Touch and Go - D. H. Lawrence - ebook
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WILLIE HOUGHTON: What's the matter with you folks, as I've told you before, and as I shall keep on telling you every now and again, though it doesn't make a bit of difference, is that you've got no idea of freedom whatsoever. I've lived in this blessed place for fifty years, and I've never seen the spark of an idea, nor of any response to an idea, come out of a single one of you, all the time. I don't know what it is with colliers--whether it's spending so much time in the bowels of the earth--but they never seem to be able to get their thoughts above their bellies. If you've got plenty to eat and drink, and a bit over to keep the missis quiet, you're satisfied. I never saw such a satisfied bloomin' lot in my life as you Barlow and Walsall's men are, really. Of course you can growse as well as anybody, and you do growse. But you don't do anything else. You're stuck in a sort of mud of contentment, and you feel yourselves sinking, but you make no efforts to get out. You bleat a bit, like sheep in a bog--but you like it, you know. You like sinking in--you don't have to stand on your own feet then.

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Table of contents

CHARACTERS

ACT I

ACT II

ACT III

CHARACTERS

GERALD BARLOWMR BARLOW (his father)OLIVER TURTONJOB ARTHUR FREERWILLIE HOUGHTONALFRED BREFFITTWILLIAM (a butler)CLERKS, MINERS, etc.ANABEL WRATHMRS BARLOWWINIFRED BARLOWEVA (a maid)

ACT I

SCENE I: Market-place of a Midland mining villageSCENE II: Winifred's studio at Lilley Close

ACT II

Drawing-room at Lilley Close

ACT III

SCENE I: An old parkSCENE II: Same as Act I Scene I

ACT I

SCENE I

Sunday morning. Market-place of a large mining village in the Midlands. A man addressing a small gang of colliers from the foot of a stumpy memorial obelisk. Church bells heard. Churchgoers passing along the outer pavements.
WILLIE HOUGHTON: What's the matter with you folks, as I've told you before, and as I shall keep on telling you every now and again, though it doesn't make a bit of difference, is that you've got no idea of freedom whatsoever. I've lived in this blessed place for fifty years, and I've never seen the spark of an idea, nor of any response to an idea, come out of a single one of you, all the time. I don't know what it is with colliers--whether it's spending so much time in the bowels of the earth--but they never seem to be able to get their thoughts above their bellies. If you've got plenty to eat and drink, and a bit over to keep the missis quiet, you're satisfied. I never saw such a satisfied bloomin' lot in my life as you Barlow and Walsall's men are, really. Of course you can growse as well as anybody, and you do growse. But you don't do anything else. You're stuck in a sort of mud of contentment, and you feel yourselves sinking, but you make no efforts to get out. You bleat a bit, like sheep in a bog--but you like it, you know. You like sinking in--you don't have to stand on your own feet then.I'll tell you what'll happen to you chaps. I'll give you a little picture of what you'll be like in the future. Barlow and Walsall's 'll make a number of compounds, such as they keep niggers in in South Africa, and there you'll be kept. And every one of you'll have a little brass collar round his neck, with a number on it. You won't have names any more. And you'll go from the compound to the pit, and from the pit back again to the compound. You won't be allowed to go outside the gates, except at weekends. They'll let you go home to your wives on Saturday nights, to stop over Sunday. But you'll have to be in again by half-past nine on Sunday night; and if you're late, you'll have your next week-end knocked off. And there you'll be--and you'll be quite happy. They'll give you plenty to eat, and a can of beer a day, and a bit of bacca--and they'll provide dominoes and skittles for you to play with. And you'll be the most contented set of men alive.--But you won't be men. You won't even be animals. You'll go from number one to number three thousand, a lot of numbered slaves--a new sort of slaves--VOICE: An' wheer shall thee be, Willie?WILLIE: Oh, I shall be outside the palings, laughing at you. I shall have to laugh, because it'll be your own faults. You'll have nobody but yourself to thank for it. You don't want to be men. You'd rather not be free--much rather. You're like those people spoken of in Shakespeare: "Oh, how eager these men are to be slaves!" I believe it's Shakespeare--or the Bible--one or the other--it mostly is--ANABEL WRATH (passing to church): It was Tiberius.WILLIE: Eh?ANABEL: Tiberius said it.WILLIE: Tiberius!--Oh, did he? (Laughs.) Thanks! Well, if Tiberius said it, there must be something in it. And he only just missed being in the Bible, anyway. He was a day late, or they'd have had him in. "Oh, how eager these men are to be slaves!"--It's evident the Romans deserved all they got from Tiberius--and you'll deserve all you get, every bit of it. But don't you bother, you'll get it. You won't be at the mercy of Tiberius, you'll be at the mercy of something a jolly sight worse. Tiberius took the skin off a few Romans, apparently. But you'll have the soul taken out of you--every one of you. And I'd rather lose my skin than my soul, any day. But perhaps you wouldn't.VOICE: What art makin' for, Willie? Tha seems to say a lot, but tha goes round it. Tha'rt like a donkey on a gin. Tha gets ravelled.WILLIE: Yes, that's just it. I am precisely like a donkey on a gin--a donkey that's trying to wind a lot of colliers up to the surface. There's many a donkey that's brought more colliers than you up to see daylight, by trotting round.--But do you want to know what I'm making for? I can soon tell you that. You Barlow and Walsall's men, you haven't a soul to call your own. Barlow and Walsall's have only to say to one of you, Come, and he cometh; Go, and he goeth, Lie down and be kicked, and he lieth down and he is kicked--and serve him jolly well right.VOICE: Ay--an' what about it? Tha's got a behind o' thy own, hasn't ter?WILLIE: Do you stand there and ask me what about it, and haven't the sense to alter it? Couldn't you set up a proper Government to-morrow, if you liked? Couldn't you contrive that the pits belonged to you, instead of you belonging to the pits, like so many old pit-ponies that stop down till they are blind, and take to eating coal-slack for meadow-grass, not knowing the difference? If only you'd learn to think, I'd respect you. As you are, I can't, not if I try my hardest. All you can think of is to ask for another shilling a day. That's as far as your imagination carries you. And perhaps you get sevenpence ha'penny, but pay for it with half a crown's worth of sweat. The masters aren't fools--as you are. They'll give you two-thirds of what you ask for, but they'll get five-thirds of it back again--and they'll get it out of your flesh and blood, too, in jolly hard work. Shylock wasn't in it with them. He only wanted a pound of flesh. But you cheerfully give up a pound a week, each one of you, and keep on giving it up.--But you don't seem to see these things. You can't think beyond your dinners and your 'lowance. You think if you can get another shilling a day you're set up. You make me tired, I tell you.JOB ARTHUR FREER: We think of others besides ourselves.WILLIE: Hello, Job Arthur--are you there? I didn't recognise you without your frock-coat and silk hat--on the Sabbath.--What was that you said? You think of something else, besides yourselves?--Oh ay--I'm glad to hear it. Did you mean your own importance?A motor car, GERALD BARLOW driving, OLIVER TURTON with him, has pulled up.JOB ARTHUR (glancing at the car): No, I didn't.WILLIE: Didn't you, though?--Come, speak up, let us have it. The more the merrier. You were going to say something.JOB ARTHUR: Nay, you were doing the talking.WILLIE: Yes, so I was, till you interrupted, with a great idea on the tip of your tongue. Come, spit it out. No matter if Mr Barlow hears you. You know how sorry for you we feel, that you've always got to make your speeches twice--once to those above, and once to us here below. I didn't mean the angels and the devils, but never mind. Speak up, Job Arthur.JOB ARTHUR: It's not everybody as has as much to say as you, Mr Houghton.WILLIE: No, not in the open--that's a fact. Some folks says a great deal more, in semi-private. You were just going to explain to me, on behalf of the men, whom you so ably represent and so wisely lead, Job Arthur--we won't say by the nose--you were just going to tell me--on behalf of the men, of course, not of the masters--that you think of others, besides yourself. Do you mind explaining what others?JOB ARTHUR: Everybody's used to your talk, Mr Houghton, and for that reason it doesn't make much impression. What I meant to say, in plain words, was that we have to think of what's best for everybody, not only for ourselves.WILLIE: Oh, I see. What's best for everybody! I see! Well, for myself, I'm much obliged--there's nothing for us to do, gentlemen, but for all of us to bow acknowledgments to Mr Job Arthur Freer, who so kindly has all our interests at heart.JOB ARTHUR: I don't profess to be a red-rag Socialist. I don't pretend to think that if the Government had the pits it would be any better for us. No. What I mean is, that the pits are there, and every man on this place depends on them, one way or another. They're the cow that gives the milk. And what I mean is, how every man shall have a proper share of the milk, which is food and living. I don't want to kill the cow and share up the meat. It's like killing the goose that laid the golden egg. I want to keep the cow healthy and strong. And the cow is the pits, and we're the men that depend on the pits.WILLIE: Who's the cat that's going to lick the cream?JOB ARTHUR: My position is this--and I state it before masters and men--that it's our business to strike such a balance between the interests of the men and the interests of the masters that the pits remain healthy, and everybody profits.WILLIE: You're out for the millennium, I can see--with Mr Job Arthur Freer striking the balance. We all see you, Job Arthur, one foot on either side of the fence, balancing the see-saw, with masters at one end and men at the other. You'll have to give one side a lot of pudding.--But go back a bit, to where we were before the motor car took your breath away. When you said, Job Arthur, that you think of others besides yourself, didn't you mean, as a matter of fact, the office men? Didn't you mean that the colliers, led--we won't mention noses--by you, were going to come out in sympathy with the office clerks, supposing they didn't get the rise in wages which they've asked for--the office clerks? Wasn't that it?JOB ARTHUR: There's been some talk among the men of standing by the office. I don't know what they'll do. But they'll do it of their own decision, whatever it is.WILLIE: There's not a shadow of doubt about it, Job Arthur. But it's a funny thing the decisions all have the same foxy smell about them, Job Arthur.OLIVER TURTON (calling from the car): What was the speech about, in the first place?WILLIE: I beg pardon?OLIVER: What was the address about, to begin with?WILLIE: Oh, the same old hat--Freedom. But partly it's given to annoy the Unco Guid, as they pass to their Sabbath banquet of self-complacency.OLIVER: What about Freedom?WILLIE: Very much as usual, I believe. But you should have been here ten minutes sooner, before we began to read the lessons. (Laughs.)ANABEL W. (moving forward, and holding out her hand): You'd merely have been told what Freedom isn't: and you know that already. How are you, Oliver?OLIVER: Good God, Anabel!--are you part of the meeting? How long have you been back in England?ANABEL: Some months, now. My family have moved here, you know.OLIVER: Your family! Where have they moved from?--from the moon?ANABEL: No, only from Derby.--How are you, Gerald?GERALD twists in his seat to give her his hand.GERALD: I saw you before.ANABEL: Yes, I know you did.JOB ARTHUR has disappeared. The men disperse sheepishly into groups, to stand and sit on their heels by the walls and the causeway edge. WILLIE HOUGHTON begins to talk to individuals.OLIVER: Won't you get in and drive on with us a little way?ANABEL: No, I was going to church.OLIVER: Going to church! Is that a new habit?