Rous. [Dashing his hand across his brow.] Damn! I can’t!
Madge. [Swiftly.] Do it for me!
Rous. [Through his teeth.] Don’t play the wanton with me!
Madge. [With a movement of her hand towards
Jan—quick and low.]
I would be that for the children’s sake!
Rous. [In a fierce whisper.] Madge! Oh, Madge!
Madge. [With soft mockery.] But you can’t break your word for me!
Rous. [With a choke.] Then, Begod, I can!
[He turns and rushes off.]
with a faint smile on her face, looking after
him. She turns to Mrs. Roberts.]
Madge. I have done for Roberts!
Mrs. Roberts. [Scornfully.] Done for my man, with that——! [She sinks back.]
Madge. [Running to her, and feeling her hands.] You’re as cold as a stone! You want a drop of brandy. Jan, run to the “Lion”; say, I sent you for Mrs. Roberts.
Mrs. Roberts. [With a feeble movement.] I’ll just sit quiet, Madge. Give Jan—his—tea.
Madge. [Giving Jan a slice of bread.] There, ye little rascal. Hold your piping. [Going to the fire, she kneels.] It’s going out.
Mrs. Roberts. [With a faint smile.] ’T is all the same!
[Jan begins to blow his whistle.]
Madge. Tsht! Tsht!—you
Mrs. Roberts. [Smiling.] Let ’im play, Madge.
Madge. [On her knees at the fire, listening.] Waiting an’ waiting. I’ve no patience with it; waiting an’ waiting—that’s what a woman has to do! Can you hear them at it—I can!
[Jan begins again to play his whistle; Madge gets up; half tenderly she ruffles his hair; then, sitting, leans her elbows on the table, and her chin on her hands. Behind her, on Mrs. Roberts’s face the smile has changed to horrified surprise. She makes a sudden movement, sitting forward, pressing her hands against her breast. Then slowly she sinks’ back; slowly her face loses the look of pain, the smile returns. She fixes her eyes again on Jan, and moves her lips and finger to the tune.]
The curtain falls.
It is past four. In a grey, failing light, an open muddy space is crowded with workmen. Beyond, divided from it by a barbed-wire fence, is the raised towing-path of a canal, on which is moored a barge. In the distance are marshes and snow-covered hills. The “Works” high wall runs from the canal across the open space, and ivy the angle of this wall is a rude platform of barrels and boards. On it, Harness is standing. Roberts, a little apart from the crowd, leans his back against the wall. On the raised towing-path two bargemen lounge and smoke indifferently.
Harness. [Holding out his hand.] Well, I’ve spoken to you straight. If I speak till to-morrow I can’t say more.