Whether or Not

I

Dunna thee tell me it's his'n, mother,
Dunna thee, dunna thee!
— Oh ay, he'll come an' tell thee his-sen,
Wench, wunna he?

Tha doesna mean ter say ter me, mother,
He's gone wi' that —
— My gel, owt'll do for a man i' th' dark;
Tha's got it flat!

But 'er's old, mother, 'er's twenty year
Older nor him —
— Ay, an' yaller as a crowflower; an' yet i' th' dark
Er'd do for Tim.

Tha niver believes it, does ter, mother?
It's somebody's lies.
— Ax 'im thy-sen, wench; a widder's lodger!
It's no surprise.

II

A widow o' forty-five
Wi' a bitter, dirty skin,
To ha' 'ticed a lad o' twenty-five,
An' 'im to 'ave been took in!

A widow of forty-five
As 'as sludged like a horse all 'er life
Till 'er's tough as whit-leather, to slive
Atween a lad an' 'is wife!

A widow of forty-five!
A glum old otchel, wi' long
Witch teeth, an' 'er black hawk-eyes, as I've
Mistrusted all along!

An' me as 'as kep' my-sen
Shut like a daisy bud,
Clean an' new an' nice, so's when
He wed he'd ha'e summat good!

An' 'im as nice an' fresh
As any man i' th' force,
To ha' gone an' given his clean young flesh
To a woman that coarse!

III

You're stout to brave this snow, Miss Stainwright,
Are you makin' Brinsley way?
— I'm off up th' line to Underwood
Wi' a dress as is wanted to-day.

Oh, are you goin' to Underwood?
'Appen then you've 'eered!
— What's that as 'appen I've 'eered on, Missis?
Speak up, you nedn't be feared.

Why, your young man an' Widow Naylor,
'Er as 'e lodges wi'!
They say he's got 'er wi' childt; but there
It's nothing to do wi' me!

Though if it's true, they'll turn 'im out
O' th' p'lice force, without fail;
An' if it's not true, you may back your life
They'll listen to her tale.

— Well, I'm believin' no tale, Missis,
I'm seein' for my-sen.
An' when I know for sure, Missis,
I'll talk then

IV

Nay, robin red-breast, tha nedna
Sit noddin' thy head at me!
My breast's as red as thine, I reckon,
Flayed red, if tha could but see.

Nay, yo' blessed pee whips,
Yo' nedna scraight at me!
I'm scraightin' my-sen, but arena goin'
Ter let iv'rybody see.

Tha art smock-ravelled, bunny,
Larropin' neck an' crop
I' th' snow! but I's warrant thee
I'm further ower th' top.

V

Now sithee theer at th' reelroad crossin'
Warmin' 'is-sen at the stool o' fire
Under th' tank as fills th' ingines,
If there isn't my dearly-beloved liar!

My constable, wi' 'is buttoned breast
As stout as the truth, my Sirs! an' 'is face
As bold as a robin! It's much he cares
For this nice old shame an' disgrace.

Oh, but 'e drops 'is flag when 'e sees me!
Yi, an' 'is face goes white! Oh yes,
Tha can stare at me wi' thy fierce blue eyes;
Tha won't stare me out, I guess.

VI

Whativer brings thee out so far
In a' this depth o' snow?
— I'm takin' 'ome a weddin'-dress,
If yer mun know.

Why, is there a weddin' at Underwood
As tha ne'd trudge up 'ere?
— It's Widder Naylor's weddin'-dress,
'Er'll be wantin' it, I 'ear.

' Er doesna want no weddin'-dress —
Why — ? but what dost mean?
— Doesn't ter know what I mean, Timmy?
Yi, tha must ha' bin 'ard ter wean!

Tha'rt a good-un at suckin'-in yet, Timmy!
But tell me, isn't it true
As 'er'll be wantin' my weddin'-dress
In a wik or two?

— Tha's no 'casions ter ha'e me on,
Lizzie; what's done is done.
— Done , I should think so! An' might I ask
When tha begun?

It's thee as 'as done it, as much as me,
So there, an' I tell thee flat.
— Me gotten a childt ter thy landlady?
— Tha's gotten thy answer pat.

As tha allus 'ast; but let me tell thee
Hasna ter sent me whoam, when I
Was a'most burstin' mad o' my-sen,
An' walkin' in agony?

After I'd kissed thee at night, Lizzie,
An' tha's laid against me, an' melted
Into me, melted right into me, Lizzie,
Till I was verily swelted.

An' if my landlady seed me like it,
An' if 'er clawkin' eyes
Went through me as the light went out,
Is it any cause for surprise?

— No cause for surprise at all, my lad;
After kissin' an' cuddlin' wi' me, tha could
Turn thy mouth on a woman like that!
I hope it did thee good.

— Ay, it did; but afterwards
I could ha' killed 'er.
— Afterwards! how many times afterwards
Could ter ha' killed 'er?

Say no more, Liz, dunna thee;
'Er's as good as thee.
— Then I'll say good-bye to thee, Timothy;
Take 'er i'stead o' me.

I'll ta'e thy word good-bye, Liz,
Though I shonna marry 'er
Nor 'er nor nub'dy. — It is
Very brave of you, Sir!

— T' childt maun ta'e its luck, it mun,
An' 'er maun ta'e ' er luck.
F'r I tell yer I h'arena marryin' none
On yer; yo'n got what yer took!

— That's spoken like a man, Timmy,
That's spoken like a man!
" 'E up an' fired 'is pistol,
An' then away 'e ran! "

— I damn well shanna marry 'er,
Nor yo', so chew it no more!
I'll chuck the flamin' lot o' you —
— Yer nedn't 'ave swore!

VII

There's 'is collar round th' candlestick,
An' there's the dark-blue tie I bought 'im!
An' these is the woman's kids 'e's so fond on,
An' 'ere comes the cat as caught 'im!

I dunno wheer 'is eyes was — a gret
Round-shouldered hag! My Sirs, to think
Of 'im stoopin' to 'er! You'd wonder 'e could
Throw 'imself down that sink!

I expect yer know who I am, Mrs. Naylor?
— Who y'are? yis, you're Lizzie Stainwright.
An' 'appen you'd guess then what I've come for?
— 'Appen I mightn't, 'appen I might.

Yer knowed as I was courtin' Tim Merfin?
— Yis, I knowed 'e wor courtin' thee.
An' yet yer've bin carryin' on wi' 'im!
— Ay, an' 'im wi' me.

Well, now yer've got ter pay for it.
— If I han, what's that ter thee?
'E isn't goin' ter marry yer.
— Tha wants 'im thy-sen, I see.

It 'asn't nothin' to do with me.
— Then what art colleyfoglin' for?
I'm not 'avin' your orts an' slarts.
— Which on us said you wor?

But I want you to know 'e's not marryin' you.
— Tha wants 'im thy-sen too bad.
Though I'll see as 'e pays you, an' does what's rig
— Tha'rt for doin' a lot wi' t' lad!

VIII

To think I should 'ave ter 'affle an' caffle
Wi' a woman, an' name 'er a price
For lettin' me marry the lad as I thought
Ter marry wi' cabs an' rice!

But we'll go unbeknown ter th' registrar,
An' give 'er the money there is;
For I won't be beholden to such as 'er,
I won't, or my name's not Liz.

IX

Ta'e off thy duty stripes, Tim,
An' come in 'ere wi' me;
Ta'e off thy p'liceman's helmet
An' look at me.

I wish tha hadna done it, Tim,
I do, an' that I do!
For whenever I look thee i' th' face, I s'll see
Her face too.

I wish I could wesh 'er off'n thee;
'Appen I can, if I try.
But tha'll ha'e ter promise ter be true ter me
Till I die. . . . .

X

Twenty pound o' thy own tha hast, an' fifty pound ha'e I;
Thine shall go ter pay the woman, an' wi' my bit we'll buy
All as we s'll want for furniture when tha leaves this place;
An' we'll be married at th' registrar — now lift thy face!

Lift thy face an' look at me, man! canna ter look at me?
Sorry I am for this business, an' sorry if ever I've driven thee
To do such a thing; though it's a poor tale, it is, that I'm bound to say,
Afore I can ta'e thee I've got a widder o' forty-five ter pay!

Dunnat thee think but what I've loved thee; I've loved thee too well.
An' 'deed an' I wish as this tale o' thine wor niver my tale to tell!
Deed an' I wish I c'd 'a' stood at th' altar wi' thee an' bin proud o' thee!
That I could 'a' bin first woman ter thee, as tha'rt first man ter me!

But we maun ma'e the best on't. So now rouse up an' look at me.
Look up an' say tha'rt sorry tha did it; say tha'rt sorry for me.
They'll turn thee out o' th' force, I doubt me; if they do, we can see
If my father can get thee a job on t' bank. Say tha'rt sorry, Timmy!

XI

Ay, I'm sorry, I'm sorry,
But what o' that!
Ay, I'm sorry! Tha nedna worry
Nor fret thy fat.

I'm sorry for thee, I'm sorry f'r 'er,
I'm sorry f'r us a'.
But what then? Tha wants me, does ter
After a'?

Ah'n put my-sen i' th' wrong, Liz,
An' 'er as well.
An' tha'rt that right, tha knows; 'tis
Other folks in hell.

Tha art so sure tha'rt right, Liz!
That damned sure!
But 'ark thee 'ere, that widder woman
's less graspin', if 'er's poor.

What 'er gen, 'er gen me
Beout a thought.
'Er gen me summat; I shanna
Say it wor nought.

I'm sorry for th' trouble, ay
As comes on us a'
But sorry for what I had? why
I'm not, that's a'

As for marryin', I shanna marry
Neither on yer.
Ah've 'ad a' as I can carry
From you an' from 'er.

So I s'll go an' leave yer,
Both on yer.
I don't like yer, Liz, I want ter
Get away from yer.

An' I really like 'er neither,
Even though I've 'ad
More from 'er than from you; but either
Of yer's too much for this lad

Let me go! what's good o' talkin'?
Let's a' ha' done
Talk about love o' women!
Ter me it's no fun.

What bit o' cunt I had wi' 'er
's all I got out of it.
An' 's not good enough, it isn't
For a permanent fit.

I'll say good-bye, Liz, to yer,
Yer too much i' th' right for me
An' wi' 'er somehow it isn't right.
So good-bye, an' let's let be!
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