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  • English Class 12

    Kaleidoscope

    On The Face Of It.

    By Susan Hill

    This is a play featuring an old man and a small boy meeting in the formerís garden. The old man strikes up a friendship with the boy who is very withdrawn and defiant. What is the bond that unites the two?

    SCENE ONE Mr Lambís garden [There is the occasional sound of birdsong and of tree leaves rustling. Derryís footsteps are heard as he walks slowly and tentatively through the long grass. He pauses, then walks on again. He comes round a screen of bushes, so that when Mr Lamb speaks to him he is close at hand and Derry is startled]

    MR LAMB: Mind the apples!

    DERRY: What? Whoís that? Whoís there?

    MR LAMB: Lambís my name. Mind the apples. Crab apples those are. Windfalls in the long grass. You could trip.

    DERRY: I....there....I thought this was an empty place. I didnít know there was anybody here....

    Mr. LAMB: Thatís all right. Iím here. What are you afraid of, boy? Thatís all right.

    DERRY: I thought it was empty....an empty house.

    MR LAMB: So it is. Since Iím out here in the garden. It is empty. Until I go back inside. In the meantime, Iím out here and likely to stop. A day like this. Beautiful day. Not a day to be indoors.

    DERRY: [Panic] Iíve got to go.

    MR LAMB: Not on my account. I donít mind who comes into the garden. The gateís always open. Only you climbed the garden wall.

    DERRY: [Angry] You were watching me.

    MR LAMB: I saw you. But the gateís open. All welcome. Youíre welcome. I sit here. I like sitting.

    DERRY: Iíd not come to steal anything.

    MR LAMB: No, no. The young lads steal....scrump the apples. Youíre not so young.

    DERRY: I just....wanted to come in. Into the garden.

    MR LAMB: So you did. Here we are, then.

    DERRY: You donít know who I am.

    MR LAMB: A boy. Thirteen or so.

    DERRY: Fourteen. [Pause] But Iíve got to go now. Good-bye.

    MR LAMB: Nothing to be afraid of. Just a garden. Just me.

    DERRY: But Iím not....Iím not afraid. [Pause] People are afraid of me.

    MR LAMB: Why should that be?

    DERRY: Everyone is. It doesnít matter who they are, or what they say, or how they look. How they pretend. I know. I can see.

    MR LAMB: See what?

    DERRY: What they think.

    MR LAMB: What do they think, then?

    DERRY: You think.... ĎHereís a boy.í You look at me...and then you see my face and you think. ĎThatís bad. Thatís a terrible thing. Thatís the ugliest thing I ever saw.í You think, ĎPoor boy.í But Iím not. Not poor. Underneath, you are afraid. Anybody would be. I am. When I look in the mirror, and see it, Iím afraid of me

    MR LAMB: No, Not the whole of you. Not of you.

    DERRY: Yes!

    [Pause]
    MR LAMB: Later on, when itís a bit cooler, Iíll get the ladder and a stick, and pull down those crab apples. Theyíre ripe for it. I make jelly. Itís a good time of year, September. Look at them....orange and golden. Thatís magic fruit. I often say. But itís best picked and made into jelly. You could give me a hand.

    DERRY: What have you changed the subject for? People always do that. Why donít you ask me? Why do you do what they all do and pretend it isnít true and isnít there? In case I see you looking and mind and get upset? Iíll tell....you donít ask me because youíre afraid to.

    MR LAMB: You want me to ask....say so, then.

    DERRY: I donít like being with people. Any people.

    MR LAMB: I should say....to look at it.... I should say, you got burned in a fire.

    DERRY: Not in a fire. I got acid all down that side of my face and it burned it all away. It ate my face up. It ate me up. And now itís like this and it wonít ever be any different.

    MR LAMB: No.

    DERRY: Arenít you interested?

    MR LAMB: Youíre a boy who came into the garden. Plenty do. Iím interested in anybody. Anything. Thereís nothing God made that doesnít interest me. Look over there....over beside the far wall. What can you see?

    DERRY: Rubbish.

    MR LAMB: Rubbish ? Look, boy, look....what do you see?

    DERRY: Just....grass and stuff. Weeds.

    MR LAMB: Some call them weeds. If you like, then....a weed garden, that. Thereís fruit and there are flowers, and trees and herbs. All sorts. But over there....weeds. I grow weeds there. Why is one green, growing plant called a weed and another Ďflowerí? Whereís the difference. Itís all life.... growing. Same as you and me.

    DERRY: Weíre not the same.

    MR LAMB: Iím old. Youíre young. Youíve got a burned face, Iíve got a tin leg. Not important. Youíre standing there.... Iím sitting here. Whereís the difference?

    DERRY: Why have you got a tin leg?

    MR LAMB: Real one got blown off, years back. Lamey-Lamb, some kids say. Havenít you heard them? You will. Lamey-Lamb. It fits. Doesnít trouble me.

    DERRY: But you can put on trousers and cover it up and no one sees, they donít have to notice and stare.

    MR LAMB: Some do. Some donít. They get tired of it, in the end. Thereís plenty of other things to stare at.

    DERRY: Like my face.

    MR LAMB: Like crab apples or the weeds or a spider climbing up a silken ladder, or my tall sun-flowers.

    DERRY: Things.

    MR LAMB: Itís all relative. Beauty and the beast.

    DERRY: Whatís that supposed to mean?

    MR LAMB: You tell me.

    DERRY: You neednít think they havenít all told me that fairy story before. ĎItís not what you look like, itís what you are inside. Handsome is as handsome does. Beauty loved the monstrous beast for himself and when she kissed him he changed into a handsome prince.í Only he wouldnít, heíd have stayed a monstrous beast. I wonít change.

    MR LAMB: In that way? No, you wonít.

    DERRY: And no oneíll kiss me, ever. Only my mother, and she kisses me on the other side of my face, and I donít like my mother to kiss me, she does it because she has to. Why should I like that? I donít care if nobody ever kisses me.

    MR LAMB: Ah, but do you care if you never kiss them.

    DERRY: What?

    MR LAMB: Girls. Pretty girls. Long hair and large eyes. People you love.

    DERRY: Whoíd let me? Not one.

    MR LAMB: Who can tell?

    DERRY: I wonít ever look different. When Iím as old as you, Iíll look the same. Iíll still only have half a face.

    MR LAMB: So you will. But the world wonít. The worldís got a whole face, and the worldís there to be looked at.

    DERRY: Do you think this is the world? This old garden?

    MR LAMB: When Iím here. Not the only one. But the world, as much as anywhere.

    DERRY: Does your leg hurt you?

    MR LAMB: Tin doesnít hurt, boy!

    DERRY: When it came off, did it?

    MR LAMB: Certainly.

    DERRY: And now? I mean, where the tin stops, at the top?

    MR LAMB: Now and then. In wet weather. It doesnít signify.

    DERRY: Oh, thatís something else they all say. ĎLook at all those people who are in pain and brave and never cry and never complain and donít feel sorry for themselves.í

    MR LAMB: I havenít said it.

    DERRY: And think of all those people worse off than you. Think, you might have been blinded, or born deaf, or have to live in a wheelchair, or be daft in your head and dribble.

    MR LAMB: And thatís all true, and you know it.

    DERRY: It wonít make my face change. Do you know, one day, a woman went by me in the street ó I was at a bus-stop ó and she was with another woman, and she looked at me, and she said.... whispered....only I heard her.... she said, ďLook at that, thatís a terrible thing. Thatís a face only a mother could love.Ē

    MR LAMB: So you believe everything you hear, then?

    DERRY: It was cruel.

    MR LAMB: Maybe not meant as such. Just something said between them.

    DERRY: Only I heard it. I heard.

    MR LAMB: And is that the only thing you ever heard anyone say, in your life?

    DERRY: Oh no! Iíve heard a lot of things.

    MR LAMB: So now you keep your ears shut.

    DERRY: Youíre....peculiar. You say peculiar things. You ask questions I donít understand.

    MR LAMB: I like to talk. Have company. You donít have to answer questions. You donít have to stop here at all. The gateís open.

    DERRY: Yes, but...

    MR LAMB: Iíve a hive of bees behind those trees over there. Some hear bees and they say, bees buzz. But when you listen to bees for a long while, they humm....and hum means Ďsingí. I hear them singing, my bees.

    DERRY: But....I like it here. I came in because I liked it....when I looked over the wall.

    MR LAMB: If youíd seen me, youíd not have come in.

    DERRY: No.

    MR LAMB: No.

    DERRY: Itíd have been trespassing.

    MR LAMB: Ah. Thatís not why.

    DERRY: I donít like being near people. When they stare....when I see them being afraid of me.

    MR LAMB: You could lock yourself up in a room and never leave it. There was a man who did that. He was afraid, you see. Of everything. Everything in this world. A bus might run him over, or a man might breathe deadly germs onto him, or a donkey might kick him to death, or lightning might strike him down, or he might love a girl and the girl would leave him, and he might slip on a banana skin and fall and people who saw him would laugh their heads off. So he went into this room, and locked the door, and got into his bed, and stayed there.

    DERRY: For ever?

    MR LAMB: For a while.

    DERRY: Then what?

    MR LAMB: A picture fell off the wall on to his head and killed him.

    [Derry laughs a lot]

    MR LAMB: You see?

    DERRY: But....you still say peculiar things.

    MR LAMB: Peculiar to some.

    DERRY: What do you do all day?

    MR LAMB: Sit in the sun. Read books. Ah, you thought it was an empty house, but inside, itís full. Books and other things. Full.

    DERRY: But there arenít any curtains at the windows.

    MR LAMB: Iím not fond of curtains. Shutting things out, shutting things in. I like the light and the darkness, and the windows open, to hear the wind.

    DERRY: Yes. I like that. When itís raining, I like to hear it on the roof.

    MR LAMB: So youíre not lost, are you? Not altogether? You do hear things. You listen.

    DERRY: They talk about me. Downstairs, When Iím not there. ĎWhatíll he ever do? Whatís going to happen to him when weíve gone? How ever will he get on in this world? Looking like that? With that on his face?í Thatís what they say.

    MR LAMB: Lord, boy, youíve got two arms, two legs and eyes and ears, youíve got a tongue and a brain. Youíll get on the way you want, like all the rest. And if you chose, and set your mind to it, you could get on better than all the rest.

    DERRY: How?

    MR LAMB: Same way as I do.

    DERRY: Do you have any friends?

    MR LAMB: Hundreds.

    DERRY: But you live by yourself in that house. Itís a big house, too.

    MR LAMB: Friends everywhere. People come in.... everybody knows me. The gateís always open. They come and sit here. And in front of the fire in winter. Kids come for the apples and pears. And for toffee. I make toffee with honey. Anybody comes. So have you.

    DERRY: But Iím not a friend.

    MR LAMB: Certainly you are. So far as Iím concerned. What have you done to make me think youíre not?

    DERRY: You donít know me. You donít know where I come from or even what my name is.

    MR LAMB: Why should that signify? Do I have to write all your particulars down and put them in a filing box, before you can be a friend?

    DERRY: I suppose...not. No.

    MR LAMB: You could tell me your name. If you chose. And not, if you didnít.

    DERRY: Derry. Only itís Derek....but I hate that. Derry. If Iím your friend, you donít have to be mine. I choose that.

    MR LAMB: Certainly.

    DERRY: I might never come here again, you might never see me again and then I couldnít still be a friend.

    MR LAMB: Why not?

    DERRY: How could I? You pass people in the street and you might even speak to them, but you never see them again. It doesnít mean theyíre friends.

    MR LAMB: Doesnít mean theyíre enemies, either, does it?

    DERRY: No theyíre just....nothing. People. Thatís all.

    MR LAMB: People are never just nothing. Never.

    DERRY: There are some people I hate.

    MR LAMB: Thatíd do you more harm than any bottle of acid. Acid only burns your face.

    DERRY: Only....

    MR LAMB: Like a bomb only blew up my leg. Thereís worse things can happen. You can burn yourself away inside.

    DERRY: After Iíd come home, one person said, ďHeíd have been better off stopping in there. In the hospital. Heíd be better off with others like himself.Ē She thinks blind people only ought to be with other blind people and idiot boys with idiot boys.

    MR LAMB: And people with no legs altogether?

    DERRY: Thatís right.

    MR LAMB: What kind of a world would that be?

    DERRY: At least thereíd be nobody to stare at you because you werenít like them.

    MR LAMB: So you think youíre just the same as all the other people with burned faces? Just by what you look like? Ah....everythingís different. Everythingís the same, but everything is different. Itself.

    DERRY: How do you make all that out?

    MR LAMB: Watching. Listening. Thinking.

    DERRY: Iíd like a place like this. A garden. Iíd like a house with no curtains.

    MR LAMB: The gateís always open.

    DERRY: But this isnít mine.

    MR LAMB: Everythingís yours if you want it. Whatís mine is anybodyís.

    DERRY: So I could come here again? Even if you were out....I could come here.

    MR LAMB: Certainly. You might find others here, of course.

    DERRY: Oh....

    MR LAMB: Well, that neednít stop you, you neednít mind.

    DERRY: Itíd stop them. Theyíd mind me. When they saw me here. They look at my face and run.

    MR LAMB: They might. They might not. Youíd have to take the risk. So would they.

    DERRY: No, you would. You might have me and lose all your other friends, because nobody wants to stay near me if they can help it.

    MR LAMB: Iíve not moved.

    DERRY: No....

    MR LAMB: When I go down the street, the kids shout ĎLamey-Lamb.í But they still come into the garden, into my house; itís a game. Theyíre not afraid of me. Why should they be? Because Iím not afraid of them, thatís why not.

    DERRY: Did you get your leg blown off in the war?

    MR LAMB: Certainly.

    DERRY: How will you climb on a ladder and get the crab apples down, then?

    MR LAMB: Oh, thereís a lot of things Iíve learned to do, and plenty of time for it. Years. I take it steady.

    DERRY: If you fell and broke your neck, you could lie on the grass and die. If you were on your own.

    MR LAMB: I could.

    DERRY: You said I could help you.

    MR LAMB: If you want to.

    DERRY: But my motheríll want to know where I am. Itís three miles home, across the fields. Iím fourteen. but they still want to know where I am.

    MR LAMB: People worry.

    DERRY: People fuss.

    MR LAMB: Go back and tell them.

    DERRY: Itís three miles.

    MR LAMB: Itís a fine evening. Youíve got legs.

    DERRY: Once I got home, theyíd never let me come back.

    MR LAMB: Once you got home, youíd never let yourself come back.

    DERRY: You donít know....you donít know what I could do.

    MR LAMB: No. Only you know that.

    DERRY: If I chose....

    MR LAMB: Ah....if you chose. I donít know everything, boy. I canít tell you what to do.

    DERRY: They tell me.

    MR LAMB: Do you have to agree?

    DERRY: I donít know what I want. I want....something no one else has got or ever will have. Something just mine. Like this garden. I donít know what it is.

    MR LAMB: You could find out.

    DERRY: How?

    MR LAMB: Waiting. Watching. Listening. Sitting here or going there. Iíll have to see to the bees.

    DERRY: Those other people who come here....do they talk to you? Ask you things?

    MR LAMB: Some do, some donít. I ask them. I like to learn.

    DERRY: I donít believe in them. I donít think anybody ever comes. Youíre here all by yourself and miserable and no one would know if you were alive or dead and nobody cares.

    MR LAMB: You think what you please.

    DERRY: All right then, tell me some of their names.

    MR LAMB: What are names? Tom, Dick or Harry. [Getting up] Iím off down to the bees.

    DERRY: I think youíre daft....crazy....

    MR LAMB: Thatís a good excuse.

    DERRY: What for? You donít talk sense.

    MR LAMB: Good excuse not to come back. And youíve got a burned-up face, and thatís other peopleís excuse.

    DERRY: Youíre like the others, you like to say things like that. If you donít feel sorry for my face, youíre frightened of it, and if youíre not frightened, you think Iím ugly as a devil. I am a devil. Donít you?

    [Shouts]

    [Mr Lamb does not reply. He has gone to his bees.]

    DERRY: [Quietly] No. You donít. I like it here.

    [Pause. Derry gets up and shouts.] Iím going. But Iíll come back. You see. You wait. I can run. I havenít got a tin leg. Iíll be back.

    [Derry runs off. Silence. The sounds of the garden again.]

    MR LAMB: [To himself] There my dears. Thatís you seen to. Ah....you know. We all know. Iíll come back. They never do, though. Not them. Never do come back.

    [The garden noises fade.]



    SCENE TWO

    Derryís house.



    MOTHER: You think I donít know about him, you think. I havenít heard things?

    DERRY: You shouldnít believe all you hear.

    MOTHER: Been told. Warned. Weíve not lived here three months, but I know what there is to know and youíre not to go back there.

    DERRY: What are you afraid of? What do you think he is? An old man with a tin leg and he lives in a huge house without curtains and has a garden. And I want to be there, and sit and....listen to things. Listen and look.

    MOTHER: Listen to what?

    DERRY: Bees singing. Him talking.

    MOTHER: And whatís he got to say to you?

    DERRY: Things that matter. Things nobody else has ever said. Things I want to think about.

    MOTHER: Then you stay here and do your thinking. Youíre best off here.

    DERRY: I hate it here.

    MOTHER: You canít help the things you say. I forgive you. Itís bound to make you feel bad things....and say them. I donít blame you.

    DERRY: Itís got nothing to do with my face and what I look like. I donít care about that and it isnít important. Itís what I think and feel and what I want to see and find out and hear. And Iím going back there. Only to help him with the crab apples. Only to look at things and listen. But Iím going.

    MOTHER: Youíll stop here.

    DERRY: Oh no, oh no. Because if I donít go back there, Iíll never go anywhere in this world again. [The door slams. Derry runs, panting.] And I want the world....I want it....I want it.... [The sound of his panting fades.]



    SCENE THREE

    Mr Lambís garden [Garden sounds: the noise of a branch shifting; apples thumping down; the branch shifting again.]

    MR LAMB: Steady....thatís....got it. Thatís it... [More apples fall] And again. Thatís it....and.... [A creak. A crash. The ladder falls back, Mr Lamb with it. A thump. The branch swishes back. Creaks. Then silence. Derry opens the garden gate, still panting.]

    DERRY: You see, you see! I came back. You said I wouldnít and they said....but I came back, I wanted.... [He stops dead. Silence.] Mr Lamb, Mr....Youíve..... [He runs through the grass. Stops. Kneels] Mr Lamb, Itís all right....You fell....Iím here, Mr Lamb, Itís all right. [Silence]

    I came back. Lamey-Lamb. I did.....come back.

    [Derry begins to weep.]

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