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The Archers after Shakespeare

                 MISTRESS ALDRIDGE IS IN THE GARDEN

Jennifer   This Christmas Day doth creep up like a thief.
                  So quiet and yet so quickly doth he come
                  That it is time to give and take our presents
                  Before we have acquired them in the shops!
                  A single week to go, and I am far from ready...

ENTER EDDIE GRUNDY

Eddie        All hail to you, and greetings, Mrs Aldridge!

Jennifer   Why, Master Grundy!  I never heard your step!
                  You came from nowhere, as a ghost doth come,
                  All silently, and full of silky guile!

Eddie        It is a craft that I have learnt full well
                  While creeping through the autumn woods at night,
                  Out searching for a plump young pheasant bird
                  To fill the pot of my poor hungry family.
                  It is the poacher's art to move so silently...

Jennifer    And are they Aldridge pheasants in your pot?
                  These birds which you do hunt at dead of night
                  - Were they once living on my husband's farm,
                  Awaiting death from some executive gun
                  And not by stealthy murder from a poacher?

Eddie       No, Mistress Aldridge, never would I stoop
                  To poaching on your land by dead of night!
                  Let's speak no more of this. I come to say
                  A Happy Christmas to all you and yours!

Jennifer   That's mighty kind of you, my worthy Grundy.

Eddie       And to offer you a bag of horse manure!

Jennifer    A Christmas gift? How very kind of you!

Eddie       No, no, 'tis not a gift! It is my trade
                  To sell this rich and lovely stuff to you!
                  See where it steams and shimmers in the moonlight,
                  Still warm from where it came from out the horse
                  And promising life where'er ye dig it in!
                  This is a magic potion for a garden!

Jennifer    I scarce can bear to utter a refusal,
                  And yet I must, for we are well equipped
                  With horse manure.

Eddie         And holly too?

Jennifer     That, too.

Eddie         Then must my family starve this Christmas time
                    Unless I sell this load of steaming dung!           

ENTER LINDA SNELL

Linda        Ah, Mistress Aldridge! This is well-met indeed!
                  Thou art the very person whom I wish to see.

Eddie        Good day as well from me, O Mistress Snell...

Linda       Yes, Master Grundy, a right good day to you.
                  Now let me not detain you on your way.

Eddie       I was not purposing to move just yet,
                  For I have vital business to transact...

Jennifer    Speak on, Linda! I am all ears for thee!

Linda       And yet the matter whereof I wish to speak
                  Is very delicate and personal...

Eddie       And so is mine! For I do wish to sell
                  A wagonload of lovely horse manure!
                  See where it steams and shimmers in the moonlight,
                  Still warm from where it came from out the horse...!

Jennifer    Forsooth, that's quite enough! I've heard all this!

Eddie        But not so Mistress Snell ! I must attempt
                  To press on her my garden services...!

Linda        Then save your breath. I do not need manure.

Eddie         Nor holly, then?

Linda         Nor holly, by my troth!

Eddie         Then farewell,  Christmas! Farewell, festive time!
                    There'll be no turkey, nor no pantomime!
                     If I can sell no horse manure today
                    There'll be no feasting down the Grundys' way!!


 

Agatha Christie
                            

                    JENNIFER AND LINDA TALKING TOGETHER

JENNIFER         So you think you know who the murderer is, Mrs                               Snell? How awfully clever of you!

LINDA                 Well, it wasn't so very clever, Mrs Aldridge. You just                               have to keep your eyes and ears open. And nobody                               thinks that someone like me would ever get on the                               trail of a murderer. Here comes Linda Snell, they                               say, with her interfering ways and loud voice and                               bossy ways! So it's quite easy for me to disarm                               suspicion and listen to what people say.

JENNIFER         And what did you find out?

LINDA                 Well, we knew that the murderer was a man. And I                               found out - don't ask how - that he had a certain                               tattoo on his body.

JENNIFER         But you can't go round the village asking everyone                               to get undressed!

LINDA                 No, you can't. Unless, of course, you're organising a                               back-to-nature calendar with men from the village                               taking their clothes off...

JENNIFER         So that's why...!

LINDA                Yes. I soon found out which of them had a secret
                              tattoo.
                              What I still didn't know was how he had disposed
                              of the body. There must have been some way in                               which he could have taken away a whole body,                               disguised on some sort of vehicle. Then I thought                               to myself: who in Ambridge goes about with a                               vehicle containing material which could easily                               disguise a body?
                              And there was only one answer: it was the same                               man who had the tattoo and it had to be...

                                    ENTER EDDIE

EDDIE                 Hello, ladies, it's me. I've got my van outside full of                               horse manure. Anyone interested?

JENNIFER          You don't mean...?

LINDA                 Yes. I'm afraid I do.

Oscar Wilde                                 

 

      
JENNIFER        Is that you, Mr Grundy?

EDDIE               It is, Lady Aldridge. I was admiring the sunset.

JENNIFER         I always think it is a great mistake to admire the sun. I refuse to flatter                              anything which refuses to flatter me. In any case, I always avert my eyes                              when the sun is setting. I feel as if I were infringing upon someone's                              bedtime.

EDDIE               And yet we see so little of the sun in these days before Christmas. Surely we                              should gaze upon it while we can?

JENNIFER         I am all in favour of having as little light as possible at Christmas time. I                              think it would be a very good idea to celebrate Christmas in the dark. It                              would be even better not to celebrate it at all.

EDDIE               Oh, I am all in favour of Christmas. It is one of the last few genuinely
                              pagan festivals we have left.

JENNIFER         Pagan, Mr Grundy? Surely not. The Church of England seems very much                              in favour of it.

EDDIE               Ah, yes, but Canterbury supports anything that will bring people inside a                              church. That is why they are so much in favour of floods, pestilence and                              flower arranging. I knew a man once who sought sanctuary in a church                              after committing a murder. The vicar was so pleased to see a sincere visitor                              that he gave him a job as a bell ringer.

JENNIFER         Will you be staying at home for Christmas, Mr Grundy? So many people                              these days go abroad for the Christmas period, no doubt to escape their                              family. I prefer to spend Christmas surrounded by my family, so that I can                              avoid them for the rest of the year with a clear conscience.

EDDIE               Alas, I cannot afford to travel these days, Lady Aldridge. It is only by selling                              the family treasures that I can live at all. At this very moment I am on my                              way to market with a family heirloom to sell.

JENNIFER         What heirloom?

EDDIE               A horse.

JENNIFER         It does not look like a horse to me.

EDDIE               And you are right. It is not a horse. I cannot bear to part with the horse.                              Instead, I am parting with the by-product of the horse.

JENNIFER         If I understand you aright, you...

                                    ENTER LINDA SNELL

LINDA               Lady Aldridge! How good to see you!

JENNIFER        Mrs Snell. Good evening. I thought you were engaged in some theatrical                              venture this evening.

LINDA               Yes, I am bringing Gilbert and Sullivan to the peasants.

JENNIFER        Excellent! So much better than bringing  culture to the countryside. I was in                              a Gilbert  and Sullivan production once, you know.

LINDA               Indeed? And what part did you play?

JENNIFER        I played the part of the lady who leaves the theatre in the interval, saying, "I                             think we've seen quite enough of THAT, thank you very much..."

LINDA               Oh, I much prefer Gilbert and Sullivan to opera. It is like Wagner without                              the improbabilities....

EDDIE               Good evening, Mrs Snell.

LINDA               Ah, Edward Grundy, is it not?

EDDIE               Lady Aldridge was telling me just now she no longer believes in Christmas.                              I was quite shocked. To lose faith in Father Christmas is one thing - to give                              up believing in Christmas is quite another.

JENNIFER         I am all in favour of Christmas as a method of redistributing goods. It only                              worries me that nobody ends up with the goods they wanted.

LINDA               It is quite true. At Christmas time we all buy for other people the presents                              we would like to  keep for ourselves.

EDDIE               In which connection, Mrs Snell, may I recommend something I have for                              sale here? It is a gift aimed directly at the horse-lover.

JENNIFER        If it is what I think it is, even a horse-lover might have second thoughts...

LINDA               But he will claim it makes one's garden grow.

JENNIFER        If that is so, then science should be stopped before it makes any more                              disgusting discoveries.

EDDIE               But ladies, Christmas, ‘tis upon us. May I not interest you...?

JENNIFER        No, you may not!  Good day, Mrs Snell.

LINDA               Good day, Lady Aldridge.

                           EXEUNT THE TWO WOMEN

EDDIE               But, ladies...! 

                           A LOUD EDDIE GRUNDY SIGH

 

Harold Pinter

 

                                    ENTER EDDIE GRUNDY.

EDDIE                      Oh, Mrs Aldridge, Happy New Year.


                                    TEN SECOND PAUSE


                                    It so happened I've got some top quality horse manure left over from                                     the Christmas period and I was wondering if you might be wanting                                     any...


                                    TEN SECOND PAUSE


EDDIE                        Well, perhaps I'll come back when you've thought it over.

                                    EXIT EDDIE GRUNDY

 

END - back to top
Miles on Air
Radio Television
Postcard from Abroad
The Archers
Beginnings and Endings
Franglais
Wife of Bath
Patpong Road
Memorable Verse
Barbed Wire Ballads
Dying Words
How to tell a Funny Story
A Handbag
Dead Slang
Letter from a Magpie
Choosing Baby's Name
Letter from a Cuckoo
Hunchback of Notre Dame meets Richard III
One-liners
Scar Head
Wonderland World Cup
Bunter in Hamlet