Scene One: Funeral Parlour Ė 19th Century
Sir Humphrey and his wife, Sarah, stand by the casket of their six year-old boy.
SH> You are responsible for this!
S> How dare you blame me! Miranda was there! She should have had better control.
SH> You are his mother. Miranda is but a servant, a nanny. She would not have been in the streets with him if you were home!
S> Nonsense! It was her duty to be with him, to have better watch over his actions.
SH> Nevertheless, I blame you. You have not yet told me where you were. Where have you been sneaking off to behind my back?
S> Sneaking off! It is you who are never home, Humphrey. How many weeks of this year have you been off doing your dastardly errands? How many nights have you spent away from our bed?
SH> Do not dare to question me, woman! I am away doing a manís work and my duty to the king. Your place is in the home, looking after my son and my household.
S> And what of your duty to your family? I cannot remember the last time you spent any time with your son, doing a fatherís duty.
SH> Enough of this! You will be out of my house before sundown today. Begone evil adulteress!
S> Oh no, Sir Humphrey, it is not I that will be gone by sundown. It is you!
SH> (backhanding her) How dare you speak to me thus. You will leave my household and take only your clothing! Nothing else!
S> (on her rump, sitting sideways, wiping her face) No! While you were away I found evidence in your office. Certain documents are sequestered with a lawyer. I can prove your treason!
SH> (in anger) You wench, this shall not stand. You will go and lucky not to have a beating to speed you on the way!
S> If anything happens to me, now or in the future, the evidence will be handed to the magistrate. You will, at the very least, spend your life in the dungeons where you belong.
SH> (in a soothing voice) Perhaps I have been unfair. (He offers his hand to help her up.) Come, my dear, it is our grief that makes us speak thus.
S> (She does not take the hand, nor rise) I once made the mistake of giving you my hand. I shall not repeat that error. As I said, you will be out of the manor by sundown. You will be out of England on the next tide, on any ship that will carry you, to any place but England.
SH> (angry again) Do you really think you can dictate to me? I am your master, it is the law! You are my wife and you will obey me!
S> If you are not out of England by tomorrow noon, indeed if you are ever seen in Britain again, the evidence will be made public. You will die a traitorsí death.
SH> I could kill you now, right here, and say that you fainted in grief, banging your head in the fall.
(A manís voice from off stage) That would not be advisable, Sir Humphrey.
A man enters stage from right, carrying a sword.
SH> I say! Who are you who dares draw against me? (He reaches for his own sword but he hasnít worn it today. He looks down and then raises an angry face looking first at Sarah and then at the man.)
Man> I am hired by mylady to protect her from an evil threat, such as I just heard. You do not know me, sir, but should be guarded in the words you choose.
SH> (Looking aghast first at the man and then at his wife. He backs slowly to the left.) This shall not stand! My men will see to it. You, sir, are a dead man! (to Sarah) And you! I shall have the staff toss you and your clothing out into the gutter.
S> (on her feet now, smiling a knowing smile) There, you see dear Humphrey. The proof of my words. If you had been home more often, you would know that I have replaced all the staff with those loyal to me, not you. And as to your men, I have had a message taken to them indicating a week of mourning. They have been urged to return to their homes. There is no-one left to succor you!
SH> (shocked, backing slowly out stage left.) You evil bitch! I shall have you for this! Nothing will save you. (To the swordsman) And you shall die a most painful death.
(a moment passes, sound of horse hooves departing, she turns to the swordsman.)
S> I am in your debt, sir. Who are you?
Man> No-one, my lady. (he bows) I work here and happened to overhear. This is not even my sword, but borrowed from my masterís mantle.
S> Can you use it?
Man> I daresay, not. I had spied that he was unarmed. Bravery isnít my nature, mum.
S> Yet, that was a brave thing to have done. I shall see that you are rewarded handsomely. What is your name?
Man> I am called James, my lady, James Fisher. May I ask you a question?
S> Yes, of course.
Man> Is it true about his treason? Should not the documents be revealed, for the good of the country?
S> There are no such documents, James. I had my suspicions only. The proof now could only be your witness to these events. Perhaps you should work for me, for your own safety?
Man> You are too kind, mum. But what could I do in your employ? I have no skills but cleaning.
S> Then we shall have you training in swordsmanship. You looked fearsome enough this morning to back down a powerful enemy. It might stand you in good stead if Sir Humphrey or his men do return.
Man> (kneeling) I accept your kind offer, my lady.
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