The Forbidden Forest (a play) (ca. 1922)

The Forbidden Forest (ca. 1922)

The Forbidden Forest

Scene 1.
A road before the forest. A large “No trespassing” sign-board.
Enter boy and his playmate.

Playmate
Where are you going?

Boy
Into the forest.

Playmate
Can you read?

Boy
Of course; anybody can read.

Playmate
Well—pooh! I don’t believe you can read at all.

Boy
Why do you think that?

Playmate
Because if you could read—well, if you can, come back here and prove it.

Boy
If you insist. [Reads the sign]  No trespassing. Well—I can, can’t I?

Playmate
Y-ee-e-ss-s.

Boy (impatiently)
Of course I can.

Playmate
Well, if you can read, why on earth do you want to go into the forest?

Boy
Pooh! Do you think I shall heed what that sign says. [Exit]

Playmate
Don’t say I— He’s gone! Anyhow he can’t say I didn’t warn him when the time comes that he shall be on his knees begging for mercy. I don’t understand why he dares—why he wants to go into that forest. Why, if I could win a fortune by it I wouldn’t venture a foot. Shall I tell the duke? No. He’s my friend. If he’s going to be so foolhardy I ought to help him, not hinder him. — — — — I’ll on to the duke. I’ll tell him about this: I’ll ask for a pardon also.  [Exit]

Scene 2.
The forest. A dark pool. As the curtain rises the boy is seen bending over it.

Boy
I suppose I am foolhardy. Now that I think it over, what should I do if the owner of the forest came? Of course it would be easy enough to lie and tell him I didn’t know—but I don’t like to do that. Well, that’s better than missing such a day— Look at that heavenly blue sky, and the golden sunrays, and those flowers! [Runs to a clump of flowers and smells them.] Oh! how delicious! How fragrant! How like a dream! How can I leave this fairyland. How could I—

[Enter the owner of the forest]

Oh!

Owner
What are you doing here?

Boy
I—I’m playing, sir-r-r.

Owner
Don’t you know that you’re not suppose to play here or be here?

Boy
N-n-no, sir.

Owner
Well, you know it now. Get away from here and don’t come back.

[Exit boy]

What’s this? What’s this? I’m sure I have seen this boy before—this boy—what am I saying? I mean this scoundrel—this rascal—this knave. And here he comes back again.

[Re-enter boy]

What did I tell you? Get away from here.

Boy
Sir, I came back to get my—my—er—er—

Owner
Well, whatever it is, get it and be quick about it.

Boy
Yes, sir—my—er—bouquet.

Owner
Well, don’t stand there looking at me! Get it and hurry up!

Boy (looking}
If I can find it sir. I have forgotten where I put it.

Owner
Well, when you find it GET OUT OF HERE! [Exit]

Boy (laughing)
He’s funny— But this is getting serious. I must devise some means to stay here al— I think I see the angry owner coming back again. I’ll not meet him again. [Exit]

Scene 3.
The house of the old woman. The old woman in a chair, knitting. Enter the owner.

Owner
Good morrow, good mother.

Woman
Well, did ye want some of my yarns?

Owner
No— but does the mother of a small boy with a checked suit and brown curls and blue eyes and mischievous ways live here?

Woman
That she does sir—and she’s the mother of as mischievous a boy as you could wish to find. And here she comes.

[Enter the boy’s mother]

Mother
Well, sir?

Owner
Have you a son with a brown checked suit and light blue eyes and dancing brown curls and a head— [Aside] a curse upon it— [Aloud] full of wicked contrivances and devices and very mischievous?

Mother
That I have sir, but I pray you, sir, what brings you here? Pray, sir, what do you want with my son, sir?

Owner
He is a rogue!

Mother
Sir!

Owner
He is a rascal!

Mother (weeping)
But what do you want with him? Alas, my son, what hast thou done?

Owner
That son of yours should go before the duke!

Woman
She’s as proud as she is haughty. You couldn’t make her believe in a hundred years that her son’s been getting into mischief. I pray you, sir, try me. I believe you about his mischief. Ha, ha! I could believe anything about her son. Oh, that my sad old life could have come to this! Ha, ha! I—

Owner
Enough of this talk! Let me be brief. I believe we can have some sport with her yet. Listen to me, old mother. Her son has played in my forest—my forbidden forest. I have seen him years ago, romping about, and now he has a new craze on for playing there. I sent him away once—twice—and I’m as sure as not that he will come again.

Woman
Yes, yes; but what can I do, sir? Present your case to the duke, not to me.

Owner
Well, you can dress up in those coloured yarns of yours or in some shawl, and go into the spot in my forest where I saw him—I”ll direct you to it—and be an old witch—and try to frighten him away from there. Then he will have a story to tell his mother. I’d rather go to the last extremes before I go to the duke.

Woman
Sir, I’ll do it, and there’s an end.

[Exeunt]

Scene 4.
The forest and the dark pool. Enter the boy.

Boy
Now how can I play here unknown? I know the owner will be back—but I cannot leave the place.

[Enter the old woman, disguised as a witch.]

Oh–—what—er—can—oh me!—what—are — — — ahem—you?

Woman
You should not be playing here.

Boy
Who—who—who—are you?

Woman
You should not be playing here.

Boy
Well—er—er—er—let me see—[Aside] My lucky stars, tell me what to say—[Aloud] Then—er—why—are—you—he—e—r—r—re?

Woman
I am a witch—a spirit of the forest. That is different. But you should not be here.

Boy
Oh, well, if you’re a spirit of this forest, all right. Sit down and talk to me. And tell me. All the times I have played here I have never seen you. Pray, why is that?

Woman
Get away from here! You are no spirit. This is my forest—

Boy (softly)
This is the owner’s forest.

Woman
It is my forest. I am its spirit. Doesn’t that make it mine? No one else may play here without my leave—

Boy
The owner’s leave.

Woman
My leave. Go away.

Boy
You say you’re the spirit of the forest?

Woman
Yes.

Boy
And you tell me to get away?

Woman
Yes.

Boy
And you know I like—er—to play here?

Woman
Yes.

Boy
Well, then; I think you’re very unkind.

Woman
Why so? Just because, as long as it’s my forest, I do not let people play here? if you owned a garden or a forest you wouldn’t like your—er—people to play there without your leave, would you?

Boy
No—I suppose not. But if you’re a spirit—well, that’s a little different from being a person. I wish you’d tell me something else. I want to hear about how you live in the trees and where you sleep at night.

Woman
I didn’t come here to tell you stories; I came to send you away, and to tell you that you annoy me, and that—sh-h-h—the owner will be very angry if you stay here.

Boy
Oh! m-m-m! You are my friend after all. You came to warn me of the owner. Well, I thank you, old witch. But I do want to hear more about you; we’ll sit here behind this bush, and we—I can hide if someone comes.

Woman (angry at her plot having failed)
[Aside] He’s too clever. What on earth shall I do now? [Aloud] Boy, go away. You annoy me.

Boy
You’re unkind.

Woman
Why?

Boy
Are you really the spirit of this forest?

Woman
Yes. GO AWAY!

Boy
Then I do think you’re unkind.

Woman
Buy why?

Boy (in tears)
If you knew how I love this forest and all that’s in it; how I love the little creatures that haunt it—the butterflies, birds, animals—little creeping things; how I thought everything in the forest loves me, you’d see that to be turned out by a part of the forest I thought loved me is too much to bear.

[A long silence, broken by the boy’s sobs. Meanwhile, exit woman.]

Why—why, oh witch! Where are you? [Pause] She’s gone, and left me and I still love this forest, and I know that all the forest loves me. [Pause. The boy’s face suddenly brightens.] She isn’t a witch at all! She’s a friend—perhaps—of the owner sent here to frighten me away. Of course she can’t be a witch or a spirit, because—she—well, I just know she isn’t. Is—is that the owner coming? Not, ’tis not. Only some creature in the branches. [A rustling is heard.] Oh, my friend, come down. I have some crumbs here for you. [Draws bread from his pocket and strews it about in the grass.] There, my little squirrel, that’s for you when you come down, and I hope you find it. Now, birdies that sing for me, here’s some for you. [Strews more crumbs] And look at those heavenly little flowers. Oh, I just know they love me. I love them—always—always—

[Enter the old man]

Oh! How you frightened me. Are—are—er—er—you my friend? Are you sent from the owner to take me away? [Aside] Anyhow, they haven’t succeeded yet, and there are only two people that have any authority over this forest that I’m really afraid of. [Aloud] Have you come from the owner of this—er—er—forest?

Old Man
And that I have, and you just go away—quick!

Boy
Is that your own command, or is it from the owner?

Old Man
My business is to drive you away from here—not to talk. Get OUT, will you?

Boy (bravely)
But I wish to know this. Did the owner tell you to say that?

Old Man (confusedly)
Well, no, but I know he wants to get rid of you.

Boy
Do you? I—er—don’t.

Old Man
Well, you do now, don’t you?

Boy
I hear what you say—yes.

Old Man
Then skiddo.

Boy
I shall obey no command save from the mouth of the owner. You don’t own this forest. How can I believe that the owner wants to get rid of me unless he tells me so himself? It would be just as easy for you to lie to me as not.

Old Man
The owner wishes you away from his forest; I came to help him get you away.

Boy
I shall not answer the same thing twice. You have no proof of the truth of what you say. You don’t own this forest. I wait here till the owner comes. GO!

[Exit old man]

Just the same, I fear this bravery is pretense. I must devise some means to make it true. Wait, the—whatever-she-was—er—dressed up as a witch. I’ll dress up as something. I’ll go put on some garlands and wreaths and leaves and branches and vines, and I’ll pretend I’m a spirit. Hurrah for this forest—always! [Exit]

Scene 5.
The same.
Enter the boy, festooned with flowers and wreaths and vines, disguised in a lacy dress.

Boy (laughing)
I certainly don’t look like myself. The owner will never know me for the “rascal” that invades his forest. The question is, if the owner isn’t a superstitious man I shall have trouble in making him believe that I am a spirit. Let me see, I must practice what a spirit would do. Perhaps they dance. [Begins to step mysteriously in circles trying to imitate the tactics of what he thinks a spirit would do] Oh, but I am happy. I don’t know what a spirit of the woods would do, but I can pretend more easily that I am the spirit of the pool. And when the owner gives up trying to—ah! If I can make him believe I’m a spirit, he’ll never see the “boy” again and he’ll think he has left the forest, for I shall always wear the spirit dress when I’m here! Oh, how happy I am! Now I can play always with the forest and no one can disturb me! Hurrah! Hurrah!

[Enter the owner. The duke follows stealthily and hides behind a bush to listen. The first glance can tell that he is very impatient.]

Owner
Who are you, pray?

Boy
And what are you doing here in my forest?

Owner
My forest!

Boy
I am the spirit of this dark pool and the forest surrounding it; er—but the pool especially.

Owner
Do you know who you really are?

Boy
Not unless I’m not what I told you I was.

Owner
But you’re not what you say you are.

Boy
I’m not? What am I then?

Owner
You’re the boy.

Boy (giving in)
I’m a boy, the twin brother of a boy which I’ve heard you have a grudge against, though I don’t know why. And I’m having a lovely time in this forest, playing spirit and dancing.

Owner
But you’re not the boy I have a grudge against?

Boy
I don’t know of any grudge you have against me, sir.

Owner (unusually gentle)
Well, there is a rule of mine for no one to play here. Your—er—brother has obstructed the rule, and, as a matter of fact, so have you. But if you’ll help me find your brother I’ll pardon you, only asking you to please not play here again.

Boy
Sir, I’m at your service. I certainly did not know that there was a rule concerning this forest—if I had, I should certainly not have obstructed it. I’ll do anything  you say.

Owner
Tell me where you live, son. I knew once, but I have forgotten.

Boy
I live in that big grey stone house in that direction [pointing] on the road. It is the biggest house around, so you can’t mistake it.

Owner
But I had an idea that you lived in that direction [pointing the other way] in a little white house with a red roof.

Boy
We did, sir, but we’ve moved.

Owner
Well, you are a good boy. Now run away, and I’ll come to see your brother later. [Exit Boy] Duke, my lord, have you heard?

Duke (coming into sight)
I did, sir. This little fellow seems good and honest enough. Pray you, why do you not give this little boy a free play once a week in this forest as a reward for helping you?

[Enter the boy’s playmate, out of breath.]

Playmate
Sirs, sirs, please you, I have news.

Owner
Why are you here?

Playmate
I went to the court of the duke, my lord, but they told me he was here. And (bowing) here he seems to be.

Owner
But this forest is forbidden.

Playmate
I know that, sir, and I’m trying to help you defend it. A boy came in here, straight past a “no—“

Owner
Yes, yes, thank you, little boy, but we too know all this, and are consulting each other. Now go, and come not again.

[Exit playmate. Enter old woman]

Well, good dame, what luck did you have, in thy strange witch’s garb?

Duke
What mean you, friend?

Owner
My lord, this good dame, dressed as some witch or spirit, had gone into the forest to try to frighten away the boy. Now, what luck, good mother?

Woman
Alas, sir, the boy’s all brains.

Owner
What mean you, mother?

Woman
I did my best to frighten him. I think I made him believe I was a witch, but I can’t be sure. He insisted that all the forest loved him, and tried to make me think I was his friend—and—well, briefly, I had no luck.

Duke
Now this is strange, my friend. You may go, dame. [Exit old woman] What think you now? He couldn’t have thought he was a witch, for children of that age are so frightenable at anything they think is a spirit or a witch. But here comes your old man, whom you tell me had also gone to try his luck.

[Enter old man, breathlessly]

Old Man
Alas, sir.

Owner
What luck?

Old Man
My god, my god, ’tis the strangest child I ever saw. He simply wouldn’t frighten!

Owner
Well, you may go, old man.

[Exit old man]

Duke (almost laughing)
’Tis some difficulty. This seems to be more of a child—er—I mean harder to get rid of than we thought for.

Owner
You are right, my lord. But we must get rid of him somehow. What do you propose?

Duke
’Tis up to you, friend. You could put a fence around the place, of course.

Owner
But, my lord, I object to a fence. It spoils the beauty of the forest, and, besides, in putting up the fence we might fence him in, and then we should be in a worse position than before.

Duke
Well, remember what t’other little fellow said. He said that—I mean he told you where he lives, did he not?

Owner
True, true, my lord; I had forgotten. Let’s us go there.

Duke
You go, my friend, but I must return to my court.

Owner
Farewell, my lord.

Duke
God aid you; adieu.

Scene 6.
The house of the old maid.
Enter the owner to her as she is seated in a chair.

Owner
God bless you, madame.

Old Maid
So please you, sir.

Owner
Does a boy live here?

Old Maid
Yes indeed, sir.

Owner
A little boy, with brown curls and blue eyes—er—and full of—er—

Old Maid
Nothing like that, sir.

Owner
Well, what sort of a boy does live here then?

Old Maid
Why, marry, a big boy with straight black hair, and black eyes and full of—er—I’m sure quite the opposite of what you were going to say, sir.

Owner
Well, then; do you know where a boy—er—such as I described lives?

Old Maid
I’m a school teacher here, sir. I’ve been a teacher for years and I know every boy in the neighborhood. Was he very little?

Owner
Indeed, that he was, and so full of—er—mischief that you can’t mistake him.

Old Maid
There’s been no such boy in my school, sir, since the coming of the—

Owner
But he said he lived here!

Old Maid
That’s your business, not mine, sir. All I can say is that I never saw any boy such as you say he is.

Owner [Aside]
Now this is strange. Possibly he was disguised as—[Aloud] Was your boy out of the house today?

Old Maid
He has been here all day, sir.

Owner (fiercely)
Where is he now?

Old Maid
In there, sir.

Owner
Call him.

Old Maid
Arthur, Arthur; here’s a stranger wants to see you.

Arthur (within)
Coming, coming. Who is it, mother?

Old Maid
Come here! [Enter Arthur] Here you see my son, sir. If he resembles he whom you search, my ears or my eyes have failed me.

Owner
’Tis certainly not he, old lady. I am astounded. He said he lived here. Again I ask you: do you know where he lives?

Old Maid
Alas, sir, go away and trouble me no more.

Owner (fiercely)
Answer me, grandam.

Old Maid
Sir, I know nothing about him. GO AWAY!

[Exit owner, leaving old maid in her chair]

Scene 7.
The forest and the dark pool.
The boy disguised even more like some spirit.

Boy
Now the owner cannot know me. I’ll pretend all sorts of things; that I hate the boy who disturbs the quiet of my forest, and so forth. Oh, I’m sure I can fool him.

[Enter owner]

Owner
Why, are you here again? You’re the twin brother of the boy you promised to help me find. I told you not to play here.

Boy (in a strange, deep voice)
What mean you?

Owner
I mean you. Get AWAY! You lied to me.

Boy
What mean you?

Owner
YOU LIED TO ME!

Boy
What mean you?

Owner
Can you talk English? GO AWAY!

Boy
Have you ever seen me?

Owner
Yes I have. Will you go away?

Boy
Why should I?

Owner
Because I tell you to?

Boy
Who am I?

Owner
You’re either the boy or his twin brother—I don’t know which. In either case you’re very unwelcome.

Boy
Boy? Twin brother? What mean you?

Owner (beginning to be convinced)
Well, perhaps—er—you’re not. What is your name?

Boy
I have no name.

Owner
Er—what’s that? Who are you—a girl or—?

Boy (in disgust)
I’m not a girl!

Owner
Are—er—er—you—a—a—boy?

Boy
No I’m not.

Owner
Well, what kind of a creature are you?

Boy
I’m not a creature.

Owner
Well, what kind of a being are you?

Boy
I’m not sure that I’m any kind of being.

Owner
What do you call yourself?

Boy
I’m myself. Why, should I call myself anything?

Owner
Then what do other people call you?

Boy
Nobody ever talks to me.

Owner (becoming more and more puzzled)
Well, I certainly don’t understand. What are you?

Boy
If I’m anything I’m the spirit of this very pool.

Owner
Are you sure that you’re not the boy?

Boy
Boy? I hate all boys and girls, too. They invade my forest and disturb my quiet.

Owner (gazing very fixedly)
If you’re really a spirit, prove it.

Boy
I don’t know of any proof that will seem to you a proof.

Owner
If you’re the spirit of that pool, jump into it.

[The boy starts a high dive into the pool, but is held back by the owner]

Boy
Why didn’t you let me jump in? I haven’t yet given you any proof (struggling) Let me go!

Owner
I know now that you are a spirit, and I will leave you alone.

Boy
Why didn’t you let me jump into the pool?

Owner
Well, you started to, which is the same thing. Spirit or no, I couldn’t think of anybo—er—I mean anything jumping into the stagnancy. I’ll leave you alone. [Exit]

Boy
I’ve fooled the owner; now my only fear is the duke. if I can fool him as well—the forest is mine. Oh, there comes the duke now!

[Enter the duke]

Duke
Come here with me, impudence. You have lied to the owner, and forsaken his command. Come here, I tell you.

Boy (trying very hard to be calm)
What mean you? Why should I?

Duke (takes him by the arm)
Come here with me, I tell you. Now don’t try to be funny. I know you’re the boy.

Boy (stamping his foot)
Boy? I hate boys, and especially one boy that comes here and disturbs the quiet of my forest.

Duke
Your forest? Hate boy? What do you mean. Come here at once.

Boy
I’m the spirit of this pool, and, if you’ll let go of me, I’ll jump in and prove it.

Duke
I’ll prove it another way.

[Begins tearing away his wreaths and his silks and reveals him at last as a boy.]

Come here, I tell you. [Exeunt]

Scene 8.
The duke’s court.
The duke, the judge, the headsman, the owner, and the boy.

Duke
So here is the boy that we have had so much trouble with. But there is one more difficulty. Is it the boy or is it his twin brother — — — No. Were you—have you a twin brother? Did you yourself play the part of a twin brother. You did, I see it in your eyes. Look up here. [Aside] A kind face, an honest face, frank eyes. I like that. [Aloud] You seem to like playing the part of a vagabond. You seem to like that forest very much. You love the woods, the animals—I found the grass strewn with crumbs.

Owner
I’m getting impatient, my lord. Do hurry.

Headsman
My lord, I strike at your command.

Duke
Stay a while. I wish I knew whether the boy did it just for mischief or that he really wanted to play there in the forest.

Headsman
My lord, I strike at your command.

Duke
Stay a while. I’m not ready yet. Wait for my command.

Owner (whispering to the headsman)
Mine.

Duke
He was the one that dressed up as a spirit, who said he hated the boy, and who lied as to where he lives.

Owner
Strike.

[Terrific confusion. The headsman does his best to bring his axe down, but is held away by the duke.

Duke
I am your master, you are my servant. Learn that lesson before I even see you again. Gol! [Exit headsman. To the owner] And you, too, sir, you told him you were his master.

Owner
Pardon me, my lord, I’ll stay.

Duke
Well, sit down. This is no longer your business. You have lost my favor. It is my case now. Don’t interfere any more. I like this boy—

Owner
My lord!

Duke
Silence! I like this boy—he’s honest—he does not deny these things—he’s brave—he risks his life for what he loves. I know now that he did it for pure love, not mischief. He is the kind I like! My son, you are—

Owner
’Tis my forest, my forest. I have as much authority as you—

Duke
Silence, I tell you!— You are pardoned. The forest is yours. Play there whenever you will. May God bless you and help you prosper—always!

CURTAIN

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