Wild Geese : A Comedy in three Acts

by Bassett Kendall


(The same scene. The same evening after dinner. Everyone is in the same clothes except the Col. who wears a dinner jacket, the Nurse who wears half evening dress and the Negro who is in full evening dress.)

(Enter Und. &. Son.)

Und. Joey, I don’t want to find fault – but I think you should try to make yourself pleasant to everybody. Don’t forget the thousand pounds is still going.

Son. I tell you, Father – there’s no thousand and no ’undred. ’Oo would be such a fool as to pay a ’undred pounds to a lot of blokes to come ’ere and do nothing? Either the thing’s a bloomin’ hoax or there’s more in us being ’ere than what meets the eye.

Und. What d’yer mean, Joey? There can’t be no ’arm in us being in this ’ouse.

Son. ’Ow d’yer know that? What do we know about this set of people?

Und. Why? What are you afraid of, Joey?

Son. I don’t know, dash it! But I’m sure there’s something fishy in it all. I feel it in my bones.

Und. Don’t, Joey. You make me feel quite creepy.

Son. An ’undred pounds from a fellow as won’t even show ’is face. Why isn’t ’e ’ere? – and if ’e is ’ere why can’t we know which ’e is?

Und. I’ve been trying all dinner to make out which ’e is – but I can’t be sure between three – that’s the Colonel and the ’orspital nurse and the bright looking chap what takes notes and won’t speak a word.

Son. Strikes me the ’ole thing’s a swindle; ’ere we are – stuck for a blooming week and chucking a couple of certain funerals into Dyke & Warrington’s lap.

Und. But, Joey, what d’yer think’s fishy about it?

Son. Seems to me, some of this lot may be a set of crooks – look at that Tramp fellow – I bet my boots ’e’s been in quod more’n once: then there’s the blighter that won’t talk: and I wouldn’t trust that dashed Nigger with an ’apenny. Of course, the Colonel’s all right and the ’orspital lady. But I bet Crisp’s a shady tout.

Und. Well, I ’ope you’re not right, Joey. The pictures ’as give me an ’orror of crooks. And I was counting on that 300 to buy a new ’earse. An it might get in the papers: nice thing to read in the Echo – Collins, Collins & Collins mixed up with a lot of crooks – inset picture of the ’ouse – Mr. Josiah Collins.

Son. It’s all pretty awful.

Und. Then there’s Grandfather. I tried to catch ’is eye at dinner because ’e was eating- so much: ’e polished off about a quarter of that goose before you could say knife.

Son. The nigger ate the other three quarters.

Und. Ah – but goose don’t agree with Grandfather – makes ’im feel awful bad. ’E’ll be calling out more’n ’alf the night. But, Joey, I do ’ope you’re not right about the crooks. I shan’t sleep a wink.

(He jumps nervously as the Tramp enters.) Oh dear! I know I’ll ’ave palpitations tonight.

Tramp. Why? Have you been exceeding the limit of propriety in the matter of dinner, Frog-face? (Tramp sits down by Und. on sofa.)

Und. Now look ’ere, my man –

Tramp. I’m not your man, snuff-box – and if I was, I’d go to the nearest puddle and drown myself – (Und. rises and moves away.) Thank you, that’s what I hoped for.

(Enter Nurse and Mrs. C.)

Mrs. C. Well, Miss, it’s funny you being a nurse too and me being a nurse as well – not as what it’s the same kind of a nurse if you understand my meaning – but then there’s nurses and nurses and some nurses nurses sick folks and other nurses nurses babies.

Nurse. But not many have nursed a Duke, Mrs. Collins.

Mrs. C. There you’re right, Miss – and a precious darling ’e was and that’s a fact – taking ’is bottle beautiful and ’ardly ever sick. And now – to think of my precious master Charley being drownded – (She becomes tearful.)

(The Col. has entered during this speech – he stands looking stiffly about like a fish out of water.)

Nurse. How did it happen, Mrs. Collins? I didn’t see it in the papers.

Mrs. C. Seems there was a burglary at Densington – that’s ’Is Grace’s mansion you know – where I used to be nurse – and the burglars some’ow got ’old of Master Charley and drownded ’im in the Devil’s Pool – which is under a bridge in the river and ’as no bottom – though ’ow they know it’s got no bottom if nobody’s ever found a bottom I don’t know and when I used to think about it ’aving no bottom I never could see why the water didn’t all go through.

Tramp. Comes up like a hot spring in Australia, I shouldn’t wonder, Joe.

Mrs. C. Praps it do, Joe – but do you think Master Charlie might come out ’tother side of the world, too?

Tramp. Shouldn’t wonder, Joe; sort of channel tunnel.

Mrs. C. Well, that’s ’ow it was, Miss – and when I got to there my poor eyes was so swollen with crying I couldn’t read no more – and when I looked for the Mail next morning it wasn’t there – I suppose I must ’ave lit the fire with it not thinking like –

Col. I think I can give you the whole story as far as far as it appeared in the papers. It caught my eye and I felt a personal interest as the Duke’s father was a great friend of mine.

Mrs. C. What – you knew ’is late Grace, sir? Well, isn’t that a queer thing – and ’im killed out ’unting when Master Charlie was not five years old –

Und. We ’ad the pleasure of burying ’is Grace.

Col. We were in the same regiment. Poor old Romsey! A madcap fellow too! However to return to the young duke. (Enter Civ. He sits motionless at a distance and listens attentively.) It seems that a burglar broke into the house one day about a fortnight ago, found his way to a safe where come of the finest family jewels were kept –

Mrs. C. And wonderful jools they was too – strings upon strings of diamints – a tye-area with pearls as big as ’ens’ eggs in a manner of speaking and wonderful well ’er late Grace used to look in ’em, she being a striking looking woman – massive too – till ’er was took bad with pewmonia, poor thing, and died in five days she did and Master Charlie not seven years old then.

Tramp. More work for Collins, Collins & Collins I dare say.

Und. Yes, we ’ad the honour of interring ’er Grace too. Densington is quite close to Lymington, you see.

Col. As I was saying, the burglar discovered this safe, broke it open and made a clean sweep of everything. As he came downstairs it is conjectured that he met the Duke, who had heard suspicious sounds and had come down from his room on the first floor; there were signs of a struggle in the front Hall. The butler noticed this in the morning, ran up to the Duke’s room and found it empty. He at once notified the police who found marks of the tyres of a car on the drive. They followed these marks as far as Devil’s Pool where the drive crosses the river: there the car had stopped and there were other marks – footprints and the trail of a heavy object dragged along the ground to the parapet of the bridge.

Mrs. C. Master Charlie!

Col. The police theory appears to be that the criminal stunned the Duke in the house – carried him in his car to the bridge and threw him into the river.

Tramp. Bad luck on Collins, Collins & Collins – did them out of another job.

Und. Yes, that’s what I said to Joey at the time – didn’t I?

Son. Oh shut up, Father. It’s bad business to talk tactless like that.

Nurse. Wasn’t the pool dragged?

(Enter Crisp, looking rather worried. He goes to Und. and speaks in an undertone.)

Crisp. I can’t get your father away from the dinner table. He has eaten nearly the whole of a pineapple since you left him.

Und. Come on, Joey, we must rescue Grandfather.

Crisp. I suggested joining the ladies, but he can’t hear what I say.

Son. I’ll pull ’im off the pineapple. (Exeunt Und. & Son hurriedly.)

Mrs. C. I don’t see what would be the good of dragging a pool what had no bottom, Miss.

Col. As a matter of fact the pool was dragged – but without success. The depth was too great.

Tramp. Well, I don’t hold with murder. Burglary, yes: burglary’s an honest man’s trade. I’ve been a burglar myself at odd times: it’s an occupation I rather favour than otherwise – very lucrative and plenty of leisure: but I’ve always drawn the line at murder. It’s not only repulsive but unintelligent – an appeal to brute force when imagination fails.

Nurse. What a wonderful command of language you have, Mr. Collins. When you were in hospital your vocabulary was more limited, if I remember rightly.

Tramp. You’re right, Sister Joe. But after that time I struck up a friendship with a Cambridge professor of philosophy. I spent three years with him at Princetown.

Col. Princetown – Did you stay at the Duchy Hotel – just opposite the prison?

Tramp. No – I stayed just opposite the Duchy Hotel. That was my second visit to the Moor. I’ve been there again since.

Mrs. C. Joe, don’t give yourself away so.

Tramp. You don’t understand, Joe. I’ve lived for nine years of my life at the expense of the British taxpayer: such a privilege is only extended to those who deserve it.

Col. I can well believe that.

(Enter Und. and Son bringing in Grandfather, who is still sucking the butt end of a pineapple.)

Grand. Stop pulling me about, Joey. I want to go back to my friend.

Son. That’s the nigger.

Grand. ’E promised me a bit of ’is pumpkin.

Son. Melon, Grandfather.

Grand. Yes – ’e’s well on with it.

(Enter Nutter: he speaks to Crisp.)

Nut. I beg your pardon, Sir. Do you wish me to clear?

Crisp. Certainly Nutter; why?

Nut. Well, sir, Mr. Collins is still at the table.

Crisp. Which Mr. Collins?

Nut. The dark Mr. Collins, Sir.

(Enter Negro, wiping; his mouth.)

Negro. It’s all serene; Nutter. I’ve finished.

Nut. Thank you, sir. (Exit Nutter.)

Grand. Did you think to bring in that pumpkin?

Negro. Yes – I’ve brought it in. But I’m afraid I can’t give you any, old son.

Son. Don’t talk so much, grandfather.

Negro. Now, what about some music? I’ve got a few things I brought down before dinner; I’ll just sing through the lot to you. (It is a huge portfolio.)

Crisp. Won’t it tire your voice, Sir?

Negro. My voice is never tired. Way back in Chicago one night last fall I sang for 16 hours on end. The audience just wouldn’t let me stop. I got a letter next day from a woman who’d been there; and do you know what she said? Said when she heard me sing, she thought she was in Heaven.

Tramp. Took you for one of the four beasts, I shouldn’t wonder.

Negro. You don’t seem to understand that when Joe Collins says he’ll sing to you gratis, he’s favouring you some. Now who’s going to play for me? I can’t give you the full pathos of some of my spirituals, if I have to accompany myself. Who can play the pianoforte? (There is a silence. Son and Und. whisper)

Son. Father ’ere plays at most of the smoking concerts in Lymington.

Und. Stop it Joe, I ain’t no good.

Son. Don’t you be so modest, Father.

Several. Do play, Mr. Collins.

Und. Oh well – I’ll do my best.

Negro. That’s right, old sport. You don’t look much like a musician but appearances are often deceptive. (Und. sits at piano. The stool is too low and he begins to wind it up.)

Negro. Now – we’ll begin with this. “I wish I were in Dixie;” the last time I sang this there wasn’t a dry eye in the Hall.

Tramp. Not even yours, I dare say.

Negro. Aren’t you ready, old bean? (The top of stool comes off. Son to the rescue.)

Und. I’m feeling that nervous, Joey, I’m all of a tremble.

Grand. Ain’t ’e going to play the bones?

(The Negro strikes a professional attitude. The rest sit round with fatuous expressions usual in listening to music.)

Son. (Fixing top) That’s got ’im.

(Und. clambers on to his perch. Son returns to Grand.)

Negro. Ready?

Und. Ready. (Und. looks at music and poises hands above keys.)

Negro. Why don’t you start?

Und. Oh, do I begin first?

Negro. Can’t you see there’s 8 bars of accompaniment before the voice comes in?

Und. Oh – so there is. Are you ready now?

Negro. For holy Moses’ sake, start. (Und. strikes an unbelievable discord. Negro shrieks, and stamps about.)

Grand. Now the fun’s starting. (Cackles with laughter.)

Und. That didn’t sound quite right.

Negro. Right! Right! Holy snakes, right!

Und. Oh, I thought it was wrong. P’raps I’d better put on my spectacles. I shall see better in them.

Joe. You’ll get it next time, Father.

(Und. puts on spectacles and begins with dirge-like slowness.)

Negro. Faster! Faster! Dash it, Sir, you may be accustomed to funerals, but this isn’t a funeral march.

Tramp. It would be if I had my way, coal cellar. (Und. has now got to the end of his 8 bars and Negro bursts in in a very loud, deep bass – at least three times the speed of the accompaniment. The sudden noise makes Und. jump and turn round.)

Negro. (While singing) You certainly would lose your place if you were in the profession.

Und. Shall we begin again?

Negro. Yes – and go three times that pace.

Grand. Where’s his bones, Joey? –

Son. Same place as yours, I expect, if you could get at ’em.

(Und. begins again much faster and even less accurately.)

Grand. Ain’t ’e even got a tambourine?

Negro. (Sings) “I wish I was in Dixie” etc.

Tramp. So do I, Othello. (Negro continues singing.)

Negro. Faster! ... Faster!

Grand. ’As ’e started singing yet?

(Negro gets more and more excited and finally kicks the music stool, which collapses, letting Und. down.)

Grand. Why’s Joe playing on the floor?

Negro. Because he can’t play on the pianoforte, old bird.

(Und. picks himself up with great dignity.)

Und. You’d better play for yourself now.

Negro. You’re quite right – I had. (Sits down at piano and plays several bars of a new song.)

Tramp. (Getting up.) I’m going out in the garden. (Negro stops.)

Crisp. I don’t think that’s in order, Mr. Collins. My client’s instructions were distinctly that no one was to leave the house.

Tramp. I contend, Mr. Crisp, that the garden is included in the house; and if Black Beauty means to let fly again, I go into the garden.

Civ. I can’t allow that. (Everyone is surprised at Civ., who speaks with great authority.)

Tramp. Oh. – Rip Van Winkle’s woken up.

Civ. I say no one can leave this house without my authority.

Tramp. Well, so long as you’ll put a stopper on the Inkbottle, I don’t mind.

Col. Are we to understand then, Sir, that you are our host?

Civ. Certainly not. I happen to be looking for your host myself. I’m a Scotland Yard detective. (Sensation.)

Tramp. I thought I knew his face.

Civ. You’ve all heard of the robbery at Densington and the murder of the Duke of Romsey. You were talking about the case earlier in the evening: the account which Col. Collins gave you was a perfectly accurate one as far as it went. But there was one important fact that never got into the papers; you’ll remember that the Duke was dragged insensible to the wall of the bridge and presumably thrown into Devil’s Pool: pinned to the woodwork of the bridge was a small piece of paper with a message written on it; this fact has hitherto been known only to the Police – but it gave us a very valuable clue.

Mrs. C. Oh, Constable, what was wrote on it? If I thought as ’ow ...

Civ. Written on that piece of paper were the words “Joe Collins fessit.”

Und. Like what you see on a grandfather clock, Joey. We’ve got one in the shop now.

Civ. Joe Collins fessit.

Col. How was the third word spelt?

Civ. Fecit: fessit. Naturally we could make nothing of that – but we submitted it to our modern language expert at the Yard. His report was that it was not a matter for his department and he suggested that we should refer it to Dr. Bledisloe, the expert in dead languages. This was done and after careful consideration Dr. Bledisloe expressed the opinion that it was a Latin message, which he decoded as follows:- “Joe Collins did it.”

(Everyone very uncomfortable except Tramp and Grand.)

Und. Fess – did – it – it – eh, inspector?

Civ. I expect so. Now you will all see at a glance what an important clue this was and why I am here. The murder was committed on the night of Wednesday, Sept. 4th.: on Monday 9th that paragraph appeared in the Times inviting any persons named Joe Collins to come here today. This could hardly be a coincidence and I was sent down to investigate.

Son. Didn’t I say it was crooks, father?

Col. Then your theory –

Civ. My theory is that the criminal is one of the present company, shielding himself from us by collecting as many Joe Collinses as possible under this roof.

Nurse. But can’t you discover who’s the owner of the house?

Civ. We’ve been into that, of course. This house belongs to a lady named Mrs. Packington and she’s let it furnished for a month to a Mr. Joe Collins of London. For such a short let there’s been no formal lease – so we’re no further.

Col. But why should the murderer have drawn attention to his whereabouts by putting that paragraph in the paper? Why didn’t he just lie low?

Civ. That puzzled us at first. You must remember, Colonel, that we are dealing with a very cool and audacious customer. A murderer who will pin up his name on the scene of the crime is an unusual criminal: but we could see no sense in that paragraph until we got some fresh information from the Paris police. They informed us last night that a box had been deposited by an agent in a Paris bank – in the name of Mr. Joe Collins of London. Feeling uneasy about it, the bank had opened this box and found that it contained jewels corresponding exactly to those stolen from Densington. They communicated with the police who passed on the information to us.

Col. But even now I don’t see –

Civ. I fancy Collins knew we were close on his tracks. As a matter of fact we had traced his car into this neighbourhood: there was a defect in one tyre which made this possible. Very well: here he had to remain until his accomplice returned from Paris with money raised on the security of the diamonds: to cover his own identity, he hit on the ingenious idea of inviting a crowd of Joe Collinses to his house. And I’m bound to say that it has complicated my investigations.

Crisp. Then here we’ve got to stay until the messenger returns?

Civ. Unless he has already returned, Mr. Crisp – in which case the two will probably try to do a bolt pretty soon.

(Enter Nutter – to Crisp.)

Nut. I beg pardon, sir, I thought you would wish to know that there’s a cordon of police round the house. I saw a helmet in the bushes and went to investigate: there must be more than a score of them.

Civ. So you see, ladies and gentlemen, you are caught here like rats in a trap. And until I catch the real rat, here you stop.

Negro. (Blustering.) I shall complain to the American embassy. I’m a citizen of a free country and no darned policeman shall keep me here against my will.

Civ. That sort of bluster won’t do, Mr. Collins.

Grand. Joey, I’ve got lumbago that awful.

Son. I’ll rub your back, Grandfather. (Does so very hard.)

(An uncomfortable pause.)

Grand. It ain’t no manner of good stroking my back, Joey: I’ve got it in front this time.

Son. That’s only the goose, Grandfather.

Grand. I’m not going to the deuce, Joey. I’m going to bed.

Und. Do we ’ave to stop in this ’ere room, sir? Or could we take Grandfather upstairs?

Civ. Take him to bed, by all means. But understand, all of you – if my men catch anyone outside the house, he will be in a very awkward position.

Grand. (Going up to Negro.) You should ’ave brought the bones. (Negro starts violently. Exeunt Grandfather, Und. and Son.)

Civ. (To Nutter) Tell the young Mr. Collins and his father I want to see them later.

Nut. Very good, sir. (Exit Nutter.)

Civ. I suppose it’s clear to everybody here that if you can prove an alibi for the night of Sept. 4th. you’ll clear yourselves of suspicion and simplify my investigations in narrowing down the number of suspects.

Mrs. C. What’s an alibi, Joe?

Tramp. It means you were somewhere else from where you really were, Joe.

Civ. You had better be careful, Joe Collins.

Tramp. I mean to be careful, sir.

Civ. Now, Mrs. Collins, where were you on the night of Sept. 4th.

Mrs. C. Where should I be but at home, sir? And if you think it was me as drownded Master Charlie, sir, I say you’re wrong – I wouldn’t do such a thing, that I wouldn’t, not if you paid me £10 I wouldn’t – and me that was his nurse’ and all.

Civ. You were at home that night, then?

Mrs. C. That I was, sir – oh, unless that was the night Collins took me to the pictures – or it might have been –

Civ. Very well, Mrs. Collins. Now, Miss Collins?

Nurse. I was in St. Bartholomew’s Hospital on night duty.

Civ. You all understand that I shall verify your statements in the morning, wherever possible?

Col. Of course.

Nurse. Naturally.

Civ. Where were you, Col. Collins?

Col. I was on a motor tour all that week in the South of England.

Civ. Alone?

Col. No, with a friend – Sir Frederick Lester.

Civ. His address?

Col. He went abroad last Thursday: I haven’t got his present address.

Civ. Did you stay at an hotel that night?

Col. No, we were camping out.

Civ. Where?

Col. In the New Forest – near Beaulieu.

Civ. (Taking map from pocket) Here’s a map of Densington and its surroundings: the scale is one inch to the mile. You will see that Beaulieu is about 8 miles from the Park gates.

Tramp. He’s got you, old Stand-at-ease.

Civ. I didn’t ask for any comments from you.

Tramp. Pray accept my apologies, Inspector.

Civ. Mr. Joe Collins, please. (To Negro.)

Negro. Waal, I must refer to my engagement book. One the evening of the 4th. I was singing at a concert in Brockenhurst.

Civ. What time was the concert over?

Negro. About 10.30.

Civ. Did you stay the night in Brockenhurst?

Negro. No, I drove to Bournemouth.

Civ. Where did you spend the night?

Negro. At the Branksome Hotel.

Civ. What time did you arrive?

Negro. I can’t say to the minute.

Civ. Did you take the most direct road to Bournemouth?

Negro. I went by Lymington.

Civ. Why did you do that?

Negro. Wasn’t it the right way?

Civ. The right way to Densington, yes.

Tramp. You’ve got the murderers now, Inspector.

Negro. I swear I had nothing to do with it, Inspector; you’ll believe me, won’t you? Joe Collins is only a poor nigger, but he wouldn’t do a thing like that. I’ll take my oath, Inspector.

Civ. That’s quite enough, Collins – I’ve done with you.

Negro. You do believe me, don’t you, Inspector? (He becomes incoherent and retires blubbering from the room.)

Civ. Now, you –

Tramp. Where was I on Sept. 4th? I can’t say, Inspector. As I think you know, I wander from place to place according to the fancy of the moment: I am a bird of passage, if you understand me –

Civ. This sort of bluff won’t do for me.

Tramp. I’m telling you the strict truth, Inspector. Dates mean nothing to me – places mean nothing to me – I just roam about observing Nature as I go – I flit like a butterfly from flower to flower –

Civ. Stop that gas. You’ve been in prison, I think you said?

Tramp. That’s perfectly correct. You arrested me yourself on one occasion.

Civ. That’s quite likely. What were the charges?

Tramp. Burglary the Judge called it. But I was only living up to my political beliefs. You see, I’m a Communist.

(Und. looks round the door.)

Und. Did you say you wanted us, sir?

Civ. Yes. (Enter Und. and Son, suspiciously.)

Und. We’ve got Grandfather to bed, thank you.

Civ. Where were you on the night of Sept. 4th?

Und. Let’s see – where was we, Joey?

Son. At ’ome in Lymington – 24 High Street.

Und. Wasn’t that the night Grandfather was took bad?

Son. Ah, I believe it was, now you say so, Father.

Civ. Then you spent the whole night at home.

Und. I did, sir. Joey went to fetch the doctor.

Civ. Where does the Doctor live?

Und. Just outside the town, sir – on the way to the Duke’s place.

Civ. How long was your son away from home?

Und. I couldn’t say exactly, sir. Grandfather was kicking up such a fuss, you see. I know it seemed to me a mighty long time.

Son. The Doctor was in bed, Inspector. I ’ad to wait while ’e dressed.

Civ. What time did you leave the house?

Son. Might ’ave been 12, might ’ave been a bit later.

Civ. When did you reach the doctor’s house?

Son. I ’ad a lot of bother starting the car.

Civ. Oh – you went by car?

Son. Yes, I did – What are you getting at?

Civ. That’s what I want to find out.

Son. Blowed if I’ll answer another question. You’re trying to fix this crime on me. I told you ’ow it would be, Father, if we stopped ’ere.

Und. Don’t take on Joey. Dr. Stacey’ll say what time you got there.

Civ. Dr. Stacey – very well. Now I want a word or two with Mr. Crisp. It’s getting very late: you’d all do well to go up to bed.

Mrs. C. Oh, I couldn’t sleep a wink. Couldn’t we go into the dining room?

Civ. Just as you like. But I want this room.

Tramp. Good night, Inspector: sleep well.

(Exeunt all but Civ. & Crisp.)

Crisp. Well, Inspector.

Civ. Your name is Crisp?

Crisp. Yes.

Civ. Christian name?

Crisp. Christian.

Civ. Yes, Christian.

Crisp. I mean Christian is my Christian name.

Civ. Oh, Christian Crisp.

Crisp. That’s right.

Civ. You are the solicitor of the Mr. Joe Collins who has taken this house?

Crisp. I am.

Civ. But you have never seen your client?

Crisp. No.

Civ. Isn’t that very unusual?

Crisp. Very. (A short pause.) I’ll be quite frank with you Inspector. I’ve only recently started in practice & I’m very hard up. I got a letter offering me £500 to carry out a piece of confidential work: well, it seemed innocent enough and I jumped at it.

Civ. I see. Thank you, Mr. Crisp. I needn’t detain you.

Crisp. Thanks. Goodnight. (Crisp goes to door & turns) By the way, I suppose I’m not included among your captives?

Civ. What do you mean?

Crisp. I suppose I can leave the house tomorrow? I have an important appointment in Town in the afternoon.

Civ. I’m afraid no one can leave the house at present.

Crisp. But I’m not Joe Collins.

Civ. How do I know that?

Crisp. I’ve just told you, my name is Christian Crisp.

Civ. But I told you this morning my name was Joseph Collins – but it isn’t; its John Briggs.

Crisp. I see. Thank you Inspector. Goodnight.

Civ. Goodnight. (Exit Crisp. Civ. looks about and exit, putting out all lights but one lamp. There is a long pause – then enter very cautiously through French window M. Pinçon: he is a tall thin man with a pointed beard. He looks about quickly and cautiously – then hearing voices approaching he switches off the remaining light and hides. Enter in dark Mrs. C. and Und.)

Mrs. C. Oh! Its all dark! Fair gives me the creeps : do turn on the lights, Mr Collins.

Und. I can’t find the switch. Oh. Here it is.

(Und. turns on lights and Pinçon covers Und. with revolver.)

Mrs. C. (screams) Oh! It must be the murderer!

Pin. Elevate ze ’ands aboff ze ’ead.

Und. I beg your pardon?

Pin. ’Ands up!

Und. Oh! I see (Holds up hands)

Pin. Maintenant – you call yourself Collins?

Und. Well, I don’t call myself Collins – other people call me Collins.

Pin. You are Joe Collins?

Und. One of them.

Pin. Je ne comprends pas vat you wish to say.

Und. Oh. How very confusing. Ain’t you Joe Collins too? (Enter Col.)

Mrs. C. Oh, Col. Collins – do you speak Dutch?

Pin. Anozer Collins! ’Ands up:

Col. (Puts up hands.) What’s all this? What are you doing with that revolver, Sir?

Pin. Parlez-vous francais?

Col. Oh, wee. Aprais un fashion.

Pin. Je viens chercher une personne qui vient de deposer les bijoux a Paris – et je trouve le meurtrier lui-meme.

Col. No, I didn’t quite catch that. Vous eight francai, n’est-ce pas? Vous avez venoo a le wrong maison, je pense.

(Enter Son.)

Son. What’s all this, Father?

Mrs. C. Oh, dear Mr Collins, ’ere’s a double Dutch lunatic got loose in the ’ouse now.

Pin. Absurd Collins!

Son. Don’t call me absurd Collins – you blinking foreigner.

Pin. ’Ands up!’ (Son raises hands) Maintenant, you vill sit yourselfs before me on zese shairs. (They do so.) I ask you vich of you iss Joe Collins.

All. I am.

Pin. Bot zat iss impossible. You cannot all ze sree be Joe Collins.

All. But we are.

Col. Peutetre vous voulez allow me to explain – expliquer, n’est ce pas? Je suis Colonel Collins de le army anglais; et Monsieur Collins est un – well I don’t know ce monsieur for undertaker – un soustaker – un homme qui fait les coffins.

Pin. You ’ave said zat you are all Joe Collins?

All. Yes.

Pin. Zen it is a clob – a clob for ze seeves and murders.

Mrs. C. (rushes to door) Help! Miss Collins!

Pin. Sit yourself, Madame – and make not ze crise. Maintenant, you are ze murders – and I Anatole Pinçon, ’ave you in ze ole in my ’and. (Enter Civ. who whips out revolver.)

Civ. Hands up! (Pinçon swings round and finds himself covered. Puts up hands.) Put that revolver on that table. (Pinçon does so.)

Civ. So you’ve come at last and you walk straight into my arms, eh, Joe Collins?

Pin. You name me Joe Collins?

Civ. Oh come off it, Joe Collins, that’s a very clever disguise, but you’re no more French than I am.

Pin. Malheureusement, je ne comprends pas: bot I am Anatole Pinçon of ze Paris Police; I ’ave ze card in my pochett. (Tries to get it)

Civ. No, you don’t, my friend. (Enter tramp)

Tramp. Oh – what to do to help? (Civ. looks round. Quick as snatches up his revolver and has him covered.) ?

Tramp. ’Ands up!

Civ. Hullo! Rehearsing for a Wild West Film?

Pin. I vill ’ave zat revolver; sank you. Now; sit yourselfs (They all do so.) You sink I am not from ze police; you ’ave wrong. I now take sharge of zis ’ouse, ontil I shall meet ze detective Jean Briggs de Scotland Yard.

Civ. Why, that’s me.

Pin. If you are Jean Briggs I make to you one t’ousand apologie. Bot ’ow do I know?

Civ. There’s a card in my pocket book and a Scotland Yard badge in the usual place. (Pinçon satisfies himself, bows and hands back revolver with a magnificent gesture,) My carte also, mon ami.. (hands it)

Tramp. The entente cordiale.

Civ. Well, M. Pinçon, I’m glad you’ve come. We’ve got a tough job on hand here.

Pin. (Puzzled.) Tuff job?

Col. If I can be of any use as an interpreter Inspector, I shall be very glad to help you.

Civ. Thank you, Colonel. We shall get on all right, I expect.

Und. Do you think I could go and see ’ow Grandfather is, Inspector?

Civ. The best thing you can all do is to go to your rooms and stay there.

Mrs. C. Oh thank you, Inspector. Good night.

(They trail out, the Colonel going last.)

Tramp. If you’re wanting any assistance, Inspector, send for me.

Civ. If I do send for you, Collins, its you that’ll want assistance.

Col. Well, bong swar, M. Pinçon. (Exeunt all but Pinçon and Civ.)

Pin. You ’ave not expected me, mon ami – bot you ’ave sans doute receive ze information zat we ’ave trace ze diamants of your Duc de Romsey.

Civ. Yes I heard that. Deposited in a Paris bank in the name of Joe Collins. Pretty cool, that.

Pin. As for me, I ’ave quite warm, I sank you. Bot as I say, since we ’ave sent you zis news, we ’ave got ze wind of an English at ze Gare du Nord – ze railway station – who bear much resemblance to ze description give to us by ze manager of ze Banque. Bon! Zis English ’e take ze train to Dieppe. So Anatole Pinçon he follow in ze nex’ train. At Dieppe, as ze ill-fortune make it, ze boat was already parted; no matter, I take ze boat of ze afternoon and I come to Newhaven. When I disbark, I ask a little of questions and I find what? Zat my friend of ze diamants ’as been pick up by an automobile and ’as give to ze chauffeur ze word – Shurnford ’All. Alors, me voici.

Civ. Did you identify any of the people you saw here just now as the man you are following?

Pin. No. Bot zere is more peoples in ze ’ouse, n’est-ce-pas?

Civ. Oh yes. And it’s not likely that your man is Collins himself – more likely to be an agent.

Pin. Zat is vat I sink.

Civ. Well, you’ll see everyone in the morning and be able to spot your man. That’ll give us a line, perhaps.

Pin. But zere is much of Joe Collins in ze ’ouse, n’est-ce-pas?

Civ. Place is swarming with them. But you’ve had a heavy day, Mr. Pinçon. I dare say you’d like to turn in.

Pin. Turn into vat.

Civ. Into bed – go to bed.

Pin. I am quite fatigué. Bot is it safe to leave zese peoples and not to watch them?

Civ. That’s all right. (Rings bell.) I have a cordon of police round the house.

Pin. So I see ven I enter. But, mon ami, it is necessary you order them to be more alert. I ’ave slip srough zem viz much of easiness.

Civ. They had instructions to let anyone in but no one out.

Pin. Ah. (Enter Nutter.)

Civ. Oh, Nutter – that is your name, isn’t it?

Nut. Yes, sir.

Civ. I’d better make it clear to you that I’m a detective and I’m now in charge here.

Nut. So Mr. Crisp gave me to understand, sir.

Civ. This gentleman is a representative of the Paris police.

Nut. Very good, sir.

Civ. He’ll be staying here to-night. You’ve got a room I suppose.

Nut. Yes, sir. There are several unused bedrooms.

Civ. Very well. Then I’ll go over all the facts with you in the morning, Mr. Pinçon. Good night.

Pin. You do not go to couch yourself, yet?

Civ. I’ll follow you in a few minutes. I’ve got a few notes to write up.

Pin. In zat case, bon soir, mon ami. (Exit Pinçon with Nutter.)

(Civ. sits down to write, back to door. A gloved hand comes through the curtain and suddenly switches off the light: the sound of a scuffle, Civ. utters a loud but muffled cry. More sounds of footsteps then the lights are suddenly switched on. Nutter has entered and is standing with his hand on the switch: the Civ. is lying on the sofa with a black bag over his head: close by him is standing the Negro, who looks round as the lights are switched on and then stands quite dazed and speechless. Nutter goes quickly to sofa, pulls the bag off Civ.’s head and rushes to door and shouts.)

Nut. Help! There’s murder going on. (Enter Col. & Son quickly.)

Col. What’s the matter?

Son. What’s wrong?

Nut. Hold that black brute! I’ll go for the French detective.

(Exit Nutter,) (Col. & Son seize Negro.)

Negro. Let me alone, you mutts! What in blazes are you mauling me about for?

Col. Hold onto him, Collins. (A struggle ensues.)

(Enter Pinçon followed by Nutter.)

Pin. Vat is arrived ’ere? (Presents revolver.) Cease to fight and keep ze ’ands above ze ’eads. (They obey this order.) Now, vat is arrived?

Nut. Well, sir, I was just going round the house to turn off the lights and saw the Inspector lying on the sofa with that bag over his head and the black gentleman standing close beside him.

Negro. I had nix to do with it! I’d come downstairs –

Pin. I counsel you to keep vat you vish to say till tomorrow, ven we shall examine you. To ze present, you vill come viz me to your room.

Negro. This is a scandal –

Pin. (with revolver.) Silence! (Negro shuts up.) Maintenant (to Nut.) do vat you can for my friend Mr. Briggs until zat I shall return.

Col. (Has picked up bag and smelt it.) Chloroform! I’ll fetch Sister Collins – she’ll know what to do.

(Nut. and Son are attending to Civ. Enter Grand. in dressing gown.)

Grand. Joey, ’ave you found the ginger? My pain’s got worse.

(Exit Col.)

Pin. To your room! Marsh!

(Negro after a moment of hesitation turns round & makes for the door, followed by Pinçon with revolver.)

(Civ. is gradually recovering.)