Part 1 out of 2
This etext was produced by David Widger
THE FOURTH SERIES PLAYS
By John Galsworthy
PLAYS in the FOURTH SERIES
A BIT O' LOVE
THE SKIN GAME
(AN EXTRAVAGANT PLAY)
PERSONS OF THE PLAY
LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY, M.P.
LADY WILLIAM DROMONDY
OLD MRS. LEMMY
THE DUKE OF EXETER
Some ANTI-SWEATERS; Some SWEATED WORKERS; and a CROWD
SCENE I. The cellar at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S in Park Lane.
SCENE II. The room of old MRS. LEMMY in Bethnal Green.
SCENE III. Ante-room of the hall at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S
The Action passes continuously between 8 and 10.30 of a
summer evening, some years after the Great War.
LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S mansion in Park Lane. Eight o'clock of the
evening. LITTLE ANNE DROMONDY and the large footman, JAMES, gaunt
and grin, discovered in the wine cellar, by light of gas. JAMES, in
plush breeches, is selecting wine.
L. ANNE: James, are you really James?
JAMES. No, my proper name's John.
L. ANNE. Oh! [A pause] And is Charles's an improper name too?
JAMES. His proper name's Mark.
L. ANNE. Then is Thomas Matthew?
JAMES. Miss Anne, stand clear o' that bin. You'll put your foot
through one o' those 'ock bottles.
L. ANNE. No, but James--Henry might be Luke, really?
JAMES. Now shut it, Miss Anne!
L. ANNE. Who gave you those names? Not your godfathers and
JAMES. Poulder. Butlers think they're the Almighty. [Gloomily]
But his name's Bartholomew.
L. ANNE. Bartholomew Poulder? It's rather jolly.
JAMES. It's hidjeous.
L. ANNE. Which do you like to be called--John or James?
JAMES. I don't give a darn.
L. ANNE. What is a darn?
JAMES. 'Tain't in the dictionary.
L. ANNE. Do you like my name? Anne Dromondy? It's old, you know.
But it's funny, isn't it?
JAMES. [Indifferently] It'll pass.
L. ANNE. How many bottles have you got to pick out?
L. ANNE. Are they all for the dinner, or for the people who come in
to the Anti-Sweating Meeting afterwards?
JAMES. All for the dinner. They give the Sweated--tea.
L. ANNE. All for the dinner? They'll drink too much, won't they?
JAMES. We've got to be on the safe side.
L. ANNE. Will it be safer if they drink too much?
[JAMES pauses in the act of dusting a bottle to look at her, as
if suspecting irony.]
[Sniffing] Isn't the smell delicious here-like the taste of cherries
when they've gone bad--[She sniffs again] and mushrooms; and boot
JAMES. That's the escape of gas.
L. ANNE. Has the plumber's man been?
L. ANNE. Which one?
JAMES. Little blighter I've never seen before.
L. ANNE. What is a little blighter? Can I see?
JAMES. He's just gone.
L. ANNE. [Straying] Oh! . . . James, are these really the
JAMES. You might 'arf say so. There's a lot under a woppin' big
house like this; you can't hardly get to the bottom of it.
L. ANNE. Everything's built on something, isn't it? And what's THAT
JAMES. Ask another.
L. ANNE. If you wanted to blow it up, though, you'd have to begin
from here, wouldn't you?
JAMES. Who'd want to blow it up?
L. ANNE. It would make a mess in Park Lane.
JAMES. I've seen a lot bigger messes than this'd make, out in the
L. ANNE. Oh! but that's years ago! Was it like this in the
JAMES. [Grimly] Ah! 'Cept that you couldn't lay your 'and on a
bottle o' port when you wanted one.
L. ANNE. Do you, when you want it, here?
JAMES. [On guard] I only suggest it's possible.
L. ANNE. Perhaps Poulder does.
JAMES. [Icily] I say nothin' about that.
L. ANNE. Oh! Do say something!
JAMES. I'm ashamed of you, Miss Anne, pumpin' me!
L. ANNE. [Reproachfully] I'm not pumpin'! I only want to make
Poulder jump when I ask him.
JAMES. [Grinning] Try it on your own responsibility, then; don't
bring me in!
L. ANNE. [Switching off] James, do you think there's going to be a
JAMES. [Shocked] I shouldn't use that word, at your age.
L. ANNE. Why not? Daddy used it this morning to Mother.
[Imitating] "The country's in an awful state, darling; there's going
to be a bloody revolution, and we shall all be blown sky-high." Do
you like Daddy?
JAMES. [Taken aback] Like Lord William? What do you think? We
chaps would ha' done anything for him out there in the war.
L. ANNE. He never says that he always says he'd have done anything
JAMES. Well--that's the same thing.
L. ANNE. It isn't--it's the opposite. What is class hatred, James?
JAMES. [Wisely] Ah! A lot o' people thought when the war was over
there'd be no more o' that. [He sniggers] Used to amuse me to read
in the papers about the wonderful unity that was comin'. I could ha'
told 'em different.
L. ANNE. Why should people hate? I like everybody.
JAMES. You know such a lot o' people, don't you?
L. ANNE. Well, Daddy likes everybody, and Mother likes everybody,
except the people who don't like Daddy. I bar Miss Stokes, of
course; but then, who wouldn't?
JAMES. [With a touch of philosophy] That's right--we all bars them
that tries to get something out of us.
L. ANNE. Who do you bar, James?
JAMES. Well--[Enjoying the luxury of thought]--Speaking generally, I
bar everybody that looks down their noses at me. Out there in the
trenches, there'd come a shell, and orf'd go some orficer's head, an'
I'd think: That might ha' been me--we're all equal in the sight o'
the stars. But when I got home again among the torfs, I says to
meself: Out there, ye know, you filled a hole as well as me; but here
you've put it on again, with mufti.
L. ANNE. James, are your breeches made of mufti?
JAMES. [Contemplating his legs with a certain contempt] Ah!
Footmen were to ha' been off; but Lord William was scared we wouldn't
get jobs in the rush. We're on his conscience, and it's on my
conscience that I've been on his long enough--so, now I've saved a
bit, I'm goin' to take meself orf it.
L. ANNE. Oh! Are you going? Where?
JAMES. [Assembling the last bottles] Out o' Blighty!
L. ANNE. Is a little blighter a little Englishman?
JAMES. [Embarrassed] Well-'e can be.
L. ANNE [Mining] James--we're quite safe down here, aren't we, in a
revolution? Only, we wouldn't have fun. Which would you rather--be
safe, or have fun?
JAMES. [Grimly] Well, I had my bit o' fun in the war.
L. ANNE. I like fun that happens when you're not looking.
JAMES. Do you? You'd ha' been just suited.
L. ANNE. James, is there a future life? Miss Stokes says so.
JAMES. It's a belief, in the middle classes.
L. ANNE. What are the middle classes?
JAMES. Anything from two 'undred a year to supertax.
L. ANNE. Mother says they're terrible. Is Miss Stokes middle class?
L. ANNE. Then I expect they are terrible. She's awfully virtuous,
though, isn't she?
JAMES. 'Tisn't so much the bein' virtuous, as the lookin' it, that's
L. ANNE. Are all the middle classes virtuous? Is Poulder?
JAMES. [Dubiously] Well. Ask him!
L. ANNE. Yes, I will. Look!
[From an empty bin on the ground level she picks up a lighted
taper,--burnt almost to the end.]
JAMES. [Contemplating it] Careless!
L. Ate. Oh! And look! [She paints to a rounded metal object lying
in the bin, close to where the taper was] It's a bomb!
She is about to pick it up when JAMES takes her by the waist and puts
JAMES. [Sternly] You stand back, there! I don't like the look o'
L. ANNE. [With intense interest] Is it really a bomb? What fun!
JAMES. Go and fetch Poulder while I keep an eye on it.
L. ANNE. [On tiptoe of excitement] If only I can make him jump!
Oh, James! we needn't put the light out, need we?
JAMES. No. Clear off and get him, and don't you come back.
L. ANNE. Oh! but I must! I found it!
JAMES. Cut along.
L. ANNE. Shall we bring a bucket?
JAMES. Yes. [ANNE flies off.]
[Gazing at the object] Near go! Thought I'd seen enough o'them
to last my time. That little gas blighter! He looked a rum 'un,
too--one o' these 'ere Bolshies.
[In the presence of this grim object the habits of the past are
too much for him. He sits on the ground, leaning against one of
the bottle baskets, keeping his eyes on the bomb, his large,
lean, gorgeous body spread, one elbow on his plush knee. Taking
out an empty pipe, he places it mechanically, bowl down, between
his dips. There enter, behind him, as from a communication
trench, POULDER, in swallow-tails, with LITTLE ANNE behind him.]
L. ANNE. [Peering round him--ecstatic] Hurrah! Not gone off yet!
It can't--can it--while James is sitting on it?
POULDER. [Very broad and stout, with square shoulders,--a large
ruddy face, and a small mouth] No noise, Miss.--James.
POULDER. What's all this?
POULDER. Miss Anne, off you go, and don't you----
L. ANNE. Come back again! I know! [She flies.]
JAMES. [Extending his hand with the pipe in it] See!
POULDER. [Severely] You've been at it again! Look here, you're not
in the trenches now. Get up! What are your breeches goin' to be
like? You might break a bottle any moment!
JAMES. [Rising with a jerk to a sort of "Attention!"] Look here,
you starched antiquity, you and I and that bomb are here in the sight
of the stars. If you don't look out I'll stamp on it and blow us all
to glory! Drop your civilian swank!
POULDER. [Seeing red] Ho! Because you had the privilege of
fightin' for your country you still think you can put it on, do you?
Take up your wine! 'Pon my word, you fellers have got no nerve left!
[JAMES makes a sudden swoop, lifts the bomb and poises it in
both hands. POULDER recoils against a bin and gazes, at the
JAMES. Put up your hands!
POULDER. I defy you to make me ridiculous.
JAMES. [Fiercely] Up with 'em!
[POULDER'S hands go up in an uncontrollable spasm, which he
subdues almost instantly, pulling them down again.]
JAMES. Very good. [He lowers the bomb.]
POULDER. [Surprised] I never lifted 'em.
JAMES. You'd have made a first-class Boche, Poulder. Take the bomb
yourself; you're in charge of this section.
POULDER. [Pouting] It's no part of my duty to carry menial objects;
if you're afraid of it I'll send 'Enry.
JAMES. Afraid! You 'Op o' me thumb!
[From the "communication trench" appears LITTLE ANNE, followed
by a thin, sharp, sallow-faced man of thirty-five or so, and
another FOOTMAN, carrying a wine-cooler.]
L. ANNE. I've brought the bucket, and the Press.
PRESS. [In front of POULDER'S round eyes and mouth] Ah, major domo,
I was just taking the names of the Anti-Sweating dinner. [He catches
sight of the bomb in JAMES'S hand] By George! What A.1. irony! [He
brings out a note-book and writes] "Highest class dining to relieve
distress of lowest class-bombed by same!" Tipping! [He rubs his
POULDER. [Drawing himself up] Sir? This is present! [He indicates
ANNE with the flat of his hand.]
L. ANNE. I found the bomb.
PRESS. [Absorbed] By Jove! This is a piece of luck! [He writes.]
POULDER. [Observing him] This won't do--it won't do at all!
PRESS. [Writing-absorbed] "Beginning of the British Revolution!"
POULDER. [To JAMES] Put it in the cooler. 'Enry, 'old up the
cooler. Gently! Miss Anne, get be'ind the Press.
JAMES. [Grimly--holding the bomb above the cooler] It won't be the
Press that'll stop Miss Anne's goin' to 'Eaven if one o' this sort
goes off. Look out! I'm goin' to drop it.
[ALL recoil. HENRY puts the cooler down and backs away.]
L. ANNE. [Dancing forward] Oh! Let me see! I missed all the war,
[JAMES lowers the bomb into the cooler.]
POULDER. [Regaining courage--to THE PRESS, who is scribbling in his
note-book] If you mention this before the police lay their hands on
it, it'll be contempt o' Court.
PRESS. [Struck] I say, major domo, don't call in the police!
That's the last resort. Let me do the Sherlocking for you. Who's
been down here?
L. ANNE. The plumber's man about the gas---a little blighter we'd
never seen before.
JAMES. Lives close by, in Royal Court Mews--No. 3. I had a word
with him before he came down. Lemmy his name is.
PRESS. "Lemmy!" [Noting the address] Right-o!
L. ANNE. Oh! Do let me come with you!
POULDER. [Barring the way] I've got to lay it all before Lord
PRESS. Ah! What's he like?
POULDER. [With dignity] A gentleman, sir.
PRESS. Then he won't want the police in.
POULDER. Nor the Press, if I may go so far, as to say so.
PRESS. One to you! But I defy you to keep this from the Press,
major domo: This is the most significant thing that has happened in
our time. Guy Fawkes is nothing to it. The foundations of Society
reeling! By George, it's a second Bethlehem!
POULDER. [To JAMES] Take up your wine and follow me. 'Enry, bring
the cooler. Miss Anne, precede us. [To THE PRESS] You defy me?
Very well; I'm goin' to lock you up here.
PRESS. [Uneasy] I say this is medieval.
[He attempts to pass.]
POULDER. [Barring the way] Not so! James, put him up in that empty
'ock bin. We can't have dinner disturbed in any way.
JAMES. [Putting his hands on THE PRESS'S shoulders] Look here--go
quiet! I've had a grudge against you yellow newspaper boys ever
since the war--frothin' up your daily hate, an' makin' the Huns
desperate. You nearly took my life five hundred times out there. If
you squeal, I'm gain' to take yours once--and that'll be enough.
PRESS. That's awfully unjust. Im not yellow!
JAMES. Well, you look it. Hup.
PRESS. Little Lady-Anne, haven't you any authority with these
L. ANNE. [Resisting Poulard's pressure] I won't go! I simply must
see James put him up!
PRESS. Now, I warn you all plainly--there'll be a leader on this.
[He tries to bolt but is seized by JAMES.]
JAMES. [Ironically] Ho!
PRESS. My paper has the biggest influence
JAMES. That's the one! Git up in that 'ock bin, and mind your feet
among the claret.
PRESS. This is an outrage on the Press.
JAMES. Then it'll wipe out one by the Press on the Public--an' leave
just a million over! Hup!
POULDER. 'Enry, give 'im an 'and.
[THE PRESS mounts, assisted by JAMES and HENRY.]
L. ANNE. [Ecstatic] It's lovely!
POULDER. [Nervously] Mind the '87! Mind!
JAMES. Mind your feet in Mr. Poulder's favourite wine!
[A WOMAN'S voice is heard, as from the depths of a cave, calling
L. ANNE. [Aghast] Miss Stokes--I must hide!
[She gets behind POULDER. The three Servants achieve dignified
positions in front of the bins. The voice comes nearer. THE
PRESS sits dangling his feet, grinning. MISS STOKES appears.
She is woman of forty-five and terribly good manners. Her
greyish hair is rolled back off her forehead. She is in a high
evening dress, and in the dim light radiates a startled
MISS STOKES. Poulder, where is Miss Anne?
[ANNE lays hold of the backs of his legs.]
POULDER. [Wincing] I am not in a position to inform you, Miss.
MISS S. They told me she was down here. And what is all this about
POULDER. [Lifting his hand in a calming manner] The crisis is past;
we have it in ice, Miss. 'Enry, show Miss Stokes! [HENRY indicates
MISS S. Good gracious! Does Lord William know?
POULDER. Not at present, Miss.
MISS S. But he ought to, at once.
POULDER. We 'ave 'ad complications.
MISS S. [Catching sight of the legs of THE PRESS] Dear me! What
JAMES. [Gloomily] The complications.
[MISS STOKES pins up her glasses and stares at them.]
PRESS. [Cheerfully] Miss Stokes, would you kindly tell Lord William
I'm here from the Press, and would like to speak to him?
MISS S. But--er--why are you up there?
JAMES. 'E got up out o' remorse, Miss.
MISS S. What do you mean, James?
PRESS. [Warmly] Miss Stokes, I appeal to you. Is it fair to
attribute responsibility to an unsigned journalist--for what he has
JAMES. [Sepulchrally] Yes, when you've got 'im in a nice dark
MISS. S. James, be more respectful! We owe the Press a very great
JAMES. I'm goin' to pay it, Miss.
MISS S. [At a loss] Poulder, this is really most----
POULDER. I'm bound to keep the Press out of temptation, miss, till
I've laid it all before Lord William. 'Enry, take up the cooler.
James, watch 'im till we get clear, then bring on the rest of the
wine and lock up. Now, Miss.
MISS S. But where is Anne?
PRESS. Miss Stokes, as a lady----!
MISS S. I shall go and fetch Lord William!
POULDER. We will all go, Miss.
L. ANNE. [Rushing out from behind his legs] No--me!
[She eludes MISS STOKES and vanishes, followed by that
distracted but still well-mannered lady.]
POULDER. [Looking at his watch] 'Enry, leave the cooler, and take
up the wine; tell Thomas to lay it out; get the champagne into ice,
and 'ave Charles 'andy in the 'all in case some literary bounder
[HENRY takes up the wine and goes.]
PRESS. [Above his head] I say, let me down. This is a bit
undignified, you know. My paper's a great organ.
POULDER. [After a moment's hesitation] Well--take 'im down, James;
he'll do some mischief among the bottles.
JAMES. 'Op off your base, and trust to me.
[THE, PRESS slides off the bin's edge, is received by JAMES, and
not landed gently.]
POULDER. [Contemplating him] The incident's closed; no ill-feeling,
POULDER. That's right. [Clearing his throat] While we're waitin'
for Lord William--if you're interested in wine--[Philosophically]
you can read the history of the times in this cellar. Take 'ock: [He
points to a bin] Not a bottle gone. German product, of course.
Now, that 'ock is 'sa 'avin' the time of its life--maturin' grandly;
got a wonderful chance. About the time we're bringin' ourselves to
drink it, we shall be havin' the next great war. With luck that 'ock
may lie there another quarter of a century, and a sweet pretty wine
it'll be. I only hope I may be here to drink it. Ah! [He shakes his
head]--but look at claret! Times are hard on claret. We're givin'
it an awful doin'. Now, there's a Ponty Canny [He points to a bin]-
if we weren't so 'opelessly allied with France, that wine would have
a reasonable future. As it is--none! We drink it up and up; not
more than sixty dozen left. And where's its equal to come from for a
dinner wine--ah! I ask you? On the other hand, port is steady; made
in a little country, all but the cobwebs and the old boot flavour;
guaranteed by the British Nary; we may 'ope for the best with port.
Do you drink it?
PRESS. When I get the chance.
POULDER. Ah! [Clears his throat] I've often wanted to ask: What do
they pay you--if it's not indelicate?
[THE PRESS shrugs his shoulders.]
Can you do it at the money?
[THE PRESS shakes his head.] Still--it's an easy life! I've
regretted sometimes that I didn't have a shot at it myself;
influencin' other people without disclosin' your identity--something
very attractive about that. [Lowering his voice] Between man and
man, now-what do you think of the situation of the country--these
processions of the unemployed--the Red Flag an' the Marsillaisy in
the streets--all this talk about an upheaval?
PRESS. Well, speaking as a Socialist----
POULDER. [Astounded] Why; I thought your paper was Tory!
PRESS. So it is. That's nothing!
POULDER. [Open-mouthed] Dear me! [Pointing to the bomb] Do you
really think there's something in this?
JAMES. [Sepulchrally] 'Igh explosive.
PRESS. [Taking out his note-book] Too much, anyway, to let it drop.
[A pleasant voice calls "Poulder! Hallo!".]
POULDER. [Forming a trumpet with his hand] Me Lord!
[As LORD WILLIAM appears, JAMES, overcome by reminiscences;
salutes, and is mechanically answered. LORD WILLIAM has
"charm." His hair and moustache are crisp and just beginning to
grizzle. His bearing is free, easy, and only faintly armoured.
He will go far to meet you any day. He is in full evening
LORD W. [Cheerfully] I say, Poulder, what have you and James been
doing to the Press? Liberty of the Press--it isn't what it was, but
there is a limit. Where is he?
[He turns to Jams between whom and himself there is still the
freemasonry of the trenches.]
JAMES. [Pointing to POULDER] Be'ind the parapet, me Lord.
[THE PRESS mopes out from where he has involuntarily been.
screened by POULDER, who looks at JAMES severely. LORD WILLIAM
hides a smile.]
PRESS. Very glad to meet you, Lord William. My presence down here
is quite involuntary.
LORD W. [With a charming smile] I know. The Press has to put its--
er--to go to the bottom of everything. Where's this bomb, Poulder?
[He looks into the wine cooler.]
PRESS. [Taking out his note-book] Could I have a word with you on
the crisis, before dinner, Lord William?
LORD W. It's time you and James were up, Poulder. [Indicating the
cooler] Look after this; tell Lady William I'll be there in a
POULDER. Very good, me Lord.
[He goes, followed by JAMES carrying the cooler.]
[As THE PRESS turns to look after them, LORD WILLIAM catches
sight of his back.]
LORD W. I must apologise, sir. Can I brush you?
PRESS. [Dusting himself] Thanks; it's only behind. [He opens his
note-book] Now, Lord William, if you'd kindly outline your views on
the national situation; after such a narrow escape from death, I feel
they might have a moral effect. My paper, as you know, is concerned
with--the deeper aspect of things. By the way, what do you value
your house and collection at?
LORD W. [Twisting his little mustache] Really: I can't! Really!
PRESS. Might I say a quarter of a million-lifted in two seconds and
a half-hundred thousand to the second. It brings it home, you know.
LORD W. No, no; dash it! No!
PRESS. [Disappointed] I see--not draw attention to your property in
the present excited state of public feeling? Well, suppose we
approach it from the viewpoint of the Anti-Sweating dinner. I have
the list of guests--very weighty!
LORD W. Taken some lifting-wouldn't they?
PRESS. [Seriously] May I say that you designed the dinner to soften
the tension, at this crisis? You saw that case, I suppose, this
morning, of the woman dying of starvation in Bethnal Green?
LORD W. [Desperately] Yes-yes! I've been horribly affected. I
always knew this slump would come after the war, sooner or later.
PRESS. [Writing] ". . . had predicted slump."
LORD W. You see, I've been an Anti-Sweating man for years, and I
thought if only we could come together now . . . .
PRESS. [Nodding] I see--I see! Get Society interested in the
Sweated, through the dinner. I have the menu here. [He produces it.]
LORD W. Good God, man--more than that! I want to show the people
that we stand side by side with them, as we did in the trenches. The
whole thing's too jolly awful. I lie awake over it.
[He walks up and down.]
PRESS. [Scribbling] One moment, please. I'll just get that down--
"Too jolly awful--lies awake over it. Was wearing a white waistcoat
with pearl buttons." [At a sign of resentment from his victim.]
I want the human touch, Lord William--it's everything in my paper.
What do you say about this attempt to bomb you?
LORD W. Well, in a way I think it's d---d natural
PRESS. [Scribbling] "Lord William thought it d---d natural."
LORD W. [Overhearing] No, no; don't put that down. What I mean is,
I should like to get hold of those fellows that are singing the
Marseillaise about the streets--fellows that have been in the war--
real sports they are, you know--thorough good chaps at bottom--and
say to them: "Have a feeling heart, boys; put yourself in my
position." I don't believe a bit they'd want to bomb me then.
[He walks up and down.]
PRESS. [Scribbling and muttering] "The idea, of brotherhood--" D'you
mind my saying that? Word brotherhood--always effective--always----
LORD E. [Bewildered] "Brotherhood!" Well, it's pure accident that
I'm here and they're there. All the same, I can't pretend to be
starving. Can't go out into Hyde Park and stand on a tub, can I?
But if I could only show them what I feel--they're such good chaps--
PRESS. I quite appreciate! [He writes] "Camel and needle's eye."
You were at Eton and Oxford? Your constituency I know. Clubs? But
I can get all that. Is it your view that Christianity is on the up-
grade, Lord William?
LORD W. [Dubious] What d'you mean by Christianity--loving--kindness
and that? Of course I think that dogma's got the knock.
PRESS. [Writing] "Lord William thought dogma had got the knock."
I should like you just to develop your definition of Christianity.
"Loving--kindness" strikes rather a new note.
LORD W. New? What about the Sermon on the Mount?
PRESS. [Writing] "Refers to Sermon on Mount." I take it you don't
belong to any Church, Lord William?
LORD W. [Exasperated] Well, really--I've been baptised and that
sort of thing. But look here----
PRESS. Oh! you can trust me--I shan't say anything that you'll
regret. Now, do you consider that a religious revival would help to
quiet the country?
LORD W. Well, I think it would be a deuced, good thing if everybody
were a bit more kind.
PRESS. Ah! [Musing] I feel that your views are strikingly
original, Lord William. If you could just open out on them a little
more? How far would you apply kindness in practice?
LORD W. Can you apply it in theory?
PRESS. I believe it is done. But would you allow yourself to be
blown up with impunity?
LORD W. Well, that's a bit extreme. But I quite sympathise with
this chap. Imagine yourself in his shoes. He sees a huge house, all
these bottles; us swilling them down; perhaps he's got a starving
wife, or consumptive kids.
PRESS. [Writing and murmuring] Um-m! "Kids."
LORD W. He thinks: "But for the grace of God, there swill I. Why
should that blighter have everything and I nothing?" and all that.
PRESS. [Writing] "And all that." [Eagerly] Yes?
LORD W. And gradually--you see--this contrast--becomes an obsession
with him. "There's got to be an example made," he thinks; and--er--
he makes it, don't you know?
PRESS. [Writing] Ye-es? And--when you're the example?
LORD W. Well, you feel a bit blue, of course. But my point is that
you quite see it.
PRESS. From the other world. Do you believe in a future life, Lord
William? The public took a lot of interest in the question, if you
remember, at the time of the war. It might revive at any moment, if
there's to be a revolution.
LORD W. The wish is always father to the thought, isn't it?
PRESS. Yes! But--er--doesn't the question of a future life rather
bear on your point about kindness? If there isn't one--why be kind?
LORD W. Well, I should say one oughtn't to be kind for any motive--
that's self-interest; but just because one feels it, don't you know.
PRESS. [Writing vigorously] That's very new--very new!
LORD W. [Simply] You chaps are wonderful.
PRESS. [Doubtfully] You mean we're--we're----
LORD W. No, really. You have such a d---d hard time. It must be
perfectly beastly to interview fellows like me.
PRESS. Oh! Not at all, Lord William. Not at all. I assure you
compared with a literary man, it's--it's almost heavenly.
LORD W. You must have a wonderful knowledge of things.
PRESS. [Bridling a little] Well--I shouldn't say that.
LORD W. I don't see how you can avoid it. You turn your hands to
PRESS. [Modestly] Well--yes, Yes.
LORD W. I say: Is there really going to be a revolution, or are you
making it up, you Press?
PRESS. We don't know. We never know whether we come before the
event, or it comes before us.
LORD W. That's--very deep--very dip. D'you mind lending me your
note-book a moment. I'd like to stick that down. All right, I'll
use the other end. [THE PRESS hands it hypnotically.]
LORD W. [Jotting] Thanks awfully. Now what's your real opinion of
PRESS. As a man or a Press man?
LORD W. Is there any difference?
PRESS. Is there any connection?
LORD W. Well, as a man.
PRESS. As a man, I think it's rotten.
LORD W. [Jotting] "Rotten." And as a pressman?
PRESS. [Smiling] Prime.
LORD W. What! Like a Stilton cheese. Ha, ha!
[He is about to write.]
PRESS. My stunt, Lord William. You said that.
[He jots it on his cuff.]
LORD W. But look here! Would you say that a strong press movement
would help to quiet the country?
PRESS. Well, as you ask me, Lord William, I'll tell you. No
newspapers for a month would do the trick.
LORD W. [Jotting] By Jove! That's brilliant.
PRESS. Yes, but I should starve. [He suddenly looks up, and his
eyes, like gimlets, bore their way into LORD WILLIAM'S pleasant,
troubled face] Lord William, you could do me a real kindness.
Authorise me to go and interview the fellow who left the bomb here;
I've got his address. I promise you to do it most discreetly. Fact
is--well--I'm in low water. Since the war we simply can't get
sensation enough for the new taste. Now, if I could have an article
headed: "Bombed and Bomber"--sort of double interview, you know, it'd
very likely set me on my legs again. [Very earnestly] Look!
[He holds out his frayed wristbands.]
LORD W. [Grasping his hand] My dear chap, certainly. Go and
interview this blighter, and then bring him round here. You can do
that for one. I'd very much like to see him, as a matter of fact.
PRESS. Thanks awfully; I shall never forget it. Oh! might I have
[LORD WILLIAM hands it back.]
LORD W. And look here, if there's anything--when a fellow's
fortunate and another's not----
[He puts his hand into his breast pocket.]
PRESS. Oh, thank you! But you see, I shall have to write you up a
bit, Lord William. The old aristocracy--you know what the public
still expects; if you were to lend me money, you might feel----
LORD W. By Jove! Never should have dreamt----
PRESS. No! But it wouldn't do. Have you a photograph of yourself.
LORD W. Not on me.
PRESS. Pity! By the way, has it occurred to you that there may be
another bomb on the premises?
LORD W. Phew! I'll have a look.
[He looks at his watch, and begins hurriedly searching the bins,
bending down and going on his knees. THE PRESS reverses the
notebook again and sketches him.]
PRESS. [To himself] Ah! That'll do. "Lord William examines the
foundations of his house."
[A voice calls "Bill!" THE PRESS snaps the note-book to, and
looks up. There, where the "communication trench" runs in,
stands a tall and elegant woman in the extreme of evening
[With presence of mind] Lady William? You'll find Lord William
--Oh! Have you a photograph of him?
LADY W. Not on me.
PRESS. [Eyeing her] Er--no--I suppose not--no. Excuse me! [He
sidles past her and is gone.]
LADY W. [With lifted eyebrows] Bill!
LORD W. [Emerging, dusting his knees] Hallo, Nell! I was just
making sure there wasn't another bomb.
LADY W. Yes; that's why I came dawn: Who was that person?
LORD W. Press.
LADY W. He looked awfully yellow. I hope you haven't been giving
LORD W. [Dubiously] Well, I don't know. They're like corkscrews.
LADY W. What did he ask you?
LORD W. What didn't he?
LADY W. Well, what did you tell him?
LORD W. That I'd been baptised--but he promised not to put it down.
LADY W. Bill, you are absurd.
[She gives a light tittle laugh.]
LORD W. I don't remember anything else, except that it was quite
natural we should be bombed, don't you know.
LADY W. Why, what harm have we done?
LORD W. Been born, my dear. [Suddenly serious] I say, Nell, how am
I to tell what this fellow felt when he left that bomb here?
LADY W. Why do you want to?
LORD W. Out there one used to know what one's men felt.
LADY W. [Staring] My dear boy, I really don't think you ought to
see the Press; it always upsets you.
LORD W. Well! Why should you and I be going to eat ourselves silly
to improve the condition of the sweated, when----
LADY W. [Calmly] When they're going to "improve" ours, if we don't
look out. We've got to get in first, Bill.
LORD W. [Gloomily] I know. It's all fear. That's it! Here we
are, and here we shall stay--as if there'd never been a war.
LADY W. Well, thank heaven there's no "front" to a revolution. You
and I can go to glory together this time. Compact! Anything that's
on, I'm to abate in.
LORD W. Well, in reason.
LADY W. No, in rhyme, too.
LORD W. I say, your dress!
LADY W. Yes, Poulder tried to stop me, but I wasn't going to have
you blown up without me.
LORD W. You duck. You do look stunning. Give us a kiss!
LADY W. [Starting back] Oh, Bill! Don't touch me--your hands!
LORD W. Never mind, my mouth's clean.
They stand about a yard apart, and banding their faces towards each
other, kiss on the lips.
L. ANNE. [Appearing suddenly from the "communication trench," and
tip-toeing silently between them] Oh, Mum! You and Daddy ARE
wasting time! Dinner's ready, you know!
The single room of old MRS. LEMMY, in a small grey house in
Bethnal Green, the room of one cumbered by little save age, and
the crockery debris of the past. A bed, a cupboard, a coloured
portrait of Queen Victoria, and--of all things--a fiddle,
hanging on the wall. By the side of old MRS. LEMMY in her chair
is a pile of corduroy trousers, her day's sweated sewing, and a
small table. She sits with her back to the window, through
which, in the last of the light, the opposite side of the little
grey street is visible under the evening sky, where hangs one
white cloud shaped like a horned beast. She is still sewing,
and her lips move. Being old, and lonely, she has that habit of
talking to herself, distressing to those who cannot overhear.
From the smack of her tongue she was once a West Country cottage
woman; from the look of her creased, parchmenty face, she was
once a pretty girl with black eyes, in which there is still much
vitality. The door is opened with difficulty and a little girl
enters, carrying a pile of unfinished corduroy trousers nearly
as large as herself. She puts them down against the wall, and
advances. She is eleven or twelve years old; large-eyed, dark
haired, and sallow. Half a woman of this and half of another
world, except when as now, she is as irresponsible a bit of life
as a little flowering weed growing out of a wall. She stands
looking at MRS. LEMMY with dancing eyes.
L. AIDA. I've brought yer to-morrer's trahsers. Y'nt yer finished
wiv to-dy's? I want to tyke 'em.
MRS. L. No, me dear. Drat this last one--me old fengers!
L. AIDA. I learnt some poytry to-dy--I did.
MRS. L. Well, I never!
L. AIDA. [Reciting with unction]
"Little lamb who myde thee?
Dost thou know who myde thee,
Gyve thee life and byde thee feed
By the stream and oer the mead;
Gyve the clothing of delight,
Softest clothing, woolly, bright;
Gyve thee such a tender voice,
Myking all the vyles rejoice.
Little lamb who myde thee?
Dost thou know who myde thee?"
MRS. L. 'Tes wonderful what things they tache ya nowadays.
L. AIDA. When I grow up I'm goin' to 'ave a revolver an' shoot the
people that steals my jools.
MRS. L. Deary-me, wherever du yu get yore notions?
L. AIDA. An' I'm goin' to ride on as 'orse be'ind a man; an' I'm
goin' to ryce trynes in my motor car.
MRS. L. [Dryly] Ah!--Yu'um gwine to be very busy, that's sartin.
Can you sew?
L. AIDA. [With a Smile] Nao.
MRS. L. Don' they tache Yu that, there?
L. AIDA. [Blending contempt and a lingering curiosity] Nao.
MRS. L. 'Tes wonderful genteel.
L. AIDA. I can sing, though.
MRS. L. Let's 'ear yu, then.
L. AIDA. [Shaking her head] I can ply the pianner. I can ply a
MRS. L. Whose pianner?
L. AIDA. Mrs. Brahn's when she's gone aht.
MRS. L. Well, yu are gettin' edjucation! Du they tache yu to love
L. AIDA. [Ineffably] Nao. [Straying to the window] Mrs. Lemmy,
what's the moon?
MRS. L. The mune? Us used to zay 'twas made o' crame cheese.
L. AIDA. I can see it.
MRS. L. Ah! Don' yu never go wishin' for it, me dear.
L. AIDA. I daon't.
MRS. L. Folks as wish for the mune never du no gude.
L. AIDA. [Craning out, brilliant] I'm goin' dahn in the street.
I'll come back for yer trahsers.
MRS. L. Well; go yu, then, and get a breath o' fresh air in yore
chakes. I'll sune 'a feneshed.
L. AIDA. [Solemnly] I'm goin' to be a dancer, I am.
She rushes suddenly to the door, pulls it open, and is gone.
MRS. L. [Looking after her, and talking to herself.] Ah! 'Er've
a-got all 'er troubles before 'er! "Little lamb, a made'ee?"
[Cackling] 'Tes a funny world, tu! [She sings to herself.]
"There is a green 'ill far away
Without a city wall,
Where our dear-Lord was crucified,
'U died to save us all."
The door is opened, and LEMMY comes in; a little man with a
stubble of dark moustache and spiky dark hair; large, peculiar
eyes he has, and a look of laying his ears back, a look of
doubting, of perversity with laughter up the sleeve, that grows
on those who have to do with gas and water. He shuts the door.
MRS. L. Well, Bob, I 'aven't a-seen yu this tu weeks.
LEMMY comes up to his mother, and sits down on a stool, sets a
tool-bag between his knees, and speaks in a cockney voice.
LEMMY. Well, old lydy o' leisure! Wot would y' 'ave for supper, if
yer could choose--salmon wivaht the tin, an' tipsy cyke?
MRS. L. [Shaking her head and smiling blandly] That's showy. Toad
in the 'ole I'd 'ave--and a glass o' port wine.
LEMMY. Providential. [He opens a tool-bag] Wot dyer think I've got
MRS. L. I 'ope yu've a-got yureself a job, my son!
LEMMY. [With his peculiar smile] Yus, or I couldn't 'ave afforded
yer this. [He takes out a bottle] Not 'arf! This'll put the blood
into yer. Pork wine--once in the cellars of the gryte. We'll drink
the ryyal family in this.
[He apostrophises the portrait of Queen Victoria.]
MRS. L. Ah! She was a praaper gude queen. I see 'er once, when 'er
was bein' burried.
LEMMY. Ryalties--I got nothin' to sy agynst 'em in this country.
But the STYTE 'as got to 'ave its pipes seen to. The 'ole show's
goin' up pop. Yer'll wyke up one o' these dyes, old lydy, and find
yerself on the roof, wiv nuffin' between yer an' the grahnd.
MRS. L. I can't tell what yu'm talkin' about.
LEMMY. We're goin' to 'ave a triumpherat in this country Liberty,
Equality, Fraternity; an' if yer arsk me, they won't be in power six
months before they've cut each other's throats. But I don't care--I
want to see the blood flow! (Dispassionately) I don' care 'oose
blood it is. I want to see it flow!
MRS. L. [Indulgently] Yu'm a funny boy, that's sartin.
LEMMY. [Carving at the cork with a knife] This 'ere cork is like
Sasiety--rotten; it's old--old an' moulderin'. [He holds up a bit of
cork on the point of the knife] Crumblin' under the wax, it is. In
goes the screw an' out comes the cork. [With unction]--an' the blood
flows. [Tipping the bottle, he lets a drop fall into the middle of
his hand, and licks it up. Gazing with queer and doubting
commiseration at has mother] Well, old dear, wot shall we 'ave it
aht of--the gold loving-cup, or--what? 'Ave yer supper fust, though,
or it'll go to yer 'ead! [He goes to the cupboard and taken out a
disk in which a little bread is sopped in a little' milk] Cold pap!
'Ow can yer? 'Yn't yer got a kipper in the 'ouse?
MRS. L. [Admiring the bottle] Port wine! 'Tis a brave treat! I'll
'ave it out of the "Present from Margitt," Bob. I tuk 'ee therr by
excursion when yu was six months. Yu 'ad a shrimp an' it choked yu
praaperly. Yu was always a squeamy little feller. I can't never
think 'ow yu managed in the war-time, makin' they shells.
LEMMY, who has brought to the table two mugs and blown the duet
out of; them, fills them with port, and hands one to his mother,
who is eating her bread and milk.
LEMMY. Ah! Nothin' worried me, 'cept the want o' soap.
MRS. L. [Cackling gently] So it du still, then! Luke at yore face.
Yu never was a clean boy, like Jim.
[She puts out a thin finger and touches his cheek, whereon is a
LEMMY. [Scrubbing his cheek with his sleeve.] All right! Y'see, I
come stryte 'ere, to get rid o' this.
MRS. L. [Eating her bread and milk] Tes a pity yu'm not got a wife
to see't yu wash yureself.
LEMMY. [Goggling] Wife! Not me--I daon't want ter myke no food for
pahder. Wot oh!--they said, time o' the war--ye're fightin' for yer
children's 'eritage. Well; wot's the 'eritage like, now we've got
it? Empty as a shell before yer put the 'igh explosive in. Wot's it
like? [Warming to his theme] Like a prophecy in the pypers--not a
bit more substantial.
MRS. L. [Slightly hypnotised] How 'e du talk! The gas goes to yore
'ead, I think!
LEMMY. I did the gas to-dy in the cellars of an 'ouse where the wine
was mountains 'igh. A regiment couldn't 'a drunk it. Marble pillars
in the 'all, butler broad as an observytion balloon, an' four
conscientious khaki footmen. When the guns was roarin' the talk was
all for no more o' them glorious weeds-style an' luxury was orf. See
wot it is naow. You've got a bare crust in the cupboard 'ere, I
works from 'and to mouth in a glutted market--an' there they stand
abaht agyne in their britches in the 'oases o' the gryte. I was
reg'lar overcome by it. I left a thing in that cellar--I left a
thing . . . . It'll be a bit ork'ard for me to-mower. [Drinks
from his mug.]
MRS. L. [Placidly, feeling the warmth of the little she has drunk]
LEMMY. Wot thing? Old lydy, ye're like a winkle afore yer opens
'er--I never see anything so peaceful. 'Ow dyer manage it?
MRS. L. Settin' 'ere and thenkin'.
LEA. Wot abaht?
MRS. L. We-el--Money, an' the works o' God.
LEMMY. Ah! So yer give me a thought sometimes.
MRS. L. [Lofting her mug] Yu ought never to ha' spent yore money on
LEMMY. I thought that meself.
MRS. L. Last time I 'ad a glass o' port wine was the day yore
brother Jim went to Ameriky. [Smacking her lips] For a teetotal
drink, it du warm 'ee!
LEMMY. [Raising his mug] Well, 'ere's to the British revolution!
'Ere's to the conflygrytion in the sky!
MRS. L. [Comfortably] So as to kape up therr, 'twon't du no 'arm.
LEMMY goes to the window and unhooks his fiddle; he stands with
it halfway to his shoulder. Suddenly he opens the window and
leans out. A confused murmur of voices is heard; and a snatch
of the Marseillaise, sung by a girl. Then the shuffling tramp
of feet, and figures are passing in the street.
LEMMY. [Turning--excited] Wot'd I tell yer, old lydy? There it is-
-there it is!
MRS. L. [Placidly] What is?
LEMMY. The revolution. [He cranes out] They've got it on a barrer.
VOICE. [Answering] Cheerio!
LEMMY. [Leaning out] I sy--you 'yn't tykin' the body, are yer?
LEMMY. Did she die o' starvytion O.K.?
VOICE. She bloomin' well did; I know 'er brother.
LEMMY. Ah! That'll do us a bit o' good!
LEMMY. So long!
VOICE. So long!
[The girl's voice is heard again in the distance singing the
Marseillaise. The door is flung open and LITTLE AIDA comes
running in again.]
LEMMY. 'Allo, little Aida!
L. AIDA. 'Allo, I been follerin' the corfin. It's better than an
MRS. L. What coffin?
L. AIDA. Why, 'er's wot died o' starvytion up the street. They're
goin' to tyke it to 'Yde Pawk, and 'oller.
MRS. L. Well, never yu mind wot they'm goin' to du: Yu wait an' take
my trousers like a gude gell.
[She puts her mug aside and takes up her unfinished pair of
trousers. But the wine has entered her fingers, and strength to
push the needle through is lacking.]
LEMMY. [Tuning his fiddle] Wot'll yer 'ave, little Aida? "Dead March
in Saul" or "When the fields was white wiv dysies"?
L. AIDA. [With a hop and a brilliant smile] Aoh yus! "When the
MRS. L. [With a gesture of despair] Deary me! I 'aven't a-got the
LEMMY. Leave 'em alone, old dear! No one'll be goin' aht wivaht
trahsers to-night 'cos yer leaves that one undone. Little Aida, fold
[LITTLE AIDA methodically folds the five finished pairs of
trousers into a pile. LEMMY begins playing. A smile comes on
the face of MRS. L, who is rubbing her fingers. LITTLE AIDA,
trousers over arm, goes and stares at LEMMY playing.]
LEMMY. [Stopping] Little Aida, one o' vese dyes yer'll myke an
actress. I can see it in yer fyce!
[LITTLE AIDA looks at him wide-eyed.]
MRS. L. Don't 'ee putt things into 'er 'ead, Bob!
LEMMY. 'Tyn't 'er 'ead, old lydy--it's lower. She wants feedin'--
feed 'er an' she'll rise. [He strikes into the "Machichi"] Look at
'er naow. I tell yer there's a fortune in 'er.
[LITTLE AIDA has put out her tongue.]
MRS. L. I'd saner there was a gude 'eart in 'er than any fortune.
L. AIDA. [Hugging her pile of trousers] It's thirteen pence three
farthin's I've got to bring yer, an' a penny aht for me, mykes twelve
three farthin's: [With the same little hop and sudden smile] I'm
goin' to ride back on a bus, I am.
LEMMY. Well, you myke the most of it up there; it's the nearest
you'll ever git to 'eaven.
MRS. L. Don' yu discourage 'er, Bob; she'm a gude little thing, an't
L. AIDA. [Simply] Yus.
LEMMY. Not 'arf. Wot c'her do wiv yesterdy's penny?
L. AIDA. Movies.
LEMMY. An' the dy before?
L. AIDA. Movies.
LEMMY. Wot'd I tell yer, old lydy--she's got vicious tystes, she'll
finish in the theayter yep Tyke my tip, little Aida; you put every
penny into yer foundytions, yer'll get on the boards quicker that wy.
MRS. L. Don' yu pay no 'eed to his talk.
L. AIDA. I daon't.
Ice. Would yer like a sip aht o' my mug?
L. AIDA. [Brilliant] Yus.
MRS. L. Not at yore age, me dear, though it is teetotal.
[LITTLE AIDA puts her head on one side, like a dog trying to
LEMMY. Well, 'ave one o' my gum-drops.
[Holds out a paper.]
[LITTLE AIDA brilliant, takes a flat, dark substance from it,
and puts it in her mouth.]
Give me a kiss, an' I'll give yer a penny.
[LITTLE AIDA shakes her head, and leans out of window.]
Movver, she daon't know the valyer of money.
MRS. L. Never mind 'im, me dear.
L. AIDA. [Sucking the gum-drop--with difficulty] There's a taxi-cab
at the corner.
[LITTLE AIDA runs to the door. A figure stands in the doorway;
she skids round him and out. THE PRESS comes in.]
LEMMY. [Dubiously] Wat-oh!
PRESS. Mr. Lemmy?
LEMMY. The syme.
PRESS. I'm from the Press.
PRESS. They told me at your place you wens very likely here.
LEMMY. Yus I left Downin' Street a bit early to-dy! [He twangs the
PRESS. [Taking out his note-book and writing] "Fiddles while Rome
is burning!" Mr. Lemmy, it's my business at this very critical time
to find out what the nation's thinking. Now, as a representative
LEMMY. That's me.
PRESS. You can help me. What are your views?
LEMMY. [Putting down fiddle] Voos? Sit dahn!
[THE PRESS sits on the stool which LEMMY has vacated.]
The Press--my Muvver. Seventy-seven. She's a wonder; 'yn't yer, old
PRESS. Very happy to make your acquaintance, Ma'am. [He writes]
"Mrs. Lemmy, one of the veterans of industry----" By the way, I've
jest passed a lot of people following a coffin.
LEMMY. Centre o' the cyclone--cyse o' starvytion; you 'ad 'er in the
pyper this mornin'.
PRESS. Ah! yes! Tragic occurrence. [Looking at the trousers.] Hub
of the Sweated Industries just here. I especially want to get at the
MRS. L. 'Twasn't the 'eart, 'twas the stomach.
PRESS. [Writing] "Mrs. Lemmy goes straight to the point."
LEMMY. Mister, is it my voos or Muvver's yer want?
LEMMY. 'Cos if yer get Muvver's, yer won't 'ave time for mine. I
tell yer stryte [Confidentially] she's get a glawss a' port wine in
'er. Naow, mind yer, I'm not anxious to be intervooed. On the other
'and, anyfink I might 'eve to sy of valyer----There is a clawss o'
politician that 'as nuffn to sy--Aoh! an' daon't 'e sy it just! I
dunno wot pyper yer represent.
PRESS. [Smiling] Well, Mr. Lemmy, it has the biggest influ----
LEMMY. They all 'as that; dylies, weeklies, evenin's, Sundyes; but
it's of no consequence--my voos are open and aboveboard. Naow, wot
shall we begin abaht?
PRESS. Yourself, if you please. And I'd like you to know at once
that my paper wants the human note, the real heart-beat of things.
LEMMY. I see; sensytion! Well; 'ere am I--a fustclawss plumber's.
assistant--in a job to-dy an' out tomorrer. There's a 'eart-beat in
that, I tell yer. 'Oo knows wot the mower 'as for me!
PRESS. [Writing]. "The great human issue--Mr. Lemmy touches it at
LEMMY. I sy keep my nyme aht o' this; I don' go in fer self-
PRESS. [Writing] "True working-man--modest as usual."
LEMMY. I daon't want to embarrass the Gover'ment. They're so
ticklish ever since they got the 'abit, war-time, o' mindin' wot
LEMMY. For instance, suppose there's goin' to be a revolution----
[THE PRESS writes with energy.] 'Ow does it touch me? Like this: I
my go up--I cawn't come dahn; no more can Muvver.
MRS. L. [Surprisingly] Us all goes down into the grave.
PRESS. "Mrs. Lemmy interjects the deeper note."
LEMMY. Naow, the gryte--they can come dahn, but they cawn't go up!
See! Put two an' two together, an' that's 'ow it touches me. [He
utters a throaty laugh] 'Ave yer got that?
PRESS. [Quizzical] Not go up? What about bombs, Mr. Lemmy?
LEMMY. [Dubious] Wot abaht 'em? I s'pose ye're on the comic
pypers? 'Ave yer noticed wot a weakness they 'ave for the 'orrible?
PRESS. [Writing] "A grim humour peeped out here and there through
the earnestness of his talk."
[He sketches LEMMY'S profile.]
LEMMY. We 'ad an explosion in my factory time o' the war, that would
just ha' done for you comics. [He meditates] Lord! They was after
it too,--they an' the Sundyes; but the Censor did 'em. Strike me, I
could tell yer things!
PRESS. That's what I want, Mr. Lemmy; tell me things!
LEMMY. [Musing] It's a funny world, 'yn't it? 'Ow we did blow each
other up! [Getting up to admire] I sy, I shall be syfe there. That
won't betry me anonymiety. Why! I looks like the Prime Minister!
PRESS. [Rather hurt] You were going to tell me things.
LEMMY. Yus, an' they'll be the troof, too.
PRESS. I hope so; we don't----
LEMMY. Wot oh!
PRESS. [A little confused.] We always try to verify----
LEMMY. Yer leave it at tryin', daon't yer? Never, mind, ye're a
gryte institootion. Blimy, yer do have jokes, wiv it, spinnin' rahnd
on yer own tyles, denyin' to-dy wot ye're goin' to print to-morrer.
Ah, well! Ye're like all of us below the line o' comfort--live
dyngerously--ever' dy yer last. That's wy I'm interested in the
PRESS. Well now--the future. [Writing] "He prophesies."
LEMMY. It's syfer, 'yn't it? [He winks] No one never looks back on
prophecies. I remembers an editor spring o' 1916 stykin' his
reputytion the war'd be over in the follerin' October. Increased 'is
circulytion abaht 'arf a million by it. 1917 an' war still on--'ad
'is readers gone back on 'im? Nao! They was increasin' like
rabbits. Prophesy wot people want to believe, an' ye're syfe. Naow,
I'll styke my reputption on somethin', you tyke it dahn word for
word. This country's goin' to the dawgs--Naow, 'ere's the
sensytion--unless we gets a new religion.
PRESS. Ah! Now for it--yes?
LEMMY. In one word: "Kindness." Daon't mistyke me, nao sickly
sentiment and nao patronizin'. Me as kind to the millionaire as 'im
to me. [Fills his mug and drinks.]
PRESS. [Struck] That's queer! Kindness! [Writing] "Extremes
meet. Bombed and bomber breathing the same music."
LEMMY. But 'ere's the interestin' pynt. Can it be done wivaht
PRESS. [Writing] "He doubts."
LEMMY. No dabt wotever. It cawn't! Blood-and-kindness! Spill the
blood o' them that aren't kind--an' there ye are!
PRESS. But pardon me, how are you to tell?
LEMMY. Blimy, they leaps to the heye!
PRESS. [Laying down-his note-book] I say, let me talk to you as man
to man for a moment.
LEMMY. Orl right. Give it a rest!
PRESS. Your sentiments are familiar to me. I've got a friend on the
Press who's very keen on Christ and kindness; and wants to strangle
the last king with the--hamstrings of the last priest.
LEMMY. [Greatly intrigued] Not 'arf! Does 'e?
PRESS. Yes. But have you thought it out? Because he hasn't.
LEMMY. The difficulty is--where to stop.
PRESS. Where to begin.
LEMMY. Lawd! I could begin almost anywhere. Why, every month
abaht, there's a cove turns me aht of a job 'cos I daon't do just wot
'e likes. They'd 'ave to go. . I tell yer stryte--the Temple wants
PRESS. Ye-es. If I wrote what I thought, I should get the sack as
quick as you. D'you say that justifies me in shedding the blood of
LEMMY. The yaller Press 'as got no blood--'as it? You shed their
ile an' vinegar--that's wot you've got to do. Stryte--do yer believe
in the noble mission o' the Press?
PRESS. [Enigmatically] Mr. Lemmy, I'm a Pressman.
LEMMY. [Goggling] I see. Not much! [Gently jogging his mother's
elbow] Wyke up, old lydy!
[For Mrs. LEMMY who has been sipping placidly at her port, is
nodding. The evening has drawn in. LEMMY strikes a match on
his trousers and lights a candle.]
Blood an' kindness-that's what's wanted--'specially blood! The
'istory o' me an' my family'll show yer that. Tyke my bruver Fred-
crushed by burycrats. Tyke Muvver 'erself. Talk o' the wrongs o'
the people! I tell yer the foundytions is rotten. [He empties the
bottle into his mother's mug] Daon't mind the mud at the bottom, old
lydy--it's all strengthenin'! You tell the Press, Muvver. She can
talk abaht the pawst.
PRESS. [Taking up his note-book, and becoming, again his
professional self] Yes, Mrs. Lemmy? "Age and Youth--Past and
MRS. L. Were yu talkin' about Fred? [The port has warmed her veins,
the colour in her eyes and cheeks has deepened] My son Fred was
always a gude boy--never did nothin' before 'e married. I can see
Fred [She bends forward a little in her chair, looking straight
before her] acomin' in wi' a pheasant 'e'd found--terrible 'e was at
findin' pheasants. When father died, an' yu was cumin', Bob, Fred 'e
said to me: "Don't yu never cry, Mother, I'll look after 'ee." An'
so 'e did, till 'e married that day six months an' take to the drink
in sower. 'E wasn't never 'the same boy again--not Fred. An' now
'e's in That. I can see poor Fred----
[She slowly wipes a tear out of the corner of an eye with the
back of her finger.]
PRESS. [Puzzled] In--That?
LEMMY. [Sotto voce] Come orf it! Prison! 'S wot she calls it.
MRS. L. [Cheerful] They say life's a vale o' sorrows. Well, so
'tes, but don' du to let yureself thenk so.
PRESS. And so you came to London, Mrs. Lemmy?
MRS. L. Same year as father died. With the four o' them--that's my
son Fred, an' my son Jim, an' my son Tom, an' Alice. Bob there, 'e
was born in London--an' a praaper time I 'ad of et.
PRESS. [Writing] "Her heroic struggles with poverty----"
MRS. L. Worked in a laundry, I ded, at fifteen shellin's a week, an'
brought 'em all up on et till Alice 'ad the gallopin' consumption. I
can see poor Alice wi' the little red spots is 'er cheeks---an' I not
knowin' wot to du wi' 'her--but I always kept up their buryin' money.
Funerals is very dear; Mr. Lemmy was six pound, ten.
PRESS. "High price of Mr. Lemmy."
MRS. L. I've a-got the money for when my time come; never touch et,
no matter 'ow things are. Better a little goin' short here below,
an' enter the kingdom of 'eaven independent:
PRESS. [Writing] "Death before dishonour--heroine of the slums.
MRS. L. No, sir. Mary Lemmy. I've seen a-many die, I 'ave; an' not
one grievin'. I often says to meself: [With a little laugh] "Me
dear, when yu go, yu go 'appy. Don' yu never fret about that," I
says. An' so I will; I'll go 'appy.
[She stays quite still a moment, and behind her LEMMY draws one
finger across his face.]
[Smiling] "Yore old fengers'll 'ave a rest. Think o' that!" I says.
"'Twill be a brave change." I can see myself lyin' there an' duin'
[Again a pause, while MRS. LEMMY sees herself doing nothing.]
LEMMY. Tell abaht Jim; old lydy.
MRS. L. My son Jim 'ad a family o' seven in six years. "I don' know
'ow 'tes, Mother," 'e used to say to me; "they just sim to come!"
That was Jim--never knu from day to day what was cumin'. "Therr's
another of 'em dead," 'e used to say, "'tes funny, tu" "Well," I
used to say to 'im; "no wonder, poor little things, livin' in they
model dwellin's. Therr's no air for 'em," I used to say. "Well," 'e
used to say, "what can I du, Mother? Can't afford to live in Park
Lane:" An' 'e take an' went to Ameriky. [Her voice for the first
time is truly doleful] An' never came back. Fine feller. So that's
my four sons--One's dead, an' one's in--That, an' one's in Ameriky,
an' Bob 'ere, poor boy, 'e always was a talker.
[LEMMY, who has re-seated himself in the window and taken up his
fiddle, twangs the strings.]
PRESS. And now a few words about your work, Mrs. Lemmy?
MRS. L. Well, I sews.
PRESS. [Writing] "Sews." Yes?
MRS. L. [Holding up her unfinished pair of trousers] I putt in the
button'oles, I stretches the flies, I lines the crutch, I putt on
this bindin', [She holds up the calico that binds the top] I sews on
the buttons, I press the seams--Tuppence three farthin's the pair.
PRESS. Twopence three farthings a pair! Worse than a penny a line!
MRS. L. In a gude day I gets thru four pairs, but they'm gettin'
plaguey 'ard for my old fengers.
PRESS. [Writing] "A monumental figure, on whose labour is built the
mighty edifice of our industrialism."
LEMMY. I sy--that's good. Yer'll keep that, won't yet?
MRS. L. I finds me own cotton, tuppence three farthin's, and other
expension is a penny three farthin's.
PRESS. And are you an exception, Mrs. Lemmy?
MRS. L. What's that?
LEMMY. Wot price the uvvers, old lydy? Is there a lot of yer sewin'
yer fingers orf at tuppence 'ypenny the pair?
MRS. L. I can't tell yu that. I never sees nothin' in 'ere. I pays
a penny to that little gell to bring me a dozen pair an' fetch 'em
back. Poor little thing, she'm 'ardly strong enough to carry 'em.
Feel! They'm very 'eavy!
PRESS. On the conscience of Society!
LEMMY. I sy put that dahn, won't yer?
PRESS. Have things changed much since the war, Mrs. Lemmy?
MRS. L. Cotton's a lot dearer.
PRESS. All round, I mean.
MRS. L. Aw! Yu don' never get no change, not in my profession.
[She oscillates the trousers] I've a-been in trousers fifteen year;
ever since I got to old for laundry.
PRESS. [Writing] "For fifteen years sewn trousers." What would a
good week be, Mrs. Lemmy?
MRS. L. 'Tes a very gude week, five shellin's.
LEMMY. [From the window] Bloomin' millionairess, Muvver. She's
lookin' forward to 'eaven, where vey don't wear no trahsers.
MRS. L. [With spirit] 'Tidn for me to zay whether they du. An'
'tes on'y when I'm a bit low-sperrity-like as I wants to go therr.
What I am a-lukin' forward to, though, 'tes a day in the country.
I've not a-had one since before the war. A kind lady brought me in
that bit of 'eather; 'tes wonderful sweet stuff when the 'oney's in
et. When I was a little gell I used to zet in the 'eather gatherin'
the whorts, an' me little mouth all black wi' eatin' them. 'Twas in
the 'eather I used to zet, Sundays, courtin'. All flesh is grass--
an' 'tesn't no bad thing--grass.
PRESS. [Writing] "The old paganism of the country." What is your
view of life, Mrs. Lemmy?
LEMMY. [Suddenly] Wot is 'er voo of life? Shall I tell yer mine?
Life's a disease--a blinkin' oak-apple! Daon't myke no mistyke. An'
'umen life's a yumourous disease; that's all the difference. Why--
wot else can it be? See the bloomin' promise an' the blighted
performance--different as a 'eadline to the noos inside. But yer
couldn't myke Muvver see vat--not if yer talked to 'er for a wok.
Muvver still believes in fings. She's a country gell; at a 'undred
and fifty she'll be a country gell, won't yer, old lydy?
MRS. L. Well, 'tesn't never been 'ome to me in London. I lived in
the country forty year--I did my lovin' there; I burried father
therr. Therr bain't nothin' in life, yu know, but a bit o' lovin'--
all said an' done; bit o' lovin', with the wind, an' the stars out.
LEMMY. [In a loud apologetic whisper] She 'yn't often like this. I
told yer she'd got a glawss o' port in 'er.
MRS. L. 'Tes a brave pleasure, is lovin'. I likes to zee et in
young folk. I likes to zee 'em kissin'; shows the 'eart in 'em.
'Tes the 'eart makes the world go round; 'tesn't nothin' else, in my
PRESS. [Writing] "--sings the swan song of the heart."----
MRS. L. [Overhearing] No, I never yeard a swan sing--never! But I
tell 'ee what I 'eve 'eard; the Bells singin' in th' orchard 'angin'
up the clothes to dry, an' the cuckoos callin' back to 'em.
[Smiling] There's a-many songs in the country-the 'eart is freelike
in th' country!
LEMMY. [Soto voce] Gi' me the Strand at ar' past nine.
PRESS. [Writing] "Town and country----"
MRS. L. 'Tidn't like that in London; one day's jest like another.
Not but what therr's a 'eap o' kind'eartedness 'ere.
LEMMY. [Gloomily] Kind-'eartedness! I daon't fink "Boys an' Gells
come out to play."
[He plays the old tune on his fiddle.]
MRS. L. [Singing] "Boys an' Gells come out to play. The mune is
shinin' bright as day." [She laughs] I used to sing like a lark
when I was a gell.
[LITTLE AIDA enters.]
L. AIDA. There's 'undreds follerin' the corfin. 'Yn't you goin',
Mr. Lemmy--it's dahn your wy!
LEMMY. [Dubiously] Well yus--I s'pose they'll miss me.
L. AIDA. Aoh! Tyke me!
PRESS. What's this?
LEMMY. The revolution in 'Yde Pawk.
PRESS. [Struck] In Hyde Park? The very thing. I'll take you down.
My taxi's waiting.
L. AIDA. Yus; it's breathin' 'ard, at the corner.
PRESS. [Looking at his watch] Ah! and Mrs. Lemmy. There's an Anti-
Sweating Meeting going on at a house in Park Lane. We can get there
in twenty minutes if we shove along. I want you to tell them about
the trouser-making. You'll be a sensation!
LEMMY. [To himself] Sensytion! 'E cawn't keep orf it!
MRS. L. Anti-Sweat. Poor fellers! I 'ad one come to see we before
the war, an' they'm still goin' on? Wonderful, an't it?
PRESS. Come, Mrs. Lemmy; drive in a taxi, beautiful moonlit night;
and they'll give you a splendid cup of tea.
MRS. L. [Unmoved] Ah! I cudn't never du without my tea. There's
not an avenin' but I thinks to meself: Now, me dear, yu've a-got one
more to fennish, an' then yu'll 'eve yore cup o' tea. Thank you for
callin', all the same.
LEMMY. Better siccumb to the temptytion, old lydy; joyride wiv the
Press; marble floors, pillars o' gold; conscientious footmen; lovely
lydies; scuppers runnin' tea! An' the revolution goin' on across the
wy. 'Eaven's nuffink to Pawk Lyne.
PRESS. Come along, Mrs. Lemmy!
MRS. L. [Seraphically] Thank yu,--I'm a-feelin' very comfortable.
'Tes wonderful what a drop o' wine'll du for the stomach.
PRESS. A taxi-ride!
MRS. L. [Placidly] Ah! I know'em. They'm very busy things.
LEMMY. Muvver shuns notority. [Sotto voce to THE PRESS] But you
watch me! I'll rouse 'er.
[He takes up his fiddle and sits on the window seat. Above the
little houses on the opposite side of the street, the moon has
risen in the dark blue sky, so that the cloud shaped like a
beast seems leaping over it. LEMMY plays the first notes of the
Marseillaise. A black cat on the window-sill outside looks in,
hunching its back. LITTLE AIDA barks at her. MRS. LEMMY
struggles to her feet, sweeping the empty dish and spoon to the
floor in the effort.]
The dish ran awy wiv the spoon! That's right, old lydy! [He stops
MRS. L. [Smiling, and moving her hands] I like a bit o' music. It
du that move 'ee.
PRESS. Bravo, Mrs. Lemmy. Come on!
LEMMY. Come on, old dear! We'll be in time for the revolution yet.
MRS. L. 'Tes 'earin' the Old 'Undred again!
LEMMY. [To THE PRESS] She 'yn't been aht these two years. [To his
mother, who has put up her hands to her head] Nao, never mind yer
'at. [To THE PRESS] She 'yn't got none! [Aloud] No West-End lydy
wears anyfink at all in the evenin'!
MRS. L. 'Ow'm I lukin', Bob?
LEMMY. First-clawss; yer've got a colour fit to toast by. We'll
show 'em yer've got a kick in yer. [He takes her arm] Little Aida,
ketch 'old o' the sensytions.
[He indicates the trousers THE PRESS takes MRS. LEMMY'S other
MRS. L. [With an excited little laugh] Quite like a gell!
And, smiling between her son and THE PRESS, she passes out; LITTLE
AIDA, with a fling of her heels and a wave of the trousers, follows.
An octagon ante-room of the hall at LORD WILLIAM DROMONDY'S.
A shining room lighted by gold candelabra, with gold-curtained
pillars, through which the shining hall and a little of the
grand stairway are visible. A small table with a gold-coloured
cloth occupies the very centre of the room, which has a polished
parquet floor and high white walls. Gold-coloured doors on the
left. Opposite these doors a window with gold-coloured curtains
looks out on Park Lane. LADY WILLIAM standing restlessly
between the double doors and the arch which leads to the hall.
JAMES is stationary by the double doors, from behind which come
sounds of speech and applause.
POULDER. [Entering from the hall] His Grace the Duke of Exeter, my
[His GRACE enters. He is old, and youthful, with a high colour
and a short rough white beard. LADY WILLIAM advances to meet
him. POULDER stands by.]