Old man. Bless you, my pretty lady, but I be used to waiting. I’ll just sit me down outside in the sun till you be man and wife.
Elizabeth. And that’ll not be till this day next year if this sort of thing goes on any longer.
Daniel. That’s right, Mother. You take and lead the way. ’Tis the womenfolk as do keep we back from everything. But I knows how to settle with they—[roaring]—come Mill, come Giles, Andrew, Annet, May. Come Mother, out of th’ house with all of you and to church, I say.
[He gets behind them all and drives them before him and out of the room. When they have gone, the old man sinks on a bench in the door-way.
Old man. I’m done with all the foolishness of life and I can sit me down and sleep till it be time to eat.
Thomas spring, a farmer, aged 35.
Emily, his wife, the same age.
Clara, his sister, aged 21.
Jessie and Robin, the children of Thomas and Emily, aged 10 and 8.
Joan, maid to Clara.
Miles Hooper, a rich draper.
Luke Jenner, a farmer.
George, aged 28.
Act I.—Scene 1.
A wood. It is a morning in June.
George, carrying an empty basket, comes slowly through the wood. On reaching a fallen tree he sits down on it, placing his basket on the ground. With his stick he absently moves the grass and leaves that lie before him, and is so deeply lost in his own thoughts that he does not hear the approach of miles and Luke until they are by his side.
Miles. Here’s the very man to tell us all we want to know.
Luke. Why, if ’tisn’t George from Ox Lease.
[George half rises.
Miles. No, sit you down again, my lad, and we’ll rest awhile by the side of you.
Luke. That’s it, Miles. Nothing couldn’t have fallen out better for us, I’m thinking.
Miles. You’re about right, Luke. Now, George, my man, we should very much appreciate a few words with you.
George. [Taking up his basket.] Morning baint the time for words, masters. I count as words will keep till the set of sun. ’Tis otherwise with work.
Miles. Work, why, George, ’tis clear you are come out but to gather flowers this morning.
Luke. ’Tis the very first time as ever I caught George an idling away of his time like this.
George. ’Tis over to Brook as I be going, masters, to fetch back a couple of young chicken. Ourn be mostly old fowls, or pullets what do lay.
Luke. I never heard tell of young chicken being ate up at Ox Lease afore July was in.