The Project Gutenberg eBook of The Scaring off of Teddy Dawson: A Comedy in One Act

This ebook is for the use of anyone anywhere in the United States and most other parts of the world at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this ebook or online at If you are not located in the United States, you will have to check the laws of the country where you are located before using this eBook.

Title: The Scaring off of Teddy Dawson: A Comedy in One Act

Author: Harold Brighouse

Release date: August 7, 2017 [eBook #55292]
Most recently updated: August 20, 2018

Language: English

Credits: Produced by David Widger from page images generously
provided by the Internet Archive



A Comedy In One Act

By Harold Brighouse

London: Samuel French, Ltd




Living room of a small house in an East End sidestreet. Door direct to street back centre. Next it, window. Door to house l. Kitchen range R. Dresser with crockery l. Centre is a table. Four deal chairs. At the table Polly Bettesworth is ironing as the curtain rises. She is no more than fifty, but a hard life has aged her in appearance beyond her years. A cheap serge skirt and a dark printed blouse, with elastic-sided boots, form her visible attire. Her husband (Andrew) throws open the door c. and enters rapidly from street. He is a navvy, dressed in corduroy, with a leather belt, and is in his shirt sleeves, having been to the nearest public for the supper beer, which is in a large jug in his hand He is a large man, and Polly seems small by con-start. It is evening, but still light.

Andrew (angrily). Where's our Liza?

Polly. What do yer want 'er for?

Andrew (closing door). I'm goin' to tan 'er 'ide for 'er.

Polly. What's to do? (Calmly continuing ironing)

Andrew (crossing to door l.). I'll put beer in back to keep cool an' then I'll tell yer. (Opens left door, leaves jug inside and closes door again.) Now, do yer know wot I've bin 'earing in the Bluebell abart our Liza?

Polly. Tell me.

Andrew. Liza's started courtin'! That's wot that whistlin's bin as we've bin 'earing so much lately.

Polly (stopping ironing). Courtin'! At 'er age?

Andrew. It's Gawd's truth. Wait while I catch the bloke wot's after 'er. I'll skin 'im alive.

Polly (sitting). Liza courtin'! I don't know wot things is comin' to nowadays. Young girls are gettin' a set of forward hussies that haven't hardly laid by their skipping-ropes afore they're thinkin' they're ould enough to get wed. I fancied we'd brought 'er up different to that.

Andrew. I'll fancy 'er—'er an' 'er fancy man, an' all. I'll teach 'im to come round 'ere whistling for our Liza. We ain't partin' with Liza yet. She's the only 'un left to us now.

Polly. Yus. T'other girls went off a sight too young. Fust Martha an' then Sally must be havin' their blokes an' gettin' wed. But I didn't think it of Liza. She's kept 'er mouth shut. Them quiet 'uns are always deep.

Andrew. Nature 'ull 'ave its way with 'em so what you do. (Fiercely.) But I'll spoil this chap's little game. I don't like 'im, not arf like 'im I don't.

Polly. Who is 'e?

Andrew. Teddy Dawson's 'is name.

Polly (rising). Teddy Dawson! Wild as they make 'em that chap is. 'E's after no good with Liza.

Andrew. I'll mar 'is good looks if I catch 'im. 'E'll not be so keen on comin' an' whistlin' at street corner like a canary in a fit. And I'll give Liza the taste of my strap an' all.

Polly (firmly). Yer'll not touch the girl. Andrew.

Andrew. Who won't?

Polly. I'll give 'er a piece of my mind.

Andrew. An' I'll give 'er a piece of my belt.

Polly. Yer won't. Me an' yer didn't arsk our old 'uns for leave to start courtin'. Liza ull go the way o' all flesh when 'er time comes.

Andrew. Yus, but 'er time ain't come yet, not by a bloomin' long chalk, an' I'll make 'er know it.

Polly. Yer leave Liza to me. Yer can do wot yer loike with Teddy Dawson an' welcome.

Andrew. I'll make 'im wish 'e'd never bin born.

Polly. I dunno. Yer've tried that road twice—with Martha's man an' Sally's.

Andrew (reminiscently, gloating). I did an' all. They didn't 'ave much of a larky toime courtin'. I put strap abart both of 'em more than once.

Polly. An' they only came the more.

Andrew. Yus. They was spunky fellows. This bloke 'ull not take it that way. 'E'll cut an' run.

Polly. I'm not so sure it's the right road to scare 'em off.

Andrew. It's the only road I knows of. Do yer think yer knows a better?

Polly. I dunno as I do. Hush! There's Liza comin' downstairs. Now, keep yer mouth shut till I've had my say.

(Enter l. Liza, a girl of sixteen, with black alpaca skirt to her ankles, gaudy stockings, cheap "flash" shoes, a purple blouse and a hat with coster feathers.)

Polly. My word, Liza, yer do make yerself smart for evenin's. Yer might be courtin' the way yer've decked yerself.

Liza. There's no 'arm in puttin' on a bit of finery, is there, mother? If yer've got things, yer might as well show 'em. Don't do 'em no good to lie by in a drawer.

Polly. Be careful, girl. Yer'll 'ave some fellow takin' a fancy to yer if yer go down the Mile End Road in that gear. Foine feathers don't make foine birds. (Liza tosses her head.)

Andrew. Birds! Yus. Puts me in moind of that crazed canary wot comes rahnd the 'ouse whistlin' of an evenin'. (A whistle pipes a little tune at back.) Rot it! There's the darned thing now. (Unbuckling belt.) I'll make 'im whistle if I catch 'im. (Liza runs to door c. to stop his way.) Now-then, Liza, out of my way if yer don't want a taste of this yerself. (Swings strap round.) 'Ere, if yer've nothin' ter do in the 'ouse get orf to bed. Yer'll not go out this night. (Exit swinging strap. Liza sits with her handkerchief to her eyes.)

Polly (softly). Wot's to do with yer, Liza?

Liza. Oh 'e'll 'urt 'im.

Polly. 'Urt who? Is any one there?

Liza. I—I don't know.

Polly (roughly). Yus yer do, yer young deceiver. Yer think yer've got a feller—yer that's just abart goin' into long skirts. I dunno what the world's comin' to. Young girls is that forward.

Liza (rising). Will father 'urt 'im?

Polly (grimly). Depends which on 'em's the better man.

Liza (tearfully). Oh!

Polly (kindly). I dunno that 'e'll do 'im much 'urt. 'E only means to frighten 'im orf comin' rahnd tryin' to court a girl that's too young to know wot marryin' means. Yer silly girl! Toime 'ul come soon enough. 'Ere, dry yer eyes an' come to yer mother. When proper time comes, yer'll not foind us backward at lettin' yer go. It's not come yet by years. Yer taken by 'is looks an' 'is bold ways. It ain't looks as make a man. This 'un's one of them sort as bring woe to a girl wot's fool enough to wed 'em. 'E's your fust, but yer not 'is fust, not by many a one.

Liza (indignantly). 'E says I am.

Polly. Hark to that now. Creditin' anything a feller tells yer when 'e's lurin' yer to 'is arms. (The whistle pipes l. Liza hears it and jerks up her head. Polly fails to notice it.) Eh, not that I blame yer so much, yer too young to know different. P'raps yer'd best go to yer bed, as yer father said, an' ave yer cry out. Yer'll be better in the mornin'.

Liza (with a quick look off l. in the direction of the whistling). All right, mother. (She reaches the door, losses her head defiantly and exit l. Polly gets some matches and is about to light the gas when Andrew opens the door c. and returns buckling on his belt. It is growing gradually darker. Polly puts the match box down unused.)

Polly. Well, 'ave yer trounced 'im?

Andrew. No. 'E dodged me some'ow an I 'eard is darned whistle goin' impudent afterward I reckon 'e wants to get 'er out, but I'll watch 'im at it.

Polly. Liza's gorn to bed to 'ave 'er cry out. She'll get over it by mornin'. Young 'uns don't take love bad. (Whistle sounds off l.)

Andrew (moving to door c.). Darn 'im for a piece of brassen impudence! If I don't break an' spoil 'is whistle for 'im, my name's not Andrew Bettesworth. I'll raise a lump on 'is thick 'ead big enough for 'im to 'ang 'is 'at on.

Polly (detaining him with her hand on his arm). I'm not so sure, Andrew. I've bin thinkin' as that's not right road o' dealin' with 'im.

Andrew. Right or wrong, 'e'll feel the weight of my belt with my arm behind it when I catch 'im.

Polly. I'll tell yer wot I'm thinkin. Yer leathered the fellers wot came after Martha an' Sally, but it didn't choke 'em orf. Made 'em all the keener. Made 'em think the girls was jewels, or yer'd not make so much fuss abart lettin' go of 'em. Let this feller think the girl's a wrong 'un an' 'e'll cool orf quick enough.

Andrew. Well, so they are jewels, an' Liza's the best of the bunch.

Polly. Yus, o' course she is, but you don't need to let 'im know it. Make 'im think yer'd be glad to get shut of 'er. Then 'e'll start thinkin' there's somethin' wrong abart the girl an' lave er' alone.

Andrew. (shaking her off). Garn, that's all woman's bunkum. It takes a man to dal with a job like this 'ere. Wot 'e wants is a thick ear an' I'll stick it out till I catch 'im an' give it 'im an all.

(Unbuckling his belt and going out centre. Polly removes her ironing from table. Suddenly she assumes a listenin attitude, then tiptoes to the door L. and opens it quietly. Teddy and Liza are standing just outside it. He has his arm round her waist. He is a good looking young man, short, dark, clean-shaven in a shoddy suit with muffler round his neck.)

Teddy. I love yer so I could eat yer.

Polly. Yer'd 'ave a foine belly ache, an all, if 'er flesh were as sour as 'er temper. (Teddy stands amazed, then begins to move away.) Yer'd never run from a woman, would yer? (Teddy stops.) Come in. I'm sure yer welcome. (Teddy and Liza enter, suspicious and reluctant. Polly hands a chair out.) Sit yer down. Don't be shy. Yer welcome to come 'ere if yer'll do yer courtin' proper an' drop yer dancin' abart outside with that whistle of yours. 'Ticin' Liza out after she's bin sent to bed. Yer slipped out o' back door I reckon, Liza?

Liza (timidly). Yus, mother.

Polly. I thought so. (Cordially.) Well, yer'll 'ave no need to carry on that road now. We're goin' to 'ave this square an' straight. Liza, I'm sure Mr. Dawson's ready for a bit of supper. There ain't nothing like peckin' a bit together when you want to get friendly. (Finishing the removal of ironing from table.) Now, Liza, get a move on. Where's that piece of boiled bacon as we found good chewing yesterday? Bustle round, girl. (Liza takes a cloth from dresser, spreads on table and lays plates, etc., for two, putting out the bacon, a tin loaf, and butter.)

Polly (drawing up a chair to Teddy's confidentially). Yer see, Mr. Dawson, I'm glad yer come in. I 'aven't arf liked yer plan of workin'. Comin' 'ere an' whistlin' abart the 'ouse as if yer felt feared o' bein' seen. (Teddy shifts uncomfortably.) But that's all over now. We're goin' to 'ave that altered. (Looking round at table.) Where's yer 'ead, Liza? Do yer think Mr. Dawson can face 'is supper dry? (Rising.) There's some beer in the back. I'll go an' fetch it. (Looking round as she reaches the door l.) It's gettin' a bit dark in 'ere, Liza. Things 'ull look more cheerful with a light on. It'll give yer somethin' ter do ter keep yer out of mischief while I'm gorn. (Exit Polly l. Liza immediately lights the gas and puts the blind down. Teddy rises.)

Teddy. Well, blime, Liza this beats everything. Wot made yer tell me they'd be against it if they knew'?

Liza. I don't understand this no more than yer do. They didn't set abort it this road with my sisters' fellers.

Teddy. Looks like she's took a fancy to me. Nothin' surprisin' in that neither. Yer've got a sight better kind of a man than yer sisters ever 'ad.

Liza. That's right enough, Teddy, but I don't like looks of this. Father used to leather Sally's bloke.

Teddy. I'm not afraid of 'im so long as I'm on right side of the missus. I knaw who wears 'em in this 'ouse, an' it ain't the old man. Yus, Liza, there ain't nothin' to complain of so far. (Sitting and putting his thumbs in his waistcoat armholes.) Yer never know yer luck. This 'ere weren't looked for. I'll not be whistlin' out there for yer termorrer night. Not arf. I'll walk in at door an' 'ang my 'at up loike as if I owned the place. (Looking round.) Tidy few bits of sticks yer've got an all, Liza.

Liza. It ain't so bad.

Teddy. No. I say, Liza, if the missus don't like yer sisters' 'usbands she'll be glad to see yer wed a man she's taken a fancy to. Fond of yer, I reckon, too, eh, Liza?

Liza. Yus.

Teddy. Yus. Too fond to part. See wot I mean? They'll arsk us to live 'ere arter we're wed. Gettin' on, too, they are. Can't last for ever.

Liza. Wot are yer gettin' at?

Teddy. Nothin' particklar. It just struck me there's a nice pair of shoes to step into 'ere. This is goin' to be a bit of all right, Liza. I must keep on the sweet side of yer mother.

Liza (bridling). I dunno what yer've got in yer 'ead, Teddy Dawson. I don't call to moind 'avin said I'd wed yer. I've not bin arsked that I know of.

Teddy (releasing his thumbs and coming to her). I'm arskn' yer now, ain't I?

Liza. I'm not goin' ter be arsked now. When I'm arsked I'll be arsked proper, an' it'll not be in between while mother fetches the beer. Yer makin' a bit too sure an all, so yer can put that in yer pipe an' smoke 'it. Don't be in too much of a 'urry abart me nor them shoes of my father's wot yer mentioned either.

Teddy (trying to put his arm round her). 'Ere, I say, Liza, yer not offended are yer?

Liza Yer'd best be careful of yer tongue.

Teddy. Well, I'll arsk an' arsk till yer say yer'll 'ave me. I'm deep in love an' I'll not take no for an answer.

Liza (softly). P'raps yer'll not get it neither when yer arsk proper.

Teddy. That's right. Give us a kiss for a night cap, Liza.

Liza (shyly). I don't think I ought.

Teddy. Why not? Wot's come over yer? Yer've taken many a score out in the street an' giver, as good as yer took, an all.

Liza. I know. I dunno. Seems like street's one thing an' inside's another. It don't seem same thing with the gas on.

Teddy. Turn un low if yer feared o' the light.

Liza. Mother might catch us.

Teddy. That don't signify. She arsked me in an' told me to do my courtin' proper. I don't call it proper courtin' for yer to go to yer bed without a kiss on yer lips fur company.

Liza. I must get used to it fust. (Teddy is turning gas down.) Yer leave that gas be. I'll scream out. (Teddy turns gas up.)

Teddy. Look 'ere, Liza, yer darned stand-offish all at once. Yer weren't above kissin' me in street.

Liza (apologetically). It don't seem same thing in the 'ouse no 'ow, Teddy.

Teddy. We wouldn't live in street if we were wed.

Liza (with conviction). No. That's what keeps striking me. It don't seem same fun in the 'ouse. (Teddy approaches her again with resolution.) Here's mother! (Teddy retreats. Enter Polly, with the beer jug, which she puts on the table.)

Polly. 'Ere it is. Why, Liza, where's yer wits bin wool-gatherin'? Yer've put no glasses out.) (Liza hurriedly puts two glasses from dresser on table. Garn, yer've no need to colour up like that if yer did forget 'em. I'm not so old myself I've forgot my courtin' days. There ain't nothink surprisin' if yer did forget when yer lover's with yer. Well, sit yer down, Mr. Dawson.

Teddy (sitting quite confidently now). Thank yer.

Polly (drawing up a chair for herself, facing him) Yer'd best go to bed, Liza; yer've bin sent there twice ternight. Don't stare like that. Me an' Mr. Dawson's got to get acquaint an' I reckon I'm old enough, to do without 'avin' yer for a chaperone.

Liza (reluctantly). All right. Good-noight, mother.

Polly (mimicking). Good-noight, mother! Is that all yer've got ter say?

Liza. Yus. As far as I know.

Polly. Well, if yer keep yer mouth shut the likes o' that when yer wed, Teddy 'ull be in clover. Wot? Oh, I see. Took yer charnce with 'im while I got beer, did yer? Righto. Sling yer 'ook. (Liza goes out l. under protest.) Now then, Mr. Dawson, we can be comfortable.

Teddy. 'Ere, where's Mr. Bettesworth?

Polly (assuming during the ensuing scene an air of rollicking camaraderie). 'E's all right. Out lookin' for somebody, only 'e ain't lookin' in right place. Don't yer worry abart 'im. Now, yer'll ave a bit of bacon?

Teddy (reassured again). I don't mind if I do.

Polly (cutting and handing). Righto. Bread's on yer side. (Polly helps herself to bacon and accepts a slice of bread from Teddy. They eat without forks, using bread instead and show no objection to putting knives in their mouths.)

Polly (sarcastically). I didn't know yer was teetotal.

Teddy. I ain't.

Polly. Well, beer was brewed for drinkin', (Teddy pours himself a glass and drinks modestly.)

Teddy (replacing glass). Ah!

Polly. Sup it up. I like a man that can take 'is liquor. Yer drink as if it feared yer. (Teddy empties his glass.) That's better. (She passes her glass, he fills it and his own.) Now, Mr. Dawson, don't stint yerself. There ain't nothink like courtin' fur givin' an appetite. Yer ain't got much to say for yerself. I dunno. Young men don't seem so brisk at their courtin' as they was when I were a girl.

Teddy (nettled). I don't think I'm pertiklar slow.

Polly. Well, I'll give yer an instance. That gas. It were lighted the moment I left room. I saw gleam of it under door. My old man 'ud never 'ave lit it like that when 'im and me courted. I give yer a fair chance, an all. Yer don't fancy I allays take that long to pick up a jug o' beer, do yer?

Teddy. Yus, well that 'ud go down all right with some girls, but it ain't right way with Liza.

Polly. Oh, yer know yer own business best, of course, but yer'll not be above takin' a 'in! from an old woman that was courted afore yer was born. Yer must make use o' yer charnces. Girls don't like a slow lover.

Teddy. I'm not so shy, neither.

Polly. Yer not eatin' much. A feller wants a bit o' somethin' as ull stick to 'is ribs when 'e's bin courtin'. Don't forget yer beer. Ain't there no more in jug? (Teddy drinks up and refills.) Yer'll not get boozed on a drop like that, and who's to care if yer do? Yer at 'ome 'ere. Drink up and 'ave another.

Teddy (pushing plate and glass from him). I've 'ad enough. (He rises.)

Polly. I'll 'ave somethin' tastier in against yer come termorrer night. I suppose yer'll be 'ere (Polly rises.)

Teddy (sulkily). I told Liza I would, but I'm not so sure if I can.

Polly. Please yerself. Only yer'll keep 'er warm now yer've got so far if yer'll take my tip. Don't let a girl fancy yer coolin' orf. Now, understand, yer welcome 'ere so long as yer break yerself of that whistlin' 'abit. We'll expect yer termorrer.

Teddy. I dunno as I'll be comin'. My mind's not made up yet.

Polly. Yer mighty slow abart it. Wot's to do wi' yer?

Teddy. Nothing. (Polly puts her hand on his arm in a friendly way.)

Polly. Because yer've no need to feel awkward T' whole thing 'ull be straight forward now. Yer've only to go in and win.

Teddy. Yer a bit anxious abart it.

Polly. No, Mr. Dawson, no. Not anxious.

Teddy (dogmatically). Yer a sight too keen set on my winnin' for my taste.

Polly (secretly rejoicing). Yus. Well, I've took a fancy to yer.

Teddy (slyly). Sudden like. 'Ere, I've bin thinkin' now, yer said somethin' a while back abart Liza's bein' a 'ot tempered 'un.

Polly (as if much taken aback). No. Did I? 'Ot tempered did I say?

Teddy. Yus.

Polly. Well, I can't deny she's a 'igh-spirited girl.

Teddy. 'Igh-spirited, eh? Liza didn't never 'ave much ter say for 'erself out in street.

Polly (winking elaborately at him). That's 'er artfulness. Trust a girl to be careful when she's got 'er eye on a man.

Teddy (moving towards door). I think I'll go 'ome. Yer've give me a lot to think abart.

Polly. I tell you wot, Mr. Dawson, yer slip in fur yer dinner on Sunday. Liza shall cook yer somethin'. She ain't much good at cookin' but you'll enjoy it whatever it's loike when she's cooked it. Me an' the old man 'ull 'ave a walk round Park afterwards an' yer can 'ave the 'ouse to yerself with Liza. See what I mean?

Teddy. I don't know as I can come.

Polly (as if deeply disappointed). Yer a bit slow to my way of thinkin'. I'm doin' my best fur yer.

Teddy. Yus. That's just it.

Polly. Just what?

Teddy. Yer a fat sight too keen to be rid of the girl if yer want it straight.

Polly. Don't say that. I'm only tryin' to 'elp yer.

Teddy. Yer didn't 'elp blokes wot come after yer other girls only with yer old man's strap.

Polly. Oh, but yer a very different sort to them, Mr. Dawson.

Teddy. That's right enough. (Door l. opens softly and Liza peeps in. She leaves door ajar without entering.)

Polly. Then we'll expect yer o' Sunday?

Teddy. No. Damned if yer will. Yer shovin' 'er 'at me a sight too last. I'm thinkin' there's somethin' wrong with 'er or yer'd not be so humble abart it. Yer bally well beggin' me to 'ave 'er. I'm 'avin' none of yer bad bargains, with tongues an' tempers an' no good at cookin', thank yer. Yer can't fool me Mrs. Bettesworth.

Polly. I'm sorry yer doubts me. Then we mustn't expect yer round never no more?

Teddy. No. I've seen through yer this time.

Polly. It's very 'ard, very 'ard it is. Wot must I tell Liza?

Teddy. It's nothin' to me wot yer tells 'er. I'm goin' 'ome. (As he reaches the centre door, Andrew opens it and enters.)

Andrew (drawing hack in amazement). Well, blime! (Liza steps into the room. Teddy looks at the l. door as if to escape that way, but sees her. Polly moves to Andrew.)

Polly. Let 'im go, Andrew. 'E ain't worth wastin' leather on 'im. 'E won't ever come 'ere no more.

Andrew'. 'E'll get 'isself done in if 'e does. Clear out. (Teddy loses no time. Andrew closes door. Liza goes to Polly.)

Liza. Mother, do yer really want ter get shut of me?

Polly. Oh, bin listenin' at key-'ole 'ave yer? Well, listeners don't 'ear no good o' themselves.

Liza. I couldn't go ter bed without knowin'. I'd got ter come dahn ter find out wot yer an' Teddy was savin'.

Polly. Yer 'eard 'e'll not come back.

Liza. Yus.

Polly. Are yer sorry?

Liza (hesitating). No—no—not if yer don't want ter get rid of me. Yer don't do yer? Father, mother, yer don't want me ter go!

Andrew. We don't that.

Liza. That's wot 'e said.

Polly. 'E said a lot o' foolish things. No Liza we don't want yer to go. Yer the light o' our eyes. That chap——

Liza (fiercely). I 'ate 'im.

Polly. Ah. See, Liza. (Takes her to hearth and shows her the motto on a grocer's calendar over it.) See that? "East, West, home's best." Ain't that true? Yer stick to yer 'ome a bit longer. Yer can take wings an' fly from yer nest when time comes. Yer sure yer not sorry 'e's gorn?

Liza (crying on Polly's shoulder). I want ter stay with yer.

Polly (caressing her). That's right, Liza.

Andrew (angrily approaching table). Who's drunk my supper beer?

Polly. 'Im.

Andrew. I'll break 'is———-

Polly. Wasn't it worth it to be rid of 'im?

Andrew. Yus. Yer bloomin' old schemer. Yus. Yer plan worked it after all.

Polly. It's bin a cure for love.