Nell – 25 years old
Maude Clare – 30 years old
Thomas – 30 years old
Mother – mid-fifties
A expansive drawing room in an old country house which reeks of former grandeur; dust covers every
surface. The window is frosted over and there is the pale glow of dawn spreading around the room. There is a fireplace opposite the window which is completely clear of firewood, the rich crimson
carpet is stained with port and coated in dust. On a small table between two worn-looking sofas are cards arranged in an odd formation, also coated in a layer of dust, thinner than that on the
table. A peculiar black telephone with a green cord and a wheel stood solitary on the floor in the corner of the room, the surrounding carpet’s dust was absent and telephone is polished. The place
seems abandoned and mournful despite it being Christmas morning. The air is crisp and cold, mirroring the atmosphere of the room.
Nell(Staring out of the window. To herself, whispering)– I can hear his screams, constantly, quiet as
the tiptoeing mouse and yet I still hear them. His anguish, his beautiful, delicate, cruel anguish is crying out for someone to understand. I understand. I understand, perhaps more than he does. I
cannot say, I cannot tell. Oh, how I wish to -
The phone rings
EnterMothervia the telephone
Mother(stiffly)- Ah. Nell. I hope your health is good. Put Thomas on won’t you?
Nell – Yes, ma’am. Merry Christmas to you.
Mother – Certainly it is.
Nell(shouting)– Thomas! Thomas! There is a telephone call for you.
Thomas(excited, almost to himself)– Who? Is it…? It can’t be.
Nell – It’s Mother. You were expecting…her?
Thomas(scowling)– Fine.(To Mother)Hello, Mother.
Mother(faking delight)– My son! Oh a splendid morning, I see the frost melting in the golden sun and
rising to a mist. No snow, of course, though I often prefer a mere smattering of frost, as you know. Your father is bed-ridden with a mild cold. I’d say it’s an affliction of the mind – the
sniffles! Merry Christmas, my Thomas, and what plans have you?
Thomas(Sarcastic, grumpy)– Plans? Well.
Mother – Well? Were you not married a year ago today? Was it not my own husband, your father, and I who stood outside the Chapel in the bitter snow, whilst you rode away in your carriage? We stayed
to clean up your mess, to sweep your whores under the rug –
Thomas – Mother! I love –
Mother – Do not speak to me of love, I care not for it. It is an affliction as common as the sniffles. Now, I hear – from Mrs Brannigan your gardener’s wife no less – Nell is no longer good enough
for you! The monied girl indeed! Do not forget who you are, Thomas. You are no King, nor even a rich merchant. We are a humble family and everything I have done for you… Do not squander it all on
Thomas – Of course, no – I won’t.(Pause. Bitterly)I would be a fool to ever love.
Mother – Do not humour me! You think me easy to con; I won’t be deceived by your nonsense. Nell may be a plain girl with an ugly sentiment; my appraisal of her has never been high. None of that
matters though, my dear son, she has the status, the wealth, to raise your position greatly, just as the sun lifts the lowly frost...
Thomas(quickly, almost frenzied)– Only to dissipate into mist and back again into frost and come the
summer it will rain down upon the shells and trickle down to the shore only to be food for the growing fish; it’s all water after all.
Mother – Fanciful fairytales; dragons, princes, castles, love… I should not have told you those stories. Now, this marriage of yours, you must consummate it – she will be willing and you will do it
Thomas – I will. Will I? Goodbye, Mother.(Puts down phone, exitMother)
Nell(accusingly)– You love me? Or another? While you comprehend your feelings I shall sew, I shall
cook, I shall clean and I shall grovel. No maids, no servants… Do you not know who I am? Or perhaps you do not want to know.
Thomas – You don’t have to grovel.
Nell(angrily)– I’ve been grovelling ever since I met you. First for love, oh yes, I polished my face
with the earnest nature of a serving girl polishing the oft beaten floor. I thought you were tempted by the glow of a fresh maiden, I thought we were to dance upon pure mahogany floors. Wrong. I
Thomas – Hush. Let us walk. It’s Christmas after all. I'll pack the hamper and we will walk to the beck and -
Nell(interrupting)– But not dance?
Thomas – What would it be; the Waltz? The Minuet? Ha.
Nell – You’re not the only victim here! I feel trapped and lonely too, I can’t breathe in this house because the very air is clogged with your loathing.
© Copyright 2016 Eilidh Hart. All rights reserved.