Mrs. Burlacombe. [Her eyes mechanically fixed on the twisted bird-cage in his hands] ’Tis poor Sue Cremer, zurr, I didn’t ’ardly think she’d last thru the mornin’. An’ zure enough she’m passed away! [Seeing that he has not taken in her words] Mr. Strangway— yu’m feelin’ giddy?
Strangway. No, no! What was it? You said——
Mrs. Burlacombe. ’Tes Jack Cremer. His wife’s gone. ’E’m in a terrible way. ’Tes only yu, ’e ses, can du ’im any gude. He’m in the kitchen.
Strangway. Cremer? Yes! Of course. Let him——
Mrs. Burlacombe. [Still staring at the twisted cage] Yu ain’t wantin’ that—’tes all twizzled. [She takes it from him] Sure yu’m not feelin’ yer ’ead?
Strangway. [With a resolute effort] No!
Mrs. Burlacombe. [Doubtfully] I’ll send ’im in, then. [She goes. When she is gone, Strangway passes his handkerchief across his forehead, and his lips move fast. He is standing motionless when Cremer, a big man in labourer’s clothes, with a thick, broad face, and tragic, faithful eyes, comes in, and stands a little in from the closed door, quite dumb.]
Strangway. [After a moment’s silence—going up to him and laying a hand on his shoulder] Jack! Don’t give way. If we give way—we’re done.
Cremer. Yes, zurr. [A quiver passes over his face.]
Strangway. She didn’t. Your wife was a brave woman. A dear woman.
Cremer. I never thought to luse ’er. She never told me ’ow bad she was, afore she tuk to ’er bed. ’Tis a dreadful thing to luse a wife, zurr.
Strangway. [Tightening his lips, that tremble] Yes. But don’t give way! Bear up, Jack!
Cremer. Seems funny ‘er goin’ blue-bell time, an’ the sun shinin’ so warm. I picked up an ’orse-shu yesterday. I can’t never ’ave ’er back, zurr.
[His face quivers again.]
Strangway. Some day you’ll join her. Think! Some lose their wives for ever.
Cremer. I don’t believe as there’s a future life, zurr. I think we goo to sleep like the beasts.
Strangway. We’re told otherwise. But come here! [Drawing him to the window] Look! Listen! To sleep in that! Even if we do, it won’t be so bad, Jack, will it?
Cremer. She wer’ a gude wife to me—no man didn’t ’ave no better wife.
Strangway. [Putting his hand out] Take hold—hard—harder! I want yours as much as you want mine. Pray for me, Jack, and I’ll pray for you. And we won’t give way, will we?
Cremer. [To whom the strangeness of these words has given some relief] No, zurr; thank ’ee, zurr. ’Tes no gude, I expect. Only, I’ll miss ’er. Thank ’ee, zurr; kindly.
[He lifts his hand to his head, turns, and uncertainly goes out to the kitchen. And Strangway stays where he is, not knowing what to do. They blindly he takes up his flute, and hatless, hurries out into the air.]