By Patrick Hamilton
J. ...I don't know, I'm sure [Suddenly rising, looking at the
wall upstage and speaking in a calm, yet menacing way] I don't
know - Bella-
B. [After a pause, dropping her voice almost to a whisper] What
is it? What's the matter? What is it now?
J. [Walking over to the fireplace and speaking with his back to
her] I have no desire to upset you, Bella, but I have just
observed something very much amiss. Will you please rectify it
at once, while I'm not looking, and we will assume that it has
B. Amiss? What's amiss? For God's sake, don't turn your back on
me. What has happened?
J. You know perfectly well what has happened, Bella, and if you
will rectify it at once I will say no more about it.
B. I don't know. I don't know. You have left you tea. Tell me
what it is. Tell me.
J. Are you trying to make a fool of me Bella? What I refer to is
on the wall behind you. If you will put it back I will say no
more about it.
B. The wall behind me? What? [turns] Oh -yes- The picture has
been taken down- Yes- The picture- Who has taken it down? Why
has it been taken down?
J. Yes. Why has it been taken down? Why, indeed? You alone can
answer that, Bella. Why was it taken down before? Will you
please take it from where you have hidden it, and put it back
on the wall again?
B. But I haven't hidden it, Jack. [rises] I didn't do it. Oh, for
God's sake look at me. I didn't do it. I don't know where it
is. Someone else must have done it.
J. Someone else? [turning to her] Are you suggesting perhaps that
I should play such a fantastic and wicked trick?
B. No, dear, no! But someone else [Going to him.] Before God, I
didn't do it! Someone else, dear, someone else.
J. [Shaking her off] Will you please leave go of me. [Walking
over to the bell] We will see about "someone else."
B. Oh, Jack-don't ring the bell. Don't ring it. Don't call the
servants to witness my shame. It's not my shame for I haven't
done it-but don't call the servants! Tell them not to come.
[He has rung the bell. She goes to him.] Let's talk of this
between ourselves! Don't call the girl in. Please!
B. Jack- spare me that girl. Don't call her in. I'll say any-
thing. I'll say that I did it. I did it, Jack, I did it. Don't
have that girl in. Don't!
J. Will you have the goodness to contain yourself? (...)
J. (to the servant Nancy) Very good. Now will you kiss that Bible
lying there, please, as a solemn oath that you did not -and
you may go.
N. Willingly, Sir. [She does so] If Id done it I'd have-
J. That is all, Nancy. You may go. There! I think we may now be
said to have demonstrated conclusively-
B. [Rises] Give me that Bible! Give it to me! Let me kiss it,
too! [Snatches it from him] There! [Kisses it] There! Do you
see? [Kisses it] There! Do you see that I kiss it?
J. For God's sake, be careful what you do. Do you desire to
commit sacrilege above all else?
B. It is not sacrilege, Jack. Someone else has committed sacri-
lege. Now see- I swear before God Almighty that I never
touched that picure [Kisses it] There! [She comes close to
J. [Grabs the Bible] Then, by God, you are mad, and you don't
know what you do. You unhappy wretch -you're stark gibbering
mad-like your wretched mother before you.
B. Jack, you promised you would never say that again.
J. The time has come to face facts, Bella. If this progresses you
will not be much longer under my protection.
B. Jack-I'm going to make a last appeal to you. I'm going to make
a last appeal. I'm desperate, Jack. Can't you see that I'm
desperate? If you can't, you must have a heart of stone.
J. Go on. What do you wish to say?
B. Jack, I may be going mad, like my poor mother-but if I am mad,
you have to treat me gently. Jack -before God- I never lie to
you knowingly. If I have taken down that picture from its
place I have not known it. I have not known it. If I took it
down on those other occasions I did not know it either, Jack,
if I steal your things -your rings- your keys- your encils and
your handkerchiefs, and you find them later at the bottom of
my box, as indeed you do, then I do not know that I have done
it- Jack, if I commit these fantastic, meaningless mischiefs-
so meaningless- why should I take a picture down from its
place? If iI do all these things, then I am certainly going
off my head, and must be treated kindly and gently so that I
may get well. You must bear with me, Jack, not storm and rage.
God knows I'm trying, Jack, I'm trying! Oh, for God's sake
believe me that I'm trying and be kind to me!
J. Bella, my dear, have you any idea where that picture is
B. Yes, yes, I suppose it's behind the secretary.
J. Will you please go and see?
B. [Vaguely] Yes, yes. [She goes] Yes, it's here.
J. [Reproachefully] Then you did know where it was, Bella. You
did know where it was.
B. No! No! I only supposed it was! I only supposed it was because
it was found there twice before! Don't you see? I didn't know.
J. There is no sense in walking about with a picture in your
hands, Bella. Go and put it back in its proper place.
B. [Hangs the picture back in place and returns to the tea table]
Oh, look at our tea. We were having our tea with muffins-
J. Now, Bella, I said a moment ago that we have to face facts,
and that is what we have got to do. I am not going to say
anything at the moment, for my feelings are running too high.
In fact, I am going out immediately, and I suggest that you go
to your room and lie down for a little in the dark.
B. No, no, not my room. For God's sake don't send me to my
J> Now, my dear, I am going to leave you in peace-
B. [Eyes closed, reclining] Have you got to go? Must you go? Must
you always leave me alone afterthese dreadful scenes?
J. Now, no argument, please. I had to go in any case after tea.
(...) Oh, by the way, I shall be passing the grocer and I
might as well pay that bill of his and get it done with. Where
is it, my dear? I gave it to you, didn't I?
B. Yes, dear, it's on the secretary. [Half rising] I'll...
J. No, dear, don't move, don't move. I can find it. [At secretary
and beginning to rummage] I shall be glad to get the thing off
my chest. Where is it, dear? Is it in one of these draw-
B. No, it's on top. I put it there this afternoon.
J. All right. We'll find it, we'll find it. Are you sure it's
here, dear? There's nothing here except writing paper.
B. [Half rising and speaking suspiciously] Jack, I'm quite sure
it is there. Will you look carefully?
J. [Soothingly] All right, dear, don't worry. I'll find it. Lie
down. It's of no importance, I'll find it. No, it's not here,
it must be in one of these drawers.
B. [She has rushed to the secretary] It is not in one of these
drawers! I put it out here on top! You're not going to tell me
this has gone, are you?
J. Calm yourself, dear, calm yourself!
B. [Searching frantically] I laid it out here myself! Where is
it? [Opening and shutting drawers] Where is it? Now, you're
going to say I've hidden this!
J. My God! What new trick is this you're playing upon me?
B. It was there this afternoon! I put it there! This is a plot!
This is a filthy plot! You're all against me! It's a plot!
[She screams hysterically]
[back to November 93]