Heirloom Home Page
By Andrew McCann
ACT ONE: SCENE ONE
Bertram Towers- a stately home on the Derbyshire-Cheshire border. The early 1930's
(The scene is set in the Banqueting Hall of Bertram Towers. A staircase rolls upwards in the background out of sight. The room is bare, but for a suit of armour standing beneath the staircase. There are three doors, one at either side of the room, and one at the top of the staircase. A tapestry screen stands near the stage right door. A bell rope hangs from the wall.
Photograph of stage set of interior
LORD BERTRAM, tall, distinguished-looking and sporting a greying moustache, in his early fifties, enters stage left, with a large notice board reading "BERTRAM TOWERS Open to the Public."
LADY BERTRAM is heard off-stage, speaking to STUBBINGS, the butler.)
LADY BERTRAM Stubbings, have you seen Lord Bertram?
STUBBINGS I do believe his lordship in in the Banqueting Hall, your grace.
(LORD BERTRAM nervously hides the notice board behind the suit of armour.)
(ENTER LADY BERTRAM stage left, an excited expression on her face, as she waves a letter about. She is a charming woman in her late forties with a beauty that has matured with age. She catches sight of her husband who has just concealed the notice board in time.)
LADY BERTRAM Ah, Henry dear. Look what has just arrived in the post- a letter from Giles .He's coming up from Cambridge this afternoon. Isn't that nice?- and he's bringing his fiancee along with him.
LORD BERTRAM (Shocked) Fiancee! That's the first I've heard....
LADY B Fancy him not telling us he was getting engaged.
LORD B I only hope he knows what he's doing, that's all.
LADY B Oh, don't you worry, Henry. Giles is not the sort to make any rash decisions.
LORD B Still, I wish he' d had a word with me first.
LADY B Now you know how I feel about such things, Henry, dear. Too many people in our position put money before love and look where it gets them. No, I am glad that Giles has the common sense to find himself a girl whom he loves for herself alone.
I.ORD B (Thoughtftul and worried): I don't know quite.
LADY B You don't know! Come, come Henry. Don't know, indeed. Our son's happiness is what matters. We must never forget that. If he loves her, then that's good enough for me.
LORD B Oh,most certainly .... but love and money are surely a winning combination.
LADY B We have all the money we need, without having to marry our only son off to more. (Suspiciously) You're not hiding something from me, are you, Henry?
LORD B (Dithering) What? .... No...
LADY B You're acting most suspiciously. Please, Henry- if there's anything wrong I wish you'd tell me.
LORD B Well, actually, m' dear, yes there is. I 've been meaning to tell you for some time, but I didn't want to worry you unduly. It's the slump, I'm afraid.
LADY B: The slump? .... What of it,Henry? (Suddenly worried.) It's not the factory, is it? It's not in trouble?
LORD B Yes, I'm afraid it is. It's in dire financial trouble.
LADY B But how could it possibly be ? If it were a cotton mill I could understand.They are being hit hard, but sewing machines, they're in a sphere of their own. We're virtually monopolising the industry, you said so yourself!
LORD B That may be what I said before the crisis, but things have changed drastically since then. Now a sewing machine in fast becoming a luxury item. Few people can afford food these days, let alone sewing-machines .... and the prices of cotton and cloth have risen so phenomenally, that sewing machines just don't pay any more.
LADY B Let me hear the worst...
LORD B When the crisis first took a hold on industry, wages were cut, drastically in many cases, throughout the country.
LADY B Yes , I know.
LORD B But the village, as you know, means a lot to me. Most of the families have served the Bertrams for centuries in one way, or another.Without them there would be no Bertram Towers and no factory. I owed it to them, I felt, to repay them in some way. So, as wages fell throughout the country, I kept mine steady, just an they had always been.
LADY B Oh, Henry...
LORD B At first it was easy. Profits remained good. Then, suddenly, things started to go wrong. The pressure grew stronger; something had to give ...and now- well, now we're on the verge of bankruptcy. I'm expecting to hear the worst from our accountants at any time now.
LADY B Oh, goodness!
LORD B I couldn't let them starve, could I? I owed it to them. If I hadn't done what I did, they might have drifted to the towns to find better jobs. I couldn't be held responsible for destroying a community that has meant so much to the family for so many generations.
LADY B Oh,Henry- what have you done? Don't you see, this could mean the end. The end of Bertram Towers .The end of the village...
LORD B We'll find a way out.We've got to!
LADY B The factory, is there really no hope at all?
LORD B There is a chance- a remote one- if things start swinging in our favour in the next few days.
LADY B If only we could find enough money to keep the house on its feet until things get better.
LORD B There is one thing, but whether or not it will be of any use,only time will tell.
LADY B Well?
LORD B I thought we might open the house to the public.
LADY B (Excited) But that's a wonderful idea, Henry.
LORD B I wouldn't be too sure about that, m'dear. I doubt whether we'll make enough even to pay the domestic staff.
LADY B: The domestic staff.....Of course....They might provide the answer to our problems.
(LADY B crosses the room , shouting for STUBBINGS, the butler).
Stubbings!..... Stubbings! .... ~Where has the man got to?
LORD B (Confused) Kindly explain yourself, m'dear.
(ENTER STUBBINGS, a sombre looking man in his late forties.)
LADY B Ah, there you are, Stubbings. I wish to see the entire domestic staff in here at once!
STUBBINGS Yes, your grace.
LORD B (Confused) But we've important things to discuss, m'dear.
LADY B We've already come to an interesting conclusion. Now let's act on it, before it's too late.
LORD B I don't understand...
LADY B Cut down on the domestic staff, Henry,dear and our money will go a lot further.
LORD B (Shocked) You mean get rid of them! We can't play about with human beings like that!
LADY B But it's for their own good.
LORD B But they're villagers. They've worked here all their lives.
LADY B And there is a good chance they will be working here for the rest of their lives, if they just spare us this little sacrifice until things settle down.They can come back later when we can afford to pay them again.
LORD B But it wouldn't be fair to sack then like that.
LADY B It's not a question of sacking- just voluntary temporary resignation.
LORD B But I don't like it!
LADY B It's for their own good- and ours.
STUBBINGS The domestic staff, your grace.
(ENTER OLIVE ,DORIS, ANN, DOREEN, PAT AND MINNIE wearing their servants, uniforms.)
(OLIVE is a large, plump woman in her early sixties . She tends to dominate the others,who always look to her for leadership. She is a common sense, matter-of-fact woman. )
(The DOMESTIC STAFF line up, military fashion, shoulder to shoulder, with STUBBINGS, Sergeant-Major like, at their head.)
LORD B All right, relax all of you .... and please accept my most humble apologies for calling you here at such short notice. I think you will agree when you have heard what I have to say, that the urgency of the matter is ample justification .So, without any further ado, let me give you the bitter truth .... The Bertram Sewing Machine Factory is on the verge of bankruptcy.
LORD B As you all know, the factory was, is and we hope, will remain the life and soul of our local commity.
LADY B There is still a chance that everything will work out just as we want it to, but under no circumstances can we put our trust entirely in this possibility. Which leaves us with only one way of easing our problems .... to reduce financial pressure temporarily by cutting down on the household staff. The voluntary resignation of two or three of you would help to ease things considerably and could prove decisive as far as our village community is concerned.
DOREEN Oh dear.What will we do? I've got a family to keep.
DORIS Me too.
MINNIE (Bitterly) Why should we, any road!
OLIVE What a thing to say, Minnie Grant. Can't yer see their graces are findin' it difficult t' ask us as it is. They don't want t' ask us any more than we want t' resign.
MINNIE But 'ow do we decide 'oo's goin't' go an' 'oo's goin' t'stay?
OLIVE It's up to us t' decide as thinkin' individuals like, an' we should find it easy enough out of the loyalty of our hearts.
MINNIE Of course, yer right.
OLIVE Fer nigh on forty years I've worked 'ere, yer graces, an' in that time, never once 'as I 'eard a wrong word against yerselves,or against Lord Bertram's father, fer that matter.Yer've done a lot fer the folks around these parts, an' never once 'as yer asked fer a single thing in return.There's things yer've done fer folks in general, an' things yer've done fer individual folk,out o' the goodness of yer hearts,an' never once does y' look even fer a word o' thanks. Fer these reasons I'll resign willingly, in the hope that I may jus' repay one o' them many favours yer've done fer me an' t' village over the years.
LADY B Thank you,Olive.
LORD B We are both deeply moved.
PAT: I'll resign an' all !
DOREEN An' me!
LADY B Thank you, Pat and Doreen. Thank you very much.
LORD B Please understand that when things get better, when the factory gets back on its feet again, you will all be most welcome to rejoin our staff here ... All right ... dismiss all of you. Pat, Doreen, Olive- you may leave us now if you wish.
OLIVE No,yer grace.We've bin paid fer an honest day's work, an' by Saint George,we'll not leave it till wiv done it!
(EXIT ANN, PAT, DOREEN, DORIS, TILLY AND STUBBINGS)
(OLIVE approaches LADY B a thoughtful, but worried expression showing on her face.)
Excuse me, yer grace, but what'll 'appen if things get really bad, like?
LADY B Oh, I doubt whether things will get really bad,Olive. Lord Bertram has made a plan to counteract the situation.
LORD B What's that, m'dear?
LADY B I was just telling Olive about our plans to open Bertram Towers to the public.
OLIVE Well I never! An' when will it be openin' yer grace?
LADY B Oh, It'll be a few days yet, I should think.We've got a lot to do before this house is fit for anyone to see.
LORD B What? Didn't I tell you,m'dear!
(He fetches the notice board and turns it round)
We are already officially.open. The first visitors should be coming up the at drive at any minute now!
LADY B Goodness gracious me! Trust you to leave it to the last minute before you tell me, Henry Bertram.(Rings) Stubbings! Well,we'll just have to make do with what little time we've got left! .... Stubbings! .... Come here at once!
OLIVE: Sorry if I said the wrong thing, yer grace.
STUBBINGS You rang, your grace.
LADY B Stubbings......I would like to see the domestic staff in here, at once.
STUBBINGS (Surprised) Your grace did say, "the domestic staff?"
LADY B I did, Stubbings .My order was perfectly clear. Hurry! Quickly now!
STUBBINGS Yes, your grace.
LADY B: Don't you realise the importance of first impressions, Henry? If people like what they see, they will tell their friends. Word could soon spread.Our first visitors could make us or break us .... and stop dithering, Henry. There's plenty to do. You go and get the board nailed up, or we'll have no visitors at all this afternoon.
(EXIT LORD B.)
(ENTER STUBBINGS )
STUBBINGS The domestic staff, your grace.
(ENTER OLIVE, ANN, PAT,DOREEN, DORIS AND TILLY
They line up shoulder to shoulder.)
LADY B All right, Stubbings- We've no time for all that. From this minute Bertram Towers is open to the public. It will probably surprise you; it surprised me. Our first guests will be arriving at any time, so we've got a lot to do in a very short time. Let's get ourselves organised as quickly as possible. Doreen, Ann and Pat .... sweeping and general cleaning. They'll be coming this way first- try and keep at least a room ahead of them ... Tilly, coffee and biscuits.
TILLY Where shall I serve it, yer grace?
LADY B In the Great Hall alcove. It will mean a bit of carrying from the kitchens, but it will be the last place the visitors will be visiting , so you'll have plenty of time.
TILLY Yes, yer grace.
(EXIT TILLY, DOREEN, ANN and PAT.)
LADY B Doris and Minnie....Coats of arms, flags, antiquities. Display them where you think fit ......Olive take up a position in the West Tower. Ring the bells when you see them coming!
STUBBNGS Yes, your grace.
LADY B We need an Official Guide.
STUBBINGS (Miserably) Yes,your grace.
LADY B (Scrutinising Stubbings thoughtfully)
I wonder ?
STUBBINGS Could your grace kindly explain what the position entails?
Later, Stubbings, later.We've more important things to think of first.A uniform, that's what we need. Something simple,yet dignified. Lord Bertram's wardrobe will no doubt provide you with an adequate jacket.
(Exit LADY BERTRAM and STUBBINGS.
ENTER DOREEN, ANN and PAT with dusters; DORIS and MINNIE with banners and shields.)
(The bells ring out wildly.)
ANN Look- The visitors are coming up the drive!
DOREEN Yes, it's them all right!
MINNIE Stand clear, there. Let me through!
(ENTER LADY B followed by a sheepish STUBBINGS wearing a jacket trimmed round the edges with gold braid.)
LADY B Come on, Stubbings- Quickly now.
We've no time to waste. Here Stubbings.Up straight, chin up, hands by your sides.
STUBBINGS Yes,your grace.
LADY B Quickly, Doris, that brush. Bring it here at once.
(DORIS brings a clothes brush and LADY B. brushes the dust off the jacket.)
Now let me see what we can do with this jacket. Ah, I know. Those scissors, quickly Enid.
(ENID brings the scissors and gives them to LADY B.)
ENID Here you are, your grace.
LADY B Brush him down, Doris.
(DORIS brushes STUBBINGS and LADY B begins to trim bits and pieces off the jacket with the scissors.)
Hm.Let me see. We'll take a bit off here- and a little more here.
OLIVE The visitors are almost here, yer grace,
(There in a general panic reaction from the DOMESTIC STAFF some of whom peer round the door, stage left.)
VARIOUS DOMESTICS Oh,no!
Look can you see them?
She'd better get a move on, or they'll be going away again!
They're coming up the steps!
LADY B (Calmly): One more little cut- and for the finishing touch. Voila! Right, report for duty, Stubbings!
STUBBINGS I think your ladyship forgets that I know nothing of the history of this residence.
LADY B Oh, there's no time to think about things like that. Make it up as you go along, Stubbings.
STUBBINGS Yes, your grace.
LADY B: Get a move on.Your audience in waiting!
Doreen, Annn, Pat- brushes, mops, the Tower Room ! Quickly!
STUBBINGS Would you care to come this way ....I mean ... Come this way everybody, please!
(VISITORS follow,to include OLD LADY, 1ST TOURIST, IRISH TOURIST, AMERICAN TOURIST, 2ND. TOURIST, 3RD. TOURIST, 4TH. TOURIST.)
OLD LADY Excuse me, my good man, but can you tell me which room this is?
STUBBINGS This, ladies and gentlemen, is the Banqueting Hall of Bertram Towers- Part of the original building erected by the Bertrams of Mosshoughton. In this very room, Lord Bertram the Younger, an eminent politician of his day, is said to have died under tragic circumstances....
OLD LADY (Deeply concerned): Oh dear.How did it happen?
STUBBINGS His great grandmother- a woman of evil ways, who is said to have dabbled in the occult, had cursed any mortal being who should dare to touch her portrait- and on one fearful night, the picture fell down in a thunderstorm, landing on the head of the unfortunate Lord Bertram ... and to this day, his ghost in said to haunt these very walls!
(ENTER TILLY precariously balancing a pile of plates; a table cloth on top, draped over her head. She trips. VISITORS scream and the OLD LADY faints.)
1ST. TOURIST It's an apparition!
IRISH TOURIST It's the Holy Ghost! That's what it is!
TILLY Oh... Excuse me.
IRISH TOURIST Mother o' God! It speaks!
(STUBBINGS glares at TILLY)
TILLY(Angrily to STUBBINGS): Well 'er ladyship did ask fer coffee t' be served,didn't she!
STUBBINGS In the Great Hall Alcove- imbecile!
2ND. TOURIST Here. Are you having us on, or something?
AMERICAN TOURIST There's something mighty strange going on around here.
2ND. TOURIST Aye, he's having us on!
STUBBINGS (Beginning to feel uncomfortable) Having you on? .... Of course I'm not .... What gave you that idea?
3RD TOURIST Folks dressing up as ghosts, for instance!
STUBBINGS Oh, that. (He laughs artificially) You don't mean to tell me that you honestly thought that was a ghost ....
4TH. TOURIST Me ol' gran'ma nearly died of shock, she did.
1ST. TOURIST A public menace, that's what he is. Having us on like that!
(STUBBINGS leads the VISITORS off towards the stage right door.)
STUBBINGS:Come this way everybody please .... See the Chapel Room, recently exorcised by the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.
(LADY B. peers round the door stage left, then enters followed by LORD B.)
LADY B I think they've gone, Henry.Yes, they've definitely gone!
LORD B Thank goodness for that. There's nothing like a good bit of peace and quiet- but if one can't get it in one's own home..,,
LADY B Never mind, Henry.Things will get better, you'll see, and then you'll have your privacy again.
LORD B: Do you think so, m'dear?
LADY B Oh, I'm sure of it. I have that feeling,y' know....
(ENTER OLIVE , grim faced.)
OLIVE Yer grace was wantin' tl know low much the guided tour brought in.
LADY B Yes, Olive.
OLIVE Well, it brought in eight shillin' an' fourpence ha'penny.
LADY B(Disappointed): All right,Olive. Thank you.
LORD B Oh,no! So that's our reward for suffering that infernal row.The princely sum of....
LADY B Eight and fourpence halfpenny!
LORD B It's not going to bring in enough money to save the house. It's not you know!
LADY B: Of course it is, Henry. Give it time.We haven't given people a chance yet. Let the word spread. Before long they'll be coming from miles around-just to see our house. Imagine that. How proud you'll be.
(There in an almighty row an the VISITORS pass by outside)
LADY B Goodness...What on earth is that almighty racket!
LORD B It sounds like another party arriving already.
(They exit through the stage right door.)
(ENTER GILES and DAPHNE , stage left door. GILES is tall and handsome, being about twenty years of age. He wears a straw "boater" and striped jacket. He is a down to earth sensible fellow, with an intelligent lively air about him. DAPHNE MILTON iis artificial in every way, self-important with the general air of a spoilt child. She is about the same age as GILES and is wearing the latest fashion, a long gown,with a fur dangling round her neck..)
DAPHNE I say,who on earth were all those horrible people, Giles? It's a bit much, really.
GILES Oh, I'm sure there's a perfectly reasonable explanation, Daphne.... Well?...
GILES What do you think of the ancestral home?
DAPHNE It's all right, I suppose-but it's a little on the small side, isn't it?- I mean, when one compares it with daddy's place.
(ENTER LORD B unnoticed. He hears enough of the conversation to be interested. He hides behind the tapestry screen and listens, eyes almost popping out of his head in response to what is implied about Daphne's father's wealth.)
GILES That may well be so, but your father can afford to pick and choose. Afterall, he is absolutely loaded with money. I'm quite sure that my family could afford a place twice the size of yours, but they're tied to this ancestral home thing.Why, my family has lived here since William the Conqueror.......
DAPHNE (Excited ) Why, did he live here then! Fancy that- William, the one historical figure who fills me with overwhelming admiration- .... Just wait till daddy hears about this.
GILES No, Daphne.That's not quite what I meant......
DAPHNE (In a daze) Oh, just imagine- a real palace. In this very room, as likely as not, in ceremonial splendour, he performed his duties for Engand .... Dreamed inspired dreams, made progressive plans for his people ... my people... your people....our people.
GILES: No, I think you misunderstand me,Daphne.
DAPHNE Oh,I understand perfectly. How could you possibly touch a place made sacred by history ... by he who made history..
GILES(Becoming impatient) How can I make you understand! William the Conqueror did not actually...
(LORD B beaming and turning on the charm to an extreme level steps from behind the tapestry screen just in time to prevent an argument.)
LORD B Ah, so you've been telling this delightful young lady about our family's connections with William the Conqueror, have you Giles?
(GILES is speechless.)
Well,well ... a subject dear to my heart.
DAPHNE Of course.
LORD B I don't believe we've been introduced, m' dear.
GILES: Father, meet Daphne Milton, my fiancee .... I was just trying to explain that William....
LORD B Ah,Daphne Milton. I do believe I know that name. . In what line of business does your family operate?
GILES Oil, father... I was just trying to convince Daphne that....
LORD B Ah, the oil people-of course- Fancy my forgetting that... and when are the happy couple to be wed?
GILES(Angrily) You're pushing things a bit, aren't you, father. We're only engaged, you know.
DAPHNE Oh,Giles.That's not what you told me.You said we could possibly be married before the year is out..
LORD B (His eyes light up.) And the sooner the better for all concerned.That's what I say.Your mother and I don't believe in long engagements. So your father's the oil tycoon, eh?
DAPHNE It is indeed most kind of you, Lord Bertram, to allow me the hospitality of such a wonderful house.
LORD B Oh, come, come m'dear.You are a member of the family now and shall be treated as such.What's a little sharing among a family.
DAPHNE : But to be given the freedom of a house with such a historical pedigree! My family has nothing to offer in comparison. (Looking around her in wonder) So William the Conqueror actually lived here!
GILES (In an angry outburst): For the last time,William the Conqueror did not live here!
DAPHNE .. What? .... You mean he did not live here!
DAPHNE(Angry and disappointed) You mean you have been deceiving me, Giles Bertram.
LORD B No, you misunderstand my son, m'dear. Of course it's easy to see how the confusion arose .... William did not actually live here.. .... in this part of the building- William inhabited the remaining buildings in the west wing.
GILES: What?.... It's a conspiracy, that's what it is!
(ENTER LADY B Stage right.)
LADY B Goodness, Henry. I've never seen so many visitors in one house at the same time.
LORD B: Ah, Gladys. Allow me to introduce you to Daphne Milton, Giles's fiancee.
LADY B Oh, this is indeed a surprise. How do you do, Daphne?- and Giles- but why didn't you tell me they were here, Henry? I m ever so sorry I wasn't here to welcome you, Daphne.I had to see to our visitors.
LADY B Yes, my dear. Has n't Lord Bertram told you? We have opened our home to the public.
LORD B Daphne's father is Milton, the oil tycoon, m'dear. You know, the millionaire!
DAPHNE (Disgusted) Am I to believe then, Lady Bertram, that you have actually opened your home to the ... public?
LADY B Yes.
LORD B: It is true, Daphne, but it is not quite as you may think.
LADY B But, Henry....
LORD B I am quite sure that Lady Bertram would agree with me, without any shadow of a doubt, that any money we happen to make, will go to some well-deserving charity.
LADY B That's the first I've...
DAPHNE Oh, of course- You have no need to explain your action. I quite understand. Beautiful paintings are to be exhibited and admired, not locked away in dark cupboards. Especially paintings with royal connections.
LADY B Royal connections? Have we, Henry?.
LORD B Oh, my dear.You do amaze me at times.You see, Daphne, my wife and I get so accustomed to the fact that William lived here, that even we tend to forget the significance of the fact. (Slowly and emphatically, with a half-glare directed at her, as GILES looks on in exasperation. ) I am constantly having to remind my wife!
GILES (In a stormy outburst) All right, father- that's enough. I don't know what your game is and I don't know what you're trying to do to mother and Daphne, but I've had enough and I'm quite that mother and Daphne have had enough. (Rings) .....Stubbings! Stubbings!
LORD B But what is it, Giles? What's the matter? Forgive my son, my, dear. Must be the pressures of university life!
GILES That's enough, father. That's enough.
OLIVE You rang my lord.
GILES Yes, where's Stubbings? I must be going mad,completely and utterly stark, raving bonkers!
OLIVE Oh, Mister Stubbings 'as got other b'isness,my lord.
GILES All right,Olive.Will you show Miss Daphne to her room?
DAPHNE But I don't want to go to my room yet, Giles. I am interested in what your father has to say.
GILES (Leading her forcibly towards OLIVE) Go along with Olive now, Daphne.
EXIT DAPHNE and OLIVE
LADY B Oh, Henry.How could you do such a thing to Giles and Daphne.
You, his own father?
GILES I hope you're pleased with yourself, father.
LORD B It was meant for the best.
GILES: A likely story!
LORD B. Can't you see, I was trying to create a good impression.
GILES If you were, then you've got a funny way of going about it. In future, just keep quiet. That way you'll be helping me even more, all right? .... Now we've got that straight, I trust you will both forgive me if I disappear for a while whilst I make things up with Daphne.After that unhelpful little episode, it might well take all afternoon!
LORD B A right fool I made of myself. You must forgive me, m'dear. I meant Giles no harm.
LADY B I know that. Forget it ever happened. Something 'll turn up, you'll see.
LORD B I suppose you're right, m'dear.
LADY B In a few years time we will probably look back and laugh at the time we thought we were going to lose :Bertram Towers and the village.
OLIVE (Tearfully): I 'ave bin asked to inform yer graces, that the Bertram Sewing Machine Factory 'as folded into bankruptcy.
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Act One: Scene 2
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