“The Doctor’s Patients”: A Drawing Room Play

The “Friend” has printed more than just short stories over the years. 

Every now and again, the Editor would select a play to be published in full in the pages of the magazine, like this week’s Fiction Newsletter exclusive.

“The Doctor’s Patients” by J.B. Trenwith was first published on November 5, 1906. Written as it is to take place in one room, this piece could easily have been acted out by a family reading the magazine at home. 

Indeed, we almost considered doing it here in the office!

As with other, longer archive pieces, we’ll publish the first part of the play this week, and conclude it next week.

Once again, this fantastic illustration comes from our very own Manon.

We hope you enjoy!

Characters and Costumes:

DR FRANK TRUELOVE, a Mental Specialist — Ordinary Morning Dress.

DOLLY TRUELOVE, his Wife — Ordinary Morning Dress.

JEREMIAH PIPKIN, Frank’s Wealthy Uncle — Large Check Suit, White Waistcoat, Crimson Tie. Make-up — Stout, Elderly, Red Face, Sidewhiskers.

MARIA TIBBLE, Dolly’s Wealthy Maiden Aunt — Eccentric Old-Maidish Costume, Corkscrew Curls.

DOOLEY, Frank’s Manservant — Shabby Broadcloth Suit, Open Front, Red Nose, Red Wig.


SCENE — The Truelove’s Drawing-Room. Doors Right (R.) and Left (L.)

Frank and Dolly discovered seated.


FRANK: The fact is, Dolly, if patients don’t arrive soon, matters will reach a serious crisis. This town is deplorably healthy, and — from a mental specialist’s point of view — ridiculously and reprehensibly sane.

DOLLY: Cheer up, Frank; things are sure to take a turn for the better soon. Some stroke of good luck will send an epidemic into the district, or drive half a dozen people crazy. And then, dear, if we can struggle on for a time, you know, we both have — er — expectations —

FRANK: Yes; you from your Aunt Tibble.

DOLLY: And you from your Uncle Pipkin.

(Enter DOOLEY (R.) with letters on salver. FRANK and DOLLY rise.)

DOOLEY: Post just arrived, sorr.

FRANK: (taking letters) Thank you, Dooley.

DOOLEY: You’re welkim, sorr!

FRANK: One for you, Dolly. (hands letter to DOLLY. DOOLEY remains, looking on.) That will do, Dooley.”

DOOLEY: Yes, sorr. (Exit slowly (R.))

(DOLLY and FRANK open and read letters.)

DOLLY and FRANK (together): Oh!

FRANK: What is it, dear?

DOLLY: This is a letter from Aunt Tibble.

FRANK: Indeed! Why, this is from Uncle Pipkin!

DOLLY: Really? But listen, Frank! She says: “My dear niece, — I will pay my long-promised visit to you to-morrow,” — that is today! — “arriving about twelve o’clock. Your loving aunt, Maria Tibble.”

FRANK: Great Christopher! Listen to what he says: “My dear nephew — I hope to have the pleasure of visiting you to-morrow,” — that is today! — “arriving at twelve o’clock. Your affectionate uncle, Jeremiah Pipkin.”

DOLLY: Oh, Frank, this will never do! You know how jealous Aunt is of all your people!

FRANK: And you know how Uncle Pipkin can’t bear any of your family!

DOLLY: If she found him here, I believer she’d alter her will!

FRANK: And if he discovers that she is staying with us, he won’t leave me a shilling!

DOLLY: Then you must put him off.

FRANK: No; you must put her off.

DOLLY: I can’t, Frank: for she says —

FRANK: And I can’t, Dolly: for he says —

(Both read the letters through rapidly, aloud, finishing together.)

DOLLY and FRANK (together): There!

FRANK: Then they will both be here to-day at twelve o’clock.

DOLLY: (sinking into chair) Whatever is to be done?

FRANK: I’m sure I don’t know.

DOLLY: Think, Frank, think! O, what is the good of being a mental specialist if you can’t think?

FRANK: Mental specialist! The very thing! Dolly, your words have solved the problem.

DOLLY (rising): Oh, Frank, how delightful.

FRANK: Yes. Now listen. They have never seen each other, have they?

DOLLY: No; I don’t think so.

FRANK: Well, this is my plan. You must tell your aunt that he is a resident patient with a mental disorder; and I’ll tell Uncle Pipkin that she is ditto, ditto — slightly mad, you know.

DOLLY: Capital!

FRANK: One of the two is sure to go soon; and if we keep it up till then, we’ll get out of the fix this time.

DOLLY: Splendid, Frank! You dear boy; you’re quite a genius.

FRANK: Well, I flatter myself I’m not quite a duffer.

DOLLY: But — oh, Frank!

FRANK: What’s wrong now?

DOLLY: What about Dooley? He’s sure to spoil things.

FRANK: Ah, I forgot Dooley. Well, the only way is to confide in him, and ask for his help. I’ll ring for him.

(FRANK rings bell. Enter DOOLEY (R.))

DOOLEY: Did ye ring, sorr?

FRANK: Yes, Dooley. Come here. I want to explain something to you.

DOOLEY: I’m all attintion , sorr.

FRANK: Well, the fact is, Dooley, we are expecting a lady and gentleman to visit us to-day; indeed, (FRANK LOOKS AT HIS WATCH) they may arrive at any minute. They are strangers to each other, and for certain reasons your mistress and I wish them to believe each other insane.

DOOLEY: Insane, sorr?

FRANK: Yes. (tapping his brow) Mad, you know.

DOOLEY: (tapping his brow) Oh yes; cracked — loony?

FRANK: Exactly. Now, are you quite sure you understand?

DOOLEY: Parfectly, sorr. There’s a lady an’ a gintleman comin’ to-day, and for sartin raysons ye wish them to think that the misthress an’ you are insane. Aisy enough, sorr!

FRANK: No, no! Not us, man. Listen. Your mistress and I want the lady to think the gentleman insane, and the gentleman to think the lady insane — in fact, each to think the other insane; and you must help to keep up the delusion. Do you understand now?

DOOLEY: Parfectly, sorr. The mistress wants the lady to think that you’re insane, an’ you want the gentleman to think that she’s insane; and I’m to be under the delusion that you’re all insane. I can manage that, sorr.

FRANK: No, no, no! You double-barrelled blockhead —

DOLLY: Let me try, Frank. Dooley, there is no question of our insanity.

DOOLEY: No, mum.

DOLLY: That is, I mean, it’s only the visitors we are speaking of. (Slowly and emphatically) They—must—think—each—other—insane! Now, do you see?

DOOLEY: Av course I do, mum. An’ if they’re not insane when they come, betwane us they’ll soon be mad enough. (Ring (R.)) Some one at the dhure, mum. (Exit DOOLEY (R.))

FRANK: This must be one of them already. Now, Dolly, keep cool, and all will go well.

(Enter DOOLEY and JEREMIAH PIPKIN, with travelling bag, umbrella, hat, &c (R.))

DOOLEY: Mr Pop-Gun, sorr!

FRANK: Ah, Uncle Pipkin; I’m glad to see you.

PIPKIN:  Frank, my boy, how-de-do? I’m delighted to be here. Dolly, my dear, kiss your uncle.

FRANK: Dooley, take Mr Pipkin’s bag.

DOOLEY: Right ye are, sorr.

(DOOLEY takes bag and umbrella)

PIPKIN: Thank you, Frank, thank you. And I’m so dusty with travelling that I should like a wash.

FRANK: Certainly, uncle. Dooley will show you your room. Dooley, show Mr Pipkin to the blue bedroom.

DOOLEY: Come along, Mr Pop-Gun.

(Exit PIPKIN and DOOLEY (L.))

DOLLY: Isn’t he a nice old gentleman? I wonder when Aunt Tibble will arrive. Ah, there’s another ring. I’ll answer it.

(Exit (R.))

FRANK: Phew! This is getting exciting. I wish it was all over.

(Enter DOLLY and MARIA TIBBLE, with bandbox, handbag, parcel, umbrella, &c (R.))

TIBBLE: Oh, my dear child, I’m so glad to have arrived safely. There are so many railway accidents nowadays. (She hands the parcel to DOLLY) — I’ve brought a couple of fowls for dinner, Dolly.

DOLLY: Oh, how kind of you, auntie!

TIBBLE: Don’t mention it, my dear. Frank, my dear boy, how are you?

FRANK: So glad you’ve come, Aunt Tibble. You are looking well.

TIBBLE: Am I, really? Then I shan’t need your professional attentions yet a while. Making lots of money, Frank, eh?

FRANK: Well, patients are still scarce, Aunt Tibble.

TIBBLE: Ah, people are too sensible to come to you, Frank. He-he-he!

FRANK: Not all of them, Aunt. I hope you won’t mind, but we have one gentleman staying here now.

TIBBLE: What? Not a madman?

FRANK: Well, he’s a little bit — (tapping brow)

TIBBLE: (alarmed) — Gracious me! Is he dangerous?

DOLLY: Oh, no, not often.

FRANK: But he suffers from slight delusions, you know.

TIBBLE: Delusions? Of what nature?

FRANK: Well, er—er—he fancies himself the Sultan of Turkey.

TIBBLE: Dear me! How dreadful!

DOLLY: You see, aunt, we hadn’t time to write and warn you; but since you are here, I hope he won’t interfere with you much.

TIBBLE: I hope not. I feel quite nervous.

FRANK: Oh, don’t you worry, Aunt Tibble. Preserve a bold front; show him that you are not in the least frightened and he’s as gentle as a lamb. Now, Dolly, suppose you show Aunt Tibble to her room.

DOLLY: Certainly; come this way, aunt.

(Exit TIBBLE and DOLLY (L.))

FRANK: (mopping brow) Oh, dear. That’s one of them disposed of. I don’t fancy she’ll wish to stay long. Here comes Uncle Pipkin. Now for another “cram”.

(Enter PIPKIN (L.))

FRANK: Well, uncle, do you feel better now?

PIPKIN: Splendid, my boy, splendid. As fresh as a daisy, and just in good trim for a fortnight’s stay with you.

FRANK (Aside) Oh! — That’s right, uncle. There’s only one thing I think you ought to know. You see, we only got your letter this morning, and hadn’t time to warn you.

PIPKIN: What’s the matter, my boy?

FRANK: Well, the fact is, uncle, we have a lady staying with us.

PIPKIN: All the better, Frank. Ha-ha-ha! Though I never got married I always was fond of the ladies, my boy. Ha-ha-ha!

FRANK: But, you see, uncle, she’s not an ordinary visitor — in fact, she’s just a little — (tapping brow).

PIPKIN: Oh! I see — a patient, eh? (FRANK nods) Not violent, I hope?

FRANK: Well, not often, uncle, not often.

PIPKIN: Dear me! I hope she —

(Enter DOOLEY hurriedly)

DOOLEY: Gentleman to see you, sorr.

FRANK: (excitedly) Gracious! A patient, perhaps. Don’t let him go. I’m coming!

(FRANK rushes out (R.))

PIPKIN: He’s surely in a hurry. I say, Dooley, my man?

DOOLEY: Yes, sorr?

PIPKIN: I wanted to ask you a few questions —

DOOLEY: I’m all attintion, sorr.

PIPKIN: About this lady who is staying here.

DOOLEY: Oh, yes, sorr; that’s the ould leddy that’s just arrived?

PIPKIN: Just arrived? I understood she had been staying here?

DOOLEY: (aside) I’ve put me fut in it. Exactly, sorr — just arrived — last wake.

PIPKIN: Well, I understand she’s a little — (tapping brow)

DOOLEY: (shaking head) Oh, terribly afflicted, sorr. Poor crathur!

PIPKIN: But she’s — perfectly quiet, I suppose?

DOOLEY: Oh, yes — occasionally, sorr.

PIPKIN: And at other times?

DOOLEY: Oh, don’t mention it, sorr. Thunder an’ lighnin’, she’s—she’s unspeakable, sorr.

PIPKIN: Do you say so? I’m quite alarmed.

DOOLEY: Oh, you’re safe enough if you just humour her, sorr. It’s all done by kindness, sorr.

PIPKIN: And what is the particular nature of her hallucination?

DOOLEY: Beg pardon, sorr?

PIPKIN: I mean, what is her delusion?

DOOLEY: Well, sorr — she—um—um—(scratching his head) she had two av thim, sorr.

PIPKIN: Two? What are they?

DOOLEY: First, sorr, she thinks she’s the Queen of the Cannibal Islands, and second, sorr, she thinks everybody else is as mad as hersilf.

PIPKIN: Poor creature! Poor creature!

DOOLEY: Yes, it’s a terrible pity, Mr Pop-Gun.

(Voice off (L.) “Excuse you, Dolly? Certainly; I’ll wait for you in the drawing room.)

DOOLEY: That’s her. She’s comin’, sorr.

PIPKIN: Who? The madwoman? (grasping DOOLEY’s arm).


This is part one of “The Doctor’s Patients”. Part two will be included in next week’s Fiction Newsletter.

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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.