WINONA SEDRIANA HAYWARD, An about-to-be published writer of a short story mystery titled: The Mysterious Countess.
GRIFFITH ANDERSON, owner and publisher of a well-known 1860’s publishing house.
SCENE: A spring afternoon in a pastoral glade of a well-known city park. Winona is seated on a park bench. She is fashionably clad in the latest princess style: a black silk moiré suit and overskirt with matching hat. Her straight-sleeved jacket is expertly tailored; fitted at the waist and slightly flared at the hips.. Across her lap she has placed a folded coral pink parasol which she grips in her right hand. Occasionally, she taps the crown of her parasol against the palm of her left hand. She glances up and observes a tall, bearded man walking briskly along the path toward her. He is fashionably dressed in a black frock coat and matching trousers. On his head is a black top hat. Sporting a walking cane, he strides confidently in Winona’s direction. As he approaches her, he bows and smiles.
WINONA: (smiling warmly in return as she offers her hand). Ah, Mr. Anderson. I am delighted you suggested this setting for our meeting. Is it not serendipitous weather? Look at the intense green of the sunlit grass. Do you know how many shades of green there are?
GRIFFITH: (glances about quickly before he bends over her proffered, gloved hand and takes it lightly in his). Miss Hayward, you overwhelm me with your questions.
WINONA: (with a charming laugh). Questions, questions—so many questions. Do you think that in the course of a lifetime all one’s questions are answered?
GRIFFITH: That, I think, would depend on the questions.
WINONA : (bows her head in acknowledgement as she rises graciously from the bench). Touché, Mr. Anderson. May I suggest a stroll along this pleasant parkway?
GRIFFITH: An excellent idea, Miss Hayward. You must have surmised how I needed to stretch my legs in the open air after sitting all morning in a stuffy publishing office, dealing with an irascible, egotistical author who refuses to acknowledge the reality of his declining book sales.
WINONA: (rejoins) Oh dear, how awkward. If I may be so bold, Mr. Anderson, a walk in these magnificent surroundings would be a perfect tonic and, I’m sure, would effect a much more pleasant discourse.
GRIFFITH: (raising one eyebrow quizzically). Am I to infer from your remark that you have agreed to the terms of the contract?
WINONA: (looking thoughtful as she twirls her parasol). Mr. Anderson, I am indeed honoured that your long-distinguished and successful publishing firm has accepted my short story for your book. I understand you are breaking new ground by publishing, for the first time anywhere, a compendium of short stories by twelve women mystery authors. I do have one concern, however.
GRIFFITH: (turning to gaze at her). And that would be?
WINONA: I do not wish to see my name listed in the table of contents.
GRIFFITH: Miss Hayward…(he sputters) I am baffled. A minute ago, you told me you were “honoured”.
WINONA: Oh, indeed I am Mr. Anderson; indeed I am. But I must insist that my name not be divulged.
GRIFFITH: (frowning). And what would you suggest? A Nom de Plume?
WINONA: No, Mr. Anderson. I would suggest ANON.
GRIFFITH: (throws back his head and laughs heartily). ANON? (he repeats, gasping for breath). Miss Hayward, you are extremely sagacious. Not only is your story The Countess, mysterious, but your name proposal is, too.
WINONA: (looking nonplussed at Griffith’s outburst). Then you approve?
GRIFFITH: Indubitably, Miss Hayward. Indubitably. It is a touch of genius. You show great perspicacity.
WINONA: (grinning). I am so glad you are in agreement with my idea.
GRIFFITH: And speaking of perspicacity…you were correct about these surroundings contributing to amiable discourse. Now, up ahead I see an outdoor café. Will you join me in celebrating this delightful and mutually advantageous afternoon by partaking of some tea and appetizing delicacies?
(The scene closes with the two strolling towards stage left.)
Jeannie D. Parsons©2009