Miles Malleson.

Young heaven, & three other plays online

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Ruskin House,
40 Museum Street, W.C.



YOUTH: A Ltmedy\tn three acts.

THE LITTLE ffHITE THOUGHT: A fantastic scrap,

PADDLY POOLS : A little Fair; flaj.

D CO. and BLACK 'ELL: Twt Plajs. Unobtainablt

at f resent.

MAURICE'S OWN IDEA: A little Dream Play. (Ready


Amateur rights reserved by the Author. Application
for performance should be made to Curtis Brown Ltd.,
6 Henrietta Street, Covent Garden, London, W.C.2 ; or,
in the case of America, to Curtis Brown Ltd., 110,112
West 40th Street, New York City.





P. 27

P. 53


P. 85



><5* S54

?a* 'fetra- *-??a fc fej


[LEFT and RIGHT refers to the left and right of the

^ Between one and two o'clock m the morning, two MEN
are keepingwatch m the drawing-room of Aubrey Howe,
which ttands m its own grounds outside a country town m
Surrey. The room is large and well-furnished. A ray of
moonlight breams m through a window L. There are
also French windows, which face the audience, and
which lead on to a slone-paved terrace that runs round
the house. The fireplace is R. The door L. below the
window. The moonlight is the only light in the room.
The two men are FRANK CARTWRIGHT, to whom the
home be/or ; , nd WILLIAM GOODMAN, who is a gueft
in it.

CARTWRIGHT is about thirty-five; well-built^ he hoi
rather clear-cut features, and a hard mouth. Somehow
not the sort of person to whom one would naturally go
when one was in trouble. GOODMAN is much younger,
about twenty-one. He is generally known as Billy. It
suits him much better than Goodman.

When the curtain rises they are seen only as two dim
figures landing by the fireplace. There is a moment's


complete Stillness, then BILLY tiptoes across the room,
pushes open the French-ivindows and looks up and down
the terrace.

When they talk, they do so in subdued tones. There is
an atmosphere of suppressed excitement, for which Bi LLY
it chiefly responsible.

BILLY (Stepping back into the room). There's nothing
there now ! . . . What sport this is ! (He has another
look out.) "Not a mouse stirring" (he adds, his know-
ledge of "Hamlet" being vague)* There's a jolly cold

CARTWRIGHT. Shut the window. . . . No, don't
bolt it ... yet ... just pull it to.

BILLY. It must be nearly the time. When did they
say they saw it?

CARTWRIGHT. About now, I think. Well, I'm
getting tired. They probably imagined it. (He takes a
cigarette from his own case and lights a match which he
takes from the mantelpiece.) Anyhow, if the man's
been about three nights without getting anything,
there's no reason to suppose he should come again.

BILLY (suddenly Slopping en he walks towards the
fire.) What's that? (The/lame of the match m the dark
room lights up F RANK'S/*?^ as he liSlens he evidently
hears something, and blows it out. Another silence as
they liSlen intently.} I thought I heard something.
(Another dead silence.) Got your pistol?

CARTWRIGHT (with rather an apologetic little laugh.)

BILLY. So've I.


CARTWRIGHT. ... It isn't loaded.
BILLY. Mine is.

In the room a clock Strikes One! loud and sudden
m the Stillness. Someivhere m the house another
clock with a different voice then another.
From the night outside can be heard the distant
chime of the town-hall clock.
CARTWRIGHT. Is that one, or half-past?
BILLY (switching on a reading-lamp to see his watch).
Half-past. . . . Hark! there it is again! I swear I
heard something that time.

They both listen. There is a noise.
BILLY (almost bursting with excitement]. There!

CARTWRIGHT (catching some of BILLY'S feeling).
You're quite right. . . . Put that light out!

BILLY does so.
BILLY. There again!

CARTWRIGHT. There's something coming through
the house. Look out ! (On the further side of the room
from the door, they Stand facing it.) It is in the house !
Now how the devil did they get in? Everything was
locked except this.
BILLY. Ssh! Look!

A slowly widenmg Strip of light shows that the
door is opening. It opens very slowly someone
outside is peering into the room. Then a woman's
voice, low and tremulous with fear:
CARTWRIGHT (rather angry at having allowed him-

3 B2


self to be Startled by his sister}. Oh, Alice! I told you
not to come down.

ALICE (advancing hurriedly into the room as soon as
she sees them}. I had to. (She puts down her candle.}
It's there in the garden again. (CARTWRIGHT at once
blows out the candle.} At least, Helen says she saw it.
Behind the bushes near the tennis lawn.

CARTWRIGHT(^*V strong before his sifter* s nervous-
ness}. That's all right. We haven't sat up for nothing.

BILLY (making the mosJ of things to ALICE). Why

ALICE. I don't know. There's something wrong
with its face, somehow. . . . Not like a man's. Dark
like an animal's. (A scornful little laugh from
FRANK.) I can't help it, Frank, it has. Oh, I wish I
hadn't asked you to sit up something terrible'll
happen !

CARTWRIGHT. You go back to your room. You
and Helen are quite safe up there. Fancy coming
down like that! You'll catch your death of cold
and you can't do any good down here.

ALICE. I'm frightened. I can't help it I am!
You haven't seen it! I have. First it lurks among
the bushes, like it is now, and then it walks round the
terrace trying the windows ... at least, it did last

CARTWRIGHT. Very well he'll try this window
find it open then us and that's the last time
you'll be bothered.

ALICE. Why don't you have the police properly?


CARTWRIGHT. Go back to your room, Alice

BILLY. I wish you would, Miss Cartwright, you
can't do any good here . . . really. May I juft see
you back to your room?

ALICE. All right.

BILLY opens the door and she passes out.

BILLY. Back in a moment.


BiLLY/0//0m ALICE, shuttmgthe doer and leaving
CARTWRIGHT alone. He ftands for a moment
listening. He goes cautiously to the French-windows
and satisfies himself that there is nothing imme-
diately outside. Standing in the moonlight, he takes
his revolver from his pocket, and loads it. He slips
it back again into his pocket, and again sJands
listening. The silence is deathly. Going to the table
under the window (L), he takes up a decanter and
glass and holds them up so as to get them into the
moonlight to see what he is doing. Suddenly he flops
dead. His head turns to the window. He has heard
something outside. He puts down what he holds and
shrinks back again ft the wall. Then, taking out his
revolver, he creeps on hands and knees, so a* to avoid
the ray of moonlight from the window (L), round
to the French-windoivs. Then he stands behind
a curtain, so that he cannot be seen from outside.
BILLY comes back he begins speaking at once, his
mind having been temporarily diverted from the
thing outside.


BILLY. By Jove ! Frank your sifter's splendid
FRANK cuts him short with a geslure, and then
whispers across the room.

CARTWRIGHT. Stop where you are !

BILLY does so obliteratinghimself close up againil
the door; he pulls his jacket across the white of hit
shirt-front. A black shadow is throivn on the
middle of the floor. Something is outside the
window (L).

BILLY. God! He's there!

The shadow dodges backwards and forwards, and
then disappears. Whits! the night visitor walks
round the house outside, the two men sJand waiting.
CARTWRIGHT behind the curtains of the French-
windows, BILLY by the door. A FIGURE appears
outside on the terrace. It slops outside the windows
tries them; being unbolted they give at the touch
and swingopen. The ne^v-comer slands undecided,
then cautiously advances a slep into the room and
Stands lislening his head within a few feet of
CARTWRIGHT'S. He has a mask, made clumsily
out of brown paper and siring, over his eyes.
Stealthily he advances further into the room. As
soon as he can, CARTWRIGHT moves out from his
hiding-place and cuts off the retreat. BILLY slops
by the door.

CARTWRiGHT(jW^w/y). That's gotyou, my friend.
TH E FIGURE, with a gasp, turns to the window, to
find his way barred by CARTWRIGHT and a pislol
he cowers into a corner.


CARTWRIGHT (covering him with the pislol). Now
just take that thing off your face, and put your hands
up. (He repeats his command.} Take that thing off
your face, and put your hands up unless you want a
hole in you ! (THE FIGURE seems to pull itself together
;/ Rands up straight, facing FRANK; and then delibe-
rately puts its hands behind its back.) Come along ! No
nonsense! If you don't do what I tell you, I shall
shoot. (THE FIGURE remains perfectly sli//.) I shall
count three, and then I shall shoot! One . . . Two
. . . Three! . . .

FRANK never had any intention of shooting , and
the sound of the "Three!" dies away, and ftill they
are Standing there. Unable to frighten the visitor
into surrender, FRANK is nonplussed. Suddenly
the new-comer speaks. The voice of an educated
man, but low, with intense feeling.
THE MAN. Shoot, goon! Shoot!
BILLY (really rather frightened his firsJ burglar).
I say, why don't you do what you're told?

THE MAN. Why don't you shoot . . . I want you
to. But I'm damned if I can stand waiting like this
... it ... it gets on your nerves.
BILLY. What are you?

THE MAN takes off his mask. He is about thirty
years old. He has revealed the face of one who has
suffered cruelly at the hands of the world, but all
the suffering can't hide its refinement. He speaks
perfeftly good English in a voice that all the bitter-
ness in it cannot make unmusical.


THE MAN. What am I? A thief a common
thief that's what I am. Why didn't you shoot? . . .
I wanted you to. It would have been a way out. I'd
have thanked you for it.

CARTWRIGHT (cold, praftical, and Strong). Stay
quite still where you are. . . . Billy, bolt the windows,
will you? (BILLY does so.) You'd better lock the
door, too. (BILLY locks the door.} Put on the light.
(The eledric switch is by the door, and Billy does that

THE MAN (when this has been done and after a
considerable pause, m quite a different tone; there is
an unexpected twinkle in his voice like a sJar on a
sJormy night). Well? . . . Now what are you going
to do? Send for the police, I suppose? . . . It's a
mile's walk to the police-station, isn't it? ... Are
you on the telephone?

CARTWRIGHT (shortly). No.

THE MAN. That's rather a nuisance. (He talks
half -humorously , but one feels the man is utterly beaten
and hopeless). I say, I'm afraid I'm an awful bother
... It's only just half-past one, isn't it? Such an
awkward time. (CARTWRIGHT is silent. He really
doesn't quite know what to do. The MAN continues.)
It's lucky there are two of you. One of you'll have
to stop with me here while the other goes into the
town. (As if it were a brilliant idea.) Unless we all
three stop here together.

CARTWRIGHT (drily). Suppose you let us make the


THE MAN. That's all right. I'm only talking for
the sake of not keeping quiet. . . . Oh !

A sudden exclamation of paw. He passes a hand
across his eyes, and has to support himself by a
chair to prevent himself from falling. The other
two watch him, half-curiously , half-suspiciously
he is not quite the sort of person they expecled to
catch. He has a Struggle to pull himself together,
and when he has done so, he seems to have forgotten
that he is not alone. All the half-impudent, half-
humorous manner has dropped from him he looks
utterly broken. His eyes wander dully round the
room. They light on the decanter and biscuits on
the side-table.

THE MAN. I say, d'you mind if I had some of
those things? I haven't had anything since . . . some
time the day before yesterday.

CART WRIGHT (his revolver sJill in his hand). Stay
where you are. Billy, you might give him some.

BILLY puts some biscuits on a table before him.
THE MAN. Thanks. (He eats badly in need of
the food.) . . . Could I have some whisky?

CARTWRIGHT. If you'd let us know you were
coming, we'd have got some champagne up for you
and a decent meal.

THE MAN (unconsciously sensible to the rebuff-
rather as if he had been refused a second cup of tea at a
party). I beg your pardon ... I suppose it is rather
rum my asking for things. . . . I'm a thief. It's
difficult to realise, somehow (as if by way of explana-


tion). This is the first time I've been caught. (CART-
WRIGHT motions BILLY to put the whitky before him
whichhedoes.} Thanks, it's kind of you. (He pours out
and drinks some.} I assure you I wanted it. (Then
some more.)

CARTWRIGHT (to BILLY). Look here what are
we going to do? I'd better go down into the town and
fetch somebody up or the other way on, if you like.

BILLY. I don't mind. I'll stay if you like.

THE MAN (having drained his glass). I'll keep
quite quiet.

CARTWRIGHT. I wish you would.

THE MAN chuckles appreciatively Slrongwhuky^
on an empty sJomach and a tired weak body, works

BILLY. Which -is the quickest way? Across the
fields, or the road?

CARTWRIGHT. The fields only you might miss
your way. Perhaps I'd better go?

BILLY. I know the way quite well.


BILLY. Quite.

CARTWRIGHT. Well, I ask you as your host. Will
you go or stay here?

THE MAN. Why don't you toss for it? (His
remark is thrown in so suddenly that they both turn to
him.) I'll lend you some money. (He takes a com from
his pocket and throws it on to the table.) There it is!
A halfpenny the only one I've got in the world!
So let me have it back, won't you?


CARTWRIGHT and BILLY look at one another #
sort 0/"Well, I never!" look between them, and
then by a sort of wireless message, they agree to
carry out the little comedy.

CARTWRIGHT. You're a man of ideas. (He takes
up the com.} Now, Billy . . . Heads you slop tails
you go.

BILLY. Right.

BILLY is on the left of the little table m the centre
of the room. CARTWRIGHT on the right, THE
MAN behind it, swaying gently. CARTWRIGHT
spins the com into the air.

THE MAN. Stop! I've got another idea. I'm in
form. I think it's the whisky. (A very slight slurring
of his words lends colour to the suggesJion.} Let's all
three go down together. You won't be left alone
with me, and you'll be able to keep one another
company on the way home when when our ways
have parted.

CARTWRIGHT. By jove! you're right.
THE MAN. My ideas generally are. That's why
I'm like this. . . . This stuff's getting into my head.
. . . It's on an empty stomach, and I'm a wreck. . . .
I say, would you mind if I sat in a comfortable chair
and smoked a cigarette for a few minutes before we
Aart? I haven't done it for months. . . . You can't
think what a difference it would make.
CARTWRIGHT. Well, I'm damned !
BILLY. You're rather a rum 'un.
THE MAN (a tiredhopelessness in his voice}. Am I ?


CARTWRIGHT. You don't seem to realise what
you are?

THE MAN. Does anyone? . . . What are you?
(IVith a little groan he sinks into an armchair. He looks
up.) I'm afraid I'm keeping you up; but, in a way, it's
your own fault you shouldn't have sat up for me.
(In the chair there is something so pathetic about him
that the good-natured BILLY feels he wants to do some-
thing for him. Fetching a box of cigarettes, he takes them
over to THE MAN, who takes one, smiling up into
BILLY'S face rather like a grateful child.) Thank you.
BILLY fetches a match and lights THE MAN'S
cigarette for him. Their eyes meet for a moment.
THE MAN drops his but BILLY Stands tuatching

CARTWRIGHT (appreciating the boy's kindness, while
laughing at him). Anything else you can do for him ?

BILLY (in a low voice). Poor devil ! It's like a bad

THE MAN. Why should_yo# say that? . . . and it's
not. (He gives himself up gratefully to the luxury of the
cigarette and the armchair. He leans back, stretches,
and crosses his legs but his knee makes its appear-
ance through a great tear in his trousers, so he alters his
position.) It's like a beautiful dream; and I've
dreamed it often until I forgot what it was like. . . .
To be in a decent room again. (Without getting
out of the chair he sits up in it so that he can see round
the room.) God! Decent pictures and a carpet. (His
eye is caught by a particular picture he looks at it,


critically.) I like that one. It's good. I daresay it
doesn't look so well in the daytime, but the light
suits it. . . . It's Maeterlinck like that. (His eyes drop
again and travel slowly back across the rich carpet to his
own torn trousers.) It's taken me ten years to get like
this. This sluff is getting into my head. . . . What a
baby I am.

He reaches out his hand for the decanter. CART-
WRIGHT'S voice breaks m sharply.

CARTWRIGHT. You'd better not have any more.

THE MAN. No. You're right. A thief but not
a drunk thief; you'd have to support me dov/n to the
police-station. We'd walk down there arm in arm.
(He gives a laugh, but it turns to a cough, ^vhich shakes
his whole body he struggles up m the chair and is
brought face to face with a framed picture which stands
on the table.) Cambridge! The Emmanuel Front

BILLY. Yes. (He szvitches on the light on the table.)

THE MAN. I was there. (He slops short.)

BILLY. I say, you know I'm up there now.

THE MAN (with a quick bright interest). Are you?
Is old Squiffy sliill senior tutor there?

BILLY (sitting on the table). Yes.

THE MAN (this time tuith a laugh bubbling with
reminiscences). Is he really? Dear old Squiffy! Are
you a Fresher?

BILLY (a touch of pride in his voice). I'm in my
third year. (THE MAN nods, understanding.)

THE MAN. Next time you see old Squiffy


rememb . . . no, perhaps you'd better not. (Another
noise that mutt be described as a laugh.)

CARTWRIGHT. When you two have done discussing
your 'Varsity careers, we'd better be off.

BILLY. No, Frank, don't there's plenty of time.
(Offering the box to Mr. Dash of Emmanuel.) Have
another cigarette, sir? (At the "sir" of one under-
graduate to another CARTWRIGHT makes a gesture of
despair BILLY notices his unconscious slip as well.)
I mean . . . (He slops awkwardly. THE MAN helps
him out by taking the cigarette immediately, with a
"Thank you.") I say ... it sounds rotten to ask . . .
I mean ... I don't want to be inquisitive, but why
are you here, you know?

THE MAN looks up at BILLY for a moment but
the question does not seem to have sunk in. He looks
away; and his answer, when it comes, has no
apparent connection with the question.
THE MAN. I had rooms in the Old Buildings . . .
BILLY. Looking out over the paddock?

There is a slight pause.

THE MAN. Yes. ... I got back to them one
morning, after a "lekke," and found two letters
waiting for me. (There is another pause.). . . . One
was to ask me to play in the Fresher's cricket, and
the other was to say that my father had losl: all his
money every farthing. (He slops.)
BILLY. Well?

THE MAN. The umpire gave me out, leg before,
and I swear I hit it.


BILLY. But after the match what happened

THE MAN. . . . Then?

Again THE MAN'S eyes go off on a wander round
the room. This time they come to refl on BILLY'S
his gaze moves again and he flares fixedly in
front of him recalling things. Something makes
BILLY Slop his questioning.

THE MAN. I didn't do so badly either. . . . I went
to London and got a job as a clerk on a pound a week.
But I always had ideas, and I used to write, in the
evenings. Magazines used to take them. I made quite
a lot. I wrote a play that was accepted. I've never
been so happy as then. (He flops again.)

BILLY (interefled, coaxing the man to tell more).
What happened then?

THE MAN. A girl I ruined her life.
CARTWRIGHT (who has been pacing the room at the
back by the French-windows, coming down to the top of
the table). I thought so. A man doesn't fall to your
level unless it's through some fault of his own. You've
got to dabble in mud before you dirty yourself.

THE MAN (turning to him, and answering quaintly \
but flill without emotion). No. They rode by in their
motors and splashed me, and then said I was too dirty
to have anything to do with.

CARTWRIGHT (now across at the fireplace). You've
jusl: said you ruined a girl. There's always something
like that drink or immorality.


THE MAN. She wouldn't come to me unless it was
all proper. And we were in love. (With the fir, show
of real feeling.] Something used to tear and clutch at
me every time I thought of her and we couldn't
bear to wait. People who were married, or who didn't
know what we felt, said that was weak and foolish
perhaps they were right. Anyhow, we got married.
(To CARTWRIGHT) That's what ruined her life and
mine . . . (A snort from CARTWRIGHT.) Alone I
might have kept my head above water she would
have been free. There were other men about, and she
was the marrying sort. But the world wouldn't let us
part so it just smashed us together.

CARTWRIGHT. Ridiculous!

THE MAN (Simply}. Yes, isn't it? But then, I
suppose we were ridiculous people there are a few
about. God help them men won't.

CARTWRIGHT. It's all very well to talk you
failures are always full of excuses.

THE MAN. "You failures" . . . (Then, very sud-
denly, he /lares up.} And why am I &f allured Have I
failed so hopelessly in the things I've tried to do. I
made myself a fairly intelligent human being. I
learned to feel and to think. I helped others to feel
and to think. I had ideas. I found I could express them
in writing and I wrote. I learned what Friendship
and what Love meant there's nothing to be par-
ticularly proud of in all this I made mistakes, but I
didn't utterly fail. And why can you stand there
the owner of all this with a curl on your lip, despising


the thing that I've grown to be? Why? Simply
because what I did had no monetary value, that's all !
And you look round and see what people spend their
money on see the slacks of worthless poisonous
stuff they read, see the crowded audiences at the
music-halls, see the pictures they hang on their walls,
see the rotten vulgar songs that become popular and
then sneer at me because I couldn't sell what was in
me. And when they've got money, how do they use
it? London the richest city in the world! Oh, you
come with me and see the filth and the utter degrada-
tion, and the suffering in it and then call me a
failure because I can't "get on" ! The world admits of
no failures that have money. That's the standard of
value and it's the rottenest, cruellest, falsest standard
ever set up ! (The passion m him seems to lift him out of
the chair,} Excuses! If there's to be any talk of
excuses, it's as often your successes in the motors
that do the splashing that should make excuses.

His outburst is over, and he almost falls back into
the chair, with a bitter laugh at himself. BILLY
breaks the silence.

BILLY. What happened to the play?

THE MAN (with a laugh}. It was never produced.
The man who financed the theatre said it had too
many ideas, and people didn't want that sort of thing.
I'd chucked the clerk job when it was accepted, and
relied on my writings, and they began to go wrong.
They got too serious. I couldn't help it it wasn't
for the want of trying to write the damned silly stuff
17 c


people wanted. And with a wife things got harder
and harder, and we went down and down until the

BILLY. The end?

THE MAN (in an absolutely dull toneless voice}. The
Struggle and no decent food, it just wore her out
and them a kid came at least it didn't. (A sudden
burst of feeling as he remembers more disJwcl/y.) A
filthy rotten little room in a Stinking slum and a
doctor there I couldn't afford to pay a sou to and I
watched her die in agony and I've always hated to
see anything suffer. (His hands cover his eyes as if to
shut out the picture. Soon he looks up and continues more
quietly.} Well, that's all done with I thought I'd

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Online LibraryMiles MallesonYoung heaven, & three other plays → online text (page 1 of 6)