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Six Plays
by Florence Henrietta Darwin
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WILLIAM. That's true, John—I'll gather the rose -

JOHN. See here, master, the lily and the pink. Them be brave flowers, the both of them, and with a terrible fine scent coming out of they.

WILLIAM. Put them into the nosegay, John—And now—no more—'Tis enough waste for one day.

JOHN. 'Tis a smartish lot of blooms as good as done for, says I.

WILLIAM. A slow sowing and a quick reaping, John.

JOHN. 'Tis to be hoped as 'twill be the same with the lady, master.

WILLIAM. There, off you go, John. And mind, 'tis her with the cherry ribbon to her gown and bonnet.

JOHN. Why, master, and her might have a different ribbon to her head this day, being that 'tis Thursday?

WILLIAM. An eye like—like a bullace, John. And a grand colour to the face of her like yon rose.

JOHN. That's enough, Master William. I'll not pitch upon the wrong maid, never fear. And now I'll clean myself up a bit at the pump, and set off straight away.

WILLIAM. [Shaking JOHN's hand.] Good luck to you, my man. And if you can bring it off quiet and decent like without me coming in till at the last, why, 'tis a five pound note that you shall have for your trouble.

JOHN. You be a grand gentleman to serve, Master William, and no mistake about that.

[Curtain.]



ACT II.—Scene 1.



A wood. To the right a fallen tree (or a bench). JOHN comes from the left, a large bunch of flowers in his hand.

JOHN. Out, and a taking of the air in the wood, be they? Well, bless my soul, but 'tis a rare caddling business what master's put upon I. 'Tis worse nor any job he have set me to in all the years I've been along of him, so 'tis. But I'm the one to bring it off slick and straight, and, bless me, if I won't take and hide myself by yon great bush till I see the wenches a-coming up. That'll give me time to have a quiet look at the both and pick out she what master's going a-courting of.

[JOHN puts himself behind some thick bushes as JULIA and LAURA come forward. JULIA is very simply dressed. Her head is bare, and she is carrying her white cotton sunbonnet. LAURA wears finer clothes and her bonnet is tied by bright ribbons of cherry colour.

LAURA. [Stopping by the bench.] We'll sit down—'Tis a warm day, and I've had enough of walking.

[She sinks down on the seat.

JULIA. [Looking all round her.] 'Tis beautiful and quiet here. O this is ever so much better than the farm.

LAURA. The farm! What's wrong with that, I should like to know?

JULIA. Everything. 'Tis more like a prison than a home to me. Within the house there's always work crying out to be done—and outside I believe 'tis worse—work—nothing else speaking to me.

LAURA. You're a sad ungrateful girl. Why, there's many would give their eyes to change with you.

JULIA. But out here 'tis all peace, and freedom. There's naught calling out to be done. The flowers grow as they like, and the breezes move them this way, and that. The ground is thick with leaves and blossoms and no one has got to sweep it, and the hard things with great noises to them, like pails and churns, are far away and clean forgot.

LAURA. 'Tisn't much use as you'll be on the farm.

JULIA. I wish I'd never come nigh to it. I was happier far before.

LAURA. 'Tis a grand life. You'll see it as I do one of these days.

JULIA. No, that I shall not. Every day that I wake and hear the cattle lowing beneath my window I turn over on my pillow, and 'tis a heart of lead that turns with me. The smell of the wild flowers in the fields calls me, but 'tis to the dairy I must go, to work. And at noonday, when the shade of the woodland makes me thirsty for its coolness, 'tis the kitchen I must be in—or picking green stuff for the market. And so on till night, when the limbs of me can do no more and the spirit in me is like a bird with the wing of it broken.

LAURA. You'll harden to it all by winter time right enough.

JULIA. O I'll never harden to it. 'Tis not that way I am made. Some girls can set themselves down with four walls round them, and do their task nor ask for anything beyond, but 'tis not so with me.

LAURA. How is it then with you?

JULIA. [Pointing.] There—see that blue thing yonder flying from one blossom to another. That's how 'tis with me. Shut me up close in one place, I perish. Let me go free, and I can fly and live.

LAURA. You do talk a powerful lot of foolishness that no one could understand.

JULIA. O, do not let us talk at all. Let us bide still, and get ourselves refreshed by the sweetness and the wildness of the forest.

JULIA turns away and gives herself up to the enjoyment of the wood around her.

LAURA arranges her ribbons and smoothes out her gown. Neither of them speak for a few minutes.

LAURA. [Looking up and pointing.] See those strange folk over there? What are they?

JULIA. [Looking in the same direction.] I know them. They are gipsies from the hill near to us.

LAURA. They should be driven away then. I don't like such folk roosting around.

JULIA. But I do. They are friends to me. Many's the time I have run out at dusk to speak with them as they sit round their fire.

LAURA. Then you didn't ought to have done so. Let's get off now, before they come up.

JULIA. No, no. Let us talk to them all. [Calling.] Tansie and Chris, come you here and sit down alongside of us. [CHRIS, NAT, and TANSIE come up.

CHRIS. Good morning to you, mistress. 'Tis a fine brave day, to- day.

JULIA. That it is, Chris. There never was so fine a day. And we have come to spend all of it in this forest.

TANSIE. Ah, but 'tis warm upon the high road.

NAT. We be come right away from the town, mistress.

JULIA. Then sit down, all of you, and we will talk in the cool shade.

LAURA. Not here, if you please. I am not used to such company.

JULIA. Not here? Very well, my friends, let us go further into the wood and you shall stretch yourselves under the green trees and we will all rest there together.

LAURA. Well, what next! You might stop to consider how 'twill look in the parish.

JULIA. How what will look?

LAURA. How 'twill look for you to be seen going off in such company like this.

JULIA. The trees have not eyes, nor have the grass, and flowers. There's no one to see me but you, and you can turn your head t'other way. Come Tansie, come

Chris. [She turns towards the three gipsies.

TANSIE. Nat's in a sorry way, this morning—baint you, Nat?

NAT. Let I be. You do torment anyone till they scarce do know if they has senses to them or no.

TANSIE. You're not one to miss what you never had, Nat.

CHRIS. Let the lad bide in quiet, will you. 'Tis a powerful little nagging wench as you be.

JULIA. Why are you heavy and sad this fine day, Nat?

TANSIE. 'Tis love what's the matter with he, mistress.

JULIA. Love? O, that's not a thing that should bring heaviness or gloom, but lightness to the heart, and song to the lips.

TANSIE. Ah, but when there's been no meeting in the dusk since Sunday, and no message sent!

CHRIS. Keep that tongue of your'n where it should be, and give over, Tansie. Susan's not one as would play tricks with her lad.

JULIA. Now I have a thirst to hear all about this, Nat, so come off further into the wood, all of you, where we can speak in quiet.

[She holds out her hand to NAT.

LAURA. Upon my word, but something must be done to bring these goings on to an end.

JULIA. Come, Nat—you shall tell me all your trouble. I understand the things of the heart better than Tansie, and I shall know how to give you comfort in your distress—come

[JULIA and NAT, followed by CHRIS and TANSIE, move off out of sight. LAURA is left sitting on the bench alone. Presently JOHN comes out carefully from behind the bushes, holding his bunch of flowers.

JOHN. A good day to you, mistress.

LAURA. The same to you, master.

JOHN. Folks do call me John.

LAURA. Indeed? Good morning, John.

JOHN. A fine brave sun to-day, mistress.

LAURA. But pleasant enough here in the shade.

JOHN. Now, begging your pardon, but what you wants over the head of you baint one of these great trees full of flies and insects, but an arbour trailed all about with bloom, such as my master has down at his place yonder.

LAURA. Indeed? And who may your master be, John?

JOHN. 'Tis Master William Gardner, what's the talk of the country for miles around, mistress. And that he be.

LAURA. Master William Gardner! What, he of Road Farm?

JOHN. The very same, mistress. And as grand a gentleman as anyone might wish for to see.

LAURA. Yes—I seem to have heard something told about him, but I don't rightly remember what 'twas.

JOHN. You may have heard tell as the finest field of beans this season, that's his.

LAURA. I don't think 'twas of beans that I did hear.

JOHN. Or that 'twas his spotted hilt what fetched the highest price of any in the market Saturday?

LAURA. No, 'twasn't that neither.

JOHN. Or that folks do come as thick as flies on a summer's day from all parts of the country for to buy the wheat what he do grow. Ah, and before 'tis cut or like to be, they be a fighting for it, all of them, like a pack of dogs with a bone. So 'tis.

LAURA. 'Twasn't that, I don't think.

JOHN. Or 'twas that th' old missis—she as is mother to Master William—her has a tongue what's sharper nor longer than any vixen's going. But that's between you and I, missis.

LAURA. Ah—'Twas that I did hear tell of. Now I remember it.

JOHN. But Master William—the tongue what he do keep be smooth as honey, and a lady might do as she likes with him if one got the chance.

LAURA. Indeed? He must be a pleasant sort of a gentleman.

JOHN. For he could be led with kindness same as anything else. But try for to drive him, as old Missis do—and very likely 'tis hoofed as you'll get for your pains.

LAURA. I like a man with some spirit to him, myself.

JOHN. Ah, Master William has a rare spirit to him, and that he has. You should hear him when th' old Missis's fowls be got into his flower garden. 'Tis sommat as is not likely to be forgot in a hurry. That 'tisn't.

LAURA. You carry a handsome nosegay of blossoms there, John. Are they from your master's garden?

JOHN. Ah, there're not amiss. I helped for to raise they too.

LAURA. And to whom are you taking them now, John?

JOHN. To the lady what my master's a-courting of, mistress.

LAURA. And whom may that be, John?

JOHN. Why, 'tis yourself, mistress.

LAURA. Me, John? Why, I've never clapped eyes on Master William Gardner so far as I know of.

JOHN. But he've clapped eyes on you, mistress—'twas at Church last Sunday. And 'tis not a bit of food, nor a drop of drink, nor an hour of sleep, as Master William have taken since.

LAURA. O, you do surprise me, John?

JOHN. That's how 'tis with he, mistress. 'Tis many a year as I've served Master William—but never have I seen him in the fix where he be in to-day.

LAURA. Why—how is it with him then?

JOHN. As it might be with the cattle when the flies do buzz about they, thick in the sunshine. A-lashing this way and that, a- trampling and a-tossing, and never a minute's rest.

LAURA. Well, now—to think of such a thing. Indeed!

JOHN. I've seen a horse right up to the neck of him in that old quag ahind of our place—a-snorting and a-clapping with his teeth and a- plunging so as 'twould terrify anyone to harken to it. And that's how 'tis to-day with Master William up at home, so 'tis.

LAURA. And only saw me once—at Church last Sunday, John?

JOHN. Ah—and they old maid flies do sting but once, but 'tis a terrible big bump as they do raise on the flesh of anyone, that 'tis.

LAURA. O John—'tis a fine thing to be loved like that.

JOHN. So I should say—ah, 'tisn't every day that a man like Master William goes a-courting.

LAURA. But he hasn't set out yet, John.

JOHN. You take and hold the nosegay, mistress, and I'll go straight off and fetch him, so being as you're agreeable.

LAURA. O yes, and that I am, John—You go and fetch him quick. I'll bide here gladly, waiting till he comes.

JOHN. That's it. I knowed you for a sensible lady the moment I pitched my eyes on to you. And when master do come up, you take and talk to him nicely and meek-like and lead him on from one thing to t'other: and you'll find as he'll go quiet as a sheep after the first set off, spite of the great spirit what's at the heart of he.

LAURA. John, I'll do all as you say, and more than all. Only, you get along and send him quickly to me. And—yes, you might give him a good hint, John—I'm not averse to his attentions.

JOHN. Ah, and I should think you wasn't, for 'twould be a hard job to find a nicer gentleman nor Master William.

LAURA. That I know it would. Why, John, my heart's commenced beating ever so fast, it has.

JOHN. Then you may reckon how 'tis with the poor master! Why, 'tis my belief as 'twill be raving madness as'll be the end of he if sommat don't come to put a finish to this unrest.

LAURA. O John, 'twould never do for such a fine gentleman to go crazy. Do you set off quick and send him along to me, and I'll take and do my very best for to quiet him, like.

JOHN. [Rising and about to set off.] Ah, 'tis a powerful lot of calming as Master William do require. But you be the one for to give it him. You just bide where you do sit now whilst I goes and fetches him, mistress.

LAURA. O that I will, my good, dear John.

[Curtain.]



ACT II.—Scene 2.



The same wood.

WILLIAM and JOHN come up. WILLIAM carries a large market basket containing vegetables.

JOHN. [Looking round and seeing no one.] Bless my soul, but 'twas on the seat as I did leave she.

WILLIAM. We have kept her waiting a bit too long whilst we were cutting the green stuff. And now 'twill be best to let matters bide over till to-morrow.

JOHN. Why, master 'tis my belief as you be all of a-tremble like.

WILLIAM. I wish we were well out of this business, John. 'Tis not to my liking in any way.

JOHN. 'Tis a fine looking lady, and that 'tis. You take and court her, Master William.

WILLIAM. How am I to court the wench when she's not here?

JOHN. [Pointing.] Look yonder, master, there she comes through them dark trees.

WILLIAM. You've got to bide somewhere nigh me, John. I could not be left alone with a wench who's a stranger to me.

JOHN. Don't you get flustered, Master William. See here, I'll hide me ahind of yon bushes, and if so be as you should want me, why, there I'm close at hand.

WILLIAM. I'd rather you did stand at my side, John.

[JOHN hides himself behind the bushes. LAURA comes slowly up. WILLIAM stands awkwardly before her, saying nothing. Presently he takes off his hat and salutes her clumsily and she bows to him. For some moments they stand embarrassed, looking at one another.

WILLIAM. [Suddenly bringing out a bunch of carrots from his basket and holding them up.] See these young carrots, mistress.

LAURA. Indeed I do, master.

WILLIAM. 'Tisn't everywhere that you do see such fine grown ones for the time of year.

LAURA. You're right there, master. We have none of them up at our place.

WILLIAM. [Holding them towards her.] Then be pleased to accept these, mistress.

LAURA. [Taking the carrots.] Thank you kindly, master. [There is another embarrassed silence. WILLIAM looks distractedly from LAURA to his basket. Then he takes out a bunch of turnips.

WILLIAM. You couldn't beat these nowhere, not if you were to try.

LAURA. I'm sure you could not, master.

WILLIAM. They do call this sort the Early Snowball. 'Tis a foolish name for a table root.

LAURA. 'Tis a beautiful turnip.

WILLIAM. [Giving her the bunch.] You may as well have them too.

LAURA. O you're very kind, master.

[There is another long silence. WILLIAM shuffles on his feet—LAURA bends admiringly over her gifts.

WILLIAM. There's young beans and peas and a spring cabbage too, within the basket. I do grow a little of most everything.

LAURA. O shall we sit down and look at the vegetables together?

WILLIAM. [Visibly relieved.] We might do worse nor that. [They sit down side by side with the basket between them.

LAURA. [Lifting the cabbage.] O, this is quite a little picture! See how the leaves do curl backwards—so fresh and green!

WILLIAM. Ah, and that one has a rare white heart to it, it has.

LAURA. I do love the taste of a spring cabbage, when it has a slice of fat bacon along with it.

WILLIAM. I might have brought a couple of pounds with me if I'd have thought. Mother do keep some rare mellow jowls a-hanging in the pantry.

LAURA. [Shyly.] Next time, maybe.

WILLIAM. [Eagerly.] 'Twouldn't take ten minutes for me to run back.

LAURA. Not now—O no master—not now. Do you bide a little longer here and tell me about—about t'other things in the basket.

WILLIAM. [Mopping his face with a handkerchief.] Well—there's the beans—I count that yours haven't come up very smart this year.

LAURA. That they've not. The whole place has been let to run dreadful wild.

WILLIAM. I'd—I'd like to show you how 'tis in my garden, one of these days.

LAURA. I'd be very pleased to walk along with you there.

WILLIAM. [Hurriedly.] Ah—you should see it later on when the—the- -the parsnips are a bit forrarder.

LAURA. I'd like to see the flower garden now, where this nosegay came from.

WILLIAM. [Looking round uneasily.] I don't know what the folks would say if they were to see you and me a-going on the road in broad day—I'm sure I don't.

LAURA. Why, what should they say, Master Gardner?

WILLIAM. They might get saying—they might say as—as I'd got a- courting, or sommat foolish.

LAURA. Well—and would that be untrue?

WILLIAM. [Looking at her very uncomfortably.] I'm blessed if I do know—I mean -

LAURA. This nosegay—and look, those young carrots—and the turnips and beans, why did you bring them for me, master, unless it was that you intended something by it?

WILLIAM. [Very confused.] That's so. So 'tis. That's true. I count you have got hold of the sow by the ear right enough this time. And the less said about it the better. [A slight silence.

LAURA. [Looking up shyly in WILLIAM's face.] What was it drew you to me first, master?

WILLIAM. I believe 'twas in Church on Sunday that I chanced to take notice of you, like.

LAURA. Yes, but what was it about me that took your fancy in Church on Sunday?

WILLIAM. I'm blessed if I know, unless 'twas those coloured ribbons that you have got to your bonnet.

LAURA. You are partial to the colour?

WILLIAM. Ah, 'tis well enough.

LAURA. See here. [Taking a flower from her dress.] This is of the same colour. I will put it in your coat.

[She fastens it in his coat. WILLIAM looks very uncomfortable and nervous.

WILLIAM. Well, bless my soul, but women folk have got some powerful strange tricks to them.

LAURA. [Pinning the flower in its place.] There—my gift to you, master.

WILLIAM. You may call me by my name, if you like, 'tis more suitable, seeing that we might go along to Church together one of these days.

LAURA. O William, you have made me very happy—I do feel all mazy like with my gladness.

WILLIAM. Well, Julia, we might do worse than to—to—name the day.

LAURA. Why do you call me Julia?

WILLIAM. Seeing that I've given you leave to call me William 'tis only suitable that I should use your name as well.

LAURA. But my name is not Julia.

WILLIAM. What is it then, I should like to know?

LAURA. 'Tis Laura, William.

WILLIAM. Folks did tell me that you were named Julia.

LAURA. No—Laura is my name; but I live with Mistress Julia up at Luther's Farm, and I help her with the work. House-keeping, dairy, poultry, garden. O there's nothing I can't turn my hand to, Master William.

WILLIAM. [Starts up from the seat in deepest consternation.] John, John—Come you here, I say! Come here.

JOHN. [Emerges from the bushes.] My dearest master!

WILLIAM. What's this you've been and done, John?

JOHN. Why, master—the one with the cherry ribbons, to her you did say.

WILLIAM. [Disgustedly.] 'Tis the wrong one.

LAURA. What are you two talking about? William, do you mean to say as that man of yours was hid in the bushes all the while?

WILLIAM. Now, John, you've got to get me out of the fix where I'm set.

JOHN. O my dear master, don't you take on so. 'Tis a little bit of misunderstanding to be sure, but one as can be put right very soon.

WILLIAM. Then you get to work and set it right, John, for 'tis beyond the power of me to do so. I'll be blessed if I'll ever get meddling with this sort of job again.

JOHN. Now don't you get so heated, master, but leave it all to me. [Turning to LAURA.] My good wench, it seems that there has been a little bit of misunderstanding between you and my gentleman here.

LAURA. [Angrily.] So that's what you call it—misunderstanding 'tis a fine long word, but not much of meaning, to it, I'm thinking.

JOHN. Then you do think wrong. Suppose you was to go to market for to buy a nice spring chicken and when you was got half on the way to home you was to see as they had put you up a lean old fowl in place of it, what would you do then?

LAURA. I don't see that chickens or fowls have anything to do with the matter.

JOHN. Then you're not the smart maid I took you for. 'Tis not you as would be suitable in my master's home. And what's more, 'tis not you as my master's come a-courting of.

LAURA. If 'tis not me, who is it then?

[WILLIAM looks at her sheepishly and then turns away.

JOHN. 'Tis your mistress, since you wants to know.

LAURA. [Indignantly.] O, I see it all now—How could I have been so misled!

JOHN. However could poor master have been so mistook, I say.

LAURA. [Turning away passionately.] O, I've had enough of you and— and your master.

JOHN. Now that's what I do like for to hear. Because me and master have sommat else to do nor to stand giddle-gaddling in this old wood the rest of the day. Us have got a smartish lot of worry ahead of we, haven't us, master?

WILLIAM. You never said a truer word, John.

JOHN. Come along then Master William. You can leave the spring vegetables to she. 'Tis more nor she deserves, seeing as her might have known as 'twas her mistress the both of us was after, all the time.

[LAURA throws herself on the seat and begins to cry silently, but passionately.

WILLIAM. O John, this courting, 'tis powerful heavy work.

JOHN. [Taking WILLIAM'S arm.] Come you along with me, master, and I'll give you a helping hand with it all.

LAURA. [Looking up and speaking violently.] I warrant you will, you clown. But let me advise you to look better afore you leap next time, or very likely 'tis in sommat worse than a ditchful of nettles as you'll find yourself.

JOHN. [Looking back over his shoulders as he goes off with WILLIAM.] I reckon as you've no call to trouble about we, mistress. Us is they what can look after theirselves very well. Suppose you was to wash your face and dry your eyes and set about the boiling of yon spring cabbage. 'Twould be sensibler like nor to bide grizzling after one as is beyond you in his station, so 'twould.

[JOHN and WILLIAM go out, leaving LAURA weeping on the bench, the basket of vegetables by her side.

[Curtain.]



ACT II.—Scene 3.



JULIA is sitting at the foot of a tree in the wood. CHRIS, NAT and TANSIE are seated near her on the ground.

JULIA. I wish this day might last for always.

CHRIS. Why, when to-morrow's come, 'twill be the same.

JULIA. That it will not. To-day is a holiday. To-morrow's work.

TANSIE. One day 'tis much the same as t'other with me.

NAT. 'Tis what we gets to eat as do make the change.

TANSIE. I should have thought as how a grand young mistress like yourself might have had the days to your own liking.

JULIA. Ah, and so I did once. But that was before Uncle died and left me the farm. Now, 'tis all different with the days.

CHRIS. How was it with you afore then, mistress?

JULIA. Much the same as 'tis with that bird flying yonder. I did so as I listed. If I had a mind to sleep when the sun was up, then I did sleep. And if my limbs would not rest when 'twas dark, why, then I did roam. There was naught to hold me back from my fancy.

TANSIE. And how is it now with you, mistress?

JULIA. 'Tis all said in one word.

CHRIS. What's that?

JULIA. 'Tis "work."

NAT. Work?

CHRIS. Work?

TANSIE. Work! And yet 'tis a fine young lady as you do look in your muslin gown with silky ribbons to it and all.

JULIA. I'm a farmer, Tansie. And for a farmer 'tis work of one sort, or t'other from when the sun is up till the candle has burned itself short. If 'tisn't working with my own hands, 'tis driving of the hands of another.

CHRIS. I've heard tell as a farmer do spin gold all the day same as one of they great spiders as go putting out silk from their mouths.

JULIA. And what is gold to me, Chris, who have no one but myself to spend it on

CHRIS. Folks do say as the laying up of gold be one of the finest things in the world.

JULIA. It will never bring happiness to me, Chris.

CHRIS. Come, mistress, 'tis a fine thing to have a great stone roof above the head of you.

JULIA. I'd sooner get my shelter from the green leaves.

NAT. And a grand thing to have your victuals spread afore you each time 'stead of having to go lean very often.

JULIA. O, a handful of berries and a drink of fresh water is enough for me.

TANSIE. And beautiful it must be to stretch the limbs of you upon feathers when night do come down, with a fine white sheet drawn up over your head.

JULIA. O, I could rest more sweetly on the grass and moss yonder.

NAT. I did never sleep within four walls but once, and then 'twas in gaol.

JULIA. O Nat, you were never in gaol, were you?

NAT. 'Twas that they mistook I for another. And when the morning did come, they did let I go again.

CHRIS. I count 'twas a smartish long night, that!

NAT. 'Twas enough for to shew me how it do feel when anyone has got to bide sleeping with the walls all around of he.

JULIA. And the ceiling above, Nat. And locked door. And other folk lying breathing in the house, hard by. All dark and close.

CHRIS. And where us may lie, the air do run swift over we. We has the smell of the earth and the leaves on us as we do sleep. There baint no darkness for we, for the stars do blink all night through up yonder.

TANSIE. And no sound of other folk breathing but the crying of th' owls and the foxes' bark.

JULIA. Ah, that must be a grand sound, the barking of a fox. I never did hear one. Never.

CHRIS. Ah, 'tis a powerful thin sound, that—but one to raise the hair on a man's head and to clam the flesh of he, at dead of night.

NAT. You come and bide along of we one evening, and you shall hearken to the fox, and badger too, if you've the mind.

JULIA. O that would please me more than anything in the world.

TANSIE. And when 'twas got a little lighter, so that the bushes could be seen, and the fields, I'd shew you where the partridge has her nest beneath the hedge; where we have gotten eggs, and eaten them too.

CHRIS. And I'll take and lead you to a place what I do know of, where the water flows clear as a diamond over the stones. And if you bides there waiting quiet you may take the fish as they come along— and there's a dinner such as the Queen might not get every day of the week.

JULIA. O Chris, who is there to say I must bide in one place when all in me is thirsting to be in t'other!

CHRIS. I'm sure I don't know.

NAT. I should move about where I did like, if 'twas me.

TANSIE. A fine young lady like you can do as she pleases.

JULIA. Well then, it pleases me to bide with you in the free air.

CHRIS. Our life, 'tis a poor life, and wandering. 'Tis food one day, and may be going without the next. 'Tis the sun upon the faces of us one hour—and then the rain. But 'tis in freedom that us walks, and we be the masters of our own limbs.

JULIA. Will you be good to me if I journey with you?

CHRIS. Ah, 'tis not likely as I'll ever fail you, mistress.

JULIA. Do not call me mistress any longer, Chris, my name is Julia.

CHRIS. 'Tis a well-sounding name, and one as runs easy as clear water upon the tongue.

JULIA. Tansie, how will it be for me to go with you?

TANSIE. 'Twill be well enough with the spirit of you I don't doubt, but how'll it be with the fine clothes what you have on?

NAT. [Suddenly looking up.] Why, there's Susan coming.

JULIA. [Looking in the same direction.] So that is Susan?

TANSIE. I count as her has had a smartish job to get away from th' old missis so early in the day.

CHRIS. 'Tis a rare old she cat, and handy with the claw's of her, Susan's missis.

[SUSAN comes shyly forward.

NAT. Come you here, Susan, and sit along of we.

JULIA. Yes, sit down with us in this cool shade, Susan. You look warm from running.

SUSAN. O, I didn't know you was here, Mistress Julia.

JULIA. Well, Susan, and so you live at Road Farm. Are you happy there?

SUSAN. I should be if 'twern't for mistress.

JULIA. No mistress could speak harshly to you, Susan—you are so young and pretty.

SUSAN. Ah, but mistress takes no account of aught but the work you does, and the tongue of her be wonderful lashing.

JULIA. Then how comes it that you have got away to the forest so early on a week day?

SUSAN. 'Tis that mistress be powerful took up with sommat else this afternoon, and so I was able to run out for a while and her didn't notice me.

TANSIE. Why Su, what's going on up at the farm so particular to-day?

SUSAN. 'Tis courting.

ALL. Courting?

SUSAN. Yes. That 'tis. 'Tis our Master William what's dressed up in his Sunday clothes and gone a-courting with a basket of green stuff on his arm big enough to fill the market, very nigh.

CHRIS. Well, well, who'd have thought he had it in him?

NAT. He's a gentleman what's not cut out for courting, to my mind.

SUSAN. Indeed he isn't, Nat. And however the mistress got him dressed and set off on that business, I don't know.

JULIA. But you have not told us who the lady is, Susan.

SUSAN. [Suddenly very embarrassed.] I—I—don't think as I do rightly know who 'tis, mistress.

CHRIS. Why, look you, Susan, you'll have to take and hide yourself if you don't want for them to know as you be got along of we.

SUSAN. What's that, Chris?

CHRIS. [Pointing.] See there, that man of Master Gardner's be a- coming along towards us fast. Look yonder -

SUSAN. O whatever shall I do? 'Tis John, and surely he will tell of me when he gets back.

SAT. Come you off with me afore he do perceive you, Susan. I'll take you where you shall bide hid from all the Johns in the world if you'll but come along of me.

JULIA. That's it. Take her off, Nat; take her, Tansie. And do you go along too, Chris, for I have a fancy to bide alone in the stillness of the wood for a while.

[SUSAN, TANSIE and NAT go out.

CHRIS. Be I to leave you too, Julia?

JULIA. [Slowly.] Only for a little moment, Chris; then you can come for me again. I would like to stay with myself in quiet for a while. New thoughts have come into my mind and I cannot rightly understand what they do say to me, unless I hearken to them alone.

CHRIS. Then I'll leave you, Julia. For things be stirring powerful in my mind too, and I'd give sommat for to come to an understanding with they. Ah, that I would.

[They look at one another in silence for a moment, then CHRIS slowly follows the others, leaving JULIA alone. JULIA sits alone in the wood. Presently she begins to sing.

JULIA. [Singing.]

I sowed the seeds of love, It was all in the Spring; In April, in May, and in June likewise When small birds they do sing.

[JOHN with a large basket on his arm comes up to her.

JOHN. A good day to you, mistress.

JULIA. Good afternoon.

JOHN. Now I count as you would like to know who 'tis that's made so bold in speaking to you, Mistress.

JULIA. Why, you're Master Gardner's farm hand, if I'm not mistaken.

JOHN. Ah, that's right enough. And there be jobs as I wish Master William would get and do for hisself instead of putting them on I.

JULIA. Well, and how far may you be going this afternoon?

JOHN. I baint going no further than where I be a-standing now, mistress.

JULIA. It would appear that your business was with me, then?

JOHN. Ah, you've hit the right nail, mistress. 'Tis with you. 'Tis a straight offer as my master have sent me out for to make.

JULIA. Now I wonder what sort of an offer that might be!

JOHN. 'Tis master's hand in marriage, and a couple of pigs jowls, home-cured, within this here basket.

JULIA. O my good man, you're making game of me.

JOHN. And that I baint, mistress. 'Twas in the church as Master William seed you first. And 'tis very nigh sick unto death with love as he have been since then.

JULIA. Is he too sick to come and plead his cause himself, John?

JOHN. Ah, and that he be. Do go moulting about the place with his victuals left upon the dish—a sighing and a grizzling so that any maid what's got a heart to th' inside of she would be moved in pity, did she catch ear of it, and would lift he out of the torment.

JULIA. Well, John, I've not seen or heard any of this sad to-do, so I can't be moved in pity.

JOHN. An, do you look within this basket at the jowls what Master William have sent you. Maybe as they'll go to your heart straighter nor what any words might.

[JOHN sits down on the bench by JULIA and opens the basket. JULIA looks in.

JULIA. I have no liking for pigs' meat myself.

JOHN. Master's pig meat be different to any in the county, mistress. "Tell her," says Master William, "'tis a rare fine bit of mellow jowl as I be a sending she."

JULIA. O John, I'm a very poor judge of such things.

JOHN. And look you here. I never seed a bit of Master William's home-cured sent out beyond the family to no one till this day. No, that I have not, mistress.

JULIA. [Shutting the basket.] Well—I have no use for such a gift, John, so it may be returned again to the family. I am sorry you had the trouble of bringing it so far.

JOHN. You may not be partial to pig meat, mistress, but you'll send back the key of Master William's heart same as you have done the jowls.

JULIA. I have no use for the key of Master William's heart either, John. And you may tell him so, from me.

JOHN. Why, mistress. You don't know what you be a talking of. A man like my master have never had to take a No in place of Yes in all the born days of him.

JULIA. [Rising.] Then he'll have to take it now, John. And I'm thinking 'tis time you set off home again with your load.

JOHN. Well, mistress, I don't particular care to go afore you have given me a good word or sommat as'll hearten up poor Master William in his love sickness.

JULIA. Truly, John, I don't know what you would have me say.

JOHN. I warrant there be no lack of words to the inside of you, if so be as you'd open you mouth a bit wider. 'Tis not silence as a maid is troubled with in general.

JULIA. O, I have plenty of words ready, John, should you care to hear them.

JOHN. Then out with them, Mistress Julia, and tell the master as how you'll take the offer what he have made you.

JULIA. I've never seen your master, John, but I know quite enough about him to say I'll never wed with him. Please to make that very clear when you get back.

JOHN. 'Tis plain as you doesn't know what you be a talking of. And 'tis a wonder as how such foolishness can came from the mouth of a sensible looking maid like yourself.

JULIA. I shall not marry Master William Gardner.

JOHN. I reckon as you'll be glad enough to eat up every one of them words the day you claps eyes on Master William, for a more splendid gentleman nor he never fetched his breath.

JULIA. I'll never wed a farmer, John.

JOHN. And then, look at the gift what Master William's been and sent you. 'Tisn't to everyone as master do part with his pig meat. That 'tisn't.

JULIA. [Rising.] Well, you can tell your master I'm not one that can be courted with a jowl, mellow or otherwise. And that I'll not wed until I can give my heart along with my hand.

JOHN. I'd like to know where you would find a better one nor master for to give your heart to, mistress?

JULIA. May be I have not far to search.

JOHN. [Taking up the basket.] You're a rare tricksy maid as ever I did see. Tricksy and tossy too.

JULIA. There—that's enough, John. Suppose you set off home and tell your master he can hang up his meat again in the larder, for all that it concerns me.

JOHN. I'll be blowed if I do say anything of the sort, mistress. I shall get and tell Master William as you be giving a bit of thought to the matter, and that jowls not being to your fancy, 'tis very like as a dish of trotters may prove acceptabler.

JULIA. Say what you like, John. Only let me bide quiet in this good forest now. I want to be with my thoughts.

JOHN. [Preparing to go and speaking aloud to himself.] Her's a wonderful contrary bird to be sure. And bain't a shy one neither, what gets timid and flustered and is easily netted. My word, but me and master has a job before us for to catch she.

JULIA. I hear you, and 'tis very rudely that you talk. There's an old saying that I never could see the meaning of before, but now I think 'tis clear, "Like master, like man," they say. I'll have none of Master William, and you can tell him so.

[JOHN goes out angrily. JULIA sits down again on the bench and begins to sing.

JULIA. [Singing.]

My gardener stood by And told me to take great care, For in the middle of a red rose-bud There grows a sharp thorn there.

[LAURA comes slowly forward, carrying the basket of vegetables on one arm. She holds a handkerchief to her face and is crying.

JULIA. Why, Laura, what has made you cry so sadly?

LAURA. O, Julia, 'twas a rare red rose as I held in my hand, and a rare cruel thorn that came from it and did prick me.

JULIA. And a rare basket of green stuff that you have been getting.

LAURA. [Sinking down on the seat, and weeping violently.] His dear gift to me!

JULIA. [Looking into the basket.] O a wonderful fine gift, to be sure. Young carrots and spring cabbage. I've had a gift offered too—but mine was jowls.

LAURA. Jowls. O, and did you not take them?

JULIA. No, I sent them back to the giver, with the dry heart which was along with them in the same basket.

LAURA. O Julia, how could you be so hard and cruel?

JULIA. Come, wouldn't you have done the same?

LAURA. [Sobbing vehemently.] That I should not, Julia.

JULIA. Perhaps you've seen the gentleman then?

LAURA. I have. And O, Julia, he is a beautiful gentleman. I never saw one that was his like.

JULIA. The rare red rose with its thorn, Laura.

LAURA. He did lay the heart of him before me—thinking my name was Julia.

JULIA. And did he lay the vegetables too?

LAURA. 'Twas all the doing of a great fool, that man of his.

JULIA. And you—did you give him what he asked of you—before he knew that your name was not Julia?

LAURA. O, I did—that I did. [A short silence.

JULIA. And could you forget the prick of the thorn, did you hold the rose again, Laura?

LAURA. O that I could. For me there'd be naught but the rose, were it laid once more in my hand. But 'tis not likely to be put there, since 'tis you he favours.

JULIA. But I don't favour him.

LAURA. You'll favour him powerful well when you see him, Julia.

JULIA. I've given my heart already, but 'tis not to him.

LAURA. You've given your heart?

JULIA. Yes, Chris has all of it, Laura. There is nothing left for anyone else in the world.

LAURA. O Julia, think of your position.

JULIA. That I will not do. I am going to think of yours.

LAURA. [Beginning to cry.] I'm no better in my station than a serving maid, like Susan.

JULIA. [Pointing.] There she comes [calling] Susan, Susan!

[SUSAN comes up. During the next sentences LAURA takes one bunch of vegetables after another from the basket, smoothing each in turn with a fond caressing movement.

SUSAN. Did you call, mistress?

JULIA. Yes, Susan. That I did.

SUSAN. Can I help you in any way, Miss Julia?

JULIA. Yes, and that you can. You have got to run quickly back to the farm.

SUSAN. Be it got terrible late, mistress?

JULIA. 'Tis not only that. You have got to find your master and tell him to expect a visit from me in less than an hour's time from now. Do you understand?

SUSAN. O, yes, mistress, and that I do—to tell master as you be coming along after he as fast as you can run.

JULIA. Well—I should not have put it in that way, but 'tis near enough may be. So off, and make haste, Susan.

SUSAN. Please, mistress, I could make the words have a more loving sound to them if you do wish it.

JULIA. My goodness, Susan, what are you thinking of? Say naught, but that I'm coming. Run away now, and run quickly. [SUSAN goes off.

LAURA. [Looking up, a bunch of carrots in her hands.] What are you going to do now, Julia?

JULIA. You shall see, when you have done playing with those carrots.

LAURA. He pulled them, every one, with his own hands, Julia.

JULIA. My love has gathered something better for me than a carrot. See, a spray of elder bloom that was tossing ever so high in the wind.

[She takes a branch of elder flower from her dress, and shews it to LAURA.

LAURA. The roots that lie warm in the earth do seem more homely like to me.

JULIA. Well—each one has their own way in love—and mine lies through the dark woods, and yours is in the vegetable garden. And 'tis your road that we will take this afternoon—so come along quickly with me, Laura, for the sun has already begun to change its light.

[LAURA replaces the vegetables in her basket and rises from the seat as the curtain falls.



ACT III.—Scene 1.



The Garden of Road Farm as in Act I.

MRS. GARDNER is knitting in the Arbour. WILLIAM strolls about gloomily, his hands in his pockets.

MRS. GARDNER. And serve you right, William, for sending the man when you should have gone yourself.

WILLIAM. John has a tongue that is better used to this sort of business than mine.

MRS. GARDNER. Nonsense, when was one of our family ever known to fail in the tongue?

WILLIAM. If she that was asked first had only been the right one, all would have been over and done with now.

MRS. GARDNER. 'Tis John that you have got to thank for the blunder.

WILLIAM. [Sighing.] That was a rare fine maid, and no mistake.

MRS. GARDNER. And a rare brazen hussy, from all that has reached my ears.

WILLIAM. Well—I've done with courting—now and for all time, that I have. And you may roast me alive if I'll ever go nigh to a maid again.

MRS. GARDNER. That you shall, William—and quickly too. There's no time like the present, and your Sunday clothes are upon you still.

WILLIAM. I was just going up to change, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER. Then you'll please to remain as you are. You may take what gift you like along with you this time, so long as it's none of my home-cured meat.

WILLIAM. I'm blessed if I do stir out again this day. Why, look at the seedlings crying for water, and the nets to lay over the fruit and sommat of everything wanting to be done all around of me. I'll not stir.

[JOHN comes towards them.

MRS. GARDNER. Here's John. Suppose he were to make himself useful in the garden for once instead of meddling in things that are none of his business.

JOHN. I'll be blowed if 'tis any more courting as I'll do, neither for Master William nor on my own account.

WILLIAM. Why, John, 'twasn't your fault that the lady wouldn't take me, you did your best with her, I know.

JOHN. An that I did, Master William, but a more contrary coxsy sort of a maid I never did see. "I baint one as fancies pig meat," her did say. And the nose of she did curl away up till it could go no higher. That's not the wench for me, I says to myself.

MRS. GARDNER. Is the jowl hung up in its right place again, John?

JOHN. That 'tis, mistress. I put it back myself, and a good job for that 'taint went out of the family and off to the mouths of strangers, so says I.

MRS. GARDNER. Do you tend to Master William's garden John, instead of talking. We've had enough of your tongue for one day.

JOHN. Why, be Master William goin' out for to court again, this afternoon?

WILLIAM. No, John—No, I've had enough of that for my life time.

JOHN. So have I, master, and more nor enough. I don't care particular if I never set eyes on a maid again.

WILLIAM. [Pointing to a plot of ground.] That's where I pulled the young carrots this morning.

JOHN. Ah, and so you did, master.

WILLIAM. And there's from where I took the Early Snowballs.

JOHN. And a great pity as you did. There be none too many of that sort here.

WILLIAM. She had a wonderful soft look in her eyes as she did handle them and the spring cabbage, John.

JOHN. Ah, and a wonderful hard tongue when her knowed 'twasn't for she as they was pulled.

WILLIAM. Was t'other maid anything of the same pattern, John?

JOHN. Upon my word, if t'other wasn't the worst of the two, for she did put a powerful lot of venom into the looks as she did give I, and the words did fall from she like so many bricks on my head.

WILLIAM. Pity the first was not the right maid.

JOHN. Ah, a maid what can treat a prime home-cured jowl as yon did baint the sort for to mistress it over we, I'm thinking.

MRS. GARDNER. See here, John—suppose you were to let your tongue bide still in its home awhile, and start doing something with your hands.

JOHN. That's right enough, mistress. What's wanted, Master William?

WILLIAM. I'm blessed if I can recollect, John. This courting business lies heavy on me, and I don't seem able to get above it, like.

JOHN. I'd let it alone, master, if I was you. They be all alike, the maids. And 'twouldn't be amiss if we was to serve they as we serves the snails when they gets to the young plants.

[SUSAN comes hurriedly into the garden.

SUSAN. Please master, please mistress.

MRS. GARDNER. What do you mean, Susan, by coming into the garden without your cap? Go and put it on at once.

SUSAN. The wind must have lifted it from me, mistress, for I was running ever so fast.

MRS. GARDNER. Do you expect me to believe that, Susan—and not a breath stirring the flowers or trees, or anything?

SUSAN. 'Twas the lady I met as—as—as I was coming across the field from feeding the fowls.

MRS. GARDNER. What lady, Susan?

SUSAN. Her from Luther's, mistress.

JOHN. And what of she; out with it, wench.

SUSAN. She did tell I to say as she be coming along as fast as she may after Master William.

WILLIAM. [As though to himself with an accent of despair.] No. No.

JOHN. There, master, didn't I tell you so?

WILLIAM. [Very nervously.] What did you tell me, John?

JOHN. That, let her abide and her'd find the senses of she presently.

WILLIAM. O I'm blessed if I do know what to do.

[JOHN takes his master's arm and draws him aside.

JOHN. You pluck up your heart, my dearest master, and court she hard. And in less nor a six months 'tis along to church as you'll be a-driving she.

WILLIAM. But John, 'tis t'other with the cherry ribbons that has taken all my fancy.

JOHN. No, no, Master William. You take and court the mistress. You take and tame the young vixen, and get the gold and silver from she. T'other wench is but the serving maid.

SUSAN. The lady's coming along ever so quickly, master.

[MRS. GARDNER, rising and folding up her knitting.

MRS. GARDNER. You'll please to come indoors with me, William, and I'll brush you down and make you look more presentable than you appear just now. Susan, you'll get a cap to you head at once, do you hear me! And John, take and water master's seedlings. Any one can stand with their mouths open and their eyes as big as gooseberries if they've a mind. 'Tis not particular sharp to do so. Come, William.

WILLIAM. I'd like a word or two with John first, Mother.

MRS. GARDNER. You come along with me this moment, William. 'Tis a too many words by far that you've had with John already, and much good they've done to you. Come you in with me.

WILLIAM. O I'm blessed if I do know whether 'tis on my head or on my feet that I'm standing.

[WILLIAM follows his mother slowly and gloomily into the house.

JOHN. Well—if ever there was a poor, tormented animal 'tis the master.

SUSAN. Ah, mistress should have been born a drover by rights. 'Tis a grand nagging one as her'd have made, and sommat what no beast would ever have got the better of.

JOHN. I wouldn't stand in Master William's shoes, not if you was to put me knee deep in gold.

SUSAN. Nor I.

JOHN. Ah, this courting business, 'tis a rare caddling muddle when 'tis all done and said.

SUSAN. 'Tis according as some folks do find it, Master John.

JOHN. 'Tis a smartish lot as you'll get of it come Sunday night, my wench. You wait and see.

SUSAN. That shews how little you do know. 'Twill be better nor ever with me then.

JOHN. 'Twill be alone by yourself as you'll go walking, Su.

SUSAN. We'll see about that when the time comes, John.

JOHN. All I says is that I baint a-going walking with you.

SUSAN. I never walk with two, John.

JOHN. You'll have to learn to go in your own company.

SUSAN. I shall go by the side of my husband by then, very likely.

JOHN. Your husband? What tales be you a-giving out now?

SUSAN. 'Tis to Nat as I'm to be wed come Saturday.

JOHN. Get along with you, Susan, and put a cap to your head. Mistress will be coming out presently, and then you know how 'twill be if her catches you so. Get along in with you.

SUSAN. Now you don't believe what I'm telling you—but it's true, O it's true.

JOHN. Look here—There's company at the gate, and you a-standing there like any rough gipsy wench on the road. Get you in and make yourself a decenter appearance and then go and tell the mistress as they be comed.

SUSAN. [Preparing to go indoors and speaking over her shoulder.] 'Tis in the parson's gown as you should be clothed, Master John. Ah, 'tis a wonderful wordy preacher as you would make, to be sure. And 'tis a rare crop as one might raise with the seed as do fall from your mouth.

[She goes indoors. JULIA comes leisurely into the garden.

JULIA. Well, John, and how are you feeling now?

JOHN. Nicely, thank you, mistress. See yon arbour?

JULIA. And that I do, John.

JOHN. Well, you may go and sit within it till the master has leisure to come and speak with you.

JULIA. Thank you, John, but I would sooner stop and watch you tend the flowers.

JOHN. 'Tis all one to me whether you does or you does not.

JULIA. Now, John, you are angry with me still.

JOHN. I likes a wench as do know the mind of she, and not one as can blow hot one moment and cold the next.

JULIA. There was never a moment when I did not know my own mind, John. And that's the truth.

JOHN. Well, us won't say no more about that. 'Taint fit as there should be ill feeling nor quarrelling 'twixt me and you.

JULIA. You're right, John. And there was something that I had it in my mind to ask you.

JOHN. You can say your fill. There baint no one but me in the garden.

JULIA. John, you told me that since Sunday your master has been sick with love.

JOHN. That's right enough, mistress. I count as we shall bury he if sommat don't come to his relief.

JULIA. Now, John, do you look into my eyes and tell me if 'tis for love of Julia or of Laura that your master lies sickening.

JOHN. You'd best go and ask it of his self, mistress. 'Tis a smartish lot of work as I've got to attend to here.

JULIA. You can go on working, John. I am not hindering you.

JOHN. No more than one of they old Juney bettels a-roaring and a- buzzin round a man's head.

JULIA. Now, John—you must tell me which of the two it is. Is it Laura whom your master loves, or Julia?

JOHN. 'Tis Julia, then, since you will have it out of me.

JULIA. No, John, you're not looking straight at me. You are looking down at the flower bed. Let your eyes meet mine.

JOHN. [Looking up crossly.] I've got my work to think of. I'm not one to stand cackling with a maid.

JULIA. Could you swear me it is Julia?

JOHN. 'Tis naught to I which of you it be. There bide over, so as I can get the watering finished.

JULIA. [Seizes the watering can.] Now, John, you have got to speak the truth to me.

JOHN. Give up yon can, I tell you. O you do act wonderful unseemly for a young lady.

JULIA. [Withholding the can.] Not till I have the truth from you.

JOHN. [Angrily.] Well then, is it likely that my master would set his fancy on such a plaguy, wayward maid? Why, Master William do know better nor to do such a thing, I can tell you.

JULIA. Then 'tis for Laura that he is love-sick, John.

JOHN. Give I the watering can.

JULIA. [Giving him the can.] Here it is, dear John. O I had a fancy all the time that 'twas to Laura your master had lost his heart. And now I see I made no mistake.

JOHN. I shouldn't have spoke as I did if you hadn't a buzzed around I till I was drove very nigh crazy. Master William, he'll never forgive me this.

JULIA. That he will, I'm sure, when he has listened to what I have got to say to him.

JOHN. You do set a powerful store on what your tongue might say, but I'd take and bide quiet at home if I was you and not come hunting of a nice reasonable gentleman like master, out of his very garden.

JULIA. O John, you're a sad, ill-natured man, and you misjudge me very unkindly. But I'll not bear malice if you will just run in and tell your master that I want a word with him.

JOHN. A word? Why not say fifty? When was a maid ever satisfied with one word I'd like to know?

JULIA. Well—I shan't say more than six, very likely, so fetch him to me now, John, and I'll wait here in the garden. [JOHN looks at her with exasperated contempt. Then he slowly walks away towards the house. JULIA goes in the opposite direction to the garden gate.

JULIA. [Calling.] Chris! [CHRIS comes in.

JULIA. [Pointing.] O Chris, look at this fine garden—and yon arbour—see the fine house, with lace curtains to the windows of it.

CHRIS. [Sullenly.] Ah—I sees it all very well.

JULIA. And all this could be mine for the stretching out of a hand.

CHRIS. Then stretch it.

JULIA. 'Twould be like putting a wild bird into a gilded cage, to set me here in this place. No, I must go free with you, Chris—and we will wander where our spirits lead us—over all the world if we have a mind to do so.

CHRIS. Please God you'll not grieve at your choice.

JULIA. That I never shall. Now call to Laura. Is she in the lane outside?

CHRIS. There, she be come to the gate now.

[LAURA comes in, followed by NAT and TANSIE.

JULIA. [Pointing to a place on the ground.] Laura, see, here is the place from which your young carrots were pulled.

LAURA. O look at the flowers, Julia—Lillies, pinks and red roses.

JULIA. 'Tis a fine red rose that shall be gathered for you presently, Laura. [JOHN comes up.

JOHN. The master's very nigh ready now, mistress.

[SUSAN follows him.

SUSAN. The mistress says, please to be seated till she do come.

JOHN. [To CHRIS and NAT.] Now, my men, we don't want the likes of you in here. You had best get off afore Master William catches sight of you.

JULIA. No, John. These are my friends, and I wish them to hear all that I have to say to your master.

JOHN. Ah, 'tis in the grave as poor Master William will be landed soon if you don't have a care.

LAURA. [Anxiously.] O is he so delicate as that, John?

JOHN. Ah—and that he be. And these here love matters and courtings and foolishness have very nigh done for he. I don't give him but a week longer if things do go on as they be now.

[WILLIAM and MRS. GARDNER come in. WILLIAM looks nervously round him. MRS. GARDNER perceives the gipsies, and SUSAN talking to NAT.

MRS. GARDNER. Susan, get you to your place in the kitchen, as quick as you can. John, put yon roadsters through the gate, if you please. [Turning to JULIA.] Now young Miss?

JULIA. A very good evening to you, mistress. And let me make Chris known to you for he and I are to be wed to-morrow.

[She takes CHRIS by the hand and leads him forward.

MRS. GARDNER. What's this? William, do you understand what the young person is telling us?

JULIA. [Taking LAURA with her other hand.] And here is Laura to whom I have given all my land and all my money. She is the mistress of Luther's now.

JOHN. [Aside to WILLIAM.] Now master, hearken to that. Can't you lift your spirits a bit.

JULIA. [To MRS. GARDNER.] And I beg you to accept her as a daughter. She will make a better farmer's wife than ever I shall.

JOHN. [In a loud whisper.] Start courting, master.

WILLIAM. O I dare not quite so sudden, John.

MRS. GARDNER. [Sitting down.] It will take a few moments for me to understand this situation.

JULIA. There is no need for any hurry. We have all the evening before us.

JOHN. [Hastily gathers a rosebud and puts it into WILLIAM'S hand.] Give her a blossom, master. 'Tis an easy start off.

WILLIAM. [Coming forward shyly with the flower.] Would you fancy a rosebud, mistress?

LAURA. O that I would, master.

WILLIAM. Should you care to see—to see where the young celery is planted out?

LAURA. O, I'd dearly love to see the spot.

WILLIAM. I'll take you along to it then. [He gives her his arm, very awkwardly, and they move away.

MRS. GARDNER. [Sitting down.] Well—things have changed since I was young.

JOHN. [Looking viciously at NAT and SUSAN.] Ah, I counts they have, mistress, and 'tis all for the worse.

SUSAN. [Comes forward timidly.] And me and Nat are to be married too, mistress.

MRS. GARDNER. I should have given you notice anyhow to-night, Susan, so perhaps it's just as well you have made sure of some sort of a roof to your head.

NAT. 'Twill be but the roof of th' old cart, mistress; but I warrant as her'll sleep bravely under it, won't you, Su.

SUSAN. That I shall, dear Nat.

TANSIE. Well, Master John, have you a fancy to come tenting along of we.

JOHN. Upon my word, but I don't know how 'tis with the young people nowadays, they be so bold.

JULIA. [Who has been standing apart, her hand in that of CHRIS.] New days, new ways, John.

JOHN. Bless my soul, but 'tis hard to keep up with all these goings on, and no mistake.

JULIA. No need for you to try, John. If you are too old to run with us you must abide still and watch us as we go.

CHRIS. But there, you needn't look downhearted, master, for I knows someone as'll give you a rare warm welcome if so be as you should change your mind and take your chance in the open, same as we.

TANSIE. You shall pay for that, Chris.

JOHN. [Stiffly.] I hope as I've a properer sense of my duty nor many others what I could name.

MRS. GARDNER. Those are the first suitable words that have been spoken in my hearing this afternoon.

[WILLIAM, with LAURA on his arm, returns. LAURA carries a small cucumber very lovingly.

LAURA. Julia, look! The first one of the season! O, isn't it a picture!

JULIA. O Laura, 'tis a fine wedding gift to be sure.

WILLIAM. [Stepping up to JOHN.] John, my man, here's a five pound note to your pocket. I'd never have won this lady here if it hadn't been for you.

JOHN. [Taking the note.] Don't name it, dear master. 'Tis a long courtship what has no ending to it, so I always says.

MRS. GARDNER. 'Tis one upset after another, but suppose you were to make yourself useful for once, Susan, and bring out the tray with the cake and glasses on it.

JOHN. Ah, that's it, and I'll go along of she and help draw the cider. Courtship be powerful drying work.

LAURA. [Looking into WILLIAM'S eyes.] O William, 'twas those Early Snowballs that did first stir up my heart.

WILLIAM. 'Twas John who thought of them. Why, John has more sensible thoughts to the mind of him than any other man in the world- -and when the cider is brought, 'tis to John's health we will all drink.

[Curtain.]



PRINCESS ROYAL



CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY

ROSE, MARION, village girls. LADY MILLICENT. ALICE, her maid. LEAH, an old gipsy. SUSAN, otherwise Princess Royal, her grand-daughter. JOCKIE, a little swine herd. LADY CULLEN. Her ladies in waiting (or one lady only). LORD CULLEN, her only son. As many girls as are needed for the dances should be in this Play.

The parts of Lord Cullen and Jockie may be played by girls.



ACT I.—Scene 1.



A village green. Some girls with market baskets come on to it, each one carrying a leaflet which she is earnestly reading.

Gradually all the girls approach from different sides reading leaflets.

Under a tree at the far end of the green the old gipsy is sitting— she lights a pipe and begins to smoke as ROSE, her basket full of market produce, comes slowly forward reading her sheet of paper. She is followed by MARION—also reading.

ROSE. Well, 'tis like to be a fine set out, this May Day.

MARION. I can make naught of it myself.

ROSE. Why, 'tis Lord Cullen putting it about as how he be back from the war and thinking of getting himself wed, like.

MARION. I understands that much, I do.

ROSE. Only he can't find the maid what he's lost his heart to.

MARION. [Reading.] The wench what his lordship did see a-dancing all by herself in the forest when he was hid one day all among the brambles, a-rabbiting or sommat.

ROSE. And when my lord would have spoke with her, the maid did turn and fled away quick as a weasel.

MARION. And his lordship off to the fighting when 'twas next morn.

ROSE. So now, each maid of us in the village and all around be to dance upon the green come May Day so that my lord may see who 'twas that pleased his fancy.

[SUSAN comes up and stands quietly listening. She is bare foot and her skirt is ragged, she wears a shawl over her shoulders and her hair is rough and untidy. On her arm she carries a basket containing a few vegetables and other marketings.

MARION. And when he do pitch upon the one, 'tis her as he will wed.

ROSE. 'Twill be a thing to sharpen the claws of th' old countess worse nor ever—that marriage.

MARION. Ah, I reckon as her be mortal angered with all the giddle- gaddle this business have set up among the folk.

ROSE. [Regretfully.] I've never danced among the trees myself.

MARION. [Sadly.] Nor I, neither, Rose.

ROSE. I'd dearly like to be a countess, Marion.

MARION. His lordship might think I was the maid. I'm spry upon my feet you know.

[SUSAN comes still nearer.

MARION. [Turning to her and speaking rudely.] Well, Princess Rags, 'tisn't likely as 'twas you a-dancing one of your Morris dances in the wood that day!

ROSE. [Mockingly.] 'Tisn't likely as his lordship would set his thoughts on a wench what could caper about like a Morris man upon the high road. So there.

SUSAN. [Indifferently.] I never danced upon the high road, I dances only where 'tis dark with gloom and no eyes upon me. No mortal eyes.

MARION. [Impudently.] Get along with you, Princess Royal. Go off to th' old gipsy Gran'ma yonder. We don't want the likes of you along of us.

ROSE. Go off and dance to your own animals, Miss Goatherd. All of us be a-going to practise our steps against May Day. Come along girls.

[She signs to the other girls who all draw near and arrange themselves for a Country Dance. SUSAN goes slowly towards her GRANDMOTHER and sits on the ground by her side, looking sadly and wistfully at the dancers. At the end of the dance, the girls pick up their baskets and go off in different directions across the green. SUSAN and her GRANDMOTHER remain in their places. The gipsy continues to smoke and SUSAN absently turns over the things in her basket.

SUSAN. They mock me in the name they have fixed to me—Princess Royal.

GRANDMOTHER. Let them mock. I'll bring the words back to them like scorpions upon their tongues.

[There is a little silence and then SUSAN begins to sing as though to herself.

SUSAN. [Singing.]

"As I walked out one May morning, So early in the Spring; I placed my back against the old garden gate, And I heard my true love sing." {1}

GRANDMOTHER. [At the end of the singing.] It might be the blackcap a-warbling all among of the branches. So it might.

SUSAN. Ah, 'twas I that was a-dancing in the shade of the woods that day.

GRANDMOTHER. He'll never look on the likes of you—that's sure enough, my little wench.

SUSAN. I wish he was a goat-herd like myself—O that I do.

GRANDMOTHER. Then there wouldn't be no use in your wedding yourself with him as I can see.

SUSAN. 'Tis himself, not his riches that I want.

GRANDMOTHER. You be speaking foolishness. What do you know of him— what do us blind worms know about the stars above we?

SUSAN. I see'd him pass by upon his horse one day. All there was of him did shine like the sun upon the water—I was very near dazed by the brightness. So I was.

[The GRANDMOTHER continues to smoke in silence.

SUSAN. [Softly.] And 'twas then I lost the heart within me to him.

[JOCKIE runs up beating his tabor.

SUSAN. [Springing up.] Come, Jockie, I have a mind to dance a step or two. [Rubbing her eyes with the back of her hands.] Tears be for them as have idle times and not for poor wenches what mind cattle and goats. Come, play me my own music, Jock. And play it as I do like it best.

[JOCKIE begins to play the tune of "Princess Royal" and SUSAN dances. Whilst SUSAN is dancing LADY MILLICENT and her waiting maid come slowly by and stand watching. SUSAN suddenly perceives them and throws herself on the ground. JOCKIE stops playing.

LADY MILLICENT. [Fanning herself.] A wondrous bold dance, upon my word—could it have been that which captivated my lord, Alice?

ALICE. O no, mistress. His lordship has no fancy for boldness in a maid.

LADY MILLICENT. Immodest too. A Morris dance. The girl should hide her face in shame.

ALICE. And there she is, looking at your ladyship with her gipsy eyes, bold as a brass farthing.

SUSAN. [Starting up and speaking passionately.] I'll not be taunted for my dancing—I likes to dance wild, and leap with my body when my spirit leaps, and fly with my limbs when my heart flies and move in the air same as the birds do move when 'tis mating time.

GRANDMOTHER. Ah, 'tis so with she. She baint no tame mouse what creeps from its hole along of t'others and who do go shuffle shuffle, in and out of the ring, mild as milk and naught in the innards of they but the squeak.

SUSAN. [Defiantly.] 'Twas my dance gained his lordship's praise—so there, fine madam.

LADY MILLICENT. Your dance? Who are you then?

ALICE. A gipsy wench, mistress, who minds the goats and pigs for one of they great farms.

GRANDMOTHER. Have a care for that tongue of yours, madam waiting maid. For I know how to lay sommat upon it what you won't fancy.

LADY MILLICENT. [Coming up to SUSAN and laying her hand on her arm.] Now tell me your name, my girl.

SUSAN. They call me Princess Royal.

LADY MILLICENT. O that must be in jest. Why, you are clothed in rags, poor thing.

SUSAN. [Shaking herself free.] I'd sooner wear my own rags nor the laces which you have got upon you.

LADY MILLICENT. Now why do you say such a thing?

SUSAN. 'Twas in these rags as I danced in the wood that day, and 'tis by these rags as my lord will know me once more.

LADY MILLICENT. Listen, I will cover you in silk and laces, Princess Royal.

ALICE. Susan is the maid's name.

SUSAN. I don't want none of your laces or silks.

LADY MILLICENT. And feed you with poultry and cream and sweetmeats.

SUSAN. I want naught but my crust of bread.

LADY MILLICENT. I'll fill your hands with gold pieces.

GRANDMOTHER. Do you hear that, Sue?

SUSAN. [Doggedly.] I hear her well enough, Gran.

LADY MILLICENT. If you'll teach me your dance against May Day. Then, I'll clothe myself much after your fashion and dance upon the green with the rest.

SUSAN. I'll not learn you my dance. Not for all the gold in the world. You shan't go and take the only thing I have away from me.

LADY MILLICENT. [Angrily.] Neither shall a little gipsy wretch like you take my love from me. We were as good as promised to each other at our christening.

ALICE. Don't put yourself out for the baggage, madam. His lordship would never look on her.

GRANDMOTHER. Gold, did you say, mistress?

LADY MILLICENT. Gold? O yes—an apron full of gold, and silver too.

GRANDMOTHER. Do you hear that, Susan?

SUSAN. [Doggedly.] I'll not do it for a King's ransom.

GRANDMOTHER. You will. You'll do it for the sake of poor old Gran, what's been father and mother to you—and what's gone hungered and thirsty so that you might have bread and drink.

SUSAN. [Distractedly.] O I can never give him up.

GRANDMOTHER. He'll never be yourn to give—Dance till your legs is off and he'll have naught to say to a gipsy brat when 'tis all finished.

ALICE. Whilst my lady belongs to his lordship's own class, 'tis but suitable as she should be the one to wed with him—knowing the foreign tongues and all, and playing so sweetly on her instruments. There's a lady anyone would be proud to take before the Court in London.

[SUSAN turns away with a movement of despair. The GRANDMOTHER begins to smoke again. LADY MILLICENT fans herself and ALICE arranges her own shawl.

GRANDMOTHER. I could do with a little pig up at our place if I'd the silver to take into the market for to buy him with. [A silence.

GRANDMOTHER. And I could do with a pair of good shoes to my poor old feet come winter time when 'tis snowing. [Another silence.

GRANDMOTHER. And 'twould be good not to go to bed with the pain of hunger within my lean old body—so 'twould. [SUSAN turns round suddenly.

SUSAN. I'll do it, Gran. I'll do it for your sake. 'Tis very likely true what you do say, all of you. I'd but dance my feet off for naught. When he came to look into my gipsy eyes, 'twould all be over and done with.

LADY MILLICENT. Sensible girl.

ALICE. 'Tis time she should see which way her bread was spread.

SUSAN. Come, Jockie, come ladies—come Gran—we'll be off to the quiet of our own place where I can learn her ladyship the steps and capers.

GRANDMOTHER. [Rising and pointing to an advancing figure.] You'd best make haste. The mice be a-running from their holes once more— t'wouldn't do for they to know aught about this.

SUSAN. Let us go quickly then.

[The GRANDMOTHER, SUSAN, LADY MILLICENT with ALICE and JOCKIE go out as a crowd of village girls come on to the green, and laughing and talking together, arrange themselves to practise a Country Dance.

End of Act I.



ACT II.—Scene 1.



Groups of village girls are sitting or standing about on the green. A dais has been put up at one end of it.

MARION. How slow the time do pass, this May Day.

ROSE. Let's while it away with a song or two.

[They all join in singing. At the end of the song the gipsy comes slowly and painfully across the green, casting black looks to right and to left. She is followed by SUSAN, who appears weighed down by sadness.

ROSE. Good afternoon, Princess Royal Rags. Are we to see you cutting capers before his lordship this afternoon?

MARION. Get along and hide your bare feet behind the tree, Royal. I'd be ashamed to go without shoes if 'twas me.

SUSAN. O leave me alone—you be worse nor a nest of waspes—that you be.

GRANDMOTHER. [Turning fiercely round.] Us'll smoke them out of their holes one day—see if us do not.

[They pass over to the tree where the GRANDMOTHER sits down and SUSAN crouches by her side. Presently they are joined by JOCKIE. The girls sing a verse or two of another song, and during this LADY MILLICENT, enveloped in a big cloak, goes over to the tree, followed by ALICE, also wearing a long cloak and they sit down by the side of SUSAN.

MARION. [Pointing.] Who are those yonder, Rose?

ROSE. I'm sure I don't know, Marion—strangers, may be.

MARION. O my heart goes wild this afternoon.

ROSE. Mine too. Look, there they come.

[The Music begins to play and old LADY CULLEN, followed by her lady companions, comes slowly towards the dais, on which she seats herself.

LADY CULLEN. Dear me, what a gathering to be sure.

HER LADY. Indeed it is an unusual sight.

LADY CULLEN. And O what a sad infatuation on the part of my poor boy.

HER LADY. The war has been known to turn many a brain.

LADY CULLEN. And yet my son holds his own with the brightest intelligences of the day.

HER LADY. Only one little spot of his lordship's brain seems to be affected.

LADY CULLEN. Just so. But here he comes, poor misguided youth.

[LORD CULLEN comes slowly over the green, looking to right and to left. He mounts the dais and sits down by his mother, and the music plays for a country dance. "The Twenty Ninth of May." The girls arrange themselves, and during the dance LORD CULLEN scans each face very eagerly. The dance ends and the girls pass in single file before the dais.

LORD CULLEN. No, no—that was not the music of it, that was not the dance—not a face among them resembles the image I carry in my heart.

LADY CULLEN. [Aside.] Thank goodness. May that face never be seen again.

[A fresh group come up and another dance is formed and danced.

LORD CULLEN. [At the end of it.] Worse and worse. Could I have dreamed both the music and the dance and the dancer?

LADY CULLEN. [Soothingly.] I am sure this was the case, my dear son.

LORD CULLEN. [Rallying.] I heard her voice singing in the forest before ever she began to dance. It was the sweetest voice and song I ever heard. [Looking around.] Can any of these maid, sing to me, I wonder?

MARION. [Steps forward.] I only know one song, my lord.

[LORD CULLEN signs to her to sing, and she stands before the dais and sings a verse of "Bedlam."

LORD CULLEN. [Impatiently.] No, no—that is not in the least what I remember. [Turning to ROSE.] You try now.

ROSE. I don't sing, my lord—but—[Indicating another girl in the group] she has a sweet voice, and she knows a powerful lot of songs.

[A girl steps out from the others and sings a verse of "The Lark in the Morn."

LORD CULLEN. Not that. Mine was a song to stir the depths of a man's heart and bring tears up from the fountains of it.

[He leans back in deep dejection—and at this moment LADY MILLICENT and ALICE come forward.

LORD CULLEN. [Eagerly.] I seem to know that russet skirt—those bare, small feet. [Standing up quickly.] Mother, look at that maid with the red kerchief on her head.

LADY CULLEN. Some sort of a gipsy dress, to all appearance.

LORD CULLEN. [Doubtfully.] The skirt she wore was torn and ragged— that day in the forest. She had no gold rings to her ears, nor silken scarf upon her head—But this might be her dress for holidays.

[JOCKIE advances and begins to play the tune of "Princess Royal."

LORD CULLEN. [Eagerly.] That is the right music—O is it possible my quest is ended!

[LADY MILLICENT and ALICE, standing opposite one to another begin to dance—slowly and clumsily, and in evident doubt as to their steps. LORD CULLEN watches them for a moment and then claps his hands angrily as a sign for the music to stop. The dancers pause.

LORD CULLEN. This is a sad mimicry of my beautiful love. But there lies something behind the masquerade which I shall probe.

[He leaves the dais and goes straight towards LADY MILLICENT, who turns from him in confusion.

LORD CULLEN. From whom did you take the manner and the colour of your garments, my maid?

[LADY MILLICENT remains obstinately silent.

LORD CULLEN. [To ALICE.] Perhaps you have a tongue in your head. From whom did you try to learn those steps?

[ALICE turns sulkily away. JOCKIE comes forward.

JOCKIE. I'll tell your lordship all about it, and I'll take your lordship straight to the right wench, that I will, if so be as your lordship will give a shilling to a poor little swine-herd what goes empty and hungered most of the year round.

LORD CULLEN. A handful of gold, my boy, if you lead me rightly.

[JOCKIE leads the way to the tree where SUSAN is sitting. She stands up as LORD CULLEN approaches, and for a moment they gaze at one another in silence.

GRANDMOTHER. You might curtsey to the gentleman, Susan.

LORD CULLEN. No—there's no need of that, from her to me. [Turning to JOCKIE and putting his hand in his pocket.] Here, my boy, is a golden pound for you—and more shall follow later.

[He then takes SUSAN'S hand and leads her to the foot of the dais.

LORD CULLEN. Will you dance for me again, Susan?

SEVERAL OF THE GIRLS. [Mockingly.] Princess Royal is her name.

MARION. [Rudely.] Or Princess Rags.

SUSAN. 'Tis all took out of my hands now, I can but do as your lordship says. Jockie, play me my music, and play it bravely too.

[JOCKIE places himself near her and begins to play. SUSAN dances by herself. At the end of her dance LORD CULLEN leads the applause, and even the ladies on the dais join faintly in it. He then takes SUSAN by the hand and mounts the dais with her and presents her to his mother.

LADY CULLEN. [Aside, to her companion.] I wonder if the young person understands that my poor boy is a little touched in the brain?

LORD CULLEN. Here is your daughter, mother.

[LADY CULLEN and SUSAN look at one another in silence. After a moment SUSAN turns to LORD CULLEN.

SUSAN. I'm a poor ragged thing to be daughter to the likes of she. But the heart within of me is grander nor that of any queen, because of the love that it holds for you, my lord.

[LORD CULLEN takes her hand and leads her to the front of the dais.

LORD CULLEN. We will be married to-morrow, my princess. And all these good people shall dance at our wedding.

MARION. [Springing up.] And we'll do a bit of dancing now as well. Come, Jockie, give us the tune of "Haste to the Wedding."

ROSE. That's it. Come girls -

LADY MILLICENT. [To ALICE.] I pray he won't find out about me.

[The old GRANDMOTHER has come slowly towards the middle of the green.

GRANDMOTHER. Ah, and my little wench will know how to pay back some of the vipers tongues which slandered her, when she sits on her velvet chair as a countess, the diamonds a-trickling from her neck and the rubies a-crowning of her head. Her'll not forget the snakes what did lie in the grass. Her'll have her heel upon they, so that their heads be put low and there shan't go no more venom from their great jaws to harm she, my pretty lamb—my little turtle.

[The music begins to play and all those on the green form themselves for the dance. LORD CULLEN and SUSAN stand side by side in front of the dais, and the GRANDMOTHER lights a pipe and smokes it as she watches the dance from below. At the end of the dance LORD CULLEN, leading SUSAN, comes down from the dais and, followed by LADY CULLEN and her ladies, passes between two lines of girls and so off the stage. The girls follow in procession, and lastly the GRANDMOTHER preceded by JOCKIE, beating his drum.

[Curtain.]



THE SEEDS OF LOVE



CHARACTERS

JOHN DANIEL, aged 30, a Miller. ROSE-ANNA his sister. KITTY, aged 16, his sister. ROBERT PEARCE, aged 26. LIZ, JANE elderly cousins of Robert. JEREMY, John's servant—of middle age. MARY MEADOWS, aged 24, a Herbalist. LUBIN. ISABEL.

The time is Midsummer.



ACT I



A woodland road outside MARY'S cottage. There are rough seats in the porch and in front of the window. Bunches of leaves and herbs hang drying around door and window. MARY is heard singing within.

MARY. [Singing.]

I sowed the seeds of Love, And I sowed them in the Spring. I gathered them up in the morning so soon. While the sweet birds so sweetly sing, While the sweet birds so sweetly sing. {2}

[MARY comes out of the cottage, a bundle of enchanter's nightshade in her arms. She hangs it by a string to the wall and then goes indoors.

MARY. [Singing.]

The violet I did not like, Because it bloomed so soon; The lily and the pink I really over think, So I vowed I would wait till June, So I vowed I would wait till June.

[During the singing LUBIN comes slowly and heavily along the road. He wears the dress of a farm labourer and carries a scythe over his shoulder. In front of the cottage he pauses, looks round doubtfully, and then sits stiffly and wearily down on the bench beneath the window.

MARY. [Coming to the doorway with more plants and singing.]

"For the grass that has oftentimes been trampled underfoot, Give it time, it will rise up again."

LUBIN. [Looking up gloomily.] And that it won't, mistress.

MARY. [Suddenly perceiving him and coming out.] O you are fair spent from journeying. Can I do anything for you, master?

LUBIN. [Gazing at her fixedly.] You speak kindly for a stranger, but 'tis beyond the power of you nor anyone to do aught for me.

MARY. [Sitting down beside him and pointing to the wall of the house.] See those leaves and flowers drying in the sun? There's medicine for every sort of sickness there, sir.

LUBIN. There's not a root nor yet a herb on the face of the earth that could cure the sickness I have within me.

MARY. That must be a terrible sort of a sickness, master.

LUBIN. So 'tis. 'Tis love.

MARY. Love?

LUBIN. Yes, love; wicked, unhappy love. Love what played false when riches fled. Love that has given the heart what was all mine to another.

[ISABEL has been slowly approaching, she wears a cotton handkerchief over her head and carries a small bundle tied up in a cloth on her arm. Her movements are languid and sad.

MARY. I know of flowers that can heal even the pains of love.

ISABEL. [Coming forward and speaking earnestly.] O tell me of them quickly, mistress.

MARY. Why, are you sick of the same complaint?

ISABEL. [Sinking down on the grass at MARY'S feet.] So bruised and wounded in the heart that the road from Framilode up here might well have been a hundred miles or more.

LUBIN. Framilode? 'Tis there you come from?

ISABEL. I was servant at the inn down yonder. Close upon the ferry. Do you know the place, master?

LUBIN. [In deep gloom.] Ah, the place and the ferry man too.

MARY. [Leaning forward and clasping her hands.] Him as is there to- day, or him who was?

LUBIN. He who was there and left for foreign parts a good three year ago.

[ISABEL covers her face and is shaken by sobs. LUBIN leans his elbow on his knee, shading his eyes with his hand.

MARY. I have help for all torments in my flowers. Such things be given us for that.

ISABEL. [Looking up.] You be gentle in your voices mistress. 'Tis like when a quist do sing, as you speaks.

MARY. Then do both of you tell your sorrow. 'Twill be strange if I do not find sommat that will lighten your burdens for you.

LUBIN. 'Twas at Moat Farm I was born and bred.

MARY. Close up to Daniels yonder?

LUBIN. The same. Rose-Anna of the Mill and I—we courted and was like to marry. But there came misfortune and I lost my all. She would not take a poor man, so I left these parts and got to be what you do see me now—just a day labourer.

ISABEL. Mine, 'tis the same tale, very nigh. Robert the ferry-man and me, we loved and was to have got us wedded, only there came a powerful rich gentleman what used to go fishing along of Robert. 'Twas he that 'ticed my lover off to foreign parts.

LUBIN. [With a heavy sigh.] These things are almost more than I can bear.

ISABEL. At first he wrote his letters very often. Then 'twas seldom like. Then 'twas never. And then there comed a day—[She is interrupted by her weeping.

MARY. Try to get out your story—you can let the tears run afterwards if you have a mind.

ISABEL. There comed a day when I did meet a fisherman from Bristol. He brought me news of Robert back from the seas, clothed in fine stuff with money in the pockets of him, horse and carriage, and just about to wed.

LUBIN. Did he name the maid?

ISABEL. Rose-Anna she was called, of Daniel's mill up yonder.

LUBIN. Rose-Anna—She with whom I was to have gone to church.

MARY. Here is a tangle worse nor any briar rose.

ISABEL. O 'twas such beautiful times as we did have down by the riverside, him and me.

LUBIN. She would sit, her hand in mine by the hour of a Sunday afternoon.

[A pause during which LUBIN and ISABEL seem lost in their own sad memories. MARY gets up softly and goes within the cottage.

ISABEL. And when I heared as 'twas to-morrow they were to wed, though 'twas like driving a knife deeper within the heart of me, I up and got me upon the road and did travel along by starlight and dawn and day just for one look upon his face again.

LUBIN. 'Twas so with me. From beyond Oxford town I am come to hurt myself worse than ever, by one sight of the eyes that have looked so cruel false into mine.

ISABEL. If I was to plead upon my knees to him 'twould do no good— poor wench of a serving maid like me.

LUBIN. [Looking down at himself.] She'd spurn me from the door were I to stand there knocking—in the coat I have upon me now. No—let her go her way and wed her fancy man.

[LUBIN shades his eyes with one hand. ISABEL bows her head on her knees weeping. MARY comes out of the house carrying two glass bowls of water.

MARY. Leave your sorrowful tears till later, my friends. This fresh water from the spring will revive you from your travelling.

LUBIN. [Looking up.] The heart of me is stricken past all remedy, mistress.

ISABEL. I could well lie me down and die.

[MARY giving to each one a bowl from which they begin to drink slowly.

MARY. I spoke as you do, once. My lover passed me by for another. A man may give all his love to the gilly flower, but 'tis the scarlet rose as takes his fancy come to-morrow.

ISABEL. And has your heart recovered from its sickness, mistress?

MARY. [Slowly.] After many years.

LUBIN. And could you wed you to another?

MARY. [Still more slowly.] Give the grass that has been trampled underfoot a bit of time, 'twill rise again. There's healing all around of us for every ill, did we but know it.

LUBIN. I'd give sommat to know where 'tis then.

MARY. There isn't a herb nor a leaf but what carries its message to them that are in pain.

ISABEL. Give me a bloom that'll put me to sleep for always, mistress.

MARY. There's evil plants as well, but 'tisn't a many. There's hen bane which do kill the fowls and fishes if they eat the seed of it. And there's water hemlock which lays dumbness upon man.

LUBIN. I've heard them tell of that, I have.

MARY. And of the good leaves there is hounds tongue. Wear it at the feet of you against dogs what be savage. Herb Benet you nail upon the door. No witch nor evil thing can enter to your house.

LUBIN. And have you naught that can deaden the stab of love upon the heart, mistress

ISABEL. [Speaking in anguish.] Aught that can turn our faithless lovers back again to we?

MARY. That I have. See these small packages—you that love Robert, take you this—and you who courted Rose-Anna, stretch out your hand.

[She puts a small paper packet into the hands of each.

LUBIN. [Looking uncertainly at his packet.] What'll this do for me, I'd like to know?

MARY. 'Tis an unfailing charm. A powder from roses, fine as dust, and another seed as well. You put it in her glass of water—and the love comes back to you afore next sun-rise.

ISABEL. And will it be the same with I?

MARY. You have the Herb of Robert there. Be careful of it. To- morrow at this hour, his heart will be all yours again, and you shall do what you will with it.

ISABEL. O I can't believe in this. 'Tis too good to be true, and that it be—A fine gentleman as Robert be now and a poor little wretch like me!

LUBIN. [Slowly.] 'Tis but a foolish dream like. How are folks like us to get mixing and messing with the drinks of they? Time was when I did sit and eat along of them at the table, the same as one of theirselves. But now! Why, they'd take and hound me away from the door.

ISABEL. And me too.

MARY. [Breaking off a spray of the enchanters nightshade from the bunch drying.] That'll bring luck, may be.

[ISABEL takes it and puts it in her dress and then wraps the packet in her bundle. LUBIN puts his packet away also. Whilst they are doing this, MARY strolls a little way on the road.

MARY. [Returning.] The man from Daniels be coming along.

LUBIN. [Hastily.] What, old Andrews?

MARY. No. This is another. Folk do marvel how Miller John do have the patience to keep in with him.

LUBIN. How's that?

MARY. So slow and heavy in his ways. But he can drink longer at the cider than any man in the county afore it do fly to his head, and that's why master do put up with him.

[JEREMY comes heavily towards them, a straw in his mouth. His hat is pushed to the back of his head. His expression is still and impassive. He comes straight towards MARY, then halts.

MARY. Come, Jeremy, I reckon 'tis not for rue nor tea of marjoram you be come here this morning?

JEREMY. [Looking coldly and critically at the travellers and pointing to them.] Who be they?

MARY. Travellers on the road, seeking a bit of rest.

[JEREMY continues to look them all over in silence.

MARY. How be things going at the Mill to-day, Jerry?

JEREMY. Powerful bad.

MARY. O I am grieved to hear of it. What has happened?

[LUBIN and ISABEL lean forward, listening eagerly.

JEREMY. 'Tis a pretty caddle, that's all.

MARY. The mistress isn't took ill? or Miss Kitty?

JEREMY. I almost wish they was, for then there wouldn't be none of this here marrying to-morrow.

MARY. What has upset you against the wedding, Jerry?

JEREMY. One pair of hands baint enough for such goings on.

MARY. 'Tis three you've got up there.

JEREMY. There you're mistook. Th' idle wench and the lad be both away—off afore dawn to the Fair and took their clothes along of they. I be left with all upon me like, and 'tis too much.

MARY. What shall you do, Jerry?

JEREMY. I'll be blowed if I'm agoin' to do anything. There.

MARY. But you'll have to stir yourself up and deck the house and set the table and wait upon the visitors and look to the traps and horses and all, Jerry—seeing as you're the only one.

JEREMY. I'll not. I'm not one as steps beyond my own work, and master do know it too.

MARY. Then how are they going to manage?

JEREMY. I'm out to find them as'll manage for them. [Turning sharply to LUBIN.] Be you in search of work, young man?

LUBIN. I—I count as I've nothing particular in view.

JEREMY. [Turning to ISABEL.] And you, wench?

ISABEL. [Faintly.] I've gone from the place where I was servant.

JEREMY. Then you'll come along of me—the both of you.

ISABEL. [Shrinking.] O no—I couldn't go among—among strangers.

JEREMY. I never takes no count of a female's vapours. You'll come along of me. You'll curl the mistress's hair and lace her gown and keep her tongue quiet—and you [turning to LUBIN] my man, will set the tables and wait upon the quality what we expect from Bristol town this dinner-time.

LUBIN. [Angrily.] I never waited on man nor woman in my life, and I'll not start now.

JEREMY. You will. I'm not agoin' a half mile further this warm morning. Back to the Mill you goes along of me, the two of you.

MARY. [Looking fixedly at ISABEL.] This is a chance for you, my dear. You'll not find a better.

JEREMY. Better? I count as you'll not better this'n. Good money for your pains—victuals to stuff you proper, and cider, all you can drink on a summer's day. I count you'll not better that.

LUBIN. [As though to himself.] I could not go.

JEREMY. Some cattle want a lot of driving.

ISABEL. [Timidly to LUBIN.] If I go, could not you try and come along with me, master?

LUBIN. You'll never have the heart to go through with it.

JEREMY. 'Tis a fine fat heart as her has within of she. Don't you go and put fancies into the head of her.

ISABEL. [To LUBIN.] I'll go if so be as you'll come along of me too.

[LUBIN bends his head and remains thinking deeply.

JEREMY. 'Tis thirsty work this hiring of men and wenches—I'll get me a drop of cider down at the Red Bull. Mayhap you'll be ready time I've finished.

MARY. I'll see that you're not kept waiting, Jeremy.

JEREMY. [Turning back after he has started.] What be they called, Mary?

[MARY looks doubtfully towards LUBIN and ISABEL.

ISABEL. My name—they calls me Isabel.

JEREMY. [Turning to LUBIN.] And yourn?

LUBIN. [In confusion.] I don't rightly recollect.

JEREMY. [Impassively.] 'Tis of no account, us'll call you William like the last one.

ISABEL. O, and couldn't I be called like the last one too?

JEREMY. Then us'll call you Lucy. And a rare bad slut her was, and doubtless you'll not prove much worser.

[He goes away.

MARY. This is your chance. A good chance too -

LUBIN. They'll know the both of us. Love isn't never quite so dead but what a sound in the speech or a movement of the hand will bring some breath to it again.

ISABEL. You're right there, master—sommat'll stir in the hearts of them when they sees we—and 'tis from the door as us'll be chased for masking on them like this.

MARY. But not before the seeds of love have done their work. Come, Isabel; come, Lubin—I will so dress you that you shall not be recognised.

[MARY goes indoors. ISABEL slowly rises and takes up her bundle. LUBIN remains seated, looking gloomily before him.

ISABEL. Come, think what 'twill feel to be along of our dear loves and look upon the forms of them and hear the notes of their voices once again.

LUBIN. That's what I am a-thinking of. 'Twill be hot iron drove right into the heart all the while. Ah, that's about it.

ISABEL. I'll gladly bear the pain.

LUBIN. [After a pause.] Then so will I. We'll go.

[He raises his eyes to her face and then gets heavily up and follows her into the cottage.



ACT II.—Scene 1.



The living room at Daniel's Mill. In the window ROSE-ANNA is seated awkwardly sewing some bright ribbons on to a muslin gown. KITTY is moving about rapidly dusting chairs and ornaments which are in disorder about the room and JOHN stands with his back to the grate gravely surveying them.

ROSE. [Petulantly.] Whatever shall we do, John! Me not dressed, everything no how, and them expected in less nor a half hour's time

KITTY. There! I've finished a-dusting the chairs. Now I'll set them in their places.

ROSE. No one is thinking of me! Who's going to help me on with my gown and curl my hair like Robert was used to seeing me wear it at Aunt's?

KITTY. Did you have it different down at Bristol, Rose?

ROSE. Of course I did. 'Twouldn't do to be countrified in the town.

JOHN. Your hair's well enough like that. 'Tisn't of hair as anyone'll be thinking when they comes in, but of victuals. And how we're a-going to get the table and all fixed up in so short a time do fairly puzzle me.

KITTY. I'll do the table.

ROSE. No. You've got to help me with my gown. O that was a good- for-nothing baggage, leaving us in the lurch!

JOHN. Well, I've done my best to get us out of the fix.

ROSE. And what would that be, pray?

KITTY. Why John, you've done nothing but stand with your back to the grate this last hour.

JOHN. I've sent off Jerry.

ROSE. [Scornfully.] Much good that'll do.

KITTY. We know just how far Jerry will have gone.

JOHN. I told him not to shew hisself unless he could bring a couple of servants back along with him.

ROSE. [Angrily.] You're more foolish than I took you to be, John. Get you off at once and fetch Jerry from his cider at the Red Bull. He's not much of a hand about the house, but he's better than no one.

JOHN. [Sighing heavily.] Jeremy's not the man to start his drinking so early in the day.

ROSE. I've caught him at the cask soon after dawn.

KITTY. And so have I, John. How you put up with his independent ways I don't know.

JOHN. Ah, 'tisn't everyone as has such a powerful strong head as Jerry's. He's one that can be trusted to take his fill, and none the worse with him afterwards.

[A knock at the door, which is pushed open by JEREMY.

JEREMY. [From the doorway.] Well, Master John—well, mistress?

ROSE. [Sharply.] Master was just starting out for to fetch you home, Jerry.

JEREMY. [Ignoring her.] Well, master, I've brought a couple back along of me.

ROSE. Ducklings or chickens?

JEREMY. I've gotten them too.

KITTY. Do you mean that you've found some servants for us, Jerry?

JEREMY. Two outside. Female and male.

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