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- Six Plays - 50/62 -


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,


Six Plays - 50/62

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