ELOPEMENT by Paul B McNulty
Sibella Cottle, now pregnant, is thrilled when Harry Lynch-Blosse elopes with her. But will his unresolved annulment shatter her dreams?
SIBELLA COTTLE (Sarah Burton, also Orlaith): An orphaned, 19 year-old red-haired beauty.
HARRY LYNCH-BLOSSE (Ryan Gillespie, also Donagh Ruane): A philandering 25 year-old heir to a baronetcy.
RECTOR GARROOD (Liam Galgey): Church of England, Belstead, Suffolk.
(Disembodied voices may play the butler and the chamber-maid.)
Wednesday, 8th December 1773, drawing room of Belstead Hall, Suffolk, home of Elizabeth Barker, the late mother of Harry Lynch-Blosse, Balla, Co Mayo, and the home of her late uncle, Tobias Blosse.
Sibella Cottle is assumed to be adequately represented by George Romney’s 1787 portrait of Miss Constable. (Original portrait in Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon.)
SIBELLA SITS ON A SOFA IN THE DRAWING ROOM OF BELSTEAD HALL. SHE WEARS A MODEST DRESS WITH HER HAIR TIED HIGH. HARRY ENTERS WEARING A JACKET, CRAVAT, WAISTCOAT, SWORD AND TIGHT BREECHES OVER WHITE STOCKINGS.
SIBELLA: Harry! Why are you wearing your sword?
HARRY: Because, Rector Garrood has agreed to marry us.
SIBELLA: Wondrous! That’s great news, Harry. (RISES.) It only seems like yesterday since I left a note for my parents.
HARRY: What did you say?
SIBELLA: I thanked them … from the bottom of my heart … for looking after me from infancy. I asked them to forgive me for my irresponsible behaviour / that
HARRY: Irresponsible behaviour?
SIBELLA: Sleeping with you, you big brute! (PACES.) They offered to settle me in Waterford during my confinement. I would have hated that! Instead, you offered to take me to Suffolk. I asked them not to be angry with me.
HARRY: What happened next?
SIBELLA: I rose at five that morning. I donned my winter shawl and shouldered my bag. I crept down the stairs and opened the back door. The guard dog wandered over. I stroked him to keep him quiet. He walked with me to the corn mill where I waited until I heard the sound of footsteps.
HARRY: And then … the dogs started barking … but we were on our way … by gig to Castlebar … by coach to Ballinasloe … and on to Dublin. Seven days later … we arrived exhausted at Belstead … after a stormy sea and bumpy coach-rides.
SIBELLA: I was so sick. I feared for the safety of our baby … but I think he’s all right.
HARRY: Thank God for that.
SIBELLA: What did Lady Lynch say when you announced your departure?
HARRY: She wondered if I might find it lonely. I said: “Grandmamma! How could I possibly be lonely in the house of my birth, the house in which I spent the first six years of my life?”
SIBELLA: Clever boy. (PAUSE.) So what did you do in Ipswich yesterday?
HARRY: I met the family solicitor. He gave me this affidavit. (LAYS IT ON THE TABLE.) I’m now free to marry. (BENDING DOWN ON ONE KNEE.) Sibella Cottle, I ask you again … will you do me the great honour? (PROFFERS AN ENGAGEMENT RING.) Will you marry me, my dear heart?
SIBELLA: Of course, I will marry you, my darling. (HUGS HIM.) This is the happiest day of my life. (ADMIRES THE RING ON HER FOURTH LEFT FINGER.) But how will Garrood react to my faith?
HARRY: Mixed marriages are now allowed in England, he said. (FROWNS.) But then he wondered … if you were one-and-twenty.
HARRY: Because at nineteen, you need the written consent of your parents. I said a gentleman could never ask a lady her age. I insisted, however, that you had reached your majority.
SIBELLA: Clever again! I can swear to nineteen with a clear conscience … it suffices for a majority in certain cases. (PACES.) But how can we marry today? I have no wedding dress.
HARRY: You could wear my mother’s wedding / dress
SIBELLA: Oh how I would love my own creation … but your mother’s wedding dress will have to do … if, I can fit into it … in my condition.
A KNOCK ON THE DOOR SIGNALS THE ENTRANCE OF RECTOR GARROOD.
HARRY: You’re most welcome, Rector. Allow me to introduce Miss Cottle of Ashbrook House.
GARROOD: I’m delighted to meet you Miss Cottle.
SIBELLA: (CURTSIES.) Thank you for agreeing to marry us, Rector. As you know, I’m a Catholic, and have reached my majority.
GARROOD: You certainly have retained a remarkable youthfulness. It must be the fresh air of Ireland.
SIBELLA: Please excuse me, gentlemen … I must settle my hair.
AT THE APPOINTED HOUR, THE CHAMBER-MAID PLAYS A WEDDING MARCH ON THE PIANO OFFSTAGE. SIBELLA ENTERS, WEARING A LOW-CUT DRESS WITH HER HAIR BOBBING OVER HER SHOULDERS. CANDLES, FLOWERS AND INCENSE STICKS DECORATE THE ROOM.
HARRY: (HUMS THE WEDDING MARCH.) Sibella, my darling, you are a diamond of the first water. (ESCORTS HER TO STAND BEFORE GARROOD.)
GARROOD: (SMILES.) We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Mr Harry Lynch-Blosse and Miss Sibella Cottle in holy matrimony. (GLANCES AT HARRY.) Mr Lynch-Blosse will you take Miss Sibella Cottle to be your lawful wedded wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honour and protect her for as long as … (FROWNS.) Is that a galloping horse, I hear?
OFFSTAGE: An urgent message for Mr Lynch-Blosse.
HARRY’S HAND TREMBLES WHILE OPENING THE LETTER. AFTER SCANNING IT, HE COLLAPSES INTO THE SOFA WITH THE LETTER DANGLING FROM HIS LEFT HAND.
GARROOD: Are you quite well, Mr Lynch-Blosse?
HARRY: (PASSES THE LETTER TO GARROOD.) I’m ever so sorry, Sibella.
SIBELLA: For heaven’s sake, what does it say?
GARROOD: (RECITES.) “ … Further to a request from my colleague in Ipswich … I regret to say that your application for an annulment of your first marriage remains unresolved. May I suggest that you postpone your wedding to Miss Cottle until we remove this encumbrance to your union?
Andrew Edmondson, Solicitor, Castlebar.”
SIBELLA: How could you do this to me, Harry? How could you be so stupid … so careless?
HARRY: Don’t worry my darling. Edmondson will soon sort it, I promise.
SIBELLA SINKS BACK INTO THE SOFA AND CRIES.
HARRY: Please accept my apologies, Rector Garrood. I was sure my annulment would have succeeded by now.
GARROOD: You must not worry. You will marry soon. Now, I should leave you in peace. (DEPARTS.)
HARRY: (DRAWS HIS SWORD.) Aaaaaaaaaaaaaah! (HOLDS IT ALOFT AND PLUNGES IT INTO THE SOFA BESIDE SIBELLA.)
END OF PLAY.
Participant in the UCD Dramsoc Mini Plays Festival (including minor amendments), Dramsoc Theatre at 7 p.m. on 14, 15 and 16 October, 2015 under the direction of Rosa Bowden, Auditor, UCD Dramsoc, Student Centre, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland. Actors (indicated in italics) are members of UCD Dramsoc.
1. Sofa and table.
2. Modest dress quickly convertible to a low-cut dress.
3. Harry’s jacket, cravat, waistcoat and tight breeches over white stockings.
4. Affidavit and Letter.
5. Engagement ring.
6. Candles, flowers and incense sticks.
7. Waistband, scabbard and sword.
1. Sound of footsteps.
2. Dogs barking.
3. Wedding march (MENDELSSOHN Piano).
4. Sound of a galloping horse.