THE LATE MRS. CHADWICK
By Phoebe Roberts
ARTHUR CHADWICK, an upper-class English gentleman, mid forties, often funniest when cross-cast
EDWIN SHREWSBURY, an upper-class English gentleman, mid forties, often funniest when cross-cast
MATILDA CHADWICK, the ghost of Arthur’s late wife, mid forties
An English parlor – two chairs, two small tables
(Two very stiffly-dressed English gentlemen, ARTHUR CHADWICK and EDWIN SHREWSBURY sit in a tastefully decorated parlor eating scones and talking about cricket.)
SHREWSBURY: That is a bold statement, friend. That is a four-time championship team you’re talking about.
CHADWICK: I say the team is aging out of their skills. Their lineup has not changed in far too long.
(There is the ghostly wail of a woman from offstage.)
SHREWSBURY: I say, Chadwick, did you hear something?
CHADWICK: Beg your pardon?
SHREWSBURY: Apologies, nothing, old boy. You were saying?
CHADWICK: Yes, well, they’ve got to get some new blood in there. Thirty-six isn’t absurd, but they’re no spring chickens when it comes to test cricket.
(Suddenly a woman ghost, MATILDA CHADWICK, her skin painted a pale gray wearing a diaphanous gray gown, sweeps through the parlor, wailing as she goes. After a moment she exits. CHADWICK appears not to notice, but SHREWSBURY is vaguely perturbed.)
CHADWICK: Shrewsbury, are you quite all right?
SHREWSBURY: Forgive me, old friend, but what was that?
CHADWICK: What was what?
(MATILDA reenters and sweeps through again, waving her arms and wailing, then exits.)
SHREWSBURY: Are you aware that there seems to be some sort of… spectral lady… thing… of some kind… floating around your parlor?
CHADWICK: Oh, yes, good of you to notice. That is my late wife.
SHREWSBURY: Your… late wife?
CHADWICK: Yes, Matilda. She’s recently taken up residence in the house again.
SHREWSBURY: I see. But, if I might ask, how can that be so, given that Matilda is… what’s the polite word… dead?
CHADWICK: Yes, in a freak croquet accident on the front lawn. Very tragic.
SHREWSBURY: I recall.
CHADWICK: But it seems that somehow in the Great Beyond, word reached Matilda about my recent remarriage. As far as anyone can deduce, she is so distraught over the news that she’s crossed back over to the material plane in order to seek eternal vengeance from beyond the grave.
(A flurry of pots, pans, and throw pillows flies out onto the stage. MATILDA enters after it and swans around dramatically, making rhythmic keening sounds.)
CHADWICK: But please, don’t let it trouble you.
SHREWSBURY: Oh, I hardly notice.
(MATILDA knocks the scone out of SHREWSBURY’s hand. He is just slightly nonplussed.)
CHADWICK: Another scone, old friend?
(SHREWSBURY picks up another scone. MATILDA knocks that one away too.)
SHREWSBURY: On second thought, that’s enough for me.
CHADWICK: Quite right.
SHREWSBURY: And what does the, shall we say, living Mrs. Chadwick think?
CHADWICK: Between you and me, old boy, I will confess that she is not entirely pleased with the whole arrangement.
SHREWSBURY: Oh, the poor dear.
CHADWICK: Apparently Matilda sees fit to take out the whole sad business on her by vowing to haunt and torment her through this world and beyond until the fires of Judgment Day.
SHREWSBURY: How unfortunate. You have my sympathies, Arthur.
CHADWICK: Thanks very much.
(MATILDA picks up a pot and lid and runs around banging them together.)
CHADWICK: These things are sent to try us.
(MATILDA runs away and exits.)
SHREWSBURY: Where is your wife at the moment?
CHADWICK: Well, Hermione’s found it a bit vexing to remain in the house for long periods, what with the flying crockery and Matilda’s propensity for setting fire to her hair.
SHREWSBURY: Quite understandable.
CHADWICK: I rather thought so. So my dear girl’s dedicated herself to having Matilda exorcised.
(MATILDA wails from offstage.)
SHREWSBURY: I say, exorcised?
CHADWICK: I believe that’s the term. You know, banished. Returned to the Great Beyond.
SHREWSBURY: For my edification, what is the process for such a banishment?
(MATILDA reenters and knocks a photograph of Hermione off a side table.)
SHREWSBURY: In case any of my dear departed relations also elect to make a return visit.
CHADWICK: I’m afraid we’re still in the process of figuring that out. Lord knows we’ve tried a few things.
SHREWSBURY: With no success, I take it?
(MATILDA grabs a vase of flowers and dumps them over CHADWICK’s head.)
CHADWICK: Not as such, no. First we rung up one of those, what do you call them, mediums, who commune with the spirit world.
(MATILDA flops melodramatically on the ground and rolls around miserably.)
SHREWSBURY: Oh, yes, they’re very entertaining at parties.
CHADWICK: To be sure, but this one seemed to have difficulty effectively… communicating with Matilda.
CHADWICK: I suppose I can’t criticize. It was a feat I had yet to achieve myself in five years of marriage to her!
(They laugh politely. MATILDA knocks over the side table and wails.)
SHREWSBURY: Perhaps you could find a more diplomatic one.
CHADWICK: Perhaps, but the whole affair left Matilda quite cross, and I’m not inclined to weather that again. What with the blood weeping down the walls and all.
SHREWSBURY: Most troublesome.
(MATILDA gets up and hurls a pillow at SHREWSBURY. He dodges without skipping a beat.)
CHADWICK: And then there was the woods witch who made a terrible mess of the drawing room with all those goats she sacrificed.
(MATILDA hurls another pillow at CHADWICK, who dodges equally casually.)
SHREWSBURY: Oh, I can imagine.
(MATILDA screams with rage and storms out.)
It’s all driven Hermione to become quite desperate. At the moment she’s gone down to St. Swithin’s to ask assistance from the pastor.
SHREWSBURY: St. Swithin’s? Your Hermione set foot among the papists?
CHADWICK: Shocking, I know, but the poor thing’s quite determined. I understand they’ve some protocols in matters of peasant superstition.
SHREWSBURY: I suppose they would. One does hear all those terrible stories about priests with their heads all spun about on their necks, though.
CHADWICK: Indeed. Bad enough that the neighbors see them coming in the house without their leaving unpleasant corpses. Still, I’m afraid we’re rather out of options.
(There is screaming and crashing offstage, then the crackling of flames.)
SHREWSBURY: I say, Chadwick. That sounds rather terrible.
CHADWICK: I’ve come to know that sound quite well; I believe it’s the screaming of the servants. Excuse me a moment.
(CHADWICK rises and goes to look offstage.)
CHADWICK: Yes, indeed. She’s set the kitchen on fire.
(There is the terrified screaming of horses.)
CHADWICK: And released the horses from the stables. Oh, I do hope she hasn’t barricaded the door this time. I couldn’t bear to have to restaff. Again.
SHREWBURY: Quite the affinity for pyrotechnics, hasn’t she?
CHADWICK: Forgive me, friend, but I’ll have to run off for a tick and handle this.
SHREWSBURY: Can I be of any assistance?
CHADWICK: Oh, don’t trouble yourself. Please, stay at your ease.
SHREWSBURY: If you insist, sir.
CHADWICK: Won’t be a moment!
(CHADWICK exits. SHREWSBURY gets a new scone and begins nibbling. He occasionally tosses a vaguely curious glance in the direction of the commotion. It continues on, sounding increasingly tortured.)
(MATILDA reenters. She storms up to SHREWSBURY and stares him down in the chair. After a long moment, she slaps the scone out of his hand again and runs off, wailing.)