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Title:      The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd (1914)
Author:     D. H. Lawrence
eBook No.:  0500011h.html
Edition:    1
Language:   English
Character set encoding:     HTML--Latin-1(ISO-8859-1)--8 bit
Date first posted:          January 2005
Date most recently updated: January 2005

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THE WIDOWING OF MRS HOLROYD


A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

 

by

 

D. H. Lawrence

 

(1914)

 

 


 

 

CHARACTERS


MRS HOLROYD

HOLROYD

BLACKMORE

JACK HOLROYD

MINNIE HOLROYD

GRANDMOTHER

RIGLEY

CLARA

LAURA

MANAGER

TWO MINERS

 

The action of the play takes place in the Holroyds' cottage

 

 


 

 

ACT I ACT II ACT III

 

 


 

 

ACT I

 

SCENE I

 

The kitchen of a miner's small cottage. On the left is the fireplace, with a deep, full red fire. At the back is a white-curtained window, and beside it the outer door of the room. On the right, two white wooden stairs intrude into the kitchen below the closed stair-foot door. On the left, another door.

The room is furnished with a chintz-backed sofa under the window, a glass-knobbed painted dresser on the right, and in the centre, toward the fire, a table with a red and blue check tablecloth. On one side of the hearth is a wooden rocking-chair, on the other an arm-chair of round staves. An unlighted copper-shaded lamp hangs from the raftered ceiling. It is dark twilight, with the room full of warm fireglow. A woman enters from the outer door. As she leaves the door open behind her, the colliery rail can be seen not far from the threshold, and, away back, the headstocks of a pit.

The woman is tall and voluptuously built. She carries a basket heaped full of washing, which she has just taken from the clotheslines outside. Setting down the basket heavily, she feels among the clothes. She lifts out a white heap of sheets and other linen, setting it on the table; then she takes a woollen shirt in her hand.

 

MRS HOLROYD (aloud, to herself): You know they're not dry even now, though it's been as fine as it has. (She spreads the shirt on the back of her rocking-chair, which she turns to the fire.)

VOICE (calling from outside): Well, have you got them dry?

MRS HOLROYD starts up, turns and flings her hand in the direction of the open door, where appears a man in blue overalls, swarfed and greased. He carries a dinner-basket.

MRS HOLROYD: You--you--I don't know what to call you! The idea of shouting at me like that--like the Evil One out of the darkness!

BLACKMORE: I ought to have remembered your tender nerves. Shall I come in?

MRS HOLROYD: No--not for your impudence. But you're late, aren't you?

BLACKMORE: It's only just gone six. We electricians, you know, we're the gentlemen on a mine: ours is gentlemen's work. But I'll bet Charles Holroyd was home before four.

MRS HOLROYD (bitterly): Ay, and gone again before five.

BLACKMORE: But mine's a lad's job, and I do nothing!--Where's he gone?

MRS HOLROYD (contemptuously): Dunno! He'd got a game on somewhere--toffed himself up to the nines, and skedaddled off as brisk as a turkey-cock. (She smirks in front of the mirror hanging on the chimney-piece, in imitation of a man brushing his hair and moustache and admiring himself.)

BLACKMORE: Though turkey-cocks aren't brisk as a rule. Children playing?

MRS HOLROYD (recovering herself, coldly): Yes. And they ought to be in.

She continues placing the flannel garments before the fire, on the fender and on chair-backs, till the stove is hedged in with a steaming fence; then she takes a sheet in a bundle from the table, and goes up to BLACKMORE, who stands watching her.

Here, take hold, and help me fold it.

BLACKMORE: I shall swarf it up.

MRS HOLROYD (snatching back the sheet): Oh, you're as tiresome as everybody else.

BLACKMORE (putting down his basket and moving to door on right): Well, I can soon wash my hands.

MRS HOLROYD (ceasing to flap and fold pillow-cases): That roller-towel's ever so dirty. I'll get you another. (She goes to a drawer in the dresser, and then back toward the scullery, from which comes the sound of water.)

BLACKMORE: Why, bless my life, I'm a lot dirtier than the towel. I don't want another.

MRS HOLROYD (going into the scullery): Here you are.

BLACKMORE (softly, now she is near him): Why did you trouble now? Pride, you know, pride, nothing else.

MRS HOLROYD (also playful): It's nothing but decency.

BLACKMORE (softly): Pride, pride, pride!

A child of eight suddenly appears in the doorway.

JACK: Oo, how dark!

MRS HOLROYD (hurrying agitated into the kitchen): Why, where have you been--what have you been doing now?

JACK (surprised): Why--I've only been out to play.

MRS HOLROYD (still sharply): And where's Minnie?

A little girl of six appears by the door.

MINNIE: I'm here, mam, and what do you think--?

MRS HOLROYD (softening, as she recovers equanimity): Well, and what should I think?

JACK: Oh, yes, mam--you know my father--?

MRS HOLROYD (ironically): I should hope so.

MINNIE: We saw him dancing, mam, with a paper bonnet.

MRS HOLROYD: What--?

JACK: There's some women at New Inn, what's come from Nottingham--

MINNIE: An' he's dancin' with the pink one.

JACK: Shut up, our Minnie. An' they've got paper bonnets on--

MINNIE: All colours, mam!

JACK (getting angry): Shut up, our Minnie! An' my dad's dancing with her.

MINNIE: With the pink-bonnet one, mam.

JACK: Up in the club-room over the bar.

MINNIE: An' she's a lot littler than him, mam.

JACK (piteously): Shut up, our Minnie--An' you can see 'em go past the window, 'cause there isn't no curtains up, an' my father's got the pink bonnet one--

MINNIE: An' there's a piano, mam--

JACK: An' lots of folks outside watchin', lookin' at my dad! He can dance, can't he, mam?

MRS HOLROYD (she has been lighting the lamp, and holds the lamp-glass): And who else is there?

MINNIE: Some more men--an' all the women with paper bonnets on.

JACK: There's about ten, I should think, an' they say they came in a brake from Nottingham.

MRS HOLROYD, trying to replace the lamp-glass over the flame, lets it drop on the floor with a smash.

JACK: There, now--now we'll have to have a candle.

BLACKMORE (appearing in the scullery doorway with the towel): What's that--the lamp-glass?

JACK: I never knowed Mr Blackmore was here.

BLACKMORE (to MRS HOLROYD): Have you got another?

MRS HOLROYD: No. (There is silence for a moment.) We can manage with a candle for to-night.

BLACKMORE (stepping forward and blowing out the smoky flame): I'll see if I can't get you one from the pit. I shan't be a minute.

MRS HOLROYD: Don't--don't bother--I don't want you to.

He, however, unscrews the burner and goes.

MINNIE: Did Mr Blackmore come for tea, mam?

MRS HOLROYD: No; he's had no tea.

JACK: I bet he's hungry. Can I have some bread?

MRS HOLROYD (she stands a lighted candle on the table): Yes, and you can get your boots off to go to bed.

JACK: It's not seven o'clock yet.

MRS HOLROYD: It doesn't matter.

MINNIE: What do they wear paper bonnets for, mam?

MRS HOLROYD: Because they're brazen hussies.

JACK: I saw them having a glass of beer.

MRS HOLROYD: A nice crew!

JACK: They say they are old pals of Mrs Meakins. You could hear her screaming o' laughin', an' my dad says: "He-ah, missis--here--a dog's-nose for the Dachess--hopin' it'll smell samthing"--What's a dog's-nose?

MRS HOLROYD (giving him a piece of bread and butter): Don't ask me, child. How should I know?

MINNIE: Would she eat it, mam?

MRS HOLROYD: Eat what?

MINNIE: Her in the pink bonnet--eat the dog's-nose?

MRS HOLROYD: No, of course not. How should I know what a dog's-nose is?

JACK: I bet he'll never go to work to-morrow, mother--will he?

MRS HOLROYD: Goodness knows. I'm sick of it--disgracing me. There'll be the whole place cackling this now. They've no sooner finished about him getting taken up for fighting than they begin on this. But I'll put a stop to it some road or other. It's not going on, if I know it: it isn't.

She stops, hearing footsteps, and BLACKMORE enters.

BLACKMORE: Here we are then--got one all right.

MINNIE: Did they give it you, Mr Blackmore?

BLACKMORE: No, I took it.

He screws on the burner and proceeds to light the lamp. He is a tall, slender, mobile man of twenty-seven, brown-haired, dressed in blue overalls. JACK HOLROYD is a big, dark, ruddy, lusty lad. MINNIE is also big, but fair.

MINNIE: What do you wear blue trousers for, Mr Blackmore?

BLACKMORE: They're to keep my other trousers from getting greasy.

MINNIE: Why don't you wear pit-breeches, like dad's?

JACK: 'Cause he's a 'lectrician. Could you make me a little injun what would make electric light?

BLACKMORE: I will, some day.

JACK: When?

MINNIE: Why don't you come an' live here?

BLACKMORE (looking swiftly at MRS HOLROYD): Nay, you've got your own dad to live here.

MINNIE (plaintively): Well, you could come as well. Dad shouts when we've gone to bed, an' thumps the table. He wouldn't if you was here.

JACK: He dursn't--

MRS HOLROYD: Be quiet now, be quiet. Here, Mr Blackmore. (She again gives him the sheet to fold.)

BLACKMORE: Your hands are cold.

MRS HOLROYD: Are they?--I didn't know.

BLACKMORE puts his hand on hers.

MRS HOLROYD (confusedly, looking aside): You must want your tea.

BLACKMORE: I'm in no hurry.

MRS HOLROYD: Selvidge to selvidge. You'll be quite a domestic man, if you go on.

BLACKMORE: Ay.

They fold the two sheets.

BLACKMORE: They are white, your sheets!

MRS HOLROYD: But look at the smuts on them--look! This vile hole! I'd never have come to live here, in all the thick of the pit-grime, and lonely, if it hadn't been for him, so that he shouldn't call in a public-house on his road home from work. And now he slinks past on the other side of the railway, and goes down to the New Inn instead of coming in for his dinner. I might as well have stopped in Bestwood.

BLACKMORE: Though I rather like this little place, standing by itself.

MRS HOLROYD: Jack, can you go and take the stockings in for me? They're on the line just below the pigsty. The prop's near the apple-tree--mind it. Minnie, you take the peg-basket.

MINNIE: Will there be any rats, mam?

MRS HOLROYD: Rats--no. They'll be frightened when they hear you, if there are.

The children go out.

BLACKMORE: Poor little beggars!

MRS HOLROYD: Do you know, this place is fairly alive with rats. They run up that dirty vine in front of the house--I'm always at him to cut it down--and you can hear them at night overhead like a regiment of soldiers tramping. Really, you know, I hate them.

BLACKMORE: Well--a rat is a nasty thing!

MRS HOLROYD: But I s'll get used to them. I'd give anything to be out of this place.

BLACKMORE: It is rotten, when you're tied to a life you don't like. But I should miss it if you weren't here. When I'm coming down the line to the pit in the morning--it's nearly dark at seven now--I watch the firelight in here. Sometimes I put my hand on the wall outside where the chimney runs up to feel it warm. There isn't much in Bestwood, is there?

MRS HOLROYD: There's less than nothing if you can't be like the rest of them--as common as they're made.

BLACKMORE: It's a fact--particularly for a woman--But this place is cosy--God love me, I'm sick of lodgings.

MRS HOLROYD: You'll have to get married--I'm sure there are plenty of nice girls about.

BLACKMORE: Are there? I never see 'em. (He laughs.)

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, come, you can't say that.

BLACKMORE: I've not seen a single girl--an unmarried girl--that I should want for more than a fortnight--not one.

MRS HOLROYD: Perhaps you're very particular.

She puts her two palms on the table and leans back. He draws near to her, dropping his head.

BLACKMORE: Look here!

He has put his hand on the table near hers.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, I know you've got nice hands--but you needn't be vain of them.

BLACKMORE: No--it's not that--But don't they seem--(he glances swiftly at her; she turns her head aside; he laughs nervously)--they sort of go well with one another. (He laughs again.)

MRS HOLROYD: They do, rather--

They stand still, near one another, with bent heads, for a moment. Suddenly she starts up and draws her hand away.

BLACKMORE: Why--what is it?

She does not answer. The children come in--JACK with an armful of stockings, MINNIE with the basket of pegs.

JACK: I believe it's freezing, mother.

MINNIE: Mr Blackmore, could you shoot a rat an' hit it?

BLACKMORE (laughing): Shoot the lot of 'em, like a wink.

MRS HOLROYD: But you've had no tea. What an awful shame to keep you here!

BLACKMORE: Nay, I don't care. It never bothers me.

MRS HOLROYD: Then you're different from most men.

BLACKMORE: All men aren't alike, you know.

MRS HOLROYD: But do go and get some tea.

MINNIE (plaintively): Can't you stop, Mr Blackmore?

BLACKMORE: Why, Minnie?

MINNIE: So's we're not frightened. Yes, do. Will you?

BLACKMORE: Frightened of what?

MINNIE: 'Cause there's noises, an' rats--an' perhaps dad'll come home and shout.

BLACKMORE: But he'd shout more if I was here.

JACK: He doesn't when my uncle John's here. So you stop, an' perhaps he won't.

BLACKMORE: Don't you like him to shout when you're in bed?

They do not answer, but look seriously at him.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

SCENE II

 

The same scene, two hours later. The clothes are folded in little piles on the table and the sofa.

MRS HOLROYD is folding a thick flannel undervest or singlet which her husband wears in the pit and which has just dried on the fender.

 

MRS HOLROYD (to herself): Now, thank goodness, they're all dried. It's only nine o'clock, so he won't be in for another two hours, the nuisance. (She sits on the sofa, letting her arms hang down in dejection. After a minute or two she jumps up, to begin rudely dropping the piles of washed clothes in the basket.) I don't care, I'm not going to let him have it all his way--no! (She weeps a little, fiercely, drying her eyes on the edge of her white apron.) Why should I put up with it all?--He can do what he likes. But I don't care, no, I don't--

She flings down the full clothes-basket, sits suddenly in the rocking-chair, and weeps. There is the sound of coarse, bursting laughter, in vain subdued, and a man's deep guffaws. Footsteps draw near. Suddenly the door opens, and a little, plump, pretty woman of thirty, in a close-fitting dress and a giddy, frilled bonnet of pink paper, stands perkily in the doorway. MRS HOLROYD springs up; her small, sensitive nose is inflamed with weeping, her eyes are wet and flashing. She fronts the other woman.

CLARA (with a pert smile and a jerk of the head): Good evenin'!

MRS HOLROYD: What do you want?

CLARA (she has a Yorkshire accent): Oh, we've not come beggin'--this is a visit.

She stuffs her handkerchief in front of her mouth in a little snorting burst of laughter. There is the sound of another woman behind going off into uncontrollable laughter, while a man guffaws.

MRS HOLROYD (after a moment of impotence--tragically): What--!

CLARA (faltering slightly, affecting a polite tone): We thought we'd just call--

She stuffs her handkerchief in front of her explosive laughter--the other woman shrieks again, beginning high, and running down the scale.

MRS HOLROYD: What do you mean?--What do you want here?

CLARA (she bites her lip): We don't want anything, thanks. We've just called. (She begins to laugh again--so does the other.) Well, I don't think much of the manners in this part of the country. (She takes a few hesitating steps into the kitchen.)

MRS HOLROYD (trying to shut the door upon her): No, you are not coming in.

CLARA (preventing her closing the door): Dear me, what a to-do! (She struggles with the door. The other woman comes up to help; a man is seen in the background.)

LAURA: My word, aren't we good enough to come in?

MRS HOLROYD, finding herself confronted by what seems to her excitement a crowd, releases the door and draws back a little--almost in tears of anger.

MRS HOLROYD: You have no business here. What do you want?

CLARA (putting her bonnet straight and entering in brisk defiance): I tell you we've only come to see you. (She looks round the kitchen, then makes a gesture toward the arm-chair.) Can I sit here? (She plumps herself down.) Rest for the weary.

A woman and a man have followed her into the room. LAURA is highly coloured, stout, some forty years old, wears a blue paper bonnet, and looks like the landlady of a public-house. Both she and CLARA wear much jewellery. LAURA is well dressed in a blue cloth dress. HOLROYD is a big blond man. His cap is pushed back, and he looks rather tipsy and lawless. He has a heavy blond moustache. His jacket and trousers are black, his vest grey, and he wears a turn-down collar with dark bow.

LAURA (sitting down in a chair on right, her hand on her bosom, panting): I've laughed till I feel fair bad.

CLARA: 'Aven't you got a drop of nothink to offer us, mester? Come, you are slow. I should 'ave thought a gentleman like you would have been out with the glasses afore we could have got breaths to ask you.

HOLROYD (clumsily): I dunna believe there's owt in th' 'ouse but a bottle of stout.

CLARA (putting her hand on her stomach): It feels as if th' kettle's going to boil over.

She stuffs her handkerchief in front of her mouth, throws back her head, and snorts with laughter, having now regained her confidence. LAURA laughs in the last state of exhaustion, her hand on her breast.

HOLROYD: Shall ta ha'e it then?

CLARA: What do you say, Laura--are you having a drop?

LAURA (submissively, and naturally tongue-tied): Well--I don't mind--I will if you do.

CLARA (recklessly): I think we'll 'ave a drop, Charlie, an' risk it. It'll 'appen hold the rest down.

There is a moment of silence, while HOLROYD goes into the scullery. CLARA surveys the room and the dramatic pose of MRS HOLROYD curiously.

HOLROYD (suddenly): Heh! What, come 'ere--!

There is a smash of pots, and a rat careers out of the scullery. LAURA, the first to see it, utters a scream, but is fastened to her chair, unable to move.

CLARA (jumps up to the table, crying): It's a rat--Oh, save us! (She scrambles up, banging her head on the lamp, which swings violently.)

MRS HOLROYD (who, with a little shriek, jerks her legs up on to the sofa, where she was stiffly reclining, now cries in despairing falsetto, stretching forth her arms): The lamp--mind, the lamp!

CLARA steadies the lamp, and holds her hand to her head.

HOLROYD (coming from the scullery, a bottle of stout in his hand): Where is he?

CLARA: I believe he's gone under the sofa. My, an' he's a thumper, if you like, as big as a rabbit.

HOLROYD advances cautiously toward the sofa.

LAURA (springing suddenly into life): Hi, hi, let me go--let me go--Don't touch him--Where is he? (She flees and scrambles on to CLARA'S arm-chair, catching hold of the latter's skirts.)

CLARA: Hang off--do you want to have a body down--Mind, I tell you.

MRS HOLROYD (bunched up on the sofa, with crossed hands holding her arms, fascinated, watches her husband as he approaches to stoop and attack the rat; she suddenly screams): Don't, he'll fly at you.

HOLROYD: He'll not get a chance.

MRS HOLROYD: He will, he will--and they're poisonous! (She ends on a very high note. Leaning forward on the sofa as far as she dares, she stretches out her arms to keep back her husband, who is about to kneel and search under the sofa for the rat.)

HOLROYD: Come off, I canna see him.

MRS HOLROYD: I won't let you; he'll fly at you.

HOLROYD: I'll settle him--

MRS HOLROYD: Open the door and let him go.

HOLROYD: I shonna. I'll settle him. Shut thy claver. He'll non come anigh thee.

He kneels down and begins to creep to the sofa. With a great bound, MRS HOLROYD flies to the door and flings it open. Then she rushes back to the couch.

CLARA: There he goes!

HOLROYD (simultaneously): Hi!--Ussza! (He flings the bottle of stout out of the door.)

LAURA (piteously): Shut the door, do.

HOLROYD rises, dusting his trousers knees, and closes the door. LAURA heavily descends and drops in the chair.

CLARA: Here, come an' help us down, Charlie. Look at her; she's going off.

Though LAURA is still purple-red, she sinks back in the chair. HOLROYD goes to the table. CLARA places her hands on his shoulders and jumps lightly down. Then she pushes HOLROYD with her elbow.

Look sharp, get a glass of water.

She unfastens LAURA'S collar and pulls off the paper bonnet. MRS HOLROYD sits up, straightens her clothing, and tries to look cold and contemptuous. HOLROYD brings a cup of water. CLARA sprinkles her friend's face. LAURA sighs and sighs again very deeply, then draws herself up painfully.

CLARA (tenderly): Do you feel any better--shall you have a drink of water?

(LAURA mournfully shakes her head; CLARA turns sharply to HOLROYD.)

She'll 'ave a drop o' something.

HOLROYD goes out. CLARA meanwhile fans her friend with a handkerchief. HOLROYD brings stout. She pours out the stout, smells the glass, smells the bottle--then finally the cork.

Eh, mester, it's all of a work--it's had a foisty cork.

At that instant the stairfoot door opens slowly, revealing the children--the girl peering over the boy's shoulder--both in white nightgowns. Everybody starts. LAURA gives a little cry, presses her hand on her bosom, and sinks back, gasping.

CLARA (appealing and anxious, to MRS HOLROYD): You don't 'appen to 'ave a drop of brandy for her, do you, missis?

MRS HOLROYD rises coldly without replying, and goes to the stairfoot door where the children stand.

MRS HOLROYD (sternly, to the children): Go to bed!

JACK: What's a matter, mother?

MRS HOLROYD: Never you mind, go to bed!

CLARA (appealingly): Be quick, missis.

MRS HOLROYD, glancing round, sees LAURA going purple, and runs past the children upstairs. The boy and girl sit on the lowest stair. Their father goes out of the house, shamefaced. MRS HOLROYD runs downstairs with a little brandy in a large bottle.

CLARA: Thanks, awfully. (To LAURA) Come on, try an' drink a drop, there's a dear.

They administer brandy to LAURA. The children sit watching, open-eyed. The girl stands up to look.

MINNIE (whispering): I believe it's blue bonnet.

JACK (whispering): It isn't--she's in a fit.

MINNIE (whispering): Well, look under th' table--JACK peers under--there's 'er bonnet. (JACK creeps forward.) Come back, our Jack.

JACK (returns with the bonnet): It's all made of paper.

MINNIE: Let's have a look--it's stuck together, not sewed.

She tries it on. HOLROYD enters--he looks at the child.

MRS HOLROYD (sharply, glancing round): Take that off!

MINNIE hurriedly takes the bonnet from her head. Her father snatches it from her and puts it on the fire.

CLARA: There, you're coming round now, love.

MRS HOLROYD turns away. She sees HOLROYD'S eyes on the brandy-bottle, and immediately removes it, corking it up.

MRS HOLROYD (to CLARA): You will not need this any more?

CLARA: No, thanks. I'm very much obliged.

MRS HOLROYD (does not unbend, but speaks coldly to the children):

Come, this is no place for you--come back to bed.

MINNIE: No, mam, I don't want to.

MRS HOLROYD (contralto): Come along!

MINNIE: I'm frightened, mam.

MRS HOLROYD: Frightened, what of?

MINNIE: Oo, there was a row.

MRS HOLROYD (taking MINNIE in her arms): Did they frighten you, my pet? (She kisses her.)

JACK (in a high whisper): Mother, it's pink bonnet and blue bonnet, what was dancing.

MINNIE (whimpering): I don't want to go to bed, mam, I'm frightened.

CLARA (who has pulled off her pink bonnet and revealed a jug-handle coiffure): We're going now, duckie--you're not frightened of us, are you?

MRS HOLROYD takes the girl away before she can answer. JACK lingers behind.

HOLROYD: Now then, get off after your mother.

JACK (taking no notice of his father): I say, what's a dog's-nose?

CLARA ups with her handkerchief and LAURA responds with a faint giggle.

HOLROYD: Go thy ways upstairs.

CLARA: It's only a small whiskey with a spoonful of beer in it, my duck.

JACK: Oh!

CLARA: Come here, my duck, come on.

JACK curious, advances.

CLARA: You'll tell your mother we didn't mean no harm, won't you?

JACK (touching her earrings): What are they made of?

CLARA: They're only earrings. Don't you like them?

JACK: Um! (He stands surveying her curiously. Then he touches a bracelet made of many little mosaic brooches.) This is pretty, isn't it?

CLARA (pleased): Do you like it?

She takes it off. Suddenly MRS HOLROYD is heard calling, 'Jack, Jack!' CLARA starts.

HOLROYD: Now then, get off!

CLARA (as JACK is reluctantly going): Kiss me good night, duckie, an' give this to your sister, shall you?

She hands JACK the mosaic bracelet. He takes it doubtfully. She kisses him. HOLROYD watches in silence.

LAURA (suddenly, pathetically): Aren't you going to give me a kiss, an' all?

JACK yields her his cheek, then goes.

CLARA (to HOLROYD): Aren't they nice children?

HOLROYD: Ay.

CLARA (briskly): Oh, dear, you're very short, all of a sudden. Don't answer if it hurts you.

LAURA: My, isn't he different?

HOLROYD (laughing forcedly): I'm no different.

CLARA: Yes, you are. You shouldn't 'ave brought us if you was going to turn funny over it.

HOLROYD: I'm not funny.

CLARA: No, you're not. (She begins to laugh. LAURA joins in in spite of herself.) You're about as solemn as a roast potato. (She flings up her hands, claps them down on her knees, and sways up and down as she laughs, LAURA joining in, hand on breast.) Are you ready to be mashed? (She goes off again--then suddenly wipes the laughter off her mouth and is solemn.) But look 'ere, this'll never do. Now I'm going to be quiet. (She prims herself.)

HOLROYD: Tha'd 'appen better.

CLARA: Oh, indeed! You think I've got to pull a mug to look decent? You'd have to pull a big un, at that rate.

She bubbles off, uncontrollably--shaking herself in exasperation meanwhile. LAURA joins in. HOLROYD leans over close to her.

HOLROYD: Tha's got plenty o' fizz in thee, seemly.

CLARA (putting her hand on his face and pushing it aside, but leaving her hand over his cheek and mouth like a caress): Don't, you've been drinking. (She begins to laugh.)

HOLROYD: Should we be goin' then?

CLARA: Where do you want to take us?

HOLROYD: Oh--you please yourself o' that! Come on wi' me.

CLARA (sitting up prim): Oh, indeed!

HOLROYD (catching hold of her): Come on, let's be movin'--(he glances apprehensively at the stairs).

CLARA: What's your hurry?

HOLROYD (persuasively): Yi, come on wi' thee.

CLARA: I don't think. (She goes off, uncontrollably.)

HOLROYD (sitting on the table, just above her): What's use o' sittin' 'ere?

CLARA: I'm very comfy: I thank thee.

HOLROYD: Tha'rt a baffling little 'ussy.

CLARA (running her hand along his thigh): Aren't you havin' nothing, my dear? (Offers him her glass.)

HOLROYD (getting down from the table and putting his hand forcibly on her shoulder): No. Come on, let's shift.

CLARA (struggling): Hands off!

She fetches him a sharp slap across the face. MRS HOLROYD is heard coming downstairs. CLARA, released, sits down, smoothing herself. HOLROYD looks evil. He goes out to the door.

CLARA (to MRS HOLROYD, penitently): I don't know what you think of us, I'm sure.

MRS HOLROYD: I think nothing at all.

CLARA (bubbling): So you fix your thoughts elsewhere, do you? (Suddenly changing to seriousness.) No, but I have been awful to-night.

MRS HOLROYD (contralto, emphatic): I don't want to know anything about you. I shall be glad when you'll go.

CLARA: Turning-out time, Laura.

LAURA (turtling): I'm sorry, I'm sure.

CLARA: Never mind. But as true as I'm here, missis, I should never ha' come if I'd thought. But I had a drop--it all started with your husband sayin' he wasn't a married man.

LAURA (laughing and wiping her eyes): I've never knowed her to go off like it--it's after the time she's had.

CLARA: You know, my husband was a brute to me--an' I was in bed three month after he died. He was a brute, he was. This is the first time I've been out; it's a'most the first laugh I've had for a year.

LAURA: It's true, what she says. We thought she'd go out of 'er mind. She never spoke a word for a fortnight.

CLARA: Though he's only been dead for two months, he was a brute to me. I was as nice a young girl as you could wish when I married him and went to the Fleece Inn--I was.

LAURA: Killed hisself drinking. An' she's that excitable, she is. We s'll 'ave an awful time with 'er to-morrow, I know.

MRS HOLROYD (coldly): I don't know why I should hear all this.

CLARA: I know I must 'ave seemed awful. An' them children--aren't they nice little things, Laura?

LAURA: They are that.

HOLROYD (entering from the door): Hanna you about done theer?

CLARA: My word, if this is the way you treat a lady when she comes to see you. (She rises.)

HOLROYD: I'll see you down th' line.

CLARA: You're not coming a stride with us.

LAURA: We've got no hat, neither of us.

CLARA: We've got our own hair on our heads, at any rate. (Drawing herself up suddenly in front of MRS HOLROYD.) An' I've been educated at a boarding school as good as anybody. I can behave myself either in the drawing-room or in the kitchen as is fitting and proper. But if you'd buried a husband like mine, you wouldn't feel you'd much left to be proud of--an' you might go off occasionally.

MRS HOLROYD: I don't want to hear you.

CLARA (bobbing a curtsy): Sorry I spoke.

She goes out stiffly, followed by LAURA.

HOLROYD (going forward): You mun mind th' points down th' line.

CLARA'S VOICE: I thank thee, Charlie--mind thy own points.

He hesitates at the door--returns and sits down. There is silence in the room. HOLROYD sits with his chin in his hand. MRS HOLROYD listens. The footsteps and voices of the two women die out. Then she closes the door. HOLROYD begins to unlace his boots.

HOLROYD (ashamed yet defiant, withal anxious to apologize): Wheer's my slippers?

MRS HOLROYD sits on the sofa with face averted and does not answer.

HOLROYD: Dost hear? (He pulls off his boots, noisily, and begins to hunt under the sofa.) I canna find the things. (No answer.) Humph!--then I'll do be 'out 'em. (He stumps about in his stockinged feet; going into the scullery, he brings out the loaf of bread; he returns into the scullery.) Wheer's th' cheese? (No answer--suddenly)God blast it! (He hobbles into the kitchen.) I've trod on that broken basin, an' cut my foot open. (MRS HOLROYD refuses to take any notice. He sits down and looks at his sole--pulls off his stocking and looks again.) It's lamed me for life. (MRS HOLROYD glances at the wound.)Are 'na ter goin' ter get me öwt for it?

MRS HOLROYD: Psh!

HOLROYD: Oh, a' right then. (He hops to the dresser, opens a drawer, and pulls out a white rag; he is about to tear it.)

MRS HOLROYD (snatching it from him): Don't tear that!

HOLROYD (shouting): Then what the deuce am I to do? (MRS HOLROYD sits stonily.) Oh, a' right then! (He hops back to his chair, sits down, and begins to pull on his stocking.) A' right then--a' right then. (In a fever of rage he begins pulling on his boots.) I'll go where I can find a bit o' rag.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, that's what you want! All you want is an excuse to be off again--"a bit of rag"!

HOLROYD (shouting): An' what man'd want to stop in wi' a woman sittin' as fow as a jackass, an' canna get a word from 'er edgeways.

MRS HOLROYD: Don't expect me to speak to you after to-night's show. How dare you bring them to my house, how dare you?

HOLROYD: They've non hurt your house, have they?

MRS HOLROYD: I wonder you dare to cross the doorstep.

HOLROYD: I s'll do what the deuce I like. They're as good as you are.

MRS HOLROYD (stands speechless, staring at him; then low): Don't you come near me again--

HOLROYD (suddenly shouting, to get his courage up): She's as good as you are, every bit of it.

MRS HOLROYD (blazing): Whatever I was and whatever I may be, don't you ever come near me again.

HOLROYD: What! I'll show thee. What's the hurt to you if a woman comes to the house? They're women as good as yourself, every whit of it.

MRS HOLROYD: Say no more. Go with them then, and don't come back.

HOLROYD: What! Yi, I will go, an' you s'll see. What! You think you're something, since your uncle left you that money, an' Blackymore puttin' you up to it. I can see your little game. I'm not as daft as you imagine. I'm no fool, I tell you.

MRS HOLROYD: No, you're not. You're a drunken beast, that's all you are.

HOLROYD: What, what--I'm what? I'll show you who's gaffer, though. (He threatens her.)

MRS HOLROYD (between her teeth): No, it's not going on. If you won't go, I will.

HOLROYD: Go then, for you've always been too big for your shoes, in my house--

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--I ought never to have looked at you. Only you showed a fair face then.

HOLROYD: What! What! We'll see who's master i' this house. I tell you, I'm goin' to put a stop to it. (He brings his fist down on the table with a bang.) It's going to stop. (He bangs the table again.) I've put up with it long enough. Do you think I'm a dog in the house, an' not a man, do you--

MRS HOLROYD: A dog would be better.

HOLROYD: Oh! Oh! Then we'll see. We'll see who's the dog and who isna. We're goin' to see. (He bangs the table.)

MRS HOLROYD: Stop thumping that table! You've wakened those children once, you and your trollops.

HOLROYD: I shall do what the deuce I like!

MRS HOLROYD: No more, you won't, no more. I've stood this long enough. Now I'm going. As for you--you've got a red face where she slapped you. Now go to her.

HOLROYD: What? What?

MRS HOLROYD: For I'm sick of the sights and sounds of you.

HOLROYD (bitterly): By God, an' I've known it a long time.

MRS HOLROYD: You have, and it's true.

HOLROYD: An' I know who it is th'rt hankerin' after.

MRS HOLROYD: I only want to be rid of you.

HOLROYD: I know it mighty well. But I know him!

MRS HOLROYD sinking down on the sofa, suddenly begins to sob half-hysterically. HOLROYD watches her. As suddenly, she dries her eyes.

MRS HOLROYD: Do you think I care about what you say? (Suddenly.)Oh, I've had enough. I've tried, I've tried for years, for the children's sakes. Now I've had enough of your shame and disgrace.

HOLROYD: Oh, indeed!

MRS HOLROYD (her voice is dull and inflexible): I've had enough. Go out again after those trollops--leave me alone. I've had enough. (HOLROYD stands looking at her.) Go, I mean it, go out again. And if you never come back again, I'm glad. I've had enough. (She keeps her face averted, will not look at him, her attitude expressing thorough weariness.)

HOLROYD: All right then!

He hobbles, in unlaced boots, to the door. Then he turns to look at her. She turns herself still farther away, so that her back is towards him. He goes.

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT II

 

The scene is the same, two hours later. The cottage is in darkness, save for the firelight. On the table is spread a newspaper. A cup and saucer, a plate, a piece of bacon in the frying tin are on the newspaper ready for the miner's breakfast. MRS HOLROYD has gone to bed. There is a noise of heavy stumbling down the three steps outside.

 

BLACKMORE'S VOICE: Steady, now, steady. It's all in darkness. Missis!--Has she gone to bed?

He tries the latch--shakes the door.

HOLROYD'S VOICE (He is drunk.): Her's locked me out. Let me smash that bloody door in. Come out--come out--ussza! (He strikes a heavy blow on the door. There is a scuffle.)

BLACKMORE'S VOICE: Hold on a bit--what're you doing?

HOLROYD'S VOICE: I'm smashing that blasted door in.

MRS HOLROYD (appearing and suddenly drawing the bolts, flinging the door open): What do you think you're doing?

HOLROYD (lurching into the room, snarling): What? What? Tha thought tha'd play thy monkey tricks on me, did ter? (Shouting.) But I'm going to show thee. (He lurches at her threateningly; she recoils.)

BLACKMORE (seizing him by the arm): Here, here--! Come and sit down and be quiet.

HOLROYD (snarling at him): What?--What? An' what's thäigh got ter do wi' it. (Shouting.) What's thäigh got ter do wi' it?

BLACKMORE: Nothing--nothing; but it's getting late, and you want your supper.

HOLROYD (shouting): I want nöwt. I'm allowed nöwt in this 'ouse. (Shouting louder.) 'Er begrudges me ivry morsel I ha'e.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, what a story!

HOLROYD (shouting): It's the truth, an' you know it.

BLACKMORE (conciliatory): You'll rouse the children. You'll rouse the children, at this hour.

HOLROYD (suddenly quiet): Not me--not if I know it. I shan't disturb 'em--bless 'em.

He staggers to his arm-chair and sits heavily.

BLACKMORE: Shall I light the lamp?

MRS HOLROYD: No, don't trouble. Don't stay any longer, there's no need.

BLACKMORE (quietly): I'll just see it's alright.

He proceeds in silence to light the lamp. HOLROYD is seen dropping forward in his chair. He has a cut on his cheek. MRS HOLROYD is in an old-fashioned dressing-gown. BLACKMORE has an overcoat buttoned up to his chin. There is a very large lump of coal on the red fire.

MRS HOLROYD: Don't stay any longer.

BLACKMORE: I'll see it's alright.

MRS HOLROYD: I shall be all right. He'll go to sleep now.

BLACKMORE: But he can't go like that.

MRS HOLROYD: What has he done to his face?

BLACKMORE: He had a row with Jim Goodwin.

MRS HOLROYD: What about?

BLACKMORE: I don't know.

MRS HOLROYD: The beast!

BLACKMORE: By Jove, and isn't he a weight! He's getting fat, must be--

MRS HOLROYD: He's big made--he has a big frame.

BLACKMORE: Whatever he is, it took me all my time to get him home. I thought I'd better keep an eye on him. I knew you'd be worrying. So I sat in the smoke-room and waited for him. Though it's a dirty hole--and dull as hell.

MRS HOLROYD: Why did you bother?

BLACKMORE: Well, I thought you'd be upset about him. I had to drink three whiskies--had to, in all conscience--(smiling).

MRS HOLROYD: I don't want to be the ruin of you.

BLACKMORE (smiling): Don't you? I thought he'd pitch forward on to the lines and crack his skull.

HOLROYD has been sinking farther and farther forward in drunken sleep. He suddenly jerks too far and is awakened. He sits upright, glaring fiercely and dazedly at the two, who instantly cease talking.

HOLROYD (to BLACKMORE): What are thäigh doin' 'ere?

BLACKMORE: Why, I came along with you.

HOLROYD: Thou'rt a liar, I'm only just come in.

MRS HOLROYD (coldly): He is no liar at all. He brought you home because you were too drunk to come yourself.

HOLROYD (starting up): Thou'rt a liar! I niver set eyes on him this night, afore now.

MRS HOLROYD (with a "Pf" of contempt): You don't know what you have done to-night.

HOLROYD (shouting): I s'll not ha'e it, I tell thee.

MRS HOLROYD: Psh!

HOLROYD: I s'll not ha'e it. I s'll ha'e no carryin's on i' my 'ouse--

MRS HOLROYD (shrugging her shoulders): Talk when you've got some sense.

HOLROYD (fiercely): I've as much sense as thäigh. Am I a fool? Canna I see? What's he doin' here then, answer me that. What--?

MRS HOLROYD: Mr Blackmore came to bring you home because you were too drunk to find your own way. And this is the thanks he gets.

HOLROYD (contemptuously): Blackymore, Blackymore. It's him tha cuts thy cloth by, is it?

MRS HOLROYD (hotly): You don't know what you're talking about, so keep your tongue still.

HOLROYD (bitingly): I don't know what I'm talking about--I don't know what I'm talking about--don't I? An' what about him standing there then, if I don't know what I'm talking about?--What?

BLACKMORE: You've been to sleep, Charlie, an' forgotten I came in with you, not long since.

HOLROYD: I'm not daft, I'm not a fool. I've got eyes in my head and sense. You needn't try to get over me. I know what you're up to.

BLACKMORE (flushing): It's a bit off to talk to me like that, Charlie, I must say.

HOLROYD: I'm not good enough for 'er. She wants Mr Blackymore. He's a gentleman, he is. Now we have it all; now we understand.

MRS HOLROYD: I wish you understood enough to keep your tongue still.

HOLROYD: What? What? I'm to keep my tongue still, am I? An' what about Mr Blackymore?

MRS HOLROYD (fiercely): Stop your mouth, you--you vulgar, low-minded brute.

HOLROYD: Am I? Am I? An' what are you? What tricks are you up to, an' all? But that's alright--that's alright. (Shouting.) That's alright, if it's you.

BLACKMORE: I think I'd better go. You seem to enjoy--er--er--calumniating your wife.

HOLROYD (mockingly): Calamniating--calamniating--I'll give you calamniating, you mealy-mouthed jockey: I'll give you calamniating.

BLACKMORE: I think you've said about enough.

HOLROYD: 'Ave I, 'ave I? Yer flimsy jack--'ave I? (In a sudden burst.) But I've not done wi' thee yet?

BLACKMORE (ironically): No, and you haven't.

HOLROYD (shouting--pulling himself up from the arm-chair): I'll show thee--I'll show thee.

BLACKMORE laughs.

HOLROYD: Yes!--yes, my young monkey. It's thäigh, is it?

BLACKMORE: Yes, it's me.

HOLROYD (shouting): An' I'll ma'e thee wish it worn't, I will. What--? What? Tha'd come slivin' round here, would ta? (He lurches forward at BLACKMORE with clenched fist.)

MRS HOLROYD: Drunken, drunken fool--oh, don't.

HOLROYD (turning to her): What?

She puts up her hands before her face. BLACKMORE seizes the upraised arm and swings HOLROYD round.

BLACKMORE (in a towering passion): Mind what tha'rt doing!

HOLROYD (turning fiercely on him--incoherent): Wha'--wha'--!

He aims a heavy blow. BLACKMORE evades it, so that he is struck on the side of the chest. Suddenly he shows his teeth. He raises his fists ready to strike HOLROYD when the latter stands to advantage.

MRS HOLROYD (rushing upon BLACKMORE): No, no! Oh, no!

She flies and opens the door, and goes out. BLACKMORE glances after her, then at HOLROYD, who is preparing, like a bull, for another charge. The young man's face lights up.

HOLROYD: Wha'--wha'--!

As he advances, BLACKMORE quickly retreats out-of-doors. HOLROYD plunges upon him. BLACKMORE slips behind the door-jamb, puts out his foot, and trips HOLROYD with a crash upon the brick yard.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, what has he done to himself?

BLACKMORE (thickly): Tumbled over himself.

HOLROYD is seen struggling to rise, and is heard incoherently cursing.

MRS HOLROYD: Aren't you going to get him up?

BLACKMORE: What for?

MRS HOLROYD: But what shall we do?

BLACKMORE: Let him go to hell.

HOLROYD, who has subsided, begins to snarl and struggle again.

MRS HOLROYD (in terror): He's getting up.

BLACKMORE: Alright, let him.

MRS HOLROYD looks at BLACKMORE, suddenly afraid of him also.

HOLROYD (in a last frenzy): I'll show thee--I'll--

He raises himself up, and is just picking his balance when BLACKMORE, with a sudden light kick, sends him sprawling again. He is seen on the edge of the light to collapse into stupor.

MRS HOLROYD: He'll kill you, he'll kill you!

BLACKMORE laughs short.

MRS HOLROYD: Would you believe it! Oh, isn't it awful! (She begins to weep in a little hysteria; BLACKMORE stands with his back leaning on the doorway, grinning in a strained fashion.) Is he hurt, do you think?

BLACKMORE: I don't know--I should think not.

MRS HOLROYD: I wish he was dead; I do, with all my heart.

BLACKMORE: Do you? (He looks at her quickly; she wavers and shrinks; he begins to smile strainedly as before.) You don't know what you wish, or what you want.

MRS HOLROYD (troubled): Do you think I could get past him to come inside?

BLACKMORE: I should think so.

MRS HOLROYD, silent and troubled, manoeuvres in the doorway, stepping over her husband's feet, which lie on the threshold.

BLACKMORE: Why, you've got no shoes and stockings on!

MRS HOLROYD: No. (She enters the house and stands trembling before the fire.)

BLACKMORE (following her): Are you cold?

MRS HOLROYD: A little--with standing on the yard.

BLACKMORE: What a shame!

She, uncertain of herself, sits down. He drops on one knee, awkwardly, and takes her feet in his hands.

MRS HOLROYD: Don't--no, don't!

BLACKMORE: They are frightfully cold. (He remains, with head sunk, for some moments, then slowly rises.) Damn him!

They look at each other; then, at the same time, turn away.

MRS HOLROYD: We can't leave him lying there.

BLACKMORE: No--no! I'll bring him in.

MRS HOLROYD: But--!

BLACKMORE: He won't wake again. The drink will have got hold of him by now. (He hesitates.) Could you take hold of his feet--he's so heavy.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

They go out and are seen stooping over HOLROYD.

BLACKMORE: Wait, wait, till I've got him--half a minute.

MRS HOLROYD backs in first. They carry HOLROYD in and lay him on the sofa.

MRS HOLROYD: Doesn't he look awful?

BLACKMORE: It's more mark than mar. It isn't much, really.

He is busy taking off HOLROYD'S collar and tie, unfastening the waistcoat, the braces and the waist buttons of the trousers; he then proceeds to unlace the drunken man's boots.

MRS HOLROYD (who has been watching closely): I shall never get him upstairs.

BLACKMORE: He can sleep here, with a rug or something to cover him. You don't want him--upstairs?

MRS HOLROYD: Never again.

BLACKMORE (after a moment or two of silence): He'll be alright down here. Have you got a rug?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

She goes upstairs. BLACKMORE goes into the scullery, returning with a ladling can and towel. He gets hot water from the boiler. Then, kneeling down, he begins to wipe the drunken man's face lightly with the flannel, to remove the blood and dirt.

MRS HOLROYD (returning): What are you doing?

BLACKMORE: Only wiping his face to get the dirt out.

MRS HOLROYD: I wonder if he'd do as much for you.

BLACKMORE: I hope not.

MRS HOLROYD: Isn't he horrible, horrible--

BLACKMORE (looks up at her): Don't look at him then.

MRS HOLROYD: I can't take it in, it's too much.

BLACKMORE: He won't wake. I will stay with you.

MRS HOLROYD (earnestly): No--oh, no.

BLACKMORE: There will be the drawn sword between us. (He indicates the figure of HOLROYD, which lies, in effect, as a barrier between them.)

MRS HOLROYD (blushing): Don't!

BLACKMORE: I'm sorry.

MRS HOLROYD (after watching him for a few moments lightly wiping the sleeping man's face with a towel): I wonder you can be so careful over him.

BLACKMORE (quietly): It's only because he's helpless.

MRS HOLROYD: But why should you love him ever so little?

BLACKMORE: I don't--only he's helpless. Five minutes since I could have killed him.

MRS HOLROYD: Well, I don't understand you men.

BLACKMORE: Why?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know.

BLACKMORE: I thought as I stood in that doorway, and he was trying to get up--I wished as hard as I've ever wished anything in my life--

MRS HOLROYD: What?

BLACKMORE: That I'd killed him. I've never wished anything so much in my life--if wishes were anything.

MRS HOLROYD: Don't, it does sound awful.

BLACKMORE: I could have done it, too. He ought to be dead.

MRS HOLROYD (pleading): No, don't! You know you don't mean it, and you make me feel so awful.

BLACKMORE: I do mean it. It is simply true, what I say.

MRS HOLROYD: But don't say it.

BLACKMORE: No?

MRS HOLROYD: No, we've had enough.

BLACKMORE: Give me the rug.

She hands it him, and he tucks HOLROYD up.

MRS HOLROYD: You only do it to play on my feelings.

BLACKMORE (laughing shortly): And now give me a pillow--thanks.

There is a pause--both look at the sleeping man.

BLACKMORE: I suppose you're fond of him, really.

MRS HOLROYD: No more.

BLACKMORE: You were fond of him?

MRS HOLROYD: I was--yes.

BLACKMORE: What did you like in him?

MRS HOLROYD (uneasily): I don't know.

BLACKMORE: I suppose you really care about him, even now?

MRS HOLROYD: Why are you so sure of it?

BLACKMORE: Because I think it is so.

MRS HOLROYD: I did care for him--now he has destroyed it--

BLACKMORE: I don't believe he can destroy it.

MRS HOLROYD (with a short laugh): Don't you? When you are married you try. You'll find it isn't so hard.

BLACKMORE: But what did you like in him--because he was good-looking, and strong, and that?

MRS HOLROYD: I liked that as well. But if a man makes a nuisance of himself, his good looks are ugly to you, and his strength loathsome. Do you think I care about a man because he's got big fists, when he is a coward in his real self?

BLACKMORE: Is he a coward?

MRS HOLROYD: He is--a pettifogging, paltry one.

BLACKMORE: And so you've really done with him?

MRS HOLROYD: I have.

BLACKMORE: And what are you going to do?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know.

BLACKMORE: I suppose nothing. You'll just go on--even if you've done with him--you'll go on with him.

There is a long pause.

BLACKMORE: But was there nothing else in him but his muscles and his good looks to attract you to him?

MRS HOLROYD: Why? What does it matter?

BLACKMORE: What did you think he was?

MRS HOLROYD: Why must we talk about him?

BLACKMORE: Because I can never quite believe you.

MRS HOLROYD: I can't help whether you believe it or not.

BLACKMORE: Are you just in a rage with him, because of to-night?

MRS HOLROYD: I know, to-night finished it. But it was never right between us.

BLACKMORE: Never?

MRS HOLROYD: Not once. And then to-night--no, it's too much; I can't stand any more of it.

BLACKMORE: I suppose he got tipsy. Then he said he wasn't a married man--vowed he wasn't, to those paper bonnets. They found out he was, and said he was frightened of his wife getting to know. Then he said they should all go to supper at his house--I suppose they came out of mischief.

MRS HOLROYD: He did it to insult me.

BLACKMORE: Oh, he was a bit tight--you can't say it was deliberate.

MRS HOLROYD: No, but it shows how he feels toward me. The feeling comes out in drink.

BLACKMORE: How does he feel toward you?

MRS HOLROYD: He wants to insult me, and humiliate me, in every moment of his life. Now I simply despise him.

BLACKMORE: You really don't care any more about him?

MRS HOLROYD: No.

BLACKMORE (hesitates): And you would leave him?

MRS HOLROYD: I would leave him, and not care that about him any more. (She snaps her fingers.)

BLACKMORE: Will you come with me?

MRS HOLROYD (after a reluctant pause): Where?

BLACKMORE: To Spain: I can any time have a job there, in a decent part. You could take the children.

The figure of the sleeper stirs uneasily--they watch him.

BLACKMORE: Will you?

MRS HOLROYD: When would you go?

BLACKMORE: To-morrow, if you like.

MRS HOLROYD: But why do you want to saddle yourself with me and the children?

BLACKMORE: Because I want to.

MRS HOLROYD: But you don't love me?

BLACKMORE: Why don't I?

MRS HOLROYD: You don't.

BLACKMORE: I don't know about that. I don't know anything about love. Only I've gone on for a year, now, and it's got stronger and stronger--

MRS HOLROYD: What has?

BLACKMORE: This--this wanting you, to live with me. I took no notice of it for a long time. Now I can't get away from it, at no hour and nohow. (He still avoids direct contact with her.)

MRS HOLROYD: But you'd like to get away from it.

BLACKMORE: I hate a mess of any sort. But if you'll come away with me--you and the children--

MRS HOLROYD: But I couldn't--you don't love me--

BLACKMORE: I don't know what you mean by I don't love you.

MRS HOLROYD: I can feel it.

BLACKMORE: And do you love me? (A pause.)

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know. Everything is so--so--

There is a long pause.

BLACKMORE: How old are you?

MRS HOLROYD: Thirty-two.

BLACKMORE: I'm twenty-seven.

MRS HOLROYD: And have you never been in love?

BLACKMORE: I don't think so. I don't know.

MRS HOLROYD: But you must know. I must go and shut that door that keeps clicking.

She rises to go upstairs, making a clatter at the stairfoot door. The noise rouses her husband. As she goes upstairs, he moves, makes coughing sounds, turns over, and then suddenly sits upright, gazing at BLACKMORE. The latter sits perfectly still on the sofa, his head dropped, hiding his face. His hands are clasped. They remain thus for a minute.

HOLROYD: Hello! (He stares fixedly.) Hello! (His tone is undecided, as if he mistrusts himself.) What are--who are ter? (BLACKMORE does not move; HOLROYD stares blankly; he then turns and looks at the room.) Well, I dunna know.

He staggers to his feet, clinging to the table, and goes groping to the stairs. They creak loudly under his weight. A door-latch is heard to click. In a moment MRS HOLROYD comes quickly downstairs.

BLACKMORE: Has he gone to bed?

MRS HOLROYD (nodding): Lying on the bed.

BLACKMORE: Will he settle now?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know. He is like that sometimes. He will have delirium tremens if he goes on.

BLACKMORE (softly): You can't stay with him, you know.

MRS HOLROYD: And the children?

BLACKMORE: We'll take them.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh!

Her face puckers to cry. Suddenly he starts up and puts his arms round her, holding her protectively and gently, very caressingly. She clings to him. They are silent for some moments.

BLACKMORE (struggling, in an altered voice): Look at me and kiss me.

Her sobs are heard distinctly. BLACKMORE lays his hand on her cheek, caressing her always with his hand.

BLACKMORE: My God, but I hate him! I wish either he was dead or me. (MRS HOLROYD hides against him; her sobs cease; after a while he continues in the same murmuring fashion.) It can't go on like it any more. I feel as if I should come in two. I can't keep away from you. I simply can't. Come with me. Come with me and leave him. If you knew what a hell it is for me to have you here--and to see him. I can't go without you, I can't. It's been hell every moment for six months now. You say I don't love you. Perhaps I don't, for all I know about it. But oh, my God, don't keep me like it any longer. Why should he have you--and I've never had anything.

MRS HOLROYD: Have you never loved anybody?

BLACKMORE: No--I've tried. Kiss me of your own wish--will you?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know.

BLACKMORE (after a pause): Let's break clear. Let's go right away. Do you care for me?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know. (She loosens herself, rises dumbly.)

BLACKMORE: When do you think you will know?

She sits down helplessly.

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know.

BLACKMORE: Yes, you do know, really. If he was dead, should you marry me?

MRS HOLROYD: Don't say it--

BLACKMORE: Why not? If wishing of mine would kill him, he'd soon be out of the way.

MRS HOLROYD: But the children!

BLACKMORE: I'm fond of them. I shall have good money.

MRS HOLROYD: But he's their father.

BLACKMORE: What does that mean--?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, I know--(a pause) but--

BLACKMORE: Is it him that keeps you?

MRS HOLROYD: No.

BLACKMORE: Then come with me. Will you? (He stands waiting for her; then he turns and takes his overcoat; pulls it on, leaving the collar turned up, ceasing to twist his cap.) Well--will you tell me to-morrow?

She goes forward and flings her arms round his neck. He suddenly kisses her passionately.

MRS HOLROYD: But I ought not. (She draws away a little; he will not let her go.)

BLACKMORE: Yes, it's alright. (He holds her close.)

MRS HOLROYD: Is it?

BLACKMORE: Yes, it is. It's alright.

He kisses her again. She releases herself but holds his hand. They keep listening.

MRS HOLROYD: Do you love me?

BLACKMORE: What do you ask for?

MRS HOLROYD: Have I hurt you these months?

BLACKMORE: You haven't. And I don't care what it's been if you'll come with me. (There is a noise upstairs and they wait.) You will soon, won't you?

She kisses him.

MRS HOLROYD: He's not safe. (She disengages herself and sits on the sofa.)

BLACKMORE (takes a place beside her, holding her hand in both his): You should have waited for me.

MRS HOLROYD: How wait?

BLACKMORE: And not have married him.

MRS HOLROYD: I might never have known you--I married him to get out of my place.

BLACKMORE: Why?

MRS HOLROYD: I was left an orphan when I was six. My Uncle John brought me up, in the Coach and Horses at Rainsworth. He'd got no children. He was good to me, but he drank. I went to Mansfield Grammar School. Then he fell out with me because I wouldn't wait in the bar, and I went as nursery governess to Berryman's. And I felt I'd nowhere to go, I belonged to nowhere, and nobody cared about me, and men came after me, and I hated it. So to get out of it, I married the first man that turned up.

BLACKMORE: And you never cared about him?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, I did. I did care about him. I wanted to be a wife to him. But there's nothing at the bottom of him, if you know what I mean. You can't get anywhere with him. There's just his body and nothing else. Nothing that keeps him, no anchor, no roots, nothing satisfying. It's a horrible feeling there is about him, that nothing is safe or permanent--nothing is anything--

BLACKMORE: And do you think you can trust me?

MRS HOLROYD: I think you're different from him.

BLACKMORE: Perhaps I'm not.

MRS HOLROYD (warmly): You are.

BLACKMORE: At any rate, we'll see. You'll come on Saturday to London?

MRS HOLROYD: Well, you see, there's my money. I haven't got it yet. My uncle has left me about a hundred and twenty pounds.

BLACKMORE: Well, see the lawyer about it as soon as you can. I can let you have some money if you want any. But don't let us wait after Saturday.

MRS HOLROYD: But isn't it wrong?

BLACKMORE: Why, if you don't care for him, and the children are miserable between the two of you--which they are--

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

BLACKMORE: Well, then I see no wrong. As for him--he would go one way, and only one way, whatever you do. Damn him, he doesn't matter.

MRS HOLROYD: No.

BLACKMORE: Well, then--have done with it. Can't you cut clean of him? Can't you now?

MRS HOLROYD: And then--the children--

BLACKMORE: They'll be alright with me and you--won't they?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--

BLACKMORE: Well, then. Now, come and have done with it. We can't keep on being ripped in two like this. We need never hear of him any more.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--I love you. I do love you--

BLACKMORE: Oh, my God! (He speaks with difficulty--embracing her.)

MRS HOLROYD: When I look at him, and then at you--ha--(She gives a short laugh.)

BLACKMORE: He's had all the chance--it's only fair--Lizzie--

MRS HOLROYD: My love.

There is silence. He keeps his arm round her. After hesitating, he picks up his cap.

BLACKMORE: I'll go then--at any rate. Shall you come with me?

She follows him to the door.

MRS HOLROYD: I'll come on Saturday.

BLACKMORE: Not now?

 

CURTAIN

 

 

ACT III

 

Scene, the same. Time, the following evening, about seven o'clock. The table is half-laid, with a large cup and saucer, plate, etc., ready for HOLROYD'S dinner, which, like all miners, he has when he comes home between four and five o'clock. On the other half of the table MRS HOLROYD is ironing. On the hearth stand newly baked loaves of bread. The irons hang at the fire. JACK, with a bowler hat hanging at the back of his head, parades up to the sofa, on which stands MINNIE engaged in dusting a picture. She has a soiled white apron tied behind her, to make a long skirt.

 

JACK: Good mornin', missis. Any scissors or knives to grind?

MINNIE (peering down from the sofa): Oh, I can't be bothered to come downstairs. Call another day.

JACK: I shan't.

MINNIE (keeping up her part): Well, I can't come down now. (JACK stands irresolute.) Go on, you have to go and steal the baby.

JACK: I'm not.

MINNIE: Well, you can steal the eggs out of the fowl-house.

JACK: I'm not.

MINNIE: Then I shan't play with you.

JACK takes off his bowler hat and flings it on the sofa; tears come in MINNIE'S eyes.

Now I'm not friends. (She surveys him ruefully; after a few moments of silence she clambers down and goes to her mother.) Mam, he won't play with me.

MRS HOLROYD (crossly): Why don't you play with her? If you begin bothering, you must go to bed.

JACK: Well, I don't want to play.

MRS HOLROYD: Then you must go to bed.

JACK: I don't want to.

MRS HOLROYD: Then what do you want, I should like to know?

MINNIE: I wish my father'd come.

JACK: I do.

MRS HOLROYD: I suppose he thinks he's paying me out. This is the third time this week he's slunk past the door and gone down to Old Brinsley instead of coming in to his dinner. He'll be as drunk as a lord when he does come.

The children look at her plaintively.

MINNIE: Isn't he a nuisance?

JACK: I hate him. I wish he'd drop down th' pit-shaft.

MRS HOLROYD: Jack!--I never heard such a thing in my life! You mustn't say such things--it's wicked.

JACK: Well, I do.

MRS HOLROYD (loudly): I won't have it. He's your father, remember.

JACK (in a high voice): Well, he's always comin' home an' shoutin' an' bangin' on the table. (He is getting tearful and defiant.)

MRS HOLROYD: Well, you mustn't take any notice of him.

MINNIE (wistfully): 'Appen if you said something nice to him, mother, he'd happen go to bed, and not shout.

JACK: I'd hit him in the mouth.

MRS HOLROYD: Perhaps we'll go to another country, away from him--should we?

JACK: In a ship, mother?

MINNIE: In a ship, mam?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, in a big ship, where it's blue sky, and water and palm-trees, and--

MINNIE: An' dates--?

JACK: When should we go?

MRS HOLROYD: Some day.

MINNIE: But who'd work for us? Who should we have for father?

JACK: You don't want a father. I can go to work for us.

MRS HOLROYD: I've got a lot of money now, that your uncle left me.

MINNIE (after a general thoughtful silence): An' would my father stop here?

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, he'd be alright.

MINNIE: But who would he live with?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know--one of his paper bonnets, if he likes.

MINNIE: Then she could have her old bracelet back, couldn't she?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--there it is on the candlestick, waiting for her.

There is a sound of footsteps--then a knock at the door. The children start.

MINNIE (in relief): Here he is.

MRS HOLROYD goes to the door. BLACKMORE enters.

BLACKMORE: It is foggy to-night--Hello, aren't you youngsters gone to bed?

MINNIE: No, my father's not come home yet.

BLACKMORE (turning to MRS HOLROYD): Did he go to work then, after last night?

MRS HOLROYD: I suppose so. His pit things were gone when I got up. I never thought he'd go.

BLACKMORE: And he took his snap as usual?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, just as usual. I suppose he's gone to the New Inn. He'd say to himself he'd pay me out. That's what he always does say, "I'll pay thee out for that bit--I'll ma'e thee regret it."

JACK: We're going to leave him.

BLACKMORE: So you think he's at the New Inn?

MRS HOLROYD: I'm sure he is--and he'll come when he's full. He'll have a bout now, you'll see.

MINNIE: Go and fetch him, Mr Blackmore.

JACK: My mother says we shall go in a ship and leave him.

BLACKMORE (after looking keenly at JACK: to MRS HOLROYD): Shall I go and see if he's at the New Inn?

MRS HOLROYD: No--perhaps you'd better not--

BLACKMORE: Oh, he shan't see me. I can easily manage that.

JACK: Fetch him, Mr Blackmore.

BLACKMORE: Alright, Jack. (To MRS HOLROYD.) Shall I?

MRS HOLROYD: We're always pulling on you--But yes, do!

BLACKMORE goes out.

JACK: I wonder how long he'll be.

MRS HOLROYD: You come and go to bed now: you'd better be out of the way when he comes in.

MINNIE: And you won't say anything to him, mother, will you?

MRS HOLROYD: What do you mean?

MINNIE: You won't begin of him--row him.

MRS HOLROYD: Is he to have all his own way? What would he be like, if I didn't row him?

JACK: But it doesn't matter, mother, if we're going to leave him--

MINNIE: But Mr Blackmore'll come back, won't he, mam, and dad won't shout before him?

MRS HOLROYD (beginning to undress the children): Yes, he'll come back.

MINNIE: Mam--could I have that bracelet to go to bed with?

MRS HOLROYD: Come and say your prayers.

They kneel, muttering in their mother's apron.

MINNIE (suddenly lifting her head): Can I, mam?

MRS HOLROYD (trying to be stern): Have you finished your prayers?

MINNIE: Yes.

MRS HOLROYD: If you want it--beastly thing! (She reaches the bracelet down from the mantelpiece.) Your father must have put it up there--I don't know where I left it. I suppose he'd think I was proud of it and wanted it for an ornament.

MINNIE gloats over it. MRS HOLROYD lights a candle and they go upstairs. After a few moments the outer door opens, and there enters an old woman. She is of middling stature and wears a large grey shawl over her head. After glancing sharply round the room, she advances to the fire, warms herself, then, taking off her shawl, sits in the rocking-chair. As she hears MRS HOLROYD'S footsteps, she folds her hands and puts on a lachrymose expression, turning down the corners of her mouth and arching her eyebrows.

MRS HOLROYD: Hello, mother, is it you?

GRANDMOTHER: Yes, it's me. Haven't you finished ironing?

MRS HOLROYD: Not yet.

GRANDMOTHER: You'll have your irons red-hot.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, I s'll have to stand them to cool. (She does so, and moves about at her ironing.)

GRANDMOTHER: And you don't know what's become of Charles?

MRS HOLROYD: Well, he's not come home from work yet. I supposed he was at the New Inn--Why?

GRANDMOTHER: That young electrician come knocking asking if I knew where he was. "Eh," I said, "I've not set eyes on him for over a week--nor his wife neither, though they pass th' garden gate every time they go out. I know nowt on 'im." I axed him what was the matter, so he said Mrs Holroyd was anxious because he'd not come home, so I thought I'd better come and see. Is there anything up?

MRS HOLROYD: No more than I've told you.

GRANDMOTHER: It's a rum 'un, if he's neither in the New Inn nor the Prince o' Wales. I suppose something you've done's set him off.

MRS HOLROYD: It's nothing I've done.

GRANDMOTHER: Eh, if he's gone off and left you, whativer shall we do! Whativer 'ave you been doing?

MRS HOLROYD: He brought a couple of bright daisies here last night--two of those trollops from Nottingham--and I said I'd not have it.

GRANDMOTHER (sighing deeply): Ay, you've never been able to agree.

MRS HOLROYD: We agreed well enough except when he drank like a fish and came home rolling.

GRANDMOTHER (whining): Well, what can you expect of a man as 'as been shut up i' th' pit all day? He must have a bit of relaxation.

MRS HOLROYD: He can have it different from that, then. At any rate, I'm sick of it.

GRANDMOTHER: Ay, you've a stiff neck, but it'll be bowed by you're my age.

MRS HOLROYD: Will it? I'd rather it were broke.

GRANDMOTHER: Well--there's no telling what a jealous man will do. (She shakes her head.)

MRS HOLROYD: Nay, I think it's my place to be jealous, when he brings a brazen hussy here and sits carryin' on with her.

GRANDMOTHER: He'd no business to do that. But you know, Lizzie, he's got something on his side.

MRS HOLROYD: What, pray?

GRANDMOTHER: Well, I don't want to make any mischief, but you're my son's wife, an' it's nothing but my duty to tell you. They've been saying a long time now as that young electrician is here a bit too often.

MRS HOLROYD: He doesn't come for my asking.

GRANDMOTHER: No, I don't suppose he wants for asking. But Charlie's not the man to put up with that sort o' work.

MRS HOLROYD: Charlie put up with it! If he's anything to say, why doesn't he say it, without going to other folks . . . ?

GRANDMOTHER: Charlie's never been near me with a word--nor 'as he said a word elsewhere to my knowledge. For all that, this is going to end with trouble.

MRS HOLROYD: In this hole, every gossiping creature thinks she's got the right to cackle about you--sickening! And a parcel of lies.

GRANDMOTHER: Well, Lizzie, I've never said anything against you. Charlie's been a handful of trouble. He made my heart ache once or twice afore you had him, and he's made it ache many, many's the time since. But it's not all on his side, you know.

MRS HOLROYD (hotly): No, I don't know.

GRANDMOTHER: You thought yourself above him, Lizzie, an' you know he's not the man to stand it.

MRS HOLROYD: No, he's run away from it.

GRANDMOTHER (venomously): And what man wouldn't leave a woman that allowed him to live on sufferance in the house with her, when he was bringing the money home?

MRS HOLROYD: "Sufferance!"--Yes, there's been a lot of letting him live on "sufferance" in the house with me. It is I who have lived on sufferance, for his service and pleasure. No, what he wanted was the drink and the public house company, and because he couldn't get them here, he went out for them. That's all.

GRANDMOTHER: You have always been very clever at hitting things off, Lizzie. I was always sorry my youngest son married a clever woman. He only wanted a bit of coaxing and managing, and you clever women won't do it.

MRS HOLROYD: He wanted a slave, not a wife.

GRANDMOTHER: It's a pity your stomach wasn't too high for him, before you had him. But no, you could have eaten him ravishing at one time.

MRS HOLROYD: It's a pity you didn't tell me what he was before I had him. But no, he was all angel. You left me to find out what he really was.

GRANDMOTHER: Some women could have lived with him happy enough. An' a fat lot you'd have thanked me for my telling.

There is a knock at the door. MRS HOLROYD opens.

RIGLEY: They tell me, missus, as your mester's not hoom yet.

MRS HOLROYD: No--who is it?

GRANDMOTHER: Ask him to step inside. Don't stan' there lettin' the fog in.

RIGLEY steps in. He is a tall, bony, very roughly hewn collier.

RIGLEY: Good evenin'.

GRANDMOTHER: Oh, is it you, Mr Rigley? (In a querulous, spiteful tone to MRS HOLROYD.) He butties along with Charlie.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh!

RIGLEY: Au' han yer seen nowt on 'im?

MRS HOLROYD: No--was he all right at work?

RIGLEY: Well, e' wor nowt to mention. A bit short, like: 'adna much to say. I canna ma'e out what 'e's done wi' 'issen. (He is manifestly uneasy, does not look at the two women.)

GRANDMOTHER: An' did 'e come up i' th' same bantle wi' you?

RIGLEY: No--'e didna. As Ah was comin' out o' th' stall, Ah shouted, "Art comin', Charlie? We're a' off." An' 'e said, "Ah'm comin' in a minute." 'E wor just finishin' a stint, like, an' 'e wanted ter get it set. An' 'e 'd been a bit roughish in 'is temper, like, so I thöwt 'e didna want ter walk to th' bottom wi' us. . . .

GRANDMOTHER (wailing): An' what's 'e gone an' done to himself?

RIGLEY: Nay, missis, yo munna ax me that. 'E's non done owt as Ah know on. On'y I wor thinkin', 'appen summat 'ad 'appened to 'im, like, seein' as nob'dy had any knowings of 'im comin' up.

MRS HOLROYD: What is the matter, Mr Rigley? Tell us it out.

RIGLEY: I canna do that, missis. It seems as if 'e niver come up th' pit--as far as we can make out. 'Appen a bit o' stuff's fell an' pinned 'im.

GRANDMOTHER (wailing): An' 'ave you left 'im lying down there in the pit, poor thing?

RIGLEY (uneasily): I couldna say for certain where 'e is.

MRS HOLROYD (agitated): Oh, it's very likely not very bad, mother! Don't let us run to meet trouble.

RIGLEY: We 'ave to 'ope for th' best, missis, all on us.

GRANDMOTHER (wailing): Eh, they'll bring 'im 'ome, I know they will, smashed up an' broke! An' one of my sons they've burned down pit till the flesh dropped off 'im, an' one was shot till 'is shoulder was all of a mosh, an' they brought 'em 'ome to me. An' now there's this. . . .

MRS HOLROYD (shuddering): Oh, don't, mother. (Appealing to RIGLEY.) You don't know that he's hurt?

RIGLEY (shaking his head): I canna tell you.

MRS HOLROYD (in a high hysterical voice): Then what is it?

RIGLEY (very uneasy): I canna tell you. But yon young electrician--Mr Blackmore--'e rung down to the night deputy, an' it seems as though there's been a fall or summat. . . .

GRANDMOTHER: Eh, Lizzie, you parted from him in anger. You little knowed how you'd meet him again.

RIGLEY (making an effort): Well, I'd 'appen best be goin' to see what's betide.

He goes out.

GRANDMOTHER: I'm sure I've had my share of bad luck, I have. I'm sure I've brought up five lads in the pit, through accidents and troubles, and now there's this. The Lord has treated me very hard, very hard. It's a blessing, Lizzie, as you've got a bit of money, else what would 'ave become of the children?

MRS HOLROYD: Well, if he's badly hurt, there'll be the Union-pay, and sick-pay--we shall manage. And perhaps it's not very much.

GRANDMOTHER: There's no knowin' but what they'll be carryin' him to die 'i th' hospital.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, don't say so, mother--it won't be so bad, you'll see.

GRANDMOTHER: How much money have you, Lizzie, comin'?

MRS HOLROYD: I don't know--not much over a hundred pounds.

GRANDMOTHER (shaking her head): An' what's that, what's that?

MRS HOLROYD (sharply): Hush!

GRANDMOTHER (crying): Why, what?

MRS HOLROYD opens the door. In the silence can be heard the pulsing of the fan engine, then the driving engine chuffs rapidly: there is a skirr of brakes on the rope as it descends.

MRS HOLROYD: That's twice they've sent the chair down--I wish we could see. . . . Hark!

GRANDMOTHER: What is it?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--it's stopped at the gate. It's the doctor's.

GRANDMOTHER (coming to the door): What, Lizzie?

MRS HOLROYD: The doctor's motor. (She listens acutely.) Dare you stop here, mother, while I run up to the top an' see?

GRANDMOTHER: You'd better not go, Lizzie, you'd better not. A woman's best away.

MRS HOLROYD: It is unbearable to wait.

GRANDMOTHER: Come in an' shut the door--it's a cold that gets in your bones.

MRS HOLROYD goes in.

MRS HOLROYD: Perhaps while he's in bed we shall have time to change him. It's an ill wind brings no good. He'll happen be a better man.

GRANDMOTHER: Well, you can but try. Many a woman's thought the same.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, dear, I wish somebody would come. He's never been hurt since we were married.

GRANDMOTHER: No, he's never had a bad accident, all the years he's been in the pit. He's been luckier than most. But everybody has it, sooner or later.

MRS HOLROYD (shivering): It is a horrid night.

GRANDMOTHER (querulous): Yes, come your ways in.

MRS HOLROYD: Hark!

There is a quick sound of footsteps. BLACKMORE comes into the light of the doorway.

BLACKMORE: They're bringing him.

MRS HOLROYD (quickly putting her hand over her breast): What is it?

BLACKMORE: You can't tell anything's the matter with him--it's not marked him at all.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, what a blessing! And is it much?

BLACKMORE: Well--

MRS HOLROYD: What is it?

BLACKMORE: It's the worst.

GRANDMOTHER: Who is it?--What does he say?

MRS HOLROYD sinks on the nearest chair with a horrified expression. BLACKMORE pulls himself together and enters the room. He is very pale.

BLACKMORE: I came to tell you they're bringing him home.

GRANDMOTHER: And you said it wasn't very bad, did you?

BLACKMORE: No--I said it was--as bad as it could be.

MRS HOLROYD (rising and crossing to her MOTHER-IN-LAW, flings her arms round her; in a high voice): Oh, mother, what shall we do? What shall we do?

GRANDMOTHER: You don't mean to say he's dead?

BLACKMORE: Yes.

GRANDMOTHER (staring): God help us, and how was it?

BLACKMORE: Some stuff fell.

GRANDMOTHER (rocking herself and her daughter-in-law--both weeping): Oh, God have mercy on us! Oh, God have mercy on us! Some stuff fell on him. An' he'd not even time to cry for mercy; oh, God spare him! Oh, what shall we do for comfort? To be taken straight out of his sins. Oh, Lizzie, to think he should be cut off in his wickedness! He's been a bad lad of late, he has, poor lamb. He's gone very wrong of late years, poor dear lamb, very wrong. Oh, Lizzie, think what's to become of him now! If only you'd have tried to be different with him.

MRS HOLROYD (moaning): Don't, mother, don't. I can't bear it.

BLACKMORE (cold and clear): Where will you have him laid? The men will be here in a moment.

MRS HOLROYD (starting up): They can carry him up to bed--

BLACKMORE: It's no good taking him upstairs. You'll have to wash him and lay him out.

MRS HOLROYD (startled): Well--

BLACKMORE: He's in his pit-dirt.

GRANDMOTHER: He is, bless him. We'd better have him down here, Lizzie, where we can handle him.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

She begins to put the tea things away, but drops the sugar out of the basin and the lumps fly broadcast.

BLACKMORE: Never mind, I'll pick those up. You put the children's clothes away.

MRS HOLROYD stares witless around. The GRANDMOTHER sits rocking herself and weeping. BLACKMORE clears the table, putting the pots in the scullery. He folds the white tablecloth and pulls back the table. The door opens. MRS HOLROYD utters a cry. RIGLEY enters.

RIGLEY: They're bringing him now, missis.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh!

RIGLEY (simply): There must ha' been a fall directly after we left him.

MRS HOLROYD (frowning, horrified): No--no!

RIGLEY (to BLACKMORE): It fell a' back of him, an' shut 'im in as you might shut a loaf 'i th' oven. It never touched him.

MRS HOLROYD (staring distractedly): Well, then--

RIGLEY: You see, it come on 'im as close as a trap on a mouse, an' gen him no air, an' what wi' th' gas, it smothered him. An' it wouldna be so very long about it neither.

MRS HOLROYD (quiet with horror): Oh!

GRANDMOTHER: Eh, dear--dear. Eh, dear--dear.

RIGLEY (looking hard at her): I wasna to know what 'ud happen.

GRANDMOTHER (not heeding him, but weeping all the time): But the Lord gave him time to repent. He'd have a few minutes to repent. Ay, I hope he did, I hope he did, else what was to become of him. The Lord cut him off in his sins, but He gave him time to repent.

RIGLEY looks away at the wall. BLACKMORE has made a space in the middle of the floor.

BLACKMORE: If you'll take the rocking-chair off the end of the rug, Mrs Holroyd, I can pull it back a bit from the fire, and we can lay him on that.

GRANDMOTHER (petulantly): What's the good of messing about--(She moves.)

MRS HOLROYD: It suffocated him?

RIGLEY (shaking his head, briefly): Yes. 'Appened th' afterdamp--

BLACKMORE: He'd be dead in a few minutes.

MRS HOLROYD: No--oh, think!

BLACKMORE: You mustn't think.

RIGLEY (suddenly): They commin'!

MRS HOLROYD stands at bay. The GRANDMOTHER half rises. RIGLEY and BLACKMORE efface themselves as much as possible. A man backs into the room, bearing the feet of the dead man, which are shod in great pit boots. As the head bearer comes awkwardly past the table, the coat with which the body is covered slips off, revealing HOLROYD in his pit-dirt, naked to the waist.

MANAGER (a little stout, white-bearded man): Mind now, mind. Ay, missis, what a job, indeed, it is! (Sharply.) Where mun they put him?

MRS HOLROYD (turning her face aside from the corpse): Lay him on the rug.

MANAGER: Steady now, do it steady.

SECOND BEARER (rising and pressing back his shoulders): By Guy, but 'e 'ings heavy.

MANAGER: Yi, Joe, I'll back my life o' that.

GRANDMOTHER: Eh, Mr Chambers, what's this affliction on my old age. You kept your sons out o' the pit, but all mine's in. And to think of the trouble I've had--to think o' the trouble that's come out of Brinsley pit to me.

MANAGER: It has that, it 'as that, missis. You seem to have had more'n your share; I'll admit it, you have.

MRS HOLROYD (who has been staring at the men): It is too much!

BLACKMORE frowns; RIGLEY glowers at her.

MANAGER: You never knowed such a thing in your life. Here's a man, holin' a stint, just finishin', (He puts himself as if in the holer's position, gesticulating freely.) an' a lot o' stuff falls behind him, clean as a whistle, shuts him up safe as a worm in a nut and niver touches him--niver knowed such a thing in your life.

MRS HOLROYD: Ugh!

MANAGER: It niver hurt him--niver touched him.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, but--but how long would he be (She makes a sweeping gesture; the MANAGER looks at her and will not help her out.)--how long would it take--ah--to--to kill him?

MANAGER: Nay, I canna tell ye. 'E didna seem to ha' strived much to get out--did he, Joe?

SECOND BEARER: No, not as far as Ah'n seen.

FIRST BEARER: You look at 'is 'ands, you'll see then. 'E'd non ha'e room to swing the pick.

The MANAGER goes on his knees.

MRS HOLROYD (shuddering): Oh, don't!

MANAGER: Ay, th' nails is broken a bit--

MRS HOLROYD (clenching her fists): Don't!

MANAGER: 'E'd be sure ter ma'e a bit of a fight. But th' gas 'ud soon get hold on 'im. Ay, it's an awful thing to think of, it is indeed.

MRS HOLROYD (her voice breaking): I can't bear it!

MANAGER: Eh, dear, we none on us know what's comin' next.

MRS HOLROYD (getting hysterical): Oh, it's too awful, it's too awful!

BLACKMORE: You'll disturb the children.

GRANDMOTHER: And you don't want them down here.

MANAGER: 'E'd no business to ha' been left, you know.

RIGLEY: An' what man, dost think, wor goin' to sit him down on his hams an' wait for a chap as wouldna say "thank yer" for his cump'ny? 'E'd bin ready to fall out wi' a flicker o' the candle, so who dost think wor goin' ter stop when we knowed 'e on'y kep on so's to get shut on us.

MANAGER: Tha'rt quite right, Bill, quite right. But theer you are.

RIGLEY: Ah' if we'd stopped, what good would it ha' done--

MANAGER: No, 'appen not, 'appen not.

RIGLEY: For, not known--

MANAGER: I'm sayin' nowt agen thee, neither one road nor t'other. (There is general silence--then, to MRS HOLROYD.) I should think th' inquest'll be at th' New Inn to-morrow, missis. I'll let you know.

MRS HOLROYD: Will there have to be an inquest?

MANAGER: Yes--there'll have to be an inquest. Shall you want anybody in, to stop with you to-night?

MRS HOLROYD: No.

MANAGER: Well, then, we'd best be goin'. I'll send my missis down first thing in the morning. It's a bad job, a bad job, it is. You'll be a' right then?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

MANAGER: Well, good night then--good night all.

ALL: Good night. Good night.

The MANAGER, followed by the two bearers, goes out, closing the door.

RIGLEY: It's like this, missis. I never should ha' gone, if he hadn't wanted us to.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, I know.

RIGLEY: 'E wanted to come up by 's sen.

MRS HOLROYD (wearily): I know how it was, Mr Rigley.

RIGLEY: Yes--

BLACKMORE: Nobody could foresee.

RIGLEY (shaking his head): No. If there's owt, missis, as you want--

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--I think there isn't anything.

RIGLEY (after a moment): Well--good night--we've worked i' the same stall ower four years now--

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

RIGLEY: Well, good night, missis.

MRS HOLROYD and BLACKMORE: Good night.

The GRANDMOTHER all this time has been rocking herself to and fro, moaning and murmuring beside the dead man. When RIGLEY has gone MRS HOLROYD stands staring distractedly before her. She has not yet looked at her husband.

GRANDMOTHER: Have you got the things ready, Lizzie?

MRS HOLROYD: What things?

GRANDMOTHER: To lay the child out.

MRS HOLROYD (she shudders): No--what?

GRANDMOTHER: Haven't you put him by a pair o' white stockings, nor a white shirt?

MRS HOLROYD: He's got a white cricketing shirt--but not white stockings.

GRANDMOTHER: Then he'll have to have his father's. Let me look at the shirt, Lizzie. (MRS HOLROYD takes one from the dresser drawer.) This'll never do--a cold, canvas thing wi' a turndown collar. I s'll 'ave to fetch his father's. (Suddenly.) You don't want no other woman to touch him, to wash him and lay him out, do you?

MRS HOLROYD (weeping): No.

GRANDMOTHER: Then I'll fetch him his father's gear. We mustn't let him set, he'll be that heavy, bless him. (She takes her shawl.) I shan't be more than a few minutes, an' the young fellow can stop here till I come back.

BLACKMORE: Can't I go for you, Mrs Holroyd?

GRANDMOTHER: No. You couldn't find the things. We'll wash him as soon as I get back, Lizzie.

MRS HOLROYD: Alright.

She watches her mother-in-law go out. Then she starts, goes in the scullery for a bowl, in which she pours warm water. She takes a flannel and soap and towel. She stands, afraid to go any further.

BLACKMORE: Well!

MRS HOLROYD: This is a judgment on us.

BLACKMORE: Why?

MRS HOLROYD: On me, it is--

BLACKMORE: How?

MRS HOLROYD: It is.

BLACKMORE shakes his head.

MRS HOLROYD: Yesterday you talked of murdering him.

BLACKMORE: Well!

MRS HOLROYD: Now we've done it.

BLACKMORE: How?

MRS HOLROYD: He'd have come up with the others, if he hadn't felt--felt me murdering him.

BLACKMORE: But we can't help it.

MRS HOLROYD: It's my fault.

BLACKMORE: Don't be like that!

MRS HOLROYD (looking at him--then indicating her husband): I daren't see him.

BLACKMORE: No?

MRS HOLROYD: I've killed him, that is all.

BLACKMORE: No, you haven't.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes, I have.

BLACKMORE: We couldn't help it.

MRS HOLROYD: If he hadn't felt, if he hadn't known, he wouldn't have stayed, he'd have come up with the rest.

BLACKMORE: Well, and even if it was so, we can't help it now.

MRS HOLROYD: But we've killed him.

BLACKMORE: Ah, I'm tired--

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

BLACKMORE (after a pause): Shall I stay?

MRS HOLROYD: I--I daren't be alone with him.

BLACKMORE (sitting down): No.

MRS HOLROYD: I don't love him. Now he's dead. I don't love him. He lies like he did yesterday.

BLACKMORE: I suppose, being dead--I don't know--

MRS HOLROYD: I think you'd better go.

BLACKMORE (rising): Tell me.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

BLACKMORE: You want me to go.

MRS HOLROYD: No--but do go. (They look at each other.)

BLACKMORE: I shall come to-morrow.

BLACKMORE goes out.

MRS HOLROYD stands very stiff, as if afraid of the dead man. Then she stoops down and begins to sponge his face, talking to him.

MRS HOLROYD: My dear, my dear--oh, my dear! I can't bear it, my dear--you shouldn't have done it. You shouldn't have done it. Oh--I can't bear it, for you. Why couldn't I do anything for you? The children's father--my dear--I wasn't good to you. But you shouldn't have done this to me. Oh, dear, oh, dear! Did it hurt you?--oh, my dear, it hurt you--oh, I can't bear it. No, things aren't fair--we went wrong, my dear. I never loved you enough--I never did. What a shame for you! It was a shame. But you didn't--you didn't try. I would have loved you--I tried hard. What a shame for you! It was so cruel for you. You couldn't help it--my dear, my dear. You couldn't help it. And I can't do anything for you, and it hurt you so! (She weeps bitterly, so her tears fall on the dead man's face; suddenly she kisses him.) My dear, my dear, what can I do for you, what can I? (She weeps as she wipes his face gently.)

Enter GRANDMOTHER.

GRANDMOTHER (putting a bundle on the table, and taking off her shawl): You're not all by yourself?

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

GRANDMOTHER: It's a wonder you're not frightened. You've not washed his face.

MRS HOLROYD: Why should I be afraid of him--now, mother?

GRANDMOTHER (weeping): Ay, poor lamb, I can't think as ever you could have had reason to be frightened of him, Lizzie.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes--once--

GRANDMOTHER: Oh, but he went wrong. An' he was a taking lad, as iver was. (She cries pitifully.) And when I waked his father up and told him, he sat up in bed staring over his whiskers, and said should he come up? But when I'd managed to find the shirt and things, he was still in bed. You don't know what it is to live with a man that has no feeling. But you've washed him, Lizzie?

MRS HOLROYD: I was finishing his head.

GRANDMOTHER: Let me do it, child.

MRS HOLROYD: I'll finish that.

GRANDMOTHER: Poor lamb--poor dear lamb! Yet I wouldn't wish him back, Lizzie. He must ha' died peaceful, Lizzie. He seems to be smiling. He always had such a rare smile on him--not that he's smiled much of late--

MRS HOLROYD: I loved him for that.

GRANDMOTHER: Ay, my poor child--my poor child.

MRS HOLROYD: He looks nice, mother.

GRANDMOTHER: I hope he made his peace with the Lord.

MRS HOLROYD: Yes.

GRANDMOTHER: If he hadn't time to make his peace with the Lord, I've no hopes of him. Dear o' me, dear o' me. Is there another bit of flannel anywhere?

MRS HOLROYD rises and brings a piece. The GRANDMOTHER begins to wash the breast of the dead man.

GRANDMOTHER: Well, I hope you'll be true to his children at least, Lizzie. (MRS HOLROYD weeps--the old woman continues her washing.) Eh--and he's fair as a lily. Did you ever see a man with a whiter skin--and flesh as fine as the driven snow. He's beautiful, he is, the lamb. Many's the time I've looked at him, and I've felt proud of him, I have. And now he lies here. And such arms on 'im! Look at the vaccination marks, Lizzie. When I took him to be vaccinated, he had a little pink bonnet with a feather. (Weeps.) Don't cry, my girl, don't. Sit up an' wash him a' that side, or we s'll never have him done. Oh, Lizzie!

MRS HOLROYD (sitting up, startled): What--what?

GRANDMOTHER: Look at his poor hand!

She holds up the right hand. The nails are bloody.

MRS HOLROYD: Oh, no! Oh, no! No!

Both women weep.

GRANDMOTHER (after a while): We maun get on, Lizzie.

MRS HOLROYD (sitting up): I can't touch his hands.

GRANDMOTHER: But I'm his mother--there's nothing I couldn't do for him.

MRS HOLROYD: I don't care--I don't care.

GRANDMOTHER: Prithee, prithee, Lizzie, I don't want thee goin' off, Lizzie.

MRS HOLROYD (moaning): Oh, what shall I do!

GRANDMOTHER: Why, go thee an' get his feet washed. He's setting stiff, and how shall we get him laid out?

MRS HOLROYD, sobbing, goes, kneels at the miner's feet, and begins pulling off the great boots.

GRANDMOTHER: There's hardly a mark on him. Eh, what a man he is! I've had some fine sons, Lizzie, I've had some big men of sons.

MRS HOLROYD: He was always a lot whiter than me. And he used to chaff me.

GRANDMOTHER: But his poor hands! I used to thank God for my children, but they're rods o' trouble, Lizzie, they are. Unfasten his belt, child. We mun get his things off soon, or else we s'll have such a job.

MRS HOLROYD, having dragged off the boots, rises. She is weeping.

 

CURTAIN


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The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd by D H Lawrence

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