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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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

(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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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 - -

_Enter GERALDINE - or JILL_.

JILL. Where's Pin?

OLIVER. Hallo, Jill. Gone off with Dearly Belovéd. 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 Belovéd between them. She's a bit batey this

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. Cavé - 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.

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