAN.  Then you be not of these parts, masters?

GEORGE.  No, us be comed from right over the seas, along of master.

JOHN.  Ah, ’tis a fine gentleman, master.  But powerful misfortunate in
things of the heart.

GEORGE.  Ah, he’d best have stopped where he was.  Camel Farm baint no
place for the like of he to go courting at.

JOHN.  Ah, master be used to them great palaces, all over gold and marble
with windows as you might drive a waggon through, and that you might.

GEORGE.  All painted glass.  And each chair with golden legs to him, and
a sight of silver vessels on the table as never you did dream of after a
night’s drinking, old man.  [GILES _comes slowly towards them_.

GILES.  And who is she to wed, old man?

OLD MAN.  Be you a-speaking of the young mistress up at Camel Farm, my
lord?

GILES.  Yes.  With whom does she go to church to-day?

OLD MAN.  ’Tis along of Master Andrew that her do go.  What lives up
Cranham way.

GILES.  Ah, th’ old farmer was always wonderful set on him.  [_A pause_.

OLD MAN.  I be a poor old wretch what journeys upon the roads, master,
and maybe I picks a crust here and gets a drink of water there, and the
shelter of the pig-stye wall to rest the bones of me at night time.

GILES.  What matters it if you be old and poor, master, so that the heart
of you be whole and unbroken?

OLD MAN.  Us poor old wretches don’t carry no hearts to th’ insides of
we.  The pains of us do come from the having of no victuals and from the
winter’s cold when snow do lie on the ground and the wind do moan over
the fields, and when the fox do bark.

GILES.  What is the pang of hunger and the cold bite of winter set
against the cruel torment of a disappointed love?

OLD MAN.  I baint one as can judge of that, my lord, seeing that I be got
a poor old badger of a man, and the days when I was young and did carry a
heart what could beat with love, be ahind of I, and the feel of them
clean forgot.

GILES.  Then what do you up yonder at the marrying this morning?

OLD MAN.  Oh, I do take me to those places where there be burying or
marriage, for the hearts of folk at these seasons be warmed and kinder,
like.  And ’tis bread and meat as I gets then.  Food be thrown out to the
poor old dog what waits patient at the door.

GILES.  [_Looks intently at him for a moment_.]  See here, old master.  I
would fain strike a bargain with you.  And ’tis with a handful of golden
pieces that I will pay your service.

OLD MAN.  Anything to oblige you, my young lord.

GILES.  [_To_ GEORGE.]  Take out a handful from the bag of gold.  And
you, John, give him some of the silver.

[GEORGE _and_ JOHN _untie their bags and take out gold and silver_.
_They twist it up in a handkerchief which they give to the old man_.]

OLD MAN.  May all the blessings of heaven rest on you, my lord, for ’tis
plain to see that you be one of the greatest and finest gentlemen ever
born to the land.

GILES.  My good friend, you’re wrong there, I was a poor country lad, but
I had the greatest treasure that a man could hold on this earth.  ’Twas
the love of my cousin Millie.  And being poor, I was put from out the
home, and sent to seek my fortune in parts beyond the sea.

OLD MAN.  Now, who’d have thought ’twas so, for the looks of you be
gentle born all over.

GILES.  “Come back with a bushel of gold in one hand and one of silver in
t’other” the old farmer said to me, “and then maybe I’ll let you wed my
daughter.”

OLD MAN.  And here you be comed back, and there lie the gold and the
silver bags.

GILES.  And yonder is Millie given in marriage to another.

GEORGE.  ’Taint done yet, master.

JOHN.  ’Tisn’t too late, by a long way, master.

GILES.  [_To_ OLD MAN.]  And so I would crave something of you, old
friend.  Lend me your smock, and your big hat and your staff.  In that
disguise I will go to the farm and look upon my poor false love once
more.  If I find that her heart is already given to another, I shall not
make myself known to her.  But if she still holds to her love for me,
then—

GEORGE.  Go in the fine clothes what you have upon you, master.  And even
should the maid’s heart, be given to another, the sight of so grand a
cloth and such laces will soon turn it the right way again.

JOHN.  Ah, that’s so, it is.  You go as you be clothed now, master.  I
know what maids be, and ’tis finery and good coats which do work more on
the hearts of they nor anything else in the wide world.

GILES.  No, no, my lads.  I will return as I did go from yonder.  Poor,
and in mean clothing.  Nor shall a glint of all my wealth speak one word
for me.  But if so be as her heart is true in spite of everything, my
sorrowful garments will not hide my love away from her.

OLD MAN.  [_Taking off his hat_.]  Here you are master.

[GILES _hands his own hat to_ GEORGE.  _He then takes off his coat and
gives it to_ JOHN.  _The_ OLD MAN _takes off his smock_, _GILES puts it
on_.

OLD MAN.  Pull the hat well down about the face of you, master, so as the
smooth skin of you be hid.

GILES.  [_Turning round in his disguise_.]  How’s that, my friends?

GEORGE.  You be a sight too straight in the back, master.

GILES.  [_Stooping_.]  I’ll soon better that.

JOHN.  Be you a-going in them fine buckled shoes, master?

GILES.  I had forgot the shoes.  When I get near to the house ’tis
barefoot that I will go.

GEORGE.  Then let us be off, master, for the’ time be running short.

JOHN.  Ah, that ’tis.  I count it be close on noon-day now by the look of
the sun.

OLD MAN.  And heaven be with you, my young gentleman.

GILES.  My good friends, you shall go with me a little further.  And when
we have come close upon the farm, you shall stop in the shelter of a wood
that I know of and await the signal I shall give you.

GEORGE.  And what’ll that be, master?

GILES.  I shall blow three times, and loudly from my whistle, here.

JOHN.  And be we to come up to the farm when we hears you?

GILES.  As quickly as you can run.  ’Twill be the sign that I need all of
you with me.

GEORGE _and_ JOHN.  That’s it, master.  Us do understand what ’tis as we
have got to do.

OLD MAR.  Ah, ’tis best to be finished with hearts that beat to the tune
of a maid’s tongue, and to creep quiet along the roads with naught but
them pains as hunger and thirst do bring to th’ inside.  So ’tis.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT III.—Scene 1.


_The parlour at Camel Farm_.  ELIZABETH, _in her best dress_, _is moving
about the room putting chairs in their places and arranging ornaments on
the dresser_, _etc._  MAY _stands at the door with a large bunch of
flowers in her hands_.

ELIZABETH.  And what do you want to run about in the garden for when I’ve
just smoothed your hair and got you all ready to go to church?

MAY.  I’ve only been helping Annet gather some flowers to put upon the
table.

ELIZABETH.  You should know better then.  Didn’t I tell you to sit still
in that chair with your hands folded nicely till we were ready to start.

MAY.  Why, I couldn’t be sitting there all the while, now could I, Aunt?

ELIZABETH.  This’ll be the last time as I tie your ribbon, mind.

[_She smoothes_ MAY’S _hair and ties it up for her_.  ANNET _comes into
the room with more flowers_.

ELIZABETH.  What’s your cousin doing now, Annet?

ANNET.  The door of her room is still locked, Aunt.  And what she says is
that she do want to bide alone there.

ELIZABETH.  In all my days I never did hear tell of such a thing, I don’t
know what’s coming to the world, I don’t.

MAY.  I count that Millie do like to be all to herself whilst she is
a-dressing up grand in her white gown, and the silken cloak and bonnet.

ANNET.  Millie’s not a-dressing of herself up.  I heard her crying
pitiful as I was gathering flowers in the garden.

ELIZABETH.  Crying?  She’ll have something to cry about if she doesn’t
look out, when her father comes in, and hears how she’s a-going on.

MAY.  I wonder why Cousin Millie’s taking on like this.  I shouldn’t, if
’twas me getting married.

ELIZABETH.  Look you, May, you get and run up, and knock at the door and
tell her that ’twill soon be time for us to set off to church and that
she have got to make haste in her dressing.

MAY.  I’ll run, Aunt, only ’tis very likely as she’ll not listen to
anything that I say.  [MAY _goes out_.

ELIZABETH.  Now Annet, no idling here, if you please.  Set the nosegay in
water, and when you’ve given a look round to see that everything is in
its place, upstairs with you, and on with your bonnet, do you hear?
Uncle won’t wish to be kept waiting for you, remember.

ANNET.  I’m all ready dressed, except for my bonnet, Aunt.  ’Tis Millie
that’s like to keep Uncle waiting this morning.  [_She goes out_.

[DANIEL _comes in_.

DANIEL.  Well, Mother—well, girls—but, bless my soul, where’s Millie got
to?

ELIZABETH.  Millie has not seen fit to shew herself this morning, Father.
She’s biding up in her room with the door locked, and nothing that I’ve
been able to say has been attended to, so perhaps you’ll kindly have your
try.

DANIEL.  Bless my soul—where’s May?  Where’s Annet?  Send one of the
little maids up to her, and tell her ’tis very nigh time for us to be
off.

ELIZABETH.  I’m fairly tired of sending up to her, Father.  You’d best go
yourself.

[MAY _comes into the room_.

MAY.  Please Aunt, the door, ’tis still locked, and Millie is crying ever
so sadly within, and she won’t open to me, nor speak, nor nothing.

ELIZABETH.  There, Father,—perhaps you’ll believe what I tell you another
time.  Millie has got that hardened and wayward, there’s no managing of
her, there’s not.

DANIEL.  Ah, ’twon’t be very long as us’ll have the managing of she.
’Twill be young Andrew as’ll take she in hand after this day.

ELIZABETH.  ’Tis all very well to talk of young Andrew, but who’s a-going
to get her to church with him I’d like to know.

DANIEL.  Why, ’tis me as’ll do it, to be sure.

ELIZABETH.  Very well, Father, and we shall all be much obliged to you.

[DANIEL _goes to the door and shouts up the stairs_.

DANIEL.  Well, Millie, my wench.  Come you down here.  ’Tis time we did
set out.  Do you hear me, Mill.  ’Tis time we was off.

[ELIZABETH _waits listening_.  _No answer comes_.

DANIEL.  Don’t you hear what I be saying, Mill?  Come you down at once.
[_There is no answer_.

DANIEL.  Millie, there be Andrew a-waiting for to take you to church.
Come you down this minute.

ELIZABETH.  You’d best take sommat and go and break open the door,
Father.  ’Tis the sensiblest thing as you can do, only you’d never think
of anything like that by yourself.

DANIEL.  I likes doing things my own way, Mother.  Women-folk, they be so
buzzing.  ’Tis like a lot of insects around of anyone on a summer’s day.
A-saying this way and that—whilst a man do go at anything quiet and
calm-like.  [ANNET _comes in_.

ANNET.  Please, Uncle, Millie says that she isn’t coming down for no one.

DANIEL.  [_Roaring in fury_.]  What!  What’s that, my wench—isn’t
a-coming down for no one?  Hear that, Mother, hear that?  I’ll have
sommat to say to that, I will.  [_Going to the door_.

DANIEL.  [_Roaring up the stairs_.]  Hark you, Mill, down you comes this
moment else I’ll smash the door right in, and that I will.

[DANIEL _comes back into the room_, _storming violently_.

DANIEL.  Ah, ’tis a badly bred up wench is Millie, and her’d have growed
up very different if I’d a-had the bringing up of she.  But spoiled she
is and spoiled her’ve always been, and what could anyone look for from a
filly what’s been broke in by women folk!

ELIZABETH.  There, there, Father—there’s no need to bluster in this
fashion.  Take up the poker and go and break into the door quiet and
decent, like anyone else would do.  And girls—off for your bonnets this
moment I tell you.

[_She takes up a poker and hands it to_ DANIEL, _who mops his face and
goes slowly out and upstairs_.  ANNET _and_ MAY _leave the room_.  _The
farmer is heard banging at the door of Millie’s bedroom_.

[ELIZABETH _moves about the room setting it in order_.  ANDREW _comes in
at the door_.  _He carries a bunch of flowers_, _which he lays on the
table_.

ANDREW.  Good-morning to you, mistress.

ELIZABETH.  Good-morning, Andrew.

ANDREW.  What’s going on upstairs?

ELIZABETH.  ’Tis Father at a little bit of carpentering.

ANDREW.  I’m come too soon, I reckon.

ELIZABETH.  We know what young men be upon their wedding morn!  I warrant
as the clock can’t run too fast for them at such a time.

ANDREW.  You’re right there, mistress.  But the clock have moved powerful
slow all these last few weeks—for look you here, ’tis a month this day
since I last set eyes on Mill or had a word from her lips—so ’tis.

ELIZABETH.  You’ll have enough words presently.  Hark, she’s coming down
with Father now.

[ANDREW _turns eagerly towards the door_.  _The farmer enters with_
MILLIE _clinging to his arm_, _she wears her ordinary dress_.  _Her hair
is ruffled and in disorder_, _and she has been crying_.

DANIEL.  Andrew, my lad, good morning to you.

ANDREW.  Good morning, master.

DANIEL.  You mustn’t mind a bit of an April shower, my boy.  ’Tis the way
with all maids on their wedding morn.  Isn’t that so, Mother?

ELIZABETH.  I wouldn’t make such a show of myself if I was you, Mill.  Go
upstairs this minute and wash your face and smooth your hair and put
yourself ready for church.

DANIEL.  Nay, she be but just come from upstairs, Mother.  Let her bide
quiet a while with young Andrew here; whilst do you come along with me
and get me out my Sunday coat.  ’Tis time I was dressed for church too,
I’m thinking.

ELIZABETH.  I don’t know what’s come to the house this morning, and
that’s the truth.  Andrew, I’ll not have you keep Millie beyond a five
minutes.  ’Tis enough of one another as you’ll get later on, like.
Father, go you off upstairs for your coat.  ’Tis hard work for me,
getting you all to act respectable, that ’tis.

[DANIEL _and_ ELIZABETH _leave the room_.  ANDREW _moves near_ MILLIE
_and holds out both his hands_.  _She draws herself haughtily away_.

ANDREW.  Millie—’tis our wedding day.

MILLIE.  And what if it is, Andrew.

ANDREW.  Millie, it cuts me to the heart to see your face all wet with
tears.

MILLIE.  Did you think to see it otherwise, Andrew?

ANDREW.  No smile upon your lips, Millie.

MILLIE.  Have I anything to smile about, Andrew?

ANDREW.  No love coming from your eyes, Mill.

MILLIE.  That you have never seen, Andrew.

ANDREW.  And all changed in the voice of you too.

MILLIE.  What do you mean by that, Andrew?

ANDREW.  Listen, Millie—’tis a month since I last spoke with you.  Do you
recollect?  ’Twas the evening of the great Fair.

MILLIE And what if it was?

ANDREW.  Millie, you were kinder to me that night than ever you had been
before.  I seemed to see such a gentle look in your eyes then.  And when
you spoke, ’twas as though—as though—well—’twas one of they quists
a-cooing up in the trees as I was put in mind of.

MILLIE.  Well, there’s nothing more to be said about that now, Andrew.
That night’s over and done with.

ANDREW.  I’ve carried the thought of it in my heart all this time,
Millie.

MILLIE.  I never asked you to, Andrew.

ANDREW.  I’ve brought you a nosegay of flowers, Mill.  They be rare
blossoms with grand names what I can’t recollect to all of them.

[MILLIE _takes the nosegay_, _looks at it for an instant_, _and then lets
it fall_.

MILLIE.  I have no liking for flowers this day, Andrew.

ANDREW.  O Millie, and is it so as you and me are going to our marriage?

MILLIE.  Yes, Andrew.  ’Tis so.  I never said it could be different.  I
have no heart to give you.  My love was given long ago to another.  And
that other has forgotten me by now.

ANDREW.  O Millie, you shall forget him too when once you are wed to me,
I promise you.

MILLIE.  ’Tis beyond the power of you or any man to make me do that,
Andrew.

ANDREW.  Millie, what’s the good of we two going on to church one with
t’other?

MILLIE.  There’s no good at all, Andrew.

ANDREW.  Millie, I could have sworn that you had begun to care sommat
more than ordinary for me that last time we were together.

MILLIE.  Then you could have sworn wrong.  I care nothing for you,
Andrew, no, nothing.  But I gave my word I’d go to church with you and be
wed.  And—I’ll not break my word, I’ll not.

ANDREW.  And is this all that you can say to me to-day, Mill?

MILLIE.  Yes, Andrew, ’tis all.  And now, ’tis very late, and I have got
to dress myself.

ELIZABETH.  [_Calling loudly from above_.]  Millie, what are you stopping
for?  Come you up here and get your gown on, do.

[MILLIE _looks haughtily at_ ANDREW _as she passes him_.  _She goes
slowly out of the room_.

[ANDREW _picks up the flowers and stands holding them_, _looking
disconsolately down upon them_.  MAY _comes in_, _furtively_.

MAY.  All alone, Andrew?  Has Millie gone to put her fine gown on?

ANDREW.  Yes, Millie’s gone to dress herself.

MAY.  O that’s a beautiful nosegay, Andrew.  Was it brought for Mill?

ANDREW.  Yes, May, but she won’t have it.

MAY.  Millie don’t like you very much, Andrew, do she?

ANDREW.  Millie’s got quite changed towards me since last time.

MAY.  And when was that, Andrew?

ANDREW.  Why, last time was the evening of the Fair, May.

MAY.  When I was hid in the cupboard yonder, Andrew?

ANDREW.  So you were, May.  Well, can’t you recollect how ’twas that she
spoke to me then?

MAY.  O yes, Andrew, and that I can.  ’Twas a quist a-cooing in the tree
one time—and then—she did recollect herself and did sharpen up her tongue
and ’twas another sort of bird what could drive its beak into the flesh
of anyone—so ’twas.

ANDREW.  O May—you say she did recollect herself—what do you mean by
those words?

MAY.  You see, she did give her word that she would speak sharp and rough
to you.

ANDREW.  What are you talking about, May?  Do you mean that the tongue of
her was not speaking as the heart of her did feel?

MAY.  I guess ’twas sommat like that, Andrew.

ANDREW.  O May, you have gladdened me powerful by these words.

MAY.  But, O you must not tell of me, Andrew.

ANDREW.  I will never do so, May—only I shall know better how to be
patient, and to keep the spirit of me up next time that she do strike out
against me.

MAY.  I’m not a-talking of Mill, Andrew.

ANDREW.  Who are you talking of then, I’d like to know?

MAY.  ’Twas Annet.

ANDREW.  What was?

MAY.  Annet who was dressed up in the cloak and bonnet of Millie that
night and who did speak with you so gentle and nice.

ANDREW.  Annet!

ELIZABETH.  [_Is heard calling_.]  There, father, come along down and
give your face a wash at the pump.

MAY.  Let’s go quick together into the garden, Andrew, and I’ll tell you
all about it and how ’twas that Annet acted so.

[_She seizes_ ANDREW’S _hand and pulls him out of the room with her_.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT III.—Scene 2.


_A few minutes later_.

ELIZABETH _stands tying her bonnet strings before a small mirror on the
wall_.  DANIEL _is mopping his face with a big_, _bright handkerchief_.
ANNET, _dressed for church_, _is by the table_.  _She sadly takes up the
nosegay of flowers which_ ANDREW _brought for_ MILLIE, _and moves her
hand caressingly over it_.

ELIZABETH.  If you think that your neckerchief is put on right ’tis time
you should know different, Father.

DANIEL.  What’s wrong with it then, I’d like to know?

ELIZABETH.  ’Tis altogether wrong.  ’Tis like the two ears of a heifer
sticking out more than anything else that I can think on.

DANIEL.  Have it your own way, Mother—and fix it as you like.

[_He stands before her and she rearranges it_.

ANNET.  These flowers were lying on the ground.

ELIZABETH.  Thrown there in a fine fit of temper, I warrant.

DANIEL.  Her was as quiet as a new born lamb once the door was broke open
and she did see as my word, well, ’twas my word.

ELIZABETH.  We all hear a great deal about your word, Father, but ’twould
be better for there to be more do and less say about you.

DANIEL.  [_Going over to Annet and looking at her intently_.]  Why, my
wench—what be you a-dropping tears for this day?

ANNET.  [_Drying her eyes_.]  ’Twas—’twas the scent out of one of the
flowers as got to my eyes, Uncle.

DANIEL.  Well, that’s a likely tale it is.  Hear that, Mother?  ’Tis with
her eyes that this little wench do snuff at a flower.  That’s good,
bain’t it?

ELIZABETH.  I haven’t patience with the wenches now-a-days.  Lay down
that nosegay at once, Annet, and call your cousin from her room.  I
warrant she has finished tricking of herself up by now.

DANIEL.  Ah, I warrant as her’ll need a smartish bit of time for to take
the creases out of the face of she.

[ANDREW _and_ MAY _come in_.]

DANIEL.  Well, Andrew, my lad, ’tis about time as we was on the way to
church I reckon.

ANDREW.  I count as ’tis full early yet, master.

[_He takes up the nosegay from the table and crosses the room to the
window where_ ANNET _is standing_, _and trying to control her tears_.

ANDREW.  Annet, Millie will have none of my blossoms.  I should like it
well if you would carry them in your hand to church this day.

ANNET.  [_Looking wonderingly at him_.]  Me, Andrew?

ANDREW.  Yes, you, Annet.  For, look you, they become you well.  They
have sommat of the sweetness of you in them.  And the touch of them is
soft and gentle.  And—I would like you to keep them in your hands this
day, Annet.

ANNET.  O Andrew, I never was given anything like this before.

ANDREW.  [_Slowly_.]  I should like to give you a great deal more,
Annet—only I cannot.  And ’tis got too late.

ELIZABETH.  Too late—I should think it was.  What’s come to the maid!  In
my time girls didn’t use to spend a quarter of the while afore the glass
as they do now.  Suppose you was to holler for her again, Father.

DANIEL.  Anything to please you, Mother—

MAY.  I hear her coming, Uncle.  I hear the noise of the silk.

[MILLIE _comes slowly into the room in her wedding clothes_.  _She holds
herself very upright and looks from one to another quietly and coldly_.

MAY.  Andrew’s gived your nosegay to Annet, Millie.

MILLIE.  ’Twould have been a pity to have wasted the fresh blossoms.

MAY.  But they were gathered for you, Mill.

MILLIE.  Annet seems to like them better than I did.

DANIEL.  Well, my wench—you be tricked out as though you was off to the
horse show.  Mother, there bain’t no one as can beat our wench in looks
anywhere this side of the country.

ELIZABETH.  She’s right enough in the clothing of her, but ’twould be
better if her looks did match the garments more.  Come, Millie, can’t you
appear pleasanter like on your wedding day?

MILLIE.  I’m very thirsty, Mother.  Could I have a drink of water before
we set out?

ELIZABETH.  And what next, I should like to know?

MILLIE.  ’Tis only a drink of water that I’m asking for.

DANIEL.  Well, that’s reasonable, Mother, bain’t it?

ELIZABETH.  Run along and get some for your cousin, May.  [MAY _runs out
of the room_.

DANIEL.  Come you here, Andrew, did you ever see a wench to beat ourn in
looks, I say?

ANDREW.  [_Who has remained near_ ANNET _without moving_.]  ’Tis very
fine that Millie’s looking.

DANIEL.  Fine, I should think ’twas.  You was a fine looking wench,
Mother, the day I took you to church, but ’tis my belief that Millie have
beat you in the appearance of her same as the roan heifer did beat th’
old cow when the both was took along to market.  Ah, and did fetch very
near the double of what I gived for the dam.

[MAY _returns carrying a glass bowl full of water_.

MAY.  Here’s a drink of cold water, Millie.  I took it from the spring.

[MILLIE _takes the bowl_.  _At the same moment a loud knocking is heard
at the outside door_.

ELIZABETH.  Who’s that, I should like to know?

[MILLIE _sets down the bowl on the table_.  _She listens with a sudden
intent_, _anxiety on her face as the knock is repeated_.

DANIEL.  I’ll learn anyone to come meddling with me on a day when ’tis
marrying going on.

[_The knocking is again heard_.

MILLIE.  [_To_ MAY, _who would have opened the door_.]  No, no.  ’Tis I
who will open the door.

[_She raises the latch and flings the door wide open_.  GILES _disguised
as a poor and bent old man_, _comes painfully into the room_.

ELIZABETH.  We don’t want no beggars nor roadsters here to-day, if you
please.

DANIEL.  Ah, and that us don’t.  Us be a wedding party here, and ’tis for
you to get moving on, old man.

MILLIE.  He is poor and old.  And he has wandered far, in the heat of the
morning.  Look at his sad clothing.

ANDREW.  [_To_ ANNET.]  I never heard her put so much gentleness to her
words afore.

MILLIE.  And ’tis my wedding day.  He shall not go uncomforted from here.

ELIZABETH.  I never knowed you so careful of a poor wretch afore, Millie.
’Tis quite a new set out, this.

MILLIE.  I am in mind of another, who may be wandering, and hungered, and
in poor clothing this day.

MAY.  Give him something quick, Aunt, and let him get off so that we can
start for the wedding.

MILLIE.  [_Coming close to_ GILES.]  What is it I can do for you, master?

GILES.  ’Tis only a drink of water that I ask, mistress.

MILLIE.  [_Taking up the glass bowl_.]  Only a drink of water, master?
Then take, and be comforted.

[_She holds the bowl before him for him to drink_.  _As he takes it_, _he
drops a ring into the water_.  _He then drinks and hands the bowl back
to_ MILLIE.  _For a moment she gazes speechless at the bottom of the
bowl_.  _Then she lifts the ring from it and would drop the bowl but for_
MAY, _who takes it from her_.

MILLIE.  Master, from whom did you get this?

GILES.  Look well at the stones of it, mistress, for they are clouded and
dim.

MILLIE.  And not more clouded than the heart which is in me, master.  O
do you bring me news?

GILES.  Is it not all too late for news, mistress?

MILLIE.  Not if it be the news for which my heart craves, master.

GILES.  And what would that be, mistress?

[MILLIE _goes to_ GILES, _and with both hands slowly pushes back his big
hat and gazes at him_.

MILLIE.  O Giles, my true love.  You are come just in time.  Another hour
and I should have been wed.

GILES.  And so you knew me, Mill?

MILLIE.  O Giles, no change of any sort could hide you from the eyes of
my love.

GILES.  Your love, Millie.  And is that still mine?

MILLIE.  It always has been yours, Giles.  O I will go with you so gladly
in poor clothing and in hunger all over the face of the earth.

[_She goes to him and clasps his arm_; _and_, _standing by his side_,
_faces all those in the room_.

ELIZABETH.  [_Angrily_.]  Please to come to your right senses, Millie.

DANIEL.  Come, Andrew, set your foot down as I’ve set mine.

ANDREW.  Nay, master.  There’s naught left for me to say.  The heart does
shew us better nor all words which way we have to travel.

MAY.  And are you going to marry a beggar man instead of Andrew, who
looks so brave and fine in his wedding clothes, Millie?

MILLIE.  I am going to marry him I have always loved, May—and—O Andrew, I
never bore you malice, though I did say cruel and hard words to you
sometimes.—But you’ll not remember me always—you will find gladness too,
some day.

ANDREW.  I count as I shall, Millie.

DANIEL.  Come, come, I’ll have none of this—my daughter wed to a beggar
off the highway!  Mother, ’tis time you had a word here.

ELIZABETH.  No, Father, I’ll leave you to manage this affair.  ’Tis you
who have spoiled Mill and brought her up so wayward and unruly, and ’tis
to you I look for to get us out of this unpleasant position.

MAY.  Dear Millie—don’t wed my brother Giles.  Why, look at his ragged
smock and his bare feet.

MILLIE.  I shall be proud to go bare too, so long as I am by his side,
May.

[GILES _goes to the door and blows his whistle three times and loudly_.

MAY.  What’s that for, Giles?

GILES.  You shall soon see, little May.

DANIEL.  I’ll be hanged if I’ll stand any more of this caddling nonsense.
Here, Mill—the trap’s come to the door.  Into it with you, I say.

GILES.  I beg you to wait a moment, master.

DANIEL.  Wait!—’Tis a sight too long as we have waited this day.  If all
had been as I’d planned, we should have been to church by now.  But
womenfolk, there be no depending on they.  No, and that there bain’t.

[GEORGE, JOHN _and the_ OLD MAN _come up_.  GEORGE _and_ JOHN _carry
their packets and the_ OLD MAN _has_ GILES’ _coat and hat over his arm_.

ELIZABETH.  And who are these persons, Giles?

[GEORGE _and_ JOHN _set down their burdens on the floor and begin to mop
their faces_.  _The_ OLD MAN _stretches out his fine coat and hat and
buckled shoes to_ GILES.

OLD MAN.  Here they be, my lord, and I warrant as you’ll feel more homely
like in they, nor what you’ve got upon you now.  [GILES _takes the things
from him_.

GILES.  Thank you, old master.  [_He turns to_ MILLIE.]  Let me go into
the other room, Millie.  I will not keep you waiting longer than a few
moments.

[_He goes out_.

ELIZABETH.  [_To_ GEORGE.]  And who may you be, I should like to know?
You appear to be making very free with my parlour.

GEORGE.  We be the servants what wait upon Master Giles, old Missis.

ELIZABETH.  Old Missis, indeed.  Father, you shall speak to these
persons.

DANIEL.  Well, my men.  I scarce do know whether I be a-standing on my
head or upon my heels, and that’s the truth ’tis.

GEORGE.  Ah, and that I can well understand, master, for I’m a married
man myself, and my woman has a tongue to her head very similar to that of
th’ old missis yonder—so I know what ’tis.

ELIZABETH.  Put them both out of the door, Father, do you hear me?  ’Tis
to the cider as they’ve been getting.  That’s clear.

MILLIE.  My good friends, what is it that you carry in those bundles
there?

GEORGE.  ’Tis gold in mine.

JOHN.  And silver here.

ELIZABETH.  Depend upon it ’tis two wicked thieves we have got among us,
flying from justice.

MILLIE.  No, no—did not you hear them say, their master is Giles.

GEORGE.  And a better master never trod the earth.

JOHN.  And a finer or a richer gentleman I never want to see.

ELIZABETH.  Do you hear that, Father?  O you shocking liars—’tis stolen
goods that you’ve been and brought to our innocent house this day.  But,
Father, do you up and fetch in the constable, do you hear?

MAY.  O I’ll run.  I shall love to see them going off to gaol.

MILLIE.  Be quiet, May.  Can’t you all see how ’tis.  Giles has done the
cruel hard task set him by Father—and is back again with the bushel of
silver and that of gold to claim my hand.  [GILES _enters_.]  But
Giles—I’d have given it to you had you come to me poor and forlorn and
ragged, for my love has never wandered from you in all this long time.

ANDREW.  No, Giles—and that it has not.  Millie has never given me one
kind word nor one gentle look all the years that I’ve been courting of
her, and that’s the truth.  And you can call witness to it if you care.

GILES.  Uncle, Aunt, I’ve done the task you set me years ago—and now I
claim my reward.  I went from this house a poor wretch, with nothing but
the hopeless love in my heart to feed and sustain me.  I have returned
with all that the world can give me of riches and prosperity.  Will you
now let me be the husband of your daughter?

MILLIE.  O say ye, Uncle, for look how fine and grand he is in his
coat—and the bags are stuffed full to the brim and ’tis with gold and
silver.

ELIZABETH.  Well—’tis a respectabler end than I thought as you’d come to,
Giles.  And different nor what you deserved.

DANIEL.  Come, come, Mother.—The fewer words to this, the better.  Giles,
my boy—get you into the trap and take her along to the church and drive
smart.

ANDREW.  Annet—will you come there with me too?

ANNET.  O Andrew—what are you saying?

DANIEL.  Come, come.  Where’s the wind blowing from now?  Here, Mother,
do you listen to this.

ELIZABETH.  I shall be deaf before I’ve done, but it appears to me that
Annet’s not lost any time in making the most of her chances.

DANIEL.  Ah, and she be none the worse for that.  ’Tis what we all likes
to do.  Where’d I be in the market if I did let my chances blow by me?
Hear that, Andrew?

ANDREW.  I’m a rare lucky man this day, farmer.

DANIEL.  Ah, and ’tis a rare good little wench, Annet—though she bain’t
so showy as our’n.  A rare good little maid.  And now ’tis time we was
all off to church, seeing as this is to be a case of double harness like.

MAY.  O Annet, you can’t be wed in that plain gown.

ANNET.  May, I’m so happy that I feel as though I were clothed all over
with jewels.

ANDREW.  Give me your hand, Annet.

MAY.  [_Mockingly_.]  Millie—don’t you want to give a drink of water to
yon poor old man?

MILLIE.  That I will, May?  Here—fetch me something that’s better than
water for him.

ELIZABETH.  I’ll have no cider drinking out of meal times here.

MILLIE.  Then ’twill I have to be when we come back from church.

OLD MAN.  Bless you, my pretty lady, but I be used to waiting.  I’ll just
sit me down outside in the sun till you be man and wife.

ELIZABETH.  And that’ll not be till this day next year if this sort of
thing goes on any longer.

DANIEL.  That’s right, Mother.  You take and lead the way.  ’Tis the
womenfolk as do keep we back from everything.  But I knows how to settle
with they—[_roaring_]—come Mill, come Giles, Andrew, Annet, May.  Come
Mother, out of th’ house with all of you and to church, I say.

[_He gets behind them all and drives them before him and out of the
room_.  _When they have gone_, _the_ OLD MAN _sinks on a bench in the
door-way_.

OLD MAN.  I’m done with all the foolishness of life and I can sit me down
and sleep till it be time to eat.

                               [_Curtain_.]



BUSHES AND BRIARS


CHARACTERS


THOMAS SPRING, _a farmer_, _aged_ 35.

EMILY, _his wife_, _the same age_.

CLARA, _his sister_, _aged_ 21.

JESSIE AND ROBIN, _the children of Thomas and Emily_, _aged_ 10 _and_ 8.

JOAN, _maid to Clara_.

MILES HOOPER, _a rich draper_.

LUKE JENNER, _a farmer_.

LORD LOVEL.

GEORGE, _aged_ 28.



ACT I.—Scene 1.


                  _A wood_.  _It is a morning in June_.

GEORGE, _carrying an empty basket_, _comes slowly through the wood_.  _On
reaching a fallen tree he sits down on it_, _placing his basket on the
ground_.  _With his stick he absently moves the grass and leaves that lie
before him_, _and is so deeply lost in his own thoughts that he does not
hear the approach of_ MILES _and_ LUKE _until they are by his side_.

MILES.  Here’s the very man to tell us all we want to know.

LUKE.  Why, if ’tisn’t George from Ox Lease.

[GEORGE _half rises_.

MILES.  No, sit you down again, my lad, and we’ll rest awhile by the side
of you.

LUKE.  That’s it, Miles.  Nothing couldn’t have fallen out better for us,
I’m thinking.

MILES.  You’re about right, Luke.  Now, George, my man, we should very
much appreciate a few words with you.

GEORGE.  [_Taking up his basket_.]  Morning baint the time for words,
masters.  I count as words will keep till the set of sun.  ’Tis otherwise
with work.

MILES.  Work, why, George, ’tis clear you are come out but to gather
flowers this morning.

LUKE.  ’Tis the very first time as ever I caught George an idling away of
his time like this.

GEORGE.  ’Tis over to Brook as I be going, masters, to fetch back a
couple of young chicken.  Ourn be mostly old fowls, or pullets what do
lay.

LUKE.  I never heard tell of young chicken being ate up at Ox Lease afore
July was in.

GEORGE.  Nor me neither, master.  Never heared nor seed such a thing.
But mistress, her says, you can’t sit a maid from town at table unless
there be poultry afore of she.  They be rare nesh in their feeding, maids
from town, so mistress do say.

MILES.  That just brings us to our little matter, George.  When is it
that you expect the young lady?

GEORGE.  The boxes of they be stacked mountains high in the bedroom since
yesterday.  And I count as the maids will presently come on their own
feet from where the morning coach do set them down.

LUKE.  Nay, but there’s only one maid what’s expected.

GEORGE.  Miss Clara, what’s master’s sister; and the serving wench of
she.

MILES.  Well, George, ’twas a great day for your master when old Madam
Lovel took little Miss Clara to be bred up as one of the quality.

GEORGE.  A water plant do grow best by the stream, and a blossom, from
the meadows, midst the grass.  Let each sort bide in the place where
’twas seeded.

MILES.  No, no, George, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  A
little country wench may bloom into something very modish and elegant,
once taken from her humble home and set amongst carpets of velvet and
curtains of satin.  You’ll see.

GEORGE.  ’Twould be a poor thing for any one to be so worked upon by
curtains, nor yet carpets, master.

MILES.  Take my word for it, George, Ox Lease will have to smarten up a
bit for this young lady.  I know the circles she has been moving in, and
’tis to the best of everything that she has been used.

GEORGE.  [_Rising_.]  That’s what mistress do say.  And that’s why I be
sent along down to Brook with haymaking going on and all.  Spring chicken
with sparrow grass be the right feeding for such as they.  So mistress do
count.

MILES.  Stop a moment, George.  You have perhaps heard the letters from
Miss Clara discussed in the family from time to time.

GEORGE.  Miss Clara did never send but two letters home in all the while
she was gone.  The first of them did tell as how th’ old lady was dead
and had left all of her fortune to Miss Clara.  And the second was to say
as how her was coming back to the farm this morning.

LUKE.  And hark you here, George, was naught mentioned about Miss Clara’s
fine suitors in neither of them letters?

GEORGE.  That I cannot say, Master Jenner.

MILES.  Nothing of their swarming thick around her up in London, George?

GEORGE.  They may be swarming by the thousand for aught as I do know.
They smells gold as honey bees do smell the blossom.  Us’ll have a good
few of them a-buzzing round the farm afore we’re many hours older, so I
counts.

MILES.  Well, George, that’ll liven up the place a bit, I don’t doubt.

LUKE.  ’Tis a bit of quiet and no livening as Ox Lease do want.  Isn’t
that so, George, my lad?

GEORGE.  [_Preparing to set off_.]  I’ll say good morning to you,
masters.  I count I’ve been and wasted a smartish time already on the
road.  We be a bit hard pressed up at the farm this day.

MILES.  But George, my man, we have a good many questions to ask of you
before you set off.

GEORGE.  Them questions will have to bide till another time, I reckon.
I’m got late already, master.

[_He hurries off_.

MILES.  Arriving by the morning coach!  I shall certainly make my call to
the farm before sunset.  What do you say, Jenner?

LUKE.  You’re a rich man, Miles, and I am poor.  But we have always been
friends.

MILES.  And our fathers before us, Luke.

LUKE.  And the courting of the same maid shall not come between us.

MILES.  [_Slowly_.]  That’ll be all right, Luke.

LUKE.  What I do say is, let’s start fair.  Neck to neck, like.

MILES.  As you please, my good Luke.

LUKE.  Then, do you tell me honest, shall I do in the clothes I’m
a-wearing of now, Miles?

MILES.  [_Regarding him critically_.]  That neckerchief is not quite the
thing, Luke.

LUKE.  ’Tis my Sunday best.

MILES.  Step over to the High Street with me, my lad.  I’ve got something
in the shop that will be the very thing.  You shall have it half price
for ’tis only a bit damaged in one of the corners.

LUKE.  I’m sure I’m very much obliged to you, Miles.

MILES.  That’s all right, Luke.

LUKE.  George would look better to my thinking if there was a new coat to
the back of him.

MILES.  Ah, poor beggar, he would, and no mistake.

LUKE.  I warrant as Emily do keep it afore him as how he was took in from
off the road by th’ old farmer in his day.

MILES.  I flatter myself that I have a certain way with the ladies.  They
come to me confidential like and I tell them what’s what, and how that,
this or t’other is worn about town.  But with Missis Spring ’tis
different.  That’s a woman I could never get the right side of no how.

LUKE.  Ah, poor Thomas!  There’s a man who goes down trod and hen
scratched if you like.

MILES.  ’Tis altogether a very poor place up at Ox Lease, for young Miss.

LUKE.  [_Pulling out his watch_.]  Time’s slipping on.  What if we were
to stroll on to the shop and see about my neckerchief, Miles?

MILES.  I’m sure I’m quite agreeable, Luke.  ’Twill help to pass away the
morning.

[_He puts his arm in_ LUKE’S _and they go briskly off in the direction of
the village_.



ACT I.—Scene 2.


CLARA, _followed by_ JOAN, _comes through the wood_.  CLARA _is dressed
in a long_, _rich cloak and wears a bonnet that is brightly trimmed with
feathers and ribbons_.  JOAN _wears a cotton bonnet and small shawl_.
_She carries her mistress’s silken bag over her arm_.

CLARA.  [_Pointing to the fallen tree_.]  There is the very resting place
for us.  We will sit down under the trees for a while.  [_She seats
herself_.

JOAN.  [_Dusting the tree with her handkerchief before she sits on it_.]
Have we much further to go, mistress?

CLARA.  Only a mile or two, so far as I can remember.

JOAN.  ’Tis rough work for the feet, down in these parts, mistress.

CLARA.  If London roads were paved with diamonds I’d sooner have my feet
treading this rugged way that leads to home.

JOAN.  What sort of a place shall we find it when we gets there,
mistress.

CLARA.  I was but seven when I left them all, Joan.  And that is fourteen
years ago to-day.

JOAN.  So many years may bring about some powerful big changes, mistress.

CLARA.  But I dream that I shall find all just as it was when I went
away.  Only that Gran’ma won’t be there.

[_There is a short silence during which_ CLARA _seems lost in thought_.
JOAN _flicks the dust off her shoes with a branch of leaves_.

JOAN.  ’Tis the coaches I do miss down in these parts.

CLARA.  I would not have driven one step of the way this morning, Joan.
In my fancy I have been walking up from the village and through the wood
and over the meadows since many a day.  I have not forgotten one turn of
the path.

JOAN.  The road has not changed then, mistress?

CLARA.  No.  But it does not seem quite so broad or so fine as I
remembered it to be.  That is all.

JOAN.  And very likely the house won’t seem so fine neither, mistress,
after the grand rooms which you have been used to.

JOAN.  What company shall we see there, mistress?

CLARA.  Well, there’s Thomas, he is my brother, and Emily his wife.  Then
the two children.

CLARA.  [_After a short silence_, _and as though to herself_.]  And there
was George.

JOAN.  Yes, mistress

CLARA.  Georgie seemed so big and tall to me in those days.  I wonder how
old he really was, when I was seven.

JOAN.  Would that be a younger brother of yours, like, mistress

CLARA.  No, George minded the horses and looked after the cows and
poultry.  Sometimes he would drive me into market with him on a Saturday.
And in the evenings I would follow him down to the pool to see the cattle
watered.

JOAN.  I’m mortal afeared of cows, mistress.  I could never abide the
sight nor the sound of those animals.

CLARA.  You’ll soon get over that, Joan.

JOAN.  And I don’t care for poultry neither, very much.  I goes full of
fear when I hears one of they old turkey cocks stamping about.

CLARA.  [_Pulling up the sleeve of her left arm_.]  There, do you see
this little scar?  I was helping George to feed the ducks and geese when
the fierce gander ran after me and knocked me down and took a piece right
out of my arm.

JOAN.  [_Looking intently on the scar_.]  I have often seen that there
mark, mistress.  And do you think as that old gander will be living along
of the poultry still?

CLARA.  I wish he might be, Joan.

JOAN.  What with the cows and the horses and the ganders, we shall go
with our lives in our hands, as you might say.

CLARA.  [_As though to herself_.]  When the days got colder, we would sit
under the straw rick, George and I.  And he would sing to me.  Some of
his songs, I could say off by heart this day.

JOAN.  [_Looking nervously upward_.]  O do look at that nasty little
thing dropping down upon us from a piece of thread silk.  Who ever put
such a thing up in the tree I’d like to know.

CLARA.  [_Brushing it gently aside_.]  That won’t hurt you—a tiny
caterpillar.

JOAN.  [_After a moment_.]  What more could the farm hand do, mistress?

CLARA.  He would clasp on his bells and dance in the Morris on certain
days, Joan.

JOAN.  ’Tis to be hoped as there’ll be some dancing or something to liven
us all up a bit down here.

CLARA.  Why, Joan, I believe you’re tired already of the country.

JOAN.  ’Tis so powerful quiet and heavy like, mistress.

CLARA.  ’Tis full of sounds.  Listen to the doves in the trees and the
lambs calling from the meadow.

JOAN.  I’d sooner have the wheels of the coaches and the cries upon the
street, and the door bell a ringing every moment and fine gentlemen and
ladies being shewn up into the parlour.

CLARA.  [_Stretching out her arms_.]  O how glad I am to be free of all
that.  And most of all, how glad to be ridded of one person.

JOAN.  His lordship will perhaps follow us down here, mistress.

CLARA.  No, I have forbidden it.  I must have a month of quiet, and he is
to wait that time for his answer.

JOAN.  O mistress, you’ll never disappoint so fine a gentleman.

CLARA.  You forget that Lord Lovel and I have played together as
children.  It is as a brother that I look upon him.

JOAN.  His lordship don’t look upon you as a sister, mistress.

CLARA.  [_Rising_.]  That is a pity, Joan.  But see, it is getting late
and we must be moving onwards.

[JOAN _rises and smoothes and shakes out her skirt_.

CLARA.  Here, loosen my cloak, Joan, and untie the ribbons of my bonnet.

JOAN.  O mistress, keep the pretty clothes upon you till you have got to
the house.

CLARA.  No, no—such town garments are not suited to the woods and
meadows.  I want to feel the country breeze upon my head, and my limbs
must be free from the weight of the cloak.  I had these things upon me
during the coach journey.  They are filled with road dust and I dislike
them now.

JOAN.  [_Unfastening the cloak and untying the bonnet_.]  They are fresh
and bright for I brushed and shook them myself this morning.

CLARA.  [_Retying a blue ribbon which she wears in her hair_.]  I have
taken a dislike to them.  See here, Joan, since you admire them, they
shall be yours.

JOAN.  Mine?  The French bonnet and the satin cloak?

CLARA.  To comfort you for the pains of the country, Joan.

JOAN.  O mistress, let us stop a moment longer in this quiet place so
that I may slip them on and see how they become me.

CLARA.  As you will.  Listen, that is the cuckoo singing.

JOAN.  [_Throwing off her cotton bonnet and shawl and dressing herself
hastily in the bonnet and cloak_.]  O what must it feel like to be a
grand lady and wear such things from dawn to bed time.

CLARA.  I am very glad to be without them for a while.  How good the air
feels on my head.

JOAN.  There, mistress, how do I look?

CLARA.  Very nicely, Joan.  So nicely that if you like, you may keep them
upon you for the remainder of the way.

JOAN.  O mistress, may I really do so?

CLARA.  Yes.  And Joan, do you go onwards to the farm by the quickest
path which is through this wood and across the high road.  Anyone will
shew you where the place is.  I have a mind to wander about in some of
the meadows which I remember.  But I will join you all in good time.

JOAN.  Very well, mistress.  If I set off in a few moments it will do, I
suppose?  I should just like to take a peep at myself as I am now, in the
little glass which you carry in your silk bag.

CLARA.  [_Going off_.]  Don’t spend too much time looking at what will be
shewn you, Joan.

JOAN.  Never fear, mistress.  I’ll be there afore you, if I have to run
all the way.  [CLARA _wanders off_.

[JOAN _sits down again on the trunk of the fallen tree_.  _She opens the
silken bag_, _draws out a small hand glass and looks long and steadily at
her own reflection_.  _Then she glances furtively around and_, _seeing
that she is quite alone_, _she takes a small powder box from the bag and
hastily opening it_, _she gives her face several hurried touches with the
powder puff_.

JOAN.  [_Surveying the effect in the glass_.]  Just to take off the brown
of my freckles.  Now if any one was to come upon me sitting here they
wouldn’t know as I was other than a real, high lady.  All covered with
this nice cloak as I be, the French bonnet on my head, and powder to my
face, who’s to tell the difference?  But O—these must be hid first.

[_She perceives her cotton bonnet and little shawl on the ground_.  _She
hastily rolls them up in a small bundle and stuffs them into the silken
bag_.  _Then she takes up the glass and surveys herself again_.

JOAN.  How should I act now if some grand gentleman was to come up and
commence talking to me?  Perhaps he might even take me for a lady of
title in these fine clothes, and ’twould be a pity to have to undeceive
him.

[_She arranges her hair a little under the bonnet and then lowers the
lace veil over her face_.

[MILES _and_ LUKE _come slowly up behind her_.  MILES _nudges_ LUKE _with
his elbow_, _signing to him to remain where he is whilst he steps forward
in front of_ JOAN.

MILES.  Pardon me, madam, but you appear to have mistook the way.  Allow
me to set you on the right path for Ox Lease.

JOAN.  [_Letting the mirror fall on her lap and speaking very low_.]  How
do you know I am going to Ox Lease, sir?

MILES.  You see, madam, I happen to know that a stylish young miss from
town is expected there to-day.

LUKE.  [_Coming forward and speaking in a loud whisper_.]  Now Miles.  I
count as you made one of the biggest blunders of the time.  Our young
lady be journeying along of her servant wench.  This one baint she.

MILES.  If we have made a small error, madam, allow me to beg your
pardon.

JOAN.  Don’t mention it, sir.  Everyone is mistaken sometimes.

LUKE.  Well, I’m powerful sorry if we have given any offence, mam.

JOAN.  [_Looking up at_ LUKE _with sudden boldness and speaking in a
slow_, _affected voice_.]  There’s nothing to make so much trouble about,
sir.

MILES.  Can we be of any assistance to you, madam?  The wood may appear
rather dense at this point.

JOAN.  That it does.  Dense and dark—and the pathway!  My goodness, but
my feet have never travelled over such rough ground before.

Muss.  That I am sure of, madam.  I have no doubt that the delicate
texture of your shoes has been sadly treated by our stones and ruts.

JOAN.  [_Insensibly pulling her skirts over her thick walking shoes_.]
Well, it’s vastly different to London streets, where I generally take
exercise—at least when I’m not a-riding in the coach.

MILES.  The country is but a sad place at the best, Miss Clara Spring.

JOAN.  [_Looking round furtively and speaking in a whisper_.]  O, how did
you guess my—my name?

LUKE.  Come, ’twasn’t a hard matter, that.

MILES.  Missey can command my services.

JOAN.  [_Rallying_, _and standing up_.]  Then gentlemen, do you walk a
bit of the road with me and we could enjoy some conversation as we go
along.

LUKE.  [_Offering his arm_.]  You take my arm, Miss Clara—do—.

MILES.  [_Also offering his arm_.]  I shall also give myself the pleasure
of supporting Miss.

JOAN.  [_Taking an arm of each_.]  O thank you, kindly gentlemen.  Now we
shall journey very comfortably, I am sure.

[_They all set out walking in the direction of the farm_.



ACT II.—Scene 1.


_The kitchen of Ox Lease Farm_.  _There are three doors_.  _One opens to
the staircase_, _one to the garden and a third into the back kitchen_.
_At a table in the middle of the room_ EMILY _stands ironing some net
window curtains_.  JESSIE _and_ ROBIN _lean against the table watching
her_.  _By the open doorway_, _looking out on the garden_, _stands_
THOMAS, _a mug of cider in one hand and a large slice of bread in the
other_.  _As he talks_, _he takes alternate drinks and bites_.

EMILY.  [_Speaking in a shrill_, _angry voice_.]  Now Thomas, suppose you
was to take that there bread a step further away and eat it in the
garden, if eat it you must, instead of crumbling it all over my clean
floor.

THOMAS.  Don’t you be so testy, Emily.  The dogs’ll lick the crumbs up as
clean as you like presently.

EMILY.  Dogs?  I’d like to see the dog as’ll shew its nose in here to-day
when I’ve got it all cleaned up against the coming of fine young madam.

THOMAS.  [_Finishing his bread and looking wistfully at his empty hand_.]
The little maid’ll take a brush and sweep up her daddy’s crumbs, now,
won’t her?

EMILY.  I’ll give it to any one who goes meddling in my brush cupboard
now that I’ve just put all in order against the prying and nozzling of
the good-for-nothing baggage what’s coming along with your sister.

ROBIN.  What’s baggage, Mother?

EMILY.  [_Sharply_.]  Never you mind.  Get and take your elbow off my
ironing sheet.

JESSIE.  [_Looking at her father_.]  I count as you’d like a piece more
bread, Dad?

THOMAS.  Well, I don’t say but ’twouldn’t come amiss.  ’Tis hungry work
in th’ hayfield.  And us be to go without our dinners this day, isn’t
that so, Emily?

EMILY.  [_Slamming down her iron on the stand_.]  If I’ve told you once,
I’ve told you twenty times, ’twas but the one pair of hands as I was
gived at birth.  Now, what have you got to say against that, Thomas?

THOMAS.  [_Sheepishly_.]  I’m sure I don’t know.

EMILY.  And if so be as I’m to clean and wash and cook, and run, and
wait, and scour, and mend, for them lazy London minxes, other folk must
go without hot cooking at mid-day.

THOMAS.  [_Faintly_.]  ’Twasn’t nothing cooked, like.  ’Twas a bit of
bread as I did ask for.

JESSIE.  [_Getting up_.]  I’ll get it for you, Dad.  I know where the
loaf bides and the knife too.  I’ll cut you, O such a large piece.

EMILY.  [_Seizing her roughly by the hand_.]  You’ll do nothing of the
sort.  You’ll take this here cold iron into Maggie and you’ll bring back
one that is hot.  How am I to get these curtains finished and hung and
all, by the time the dressed up parrots come sailing in, I’d like to
know.

[JESSIE _runs away with the iron_.

THOMAS.  [_Setting down his mug and coming to the table_.]  I’d leave the
windows bare if it was me, Emily.  The creeping rose do form the
suitablest shade for they, to my thinking.

EMILY.  That shews how much you know about it, Thomas.  No, take your
hands from off my table.  Do you think as I wants dirty thumbs shewing
all over the clean net what I’ve washed and dried and ironed, and been
a-messing about with since ’twas light?

THOMAS.  Now that’s what I be trying for to say.  There’s no need for you
to go and work yourself into the fidgets, Emily, because of little Clara
coming back.  Home’s home.  And ’twon’t be neither the curtains nor the
hot dinner as Clara will be thinking of when her steps into th’ old place
once more.

JESSIE.  [_Running back with the hot iron which she sets down on the
table_.]  What will Aunt Clara be thinking of then, Dad?

THOMAS.  [_Shy and abashed under a withering glance from_ EMILY _who has
taken up the iron and is slamming it down on the net_.]  Her’ll remember,
very like, how ’twas when her left—some fourteen year ago.  And her’ll
have her eyes on Gran’ma’s chair, what’s empty.

ROBIN.  I should be thinking of the hot fowl and sparrow grass what’s for
dinner.

THOMAS.  And her’ll look up to th’ old clock, and different things what’s
still in their places.  The grand parts where she have been bred up will
be forgot.  ’Twill be only home as her’ll think on.

EMILY.  I haven’t patience to listen to such stuff.

THOMAS.  [_After a pause_.]  I count that ’tisn’t likely as a young woman
what’s been left riches as Clara have, would choose to make her home
along of such as we for always, like.

EMILY.  We have perches and plenty of them for barn door poultry, but
when it comes to roosting spangled plumes and fancy fowls, no thank you,
Thomas, I’m not going to do it.

ROBIN.  Do let us get and roost some fancy fowls, Mother.

JESSIE.  What are spangled plumes, Mother?

EMILY.  [_Viciously_.]  You’ll see plenty of them presently.

ROBIN.  Will Aunt Clara bring the fowls along of she?

[_A slight pause during which_ EMILY _irons vigorously_.

EMILY.  [_As she irons_.]  Some folk have all the honey.  It do trickle
from the mouths of them and down to the ground.

ROBIN.  Has Aunt Clara got her mouth very sticky, then?

EMILY.  And there be others what are born to naught but crusts and the
vinegar.

JESSIE.  Like you, Mother—Least, that’s what Maggie said this morning.

EMILY.  What’s that?

JESSIE.  That ’twas in the vinegar jar as your tongue had growed, Mother.

EMILY.  I’ll learn that wench to keep her thoughts to herself if she
can’t fetch them out respectful like.  [_Shouting_.]  Mag, come you here
this minute—what are you after now, I’d like to know, you ugly, idle
piece of mischief?

[MAGGIE, _wiping a plate comes from the back kitchen_.

MAGGIE.  Was you calling, mistress?

EMILY.  What’s this you’ve got saying to Miss Jessie, I should like to
know.

JESSIE.  [_Running to_ MAGGIE _and laying her hand on her arm_.]  Dear
Maggie, ’tis only what you did tell about poor mother’s tongue being in
the vinegar jar.

MAGGIE.  O Miss Jessie.

EMILY.  Hark you here, my girl—if ’twasn’t hay time you should bundle up
your rags and off with you this minute.  But as ’tis awkward being short
of a pair of hands just now, you’ll bide a week or two and then you’ll
get outside of my door with no more character to you nor what I took you
with.

THOMAS.  Come, come Emily.  The girl’s a good one for to work, and that
she is.

EMILY.  Be quiet, Thomas.  This is my business, and you’ll please to keep
your words till they’re wanted.

MAGGIE.  O mistress, I didn’t mean no harm, I didn’t.

EMILY.  I don’t want no words nor no tears neither.

MAGGIE.  [_Beginning to cry loudly_.]  I be the only girl as have stopped
with you more nor a month, I be.  T’others wouldn’t bide a day, some of
them.

EMILY.  Be quiet.  Back to your work with you.  And when the hay is all
carried, off with you, ungrateful minx, to where you came from.

JESSIE.  O let us keep her always, Mother, she’s kind.

ROBIN.  Don’t you cry, Mag.  I’ll marry you when I’m a big man like
Daddy.

THOMAS.  Harken to them, Emily!  She’s been a good maid to the children.
I’d not part with any one so hasty, if ’twas me.

EMILY.  [_Very angrily_.]  When I want your opinion, Thomas, I’ll ask for
it.  Suppose you was to go out and see after something which you do
understand.

THOMAS.  O I’ll go down to the field fast enough, I can tell you.  ’Twas
only being hungered as drove me into the hornets’ nest, as you might say.

EMILY.  [_Ironing fiercely_.]  What’s that?

THOMAS.  Nothing.  I did only say as I was a-going back to the field when
George do come home.

EMILY.  There again.  Did you ever know the man to be so slow before.  I
warrant as he have gone drinking or mischiefing down at the Spotted Cow
instead of coming straight home with they chicken.

THOMAS.  Nay, nay.  George is not the lad to do a thing like that.  A
quieter more well bred up lad nor George never trod in shoes.

EMILY [_Glancing at_ MAGGIE.]  What are you tossing your head like that
for, Maggie?  Please to recollect as you’re a lazy, good-for-nothing
little slut of a maid servant, and not a circus pony all decked out for
the show.

JESSIE.  Maggie’s fond of Georgie.  And Georgie’s kind to Mag.

MAGGIE.  [_Fearfully_.]  O don’t, Miss Jessie, for goodness sake.

EMILY.  [_Viciously_.]  I’ll soon put an end to anything in that quarter.

THOMAS.  Now, Emily—take it quiet.  Why, we shall have Clara upon us
before us knows where we are.

EMILY.  [_Folding the curtains_.]  I’ll settle her too, if she comes
before I’m ready for her.

ROBIN.  [_Pointing through the open_.]  There’s George, coming with the
basket.

[GEORGE _comes into the room_.  _He carefully rubs his feet on the mat as
he enters_.  _Then he advances to the table_.  MAGGIE _dries her eyes
with the back of her hand_.  JESSIE _is standing with her arm in_
MAGGIE’S.

EMILY.  Well, and where have you been all this while, I’d like to know?

GEORGE.  To Brook Farm, mam, and home.

EMILY.  You’ve been up to some mischief on the way, I warrant.

THOMAS.  Come, Emily.

[GEORGE _looks calmly into_ EMILY’S _face_.  _Then his gaze travels
leisurely round the room_.

GEORGE.  I was kept waiting while they did pluck and dress the chicken.

EMILY.  [_Lifting the cloth covering the basket_, _and looking within
it_.]  I’d best have gone myself.  Of all the thick-headed men I ever did
see, you’re the thickest.  Upon my word you are.

GEORGE.  What’s wrong now, mistress?

EMILY.  ’Taint chicken at all what you’ve been and fetched me.

GEORGE.  I’ll be blowed if I do know what ’tis then.

EMILY.  If I’d been given a four arms and legs at birth same as th’
horses, I’d have left a pair of them at home and gone and done the job
myself, I would.  And then you should see what I’d have brought back.

GEORGE.  You can’t better what I’ve got here.  From the weight it might
be two fat capons.  So it might.

EMILY.  [_Seizing the basket roughly_.]  Here, Mag, off into the pantry
with them.  A couple of skinny frogs from out the road ditch would have
done as well.  And you, Jess, upstairs with these clean curtains and lay
them careful on the bed.  I’ll put them to the windows later.

THOMAS.  George, my boy, did you meet with any one on the way, like?

EMILY.  You’d best ask no questions if you don’t want to be served with
lies, Thomas.

GEORGE.  [_Throwing a glance of disdain at_ EMILY.]  Miles Hooper and
Farmer Jenner was taking the air ’long of one another in the wood,
master.

THOMAS.  Miles Hooper and Luke a-taking of the air, and of a weekday
morning!

GEORGE.  That they was, master.  And they did stop I—

EMILY.  Ah, now you’ve got it, Thomas.  Now we shall know why George was
upon the road the best part of the day and me kept waiting for the
chicken.

GEORGE.  [_Steadily_.]  Sunday clothes to the back of both of them.  And,
when was Miss Clara expected up at home.

THOMAS.  Ah, ’tis a fair commotion all over these parts already, I
warrant.  There wasn’t nothing else spoke of in market last time, but how
as sister Clara with all her money was to come home.

JESSIE.  [_Coming back_.]  I’ve laid the curtains on the bed, shall I
gather some flowers and set them on the table, mother?

EMILY.  I’d like to see you!  Flowers in the bedroom?  I never heard tell
of such senseless goings on.  What next, I’d like to know?

GEORGE.  Miss Clara always did fill a mug of clover blooms and set it
aside of her bed when her was a little thing—so high.

JESSIE.  Do you remember our fine aunt, then, Georgie?

GEORGE.  I remembers Miss Clara right enough.

EMILY.  Don’t you flatter yourself, George, as such a coxsy piece of town
goods will trouble herself to remember you.

THOMAS.  The little maid had a good enough heart to her afore she was
took away from us.

JESSIE.  Do you think our aunt Clara has growed into a coxsy town lady,
George?

GEORGE.  No, I do not, Miss Jessie.

EMILY.  [_Beginning to stir about noisily as she sets the kitchen in
order_.]  Get off with you to the field, Thomas, can’t you.  I’ve had
enough to do as ’tis without a great hulking man standing about and
taking up all the room.

THOMAS.  Come, George, us’ll clear out down to th’ hay field, and snatch
a bite as we do go.

GEORGE.  That’s it, master.

EMILY.  [_Calling angrily after them_.]  There’s no dinner for no one
to-day, I tell you.

[THOMAS _and_ GEORGE _go out of the back kitchen door_.  EMILY _begins
putting the irons away_, _folding up the ironing sheet and setting the
chairs back against the wall_.

[JESSIE _and_ ROBIN, _from their places at the table_, _watch her
intently_.

EMILY.  [_As she moves about_.]  ’Twouldn’t be half the upset if the
wench was coming by herself, but to have a hussy of a serving maid
sticking about in the rooms along of us, is more nor I can stand.

[_She begins violently to sweep up the hearth_.

[_Steps are heard outside_.

JESSIE.  Hark, what’s that, mother?

EMILY.  I’ll give it to any one who wants to come in here.

JESSIE.  [_Running to the open door_.]  They’re coming up the path.  ’Tis
our fine auntie and two grand gentlemen either side of she.

ROBIN.  [_Running also to the door_.]  O I want to look on her too.

EMILY.  [_Putting the broom in a corner_.]  ’Tis no end to the vexation.
But she’ll have to wait on herself.  I’ve no time to play the dancing
bear.  And that I’ve not.

[JOAN, _between_ MILES HOOPER _and_ LUKE JENNER, _comes up to the open
door_.

MILES.  [_To Jessie_.]  See here, my little maid, what’ll you give Mister
Hooper for bringing this pretty lady safe up to the farm?

JESSIE.  I know who ’tis you’ve brought.  ’Tis my Aunt Clara.

LUKE.  You’re a smart little wench, if ever there was one.

ROBIN.  I know who ’tis, too, ’cause of the spangled plumes in the bonnet
of she.  Mother said as there’d be some.

EMILY.  [_Coming forward_.]  Well, Clara, if ’twas by the morning coach
as you did come, you’re late.  If ’twas by th’ evening one, you’re too
soon by a good few hours.

MILES.  Having come by the morning coach, Miss Clara had the pleasant
fancy to stroll here through the woodlands, Missis Spring.

LUKE.  Ah, and ’twas lost on the way as we did find her, like a strayed
sheep.

MILES.  And ours has been the privilege to bring the fair wanderer safely
home.

EMILY.  [_Scornfully looking_ JOAN _over from head to foot_.]  Where’s
that serving wench of yours got to, Clara?

MILES.  Our young missy had a wish for solitude.  She sent her maid on by
another road.

EMILY.  The good-for-nothing hussy.  I warrant as she have found
something of mischief for her idle hands to do.

MILES.  If I may venture to say so, our Miss Clara is somewhat fatigued
by her long stroll.  London young ladies are very delicately framed,
Missis Spring.

EMILY.  [_Pointing ungraciously_.]  There’s chairs right in front of you.

[MILES _and_ LUKE _lead_ JOAN _forward_, _placing her in an armchair with
every attention_.  JOAN _sinks into it_, _and_, _taking a little fan from
the silken bag on her arm_, _begins to fan herself violently_.

EMILY.  [_Watching her with fierce contempt_.]  Maybe as you’d like my
kitchen wench to come and do that for you, Clara, seeing as your fine
maid is gadding about the high roads instead of minding what it concerns
her to attend to.

JOAN.  [_Faintly_.]  O no, thank you.  The day is rather warm—that’s all.

EMILY.  Warm, I should think it was warm in under of that great white
curtain.

JESSIE.  Aunt Clara, I’m Jessie.

JOAN.  Are you, my dear?

ROBIN.  And I’m Robin.

MILES.  Now, I wager, if you are both good little children, this pretty
lady will give you each a kiss.

JOAN.  [_Faintly_.]  To be sure I will.

JESSIE.  Then you’ll have to take off that white thing from your face.
’Tis like what mother do spread over the currant bushes to keep the birds
from the fruit.

[JOAN _slowly raises her veil_, _showing her face_.

JESSIE.  Shall I give you a kiss, Aunt?

EMILY.  I’d be careful if I was you, Jess.  Fine ladies be brittle as
fine china.

JESSIE.  O I’ll kiss her very lightly, Mother.

[_She goes up to_ JOAN _and kisses her_.  ROBIN _then reaches up his face
and_ JOAN _kisses him_.

ROBIN.  [_Rubbing his mouth_.]  The flour do come from Aunt same as it
does from a new loaf.

MILES.  [_To_ JOAN.]  You must pardon these ignorant little country
brats, Miss Clara.

JOAN.  O there’s nothing amiss, thank you.

EMILY.  Amiss, who said as there was?  When folks what can afford to
lodge at the inn do come down and fasten theirselves on the top of poor
people, they must take things as they do find them and not start
grumbling at the first set off.

LUKE.  There, there, Missis Spring.  There wasn’t naught said about
grumbling.  But Miss Clara have come a smartish long distance, and it
behoves us all as she should find summat of a welcome at the end of her
journey, like.

MILES.  [_Aside to_ JOAN.]  How strange this country tongue must fall on
your ears, Miss Clara!

JOAN.  I don’t understand about half of what they say.

EMILY.  [_Overhearing her_.]  O, you don’t, don’t you.  Well, Clara, I
was always one for plain words, and I say ’tis a pity when folks do get
above the position to which they was bred, and for all the fine satins
and plumes upon you, the body what’s covered by them belongs to Clara
Spring, what’s sister to Thomas.  And all the world knows what Thomas
is—A poor, mean spirited, humble born man with but two coats to the back
of him, and with not a thought to the mind of him which is not
foolishness.  And I judge from by what they be in birth, and not by the
bags of gold what have been left them by any old madams in their dotage.
So now you see how I takes it all and you and me can start fair, like.

JOAN.  [_To_ LUKE.]  O Mister—Mister Jenner, I feel so faint.

MILES.  [_Taking her fan_.]  Allow me.  [_He begins to fan her_.]  I
assure you she means nothing by it.  It’s her way.  You see, she knows no
better.

LUKE.  I’d fetch out summat for her to eat if I was you, missis.  ’Tis
famished as the poor young maid must be.

EMILY.  She should have come when ’twas meal time then.  I don’t hold
with bites nor drinks in between whiles.

JOAN.  O I’m dying for a glass of milk—or water would do as well.

MILES.  My dear young lady—anything to oblige.  [_Turning to Jessie_.]
Come, my little maid, see if you can’t make yourself useful in bringing a
tray of refreshment for your auntie.  And you [_turning to Robin_] trot
off and help sister.

EMILY.  Not if I know it.  Stop where you are, Jess.  Robin, you dare to
move.  If Clara wants to eat and drink I’m afeared she must wait till
supper time.

ROBIN.  There be chicken and sparrow grass for supper, Aunt.

JESSIE.  And a great pie of gooseberries.

JOAN.  [_Faintly_.]  O I couldn’t touch a mouthful of food, don’t speak
to me about it.

ROBIN.  I likes talking of dinner.  After I’ve done eating of it, I likes
next best to talk about it.

LUKE.  See here, missis.  Let’s have a glass of summat cool for Miss
Clara.

EMILY.  [_Calling angrily_.]  Maggie, Maggie, where are you, you great
lazy-boned donkey?

MAGGIE.  [_Comes in from the back kitchen_, _her apron held to her
eyes_.]  Did you call me, mistress?

EMILY.  Get up a bucket of water from the well.  Master’s sister wants a
drink.

MAGGIE.  [_Between sobs_.]  Shall I bring it in the bucket, or would the
young lady like it in a jug?

EMILY.  [_With exasperation_.]  There’s no end to the worriting that
other folks do make.

JESSIE.  Let me go and help poor Maggie, mother.

ROBIN.  [_To_ JOAN.]  Do you know what Maggie’s crying for, Aunt Clara?

JOAN.  I’m sure I don’t, little boy.

ROBIN.  ’Tis because she’s got to go.  Mother’s sent her off.  ’Twas what
she said of mother’s tongue.

EMILY.  [_Roughly taking hold of_ ROBIN _and_ JESSIE.]  Come you along
with me, you ill-behaved little varmints.  ’Tis the back kitchen and the
serving maid as is the properest place for such as you.  I’ll not have
you bide ’mongst the company no longer.  [_She goes out with the children
and followed by_ MAGGIE.]

[_Directly they have left the room_ JOAN, _whose manner has been
nervously shrinking_, _seems to recover herself and she assumes a
languid_, _artificial air_, _badly imitating the ways of a lady of
fashion_.

JOAN.  [_Fanning herself with her handkerchief and her fan_.]  Well, I
never did meet with such goings on before.

MILES.  You and I know how people conduct themselves in London, Miss
Clara.  We must not expect to find the same polite ways down here.

LUKE.  Come now, ’tisn’t so bad as all that with we.  There baint many
what has the tongue of mistress yonder.

JOAN.  I’m quite unused to such people.

LUKE.  And yet, Miss Clara, ’tisn’t as though they were exactly strangers
to you like.

JOAN.  They feel as good as strangers to me, any way.

MILES.  Ah, how well I understand that, Miss.  ’Tisn’t very often as we
lay a length of fine silken by the side of unbleached woollen at my
counters.

JOAN.  I could go through with it better perhaps, if I didn’t feel so
terrible faint and sinking.

LUKE.  [_Going to the back kitchen door_.]  Here, Maggie, stir yourself
up a bit.  The lady is near fainting, I do count.

JESSIE.  [_Runs in with a tray on which is a jug of water and a glass_.]
I’m bringing the drink for Aunt, Mr. Jenner.  Maggie’s crying ever so
badly, and Mother’s sent her upstairs to wash her face and put her hair
tidy.

[JESSIE _puts the tray on the table near to where_ JOAN _is sitting_.
MILES HOOFER _busies himself in pouring out a glass of water and in
handing it with a great deal of exaggerated deference to_ JOAN.

JOAN.  [_Drinking_.]  Such a coarse glass!

MILES.  Ah, you must let me send you up one from my place during your
stay here.  Who could expect a lady to drink from such a thing as that?

JOAN.  [_Laying aside the glass_.]  There’s a taste of mould in the water
too.

JESSIE.  It’s fresh.  Mother drawed it up from the well, she did.

JOAN.  [_Looking disdainfully round on the room_.]  Such a strange room.
So very common.

LUKE.  Nay, you mustn’t judge of the house by this.  Don’t you recollect
the parlour yonder, with the stuffed birds and the chiney cupboard?

JOAN.  [_Looking round again_.]  Such an old-fashioned place as this I
never did see.  ’Tis a low sort of room too, no carpet on the boards nor
cloth to the table, nor nothing elegant.

MILES.  Ah, we find the mansions in town very different to a country farm
house, don’t we Miss?

JOAN.  I should think we did, Mister Hooper.  Why, look at that great old
wooden chair by the hearth?  Don’t it look un-stylish, upon my word, with
no cushions to it nor nothing.

JESSIE.  [_Coming quite close to_ JOAN _and looking straight into her
face_.]  That’s great gran’ma’s chair, what Dad said you’d be best
pleased for to see.

[JOAN _looks very confused and begins to fan herself hastily_.

JESSIE.  And th’ old clock’s another thing what Dad did say as you’d look
upon.

JOAN.  O the old clock’s well enough, to be sure.

JESSIE.  I did want to gather a nosegay of flowers to set in your
bedroom, Aunt, but Mother, she said, no.

JOAN.  [_Languidly_.]  I must say I don’t see any flowers blooming here
that I should particular care about having in my apartment.

JESSIE.  And Father said as how you’d like to smell the blossoms in the
garden.  And Georgie told as how you did use to gather the clover blooms
when you was a little girl and set them by you where you did sleep.

JOAN.  [_Crossly_.]  O run away, child, I’m tired to death with all this
chatter.  How would you like to be so pestered after such a travel over
the rough country roads as I have had?

LUKE.  Now, my little maid, off you go.  Take back the tray to Mother,
and be careful as you don’t break the glasses on it.

JESSIE.  [_Taking up the tray_.]  I’m off to play in the hayfield along
of Robin, then.

[LUKE _opens the back kitchen door for her and she goes out_.
_Meanwhile_ MILES _has taken up the fan and is fanning_ JOAN, _who leans
back in her chair with closed eyes and exhausted look_.

LUKE.  [_Coming to her side and sitting down_.]  ’Twill seem more
homelike when Thomas do come up from the field.

JOAN.  [_Raising herself and looking at him_.]  You mustn’t trouble about
me, Mister Jenner.  I shall be quite comfortable presently.

[_The back door opens and_ MAGGIE _comes hurriedly in_.

MAGGIE.  Please, mistress, there be a young person a-coming through the
rick yard.

JOAN.  [_Nervously_.]  A young person?

MAGGIE.  Mistress be at the gooseberries a-gathering of them, and the
children be gone off to th’ hay field.

MILES.  ’Tis very likely your serving maid, dear Miss.  Shall I fetch the
young woman in to you?

JOAN.  My maid, did you say?  My maid?

LUKE.  Ah, depend on it, ’tis she.

MAGGIE.  The young person do have all the looks of a serving wench,
mistress.  She be tramping over the yard with naught but a white
handkerchief over the head of she and a poking into most of the styes and
a-calling of the geese and poultry.

LUKE.  That’s her, right enough.  Bring her in, Mag.

JOAN.  [_Agitatedly_.]  No, no—I mean—I want to see her particular—and
alone.  I’ll go to meet her.  You—gentlemen—[MAGGIE _goes slowly into the
back kitchen_.

MILES.  [_Placing a chair for_ JOAN.]  Delicate ladies should not venture
out into the heat at this time of day.

JOAN.  [_With sudden resolution ignoring the chair and going to the
window_.]  Then, do you two kind gentlemen take a stroll in the garden.
I have need of the services of my—my young woman.  But when she has put
me in order after the dusty journey, I shall ask you to be good enough to
come back and while away an hour for me in this sad place.

MILES.  [_Fervently_.]  Anything to oblige a lady, miss.

LUKE.  That’s right.  Us’ll wait while you do lay aside your bonnet.

[MILES _and_ LUKE _go out through the garden door_.  MILES, _turning to
bow low before he disappears_.  JOAN _stands as though distraught in the
middle of the room_.  _Through the open door of the back kitchen the
voices of_ CLARA _and_ MAGGIE _are distinctly heard_.

CLARA.  Is no one at home then?

MAGGIE.  Ah, go you straight on into the kitchen, you’ll find whom you be
searching for in there.  I’d take and shew you in myself only I’m wanted
down to th’ hayfield now.

CLARA.  Don’t put yourself to any trouble about me.  I know my way.

[CLARA _comes into the kitchen_.  _She has tied a white handkerchief over
her head_, _and carries a bunch of wildflowers in her hands_.

CLARA.  Still in your cloak and bonnet!  Why, I thought by now you would
have unpacked our things and made yourself at home.

JOAN.  [_Joining her hands supplicatingly and coming towards_ CLARA,
_speaking almost in a whisper_.]  O mistress, you’ll never guess what
I’ve been and done.  But ’twasn’t all my fault at the commencement.

CLARA.  [_Looking her over searchingly_.]  You do look very disturbed,
Joan, what has happened?

JOAN.  ’Twas the fine bonnet and cloak, mam.  ’Twas they as did it.

CLARA.  Did what?

JOAN.  Put the thought into my head, like.

CLARA.  What thought?

JOAN.  As how ’twould feel to be a real grand lady, like you, mistress.

CLARA.  What then, Joan?

JOAN.  So I began to pretend all to myself as how that I was one,
mistress.

CLARA.  Come, tell me all.

JOAN.  And whilst I was sat down upon that fallen tree, and sort of
pretending to myself, the two gentlemen came along.

CLARA.  What gentlemen?

JOAN.  Gentlemen as was after courting you, mistress.

CLARA.  Courting me?

JOAN.  Yes, and they commenced speaking so nice and respectful like.

CLARA.  Go on, Joan, don’t be afraid.

JOAN.  It did seem to fall in with the game I was a-playing with myself.
And then, before I did know how, ’twas they was both of them a-taking me
for you, mam.

CLARA.  And did you not un-deceive them, Joan?

JOAN.  [_Very ashamedly_.]  No, mam.

CLARA.  You should have told them the truth about yourself at once.

JOAN.  O I know I should have, mistress.  But there was something as held
me back when I would have spoke the words.

CLARA.  I wonder what that could have been?

JOAN.  ’Twas them being such very nice and kind gentlemen.  And, O
mistress, you’ll not understand it, because you’ve told me many times as
the heart within you have never been touched by love.

CLARA.  [_Suddenly sitting down_.]  And has yours been touched to-day,
Joan, by love?

JOAN.  That it have, mistress.  Love have struck at it heavily.

CLARA.  Through which of the gentlemen did it strike, Joan?

JOAN.  Through both.  Leastways, ’tis Mister Jenner that my feelings do
go out most quickly to, mistress.  But ’tis Mister Hooper who do court
the hardest and who has the greatest riches like.

CLARA.  Well, and what do you want me to do or to say now, Joan?

JOAN.  See here, mistress, I want you to give me a chance.  They’ll never
stoop to wed me if they knows as I’m but a poor serving maid.

CLARA.  Your dressing up as a fine lady won’t make you other than what
you are, Joan.

JOAN.  Once let me get the fish in my net, mistress.

CLARA.  Are you proposing to catch the two, Joan?

JOAN.  I shall take the one as do offer first, mistress.

CLARA.  That’ll be Mister Hooper, I should think.

JOAN.  I should go riding in my own chaise, mistress, if ’twas him.

CLARA.  But, Joan, either of these men would have to know the truth
before there could be any marriage.

JOAN.  I knows that full well, mistress.  But let one of them just offer
hisself.  By that time my heart and his would be so closely twined
together like, ’twould take more nor such a little thing as my station
being low to part us.

[CLARA _sits very still for a few moments_, _looking straight before
her_, _lost in thought_.  JOAN _sinks on to a chair by the table as
though suddenly tired out_, _and she begins to cry gently_.

CLARA.  Listen, Joan.  I’m one for the straight paths.  I like to walk in
open fields and over the bare heath.  Only times come when one is driven
to take to the ways which are set with bushes and with briars.

JOAN.  [_Lifting her head and drying her eyes_.]  O mistress, I feel to
be asking summat as is too heavy for you to give.

CLARA.  But for a certain thing, I could never have lent myself to this
acting game of yours, Joan.

JOAN.  No, mistress?

CLARA.  Only that, to-day, my heart too has gone from my own keeping.

JOAN.  O mistress, you don’t mean to say as his lordship have followed us
down already.

CLARA.  [_Scornfully_.]  His lordship!  As if I should be stirred by him!

JOAN.  [_Humbly_.]  Who might it be, mistress, if I may ask?

CLARA.  ’Tis one who would never look upon me with thoughts of love if I
went to him as I am now, Joan.

JOAN.  I can’t rightly understand you, mam.

CLARA.  My case is just the same as yours, Joan.  You say that your fine
gentlemen would not look upon a serving maid.

JOAN.  I’m certain of it, mistress.

CLARA.  And the man I—I love will never let his heart go out to mine with
the heaviness of all these riches lying between us.

JOAN.  I count that gold do pave the way for most of us, mistress.

CLARA.  So for this once, I will leave the clear high road, Joan.  And
you and I will take a path that is set with thorns.  Pray God they do not
wound us past healing at the end of our travel.

JOAN.  O mistress, ’twill be a lightsome journey for me.

CLARA.  But the moment that you reach happiness, Joan, remember to
confess.

JOAN.  There won’t be nothing to fear then, mistress.

CLARA.  Make him love you for yourself, Joan.  O we must each tie the
heart of our true love so tightly to our own that naught shall ever be
able to cut the bonds.

JOAN.  Yes, mistress, and I’m sure I’m very much obliged to you.

CLARA.  Ah, I am lending myself to all this, because I, too, have
something to win or lose.

JOAN.  Where did you meet him, mistress?

CLARA.  I did not meet him.  I stood on the high ground, and he passed
below.  His face was raised to the light, and I saw its look.  I think my
love for him has always lain asleep in my heart, Joan.  But when he
passed beneath me in the meadow, it awoke.

JOAN.  O mistress, what sort of an appearance has the gentleman?

CLARA.  I don’t know how to answer you, Joan.

JOAN.  I count as it would take a rare, grand looking man for to put his
lordship into the shadow, like.

CLARA.  You are right there, Joan.  But now we must talk of your affairs.
Your fine courtiers will be coming in presently and you must know how to
receive them in a good way.

JOAN.  That’s what do hamper me dreadful, my speech and other things.
How would it be if you was to help me a little bit, like?

CLARA.  With all my heart.

JOAN.  How should I act so not to be found out, mistress?

CLARA.  You must speak little, and low.  Do not show haste in your goings
and comings.  Put great care into your way of eating and drinking.

JOAN.  O that will be a fearsome hard task.  What else?

CLARA.  You must be sisterly with Thomas.

JOAN.  I’d clean forgot him.  I don’t doubt but what he’ll ferret out the
truth in no time.

CLARA.  I don’t think so.  I was but a little child when I left him.  He
will not remember how I looked.  And our colouring is alike, Joan.

JOAN.  ’Tis the eating and drinking as do play most heavily upon my mind,
mistress.

CLARA.  Then think of these words as you sit at table.  Eat as though you
were not hungry and drink as though there were no such thing as thirst.
Let your hands move about your plate as if they were too tired to lift
the knife and fork.

[JOAN, _darts to the dresser_—_seizes up a plate with a knife and fork_,
_places them on the table and sits down before them_, _pretending to cut
up meat_.  CLARA _watches her smilingly_.

JOAN.  [_Absently_, _raising the knife to her mouth_.]  How’s that,
mistress?

CLARA.  Not so, not so, Joan.  That might betray you.

JOAN.  What, mistress?

CLARA.  ’Tis the fork which journeys to the mouth, and the knife stops at
home on the plate.

JOAN.  [_Dispiritedly_.]  ’Tis almost more than I did reckon for when I
started.

CLARA.  Well, we mustn’t think of that now.  We must hold up our spirits,
you and I.

JOAN.  [_Getting up and putting away the crockery_.]  I’d best take off
the bonnet and the cloak, mistress, hadn’t I?

CLARA.  Yes, that you had.  We will go upstairs together and I will help
you change into another gown.  Come quickly so that we may have plenty of
time.

[_They go towards the staircase door_, CLARA _leading the way_.  _With
her hand on the latch of the door she gives one look round the kitchen_.
_Then with a sudden movement she goes up to the wooden armchair at the
hearth and bends her head till her lips touch it_, _she then runs
upstairs_, _followed by_ JOAN.



ACT II.—Scene 2.


_After a few moments_ MILES HOOPER _and_ LUKE JENNER _come into the
kitchen_.  _They both look round the room enquiringly_.

LUKE.  Ah, she be still up above with that there serving wench what’s
come.

MILES.  My good man, you didn’t expect our fair miss to have finished her
toilet under an hour, did you?

LUKE.  I don’t see what there was to begin on myself, let alone finish.

MILES.  ’Tis clear you know little of the ways of our town beauties,
Luke.

LUKE.  Still, I mean to have my try with her, Miles Hooper.

MILES.  [_Sarcastically_.]  I’m quite agreeable, Mister Jenner.

[THOMAS _and_ GEORGE _come in_.  GEORGE _carries a bucket of water_.

THOMAS.  Where’s the little maid got to?  George and me be come up from
the field on purpose for to bid her welcome home.

MILES.  Miss is still at her toilet, farmer.

[JOAN, _in a flowered silk gown_, _comes slowly and carefully into the
room_, _followed by_ CLARA, _who carries a lace shawl over one arm_.
_She has put on a large white apron_, _but wears nothing on her head but
the narrow blue ribbon_.  _During the following scene she stands
quietly_, _half hidden by the door_.

[JOAN _looks nervously round the room_, _then she draws herself up very
haughtily_.  MILES _comes forward and bows low_.

THOMAS.  [_Looking_ JOAN _up and down_.]  Well, bless my soul, who’d have
guessed at the change it do make in a wench?

JOAN.  [_Holding out her hand_, _very coldly_.]  A good afternoon to you,
sir.

THOMAS.  [_Taking her hand slowly_.]  Upon my word, but you might knock
me over.

MILES.  Miss has grown into a very superb young lady, Thomas.

THOMAS.  [_Still looking at her_.]  That may be so, yet ’twasn’t as such
I had figured she in the eye of my mind, like.  [_There is a moment’s
silence_.

THOMAS.  George, my boy, you and sister Clara used to be up to rare games
one with t’other once on a time.  [_Turning to_ JOAN.]  There, my wench,
I count you’ve not forgotten Georgie?

JOAN.  I’m afeared I’ve not much of a memory.

THOMAS.  Shake hands, my maid, and very like as the memory will come back
to roost same as the fowls do.

JOAN.  [_Bowing coldly_.]  Good afternoon, George.

MILES.  [_Aside to Luke_.]  Now that’s what I call a bit of stylish
breeding.

[GEORGE _has made no answer to_ JOAN’S _bow_.  _He quietly ignores it_,
_and takes up his pail of water_.  _As he does so he catches sight of_
CLARA, _who has been watching the whole scene from the corner where she
is partly concealed_.  _He looks at her for one moment_, _and then sets
the bucket down again_.

THOMAS.  Why, George—I guess as it’s took you as it took me, us didn’t
think how ’twould appear when Miss Clara was growed up.

GEORGE.  [_Quietly_.]  No, us did not, master.

[_He carries his pail into the back kitchen as_ EMILY _and the children
come in_.

EMILY.  What’s all this to-do in my kitchen, I should like to know?

THOMAS.  Us did but come up for to—to give a handshake to sister Clara,
like.

EMILY.  Well, now you can go off back to work again.  And you—[_turning
to_ JOAN]—now that you’ve finished curling of your hair and dressing of
yourself up, you can go and sit down in the best parlour along with your
fancy gentlemen.

MILES.  [_Offering his arm to_ JOAN.]  It will be my sweet pleasure to
conduct Missy to the parlour.

[LUKE _offers his arm on the other side_, _and_ JOAN _moves off with both
the young men_.

JOAN.  [_As she goes_.]  Indeed, I shall be glad to rest on a comfortable
couch.  I’m dead tired of the country air already.

ROBIN.  [_Calling after her_.]  You’ll not go off to sleep afore the
chicken and sparrow grass is ate, will you, Aunt?

[MILES, LUKE _and_ JOAN _having gone out_, EMILY _begins to bang the
chairs back in their places and to arrange the room_, _watched by the two
children_.  CLARA, _who has remained half hidden by the door_, _now goes
quietly upstairs_.

EMILY.  [_Calling_.]  Here, George, Mag.

[GEORGE _comes in_.

EMILY.  Well, George, ’tisn’t much worse nor I expected.

JESSIE.  I don’t like Aunt Clara.

ROBIN.  I hates her very much.

GEORGE.  [_Slowly_.]  And I don’t seem to fancy her neither.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT III.—Scene 1.


_Two days have passed by_.

_It is morning_.  CLARA, _wearing an apron and a muslin cap on her head_,
_sits by the kitchen table mending a lace handkerchief_.  MAGGIE, _who is
dusting the plates on the dressers_, _pauses to watch her_.

MAGGIE.  I’d sooner sweep the cow sheds out and that I would, nor have to
set at such a niggly piece of sewing work as you.

CLARA.  I cannot do it quickly, it is so fine.

MAGGIE.  I count ’tis very nigh as bad as the treadmills, serving a young
miss such as yourn be.

CLARA.  What makes you say that, Maggie?

MAGGIE.  Missis be very high in her ways and powerful sharp in the
tongue, but I declare as your young lady will be worser nor missis when
she do come to that age.

CLARA.  Why do you think this, Mag?

MAGGIE.  O she do look at any one as though they was lower nor the very
worms in the ground.  And her speaks as though each word did cost she
more nor a shilling to bring it out.  And see how destructive she be with
her fine clothing.  A laced petticoat tore to ribbons last night, and
to-day yon handkerchief.

CLARA.  These things are soon mended.

[MAGGIE _continues to dust for a few moments_.

MAGGIE.  The day you comed here, ’twas a bit of ribbon as you did have
around of your hair.

CLARA.  [_After a moment’s hesitation_.]  I put it on to keep my hair
neat on the journeying.

MAGGIE.  [_Coming nearer_.]  I count as you’ve not missed it, have you?

CLARA.  Indeed I have, and I think I must have lost it in the hayfield.

MAGGIE.  ’Tain’t lost.

CLARA.  Where is it then?

MAGGIE.  Look here, I could tell you, but I shan’t.

CLARA.  If you have found it, Maggie, you may keep it.

MAGGIE.  ’Twould be a fine thing to be a grand serving maid as you be,
and to give away ribbons, so ’twould.

[CLARA _takes no notice of her and goes on sewing_.

MAGGIE.  [_More insistently_.]  ’Twasn’t me as found the ribbon.

CLARA.  Who was it then?

MAGGIE.  I daresay you’d like for to know, but I’m not going to say
nothing more about it.

[MAGGIE _leans against the table watching_ CLARA _as she sews_.

[EMILY _with both the children now come in_.  EMILY _carries a basket of
potatoes_, _and_ JESSIE _a large bowl_.

EMILY.  [_Setting down the basket_.]  Maggie, you idle, bad girl,
whatever are you doing here when master expects you down in the meadow to
help with the raking?

MAGGIE.  I be just a-going off yonder, mistress.

EMILY.  I’d thank other folk not to bring dressed up fine young serving
minxes down here—you was bad enough afore, Maggie, but you’ll be a
hundred times worser now.

MAGGIE.  I’ll be off and help master.  I’ve been and put the meat on to
boil as you said, missis.

[MAGGIE _goes off_.

[CLARA _continues to sew_, _quietly_.  JESSIE _has put her bowl down on
the table_, _and now comes to her side_.  ROBIN _also comes close to
her_.  EMILY _flings herself into a chair for a moment and contemptuously
watches them_.

JESSIE.  We don’t care much about our new aunt, Joan.

ROBIN.  Dad said as how Aunt would be sure to bring us sommat good from
London town in them great boxes.

JESSIE.  And Aunt has been here two days and more, and she hasn’t brought
us nothing.

EMILY.  Your fine aunt have been too much took up with her fancy
gentlemen to think of what would be suitable behaviour towards you
children.

JESSIE.  Will Aunt Clara get married soon?

EMILY.  ’Tis to be hoped as she will be.  Such a set out in the house I
have never seen afore in all my days.  Young women as is hale and hearty
having their victuals took up to their rooms and a-lying in bed till ’tis
noon or later.

JESSIE.  ’Tis only one of them as lies in bed.

ROBIN.  [_To_ CLARA.]  Do you think Aunt has got sommat for us upstairs,
Joan?

CLARA.  [_Rising and putting down her work_.]  I know she has, Robin.

EMILY.  Don’t let me catch you speaking to Master Spring as though you
and he was of the same station, young person.

CLARA.  Master Robin, and Miss Jessie, I will go upstairs and fetch the
gifts that your aunt has brought for you.

[_She goes leisurely towards the staircase door_, _smiling at the
children_.

EMILY.  Ah, and you may tell your young madam that ’tis high time as she
was out of bed and abroad.  Hear that?  [CLARA _goes out_.

JESSIE.  I like her.  She speaks so gentle.  Not like Aunt.

EMILY.  She’s a stuck up sort of fine lady herself like.  Look at the
hands of her, ’tis not a day’s hard work as they have done in her life,
I’ll warrant.

ROBIN.  What will she bring us from out of the great boxes, do you think?

EMILY.  Sommat what you don’t need, I warrant.  ’Tis always so.  When
folks take it into their heads to give you aught, ’tis very nigh always
sommat which you could do better without.

[EMILY _gets up and begins settling the pots on the fire_, _and fetching
a jug of cold water from the back kitchen and a knife which she lays on
the table_.

[CLARA _enters carrying some parcels_.  _She brings them to the table_.
_Both the children run to her_.

CLARA.  [_Holding out a long parcel to_ EMILY _and speaking to the
children_.]  The first is for your mother, children.

EMILY.  [_With an angry exclamation_.]  Now, you mark my words, ’twill be
sommat as I shall want to fling over the hedge for all the use ’twill be.

[_She comes near_, _opens the parcel and perceives it to be a length of
rich black silk_.

CLARA.  My mistress thought it might be suitable.

EMILY.  Suitable?  I’ll suitable her.  When shall my two hands find time
to sew me a gown out of it, I’d like to know?  And if ’twas sewn, when
would my limbs find time to sit down within of it?  [_Flinging it down on
the table_.]  Suitable?  You can tell your mistress from me as she can
keep her gifts to herself if she can’t do better nor this.

JESSIE.  [_Stroking the silk_.]  O Mother, the feel of it be softer nor a
dove’s feather.

ROBIN.  [_Feeling it too_.]  ’Tis better nor the new kittens’ fur.

EMILY.  Let us see if your aunt have done more handsomely towards you
children.

CLARA.  I am afraid not.  These coral beads are for Miss Jessie, with her
aunt’s dear love.  And this book of pictures is for Master Robin.

JESSIE.  [_Seizing the beads with delight_.]  I love a string of beads.
[_Putting them on_.]  How do they look on me?

EMILY.  Off with them this moment.  I’ll learn her to give strings of
rubbish to my child.

JESSIE.  [_Beginning to cry_.]  O do let me wear it just a little while,
just till dinner, Mother.

EMILY.  Have done with that noise.  Off with it at once, do you hear.

JESSIE.  [_Taking the necklace off_.]  I love the feel of it—might I keep
it in my hand then?

EMILY.  [_Seizing it_.]  ’Twill be put by with the silk dress.  So there.
’Tis not a suitable thing for a little girl like you.

ROBIN.  [_Looking up from the pages of his book_.]  No one shan’t take my
book from me.  There be pictures of great horses and sheep and cows in
it—and no one shan’t hide it from me.

EMILY.  [_Putting the silk dress and necklace on another table_.]  Next
time your aunt wants to throw her money into the gutter I hope as she’ll
ask me to come and see her a-doing of it.

JESSIE.  [_Coming up to_ CLARA _very tearfully_.]  And was there naught
for Dad in the great box?

CLARA.  Perhaps there may be.

ROBIN.  And did Aunt Clara bring naught for Georgie?

CLARA.  I don’t know.

JESSIE.  Poor Georgie.  He never has nothing gived him.

ROBIN.  And Mother puts the worst of the bits on his plate at dinner.

EMILY.  [_Sharply_.]  Look you here, young woman.  Suppose you was to
take and do something useful with that idle pair of hands as you’ve got.

CLARA.  Yes, mistress, I should like to help you in something.

EMILY.  Us knows what fine promises lead to.

CLARA.  But I mean it.  Do let me help a little.

EMILY.  See them taters?

CLARA.  Yes.

EMILY.  Take and peel and wash them and get them ready against when I
wants to cook them.

CLARA.  [_A little doubtfully_.]  Yes—I’ll—I’ll try—

EMILY.  Ah, ’tis just as I thought.  You’re one of them who would stir
the fire with a silver spoon rather nor black their hands with the poker.

CLARA.  [_Eagerly_.]  No, no—it isn’t that.  I’ll gladly do them.  Come,
Miss Jessie, you will shew me if I do them wrongly, won’t you?

JESSIE.  O yes, I’ll help you because I like you, Joan.

ROBIN.  I’ll help too, when I have finished looking at my book.

[EMILY _goes out_.  CLARA _sits down by the table and takes up a potato
and the knife and slowly and awkwardly sets to work_.  JESSIE _stands by
her watching_.

JESSIE.  You mustn’t take no account of Mother when she speaks so sharp.
’Tis only her way.

ROBIN.  Could you come and be our serving maid when Maggie’s sent off?

CLARA.  O I should be too slow and awkward at the work, I think.

JESSIE.  Yes, you don’t do them taters very nice.

ROBIN.  That don’t matter, I like you, and you can tell me fine things
about other parts.

JESSIE.  Georgie can tell of fine things too.  See, there he comes with
the vegetables from the garden.

[GEORGE _comes in with a large basket of vegetables_, _which he sets down
in the back kitchen_.  _Then he stands at the door_, _silently watching
the group near the table_.

JESSIE.  Come here, Georgie, and let Joan hear some of the tales out of
what you do sing.

GEORGE.  What would mistress say if she was to catch me at my songs this
time of day?

JESSIE.  Mother’s gone upstairs, she won’t know nothing.

ROBIN.  Come you here, George, and look at my fine book what Aunt have
brought me.

GEORGE.  [_Slowly approaching the table_.]  That be a brave, fine book of
pictures, Master Robin.

ROBIN.  [_Holding up the open book_.]  I don’t fancy Aunt Clara much, but
I likes her better nor I did because of this book.

[GEORGE’S _eyes wander from the book to_ CLARA _as she bends over her
work_.

JESSIE.  Joan doesn’t know how to do them very nicely, does she George!

GEORGE.  ’Tis the first time you’ve been set down to such work, may be,
mistress.

JESSIE.  You mustn’t say “mistress” to Joan, you know.  Why, Mother would
be ever so angry if she was to hear you.  Joan’s only a servant.

CLARA.  [_Looking up_.]  Like you, George.

GEORGE.  [_Steadily_.]  What I was saying is—’Tis the first time as you
have been set afore a bowl of taters like this.

CLARA.  You are right, George.  It is the first time since—since I was
quite a little child.  And I think I’m very clumsy at my work.

GEORGE.  No one could work with them laces a-falling down all over their
fingers.

JESSIE.  You should turn back your sleeves for kitchen work, Joan, same
as Maggie does.

GEORGE.  Yes, you should turn back your sleeves, Miss Joan.

[JOAN _puts aside the knife and basket_, _turns back her sleeves_, _and
then resumes her work_.  GEORGE’S _eyes are rivetted on her hands and
arms for a moment_.  _Then he turns as though to go away_.

JESSIE.  Don’t go away, Georgie.  Come and tell us how you like Aunt
Clara now that she’s growed into such a grand lady.

GEORGE.  [_Coming back to the table_.]  I don’t like nothing about her,
Miss Jessie.

JESSIE.  Is Aunt very much changed from when she did use to ride the big
horses to the trough, Georgie?

ROBIN.  And from the time when th’ old gander did take a big piece right
out of her arm, Georgie?

GEORGE.  [_His eyes on_ CLARA’S _bent head_.]  I count her be wonderful
changed, like.

JESSIE.  So that you would scarce know her?

GEORGE.  So that I should scarce know she.

JESSIE.  She have brought Mother a silken gown and me a string of coral
beads.  But naught for you, Georgie.

GEORGE.  I reckon as Miss Clara have not kept me in her remembrance like.

CLARA.  [_With sudden earnestness_.]  O that she has, George.

JESSIE.  She didn’t seem to know him by her looks.

CLARA.  Looks often speak but poorly for the heart.

ROBIN.  [_Who has been watching_ CLARA.]  See there, Joan.  You’ve been
and cut that big tater right in half.  Mother will be cross.

CLARA.  O dear, I am thoughtless.  One cannot work and talk at the same
time.

GEORGE.  [_Taking basket and knife from her and seating himself on the
edge of the table_.]  Here,—give them all to me.  I understand such work,
and ’tis clear that you do not.  I’ll finish them off in a few minutes,
and mistress will never be the wiser.

CLARA.  O thank you, George, but am I to go idle?

GEORGE.  You can take up with that there white sewing if you have a mind.
’Tis more suited to your hands nor this rough job.

[CLARA _puts down her sleeves and takes up her needlework_.

JESSIE.  Sing us a song, George, whilst you do the taters.

GEORGE.  No, Miss Jessie.  My mood is not a singing mood this day.

JESSIE.  You ask him, Joan.

CLARA.  Will not you sing one little verse, George?

GEORGE.  Nay—strangers from London town would have no liking for the
songs we sing down here among the fields.

CLARA.  There was a song I once heard in the country that pleased me very
well.

JESSIE.  What was it called?

CLARA.  I cannot remember the name—but there was something of bushes and
of briars in it.

JESSIE.  I know which that is.  ’Tis a pretty song.  Sing it, Georgie.

GEORGE.  Nay—sing it yourself, Miss Jessie.

JESSIE.  ’Tis like this at the beginning.—[_she sings or repeats_]—

   “Through bushes and through briars
   I lately took my way,
   All for to hear the small birds sing
   And the lambs to skip and play.”

CLARA.  That is the song I was thinking of, Jessie.

GEORGE.  Can you go on with it, Miss Jessie.

JESSIE.  I can’t say any more.

CLARA.  [_Gently singing or speaking_.]

   I overheard my own true love,
   Her voice it was so clear.
   “Long time I have been waiting for
   The coming of my dear.”

GEORGE.  [_Heaving a sigh_.]  That’s it.

JESSIE.  Go on, Joan, I do like the sound of it.

CLARA.  Shall I go on with the song, George?

GEORGE.  As you please.

CLARA.

   “Sometimes I am uneasy
   And troubled in my mind,
   Sometimes I think I’ll go to my love
   And tell to him my mind.”

   “And if I would go to my love
   My love he will say nay
   If I show to him my boldness
   He’ll ne’er love me again.”

JESSIE.  When her love was hid a-hind of the bushes and did hear her
a-singing so pitiful, what did he do then?

CLARA.  I don’t know, Jessie.

JESSIE.  I reckon as he did come out to show her as he knowed all what
she did keep in her mind.

CLARA.  Very likely the briars were so thick between them, Jess, that he
never got to the other side for her to tell him.

GEORGE.  Yes, that’s how ’twas, I count.

JESSIE.  [_Running up to_ ROBIN.]  I’m going to look at your book along
of you, Robin.

ROBIN.  But I’m the one to turn the leaves, remember.  [_The children sit
side by side looking at the picture book_.  CLARA _sews_.  GEORGE _goes
on with the potatoes_.  _As the last one is finished and tossed into the
water_, _he looks at_ CLARA _for the first time_.  _A long silence_.

GEORGE.  Miss Clara and me was good friends once on a time.

CLARA.  Tell me how it was then, George.

GEORGE.  I did used to put her on the horse’s back, and we would go down
to the water trough in the evening time and—

CLARA.  What else did you and Miss Clara do together, George?

GEORGE.  Us would walk in the woods aside of one another—And I would lift
she to a high branch in a tree—and pretend for to leave her there.

CLARA.  And then?

GEORGE.  Her would call upon me pitiful—and I would come back from where
I was hid.

CLARA.  And did her crying cease?

GEORGE.  She would take and spring as though her was one of they little
wild squirrels as do dance about in the trees.

CLARA.  Where would she spring to, George?

GEORGE.  I would hold out my two arms wide to her, and catch she.

CLARA.  And did she never fall, whilst springing from the tree, George?

GEORGE.  I never let she fall, nor get hurted by naught so long as her
was in the care of me.

CLARA.  [_Slowly_, _after a short pause_.]  I do not think she can have
forgotten those days, George.

GEORGE.  [_Getting up and speaking harshly_.]  They’re best forgot.  Put
them away.  There be briars and brambles and thorns and sommat of all
which do hurt the flesh of man atween that time and this’n.

[CLARA _turns her head away and furtively presses her handkerchief to her
eyes_.  GEORGE _looks gloomily on the floor_.  EMILY _enters_.

EMILY.  George, what are you at sitting at the kitchen table I’d like to
know?

[GEORGE _gets hastily off_.  _Both children look up from their book_.

EMILY.  [_Looking freezingly at_ CLARA.]  ’Tis plain as a turnpike what
you’ve been after, young person.  If you was my serving wench, ’tis neck
and crop as you should be thrown from the door.

CLARA.  What for, mistress?

EMILY.  What for?  You have the impudence to ask what for?  I’ll soon
tell you.  For making a fool of George and setting your cap at him and
scandalising of my innocent children in their own kitchen.

GEORGE.  This be going a bit too far, missis.  I’ll not have things said
like that.

EMILY.  Then you may turn out on to the roads where you were took from—a
grizzling little roadsters varmint.  You do cost more’n what you eats nor
what we get of work from out of your body, you great hulk.

CLARA.  [_Springing up angrily_.]  O I’ll not hear such things said.
I’ll not.

EMILY.  Who asked you to speak?  Get you upstairs and pull your mistress
out of bed—and curl the ringlets of her hair and dust the flour on to her
face.  ’Tis about all you be fit for.

CLARA.  [_Angrily going to the stair door_.]  Very well.  ’Tis best that
I should go.  I might say something you would not like.

GEORGE.  [_Advancing towards_ EMILY.]  Look you here, mistress.  I’ve put
up with it going on for fifteen years.  But sometimes ’tis almost more
nor I can bear.  If ’twasn’t for Master Thomas I’d have cleared out this
long time ago.

EMILY.  Don’t flatter yourself as Thomas needs you, my man.

GEORGE.  We has always been good friends, farmer and me.  ’Tis not for
what I gets from he nor for what he do get out of I as we do hold
together.  But ’tis this—as he and I do understand one another.

EMILY.  We’ll see what master has to say when I tell him how you was
found sitting on the kitchen table and love-making with that saucy piece
of London trash.

GEORGE.  I’m off.  I’ve no patience to listen any longer.  You called me
roadster varmint.  Well, let it be so.  On the road I was born and on the
road I was picked from my dead mother’s side, and I count as ’tis on the
road as I shall breathe my last.  But for all that, I’ll not have road
dirt flung on me by no one.  For, roadsters varmint though I be, there be
things which I do hold brighter nor silver and cleaner nor new opened
leaves, and I’ll not have defilement throwed upon them.

EMILY.  [_Seizing the arms of_ JESSIE _and_ ROBIN.]  The lad’s raving.
’Tis plain as he’s been getting at the cider.  Come you off with me to
the haymaking, Robin and Jess.

ROBIN.  May I take my book along of me?

EMILY.  [_Flinging the book down violently_.]  I’ll book you!  What next?

JESSIE.  Poor Georgie.  He was not courting Joan, mother.  He was only
doing the taters for her.

EMILY.  [_As they go out_.]  The lazy good-for-nothing cat.  I’ll get her
packed off from here afore another sun has set, see if I don’t.

[GEORGE _is left alone in the kitchen_.  _When all sounds of_ EMILY _and
the children have died away_, _he sighs_.  _Then_, _looking furtively
round the room_, _he draws a blue ribbon slowly from his pocket_.  _He
spreads it out on one hand and stands looking down on it_, _sadly and
longingly_.  _Then he slowly raises it to his lips and kisses it_.  _Just
as he is doing this_ THOMAS _comes into the room_.

THOMAS.  Why, George, my lad.

GEORGE.  [_Confusedly putting the ribbon back into his pocket_.]  Yes,
Master Thomas.

THOMAS.  [_Looking meaningly at_ GEORGE.]  ’Tis a pretty enough young
maid, George.

GEORGE.  What did you say, Master?

THOMAS.  That one with the bit of blue round the head of her.

GEORGE.  Blue?

THOMAS.  Ah, George.  I was a young man myself once on a time.

GEORGE.  Yes, master.

THOMAS.  ’Twasn’t a piece of blue ribbon as I did find one day, but ’twas
a blossom dropped from her gown.

GEORGE.  Whose gown, master?  I’ll warrant ’twasn’t missus’s.

THOMAS.  Bless my soul, no.  No, no, George.  ’Twasn’t the mistress then.

GEORGE.  Ah, I count as it could not have been she.

THOMAS.  First love, ’tis best, George.

GEORGE.  Ah, upon my word, that ’tis.

THOMAS.  But my maid went and got her married to another.

GEORGE.  More’s the pity, Master Thomas.

THOMAS.  [_Sighing_.]  Ah, I often thinks of how it might have been—with
her and me, like.

GEORGE.  Had that one a soft tongue to her mouth, master?

THOMAS.  Soft and sweet as the field lark, George.

GEORGE.  Then that had been the one for you to have wed, Master Thomas.

THOMAS.  Ah, George, don’t you never run into the trap, no matter whether
’tis baited with the choicest thing you ever did dream on.  Once in,
never out.  There ’tis.

GEORGE.  No one would trouble to set a snare for me, master.  I baint
worth trapping.

THOMAS.  You be a brave, fine country lad, George, what a pretty baggage
from London town might give a year of her life to catch, so be it her had
the fortune.

GEORGE.  No, no, Master Thomas.  Nothing of that.  There baint nothing.

THOMAS.  There be a piece of blue ribbon, George.

GEORGE.  They be coming down and into the room now, master.  [_Steps are
heard in the staircase_.

THOMAS.  We’ll off to the meadow then, George.

[GEORGE _and_ THOMAS _go out_.

[JOAN, _dressed as a lady of fashion_, _and followed by_ CLARA, _comes
into the kitchen_.

CLARA.  Now, Joan, if I were you, I should go out into the garden, and
let the gentlemen find you in the arbour.  Your ways are more easy and
natural when you are in the air.

JOAN.  O I’m very nigh dead with fright when I’m within doors.  ’Tis so
hard to move about without knocking myself against sommat.  But at table
’tis worst of all.

CLARA.  You’ve stopped up in your room two breakfasts with the headache,
and yesterday we took our dinner to the wood.

JOAN.  But to-night ’twill be something cruel, for Farmer Thomas have
asked them both to supper again.

CLARA.  Luke Jenner and the other man?

JOAN.  I beg you to practise me in my ways, a little, afore the time,
mistress.

CLARA.  That I will.  We will find out what is to be upon the table, and
then I will shew you how it is to be eaten.

JOAN.  And other things as well as eating.  When I be sitting in the
parlour, Miss Clara, and Hooper, he comes up and asks my pleasure, what
have I got to say to him?

CLARA.  O, I shouldn’t trouble about that.  I’d open my fan and take no
notice if I were you.

JOAN.  I do feel so awkward like in speech with Farmer Thomas, mistress.
And with the children, too.

CLARA.  Come, you must take heart and throw yourself into the acting.
Try to be as a sister would with Thomas.  Be lively, and kind in your way
with the children.

JOAN.  I tries to be like old Madam Lovel was, when I talks with them.

CLARA.  That cross, rough mode of hers sits badly on any one young, Joan.
Be more of yourself, but make little changes in your manner here and
there.

JOAN.  [_With a heavy sigh_.]  ’Tis the here and the there as I finds it
so hard to manage.

JESSIE.  [_Running in breathlessly_.]  A letter, a letter for Aunt Clara.
[CLARA _involuntarily puts out her hand_.]  No, Joan.  I was to give it
to Aunt Clara herself.  I’ve run all the way.

[JOAN _slowly takes the letter_, _looking confused_.

JESSIE.  Will you read it now, Aunt?

JOAN.  Run away, little girl, I don’t want no children worriting round me
now.  [_Suddenly recollecting herself and forcing herself to speak
brightly_.]  I mean—no, my dear little girl, I’d rather wait to read it
till I’m by myself; but thank you very kindly all the same, my pet.

JESSIE.  O, but I should like to hear the letter read, so much.

JOAN.  Never mind.  Run along back to mother, there’s a sweet little
maid.

JESSIE.  I’d sooner stop with you now, you look so much kinder, like.

CLARA.  [_Taking_ JESSIE’S _hand and leading her to the door_.]  Now,
Miss Jessie, your aunt must read her letter in quiet, but if you will
come back presently I will have a game with you outside.

JESSIE.  [_As she runs off_.]  Mother won’t let me talk with you any
more, alone.  She says as you’ve made a fool of Georgie and you’ll do the
same by us all.

JOAN.  [_When_ JESSIE _has run off_.]  There now, how did I do that,
mistress?

CLARA.  Better, much better.

JOAN.  ’Tis the feeling of one thing and the speaking of another, with
you ladies and gentlemen.  So it appears to me.

CLARA.  [_After a moment’s thought_.]  No.  It is not quite like that.
But ’tis, perhaps, the dressing up of an ugly feeling in better garments.

JOAN.  [_Handing the letter to_ CLARA.]  There, mistress, ’tis yours, not
mine.

CLARA.  [_Glancing at it_.]  Lord Lovel’s writing.  [CLARA _opens the
letter and reads it through_.]  He will not wait longer for my answer.
And he is coming here as fast as horses can bring him.

JOAN.  O, mistress, whatever shall we do?

CLARA.  We had better own to everything at once.  It will save trouble in
the end.

JOAN.  Own to everything now, and lose all just as my hand was closing
upon it, like!

CLARA.  Poor Joan, it will not make any difference in the end, if the man
loves you truly.

JOAN.  Be kind and patient just to the evening, mistress.  Hooper is
coming up to see me now.  I’d bring him to offer his self, if I was but
left quiet along of him for a ten minutes or so.

CLARA.  And then, Joan?

JOAN.  And then, when was all fixed up comfortable between us, mistress,
maybe as you could break it gently to him so as he wouldn’t think no
worse of me.

[CLARA _gets up and goes to the window_, _where she looks out for a few
minutes in silence_.  JOAN _cries softly meanwhile_.

CLARA.  [_Turning towards_ JOAN.]  As you will, Joan.  Very likely ’twill
be to-morrow morning before my lord reaches this place.

JOAN.  O bless you for your goodness, mistress.  And I do pray as all may
go as well with you as ’tis with me.

CLARA.  [_Sadly_.]  That is not likely, Joan.

JOAN.  What is it stands in the way, mistress?

CLARA.  Briars, Joan.  Thorns of pride, and many another sharp and
hurting thing.

JOAN.  Then take you my counsel, mistress, and have his lordship when he
do offer next.

CLARA.  I’ll think of what you say, Joan.  There comes a moment when the
heart is tired of being spurned, and it would fain get into shelter.  [_A
slight pause_.

JOAN.  [_Looking through the window_.]  Look up quickly, mistress.
There’s Hooper.

CLARA.  [_Getting up_.]  Then I’ll run away.  May all be well with you,
dear Joan.  [CLARA _goes out_.

[JOAN _seats herself in a high-backed chair and opens her fan_.  MILES
_enters_, _carrying a small box_.

MILES.  Already astir, Miss Clara.  ’Tis early hours to be sure for one
of our London beauties.

[_He advances towards her_, _and she stretches out her hand without
rising_.  _He takes it ceremoniously_.

JOAN.  You may sit down, if you like, Mister Hooper.

[MILES _places a chair in front of_ JOAN, _and sits down on it_.

MILES.  [_Untying the parcel_.]  I’ve been so bold as to bring you a
little keepsake from my place in town, Missy.

JOAN.  How kind you are, Mister Miles.

MILES.  You’ll be able to fancy yourself in Bond Street when you see it,
Miss Clara.

JOAN.  Now, you do excite me, Mister Hooper.

MILES.  [_Opening the box and taking out a handsome spray of bright
artificial flowers_.]  There, what do you say to that, Miss?  And we can
do you the same in all the leading tints.

JOAN.  O, ’tis wonderful modish.  I declare I never did see anything to
beat it up in town.

MILES.  Now I thought as much.  I flatter myself that we can hold our own
with the best of them in Painswick High Street.

JOAN.  I seem to smell the very scent of the blossoms, Mister Hooper.

[_She puts out her hand shyly and takes the spray from_ MILES,
_pretending to smell it_.

MILES.  Well—and what’s the next pleasure, Madam?

[JOAN _drops the spray and begins to fan herself violently_.

MILES.  [_Very gently_.]  What’s Missy’s next pleasure?

JOAN.  I’m sure I don’t know, Mr. Miles.

MILES.  Miles Hooper would like Missy to ask for all that is his.

JOAN.  O, Mister Hooper, how kind you are.

MILES.  Ladies never like the sound of business, so we’ll set that aside
for a moment and discuss the music of the heart in place of it.

JOAN.  Ah, that’s a thing I do well understand, Mister Hooper.

MILES.  I loved you from the first, Miss.  There’s the true, high born
lady for you, says I to myself.  There’s beauty and style, elegance and
refinement.

JOAN.  Now, did you really think all that, Mister Hooper?

MILES.  Do not keep me in suspense, Miss Clara.

JOAN.  What about, sir?

MILES.  The answer to my question, Missy.

JOAN.  And what was that, I wonder?

MILES.  I want my pretty Miss to take the name of Hooper.  Will she
oblige her Miles?

JOAN.  O that I will.  With all my heart.

MILES.  [_Standing up_.]  I would not spoil this moment, but by and bye
my sweet Missy shall tell me all the particulars of her income, and such
trifles.

JOAN.  [_Agitatedly_.]  O let us not destroy to-day by thoughts of
anything but our dear affection one for t’other.

MILES.  Why, my pretty town Miss is already becoming countrified in her
speech.

JOAN.  ’Tis from hearing all the family.  But, dear Miles, promise there
shan’t be nothing but—but love talk between you and me this day.  I could
not bear it if we was to speak of, of other things, like.

MILES.  [_Getting up and walking about the room_.]  As you will—as you
will.  Anything to oblige a lady.

[_He stops before the table_, _on which is laid_ EMILY’S _silk dress_,
_and begins to finger it_.

JOAN.  What’s that you’re looking at?

MILES.  Ten or fifteen shillings the yard, and not a penny under, I’ll be
bound.

JOAN.  O do come and talk to me again and leave off messing with the old
silk.

MILES.  No, no, Missy, I’m a man of business habits, and ’tis my duty to
go straight off to the meadow and seek out brother Thomas.  He and I have
got to talk things over a bit, you know.

JOAN.  Off so soon!  O you have saddened me.

MILES.  Nay, what is it to lose a few minutes of sweet company, when life
is in front of us, Miss Clara?

[_He raises her hand_, _kisses it_, _and leaves her_.  _As he goes out by
the door_ CLARA _enters_.

JOAN.  O, Mistress—stop him going down to Farmer Thomas at the meadow!

CLARA.  Why, Joan, what has happened?

JOAN.  All has happened.  But stop him going to the farmer to talk about
the—the wedding and the money.

CLARA.  The money?

JOAN.  The income which he thinks I have.

CLARA.  I’ll run, but all this time I’ve been keeping Master Luke Jenner
quiet in the parlour.

JOAN.  O what does he want now?

CLARA.  Much the same as the other one wanted.

JOAN.  Must I see him?

CLARA.  Yes, indeed he will wait no longer for his answer.  He’s at
boiling point already.

JOAN.  Then send him in.  But do you run quickly, Miss Clara, and keep
Miles Hooper from the farmer.

CLARA.  I’ll run my best, never fear.  [_She goes out_.

[LUKE JENNER _comes in_, _a bunch of homely flowers in his hand_.

JOAN.  [_Seating herself_.]  You are early this morning, Mister Jenner.

LUKE.  [_Sitting opposite to her_.]  I have that to say which would not
bide till sunset, Miss Clara.

JOAN.  Indeed, Mister Jenner.  I wonder what that can be.

LUKE.  ’Tis just like this, Miss Clara.  The day I first heard as you was
coming down here—“I could do with a rich wife if so be as I could win
her,” I did tell myself.

JOAN.  O, Mister Jenner, now did you really?

LUKE.  But when I met you in the wood—saw you sitting there, so still and
yet so bright, so fine and yet so homely.  “That’s the maid for me,” I
says to myself.

JOAN.  [_Tearfully_.]  O, Mister Jenner!

LUKE.  And if it had been beggar’s rags upon her in the place of satin,
I’d have said the same.

JOAN.  [_Very much stirred_.]  O, Mister Jenner, and did you really think
like that?

LUKE.  If all the gold that do lie atween me and you was sunk in the deep
ocean, ’twould be the best as could happen.  There!

JOAN.  [_Faintly_.]  O, Mister Jenner, why?

LUKE.  Because, very like ’twould shew to you as ’tis yourself I’m after
and not the fortune what you’ve got.

JOAN.  Mister Jenner, I’m mighty sorry.

LUKE.  Don’t say I’m come too late, Miss Clara.

JOAN.  You are.  Mister Hooper was before you.  And now, ’tis he and I
who are like to be wed.

LUKE.  I might have known I had no chance.

JOAN.  [_Rising and trying to hide her emotion_.]  I wouldn’t have had it
happen so for the world, Mr. Jenner.

LUKE.  [_Laying his bunch of flowers on the table_, _his head bent_, _and
his eyes on the ground_.]  ’Twas none of your doing, Miss Clara.  You’ve
naught to blame yourself for.  ’Tis not your fault as you’re made so—so
beautiful, and yet so homely.

[JOAN _looks at him irresolutely for a moment and then precipitately
leaves the room_.

[LUKE _folds his arms on the table and rests his head on them in an
attitude of deepest despondency_.  _After a few moments_ CLARA _enters_.

CLARA.  O, Mister Jenner, what has happened to you?

LUKE.  [_Raising his head and pointing to the window_.]  There she goes,
through the garden with her lover.

CLARA.  I wish that you were in his place.

LUKE.  [_Bitterly_.]  I’ve no house with golden rails to offer her.  Nor
any horse and chaise.

CLARA.  But you carry a heart within you that is full of true love.

LUKE.  What use is the love which be fastened up in a man’s heart and can
spend itself on naught, I’d like to know.  [_He rises as though to go and
take up the bunch of flowers which has been lying on the table_.
_Brokenly_.]  I brought them for her.  But I count as he’ll have given
her something better nor these.

[CLARA _takes the flowers gently from his hand_, _and as she does so_,
EMILY _enters_.

EMILY.  What now if you please!  First with George and then with Luke.
’Twould be Thomas next if he wasn’t an old sheep of a man as wouldn’t
know if an eye was cast on him or no.  But I’ll soon put a stop to all
this.  Shame on you, Luke Jenner.  And you, you fine piece of London
vanity, I wants my kitchen to myself, do you hear, so off with you
upstairs.

[_She begins to move violently about the kitchen as the curtain falls_.



ACT IV.—Scene 1.


_The kitchen is decorated with bunches of flowers_.  _A long table is
spread with silver_, _china and food_.  CLARA _is setting mugs to each
place_.  MAGGIE _comes in from the back kitchen with a large dish of
salad_.

MAGGIE.  When folks do come down to the countryside they likes to enjoy
themselves among the vegetables.

CLARA.  [_Placing the last mug_.]  There—Now all is ready for them.

MAGGIE.  [_Bending over a place at the end of the table_.]  Come you and
look at this great old bumble-dore, Joan, what have flyed in through the
window.

CLARA.  [_Goes to_ MAGGIE’S _side and bends down over the table_.]  O
what a beautiful thing.  Look at the gold on him, and his legs are like
feathers.

MAGGIE.  [_Taking the bee carefully up in a duster and letting it fly
through the window_.]  The sign of a stranger, so they do say.

CLARA.  A stranger, Maggie?

MAGGIE.  You mind my words, ’tis a stranger as’ll sit where yon was
stuck, afore the eating be finished.

CLARA.  I don’t believe in such signs, myself.

MAGGIE.  I never knowed it not come true.

[THOMAS _comes in_.  _He is wearing his best clothes and looks pleased_,
_yet nervous_.

THOMAS.  Well, maids.  Upon my word ’tis a spread.  Never saw so many
different vituals brought together all at a time afore in this house.

MAGGIE.  ’Tis in honour of Miss Clara’s going to be married like, master.

THOMAS.  So ’tis, so ’tis.  Well—A single rose upon the bush.  Bound to
be plucked, you know.  Couldn’t be left to fade in the sun, eh, girls?

CLARA.  Where shall Maggie and me stop whilst the supper is going on,
master?  Mistress has not told us yet.

THOMAS.  [_Nervously_.]  Mistress haven’t told you—haven’t she?
Well—well—at such a time we must all—all rejoice one with t’other, like.
No difference made t’wixt master and man.  Nor t’wixt maid and missus.
Down at the far end of the table you can sit yourselves, my wenches.  Up
against George—How’s that?

CLARA.  That will do very well for us, Master.

MAGGIE.  I don’t expect as missus will let we bide there long.

THOMAS.  Look here, my wench, I be master in my own house, and at the
asking in marriage of my only sister like, ’tis me as shall say what
shall sit down with who.  And there’s an end of it.  That’s all.

MAGGIE.  I hear them a coming in, master.

[EMILY, _holding the hands of_ JESSIE _and_ ROBIN, _comes into the room_.
_Her eyes fall on_ THOMAS _who is standing between_ CLARA _and_ MAGGIE,
_looking suddenly sheepish and nervous_.

EMILY.  [_In a voice of suppressed anger_.]  Thomas! O, if I catch any
more of these goings on in my kitchen.

[JOAN, _very elegantly dressed and hanging on the arm of_ MILES HOOPER,
_follows_ EMILY _into the room_.

EMILY.  I’ll not have the food kept back any longer for Luke Jenner.  If
folk can’t come to the time when they’re asked, they baint worth waiting
for, so sit you down, all of you.

[_She sits down at the head of the table_, _a child on either side of
her_.  JOAN _languidly sinks into a chair and_ MILES _puts himself at her
right_.  _A place at her left remains empty_.  THOMAS _sits opposite_.
_Three places at the end of the table are left vacant_.  _As they sit
down_, GEORGE, _wearing a new smock and neck handkerchief_, _comes in_.

EMILY.  [_Beginning to help a dish_.]  You need not think you’re to be
helped first, Clara, for all that the party is given for you, like.  The
poor little children have been kept waiting a sad time for their supper,
first because you was such a while a having your head curled and puffed
out, and then ’twas Luke Jenner as didn’t come.

[CLARA _sits down at a place at the end of the table_.  GEORGE _and_
MAGGIE _still remain standing_.

EMILY.  [_Perceiving_ CLARA’S _movement_.]  Well, I never did see
anything so forward.  Who told you to sit yourself down along of your
betters, if you please, madam serving maid?

[GEORGE _comes involuntarily forward and stands behind_ CLARA’S _chair_.
CLARA _does not move_.

EMILY.  Get you out of that there place this instant, do you hear?
[_Turning to_ MILES.]  To see the way the young person acts one might
think as she fancied herself as something uncommon rare and high.  But
you’ll not take any fool in, not you, for all that you like to play the
fine lady.  Us can see through your game very clear, can’t us, Mr.
Hooper?

MILES.  O certainly, to be sure, Missis Spring.  No one who has the
privilege of being acquainted with a real lady of quality could be
mistook by any of the games played by this young person.

[CLARA _looks him gravely in the face without moving_.

EMILY.  Get up, do you hear, and help Maggie pass the dishes!

THOMAS.  [_Nervously_.]  Nay, nay, ’twas my doing, Emily.  I did tell the
wenches as they might sit their-selves along of we, just for th’ occasion
like.

EMILY.  And who are you, if you please, giving orders and muddling about
like a lord in my kitchen?

THOMAS.  [_Faintly_.]  Come, Emily, I’m the master.

EMILY.  And I, the mistress.  Hear that, you piece of London impudence?

GEORGE.  [_Comes forward_.]  Master Luke be coming up the garden,
mistress.

[LUKE JENNER _enters_.  _He goes straight up to_ JOAN _and holds out his
hand to her_, _and then to_ MILES.

LUKE.  I do wish you happiness with all my heart, Miss Clara.  Miles, my
lad, ’tis rare—rare pleased as I be to shake your hand this day.

EMILY.  Come, come, Luke Jenner, you’ve been and kept us waiting more nor
half an hour.  Can’t you sit yourself down and give other folk a chance
of eating their victuals quiet?  There’s naught to make all this
giddle-gaddle about as I can see.

LUKE.  [_Sitting down in the empty place by_ JOAN’S _side_.]  Beg pardon,
mistress, I know I’m a bit late.  But the victuals as are waited for do
have a better flavour to them nor those which be ate straight from the
pot like.

THOMAS.  That’s true ’tis.  And ’tis hunger as do make the best sauce.

[GEORGE _and_ MAGGIE _quietly seat themselves on either side of_ CLARA.
EMILY _is too busy dispensing the food to take any notice_.  GEORGE
_hands plates and dishes to_ CLARA, _and silently cares for her comfort
throughout the meal_.

THOMAS.  Well, Emily; well, Luke.  I didn’t think to lose my little
sister afore she’d stopped a three days in the place.  That I did not.
But I don’t grudge her to a fine prospering young man like friend Hooper,
no, I don’t.

EMILY.  No one called upon you for a speech, Thomas.  See if you can’t
make yourself of some use in passing the green stuff.  [_Turning to_
LUKE.]  We have two serving maids and a man, Mister Jenner, but they’re
to be allowed to act the quality to-day, so we’ve got to wait upon
ourselves.

LUKE.  A man is never so well served as by his own two hands, mistress.
That’s my saying at home.

THOMAS.  And a good one too, Luke, my boy, for most folk, but with me
’tis otherwise.  I’ve got another pair of hands in the place as do for me
as well, nor better than my own.

EMILY.  Yes, Thomas, I often wonders where you’d be without mine.

THOMAS.  I wasn’t thinking of yourn, Emily.  ’Tis George’s hands as I was
speaking of.

EMILY.  [_Contemptuously_.]  George!  You’ll all find out your mistake
one day, Thomas.

MILES.  [_To_ JOAN, _who has been nervously handling her knife and fork
and watching_ CLARA’S _movements furtively_.]  My sweet Miss is not
shewing any appetite.

JOAN.  I’m—I’m not used to country fare.

EMILY.  O, I hear you, Clara.  Thomas, this is very fine.  Clara can’t
feed ’cause she’s not used to country fare!  What next, I’d like to know!

ROBIN.  [_Who has been watching_ JOAN.]  Why does Aunt sometimes put her
knife in her mouth, Mother?

MILES.  My good boy, ’tis plain you’ve never mixed among the quality or
you would know that each London season has its own new fashion of acting.
This summer ’tis the stylish thing to put on a countryfied mode at table.

JESSIE.  Joan don’t eat like that, Mister Hooper.

MILES.  Joan’s only a maid servant, Miss Jessie.  You should learn to
distinguish between such people and fine ladles like your aunt.

JOAN.  [_Forcing herself to be more animated_.]  Give me some fruit,
Miles—I have no appetite to-day for heavy food.  ’Tis far too warm.

MILES.  As for me, the only food I require is the sweet honey of my
Missy’s voice.

THOMAS.  Ah, ’tis a grand thing to be a young man, Miles Hooper.  There
was a day when such things did come handy to my tongue, like.

EMILY.  [_Sharply_.]  I don’t seem to remember that day, Thomas.

THOMAS.  [_Sheepishly_, _his look falling_.]  Ah—’twas afore—afore our
courting time, Emily.

LUKE.  [_Energetically_.]  Prime weather for the hay, farmer.  I count as
this dry will last until the whole of it be carried.  [_A knock is heard
at the door_.

THOMAS.  Now who’ll that be?  Did you see anyone a-coming up the path,
Mother?

EMILY.  Do you expect me to be carving of the fowls and a-looking out of
the window the same time, Thomas?

THOMAS.  George, my lad, do you open the door and see who ’tis.

[JOAN _looks anxiously across the table at_ CLARA.  _Then she drops her
spoon and fork and takes up her fan_, _using it violently whilst_ GEORGE
_slowly gets up and opens the door_.  LORD LOVEL _is seen standing on the
threshold_.

LORD LOVEL.  [_To_ GEORGE.]  Kindly tell me, my man, is this the farm
they call Ox Lease?

GEORGE.  Ah, that’s right enough.

LORD LOVEL.  I’m sorry to break in upon a party like this, but I want to
see Miss Clara Spring if she is here.

THOMAS.  [_Standing up_.]  You’ve come at the very moment, master.  This
be a giving in marriage supper.  And ’tis Miss Clara, what’s only sister
to me, as is to be wed.

LORD LOVEL.  Impossible, my good sir!

THOMAS.  Ah, that’s it.  Miles Hooper, he’s the happy man.  If you be
come by Painswick High Street you’ll have seen his name up over the shop
door.

LORD LOVEL.  Miss Clara—Miles Hooper—No, I can’t believe it.

THOMAS.  [_Pointing towards_ JOAN _and_ MILES.]  There they be—the both
of them.  Turtle doves on the same branch.  You’re right welcome, master,
to sit down along of we as one of the family on this occasion.

LORD LOVEL.  [_Looking at_ JOAN _who has suddenly dropped her fan and is
leaning back with a look of supplication towards_ CLARA.]  I must have
come to the wrong place—that’s not the Miss Clara Spring I know.

MILES.  [_Bending over_ JOAN.]  My sweet Missy has no acquaintance with
this gentleman, I am sure.

[LORD LOVEL _suddenly turns round and perceives_ CLARA _seated by_ MAGGIE
_at the table_.  _He quickly goes towards her_, _holding out his hand_.

LORD LOVEL.  Miss Clara.  Tell me what is going on.  [_Looking at her cap
and apron_.]  Why have you dressed yourself like this?

THOMAS.  Come, come.  There seems to be some sort of a hitch here.  The
young gentleman has very likely stopped a bit too long at the Spotted Cow
on his way up.

JOAN.  [_Very faintly_, _looking at_ CLARA.]  O do you stand by me now.

CLARA.  [_Lays her hand on_ LORD LOVEL’S _arm_.]  Come with me, my lord.
I think I can explain everything if you will only step outside with me.
Come—[_She leads him swiftly through the door which_ GEORGE _shuts behind
them_.]

[JOAN _leans back in her chair as though she were going to faint_.

THOMAS.  Well, now—but that’s a smartish wench, getting him out so quiet,
like.  George, you’d best step after them to see as the young man don’t
annoy her in any way.

EMILY.  That young person can take good care of herself.  Sit you down,
Thomas and George, and get on with your eating, if you can.

JESSIE.  Why did he think Joan was our aunt, mother?

EMILY.  ’Cause he was in that state when a man don’t know his right leg
from his left arm.

GEORGE.  [_Who has remained standing_.]  Look you here, Master Thomas—see
here mistress.  ’Tis time as there was an end of this cursed play acting,
or whatever ’tis called.

EMILY.  Play acting there never has been in my house, George, I’d like
for you to know.

GEORGE.  O yes there have been, mistress.  And ’tis time it was finished.
[_Pointing to_ JOAN.]  You just take and ask that young person what she
do mean by tricking herself out in Miss Clara’s gowns and what not, and
by having herself called by Miss Clara’s own name.

MILES.  [_Taking_ JOAN’S _hand in his_.]  My sweet Miss must pay no
attention to the common fellow.  I dare him to speak like that of my
little lady bride.

GEORGE.  A jay bird in peacock’s feathers, that’s what ’tis.  And she’s
took you all in, the every one of you.

JESSIE.  O George, isn’t she really our aunt from London?

GEORGE.  No, that she baint, Miss Jessie.

THOMAS.  Come, come, my lad.  I never knew you act so afore.

EMILY.  ’Tis clear where he have spent his time this afternoon.

LUKE.  Nay, nay, I never did see George inside of the Spotted Cow in all
the years I’ve known of him.  George baint made to that shape.

ROBIN.  Then who is Aunt Clara, George?

GEORGE.  She who be just gone from out of the room, Master Robin, and
none other.

THOMAS.  Come, George, this talk do sound so foolish.

GEORGE.  I can’t help that, master.  Foolish deeds do call for foolish
words, may be.

MILES.  My pretty Miss is almost fainting, I declare.  [_He pours out
water for_ JOAN _and bends affectionately over her_.]  Put the drunken
fellow outside and let’s have an end of this.

GEORGE.  [_Advancing_.]  Yes, us’ll have an end to it very shortly.  But
I be going to put a straight question to the maid first, and ’tis a
straight answer as her’ll have to give me in reply.

MILES.  Not a word, not a word.  Miss is sadly upset by your rude
manners.

GEORGE.  Do you ask of the young lady but one thing, Master Hooper, and
then I’ll go when you will.

MILES.  Well, my man, what’s that?

GEORGE.  Do you get her to speak the name as was given she at baptism,
Mister Hooper.

MILES.  This is madness.  My pretty Miss shall not be teased by such a
question.  Thomas, you’ll have to get this stupid fellow locked up, or
something.

GEORGE.  [_Angrily_.]  Her shall say it, if I stands here all night.

[JOAN _suddenly bends forward and hides her face in her hands_, _her form
shaken by violent weeping_.  _The door opens and_ CLARA _enters followed
by_ LORD LOVEL.  _She has taken off her cap and apron_.

JOAN.  [_Raising her head and stretching out her hands to_ CLARA.]  O
speak for me, mistress.  Speak for me and help.

CLARA.  I am Clara, she is Joan.  Thomas, Emily, I pray you to forgive us
both for taking you in like this.

THOMAS.  Well, I never did hear tell of such a thing.

EMILY.  I’m not going to believe a word the young person says.

LORD LOVEL.  She has told you but the truth, my good friends.

EMILY.  And who are you, to put your tongue into the basin, I’d like to
know?

CLARA.  This is the nephew of my dear godmother.  Lord Lovel is his name.

EMILY.  If you think I’m going to be took in with such nonsense, the more
fool you, I says.

LORD LOVEL.  But all that Miss Clara tells you is true, Missis Spring.
She and her serving maid, for certain reasons of their own, agreed to
change parts for a few days.

THOMAS.  [_Turning to_ JOAN.]  Is this really so, my maid?

[JOAN _bows her head_, _her handkerchief still covering her face_.

THOMAS.  [_To_ CLARA.]  Who ever would have thought on such a thing?

CLARA.  ’Twas a foolish enough thing, but no harm is done.  Look up,
Joan, and do not cry so pitifully.

JOAN.  [_Looking up at_ MILES.]  You’ll never go and change towards me
now that we’re most as good as wed, will you, Mister Hooper?

MILES.  [_Rising and speaking with cold deliberation_.]  Ladies and
gentlemen, I have the honour to wish you all a very pleasant evening.

THOMAS.  Come, come Miles, we be all a bit turned in the head, it seems.
But things’ll settle back to their right places if you gives them a
chance.  Sit you down and take a drink of sommat.

EMILY.  Don’t be so foolish, Thomas.  As if a man what’s been stung by a
wasp would care to sit himself down on a hornet’s nest.

MILES.  You are perfectly right, madam.  This is no place for me.  I have
been sported with.  My good name has been treated as a jest.

JOAN.  O Mister Hooper, ’twas my doing, all of it, but I did it for the
best, I did.

MILES.  [_Going to the door_.]  Thank you, my good woman.  Next time you
want to play a little prank like this, I beg that you will select your
partner with more care.  The name of Hooper is not a suitable one to toy
with, let me tell you.

ROBIN.  Aren’t you going to marry her then, Mister Hooper?

MILES.  I am not, Master Robin.

JESSIE.  You said as you could tell a real lady by her ways, but you
couldn’t very well, could he, Mother?

[MILES, _covering his mortification with sarcastic bows made to the right
and left_, _goes out_.  JOAN _leans back almost fainting in her chair_.

LUKE.  [_Taking her hand_.]  This is the finest hearing in all the world
for me, Miss—Miss Joan.

JOAN.  O Mr. Jenner, how deep you must despise me.

LUKE.  And that I’d never do, though I’m blest if I know why you did it.

CLARA.  It was as much my fault as hers, Mister Jenner.  There were
things that each of us wanted, and that we thought we might get, by
changing places, one with the other.

THOMAS.  [_To_ CLARA.]  Well, my maid, I’m blessed if I do know what you
was a hunting about for, dressed up as a serving wench.

CLARA.  [_Turning a little towards_ GEORGE.]  I thought to find something
which was mine when I was a little child, but which I lost.

JESSIE.  O Georgie do know how to find things which is lost.  ’Twas he as
brought back the yellow pullet when her had strayed off.

ROBIN.  Yes.  And ’twas George as did find your blue hair ribbon Aunt
Clara, when it was dropped in the hayfield.

JESSIE.  I believe as Georgie knowed which of them was our aunt all the
time.

ROBIN.  I believe it too.

THOMAS.  Why, George, you sly dog, what put you on the scent, like?

GEORGE.  ’Twas not one, but many things.  And if you wants a clear proof
[_Turning to_ CLARA]—put back the laces of your sleeve, Miss Clara.

CLARA.  What for, George?

GEORGE.  Whilst you was a-doing of the taters, this morning, you did pull
up your sleeves.  ’Twas then I held the proof.  Not that ’twas needed for
me, like.

[CLARA _pushes up both her sleeves_, _and holds out her arms towards_
GEORGE.

GEORGE.  [_Pointing to the scar_.]  There ’tis—there’s where th’ old
gander have left his mark.

THE CHILDREN.  [_Getting up_.]  Where, where!  O do let us see!

[_They run round to where_ CLARA _stands and look eagerly at the mark on
her arm which she shews to them_.

THOMAS.  George, my lad, you baint th’ only one as can play fox.

EMILY.  Don’t you be so set up as to think as you can, Thomas.  For a
more foolish figure of a goose never was cut.  A man might tell when
’twas his own sister, if so be as he had his full senses upon him.

THOMAS.  Never you mind, Emily.  What I says to George is, he baint th’
only fox.  How now, my lad?

GEORGE.  I don’t see what you be driving at, master.

THOMAS.  [_Slyly_.]  What about that bit of blue ribbon, George?

CLARA.  Yes, Thomas.  Ask Georgie if he will give it back to me.

GEORGE.  [_Stepping forward till he is by_ CLARA’S _side_.]  No, and that
I will not do.  ’Tis little enough as I holds, but what little, I’ll keep
it.

CLARA.  [_To_ GEORGE.]  Those words are like a frail bridge on which I
can stand for a moment.  Georgie, do you remember the days when you used
to lead me by the hand into the deep parts of the wood, lifting me over
the briars and the brambles so that I should not be hurt by their thorns?

GEORGE.  Hark you here, Clara.  This once I’ll speak.  I never had but
one true love, and that was a little maid what would run through the
woods and over all the meadows, her hand in mine.  I learnt she the note
of every bird.  And when th’ evening was come, us would watch together
till th’ old mother badger did get from out of her hole, and start
hunting in the long grasses.

CLARA.  [_Taking_ GEORGE’S _hand_.]  Then, Georgie, there was no need for
the disguise that I put upon myself.

GEORGE.  Do you think as the moon can hide her light when there baint no
cloud upon the sky, Clara?

CLARA.  Georgie, I went in fear of what this gold and silver might raise
up between you and me.

THOMAS.  That’s all finished and done with now, my maid.  If I’d a
hundred sisters, George should have the pick of them, he should.

EMILY.  Thank you.  Thomas.  One of your sisters is about enough.

LUKE.  [_Who has been sitting with_ JOAN’S _hand in his_.]  Hark you
here, mistress.  There’s many a cloudy morning turns out a sunshiny day.
Baint that a true saying, Joan?

JOAN.  [_Looking up radiantly_.]  O that it is, dear Luke.

LORD LOVEL.  Miss Clara, it seems that there is nothing more to be said.

EMILY.  And that’s the most sensible thing as has been spoke this long
while.  Thomas, your sister favours you in being a poor, grizzling sort
of a muddler.  She might have took up with this young man, who has a very
respectable appearance.

LORD LOVEL.  [_Coming forward to_ GEORGE _and shaking his hand_.]  I’m
proud to make your acquaintance, sir.

EMILY.  [_Rising angrily_.]  Come Thomas, come Luke, come Clara.  Us
might be a barn full of broody hens the way we be set around of this here
table.  ’Twill be midnight afore the things is cleared away and washed
up.

THOMAS.  What if it be, Emily.  ’Tisn’t very often as I gets the chance
of minding how ’twas in times gone past.  Ah, I was a young man in those
days, too, I was.

EMILY.  And ’tis a rare old addle head as you be got now, Thomas.

JESSIE.  [_Slipping her hand into_ THOMAS’S.]  O do let us sit up till
midnight, Dad.

ROBIN.  I shall eat a smartish lot more if we does.

                               [_Curtain_.]



MY MAN JOHN


CHARACTERS


MRS. GARDNER.

WILLIAM, _her son_.

JOHN, _his farm hand_.

SUSAN, _their maid_.

JULIA, _the owner of Luther’s Farm_.

LAURA, CHRIS, NAT, TANSIE, _gipsies_.



ACT I.—Scene 1.


_The garden of the Road Farm_.  _To the right an arbour covered with
roses_.  MRS. GARDNER _is seated in it_, _knitting_.  WILLIAM _is tying
up flowers and watering them_.

MRS. GARDNER.  And you have come to a ripe age when ’tis the plain duty
of a man to turn himself towards matrimony, William.

WILLIAM.  ’Tis a bit of quiet that I’m after, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  Quiet! ’tis a good shaking up as you want, William.  Why,
you have got as set in your ways as last season’s jelly.

WILLIAM.  Then let me bide so.  ’Tis all I ask.

MRS. GARDNER.  No, William.  I’m got to be an old woman now, and ’tis
time that I had someone at my side to help in the house-keeping and to
share the work.

WILLIAM.  What’s Susan for, if ’tisn’t to do that?

MRS. GARDNER.  Susan?  As idle a piece of goods as ever was seen on a
summer’s day!  No.  ’Tisn’t a serving maid that I was thinking of, but
someone who should be of more account in the house.  ’Tis a daughter that
I’m wanting, William, and I’ve picked out the one who is to my taste.

WILLIAM.  Then you’ve done more than I have, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  ’Tis the young person whom Luther Smith has left his farm
and all his money to.  I’ve got my eye on her for you, William.

WILLIAM.  Then you’ll please to put your eye somewhere else, Mother, for
I’ve seen them, and they don’t suit me.

MRS. GARDNER.  Come, this is news, William.  Pray where did you meet?

WILLIAM.  ’Twas when I was in church last Sunday.  In they came, the two
young maids from Luthers, like a couple of gallinie fowls, the way they
did step up over the stones and shake the plumes of them this way and
that.  I don’t hold with fancy tricks.  I never could abide them.  No
foreign wenches for me.  And that’s about all.

MRS. GARDNER.  ’Tis true they are from town, but none the worse for that,
William.  You have got sadly rude and cumbersome in your ways, or you
wouldn’t feel as you do towards a suitable young person.  ’Tis from
getting about with John so much, I think.

WILLIAM.  Now look you here, Mother, I’ve got used to my own ways, and
when a man’s got set in his own ways, ’tis best to leave him there.  I’m
past the age for marrying, and you ought to know this better than anyone.

MRS. GARDNER.  I know that ’tis a rare lot of foolishness that you do
talk, William, seeing as you’re not a year past thirty yet.  But if you
can’t be got to wed for love of a maid, perhaps you’ll do so for love of
a purse, when ’tis fairly filled.

WILLIAM.  There’s always been enough for you and me so far, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  Ah, but that won’t last for ever.  I’m got an old woman,
and I can’t do with the dairy nor the poultry as I was used to do.  And
things have not the same prices to them as ’twas a few years gone by.
And last year’s season was the worst that I remember.

WILLIAM.  So ’twas.  But so long as there’s a roof over our heads and a
loaf of bread and a bit of garden for me to work on, where’s the harm,
Mother?

MRS. GARDNER.  O you put me out of all patience, William.  Where’s the
rent to come from if we go on like this?  And the clothing, and the food?
And John’s wages, and your flower seeds, if it comes to that, for you
have got terrible wasteful over the flowers.

WILLIAM.  I wish you’d take it quieter, Mother.  Look at you bed of musk,
’tis a grand smell that comes up from it all around.

MRS. GARDNER.  No, William.  I’ve no eye for musk, nor nose to smell at
it either till you’ve spoken the word that I require.

WILLIAM.  Best let things bide as they are, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  I’ll leave you no rest till you do as I wish, William.
I’m got an old woman, and ’tis hard I should be denied in aught that I’ve
set my heart upon.

WILLIAM.  Please to set it upon something different, Mother, for I’m not
a marrying man, and John he’ll tell you the same thing.

MRS. GARDNER.  John!  I’m sick of the very name of him.  I can’t think
how ’tis that you can lower yourself by being so close with a common farm
hand, William.

WILLIAM.  Ah, ’twould be a rare hard matter to find the equal to John,
Mother.  ’Tis of gold all through, and every bit of him, that he is made.
You don’t see many like John these days, that’s the truth.

MRS. GARDNER.  Well, then, John, won’t be here much longer, for we shan’t
have anything to give him if things go on like this.

WILLIAM.  I’d wed forty wives sooner than lose John—and that I would.

MRS. GARDNER.  I’m not asking you to wed forty.  ’Tis only one.

WILLIAM.  And that one?

MRS. GARDNER.  The young person who’s got Luther’s farm.  Her name is
Julia.

WILLIAM.  [_Leaving his flower border and walking up and down
thoughtfully_.]  Would she be the one with the cherry colour ribbons to
her gown?

MRS. GARDNER.  I’m sure I don’t know.  I was not at church last Sunday.

WILLIAM.  Or t’other one in green?

MRS. GARDNER.  You appear to have used your eyes pretty well, William.

WILLIAM.  O, I can see a smartish bit about me when I choose.

MRS. GARDNER.  T’other wench is but the housekeeper.

WILLIAM.  Where did you get that from?

MRS. GARDNER.  ’Twas Susan who told me.  She got it off someone down in
the village.

WILLIAM.  Well, which of the maids would have had the cherry-coloured
ribbons to her, Mother?

MRS. GARDNER.  I’m sure I don’t know, but if you go up there courting
this afternoon, may happen that you’ll find out.

WILLIAM.  This afternoon?  O, that’s much too sudden like.

MRS. GARDNER.  Not a bit of it.  Recollect, your fancy has been set on
her since Sunday.

WILLIAM.  Come, Mother, you can’t expect a man to jump into the river all
of a sudden like this.

MRS. GARDNER.  I expect you to go up there this very day and to commence
telling her of your feelings.

WILLIAM.  But I’ve got no feelings that I can tell her of, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  Then you’ll please to find some, William.

WILLIAM.  ’Tis a thing that in all my life I’ve never done as to go
visiting of a strange wench of an afternoon.

MRS. GARDNER.  Then ’tis time you did begin.

WILLIAM.  And what’s more, I’ll not do it, neither.

MRS. GARDNER.  Then I must tell John that we have no further need of his
services, for where the money to pay him is to come from, I don’t know.

[_She rolls up her knitting and rises_.

WILLIAM.  Stop a moment, Mother—stop a moment.  Maybe ’twon’t be so bad
when I’ve got more used to the idea.  You’ve pitched it upon me so sudden
like.

MRS. GARDNER.  Rent day has pitched upon me more sudden, William.

WILLIAM.  Look you, Mother, I’ll get and turn it about in my mind a bit.
And, maybe, I’ll talk it over with John.  I can’t do more, can I now?

MRS. GARDNER.  Talk it over with whom you please, William.  But remember
’tis this very afternoon that you have to start courting.  I’ve laid your
best clothes out all ready on your bed.

WILLIAM.  [_Sighing heavily_.]  O then I count there’s no way out of it.
But how am I to bring it off?  ’Tis that I’d like to know.

MRS. GARDNER.  Maybe your man will be able to give you some suitable
advice.  Such things are beyond me, I’m afraid.

[_She gathers up her work things_, _and with a contemptuous look at her
son_, _she goes slowly out of the garden_.

[WILLIAM _remains on the path lost in perturbed thought_.  _Suddenly he
goes to the gate and calls loudly_.

WILLIAM.  John, John!

JOHN.  [_From afar_.]  Yes, master.

WILLIAM.  [_Calling_.]  Come you here, John, as quick as you can run.

JOHN.  That I will, master.

[JOHN _hurries into the garden_.

WILLIAM.  John, I’m powerful upset.

JOHN.  Mistress’s fowls bain’t got among the flowers again, be they,
Master William?

WILLIAM.  No, no, John.  ’Tisn’t so bad as that.  But I’m in a smartish
fix, I can tell you.

JOHN.  How’s that, master?

WILLIAM.  John, did you ever go a’courting?

JOHN.  Well, master, that’s a thing to ask a man!

WILLIAM.  ’Tis a terrible serious matter, John.  Did you ever go?

JOHN.  Courting?

WILLIAM.  Yes.

JOHN.  Why, I count as I have went a score of times, master.

WILLIAM.  A score of times, John!  But that was before you were got to
the age you are now?

JOHN.  Before that, and now, master.

WILLIAM.  And now, John?

JOHN.  To be sure, master.

WILLIAM.  Then you know how ’tis done?

JOHN.  Ah, that I does, master.

WILLIAM.  Well, John, you’re the man for me.

JOHN.  Lord bless us, master, but what have you to do with courting?

WILLIAM.  You may well ask me, John.  Why, look you here—until this very
morning, you would say I was a quiet and a peaceable man, with the right
place for everything and everything in its place.

JOHN.  Ah, and that you was, Master William.  And a time for all things
too, and a decenter, proper gentleman no man ever served—that’s truth.

WILLIAM.  Ah, John—the mistress has set her will to change all this.

JOHN.  Now, you’d knock me down with a feather.

WILLIAM.  That she has, John.  I’ve got to set out courting—a thing I’ve
never thought to do in all my living days.

JOHN.  That I’ll be bound you have not, Master William, though a finer
gentleman than yourself is not to be found in all the country side.

WILLIAM.  [_With shy eagerness_.]  Is that how I appear to you, John?

JOHN.  Ah, and that you does, master.  And ’tis the wonder with all for
miles around as how you’ve been and kept yourself to yourself like this,
so many years.

WILLIAM.  Well, John, it appears that I’m to pass out of my own keeping.
My Sunday clothes are all laid out upon the bed.

JOHN.  Bless my soul, Master William, and ’tis but Thursday too.

WILLIAM.  Isn’t that a proper day for this sort of business, John?

JOHN.  I’ve always been used to Saturday myself, but with a gentleman
’tis different like.

WILLIAM.  Well, John, there’s nothing in this day or that as far as I can
see.  A bad job is a bad job, no matter what, and the day of it does make
but very little difference.

JOHN.  You’re right there, master.  But if I may be so bold, where is it
as you be going off courting this afternoon?

WILLIAM.  Ah—now you and me will have a straight talk one with
another—for ’tis to you I look, John, for to pull me out of this fix
where the mistress has gone and put me.

JOHN.  And that I’ll do, master—with all the will in the world.

WILLIAM.  Well then, John, ’tis to be one of those maids from strange
parts who are come to live at old Luther’s, up yonder.

JOHN.  Ah, I seed the pair of them in church last Sunday.  Fine maids,
the both of them, and properly suitable if you was to ask me.

WILLIAM.  ’Tis only the one I’ve got to court, John.

JOHN.  And I reckon that’s one too many, Master William.

WILLIAM.  You’re right there, John.  ’Tis Mistress Julia I’ve to go at.

JOHN.  And which of the pair would that be, Master William?

WILLIAM.  That one with the cherry colour ribbons to her gown, I believe.

JOHN.  Ah, t’other was plainer in her dressing, and did keep the head of
her bent smartish low on her book, so that a man couldn’t get a fair look
upon she.

WILLIAM.  That would be the housekeeper or summat.  ’Tis Julia, who has
the old man’s money, I’m to court.

JOHN.  Well, master, I’ll come along with you a bit of the road, to keep
your heart up like.

WILLIAM.  You must do more than that for me, John.  You’ve got to learn
me how the courting is done before I set off.

JOHN.  Why, master, courting baint a thing what wants much learning,
that’s the truth.

WILLIAM.  ’Tis all new to me, John.  I’m blessed if I know how to
commence.  Why, the thought of it at once sends me hot all over; and then
as cold again.

JOHN.  You start and get your clothes on, master.  ’Tis half the
battle—clothes.  What a man cannot bring out of his mouth of a Saturday
will fall out easy as anything on the Sunday with his best coat to his
back.

WILLIAM.  No, John.  The clothes won’t help me in this fix.  You must
tell me how to start once I get to the farm and am by the door.

JOHN.  You might take a nosegay with you, master.

WILLIAM.  I might.  And yet, ’tis a pity to cut the blooms for naught.

JOHN.  I always takes a nosegay with me, of a Saturday night.

WILLIAM.  Why, John, who is it that you are courting then?

JOHN.  ’Tis that wench Susan, since you ask me, master.  But not a word
of it to th’ old mistress.

WILLIAM.  I’ll not mention it, John.

JOHN.  Thank you kindly, master.

WILLIAM.  And now, John, when the nosegay’s all gathered and the flowers
bunched, what else should I do?

JOHN.  Well, then you gives it her when you gets to the door.  And very
like she’ll ask you into the parlour, seeing as you be a particular fine
looking gentleman.

WILLIAM.  I could not stand that, John.  I’ve no tongue to me within a
strange house.

JOHN.  Well then, maybe as you and she will sit aside of one another in
an arbour in the garden, or sommat of the sort.

WILLIAM.  Yes, John.  And what next?

JOHN.  I’m blessed if I do know, master.  You go along and commence.

WILLIAM.  No, John, and that I won’t.  Not till I know more about it
like.

JOHN.  Well, master, I’m fairly puzzled hard to tell you.

WILLIAM.  I have the very thought, John.  Do you bring Susan out here.
I’ll place myself behind the shrubs, and do you get and court her as well
as you know how; and maybe that will learn me something.

JOHN.  Susan’s a terrible hard wench to court, Master William.

WILLIAM.  ’Twill make the better lesson, John.

JOHN.  ’Tis a stone in place of a heart what Susan’s got.

WILLIAM.  ’Twill very likely be the same with Julia.  Go and bring her
quickly, John.

[WILLIAM _places himself behind the arbour_.

JOHN.  As you will, master—but Susan have been wonderful nasty in her
ways with me of late.  ’Tis my belief as she have took up with one of
they low gipsy lads what have been tenting up yonder, against the wood.

WILLIAM.  Well, ’twill be your business to win her back to you, John.
See—am I properly hid, behind the arbour?

JOHN.  Grandly hid, master—I’ll go and fetch the wench.  [JOHN _leaves
the garden_.

[WILLIAM _remains hidden behind the arbour_.  _After a few minutes_ JOHN
_returns pulling_ SUSAN _by the hand_.

SUSAN.  And what are you about, bringing me into master’s flower garden
at this time of the morning?  I should like for mistress to look out of
one of the windows—you’d get into fine trouble, and me too, John.

JOHN.  Susan, my dear, you be a passing fine wench to look upon, and
that’s the truth.

SUSAN.  And is it to tell me such foolishness that you’ve brought me all
the way out of the kitchen?

JOHN.  [_Stooping and picking a dandelion_.]  And to give you this
flower, dear Susan.

SUSAN.  [_Throwing it down_.]  A common thing like that!  I’ll have none
of it.

JOHN.  ’Tis prime you looks when you be angered, Susan.  The blue fire do
fairly leap from your eyes.

SUSAN.  O you’re enough to anger a saint, John.  What have you brought me
here for?

JOHN.  I thought I’d like to tell you as you was such a fine wench,
Susan.  And that I did never see a finer.

SUSAN.  You do look at me as though I was yonder prize heifer what Master
William’s so powerful set on.

JOHN.  Ah—and ’tis true as you have sommat of the look of she when you
stands a pawing of the ground as you be now.

SUSAN.  Is it to insult me that you’ve got me away from the kitchen,
John?

JOHN.  Nay—’tis to tell you that you be a rare smartish wench—and I’ll go
along to the church with you any day as you will name, my dear.

SUSAN.  That you won’t, John.  I don’t mind taking a nosegay of flowers
from you now and then, and hearing you speak nice to me over the garden
gate of an evening, but I’m not a-going any further along the road with
you.  That’s all.  [_She moves towards the house_.

JOHN.  Now, do you bide a moment longer, Susan—and let me say sommat of
all they feelings which be stirring like a nest of young birds in my
heart for you.

SUSAN.  They may stir within you like an old waspes’ nest for all I care,
John.

JOHN.  Come, Susan, put better words to your tongue nor they.  You can
speak honey sweet when it do please you to.

SUSAN.  ’Tis mustard as is the right food for you this morning, John.

JOHN.  I gets enough of that from mistress—I mean—well—I mean—[_in a
loud_, _clear voice_]—O mistress is a wonderful fine woman and no
mistake.

SUSAN.  You won’t say as much when she comes round the corner and catches
you a wasting of your time like this, John.

JOHN.  Is it a waste of time to stand a-drinking in the sweetness of the
finest rose what blooms, Susan?

SUSAN.  Is that me, John?

JOHN.  Who else should it be, Susan?

SUSAN.  Well, John—sometimes I think there’s not much amiss with you.

JOHN.  O Susan, them be grand words.

SUSAN.  But then again—I do think as you be getting too much like Master
William.

JOHN.  And a grander gentleman than he never went upon the earth.

SUSAN.  Cut and clipped and trimmed and dry as that box tree yonder.  And
you be getting sommat of the same fashion about you, John.

JOHN.  Then make me differenter, Susan, you know the way.

SUSAN.  I’m not so sure as I do, John.

JOHN.  Wed me come Michaelmas, Susan.

SUSAN.  And that I’ll not.  And what’s more, I’m not a-going to stop here
talking foolish with you any longer.  I’ve work to do within.  [SUSAN
_goes off_.

[JOHN, _mopping his face and speaking regretfully as_ WILLIAM _steps from
behind the arbour_.

JOHN.  There, master.  That’s courting for you.  That’s the sort of
thing.  And a caddling thing it is too.

WILLIAM.  But ’tis a thing that you do rare finely and well, John.  And
’tis you and none other who shall do the job for me this afternoon,
there—that’s what I’ve come to in my thoughts.

JOHN.  Master, master, whatever have you got in your head now?

WILLIAM.  See here, John—we’ll cut a nosegay for you to carry—some of the
best blooms I’ll spare.  And you, who know what courting is, and who have
such fine words to your tongue, shall step up at once and do the business
for me.

JOHN.  Master, if ’twas an acre of stone as you’d asked me to plough, I’d
sooner do it nor a job like this.

WILLIAM.  John, you’ve been a good friend to me all the years that you
have lived on the farm, you’ll not go and fail me now.

JOHN.  Why not court the lady with your own tongue, Master William?
’Twould have better language to it nor what I can give the likes of she.

WILLIAM.  Your words are all right, John.  ’Tisn’t as though sensible
speech was needed.  You do know what’s wanted with the maids, whilst I
have never been used to them in any way whatever.  So let’s say no more
about it, but commence gathering the flowers.

JOHN.  [_Heavily_, _but resigned_.]  Since you say so, master.  [_They
begin to gather flowers_.

WILLIAM.  What blooms do young maids like the best, John?

JOHN.  Put in a sprig of thyme, master.

WILLIAM.  Yes—I can well spare that.

JOHN.  And a rose that’s half opened, master.

WILLIAM.  It goes to my heart to have a rose wasted on this business,
John.

JOHN.  ’Tain’t likely as you can get through courtship without parting
with sommat, master.  Lucky if it baint gold as you’re called upon to
spill.

WILLIAM.  That’s true, John—I’ll gather the rose—

JOHN.  See here, master, the lily and the pink.  Them be brave flowers,
the both of them, and with a terrible fine scent coming out of they.

WILLIAM.  Put them into the nosegay, John—And now—no more—’Tis enough
waste for one day.

JOHN.  ’Tis a smartish lot of blooms as good as done for, says I.

WILLIAM.  A slow sowing and a quick reaping, John.

JOHN.  ’Tis to be hoped as ’twill be the same with the lady, master.

WILLIAM.  There, off you go, John.  And mind, ’tis her with the cherry
ribbon to her gown and bonnet.

JOHN.  Why, master, and her might have a different ribbon to her head
this day, being that ’tis Thursday?

WILLIAM.  An eye like—like a bullace, John.  And a grand colour to the
face of her like yon rose.

JOHN.  That’s enough, Master William.  I’ll not pitch upon the wrong
maid, never fear.  And now I’ll clean myself up a bit at the pump, and
set off straight away.

WILLIAM.  [_Shaking_ JOHN’S _hand_.]  Good luck to you, my man.  And if
you can bring it off quiet and decent like without me coming in till at
the last, why, ’tis a five pound note that you shall have for your
trouble.

JOHN.  You be a grand gentleman to serve, Master William, and no mistake
about that.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT II.—Scene 1.


_A wood_.  _To the right a fallen tree_ (_or a bench_).  JOHN _comes from
the left_, _a large bunch of flowers in his hand_.

JOHN.  Out, and a taking of the air in the wood, be they?  Well, bless my
soul, but ’tis a rare caddling business what master’s put upon I.  ’Tis
worse nor any job he have set me to in all the years I’ve been along of
him, so ’tis.  But I’m the one to bring it off slick and straight, and,
bless me, if I won’t take and hide myself by yon great bush till I see
the wenches a-coming up.  That’ll give me time to have a quiet look at
the both and pick out she what master’s going a-courting of.

[JOHN _puts himself behind some thick bushes as_ JULIA _and_ LAURA _come
forward_.  JULIA _is very simply dressed_.  _Her head is bare_, _and she
is carrying her white cotton sunbonnet_.  LAURA _wears finer clothes and
her bonnet is tied by bright ribbons of cherry colour_.

LAURA.  [_Stopping by the bench_.]  We’ll sit down—’Tis a warm day, and
I’ve had enough of walking.

[_She sinks down on the seat_.

JULIA.  [_Looking all round her_.]  ’Tis beautiful and quiet here.  O
this is ever so much better than the farm.

LAURA.  The farm!  What’s wrong with that, I should like to know?

JULIA.  Everything.  ’Tis more like a prison than a home to me.  Within
the house there’s always work crying out to be done—and outside I believe
’tis worse—work—nothing else speaking to me.

LAURA.  You’re a sad ungrateful girl.  Why, there’s many would give their
eyes to change with you.

JULIA.  But out here ’tis all peace, and freedom.  There’s naught calling
out to be done.  The flowers grow as they like, and the breezes move them
this way, and that.  The ground is thick with leaves and blossoms and no
one has got to sweep it, and the hard things with great noises to them,
like pails and churns, are far away and clean forgot.

LAURA.  ’Tisn’t much use as you’ll be on the farm.

JULIA.  I wish I’d never come nigh to it.  I was happier far before.

LAURA.  ’Tis a grand life.  You’ll see it as I do one of these days.

JULIA.  No, that I shall not.  Every day that I wake and hear the cattle
lowing beneath my window I turn over on my pillow, and ’tis a heart of
lead that turns with me.  The smell of the wild flowers in the fields
calls me, but ’tis to the dairy I must go, to work.  And at noonday, when
the shade of the woodland makes me thirsty for its coolness, ’tis the
kitchen I must be in—or picking green stuff for the market.  And so on
till night, when the limbs of me can do no more and the spirit in me is
like a bird with the wing of it broken.

LAURA.  You’ll harden to it all by winter time right enough.

JULIA.  O I’ll never harden to it.  ’Tis not that way I am made.  Some
girls can set themselves down with four walls round them, and do their
task nor ask for anything beyond, but ’tis not so with me.

LAURA.  How is it then with you?

JULIA.  [_Pointing_.]  There—see that blue thing yonder flying from one
blossom to another.  That’s how ’tis with me.  Shut me up close in one
place, I perish.  Let me go free, and I can fly and live.

LAURA.  You do talk a powerful lot of foolishness that no one could
understand.

JULIA.  O, do not let us talk at all.  Let us bide still, and get
ourselves refreshed by the sweetness and the wildness of the forest.

JULIA _turns away and gives herself up to the enjoyment of the wood
around her_.

LAURA _arranges her ribbons and smoothes out her gown_.  _Neither of them
speak for a few minutes_.

LAURA.  [_Looking up and pointing_.]  See those strange folk over there?
What are they?

JULIA.  [_Looking in the same direction_.]  I know them.  They are
gipsies from the hill near to us.

LAURA.  They should be driven away then.  I don’t like such folk roosting
around.

JULIA.  But I do.  They are friends to me.  Many’s the time I have run
out at dusk to speak with them as they sit round their fire.

LAURA.  Then you didn’t ought to have done so.  Let’s get off now, before
they come up.

JULIA.  No, no.  Let us talk to them all.  [_Calling_.]  Tansie and
Chris, come you here and sit down alongside of us.  [CHRIS, NAT, _and_
TANSIE _come up_.

CHRIS.  Good morning to you, mistress.  ’Tis a fine brave day, to-day.

JULIA.  That it is, Chris.  There never was so fine a day.  And we have
come to spend all of it in this forest.

TANSIE.  Ah, but ’tis warm upon the high road.

NAT.  We be come right away from the town, mistress.

JULIA.  Then sit down, all of you, and we will talk in the cool shade.

LAURA.  Not here, if you please.  I am not used to such company.

JULIA.  Not here?  Very well, my friends, let us go further into the wood
and you shall stretch yourselves under the green trees and we will all
rest there together.

LAURA.  Well, what next!  You might stop to consider how ’twill look in
the parish.

JULIA.  How what will look?

LAURA.  How ’twill look for you to be seen going off in such company like
this.

JULIA.  The trees have not eyes, nor have the grass, and flowers.
There’s no one to see me but you, and you can turn your head t’other way.
Come Tansie, come Chris.  [_She turns towards the three gipsies_.

TANSIE.  Nat’s in a sorry way, this morning—baint you, Nat?

NAT.  Let I be.  You do torment anyone till they scarce do know if they
has senses to them or no.

TANSIE.  You’re not one to miss what you never had, Nat.

CHRIS.  Let the lad bide in quiet, will you.  ’Tis a powerful little
nagging wench as you be.

JULIA.  Why are you heavy and sad this fine day, Nat?

TANSIE.  ’Tis love what’s the matter with he, mistress.

JULIA.  Love?  O, that’s not a thing that should bring heaviness or
gloom, but lightness to the heart, and song to the lips.

TANSIE.  Ah, but when there’s been no meeting in the dusk since Sunday,
and no message sent!

CHRIS.  Keep that tongue of your’n where it should be, and give over,
Tansie.  Susan’s not one as would play tricks with her lad.

JULIA.  Now I have a thirst to hear all about this, Nat, so come off
further into the wood, all of you, where we can speak in quiet.

[_She holds out her hand to_ NAT.

LAURA.  Upon my word, but something must be done to bring these goings on
to an end.

JULIA.  Come, Nat—you shall tell me all your trouble.  I understand the
things of the heart better than Tansie, and I shall know how to give you
comfort in your distress—come!

[JULIA _and_ NAT, _followed by_ CHRIS _and_ TANSIE, _move off out of
sight_.  LAURA _is left sitting on the bench alone_.  _Presently_ JOHN
_comes out carefully from behind the bushes_, _holding his bunch of
flowers_.

JOHN.  A good day to you, mistress.

LAURA.  The same to you, master.

JOHN.  Folks do call me John.

LAURA.  Indeed?  Good morning, John.

JOHN.  A fine brave sun to-day, mistress.

LAURA.  But pleasant enough here in the shade.

JOHN.  Now, begging your pardon, but what you wants over the head of you
baint one of these great trees full of flies and insects, but an arbour
trailed all about with bloom, such as my master has down at his place
yonder.

LAURA.  Indeed?  And who may your master be, John?

JOHN.  ’Tis Master William Gardner, what’s the talk of the country for
miles around, mistress.  And that he be.

LAURA.  Master William Gardner!  What, he of Road Farm?

JOHN.  The very same, mistress.  And as grand a gentleman as anyone might
wish for to see.

LAURA.  Yes—I seem to have heard something told about him, but I don’t
rightly remember what ’twas.

JOHN.  You may have heard tell as the finest field of beans this season,
that’s his.

LAURA.  I don’t think ’twas of beans that I did hear.

JOHN.  Or that ’twas his spotted hilt what fetched the highest price of
any in the market Saturday?

LAURA.  No, ’twasn’t that neither.

JOHN.  Or that folks do come as thick as flies on a summer’s day from all
parts of the country for to buy the wheat what he do grow.  Ah, and
before ’tis cut or like to be, they be a fighting for it, all of them,
like a pack of dogs with a bone.  So ’tis.

LAURA.  ’Twasn’t that, I don’t think.

JOHN.  Or ’twas that th’ old missis—she as is mother to Master
William—her has a tongue what’s sharper nor longer than any vixen’s
going.  But that’s between you and I, missis.

LAURA.  Ah—’Twas that I did hear tell of.  Now I remember it.

JOHN.  But Master William—the tongue what he do keep be smooth as honey,
and a lady might do as she likes with him if one got the chance.

LAURA.  Indeed?  He must be a pleasant sort of a gentleman.

JOHN.  For he could be led with kindness same as anything else.  But try
for to drive him, as old Missis do—and very likely ’tis hoofed as you’ll
get for your pains.

LAURA.  I like a man with some spirit to him, myself.

JOHN.  Ah, Master William has a rare spirit to him, and that he has.  You
should hear him when th’ old Missis’s fowls be got into his flower
garden.  ’Tis sommat as is not likely to be forgot in a hurry.  That
’tisn’t.

LAURA.  You carry a handsome nosegay of blossoms there, John.  Are they
from your master’s garden?

JOHN.  Ah, there’re not amiss.  I helped for to raise they too.

LAURA.  And to whom are you taking them now, John?

JOHN.  To the lady what my master’s a-courting of, mistress.

LAURA.  And whom may that be, John?

JOHN.  Why, ’tis yourself, mistress.

LAURA.  Me, John?  Why, I’ve never clapped eyes on Master William Gardner
so far as I know of.

JOHN.  But he’ve clapped eyes on you, mistress—’twas at Church last
Sunday.  And ’tis not a bit of food, nor a drop of drink, nor an hour of
sleep, as Master William have taken since.

LAURA.  O, you do surprise me, John?

JOHN.  That’s how ’tis with he, mistress.  ’Tis many a year as I’ve
served Master William—but never have I seen him in the fix where he be in
to-day.

LAURA.  Why—how is it with him then?

JOHN.  As it might be with the cattle when the flies do buzz about they,
thick in the sunshine.  A-lashing this way and that, a-trampling and
a-tossing, and never a minute’s rest.

LAURA.  Well, now—to think of such a thing.  Indeed!

JOHN.  I’ve seen a horse right up to the neck of him in that old quag
ahind of our place—a-snorting and a-clapping with his teeth and
a-plunging so as ’twould terrify anyone to harken to it.  And that’s how
’tis to-day with Master William up at home, so ’tis.

LAURA.  And only saw me once—at Church last Sunday, John?

JOHN.  Ah—and they old maid flies do sting but once, but ’tis a terrible
big bump as they do raise on the flesh of anyone, that ’tis.

LAURA.  O John—’tis a fine thing to be loved like that.

JOHN.  So I should say—ah, ’tisn’t every day that a man like Master
William goes a-courting.

LAURA.  But he hasn’t set out yet, John.

JOHN.  You take and hold the nosegay, mistress, and I’ll go straight off
and fetch him, so being as you’re agreeable.

LAURA.  O yes, and that I am, John—You go and fetch him quick.  I’ll bide
here gladly, waiting till he comes.

JOHN.  That’s it.  I knowed you for a sensible lady the moment I pitched
my eyes on to you.  And when master do come up, you take and talk to him
nicely and meek-like and lead him on from one thing to t’other: and
you’ll find as he’ll go quiet as a sheep after the first set off, spite
of the great spirit what’s at the heart of he.

LAURA.  John, I’ll do all as you say, and more than all.  Only, you get
along and send him quickly to me.  And—yes, you might give him a good
hint, John—I’m not averse to his attentions.

JOHN.  Ah, and I should think you wasn’t, for ’twould be a hard job to
find a nicer gentleman nor Master William.

LAURA.  That I know it would.  Why, John, my heart’s commenced beating
ever so fast, it has.

JOHN.  Then you may reckon how ’tis with the poor master!  Why, ’tis my
belief as ’twill be raving madness as’ll be the end of he if sommat don’t
come to put a finish to this unrest.

LAURA.  O John, ’twould never do for such a fine gentleman to go crazy.
Do you set off quick and send him along to me, and I’ll take and do my
very best for to quiet him, like.

JOHN.  [_Rising and about to set off_.]  Ah, ’tis a powerful lot of
calming as Master William do require.  But you be the one for to give it
him.  You just bide where you do sit now whilst I goes and fetches him,
mistress.

LAURA.  O that I will, my good, dear John.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT II.—Scene 2.


                             _The same wood_.

WILLIAM _and_ JOHN _come up_.  WILLIAM _carries a large market basket
containing vegetables_.

JOHN.  [_Looking round and seeing no one_.]  Bless my soul, but ’twas on
the seat as I did leave she.

WILLIAM.  We have kept her waiting a bit too long whilst we were cutting
the green stuff.  And now ’twill be best to let matters bide over till
to-morrow.

JOHN.  Why, master ’tis my belief as you be all of a-tremble like.

WILLIAM.  I wish we were well out of this business, John.  ’Tis not to my
liking in any way.

JOHN.  ’Tis a fine looking lady, and that ’tis.  You take and court her,
Master William.

WILLIAM.  How am I to court the wench when she’s not here?

JOHN.  [_Pointing_.]  Look yonder, master, there she comes through them
dark trees.

WILLIAM.  You’ve got to bide somewhere nigh me, John.  I could not be
left alone with a wench who’s a stranger to me.

JOHN.  Don’t you get flustered, Master William.  See here, I’ll hide me
ahind of yon bushes, and if so be as you should want me, why, there I’m
close at hand.

WILLIAM.  I’d rather you did stand at my side, John.

[JOHN _hides himself behind the bushes_.  LAURA _comes slowly up_.
WILLIAM _stands awkwardly before her_, _saying nothing_.  _Presently he
takes off his hat and salutes her clumsily and she bows to him_.  _For
some moments they stand embarrassed_, _looking at one another_.

WILLIAM.  [_Suddenly bringing out a bunch of carrots from his basket and
holding them up_.]  See these young carrots, mistress.

LAURA.  Indeed I do, master.

WILLIAM.  ’Tisn’t everywhere that you do see such fine grown ones for the
time of year.

LAURA.  You’re right there, master.  We have none of them up at our
place.

WILLIAM.  [_Holding them towards her_.]  Then be pleased to accept these,
mistress.

LAURA.  [_Taking the carrots_.]  Thank you kindly, master.  [_There is
another embarrassed silence_.  WILLIAM _looks distractedly from_ LAURA
_to his basket_.  _Then he takes out a bunch of turnips_.

WILLIAM.  You couldn’t beat these nowhere, not if you were to try.

LAURA.  I’m sure you could not, master.

WILLIAM.  They do call this sort the Early Snowball.  ’Tis a foolish name
for a table root.

LAURA.  ’Tis a beautiful turnip.

WILLIAM.  [_Giving her the bunch_.]  You may as well have them too.

LAURA.  O you’re very kind, master.

[_There is another long silence_.  WILLIAM _shuffles on his feet_—LAURA
_bends admiringly over her gifts_.

WILLIAM.  There’s young beans and peas and a spring cabbage too, within
the basket.  I do grow a little of most everything.

LAURA.  O shall we sit down and look at the vegetables together?

WILLIAM.  [_Visibly relieved_.]  We might do worse nor that.  [_They sit
down side by side with the basket between them_.

LAURA.  [_Lifting the cabbage_.]  O, this is quite a little picture!  See
how the leaves do curl backwards—so fresh and green!

WILLIAM.  Ah, and that one has a rare white heart to it, it has.

LAURA.  I do love the taste of a spring cabbage, when it has a slice of
fat bacon along with it.

WILLIAM.  I might have brought a couple of pounds with me if I’d have
thought.  Mother do keep some rare mellow jowls a-hanging in the pantry.

LAURA.  [_Shyly_.]  Next time, maybe.

WILLIAM.  [_Eagerly_.]  ’Twouldn’t take ten minutes for me to run back.

LAURA.  Not now—O no master—not now.  Do you bide a little longer here
and tell me about—about t’other things in the basket.

WILLIAM.  [_Mopping his face with a handkerchief_.]  Well—there’s the
beans—I count that yours haven’t come up very smart this year.

LAURA.  That they’ve not.  The whole place has been let to run dreadful
wild.

WILLIAM.  I’d—I’d like to show you how ’tis in my garden, one of these
days.

LAURA.  I’d be very pleased to walk along with you there.

WILLIAM.  [_Hurriedly_.]  Ah—you should see it later on when the—the—the
parsnips are a bit forrarder.

LAURA.  I’d like to see the flower garden now, where this nosegay came
from.

WILLIAM.  [_Looking round uneasily_.]  I don’t know what the folks would
say if they were to see you and me a-going on the road in broad day—I’m
sure I don’t.

LAURA.  Why, what should they say, Master Gardner?

WILLIAM.  They might get saying—they might say as—as I’d got a-courting,
or sommat foolish.

LAURA.  Well—and would that be untrue?

WILLIAM.  [_Looking at her very uncomfortably_.]  I’m blessed if I do
know—I mean—

LAURA.  This nosegay—and look, those young carrots—and the turnips and
beans, why did you bring them for me, master, unless it was that you
intended something by it?

WILLIAM.  [_Very confused_.]  That’s so.  So ’tis.  That’s true.  I count
you have got hold of the sow by the ear right enough this time.  And the
less said about it the better.  [_A slight silence_.

LAURA.  [_Looking up shyly in_ WILLIAM’S face.]  What was it drew you to
me first, master?

WILLIAM.  I believe ’twas in Church on Sunday that I chanced to take
notice of you, like.

LAURA.  Yes, but what was it about me that took your fancy in Church on
Sunday?

WILLIAM.  I’m blessed if I know, unless ’twas those coloured ribbons that
you have got to your bonnet.

LAURA.  You are partial to the colour?

WILLIAM.  Ah, ’tis well enough.

LAURA.  See here.  [_Taking a flower from her dress_.]  This is of the
same colour.  I will put it in your coat.

[_She fastens it in his coat_.  WILLIAM _looks very uncomfortable and
nervous_.

WILLIAM.  Well, bless my soul, but women folk have got some powerful
strange tricks to them.

LAURA.  [_Pinning the flower in its place_.]  There—my gift to you,
master.

WILLIAM.  You may call me by my name, if you like, ’tis more suitable,
seeing that we might go along to Church together one of these days.

LAURA.  O William, you have made me very happy—I do feel all mazy like
with my gladness.

WILLIAM.  Well, Julia, we might do worse than to—to—name the day.

LAURA.  Why do you call me Julia?

WILLIAM.  Seeing that I’ve given you leave to call me William ’tis only
suitable that I should use your name as well.

LAURA.  But my name is not Julia.

WILLIAM.  What is it then, I should like to know?

LAURA.  ’Tis Laura, William.

WILLIAM.  Folks did tell me that you were named Julia.

LAURA.  No—Laura is my name; but I live with Mistress Julia up at
Luther’s Farm, and I help her with the work.  House-keeping, dairy,
poultry, garden.  O there’s nothing I can’t turn my hand to, Master
William.

WILLIAM.  [_Starts up from the seat in deepest consternation_.]  John,
John—Come you here, I say!  Come here.

JOHN.  [_Emerges from the bushes_.]  My dearest master!

WILLIAM.  What’s this you’ve been and done, John?

JOHN.  Why, master—the one with the cherry ribbons, to her you did say.

WILLIAM.  [_Disgustedly_.]  ’Tis the wrong one.

LAURA.  What are you two talking about?  William, do you mean to say as
that man of yours was hid in the bushes all the while?

WILLIAM.  Now, John, you’ve got to get me out of the fix where I’m set.

JOHN.  O my dear master, don’t you take on so.  ’Tis a little bit of
misunderstanding to be sure, but one as can be put right very soon.

WILLIAM.  Then you get to work and set it right, John, for ’tis beyond
the power of me to do so.  I’ll be blessed if I’ll ever get meddling with
this sort of job again.

JOHN.  Now don’t you get so heated, master, but leave it all to me.
[_Turning to_ LAURA.]  My good wench, it seems that there has been a
little bit of misunderstanding between you and my gentleman here.

LAURA.  [_Angrily_.]  So that’s what you call it—misunderstanding ’tis a
fine long word, but not much of meaning, to it, I’m thinking.

JOHN.  Then you do think wrong.  Suppose you was to go to market for to
buy a nice spring chicken and when you was got half on the way to home
you was to see as they had put you up a lean old fowl in place of it,
what would you do then?

LAURA.  I don’t see that chickens or fowls have anything to do with the
matter.

JOHN.  Then you’re not the smart maid I took you for.  ’Tis not you as
would be suitable in my master’s home.  And what’s more, ’tis not you as
my master’s come a-courting of.

LAURA.  If ’tis not me, who is it then?

[WILLIAM _looks at her sheepishly and then turns away_.

JOHN.  ’Tis your mistress, since you wants to know.

LAURA.  [_Indignantly_.]  O, I see it all now—How could I have been so
misled!

JOHN.  However could poor master have been so mistook, I say.

LAURA.  [_Turning away passionately_.]  O, I’ve had enough of you and—and
your master.

JOHN.  Now that’s what I do like for to hear.  Because me and master have
sommat else to do nor to stand giddle-gaddling in this old wood the rest
of the day.  Us have got a smartish lot of worry ahead of we, haven’t us,
master?

WILLIAM.  You never said a truer word, John.

JOHN.  Come along then Master William.  You can leave the spring
vegetables to she.  ’Tis more nor she deserves, seeing as her might have
known as ’twas her mistress the both of us was after, all the time.

[LAURA _throws herself on the seat and begins to cry silently_, _but
passionately_.

WILLIAM.  O John, this courting, ’tis powerful heavy work.

JOHN.  [_Taking_ WILLIAM’S _arm_.]  Come you along with me, master, and
I’ll give you a helping hand with it all.

LAURA.  [_Looking up and speaking violently_.]  I warrant you will, you
clown.  But let me advise you to look better afore you leap next time, or
very likely ’tis in sommat worse than a ditchful of nettles as you’ll
find yourself.

JOHN.  [_Looking back over his shoulders as he goes off with_ WILLIAM.]
I reckon as you’ve no call to trouble about we, mistress.  Us is they
what can look after theirselves very well.  Suppose you was to wash your
face and dry your eyes and set about the boiling of yon spring cabbage.
’Twould be sensibler like nor to bide grizzling after one as is beyond
you in his station, so ’twould.

[JOHN _and_ WILLIAM _go out_, _leaving_ LAURA _weeping on the bench_,
_the basket of vegetables by her side_.

                               [_Curtain_.]



ACT II.—Scene 3.


JULIA _is sitting at the foot of a tree in the wood_.  CHRIS, NAT _and_
TANSIE _are seated near her on the ground_.

JULIA.  I wish this day might last for always.

CHRIS.  Why, when to-morrow’s come, ’twill be the same.

JULIA.  That it will not.  To-day is a holiday.  To-morrow’s work.

TANSIE.  One day ’tis much the same as t’other with me.

NAT.  ’Tis what we gets to eat as do make the change.

TANSIE.  I should have thought as how a grand young mistress like
yourself might have had the days to your own liking.

JULIA.  Ah, and so I did once.  But that was before Uncle died and left
me the farm.  Now, ’tis all different with the days.

CHRIS.  How was it with you afore then, mistress?

JULIA.  Much the same as ’tis with that bird flying yonder.  I did so as
I listed.  If I had a mind to sleep when the sun was up, then I did
sleep.  And if my limbs would not rest when ’twas dark, why, then I did
roam.  There was naught to hold me back from my fancy.

TANSIE.  And how is it _now_ with you, mistress?

JULIA.  ’Tis all said in one word.

CHRIS.  What’s that?

JULIA.  ’Tis “work.”

NAT.  Work?

CHRIS.  Work?

TANSIE.  Work!  And yet ’tis a fine young lady as you do look in your
muslin gown with silky ribbons to it and all.

JULIA.  I’m a farmer, Tansie.  And for a farmer ’tis work of one sort, or
t’other from when the sun is up till the candle has burned itself short.
If ’tisn’t working with my own hands, ’tis driving of the hands of
another.

CHRIS.  I’ve heard tell as a farmer do spin gold all the day same as one
of they great spiders as go putting out silk from their mouths.

JULIA.  And what is gold to me, Chris, who have no one but myself to
spend it on?

CHRIS.  Folks do say as the laying up of gold be one of the finest things
in the world.

JULIA.  It will never bring happiness to me, Chris.

CHRIS.  Come, mistress, ’tis a fine thing to have a great stone roof
above the head of you.

JULIA.  I’d sooner get my shelter from the green leaves.

NAT.  And a grand thing to have your victuals spread afore you each time
’stead of having to go lean very often.

JULIA.  O, a handful of berries and a drink of fresh water is enough for
me.

TANSIE.  And beautiful it must be to stretch the limbs of you upon
feathers when night do come down, with a fine white sheet drawn up over
your head.

JULIA.  O, I could rest more sweetly on the grass and moss yonder.

NAT.  I did never sleep within four walls but once, and then ’twas in
gaol.

JULIA.  O Nat, you were never in gaol, were you?

NAT.  ’Twas that they mistook I for another.  And when the morning did
come, they did let I go again.

CHRIS.  I count ’twas a smartish long night, that!

NAT.  ’Twas enough for to shew me how it do feel when anyone has got to
bide sleeping with the walls all around of he.

JULIA.  And the ceiling above, Nat.  And locked door.  And other folk
lying breathing in the house, hard by.  All dark and close.

CHRIS.  And where us may lie, the air do run swift over we.  We has the
smell of the earth and the leaves on us as we do sleep.  There baint no
darkness for we, for the stars do blink all night through up yonder.

TANSIE.  And no sound of other folk breathing but the crying of th’ owls
and the foxes’ bark.

JULIA.  Ah, that must be a grand sound, the barking of a fox.  I never
did hear one.  Never.

CHRIS.  Ah, ’tis a powerful thin sound, that—but one to raise the hair on
a man’s head and to clam the flesh of he, at dead of night.

NAT.  You come and bide along of we one evening, and you shall hearken to
the fox, and badger too, if you’ve the mind.

JULIA.  O that would please me more than anything in the world.

TANSIE.  And when ’twas got a little lighter, so that the bushes could be
seen, and the fields, I’d shew you where the partridge has her nest
beneath the hedge; where we have gotten eggs, and eaten them too.

CHRIS.  And I’ll take and lead you to a place what I do know of, where
the water flows clear as a diamond over the stones.  And if you bides
there waiting quiet you may take the fish as they come along—and there’s
a dinner such as the Queen might not get every day of the week.

JULIA.  O Chris, who is there to say I must bide in one place when all in
me is thirsting to be in t’other!

CHRIS.  I’m sure I don’t know.

NAT.  I should move about where I did like, if ’twas me.

TANSIE.  A fine young lady like you can do as she pleases.

JULIA.  Well then, it pleases me to bide with you in the free air.

CHRIS.  Our life, ’tis a poor life, and wandering.  ’Tis food one day,
and may be going without the next.  ’Tis the sun upon the faces of us one
hour—and then the rain.  But ’tis in freedom that us walks, and we be the
masters of our own limbs.

JULIA.  Will you be good to me if I journey with you?

CHRIS.  Ah, ’tis not likely as I’ll ever fail you, mistress.

JULIA.  Do not call me mistress any longer, Chris, my name is Julia.

CHRIS.  ’Tis a well-sounding name, and one as runs easy as clear water
upon the tongue.

JULIA.  Tansie, how will it be for me to go with you?

TANSIE.  ’Twill be well enough with the spirit of you I don’t doubt, but
how’ll it be with the fine clothes what you have on?

NAT.  [_Suddenly looking up_.]  Why, there’s Susan coming.

JULIA.  [_Looking in the same direction_.]  So that is Susan?

TANSIE.  I count as her has had a smartish job to get away from th’ old
missis so early in the day.

CHRIS.  ’Tis a rare old she cat, and handy with the claw’s of her,
Susan’s missis.

[SUSAN _comes shyly forward_.

NAT.  Come you here, Susan, and sit along of we.

JULIA.  Yes, sit down with us in this cool shade, Susan.  You look warm
from running.

SUSAN.  O, I didn’t know you was here, Mistress Julia.

JULIA.  Well, Susan, and so you live at Road Farm.  Are you happy there?

SUSAN.  I should be if ’twern’t for mistress.

JULIA.  No mistress could speak harshly to you, Susan—you are so young
and pretty.

SUSAN.  Ah, but mistress takes no account of aught but the work you does,
and the tongue of her be wonderful lashing.

JULIA.  Then how comes it that you have got away to the forest so early
on a week day?

SUSAN.  ’Tis that mistress be powerful took up with sommat else this
afternoon, and so I was able to run out for a while and her didn’t notice
me.

TANSIE.  Why Su, what’s going on up at the farm so particular to-day?

SUSAN.  ’Tis courting.

ALL.  Courting?

SUSAN.  Yes.  That ’tis.  ’Tis our Master William what’s dressed up in
his Sunday clothes and gone a-courting with a basket of green stuff on
his arm big enough to fill the market, very nigh.

CHRIS.  Well, well, who’d have thought he had it in him?

NAT.  He’s a gentleman what’s not cut out for courting, to my mind.

SUSAN.  Indeed he isn’t, Nat.  And however the mistress got him dressed
and set off on that business, I don’t know.

JULIA.  But you have not told us who the lady is, Susan.

SUSAN.  [_Suddenly very embarrassed_.]  I—I—don’t think as I do rightly
know who ’tis, mistress.

CHRIS.  Why, look you, Susan, you’ll have to take and hide yourself if
you don’t want for them to know as you be got along of we.

SUSAN.  What’s that, Chris?

CHRIS.  [_Pointing_.]  See there, that man of Master Gardner’s be
a-coming along towards us fast.  Look yonder—

SUSAN.  O whatever shall I do?  ’Tis John, and surely he will tell of me
when he gets back.

NAT.  Come you off with me afore he do perceive you, Susan.  I’ll take
you where you shall bide hid from all the Johns in the world if you’ll
but come along of me.

JULIA.  That’s it.  Take her off, Nat; take her, Tansie.  And do you go
along too, Chris, for I have a fancy to bide alone in the stillness of
the wood for a while.

[SUSAN, TANSIE _and_ NAT _go out_.

CHRIS.  Be I to leave you too, Julia?

JULIA.  [_Slowly_.]  Only for a little moment, Chris; then you can come
for me again.  I would like to stay with myself in quiet for a while.
New thoughts have come into my mind and I cannot rightly understand what
they do say to me, unless I hearken to them alone.

CHRIS.  Then I’ll leave you, Julia.  For things be stirring powerful in
my mind too, and I’d give sommat for to come to an understanding with
they.  Ah, that I would.

[_They look at one another in silence for a moment_, _then_ CHRIS _slowly
follows the others_, _leaving_ JULIA _alone_.  JULIA _sits alone in the
wood_.  _Presently she begins to sing_.

JULIA.  [_Singing_.]

   I sowed the seeds of love,
   It was all in the Spring;
   In April, in May, and in June likewise
   When small birds they do sing.

[JOHN _with a large basket on his arm comes up to her_.

JOHN.  A good day to you, mistress.

JULIA.  Good afternoon.

JOHN.  Now I count as you would like to know who ’tis that’s made so bold
in speaking to you, Mistress.

JULIA.  Why, you’re Master Gardner’s farm hand, if I’m not mistaken.

JOHN.  Ah, that’s right enough.  And there be jobs as I wish Master
William would get and do for hisself instead of putting them on I.

JULIA.  Well, and how far may you be going this afternoon?

JOHN.  I baint going no further than where I be a-standing now, mistress.

JULIA.  It would appear that your business was with me, then?

JOHN.  Ah, you’ve hit the right nail, mistress.  ’Tis with you.  ’Tis a
straight offer as my master have sent me out for to make.

JULIA.  Now I wonder what sort of an offer that might be!

JOHN.  ’Tis master’s hand in marriage, and a couple of pigs jowls,
home-cured, within this here basket.

JULIA.  O my good man, you’re making game of me.

JOHN.  And that I baint, mistress.  ’Twas in the church as Master William
seed you first.  And ’tis very nigh sick unto death with love as he have
been since then.

JULIA.  Is he too sick to come and plead his cause himself, John?

JOHN.  Ah, and that he be.  Do go moulting about the place with his
victuals left upon the dish—a sighing and a grizzling so that any maid
what’s got a heart to th’ inside of she would be moved in pity, did she
catch ear of it, and would lift he out of the torment.

JULIA.  Well, John, I’ve not seen or heard any of this sad to-do, so I
can’t be moved in pity.

JOHN.  Ah, do you look within this basket at the jowls what Master
William have sent you.  Maybe as they’ll go to your heart straighter nor
what any words might.

[JOHN _sits down on the bench by_ JULIA _and opens the basket_.  JULIA
_looks in_.

JULIA.  I have no liking for pigs’ meat myself.

JOHN.  Master’s pig meat be different to any in the county, mistress.
“Tell her,” says Master William, “’tis a rare fine bit of mellow jowl as
I be a sending she.”

JULIA.  O John, I’m a very poor judge of such things.

JOHN.  And look you here.  I never seed a bit of Master William’s
home-cured sent out beyond the family to no one till this day.  No, that
I have not, mistress.

JULIA.  [_Shutting the basket_.]  Well—I have no use for such a gift,
John, so it may be returned again to the family.  I am sorry you had the
trouble of bringing it so far.

JOHN.  You may not be partial to pig meat, mistress, but you’ll send back
the key of Master William’s heart same as you have done the jowls.

JULIA.  I have no use for the key of Master William’s heart either, John.
And you may tell him so, from me.

JOHN.  Why, mistress.  You don’t know what you be a talking of.  A man
like my master have never had to take a No in place of Yes in all the
born days of him.

JULIA.  [_Rising_.]  Then he’ll have to take it now, John.  And I’m
thinking ’tis time you set off home again with your load.

JOHN.  Well, mistress, I don’t particular care to go afore you have given
me a good word or sommat as’ll hearten up poor Master William in his love
sickness.

JULIA.  Truly, John, I don’t know what you would have me say.

JOHN.  I warrant there be no lack of words to the inside of you, if so be
as you’d open you mouth a bit wider.  ’Tis not silence as a maid is
troubled with in general.

JULIA.  O, I have plenty of words ready, John, should you care to hear
them.

JOHN.  Then out with them, Mistress Julia, and tell the master as how
you’ll take the offer what he have made you.

JULIA.  I’ve never seen your master, John, but I know quite enough about
him to say I’ll never wed with him.  Please to make that very clear when
you get back.

JOHN.  ’Tis plain as you doesn’t know what you be a talking of.  And ’tis
a wonder as how such foolishness can came from the mouth of a sensible
looking maid like yourself.

JULIA.  I shall not marry Master William Gardner.

JOHN.  I reckon as you’ll be glad enough to eat up every one of them
words the day you claps eyes on Master William, for a more splendid
gentleman nor he never fetched his breath.

JULIA.  I’ll never wed a farmer, John.

JOHN.  And then, look at the gift what Master William’s been and sent
you.  ’Tisn’t to everyone as master do part with his pig meat.  That
’tisn’t.

JULIA.  [_Rising_.]  Well, you can tell your master I’m not one that can
be courted with a jowl, mellow or otherwise.  And that I’ll not wed until
I can give my heart along with my hand.

JOHN.  I’d like to know where you would find a better one nor master for
to give your heart to, mistress?

JULIA.  May be I have not far to search.

JOHN.  [_Taking up the basket_.]  You’re a rare tricksy maid as ever I
did see.  Tricksy and tossy too.

JULIA.  There—that’s enough, John.  Suppose you set off home and tell
your master he can hang up his meat again in the larder, for all that it
concerns me.

JOHN.  I’ll be blowed if I do say anything of the sort, mistress.  I
shall get and tell Master William as you be giving a bit of thought to
the matter, and that jowls not being to your fancy, ’tis very like as a
dish of trotters may prove acceptabler.

JULIA.  Say what you like, John.  Only let me bide quiet in this good
forest now.  I want to be with my thoughts.

JOHN.  [_Preparing to go and speaking aloud to himself_.]  Her’s a
wonderful contrary bird to be sure.  And bain’t a shy one neither, what
gets timid and flustered and is easily netted.  My word, but me and
master has a job before us for to catch she.

JULIA.  I hear you, and ’tis very rudely that you talk.  There’s an old
saying that I never could see the meaning of before, but now I think ’tis
clear, “Like master, like man,” they say.  I’ll have none of Master
William, and you can tell him so.

[JOHN _goes out angrily_.  JULIA _sits down again on the bench and begins
to sing_.

JULIA.  [_Singing_.]

   My gardener stood by
   And told me to take great care,
   For in the middle of a red rose-bud
   There grows a sharp thorn there.

[LAURA _comes slowly forward_, _carrying the basket of vegetables on one
arm_.  _She holds a handkerchief to her face and is crying_.

JULIA.  Why, Laura, what has made you cry so sadly?

LAURA.  O, Julia, ’twas a rare red rose as I held in my hand, and a rare
cruel thorn that came from it and did prick me.

JULIA.  And a rare basket of green stuff that you have been getting.

LAURA.  [_Sinking down on the seat_, _and weeping violently_.]  His dear
gift to me!

JULIA.  [_Looking into the basket_.]  O a wonderful fine gift, to be
sure.  Young carrots and spring cabbage.  I’ve had a gift offered too—but
mine was jowls.

LAURA.  Jowls.  O, and did you not take them?

JULIA.  No, I sent them back to the giver, with the dry heart which was
along with them in the same basket.

LAURA.  O Julia, how could you be so hard and cruel?

JULIA.  Come, wouldn’t you have done the same?

LAURA.  [_Sobbing vehemently_.]  That I should not, Julia.

JULIA.  Perhaps you’ve seen the gentleman then?

LAURA.  I have.  And O, Julia, he is a beautiful gentleman.  I never saw
one that was his like.

JULIA.  The rare red rose with its thorn, Laura.

LAURA.  He did lay the heart of him before me—thinking my name was Julia.

JULIA.  And did he lay the vegetables too?

LAURA.  ’Twas all the doing of a great fool, that man of his.

JULIA.  And you—did you give him what he asked of you—before he knew that
your name was not Julia?

LAURA.  O, I did—that I did.  [_A short silence_.

JULIA.  And could you forget the prick of the thorn, did you hold the
rose again, Laura?

LAURA.  O that I could.  For me there’d be naught but the rose, were it
laid once more in my hand.  But ’tis not likely to be put there, since
’tis you he favours.

JULIA.  But I don’t favour him.

LAURA.  You’ll favour him powerful well when you see him, Julia.

JULIA.  I’ve given my heart already, but ’tis not to him.

LAURA.  You’ve given your heart?

JULIA.  Yes, Chris has all of it, Laura.  There is nothing left for
anyone else in the world.

LAURA.  O Julia, think of your position.

JULIA.  That I will not do.  I am going to think of yours.

LAURA.  [_Beginning to cry_.]  I’m no better in my station than a serving
maid, like Susan.

JULIA.  [_Pointing_.]  There she comes [_calling_] Susan, Susan!

[SUSAN _comes up_.  _During the next sentences_ LAURA _takes one bunch of
vegetables after another from the basket_, _smoothing each in turn with a
fond caressing movement_.

SUSAN.  Did you call, mistress?

JULIA.  Yes, Susan.  That I did.

SUSAN.  Can I help you in any way, Miss Julia?

JULIA.  Yes, and that you can.  You have got to run quickly back to the
farm.

SUSAN.  Be it got terrible late, mistress?

JULIA.  ’Tis not only that.  You have got to find your master and tell
him to expect a visit from me in less than an hour’s time from now.  Do
you understand?

SUSAN.  O, yes, mistress, and that I do—to tell master as you be coming
along after he as fast as you can run.

JULIA.  Well—I should not have put it in that way, but ’tis near enough
may be.  So off, and make haste, Susan.

SUSAN.  Please, mistress, I could make the words have a more loving sound
to them if you do wish it.

JULIA.  My goodness, Susan, what are you thinking of?  Say naught, but
that I’m coming.  Run away now, and run quickly.  [SUSAN _goes off_.

LAURA.  [_Looking up_, _a bunch of carrots in her hands_.]  What are you
going to do now, Julia?

JULIA.  You shall see, when you have done playing with those carrots.

LAURA.  He pulled them, every one, with his own hands, Julia.

JULIA.  My love has gathered something better for me than a carrot.  See,
a spray of elder bloom that was tossing ever so high in the wind.

[_She takes a branch of elder flower from her dress_, _and shews it to_
LAURA.

LAURA.  The roots that lie warm in the earth do seem more homely like to
me.

JULIA.  Well—each one has their own way in love—and mine lies through the
dark woods, and yours is in the vegetable garden.  And ’tis your road
that we will take this afternoon—so come along quickly with me, Laura,
for the sun has already begun to change its light.

[LAURA _replaces the vegetables in her basket and rises from the seat as
the curtain falls_.



ACT III.—Scene 1.


                  _The Garden of Road Farm as in Act I_.

MRS. GARDNER _is knitting in the Arbour_.  WILLIAM _strolls about
gloomily_, _his hands in his pockets_.

MRS. GARDNER.  And serve you right, William, for sending the man when you
should have gone yourself.

WILLIAM.  John has a tongue that is better used to this sort of business
than mine.

MRS. GARDNER.  Nonsense, when was one of our family ever known to fail in
the tongue?

WILLIAM.  If she that was asked first had only been the right one, all
would have been over and done with now.

MRS. GARDNER.  ’Tis John that you have got to thank for the blunder.

WILLIAM.  [_Sighing_.]  That was a rare fine maid, and no mistake.

MRS. GARDNER.  And a rare brazen hussy, from all that has reached my
ears.

WILLIAM.  Well—I’ve done with courting—now and for all time, that I have.
And you may roast me alive if I’ll ever go nigh to a maid again.

MRS. GARDNER.  That you shall, William—and quickly too.  There’s no time
like the present, and your Sunday clothes are upon you still.

WILLIAM.  I was just going up to change, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  Then you’ll please to remain as you are.  You may take
what gift you like along with you this time, so long as it’s none of my
home-cured meat.

WILLIAM.  I’m blessed if I do stir out again this day.  Why, look at the
seedlings crying for water, and the nets to lay over the fruit and sommat
of everything wanting to be done all around of me.  I’ll not stir.

[JOHN _comes towards them_.

MRS. GARDNER.  Here’s John.  Suppose he were to make himself useful in
the garden for once instead of meddling in things that are none of his
business.

JOHN.  I’ll be blowed if ’tis any more courting as I’ll do, neither for
Master William nor on my own account.

WILLIAM.  Why, John, ’twasn’t your fault that the lady wouldn’t take me,
you did your best with her, I know.

JOHN.  An that I did, Master William, but a more contrary coxsy sort of a
maid I never did see.  “I baint one as fancies pig meat,” her did say.
And the nose of she did curl away up till it could go no higher.  That’s
not the wench for me, I says to myself.

MRS. GARDNER.  Is the jowl hung up in its right place again, John?

JOHN.  That ’tis, mistress.  I put it back myself, and a good job for
that ’taint went out of the family and off to the mouths of strangers, so
says I.

MRS. GARDNER.  Do you tend to Master William’s garden John, instead of
talking.  We’ve had enough of your tongue for one day.

JOHN.  Why, be Master William goin’ out for to court again, this
afternoon?

WILLIAM.  No, John—No, I’ve had enough of that for my life time.

JOHN.  So have I, master, and more nor enough.  I don’t care particular
if I never set eyes on a maid again.

WILLIAM.  [_Pointing to a plot of ground_.]  That’s where I pulled the
young carrots this morning.

JOHN.  Ah, and so you did, master.

WILLIAM.  And there’s from where I took the Early Snowballs.

JOHN.  And a great pity as you did.  There be none too many of that sort
here.

WILLIAM.  She had a wonderful soft look in her eyes as she did handle
them and the spring cabbage, John.

JOHN.  Ah, and a wonderful hard tongue when her knowed ’twasn’t for she
as they was pulled.

WILLIAM.  Was t’other maid anything of the same pattern, John?

JOHN.  Upon my word, if t’other wasn’t the worst of the two, for she did
put a powerful lot of venom into the looks as she did give I, and the
words did fall from she like so many bricks on my head.

WILLIAM.  Pity the first was not the right maid.

JOHN.  Ah, a maid what can treat a prime home-cured jowl as yon did baint
the sort for to mistress it over we, I’m thinking.

MRS. GARDNER.  See here, John—suppose you were to let your tongue bide
still in its home awhile, and start doing something with your hands.

JOHN.  That’s right enough, mistress.  What’s wanted, Master William?

WILLIAM.  I’m blessed if I can recollect, John.  This courting business
lies heavy on me, and I don’t seem able to get above it, like.

JOHN.  I’d let it alone, master, if I was you.  They be all alike, the
maids.  And ’twouldn’t be amiss if we was to serve they as we serves the
snails when they gets to the young plants.

[SUSAN _comes hurriedly into the garden_.

SUSAN.  Please master, please mistress.

MRS. GARDNER.  What do you mean, Susan, by coming into the garden without
your cap?  Go and put it on at once.

SUSAN.  The wind must have lifted it from me, mistress, for I was running
ever so fast.

MRS. GARDNER.  Do you expect me to believe that, Susan—and not a breath
stirring the flowers or trees, or anything?

SUSAN.  ’Twas the lady I met as—as—as I was coming across the field from
feeding the fowls.

MRS. GARDNER.  What lady, Susan?

SUSAN.  Her from Luther’s, mistress.

JOHN.  And what of she; out with it, wench.

SUSAN.  She did tell I to say as she be coming along as fast as she may
after Master William.

WILLIAM.  [_As though to himself with an accent of despair_.]  No.  No.

JOHN.  There, master, didn’t I tell you so?

WILLIAM.  [_Very nervously_.]  What did you tell me, John?

JOHN.  That, let her abide and her’d find the senses of she presently.

WILLIAM.  O I’m blessed if I do know what to do.

[JOHN _takes his master’s arm and draws him aside_.

JOHN.  You pluck up your heart, my dearest master, and court she hard.
And in less nor a six months ’tis along to church as you’ll be a-driving
she.

WILLIAM.  But John, ’tis t’other with the cherry ribbons that has taken
all my fancy.

JOHN.  No, no, Master William.  You take and court the mistress.  You
take and tame the young vixen, and get the gold and silver from she.
T’other wench is but the serving maid.

SUSAN.  The lady’s coming along ever so quickly, master.

[MRS. GARDNER, _rising and folding up her knitting_.

MRS. GARDNER.  You’ll please to come indoors with me, William, and I’ll
brush you down and make you look more presentable than you appear just
now.  Susan, you’ll get a cap to you head at once, do you hear me!  And
John, take and water master’s seedlings.  Any one can stand with their
mouths open and their eyes as big as gooseberries if they’ve a mind.
’Tis not particular sharp to do so.  Come, William.

WILLIAM.  I’d like a word or two with John first, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER.  You come along with me this moment, William.  ’Tis a too
many words by far that you’ve had with John already, and much good
they’ve done to you.  Come you in with me.

WILLIAM.  O I’m blessed if I do know whether ’tis on my head or on my
feet that I’m standing.

[WILLIAM _follows his mother slowly and gloomily into the house_.

JOHN.  Well—if ever there was a poor, tormented animal ’tis the master.

SUSAN.  Ah, mistress should have been born a drover by rights.  ’Tis a
grand nagging one as her’d have made, and sommat what no beast would ever
have got the better of.

JOHN.  I wouldn’t stand in Master William’s shoes, not if you was to put
me knee deep in gold.

SUSAN.  Nor I.

JOHN.  Ah, this courting business, ’tis a rare caddling muddle when ’tis
all done and said.

SUSAN.  ’Tis according as some folks do find it, Master John.

JOHN.  ’Tis a smartish lot as you’ll get of it come Sunday night, my
wench.  You wait and see.

SUSAN.  That shews how little you do know.  ’Twill be better nor ever
with me then.

JOHN.  ’Twill be alone by yourself as you’ll go walking, Su.

SUSAN.  We’ll see about that when the time comes, John.

JOHN.  All I says is that I baint a-going walking with you.

SUSAN.  I never walk with two, John.

JOHN.  You’ll have to learn to go in your own company.

SUSAN.  I shall go by the side of my husband by then, very likely.

JOHN.  Your husband?  What tales be you a-giving out now?

SUSAN.  ’Tis to Nat as I’m to be wed come Saturday.

JOHN.  Get along with you, Susan, and put a cap to your head.  Mistress
will be coming out presently, and then you know how ’twill be if her
catches you so.  Get along in with you.

SUSAN.  Now you don’t believe what I’m telling you—but it’s true, O it’s
true.

JOHN.  Look here—There’s company at the gate, and you a-standing there
like any rough gipsy wench on the road.  Get you in and make yourself a
decenter appearance and then go and tell the mistress as they be comed.

SUSAN.  [_Preparing to go indoors and speaking over her shoulder_.]  ’Tis
in the parson’s gown as you should be clothed, Master John.  Ah, ’tis a
wonderful wordy preacher as you would make, to be sure.  And ’tis a rare
crop as one might raise with the seed as do fall from your mouth.

[_She goes indoors_.  JULIA _comes leisurely into the garden_.

JULIA.  Well, John, and how are you feeling now?

JOHN.  Nicely, thank you, mistress.  See yon arbour?

JULIA.  And that I do, John.

JOHN.  Well, you may go and sit within it till the master has leisure to
come and speak with you.

JULIA.  Thank you, John, but I would sooner stop and watch you tend the
flowers.

JOHN.  ’Tis all one to me whether you does or you does not.

JULIA.  Now, John, you are angry with me still.

JOHN.  I likes a wench as do know the mind of she, and not one as can
blow hot one moment and cold the next.

JULIA.  There was never a moment when I did not know my own mind, John.
And that’s the truth.

JOHN.  Well, us won’t say no more about that.  ’Taint fit as there should
be ill feeling nor quarrelling ’twixt me and you.

JULIA.  You’re right, John.  And there was something that I had it in my
mind to ask you.

JOHN.  You can say your fill.  There baint no one but me in the garden.

JULIA.  John, you told me that since Sunday your master has been sick
with love.

JOHN.  That’s right enough, mistress.  I count as we shall bury he if
sommat don’t come to his relief.

JULIA.  Now, John, do you look into my eyes and tell me if ’tis for love
of Julia or of Laura that your master lies sickening.

JOHN.  You’d best go and ask it of his self, mistress.  ’Tis a smartish
lot of work as I’ve got to attend to here.

JULIA.  You can go on working, John.  I am not hindering you.

JOHN.  No more than one of they old Juney bettels a-roaring and a-buzzin
round a man’s head.

JULIA.  Now, John—you must tell me which of the two it is.  Is it Laura
whom your master loves, or Julia?

JOHN.  ’Tis Julia, then, since you will have it out of me.

JULIA.  No, John, you’re not looking straight at me.  You are looking
down at the flower bed.  Let your eyes meet mine.

JOHN.  [_Looking up crossly_.]  I’ve got my work to think of.  I’m not
one to stand cackling with a maid.

JULIA.  Could you swear me it is Julia?

JOHN.  ’Tis naught to I which of you it be.  There bide over, so as I can
get the watering finished.

JULIA.  [_Seizes the watering can_.]  Now, John, you have got to speak
the truth to me.

JOHN.  Give up yon can, I tell you.  O you do act wonderful unseemly for
a young lady.

JULIA.  [_Withholding the can_.]  Not till I have the truth from you.

JOHN.  [_Angrily_.]  Well then, is it likely that my master would set his
fancy on such a plaguy, wayward maid?  Why, Master William do know better
nor to do such a thing, I can tell you.

JULIA.  Then ’tis for Laura that he is love-sick, John.

JOHN.  Give I the watering can.

JULIA.  [_Giving him the can_.]  Here it is, dear John.  O I had a fancy
all the time that ’twas to Laura your master had lost his heart.  And now
I see I made no mistake.

JOHN.  I shouldn’t have spoke as I did if you hadn’t a buzzed around I
till I was drove very nigh crazy.  Master William, he’ll never forgive me
this.

JULIA.  That he will, I’m sure, when he has listened to what I have got
to say to him.

JOHN.  You do set a powerful store on what your tongue might say, but I’d
take and bide quiet at home if I was you and not come hunting of a nice
reasonable gentleman like master, out of his very garden.

JULIA.  O John, you’re a sad, ill-natured man, and you misjudge me very
unkindly.  But I’ll not bear malice if you will just run in and tell your
master that I want a word with him.

JOHN.  A word?  Why not say fifty?  When was a maid ever satisfied with
one word I’d like to know?

JULIA.  Well—I shan’t say more than six, very likely, so fetch him to me
now, John, and I’ll wait here in the garden.  [JOHN _looks at her with
exasperated contempt_.  _Then he slowly walks away towards the house_.
JULIA _goes in the opposite direction to the garden gate_.

JULIA.  [_Calling_.]  Chris!  [CHRIS _comes in_.

JULIA.  [_Pointing_.]  O Chris, look at this fine garden—and yon
arbour—see the fine house, with lace curtains to the windows of it.

CHRIS.  [_Sullenly_.]  Ah—I sees it all very well.

JULIA.  And all this could be mine for the stretching out of a hand.

CHRIS.  Then stretch it.

JULIA.  ’Twould be like putting a wild bird into a gilded cage, to set me
here in this place.  No, I must go free with you, Chris—and we will
wander where our spirits lead us—over all the world if we have a mind to
do so.

CHRIS.  Please God you’ll not grieve at your choice.

JULIA.  That I never shall.  Now call to Laura.  Is she in the lane
outside?

CHRIS.  There, she be come to the gate now.

[LAURA _comes in_, _followed by_ NAT _and_ TANSIE.

JULIA.  [_Pointing to a place on the ground_.]  Laura, see, here is the
place from which your young carrots were pulled.

LAURA.  O look at the flowers, Julia—Lillies, pinks and red roses.

JULIA.  ’Tis a fine red rose that shall be gathered for you presently,
Laura.  [JOHN _comes up_.

JOHN.  The master’s very nigh ready now, mistress.

[SUSAN _follows him_.

SUSAN.  The mistress says, please to be seated till she do come.

JOHN.  [_To_ CHRIS _and_ NAT.]  Now, my men, we don’t want the likes of
you in here.  You had best get off afore Master William catches sight of
you.

JULIA.  No, John.  These are my friends, and I wish them to hear all that
I have to say to your master.

JOHN.  Ah, ’tis in the grave as poor Master William will be landed soon
if you don’t have a care.

LAURA.  [_Anxiously_.]  O is he so delicate as that, John?

JOHN.  Ah—and that he be.  And these here love matters and courtings and
foolishness have very nigh done for he.  I don’t give him but a week
longer if things do go on as they be now.

[WILLIAM _and_ MRS. GARDNER _come in_.  WILLIAM _looks nervously round
him_.  MRS. GARDNER _perceives the gipsies_, _and_ SUSAN _talking to_
NAT.

MRS. GARDNER.  Susan, get you to your place in the kitchen, as quick as
you can.  John, put yon roadsters through the gate, if you please.
[_Turning to_ JULIA.]  Now young Miss?

JULIA.  A very good evening to you, mistress.  And let me make Chris
known to you for he and I are to be wed to-morrow.

[_She takes_ CHRIS _by the hand and leads him forward_.

MRS. GARDNER.  What’s this?  William, do you understand what the young
person is telling us?

JULIA.  [_Taking_ LAURA _with her other hand_.]  And here is Laura to
whom I have given all my land and all my money.  She is the mistress of
Luther’s now.

JOHN.  [_Aside to_ WILLIAM.]  Now master, hearken to that.  Can’t you
lift your spirits a bit.

JULIA.  [_To_ MRS. GARDNER.]  And I beg you to accept her as a daughter.
She will make a better farmer’s wife than ever I shall.

JOHN.  [_In a loud whisper_.]  Start courting, master.

WILLIAM.  O I dare not quite so sudden, John.

MRS. GARDNER.  [_Sitting down_.]  It will take a few moments for me to
understand this situation.

JULIA.  There is no need for any hurry.  We have all the evening before
us.

JOHN.  [_Hastily gathers a rosebud and puts it into_ WILLIAM’S _hand_.]
Give her a blossom, master.  ’Tis an easy start off.

WILLIAM.  [_Coming forward shyly with the flower_.]  Would you fancy a
rosebud, mistress?

LAURA.  O that I would, master.

WILLIAM.  Should you care to see—to see where the young celery is planted
out?

LAURA.  O, I’d dearly love to see the spot.

WILLIAM.  I’ll take you along to it then.  [_He gives her his arm_, _very
awkwardly_, _and they move away_.

MRS. GARDNER.  [_Sitting down_.]  Well—things have changed since I was
young.

JOHN.  [_Looking viciously at_ NAT _and_ SUSAN.]  Ah, I counts they have,
mistress, and ’tis all for the worse.

SUSAN.  [_Comes forward timidly_.]  And me and Nat are to be married too,
mistress.

MRS. GARDNER.  I should have given you notice anyhow to-night, Susan, so
perhaps it’s just as well you have made sure of some sort of a roof to
your head.

NAT.  ’Twill be but the roof of th’ old cart, mistress; but I warrant as
her’ll sleep bravely under it, won’t you, Su.

SUSAN.  That I shall, dear Nat.

TANSIE.  Well, Master John, have you a fancy to come tenting along of we.

JOHN.  Upon my word, but I don’t know how ’tis with the young people
nowadays, they be so bold.

JULIA.  [_Who has been standing apart_, _her hand in that of_ CHRIS.]
New days, new ways, John.

JOHN.  Bless my soul, but ’tis hard to keep up with all these goings on,
and no mistake.

JULIA.  No need for you to try, John.  If you are too old to run with us
you must abide still and watch us as we go.

CHRIS.  But there, you needn’t look downhearted, master, for I knows
someone as’ll give you a rare warm welcome if so be as you should change
your mind and take your chance in the open, same as we.

TANSIE.  You shall pay for that, Chris.

JOHN.  [_Stiffly_.]  I hope as I’ve a properer sense of my duty nor many
others what I could name.

MRS. GARDNER.  Those are the first suitable words that have been spoken
in my hearing this afternoon.

[WILLIAM, _with_ LAURA _on his arm_, _returns_.  LAURA _carries a small
cucumber very lovingly_.

LAURA.  Julia, look!  The first one of the season!  O, isn’t it a
picture!

JULIA.  O Laura, ’tis a fine wedding gift to be sure.

WILLIAM.  [_Stepping up to_ JOHN.]  John, my man, here’s a five pound
note to your pocket.  I’d never have won this lady here if it hadn’t been
for you.

JOHN.  [_Taking the note_.]  Don’t name it, dear master.  ’Tis a long
courtship what has no ending to it, so I always says.

MRS. GARDNER.  ’Tis one upset after another, but suppose you were to make
yourself useful for once, Susan, and bring out the tray with the cake and
glasses on it.

JOHN.  Ah, that’s it, and I’ll go along of she and help draw the cider.
Courtship be powerful drying work.

LAURA.  [_Looking into_ WILLIAM’S _eyes_.]  O William, ’twas those Early
Snowballs that did first stir up my heart.

WILLIAM.  ’Twas John who thought of them.  Why, John has more sensible
thoughts to the mind of him than any other man in the world—and when the
cider is brought, ’tis to John’s health we will all drink.

                               [_Curtain_.]



PRINCESS ROYAL


CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY


ROSE, MARION, _village girls_.

LADY MILLICENT.

ALICE, _her maid_.

LEAH, _an old gipsy_.

SUSAN, _otherwise Princess Royal_, _her grand-daughter_.

JOCKIE, _a little swine herd_.

LADY CULLEN.

_Her ladies in waiting_ (_or one lady only_).

LORD CULLEN, _her only son_.

                                * * * * *

_As many girls as are needed for the dances should be in this Play_.

_The parts of Lord Cullen and Jockie may be played by girls_.



ACT I.—Scene 1.


_A village green_.  _Some girls with market baskets come on to it_, _each
one carrying a leaflet which she is earnestly reading_.

_Gradually all the girls approach from different sides reading leaflets_.

_Under a tree at the far end of the green the old gipsy is sitting—she
lights a pipe and begins to smoke as_ ROSE, _her basket full of market
produce_, _comes slowly forward reading her sheet of paper_.  _She is
followed by_ MARION—_also reading_.

ROSE.  Well, ’tis like to be a fine set out, this May Day.

MARION.  I can make naught of it myself.

ROSE.  Why, ’tis Lord Cullen putting it about as how he be back from the
war and thinking of getting himself wed, like.

MARION.  I understands that much, I do.

ROSE.  Only he can’t find the maid what he’s lost his heart to.

MARION.  [_Reading_.]  The wench what his lordship did see a-dancing all
by herself in the forest when he was hid one day all among the brambles,
a-rabbiting or sommat.

ROSE.  And when my lord would have spoke with her, the maid did turn and
fled away quick as a weasel.

MARION.  And his lordship off to the fighting when ’twas next morn.

ROSE.  So now, each maid of us in the village and all around be to dance
upon the green come May Day so that my lord may see who ’twas that
pleased his fancy.

[SUSAN _comes up and stands quietly listening_.  _She is bare foot and
her skirt is ragged_, _she wears a shawl over her shoulders and her hair
is rough and untidy_.  _On her arm she carries a basket containing a few
vegetables and other marketings_.

MARION.  And when he do pitch upon the one, ’tis her as he will wed.

ROSE.  ’Twill be a thing to sharpen the claws of th’ old countess worse
nor ever—that marriage.

MARION.  Ah, I reckon as her be mortal angered with all the giddle-gaddle
this business have set up among the folk.

ROSE.  [_Regretfully_.]  I’ve never danced among the trees myself.

MARION.  [_Sadly_.]  Nor I, neither, Rose.

ROSE.  I’d dearly like to be a countess, Marion.

MARION.  His lordship might think I was the maid.  I’m spry upon my feet
you know.

[SUSAN _comes still nearer_.

MARION.  [_Turning to her and speaking rudely_.]  Well, Princess Rags,
’tisn’t likely as ’twas you a-dancing one of your Morris dances in the
wood that day!

ROSE.  [_Mockingly_.]  ’Tisn’t likely as his lordship would set his
thoughts on a wench what could caper about like a Morris man upon the
high road.  So there.

SUSAN.  [_Indifferently_.]  I never danced upon the high road, I dances
only where ’tis dark with gloom and no eyes upon me.  No mortal eyes.

MARION.  [_Impudently_.]  Get along with you, Princess Royal.  Go off to
th’ old gipsy Gran’ma yonder.  We don’t want the likes of you along of
us.

ROSE.  Go off and dance to your own animals, Miss Goatherd.  All of us be
a-going to practise our steps against May Day.  Come along girls.

[_She signs to the other girls who all draw near and arrange themselves
for a Country Dance_.  SUSAN _goes slowly towards her_ GRANDMOTHER _and
sits on the ground by her side_, _looking sadly and wistfully at the
dancers_.  _At the end of the dance_, _the girls pick up their baskets
and go off in different directions across the green_.  SUSAN _and her_
GRANDMOTHER _remain in their places_.  _The gipsy continues to smoke and_
SUSAN _absently turns over the things in her basket_.

SUSAN.  They mock me in the name they have fixed to me—Princess Royal.

GRANDMOTHER.  Let them mock.  I’ll bring the words back to them like
scorpions upon their tongues.

[_There is a little silence and then_ SUSAN _begins to sing as though to
herself_.

SUSAN.  [_Singing_.]

   “As I walked out one May morning,
   So early in the Spring;
   I placed my back against the old garden gate,
   And I heard my true love sing.” {1}

GRANDMOTHER.  [_At the end of the singing_.]  It might be the blackcap
a-warbling all among of the branches.  So it might.

SUSAN.  Ah, ’twas I that was a-dancing in the shade of the woods that
day.

GRANDMOTHER.  He’ll never look on the likes of you—that’s sure enough, my
little wench.

SUSAN.  I wish he was a goat-herd like myself—O that I do.

GRANDMOTHER.  Then there wouldn’t be no use in your wedding yourself with
him as I can see.

SUSAN.  ’Tis himself, not his riches that I want.

GRANDMOTHER.  You be speaking foolishness.  What do you know of him—what
do us blind worms know about the stars above we?

SUSAN.  I see’d him pass by upon his horse one day.  All there was of him
did shine like the sun upon the water—I was very near dazed by the
brightness.  So I was.

[_The_ GRANDMOTHER _continues to smoke in silence_.

SUSAN.  [_Softly_.]  And ’twas then I lost the heart within me to him.

[JOCKIE _runs up beating his tabor_.

SUSAN.  [_Springing up_.]  Come, Jockie, I have a mind to dance a step or
two.  [_Rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands_.]  Tears be for them
as have idle times and not for poor wenches what mind cattle and goats.
Come, play me my own music, Jock.  And play it as I do like it best.

[JOCKIE _begins to play the tune of_ “_Princess Royal_” _and_ SUSAN
_dances_.  _Whilst_ SUSAN _is dancing_ LADY MILLICENT _and her waiting
maid come slowly by and stand watching_.  SUSAN _suddenly perceives them
and throws herself on the ground_.  JOCKIE _stops playing_.

LADY MILLICENT.  [_Fanning herself_.]  A wondrous bold dance, upon my
word—could it have been that which captivated my lord, Alice?

ALICE.  O no, mistress.  His lordship has no fancy for boldness in a
maid.

LADY MILLICENT.  Immodest too.  A Morris dance.  The girl should hide her
face in shame.

ALICE.  And there she is, looking at your ladyship with her gipsy eyes,
bold as a brass farthing.

SUSAN.  [_Starting up and speaking passionately_.]  I’ll not be taunted
for my dancing—I likes to dance wild, and leap with my body when my
spirit leaps, and fly with my limbs when my heart flies and move in the
air same as the birds do move when ’tis mating time.

GRANDMOTHER.  Ah, ’tis so with she.  She baint no tame mouse what creeps
from its hole along of t’others and who do go shuffle shuffle, in and out
of the ring, mild as milk and naught in the innards of they but the
squeak.

SUSAN.  [_Defiantly_.]  ’Twas my dance gained his lordship’s praise—so
there, fine madam.

LADY MILLICENT.  Your dance?  Who are you then?

ALICE.  A gipsy wench, mistress, who minds the goats and pigs for one of
they great farms.

GRANDMOTHER.  Have a care for that tongue of yours, madam waiting maid.
For I know how to lay sommat upon it what you won’t fancy.

LADY MILLICENT.  [_Coming up to_ SUSAN _and laying her hand on her arm_.]
Now tell me your name, my girl.

SUSAN.  They call me Princess Royal.

LADY MILLICENT.  O that must be in jest.  Why, you are clothed in rags,
poor thing.

SUSAN.  [_Shaking herself free_.]  I’d sooner wear my own rags nor the
laces which you have got upon you.

LADY MILLICENT.  Now why do you say such a thing?

SUSAN.  ’Twas in these rags as I danced in the wood that day, and ’tis by
these rags as my lord will know me once more.

LADY MILLICENT.  Listen, I will cover you in silk and laces, Princess
Royal.

ALICE.  Susan is the maid’s name.

SUSAN.  I don’t want none of your laces or silks.

LADY MILLICENT.  And feed you with poultry and cream and sweetmeats.

SUSAN.  I want naught but my crust of bread.

LADY MILLICENT.  I’ll fill your hands with gold pieces.

GRANDMOTHER.  Do you hear that, Sue?

SUSAN.  [_Doggedly_.]  I hear her well enough, Gran.

LADY MILLICENT.  If you’ll teach me your dance against May Day.  Then,
I’ll clothe myself much after your fashion and dance upon the green with
the rest.

SUSAN.  I’ll not learn you my dance.  Not for all the gold in the world.
You shan’t go and take the only thing I have away from me.

LADY MILLICENT.  [_Angrily_.]  Neither shall a little gipsy wretch like
you take my love from me.  We were as good as promised to each other at
our christening.

ALICE.  Don’t put yourself out for the baggage, madam.  His lordship
would never look on her.

GRANDMOTHER.  Gold, did you say, mistress?

LADY MILLICENT.  Gold?  O yes—an apron full of gold, and silver too.

GRANDMOTHER.  Do you hear that, Susan?

SUSAN.  [_Doggedly_.]  I’ll not do it for a King’s ransom.

GRANDMOTHER.  You will.  You’ll do it for the sake of poor old Gran,
what’s been father and mother to you—and what’s gone hungered and thirsty
so that you might have bread and drink.

SUSAN.  [_Distractedly_.]  O I can never give him up.

GRANDMOTHER.  He’ll never be yourn to give—Dance till your legs is off
and he’ll have naught to say to a gipsy brat when ’tis all finished.

ALICE.  Whilst my lady belongs to his lordship’s own class, ’tis but
suitable as she should be the one to wed with him—knowing the foreign
tongues and all, and playing so sweetly on her instruments.  There’s a
lady anyone would be proud to take before the Court in London.

[SUSAN _turns away with a movement of despair_.  _The_ GRANDMOTHER
_begins to smoke again_.  LADY MILLICENT _fans herself and_ ALICE
_arranges her own shawl_.

GRANDMOTHER.  I could do with a little pig up at our place if I’d the
silver to take into the market for to buy him with.  [_A silence_.

GRANDMOTHER.  And I could do with a pair of good shoes to my poor old
feet come winter time when ’tis snowing.  [_Another silence_.

GRANDMOTHER.  And ’twould be good not to go to bed with the pain of
hunger within my lean old body—so ’twould.  [SUSAN _turns round
suddenly_.

SUSAN.  I’ll do it, Gran.  I’ll do it for your sake.  ’Tis very likely
true what you do say, all of you.  I’d but dance my feet off for naught.
When he came to look into my gipsy eyes, ’twould all be over and done
with.

LADY MILLICENT.  Sensible girl.

ALICE.  ’Tis time she should see which way her bread was spread.

SUSAN.  Come, Jockie, come ladies—come Gran—we’ll be off to the quiet of
our own place where I can learn her ladyship the steps and capers.

GRANDMOTHER.  [_Rising and pointing to an advancing figure_.]  You’d best
make haste.  The mice be a-running from their holes once more—t’wouldn’t
do for they to know aught about this.

SUSAN.  Let us go quickly then.

[_The_ GRANDMOTHER, SUSAN, LADY MILLICENT _with_ ALICE _and_ JOCKIE _go
out as a crowd of village girls come on to the green_, _and laughing and
talking together_, _arrange themselves to practise a Country Dance_.

                             _End of Act I_.



ACT II.—Scene 1.


_Groups of village girls are sitting or standing about on the green_.  _A
dais has been put up at one end of it_.

MARION.  How slow the time do pass, this May Day.

ROSE.  Let’s while it away with a song or two.

[_They all join in singing_.  _At the end of the song the gipsy comes
slowly and painfully across the green_, _casting black looks to right and
to left_.  _She is followed by_ SUSAN, _who appears weighed down by
sadness_.

ROSE.  Good afternoon, Princess Royal Rags.  Are we to see you cutting
capers before his lordship this afternoon?

MARION.  Get along and hide your bare feet behind the tree, Royal.  I’d
be ashamed to go without shoes if ’twas me.

SUSAN.  O leave me alone—you be worse nor a nest of waspes—that you be.

GRANDMOTHER.  [_Turning fiercely round_.]  Us’ll smoke them out of their
holes one day—see if us do not.

[_They pass over to the tree where the_ GRANDMOTHER _sits down and_ SUSAN
_crouches by her side_.  _Presently they are joined by_ JOCKIE.  _The
girls sing a verse or two of another song_, _and during this_ LADY
MILLICENT, _enveloped in a big cloak_, _goes over to the tree_, _followed
by_ ALICE, _also wearing a long cloak and they sit down by the side of_
SUSAN.

MARION.  [_Pointing_.]  Who are those yonder, Rose?

ROSE.  I’m sure I don’t know, Marion—strangers, may be.

MARION.  O my heart goes wild this afternoon.

ROSE.  Mine too.  Look, there they come.

[_The Music begins to play and old_ LADY CULLEN, _followed by her lady
companions_, _comes slowly towards the dais_, _on which she seats
herself_.

LADY CULLEN.  Dear me, what a gathering to be sure.

HER LADY.  Indeed it is an unusual sight.

LADY CULLEN.  And O what a sad infatuation on the part of my poor boy.

HER LADY.  The war has been known to turn many a brain.

LADY CULLEN.  And yet my son holds his own with the brightest
intelligences of the day.

HER LADY.  Only one little spot of his lordship’s brain seems to be
affected.

LADY CULLEN.  Just so.  But here he comes, poor misguided youth.

[LORD CULLEN _comes slowly over the green_, _looking to right and to
left_.  _He mounts the dais and sits down by his mother_, _and the music
plays for a country dance_.  “_The Twenty Ninth of May_.”  _The girls
arrange themselves_, _and during the dance_ LORD CULLEN _scans each face
very eagerly_.  _The dance ends and the girls pass in single file before
the dais_.

LORD CULLEN.  No, no—that was not the music of it, that was not the
dance—not a face among them resembles the image I carry in my heart.

LADY CULLEN.  [_Aside_.]  Thank goodness.  May that face never be seen
again.

[_A fresh group come up and another dance is formed and danced_.

LORD CULLEN.  [_At the end of it_.]  Worse and worse.  Could I have
dreamed both the music and the dance and the dancer?

LADY CULLEN.  [_Soothingly_.]  I am sure this was the case, my dear son.

LORD CULLEN.  [_Rallying_.]  I heard her voice singing in the forest
before ever she began to dance.  It was the sweetest voice and song I
ever heard.  [_Looking around_.]  Can any of these maid, sing to me, I
wonder?

MARION.  [_Steps forward_.]  I only know one song, my lord.

[LORD CULLEN _signs to her to sing_, _and she stands before the dais and
sings a verse of_ “_Bedlam_.”

LORD CULLEN.  [_Impatiently_.]  No, no—that is not in the least what I
remember.  [_Turning to_ ROSE.]  You try now.

ROSE.  I don’t sing, my lord—but—[_Indicating another girl in the group_]
she has a sweet voice, and she knows a powerful lot of songs.

[_A girl steps out from the others and sings a verse of_ “_The Lark in
the Morn_.”

LORD CULLEN.  Not that.  Mine was a song to stir the depths of a man’s
heart and bring tears up from the fountains of it.

[_He leans back in deep dejection—and at this moment_ LADY MILLICENT
_and_ ALICE _come forward_.

LORD CULLEN.  [_Eagerly_.]  I seem to know that russet skirt—those bare,
small feet.  [_Standing up quickly_.]  Mother, look at that maid with the
red kerchief on her head.

LADY CULLEN.  Some sort of a gipsy dress, to all appearance.

LORD CULLEN.  [_Doubtfully_.]  The skirt she wore was torn and
ragged—that day in the forest.  She had no gold rings to her ears, nor
silken scarf upon her head—But this might be her dress for holidays.

[JOCKIE _advances and begins to play the tune of_ “_Princess Royal_.”

LORD CULLEN.  [_Eagerly_.]  That is the right music—O is it possible my
quest is ended!

[LADY MILLICENT _and_ ALICE, _standing opposite one to another begin to
dance—slowly and clumsily_, _and in evident doubt as to their steps_.
LORD CULLEN _watches them for a moment and then claps his hands angrily
as a sign for the music to stop_.  _The dancers pause_.

LORD CULLEN.  This is a sad mimicry of my beautiful love.  But there lies
something behind the masquerade which I shall probe.

[_He leaves the dais and goes straight towards_ LADY MILLICENT, _who
turns from him in confusion_.

LORD CULLEN.  From whom did you take the manner and the colour of your
garments, my maid?

[LADY MILLICENT _remains obstinately silent_.

LORD CULLEN.  [_To_ ALICE.]  Perhaps you have a tongue in your head.
From whom did you try to learn those steps?

[ALICE _turns sulkily away_.  JOCKIE _comes forward_.

JOCKIE.  I’ll tell your lordship all about it, and I’ll take your
lordship straight to the right wench, that I will, if so be as your
lordship will give a shilling to a poor little swine-herd what goes empty
and hungered most of the year round.

LORD CULLEN.  A handful of gold, my boy, if you lead me rightly.

[JOCKIE _leads the way to the tree where_ SUSAN _is sitting_.  _She
stands up as_ LORD CULLEN _approaches_, _and for a moment they gaze at
one another in silence_.

GRANDMOTHER.  You might curtsey to the gentleman, Susan.

LORD CULLEN.  No—there’s no need of that, from her to me.  [_Turning to_
JOCKIE _and putting his hand in his pocket_.]  Here, my boy, is a golden
pound for you—and more shall follow later.

[_He then takes_ SUSAN’S _hand and leads her to the foot of the dais_.

LORD CULLEN.  Will you dance for me again, Susan?

SEVERAL OF THE GIRLS.  [_Mockingly_.]  Princess Royal is her name.

MARION.  [_Rudely_.]  Or Princess Rags.

SUSAN.  ’Tis all took out of my hands now, I can but do as your lordship
says.  Jockie, play me my music, and play it bravely too.

[JOCKIE _places himself near her and begins to play_.  SUSAN _dances by
herself_.  _At the end of her dance_ LORD CULLEN _leads the applause_,
_and even the ladies on the dais join faintly in it_.  _He then takes_
SUSAN _by the hand and mounts the dais with her and presents her to his
mother_.

LADY CULLEN.  [_Aside_, _to her companion_.]  I wonder if the young
person understands that my poor boy is a little touched in the brain?

LORD CULLEN.  Here is your daughter, mother.

[LADY CULLEN _and_ SUSAN _look at one another in silence_.  _After a
moment_ SUSAN _turns to_ LORD CULLEN.

SUSAN.  I’m a poor ragged thing to be daughter to the likes of she.  But
the heart within of me is grander nor that of any queen, because of the
love that it holds for you, my lord.

[LORD CULLEN _takes her hand and leads her to the front of the dais_.

LORD CULLEN.  We will be married to-morrow, my princess.  And all these
good people shall dance at our wedding.

MARION.  [_Springing up_.]  And we’ll do a bit of dancing now as well.
Come, Jockie, give us the tune of “Haste to the Wedding.”

ROSE.  That’s it.  Come girls—

LADY MILLICENT.  [_To_ ALICE.]  I pray he won’t find out about me.

[_The old_ GRANDMOTHER _has come slowly towards the middle of the green_.

GRANDMOTHER.  Ah, and my little wench will know how to pay back some of
the vipers tongues which slandered her, when she sits on her velvet chair
as a countess, the diamonds a-trickling from her neck and the rubies
a-crowning of her head.  Her’ll not forget the snakes what did lie in the
grass.  Her’ll have her heel upon they, so that their heads be put low
and there shan’t go no more venom from their great jaws to harm she, my
pretty lamb—my little turtle.

[_The music begins to play and all those on the green form themselves for
the dance_.  LORD CULLEN _and_ SUSAN _stand side by side in front of the
dais_, _and the_ GRANDMOTHER _lights a pipe and smokes it as she watches
the dance from below_.  _At the end of the dance_ LORD CULLEN, _leading_
SUSAN, _comes down from the dais and_, _followed by_ LADY CULLEN _and her
ladies_, _passes between two lines of girls and so off the stage_.  _The
girls follow in procession_, _and lastly the_ GRANDMOTHER _preceded by_
JOCKIE, _beating his drum_.

                               [_Curtain_.]



THE SEEDS OF LOVE


CHARACTERS


JOHN DANIEL, _aged_ 30, _a Miller_.

ROSE-ANNA _his sister_.

KITTY, _aged_ 16, _his sister_.

ROBERT PEARCE, _aged_ 26.

LIZ, JANE _elderly cousins of Robert_.

JEREMY, _John’s servant—of middle age_.

MARY MEADOWS, _aged_ 24, _a Herbalist_.

LUBIN.

ISABEL.

                         _The time is Midsummer_.



ACT I


_A woodland road outside_ MARY’S _cottage_.  _There are rough seats in
the porch and in front of the window_.  _Bunches of leaves and herbs hang
drying around door and window_.  MARY _is heard singing within_.

MARY.  [_Singing_.]

   I sowed the seeds of Love,
   And I sowed them in the Spring.
   I gathered them up in the morning so soon.
   While the sweet birds so sweetly sing,
   While the sweet birds so sweetly sing. {2}

[MARY _comes out of the cottage_, _a bundle of enchanter’s nightshade in
her arms_.  _She hangs it by a string to the wall and then goes indoors_.

MARY.  [_Singing_.]

   The violet I did not like,
   Because it bloomed so soon;
   The lily and the pink I really over think,
   So I vowed I would wait till June,
   So I vowed I would wait till June.

[_During the singing_ LUBIN _comes slowly and heavily along the road_.
_He wears the dress of a farm labourer and carries a scythe over his
shoulder_.  _In front of the cottage he pauses_, _looks round
doubtfully_, _and then sits stiffly and wearily down on the bench beneath
the window_.

MARY.  [_Coming to the doorway with more plants and singing_.]

   “For the grass that has oftentimes been trampled underfoot,
   Give it time, it will rise up again.”

LUBIN.  [_Looking up gloomily_.]  And that it won’t, mistress.

MARY.  [_Suddenly perceiving him and coming out_.]  O you are fair spent
from journeying.  Can I do anything for you, master?

LUBIN.  [_Gazing at her fixedly_.]  You speak kindly for a stranger, but
’tis beyond the power of you nor anyone to do aught for me.

MARY.  [_Sitting down beside him and pointing to the wall of the house_.]
See those leaves and flowers drying in the sun?  There’s medicine for
every sort of sickness there, sir.

LUBIN.  There’s not a root nor yet a herb on the face of the earth that
could cure the sickness I have within me.

MARY.  That must be a terrible sort of a sickness, master.

LUBIN.  So ’tis.  ’Tis love.

MARY.  Love?

LUBIN.  Yes, love; wicked, unhappy love.  Love what played false when
riches fled.  Love that has given the heart what was all mine to another.

[ISABEL _has been slowly approaching_, _she wears a cotton handkerchief
over her head and carries a small bundle tied up in a cloth on her arm_.
_Her movements are languid and sad_.

MARY.  I know of flowers that can heal even the pains of love.

ISABEL.  [_Coming forward and speaking earnestly_.]  O tell me of them
quickly, mistress.

MARY.  Why, are you sick of the same complaint?

ISABEL.  [_Sinking down on the grass at_ MARY’S _feet_.]  So bruised and
wounded in the heart that the road from Framilode up here might well have
been a hundred miles or more.

LUBIN.  Framilode?  ’Tis there you come from?

ISABEL.  I was servant at the inn down yonder.  Close upon the ferry.  Do
you know the place, master?

LUBIN.  [_In deep gloom_.]  Ah, the place and the ferry man too.

MARY.  [_Leaning forward and clasping her hands_.]  Him as is there
to-day, or him who was?

LUBIN.  He who was there and left for foreign parts a good three year
ago.

[ISABEL _covers her face and is shaken by sobs_.  LUBIN _leans his elbow
on his knee_, _shading his eyes with his hand_.

MARY.  I have help for all torments in my flowers.  Such things be given
us for that.

ISABEL.  [_Looking up_.]  You be gentle in your voices mistress.  ’Tis
like when a quist do sing, as you speaks.

MARY.  Then do both of you tell your sorrow.  ’Twill be strange if I do
not find sommat that will lighten your burdens for you.

LUBIN.  ’Twas at Moat Farm I was born and bred.

MARY.  Close up to Daniels yonder?

LUBIN.  The same.  Rose-Anna of the Mill and I—we courted and was like to
marry.  But there came misfortune and I lost my all.  She would not take
a poor man, so I left these parts and got to be what you do see me
now—just a day labourer.

ISABEL.  Mine, ’tis the same tale, very nigh.  Robert the ferry-man and
me, we loved and was to have got us wedded, only there came a powerful
rich gentleman what used to go fishing along of Robert.  ’Twas he that
’ticed my lover off to foreign parts.

LUBIN.  [_With a heavy sigh_.]  These things are almost more than I can
bear.

ISABEL.  At first he wrote his letters very often.  Then ’twas seldom
like.  Then ’twas never.  And then there comed a day—[_She is interrupted
by her weeping_.

MARY.  Try to get out your story—you can let the tears run afterwards if
you have a mind.

ISABEL.  There comed a day when I did meet a fisherman from Bristol.  He
brought me news of Robert back from the seas, clothed in fine stuff with
money in the pockets of him, horse and carriage, and just about to wed.

LUBIN.  Did he name the maid?

ISABEL.  Rose-Anna she was called, of Daniel’s mill up yonder.

LUBIN.  Rose-Anna—She with whom I was to have gone to church.

MARY.  Here is a tangle worse nor any briar rose.

ISABEL.  O ’twas such beautiful times as we did have down by the
riverside, him and me.

LUBIN.  She would sit, her hand in mine by the hour of a Sunday
afternoon.

[_A pause during which_ LUBIN _and_ ISABEL _seem lost in their own sad
memories_.  MARY _gets up softly and goes within the cottage_.

ISABEL.  And when I heared as ’twas to-morrow they were to wed, though
’twas like driving a knife deeper within the heart of me, I up and got me
upon the road and did travel along by starlight and dawn and day just for
one look upon his face again.

LUBIN.  ’Twas so with me.  From beyond Oxford town I am come to hurt
myself worse than ever, by one sight of the eyes that have looked so
cruel false into mine.

ISABEL.  If I was to plead upon my knees to him ’twould do no good—poor
wench of a serving maid like me.

LUBIN.  [_Looking down at himself_.]  She’d spurn me from the door were I
to stand there knocking—in the coat I have upon me now.  No—let her go
her way and wed her fancy man.

[LUBIN _shades his eyes with one hand_.  ISABEL _bows her head on her
knees weeping_.  MARY _comes out of the house carrying two glass bowls of
water_.

MARY.  Leave your sorrowful tears till later, my friends.  This fresh
water from the spring will revive you from your travelling.

LUBIN.  [_Looking up_.]  The heart of me is stricken past all remedy,
mistress.

ISABEL.  I could well lie me down and die.

[MARY _giving to each one a bowl from which they begin to drink slowly_.

MARY.  I spoke as you do, once.  My lover passed me by for another.  A
man may give all his love to the gilly flower, but ’tis the scarlet rose
as takes his fancy come to-morrow.

ISABEL.  And has your heart recovered from its sickness, mistress?

MARY.  [_Slowly_.]  After many years.

LUBIN.  And could you wed you to another?

MARY.  [_Still more slowly_.]  Give the grass that has been trampled
underfoot a bit of time, ’twill rise again.  There’s healing all around
of us for every ill, did we but know it.

LUBIN.  I’d give sommat to know where ’tis then.

MARY.  There isn’t a herb nor a leaf but what carries its message to them
that are in pain.

ISABEL.  Give me a bloom that’ll put me to sleep for always, mistress.

MARY.  There’s evil plants as well, but ’tisn’t a many.  There’s hen bane
which do kill the fowls and fishes if they eat the seed of it.  And
there’s water hemlock which lays dumbness upon man.

LUBIN.  I’ve heard them tell of that, I have.

MARY.  And of the good leaves there is hounds tongue.  Wear it at the
feet of you against dogs what be savage.  Herb Benet you nail upon the
door.  No witch nor evil thing can enter to your house.

LUBIN.  And have you naught that can deaden the stab of love upon the
heart, mistress?

ISABEL.  [_Speaking in anguish_.]  Aught that can turn our faithless
lovers back again to we?

MARY.  That I have.  See these small packages—you that love Robert, take
you this—and you who courted Rose-Anna, stretch out your hand.

[_She puts a small paper packet into the hands of each_.

LUBIN.  [_Looking uncertainly at his packet_.]  What’ll this do for me,
I’d like to know?

MARY.  ’Tis an unfailing charm.  A powder from roses, fine as dust, and
another seed as well.  You put it in her glass of water—and the love
comes back to you afore next sun-rise.

ISABEL.  And will it be the same with I?

MARY.  You have the Herb of Robert there.  Be careful of it.  To-morrow
at this hour, his heart will be all yours again, and you shall do what
you will with it.

ISABEL.  O I can’t believe in this.  ’Tis too good to be true, and that
it be—A fine gentleman as Robert be now and a poor little wretch like me!

LUBIN.  [_Slowly_.]  ’Tis but a foolish dream like.  How are folks like
us to get mixing and messing with the drinks of they?  Time was when I
did sit and eat along of them at the table, the same as one of
theirselves.  But now!  Why, they’d take and hound me away from the door.

ISABEL.  And me too.

MARY.  [_Breaking off a spray of the enchanters nightshade from the bunch
drying_.]  That’ll bring luck, may be.

[ISABEL _takes it and puts it in her dress and then wraps the packet in
her bundle_.  LUBIN _puts his packet away also_.  _Whilst they are doing
this_, MARY _strolls a little way on the road_.

MARY.  [_Returning_.]  The man from Daniels be coming along.

LUBIN.  [_Hastily_.]  What, old Andrews?

MARY.  No.  This is another.  Folk do marvel how Miller John do have the
patience to keep in with him.

LUBIN.  How’s that?

MARY.  So slow and heavy in his ways.  But he can drink longer at the
cider than any man in the county afore it do fly to his head, and that’s
why master do put up with him.

[JEREMY _comes heavily towards them_, _a straw in his mouth_.  _His hat
is pushed to the back of his head_.  _His expression is still and
impassive_.  _He comes straight towards_ MARY, _then halts_.

MARY.  Come, Jeremy, I reckon ’tis not for rue nor tea of marjoram you be
come here this morning?

JEREMY.  [_Looking coldly and critically at the travellers and pointing
to them_.]  Who be they?

MARY.  Travellers on the road, seeking a bit of rest.

[JEREMY _continues to look them all over in silence_.

MARY.  How be things going at the Mill to-day, Jerry?

JEREMY.  Powerful bad.

MARY.  O I am grieved to hear of it.  What has happened?

[LUBIN _and_ ISABEL _lean forward_, _listening eagerly_.

JEREMY.  ’Tis a pretty caddle, that’s all.

MARY.  The mistress isn’t took ill? or Miss Kitty?

JEREMY.  I almost wish they was, for then there wouldn’t be none of this
here marrying to-morrow.

MARY.  What has upset you against the wedding, Jerry?

JEREMY.  One pair of hands baint enough for such goings on.

MARY.  ’Tis three you’ve got up there.

JEREMY.  There you’re mistook.  Th’ idle wench and the lad be both
away—off afore dawn to the Fair and took their clothes along of they.  I
be left with all upon me like, and ’tis too much.

MARY.  What shall you do, Jerry?

JEREMY.  I’ll be blowed if I’m agoin’ to do anything.  There.

MARY.  But you’ll have to stir yourself up and deck the house and set the
table and wait upon the visitors and look to the traps and horses and
all, Jerry—seeing as you’re the only one.

JEREMY.  I’ll not.  I’m not one as steps beyond my own work, and master
do know it too.

MARY.  Then how are they going to manage?

JEREMY.  I’m out to find them as’ll manage for them.  [_Turning sharply
to_ LUBIN.]  Be you in search of work, young man?

LUBIN.  I—I count as I’ve nothing particular in view.

JEREMY.  [_Turning to_ ISABEL.]  And you, wench?

ISABEL.  [_Faintly_.]  I’ve gone from the place where I was servant.

JEREMY.  Then you’ll come along of me—the both of you.

ISABEL.  [_Shrinking_.]  O no—I couldn’t go among—among strangers.

JEREMY.  I never takes no count of a female’s vapours.  You’ll come along
of me.  You’ll curl the mistress’s hair and lace her gown and keep her
tongue quiet—and you [_turning to_ LUBIN] my man, will set the tables and
wait upon the quality what we expect from Bristol town this dinner-time.

LUBIN.  [_Angrily_.]  I never waited on man nor woman in my life, and
I’ll not start now.

JEREMY.  You will.  I’m not agoin’ a half mile further this warm morning.
Back to the Mill you goes along of me, the two of you.

MARY.  [_Looking fixedly at_ ISABEL.]  This is a chance for you, my dear.
You’ll not find a better.

JEREMY.  Better?  I count as you’ll not better this’n.  Good money for
your pains—victuals to stuff you proper, and cider, all you can drink on
a summer’s day.  I count you’ll not better that.

LUBIN.  [_As though to himself_.]  I could not go.

JEREMY.  Some cattle want a lot of driving.

ISABEL.  [_Timidly to_ LUBIN.]  If I go, could not you try and come along
with me, master?

LUBIN.  You’ll never have the heart to go through with it.

JEREMY.  ’Tis a fine fat heart as her has within of she.  Don’t you go
and put fancies into the head of her.

ISABEL.  [_To_ LUBIN.]  I’ll go if so be as you’ll come along of me too.

[LUBIN _bends his head and remains thinking deeply_.

JEREMY.  ’Tis thirsty work this hiring of men and wenches—I’ll get me a
drop of cider down at the Red Bull.  Mayhap you’ll be ready time I’ve
finished.

MARY.  I’ll see that you’re not kept waiting, Jeremy.

JEREMY.  [_Turning back after he has started_.]  What be they called,
Mary?

[MARY _looks doubtfully towards_ LUBIN _and_ ISABEL.

ISABEL.  My name—they calls me Isabel.

JEREMY.  [_Turning to_ LUBIN.]  And yourn?

LUBIN.  [_In confusion_.]  I don’t rightly recollect.

JEREMY.  [_Impassively_.]  ’Tis of no account, us’ll call you William
like the last one.

ISABEL.  O, and couldn’t I be called like the last one too?

JEREMY.  Then us’ll call you Lucy.  And a rare bad slut her was, and
doubtless you’ll not prove much worser.

[_He goes away_.

MARY.  This is your chance.  A good chance too—

LUBIN.  They’ll know the both of us.  Love isn’t never quite so dead but
what a sound in the speech or a movement of the hand will bring some
breath to it again.

ISABEL.  You’re right there, master—sommat’ll stir in the hearts of them
when they sees we—and ’tis from the door as us’ll be chased for masking
on them like this.

MARY.  But not before the seeds of love have done their work.  Come,
Isabel; come, Lubin—I will so dress you that you shall not be recognised.

[MARY _goes indoors_.  ISABEL _slowly rises and takes up her bundle_.
LUBIN _remains seated_, _looking gloomily before him_.

ISABEL.  Come, think what ’twill feel to be along of our dear loves and
look upon the forms of them and hear the notes of their voices once
again.

LUBIN.  That’s what I am a-thinking of.  ’Twill be hot iron drove right
into the heart all the while.  Ah, that’s about it.

ISABEL.  I’ll gladly bear the pain.

LUBIN.  [_After a pause_.]  Then so will I.  We’ll go.

[_He raises his eyes to her face and then gets heavily up and follows her
into the cottage_.



ACT II.—Scene 1.


_The living room at Daniel’s Mill_.  _In the window_ ROSE-ANNA _is seated
awkwardly sewing some bright ribbons on to a muslin gown_.  KITTY _is
moving about rapidly dusting chairs and ornaments which are in disorder
about the room and_ JOHN _stands with his back to the grate gravely
surveying them_.

ROSE.  [_Petulantly_.]  Whatever shall we do, John!  Me not dressed,
everything no how, and them expected in less nor a half hour’s time?

KITTY.  There!  I’ve finished a-dusting the chairs.  Now I’ll set them in
their places.

ROSE.  No one is thinking of me!  Who’s going to help me on with my gown
and curl my hair like Robert was used to seeing me wear it at Aunt’s?

KITTY.  Did you have it different down at Bristol, Rose?

ROSE.  Of course I did.  ’Twouldn’t do to be countrified in the town.

JOHN.  Your hair’s well enough like that.  ’Tisn’t of hair as anyone’ll
be thinking when they comes in, but of victuals.  And how we’re a-going
to get the table and all fixed up in so short a time do fairly puzzle me.

KITTY.  I’ll do the table.

ROSE.  No.  You’ve got to help me with my gown.  O that was a
good-for-nothing baggage, leaving us in the lurch!

JOHN.  Well, I’ve done my best to get us out of the fix.

ROSE.  And what would that be, pray?

KITTY.  Why John, you’ve done nothing but stand with your back to the
grate this last hour.

JOHN.  I’ve sent off Jerry.

ROSE.  [_Scornfully_.]  Much good that’ll do.

KITTY.  We know just how far Jerry will have gone.

JOHN.  I told him not to shew hisself unless he could bring a couple of
servants back along with him.

ROSE.  [_Angrily_.]  You’re more foolish than I took you to be, John.
Get you off at once and fetch Jerry from his cider at the Red Bull.  He’s
not much of a hand about the house, but he’s better than no one.

JOHN.  [_Sighing heavily_.]  Jeremy’s not the man to start his drinking
so early in the day.

ROSE.  I’ve caught him at the cask soon after dawn.

KITTY.  And so have I, John.  How you put up with his independent ways I
don’t know.

JOHN.  Ah, ’tisn’t everyone as has such a powerful strong head as
Jerry’s.  He’s one that can be trusted to take his fill, and none the
worse with him afterwards.

[_A knock at the door_, _which is pushed open by_ JEREMY.

JEREMY.  [_From the doorway_.]  Well, Master John—well, mistress?

ROSE.  [_Sharply_.]  Master was just starting out for to fetch you home,
Jerry.

JEREMY.  [_Ignoring her_.]  Well, master, I’ve brought a couple back
along of me.

ROSE.  Ducklings or chickens?

JEREMY.  I’ve gotten them too.

KITTY.  Do you mean that you’ve found some servants for us, Jerry?

JEREMY.  Two outside.  Female and male.

JOHN.  Didn’t I tell you so!  There’s naught that Jerry cannot do.
You’ll have a drink for this, my man

ROSE.  You may take my word he’s had that already, John.

JEREMY.  I have, mistress.  Whilst they was a packing up the poultry in
my basket.  Down at the Bull.

ROSE.  What sort of a maid is it?

JEREMY.  Ah, ’tis for you to tell me that, mistress, when you’ve had her
along of you a bit.

ROSE.  And the man?

JEREMY.  Much the same as any other male.

ROSE.  [_Impatiently_.]  Do you step outside, John, and have a look at
them, and if they’re suitable bring them in and we’ll set them about
their work.

[JOHN _goes out_.  KITTY _peers through the window_.

JEREMY.  I reckon I can go off and feed the hilts now.  ’Tis the time.

ROSE.  Feed the hilts!  Indeed you can’t do no such thing.  O I’m mad
with vexation that nothing is well ordered or suitably prepared for Mr.
Robert and his fine cousins from Bristol town.  Whatever will they say to
such a house when they do see it?

JEREMY.  I’m sure I don’t know.

KITTY.  [_From the window_.]  I see the new servants.  John is bringing
them up the walk.  The man’s face is hid by his broad hat, but the girl
looks neat enough in her cotton gown and sun-bonnet.

[JOHN _comes into the room_, _followed by_ LUBIN _and_ ISABEL.  LUBIN
_shuffles off his hat_, _but holds it between his face and the people in
the room_.

JEREMY.  [_Pointing to them and speaking to_ ROSE.]  There you are,
mistress—man-servant and maid.

ROSE.  What do we know about them?  Folk picked up by Jerry at the Red
Bull.

JEREMY.  No, from the roadside.

ROSE.  Worser far.

JOHN.  No, no, Rose.  These young persons were spoken for by Mary
Meadows.  And ’tis rare fortunate for we to obtain their services at
short notice like this.

ROSE.  [_To_ ISABEL.]  What are you called, my girl?

ISABEL.  [_Faintly_.]  Isabel is my name, but I’d sooner you called me
Lucy.

ROSE.  And that I will.  My tongue is used to Lucy.  The other is a
flighty, fanciful name for a servant.

KITTY.  And what is the man called, John?

LUBIN.  [_Harshly_.]  I am called William.

KITTY.  William and Lucy!  Like the ones that ran away this morning.

ROSE.  O do not let us waste any more time!  Jerry, do you take the man
and shew him his work in the back kitchen; and Lucy, come to me and help
me with my gown and my hair dressing.  We have not a minute to lose.

KITTY.  They may be upon us any time now.  I’ll go out and gather the
flowers for the parlour, since you don’t want me any more within, Rose.

JOHN.  And I’ll get and finish Jeremy’s work in the yard.  ’Tis upside
down and round about and no how to-day.  But we’ll come out of it some
time afore next year I reckon.

JEREMY.  Don’t you ever go for to get married, master.  There could never
come a worser caddle into a man’s days nor matrimony, I count.

[JOHN, _on his way to the door_, _pauses—as though momentarily lost in
thought_.

JOHN.  Was Mary Meadows asked to drop in at any time to-day, Rose?

ROSE.  [_Who is taking up her gown and ribbons to show to_ ISABEL, _and
speaking crossly_.]  I’m sure I don’t know, nor care.  I’ve enough to
think about as ’tis.

KITTY.  [_Taking_ JOHN’S _arm playfully_.]  You’re terribly took up with
Mary Meadows, John.

JOHN.  There isn’t many like her, Kitty.  She do rear herself above
t’others as—as a good wheat stalk from out the rubbish.

[JOHN _and_ KITTY _go slowly out_.

JEREMY.  [_As though to himself_.]  I sees as how I shall have to keep an
eye on master—[_turning to_ LUBIN _and signing to him_.]  But come, my
man, us has no time for romance, ’tis dish washing as lies afore you now.

[LUBIN _jerks his head haughtily and makes a protesting gesture_.  _Then
he seems to remember himself and follows_ JEREMY _humbly from the room_.
ROSE _takes up some ribbons and laces_.

ROSE.  [_To_ ISABEL, _who is standing near_.]  Now, Lucy, we must look
sharp; Mister Robert and his cousins from Bristol town will soon be here.
I have not met with the cousins yet, but I’ve been told as they’re very
fine ladies—They stood in place of parents to my Robert, you know.  ’Tis
unfortunate we should be in such a sad muddle the day they come.

ISABEL.  When I have helped you into your gown, mistress, I shall soon
have the dinner spread and all in order.  I be used to such work, and I’m
considered spry upon my feet.

ROSE.  ’Tis more serious that you should be able to curl my hair in the
way that Mr. Robert likes.

ISABEL.  [_Sadly_.]  I don’t doubt but that I shall be able to do that
too, mistress.

ROSE.  Very well.  Take the gown and come with me up to my room.

[_They go out together_, ISABEL _carrying the gown_.



ACT II.—Scene 2.


_The same room_.  _The table is laid for dinner and_ ISABEL _is putting
flowers upon it_.  LUBIN _wearing his hat_, _enters with large jugs of
cider_, _which he sets upon a side table_.

ISABEL.  [_Looking up from her work_.]  Shall us ever have the heart to
go on with it, Master Lubin?

LUBIN.  [_Bitterly_.]  Do not you “Master” me, Isabel.  I’m only a common
servant in the house where once I was lover and almost brother.

ISABEL.  [_Coming up to him_.]  O do not take it so hard, Lubin—Us can do
naught at this pass but trust what the young woman did tell me.

LUBIN.  [_Gloomily_.]  The sight of Rose has stirred up my love so
powerful that I do hardly know how to hold the tears back from my eyes.

ISABEL.  [_Pressing her eyes with her apron_.]  What’ll it be for me when
Robert comes in?

LUBIN.  We’ll have to help one another, Isabel, in the plight where we
stand.

ISABEL.  That’s it.  And perchance as them seeds’ll do the rest.

[_They spring apart as a sound of voices and laughter is heard outside_.

KITTY.  [_Runs in_.]  They’ve come.  All of them.  And do you know that
Robert’s cousins are no fine ladies at all, as he said, but just two
common old women dressed grand-like.

ISABEL.  That will be a sad shock to poor mistress.

KITTY.  O, she is too much taken up with Mister Robert to notice yet.
But quick!  They are all sharp set from the drive.  Fetch in the dishes,
William and Lucy.

ISABEL.  All shall be ready in a moment, Miss Kitty.

[_She goes hurriedly out followed by_ LUBIN.  KITTY _glances round the
room and then stands at the side of the front door_.  JOHN, _giving an
arm to each of_ ROBERT’S _cousins_, _enters_.  _The cousins are dressed
in coloured flowered dresses_, _and wear bonnets that are heavy with
bright plumes_.  _They look cumbered and ill at ease in their clothes_,
_and carry their sunshades and gloves awkwardly_.

LIZ.  [_Looking round her_.]  Very comfortable, I’m sure.  But I count as
that there old-fashioned grate do take a rare bit of elbow grease.

JANE.  Very pleasant indeed.  But I didn’t reckon as the room would be
quite the shape as ’tis.

LIZ.  Come to that, I didn’t expect the house to look as it do.

JANE.  Very ancient in appearance, I’m sure.

JOHN.  Ah, the house has done well enough for me and my father and
grandfather afore me.

[ROSE, _very grandly dressed_, _comes in hanging on_ ROBERT’S _arm_.
ROBERT _is clothed in the fashion of the town_.

ROSE.  Please to remove your bonnet, Miss Eliza.  Please to remove yours,
Miss Jane.

JOHN.  [_Heartily_.]  Ah, that’s so—’Twill be more homely like for
eating.

ROSE.  There’s a glass upon the wall.

LIZ.  I prefer to remain as I be.

JANE.  Sister and me have our caps packed up in the tin box.

KITTY.  [_Bringing the tin box from the doorway_.]  Shall I take you
upstairs to change?  Dinner’s not quite ready yet.

LIZ.  That will suit us best, I’m sure.  Come, sister.

[KITTY _leads the way out_, _followed by both sisters_.

JOHN.  I’ll just step outside and see that Jerry’s tending to the horse.

[_He hurries out_, _and_ ROBERT _is left alone with_ ROSE.

ROSE.  [_Coming towards him and holding out her hands_.]  O, Robert, is
it the same between us as it was last time?

ROBERT.  [_Looking at her critically_.]  You’ve got your hair different
or something.

ROSE.  [_Putting her hand to her head_.]  The new maid.  A stupid country
wench.

ROBERT.  You’ve got my meaning wrong.  ’Tis that I’ve never seen you look
so well before.

ROSE.  O dear Robert!

ROBERT.  You’ve got my fancy more than ever, Rose.

ROSE.  O, I’m so happy to be going off with you to-morrow, and I love it
down at Bristol.  Robert, I’m tired and sick of country life.

ROBERT.  We’ll make a grand fine lady of you there, Rose.

ROSE.  [_A little sharply_.]  Am I not one in looks already, Robert?

ROBERT.  You’re what I do dote upon.  I can’t say no more.

[LUBIN _and_ ISABEL _enter carrying dishes_, _which they set upon the
table_.  ROBERT _and_ ROSE _turn their backs to them and look out into
the garden_.  _The staircase door is opened_, _and_ LIZ, JANE _and_ KITTY
_come into the room_.  LIZ _and_ JANE _are wearing gaudy caps trimmed
with violet and green ribbons_.

ROSE.  We’ll sit down, now.  John won’t be a moment before he’s here.

[_She sits down at one end of the table and signs to_ ROBERT _to place
himself next to her_.  _The sisters and_ KITTY _seat themselves_.  JOHN
_comes hurriedly in_.

JOHN.  That’s right.  Everyone in their places?  But no cover laid for
Mary?

ROSE.  [_Carelessly_.]  We can soon have one put, should she take it into
her head to drop in.

JOHN.  That’s it.  Now ladies, now Robert—’tis thirsty work a-driving
upon the Bristol road at midsummer.  We’ll lead off with a drink of
home-made cider.  The eating’ll come sweeter afterwards.

ROBERT.  That’s it, Miller.

[LUBIN _and_ ISABEL _come forward and take the cider mugs from each place
to the side table_, _where_ LUBIN _fills them from a large jug_.  _In the
mugs of_ ROSE-ANNA _and_ ROBERT, ISABEL _shakes the contents of the
little packets_.  _Whilst they are doing this the following talk is
carried on at the table_.

LIZ [_Taking up a spoon_.]  Real plated, sister.

JANE.  Upon my word, so ’tis.

ROSE.  And not so bright as I should wish to see it neither.  I’ve had a
sad trouble with my maids of late.

LIZ.  Sister and I don’t keep none of them, thank goodness.

JANE.  We does our work with our own hands.  We’d be ashamed if ’twas
otherwise.

ROBERT.  [_Scowling at them_.]  I’ve been and engaged a house-full of
servants for Rose-Anna.  She shall know what ’tis to live like a lady
once she enters our family.

JOHN.  Servants be like green fly on the bush.  They do but spoil th’
home and everything they do touch.  All save one.

KITTY.  And that one’s Jerry, I suppose.

JOHN.  You’re right there, Kitty, that you are.  A harder head was never
given to man than what Jerry do carry twixt his shoulders.

[LUBIN _and_ ISABEL _here put round the mugs of cider_, _and everyone
drinks thirstily_.  ISABEL _stands behind the chairs of_ ROSE _and_
ROBERT _and_ LUBIN _at_ JOHN’S _side_.

ROBERT.  [_Setting down his mug_.]  There’s a drink what can’t be got in
foreign parts.

ROSE.  [_Looking fondly at him_.]  Let the maid fill your mug again, my
dear one.

ROBERT.  [_Carelessly handing it to_ ISABEL.]  I don’t mind if I do have
another swill.

[ISABEL _fills the mug and puts it by his side_.

LIZ.  As good as any I ever tasted.

JANE.  Couldn’t better it at the King’s Head up our way.

JOHN.  Good drink—plenty of it.  Now we’ll start upon the meat I reckon.

[_He takes up a knife and fork and begins to carve_, _and_ LUBIN _hands
round plates_.  _During this_ ROBERT’S _gaze restlessly wanders about the
room_, _finally fixing itself on_ ISABEL, _who presently goes out to the
back kitchen with plates_.

ROBERT.  The new serving maid you’ve got there, Rose, should wear a cap
and not her bonnet.

ROSE.  How sharp you are to notice anything.

ROBERT.  A very pretty looking wench, from what I can see.

ROSE.  [_Speaking more to the cousins than to_ ROBERT.]  O she’s but a
rough and untrained girl got in all of a hurry.  Not at all the sort I’ve
been used to in this house, I can tell you.

[ISABEL _comes back with fresh plates and stands at the side table_.

LIZ.  [_To_ JANE.]  A mellower piece of pig meat I never did taste,
sister.

JANE.  I’m sorry I went and took the poultry.

KITTY.  John will carve you some ham if you’d like to try it, Miss Jane.

JANE.  I’m sure I’m much obliged.

[JEREMY _comes in_.]

JEREMY.  [_Coming to the back of_ JANE’S _chair_.]  Don’t you get mixing
of your meats is what I says.  Commence with ham and finish with he.
That’s what do suit the inside of a delicate female.

JANE.  [_Looking up admiringly_.]  Now that’s just what old Uncle he did
used to say.

JEREMY.  Old uncle did know what he was a-talking about then.

LIZ.  [_Warming and looking less awkward and ill at ease_.]  ’Twas the
gout what kept Uncle so low in his eating, ’twas not th’ inclination of
him.

JEREMY.  Ah ’twouldn’t be the gout nor any other disease as would keep me
from a platter of good food.

JOHN.  Nor from your mug of drink neither, Jerry.

[JEREMY _laughs and moves off to the side table_.

LIZ.  A very pleasant sort of man.

JANE.  I do like anyone what’s homely.

JOHN.  [_Calling out heartily_.]  Do you listen to that, Jerry!  The
ladies here do find you pleasant and homely, and I don’t know what else.

JEREMY.  The mugs want filling once more.

[_He stolidly goes round the table refilling the mugs_.  ROSE’S _gaze
wanders about her_.

ROSE.  [_To_ ROBERT.]  That’s not a bad looking figure of a man—

ROBERT.  Who?

ROSE.  Well—the new farm hand.

ROBERT.  A sulky looking brute.  I’d not let him wear his hat to table if
I was master here.

ROSE.  He puts me in mind of—well—there, I can’t recollect who ’tis.  [_A
knock is heard at the door_.

ROSE.  [_Sharply to_ ISABEL.]  Go and see who ’tis, Lucy.

[ISABEL _opens the door_, _and_ MARY MEADOWS _stands on the threshold_,
_a large nosegay of beautiful wild flowers in her hand_.

JOHN.  [_Rising up in great pleasure_.]  You’re late, Mary.  But you’re
welcome as the—as the very sunshine.

ROSE.  Set another place, Lucy.

MARY.  Not for me, Rose.  I did not come here to eat or drink, but to
bring you these few blossoms and my love.

ROSE.  [_Rises from the table and takes the nosegay_.]  I’m sure you’re
very kind, Mary—Suppose we were all to move into the parlour now we have
finished dinner, and then we could enjoy a bit of conversation.

LIZ.  Very pleasant, I’m sure.

JANE.  I see no objection.

KITTY.  [_Running round to look at the flowers_.]  And Mary shall tell us
how to make charms out of the flowers—and the meanings of the blossoms
and all the strange things she knows about them.

JOHN.  [_Taking a flower from the bunch and putting it into his coat_.]
Yes, and how to brew tea as’ll curl up anyone’s tongue within the mouth
for a year—and fancy drinks for sheep with foot rot, and powders against
the murrain and any other nonsense that you do please.

MARY.  Now, John, I’ll not have you damage my business like this.

LIZ.  Maybe as the young person’s got sommat what’ll be handy with your
complaint, sister.

JANE.  Or for when you be took with th’ air in your head so bad, Jane.

ROSE.  Yes, I reckon that Mary has a charm for every ill beneath the sun.
Let’s go off to the parlour along of her.  You’re not coming with us,
John, are you?

JOHN.  I’d not miss the telling of these things for anything in the
world, foolishness though they be.

ROSE.  Come along then—all of you.

[_They all go out_.  JEREMY _holds the door open for them_.  _As she
passes through it_ LIZ _says_, _looking at him_.

LIZ.  We shall hope for your company, too.

JANE.  To be sure, mister.

JEREMY.  [_Haughtily_.]  I bain’t one for parlours, nor charms, ma’am.  I
be here for another purpose.

[_They leave the room_.

JEREMY.  [_Having watched the party out_, _moves towards the cider jug_.]
Now, my man, now, my wench—us’ll see what can be done with the victuals
and drink they’ve been and left.  ’Tis a fair heavy feed and drink as I
do need.  Sommat as’ll lift me up through all the trials of this here
foolish matrimony and stuff.

[_He raises the jug of cider to his mouth as the Curtain falls_.



ACT III.—Scene 1.


_The next morning_.  ROBERT’S _cousins are standing by the fire-place of
the same room_.

LIZ.  ’Tis powerful unhomely here, Jane.

JANE.  And that ’tis.  I wish as Robert had never brought us along of
him.

LIZ.  She’s a stuck-up jay of a thing what he’s about to wed if ever I
seed one.

JANE.  That her be.  He’ll live to wish hisself dead and buried one day.

LIZ.  There bain’t but one sensible tongue in the whole place to my mind.

JANE.  Ah, he’s a man to anyone’s liking, sister.

LIZ.  ’Tis homelike as he do make I to feel among all these strangers.

JANE.  Here he comes.

[JEREMY _with a yoke and two pails stands at the doorway_.

LIZ.  Now do you come in, mister, and have a bit of talk along of we.

JANE.  Set down them pails and do as sister says, Mister Jeremy.

[JEREMY _looks them all over and then slowly and deliberately sets down
his pails_.

LIZ.  That’s right, sister and me was feeling terribly lonesome here this
morning.

JANE.  And we was wishing as we’d never left home to come among all these
stranger folk.

LIZ.  Not that we feels you to be a stranger, dear Mister Jeremy.

JANE.  You be a plain homely man such as me and sister be accustomed to.

JEREMY.  Anything more?

LIZ.  I suppose you’ve put by a tidy bit—seeing as you be of a certain
age.

JANE.  Although your looks favour you well, don’t they, sister?

LIZ.  To be sure they do.

JANE.  And I reckon as you could set up a home of your own any day,
mister.

JEREMY.  [_Pointing through the window_.]  See that there roof against
the mill?

LIZ.  Indeed I do.

JEREMY.  That’s where I do live.

[_Both sisters move quickly to the window_.

JANE.  A very comfortable looking home indeed.

LIZ.  I likes the looks of it better nor this great old house.

JANE.  [_Archly_.]  Now I daresay there’s but one thing wanted over
there, Mister Jeremy.

JEREMY.  What’s that?

JANE.  A good wife to do and manage for you.

JEREMY.  I never was done for nor managed by a female yet, and blowed if
I will be now.

LIZ.  [_Shaking her finger at him_.]  Sister an’ me knows what comes of
such words, don’t us, sister?  ’Tis an old saying in our family as one
wedding do make a many.

JEREMY.  Give me a woman’s tongue for foolishness.  I’ve heared a saying
too in my family, which be—get a female on to your hearth and ’tis Bedlam
straight away.

JANE.  Now, sister, did you ever hear the like of that?

LIZ.  Us’ll have to change his mind for him, Jane.

JEREMY.  I reckon ’twould take a rare lot of doing to change that,
mistress.

JANE.  Bain’t you a-goin’ to get yourself ready for church soon?

JEREMY.  Dashed if I ever heard tell of such foolishness.  Who’s to mind
the place with all the folk gone fiddle-faddling out?

LIZ.  There’s the man William.

JEREMY.  I bain’t a-goin’ to leave the place to a stranger.

JANE.  Why, sister, us’ll feel lost and lonesome without mister, shan’t
us, Liz?

LIZ.  That us will.  What if us stayed at home and helped to mind the
house along of he?

JANE.  [_Slowly_.]  And did not put our new gowns upon the backs of we
after all the money spent?

JEREMY.  Ah, there you be.  ’Tis the same with all females.  Creatures of
vanity—even if they be got a bit long in the tooth.  ’Tis all the same.

[JANE _and_ LIZ _draw themselves up_, _bridling_, _but_ LIZ _relaxes_.

LIZ.  He must have his little joke, sister, man-like, you know.

[JOHN _enters_.]

JOHN.  Jerry, and I’ve been seeking you everywhere.  Come you off to the
yard.  ’Tis as much as we shall do to be ready afore church time.  I
never knew you to idle in the house afore.

JEREMY.  [_Taking up his pails_, _sarcastically_.]  ’Twas the females as
tempted I, master, but ’twon’t occur again, so there.  [_He hurries off_,
_followed by_ JOHN.

LIZ.  [_With dignity_.]  Us’ll go upstairs and dress, sister.

JANE.  ’Tis time we did so.  All them new-fashioned things be awkward in
the fastenings.

[_They go upstairs_.

[ROBERT _and_ ROSE _come in from the garden_.  ROBERT _carries a little
card-board box in his hand_, _which he places on the table_.  ROSE _sits
down listlessly on a chair leaning her arms on the table_.

ROBERT.  [_Undoing the box_.]  This is the bouquet what I promised to
bring from town.

ROSE.  [_Her gaze wandering outside_.]  Well, we might as well look at it
afore I go to dress.

[ROBERT _uncovers the box and takes out a small bouquet of white flowers
surrounded by a lace frill_.

ROSE.  [_Taking it from him carelessly and raising it to her face_.]
Why, they are false ones.

ROBERT.  [_Contemptuously_.]  My good girl, who ever went to church with
orange blossom that was real, I’d like to know?

ROSE.  [_Languidly dropping the bouquet on the table_.]  I’m sure I don’t
care.  I reckon that one thing’s about as good as another to be married
with.

ROBERT.  [_Going to the window and looking out_.]  Ah—I daresay ’tis so.

ROSE.  I feel tired of my wedding day already—that I do.

ROBERT.  There’s a plaguey, fanciful kind of feel about the day, what a
man’s hardly used to, so it seems to me.

ROSE.  [_Wildly_.]  O, I reckon we may get used to it in time afore we
die.

ROBERT.  Now—if ’twas with the right—

ROSE.  Right what, Robert?

ROBERT.  [_Confused_.]  I hardly know what I was a-going to say, Rose.
Suppose you was to take up your flowers and go to dress yourself.  We
might as well get it all over and finished with.

ROSE.  [_Rising slowly_.]  Perhaps ’twould be best.  I’ll go to my room,
and you might call the girl Lucy and send her up to help me with my
things.

ROBERT.  Won’t you take the bouquet along of you?

ROSE.  No—let it bide there.  I can have it later.

[_She goes slowly from the room_.

[_Left to himself_, ROBERT _strolls to the open door and looks gloomily
out on the garden_.  _Suddenly his face brightens_.

ROBERT.  Lucy, Lucy, come you in here a moment.

LUCY.  [_From outside_.]  I be busy just now hanging out my cloths,
master.

ROBERT.  Leave your dish cloths to dry themselves.  Your mistress wants
you, Lucy.

LUCY.  [_Coming to the door_.]  Mistress wants me, did you say?

ROBERT.  Yes, you’ve got to go and dress her for the church.  But you can
spare me a minute or two first.

ISABEL.  [_Going quickly across the room to the staircase door_.]
Indeed, that is what I cannot do, master.  ’Tis late already.

ROBERT.  [_Catches her hand and pulls her back_.]  I’ve never had a good
look at your face yet, my girl—you act uncommon coy, and that you do.

ISABEL.  [_Turning her head away and speaking angrily_.]  Let go of my
hand, I tell you.  I don’t want no nonsense of that sort.

ROBERT.  Lucy, your voice do stir me in a very uncommon fashion, and
there’s sommat about the appearance of you—

ISABEL.  Let go of me, master.  Suppose as anyone should look through the
window.

ROBERT.  Let them look.  I’d give a good bit for all the world to see us
now.

ISABEL.  O, whatever do you mean by that, Mister Robert?

ROBERT.  What I say.  ’Tis with you as I’d be going along to church this
morning.  Not her what’s above.

ISABEL.  But I wouldn’t go with you—No, not for all the gold in the
world.

ROBERT.  Ah, you’ve changed since yesterday.  When I caught your eye at
dinner, ’twas gentle as a dove’s—and your hand, when it gave me my mug of
cider did seem—well did seem to put a caress upon me like.

ISABEL.  O there lies a world of time twixt yesterday and to-day, Master
Robert.

ROBERT.  So it do seem.  For to-day ’tis all thorns and thistles with
you—But I’m a-goin’ to have my look at your pretty face and my kiss of it
too.

ISABEL.  I shall scream out loud if you touches me—that I shall.

ROBERT.  [_Pulling her to him_.]  Us’ll see about that.

[_He tries to get a sight of her face_, _but she twists and turns_.
_Finally he seizes both her hands and covers them with kisses as_ KITTY
_enters_.

KITTY.  O whatever’s going on!  Rose, Rose, John—come you in here
quickly, do.  [_To_ LUCY.]  O you bad, wicked girl.  I knew you couldn’t
be a very nice servant brought in off the road by Jeremy.

[ISABEL, _released by_ ROBERT, _goes over to the window arranging her
disordered sun-bonnet and trying to hide her tears_.  ROBERT _watches her
sullenly_.

KITTY.  [_Goes to the staircase door and calls loudly_.]  Rose, Rose—come
you down as quick as you can run.

ROSE.  [_Coming down_.]  What’s all this, I’d like to know?

KITTY.  It’s Lucy, behaving dreadful—O you must send her straight away
from the house, Rose.

ROSE.  What has she done, then?

KITTY.  Going on with Robert.  Flirting, Rose, and kissing.

ISABEL.  O no, mistress, twasn’t so, I do swear to you.

ROBERT.  [_Brutally_.]  Yes ’twas.  The maid so put me powerful in mind
of someone who—who—

ROSE.  [_Coldly_.]  I understand you, Robert.  Well, ’tis lucky that all
this didn’t come off an hour or so later.

KITTY.  [_Tearfully_.]  O Rose, what do you mean?

ROSE.  I mean that what’s not broken don’t need no mending.  Robert can
go to church with someone else to-day, he can.  And no harm done.

[_She takes up the bunch of orange flowers and begins pulling it to
pieces and throwing it all about the room_.

KITTY.  O Rose, Rose, don’t take it so hard.  ’Twasn’t Robert’s fault.
’Twas the girl off the road what led him on.  I know it.  Tell her to get
out of the house.  I’ll dress you—I’ll do the work.  Only be just and
sensible again; dear Rose.

ROSE.  Let the girl bide.  It makes no difference to me.  There’ll be no
marrying for me to-day.

[JOHN _comes in at the door_.

KITTY.  [_Running to him_.]  O John, John—do you quiet down Rose and tell
her to get upstairs and dress.  She’s a-saying that she won’t marry
Robert because of his goings on with the new servant—But, O, you’ll talk
her into reason again, won’t you, dear John?

JOHN.  Come, come, what’s all this cackle about, Rose?

ROSE.  I’m breaking off with Robert, that’s all, John.

JOHN.  Robert, can’t you take and explain a bit what ’tis.

ROBERT.  [_Sullenly_.]  A little bit of play ’twixt me and the wench
there, and that’s about all, I reckon.

JOHN.  Now that’s an unsensible sort of thing to get doing on your
marriage day, to my thinking.

KITTY.  ’Twasn’t Robert’s fault, I know.  ’Twas the maid off the road who
started it.

[_Here_ ISABEL _sinks down on a chair by the window_, _leaning her arms
on the table and bowing her head_, _in tears_.

JOHN.  [_Going to the door_.]  Jeremy—Jeremy—come you in here a minute.

[_Instead of_ JEREMY, LUBIN _comes in_.

JOHN.  ’Twas Jeremy I did call—not you.

LUBIN.  He’s gone off the place for a few minutes.

JOHN.  [_Vexedly_.]  Ah, ’tis early for the Red Bull.

LUBIN.  Can I—can I do anything for you, master?

JOHN.  Not unless you can account for the sort of serving wench off the
roadside what Jerry has put upon us.

LUBIN.  What is there to account for in her, master?

ROSE.  [_Passionately_.]  O I don’t particular mind about what’s
happened.  Let her kiss with Robert if she has the mind.  ’Tis always the
man who commences.

JOHN.  ’Tis not.  There are some wenches who don’t know how to leave
anyone alone.  Worser than cattle flies, that sort.

ISABEL.  [_Going across the room to_ LUBIN’S _side_.]  O you shame me by
them words, I bain’t that sort of maid—you’ll answer for me—William?

[LUBIN _silently takes her hand_.

ROSE.  [_Her eyes fixed on_ LUBIN.]  I’ll tell you what, John; I’ll tell
you, Kitty.  I wish I’d held me to my first lover and I wish ’twas with
Lubin that I was a-going to the church to-day.

ROBERT.  [_Sullenly_.]  Then I’ll say sommat, Rose.  I wish ’twas with
Isabel that I was getting wed.

JOHN.  Now, now—’Tis like two children a quarrelling over their
playthings.  Suppose you was to go and get yourself dressed,
Rose-Anna—And you too, Robert.  Why, the traps will be at the door afore
you’re ready if you don’t quicken yourselves up a bit.  Kitty, you go and
help your sister.

ROSE.  [_With a jealous glance at Isabel_.]  No, I’ll have Lucy with me.

JOHN.  That’s it, you keep her out of mischief

KITTY.  I’ve got my own dress to put on.

JOHN.  And Robert, you and me will have a drink after all this caddle.
’Tis dry work getting ready for marriage so it appears.

ROBERT.  ’Tis fiery dry to my thinking.

ROSE.  [_Crossing the room and going up to_ LUBIN.]  I have no flowers to
take to church with me, William; go you to the waterside, I have a mind
to carry some of the blue things what grow there.

KITTY.  Forget-me-nots, you mean!

ROSE.  Forget-me-nots, I mean.  And none but you to gather them for me,
William.  Because—because—well, you do put me in thoughts of someone that
I once held and now have lost.  That’s all.

[_Curtain_.



ACT III.—Scene 2.


_The same room half an hour later_.  ISABEL _is picking up the scattered
orange blossom which she ties together and lays on the window sill_.
LUBIN _comes in with a large bunch of river forget-me-nots_.

LUBIN.  I didn’t think to find you here, Isabel.

ISABEL.  O but that is a beautiful blue flower.  I will take the bunch
upstairs.  She is all dressed and ready for it.

LUBIN.  [_Putting it on the table_.]  No—do you bide a moment here with
me.

[ISABEL _looks helplessly at_ LUBIN _who takes her hands slowly in his_.

LUBIN.  What are we going to do?

ISABEL.  I wish as we had never touched the seeds.

LUBIN.  O cursed seeds of love—Far better to have left all as ’twas
yesterday in the morning.

ISABEL.  He has followed me like my shadow, courting and courting me hard
and all the time, Lubin.

LUBIN.  She sought me out in the yard at day-break, and what I’d have
given twenty years of life for yester eve I could have thrown into the
stream this morning.

ISABEL [_Sadly_.]  So ’tis with my feelings.

LUBIN.  She has altered powerful, to my fancy, in these years.

ISABEL.  And Robert be differenter too from what I do remember.  [_A long
silence_.

LUBIN.  Have you thought as it might be in us two these changes have come
about, Isabel?

ISABEL.  I was just the maid as ever I was until—

LUBIN.  And so was I unchanged, until I started travelling up on the same
road as you, Isabel.

[_For a few minutes they look gravely into one another’s eyes_.

LUBIN.  [_Taking_ ISABEL’S _hands_.]  So that’s how ’tis with you and me.

ISABEL.  O Lubin—a poor serving maid like I am.

LUBIN.  I’ll have no one else in the whole world.

ISABEL.  What could I have seen in him, times gone by?

LUBIN.  And was it ever true that I did sit through a long Sunday her
hand in mine?  [_Another silence_.

ISABEL.  But how’s us ever to get out of the caddle where we be?

LUBIN.  [_Gaily_.]  We’ll just run away off to the Fair as t’other
servants did.

ISABEL.  And leave them in their hate for one another?  No—’twould be too
cruel.  Us’ll run to the young mistress what knows all about them herbs.
I count as there be seeds or sommat which could set the hearts of them
two back in the right places again.  Come—

LUBIN.  Have it your own way then.  But ’twill have to be done very
quickly if ’tis done at all.

ISABEL.  Us’ll fly over the ground like.

[_She puts her hand impetuously in_ LUBIN’S _and they go out together_.
_As they do so_, ISABEL’S _bonnet falls from her head and lies unheeded
on the floor_.



ACT III.—Scene 3.


_A few minutes later_.  LIZ _and_ JANE _wearing gay sprigged dresses and
feathered bonnets_, _come to the room_.  _They carry fans and
handkerchiefs in their hands_.  _It is seen that their gowns are not
fastened at the back_.

LIZ.  Such a house I never heard tell of.  Ring, ring at the bell and no
one to come nigh.

JANE.  Being unused to bells, sister, maybe as us did pull them wrong or
sommat.

LIZ.  I wish we’d had the gowns made different.

JANE.  To do up in the front—sensible like.

[_They twist and turn in front of the glass on the wall_, _absorbed in
their dress_, _they do not notice that_ JEREMY _has come in and is
watching them sarcastically_.

JEREMY.  Being as grey as th’ old badger don’t keep a female back from
vanity.

LIZ.  O dear, Master Jeremy, what a turn you did give me, to be sure.

JANE.  We can’t find no one in this house to attend upon we.

JEREMY.  I count as you can not.  Bain’t no one here.

LIZ.  We rang for the wench a many time.

JEREMY.  Ah, and you might ring.

JANE.  We want someone as’ll fasten them niggly hooks to our gowns.

JEREMY.  Ah, and you may want.

LIZ.  Our sight bain’t clear enough to do one for t’other, the eyelets be
made so small.

JEREMY.  Count as you’ll have to go unfastened then.

JANE.  O now you be a laughing at us.  Call the wench down, or we shall
never be ready in time.

JEREMY.  Man and maid be both gone off.  Same as t’others, us’ll have to
do without service.

LIZ.  Gone off!

JANE.  Runned clean away?

JEREMY.  That’s about it.

JANE.  Well now, sister, us’ll have to ask the little Miss to help we.

JEREMY.  I’ve harnessed the mare a many time.  Don’t see why I shouldn’t
get the both of you fixed into the shafts like.

LIZ and JANE.  [_Fanning themselves coyly_.]  O Master Jeremy—

JEREMY.  Come now.  Let’s have a try.  I count as no one have a steadier
hand nor me this side of the river, nor a finer eye for seeing as
everything be in its place.  I’ll settle the both of you afore I gets out
the horse and trap.  Turn round.

[_The sisters turn awkwardly_, _and with very self-conscious airs begin
to flutter their fans_.  JEREMY _quickly hooks each gown in succession_.
_As he finishes the fastening of_ JANE’S _dress_ ROSE, _followed by_
KITTY, _comes into the room_.  _She is wearing her bridal gown and veil_.

ROSE.  [_Pausing_.]  What’s this, Jeremy?

JEREMY.  The servants be runned away same as t’others—that’s all,
mistress.

ROSE.  Run away?

JEREMY.  So I do reckon.  Bain’t anywhere about the place.

ROSE.  [_Flinging herself down on a chair by the table_, _in front of the
bunch of forget-me-nots_.]  Let them be found.  Let them be brought back
at once.

KITTY.  For my part I’m glad they’ve gone off.  The girl was a wild, bad
thing.  I saw how she went on with Robert.

ROSE.  [_Brokenly to_ JEREMY.]  You found them.  Bring them back, Jerry.

KITTY.  No—wait till you and Robert are made man and wife, Rose.  Then
’twon’t matter quite so much.

ROSE.  I’ll never wed me to Robert, I’ll only wed me to him who gathered
these blue flowers here.

KITTY.  Good heavens, Rose, ’twas the man William.

[KITTY _looks in consternation from_ ROSE _to the cousins and then to_
JEREMY, _who remains impassive and uninterested_, _sucking a straw_.
ROSE _clasps her hands round the forget-me-nots and sits gazing at them_,
_desolately unhappy_.  ROBERT _enters_.  _He is very grandly dressed for
the wedding_, _but as he comes into the room he sees_ ISABEL’S _cotton
bonnet on the floor_.  _He stoops_, _picks it up and laying it reverently
on the table_, _sinks into a chair opposite_ ROSE _and raising one of its
ribbons_, _kisses this with passion_.

ROBERT.  There—I’d not change this for a thousand sacks of gold—I swear
I’d not.

KITTY.  Now Robert—get up, the two of you.  Are you bewitched or sommat—O
Jerry, stir them, can’t you.

LIZ.  Robert, ’tisn’t hardly suitable—with the young miss so sweetly
pretty in her white gown.

JANE.  And wedding veil and all.  And sister and me hooked up into our
new sprigs, ready for the ceremony.

JEREMY.  [_Looking at them with cold contempt_.]  Let them bide.  The
mush’ll swim out of they same as ’twill swim off the cider vat.  Just let
the young fools bide.

KITTY.  O this’ll never do.  Jerry forgetting of his manners and all.
[_Calling at the garden door_.]  John, John, come you here quickly,
there’s shocking goings on.  [JOHN, _in best clothes comes in_.

JOHN.  What’s the rattle now, Kitty?  I declare I might be turning round
on top of my own mill wheel such times as these.

KITTY.  Rose says she won’t wed Robert, and Robert’s gone off his head
all along of that naughty servant maid.

[JOHN _stands contemplating_ ROSE _and_ ROBERT.  ROSE _seems lost to the
outside world and is gazing with tears at her forget-me-nots_, _whilst_
ROBERT, _in sullen gloom_, _keeps his eyes fixed on the sun-bonnet_.

JOHN.  Come, Rose, ’tis time you commenced to act a bit different.  [ROSE
_does not answer_.

JOHN.  Come, Robert, if you play false to my sister at the last moment,
you know with whom you’ll have to reckon like.  [ROBERT _pays no heed to
him_.

JOHN.  [_To_ JEREMY.]  Can you do naught to work upon them a bit, Jerry?

JEREMY.  I’d have a jug of cider in, master.  ’Twill settle them all.
Folks do get ’sterical and vapourish face to face with matrimony.  Put
some drink afore of them, and see how ’twill act.

LIZ.  O what a wise thought, Master Jerry.

JANE.  Most suitable, I call it.

[_Here_ MARY MEADOWS _comes in_, JOHN _turns eagerly to her_.

JOHN.  O Mary—have you come to help us in the fix where we are?  [_He
signs to_ ROSE _and_ ROBERT.

MARY.  What has happened, John?

JEREMY.  I’ll tell you in a couple of words, mistress.

LIZ.  No—do you fetch the cider, dear Mister Jeremy.

JOHN.  ’Tis more than I can do with, Mary.  Rose is set against Robert,
and Robert is set against Rose.  Rose—well I’m fairly ashamed to mention
it—Rose has lost her senses and would wed the servant William—and Robert
is a-courting of the maid.

JEREMY.  Ah, let each fool follow their own liking, says I.

LIZ.  And sister and me all dressed in our new gowns for the church.

JANE.  And Jerry had to do the hooking for we, both of the servants
having runned away.

MARY.  Well, now I’m here I’ll lend a hand.  I’ll help with the dinner
time you’re at church.  You shall not need to trouble about anything, Mr.
John.

JOHN.  O once I do get them to the church and the ring fixed and all I
shan’t trouble about nothing, Mary.  But ’tis how to move them from where
they be!  That’s the puzzle.

ROSE.  I’ll never move till the hand that gathered these flowers be here
to raise me.

ROBERT.  I’ll sit here to the end of the world sooner nor go along to be
wed with Miss over there.

MARY.  ’Tis midsummer heat have turned their brains.  But I know a
cooling draught that will heal them of their sickness.  Jeremy, do you
step into the garden and bring me a handful of fresh violet leaves, one
blossom from the heartsease and a sprig of rosemary.

JEREMY.  [_Sighing_.]  What next?

JOHN.  Get gone at once, Jerry.

[JEREMY _goes to the door_—_as he does so_ LIZ _and_ JANE _start up and
follow him_.

LIZ.  Sister and me will come along and help you, dear Mr. Jeremy.

JANE.  And that us will, if our new gowns bain’t hooked too tight for we
to bend.

[_They follow_ JEREMY _to the garden_.  KITTY _silently leaves the room
also_.  ROSE _and_ ROBERT _remain lost in their sorrowful reflections_.
JOHN _and_ MARY _look at them for a moment and then turn to one another_.

JOHN.  Mary, I never thought to see such a thing as this.

MARY.  You take my word for it, John, the storm will soon be blown away.

JOHN.  I don’t know how I should stand up against the worry of it all,
wasn’t it for you, Mary.

[_A short silence_.

JOHN.  [_Taking_ MARY’S _hand_.]  ’Twill be a bit lonesome for me here,
when they’ve gone off, Mary.

MARY.  You’ll have Kitty to do for you then.

JOHN.  Kitty be going to live along of them at Bristol too, after a
while.

MARY.  [_Looking round the room_.]  Then I count as it might feel a bit
desolate like in this great house alone.

JOHN.  [_Taking_ MARY’S _hand_.]  I cannot face it, Mary.  I’ve loved you
many years, you know.

MARY.  I know you have, dear John.

JOHN.  Can’t you forget he what was false to you, days gone by, and take
me as your husband now?

MARY.  [_Doubtfully_.]  I don’t hardly know.

JOHN.  You used to sing sommat—the grass that was trampled under foot,
give it time, it will rise up again.

MARY.  [_Drying her eyes_.]  Ah, it has risen, dear John—and I count it
have covered the wound of those past days—my heart do tell me so, this
minute.

JOHN.  [_Holding both her hands_.]  Then ’tis one long midsummer afore
you and me, Mary.

MARY.  That’s how ’twill be, dear John.

[JEREMY, _followed by the cousins_, _enters_.  _He holds a bunch of
leaves towards_ MARY.

JEREMY.  There you be, mistress.  Fools’ drink for fools.  A mug of good
cider would have fetched them to their senses quicker.

[MARY _takes the bunch_, _and still holding_ JOHN’S _hand_, _leads him to
the kitchen_.  JEREMY _watches the pair sarcastically_.

JEREMY.  ’Tis all finished with the master, then.

[_The sisters seat themselves on the couch and mop their faces with
handkerchiefs_.

LIZ.  Dear me, ’tis warm.

JANE.  I hope my face don’t show mottled, sister?

JEREMY.  I was saying as how ’twas all finished with the master.

[MARY, _followed by_ JOHN, _comes forward carrying two glasses_.  _She
gives one to_ ROSE _and the other to_ ROBERT.

MARY.  Now do you take a good draught of this, the both of you.  With
violet leaves the fever of the mind is calmed, and heartsease lightens
every trouble caused by love.  Rosemary do put new life to anyone with
its sweetness, and cold spring water does the rest.

[_She leaves the table and stands far back in the room by_ JOHN’S _side_.
ROSE _slowly lifts her glass and begins to drink_.  ROBERT _does the
same_.  _They are watched with anxiety by all in the room_.  _When they
have emptied their glasses_ ROSE _dries her tears and pushes the flowers
a little way from her_.  ROBERT _shakes himself and moves the cotton
bonnet so that it falls unheeded to the floor_.  _Meanwhile_ KITTY _has
come quietly to the garden door and stands there watching the scene
intently_.

LIZ.  Bain’t we going to get a drink too?

JANE.  Seems as though master have been and forgot we.

JEREMY.  [_Starting up and going to the kitchen_.]  If I’ve been and
forgot you two old women, I’ve remembered myself.  Be blowed if I can get
through any more of this foolishness without a wet of my mouth.

[_He goes out_.

ROSE.  [_Speaking faintly_.]  Does it show upon my face, the crying,
Robert?

ROBERT.  [_Looking at her_.]  No, no, Rose, your eyes be brighter nor
ever they were.

ROSE.  [_Pushing the forget-me-nots yet further away_.]  Those flowers
are dying.  My fancy ones were best.

KITTY.  [_Coming forward with the orange blossoms_.]  Here they are, dear
Rose.

ROSE.  [_Taking them_.]  O how beautiful they do look.  I declare I can
smell the sweetness coming out from them, Robert.

ROBERT.  All the orange blossom in the world bain’t so sweet as one kiss
from your lips, Rose.

ROSE.  Now is that truly so?

ROBERT.  Ah, ’tis heavy work a-waiting for the coach, Rose.

JOHN.  [_Coming forward and taking_ MARY’S _hand_.]  And yours won’t be
the only marriage Rose-Anna.  Did you never think that me and Mary might—

KITTY.  [_Running forward_.]  But I did—O so many times, John.  [JEREMY
_enters with_ LUBIN _and_ ISABEL.

JEREMY.  Servants be comed back.  Man was to the Red Bull, I count.
Female a-washing and a-combing of herself in the barn.

ROSE.  [_Coldly_.]  I don’t care whether they be here or not.  Set them
to work, Jerry, whilst we are to church.

LIZ.  That’s it, Master Jeremy.  I was never so put out in my life, as
when sister did keep on ringing and the wench was not there to help us on
with our gowns.

[ROSE _and_ ROBERT _get up and go towards the door_.  _They pause before_
LUBIN _and_ ISABEL.

ROSE.  The man puts me in mind of someone whom I knew before, called
Lubin.  I thought I had a fancy for him once—but ’twasn’t really so.

ROBERT.  And the girl do favour a little servant wench from Framilode.

ROSE.  [_Jealously_.]  You never went a-courting with a servant wench,
now did you, my heart’s dearest?

ROBERT.  Never in all my days, Rose.  ’Twas but the fanciful thoughts of
a boy towards she, that I had.

ROSE.  [_Putting her arm in_ ROBERT’S.]  Well, we have nothing to do with
anything more of it now, dear Robert.

ROBERT.  You’re about right, my true love, we’ll get us off to the
church.

JEREMY.  Ah, coach have been waiting a smartish while, I reckon.  ’Tis on
master as expense’ll fall.

[ROSE _and_ ROBERT _with cold glances at_ LUBIN _and_ ISABEL, _pass out
of the door_.

JOHN.  [_Giving his arm to_ MARY.]  Now, Mary—now, Kitty.  [_They pass
out_.

LIZ.  Now, Jeremy, sister and me bain’t going off all alone.

JEREMY.  [_Offering an arm to each_.]  No further than the church door, I
say.  I’ve better things to do nor a-giving of my arm to females be they
never so full of wiles.  And you two do beat many what bain’t near so
long in the tusk, ah, that you does.

[JEREMY _goes out with the sisters_.

LUBIN.  [_To_ ISABEL.]  And shall we go off into the meadows, Isabel,
seeing that we are quite forgot?

ISABEL.  No—’tis through these faithless ones as us have learnt to
understand the hearts within of we.  Let’s bide and get the marriage
dinner ready for them first.

[_She stretches both her hands towards_ LUBIN, _who takes them reverently
in his as the Curtain falls_.



THE NEW YEAR


CHARACTERS


STEVE BROWNING, _a Blacksmith_, _also Parish Clerk_.

GEORGE DAVIS, _a Carpenter_.

HARRY MOSS, _a young Tramp_.

MAY BROWNING.

JANE BROWNING.

DORRY BROWNING, _aged twelve_.

ANNIE SIMS.

ROSE SIMS.

VASHTI REED.



ACT I.—Scene 1.


_A country roadside_.  _It is late afternoon and already dusk_.  MAY
BROWNING _with_ HARRY MOSS _come slowly forward_.  _Close to a stile
which is a little off the road_, MAY _stops_.

MAY.  There, you don’t need to come no further with I, Harry Moss.  You
get on quick towards the town afore the night be upon you, and the snow,
too.

HARRY.  I don’t care much about leaving you like this on the roadside,
May.  And that’s the truth, ’tis.

MAY.  Don’t you take no more thought for I, Harry.  ’Tis a good boy as
you’ve been to I since the day when we fell in together.  But now there
bain’t no more need for you to hold back your steps, going slow and heavy
when you might run spry and light.  For ’tis home as I be comed to now, I
be.  You go your way.

HARRY.  I see naught of any house afore us or behind.  ’Tis very likely
dusk as is upon us, or may happen ’tis the fog getting up from the river.

MAY.  [_Coughing_.]  Look you across that stile, Harry.  There be a field
path, bain’t there?

HARRY.  [_Taking a few steps to the right and peering through the
gloom_.]  Ah, and that there be.

MAY.  And at t’other end of it a house what’s got a garden fence all
round.

HARRY.  Ah—and ’tis so.  And now as I comes to look there be a light
shining from out the windows of it, too, though ’tis shining dim-like in
the mist.

MAY.  ’Tis that yonder’s my home, Harry.  There’s the door where I must
stand and knock.

[_For a moment she draws the shawl over her face and is shaken with
weeping_.

HARRY.  I wouldn’t take on so, if ’twas me.

MAY.  And did you say as how there was a light in the window?  ’Twill be
but fire light then, for th’ old woman she never would bring out the lamp
afore ’twas night, close-handed old she-cat as her was, what’d lick up a
drop of oil on to the tongue of her sooner nor it should go wasted.

HARRY.  There, ’tis shining better now—or maybe as the fog have shifted.

MAY.  ’Tis nigh to home as I be, Harry.

HARRY.  Then get and stand up out of the wet grass there, and I’ll go
along of you a bit further.  ’Twill not be much out of my way.  Nothing
to take no count of.

MAY.  No, no, Harry.  I bain’t going to cross that field, nor yet stand
at the door knocking till the dark has fallen on me.  Why, is it like as
I’d let them see me coming over the meadow and going through the gate in
this?  [_Holding up a ragged shawl_.]  In these?  [_Pointing to her
broken shoes_.]  And—as I be to-day.

[_Spreading out her arms and then suddenly bending forward in a fit of
anguished coughing_.

HARRY.  There, there, you be one as is too handy with the tongue, like.
Don’t you go for to waste the breath inside of you when you’ll be wanting
all your words for they as bides up yonder and as doesn’t know that you
be coming back.

MAY.  [_Throwing apart her shawl and struggling with her cough_.]  Harry,
you take the tin and fill it at the ditch and give I to drink.  ’Tis all
live coals within I here, so ’tis.

HARRY.  You get along home, and maybe as them’ll find summat better nor
water from the ditch to give you.

MAY.  No, no, what was I a-saying to you?  The dark must fall and cover
me, or I won’t never go across the field nor a-nigh the house.  Give I to
drink, give I to drink.  And then let me bide in quiet till all of the
light be gone.

HARRY.  [_Taking out a tin mug from the bundle beside her_.]  Where be I
to find drink, and the frost lying stiff upon the ground?

MAY.  [_Pointing_.]  Up yonder, where the ash tree do stand.  Look you
there, ’tis a bit of spouting as do come through the hedge, and water
from it, flowing downwards away to the ditch.

[HARRY _goes off with the can_.  MAY _watches him_, _drawing her shawl
again about her and striving to suppress a fit of coughing_.

[HARRY _returns and holds out the can_.

MAY.  ’Tis not very quick as you’ve been, Harry Moss.  Here—give it to I
fast.  Give!

[HARRY _puts the can towards her and she takes it in her hands_, _which
shake feverishly_, _and she drinks with sharp avidity_.

MAY.  ’Tis the taste as I have thought on these many a year.  Ah, and
have gotten into my mouth, too, when I did lay sleeping, that I have.
Water from yonder spout, with the taste of dead leaves sharp in it.
Drink of it, too, Harry.

HARRY.  ’Tis no water as I wants, May.  Give I summat as’ll lie more warm
and comfortable to th’ inside like.  I bain’t one for much water, and
that’s the truth, ’tis.  [_He empties the water on the ground_.

MAY.  Then go you out upon your way, Harry Moss, for the dark be
gathering on us fast, and there be many a mile afore you to the town,
where the lamps do shine and ’tis bright and warm in the places where
they sells the drink.

HARRY.  Once I sets off running by myself, I’ll get there fast enough,
May.  But I be going to stop along of you a bit more, for I don’t care
much about letting you bide lonesome on the road, like.

MAY.  Then sit you down aside of me, Harry, and the heat in my body,
which is like flames, shall maybe warm yourn, too.

HARRY.  [_Sitting down by her side_.]  ’Tis a fine thing to have a home
what you can get in and go to, May, with a bit of fire to heat the limbs
of you at, and plenty of victuals as you can put inside.  How was it as
you ever came away from it, like?

MAY.  Ah, and that’s what I be asking of myself most of the time, Harry!
For, ’tis summat like a twelve or eleven year since I shut the door
behind me and went out.

[_A slight pause_.

MAY.  Away from them all, upon the road—so ’twas.

HARRY.  And never see’d no more of them, nor sent to say how ’twas with
you, nor nothing?

MAY.  Nor nothing, Harry.  Went out and shut the door behind me.  And
’twas finished.

[_A long pause_, _during which the darkness has gathered_.

HARRY.  Whatever worked on you for to do such a thing, May?

MAY.  [_Bitterly_.]  Ah now, whatever did!

HARRY.  ’Tweren’t as though you might have been a young wench, flighty
like, all for the town and for they as goes up and about the streets of
it.  For, look you here, ’tis an old woman as you be now, May, and has
been a twenty year or more, I don’t doubt.

MAY.  An old woman be I, Harry?  Well, to the likes of you ’tis so, I
count.  But a twelve year gone by, O, ’twas a fine enough looking maid as
I was then—Only a wild one, Harry, a wild one, all for the free ways of
the road and the lights of the fair—And for the sun to rise in one place
where I was, and for I to be in t’other when her should set.

HARRY.  I’d keep my breath for when ’twas wanted, if ’twas me.

MAY.  Come, look I in the face, Harry Moss, and tell I if so be as
they’ll be likely to know I again up at home?

HARRY.  How be I to tell you such a thing, May, seeing that ’tis but a
ten days or less as I’ve been along of you on the road?  And seeing that
when you was a young wench I never knowed the looks of you neither?

MAY.  Say how the face of I do seem to you now, Harry, and then I’ll tell
you how ’twas in the days gone by?

HARRY.  ’Tis all too dark like for to see clear, May.  The night be
coming upon we wonderful fast.

MAY.  The hair, ’twas bright upon my head eleven years gone by, Harry.
’Twas glancing, as might be the wing of a thrush, so ’twas.

HARRY.  Well, ’tis as the frost might lie on a dead leaf now, May, that
it be.

MAY.  And the colour on me was as a rose, and my limbs was straight.
’Twas fleet like a rabbit as I could get about, the days that was then,
Harry.

HARRY.  ’Tis a poor old bent woman as you be now, May.

MAY.  Ah, Death have been tapping on the door of my body this long while,
but, please God, I can hold me with the best of them yet, Harry, and that
I can.  Victuals to th’ inside of I and a bit of clothing to my bones,
with summat to quiet this cough as doubles of I up.  Why, there, Harry,
you won’t know as ’tis me when I’ve been to home a day or two—or may be
as ’twill take a week.

HARRY.  I count ’twill take a rare lot of victuals afore you be set up as
you once was, May.

MAY.  Look you in my eyes, Harry.  They may not know me up at home by the
hair, which is different to what ’twas, or by the form of me, which be
got poor and nesh like.  But in the eye there don’t come never no change.
So look you at they, Harry, and tell I how it do appear to you.

HARRY.  There be darkness lying atween you and me, May.

MAY.  Then come you close to I, Harry, and look well into they.

HARRY.  Them be set open wonderful wide and ’tis as though a heat comed
out from they.  ’Tis not anyone as might care much for to look into the
eyes what you’ve got.

MAY.  [_With despondence_.]  Maybe then, as them’ll not know as ’tis me,
Harry Moss.

HARRY.  I count as they’ll be hard put to, and that’s the truth.

MAY.  The note of me be changed, too, with this cold what I have, and the
breath of me so short, but ’twon’t be long, I count, afore they sees who
’tis.  Though all be changed to th’ eye like, there’ll be summat in me
as’ll tell they.  And ’tis not a thing of shape, nor of colour as’ll
speak for I—But ’tis summat what do come straight out of the hearts of we
and do say better words for we nor what the looks nor tongues of us might
tell.  You mind me, Harry, there’s that which will come out of me as’ll
bring they to know who ’tis.

HARRY.  Ah, I reckon as you’ll not let them bide till they does.

MAY.  And when they do know, and when they sees who ’tis, I count as
they’ll be good to me, I count they will.  I did used to think as Steve,
he was a hard one, and th’ old woman what’s his mother, hard too—And that
it did please him for to keep a rein on me like, but I sees thing
different now.

HARRY.  Ah, ’tis one thing to see by candle and another by day.

MAY.  For ’twas wild as I was in the time gone by.  Wild after pleasuring
and the noise in the town, and men a-looking at the countenance of I, and
a-turning back for to look again.  But, hark you here, ’tis powerful
changed as I be now.

HARRY.  Ah, I count as you be.  Be changed from a young woman into an old
one.

MAY.  I’m finished with the road journeying and standing about in the
streets on market days and the talk with men in the drinking places—Men
what don’t want to look more nor once on I now, and what used to follow
if ’twasn’t only a bit of eyelid as I’d lift on them, times that is gone.

HARRY.  Ah, ’twould take a lot of looking to see you as you was.

MAY.  Yes, I be finished with all of it now, and willing for to bide
quiet at the fireside and to stay with the four walls round I and the
door shut.

HARRY.  I reckon as you be.

MAY.  And I’m thinking as they’ll be rare pleased for to have I in the
house again.  ’Twill be another pair of hands to the work like.  And when
I was young, ’twas not on work as I was set much.

HARRY.  Ah, I did guess as much.

MAY.  But when I gets a bit over this here nasty cough, ’tis a strong arm
as them’ll have working for they; Steve, th’ old woman what’s his mother,
and little Dorry, too.

HARRY.  Dorry?  I han’t heard tell of she.

MAY.  That’s my little baby as was, Harry Moss.  I left she crawling on
the floor, and now I count as she be growed into a rare big girl.  Bless
the innocent heart of her!

HARRY.  Whatever led you to do such a thing, I can’t think!  You must
have been drove to it like, wasn’t you?

MAY.  ’Twas summat inside of me as drove I, then.  ’Twas very likely the
blood of they gipsies which did leap in I, so that when I was tied up to
Steve, ’twas as if they had got I shut in a box.  ’Twas the bridle on my
head and the bit in the mouth of I; and to be held in where once I had
gone free.  [_A short pause_.

MAY.  And I turned wild, Harry, for the very birds seemed to be calling I
from the hedges to come out along of they, and the berries tossing in the
wind, and the leaves blowing away quick from where they’d been stuck all
summer.  All of it spoke to I, and stirred I powerful, so that one
morning when the sun was up and the breeze running, I comed out into the
air, Harry, and shut the door behind I.  And ’twas done—so ’twas.

HARRY.  And didn’t they never try for to stop you, nor for to bring you
back, May?

MAY.  No, Harry, they did not.

HARRY.  And where was it you did go to, May, once you was out and the
door shut ahind of you?

MAY.  Ah—where!  To the east, to the south, every part.  ’Twas morning
with I in that time, and the heart of I was warm.  And them as went along
of I on the road, did cast but one look into the countenance of I.  Then
’twas the best as they could give as I might take; and ’twas for no
lodging as I did want when dark did come falling.

HARRY.  And yet, look you here, you be brought down terrible low, May.

MAY.  The fine looks of a woman be as grass, Harry, and in the heat of
the day they do wither and die.  And that what has once been a grand
flower in the hand of a man is dropped upon the ground and spat upon,
maybe.  So ’twas with I.

[_She bows her head on her knees_, _and for a moment is shaken with
sudden grief_.

HARRY.  Don’t you take on so, May.  Look you here, you be comed to the
end of your journeying this day, and that you be.

MAY.  [_Raising her head_.]  Ah, ’tis so, ’tis so.  And ’tis rare glad as
them’ll be to see I once again.  Steve, he’s a hard man, but a good
one—And I’ll tell you this, Harry Moss, he’ll never take up with no woman
what’s not me—and that he won’t—I never knowed him much as look on one,
times past; and ’twill be the same as ever now, I reckon.  And little
Dorry, ’twill be fine for her to get her mammy back, I warrant—so ’twill.

[_A slight pause_.

MAY.  Th’ old woman—well—I shan’t take it amiss if her should be dead,
like.  Her was always a smartish old vixen to I, that her was, and her
did rub it in powerful hard as Steve was above I in his station and that.
God rest the bones of she, for I count her’ll have been lying in the
churchyard a good few years by now.  But I bain’t one to bear malice, and
if so be as her’s above ground, ’tis a rare poor old wretch with no
poison to the tongue of she, as her’ll be this day—so ’tis.

HARRY.  Look you here—the snow’s begun to fall and ’tis night.  Get up
and go in to them all yonder.  ’Tis thick dark now and there be no one on
the road to see you as you do go.

MAY.  Help I to get off the ground then, Harry, for the limbs of me be
powerful weak.

HARRY.  [_Lifting her up_.]  The feel of your body be as burning wood,
May.

MAY.  [_Standing up_.]  Put me against the stile, Harry, and then let I
bide alone.

HARRY.  Do you let me go over the field along of you, May, just to the
door.

MAY.  No, no, Harry, get you off to the town and leave me to bide here a
while in the quiet of my thoughts.  ’Tis of little Dorry, and of how
pleased her’ll be to see her mammy once again, as I be thinking.  But
you, Harry Moss, as han’t got no home to go to, nor fireside, nor
victuals, you set off towards the town.  And go you quick.

HARRY.  There’s summat in me what doesn’t care about leaving you so, May.

MAY.  And if ever you should pass this way come spring-time, Harry, when
the bloom is white on the trees, and the lambs in the meadows, come you
up to the house yonder, and may be as I’ll be able to give you summat to
keep in remembrance of me.  For to-day, ’tis empty-handed as I be.

HARRY.  I don’t want nothing from you, May, I don’t.

MAY.  [_Fumbling in her shawl_.]  There, Harry—’tis comed back to my mind
now.  [_She takes out part of a loaf of bread_.]  Take you this bread.
And to-night, when you eats of it, think on me, and as how I be to home
with Steve a-holding of my hand and little Dorry close against me; and
plenty of good victuals, with a bed to lie upon warm.  There, Harry, take
and eat.

[_She holds the bread to him._

HARRY.  [_Taking the bread_.]  I count ’twill all be well with you now,
May?

MAY.  I warrant as ’twill, for I be right to home.  But go you towards
the town, Harry, for ’tis late.  And God go with you, my dear, now and
all time.

HARRY.  I’ll set off running then.  For the night, ’tis upon us, May, and
the snow, ’tis thick in the air.

[MAY _turns to the stile and leans on it heavily_, _gazing across the
field_.  HARRY _sets off quickly down the road_.



ACT II.—Scene 1.


_The living room in the Brownings’ cottage_.  _The room is divided by a
curtain which screens the fireside end from the draught of the principal
door_.

_To the right of the fireplace is a door leading upstairs_.  _Chairs are
grouped round the hearth_, _and there is a table at which_ JANE BROWNING
_is ironing a dress by the light of one candle_.  DORRY _leans against
the table_, _watching her_.

JANE.  [_Putting aside the iron_.]  There, you take and lay it on the bed
upstairs, and mind you does it careful, for I’m not a-going to iron it
twice.

[_She lays the dress carefully across_ DORRY’S _arms_.

DORRY.  Don’t the lace look nice, Gran’ma?

JANE.  You get along upstairs and do as I says, and then come straight
down again.

DORRY.  Couldn’t I put it on once, Gran’ma, just to see how it do look on
me?

JANE.  And get it all creased up afore to-morrow!  Whatever next!  You go
and lay it on the bed this minute, do you hear?

DORRY.  [_Leaving the room by the door to the right_.]  I’d like to put
it on just once, I would.

[JANE BROWNING _blows out the candle and puts away the iron and ironing
cloth_.  _She stirs up the fire and then sits down by it as_ DORRY _comes
back_.

DORRY.  Dad’s cleaning of himself ever so—I heard the water splashing
something dreadful as I went by his door.

JANE.  ’Tis a-smartening of hisself up for this here dancing as he be
about, I reckon.

DORRY.  [_Sitting down on a stool_.]  I’d like to go along, too, and see
the dancing up at the schools to-night, I would.

JANE.  And what next, I should like to know!

DORRY.  And wear my new frock what’s ironed, and the beads what Miss Sims
gived me.

JANE.  [_Looking out at the window_.]  I’m thinking as we shall get some
snow by and bye.  ’Tis come over so dark all of a sudden.

DORRY.  Couldn’t I go along of they, Gran’ma, and wear my new frock, and
the beads, too?  I never see’d them dance th’ old year out yet, I
haven’t.

JANE.  Get along with you, Dorry.  ’Tis many a year afore you’ll be of an
age for such foolishness.  And that’s what I calls it, this messing about
with dancing and music and I don’t know what.

DORRY.  Katie Sims be younger nor me and she’s let to go, she is.

JANE.  You bain’t Katie Sims, nor she you.  And if the wedding what’s
to-morrow isn’t enough to stuff you up with nonsense, I don’t know what
is.

DORRY.  I wish it was to-morrow now, Gran’ma, I do.  Shall you put on
your Sunday gown first thing, or wait till just afore we goes to church?

JANE.  How your tongue do go!  Take and bide quiet a bit, if you knows
how.

DORRY.  I shall ask Dad if I may go along of him and Miss Sims to the
dance, I shall.  Dad’s got that kind to me since last night—he gived me a
sixpence to buy sweets this morning when I hadn’t asked.  And won’t it be
nice when Miss Sims comes here to live, and when you has someone to help
you in the work, Gran’ma?

JANE.  Well—’tis to be hoped as ’twill be all right this time.

DORRY.  This time, Gran’ma!  Why, wasn’t it all right when Dad was
married afore, then?

JANE.  [_Getting the lamp from a shelf_.]  I don’t light up as a rule
till ’tis six o’clock, but I count it’s a bit of snow coming as have
darkened the air like.

DORRY.  Gran’ma, isn’t Miss Sims nice-looking, don’t you think?  I’d like
to wear my hair like hers and have earrings a-hanging from me and
a-shaking when I moves my head, I would.

JANE.  [_Setting the lamp on the table_.]  Here, fetch me the matches,
do.

DORRY.  [_Bringing the matches_.]  Was my mammy nice-looking, like Miss
Sims, Gran’ma?

JANE.  I’m one as goes by other things nor looks—For like as not ’tis
fine looks as is the undoing of most girls as has them—give me a plain
face and a heart what’s pure, I says, and ’tis not far out as you’ll be.

DORRY.  Was my mammy’s heart pure, Gran’ma?  [_A moment’s silence_.  JANE
_lights the lamp_.  DORRY _leans at the table_, _watching her_.

DORRY.  Was my mammy’s—[_A loud knock on the outside door_.

JANE.  Who’s that come bothering round!  Run and see, Dorry, there’s a
good child.

DORRY.  It’ll be Gran’ma Vashti, I daresay.  She do mostly knock at the
door loud with her stick.

[DORRY _runs to the window and looks out_.

DORRY.  ’Tis her, and the snow white all upon her.

[DORRY _goes to the door to open it_.

JANE.  [_To herself_.]  Of all the meddlesome old women—why can’t her
bide till her’s wanted.

[DORRY _opens the door wide_, _and_ VASHTI _Comes slowly in to the room_,
_leaning on a big staff_.

JANE.  Well, Vashti Reed, and what brings you down from the hill to-day?
’Twould have been better had you bid at home, with the dark coming on and
the snow.

DORRY.  [_Who has closed the door_.]  Sit down, Granny—there, close
against the fire, do.

[VASHTI _stands in the middle of the room_, _looking from one to
another_.

DORRY.  Sit down, Granny, by the fire, do.

VASHTI.  ’Tis in the house and out of it as I have went.  And down to the
pool where the ice do lie, and up on the fields where ’tis fog, And there
be summat in I what drives I onward, as might the wind.  And no where may
the bones of me rest this day.

JANE.  If ’tis to talk your foolishness as you be come, you’d best have
stopped away.  Here, sit you down, Vashti Reed, and behave sensible, and
maybe as I’ll get you summat warm to drink presently.

DORRY.  Yes, Grannie, sit you down along of we.

[VASHTI _sits stiffly down by the hearth_, _leaning on her stick_.  JANE
_resumes her place_, _and_ DORRY _puts her little stool between them_.

VASHTI.  And in the night when I was laid down, against the windowpane it
fled a three times.  A three time it fled and did beat the pane as though
’twould get in.  And I up and did open the window.  And the air it ran
past I, and ’twas black, with naught upon it but the smell of a shroud.
So I knowed.

DORRY.  What did you know, Granny?

VASHTI.  [_Leaning forward and warming her hands at the fire_, _speaking
as though to herself_.]  Summat lost—summat lost, and what was trying to
get safe away.

DORRY.  Safe away?  From what, Granny?

VASHTI.  And there be one what walks abroad in the night time, what holds
in the hand of him a stick, greater nor this staff what I holds here, and
the knife to it be as long again by twice.

DORRY.  O, Granny, I’ll be a-feared to go across the garden after dark, I
shall.

JANE.  What do you want to go and put that there into the child’s head
for?  I’d like for Steve to hear you talking of such stuff.

VASHTI.  I sat me down at the table, but the victuals was as sand in the
mouth, and the drink did put but coldness within I.  And when the door
was closed, ’twas as if one did come running round the house and did beat
upon it for to be let in.  Then I did go for to open it, but the place
outside was full of emptiness, and ’twas they old carrion crows what did
talk to I out of the storm.

JANE.  How you do go on, to be sure!  Why don’t you speak of summat
what’s got some sense to it?  Come, don’t you know as Steve, his wedding
day, ’tis to-morrow as ever is.

DORRY.  ’Tis the New Year, too, Granny, as well as Dad’s marriage.

VASHTI.  [_Suddenly_.]  Be this house made ready for a-marrying, then?

DORRY.  Why, of course it be, Granny.  Don’t you see how ’tis cleaned and
the new net curtains in the windows, and the bit of drugget ’gainst the
door where the old one always tripped me up?

VASHTI.  I see naught but what ’tis more like a burial here.  So ’tis.
And ’tis a burial as I’ve carried in my heart as I comed down from the
hills.

DORRY.  [_Looking out of the window_.]  Granny, you’ll be forced to bide
the night along of we, ’cause the snow be falling thick, and ’twill be
likely as not as you’ll lose your way if you start for to go home again
when ’tis snowing.

JANE.  Th’ old thing may as well bide the night now she be come.  Hark
you, Vashti, ’twill save you the journey down to-morrow like, if you
bides the night, and the chimney corner is all as you ever wants.

VASHTI.  And what should I be journeying down to-morrow for, Jane
Browning?

DORRY.  Why, Granny, ’tis Dad’s wedding day to-morrow, and ’tis a white
frock with lace to it as I’m going to wear, and beads what Miss Sims
gived me, and the shoes what was new except for being worn to church
three times.  Shall I fetch them all and show to you, Granny?

JANE.  Yes, run along and get them, Dorry; very likely ’twill give her
thoughts a turn, looking at the things, seeing as she be in one of her
nasty moods to-day when you can’t get a word what isn’t foolishness out
of her.  [DORRY _runs upstairs_.

VASHTI.  [_Leaning forward_.]  Was her telling of a marriage?

JANE.  Why, yes, Vashti Reed.  And you know all about it, only you don’t
trouble for to recollect nothing but what you dreams of yourself in the
night.  ’Tis our Steve what’s going to marry Annie Sims to-morrow.

VASHTI.  Steve Browning?

JANE.  I haven’t patience with th’ old gipsy!  Yes—Steve.  And ’tis a
twelvemonth or more as you’d knowed of it.

VASHTI.  Our Steve, what’s husband to my May?

JANE.  ’Tis a fine thing to fetch up May this evening, that ’tis.  May,
what went out trolloping along the roads ’stead of she biding at home to
mind the house and child!  ’Tis how you did breed she up, Vashti Reed,
what led her to act as her did.  And if you’d have bred her different,
’twould have been all the same; for what’s in the blood is bound to out
and show; and when you picks a weed and sets it in the room, ’tain’t no
flower as you must look for.

VASHTI.  ’Tis summat like a twelve year since her went.  But in the
blinking of an eye the latch might be raised, and she come through the
door again.  God bless the head an feet of she!

JANE.  There you are, Vashti, talking so foolish.  A bad herb like she,
was bound for to meet her doom.  And ’twas in the river up London way
where the body of her was catched, floating, and the same petticoat to it
as I’ve seed on May a score of times.  Don’t you recollect how ’twas
parson as brought the news to we?

VASHTI.  ’Taint with no parsons as I do hold, nor with what may come from
the mouths of they, neither.

JANE.  And Steve, I knowed what was in his mind when parson was gone out.
’Twas not much as he did say, being a man what hasn’t many words to his
tongue.  But he took and fetched down his big coat what do hang up
yonder, and told I to put a bit of black to the sleeve of it.  Leastways,
he didn’t speak the words, but I seed what he was after, and I took and
sewed a bit on, and he’s wore it ever since till yesterday—And that’s
eleven year ago it be—so there.

VASHTI.  Her be moving about upon the earth, her be.  And I seems to feel
the tread of she at night time, and by day as well.  Her bain’t shrouded,
nor boxed, nor no churchyard sod above the limbs of she—you take my
words—and there shall come a day when the latch shall rise and her be
standing among us and a-calling on her child and husband what’s forgotten
she.

JANE.  For goodness sake, Vashti, have done speaking about such things
to-night.  If Steve was to hear you, why I shouldn’t wonder if he was to
put you out of the door and into the snow—and ’tis most unfitting for to
talk so afore the child.

VASHTI.  [_Calling out loudly_.]  Come back to I, May—you come back to
I—there bain’t no one what thinks on the name of you, or what wants you
but your old mother.  You come back to I!

JANE.  I’ll thank you for to shut your mouth, old Vashti!  ’Tain’t
nothing to be proud on as you’ve got, and ’twould be better if you was to
be less free in your hollering.  Look, here’s Dorry coming.

[DORRY _comes into the kitchen_; _she is wearing her new white frock_.

DORRY.  See, Granny, I’ve been and put it on for to show you better.  See
the lace?  Isn’t it nice?  And the beads, too.  I didn’t stop for to put
on my shoes, nor my new stockings.  Nor my hat, what’s got a great long
feather all round of it.

JANE.  You bad, naughty girl, Dorry, you’ll crease and tumble that frock
so as it’s not fit to be seen to-morrow!  Whatever did you go to put it
on for?

DORRY.  So as that Gran should see something pretty, and so as she should
come out of her trouble.  Gran’s always got some trouble in her mind,
han’t you, Granny?

VASHTI.  A twelve year gone by, my child.

JANE.  I’ll give it you if you starts off again.

VASHTI.  A twelve year gone by—

DORRY.  A twelve year gone by, what then, Granny?

VASHTI.  ’Tis more’n eleven years since her wented out of the door, my
child—your poor mammy.  Out of the door, out of the door!  And likely as
not ’twill be feet first as her shall be brought in again.

DORRY.  Granny, was my poor mammy, what’s dead, nice looking like Miss
Sims as is going for to marry Dad, to-morrow?

VASHTI.  ’Twas grand as a tree in full leaf and the wind a-moving all the
green of it as was your mammy, my dear.

DORRY.  And did she have fine things to her, nice gowns and things, like
Miss Sims, Granny?

JANE.  ’Twas the looks of her and the love of finery and pleasuring what
was her undoing, as ’twill be the undoing of you, too, Dorry, if you
don’t take care.  ’Tis she as you favours, and none of your father’s
people, more’s the pity, and ’tis more thoughtful and serious as you’ll
have to grow if you don’t want to come to harm.  You take and go right
up, and off with that frock, do you hear me?

DORRY.  O, I wanted to be let to go to the dancing now I’d got it on, I
did.

JANE.  Dancing, there you are!  Dancing and finery, ’tis all as you do
think on, and ’tis plain to see what’s got working in the inside of you,
Dorry.  ’Tis the drop of bad blood as you has got from she what bore you.
But I might as well speak to that door for all you cares.  Only, hark you
here, you’ll be sorry one of these days as you han’t minded me better.
And then ’twill be too late.

[STEVE _comes down the stairs_, _pushes open the door and enters_.

STEVE.  Well, Mother, what’s up now?  Gran, you here?  Why, Dorry, what
be you a-crying for?

DORRY.  I wants to be let to go to the dancing, Dad—now that I’ve got my
frock on and all.—O, I wants to be let to go.

STEVE.  Well, Mother—what do you say?  ’Twouldn’t hurt for she to look in
about half an hour, and Annie and me we could bring her back betimes.

DORRY.  O, Dad, I wants to go if ’twas only for a minute.

STEVE.  There, there—you shall go and we’ll say no more about it.

JANE.  I never knowed you give in to her so foolish like this afore,
Steve.

STEVE.  Well, Mother, ’tain’t every day as a man’s married, that ’tain’t.

VASHTI.  And so you’re to be wed come to-morrow, Steve?  They tells me as
you’re to be wed.

STEVE.  That’s right enough, Gran.

VASHTI.  [_Rising_.]  And there be no resting in me to-day, Steve.  There
be summat as burns quick in the bones of my body and that will not let me
bide.—And ’tis steps as I hears on the roadside and in the fields—and
’tis a bad taste as is in my victuals, and I must be moving, and peering
about, and a-taking cold water into my mouth for to do away with the
thing on my tongue, which is as the smell of death—So ’tis.

JANE.  Now she’s off again!  Come, sit you down, Vashti Reed, and I’ll
give you summat as’ll very likely warm you and keep you quiet in your
chair a while.  Just you wait till I gets the water boiling.

[_She begins to stir up the fire and sets a kettle on it_.

DORRY.  [_From the window_.]  Here’s Miss Sims coming up the path, and
Rosie too.  O, they’re wrapped up all over ’cause ’tis snowing.  I’ll
open, I’ll open.

[_She runs to the door and unlatches it_.  ANNIE _and_ ROSE SIMS _come
in_, _shaking the snow from them and unbuttoning their cloaks_, _which_
STEVE _takes from them and hangs on the door_.



ACT II.—Scene 2.


ANNIE.  [_As_ STEVE _takes off her cloak_.]  ’Tis going to be a dreadful
night.  The snow’s coming down something cruel.

ROSE.  There won’t be many to the dance if it keeps on like this, will
there?

STEVE.  Get you to the fire, both of you, and warm yourselves before we
sets out again.

DORRY.  Miss Sims, Miss Sims—Miss Rosie—I’m going along with you to the
dance, Dad says as I may.

JANE.  Bless the child!  However her has worked upon her father, and he
so strict, I don’t know.

ANNIE.  Well, you be got up fine and grand, Dorry—I shouldn’t hardly know
’twas you.  [_Turning to_ VASHTI REED.]  Good evening, Mrs. Reed, my eyes
was very near blinded when I first got in out of the dark, and I didn’t
see as you was there.

ROSE.  Good evening, Mrs. Reed, and how be you keeping this cold weather?

VASHTI.  [_Peering into their faces as they stand near her_.]  What be
you a-telling I of?

ANNIE.  We was saying, how be you in this sharp weather, Mrs. Reed?

VASHTI.  How be I?

ROSE.  Yes, Mrs. Reed, how be you a-keeping now ’tis come over such nasty
weather?

VASHTI.  And how should an old woman be, and her one child out in the
rain and all the wind, and driv’ there too by them as was laid like
snakes in the grass about the feet of she, ready for to overthrow she
when her should have gotten to a time of weakness.

JANE.  Take no account of what she do say, girls, but sit you down in the
warm and bide till I gets the time to take and look on the clothes which
you have upon you.  [_Moving about and putting tea things on the table_.]
I be but just a-going to make a cup of tea for th’ old woman, with a drop
of summat strong to it as will keep her from using of her tongue so free
till morning time.

ANNIE.  [_Sitting down_.]  Poor old woman, ’tis a sad thing when folks do
come to such a pass as she.

ROSE.  And han’t got their proper sense to them, nor nothing.  But she’s
better off nor a poor creature what we saw crouching below the hedge as
we was coming across the meadow.  “Why,” I says to Annie, “it must be bad
to have no home to bide in such a night as this!”  Isn’t that so, Mrs.
Browning?

STEVE.  Ah, you’re right there, you’re right.

ROSE.  I wouldn’t much care to be upon the road to-night, would you,
Steve?

VASHTI.  And at that hour when th’ old year be passing out, and dark on
all the land, the graves shall open and give up the dead which be in
they.  And, standing in the churchyard you may read the face to each, as
the corpses do go by.  There’s many a night as I have stood and have
looked into they when them did draw near to I, but never the face I did
seek.

[_Here_ JANE, _who has been making a cup of tea_, _and who has poured
something in it from a bottle_, _advances to_ VASHTI.

JANE.  Here, Vashti Reed, here’s a nice cup of hot tea for you.  Take and
drink it up and very likely ’twill warm th’ inside of you, for I’ll lay
as you haven’t seen a mouthful of naught this day.

STEVE.  Ah, that’s it, that’s it.  When folks do go leer ’tis a powerful
lot of fancies as do get from the stomach to the heads of they.

[VASHTI _takes the cup and slowly drinks_.

DORRY.  O, Miss Sims, you do look nice.  Look, Gran’ma, at what Miss Sims
have got on!

VASHTI.  [_Putting down her cup and leaning forward_.]  Which of you be
clothed for marriage?

JANE.  Get along of you, Gran, ’tis for the dance up at the school as
they be come.

VASHTI.  Come you here—her what’s to wed our Steve.  Come you here and
let I look at you.  My eyes bain’t so quick as they was once.  Many tears
have clouded they.  But come you here.

DORRY.  Go along to her, Miss Sims, Granny wants to look at your nice
things.

ANNIE.  [_Steps in front of_ VASHTI.]  Here I be, Mrs. Reed.

VASHTI.  Be you the one what’s going to wed our Steve come New Year.

ANNIE.  That’s it, Mrs. Reed, that’s it.

VASHTI.  And be these garments which you be clothed in for marriage or
for burial?

STEVE.  Come, Granny, have another cup of tea.  Annie, don’t you take no
account of she.  ’Tis worry and that as have caused the mind of she to
wander a bit, but she don’t mean nothing by it.

ANNIE.  All right, Steve.  She don’t trouble me at all.  [_To_ VASHTI.]
’Tis to be hoped as I shall make a good wife to Steve, Mrs. Reed.

VASHTI.  Steve!  What do Steve want with another wife?  Han’t he got one
already which is as a rose among the sow-thistles.  What do Steve want
for with a new one then?

STEVE.  Come on, girls.  I can’t stand no more of this.  Let’s off, and
call in to George’s as we do go by.

ROSE.  We did meet Mr. Davis as we was coming along and he said as how
’twouldn’t be many minutes afore he joined us here, Steve.

STEVE.  That’s right, then we’ll bide a bit longer till George do call
for we, only ’tis more nor I can stand when th’ old lady gets her tongue
moving.

DORRY.  Why, look, Gran’s fell asleep!  O, Miss Sims, now that Gran’s
dropped off and can’t say none of her foolish things any more, do stand
so as Dad and Gran’ma can see the frock which you’ve got for the dance.

ANNIE.  O, Dorry, you’re a little torment, that’s the truth.

[_She gets up and turns slowly round so that all can see what she has
on_.

ROSE.  Well, Steve?

STEVE.  Well, Rosie.

ROSE.  Haven’t you got nothing as you can say, Steve?

STEVE.  What be I to say, Rose?

ROSE.  Well, something of how you thinks she looks, of course.

STEVE.  O, ’tis all right, I suppose.

ROSE.  All right!  And is that about all as you’ve seen?  Why, bless you,
Steve, where have you gone and hid your tongue I should like to know!

STEVE.  Well, there bain’t nothing wrong, be there?

ROSE.  Of course there isn’t.  But I never did see such a man as you,
Steve.  Why, I don’t believe as you’d know whether Annie haves a pair of
eyes to her face or not, nor if they be the same colour one to t’other.

STEVE.  I sees enough for me.  I sees as Annie is the girl as I’ve picked
out of the whole world.  And I know that to-morrow she and I is to be
made man and wife.  And that be pretty nigh enough for me this night, I
reckon.

DORRY.  O, Miss Sims, do you hear what Dad is saying?  O, I wonder what I
should feel if ’twas me that was going to be married!

ROSE.  You get and ask Annie how ’tis with her, Dorry.  I could tell a
fine tale of how as she do lie tossing half the nights, and of the
candles that’s burned right down to the very end of them, I could.

ANNIE.  Don’t you go for to listen to her, Dorry, nor Steve, neither.
She’s that flustered herself about the dance to-night that she scarce do
know what she’s a-saying of.  But suppose you was just to ask her what
she’s got wrapped so careful in that there paper in her hand.

DORRY.  O, Rosie, whatever is it?

STEVE.  What’s that you’ve got hold on now, Rosie?

ANNIE.  Come, show them all, Rose.

[ROSE _slowly unfolds the paper and shows them all a hothouse carnation
and a fern_.

ROSE.  There ’tis, then.

DORRY.  O my, Rosie—isn’t it beautiful.  Be you going to wear it to the
dance?

ROSE.  No, Dorry, ’tisn’t for me.

ANNIE.  You just ask her for whom it is, then, Dorry.

DORRY.  O, who is it for, Rosie—who is it for?

ROSE.  No—I’m not a-going to tell none of you.

[_She wraps it up carefully again_.

ANNIE.  I’ll tell then, for you.

ROSE.  No, you shan’t, Annie—that you shan’t!

ANNIE.  That I shall, then—come you here, Dorry—I’ll whisper it to your
ear.  [_Whispers it to_ DORRY.

DORRY.  [_Excitedly_.]  I know who ’tis—I know—’tis for Mr. Davis—for Mr.
Davis!  Think of that, Dad—the flower ’tis for George Davis.

ROSE.  O, Annie, how you could!

STEVE.  George—

VASHTI.  [_Suddenly roused_.]  Who named George?  There was but one man
as was called by that name—and he courted my girl till her was faint and
weary of the sound and shape of he, and so on a day when he was come—

DORRY.  There’s Gran gone off on her tales again.

[JANE _crosses the hearth and puts a shawl over the head of_ VASHTI, _who
relapses again into sleep_.

STEVE.  [_Sitting down by_ ROSE.]  What’s this, Rose?  I han’t heard tell
of this afore.  Be there aught a-going on with you and George, then?

ROSE.  No, Steve, there isn’t nothing in it much, except that George and
me we walked out last Sunday in the evening like—and a two or three time
before.

STEVE.  And is it that you be a-keeping of that flower for to give to
George, then?

ROSE.  Well—’tis for George as I’ve saved it out of some what the
gardener up at Squire’s gived me.

STEVE.  [_As though to himself_.]  ’Tis a powerful many years since
George he went a-courting.  I never knowed him so much as look upon a
maid, I didn’t since—

ROSE.  Well, Steve, I’m sure there’s no need for you to be upset over it.
’Tis nothing to you who George walks out with, or who he doesn’t.

STEVE.  Who said as I was upset, Rose?

ROSE.  Look at the long face what you’ve pulled.  Annie, if ’twas me, I
shouldn’t much care about marrying a man with such a look to him.

ANNIE.  What’s up, Steve?  What’s come over you like, all of a minute?

STEVE.  ’Tis naught, Annie, naught.  ’Twas summat of past times what
comed into the thoughts of me.  But ’tis naught.  And, Rose, if so be as
’twas you as George is after, I’d wish him to have luck, with all my
heart, I would, for George and me—well, we too has always stuck close one
to t’other, as you knows.

JANE.  Ah—that you has, George and you—you and George.

ANNIE.  Hark—there’s someone coming up now.

DORRY.  O, let me open the door—let me open it!

[_She runs across the room and lifts the latch_.  GEORGE _stands in the
doorway shaking the snow from him_.  _Then he comes into the room_.

DORRY.  I’m going to the dance, Mr. Davis.  Look, haven’t I got a nice
frock on?

STEVE.  Good evening, George, and how be you to-night?

GEORGE.  Nicely, Steve, nicely.  Good evening, Mrs. Browning.  Miss Sims,
good evening—Yes, Steve, I’ll off with my coat, for ’tis pretty well
sprinkled with snow, like.

[STEVE _helps_ GEORGE _to take off his overcoat_.

ROSE.  A happy New Year to you, Mr. Davis.

JANE.  And that’s a thing which han’t no luck to it, if ’tis said afore
the proper time, Rosie.

ROSE.  Well, but ’tis New Year’s Eve, isn’t it?

GEORGE.  Ah, so ’tis—and a terrible nasty storm as ever I knowed!  ’Twas
comed up very nigh to my knees, the snow, as I was a-crossing of the
meadow.  And there lay some poor thing sheltering below the hedge, with a
bit of sacking throwed over her.  I count ’tis very near buried alive as
anyone would be as slept out in such a night.

STEVE.  I reckon ’twould be so—so ’twould.  But come you in and give
yourself a warm; and Mother, what do you say to getting us a glass of
cider all round afore we sets out to the dancing.

JANE.  What do you want to be taking drinks here for, when ’tis free as
you’ll get them up at the school?

STEVE.  Just a drop for to warm we through.  Here, I’ll fetch it right
away.

JANE.  No, you don’t.  I’ll have no one meddling in the pantry save it’s
myself.  Dorry, give me that there jug.

DORRY.  [_Taking a jug from the dresser_.]  Here ’tis, Gran’ma, shall I
light the candle?

JANE.  So long as you’ll hold the matches careful.

ANNIE.  Well—’tis to be hoped as the weather’ll change afore morning.

ROSE.  We shall want a bit of sunshine for the bride.

GEORGE.  That us shall, but it don’t look much as though we should get
it.

[JANE BROWNING _and_ DORRY _go out of the room_.

STEVE.  Sit you down, George, along of we.  ’Tis right pleased as I be
for to see you here to-night.

GEORGE.  Well, Steve, I bain’t one for a lot of words but I be powerful
glad to see you look as you does, and ’tis all joy as I wishes you and
her what’s to be your wife, to-morrow.

ANNIE.  Thank you kindly, Mr. Davis.  I shall do my best for Steve, and a
girl can’t do no more, can she?

ROSE.  And so you’re going to church along of Steve, Mr. Davis?

GEORGE.  ’Tis as Steve do wish, but I be summat after a cow what has
broke into the flower gardens, places where there be many folk got
together and I among they.

ROSE.  O, come, Mr. Davis!

GEORGE.  ’Tis with me as though t’were all hoof and horn as I was made
of.  But Steve, he be more used to mixing up with the quality folks and
such things, and he do know better nor I how to carry his self in parts
when the ground be thick on them.

ANNIE.  Very likely ’tis a-shewing of them into their places of a Sunday
and a-ringing of the bell and a-helping of the vicar along with the
service, like, as has made Steve so easy.

ROSIE.  But, bless you, Mr. Davis, you sees a good bit of the gentry,
too, in your way, when you goes in to houses, as it might be the Squire’s
for to put up a shelf, or mend a window, and I don’t know what.

GEORGE.  Ah, them caddling sort of jobs don’t much agree with I, Miss
Rose.  And when I gets inside one of they great houses, where the maids
do pad about in boots what you can’t hear, and do speak as though ’twere
church and parson at his sermon, I can’t think of naught but how ’twill
feel for to be out in the open again.  Why, bless you, I do scarce fetch
my breath in one of they places from fear as there should be too much
sound to it, and the noise of my own hammer do very near scare I into
fits.

ROSE.  Well, Mr. Davis, who would ever have thought it?

[MRS. BROWNING _and_ DORRY _come back and the cider is put upon the
table_, DORRY _and_ ANNIE _getting glasses from the dresser_.

GEORGE.  [_Drinking_.]  Your health, Steve, and yours, too, Miss Sims.
And many years of happiness to you both.

STEVE.  Thank you kindly, George.

ANNIE.  Thank you, Mr. Davis.

DORRY.  Hasn’t Miss Sims got a nice frock on her for the dance, Mr.
Davis?

GEORGE.  Well, I’m blessed if I’d taken no notice of it, Dorry.

DORRY.  Why, you’re worse nor Dad, I do declare!  But you just look at
Rosie, now, Mr. Davis, and ask her what she’s got wrapped up in that
there paper in her hand.

ROSE.  O, Dorry, you little tease, you!

DORRY.  You just ask her, Mr. Davis.

ROSE.  [_Undoing the parcel_.]  There, ’tis nothing to make such a
commotion of!  Just a flower—see, Mr. Davis?  I knowed as it was one what
you was partial to, and so I just brought it along with me.

GEORGE.  That there bain’t for I, be it?

ROSE.  Indeed ’tis—if so as you’ll accept of it.

GEORGE.  O, ’tis best saved against to-morrow.  The freshness will be
most gone from it, if I was to wear it now.

DORRY.  No, no, Mr. Davis, ’tis for now!  To wear at the dance.  Put it
on him, Rosie, put it on him.

ROSE.  [_Tossing the flower across the table to_ GEORGE.]  He can put it
on hisself well enough, Dorry.

GEORGE.  [_After a moment’s hesitation_.]  I don’t know so well about
that.

ANNIE.  Go on, Rosie—pin it into his coat.  Come, ’tis getting late.

DORRY.  O, pin it in quick, Rosie—come along—and then we can start to the
dancing.

ROSE.  Shall I, Mr. Davis?

[GEORGE _gets up and crosses the room_; ROSE _takes the flower and_ DORRY
_hands her a pin_.  _She slowly pins the flower in his coat_.

STEVE.  [_Stretching out his hand to_ ANNIE.]  You be so quiet like
to-night, Annie.  There isn’t nothing wrong, is there, my dear?

ANNIE.  ’Tis only I’m that full of gladness, Steve, as I don’t seem to
find words to my tongue for the things what I can talk on most days.

STEVE.  And that’s how ’tis with I, too, Annie.  ’Tis as though I was out
in the meadows, like—And as though ’twere Sunday, and such a stillness
all around that I might think ’twas only me as was upon the earth.  But
then summat stirs in me sudden and I knows that you be there, too, and
’tis my love for you what has put me right away from the rest of them.

ANNIE.  Steve, you’ve had a poor, rough time, I know, but I’ll do my best
for to smooth it like for you, I will.

STEVE.  See here, Annie—I be comed out of the rain and into the sun once
more.

DORRY.  [_Leading_ GEORGE _forward_.]  See how fine Mr. Davis do
look—see, isn’t he grand?  O, Miss Sims, see how nice the flower do look
what Rosie has pinned in his coat!  See, Gran’ma.

JANE.  I’ve enough to do putting away all these glasses which have been
messed up.  What I wants to know is when I shall get off to bed this
night, seeing as ’tis late already and you none of you gone off yet.

DORRY.  O, let us be off, let us be off—and what am I to put over my
dress, Gran’ma, so as the snow shan’t get to it?

JANE.  If you go careful and don’t drop it in the snow may be as I’ll
wrap my big shawl around of you, Dorry, what’s hanging behind the door.

ROSE.  Give me my cloak, Steve—O, how I do love a bit of dancing, don’t
you, Mr. Davis?

GEORGE.  I be about as much use in the ball room as one of they great
drag horses, Miss Rose.

ROSE.  O, get on, Mr. Davis!  I don’t believe half what you do say, no
more does Annie.

ANNIE.  If Mr. Davis don’t know how to dance right, you’re the one to
learn him, Rose.  Come, Dorry, you take hold of my hand, and I’ll look
after you on the way.  Good-night, Mrs. Browning.  Good-night, Mrs. Reed.

DORRY.  Why, Granny’s sound asleep, Miss Sims, you know.

JANE.  And about time, too.  ’Tis to be hoped as we shan’t have no more
trouble with her till morning.

DORRY.  [_Her eyes raised to the door latch_.]  Just look, why the latch
is up.

ANNIE.  Whoever’s that, I wonder?

ROSE.  ’Tis very likely someone with a horse what’s lost a shoe, Steve.

JANE.  I guess as ’tis a coffin wanted sudden, George Davis.

STEVE.  I bain’t a-going to shoe no horses this time of night, not if
’twas the King hisself what stood at the door.

GEORGE.  If ’tis a corpse, I guess her’ll have to wait till the dancing’s
finished, then.

[VASHTI _groans in her sleep and turns over in the chair_, _her face to
the fire_.

STEVE.  [_Going to the door and speaking loudly_.]  Who’s there?

GEORGE.  Us’ll soon see.

[GEORGE _unbolts the door and opens it_, _first a little way_, _and then
wide_.  MAY _is seen standing in the doorway_.  _Her shawl is drawn over
head and the lower part of her face_.

GEORGE.  Here’s someone what’s missed their way, I count.

ROSE.  Why, ’tis like the poor thing we seed beneath the hedge, I do
believe.

ANNIE Whatever can she want a-coming-in here at this time of night!

JANE.  [_Advancing firmly_.]  ’Tis one of they dirty roadsters what
there’s too many of all about the country.  Here, I’ll learn you to come
to folks’ houses this time of night, disturbing of a wedding party.  You
take and get gone.  We don’t want such as you in here, we don’t.

[MAY _looks fixedly into_ JANE’S _face_.

GEORGE.  I count ’tis very nigh starved by the cold as she be.

STEVE.  Looks like it, and wetted through to the bone.

JANE.  Put her out and shut the door, George, and that’ll learn the likes
of she to come round begging at folks’ houses what’s respectable.

GEORGE.  ’Tis poor work shutting the door on such as her this night.

STEVE.  And that ’tis, George, and what’s more, I bain’t a-going for to
do it.  ’Tis but a few hours to my wedding, and if a dog was to come to
me for shelter I’d not be one to put him from the door.

JANE.  ’Tain’t to be expected as I shall let a dirty tramp bide in my
kitchen when ’tis all cleaned up against to-morrow, Steve.

STEVE.  To-morrow, ’tis my day, Mother, and I’ll have the choosing of my
guests, like.  [_Turning to_ MAY.]  Come you in out of the cold.  This
night you shall bide fed and warmed, so that, may be, in years to come,
’twill please you to think back upon the eve afore my wedding.

[STEVE _stands back_, _holding the door wide open_.  MAY, _from the
threshold_, _has been looking first on one face and then on another_.
_Suddenly her eyes fall on_ ANNIE, _who has moved to_ STEVE’S _side_,
_laying her hand on his arm_, _and with a sudden defiance_, _she draws
herself up and comes boldly into the room as the curtain falls_.



ACT II.—Scene 3.


_The same room_, _two hours later_.  VASHTI REED _seems to be sleeping as
before by the fireside_.  _On the settle_ MAY _is huddled_, _her head
bent_, _the shawl drawn over her face_.  JANE BROWNING _moves about_,
_putting away work things_, _cups and plates_, _seeing that the window is
closed_, _winding the clock_, _etc._  _There is a tap at the outer door
and_ JANE _opens it_.  STEVE, ANNIE _and_ DORRY _enter_.

JANE.  Whatever kept you so late, Steve, and me a-sitting up for to let
you all in and not able to get away to my bed?

DORRY.  O, Gran’ma, it was beautiful, I could have stopped all night, I
could.  We comed away early ’cause Miss Sims, she said as the dancing
gived her the headache, but the New Year han’t been danced in yet, it
han’t.

JANE.  You get and dance off to bed, Dorry, that’s what you’ve got to
do—and quickly.

DORRY.  All right, Gran’ma.  Good-night, Miss Sims; good-night, Dad.  O,
why, there’s Granny!  But her’s tight asleep so I shan’t say nothing to
her.  O, I do wish as there was dancing, and lamps, and music playing
every night, I do!

[DORRY _goes towards the staircase door_.

JANE.  [_Calling after her_.]  I’m a-coming along directly.  Be careful
with the candle, Dorry.

[JANE _opens the door and_ DORRY _goes upstairs_.  STEVE _and_ ANNIE
_come towards the fireplace_.

STEVE.  Was there aught as you could do for yonder poor thing?

JANE.  Poor thing, indeed!  A good-for-nothing roadster what’s been and
got herself full of the drink, and that’s what’s the matter with she.
See there, how she do lie, snoring asleep under the shawl of her; and not
a word nor sound have I got out of she since giving her the drop of tea a
while back.

STEVE.  Well, well—she won’t do us no harm where she do bide.  Leave her
in the warm till ’tis daylight, then let her go her way.

JANE.  She and Gran’ be about right company one for t’other, I’m
thinking.

STEVE.  Ah, that they be.  Let them sleep it off and you get up to bed,
Mother.

JANE.  That I will, Steve.  Be you a-going to see Annie safe to home?

ANNIE.  Do you bide here, Steve, and let me run back—’tis but a step—and
I don’t like for you to come out into the snow again.

STEVE.  I’m coming along of you, Annie.  Get off to bed, Mother.  I’ll be
back to lock up and all that in less nor ten minutes.

JANE.  All right, Steve, and do you cast an eye around to see as I han’t
left nothing out as might get took away, for ’tis poor work leaving the
kitchen to roadsters and gipsies and the like.

[JANE _lights a candle and goes upstairs_.  STEVE _takes_ ANNIE’S _hand
and they go together towards the outer door_.  _As they pass to the other
side of the curtain which is drawn across the room_, MAY _suddenly rears
herself up on the settle_, _throwing back her shawl_, _and she leans
forward_, _listening intently_.

STEVE.  To-morrow night, Annie!

ANNIE.  There’ll be no turning out into the snow for us both, Steve.

STEVE.  You’ll bide here, Annie, and ’tis more gladness than I can
rightly think on, that ’tis.

ANNIE.  Steve!

STEVE.  Well, Annie.

ANNIE.  There’s summat what’s been clouding you a bit this night.  You
didn’t know as how I’d seen it, but ’twas so.

STEVE.  Why, Annie, I didn’t think as how you’d take notice as I was
different from ordinary.

ANNIE.  But I did, Steve.  And at the dancing there was summat in the
looks of you which put me in mind of a thing what’s hurted.  Steve, I
couldn’t abide for to see you stand so sad with the music going on and
all.  So I told you as I’d the headache.

STEVE.  O Annie, ’twas thoughts as was too heavy for me, and I couldn’t
seem to get them pushed aside, like.

ANNIE.  How’d it be if you was to tell me, Steve.

STEVE.  I don’t much care for to, Annie.  But ’twas thoughts what comed
out of the time gone by, as may be I’d been a bit too hard with—with her
as was Dorry’s mother.

ANNIE.  O, I’m sure, from all I hear, as she had nothing to grumble at,
Steve.

STEVE.  And there came a fearsome thought, too, Annie, as you might go
the same way through not getting on comfortable with me, and me being so
much older nor you, and such-like.  Annie, I couldn’t bear for it to
happen so, I could not.  For I holds to having you aside of me always
stronger nor I holds to anything else in the world, and I could not stand
it if ’twas as I should lose you.

ANNIE.  There’s nothing in the world as could make you lose me, Steve.
For, look you here, I don’t think as there’s a woman on the earth what’s
got such a feeling as is in my heart this night, of quiet, Steve, and of
gladness, because that you and me is to be wed and to live aside of one
another till death do part us.

STEVE.  Them be good words, Annie, and no mistake.

ANNIE.  And what you feels about the days gone by don’t count, Steve,
’cause they bain’t true of you.  You was always a kind husband, and from
what I’ve hear-ed folks say, she was one as wasn’t never suited to
neither you nor yours.

STEVE.  Poor soul, she be dead and gone now, and what I thinks one way or
t’other can’t do she no good.  Only ’tis upon me as I could take you
to-morrow more glad-like, Annie, if so be as I had been kinder to she,
the time her was here.

ANNIE.  Do you go off to bed, Steve, you’re regular done up, and that’s
what ’tis.  I never hear-ed you take on like this afore.

STEVE.  All right, my dear, don’t you mind what I’ve been saying.  Very
like ’tis a bit unnerved as I be this night.  But ’tis a good thought,
bain’t it, Annie, that come to-morrow at this time, there won’t be no
more need for us to part?

ANNIE.  [_As he opens the door_.]  O, ’tis dark outside!

[_They both leave the cottage_.  MAY _throws back her shawl as though
stifled_.  _She gets up and first stands bending over_ VASHTI.  _Seeing
that she is still sleeping heavily_, _she goes to the door_, _opens it
gently and looks out_.  _After a moment she closes it and walks about the
kitchen_, _examining everything with a fierce curiosity_.  _She takes up
the shawl_ DORRY _has been wearing_, _looks at it hesitatingly_, _and
then clasps it passionately to her face_.  _Hearing steps outside she
flings it down again on the chair and returns to the settle_, _where she
sits huddled in the corner_, _having wrapped herself again in her shawl_,
_only her eyes looking out unquietly from it_.  STEVE _re-enters_.  _He
bolts the door_, _then goes up to the table in front of the fire to put
out the lamp_.

STEVE.  Can I get you an old sack or summat for to cover you up a bit
this cold night?

[MAY _looks at him for a moment and then shakes her head_.

STEVE.  All right.  You can just bide where you be on the settle.  ’Tis
warmer within nor upon the road to-night, and I’ll come and let you out
when ’tis morning.

[MAY _raises both her hands in an attitude of supplication_.

STEVE.  [_Pausing_, _with his hand on the burner of the lamp_.]  Be there
summat as you wants what I can give to you?

[MAY _looks at him for a moment and then speaks in a harsh whisper_.

MAY.  Let I bide quiet in the dark, ’tis all I wants now.  [STEVE _puts
out the lamp_.

STEVE.  [_As though to himself_, _as he goes towards the door upstairs_.]
Then get off to your drunken sleep again, and your dreams.

[_Curtain_.



ACT II.—Scene 4.


_The fire is almost out_.  _A square of moonlight falls on the floor from
the window_.  VASHTI _still sleeps in the chimney corner_.  MAY _is
rocking herself to and fro on the settle_.

MAY.  Get off to your drunken sleep and to your dreams!  Your dreams—your
dreams—Ah, where is it as they have gone, I’d like for to know.  The
dreams as comed to I when I was laid beneath the hedge.  Dreams!

[_She gets up_, _feels down the wall in a familiar way for the
bellows—blows up the fire and puts some coal on it gently_.  _Then she
draws forward a chair and sits down before it_.

MAY.  [_Muttering to herself_.]  ’Tis my own hearth when ’tis all said
and done.

[_She turns up the front of her skirt and warms herself_, _looking
sharply at_ VASHTI REED _now and then_.

[_Presently_ VASHTI’S _eyes open_, _resting_, _at first unseeingly_, _and
then with recognition_, _on_ MAY’S _face_.

VASHTI.  So you be comed back, May.  I always knowed as you would.

MAY.  How did you know ’twas me, then?

VASHTI.  ’Cause I knowed.  There ’tis.

MAY.  I be that changed from the times when I would sit a-warming of
myself by this here fire.

VASHTI.  Ah, and be you changed, May?  My eyes don’t see nothing of it,
then.

MAY.  Ah, I be got into an ugly old woman now, mother, and Steve—Steve,
he looked in the face of I and didn’t so much as think who ’twas.  “Get
off to the drunken sleep of you and to your dreams.”  ’Twas that what he
did say to I.

VASHTI.  Your old mother do know better nor Steve.  Ah, ’tweren’t in no
shroud as I seed you, May, nor yet with the sod upon the face of you, but
stepping, stepping up and down on the earth, through the water what layed
on the roads, and on the dry where there be high places, and in the grass
of the meadows.  That’s how ’twas as I did see you, May.

MAY.  And I would like to know how ’twas as Steve saw I.

VASHTI.  Ah, and there was they as did buzz around as thick as waspes in
summer time and as said, “She be under ground and rotting now—that her
be.”  And they seed in I but a poor old woman what was sleeping in the
chimney corner, with no hearing to I.  “Rotting yourself,” I says, and I
rears up sudden, “She be there as a great tree and all the leaves of it
full out—and you—snakes in the grass, snakes in the grass, all of you!”
There ’tis.

MAY.  [_Mockingly_.]  “It’s a good thought, bain’t it, Annie, that
to-morrow this time there won’t be no need for us to part?”  And in the
days when I was a young woman and all the bloom of I upon me, ’twouldn’t
have been once as he’d have looked on such as her.

VASHTI.  And ’tis full of bloom and rare fine and handsome as you appear
now, May, leastways to my old eyes.  And when you goes up to Steve and
shows yourself, I take it the door’ll be shut in the face of the mealy
one what they’ve all been so took up with this long while.  I count that
’twill and no mistake.  So ’tis.

MAY.  [_Fiercely_.]  Hark you here, Mother, and ’tis to be wed to-morrow
as they be!  Wed—the both of them, the both of them!  And me in my flesh,
and wife to Steve!  “Can I cover you up with a bit of old sack or
summat?”  Old sack!  When there be a coverlet with feathers to it
stretched over where he do lie upstairs.  “I’ll let you out when ’tis
morning.”  Ah, you will, will you, Steve Browning?  Us’ll see how ’twill
be when ’tis morning—Us’ll see, just won’t us then!

VASHTI.  Ah, ’tis in her place as th’ old woman will be set come
morning—And that her’ll be—I count as ’tis long enough as her have
mistressed it over the house.  [_Shaking her fist towards the ceiling_.]
You old she fox, you may gather the pads of you in under of you now, and
crouch you down t’other side of the fire like any other old woman of your
years—for my May’s comed back, and her’ll show you your place what you’ve
not known where ’twas in all the days of your old wicked life.  So ’tis.

MAY.  Her han’t changed a hair of her, th’ old stoat!  Soon as I heard
the note of she, the heat bubbled up in I, though ’twas chattering in the
cold as I had been but a moment afore.  “One of they dirty roadsters—I’ll
learn you to come disturbing of a wedding party, I will.”  [_Shaking her
fist towards the ceiling_.]  No, you bain’t changed, you hardened old
sinner—but the words out of the cruel old mouth of you don’t hurt I any
more—not they.  I be passed out of the power of such as you.  I knowed
I’d have to face you when I comed back, but I knowed, too, as I should
brush you out of the way of me, like I would brush one of they old maid
flies.

VASHTI.  Ah, and so I telled she many a time.  “You bide till my May be
comed home,” I says.  “She be already put safe to bed and ’tis in the
churchyard where her do take her rest,” says she.  Ah, what a great liar
that is, th’ old woman what’s Steve’s mother!  And the lies they do grow
right out of she tall as rushes, and the wind do blow they to the left
and to the right.  So ’tis.

MAY.  Ah, she han’t any more power for to hurt I in the ugly old body of
her.  I be got beyond she.  There be but one or two things as can touch I
now—But one or two.  And I be struck to the heart, I be, struck to the
heart.

[_She bends forwards_, _rocking herself to and fro and weeping_.

MAY.  [_As though speaking to herself_.]  Back and fro, back and fro—On
the dark of the earth and where ’twas light.  When ’twas cold and no
sound but the steps of I on the road, and the fox’s bark; when ’twas hot
and the white dust smouldered in the mouth of I, and things flying did
plague I with the wings of they—But ’twas always the same thought as I
had—“Some day I shall come back to Steve,” I did tell me.  And then
again—“Some day I shall get and hold Dorry in my arms.”  And now I be
comed.  And Steve—and Steve—Ah, I be struck deep to the heart, ’tis so.
Struck deep!

VASHTI.  You get upstairs to Steve, May.  Get you up there and take the
place what’s yours.

MAY.  My place, my place!  Where’s that I want to know!  ’Tis another
what’s got into the nest now, to lie snug and warm within.  And ’tis for
I to spread the wings of me and to go out into the storm again.  So ’tis.

VASHTI.  Get you to Steve, May, and let him but look on the form of you
and on the bloom, and us’ll see what he will do with t’other hussy then.
Ah, they sneaking, mealy wenches what have got fattened up and licked
over by th’ old woman till ’tis queens as they fancies theirselves, you
shall tell they summat about what they be, come morning.  And your poor
old mother, her’ll speak, too, what hasn’t been let sound her tongue
these years gone by.  Ah, hern shall know what us do think of they, hern
shall squat upon the floor and hear the truth.

MAY.  He thought as I was sleeping; but I looked out on her and seed the
way his eyes was cast upon the girl.  Steve, if you had cast your eyes on
me like that but once, in days gone by—maybe, maybe I’d not have gone out
and shut the door behind I.

VASHTI.  Get you to Steve and let him see you with the candle lit.  Her
bain’t no match for he, the young weasel!  ’Tis you as has the blood of
me and my people what was grand folk in times gone by, ’tis you, May, as
is the mate for he, above all them white-jowled things what has honey at
the mouth of they, but the heart running over with poison—Ah, and what
throws you the bone and keeps the meat for their own bellies.  What sets
the skin afore you and laps the cream theirselves.  Vipers, all of them,
and she-cats.  There ’tis.

MAY.  Sit you down, Mother, and keep the tongue of you quiet.  We don’t
want for to waken they.

VASHTI.  [_Sitting down heavily_.]  But we’ve got to waken Steve for he
to know as how you be comed home again.

MAY.  And where’s the good of that, when there bain’t so much as a board
nor a rag, but what’s been stole from I?

VASHTI.  You go and say to him as ’tis his wife what have come back to
her place.  And put th’ old woman against the chimney there, and let her
see you a-cutting of the bread and of the meat, and a-setting out of the
food so as that they who be at the table can loose the garments of them
when the eating ’tis finished, if they has a mind to, ’stead of drawing
they together so not to feel ’tis leer.  Ah, ’tis time you be comed, May,
’tis time.

MAY.  [_Bitterly_.]  I’m thinking ’tis time!

VASHTI.  ’Tis the lies of they be growed big as wheat stalks and the
hardness of their hearts be worse nor death.  But ’tis to judgment as
they shall be led, now you be comed home, May, and the hand of God shall
catch they when they do crawl like adders upon the earth.  “Ah, and do
you mind how ’twas you served old Vashti, what never did harm to no one
all the life of her,” I shall call out to th’ old woman in that hour when
her shall be burning in the lake.  And her shall beg for a drop of water
to lay upon the withered tongue of she, and it shall be denied, for other
hands nor ours be at work, and ’tis the wicked as shall perish—yes, so
’tis.

MAY.  [_Who has been bending forward_, _looking steadily into the fire_.]
Stop that, Mother, I wants to get at my thoughts.

VASHTI.  Be you a-going to set on I, too, May, now that you be comed
home.  ’Tis poor work for an old woman like I.

MAY.  [_As though to herself_.]  And as I was laid beneath the
hedge—“’Tis cold as my limbs is, now,” I says, “but I shall be warm this
night.”  And the pangs what was in the body of me did fairly quail
I—“’Tis my fill of victuals as I shall soon put within,” thinks I.  And
they was laid a bit.  The bleakness of the tempest fell on I, but “I
shan’t feel lonesome no longer than this hour,” I telled me.  For to my
thinking, Steve, he was waiting all the time till I should be comed back.
And Dorry, too.  There ’tis.  [_A long silence_.

MAY.  I’d have been content to bide with the door shut—so long as it was
shut with they two and me inside the room—th’ old woman—well, I count I
shouldn’t have took many thought for she—she could have bided in her
place if she’d had a mind—I’d have set me down, when once my clothes was
decent and clean, and put my hands to the work and made a tidy wife for
Steve, as good nor better than that there dressed-up thing out yonder—And
bred Dorry up the right way, too, I would.  But ’tis done with now, so
’tis.

VASHTI.  [_As though to herself_.]  And when ’tis morning and she gets
her down—“There, ’tis my girl as is mistress here, I’ll say to her—and
’tis my girl as shall sit cup end of the table—and you get you to the
fire corner and bide there, like the poor old woman as you be, spite that
you do slip about so spry on the wicked old legs of you.”

MAY.  And I could set she back in her place, too, that tricked-up, flashy
thing over the way.  I’ve but to climb the stairs and clap my hand on
Steve—“Get you from your dreams,” I have got but to say, “the woman
what’s yourn be comed home.  Her have tasted the cup of death, very near,
and her have been a-thirst and an hungered.  But her has carried summat
for you in her heart all the way what you wouldn’t find in the heart of
t’other, no, not if you was to cut it open and search it through.”  And
the right belongs to I to shut the door on t’other hussey, holding Steve
to I till death divides we.

VASHTI.  Going on the road I seed the eyes of they blinking as I did pass
by.  “And may the light from out the thunder cloud fall upon you,” I says
to them, “for ’tis a poor old woman as I be what has lost her child; and
what’s that to you if so be as the shoes on her feet be broken or no?
’Tis naked as the toes of you shall go, that hour when the days of this
world shall be rolled by.  Ah, ’tis naked and set on the lake of burning
fire as the hoofs of you shall run!”

MAY.  I could up and screech so that the house should ring with the sound
of me, “I be your wife, Steve, comed back after these many years.  What’s
this that you’ve got doing with another?”  I could take hold on him and
make him look into the eyes of I, yes, and th’ old woman, too.  “See
here, your ‘dirty roadster,’ look well on to her.”  “Why, ’tis May.”  But
the eyes of him would then be cast so that I should see no more than a
house what has dead within, and the blind pulled down.  And I, what was
thinking as there might be a light in the window!

VASHTI.  “And you may holler,” I says to them, “you may holler till you
be heard over the face of all the earth, but no one won’t take no account
of you.”  And the lies of them which have turned into ropes of hempen
shall come up and strangle they.  But me and my child shall pass by all
fatted up and clothed, and with the last flick, afore the eyelids of they
drop, they shall behold we, and, a-clapping of the teeth of them shall
they repent them of their sins.  Too late, too late!  There ’tis.

MAY.  Too late!  There ’tis, I be comed home too late.

[_She rises and takes up her shawl_, _wrapping it about her shoulders_,
_and muttering_.

MAY.  But I know a dark place full of water—’Tis Simon’s pool they calls
it—And I warrant as any poor wretch might sleep yonder and be in quiet.

VASHTI.  Be you a-going up to Steve now?

MAY.  No, I bain’t.  ’Tis out from here that I be going.  And back on to
the road.

VASHTI.  May, my pretty May, you’re never going for to leave I, what’s
such a poor old woman and wronged cruel.  You step aloft and rouse up
Steve.  He’ll never have you go upon the roads again once he do know as
you’ve comed back.

MAY.  Steve!  What’s it to Steve whether the like of I do go or bide?
What be there in I for to quell the love of she which Steve’s got in him?
Dead leaves for new.  Ditch water for the clear spring.

VASHTI.  Give him to drink of it, May.

MAY.  [_Looking upwards to the ceiling_.]  No, Steve.  Hark you here.  I
bain’t a-going to do it.  I bain’t going to knock over the spoonful of
sweet what you be carrying to your mouth.  You take and eat of it in
quiet and get you filled with the honey.  ’Tain’t my way to snatch from
no one so that the emptiness which I has in me shall be fed.  There, ’tis
finished now, very nigh, and the sharpness done.  And, don’t you fear,
Steve, as ever I’ll trouble you no more.

VASHTI.  [_Rising_.]  I be a-going to fetch him down, and that’s what I’m
a-going for to do.

MAY.  [_Pushing her back into her chair_.]  Harken you, Steve, he’s never
got to know as I’ve been here.

VASHTI.  I tell you, May, I’ll screech till he do come!

MAY.  [_Sitting down by_ VASHTI _and laying her hand on her_.]  I’ll put
summat in your mouth as’ll stop you if you start screeching, mother.
Why, hark you here.  ’Tis enough of this old place as I’ve had this
night, and ’tis out upon the roads as I be going.  Th’ old woman—there’s
naught much changed in she—And Steve—well, Steve be wonderful hard in the
soul of him.  “Can I get you an old sack,” says he—and never so much as
seed ’twas I—Ah—’tis more than enough to turn the stomach in anyone—that
it is.  [_A slight pause_.

MAY.  I was never a meek one as could bide at the fireside for long.  The
four walls of this here room have very near done for me now, so they
have.  And ’tis the air blowing free upon the road as I craves—Ah, and
the wind which hollers, so that the cries of we be less nor they of lambs
new born.

VASHTI.  God bless you, May, and if you goes beyond the door ’tis the
mealy-faced jade will get in come morning, for Steve to wed.

MAY.  So ’tis.  And if I stopped ’twould be the same, her’d be between us
always, the pretty cage bird—For look you here on I, Mother, and
here—[_pointing to her feet_]—and here—and here—See what’s been done to I
what’s knocked about in the world along the roads, and then think if I be
such a one as might hold the love of Steve.

VASHTI.  [_Beginning to whine desolately_.]  O, do not you go for to
leave your old mammy again what has mourned you as if you was dead all
the years.  Do not you go for to leave I and the wicked around of I as
might be the venomous beasts in the grass.  Stop with I, my pretty
child—Stop along of your old mother, for the days of I be few and
numbered, and the enemies be thick upon the land.

MAY.  Hark you here, Mother, and keep your screeching till another time.
I wants to slip out quiet so as Steve and th’ old woman won’t never know
as I’ve been nigh.  And if you keeps your mouth shut, maybe I’ll drop in
at our own place on the hill one of these days and bide comfortable along
of you, only now—I’m off, do you hear?

VASHTI.  I can’t abide for you to go.  ’Tis more nor I can stand.  Why,
if you goes, May, ’tis t’other wench and th’ old woman what’ll get
mistressing it here again in your place.  [_Rising up_.]  No—you shan’t
go.  I’ll holler till I’ve waked them every one—you shan’t!  My only
child, my pretty May!  Ah, ’tis not likely as you shall slip off again.
’Tis not.

MAY.  Look you here, Mother—bide still, I say.  [_Looking round the room
distractedly_.]  See here—’tis rare dry as I be.  You bide quiet and
us’ll have a drink together, that us will.  Look, th’ old woman’s forgot
to put away the bottle, us’ll wet our mouths nice and quiet, mother—she
won’t hear I taking out the cork, nor nothing.  See!

[MAY _gets up and crosses the room_; _she takes the bottle off the shelf
where she has just perceived it_, _and also two glasses_; _she fills one
and hands it to her mother_.

VASHTI.  [_Stretching out her hand_.]  ’Tis rare dry and parched as I be,
now I comes to think on it, May.

MAY.  That’s right—drink your fill, Mother.

VASHTI.  ’Tis pleasant for I to see you mistressing it here again, May.

MAY.  Ah, ’tis my own drink and all, come to that.

VASHTI.  So ’tis.  And the tea what she gived me was but ditch water.  I
seed her spoon it in the pot, and ’twas not above a half spoon as her did
put in for I, th’ old badger.  My eye was on she, though, and her’ll have
it cast up at she when the last day shall come and the trumpet sound and
all flesh stand quailing, and me and mine looking on at her as is brought
to judgment.  How will it be then, you old sinner, says I.

MAY.  [_Re-filling the glass_.]  Take and drink this little drop more,
mother.

[VASHTI _drinks and then leans back in her chair again with half closed
eyes_.

MAY.  [_Putting away the bottle and glasses_.]  Her’ll sleep very like,
now.  And when her wakes, I take it ’twill appear as though she’d been
and dreamt summat.

VASHTI.  Do you sit a-nigh me, May.  The night be a wild one.  I would
not have you be on the roads.

MAY.  [_Sitting down beside her_.]  O, the roads be fine on nights when
the tempest moves in the trees above and the rain falls into the mouth of
you and lies with a good taste on your tongue.  And you goes quick on
through it till you comes to where the lights do blink, and ’tis a large
town and there be folk moving this way and that and the music playing,
and great fowls and horses what’s got clocks to the inside of they,
a-stirring them up for to run, and girls and men a-riding on them—And the
booths with red sugar and white, all lit and animals that’s wild
a-roaring and a-biting in the tents—And girls what’s dancing, standing
there in satin gowns all over gold and silver—And you walks to and fro in
it all and ’tis good to be there and free—And ’tis better to be in such
places and to come and to go where you have a mind than to be cooped in
here, with th’ old woman and all—’Tis a fine life as you lives on the
roads—and ’tis a better one nor this, I can tell you, Mother.

VASHTI.  [_Who has gradually been falling into sleep_.]  I count ’tis so.
’Tis prime in the freshening of the day.  I count I’ll go along of you,
come morning.

MAY.  That’s it, Mother, that’s it.  Us’ll take a bit of sleep afore we
sets off, won’t us?  And when morning comes, us’ll open the door and go
out.

VASHTI.  That’s it, when ’tis day.

[_Her head falls to one side of the chair and she is presently asleep_.

[MAY _watches her for some moments_.  _Then she gets up softly and wraps
her shawl round her_.  _The window shews signs of a gray light outside_,
MAY _goes quietly towards the outer door_.  _As she reaches it_, DORRY
_comes into the room from the staircase_.

DORRY.  [_Going up to_ VASHTI.]  Granny, ’tis the New Year!  I’m come
down to see to the fire and to get breakfast for Dad and Gran’ma.  Why,
Granny, you’re sleeping still.  And where’s that poor tramp gone off to?
[_She looks round the room and then sees_ MAY _by the door_.

DORRY.  O, there you are.  Are you going out on the road afore ’tis got
light?

MAY.  [_In a hoarse whisper_.]  And that I be.  ’Tis very nigh to
daybreak, so ’tis.

DORRY.  Stop a moment.  [_Calling up the stairs_.]  Daddy, the tramp
woman, she’s moving off already.

STEVE.  [_From upstairs_.]  Then give her a bit of bread to take along of
she.  I don’t care that anyone should go an-hungered this day.

DORRY.  [_Turning to_ MAY.]  There—you bide a minute whilst I cuts the
loaf.  My Dad’s going to get married this day, and he don’t care that
anyone should go hungry.

[MAY _comes slowly back into the room and stands watching_ DORRY, _who
fetches a loaf from the pantry and cuts it at the table_.  _Then she
pulls aside the curtain and a dim light comes in_.

DORRY.  The snow’s very nigh gone, and ’tis like as not as the sun may
come out presently.  Here’s a piece of bread to take along of you.
There, it’s a good big piece, take and eat it.

[MAY _hesitates an instant_, _then she stretches out her hand and takes
the bread and puts it beneath her shawl_.

MAY.  And so there’s going to be a wedding here to-day?

DORRY.  ’Tis my Dad as is to be married.

MAY.  ’Tis poor work, is twice marrying.

DORRY.  My Dad’s ever so pleased, I han’t seen him so pleased as I can
remember.  I han’t.

MAY.  Then maybe the second choosing be the best.

DORRY.  Yes, ’tis—Gran’ma says as ’tis—and Dad, he be ever so fond of
Miss Sims—and I be, too.

MAY.  Then you’ve no call to wish as her who’s gone should come back to
you, like?

DORRY.  What’s that you’re saying?

MAY.  You don’t never want as your mammy what you’ve lost should be
amongst you as afore?

DORRY.  I never knowed my mammy.  Gran’ma says she had got summat bad in
her blood.  And Granny’s got the same.  But Miss Sims, she’s ever so nice
to Dad and me, and I’m real pleased as she’s coming to stop along of us
always after that they’re married, like.

MAY.  And th’ old woman what’s your gran’ma, Dorry?

DORRY.  However did you know as I was called “Dorry”?

MAY.  I heard them call you so last night.

DORRY.  And whatever do you want to know about Gran’ma?

MAY.  What have her got to say ’bout the—the—wench what’s going to marry
your dad?

DORRY.  O, Gran’ma, she thinks ever such a lot of Miss Sims, and she says
as how poor Dad, what’s been served so bad, will find out soon what ’tis
to have a real decent wife, what’ll help with the work and all, and what
won’t lower him by her ways, nor nothing.

MAY.  Look you here—’tis growing day.  I must be getting off and on to
the road.

DORRY.  [_Moving to the door_.]  I’ll unbolt the door, then.  O, ’tis
fine and daylight now.

MAY.  [_Turning back at the doorway and looking at the room_.]  I suppose
you wouldn’t like to touch me, for good luck, Dorry?

DORRY.  No, I shouldn’t.  Gran’ma, she don’t let me go nigh road people
as a rule.  She’s a-feared as I should take summat from them, I suppose.

MAY.  [_Hoarsely_, _her hand on the door_.]  Then just say as you wishes
me well, Dorry.

DORRY.  I’ll wish you a good New Year, then, and Gran’ma said as I was to
watch as you cleared off the place.  [MAY _goes out softly and quickly_.
DORRY _watches her until she is out of sight_, _and then she shuts the
door_.



ACT III.—Scene 1.


_The same room_.  _It is nearly mid-day_, _and the room is full of
sunshine_.  JANE BROWNING, _in her best dress_, _is fastening_ DORRY’S
_frock_, _close to the window_.

DORRY.  Dad’s been a rare long time a-cleaning of his self up, Gran.

JANE.  Will you bide still!  However’s this frock to get fastened and you
moving this way and that like some live eel—and just see what a mark
you’ve made on the elbow last night, putting your arm down somewhere
where you didn’t ought to—I might just as well have never washed the
thing.

DORRY.  Granny’s sound asleep still—she’ll have to be waked time we goes
along to the church.

JANE.  That her shan’t be.  Her shall just bide and sleep the drink out
of her, her shall.  Do you think as I didn’t find out who ’twas what had
got at the bottle as Dad left on the dresser last night.

DORRY.  Poor Gran, she do take a drop now and then.

JANE.  Shame on th’ old gipsy.  Her shall be left to bide till she have
slept off some of the nonsense which is in her.

DORRY.  Granny do say a lot of funny things sometimes, don’t she, now?

JANE.  You get and put on your hat and button your gloves, and let the
old gipsy be.  We can send her off home when ’tis afternoon, and us back
from church.  Now, where did I lay that bonnet?  Here ’tis.

[_She begins to tie the strings before a small mirror in the wall_.
STEVE _comes downstairs in his shirt sleeves_, _carrying his coat_.

DORRY.  Why, Dad, you do look rare pleased at summat.

STEVE.  And when’s a man to look pleased if ’tis not on his wedding morn,
Dorry?

DORRY.  The tramp what was here did say as how ’twas poor work twice
marrying, but you don’t find it be so, Dad, do you now?

STEVE.  And that I don’t, my little wench.  ’Tis as nigh heaven as I be
like to touch—and that’s how ’tis with me.

JANE.  [_Taking_ STEVE’S _coat from him_.]  Ah, ’tis a different set out
altogether this time.  That ’tis.  ’Tis a-marrying into your own rank,
like, and no mixing up with they trolloping gipsies.

DORRY.  Was my own mammy a trolloping gipsy, Gran?

JANE.  [_Beginning to brush_ STEVE’S _coat_.]  Ah, much in the same
pattern as th’ old woman what’s drunk asleep against the fireside.  Here,
button up them gloves, ’tis time we was off.

DORRY.  I do like Miss Sims.  She do have nice things on her.  When I
grows up I’d like to look as she do, so I would.

STEVE.  [_To_ JANE.]  There, Mother, that’ll do.  I’d best put him on
now.

JANE.  [_Holding out the coat for him_.]  Well, and you be got yourself
up rare smart, Steve.

STEVE.  ’Tis rare smart as I be feeling, Mother.  I’m all a kind of a
dazzle within of me, same as ’tis with the sun upon the snow out yonder.

JANE.  Why, look you, there’s George a-coming up the path already.

DORRY.  He’s wearing of the flower what Rosie gived him last night.

STEVE.  [_Opening the door_.]  Good morning, George.  A first class New
Year to you.  You’re welcome, if ever a man was.

JANE.  You bide where you do stand, George, till your feet is dry.  My
floor was fresh wiped over this morning.

GEORGE.  [_Standing on the door mat_.]  All right, Mrs. Browning.  Don’t
you fluster.  Good morning, Dorry.  How be you to-day, Steve?

JANE.  Dorry, come you upstairs along with me and get your coat put on,
so as your frock bain’t crushed.

DORRY.  O, I wish I could go so that my nice frock was seen and no coat.

[_They go upstairs_.  GEORGE _rubs his feet on the mat and comes into the
room_, _walking up and down once or twice restlessly and in evident
distress of mind_.

STEVE.  [_Who has lit a pipe and is smoking_.]  Why, George, be you out
of sorts this morning?  You don’t look up to much, and that’s the truth.

GEORGE.  [_Stopping before_ STEVE.]  Hark you, Steve.  ’Tis on my mind to
ask summat of you.  Did you have much speech with the poor thing what you
took in from the snow last night?

STEVE.  No, George, and that I didn’t.  Her was mostly in a kind of
drunken sleep all the time, and naught to be got out from she.  Mother,
her tried.  But ’twas like trying to get water from the pump yonder, when
’tis froze.

GEORGE.  Your mother’s a poor one at melting ice, Steve, and ’tis what we
all knows.

STEVE.  Ah, ’twasn’t much as we could do for the likes of she—what was a
regular roadster.  Bad herbs, all of them.  And if it hadn’t been so as
’twas my wedding eve, this one shouldn’t have set foot inside of the
house.  But ’tis a season when a man’s took a bit soft and foolish, like,
the night afore his marriage.  Bain’t that so, George?

GEORGE.  And when was it, Steve, as she went off from here?

STEVE.  That I couldn’t rightly say, George, but I counts ’twas just upon
daybreak.  And ’twas Dorry what seed her off the place and gived her a
piece of bread to take along of her.

GEORGE.  And do you think as she got talking a lot to Dorry, Steve?

STEVE.  I’m blest if I do know, George.  I never gived another thought to
she.  What’s up?

GEORGE.  They was getting the body of her from out of Simon’s Pool as I
did come by.  That’s all.

STEVE.  From Simon’s Pool, George?

GEORGE.  I count her must have went across the plank afore ’twas fairly
daylight.  And, being slippery, like, from the snow, and her—her—as you
did say.

STEVE.  In liquor.

GEORGE.  I reckon as her missed her footing, like.

STEVE.  Well, upon my word, George, who’d have thought on such a thing!

GEORGE.  I count as her had been in the water and below the ice a
smartish while afore they catched sight of she.

STEVE.  Well, ’tis a cold finish to a hot life.

GEORGE.  They took and laid her on the grass, Steve, as I comed by.

STEVE.  If it had been me, I’d have turned the head of me t’other side.

GEORGE.  There was summat in the fashion her was laid, Steve, as drawed I
near for to get a sight of the face of she.

STEVE.  Well, I shouldn’t have much cared for that, George.

GEORGE.  Steve—did you get a look into the eyes of yon poor thing last
night?

STEVE.  No, nor wanted for to, neither.

GEORGE.  There was naught to make you think of—

STEVE.  Of what, George?

GEORGE.  There—Steve, I can’t get it out, I can’t.

STEVE.  Then let it bide in.

GEORGE.  ’Twas the way her was laid, and the long arms of she, and the
hands which was clapped one on t’other, as it might be in church.

STEVE.  [_Looking through the window_.]  You shut up, George.  Here’s
Annie with Rose a-coming up to the door.  Don’t you get saying another
word about yon poor wretch nor the end of her.  I wouldn’t have my Annie
upset for all the world to-day.  ’Tis a thing as must not be spoke of
afore they, nor Dorry neither, do you hear?

[_He moves towards the door and puts his hand to the latch_.

GEORGE.  Hold back, Steve, a minute.  There’s summat more as I’ve got to
say.

STEVE.  You take and shut your mouth up, old George, afore I opens the
door to the girls.

GEORGE.  ’Tis bound for to come from me afore you goes along to church,
Steve.

STEVE.  I warrant ’twill keep till us do come home again, George.

[_He throws the door wide open with a joyous movement_.  ANNIE _and_ ROSE
_in white dresses stand outside_.

STEVE.  Well, Annie, this is a rare surprise, and that’s the truth.
[ANNIE _and_ ROSE _come into the room_.

ROSE.  Father, he’s outside, and Jim and Bill and Katie, and all the
rest.  We said as ’twould be pleasanter if we was all to go up together
along to the church.

STEVE.  So ’twould be—so ’twould be—’Twas a grand thought of yourn,
Rosie.

ANNIE.  Steve—

STEVE.  [_Taking her hand_.]  Annie, I’m fair beside myself this day.

ANNIE.  O, Steve, there was never a day in my life like this one.  [DORRY
_and_ JANE _come down_.

DORRY.  O, Miss Sims, you do look nice!  Gran’ma, don’t Miss Sims look
nice?  And Rosie, too.  O, they have nice gowns and hats on, haven’t
they, Dad?

STEVE.  I don’t see no gowns nor hats, and that’s the truth.  But I sees
summat what’s like—what’s like a meadow of grass in springtime afore the
sun’s got on to it.

DORRY.  Why, Dad, ’tis white, not green, as Miss Sims is wearing.

STEVE.  ’Tis in the eyes of her as I finds my meadow.

DORRY.  O, let me see, Dad, let me look, too!

ROSE.  [_Going up to_ GEORGE, _who has been standing aloof and moody in
the background_.]  Come, Mr. Davis, we must have a look, too.

JANE.  ’Get along, get along.  We han’t time for such foolishness.  It be
close on twelve already.

ANNIE.  O, let me be, all of you!  I declare, I don’t know which way to
look, I don’t.

STEVE.  I’ll show you, Annie, then.

ROSE.  [_To_ GEORGE.]  Well, Mr. Davis, you don’t seem over bright this
morning.

STEVE.  ’Tis with the nerves as he be took!

DORRY.  Look at what he’s wearing in his buttonhole, Rosie.

ROSE.  ’Tis kept beautiful and fresh.

STEVE.  Come on, come on, all of you.  ’Tis time we was at the church.

ROSE.  Hark to him!  He’s in a rare hurry for to get out of the house
to-day.

GEORGE.  Bain’t the old lady a-coming?

JANE.  That she bain’t, the old drinking gipsy—’tis at the spirits as her
got in the night—and put away very near the best part of a bottle.  Now
she’s best left to sleep it off, she be.

STEVE.  Come on, George.  Come, Dorry.

DORRY.  O, isn’t it a pity as Granny will get at the drink, Mr. Davis?
And isn’t Miss Sims nice in her white dress?  And don’t Dad look smiling
and pleased?  I never did know Dad smile like this afore.

GEORGE.  [_Heavily_.]  Come on, Dorry—you take hold of me.  You and me,
we’ll keep nigh one to t’other this day, won’t us?

ROSE.  [_Calling from outside_.]  Come on, Mr. Davis.

[_They all go out_.



ACT III.—Scene 2.


_Nearly an hour later_.  _The cottage room is full of sunlight_.

VASHTI REED _is awake and gazing vacantly about her from the same chair
by the fire_.  _Someone knocks repeatedly at the door from outside_.

VASHTI.  And ’tis no bit of rest as I gets for my bones, but they must
come and hustle I and call I from the dreams which was soft.  [_The
knocking is heard again_.

VASHTI.  And I up and says to they, “Ah, and you would hustle a poor old
woman what’s never harmed so much as a hair out of the ugly heads of you.
You would hunt and drive of her till she be very nigh done to death.  But
there shall come a day when you shall be laid down and a-taking of your
bit of rest, and the thing what you knows of shall get up upon you and
smite you till you do go screeching from the house, and fleeing to the
uttermost part of the land—whilst me and mine—”

[_The door opens and_ HARRY MOSS _enters_.

HARRY.  Beg pardon, old Missis, but I couldn’t make no one hear me.

VASHTI.  Seeing as them be sick of the abomination which was inside of
they.  [_Perceiving_ HARRY.]  Well, and what be you as is comed into this
room?

HARRY.  ’Tis Moss as I be called, old Missis.  And as I was a-going by
this place, I thought as I’d look in a moment, just for to ask how ’twas
with May.

VASHTI.  They be all gone out from the house.  All of them.  They be in
clothes what do lie in boxes most of the time with lumps of white among
they.  Them be set out in the best as they has, and in grand things of
many colours.  There ’tis.

HARRY.  And be you th’ old lady what’s Steve’s mother?

VASHTI.  I be not, sir.  ’Tis mother to May as I be.  May, what’s comed
back, and what’ll set t’other old vixen in her place soon as they get
home.

HARRY.  Then May, she be gone out, too, have her?

VASHTI.  [_Looking round vaguely_.]  Ah, I counts as her be gone to
church along of t’other.

HARRY.  To church, Missis?

VASHTI.  There’s marrying being done down here to-day.

HARRY.  Marrying, be there?  Well, but I was ’most feared as how it might
have been t’other thing.

VASHTI.  Ah, that there be—marrying.  But there bain’t no more victuals
got into the house as I knows of.  Th’ old woman’s seen to that.

HARRY.  And be May gone out, too, along of them to see the marrying?

VASHTI.  Ah, I counts as her be.  But her’s a-coming back in a little
while, and you may sit down and bide till she does.

HARRY.  I’d sooner be about and on my way, Missis, if ’tis all the same
to you.  But I thanks you kindly.  And you get and tell May when she do
come home, that ’tis particular glad I be for to know as her bain’t took
worse, nor nothing.  And should I happen in these parts again, ’tis very
likely as I’ll take a look in on she some day.

VASHTI.  Ah, her’ll have got t’other old baggage set in the right place
by then.

HARRY.  [_Looking round him_.]  Well, I be rare pleased to think of May
so comfortable, like, for her was got down terrible low.

VASHTI.  T’other’ll be broughted lower.

HARRY.  Look you here, old Missis, ’tis a stomach full of naught as I
carries.  If so be as you has a crust to spare—

VASHTI.  [_Pointing to a door_.]  There be a plate of meat inside of that
cupboard.  You take and fill your belly with it.

HARRY.  Thank you kindly, Missis, but I counts I han’t the time for heavy
feeding this morning.

VASHTI.  ’Twould serve she right, th’ old sinner, for the place to be
licked up clean, against the time when her was come’d back, so ’twould.

HARRY.  Well, Missis, you can tell May ’tis a brave New Year as I do wish
she.

VASHTI.  [_Listening to bells which are heard suddenly ringing_.]  There,
there they be!  Harken to them!  ’Tis with bells as they be coming out.
Bells what’s ringing.  I count ’tis fine as May do look now in her
marriage gown.  Harken, ’tis the bells a-shaking of the window pane.  I
be an old woman, but the hearing of me bain’t spoiled.

HARRY.  I warrant it bain’t, Missis.  Why, they’re ringing wonderful
smart.  ’Tis enough, upon my word, for to fetch down every stone of the
old place.

VASHTI.  Get you out upon the garden path and tell I if you sees them
a-coming.

HARRY.  That’s it, old Missis, and so I will.

[_He goes outside the house_.

VASHTI.  [_Sitting upright and looking with fixed vacancy before her_.]
And when they was all laid low and the heads of them bowed.  “You would,
would you,” I says, for they was lifting the ends of their ugly mouths at
I.  And I passed among they and them did quail and crouch, being with
fear.  And me and mine did reach the place what was on the top.  “See now
yourselves,” I says, “if so be that you do not go in blindness and in
dark.”  ’Twas May what stood there aside of I.  And “Look you,” I says,
“over the bended necks of you my child shall pass.  For you be done to
death by the lies which growed within you and waxed till the bodies of
you was fed with them and the poison did gush out from your lips.”  But
my little child stood in the light, and the hands of her was about the
stars.

HARRY.  [_Coming in_.]  Look, they be all a-coming over the meadow, old
Missis.  But May han’t comed with they—May han’t come too.

       [_The wedding party enters the room as the curtain falls_.]



FOOTNOTES


{1}  “_As I walked Out_.”  _From Folk Songs from Essex collected by R.
Vaughan Williams_.  _The whole_, _or two verses can be sung_.

{2}  “The Seeds of Love,” “Folk Songs from Somerset,” edited by Cecil J.
Sharp and Charles L. Marsden.





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