The Moonstone (Play) Page 01
A Dramatic Story, in Three Acts.
Altered from the Novel for Performance on the Stage.
Charles Dickens & Evans, Crystal Palace Press. 1877
PERSONS OF THE DRAMA
A Policeman in Plain Clothes.
PERIOD: THE PRESENT TIME.
The action of the drama extends over twenty-four hours, and passes entirely in the inner hall of MISS VERINDER'S country-house. At the back of the hall is a long gallery, approached by a flight of stairs, and supposed to lead to the bedchambers of the house. The stairs must be so built that persons can pass backwards and forwards behind them, in the part of the hall which is situated under the gallery. Two of the bedchamber doors, leading respectively into the rooms occupied by FRANKLIN BLAKE and GODFREY ABLEWHITE, are visible to the audience. The other rooms are supposed to be continued off the stage on the left. The entrances are three in number. One, under the gallery, at the back, supposed to lead to the staircase in the outer hall and to the house door. One on the left, at the front of the stage, supposed to lead to RACHEL'S boudoir and bedroom. And one opposite, formed by a large window, which opens to the floor, and which is supposed to lead into a rose-garden. The fireplace is on the left, just above the door leading into RACHEL'S room. The stage directions refer throughout to the right and left of the actors as they front the audience.
THE FIRST ACT At the rise of the curtain, the lamps hanging from the ceiling are lit in the hall. The time is between eight and nine o'clock in the evening. BETTEREDGE is discovered arranging cold refreshments on a table at the back. He leaves the table and takes a telegram out of his pocket.
Betteredge. There is one great misfortune in the lives of young ladies in general--they have nothing to do. As a natural consequence, their minds shift about like a weathercock; and every change in the wind blows a new botheration in the way of their unfortunate servants. (He opens a telegram.) Here is a proof of it! A week ago, my young mistress telegraphed to me as follows: (He reads the telegram.) "Miss Rachel Verinder, London, to Gabriel Betteredge, House Steward, Crowmarsh Hall, Kent. I have made up my mind to pass the rest of the year in town. Cover up the furniture, and set the painters at work." (He speaks.) Very good. I covered up the furniture, and I set the painters to work. (He folds up the telegram, and produces another.) An hour ago comes another telegram. "Miss Rachel Verinder," as before, "to Gabriel Betteredge," as before. "Uncover the furniture, and turn the painters out. I have made up my mind to pass the rest of the year in the country. Expect me by the seven-forty train from London. I shall bring Miss Clack, and my cousin, Mr. Godfrey Ablewhite. Send to Mr. Candy, and ask him to sup with us." (He folds up the second telegram.) Turn out the painters? All very well! Can I turn out the stink the painters have left behind them? There (he points to an open space under the cabinet) are their pots and brushes not cleared away yet. "Invite Mr. Candy?" Well, there's some sense in inviting him. He's the doctor at our town here--and he'll be nice and handy when the smell of the paint has given the whole party the colic. I've sent for Mr. Candy! (PENELOPE hurries in excitedly by the hall door. She is smartly dressed, with gay cap ribbons.) Here's a whirlwind in petticoats! What's wrong now, Penelope?
Penelope (breathlessly). Oh, father, such news! A fly has just driven up to the door--and who do you think has come in it? Mr. Franklin Blake!
Betteredge. Mr. Franklin Blake? I remember Master Franklin, the nicest boy that ever spun a top or broke a window. Nonsense, Penelope! It's too good to be true! (FRANKLIN'S voice is heard outside.)
Betteredge. That's his voice, sure enough. This way, Mr. Franklin, this way! (FRANKLIN BLAKE enters by the hall door.)
Franklin. Dear old Betteredge, give me your hand! You don't look a day older since I borrowed seven and sixpence of you the last time I was home for the holidays--
Betteredge. Which seven and sixpence you never have paid me back, Master Franklin, and never will. Welcome home, sir, from foreign parts!
Franklin (noticing PENELOPE). Who's this? Not Penelope?
Penelope (simpering). I thought you didn't remember me, sir.
Franklin. Remember you! You promised to be a pretty girl when I remember you, and you have kept your promise. Virtue claims its own reward. (He kisses her.) Betteredge, I am devoured by anxiety. I left the Dover train at Tunbridge on the chance that my cousin Rachel might be here. Have I made a mistake? Is she in London?
Betteredge. You have fallen on your legs, sir. Miss Rachel is coming here to-night.
Franklin. One more question, and my mind will be at ease again. Rachel isn't married yet, is she?
Penelope (answering before her father can speak). Oh no, sir.
Franklin. Do you think she is waiting for my return? I am much obliged to you, Penelope. You encourage me. (He kisses her again. BETTEREDGE shakes his head.) Don't look sour, Betteredge. It's only a way I have of expressing my gratitude.
Betteredge. There's a limit to everything, sir. My girl has got as much of your gratitude as is good for her. Penelope, go and get Mr. Franklin Blake's room ready for him. (PENELOPE curtsies to FRANKLIN, ascends the stairs to the gallery, and enters one of the bedrooms.) Your old room, sir--up in the gallery. What have they done with your luggage?
Franklin. One of the servants took my portmanteau. By-the-bye, has a foreign letter been received here, addressed to Rachel?
Betteredge. Yes, sir: only two days since.
Franklin. Did you forward it to London?
Betteredge. Miss Rachel has been veering about in her own mind, sir, betwixt staying in London and staying in the country. I was told to forward no letters until further orders. (He opens a table drawer, takes out some letters waiting for RACHEL, and chooses one.) Is this the letter you mean, sir?
Franklin (looking at the post-mark). That's it!--an official letter from the consul at Rome, informing Rachel of a legacy coming to her from foreign parts. (He returns the letter to BETTEREDGE.) A legacy of ten thousand pounds, Betteredge--and I've got it here in my pocket. (He touches his breast-pocket.)
Betteredge. Mercy preserve us! In bank-notes, sir?
Franklin (producing a jeweller's box). No; in this. The ten thousand pounds, Betteredge, is the estimated value of a prodigious diamond. (BETTEREDGE holds up his hands in amazement.) And the prodigious diamond is a legacy left to Rachel by her uncle the Colonel.
Betteredge (in alarm). Not the Moonstone?
Franklin. Yes, the Moonstone. (He hands the box to BETTEREDGE, who receives it with marked aversion, and refuses to open it.) Don't be afraid. It isn't an infernal machine--it won't blow your brains out.