One-Act Plays
Comedies | Dramas | Playwrights | Cast-Size

a comedy in one-act

by Cosmo Hamilton

The following one-act play is reprinted from Short Plays for Small Stages. Cosmo Hamilton. London: Skeffinton & Sons, 1911. It is now in the public domain and may therefore be performed without royalties.




The scene is laid in the smoking-room of Chilworth Park one morning in early autumn.

[A charming room. Big arm-chairs, sporting prints, Dutch fireplace, window, through which the sun pours in; several old bits of oak furniture, an armoire, an old table covered with the papers and weeklies; a writing-desk upstage, a large arm-chair in the line of sunlight, opposite to the fireplace.]

[When curtain rises, ENID, a young girl, pretty, quick, full of life and energy, is seated at writing-table addressing an envelope. This done she blots it with a bang, thrusts the letter into it, jumps up and runs to window. She gives a sharp whistle, and beckons.]

ENID: [seated, calling] Jack! [A pause, she lowers her voice slightly to talk to a boy who is under the window.] I say, Jack, I can't come for half an hour. Isn't it rot?

[Enter HAWKHURST. He crosses to the fireplace and stands with his back to it. Loading a pipe, he puts a silver tobacco box on couch.]

ENID: What? I know I did, but father's got to see his agent, and has told me off to keep the Colonel and Mrs. Allingham amused until he's free. Frightfully sorry. And look here, it isn't for you to look surly. What price me? The Colonel's a darling, and Mrs. Allingham's the sweetest thing on earth; but I never know what to say to old people--what?--aren't they? Oh well, they seem old to me.

HAWKHURST: [who, at the mention of age, has drawn himself up and raised his eyebrows] I agree with Jack, my child--sensible young man, Jack.

ENID: [turning quickly] You've heard?

HAWKHURST: Mrs. Allingham and I are not old people.

ENID: I'm awfully sorry.

HAWKHURST: [playing at indignation] Old people!

ENID: I'm most awfully--

HAWKHURST: Shun! Six paces to the front. Quick march.

ENID: [comes across to him] Please forgive me.

HAWKHURST: [putting his hands on her shoulders] Old people, are we? [He laughs.] By Jove, how history repeats itself! When I had the run of this dear old place eighteen--nineteen--good Lord, it's twenty years ago, I remember being asked by your father, then in the spring of his life like you, to stay in this very room, at this identical hour, and keep some of your grandfather's guests amused, as you've been asked. There were three of 'em--and they were all fine, strong, upstanding fellers--like me. And I thought that they were old--antediluvian, and funked it, as you do. Now I know that they were not only not old, but not even autumnal, but were enjoying their St. Martin's summer, as we are. Will you withdraw your libellous remark?

ENID: [with a smile] Consider it scratched. I'll never say that you're old again, and I won't even think it.

HAWKHURST: Then you can go and leave me to amuse Mrs. Allingham till your father's free.

ENID: Don't you won't me to stay?

HAWKHURST: I want you to stay very much. I want to renew our friendship.

ENID: Did you know me then all those years ago?

HAWKHURST: Certainly I did.

ENID: But I wasn't born twenty-five years ago.

HAWKHURST: Perfectly right. But I'm a friend of the family and I knew you some years before you were born. Do you want that letter posted?

ENID: I was going to ask Jack--

HAWKHURST: [takes it and goes to the window] Jack, get on your bicycle and drop this letter in the wall twenty yards to the left of the South Lodge, please. [He throws out letter.] And Jack! Enid has no further use for you for half an hour.

ENID: [laughing] Revenge!

HAWKHURST: Do you mind my pipe?

ENID: I'll light it for you. [She gets match, strikes it, and holds it up.]

HAWKHURST: Thanks. You're going to be useful as well as amusing, eh?

ENID: Ash-tray, matches, and Morning Post. [She places them on table near left.]

HAWKHURST: I never read the paper.

ENID: But you've been reading it!

HAWKHURST: No. I was looking at the headlines and hurrying on. On my way down last night I drew a picture of you in my mind.

ENID: Am I like it?

HAWKHURST: Exactly, except the face. Yours is like mine, but better. You have your mother's eyes, your father's nose, your mother's ears, and your father's tongue.

ENID: [laughing] I said I was sorry!

HAWKHURST: You've nothing to be sorry about. Your father has the gift of saying things that win all hearts. When he was ten and I was nine and a half he called me a silly ass. I gave him a hiding, and we've been pals ever since.

ENID: Father's often told me of how you used to spend all your holidays here.

HAWKHURST: [looking round] Dear old place. It's just the same. The trees are older and the bricks are warmer, and you're here, but it's none the worse for that.

ENID: Thank you!

HAWKHURST: Yes, all my holidays were spent here. Great times, my dear, great times. I've shot over the covers, and skated on the lake, basked on the tennis-court, galloped over the turf--

ENID: Bird's-nested?

HAWKHURST: In every tree and hedge.

ENID: Ratted?

HAWKHURST: In every hole.

ENID: Fished?

HAWKHURST: Every inch of the stream.

ENID: Prigged peaches?

HAWKHURST: [making a noise with his tongue] Heaps of times.

ENID: Laid awake for the ghost?

HAWKHURST: [lowering his voice] And shivered under the bed-clothes.

ENID: Then you did everything.

HAWKHURST: Every blessed thing. I did another thing too. Do you know a beech-tree, three hundred yards from the bridge?

ENID: With initials carved on it?

HAWKHURST: And underneath them a heart pierced with an arrow?

ENID: You carved them!

HAWKHURST: Three weeks before I went with the regiment to India. It was a fine bit of work. The heart was as big as that. [He makes a circle with his thumb and forefinger.]

ENID: Now it's as big as this. [She puts all her fingers together and makes a large circle.]

HAWKHURST: No, no, not as big as that.

ENID: Bigger.

HAWKHURST: [giving a long low whistle] Twenty years ago! I was very badly in love. She was a school friend of your Aunt Hettie's.

ENID: A dear? [Sits on couch.]

HAWKHURST: No. An angel. Not tall, not short. Just right. She had hair--and a nose--two eyes--and a voice--lips--hands and feet.

ENID: Had she really?

HAWKHURST: And I've never met any other woman in any other part of the world who had any of 'em.

ENID: Good Heavens.

HAWKHURST: Because I've known you all your life I don't think that's any reason why you should pull my leg--I've never forgotten her. I'm still in love with her. Each time I've come home I've tried to find her. I'm still looking for her. When I find her I shall marry her.

ENID: But--suppose when you do find her she's greatly altered?

HAWKHURST: She couldn't alter.

ENID: Would you know her at once?

HAWKHURST: Instantly--anywhere.

ENID: Did you propose to her?

HAWKHURST: No. I hadn't the right--no money--no pluck--no practise.

ENID: Then she won't have waited for you?

HAWKHURST: Good Lord, I'd forgotten that. And, by jove, I say, we're forgetting Mrs. Allingham. OUghtn't we to be amusing her?

ENID: I expect she's writing letters.

HAWKHURST: I don't suppose so. A woman only writes letters when she wants to get out of an unpleasant engagement. Don't you think we'd better go and find her?

ENID: Do you like her?

HAWKHURST: Very much indeed. Immensely. What did you say?

ENID: I asked if you liked her?

HAWKHURST: Do I like her? Do I like Mrs. Allingham? I don't know. I believe I shall. She was late for breakfast and sat with her back to the light. I like the voice. It--it reminded me of--hanged if I can remember. Let's go and fetch her. I'm certain I shall like her. Coming? [He goes off.]

ENID: Yes. [She goes towards the door.]


ENID: Oh, here you are!

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Yes, here I am, as large as life. You've been smoking a pipe!

ENID: [laughing] I wish I had! It was Sir Richard.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Oh, of course. Ah, what a delicious smell. The smoke from a big man's pipe does more to make a room really comfortable than all the furniture in the world. Where is Sir Richard? [She sits.]

ENID: Gone to look for you.

MRS. ALLLINGHAM: For me? Why? Has he remembered--[her voice goes from eagerness to nervousness.], has he remembered that it's rather selfish to leave a fellow-guest to her own devices so soon after breakfast!

ENID: Yes, he said he thought you ought to be amused. He thinks he's going to rather like you.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: He won't be able to help himself. All big men like me--rather. I was going down to the lake with a book, but when my left ear suddenly began to burn I started out to find Dick.

ENID: Dick? Who's Dick?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [quickly] The Dick, Tom or Harry who was talking about me. You and he are old friends, I suppose.

ENID: I don't know him a bit. But he knows me well. He hasn't been here since the year before I was born.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [thoughtfully] Yes, it's twenty years ago. Did he say anything about being short-sighted?

ENID: Not a word. Is he short-sighted?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Most men become short-sighted after twenty years. [She picks up a round silver tobacco box, from sofa.] Good heavens! This! R.H. from V.S.

ENID: Why, those are the initials carved on the beech-tree!

MRS. ALLINGHAM: How do you know?

ENID: I've known them all my life. Sir Richard was telling me about them just now. He carved them, you know.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [sits, softly] And what did he tell you about V.S.? and the heart and the arrow through it?

ENID: [laughing] Oh, he was very funny.


ENID: He said she was the only woman who ever had two eyes and a nose and two feet in the world.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Did he? Did he, really? How nice of him.

ENID: In fact he raved about her.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: And yet, from his description, she seems to have been a very ordinary woman!

ENID: So I should have thought. But he doesn't think so. He still loves her and is still looking for her.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Why didn't he tell her so when he saw her?

ENID: He hasn't seen her yet.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Then he is short-sighted.

ENID: I suggested that she may have altered past recognition.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [with a break in her voice] Altered past recognition? It's only twenty years!

ENID: [runs to her side and kneeling] Oh, V.S. I'm sorry I said that.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [putting her arms around her] Oh, my dear it's the truth. No wonder he's forgotten. The V.S. whose initials he carved, the V.S. he loved and whose love he won, and never said a word to, is the same V.S. in his heart, but no longer the same to his eyes. He'll never find the V.S. for whom he's looking. Time took her by the hand twenty years ago and I don't want him ever to find V.S. of today. Let him live with his dream and let me live with mine. After all, the arrow has been through the heart for twenty years.

[Enter HAWKHURST. MRS. ALLINGHAM sees him, laughs merrily, and pretends to be putting ENID'S brooch in.]

MRS. ALLINGHAM: There! I think that's all right now. It would have been a pity to have lost it. I've made it quite secure. [In a low voice, eagerly.] Not a word. You promise?

ENID: I promise. [She kisses MRS. ALLINGHAM.]

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [to HAWKHURST, who knocks out his pipe] Don't stop smoking for me.

HAWKHURST: Honestly?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: There's nothing I love so much as a pipe after breakfast.

HAWKHURST: [looking surprised] You don't say so?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I don't mind confessing that I like a pipe all day long.

HAWKHURST: Don't you find it rather--bad for the teeth?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: For the teeth? Not a bit. I only draw the line at one sort of pipe.

HAWKHURST: [politely] The clay?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: No, I think a clay is quite convivial. I mean the conversational pipe--the pipe that wheezes like a poor old workhouse man.

HAWKHURST: I think you're quite right. [He looks about anxiously.] Dash it, what have I done with my tobacco box. I wouldn't lose it for untold gold.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [holding it out] Is this it?

HAWKHURST: Oh, thanks awf'ly. [He takes it.] How do you like that mixture?

ENID: [laughing] I believe you think that Mrs. Allingham smokes a pipe.

HAWKHURST: [to MRS. ALLINGHAM] But don't you?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I tried once, twenty years ago, I've--never forgotten it.

HAWKHURST: By Jove, you take a load off my mind.

[There is a whistle under the window.]

ENID: Jack! [She makes an eager movement and stops.]

HAWKHURST: Cut away, my child. [Pushes her towards door.]

ENID: May I, Mrs. Allingham?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Of course, dear. But don't let Jack cut your initials on a tree.

ENID: Why?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: It's unlucky.

[ENID laughs and runs out glass door.]

HAWKHURST: Funny thing you should have said that, Mrs. Allingham.


HAWKHURST: I've been thinking that it's an unlucky thing to do for a long time.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Did you do it then? [Crosses to table and sits down.]

HAWKHURST: Yes, in this park. Twenty years ago.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Can you remember doing anything so long ago as that?


MRS. ALLINGHAM: But why do you think it unlucky? Were they--the wrong initials? V.S. may stand for very scratchy as well as very sweet.

HAWKHURST: How did you know they were V.S.?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [quickly] I saw them on your tobacco box and made a shot at it. Am I right?

HAWKHURST: Quite right. But they stand for Violet Stanfield.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Rather a pretty name.

HAWKHURST: It's very nice of you to say that.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [with a laugh] Not at all. Was she--a pretty person?

HAWKHURST: [gravely] She never was a person.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I beg your pardon. It is rather a reproach to call a woman a person, isn't it? Almost as bad as calling a man worthy. They both suggest peppermint and cork soles.

HAWKHURST: As a matter of fact, V.S. wasn't a woman either. [Sits on couch.]

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Good Heavens, what was she then?

HAWKHURST: The most beautiful girl ever known.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: You were in luck!

HAWKHURST: May I tell you about her?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I shouldn't have thought there was anything more to tell.

HAWKHURST: Ah, you wouldn't say that if you'd known her.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I wish I had!

HAWKHURST: I wish you had too. She would have done you good.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Was she a lady doctor?

HAWKHURST: Good Lord, no! I mean, she was such a dear, such a--such a gay, true, fragrant girl.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: [softly] Thank you.


MRS. ALLINGHAM: [quickly] It's good to hear a man say those things about a woman. I thanked you for all the other women. Were you engaged to her?

HAWKHURST: No. No money, you see.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Was she so mercenary then?

HAWKHURST: Vi mercenary?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: But I suppose she could have gone without things for you?

HAWKHURST: But a man's wife must dress.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Naturally. Unless they have a bungalow of bark on a desert island. She could have made her own dresses.

HAWKHURST: But my pay didn't run to the materials.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: If a woman really loves a man she's ready to fight for her dress materials at Summer Clearance Sales.

HAWKHURST: I couldn't have asked her to do it, Mrs. Allingham. [He rises.]

MRS. ALLINGHAM: You don't know what you have lost!

HAWKHURST: Don't I? Twenty years of happiness!

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Twenty years. You went abroad?

HAWKHURST: India, Hong Kong, South Africa, Egypt.


HAWKHURST: Married, I heard, and went to live in Australia.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: You never spoke?


MRS. ALLINGHAM: So that she wasn't to know that you loved her?

HAWKHURST: Well, I cut our initials in a tree, and carved an arrow through a heart.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Yes, her heart!

HAWKHURST: No, it was meant to be a sort of joint heart.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Is she alive?

HAWKHURST: [angrily] Of course she's alive.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I beg your pardon. Even the most beautiful girls ever known haven't the gift of perpetual life.

HAWKHURST: You gave me a shock. I'm sorry I barked like that.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Not a bit. I like you for barking. Why don't you try and find her?

HAWKHURST: I am trying.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: She may be free.

HAWKHURST: Yes, she may be free.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: But suppose she's forgotten?

HAWKHURST: I refuse to suppose that. It's very kind of you to be so sympathetic.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Oh no, not at all. I suppose you would know her if you saw her?

HAWKHURST: Anywhere. Instantly.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Really!--She won't be the most beautiful girl ever known now, you know.

HAWKHURST: [hotly] I beg your pardon, she won't have altered a day.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: She really seems to be a very wonderful woman.

HAWKHURST: It's very good of you to be so interested.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: The whole thing seems to me to be so--sad.

HAWKHURST: Sad? Mrs. Allingham?

MRS. ALLINGHAM: For the girl, I mean. Twenty years ago you and she loved each other. You never said a word because you thought more of her dresses than her happiness. But she knew that you loved her--because you carved her initials on the beech-tree and drove an arrow into a heart. It was all very well for you--you had your work and your career, and they filled your life during these twenty years. But what of the girl? She waited and waited and waited, but still there was never a word. For years she said, "Tomorrow--there is tomorrow." But all the tomorrows became todays until she said, "Yesterday--it was yesterday." She watched you in India and Hong Kong, South Africa--[putting her hand suddenly on her heart]--those black days--and in Egypt. Up the ladder you went, brave and strong, but he has forgotten, she said, waiting at home. Then she had her black days, and met the Angel of Death upon the threshold and saw him take away father and mother. And she was lonely and without a tomorrow, and at last--at last... [her voice breaks] Old Robin Gray came a'courtin' o' me.

[She puts her hands over her face. HAWKHURST bends toward her, but is afraid to move. Then goes forward and gently takes her hand away, moves her slightly until the sun falls on her face.]


MRS. ALLINGHAM: [softly] Dick.

[They stand apart looking at each other. He has her hands.]

HAWKHURST: I should have known you anywhere, Vi.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: So it seems, Dick.

HAWKHURST: You haven't altered a day, Vi.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: I'm glad you think so, Dick.

HAWKHURST: I love you, Vi.

MRS. ALLINGHAM: Thank you, Dick.

[She flings her arms round his neck, laughing and crying. ENID runs in and stops, and tip-toes out.]


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