The stage opens on the downstairs interior of a grand Victorian town house, consisting of a lobby, a private study and a dining area. The town house is home to a young man who inherited his father’s fortune, named Damien Ancelot and his recently married wife, Willow. The couple live in Damien’s late father’s house, located in the centre of London and surrounded by the most wealthy and respectable of company. It is mid-afternoon on a stuffy summer’s day. The rabble of busy London merchants and shoppers drifts carelessly in through the study window. The air is clogged with smoke from distant factories and a nasty smell lingers on the doorsteps of London’s houses. There has been no rain for some time and the unnatural span of nice weather has begun to suffocate the inhabitants of this particular town house and its staff.
Inside, a tall and slender built man of about twenty-five years, smartly dressed in a tailored waistcoat with dark brown hair and smouldering eyes, is striding quickly into his study. Behind him a young girl of delicate and pure beauty, carrying a slight weight around her stomach rushes breathlessly to catch up with her employer.
ALICE: Damien, wait!
[Alice bursts into Damien’s study before he could lock the door.]
DAMIEN: [sharply] That’s Mr Ancelot to you.
[Damien slams the door shut and turns to stare at the young housemaid who has disturbed his afternoon in the upstairs library.]
ALICE: [drawing back from his stare] Please listen. I implore you to. You cannot turn your back on us. [raised voice] You simply cannot. It would be improper!
DAMIEN: Improper! [laughing] What do you know about impropriety?
[He advances towards Alice in one huge swoop as though he was a predator catching his prey. Alice avoids making eye contact as she felt his power over her return.]
ALICE: [meekly] All I wanted was to be loved. It is neither an impossible request nor an unreasonable one.
DAMIEN: [smirking] My darling girl, look at me.
[Alice reluctantly tilted her head upwards. Damien cupped Alice’s chin in his hand and continued to speak.]
DAMIEN: [softly] I could never love you. [pausing to smile] Is it impossible? No. Unreasonable? Why, what stories have you been spinning in that sweet little head of yours? We are of completely different species.
[Tears drop silently from Alice’s eyes. Ashamed she tries to turn away from Damien but he has hold of her shoulders refusing to let her hide her face.]
DAMIEN: Hush, sweet child. [He places a finger delicately upon Alice’s lips]
ALICE: [struggling] But you promised! You gave me your word.
DAMIEN: I have promised many who have stood just as you are now but as you must know, I do not keep my word.
[Alice pauses. Her eyes desperately search the face of her undoing, trying to find the man she thought she once knew. She finally manages to pull herself away but continues desperately to try and get Damien to change his mind.]
ALICE: If you do not love me, then so be it but…
DAMIEN: [airily] Love? Darling child, have you learned nothing? I am too great to love. It is not within my nature. I am a cat and you are my mouse. It is all for fun.
ALICE: [uncertainly] But your wife? Do you not love her?
DAMIEN: My wife! [shaking his head] She may be my wife by marriage but not by feeling. Oh no. I do forgive your foolishness as you are naïve to the way in which the world works but my dear [he strokes Alice’s face] it was a marriage of convenience. My father – God rest his soul – left me in a slight financial predicament and Willow’s family were pretty eager to see her married. All it took was some encouragement for her family to part with a few extra pounds.
ALICE: How could you? To use such a bond between two people as a means of gain! How terrible.
DAMIEN: I forgot how so wonderfully blind you are. [smiling] I admit it, terrible it may be but it is how it is. To ignore the way in which the world works would be disastrous for my kind. You cannot possibly believe that houses like this and estates so grand keep themselves afloat. [scoffing] God no! They eat money like it is going out of fashion.
ALICE: Well, I do not care for such behaviour!
DAMIEN: I would like to remind you young miss, that it is not your place to care!
ALICE: [stepping back] Your wife may mean little and I nothing but I carry your child! Does that mean nothing? You can offer them a better future than I. Will you not take the child into your care? I have no family to rely upon and I still want to believe you have at least one decent bone in your body.
DAMIEN: [instantly] I cannot.
[Damien pauses. Thinking for a while, then going and taking a seat behind his domineering oak desk. He picks up a pen and taps it on the desk continuing in a business-like manner.]
DAMIEN: It would not be feasible.
ALICE: [angry] So this is it. [throwing her hands up in the air] There is no more to be said. Just because this would bring shame down upon you, you refuse to help! It is as much your doing as mine but because of our foolishness you would have your child starve and rejected…
[Damien shushes Alice and they freeze. Voices can be heard from outside in the lobby. The lights upon the study go dark as a spotlight shines upon a housemaid that greets Willow, Damien’s new wife, at the door. She has returned home from a day visiting friends and distant relatives wishing her congratulations on her marriage. She is of slight built and medium height with sharp features. She is dressed in the latest fashions and has an air of elegance yet there is something in her manner which seems off putting.]
WILLOW: [abruptly] Where is my husband?
HOUSEMAID: I believe him to be in his study, Mrs Ancelot.
[The housemaid takes her coat and gloves, lingering in the lobby.]
HOUSEMAID: [unsure] Will that be all?
WILLOW: Yes. You are dismissed.
[The housemaid bows and hurries away. As Willow enters into the dark study, the study is thrown into a sudden bright light. Willow is surprised to see her husband in the company of a maid. She tilts her head as if to question.]
DAMIEN: [quickly] She was just leaving.
[Damien gestures with his hand for Alice to leave. Alice quickly rushes past Willow keeping her eyes on the floor. Alice exits the stage. Willow moves over to stand beside Damien, yet there is a noticeable distance between them.]
WILLOW: [disapprovingly] Why were you in the company of a maid?
DAMIEN: [sharply] It is none of your concern.
[Damien stands up, towering over Willow like an imposing monster.]
DAMIEN: You have a letter here from your relatives in America. I took the liberty of opening it. [Damien hands Willow a letter from his desk.] It contains nothing of any importance.
[Willow quickly reads the letter.]
WILLOW: [exclaims] Nothing of importance! It says that my mother is very unwell. We must go and see her at once.
DAMIEN: Nonsense. That will do her no good and just leave a hole in my pocket. Best to stay here!
WILLOW: But, she truly is…
DAMIEN: Willow, enough! [He roughly grabs onto her arms and forcefully moves her aside as he walks past towards the door.] Like I said, it’s best to stay here.
[Damien gestures for Willow to leave the study. Taking notice she walks over to the door and suddenly halts in front of him. Looking straight into his eyes she furiously whispers.]
WILLOW: Without my mother’s money you would be destitute. No more than a penniless, good for nothing fool! I hope one day you reap what you sow.
[Willow lifts a hand as though to strike Damien. He catches her hand in an iron grip.]
DAMIEN: [laughing] Perhaps but things turned out quite differently so I need not worry. Except, I worry for you, my miserable wife. What shall I do with you?
[Damien pulls Willow closer to him. She struggles to be free of his grip. The lights begin to fade away gradually, with a lingering brightness upon Damien and Willow.]
DAMIEN: [softly whispers] What shall I do with you?