Come Hill Or Highwater by Adam Watts

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and must not be Performed or Copied without the Author's prior consent

Act One

Scene 1

The North of England - 1943

Charlotte Hill can be seen standing in the living room of the family
home. She is on the telephone to an unknown person - the conversation
is a little heated.
The house itself is a pleasant one, with a homely feel. It is
substantial and that of a successful middle class factory owner. Decor
befitting the period and at the discretion of the producer.

It is mid morning on a Saturday. It is summer and sunlight floods
through the window and into the room.

There are three entrances to the living room of Highwater Hold. UR (To
the Hallway), DL (To the Kitchen) and along the back wall (To
Elizabeth Hill's bedroom). There is a sideboard along the back wall
situated to the left of the door. There is a also a drinks cabinet
placed against the right wall, slightly downstage of the door to the
hallway and a hat-stand at the opposite side.

The fireplace is along the left wall and upstage of the exit to the
Kitchen. In the centre of the room are two winged armchairs and a
small settee; they circumvent a bespoke coffee table - the centrepiece
of the room. There is a plush rug in front of the fire and a coal
bucket and appropriate utensils propped up against the fireplace

CHARLOTTE: I've already given you more than enough money ... That was
three weeks ago ... That has nothing to do with ... What do you mean,
difficulties? ... The front door of the house can be heard opening and
closing ... I have to go. He's coming…

George Hill enters the room carrying the morning paper. He takes off
his hat, places it on the hat stand and loiters in the doorway.

CHARLOTTE: Yes, tomorrow afternoon is fine dear… Okay, goodbye.

GEORGE: Who was that darling?

CHARLOTTE: (Replacing the receiver) Vickie.

George is outwardly sceptical.

GEORGE: (Sarcastically) What is it this week dearest? Whist, bridge,
backgammon… Chess?

CHARLOTTE: Don't be like that George.

GEORGE: Shove halfpenny perhaps?

George takes a seat in his favourite armchair.

CHARLOTTE: It doesn't matter what it is. You don't care for my company

Charlotte takes a seat in the chair opposite.

GEORGE: You don't exactly make it easy…

CHARLOTTE: You'd much rather spend time with your mother. What is it
with men and their mothers anyway?

GEORGE: The same as women and their daddies surely?

Charlotte does not reply verbally. Instead she frowns disapprovingly.

GEORGE: She needs me Charlotte. She isn't at all well and is getting
frailer by the day.

CHARLOTTE: She plays on your sympathy, but you're too blind to see

GEORGE: How many times are we going to have this conversation?

CHARLOTTE: If you'd sign those papers, we would never have to speak of
it again.

George gets up from the chair. He is clearly agitated now and makes
for the drinks cabinet across the room as he speaks.

GEORGE: (Angrily) I've told you a thousand times Lotte. It's mother's
house and she is staying here!

CHARLOTTE: Maybe you'd prefer it if I were the one to go…

GEORGE: Now you're just being ridiculous.

He picks up the whiskey decanter and is about to pour when Charlotte
cuts in.

CHARLOTTE: What's ridiculous is drinking at this hour.

George hesitates for a moment, before replacing the decanter. At this
moment the door to Elizabeth Hill's downstairs bedroom opens. She is
seated in her wheelchair trying to enter the room.

ELIZA: What is all this shouting about? You woke me up.

George rushes to help his mother get her wheelchair through the
doorway and proceeds to wheel her into the centre of the room.

CHARLOTTE: Oh dear. We can't have that can we Lizzie? After all, you
need all the beauty sleep you can get.

GEORGE: (Staring at Charlotte) Sorry mother. We didn't realise we were

CHARLOTTE: Next time I will be sure to ask for your permission before
I get involved in any arguments.

George retakes his seat after positioning his mother beside his

GEORGE: Charlotte please.

ELIZA: (To George) What is the trouble this time? Anything I can help
with dear?

CHARLOTTE: (Cheerfully) Now you come to mention it…

GEORGE: Charlotte that is enough! I don't want to hear anymore about

George picks up his newspaper from the coffee table and begins to leaf
through it. He is looking for a particular section.

GEORGE: How are you feeling today mother? Have you taken that new
medication yet?

ELIZA: Oh, yes dear. Not very pleasant, but it's gone.

GEORGE: I'm sure it's necessary. What did Doctor Montague have to

ELIZA: That I'm doing as well as can be expected… At my age it is a
case of managing one's ailments.

GEORGE: (Playfully) The picture is alright, but the frame has gone. Eh

They both laugh.

CHARLOTTE: (Stage whisper) Brain's gone more like.

Eliza hears this comment and reacts accordingly.

ELIZA: Not going out today Charlotte dear?

CHARLOTTE: Yes. It's a lovely day. I thought I might go for a stroll.
Shame you can't join me really…

ELIZA: Well the exercise would do you good.

GEORGE: Perhaps mother could go with you dear.

CHARLOTTE: I'm not sure that is such a good idea George. I may forget
to bring her back again.

George lowers the paper briefly and turns to his mother, ignoring
Charlotte's previous comment.

GEORGE: Maybe I can take you after lunch. I need to pop into town

George returns to his paper.

ELIZA: I think that is a much better idea George. I wouldn't want to
cramp Charlotte's style. (Stage whisper) What little of it there

Charlotte scowls.

CHARLOTTE: Has that hapless gardener trimmed the hedge row yet Liza?

ELIZA: Albert is a very good gardener, as well you know. He's won
prizes for his vegetables.

CHARLOTTE: And now he's becoming one.

ELIZA: Albert is more a part of this family than you will ever be!

GEORGE: (From behind the paper) Ladies…

ELIZA: He's been with us since Edmund and I purchased Highwater Hold.

CHARLOTTE: I suppose he came with the fixtures and fittings.

ELIZA: You didn't see the garden when we moved in. Rustic doesn't do
it justice.

Elizabeth starts to fidget in her chair.

GEORGE: (From behind the paper) It was alright for football. Me and
Len spent hours out there.

ELIZA: That was before the landscaping… Read your paper dear.

CHARLOTTE: Yes darling. Don't trouble yourself will you?

With this George puts down the paper.

GEORGE: I've finished now. Just checking the markets.

ELIZA: Anything interesting?

GEORGE: The usual inflated prices. I tell you; anyone who invested
before the war was a shrewd man…

CHARLOTTE: (Sarcastically) But you didn't. Did you dearest?

GEORGE: (Flatly) No.

Once again Eliza fidgets in her wheelchair.

GEORGE: Would you be more comfortable with a cushion mother?

ELIZA: That would be lovely dear, thank you… I wouldn't want to soil
one of Charlotte's prize velvet covers though.

Elizabeth scowls in the direction of Charlotte, to which Charlotte

CHARLOTTE: Since when have you ever considered my feelings Lizzie?

ELIZA: George darling, please remind your wife of how to properly
address me. She knows very well I detest the name Lizzie.

GEORGE: Lotte, play nice.

Charlotte sticks out her tongue at the suggestion.

GEORGE: Mother, Ruby is cooking some poached fish and garden peas for
dinner. Is that okay with you, or would you prefer something else?

ELIZA: That sounds fine George. It will be easier on my digestion than
recent offerings. You know red meat gives me the most terrible attacks
of acid.

CHARLOTTE: (Stage whisper) I'd like to attack you with acid…

GEORGE: What was that dear?

Charlotte quickly changes the subject.

CHARLOTTE: Since when were we having fish George? I distinctly told
that useless girl Ruby, to prepare the boiled beef and carrots.

GEORGE: Old 'Tickler' Thomas from The Poacher's Arms had some terrific
trout on offer. Practically too good to turn down!

ELIZA: I'm quite sure Ruby could do boiled beef and carrots for one
Charlotte… Are they Albert's home-grown carrots per chance?

CHARLOTTE: (Acting overly considerate) Yes. Are you sure you wouldn't
like some?

ELIZA: Yes… They would go very well with the fish and peas.

It is now Charlotte's turn to glower.

GEORGE: (Trying to make peace) That's settled then! I'll go and inform
Ruby of the changes to this afternoon's menu.

George leaves promptly via the door to the kitchen. He is almost too
pleased to be performing such a mundane task.

CHARLOTTE: Looks like you've got your own way yet again. I sincerely
hope there are no bones in that trout. We wouldn't want you to choke
on them.

ELIZA: You'd like that wouldn't you.

CHARLOTTE: I'm not entirely adverse to the idea.

Eliza gasps.

CHARLOTTE: But I'm sure George would come to your rescue.

ELIZA: And why shouldn't he? He is my son after all.

CHARLOTTE: He is also my husband… Not that you'd notice.

ELIZA: Maybe if you treated him better, he would behave more like

Charlotte rises in anger.

CHARLOTTE: If it was just the two of us, it wouldn't be a problem!

ELIZA: And what do you mean by that young - and I use the term lightly
- lady?

CHARLOTTE: George and I are finding it difficult…

ELIZA: The two of you would find things difficult regardless of my

CHARLOTTE: Don't change the subject. You need specialist care.

ELIZA: I'm perfectly fine where I am thank you.

CHARLOTTE: I happen to have these brochures. Perhaps you'd care to
take a look?

ELIZA: I most certainly would not!

At this moment, Albert Jeffers knocks on the living room door. He is
of a similar age to Eliza and is the family gardener. His clothes are
well-worn and soiled at the knees. His boots are muddy.

JEFFERS: Just look at my marrow!

ELIZA: Oh Albert. That's magnificent.

CHARLOTTE: I'm sorry. I was led to believe that the common practice
was to knock and wait. Not barge into the room brandishing a large
root vegetable!

JEFFERS: Sorry Miss Charlotte… But technically the marrow is a
member of the pumpkin family and as such is a fruit…

CHARLOTTE: I don't care what it is. It isn't welcome in the living
room. Take it away.

ELIZA: Is there anything you don't know about gardening Albert?

JEFFERS: Not much no, but…

CHARLOTTE: Get out of here with those muddy boots!

ELIZA: Twelve thirty Albert?

Jeffers makes a hasty retreat, nodding to Eliza on the way out.

JEFFERS: Wouldn't miss it for the world…

CHARLOTTE: Like two love struck teenagers. You're old enough to know

ELIZA: And you are too young to question us.

Charlotte picks up the brochure again.

CHARLOTTE: I think they have places for couples at the home I

ELIZA: I won't dignify that with an answer.

George re-enters the room.

ELIZA: Oh George, could you take me to my room please. I'm feeling a
little unwell.

GEORGE: Of course. I do hope you'll feel better in time for the trout

ELIZA: I'm sure I will dear. I think it is the atmosphere in the
living room that is giving me one of my headaches.

GEORGE: It is a little warm…

George finishes pushing his mother's wheelchair through the door to
her ground floor bedroom and returns, closing the door behind him. He
takes a seat opposite his wife.

CHARLOTTE: That trout is starting to disagree with me.

GEORGE: (Puzzled) But you aren't having the trout dear…

CHARLOTTE: Who said I was referring to the fish!

George is clearly affronted by this remark.

GEORGE: What have you been saying to upset mother?

CHARLOTTE: It couldn't possibly be your darling mother that has upset
me. Could it George?

GEORGE: For goodness sake Lotte, you know she doesn't mean anything by

CHARLOTTE: That's easy for you to say. It's not you she vents her
anger on.

GEORGE: Vents her anger? She's a septuagenarian darling and an infirm
one at that.

CHARLOTTE: I've had just about enough of her spiteful comments

GEORGE: She's my mother Charlotte. What am I supposed to do?

CHARLOTTE: There are places for people in your mother's condition…

George looks outwardly shocked at the suggestion and rises from his
chair by the fire. George walks angrily towards the door to the
hallway, before turning and pacing back again whilst gesticulating at

GEORGE: How can you even suggest such a thing? This is her house for
God's sake!

CHARLOTTE: And soon to be yours…

GEORGE: Mother's as strong as an ox, as well you know.

CHARLOTTE: You can't keep telling yourself that George. A time will
come when…

GEORGE: I've heard enough. I'm going for a walk!

George turns and heads for the hallway again without so much as a look
in the direction of his wife. Suddenly he is halted in his tracks by
the front doorbell.

CHARLOTTE: Are we expecting anyone?

GEORGE: How should I know?

The sarcasm and resentment is clear in his voice. Eluding to Mrs.
Hill's overly active social life.

GEORGE: Probably another one of your friends darling.


Off stage right, Ruby (the housekeeper) can be heard opening the front
door and greeting someone.

GEORGE: Who is it Ruby?

Ruby enters the living room accompanied by a Policeman in uniform.
Ruby is the family housekeeper - She is young and pretty in a
downtrodden way, but frightfully ditzy. He is from the local
constabulary - a village bobby by the name of Smith. The family know
of him, but have never met him in a social capacity. He is a stocky
fellow, long since capable of chasing villains. Not the brightest bulb
in the blue lights (hence his lowly rank despite his advancing years),
but a loyal servant of the law never-the-less.

RUBY: Police Constable Smith to see you Sir.

Husband and wife both look at their visitor for a moment.

CHARLOTTE: Good morning officer. A cup of tea?

SMITH: Very kind of you Ma'am. Milk, two sugars.

Charlotte addresses Ruby in a disdainful manner.

CHARLOTTE: Ruby, run along and make us some tea.

RUBY: Yes Miss.

Ruby leaves, closely followed by the eyes of Mr Hill. He does not
realise it, but he is subconsciously leering at the young

CHARLOTTE: Sit down George! Now Constable, what can we do for you?

Constable Smith also takes the opportunity to sit.

SMITH: Unfortunately it is an unpleasant business Ma'am.


SMITH: Yes Sir, I've come about a spate of burglaries.

CHARLOTTE: Really? We hadn't heard anything.

GEORGE: And Lotte would know.

Smith raises an eyebrow at this remark and scratches his head.

SMITH: That may be Sir, but I cannot change the facts. A number of
homes in the next village over have been targeted. We're making house
calls in an attempt to tighten security. Prevention is cheaper than
the cure you know!

GEORGE: (Thoughtfully) Quite.

Ruby returns from the kitchen with a tray and places it down,
'carefully' on the coffee table.

CHARLOTTE: Thank you Ruby…

Charlotte takes a sip of the tea before pulling a face of disgust.

CHARLOTTE: Oh for heaven's sake girl! How many times? I do not drink
Earl Grey. Where is my herbal tea?

RUBY: I… I'm sorry miss Charlotte. I'll change it at once.

CHARLOTTE: See that you do! The caddy in the top cupboard! On the

Ruby scurries away and closes the door.

GEORGE: That was a bit harsh darling.

CHARLOTTE: Nonsense. That is the third time this week George. I know
she's new… But I'm getting tired of her incompetence.

GEORGE: You're getting tired of a lot of things lately.

CHARLOTTE: Yes. Including your wandering eye George!

At this moment Smith coughs, as if to remind the feuding couple that
he is still in the room. The pair look at him, before regaining their

CHARLOTTE: My apologies Constable. Do continue.

SMITH: So I'd like to carry out some security checks on the property.
If that's alright with you…

GEORGE: No trouble at all officer. It would be to our advantage I'm

SMITH: Thank you Sir. I'll just finish my tea and then I'll give the
house a once over.

Smith is just downing the last of his tea when Ruby returns, a cup in

CHARLOTTE: About time. Thank you Ruby. That will be all for now. You
can go and check on Mr. Hill's mother.

RUBY: Of course Miss.

Ruby leaves via the door to Eliza's ground floor bedroom and PC Smith
rises from his chair. As if in approval George ushers him towards the

GEORGE: The kitchen is as good a place to start as any. There's a door
and a window through there that will need checking.

SMITH: Thank you Sir.

GEORGE: My wife and I will be in the garden should you need anything

CHARLOTTE: (Suspiciously) Will we?
GEORGE: Yes. We could both use the fresh air darling.

With that George waits for Charlotte to take his arm - which she does
reluctantly - and the pair leave the room via the door to the hall.
PC. Smith remains in the doorway of the kitchen facing towards the
audience. He shrugs his shoulders, shakes his head and turns, entering
the kitchen and closing the door.

Lights fade to black. A voiceover informs the audience of a disturbing
fact. It has a familiar tone. The voice is that of PC. Smith.

SMITH: George Douglas Hill, I am arresting you on suspicion of murder.
You do not have to say anything, but anything you do say may be taken
down and given as evidence.

There is a pause and the jangling of keys can be heard. A lock turns
before the voiceover can be heard once more.

SMITH: It is customary for a man in your position, to call a
solicitor. But if that is who you want to call ... Five minutes,
that's your lot!

A deadbolt can be heard sliding into position before A cone of light
shines down on a solitary figure. He is sat at a simple, but sturdy
desk with his back to the audience. In front of him can be seen a set
of prison bars. There is one item on the desk; a telephone.

The prisoner dials a three digit number and waits to be connected.

GEORGE: Put me through to R.A.F. Coningsby.

There is a pause whilst the connection is made.

GEORGE: I'd like to speak with Leonard Hill please. It's urgent ...
Are you sure? ... Blonde hair, stocky build, probably an American
accent? ... Lyndon? ... Very well, but please be quick…

There is another period of awkward silence before George speaks out

GEORGE: He came back in an hour ago? ... Oh sorry, tell him it's his

Several seconds of silence ensue, with George becoming more and more

GEORGE: Len? Is that you old chap? Tell me it's you…

Suddenly the far side of the stage is illuminated in another cone of
light. This time the audience will see a smart looking man, dressed in
an Air force Uniform. He is leaning against the wall on which the
telephone is mounted. He speaks in a patchy Canadian / Yorkshire

LYNDON: George? You sound terrible. What gives?

GEORGE: Something terrible has happened. Charlotte has been murdered.

LYNDON: Say again? It's a bad line. For a minute there I thought you

GEORGE: Charlotte has been murdered!

LYNDON: That is terrible. What do you want me to do? By the way. The
name's Lyndon now. Not Len. I left that life behind twelve years

GEORGE: I haven't time to argue Len… I mean Lyndon. I've got very
little time. I'm at the local Police Station in Highwater. I've been

George stands, pushing the chair out behind him. Frantically (as if in
time with the formulating of his thoughts) he paces on the other side
of the desk.

LYNDON: And I'm in Lincoln. The weather's damn awful too… Nothing

GEORGE: Lincoln's good! Not too far away. Are you due any leave?

LYNDON: Now hold on a minute.

GEORGE: Are you or aren't you?

LYNDON: I could maybe swing a day or two on compassionate grounds…

GEORGE: Be as quick as you can.

George hangs up. The cone of light is diminished in synchronicity with
the replacing of the receiver.

With the payphone receiver still placed to his ear Lyndon begins his
closing speech. The receiver is replaced as the last three words are

LYNDON: Twelve years, three postcards and now this. And they wonder
why I left!

The sound of a Lancaster bomber can be heard taking off in the

Short Curtain.

[end of extract]

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