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Read Complete Plays of John Galsworthy Part 218

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LADY W. [Staring] My dear boy, I really don’t think you ought to see the Press; it always upsets you.

LORD W. Well! Why should you and I be going to eat ourselves silly to improve the condition of the sweated, when—-

LADY W. [Calmly] When they’re going to “improve” ours, if we don’t look out. We’ve got to get in first, Bill.

LORD W. [Gloomily] I know. It’s all fear. That’s it! Here we are, and here we shall stay–as if there’d never been a war.

LADY W. Well, thank heaven there’s no “front” to a revolution. You and I can go to glory together this time. Compact! Anything that’s on, I’m to abate in.

LORD W. Well, in reason.

LADY W. No, in rhyme, too.

LORD W. I say, your dress!

LADY W. Yes, Poulder tried to stop me, but I wasn’t going to have you blown up without me.

LORD W. You duck. You do look stunning. Give us a kiss!

LADY W. [Starting back] Oh, Bill! Don’t touch me–your hands!

LORD W. Never mind, my mouth’s clean.

They stand about a yard apart, and banding their faces towards each other, kiss on the lips.

L. ANNE. [Appearing suddenly from the “communication trench,” and tip-toeing silently between them] Oh, Mum! You and Daddy ARE wasting time! Dinner’s ready, you know!

CURTAIN

ACT II

The single room of old MRS. LEMMY, in a small grey house in Bethnal Green, the room of one c.u.mbered by little save age, and the crockery debris of the past. A bed, a cupboard, a coloured portrait of Queen Victoria, and–of all things–a fiddle, hanging on the wall. By the side of old MRS. LEMMY in her chair is a pile of corduroy trousers, her day’s sweated sewing, and a small table. She sits with her back to the window, through which, in the last of the light, the opposite side of the little grey street is visible under the evening sky, where hangs one white cloud shaped like a horned beast. She is still sewing, and her lips move. Being old, and lonely, she has that habit of talking to herself, distressing to those who cannot overhear.

From the smack of her tongue she was once a West Country cottage woman; from the look of her creased, parchmenty face, she was once a pretty girl with black eyes, in which there is still much vitality. The door is opened with difficulty and a little girl enters, carrying a pile of unfinished corduroy trousers nearly as large as herself. She puts them down against the wall, and advances. She is eleven or twelve years old; large-eyed, dark haired, and sallow. Half a woman of this and half of another world, except when as now, she is as irresponsible a bit of life as a little flowering weed growing out of a wall. She stands looking at MRS. LEMMY with dancing eyes.

L. AIDA. I’ve brought yer to-morrer’s trahsers. Y’nt yer finished wiv to-dy’s? I want to tyke ’em.

MRS. L. No, me dear. Drat this last one–me old fengers!

L. AIDA. I learnt some poytry to-dy–I did.

MRS. L. Well, I never!

L. AIDA. [Reciting with unction]

“Little lamb who myde thee?

Dost thou know who myde thee, Gyve thee life and byde thee feed By the stream and oer the mead; Gyve the clothing of delight, Softest clothing, woolly, bright; Gyve thee such a tender voice, Myking all the vyles rejoice.

Little lamb who myde thee?

Dost thou know who myde thee?”

MRS. L. ‘Tes wonderful what things they tache ya nowadays.

L. AIDA. When I grow up I’m goin’ to ‘ave a revolver an’ shoot the people that steals my jools.

MRS. L. Deary-me, wherever du yu get yore notions?

L. AIDA. An’ I’m goin’ to ride on as ‘orse be’ind a man; an’ I’m goin’ to ryce trynes in my motor car.

MRS. L. [Dryly] Ah!–Yu’um gwine to be very busy, that’s sartin.

Can you sew?

L. AIDA. [With a Smile] Nao.

MRS. L. Don’ they tache Yu that, there?

L. AIDA. [Blending contempt and a lingering curiosity] Nao.

MRS. L. ‘Tes wonderful genteel.

L. AIDA. I can sing, though.

MRS. L. Let’s ‘ear yu, then.

L. AIDA. [Shaking her head] I can ply the pianner. I can ply a tune.

MRS. L. Whose pianner?

L. AIDA. Mrs. Brahn’s when she’s gone aht.

MRS. L. Well, yu are gettin’ edjucation! Du they tache yu to love yore neighbours?

L. AIDA. [Ineffably] Nao. [Straying to the window] Mrs. Lemmy, what’s the moon?

MRS. L. The mune? Us used to zay ’twas made o’ crame cheese.

L. AIDA. I can see it.

MRS. L. Ah! Don’ yu never go wishin’ for it, me dear.

L. AIDA. I daon’t.

MRS. L. Folks as wish for the mune never du no gude.

L. AIDA. [Craning out, brilliant] I’m goin’ dahn in the street.

I’ll come back for yer trahsers.

———-

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