Library of Atherton Manor
Inspector Moribund and Mrs. Bogsby are on stage as curtain rises; she has her coat and hat on, and has recently arrived
Inspector Moribund Towers Over Her- or tries to. Mrs. Bogsby is not having it. She towers right back at him.
Moribund: I must warn you, Mrs. Bogsby, that anything you say will be taken down and may be used against you in a court of law.
Mrs. Bogsby: Taken down? Who is taking it down, I’d like to know.
Moribund (disconcerted): That is a mere technicality.
Mrs. Bogsby: What you mean is, you’ll tell the court what you says I said.
Moribund: I am arresting you, Mrs. Bogsby, for the murder of Lady Atherton.
Mrs. Bogsby (shrieks): I never done it!
Moribund: And I must warn you that-
Mrs. Bogsby: You’ve already said that bit.
Mrs. Bogsby (to Julia): He’s arresting me!
Julia: Inspector Moribund!
Moribund: Can I help you, Miss…?
Julia: Trueheart. Miss Trueheart.
Moribund: Ah. Well, Miss Trueheart-
Julia: One of the many guests at this rum party you haven’t bothered to question.
Moribund: A rum party? What on… oh, I see. (Condescendingly) Well, Miss, I don’t see the need to bother you ladies and gentlemen with a lot of tedious questions when I’m sure you’re all so distressed about the death of your hostess. No doubt you’ll have to testify at the Inquest, but…
Julia: Distressed? About the death of Lady Atherton?
Mrs. Bogsby (despairingly): He’s an idiot, Miss. You won’t never get it through to him, though a course I thank you for trying.
Julia (trying a bit of Grand Manner): My dear fellow, do you not think you are perhaps being a bit previous?
Moribund (Stiffly): No, Miss. I think I am acting on the evidence, and I think it points directly at Mrs. Bogsby here. She was assigned to watch over Lady Lucy. She had a grudge against Lady Atherton. Lady Lucy found her standing over the body. Mrs. Bogsby then seems to have left the scene of the crime. (With a sneer) No doubt she went home to pack. I imagine the next we’d have heard of her, she’d have been in South America or similar. Only my prompt action has prevented her from defeating the ends of justice.
Mrs. Bogsby: I found Lady Atherton dead, Miss. I’ve tried to tell him, but he’s not a listening sort.
Moribund (Clearly Not Believing Her): If you found her dead, why did you not give the alarm?
Mrs. Bogsby: It weren’t no concern of mine. And with Her Ladyship dead, there weren’t nothing to keep me here, so I went home.
Moribund: You had a motive.
Mrs. Bogsby: I had reason to wish Lady Atherton ill, if that is what you’re meaning.
Moribund: You admit it!
Julia: Inspector Moribund, Mrs. Bogsby was not the only person who had a grudge against Lady Atherton.
Moribund: And who else did, Miss?
Julia (smiles): Well, for example, I did.
Moribund (Does Not Believe Her): Oh really.
Julia: Yes. I was once engaged to Lord Geoffrey. Lady Atherton broke it off, more or less. I wasn’t good enough for her son. I was summoned to this party this afternoon, by Lady Atherton’s secretary, Mr. Bysshe, because Geoffrey has just brought his new fiancee, Miss Mimsy Moppet, chorus girl, home to meet the family. She wants me here because she’s hoping Geoffrey will do a comparison between Moppet and self, realize his error, and wriggle out of the engagement. I doubt that this means she’s now in favor of the engagement between Geoffrey and self, though. I might be very bitter indeed about all of this, mightn’t I?
Moribund: Miss Trueheart, are you trying to tell me that you killed Lady Atherton?
Julia: Well, no. As it happens, I didn’t. But I think you’ll find, if you look into it, that this whole house-party is simply riddled with Lady Atherton’s machinations. She was not subtle. Did I tell you that Miss Moppet and I are lodged within the same suite?
Moribund (trying to brush her off; does not understand that there is a point): Very annoying for you, I’m sure. Now if you’ll just-
Julia: there is a wall between our rooms, but there’s a bally big arch in the middle of the wall, so it’s hard not to be social. That was Lady Atherton, tryin’ to make Miss Moppet uncomfortable. She isn’t, though, and, as it turns out, I rather like her, but Lady Atherton wouldn’t expect that.
Moribund: Miss Trueheart, I have neither the time nor the inclination to stand here and gossip with you.
Mrs. Bogsby: I told you he were mazed, ma’am.
Julia: But, Inspector-
SCREAMING FROM OFF
Nurse Grimsby (off, but getting closer): Get your filthy hands off me! You’re all in it together!
ENTER NURSE GRIMSBY, completely disheveled, wild-eyed, and filthy
Nurse Grimsby: Help, oh help! SHE FALLS TO THE FLOOR IN A DEAD FAINT
ENTER MUG, running
He stands panting
Moribund: Mug! What on earth is this infernal racket?
Mrs. Bogsby: Why, it’s Jane! (Goes to Grimsby and does some basic nursing- checks temperature and pulse, loosens clothes, etc)
Mug: Sir, this is Nurse Grimsby. I found her locked in a trunk in the attic. She’d been there for something like 12 hours, and I think this has upset her. Young Lucy locked her in there, having had a queer turn. She was unconscious when I found her, but she came to on the stairs, and immediately commenced to kick, slap, and attempt to bite me. In my confusion, I left off carrying her, and she bolted in here.
Moribund (thinking hard): Nurse Grimsby, eh? Locked up by Lady Lucy, hm? (Falls into a thoughtful brooding silence; other people attempt to speak to him, but he holds up a hand imperiously, demanding silence; finally…) Ah-HA! I’ve got it! Lady Lucy and Mrs. Bogsby were in it together!
Mrs. Bogsby: What?
Moribund: Ah, you are surprised. Really, it seems so obvious to me. Ask yourself: why did Lady Lucy lock Nurse Grimsby in a trunk?
Mug: Because she’s mad?
Moribund: No! To clear the way for her confederate, Mrs. Bogsby! The alliance might at first seem an unlikely one, an old woman and the murderess of her son, but-
Mrs. Bogsby (offended): Who’s an old woman?
Moribund: But to one who has studied psychology, nothing is more likely. Mrs. Bogsby, forlorn, childless-
Mrs. Bogsby: Who’s childless? What about my daughter?
Moribund (mildly irritated by this interruption): Mrs. Bogsby, forlorn, looks for a surrogate, to replace her dead boy. She finds that surrogate- in Lady Lucy. The bond, one of guilt on Lady Lucy’s side, and frustrated mother-love on Mrs. Bogsby’s, grows stronger over the years. It becomes confidential. Then, finally, it becomes a conspiracy. Both of them have their own reasons for hating Lady Atherton; finally, the time comes when they decide she must be removed. The confusion of a house-party will provide them the opportunity. So, on the day the guests are to arrive, when Lady Atherton will not have the time to arrange for a new nurse and thus will accept Mrs. Bogsby in the role… Lady Lucy locks Nurse Grimsby in a trunk.
MORIBUND RINGS BELL
ENTER SNEAKFORK, with suspicious alacrity
Sneakfork: Yes, sir?
Moribund (grimly): Tell Lady Lucy that I’d like to have another word with her.
Sneakfork: Yes, sir.
Julia: Inspector Moribund, you are surely not planning to arrest Lady Lucy as well as Mrs. Bogsby? It seems to me that you don’t have any evidence for either arrest.
Moribund: No evidence? (POINTS TO Nurse Grimsby, who is still unconscious on the floor) What would you call that?
Mug: Someone who’d better be gotten into a bed, or taken to Hospital.
Lucy: You wanted to speak to me? I thought we’d spoken already. I suppose it was a dream?
Moribund: Lady Lucy, I arrest you for conspiracy to murder Lady Atherton. And I must inform you that anything you say may be taken down and used in evidence against you in a court of law.
Lucy (puzzled; turns to Julia): Did I murder my mother, Julia? I don’t think I murdered her. (Thinks, then speaks regretfully) No, I don’t remember doing that. It is a shame, because it was such a clever idea, to murder mother, but I really never thought of it. She seemed so very alive, you see. So alive, and so very wicked. (Notices Nurse Grimsby on the floor) Oh, Nurse! Someone found her. I was going to let her go, but I forgot in all the excitement.
Moribund: Lady Lucy and Mrs. Bogsby, come along quietly, now. We must be off.
MRS. BOGSBY, who has been kneeling by Nurse Grimsby, rises to her feet, without hurry.
Mrs. Bogsby: Well, if you’re going to arrest us, you’re going to arrest us, and nothing and no-one is like to change your mind. (TO MUG) Sergeant, my daughter Maggie is staying at my cottage- you know my cottage? (MUG nods) She’s a nurse, and poor Jane needs nursing. So, if you could take Jane with you when you go to tell Maggie I’ve been arrested, Maggie will look after her.
Mug (Earnestly): I will do that very thing, Mrs. Bogsby.
Moribund: Come on, come on, we don’t have all night! (Tries to propel Lucy and Mrs. Bogsby towards the exit by making shooing gestures at them with his arms)
Lucy: Julia, am I to go with this man?
Julia: Yes, I think you’d better. Don’t worry too much, I don’t imagine he has enough evidence to hang a dog… (realizes that she has perhaps chosen her words poorly) I mean… well, don’t you worry, Lucy, Mrs. Bogsby. I have a plan.
Mrs. Bogsby (with a touch of sarcasm): Oh, well, if you has one of those, we’re as good as free.
Inspector Moribund makes an impatient clicking noise
Mrs. Bogsby: Yes, yes, we know as you’re all on fire to get us dangerous women locked up proper. Come on, young Lucy, we’d best go, afore he bursts.
EXIT LUCY, MRS. BOGSBY, INSPECTOR MORIBUND
Mug: I don’t suppose you’d be willing to help me get her (gestures at Nurse Grimsby) down to the village, Miss Trueheart? Only the Inspector is like to take his prisoners in the car, and all I have is my bicycle.
Julia: Of course, I’ll go pinch someone’s keys. (MUG winces at the word ‘pinch,’ but nods)
Mug: Do you really have a plan, Miss Trueheart?
Julia: Oh, yes, such as it is. I’m going to write to my friend Lady Ermyntrude. She is a detective. She’ll clear this up for us.
Mug: Is she the one the papers call Lady E, Gentlewoman Detective?
Julia: The very same. Well, let’s get going.
END OF CHAPTER ELEVEN