Categotry Archives: scenes

Actual scenes from various pieces or points in the story.

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“After the Funeral” — some scribbling on Nathaniel and Justin

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This is the first time I’ve ever written about Justin Hawking, Nathaniel’s older brother, done on August 29th for 31 Plays in 31 Days 2013. I didn’t know too much about him then– where he lives, what he does, what kind of participation he can have in the larger story –but I knew I need to set him up to be able to contribute some sort of dramatic tension. This scene was kind of figuring out who Justin is, what he’s like. A major struggle of Nathaniel’s will be needing to move past his patriarchal upbringing, and the issues that come from being the youngest adult member of a family of old-fashioned and hypermasculine alpha males. I like the idea of setting up a conflict between him and his cool, charming-but-somewhat-jerkish older brother.

I’m not sure if this scene would actually happen the way it’s written here, but it’s interesting to think about.

~~~

Day #29 – “After the Funeral”

(NATHANIEL, dressed in funerary blacks, stands alone in the study. Enter JUSTIN, his older brother, similarly dressed.)

JUSTIN: Nathan?

NATHANIEL: In here.

JUSTIN: Wondered where you’d gotten off to.

NATHANIEL: I wanted a bit of quiet.

JUSTIN: Certainly can understand that. Must say, the tide of mourners and well-wishers has started to wear on me as well.

NATHANIEL: Well, Uncle was a war hero. He had plenty of admirers.

JUSTIN: Are you all right? I know the two of you were quite close.

NATHANIEL: Afraid I’m not, Justin. I’m terribly blue over it. I am quite terribly blue.

JUSTIN: Well, buck up, little brother. We’re all going to miss the old fellow. It’s even put a crack in Father’s mien. I don’t think he ever expected he’d outlive his younger brother.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: That’s not all of it, though.

JUSTIN: Oh?

NATHANIEL: It’s only that… well, it’s Aunt Victoria.

JUSTIN: What of her?

NATHANIEL: Didn’t you notice?

JUSTIN: Nothing particularly.

NATHANIEL: You didn’t happen to pay any notice to the widow at the man’s funeral?

JUSTIN: I stay well out of Aunt Victoria’s way if I can help it, you know that.

NATHANIEL: Well, if you hadn’t been hiding from her behind Mother’s hoop skirt, you might have noticed how she looked.

JUSTIN: Which was…?

NATHANIEL: Like a statue. Like a mask carved out of stone. All through the service, all through the receiving line after…

JUSTIN: In fairness, she is the strangest person I’ve ever met.

NATHANIEL: For Heaven’s sake, Justin!

JUSTIN: Well, she is.

NATHANIEL: She hardly said a word, she wouldn’t look a soul in the eye— that doesn’t strike you as the least bit troubling?

JUSTIN: She never says a word to me. Or looks at me, for that matter. Unless she’s upset with me. In which case this seemed a positive.

NATHANIEL: You’re an absolute ass.

JUSTIN: What have I done?

NATHANIEL: The woman just lost her husband of twenty years, you tit. She must be destroyed. And now she’s quite alone in the world.

JUSTIN: I suppose.

NATHANIEL: It doesn’t seem right to me.

JUSTIN: Perhaps not, but what’s to be done?

NATHANIEL: Someone ought to step in. See that she’s taken care of, that she has some proper company.

JUSTIN: Oh, heavens. How very dashing of you.

NATHANIEL: It’s a matter of responsibility.

JUSTIN: So now you’ve named yourself head of the family, eh?

NATHANIEL: Father lives too far off to do it, I’m the only one left in London. And it isn’t as if you would do it.

JUSTIN: That’s because I’m not a fool.

NATHANIEL: Very gentlemanly, Justin.

JUSTIN: Come now! It’s not as if she cares much for any of us.

NATHANIEL: That is most unkind, and not true besides.

JUSTIN: She has a strange way of showing it, then. Because I always got distinctly the opposite impression. Or else she’s just horrid.

NATHANIEL: You are horrid.

JUSTIN: Well, there’s one thing on which you and Auntie likely agree. All I mean is— your instincts are commendable, little brother, but I’m not entirely sure your effort shouldn’t go to waste.

NATHANIEL: Whatever else, the Colonel loved her. And he would want us to see that she was taken care of by his family. I mean to see that the decent thing is done.

JUSTIN: Suit yourself, Nathan. But she won’t thank you for it.

NATHANIEL: I don’t plan to do it for thanks.

8/29/13

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“Serving” — scene from Vivat Regina

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Categories: character, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

My boyfriend Bernie was the one who came up with the idea that Nathaniel would have served before. Because he so idolized the Colonel, he would make an effort to emulate him in any way he could. But while he gave it his best shot, army life turned out to not be the best use of his talents. This is to set up the fact that while his traditionally male outlook might lead him to think he needs to be a warrior in order to be of use to Mrs. Hawking, his actual abilities will make him useful in a totally different way.

~~~

MARY:
I say, Nathaniel— is that a bruise?

NATHANIEL:
Oh, this? It’s nothing, I assure you.

MARY:
Nothing? You look as if you’ve taken quite a bash!

MRS. HAWKING:
Wherever did you get that?

NATHANIEL:
Just— from sport.

MRS. HAWKING:
Sport? Taken up boxing, have you?

NATHANIEL:
As a matter of fact.

MRS. HAWKING:
Surely you’re joking.

NATHANIEL:
Not at all, Auntie.

MARY:
Why on earth have you done that?

NATHANIEL:
Well— if you must know— it’s to make myself more useful to you. So I can handle myself and lend another arm if things come to it!

MRS. HAWKING:
Nathaniel. Going a few rounds of gentleman’s boxing is hardly going to ready you for the sort of roughs we encounter.

NATHANIEL:
It isn’t right to just hang back and leave it to you ladies. What kind of man would that make me?

MRS. HAWKING:
Ha!

NATHANIEL:
Go ahead and laugh. But how do you think I feel, knowing the two of you are putting yourselves in danger and I’m not fit to help you?

MRS. HAWKING:
I don’t think you quite understand. There are no Marquess of Queensbury rules when you’re fighting for your life.

NATHANIEL:
Even Mary’s had to handle herself. And she just a girl!

MARY:
Sir!

NATHANIEL:
No offense intended, Mary. But if you can swing that poker surely I’m worth a crack or two.

(MARY looks to MRS. HAWKING, who sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Very well, then, Nathaniel. If you mean to have a go, have a go at me.

NATHANIEL:
I beg your pardon?

MRS. HAWKING:
If you think you’re fit to take on a real threat.

NATHANIEL:
I say, Auntie, how could I?

MRS. HAWKING:
You ought to know what you’re up against. Show me what you’re made of.

NATHANIEL:
I don’t know—

MRS. HAWKING:
Take his coat, Mary.

(He and MARY look at each other a moment. Then he shakes his head and throws up his hands. She steps forward and he shrugs out of his jacket. She places it aside as he begins turning up his shirt cuffs.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Now come on!

(Uncertainly, NATHANIEL puts up his fists and advances on her. He takes a few half-hearted swings, which she dodges easily, even walking backward.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Is that all? You must do better than that!

(NATHANIEL starts punching in earnest, but still she evades him easily. At last he throws himself at her, and she moves like lightning, landing a sound blow almost too fast to see that knocks him to the ground.)

MRS. HAWKING:
And if you can’t, you’d best keep out of the way.

(She exits. MARY rushes over to NATHANIEL as he pulls himself up off the ground.)

NATHANIEL:
Well, I’ve made a fool of myself.

MARY:
Oh, not at all.

NATHANIEL:
Go on.

MARY:
She’s been in training for years.

NATHANIEL:
And made short work of me.

MARY:
For my part, I think it’s quite noble of you. That you’re not content to hang back out of harm’s way.

NATHANIEL:
Still, perhaps she’s right. Perhaps I’m not cut out for this.

MARY:
There’s more to this work than knives and brawling. It’s not the end of everything to not be a martial man.

NATHANIEL:
Here now! I’ve a martial side. Why, I’ll have you know I served my bit a few years back!

MARY:
You did?

NATHANIEL:
Don’t sound so surprised!

MARY:
Forgive me, it’s only… well, you’re a gentleman.

NATHANIEL:
And I’ve lived a soft life accordingly, is that it?

MARY:
It isn’t necessarily to be expected of a gentleman.

NATHANIEL:
Miss Stone, I idolized my uncle from the time I was a boy. I’ve spent my whole life wanting to be like him. You can bet that when I was old enough I stepped up to serve my queen and country just as he did.

MARY:
My, sir! Well, I am sorry I expected any less. I am duly impressed.

NATHANIEL:
Oh, you ought not to be.

MARY:
It’s very admirable! You must tell me sometime of your adventures and your exploits as a dashing servant of the empire.

NATHANIEL:
It was hardly that. Yes, I enlisted when I was twenty or so. But do you know where they stationed me?

MARY:
India? Singapore?

NATHANIEL:
Newcastle. At the naval headquarters in the north country. When they learned I was a finance man they assigned me to keep the books for the armory.

MARY:
I see.

NATHANIEL:
Hardly the adventure I imagined it. And not much in the Colonel’s style.

MARY:
They saw you had a talent and they put it to use, though. I can’t help but think we ought to do the same.

NATHANIEL:
I did so want to be of use to her somehow.

MARY:
And so you will. Who knows, Nathaniel? We may run up against something that only you can do.

(Pause. Then NATHANIEL laughs.)

NATHANIEL:
That was quite a belt she gave me. I wonder how long she’s wanted to do that.

8/31/13

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“The Lieutenant’s Daughter” — scribbling on the backstory of Reginald and Ambrose

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Categories: character, gilded cages, scenes, Tags: , , , ,

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This was an experiment in a Hawking backstory scene, written on August 24th for 31 Plays in 31 Days 2013. Back in the day, a young soldier by the name of Reginald Hawking tells his older brother Ambrose of a remarkable young woman he’s just made the acquaintance of. I used this as an exercise about getting the point across even though the characters do not have an accurate assessment of the situation. See for yourself how well I did.

I’m not sure this conversation could have ever actually taken place in the timeline– because Reginald would have to be stationed in the colonies, and his older brother would already have been married and settled by then and likely not living close enough to have a real-time conversation with. Justin and Nathaniel might have even been born by this point. It’s a shame it’s not canon, so to speak; it’s thus far the first and only thing I’ve ever written in Ambrose’s voice. But nothing is ever really wasted, even if it can’t be used in its original form. You may also notice that pieces of this scene were adapted for use in the “Like a Loss” ten-minute play.

~~~

Day #24 – “The Lieutenant’s Daughter”

(Enter REGINALD, with a giant black eye.)

AMBROSE: What the devil happened to you?

REGINALD: Do you know the Lieutenant Stanton? The territorial governor?

AMBROSE: The territorial governor blacked your eye? By Jove, Reggie, whatever did you do?

REGINALD: It was his daughter.

AMBROSE: He blacked your eye over his daughter!?

REGINALD: No, Ambrose–

AMBROSE: Reginald, what’s come over you!?

REGINALD: Ambrose! She did it! She blacked my eye!

AMBROSE: You’re joking! His daughter?

REGINALD: Hand to God, sir.

AMBROSE: Still– I must ask– what did you do to her?

REGINALD: I– well, I tried to rescue her. I thought she was about to fall from the tree she was in.

AMBROSE: She was up a tree?

REGINALD: Climbing it. I thought she was falling, so I raced over to her. But she landed like a cat, whirled out of my arms, and her fist shot out faster than I could blink.

AMBROSE: Why, the little minx!

REGINALD: Like a striking cobra, she was. Hardly saw her move.

AMBROSE: Had she taken leave of her senses?

REGINALD: Damn near knocked me bum over teakettle.

AMBROSE: Her father had a thing or two to say about it, I’m sure.

REGINALD: He didn’t know.

AMBROSE: How could he not know?

REGINALD: I didn’t tell him, at any rate.

AMBROSE: But such behavior–

REGINALD: Ambrose! Surely I’d frightened the girl when I came at her from nowhere!

AMBROSE: Well, naturally. But surely the lieutenant wondered at your blighted eye!

REGINALD: Told him I’d gotten it boxing with the lads. She has enough of a hook that you’d never know the difference, eh?

AMBROSE: That’s barking madness, Reg.

REGINALD: Jolly well may be.

AMBROSE: Did the girl seem off otherwise to yu?

REGINALD: That’s the trick, Amber. She wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen.

AMBROSE: How so?

REGINALD: I hadn’t done much more than see her before that. She spoke not a word but she had the sharpest eyes that ever mine had met. And for all the fight I must have given her dashing up like that, she took her shot as quick and cool as any man on the line. No dithering, no starting. Just one cold, dead-on strike.

AMBROSE: Surely you can’t have seen all that in the failing of a startled young girl.

REGINALD: There was something about her, Ambrose. Something… jolly well remarkable.

AMBROSE: She must have given you a right old drubbing. You’re acting odd enough.

REGINALD: Very funny.

AMBROSE: Well, at least now you know better than to bother with her any longer.

REGINALD: Bother with her? Far from it, brother.

(He gets up and exits.)

REGINALD: I think I’d like to marry her.

8/24/13

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“The Other Mrs. Hawking” — scribblings on Clara Hawking

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Categories: character, development, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

After the Bare Bones Mrs. Hawking reading, Brad Smith, the actor who read for Cedric Brockton, commented that it might be interesting for the characters to encounter “the other Ms. Hawking,” as in, Nathaniel’s wife, and see what she thought of the whole business her husband had been drawn into. What I’d want to do with this character is make her a model of weaponized femininity– extremely happy with her place in society and her gender identity, but using it to her advantage as a sharp, strong femme woman. Of course, you can probably guess how Mrs. Hawking feels about her.

This was originally written on August 22nd, 2013, with the vague notion that it might become part of Vivat Regina, the first sequel and the second story in the series. I’m not sure if it will ultimately be included in that story, but I very much want to use it at some point, in a story where there is room for Clara to have a substantial role.

~~~

Day #22 – “The Other Mrs. Hawking”

MRS. HAWKING: You shall have the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Mrs. Hawking.

MARY: I beg your pardon?

MRS. HAWKING: Not me. The other Mrs. Hawking.

(Enter CLARA HAWKING, curvy and beautiful, in a flurry of activity and sweeping skirts.)

CLARA: Aunt Victoria!

MRS. HAWKING: Clara.

(She rushes over and kisses MRS. HAWKING’s cheek.)

CLARA: You haven’t visited us since Christmas! We were beginning to worry that you might have bricked yourself up inside that study of yours. Of course Nathaniel is glad to be seeing so much more of you. He says he’s enjoyed your time together immensely. Miracles happen, I suppose! And this must be Mary, your lovely housegirl. Nathaniel speaks very highly of you, miss. Of course, any girl who’s managed to last as long as you have in dear Auntie’s employ must be a saint! Don’t mistake me, dear, we do love our Aunt Victoria, it’s only to know her is to love her, and we know her! You must come to supper more often. I know you’re fiercely independent, but what is family for, if not to take care of widowed relations and see that you eat properly every once in a while? I know that left to your own devices, you might starve to death over your books! I’m sure you try your hardest with her, Mary, but heaven knows it can be like trying to push the boulder up the hill! And I’m sure you’ve been missing Sophia and little Reggie as much as they’ve missed you. We’d hate to think we’re allowing you to go on lonely. Now! I’ll have Jane fetch the tea things, and I’ll catch you up on everything about the children since last you came about.

(She bustles out.)

MARY: Good heavens. She’s…

MRS. HAWKING: Indeed.

MARY: And so…

MRS. HAWKING: Oh, my, yes.

(Pause.)

MARY: I love her.

MRS. HAWKING: You would.

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“I wonder… did she ever tell the Colonel?” — scribbling while looking ahead

Categories: character, development, looking ahead, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

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I’ve been working on the sequel to Mrs. Hawking quite a bit lately, and while in that mindset, I wrote this little scene, a conversation between Mary and Nathaniel. I think the two of them would become good friends after the first adventure, in part because I think they both love having somebody with which to marvel at just how weird Mrs. Hawking is. I get the feelings they spend a lot of time sitting around psychoanalyzing her, the way you would any brilliant/infuriating friend or boss or both. :-) This notion amuses me greatly.

Also, there is the problem of the Colonel. Oh, how delighted I am at the questions posed by the Colonel, as it gives endless opportunity for speculation. I love how the audience wonders about him, and I love how the characters cant stop arguing over him. This is a particular bee in Nathaniel’s bonnet, because he idolized the man and had such a firm image of him in his head that he must now reconcile with Mrs. Hawking’s perceptions and experience. And I think it’s also interesting how Mary has to construct an idea of the person who she has never met but has had such a profound effect on two people who are so important to her.

~~~

MARY: I wonder… did she ever tell the Colonel?

NATHANIEL: Tell him what?

MARY: How unhappy she was.

NATHANIEL: I don’t know. But, if I were to guess… I should think she didn’t.

MARY: No?

NATHANIEL: I really think not.

MARY: She was so angry, though. One says things in anger.

NATHANIEL: She would have had to trust him to tell him what she really thought. And that she could never do.

MARY: It would have been an incredible risk.

NATHANIEL: I know. And that was not something she would have undertaken for his sake. Still… I wonder if he knew anyhow.

MARY: Do you? If she went to great pains to keep things from him?

NATHANIEL: Oh, I don’t doubt that. Heaven knows she is capable of things I never would have fathomed possible… but he wasn’t a fool, Mary. And he loved her, blast it; if there’s one thing I shall never disbelieve of him, it’s that. He would have… had a care that she was so… miserable… with things as they were.

MARY: But if he knew, how could he have done nothing for it, then?

NATHANIEL: She would never have wanted him to.

MARY: Certainly not. But still… I should think he might have tried.

NATHANIEL: Not if he understood.

MARY: Do you think he did?

NATHANIEL: He may have hardly known her, Mary… but I think he knew her well enough to know that. And I believe he would have loved her enough to give it to her.

MARY: If that’s so… I wonder what else he might have given her. If he knew she needed it.

6/8/13

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“Reading the Signs” — opening scene of Vivat Regina

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Categories: development, looking ahead, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

 

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Over the past year I’ve been working on the first sequel, which I’m currently referring to as Vivat Regina. I like the idea of opening the next Mrs. Hawking story by showing the women at work, specifically of Mrs. Hawking teaching Mary about how to use observation and deductive reasoning (well, technically inductive, but whatever) in the process of working on cases. I wanted to bang out a draft of this scene for August 18th, 2013 just for the purposes of catching up on 31 Plays in 31 Days.

One thing I’ve learned in the course of writing plays, or anything really, is that it’s better to get SOMETHING down on the page, to get some draft just written, so that the thing exists. Otherwise you get so wrapped up in how you’re not ready to write it in its current imperfect form that you never end up writing it at all. At least if you have a draft, you have something, and you can always improve it afterward.

~~~

Day #18 – “Reading the Signs”

(A fancy Victorian society party. Women glide around in gowns with men in white tie. Waiters carry around trays of champagne glasses and push around serving trolleys. After a moment some peel away from the center, revealing a tall, dark-haired young woman holding a fan to her face. When she moves it aside, we see that it is MARY. She flutters it and speaks seemingly to no one under her breath.)

MARY: The timing is too coincidental. It has to be someone here. But there’s no sign of them.

(MRS. HAWKING in her stealth suit pokes her head out from her hiding place behind a drapery.)

MRS. HAWKING: Nonsense. The signs are there, you just aren’t looking properly.

(People approach and MRS. HAWKING hides again. MARY walks quickly away and makes a loop around the party. When people move off again, she returns to the drapery.)

MRS. HAWKING: Consider the circumstances.

MARY: The gems are heavy, and there are a number of them. Difficult to secret about one’s person.

MRS. HAWKING: There’s a start.

MARY: But there hasn’t been time to go far. They have to still be here somewhere.

MRS. HAWKING: Sound so far.

(Other guests draw near. She ducks back behind the drapery and MARY acts casual until they leave.)

MARY: They must have been hidden somewhere nearby. Somewhere within easy reach, but not where others are likely to find it.

MRS. HAWKING: And where would that be?

MARY: I… I don’t know.

MRS. HAWKING: Oh, come now!

(People pass by again and MRS. HAWKING hides. MARY moves to the other side of the stage. MRS. HAWKING pops back out of the drapery on that side.)

MRS. HAWKING: Think, girl.

MARY: In the flower arrangements.

MRS. HAWKING: Too conspicuous to disturb.

(Again MARY moves. MRS. HAWKING disappears behind the drape..)

MARY: The wall sconces.

MRS. HAWKING: Not enough concealment.

MARY: Under the banquet tables?

MRS. HAWKING: Rank amateurism.

MARY: The chandelier?

MRS. HAWKING: Now you’re being absurd. I would have seen them already!

(Someone approaches. MARY sweeps her skirt around so that MRS. HAWKING can hide beneath them.)

MARY: I don’t know!

MRS. HAWKING: I said think, Miss Stone! A place nearby, unlikely to be disturbed, easily accessed to recover the spoils!

(MARY looks about, shaking her head desperately. Then her eye settles on one of the waiters with a serving trolley.)

MARY: Madam…

MRS. HAWKING: Now you’ve got it.

MARY: Shall we, then?

MRS. HAWKING: Quickly and quietly, now. Go.

(MRS. HAWKING gets out from under MARY’s skirts and back behind the drapery. MARY weaves her way to the waiter. Pretending to look away, MARY moves in front of the trolley and allows it to crash into her.)

MARY: Oh!

(She dramatically falls over. The waiter startles and hurries to help her up. The other guests watch them in surprise. While they are distracted, MRS. HAWKING darts out of concealment and snatches one of the covered trays off the trolley. She disappears back behind the drapery.)

(After MARY disengages from the waiter, she makes another circuit of the part, accepting people’s concern and gracefully putting them off. At last she settles in front of the drapes again. Her body blocks from view MRS. HAWKING emerging, now in a black maid’s dress, with the tray in her arms.)

MRS. HAWKING: Mission accomplished. Reconvene at base. About time, Miss Stone.

(She hustles out. MARY smiles.)

by

“Like a Loss” – a ten-minute play in the Mrs. Hawking universe

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Categories: character, influences, scenes, Tags: , , , , ,

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I like how much potential there is for other stories in this universe. Most of them I hope to turn into full-length pieces in some way, but on occasion I want to tell a story that’s not centered around one of our heroes Mary and Mrs. Hawking. So I need to find some other ways to depict those ideas, and a ten-minute play is a nice idea.

So in this piece, I am giving you all the first-ever first person look at the most speculated-upon character in the Mrs. Hawking universe, the late Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking. I am not sure, in the grand scheme of the story, if it’s better to always leave you guessing about him or if your desire to know more about him should be fulfilled, but for scribbling purposes it’s all right.

One big question regarding the Hawkings’ relationship is how they interacted given the huge amount of silence, secrecy, and distance between them, and the one-sided nature of the affection. It’s a little hard for me to conceive of, as it’s tough to imagine how little talking and communication there would have to be to allow that, but this scene is my attempt to show a bit of how it might have been.

Also, I’ve been watching Downton Abbey so this sort of master-servant relationship is in my head right now. It was from this that I created the character of Henry Chapman, the Colonel’s batman and valet. I think, after the Colonel’s death, Mrs. Hawking got rid of Chapman so fast it made his head spin. Which did nothing to improve his opinion of her. I think he works for Nathaniel or maybe Ambrose or Justin now, but he’s still bitter.

This piece was originally written on August 2nd, 2013, and was expanded over the course of November 2013. Some very talented, discerning theater friends kindly workshopped a reading of it for me, with Ben Federlin as the Colonel and Eboracum Richter-Dahl as Chapman. As a production note, this piece is intended to stand alone and can be performed completely out of context. Though I do warn you, this contains spoilers for “Mrs. Hawking.”

Like a Loss
by Phoebe Roberts
~~~

London, England, 1862

COLONEL REGINALD HAWKING, of the Indian Rebellion, late thirties
HENRY CHAPMAN, his batman and valet, early thirties

~~~

(CHAPMAN sits in the dressing room, brushing a top hat. He stands when his master THE COLONEL enters.)

THE COLONEL:
Evening, Chapman.

CHAPMAN:
Good evening, sir.

THE COLONEL:
I think I’ll turn in now.

CHAPMAN:
Very good, sir.

(He takes THE COLONEL’s tailcoat and helps him undress.)

CHAPMAN:
If I might ask… is she any better today, sir?

THE COLONEL:
Much the same, really.

CHAPMAN:
I’m sorry to hear it.

THE COLONEL:
I expect she shall be for some time now.

CHAPMAN:
I see. A shame.

(CHAPMAN makes a face as he assists THE COLONEL.)

THE COLONEL:
I know that look.

CHAPMAN:
What look, sir?

THE COLONEL:
Come off it, now. I know you don’t approve.

CHAPMAN:
Sir! I would never presume—

THE COLONEL:
Of course, of course.

CHAPMAN:
Far be it from me to judge the bearing of the lady of the house—

THE COLONEL:
Spare me, old boy. Just that I’ll thank you to keep it to yourself.

CHAPMAN:
Of course, sir.

THE COLONEL:
Well. I’ve had enough of all this. Tell me something new, Chapman.

CHAPMAN:
Something new, sir? Well. You’ve had another letter from your brother.

THE COLONEL:
Have I? I suppose he won’t be put off, then.

CHAPMAN:
May I ask what he wants?

THE COLONEL:
A visit, it seems. A long one.

CHAPMAN:
Hmm. It would be quite understandable if you weren’t keen on having company.

THE COLONEL:
I think he means to take my mind off things.

CHAPMAN:
Well. That’s kind of him.

THE COLONEL:
Ambrose always looks out for his little brother.

CHAPMAN:
Perhaps you might find him a comfort.

THE COLONEL:
Perhaps. She won’t, though. He’s never cared for her either.

CHAPMAN:
I’m sorry, sir.

THE COLONEL:
He can think whatever he likes. I only hope he doesn’t teach it to the boys.

CHAPMAN:
Will they be joining him?

THE COLONEL:
I expect so.

CHAPMAN:
You don’t seem pleased.

THE COLONEL:
Don’t I?

CHAPMAN:
I thought you were quite fond of them.

THE COLONEL:
I am. They’re fine boys. Ambrose is very lucky. But— I fear they may wear on Mrs. Hawking’s nerves.

CHAPMAN:
I see.

THE COLONEL:
With her mood this black, that’s the last thing she needs right now.

(Pause.)

CHAPMAN:
It must be difficult.

THE COLONEL:
What must be difficult?

CHAPMAN:
When the family doesn’t get on.

THE COLONEL:
That’s putting it mildly.

CHAPMAN:
Well… it isn’t as if we choose our brothers’ wives.

THE COLONEL:
No more than we choose our brothers. Like it or not, Ambrose is stuck with the lot of us.

CHAPMAN:
I suppose not every man would choose a woman so… ah…

THE COLONEL:
Yes, Chapman?

CHAPMAN:
Fierce, perhaps?

THE COLONEL:
I’m a soldier, old boy, I’m drawn to it.

CHAPMAN:
Of course, sir. But fierce is a two-edged sword.

THE COLONEL:
Precisely. You lot only see the cuts. You miss how bright the blade is. She really is a remarkable woman, you know.

CHAPMAN:
I’m sure, sir.

THE COLONEL:
No, Chapman, don’t nod me off like that. I know what she seems like to you, but you’ve not seen the other side of it. It means more than just that she’s difficult for going so much her own way.

CHAPMAN:
How so?

THE COLONEL:
She’s utterly fearless. Their judgment can’t touch her, and no man, woman, king, brute, or god can bow her. Have you ever known a woman like that? I hadn’t, not before her.

(He pauses, remembering.)

THE COLONEL:
The first time I ever saw her– I was only a callow youth, a green officer stationed abroad in the colonies. I was making a report to the lieutenant governor in New Guinea, and when I was on my way to his bungalow, I saw, of all things, a girl climbing up a tree. The lieutenant’s daughter, though I didn’t know it yet. I watched her a moment, then all of a sudden she dropped down. I thought she was falling, so I rushed over to catch her. But she landed like a cat, whirled out of my arms, and her fist shot out faster than I could blink. Like a striking cobra, she blacked my eye.

CHAPMAN:
She never!

THE COLONEL:
Quicker than I could blink. Damn near knocked me bum over teakettle.

CHAPMAN:
My word! Surely the lieutenant had something to say about that.

THE COLONEL:
I never told him.

CHAPMAN:
But your black eye!

THE COLONEL:
Said I’d had it boxing with the lads. He never knew the difference. I tell you, Chapman, I thought I’d frightened her that day, but no. She was just that fierce.

CHAPMAN:
I’m afraid I don’t understand, sir.

THE COLONEL:
No. You don’t. No more than Ambrose does, nor anyone else.

CHAPMAN:
Except you, it seems.

THE COLONEL:
Someday, perhaps.

CHAPMAN:
Sir?

THE COLONEL:
It would take a lifetime to understand her. I knew I had to marry her to give myself the time.

CHAPMAN:
I supposed you’ll have to forgive the rest of us if we haven’t done it yet either.

THE COLONEL:
Suppose I shall. If you lot can forgive her in turn.

CHAPMAN:
A fair point, sir.

(Pause.)

CHAPMAN:
Is that how you manage? You forgive her?

THE COLONEL:
Forgive her for what?

CHAPMAN:
For this.

(Pause.)

THE COLONEL:
You’ll not judge her for it, Chapman.

CHAPMAN:
It’s not that, sir. Not precisely.

THE COLONEL:
After bearing through that, she can do whatever she damn well likes.

CHAPMAN:
It’s only… what about you, sir?

THE COLONEL:
What about me?

CHAPMAN:
He was to be your son, too.

(THE COLONEL tenses and turns away. CHAPMAN is chagrined.)

CHAPMAN:
Forgive me, sir. I shouldn’t speak of it.

(Pause.)

THE COLONEL:
I don’t know why it should hit me so hard. These things happen all the time. To some people, over and over again. Nothing to be done.

CHAPMAN:
It’s normal to mourn a loss.

THE COLONEL:
Strange, though, to call it that.

CHAPMAN:
You held in him your arms, sir.

THE COLONEL:
Wonder if it wasn’t a mistake.

CHAPMAN:
A mistake?

THE COLONEL:
He never cried. Never opened his eyes. But he was whole, you know. Still warm. He might have been sleeping but for that he never drew a breath. Made it harder to remember that… we never really had him to lose, did we?

CHAPMAN:
Still. It feels a loss, to you.

THE COLONEL:
There’s the rub, Chapman. If it’s like a loss to me… what must it be to her? She would have been his mother, for God’s sake. If I feel like… like this… what must it be like for her?

(Pause.)

THE COLONEL:
Tell me, Chapman, how can I ask anything of her now?

(He pulls on his robe.)

THE COLONEL:
That’ll be all now, old boy.

(CHAPMAN bows and exits, leaving THE COLONEL there alone.)

by

An anti-Mrs. Hawking

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Categories: gilded cages, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , ,

image

In a future story, I would love to give our hero an opponent who was the “anti-Mrs. Hawking,” a woman just as devious and formidable as she, but who uses and manipulates the system to take advantage of women’s social entrapment for her own ends. This is interesting because I think Mrs. Hawking’s usual opponents are men, not other women. They could have a secret war, and I think it should be someone who knows her, someone for whom such actions would be a deep betrayal. I also like the idea that she would know Mrs. Hawking’s ways. Our hero trades on being unsuspected and underestimated, but would not have that advantage over an opponent who knows her for what she is.

I actually like the idea that they grew up together, that they were good friends in their youth in New Guinea. I could include this character in the prequel that details that time. I think at that point I would give no hint to her future villainy, but establish her as having a mentality in conflict with our hero to foreshadow it. And so when she did recur later, as the villain of a later story, it would be particularly shocking to Mrs. Hawking, and seem all that more treacherous.

I call her Elizabeth Frost, nee Danvers. You’ll note I am naming the major female figures in the Mrs. Hawking universe after the queens of England. We have Victoria and Mary already. Mrs. Hawking’s nemesis and opposite, then, is Elizabeth– one of the most powerful and brilliant of them all.

I scribbled a small scene with her this summer. I’m not sure of all its details and it’s not grounded in a plot yet, but it gives a vague idea of who this woman is, and how she interacts with our hero:

~~~

MRS. FROST: It’s no use, Victoria. I know you’re in here somewhere.

(MR. HAWKING emerges from the canopy on the balcony door and land catlike on the floor.)

MRS. FROST: Hmm. The canopy, very cunning. I would have guessed you’d be clinging to the transom.

MRS. HAWKING: It’s been a long time, Elizabeth.

MRS. FROST: Yes, it has. But some things never change.

MRS. HAWKING: I had wondered what become of you after that Frost man took you away. I never suspected this.

MRS. FROST: You make your own way in the world, and I make mine.

MRS. HAWKING: On the backs of helpless women?

MRS. FROST: You never did grasp how the world works, Victoria.

MRS. HAWKING: Oh, I grasp it. I just refuse to be complicit in it.

MRS. FROST: Complicit? No, not you, never you. You’ve never gone along with anything in your life when you could wage all-out war on it instead.

MRS. HAWKING: A world and a system I have spent my life defending helpless women against, you manipulate and exploit to your own advantage.

MRS. FROST: Oh, spare me your righteous wrath, darling.

MRS. HAWKING: You are as bad as any of them!

MRS. FROST: And you are hero, is that it? You are a beast in a menagerie pounding against the bars of your cage! For all your work and all your heroics, what have you done? So you pulled a few petty bacons from the fire. Nothing has changed, the world still traps us and uses us and batters us down! Do you honestly believe you can put an end to all that on your own?

by

Mrs. Hawking, Act 1, Scene 1, Version 1

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Categories: development, mrs. hawking, scenes, Tags: , ,

Mrs. Hawking first came into existence on the page on July 20th, 2011, with the writing of a quick draft of the opening scene. Before I’d figured out where it was going or what the story was going to be about, I conceived of how it might begin, with the first meeting of Mary, Nathaniel, and the lady herself.

Below you’ll find the text of that original draft of the scene. See for yourself how it evolved into its current version! As compared to other parts of the story, this scene underwent shockingly little change. And the characters emerged very strongly for me right away, and from that grew the thrust of the whole story.

Mrs. Hawking – Act I, scene i

(NATHANIEL HAWKING, a well-dressed gentleman in his late twenties, is discovered onstage. He sits in a stylish Victorian parlor and appears to be waiting. A large portrait of a man hangs over the mantelpiece. Before long a bell rings, and he leaps up to answer the door. MARY STONE enters, a plainly dressed working-class young woman. She clasps a suitcase and is bundled against the rain.)

NATHANIEL: Ah, Miss Mary Stone, I presume?

MARY: Indeed I am, sir. And you are Mr. Hawking, then?

NATHANIEL: Call me Nathaniel, if you please. I am very pleased to meet you. I trust you have recovered from your voyage?

MARY: Well enough, though the London weather was quite the shock. I shall certainly miss the Indian climate.

NATHANIEL: I am sure. Oh, allow me.

(He places her suitcase aside, then takes her coat and hangs it for her.)

NATHANIEL: I am certainly glad to find you here. Your turning up in London may be the solution to our problem.

MARY: I understand you advertised on behalf of a relative?

NATHANIEL: My aunt Victoria. She was the wife of my dear uncle, the late Colonel Reginald Hawking of the Afghan campaign. Remarkable woman, I’m terribly fond of her, but… she has queer ideas at times. After my uncle’s passing she dismissed all the staff, but I’ve convinced her that she’s in need of someone around the house. It isn’t right for a lady to go on alone in the world. Almost more than the help, I think she could do with the company.

(Enter a lady in her late thirties to early forties, businesslike and stern, MRS. VICTORIA HAWKING. She regards them, then silently approaches until she is just behind NATHANIEL.)

NATHANIEL: But I must warn you, miss, she is not warm to the idea just yet. She’s stiff-necked, you see. Fiercely independent. You mustn’t take offense if she seems… brusque or standoffish to you, she only just hasn’t quite come round to the notion of needing help.

MARY: I quite understand. I know how difficult it can be to begin your life all over again.

MRS. HAWKING: Is that the girl?

(Startled at the sound of her voice, NATHANIEL spins around and, in an effort to keep from running into her, stumbles backwards onto the ground.)

NATHANIEL: Aunt Victoria!

MRS. HAWKING: How you must suffer for me, Nathaniel.

MARY: Oh, let me help, sir.

(MARY helps him to his feet with practiced ease.)

NATHANIEL: Thank you, miss. Auntie, I am only too glad to be of service. Miss Mary Stone, may I introduce you to my dear lady aunt, Mrs. Victoria Hawking?

MARY: A pleasure to make your acquaintance, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: I’m a fair ways off from my dotage yet, Nathaniel. Do you think me so frail that I require a nursemaid?

NATHANIEL: What are you talking about, Aunt Victoria?

MRS. HAWKING: I consented to hiring a house girl, and you’ve brought me a nurse.

NATHANIEL: Aunt, I’ve done nothing of the kind. Miss Stone isn’t a nurse. You always think you know my meaning before I say it, but truly sometimes you decide in haste!

MARY: I am, in fact, I suppose. In a manner of speaking. I nursed my parents through the last months of their illness.

NATHANIEL: Indeed? Ah, well, see, she is an even more capable lady I’d thought.

MARY: May I ask, ma’am, how did you know?

MRS. HAWKING: The practical way you just now lifted my nephew. You’ve done a great deal of helping bodies in and out of bed.

MARY: Oh, my. That’s it precisely.

NATHANIEL: My dear aunt has quite the keen sense of people, you see. Please, sit here and let us get to know one another, shall we?

MRS. HAWKING: At least this one can string two words together. Unlike that last girl. Wherever did you find her, the lobotomy ward at Colney Hatch?

NATHANIEL: Aunt Victoria, please!

MRS. HAWKING: But now you’ve brought me this girl. Your given plain meek unmarried young woman, new and friendless in London, I see. I would not have left India for this dreary place, but I suppose there are circumstances that can’t be helped.

MARY: That’s the truth of it, ma’am. I see you’ve been told something of my history.

MRS. HAWKING: Only by your dress. A lady who wears Indian linen beneath her greatcoat is one who has not long had need for warm clothes. Very well then, if I must have you then I shall see that I get some use out of you. I would hope a woman who’s lived abroad a time would not be a useless fainting flower. Tell me your accomplishments.

MARY: Accomplishments may perhaps be too strong a word, madam. But I have many years’ time keeping house for my family, hold to a budget, cook well and sew capably. I have attended some school so that I can read and write in English and French—

MRS. HAWKING: Enough of that. You are educated, that is well. Can you keep an appointment-book?

MARY: Very well, Mrs. Hawking.

MRS. HAWKING: And have you the good sense God gave you?

MARY: I very much hope so!

MRS. HAWKING: So too I. I can’t abide a woman who forgets her own head on her shoulders. Well, it gives you a leg up on the other dull-witted chits he’s dragged in front of me. Provided you can hold your tongue and keep your own business, I supposed that you shall do for me.

NATHANIEL: So you’ll have her on?

MRS. HAWKING: I suppose I can stand to.

MARY: Thank you very much, madam! I will not disappoint you.

MRS. HAWKING: I may hope.

MARY: When shall I move in my things?

MRS. HAWKING: I beg your pardon?

MARY: I shan’t need much space. And I can wait for your convenience.

MRS. HAWKING: Nathaniel, I said did not want anyone in the house.

MARY: Oh, dear. I was told that this would be a billeted situation.

NATHANIEL: Aunt Victoria, I explained to you that this would be the way of it. Such is Mary’s situation. And may I point out that you have chased all your other options off?

MRS. HAWKING: Ah, very well. Your claims shall be tested straightaway, it seems. I warn you that I am not a sociable creature, Miss Stone. Heed me well and things shall get on. Well, I suppose that settles that. Can you arrive at ten-thirty sharp tomorrow?

MARY: I will not be late.

MRS: HAWKING: Good. It is another thing I cannot abide. Now you may go. Thank you for your assistance, Nathaniel. I have done.

NATHANIEL: Of course, dear aunt. The Colonel would have wanted me to take care of you.

MRS. HAWKING: Bless him for that.

(Stand and exit MRS. HAWKING.)

NATHANIEL: I am very glad she’ll have you, Mary.

MARY: She seems very displeased with the whole matter.

NATHANIEL: Don’t you worry. Compared to what she thought of the others, she seems quite taken with you.

MARY: Oh, my.

NATHANIEL: She’ll come round in time. My aunt has always been of odd habits, but she’s become… withdrawn of late. I worry for her should she continue on this way. I think you may be precisely what she needs.

by

Mrs. Hawking, scenes 1.5 and 1.6, version 1, which become 1.4 and 1.5

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Categories: development, mrs. hawking, scenes, Tags: , ,

Of course I'm always afraid of making the thing too talky. You be the judge, I guess.

Scene 5

(Back in MRS. HAWKING’s parlor. MRS. HAWKING stands at a table regarding a spread of papers. MARY enters with a tea tray. She stops short for a moment when she sees MRS. HAWKING, then approaches cautiously. MRS. HAWKING doesn’t look up.)

MARY: Afternoon tea, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: Thank you.

(MARY looks for a place to lay the tea tray down and finds no room among the papers. She dithers for a moment before MRS. HAWKING notices her dilemma. She moves some of the papers to make a place for MARY to set it down. The two women look at each other warily. Finally MRS. HAWKING sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING: Let’s have no more of this dancing around one another. I’d have your intentions, if you please.

MARY: Forgive me, my intentions?

MRS. HAWKING: You know my business now. And you know it’s something I could land in a great deal of trouble should that knowledge come into the wrong hands. You’ve nearly as much to hold over my head as Brockton does over Mrs. Fairmont. And you must be aware this is not something I’ll allow to come out.

MARY: Mrs. Hawking…

MRS. HAWKING: So enough of this dithering. What do you want from me, Mary?

MARY: Madam… I want to help.

MRS. HAWKING: I beg your pardon?

MARY: I want to help you in your work. If I understand, what you do… what you’re doing for Mrs. Fairmont… it’s heroic. It’s the best thing I ever heard anyone do.

MRS. HAWKING: You’ve a great deal of empathy for the tribulations of a woman privileged beyond anything you’re ever like to know.

MARY: But it’s not only the society women you’ve helped, is it? I heard what Mrs. Fairmont said. The washerwomen and the scullery maids and the house girls too. Women precisely like me, who have nowhere else to turn. No one needs a hero more.

MRS. HAWKING: You’ve no idea how dangerous it can be.

MARY: I don’t care. I can be brave if the circumstance calls for it.

MRS. HAWKING: So I’ve seen. But it isn’t only risk to life and limb, Miss Stone. What I do… is unacceptable in the eyes of the public. If such effort should fail, or so much as be discovered… I assure you, we shall come to envy the painted birds in parlor cages. And any hope of decent reputation shall be dashed forever.

MARY: I understand that! Madam… I have lived a respectable life where I have done what was expected of me. For my first twenty years, I did nothing with myself except keep house for an absent father and an unwell mother. All because they were too preoccupied to find some suitable man to whom they could marry me off before they passed away. And when they passed, and I had nothing more left… I realized how little that was. How little that was to make a life. Can you… can you imagine what that’s like?

MRS. HAWKING: I can. As a matter of fact.

MARY: What you are doing for Mrs. Fairmont, and have done for so many others… that means something to so many lives. And… there’s no amount of money or status in the world that can change how it must feel to have your child taken away from you. That is something that no mother should bear. If there is any way I can act in the service of preventing it… more than anything, that means something. And that is what I would like to do.

MRS. HAWKING: I am accustomed to working alone.

MARY: I know. You’ve had no other choice. But… as I said before. Everyone has need of help sometime. I can be your help. I told you once, I can be brave, and I have a strong back and the good sense God gave me. Please… let me help you.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her for a long time.)

MRS. HAWKING: Good heavens. I must be losing my mind.

MARY: So… we shall give it a go, then?

MRS. HAWKING: God help us. All right, brave girl. All right.

MARY: Oh, thank you. Thank you, madam! I swear, I will not disappoint you.

MRS. HAWKING: Very well. I grant you have not yet. Come here, see what I have been pondering.

(MARY goes to look at the papers on the table.)

MARY: Are you at work on the case at present?

MRS. HAWKING: Indeed. Contemplating how best to overcome the myriad challenges presented by Mrs. Fairmont’s predicament.

(She throws open a small box. MARY is slightly surprised to see several slim silver knives. MRS. HAWKING takes one of the box and shows it to her.)

MRS. HAWKING: Challenge the first—

MARY: The safety of the child.

MRS. HAWKING: True. To rescue the boy from the villain’s clutches.

(She sticks the knife into the mantle piece. Then she takes out another knife.)

MRS. HAWKING: Challenge the second—

MARY: The security of her reputation.

MRS. HAWKING: —To prevent the knowledge of the child’s existence from reaching the public.

(She sticks the second knife in beside the first. Out comes a third.)

MRS. HAWKING: And finally, challenge the third…

(MARY furrows her brow in thought, then shakes her head.)

MARY: I’m sorry, I don’t know the third.

MRS. HAWKING: That would be the opponent himself. Lord Cedric Brockton is no petty threat.

(She stabs the third knife into the mantle.)

MARY: You seem to know a great deal about this man. How did you come to encounter him?

MRS. HAWKING: Mrs. Fairmont is not the first client of mine to run afoul of him, and I may claim the rare standing of having thwarted him a time or two. But he’s seen no justice for it yet; the man conceals the traces of his enterprise as well as any man I’ve tangled with, such that the police shall never touch him.

MARY: So there is the third challenge. To put paid to his machinations once and for all.

MRS. HAWKING: Precisely, Miss Stone.

(She toys with the third stuck knife.)

MARY: So what is your plan of action? How can I assist?

MRS. HAWKING: There is the trouble, then. I am… uncertain how to proceed here.

MARY: Have you never encountered this sort of case in the past?

MRS. HAWKING: Oh, I’ve returned a missing child or two in my time, but in this instance my usual methods have not served. My thought had been to trace his lackeys back to where they were keeping the boy, but I have been trailing them for days and seen no sign.

MARY: What does that mean?

MRS. HAWKING: I can only conclude that the child has not been placed into the keeping of his hired toughs. Beyond that, I have no data.

MARY: Therefore… we find must find a way to gather some. Do we not?

MRS. HAWKING: We can make no forward progress otherwise.

(They sit in silence for a moment, thinking. Finally MARY is struck with an idea.)

MARY: Madam… if I may suggest…

MRS. HAWKING: Yes?

MARY: What was it that Mrs. Fairmont said, about… about Lord Brockton hosting a ball?

MRS. HAWKING: Yes, some society nonsense in celebration of yet another victory for the Empire. My husband devoted his whole damn life to winning it, and yet they keep on.

MARY: Will his lordship be hosting it at his home?

MRS. HAWKING: I believe so.

MARY: Perhaps that’s the way to gather intelligence.

MRS. HAWKING: By attending that ball?

MARY: It’s a way into his house. There— there might be something useful to discover there!

MRS. HAWKING: Surely he is not keeping the boy in his own house.

MARY: No, not if he’s as circumspect as you say. But there may be something, some bit sliver of a secret that the lion is hiding in his den.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her critically.)

MARY: If we’ve no other lead, then at least it’s a place to begin.

(MRS. HAWKING thinks for a moment, then nods.)

MRS. HAWKING: Yes. There is logic to it. Surely there must be something he would desire to keep close, and under his own oversight. Very well, miss, it is indeed a place to begin.

MARY: So you shall go to Lord Brockton’s ball?

MRS. HAWKING: I shall. Now, we must prepare, we haven’t much time and there are things to be done. My instruments must be packed, and I must secure the proper invitation. I have been out of the roar of things for some time now, but I daresay the Hawking name still holds sufficient sway. And of course we shall have to see about acquiring you a suitable gown on scant notice.

MARY: A gown? For me?

MRS. HAWKING: We shall be quite conspicuous if we do not don the costume of the venue.

MARY: I… I may come along with you?

MRS. HAWKING: It was your notion, Miss Stone. And you insist you wish to help.

MARY: But shan’t it be an affair for high society?

MRS. HAWKING: You shall quickly learn, child, if you are to ply this trade for long you must master the art of disguising yourself as something you are not. For you, it shall be as high society. For me, it shall be as a creature that can bear to spend the evening in whalebone stays. Besides, when it comes to facades one must put on, society is a common one. I imagine you shall manage it no worse than most.

(MRS. HAWKING pulls the final knife from the wall and twists it in her hands as she exits. MARY touches the remaining knives, an expression of mixed apprehension and excitement on her face.)

Scene 6

(Several elegantly dressed ball guests enter and walk around the stage, mingling and talking. After a moment, enter MRS. HAWKING and MARY from opposite sides of the stage. They wear fancy gowns and both are quite transformed. They scan the room for a moment, and then when they see each other they hurry over to one another. As they speak, a crowd of party guests gather around them.)

MRS. HAWKING: There you are. I’ve observed the lay of the house and I believe I’ve found the place to look. There is a locked study on the second floor from which the valet keeps chasing away the guests. If Brockton keeps sensitive material in this house, that will be the place, though I’ve not yet had a chance to search it. Not until I know where Brockton is lurking.

(MARY tosses uncomfortable looks over her shoulder behind her.)

MRS. HAWKING: Are you quite all right?

MARY: That gentleman over there is staring at me.

MRS. HAWKING: Yes, I’m sure he is.

MARY: Why does he do that? Can he tell I don’t belong?

MRS. HAWKING: I imagine, Miss Stone, it is because we have dressed you in entirely too becoming a gown.

MARY: Oh! Well, I have never worn anything so grand.

MRS. HAWKING: It suits you, I’m afraid, which has naturally rendered you public property. Fortunately, I have been able to turn this distasteful consequence to our advantage.

MARY: How so?

MRS. HAWKING: When I observed how many were murmuring about the mysterious and lovely young woman no one seemed to recognize, I spread a few choice whispers about her circumstances and station.

MARY: About me? What sort of whispers?

MRS. HAWKING: I may have given them the impression you were a niece of the viceroy of India, sent home to escape a scandal with a prominent soldier.

MARY: Me? But I am no— why?

MRS. HAWKING: To catch a beast, we must set out some bait.

MARY: I am your bait? To what end?

MRS. HAWKING: He is a blackmailer, Mary. He is always interested in persons with secrets. My aim is for him to seek out the young woman everyone is murmuring about and attempt to discern whether he can make a target of her. And while you are occupying him, I shall take advantage of his absence.

MARY: I don’t know how to behave like the niece of the viceroy! He’ll see right through me!

MRS. HAWKING: See that he doesn’t. You were raised in India, make use of your experience. Now, listen to me closely. Before long Brockton will approach you and sound you out for his wicked purpose. Meanwhile I shall infiltrate the upstairs study. I must entreat you to keep him engaged for as long as you possibly can to prevent him from discovering me. I can elude the servants with ease but the master will be more wary than any.

MARY: But madam—

MRS. HAWKING: You expressed a desire to be of service, Miss Stone.

MARY: Ah— yes. Yes, very well. I shall do my best.

MRS. HAWKING: Good girl. One last detail— did you manage to secret away the valise?

MARY: Yes, in the cloakroom beneath the grand staircase.

MRS. HAWKING: Excellent. I shall need my tools before confronting the study. Now I must make myself scarce. It is imperative that Brockton not observe us to be speaking together.

MARY: Good— good luck, madam.

MRS. HAWKING: To you as well.

(Looking around unobtrusively to see if the coast is clear, MRS. HAWKING walks off and exits. MARY, now left alone, shifts nervously at first. She then awkwardly attempts to affect the carriage of what she imagines is the mysterious, high-class niece of a viceroy. She starts to commit to it, smiling and even voguing a little for those who look her over.)

(As she does this, enter LORD CEDRIC BROCKTON, middle-aged, handsome, impeccably dressed. He spots MARY almost immediately. He makes his way over to her through his crowd of guests, shaking hands and touching shoulders in a charming manner. Before long he comes up directly behind her with an ingratiating smile.)

LORD BROCKTON: I don’t believe we’ve met.

(MARY jumps a little, startled, but collects herself quickly back into her new persona.)

MARY: Oh? Ought we to?

LORD BROCKTON: Allow me to introduce myself. I am Lord Cedric Brockton, and I would like to personally welcome you to my party.

MARY: Why, this is your house? Oh, it’s a— dear little place.

LORD BROCKTON: I am glad you like it. You must know, miss, that everyone is buzzing about you and no one seems to know your name.

MARY: Ah… my uncle calls me Tigerlily.

LORD BROCKTON: How very charming. Have you been long in London?

MARY: Oh, no. No time at all. Only long enough to learn that London is so dreadfully dreary and dull. I haven’t the faintest idea how you tolerate all this fog.

(She takes a quick look around the room for MRS. HAWKING but she is not there.)

LORD BROCKTON: It is dreary, indeed. Certainly not as… temperate and exciting as life on the subcontinent.

MARY: Good heavens, you’ve no idea! Why, back home, if I so chose, I could ride to finishing school on the back of an elephant!

LORD BROCKTON: Well, we’ve certainly nothing like that here. So, tell me, miss, whatever could you draw you away from all that?

(MARY waves her hands dramatically, trying to think.)

MARY: Oh, well, you know how things are… uncle dear thought it was best for me to go away for a while… he feared I was becoming too popular with some of his, well…

LORD BROCKTON: Soldiers, miss?

(She affects a carriage of indignation.)

MARY: My lord! What kind of lady do you take me for? Fraternizing with enlisted men?

(She pauses dramatically, then grins.)

MARY: They were all officers!

(They burst out laughing together, BROCKTON with the opportunity and MARY with a manic shock that she is pulling it off. Over his shoulder, she spies MRS. HAWKING reenter.)

MARY: Oh, but I’ve said too much! Uncle John would be furious with me. You must excuse me, Lord Cedric, we shall talk again soon. Lovely party you’ve thrown!

LORD BROCKTON: I shall look forward to it!

(She turns and leaves, trying not to dash off. BROCKTON watches her go for a moment. Then he turns around, a smug smile on his face, and spots MRS. HAWKING. He laughs.)

LORD BROCKTON: Why, fancy that. You’re in attendance this evening.

(He approaches her. She tenses almost imperceptibly a moment, then turns to face him with an expression of polite friendliness.)

MRS. HAWKING: You know me, sir?

LORD BROCKTON: Oh, my yes. We’ve never had occasion to meet, but I am certainly aware of Mrs. Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking. Oh, but forgive me my manners— allow me to formally introduce myself.

(He bows elegantly, the extends a hand to her. With only the barest hint of her distaste, MRS. HAWKING smiles thinly and places her hand in his. He kisses it gallantly.)

MRS. HAWKING: Of course, Lord Cedric, clerk to the undersecretary and our gracious host.

LORD BROCKTON: It’s been some time since you’ve made an appearance in society.

MRS. HAWKING: Haven’t you heard? My husband died, I’ve been in mourning.

LORD BROCKTON: Of course. His passing was a great loss to the empire. And you’ve chosen this time to reemerge. Remarkable.

MRS. HAWKING: Some would say it was time.

LORD BROCKTON: To be sure. You’ve grown something of a reputation for reclusion. It is then also remarkable that the notoriously withdrawn wife of the late colonel should develop associations with no fewer than three ladies with whom I have had business in the last several years.

(MRS. HAWKING stares at him hard.)

LORD BROCKTON: I make a point of observing such things, Mrs. Hawking. Particularly when there is a discernible pattern of the enterprises in question going awry. When such a thing occurs, I take pains to learn why.

MRS. HAWKING: Perhaps you have made a wrong move.

LORD BROCKTON: Perhaps you have, madam. For your own wellbeing, I advise you to make no more.

(He bows to her politely.)

LORD BROCKTON: I am glad to have finally made your acquaintance, Mrs. Hawking. Do enjoy the rest of the party.

(He strolls off through the crowd again, engaging magnanimously with his guests. MRS. HAWKING stands very still, her face stern. After a moment MARY reenters and, seeing MRS. HAWKING is alone, approaches her with caution.)

MARY: Madam? Did you find anything?

MRS. HAWKING: Not now. We must not be seen speaking.

(MRS. HAWKING presses a sovereign into her hand.)

MRS. HAWKING: Hire a handsome and meet me at home, we shall talk then. Things have become more complicated.

(She hurries away. MARY looks at the coin in her hand, then glances after MRS. HAWKING. Then she exits herself.)

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