BY JOSEPH CONRAD
Captain Hagberd (a retired coasting skipper).
Josiah Carvil (formerly a shipbuilder—a widower—blind).
Harry Hagberd (son of Captain Hagberd, who as a boy ran away from home).
Bessie Carvil (daughter of Josiah Carvil).
A small sea port.
To rights two yellow brick cottages belonging to Captain Hagberd, one inhabited by himself the other by the Carvils. A lamp-post in front. The red roofs of the town in the background. A sea-wall to left.
Time: The present-early autumn, towards dusk.
Curtain rises disclosing Carvil and Bessie moving away from sea-wall. Bessie about twenty-five. Black dress; black straw hat. A lot of mahogany-coloured hair loosely done up. Pale face. Full figure. Very quiet. Carvil, blind, unwieldy. Reddish whiskers; slow, deep voice produced without effort. Immovable, big face.
Carvil (Hanging heavily on Bessie’s arm). Careful! Go slow! (Stops; Bessie waits patiently.) Want your poor blind father to break his neck? (Shuffles on.) In a hurry to get home and start that everlasting yarn with your chum the lunatic?
Bessie. I am not in a hurry to get home, father.
Carvil. Well, then, go steady with a poor blind man. Blind! Helpless! (Strikes the ground with his stick.) Never mind! I’ve had time to make enough money to have ham and eggs for breakfast every morning—thank God! And thank God, too, for it, girl. You haven’t known a single hardship in all the days of your idle life. Unless you think that a blind, helpless father-------
Bessie. What is there for me to be in a hurry for?
Carvil. What did you say?
Bessie. I said there was nothing for me to hurry home for.
Carvil. There is, tho’. To yarn with a lunatic. Anything to get away from your duty.
Bessie. Captain Hagberd’s talk never hurt you or anybody else.
Carvil. Go on. Stick up for your only friend.
Bessie. Is it my fault that I haven’t another soul to speak to?
Carvil (Snarls). It’s mine, perhaps. Can I help being blind? You fret because you want to be gadding about—with a helpless man left all alone at home. Your own father too.
Bessie. I haven’t been away from you half a day since mother died.
Carvil (Viciously). He’s a lunatic, our landlord is. That’s what he is. Has been for years—long before those damned doctors destroyed my sight for me. (Growls angrily, then sighs.)