Characters: She (Mrs. Maria John), He and The Porter.
Scene: A Railway Waiting Room.
Time: A Stormy Winters Evening.
Twenty minutes with Mrs. Maria John is a nicely written melodrama, became very famous due to existence of thrill and suspense in it. The readers actually loved the topic which was actually based on revenge from a father for his wife and daughter from a woman due to her intentional negligence.
The waiting room of a small country railway junction. A gas-fire at a side wall, a chair beside the fire, a bench against the back wall, and a table.
The room is empty and, as the gas-light is turned low, almost in darkness. The loudness of rain and wind is horrible or audible and continue increasing as the door is opened.
The door opens and a lady comes in, carrying a suitcase, which had has a tie on label. She is heavily wrapped with gloves, scarf and fur coat, all slightly wet from the rain. A porter follow her in and turns the gas full on. His cap and coat glisten with rain drops. The lady puts her suitcase down on the bench, and stands hesitant and in gentle manner.
Porter: Well, that’ll throw a bit of light on the situation. And I’ll light the fire for you, so that you can warm your tootsies.
She: (by rubbing her hands). There was no heating at all on that train.
Porter: There never is, nor no eating, neither.
(The lady takes off her gloves and spreads her hands to the fire. A man comes in briskly. He is wearing a trench coat and a broad brim hat-both wet-and he carries a very large suitcase, which he puts down at once. He shuts the door behind him, takes off his coat and shakes it.)
He: what a night! I got quite wet coming from the back of the train.
Porter: (making to go out). And I’ll get soaked to the skin trotting to the luggage office at the other end of the platform. This job’s only fits for a shaggy dog! You two have twenty minutes to get dry and warm (Goes out into the storm and shuts the door behind him).
The lady, meanwhile, has taken off her hat and scarf, placed them on the table, and opened her coat. Her hair is mouse-brown, well streaked with grey, and nicely done. She is wearing a wedding-ring. Her dress and speech define her as the wife of a prosperous professional or businessman.
The man has taken off his coat, shaken it and thrown it down on the bench with his hat. As he does so, his glanced falls on the label of the lady’s suitcase, it’s apparently means nothing to him. His dress and speech define him as slightly lower in the social scale—a clerk or a superior artisan, he is clean-shaven, and at first exhibits a showy air.
For a moment, the two take no notice of each other. They appear to be strangers thrown casually together for a few moments. Then she moves aside, so that he can share the fire, she sits on the chair, half turning to warm her hands and feet, and he stands in front, a little to the side, holding out his hands to the fire.
He: So we have exactly twenty minutes to wait.
She: Just right
He: you don’t object to a little conversation?
She: We may as well, as we have twenty minutes.
He: (grumbling). Why can’t they have a roof over the platform?
She: (calmly). This station’s not used very much. Only for people changing on the loop-line to Stainthorpe.
He: it’s long time since I was here.
She: I live at Stainthorpe-(Laughs a little nervously)-so I know this waiting room quite well.
(There is a pause. They are beginning to get warm, and both withdraw a little from fire)
He: You live there? Do you know a Mrs. Maria John
(He turns slightly away as he speaks, and does not appear to observe the start of surprise with which she hears this name).
She: (recovering and speaking with informally). Yes. She lives at Stainthorpe.
He: What’s she like?
She: (nervously). You mean: in appearance or in character?
He: In appearance. (Grimly). I know all about her character.
She: (startled at this, but trying to appear normal). Oh. She’s fairly ordinary, you know. Nothing very pointed or remarkable about her. Short rather than tall-about five foot three; weighs a little under eight stone (fifty approx.) No special distinguishing marks.
He: (not appreciates the description). I saw a photograph of her once in a newspaper. It was well, a newspaper photograph. You couldn’t tell whether she was dark or fair. But I was told she was banana blonde.
She: (lightly). So, she was once. But blonde hair doesn’t stay blonde forever, you know. I was a blonde once.
He: (casually) pretty?
She: Do you mean me, or Mrs. Maria John
She: Oh, I see. (considering, more at her ease). It all depends on taste, doesn’t it? I know some people used to think she was pretty. But may I ask why you are so curious about her?
He: I’m going to Stainthorpe on purpose to see her, that’s why, I asked what she looked like so that I’d recognize her when I saw her.
She: Well, you’ve only to go to her house and knock at that door. She’ll probably answer it herself, and then you’ll be able to form your own opinion as to whether she’s pretty or not.
He: (grimly). That’s what I intend to do.
She: Does it matter?
He: What do you mean?
She: Whether she is pretty or nor?
He: Not in the least. I want just ten minutes alone with her, that’s all.
She: That shouldn’t be difficult. You’ve already had five minutes alone with me.
He: That leaves us fifteen more. (He speaks grimly, looking straight at her).
She: (both afraid and puzzled, speaking quickly and nervously). Yes. You and I are here alone for twenty minutes. We have never met before and we shall very likely never see each other again.
I often think about these chances and casual meetings we have with people, thousands of them, in the course of a life time. People we pass in the street, stand behind in bus-queues, sit next to in the theatre, and so on.
There they are, living their own lives, and then, just for a brief space, they come into your life-only to disappear, and, for all you know, to die the next day. Or perhaps they live, forgetting you completely, long after you are dead. Your life touches another life for a minute, for an hour, and then it swings apart. You go your way and I go mine.
He: (immensely). Sometimes one of these brief, casual meetings may alter your life.
She: (with a shiver). Not in my experience.
He: I wouldn’t be too sure. You never know what’s round the corner. I can tell you of two of these half-minute meetings which have had the most profound effect on my life. But for them everything would have been absolutely different.
She: (lightly). Can you really know that? Perhaps some other event.
He: (interrupting forcibly). I’ll tell you of one of them. It was in a place you’ve never been to. It was in Korea, June 1953. (She makes to utter some sympathetic remark, but he talks her down). I’d been wounded, and they’d strapped me on a stretcher and dumped me by the roadside to wait for an ambulance-if I didn’t peg out first.
I wanted to die anyway. I’d nothing to live for. The pain was-pretty bad. I guess I fainted. When I came to, there was a Korean girl bending over me. She was about fourteen; not pretty, of course; but friendly brown eyes, and long black plaits hanging in front of her shoulders.
She didn’t say anything. She just smiled. And I smiled back. Some busy- bodies chased her away. Then the ambulance came up, and I was push for miles to a hospital. The pain was much worse. But I could bear it now. I didn’t want to die anymore. I wanted to live. I knew I should live. I had a purpose. It was just for a moment or two that she and I met. We shall never meet again. But that one meeting gave me the strength and the courage to live.
(He stops almost overcome).
She: (gently). Yes, I can understand that. Her smile made you realize – that there was still some goodness in life.
He: (brokenly). It made me realized what my daughter would have been like, if she had lived.
She: Oh! – I’m sorry.
He: (pulling himself together). It gave me purpose in life.
She: What purpose?
He: (violently) revenge!
The EPISODE 1 of this story ends here and the next episode will be the last one which will exactly reveal you that how the story moved forward and what happened after that. The last episode will be released soon In Shaa Allah.