Upton Sinclair, ed. (18781968). The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest. 1915.
Trousers (From A Motley)
By John Galsworthy
(English novelist and dramatist, 18671933)
SHE held in one hand a threaded needle, in the other a pair of trousers, to which she had been adding the accessories demanded by our civilization. One had never seen her without a pair of trousers in her hand, because she could only manage to supply them with decency at the rate of seven or eight pairs a day, working twelve hours. For each pair she received seven farthings, and used nearly one farthings worth of cotton; and this gave her an income, in good times, of six to seven shillings a week. But some weeks there were no trousers to be had and then it was necessary to live on the memory of those which had been, together with a little sum put by from weeks when trousers were more plentiful. Deducting two shillings and threepence for rent of the little back room, there was therefore, on an average, about two shillings and ninepence left for the sustenance of herself and husband, who was fortunately a cripple, and somewhat indifferent whether he ate or not. And looking at her face, so furrowed, and at her figure, of which there was not much, one could well understand that she, too, had long established within her such internal economy as was suitable to one who had been in trousers twenty-seven years, and, since her husbands accident fifteen years before, in trousers only, finding her own cotton. He was a man with a round, white face, a little grey mustache curving down like a parrots beak, and round whitish eyes. In his aged and unbuttoned suit of grey, with his head held rather to one side, he looked like a parrota bird clinging to its perch, with one grey leg shortened and crumpled against the other. He talked, too, in a toneless, equable voice, looking sideways at the fire, above the rims of dim spectacles, and now and then smiling with a peculiar disenchanted patience.
Nohe saidit was no use to complain; did no good! Things had been like this for years, and so, he had no doubt, they always would be. There had never been much in trousers; not this common sort that anybodyd wear, as you might say. Though hed never seen anybody wearing such things; and where they went to he didnt knowout of England, he should think. Yes, he had been a carman; ran over by a dray. Oh! yes, they had given him somethingfour bob a week; but the old man had died and the four bob had died too. Still, there he was, sixty years oldnot so very bad for his age.
They were talking, he had heard said, about doing something for trousers. But what could you do for things like these, at half a crown a pair? People must have em, so youd got to make em. There you were, and there you would be! She went and heard them talk. They talked very well, she said. It was intellectual for her to go. He couldnt go himself owing to his leg. Hed like to hear them talk. Oh, yes! and he was silent, staring sideways at the fire as though in the thin crackle of the flames attacking the fresh piece of wood, he were hearing the echo of that talk from which he was cut off. Lor bless you! he said suddenly. Theyll do nothing! Cant! And, stretching out his dirty hand he took from his wifes lap a pair of trousers, and held it up. Look at em! Why you can see right throu em, linings and all. Whos goin to pay more than alf a crown for that? Where they go to I cant think. Who wears em? Some institution I should say. They talk, but dear me, theyll never do anything so long as theres thousands like us, glad to work for what we can get. Best not to think about it, I says.