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Title:      The Daughter-in-law (1912)
Author:     D. H. Lawrence
eBook No.:  0400871h.html
Edition:    1
Language:   English
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Date first posted:          December 2004
Date most recently updated: December 2004

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THE DAUGHTER-IN-LAW

A PLAY IN FOUR ACTS

 

by

 

D. H. Lawrence

 

(1912)

 

 


 

 

CHARACTERS


MRS GASCOIGNE

LUTHER

JOE

MRS PURDY

MINNIE

 

The action of the play takes place in the kitchen of Luther Gascoigne's new home.

 

 


 

ACT I ACT II ACT III ACT IV

 


 

 

ACT I

 

SCENE I

 

A collier's kitchen--not poor. Windsor chairs, deal table, dresser of painted wood, sofa covered with red cotton stuff. Time: About half-past two of a winter's afternoon.

A large, stoutish woman of sixty-five, with smooth black hair parted down the middle of her head: MRS GASCOIGNE.

Enter a young man, about twenty-six, dark, good-looking; has his right arm in a sling; does not take off cap: JOE GASCOIGNE.

 

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, I s'd ha' thought thy belly 'ud a browt thee whoam afore this.

JOE sits on sofa without answering.

Doesn't ter want no dinner?

JOE (looking up): I want it if the' is ony.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' if the' isna, tha can go be out? Tha talks large, my fine jockey! (She puts a newspaper on the table; on it a plate and his dinner.) Wheer dost reckon ter's bin?

JOE: I've bin ter th' office for my munny.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha's niver bin a' this while at th' office.

JOE: They kep' me ower an hour, an' then gen me nowt.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Gen thee nowt! Why, how do they ma'e that out? It's a wik sin' tha got hurt, an' if a man wi' a broken arm canna ha' his fourteen shillin' a week accident pay, who can, I s'd like to know?

JOE: They'll gie me nowt, whether or not.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' for why, prithee?

JOE (does not answer for some time; then, sullenly): They reckon I niver got it while I wor at work.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Then where did ter get it, might I ax? I'd think they'd like to lay it onto me.

JOE: Tha talks like a fool, Mother.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha looks like one, me lad.

She has given him his dinner; he begins to eat with a fork.

Here, hutch up, gammy-leg--gammy-arm.

He makes room; she sits by him on the sofa and cuts up his meat for him.

It's a rum un as I should start ha'in' babies again, an' feedin' 'em wi' spoon-meat. (Gives him a spoon.) An' now let's hear why they winna gi'e thee thy pay. Another o' Macintyre's dirty knivey dodges, I s'd think.

JOE: They reckon I did it wi' foolery, an' not wi' work.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Oh indeed! An' what by that?

JOE (eating): They wunna gie me nowt, that's a'.

MRS GASCOIGNE: It's a nice thing! An' what did ter say?

JOE: I said nowt.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha wouldna'! Tha stood like a stuffed duck, an' said thank-yer.

JOE: Well, it wor raight.

MRS GASCOIGNE: How raight?

JOE: I did do it wi' foolery.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Then what did ter go axin' fer pay fer?

JOE: I did it at work, didna I? An' a man as gets accident at work's titled ter disability pay, isna he?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha said a minnit sin' as tha got it wi' foolery.

JOE: An' so I did.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I niver 'eered such talk i' my life.

JOE: I dunna care what ter's 'eered an' what t'asna. I wor foolin' wi' a wringer an' a pick-heft--ta's it as ter's a mind.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What, down pit?

JOE: I' th' stall, at snap time.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Showin' off a bit, like?

JOE: Ye'.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' what then?

JOE: Th' wringer gen me a rap ower th'arm, an' that's a'.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' tha reported it as a accident?

JOE: It wor accident, worn't it? I niver did it a'purpose.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But a pit accident.

JOE: Well, an' what else wor't? It wor a h'accident I got i' th' pit, i' th' sta' wheer I wor workin'.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But not while tha wor workin'.

JOE: What by that?--it wor a pit accident as I got i' th' stall.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But tha didna tell 'em how it happened.

JOE: I said some stuff fell on my arm, an' brok' it. An' worna that trew?

MRS GASCOIGNE: It wor very likely trew enough, lad, if on'y they'd ha' believed it.

JOE: An they would ha' believed it, but for Hewett bully-raggin' Bettesworth 'cos he knowed he was a chappil man. (He imitates the underground manager, Hewett, and Bettesworth, a butty.) "About this accident, Bettesworth. How exactly did it occur?" "I couldn't exactly say for certing, sir, because I wasn't linkin'." "Then tell me as near as you can." "Well, Mester, I'm sure I don't know." "That's curious, Bettesworth--I must have a report. Do you know anything about it, or don't you? It happened in your stall; you're responsible for it, and I'm responsible for you." "Well, Gaffer, what's right's right, I suppose, ter th' mesters or th' men. An' 'e wor conjurin' a' snap-time wi' a pick-heft an' a wringer, an' the wringer catched 'im ower th' arm." "I thought you didn't know!" "I said for certain--I didn't see exactly how 'twas done."

MRS GASCOIGNE: Hm.

JOE: Bettesworth 'ud non ha' clat-fasted but for nosy Hewett. He says, "Yo know, Joseph, when he says to me, 'Do you know anything about that haccident?'--then I says to myself, 'Take not the word of truth hutterly outer thy mouth.'"

MRS GASCOIGNE: If he took a bit o' slaver outen's mouth, it 'ud do.

JOE: So this mornin' when I went ter th' office, Mester Salmon he com out an' said: "'Ow did this haccident occur, Joseph?" and I said, "Some stuff fell on't." So he says, "Stuff fell on't, stuff fell on't! You mean coal or rock or what?" So I says, "Well, it worn't a thipenny bit." "No," he says, "but what was it?" "It wor a piece o' clunch," I says. "You don't use clunch for wringers," he says, "do you?" "The wringin' of the nose bringeth forth blood," I says--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why, you know you never did. (She begins making a pudding.)

JOE: No--b'r I'd ha' meant t'r'a done.

MRS GASCOIGNE: We know thee! Tha's done thysen one i' th' eye this time. When dost think tha'll iver get ter be a butty, at this rate? There's Luther nowt b'r a day man yet.

JOE: I'd as lief be a day man as a butty, i' pits that rat-gnawed there's hardly a stall worth havin'; an' a company as 'ud like yer ter scrape yer tabs afore you went home, for fear you took a grain o' coal.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Maybe--but tha's got ter get thy livin' by 'em.

JOE: I hanna. I s'll go to Australia.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha'lt do no such thing, while I'm o' this earth.

JOE: Ah, but though, I shall--else get married, like our Luther.

MRS GASCOIGNE: A fat sight better off tha'lt be for that.

JOE: You niver know, Mother, dun yer?

MRS GASCOIGNE: You dunna, me lad--not till yer find yerself let in. Marriage is like a mouse-trap, for either man or woman. You've soon come to th' end o' th' cheese.

JOE: Well, ha'ef a loaf's better nor no bread.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why, wheer's th' loaf as tha'd like ter gnawg a' thy life?

JOE: Nay, nowhere yet.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, dunna thee talk, then. Tha's done thysen harm enow for one day, wi' thy tongue.

JOE: An' good as well, Mother--I've aten my dinner, a'most.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' swilled thy belly afore that, methinks.

JOE: Niver i' this world!

MRS GASCOIGNE: And I've got thee to keep on ten shillin's a wik club-money, han I?

JOE: Tha needna, if ter doesna want. Besides, we s'll be out on strike afore we know wheer we are.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I'm sure. You've on'y bin in--

JOE: Now, Mother, spit on thy hands an' ta'e fresh hold. We s'll be out on strike in a wik or a fortnit--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Strike's a' they're fit for--a pack o' slutherers as . . .

Her words tail off as she goes into pantry.

JOE (to himself): Tha goes chunterin' i' th' pantry when somebody's at th' door. (Rises, goes to door.)

MRS PURDY'S VOICE: Is your mother in?

JOE: Yi, 'er's in right enough.

MRS PURDY: Well, then, can I speak to her?

JOE (calling): Mrs Purdy wants ter speak to thee, Mother.

MRS GASCOIGNE crosses the kitchen heavily, with a dripping-pan; stands in doorway.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Good afternoon.

MRS PURDY: Good afternoon.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Er--what is it?

MRS PURDY enters. She is a little fat, red-faced body in bonnet and black cape.

MRS PURDY: I wanted to speak to yer rather pertickler.

MRS GASCOIGNE (giving way): Oh, yes?

ALL THREE enter the kitchen. MRS PURDY stands near the door.

MRS PURDY (nodding at JOE): Has he had a haccident?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Broke his arm.

MRS PURDY: Oh my! that's nasty. When did 'e do that?

MRS GASCOIGNE: A wik sin' to-day.

MRS PURDY: In th' pit?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Yes--an's not goin' to get any accident pay--says as 'e worn't workin'; he wor foolin' about.

MRS PURDY: T-t-t-t! Did iver you know! I tell you what, missis, it's a wonder they let us live on the face o' the earth at all--it's a wonder we don't have to fly up i' th' air like birds.

JOE: There'd be a squark i' th' sky then!

MRS PURDY: But it is indeed. It's somethink awful. They've gave my mester a dirty job o' nights, at a guinea a week, an' he's worked fifty years for th' company, an' isn't but sixty-two now--said he wasn't equal to stall-workin', whereas he has to slave on th' roads an' comes whoam that tired he can't put's food in's mouth.

JOE: He's about like me.

MRS PURDY: Yis. But it's no nice thing, a guinea a week.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, that's how they're servin' 'em a' round-- widders' coals stopped--leadin' raised to four-an'-eight--an' ivry man niggled down to nothink.

MRS PURDY: I wish I'd got that Fraser strung up by th' heels--I'd ma'e his sides o' bacon rowdy.

MRS GASCOIGNE: He's put a new manager to ivry pit, an' ivry one a nigger-driver.

MRS PURDY: Says he's got to economise--says the company's not a philanthropic concern--

MRS GASCOIGNE: But ta'es twelve hundred a year for hissen.

MRS PURDY: A mangy bachelor wi' 'is iron-men.

JOE: But they wunna work.

MRS PURDY: They say how he did but coss an' swear about them American Cutters. I should like to see one set outer 'im--they'd work hard enough rippin's guts out--even iron's got enough sense for that. (She suddenly subsides.)

There is a pause.

MRS GASCOIGNE: How do you like living down Nethergreen?

MRS PURDY: Well--we're very comfortable. It's small, but it's handy, an' sin' the mester's gone down t'a guinea--

MRS GASCOIGNE: It'll do for you three.

MRS PURDY: Yes.

Another pause.

MRS GASCOIGNE: The men are comin' out again, they say.

MRS PURDY: Isn't it summat sickenin'? Well, I've werritted an' werritted till I'm soul-sick--

JOE: It sends yer that thin an' threadbare, y'have ter stop sometime.

MRS PURDY: There can be as much ache in a motherly body as in bones an' gristle, I'm sure o' that.

JOE: Nay, I'm more than bones an' gristle.

MRS PURDY: That's true as the day.

Another long pause.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' how have yer all bin keepin'?

MRS PURDY: Oh, very nicely--except our Bertha.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Is she poorly, then?

MRS PURDY: That's what I com ter tell yer. I niver knowed a word on't till a Sat'day, nor niver noticed a thing. Then she says to me, as white as a sheet, "I've been sick every morning, Mother," an' it com across me like a shot from a gun. I sunk down i' that chair an' couldna fetch a breath.--An' me as prided myself! I've often laughed about it, an' said I was thankful my children had all turned out so well, lads an' wenches as well, an' said it was a'cause they was all got of a Sunday--their father was too drunk a' Saturday, an' too tired o' wik-days. An' it's a fact, they've all turned out well, for I'd allers bin to chappil. Well, I've said it for a joke, but now it's turned on me. I'd better ha' kep' my tongue still.

JOE: It's not me, though, missis. I wish it wor.

MRS PURDY: There's no occasions to ma'e gam' of it neither, as far as I can see. The youngest an' the last of 'em as I've got, an' a lass as I liked, for she's simple, but she's good-natured, an' him a married man. Thinks I to myself, "I'd better go to's mother, she'll ha'e more about 'er than's new wife--for she's a stuck-up piece o' goods as ever trod."

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why, what d'yer mean?

MRS PURDY: I mean what I say--an' there's no denyin' it. That girl--well, it's nigh on breakin' my heart, for I'm that short o' breath. (Sighs.) I'm sure!

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why don't yer say what yer mean?

MRS PURDY: I've said it, haven't I? There's my gal gone four month wi' childt to your Luther.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nay, nay, nay, missis! You'll never ma'e me believe it.

MRS PURDY: Glad would I be if I nedna. But I've gone through it all since Sat'day on. I've wanted to break every bone in 'er body--an' I've said I should on'y be happy if I was scraightin' at 'er funeral--an' I've said I'd wring his neck for 'im. But it doesn't alter it--there it is--an' there it will be. An' I s'll be a grandmother where my heart heaves, an' maun drag a wastrel baby through my old age. An' it's neither a cryin' nor a laughin' matter, but it's a matter of a girl wi' child, an' a man six week married.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But our Luther never went wi' your Bertha. How d'you make it out?

MRS PURDY: Yea, yea, missis--yea indeed.

JOE: Yi, Mother, he's bin out wi' 'er. She wor pals wi' Liza Ann Varley, as went out wi' Jim Horrocks. So Jim he passed Bertha onter our Luther. Why, I've had many a glass wi' the four of 'em, i' "Th' Ram".

MRS GASCOIGNE: I niver knowed nowt o' this afore.

JOE: Tha doesna know ivrythink, Mother.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' it's well I don't, methinks.

JOE: Tha doesna want, neither.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, I dunno what we're goin' to do, missis. He's a young married man.

MRS PURDY: An' she's a girl o' mine.

MRS GASCOIGNE: How old is she?

MRS PURDY: She wor twenty-three last September.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well then, I sh'd 'a thought she'd ha' known better.

MRS PURDY: An' what about him, missis, as goes and gets married t'r another fine madam d'rectly after he's been wi' my long lass?

JOE: But he never knowed owt about.

MRS PURDY: He'd seen th' blossom i' flower, if he hadna spotted the fruit a-comin'.

JOE: Yi--but--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Yi but what?

JOE: Well--you dunna expect--ivry time yer cast yer bread on th' wathers, as it'll come whoam to you like.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, I dunno what we're goin' to do.

MRS PURDY: I thought I'd better come to you, rather than--

JOE: Ah, you non want it gettin' about--an' she'd best not know--if it can be helped.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I can't see for why.

MRS PURDY: No indeed--a man as plays fast an' loose first wi' one an' then goes an' marries another stuck-up piece . . .

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' a wench as goes sittin' i' "Th' Ram" wi th' fellers mun expect what she gets, missis.

MRS PURDY: 'Appen so, 'appen so. An' th' man maun abide by what he's gi'en.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I dunno what we're goin' to do!

JOE: We'd best keep it as quiet as we can.

MRS PURDY: I thinks to mysen, "It'll non become me to go an' jack up a married couple, for if he's at fault, it's her as 'ud ha'e ter suffer." An' though she's haughty, I knowed her mother, as nice a body as ever stept, an' treated scandylos by Jim Hetherington. An', thinks I, she's a horphan, if she's got money, an' nobbut her husband i' th' world. Thinks I to mysen it's no good visitin' it on 'er head, if he's a villain. For whatever th' men does, th' women maun ma'e up for. An' though I do consider as it's nowt b'r a dirty trick o' his'n to ta'e a poor lass like my long thing, an' go an' marry a woman wi' money--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Woman wi' money, an' peace go wi' 'er, 'er an' 'er money! What she's got, she'll keep, you take my word for it, missis.

MRS PURDY: Yes, an' she's right of it.

JOE: Nay, Mother, she's non close.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Isn't she?--oh, isn't she? An' what is she then? All she wanted was as much for her money as she could get. An' when she fun as nob'dy was for sale but our Luther, she says, "Well, I'll take it."

JOE: Nay, it worna like that--it wor him as wor that come-day-go-day--

MRS PURDY: God send Sunday.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' what more canna man do, think yer, but ax a woman? When has thee ever done as much?

JOE: No, I hanna, 'cos I've niver seen th' woman as I wanted to say "snap"--but he slormed an' she--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Slormed! Thee slorm but one fiftieth part to any lass thee likes, an' see if 'er's not all over thee afore tha's said six words. Slormed! 'Er wor that high an' mighty, 'er wanted summat bett'nor 'im.

JOE: Nay--I reckon he niver showed the spunk of a sprat-herring to 'er.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Did thee show any more? Hast iver done? Yet onybody 'ud think tha wor for marryin' 'er thysen.

JOE: If I'd ha' bin for marryin' 'er, I'd ha' gone wholesale, not ha' fudged and haffled.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But tha worna for marryin' neither 'er nor nobody.

JOE: No, I worna.

MRS GASCOIGNE: No, tha worna.

There is a long pause. The mother turns half apologetically, half explanatorily, to MRS PURDY.

It's like this 'ere, missis, if you'll not say nothink about it--sin' it's got to come out atween us. He courted Minnie Hetherington when she wor at her uncle's, at th' "Bell o' Brass", an' he wor nowt bu'r a lad o' twenty-two, an' she twenty-one. An' he wor gone on 'er right enow. Then she had that row wi' 'er uncle, for she wor iver overbearin' an' chancy. Then our Luther says to me, "I s'll ax 'er to marry me, Mother," an' I says: "Tha pleases thysen, but ter my thinkin' tha'rt a sight too young an' doesna know thy own mind." Howsoever, much notice 'e takes o' me.

JOE: He took a lot o' notice on thee, tha knows well enough.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' for what shouldn't he? Hadn't I bin a good mother to 'im i' ivry shape an' form? Let her make him as good a wife as I made him a mother! Well--we'll see. You'll see him repent the day. But they're not to be bidden. An' so, missis, he did ax 'er, as 'e'd said 'e should. But hoity-toity an' no thank yer, she wasna for havin' him, but mun go an' be a nursery governess up i' Manchester. Thinks I to myself, she's after a town johnny, a Bertie-Willie an' a yard o' cuffs. But he kep' on writin' to 'er, now an' again--an' she answered--as if she wor standin' at top of a flight of steps--

JOE: An' 'appen on'y wanted fetchin' down.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Wi' a kick from behint, if I'd ha' had th' doin' o't. So they go mornin' on. He sees 'er once i' a blew moon. If he goes ter Manchester, she condescends to see him for a couple of hours. If she comes here, she ca's i' this house wi' a "how-do-you-do, Mrs Gascoigne", an' off again. If they go f'r a walk . . .

JOE: He's whoam again at nine o'clock.

MRS GASCOIGNE: If they go for a walk it's "Thank you, I mustn't be very late. Good night, Luther." I thought it ud niver come ter nothink. Then 'er uncle dies an' leaves her a hundred pounds, which considerin' th' way she'd been with 'im, was more than I'd ha' gen her--an' she was a bit nicer. She writes ter Luther ter come an' see 'er an' stop a couple o' days. He ta'es her to the the-etter, an's for goin' i' th' pit at a shillin', when she says: "It's my treat, Luther, and five shillin' seats apiece, if you please."

JOE: An' he couldna luik at th' performance, for fear as the folks was luikin' at 'im.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' after th' the-etter, it must be supper wi' a man i' a tail-coat an' silver forks, an' she pays. "Yes," says I when he told me, "that's the tricks of servants, showin' off afore decent folk."

JOE: She could do what she liked, couldn't she?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, an' after that, he didna write, 'cept to say thank yer. For it put 'im in a horkard position. That wor four years ago, an' she's nobbut seen him three times sin' that. If she could but ha' snapped up somebody else, it 'ud bin good-bye to Luther--

JOE: As tha told him many a time.

MRS GASCOIGNE: As I told him many a time, for am I to sit an' see my own lad bitted an' bobbed, tasted an' spit out by a madam i' service? Then all of a suddin, three months back, come a letter: "Dear Luther, I have been thinking it over, an' have come to the opinion that we'd better get married now, if we are ever goin' to. We've been dallying on all these years, and we seem to get no further. So we'd better make the plunge, if ever we're going to. Of course you will say exactly what you think. Don't agree to anything unless you want to. I only want to say that I think, if we're ever going to be married, we'd better do it without waiting any longer." Well, missis, he got that letter when he com whoam fra work. I seed him porin' an' porin', but I says nowt. Then he ate some o's dinner, and went out. When he com in, it wor about haef past ten, an' 'e wor white as a sheet. He gen me that letter, an' says: "What's think o' that, Mother?" Well, you could ha' knocked me down wi' a feather when I'd read it. I says: "I think it's tidy cheek, my lad." He took it back an' puts 's pocket, an' after a bit, 'e says: "What should ter say, Mother?" "Tha says what's a mind, my lad," I says. So he begins unlacin' 's boots. Sudden he stops, an' wi's boot-tags rattlin', goes rummagin' for th' pen an' ink. "What art goin' to say?" I says. "I'm goin' ter say, 'er can do as 'er's a mind. If 'er wants ter be married, 'er can, an' if 'er doesna, 'er nedna." So I thinks we could leave it at that. He sits him down, an' doesna write more nor a side an' a haef. I thinks: "That's done it, it'll be an end between them two now." He niver gen th' letter to me to read.

JOE: He did to me. He says: "I'm ready an' willin' to do what you want, whenever yer want. I'm earnin' about thirty-five bob a week, an' haven't got any money because my mother gi'es me what I ax for ter spend. But I can have what I ask for to set up house with. Your loving--Luther." He says to me: "Dost think it's a'right?" I says: "I s'd think so; 'er maun ma'e what 'er likes out on't."

MRS GASCOIGNE: On th' Monday after, she wor here livin' at 'er A'nt's an' th' notice was in at th' registrar. I says: "What money dost want?" He says: "Thee buy what tha thinks we s'll want." So he tells Minnie, an' she says: "Not bi-out I'm theer." Well, we goes ter Nottingham, an' she will ha'e nowt b'r old-fashioned stuff. I says: "That's niver my mind, Minnie." She says: "Well, I like it, an' yo'll see it'll look nice. I'll pay for it." Which to be sure I never let her. For she'd had a mester as made a fool of her, tellin' her this an' that, what wor good taste, what wor bad.

JOE: An' it does look nice, Mother, their house.

MRS GASCOIGNE: We'll see how it looks i' ten years' time, my lad, wi' th' racket an' tacket o' children. For it's not serviceable, missis.

MRS PURDY (who has been a sympathetic and exclamative listener): Then it's no good.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' that's how they got married.

JOE: An' he went about wi's tail atween his legs, scared outer's life.

MRS GASCOIGNE: For I said no more. If he axed me owt, I did it; if he wanted owt, I got it. But it wasn't for me to go interferin' where I wasn't wanted.

JOE: If ever I get married, Mother, I s'll go i' lodgin's six month aforehand.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha'd better--ter get thysen a bit case-hardened.

JOE: Yi. But I'm goin' t'r Australia.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I come withee, then.

JOE: Tha doesna.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I dunna fret--tha'lt non go.

MRS PURDY: Well, it was what I should call a bit off-hand, I must say.

MRS GASCOIGNE: You can see now how he got married, an' who's to blame.

JOE: Nay, yo' canna ma'e 'er to blame for Bertha. Liza Ann Varley's ter blame for th' lass goin' out o' nights.

MRS PURDY: An' there I thought they wor both i' Varley's--not gallivantin'.

JOE: They often was. An' Jim Horrocks is ter blame fer couplin' 'er onter our Luther, an' him an' her's ter blame for the rest. I dunno how you can lay it on Minnie. You might as well lay it on 'er if th' childt wor mine.

MRS GASCOIGNE (sharply): Tha'd ha'e more sense!

JOE: I'd try.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But now she's played fast an' loose wi' him-- twice I know he axed 'er to ha'e him--now she's asked for what she's got. She's put her puddin' in her mouth, an' if she's burnt herself, serve her right.

MRS PURDY: Well, I didn't want to go to court. I thought, his mother'll be th' best one to go to--

MRS GASCOIGNE: No--you mun go to him hisself--go an' tell him i' front of her--an' if she wants anythink, she mun ma'e arrangements herself.

JOE: What was you thinkin' of, Missis Purdy?

MRS PURDY: Well, I was thinkin', she's a poor lass--an' I didn't want 'er to go to court, for they ax such questions--an' I thought it was such a thing, him six wik married--though to be sure I'd no notions of how it was--I thought, we might happen say, it was one o' them electricians as was along when they laid th' wires under th' road down to Batsford--and--

JOE: And arrange for a lump sum, like?

MRS PURDY: Yes--we're poor, an' she's poor--an' if she had a bit o' money of 'er own--for we should niver touch it--it might be a inducement to some other young feller--for, poor long thing, she's that simple--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, ter my knowledge, them as has had a childt seems to get off i' marriage better nor many as hasn't. I'm sure, there's a lot o' men likes it, if they think a woman's had a baby by another man.

MRS PURDY: That's nothing to trust by, missis; you'll say so yourself.

JOE: An' about how much do you want? Thirty pounds?

MRS PURDY: We want what's fair. I got it fra Emma Stapleton; they had forty wi' their Lucy.

JOE: Forty pound?

MRS PURDY: Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, then, let her find it. She's paid for nothing but the wedding. She's got money enough, if he's none. Let her find it. She made the bargain, she maun stick by it. It was her dip i' th' bran-tub--if there's a mouse nips hold of her finger, she maun suck it better, for nobody axed her to dip.

MRS PURDY: You think I'd better go to him? Eh, missis, it's a nasty business. But right's right.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Right is right, Mrs Purdy. And you go tell him a-front of her--that's the best thing you can do. Then iverything's straight.

MRS PURDY: But for her he might ha' married our Bertha.

MRS GASCOIGNE: To be sure, to be sure.

MRS PURDY: What right had she to snatch when it pleased her?

MRS GASCOIGNE: That's what I say. If th' woman ca's for th' piper, th' woman maun pay th' tune.

MRS PURDY: Not but what--

JOE: It's a nasty business.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nasty or not, it's hers now, not mine. He's her husband. "My son's my son till he takes him a wife," an' no longer. Now let her answer for it.

MRS PURDY: An' you think I'd better go when they're both in?

MRS GASCOIGNE: I should go to-night, atween six an' seven, that's what I should do.

JOE: I never should. If I was you, I'd settle it wi'out Minnie's knowin'--it's bad enough.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What's bad enough?

JOE: Why, that.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What?

JOE: Him an' 'er--it's bad enough as it is.

MRS GASCOIGNE (with great bitterness): Then let it be a bit worse, let it be a bit worse. Let her have it, then; it'll do her good. Who is she, to trample eggs that another hen would sit warm? No--Mrs Purdy, give it her. It'll take her down a peg or two, and, my sirs, she wants it, my sirs, she needs it!

JOE (muttering): A fat lot o' good it'll do.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What has thee ter say, I should like to know? Fed an' clothed an' coddled, tha art, an' not a thing tha lacks. But wait till I'm gone, my lad; tha'lt know what I've done for thee, then, tha will.

JOE: For a' that, it's no good 'er knowin'.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Isna it?--isna it? If it's not good for 'er, it's good for 'im.

JOE: I dunna believe it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Who asked thee to believe it? Tha's showed thysen a wise man this day, hasn't ter? Wheer should ter be terday but for me? Wheer should ter iver ha' bin? An' then tha sits up for to talk. It ud look better o' thee not to spit i' th' hand as holds thy bread an' butter.

JOE: Neither do I.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Doesn't ter! Tha has a bit too much chelp an' chunter. It doesna go well, my lad. Tha wor blortin' an' bletherin' down at th' office a bit sin', an' a mighty fool tha made o' thysen. How should thee like to go home wi' thy tale o' to-day, to Minnie, might I ax thee?

JOE: If she didna like it, she could lump it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: It 'ud be thee as 'ud lump, my lad. But what does thee know about it? 'Er's rip th' guts out on thee like a tiger, an' stan' grinnin' at thee when tha shrivelled up 'cause tha'd no inside left.

MRS PURDY: She looks it, I must admit--every bit of it.

JOE: For a' that, it's no good her knowing.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, I say it is--an' thee, tha shiftly little know-all, as blorts at one minute like a suckin' calf an' th' next blethers like a hass, dunna thee come layin' th' law down to me, for I know better. No, Mrs Purdy, it's no good comin' to me. You've a right to some compensation, an' that lass o' yours has; but let them as cooked the goose eat it, that's all. Let him arrange it hisself--an' if he does nothink, put him i' court, that's all.

MRS PURDY: He's not goin' scot-free, you may back your life o' that.

MRS GASCOIGNE: You go down to-night atween six an' seven, an' let 'em have it straight. You know where they live?

MRS PURDY: I' Simson Street?

MRS GASCOIGNE: About four houses up--next Holbrooks.

MRS PURDY (rising): Yes.

JOE: An' it'll do no good. Gie me th' money, Mother; I'll pay it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha wunna!

JOE: I've a right to th' money--I've addled it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: A' right--an' I've saved it for thee. But tha has none on't till tha knocks me down an' ta'es it out o' my pocket.

MRS PURDY: No--let them pay themselves. It's not thy childt, is it?

JOE: It isna--but the money is.

MRS GASCOIGNE: We'll see.

MRS PURDY: Well, I mun get back. Thank yer, missis.

MRS GASCOIGNE: And thank you! I'll come down to-morrow--at dark hour.

MRS PURDY: Thank yer.--I hope yer arm'll soon be better.

JOE: Thank yer.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I'll come down to-morrow. You'll go to-night--atween six an' seven?

MRS PURDY: Yes--if it mun be done, it mun. He took his own way, she took hers, now I mun take mine. Well, good afternoon. I mun see about th' mester's dinner.

JOE: And you haven't said nothink to nobody?

MRS PURDY: I haven't--I shouldn't be flig, should I?

JOE: No--I should keep it quiet as long's you can.

MRS GASCOIGNE: There's no need for a' th' world to know--but them as is concerned maun abide by it.

MRS PURDY: Well, good afternoon.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Good afternoon.

JOE: Good afternoon.

Exit MRS PURDY.

Well, that's a winder!

MRS GASCOIGNE: Serve her right, for tip-callin' wi'm all those years.

JOE: She niver ought to know.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I--I could fetch thee a wipe ower th' face, I could!

He sulks. She is in a rage.

 

 

SCENE II

 

The kitchen of LUTHER GASCOIGNE'S new home.

It is pretty--in "cottage" style; rush-bottomed chairs, black oak-bureau, brass candlesticks, delft, etc. Green cushions in chairs. Towards five o'clock. Firelight. It is growing dark.

MINNIE GASCOIGNE is busy about the fire: a tall, good-looking young woman, in a shirt-blouse and dark skirt, and apron. She lifts lids of saucepans, etc., hovers impatiently, looks at clock, begins to trim lamp.

 

MINNIE: I wish he'd come. If I didn't want him, he'd be here half-an-hour since. But just because I've got a pudding that wants eating on the tick . . . ! He--he's never up to the cratch; he never is. As if the day wasn't long enough!

Sound of footsteps. She seizes a saucepan, and is rushing towards the door. The latch has clacked. LUTHER appears in the doorway, in his pit-dirt--a collier of medium height, with fair moustache. He has a red scarf knotted round his throat, and a cap with a Union medal. The two almost collide.

LUTHER: My word, you're on the hop!

MINNIE (disappearing into scullery): You nearly made me drop the saucepan. Why are you so late?

LUTHER: I'm non late, am I?

MINNIE: You're twenty minutes later than yesterday.

LUTHER: Oh ah, I stopped finishing a stint, an' com up wi' a'most th' last batch.

He takes a tin bottle and a dirty calico snap-bag out of his pocket, puts them on the bureau; goes into the scullery.

MINNIE'S VOICE: No!

She comes hurrying out with the saucepan. In a moment, LUTHER follows. He has taken off his coat and cap, his heavy trousers are belted round his hips, his arms are bare to above the elbow, because the pit-singlet of thick flannel is almost sleeveless.

LUTHER: Tha art throng!

MINNIE (at the fire, flushed): Yes, and everything's ready, and will be spoiled.

LUTHER: Then we'd better eat it afore I wash me.

MINNIE: No--no--it's not nice--

LUTHER: Just as ter's a mind--but there's scarce a collier in a thousand washes hissen afore he has his dinner. We niver did a-whoam.

MINNIE: But it doesn't look nice.

LUTHER: Eh, wench, tha'lt soon get used ter th' looks on me. A bit o' dirt's like a veil on my face--I shine through th' 'andsomer. What hast got? (He peers over her range.)

MINNIE (waving a fork): You're not to look.

LUTHER: It smells good.

MINNIE: Are you going to have your dinner like that?

LUTHER: Ay, lass--just for once.

He spreads a newspaper in one of the green-cushioned armchairs and sits down. She disappears into the scullery with a saucepan. He takes off his great pit-boots. She sets a soup-tureen on the table, and lights the lamp. He watches her face in the glow.

Tha'rt non bad-luikin' when ter's a mind.

MINNIE: When have I a mind?

LUTHER: Tha's allers a mind--but when ter lights th' lamp tha'rt i' luck's way.

MINNIE: Come on, then.

He drags his chair to the table.

LUTHER: I s'll ha'e ter ha'e a newspaper afront on me, or thy cloth'll be a blackymoor. (Begins disarranging the pots.)

MINNIE: Oh, you are a nuisance! (Jumps up.)

LUTHER: I can put 'em a' back again.

MINNIE: I know your puttings back.

LUTHER: Tha couldna get married by thysen, could ter?--so tha'lt ha'e ter ma'e th' best on me.

MINNIE: But you're such a bother--never here at the right time--never doing the right thing--

LUTHER: An' my mouth's ter wide an' my head's ter narrow. Shalt iver ha' come ter th' end of my faults an' failin's?

MINNIE (giving him soup): I wish I could.

LUTHER: An' now tha'lt snap mu head off 'cos I slobber, shanna tha?

MINNIE: Then don't slobber.

LUTHER: I'll try my luck. What hast bin doin' a' day?

MINNIE: Working.

LUTHER: Has our Joe bin in?

MINNIE: No. I rather thought he might, but he hasn't.

LUTHER: You've not been up home?

MINNIE: To your mother's? No, what should I go there for?

LUTHER: Eh, I dunno what ter should go for--I thought tha 'appen might.

MINNIE: But what for?

LUTHER: Nay--I niver thowt nowt about what for.

MINNIE: Then why did you ask me?

LUTHER: I dunno. (A pause.)

MINNIE: Your mother can come here, can't she?

LUTHER: Ay, she can come. Tha'll be goin' up wi' me to-night--I want ter go an' see about our Joe.

MINNIE: What about him?

LUTHER: How he went on about's club money. Shall ter come wi' me?

MINNIE: I wanted to do my curtains.

LUTHER: But tha's got a' day to do them in.

MINNIE: But I want to do them to-night--I feel like it.

LUTHER: A' right.--I shanna be long, at any rate.

(A pause.)

What dost keep lookin' at?

MINNIE: How?

LUTHER: Tha keeps thy eye on me rarely.

MINNIE (laughing): It's your mouth--it looks so red and bright, in your black face.

LUTHER: Does it look nasty to thee?

MINNIE: No--no-o.

LUTHER (pushing his moustache, laughing): It ma'es you look like a nigger, i' your pit-dirt--th' whites o' your eyes!

MINNIE: Just.

She gets up to take his plate; goes and stands beside him. He lifts his face to her.

I want to see if I can see you; you look so different.

LUTHER: Tha can see me well enough. Why dost want to?

MINNIE: It's almost like having a stranger.

LUTHER: Would ter rather?

MINNIE: What?

LUTHER: Ha'e a stranger?

MINNIE: What for?

LUTHER: Hao--I dunno.

MINNIE (touching his hair): You look rather nice--an' your hair's so dirty.

LUTHER: Gi'e me a kiss.

MINNIE: But where? You're all grime.

LUTHER: I'm sure I've licked my mouth clean.

MINNIE (stooping suddenly, and kissing him): You don't look nearly such a tame rabbit, in your pit-dirt.

LUTHER (catching her in his arms): Dunna I? (Kisses her.) What colour is my eyes?

MINNIE: Bluey-grey.

LUTHER: An' thine's grey an' black.

MINNIE: Mind! (She looks at her blouse when he releases her.)

LUTHER (timid): Have I blacked it?

MINNIE: A bit.

She goes to the scullery; returns with another dish.

LUTHER: They talkin' about comin' out again

MINNIE (returning): Good laws!--they've no need.

LUTHER: They are, though.

MINNIE: It's a holiday they want.

LUTHER: Nay, it isna. They want th' proper scale here, just as they ha'e it ivrywhere else.

MINNIE: But if the seams are thin, and the company can't afford.

LUTHER: They can afford a' this gret new electric plant; they can afford to build new houses for managers, an' ter give blo-- ter give Frazer twelve hundred a year.

MINNIE: If they want a good manager to make the pits pay, they have to give him a good salary.

LUTHER: So's he can clip down our wages.

MINNIE: Why, what are yours clipped down?

LUTHER: Mine isn't, but there's plenty as is.

MINNIE: And will this strike make a butty of you?

LUTHER: You don't strike to get made a butty on.

MINNIE: Then how do you do it? You're thirty-one.

LUTHER: An' there's many as owd as me as is day-men yet.

MINNIE: But there's more that aren't, that are butties.

LUTHER: Ay, they've had luck.

MINNIE: Luck! You mean they've had some go in them.

LUTHER: Why, what can I do more than I am doin'?

MINNIE: It isn't what you do, it's how you do it. Sluther through any job; get to th' end of it, no matter how. That's you.

LUTHER: I hole a stint as well as any man.

MINNIE: Then I back it takes you twice as long.

LUTHER: Nay, nor that neither.

MINNIE: I know you're not much of a workman--I've heard it from other butties, that you never put your heart into anything.

LUTHER: Who hast heard it fra?

MINNIE: From those that know. And I could ha' told it them, for I know you. You'll be a day-man at seven shillings a day till the end of your life--and you'll be satisfied, so long as you can shilly-shally through. That's what your mother did for you--mardin' you up till you were all mard-soft.

LUTHER: Tha's got a lot ter say a' of a suddin. Thee shut thy mouth.

MINNIE: You've been dragged round at your mother's apron-strings, all the lot of you, till there isn't half a man among you.

LUTHER: Tha seems fond enough of our Joe.

MINNIE: He is th' best in the bunch.

LUTHER: Tha should ha' married him, then.

MINNIE: I shouldn't have had to ask him, if he was ready.

LUTHER: I'd axed thee twice afore--tha knowed tha could ha'e it when ter wanted.

MINNIE: Axed me! It was like asking me to pull out a tooth for you.

LUTHER: Yi, an' it felt like it

MINNIE: What?

LUTHER: Axin' thee to marry me. I'm blessed if it didna feel like axin' the doctor to pull ten teeth out of a stroke.

MINNIE: And then you expect me to have you!

LUTHER: Well, tha has done, whether or not.

MINNIE: I--yes, I had to fetch you, like a mother fetches a kid from school. A pretty sight you looked. Didn't your mother give you a ha'penny to spend, to get you to go?

LUTHER: No; she spent it for me.

MINNIE: She would! She wouldn't even let you spend your own ha'penny. You'd have lost it, or let somebody take it from you.

LUTHER: Yi. Thee.

MINNIE: Me!--me take anything from you! Why, you've got nothing worth having.

LUTHER: I dunno--tha seems ter think so sometimes.

MINNIE: Oh! Shilly-shally and crawl, that's all you can do. You ought to have stopped with your mother.

LUTHER: I should ha' done, if tha hadna hawksed me out.

MINNIE: You aren't fit for a woman to have married, you're not.

LUTHER: Then why did thee marry me? It wor thy doin's.

MINNIE: Because I could get nobody better.

LUTHER: I'm more class than I thought for, then.

MINNIE: Are you! Are you!

JOE'S voice is heard.

JOE: I'm comin' in, you two, so stop snaggin' an' snarlin'.

LUTHER: Come in; 'er'll 'appen turn 'er tap on thee.

JOE enters.

JOE: Are you eatin' yet?

LUTHER: Ay--it ta'es 'er that long ter tell my sins. Tha's just come right for puddin'. Get thee a plate outer t'cupboard--an' a spoon outer t'basket.

JOE (at the cupboard): You've got ivrythink tip-top. What should ter do if I broke thee a plate, Minnie?

MINNIE: I should break another over your head.

He deliberately drops and smashes a plate. She flushes crimson.

LUTHER: Well, I'm glad it worna me.

JOE: I'm that clumsy wi' my left 'and, Minnie! Why doesna ter break another ower my head?

LUTHER (rising and putting pudding on a plate): Here, ta'e this an' sit thee down.

His brother seats himself.

Hold thy knees straight, an' for God's sake dunna thee break this. Can ter manage?

JOE: I reckon so. If I canna, Minnie'll feed me wi' a spoon. Shonna ter?

MINNIE: Why did you break my plate?

JOE: Nay, I didna break it--it wor the floor.

MINNIE: You did it on purpose.

JOE: How could I? I didn't say ter th' floor: "Break thou this plate, O floor!"

MINNIE: You have no right.

JOE (addressing the floor): Tha'd no right to break that plate--dost hear? I'd a good mind ter drop a bit o' puddin' on thy face.

He balances the spoon; the plate slides down from his knee, smash into the fender.

MINNIE (screams): It's my best service! (Begins to sob.)

LUTHER: Nay, our Joe!

JOE: 'Er's no occasions ter scraight. I bought th' service an' I can get th' plates matched. What's her grizzlin' about?

MINNIE: I shan't ask you to get them matched.

JOE: Dunna thee, an' then tha runs no risk o' bein' denied.

MINNIE: What have you come here like this for?

JOE: I haena come here like this. I come ter tell yer our Harriet says, would yer mind goin' an' tellin' 'er what she can do with that childt's coat, as she's made a' wrong. If you'd looked slippy, I'd ha' ta'en yer ter th' Cinematograph after. But, dearly-beloved brethren, let us weep; these our dear departed dinner-plates . . . Come, Minnie, drop a tear as you pass by.

LUTHER (to MINNIE): Tha needna fret, Minnie, they can easy be matched again.

MINNIE: You're just pleased to see him make a fool of me, aren't you?

LUTHER: He's non made a fool o' thee--tha's made a fool o' thysen, scraightin' an' carryin' on.

JOE: It's a fact, Minnie. Nay, let me kiss thee better.

She has risen, with shut face.

He approaches with outstretched left arm. She swings round, fetches him a blow over his upper right arm. He bites his lip with pain.

LUTHER (rising): Has it hurt thee, lad? Tha shouldna fool wi' her.

MINNIE watches the two brothers with tears of mortification in her eyes. Then she throws off her apron, pins on her hat, puts on her coat, and is marching out of the house.

LUTHER: Are you going to Harriet's?

JOE: I'll come and fetch you in time for th' Cinematograph.

The door is heard to bang.

JOE (picking up broken fragments of plates): That's done it.

LUTHER: It's bad luck--ne'er mind. How art goin' on?

JOE: Oh, alright.

LUTHER: What about thy club money?

JOE: They wunna gi'e't me. But, I say, sorry--tha'rt for it.

LUTHER: Ay--I dunno what 'er married me for, f'r it's nowt bu' fault she finds wi' me, from th' minnit I come i' th' house to th' minnit I leave it.

JOE: Dost wish tha'd niver done it?--niver got married?

LUTHER (sulky): I dunno--sometimes.

JOE (with tragic emphasis): Then it's the blasted devil!

LUTHER: I dunno--I'm married to 'er, an' she's married to me, so she can pick holes i' me as much as she likes--

JOE: As a rule, she's nice enough wi' me.

LUTHER: She's nice wi' ivrybody but me.

JOE: An' dost ter care?

LUTHER: Ay--I do.

JOE: Why doesn't ter go out an' leave her?

LUTHER: I dunno.

JOE: By the Lord, she'd cop it if I had 'er.

Pause.

LUTHER: I wor comin' up to-night.

JOE: I thought tha would be. But there's Mrs Purdy comin' ter see thee.

LUTHER: There's who?

JOE: Mrs Purdy. Didna ter ha'e a bit of a go wi' their Bertha, just afore Minnie wrote thee?

LUTHER: Ay. Why?

JOE: 'Er mother says she's wi' childt by thee. She come up ter my mother this afternoon, an' said she wor comin' here tonight.

LUTHER: Says what?

JOE: Says as their Bertha's goin' ter ha'e a child, an' 'er lays it on ter thee.

LUTHER: Oh, my good God!

JOE: Isna it right?

LUTHER: It's right if 'er says so.

JOE: Then it's the blasted devil! (A pause.) So I come on here ter see if I could get Minnie to go up to our Harriet.

LUTHER: Oh, my good God!

JOE: I thought, if we could keep it from 'er, we might settle summat, an' 'er niver know.

LUTHER (slowly): My God alive!

JOE: She said she'd hush it up, an' lay it ont'r a electrician as laid th' cable, an' is gone goodness knows where--make an arrangement, for forty pound.

LUTHER (thoughtfully): I wish I wor struck dead.

JOE: Well, tha arena', an' so tha'd better think about it. My mother said as Minnie ought to know, but I say diff'rent, an' if Mrs Purdy doesna tell her, nobody need.

LUTHER: I wish I wor struck dead. I wish a ton o' rock 'ud fa' on me to-morrer.

JOE: It wunna for wishin'.

LUTHER: My good God!

JOE: An' so--I'll get thee forty quid, an' lend it thee. When Mrs Purdy comes, tell her she shall ha'e twenty quid this day week, an' twenty quid a year from now, if thy name's niver been mentioned. I believe 'er's a clat-fart.

LUTHER: Me a childt by Bertha Purdy! But--but what's that for--now there's Minnie?

JOE: I dunno what it's for, but theer it is, as I'm tellin' thee. I'll stop for another haef an hour, an' if 'er doesna come, than mun see to 'er by thysen.

LUTHER: 'Er'll be back afore ha'ef an hour's up. Tha mun go an' stop 'er . . . I--I niver meant--Look here, our Joe, I--if I--if she--if she--My God, what have I done now!

JOE: We can stop her from knowin'.

LUTHER (looking round): She'll be comin' back any minnit. Nay, I niver meant t'r ha'. Joe . . .

JOE: What?

LUTHER: She--she--

JOE: 'Er niver ned know.

LUTHER: Ah, but though . . .

JOE: What?

LUTHER: I--I--I've done it.

JOE: Well, it might ha' happened t'r anybody.

LUTHER: But when 'er knows--an' it's me as has done it . . .

JOE: It wouldn't ha' mattered o' anyhow, if it had bin sumb'dy else. But tha knows what ter's got ter say. Arena' ter goin' ter wesh thee? Go an' get th' panchion.

LUTHER (rising): 'Er'll be comin' in any minnit.

JOE: Get thee weshed, man.

LUTHER (fetching a bucket and lading-can from the scullery, and emptying water from the boiler): Go an' ta'e 'er somewhere, while Mrs Purdy goes, sholl ter?

JOE: D'rectly. Tha heered what I telled thee?

There is a noise of splashing in the scullery. Then a knock.

JOE goes to the door. He is heard saying "Come in."

Enter MRS PURDY.

MRS PURDY: I hope I've not come a-mealtimes.

JOE: No, they've finished. Minnie's gone up t'r our Harriet's.

MRS PURDY: Thank the Lord for small mercies--for I didn't fancy sittin' an' tellin' her about our Bertha.

JOE: We dunna want 'er ter know. Sit thee down.

MRS PURDY: I'm of that mind, mester, I am. As I said, what's th' good o' jackin' up a young married couple? For it won't unmarry 'em nor ma'e things right. An' yet, my long lass oughtner ter bear a' th' brunt.

JOE: Well, an' 'er isna goin' to.

MRS PURDY: Is that Mester weshin'?

JOE: Ah.

MRS PURDY: 'As ter towd him?

JOE: Ah.

MRS PURDY: Well, it's none o' my wishin's, I'm sure o' that. Eh, dear, you've bin breakin' th' crockery a'ready!

JOE: Yes, that's me, bein' wallit.

MRS PURDY: T-t-t! So this is 'ow she fancied it?

JOE: Ah, an' it non luiks bad, does it?

MRS PURDY: Very natty. Very nice an' natty.

JOE (taking up the lamp): Come an' look at th' parlour.

JOE and MRS PURDY exit R.

MRS PURDY'S VOICE: Yis--yis--it's nice an' plain. But a bit o' red plush is 'andsomer, to my mind. It's th'old-fashioned style, like! My word, but them three ornyments is gaudy-lookin'.

JOE: An' they reckon they're worth five pound. 'Er mester gen 'em 'er.

MRS PURDY: I'd rather had th' money.

JOE: Ah, me an' a'.

During this time, LUTHER has come hurrying out of the scullery into the kitchen, rubbing his face with a big roller-towel. He is naked to the waist. He kneels with his knees on the fender, sitting on his heels, rubbing himself. His back is not washed. He rubs his hair dry.

Enter JOE, with the lamp, followed by MRS PURDY.

MRS PURDY: It's uncommon, very uncommon, Mester Gaskin--and looks well, too, for them as likes it. But it hardly goes wi' my fancy, somehow, startin' wi' second-hand, owd-fashioned stuff. You dunno who's sotten themselves on these 'ere chairs, now, do you?

LUTHER: It ma'es no diff'rence to me who's sot on 'em an' who 'asna.

MRS PURDY: No--you get used to'm.

LUTHER (to JOE): Shall thee go up t'r our Harriet's?

JOE: If ter's a mind. (Takes up his cap. To MRS PURDY): An' you two can settle as best you can.

MRS PURDY: Yes--yes. I'm not one for baulkin' mysen an' cuttin' off my nose ter spite my face.

LUTHER has finished wiping himself. He takes a shifting shirt from the bureau, and struggles into it; then goes into the scullery.

JOE: An' you sure you'll keep it quiet, missis?

MRS PURDY: Am I goin' bletherin' up street an' down street, think yer?

JOE: An' dunna tell your Bob.

MRS PURDY: I've more sense. There's not a word 'e 'ears a-whoam as is of any count, for out it 'ud leak when he wor canned. Yes, my guyney--we know what our mester is.

Re-enter LUTHER, in shirt and black trousers. He drops his pit-trousers and singlet beside the hearth.

MRS PURDY bends down and opens his pit-trousers.

MRS PURDY: Nay, if ter drops 'em of a heap, they niver goin' ter get dry an' cosy. Tha sweats o' th' hips, as my lads did.

LUTHER: Well, go thy ways, Joe.

JOE: Ay--well--good luck. An' good night, Mrs Purdy.

MRS PURDY: Good night.

Exit JOE.

There are several moments of silence.

LUTHER puts the broken pots on the table.

MRS PURDY: It's sad work, Mester Gaskin, f'r a' on us.

LUTHER: Ay.

MRS PURDY: I left that long lass o' mine fair gaunt, fair chalked of a line, I did, poor thing. Not bu' what 'er should 'a 'ad more sense.

LUTHER: Ah!

MRS PURDY: But it's no use throwin' good words after bad deeds. Not but what it's a nasty thing for yer t'r 'a done, it is--an' yer can scarce look your missis i' th' face again, I should think. (Pause.) But I says t'r our Bertha, "It's his'n, an' he mun pay!" Eh, but how 'er did but scraight an' cry. It fair turned me ower. "Dunna go to 'm, Mother," 'er says, "dunna go to 'm for to tell him!" "Yi," I says, "right's right--tha doesna get off wi' nowt, nor shall 'e neither. 'E wor but a scamp to do such a thing," I says, yes, I did. For you was older nor 'er. Not but what she was old enough ter ha'e more sense. But 'er wor allers one o' th' come-day go-day sort, as 'ud gi'e th' clothes off 'er back an' niver know 'er wor nek'd--a gra't soft looney as she is, an' serves 'er right for bein' such a gaby. Yi, an' I believe 'er wor fond on thee--if a wench can be fond of a married man. For one blessing, 'er doesna know what 'er wor an' what 'er worn't. For they mau talk o' bein' i' love--but you non in love wi' onybody, wi'out they's a chance o' their marryin' you--howiver much you may like 'em. An' I'm thinkin', th' childt'll set 'er up again when it comes, for 'er's gone that wezzel-brained an' doited, I'm sure! An' it's a mort o' trouble for me, mester, a sight o' trouble it is. Not as I s'll be hard on 'er. She knowed I wor comin' 'ere to-night, an's not spoke a word for hours. I left 'er sittin' on th' sofey hangin' 'er 'ead. But it's a weary business, mester, an' nowt ter be proud on. I s'd think tha wishes tha'd niver clapt eyes on our Bertha.

LUTHER (thinking hard): I dunna--I dunna. An' I dunna wish as I'd niver seen 'er, no, I dunna. 'Er liked me, an' I liked 'er.

MRS PURDY: An' 'appen, but for this 'ere marriage o' thine, tha'd 'a married 'er.

LUTHER: Ah, I should. F'r 'er liked me, an' 'er worna neither nice nor near, nor owt else, an' 'er'd bin fond o' me.

MRS PURDY: 'Er would, an' it's a thousand pities. But what's done's done.

LUTHER: Ah, I know that.

MRS PURDY: An' as for yer missis--

LUTHER: 'Er mun do as 'er likes.

MRS PURDY: But tha'rt not for tellin' 'er?

LUTHER: 'Er--'er'll know some time or other.

MRS PURDY: Nay, nay, 'er nedna. You married now, lad, an' you canna please yoursen.

LUTHER: It's a fact.

MRS PURDY: An' Lizzy Stapleton, she had forty pound wi' 'er lad, an' it's not as if you hadn't got money. An' to be sure, we've none.

LUTHER: No, an' I've none.

MRS PURDY: Yes, you've some atween you--an'--well . . .

LUTHER: I can get some.

MRS PURDY: Then what do you say?

LUTHER: I say as Bertha's welcome t'r any forty pounds, if I'd got it. For--for--missis, she wor better to me than iver my wife's bin.

MRS PURDY (frightened by his rage): Niver, lad!

LUTHER: She wor--ah but though she wor. She thought a lot on me.

MRS PURDY: An' so I'm sure your missis does. She naggles thy heart out, maybe. But that's just the wrigglin' a place out for hersen. She'll settle down comfortable, lad.

LUTHER (bitterly): Will she!

MRS PURDY: Yi--yi. An' tha's done 'er a crewel wrong, my lad. An' tha's done my gel one as well. For, though she was old enough to know better, yet she's good-hearted and trusting, an' 'ud gi'e 'er shoes off 'er feet. An' tha's landed 'er, tha knows. For it's not th' bad women as 'as bastards nowadays--they've a sight too much gumption. It's fools like our'n--poor thing.

LUTHER: I've done everything that was bad, I know that.

MRS PURDY: Nay--nay--young fellers, they are like that. But it's wrong, for look at my long lass sittin' theer on that sofey, as if 'er back wor broke.

LUTHER (loudly): But I dunna wish I'd niver seen 'er, I dunna. It wor--it wor--she wor good to me, she wor, an' I dunna wish I'd niver done it.

MRS PURDY: Then tha ought, that's a'. For I do--an' 'er does.

LUTHER: Does 'er say 'er wishes 'er'd niver seen me?

MRS PURDY: 'Er says nowt o' nohow.

LUTHER: Then 'er doesna wish it. An' I wish I'd ha' married 'er.

MRS PURDY: Come, my lad, come. Married tha art--

LUTHER (bitterly): Married I am, an' I wish I worna. Your Bertha 'er'd 'a thought a thousand times more on me than she does. But I'm wrong, wrong, wrong, i' ivry breath I take. An' I will be wrong, yi, an' I will be wrong.

MRS PURDY: Hush thee--there's somebody comin'.

They wait.

Enter JOE and MINNIE, JOE talking loudly.

MINNIE: No, you've not, you've no right at all. (To LUTHER): Haven't you even cleared away? (To MRS PURDY): Good evening.

MRS PURDY: Good evenin', missis. I was just goin'--I've bin sayin' it looks very nice, th' 'ouse.

MINNIE: Do you think so?

MRS PURDY: I do, indeed.

MINNIE: Don't notice of the mess we're in, shall you? He (pointing to JOE) broke the plates--and then I had to rush off up to Mrs Preston's afore I could clear away. And he hasn't even mended the fire.

LUTHER: I can do--I niver noticed.

MINNIE (to MRS PURDY): Have a piece of cake? (Goes to cupboard.)

MRS PURDY: No, thanks, no, thanks. I mun get off afore th' Co-op shuts up. Thank yer very much. Well--good night, all.

JOE opens the door; MRS PURDY goes out.

MINNIE (bustling, clearing away as LUTHER comes in with coals): Did you settle it?

LUTHER: What?

MINNIE: What she'd come about.

LUTHER: Ah.

MINNIE: An' I bet you'll go and forget.

LUTHER: Oh ah!

MINNIE: And poor old Bob Purdy will go on just the same.

LUTHER: Very likely.

MINNIE: Don't let the dust all go on the hearth. Why didn't you clear away? The house was like a pigsty for her to come into.

LUTHER: Then I wor the pig.

MINNIE (halting): Why--who's trod on your tail now?

LUTHER: There'd be nobody to tread on it if tha wor out.

MINNIE: Oh--oh, dearo' me. (To JOE): I think we'd better go to the Cinematograph, and leave him to nurse his sore tail.

JOE: We better had.

LUTHER: An' joy go with yer.

MINNIE: We certainly shan't leave it at home. (To JOE): What time does it begin?

JOE: Seven o'clock.

MINNIE: And I want to call in Sisson's shop. Shall you go with me, or wouldn't you condescend to go shopping with me? (She has cleared the table, brought a tray and a bowl, and is washing up the pots.)

JOE: Dost think I'm daunted by Polly Sisson?

MINNIE: You're braver than most men if you dare go in a shop. Here, take a towel and wipe these pots.

JOE: How can I?

MINNIE: If you were a gentleman, you'd hold the plates in your teeth to wipe them.

JOE: Tha wouldna look very ladylike at th' end on't.

MINNIE: Why?

JOE: Why, hast forgot a'ready what a shine tha kicked up when I broke them two other plates? (He has got a towel, and wedging a plate against his thighs, is laboriously wiping it.)

MINNIE: I never kicked up a shine. It is nice of you!

JOE: What?

MINNIE: To do this for me.

LUTHER has begun sweeping the hearth.

JOE: Tha's got two servants.

MINNIE: But I'm sure you want to smoke while you're doing it--don't you now?

JOE: Sin' tha says so. (Fumbles in his pocket.)

MINNIE (hastily wiping her hands, puts a cigarette between his lips--gets matches from the mantelpiece, ignoring her husband, who is kneeling sweeping the hearth--lights his cigarette): It's so nice to have a lamed man. You feel you've got an excuse for making a fuss of him. You've got awfully nice eyes and eyebrows. I like dark eyes.

JOE: Oh ah!

LUTHER rises hastily, goes in the passage, crosses the room quietly. He wears his coat, a red scarf and a cap.

MINNIE: There's more go in them than in blue. (Watches her husband go out. There is silence between the two.)

JOE: He'll come round again.

MINNIE: He'll have to. He'll go on sulking now. (Her face breaks.) You--you don't know how hard it is.

JOE: What?

MINNIE (crying a few fierce tears): This . . .

JOE (aghast): What?

MINNIE: Why--you don't know. You don't know how hard it is, with a man as--as leaves you alone all the time.

JOE: But--he niver hardly goes out.

MINNIE: No, but--you don't know--he leaves me alone, he always has done--and there's nobody . . .

JOE: But he . . .

MINNIE: He never trusts me--he leaves me so alone--and--(a little burst of tears) it is hard! (She changes suddenly.) You've wiped your plates; my word, you are a champion.

JOE: I think so an' a'.

MINNIE: I hope the pictures will be jolly--but the sad ones make me laugh more, don't they you?

JOE: I canna do wi' 'em.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT II

 

The same evening--eleven o'clock, LUTHER'S house.

MINNIE, alone, weeping. She gets up, fills the kettle, puts it on the hob, sits down, weeps again; then hears somebody coming, dries her eyes swiftly, turns the lamp low.

Enter LUTHER. He stands in the doorway--is rather tipsy; flings his cap down, sits in his chair, lurching it slightly. Neither speaks for some moments.

 

LUTHER: Well, did yer like yer pictures?

MINNIE: Where have you been?

LUTHER: What does it matter where I've been?

MINNIE: Have you been drinking?

LUTHER: What's it matter if I have?

MINNIE: It matters a lot to me

LUTHER: Oh ah!

MINNIE: Do you think I'm going to sleep with a man who is half-drunk?

LUTHER: Nay, I non know who tha'rt goin' ter sleep wi'.

MINNIE (rising): I shall make the bed in the other room.

LUTHER: Tha's no 'casions. I s'll do very nicely on t' sofa; it's warmer.

MINNIE: Oh, you can have your own bed.

LUTHER: If tha doesna sleep in it, I dunna.

MINNIE: And if you do, I don't.

LUTHER: Tha pleases thysen. Tha can sleep by thysen for iver, if ter's a mind to't.

MINNIE (who has stood hesitating): Oh, very well!

She goes upstairs, returns immediately with a pillow and two blankets, which she throws on the sofa.

LUTHER: Thank yer kindly.

MINNIE: Shall you rake?

LUTHER: I'll rake.

She moves about; lays table for his morning's breakfast: a newspaper, cup, plate, etc.--no food, because it would go dry; rinses his tin pit-bottle, puts it and his snap-bag on the table.

I could do it for mysen. Tha ned do nowt for me.

MINNIE: Why this sudden fit of unselfishness?

LUTHER: I niver want thee to do nowt for me, niver no more. No, not so much as lift a finger for me--not if I wor dyin'.

MINNIE: You're not dying; you're only tipsy.

LUTHER: Well, it's no matter to thee what I am.

MINNIE: It's very comfortable for you to think so.

LUTHER: I know nowt about that.

MINNIE (after a pause): Where have you been to-night?

LUTHER: There an' back, to see how far it is.

MINNIE (making an effort): Have you been up to your mother's?

LUTHER: Where I've bin, I've bin, and where I haven't, I haven't.

MINNIE: Pah!--you needn't try to magnify it and make a mountain. You've been to your mother's, and then to "The Ram".

LUTHER: All right--if tha knows, tha knows, an' theer's an end on't.

MINNIE: You talk like a fool.

LUTHER: That comes o' bein' a fool.

MINNIE: When were you a fool?

LUTHER: Ivry day o' my life, an' ivry breath I've ta'en.

MINNIE (having finished work, sits down again): I suppose you haven't got it in you to say anything fresh.

LUTHER: Why, what dost want me ter say? (He looks at her for the first time.)

MINNIE (with a queer catch): You might be more of a man if you said you were sorry.

LUTHER: Sorry! Sorry for what?

MINNIE: You've nothing to be sorry for, have you?

LUTHER (looking at her, quickly): What art goin' ter say?

MINNIE: It's what are you going to say. (A silence.)

LUTHER (doggedly): I'm goin' ter say nowt.

MINNIE (bitterly): No, you're not man enough to say anything--you can only slobber. You do a woman a wrong, but you're never man enough to say you're sorry for it. You're not a man, you're not--you're something crawling!

LUTHER: I'm glad! I'm glad! I'm glad! No, an' I wouldna ta'e't back, no. 'Er wor nice wi' me, which is a thing tha's niver bin. An' so tha's got it, an' mun keep it.

MINNIE: Who was nice with you?

LUTHER: She was--an' would ha'e bin at this minnit, but for thee.

MINNIE: Pah!--you're not fit to have a wife. You only want your mother to rock you to sleep.

LUTHER: Neither mother, nor wife, neither thee nor onybody do I want--no--no.

MINNIE: No--you've had three cans of beer.

LUTHER: An' if ter niver sleeps i' th' bed wi' me again, an' if ter niver does a hand's turn for me niver no more, I'm glad, I'm glad. I non want thee. I non want ter see thee.

MINNIE: You mean coward. Good God! I never thought you were such a mean coward as this.

LUTHER: An' as for thy money--yi, I wouldna smell on't. An' neither thine, nor our Joe's, nor my mother's will I ha'e. What I addle's my own. What I gi'e thee, I gie thee. An' she maun ha'e ten shillin's a month, an' tha maun abide by't.

MINNIE: What are you talking about?

LUTHER: My mother wouldna gi'e me th' money. She says she's done her share. An' tha's done thine. An' I've done mine, begod. An' what yer canna chew yer maun swaller.

MINNIE: You must be quite drunk.

LUTHER: Must I? Alright, it's Dutch courage then. A'right, then Dutch courage it is. But I tell thee, tha does as ter's a mind. Tha can leave me, an' go back inter service, if ter wants. What's it ter me, if I'm but a lump o' suck i' th' 'ouse wheer tha art? Tha should ha' had our Joe--he's got more go than me. An' I should ha' had 'er. I'd got go enough for her; 'appen a bit too much.

MINNIE: Her? Who?

LUTHER: Her! An' I'm glad 'er's wi' my childt. I'm glad I did it. I'm glad! For tha's wiped tha feet on me enough. Yi, tha's wiped thy feet on me till what's it to me if tha does it or not? It isna! An' now--tha maun abide by what ter's got, tha maun. I s'll ha'e to--an' by plenty I hadna got I've abided. An' so--an' so--yi.

MINNIE: But who is it you--who is she?

LUTHER: Tha knowed a' along.

MINNIE: Who is it?

They are both silent.

Aren't you going to speak?

LUTHER: What's the good?

MINNIE (coldly): But I must know.

LUTHER: Tha does know.

MINNIE: I can assure you I don't.

LUTHER: Then assure thysen an' find out.

Another silence.

MINNIE: Do you mean somebody is going to have a baby by you?

LUTHER: I mean what I've said, an' I mean nowt else.

MINNIE: But you must tell me.

LUTHER: I've boiled my cabbage twice a'ready, hanna I?

MINNIE: Do you mean somebody is going to have a child by you?

LUTHER: Tha can chew it ower, if ter's a mind.

MINNIE (helpless): But . . . (She struggles with herself, then goes calm.)

LUTHER: That's what I say--but . . . !

A silence.

MINNIE: And who is she?

LUTHER: Thee, for a' I know.

MINNIE (calmly, patiently): I asked you a question.

LUTHER: Ah--an' I 'eered thee.

MINNIE: Then answer me--who is she?

LUTHER: Tha knows well enow--tha knowed afore they'd towd thee--

MINNIE: Nobody has told me. Who is she?

LUTHER: Well, tha's seed 'er mother.

MINNIE (numb): Mrs Purdy?

LUTHER: Yi.

MINNIE: Their Bertha?

LUTHER: Yi.

A silence.

MINNIE: Why didn't you tell me?

LUTHER: Tell thee what?

MINNIE: This.

LUTHER: Tha knowed afore I did.

MINNIE: I know now.

LUTHER: Me an' a'.

A pause.

MINNIE: Didn't you know till to-night?

LUTHER: Our Joe telled me when tha'd just gone--I niver dreamt afore--an' then 'er mother . . .

MINNIE: What did her mother come for?

LUTHER: Ter see if we could hush it up a'cause o' thee, an' gi'e 'er a lump sum.

MINNIE: Hush it up because of me?

LUTHER: Ah--lay it ont'r an electrician as wor wi' th' gang as laid th' cable down to Balford--he's gone God knows where.

MINNIE: But it's yours.

LUTHER: I know that.

MINNIE: Then why lay it onto somebody else?

LUTHER: Because o' thee.

MINNIE: But why because of me?

LUTHER: To stop thee knowin', I s'd think.

MINNIE: And why shouldn't I know?

LUTHER: Eh, I dunno.

A pause.

MINNIE: And what were you going to do to stop me knowing?

LUTHER: 'Er axed for forty pounds down.

MINNIE: And if you paid forty pounds, you got off scot-free?

LUTHER: Summat so.

MINNIE: And where were the forty pounds coming from?

LUTHER: Our Joe said 'e'd lend 'em me. I thought my mother would, but 'er said 'er wouldna--neither would she gi'e't our Joe ter lend me, she said. For I wor a married man now, an' it behoved my wife to look after me. An' I thought tha knowed. I thought tha'd twigged, else bin telled. An' I didna care, an' dunna care.

MINNIE: And this is what you married me to!

LUTHER: This is what tha married me to. But I'll niver ax thee for, no, not so much as the liftin' of a finger--no--

MINNIE: But when you wrote and told me you were willing to marry me, why didn't you tell me this?

LUTHER: Because--as I've telled thee--I didna know till this very mortal night.

MINNIE: But you knew you'd been with her.

LUTHER: Ay, I knowed that.

A pause.

MINNIE: And why didn't you tell me?

LUTHER: What for should I tell thee? What good would it ha' done thee? Tha niver towd me nowt.

MINNIE: So that is how you look at it?

LUTHER: I non care how I look at it.

A pause.

MINNIE: And was there anybody else?

LUTHER: How dost mean?

MINNIE: Have you been with any other woman?

LUTHER: I dunno--I might--I dunno.

MINNIE: That means you have.

LUTHER: I'm thirty.

MINNIE: And who were they?

LUTHER: I dunno. I've niver bin much wi' anybody--little, very little--an' then it wor an off-chance. Our Joe wor more that way than me--I worn't that way.

A pause.

MINNIE: So--this was what I waited for you for!

LUTHER: Yha niver waited for me. Tha had me a'cause tha couldna get nobody better.

MINNIE: And so--

LUTHER (after a moment): Yi, an' so. An' so, I non care what ter does. If ter leaves me--

MINNIE (in a flash): What's the good of me leaving you? Aren't I married to you--tied to you?

LUTHER: Tha could leave me whether or not. I should go t'r Australia wi' our Joe.

MINNIE: And what about that girl?

LUTHER: I should send 'er th' money.

MINNIE: And what about me?

LUTHER: Tha'd please thysen.

MINNIE: Should you like me to leave you, and let you go to Australia?

LUTHER: 'Appen I should.

MINNIE: What did you marry me for?

LUTHER: 'Cos tha axed me.

MINNIE: Did you never care for me?

He does not answer.

Didn't you?

He does not answer.

Didn't you?

LUTHER (slowly): You niver wanted me--you thought me dirt.

MINNIE: Ha! (A pause.) You can have the forty pounds.

LUTHER (very doggedly): I shanna.

MINNIE: She's got to be paid.

LUTHER: Tha keeps thy money.

MINNIE: Then where shall you get it from?

LUTHER: I s'll pay 'er month by month.

MINNIE: But you can't. Think!

LUTHER: Then I'll borrow forty quid somewhere else, an' pay it back i' instalments. Tha keeps thy money.

MINNIE: You can borrow it from me.

LUTHER: I shall not.

MINNIE: Very well. I only wanted not to have the bother of paying month by month. I think I shall go back to my old place.

LUTHER: Tha pleases thysen.

MINNIE: And you can go and live with your mother again.

LUTHER: That I should niver do--but tha pleases thysen. We've bin married seven wik come Tuesday.

MINNIE: I niver ought to ha' done it.

LUTHER: What?

MINNIE: Married you.

LUTHER: No.

MINNIE: For you never cared enough.

LUTHER: Yi--it's my fault.

MINNIE: Yes.

LUTHER: It would be. Tha's niver made a fault i' thy life.

MINNIE: Who are you, to talk about my faults!

LUTHER: Well--

A pause.

MINNIE: I shall write to Mr Westlake to-morrow.

LUTHER: Tha does as pleases thee.

MINNIE: And if they can't take me back straight away, I shall ask him if he knows another place.

LUTHER: A'right. An' we'll sell th' furniture.

MINNIE (looking round at her home): Yes.

LUTHER: It'll non bring ha'ef tha giv for't--but it'll bring enough ter ta'e me out theer.

MINNIE: I'll make up what you lose by it, since I chose it.

LUTHER: Tha can give ter them as'll ha'e.

MINNIE: But I shall feel I owe it you.

LUTHER: I've had six weeks o' married life wi' thee. I mun pay for that.

MINNIE: You are mean, mean.

LUTHER: I know--though tha'rt first as has telled me so. When dost reckon tha'lt go?

MINNIE: I'll go to-morrow if you want to get rid of me.

LUTHER: Nay--tha does just as pleases thysen. I non want ter get rid on thee. Nay, nay, it's not that. It's thee as wants ter go.

MINNIE: At any rate, I s'll have a place inside a fortnight.

LUTHER (dully): Alright.

MINNIE: So I shall have to trouble you till then.

LUTHER: But I dunna want thee ter do owt for me--no, I dunna.

MINNIE: I shall keep the house, in payment for my board and lodgings. And I'll make the bed up in the back room, and I'll sleep there, because it's not furnished, and the house is yours.

LUTHER: Th'art--tha'rt--I wish I might strike thee down!

MINNIE: And I shall keep the account of every penny I spend, and you must just pay the bills.

LUTHER (rising suddenly): I'll murder thee afore tha does.

He goes out. She sits twisting her apron. He returns with a large lump of coal in his hands, and rakes the fire.

MINNIE: You cared more for her than for me.

LUTHER: For who?

MINNIE: For her. She was the sort of sawney you ought to have had. Did she think you perfect?

LUTHER (with grim satisfaction): She liked me.

MINNIE: And you could do just as you wanted with her?

LUTHER: She'd ha' done owt for me.

MINNIE: And it flattered you, did it? Because a long stalk wi' no flower was at your service, it flattered you, did it? My word, it ought--As for your Joe, he's not a fool like you, and that's why women think more of him. He wouldn't want a Bertha Purdy. He'd get a woman who was something--and because he knew how to appreciate her. You--what good are you?

LUTHER: I'm no good, but to fetch an' carry.

MINNIE: And a tuppenny scullery-girl could do that as well.

LUTHER: Alright.

MINNIE: I'll bet even Bertha Purdy thinks what a clown you are. She never wanted you to marry her, did she?

LUTHER: She knowed I wouldn't.

MINNIE: You flatter yourself. I'll bet she never wanted you. I shouldn't be surprised if the child isn't somebody else's, that she just foists on you because you're so soft.

LUTHER: Oh ah!

MINNIE: It even flatters you to think it's yours.

LUTHER: Oh ah!

MINNIE: And quite right too--for it's the only thing you could have to be proud of. And then really it's not you . . .

LUTHER: Oh ah!

MINNIE: If a woman has a child, and you think you're the cause, do you think it's your doings?

LUTHER: If tha has one, it will be.

MINNIE: And is that anything for you to be proud of? Me whom you've insulted and deceived and treated as no snail would treat a woman! And then you expect me to bear your children!

LUTHER: I dunna expect thee. If tha does tha does.

MINNIE: And you gloat over it and feel proud of it!

LUTHER: Yi, I do.

MINNIE: No--no! I'd rather have married a tramp off the streets than you. And--and I don't believe you can have children.

LUTHER: Theer tha knows tha'rt a liar.

MINNIE: I hate you.

LUTHER: Alright.

MINNIE: And I will leave you, I will.

LUTHER: Tha's said so afore.

MINNIE: And I mean it.

LUTHER: Alright.

MINNIE: But it's your mother's doing. She mollycoddled and marded you till you weren't a man--and now--I have to pay for it.

LUTHER: Oh ah!

MINNIE: No, you're not a man!

LUTHER: Alright. They's plenty of women as would say I am.

MINNIE: They'd be lying to get something out of you.

LUTHER: Why, what could they get outer me?

MINNIE: Yes--yes--what could they . . . (She stutters to a close.)

He begins to take off his boots.

LUTHER: If tha'rt goin', tha'd better go afore th' strike begins. We should be on short commons then--ten bob a wik.

MINNIE: There's one thing, you'd be on short commons without me. For nobody would keep you for ten shillings a week, unless you went to your mother's.

LUTHER: I could live at our Harriet's, an' pay 'er off after. An' there'd be th' furniture sold.

MINNIE: And you'd be delighted if there was a strike, so you could loaf about. You don't even get drunk. You only loaf. You're lazy, lazy, and without the stomach of a louse. You want a strike.

LUTHER: Alright.

MINNIE: And I hope you'll get what you deserve, I do.

LUTHER: Tha'rt gi'en it me.

MINNIE (lifting her hand suddenly): How dare you say so--how dare you! I'm too good for you.

LUTHER (sullenly): I know.

MINNIE: Yes.

She gets a candle, lights it, and goes to bed. He flings on his scarf and coat and waistcoat, throws the pillow on the hearthrug, wraps himself in the blankets, blows the lamp out, and lies down.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT III

 

A fortnight later--afternoon. The kitchen of LUTHER GASCOIGNE'S house.

MRS GASCOIGNE, senior, alone. Enter MINNIE GASCOIGNE, dressed from travelling. She is followed by a CABMAN carrying a bag.

 

MRS GASCOIGNE: What--is it you!

MINNIE: Yes. Didn't you get my wire?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Thy wire! Dost mean a tallygram? No, we'n had nowt though th' house 'as bin shut up.

MINNIE (to the CABMAN): Thank you. How much?

CABMAN: Ha'ef-a-crown.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Ha'ef-a-crown for commin' from th' Midland station! Why, tha non know what's talkin' about.

MINNIE (paying him): Thank you.

CABMAN: Thank yer. Good afternoon. The CABMAN goes out.

MRS GASCOIGNE: My word, tha knows how ter ma'e th' money fly.

MINNIE: I couldn't carry a bag.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha could ha' come i' th' 'bus ter Eastwood an' then a man 'ud 'a browt it on.

MINNIE: It is raining.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha'rt neither sugar nor salt.

MINNIE: I wonder you didn't get my telegram.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I tell thee, th' 'ouse wor shut up last night.

MINNIE: Oh!

MRS GASCOIGNE: I dunno wheer 'e slep'--wi' some o's pals I should think.

MINNIE: Oh!

MRS GASCOIGNE: Thinks I to mysen, I'd better go an' get some dinner ready down theer. So I telled our Joe ter come 'ere for's dinner as well, but they'm neither on 'em bin in yet. That's allers t'road when it's strike. They stop mormin' about, bletherin' and boomin' an' meals, bless yer, they don't count. Tha's bin i' Manchester four days then?

MINNIE: Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Ay.--Our Luther's niver bin up ter tell me. If I hadna ha' met Mrs Pervin fra next door here, I should niver ha' knowed a word. That wor yisterday. So I sent our Joe down. But it seems 'e's neither bin a-whoam yesterday nor th' day afore. He slep' i' th' 'ouse by hissen for two nights. So Mrs Sharley said. He said tha'd gone ter Manchester on business.

MINNIE: Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But he niver come ter tell me nowt on't.

MINNIE: Didn't he?

MRS GASCOIGNE: It's trew what they say:

"My son's my son till he ta'es him a wife,
But my daughter's my daughter the whole of her life."

MINNIE: Do you think so?

MRS GASCOIGNE: I'm sure. An' th' men's been out ten days now, an' such carryin's-on.

MINNIE: Oh! Why--what?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Meetin's ivry mornin'--crier for ever down th' street wi's bell--an' agitators. They say as Fraser dursn't venture out o' th' door. Watna' pit-top's bin afire, and there's a rigiment o' soldiers drillin' i' th' statutes ground--bits o' things they are, an' a', like a lot o' little monkeys i' their red coats--Staffordshire men. But wiry, so they say. Same as marched wi' Lord Roberts to Candyhar. But not a man among 'em. If you watch out fra th' gardin end, you'll see 'em i' th' colliers' train goin' up th' line ter Watna'--wi' their red coats jammed i' th' winders. They say as Fraser's got ten on 'em in's house ter guard him--an' they's sentinels at pit top, standin' wi' their guns, an' th' men crackin' their sides wi' laughing at 'em.

MINNIE: What for?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nay, that I canna tell thee. They've got the Black Watch up at Heanor--so they says--great big Scotchmen i' kilts. They look well, ha'en them i' Heanor, wi' a' them lasses.

MINNIE: And what is all the fuss about?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Riotin'. I thought tha'd bobbled off ter Manchester ter be i' safety.

MINNIE: Oh, no--I never knew there was any danger.

MRS GASCOIGNE: No more there is, as far as that goes. What's up atween you an' our Luther?

MINNIE: Oh, nothing particular.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I knowed summat wor amiss, when 'e niver come up. It's a fortnight last Tuesday, sin' 'e's set foot i' my house--an' I've niver clapt eyes on him. I axed our Joe, but he's as stubborn as a jackass, an' you canna get a word out on 'im, not for love nor money.

MINNIE: Oh!

MRS GASCOIGNE: Talks o' goin' t'r Australay. But not if I can help it. An' hints as if our Luther--you not thinkin' of it, are you?

MINNIE: No, I'm not--not that I know of.

MRS GASCOIGNE: H'm! It's a rum go, when nobody seems ter know where they are, nor what they're goin' ter do. But there's more blort than bustle, i' this world. What took thee to Manchester?

MINNIE: Oh, I just wanted to go, on business.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Summat about thy money, like?

MINNIE: Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Our Luther wor axin' me for forty pound, th' last time 'e wor up--but I didna see it. No--I fun' him a' as 'e wanted for's marriage, and gen 'im ten pound i' hand, an' I thought it 'ud suffice. An' as for forty pound--it's ter much, that's what I think.

MINNIE: I don't.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Oh, well, if tha doesna, a' well an' good. 'Appen he's paid it, then?

MINNIE: Paid it! Why, wheer was he to get it from?

MRS GASCOIGNE: I thought you had it atween you.

MINNIE: We haven't.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why, how dost mean?

MINNIE: I mean we've neither of us got as much as forty pounds.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Dost mean tha hasna?

MINNIE: No, I haven't.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What's a-gait now?

MINNIE: Nothing.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What hast bin up to?

MINNIE: I? Nothing. I went to Manchester to settle a little business, that's all.

MRS GASCOIGNE: And wheer did ter stop?

MINNIE: I stayed with my old master.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Wor there no missis, then?

MINNIE: No--his wife is dead. You know I was governess for his grandchildren, who were born in India.

MRS GASCOIGNE: H'm! So tha went to see him?

MINNIE: Yes--I've always told him everything.

MRS GASCOIGNE: So tha went clat-fartin' ter 'im about our Luther, did ter?

MINNIE: Well--he's the only soul in the world that I can go to.

MRS GASCOIGNE: H'm! It doesna become thee, methinks.

MINNIE: Well!

Footsteps are heard.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Here's them lads, I s'd think.

Enter LUTHER and JOE.

JOE (to MINNIE): Hello! has thee come?

MINNIE: Yes. I sent a wire, and thought someone might come to meet me.

JOE: Nay, there wor no wire. We thought tha'd gone for good.

MINNIE: Who thought so?

JOE: Well--didna tha say so?

MINNIE: Say what?

JOE: As tha'd go, an' he could do what he liked?

MINNIE: I've said many things.

MRS GASCOIGNE: So that was how it stood! Tha'rt a fool, our Luther. If ter ta'es a woman at 'er word, well, tha deserves what ter gets.

LUTHER: What am I to do, might I ax?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nay, that thy wits should tell thee. Wheer hast bin these two days?

LUTHER: I walked ower wi' Jim Horrocks ter their Annie's i' Mansfield.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I'm sure she'd got enough to do, without two men planting themselves on her. An' how did ter get back?

LUTHER: Walked.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Trapsein' thy shoe-leather off thee feet, walkin' twenty miles. Hast had thy dinner?

JOE: We've both had free dinners at th' Methodist Chapel.

LUTHER: I met Tom Heseldine i' "Th' Badger Box", Mother.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Oh ay! Wide-mouthed as iver, I reckon.

JOE: Just same. But what dost think, Mother? It's leaked out as Fraser's got a lot o' chaps to go to-morrer mornin', ter see after th' roads an' a' that.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Th' roads wants keepin' safe, dunna they?

JOE: Yi--but if th' mesters wunna ha'e th' union men, let 'em do it theirselves.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha talks like a fool.

LUTHER: What right ha' they ter get a lot of scrawdrags an' blacklegs in ter do our work? A' th' pit maun fa' in, if they wunna settle it fair wi' us.

JOE: Then workin's is ours, an' th' mesters'. If th' mesters wunna treat us fair, then they mun keep 'em right theirselves. They non goin' ter ha'e no third body in.

MINNIE: But even when it's settled, how are you going back, if the roof has come in, and the roads are gone?

JOE: Tha mun ax th' mesters that. If we canna go back ter th' rotten owd pits no more, we mun look elsewhere. An' th' mesters can sit atop o' their pits an' stroke 'em.

LUTHER (to MINNIE): If I got a woman in to do th' housework as tha wunna do for me, tha'd sit smilin', shouldn't ter?

MINNIE: She could do as she liked.

LUTHER: Alright. Then, Mother, 'appen tha'lt boss this house. She run off ter Manchester, an' left me ter starve. So 'appen tha'lt come an' do for me.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nay--if ter wants owt tha mun come ter me.

JOE: That's right. Dunna thee play blackleg i' this establishment.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I s'll mind my own business.

JOE (to MINNIE): Now, does thee think it right, Minnie, as th' mesters should get a lot o' crawlin' buggers in ter keep their pits i' order, when th' keepin' o' them pits i' order belongs by right to us?

MINNIE: It belongs to whosoever the masters pay to do it.

LUTHER: A' right. Then it belongs to me to ha'e any woman in ter do for me, as I've a mind. Tha's gone on strike, so I ha'e the right ter get anybody else.

MINNIE: When have I gone on strike? I have always done your housework.

LUTHER: Housework--yi! But we dunna on'y keep th' roof from comin' in. We get as well. An' even th' housework tha went on strike wi'. Tha skedaddled off ter Manchester, an' left me to't.

MINNIE: I went on business.

LUTHER: An' we've come out on strike "on business".

MINNIE: You've not; it's a game.

LUTHER: An' the mesters'll ta'e us back when they're ready, or when they're forced to. An' same wi' thee by me.

MINNIE: Oh!

JOE: We got it fr' Tom Rooke--'e wor goin' ter turn 'em down. At four to-morrer mornin', there's ower twenty men goin' down.

MRS GASCOIGNE: What a lot of fools men are! As if th' pits didn't need ter be kep' tidy, ready for you to go back to'm.

JOE: They'll be kep' tidy by us, then an' when we've a mind--an' by nobody else.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha talks very high an' mighty. That's because I ha'e th' feedin' on thee.

JOE: You put it like our Luther says, then. He stands for t'mesters, an' Minnie stands for t'men--cos 'er's gone on strike. Now becos she's went ter Manchester, had he got ony right ter ha'e Lizzie Charley in for a couple o' nights an' days?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha talks like a fool!

JOE: I dunna.

MINNIE: He's welcome to Lizzie Charley.

JOE: Alright.--She's a nice gel. We'll ax 'er to come in an' manage th' 'ouse--he can pay 'er.

MINNIE: What with?

JOE: Niver you mind. Should yer like it?

MINNIE: He can do just as he likes.

JOE: Then should I fetch her?--should I, Luther?

LUTHER: If ter's a mind.

JOE: Should I, then, Minnie?

MINNIE: If he wants her.

LUTHER: I want somebody ter look after me.

JOE: Right tha art. (Puts his cap on.) I'll say as Minnie canna look after th' house, will 'er come. That it?

LUTHER: Ah.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Dunna be a fool. Tha's had a can or two.

JOE: Well--'er'll be glad o' the job.

MRS GASCOIGNE: You'd better stop him, one of you.

LUTHER: I want somebody ter look after me--an' tha wunna.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Eh dear o' me! Dunna thee be a fool, our Joe.

Exit JOE.

What wor this job about goin' ter Manchester?

LUTHER: She said she wouldna live wi' me, an' so 'er went. I thought 'er'd gone for good.

MINNIE: You didn't--you knew.

LUTHER: I knowed what tha'd towd me--as tha'd live wi' me no longer. Tha's come back o' thy own accord.

MINNIE: I never said I shouldn't come back.

LUTHER: Tha said as tha wouldna live wi' me. An' tha didna, neither,--not for--

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, Minnie, you've brought it on your own head. You put him off, an' you put him off, as if 'e was of no account, an' then all of a sudden you invited him to marry you--

MINNIE: Put him off! He didn't need much putting off. He never came any faster than a snail.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Twice, to my knowledge, he axed thee--an' what can a man do more?

MINNIE: Yes, what! A gramophone in breeches could do as much.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Oh, indeed! What ailed him was, he wor in collier's britches, i'stead o' a stool-arsed Jack's.

MINNIE: No--what ailed him was that you kept him like a kid hanging on to you.

MRS GASCOIGNE: An' tha bit thy own nose off, when ter said him nay. For had ter married him at twenty-three, there'd ha' been none of this trouble.

MINNIE: And why didn't I? Why didn't I? Because he came in his half-hearted "I will if you like" fashion, and I despised him, yes I did.

MRS GASCOIGNE: And who are you to be despising him, I should like to know?

MINNIE: I'm a woman, and that's enough. But I know now, it was your fault. You held him, and persuaded him that what he wanted was you. You kept him, like a child, you even gave him what money he wanted, like a child. He never roughed it--he never faced out anything. You did all that for him.

MRS GASCOIGNE: And what if I did! If you made as good a wife to him as I made a mother, you'd do.

MINNIE: Should I? You didn't care what women your sons went with, so long as they didn't love them. What do you care really about this affair of Bertha Purdy? You don't. All you cared about was to keep your sons for yourself. You kept the solid meal, and the orts and slarts any other woman could have. But I tell you, I'm not for having the orts and slarts, and your leavings from your sons. I'll have a man, or nothing, I will.

MRS GASCOIGNE: It's rare to be some folks, ter pick and choose.

MINNIE: I can't pick and choose, no. But what I won't have, I won't have, and that is all.

MRS GASCOIGNE (to LUTHER): Have I ever kept thee from doin' as tha wanted? Have I iver marded and coddled thee?

LUTHER: Tha hasna, beguy!

MINNIE: No, you haven't, perhaps, not by the look of things. But you've bossed him. You've decided everything for him, really. He's depended on you as much when he was thirty as when he was three. You told him what to do, and he did it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: My word, I've never known all he did.

MINNIE: You have--everything that mattered. You maybe didn't know it was Bertha Purdy, but you knew it was some woman like her, and what did you care? She had the orts and slarts, you kept your son. And you want to keep him, even now. Yes--and you do keep him.

MRS GASCOIGNE: We're learnin' a thing or two, Luther.

LUTHER: Ay.

Enter JOE.

MINNIE: Yes! What did you care about the woman who would have to take some after you? Nothing! You left her with just the slarts of a man. Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Indeed! I canna see as you're so badly off. You've got a husband as doesn't drink, as waits on you hand and foot, as gives you a free hand in everything. It's you as doesn't know when you're well off, madam.

MINNIE: I'd rather have had a husband who knocked me about than a husband who was good to me because he belonged to his mother. He doesn't and can't really care for me. You stand before him. His real caring goes to you. Me he only wants sometimes.

JOE: She'll be in in a minute.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha'rt the biggest fool an' jackanapes, our Joe, as iver God made.

MINNIE: If she crosses that doorstep, then I go for good.

MRS GASCOIGNE (bursting into fury--to JOE): Tha see what thy bobby interferin' has done.

JOE: Nay--that's how it stood.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha mun go an' stop her, our Luther. Tell 'er it wor our Joe's foolery. An' look sharp.

LUTHER: What should I go for?

LUTHER goes out, furious.

MINNIE: You see--you see! His mother's word is law to him. He'd do what I told him, but his feel would be for you. He's got no feeling for me. You keep all that.

MRS GASCOIGNE: You talk like a jealous woman.

MINNIE: I do! And for that matter, why doesn't Joe marry, either? Because you keep him too. You know, in spite of his bluster, he cares more for your little finger than he does for all the women in the world--or ever will. And it's wrong--it's wrong. How is a woman ever to have a husband, when the men all belong to their mothers? It's wrong.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Oh, indeed!--is it? You know, don't you? You know everything.

MINNIE: I know this, because I've suffered from it. Your elder sons you let go, and they are husbands. But your young sons you've kept. And Luther is your son, and the man that lives with me. But first, he's your son. And Joe ought never to marry, for he'd break a woman's heart.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha hears, lad! We're bein' told off.

JOE: Ah, I hear. An' what's more, it's true, Mother.

MINNIE: It is--it is. He only likes playing round me and getting some pleasure out of teasing me, because he knows I'm safely married to Luther, and can never look to him to marry me and belong to me. He's safe, so he likes me. If I were single, he'd be frightened to death of me.

JOE: Happen I should.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha'rt a fool.

MINNIE: And that's what you've done to me--that's my life spoiled--spoiled--ay, worse than if I'd had a drunken husband that knocked me about. For it's dead.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha'rt shoutin' because nowt ails thee--that's what tha art.

JOE: Nay, Mother, tha knows it's right. Tha knows tha's got me-- an'll ha'e me till ter dies--an' after that--yi.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha talks like a fool.

JOE: And sometimes, Mother, I wish I wor dead, I do.

MINNIE: You see, you see! You see what you've done to them. It's strong women like you, who were too much for their husbands--ah!

JOE: Tha knows I couldna leave thee, Mother--tha knows I couldna. An' me, a young man, belongs to thy owd age. An' there's nowheer for me to go, Mother. For tha'rt gettin' nearer to death an' yet I canna leave thee to go my own road. An' I wish, yi, often, as I wor dead.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Dunna, lad--dunna let 'er put these ideas i' thy head.

JOE: An' I can but fritter my days away. There's no goin' forrard for me.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nay, lad, nay--what lad's better off than thee, dost reckon?

JOE: If I went t'r Australia, th' best part on me wouldna go wi' me.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha wunna go t'r Australia!

JOE: If I went, I should be a husk of a man. I'm allers a husk of a man, Mother. There's nowt solid about me. The' isna.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Whativer dost mean? You've a' set on me at once.

JOE: I'm nowt, Mother, an' I count for nowt. Yi, an' I know it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha does. Tha sounds as if tha counts for nowt, as a rule, doesn't ter?

JOE: There's not much of a man about me. T'other chaps is more of fools, but they more of men an' a'--an' they know it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: That's thy fault.

JOE: Yi--an' will be--ter th' end o' th' chapter.

Enter LUTHER.

MINNIE: Did you tell her?

LUTHER: Yes.

MINNIE: We'll have some tea, should we?

JOE: Ay, let's. For it's bin dry work.

She sets the kettle on.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I mun be goin'.

MINNIE: Wait and have a cup of tea. I brought a cake.

JOE: But we non goin' ter ha'e it, are we, Luther, these 'ere blacklegs goin' down interferin'.

LUTHER: We arena.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But how are you going to stop them?

JOE: We s'll manage it, one road or t'other.

MRS GASCOIGNE: You'll non go gettin' yourselves into trouble.

LUTHER: We in trouble enow.

MINNIE: If you'd have had Lizzie Charley in, what should you have paid her with?

LUTHER: We should ha' found the money somewhere.

MINNIE: Do you know what I had to keep house on this week, Mother?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Not much, sin' there wor nowt but ten shillin' strike pay.

MINNIE: He gave me five shillings.

LUTHER: Tha could ha' had what things ter wanted on strap.

MINNIE: No--but why should you keep, to drink on, as much as you give me to keep house on? Five shillings!

JOE: Five bob's non a whackin' sight o' pocket money for a man's week.

MINNIE: It is, if he earns nothing. It was that as finished me off.

JOE: Well, tha niver ned go short--tha can let him.

MINNIE: I knew that was what he thought. But if he wouldna have my money for one thing, he wasn't going to for another.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why, what wouldn't he have it for?

MINNIE: He wouldn't have that forty pounds, when I went on my knees to beg and beseech him to.

LUTHER: Tha did! Tha throwed it at me as if I wor a beggar as stank.

MINNIE: And you wouldn't have it when I asked you.

LUTHER: No--an' wouldna ha'e it now.

MINNIE: You can't.

LUTHER: I dunna want it.

MINNIE: And if you don't find money to keep the house on, we shall both of us starve. For you've got to keep me. And I've got no money of my own now.

LUTHER: Why, what dost mean?

MINNIE: I mean what I say.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Why, what?

MINNIE: I was sick of having it between us. It was but a hundred and twenty. So I went to Manchester and spent it.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha's bin an' spent a hundred and twenty pound i' four days?

MINNIE: Yes, I have.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Whativer are we comin' to!

JOE: That wor a stroke worth two. Tell us what tha bought.

MINNIE: I bought myself a ring, for one thing. I thought if I ever had any children, and they asked me where was my engagement ring, I should have to show them something, for their father's sake. Do you like it? (Holds out her hand to JOE.)

JOE: My word, but that's a bobby-dazzler. Look, Mother.

MRS GASCOIGNE: H'm.

JOE takes the ring off.

JOE: My word, but that's a diamond, if you like. How much did it cost?

MINNIE: Thirty pounds. I've got the bill in my pocket.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I only hope you'll niver come to want some day.

MINNIE: Luther must see to that.

JOE: And what else did ter buy?

MINNIE: I'll show you. (Gets her bag, unlocks it, takes out three prints.)

JOE: I dunna reckon much ter these.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Nor me neither. An' how much has ter gen for them apiece?

MINNIE: That was twenty-five pounds. They're beautiful prints.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I dunna believe a word tha says.

MINNIE: I'll show you the bill. My master's a collector, and he picked them for me. He says they're well worth the money. And I like them.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, I niver seed such a job in my life. T-t-t-t! Well, a' I can say is, I hope tha'll niver come ter want. Throwin' good money i' th' gutter like this. Nay, I feel fair bad. Nay! T-t-t-t! Such tricks! And such bits o' dirty paper!

JOE: I'd rather ha'e the Co-op almanack.

MRS GASCOIGNE: So would I, any day! What dost say to't, our Luther?

LUTHER: 'Er does as 'er likes.

MINNIE: I had a lovely time with Mr Westlake, choosing them at the dealer's. He is clever.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha towd him tha wanted to get rid o' thy money, did ter?

MINNIE: No--I said I wanted some pictures for the parlour, and asked him if he'd help me choose.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Good money thrown away. Maybe the very bread of your children.

MINNIE: Nay, that's Luther's duty to provide.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, a' I can say is, I hope you may never come ter want. If our Luther died . . .

MINNIE: I should go back to work.

MRS GASCOIGNE: But what if tha'd three or four children?

MINNIE: A hundred and twenty pounds wouldn't make much odds then.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, a' I can say, I hope tha'lt niver live ter rue the day.

JOE: What dost think on 'er, Luther?

LUTHER: Nay, she's done as she liked with her own.

MINNIE (emptying her purse in her lap): I've got just seventeen shillings. You drew your strike pay yesterday. How much have you got of that, Luther?

LUTHER: Three bob.

MINNIE: And do you want to keep it?

LUTHER: Ah.

MINNIE: Very well . . . I shall spend this seventeen shillings till it's gone, and then we shall have to live on soup-tickets.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I'll back my life!

JOE: And who'll fetch the soup?

MINNIE: Oh, I shall. I've been thinking, that big jug will do nicely. I'm in the same boat as other men's wives now, and so I must do the same.

JOE: They'll gi'e you strap at West's.

MINNIE: I'm not going to run up bills, no, I'm not. I'll go to the free teas, and fetch soup, an' with ten shillings a week we shall manage.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, that's one road, lass.

MINNIE: It's the only one. And now, if he can provide, he must, and if he can't, he must tell me so, and I'll go back into service, and not be a burden to him.

MRS GASCOIGNE: High and mighty, high and mighty! We'll see, my lass; we'll see.

MINNIE: That's all we can do.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Tha doesna care how he takes it.

MINNIE: The prints belong to both of us. (Hands them to LUTHER.) You haven't said if you like them yet.

LUTHER (taking them, suddenly rams them in the fire): Tha can go to hell.

MINNIE (with a cry): Ah!--that's my ninety pounds gone. (Tries to snatch them out.)

MRS GASCOIGNE (beginning to cry): Come, Joe, let's go; let's go, my lad. I've seen as much this day as ever my eyes want to see. Let's go, my lad. (Gets up, beginning to tie on her bonnet.)

MINNIE (white and intense, to LUTHER): Should you like to throw my ring after them? It's all I've got left. (She holds out her hand--he flings it from him.)

LUTHER: Yi, what do I care what I do! (Clenching his fists as if he would strike her.)--what do I!--what do I--!

MRS GASCOIGNE (putting on her shawl): A day's work--a day's work! Ninety pound! Nay--nay, oh, nay--nay, oh, nay--nay! Let's go, Joe, my lad. Eh, our Luther, our Luther! Let's go, Joe. Come.

JOE: Ah, I'll come, Mother.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Luther!

LUTHER: What?

MRS GASCOIGNE: It's a day's work, it is, wi' thee. Eh dear! Come, let's go, Joe. Let's go whoam.

LUTHER: An' I'll go.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Dunna thee do nowt as ter'll repent of, Luther--dunna thee. It's thy mother axes thee. Come, Joe.

MRS GASCOIGNE goes out, followed by JOE. LUTHER stands with face averted from his wife; mutters something, reaches for his cap, goes out. MINNIE stands with her hand on the mantelpiece.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT IV

 

The following morning--about 5 a.m. A candle is burning.

MINNIE sits by the fire in a dressing-gown. She is weeping. A knock, and MRS GASCOIGNE'S voice. MINNIE goes to open the door; re-enters with her mother-in-law, the latter with a big brown shawl over her head.

 

MRS GASCOIGNE: Is Luther a-whoam?

MINNIE: No--he's not been in all night.

MRS GASCOIGNE: T-t-t-t! Now whereiver can they be? Joe's not in neither.

MINNIE: Isn't he?

MRS GASCOIGNE: No. He said he might be late, so I went to bed, and slept a bit uneasy-like till about four o'clock. Then I wakes up a' of a sudden, an' says: "I'm by mysen i' th' house!" It gave me such a turn I daresn't shout. So I gets me up, an' goes ter his room, an' he'd niver bin i' bed a' night. Well, I went down, but no signs nowhere. An' 'im wi' a broken arm. An' I listened an' I listened--an' then methinks I heered a gun go off. I felt as if I should die if I stopped by mysen another minute. So I on's wi' my shawl an' nips down here. There's not a soul astir nowhere. I a'most dropped when I seed your light. Hasn't Luther bin in a' night, dost say?

MINNIE: He went out with you, and he never came in again. I went to bed, thinking perhaps he'd be sleeping on the sofa. And then I came down, and he wasn't here.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Well, I've seen nowt of him, for he never come up to our house.--Now I wonder what's afoot wi' th' silly fools?

MINNIE: I thought he'd gone and left me.

MRS GASCOIGNE: It's more like some o' this strike work. When I heered that gun, I said: "Theer goes one o' my lads!"

MINNIE: You don't think they're killed?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Heaven knows what they are. But I niver thought he'd ha' served me this trick--left me by myself without telling me, and gone cutting off a' th' night through--an' him wi' a broken arm.

MINNIE: Where do you think they've gone?

MRS GASCOIGNE: The Lord above alone knows--but I'se warrant it's one o' these riotin' tricks--stopping them blacklegs as wor goin' down to see to th' roads.

MINNIE: Do you think--?

MRS GASCOIGNE: I'll back anything. For I heered th' winding engines plain as anything. Hark!

They listen.

MINNIE: I believe I can hear them.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Th' ingines?

MINNIE: Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: They're winding something down. Eh dear, what a dead world it seems, wi' none o' th' pits chuffin' an' no steam wavin' by day, an' no lights shinin' by night. You may back your life there was a gang of 'em going to stop that lot of blacklegs. And there'd be soldiers for a certainty. If I didn't hear a shot, I heered summat much like one.

MINNIE: But they'd never shoot, would they?

MRS GASCOIGNE: Haven't they shot men up an' down th' country? Didn't I know them lads was pining to go an' be shot at? I did. Methinks when I heard that gun, "They'd niver rest till this had happened."

MINNIE: But they're not shot, Mother. You exaggerate.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I niver said they wor. But if anything happens to a man, my lass, you may back your life, nine cases out o' ten, it's a spit on th' women.

MINNIE: Oh, what a thing to say! Why, there are accidents.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Yes, an' men verily gets accidents, to pay us out, I do believe. They get huffed up, they bend down their faces, and they say to theirselves: "Now I'll get myself hurt, an' she'll be sorry," else: "Now I'll get myself killed, an' she'll ha'e nobody to sleep wi' 'er, an' nobody to nag at." Oh, my lass, I've had a husband an' six sons. Children they are, these men, but, my word, they're revengeful children. Children men is a' the days o' their lives. But they're master of us women when their dander's up, an' they pay us back double an' treble--they do--an' you mun allers expect it.

MINNIE: But if they went to stop the blacklegs, they wouldn't be doing it to spite us.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Wouldn't they! Yi, but they would. My lads 'ud do it to spite me, an' our Luther 'ud do it to spite thee. Yes--and it's trew. For they'd run theirselves into danger and lick their lips for joy, thinking, if I'm killed, then she maun lay me out. Yi--I seed it in our mester. He got killed a' pit. An' when I laid him out, his face wor that grim, an' his body that stiff, an' it said as plain as plain: "Nowthen, you've done for me." For it's risky work, handlin' men, my lass, an' niver thee pray for sons--Not but what daughters is any good. Th' world is made o' men, for me, lass--there's only the men for me. An' tha'rt similar. An' so, tha'lt reap trouble by the peck, an' sorrow by the bushel. For when a woman builds her life on men, either husbands or sons, she builds on summat as sooner or later brings the house down crash on her head--yi, she does.

MINNIE: But it depends how and what she builds.

MRS GASCOIGNE: It depends, it depends. An' tha thinks tha can steer clear o' what I've done. An' perhaps tha can. But steer clear the whole length o' th' road, tha canna, an' tha'lt see. Nay, a childt is a troublesome pleasure to a woman, but a man's a trouble pure and simple.

MINNIE: I'm sure it depends what you make of him.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Maybe--maybe. But I've allers tried to do my best, i' spite o' what tha said against me this afternoon.

MINNIE: I didn't mean it--I was in a rage.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Yi, tha meant it plain enow. But I've tried an' tried my best for my lads, I have--an' this is what owd age brings me--wi' 'em.

MINNIE: Nay, Mother--nay. See how fond they are of you.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Yi--an' they go now i' their mischief, yes, tryin' to get killed, to spite me. Yi!

MINNIE: Nay. Nay.

MRS GASCOIGNE: It's true. An' tha can ha'e Luther. Tha'lt get him, an' tha can ha'e him.

MINNIE: Do you think I shall?

MRS GASCOIGNE: I can see. Tha'lt get him--but tha'lt get sorrow wi' 'em, an' wi' th' sons tha has. See if tha doesna.

MINNIE: But I don't care. Only don't keep him from me. It leaves me so--with nothing--not even trouble.

MRS GASCOIGNE: He'll come to thee--an' he'll think no more o' me as is his mother than he will o' that poker.

MINNIE: Oh, no--oh, no.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Yi--I know well--an' then that other.

There is a silence--the two women listening.

MINNIE: If they'd been hurt, we should ha' known by now.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Happen we should. If they come, they'll come together. An' they'll come to this house first.

A silence. MINNIE starts.

Did ter hear owt?

MINNIE: Somebody got over the stile.

MRS GASCOIGNE (listening): Yi.

MINNIE (listening): It is somebody.

MRS GASCOIGNE: I' t'street.

MINNIE (starting up): Yes.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Comin'? It's Luther. (Goes to the door.) An' it's on'y Luther.

Both women stand, the mother nearer the door. The door opens--a slight sluther. Enter LUTHER, with blood on his face--rather shaky and dishevelled.

My boy! my boy!

LUTHER: Mother! (He goes blindly.) Where's Minnie?

MINNIE (with a cry): Oh!

MRS GASCOIGNE: Wheer's Joe?--wheer's our Joe?

LUTHER (to MINNIE, queer, stunned, almost polite): It worn't 'cause I wor mad wi' thee I didna come whoam.

MRS GASCOIGNE (clutching him sternly): Where's Joe?

LUTHER: He's gone up street--he thought tha might ha' wakkened.

MRS GASCOIGNE: Wakkened enow.

MRS GASCOIGNE goes out.

MINNIE: Oh, what have you done?

LUTHER: We'd promised not to tell nobody--else I should. We stopped them blacklegs--leastways--but it worn't because I--I-- (He stops to think.) I wor mad wi' thee, as I didna come whoam.

MINNIE: What have you done to your head?

LUTHER: It wor a stone or summat catched it. It's gev me a headache. Tha mun--tha mun tie a rag round it--if ter will. (He sways as he takes his cap off.)

She catches him in her arms. He leans on her as if he were tipsy.

Minnie--

MINNIE: My love--my love!

LUTHER: Minnie--I want thee ter ma'e what tha can o' me. (He sounds almost sleepy.)

MINNIE (crying): My love--my love!

LUTHER: I know what tha says is true.

MINNIE: No, my love--it isn't--it isn't.

LUTHER: But if ter'lt ma'e what ter can o' me--an' then if ter has a childt--tha'lt happen ha'e enow.

MINNIE: No--no--it's you. It's you I want. It's you.

LUTHER: But tha's allers had me.

MINNIE: No, never--and it hurt so.

LUTHER: I thowt tha despised me.

MINNIE: Ah--my love!

LUTHER: Dunna say I'm mean, to me--an' got no go.

MINNIE: I only said it because you wouldn't let me love you.

LUTHER: Tha didna love me.

MINNIE: Ha!--it was you.

LUTHER: Yi. (He looses himself and sits down heavily.) I'll ta'e my boots off. (He bends forward.)

MINNIE: Let me do them. (He sits up again.)

LUTHER: It's started bleedin'. I'll do 'em i' ha'ef a minute.

MINNIE: No--trust me--trust yourself to me. Let me have you now for my own. (She begins to undo his boots.)

LUTHER: Dost want me?

MINNIE (she kisses his hands): Oh, my love! (She takes him in her arms.)

He suddenly begins to cry.

 

CURTAIN

 

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The Daughter-in-law by D. H. Lawrence

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