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THE FIRST SPRING OF THE CUCKOO

by

W.G.STANTON

DRAMATIS PERSONAE
Sam Hackett
Doris Hackett
Malcolm Hackett
Elmer P Svendsen, an American
An Ornitoholgist
Assorted Voices Off

(HOUSE LIGHTS OFF. STAGE LIGHTS OFF. WE OPEN WITH THE LAUREL AND HARDY SIGNATURE TUNE, "YOU’RE CUCKOO". THE SPOTLIGHT PICKS OUT THE CENTRE OF THE CURTAIN, THROUGH WHICH APPEARS THE ORNITHOLOGIST)

ORNITHOLOGIST

Ah yes, The cuckoo. Interesting bird. Most interesting. To the, ah, professional ornithologist, that is. The cuckoo. A member of the genus Cucculidae.

(SOUND OF SHIP’S SIREN. THE ORNITHOLOGIST LOOKS A LITTLE PUT OUT BUT DECIDES TO CONTINUE)

ORNITHOLOGIST

It’s arrival in this country is generally in the, ah, Spring.

(THE SHIPS SIREN DROWNS HIM AND MIXES TO GI’s SINGING)

Over there! Over there!

Send the word, send the word,

Over there!

That the Yanks are coming,

(BEGIN DRUM ROLL)

The Yanks are coming,

With drums rum-tumming

Everywhere!

(THE DRUMS RISE TO A PEAK AND VOICES FADE OUT. THE SOUND OF THE DRUMS MIXES WITH THE NOISE OF BOMBARDMENT, WITH THE ORNITHOLOGIST GROWING MORE BEWILDERED AND ANNOYED. THE SOUND FADES, AND THE ORNITHOLOGIST CONTINUES)

ORNITHOLOGIST

The male has a familiar call-note

(SINGLE WOLF-WHISTLE)

ORNITHOLOGIST

which is heard at frequent intervals, particularly during the, ah, mating season.

(CHORUS OF WOLF-WHISTLES. THE ORNITHOLOGIST APPEARS TO DECIDE TO LEAVE THE STAGE LEFT, BUT CHANGES HIS MIND AS HE APPROACHES THE WINGS AND HAS ONE LAST TRY)

ORNITHOLOGIST

The, ah, intruder quickly establishes for himself a position of, ah, dominance in the territory.

(THE SPOTLIGHT DIMS ON THE ORNITHOLOGIST AS THE CURTAINS SLOWLY OPEN ON A MOONLIT SCENE, WITH ELMER AND DORIS ON A BENCH, BACKS TO THE AUDIENCE)

DORIS

Now you stop it at once, do you hear, Elmer! Just because you’re American doesn’t give you the right to take liberties, you know!

ELMER

Aw, Dawrus, baby, honeypie, come one!

DORIS

Stop it! Stop it at once, do you hear?

ELMER

Aw, come on, sugar, you don’t mean that!

DORIS

Elmer Swensen, you just -!

ELMER

Dawrus, baby, won’t you just give a break to a poor lonesome boy a long ways from home?

DORIS

Elmer, no! You just keep your hands to yourself, do you hear?

ELMER

(MUFFLED) Mmmm! Dawrus baby, you know I’m just nuts about you!

DORIS

No, Elmer, no! I promised Sam. I did. I promised.

ELMER

Sam?

DORIS

My boy friend. In the Navy.

ELMER

You’n this Sam engaged, then?

DORIS

Well, not exactly engaged. I - well, I just promised him.

ELMER

Promised him what, honey?

DORIS

Oh you! I promised I’d - well, save myself for him.

ELMER

Honeychile, you could get to be real old ‘n grey keepin’ promises like that!

DORIS

What do you mean?

ELMER

Did this guy - this Sam - did he promise to keep himself for you? Well, honeypie? Did he?

DORIS

Yes. Yes, of course. Of course he did.

ELMER

You don’t sound too sure, baby.

DORIS

Of course I’m sure. Sam’s not - well, he’s not like that.

ELMER

(LAUGHS) Be your age, baby! You know what they say about sailors? A wife in every port? You reckon this Sam’s any different from any other gob?

DORIS

Sam-s not like that! He’s not!

ELMER

Don’t gimme that, sugar! He’s probably kicking it around right now with some coffee- coloured broad.

DORIS

I don’t believe it! Not Sam. Sam wouldn’t do that. Never!

ELMER

Get wise to yourself, baby. He’s been away how long?

DORIS

Four years, nearly.

ELMER

Four years? Four whole years? And you claim he’s been keeping it on ice all that time? Aw, come, baby, you know better than that! Come to daddy, huh?

DORIS

No, Elmer, no! Elmer, please!

(THE CURTAINS BEGIN TO CLOSE)

DORIS

It’s not fair! Elmer! (SHE IS STILL PROTESTING AS THE CUTAINS CLOSE COMPLETELY, AND THE ORNITHOLOGIST APPEARS ONCE MORE IN THE SPOTLIGHT)

ORNITHOLOGIST

Despite the fact that the, ah, mating practises are, ah, normal, in every other respect, it is almost unknown for any permanent attachment to be formed.

(SOUND OF SHIP’S SIREN)

ORNITHOLOGIST

Invariably the female seeks the nest of some other, ah, host, in which to lay her eggs.

(SPOTLIGHT FADES ON ORNITHOLOGIST AS CURTAINS OPEN TO REVEAL DORIS AND SAM. THERE IS A NOISE OF DRUNKEN REVERLY OFF)

DORIS

Sam, there’s something you got to know!

SAM

(LOOKING TOWARDS THE REVELRY) Save it, duchess!

DORIS

Sam, it’s important.

SAM

(STILL NOT LISSTENING) Now, now, old gel. You’n me fer a bit of a celebration fust, eh?

DORIS

Sam, please!

SAM

(AT LAST PAYING ATTENTION) Look, I got me gratuity. I got me girl. You want to argue?

DORIS

Sam, listen to me!

SAM

Aw, come on, it’ll keep, it’ll keep. They’ve been open ten minutes already. An’ I’ve got a thirst I wouldn’t sell for a fiver.

(HE DRAGS HER OFF AS THE REVELRY INCREASES AND THE CURTAINS CLOSE, WITH THE ORNITHOLOGIST ONCE MORE IN THE SPOTLIGHT)

ORNITHOLOGIST

Some species of host accept the intruder’s egg as their own, even when it is, ah, conspicuously different. When the intruder then hatches out it is fed by the, ah, owner of the nest.

(CURTAINS OPEN ON DORIS AND SAM AGAIN)

DORIS

No, no, I can’t let you do it, Sam.

SAM

Now you look ‘ere, old gel -

DORIS

It’s ever so nice of you. Just what I’d expect. But it’s not yours and - I - I’m not going to let - (SHE BREAKS DOWN)

SAM

now you listen ‘ere, Doris. Let’s ‘ave no more o’ that! We’ll go down the register office Saturday ‘n get it all fixed up shipshape ‘n Bristol fashion, like.

DORIS

No, Sam, no.

SAM

Don’t yer want me then?

DORIS

It’s not that!

SAM

What yer think I’ve been waitin’ for all these years, eh?

DORIS

No, no, you can’t!

SAM

Now that’ll do, old gel. Just dry your eyes. Next Saturday an’ no argument, see? Your Ernie can give you away, seein’ as yer Dad’s not demobbed yet. An’ we can’t wait, can we? An’ then we’ll ‘ave a bit of a knees-up Saturday night, an’ then you’n me’ll ‘ave a few days dahn at Sarfend, eh? What yer say?

DORIS

Sam, I shouldn’t oughter let you. I know I shouldn’t. You make me feel proper ashamed.

SAM

None o’ that, see! I ain’t been no angel meself these last few years, I can tell yer.

(CURTAINS SLOWLY CLOSE)

SAM

So let’s ‘ear no more of it, eh?

(THE CURTAINS REMAIN CLOSED, WITH THE VOICES OF SAM AND DORIS HEARD THROUGH THEM, ON TAPE AND AMPLIFIED)

DORIS

Sam!

SAM

(SLEEPILY) Yeah?

DORIS

You awake?

SAM

I am now, old gel.

DORIS

(SIGHS)

SAM

‘Ere, what’s up?

DORIS

Oh, nothing….

SAM

Come on now, what is it?

DORIS

(BEGINS TO WEEP)

SAM

‘Ere, ‘ere, none o’ that now! Supposed to be yer perishin’ ‘oneymoon. Wedded bliss, ‘n all that! Can’t ‘ave yer pipin’ yer eye, can we?

DORIS

Fine sort of ‘oneymoon it is for you!

SAM

You ‘eard me complainin’, then?

DORIS

No, of course not. (PAUSE) Sam!

SAM

Yeah?

DORIS

You sorry?

SAM

Sorry? What abaht?

DORIS

You know.

SAM

Doris, I don’t know what yer on abaht.

DORIS

I mean, you got any regrets, like?

SAM

Regrets? What for?

DORIS

Oh, you know.

SAM

Oh that! (PAUSE) Course not.

DORIS

(TEARFULLY) You don’t sound so sure.

SAM

Course I’m sure. Weeell…..

DORIS

(WEEPING) I knew it! I knew it! I knew you had.

SAM

Nothin’ of the sort!

DORIS

You are sorry!

SAM

No, I’m not! Not a bit!

DORIS

You are! You are!

SAM

I’m not, I tell yer!

DORIS

There’s something.

SAM

What d’yer mean?

DORIS

You were going to say.

SAM

When?

DORIS

Just now.

SAM

No, I wasn’t.

DORIS

You were! You were! What was it?

SAM

It was - well….

DORIS

I knew it! You are sorry!

SAM

I wasn’t going to say nothin’ of the sort.

DORIS

What then? What were you going to say?

SAM

This American bloke - this Elmer….

DORIS

Yes?

SAM

Was he - ? Look, I don’t know nothin’ abaht him, do I? I mean, was he - well, normal, like?

DORIS

Normal?

SAM

I mean, ‘e wasn’t black? Nothin’ like that?

DORIS

*HER TEARS CEASING AT ONCE) Black?

SAM

Yeah. You know.

DORIS

Black? (SHE BEGINS TO LAUGH. AS SHE LOSES CONTROL, SAM JOINS IN. THERE IS A THUNDEROUS KNOCKING ON THE BEDROOM WALL, AND THE LAUGHTER IS STIFLED)

SAM

Blimey, mate, what’s that for? Ain’t yer never ‘ad a ‘oneymoon couple ‘ere before? (THE GIGGLING CONTINUES AND FADES OUT, AND THE SPOTLIGHT COMES UP ON THE ORNITHOLOGIST)

ORNITHOLOGIST

The young, ah, intruder develops rapidly, displaying characteristics at great, ah, variance from the parent birds. It competes with marked success against aggressive rivals for the means of livelihood. (SPOTLIGHT DIMMED AS CURTAINS OPEN ON DOMESTIC SCENE. SAM AND DORIS, TWENTY-ONE YEARS OLDER, ARE DRESSED IN THEIR BEST, APPARENTLY TO GO OUT FOR A SPECIAL OCCASION)

DORIS

Sam, we ought to go. I’ve got some things to get ready when we get to the Hall. (PAUSE) I can’t say as I’m looking forward to that stuff they call music nowadays.

SAM

Suites me, old gel. I don’t want to ‘ang abaht. Music? Five minutes o’ that’s a basinful, if y’ask me!

DORIS

It’s so loud!

SAM

Not our sort of thing at all.

DORIS

He’s ever so good, though, you must admit. Who’d have thought, when we bought him his first guitar! His own group!

SAM

Yeah. No accountin’ for taste. Daft names an’ all. The Piltdown Men. Not that they don’t look at it

DORIS

Oh, the trouble with you is you don’t appreciate music.

SAM

The trouble with me is I do. If I had my way they’d all be wearing their guitars like collars (PICKS UP A GUITAR AND DEMONSTRATES) All right, come on! ‘E’ll just ‘ave to come on later - when ‘e gets ‘ere!

DORIS

Shouldn’t we give him just a few more minutes?

SAM

All right. We’ll just ‘ave to get a move on when ‘e does arrive. If he ever does!

DORIS

Sam, do you think anything can have happened to him?

SAM

Somethin’ll ‘appen to ‘im when ‘e does get ‘ere, I can tell yer! Late for ‘is own twenty-first party!

DORIS

Now you let him be, Sam! If out Malcolm’s late, he’s got a good reason.

SAM

You! You’d let ‘im get away with murder.

(SOUND OF DOOR, OFF)

DORIS

There he is!

SAM

Malcolm!

MALCOLM (ENTERING)

Yes, Dad?

SAM

I’ll give you ‘Yes, Dad’. Where the ‘ell ‘ave you been? Keepin’ folk waitin’ - and today of all days!

MALCOLM

I’m sorry, Dad! It was important, though.

SAM

More important than your own twenty-first?

DORIS

Now, Sam!

MALCOLM

There were reasons I couldn’t make it any earlier.

SAM

You’ll ‘ave to do better than that.

MALCOLM

I had a date.

SAM

What! You were late for your own party because of some perishin’ bird?

MALCOLM

No, it was business.

DORIS

Business?

SAM

Eh? It’d better be important business then. Just think of all the work your mother’s ‘ad, not to mention your Auntie Vi. An’ you couldn’t get here on time!

MALCOLM

I’m sorry, Dad. But it was important!

DORIS

If you say so, ducks.

SAM

‘Ere, ‘ere, ‘old on! ‘E ‘asn’t convinced me yet!

MALCOLM

I had to see Mort Sloane.

SAM

Mort - ? An’ ‘oo’s ‘e when ‘e’s at home?

DORIS

Sam, give the lad a chance!

MALCOLM

Morton Sloane. I don’t suppose you’ve heard of him, but when he’s at home he’s one of the top men in showbiz in the United States. And over here.

SAM

Well?

DORIS

Sam, can’t you see Malcolm’s trying to tell us something?

SAM

Well? we’re waiting.

MALCOLM

Now hold everything, both of you. (PAUSE) He’s offered us a tour.

SAM

What’s that>

MALCOLM

He’s offered the group a tour. In the States. New York, Nashville, Las Vegas, Miami. You name it.

SAM

Well, I’ll be - !

DORIS

Oh, Malcolm, such a long away!

MALCOLM

Aren’t you pleased?

DORIS

(TEARFULLY) Course we are! It’s wonderful! (BEGINNING TO WEEP) Isn’t it, Sam? It’s marvellous!

SAM

Yeah. Yeah, I suppose it is.

MALCOLM

So you see, I couldn’t help being a bit late.

DORIS

Course you couldn’t, ducks.

MALCOLM

Aren’t you pleased, Dad?

SAM

Pleased? I can’t take it in, son. ‘ Oo’d ‘ave thought our Malcolm -? Put it there, son! Late? Think nothin’ of it! I’m only sorry I went off at the deep end.

MALCOLM

Oh, that’s all right.

SAM

All right? I’ll say it’s all right! ‘Ere, what are we all standin’ abaht for? Come on, young Malcolm, you’ve got a speech to make today. Come on! You’ll knock ‘em cold wi’ that bit of news!

(LIGHTS DOWN AS THEY EXEUNT, AND UP ALMOST AT ONCE ON NEXT SCENE)

DORIS

Oh, I do wish you’d let us come to the aeroplanes with you, ducks!

MALCOLM

It’s all right, Mum, don’t fuss!

DORIS

I wish you were going on a ship. I don’t like them things.

MALCOLM

Fat lot of use that’d be, Mum, if anything went wrong. I can’t swim a stroke. You wouldn’t let me go in the baths in case I got a chill, remember?

DORIS

You’ve got that address, haven’t you?

MALCOLM

Mum, I’ve even got a hot water bottle to put under my seat on the plane, in case it hasn’t been properly aired. Do stop fussing!

DORIS

And you’ll watch them American girls, won’t you, ducks? They’re all gold-diggers, you know.

MALCOLM

They’ll have a tough job digging any out of me, Mum. I’ll help ‘em look for it.

(SOUND OF MOTOR HORN OFF)

MALCOLM

There’s the taxi! Cheerio, Mum! Wish me luck!

(THEY GO OFF TOGETHER AS THE LIGHTS FADE, AND COME UP AGAIN ON DORIS, SEATED IN A CHAIR, KNITTING. SOUND OF DOOR, OFF)

DORIS

Sam? That you?

SAM (OFF)

It ‘ad better be! (ENTERING) ‘Oo was you expectin’, then?

DORIS

Who do you think?

SAM

Tea ready?

DORIS

Yes. As soon as you are.

SAM (GOING)

Righto! (OFF) Any news?

DORIS

What do you say?

SAM

(OFF) I said any news? Any thing from our Malcolm? Seems like ‘e’s been gone for years.

DORIS

(QUIETLY) Yes.

SAM

What’s that? I can’t hear yer with this tap runnin’!

DORIS

There’s a letter.

SAM

(ENTERING) What’s that? A letter? Why didn’t yer say?

DORIS (BEGINS TO CRY)

Oh, it’s awful.

SAM

‘Ere, what’s up now?

DORIS

It’s awful!

SAM

Hey, come on, what’s upsettin’ you, ducks?

DORIS

Read it yourself! Here! (HANDS HIM THE LETTER)

SAM

Now what is it? (BEGINS TO READ) Blimey! ‘E don’t waste ink, does he? Ten lines! Real chatty!

DORIS

You see?

SAM

No, ducks, I don’t. I ‘aven’t read it yet, ‘ave I?

(READS LETTER AS DORIS WEEPS)

SAM

I can’t see anythin’ ‘ere to cry about, ducks. ‘E seems to be enjoyin’ himself.

DORIS

He’s met a girl!

SAM

Yeah, I read that!

DORIS

Of, it’s awful! Awful!

SAM

I don’t get it. What’s so awful about that?

DORIS

An American girl!

SAM

Well, she would be, wouldn’t she? Over there, I mean.

DORIS

Oh, I wish he’d never gone!

SAM

‘Ere, ‘old on, old gel. The world ‘asn’t come to an end just because our Malcolm’s met a girl. Even if she does talk down ‘er ‘ooter.

DORIS

He says her name’s Cindy Lou!

SAM

Yeah, I read that as well. Sounds more like a racehorse.

DORIS

It’s Lucinda Louise, really.

SAM

That’s nice.

DORIS

Oh, will you be serious for a minute?

SAM

I’ll be serious all right when I see somethin’ to be serious about. Let’s wait and see, shall we?

(THEY SETTLE DOWN, SUDDENLY BECOMING QUITE MOTIONLESS IN THE ACT OF WHATEVER THEY ARE DOING, AS THE VOICE OF MALCOLM COMES THROUGH THE AMPLIFIER)

MALCOLM

Dear Mum and Dad, Since my last letter to you we’ve really been moving around, and the group’s going over big. I’m having a great time because Cindy’s father said she could come with us and our road manager could keep an eye on her. I know you’ll like her, both of you. She’s a great little swinger.

(SAM AND DORIS COME TO LIFE AGAIN AND GO ON WITH WHAT THEY WERE DOING, SUDDENLY FREEZING ONCE MORE AS MALCOLM’S VOICE IS HEARD AGAIN)

MALCOLM

Dear Mum and Dad, I’ve got some great news for you. Cindy and me are engaged. We’re not going to do anything about a wedding till I get home, but I’m going to bring her with me, so get ready to meet your new daughter-in-law. That sure was a great contact you gave me, Mum. Thanks a million. Must go now. The cab’s here, and we’ve got to get to the airport. Miami next stop. Wish us luck.

(SAM AND DORIS COME TO LIFE AGAIN, AND DORIS BEGINS TO WEEP)

Sam

Now what’s wrong, ducks? I’d have thought you’d be pleased to see him safely married.

DORIS

Not to her, Sam! Not to her!

SAM

I don’t understand you Doris. You ‘aven’t even met the girl. Or her folks.

DORIS

I know she’s not right for him.

SAM

‘Ow can you possibly know that when you’ve never met ‘em?

DORIS

But I have! I have!

SAM

You’ve met her?

DORIS

No, no! Not her!

SAM

‘ Oo then?

DORIS

Her father.

SAM

I must be stupid or somethin’ You’ve met Cindy Lou’s old man?

DORIS

Yes.

SAM

‘E’s been ‘ere, ‘as he?

DORIS

No, no, of course not!

SAM

Doris, you’re going to have to ‘ave to draw me a diagram. If ‘e ‘asn’t been ‘ere, ‘ow could yer possibly have met ‘im?

DORIS

Oh, it was years ago!

SAM

Years ago? (PAUSE) ‘Ere, just a minute! Just a minute! It’s not the bloke what -!

DORIS (SOBBING)

Yes, yes! Oh, it’s awful!

SAM

Him! Whatsisname? Well, swipe me, what a coincidence! Our Malcolm goes over the water. God knows ‘ow many million people there is over there. And what ‘appens? ‘E runs into the one bloke what… Well, Doris there’s only one thing to be said.

DORIS

What’s that?

SAM

It’s a small world.

DORIS

No, no! You’ve got it wrong! It wasn’t a coincidence at all.

SAM

Not a -? Then ‘ow the ‘ell did it happen? Doris, you don’t mean you -?

DORIS

Yes, yes.

SAM

You sent ‘im there?

DORIS

Yes, of course.

SAM

I don’t see any of course abaht it.

DORIS

I didn’t see no harm in it. Our Malcolm doesn’t know about - that business. (BREAKS DOWN AGAIN) I only wanted him to know somebody over there. In case he was homesick -!

SAM

And you thought this - what was ‘is name? - Elmer…. You thought ‘e’d be just the one? (PAUSE) So that’s what our Malcolm meant about contact.

DORIS

Yes, yes.

SAM

Doris my girl, you’ve had some daft ideas in your time, but this one beats the perishin’ lot. Whatever made yer send him there of all places?

DORIS

I don’t know anybody else in America. Nobody at all. And I was worried about him.

SAM

And how did you manage to explain it to our Malcolm?

DORIS

oh, I didn’t tell him about - that. What do you take me for? I just said I’d met Elmer during the War. That he’d been a good customer at the shop.

SAM

Yeah, you could put it that way.

DORIS

Sam, please -!

SAM

And ‘ow did yer know ‘is address?

DORIS

I didn’t. I just knew he lived in Punxsutawney.

SAM

In where?

DORIS

Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

SAM

Sounds like a flippin’ Red Indian tribe! And suppose ‘e connects our Malcolm with you?

DORIS

Why should he? Elmer doesn’t know my married name. And even if Malcolm did mention my first name, there’s plenty of girls called Doris.

SAM

Well, that’s all right, then.

DORIS (ANOTHER OUTBURST OF TEARS)

But it isn’t! It isn’t!

SAM

What d’yer mean?

DORIS

It’s all wrong!

SAM

What’s wrong?

DORIS

Oh, Sam, can’t you see? It’s his daughter Malcolm’s got engaged to!

SAM

Yeah? Well?

DORIS

Don’t you see? He’s her father!

SAM

Yeah?

DORIS

He’s Malcolm’s as well!

SAM

Yeah, I know that. (DOES A DOUBLE-TAKE) Oh, my Gawd!

DORIS

You see?

SAM (COLLAPSING INTO A CHAIR)

Oh, Gawd!

DORIS

What are we going to do?

SAM

(STANDING UP AND MAKING AS IF TO GO) We got to stop it!

DORIS

How can we?

SAM (RETURNING)

How the ‘ell do I know? We got to stop it, that’s all!

DORIS

I’m nearly off my head.

SAM

Quiet! Let me think! (PAUSE) We’ll ‘ave to get ‘im back ‘ere some’ow. So’s we can explain.

DORIS

Can’t we just write and tell him?

SAM

Oh, sure, sure. Just think abaht it. What’s ‘e going to tell the girl? That ‘e can’t marry ‘er after all, ‘cos it seems ‘e’s ‘er ‘alf-brother? Charming! No, we’ll ‘ave to get ‘im back ‘ere, so we can tell ‘im on ‘is own.

DORIS

How can we do that?

SAM

I don’t know! Just let me think a minute! Send ‘im a telegram, I suppose. Trouble is, I don’t know nothin’ abaht sendin’ telegrams that far.

DORIS

What will you say?

SAM

Yeah, that makes yer think, dunnit? Something like "Mother seriously ill. Return at once." Somethin’ like that?

DORIS

Oh, Sam, you couldn’t say that. He’d never forgive us when he found the truth out.

SAM

‘E ain’t going to find it all that easy, anyway.

DORIS

Oh, Sam!

SAM

Sorry, ducks. But we can’t tell ‘im the real reason, can we? We can’t just send ‘im a telegram sayin’ "Dear malcolm, Come hame at once. You’re a bastard, and your father’s another." Can we now?

DORIS

Oh, Sam!

SAM

Let me think. Somethin’ like "Please return immediately. Urgent reason why wedding should be postponed." Somethin’ like that. That should fetch him, and we ‘aven’t really told ‘im anythin’. Nor them.

DORIS

Oh yes, that’ll do. Then he won’t know, will he? Not till he gets here. And it’ll give us some time to think of something, won’t it?

SAM

y’ask me, we’re going to need it. Right, give us a bit of paper and a pencil, and I’ll write down and take it down the post office. They’ll know what we have to do to send it. Now then, what was it?

(DIM LIGHTS, AND BRING THEM UP AGAIN WITH SAM OFF STAGE AND KNOCKING ON OUTSIDE DOOR)

DORIS

Sam! See who that is, will you?

SAM

(OFF) What yer say?

DORIS

See who that is, will you?

SAM

Oh, Gawd!

DORIS

I’d go myself, but I can’t put this down. My hands are all pastry.

(THE KNOCKING IS REPEATED)

SAM

All right, all right, I’m comin’. Keep yer ‘air on!

DORIS

Sam!

SAM

What is it?

DORIS

Who was it?

SAM

(ENTERING) It’s a telegram!

DORIS

Oh, God! What does it say?

SAM

Just a minute! (READS) Oh, my Gawd!

DORIS

Sam! What is it? What’s wrong?

SAM

Listen! It says, "Thanks your cable stop. Sorry urgent reasons why wedding cannot be postponed stop Letter follows stop Malcolm stop." I don’t see why there’s so many stops. By the sound of it, it’s been all go.

DORIS

What does he mean?

SAM

What does he mean? What does he mean? I’d ‘ave thought that was as plain as a pikestaff.

DORIS

What?

SAM

There’s only one reason as I can think of why a wedding can’t be postponed.

DORIS

What’s that?

SAM

Oh, Doris, for Gawd’s sake, be your age. Do I have to draw you a diagram?

DORIS

I don’t know what you mean.

SAM

I reckon Cindy Lou’s in the club.

DORIS

In the -? (WAILS) Oh no!

SAM

Unless you can think of another reason. ‘E’s been stayin’ there, ‘asn’t ‘e? Moonlight on the waters of the Punxwhateveritiss an all that. And she’s been travelling round with ‘em. And our Malcolm’s twenty-one. And ‘e’s got all the usual wedding tackle. (BITTERLY) Perhaps ‘e takes after ‘is Dad.

DORIS

Oh, Sam! What a horrible thing to say!

SAM

Forget it, old ducks. Not your fault.

DORIS

But it is, it is. I sent him there!

SAM

You weren’t to know as Elmer ‘ad a grown-up daughter. Nor that our Malcolm would fancy ‘er.

DORIS

Whatever are we going to do?

SAM

We’ll ‘ave to get ‘im over ‘ere.

DORIS

He won’t come now!

SAM

No, not ‘im, Malcolm! ‘Im, Elmer!

DORIS

Why, what can he do?

SAM

Gawd knows. But ‘e’s got to be told. ‘E’s done plenty already.

DORIS

Suppose he can’t come?

SAM

‘E’ll bloody well ‘ave to! ‘E’s got plenty of the ready, according to our Malcolm. We’ll ‘ave to send ‘im a telegram. ‘Ere we go again!

(FADE OUT LIGHTS AND BRING UP AGAIN AS BEFORE WITH SAM OFF STAGE. SOUND OF DOOR)

DORIS

That you, Sam?

SAM

Yeah?

DORIS

Keep an eye on things, will you? I’m just going down the shops. I want to get something for tea.

SAM

Righto!

(DORIS GOES OFF LEFT AS SAM ENTERS RIGHT. AS HE DOES SO THERE IS A KNOCK AT THE FRONT DOOR. HE SWEARS TO HIMSELF, PUTS DOWN THE TOOLS HE IS CARRYING AND GOES OUT)

SAM (GOING)

Never any peace in this house.

(SOUND OF KNOCK REPEATED, FOLLOWED BY DOOR OPENING)

SAM

Yes?

ELMER

Mr. Hackett?

SAM

Yes?

ELMER

I’m Elmer Svendsen.

SAM

Oh, you’d better come in.

(SAM ENTERS, FOLLOWED BY ELMER)

ELMER

You asked me to come.

SAM

Oh Gawd!

ELMER

Anything wrong?

SAM

No, no. But the wife’s out. She’s only just gone.

ELMER

Oh.

SAM

You’d better come in an’ wait. She’ll not be long. She’s - she’s just gone to do some shoppin’. At the shops. She usually does her - You’d better come in.

ELMER

Well, thanks! So your Malcolm’s pop!

SAM

Yeah. Well, in a manner of speakin’, like.

ELMER

Mr. Hackett, It’s a real pleasure to meet you. Yeah, a real pleasure.

SAM

Yeah, sure. The wife won’t be long.

ELMER

I said to Gerda - Gerda’s my lady wife, you know - I said not to worry. I said sure the folks over there are worried. Why shouldn’t they be? He’s there only son, I said, And he’s come over here and he’s gotten himself engaged to a girl they’ve never met. Sure they’re worried. Who wouldn’t be? So I’ll just go right on over there, I said, and I’ll set they’re minds at rest. That’s what I’ll do. You’ve got a fine boy there, Mr. Hackett, you know that? A fine boy.

SAM

Yeah. Have a seat.

ELMER

Well, thanks!

(SAM CROSSES HIS LEGS)

ELMER

Talented, too. But better than that, you know, he’s a real solid citizen. He’s a boy to be proud of, Mr. Hackett. And we’ll be proud to have him as a son-in-law!

SAM (CROSSING HIS LEGS AGAIN)

Yeah.

ELMER

Now don’t you worry about a thing, Mr. Hackett. Not a darn thing. You’re just gonna love my Cindy Lou. I just know that. A man shouldn’t say it about his own little girl, I reckon, but we’re right proud of our daughter, Mr. Hackett, sir. Any boy that gets my Cindy Lou is going to get himself a wife in a million, you know that?

SAM (CROSSING HIS LEGS AGAIN)

Yeah.

ELMER

First time they met I just knew they were meant for each other. They had so much in common, you know? I just knew they were meant for each other. No time at all we had a pair of love-birds on our hands. Just a pair of young love-birds. I wish you coulda seen ‘em.

SAM (CROSSING HIS LEGS AGAIN)

Yeah.

ELMER

And as for your Malcolm, well, do you know what, Mr. Hackett, before I’d known that boy five minutes it sorta felt as if I’d known him all my life. He sorta feels like a son already, you know that?

SAM (CROSSING HIS LEGS AGAIN)

That’s nice.

(SOUND OF KEY IN BACK DOOR AND DOOR OPENS, OFF)

SAM

Thank Gawd!

DORIS

Sam!

SAM

In here!

DORIS (ENTERING)

I forgot my purse. (SEES ELMER) Oh!

SAM

Doris, this is Mr. Swensen.

ELMER

Dawrus! Dawrus! Malcolm didn’t tell me it - Well, would you ever believe that? It’s Dawrus! Dawrus - Jones, was it? Brown?

DORIS

Smith.

ELMER

That’s right! Sure, sure! Dawrus Smith. Well, can you tie that? Dawrus, I guess you don’t remember me! You know, Mr. Hackett, I met your lady wife during the War. Did you know that? Aw gee, this is marvellous! Marvellous! Now, Dawrus, don’t say you don’t remember me? Elmer Svendsen. E for Elmer, P for Punxsutawney, Elmer P Svendsen, all the way from the USA?

DORIS

How are you?

ELMER

Well, I’ll be -! You English slay me, you know that!

SAM

That’s nice.

ELMER

First time you see somebody in - what? - more ‘m twenty years, and what do you say? I ask you, what do you say (MIMICS DORIS) How do you do? That’s marvellous! You know that? Marvellous! Well now, I’ll just tell you how I am. I’m on cloud nine, that’s where. And you know why? It’s just knowing that Malcolm belongs to you two lovely people. Ain’t that just the most wonderful coincidence?

SAM

There’s coincidence and coincidence.

ELMER

Well ain’t it? Don’t anybody tell me this ain’t a small world. Now tell me, what’s the problem? You want we should have the wedding over here? No problem at all. Just you name the day and hand me the bill. You know, I’m just dying to show Gerda - that’s my lady wife, you know - I’m just dying to show Gerda you’re wonderful country. And we can wave the wedding in one of your cute little old country churches. What do you say? I tell you, Cindy Lou’ll just love that.

DORIS

You haven’t told him, Sam.

SAM

Not my place, Doris.

ELMER

Told me? Told me what?

DORIS

About Malcolm.

ELMER

What about Malcolm?

DORIS

(TEARFULLY) Oh, Sam, I don’t know how to say it.

SAM

All right, Doris, Leave it to me. It’s like this, Mr. Swensen.

ELMER

I sure do wish you’d call me Elmer.

SAM

Yeah. Well, it’s like this. Our Malcolm can’t marry your girl.

ELMER

What’s that? Can’t marry my Cindy Lou?

SAM

That’s right.

ELMER

Why not? You don’t mean he’s married already?

SAM

No.

ELMER

Because if that’s what he’s done, I’ll -

SAM

He’s not married.

ELMER

Not married? God almighty, what is it then? Has he got some disease or something?

SAM

He’s as fit as a fiddle.

ELMER

Now look here, Mr. Hackett, Your gonna have to do a whole lot better than that. Your boy has asked my Cindy Lou to marry him. He’s got to have a darn good reason to back down from that kinda situation, you know that?

DORIS

It’s no good, Sam! We shall have to tell him.

ELMER

Tell me, tell me what?

SAM

It’s not really my place, you see that, Mr. Swensen. But Doris is that upset about it, so (TAKES A DEEP BREATH) Malcolm is your son.

ELMER

Sure, sure. I can’t see why Doris should be - (DOUBLE TAKE) What’s that? What did you say?

SAM

Malcolm is your son.

ELMER

Oh, my Gahd! Dawrus? You?

(SAM AND DORIS BOTH NOD VIOLENTLY)

ELMER

Oh my Gahd! That’s why you sent the -

(SAM AND DORIS NOD AGAIN)

ELMER

Just a minute ! Just a minute ! Let me get this straight. Oh, my Gahd! That means Cindy Lou is -

(SAM AND DORIS NOD AGAIN)

ELMER

What in Gahd’s name is Gerda going to say? She had her heart set on this wedding, you know that?

SAM

Makes you think, dunnit?

DORIS

We had to stop it , you see.

ELMER

Yeah, yeah, I see that.

SAM

And that’s not all.

ELMER

What?

SAM

(GRIMLY) He takes after his old man , it seems.

ELMER

What are you driving at?

SAM

If we’re reading properly between the lines, your Cindy Lou’s pregnant.

ELMER

What’s that? Oh, my Gahd! That really does it! That really does it!

DORIS

You see, you had to know.

ELMER

I’ll break every bone in his goddam body!

SAM

You won’t.

ELMER

Try and stop me!

SAM

Oh. I’ll stop you alright. We always did reckon one matelot was a match for any three Yanks. It’s not his fault they can’t get married.

ELMER

What are you getting at?

SAM

Just this. It’s your fault.

ELMER

My Fault ?

SAM

Think about it. He only did what you did. Who are you to start getting toffee-nosed abaht it ?

ELMER

Y ah, yeah, I guess you're right at that. I - I'm sorry I blew mytp.

SAM

Only this time it's different.

ELMER

Different ?

SAM

There's no Sam Hackett this time to bail our Malcolm out.

DORIS

Oh, Sam !

ELMER

Now don't you go hitting below the belt, Mr. Hackett. I wasn't to know Dawrus was pregnant when I went back Stateside.

DORIS

I didn't know myself.

ELMER

There you are then.

SAM

Don't get me wrong, Mr. Swensen. I'm not saying you're responsible for all this mess. But you'll lave to bloody well clean it up 'cos you started it.

ELMER

Yeah, yeah, you're entitled to that.

SAM

We'll do what we can.

ELMER

Gahd Almighty, what in hell am I gonna say to Gerda ? What in hell am I gonna say ?

(FADE LIGHTS, AND BRING UP AGAIN ON SAM AND DORIS IN THE SAME SCENE A FEW DAYS LATER)

SAM

Turn it up, old gel. You've been pipin' your eye best part of a week.

DORIS

I can't help it. It's awful - awful

SAM

Cryin' ain't going to put it right, though. So come and eat your tea, eh ?

DORIS

I don't want it

SAM

Come on !

DORIS

( WEEPS EVEN HARDER)

SAM

Now look here, Doris, we don't know nothin' yet. And no news is good news, they say.

DORIS

How can it be ? How can it 7 You can't alter - that

SAM

Next thing you know I'll lave a sick wife on me lands. Buck up. old gel 1.

(KNOCKING AT FRONT DOOR)

Dry yer eyes, ducks. This might be company, yer know. (BITTERLY) Perhaps come to see how our Malcolm's getting on in America.

(MORE KNOCKING)

(GOING) All right, I'm coming.

(GOES OFF,, AND RETURNS ALMOST AT ONCE IN A PANIC) Doris, it's 'im again

DORIS

Him ?

SAM

Yeah, you know 'Im

(ENTER ELMER)

ELMER

Howdy there, folks

SAM

Yer didn't go, then ?

ELMER

Go ? Go ? Sure I went I'm back again

SAM

That's nice.

ELMER

It sure is great to see you folks again

SAM

I'm glad you feel great

DORIS

Sam, stop it, do !

ELMER

Sure, why shouldn't I feel great ?

SAM

I could think of one reason.

ELMER

It's all set, folks! All systems go ! Just up to the love-birds to name the day

SAM

Weren't you listenin' ? There ain't goin' to be no 'appy day ! There ain't goin' to be no weddin' .1

ELMER

Correction ! There is going to be a wedding. A very, very splendid wedding. The best, you know that ?

SAM

You'd better make this sound good, mate

DORIS

Sam ! Listen !

ELMER

Well, folks, I told Gerda. I promise you it took a few stiff jiggers of bourbon before I got around to it. But I told Gerda - my lady wife, you know ?

DORIS

Oh ! What did she say ?

ELMER

She said "O.K. ! we go right ahead

SAM DORIS

What ?

ELMER

It's all right, folks

SAM

All right? ‘ow the 'ell d'yer make that out ? Maybe you think so.

ELMER

Correction. I know so!

DORIS

How ?

ELMER

All right, Dawrus, I was a low-down heel. I didn't tell you I was already married when I was over here. I shoulda told you that.

SAM

You weren't the only one, I reckon. Well ?

ELMER

Well, when I got back Stateside after the War I said to myself, Elmer, your rambling days are over. Now you gotta settle down and be a solid citizen. Raise a family, and all that. So that's what we did. Don't hold that against me, Dawrus, will you ?

DORIS

Oh, Elmer, do come to the point, please

SAM

What difference does all that make ?

ELMER

Well, folks, it's like this. I realized I shouldn't have I shouldn’t have done what I did. Over here, I mean.

SAM

Yaeh. I ought to give you a right clobberin’ for that!

ELMER

Right! But it seems I wasn't the only guy that needed a clobbering,

DORIS

What do you mean?

ELMER

Well, Cindy Lou was born seven months after I got back home. Gerda told me she was preemature.

SAM

Yeah ?

ELMER

Cindy Lou warn't no preemature baby.

SAM DORIS

What!

ELMER

She wasn't preemature. She was full-term.

SAM

What's that? Say that again!

ELMER

She was full-term, that's all. She wasn't mine, you see!

DORIS

Ooooh ! You mean -?

ELMER

I mean I'm not her father, Dawrus. She ain't mine. And I never would have known it but for this business.

DORIS

Oh, thank God!

ELMER

And you know what I cain't get used to it. She still feels like my little Cindy Lou. It ain't a mite different.

SAM

Yeah, I know what you mean. only there is a difference.

DORIS

Sam ! Oh, Sam !

SAM

No, I don't mean that, old gel. Malcolm's mine, and he always will be, far as I'm concerned. Only I know who his , real father is. And you don't know who Cindy Lou's is, do you, Elmer?

ELMER

You're plumb wrong, Sam

DORIS

You do know ?

ELMER

Yeah, because Gerda told me. When I told her about Malcolm, she said I ought to know the whole story - all of it. Then we could put it all on one side and forget about it. Just forget it, and think about Malcolm and Cindy, she said.

SAM

We're goin' to like your Gerda, I reckon.

ELMER

You sure are, Sam. You sure are ! She's the greatest

SAM

And I reckon that's the best thing to come out o' this whole mess. We don't have to tell Malcolm.

ELMER

And we don't have to tell Cindy Lou.

DORIS (GOING, IN TEARS)

I -I'll make some tea.

ELMER

I reckon Dawrus is kinda upset, Sam. Don't you wanna go to her ?

SAM

No, let 'er lave it out. Do 'er a power o' good, it will. (PAUSE) Cigarette ?

ELMER

Gee, thanks You know what ? It's more than twenny years since I last smoked an English cigarette ? They took some getting used to.

SAM

Yeah. English things do as a rule.

ELMER

You can say that again.

SAM

Elmer...

ELMER

Yeah ?

SAM

Come on, come clean! Do you really know who Cindy Louis father was ? Or did you say that to make Doris feel good ?

ELMER

No, no. I know who he was all right. I don't know him, y'unnerstand. I only know of him, you might say. (PAUSE) You know, that's sorta screwy.

SAM

What is ?

ELMER

It's only just dawned on me. Another coincidence.

SAM

Coincidence ?

ELMER

He was a limey. An English gob. A sailor, you know ?

SAM

What ? (LAUGHS) Don't look at me, Elmer I was never in the States in me life !

(HE BEGINS TO LAUGH AS THE IRONY OF THE SITUATION DAWNS ON HIM. IT IS SOME TIME BEFORE HE CAN CONTROL HIS MIRTH)

Sorry about that, Elmer. Now, what abaht this weddin' ?

(HE BEGINS TO LAUGH AGAIN)

Can you beat that ? A matelot! An English matelot!

(IT IS A LITTLE WHILE BEFORE HE CAN SPEAK) There's only one thing botherin' me now, Elmer.

ELMER

And what's that, Sam ?

SAM

Whether I'll manage to keep me face straight in church. When we see our own two kids gettin' married. our own two kids !

(HE GOES OFF AGAIN INTO PAROXYSMS OF LAUGHTER, IN WHICH ELMER JOINS. DORIS, RETURNING WITH TEAPOT IN HAND, STANDS OPEN-MOUTHED IN AMAZEMENT AS THE CURTAIN CLOSES. THE SPOTLIGHT AGAIN PICKS OUT THE ORNITHOLOGIST)

ORNITHOLOGIST

There is a strange phenomenon about the cuckoo family. Despite the undoubted fact that the bird is, ah, parasitic on other birds, it has throughout human history been regarded as a fit subject for humour. one is quite, ah, at a loss to explain this phenomenon. But then, as an ornithologist, I find much of human behaviour inexplicable. Quite inexplicable. Hrrmm! Good night, ladies and gentlemen! Good night!

(THE SPOTLIGHT CUTS OUT)

THE END