Sir Jasper Rides Again! by Bob Bishop

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This Play is the copyright of the Author and may not be performed, copied or sold without the Author's prior consent

ACT ONE: Jasper and the Private Dick

Scene: The interior of Rufus Turnpike's Cottage, Dorset, England,
1880

The room is rudely furnished, boasting just a battered sofa with
small table behind it and a scattering of upright wooden chairs. In
the chimney alcove is a pair of simple bunk beds, curtained off from
the room by sacking curtains. (These beds are rigged to collapse on
cue) Doors R and L open to the outside, and a door, back LC, opens to
the scullery and the rest of the cottage interior. A large trunk
stands next to the door, C. RUFUS TURNPIKE enters from outside. He is
a gnarled old countryman, around 50-60 years of age.

RUFUS: Annie! Annie!
ANNIE: (Off) What you shoutin' like that for, Rufus Turnpike? You
know I'm out in the scullery.

ANNIE TURNPIKE enters the room, C, wiping her hands on her apron.
She is a shrivelled woman with pebble glasses and greying hair piled
into a bun.

RUFUS: Get my things together, woman I'm spendin' the night
with Betsy.
ANNIE: If you're spendin' the night with some other woman, you
can get your own things.
RUFUS: What do you mean, some other woman? You daft booby, I'm
talkin' about my old cow!
ANNIE: Your old cow?
RUFUS: Ar.
ANNIE: You'm spendin' the night with an old cow?
RUFUS: Thass right so where's my things?
ANNIE: 'Tis a wonder the words don't stick in your throat, you
disgustin' old pervert!
RUFUS: What? Me?
ANNIE: 'Tis a fine thing when a man gets more comfort from 'is
stock than 'ee does from 'is lawful wedded wife.
RUFUS: You daft old faggot! You know full well Betsy's expectin'
a calf!
ANNIE: Oh.
RUFUS: Could be yere any minute. That's why I'm a-sittin' up
with 'er.
ANNIE: Well why didn't you say so before?
RUFUS: So be you goin' to get my things, or bain't ye?
ANNIE: No.
RUFUS: Why not?
ANNIE: 'Cos I'm makin' chutney. (Exit)
RUFUS: There's twice the sense in my old cow than there is in she.
Ar, well, best get me own things, then. (Exit, C)

WILL TURNPIKE enters, R. He is a gangling youth, slow of wit, but
open, honest, and possessing a rustic charm all of his own.

WILL: Dad! I'm 'ome! I'm 'ome, ma!
ANNIE: (Off) Be that you, Will?
WILL: Ar.
ANNIE: (Off) Your tea's ready, through yere.
WILL: I don't want no tea, ma.

Enter ANNIE

ANNIE: You don't want no tea?
WILL: Naw. I just bin up to the 'All with my Betsy. She made me my
tea, see?
ANNIE: There's rabbit stew in the pot, good and warm.
WILL: No thanks, ma; my Betsy she gave I pheasant pie.
ANNIE: Please yourself. (Exit)
WILL: Oh dear. I hurt 'er feelin's now. But I can't eat no
rabbit stew when I be stuffed wi' pheasant. My Betsy gives I lots
o' little treats. 'Er an' me are in love! Oh-ar!

Enter RUFUS

Hello, dad.
RUFUS: Hello, boy.
WILL: What you got there?
RUFUS: My beddin'. I'm spendin' the night with Betsy.

WILL's face falls. RUFUS exits, R. WILL sits, thoroughly
dejected.
A knock comes at the door, R.

ANNIE: (Off) See to that door, Will: I'm all over chutney!

WILL opens the door. BETSY enters. She is an honest, hard-working
country maid, employed at the Hall by Sir Jasper. She is hopelessly in
love with WILL.

BETSY: Hello, my Lovie!
WILL: You've got a nerve, comin' yere!
BETSY: Bain't you glad to see me, Will?
WILL: You're a brazen hussey, that's what you are!
BETSY: Will!
WILL: Don't you come near me, youyou concubine!
BETSY: Willie!
WILL: An' I don't want no "Willie"ing, neither I knows what
you bin doin' be'ind my back!
BETSY: I don't know what you mean, Will, honest I don't.
WILL: Nurturin' my 'opes on pheasant pie, an' all the time in
love with my dad.
BETSY: Your dad?!
WILL: There's no use you denyin' it, 'cos 'ee told me.
BETSY: Your dad said we was in love?
WILL: Ar. Not five minutes ago. 'Ee went out that door and said
'ee was spendin' the night with you. 'Ee 'ad 'is pillow with
'im, an' all.
BETSY: Your dad said we was spendin' the night together?
WILL: Ar. An' I 'opes you enjoys yourselves.

WILL exits, C.

BETSY: Oh lor! This is a fine pickle: Rufus Turnpike fixin' to
sleep with me!
Why, 'ee could be up at the 'All this very minute, climbin'
through my little bedroom winder! I always said that man 'ad funny
eyes. Poor old Mrs Turnpike wed to an evil old man like that!
An' my Willie, tooI 'opes 'ee don't take after 'is dad!
What am I to do? I durnst go 'ome!

There is a knock at the door

Ooh! P'raps that's the old beggar come back to find me! I'd
best make myself scarce!

BETSY exits, L. ANNIE enters from C.

ANNIE: Will! Where's that boy gone, now? Do I 'ave to do
everythin' in this house?

ANNIE opens the door, R. SIR JASPER SCRUPLE strides in. SIR JASPER
is the epitome of the Victorian villain: tall and dark, with flashing
eyes and a bristling moustache. He carries a riding crop.

Why, if it bain't Sir Jasper Scruple! Whatever can it be brings
you to our little cottage at this time o' night, Sir Jasper?
JASPER: Revenge!
ANNIE: Oh dear!
JASPER: Where is your husband?
ANNIE: Rufus?
JASPER: Have you another?
ANNIE: No.
JASPER: Well, then?
ANNIE: He bain't yere, Sir Jasper. He be spendin' the night with
our old cow.
JASPER: You poor woman.
ANNIE: Bless you, Sir Jasper, it bain't nothin' like that! Our
old cow, Betsy, she's expectin' a calf at any moment.
JASPER: I see. Then you will have a spare bed for the night, if your
husband is confined to the cow shed?
ANNIE: I suppose we will. But it be nothin' like the comfort you
do enjoy up at the 'All, sir.
JASPER: That cannot be helped. In any case, it is not for myself
that I seek the accommodation. May I be frank?
ANNIE: If ye like. That would be Sir Frank from now on, then, would
it?
JASPER: (Aside) What is she talking about?
ANNIE: Won't 'ee sit down, Sir Frank?
JASPER: Thank ye, no these trousers are freshly pressed. And
stop milking the jokes. You will be aware that, for some time now,
relations with my wife, Charlotte, have become, shall we say a
trifle strained? In short: she has a lover.
ANNIE: A lover! Oh you mean Mr Longstaff.
JASPER: Yes, I mean Mr Longstaff. I have given that woman
everything: my love, my devotion, my namemy money! In return she
has made me a laughing stock; fingers point at me wherever I go; low
fellows laugh behind their hands; even my friends mock me when my back
is turned!
ANNIE: Surely not?
JASPER: But it shall stop. (His crop quivers) Oh, yes - it shall
surely stop!
ANNIE: Why are you tellin' me these things?
JASPER: Because I need your help.
ANNIE: Mine? Oh dear!
JASPER: I have engaged the services of a private detective
ANNIE: A private dick! Oh dear!
JASPER: a detective who will obtain the necessary proof of my
wife's infidelity: a few discrete enquiries, a couple of candid
snap-shots, and thendivorce!
ANNIE: No!
JASPER: Yes! She came to me from the gutter, and to the gutter she
shall return and without a penny of mine!
ANNIE: What do you want from us?
JASPER: You will accommodate the detective in your cottage for a
night or two. He arrives shortly. Here is a guinea, to defray the cost
of his food.
ANNIE: Oh, Sir Jasper, I can't
JASPER: Give it back, then. His name is Henry Fisher. Your husband,
you say, is in the barn?
ANNIE: With Betsy, yes, but
JASPER: Good. I shall seek him out and apprise him of my plans. You
had better look out clean linen for your guest.
ANNIE: We're too poor for linen here, Sir Jasper, but 'ee can
'ave a well-stuffed palliasse like the rest of us. (Exit)
JASPER: Now, to seek out old Turnpike: he of the well-stuffed
palliasse. Dogs that they are, this old couple would sooner help my
wife against me, but they answer to me for their very existence: their
cottage is mine, their future is mineeven their pathetic little
lives are mine. They dare not cross me!

Exit SIR JASPER, R. Enter BETSY, L

BETSY: That were my master, Sir Jasper Scruple. What would Sir
Jasper be wantin' in my little Willie's house? And at this time of
night, too?

Enter WILL, C, carrying his bedding towards door, R.

BETSY: Will
WILL: You did ought to be gone by now: my dad don't like to be
kept waitin'.
BETSY: You gotta listen to me, WillWhat 'ave you got there?
WILL: My beddin'. I'm takin' it out to the barn.
BETSY: The barn.
WILL: Ar. I'm leavin' ome. Don't wanna be under the same roof
as that man. Nor you, neither.
BETSY: Will, you got it all wrong! I don't care nothing for your
dad!
WILL: You don't?
BETSY: No!
WILL: So why's 'ee sleepin' in your bed, then?
BETSY: I didn't know nothin' about it until you said just then,
and that's the honest truth.
WILL: Aw.
BETSY: You always bin good to me, Will; I wouldn't be false to
you, my Lovie.

BETSY takes WILL's arm. He wavers.

If your dad be after me, I do need your protection.
WILL: You do?
BETSY: 'Course I do, Will. I durnst go 'ome, not after what you
said. You'll let me stay tonight, won't you?
WILL: I don't know 'bout thatwhat'd my Ma say?
BETSY: Please, Will
WILL: Tell 'ee what you sleep in my cot, an' I'll sleep in
Dad's. Then if 'ee come back in the night, 'ee'll 'ave a man
to reckon with.
BETSY: Do 'ee sleep on 'is own, then, your dad?
WILL: Oh-ar. Ever since I was born. My mum said one mistake was
enough. Don't know what she meant by that.
BETSY: I'll just pop back to the 'All an' get my little
things.
WILL: What little things?
BETSY: Will! My private things! Things a lady don't talk about.
WILL: Oh. But 'ere what if my dad be lyin' in wait for
'ee? I'd best come with you.
BETSY: No, Will two of us'll make more noise than one. I'll
creep in the shadders. I'll be alright. Do you stay 'ere an' get
my bed ready. (Kisses him) Bye, Will.
WILL: Bye, Betsy.

BETSY exits, L

Best tell my ma what's happening. But I won't tell 'er about
dad, though, 'cos that wouldn't be fair.

ANNIE enters with her bedding roll

'Ello, ma what you got there?
ANNIE: My beddin'. I bain't stayin' in this house with such
goin's on.
WILL: What goings-on?
ANNIE: Best not ask, boy.
WILL: Where be you goin' to sleep, then?
ANNIE: With your father.
WILL: My dad? But 'ee's
ANNIE: Spendin' the night with Betsy. I know.
WILL: You knew?
ANNIE: 'Couse I knew. There bain't no secrets twixt me an'
your father. I'm goin' to be by 'is side, in case 'ee might
need my 'elp.
WILL: Need your help? With Betsy?
ANNIE: Ar. At times like that a woman's touch can make all the
difference.
WILL: Pfwar!
ANNIE: If you've got any sense, you'll come along an' join us.
There's goin' a be strange goings-on in this 'ouse tonight.
(Exit)
WILL: There is an' all! Fancy my mum wantin' us all to sleep
together! I don't think that's very nice. Hello, who's this?

Enter SIR JASPER

JASPER: Has he arrived yet?
WILL: No he's lookin' for my Betsy.
JASPER: Why?
WILL: I wouldn't like to say.
JASPER: Did he leave a message?
WILL: Oh-ar.
JASPER: What was it?
WILL: He said 'ee was goin' to spend the night with my Betsy!
JASPER: How odd. Are you sure it was him?
WILL: Oh-ar.
JASPER: What did he look like?
WILL: Consumed by lust.
JASPER: What?
WILL: His eyes were wild with desire, an' his chest was heavin'
with emotion.
JASPER: Well which way did he go?
WILL: Up to the 'All, I s'pose.
JASPER: Right! I shall soon cool his ardour! I'll teach him to
ravish my servants! (Exit)
WILL: Don't think he needs no lessons. My dad'd best watch out
Sir Jasper will give 'im a thrashin'.Well, serve 'im right
if 'ee does. I'd best make up this bedOh. My mum's out now,
and our Suzie's not 'ereBetsy an' me'll be all alone in the
'ouse! Ooh, Betsy! I 'opes I can control myself! I come over all
goosey just thinkin' about it!

WILL exits to kitchen. LADY CHARLOTTE enters cautiously from the
door, R. She is a fragile, beautiful young woman, with sad, hunted
eyes. When she speaks, she has trouble with her R's.

CHARLOTTE: (Softly) Hello? Hello?

There is tap at the door, L CHARLOTTE opens it. GILES LONGSTAFF
enters: a tall, good-looking young man, very upright and eager.

CHARLOTTE: Quickly! Quickly! Did anyone follow you?
GILES: No. I kept concealing myself. Why are we meeting here?
CHARLOTTE: It is the last place my husband would look. (She paces)
GILES: Stop moving around the room, my darling, and let me hold you
in my arms.
CHARLOTTE: There's no time for that.
GILES: Isn't there?
CHARLOTTE: Not tonight, Giles. I have come up with something.
GILES: Have you?
CHARLOTTE: Yes. That is why we had to meet our vewwy lives are
in danger.
GILES: Gosh!
CHARLOTTE: Come and look at this

CHARLOTTE takes a scrap of paper from her bosom

GILES: A piece of blotting paper.
CHARLOTTE: Yes fwom Jasper's wighting desk; and see what is on
it?
GILES: Ink.
CHARLOTTE: Wighting. Weed the wighting, Giles.
GILES: I can't it's back to front and smudgy.
CHARLOTTE: Oh, give it to me! I shall wead it: "behind my
backwith her lovercatch them in the acttwo shots should
sufficeSaturday, as awangedSir Jasp" What do you think of
that?
GILES: Not very well written, is it?
CHARLOTTE: Half the words are missing. But this is enough. You see
now why we could not meet at the hall?
GILES: No.
CHARLOTTE: He's hiring a pwofessional killer!
GILES: Is he?
CHARLOTTE: Yes!
GILES: Why?
CHARLOTTE: To kill us, of course!
GILES: He wouldn't dare!
CHARLOTTE: Of course he would! Hasn't he tried to poison us both
already? "Two shots should suffice!" One for you; one for me.
GILES: That's terrible! We must think, quickly.

They sit on the sofa to think quickly

What was the day he mentioned?
CHARLOTTE: Saturday.
GILES: Today is Saturday.
CHARLOTTE: I know.
GILES: It might not mean this Saturday.
CHARLOTTE: That's true.
GILES: It might have meant last Saturday.
CHARLOTTE: If it meant last Saturday, we'd both be dead by now.
GILES: Oh, yes. Or next Saturday.
CHARLOTTE: Yes. (She stands)
GILES: Where are you going?
CHARLOTTE: Back to the Hall to collect some things. We must wun away
together.
GILES: You can't go back there! He might be lying in wait!
CHARLOTTE: I shall be careful. Besides, he has orders to shoot us
together.
GILES: Suppose he can't count?
CHARLOTTE: Stop fussing, Giles. I shall be all wight.
GILES: Come back to me quickly.
CHARLOTTE: I shall. I will.
GILES: I say
CHARLOTTE: Yes?
GILES: Where are the Turnpikes?
CHARLOTTE: In the barn. They're sleeping with the cow.

CHARLOTTE exits, R. GILES steps forward to say something to the
Audience, but words fail him. He exits after CHARLOTTE. WILL enters,
C. He pulls back the sacking curtain from the top bunk and starts to
make it up. He exits C. ANNIE enters, R.

ANNIE: Hot water!

ANNIE rushes into the kitchen. SIR JASPER enters, L.

JASPER: No sign of the fellow up at the Hall. No sign of that girl,
Betsy, either. If she's seducing my detective she can leave first
thing in the morning. With no references!

ANNIE runs through with a bucket of steaming water.

ANNIE: Hot water!
JASPER: One moment
ANNIE: Can't stop! I be the midwife! (Exit)
JASPER: I never knew that. (Looks at his watch) Where on earth is
that detective?

SIR JASPER exits, L. WILL enters, C, with a stone hot water bottle.
He makes for the bed, but RUFUS rushes in from the door, R, and
snatches his bottle.

RUFUS: Hot water!

RUFUS rushes out the way he came. WILL looks bemused. He exits, C.
GILES enters, L.

GILES: No one has time to speak to me. All this fuss over an old
cow. I shall sit here and wait for my love to return.

GILES sits. There is a knock at the door, R. GILES jumps up again.

Back already! Coming, my Love!

GILES opens the door. A man enters who could only be a detective: he
has a moustache like Poirot, wears a cap and cape like Sherlock
Holmes, and talks like Inspector Clouseau. It is HENRI FICHU.

FICHU: Good evening. Fichu.
GILES: Bless you.
FICHU: Non. I am Henri Fichu. I am pleased to meet you. I will tell
you, my friend, you do me a great honeur.
GILES: I do?
FUCHU: But certainly: it is not every day one is called to the
service of an Engleesh Milord. Shall we be seated?
GILES: If you like.

GILES and FICHU sit on the sofa. FICHU sniffs.

FUCHU: Is it my nurs, or is there a curious smell?
GILES: It is a bit rustic in here.
FICHU: Rustique. Oui, oui.
GILES: I don't think it's that.
FICHU: Eh bien. To beezneez; first, I show you my tools.
GILES: Do you?
FICHU: But of course. You will see Henri Fichu is well prepared. (He
empties his pockets) Ze magnifying glassze false beardze
revolverze 'and-cuffsand specially for you, Milord ze
camera. Zey meet wiz your approval, zese sings?
GILES: Very nice. Yes.

RUFUS rushes in from the barn

RUFUS: Towels! (Exit to kitchen)
FICHU: A man just ran through zat door, and shouted "Towels!"
GILES: That was old Turnpike. He lives here.
FICHU: D'accord I remember: ze cottage of Monsieur Turnpeek.
He knows I am 'ere?
GILES: Does he?
FICHU: I am asking.

RUFUS enters, C, with towels

FICHU: (Standing) Fichu
RUFUS: Bless you. (Exit, R)
FICHU: (Sitting) 'Ee moves very fast, this Monsieur Turnpeek.
GILES: Hi is expecting a calf.
FICHU: Vraiment?
GILES: Out in the barn.
FICHU: What is zis "barn"?
GILES: You know the cow shed.
FICHU: Ah, oui: la grange; etable de vaches. D-accord.
GILES: The Turnpikes are in and out all the time.
FICHU: Les Anglais: quelles bizarre! I 'ope Monsieur Turnpeek did
not see my tules. Zey are a secret between Fichu and 'is employer.
GILES: I'm sure.

FICHU puts away his tools, carefully, in the designated pockets.

FICHU: Alors: everysing is 'idden away. When do we start?
GILES: Start?
FICHU: Mais oui! I am raring to go!

GILES stiffens slightly, and widens the distance between them.

Tell me, where is your wife?
GILES: Pardon?
FICHU: Your wife where is she now?
GILES: I have no wife! The woman who was rightfully mine was
snatched from me by another!
FICHU: I understand. I will put eet anuzzer way: where is the Lady
Chalotte?
GILES: The Lady of Shalott?
FICHU: Lady Chalotte. Oui.
GILES: Oh! Lady Charlotte! You know her, then?
FICHU: But of course not. Tonight she is wiz 'er lover, n'est-ce
pas?
GILES: What?
FICHU: Zees, what-you-call-heem: Geele Longsteeck. You know in
your letter ? Zis feelthy bastard who is stealing your wife.
GILES: Oooh!
FICHU: We will lie in wait, Sir Jaspair, you and I. Ze Longsteek, he
will creep into her rume and seize her in heez arms; zey rip off zeir
clothing, and throw themselves upon the bed; at ze height of zeir
passion we leap out, and poof-poof! In ze bag!
GILES: Excuse me.

GILES jumps headlong out of the open window.

FICHU: Zat is very strange: Sir Jaspair has just thrown himself
through ze window.

[end of extract]

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