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- Six Plays - 1/62 -


Transcribed from the 1921 W. Heffer & Sons edition by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk

SIX PLAYS BY FLORENCE HENRIETTA DARWIN

Contents: The Lovers' Tasks Bushes and Briars My man John Princess Royal The Seeds of Love The New Year

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, 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


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