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Black 'Ell— a War

Play in One A ct by Miles
Malleson.




FRANK SHAY, Publisher
NEW YORK

1917






BLACK 'ELL



PLAYS OF THE
WASHINGTON SQUARE PLAYERS



TRIFLES . . by Susan Glaspell

In the chatter of two women about seemingly in-
significant things it unfolds to the imagination
the whole story of a domestic tragedy. While
two officers of the law rummage through a cheer-
less farmhouse for evidence to convict a wife
suspected of murdering her husband, the two
horror-stricken women in the kitchen intuitively
divine the pitiful circumstances which have goan-
ed an abused and neglected wife to the commis-
sion of the crime 35

"One would go far to find such a play as 'Trifles.' "
— Heywood Broun.

ANOTHER

WAY OUT . by La'wrence Langner

A clever and rather interesting satire on the new
freedom, as it is being manifested in love and
art. The dialogue is of the sort that plays well
in any hands. Paper covers 35

THE, LAST

STRAW . by Bosworth Crocker

An honest, hard-working victim of circumstances
has been charged with killing a cat caught in a
dumbwaiter, and convicted in a police court. He
"broods" over his disgrace and the taunts of his
neighbors; even his two little sons have been
humiliated at school. The wife tries to console
him, but only brings the matter to a tragic con-
clusion. Paper covers 35

"Mr. Crocker has brought realism from the depths,

as it were, in giving us a truly human little play.

He has a rare gift of touching on life in its simplest

form." — Charles Darnton.

LOVE OF ONE'S

NEIGHBOR . by Leonid Andreyev

A crowd has gathered to watch a man hanging
on a ledge of rock. Their speculations as to how
he got to his unfortunate position, what his feel-
ings were, and how soon he would fall display
the types of tourists and the stupidity of the
police Boards, .50. Paper, .35



BLACK 'ELL

A War Play in One Act
By Miles Malleson



New York: FRANK SHAY
Seventeen West Eighth Street



BLACK 'ELL

was first produced at the Neighborhood
Playhouse, New York, on the evening of
April 2nd, 1917, with the following cast:

Mrs. Gould Hannah Tr^nz

Mr. Gould Bennet S. Tobias

Ethel Frances Goodman

Colonel Fane J. F. Roach

Jean Rose Beatrice Schiff

Margery Willis .' Bella Nodell

Harold Gould William A. Rothschild

Scene: The morning room of the Gould's home; breakfast time.



Copyright 1917, By Frank Shay
First published October 1917



The professional and amateur stage rights on this play are reserved

by the author. Application to produce this play should be made to

CURTIS BROWN. 110 WEST 40th STREET. NEW YORK



BLACK 'ELL



M BOUT nine o'clock on an August morning in 1916, Mr. and Mrs.
ZJ Gould are having breakfast. They have been happily married
•^ "■■ some twenty-five years. Their income is about a thousand a year,
and there is nothing to differentiate their dining-room — or their whole
house, for that matter — from other dining-rooms and houses of the
same class.

Mr. Gould is reading a daily paper propped up against something
on the table. Presently he drains his large coffee-cup and pushes it
across to his wife. She re-fills it, carries it ro'Und to him, and returns
to her place. The breakfast continues. He finishes the bacon and eggs
on his plate. She has been watching, and asks him if he will have any
more. She does that by a little noise — a little upward inflection of in-
quiry and affection. {The affection is unconscious and unobtrusive —
the result of twenty-five years and about nine thousand breakfasts
together.)

The little noise (patches his attention from his paper. He eyes his
own empty plate; he eyes the inviting egg on the dish in front of her,
and grunts. A little downward inflection of assent. He gets his second
helping and the breakfast continues in silence.

Then, quite suddenly, crashing into the silence, a loud double knock
at the front door, followed by a violent ringing. It is as if they had
both been hit unexpectedly.

Mrs. Gould. A telegram !
"^ Mr. Gould. Sounds like it.

{Their eyes meet in anxiety. She rises in the grip of fear.]

Mrs. Gould. Oh, Fred, d'you think it's — can it be that, at last?
Have you looked — the casualty page?

Mr. Gould. Yes, yes, of course I've looked. I always look first
thing — you know that as well as I do.

Mrs. Gould. It wouldn't be there — not till to-morrow. They al-
ways send from the War Office first — by telegram.

Mr. Gould. [Trying to quiet her in a voice that trembles with
anxiety.] Now, mother, mother, we go all through this every time a
simple telegram comes to the house.

Mrs. Gould. [Back in her seat, too frightened to do anything but
just sit there and wait.] It's about him, I feel — I know it's about him.

Mr. Gould. Don't be silly. [He goes up to the window.] There's



'^^'^GOS



6 PLAYS FOR THE MODERN THEATRE

the boy — it's a telp.gr am all right. Why doesn't Ethel answer the door?
Ob, t.he?-c, s'le's taken it :v: [He. comes away from the window. Again
their eyes meet.] Now, mother, there's no need to be anxious — not
the slightest reason to get frightened — not the shghtest. [With a poor
attempt at a laugh to fill in the wait.] What a fuss about a telegram !
[The wait lengthens.] Where is Ethel? I wish the devil people would
use the telephone.

[And even as he eyes it reproachfully, the thing rings. It startles
them both.]

Mr. Gould. [Ungratefully.] Damn it! [Attending to it.] Yes?
Hullo! What's the matter? What is it?
Ethel, the maid, enters.

Ethel. A telegram, sir.

[Mr. Gould doesn't want his wife to open it, hut he is attached to
the telephone.]

Mr. Gould. [Holding out his spare hand for it.] Here, give it to
me. [Ethel giz'es it to him and stands waiting. He continues into
the telephone.] Yes? I can't hear. Who are you?

Mrs. Gould. [Tortured by the delay.] Oh, Fred. Please— finish
talking — and open it.

Mr. Gould. Don't be silly, dear. [Then hastily to the telephone.]
No, no, nothing. No. I wasn't talking to you. Oh — yes — very well,
come round. [He rings off.] It's that WiUis girl. I never can hear
a word she says — she seemed very excited about something — said she
wanted to come round.

Mrs. Gould. It may be about him. Some news in the papers we
haven't seen. Please — please — tell me what's in it.

Mr. Gould. Nothing to do with the boy at all, you bet your hfe —
somebody wants to meet me at the club.

[His hands are trembling and he is having some difficulty in open-
ing it. It comes out upside down. At last he gets it right
and looks at it; but his eyes aren't so good as he always
thinks they are.]
Where are my spectacles?

Mrs. Gould. Oh, Fred !

Mr. Gould. Mother, don't be silly. Ethel, where are my spec-
tacles? I had 'em —

[He gropes on the table. It is Ethel that finds them. Adjusting
them, he reads the message and hands the telegram to his
wife.]

Mrs. Gould, Oh, my dear — father — my dear —
[The tears in her voice overwhelm her words.]
Mr. Gould. There, there, there — mother — now quiet.
Mrs. Gould. Yes.

[Ethel has not left the room; she is standing awkwardly, but
unable to go, by the door.]



BLACK ELL 7

Mr. Gould, Ethel, Master Harold is in England again — it's from
him — he's home on leave — he'll be back with us this morning. That's
all.

Ethel. Yessir. Thank you.

[She goes out. Mr. Gould looks at his wife. When he is quite
sure that she is too occupied with her handkerchief to notice
him, he pulls out his own; and walking to the window, does
his best to efface any signs of weakness.]

Mrs. Gould. It's two hundred and forty-three days since he left
here, and ever since then, every hour almost, he's been in danger — and
now — he'll be standing in this room again. We must telephone to Jean
— she'll come round.

Mr. Gould. Don't we — don't you — want the boy to yourself for
a bit?

Mrs. Gould. He must find everything he wants when he comes
home — and he'll want her. Father, if he's home long enough perhaps
they can get married. I had a talk to her the other day. Dear, dear
Jean — what this'll mean to her. She must be here when he comes.
[She has risen to go to the telephone and notices the breakfast table.]
Dear, aren't you going to finish your breakfast?

Mr. Gould. No. The young rascal's spoilt my appetite. Does he
say what time he's coming?

Mrs. Gould. It says this morning — that's all. [She is at the tele-
phone.] Number 2147 Museum, please. Yes, please. Father, will you
send Ethel to me? [Mr. Gould goes out.] Is that you, Bailey? It's
Mrs. Gould. Would you ask Miss Jean to come round here at once?
She started? Oh! Something to tell us? Well, I suppose she's heard
Master Harold's coming home — she hasn't? Then what is she coming
to tell us? You don't know — yes — well, she ought to be here now if
she's been gone ten minutes — yes. Good-bye, Bailey. [She rings off.
Ethel is in the room.] I wonder what — Margery Willis was excited,
too, father said; and she's coming round. Ethel, what"s the telegram
say exactly? It's on the table.

Ethel. [Reading.] "With you this morning, Harold." That's
all, Mrs. Gould.

Mrs. Gould. Yes. [She puzzles over it for a moment — then.] His
room must be put ready, Ethel.

Ethel. Yes'm, of course.

Mrs. Gould. I'd better come and see about it myself.

Ethel. We can do everything quite well.

Mrs. Gould. I'd hke to do it myself. It seems the same as when
he used to come back from school for the holidays — getting his room
ready — it seems only the other day. I can remember the first time he
ever came back from a boarding-school — quite distinctly I can remem-
ber — he came in at that door and ran across the room with his arms
open — to me there — and jumped right into my arms — and now, the
things he must have been through — and he'll be standing in this room



8 PLAYS FOR THE MODERN THEATRE

again. [A loud ring at the bell.] Oh, there, that's Miss Jean — she's
got something to tell me. Let her in quick.

[Ethel, on her way to the door, glances out of the window and
stops short.]

Ethel. It isn't Miss Jean'm I thought it wasn't her ring.

Mrs. Gould. Not Miss Jean — who is it?

Ethel. It's a soldier'm.

Mrs. Gould. Not — not Master Harold?

Ethel. Oh, no'm. Not him.

Mrs. Gould. Let him in, Ethel — and tell your master.

[Ethel goes out and comes in again, showing in Colonel Fane,
a staff officer at about forty, looking very military and awe-
inspiring in his smart khaki much adorned with red. He is
Mrs. Gould's brother.]

Mrs. Gould. Eric!

Colonel Fane. Well, have you heard?
Mrs. Gould. We've just this minute had the wire.
Colonel. You've had a wire?
Mrs. Gould. Yes.
Colonel. Who from?

Mrs. Gould. Why from him — from Harold.
Colonel. Where from?

Mrs. Gould. From where he landed — at least I suppose so.
Colonel. Let's have a look. [She gives him the telegram.] That
is all you've heard?

Mrs. Gould. All?

Colonel. You haven't heard anything more?

Mrs. Gould. More? Eric, there's nothing — he's not hurt?

Colonel. No — he's not hurt.

Mrs. Gould. Then what more? What is it, Eric, what is it?

Colonel. Nothing but good news — great news.
Mr. Gould comes in.

Mr. Gould. Hullo, Eric! Come round to tell us the news, eh?
You're too late, my boy. We're before you — just had a wire.

Colonel. I was just telling May there isn't everything in that wire.

Mr. Gould. [Collapsing.] Good God! There's nothing the mat-
ter — he's not —

Mrs. Gould. Now don't be silly, father !

Colonel. It's good news for you — great news. You ought to be
the happiest and the proudest people in England to-day. Harold's
coming back to you — and he's coming back a hero — recommended for
gallantry' — it's a D. S. O.



BLACK ELL V

[Mrs. Gould jttst sits down. Mr. Gould walks about. Fast. Up
and down. He is shaking his head; smiling; sniffing violently;
and tears are streaming down his face. Presently he goes and
shakes hands with the Colonel; he pats his wife's arm and
presses her hand in his. Eventually he comes to anchor by the
fireplace. There has been a ring at the bell.]
Mr. Gould. Well — let's — let's hear about it.

Colonel. He retook a section of a trench with a few men. They
say he was magnificent — according to them he must have accounted for
several of the enemy himself. Fine management! — apparently he was
missing —

Mrs. Gould. Missing?

Colonel. Yes — for more than twelve hours — got back at night.
[Jean enters. She is about twenty-two, and the eldest of a large
family. Before she had really mastered the art of^ walking
herself, she was presented with an absurd wriggly little baby
brother, whom she promptly began to look after; and among
three subsequent arrivals she has always been the mother-child
— loving, patient, and efficient. Even now, when her deep eyes
are alight for her lover, there is over her always a beauty of
soft gentleness.]
Jean. [A daily illustrated paper in her hand.] Have you seen? —
There's a picture of him.

Mrs. Gould. [Rising.] Jean, my dear.

Jean. [Going straight into Mrs. Gould's arms.] Oh, Mrs. Gould I
[The arms receive her.]

Mr. Gould. Well, well! Let's have a look. [But his wife does
not take her arms from about the girl, and he has to gain possession
of the paper for himself, from Jean's hand; he bears it off, and
searches to find the picture.] Where is it? Eh? I can't see it. Where
are my spectacles? I had 'em just now — On the table, expect— [It is
the Colonel who finds them.] Now — where are we? Ah I Lieutenant
Gould. Yes. I shouldn't have known him from Adam.
Jean. D'you see what it's headed?

Mr. Gould. Yes. [Which is sandwiched between a gulp and a
sniff.]

Mrs. Gould. What is it headed, father?

Mr. Gould. It's headed — [But he doesn't trust himself.] Dammit,
you read it out, Jean. [He gives his spectacles an entirely unnecessary
polishing.] Don't know what's the matter wih these glasses — can't see
a dam' thing!

Jean. [With the words by heart.] It says "For Distinguished
Services — Another Young Hero."

Mr. Gould. Young scoundrel! [He hands the paper to his wife.]
There it is, mother.

Mrs. Gould. Here's some more underneath. It's very small print.



10 PLAYS FOR THE MODERN THEATRE

[She reads.] "Ridding the world of the Hun. Lieutenant Gould ac-
counts for six of his country's foes. For such magnificent work this
young hero is to be awarded the medal for distinguished service."

[Mr. Gould is looking over his wife's shoulder, and while their
eyes feast upon the paper the Colonel shakes hands with
Jean.]

Colonel. May I offer my best congratulations?

Jean. Thanks.

Colonel. I don't know which is to be envied most — you or he.

Mrs. Gould. [After a great look at the paper.] Yes. I could tell
— and he'll be standing in this room again — Eric, do you know what
time he'll be here?

Colonel. That's one of the things I came round about — I hap-
pened to hear what train his lot's coming up by. If we go down to the
station now, we ought just about to meet it.

Mrs. Gould. [Rising.] Quickly — we mustn't be late.

Colonel. No violent hurry. Start in five minutes in a taxi.

Mrs. Gould. Will he be wearing — it — his medal? [Her voice is
hushed as if she were speaking of something holy.]

Colonel. No, he won't. He may not even know about it.

Mr. Gould. You mean he may get the news from us?

Colonel. It's quite possible.

Mrs. Gould. Father, go and get ready — Jean —

[But into the room like a wind comes another young lady — Mar-
gery Willis. She wears a coat and skirt of khaki, a leather
belt and strap, a Colonial slouch hat — it is some kind of uni-
form. She has made herself as much like the military as pos-
sible, and at once takes command.]

Margery Willis. [She, too, has the illustrated paper.] I say, you
people — Congrats — have you seen? Oh, yes, you've got it — d'you see
what it says — six of 'em. By Jove, wish I'd seen it — it must have been
GREAT. I say, Mrs. Gould, you must be tremendously proud. [She
kisses her; to the Colonel:] How d' — [But she remembers just in
time, and, drawing herself up, salutes.] I say, congrats, Mr. Gould —
and Jean — I say, Jean, it must be rather wonderful for you. Fancy
being loved by a hero.

Jean. Yes.

Margery. [Holding out her hand.] It's awfully difficult to say
what you mean, you know, but — well, by Jove, congrats. [Instead of
shaking hands she kisses Jean.] When's he going to be here? We all
want to come in and cheer.

Mrs. Gould. We're going down to meet him now.
Margery. By Jove ! — wish we could come — can't spare the time,
though — we got a terrific da}^ Making munitions all the morning —
giving a concert — you know, Pierrot show. I'm going to sing "The



BLACK 'ell 11

Arms of the Army" — hot stuff, I can tell you — with Jack as the chorus ;
he does look an ass doing it. There'll be a whole heap of Tommies
there, and this evening the Rector's making up a party, and we're all
going to the Royal Opera House to hear St. John Bullock on "War —
the new Religion." He's fine. Dad used to call him the biggest
scoundrel before the war — but it's wonderful how it's brought all
classes and people together, isn't it? The old Bish is in the chair —
Well, so long — I must go. They're waiting outside. I say, Jean, you
should come along and munish — it's terrific sport making shells — wish
I could be at the station to cheer — we'll all look in some time to-day,
though, you bet ! So long — Six of 'em. [She goes out.]

Mrs. Gould. Come along, father, and get your things on — Eric,
will you get a taxi for us?

Colonel. Certainly.

[He and Mr. Gould go out; as Mrs. Gould is going Jean's voice
stops her.]

Jean. Mrs. Gould.

Mrs, Gould. Yes, dear?

Jean. I don't think I shall come down to the station.

Mrs. Gould. Not come?

Jean. No, I'd rather not. Somehow I — I don't want to meet him
with all the other people about., I don't think I could bear it. Will
you tell him I'm waiting here for him — may I? I'd rather.

Mrs. Gould. Of course you shall.

Jean. [With a quaint little twinkle.] Don't kiss me. I should
start crying.

Mrs. Gould. I know — I'll bring him straight back to you.

Jean. Thank you.

[Mrs. Gould goes out. Jean has not been alone for a moment
when Ethel comes in to clear away the breakfast things.]

Ethel. Oh, I beg your pardon. Miss Jean — I thought you was
gone.

Jean. Come in, Ethel.

Ethel. Shall I be in your way if I clears. Miss?

Jean. Not a bit. [Ethel begins to clear; then presently:]

Ethel. It's fine about Mr. Harold, isn't it?

Jean. Yes.

Ethel. Must be all right for you — wish it was my Tom.

Jean. I didn't know you had any one out there, Ethel.

Ethel. Near twelve months 'e's been out there — my Tom 'as.

Jean. Is he your —

Ethel. Yes. My young man — near twelve months I ain't seen 'm.
[Here thoughts find words in spasmodic sentences as she busies her-
self with the breakfast things.] Twelve months come next Friday



12 PLAYS FOR THE MODERN THEATRE

week, I could do without the 'ro part to get him back for a bit — just
for an evening out with 'im — a sweetheart, two brothers an' a father
at it. I've given my bit to 'em — seems crool, don't it? — all for you-
don't-know-what like.

Jean. They're fighting for you, Ethel, and for me, and for their
Qountry.

Ethel. [A little unresponsive to this — her thoughts are traveling
along their own lines.] Yes — anyow, now they 'ave gam, them wot
stays be'ind don't 'arf make me wild — the shirkers don't — 'oldin'
meetin's, some of 'em. I'd give 'em shirkers — you should 'ear my
brother Bert — 'e's a corporal.

Jean. [With a big enthusiasm and sincerity, though her voice
never loses its gentleness.] Yes — it's a great war for freedom and
liberty.

Ethel. [Again her thoughts have pursued their own way.] Broke
up one of their meetin's, 'e did — 'e and the boys.

Jean. Oh! What was it about?

Ethel. They didn't know rightly what it was about — something
they didn't like — anyow, there wasn't much more of it after they got
in. Australians, they are — the boys — Bert's friends — fine big fellars —
there was a young chap on the platform makin' a speech on somethink
— they pulled 'im orf — and 'is glasses fell orf an' 'e trod on 'em 'isself —
LARF ! ! I thought I should er died.

{She disappears with the loaded tray. Back again, she folds up
the table-cloth and puts it away in a drawer. From where she
is she can see out of the window.]

Ethel. There they go.

Jean. [Hurrying to the window and waving from it.] How long
d'you think they'll be, Ethel?

Ethel. Ought to be back in the 'arf-hour — and then Mr. Harold'll
be here — Coo ! If it were my Tom.

[Jean watches her as she stands in front of her, picturing to her-
self his home-coming. There is a queer little smile on her
lips, a tightening in her throat, and tears are filling her eyes
that do not see what they are looking at. Her voice is uncer-
tain of itself.]
It'll be funny — 'im coming back again — you can't seem to fancy some'ow
— it don't seem as if it 'ud ever really 'appen — 'im coming back again —
near twelve months it's been just thinkin' of 'im all the time — all the
time it 'as — and — Oh ! you know, wantin' 'im.

[The little smile twists itself all wrong; the tears well up, and her
longing finds expression as best it may.]
Oh, I do wish it were 'im coming.

Jean. [Touched and sympathetic and feeling a little helpless.]
Ethel, so do I — I wish it were him coming, too.



BLACK 'ell 13

[Jean's voice recalls the girl back to the room again. She shuts
her eyes very tight to squeeze them dry, she bites her lip very
hard to get the smile back into shape — and she wins.]

Ethel. But 'e ain't — and that's all there is about it.

[She goes to the door. Two large tears have overflowed and
tremble, like two large raindrops, on t^ brinks of her cheeks —
the only tokens of the recent storm.]
Is there anything you want, Miss Jean?

Jean. No, thank you, Ethel. [Ethel turns to go, but Jean feels
that she does watn to try and say something.] Oh, Ethel. [Ethel
faces round again — and Jean hesitates for words.] I —

Ethel. Don't say anything about 'im, please, Miss.

Jean. I don't want anything, thank you.

Ethel. Thank you, Miss.

[And she goes out. Jean selects a book and sits by the fireplace—
her back to the door — half reading, half dreaming. After a
little while of silence, the door opens quietly, and Harold, in
civilian clothes, is standing in the room. The girl has not
heard him come in, and realizing that if he spoke he would
startle her, he stands there, behind her, hesitating and uncer-
tain. At last he speaks, very softly.]

Harold. Jeanie !

[Jean looks quickly up, but does not turn her head. She thinks
her ears are playing her strange tricks, as they have done be-
fore in the night silences. For a moment she listens, and then,
sinking her head between her hands, covers her ears as if she
would shut out the sound. Harold waits where he is. Then,
when her^ears are free again, a little stronger.] It's all right,
Jeanie ; it's me. [She rises and faces him, too utterly surprised
to do anything for the moment, but stare at him.]
Hullo ! [His eyes wander vaguely round the room; his voice, as
vaguely, seems to echo his thoughts.] They've moved the piano— it
used to be over there.

Jean. But I don't understand — how have you got here — and like
that?

Harold. There was a fuss down there at the station— and I left
them— I oughtn't to have done— and came up up a taxi— where's every-
body? — where's mother?

Jean. They've gone down to the station to meet you.

Harold. [Repeating himself.] There was a fuss— I came up in a
taxi — and went up to my room — why have they taken the big picture
of me down from over my bed?

Jean. It's in your mother's room.

Harold. Oh ! I changed my things— I didn't want you to see me
in them —



14 PLAYS FOR THE MODERN THEATRE

Jean. Not want me to see you in them ! Why, Harold ! Harold,
you stupid —

[She advances towards him, ready to move close into his arms and
take him back to her — if he had opened them to receive her.
But he does not. And as, closer to him now, she looks into his
eyes, something in them begins to frighten her.]
This isn't a bit like I expected — your coming home — not a bit.

Harold. Look at me. [It is a command.] Look straight at me.
Jean. Harold !
Harold. You are like her —


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