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- Six Plays - 6/62 -
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.
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.
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