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"At Dead Of Night"
by [?]

The stage is in semi-darkness as Dick Trayle throws open the window from outside, puts his knee on the sill, and falls carefully into the drawing-room of Beeste Hall. He is dressed in a knickerbocker suit with arrows on it (such as can always be borrowed from a friend), and, to judge from the noises which he emits, is not in the best of training. The lights go on suddenly; and, he should seize this moment to stagger to the door and turn on the switch. This done, he sinks into the nearest chair and closes his eyes.

If he has been dancing very late the night before he may drop into a peaceful sleep; in which case the play ends here. Otherwise, no sooner are his eyes closed than he opens them with a sudden start and looks round in terror.

Dick (striking the keynote at once). No, no! Let me out–I am innocent! (He gives a gasp of relief as he realizes the situation.) Free! It is true, then! I have escaped! I dreamed that I was back in prison again! (He shudders and helps himself to a large whisky-and-soda, which he swallows at a gulp.) That’s better! Now I feel a new man–the man I was three years ago. Three years! It has been a lifetime! (Pathetically to the audience.) Where is Millicent now?

[He falls into a reverie, from which he is suddenly wakened by a noise outside. He starts, and then creeps rapidly to the switch, arriving there at the moment when the lights go out. Thence he goes swiftly behind the window curtain. The lights go up again as Jasper Beeste comes in with a revolver in one hand and a bull’s-eye lantern of apparently enormous candle-power in the other.

Jasper (in immaculate evening dress). I thought I heard a noise, so I slipped on some old things hurriedly and came down. (Fingering his perfectly-tied tie.) But there seems to be nobody here. (Turns round suddenly to the window.) Ha, who’s there? Hands up, blow you–(He ought to swear rather badly here, really)–hands up, or I fire!

[The stage is suddenly plunged into darkness, there is the noise of a struggle, and the lights go on to reveal Jasper by the door covering Dick with his revolver.

Jasper. Let’s have a little light on you. (Brutally.) Now then, my man, what have you got to say for yourself? Ha! An escaped convict, eh?

Dick (to himself in amazement). Jasper Beeste!

Jasper. So you know my name?

Dick (in the tones of a man whose whole life has been blighted by the machinations of a false friend). Yes, Jasper Beeste, I know your name. For two years I have said it to myself every night, when I prayed Heaven that I should meet you again.

Jasper. Again? (Uneasily.) We have met before?

Dick (slowly). We have met before, Jasper Beeste. Since then I have lived a lifetime of misery. You may well fail to recognize me.

Enter Millicent Wilsdon–in a dressing-gown, with her hair over her shoulders, if the county will stand it.

Millicent (to Jasper). I couldn’t sleep–I heard a noise–I–(suddenly seeing the other) Dick! (She trembles.)

Dick. Millicent! (He trembles too.)

Jasper. Trayle! (So does he.)

Dick (bitterly). You shrink from me, Millicent. (With strong common sense.) What is an escaped convict to the beautiful Miss Wilsdon?

Millicent. Dick–I–you–when you were sentenced–

Dick. When I was sentenced–the evidence was black against me, I admit–I wrote and released you from your engagement. You are married now?

Millicent (throwing herself on the sofa). Oh, Dick!

Jasper (recovering himself). Enough of this. Miss Wilsdon is going to marry me to-morrow.

Dick. To marry YOU! (He strides over to the sofa and pulls Millicent to her feet.) Millicent, look me in the eyes! Do you love him? (She turns away.) Say “Yes,” and I will go back quietly to my prison. (She raises her eyes to his.) Ha! I thought so! You don’t love him! Now then I can speak.