SCENE II. The room of old MRS. LEMMY in Bethnal Green.
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 tune.
MRS. L. Whose pianner?
L. AIDA. Mrs. Brahn's when she's gone aht.
MRS. L. Well, yu are gettin' edjucation! Du they tache yu to love yore neighbours?
L. AIDA. [Ineffably] Nao. [Straying to the window] Mrs. Lemmy, what's the moon?
MRS. L. The mune? Us used to zay 'twas made o' crame cheese.
L. AIDA. I can see it.
MRS. L. Ah! Don' yu never go wishin' for it, me dear.
L. AIDA. I daon't.
MRS. L. Folks as wish for the mune never du no gude.
L. AIDA. [Craning out, brilliant] I'm goin' dahn in the street. I'll come back for yer trahsers.
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 yer?
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 black smudge.]
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] What thing?
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 this, Bob!
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. Cheerio!
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 'orse dahn!
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 fields"----
MRS. L. [With a gesture of despair] Deary me! I 'aven't a-got the strength!
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 'em up!
[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 yu, dear?
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 understand.]
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 feddle-strings pompously.]
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 working man--
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 dear?
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 heart----
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 once."
LEMMY. I sy keep my nyme aht o' this; I don' go in fer self-advertisement.
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 people said.
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 future.
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 reputation 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 blood?
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 cleanin' up.
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 my boss?
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 Present--"
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. Dickens--Betty Higden."
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' nothin'.
[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 opinion.
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 playing.]
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 arm.]
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.