Chapter 3

Chapter 3
Lady Atherton's Boudoir

Lady Atherton’s Boudoir

Lady Atherton’s Boudoir

Lady Atherton has a book open on her lap, but she is clearly not reading. She is looking through the open door to the hall. She looks expectant.
Lady Atherton (in ringing tones): Mrs. Bogsby! Come in here, please.
Mrs. Bogsby: My Lady?
Lady Atherton: Where is Lucy?
Mrs. Bogsby: I hain’t seen her today, My Lady.
Lady Atherton: Ah, well. I sent her along to help you with the rooms. No doubt she became distracted on the way and wandered off on some private errand. Did Mr. Bysshe tell you that we are expecting two additional guests?
Mrs. Bogsby: Yes, My Lady. And that I was to prepare the Hurtlebottom Suite for two young ladies. My Lady. (Mrs. Bogsby speaks slightly unnaturally; she is clearly trying to sound the way she has heard other servants speak to “The Quality.” Is there, however, a gleam of intelligence- defiance- even mockery- in her delivery? There may well be).
Mrs. Bogsby: I have done so, My Lady. The rooms being in good order already. I was on the point of going home. Was there anything else you’d be requiring, My Lady?
Lady Atherton: Yes, Mrs. Bogsby. I would be grateful if you would come in and shut the door.
MRS. BOGSBY does so. They regard each other warily.
Lady Atherton: Have you heard that Nurse has, apparently, left us, Mrs. Bogsby?
Mrs. Bogsby: I had not. Left you? I saw her this morning, and she didn’t say she were going. And she and I were close-like, she not knowing no one in the area, and badly in need of a friend.
Lady Atherton: Yes, we were all a bit surprised when Lucy announced that Nurse had gone.
MRS. BOGSBY barely suppresses a scream. She staggers slightly.
Lady Atherton (coldly): Oh, do sit down! I won’t have you falling down in here.
MRS. BOGSBY sits, very upright, though all the color has been drained from her face.
Mrs. Bogsby: I don’t usually come over weak like that, My Lady, but what you said gave me a turn and no mistake. It reminded me of when I found Lucy all bloody and she looked up at me with her china-blue eyes and said that my Bobby- the sweetest boy, was my Bobby- was gone. And then we found him, and… well. You don’t think- she couldn’t have done for Nurse too, could she?
LADY ATHERTON regards her coldly.
Lady Atherton: Lucy was a child then. And, as you know full well, nothing was ever proved. I doubt Lucy even knew your son. How would they even have met? Do consider, my good woman, how unlikely such an association would have been. (She shrugs) Be that as it may, Nurse’s absence does present us with an immediate problem. Our house-guests will start to arrive quite soon now. I expect the first guest to be with us within the hour. I obviously have no time to find a substitute nurse before my guests get here. And Lucy requires someone to look after her.
LUCY APPEARS on the ledge outside the window. She is completely soaked. She stares in at the two women, smiling vaguely. Neither of them notice her.
Lady Atherton: I want you to fill in for Nurse, Mrs. Bogsby. It will only be for the weekend, while our guests are here. You will have to sleep here, of course. I will telephone down to the village if there is anything from your cottage that you desperately require and have it brought up to us.
LADY ATHERTON reaches for the telephone.
LUCY CROUCHES. One of her feet is over the ledge, clearly looking for a foothold. She starts to disappear, obviously climbing down. Suddenly, she vanishes all at once; there is a muffled crash. Neither of the women notice.
Mrs. Bogsby (quietly, but firmly): No.
LADY ATHERTON raises her eyebrows. Her hand continues towards the telephone.
Lady Atherton: Very well, Mrs. Bogsby. If you refuse to take it on yourself, I shall simply have to ask your daughter to do it. I hear she has just completed her training and is now a qualified nurse. She will, doubtless, be altogether more suitable. Your only child, now, I understand, isn’t she?
LADY ATHERTON lifts the receiver.
Mrs. Bogsby: I’ll do it.
Lady Atherton: I rather thought you might.  Let us get things quite clear between us, Bogsby.  You shall sleep, as Nurse did, in the room adjoining Lucy’s.  You shall take your meals with the upper servants, I believe, though no doubt Sneakfork will make your position in the household with regard to that sort of thing quite clear to you.  You must at any time be ready for a summons; if Lucy becomes agitated, I shall expect you to arrive on the scene at the ring of a bell.  Do you understand?

Mrs. Bogsby (with gritted teeth): Yes, Your Ladyship.

LADY ATHERTON smiles unpleasantly.

Lady Atherton:   Good.  I am trusting you with this task, Bogsby, because you seem a competent woman, in your limited way.  And you know when you are beaten.  I like that about you.  You may go.  In fact, as a reward for that admirable quality of yours to which I have just alluded- knowing when to give in- you may go to the village and settle any affairs of yours that need settling before you undertake this task.  Get your affairs in order, Mrs. Bogsby.  Have you made a will?

Mrs. Bogsby crosses herself.

Mrs. Bogsby:  Yes, Your Ladyship.

Lady Atherton:  Excellent!  Go and explain where you will be to that nice girl of yours, Mrs. Bogsby, and pack up some of your more respectable-looking clothes.  I recall that your widow’s weeds were of plain, decent black, suitable for a servant.  Bring those along, and anything else you may require.  I shall expect you back by seven o’clock.  Do remember to come in the back way.  You are dismissed.


LADY ATHERTON turns to her desk and does some writing.

A BANSHEE SCREAM reverberates through the house.  Lady Atherton looks up.  Noises of running feet.  Another scream, closer.  More running.  LUCY flashes by.  A moment later, GEOFFREY runs in, panting.

Geoffrey:  Which way did she go?

LADY ATHERTON points wordlessly.  GEOFFREY sets off.  EXIT GEOFFREY.

LADY ATHERTON sits back.  She convulses.  Is she crying?  She makes some sort of noise.  It grows louder.  It is laughter.  Wicked laughter.  It gets louder and louder.  She sounds like an evil and triumphant queen.  It rings throughout Atherton Manor.  It it spine-chilling.

Lights fade out on Lady Atherton, still laughing.


On To Chapter Four!

Back To Table of Contents!