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A Wicked Woman (Curtain Raiser)
by [?]

Scene–California.

Time–Afternoon of a summer day.

CHARACTERS

LORETTA, A sweet, young thing. Frightfully innocent. About nineteen years old. Slender, delicate, a fragile flower. Ingenuous.

NED BASHFORD, A jaded young man of the world, who has philosophised his experiences and who is without faith in the veracity or purity of women.

BILLY MARSH, A boy from a country town who is just about as innocent as Loretta. Awkward. Positive. Raw and callow youth.

ALICE HEMINGWAY, A society woman, good-hearted, and a match-maker.

JACK HEMINGWAY, Her husband.

MAID.

[Curtain rises on a conventional living room of a country house in California. It is the Hemingway house at Santa Clara. The room is remarkable for magnificent stone fireplace at rear centre. On either side of fireplace are generous, diamond-paned windows. Wide, curtained doorways to right and left. To left, front, table, with vase of flowers and chairs. To right, front, grand piano.]

[Curtain discovers LORETTA seated at piano, not playing, her back to it, facing NED BASHFORD, who is standing.]

LORETTA. [Petulantly, fanning herself with sheet of music.] No, I won’t go fishing. It’s too warm. Besides, the fish won’t bite so early in the afternoon.

NED. Oh, come on. It’s not warm at all. And anyway, we won’t really fish. I want to tell you something.

LORETTA. [Still petulantly.] You are always wanting to tell me something.

NED. Yes, but only in fun. This is different. This is serious. Our . . . my happiness depends upon it.

LORETTA. [Speaking eagerly, no longer petulant, looking, serious and delighted, divining a proposal.] Then don’t wait. Tell me right here.

NED. [Almost threateningly.] Shall I?

LORETTA. [Challenging.] Yes.

[He looks around apprehensively as though fearing interruption, clears his throat, takes resolution, also takes LORETTA’s hand.]

[LORETTA is startled, timid, yet willing to hear, naively unable to conceal her love for him.]

NED. [Speaking softly.] Loretta . . . I, . . . ever since I met you I have –

[JACK HEMINGWAY appears in the doorway to the left, just entering.]

[NED suddenly drops LORETTA’s hand. He shows exasperation.]

[LORETTA shows disappointment at interruption.]

NED. Confound it

LORETTA. [Shocked.] Ned! Why will you swear so?

NED. [Testily.] That isn’t swearing.

LORETTA. What is it, pray?

NED. Displeasuring.

JACK HEMINGWAY. [Who is crossing over to right.] Squabbling again?

LORETTA. [Indignantly and with dignity.] No, we’re not.

NED. [Gruffly.] What do you want now?

JACK HEMINGWAY. [Enthusiastically.] Come on fishing.

NED. [Snappily.] No. It’s too warm.

JACK HEMINGWAY. [Resignedly, going out right.] You needn’t take a fellow’s head off.

LORETTA. I thought you wanted to go fishing.

NED. Not with Jack.

LORETTA. [Accusingly, fanning herself vigorously.] And you told me it wasn’t warm at all.

NED. [Speaking softly.] That isn’t what I wanted to tell you, Loretta. [He takes her hand.] Dear Loretta –

[Enter abruptly ALICE HEMINGWAY from right.]

[LORETTA sharply jerks her hand away, and looks put out.]

[NED tries not to look awkward.]

ALICE HEMINGWAY. Goodness! I thought you’d both gone fishing!

LORETTA. [Sweetly.] Is there anything you want, Alice?

NED. [Trying to be courteous.] Anything I can do?

ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Speaking quickly, and trying to withdraw.] No, no. I only came to see if the mail had arrived.

LORETTA AND NED

[Speaking together.] No, it hasn’t arrived.

LORETTA. [Suddenly moving toward door to right.] I am going to see.

[NED looks at her reproachfully.]

[LORETTA looks back tantalisingly from doorway and disappears.]

[NED flings himself disgustedly into Morris chair.]

ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Moving over and standing in front of him. Speaks accusingly.] What have you been saying to her?

NED. [Disgruntled.] Nothing.

ALICE HEMINGWAY. [Threateningly.] Now listen to me, Ned.

NED. [Earnestly.] On my word, Alice, I’ve been saying nothing to her.