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Title: Even the Birds of the Air Author: Musette Morell * A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook * eBook No.: 1600421h.html Language: English Date first posted: March 2016 Most recent update: March 2016 This eBook was produced by: Colin Choat Project Gutenberg of 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.
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Even the Birds of the Air by Musette Morell * CHARACTERS MR. DOVE } (suburban couple) MRS. DOVE } MRS. SPARROW } (gossips) MRS. STARLING } SATIN BOWER BIRD (a worldling, a plutocrat) CUCKOO (a female without reputation) WINNIE WAGTAIL (a coquette) WHITE HAWK (a poet) MRS. BUSH-WREN (a lady of refinement) KENNETH KOALA (a nationalist) ALGIE ANT (a reformist) also: DOCTOR BAT, FREDDY FROG, PERCY PEE-WEE, THE SECOND BOWER BIRD, AND COMPANY * The scene is an Australian garden—in the sun, The birds in the air are having fun, Whilst below them on the lawn, are Mr. and Mrs. Dove, er—making love. Rhythmic cooing of doves. After a while words emerge in same rhythm. DOVES Coota-coota coo! Coota-coota coo! MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you. MRS. DOVE Hub, I love you, too. MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you. MRS. DOVE Hub, I love you, too. MRS STARLING Aaahhh, them doves down there— look, Mrs. Sparrow, a real lovely pair. If at times I feels inclined to doubt bird nature, I'll keep them doves in mind. MRS. SPARROW It does one good to see true affection, when it comes to family life I reckon doves is perfection. Satin Bower Bird laughs from branch above. SATIN Quiss-s-s. MRS STARLING Who was that chirped? MRS. SPARROW Satin Bower Bird, my dear, that cynic mocks all homely things, I fear. MRS. STARLING I hates that Satin Bower Bird—he's coarse. MRS. SPARROW Coarse! I've heard him till his chirp grew hoarse, ranting against respectabilitee. Seems he's up agen all decencee. MRS. STARLING Well, there'll be little of that where he flies out— The philandering gad-about! Who's that with him now? MRS. SPARROW Miss Cuckoo Let her try her egg trick in his bower, then there'll be a cockle-doo. MRS. STARLING So you believe the twitter we heard t-other night? MRS. SPARROW Every bird believes it. She's a scandal—quite. MRS. STARLING They say, Mrs. Sparrow, they say she laid it in the nest and flew away. MRS. SPARROW She did. And she's getting ready for another. Look—don't stir! MRS. STARLING If she drops it in my nest, I'll make fluff of her? MRS. SPARROW Look at her feathers puffed out—all sort of fuzzy. MRS. STARLING And she used to be so slim—Oh, the shameless huzzy! MRS. SPARROW Look at her now, making up to Satin Bower, trying to look like a springtime flower! MRS. STARLING Vain as a peacock! She spread her tail and curtsied then— Oh, don't look at the abandoned hen! MRS. SPARROW No...Just the same, I'd like to know what Satin's whispering to her, though. CUCKOO (Fading in) Oh, Satin, don't whisper in my ear. It tickle-prickles and feels so queer. SATIN Quiss-s-s. Cuckoo, what do you think of love? CUCKOO On a suburban basis à la dove? Horrible—revolting! The sort of pain one would suffer only with softening of the brain. SATIN You have no feminine hankering, I see, after respectabilitee. CUCKOO What is respectability but a cover? SATIN You're not suggesting Mrs. Dove has a lover? CUCKOO I was thinking of him. SATIN Dear me, He'd scarcely have the energy. CUCKOO Oh—I—don't—know, A little bird told me- SATIN What? CUCKOO O so-and-so! Anyway, he's a male. SATIN And how! Peek at him now. (Doves heard again.) Does he never tire of amorous desire? This over-frequent bowing, this reiterant kow-towing, this genuflection without reflection, this téte-à-têting and—inevitable—mating! CUCKOO (Laughs) And. yet I've heard he's a gay old bird. SATIN I hate their marital parade, their exhibitionist facade of dolorous doting, of billing and cooing, reiterated wooing and pre-nuptial gloating! CUCKOO You've called it exhibitionist—window dressing— Supposing it's just that? SATIN Quiss-s-s; now you've got me guessing... CUCKOO Well, look at her! SATIN H'm, she doesn't seem to find him exactly love's young dream. Mrs. Dove heard musing to the accompaniment of her spouse's cooing. MRS. DOVE Coota-coota cob! Coota-coota coo! Being the garden's show couple is a bore. I'd rather be a—a poor outcast birdie, than have a spouse eternally bobbing round me like a mouse. MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you! MRS. DOVE (Irritably) Oh, hub, I love you, too, Hub, I love you, too!... (Sotto) I wish my marriage would go wollop; I'd rather be a— a trollop like that brazen cuckoo, His cooing grows imperative. (Irritably) Oh, hubby, I love you. Hubby, I love you. Their cooing: fade under. SATIN Quiss-s-s! There's no mistaking her—er—gender. CUCKOO Don't let her hear you or you will offend-er. She likes to think she has a boyish figure. SATIN Quiss-s-s! Parts of her couldn't be much bigger... As for him—you've heard some tittle-tat, Cuckoo? CUCKOO Yes. SATIN How does he appeal to you? CUCKOO (Laughs) He's a wowser with an alderman strut. SATIN And you don't suffer wowsers? CUCKOO Anything but! (Sings) When good birds woo, I'd hate to do What they define as "slipping", for—oh! the stew, the great to-do, the bitter rue that would follow on the clipping, And I'd be cautioned that 'twere bad to give to others what they have had. A fig for this poor lover's kiss! SATIN (Warmly). And do all males come under that heading, my sugar plum? CUCKOO No. (Sings) When bad birds woo and bravely sue, then, heigh-ho! to a game of gay endeavour. Sweet sport for two no vows are due, for love is, true, a thing of feeling ever. O the prodigal lover's a generous power, for he's used to spending his life in an hour. My heart for this great lover's kiss. SATIN (Speaks ardently) Quiss-s-s! Your heart for this great lover's kiss! CUCKOO No, Satin, don't be overbold. (Sighs) The only hen your heart will hold is she enshrined in mysteree, that subtle, haunting-taunting she, that long-sought, most elusive one, the ever desired because—unwon. SATIN Quiss-s-s! You are unwon, Cuckoo. Therefore you must be the one—you! Com, kiss me— do! CUCKOO Ah!!!!! (Fade in sound of wings.) Wait, look who's on the wing! SATIN Who? CUCKOO The one who calls the tune to which you sing! MRS. SPARROW (Fading in) Quick, Mrs. Starling, Satin's giving the glad eye. MRS. STARLING To that Cuckoo? MRS. SPARROW Not now. See who's flying by, when she's near there's only one bird in the sky! MRS. STARLING Young Winnie Wagtail! MRS. SPARROW I hear say she uses that tail to wag the males her way. (Wings and chattering chirp of Winnie Wagtail.) CUCKOO Here's your latest glamoron; so I'll skip, old dear. (Flies out.) SATIN Ah, Winnie, sweet chatterbox, at last you're here! WAGTAIL Good chirp, Satin, have you finished your concert yet? SATIN We ran it late to-day, waiting for you, my pet. WAGTAIL I went grubbing with Percy Pee-wee and it kept me late. SATIN Kurr-r! So young Pee-wee now controls my fate? WAGTAIL Is that him whistling over there? SATIN (Quickly) Er—come, let us take the air! (Wings.) It's a lovely day for a fly. Are we going too high? Er—don't stir another wing. Perch—do. You simply must get a bird's-eye view of those turtle-doves below, the eternal domestic show! WAGTAIL (Looking) Oh! SATIN Oh—er—dear me, you'd think they'd seek a little privacee. Love should not be a public matter. They really are exhibitionists...She's fatter than I thought....H'm, 'tis true. WAGTAIL I didn't know you thought about her. SATIN When with you I cannot think—I feel...I do. WAGTAIL I do not understand. Tweet-tweet! SATIN You understand me very well, my sweet. WAGTAIL Too well to take you seriously, I'd say. SATIN But nothing is more serious than play. WAGTAIL Then let's play tipped you last. SATIN Come back—you flit too fast. WAGTAIL Hop!...Hop!...Hop-hop-hop! SATIN Stop!...Stop!...Stop-stop-stop! Gurrr! You lead me a pretty dance, tittuping along the branch. (They perch.) WAGTAIL Satin, I see you're in love with Mrs. Dove...(Giggles.) SATIN Don't twit me, please, mischievous teaze! WAGTAIL And, as you're in love, I hope you won't weep at the latest twitter-cheep. SATIN What is it? WAGTAIL They say she's sweet on Mr. Owl. SATIN That barn-door fowl! WAGTAIL As for Mr. Dove—er—he has an eye for a tail! SATIN Seems he has— he's ogling you! WAGTAIL (Giggles) Yes, look—the bad old male! MRS. DOVE If you could remove your gaze from Wagtail for a minute I've a knotty seed here, you might look in it. MR. DOVE I—I just happened to glance above, I wasn't admiring her, my love. But she has a giddy upright tail! MRS. DOVE A flag she waves at every male! MR. DOVE Was she waving it? MRS. DOVE Not at you. MR. DOVE Of course not. (Sighs) Coota-coota coo. But now you mention it, she has a fine—er—line. MRS. DOVE If you can call skinny fine. MR. DOVE I—I mean she looks a delicate wee thing. MRS. DOVE She is—in her morals; but her wing is strong enough to be flighty. She's a high flyer. Nightly she cherrups with Oswald Owl and Bertrand Bat— What do you think of that? MR. DOVE Er—most reprehensible, no doubt. But how do you know? MRS. DOVE Oh—things leak out! But this seed, this seed, give it a tweak. MR. DOVE Alright, alright, don't snap of my beak. MRS. DOVE The seed is on the ground; not in the air. MR. DOVE I wasn't looking at her, I swear. MRS. DOVE Well, the flock are looking at us, admiring, I presume, the garden's happiest couple. H'm, we're in the boom. See, they're all looking at us; we're creating quite a fuss. MR. DOVE Quick, then, bill and coo—bill and coo. Wifie, I love you! MRS. DOVE Hub, I love you, too! MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you! BOTH Coota-coota coo! (Rapturous cooings to the delight of the gossips.) MRS. SPARROW See him prepare that seed for her, Mrs. Starling? MRS. STARLING He's a real gentlebird if ever there's one—a fair darling. Wish my old bird was like him, that I do. Just listen! MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you! Wifie, I love you! MRS. STARLING And bowing, too! MRS. SPARROW She's a lucky hen to have a bird like him. Such a fine figure, too...stout, but trim. MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you! MRS. DOVE (Panting) Hub, I love you, too! MR. DOVE Don't languish, love, give kiss for kiss. See, we've quite an audience to our bliss. Accelerated cooings. MRS. DOVE (Exhausted) Only one hope sustains me now. Some day he'll be too fat to bow! Coota-coota coo! MRS. STARLING Look, Mrs. Sparrow—mounting the air— that Winnie Wagtail and Satin Bower—they're a giddy pair. Wings. Wagtail whistles coquettishly. SATIN Winnie, seven wing-flaps from this spot is my faery grot. Will you fly into my bower? WAGTAIL Said the spider to the fly. SATIN I'll show you jewels, a flower— WAGTAIL I'm not coming in. SATIN But why? WAGTAIL Ask the wise old owl. Ask any hen— sparrow, ground-lark, tit or wren— they'll tell you and with interest, too. SATIN What's a poor bachelor to do? We're friends, platonic friends—what's wrong with that? WAGTAIL The same old chitter-chat! I wonder if even the sparrow in his course cajoles his lady with "platonic" love till, twittering of twin-souls, his chirp grows hoarse (the while she simpers meekly like a dove!) then suddenly reverts and clubs her flat, springing the cave-bird stuff upon his fat, and affrighted— SATIN yet delighted piece of fluff! (They laugh.) Come in for sip of dew and a little twitter— WAGTAIL No, no, I must flutter-flitter. SATIN Winnie, you missed our concert to-day. To-morrow? WAGTAIL To-morrow I'll be there—I mean what I say. But now it grows late. See, the moon comes peeping. SATIN She's early, the sun isn't even sleeping. Anyway, what's a moon for but to light us to the darkest spot? Come to my bower? WAGTAIL Cheep! SATIN Just for an hour? WAGTAIL Cheep! Certainly not. SATIN Alas, you trust poor me no more than the lily trusts the bee! What are you staring at, sweet flower? WAGTAIL I'm looking at White Hawk. SATIN That poet— he pesters you, I know it. WAGTAIL How high he soars!... Mounting—mounting—mounting till at last he pours his golden dream like rain upon the earth. SATIN Pahl What are dreams worth? He's but a beggar— WAGTAIL A beggar with a wealth of lovely words! (Buzzing of mosquitoes. Cicadas.) Oh, here come the night-flying herds. Now, I must hurry away. SATIN But not to bed. You know what gossips say? When the last day bird's asleep, Winnie Wagtail's still at play. WAGTAIL Pooh! I may pass a few words with Professor Owl— SATIN What have you to say to that fat fowl? WAGTAIL And Doctor Bat— SATIN He's nearly bald as well as fat! WAGTAIL Here is my tree...No, Satin, you mustn't perch. SATIN Don't leave me in the lurch. WAGTAIL There are many more birds in the bush for you! SATIN Hush! A bird in the nest is worth two in the bush! Sweet pretty creature, let me in! WAGTAIL Not by the feathers of my chinny-chin-chin! (She hides in tree.) Adieu, my swain! SATIN Foiled again! (Sings) Well, as for me, la tiddle-ee-dee, I'll gather my rosebuds while I may, No matter how old puritans may storm! For I promise to continue in my dissipated way In spite of all temptation to re-for-or-orm, In spite of all temptation to reform. (Fade in chattering in the dustbowl. Winnie Wagtail heard in distance.) MRS. SPARROW Well, good-chirp, Mrs. Starling, I'm going to bed. MRS. STARLING Good-chirp, Mrs. Sparrow. H'm, just what you said. There's that Winnie Wagtail—she's up half the night. MRS. SPARROW And up to no good...see her give that horse a fright? MRS. STARLING And didja see her pull a hair outa that bull over there? MRS. SPARROW Satin had better guard his handsome tail. She's a caution to any male! (They cackle with laughter.) But these high-flyers get their fall. MRS. STARLING Yes, look at Cuckoo. MRS. SPARROW She escapes it all. We hens nest and brood and breed, but she takes no responsibilitee. MRS. STARLING Did I tell you I saw the wretched hen over by the nest of Mrs. Wren? MRS. SPARROW And Mrs. Wren sitting, too. H'm, she may hatch more than she bargains for. MRS. STARLING Seems no bird's a match for that Cuckoo bit or that Winnie Wagtail. Sue, if we don't go to roost we'll be thought night-birds, too. MRS. SPARROW Oh, just a minute. I got this tit-bit from Mrs. Linnett. Have you heard the latest for jigging up the population? MRS. STARLING No. MRS. SPARROW Artificial insemination! Yes, if you please; it's being practised by the bees. (They screech with laughter.) MRS. STARLING Well, after that tittle, I'm going to sleep. Good-chirp! MRS. SPARROW (Fading) Good-cheep! Wagtail heard calling as she flies in BAT Good evening, Winnie, you're up late! WAGTAIL Good-chirp, Doctor Bat, here's a feather for your pate! (Laughs.) BAT (Sotto) Bless my leathery scalp, this wagtail tit is the most exasperating chit. (Coughs.) WAGTAIL How is your cold? BAT As of old, as of old! WAGTAIL And your dyspepsia? I maintain a balanced diet. WAGTAIL So that's why you can hang upside down? I must try it! (Laughs and flies out. Bat stutters and mutters. Fade in Frog croaking.) WAGTAIL (Flying in) Well, Freddy Frog, what can you see? FROG I see a wagtail who should be asleep in her tree. WAGTAIL I mean can you see Ma Dove at her rendezvous? FROG (Looking) Er, y-yes; here she comes hopping—she's late on it, too. WAGTAIL How is their affair progressing? FROG They quarrel nightly— WAGTAIL Ha-ha! FROG O quite politely, but it's most depressing. WAGTAIL Come and spy on them and have some fun? FROG Nuthin' doing, sticky-beak, it can't be done. WAGTAIL You old Stick-in-the-mud, you!... I know. what I'll do! (Flies out. Owl heard.) WAGTAIL Hi, Professor Owl, good-chirp to you! Haven't you a too-wit, too-woo? OWL I'm not an Englishowl, that hoots "too-wit!" I'm an Australian, so I bark, and if you don't like it— WAGTAIL Oh, yes, I like to hear owls bay... it helps to keep prowling doves away! (Laughs and flies off.) (Owl stammers and yammers.) WAGTAIL (Flying in) Freddy Frog, is she jealous when in love? FROG Who? WAGTAIL Ma Dove. FROG Well, she's a hen, she's a hen! WAGTAIL Good-chirp! I am going back to Owl agen. (Her wings fade out...in again.) (Sweetly) Good-chirp, Professor Owl. OWL (Curtly) Not roosting yet? WAGTAIL (Dissembling tears) Don't peck at me! OWL (Melting) Why—my pretty. pet! I'd no idea I hurt you so. WAGTAIL Didn't you know? OWL Know what? WAGTAIL That I— OWL I? WAGTAIL That I— OWL You? WAGTAIL Like you a—a lot? OWL Why—why—why bless my feather, we must—we must—get together. WAGTAIL But I'm so afraid of that old dove-cat. Here she comes waddling, muttering and twaddling— MRS. DOVE (Hopping in) Such—such impudent back chat! Why, you little chit- You—you fluffy bit? WAGTAIL I'm no fluffier than you were in your day, and would be even now had you your way. MRS. DOVE You nasty little flirt- You—you speck of dirt! WAGTAIL I've heard a too-wit, too-woo about you, too. MRS. DOVE How dare— WAGTAIL I don't care! As for that bouncing mouse you call your spouse— keep him at home— he's too old to be permitted to roam. (Laughs and flies off.) MRS. DOVE Good—good gracious! did you hear that audacious— OWL The chit is young— MRS. DOVE H'm; she's bewitched you, I see. OWL What, me?!!!! MRS. DOVE Can you deny she was here with you on the sly? No doubt she thinks you are mad about her. OWL Well, she'll find I can do without her. Illusions are the jewels of life, and youth has gems of rainbow hew for decking truth. But time will teach her that all my love is given to you, dear Dora Dove. MRS. DOVE Coota coo, what was she doing, billing and cooing as I came by? OWL Fie!—fie! must you nag every night? MRS. DOVE What about you trying to be polite? OWL Very well...Good evening, Dora, it's nice to see you awake. MRS. DOVE What's this, for heaven's sake! OWL Come, don't let us quarrel, Dora Dove, remember our first evening—your coos of love— MRS. DOVE And then you closed one eye, gave a bored sigh, and bang! you were asleep—such fun! OWL That's because day had begun. MRS. DOVE Night is the time to sleep. OWL For common or garden birds. I keep no such conventional habits. MRS. DOVE Rats! Rabbits! You sleep, you pedantic rat, because you're made like that. OWL What would I wake for— to hear you snore? MRS. DOVE Well, when day is closing it's time for dozing. I'm going home to sleep. OWL Oh, my sweet, what fate has forged us heart to heart when sun and moon keep us apart? MRS. DOVE You can meditate that question when alone— after I have flown. (Flies off.) OWL She's gone. Ah, the moon blinks at the arising sun. Time for forty winks. (Snores.) Cock crows. (Music suggesting break of day. Ecstatic twitter of birds.) WHITE HAWK (Calling softly) Winnie, I am here at your tree. Are you there? WAGTAIL White Hawk, my poet! HAWK Let us mount the air! WAGTAIL Yes. (Their wings.) I was just waking. HAWK See, day is breaking. (Busy practice notes of birds.) The birds are tuning up—every one!— to whistle their joy of the golden sun. Birds trill in chorus. BIRDS (Singing) Whistle and trill, carol and sing to welcome the joy the sun will bring! (The whole bush is singing as they mount the air.) HAWK The flowers raise their little heads to you, shaking off their coverlet of dew. Spinebill hovers on the air to sip golden honey from red-salvia's lip or, poising on a flower, trills to feel the stalk sway tipsy 'neath his heel. The bees come humming...drumming... The cicadas start their daily thrumming. WAGTAIL The early birds are hunting worms to eat. All the garden's at breaky. Just for a treat I'd like a fat moth— HAWK Food!—here is our spirit's food. WAGTAIL Tweet! what lovely thoughts you think. But do you always feed on beauty? Is that all you need? Of course thoughts can be very sweet, but do you find such food sustains you long? HAWK (Rapturously) Listen! Listen to the Morning's song!... You hear? WAGTAIL Tweet! It's nice enough to eat! (Chuckles.) HAWK Laugh! I love to hear your low sweet piccolo. WAGTAIL My piccolo? (Cascades of laughter.) HAWK Ah, best of all about this elf, the gift of laughing at herself! WAGTAIL (Demurely) I sometimes have been known to laugh at others. Yes, and even chaff! (They laugh.) HAWK I love you, lovely! WAGTAIL. Cheep!—don't come too near! You are fickle...so I hear. HAWK Fickle?—I seek—seek the ideal— (low) and find it outraged in the real. WAGTAIL Does this ideal lure you far? HAWK Yes...only to teach me what shadows are and hurl me back on self again. O Vain, Vain to seek heaven within a flower-vase and, finding only earthly honey there, the very fact of heaven forswear— thus reasoning from Effect to Cause. (She gives a bored whistle.) Surely love's not like a light that feeds upon itself and dies? No, no, I hold 'tis set as tight as stars that ever fire the skies. Do there not flame those inevitable mates who call to each across the fates, dimming with immortal fire the casual heat of mere desire? Do there—(breaks off.) Come, I'll take you to a drier height where the air is burnt to light... (Exultant) Higher...higher!...We'll mount the dizziest peak that bird has strength to seek. WAGTAIL (Panting) I've—never—been—up—in—the—stratosphere. HAWK It's fresh—exhilarating—clear!... This is where I come to really breathe! To dream! Here in the unused air. (Breathes deeply.) Inhale its silver stream!... But one becomes solitary up here—so far. One cannot mate thought with a star and remain content with the dust below. The rarer air sets one apart. Only you, merry chit, soul-of-my-heart, have the adventurous spirit to share the richness of this freer air. WAGTAIL Rich? Satin says you're a pauper. HAWK What if I am? Can I be poor when I own the world? His wealth is a sham. There are diamonds in this air, jewels in this sparkling sea. WAGTAIL (Coy) He's very much in love with me. HAWK Love? His kind thinks he can buy all the treasure of the earth. Well, let him try. (Compellingly) You cannot be bought. That magic in you— that spirit that makes your singing and your flying true— was put there by life! Cheat it and it dies, withers, dries up! The nectar in the blossom-cup awaits the bee, as you-wait—for—me. Though I cannot offer you his lordly prize, I shall surround you with scented butterflies— those flying flowers! to perfume and honey all your hours. WAGTAIL Stop!—I cannot fly so high! HAWK Don't look forlorn like a butterfly who's bruised her wing upon a thorn. O my loveliest need, my singing sweet, here is a feast of love—let us eat! WAGTAIL Are you proposing marriage? HAWK What was that you said? I speak of love and you hurl that word to strike me dead. Great trees! is there no poetry in all the world? O Woe! WAGTAIL (Sulkily) Well, Satin Bower Bird wants to marry me. HAWK (Violently) Then go! Go—fly below! (She gives a terrified cheep and drops.) (Shouting) And remember all the wealth of his bower can never purchase you one burning hour... (Low) Where have I banished her?— O my soul!— to stifle with groundlings in that sparrow's dustbowl, to suffocate in pedestrian air. (Breaking) She so gay—so fair! (Calls) Winnie—Winnie— (His wings and voice fade as he follows. Soon we hear her frightened cries.) WAGTAIL Don't follow me. HAWK (Fading in) You alight upon a stalk like a flower. WAGTAIL You mustn't perch, White Hawk. HAWK Don't flutter, sweetling. Let us talk. Nest, under the shadow of my wing— wee trembling thing! WAGTAIL No—no—good-bye. I'll be late for Satin's concert; I must fly! (He calls, but music takes her out... Brings her in still on the wing.) WAGTAIL A hurried snack. An insect or two— Snip!—snap!—tweak! With my beak— Ah, now I am through. (Fade in Mrs. Wren, sobbing.) What can be the matter with that old hen? (Calls) What's twitting you, Mrs. Bush-Wren? MRS. WREN Oh, a terrible thing has happened. Oh, my— what shall I do? WAGTAIL Tell me, don't cry. (After a sob or two, Mrs. Wren sings.) MRS. WREN (Sings) I sat on a stranger-bird's egg. That's so. Because of course I never knew; and now I am sad and could weep, for oh, I hatched out a giant cuckoo. A gi-ant cuckoo who fast grew and grew and gobbled and squabbled all day and never once chirped, but made loud to-do and screeched in a most vulgar way, "Cuckoo!" and screeched in a most vulgar way. I sat on a stranger-bird's egg. That's so, because of course I never knew; and now I am sad and could weep, for oh, I hatched out a gi-ant cuckoo! (She ceases singing and sobs.) WAGTAIL (Chuckles) So Cuckoo's been up to her tricks agen? How did it happen, Mrs. Bush-Wren? MRS. WREN I wasn't cunning like Mrs. Ground-Tit, she has a clever thatch! She covers the stranger egg in her nest with grass, so it cannot hatch. And I wasn't cunning like Mrs. Tom-Tit; she gives that cuckoo best, with never a twitter, she can outwit her, by building a two-storied nest. WAGTAIL Then if Cuckoo lays in the lower room, Mrs. Tom moves above, none the worser? MRS. WREN Yes; or if Cuckoo lays in the upper room, Mrs. Tom does vice versa. MR. DOVE (Cooing in) Why so crestfallen and down in the beak, Mrs. Wren? It might be best if you built a new nest and set about hatching agen. MRS. WREN O it's you, Mr. Dove; I'm so ashamed. For, oh, I detest anything vulgar. MR. DOVE Coo-coo, I know. MRS. WREN I can't imagine what you must think of me ever— a respectable bird like you. I'll never get over this, never! (Hops out, weeping.) WAGTAIL (Over-sweet) Good-chirp, Mr. Dove! MR. DOVE (Startled) Er—er—who's that? Winnie, love! Er—I didn't see you, there, above. WAGTAIL I'll fly down! MR. DOVE I—I've been hoping to meet you- to—to—er—er—to greet you! (Bursting) I adore you! Er—er—I don't bore you? WAGTAIL What a thing to say. MR. DOVE Then why are you tittuping away? WAGTAIL I'm late for Satin's concert. MR. DOVE Wait—wait—stay! WAGTAIL Well? MR. DOVE Er—you're not insulted by my rapture? WAGTAIL To insult us is the first step in our capture. MR. DOVE Then—then—you're not annoyed? WAGTAIL I'm not annoyed—ask Freud. (His cooings become imperative.) Oh, oh, don't become clamorous. You're—you're so amorous. MR. DOVE We are birds of a feather, we should flock together! WAGTAIL Remember you have a wife. MR. DOVE The best in all the garden, but—she leads me such a life. WAGTAIL And she doesn't understand you. MR. DOVE (Amazed) True, but—how—is—it—you—knew? WAGTAIL (Roguishly) Yes, how did I now? Perhaps I heard it from Cuckoo. MR. DOVE Oh! WAGTAIL Of course, I'm sure Mrs. Dove is a female of much worth. But isn't she just a little fat about the girth? Oh!—cheep-cheep! cheep-cheep!—that annoys? MR. DOVE No—er—but it suggests my own—er—avoirdupois. WAGTAIL Oh, but a male should be—er—er—solid— of course not stolid— but, well—er-nicely weighty. MR. DOVE Er—er—you understate me. WAGTAIL You're not over-inflated. MR. DOVE Still, as has been often stated, I'm copiously corpulent, I fear, WAGTAIL Know what I think? MR. DOVE No. WAGTAIL Let me whisper in your ear. (Whispers) Mr.—Dove- I think you're made for—love! (Laughs. His ecstatic cooings cease abruptly, for:) MR. DOVE Why, by my beak and claws! I am alone— my bird has flown! MRS. DOVE (Hopping in) Did I hear that Wagtail bit? MR. DOVE Don't abuse her—she's just a chit. MRS. DOVE She's no fledgling—her brother Willy is the very same age and he's no chick. MR. DOVE Silly!— any brother of hers is her senior by a season. MRS. DOVE But he's her twin. MR. DOVE He's older. MRS. DOVE There's reason. MR. DOVE (Violently) Hold your cheep, cackling hen, get into the house. MRS. DOVE (Low) And to think this bird was once as tame as a mouse. (She coos naggingly.) MR. DOVE Oh, alright, alright—what a life! Anything—anything for a quiet wife! (Fade in Wagtail flying. Pee-wee screeches.) PEE-WEE Good-chirp, Winnie, are you coming grubbing with me? WAGTAIL I went grubbing with you, Percy Pee-wee. PEE-WEE And wasn't it nice? WAGTAIL Very. But I never do things twice. (Laughs.) Besides, I'm on my way to hear the Bower birds sing and play. (Pee-wee screeches disconsolate.) PEE-WEE But I'm hungry and I want you to eat with me. WAGTAIL You are interested in nothing but gastronomee. You shouldn't eat—you should feed on poetree. (He screeches.) Go, join the sparrows on the nasturtium leaves, Pee-wee, and get your ration of Vitamin C— it may help you with love's alphabet. (Laughs and flies off.) PEE-WEE I'll get that Wagtail yet! (Shouts) Horoo, Winnie, horoo! WINNIE (Off) See you at the Bower-Bird's shivoo. (Music to introduce concert. Fade in Bowers' tuning up.) SATIN Welcome and welcome all you good bowers; now to enjoy the best of the hours, singing and dancing, flinging and prancing merrily, cheerily here amidst flowers. (Song) SATIN For we are the singers sublime ALL sublime! SATIN We're noted for rhythm and time ALL and time SATIN When we trill "Tweet-tweet!" they all say it's sweet, and twitter and titter in rhyme ALL in rhyme. ALL For we are the singers sublime sublime! We're noted for rhythm and time and time When we trill "Tweet-tweet!" they all say it's sweet, and twitter and titter and titter and twitter in rhyme in rhyme! (Excited twitter of birds. Winnie Wagtail flies in.) A BIRD Hurray, hurray, the concert's going to begin. SATIN Wait, till I welcome little Win! Where will you perch, sweet one? WAGTAIL On this wattle spray—where I can see the fun! ALL Let us play—let us play! SATIN Quizz-z. Yes. ALL Hurray! (Music and bird calls as they sing and play.) WAGTAIL O Satin, we all clap our feathers and cry encore! SATIN (Panting in) O—please—no—more. I must wet my whistle. Quiss-ss! Come, pet, sip a drop of dew from a vi-o-let. (Sipping) Ah, dew sipped at dawn has a fine bouquet! WAGTAIL You must be wing-weary. SATIN Yes! If I may I'll rest, sweet chitterling, on your wattle spray. WAGTAIL Oh, Satin, no! Let me go!... Let's talk about your bower—it's so swish, so truly grand—so fine—so rich! SATIN That's more than some of our audience is. I didn't know we were to be honoured by an ant's attendance at our show. WAGTAIL Don't worry. Look, Kenneth Koala's coming our way to hold one of his meetings. KOALA (Fading in) Er—er—hear what I say. WAGTAIL He's started already. KOALA (In) We must be practical. Be—be—steady, patriotic, or we—we'll—lose. SATIN He's on his usual booze. WAGTAIL (Laughs) On a eucalyptus shiccker. SATIN Though I'm all for nationalism and eucalyptus liquor. But who are you looking at, my love? WAGTAIL A grey dove in a green tree. No, it's not Mr. Dove— (wistful) it's White Hawk. SATIN S-sshh! hear Koala talk. KOALA Listen to me. (Sings) There shall be only one tree— the gum tree, the gum tree! We should climb only one tree, the gum tree will do me. (Half-hearted applause.) There should be only one leaf— the gum leaf, the gum leaf!— We should eat only one leaf, all others cause us grief. So down with all but gum trees— but gum trees, but gum trees. Hack down the trees from overseas, hack down the—hic! HAWK Wait! O please! Must love of one, breed hate of other trees? only hate must suppress; love knows how to appease. This is not patriotism but bigotree. KOALA (Weeping) Here's Hawk who would fly rough-winged over me. HAWK No, no; your tree is fine—let us develop it. That's only common sense. But, think a bit, if all creatures thought like you, there'd be torn feather and no hope of ever bringing them together. There's only one garden: forget green boundaries— and let's respect each other and each other's trees. (Hearty twitters.) SATIN Quick, we must fly across to that bounder Ant—he's going to sing. Come, Winnie, take to wing! (Music takes them out.) (Flying in) Hi, Ant, look here! WAGTAIL S-s-sh! Let him sing, Satin dear. ANT Well, here's me song, mates. A VOICE Hear-rear! ANT Ahem! (Sings) The reason that the ant's a pal is coz his life is communal. though breeding ants may loaf around— like royalty upon the mound— there's one ant who is not a shirker, me, the ubiquitous small worker! SATIN I, like all pro-le-ta-ri-an, do all the work. But, unlike man, I am no slave of meagre rights dictated to by parasites. No! The worker ant is overlord. He's Boss, Dictator to the horde. But, not an ego-centric mite, to work for others is delight; so if I find a dab of dew, a speck of apple core or two, I don't consider it my treat and eat; I haul it home to the social nest— for profit shared is always best. Yes, profit shared is always best. Applauding twitters. WAGTAIL He's got big ideas for such a little fellow. SATIN Pah! he's yellow. He thinks he's on a pretty perk and that he's free, but—seems to me— he ever does is work. WAGTAIL He never chases after joy? SATIN Joy was not made for the hoi polloi. WAGTAIL I mean— No; spring never finds him a brave suitor, sex with him is mostly neuter. That's why work with him's a passion— his hobby's work, not mashin! They laugh. There is a sudden stir. WAGTAIL There's Hawk with Ant. What's all the twitter about? SATIN That ant's holding a stump meeting—I ought to put him out. ANT I've been asked to give a speech, mates. BIRDS Hurray, hurray! SATIN Gurr-r-r, his class have altogether too much to say. ANT (Spruiking) We ants control the earth, bit by bit. As to the past—we'll liquidate it. HAWK And the present? It, I presume, is to be postponed to the future, that bloom of promise which never flowers—that mirage bloom! ANT Don't you worry, Poet, you'll be alright, mate. We'll need you to sing for the worker state, to celebrate. HAWK And will you dictate my singing, too? ANT We'll tell you what to sing about. Too true! Can't afford to run risks. HAWK Security is Poet's greatest enemy. ANT I say, You're with us, aren't you—eh? You must like our programme—Poets do. HAWK Poets never like what is. ANT (Easily) That goes for you, but— SATIN Here, Ant, clear off from there! ANT Now it's Satin talking!...Get back into the air. I'm in the soil, it's mine by right of toil— it's where I belong. SATIN Gurr.r.r-r-r-r! ANT I tell you, Poet, we'll like your song and you'll like our world, I'll guarantee. SATIN What twitter is this? Move on and speedilee! You insects think you can exploit the earth. ANT Bunk! look to your bower, it's stuffed with medieval junk. SATIN Be off! This is my propertee. ANT Yeah—you stole it from me. SATIN Be off, or I'll stamp you into the dirt. ANT Stamp, plutocrat, but mind you don't get hurt. SATIN Silence! HAWK Stay! Let him speak—he's a right to his say. SATIN Quiss-s-s! Well—er—he can go ahead, I guess. HAWK It's time be cleaned up your embowered mess... where the beauty of the world will sell itself for fashion, (painfully) and is afraid of nothing...but sincerity and passion. ANT Ha, Poet, we understand each other, you see. HAWK As for you, Ant. Hear me: Keep on, keep on the way you've told; build the new world on the old. (Passionately) But—remember—if you dare attempt to circumscribe the air so that I cannot fly, so that I cannot sing— I'll crash your system, smash it—with my wing! No one must stifle me. The spirit must be free—free! to rise and sing... (Loud wings as he shoots aloft with exultant power) to rise and sing! (Music takes him high... higher... fades him right out.) WAGTAIL OOOO!...He's lost above the layers of air!... What does he do up there? (Music brings him lower.) Ah, look, he's coming into view, dropping like a stone out of the blue... Now he floats—without stirring a wing— (involuntarily) wonderful thing! SATIN What is he to you? WAGTAIL (Demurely) He wants to marry me, that's all. SATIN That would be a squall. And how would you live sans L. S. D.? WAGTAIL Owe it all on old T.P. (Twitters and stir of birds as Satin's guests depart.) SATIN The groundlings have gone, and—at last—you are in my bower. WAGTAIL But not in your power. SATIN Has love no rights? WAGTAIL you do not love me. SATIN Great sun above me! What else do you make of all the words I've said? WAGTAIL Well—cheep-cheep!—You've never asked me to...wed. SATIN (Gulping) Well, Winnie, if you won't give in— I'll have to—you win— marry me! WAGTAIL (Chirrups) This is so sudden! SATIN Speak! WAGTAIL Well...I'll be your short wife, and a merry one... in a week! SATIN Ah! (Kiss).... By the way, I heard a twitter or two about—er— Douglas Dove and you. WAGTAIL Oh, that! (Laughs.) He's so abominably fat. SATIN H'm; middle age does spread. WAGTAIL I'd rather be dead! (Doves heard cooing.) (Coy) Besides, you know he's married. SATIN H'm, and happy. See, he doesn't look harried. WAGTAIL I've heard they live a devoted life— (Demurely) I hope I make you as good a wife. Seeing they are observed, Suburbia's model couple go into their act. BOTH Coota-coota coo! MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you! MRS. DOVE Spouse, I love you, too! MR. DOVE Wifie, I love you! MRS. DOVE Spouse, I love you, too! MR. DOVE Ditto. MRS. DOVE Ditto. MR. DOVE Etcetera. MRS. DOVE Etcetera. MR. DOVE And so on and so on. MRS. DOVE round and round BOTH the daily round of dove, MR. DOVE with its billing and cooing, MRS. DOVE its standardised wooing, MR. DOVE its bowing, MRS. DOVE kow-towing MR. DOVE and most respectable, MRS. DOVE highly respectable BOTH LOVE! Music repeats the rhythm pattern of last few lines to finish off with a skirl or two. THE END
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