[Anthony looks in his face, then slowly shakes his head.]
[Disheartened.] No, Sir? [He goes on arranging papers.]
[Frost places the
whiskey and salver and puts it down by
Anthony’s right hand. He stands away, looking gravely at
Frost. Nothing I can get you, sir?
[Anthony shakes his head.]
You’re aware, sir, of what the doctor said, sir?
Anthony. I am.
[A pause. Frost
suddenly moves closer to him, and speaks in a
Frost. This strike, sir; puttin’ all this strain on you. Excuse me, sir, is it—is it worth it, sir?
[Anthony mutters some words that are inaudible.]
Very good, sir!
[He turns and goes out into the hall. Tench makes two attempts to speak; but meeting his Chairman’s gaze he drops his eyes, and, turning dismally, he too goes out. Anthony is left alone. He grips the glass, tilts it, and drinks deeply; then sets it down with a deep and rumbling sigh, and leans back in his chair.]
The curtain falls.
It is half-past three. In the kitchen of Roberts’s cottage a meagre little fire is burning. The room is clean and tidy, very barely furnished, with a brick floor and white-washed walls, much stained with smoke. There is a kettle on the fire. A door opposite the fireplace opens inward from a snowy street. On the wooden table are a cup and saucer, a teapot, knife, and plate of bread and cheese. Close to the fireplace in an old arm-chair, wrapped in a rug, sits Mrs. Roberts, a thin and dark-haired woman about thirty-five, with patient eyes. Her hair is not done up, but tied back with a piece of ribbon. By the fire, too, is Mrs. Yeo; a red-haired, broad-faced person. Sitting near the table is Mrs. Rous, an old lady, ashen-white, with silver hair; by the door, standing, as if about to go, is Mrs. Bulgin, a little pale, pinched-up woman. In a chair, with her elbows resting on the table, avid her face resting in her hands, sits Madge Thomas, a good-looking girl, of twenty-two, with high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, and dark untidy hair. She is listening to the talk, but she neither speaks nor moves.
Mrs. Yeo. So he give me a sixpence, and that’s the first bit o’ money I seen this week. There an’t much ’eat to this fire. Come and warm yerself Mrs. Rous, you’re lookin’ as white as the snow, you are.
Mrs. Rous. [Shivering—placidly.] Ah! but the winter my old man was took was the proper winter. Seventy-nine that was, when none of you was hardly born—not Madge Thomas, nor Sue Bulgin. [Looking at them in turn.] Annie Roberts, ’ow old were you, dear?