Now the town is dusk. Each cobble, each tile, every hard city surface is a road into night; and so the silver lake tarnishes, and so windows burn golden, and the day workers, children and the wealthy hurry home for food and shelter. The factories will rule the coming night.

There is the Town Moor Workhouse, closing its doors at the setting sun, locking inmates in, watch, while Master Oliver and his regal Matron sit in soft chairs by their fine, warm fire. A sigh, a smile, sword-tongues not yet drawn for their own fight, these two people like spiders on a delicate web, sensing out the broken threads and counting losses, and evening is the time to ensure their share is safe.

NELLIE OLIVER : Good evening, my dearest

MASTER OLIVER : Good evening, dearest one.

NELLIE OLIVER : So, dear, that cloth supplier. Tell me how it went.

And in that so-soft chair, with more fears than this morning, the dear Master squirms.


he tries to placate. He finally recognises the folly of his recent choices. Haggling with a desperate failing small merchant. Wanting new not second.

It was just a thought.

NELLIE OLIVER : Yes, of course it was.

MASTER OLIVER : Yes, exactly so.

NELLIE OLIVER : Another thought will come tomorrow. We will not starve overnight.

MASTER OLIVER : You indulge my fancies and thoughts with such kind and loving patience.

NELLIE OLIVER : No less than you show for mine.

And down in the city, Eric Cobham, failing cotton merchant, desperately lonely Captain's-husband, cries away in his loveless lightless loft.

ERIC COBHAM : I'm lost. I have nothing. If she ever knew. If she finds out. She would leave me,

he sobs and moans,

For some Jack. For some lucky Sonny Jim!

He cries clean, tears washing off the city's soot; his pillows blacken.

While in the shelter of the town's Workhouse, inmates wash in stale water and say prayers as they ready for lockdown.

INMATES : This humble house, soon to sleep

Oh Lord, in the gentle dreaming deep,

Thanks you for the largess,

Shown to all its helpless charges.

We thank you for the oatmeal grits

And the fresh clean water we sip,

For the soft cotton clothes that we wear

And protection from the world's cares.

Without these great solid stone walls

Or these long stately wooden halls,

We would, Oh Lord, be exposed and

Blown away by life's storms, dust and sand.

Oh thank you for your kindnesses!

This is a state of grace, this is,

And tomorrow we will bend backs

And strain limbs – payment for each act!