ACT II, Scene 1
EXTERIOR: Ashley Street later that night.
AUSTIN and VILLIERS stroll into view, figuring out where to turn next.
Shall we turn down Ashley Street?
AUSTIN and VILLIERS turn, heading toward a house, its lights still glowing through the windows.
Austin, we’re on to something! Did you see Clarke’s face?
So utterly ghastly!
And when he saw the name...
I tell you, there’s something very queer to this.
AUSTIN and VILLIERS see the house and stop to view it.
Cheerful, isn’t it?
And the inside is still more so.
I haven’t been, but I know some who have.
Whose house is this?
A Missus Beaumont, a wealthy woman, the toast of London.
AUSTIN and VILLIERS walk away and head back to their domicile. The scene changes.
INTERIOR: the house on Ashley Street.
HELEN is laying on a couch, modeling for the artist named Arthur MEYRICK. He is shaking with intimidation, due to HELEN’s weighty reputation.
Thank you for this opportunity, Missus Beaumont.
Of course, my dear Mister Meyrick.
An artist’s soul should never be abandoned.
HELEN watches as MEYRICK grabs a very curious bottle of wine from the floor and pours himself another glass. HELEN rises from where she has been laying.
Do you like the wine I chose?
I’ve never tasted anything like it. What year is it?
About a thousand years old.
The GHOST CHOIR appear in shadow from the background. As the choir sings, visions of hellfire and debauchery are seen in the background. HELEN takes MEYRICK’s shaky hands and leads him around the room in a seductive and diabolical dance.
And he laid hold on the dragon,
bound him for a thousand years,
that old serpent, former angel
cast into the dark abyss.
And a seal was set upon him
til the thousand years have passed,
then for a little season
will the Devil be released.
HELEN turns MEYRICK outward and stands behind him to whisper in his ear. Her whispers lead MEYRICK to see some vision out in the Ether.
The universe is silent throughout the day,
and with dread has its resolve been broken.
It shines with nightly fires, and tintinnabulates with a sound,
as if some stygian bells were ringing.
From the chorus of Aegipans,
to the playing of reed-pipes and of cymbals,
the songs resound throughout the ocean shore.
HELEN grabs MEYRICK tight and muzzles his neck while whispering terrible secrets in his ear. MEYRICK speaks of wonder, but is also horrified of what he must do to achieve it.
The wonder! I think I’d like it here.
The grandeur! I think I’d like it here.
The splendor! I think I’d like it here.
The rapture! I think I’d like it here.
MEYRICK grabs a knife from the table. At his last note, he slits his throat, letting HELEN, who is basking in the action, catch him.
Afterwards, other suicides are seen, one after another, in the background through shadows.
MEYRICK now dead, joins the GHOST CHOIR.
The scene changes.
INTERIOR: VILLIER’s office (STAGE LEFT).
VILLIERS is looking curiously over stacks of papers as AUSTIN barges in, her arms holding a large book full of papers.
London has become a city of nightmares!
Lord Swanleigh, then Herries, then Collier-Stuart,
died at their own hands.
AUSTIN puts the book down and grabs a paper to show VILLIERS.
They’re calling it “The West End Horrors”,
a virtual plague of suicides.
You may not want to flee London yet.
I may have some information you’d enjoy.
As do I! As do I!
You have heard of Arthur Meyrick, the painter?
Oh, poor Arthur Meyrick, the painter.
He’s dead, another link in this chain of death.
We were friends, and used to flirt with the suffragettes.
Last chat, he told me that he fell in love
with a woman of grand standing,
but nothing else on who she was.
And what of your book?
(referring to the book AUSTIN brought in)
AUSTIN gives VILLIERS the book. VILLIERS looks through hurriedly.
It’s a collection of his drawings.
What frightful pictures! Walpurgis nights of evil!
AUSTIN grabs a drawing from the book.
Villiers, I want you to see this one.
Do you see who this is?
(in astonishment) Missus Herbert!
No! Missus Beaumont.
But how?! How can you be so sure?
Because I’ve met her...
(with wonder) She had quite the court around her.
So exquisite, yet so strange.
The sight gave a sensation,
as if in a dream, where fantastic cities
and phantom beings appear familiar.
...as if in a dream, where fantastic cities
and phantom beings appear familiar.
The GHOST CHOIR continues the round of the phrase, leaving AUSTIN in a trance. VILLIERS snaps her out of it.
AUSTIN shakes the fog from her head and comes back to reality.
But what of you, Villiers?
You said you had something to tell me.
You must not have read this morning’s paper.
We’ve another casualty.
One Mister Sidney Crashaw, who I knew from our social circles.
It says right here, he was last seen at ten in the evening on Saint James Street,
but I saw him much later indeed.
But how, you say?
I was merely investigating things.
I was leaving a house near Regent’s Park,
when I turned down Ashley Street.
It was dark. but I saw a light from Missus Beaumont’s house,
and coming out, I saw the face of Mister Crashaw,
and I ran home.
But why run?
I looked upon that face, and saw hell stir within him.
All I can tell you is that the moment he left Ashley Street,
it was the Devil’s face which Mister Crashaw wore.
Thus continues this wicked game...
Can this woman have two names?
My thoughts exactly!
We need to speak to Clarke at once.
Will he comply?
We have to try.
Remember his face!
That’s why! He must have known something
we didn’t know that night.
He knew that woman in that picture, too.
He must know something more!
Both ladies...it has to be!
These women are both Helen Vaughan!
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