Sir Jasper Pulls it off! 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: Infidelities

SIR JASPER SCRUPLE is discovered on a darkened stage, in a pool of
white light. SIR JASPER is the epitome of the Victorian villain: tall
and dark, with flashing eyes and a bristling moustache.

JASPER: I am Sir Jasper Scruple, and I have been most foully tricked
and diddled. My wife, Lady Charlotte, is at this very moment
besporting herself with her lover in my house the ancestral home
of generations of Scruples. My wife has no scruples. She has tricked
me out of my birthright, and I am forced to live like a pauper in the
little cottage down by the stream. But I shall have my revenge, make
no mistake about that. Certain seeds have already been sown. Nobody
makes a monkey out of Jasper Scruple and lives to tell the taleand
especially not that woman! (Exit)

Lights up on:

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

The room is rudely furnished, boasting just a battered sofa and a
scattering of upright wooden chairs. In the chimney alcove is a pair
of simple bunk beds, curtained off from the room. (Not absolutely
necessary for this play, but essential in Sir Jasper Rides Again!)
Doors R and L open to the outside, and a door back LC opens to the
scullery and the rest of the cottage interior.

RUFUS TURNPIKE enters from outside. He is a gnarled old countryman,
around 50-60 years of age. He checks his boots for muck, and is
satisfied. He comes into the room.

RUFUS: Annie! Annie!
ANNIE: (Off) Be that you, Rufus?
RUFUS: Why do she always ask that? Course it be, you daft old
lubbock, there be only the two of us yere now.

RUFUS's wife, ANNIE, enters from the interior. She is careworn
woman, old before her time. She wears pebble glasses, and has her
greying hair piled into a bun. She wears her best dress.

ANNIE: 'Tis good to see you 'ome, husband.
RUFUS: Is it?
ANNIE: That it be.
RUFUS: Fancy that.
ANNIE: I made you sumpen special for your supper.
RUFUS: What be that, then?
ANNIE: Rabbit stew.
RUFUS: Coney?
ANNIE: Ar. An' dumplin's. Two each!
RUFUS: Aw. Big uns?
ANNIE: Ar. Gurt big 'uns, all bobbin' about in it. I put my best
dress on for you, an'all.
RUFUS: You 'ave?
ANNIE: Can't you see?
RUFUS: Oh-ar. It's got smaller holes. Got company comin' 'ave
ANNIE: I 'ope not: not on our first night alone in this 'ouse
since I don't know when. (Sits on settee)
RUFUS: Oh-ar.
ANNIE: First our Suzie leaves 'ome, and now my youngest. 'Tis a
strange thing for a mother when her little ones fly the nest.

RUFUS sits on an upright chair, facing ANNIE

RUFUS: 'Tis about time, if you ask me. Will be twenny-two now; by
his age you an' I were wed a year, and our Suzie on the way.
ANNIE: Where do the years go, Rufus? There's still times I feel no
more'n a slip of a girl myself.
RUFUS: Well, you don't look it.
ANNIE: Rufus!
RUFUS: Well, neither do Ia boy, I mean. All these years
breakin' my back on the farm and beatin' the woods at night for
poachers, they takes a toll on a man's youth. Did Will get off all
right, 'smornin'?
ANNIE: Ar. Took his case and walked out like a proper gennelman. I
can't 'ardly b'lieve 'ee's gone. (Sniff-sniff)
RUFUS: 'Ere blow on that.
ANNIE: What's that?
RUFUS: My hankie.
ANNIE: Nothat.
RUFUS: Axle-grease. But there's a clean bit somewhere. You 'ave
a good old blow.
ANNIE: I'm all right. It's just when I think of my little ones
all grown up. Oh!
RUFUS: Don't start up again, woman! You gotta be brave.
ANNIE: I know.
RUFUS: We'll still see 'im from time to time.
ANNIE: Ar: four times a year, when 'ee wants clean under-linen.
RUFUS: 'Sides, 'ee's only moved next door.
ANNIE: Yurs.
RUFUS: Next door, into the old Grange. Fancy that old bugger bein'
so gen'rus to our Willie; an' 'im a mean old skinflint all 'is
ANNIE: Sir Jasper, you mean?
RUFUS: It makes you wonder what the old devil be up to, givin'
away everything like that: the old Grange to our Will and his Betsy,
all that money to the church, and 'is own house to his wife and
'er lover.
ANNIE: You don't want to go calling him that no more, Rufus: Mr
Longstaff be our Master now.
RUFUS: Mebbeemebbee not. Sir Jasper's got a trick or two up
'is sleeve yet, if'n you ask me. Givin' all his stuff away, if
you please! And what's he got left to live in hisself, eh?
ANNIE: I'm sure I don't know.
RUFUS: The old cottage down by the stream, that's what.
ANNIE: Oh dear!
RUFUS: I were over there today, 'elpin' 'im fix it up a bit.
There's some fixin' up to do, an' all!
ANNIE: Has it got runnin' water?
RUFUS: Ar: down the walls, across the floor an' out through the
front door. You ask me, two nights in that place'll give 'im a
dose of that penumonium.
ANNIE: Oh dear an' 'im so used to 'is little luxuries.
RUFUS: Ah, well, Sir Jasper can mind for hisself, I reckon. Where be
that stew?
ANNIE: That won't be ready for a while yet. Come you an' sit
beside me on the settee, Rufus.

RUFUS sits beside her

Give me your 'and.
ANNIE: I wants to hold it a minute.
RUFUS: What for?
ANNIE: What for? Bain't you got no soul, Rufus Turnpike? Be there
not no 'eart in you? Here we sits, together on our sofa, alone in
our little cottage for the first time since our Suzie come
alongDon't 'ee want to 'old my hand, Rufus, like you used
RUFUS: Ar. (They hold hands)
ANNIE: There now! Don't that bring things back to mind?
RUFUS: Things?
ANNIE: Do I 'ave to spell everything out? Things like afore we was
wed. You used to call for me on a Sunday and we'd sit in our back
room, whisperin' together, and 'oldin' hands. Don't you mind
it, Rufus?
RUFUS: Ar, I do. An' I remember sumpen else
ANNIE: What?
RUFUS: When we was all alone, I sometimes used to put my old arm
round you, like this(Demonstrates)
ANNIE: Oh, Rufus!
RUFUS: I called you my Little Turtle Dove I remember that my
Little Turtle Dove, I called you, bold as you like. And what did you
used to call me, eh?
ANNIE: I'm sure I don't remember!
RUFUS: I do: you used to call me a dirty old bugger.
ANNIE: I'm sure I did not!
RUFUS: You did. You used to call me a dirty old bugger, because I
used to slip my 'and up your skirt.
ANNIE: Ooh! You dirty old bugger!
RUFUS: Give us a kiss.
ANNIE: Ooh, I don't know
RUFUS: Give it, or I'll take it!
ANNIE: Oh, Rufus!

They tussle playfully on the sofa. There is a knock on the door, R.

RUFUS: Oh, blast!
ANNIE: Was that the door?
RUFUS: Ar. An' just when my memories was stirrin'! (Knock comes
again) Hold your hand! I'm a-comin'as fast as I can!

RUFUS opens the door. WILL steps into the room. He is a simple
country lad, not bright, but possessed of touching innocence, and
considerable rustic charm. He carries a battered old suitcase.

WILL: 'Ello, dad. 'Ello ma. I'm 'ome.
RUFUS: We can see that. What you doin' back? You only left
WILL: I can't stay alone in that gurt big, empty place, dad.
ANNIE: Why not?
WILL: It's got fan-tums.
RUFUS: What tums?
WILL: Fan-tums. It be 'aunted, dad!
RUFUS: 'Aunted? What do you mean, 'aunted?
WILL: Got ghosts in itgurt big ones.
RUFUS: Ghosts?
ANNIE: You sin a ghost, Will?
WILL: Oh-ar. It were terrible, ma big eyes, big ears and big
ANNIE: Sounds like your father.
WILL: It were worse'n that.
RUFUS: Now see, 'ere, boy you can't just come runnin' back
yere anytime you choose. You gotta stand up for yourself. You be a man
now. 'Sides, your ma an' me is busy.
WILL: Busy?
WILL: Doin' what?
RUFUS: Never you mind.
ANNIE: Take no notice of that old fool. You can come 'ome any time
you like.
RUFUS: No, 'ee can't! Look, boy, your ma an' me was talkin'
over old times. Wasn't we, ma?
ANNIE: Yurs.
RUFUS: An' my memories 'ad just begun stirrin'.
WILL: I aren't goin' back to that place tonight
RUFUS: Yes, you are.
WILL: No, I'm not!
RUFUS: Yes, you are!
ANNIE: No, 'ee's not!
RUFUS: 'Ere!
ANNIE: There's times when a boy needs his ma.
RUFUS: There's times when I do, an'all.
ANNIE: Well, you'll just 'ave to wait, Rufus Turnpike.
RUFUS: I got mesself all worked up.
ANNIE: Well, you'll 'ave to get worked down again. The old bath
is in the scullery. Go an' sit in a bucket of cold water.

Exit RUFUS, muttering.

Now, you sit with me on the settee, Will, an' tell your old ma all
about it.
WILL: The old Grange be fearful big, ma. So many rooms I couldn't
ANNIE: There be no shame in that.
WILL: Most of the rooms be empty, but some has got old stuff in.
ANNIE: Old stuff?
WILL: Chairs, an' tables an' cupboards an'stuffsome so big
I couldn't move 'em. I found me a gurt big bed, ma. It had a
proper mattress, an' all.
ANNIE: Well, now!
WILL: So when it got dark, I lit up a candle, see, an' I went
upstairs to bed.
ANNIE: There be stairs?
WILL: Oh-ar. They goes round an' round, an' up and upjust
like up at the 'All.
ANNIE: You be livin' like the gentry now, Will. But what about
these ghosts?
WILL: I'm comin' to that. I'd just blew out my candle when I
'eard a creakin' and a shufflin' downstairs. I come over all
ANNIE: What did you do?
WILL: I got out of bed, and went out of the room, an' then I went
an' looked over the rail. I could see right down to the 'all
below. Moonlight were streamin' through the big winder, and that's
how I saw it.
ANNIE: Saw what?
WILL: The fan-tum!
ANNIE: You saw a fan-tum?
WILL: Ar. In the moonlightI saw it clear as you likea white
shape, flittin' across the 'all.
ANNIE: Where did it go?
WILL: Dunno. I shut my eyes. It were then that I 'eard the
ANNIE: What knocking?
WILL: It went

WILL makes three air-knocks. At the same time, real knocks issue
from the door, R. WILL nearly jumps out of his skin. He makes three
more knock gestures. Silencethen three knocks come from the door.
WILL climbs onto his mother's knee and sucks his thumb.

ANNIE: Get down, you silly great baby. It's only someone at the
WILL: You sure?
ANNIE: 'Course I'm sure. Go an' let 'em in.

WILL cautiously opens the door. BETSY enters: a simple, country girl
with a pleasant face and a friendly demeanour. She wears a white
wedding dress.

WILL: Ma! It's the fan-tum!
ANNIE: Don't be so daft, boy, it's your Betsy.
BETSY: Oh, Will, I'm right down glad to see you!
WILL: Betsy! What you all dressed up like that for?
BETSY: It's my weddin' dress. I wanted you to be the first to
see it.
ANNIE: Weddin' dress? Oh, dear!
BETSY: Ar. For our weddun'. I went all the way to the old Grange
to show you, but then I got skeart.
WILL: So did I!
BETSY: The door were open, so I went in. 'Tis a gurt big place,
WILL: I know.
BETSY: I were crossin' the 'all when I looked up, and..andoh,
Will! I seed a ghost!
WILL: So did I!
BETSY: Where was yours?
WILL: Down in the 'all. Where was yours?
BETSY: Up on the landin'!
WILL: Ooh, Betsy! There be fan-tums everywhere!
BETSY: Oooh! (They hug)
ANNIE: You great daft pair of boobies! You didn't see no ghosts!
WILL &BETSY: We did!
ANNIE: You didn't you saw each other!
WILL: Aw! You was down in the 'all?
BETSY: Ar. You was up on the landin'?
WILL: Ar. But what about the ghostly knockin'? Did you do that,
an' all?
BETSY: I might-a done. I rapped on some of the doors, but no-one
WILL: I feel right stupid.
BETSY: So do I.
WILL: But I'm proper glad it weren't no fan-tums.
ANNIE: Will, I want you to go outside an' close up stable for the
ANNIE: No buts. I want to talk to Betsy alone.
WILL: So do I.
ANNIE: You'll 'ave a lifetime. Off you go.
WILL: Aw. See ye later.
BETSY: Iss. See ye later.

WILL exits

ANNIE: You didn't oughter 'ave let 'im see you in that dress,
me dear.
BETSY: Not let 'im see me?
ANNIE: Bless me, no!
BETSY: I thought he'd want to see it.
ANNIE: 'Tis fearful bad luck for a groom to see 'is bride in her
dress afore the weddin'.
BETSY: I never knowed that.
ANNIE: Ah, well, 'tis only a silly tale, I dare say. Best pay it
no mind.
BETSY: What sort of bad luck, Mrs Turnpike?
ANNIE: Well, my ma, 'er told me a man who sees his bride in her
weddin' dress afore the ceremony won't never prove a faithful
spousebut that be just an old wive's tale, I'm sure. Don't ye
pay it no heed. You two are more in love than any young couple I ever
saw. There be no silly old wives' tales can mar that.
BETSY: I 'opes you're right. But I'd best go back and take it
off, though. I don't want no bad luck.
ANNIE: Yurs. That would be best.
BETSY: Afore 'ee sees it again, like.
ANNIE: 'Tis a fair, fine dress, I'll say that.
BETSY: It were Lady Charlotte's. She said I could have a lend of
ANNIE: Well, now!
BETSY: Do I look all right?
ANNIE: You look a proper rose. Fair brings tears to my old eyes.
BETSY: Oh, Mrs Turnpike!
ANNIE: There! I'm nobbut a silly old woman. Afore ye go, just go
you through into the back room. I've been cuttin' stuff out for
our Suzie and that other bridesmaid of yours.
BETSY: Peggy! I near forgot she'm comin' round to the 'All
tonight to talk 'bout the weddin'. I mustn't be long, else I
might miss her.
ANNIE: It's through the scullery, on the table.

BETSY exits, C.

BETSY: (Off) Aaaarrgh!

BETSY returns

Oh, Mrs Turnpike! There's a naked man in there!
ANNIE: That bain't no man, me dear, that's my Rufus. I clean
forgot 'ee were in the bath. I'll go get 'im out of it. (Exit)
ANNIE: (Off) Rufus! Put that away, an' get out of the bath. We've
got company!

WILL enters, R. BETSY crouches behind the sofa.

BETSY: Will! Go 'way! You can't come in 'ere!
WILL: Why not?
BETSY: 'Cos I got my dress on!

BETSY snatches a blanket from the sofa and wraps it around herself
to partially hide the wedding dress.

WILL: That you doin' that for?
BETSY: You're not to see me in my weddin' dress. Your ma says.
WILL: Well, take it off, then.
BETSY: I couldn't do that, Will, not with you 'ere.
'Twouldn't be right.
WILL: Please yourself. I'm not interested in no silly dress,
BETSY: Will! (She cries)
WILL: What you cryin' for?
BETSY: You don't want to see me in my weddin' dress!
WILL: You just said I couldn't!
BETSY: You can't. But you might-a wanted to! (Exit, L)
WILL: An' she tells me I'm daft!


ANNIE: Where's she gone, Betsy?
WILL: I'm Will, not Betsy.
ANNIE: Less of your cheek you're not too big for a clip round
the ear, my boy. You know full well I'm talking about Betsy. Has she
WILL: Ar. She ran out that door.
ANNIE: There now, an' I got your father out of the tub so she
could go through to the back room. I 'ope you two 'aven't been
'avin' words?
WILL: We 'ave, but I didn't understand 'em.
ANNIE: Mebbe she'll be back. You can come through and 'elp me
with supper, seein' as you're stayin'.
WILL: Aw, ma!
ANNIE: 'Tis the least you can do, comin' 'ome unexpected.
I'll 'ave to thin out them dumplin's.

ANNIE and WILL exit, C.

ANNIE: (Off) And you can put some decent clothes on, Rufus. We
don't know who will be droppin' in next.

RUFUS enters in his combinations

RUFUS: Can't even 'ave a bath in me own 'ome now without some
stranger comes to gawp. An what does that boy want to come 'ome for
so quick, just when I were about to get my conjunglies?

There is a loud knock at the door

'Oo can that be, now? Go away! There's nobody in 'ere!

SIR JASPER enters without waiting to be invited

JASPER: Ah, there you are, Turnpike. I hope I have not called at an
embarrassing moment?
RUFUS: You nearly did.
JASPER: I see you are not dressed for entertaining.
RUFUS: I'm not dressed at all.
JASPER: Quite. Perhaps you would prefer me to return later?
RUFUS: No, I wouldn't. 'Tis fearful late for visitors.
JASPER: The fact is, I find myself in an equivocal position.
RUFUS: Oh-ar?
JASPER: As you know, I am spending some quality time in the little
cottage down by the stream
JASPER: Well, there was rather a high tide this afternoon, and my
bed floated out of the window.
RUFUS: Ye don't say?
JASPER: I do. So, you see, I find myself with no-where to sleep for
the night.
RUFUS: Tricky.
JASPER: So I thought I would call upon my most trusted tenants
RUFUS: Former tenants.
JASPER: All right. Yes. Anyway, I thought you might not begrudge me
a night upon your settee?
RUFUS: Why not? 'Tis open 'ouse tonight.

RUFUS exits to scullery, calling:

Annie! There'll be another for supper.
ANNIE: (Off) Oh dear. You can't hardly see these dumplings as
JASPER: (To Audience) That was an exaggeration about my bed it
only bobbed around a bit - but I don't see why I should disclose the
secrets of my personal affairs to all and sundry. Suffice it to say
that I have a plana subtle planfor the recovery of my

ANNIE enters

ANNIE: Oh, Sir Jasper, I just 'eard 'bout your bed.
JASPER: A minor setback.
ANNIE: Rufus said you wanna sleep on our old sofa?
JASPER: If it be no trouble.
ANNIE: Won't ye take one of the beds?
JASPER: Where?
ANNIE: To sleep on.
JASPER: Oh, I see. Thank you, no: if my memory serves me correctly,
they are already occupied by an impressive variety of wild-life.
ANNIE: So's that sofa.
ANNIE: But don't you worry Rufus'll kill off the big ones
afore 'ee turns in.
JASPER: (Aside) Does their hospitality know no bounds? (Checks
watch) Eight thirty. Time to tend to my horse.

RUFUS enters, C.

JASPER: I'm just going outside. I may be some time. (Exit, R)
RUFUS: Aw. Annie! Annie!

ANNIE enters, C

ANNIE: What now?
RUFUS: Sir Jasper may be some time, an' Will's got 'is ferrets
out, so 'ow about that cuddle?
ANNIE: I got better things to do than that, now we got visitors.
An' get yourself dressed, Rufus you look like I don't know
what! (Exit)
RUFUS: (Calling after her) I'll get dressed when I'm good an'
ready! I got better things to do, an' all! (To Audience) Naggin'
old faggot! 'Tis a fine thing when a man can't be informal in
'is own 'ome.

There is a knock at the door, L.

And I bain't answerin' that door, neither.
ANNIE: (Off) Rufus! Get the door!
RUFUS: P'raps I am.

RUFUS opens the door. LADY CHARLOTTE enters. She seems a frail and
beautiful creature.

Oh. 'Tis lady Charlotte! You'd best come in.
CHARLOTTE: Oh, Mr Turnpike! You haven't got any clothes on!
RUFUS: I know. I'm relaxin'.
CHARLOTTE: I'm sowwy to intwude, but I am looking for Betsy.
RUFUS: She's bin 'ere, but you missed 'er.
CHARLOTTE: Giles hasn't been here, too, has he?
RUFUS: Not yet, but I daresay 'ee'll be along in a bit, along
with the rest of the village.
CHARLOTTE: Oh, Mr Turnpike, I'm so unhappy! (Sits and cries)
RUFUS: Now, now, Lady Charlotte, no need to cry, I'm sure. You
wanna blow on my hanky?

RUFUS pulls the offensive rag from the leg of his long-johns.

CHARLOTTE: No thank you. I shall be all wight. I am but a weak and
foolish woman.
RUFUS: There, there! (Sits and puts an arm around her) Old
Rufus'll look after you.

ANNIE enters with a pair of trousers

ANNIE: If you're goin-a cuddle Lady Charlotte, Rufus, you can put
some trousers on. (Throws them at him)
RUFUS: Fuss, fuss, fuss! (He stands and hauls on the trousers)
CHARLOTTE: Oh, Mrs Turnpike, I am so glad you are here!
ANNIE: I bet 'ee's not.

RUFUS scowls, one leg in his trousers.

Why are you cryin' me dear?
CHARLOTTE: I have a pwivate unhappiness.
RUFUS: What's that, then?
CHARLOTTE: It's pwivate.
ANNIE: Why don't I send Rufus out, then you tell old Annie all
about it, eh?
CHARLOTTE: I can't. It is too tewwible. But I might have to cwave
a boon.
RUFUS: Don't think we got one o' they.
CHARLOTTE: For vewwy personal weasons, I find myself unable to sleep
up at the Hall tonight.
ANNIE: Oh dear.
CHARLOTTE: I may have to ask to sleep upon your sofa.
ANNIE: Oh dear.
CHARLOTTE: I may, mayn't I? I know you will not turn me away.

[end of extract]

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