The Kitchen At Atherton Manor
Mrs. Burnstone is at the range, cooking
Mrs. Burnstone (singing to herself, with much theatricality, but little tunefulness): Two lovely black eyes, oh what a surprise, only for telling a man ‘e was wrong, two lovely black eyes
ENTER LADY GRINLING, tentatively and silently, and looking very uncertain of her reception
Mrs. Burnstone: Two lovely black eyes- (sees Lady Grinling) why ‘ello me dear! (Mrs. Burnstone is so clearly pleased to see her that Lady Grinling immediately bursts into tears)
Mrs. Burnstone: There, there, Dorry dearie- set yourself down ‘ere (Mrs. Burnstone settles her at the little kitchen table, and fusses about her) and I’ll put the kettle on, and we’ll ‘ave some nice tea, and you can tell me all about it. (Remembering) Oh, but where is me ‘ead? It ain’t Dorry any more, it’s Lady Gremlin or similar, ain’t it?
Lady Grinling: Grinling. Lady Grinling. Oh Mrs. Burnstone! (Cries) (She tries to maintain her new upper-class accent, as always, and, as always in times of stress, it gets tripped up) I am so dreadfully worried. And I didn’t know- I don’t- I ‘adn’t – hadn’t- I – didn’t really feel as – I don’t have anyone to talk to, upstairs, if you see what I mean.
Mrs. Burnstone: What about Lord Grinling? (Concerned) Oh, Dorry, do you mean as you two don’t get along?
Lady Grinling (smiling slightly through her tears): It isn’t that. Leastways- At least – not exactly. Lord Grinling don’t really get along with anyone, and ‘e – he – don’t want to, neither. Either. ‘E’s masterful, ‘e is, and I like ‘im that way. Ooh, if ‘e could ‘ear me now, talking to you like this, ‘e’d be furious, and no mistake. (She has, as the intelligent reader may have observed, given up on the posh talk for the nonce; she is also considerably cheered at the thought of her husband’s wrath). ‘E’d jaw at me like a stern old dad on the stage, only posher.
Mrs. Burnstone (nervously): And then I expect ‘e’d go and report me to Her Ladyship- (Remembering) – oh, but ‘e couldn’t, could he, she bein’ dead an’ all- well, think o’ that! (She looks into the Lady Atherton-less future with wonder) She can’t never get up to ‘er tricks again.
Lady Grinling (upset again): It may be as she can’t get up to new mischief, Mrs. Burnstone, but- but- Oh, Mrs. Burnstone, I’m so frightened! (Renewed sobs)
Mrs. Burnstone: There, there, dearie, there, there- tell old Cook what’s got you upset-like; after all, poor thing, you’ve never ‘ad a proper mother, ‘as you, and when you came ‘ere from that nasty old Orphanage, weren’t I just like a mother to you?
Lady Grinling nods wordlessly, as she is still busy crying; at last, however, she regains control of herself
Lady Grinling: you ‘ave been like a mother to me, Mrs. Burnstone, and that’s the truth. And I’m so afraid that my Lord ‘as done something proper dreadful, and what if they find out and ‘ang ‘im? I couldn’t bear it, and that’s flat. Baby on the way or no baby on the way, I’d be in the river, and not swimming, either.
Mrs. Burnstone: (automatically) Now, Dorry, that’s wicked and unchristian, as well you know. And if you’re in the family way- (Realizing what she has just heard) Ooh! You don’t mean you suspect it was your ‘usband who done for ‘er Ladyship, do you? (Lady Grinling reacts with fear) Never you mind, for I can see as you do. Is it just suspecting, now, or do you know for a fact?
Lady Grinling: I don’t know nothing, not for a fact; but after I ‘ad my little chat with Lady Atherton, my Lord saw as I were upset, and ‘e left our room, to go and give ‘er Ladyship a piece of ‘is mind. And ‘e was awful quiet, and grim, when ‘e got back, and of course ‘e didn’t mention anything about stabbing Lady Atherton, but ‘e wouldn’t, not ‘im. ‘E’s what you might call tight-lipped. ‘Ad a job during the war, and I still don’t know what ‘e were doing.
ENTER JULIA TRUEHEART, from the back stairs
Julia (coming in): I say, Mrs. Burnstone, are you- (noticing) why, hello! It is Lady Grinling, isn’t it?
Lady Grinling (posh): Why, hello, Miss Trueheart. Are not the events of this evening distressing? I might even call them tragic. And yet- (she waves a hand languidly in the air)- I fear that the world will mourn the passing of Lady Atherton but little.
Julia (impressed): Gosh! You’ve put the thing in a nutshell.
Lady Grinling (wisely): Ah.
Mrs. Burnstone snorts
Lady Grinling: Mrs. Burnstone, are you ill?
Mrs. Burnstone: Oh, no, don’t mind me. Miss Trueheart, would you be wanting anything, or…
Julia (seating herself comfortably): Frankly, I came down for a good old gossip. When you want good information, go to the kitchen, that is what mother always used to say. Or so I like to think. Anyone been arrested or anything beastly like that?
Mrs. Burnstone: Well, ‘a course, I don’t know, but I ‘ave ‘eard a thing or two, from Mr. Sneakfork, and from the Sergeant, who seems to be searching the ‘ouse. ‘E – the Sergeant- looked in me oven, and then went down to the cellars with a torch. But ‘e said as Inspector Moribund – ‘im as is in charge of the investigation- seemed fixated-like on Mrs. Bogsby as the guilty party. (Mrs. Burnstone snorts with contempt) And Mr. Sneakfork said ‘e’d been sent to fetch Mr. Sloop and Mrs. ‘Ampstead, for questioning, though ‘e also said as Inspector Moribund still thought it were Mrs. Bogsby. (Another snort) Mr. Sneakfork says that Inspector Moribund is a cocky kind of fool, and too eager to make an arrest afore ‘e’s even taken off ‘is overcoat and ‘at.
Julia: I take it you don’t fancy Mrs. Bogsby as First Murderer? She did have a grudge. I wouldn’t really blame her, you know. She must have hated Lady Atherton like blazes.
Mrs. Burnstone (darkly): There’s more than Mrs. Bogsby as hated ‘Er Ladyship.
ENTER MUG, From Basement Stairs
Mug: Another dead end, Mrs. Burnstone. (Notices Lady Grinling; he looks confused, but happy to see her) Why, Dorry! I never expected to see you here, and that’s a fact. I thought you’d gone off to get married to some toff.
Lady Grinling prepares to draw herself up, to chastise this police-man for his familiarity… and then gives it up. She shrugs.
Lady Grinling: ‘Ello, Ernie. I married me toff, all right. Proper church wedding and all.
Julia: ‘Ello ‘Ello ‘Ello! (They stare at her) Sorry, I was a little startled at first. Lady Grinling was talkin’ like a novel a minute ago, and now it’s ‘Ello, and first-name basis with constabulary. And of course now I know why you looked sort of hauntingly familiar, Lady Grinling. You were a kitchen-maid here, when people still had kitchen-maids.
Lady Grinling: So I was, Miss Trueheart. But Lord Grinling, ‘e – he- don’t want it known, so…
Julia: Oh, I’ll sit on it, all right
MUG has been staring intently at Lady Grinling this whole time. He now takes a step towards her.
Mug: Why, Dorry, you’ve been crying! Your toff hasn’t been mistreating you, has he? Because if he has done- well, you know as you can confide in Earnest Mug. And what I said – then- still stands; if you’d be needing any assistance- with anything- well, you know as I’ll oblige
Mrs. Burnstone: Shame on you, Sergeant Mug! What you could be thinking of, I’m sure as I don’t know. Whatever would Mrs. Mug think, ‘earing you talk like this?
Lady Grinling: Why, Ernie! You’ve got married! Is it that nice Susan as was always making calves’-eyes at you at Church and that? (MUG nods) Ooh, you lucky man! She’s fair lovely, she is. Now don’t you go messing things up at home by offering me anything, as I wouldn’t have any right to accept even if it were needed, which it isn’t. (Rising) Well, I’m off to bed. Goodnight, all!
EXIT LADY GRINLING, up the back stairs.
Julia: Sergeant Mug, what were you doing in the basement?
Mug: Well, Miss Trueheart, it’s this matter of the missing nurse, like. I am concerned. I am, in fact, alarmed.
Julia: Oh, good! Lord Geoffrey told me about Nurse Grimsby, but then there was the murder, and I am afraid I forgot all about poor Nurse Grimsby in the excitement.
Mug: Well, I’d better get back to it.
Julia: Well, Mrs. Burnstone, this has certainly been an exciting evening, hasn’t it?
Mrs. Burnstone: Exciting is the word, Miss Trueheart. And I can tell you, I don’t want any more of it. Me friends from The Smoke are always making game with me about ‘ow quiet me life must be, and I tells them-
Sneakfork (very upset): Oh, Mrs. Burnstone, they’ve gone and done it! (Noticing Julia) Hello Miss Trueheart.
Julia: Hello Sneakfork; what have they gone and done?
Sneakfork: That Inspector Moribund has gone and arrested Mrs. Bogsby!
Sneakfork: I fear so, Miss.
Mrs. Bogsby (From Off, shrieking): I never done it!
EXIT SNEAKFORK AND JULIA
END OF CHAPTER TEN