A Play in One Act
Yvette Minou, Lady Waxwellís adopted ward
Silvana Verbindlich, adventuress
Mr Grey, burglar
Mr Black, burglar
Bertrand, the butler
SCENE:††††††††† LADY WAXWELLís living room. A door Upper Right leads to the hall. Heavily curtained French windows, Left Centre, open onto a garden. There is a fireplace Upper Centre. A dining table with straight-backed chairs drawn around it stands Right Centre. A small table Centre Right (near the hallway door) has a telephone. A sequined purse and a large filmy silk scarf sit by the phone. Down Lower Centre is a small couch on high legs half facing the audience. A large oil painting of a stag rampant hangs on the wall Down Right Stage.
As the curtain rises, YVETTE and SILVANA are discovered sitting on the couch side-on facing each other. It is evening. YVETTE is wearing an ankle length nightgown in light blue silk and a lacy matching negligee of silk organza. Her long hair is done up in a chignon. SILVANA wears a silvery satin dressing gown. Mannish satin pyjama bottoms can be seen below its hem. Her hair is brushed severely back and tied with a black ribbon at the nape of her neck.
SILVANA is holding YVETTEís two hands in her own in a pleading attitude. YVETTE, a look of incredulity on her face, is leaning back slightly, her arms straight as though about to pull her hands from SILVANAís grasp.
YVETTE But I tell you, it wonít work!
SILVANA Why not?
YVETTE Well, for one thing, itís such a detective story clichť that the idea will be the first that comes to the mind of anyone investigating it.
SILVANA Well Ö
YVETTE Moreover, itís dishonest Ö reprehensible! (YVETTE jerks her hands from those of SILVANA and folds them demurely in her lap).
SILVANA (Clasps her hands behind her neck and stretches, highlighting prominent breasts). Come on then, dear. Do tell. Start with your first quibble.
YVETTE The clichťs? Anyone whoís read the better-known detective conte should know. It goes back a long way.
SILVANA (In an irritating drawl). Imagine for a moment that Iím not au fait with the latest in that genre. Give me an example.
YVETTE As I remember, the ploy appears at least once in Conan Doyleís Sherlock Holmes, in ďThe Abbey Grange.Ē It was even dramatized in the TV series. It crops up again in one of Agatha Christieís Poirot novels, Murder on the Links. That has also been made into a film. And itís been used as far back as Charles Kingsleyís Hereward the Wake as a heroineís ruse to make the heroís escape more believable. Itís used that way in a lot of todayís movies too, Dr Quinn: Medicine Woman and a French farce with Elke Sommer, Daniella by Night.
SILVANA Very impressive! But that goes to prove my point. In those last examples you give, the motive of the whole trick was to do good.
YVETTE But thatís just the point, it doesnít! Any policeman or lawyer will tell you itís a criminal act!
SILVANA But for good motives. The end, in this case, justifies the means. Lady Waxwell will be ruined if the company goes ahead in its hostile takeover of the shares that hold this old mansion together. The money can be raised, however, if the old lady chooses to part with her jewels Ö in that wall safe (SILVANA indicates the painting on the wall Down Right).
YVETTE (Stands and begins to pace the floor nervously). I canít agree, I just canít. And Iím deeply offended that you, who I thought was a good friend, should suggest such a thing!
SILVANA In that case I shall have no option but to Ö Whatís that?
(There is a sudden urgent tapping at the French windows. YVETTE runs to the windows and draws the curtains slightly apart, peering out, then draws the curtains open fully).
YVETTE Itís Lady Waxwell.
(YVETTE unfastens the latch to the doors and LADY WAXWELL enters. She is dressed in a heavy overcoat with fur-lined cuffs and collars. YVETTE closes the doors, neglecting to lock them again as she follows LADY WAXWELL into the centre of the room Centre Stage).
LADY WAXWELL Oh, thank you dear. My, itís getting chilly outside. Winter will soon be upon us.
YVETTE What on earth were you doing outside?
LADY WAXWELL Itís getting late I know, and dark, but I felt so restless, I couldnít keep still. So I thought that a brisk walk around the grounds would do me good.
SILVANA And did it?
LADY WAXWELL Oh yes. I feel a lot more refreshed now. Iíll let the morningís troubles take care of themselves. Time enough to face up to them then Ö Well. Iíll see you two young things tomorrow. Iím off to bed. (LADY WAXWELL exits Upper Right).
SILVANA (Calling after LADY WAXWELL). Weíll be going to bed very soon too. Good night!
YVETTE Good night Lady Waxwell.
(There is a long pause. YVETTE walks to the table Centre Right and picks up a book. SILVANA sits on the couch and rummages through her handbag).
YVETTE Well, I think our earlier conversation has run its course, quite useless to discuss the matter any further. I simply will not accede to what you ask. Itís preposterous!
SILVANA Thatís a pity because, as I was about to say when Lady Waxwell interrupted us, I shall have to take matters into my own hand Ö You saw how distraught she is. We really have to help her and, if you wonít help voluntarily, you will help involuntarily!
(SILVANA produces a small pearl handled pistol from her handbag and trains it on YVETTE).
YVETTE (Slowly raising her hands). What do you think youíre doing?
SILVANA What I should have done much earlier. Come over here and sit down. (YVETTE walks reluctantly towards the couch.) Donít be silly! Put your hands down. Sit there. (YVETTE sits on the edge of the couch and looks at SILVANA beseechingly). Oh donít look such eyes at me. Sit on your hands! (YVETTE obeys wide-eyed).
SILVANA (Rising and walking to the telephone where she presses a buzzer. She turns back to face YVETTE). I warn you not to make an outcry. If I have to shoot Bertrand I shall!
YVETTE (Ironically). In the name of what you call altruism I suppose?
SILVANA Thatís enough of that!
(The door Upper Right opens and BERTRAND the butler appears. SILVANA hastily pockets the gun in her dressing gown but keeps her hand there).†
BERTRAND You rang, Maíam?
SILVANA Ah. Yes, Bertrand. We shanít need you further. Mamíselle Minou and I will prepare ourselves for bed shortly, but we have matters to discuss first. On no account are we to be disturbed. You may go to bed in the servantís quarters and worry no more about us.
BERTRAND Very well Maíam. Do Madame or Mamíselle wish for your hot milk and hot chocolate in your rooms?
SILVANA (Quickly). No thank you, not tonight. You now have the rest of the night off.
BERTRAND Thank you maíam. You have my word that you will not be disturbed. (He exits Upper Right).†
SILVANA (Crosses to the door and turns the key, locking it, then turns to YVETTE). Iím glad you did not make a fuss. Now I will put my plan into action despite your thoughts on the matter.
YVETTE What do you intend to do? Youíre surely not going to Ö?
SILVANA (Bends and reaches under the couch, retrieving several coils of cord from between the springs beneath and the cushioned seat). I surely am! I came prepared for this whether you like it or not. Now Ö (She produces her gun again and points it at YVETTE). Turn around and give me your arms Ö behind your back Ö It will be harder for you to get free that way. Cross your wrists neatly. This has to be tight, for obvious reasons.
(YVETTE turns and offers her arms behind her. SILVANA begins to tie YVETTEís wrists together).
SILVANA (Grunting with satisfaction). These bonds will slow down circulation but not cut it off. Let your hands go loose. Youíll be more comfortable.
(Having bound YVETTEís wrists, SILVANA begins to tie her elbows together with another piece of cord).
YVETTE My elbows too?
SILVANA Of course. That way you wonít be able to use your arms at all. I must say, you are very supple my sweet, and luscious. Having your elbows tied into your back like this adds to your graceful figure.í
YVETTE Donít flatter me.
SILVANA I like being in control. Be thankful that Iím not really angry with you.
(SILVANA trusses YVETTE around her torso, above and below her breasts which stand out prettily).
YVETTE Do you have to wrap it around me too?
SILVANA Yes, to hold your arms in place. When youíre lying down it will be harder to scoot across the floor because you wonít be able to move a lot.
YVETTE This is very uncomfortable Ö (SILVANA ties YVETTEís ankles together). All right, you have me tied up as though Iíd agreed to your plan, but how will you persuade me not to blow the whistle when the jewels are taken and Iím found? I certainly shanít claim that a burglar did this. Ouch! Hey go easy will you! (SILVANA is tying YVETTEís legs very tightly over her nightgown above the knees).
SILVANA Shut up and listen, you little fool! When the jewels are gone it will be a fait accompli. How will the old lady feel if you blab and say that I did it? It would break her heart. On the other hand, with the jewels robbed, and with you very securely bound to show how desperate the criminals are, the insurance company will cover the loss and Lady Waxwell can outbid the people who are trying to buy up this place. There is nothing to gain by admitting your complicity in the crime. I will of course deny everything.
YVETTE That- thatís moral blackmail! You know I love the old lady!
SILVANA So do I, in my own way. Thatís why Iíve gone to such lengths as to do this to you. Now Ö (SILVANA walks to the small table Centre Right and picks up the large filmy silk scarf).
YVETTE What are you going to do with that scarf?
SILVANA What a silly question! It would look very fishy if they find you able to call for help. Your own scarf will do nicely.
YVETTE Oh come on! You donít have to gag me as well! Ö Mmmmf!
SILVANA Iím sorry, but this has to be tight.
(SILVANA ties the folded scarf over YVETTEís mouth, securing an overhand knot a little behind her ear).
YVETTE (Beginning to struggle and shake her head from side to side). Mmmmph! Mmph!
SILVANA Calm down. Itís only silk and you should be able to breath okay through it. Hmm, you can still make enough noise to be heard in this room, but no one in the rest of the house will hear you.
YVETTE (Ceasing to struggle). Mmmph?
SILVANA Youíre wondering what happens next? After tying you up, the burglar will pack you away to make your struggles more difficult, and to make sure that youíre not found immediately.
(SILVANA lowers YVETTE to the floor, lays her on her side, and pushes her underneath the couch so that she lies wedged there. YVETTE is in full view of the audience but virtually out of sight to anybody on the stage).
SILVANA Now for the next part of my little plan.
(SILVANA walks Down Right stage, speaking to YVETTE over her shoulder as she goes. YVETTE cranes her neck unsuccessfully to see what SILVANA is doing).
SILVANA I found the combination to the safe in the old ladyís papers earlier today.
(SILVANA grips the frame of the stag painting and pulls. It swings to one side from the wall on hinges, revealing the locked safe. She dials the combination and opens the safe, lifting out a large flat jewel case).
SILVANA Ahh, perfect Ö but best to check the contents.
(SILVANA stands back from the safe with the jewel case in both hands. She turns the latch and begins to open it. Behind her at Left Centre two figures enter through the drawn curtains. They are both masked and wearing cat suits, one black and the other grey).
SILVANA (Inspecting the contents of the case). Everything looks in place Ö Ummmph!
(The black clad burglar comes up behind SILVANA, places a hand over her mouth and pins her arms to her side with his other arm. The grey clad burglar reaches beneath and catches the jewel case as it falls from SILVANAís hands).
MR GREY Got it!
MR BLACK Good work! Help me secure the woman.
(MR GREY places the jewel case on the telephone table and takes a length of cord from his pocket. He binds SILVANAís hands together behind her while MR BLACK continues to hold her, his hand still covering her mouth).
SILVANA Hlggg hlp!
MR BLACK Quickly! Put a gag on her!
(MR GREY takes a roll of medical adhesive tape from his pocket, tears off a strip and seals it over SILVANAís mouth. He then kneels and binds SILVANAís ankles together. MR BLACK lowers SILVANA to the floor where she lies struggling).
SILVANA Mmmm Ö mmmmmm!
MR BLACK Excellent, my friend Ö a minimum of fuss. Youíd better hogtie her as well so that she canít move about and raise the alarm.
(MR GREY binds SILVANA in a tight hogtie, her hands almost pressing against her feet. SILVANA tries to struggle but can only rock awkwardly on her side. Throughout this scene, YVETTE lies silently under the couch, unseen, her eyes wide with terror, trying to turn her head to see what is happening).
MR GREY Sheís well bound, Sir. Nobody will find her until the morning. Plenty of time to get out of here.
MR BLACK Yers. Give me the jewel case.
(MR GREY hands the jewel case to MR BLACK who empties the jewels Ė necklaces and earrings, etc. - into a black draw-string pouch which he pockets. MR GREY stands by the French windows looking through the curtains).
MR GREY The coastís clear, Sir. Letís go.
(The two burglars exit, drawing the curtain behind them and closing the doors).
SILVANA (Lifting her head and struggling weakly). Mmmmm Ö mmmm!
YVETTE (Indistinctly through her gag). Help Ö help us!
(SILVANA slowly begins to wriggle across the floor towards the couch. When she enters YVETTEís line of vision, YVETTE begins to wriggle painstakingly from under the couch. Eventually, both women are lying on the floor on their sides face to face Down Centre stage.)
YVETTE (Lifting her head and speaking through the gag). If you can roll over, Iíll try to free your hands.
(After a few unsuccessful attempts, SILVANA manages to roll onto her face then onto her other side, falling against YVETTE as she does. YVETTE reaches her hands to SILVANAís wrists and her fingers begin to unravel the cords binding them. SILVANA is still hogtied. As the two young women are occupied in this way, the curtains Left Centre open and LADY WAXWELL steps through. She is dressed as before. Unnoticed by SILVANA and YVETTE, LADY WAXWELL walks silently up to them and stands looking down, an amused smile on her face).
LADY WAXWELL I must say you two have got yourselves into an awful pickle!
YVETTE (Through her gag). Lady Waxwell, thank heavens!
LADY WAXWELL Donít have much to say for yourselves, do you? (She kneels beside YVETTE and begins to untie the scarf from around her mouth).
YVETTE (As the scarf comes away). Iím so glad youíre Ö ummmph!
(LADY WAXWELL quickly stuffs a thick handkerchief into YVETTEís mouth and ties the silk scarf over her face to prevent her from spitting out the gag. YVETTE looks up at her in astonishment).
LADY WAXWELL Iím sorry about this, my dear, but your freedom and that of your friend is not on my agenda. ThatĎs because your interference is a godsend. It will give additional cred to the burglary. Unfortunately, it means you will both spend an uncomfortable night bound and gagged in this locked room until the maid finds you in the morning. She usually reaches this room for dusting by around ten oíclock. That will be a nice time to discover that the safe has been robbed, with a little mild violence Ė deprivation of liberty Ė in your cases.
LADY WAXWELL I suppose you would like an explanation? (SILVANA and YVETTE nod their heads vigorously). I have been trying to find a way to offload those jewels for some time now, when a little subterfuge occurred to my mind. What if the mansion were burgled, the jewels stolen? No one would suffer, least of all me. The insurance company, theyíre utter bastards for the most part, will pay up. The policy is ironbound.
YVETTE (Attempting now unsuccessfully to speak through her more thorough gag). Uph whmmm bbb arrg?
LADY WAXWELL But what about us, I hear you say? (YVETTE nods her head). That was a good guess wasnít it? Ö It was very thoughtful of you, Silvana dear, thoughtful in several senses, to suggest the very ruse that I was putting into effect. I do hope you were not intending to keep the jewels for yourself? (SILVANA shakes her head strongly). Good for you Ö Yvette dear, full marks for integrity, but to do nothing would not have helped me in the least, would it? (YVETTE lowers her eyes and looks downcast). Never mind Ö Letís see Ö I need to take further precautions that you do not interfere with each otherís bonds. (She kneels beside SILVANA, tightens the cords at her wrists, then takes a roll of tape from her pocket and proceeds to tape SILVANAís wrists over the cords). This will make it impossible for sweet Yvette to accomplish what she very nearly succeeded in doing just before I came in Ö Your turn, Yvette dear. Iím really sorry about this Ö You may have some consolation in the knowledge that as my ward you will gain advantage from the whole business, as I shall.
YVETTE (Attempts to speak again but gives up in frustration). Mng nggg frrr Ö
LADY WAXWELL Relax dear. I know itís not fair from a certain point of view, but you really have no option. What will you do, turn me in to the police? And how will you prove that I have done anything against the law? A lot of things will remain steady and unchanged as a result. Bertrand, for example, will be relieved to know that he will hold his position in the family indefinitely. (To SILVANA). I trust you would not have shot him. His services are indispensable.
YVETTE (Resignedly). Mmf!
(LADY WAXWELL tapes over YVETTEís wrists and fastens them to one leg of the couch, then tapes her ankles to the other leg. YVETTE lies on her side, her head raised, gazing pleadingly at LADY WAXWELL. SILVANA looks on, helpless in the hogtie).
LADY WAXWELL (Continuing to speak as she tapes up YVETTE). I was on to your plan virtually from the start. I happened to see you going through my papers this afternoon (indicating SILVANA who in her turn looks downcast). Later, I overheard the little scenario in this room that ended with you, pretty Yvette, all tied up. Oh, this old mansion has strange acoustics. Depending upon which room one is in, it is possible to hear conversations in other parts of the building. I wondered what my rather special employees would do upon finding you here, but they performed admirably, like the true professionals they are. (LADY WAXWELL gets to her feet and pockets the roll of tape).
LADY WAXWELL Oh, and another thing, Yvette dear, you are quite right about the grand clichť. But real life, especially when it comes to my jewels, is not at all like fiction. Iím sure that you are not enjoying Ė and will not enjoy for the next many hours Ė the reality of lying on the floor helpless, gagged and bound. A real gag is not just a flimsy piece of silk, is it?
†(LADY WAXWELL looks about the room in satisfaction Ė stag painting hanging wide, safe door open, empty jewel case on the floor - while YVETTE and SILVANA lie securely bound and gagged Down Centre stage).
LADY WAXWELL That about wraps it up Ö Sorry, I couldnít resist such an awful pun.
(She starts towards the curtained French windows, has a sudden thought, stops, and turns back to the two young women who are straining energetically but uselessly in their bonds and making faint muffled sounds).
LADY WAXWELL I hope you do not believe that all your troubles come to nothing. Iím most grateful for your help. The jewels are better off in the hands of desperate burglars than locked away in that wall safe. In fact, it would have been most embarrassing if this little robbery had not taken place. You see Ö the real jewels were sold on the black market a month ago. Those taken by our two burglars are merely cheap paste!
(LADY WAXWELL turns and exits via the French windows. The CURTAIN half lowers. YVETTEís and SILVANAís gagged faces are spotlighted where they lie on the floor, staring into each otherís eyes in astonishment).
„ Brian Sands 2005.