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Contents > Author > Somerset Maugham > Liza of Lambeth 04 1874- 1965
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Somerset Maugham
Liza of Lambeth 04
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Bank Holiday was a beautiful day: the cloudless sky threatened a
stifling heat for noontide, but early in the morning, when Liza got
out of bed and threw open the window, it was fresh and cool. She
dressed herself, wondering how she should spend her day; she thought
of Sally going off to Chingford with her lover, and of herself
remaining alone in the dull street with half the people away. She
almost wished it were an ordinary work-day, and that there were no
such things as bank holidays. And it seemed to be a little like two
Sundays running, but with the second rather worse than the first. Her
mother was still sleeping, and she was in no great hurry about getting
the breakfast, but stood quietly looking out of the window at the
house opposite.

In a little while she saw Sally coming along. She was arrayed in
purple and fine linen-- a very smart red dress, trimmed with velveteen,
and a tremendous hat covered with feathers. She had reaped the
benefit of keeping her hair in curl-papers since Saturday, and her
sandy fringe stretched from ear to ear. She was in enormous spirits.

''Ulloa, Liza!' she called as soon as she saw her at the window.

Liza looked at her a little enviously.

''Ulloa!' she answered quietly.

'I'm just goin' to the "Red Lion" to meet 'Arry.'

'At what time d'yer start?'

'The brake leaves at 'alf-past eight sharp.'

'Why, it's only eight; it's only just struck at the church. 'Arry
won't be there yet, will he?'

'Oh, 'e's sure ter be early. I couldn't wite. I've been witin' abaht
since 'alf-past six. I've been up since five this morning.'

'Since five! What 'ave you been doin'?'

'Dressin' myself and doin' my 'air. I woke up so early. I've been
dreamin' all the night abaht it. I simply couldn't sleep.'

'Well, you are a caution!' said Liza.

'Bust it, I don't go on the spree every day! Oh, I do 'ope I shall
enjoy myself.'

'Why, you simply dunno where you are!' said Liza, a little crossly.

'Don't you wish you was comin', Liza?' asked Sally.

'Na! I could if I liked, but I don't want ter.'

'You are a coughdrop-- thet's all I can say. Ketch me refusin' when I
'ave the chanst.'

'Well, it's done now. I ain't got the chanst any more.' Liza said this
with just a little regret in her voice.

'Come on dahn to the "Red Lion", Liza, and see us off,' said Sally.

'No, I'm damned if I do!' answered Liza, with some warmth.

'You might as well. P'raps 'Arry won't be there, an' you can keep me
company till 'e comes. An' you can see the 'orses.'

Liza was really very anxious to see the brake and the horses and the
people going; but she hesitated a little longer. Sally asked her once
again. Then she said:

'Arright; I'll come with yer, and wite till the bloomin' old thing

She did not trouble to put on a hat, but just walked out as she was,
and accompanied Sally to the public-house which was getting up the

Although there was still nearly half an hour to wait, the brake was
drawn up before the main entrance; it was large and long, with seats
arranged crosswise, so that four people could sit on each; and it was
drawn by two powerful horses, whose harness the coachman was now
examining. Sally was not the first on the scene, for already half a
dozen people had taken their places, but Harry had not yet arrived.
The two girls stood by the public-door, looking at the preparations.
Huge baskets full of food were brought out and stowed away; cases of
beer were hoisted up and put in every possible place-- under the seats,
under the driver's legs, and even beneath the brake. As more people
came up, Sally began to get excited about Harry's non-appearance.

'I say, I wish 'e'd come!' she said. ''E is lite.'

Then she looked up and down the Westminster Bridge Road to see if he
was in view.

'Suppose 'e don't turn up! I will give it 'im when 'e comes for
keepin' me witin' like this.'

'Why, there's a quarter of an hour yet,' said Liza, who saw nothing at
all to get excited about.

At last Sally saw her lover, and rushed off to meet him. Liza was left
alone, rather disconsolate at all this bustle and preparation. She was
not sorry that she had refused Tom's invitation, but she did wish that
she had conscientiously been able to accept it. Sally and her friend
came up; attired in his Sunday best, he was a fit match for his
lady-love-- he wore a shirt and collar, unusual luxuries-- and be
carried under his arm a concertina to make things merry on the way.

'Ain't you goin', Liza?' he asked in surprise at seeing her without a
hat and with her apron on.

'Na,' said Sally, 'ain't she a soft? Tom said 'e'd tike 'er, an' she

'Well, I'm dashed!'

Then they climbed the ladder and took their seats, so that Liza was
left alone again. More people had come along, and the brake was nearly
full. Liza knew them all, but they were too busy taking their places
to talk to her. At last Tom came. He saw her standing there and went
up to her.

'Won't yer change yer mind, Liza, an' come along with us?'

'Na, Tom, I told yer I wouldn't-- it's not right like.' She felt she
must repeat that to herself often.

'I shan't enjoy it a bit without you,' he said.

'Well, I can't 'elp it!' she answered, somewhat sullenly.

At that moment a man came out of the public-house with a horn in his
hand; her heart gave a great jump, for if there was anything she
adored it was to drive along to the tootling of a horn. She really
felt it was very hard lines that she must stay at home when all these
people were going to have such a fine time; and they were all so
merry, and she could picture to herself so well the delights of the
drive and the picnic. She felt very much inclined to cry. But she
mustn't go, and she wouldn't go: she repeated that to herself twice
as the trumpeter gave a preliminary tootle.

Two more people hurried along, and when they came near Liza saw
that they were Jim Blakeston and a woman whom she supposed
to be his wife.

'Are you comin', Liza?' Jim said to her.

'No,' she answered. 'I didn't know you was goin'.'

'I wish you was comin',' he replied, 'we shall 'ave a game.'

She could only just keep back the sobs; she so wished she were going.
It did seem hard that she must remain behind; and all because she
wasn't going to marry Tom. After all, she didn't see why that should
prevent her; there really was no need to refuse for that. She began to
think she had acted foolishly: it didn't do anyone any good that she
refused to go out with Tom, and no one thought it anything specially
fine that she should renounce her pleasure. Sally merely thought her
a fool.

Tom was standing by her side, silent, and looking disappointed and
rather unhappy. Jim said to her, in a low voice:

'I am sorry you're not comin'!'

It was too much. She did want to go so badly, and she really couldn't
resist any longer. If Tom would only ask her once more, and if she
could only change her mind reasonably and decently, she would accept;
but he stood silent, and she had to speak herself. It was very

'Yer know, Tom.' she said, 'I don't want ter spoil your day.'

'Well, I don't think I shall go alone; it 'ud be so precious slow.'

Supposing he didn't ask her again! What should she do? She looked up
at the clock on the front of the pub, and noticed that it only wanted
five minutes to the half-hour. How terrible it would be if the brake
started and he didn't ask her! Her heart beat violently against her
chest, and in her agitation she fumbled with the corner of her apron.

'Well, what can I do, Tom dear?'

'Why, come with me, of course. Oh. Liza, do say yes.'

She had got the offer again, and it only wanted a little seemly
hesitation, and the thing was done.

'I should like ter, Tom,' she said. 'But d'you think it 'ud be

'Yus, of course it would. Come on, Liza!' In his eagerness he clasped
her hand.

'Well,' she remarked, looking down, 'if it'd spoil your 'oliday--.'

'I won't go if you don't-- swop me bob, I won't!' he answered.

'Well, if I come, it won't mean that I'm keepin' company with you.'

'Na, it won't mean anythin' you don't like.'

'Arright!' she said.

'You'll come?' he could hardly believe her.

'Yus!' she answered, smiling all over her face.

'You're a good sort, Liza! I say, 'Arry, Liza's comin'!' he shouted.

'Liza? 'Oorray!' shouted Harry.

''S'at right, Liza?' called Sally.

And Liza feeling quite joyful and light of heart called back:


''Oorray!' shouted Sally in answer.

'Thet's right, Liza,' called Jim; and he smiled pleasantly as she
looked at him.

'There's just room for you two 'ere,' said Harry, pointing to the
vacant places by his side.

'Arright!' said Tom.

'I must jest go an' get a 'at an' tell mother,' said Liza.

'There's just three minutes. Be quick!' answered Tom, and as she
scampered off as hard as she could go, he shouted to the coachman:
''Old 'ard; there' another passenger comin' in a minute.'

'Arright, old cock,' answered the coachman: 'no 'urry!'

Liza rushed into the room, and called to her mother, who was still

'Mother! mother! I'm going to Chingford!'

Then tearing off her old dress she slipped into her gorgeous violet
one; she kicked off her old ragged shoes and put on her new boots. She
brushed her hair down and rapidly gave her fringe a twirl and a
twist-- it was luckily still moderately in curl from the previous
Saturday-- and putting on her black hat with all the feathers, she
rushed along the street, and scrambling up the brake steps fell
panting on Tom's lap.

The coachman cracked his whip, the trumpeter tootled his horn, and
with a cry and a cheer from the occupants, the brake clattered down
the road.

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