MAGGIE Willie, co...

Hobson's Choice

Act 1


Show Type
  • : 1
  • : 1
Age Ranges
  • Adult
Lancashire, England, 1880s
Act 1

Scene Context

Following the enthusiastic feedback from one of their customers, Maggie has realized that shoemaker

Scene Text

MAGGIE Willie, come here.

(In a moment WILLIE appears, and stops half-way up.)

WILLIE. Yes, Miss Maggie?

MAGGIE (L. of trap.) Come up, and put the trap down, I want to talk to you.

(He comes, reluctantly.)

WILLIE. We're very busy in the cellar.

(MAGGIE points to trap. He closes it.)

MAGGIE. Show me your hands, Willie.

WILLIE. They're dirty. (He holds them out hesitatingly.)

MAGGIE. Yes, they're dirty, but they're clever. They can shape the leather like no other man's that ever came into the shop. Who taught you, Willie? (She retains his hands.)

WILLIE. Why, Miss Maggie, I learnt my trade here.

MAGGIE. Hobson's never taught you to make boots the way you do.

WILLIE. I've had no other teacher.

MAGGIE (dropping his hands.) And needed none. You're a natural born genius at making boots. It's a pity you're a natural fool at all else.

WILLIE. I'm not much good at owt but leather, and that's a fact.

MAGGIE. When are you going to leave Hobson's?

WILLIE. Leave Hobson's? I—I thought I gave satisfaction.

MAGGIE. Don't you want to leave?

WILLIE. Not me. I've been at Hobson's all my life, and I'm not for leaving till I'm made.

MAGGIE. I said you were a fool.

WILLIE. Then I'm a loyal fool.

MAGGIE. Don't you want to get on, Will Mossop? You heard what Mrs. Hepworth said. You know the wages you get and you know the wages a bootmaker like you could get in one of the big shops in Manchester.

WILLIE. Nay, I'd be feared to go in them fine places.

MAGGIE. What keeps you here? Is it the—the people?

WILLIE. I dunno what it is. I'm used to being here.

MAGGIE. Do you know what keeps this business on its legs? Two things: one's the good boots you make that sell themselves, the other's the bad boots other people make and I sell. We're a pair, Will Mossop.

WILLIE. You're a wonder in the shop, Miss Maggie.

MAGGIE. And you're a marvel in the workshop. Well?

WILLIE. Well, what?

MAGGIE. It seems to me to point one way.

WILLIE. What way is that?

MAGGIE. You're leaving me to do the work, my lad.

WILLIE. I'll be getting back to my stool, Miss Maggie. (Moves to trap.)

MAGGIE (stopping him). You'll go back when I've done with you. I've watched you for a long time and everything I've seen, I've liked. I think you'll do for me.

WILLIE. What way, Miss Maggie?

MAGGIE. Will Mossop, you're my man. Six months I've counted on you and it's got to come out some time.

WILLIE. But I never—

MAGGIE. I know you never, or it 'ud not be left to me to do the job like this.

WILLIE. I'll—I'll sit down. (He sits in arm-chair, mopping his brow.) I'm feeling queer-like. What dost want me for?

MAGGIE. To invest in. You're a business idea in the shape of a man.

WILLIE. I've got no head for business at all.

MAGGIE. But I have. My brain and your hands 'ull make a working partnership.

WILLIE (getting up, relieved). Partnership! Oh, that's a different thing. I thought you were axing me to wed you. (Moves up stage.)


WILLIE (sitting in front of counter). Well, by gum! And you the master's daughter.

MAGGIE. Maybe that's why, Will Mossop. (Moving up stage.) Maybe I've had enough of father, and you're as different from him as any man I know. (Sits L. of him.)

WILLIE. It's a bit awkward-like.

MAGGIE. And you don't help me any, lad. What's awkward about it?

WILLIE. You talking to me like this.

MAGGIE. I'll tell you something, Will. It's a poor sort of woman who'll stay lazy when she sees her best chance slipping from her. A Salford life's too near the bone to lose things through the fear of speaking out.

WILLIE. I'm your best chance?

MAGGIE. You are that, Will.

WILLIE. Well, by gum! (Rises.) I never thought of this.

MAGGIE. Think of it now.

WILLIE. I am doing. Only the blow's a bit too sudden to think very clear. I've a great respect for you, Miss Maggie. You're a shapely body, and you're a masterpiece at selling in the shop, but when it comes to marrying, I'm bound to tell you that I'm none in love with you.

MAGGIE. Wait till you're asked. (Rises.) I want your hand in mine and your word for it that you'll go through life with me for the best we can get out of it.

WILLIE. We'd not get much without there's love between us, lass.

MAGGIE. I've got the love all right.

WILLIE. Well, I've not, and that's honest.

MAGGIE. We'll get along without.

WILLIE. You're desperate set on this. It's a puzzle to me all ways. What 'ud your father say?

MAGGIE. He'll say a lot, and he can say it. It'll make no difference to me.

WILLIE. Much better not upset him. It's not worth while.

MAGGIE. I'm judge of that. You're going to wed me, Will.

WILLIE. Oh, nay, I'm not. Really I can't do that, Maggie. I can see that I'm disturbing your arrangements like, but I'll be obliged if you'll put this notion from you.

MAGGIE. When I make arrangements, my lad, they're not made for upsetting.

WILLIE. What makes it so desperate awkward is that I'm tokened.

MAGGIE. You're what?

WILLIE. I'm tokened to Ada Figgins.

MAGGIE. Then you'll get loose and quick. Who's Ada Figgins? Do I know her? (Moves L. and turns.)

WILLIE. I'm the lodger at her mother's.

MAGGIE. The scheming hussy. It's not that sandy gill who brings your dinner? (Moves C.)

WILLIE. She's golden-haired is Ada. Aye, she'll be here soon.

MAGGIE. And so shall I. I'll talk to Ada. I've seen her and I know the breed. Ada's the helpless sort. (Turns L.)

WILLIE. She needs protecting.

MAGGIE. That's how she got you, was it? (Turns C.) Yes, I can see her clinging round your neck until you fancied you were strong. But I'll tell you this, my lad, it's a desperate poor kind of a woman that'll look for protection to the likes of you.

WILLIE. Ada does.

MAGGIE. And that gives me the weight of her. She's born to meekness, Ada is. You wed her, and you'll be an eighteen shilling a week bootmaker all the days of your life. You'll be a slave, and a contented slave.

WILLIE. I'm not ambitious that I know of.

MAGGIE. No. But you're going to be. I'll see to that. I've got my work cut out, but there's the makings of a man about you.

WILLIE. I wish you'd leave me alone. (Sits R.)

MAGGIE. So does the fly when the spider catches him. You're my man, Willie Mossop. (Moves to desk.)

WILLIE. Aye, so you say. Ada would tell another story, though.

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