Scene 3

The Canteen

The Next Evening

Peacock, Grainger, Humphries and Lucas are at their usual table drinking coffee. The Canteen manageress enters pushing a trolley loaded with plates of food

CM:              Right!  Jug Ears said I ‘ad to feed you lot before the late shift, so watch your elbows!
                     (she starts throwing down plates)  Where's the ladies, then?

Peacock:       There are none here, certainly.

Lucas:           Just a minute!  Don't we get to order from the menu?

CM:              Menu?!  You're lucky to get anything at all!  As it turns out, we ‘ad a bit of roast chicken
                     left over from dinner.

Grainger:      (inspecting his plate) Roast chicken?  These look more like, er--

CM:              Rissoles.  You'll be seein' the chicken again Monday in the Shepherd's Pie.

Lucas:           It gives one a reason to go on, doesn't it?

CM:              Still too good for you lot.  Right, the dishwasher's lockin' up in fifteen minutes, so ‘ave
                     at it. (she turns to exit)

Lucas:           Fifteen minutes?  But what about our supper later on?

CM:              Oh, there'll be takeaway at eight.  We'd like to stay but that would mean overtime.
                     And we're over our monthly allotment.  Bon soiree! (she exits with trolley)

Lucas:           (looking at plate)  And to think I starved myself all afternoon for this!

Humphries:   Hmmm.  Well, I'm just having coffee meself.  I had tea with Mother not an hour ago,
                    and I'm quite satisfied.

Lucas:           Oh? What'd you have?

Humphries:   Swedish meatballs.

Lucas:           Oh, do you have those often?

Humphries:   Not with Mother, no.

Grainger:      (trying to cut a rissole with a knife and fork)  Well, I've not had a proper meal yet
                     today.  My wife's sister came down from St. Albans.  She's slimming, you know,
                     so for dinner Mrs. Grainger  prepared a spinach salad.  And then for tea she made
                     cucumber sandwiches.  I've been peckish all day.  If it hadn't been pouring with rain
                     I'd have gone out for a banger.

Humphries:   Better luck next time, Mr. Grainger.

Grainger:      This entire affair is most inconvenient. (still struggling with a rissole. It flies off his
                     plate)  Oh, damn!

Lucas:           (also sawing a rissole) Take heart, Mr. Grainger.  We'll always talk about the one
                     that got away.

Humphries:   (leans toward Grainger) Now don't let it upset you.  Remember yesterday when I
                      was looking for the marigolds?

Grainger:      Eh?

Humphries:   The marigolds.  The rubber gloves.

Grainger:      Er, yes, now you mention it.

Humphries:   Well, while I was looking, I noticed you had most of a pork pie in the drawer right
                     under the till.  That should tidy you over ‘til dinner.

Grainger:      (now smiling, leans toward Humphries) Oh, I was wondering where I'd left that!
                     Thank you.

Humphries:   Think nothing of it.

Grainger:      Yes.  Er, by the way, why were you looking for the rubber gloves?

Humphries:   I'll wait to tell you ‘til everyone's finished eating, Mr. Grainger.

Grainger:      (looks warily at Humphries)  Thank you, Mr. Humphries.

Slocombe and Brahms enter, wearing their macs and carrying dripping umbrellas

Peacock:       Ah, here are the ladies.  Is it still raining, Mrs. Slocombe?

Slocombe:     Oh, it's comin' down in buckets, isn't it, Miss Brahms?

Brahms:        Yeah, we ‘ad to take a taxi from the cinema.  And there was a queue for that, and all.

The ladies put their macs and brollies on a chair and find seats

Peacock:       (looks at watch, rises) Well, I'll be going up to the sales floor to make sure everything
                     is in proper order.  Your meals arrived a few minutes before you did, ladies.  It seems
                     the Canteen staff are preparing to lock up, as they're over their monthly allotment.

Slocombe:     (looking at plate) Ugh.  They're not over their monthly allotment of rubbish. (looks at
                     Peacock's plate)  Aren't you eatin', then, Cpt. Peacock?

Peacock:       No, I, er, had a very late lunch. (he exits)

Slocombe:     Hmmm. (peers at food) What is it?

Grainger:      Rissoles!

Slocombe:     (gives him a look) Thank you, Mr. Grainger.

Brahms:        Ooh, they've put me right off.  Good thing we ‘ad a nosh at the cinema.

Humphries:   Well, tell us what film you saw.

Brahms:        Oh, we saw "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."  It was right eerie.  The aliens
                     was flyin' their spaceships all over the road, and they was all lit up, and one of them
                     stopped at an ‘ouse and was flashin' into the window.

Humphries:   (to Lucas)  Can you do that if you're a foreigner?

Brahms:        Anyway, the aliens wanted to meet some of us what's on the earth, so they was sendin'
                     people telegraphic messages.

Slocombe:     You mean telepathetic, Miss Brahms.

Brahms:        Right, and one of them started makin' a mountain out of mashed potatoes at the dinner
                     table, and ‘is family thought he'd gone potty.

Lucas:           (squinting, with fingers at his temples) Just a minute!

Humphries:   What is it?

Slocombe:     Are you all right, Mr. Lucas?

Lucas:           Hang on.  I've got a message comin' in.  Pass me your rissoles, everybody -- I'm goin'
                     to need the lot!

Brahms:        What for?

Lucas:           I fancy makin' Mount Slocombe!

Slocombe:     And pass me my brolly, Miss Brahms.  It's about to have a close encounter with
                     Mr. Lucas's cake-hole!

Sales floor

Peacock gets off the lift, descends and looks around. Rumbold enters from the direction of his office.

Rumbold:      Ah, here you are, Cpt. Peacock.  Nearly time for your shift. Where's the rest of
                      your staff?

Peacock:       They'll be up in a moment, sir.  And I really must complain about the provisions made
                     for us.  The meal was most unappetizing.

Rumbold:      Oh, was it?  The roast chicken at lunch was quite enjoyable.  In fact, I do hope it's
                      served again soon!

Peacock:       Sooner than you think.

Rumbold:      What was that?

Peacock:       Never mind, sir.  Where is the floorwalker?

Rumbold:      Oh, Mr. Chadwick left an hour ago.  It seems our floor gave his bunions quite a
                      going-over.  He's used to the carpeting on the Third Floor, you know.

Peacock:       (smugly) Many are called, sir, but few are chosen.

Rumbold:      Er, yes, I suppose so.  Well, carry on, Cpt. Peacock. (he exits)

Peacock goes to the Ladies' counter.  Miss Cumlozi is at the scent counter, helping a customer, and Miss Hurst, a statuesque brunette, is fixing her makeup near the telephone.

Peacock:       Good evening, Miss Hurst.

Hurst:           (snaps compact shut) Don't good evening me, Stephen Peacock!  We had a date
                      tonight, and I find out this morning that you're working!

Peacock:       (looks around, lowers voice) Be discreet, please!

Hurst:           Why should I?  I could have made other plans.  Now I'm at a loose end thanks to you.

Peacock:       Don't panic.  I've got a plan to slip out for awhile, and if it works, I'll  meet you at seven.

Hurst:          If it works?  I'm not going to stand in front of the Savoy Grill all night!  What will
                    people think?

Peacock:       (looks at her admiringly) Indeed.

The lift doors open. Humphries and Lucas emerge and descend. Peacock meets them.

Humphries:   The ladies are just havin' a coffee, Cpt. Peacock.  They'll be up in a minute.

Peacock:       Thank you, Mr. Humphries.  Where's Mr. Grainger?

Humphries:   He's lingering a moment, as well.  His supper got the better of him.

Lucas:           But it could have been worse, Captain.  He could have eaten it..

Peacock:       (frowns) Mr. Humphries, you and Mr. Lucas may relieve your counterparts.  I shall
                     be over in a moment.  I have to, er, debrief the Ladies' staff.

Peacock walks back to the Ladies' counter.  Lucas and Humphries watch him fawn over Miss Hurst

Lucas:           Blimey, look who's in for Miss Brahms -- it's Miss Hurst from Novelty Candles!

Humphries:   Yes.  Funny that Peacock's doing the melting!

They go to the Men's counter, where Walpole and Spooner are standing around

Humphries:   (a bit flushed) Mr. Walpole, it's nice to see you again.  You know Mr. Lucas, of course.

Walpole:       Oh, yes.  Hello, Dick.

Humphries:   (to Lucas) You never told me you were on a first-name basis with Mr. Walpole.

Lucas:           (confused, to Humphries) I'm not.  I don't even know his first name!

Walpole:       Oh, sorry.  I saw it on your salesbook.

Humphries:    Well, that explains it. (to Walpole, pushing past Lucas, extending hand)  My name's

They shake hands

Lucas:           Speakin' of meltin' . . .

Walpole:       Oh, and this is Bert Spooner.  He works in Sport, as well.

Spooner:       (hands in pockets, with a big grin) ‘Lo, all.

Humphries:   Mr. Spooner.  I hope you two didn't have too much trouble adjusting to Gentlemen's

Spooner:       Well, we scarcely ‘ad a chance, did we?  Mr. Tebbs grabbed what customers there
                     was directly they got off the lift!

Walpole:       He seemed quite at home, I must say.

Spooner:       Yeah, ‘e said a good salesman can sell anything.  Told us he once sold seven simulated
                     antique silent-flush toilet suites in one day.

Walpole:       And then he told us again after lunch.

Lucas:           Where is Mr. Tebbs?

Walpole:       He's helping a customer in the fitting room.  We'll be off, then, if that's alright.

Humphries:   Yes, Cpt. Peacock has instructed us to relieve you.  Sorry you didn't  make more
                      commission today.

Spooner:       Oh, it wasn't a total loss.  We did learn how to flute.

The lift doors open.  Slocombe and Brahms emerge and start down the stairs. They notice Peacock and Hurst.

Slocombe:     Oh, look at ‘im slobberin' all over ‘er.  Isn't it disgustin'?

Brahms:        Tsk!  What does ‘e see in ‘er?

Slocombe:     Well, whatever it is, it's about level with ‘er bosom. Good evening,
                      Cpt. Peacock.

Peacock:       (surprised) Oh, good evening, Mrs., er, Slocombe.  Heh-heh.  You know Miss Hurst,
                     of course, from Novelty Candles?

Slocombe:     Of course. (phoney smile) Who doesn't?

Peacock:       (to Hurst) And I'm sure you've met Miss Brahms.

Hurst:           Oh, yes.  I've heard about you, Miss Brahms.

Brahms:        (suspicious) You ‘ave?

Hurst:           Oh, all the gentleman on the staff seem to admire your figure.

Brahms:        (now smiling) Really?  Well, that's nice of you to mention, Miss ‘urst.

Hurst:           Think nothing of it.  Oh, by the way (opens a drawer, pulls out two  mounds of
                     cotton-wool)  I found these in a drawer.  Were you saving them?

Brahms:        (clutches her bosom) The cheek!

Peacock:       Er, Miss Hurst, you may go now, the ladies are here.  Heh-heh.  I'll, er, see you to the lift.

Peacock and Hurst leave the counter. Miss Comlozi, having finished with her customer, now joins the ladies.

Comlozi:       Ah, Mrs. Slocombe.  Is it closing time already?

Slocombe:     Well, it is for you, Miss Comlozi.  We'll be here ‘til midnight.

Brahms:        Yeah, but we get the extra tenner, don't we?

Comlozi:       Good for you, Miss Brahms.  But Miss Hurst and I hardly missed out today.  She
                     sold two alligator handbags and a cashmere jumper,  and I sold a fox collar.

Slocombe:     (shocked)  Not the fox!  I ‘ad a woman was goin' to buy that collar!

Comlozi:       Yes, and just now I sold a complete set of Chez Risque perfume.

Brahms:        Blimey, that's ninety nicker!

Comlozi:       Yes, we had quite a good day for such a rainy one.  Funny I should do so well
                     behind your counter, isn't it, Mrs. Slocombe?

Slocombe:     (deadpan) Just hilarious.

Comlozi:       (gathering up her handbag, coat and umbrella) Well, I'll be leaving, then.  I do hope the
                      rain doesn't keep all your customers home tonight. (she exits)

Slocombe:     Fancy cat!

The lift doors open; Grainger steps out and smiles to Comlozi as she steps in. He descends to the Men's counter

Humphries:   Ah, Mr. Grainger.  Let me take your coat and hat.

Grainger:      Thank you, Mr. Humphries.  It does seem a bit odd, you know. Usually we're putting
                      on our hats and coats at this hour.

Humphries:   Yes, well, it's all for the good of the store, isn't it?

Grainger:      Yes, yes, I suppose.  Have the other staff gone already?

Humphries:   Mr. Walpole and Mr. Spooner from Sport were here, but they've just left.  Mr. Tebbs
                    ran the department today.  He's in the fitting room with a customer.  Wait a minute,
                    here they are now.

Tebbs waddles over to the counter near the fitting room and hands a customer following him, a small man wearing a large sport jacket, a slip of paper.

Tebbs:           Here's the bill, sir, and your card.  May I say you couldn't have chosen better.
                     The houndstooth jacket makes you look very manly, indeed.  Oh, and don't mind the
                     sleeves, sir.  You'll find they ride up with wear.

Customer exits

Lucas:           (to Humphries and Grainger) Say, he's from Bedding.  How does he know that
                      "ride up with wear" bit?

Humphries:  Well, he worked in Soft Furnishings, didn't he?  Good evening, Mr. Tebbs.

Tebbs:           Ah, Mr. Humphries.  And Mr. Grainger! (he "moves" toward Grainger) How good
                     to see you again.  We've spent a most  interesting day, haven't we-- (he looks around)

Lucas:           Your juniors have been relieved, Mr. Tebbs.

Tebbs:           Yes, Mr., er--

Lucas:          Lucas.

Tebbs:           Mr. Lucas, yes.  Pardon me.  I'm afraid my juniors were of little help to me today.
                     I all but ran the counter single-handedly.

Humphries:   So we heard, Mr. Tebbs.

Grainger:      We were sorry to hear about the, er, accident on your floor.

Tebbs:           Yes, it was rather unfortunate about the waterbeds. (leans in a bit)  It was the plugs,
                      you know.

Grainger:      Yes, we heard.

Tebbs:           I'd warned Mr. Grace about including them in our stock.  I had to remind him that
                     I'd resigned from Soft Furnishings on a similar principle, when I was asked to sell
                     bean bag chairs.

Humphries:   Yes, we remember that, Mr. Tebbs.  It was quite inspiring.

Lucas:           Didn't Mr. Grace take your point this time, Mr. Tebbs?

Tebbs:           Not as readily, Mr. Lucas.  He suggested the only department left to shift me to
                     was Do-It-Yourself.

Lucas:          Not your cup of tea, eh?

Tebbs:           Oh, no, no no. Doing it oneself is a young man's job.

All nod

Tebbs:           Truth to tell, I'd rather hoped to have a go in Gents' Ready-Made before my retirement.
                      I thought I'd get my chance a few years ago after your anniversary dinner, Mr. Grainger,
                      but as it turns out, you didn't get the cuckoo clock, did you?

Grainger:      (frowning) No, I didn't, Mr. Tebbs.

Tebbs:           Ah, well, perhaps some day I shall have another chance.

Grainger:      (mutters) Over my dead body.

Tebbs:           I beg your pardon, Mr. Grainger?

Humphries:  (appears with Tebbs' coat and helps him on with it) He said you must be dead tired,
                     Mr. Tebbs.  We'll take over for you now.

Tebbs:           Oh, thank you.  Yes.  I do hope our carpet is dry by Monday.  I've been having quite
                      a bit of good luck with our other lines of beddingthis week.  Why, I sold six special
                      Jubilee mattress sets, and made enough commission to buy the display model myself.
                     Mrs. Tebbs  and I haven't had a new mattress for 10 years, you know.  After the staff
                     discount, it was quite affordable.  And it was shop-soiled, for a  further reduction,
                     of course.

Humphries:   Of course.

Tebbs:           I believe the presentation helped.  We placed a large portrait of Her Majesty over the
                     display model.

Lucas:           Yes, I don't half drop off when she gets goin'.

Tebbs:           (frowns at Lucas) at any rate, they'll be shifting the mattress set Monday, while
                     Mrs. Tebbs is visiting her aunt in Smethwick.  When she returns and comes into
                     the bedroom, I shall be waiting with a big surprise.

Grainger:      (peering into the mists of memory) I don't remember the last time I surprised
                     Mrs. Grainger in the bedroom.

Tebbs:           Yes, I'm rather glad it only comes ‘round every 10 years or so.

Grainger nods; Humphries and Lucas look at each other

Tebbs:           Well, goodbye, then.  On behalf of my colleagues from the Third Floor, may I thank
                      you all for so graciously sharing your counter with us.  (he "moves" to them)

Grainger:      Oh, that's quite all right, Mr. Tebbs.  I'm sure you would do the same for us.

Tebbs:           Yes, of course. (turns to leave, then stops)  Oh, I've made a careful account of all
                     the sales today, Mr. Grainger.  It's there by the till.

Grainger:      Oh, thank you, Mr. Tebbs.

Tebbs:           You're quite welcome. (waddles a few steps, then turns again) Oh, and during a
                      slow moment I instructed my juniors to clean out the drawers a bit.  Heh. You
                     wouldn't believe the rubbish they found.  Why, we even had to dispose of a pork pie!
                     Very messy business.  Well, carry on!

As Tebbs exits, a look of horror crosses Grainger's face

Humphries:   Glass of water for Mr. Grainger!  Come, sit in your chair.

Lucas exits. Humphries helps Grainger to his chair, then sniffs the air.

Humphries:   Mr. Grainger, you didn't eat your rissoles, did you?

Grainger shakes his head

Humphries:   No, I didn't think so . . . (he follows the smell to the counter, where a tramp with a
                     banjo is standing)  Oh, dear. Are you being served?

Tramp:         Ah!  Good evening, young sir!  Awful night, innit?

Humphries:   It could be better, yes. (takes handkerchief out of pocket and holds it to his nose)

Tramp:         Pourin' with rain, sir!  Nice an' cosy in ‘ere, though! (he raises his banjo and begins
                    to "tune" it)

Humphries:   Excuse me, didn't you come in here once before with a violin?

Tramp:         Oh, yes, sir, that was me, alright!  Gave me a right crick in me neck, it did, and I
                     couldn't keep it up.

Humphries:   Yes, that can be a problem.

The tramp stamps out a countdown, then begins to strum his out-of-tune banjo. He starts to sing "What's New, Pussycat?"

Lucas walks over

Lucas:           I don't know which to ask first: "What's that noise?" or "What's that pong?"

Grainger appears

Grainger:      It sounds like two cats fighting in a dustbin over here!

Lucas:           That answers one question!

Humphries:   (to tramp) That'll be all, Tom Jones!

Grainger:      And what's that smell?!

Tramp:         Oh, sorry, sir.  That might be me.

Lucas:          It might?

Tramp:         I slept behind the Curry Palace last night, and people ‘ave been  movin' away from me
                    all day, they ‘ave.  I can't smell, meself.

Lucas:           You should count your blessings!

Humphries:   I'm sorry, sir.  We have no donations for you, and we really must be getting back to work.

Tramp:         Oh, please, young sir!  It's pourin' with rain, and I've no place to kip.  The sign outside
                     says you'll be open all night.  Couldn't you spare a corner or a cranny, sir?

Humphries:   I'm afraid that's out of the question.  We're only open ‘til mid--

Grainger:      Just a moment, Mr. Humphries. (he pushes Humphries aside and addresses the tramp)
                     It is beastly, weather, isn't it?

Tramp:         Oh, infernal, sir!

Grainger:      Yes, yes.  Well, take these stairs here down to the Third Floor to the Bedding
                     Department.  We have a special guest mattress there.  You'll find it under a large portrait
                     of Her Majesty.

Tramp:         Oh, thank you, sir! (he exits)

Humphries:  I think Mrs. Tebbs will be extra surprised now!

Lucas:          Aye, the revenge of the pork pie!  Well done, Mr. Grainger!

Grainger accepts the kudos of his colleagues.

Go to Part 3 of  "Night Watch"