Project Gutenberg Australia
a treasure-trove of literature
treasure found hidden with no evidence of ownership


Title: Colsulting Room
Author: Malcolm 'Max' Afford
* A Project Gutenberg Australia eBook *
eBook No.: 1203901.txt
Language: English
Date first posted: October 2012
Date most recently updated: October 2012

Produced by: Hamish Darby

Project Gutenberg Australia eBooks are created from printed editions
which are in the public domain in Australia, unless a copyright notice
is included. We do NOT keep any eBooks in compliance with a particular
paper edition.

Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check the
copyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributing this
file.

This eBook is made available at no cost and with almost no restrictions
whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms
of the Project Gutenberg Australia Licence which may be viewed online at
http://gutenberg.net.au/licence.html

To contact Project Gutenberg Australia go to http://gutenberg.net.au

------------------------------------------------------------------------

Title: Colsulting Room
Author: Malcolm 'Max' Afford


*


"Consulting Room"
A Radio Play by Malcolm 'Max' Afford
1948


*


CHARACTERS

CLEM LASCELLES          A poet
CARLA                   his wife
SIR ERNEST BROWN        a famous specialist
MISS GWENNETH EDWARDS   a spinster of fifty
DAVID FARRELL           Miss Gwenneth's fiance
DOCTOR                  young
NURSE
VOICE

*

SOUND EFFECTS REQUIRED

Crashing waves
Approaching train
Ananesthetic Machine
Doorbell
Ominous Chord Music


*


(Fade in wild, tempestuous theme. Cross fade into the crash and beat of
great seas. Establish. Then fade down to complete and absolute silence...A
door opens off mike.)

CLEM (slightly off): Carla...

CARLA (also off): Yes, Clem?

CLEM: This is the place right enough! See--here's the notice!

CARLA (reading): "Consulting Room".

CLEM: Let's go inside...(Fading on) I say, you're worn out.

CARLA (slightly breathless): It was that last steep bit. You're panting
too.

CLEM: You held on to me. All the way up the hill!

CARLA (laughing): What's a husband for darling!

(Pause.)

CLEM: It was lovely coming up.

CARLA: That sunset! Remember it, Clem?

CLEM: Yes...the whole western sky was afire. Dark smoke and flames of
orange and scarlet.

CARLA: And high up...those great distances of pale apple green...Clem...

CLEM: Yes?

CARLA: It was rather a strange sunset, wasn't it?

CLEM: Strange and...rather terrifying.

CARLA: I can't ever remember seeing such a sky before.

CLEM: We've never climbed as high as this before!

CARLA: We've never been able to!

CLEM: It's been a wonderful holiday, hasn't it?

CARLA (slowly): Yes...

CLEM: You don't seem too sure!

CARLA: Oh yes! I am really. But...

CLEM: But what?

CARLA: It's so hard to explain Clem. It's like...like...

CLEM: Yes?

CARLA: Like when you wake first thing on a lovely morning. A blue
morning...with the sun all fresh and golden. And you feel wonderful,
but right back in your mind there's a dim kind of shadow. And...then
you remember...

CLEM: Something unpleasant?

CARLA: Yes.

CLEM: Not this time, darling! We've had three weeks like a dream. Living
in the lap of luxury!

CARLA: It's been awfully expensive, hasn't it?

CLEM (grinning): Ruinous! The Grand Palace Hotel caters only for
millionaires...

CARLA: And crazy people...like us! But it's been worth it, Clem!

CLEM: Our own private suite on the third floor. Our name on a card in the
door. "Mr. and Mrs. Clement Lascelles". Lounge room...bedroom...bathroom...

CARLA (smiling): And what a bathroom! Water in three
temperatures...ice...lukewarm...hot! Automatic hot air driers.

CLEM (smiling): Remember how annoyed you were when you couldn't find any
towels? And you rang for the maid...and she showed you the automatic
drier?

CARLA: I was so embarrassed! And you were a pig, Clem! You just stood
there and laughed.

CLEM: You looked so young...and helpless!

CARLA: I was never so glad to get back to our lounge.

CLEM: Just as well we did! Smokey was kicking up the most unholy
din...scratching at the door...mewing...It's partly your fault, darling...

CARLA: Mine?

CLEM: You've spoilt that cat hopelessly! Now he won't stay on his own for
five minutes!

CARLA: You talk as though he were some ordinary cat!

CLEM: Well...isn't he?

CARLA: Smokey? Certainly not! He's a pure bred Persian with a pedigree as
long as your arm--and a stack of blue ribbons to prove it! I wouldn't be
separated from him for worlds. You know, I was rather scared they
wouldn't let us keep him in the hotel...

CLEM (grinning): A little extra money soon fixed that!

CARLA (half-humorously): You know...sometimes I wonder if it wouldn't
be cheaper to have a child...

CLEM (sharply): Oh, no, it wouldn't!

CARLA (quickly): Of course it wouldn't! I was only joking, darling.
(Slight pause.)

CLEM: I say, Carla...have you noticed? This room hasn't any windows.

CARLA: Strange! From up here, the view must be magnificent!

CLEM: Even better than our lounge. I'm thinking, I can see the window
looking across the water. You...

CLEM: Carla--what is it?

CARLA: I...I don't know...

CLEM: But you're trembling! And you've gone white as a sheet!
Sit down a moment.

CARLA: Yes...I...I think I will.

CLEM: Is it the pain?

CARLA: No.

CLEM (gently): Darling, you don't have to be brave, Not with me...

CARLA: But it isn't, Clem...honestly! I'm all right now.

CLEM: Then...why did you cry out like that?

CARLA: I've told you...I don't know. Unless...

CLEM: Unless what?

CARLA: Remember what I told you about...the shadow?

CLEM: Yes?

CARLA: All this talk about our luxury hotel...living the life of
millionaires...

CLEM (quietly): You're thinking of the cost?

CARLA: Cost? Yes...yes, that was it! Clem...darling...how are we
going to pay for all this?

CLEM: We can pay.

CARLA: But it will take all our money--every penny we've put by! Those
savings...treasured over the past three years...

CLEM: It's going to take it all Carla.

CARLA: Clem...

CLEM (gently): That's how we planned it, Carla...remember? A month
ago...just after you'd...you'd heard the news...from the doctor...

CARLA (softly): Yes...

CLEM: We were in that ghastly little flat looking out on the brick
fields...and we were talking...talking...saying anything to keep our
minds from the truth...

CARLA: And we mentioned dreams.

CLEM: You said dreams couldn't be bought with money. I said they could!
And we agreed to try it. To purchase three weeks in heaven...

CARLA: The Grand Palace Hotel at Edgewater.

CLEM: Luxury! Three years savings spent in three weeks to buy an
experience so magical that it seems hardly real! Until one pays their
staggering bill.

CARLA: Clem...I'm scared...

CLEM: Why? We've lived our dream.

CARLA: I know. And it's been wonderful! But Clem...

CLEM: Well?

CARLA: What...what happens after?

(A deep sonorous dramatic theme. As it fades...)

CLEM: Never mind about the future! It's the present that matters now. And
talking of that, shouldn't there be a nurse here?

CARLA: Perhaps one has to ring? Isn't that a bell-push by the door?

CLEM: Yes...(Fading slightly) It says "Please Ring". (Fading back.)
There now...that should bring some-one.

CARLA (nervous): Clem...

CLEM: Yes?

CARLA: What will I say?

CLEM: Darling...this isn't the first time you've consulted a doctor!

CARLA (bitterly): No...but somehow, each time it gets harder.

(Door opens.)

CLEM (softly): Here's the nurse now...

NURSE (fading in, kind and brusque): Good afternoon.

CARLA: Good afternoon, nurse. I wonder if I could speak to Sir Ernest
Brown?

NURSE (frowning): Sir Ernest? I'll have to see...he's a very busy man.

CARLA: Yes...we know that.

NURSE: Is it...urgent?

CLEM (firmly): Extremely urgent!

NURSE: I see. Tell me...what time was your appointment?

CARLA (taken back): Appointment?

NURSE (a trifle sharply): Naturally! Sir Ernest never sees anyone without
an appointment! (There is a slight awkward pause.) You...have an
appointment, of course?

CARLA (helplessly): I...I don't know. Clem, did you...?

CLEM: I can't remember. Oh, but we must have one!

NURSE: We can soon find out! What is the name?

CARLA: Lascelles.

NURSE: Married?

CARLA (smiling): Oh, yes...Mrs. Clement Lascelles.

NURSE: Address?

CLEM: We're staying at the Grand Palace Hotel.

NURSE (harassed): Really? Now, I'm sure I'd remember an appointment made
from there!

CLEM: Are you the only nurse?

NURSE: Oh, no.

CLEM: Then perhaps it was made with one of the other sisters?

NURSE: If so, it will be in the appointment book.

CLEM: I wonder if you'd be kind enough to look? It's really most
important...

NURSE (fading off): Just wait here a moment...

CARLA: Clem...

CLEM: Yes?

CARLA: How dreadful if he won't see us!

CLEM: But he must! No matter how busy he is! We've got to make that nurse
understand that it's our last hope!

CARLA: Yes.

CLEM: So much has happened in the past few weeks, I'm getting things
rather confused...We did have an appointment didn't we?

CARLA: I'm certain we did!

CLEM: But if you didn't make it...and I'm positive I didn't...

CARLA: No! I remember now...It was made for us! By someone back at the
hotel.

CLEM: But who?

CARLA: It must have been someone we were talking to...down in the
lounge. Old Mrs. Bettinson, perhaps, or that man who owned the department
store. He's terribly rich...and he'd probably know Sir Ernest.

CLEM: But why should he make this appointment? You promised never to
mention to a single soul about--

CARLA: But I haven't! Remember, we agreed we wouldn't even think about it
again. Not for the whole three weeks!

CLEM: That's right.

CARLA (slowly): Then if I haven't told anyone, how could they--

CLEM (sharply): Ssssh!

NURSE: (fading on): Sorry to keep you waiting.

CLEM: Oh, that's all right.

NURSE: I had to find the appointment book. They never will put it in the
same place. But I've brought it with me...Just to be sure.

CARLA: And you've found our appointment?

NURSE: No.

CARLA (surprised): No?

NURSE (briskly): I'm afraid there's been some mistake...some
carelessness. There's no record of a Mrs. Clement Lascelles.

CLEM: But there must be! Otherwise, why are we here?

NURSE: You should know that better than I!

CLEM: Nurse...do you mind...could we see that appointment book?

NURSE: Certainly! (Rustle o f pages.) And here's today's page.

CARLA (suddenly): But there is an entry written here!

NURSE: I'm telling you--it's not yours! Here...read it yourself!

CLEM (reading slowly): "Miss Gwenneth Edwards...aged
fifty--spinster...train accident. Five o'clock."

NURSE: As you see, the rest of the page is blank. That means we're not
expecting anyone else this afternoon.

CARLA (disappointed): Oh dear...I did want to see Sir Ernest so
desperately!

CLEM: And we've come such a long way...

NURSE (with sudden sympathy): I'm sorry. I know just how you feel. And it
is a long way from the Grand Palace Hotel...

CARLA: Yes...

NURSE: And you must have been very eager to get here to walk through all
that rain...

CLEM (sharply): Rain?

NURSE (slowly): I noticed it when I first came in here. Why...you're
both soaked through to the skin!

(From somewhere a sudden wail of wind is heard. On it distant but clear a
man's voice calls frenziedly.)

VOICE (off mike and carried wailing on the wind): Mrs. Lascelles...Mrs.
Lascelles...

CLEM: Carla...Listen!

VOICE (off mike): Try the other way! Mrs. Lascelles...(Fading out on
the wind.) Mrs. Lascelles...

CARLA: It's old Major Perkins from the hotel!

CLEM: Are you sure?

CARLA: Yes...and he sounds frantic! Whatever can he want?

NURSE: Perhaps you'd better go and see.

CARLA: Clem--come with me!

CLEM: No. I want to stay and talk to the nurse. You can call if you need
me.

CARLA (fading): I won't go very far...

NURSE (briskly): Now, Mr. Lascelles, I must ask you to excuse me...

CLEM: Nurse, just a moment.

NURSE (frowning): I'm sorry. But it's five o'clock...and we're
expecting Miss Edwards any moment.

CLEM: But she's not here yet! Before this other patient comes...I've
got to talk to you! You must let me see Sir Ernest!

NURSE: That's quite impossible!

CLEM: For five minutes...three! Just long enough to convince him he
must talk to my wife!

NURSE: Mrs. Lascelles has no appointment...

CLEM (in anguish): To a doctor, does that matter? If a person was
brought in here...dying...in pain...and Sir Ernest could save that
person's life, would he refuse because there was no appointment?

NURSE: That doesn't apply here!

CLEM (desperately): But it does...I tell you it does!

NURSE: Why?

CLEM: Because Carla...my wife is dying! She has a little over...twelve
months...to live!

(Pause.)

CLEM: Well?

NURSE (quietly): Why didn't you tell me this before?

CLEM: Because we agreed...both of us...that we'd never mention it
again! We'd put it right out of our minds...we'd forget it completely
during this holiday. (With faint bitterness.) Three wonderful weeks...with
everything money could buy...

NURSE (very quietly): Except...forgetfulness?

CLEM (staring at her): Then...you know?

NURSE (gently): Not everything.

CLEM: Would it help if I told you?

NURSE: Perhaps.

CLEM: You see...we've been married almost three years. I'd just got out
of the army...It must have been about twelve months later that Carla
first noticed the pains...At first, she didn't worry about them. We
were so happy...we laughed a lot...and there was so much else to
think about...

NURSE: A family?

CLEM (sharply): We have no family! Nor do we want children!

NURSE (noncommittal): No?

CLEM: I'd been through the war, remember--five years of it! Quite early
we decided--Carla and I--that this was no world to bring children into!
And now, thank heavens, we know how right we are!

NURSE (without inflection): Really.

CLEM (softly): Those first two years...I can't tell you how happy we
were! I'm a writer of sorts...and I'd brought out two books of poems.
The critics were...encouraging. Some were kind enough to say I had a
future...(Bitterly.) I wonder what they're thinking now?

NURSE: And your wife?

CLEM: Carla never complained. Only sometimes when we talked of all the
brave plans ahead...sometimes I'd see her face tighten...tighten with
the clawing pain of it! Then I tried to make her tell me...but she
wouldn't. And then...about six months ago...

NURSE (softly): Yes?

CLEM: I saw the change beginning...she was getting thinner...her face
was pale, drawn...she wouldn't eat. And sometimes, in the night, I'd
hear her cry out...and I'd feel her hand damp with sweat...

NURSE: But surely your wife saw a doctor?

CLEM: Not until after we...we'd almost quarrelled about it. I think
Carla...knew. And she was afraid...desperately afraid that in some
way, I'd...blame her...Then came that dark, rainy morning when we saw
the doctor...

NURSE: Yes?

CLEM: I'll never forget his face as he came out of the surgery. It was
even paler than Carla's...because, you see, we'd left it too late.

NURSE: And what was it?

CLEM: Cancer...

(A sudden dramatic chord of music that dies away. In the silence, off
mike, there comes a sudden wild, lost cry from CARLA.)

CARLA: Clem...Clem darling...where are you?

CLEM (alarm): Carla...I'm here! Carla...

CARLA (fading on): Clem...oh Clem...

CLEM (soothing): There, sweetheart...there...It's all right. What was
it?

CARLA (in soft terror): I couldn't find my way back...I was lost...I
thought I'd never find you again. It was all so strange out there...

CLEM: But weren't you with old Perkins?

CARLA: Perkins?

CLEM: Yes...he was calling you...outside. You went to him...

CARLA (slowly): Clem...he wasn't there. He must have followed those men...

CLEM: What men?

CARLA: I couldn't see them. It was so dark outside. No trace of sunset
now, Clem...the sky is like ink. Not even the faintest star shining. I
walked a little way, calling Major Perkins's name. Then I heard voices...

CLEM: Men's voices?

CARLA: Yes.

CLEM: What were they saying?

CARLA: I think they were talking about...us.

CLEM: Us?

CARLA: I couldn't quite catch any words...except I'm certain that every
now and then I heard something that sounded like our name. Oh...and
someone mentioned the Grand Palace Hotel.

CLEM: But what were these men doing?

CARLA: I don't know.

CLEM: Didn't you look?

CARLA: I tried to, Clem. I began to walk through the darkness in the
direction of the voices. But somehow I could never quite catch up with
them. Then suddenly, they just faded away. And I heard the sea...

CLEM: Carla!

CARLA (softly): The sound of waves...great waves crashing on to the
beach. They seemed to be coming nearer...closer...There was the taste
of salt in my mouth...the smell of the sea was all about me. And I was
terrified...more terrified than I'd ever been before in my life.

CLEM: I heard you. It gave me a terrible shock.

CARLA: I was never so thankful in my life to see you there! But
Clem...that sound of waves...

CLEM: Just your imagination, darling. Up here we're miles from
the water.

CARLA (quietly): Yes...Clem, let's go back!

CLEM: Back to the hotel?

CARLA: Yes. There's something...something about this place I can't
understand...Clem, who were those men? Why couldn't I find them? Why
was it suddenly so...black outside?

CLEM: It's night time, sweetheart.

CARLA: Look at your watch!

CLEM: Five o'clock...(Sharply.) But that's crazy! It was five o'clock
when we came in here.

CARLA (slowly): If you listen, you'll find your watch has stopped. At
five o'clock...just like mine.

CLEM: We must have forgotten to wind them.

CARLA: We've never forgotten before!

CLEM: Then we'll find out the right time. We'll ask the nurse--(He
stops.) She's gone! But I was just talking to her!

CARLA: About me?

CLEM: I had to tell her, sweetheart. I had to make her understand how
urgent it was. And she seemed so sympathetic...I'm positive she's gone
for Sir Ernest!

CARLA: But Clem...what if he asks me who sent us?

CLEM: We've got to remember.

CARLA: I've tried...

CLEM: Now, let's sit down and think back...quietly...We shut Smokey in
the kitchen. Then we let ourselves out through the lounge and went down
through the main foyer.

CARLA: Wait a moment! We gave something to the clerk at the desk...a
letter.

CLEM: That's right. A letter with some money and the keys of our rooms.
Then you spoke to old Mrs. Atterbury...

CARLA: She asked me if we'd make up a four of bridge tonight. Somehow
that seemed rather funny...I remember laughing...

CLEM: Then we came out on to the foreshore. Old Major Perkins was
there...said he'd never seen such huge seas running. And then...

CARLA: Yes?

CLEM (slowly): Then we were outside this place, looking at the
sunset...that strange unearthly sunset...

CARLA: But Clem...in between...what happened in between? When we left
the hotel, weren't we going somewhere?

CLEM: Here?

CARLA: It could be. But I have a vague idea that this errand
was...terribly important and...

CLEM: And what?

CARLA (slowly): Terrifying. I remember holding tight to your hand...all
the way...

CLEM: Yes...and the sky was quite clear...except for that bank of
clouds away in the west. There was no rain, Carla.

CARLA (softly): Then...how did we get so wet?

(A long, dramatic chord of music. As it dies away, MISS EDWARDS speaks
off mike. She is a quiet, gentle little woman, but with enormous reserves
of strength.)

MISS EDWARDS: Excuse me...

CLEM (startled): Oh...!

MISS EDWARDS (fading in): I'm sorry to startle you. I knocked, but no one
seemed to hear. Is this the consulting room of Sir Ernest Brown?

CARLA: Yes.

MISS EDWARDS: I think I must have lost my way in the darkness. And to
make matters worse, my watch seems to have stopped. I'm afraid I'm
terribly late for my appointment.

CLEM: You're Miss Edwards!

MISS EDWARDS (shyly): Yes...I...have we met before?

CARLA: No. But we heard all about you from Sir Ernest's nurse.

(Far off, but approaching at great speed, the rush of a speeding train is
heard.)

MISS EDWARDS: How strange! I didn't think she knew anything about me.
This is the first time I've been here and I--(The train is closer now. A
shrill, urgent scream of a whistle is heard. MISS EDWARDS gives a sudden
cry of horror.) Billy! Billy!...get off the line! The train's right
behind you! (Suddenly she screams.) Billy...jump...Oh, my God,
Billy...

(Off mike there comes the harsh grinding of brakes and the pant of a
train brought to a halt. Fade it under following dialogue.)

CLEM (sharply): Miss Edwards...

CARLA: Quick--she's fainting! Clem, help me...

CLEM: Get her on to the couch! Gently now...gently...gently...that's
right...Where's the nurse?

CARLA: She must be just outside! Hurry, darling.

CLEM (fading): Wait here with her...

CARLA: Miss Edwards...

MISS EDWARDS (softly, moaning): A needle...? Thank God! Quickly,
doctor...quickly...Ah...! No more pain now...just numb...and
sleepy...sleepy...

(Her voice dies away in a sigh.)

CARLA (afraid): Miss Edwards...

MISS EDWARDS (unsteadily): I...I...

CARLA: Are you all right?

MISS EDWARDS: Yes...yes...quite all right. I...I'm sorry. For a
moment, I felt quite faint. I must have hurried up that hill.
Silly of me...I keep forgetting I'm no longer a young woman...

CARLA: You...walked up here?

MISS EDWARDS: Of course.

CARLA: But...your injuries...?

MISS EDWARDS (politely puzzled): Injuries? What injuries?

CARLA (slowly): So...you can't remember...either...

(A slow ominous chord of music that rises until it is cut abruptly.)

NURSE (off mike, briskly): Oh, there you are, Miss Edwards!

CARLA: Nurse...

NURSE: (fading on): One patient at a time, Mrs. Lascelles! You know, Miss
Edwards, we've been expecting you for the past half hour!

MISS EDWARDS: I'm sorry, sister.

NURSE (brisk professional cheerfulness): Well, better late than never!
Sir Ernest is waiting for you upstairs.

MISS EDWARDS: Is he...very angry?

NURSE: Sir Ernest? Oh, he never gets angry! Though heaven knows he's
every right to lose his temper sometimes! Now...just sit down a moment...

MISS EDWARDS: But...

NURSE: He's asked me to check over this record. Just as well, I say.
There's been two mistakes already today! Now...name...

MISS EDWARDS: Gwenneth Rosemarie Edwards.

NURSE: Spinster...aged fifty. Engaged in 1917 to a young man...killed
in the First World War...

MISS EDWARDS (softly): His name was David Farrell. He lost his life in
the battle of the Somme...April 3rd, 1918. I have his ring on a little
chain around my throat...I'll show you...(She stops in sudden panic.)
It's gone! I've lost it...David's ring...I've got to find it...I...

NURSE: Here it is.

MISS EDWARDS (trembling): Oh...thank you...thank you...It's all I
have...I...

NURSE (gently firm): It was picked up a few yards from thecrossing by one
of the guards. Now...your profession?

MISS EDWARDS: I...I beg your pardon?

NURSE (sharply): Please, Miss Edwards! Put that ring away and pay
attention! I asked you...your profession?

MISS EDWARDS: After David's death, I became a school teacher. Not that
I'm clever or anything like that. I only taught the...very little ones...

NURSE: And then...?

MISS EDWARDS: My father died. I was left some money...it wasn't much.
But I managed to make a little extra.

NURSE: How?

MISS EDWARDS: As a nurse-maid. And sitting with children at night, while
their parents were out. (With a certain shy pride.) I was a very good
sitter...the children liked me. They cried when I went away.
Sometimes...I...I cried, too...

NURSE (gently): Why?

MISS EDWARDS: I was living on...borrowed happiness. All my life I've
longed and prayed for a child of my own. It was even worse after David
was killed. There was this throbbing, aching pain...all this love and
tenderness, locked up, wasted...

NURSE (very gently): Not...wasted.

MISS' EDWARDS (softly): No...for so many children needed that love. The
helpless ones...so tiny...so fragile. They'd smile up at me...and
I'd know...peace...(Pause.) Nurse...

NURSE: Yes?

MISS EDWARDS: Whoever plans our loves sometimes makes very bad mistakes I
think. Why was David taken?

NURSE: Perhaps that's why you've come here this after-noon...

MISS EDWARDS: Sir Ernest can tell me?

NURSE: If he wishes.

MISS EDWARDS: Do you know?

NURSE. I'm sorry, Miss Edwards. My job is to ask you the questions.

MISS EDWARDS: Forgive me. Please go on.

NURSE (her old brisk manner): Now...this holiday you took two weeks
ago...?

MISS EDWARDS: It was at Greenacres--my first holiday for five years.
During my stay, I met Mrs. Archer--she has the small cottage near the
railway line. And this afternoon...

NURSE (as she pauses): Go on...

MISS EDWARDS: But how strange...! I...I can't remember very dearly. I
think I promised to mind her little boy, Billy. She was going into the
village to make some purchases and...(Sharply.) But what am I doing
here?

NURSE: You can't remember?

MISS EDWARDS (sudden alarm): No...I must get back! I must have been
crazy to come away like this! If anything were to happen to that child...

NURSE (inexorably): The child is safe...thanks to you.

MISS EDWARDS: To me?

NURSE: It is written in this record book...in Sir Ernest's own hand. At
five O'clock this afternoon you took the child for a walk. He ran on
ahead...picking wild flowers. You called. He took no notice. When you
caught up with him, he was playing...on the lines.

MISS EDWARDS: No.

NURSE: It was impossible for the driver to stop the train in time. You
acted in a split second! The child was bruised and shaken as you flung
him clear. Shaken...but unharmed.

MISS EDWARDS (softly): Thank God!

(Muted, fade in slow regular suck of the respiratory apparatus of an
anaesthesia machine.)

MISS EDWARDS: Whatever's that?

NURSE (briskly): No more questions! Sir Ernest musn't be kept waiting. Go
through the door and up the stairs.

MISS EDWARDS (fading): Thank you, nurse.

CARLA: Nurse...

NURSE: Oh, yes, Mrs. Lascelles. I've spoken to Sir Ernest about you. It's
highly irregular, but he's agreed to see you. Not I must go with--

CARLA (urgently): Nurse--wait! There's just one more question...a most
important one...

NURSE: No time now!

CARLA: But you must tell me--you must!

NURSE: What is it you want to know?

CARLA (slowly, almost fearfully): Is...Miss Edwards...dead?

A strong, dramatic musical chord.

NURSE (surprised): Dead? (Lightly.) Good gracious no! If she were
dead...how could she be here?

CARLA: I...I don't know.

NURSE Is that all?

CARLA: Yes.

NURSE: Then I must get along to Sir Ernest...Oh, I almost forgot! He
gave me this letter for you. (Fading.) Now, you must excuse me...

(The soft regular breathing of the anaesthesia machine continues.)

CARLA: That sound...It's so familiar...I've heard it before somewhere...

CLEM (fading in): Carla...

CARLA: Sssh, Clem!

CLEM: What's the matter?

CARLA: That sound of soft, regular breathing...hear it?

CLEM: Yes. They must be operating upstairs.

CARLA: Operating? Of course! It's an anaesthesia machine! During the war,
I did a first aid course...they took us through a hospital and--

CLEM (interrupting): I say, Carla...what's that in your hand?

CARLA: A letter.

CLEM: Let me see. (Sharply.) Carla! Where did you get this?

CARLA: From the nurse. Sir Ernest gave it to her.

CLEM: But...where did he get it?

CARLA: What do you mean?

CLEM: This is our letter! The one we left with the clerk...back at the
hotel! I can feel our keys inside the envelope...Wait a minute. (Rip of
envelope.)

See?

CARLA: There's a note inside! Clem...it's coming back! We wrote a
note...It took us a very long time! Because it was most important. I
remember we began it at least a dozen times...

CLEM: We'll see. (Rustle of paper.)

Yes! It's my handwriting!

CARLA: What does it say?

CLEM: Listen...(He reads slowly.) "To Whom It may Concern..."

CARLA: Yes?

CLEM (reading): "This is the final statement of Clem and Carla Lascelles,
both being completely sound of mind and in full possession of their
faculties. For reasons given below, we have decided on this last grave
and terrible step--"

CARLA (a husky horrified cry of realization): Clem...! Oh, Clem...!

CLEM: Carla...!

CARLA: Now do you remember?

CLEM: Yes...

CARLA: How could we have done such a terrible thing! To take our own
lives! Clem...we must have been mad!

CLEM (gently): No, darling...perhaps we were just...too sane.

CARLA: But if only we'd thought clearly...

CLEM: The world's a very bitter place these days for people who can think
too clearly! Don't you remember? We discussed all this so carefully...
we weighed all the circumstances...the state of the world...your
illness...the hopelessness of it all...and we found it...sadly
wanting.

CARLA (brokenly): No

CLEM: Yes, darling. Then we began it...three weeks of complete
luxury...and then the jump...into the darkness.

CARLA: It was wicked...wicked...

CLEM (gently): Sweetheart, don't tremble so...You were brave
enough...back there...

CARLA: Was I?

CLEM: We planned to do it on the Iast day at the hotel. Then this
morning...those great seas...the biggest waves they'd ever seen!
And you said..."Clem...let's not wait any longer!"

CARLA (suddenly quiet): And...that's why they weren't expecting us!

CLEM: Here?

CARLA: That's why we had no appointment! Don't you see, Clem...we...we
came too soon! Clem, where are we? I'm afraid.

CLEM (softly): Yes...

CARLA: I'm more frightened than I've ever been in my life! Clem...take
my hand...let's go back...quickly! There's the door...

CLEM: Come on!

NURSE (slightly off, very sharply): One moment!

CARLA (terror): Nurse!

NURSE: Where are you going?

CLEM: Back...

NURSE: Oh no you're not! Not after I've gone to all the trouble to
persuade Sir Ernest to see you!

CARLA (entreating): Nurse...please...

NURSE (like steel): You wanted an appointment, didn't you? You begged for
an appointment? Very well! (She calls politely but firmly.) This way, Sir
Ernest! The young couple are waiting!

(Dramatic chord of music. As it fades.)

SIR ERNEST (fading in): Well, well! (His manner is fatherly, brusquely
benevolent.) So this is the pair of youngsters that have caused us so
much trouble! Well? What can I do for you? (Pause. He says, a trifle
testily.) Well, speak up! Don't just stand staring at me!

CLEM: I...I'm sorry, sir. It's only that...

SIR ERNEST: That what?

CLEM: You're not in the least like what we expected...

SIR ERNEST (brusque): And what did you expect? Some one twenty feet high
with a white beard down to their knees? Well, young lady...you were
going to say something?

CARLA: Only...

SIR ERNEST: Only what?

CARLA: One of the reasons I stared so hard when you came in was that
you...reminded me very much of someone I knew...

SIR ERNEST: And who was that?

CARLA (simply): My father. He died when I was twelve years old.

SIR ERNEST: Was he a medical man?

CARLA: No. He was a painter...an artist. He used to tell me
the most wonderful stories. And when you came in like
that...smiling...friendly...I thought for a moment, you were
my father and that...

SIR ERNEST (as she pauses): And what?

CARLA (quietly):...that it is true we're both...dead! (Pause.)

CLEM: Are we, Sir Ernest?

SIR ERNEST: I can't answer that question.

CLEM: Why not?

SIR ERNEST: Because I don't know...yet.

CARLA (tremulous): But we...drowned ourselves...

SIR ERNEST: You tried to.

CARLA: Then...someone saved us?

SIR ERNEST: Three young men from the hotel pulled you out of the water.

CLEM: But there wasn't a soul about! We chose the loneliest part of the
rocks...

SIR ERNEST: You forgot Major Perkins...

CLEM: The Major?

SIR ERNEST: When you passed him on the sea-front, he was alarmed by your
strange faces...you both looked so strained...so desperate...After
you disappeared over the rocks, he followed you...

CARLA: Yes...that's right! We heard him calling.

SIR ERNEST: His cries attracted the attention of the other men who were
walking that way. Mr. Lascelles was saved first. It took them some time
to find...the other...

CARLA: But...but if we're not drowned...

CLEM (as she stops, quietly): Sir Ernest...where are we?

SIR ERNEST: In my consulting room.

CLEM: But sir...

SIR ERNEST (gently and kindly): This is my consulting room, Clem. All
kinds of people drift in here--to tell me their troubles--to ask my
advice for what it's worth. Some I can send away...cured. Some require
treatment that I must refer to a...(He pauses for a split second.) more
gifted specialist. (His voice slows.) Others...just come to talk.

CARLA (softly): And what do they find here?

SIR ERNEST (simply): Comfort...understanding...hope.

CLEM (bitterly): Is there any such thing left in this world? SIR ERNEST: I
think so!

CLEM: I'm sorry to disagree with you sir. But we think differently! Look
around you...

SIR ERNEST: I have.

CARLA: To see what, Sir Ernest! A world, wrecked and ravaged by two
terrible wars...hovering on the brink of a third! Starvation in China!
Racial war in Palestine! Capitalism and Communism with a death-grip on
each others' throats. And over all the shadow of ghastly new
weapons...the atom bomb...bacteria rockets--mutilations and slaughter
and death...at the push of a button!

CLEM: And people wonder why we refuse to bring children into a world like
this!

SIR ERNEST (gently): Yet surely people can furnish their own small world
as they might furnish their own room...pleasant occupations...
friends...

CLEM: No longer!

SIR ERNEST: But surely...

CLEM: We believe the essential decencies are drying up in the very hearts
of the people! Even in one's own restricted circle, honesty is sneered
at. Trust and friendship and honour...all swept aside in the cut-throat
struggle for existence! The ruthless competition for money, and power!

SIR ERNEST: So...you decided that you wanted no part of such a world?

CARLA (quietly): No! Nor children to grow up in our image! To suffer as
we have suffered...and to make the decision...we made!

SIR ERNEST (gently): So...you feel this is the sunset of our present
civilization?

CLEM: We are certain of it!

SIR ERNEST: It is only the young who are so certain...like that
southern boy I was talking to so recently.

CARLA: A southerner?

SIR ERNEST: A young aristocrat who had been fighting under General Lee in
the American Civil War. He came from Virginia...had seen his fine old
family home razed to the ground...his mother and brothers die under
General Meade's bullets. Then both his legs were amputated...

CARLA: Oh...!

SIR ERNEST: Young, idealistic, sensitive...he saw nothing but his whole
world crumbling and crashing down. He tried to take his own life. He was
convinced that there was no future nor hope for the future...(His voice
rises, gains majesty and power.) Yet...from that welter of pain and
agony and bloodshed came that great and shining force that men
call...Freedom!

CARLA: But that was in 1862! Yet you said you were talking to this
man...only yesterday!

SIR ERNEST (smiling): Time...as you know it...does not exist here.
You wondered why your watches had stopped. That is because here...the
past, present, and future are as one. It merely means that one can
see...a little further.

CLEM (slowly): So...you could tell this young southerner that hope was
not dead.

SIR ERNEST: Just as I tell you! Every age has its fears, its terrors, its
chaos! It took a great fire to sweep the city of London free from dirt
and pestilence--to build a sweeter, cleaner city! It will be the same
with this sick old world!

CARLA: If only we could be sure of that!

SIR ERNEST (gently): I am sure!

CARLA: How can you be?

SIR ERNEST: The chrysalis, trapped in its dark prison, cannot see forward
to the moment it will emerge on spangled wings of a butterfly! Yet we
know that time is coming--because we have seen it happen every year!

CLEM: But...

SIR ERNEST: And what is for the chrysalis a year is for you a lifetime.
But here, a lifetime can pass like a flash! One thinks in terms, not of
years, but of centuries...(Gently.) And that makes one...very wise...

CLEM: That's all very well, sir! There may be a new world ahead. But
that's no use to us now...in our lifetime! We can't enjoy it!

CARLA: And we can't live in the future!

SIR ERNEST (gently): Your children can...and your children's children...

CLEM: We have no children.

SIR ERNEST: A pity!

CLEM (sharply): Is it a pity to raise children to be maimed and
slaughtered in a third world war?

SIR ERNEST: You talk as though such a war were inevitable.

CARLA: The perils of peace can be just as bad, Sir Ernest! What of
infantile paralysis? What of the unhappy children crippled...deaf
mutes...imbeciles...

SIR ERNEST: All children are not born so.

CLEM: We prefer not to take the risk! There's enough pain and sorrow in
the world now, without adding to it!

SIR ERNEST: But why should such misfortunes happen to you two? You are
both young...strong...healthy...

CLEM (slowly): You don't know so much, after all, Sir Ernest. My wife has
just...twelve months to live. That was one, of the reasons we...we...

SIR ERNEST (with grave sympathy): Is this true?

CARLA: Yes.

SIR ERNEST: What is it?

CARLA (bravely): Cancer.

SIR ERNEST (softly): Oh...

CARLA: You see, Sir Ernest...this is one time that all the talk in the
world...can't help.

SIR ERNEST (briskly): I agree! You need practical advice! Fortunately,
we've got just the right man here!

CLEM: A doctor?

SIR ERNEST: Brilliant man! Only young, but quite a genius in his way!
I'll get him to see you.

CARLA: But can he do me any good?

SIR ERNEST: Certainly! He's discovered a complete and absolute cure for
cancer in every form.

CLEM: You're joking!

SIR ERNEST: No.

CARLA: But...if this doctor had discovered this wonderful cure...why,
the whole world would have heard about him!

SIR ERNEST: Oh, no they wouldn't!

CLEM: Why not?

SIR ERNEST (smiling): You see...he isn't born yet! (Dramatic underlying
chord...Fading.) Wait here...I'll tell him...

CARLA: Not yet born...Then how can he...?

CLEM: It's possible, Carla. If there's no such thing as time here, then
there's no such thing as age...

CARLA: Then the unborn, the living, and the dead are all the same and--

CLEM: Sssh!

DOCTOR (fading in--young, friendly): Good afternoon. Sir Ernest told me
you wanted to see me.

CLEM: Yes, doctor.

DOCTOR: It's the young lady, I believe. Now if you'll just lie down on
that couch. Here! That's right! Now...tell me if you feel any pain
where I press...

CARLA (a gasp): Yes...

DOCTOR: And there?

CARLA: Yes.

DOCTOR: I thought so! Tricky, but by no means hopeless!

CLEM: You mean...there's a chance?

DOCTOR: Every chance in the world! Pity I didn't see you sooner, though.
It would have been much easier six months ago. Still, it's a fairly
common formation.

CLEM (bitterly): Far too common where we come from!

DOCTOR (sombre): Yes...that's a great tragedy! Millions suffering and
dying, I believe?

CARLA: Yes.

DOCTOR: It's incredible how strong a barrier selfishness can be! Take my
case, for example. I have the knowledge and the power to bring comfort
and happiness to all those poor sufferers. But I'm completely helpless!
And all because two very selfish people stand in my way!

CARLA (slowly): Two...people?

DOCTOR: Young couple...like yourselves.

CARLA: And you think they're both...very wicked?

DOCTOR: Not really. It's just that...

CLEM (quietly): That what?

DOCTOR: When I see cases like your wife that other doctors call
incurable...and I know I can heal so easily...naturally I get rather
bitter! But this young couple aren't so bad. They've just got all their
sense of perspective wrong! And the pity of it all is...they both
honestly think they're doing the right thing by standing in my way!

CLEM: Doctor...

DOCTOR: Yes?

CLEM: What happens if this young couple...continue to do this?

DOCTOR (shrugging): There's not much I can do about it. Except wait until
my turn comes round again.

CARLA: And when will that be?

DOCTOR: The next generation. Meanwhile, I must wait on here...and watch
all that pain and agony and suffering...going on perhaps for another
twenty or thirty years!

CLEM (after short pause): This young couple...do you know them?

DOCTOR: No. But Sir Ernest does.

CARLA: And is he very angry?

DOCTOR: Oh, no. Just rather sorry about such a tragic waste of affection.
Because, you see, this couple have a terrific capacity for love and
tenderness...but they'd rather lavish it all on a pet...Particularly
the woman...

CARLA (slowly): What...sort of pet?

DOCTOR: You'll probably laugh when I tell you...It's a cat...a prize
Persian they call "Smokey"...(Slight pause.) But there, I mustn't stand
here gossiping! Just leave all the arrangements about your case in my
hands. (Fading.) By the end of the year, I'll have you completely cured...

CARLA (softly): Clem...

CLEM: Yes, Carla...I'm just beginning to realize that we've made a very
tragic blunder.

CARLA: What can we do?

CLEM: If only we could have one more chance!

CARLA: To go back?

CLEM: Yes! Perhaps we can! We've made a terrible mistake, but it was made
in ignorance...

CARLA: And selfishness, Clem! This might be our punishment! To beg for a
second chance...and be refused, all the time knowing...

CLEM (interrupting): We can only ask!

CARLA: Sir Ernest? He may not listen to us. But there's our...the
doctor! He'd understand!

CLEM: Yes...we've got to find him! Come on...

CARLA: Wait...here's the nurse!

NURSE (fading in): I thought Sir Ernest was here...

CARLA. No...

NURSE: Then where are you going?

CLEM (urgently): Nurse...that young doctor! Which way did he go?

NURSE: I passed him on the stairs...

CLEM: Thanks...(Fading.) Come on, Carla...

SIR ERNEST (off mike): Nurse...

NURSE: Oh, there you are Sir Ernest!

SIR ERNEST (fading on): You wanted to see me?

NURSE: These reports have just come through about the patients. Miss
Edwards's operation is a complete success.

SIR ERNEST: That means we'll be losing her. Anything on the young couple?

NURSE: The young man is recovering.

SIR ERNEST: And the wife?

NURSE (quietly): She died...exactly three minutes ago.

SIR ERNEST: I'm very sorry. They're so...very much in love.

NURSE: We don't arrange these things, Sir Ernest.

SIR ERNEST (sighing): No...Well, I'd better see Miss Edwards. Will you
call her in, nurse?

NURSE (fading): Very good, Sir...

(Off mike, she calls.)

Miss Edwards...would you come in? Sir Ernest would like to see you...

MISS EDWARDS (off mike): Coming nurse...(Slight pause. She fades in.)
Are you going to scold me, Sir Ernest?

SIR ERNEST: Why should I?

MISS EDWARDS: For picking all these beautiful flowers. I've had the most
heavenly morning in your garden. I just couldn't resist taking some of
these blooms...

SIR ERNEST: I'd like you to accept them as a little farewell gift.

MISS EDWARDS (slightly dismay): Farewell...?

SIR ERNEST: Yes...you're got to go back...at once.

MISS EDWARDS: Oh...

SIR ERNEST: Is that so very alarming?

MISS EDWARDS: No. But it's so lovely here. The garden and the
birds...the wide skies...the feeling of peace...contentment.
I've been very happy here.

SIR ERNEST (gently): You can be very happy...back there. You'll find
things rather different now.

MISS EDWARDS: In what Way?

SIR ERNEST: You're a national heroine.

MISS EDWARDS (sharply): I? But how absurd! What have I done?

SIR ERNEST: Risked your life to save another. And the world still has a
good heart, Miss Edwards. It can still respond to self-sacrifice and
heroism. The newspapers and the radio are making quite an event about
your recovery.

MISS EDWARDS (frowning): I'm not interested in that nonsense...

SIR ERNEST (gently): Would you be interested to learn you are to have
your own institution for orphaned children?

MISS EDWARDS (staring): My...own...?

SIR ERNEST: Three wealthy businessmen have already offered financial
support. It is to be called the Edwards Home...and you are to have
complete control.

MISS EDWARDS (in slow, incredulous ecstasy): Sir Ernest...!

SIR ERNEST (smiling): That makes all the difference, doesn't it?

MISS EDWARDS: But it's my dream...! Something I've hoped and prayed
for...and now...Oh...I...I don't know what to say...Sir Ernest...when
can I go?

SIR ERNEST: This very minute, if you wish.

MISS EDWARDS: Oh...

SIR ERNEST: Aren't you going to...wish me goodbye? It will be a long
time before we'll meet again.

MISS EDWARDS (smiling): Goodbye Sir Ernest. And thank you for--

CARLA (fading in--wild with terror): Sir Ernest...! Sir Ernest...Clem!
He's gone...I can't find him!

SIR ERNEST (gently): My dear...

CARLA: We were outside...talking. Suddenly, his voice started to fade!
I looked around...he'd gone...I searched everywhere...calling for
him...he didn't answer...

SIR ERNEST: He'll never answer.

CARLA. Never?

SIR ERNEST (gravely gentle): No voice can carry across the gulf that
separates the living...from the dead.

CARLA (trembling): You mean that...I...I...

SIR ERNEST: Yes.

CARLA (a soft sobbing cry of grief): Oh...

(Pause.)

SIR ERNEST (the grave, stern judge): Are you ready, Miss Edwards...

MISS EDWARDS (distressed): Sir Ernest, wait...

SIR ERNEST: Wait?

MISS EDWARDS: I can't go back right now. There is someone here who needs
my comfort. This poor child...

SIR ERNEST: Very well. (Fading.) I shall wait for you outside.

MISS EDWARDS: (very gently): Oh, my dear...

CARLA: Why did he have to go back? Just as we'd begun to understand...why
did he have to go back?

MISS EDWARDS: In the beginning, it may be hard. But it can be very lovely
here.

CARLA: Not without Clem!

MISS EDWARDS: I know how hard separation can be. I've been in love, too...

CARLA: Then help me! Go to Sir Ernest...make him see...

MISS EDWARDS: There are some things even Sir Ernest cannot do.

CARLA: Then there must be someone! Someone who'll listen to me! Someone
who can give me a second chance...I'll do anything...anything!

MISS EDWARDS (gently): How did you come to be here at all?

CARLA: We were so unhappy...Clem and I. We both did something...something
very wicked. So wicked that now I'm being punished for it.

MISS EDWARDS: No punishment lasts for ever...

CARLA: But it will be too late! That's what I've got to make them
understand! There's only...twelve months...that's all the time I have
left...

MISS EDWARDS: For what?

CARLA: To have my child...

MISS EDWARDS (tender compassion): Oh, my dear...

CARLA: He has the gift of healing...the power to relieve so much pain
and agony! That's why I must get back! Because if I don't...

MISS EDWARDS: Yes?

CARLA: All this suffering must go on...year after year! While he
waits...helpless...because of our self-ishness!

MISS EDWARDS: Selfishness?

CARLA: Mine! Mine and Clem's...I...But we didn't realize what we were
doing! We didn't know! And now...now it's too late!

MISS EDWARDS: No!

CARLA (soft): Miss Edwards...

MISS EDWARDS (firm): You can get back! You must get back!

CARLA: But how?

MISS EDWARDS: Take my place!

CARLA: But you...

MISS EDWARDS: I will stay here! I am old--barren! I can give nothing to
life! But you are young...in your hands is the greatest of all gifts!

CARLA: But Sir Ernest...

MISS EDWARDS: I will see Sir Ernest! He will understand.

CARLA (softly): You say you can give nothing to life...? You are giving
everything! This second chance...

MISS EDWARDS (very gently): Use it well, my dear. Try to make others
understand...back there. If only some of them realize...it will all
be very worthwhile.

CARLA: I will!

MISS EDWARDS: Now...go...quickly. Goodbye, my dear.

CARLA: Goodbye...(Fading.) Clem will be waiting for me--

(Pause.)

SIR ERNEST (slightly off): I thought you might like these roses...

MISS EDWARDS: Sir Ernest...

SIR ERNEST (fading on): They're particularly lovely at this time of the
year...

MISS EDWARDS: Is that all you have to say to me? No reproaches?

SIR ERNEST: Reproaches? What about?

MISS EDWARDS: That young woman...

SIR ERNEST (laughing): Good gracious no! I knew from the beginning that
you'd do this splendid thing!

MISS EDWARDS: You...knew?

SIR ERNEST: Of course! That was why I gave that young couple the silly
letter they left at the hotel! Now everyone will think it was just
another seaside accident.

MISS EDWARDS: Then...why didn't you...?

SIR ERNEST: Give that girl her second chance? I couldn't! You see...that
had to come from one of her own people--someone willing and ready to
sacrifice their own happiness...for strangers...

MISS EDWARDS: I shall find my happiness here.

SIR ERNEST (gently): Yes...I think you will...Tap on door. He calls.
Come in...

(Door opens.)

DAVID (slightly off, young): Gwenneth...

MISS EDWARDS (incredulous happiness): David...! Oh...David...

DAVID (fading on, very gently): Darling, where have you been? I've
waited...so long.

MISS EDWARDS: Oh...my darling...

DAVID: I thought I might find you changed. But you're just as I remember
you...that night we said goodbye on the station...just the same...

MISS EDWARDS: No, David, I'm old...and faded...

DAVID (smiling): Faded? At nineteen? Darling, you're prettier than ever!

MISS EDWARDS (choking): Am...am I, David?

DAVID: Gwenneth...

MISS EDWARDS: Yes?

DAVID: Have you kept my ring?

MISS EDWARDS: Always! See?

DAVID (gently): Give it to me. Now...put out your hand...left hand.
Now...the fourth finger...(very gently.) This is...forever, darling.

MISS EDWARDS: Yes, David. This is...forever...



(Swell theme music...Fade. The End)


THE END



This site is full of FREE ebooks - Project Gutenberg Australia