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The Railway Children
A Charity I Ain't
music & lyrics by Stephen Kingsbury

Click here to see 'A Charity I Ain't' in the Vocal Score in a new window
Perks I know exactly what you mean…don't think I can buy these things for mesself do you?
Peter That's not what we mean at all…
Perks Now I'm a very generous person
And charity begins at home
But I'm not afraid to say
That's where charity should stay
I'll not accept a farthing in the way of welfare
Bobbie But, Mr. Perks, it's not welfare. They're gifts, from people who care about you…
Perks I don't care, not if it was an angel from heaven. We've got on all right all these years and no favours asked. I'm not going to begin these sort of charity goings-on at my time of life, so don't you think it.
Perks I don't remember ever claiming poverty
Or complaining that we're penniless or poor
But I'd rather not be livin'
Off o' charitable givin'
I'm an independent man and always will be
Peter But... (Perks gestures that he is far from finished!)
Perks That I'm very often quite bad tempered
I will happily admit without complaint
But of all the things that I could be
A charity I ain't!
Phyllis Oh! I thought you'd be so pleased; I'll never try to be kind to anyone else as long as I live. No, I won't! Not never!
Peter We didn't mean any harm.
Perks It ain't what you mean so much as what you does. Anyway, I wouldn't accept charity even if we was the poorest of the poor...which we ain't.
Phyllis My place upon the social ladder
I've known since I was young
I'm nowhere near the top, of course
Just up from the bottom rung
I have no business climbing
'Cos I'm happy with my lot
A self sufficient working man
Who gets along the best he can
And who's very glad to say he's proud of what he's got

Everything is bought and paid for
Nothing ever comes for free
We've managed very well
And I'm very proud to tell
That we've never ever borrowed on the never never
Now I've never really been a proper sinner
And most certainly I've never been a saint
But of all the things that I could be
A charity I ain't!

Perks Had it been a sprig of something for the mantle I wouldn't have said so much. It's there being all this heaps and heaps of things I can't stand. No, nor won't neither.
Peter But we told you - they're not all from us, only we forgot to put the labels on. They're from all sorts of people in the village.
Perks Who put 'em up to it I'd like to know?

Why, we did of course.

Perks So you've been telling all our neighbours
We're having trouble making ends meet
Well now that you have shamed us
Publicly defamed us
Please return this bag o' tricks to where they came from!
The village life is meek and unassuming
City folk may think us rather quaint
We may be poor but we've got some pride
A charity we ain't!
Perks Very much obliged I'm sure. I don't doubt what that you meant it kind, but I'd rather not be acquainted with you any longer if it's all the same to you.
Bobbie Look here, this is most awful.
Perks That's what I says.
Bobbie We'll go if you like - and you needn't be friends with us any more if you don't want, but...
Phyllis We shall be friends with you, however nasty you are to us.
Children We're sorry if we've upset you
That never was our intent
We only ever wished to show you
How fond your neighbours are of you
That was the only thing we meant to do
Bobbie (close to tears) Before we go, please let us show you the labels we wrote to put on the things. Mother's first…
Bobbie pauses, visibly upset.
Peter Don't upset yourself, Bobbie. We know you meant it kind even if he doesn't.
Bobbie (pulling herself together) May I read the labels?…Mother's first, it says, 'Little clothes for the Perks's children...'
Mother appears on the bridge.
Mother ...Little clothes for the Perks's children
Here are some that you've outgrown
If you're sure Mister Perks won't take offence
And think it's meant for charity

He has been so kind to you
And I'd like to do this little turn for him
I wish that I could give some more
But we are also poor ourselves
Perks (thawing a little) Very well...Your Ma's a born lady. We'll keep the frocks and what-not. You tell your mother we're very grateful for them too. They'll be put to good use I'm sure.
Bobbie Then there's Mrs Ransome.. She said, 'I hope the children will like the sweets...'
Mrs Ransome appears on the bridge
Mrs Ransome ...I hope the children will like the sweets
Take the pram for the fine young boy
I'd have given it before if I'd been sure
She'd accept it from me
Bobbie She told me to tell you that it was her Emmie's little one's pram - the little one that didn't live but six months.
Mother Surely you can't ask us to...
Perks (gruffly) I'm not asking for anything.
Bobbie Then the shovel, Mr James, the blacksmith, made it for you himself. And he said, 'You tell your Mr Perks...'
Mr James appears on the  bridge
Mr James ...You tell your Mister Perks
It's a pleasure doing something for likes of him
If I could shoe them all just like how I do the horses
With the price of leather what it is...
Perks James is a good enough chap.
Bobbie (rushing to finish) Then the honey and the bootlaces. He said he respected a man that paid his way - and the butcher said the same. And the old turnpike woman said many was the time you'd lent her a hand with the garden when you were a lad - and things like that came home to roost - I don't know what she meant. And everybody who gave anything said they liked you, and it was a very good idea of ours; and nobody said anything about charity or anything horrid like that. And the old gentleman gave Peter a gold pound for you, and said you were a man who knew your work. And I thought you'd love to know how fond people are of you, and I never was so unhappy in my life. (pause) Goodbye. I hope you'll forgive us someday...
The children turn to go.
Perks Stop...I take back every word contrary to what you'd wish.
Peter We'll take the things away if you're unhappy about them, but I think everyone'll be most disappointed, as well as us.
Perks It's not that I feel unhappy
In fact, I never have been more pleased
'Cos what I learned today
Most certainly will stay
With me for the rest of my life:

'What' you give won't matter
If it's 'why' and 'how' that count
The kind respect of kith and kin
The welcome glow that lies within
A generous friend when times are thin
These gifts are tokens of a love
That doesn't always show
The most priceless set of gifts I know