The same-in daylight dying fast. A lamp is burning on the bar.
A chair has been placed in the centre of the room, facing the
bench under the window, on which are seated from right to left,
GODLEIGH, SOL POTTER the village shopman, TRUSTAFORD,
BURLACOMBE, FREMAN, JIM BERE, and MORSE the blacksmith. CLYST
is squatting on a stool by the bar, and at the other end
JARLAND, sobered and lowering, leans against the lintel of the
porch leading to the door, round which are gathered five or six
sturdy fellows, dumb as fishes. No one sits in the chair. In
the unnatural silence that reigns, the distant sound of the
wheezy church organ and voices singing can be heard.
TAUSTAFORD [After a prolonged clearing of his throat] What I mean
to zay is that 'tes no yuse, not a bit o' yuse in the world, not
duin' of things properly. If an' in case we'm to carry a resolution
disapprovin' o' curate, it must all be done so as no one can't, zay
That's what I zay, Mr. Trustaford; ef so be as 'tis to
be a village meetin', then it must be all done proper.
That's right, Sot Potter. I purpose Mr. Sot Potter into the
chair. Whu seconds that?
[A silence. Voices from among the dumb-as-fishes: "I du."]
CLYST [Excitedly] Yu can't putt that to the meetin'. Only a
chairman can putt it to the meetin'. I purpose that Mr. Burlacombe--
bein as how he's chairman o' the Parish Council--take the chair.
Ef so be as I can't putt it, yu can't putt that neither.
'Tes not a bit o' yuse; us can't 'ave no meetin' without
Us can't 'ave no chairman without a meetin' to elect un,
that's zure. [A silence.]
MORSE [Heavily] To my way o' thinkin', Mr. Godleigh speaks zense;
us must 'ave a meetin' before us can 'ave a chairman.
Then what we got to du's to elect a meetin'.
BURLACOMBE [Sourly] Yu'll not find no procedure far that.
[Voices from among the dumb-as fishes: "Mr. Burlacombe 'e
SOL POTTER [Scratching his head--with heavy solemnity] 'Tes my
belief there's no other way to du, but to elect a chairman to call a
meetin'; an' then for that meetin' to elect a chairman.
I purpose Mr. Burlacombe as chairman to call a meetin'.
[Amidst an uneasy shufflement of feet he moves to the door, and
goes out into the darkness.]
CLYST [Seeing his candidate thus depart] Rackon curate's pretty
well thru by now, I'm goin' to zee. [As he passes JARLAND] 'Ow's to
base, old man?
[He goes out. One of the dumb-as-fishes moves from the door and
fills the apace left on the bench by BURLACOMBE'S departure.]
Darn all this puzzivantin'! [To SOL POTTER] Got an' zet
in that chair.
SOL POTTER [Rising and going to the chair; there he stands,
changing from one to the other of his short broad feet and sweating
from modesty and worth] 'Tes my duty now, gentlemen, to call a
meetin' of the parishioners of this parish. I beg therefore to
declare that this is a meetin' in accordance with my duty as chairman
of this meetin' which elected me chairman to call this meetin'. And
I purceed to vacate the chair so that this meetin' may now purceed to
elect a chairman.
[He gets up from the chair, and wiping the sweat from his brow,
goes back to his seat.]
I don't give a darn for that. I rise on a point of order.
'Tes a chairman that decides points of order. 'Tes
certain yu can't rise on no points whatever till there's a chairman.
'Tes no yuse yure risin', not the least bit in the
world, till there's some one to set yu down again. Haw, haw!
[Voice from the dumb-as-Etches: "Mr. Trustaford 'e's right."]
What I zay is the chairman ought never to 'ave vacated the
chair till I'd risen on my point of order. I purpose that he goo and
zet down again.
Yu can't purpose that to this meetin'; yu can only purpose
that to the old meetin' that's not zettin' any longer.
FREMAN [Excitedly] I didn' care what old meetin' 'tis that's
zettin'. I purpose that Sol Potter goo an' zet in that chair again,
while I rise on my point of order.
TRUSTAFORD [Scratching his head] 'Tesn't regular but I guess yu've
got to goo, Sol, or us shan't 'ave no peace.
[SOL POTTER, still wiping his brow, goes back to the chair.]
MORSE [Stolidly-to FREMAN] Zet down, Will Freman. [He pulls at
him with a blacksmith's arm.]
FREMAN [Remaining erect with an effort] I'm not a-goin' to zet
down till I've arisen.
Now then, there 'e is in the chair. What's yore point of
FREMAN [Darting his eyes here and there, and flinging his hand up
to his gipsy-like head] 'Twas--'twas--Darned ef y' 'aven't putt it
clean out o' my 'ead.
We can't wait for yore points of order. Come out o' that
chair. Sol Potter.
[SOL POTTER rises and is about to vacate the chair.]
I know! There ought to 'a been minutes taken. Yu can't
'ave no meetin' without minutes. When us comes to electin' a
chairman o' the next meetin', 'e won't 'ave no minutes to read.
'Twas only to putt down that I was elected chairman to
elect a meetin' to elect a chairman to preside over a meetin' to pass
a resolution dalin' wi' the curate. That's aisy set down, that is.
FREMAN [Mollified] We'll 'ave that zet down, then, while we're
electin' the chairman o' the next meetin'.
Well then, seein' this is the praaper old meetin' for
carryin' the resolution about the curate, I purpose Mr. Sol Potter
take the chair.
I purpose Mr. Trustaford. I 'aven't a-got nothin' against
Sol Potter, but seein' that he elected the meetin' that's to elect
'im, it might be said that 'e was electin' of himzelf in a manner of
spakin'. Us don't want that said.
MORSE [Amid meditative grunts from the dumb-as-fishes] There's
some-at in that. One o' they tu purposals must be putt to the
[With his smile brightening, JIM resumes his seat.]
SOL POTTER [Wiping his brow] Du seem to me, gentlemen, seem' as
we'm got into a bit of a tangle in a manner of spakin', 'twid be the
most zimplest and vairest way to begin all over vrom the beginnin',
so's t'ave it all vair an' square for every one.
[In the uproar Of "Aye" and "No," it is noticed that TIBBY
JARLAND is standing in front of her father with her finger, for
want of something better, in her mouth.]
TIBBY [In her stolid voice] Please, sister Mercy says, curate 'ave
got to "Lastly." [JARLAND picks her up, and there is silence.] An'
please to come quick.