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- Six Plays - 30/62 -

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

Six Plays - 30/62

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