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Somerset Maugham
Liza of Lambeth 05
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As soon as Liza had recovered herself she started examining the people
on the brake; and first of all she took stock of the woman whom Jim
Blakeston had with him.

'This is my missus!' said Jim, pointing to her with his thumb.

'You ain't been dahn in the street much, 'ave yer?' said Liza, by way
of making the acquaintance.

'Na,' answered Mrs. Blakeston, 'my youngster's been dahn with the
measles, an' I've 'ad my work cut out lookin' after 'im.'

'Oh, an' is 'e all right now?'

'Yus, 'e's gettin' on fine, an' Jim wanted ter go ter Chingford
ter-day, an' 'e says ter me, well, 'e says, "You come along ter
Chingford, too; it'll do you good." An' 'e says, "You can leave
Polly"-- she's my eldest, yer know-- "you can leave Polly," says 'e,
"ter look after the kids." So I says, "Well, I don't mind if I do,"
says I.'

Meanwhile Liza was looking at her. First she noticed her dress: she
wore a black cloak and a funny, old-fashioned black bonnet; then
examining the woman herself, she saw a middle-sized, stout person
anywhere between thirty and forty years old. She had a large, fat face
with a big mouth, and her hair was curiously done, parted in the
middle and plastered down on each side of the head in little plaits.
One could see that she was a woman of great strength, notwithstanding
evident traces of hard work and much child-bearing.

Liza knew all the other passengers, and now that everyone was settled
down and had got over the excitement of departure, they had time to
greet one another. They were delighted to have Liza among them, for
where she was there was no dullness. Her attention was first of all
taken up by a young coster who had arrayed himself in the traditional
costume-- grey suit, tight trousers, and shiny buttons in profusion.

'Wot cheer, Bill!' she cried to him.

'Wot cheer, Liza!' he answered.

'You are got up dossy, you'll knock 'em.'

'Na then, Liza Kemp,' said his companion, turning round with mock
indignation, 'you let my Johnny alone. If you come gettin' round 'im
I'll give you wot for.'

'Arright, Clary Sharp, I don't want 'im,' answered Liza. 'I've got one
of my own, an' thet's a good 'andful-- ain't it, Tom?'

Tom was delighted, and, unable to find a repartee, in his pleasure
gave Liza a great nudge with his elbow.

''Oo, I say,' said Liza, putting her hand to her side. 'Tike care of
my ribs; you'll brike 'em.'

'Them's not yer ribs,' shouted a candid friend-- 'them's yer
whale-bones yer afraid of breakin'.'

'Garn!'

''Ave yer got whale-bones?' said Tom, with affected simplicity,
putting his arm round her waist to feel.

'Na, then,' she said, 'keep off the grass!'

'Well, I only wanted ter know if you'd got any.'

'Garn; yer don't git round me like thet.'

He still kept as he was.

'Na then,' she repeated, 'tike yer 'and away. If yer touch me there
you'll 'ave ter marry me.'

'Thet's just wot I wants ter do, Liza!'

'Shut it!' she answered cruelly, and drew his arm away from her waist.

The horses scampered on, and the man behind blew his horn with vigour.

'Don't bust yerself, guv'nor!' said one of the passengers to him when
he made a particularly discordant sound. They drove along eastwards,
and as the hour grew later the streets became more filled and the
traffic greater. At last they got on the road to Chingford, and caught
up numbers of other vehicles going in the same direction-- donkey-shays,
pony-carts, tradesmen's carts, dog-carts, drags, brakes, every
conceivable kind of wheel thing, all filled with people, the
wretched donkey dragging along four solid rate-payers to the pair
of stout horses easily managing a couple of score. They exchanged
cheers and greetings as they passed, the 'Red Lion' brake being
noticeable above all for its uproariousness. As the day wore on
the sun became hotter, and the road seemed more dusty and threw
up a greater heat.

'I am getting 'ot!' was the common cry, and everyone began to puff and
sweat.

The ladies removed their cloaks and capes, and the men, following
their example, took off their coats and sat in their shirt-sleeves.
Whereupon ensued much banter of a not particularly edifying kind
respecting the garments which each person would like to remove--
which showed that the innuendo of French farce is not so unknown
to the upright, honest Englishman as might be supposed.

At last came in sight the half-way house, where the horses were to
have a rest and a sponge down. They had been talking of it for the
last quarter of a mile, and when at length it was observed on the top
of a hill a cheer broke out, and some thirsty wag began to sing 'Rule
Britannia', whilst others burst forth with a different national ditty,
'Beer, Glorious Beer!' They drew up before the pub entrance, and all
climbed down as quickly as they could. The bar was besieged, and
potmen and barmaids were quickly busy drawing beer and handing it
over to the eager folk outside.

THE IDYLL OF CORYDON AND PHYLLIS.

Gallantry ordered that the faithful swain and the amorous shepherdess
should drink out of one and the same pot.

''Urry up an' 'ave your whack,' said Corydon, politely handing the
foaming bowl for his fair one to drink from.

Phyllis, without replying, raised it to her lips and drank deep. The
swain watched anxiously.

''Ere, give us a chanst!' he said, as the pot was raised higher and
higher and its contents appeared to be getting less and less.

At this the amorous shepherdess stopped and handed the pot to her
lover.

'Well, I'm dashed!' said Corydon, looking into it; and added: 'I guess
you know a thing or two.' Then with courtly grace putting his own lips
to the place where had been those of his beloved, finished the pint.

'Go' lumme!' remarked the shepherdess, smacking her lips, 'that was
somethin' like!' And she put out her tongue and licked her lips, and
then breathed deeply.

The faithful swain having finished, gave a long sigh, and said:

'Well, I could do with some more!'

'For the matter of thet, I could do with a gargle!'

Thus encouraged, the gallant returned to the bar, and soon brought out
a second pint.

'You 'ave fust pop,' amorously remarked Phyllis, and he took a long
drink and handed the pot to her.

She, with maiden modesty, turned it so as to have a different part to
drink from; but he remarked as he saw her:

'You are bloomin' particular.'

Then, unwilling to grieve him, she turned it back again and applied
her ruby lips to the place where his had been.

'Now we shan't be long!' she remarked, as she handed him back the pot.

The faithful swain took out of his pocket a short clay pipe, blew
through it, filled it, and began to smoke, while Phyllis sighed at the
thought of the cool liquid gliding down her throat, and with the
pleasing recollection gently stroked her stomach. Then Corydon spat,
and immediately his love said:

'I can spit farther than thet.'

'I bet yer yer can't.'

She tried, and did. He collected himself and spat again, further than
before, she followed him, and in this idyllic contest they remained
till the tootling horn warned them to take their places.

* * * * *

At last they reached Chingford, and here the horses were taken out and
the drag, on which they were to lunch, drawn up in a sheltered spot.
They were all rather hungry, but as it was not yet feeding-time, they
scattered to have drinks meanwhile. Liza and Tom, with Sally and her
young man, went off together to the nearest public-house, and as they
drank beer, Harry, who was a great sportsman, gave them a graphic
account of a prize-fight he had seen on the previous Saturday evening,
which had been rendered specially memorable by one man being so hurt
that he had died from the effects. It had evidently been a very fine
affair, and Harry said that several swells from the West End had been
present, and he related their ludicrous efforts to get in without
being seen by anyone, and their terror when someone to frighten them
called out 'Copper!' Then Tom and he entered into a discussion on the
subject of boxing, in which Tom, being a shy and undogmatic sort of
person, was entirely worsted. After this they strolled back to the
brake, and found things being prepared for luncheon; the hampers were
brought out and emptied, and the bottles of beer in great profusion
made many a thirsty mouth thirstier.

'Come along, lidies an' gentlemen-- if you are gentlemen,' shouted the
coachman; 'the animals is now goin' ter be fed!'

'Garn awy,' answered somebody, 'we're not hanimals; we don't drink
water.'

'You're too clever,' remarked the coachman; 'I can see you've just
come from the board school.'

As the former speaker was a lady of quite mature appearance, the
remark was not without its little irony. The other man blew his horn
by way of grace, at which Liza called out to him:

'Don't do thet, you'll bust, I know you will, an' if you bust you'll
quite spoil my dinner!'

Then they all set to. Pork-pies, saveloys, sausages, cold potatoes,
hard-boiled eggs, cold bacon, veal, ham, crabs and shrimps, cheese,
butter, cold suet-puddings and treacle, gooseberry-tarts,
cherry-tarts, butter, bread, more sausages, and yet again pork-pies!
They devoured the provisions like ravening beasts, stolidly, silently,
earnestly, in large mouthfuls which they shoved down their throats
unmasticated. The intelligent foreigner seeing them thus dispose of
their food would have understood why England is a great nation. He
would have understood why Britons never, never will be slaves. They
never stopped except to drink, and then at each gulp they emptied
their glass; no heel-taps! And still they ate, and still they
drank--but as all things must cease, they stopped at last, and a long
sigh of content broke from their two-and-thirty throats.

Then the gathering broke up, and the good folk paired themselves and
separated. Harry and his lady strolled off to secluded byways in the
forest, so that they might discourse of their loves and digest their
dinner. Tom had all the morning been waiting for this happy moment; he
had counted on the expansive effect of a full stomach to thaw his
Liza's coldness, and he had pictured himself sitting on the grass with
his back against the trunk of a spreading chestnut-tree, with his arm
round his Liza's waist, and her head resting affectionately on his
manly bosom. Liza, too, had foreseen the separation into couples after
dinner, and had been racking her brains to find a means of getting out
of it.

'I don't want 'im slobberin' abaht me,' she said; 'it gives me the
sick, all this kissin' an' cuddlin'!'

She scarcely knew why she objected to his caresses; but they bored her
and made her cross. But luckily the blessed institution of marriage
came to her rescue, for Jim and his wife naturally had no particular
desire to spend the afternoon together, and Liza, seeing a little
embarrassment on their part, proposed that they should go for a walk
together in the forest.

Jim agreed at once, and with pleasure, but Tom was dreadfully
disappointed. He hadn't the courage to say anything, but he glared at
Blakeston. Jim smiled benignly at him, and Tom began to sulk. Then
they began a funny walk through the woods. Jim tried to go on with
Liza, and Liza was not at all disinclined to this, for she had come to
the conclusion that Jim, notwithstanding his 'cheek', was not ''alf a
bad sort'. But Tom kept walking alongside of them, and as Jim slightly
quickened his pace so as to get Liza on in front, Tom quickened his,
and Mrs. Blakeston, who didn't want to be left behind, had to break
into a little trot to keep up with them. Jim tried also to get Liza
all to himself in the conversation, and let Tom see that he was out in
the cold, but Tom would break in with cross, sulky remarks, just to
make the others uncomfortable. Liza at last got rather vexed with him.

'Strikes me you got aht of bed the wrong way this mornin',' she said
to him.

'Yer didn't think thet when yer said you'd come aht with me.' He
emphasized the 'me'.

Liza shrugged her shoulders.

'You give me the 'ump,' she said. 'If yer wants ter mike a fool of
yerself, you can go elsewhere an' do it.'

'I suppose yer want me ter go awy now,' he said angrily.

'I didn't say I did.'

'Arright, Liza, I won't stay where I'm not wanted.' And turning on
his heel he marched off, striking through the underwood into the midst
of the forest.

He felt extremely unhappy as he wandered on, and there was a choky
feeling in his throat as he thought of Liza: she was very unkind and
ungrateful, and he wished he had never come to Chingford. She might so
easily have come for a walk with him instead of going with that beast
of a Blakeston; she wouldn't ever do anything for him, and he hated
her--but all the same, he was a poor foolish thing in love, and he
began to feel that perhaps he had been a little exacting and a little
forward to take offence. And then he wished he had never said
anything, and he wanted so much to see her and make it up. He made his
way back to Chingford, hoping she would not make him wait too long.

Liza was a little surprised when Tom turned and left them.

'Wot 'as 'e got the needle abaht?' she said.

'Why, 'e's jealous,' answered Jim, with a laugh.

'Tom jealous?'

'Yus; 'e's jealous of me.'

'Well, 'e ain't got no cause ter be jealous of anyone--that 'e ain't!'
said Liza, and continued by telling him all about Tom: how he had
wanted to marry her and she wouldn't have him, and how she had only
agreed to come to Chingford with him on the understanding that she
should preserve her entire freedom. Jim listened sympathetically, but
his wife paid no attention; she was doubtless engaged in thought
respecting her household or her family.

When they got back to Chingford they saw Tom standing in solitude
looking at them. Liza was struck by the woebegone expression on his
face; she felt she had been cruel to him, and leaving the Blakestons
went up to him.

'I say, Tom,' she said, 'don't tike on so; I didn't mean it.'

He was bursting to apologize for his behaviour.

'Yer know, Tom,' she went on, 'I'm rather 'asty, an' I'm sorry I said
wot I did.'

'Oh, Liza, you are good! You ain't cross with me?'

'Me? Na; it's you thet oughter be cross.'

'You are a good sort, Liza!'

'You ain't vexed with me?'

'Give me Liza every time; that's wot I say,' he answered, as his face
lit up. 'Come along an' 'ave tea, an' then we'll go for a
donkey-ride.'

The donkey-ride was a great success. Liza was a little afraid at
first, so Tom walked by her side to take care of her, she screamed the
moment the beast began to trot, and clutched hold of Tom to save
herself from falling, and as he felt her hand on his shoulder, and
heard her appealing cry: 'Oh, do 'old me! I'm fallin'!' he felt that
he had never in his life been so deliciously happy. The whole party
joined in, and it was proposed that they should have races; but in the
first heat, when the donkeys broke into a canter, Liza fell off into
Tom's arms and the donkeys scampered on without her.

'I know wot I'll do,' she said, when the runaway had been recovered.
'I'll ride 'im straddlewyse.'

'Garn!' said Sally, 'yer can't with petticoats.'

'Yus, I can, an' I will too!'

So another donkey was procured, this time with a man's saddle, and
putting her foot in the stirrup, she cocked her leg over and took her
seat triumphantly. Neither modesty nor bashfulness was to be reckoned
among Liza's faults, and in this position she felt quite at ease.

'I'll git along arright now, Tom,' she said; 'you garn and
git yerself a moke, and come an' jine in.'

The next race was perfectly uproarious. Liza kicked and beat her
donkey with all her might, shrieking and laughing the white, and
finally came in winner by a length. After that they felt rather warm
and dry, and repaired to the public-house to restore themselves and
talk over the excitements of the racecourse.

When they had drunk several pints of beer Liza and Sally, with their
respective adorers and the Blakestons, walked round to find other
means of amusing themselves; they were arrested by a coconut-shy.

'Oh, let's 'ave a shy!' said Liza, excitedly, at which the unlucky men
had to pull out their coppers, while Sally and Liza made ludicrously
bad shots at the coconuts.

'It looks so bloomin' easy,' said Liza, brushing up her hair, 'but I
can't 'it the blasted thing. You 'ave a shot, Tom.'

He and Harry were equally unskilful, but Jim got three coconuts
running, and the proprietors of the show began to look on him with
some concern.

'You are a dab at it,' said Liza, in admiration.

They tried to induce Mrs. Blakeston to try her luck, but she stoutly
refused.

'I don't old with such foolishness. It's wiste of money ter me,' she
said.

'Na then, don't crack on, old tart,' remarked her husband, 'let's go
an' eat the coconuts.'

There was one for each couple, and after the ladies had sucked the
juice they divided them and added their respective shares to their
dinners and teas. Supper came next. Again they fell to sausage-rolls,
boiled eggs, and saveloys, and countless bottles of beer were added to
those already drunk.

'I dunno 'ow many bottles of beer I've drunk-- I've lost count,' said
Liza; whereat there was a general laugh.

They still had an hour before the brake was to start back, and it was
then the concertinas came in useful. They sat down on the grass, and
the concert was begun by Harry, who played a solo; then there was a
call for a song, and Jim stood up and sang that ancient ditty, 'O dem
Golden Kippers, O'. There was no shyness in the company, and Liza,
almost without being asked, gave another popular comic song. Then
there was more concertina playing, and another demand for a song. Liza
turned to Tom, who was sitting quietly by her side.

'Give us a song, old cock,' she said.

'I can't,' he answered. 'I'm not a singin' sort.' At which Blakeston
got up and offered to sing again.

'Tom is rather a soft,' said Liza to herself, 'not like that cove
Blakeston.'

They repaired to the public-house to have a few last drinks before the
brake started, and when the horn blew to warn them, rather unsteadily,
they proceeded to take their places.

Liza, as she scrambled up the steps, said: 'Well, I believe I'm
boozed.'

The coachman had arrived at the melancholy stage of intoxication, and
was sitting on his box holding his reins, with his head bent on his
chest. He was thinking sadly of the long-lost days of his youth, and
wishing he had been a better man.

Liza had no respect for such holy emotions, and she brought down her
fist on the crown of his hat, and bashed it over his eyes.

'Na then, old jellybelly,' she said, 'wot's the good of 'avin' a fice
as long as a kite?'

He turned round and smote her.

'Jellybelly yerself!' said he.

'Puddin' fice!' she cried.

'Kite fice!'

'Boss eye!'

She was tremendously excited, laughing and singing, keeping the whole
company in an uproar. In her jollity she had changed hats with Tom,
and he in her big feathers made her shriek with laughter. When they
started they began to sing 'For 'e's a jolly good feller', making the
night resound with their noisy voices.

Liza and Tom and the Blakestons had got a seat together, Liza being
between the two men. Tom was perfectly happy, and only wished that
they might go on so for ever. Gradually as they drove along they
became quieter, their singing ceased, and they talked in undertones.
Some of them slept; Sally and her young man were leaning up against
one another, slumbering quite peacefully. The night was beautiful, the
sky still blue, very dark, scattered over with countless brilliant
stars, and Liza, as she looked up at the heavens, felt a certain
emotion, as if she wished to be taken in someone's arms, or feel some
strong man's caress; and there was in her heart a strange sensation as
though it were growing big. She stopped speaking, and all four were
silent. Then slowly she felt Tom's arm steal round her waist,
cautiously, as though it were afraid of being there; this time both
she and Tom were happy. But suddenly there was a movement on the other
side of her, a hand was advanced along her leg, and her hand was
grasped and gently pressed. It was Jim Blakeston. She started a little
and began trembling so that Tom noticed it, and whispered:

'You're cold, Liza.'

'Na, I'm not, Tom; it's only a sort of shiver thet went through me.'

His arm gave her waist a squeeze, and at the same time the big rough
hand pressed her little one. And so she sat between them till they
reached the 'Red Lion' in the Westminster Bridge Road, and Tom said to
himself: 'I believe she does care for me after all.'

When they got down they all said good night, and Sally and Liza, with
their respective slaves and the Blakestons, marched off homewards. At
the corner of Vere Street Harry said to Tom and Blakeston:

'I say, you blokes, let's go an' 'ave another drink before closin'
time.'

'I don't mind,' said Tom, 'after we've took the gals 'ome.'

'Then we shan't 'ave time, it's just on closin' time now.' answered
Harry.

'Well, we can't leave 'em 'ere.'

'Yus, you can,' said Sally. 'No one'll run awy with us.'

Tom did not want to part from Liza, but she broke in with:

'Yus, go on, Tom. Sally an' me'll git along arright, an' you ain't got
too much time.'

'Yus, good night, 'Arry,' said Sally to settle the matter.

'Good night, old gal,' he answered, 'give us another slobber.'

And she, not at all unwilling, surrendered herself to him, while he
imprinted two sounding kisses on her cheeks.

'Good night, Tom,' said Liza, holding out her hand.

'Good night, Liza,' he answered, taking it, but looking very wistfully
at her.

She understood, and with a kindly smile lifted up her face to him. He
bent down and, taking her in his arms, kissed her passionately.

'You do kiss nice, Liza,' he said, making the others laugh.

'Thanks for tikin' me aht, old man,' she said as they parted.

'Arright, Liza,' he answered, and added, almost to himself: 'God bless
yer!'

''Ulloa, Blakeston, ain't you comin'?' said Harry, seeing that Jim was
walking off with his wife instead of joining him and Tom.

'Na,' he answered, 'I'm goin' 'ome. I've got ter be up at five
ter-morrer.'

'You are a chap!' said Harry, disgustedly, strolling off with Tom to
the pub, while the others made their way down the sleeping street.

The house where Sally lived came first, and she left them; then,
walking a few yards more, they came to the Blakestons', and after a
little talk at the door Liza bade the couple good night, and was left
to walk the rest of the way home. The street was perfectly silent, and
the lamp-posts, far apart, threw a dim light which only served to make
Lisa realize her solitude. There was such a difference between the
street at midday, with its swarms of people, and now, when there was
neither sound nor soul besides herself, that even she was struck by
it. The regular line of houses on either side, with the even pavements
and straight, cemented road, seemed to her like some desert place, as
if everyone were dead, or a fire had raged and left it all desolate.
Suddenly she heard a footstep, she started and looked back. It was a
man hurrying behind her, and in a moment she had recognized Jim. He
beckoned to her, and in a low voice called:

'Liza!'

She stopped till he had come up to her.

'Wot 'ave yer come aht again for?' she said.

'I've come aht ter say good night to you, Liza,' he answered.

'But yer said good night a moment ago.'

'I wanted to say it again-- properly.'

'Where's yer missus?'

'Oh, she's gone in. I said I was dry and was goin' ter 'ave a drink
after all.'

'But she'll know yer didn't go ter the pub.'

'Na, she won't, she's gone straight upstairs to see after the kid. I
wanted ter see yer alone, Liza.'

'Why?'

He didn't answer, but tried to take hold of her hand. She drew it away
quickly. They walked in silence till they came to Liza's house.

'Good night,' said Liza.

'Won't you come for a little walk, Liza?'

'Tike care no one 'ears you,' she added, in a whisper, though why she
whispered she did not know.

'Will yer?' he asked again.

'Na-- you've got to get up at five.'

'Oh, I only said thet not ter go inter the pub with them.'

'So as yer might come 'ere with me?' asked Liza.

'Yus!'

'No, I'm not comin'. Good night.'

'Well, say good night nicely.'

'Wot d'yer mean?'

'Tom said you did kiss nice.'

She looked at him without speaking, and in a moment he had clasped his
arms round her, almost lifting her off her feet, and kissed her. She
turned her face away.

'Give us yer lips, Liza,' he whispered-- 'give us yer lips.'

He turned her face without resistance and kissed her on the mouth.

At last she tore herself from him, and opening the door slid away into
the house.
 

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