Brackenridge by Colleen Henry
This Play is the copyright of the Author and must NOT be Performed without the Author's PRIOR consent
Time: May 1921.
Location: Kitchen of Lawrence Hall
Jane, in servant’s garb, is peeling potatoes when Mary enters carrying a bag of vegetables. Jane continues to peel the vegetables throughout the scene.
JANE: You’re late. Cook’s been hanging out for the extra vegetables.
MARY: Where is she?
JANE: Down in the cellar. Quick, give them to me.
MARY: But Jane, you’ll never guess! I might be getting married.
Mary takes her food-splattered apron which is hanging on a peg on the wall and puts it on, together with a white cap.
JANE: Married? You only went out for some vegetables.
MARY: Yes, but right after that, I rescued the Earl of Brackenridge from being run over by a motor car.
JANE: You’ve been to the village? No wonder you took so long.
MARY: Did you hear me? Risking my own life, I ran out onto the road, grabbed the Earl and pulled him to safety. He’s very handsome.
JANE: I seem to recall he’s quite old.
MARY: He’s probably in his forties.
JANE: As I said – old. So, because you rescued him, he proposed marriage?
MARY: Not exactly! But he was so grateful, he has invited me to afternoon tea – at Brackenridge Manor.
Jane indicates to Mary to start peeling. Mary slowly picks up a peeler and a potato but doesn’t do much.
MARY: Can you believe it! Afternoon tea at the Manor!
JANE: And the marriage proposal?
MARY: Oh, that hasn’t happened - yet!
JANE: Come on, Mary. I can’t do it all on my own.
MARY: It’s been almost a year since Lady . . . . Oh, but Jane, what if he’s met someone else!
JANE: Did you tell His Lordship that you work here at Lawrence Hall?
MARY: Of course not!
JANE: Surely he realised that you were a maid.
MARY: I don’t think he noticed my station. Now, you have to help me. I need some of Lady Elizabeth’s cast-offs.
JANE: What for?
MARY: I have to wear something proper to afternoon tea. Something to suit Brackenridge Manor. You’re always taking Lady Elizabeth’s cast-offs to the church.
JANE: Mm mm . . . oh no! I can’t. I won’t. You’ll get me in such trouble.
MARY: Sis, please!
JANE: Well, I suppose I do have a dress that Her Ladyship has tired of.
MARY: What’s it like?
JANE: Mary! Beggars can’t be choosers.
MARY: I need it before Sunday. Could I try it on tonight? After supper?
JANE: I suppose. You know this is all just ‘castles in the air’.
MARY: Brackenridge Manor is almost a castle. And Jane, this is our chance to escape Lawrence Hall for good.
MARY: When we’re living at Brackenridge Manor, old Lord Bertram won’t be able to chase you around the halls any more.
JANE: When we’re living . . . Mary! It’s just afternoon tea!
MARY: I know, but it will be more . . . And I’ll be able to escape the insufferable Lady Charlotte. So, will you help me with the clothes?
JANE: I can’t promise.
MARY: And then, when I become Lady Mary, you can be my maid!
JANE: Mary Wilson! Get out of here! Off you go to the dining room and check it’s set for sixteen – m’lady!
Jane mock curtsies low and Mary exits giggling. The door from upstairs opens and Lady Charlotte enters. Jane bobs a quick curtsy
JANE: Lady Charlotte!
CHARLOTTE: Ah, Jane. I thought I heard giggling as I was coming down the stairs. Most unseemly.
JANE: I am sorry, m’Lady. It won’t happen again.
CHARLOTTE: It has been far too long since I visited these quarters, and ergo, discipline seems to have gone out the window.
JANE: We were just / /
CHARLOTTE: / / The Duke of Stanford will be here this evening. Everything must be absolutely perfect. Where is Cook?
JANE: In the cellar, m’Lady.
CHARLOTTE: And Mary?
JANE: In the dining . . . .
CHARLOTTE: There you are, Missy.
MARY: Yes, m’lady.
CHARLOTTE: That apron you were wearing the other night –
Mary looks down at it – the same one.
CHARLOTTE: – please refrain from wearing it again until it has been thoroughly soaked in bleach.
MARY: Yes, m’lady.
CHARLOTTE: Are the afternoon tea trays ready to be brought to the drawing room?
MARY: Yes, m’lady.
CHARLOTTE: Good. His Lordship and I will take tea earlier today - in exactly five minutes. Look sharp now. And, no mistakes this evening, do you hear?
JANE/MARY: Yes . . . no, m’Lady.
Lady Charlotte sweeps out and Jane pulls a face behind her back.
MARY: Five minutes! I’ll have to work like blazes.
JANE: That’ll be a change.
Time: October 1921.
Location: Brackenridge Manor Drawing Room. Mary has to do a quick change of outfit. Lord Michael has just rung the bell pull. Stella, the maid, enters.
MICHAEL: Ah, there you are, Stella. I’m expecting my Sunday afternoon guest . . . Oh - is that the front door bell now?
STELLA: Yes, my Lord. I’ll go.
Stella bob and exits, returning with Mary.
MICHAEL: (Standing) There you are, my Dear. I am so glad you could come today as usual, despite the threatening weather.
MARY: So am I, my Lord.
Stella is looking quizzically at Mary.
MICHAEL: Stella, afternoon tea?
STELLA: Yes, m’Lord.
Stella exits. Michael indicates for Mary to sit and he resumes his seat. Michael opens his cigarette case. He offers one to Mary who smiles and puts her hand up to refuse, their hands touching briefly.
MICHAEL: Now, Miss Wilson, I do wish you would let me send Hemmings over to Skipton to collect you.
Michael lights up and smokes it throughout.
MARY: But my Lord, should my aunt take a sudden turn, I would not be able to let you know at such short notice.
MICHAEL: Your aunt has no telephone?
MARY: Not yet, no, my Lord.
MICHAEL: None of this ‘my Lord’ now. I think it’s high time you started calling me Michael.
MARY: Then . . . Michael, if it would please you to call me Mary.
Stella enters with the afternoon tea things. She places them on the table in front of Michael and Mary and stares at Mary again for a second or two.
STELLA: Would you like me to pour, Sir?
MICHAEL: Yes please.
Stella pours the tea.
MICHAEL: That will be all, thank you Stella.
Stella bobs, and goes to exit looking back again at Mary before she exits. Mary ignores her.
MICHAEL: How is your aunt?
MARY: As well as can be expected. Thank you for asking.
Lady Isabella enters. Michael stands.
MICHAEL: There you are, my dear. Come and join us. Mary, I have invited my daughter, Isabella, to join us for tea this afternoon.
Stella has followed Isabella and hovers. Mary stands.
MARY: How lovely!
MICHAEL: Isabella, may I present Miss Wilson. Miss Wilson, my daughter Isabella.
MARY: Lady Isabella.
Mary gives a small curtsy.
ISABELLA: Miss Wilson.
MICHAEL: Mary is the very one who rescued me that day in the village.
Isabella indicates for them all to sit.
ISABELLA: My father has not stopped talking about the incident.
MARY: I think the story has been exaggerated, m’Lady.
Michael does a wracking cough. Isabella and Mary look worriedly at him. When the coughing subsides, Isabella pours a cup for herself.
ISABELLA: So, Miss Wilson, do you live in the village?
MARY: No. I look after my elderly aunt over at Skipton.
ISABELLA: Skipton? That’s a long way from Brackenridge. Do you come over here often?
MARY: I love the haberdashery shop. I try to pop over every two or three weeks. My Aunt Florence is quite poorly though, so I don’t like to leave her for too long.
MICHAEL: It is indeed fortunate that you are able to slip away on Sunday afternoons.
MARY: My aunt’s maid has agreed to stay close by until my return.
ISABELLA: Do you have other family, Miss Wilson? Brothers? Sisters?
MARY: Oh no. I’m the only one.
ISABELLA: And what of your parents?
MICHAEL: Bella, please!
MARY: It’s all right, Michael. I scarcely remember my mother who died giving birth. The baby died too. My father was killed at the start of the Great War.
ISABELLA: Then we have both lost people we love.
MICHAEL: Come on, the two of you. Christmas is almost upon us. This room will soon look quite festive.
MARY: It’s such a stately room and that gold leaf ceiling is spectacular.
MICHAEL: Isabella, why don’t you invite some of your friends here for Christmas drinks? And Mary, you must come too.
ISABELLA: I’m not sure, Father . . .
MICHAEL: You have been closeted away here for far too long. What about Elizabeth Lawrence? She hasn’t visited since your mother . . .
ISABELLA: I suppose I haven’t kept in touch . . . You might know the Lawrences, Miss Wilson . . . from Skipton . . . beyond the castle?
MARY: Uh, yes, I know Lawrence Hall.
MICHAEL: More tea, my Dear?
MARY: No thank you, Michael. I really must be going. My aunt . . .
Mary stands and then Michael stands.
MICHAEL: Of course. I do hope that you will be able to come again next Sunday as usual. I’ll call Stella to show you out.
Michael goes over to the bell pull.
MARY: It was so nice to meet you, Lady Isabella.
ISABELLA: And you, Miss Wilson.
MICHAEL: Stella, please show Miss Wilson out.
MARY: Good bye, Michael. Lady Isabella.
MICHAEL/ISABELLA: Good bye.
Mary exits into the hall with Stella, who turns to her.
STELLA: Don’t I know you from somewheres?
MARY: I don’t think so.
STELLA: I’m sure I seen you in Brackenridge village.
MARY: Oh probably. I do go there from time to time.
STELLA: Yeah, but you was wearing a uniform.
MARY: I am sure you are mistaken. I don’t wear a uniform – ever.
STELLA: Well, it was someone who looked exactly like you.
MARY: Will you excuse me? I must be getting on.
Mary exits hurriedly leaving Stella gaping after her.
Time: October 1921.
Location: Brackenridge Manor Drawing Room. Michael is sitting reading the paper and Isabella is pacing.
MICHAEL: You’ll wear out the carpet, Belle. What’s troubling you?
ISABELLA: It’s about yesterday afternoon.
MICHAEL: Isn’t Mary lovely! I am so enjoying her visits. It was a shame that she had to leave so abruptly yesterday.
ISABELLA: I notice she is already addressing you as ‘Michael’. Do you know anything of her background?
MICHAEL: Only what she told us yesterday.
ISABELLA: So that is all you know?
MICHAEL: Sad that she has lost both parents.
ISABELLA: It would be good to know a little more.
MICHAEL: She’s a happy soul and I do enjoy her company.
ISABELLA: Still, if you invite her for afternoon tea every Sunday, eventually she will want more.
ISABELLA: A commitment - marriage.
MICHAEL: That’s a long way from afternoon tea.
ISABELLA: You know I have your best interests at heart, Father.
MICHAEL: Yes I know, but I’m sure there is nothing to be concerned about.
ISABELLA: I would like us to know a little more about her though . . . check into her background a little.
MICHAEL: I don’t want Mary to think we are suspicious of her.
ISABELLA: After Mummy died, I felt sure you would take up with Eleanor.
MICHAEL: Really? I have never thought of Eleanor in that way.
ISABELLA: I like her, and there is certainly no doubt of her birth right.
MICHAEL: She and Emily were such friends, I somehow would feel as though I were betraying Emily’s memory.
ISABELLA: I don’t think anyone else would see it that way.
MICHAEL: Emily and I had always hoped for a son. Oh, I didn’t mean . . . you have always been dear to us Isabella, but . . . a son would carry on the Brackenridge name.
ISABELLA: Yes of course.
MICHAEL: Now, what about those invitations?
ISABELLA: Very well, Father, I’ll see to them.
MICHAEL: Good girl.