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- Hobson's Choice - 2/23 -
ALBERT. A pound! I say--
MAGGIE. They're good boots, and you don't need to buy a pair of laces to-day, because we give them in as discount. (VICKEY _goes back to counter_.) Braid laces, that is. Of course, if you want leather ones, you being so strong in the arm and breaking so many pairs, you can have them, only it's tuppence more.
ALBERT. These--these will do.
MAGGIE. Very well, you'd better have the old pair mended and I'll send them home to you with the bill. (_She has laced the second boot, rises, and moves towards desk_ L., _throwing the boot box at_ VICKEY, _who gives a little scream at the interruption of her reading_. ALBERT _gasps_.)
ALBERT. Well, if anyone had told me I was coming in here to spend a pound I'd have called him crazy.
MAGGIE. It's not wasted. Those boots will last. Good morning, Mr. Prosser. (_She holds door open_.)
ALBERT. Good morning. (_He looks blankly at_ ALICE _and goes out_.)
ALICE. Maggie, we know you're a pushing sales-woman, but--
MAGGIE (_returning to_ R. _she picks up old boots and puts them on rack up_ R.). It'll teach him to keep out of here a bit. He's too much time on his hands.
ALICE. You know why he comes.
MAGGIE. I know it's time he paid a rent for coming. A pair of laces a day's not half enough. Coming here to make sheep's eyes at you. I'm sick of the sight of him. (_Crosses in front of counter to_ L.)
ALICE. It's all very well for an old maid like you to talk, but if father won't have us go courting, where else can Albert meet me except here when father's out?
MAGGIE. If he wants to marry you why doesn't he do it?
ALICE. Courting must come first.
MAGGIE. It needn't. (_She picks up a slipper on desk_ L.). See that slipper with a fancy buckle on to make it pretty? Courting's like that, my lass. All glitter and no use to nobody. (_She replaces slipper and sits at her desk_.)
(HENRY HORATIO HOBSON _enters from the house. He is fifty-five, successful, coarse, florid, and a parent of the period. His hat is on. It is one of those felt hats which are half-way to tall hats in shape. He has a heavy gold chain and masonic emblems on it. His clothes are bought to wear_.)
HOBSON. Maggie, I'm just going out for a quarter of an hour. (_Moves over to doors_ L.)
MAGGIE. Yes, father. Don't be late for dinner. There's liver.
HOBSON. It's an hour off dinner-time. (_Going_.)
MAGGIE. So that, if you stay more than an hour in the Moonraker's Inn, you'll be late for it.
HOBSON. "Moonraker's?" Who said--? (_Turning_.)
VICKEY. If your dinner's ruined, it'll be your own fault.
HOBSON. Well, I'll be eternally--
ALICE. Don't swear, father.
HOBSON (_putting hat on counter_). No. I'll sit down instead. (_He moves to_ R. C. _and sits in arm-chair_ R. C. _facing them_.) Listen to me, you three. I've come to conclusions about you. And I won't have it. Do you hear that? Interfering with my goings out and comings in. The idea! I've a mind to take measures with the lot of you.
MAGGIE. I expect Mr. Heeler's waiting for you in "Moonraker's," father.
HOBSON. He can go on waiting. At present, I'm addressing a few remarks to the rebellious females of this house, and what I say will be listened to and heeded. I've noticed it coming on ever since your mother died. There's been a gradual increase of uppishness towards me.
VICKEY. Father, you'd have more time to talk after we've closed to-night. (_She is anxious to resume her reading_.)
HOBSON. I'm talking now, and you're listening. Providence has decreed that you should lack a mother's hand at the time when single girls grow bumptious and must have somebody to rule. But I'll tell you this, you'll none rule me.
VICKEY. I'm sure I'm not bumptious, father.
HOBSON. Yes, you are. You're pretty, but you're bumptious, and I hate bumptiousness like I hate a lawyer.
ALICE. If we take trouble to feed you it's not bumptious to ask you not to be late for your food.
VICKEY. Give and take, father.
HOBSON. I give and you take, and it's going to end.
MAGGIE. How much a week do you give us?
HOBSON. That's neither here nor there. (_Rises and moves to doors_ L.) At moment I'm on uppishness, and I'm warning you your conduct towards your parent's got to change. (_Turns to the counter_.) But that's not all. That's private conduct, and now I pass to broader aspects and I speak of public conduct. I've looked upon my household as they go about the streets, and I've been disgusted. The fair name and fame of Hobson have been outraged by members of Hobson's family, and uppishness has done it.
VICKEY. I don't know what you're talking about.
HOBSON. Vickey, you're pretty, but you can lie like a gas-meter. Who had new dresses on last week?
ALICE. I suppose you mean Vickey and me!
HOBSON. I do.
VICKEY. We shall dress as we like, father, and you can save your breath.
HOBSON. I'm not stopping in from my business appointment for the purpose of saving my breath.
VICKEY. You like to see me in nice clothes.
HOBSON. I do. I like to see my daughters nice. (_Crosses_ R.) That's why I pay Mr. Tudsbury, the draper, 10 pounds a year a head to dress you proper. It pleases the eye and it's good for trade. But, I'll tell you, if some women could see themselves as men see them, they'd have a shock, and I'll have words with Tudsbury an' all, for letting you dress up like guys. (_Moves_ L.) I saw you and Alice out of the "Moonraker's" parlour on Thursday night and my friend Sam Minns--(_Turns_.)
ALICE. A publican.
HOBSON. Aye, a publican. As honest a man as God Almighty ever set behind a bar, my ladies. My friend, Sam Minns, asked me who you were. And well he might. You were going down Chapel Street with a hump added to nature behind you.
VICKEY (_scandalized_). Father!
HOBSON. The hump was wagging, and you put your feet on pavement as if you'd got chilblains--aye, stiff neck above and weak knees below. It's immodest!
ALICE. It is not immodest, father. It's the fashion to wear bustles.
HOBSON. Then to hell with the fashion.
MAGGIE. Father, you are not in the "Moonraker's" now.
VICKEY. You should open your eyes to what other ladies wear. (_Rises_.)
HOBSON. If what I saw on you is any guide, I should do nowt of kind. I'm a decent-minded man. I'm Hobson. I'm British middle class and proud of it. I stand for common sense and sincerity. You're affected, which is bad sense and insincerity. You've overstepped nice dressing and you've tried grand dressing-- (VICKEY _sits_)--which is the occupation of fools and such as have no brains. You forget the majesty of trade and the unparalleled virtues of the British Constitution which are all based on the sanity of the middle classes, combined with the diligence of the working-classes. You're losing balance, and you're putting the things which don't matter in front of the things which do, and if you mean to be a factor in the world in Lancashire or a factor in the house of Hobson, you'll become sane.
VICKEY. Do you want us to dress like mill girls?
HOBSON. No. Nor like French Madams, neither. It's un-English, I say.
ALICE. We shall continue to dress fashionably, father.
HOBSON. Then I've a choice for you two. Vickey, you I'm talking to, and Alice. You'll become sane if you're going on living here. You'll control this uppishness that's growing on you. And if you
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