The downstairs front room of a moderate-sized cottage. There is a wide fireplace, with a heaped-up ashy fire. The parlour is used as a bedroom, and contains a heavy old-fashioned mahogany dressing- table, a washstand, and a bedstead whose...
The downstairs front room of a moderate-sized cottage. There is a
wide fireplace, with a heaped-up ashy fire. The parlour is used as
a bedroom, and contains a heavy old-fashioned mahogany dressing-
table, a washstand, and a bedstead whose canopy is missing, so that
the handsome posts stand like ruined columns. The room is in an
untidy, neglected condition, medicine bottles and sickroom
paraphernalia littered about. In the bed, a woman between sixty
and seventy, with a large-boned face, and a long plait of fine dark
hair. Enter the parish NURSE, in uniform, but without cloak and
bonnet. She is a well-built woman of some thirty years, smooth-
haired, pale, soothing in manner.
MRS HEMSTOCK: Eh, Nurse, I'm glad to see thee. I HAN been
motherless while thou's been away.
NURSE: Haven't they looked after you, Mrs Hemstock?
MRS HEMSTOCK: They hanna, Nurse. Here I lie, day in, day out,
like a beetle on my back, an' not a soul comes nigh me, saving th'
Mester, when 'e's forced. An' 'im. (She points to mirror of
NURSE: Who is that, Mrs Hemstock?
MRS HEMSTOCK: Canna ter see 'im? That little fat chap as stands
there laughing at me.
NURSE: There's no little fat chap, Mrs Hemstock.
MRS HEMSTOCK: There is an' a'. He's bobbing a' thee now.
NURSE, who has been rolling up her sleeves, showing a fine white
arm, throws her rolled cuffs at the mirror.
NURSE: Then we'll send him away.
MRS HEMSTOCK: Nay, dunna thee hurt him. 'E's nowt but a little
NURSE: I'll wash you, shall I?
MRS HEMSTOCK: Tha nedna but gi' me a catlick. I'm as snug as a
bug in a rug.
NURSE (laughing): Very well.
She goes into the kitchen.
MRS HEMSTOCK (calling): Who's in there, Nurse?
NURSE: There's nobody, Mrs Hemstock.
MRS HEMSTOCK: I bet he's gallivanting off after some woman.
NURSE (calling): Who?
MRS HEMSTOCK: Why, our Mester. 'E's a ronk 'un, I can tell you.
'As our Harry done it?