Chapter Four

Chapter Four

The Library

The Library

The library is mostly dark. There is storm-light flooding in from the one large bay window, and Ophelia Hampstead is seated at that window. She is reading a book.
Lord Atherton comes in, flicks on a light, and sinks into a chair. He clearly hasn’t seen Ophelia. He picks up a book that has been left open on a table and starts to read. After a moment, he starts to chuckle quietly to himself.
Ophelia: What are you reading, Uncle? Is it the new Wodehouse?
LORD ATHERTON starts like a guilty thing surprised. He looks panicked; he starts to stuff the book under the cushion of his chair, thinks better of it, and tries to look aloof and dignified.
Lord Atherton: Hrmph. Didn’t know you were here, m’dear. Startled me, comin’ out of the shadows at me like the bloody family spectre. Such excitements unhealthy at my age. M’dear.
OPHELIA APPROACHES and takes the book. She examines it.
Ophelia: Oh, this is that new, nasty murder mystery that everyone is so shocked about. The one based on that horrid ‘brides in the bath’ man. The newspapers are full of righteous indignation about the book, they say it is all too brutal, too cruel, all that. I believe the book has become rather popular as a result. I didn’t know it had funny bits, though.
OPHELIA LOOKS at the page Lord Atherton was reading. She reads silently for a moment, and her expression goes steadily wooden. When she looks up from the text, she is quite pale. She stares at Lord Atherton, who looks uncomfortable.
Lord Atherton: I was merely amused, m’dear, by the similarity between the bride currently in the bath, as it were, in the text, and your dear Aunt. My beloved wife, what what? (Lord Atherton pauses to think over what he has just said, then, hastily) The physical resemblance merely, merely the physical resemblance.
Ophelia: Oh?
Lord Atherton: Dear girl, pray do not raise your eyebrows at me like that in that unpleasant way. Man can’t even enjoy a bit of literature in his own library without some female poppin’ up and wiggling eyebrows at him. Dash it. Probably all of this Votes for Women nonsense. Unsettles the whole lot of you, whole bally sex actin’ like dashed suspicious policemen or whatnot. Dreadful, dreadful. Why, it is enough to make a man write to the Times!

OPHELIA has turned away from Lord Atherton and is staring out of the large window at the back of the stage.

Ophelia:  Don’t you think, Uncle, that we are in for rather an ugly storm?  It can’t be much after four o’clock, and yet it is quite dark outside already.  I do hope we don’t lose power while our guests are here, though I imagine we shall.

(SUDDENLY, lightning floods the area beyond the window with light.  Ophelia finds herself looking into the mad eyes of Lucy Atherton.  She is soaked to the skin and has been peering in the window for an unknown length of time.  OPHELIA screams.  Lucy runs away, towards the back door/tradesman’s entrance).

Ophelia:  Lucy!

OPHELIA runs out of the library, calling Lucy’s name.


Lord Atherton:  Women, forsooth!


On To Chapter Five!

Back To Table of Contents!