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- Hobson's Choice - 4/23 -


(_She goes out_.)

(_Angry_.) I wish some people would mind their own business. What does she want to praise a workman to his face for? (_Moves down_ L. _and then to_ C.)

MAGGIE. I suppose he deserved it.

HOBSON. Deserved be blowed! Making them uppish. That's what it is. Last time she puts her foot in my shop, I give you my word.

MAGGIE. Don't be silly, father.

HOBSON. I'll show her. Thinks she owns the earth because she lives at Hope Hall.

(_Enter from street_ JIM HEELER, _who is a grocer, and_ HOBSON'S _boon companion_.)

JIM (_looking down street as he enters_). That's a bit of a startler.

HOBSON (_swinging round_). Eh? Oh, morning, Jim.

JIM. You're doing a good class trade if the carriage folk come to you, Hobson. (_Moves down_ L. C.)

HOBSON. What?

JIM. Wasn't that Mrs. Hepworth?

HOBSON. Oh yes. Mrs. Hepworth's an old and valued customer of mine.

JIM. It's funny you deal with Hope Hall and never mentioned it.

HOBSON. Why, I've made boots for her and all her circle for... how long, Maggie? Oh, I dunno.

JIM. You kept it dark. Well, aren't you coming round yonder? (_Moving up_ L.)

HOBSON (_reaching for his hat_). Yes. That is, no.

JIM. Are you ill?

HOBSON. No. Get away, you girls. I'll look after the shop. I want to talk to Mr. Heeler.

JIM. Well, can't you talk in the "Moonraker's"!

(_The girls go out_ R. _to house_, MAGGIE _last_.)

HOBSON. Yes, with Sam Minns, and Denton and Tudsbury there.

JIM. It's private, then. What's the trouble, Henry?

(HOBSON _waves_ JIM _into arm-chair_ R. C. _and sits in front of counter_.)

HOBSON. They're the trouble. (_Indicates door to house_.) Do your daughters worry you, Jim?

JIM. Nay,--(_sits_ R. C.)--they mostly do as I bid them, and the missus does the leathering if they don't.

HOBSON. Ah, Jim, a wife's a handy thing, and you don't know it proper till she's taken from you. I felt grateful for the quiet when my Mary fell on rest, but I can see my mistake now. I used to think I was hard put to it to fend her off when she wanted summat out of me, but the dominion of one woman is Paradise to the dominion of three.

JIM. It sounds a sad case, Henry.

HOBSON. I'm a talkative man by nature, Jim. You know that.

JIM. You're an orator, Henry. I doubt John Bright himself is better gifted of the gab than you.

HOBSON. Nay, that's putting it a bit too strong. A good case needs no flattery.

JIM. Well, you're the best debater in the "Moonraker's" parlour.

HOBSON. And that's no more than truth. Yes, Jim, in the estimation of my fellow men, I give forth words of weight. In the eyes of my daughters I'm a windbag. (_Rises and moves down_ L.).

JIM. Nay. Never!

HOBSON. I am. (_Turns_.) They scorn my wisdom, Jim. They answer back. I'm landed in a hole--a great and undignified hole. My own daughters have got the upper hand of me.

JIM. Women are worse than men for getting above themselves.

HOBSON. A woman's foolishness begins where man's leaves off.

JIM. They want a firm hand, Henry.

HOBSON. I've lifted up my voice and roared at them.

JIM. Beware of roaring at women, Henry. Roaring is mainly hollow sound. It's like trying to defeat an army with banging drums instead of cold steel. And it's steel in a man's character that subdues the women.

HOBSON. I've tried all ways, and I'm fair moithered. I dunno what to do. (_Scratches his head_.)

JIM. Then you quit roaring at 'em and get 'em wed. (_Rises_.)

HOBSON. I've thought of that. Trouble is to find the men.

JIM. Men's common enough. Are you looking for angels in breeches?

HOBSON. I'd like my daughters to wed temperance young men, Jim.

JIM. You keep your ambitions within reasonable limits, Henry. You've three daughters to find husbands for.

HOBSON. Two, Jim, two.

JIM. Two?

HOBSON. Vickey and Alice are mostly window dressing in the shop. But Maggie's too useful to part with. And she's a bit on the ripe side for marrying, is our Maggie.

JIM. I've seen 'em do it at double her age. Still, leaving her out, you've two.

HOBSON. One'll do for a start, Jim. (_Crosses to_ R.) It's a thing I've noticed about wenches. Get one wedding in a family and it goes through the lot like measles. (_Moves round chair to up_ R.)

JIM. Well, you want a man, and you want him temperance. It'll cost you a bit, you know. (_Sits in chair below_ L. _side of counter_.)

HOBSON (_going to him_). Eh? Oh, I'll get my hand down for the wedding all right.

JIM. A warm man like you 'ull have to do more than that. There's things called settlements.

HOBSON. Settlements?

JIM. Aye. You've to bait your hook to catch fish, Henry.

HOBSON. Then I'll none go fishing. (_Sits_.)

JIM. But you said--

HOBSON. I've changed my mind. I'd a fancy for a bit of peace, but there's luxuries a man can buy too dear. Settlements indeed!

JIM. I had a man in mind.

HOBSON. You keep him there, Jim. I'll rub along and chance it. Settlements indeed!

JIM. You save their keep.

HOBSON. They work for that. And they're none of them big eaters.

JIM. And their wages.

HOBSON. Wages? Do you think I pay wages to my own daughters? (_Rises and goes to desk_ L.) I'm not a fool.

JIM. Then it's all off? (_Rises_.)

HOBSON (_turns_). From the moment that you breathed the word "settlements" it was dead off, Jim. Let's go to the "Moonraker's" and forget there's such a thing as women in the world. (_He takes up hat and rings bell on counter_.) Shop! Shop!

(MAGGIE _enters from_ R.)

I'm going out, Maggie.

MAGGIE (_She remains by door_). Dinner's at one, remember.

HOBSON. Dinner will be when I come in for it. I'm master here. (_Moves to go_.)

MAGGIE. Yes, father. One o'clock.

HOBSON (_disgusted_.) Come along, Jim.

(JIM _and_ HOBSON _go out to street_. MAGGIE _turns to speak inside_ R. _door_.) MAGGIE. Dinner at half-past one, girls. We'll give him half an hour. (_She closes door, turns arm-chair facing C. and moves to trap, which she raises_.) Willie, come here.


Hobson's Choice - 4/23

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