OLIVER. After Blenheim. It was a summer evening.
GOVERNESS. After Blenheim, by Robert Southey. One of our greatest
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
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. 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
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
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
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
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
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
OLIVER. I say, shut up, Jill. You didn't think I meant it for _you_,
JILL. But there's only you and me on the island.
OLIVER. What about the domestic animals? I suppose _they've_ got to
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?
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
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
[Enter the PIRATE CHIEF.
PIRATE CHIEF (with a flourish). Gentles, your servant. Commodore
Crookshank, at your service. Better known on the Spanish Main as
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
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
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
(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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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. 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
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
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
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,
(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
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
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