Captain Hagberd (a retired coasting skipper).
Josiah Carvil (formerly a shipbuilder--a widower--blind).
Harry Hagberd (son of Captain Hagberd, who as a boy ran away from home).
Bessie Carvil (daughter of Josiah Carvil).
A small sea port.
To rights two yellow brick cottages belonging to Captain Hagberd, one
inhabited by himself the other by the Carvils. A lamp-post in front. The
red roofs of the town in the background. A sea-wall to left.
Time: The present-early autumn, towards dusk.
ONE DAY MORE
CURTAIN RISES DISCLOSING CARVIL _and Bessie moving away from sea-wall.
Bessie about twenty-five. Black dress; black straw hat. A lot of
mahogany-coloured hair loosely done up. Pale face. Full figure. Very
quiet. Carvil, blind, unwieldy. Reddish whiskers; slow, deep voice
produced without effort. Immovable, big face._
Carvil (_Hanging heavily on Bessie's arm_). Careful! Go slow! (_Stops;
Bessie waits patiently_.) Want your poor blind father to break his neck?
(_Shuffles on_.) In a hurry to get home and start that everlasting yarn
with your chum the lunatic?
Bessie. I am not in a hurry to get home, father.
Carvil. Well, then, go steady with a poor blind man. Blind! Helpless!
(_Strikes the ground with his stick_.) Never mind! I've had time to make
enough money to have ham and eggs for breakfast every morning--thank
God! And thank God, too, for it, girl. You haven't known a single
hardship in all the days of your idle life. Unless you think that a
blind, helpless father-------
Bessie. What is there for me to be in a hurry for?
Carvil. What did you say?
Bessie. I said there was nothing for me to hurry home for.
Carvil. There is, tho'. To yarn with a lunatic. Anything to get away
from your duty.
Bessie. Captain Hagberd's talk never hurt you or anybody else.
Carvil. Go on. Stick up for your only friend.
Bessie. Is it my fault that I haven't another soul to speak to?
Carvil (_Snarls_). It's mine, perhaps. Can I help being blind? You fret
because you want to be gadding about--with a helpless man left all alone
at home. Your own father too.
Bessie. I haven't been away from you half a day since mother died.
Carvil (_Viciously_). He's a lunatic, our landlord is. That's what he
is. Has been for years--long before those damned doctors destroyed my
sight for me. (_Growls angrily, then sighs_.)
Bessie. Perhaps Captain Hagberd is not so mad as the town takes him for.
Carvil. (_Grimly_). Don't everybody know how he came here from the North
to wait till his missing son turns up--here--of all places in the world.
His boy that ran away to sea sixteen years ago and never did give a sign
of life since! Don't I remember seeing people dodge round corners out
of his way when he came along High Street. Seeing him, I tell you.
(_Groan_.) He bothered everybody so with his silly talk of his son being
sure to come back home--next year--next spring--next month------. What
is it by this time, hey?
Bessie. Why talk about it? He bothers no one now.
Carvil. No. They've grown too fly. You've got only to pass a remark on
his sail-cloth coat to make him shut up. All the town knows it. But he's
got you to listen to his crazy talk whenever he chooses. Don't I hear
you two at it, jabber, jabber, mumble, mumble------
Bessie. What is there so mad in keeping up hope?
Carvil (_Scathing scorn_). Not mad! Starving himself to lay money
by--for that son. Filling his house with furniture he won't let anyone
see--for that son. Advertising in the papers every week, these sixteen
years--for that son. Not mad! Boy, he calls him. Boy Harry. His boy
Harry. His lost boy Harry. Yah! Let him lose his sight to know what real
trouble means. And the boy--the man, I should say--must 've been put
away safe in Davy Jones's locker for many a year--drowned--food for
fishes--dead.... Stands to reason, or he would have been here before,
smelling around the old fool's money. (_Shakes Bessie's arm slightly_.)
Bessie. I don't know. May be.
Carvil (_Bursting out_). Damme if I don't think he ever had a son.
Bessie. Poor man. Perhaps he never had.
Carvil. Ain't that mad enough for you? But I suppose you think it
Bessie. What does it matter? His talk keeps him up.
Carvil. Aye! And it pleases you. Anything to get away from your poor
blind father.... Jabber, jabber--mumble, mumble--till I begin to think
you must be as crazy as he is. What do you find to talk about, you two?
What's your game?
(_During the scene Carvil and Bessie have crossed stage from L. to R.
slowly with stoppages_.)
Bessie. It's warm. Will you sit out for a while?
Carvil (_Viciously_). Yes, I will sit out. (_Insistent_.) But what can
be your game? What are you up to? (_They pass through garden gate_.)
Because if it's his money you are after-------
Bessie. Father! How can you!
Carvil (_Disregarding her_). To make you independent of your poor blind
father, then you are a fool. (_Drops heavily on seat_.) He's too much of
a miser to ever make a will--even if he weren't mad.
Bessie. Oh! It never entered my head. I swear it never did.
Carvil. Never did. Hey! Then you are a still bigger fool.... I want to
go to sleep! (_Takes off' his hat, drops it on ground, and leans his
head back against the wall_.)
Bessie. And I have been a good daughter to you. Won't you say that for
Carvil (_Very distinctly_). I want--to--go--to--sleep. I'm tired.
(_Closes his eyes_.)
(_During that scene Captain Hagberd has been seen hesitating at the
back of stage, then running quickly to the door of his cottage. He puts
inside a tin kettle (from under his coat) and comes down to the railing
between the two gardens stealthily_).
_Carvil seated. Bessie. Captain Hagberd (white beard, sail-cloth
Bessie (_Knitting_). You've been out this afternoon for quite a long
time, haven't you?
Capt. Hagberd (_Eager_). Yes, my dear. (_Slily_) Of course you saw me
Bessie. Oh, yes. I did see you. You had something under your coat.
Capt. H. (_Anxiously_). It was only a kettle, my dear. A tin
water-kettle. I am glad I thought of it just in time. (_Winks, nods_.)
When a husband gets back from his work he needs a lot of water for a
wash. See? (_Dignified_.) Not that Harry'll ever need to do a hand's
turn after he comes home... (_Falters--casts stealthy glances on all
Bessie (_Looks up, grave_). Captain Hagberd, have you ever thought that
perhaps your son will not. . .
Capt. H. (_Paternally_). I've thought of everything, my dear--of
everything a reasonable young couple may need for housekeeping. Why,
I can hardly turn about in my room up there, the house is that full.
(_Rubs his hands with satisfaction_.) For my son Harry--when he comes
home. One day more.
Bessie (_Flattering_). Oh, you are a great one for bargains. (_Captain
Hagberd delighted_.) But, Captain Hagberd--if--if--you don't know what
may happen--if all that home you've got together were to be wasted--for
nothing--after all. (_Aside_.) Oh, I can't bring it out.
Capt. H. (_Agitated; flings arms up, stamps feet; stuttering_). What?
What d'ye mean? What's going to happen to the things?
Bessie (_Soothing_). Nothing! Nothing! Dust--or moth--you know. Damp,
perhaps. You never let anyone into the house . . .
Capt. H. Dust! Damp! (_Has a throaty, gurgling laugh_.) I light the
fires and dust the things myself. (_Indignant_.) Let anyone into the
house, indeed! What would Harry say! (_Walks up and down his garden
hastily with tosses, jings, and jerks of his whole body_.)
Bessie (_With authority_.) Now, then, Captain Hagberd! You know I won't
put up with your tantrums. (_Shakes finger at him_.)
Capt. H. (_Subdued, but still sulky, with his back to her_). You want
to see the things. That's what you're after. Well, no, not even you. Not
till Harry has had his first look.
Bessie. Oh, no! I don't. (_Relenting_.) Not till you're willing.
(_Smiles at Capt. H., who has turned half round already!_) You mustn't
excite yourself. (_Knits_.)
Capt. H. (_Condescending_). And you the only sensible girl for miles and
miles around. Can't you trust me? I am a domestic man. Always was, my
dear. I hated the sea. People don't know what they let their boys into
when they send them to sea. As soon make convicts of them at once. What
sort of life is it? Most of your time you don't know what's going on at
home. (_Insinuating_.) There's nothing anywhere on earth as good as a
home, my dear. (_Pause_.) With a good husband...
Carvil (_Heard from his seat fragmentarily_). There they go... jabber,
jabber... mumble, mumble. (_With a groaning effort?_) Helpless!
Capt. H. (_Mutters_). Extravagant ham and eggs fellow. (_Louder_.) Of
course it isn't as if he had a son to make a home ready for. Girls are
different, my dear. They don't run away, my dear, my dear. (_Agitated_.)
Bessie (_Drops her arms wearily_). No, Captain Hagberd--they don't.
Capt. H. (_Slowly_). I wouldn't let my own flesh and blood go to sea.
Bessie. And the boy ran away.
Capt. H. (_A little vacantly_). Yes, my only son Harry. (_Rouses
himself_.) Coming home to-morrow.
Bessie (_Speaks softly_). Sometimes, Captain Hagberd, a hope turns out
Capt. H. (_Uneasy_). What's that got to do with Harry's coming back?
Bessie. It's good to hope for something. But suppose now-------(_Feeling
her way_.) Yours is not the only lost son that's never...
Capt. H. Never what! You don't believe he's drowned. (_Crouches, glaring
and grasping the rails_.)
Bessie (_Frightened, drops knitting_). Captain Hagberd--don't. (_Catches
hold of his shoulders over the railings?_) Don't--my God! He's going out
of his mind! (_Cries_.) I didn't mean it! I don't know.
Capt. H. (_Has backed away. An affected burst of laughter_). What
nonsense. None of us Hagberds belonged to the sea. All farmers for
hundreds of years, (_fraternal and cunning?_) Don't alarm yourself, my
dear. The sea can't get us. Look at me! I didn't get drowned. Moreover,
Harry ain't a sailor at all. And if he isn't a sailor, he's bound to
Bessie (_Has been facing him; murmurs_). No. I give it up. He scares me.
(_Aloud, sharply_.) Then I would give up that advertising in the papers.
Capt. H. (_Surprised and puzzled_). Why, my dear? Everybody does it. His
poor mother and I have been advertising for years and years. But she was
an impatient woman. She died.
Bessie. If your son's coming, as--as you say--what's the good of that
expense? You had better spend that half-crown on yourself. I believe you
don't eat enough.
Capt. H. (_Confused_). But it's the right thing to do. Look at the
Sunday papers. Missing relatives on top page--all proper. (_Looks
Bessie (_Tartly_). Ah, well! I declare I don't know what you live on.
Capt. H. Are you getting impatient, my dear? Don't get impatient--like
my poor wife. If she'd only been patient she'd be here. Waiting. Only
one day more. (_Pleadingly_.) Don't be impatient, my dear.
Bessie. I've no patience with you sometimes.
Capt. H. (_Flash of lucidity_). Why? What's the matter? (_Sympathetic_.)
You're tired out, my dear, that's what it is.
Bessie. Yes, I am. Day after day. (_Stands listless, arms hanging
Capt. H. (_Timidly_). House dull?
Bessie (_Apathetic_). Yes.
Capt. H. (_As before_). H'm. Wash, cook, scrub. Hey?
Bessie (_As before_). Yes.
Capt. H. (_Pointing stealthily at the sleeping Carvil_). Heavy?
Bessie. (_In a dead voice_). Like a millstone.
Capt. H. (_Burst of indignation_). Why don't that extravagant fellow get
you a servant?
Bessie. I don't know.
Capt. H. (_Cheerily_). Wait till Harry comes home. He'll get you one.
Bessie (_Almost hysterical; laughs_). Why, Captain Hagberd, perhaps your
son won't even want to look at me--when he comes home.
Capt. H. (_In a great voice_). What! (_Quite low_.) The boy wouldn't
dare. (_Rising choler_.) Wouldn't dare to refuse the only sensible girl
for miles around. That stubborn jackanapes refuse to marry a girl like
you! (_Walks about in a fury_.) You trust me, my dear, my dear, my dear.
I'll make him. I'll--I'll -------- (_Splutters_.) Cut him off with a
Bessie. Hush! (_Severe_.) You mustn't talk like that. What's this? More
of your tantrums?
Capt. H. (_Quite humble_). No, no--this isn't my tantrums--when I don't
feel quite well in my head. Only I can't stand this... I've grown as
fond of you as if you'd been the wife of my Harry already.
And to be told-------- (_Cant restrain himself; shouts_.)
Bessie. Sh--------! Don't you worry! (_Wearily_.)
I must give that up too, I suppose. (_Aloud_.) I didn't mean it, Captain
Capt. H. It's as if I were to have two children to-morrow. My son
Harry--and the only sensible girl--------. Why, my dear, I couldn't get
on without you. We two are reasonable together. The rest of the
people in this town are crazy. The way they stare at you. And the
grins--they're all on the grin. It makes me dislike to go
out. (_Bewildered_.) It seems as if there was something wrong
about--somewhere. My dear, is there anything wrong--you who are
Bessie (_Soothingly tender_). No, no, Captain Hagberd. There is nothing
wrong about you anywhere.
Carvil (_Lying back_). Bessie! (_Sits up_.) Get my hat, Bessie....
Bessie, my hat.... Bessie.... Bessie. ...
(_At the first sound Bessie picks up and puts away her knitting. She
walks towards him, picks up hat, puts it on his head_).
Bessie, my... (_Hat on head; shouting stops_.) Bessie. (_Quietly_). Will
you go in, now? Carvil. Help me up. Steady. I'm dizzy. It's the thundery
weather. An autumn thunderstorm means a bad gale. Very fierce--and
sudden. There will be shipwrecks to-night on our coast.
(_Exit Bessie and Carvil through door of their cottage. It has fallen
Capt. H. (_Picks up spade_). Extravagant fellow! And all this town is
mad--perfectly mad. I found them out years ago. Thank God they don't
come this way staring and grinning. I can't bear them. I'll never go
again into that High Street. (_Agitated_.) Never, never, never. Won't
need to after to-morrow. Never! (_Flings down spade in passion_.)
(_While Hagberd speaks, the bow window of the Carvils is lit up, and
Bessie is seen settling her father in a big armchair. Pulls down blind.
Enter Lamplighter. Capt. H. picks up the spade and leans forward on it
with both hands; very still, watching him light the lamp_.)
Lamplighter (_Jocular_). There! You will be able to dig by lamplight if
the fancy takes you.
(_Exit Lamplighter to back_.)
Capt. H. (_Disgusted_). Ough! The people here. . . (_Shudders_.)
Lamplighter's Voice (_Heard loudly beyond the cottages_). Yes, that's
(_Enter Harry from back_.)
(_Capt. H. Harry. Later Bessie_).
Harry Hagberd (_thirty-one, tall, broad shoulders, shaven face, small
moustache. Blue serge suit. Coat open. Grey flannel shirt without
collar and tie. No waistcoat. Belt with buckle. Black, soft felt hat,
wide-brimmed, worn crushed in the crown and a little on one side. Good
nature, recklessness, some swagger in the bearing. Assured, deliberate
walk with a heavy tread. Slight roll in the gait. Walks down. Stops,
hands in pockets. Looks about. Speaks_.) This must be it. Can't see
anything beyond. There's somebody. (_Walks up to Capt. Hagberd's gate?_)
Can you tell me... (_Manner changes. Leans elbow on gate?_) Why, you
must be Capt. Hagberd himself.
Capt. H. (_In garden, both hands on spade, peering, startled_). Yes, I
Harry (_Slowly_). You've been advertising in the papers for your son, I
Capt. H. (_Off his guard, nervous_). Yes. My only boy Harry. He's coming
home to-morrow. (_Mumbles_.) For a permanent stay.
Harry (_Surprised_). The devil he is! (_Change of tone?_) My word!
You've grown a beard like Father Christmas himself.
Capt. H. (_Impressively_). Go your way. (_Waves one hand loftily?_)
What's that to you. Go your way. (_Agitated?_) Go your way.
Harry. There, there. I am not trespassing in the street--where I
stand--am I? Tell you what, I fancy there's something wrong about your
news. Suppose you let me come in--for a quiet chat, you know.
Capt. H. (_Horrified_). Let you--_you_ come in!
Harry (_Persuasive_). Because I could give you some real information
about your son. The--very--latest--tip. If you care to hear.
Capt. H. (_Explodes_). No! I don't care to hear. (_Begins to pace to
and fro, spade on shoulder. Gesticulating with his other arm_.) Here's
a fellow--a grinning town fellow, who says there's something wrong.
(_Fiercely_.) I have got more information than you're aware of. I have
all the information I want. I have had it for years--for years--for
years--enough to last me till to-morrow! Let you come in, indeed! What
would Harry say?
(_Bessie Carvil appears at cottage door with a white wrap on her head
and stands in her garden trying to see_).
Bessie. What's the matter?
Capt. H. (_Beside himself_). An information fellow. (_Stumbles_.)
Harry (_Putting out arm to steady him, gravely_). Here! Steady a bit!
Seems to me somebody's been trying to get at you. (_Change of tone_.)
Hullo! What's this rig you've got on?... Storm canvas coat, by George!
(_He gives a frig, throaty laugh_.) Well! You _are_ a character!
Capt. H. (_Daunted by the allusion, looks at coat_). I--I wear it
for--for the time being. Till--till--to-morrow. (_Shrinks away, spade in
hand, to door of his cottage_.)
Bessie (Advancing). And what may you want, sir?
Harry (_Turns to Bessie at once; easy manner_). I'd like to know about
this swindle that's going to be sprung on him. I didn't mean to startle
the old man. You see, on my way here I dropped into a barber's to get
a twopenny shave, and they told me there that he was something of a
character. He has been a character all his life.
Bessie (_Wondering_). What swindle?
Capt. H. A grinning fellow! (_Makes sudden dash indoors with the spade.
Door slams. Affected gurgling laugh within_.)
(_Bessie and Harry. Later Capt. H. from window_).
Harry (_After a short silence_). What on earth's upset him so? What's
the meaning of all this fuss? He isn't always like that, is he?
Bessie. I don't know who you are; but I may tell you that his mind has
been troubled for years about an only son who ran away from home--a long
time ago. Everybody knows that here.
Harry (_Thoughtful_). Troubled--for years! (_Suddenly_.) Well, I am the
Bessie (_Steps back_). You! . .. Harry!
Harry (_Amused, dry tone_). Got hold of my name, eh? Been making friends
with the old man?
Bessie (_Distressed_). Yes... I... sometimes. . . (_Rapidly!_) He's our
Harry (_Scornfully_). Owns both them rabbit hutches, does he? Just a
thing he'd be proud of... (_Earnest_.) And now you had better tell me
all about that chap who's coming to-morrow. Know anything of him? I
reckon there's more than one in that little game. Come! Out with it!
(_Chaffing_.) I don't take no... from women.
Bessie (_Bewildered_). Oh! It's so difficult... What had I better do?...
Harry (_Good-humoured_). Make a clean breast of it.
Bessie (_Wildly to herself_). Impossible! (_Starts_.) You don't
understand. I must think--see--try to--I, I must have time. Plenty of
Harry. What for? Come. Two words. And don't be afraid for yourself. I
ain't going to make it a police job. But it's the other fellow that'll
get upset when he least expects it. There'll be some fun when he shows
his mug here to-morrow. (_Snaps fingers_.) I don't care that for the old
man's dollars, but right is right. You shall see me put a head on that
coon, whoever he is.
Bessie (_Wrings hands slightly_). What had I better do? (_Suddenly to
Harry_.) It's you--you yourself that we--that he's waiting for. It's
_you_ who are to come to-morrow.
Harry (_Slowly_). Oh! it's me! (_Perplexed_.) There's something there
I can't understand. I haven't written ahead or anything. It was my chum
who showed me the advertisement with the old boy's address, this very
Bessie (_Anxious_). How can I make it plain to you without... (_Bites
her lip, embarrassed_.) Sometimes he talks so strangely.
Harry (_Expectant_). Does he? What about?
Bessie. Only you. And he will stand no contradicting.
Harry. Stubborn. Eh? The old man hasn't changed much from what I can
remember. (_They stand looking at each other helplessly_.)
Bessie. He's made up his mind you would come back . . . to-morrow.
Harry. I can't hang about here till morning. Got no money to get a bed.
Not a cent. But why won't to-day do?
Bessie. Because you've been too long away.
Harry (_With force_). Look here, they fairly drove me out. Poor mother
nagged at me for being idle, and the old man said he would cut my soul
out of my body rather than let me go to sea.
Bessie (_Murmurs_). He can bear no contradicting.
Harry (_Continuing_). Well, it looked as tho' he would do it too. So
I went. (_Moody_.) It seems to me sometimes I was born to them by a
mistake... in that other rabbit hutch of a house.
Bessie (_A little mocking_). And where do you think you ought to have
been born by rights?
Harry. In the open--upon a beach--on a windy night.
Bessie (_Faintly_). Ah!
Harry. They were characters, both of them, by George! Shall I try the
Bessie. Wait. I must explain to you why it is to-morrow.
Harry. Aye. That you must, or...
(_Window in H.'s cottage runs up_.)
Capt. H.'s Voice (_Above_). A--grinning--information--fellow coming to
worry me in my own garden! What next?
(_Window rumbles down_.)
Bessie. Yes. I must. (_Lays hand on Harry's sleeve_.) Let's get further
off. Nobody ever comes this way after dark.
Harry (_Careless laugh_). Aye. A good road for a walk with a girl.
(_They turn their backs on audience and move up the stage slowly. Close
together. Harry bends his head over Bessie_).
Bessie's Voice (_Beginning eagerly_). People here somehow did not take
kindly to him.
Harry's Voice. Aye. Aye. I understand that.
(_They walk slowly back towards the front_.)
Bessie. He was almost ready to starve himself for your sake.
Harry. And I had to starve more than once for his whim.
Bessie. I'm afraid you've a hard heart. (_Remains thoughtful_.)
Harry. What for? For running away? (_Indignant_.) Why, he wanted to make
a blamed lawyer's clerk of me.
(_From here this scene goes on mainly near and about the street lamp_.)
Bessie (_Rousing herself_). What are you? A sailor?
Harry. Anything you like. (_Proudly_.) Sailor enough to be worth my salt
on board any craft that swims the seas.
Bessie. He will never, never believe it. He mustn't be contradicted.
Harry. Always liked to have his own way. And you've been encouraging
Bessie (_Earnestly_). No!--not in everything--not really!
Harry (_Vexed laugh_). What about that pretty tomorrow notion? I've a
hungry chum in London--waiting for me.
Bessie (_Defending herself_). Why should I make the poor old friendless
man miserable? I thought you were far away. I thought you were dead. I
didn't know but you had never been born. I... I... (_Harry turns to her.
She desperately_.) It was easier to believe it myself. (_Carried away_.)
And after all it's true. It's come to pass. This is the to-morrow we've
been waiting for.
Harry (_Half perfunctorily_). Aye. Anybody can see that your heart is as
soft as your voice.
Bessie (_As if unable to keep back the words_). I didn't think you would
have noticed my voice.
Harry (_Already inattentive_). H'm. Dashed scrape. This is a
queer to-morrow, without any sort of today, as far as I can see.
(_Resolutely_.) I must try the door.
Bessie. Well--try, then.
Harry (_From gate looking over shoulder at Bessie_). He ain't likely to
fly out at me, is he? I would be afraid of laying my hands on him. The
chaps are always telling me I don't know my own strength.
Bessie (_In front_). He's the most harmless creature that ever. ..
Harry. You wouldn't say so if you had seen him walloping me with a hard
leather strap. (_Walking up garden_.) I haven't forgotten it in sixteen
long years. (_Rat-tat-tat twice_.) Hullo, Dad. (_Bessie intensely
expectant. Rat-tat-tat_.) Hullo, Dad--let me in. I am your own Harry.
Straight. Your son Harry come back home--a day too soon.
(_Window above rumbles up_.)
Capt. H. (_Seen leaning out, aiming with spade_). Aha! Bessie
(_Warningly_). Look out, Harry! (_Spade falls_.) Are you hurt? (_Window
rumbles down_.) Harry (_In the distance_). Only grazed my hat.
Bessie. Thank God! (_Intensely_.) What'll he do now?
Harry (_Comes forward, slamming gate behind him_). Just like old times.
Nearly licked the life out of me for wanting to go away, and now I come
back he shies a confounded old shovel at my head. (_Fumes. Laughs a
little_). I wouldn't care, only poor little Ginger--Ginger's my chum
up in London--he will starve while I walk back all the way from here.
(_Faces Bessie blankly_.) I spent my last twopence on a shave. ... Out
of respect for the old man.
Bessie. I think, if you let me, I could manage to talk him round in a
(_A muffled periodical bellowing had been heard faintly for some time_.)
Harry (_On the alert_). What's this? Who's making this row? Hark!
Bessie, Bessie. It's in your house, I believe.
Bessie (_Without stirring, drearily_). It's for me.
Harry (_Discreetly, whispering_). Good voice for a ship's deck in a
squall. Your husband? (_Steps out of lamplight_.)
Bessie. No. My father. He's blind. (_Pause_). I'm not married.
(_Bellowings grow louder_.)
Harry. Oh, I say. What's up? Who's murdering him?
Bessie (_Calmly_). I expect he's finished his tea. (_Bellowing continues
Harry. Hadn't you better see to it? You'll have the whole town coming
out here presently. (_Bessie moves off_.) I say! (_Bessie stops_.)
Couldn't you scare up some bread and butter for me from that tea? I'm
hungry. Had no breakfast.
Bessie (_Starts off at the word "hungry," dropping to the ground the
white woollen shawl_). I won't be a minute. Don't go away.
Harry (_Alone; picks up shawl absently, and, looking at it spread out in
his hands, pronounces slowly_). A--dam'--silly--scrape. (_Pause. Throws
shawl on arm. Strolls up and down. Mutters._) No money to get back.
(_Louder_.) Silly little Ginger'll think I've got hold of the pieces
and given an old shipmate the go by. One good shove--(_Makes motion of
bursting in door with his shoulders_)--would burst that door in--I bet.
(_Looks about_.) I wonder where the nearest bobby is! No. They would
want to bundle me neck and crop into chokey. (_Shudders_.) Perhaps. It
makes me dog sick to think of being locked up. Haven't got the nerve.
Not for prison. (_Leans against lamp-post_.) And not a cent for my fare.
I wonder if that girl now...
Bessie (Coming hastily forward, plate with bread and meat in hand). I
didn't take time to get anything else....
Harry (_Begins to eat_). You're not standing treat to a beggar. My dad
is a rich man--you know.
Bessie (_Plate in hand_). You resemble your father.
Harry. I was the very image of him in face from a boy--(_Eats_)--and
that's about as far as it goes. He was always one of your domestic
characters. He looked sick when he had to go to sea for a fortnight's
trip. (_Laughs_.) He was all for house and home.
Bessie. And you? Have you never wished for a home? (_Goes off with empty
plate and puts it down hastily on Carvil's bench--out of sight_.)
Harry (_Left in front_). Home! If I found myself shut up in what the
old man calls a home, I would kick it down about my ears on the third
day--or else go to bed and die before the week was out. Die in a
Bessie (_Returning; stops and speaks from garden railing_). And where is
it that you would wish to die?
Harry. In the bush, in the sea, on some blamed mountain-top for choice.
No such luck, tho', I suppose.
Bessie (_From distance_). Would that be luck? Harry. Yes! For them that
make the whole world their home.
Bessie (_Comes forward shyly_). The world's a cold home--they say.
Harry (_A little gloomy_). So it is. When a man's done for.
Bessie. You see! (_Taunting_). And a ship's not so very big after all.
Harry. No. But the sea is great. And then what of the ship! You love her
and leave her, Miss--Bessie's your name--isn't it?... I like that name.
Bessie. You like my name! I wonder you remembered it.... That's why, I
Harry (_Slight swagger in voice_). What's the odds! As long as a fellow
has lived. And a voyage isn't a marriage--as we sailors say.
Bessie. So you're not married--(_Movement of Harry_)--to any ship.
Harry (_Soft laugh_). Ship! I've loved and left more of them than I can
remember. I've been nearly everything you can think of but a tinker or
a soldier; I've been a boundary rider; I've sheared sheep and humped my
swag and harpooned a whale; I've rigged ships and skinned dead bullocks
and prospected for gold--and turned my back on more money than the old
man would have scraped together in his whole life.
Bessie (_Thoughtfully_). I could talk him over in a week.. . .
Harry (_Negligently_). I dare say you could. (_Joking_.) I don't know
but what I could make shift to wait if you only promise to talk to
me now and then. I've grown quite fond of your voice. I like a right
Bessie (_Averted head_). Quite fond! (_Sharply_.) Talk! Nonsense! Much
you'd care. (_Businesslike_.) Of course I would have to sometimes....
(_Thoughtful again_.) Yes. In a week--if--if only I knew you would try
to get on with him afterwards.
Harry (_Leaning against lamp-post; growls through his teeth_). More
humouring. Ah! well, no! (_Hums significantly_)
Oh, oh, oh, Rio, . . .
And fare thee well
My bonnie young girl,
We're bound for Rio Grande.
Harry. Why! The chorus of an up-anchor tune. Kiss and go. A deep-water
ship's good-bye.... You are cold. Here's that thing of yours I've
picked up and forgot there on my arm. Turn round a bit. So. (_Wraps her
up--commanding_.) Hold the ends together in front.
Bessie (_Softly_). A week is not so very long.
Harry (_Begins violently_). You think that I-------
(_Stops with sidelong look at her_.) I can't dodge about in ditches and
live on air and water. Can I? I haven't any money--you know.
Bessie. He's been scraping and saving up for years. All he has is for
you, and perhaps...
Harry (_Interrupts_). Yes. If I come to sit on it like a blamed toad in
a hole. Thank you.
Bessie (_Angrily_). What did you come for, then?
Harry (_Promptly_). For five quid--(_Pause_.)--after a jolly good spree.
Bessie (_Scathingly_). You and that--that--chum of yours have been
Harry (_Laughs_). Don't fly out, Miss Bessie--dear. Ginger's not a
bad little chap. Can't take care of himself, tho'. Blind three days.
(_Serious_.) Don't think I am given that way. Nothing and nobody can get
over me unless I like. I can be as steady as a rock.
Bessie (_Murmurs_). Oh! I don't think you are bad.
Harry (_Approvingly_). You're right there. (_Impulsive_.) Ask the girls
all over-------(_Checks himself_.) Ginger, he's long-headed, too, in
his way--mind you. He sees the paper this morning, and says he to me,
'Hallo! Look at that, Harry--loving parent--that's five quid, sure.' So
we scraped all our pockets for the fare....
Bessie (_Unbelieving_). You came here for that.
Harry (_Surprised_). What else would I want here? Five quid isn't much
to ask for--once in sixteen years. (_Through his teeth with a sidelong
look at B._) And now I am ready to go--for my fare.
Bessie (_Clasping her hands_). Whoever heard a man talk like this
before! I can't believe you mean it?
Harry. What? That I would go? You just try and see.
Bessie (_Disregarding him_). Don't you care for anyone? Didn't you ever
want anyone in the world to care for you?
Harry. In the world! (_Boastful_.) There's hardly a place you can go
in the world where you wouldn't find somebody that did care for Harry
Hagberd. (_Pause_.) I'm not of the sort that go about skulking under
Bessie. Somebody--that means a woman.
Harry. Well! And if it did.
Bessie (_Unsteadily_). Oh, I see how it is. You get round them with your
soft speeches, your promises, and then...
Harry (_Violently_). Never!
Bessie (_Startled, steps back_). Ah--you never. . .
Harry (_Calm_). Never yet told a lie to a woman.
Bessie. What lie?
Harry. Why, the lie that comes glib to a man's tongue. None of that for
me. I leave the sneaking off to them soft-spoken chaps you're thinking
of. No! If you love me you take me. And if you take me--why, then, the
capstan-song of deep-water ships is sure to settle it all some fine day.
Bessie (_After a short pause, with effort_). It's like your ships, then.
Harry (_Amused_). Exactly, up to now. Or else I wouldn't be here in a
Bessie (_Assumed indifference_). Perhaps it's because you've never yet
met------- (_Voice fails_.)
Harry (_Negligently_). Maybe. And perhaps never shall.... What's the
odds? It's the looking for a thing.... No matter. I love them all--ships
and women. The scrapes they got me into, and the scrapes they got me out
of--my word! I say, Miss Bessie, what are you thinking of?
Bessie (_Lifts her head_). That you are supposed never to tell a lie.
Harry. Never, eh? You wouldn't be that hard on a chap.
Bessie (_Recklessly_). Never to a woman, I mean.
Harry. Well, no. (_Serious_.) Never anything that matters. (_Aside_.) I
don't seem to get any nearer to my railway fare. (_Leans wearily against
the lamppost with a far-off look. B. looks at him_.)
Bessie. Now what are _you_ thinking of?
Harry (_Turns his head; stares at B_.). Well, I was thinking what a fine
figure of a girl you are.
Bessie (_Looks away a moment_). Is that true, or is it only one of them
that don't matter?
Harry (_Laughing a little_). No! no! That's true. Haven't you ever been
told that before? The men...
Bessie. I hardly speak to a soul from year's end to year's end. Father's
blind. He don't like strangers, and he can't bear to think of me out of
his call. Nobody comes near us much.
Harry (_Absent-minded_). Blind--ah! of course.
Bessie. For years and years . . .
Harry (_Commiserating_). For years and years. In one of them hutches.
You are a good daughter. (_Brightening up_.) A fine girl altogether. You
seem the sort that makes a good chum to a man in a fix. And there's not
a man in this whole town who found you out? I can hardly credit it, Miss
Bessie. (_B. shakes her head_.) Man I said! (_Contemptuous_.) A lot of
tame rabbits in hutches I call them.... (_Breaks off_.) I say, when's
the last train up to London? Can you tell me?
Bessie (_Gazes at him steadily_). What for? You've no money.
Harry. That's just it. (_Leans back against post again_.) Hard luck.
(_Insinuating_.) But there was never a time in all my travels that a
woman of the right sort did not turn up to help me out of a fix. I don't
know why. It's perhaps because they know without telling that I love
them all. (_Playful_.) I've almost fallen in love with you, Miss Bessie.
Bessie (_Unsteady laugh_). Why! How you talk! You haven't even seen my
face properly. (_One step towards H., as if compelled._)
Harry (_Bending forward gallantly_). A little pale. It suits some.
(_Puts out his hand, catches hold of B.'s arm. Draws her to him_.) Let's
see.... Yes, it suits you. (_It's a moment before B. puts up her hands,
palms out, and turns away her head_.)
Bessie (_Whispering_). Don't. (_Struggles a little. Released, stands
Harry. No offence. (_Stands, back to audience, looking at H.'s
Bessie (_Alone in front; faces audience; whispers_). My voice--my
figure--my heart--my face....
(_A silence. B. 's face gradually lights up. Directly H. speaks,
expression of hopeful attention_.)
Harry (_From railings_). The old man seems to have gone to sleep waiting
for that to-morrow of his.
Bessie. Come away. He sleeps very little.
Harry (_Strolls down_). He has taken an everlasting jamming hitch round
the whole business. (_Vexed_.) Cast it loose who may. (_Contemptuous
exclamation_.) To-morrow. Pooh! It'll be just another mad today.
Bessie. It's the brooding over his hope that's done it. People teased
him so. It's his fondness for you that's troubled his mind.
Harry. Aye. A confounded shovel on the head. The old man had always a
queer way of showing his fondness for me.
Bessie. A hopeful, troubled, expecting old man--left alone--all alone.
Harry (_Lower tone_). Did he ever tell you what mother died of?
Bessie. Yes. (_A little bitter_.) From impatience.
Harry (_Makes a gesture with his arm; speaks vaguely but with feeling_).
I believe you have been very good to my old man....
Bessie (_Tentative_). Wouldn't you try to be a son to him?
Harry (_Angrily_). No contradicting; is that it? You seem to know my dad
pretty well. And so do I. He's dead nuts on having his own way--and I've
been used to have my own too long. It's the deuce of a fix.
Bessie. How could it hurt you not to contradict him for a while--and
perhaps in time you would get used. ..
Harry (_Interrupts sulkily_). I ain't accustomed to knuckle under.
There's a pair of us. Hagberd's both. I ought to be thinking of my
Bessie (_Earnestly_). Why? There's no need. Let us get away up the road
Harry (_Through his teeth_). And no money for the fare. (_Looks up_.)
Sky's come overcast. Black, too. It'll be a wild, windy night... to walk
the high road on. But I and wild nights are old friends wherever the
free wind blows.
Bessie (_Entreating_). No need. No need. (_Looks apprehensively at
Hagberd's cottage. Takes a couple of steps up as if to draw Harry
further off. Harry follows. Both stop_.)
Harry (_After waiting_). What about this tomorrow whim?
Bessie. Leave that to me. Of course all his fancies are not mad. They
aren't. (_Pause_.) Most people in this town would think what he had
set his mind on quite sensible. If he ever talks to you of it, don't
contradict him. It would--it would be dangerous.
Harry (_Surprised_). What would he do?
Bessie. He would--I don't know--something rash.
Harry (_Startled_). To himself?
Bessie. No. It'd be against you--I fear.
Harry (_Sullen_). Let him.
Bessie. Never. Don't quarrel. But perhaps he won't even try to talk to
you of it. (_Thinking aloud_.) Who knows what I can do with him in a
week! I can, I can, I can--I must.
Harry. Come--what's this sensible notion of his that I mustn't quarrel
Bessie (_Turns to Harry, calm, forcible_). If I make him once see that
you've come back, he will be as sane as you or I. All his mad notions
will be gone. But that other is quite sensible. And you mustn't quarrel
(_Moves up to back of stage. Harry follows a little behind, away from
Harry's Voice (_Calm_). Let's hear what it is.
(_Voices cease. Action visible as before. Harry steps back and walks
hastily down. Bessie at his elbow, follows with her hands clasped?_)
(_Loud burst of voice._)
Harry (_Raving to and fro_). No! Expects me--a home. Who wants his
home?... What I want is hard work, or an all-fired racket, or more room
than there is in the whole of England. Expects me! A man like me--for
his rotten money--there ain't enough money in the world to turn me into
a blamed tame rabbit in a hutch. (_He stops suddenly before Bessie, arms
crossed on breast. Violently_.) Don't you see it?
Bessie (_Terrified, stammering faintly_). Yes. Yes. Don't look at me
like this. (_Sudden scream_.) Don't quarrel with him. He's mad!
Harry (_Headlong utterance_). Mad! Not he. He likes his own way. Tie me
up by the neck here. Here! Ha! Ha! Ha! (_Louder_.) And the whole
world is not a bit too big for me to spread my elbows in, I can tell
you--what's your name--Bessie. (_Rising scorn_). Marry! Wants me to
marry and settle.... (_Scathingly_.) And as likely as not he has looked
out the girl too--dash my soul. Talked to you about it--did he? And do
you happen to know the Judy--may I ask?
(_Window in Hagberd's cottage runs up. They start and stand still_.)
Capt. H. (_Above, begins slowly_). A grinning information fellow from a
crazy town. (_Voice changes_.) Bessie, I see you. . . .
Bessie (_Shrill_). Captain Hagberd! Say nothing. You don't understand.
For heaven's sake don't.
Capt. H. Send him away this minute, or I will tell Harry. They know
nothing of Harry in this crazy town. Harry's coming home to-morrow. Do
you hear? One day more!
Harry (_Mutters_). Well!--he _is_ a character.
Capt. H. (_Chuckles softly_). Never you fear! The boy shall marry
you. (_Sudden anger_.) He'll have to. I'll make him. Or, if
not--(_Furious_)--I'll cut him off with a shilling, and leave everything
to you. Jackanapes! Let him starve!
(_Window rumbles down_.)
Harry (_Slowly_). So it's you--the girl. It's you! Now I begin to
see.... By heavens, you have a heart as soft as your woman's voice.
Bessie (_Half averted, face in hands_). You see! Don't come near me.
Harry (_Makes a step towards her_). I must have another look at your
Bessie (_Turns unexpectedly and pushes him with both hands; Harry
staggers back and stands still; Bessie, fiercely_). Go away.
Harry (_Watching her_). Directly. But women always had to get me out of
my scrapes. I am a beggar now, and you must help me out of my scrape.
Bessie (_Who at the word "beggar" had begun fumbling in the pocket of
her dress, speaks wildly_). Here it is. Take it. Don't look at me. Don't
speak to me!
Harry (_Swaggers up under the lamp; looks at coin in his palm_).
Half-a-quid. . .. My fare!
Bessie (_Hands clenched_). Why are you still here?
Harry. Well, you _are_ a fine figure of a girl. My word. I've a good
mind to stop--for a week.
Bessie (_Pain and shame_). Oh!.... What are you waiting for? If I had
more money I would give it all, all. I would give everything I have to
make you go--to make you forget you had ever heard my voice and seen my
face. (_Covers face with hands_.)
Harry (_Sombre, watches her_). No fear! I haven't forgotten a single one
of you in the world. Some've given me more than money. No matter. You
can't buy me in--and you can't buy yourself out. . .
(_Strides towards her. Seizes her arms. Short struggle. Bessie gives way.
Hair falls loose. H. kisses her forehead, cheeks, lips, then releases
her. Bessie staggers against railings_.)
(Exit Harry; measured walk without haste)
Bessie (_Staring eyes, hair loose, back against railings; calls out_).
Harry! (_Gathers up her skirts and runs a little way_) Come back, Harry.
(_Staggers forward against lamp-post_) Harry! (_Much lower_) Harry! (_In
a whisper_) Take me with you. (_Begins to laugh, at first faintly, then
(_Window rumbles up, and Capt. H.'s chuckle mingles with Bessie's
laughter, which abruptly stops_.)
Capt. H. (_Goes on chuckling; speaks cautiously_). Is he gone yet, that
information fellow? Do you see him anywhere, my dear?
Bessie (_Low and stammering_). N-no, no! (_Totters away from lamp-post_)
I don't see him.
Capt. H. (_Anxious_). A grinning vagabond, my dear. Good girl. It's you
who drove him away. Good girl.
(_Stage gradually darkens_)
Bessie. Go in; be quiet! You have done harm enough.
Capt. H. (_Alarmed_). Why. Do you hear him yet, my dear?
Bessie (_Sobs, drooping against the railings_). No! No! I don't. I don't
hear him any more.
Capt. H. (_Triumphant_). Now we shall be all right, my dear, till our
Harry comes home to-morrow. (_Affected gurgling laugh_.)
Bessie (_Distracted_). Be quiet. Shut yourself in. You will make me mad.
(_Losing control of herself, repeats with rising infection_) You make me
(_With despair_) There is no to-morrow! (_Sinks to ground near middle
railings. Low sobs_)
(_Stage darkens perceptibly_.)
Capt. H. (_Above, in a voice suddenly dismayed and shrill_).
What! What do you say, my dear? No to-morrow? (_Broken, very feebly_.)
(_Window runs down_)
Carvil (_Heard within, muffled bellowing_). Bessie--Bessie--Bessie--
Bessie------ (_At the first call Bessie springs up and begins to stumble
blindly towards the door. A faint fash of lightnings followed by a very
low rumble of thunder_) You!--Bessie!