LADY ATHERTON’S BOUDOIR
Lucy should start screaming as the curtain rises, and keep going until it is up
The curtain rises on:
Lady Atherton, sprawled in an armchair, stabbed through the heart, covered in blood. She does not move. In fact, she is clearly dead.
Next to Lady Atherton on a table, there is a tray, with a teapot and a single teacup on it.
Lucy Atherton, standing next to the chair, staring at the corpse; she is leaning against the armchair, too weak to fully support her weight. She has blood on her hands.
GEOFFREY ATHERTON enters at a run
Geoffrey: Lucy, what – (HE SEES the body) oh. (Quietly) What have you done?
Lucy stares and shakes her head, slowly; this may be a denial, or it may simply indicate a lack of understanding
NOISES of many people approaching
Geoffrey (calling): Sneakfork?
Sneakfork: Yes, my Lord – (SEES body; sees Lucy’s bloody hands) – oh my. (Sneakfork shuts the door and comes closer to Geoffrey) It has happened again. She’s up to her old tricks.
Geoffrey (angrily): You don’t know that. (A KNOCK) Sneakfork, send them away, and then go and ring the doctor.
Sneakfork (with Dignity): I cannot leave you and your sister here alone, My Lord.
Geoffrey: Just be quick; we’ll be fine.
Sneakfork (firmly): No, my Lord. (Geoffrey is Not Abreast; Sneakfork sees this, and sighs) The police would be liable to suspect you of tampering with a crime scene.
Geoffrey: a crime scene?
LUCY, who has been sinking slowly to the floor, now starts to laugh rather hysterically.
Sneakfork: Your mother did not, I think, stab herself through the heart, my Lord.
LUCY’s laughter grows louder and wilder; it is nearly indistinguishable from a shriek.
Major Gadfly’s voice, from off-stage: What the devil is going on in there?
ENTER GADFLY, followed by JULIA TRUEHEART, MR. BYSSHE, and HECTOR DANE; they all tumble into the room, and knock over the table with the teapot and cup; they shatter
Gadfly: Dane, you clumsy brute, you’ve smashed up the- (he notices the body; he speaks in a sick, weak voice): Why is there blood on her?
Julia (who looks more interested than sick; approaches the body): I think the knife in her chest might account for that, what? (She looks at Geoffrey, and is contrite) Sorry, old thing- must be beastly for you. Beastly all round.
ENTER MIMSY MOPPET, OPHELIA HAMPSTEAD, GEORGIANNA HAMPSTEAD, G. GORDON SLOOP, NIGEL PENDERS-GHASTLY, and LORD AND LADY GRINLING- or, rather, they try to enter- they do not get far. Richard Bysshe blocks the door with his arms
Mr. Bysshe: Please, ladies and gentlemen- there has been a slight- a slight- accident- and we can’t have all of you crushing in here. Please go – elsewhere- perhaps- (in a more resolute voice) Please go back to the Drawing Room; we will let you know.
EXIT MOPPET, HAMPSTEAD, G. HAMPSTEAD, SLOOP, PENDERS-GHASTLY, THE GRINLINGS
Bysshe: Dear God. Well, at least they didn’t come in. And things can’t get any worse.
LUCY rises up from the floor beside the armchair; this considerably startles Bysshe, Gadfly, Trueheart, and Dane, who could not see her before, as she was concealed by the armchair; they React
Lucy: Hello Julia. Hello Mr. Bysshe. Hello gentlemen. My mother is quite dead now. I expect she will be able to receive you in the morning. Or – (smiles madly) – on some morning.
ENTER LORD ATHERTON
Lord Atherton: What is all this fussing? (He sees the body) Oh. Oh I see. (Gravely) How did this happen?
Lucy: Hello father.
Lord Atherton looks up from an almost calm contemplation of his wife’s body- to see his daughter, covered in blood, smiling That Smile.
Lord Atherton: No… (He falls down in a dead faint)
Lucy (in a high, hysterical quaver): No, no, NO! Father can’t be dead, too. He’ll be so much happier now, it wouldn’t be fair. (She runs to him, drops to the floor next to him, and starts shaking him violently) Father, wake up, wake up, it will be better now, you’ll see- she’s dead, she’s dead, she’s dead! (She is now bumping Lord Atherton’s head rhythmically against the floor; she has also managed to get a lot of blood on him)
Geoffrey: Someone stop her.
Julia seizes Lucy’s shoulders and pulls her up to her feet. Lucy turns, snarling like a wild animal, and flails, trying to strike out at Julia. Julia grabs her around her arms and hugs her hard; Lucy struggles
Julia: Hold hard. Your father isn’t dead- he’s just fainted.
Lucy: You don’t know that! You don’t! (Her struggles increase)
Julia: For the love of God, will someone check Lord Atherton’s pulse?
Mr. Bysshe does so
Mr. Bysshe: Julia’s right, Miss Atherton- he’s had a shock, that’s all.
Lucy ceases struggling and looks at Mr. Bysshe searchingly
Mr. Bysshe: He is not dead. He has only fainted.
Lucy: Only fainted? And has mother only fainted as well?
Mr. Bysshe: No, no, I’m afraid your mother is dead.
Lucy: Thank you Julia. Thank you Mr. Bysshe. I am quite myself again. I will be good. Please let go now. You are hurting me.
Julia lets go, though she hovers warily in the offing, ready to grab Lucy again if necessary
Lucy: I am going to bed.
Geoffrey: Someone should let Mrs. Bogsby know. Where is the woman, anyway? She should be here.
Lucy: Oh, she’s gone.
Geoffrey looks at the place where his sister was; he grabs at the bloody armchair for support, quite overcome with apprehension and dread. He is now also covered in blood.
Geoffrey: Julia, will you go after her? I think- she likes you.
Dane (surveying the scene; is that quiet amusement in his eyes? Then, he speaks calmly, to Sneakfork): What ought we to do, sir? I think you must be considered senior officer in this emergency.
Sneakfork reacts badly to the ‘sir,’ as in his view a gentleman shouldn’t call a butler ‘sir;’ however, the ‘senior officer’ puts it into a context he can accept, and anyway the young gentleman seems to be talking sense; he nods.
Sneakfork: That is eminently reasonable, sir. If you and another gentleman will carry Lord Atherton to his bed and see him comfortable? Then if someone will stay here with Lord Geoffrey and keep an eye on- things- I shall go and telephone the police.
Mr. Bysshe: The other gentleman had better be me, I think. I know where Lord Atherton’s bed is. Major Gadfly, will you stay with Lord- with Geoffrey – and guard- guard her?
Gadfly (aggressively, and making rather too much of it): I’ve seen worse in the trenches. Yes, yes, get on with it. I am quite capable of keeping watch here.
EXIT LORD ATHERTON, carried by MR. BYSSHE AND HECTOR DANE
Major Gadfly produces a flask from his pocket
Gadfly: Well, Lord Geoffrey, have a pull at this. We have a rather unpleasant watch ahead of us.
END OF CHAPTER EIGHT