Keepsake

Trapped in the constricting life of French aristocracy, Marie earnestly notes her thoughts down every night in her little diary. Lively thoughts, they liberate her for a while, and liberate her stuffed pals...

A girl's bedroom, early evening, the late 1800s, a rose-quilted bed in one corner, with a bright orange pumpkin-shaped soft toy upon it, and a small light-wood wardrobe and a chest of drawers are about in the other corner. The chest has a gas-lamp upon it, as well as two photos, one of Henriette, the other of Xander and Marie together. The room itself is sparsely decorated, pale pink, slightly worn walls, a couple of loosely-painted paintings hanging on the walls.  MARIE, a young girl between seven and ten, sits, cross-legged, on the floor, dressed in a tight corset-dress in purple, and hair pinned up and curled, playing with a thread bear, white-yellow, and missing an eye, and a group of big-headed porcelain dolls in dresses matching Marie’s.

The sounds of a grandfather clock chiming come from off-stage.

Marie looks up, and counts the chimes in her head.

Marie (in a worried tone): Sept.

She goes back to playing with the dolls, albeit with more rushed motions.

Enter HENRIETTE, startling Marie. Henriette goes to Marie and begins to gather the dolls away into a small wicker crate that sits at the foot of the bed. Marie pouts and tries to keep as many as she can. They both forget about the teddy bear, pushed aside.

Henriette: Marie, darling, time for bed.

Marie: Cher Mama, I’m not done playing yet.

Henriette: You will go now. You know how much Papa hates when you disagree with him. We don’t want him to be nasty again, do we? Clara will be up in a moment to help you dress.

Marie (beginning to wail): But, I don’t want-

Henriette: Marie, you will listen. Bed, now!

Exit HENRIETTE. Marie throws herself to the floor, tearing at it with her hands, grizzling. Enter CLARA.

Clara: Now, now, Miss Marie.You know you have to do as your Papa says. Now, get up and lift those arms up, whilst I work on this lacing.

Marie does as she’s told and Clara helps the girl out her dress. Underneath is a white smock that she uses as a nightdress. Marie clambers into the bed, gathering the pumpkin to her as Clara manoeuvres around her, tucking in the corners of the quilt whistling an old common ditty as she does so.

Marie: Mama says you’re not allowed to sing when you work around the house.

Clara (blushing): Well, your Mama’s not here, is she? And what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her. Like the sweets I get for you. You wouldn’t want to tell your Mama about that now, would you?

Marie: No, Clara. Night, Clara.

Clara (who’s finished tucking): Night, Miss Marie. You sleep well, okay? No more tantrums or night-walks.

Marie doesn’t reply. She is beginning to settle down. Clara goes to the lamp and turns it down, leaving only a little of the light still flickering.

Clara: Goodnight.

Exit CLARA.

Marie sits up, waiting a minute as she presses her pumpkin to her chest and listens attentively. When she is sure that there is no more sounds from outside the corridor, she pushes away her bedding and scrambles out of bed. She makes her way quietly around to the chest at the foot of her bed, and opens it, rummaging through as silently as she can until she gets to the bottom. She pulls out a small diary-book, pages lightly bound together, and a bottle of blue ink, stoppered, and a quill, grey-black in colour, with its short feather ruffled and squashed.

She begins to write, chewing on the feather as she does so.

Marie (murmuring to herself): Today, Mama and Papa stopped me playing again. I hate it…

The End

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