Traditional Drama Forum - No.8 ISSN 1743-3789 September 2003

An Enjoyable Christmas: A Prelude [Part 2]
[by David Herbert Lawrence]

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Notes

(...continued)

The Guysers.

"Tell ye what," exclaimed Henry, "we'll go."

"How can we, three of us?" asked Arthur.

"Well," persisted Henry. "we could dress up so as they'd niver know us, an' hae a bit o' fun. Hey!" he suddenly shouted to Fred, who was reading, and taking no notice, "Hey, we're going to the Mill guysering."

"Who is?" asked the elder brother. somewhat surprised.

"You an' me, an' our Arthur. I'll be Beelzebub."

Here he distorted his face to look diabolic, so that everybody roared.

"Go," said his father, "you'll make our fortunes."

"What!" he exclaimed, "by making a fool of myself? They say fools for luck. What fools wise folk must be. Well, I'll be the devil are you shocked, mother? What will you be, Arthur?"

"I don't care," was the answer. "We can put some of that red paint on our faces, and some soot, they'd never know us. Shall we go, Fred?"

"I don't know."

"Why, I should like to see her with her company, to see if she has very fine airs. We could leave some holly for her in the scullery."

"All right, then."

After tea all helped with the milking and feeding. Then Fred took a hedge knife and a hurricane lamp and went into the wood to cut some of the richly berried holly. When he got back he found his brothers roaring with laughter before the mirror. They were smeared with red and black, and had fastened on grotesque horsehair moustaches, so that they were entirely unrecognisable.

"Oh, you are hideous," cried their mother. "Oh, it's shameful to disfigure the work of the Almighty like that."

Illustration of Guysers making up their faces, from 'A Prelude' by D.H.Lawrence.
Original block size 5in. x 6.5in
"HIS BROTHERS ROARING WITH LAUGHTER BEFORE THE MIRROR."

A Bedouin.

Fred washed and proceeded to dress. They could not persuade him to use paint or soot. He rolled his sleeves up to the shoulder, and wrapped himself in a great striped horse rug. Then be tied a white cloth round his head, as the Bedouins do, and pulled out his moustache to fierce points. He looked at himself with approval, took an old sword from the wall, and held it in one naked, muscular arm.

"Decidedly." he thought, "it is very picturesque, and I look very fine."

"Oh, that is grand" said his mother. as he entered the kitchen. His dark eyes glowed with pleasure to hear her say it. He seemed somewhat excited, this bucolic young man. His tanned skin shone rich and warm under the white cloth, its coarseness hidden by the yellow lamplight. His eyes glittered like a true Arab's, and it was to be noticed that the muscles of his sun-browned arms were tense with the grip of the broad hand.

It was remarkable how the dark folds of the rug and the flowing burnouse glorified this young farmer, who, in his best clothes looked awkward and ungainly, and whose face a linen collar showed coarse, owing to exposure to the weather, and long application to heavy labour.

They set out to cross the two of their own fields, and two of their neighbour's, which separated their home from the mill. A few uncertain flakes of snow were eddying down, melting as they settled. The ground was wet, and the night very dark. But they knew. the way well, and were soon at the gate leading to the mill yard. The dog began to bark furiously, but they called to him, "Trip, Trip," and knowing their voices, he was quieted.

Christmas Play.

Henry gave a thundering knock, and bawled in stentorian tones,

"Dun yer want guysers?"

A man came to the door, very tall, very ungainly, very swarthy

"We non want yer." he said, talking down his nose.

"Here comes Beelzebub," banged away Henry thumping a pan which he carried. "Here comes Beelzebub, an' he's come to th' right place."

A big, bonny farm girl came to the door.

"Who is it?" she asked.

"Beelzebub, you know him well." was the answer.

"I'll ask Miss Ellen it she wants you."

Henry winked a red and black wink at the maid, saying, "Never keep Satan on the doorstep," and he stepped into the scullery.

The girl ran away, and soon was heard a laughing, and bright talking of women's voices drawing nearer to the kitchen.

"Tell them to come in." said a voice.

The three trooped in. and glanced round the big kitchen. They could only see Betty, seated as near to them as possible on the squab, her father, black and surly, in his armchair, and two women's figures in the deep shadows ot one of the great ingle-nook seats.

"Ah," said Beelzebub, "this is a bit more like it, a bit hotter. The Devils feels at home here."

They began the ludicrous old Christmas play that everyone knows so well. Beelzebub acted with much force, much noise, and some humour. St. George, that is Fred, played his part with zeal and earnestness most amusing, but at one of the most crucial moments he entirely forgot his speech, which, however, was speedily rectified by Beelzebub. Arthur was nervous and awkward, so that Beelzebub supplied him with most of his speeches.

After much horseplay, stabbing, falling on the floor, bangings of dripping-pans, and ludicrous striving to fill in the blanks, they came to an end.

After the Play.

They waited in silence.

"Well what next," asked a voice from the shadows.

"It's your turn," said Beelzebub

"what do you want?"

"As little as you have the heart to give."

"But," said another voice, one they knew well, "We have no heart to give at all."

"You did not know your parts well." said Blanche, the stranger. "The big fellow in the blanket deserves nothing."

"What about me?" asked Arthur.

"You," answered the same voice, "oh you're a nice boy, and a lady's; thanks are enough reward for you."

He blushed, and muttered something unintelligible.

"There'll be the Devil to pay," suggested Beelzebub.

"Give the Devil his dues, Nell," said Blanche choking again with laughter. Nellie threw a large silver coin on the flagstone floor, but she was nervous and it rolled to the feet of Preston in his arm-chair.

"'Alf-a-crern!" he exclaimed, "gie em thrippence, an' they're non worth that much."

This was too much for the chivalrous St. George. He could bear no longer to stand in this ridiculous garb before his scornful lady-love and her laughing friend.

He snatched off his burnouse and his robe, flung them over one arm, and with the other caught back Beelzebub, who would have gone to pick up the money. There he stood, St. George metamorphosed into a simple young farmer, with ruffled curly black hair, a heavy frown and bare arms.

"Won't you let him have it?" asked Blanche. "Well, what do you want?" she continued,

"Nothing, thanks. I'm sorry we troubled you."

"Come on," he said, drawing the reluctant Beelzebub, and the three made their exit. Blanche laughed and laughed again to see the discomfited knight tramp out, rolling down his shirt sleeves.

(continued...)


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