Lord Atherton’s Bedroom
Lord Atherton is in bed, lying down. He is weak and pale. The light is very muted. A Table near his bed has the usual sick-room things on it: pill bottles, a glass of water, that sort of thing. A Chair should be somewhere in the offing.
ENTER SNEAKFORK and LADY ERMYNTRUDE
Sneakfork: Lady Ermyntrude, my lord.
Lady E: You wanted to speak to me, Lord Atherton?
Lord Atherton: Yes, me dear. Come, help me sit up.
LADY E and LORD ATHERTON struggle with pillows and eventually get Lord Atherton sitting up in bed.
Lord Atherton: Ah, thank you, me dear. Now sit down. (LADY E sits) Believe I knew your father. Good man. Sorry to hear about his accident.
Lady E: Thank you, Lord Atherton.
LORD ATHERTON shows signs of restiveness; he Does Not Know How To Broach The Subject.
Lord Atherton: Erm. Um. Hum.
Lady E: You know that I am here, at the request of Miss Trueheart, to investigate the death of your wife?
Lord Atherton (leaping upon this opening like a starving wolf upon its prey): Ah! Yes. Wanted to talk to you about that. I am quite sure that my daughter didn’t do it, Lady Ermyntrude. Nor, I am sure, did Mrs. Bogsby. A good soul, though bitter. No, no, I’m sure they did not do it.
Lady E: I understand that the arrests were made rather hastily.
Lord Atherton: That man didn’t look into the thing at all! Just grabbed the first two people to hand and charged off. I won’t have it. I need to know that you’ll find the truth. Promise me, now.
Lady E: I intend to give it a dashed good try, at any rate. And I generally do succeed at what I set out to do.
Lord Atherton: Good girl!
ENTER NIGEL PENDERS-GHASTLY
Nigel: Lord Atherton, I – (NOTICES LADY E) Oh, hello. Are you the lady who thinks she’s a detective? I’ve read about you, mucking up police inquiries and all that.
Lady E: Not only rude, but clumsily so. Pray continue, Mr. Penders-Ghastly. I am most interested in rudeness. It is so often revealing.
Nigel: If you don’t mind, I’d rather like to speak with Lord Atherton.
Lady E: Oh, I don’t mind at all. Go ahead. (She settles back in her chair, in a Waiting Attitude; Lord Atherton chuckles)
Lord Atherton: Better come out with it, what?
Nigel (sulkily): Very well. (Formally) I have come to ask your permission to propose marriage to Miss Ophelia Hampstead. In the absence of her father, I think you are the appropriate person to consult.
Lord Atherton: But my dear fellow, I have no position in the matter. Better consult her mother, what?
Nigel: You are the head of this family, my Lord. Considered in that light, I think you will find that you do have a certain position.
Lord Atherton: Ah. I suppose-
ENTER LORD GRINLING
Lord Grinling: Atherton, I just came to- (NOTICING LADY E AND NIGEL) Oh. I was not aware that you had company. I shall come back another time.
Lady E: Don’t go, Lord Grinling. (SHE stands and approaches him) I believe we’ve met at Coldfish Castle, which was, until my father’s death, my home.
Lord Grinling: Why, it’s little Trudy!
NIGEL, with a contemptuous snort, turns back to his conversation
Nigel: Well, Lord Atherton?
Lord Atherton makes noises of discomfort and indecision
Lady E: Lord Grinling, would you do me a favour?
Lord Grinling (With a formal bow): If it is in my power, dear child.
Lady E: Would you seize Mr. Penders-Ghastly and turn out his pockets?
NIGEL turns a startled face towards Lady E
Lord Grinling: With pleasure.
LORD GRINLING starts towards Nigel, slowly but with great determination and power, like a gentlemanly juggernaut.
Nigel (To Lady E): You minx! (HE MAKES A DASH, trying to get past Lord Grinling to the door, but Lord Grinling reaches out an arm, almost lazily, and grabs him)
Lord Grinling (in a detached and objective tone): Hold still or this will hurt. (HE begins to search) Nothing. Nothing. Ah! (HE PULLS OUT Richard Bysshe’s poems and hands them to Lady E) Do you need my further assistance, or…
Lady E: No, thank you, Lord Grinling.
Lord Grinling: I will come by another time, Lord Atherton.
EXIT LORD GRINLING
Nigel: Those are my property, I’ll have you know.
Lady E: Do you know, I rather doubt that. The man Bysshe was awfully stirred up even before you flung Hermione in his face. I suspect you, Mr. Penders-Ghastly, of being childish and a bully. Therefore, I surmised that you’d been playing Keep-Away with some piece of Mr. Bysshe’s property. Let us see now. (SHE smooths out the papers) Ah, poetry! Mr. Bysshe is a poet- rather good, too, though modern, or so I understand. Hm. (Pause while she reads) I say, this one is hot stuff.
Nigel: I thought that Miss Hampstead should see it. Bysshe is no real gentleman, and I would hate for her to be deceived by his plausible manner.
Lady E: And you hope to marry the young lady yourself. I see. Mr. Penders-Ghastly, you shall not show this to Miss Hampstead.
Lady E: I shall do so myself. And now, tell us about Hermione.
Nigel: I don’t think I know her.
Lady E: You are keeping it back in order to blackmail Mr. Bysshe with it. I see. Well, no matter. This is the Day Of Judgement, Mr. Penders-Ghastly. All cupboards will be opened, and all skeletons exposed. We shall try, of course, to keep them out of the paper.
Nigel: Oh, ha ha ha.
A CLOCK CHIMES SEVEN
Lady E: Cocktail hour, I believe. Lord Atherton, you have my word that I shall leave no stone unturned in the solution of this mystery.
Lord Atherton: Thank you, me dear. Thank you.
EXIT LADY E
END OF CHAPTER FIFTEEN