FIRST VOICE Syrup is sold in the post-office. A car drives to market, full of fowls and a farmer. Milk-churns stand at Coronation Corner like short silver policemen. And, sitting at the open window of Schooner House, blind Captain Cat hears all the morning of the town.
[School bell in background. Children’s voices. The noise of children’s feet on the cobbles]
CAPTAIN CAT (Softly, to himself) Maggie Richards, Ricky Rhys, Tommy Powell, our Sal, little Gerwain, Billy Swansea with the dog’s voice, one of Mr Waldo’s, nasty Humphrey, Jackie with the sniff….Where’s Dicky’s Albie? and the boys from Ty-pant? Perhaps they got the rash again.
[A sudden cry among the children’s voices]
CAPTAIN CAT Somebody’s hit Maggie Richards. Two to one it’s Billy Swansea. Never trust a boy who barks.
[A burst of yelping crying]
Right again! It’s Billy.
FIRST VOICE And the children’s voices cry away.
[Postman’s rat-a-tat on door, distant]
CAPTAIN CAT (Softly, to himself) That’s Willy Nilly knocking at Bay View. Rat-a-tat, very soft. The knocker’s got a kid glove on. Who’s sent a letter to Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard?
[Rat-a-tat, distant again
CAPTAIN CAT Careful now, she swabs the front glassy. Every step’s like a bar of soap. Mind your size twelveses. That old Bessie would beeswax the lawn to make the birds slip.
WILLY NILLY Morning, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard.
MRS OGMORE -PRITCHARD Good morning, postman.
WILLY NILLY Here’s a letter for you with stamped and addressed envelope enclosed, all the way from Builth Wells. A gentleman wants to study birds and can he have accommodation for two weeks and a bath vegetarian.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD No.
WILLY NILLY (Persuasively) You wouldn’t know he was in the house, Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard. He’d be out in the mornings at the bang of dawn with his bag of breadcrumbs and his little telescope…
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD And come home at all hours covered with feathers. I don’t want persons in my nice clean rooms breathing all over the chairs…
WILLY NILLY Cross my heart, he won’t breathe.
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD …and putting their feet on my carpets and sneezing on my china and sleeping in my sheets…
WILLY NILLY He only wants a single bed, Mrs Ogmore. Pritchard.
CAPTAIN CAT (Softly) And back she goes to the kitchen to polish the potatoes.
FIRST VOICE Captain Cat hears Willy Nilly’s feet heavy on the distant cobbles.
CAPTAIN CAT One, two, three, four, five…That’s Mrs Rose Cottage. What’s to-day? To-day she gets the letter from her sister in Gorslas. How’s the twins’ teeth?
He’s stopping at School House.
WILLY NILLY Morning, Mrs Pugh. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard won’t have a gentleman in from Builth Wells because he’ll sleep in her sheets, Mrs Rose Cottage’s sister in Gorslas’s twins have got to have them out…
MRS PUGH Give me the parcel.
WILLY NILLY It’s for Mr Pugh, Mrs Pugh.
MRS PUGH Never you mind. What’s inside it?
WILLY NILLY A book called Lives of the Great Poisoners.
CAPTAIN CAT That’s Manchester House.
WILLY NILLY Morning, Mr Edwards. Very small news. Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard won’t have birds in the house, and Mr Pugh’s bought a book now on how to do in Mrs Pugh.
MR EDWARDS Have you got a letter from her?
WILLY NILLY Miss Price loves you with all her heart. Smelling of lavender to-day. She’s down to the last of the elderflower wine but the quince jam’s bearing up and she’s knitting roses on the doilies. Last week she sold three jars of boiled sweets, pound of humbugs, half a box of jellybabies and six coloured photos of Llaregyb. Yours for ever. Then twenty-one X’s.
MR EDWARDS Oh, Willy Nilly, she’s a ruby! Here’s my letter. Put it into her hands now.
[Slow feet on cobbles, quicker feet approaching]
CAPTAIN CAT Mr Waldo hurrying to the Sailors Arms. Pint of stout with a egg in it. [Footsteps stop]
(Softly) There’s a letter for him.
WILLY NILLY It’s another paternity summons, Mr Waldo.
FIRST VOICE The quick footsteps hurry on along the cobbles and up three steps to the Sailors Arms.
MR WALDO (Calling out) Quick, Sinbad. Pint of stout. And no egg in.
FIRST VOICE People are moving now up and down the cobbled street.
CAPTAIN CAT All the women are out this morning, in the sun. You can tell it’s Spring. There goes Mrs Cherry, you can tell her by her trotters, off she trots new as a daisy. Who’s that talking by the pump? Mrs Floyd and Boyo, talking flatfish. What can you talk about flatfish? That’s Mrs Dai Bread One, waltzing up the street like a jelly, every time she shakes it’s slap slap slap. Who’s that? Mrs Butcher Beynon with her pet black cat, it follows her everywhere, miaow and all. There goes Mrs Twenty-Three, important, the sun gets up and goes down in her dewlap, when she shuts her eyes, it’s night. High heels now, in the morning too, Mrs Rose Cottage’s eldest Mae, seventeen and never been kissed ho ho, going young and milking under my window to the field with the nannygoats, she reminds me all the way. Can’t hear what the women are gabbing round the pump. Same as ever. Who’s having a baby, who blacked whose eye, seen Polly Garter giving her belly an airing, there should be a law, seen Mrs Beynon’s new mauve jumper, it’s her old grey jumper dyed, who’s dead, who’s dying, there’s a lovely day, oh the cost of soapflakes!
[Organ music, distant]
CAPTAIN CAT Organ Morgan’s at it early. You can tell it’s Spring.
FIRST VOICE And he hears the noise of milk-cans.
CAPTAIN CAT Ocky Milkman on his round. I will say this, his milk’s as fresh as the dew. Half dew it is. Snuffle on, Ocky, watering the town…Somebody’s coming. Now the voices round the pump can see somebody coming. Hush, there’s a hush! You can tell by the noise of the hush, it’s Polly Garter. (Louder) Hullo, Polly, who’s there?
POLLY GARTER (Off) Me, love.
CAPTAIN CAT That’s Polly Garter. (Softly) Hullo, Polly my love, can you hear the dumb goose-hiss of the wives as they huddle and peck or flounce at a waddle away? Who cuddled you when? Which of their pandering hubbies moaned in Milk Wood for your naughty mothering arms and body like a wardrobe, love? Scrub the floors of the Welfare Hall for the Mothers’ Union Social Dance, you’re one mother won’t wriggle her roly poly bum or pat her fat little buttery feet in that wedding-ringed holy to-night though the waltzing breadwinners snatched from the cosy smoke of the Sailors Arms will grizzle and mope.
[A cock crows]
CAPTAIN CAT Too late, cock, too late
SECOND VOICE for the town’s half over with its morning. The morning’s busy as bees.
[Organ music fades into silence]
FIRST VOICE There’s the clip clop of horses on the sunhoneyed cobbles of the humming streets, hammering of horse- shoes, gobble quack and cackle, tomtit twitter from the bird-ounced boughs, braying on Donkey Down. Bread is baking, pigs are grunting, chop goes the butcher, milk-churns bell, tills ring, sheep cough, dogs shout, saws sing. Oh, the Spring whinny and morning moo from the clog dancing farms, the gulls’ gab and rabble on the boat-bobbing river and sea and the cockles bubbling in the sand, scamper of sanderlings, curlew cry, crow caw, pigeon coo, clock strike, bull bellow, and the ragged gabble of the beargarden school as the women scratch and babble in Mrs Organ Morgan’s general shop where everything is sold: custard, buckets, henna, rat-traps, shrimp-nets, sugar, stamps, confetti, paraffin, hatchets, whistles.
FIRST WOMAN Mrs Ogmore-Pritchard
SECOND WOMAN la di da
FIRST WOMAN got a man in Builth Wells
THIRD WOMAN and he got a little telescope to look at birds
SECOND WOMAN Willy Nilly said
THIRD WOMAN Remember her first husband? He didn’t need a telescope
FIRST WOMAN he looked at them undressing through the keyhole
THIRD WOMAN and he used to shout Tallyho
SECOND WOMAN but Mr Ogmore was a proper gentleman
FIRST WOMAN even though he hanged his collie.
THIRD WOMAN Seen Mrs Butcher Beynon?
SECOND WOMAN she said Butcher Beynon put dogs in the mincer
FIRST WOMAN go on, he’s pulling her leg
THIRD WOMAN now don’t you dare tell her that, there’s a dear
SECOND WOMAN or she’ll think he’s trying to pull it off and eat it,
FOURTH WOMAN There’s a nasty lot live here when you come to think.
FIRST WOMAN Look at that Nogood Boyo now
SECOND WOMAN too lazy to wipe his snout
THIRD WOMAN and going out fishing every day and all he ever brought back was a Mrs Samuels
FIRST WOMAN been in the water a week.
SECOND WOMAN And look at Ocky Milkman’s wife that nobody’s ever seen
FIRST WOMAN he keeps her in the cupboard with the empties
THIRD WOMAN and think of Dai Bread with two wives
SECOND WOMAN one for the daytime one for the night.
FOURTH WOMAN Men are brutes on the quiet.
THIRD WOMAN And how’s Organ Morgan, Mrs Morgan?
FIRST WOMAN you look dead beat
SECOND WOMAN it’s organ organ all the time with him
THIRD WOMAN up every night until midnight playing the organ.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN Oh, I’m a martyr to music.