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Revised first act of Mrs. Hawking

Today I finished and handed in my revision of the complete script of Mrs. Hawking. I am really happy with how it turned out. It may still need some tweaking, my teacher still hasn't seen or responded to this revision, but I think I'm really close. I'm going to send it out to as many places as possible, including the Bare Bones staged readings that Theatre@First puts on.

I hope you like it.
Mrs. Hawking
Phoebe Roberts
~~~
Dramatis Personae
VICTORIA HAWKING, a wealthy society lady, early forties
MARY STONE, a working-class young woman, early twenties
NATHANIEL HAWKING, Mrs. Hawking’s gentleman nephew, late twenties
CELESTE FAIRMONT, another society lady, late thirties
CEDRIC BROCKTON, a minor London noble, mid-forties
JOHN COLCHESTER, Brockton’s man, early thirties
WALTER GRAINGER, a Yorkshire-born gentleman, late forties
GRACE MONROE, a working-class woman, late twenties
A MAID, a GENTLEMAN

Setting: London, England, 1880
~~~

ACT I

Scene 1

(NATHANIEL HAWKING sits in a stylish Victorian parlor and appears to be waiting. A large portrait of a distinguished middle-aged in a military dress uniform hangs over the mantelpiece. Before long a bell rings, and he leaps up to answer the door. MARY STONE enters, pretty, working-class, plainly dressed and deferent. 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 Indian Rebellion. 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 MRS. VICTORIA HAWKING, businesslike and stern. 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. You mustn’t take offense if she seems… a touch 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.

(NATHANIEL is surprised to find MARY helping 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 practiced 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. I see you have a strong back. 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 the situation of any girl you may hope to have. 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.

MARY
Thank you so much, Mrs. Hawking! I’ll not disappoint.

MRS. HAWKING
Well, then. 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.

(MRS. HAWKING begins to walk away.)

NATHANIEL
Good day, madam. I shall bring the children by for a visit soon!

(She exits without acknowledging him. He chuckles and turns back to MARY.)

NATHANIEL
Oh, she is a character. 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.

Scene 2

(MARY enters to meet MRS. HAWKING in the parlor. She is sorting through the pages of some notebooks.)

MARY
I believe that’s everything settled in.

MRS. HAWKING
And you find your accommodations adequate, then?

MARY
Oh, very much so, madam. I’m quite ready now.

(MRS. HAWKING stares at her.)

MARY
To learn my duties. If you’ll tell me what they are.

(MRS. HAWKING stares a bit longer, then clears her throat.)

MRS. HAWKING
I shall be frank. I’ve no idea what to do with you.

MARY
I… I see. Still, I should very much like to make myself useful. Your appointments, perhaps if you could acquaint me with them, I could—

MRS. HAWKING
No need, miss. I have things well in hand today.

(MARY deflates a little. Taking pity on her, MRS. HAWKING thinks very hard.)

MRS. HAWKING
I like to take tea in the afternoons.

MARY
Tea? Ah. Well... that is something to begin with it, now, isn't it?

(MARY pulls out a rag from her pocket and begins dusting and straightening up.)

MARY
I make a very good cup of tea. I’m a fair cook as well, if I may say so, so perhaps I can tempt you anyway. And I’ve spent years learning to keep house. I shall be of help to you somehow, I am sure of it.

(As MARY goes to dust the mantle, she looks up at the portrait of the distinguished gentleman hanging over the fireplace.)

MARY
This is your late husband?

MRS. HAWKING
The Colonel Reginald Prescott Hawking, yes.

(She begins packing her things into a bag.)

MARY
Nathaniel speaks very highly of him. He must have been a great man.

MRS. HAWKING
Oh, indeed.

(MARY waits expectantly for a moment for her to go on. She does not.)

MARY
I know very little about him, I suppose. Just what Nathaniel had mentioned.

MRS. HAWKING
You must ask him sometime. He does love to talk about his uncle.

MARY
I... I am sorry, madam. How thoughtless of me, it must be painful to speak of him.

(MRS. HAWKING turns to go for a moment, then pauses. She turns back to MARY with a stern expression.)

MRS. HAWKING
On one occasion we were visiting at his brother’s house in the south country, I happened to remark on a fine red rosebush. It was… nothing, a meaningless murmur of idle conversation. But he dug up that bush with his own two hands, wrapped the roots in burlap, and carried it back on his lap the whole way home. He planted it there in the garden behind the house… for no reason but to please me. He never did grasp that I do not care one whit about rosebushes.

(She pauses, and sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING
Now. I must be on my way to my appointment for today. Please excuse me.

MARY
Of course, Mrs. Hawking.

MRS. HAWKING
Very good. That is all, Miss Stone.

(Exit MRS. HAWKING. MARY is left alone and adrift onstage. After a moment, she bends her head to look at the open appointment book left on the table.)

Scene 3

(A well-dressed upper middle class woman, MRS. CELESTE FAIRMONT, sits in her fancy parlor, fretting. The bell rings and MRS. FAIRMONT leaps up to answer it. It is MARY in a walking hat. MRS. FAIRMONT starts exaggeratedly.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
Oh, my goodness!

(MARY removes her hat.)

MARY
Forgive me for this intrusion at this hour, but I must speak to Mrs. Celeste Fairmont.

MRS. FAIRMONT
I am she. Who are you?

MARY
I am Mary Stone, I’ve recently come into the employ of Mrs. Victoria Hawking.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Mrs. Hawking sent you?

MARY
Ah— not as such. But madam didn’t come home last night, and according to her appointment book she was engaged to see you that evening. Begging your pardon, but I didn’t know what else to do but come and ask if you knew her whereabouts.

MRS. FAIRMONT
She was indeed here last night… but she hasn't returned. Not yet.

MARY
Did you expect her? Do you know where she went?

MRS. FAIRMONT
I, ah, I cannot precisely say—

(There is a crashing sound outside. The ladies' heads whip around.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
What was that?

(A commotion of running feet and raised voices from a gang of people outside. MARY runs to the window beside the door and looks out.)

MARY
There's a whole gang of ruffians!

MRS. FAIRMONT
Oh, God!

(The second window starts to scrape and grind open. A figure dressed in black begins to climb in. Again MRS. FAIRMONT panics and makes small sounds of terror, cowering behind a chair. MARY seizes the poker from the fireplace and places herself between the figure and MRS. FAIRMONT. The figure drops catlike to the floor, then stands, cradling one arm in pain. The masked face turns to look at the women.)

MARY
Stop! Stop right there!

(Suddenly MARY stops short, gaping in shock. She drops the poker.)

MARY
Mrs. Hawking!?

(The figure pulls off the mask to reveal MRS. HAWKING.)

MRS. HAWKING
Mary?

(Briefly MRS. HAWKING examines her injured arm. MARY lets the poker clatter to the ground.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
Is that blood?

MARY
Are you hurt?

(MRS. HAWKING runs to the door and peers through the peephole.)

MARY
What-- what's happened to you?

MRS. HAWKING
No matter now. Celeste, where are they?

MRS. FAIRMONT
I don’t know, I don’t know!

MARY
They’re nearby but they haven’t come here yet.

MRS. HAWKING
Thank God.

(She goes about securing the windows.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
Why are they here?

MRS. HAWKING
Because I was sloppy. Very sloppy.

MRS. FAIRMONT
What are we to—?

(There is a hard thumping at the door. MRS. FAIRMONT freezes. She and MARY both look to MRS. HAWKING.)

MRS. HAWKING
They cannot find me here.

(She ducks into a closet. There is another THUMP THUMP THUMP. MARY and MRS. FAIRMONT look at each other. MARY slowly goes to answer the door. MRS. FAIRMONT collapses stiffly into a chair. MARY opens the door to JOHN COLCHESTER, a large man dressed in rough clothes.)

MARY
Fairmont residence. May I help you?

COLCHESTER
There’s been some commotion in the neighborhood.

MARY
Yes, we heard.

(He pushes past MARY into the room and takes a few steps around, looking.)

COLCHESTER
There’s a dangerous person about. We was after them just now but it seems they’ve disappeared. You haven’t seen nothing?

MARY
I’m sure we’ve no idea what you’re speaking of.

COLCHESTER
What are you all doing up and about at this hour?

MARY
We were disturbed by the noise! And by banging at the door in the wee hours of the morning!

(He moves very close to the closet where MRS. HAWKING is hiding.)

COLCHESTER
And you don’t have any notion of where this fellow went off to?

MARY
Of course we don’t! Now I must insist that you leave! You have frightened Mrs. Fairmont quite enough.

(MARY goes back to the door and holds it open for him. COLCHESTER looks around once more, then nods once and moves toward it.)

COLCHESTER
Right, then. Good evening to you ladies.

MARY
Good evening, sir.

(COLCHESTER goes out the door. She closes it behind him and exhales heavily. MRS. FAIRMONT buries her face in her hands and gives a sob of relief. MRS. HAWKING emerges from the closet.)

MRS. HAWKING
That was quite splendid of you, Mary.

MARY
Mrs. Hawking, this is-- this is highly irregular!

(MRS. HAWKING goes to peer out the window.)

MRS. HAWKING
Good, they're clearing out now.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Thank God! Oh, how awful that was!

MRS. HAWKING
Entirely my fault, Mrs. Fairmont. I was spotted due to an error in my calculations. I very much apologize for drawing them on to you.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Have they discovered us, then?

MRS. HAWKING
They never saw my face… but if they know your name, it may not bode well that they came knocking on your door. But for the moment I believe the enterprise is still secure.

MARY
Mrs. Hawking! When you didn't return last night— Mrs. Hawking— I beg your pardon, but I must ask that you tell me what all this is about. Right away.

MRS. HAWKING
My word, Mary.

MARY
Mrs. Hawking! I must insist.

(MRS. HAWKING considers. Finally she nods.)

MRS. HAWKING
Very well. You've done a great deal this evening without being asked... you've the right to ask something of me.

(She looks to MRS. FAIRMONT.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
Never mind that! Did you find the culprits? Who are they?

MRS. HAWKING
I tracked them all up and down the row. They were shockingly circumspect for an alley gang. It led me to suspect they answered to a higher authority. And when at last the crows returned to roost, they confirmed my suspicion. There was such a man.

MRS. FAIRMONT
And who was that?

MRS. HAWKING
Brockton.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Heaven help me.

MARY
Brockton— Lord Cedric Brockton? The— the undersecretary's clerk?

MRS. FAIRMONT
But he’s a well-born, prominent man! My God, he’s hosting the queen’s ball in celebration of the new Afghan victory! What is the meaning of this?

MRS. HAWKING
I believe you should soon expect a pageboy with a rather serious letter for you, madam.

MRS. FAIRMONT
What? Why?

MRS. HAWKING
Because he would not have taken an interest in anything of yours unless he could make use of it to blackmail you.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Oh, no. No! Oh, God, no…

(MRS. FAIRMONT buries her face in her hands.)

MARY
Blackmail!?

MRS. HAWKING
We must discuss, Mrs. Fairmont, just what it is that you’ve done.

MRS. FAIRMONT
You promised me you would not pry!

MRS. HAWKING
Circumstances have changed. I had occasion to investigate a certain place in my tracing of those men. You had done your best to purge it of all your connection to it, but there was no mistaking the cherub trim along the baseboard, nor the profession of the nursemaid you employed. Even spiriting away the cradle could not hide it for a nursery.

MRS. FAIRMONT
It is a private matter!

(MRS. FAIRMONT protests, growing more and more hysterical. MRS. HAWKING speaks sternly over her, increasingly irate.)

MRS. HAWKING
I know this man, Celeste, I know how he operates. If I am to help you against him, I must understand what it is at stake. Brockton’s men that broke in, it was clear that they must have been looking for something. Something you’ve been hiding.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Good heavens.

MRS. HAWKING
Tell me who it was, Mrs. Fairmont, that they were looking for.

(MRS. FAIRMONT wrestles with it, then relents.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
Not looking for. They found him. They found my son.

MARY
Your son?

MRS. FAIRMONT
My boy, my Gabriel. They’ve taken him. They’ve stolen away my boy.

MARY
Why in God’s name would they take your child?

MRS. HAWKING
For the same reason, I would imagine, that you should keep him in rented rooms and may visit him only on occasion. I take it he is not the son of Mr. Fairmont as well?

MRS. FAIRMONT
I was young. I made a mistake.

MRS. HAWKING
Before or after your marriage?

MRS. FAIRMONT
Before. I was but a girl. We lived in the country, there was a young man, only a groom that worked in the stables, but he had red hair, and he was very charming. But I was to marry Jacob. My father was beside himself. He sent my young man away, but… the damage was done. And when Gabriel was born, he sent my child away as well.

MARY
Oh, madam. How terrible.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Jacob and I were wed, and we came here to London. But… I could not leave my boy. It took me years but I found him again. My father had given him to a workhouse, to be raised as an unwanted orphan. My poor boy… so I stole him away from that wretched place to those secret rooms in Cheapside, and engaged a nurse to care for him by days. You must see… we are very respectable people. My husband’s family, the Fairmonts, and of course my own. I would never do anything to compromise our good names, you must understand that.

MRS. HAWKING
And yet, things do not always go as we plan them to. You have been running quite a risk these last few years to keep the boy.

MRS. FAIRMONT
He is my son! I could not bear leaving him in that dreadful place!

MRS. HAWKING
And now he has fallen into the clutches of Cedric Brockton.

MARY
Were the police of no assistance?

MRS. FAIRMONT
I could not go to the police! Jacob does not know, you see. No one does. It would… it would destroy him to know I had dishonored us this way. Not to mention the ruin of his career if anyone knew… But I had heard… something that women whispered of, society ladies, their washerwomen, women of all standings… that when a lady finds herself in a predicament that she cannot resolve alone… there is someone… someone outside the usual workings of society, who can take extraordinary action to help. I took steps to learn who this person was, to seek this service for myself.

MRS. HAWKING
And that is where I came in.

MARY
You?

MRS. HAWKING
There is so much that presses on a woman in this world of ours. It offers them so little recourse when those presses become too great. Someone must step outside all of that to do what’s necessary. That someone is me.

MARY
My God.

MRS. HAWKING
Mrs. Fairmont engaged me to discover who had broken into her rooms. And now that I am certain that your assailants acted on the orders of Lord Cedric Brockton, I must tell you immediately that your situation is quite serious.

MRS. FAIRMONT
You’ve had dealings with this man before?

MRS. HAWKING
Not directly, but I am familiar with his operations. He appears publically to be a man of minor nobility holding a post as a minor public official. But he is one of the most dangerous blackmailers in Europe. His network of spies and operatives gather for him the secrets of the most powerful personages in the country, those secrets that would destroy them were they ever made known, and exacting a heavy price to keep them concealed. He is slowly building an empire of these skeletons, concealed from connection to him, of victims powerless to strike back lest their secrets be revealed. He would not have set his sights on you unless he meant to use yours against you.

(MRS. FAIRMONT covers her face with her hands.)

MRS. FAIRMONT
Surely— surely there’s something you can do. They say you have saved dozens of women. For my blameless husband’s sake, and for my poor child whose only crime is the folly of his mother.

MRS. HAWKING
I shall be frank, madam. This will not be a simple operation. But I will do everything that is in my power to see you through.

(MRS. FAIRMONT clings to her in desperate gratitude. MRS. HAWKING winces and tenses her left side.)

MARY
Mrs. Hawking, your arm.

MRS HAWKING
I'd quite forgotten.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Oh, my goodness, you’re still hurt! We should— we should send for someone.

MRS. HAWKING
No doctors, Celeste.

MRS. FAIRMONT
But Victoria—

MRS. HAWKING
Certainly not!

MARY
Please— allow me.

(She moves close to MRS. HAWKING, who instinctively withdraws.)

MARY
I have some knowledge of this, madam.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her a moment, and then undresses to her shift. MARY pushes it down off her shoulders and she pulls out her bare arm to reveal a bleeding bruise.)

MARY
Oh, my. This requires some attention. Madam, if you'll bring me the dipper.

(MRS. FAIRMONT brings over the basin of water. MARY draws a white cloth from her apron pocket.)

MARY
Mrs. Fairmont, have you any clean linen about? This will want wrapping.

MRS. FAIRMONT
Oh, yes, of course.

MARY
And some alcohol to bathe it.

MRS. FAIRMONT
I'll go and fetch it.

(MRS. FAIRMONT exits. MARY wets her cloth and begins dabbing at MRS. HAWKING's wound.)

MARY
This is serious.

MRS. HAWKING
I have seen worse.

(MARY examines up her arm.)

MARY
You have... so many scars.

MRS. HAWKING
As I said.

MARY
Does this happen... often? In this work that you do?

MRS. HAWKING
On occasion. You may count how often.

(MARY works in silence a moment.)

MARY
And... what do you do?

MRS. HAWKING
I beg your pardon?

MARY
When this happens. If you will not see a doctor.

MRS. HAWKING
I manage well enough on my own.

MARY
I see. If I may ask… what if it were more serious than this? Something that you could not manage on your own?

MRS. HAWKING
Seeking medical attention is out of the question, Miss Stone. Any outside attention risks exposure of my… enterprise.

MARY
I understand. But… you’ve no other assistance? Is there no one trustworthy?

MRS. HAWKING
I cannot chance it. Discovery by the wrong person could mean the end of everything.

MARY
I think you make a great mistake in that.

MRS. HAWKING
I did not ask your opinion, Miss Stone.

MARY
Everyone has need of help sometime.

MRS. HAWKING
You are out of turn, Miss Stone.

MARY
Forgive me, madam… but if there is never anyone to help when you need it, it could mean the end of everything.

MRS. HAWKING
It is an easy thing to say when you need not live in fear of your well-meaning fool of a husband putting a stop to you for what he thinks is your own good.

MARY
He never knew?

MRS. HAWKING
I could not permit it.

MARY
In twenty years of marriage?

MRS. HAWKING
One can hide anything from anyone if one so chooses.

MARY
You couldn't hide it from me.

(MRS. HAWKING’s eyes widen in surprise, and she turns her head to regard MARY very seriously. MRS. FAIRMONT returns with the linen and alcohol. She hands it over to MARY.)

MARY
Thank you.

(She soaks the linen in the alcohol.)

MARY
There will be pain, madam.

MRS. HAWKING
I have no fear of that.

(Her face is stern as MARY wraps her wounds in it.)

Scene 4

(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. They are both startled by the ringing of the doorbell. MARY nervously rushes to answer it. It is NATHANIEL.)

MARY
Oh! Nathaniel!

NATHANIEL
Good day, Mary. I thought I’d drop by to see how you and Auntie were getting on.

(She stares at him, frozen. He smiles, a little confused.)

NATHANIEL
Might I come in?

MARY
Oh! Oh, of course, sir.

(She steps back to let him in the house.)

NATHANIEL
She’s not been too hard on you, has she? I know how difficult she can be.

MRS. HAWKING
(without looking up) She’s been no more difficult than usual.

NATHANIEL
Oh, there you are! You must forgive me, dear aunt, I only hoped to see if things were getting along well for you. I do worry about you so.

(He leans down and embraces her, which she returns awkwardly. She hisses in pain as he squeezes her wounded shoulder.)

NATHANIEL
Why, madam— are you quite all right? Is something wrong with your shoulder?

MRS. HAWKING
I wrenched it unsticking a drawer in the bureau.

NATHANIEL
You poor dear. Is there anything I can do?

MRS. HAWKING
It’s a small thing, Nathaniel, I am sure I can manage.

(She forces a smile.)

MRS. HAWKING
And if I can’t, this is why you brought me Mary, is it not?

NATHANIEL
It is, at that. I am glad to hear you’ve come around to the idea.

MRS. HAWKING
Oh, my yes. Now, I am quite engaged here, and I have my girl if I require anything. I am sure you’ve business you’re neglecting to idle around here.

NATHANIEL
Very well, auntie, I’ll be on my way. I wish you a swift recovery in your shoulder.

(He bows. He turns to leave, but pauses beside MARY to whisper in her ear.)

NATHANIEL
Do let me know if she’s difficult, won’t you?

MARY
Yes, sir.

NATHANIEL
Good girl.

(He touches her shoulder, then lets himself out.)

NATHANIEL
A lovely day to you, ladies.

(He exits. The women remain tensely still a moment. Finally MRS. HAWKING sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING
No more of this nonsense, now. 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
Madam, do they pay your for your assistance?

MRS. HAWKING
I do not do this for money.

MARY
I thought so. Because 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
Money makes little difference; all we women are caught.

MARY
And I’d like to help you save them.

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.

(MARY throws herself at MRS. HAWKING in a hug. MRS. HAWKING is thrown by this sudden physicality and stiffens awkwardly.)

MRS. HAWKING
Very well. I grant you have not yet.

(MARY notices her discomfort, and smiles apologetically and releases her. MRS. HAWKING recomposes herself.)

MRS. HAWKING
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. 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.

(She stabs the third knife into the mantel.)

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?

(As MRS. HAWKING speaks, she takes out her black stealth costume. She shakes it out, examines it, and finds a tear in the fabric.)

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 sits down with needle and thread and begins to sew up the tear in the costume.)

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. MRS. HAWKING sews contemplatively. 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 sliver of a secret that the lion is hiding in his den.

(MRS. HAWKING regards her critically 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.

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

MRS. HAWKING
I shall. Now, we must prepare, and we haven’t much time. I have been out of the roar of things for some time now, but I daresay the Hawking name still holds sufficient sway to secure an invitation. And of course we shall have to see about acquiring you a suitable gown.

MARY
A gown? For me? 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 5

(The ballroom at the home of LORD CEDRIC BROCKTON. After a moment, enter MRS. HAWKING and MARY from opposite sides of the stage. They wear fancy gowns and both are quite transformed. When they see each other they hurry over to one another.)

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.

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

MRS. HAWKING
Are you quite all right?

MARY
That gentleman over there was staring at me. 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, 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
Brockton is a blackmailer, Mary. He is always interested in persons with secrets. While he sounds you out for his wicked purpose, I shall take advantage of his distraction.

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. You must keep him engaged for as long as you possibly can while I infiltrate the study. I can elude the servants with ease but the master will be more wary than any.

MARY
But madam— very well. I shall do my best.

MRS. HAWKING
Good girl. 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 and makes his way over to her, coming up 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 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 and exits. 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 hansom 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.)

End of Act I

About Me

My name is Phoebe. I'm Boston area theater professional and English professor focused in writing, acting, directing, and modeling. I'm known for having lots of interests, lots of opinions about those interests, and a very high estimation of the value thereof. This blog is for talking about whatever's on my mind, from my daily life to my activities to musing on any number of abstract topics. Thanks for taking the time to read.

My productions:

Upcoming Productions:



MRS. HAWKING part 2 and 3


at the Watch City Steampunk Festival 2016

presented by The Chameleon's Dish

Vivat Regina
by Phoebe Roberts

at 2PM

and

Base Instruments
by Phoebe Roberts

at 6PM

Saturday, May 13th 2017
at 274 Moody Street, Waltham, MA

Other Achievements:

"The Tailor at Loring's End" screenplay
Quarter Finalist in the Final Draft Big Break Screenwriting Competition 2013

"Adonis" screenplay
Top Ten Percent in the Bluecat Screenwriting Contest 2015

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