TITLE: Emily's Secret
By Helen Clancy
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Emily pauses, pen in hand, and gazes out of her
bedroom window. She loves this old carved desk,
and the view from the bay window, down over the
lawn to the lake. She used to run down the
grassy slope as a child, and play hide and seek
with her brothers and sisters in the woods. On
an antique dresser is the bunch of daffodils
that she picked yesterday afternoon. They've
opened overnight and add a touch of colour to
On the wall behind her is a painting of
her dear mother, in a crimson ball-gown. A
carved oak door leads to her husband George's
room next-door; but that door is rarely used
these days. Across the room, beside the four-
poster bed there's a dressing-table with a large
mirror and three small drawers. A log fire's
been lit in the grate, to take away the chill of
this blustery March afternoon, and her favourite
volume of poetry lies on the armchair, close to
At forty-five Emily is still attractive,
in a dutiful, matronly sort of way, but her eyes
reveal that she’s experienced more than her fair
share of unhappiness. She starts as she hears
footsteps on the landing, and quickly hides her
writing under a book. But the footsteps continue
past her door. She sighs, relieved and when all
is quiet brings out her journal and continues to
Rose looks in the mirror. Yes, she does like
this new haircut. Her mother thinks it’s
boyish, but she likes it. It is sort of
liberating - fresh, young and, well, it suits
her she thinks. Her parents dislike the short
dresses she wears, and her father positively
hated the backless dress she wore to the club
last week, but then he hates anything
fashionable or fun. She must look her absolute
best tonight. Charlie's taking her to
their favourite restaurant on Curzon Street.
Charlie - well, he's the best thing that's
happened to her, so wonderfully good-looking,
and bright. And he makes her laugh. It must be
love, she tells herself; she's never felt like
At eight o'clock sharp she's sitting in the
drawing room, waiting for Charlie,
when she hears the 'honk-honk' of his motor-car
in the drive-way.
'Bye, Mother, that's Charlie, must go.'
'Have a good evening, dear, and don't be
She dashes outside, treading carefully
on the gravel driveway, in her new high-
'Hi, darling, you are exactly on time.'
Charlie opens the car door for her and kisses
her on the cheek.
'You look absolutely fabulous. Let's go,
'Here we are, Rose. Are you hungry?'
They enter the smart restaurant. A waiter sees
them and immediately comes over.
'Good evening, Sir, Ma'am. Your usual
They are escorted to a window table, overlooking
a small courtyard garden. Charlie helps Rose
into her seat, and sits opposite her.
'What will you have tonight, dear?'
'Oh, I'll have the lobster again, I
'I'll order the wine.'
'The lobster, and a bottle of Chablis,
'Shall we go to the club later, or would
you prefer to go to the pictures?'
'Oh, let's go to the club.'
The waiter approaches with a bottle of wine,
which he proceeds to uncork and pours a
little into a crystal glass for Charlie to taste.
Later, they are finishing their dessert, when
the waiter comes over to the table.
'Are you ready now, Sir?'
'Yes, I think so, Miles.'
Miles signals to the conductor and the band
'Oh, Charlie, that's our tune. How
At the end of the song, Miles comes over with a
trolley; on it is the most enormous
vase of red roses.
'What's this Charlie? Oh, they're
'They're for you darling, and don't
worry, I've asked Miles to have them
dropped off for you, so we don't have to cart
'Everyone's staring at us Charlie.'
'Yes, I know, and now they'll stare even
He gets down on one knee, and pulls out a small
box, which he opens to reveal an
exquisite diamond ring.
'Well, will you, Rosie? I mean; please
darling, will you marry me? I love you
with all my heart.'
'Oh, yes. I love you too. Yes. Yes, I
will. I'd love to marry you.'
He stands and puts his arms around her and
kisses her full on the lips.
Everyone claps, and there are some shouts
of 'hooray, bravo'.
Rose was walking through catacombs, with arches
leading from one dark, bricked space - she
couldn't really describe them as rooms - to
another, with just arches in the bare walls
separating the different spaces. She eventually
came to this heavy wooden door. Behind it she
could hear someone shouting to her. This
person's cries got louder and louder:
‘Rose, Rose...help me.’
Then the knocking started, the knocking
and desperate banging on the door.
She tried to open it. There was a huge rusty
bolt, which she managed to pull back,
after a bit of a struggle, but then there was
the huge key, which, however hard
she tried, she just could not move.
She heard a shriek and then the crying
and banging stopped abruptly. She
stepped back from the door, and fell over a
metal pipe lying on the brick floor. She
cried out in pain, and grasped her ankle which
rapidly started to swell. Calling for
help, the only reply was the empty echo of the
A dazzling flash of light is shining into her
eyes. Her ankle is throbbing. Where is
she? She cries out in fear.
'Are you alright, Ma'am? You've been
crying out. Was it a nightmare?'.
It's Mary. The sun's shining through a chink in
the closed curtains. Rose blinks in an
attempt to cope with the brightness. Rose rubs
her eyes. Mary hands her a handkerchief.
'Here, Ma'am, wipe your eyes, whatever's
She sits up in bed, trying to shield her eyes
with her hands.
'It must've been a nightmare, Mary. Can
you close those curtains properly?
That light...too bright.'
Mary closes the heavy velvet curtains.
'Is that better, Ma'am?'
'Thanks... can you bring me some coffee,
and aspirins? I feel quite unwell.'
'I'll be right back, Ma'am.' says Mary,
leaving the room.
Her younger sister, Olive, has told her stories
about the ghost, rumoured to haunt the huge
basement under their house, but she's never seen
it. Anyway, she doesn't really believe in that
sort of thing - all a load of rubbish, surely.
But then, this nightmare, which somehow seems so
much more than just a dream, appears to fit
the stories of a gardener, locked away in the
dungeon...she shudders, and speaks very
sternly to herself:
'Pull yourself together Rose. This is
[In the dining room a little later]
'No, Rose. I absolutely forbid it. You
will NOT marry him...that's final.'
George brings his hand down on the table so
firmly that the cups and sauces rattle,
and a half-empty cup of tea spills it contents
into the saucer, and a little onto the
crisp white tablecloth.
'Now look what you've done, George.'
'Call the maid, Olive, she'll have to
clear up that mess.'
'No wait, Emily. This is
private...Beatrice can clear up later.'
'Are you absolutely clear now, Rose?
I 'll hear no more about it.'
'Father, it's so unfair. Why shouldn't I
marry him? I love him.
Anyway....You can't stop me. I'll marry him with
or without your consent.'
She limps out of the room in tears...
Emily sighs, and follows her daughter
out of the room.
That night - Rose finds herself back in the
catacombs, (whether it is a nightmare or
real she no longer knows) but this time a
ghostly figure walks through the locked
door and stands in front of her. He's tall, with
black hair and he comes right up to her,
touches her on the cheek. Rose screams, but he
'Don't be alarmed. I won't hurt you. You
need to know the truth... You must
ask your mother ... ask her about Henry. There's
a secret compartment ...in the dressing table
behind the centre drawer... look there. Ask her
to tell you... her secret.
Ask her... Ask her... Ask her...'
The next morning Rose can't get the ghostly
figure out of her mind. What on
earth did he mean? She must find out. Does her
mother really have a secret? There's
only one way to find out. She must have a look,
but when? Then she remembers that her mother is
going out to lunch with a friend. That settles
it, she'll look for this secret compartment
today while she's out.
The morning goes by extremely slowly
until at last her mother leaves. Rose
creeps into her room, making sure that she's not
noticed by the servants. She goes over to the
dressing table and finds the secret compartment,
exactly as she was told in her dream. In it she
finds a personal journal. As she picks it up, a
piece of paper falls out. It's an old photo of a
handsome looking young man, with dark hair,
sitting beside the lake in the gardens.
The falls open and she reads:
26th June 1901
My heart is broken.
How can my parents be so unkind? I love
Henry so much, but have been forbidden to marry
him. It is not considered suitable for me to
marry a gardener, a servant. It would bring
shame and scandal to the family, my father says.
He would disinherit me, and Henry would lose his
job, we would not be able to survive, with no
home, and no money.
I have been told to forget him. But I
will never forget him.
I am to be married to George two weeks
from today. He is from a 'suitable family',
although they have fallen on hard times. No-one
must know about Henry, or about our child,
except for my parents. George knows about the
child, but has been persuaded to keep the
secret, because of my inheritance.
Oh, my heart is broken, beyond belief. I
cry myself to sleep each night with longing for
the man I love. If only things could be
different. If only we could be together, raise
our child and live as a family.
But I am told it is not possible. This
must remain a secret - no one must know
that this baby is Henry's child. I have no
choice but to obey my father.
But I will never forget him, my dearest
Rose sits down, shaken by what she has
just read. Forgetting the time, she reads
through her mother's journal. She'd realised her
mother was unhappy, noticed the weariness and
sighs, and the distance between her and George,
but this was still a shock to her. Tears start
to fall down Rose's face, as she thought of her
mother living through the same nightmare that’s
now threatening her and her beloved Charlie. But
this is 1922 and in these modern days, a girl is
not obliged to obey her father's wishes.
Her father will not stop her marrying Charlie,
after all she is over twenty-one. Or, as
an alarming thought occurs to her - is George
really her father after all?
Engrossed in these thoughts, she fails
to notice how much time passes, as she
begins to understand more and more about her
mother. So it startles her when she
hears footsteps at the door. She quickly tries
to put the journal away, but is too late, as
her mother walks into the room.
‘What on earth?’
‘Oh, sorry mother. I...’
‘Put that back. Get out of here at once!’
Rose rushes out of the room, and Emily
picks up her journal, and places it on
her desk. How dare Rose snoop through her
private things?... That girl is really getting
out of hand. She goes over to the dressing table
and tidies up her hair, checking her
reflection in the mirror, and changes into her
indoor shoes. As she changes into a more
comfortable outfit she starts to wonder exactly
how much Rose has read. She really
needs to know. Has Rose discovered her secret?
It would really be a bit of a relief if
she knew about her father; after all she's
longed to tell her for ages, but George...
has categorically forbidden her to tell anyone,
and she, being the dutiful wife, has obeyed him
for all these years. It's a good job youngsters
these days have more spirit. Rose won't let
George stop her from marrying the man she
loves. She'll have a word with Rose later...find
out how much she knows...
Her opportunity came that evening, when Rose and
Emily were relaxing by the fire in the drawing
room after dinner. Olive was out with friends,
and George had retreated, as usual to his
library, with his pipe and a glass of claret.
'Rose, I'm sorry for shouting at you
earlier, but you really shouldn't be looking
through my personal things...'
'Sorry, mother. It's just...well the
strangest thing has happened... I've
seen this ghost... I mean, it must be a
dream...and not just once...'
Rose tells her mother about the ghostly
figure in the dungeons and how he told
her to look for the secret compartment, and ask
her about him. Her mother seems remarkably calm
and does not appear to be at all surprised by
this unusual story.
'So, you found the journal...'
'Yes...Sorry...But, I don't understand
why you went along with it, mother.
Why didn't you stand up to your father, run away
with Henry, if you loved him?'
' I'd no choice, dear. I was so young.
I'd no money, and I would've lost this
home. Henry had nothing. His only home, his only
income came from my father. We'd have been
destitute...and for the sake of the child...I
really had no choice...'
'So, the child... (she hesitates) ...am
I the child?'
'Yes, you are, dear...'(she pauses for a
moment)...' Henry was your father. He
was found dead in the catacombs, locked in.
Personally, I think he was murdered, but
the case was never solved, it was all hushed up,
the court ruled it was an accident, and
maybe...it could have been, if someone didn't
realise he was there, I suppose, but I
think it's unlikely...’
'Henry...my father...Oh my...' (she
pauses as the realisation sinks in). 'So
...that's why he was calling to me...He wanted
me to know he was my father...That
means...George... isn't my father after all...'
‘I 've longed to tell you...but
George...well he forbade it...but, when he
forbade you to marry your Charlie...'
'I won't let him stop me...you must help
'That's why Henry appeared to you Rose,
and we must heed his warning.
We can't let history repeat itself.'
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