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A short story by A. A. Milne

"Fair Mistress Dorothy"

Title:     "Fair Mistress Dorothy"
Author: A. A. Milne [More Titles by 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!

~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.

~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.


_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.

~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._)

[The end]
A. A. Milne's short story: "Fair Mistress Dorothy"