“Fair Mistress Dorothy” by A. A. Milne

[~Note.~– There are only six plots allowed to us who are not professionals. Here they are. When you have read them, then you will know all about amateur theatricals. ]

The scene is an apartment in the mansion of Sir Thomas Farthingale. There is no need to describe the furniture in it, as rehearsals will gradually show what is wanted. A picture or two of previous Sir Thomas’s might be seen on the walls, if you have an artistic friend who could arrange this; but it is a mistake to hang up your own ancestors, as some of your guests may recognise them, and thus pierce beneath the vraisemblance of the scene.

The period is that of Cromwell–sixteen something.

The costumes are, as far as possible, of the same period.

Mistress Dorothy Farthingale is seated in the middle of the stage, reading a letter and occasionally sighing.

[Enter My Lord Carey.]

~Carey.~ Mistress Dorothy alone! Truly Fortune smiles upon me.

~Dorothy~ (hiding the letter quickly). An she smiles, my lord, I needs must frown.

~Carey~ (used to this sort of thing and no longer put off by it). Nay, give me but one smile, sweet mistress. (She sighs heavily.) You sigh! Is’t for me?

~Dorothy~ (feeling that the sooner he and the audience understand the situation the better). I sigh for another, my lord, who is absent.

~Carey~ (annoyed). Zounds, and zounds again! A pest upon the fellow! (He strides up and down the room, keeping out of the way of his sword as much as possible.) Would that I might pink the pesky knave!

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~Dorothy~ (turning upon him a look of hate). Would that you might have the chance, my lord, so it were in fair fighting. Methinks Roger’s sword-arm will not have lost its cunning in the wars.

~Carey.~ A traitor to fight against his King.

~Dorothy.~ He fights for what he thinks is right. (She takes out his letter and kisses it.)

~Carey~ (observing the action). You have a letter from him!

~Dorothy~ (hastily concealing it and turning pale). How know you that?

~Carey.~ Give it to me! (She shrieks and rises.) By heavens, madam, I will have it! (He struggles with her and seizes it.)

[Enter Sir Thomas.]

~Sir Thomas.~ Odds life, my lord, what means this?

~Carey~ (straightening himself). It means, Sir Thomas, that you harbour a rebel within your walls. Master Roger Dale, traitor, corresponds secretly with your daughter.

(Who, I forgot to say, has swooned.)

~Sir Thomas~ (sternly). Give me the letter. Ay, ’tis Roger’s hand, I know it well. (He reads the letter, which is full of thoughtful metaphors about love, aloud to the audience. Suddenly his eyebrows go up and down to express surprise. He seizes Lord Carey by the arm.) Ha! Listen! “To-morrow when the sun is upon the western window of the gallery, I will be with thee.” The villain!

~Carey~ (who does not know the house very well). When is that?

~Sir Thomas.~ Why, ’tis now, for I have but recently passed through the gallery and did mark the sun.

~Carey~ (fiercely). In the name of the King, Sir Thomas, I call upon you to arrest this traitor.

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~Sir Thomas~ (sighing). I loved the boy well, yet—-

(He shrugs his shoulders expressively and goes out with Lord Carey to collect sufficient force for the arrest.)

Enter Roger by secret door R.

~Roger.~ My love!

~Dorothy~ (opening her eyes). Roger!

~Roger.~ At last!

(For the moment they talk in short sentences like this. Then Dorothy puts her hand to her brow as if she is remembering something horrible.)

~Dorothy.~ Roger! Now I remember! It is not safe for you to stay!

~Roger~ (very brave). Am I a puling child to be afraid?

~Dorothy.~ My Lord Carey is here. He has read your letter.

~Roger.~ The black-livered dog! Would I had him at my sword’s point to teach him manners.

(He puts his hand to his heart and staggers into a chair.)

~Dorothy.~ Oh, you are wounded!

~Roger.~ Faugh, ’tis but a scratch. Am I a puling—-

(He faints. She binds up his ankle.)

Enter Lord Carey with two soldiers.

~Carey.~ Arrest this traitor! (Roger is led away by the soldiers.)

~Dorothy~ (stretching out her hands to him). Roger! (She sinks into a chair.)

~Carey~ (choosing quite the wrong moment for a proposal). Dorothy, I love you! Think no more of this traitor, for he will surely hang. ‘Tis your father’s wish that you and I should wed.

~Dorothy~ (refusing him). Go, lest I call in the grooms to whip you.

~Carey.~ By heaven—- (Thinking better of it.) I go to fetch your father.

(Exit.)

Enter Roger by secret door L.

~Dorothy.~ Roger! You have escaped.

~Roger.~ Knowest not the secret passage from the wine cellar, where we so often played as children? ‘Twas in that same cellar the thick-skulled knaves immured me.

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~Dorothy.~ Roger, you must fly! Wilt wear a cloak of mine to elude our enemies?

~Roger~ (missing the point rather). Nay, if I die, let me die like a man, not like a puling girl. Yet, sweetheart—-

Enter Lord Carey by ordinary door.

~Carey~ (forgetting himself in his confusion). Odds my zounds, dod sink me! What murrain is this?

~Roger~ (seizing Sir Thomas’s sword, which had been accidentally left behind on the table, as I ought to have said before, and advancing threateningly). It means, my lord, that a villain’s time has come. Wilt say a prayer?

(They fight, and Carey is disarmed before they can hurt each other.)

~Carey~ (dying game). Strike, Master Dale!

~Roger.~ Nay, I cannot kill in cold blood.

(He throws down his sword. Lord Carey exhibits considerable emotion at this, and decides to turn over an entirely new leaf.)

[Enter two soldiers.]

~Carey.~ Arrest that man! (Roger is seized again.) Mistress Dorothy, it is for you to say what shall be done with the prisoner.

~Dorothy~ (standing up if she was sitting down, and sitting down if she was standing up). Ah, give him to me, my lord!

~Carey~ (joining the hands of Roger and Dorothy). I trust to you, sweet mistress, to see that the prisoner does not escape again.

(Dorothy and Roger embrace each other, if they can do it without causing a scandal in the neighbourhood, and the curtain goes down.)

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