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- Six Plays - 20/62 -


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.


"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.

Six Plays - 20/62

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