Haunted by Emily…a play

Scene 2

(Birds shriek morning. Hat in hand, holding a basket, MABEL stands outside The Homestead, gaudily and fussily dressed in her spring best, attempting to pay a call – MAGGIE, a classically hardworking Irish domestic leans against the door)


You have received me so generously in your home; please allow me the satisfaction of this slight return. Please accept my hand painted panel of Indian pipes, which I hear is your favorite flower.

(MAGGIE, listening, does not open the door – EMILY standing at her writing table, considers a pad of paper)


Tudor never was a beggar.


“Please accept this adder’s tongue.”

(Trying again, producing a trophy from her basket)

I painted this jug myself with lovely trumpet vines.

(Collapsing into her chair)

Summer’s delight is deterred by retrospect. Any gift but spring seems counterfeit, yet I always was attached to mud. We do not thank the Rainbow, though its trophy is a snare.

(Sits down and begins to write)

O Sue! Your absence insanes me so! I want to think of you every hour of every day. You have taught me more than Shakespeare. I have dared to do strange things – bold things – and have asked no advice from any. I heed beautiful tempters and do not think that I am wrong. An experience bitter, but sweet, and the sweet did so beguile me…nobody thinks of the joy, nobody guesses it. Now there is nothing old but things are budding and springing and singing…Take all away from me but leave me Ecstasy! I enclose my heart – sunburnt and half broken. Oh, the myrrh’s and mochas of the mind! A life that’s tied too tight escapes!

(Confidentially to the audience)

The most pathetic thing I do
Is pretend I hear from you
I make believe until my heart
Almost believes it too
But when I break it with the news
You knew it was not true.
I wish I had not broken it and so would you.

(Loudly interrupting, talking determinedly through the door, holding out a book)

If I may quote dear, dear Emily, my beloved Austin’s cherished sister, “A book is a bequest of wings”. Please accept this copy of Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnets From the Portuguese –
(A hand reaches out the door, snatches the book and slams the door.)

(heavy Irish accent)

This is a house of sickness, so it is, you interfering madam!

What Nature forgets, the Circus will remind her. Oh, Egypt! Oh, entangled Antony! Why should we censure Othello when the Lover says, “Thou shalt have no other Gods before me?”

(MAGGIE silently hands her the book)

(scornfully recites)

What soft, cherubic creatures
These Gentlewomen are!
I would as soon assault a plush
Or violate a star!
Such Dimity convictions
A horror so refined
Of freckled human nature –
Of deity – ashamed.
Redemption, brittle lady
Be so ashamed of thee.

(Tears up and throws away a page, begins again)

I’ve dropped my brain, my soul is numb. “Dear beguiling villain –“

(Throws that one away and starts again)

She dealt her pretty words like blades
How glittering they shone.
And every one unbared a nerve
And wantoned with a bone.

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