The First and the Last: A Drama in Three Scenes
PERSONS OF THE PLAY KEITH DARRANT, K.C. LARRY DARRANT, His Brother. WANDA. SCENE I. KEITH'S Study. SCENE II. WANDA's Room. SCENE III. The Same. Between SCENE I. and SCENE II. – Thirty hours. Between SCENE II. and SCENE III. – Two months.
It is six o'clock of a November evening, in KEITH DARRANT'S study. A large, dark-curtained room where the light from a single reading-lamp falling on Turkey carpet, on books beside a large armchair, on the deep blue-and-gold coffee service, makes a sort of oasis before a log fire. In red Turkish slippers and an old brown velvet coat, KEITH DARRANT sits asleep. He has a dark, clean-cut, clean-shaven face, dark grizzling hair, dark twisting eyebrows.
[The curtained door away out in the dim part of the room behind him is opened so softly that he does not wake. LARRY DARRANT enters and stands half lost in the curtain over the door. A thin figure, with a worn, high cheek-boned face, deep-sunk blue eyes and wavy hair all ruffled – a face which still has a certain beauty. He moves inwards along the wall, stands still again and utters a gasping sigh. KEITH stirs in his chair.]
KEITH. Who's there?
LARRY. [In a stifled voice] Only I – Larry.
KEITH. [Half-waked] Come in! I was asleep. [He does not turn his head, staring sleepily at the fire.]
The sound of LARRY's breathing can be heard. [Turning his head a little] Well, Larry, what is it? LARRY comes skirting along the wall, as if craving its support, outside the radius of the light. [Staring] Are you ill? LARRY stands still again and heaves a deep sigh.
KEITH. [Rising, with his back to the fire, and staring at his brother] What is it, man? [Then with a brutality born of nerves suddenly ruffled] Have you committed a murder that you stand there like a fish?
LARRY. [In a whisper] Yes, Keith.
KEITH. [With vigorous disgust] By Jove! Drunk again! [In a voice changed by sudden apprehension] What do you mean by coming here in this state? I told you – If you weren't my brother – ! Come here, where I can we you! What's the matter with you, Larry?
[With a lurch LARRY leaves the shelter of the wall and sinks into a chair in the circle of light.]
LARRY. It's true.
[KEITH steps quickly forward and stares down into his brother's eyes, where is a horrified wonder, as if they would never again get on terms with his face.]
KEITH. [Angry, bewildered-in a low voice] What in God's name is this nonsense?
[He goes quickly over to the door and draws the curtain aside, to see that it is shut, then comes back to LARRY, who is huddling over the fire.]
Come, Larry! Pull yourself together and drop exaggeration! What on earth do you mean?
LARRY. [In a shrill outburst] It's true, I tell you; I've killed a man.
KEITH. [Bracing himself; coldly] Be quiet!
LARRY lifts his hands and wrings them.
[Utterly taken aback] Why come here and tell me this?
LARRY. Whom should I tell, Keith? I came to ask what I'm to do – give myself up, or what?
KEITH. When – when – what – ?
LARRY. Last night.
KEITH. Good God! How? Where? You'd better tell me quietly from the beginning. Here, drink this coffee; it'll clear your head.
He pours out and hands him a cup of coffee. LARRY drinks it off.
LARRY. My head! Yes! It's like this, Keith – there's a girl —
KEITH. Women! Always women, with you! Well?
LARRY. A Polish girl. She – her father died over here when she was sixteen, and left her all alone. There was a mongrel living in the same house who married her – or pretended to. She's very pretty, Keith. He left her with a baby coming. She lost it, and nearly starved. Then another fellow took her on, and she lived with him two years, till that brute turned up again and made her go back to him. He used to beat her black and blue. He'd left her again when – I met her. She was taking anybody then. [He stops, passes his hand over his lips, looks up at KEITH, and goes on defiantly] I never met a sweeter woman, or a truer, that I swear. Woman! She's only twenty now! When I went to her last night, that devil had found her out again. He came for me – a bullying, great, hulking brute. Look! [He touches a dark mark on his forehead] I took his ugly throat, and when I let go – [He stops and his hands drop.]
LARRY. [In a smothered voice] Dead, Keith. I never knew till afterwards that she was hanging on to him – to h-help me. [Again he wrings his hands.]
KEITH. [In a hard, dry voice] What did you do then?
LARRY. We – we sat by it a long time.
LARRY. Then I carried it on my back down the street, round a corner, to an archway.
KEITH. How far?
LARRY. About fifty yards.
KEITH. Was – did anyone see?
KEITH. What time?
LARRY. Three in the morning.
KEITH. And then?
LARRY. Went back to her.
KEITH. Why – in heaven's name?
LARRY. She way lonely and afraid. So was I, Keith.
KEITH. Where is this place?
LARRY. Forty-two Borrow Square, Soho.