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Scene II

The same-in daylight dying fast. A lamp is burning on the bar. A chair has been placed in the centre of the room, facing the bench under the window, on which are seated from right to left, GODLEIGH, SOL POTTER the village shopman, TRUSTAFORD, BURLACOMBE, FREMAN, JIM BERE, and MORSE the blacksmith. CLYST is squatting on a stool by the bar, and at the other end JARLAND, sobered and lowering, leans against the lintel of the porch leading to the door, round which are gathered five or six sturdy fellows, dumb as fishes. No one sits in the chair. In the unnatural silence that reigns, the distant sound of the wheezy church organ and voices singing can be heard.

TAUSTAFORD
[After a prolonged clearing of his throat] What I mean to zay is that 'tes no yuse, not a bit o' yuse in the world, not duin' of things properly. If an' in case we'm to carry a resolution disapprovin' o' curate, it must all be done so as no one can't, zay nothin'.

SOL POTTER
That's what I zay, Mr. Trustaford; ef so be as 'tis to be a village meetin', then it must be all done proper.

FREMAN
That's right, Sot Potter. I purpose Mr. Sot Potter into the chair. Whu seconds that?

[A silence. Voices from among the dumb-as-fishes: "I du."]

CLYST
[Excitedly] Yu can't putt that to the meetin'. Only a chairman can putt it to the meetin'. I purpose that Mr. Burlacombe-- bein as how he's chairman o' the Parish Council--take the chair.

FREMAN
Ef so be as I can't putt it, yu can't putt that neither.

TRUSTAFORD
'Tes not a bit o' yuse; us can't 'ave no meetin' without a chairman.

GODLEIGH
Us can't 'ave no chairman without a meetin' to elect un, that's zure. [A silence.]

MORSE
[Heavily] To my way o' thinkin', Mr. Godleigh speaks zense; us must 'ave a meetin' before us can 'ave a chairman.

CLYST
Then what we got to du's to elect a meetin'.

BURLACOMBE
[Sourly] Yu'll not find no procedure far that.

[Voices from among the dumb-as fishes: "Mr. Burlacombe 'e oughter know."]

SOL POTTER
[Scratching his head--with heavy solemnity] 'Tes my belief there's no other way to du, but to elect a chairman to call a meetin'; an' then for that meetin' to elect a chairman.

CLYST
I purpose Mr. Burlacombe as chairman to call a meetin'.

FREMAN
I purpose Sol Potter.

GODLEIGH
Can't 'ave tu propositions together before a meetin'; that's apple-pie zure vur zurtain.

[Voice from among the dumb-as fishes: "There ain't no meetin' yet, Sol Potter zays."]

TRUSTAFORD
Us must get the rights of it zettled some'ow. 'Tes like the darned old chicken an' the egg--meetin' or chairman--which come virst?

SOL POTTER
[Conciliating] To my thinkin' there shid be another way o' duin' it, to get round it like with a circumbendibus. 'T'all comes from takin' different vuse, in a manner o' spakin'.

FREMAN
Vu goo an' zet in that chair.

SOL POTTER
[With a glance at BURLACOMBE modestly] I shid'n never like fur to du that, with Mr. Burlacombe zettin' there.

BURLACOMBE
[Rising] 'Tes all darned fulishness.

[Amidst an uneasy shufflement of feet he moves to the door, and goes out into the darkness.]

CLYST
[Seeing his candidate thus depart] Rackon curate's pretty well thru by now, I'm goin' to zee. [As he passes JARLAND] 'Ow's to base, old man?

[He goes out. One of the dumb-as-fishes moves from the door and fills the apace left on the bench by BURLACOMBE'S departure.]

JARLAND
Darn all this puzzivantin'! [To SOL POTTER] Got an' zet in that chair.

SOL POTTER
[Rising and going to the chair; there he stands, changing from one to the other of his short broad feet and sweating from modesty and worth] 'Tes my duty now, gentlemen, to call a meetin' of the parishioners of this parish. I beg therefore to declare that this is a meetin' in accordance with my duty as chairman of this meetin' which elected me chairman to call this meetin'. And I purceed to vacate the chair so that this meetin' may now purceed to elect a chairman.

[He gets up from the chair, and wiping the sweat from his brow, goes back to his seat.]

FREMAN
Mr. Chairman, I rise on a point of order.

GODLEIGH
There ain't no chairman.

FREMAN
I don't give a darn for that. I rise on a point of order.

GODLEIGH
'Tes a chairman that decides points of order. 'Tes certain yu can't rise on no points whatever till there's a chairman.

TRUSTAFORD
'Tes no yuse yure risin', not the least bit in the world, till there's some one to set yu down again. Haw, haw!

[Voice from the dumb-as-Etches: "Mr. Trustaford 'e's right."]

FREMAN
What I zay is the chairman ought never to 'ave vacated the chair till I'd risen on my point of order. I purpose that he goo and zet down again.

GODLEIGH
Yu can't purpose that to this meetin'; yu can only purpose that to the old meetin' that's not zettin' any longer.

FREMAN
[Excitedly] I didn' care what old meetin' 'tis that's zettin'. I purpose that Sol Potter goo an' zet in that chair again, while I rise on my point of order.

TRUSTAFORD
[Scratching his head] 'Tesn't regular but I guess yu've got to goo, Sol, or us shan't 'ave no peace.

[SOL POTTER, still wiping his brow, goes back to the chair.]

MORSE
[Stolidly-to FREMAN] Zet down, Will Freman. [He pulls at him with a blacksmith's arm.]

FREMAN
[Remaining erect with an effort] I'm not a-goin' to zet down till I've arisen.

JARLAND
Now then, there 'e is in the chair. What's yore point of order?

FREMAN
[Darting his eyes here and there, and flinging his hand up to his gipsy-like head] 'Twas--'twas--Darned ef y' 'aven't putt it clean out o' my 'ead.

JARLAND
We can't wait for yore points of order. Come out o' that chair. Sol Potter.

[SOL POTTER rises and is about to vacate the chair.]

FREMAN
I know! There ought to 'a been minutes taken. Yu can't 'ave no meetin' without minutes. When us comes to electin' a chairman o' the next meetin', 'e won't 'ave no minutes to read.

SOL POTTER
'Twas only to putt down that I was elected chairman to elect a meetin' to elect a chairman to preside over a meetin' to pass a resolution dalin' wi' the curate. That's aisy set down, that is.

FREMAN
[Mollified] We'll 'ave that zet down, then, while we're electin' the chairman o' the next meetin'.

[A silence. ]

TRUSTAFORD
Well then, seein' this is the praaper old meetin' for carryin' the resolution about the curate, I purpose Mr. Sol Potter take the chair.

FREMAN
I purpose Mr. Trustaford. I 'aven't a-got nothin' against Sol Potter, but seein' that he elected the meetin' that's to elect 'im, it might be said that 'e was electin' of himzelf in a manner of spakin'. Us don't want that said.

MORSE
[Amid meditative grunts from the dumb-as-fishes] There's some-at in that. One o' they tu purposals must be putt to the meetin'.

FREMAN
Second must be putt virst, fur zure.

TRUSTAFORD
I dunno as I wants to zet in that chair. To hiss the curate, 'tis a ticklish sort of a job after that. Vurst comes afore second, Will Freeman.

FREMAN
Second is amendment to virst. 'Tes the amendments is putt virst.

TRUSTAFORD
'Ow's that, Mr. Godleigh? I'm not particular eggzac'ly to a dilly zort of a point like that.

SOL POTTER
[Scratching his, head] 'Tes a very nice point, for zure.

GODLEIGH
'Tes undoubtedly for the chairman to decide.

[Voice from the dumb-as fishes: "But there ain't no chairman yet."]

JARLAND
Sol Potter's chairman.

FREMAN
No, 'e ain't.

MORSE
Yes, 'e is--'e's chairman till this second old meetin' gets on the go.

FREMAN
I deny that. What du yu say, Mr. Trustaford?

TRUSTAFORD
I can't 'ardly tell. It du zeem a darned long-sufferin' sort of a business altogether.

[A silence.]

MORSE
[Slowly] Tell 'ee what 'tis, us shan't du no gude like this.

GODLEIGH
'Tes for Mr. Freman or Mr. Trustaford, one or t'other to withdraw their motions.

TRUSTAFORD
[After a pause, with cautious generosity] I've no objections to withdrawin' mine, if Will Freman'll withdraw his'n.

FREMAN
I won't never be be'indhand. If Mr. Trustaford withdraws, I withdraws mine.

MORSE
[With relief] That's zensible. Putt the motion to the meetin'.

SOL POTTER
There ain't no motion left to putt.

[Silence of consternation.]

[In the confusion Jim BERE is seen to stand up.]

GODLEIGH
Jim Bere to spike. Silence for Jim!

VOICES
Aye! Silence for Jim!

SOL POTTER
Well, Jim?

JIM
[Smiling and slow] Nothin' duin'.

TRUSTAFORD
Bravo, Jim! Yu'm right. Best zense yet!

[Applause from the dumb-as-fishes.]

[With his smile brightening, JIM resumes his seat.]

SOL POTTER
[Wiping his brow] Du seem to me, gentlemen, seem' as we'm got into a bit of a tangle in a manner of spakin', 'twid be the most zimplest and vairest way to begin all over vrom the beginnin', so's t'ave it all vair an' square for every one.

[In the uproar Of "Aye" and "No," it is noticed that TIBBY JARLAND is standing in front of her father with her finger, for want of something better, in her mouth.]

TIBBY
[In her stolid voice] Please, sister Mercy says, curate 'ave got to "Lastly." [JARLAND picks her up, and there is silence.] An' please to come quick.

JARLAND
Come on, mates; quietly now!

[He goes out, and all begin to follow him.]

MORSE
[Slowest, save for SOL POTTER] 'Tes rare lucky us was all agreed to hiss the curate afore us began the botherin' old meetin', or us widn' 'ardly 'ave 'ad time to settle what to du.

SOL POTTER
[Scratching his head] Aye, 'tes rare lucky; but I dunno if 'tes altogether reg'lar.

CURTAIN.

John Galsworthy

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