Stage and Lighting Notes: There is a thunderstorm going on. This is important for the composition of this scene. Center Stage: a front door. Left Back Stage: A window big enough for a person to come in through; it should be able to open and close.
Lights flicker (stage lighting should fade in and out or be turned off and on or whatever it is you clever theater people do). During this flickering, Julia Trueheart should get into position behind the door without being seen. Doorbell sounds. Then steady spotlight on front door.
Enter Sneakfork. He opens the door.
Sneakfork: Ms. Trueheart! Always a pleasure to see you, miss, if I may be so bold.
Lights fade and return quickly.
Julia (removing her gloves and her soaked raincoat and handing them over): Ah, Sneakfork! Power a bit dodgy, what?
Sneakfork: I fear so, ma’am, I fear so.
Julia: As flatterin’ as it is, Sneakfork, for me to be sent for like the local G.P. when the baby is ailin’, I must confess to bein’ in a bit of a fog. Sneakfork, did you ever dandle me on your knee when I was a baby?
Sneakfork: yes ma’am. Frequently.
Julia: Ah! Good, good. Thought you must’ve, but my memory on the point is vague, for some reason. Can’t think why. Since we’re on terms of dandler and dandlee, then, I feel as if I can ask you for some inside information without commitin’ an indiscretion, what?
Sneakfork: Indeed, ma’am.
Julia: Why, Sneakfork? Why, I mean, have I been invited – I might almost say ordered – to attend this binge? Last minute and so on. And why am I to stay here, when I live about a stone’s throw away?
Sneakfork (looks around furtively, and takes a step closer to Julia. Julia watches this with interest): It is young Lord Geoffrey, ma’am. He is Entangled. Unsuitably Engaged. To an Impossible Woman. And she will be here for the weekend. Miss Mimsy Moppet, her name is, and a chorus girl, or so I understand. And I believe that Lady Atherton rather hopes-
Julia: Readin’ Wodehouse, is she? Sounds like one of his wheezes, show the young mi’lord how vulgar the particular crumpet of his choosing looks in the home settin’, that sort of thing?
Sneakfork: I believe so, ma’am.
Julia: And I’ve been brought in to provide contrast. Geoffrey is supposed to look upon this picture and on this. Flatterin’, I don’t think. Remember when Geoffrey and I were what is called walkin’ out together and Lady A. kicked up sixty or seventy kinds of fuss?
Sneakfork: I am afraid that I do, ma’am.
Julia: So do I. Vividly. What do you think a really dignified young lady, from poor but honest stock, ought to do in the current context, Sneakfork? Shall I stride back out into the storm, go home, and weep bitter tears into me pillow?
Sneakfork (spontaneously, and seeming almost human): Oh, please don’t do that, ma’am! (In a more dignified fashion) I mean, of course, that…
Julia: You mean that you’ll feel happier in your mind if I’m in the offing?
Sneakfork: Much better, ma’am.
Julia: Right, then! Show me to my cell, Sneakfork!
Sneakfork: Yes, ma’am. Thank you, ma’am. You are in the Hurtlebottom Suite, ma’am.
Julia: Rather a lot of rooms for one person, what?
Sneakfork (uncomfortably): Miss Moppet will be in the other bedroom, I fear, miss.
Julia Trueheart whistles
Julia: Lady Atherton’s orders, I assume?
Sneakfork nods wordlessly.
Julia: Egad. Well, lead on; this thing requires thought.
Sneakfork: It does indeed, Miss.
(They exit stage left. The lights flicker, go out, come back on, etc)
(G. Gordon Sloop should get into position behind the window during the flickering; Georgianna Hampstead should be in the offing)
(light on window; G. Gordon Sloop is silhouetted there)
Georgianna opens the window; Sloop climbs through
Sloop (in a loud, clear, American voice): Hi!
Georgianna: Don’t bellow the house down, Gordon, m’dear.
Sloop: Oh, right. OK. Just excited to see you, I guess. It’s been a long time, Georgie. You’re looking real nice. Just exactly the way you looked when you was a slip of a tomboy debutante and we’d sneak away from all them balls together. Hey, remember the time we managed to smuggle our tennis rackets into that Duchess of Whatsit’s place and snuck onto them courts of hers and had a game in our finery?
(Sloop is happy and nostalgic; suddenly, though, solemnity descends upon him with a thump)
Sloop: Those were the days, Georgie. And I kinda figured that things’d just go on between us, and we’d end up gettin’ hitched. And now you’re a wife, and not my wife, either.
Georgianna (quietly): I’m a widow.
Sloop (explosively): WHAT?
THERE IS A KNOCK at the front door.
THE SPOTLIGHT on Sloop and Georgianna is switched off abruptly.
FRONT DOOR is now spot-lit.
Sneakfork (muttering): Some people. Really, you’d think a butler was a machine, they way they act.
Sneakfork (to his immortal soul, and also, incidentally, to the audience): Piss off, you bleedin’ peasant! (He reaches the door, looks out at the audience as he assumes his Perfect Butler expression, and then opens the door)
Geoffrey Atherton and Miss Mimsy Moppet are standing on the stoop, soaking wet and surrounded in a sea of luggage; Miss Mimsy is in the act of reaching for the knocker again; Geoffrey is behind her, looking at her in a way that suggests that, though besotted with her, he is slightly uncomfortable about all the vulgar knocking (***note: stoop is obviously not a grand enough word for Atherton Manor’s front step area; it will be replaced as soon as I remember a grander term, or look it up***)
Sneakfork: Welcome home, Lord Geoffrey.
Geoffrey: What ho, Sneakfork! (Nervously) Sneakfork, I’d like you to meet my fiance, Miss Mimsy Moppet.
Sneakfork (Not Charmed): Charmed to meet you, Miss.
Miss Mimsy: So this is what posh types ‘ave instead of keys. Took your time answerin’, didn’t ya, Sneakfork? Now if you’d ‘ad a key, Geoffrey, we’d ‘a got in quick.
Geoffrey: Mimsy, my dear…
Sneakfork (coldly): Allow me to get your bags, Miss (Sneakfork gathers them up). If you’ll follow me, Miss, I will show you to your quarters. You and Miss Trueheart are in the Hurtlebottom Suite.
Geoffrey makes a strangled noise in his throat
Sneakfork leads Miss Mimsy and Geoffrey off-stage, muttering as he goes
Sneakfork: Keys, forsooth! I ask you! Do keys carry bags? No they do not! Keys, bah!
Exit Sneakfork, Miss Mimsy, Geoffrey
Light on Front Door flickers and goes out
SPOTLIGHT on Georgianna and Mr. Sloop
Sloop: You’re a what?
Georgianna: A widow.
Sloop: I am so sorry, Georgie. I didn’t know. I must’ve missed the announcement in the papers. But- but- say! You’re not in widow’s get-up. I know you’re not a conventional type, but -
Georgianna: There was no announcement. And I’m not in widow’s weeds because I don’t want to advertise that old Bridy is dead. In fact, Gordon, it is a dead secret. Keep it dark, what?
Sloop: You can rely on me, Georgie. But what’s the gag? I don’t get this.
Georgianna: No gag, Sloopie. Bridy’s will. Leaves me in a bad way, financially. In fact, leaves me a bally pauperess.
Sloop: Bridy did that to you? I don’t believe it. And – hey! You used to have a bunch of money. I remember you spending it like it was going out of style.
Georgianna: It wasn’t Bridy bein’ nasty, it was Bridy and self not expectin’ Bridy to die. When we got spliced, we were both rollin’ in the stuff, so when we made our wills, we didn’t bother leavin’ anything to each other, because we knew we didn’t have to. But the Great War dished me financially. My money was tied up in a little German company called Krupp, and they did smashingly well for me, until the war broke out.
Sloop: Wasn’t Krupp the…
Georgianna: Yes. Arms. I got my money out of that as soon as I saw which way the wind was blowin’, bein’ patriotic and all that. Had to sell at a loss. Didn’t bother me, Bridy had plenty of money. And we kept intendin’ to change his will and then goin’ off to Africa or somewhere and not doin’ it. As things are now, half goes to Ophelia, and half goes to Lady Atherton, who is Bridy’s sister and only livin’ R. Don’t mind Ophelia gettin’ her whack, but Lady Atherton doesn’t need more of the stuff and I wouldn’t give it her if she did.
Sloop: But Georgie…
Georgianna: Hell and Damnation!
SPOTLIGHT on Georgianna and Sloop is snuffed abruptly.
SPOTLIGHT flickers on front door; there is a decorous knock.
ENTER SNEAKFORK; he opens the door.
LORD AND LADY GRINLING stand on the stoop; they huddle under large umbrellas.
Sneakfork: Lord and Lady Grinling; welcome to Atherton Manor! Allow me to take your things.
(They come in and hand over their umbrellas)
Lord Grinling: Beastly day.
Lady Grinling: Horrid.
Sneakfork: Allow me to show you to your suite; there is a fire laid – (to himself, as he starts to lead them off-stage) – there ‘ad better be, anyway – (to Lady Grinling) Lady Atherton asks that you visit her in her boudoir as soon as you are settled, Your Ladyship.
EXIT Sneakfork; Lord Grinling follows; Lady Grinling plucks at his sleeve
Lady Grinling: Oh, Horace! I am so very uneasy. Why on earth should Lady Atherton wish to speak to me? And I am sure that Sneakfork recognizes me.
Lord Grinling: Hush, Dorinda! Sneakfork wouldn’t dare to recognize you.
LADY GRINLING looks somewhat bewildered
Lady Grinling: wouldn’t dare to recognize me… I don’t understand. A man either recognizes one or he does not. I don’t see what daring could possibly have to do with it.
Lord Grinling: Butlers are not men. They are butlers. And Lady Atherton cannot actually bite you. Now come along.
EXIT LORD AND LADY GRINLING
Lights Flicker and Go Out
Spotlight on Georgianna and Sloop
Sloop: Gosh- big party, eh?
Georgianna: Yes; I don’t know what Lady Atherton is up to, but I don’t mind telling you, Sloopie, I’m dashed uneasy about it. Why does the bloody woman want all these bloody people cluttering up her bloody house? It isn’t sense.
Sloop: Maybe… she likes them?
Georgianna: Lady Atherton doesn’t like anyone. But let’s not go into that. I need help, and I hate askin’ for it. But with you, it’s a little different. Will you help me, Sloopie? For old times’ sake an’ all that?
Sloop: Of course, Georgie. You know I’ll help you if I can. What do I need to do?
A FIGURE moves in the darkest part of the stage. Someone is listening.
Georgianna: I need help sellin’ off Bridy’s assets, turnin’ them into cash in me hand. Then- I’m back to Africa, and I don’t expect to come back.
Sloop (in an agonized tone): Georgie! You can’t just-
Georgianna: I can, though. Like Africa better than England, anyway. Always meant to settle there. Bridy and I- (her voice is choked with emotion) – well, that is neither here nor there, poor old blighter. All I need is money, and then I’ll go off and live quietly, as a widow.
Sloop: Aw heck!
Georgianna: This is gettin’ monotonous.
THE LIGHT goes out; in the darkness, the listening figure flees the stage.
Light flickers on front door; Enter Sneakfork
Sneakfork opens door, revealing Major Gadfly, Hector Dane, and Nigel Penders-Ghastly, all dripping wet, and in the middle of a quarrel.
Sneakfork: Welcome- (Major Gadfly’s bark drowns out Sneakfork; Sneakfork has not been noticed; Sneakfork shuts his mouth, annoyed)
Major Gadfly: Lot of nonsense! Excuse for slackness!
Hector Dane: It must be a great comfort to you, to be so sure that you are right.
Major Gadfly: Insolent puppy! If you’d been in my unit, I’d–
Hector Dane: Yes, and so would I. Only I’d get in my shot first.
Nigel Penders-Ghastly: And then they’d shoot you, for shooting an officer. How very jolly.
Sneakfork (loudly): Welcome to Atherton Manor, gentlemen.
Nigel Penders-Ghastly (with ironic airiness, if such a tone is possible): Ah, Sneakfork!
(Major Gadfly and Hector Dane subside, for the moment, but they continue to glare and mutter)
Sneakfork: Do come in. (They do)
Major Gadfly: (With a Military Air) I am Major Gadfly. (In a slightly quieter tone, as if confiding to Sneakfork alone) Found these two walking from train station; gave ‘em a lift here, kindness of my heart. Wish I hadn’t. That one (pointing at Nigel) unpleasant, that one (now at Hector) a Socialist, and soft- believes in shell-shock- I mean to say! Well! (The Major is scandalized all over again; he subsides once more into muttering discontent)
Hector: I am indeed Hector Dane. I am a Socialist. I do believe in shell-shock. And I had a military title, too, only I left it on the battlefield.
Nigel (with an evil gleam): And I am, as you know full well already, my good Sneakfork, deeply unpleasant.
Sneakfork: Yes. You are all expected. (He goes to gather up the luggage and comes back, somewhat damp, covered in luggage) I shall show you gentlemen to your rooms. And Lady Atherton has requested that Major Gadfly and Mr. Dane both stop by her boudoir for a chat at some point before the cocktail hour. The cocktail hour is at 7. It is now almost 6. Please come this way. (Exit Sneakfork, followed by the others).
The lights flicker out.
Spotlight flickers on Sloop and Georgianna
Sloop: Georgie, you can’t! I mean- well, I mean- you can’t!
Georgianna: Sloopie, play a different tune, me old gramophone. This one’s gettin’ repetitive, and you can’t dance to it.
Sloop (with passion): Georgie- gee. I- well, I feel like I’ve got so much to say, my tongue’s gotten all tangled up.
Georgianna: But you will help me, won’t you, Sloopie? With all your city associations and whatnot, I know you could make things simple for me.
Sloop: Of course I’ll help you Georgie! But- I- (he starts to kneel)
Sloop (straightening back up like a jack-in-the-box): Gosh!
Sneakfork: Lady Atherton wishes to speak to you both in her boudoir. (He looks uncomfortable) I am not to allow either of you out of my sight until you are in her presence.
Georgianna: firing squad at dawn. (She smiles sadly at Sloop) Ready, me dear?
END OF CHAPTER SIX