After my school did a production of Sweeney Todd, I was inspired to write my own version of how it should have ended. Because, come on, it comes so close to turning out okay, but then it…doesn't. I guess that's what makes it a tragedy. But what if it didn't have to be?
In the autumn twilight, two figures dashed through the shadows of Fleet Street, and raced up the rickety stairway leading to the barbershop. Anthony knocked on the door. "Mr. Todd?" he called. He tried the door and found it unlocked. "After you," he said, ushering Johanna inside. He glanced around the dim, sparsely furnished room. "Mr. Todd?" he called out. Johanna clung to his sleeve. "No one here," she said, "Where is this Mr. Todd?" Anthony gently pried his arm from her grip and put it around her shoulders instead. "No matter," he said, "He'll be back in a moment. I trust him as I trust my right arm." He felt Johanna's shoulders trembled as she breathed in quick gasps. He led her over to a large wooden trunk in the corner of the room and sat down beside her. "Wait for him here," he said. "I'll return with the coach in less than half an hour." He started to get up; she grabbed his hand. "But they are after us still!" she said, "What if they trace us here? Anthony, please let me come with you!"
"No, my darling, there is no safety for you on the street."
"But dressed in these sailor's clothes, who's to know it is I?" Johanna replied, straightening the navy blue cap that covered her hair. Anthony shook his head. "No," he said, "the risk is too great." He clasped Johanna's hand in both of his own. "For months now I've been searching for you. I cannot bear to lose you again." Johanna turned her pale face towards him, with a faint smile. "Just wait a little longer," he said, "then we'll sail far away from here, and we shall never be parted again." He pulled her into his arms and kissed her. "I'll be back before those lips have time to lose that smile," he said.
Johanna watched him close the door and disappear down the steps. She drew her knees up on the trunk and leaned back against the wall. The shrieks of the inmates in Fogg's asylum still echoed in her ears. She took a deep breath and let it out slowly. I'm free, she told herself, I'm never going back to that horrible place. Anthony will come back. He'll protect me. Just like he promised.
Outside, footsteps creaked on the stairs. "Beadle!" a shrill voice cried, "Beadle! Where are you? Beadle, dear! Beadle!" Johanna jumped up. Someone knew she was here; she would be found; she would be caught! Desperately, she threw open the lid of the trunk she had been sitting on, climbed inside, and pulled the lid mostly shut after her just as the door opened.
A woman dressed in rags stumbled in. Johanna vaguely remembered seeing her before, begging from passersby and mumbling nonsense to herself. "Beadle deedle deedle deedle deedle dumpling," the woman muttered in a sing-song voice, as she wandered around the room, "Beadle dumpling, be-deedle dumpling…" She stood looking out the window, humming to herself. All of a sudden she whirled around and ran to the trunk. Johanna bit her lip. Instead of opening the trunk, however, the woman stooped down in front of it, and straightened up again, holding her arms as if she were cradling something. She cooed and whispered, rocking to and fro. She began to sing softly, in a hoarse, broken voice.
And why should you weep then, my Jo, my jing?
Your father's at tea with the Swedish king.
He'll bring you the moon on a silver string.
Johanna's brow furrowed. She had heard that song somewhere before––but where? Her nursemaid when she was small had never sung to her; most certainly the judge never sang. Nevertheless, this odd little song seemed familiar to her.
She peered out from beneath the lid of the trunk, watching as the woman muttered her lullaby and rocked what appeared to be an imaginary infant.
Quickly to sleep then, my Jo, my jing,
He'll bring you a shoe and a wedding ring.
Sing here again, home again,
Come again spring.
He'll be coming soon now
To kiss you, my Jo, my jing,
Bringing you the moon
And a shoe and a wedding ring.
He'll be coming here again,
Slowly, Johanna pushed the lid open and climbed out of the trunk. The woman whirled around to face her. "Um, pardon me, ma'am," said Johanna. The woman backed toward the door. "No, wait!" Johanna cried, "Don't go…please ma'am…I only want to know…What is the name of that song?" The woman stepped cautiously towards her, studying Johanna's face in the dim light. Suddenly, her bony fingers seized the blue sailor's cap and tugged it off Johanna's head; the girl's her golden curls tumbled down around her shoulders. Johanna opened her mouth to speak, but stopped when the woman reached out a trembling hand and clutched at her hair. "Jo," she said, "My Jo. My…Johanna."
Behind her, the door flew open, and a man's figure filled the doorframe. He stared at the two women standing in the middle of his room. "What are you doing here?" he bellowed. "Are you Mr. Todd, sir?" Johanna whimpered.
"Yes," said the man gruffly, "What are you doing in my shop?"
"I'm Johanna, sir," the girl said, "Mr. Anthony Hope said I was to wait for you here; he'll be returning at any moment. Oh sir, please don't be angry with me; I didn't mean any harm."
Before the man could reply, the beggar woman shyly approached him. "Don't I know you, Mister?" she said, clutching at his shirt with a grimy hand.
"You know me?" said the barber incredulously. The woman pressed her lips together. "B-B-B––Ben," she stammered. The barber's eyes widened; he stared down at her in shock. "It can't be…" he said, looking over her head at the portrait hanging on the wall. A portrait of a pretty young woman, with golden curls just liked Johanna's, holding a smiling baby in her arms. "Lucy?" he said. The woman looked up at him, a smile slowly crossing her face. "Benjamin…" she whispered, "My…Benjamin…" The barber threw his arms around her and pulled her close to him.
"Lucy," the barber whispered, releasing his hold on the woman and bending down so that his forehead rested against hers, "My darling Lucy, after all these years…"
Johanna stood by the window, nervously twisting a lock of hair around her finger. She cleared her throat. "Um…sir?"
The barber turned to face her, looking now like a different man than when he walked in. "Johanna!" he said reverently, "My dear Johanna…do you know me?"
"Are you not Mr. Todd?" said Johanna uncertainly, "Anthony has told me about you, but I don't believe we have ever met until now…"
"My dear girl," said the barber, "I'm your father. And this woman––this poor, blessed woman!––is your mother."
Johanna backed away, slowly shaking her head. "I beg your pardon, Sir," she said "but you must be mistaken. Both my parents are dead."
"We have both been lied to," the barber sighed, "These fifteen years…You were just a child when you last saw me…Wait!" He crossed the room and stood by the portrait on the wall, of the yellow-haired woman and baby. "Look," he said, pointing to the portrait, "Look here. That portrait was done when you were six months old. You were such a beautiful child. The image of your mother. Now look." He held up a mirror next to the portrait. Johanna looked from one to the other––the woman with her rosy face framed by golden ringlets, and her own reflection. "They are alike…" she said quietly. Lucy approached softly and stood behind her so that her face was reflected in the mirror alongside Johanna's. "My Jo," she murmured, touching the girl's arm. Johanna turned to her with tears brimming in her eyes and hugged her. "Mother!" she said. Lucy wrapped her skinny arms around Johanna to return the hug. Benjamin Barker gazed fondly at the two loves of his life, unexpectedly restored to him. He put his arms around both women in a protective embrace.
They were too happy to notice anything but each other. No one noticed the woman who peered through the dingy glass in the door, at the barber clutching two blonde heads to his chest. No one saw her creep quietly down the stairs and go into the pie shop below, where she collapsed into a chair and buried her face in her arms to muffle her sobs. "It's all over," she told herself, "Forget it, Nellie, 'e don't need you no more. 'E never did."
Through her sobs, she heard the sound of a small fist beating wearily on the door leading down to the cellar.
"Mum? Mum, could you let me out now? Please let me out, Mum."
"Toby!" she cried, jumping up and running to the door. "Goodness me, I forgot all about you!" She twisted the key in the lock; the door swung open, and the boy fairly tumbled into her arms. "Shh, it's all right, love," she said. Toby pushed away from her. "You knew!" he said, " 'Foolish talk,' you said, but you knew all the time wot 'e was doin' up there; you knew I was right about 'im. Why, Mum? Why'd you let 'im do it? Why'd you let 'im pull you into it?"
"Toby, love––" Mrs. Lovett began, but before she could speak the boy had slammed the door of the shop behind him, and went running off down the dark street.
"Um…Mr. Todd?" Benjamin, Lucy, and Johanna turned toward the door to discover Anthony, standing in the doorway of the shop and looking very confused. "Not Todd," said the barber, with a smile that was devoid of irony or cynicism, "Barker. Benjamin Barker. I am Johanna's father." Anthony looked even more puzzled than before. Johanna ran to him and clasped his hands. "Anthony, I've found my parents again! My real father and mother––isn't it wonderful?"
"Yes, darling, I can see––I'm quite happy for you, I just never expected…"
"Forgive me, Anthony," said Benjamin, "There is much to explain, and we haven't got much time. It isn't safe for any of us here. You and Johanna must go; we two will––"
"You will come with us, of course!" said Anthony quickly. "I would not dream of snatching Johanna away from her parents after being separated from them for so long. You'll come with us to Paris. The coach is waiting for us downstairs; we'll go at once."
Clasping Johanna's hand, Anthony led the way down to the waiting coach. Benjamin, his arm around Lucy's shoulders, followed after him. After helping his wife and daughter into the coach, he climbed in and sat down across from Anthony. "I cannot thank you enough for your kindness to me, Anthony," he said, "You must forgive me for not being entirely honest with you."
"Oh, come now, Mr.…Barker," said Anthony, "I have done nothing to deserve your thanks. Whatever there is to explain, there will be time enough on the way to Paris."
As Mrs. Lovett dabbed at her eyes with the corner of her apron, she heard a voice behind her.
Toby was standing in the doorway, his hands in his pockets. "Thought you were gonna run off and leave me," she said.
Toby shrugged. "I was," he said, "But I didn't 'ave nowhere to run to." He stepped into the shop, taking in her wet face and red-rimmed eyes. "Mum, wot's the matter?" he asked.
"Nothin' dear," replied Mrs. Lovett, wiping her eyes with the edge of her sleeve.
"Mum, yer cryin'! Wot's Mr. T done to you now?"
Mrs. Lovett shook her head. "Mr. T ain't done nothin', dear. 'E's got his wife and daughter back at last. 'E's as 'appy as a man can be. But I ain't got nobody now!"
Toby knelt down by her chair and took her hand in both of his. "You've got me, Mum," he said. "I'll stand by you all me life, promise I will." Mrs. Lovett pulled him into a hug. "Thank you, Toby," she said, "I dunno wot I'd do without you." The boy and the woman held each other for a long moment.
"We can't stay 'ere," Mrs. Lovett mused. "Too many…unpleasant things 'ave 'appened 'round 'ere. We got to get away."
"Where'll we go?" Toby asked. Mrs. Lovett looked up; a sudden smile crossed her face. "All me life I've wanted to live by the sea," she said. "A nice little cozy cottage by the sea, just for you and me. 'Ow'd you like that, love?" Toby threw his arms around her neck. "Sounds perfect, Mum!" he said. Mrs. Lovett kissed him on the forehead, and ruffled his hair. "Run along and pack your things, then," she said, "We'll take a train down to Dover first thing in the mornin'."
And they lived happily ever after