Second Plays
by A. A. Milne
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Printed in Great Britain by R. & R. Clark, Limited, Edinburgh.







Encouraged by the reviewer who announced that the Introduction to my previous collection of plays was the best part of the book, I venture to introduce this collection in a similar manner. But I shall be careful not to overdo it this time, in the hope that I may win from my critic some such tribute as, "Mr. Milne has certainly improved as a dramatist, in that his plays are now slightly better than his Introduction."

Since, then, I am trying to make this preface as distasteful as possible, in order that the plays may shine out the more pleasantly, I shall begin (how better?) with an attack on the dramatic critics. I will relate a little conversation which took place, shortly after the publication of "First Plays," between myself and a very much more eminent dramatist.

EMINENT DRAMATIST (kindly) Your book seems to have been well reviewed.

MYSELF (ungratefully). Not bad—by those who reviewed it. But I doubt if it was noticed by more than three regular dramatic critics. And considering that two of the plays in it had never been produced—

EMINENT DRAMATIST (amused by my innocence). My dear fellow, you needn't complain. I published an unproduced play a little while ago, and it didn't get a single notice from anybody.

Now I hope that, however slightly the conversations in the plays which follow may move the dramatic critic, he will at least be disturbed by this little dialogue. All of us who are interested in the theatre are accustomed to read, and sometimes to make, ridiculous accusations against the Theatrical Manager. We condemn the mercenary fellow because he will not risk a loss of two or three thousand pounds on the intellectual masterpiece of a promising young dramatist, preferring to put on some contemptible but popular rubbish which is certain to fill his theatre. But now we see that the dramatic critic, that stern upholder of the best interests of the British Drama, will not himself risk six shillings (and perhaps two or three hours of his time) in order to read the intellectual masterpiece of the promising young dramatist, and so to be able to tell us with authority whether the Manager really is refusing masterpieces or no. He will not risk six shillings in order to encourage that promising young dramatist—discouraged enough already, poor devil, in his hopes of fame and fortune—by telling him that he is right, and that his plays are worth something, or (alternatively) to prevent him from wasting any more of his youth upon an art-form to which he is not suited. No, he will not risk his shillings; but he will write an important (and, let us hope, well-rewarded) article, informing us that the British Drama is going to the dogs, and that no promising young dramatist is ever given a fair chance.

Absurd, isn't it?

Let us consider this young dramatist for a moment, and ask ourselves why he goes on writing his masterpieces. I give three reasons—in their order of importance.

(1) The pleasure of writing; or, more accurately, the hell of not writing. He gets this anyhow.

(2) The appreciation of his peers; his hope of immortality; the criticism of the experts; fame, publicity, notoriety, swank, reclame—call it what you will. But it is obvious that he cannot have it unless the masterpiece is given to the world, either by manager or publisher.

(3) Money. If the masterpiece is published only, very little; if produced, possibly a great deal.

As I say, he gets his first reward anyhow. But let us be honest with ourselves. How many of us would write our masterpieces on a desert island, with no possibility of being rescued? Well, perhaps all of us; for we should feel that, even if not rescued ourselves, our manuscripts—written on bark with a burnt stick—clutched in a skeleton hand—might be recovered later by some literary sea-captain. (As it might be, Conrad.) But how many of us would write masterpieces if we had to burn them immediately afterwards, or if we were alone upon the world, the last survivors of a new flood? Could we bear to write? Could we bear not to write? It is not fair to ask us. But we can admit this much without reserve; it is the second reward which tears at us, and, lacking it, we should lose courage.

So when the promising young dramatist has his play refused by the Managers—after what weeks, months, years of hope and fear, uncertainty and bitter disappointment—he has this great consolation: "Anyway, I can always publish it." Perhaps, after a dozen refusals, a Manager offers to put on his play, on condition that he alters the obviously right (and unhappy) ending into the obviously foolish, but happy, ending which will charm the public. Does he, the artist, succumb? How easy to tell himself that he must get his play before the public somehow, and that, even if it is not his play now, yet the first two acts are as he wrote them, and that, if only to feel the thrill of the audience at that great scene between the Burglar and the Bishop (his creations!) he must deaden his conscience to the absurdity of a happy ending. But does he succumb? No. Heroically he tells himself: "Anyway, I can publish it; and I'm certain that the critics will agree with me that——" But the critics are too busy to bother about him. They are busy informing the world that the British Drama is going to the dogs, and that no promising young dramatist ever gets a fair chance.

Let me say here that I am airing no personal grievance. I doubt if any dramatist has less right to feel aggrieved against the critics, the managers, the public, the world, than I; and whatever right I have I renounce, in return for the good things which I have received from them. But I do not renounce the grievance of our craft. I say that, in the case of all dramatists, it is the business of the dramatic critics to review their unacted plays when published. Some of them do; most of them do not. It is ridiculous for those who do not to pretend that they take any real interest in the British Drama. But I say "review," not "praise." Let them damn, by all means, if the plays are unworthy; and, by damning, do so much of justice to the Managers who refused them.

We can now pass on safely to the plays in this volume.

We begin with a children's play. The difficulty in the way of writing a children's play is that Barrie was born too soon. Many people must have felt the same about Shakespeare. We who came later have no chance. What fun to have been Adam, and to have had the whole world of plots and jokes and stories at one's disposal. Possibly, however, one would never have thought of the things. Of course, there are still others to come after us, but our works are not immortal, and they will plagiarise us without protest. Yet I have hopes of Make-Believe, for it had the honour of inaugurating Mr. Nigel Playfair's management at the Lyric, Hammersmith. It is possible that the historians will remember this, long after they have forgotten my plays; more likely (alas!) that their history will be dated A.D. (After Drinkwater) and that the honour will be given to "Abraham Lincoln." I like to think that in this event my ghost will haunt them. Make-Believe appeared with a Prologue by the Manager, lyrics by C.E. Burton, and music by Georges Dorlay. As the title-page states that this book is, in the language of children's competitions, "my own unaided work," I print the play with a new Prologue, and without the charming lyrics. But the reader is told when he may burst into an improvisation of his own, though I warn him that he will not make such a good show of it as did my collaborators.

Mr. Pim Passes By appeared at several theatres. Let us admit cheerfully that it was a success—in spite of the warning of an important gentleman in the theatrical world, who told me, while I was writing it, that the public wouldn't stand any talk of bigamy, and suggested that George and Olivia should be engaged only, not married. (Hence the line, "Bigamy! . . . It is an ugly word," in the Second Act.) But, of course, nobody sees more clearly than I how largely its success was due to Mr. Dion Boucicault and Miss Irene Vanbrugh.

The Romantic Age appeared first at the Comedy, and (like Mr. Pim) found, in its need, a home at The Playhouse. Miss Gladys Cooper has a charming way of withdrawing into a nursing home whenever I want a theatre, but I beg her not to make a habit of it. My plays can be spared so much more easily than she. By the way, a word about Melisande. Many of the critics said that nobody behaved like that nowadays. I am terrified at the thought of arguing with them, for they can always reduce me to blushes with a scornful, "My dear man, you can't do that in a play!" And when they tell me to remember what Strindberg said in '93 (if he were alive then; I really don't know) or what Aristotle wrote in—no, I shan't even guess at Aristotle, well, then, I want to burst into tears, my ignorance is so profound. So, very humbly, I just say now that, when Melisande talks and behaves in a certain way, I do not mean that a particular girl exists (Miss Jones, of 999 Bedford Park) who talks and behaves like this, but I do mean that there is a type of girl who, in her heart, secretly, thinks like this. If, from your great knowledge of the most secret places of a young girl's heart, you tell me that there is no such type, then I shall only smile. But if you inform me sternly that a dramatist has no business to express an attitude in terms of an actress, then you reduce me to blushes again. For I really know nothing about play-writing, and I am only sustained by two beliefs. The first is that rules are always made for the other people; the second is that, if a play by me is not obviously by me, and as obviously not by anybody else, then (obviously) I had no business to write it.

Of the one-act plays, The Camberley Triangle and The Stepmother, nothing much need be said. The former was played at the Coliseum; the latter, written for Miss Winifred Emery, was deemed by the management too serious for that place of amusement. This, however, was to the great advantage of the play, for now it has appeared only at Charity matinees with an "all-star" cast.

As before, the plays are printed in the order in which they were written; in this case between October 1918 and June 1920. May the reader get as much enjoyment from them as I had in their writing. But no; that is plainly impossible.




Make-Believe was first produced at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, on December 24, 1918. The chief parts were played by Marjory Holman, Jean Cadell, Rosa Lynd, Betty Chester, Roy Lennol, John Barclay, Kinsey Peile, Stanley Drewitt, Ivan Berlyn, and Herbert Marshall—several parts each.



The playroom of the HUBBARD FAMILY—nine of them. Counting MR. and MRS. HUBBARD, we realize that there are eleven HUBBARDS in all, and you would think that one at least of the two people we see in the room would be a HUBBARD of sorts. But no. The tall manly figure is JAMES, the HUBBARDS' butler, for the HUBBARDS are able to afford a butler now. How different from the time when Old Mother Hubbard—called "old" because she was at least twenty-two, and "mother" because she had a passion for children—could not even find a bone for her faithful terrier; but, of course, that was before HENRY went into work. Well, the tall figure is JAMES, the butler, and the little one is ROSEMARY, a friend of the HUBBARD FAMILY. ROSEMARY is going in for literature this afternoon, as it's raining, and JAMES is making her quite comfortable first with pens and ink and blotting-paper—always so important when one wants to write. He has even thought of a stick of violet sealing-wax; after that there can be no excuse.

ROSEMARY. Thank you, James. (She sits down.) If any one calls I am not at home.

JAMES. Yes, Miss.

ROSEMARY. You may add that I am engaged in writing my auto—autobiography.

JAMES. Yes, Miss.

ROSEMARY. It's what every one writes, isn't it, James?

JAMES. I believe so, Miss.

ROSEMARY. Thank you. (He goes to the door.) Oh, James?

JAMES. Yes, Miss?

ROSEMARY. What is an autobiography?

JAMES. Well, I couldn't rightly say, Miss—not to explain it properly.

ROSEMARY (dismayed). Oh, James! . . . I thought you knew everything.

JAMES. In the ordinary way, yes, Miss, but every now and then——

ROSEMARY. It's very upsetting.

JAMES. Yes, Miss. . . . How would it be to write a play instead? Very easy work, they tell me.

ROSEMARY (nodding). Yes, that's much better. I'll write a play. Thank you, James.

JAMES. Not at all, Miss. [He goes out.

(ROSEMARY bites her pen, and thinks deeply. At last the inspiration comes.)

ROSEMARY (as she writes). Make-Believe. M-a-k-e hyphen B-e-l—— (she stops and frowns) Now which way is it? (She tries it on the blotting-paper) That looks wrong. (She tries it again) So does that. Oh, dear! (She rings the bell . . . JAMES returns.)

JAMES. Yes, Miss?

ROSEMARY. James, I have decided to call my play Make-Believe.

JAMES. Yes, Miss.

ROSEMARY (carelessly). When you spell "believe," it is "i-e," isn't it?

JAMES. Yes, Miss.

ROSEMARY. I thought at first it was "e-i."

JAMES. Now you mention it, I think it is, Miss.

ROSEMARY (reproachfully). Oh, James! Aren't you certain?

JAMES. M-a-k-e, make, B-e-l—— (He stops and scratches his whiskers.)

ROSEMARY. Yes. I got as far as that.

JAMES. B-e-l——

ROSEMARY. You see, James, it spoils the play if you have an accident to the very first word of it.

JAMES. Yes, Miss. B-e-l——I've noticed sometimes that if one writes a word careless-like on the blotting-paper, and then looks at it with the head on one side, there's a sort of instinct comes over one, as makes one say (with a shake of the head) "Rotten." One can then write it the other way more hopeful.

ROSEMARY. I've tried that.

JAMES. Then might I suggest, Miss, that you give it another name altogether? As it might be, "Susan's Saturday Night," all easy words to spell, or "Red Revenge," or——

ROSEMARY. I must call it Make-Believe, because it's all of the play I've thought of so far.

JAMES. Quite so, Miss. Then how would it be to spell it wrong on purpose? It comes funnier that way sometimes.

ROSEMARY. Does it?

JAMES. Yes, Miss. Makes 'em laugh.

ROSEMARY. Oh! . . . Well, which is the wrong way?

JAMES. Ah, there you've got me again, Miss.

ROSEMARY (inspired). I know what I'll do. I'll spell it "i-e"; and if it's right, then I'm right, and if it's wrong, then I'm funny.

JAMES. Yes, Miss. That's the safest.

ROSEMARY. Thank you, James.

JAMES. Not at all, Miss. [He goes out.

ROSEMARY (writing). Make-Believe. A Christmas Entertainment—— (She stops and thinks, and then shakes her head.) No, play—a Christmas Play in three acts. Er—— (She is stuck.)

Enter JAMES.

JAMES. Beg pardon, Miss, but the Misses and Masters Hubbard are without, and crave admittance.

ROSEMARY. All nine of them?

JAMES. Without having counted them, Miss, I should say that the majority of them were present.

ROSEMARY. Did you say that I was not at home?

JAMES. Yes, Miss. They said that, this being their house, and you being a visitor, if you had been at home, then you wouldn't have been here. Yumour on the part of Master Bertram, Miss.

ROSEMARY. It's very upsetting when you're writing a play.

JAMES. Yes, Miss. Perhaps they could help you with it. The more the merrier, as you might say.

ROSEMARY. What a good idea, James. Admit them.

JAMES. Yes, Miss. (He opens the door and says very rapidly) The Misses Ada, Caroline, Elsie, Gwendoline, and Isabel Hubbard, The Masters Bertram, Dennis, Frank, and Harold Hubbard. (They come in.)

ROSEMARY. How do you do?

ADA. Rosemary, darling, what are you doing?

BERTRAM. It's like your cheek, bagging our room.

CAROLINE (primly). Hush, Bertram. We ought always to be polite to our visitors when they stay with us. I am sure, if Rosemary wants our room——

DENNIS. Oh, chuck it!

ADA (at ROSEMARY'S shoulder). Oh, I say, she's writing a play!

(Uproar and turmoil, as they all rush at ROSEMARY.)

{ THE BOYS. Coo! I say, shove me into it. What's { it about? Bet it's awful rot. { { THE GIRLS. Oh, Rosemary! Am I in it? Do tell us { about it. Is it for Christmas?

ROSEMARY (in alarm). James, could you——?

JAMES (firmly). Quiet, there, quiet! Down, Master Dennis, down! Miss Gwendoline, if you wouldn't mind—— (He picks her up and places her on the floor.) Thank you. (Order is restored.)

ROSEMARY. Thank you, James. . . . Yes, it's a play for Christmas, and it is called "Make-Believe," and that's all I'm certain about yet, except that we're all going to be in it.

BERTRAM. Then I vote we have a desert island——

DENNIS. And pirates——

FRANK. And cannibals——

HAROLD (gloatingly). Cannibals eating people—Oo!

CAROLINE (shocked). Harold! How would you like to be eaten by a cannibal?

DENNIS. Oh, chuck it! How would you like to be a cannibal and have nobody to eat? (CAROLINE is silent, never having thought of this before.)

ADA. Let it be a fairy-story, Rosemary, darling. It's so much prettier.

ELSIE. With a lovely princess——

GWENDOLINE. And a humble woodcutter who marries her——

ISABEL (her only contribution). P'itty P'incess.

BERTRAM. Princesses are rot.

ELSIE (with spirit). So are pirates! (Deadlock.)

CAROLINE. I should like something about Father Christmas, and snow, and waits, and a lovely ball, and everybody getting nice presents and things.

DENNIS (selfishly, I'm afraid). Bags I all the presents.

(Of course, the others aren't going to have that. They all say so together.)

ROSEMARY (above the turmoil). James, I must have silence.

JAMES. Silence, all!

ROSEMARY. Thank you. . . . You will be interested to hear that I have decided to have a Fairy Story and a Desert Island and a Father Christmas.

ALL. Good! (Or words to that effect)

ROSEMARY (biting her pen). I shall begin with the Fairy Story. (There is an anxious silence. None of them has ever seen anybody writing a play before. How does one do it? Alas, ROSEMARY herself doesn't know. She appeals to JAMES.) James, how do you begin a play? I mean when you've got the title.

JAMES (a man of genius). Well, Miss Rosemary, seeing that it's to be called "Make-Believe," why not make-believe as it's written already?

ROSEMARY. What a good idea, James!

JAMES. All that is necessary is for the company to think very hard of what they want, and—there we are! Saves all the bother of writing and spelling and what not.

ROSEMARY (admiringly.) James, how clever you are!

JAMES. So-so, Miss Rosemary.

ROSEMARY. Now then, let's all think together. Are you all ready?

ALL. Yes! (They clench their hands.)

ROSEMARY. Then one, two, three—Go!

(They think. . . . The truth is that JAMES, who wasn't really meant to be in it, thinks too. If there is anything in the play which you don't like, it is JAMES thinking.)


(The WOODCUTTER is discovered singing at his work, in a glade of the forest outside his hut. He is tall and strong, and brave and handsome; all that a woodcutter ought to be. Now it happened that the PRINCESS was passing, and as soon as his song is finished, sure enough, on she comes.)

PRINCESS. Good morning, Woodcutter.

WOODCUTTER. Good morning. (But he goes on with his work.)

PRINCESS (after a pause). Good morning, Woodcutter.

WOODCUTTER. Good morning.

PRINCESS. Don't you ever say anything except good morning?

WOODCUTTER. Sometimes I say good-bye.

PRINCESS. You are a cross woodcutter to-day.

WOODCUTTER. I have work to do.

PRINCESS. You are still cutting wood? Don't you ever do anything else?

WOODCUTTER. Well, you are still a Princess; don't you ever do anything else?

PRINCESS (reproachfully). Now, that's not fair, Woodcutter. You can't say I was a Princess yesterday, when I came and helped you stack your wood. Or the day before, when I tied up your hand where you had cut it. Or the day before that, when we had our meal together on the grass. Was I a Princess then?

WOODCUTTER. Somehow I think you were. Somehow I think you were saying to yourself, "Isn't it sweet of a Princess to treat a mere woodcutter like this?"

PRINCESS. I think you're perfectly horrid. I've a good mind never to speak to you again. And—and I would, if only I could be sure that you would notice I wasn't speaking to you.

WOODCUTTER. After all, I'm just as bad as you. Only yesterday I was thinking to myself how unselfish I was to interrupt my work in order to talk to a mere Princess.

PRINCESS. Yes, but the trouble is that you don't interrupt your work.

WOODCUTTER (interrupting it and going up to her with a smile). Madam, I am at your service.

PRINCESS. I wish I thought you were.

WOODCUTTER. Surely you have enough people at your service already. Princes and Chancellors and Chamberlains and Waiting Maids.

PRINCESS. Yes, that's just it. That's why I want your help. Particularly in the matter of the Princes.

WOODCUTTER. Why, has a suitor come for the hand of her Royal Highness?

PRINCESS. Three suitors. And I hate them all.

WOODCUTTER. And which are you going to marry?

PRINCESS. I don't know. Father hasn't made up his mind yet.

WOODCUTTER. And this is a matter which father—which His Majesty decides for himself?

PRINCESS. Why, of course! You should read the History Books, Woodcutter. The suitors to the hand of a Princess are always set some trial of strength or test of quality by the King, and the winner marries his daughter.

WOODCUTTER. Well, I don't live in a Palace, and I think my own thoughts about these things. I'd better get back to my work. (He goes on with his chopping.)

PRINCESS (gently, after a pause). Woodcutter!

WOODCUTTER (looking up). Oh, are you there? I thought you were married by this time.

PRINCESS (meekly). I don't want to be married. (Hastily) I mean, not to any of those three.

WOODCUTTER. You can't help yourself.

PRINCESS. I know. That's why I wanted you to help me.

WOODCUTTER (going up to her). Can a simple woodcutter help a Princess?

PRINCESS. Well, perhaps a simple one couldn't, but a clever one might.

WOODCUTTER. What would his reward be?

PRINCESS. His reward would be that the Princess, not being married to any of her three suitors, would still be able to help him chop his wood in the mornings. . . . I am helping you, aren't I?

WOODCUTTER (smiling). Oh, decidedly.

PRINCESS (nodding). I thought I was.

WOODCUTTER. It is kind of a great lady like yourself to help so humble a fellow as I.

PRINCESS (meekly). I'm not very great. (And she isn't. She is the smallest, daintiest little Princess that ever you saw.)

WOODCUTTER. There's enough of you to make a hundred men unhappy.

PRINCESS. And one man happy?

WOODCUTTER. And one man very, very happy.

PRINCESS (innocently). I wonder who he'll be. . . . Woodcutter, if you were a Prince, would you be my suitor?

WOODCUTTER (scornfully). One of three?

PRINCESS (excitedly). Oo, would you kill the others? With that axe?

WOODCUTTER. I would not kill them, in order to help His Majesty make up his mind about his son-in-law. But if the Princess had made up her mind—and wanted me——


WOODCUTTER. Then I would marry her, however many suitors she had.

PRINCESS. Well, she's only got three at present.

WOODCUTTER. What is that to me?

PRINCESS. Oh, I just thought you might want to be doing something to your axe.


PRINCESS. Yes. You see, she has made up her mind.

WOODCUTTER (amazed). You mean—But—but I'm only a woodcutter.

PRINCESS. That's where you'll have the advantage of them, when it comes to axes.

WOODCUTTER. Princess! (He takes her in his arms) My Princess!

PRINCESS. Woodcutter! My woodcutter! My, oh so very slow and uncomprehending, but entirely adorable woodcutter!

(They sing together. They just happen to feel like that)

WOODCUTTER (the song finished). But what will His Majesty say?

PRINCESS. All sorts of things. . . . Do you really love me, woodcutter, or have I proposed to you under a misapprehension?

WOODCUTTER. I adore you!

PRINCESS (nodding). I thought you did. But I wanted to hear you say it. If I had been a simple peasant, I suppose you would have said it a long time ago?

WOODCUTTER. I expect so.

PRINCESS (nodding). Yes. . . . Well, now we must think of a plan for making Mother like you.

WOODCUTTER. Might I just kiss you again before we begin?

PRINCESS. Well, I don't quite see how I am to stop you.

(The WOODCUTTER picks her up in his arms and kisses her.)


PRINCESS (in his arms). Oh, Woodcutter, woodcutter, why didn't you do that the first day I saw you? Then I needn't have had the bother of proposing to you. (He puts her down suddenly) What is it?

WOODCUTTER (listening). Somebody coming. (He peers through the trees and then says in surprise) The King!

PRINCESS. Oh! I must fly!

WOODCUTTER. But you'll come back?

PRINCESS. Perhaps.

[She disappears quickly through the trees.

(The WOODCUTTER goes on with his work and is discovered at it a minute later by the KING and QUEEN.)

KING (puffing). Ah! and a seat all ready for us. How satisfying. (They sit down, a distinguished couple—reading from left to right, "KING, QUEEN"—on a bench outside the WOODCUTTER'S hut.)

QUEEN (crossly—she was like that). I don't know why you dragged me here.

KING. As I told you, my love, to be alone.

QUEEN. Well, you aren't alone. (She indicates the WOODCUTTER.)

KING. Pooh, he doesn't matter. . . . Well now, about these three Princes. They are getting on my mind rather. It is time we decided which one of them is to marry our beloved child. The trouble is to choose between them.

QUEEN. As regards appetite, there is nothing to choose between them. They are three of the heartiest eaters I have met for some time.

KING. You are right. The sooner we choose one of them, and send the other two about their business, the better. (Reflectively) There were six peaches on the breakfast-table this morning. Did I get one? No.

QUEEN. Did I get one? No.

KING. Did our darling child get one—not that it matters? No.

QUEEN. It is a pity that the seven-headed bull died last year.

KING. Yes, he had a way of sorting out competitors for the hand of our beloved one that was beyond all praise. One could have felt quite sure that, had the three competitors been introduced to him, only one of them would have taken any further interest in the matter.

QUEEN (always the housekeeper). And even he mightn't have taken any interest in his meals.

KING (with a sigh). However, those days are over. We must think of a new test. Somehow I think that, in a son-in-law, moral worth is even more to be desired than mere brute strength. Now my suggestion is this: that you should disguise yourself as a beggar woman and approach each of the three princes in turn, supplicating their charity. In this way we shall discover which of the three has the kindest heart. What do you say, my dear?

QUEEN. An excellent plan. If you remember, I suggested it myself yesterday.

KING (annoyed). Well, of course, it had been in my mind for some time. I don't claim that the idea is original; it has often been done in our family. (Getting up) Well then, if you will get ready, my dear, I will go and find our three friends and see that they come this way.

[They go out together.

(As soon as they are out of sight the PRINCESS comes back.)

PRINCESS. Well, Woodcutter, what did I tell you?

WOODCUTTER. What did you tell me?

PRINCESS. Didn't you listen to what they said?

WOODCUTTER. I didn't listen, but I couldn't help hearing.

PRINCESS. Well, I couldn't help listening. And unless you stop it somehow, I shall be married to one of them to-night.

WOODCUTTER. Which one?

PRINCESS. The one with the kindest heart—whichever that is.

WOODCUTTER. Supposing they all three have kind hearts?

PRINCESS (confidently). They won't. They never have. In our circles when three Princes come together, one of them has a kind heart and the other two haven't. (Surprised) Haven't you read any History at all?

WOODCUTTER. I have no time for reading. But I think it's time History was altered a little. We'll alter it this afternoon.

PRINCESS. What do you mean?

WOODCUTTER. Leave this to me. I've got an idea.

PRINCESS (clapping her hands). Oh, how clever of you! But what do you want me to do?

WOODCUTTER (pointing). You know the glade over there where the brook runs through it? Wait for me there.

PRINCESS. I obey my lord's commands.

[She blows him a kiss and runs off

(The WOODCUTTER resumes his work. By and by the RED PRINCE comes along. He is a—well, you will see for yourself what he is like.)

RED PRINCE. Ah, fellow. . . . Fellow! . . . I said fellow! (Yes, that sort of man.)

WOODCUTTER (looking up.) Were you speaking to me, my lord?

RED PRINCE. There is no other fellow here that I can see.

(The WOODCUTTER looks round to make sure, peers behind a tree or two, and comes back to the PRINCE.)

WOODCUTTER. Yes, you must have meant me.

RED PRINCE. Yes, of course I meant you, fellow. Have you seen the Princess come past this way? I was told she was waiting for me here.

WOODCUTTER. She is not here, my lord. (Looking round to see that they are alone) My lord, are you one of the Princes who is seeking the hand of the Princess.

RED PRINCE (complacently). I am, fellow.

WOODCUTTER. His Majesty the King was here a while ago. He is to make his decision between you this afternoon. (Meaningly) I think I can help you to be the lucky one, my lord.

RED PRINCE. You suggest that I take an unfair advantage over my fellow-competitors?

WOODCUTTER. I suggest nothing, my lord. I only say that I can help you.

RED PRINCE (magnanimously). Well, I will allow you to help me.

WOODCUTTER. Thank you. Then I will give you this advice. If a beggar woman asks you for a crust of bread this afternoon, remember—it is the test!

RED PRINCE (staggered). The test! But I haven't got a crust of bread!

WOODCUTTER. Wait here and I will get you one.

(He goes into the hut)

RED PRINCE (speaking after him as he goes). My good fellow, I am extremely obliged to you, and if ever I can do anything for you, such as returning a crust to you of similar size, or even lending you another slightly smaller one, or—— (The WOODCUTTER comes back with the crust.) Ah, thank you, my man, thank you.

WOODCUTTER. I would suggest, my lord, that you should take a short walk in this direction (pointing to the opposite direction to that which the PRINCESS has taken), and stroll back casually in a few minutes' time when the Queen is here.

RED PRINCE. Thank you, my man, thank you.

(He puts the crust in his pocket and goes off.) (The WOODCUTTER goes on with his work. The BLUE PRINCE comes in and stands watching him in silence for some moments.) WOODCUTTER (looking up). Hullo!


WOODCUTTER. What do you want?

BLUE PRINCE. The Princess.

WOODCUTTER. She's not here.


(The WOODCUTTER goes on with his work and the PRINCE goes on looking at him.)

WOODCUTTER (struck with an idea). Are you one of the Princes who is wooing the Princess?


WOODCUTTER (coming towards him). I believe I could help your Royal Highness.


WOODCUTTER (doubtfully). It would perhaps be not Quite fair to the others.

BLUE PRINCE. Don't mind.

WOODCUTTER. Well then, listen. (He pauses a moment and looks round to see that they are alone.)

BLUE PRINCE. I'm listening.

WOODCUTTER. If you come back in five minutes, you will see a beggar woman sitting here. She will ask you for a crust of bread. You must give it to her, for it is the way His Majesty has chosen of testing your kindness of heart.

BLUE PRINCE (feeling in his pockets). No bread.

WOODCUTTER. I will give you some.


WOODCUTTER (taking a piece from his pocket). Here you are.


WOODCUTTER. Not at all, I'm very glad to have been able to help you.

(He goes on with his work. The BLUE PRINCE remains looking at him.)

BLUE PRINCE (with a great effort). Thanks.

(He goes slowly away. A moment later the YELLOW PRINCE makes a graceful and languid entry.)

YELLOW PRINCE. Ah, come hither, my man, come hither.

WOODCUTTER (stopping his work and looking up). You want me, sir?

YELLOW PRINCE. Come hither, my man. Tell me, has her Royal Highness the Princess passed this way lately?

WOODCUTTER. The Princess?

YELLOW PRINCE. Yes, the Princess, my bumpkin. But perhaps you have been too much concerned in your own earthy affairs to have noticed her. You—ah—cut wood, I see.

WOODCUTTER. Yes, sir, I am a woodcutter.

YELLOW PRINCE. A most absorbing life. Some day we must have a long talk about it. But just now I have other business waiting for me. With your permission, good friend, I will leave you to your faggots. (He starts to go.)

WOODCUTTER. Beg your pardon, sir, but are you one of those Princes that want to marry our Princess?

YELLOW PRINCE. I had hoped, good friend, to obtain your permission to do so. I beg you not to refuse it.

WOODCUTTER. You are making fun of me, sir.

YELLOW PRINCE. Discerning creature.

WOODCUTTER. All the same, I can help you.

YELLOW PRINCE. Then pray do so, log-chopper, and earn my everlasting gratitude.

WOODCUTTER. The King has decided that whichever of you three Princes has the kindest heart shall marry his daughter.

YELLOW PRINCE. Then you will be able to bear witness to him that I have already wasted several minutes of my valuable time in condescending to a mere faggot-splitter. Tell him this and the prize is mine. (Kissing the tips of his fingers) Princess, I embrace you.

WOODCUTTER. The King will not listen to me. But if you return here in five minutes, you will find an old woman begging for bread. It is the test which their Majesties have arranged for you. If you share your last crust with her—

YELLOW PRINCE. Yes, but do I look as if I carried a last crust about with me?

WOODCUTTER. But see, I will give you one.

YELLOW PRINCE (taking it between the tips of his fingers). Yes, but—

WOODCUTTER. Put it in your pocket, and when—

YELLOW PRINCE. But, my dear bark-scraper, have you no feeling for clothes at all? How can I put a thing like this in my pocket? (Handing it back to him) I beg you to wrap it up. Here take this. (Gives him a scarf) Neatly, I pray you. (Taking an orange ribbon out of his pocket) Perhaps a little of this round it would make it more tolerable. You think so? I leave it to you. I trust your taste entirely. . . . Leaving a loop for the little finger, I entreat you . . . so. (He hangs it on his little finger) In about five minutes, you said? We will be there. (With a bow) We thank you.

(He departs delicately. The WOODCUTTER smiles to himself, puts down his axe and goes off to the PRINCESS. And just in time. For behold! the KING and QUEEN return. At least we think it is the QUEEN, but she is so heavily disguised by a cloak which she wears over her court dress, that for a moment we are not quite sure.)

KING. Now then, my love, if you will sit down on that log there—(placing her)—excellent—I think perhaps you should remove the crown. (Removes it) There! Now the disguise is perfect.

QUEEN. You're sure they are coming? It's a very uncomfortable seat.

KING. I told them that the Princess was waiting for them here. Their natural disappointment at finding I was mistaken will make the test of their good nature an even more exacting one. My own impression is that the Yellow Prince will be the victor.

QUEEN. Oh, I hate that man.

KING (soothingly). Well, well, perhaps it will be the Blue one.

QUEEN. If anything, I dislike him more intensely.

KING. Or even the Red.

QUEEN. Ugh! I can't bear him.

KING. Fortunately, dear, you are not called upon to marry any of them. It is for our darling that we are making the great decision. Listen! I hear one coming. I will hide in the cottage and take note of what happens.

(He disappears into the cottage as the BLUE PRINCE comes in.)

QUEEN. Oh, sir, can you kindly spare a crust of bread for a poor old woman! Please, pretty gentleman!

BLUE PRINCE (standing stolidly in front of her and feeling in his pocket). Bread . . . Bread . . . Ah! Bread! (He offers it.)

QUEEN. Oh, thank you, sir. May you be rewarded for your gentle heart.

BLUE PRINCE. Thank you.

(He stands gazing at her. There is an awkward pause.)

QUEEN. A blessing on you, sir.

BLUE PRINCE. Thank you. (He indicates the crust) Bread.

QUEEN. Ah, you have saved the life of a poor old woman——


QUEEN (embarrassed). I—er—you—er—-(She takes a bite and mumbles something.)


QUEEN (swallowing with great difficulty). I'm almost too happy to eat, sir. Leave a poor old woman alone with her happiness, and—-

BLUE PRINCE. Not too happy. Too weak. Help you eat. (He breaks off a piece and holds it to her mouth. With a great effort the QUEEN disposes of it.) Good! . . . Again! (She does it again.) Now! (She swallows another piece.) Last piece! (She takes it in. He pats her kindly on the back, and she nearly chokes.) Good. . . . Better now?

QUEEN (weakly). Much.

BLUE PRINCE. Good day.

QUEEN (with an effort). Good day, kind gentleman.

[He goes out.

(The KING is just coming from the cottage, when he returns suddenly. The KING slips back again.)

BLUE PRINCE. Small piece left over. (He gives it to her. She looks hopelessly at him.) Good-bye.

[He goes.

QUEEN (throwing the piece down violently). Ugh! What a man!

KING (coming out). Well, well, my dear, we have discovered the winner.

QUEEN (from the heart). Detestable person!

KING. The rest of the competition is of course more in the nature of a formality—

QUEEN. Thank goodness.

KING. However, I think that it will prevent unnecessary discussion afterwards if we—Take care, here is another one. (He hurries back.)

Enter the RED PRINCE.

QUEEN (with not nearly so much conviction). Could you spare a crust of bread, sir, for a poor hungry old woman?

RED PRINCE. A crust of bread, madam? Certainly. As luck will have it, I have a crust on me. My last one, but—your need is greater than mine. Eat, I pray.

QUEEN. Th-thank you, sir.

RED PRINCE. Not at all. Come, eat. Let me have the pleasure of seeing you eating.

QUEEN. M-might I take it home with me, pretty gentleman?

RED PRINCE (firmly). No, no. I must see you eating. Come! I will take no denial.

QUEEN. Th-thank you, sir. (Hopefully) Won't you share it with me?

RED PRINCE. No, I insist on your having it all. I am in the mood to be generous. Oblige me by eating it now for I am in a hurry; yet I will not go until you have eaten. (She does her best.) You eat but slowly. (Sternly) Did you deceive me when you said you were hungry?

QUEEN. N-no. I'm very hungry. (She eats)

RED PRINCE. That's better. Now understand—however poor I am, I can always find a crust of bread for an old woman. Always! Remember this when next you are hungry. . . . You spoke? (She shakes her head and goes on eating.) Finished?

QUEEN (with great difficulty). Yes, thank you, pretty gentleman.

RED PRINCE. There's a piece on the ground there that you dropped. (She eats it in dumb agony) Finished?

QUEEN (huskily). Yes, thank you, pretty gentleman.

RED PRINCE. Then I will leave you, madam. Good morning.

[He goes out.

(The QUEEN rises in fury. The KING is about to come out of the cottage, when the YELLOW PRINCE enters. The QUEEN sits down again and mumbles something. It is certainly not an appeal for bread, but the YELLOW PRINCE is not to be denied.)

YELLOW PRINCE (gallantly). My poor woman, you are in distress. It pains me to see it, madam, it pains me terribly. Can it be that you are hungry? I thought so, I thought so. Give me the great pleasure, madam, of relieving your hunger. See (holding up his finger), my own poor meal. Take it! It is yours.

QUEEN (with difficulty). I am not hungry.

YELLOW PRINCE. Ah, madam, I see what it is. You do not wish to deprive me. You tell yourself, perchance, that it is not fitting that one in your station of life should partake of the meals of the highly born. You are not used, you say, to the food of Princes. Your rougher palate——

QUEEN (hopefully). Did you say food of princes?

YELLOW PRINCE. Where was I, madam? You interrupted me. No matter—eat. (She takes the scarf and unties the ribbon.) Ah, now I remember. I was saying that your rougher palate—-

QUEEN (discovering the worst). No! No! Not bread!

YELLOW PRINCE. Bread, madam, the staff of life. Come, madam, will you not eat? (She tries desperately.) What can be more delightful than a crust of bread by the wayside?

(The QUEEN shrieks and falls back in a swoon. The KING rushes out to her.)

KING (to YELLOW PRINCE). Quick, quick, find the Princess.

YELLOW PRINCE. The Princess—find the Princess! (He goes vaguely off and we shall not see him again. But the WOODCUTTER and the PRINCESS do not need to be found. They are here.)

WOODCUTTER (to PRINCESS). Go to her, but don't show that you know me.

(He goes into the cottage, and the PRINCESS hastens to her father.)


KING. Ah, my dear, you're just in time. Your mother—-

PRINCESS. My mother?

KING. Yes, yes. A little plan of mine—of hers—your poor mother. Dear, dear!

PRINCESS. But what's the matter?

KING. She is suffering from a surfeit of bread, and—-

(The WOODCUTTER comes up with a flagon of wine)

WOODCUTTER. Poor old woman! She has fainted from exhaustion. Let me give her some—-

QUEEN (shrieking). No, no, not bread! I will not have any more bread.

WOODCUTTER. Drink this, my poor woman.

QUEEN (opening her eyes). Did you say drink? (She seizes the flagon and drinks)

PRINCESS. Oh, sir, you have saved my mother's life!

WOODCUTTER. Not at all.

KING. I thank you, my man, I thank you.

QUEEN. My deliverer! Tell me who you are!

PRINCESS. It is my mother, the Queen, who asks you.

WOODCUTTER (amazed, as well he may be). The Queen!

KING. Yes, yes. Certainly, the Queen.

WOODCUTTER (taking off his hat). Pardon, your Majesty. I am a woodcutter, who lives alone here, far away from courts.

QUEEN. Well, you've got more sense in your head than any of the Princes that I've seen lately. You'd better come to court.

PRINCESS (shyly). You will be very welcome, sir.

QUEEN. And you'd better marry the Princess.

KING. Isn't that perhaps going a little too far, dear?

QUEEN. Well, you wanted kindness of heart in your son-in-law, and you've got it. And he's got common sense too. (To WOODCUTTER) Tell me, what do you think of bread as—as a form of nourishment?

WOODCUTTER (cautiously). One can have too much of it.

QUEEN. Exactly my view. (To KING) There you are, you see.

KING. Well, if you insist. The great thing, of course, is that our darling child should be happy.

PRINCESS. I will do my best, father. (She takes the WOODCUTTER'S hand.)

KING. Then the marriage will take place this evening. (With a wave of his wand) Let the revels begin.

(They begin)


SCENE I.—The Schoolroom (Ugh!)

(OLIVER is discovered lying flat on his—well, lying flat on the floor, deep in a book. The CURATE puts his head in at the door.)

CURATE. Ah, our young friend, Oliver! And how are we this morning, dear lad?

OLIVER (mumbling). All right, thanks.

CURATE. That's well, that's well. Deep in our studies, I see, deep in our studies. And what branch of Knowledge are we pursuing this morning?

OLIVER (without looking up). "Marooned in the Pacific," or "The Pirate's Bride."

CURATE. Dear, dear, what will Miss Pinniger say to this interruption of our studies?

OLIVER. Silly old beast.

CURATE. Tut-tut, dear lad, that is not the way to speak of our mentors and preceptors. So refined and intelligent a lady as Miss Pinniger. Indeed I came here to see her this morning on a little matter of embroidered vestments. Where is she, dear lad?

OLIVER. It isn't nine yet.

CURATE (looking at his watch). Past nine, past nine.

OLIVER (jumping up). Je-hoshaphat!

CURATE. Oliver! Oliver! My dear lad! Swearing at your age! Really, I almost feel it my duty to inform your aunt—-

OLIVER. Fat lot of swearing in just mentioning one of the Kings of Israel.

CURATE. Of Judah, dear boy, of Judah. To be ignorant on such a vital matter makes it even more reprehensible. I cannot believe that our dear Miss Pinniger has so neglected your education that——

Enter our dear MISS PINNIGER, the Governess.

GOVERNESS. Ah, Mr. Smilax; how pleasant to see you!

CURATE. My dear Miss Pinniger! You will forgive me for interrupting you in your labours, but there is a small matter of—ah!—-

GOVERNESS. Certainly, Mr. Smilax. I will walk down to the gate with you. Oliver, where is Geraldine?

OLIVER. Aunt Jane wanted her.

GOVERNESS. Well, you should be at your lessons. It's nine o'clock. The fact that I am momentarily absent from the room should make no difference to your zeal.

OLIVER (without conviction). No, Miss Pinniger. (He sits down at his desk, putting "Marooned in the Pacific" inside it.)

CURATE (playfully). For men must work, Oliver, men must work. How doth the little busy bee—Yes, Miss Pinniger, I am with you. [They go out.

OLIVER (opening his poetry book and saying it to himself). It was a summer evening—It was a summer evening—(He stops, refers to the book, and then goes on to himself) Old Kaspar's work was done. It was a summer evening, Old Kaspar's work was done—-


JILL. Where's Pin?

OLIVER. Hallo, Jill. Gone off with Dearly Beloved. Her momentary absence from the room should make no difference to your zeal, my dear Geraldine. And what are we studying this morning, dear child? (To himself) It was a summer evening, Old Kaspar's work was done.

JILL (giggling). Is that Pin?

OLIVER. Pin and Dearly Beloved between them. She's a bit batey this morning.

JILL (at her desk). And all my sums have done themselves wrong. (Hard at it with paper and pencil) What's nine times seven, Oliver?

OLIVER. Fifty-six. Old Kaspar's work was done. Jolly well wish mine was. And he before his cottage door. Fat lot of good my learning this stuff if I'm going to be a sailor. I bet Beatty didn't mind what happened to rotten old Kaspar when he saw a German submarine.

JILL. Six and carry five. Aunt Jane has sent for the doctor to look at my chest.

OLIVER. What's the matter with your chest?

JILL. I blew my nose rather loud at prayers this morning.

OLIVER. I say, Jill, you are going it!

JILL. It wasn't my fault, Oliver. Aunt Jane turned over two pages at once and made me laugh, so I had to turn it into a blow.

OLIVER. Bet you what you like she knew.

JILL. Of course she did, and she'll tell the doctor, and he'll be as beastly as he can. What did she say to you for being late?

OLIVER. I said somebody had bagged my sponge, and she wouldn't like me to come down to prayers all unsponged, and she said, "Excuses, Oliver, always excuses! Leave me. I will see you later." Suppose that means I've got to go to bed this afternoon. Jill, if I do, be sporty and bring me up "Marooned in the Pacific."

JILL. They'll lock the door. They always do.

OLIVER. Then I shall jolly well go up for a handkerchief this morning, and shove it in the bed, just in case. Cave—here's Pin.

MISS PINNIGER returns to find them full of zeal.

GOVERNESS (sitting down at her desk). Well, Oliver, have you learnt your piece of poetry?

OLIVER (nervously). I—I think so, Miss Pinniger.

GOVERNESS. Close the book, and stand up and say it. (Oliver takes a last despairing look, and stands up.) Well?

OLIVER. It was a summer evening—-

GOVERNESS. The title and the author first, Oliver. Everything in its proper order.

OLIVER. Oh, I say, I didn't know I had to learn the title.

JILL (in a whisper). After Blenheim.

GOVERNESS. Geraldine, kindly attend to your own work.

OLIVER. After Blenheim. It was a summer evening.

GOVERNESS. After Blenheim, by Robert Southey. One of our greatest poets.

OLIVER. After Blenheim, by Robert Southey, one of our greatest poets. It was a summer evening, Old Kaspar's work was done—er—Old Kaspar's work was done—er—work was done, er . . .

GOVERNESS. And he before—-

OLIVER. Oh yes, of course. And he before—er—and he before—er—It was a summer evening, Old Kaspar's work was done, and he before—er—and he before—- Er, it was a summer evening—-

GOVERNESS. So you have already said, Oliver.

OLIVER. I just seem to have forgotten this bit, Miss Pinniger. And he before—-

GOVERNESS. Well, what was he before?

OLIVER (hopefully). Blenheim? Oh no, it was after Blenheim.

GOVERNESS (wearily). His cottage door.

OLIVER. Oo, yes. And he before his cottage door was sitting in the sun. (He clears his throat) Was sitting in the sun. Er—(He coughs again)—er—-

GOVERNESS. You have a cough, Oliver. Perhaps the doctor had better see you when he comes to see Geraldine.

OLIVER. It was just something tickling my throat, Miss Pinniger. Er—it was a summer evening.

GOVERNESS. You haven't learnt it, Oliver?

OLIVER. Yes, I have, Miss Pinniger, only I can't quite remember it. And he before his cottage door—-

GOVERNESS. Is it any good, Geraldine, asking you if you have got any of your sums right?

JILL. I've got one, Miss Pinniger . . . nearly right . . . except for some of the figures.

GOVERNESS. Well, we shall have to spend more time at our lessons, that's all. This afternoon—ah—er—-

(She stands up as AUNT JANE and the DOCTOR come in.)

AUNT JANE. I'm sorry to interrupt lessons, Miss Pinniger, but I have brought the Doctor to see Geraldine. (To DOCTOR) You will like her to go to her room?

DOCTOR. No, no, dear lady. There is no need. Her pulse—(He feels it)—-dear, dear! Her tongue—(She puts it out)—tut-tut! A milk diet, plenty of rice-pudding, and perhaps she would do well to go to bed this afternoon.

AUNT JANE. I will see to it, doctor.

JILL (mutinously). I feel quite well.

DOCTOR (to AUNT JANE). A dangerous symptom. Plenty of rice-pudding.

GOVERNESS. Oliver was coughing just now.

OLIVER (to himself). Shut up!

DOCTOR (turning to OLIVER). Ah! His pulse—(Feels it)—tut-tut! His tongue—(OLIVER puts it out) Dear, dear! The same treatment, dear lady, as prescribed in the other case.

OLIVER (under his breath). Beast!

AUNT JANE. Castor-oil, liquorice-powder, ammoniated quinine—anything of that nature, doctor?

DOCTOR. As necessary, dear lady, as necessary. The system must be stimulated. Nature must be reinforced.

AUNT JANE (to GOVERNESS). Which do they dislike least?

OLIVER and JILL (hastily). Liquorice-powder!

DOCTOR. Then concentrate on the other two, dear lady.

AUNT JANE. Thank you, doctor. [They go out.

GOVERNESS. We will now go on with our lessons. Oliver, you will have opportunities in your bedroom this afternoon of learning your poetry. By the way, I had better have that book which you were reading when I came in just now.

OLIVER (trying to be surprised). Which book?

JILL (nobly doing her best to save the situation). Miss Pinniger, if you're multiplying rods, poles, or perches by nine, does it matter if—-

GOVERNESS. I am talking to Oliver, Geraldine. Where is that book, Oliver?

OLIVER. Oh, I know the one you mean. I must have put it down somewhere. (He looks vaguely about the room.)

GOVERNESS. Perhaps you put it in your desk.

OLIVER. My desk?

JILL (going up to MISS PINNIGER with her work). You see, it's all gone wrong here, and I think I must have multiplied—— (Moving in front of her as she moves) I think I must have multiplied——

(Under cover of this, OLIVER makes a great effort to get the book into JILL'S desk, but it is no good.)

GOVERNESS (brushing aside JILL and advancing on OLIVER). Thank you, I will take it.

OLIVER (looking at the title). Oh yes, this is the one.

GOVERNESS. And I will speak to your aunt at once about the behaviour of both of you. [She goes out.

OLIVER (gallantly). I don't care.

JILL. I did try to help you, Oliver.

OLIVER. You wait. Won't I jolly well bag something of hers one day, just when she wants it.

JILL. I'm afraid you'll find the afternoon rather tiring without your book. What will you do?

OLIVER. I suppose I shall have to think.

JILL. What shall you think about?

OLIVER. I shall think I'm on my desert island.

JILL. Which desert island?

OLIVER. The one I always pretend I'm on when I'm thinking.

JILL. Isn't there any one else on it ever?

OLIVER. Oo, lots of pirates and Dyaks and cannibals and—other people.

JILL. What sort of other people?

OLIVER. I shan't tell you. This is a special think I thought last night. As soon as I thought of it, I decided to keep it for (impressively) a moment of great emergency.

JILL (silenced). Oh! . . . Oliver?


JILL. Let me be on your desert island this time. Because I did try to help you.

OLIVER. Well—well—— (Generously) Well, you can if you like.

JILL. Oh, thank you, Oliver. Won't you tell me what it's about, and then we can both think it together this afternoon.

OLIVER. I expect you'll think all sorts of silly things that never happen on a desert island.

JILL. I'll try not to, Oliver, if you tell me.

OLIVER. All right.

JILL (coming close to him). Go on.

OLIVER. Well, you see, I've been wrecked, you see, and the ship has foundered with all hands, you see, and I've been cast ashore on a desert island, you see.

JILL. Haven't I been cast ashore too?

OLIVER. Well, you will be this afternoon, of course. Well, you see, we land on the island, you see, and it's a perfectly ripping island, you see, and—and we land on it, you see, and. . . .

* * * * *

(But we are getting on too fast. When the good ship crashed upon the rock and split in twain, it seemed like that all aboard must perish. Fortunately OLIVER was made of stern mettle. Hastily constructing a raft and placing the now unconscious JILL upon it, he launched it into the seething maelstrom of waters and pushed off. Tossed like a cockle-shell upon the mountainous waves, the tiny craft with its precious freight was in imminent danger of foundering. But OLIVER was made of stern mettle. With dauntless courage he rigged a jury-mast, and placed a telescope to his eye. "Pull for the lagoon, JILL," cried the dauntless OLIVER, and in another moment. . . .)

(As the raft glides into the still waters beyond the reef, we can see it more clearly. Can it be JILL'S bed, with OLIVER in his pyjamas perched on the rail, and holding up his bath-towel? Does he shorten sail for a moment to thump his chest and say, "But OLIVER was made of stern mettle"? Or is it——)

(But the sun is sinking behind the swamp where the rattlesnakes bask. For a moment longer the sail gleams like copper in its rays, and then—fizz-z—we have lost it. See! Is that speck on the inky black waters the dauntless Oliver? It is. Let us follow to the island and see what adventures befall him.)

SCENE II.—It is the island which we have dreamed about all our lives. But at present we cannot see it properly, for it is dark. In one of those tropical darknesses which can be felt rather than seen OLIVER hands JILL out of the boat.

OLIVER. Tread carefully, Jill, there are lots of deadly rattlesnakes about.

JILL (stepping hastily back into the boat). Oli-ver!

OLIVER. You hear the noise of their rattles sometimes when the sun is sinking behind the swamp. (The deadly rattle of the rattlesnake is heard) There!

JILL. Oh, Oliver, are they very deadly? Because if they are, I don't think I shall like your island.

OLIVER. Those aren't. I always have their teeth taken out when ladies are coming. Besides, it's daylight now.

(With a rapidity common in the tropics—although it may just be OLIVER'S gallantry—the sun climbs out of the sea, and floods the island, JILL, no longer frightened, steps out of the boat, and they walk up to the clearing in the middle.)

JILL (looking about her). Oh, what a lovely island! I think it's lovely, Oliver.

OLIVER (modestly). It's pretty decent, isn't it? Won't you lie down? I generally lie down here and watch the turtles coming out of the sea to deposit their eggs on the sand.

JILL (lying down). How many do they de-deposit usually, Oliver?

OLIVER. Oh, three—or a hundred. Just depends how hungry I am. Have a bull's-eye, won't you?

JILL (excitedly). Oh, did you bring some?

OLIVER (annoyed). Bring some? (Brightening up) Oh, you mean from the wreck?

JILL (hastily). Yes, from the wreck. I mean besides the axe and the bag of nails and the gunpowder.

OLIVER. Couldn't. The ship sank with all hands before I could get them. But it doesn't matter, because (going up to one of the trees) I recognise this as the bull's-eye tree. (He picks a couple of bull's-eyes and gives one to her.)

JILL. Oh, Oliver, how lovely! Thank you. (She puts it in her mouth.)

OLIVER (sucking hard). There was nothing but breadfruit trees here the first time I was marooned on it. Rotten things to have on a decent island. So I planted a bull's-eye tree, and a barley-sugar-cane grove, and one or two other things, and made a jolly ripping place of it.

JILL (pointing). What's that tree over there?

OLIVER. That one? Rice-pudding tree.

JILL (getting up indignantly). Oliver! Take me back to the boat at once.

OLIVER. I say, shut up, Jill. You didn't think I meant it for you, did you?

JILL. But there's only you and me on the island.

OLIVER. What about the domestic animals? I suppose they've got to eat.

JILL. Oh, how lovely! Have we got a goat and a parrot, and a—a—

OLIVER. Much better than that. Look in that cage there.

JILL. Oh, is that a cage? I never noticed it. What do I do?

OLIVER (going to it). Here, I'll show you (He draws the blind, and the DOCTOR is exposed sitting on a stump of wood and blinking at the sudden light) What do you think of that?

JILL. Oliver!

OLIVER (proudly). I thought of that in bed one night. Spiffing idea, isn't it? I've got some other ones in the plantation over there. Awfully good specimens. I feed 'em on rice-pudding.

JILL. Can this one talk?

OLIVER. I'm teaching it. (Stirring it up with a stick) Come up there.

DOCTOR (mumbling). Ninety-nine, ninety-nine . . .

OLIVER. That's all it can say at present. I'm going to give it a swim in the lagoon to-morrow. I want to see if there are any sharks. If there aren't, then we can bathe there afterwards.

(The DOCTOR shudders.)

JILL. Have you given it a name yet? I think I should like to call it Fluffkins.

OLIVER. Righto! Good night, Fluffkins. Time little doctors were in bed. (He pulls down the blind.)

JILL (lying down again). Well, I think it's a lovely island.

OLIVER (lying beside her). If there's anything you want, you know, you've only got to say so. Pirates or anything like that. There's a ginger-beer well if you're thirsty.

JILL (closing her eyes). I'm quite happy, Oliver, thank you.

OLIVER (after a pause, a little awkwardly). Jill, you didn't ever want to marry a pirate, did you?

JILL (still on her back with her eyes shut). I hadn't thought about it much, Oliver dear.

OLIVER. Because I can get you an awfully decent pirate, if you like, and if I was his brother-in-law it would be ripping. I've often been marooned with him, of course, but never as his brother-in-law.

JILL. Why don't you marry his daughter and be his son-in-law?

OLIVER. He hasn't got a daughter.

JILL. Well, you could think him one.

OLIVER. I don't want to. If ever I'm such a silly ass as to marry, which I'm jolly well not going to be, I shall marry a—a dusky maiden. Jill, be sporty. All girls have to get married some time. It's different with men.

JILL. Very well, Oliver. I don't want to spoil your afternoon.

OLIVER. Good biz. (He stands up, shuts his eyes and waves his hands about.)

[Enter the PIRATE CHIEF.

PIRATE CHIEF (with a flourish). Gentles, your servant. Commodore Crookshank, at your service. Better known on the Spanish Main as One-eared Eric.

OLIVER. Glad to meet you, Commodore. I'm—er— Two-toed Thomas, the Terror of the Dyaks. But you may call me Oliver, if you like. This is my sister Jill—the Pride of the Pampas.

PIRATE CHIEF (with another bow). Charmed!

JILL (politely). Don't mention it, Commodore.

OLIVER. My sister wants to marry you. Er—carry on. (He moves a little away from them and lies down.)

JILL (sitting down and indicating a place beside her). Won't you sit down, Commodore?

PIRATE CHIEF. Thank you, madam. The other side if I may. I shall hear better if you condescend to accept me. (He sits down on the other side of her.)

JILL. Oh, I'm so sorry! I was forgetting about your ear.

PIRATE CHIEF. Don't mention it. A little discussion in the La Plata river with a Spanish gentleman. At the end of it I was an ear short and he was a head short. It was considered in the family that I had won.

(There is an awkward pause.)

JILL (shyly). Well, Commodore?

PIRATE CHIEF. Won't you call me Eric?

JILL. I am waiting, Eric.

PIRATE CHIEF. Madam, I am not a marrying man, not to any extent, but if you would care to be Mrs. Crookshank, I'd undertake on my part to have the deck swabbed every morning, and to put a polish on the four-pounder that you could see your pretty face in.

JILL. Eric, how sweet of you. But I think you must speak to my brother in the library first. Oli-ver!

OLIVER (coming up). Hallo! Settled it?

JILL. It's all settled, Oliver, between Eric and myself, but you will want to ask him about his prospects, won't you?

OLIVER. Yes, yes, of course.

PIRATE. I shall be very glad to tell you anything I can, sir. I think I may say that I am doing fairly well in my profession.

OLIVER. What's your ship? A sloop or a frigate?

PIRATE. A brigantine.

JILL (excited). Oh, that's what Oliver puts on his hair when he goes to a party.

OLIVER (annoyed). Shut up, Jill! A brigantine? Ah yes, a rakish craft, eh, Commodore?

PIRATE (earnestly). Extremely rakish.

OLIVER. And how many pieces of eight have you?

PIRATE. Nine thousand.

OLIVER. Ah! (To JILL) What's nine times eight?

JILL (to herself). Nine times eight.

OLIVER (to himself). Nine times eight.

PIRATE (to himself). Nine times eight.

JILL. Seventy-two.

PIRATE. I made it seventy-one, but I expect you're right.

OLIVER. Then you've seventy-two thousand pieces altogether?

PIRATE. Yes, sir, about that.

OLIVER. Any doubloons?

PIRATE. Hundreds of 'em.

OLIVER. Ingots of gold?

PIRATE. Lashings of 'em.

JILL. And he's going to polish up the four-pounder until I can see my face in it.

OLIVER. I was just going to ask you about your guns. You've got 'em fore and aft of course?

PIRATE. Yes, sir. A four-pounder fore and a half-pounder haft.

OLIVER (a little embarrassed). And do you ever have brothers-in-law in your ship?

PIRATE. Well, I never have had yet, but I have always been looking about for one.

JILL. Oh, Oliver, isn't Eric a nice man?

OLIVER (casually). I suppose the captain's brother-in-law is generally the first man to board the Spaniard with his cutlass between his teeth?

PIRATE. You might almost say always. Many a ship on the Spanish Main I've had to leave unboarded through want of a brother-in-law. They're touchy about it somehow. Unless the captain's brother-in-law comes first they get complaining.

OLIVER (bashfully). And there's just one other thing. If the brigantine happened to put in at an island for water, and the captain's brother-in-law happened—just happened—to be a silly ass and go and marry a dusky maiden, whom he met on the beach—-

PIRATE. Bless you, it's always happening to a captain's brother-in-law.

OLIVER (in a magnificent manner). Then, Captain Crookshank, you may take my sister!

JILL. Thank you, Oliver.

(It is not every day that one-eared ERIC, that famous chieftain, marries into the family of the TERROR OF THE DYAKS. Naturally the occasion is celebrated by the whole pirate crew with a rousing chorus, followed by a dance in which the dusky maidens of the Island join. At the end of it, JILL finds herself alone with TUA-HEETA, the Dusky Princess.)

JILL (fashionably). I'm so pleased to meet my brother's future wife. It's so nice of you to come to see me. You will have some tea, won't you? (She puts out her hand and presses an imaginary bell) I wanted to see you, because I can tell you so many little things about my brother, which I think you ought to know. You see, Eric—my husband—


JILL. Yes. I wish you could see him. He's so nice-looking. But I'm afraid he won't be home to tea. That's the worst of marrying a sailor. They are away so much. Well, I was telling you about Oliver. I think it would be better if you knew at once that—he doesn't like rice-pudding.

TUA-HEETA. Rice-poodeeng?

JILL. Yes, he hates it. It is very important that you should remember that. Then there's another thing—(An untidy looking servant comes in. Can it be—can it possibly be AUNT JANE? Horrors!) He dislikes—Oh, there you are, Jane. You've been a very long time answering the bell.

AUNT JANE. I'm so sorry ma'am, I was just dressing.

JILL. Excuses, Jane, always excuses. Leave me. Take a week's notice. (To TUA-HEETA) YOU must excuse my maid. She's very stupid. Tea at once, Jane. (AUNT JANE sniffs and goes off) What was I saying? Oh yes, about Oliver. He doesn't care for cod-liver oil in the way that some men do. You would be wise not to force it on him just at first. . . . Have you any idea where you are going to live?

TUA-HEETA. Live? (These dusky maidens are no conversationalists.)

JILL. I expect Oliver will wish to reside at Hammersmith, so convenient for the City. You'll like Hammersmith. You'll go to St. Paul's Church, I expect. The Vicar will be sure to call. (Enter AUNT JANE with small tea-table.) Ah, here's tea. (To JANE) You're very slow, Jane.

AUNT JANE. I'm sorry, ma'am.

JILL. It's no good being sorry. Take another week's notice. (To TUA-HEETA) You must forgive my talking to my maid. She wants such a lot of looking after. (JANE puts down the table) That will do, Jane, (JANE bumps against the table) Dear, dear, how clumsy you are. What wages am I giving you now?

AUNT JANE. A shilling a month, ma'am.

JILL. Well, we'd better make it ninepence. (JANE goes out in tears.) Servants are a great nuisance, aren't they? Jane is a peculiarly stupid person. She used to be aunt to my brother, and I have only taken her on out of charity. (She pours out from an imaginary tea-pot) Milk? Sugar? (She puts them in and hands the imaginary cup to TUA-HEETA.)

TUA-HEETA. Thank you. (Drinks.)

JILL (pouring herself a cup). I hope you like China. (She drinks, and then rings an imaginary bell) Well, as I was saying—-(Enter AUNT JANE.) You can clear away, Jane.

AUNT JANE. Yes, ma'am.

(She clears away the tea and TUA-HEETA and—very quickly—herself, as OLIVER comes back. OLIVER has been discussing boarding-tactics with his brother-in-law. CAPTAIN CROOKSHANK belongs to the now old-fashioned Marlinspike School; OLIVER is for well-primed pistols.)

JILL. Oh, Oliver, I love your island. I've been thinking things all by myself. You're married to Tua-heeta. You don't mind, do you?

OLIVER. Not at all, Jill. Make yourself at home. I've just been trying the doctor in the lagoon. There were sharks there, after all, so we'll have to find another place for bathing. Oh, and I shot an elephant. What would you like to do now?

JILL. Just let's lie here and see what happens. (What happens is that a cassowary comes along.) Oh, what a lovely bird! Is it an ostrich?

(The cassowary sniffs the air, puts its beak to the ground and goes off again.)

OLIVER. Silly! It's a cassowary, of course.

JILL. What's a cassowary?

OLIVER. Jill! Don't you remember the rhyme?

I wish I were a cassowary Upon the plains of Timbuctoo And then I'd eat a missionary— And hat and gloves and hymn-book too!

JILL. Is that all they're for?

OLIVER. Well, what else would you want them for?

(A MISSIONARY, pith-helmet, gloves, hymn-book, umbrella, all complete—creeps cautiously up. He bears a strong likeness to the curate, the REVEREND SMILAX.)

MISSIONARY. I am sorry to intrude upon your privacy, dear friends, but have you observed a cassowary on this island, apparently looking for something?

OLIVER. Yes, we saw one just now.

MISSIONARY (shuddering). Dear, dear, dear. You didn't happen to ask him what was the object of his researches?

JILL. He went so quickly.

MISSIONARY (coming out of the undergrowth to them). I wonder if you have ever heard of a little rhyme which apparently attributes to the bird in question, when residing in the level pastures of Timbuctoo, an unholy lust for the body and appurtenances thereto of an unnamed clerical gentleman?

OLIVER and JILL (shouting together). Yes! Rather!

MISSIONARY. Dear, dear! Fortunately—I say fortunately—this is not Timbuctoo! (OLIVER slips away and comes back with a notice-board "Timbuctoo," which he places at the edge of the trees, unseen by the MISSIONARY, who goes on talking to JILL) I take it that a cassowary residing in other latitudes is of a more temperate habit. His appetite, I venture to suggest, dear lady, would be under better restraint. That being so, I may perhaps safely—— (He begins to move off, and comes suddenly up to the notice-board) Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear! This is terrible! You said, I think, that the—ah—bird in question was moving in this direction?

OLIVER. That's right.

MISSIONARY. Then I shall move, hastily yet with all due precaution, in that direction. (He walks off on tiptoe, looking over his shoulder in case the cassowary should reappear. Consequently, he does not observe the enormous CANNIBAL who has appeared from the trees on the right, until he bumps into him) I beg your—— (He looks up) Dear, dear, dear, dear, dear!

CANNIBAL. Boria, boria, boo!

MISSIONARY. Yes, my dear sir, it is as you say, a beautiful morning.

CANNIBAL. Boria, boria, boo!

MISSIONARY. But I was just going a little walk—in this direction—if you will permit me.

CANNIBAL (threateningly). Boria, boria, boo!

MISSIONARY. I have noticed it, my dear sir, I have often made that very observation to my parishioners.

CANNIBAL (very threateningly). Boria, boria, boo!

MISSIONARY. Oh, what's he saying?

OLIVER. He says it's his birthday to-morrow.

CANNIBAL. Wurra, wurra wug!

OLIVER. And will you come to the party?

MISSIONARY (to CANNIBAL). My dear sir, it is most kind of you to invite me, but a prior engagement in a different part of the country—a totally unexpected call upon me in another locality—will unfortunately——

(While he is talking, the cassowary comes back, sidles up to him, and taps with his beak on the MISSIONARY'S pith-helmet.)

MISSIONARY (absently, without looking round). Come in! . . . As I was saying, my dear sir—— (The bird taps again. The MISSIONARY turns round annoyed) Can't you see I'm engaged——Oh dear, dear, dear, dear, dear!

(He clasps the CANNIBAL in his anguish, recoils from the CANNIBAL and clasps the cassowary. The three of them go off together, OLIVER and JILL following eagerly behind to see who gets most.)

(The PIRATES come back, each carrying a small wooden ammunition-box, and sit round in a semicircle, the PIRATE CHIEF in the middle.)

PIRATE. Steward! Steward!

STEWARD (hurrying in). Yes, sir, coming, sir.

CHIEF. Now then, tumble up, my lad. I would carouse. Circulate the dry ginger.

STEWARD (hurrying out). Yes, sir, going, sir.

CHIEF. Look lively, my lad, look lively.

STEWARD (hurrying in). Yes, sir, coming, sir. (He hands round mugs to them all.)

CHIEF (rising). Gentlemen! (They all stand up) The crew of the Cocktail will carouse—— (They all take one step to the right, one back, and one left—which brings them behind their boxes—and then place their right feet on the boxes together) One! (They raise their mugs) Two! (They drink) Three! (They bang down their mugs) Four! (They wipe their mouths with the backs of their hands) So! . . . Steward!

STEWARD. Yes, sir, here, sir.

CHIEF. The carouse is over.

STEWARD. Yes, sir. (He collects the mugs and goes out.) (The PIRATES sit down again.)

CHIEF (addressing the men). Having passed an hour thus in feasting and song——

(Hark! is it the voice of our dear MISS PINNIGER? It is.)

GOVERNESS (off). Oliver! Oliver! Jill! You may get up now and come down to tea.

CHIEF. Having, as I say, slept off our carouse—-

GOVERNESS (off). Oliver! Jill! (She comes in) Oh, I beg your pardon, I—er—-

(All the PIRATES rise and draw their weapons)

CHIEF. Pray do not mention it. (Polishing his pistol lovingly) You were asking—-

GOVERNESS. I—I was l-looking for a small boy—Oliver—

CHIEF. Oliver? (To 1ST PIRATE) Have we any Olivers on board?

1ST PIRATE. NO, Captain. Only Bath Olivers.

CHIEF (to GOVERNESS). You cannot be referring to my brother-in-law, hight Two-Toed Thomas, the Terror of the Dyaks?

GOVERNESS. Oh no, no—Just a small boy and his sister—Jill.

CHIEF (to 2ND PIRATE). Have we any Jills on board?

2ND PIRATE. No, Captain. Only gills of rum.

CHIEF (to GOVERNESS). You cannot be referring to Mrs. Crookshank, styled the Pride of the Pampas?

GOVERNESS. Oh no, no, I am so sorry. Perhaps I—er—

CHIEF. Wait, woman. (to 6TH PIRATE) Ernest, offer your seat to the lady.

(The 6TH PIRATE stands up.)

GOVERNESS (nervously). Oh please don't trouble, I'm getting out at the next station—I mean I—

6TH PIRATE (thunderously). Sit down!

(She sits down tremblingly and he stands by her with his pistol.)

CHIEF. Thank you. (to 1ST PIRATE) Cecil, have you your pencil and notebook with you?

1ST PIRATE (producing them). Ay, ay, Captain.

CHIEF. Then we will cross-examine the prisoner. (to GOVERNESS) Name?

GOVERNESS. Pinniger.

1ST PIRATE (writing). Pincher.

CHIEF. Christian names, if any?


1ST PIRATE (writing). Letisher—how would you spell it, Captain?

CHIEF. Spell it like a sneeze. Age?

GOVERNESS. Twenty-three.

CHIEF (to 1ST PIRATE). Habits—untruthful. Appearance—against her. Got that?

1ST PIRATE. Yes, sir.

CHIEF (to GOVERNESS). And what are you for?

GOVERNESS. I teach. Oliver and Jill, you know.

CHIEF. And what do you teach them?

GOVERNESS. Oh, everything. Arithmetic, French, Geography, History, Dancing——

CHIEF (holding up his hand). A moment! I would take counsel with Percy. (to 2ND PIRATE) Percy, what shall we ask her in Arithmetic? (The 2ND PIRATE whispers to him.) Excellent. (To her) If you really are a teacher as you say, answer me this question. The brigantine Cocktail is in longitude 40 deg. 39' latitude 22 deg. 50', sailing closehauled on the port tack at 8 knots in a 15-knot nor'-nor' westerly breeze—how soon before she sights the Azores?

GOVERNESS. I—I—I'm afraid I—-You see—I——

CHIEF (to 1ST PIRATE). Arithmetic rotten.

1ST PIRATE (writing). Arithmetic rotten.

CHIEF (to 3RD PIRATE). Basil, ask her a question in French.

3RD PIRATE. What would the mate of a French frigate say if he wanted to say in French, "Avast there, ye lubbering swab" to a friend like?

GOVERNESS. Oh, but I hardly—I—-

CHIEF (to 1ST PIRATE). French futile.

1ST PIRATE (writing). French futile.

CHIEF (to 4TH PIRATE). I don't suppose it's much use, Francis. But try her in Geography.

4TH PIRATE. Well now, lady. If you was wanting a nice creek to lay up cosy in, atween Dago Point and the Tortofitas, where would you run to?

GOVERNESS. It-run to? But that isn't—of course I—-

CHIEF (to 1ST PIRATE). Geography ghastly.

1ST PIRATE (writing). Geography ghastly.

CHIEF (to 5TH PIRATE). Give her a last chance, Mervyn. See if she knows any history.

5TH PIRATE. I suppose you couldn't tell me what year it was when old John Cann took the Saucy Codfish over Black Tooth Reef and laid her alongside the Spaniard in the harbour there, and up comes the Don in his nightcap. "Shiver my timbers," he says in Spanish, "but there's only one man in the whole of the Spanish Main," he says, "and that's John Cann," he says, "who could—-"

(The GOVERNESS looks dumbly at him.)

CHIEF. She couldn't. History hopeless.

1ST PIRATE. History hopeless.

CHIEF (to GOVERNESS). What else do you teach?

GOVERNESS. Music, dancing—er—but I don't think—-

CHIEF. Steward!

STEWARD (coming in). Yes, sir, coming, sir.

CHIEF. Concertina.

STEWARD (going out). Yes, sir, going, sir.

CHIEF (to GOVERNESS). Can you dance a hornpipe?


CHIEF. Dancing dubious.

1ST PIRATE (writing). Dancing dubious.

STEWARD (coming in). Concertina, sir.

CHIEF. Give it to the woman. (He takes it to her.)

GOVERNESS. I'm afraid I—-(She produces one ghastly noise and drops the concertina in alarm.)

1ST PIRATE (writing). What shall I say, sir? Music mouldy or music measly?

CHIEF (standing up). Gentlemen, I think you will agree with me that the woman Pinniger has proved that she is utterly incapable of teaching anybody anything. Twenty-five years, man and boy, I have sailed the Spanish Main, and with the possible exception of a dumb and half-witted negro whom I shipped as cook in '64, I have never met any one so profoundly lacking in intellect. I propose, therefore, that for the space of twenty-four hours the woman Pinniger should be incarcerated in the smuggler's cave, in the company of a black beetle of friendly temperament.

GOVERNESS. Mercy! Mercy!

1ST PIRATE. I should like to second that.

CHIEF. Those in favour—ay! (They all say "Ay.") Contrary—No! (The GOVERNESS says "No.") The motion is carried.

(One of the Pirates opens the door of the cave. The GOVERNESS rushes to the CHIEF and throws herself at his feet. OLIVER and JILL appear in the nick of time.)

OLIVER. A maiden in distress! I will rescue her. (She looks up and OLIVER recognises her) Oh! Carry on, Commodore.

(The GOVERNESS is lowered into the cave and the door is shut.)

CHIEF (to his men). Go, find that black beetle, and having found it, introduce it circumspectly by the back door.

PIRATES. Ay, ay, sir. [They go out.

OLIVER. All the same, you know, I jolly well should like to rescue somebody.

JILL (excitedly). Oo, rescue me, Oliver.

CHIEF (solemnly). Two-toed Thomas, Terror of the Dyaks, and Pest of the North Pacific, truly thou art a well-plucked one. Wilt fight me for the wench? (He puts an arm round JILL.)

OLIVER. I will.

CHIEF. Swords?

OLIVER. Pistols.

CHIEF. At twenty paces?

OLIVER. Across a handkerchief.

CHIEF. Done! (Feeling in his pockets) Have you got a handkerchief? I think I must have left mine on the dressing-table.

OLIVER (bringing out his and putting it hastily back again). Mine's rather—Jill, haven't you got one?

JILL (feeling). I know I had one, but I——

CHIEF. This is an ill business. Five-and-thirty duels have I fought—and never before been delayed for lack of a handkerchief.

JILL. Ah, here it is. (She produces a very small one and lays it on the ground. They stand one each side of it, pistols ready.)

OLIVER. Jill, you must give the word. JILL. Are you ready?

(The sound of a gong is heard.)

CHIEF. Listen! (The gong is heard again) The Spanish Fleet is engaged!

JILL. I thought it was our tea gong.

CHIEF. Ah, perhaps you're right.

OLIVER. I say, we oughtn't to miss tea. (Holding out his hand to her) Come on, Jill.

CHIEF. But you'll come back? We shall always be waiting here for you whenever you want us.

JILL. Yes, we'll come back, won't we, Oliver?

OLIVER. Oo, rather.

(The whole population of the Island, Animals, Pirates, and Dusky Maidens, come on. They sing as they wave good-bye to the children who are making their way to the boat.)

JILL (from the boat). Good-bye, good-bye.

OLIVER. Good-bye, you chaps.

JILL (politely). And thank you all for a very pleasant afternoon.

[They are all singing as the boat pushes off. Night comes on with tropical suddenness. The singing dies slowly down.


SCENE I.—The drawing-room of the HUBBARDS before Fame and Prosperity came to them. It is simply furnished with a deal table and two cane chairs.

MR. and MRS. HUBBARD, in faultless evening dress, are at home, MR. HUBBARD reading a magazine, MRS. HUBBARD with her hands in her lap. She sighs.

MR. HUBBARD (impetuously throwing down his magazine). Dearest, you sighed?

MRS. HUBBARD (quickly). No, no, Henry. In a luxurious and well-appointed home such as this, why should I sigh?

MR. HUBBARD. True, dear. Not only is it artistically furnished, as you say, but it is also blessed with that most precious of all things—(he lifts up the magazine)—a library.

MRS. HUBBARD. Yes, yes, Henry, we have much to be thankful for.

MR. HUBBARD. We have indeed. But I am selfish. Would you care to read? (He tears out a page of the magazine and hands it to her.)

MRS. HUBBARD. Thank you, thank you, Henry.

(They both sit in silence for a little. She sighs again.)

MR. HUBBARD. Darling, you did sigh. Tell me what grieves you.

MRS. HUBBARD. Little Isabel. Her cough troubles me.

MR. HUBBARD (thoughtfully). Isabel?

MRS. HUBBARD. Yes, dear, our youngest. Don't you remember, she comes after Harold?

MR. HUBBARD (counting on his fingers). A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I—dear me, have we got nine already?

MRS. HUBBARD (imploringly). Darling, say you don't think it's too many.

MR. HUBBARD. Oh no, no, not at all, my love . . . After all, it isn't as if they were real children.

MRS. HUBBARD (indignantly). Henry! How can you say they are not real?

MR. HUBBARD. Well, I mean they're only the children we thought we'd like to have if Father Christmas gave us any.

MRS. HUBBARD. They are just as real to me as if they were here in the house. Ada, Bertram, Caroline, the high-spirited Dennis, pretty Elsie with the golden ringlets, dear little fair-haired Frank—

MR. HUBBARD (firmly). Darling one, Frank has curly brown hair. It was an understood thing that you should choose the girls, and I should choose the boys. When we decided to take—A, B, C, D, E, F—a sixth child, it was my turn for a boy, and I selected Frank. He has curly brown hair and a fondness for animals.

MRS. HUBBARD. I daresay you're right, dear. Of course it is a little confusing when you never see your children.

MR. HUBBARD. Well, well, perhaps some day Father Christmas will give us some.

MRS. HUBBARD. Why does he neglect us so, Henry? We hang up our stockings every year, but he never seems to notice them. Even a diamond necklace or a few oranges or a five-shilling postal order would be something.

MR. HUBBARD. It is very strange. Possibly the fact that the chimney has not been swept for some years may have something to do with it. Or he may have forgotten our change of address. I cannot help feeling that if he knew how we had been left to starve in this way he would be very much annoyed.

MRS. HUBBARD. And clothes. I have literally nothing but what I am standing up in—I mean sitting down in.

MR. HUBBARD. Nor I, my love. But at least it will be written of us in the papers that the Hubbards perished in faultless evening dress. We are a proud race, and if Father Christmas deliberately cuts us off in this way, let us go down proudly. . . . Shall we go on reading or would you like to walk up and down the room? Fortunately these simple pleasures are left to us.

MRS. HUBBARD. I've finished this page.

MR. HUBBARD (tearing out one). Have another, my love. (They read for a little while, until interrupted by a knock at the door.)

MRS. HUBBARD. Some one at the door! Who could it be?

MR. HUBBARD (getting up). Just make the room look a little more homey, dear, in case it's any one important.

(He goes out, leaving her to alter the position of the chairs slightly.)


MR. HUBBARD (coming in). A letter. (He opens it.)


MR. HUBBARD (whistling with surprise). Father Christmas! An invitation to Court! (Reading) "Father Christmas at Home, 25th December. Jollifications, 11.59 P.M." My love, he has found us at last! (They embrace each other.)

MRS. HUBBARD. Henry, how gratifying!

MR. HUBBARD. Yes. (Sadly, after a pause) But we can't go.

MRS. HUBBARD (sadly). No, I have no clothes.


MRS. HUBBARD. How can I possibly go without a diamond necklace? None of the Montmorency-Smythe women has ever been to Court without a diamond necklace.

MR. HUBBARD. The Hubbards are a proud race. No male Hubbard would dream of appearing at Court without a gentleman's gold Albert watch-chain. . . . Besides, there is another thing. There will be many footmen at Father Christmas's Court, who will doubtless require coppers pressed into their palms. My honour would be seriously affected, were I compelled to whisper to them that I had no coppers.

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