The Ghost of Jerry Bundler




(1908)


by W. W. Jacobs and Charles Rock

Adapted from W. W. Jacob's Story "Jerry Bundler"


THE GHOST OF JERRY BUNDLER.

Cast at The Haymarket Theatre.

SEPT. 9, 1902.

HIRST Mr. Cyril Maude. PENFOLD Mr. George Trollope. MALCOLM Mr. Lewis Broughton. SOMERS Mr. Marsh Allen. BELDON Mr. H. Norton. DR. LEEK Mr. Wilfred Forster. GEORGE (a waiter) Mr. Charles Rock.

NOTE.--Penfold, Malcolm, and Beldon represent different types of Commercial Travellers.

Original Cast.

PENFOLD Mr. Holman Clarke. MALCOLM Mr. Holmes Gore. HIRST Mr. Cyril Maude. SOMERS Mr. Frank Gillmore. DOCTOR LEEK Mr. C. M. Hallard. BELDON Mr. Cecil Ramsay. GEORGE (a waiter) Mr. Mark Kinghorne.

First produced, St. James's Theatre, London, June 20, 1899.

Revived. Her Majesty's Theatre, June 20, 1902. Same cast as above except Mr. Frank Gillmore, whose part was played by Mr. Charles Rock. The Herman Merivale Benefit Matinee.

Haymarket Theatre. Sept. 9, 1902. Ran 100 performances.

Avenue Theatre. Dec. 20, 1902. Ran 38 performances.


THE GHOST OF JERRY BUNDLER.

SCENE.--The Commercial Room in an old-fashioned hotel in a small country town. An air of old-fashioned comfort is in evidence everywhere. Old sporting prints on the walls.

On the table up C. are half a dozen candlesticks, old-fashioned shape with snuffer attached. Two pairs of carpet slippers are set up within fender. Red curtains to window recess. Shutters or blinds to windows. Armchair and about six other chairs in the room. One old-fashioned settle. One small table. Clock. Decanter of water, half a dozen toddy tumblers. Matches, etc. The only light is a ruddy glow from the fire. Kettle on hob. Moonlight from R. of window when shutter is opened. Practical chandelier from ceiling or lights at side of mantelpiece. DOCTOR'S coat and muffler on chair up L., his cap on mantelpiece.

All lights out, dark stage. Opening music. Curtain rise--ticking of clock heard. Wind, then church clock chimes, the Lights come very slowly up, when the red glow is seen in the fireplace the low murmurs of the characters heard, and gradually get louder as lights come up to when SOMERS' voice tops all.

(The stage occupied by all characters except GEORGE the waiter. Discovered, PENFOLD, sitting in arm chair L. of fire, above it. DOCTOR LEEK standing above fire and leaning on mantel-shelf. HIRST sitting on settle below fire and nearest to audience. SOMERS seated on settle with him but above him. MALCOLM and BELDON on chairs R. C., facing fire. ALL are smoking, and drink from their respective glasses from time to time. SOMERS has just finished a story as Curtain rises.)


OMNES. Oh, I say, that sounds impossible, etc.

SOMERS. Haunted or not haunted, the fact remains that no one stays in the house long. It's been let to several tenants since the time of the murder, but they never completed their tenancy. The last tenant held out for a month, but at last he gave up like the rest, and cleared out, although he had done the place up thoroughly, and must have been pounds out of pocket by the transaction.

MALCOLM. Well, it's a capital ghost story, I admit, that is, as a story, but I for one can't swallow it.

HIRST. I don't know, it is not nearly so improbable as some I have heard. Of course it's an old idea that spirits like to get into the company of human beings. A man told me once, that he travelled down by the Great Western, with a ghost as fellow passenger, and hadn't the slightest suspicion of it, until the inspector came for tickets. My friend said, the way that ghost tried to keep up appearances, by feeling in all its pockets, and even looking on the floor for its ticket, was quite touching. Ultimately it gave it up, and with a loud groan vanished through the ventilator.

(SOMERS, MALCOLM and LEEK laugh heartily.)

BELDON. Oh, I say come now, that'll do.

PENFOLD (seriously). Personally I don't think it's a subject for jesting. I have never seen an apparition myself, but I have known people who have, and I consider that they form a very interesting link between us and the after life. There's a ghost story connected with this house, you know.

OMNES. Eh! Oh? Really!

MALCOLM (rising and going to mantelpiece, takes up his glass of toddy). Well, I have used this house for some years now. I travel for Blennet and Burgess--wool--and come here regularly three times a year, and I've never heard of it. (Sits down again on his chair, holding glass in his hand.)

LEEK. And I've been here pretty often too, though I have only been in practice here for a couple of years, and I have never heard it mentioned, and I must say I don't believe in anything of the sort. In my opinion ghosts are the invention of weak-minded idiots.

PENFOLD. Weak-minded idiots or not, there is a ghost story connected with this house, but it dates a long time back.

(GEORGE, the waiter, enters D. L. with tray and serviette.)

Oh, here's George, he'll bear me out. You've heard of Jerry Bundler, George?

GEORGE (C.). Well, I've just 'eard odds and ends, sir, but I never put much count to 'em. There was one chap 'ere, who was under me when fust I come, he said he seed it, and the Guv'nor sacked him there and then. (Goes to table by window, puts tray down, takes up glass and wipes it slowly.)

(MEN laugh.)

PENFOLD. Well, my father was a native of this town, and he knew the story well. He was a truthful man and a steady churchgoer. But I have heard him declare that once in his life he saw the ghost of Jerry Bundler in this house; let me see, George, you don't remember my old dad, do you?

(GEORGE puts down glasses over table.)

GEORGE. No, sir. I come here forty years ago next Easter, but I fancy he was before my time.

PENFOLD. Yes, though not by long. He died when I was twenty, and I shall be sixty-two next month, but that's neither here nor there.

(GEORGE goes up to table C. tidying up and listening.)

LEEK. Who was this Jerry Bundler?

PENFOLD. A London thief, pickpocket, highwayman--anything he could turn his dishonest hand to, and he was run to earth in this house some eighty years ago.

(GEORGE puts glass down and stands listening.)

He took his last supper in this room.

(PENFOLD leans forward. BELDON looks round to L. nervously.)

That night soon after he had gone to bed, a couple of Bow Street runners, the predecessors of our present detective force turned up here. They had followed him from London, but had lost scent a bit, so didn't arrive till late. A word to the landlord, whose description of the stranger who had retired to rest, pointed to the fact that he was the man they were after, of course enlisted his aid and that of the male servants and stable hands. The officers crept quietly up to Jerry's bedroom and tried the door, it wouldn't budge. It was of heavy oak and bolted from within.

(OMNES lean forward, showing interest.)

Leaving his comrade and a couple of grooms to guard the bedroom door, the other officer went into the yard, and, procuring a short ladder, by this means reached the window of the room in which Jerry was sleeping. The Inn servants and stable hands saw him get on to the sill and try to open the window. Suddenly there was a crash of glass, and with a cry, he fell in a heap on to the stones at their feet. Then in the moonlight, they saw the face of the highwayman peering over the sill.

(OMNES move uneasily.)

They sent for the blacksmith, and with his sledge-hammer he battered in the strong oak panels, and the first thing that met their eyes was the body of Jerry Bundler dangling from the top of the four-post bed by his own handkerchief.

(OMNES sit back, draw their breath, and are generally uneasy. Slight pause.)

SOMERS. I say, which bedroom was it? (Earnestly).

PENFOLD. That I can't tell you, but the story goes that Jerry still haunts this house, and my father used to declare positively that the last time he slept here, the ghost of Jerry Bundler lowered itself from the top of his four-post bed and tried to strangle him.

BELDON (jumps up, gets behind his chair, twists chair round; nervously). O, I say, that'll do. I wish you'd thought to ask your father which bedroom it was.

PENFOLD. What for?

BELDON. Well, I should take jolly good care not to sleep in it, that's all. (Goes to back.)

(PENFOLD rising, goes to fire, and knocks out his pipe, Leek gets by arm-chair.)

PENFOLD. There's nothing to fear. I don't believe for a moment that ghosts could really hurt one. (GEORGE lights candle at table.) In fact, my father used to say that it was only the unpleasantness of the thing that upset him, and that, for all practical purposes, Jerry's fingers might have been made of cotton wool for all the harm they could do.

(GEORGE hands candle, gets to door and holds it open.)

BELDON. That's all very fine, a ghost story is a ghost story, but when a gentleman tells a tale of a ghost that haunts the house in which one is going to sleep, I call it most ungentlemanly.

(BELDON places his chair to L. of table R. PENFOLD goes up to C. LEEK sits in arm chair. BELDON goes to fireplace.)

PENFOLD. Pooh! Nonsense. (At table up C.).

(During his speech George lights one of the candles.)

Ghosts can't hurt you. For my own part, I should rather like to see one.

OMNES. Oh, come now---- etc.

PENFOLD. Well, I'll bid you good-night, gentlemen.

(He goes towards door L. GEORGE opens it for him; he passes out as they all say.)

OMNES. Good-night.

(HIRST rises, crosses to L. C.)

BELDON (up R., calling after him). And I hope Jerry'll pay you a visit.

MALCOLM (rises, goes to fire). Well, I'm going to have another whisky if you gentlemen will join me. I think it'll do us all good after that tale. George, take the orders.

(GEORGE comes down with salver to table R., gathers up glasses.)

SOMERS. Not quite so much hot water in mine.

MALCOLM. I'll have the same again, George.

BELDON. A leetle bit of lemon in mine, George.

LEEK. Whisky and soda for me, please.

HIRST. Whisky!

(GEORGE goes to table R., collects glasses, crosses to door L. speaks.)

GEORGE (to MALCOLM). Shall I light the gas, Mr. Malcolm? (At door.)

MALCOLM. No, the fire's very comfortable, unless any of you gentlemen prefer the gas.

OMNES. No, not at all--etc.

MALCOLM. Never mind, George. (This to GEORGE as no one wants the gas.) The firelight is pleasanter.

(Exit GEORGE for orders L.)

(BELDON gets C.)

MALCOLM (at fire). Does any gentleman know another----?

SOMERS (seated R.). Well, I remember hearing----

BELDON (up C.). Oh, I say--that'll do.

(OMNES laugh.)

LEEK. Yes, I think you all look as if you'd heard enough ghost stories to do you the rest of your lives. And you're not all as anxious to see the real article as the old gentleman who's just gone.

HIRST (looking to L.). Old humbug! I should like to put him to the test. (C.) (Bus.) I say, suppose I dress up as Jerry Bundler and go and give him a chance of displaying his courage? I bet I'd make the old party sit up.

MALCOLM. Capital!

BELDON. A good idea.

LEEK. I shouldn't, if I were you.

HIRST. Just for the joke, gentlemen (C.).

SOMERS. No, no--drop it, Hirst.

HIRST. Only for the joke. Look here, I've got some things that'll do very well. We're going to have some amateur theatricals at my house. We're doing a couple of scenes from "The Rivals," Somers, (pointing to SOMERS) and I have been up to town to get the costumes, wigs, etc., to-day. I've got them up-stairs--knee-breeches, stockings, buckled shoes, and all that sort of thing. It's a rare chance. If you wait a bit, I'll give you a full dress rehearsal, entitled "Jerry Bundler, or the Nocturnal Stranger." (At door L.).

LEEK (sneeringly). You won't frighten us, will you?

HIRST. I don't know so much about that--it's a question of acting, that's all.

MALCOLM. I'll bet you a level sov, you don't frighten me.

HIRST (quietly). A level sov. (Pauses.) Done. I'll take the bet to frighten you first, and the old boy afterwards. These gentlemen shall be the judges. (Points to LEEK and BELDON.)

BELDON (up C.). You won't frighten us because we're prepared for you, but you'd better leave the old man alone. It's dangerous play. (Appeals to LEEK).

HIRST. Well, I'll try you first. (Moves to door and pauses.) No gas, mind.

OMNES. No! no!

HIRST (laughs). I'll give you a run for your money.

(GEORGE enters, holds door open.)

(Exit HIRST.)

(GEORGE passes drinks round. Five drinks. SOMERS takes the one ordered for HIRST and puts it on the table R. BELDON sits R. C. GEORGE crosses to table, puts two drinks down, goes to fire and gives drinks, then up to table, puts tray down, takes up glass and begins to wipe it, gets down L. for lines.)

LEEK (to MALCOLM). I think you'll win your bet, sir, but I vote we give him a chance. Suppose we have cigars round, and if he's not back by the time we've finished them I must be off, as I have a quarter of an hour's walk before me. (Looks at watch.) He's a friend of yours, isn't he?

SOMERS. Yes, I have known him a good many years now, and I must say he's a rum chap; just crazy about acting and practical joking, though I've often told him he carries the latter too far at times. In this case it doesn't matter, but I won't let him try it on the old gentleman. You see we know what he's going to do, and are prepared, but he doesn't, and it might lead to illness or worse; the old chap's sixty-two and such a shock might have serious consequences. But Hirst won't mind giving up that part of it, so long as he gets an opportunity of acting to us.

LEEK (knocks pipe on grate). Well, I hope he'll hurry up. It's getting pretty late. (To SOMERS.)

MALCOLM. Well, gentlemen, your health!

SOMERS. Good luck.

LEEK. Hurrah!

BELDON. Chin-chin!

LEEK. By the way, how is it you happen to be here to-night?

SOMERS. Oh, we missed the connection at Tolleston Junction and as the accommodation at the Railway Arms there was rather meagre, the Station Master advised us to drive on here, put up for the night, and catch the Great Northern express from Exton in the morning. (Rises, crosses to L.) Oh, George, that reminds me--you might see that 'Boots' calls us at 7 sharp.

(BELDON rises, goes up to them to fire.)

GEORGE. Certainly, sir. What are your numbers?

SOMERS. 13 and 14.

GEORGE. I'll put it on the slate, special, sir. (Goes to door L.)

LEEK. I beg pardon, gentlemen, I forgot the cigars; George, bring some cigars back with you.

BELDON. A very mild one for me.

GEORGE. Very well, sir. (Takes up tray from sideboard.)

(Exit L.)

(SOMERS sits R. C.)

MALCOLM. I think you were very wise coming on here. (Sits on settle R.) I stayed at the Railway Arms, Tolleston, once--never again though. Is your friend clever at acting?

SOMERS. I don't think he's clever enough to frighten you. I'm to spend Christmas at his place, and he's asked me to assist at the theatricals he spoke of. Nothing would satisfy him till I consented, and I must honestly say I am very sorry I ever did, for I expect I shall be pretty bad. I know I have scarcely slept a wink these last few nights, trying to get the words into my head.

(GEORGE enters backwards, pale and trembling.)

MALCOLM. Why! Look--what the devil's the matter with George? (Crosses to GEORGE.)

GEORGE. I've seen it, gentlemen. (Down stage L. C.)

OMNES. Seen who?

(BELDON down R. edge of table R. LEEK up R. C. SOMERS up R.)

GEORGE. The ghost. Jer--Bun--

MALCOLM. Why, you're frightened, George.

GEORGE. Yes, sir. It was the suddenness of it, and besides I didn't look for seeing it in the bar. There was only a glimmer of light there, and it was sitting on the floor. I nearly touched it.

MALCOLM (goes to door, looks off, then returns--to others). It must be Hirst up to his tricks. George was out of the room when he suggested it. (To GEORGE.) Pull yourself together, man.

GEORGE. Yes, sir--but it took me unawares. I'd never have gone to the bar by myself if I'd known it was there, and I don't believe you would, either, sir.

MALCOLM. Nonsense, I'll go and fetch him in. (Crosses to L.)

GEORGE (clutching him by the sleeve). You don't know what it's like, sir. It ain't fit to look at by yourself, it ain't indeed. It's got the awfullest deathlike face, and short cropped red hair--it's--

(Smothered cry is heard.)

What's that? (Backs to C and leans on chair.)

(ALL start, and a quick pattering of footsteps is heard rapidly approaching the room. The door flies open and HIRST flings himself gasping and shivering into MALCOLM'S arms. The door remains open. He has only his trousers and shirt on, his face very white with fear and his own hair all standing on end. LEEK lights the gas, then goes to R. of HIRST.)

OMNES. What's the matter?

MALCOLM. Why, it's Hirst.

(Shakes him roughly by the shoulder.)

What's up?

HIRST. I've seen--oh, Lord! I'll never play the fool again. (Goes C.)

OTHERS. Seen what?

HIRST. Him--it--the ghost--anything.

MALCOLM (uneasily). Rot!

HIRST. I was coming down the stairs to get something I'd forgotten, when I felt a tap--(He breaks off suddenly gazing through open door.) I thought I saw it again--Look--at the foot of the stairs, can't you see anything? (Shaking LEEK.)

LEEK (crosses to door peering down passage). No, there's nothing there. (Stays up L.)

(HIRST gives a sigh of relief.)

MALCOLM (L. C.). Go on--you felt a tap----

HIRST (C.). I turned and saw it--a little wicked head with short red hair--and a white dead face--horrible.

(Clock chimes three-quarters.)

(They assist him into chair L. of table R.)

GEORGE (up C.). That's what I saw in the bar--'orrid--it was devilish. (Coming C.)

(MALCOLM crosses to L. HIRST shudders.)

MALCOLM. Well, it's a most unaccountable thing. It's the last time I come to this house. (Goes to R. of LEEK.)

GEORGE. I leave to-morrow. I wouldn't go down to that bar alone--no, not for fifty pounds. (Goes up R. to arm-chair.)

SOMERS (crosses to door R. then returns to R. C.). It's talking about the thing that's caused it, I expect. We've had it in our minds, and we've been practically forming a spiritualistic circle without knowing it. (Goes to back of table R.)

BELDON (crosses to R. C.). Hang the old gentleman. Upon my soul I'm half afraid to go to bed.

MALCOLM. Doctor, it's odd they should both think they saw something.

(They both drop down L. C.)

GEORGE (up C.). I saw it as plainly as I see you, sir. P'raps if you keep your eyes turned up the passage you'll see it for yourself. (Points.)

(They all look. BELDON goes to SOMERS.)

BELDON. There--what was that?

MALCOLM. Who'll go with me to the bar!

LEEK. I will. (Goes to door.)

BELDON (gulps). So--will I. (Crosses to door L. They go to the door. To MALCOLM.) After you. (They slowly pass into the passage. GEORGE watching them. All exit except HIRST and SOMERS.)

SOMERS. How do you feel now, old man?

HIRST (changing his frightened manner to one of assurance). Splendid!

SOMERS. But--(a step back.)

HIRST. I tell you I feel splendid.

SOMERS. But the ghost--(Steps back to C.)

HIRST. Well, upon my word, Somers--you're not as sharp as I thought you.

SOMERS. What do you mean?

HIRST. Why, that I was the ghost George saw. (Crosses to L. C.) By Jove, he was in a funk! I followed him to the door and overheard his description of what he'd seen, then I burst in myself and pretended I'd seen it too. I'm going to win that, bet--(VOICES heard. Crosses to R.) Look out, they're coming back. (Sits.)

SOMERS. Yes, but----

HIRST. Don't give me away--hush!

(Re-enter MALCOLM, LEEK, BELDON and GEORGE L.)

(BELDON and GEORGE go up to back C.)

HIRST. Did you see it? (In his frightened manner.)

MALCOLM (C.) I don't know--I thought I saw something, but it might have been fancy. I'm in the mood to see anything just now. (To HIRST.) How are you feeling now, sir?

HIRST. Oh, I feel a bit better now. I daresay you think I'm easily scared--but you didn't see it.

MALCOLM. Well, I'm not quite sure. (Goes to fire.)

LEEK. You've had a bit of a shock. Best thing you can do is to go to bed.

HIRST (finishing his drink). Very well. Will you, (rises) share my room with me, Somers?

(GEORGE lights two candles.)

SOMERS (crosses to L. C.). I will with pleasure. (Gets up to table C. and gets a candle). Provided you don't mind sleeping with the gas full on all night. (Goes to door L.)

LEEK (to HIRST). You'll be all right in the morning.

HIRST. Good night, all. (As he crosses to door.)

OMNES. Good night.

(ALL talking at fire, not looking to L. as HIRST and SOMERS exeunt. HIRST chuckles and gives SOMERS a sly dig.)

SOMERS. Good night.

MALCOLM (at fireplace). Well, I suppose the bet's off, though as far as I can see I won it. I never saw a man so scared in all my life. Sort of poetic justice about it. (LEEK with revolver in his hand, is just putting it into his pocket. Seeing him.) Why, what's that you've got there?

LEEK. A revolver. (At fire.) You see I do a lot of night driving, visiting patients in outlying districts--they're a tough lot round here, and one never knows what might happen, so I have been accustomed to carry it. I just pulled it out so as to have it handy. I meant to have a pot at that ghost if I had seen him. There's no law against it, is there? I never heard of a close time for ghosts.

BELDON.--Oh, I say, never mind ghosts. Will you share my room? (To MALCOLM.)

(GEORGE comes down a little, holding candle.)

MALCOLM. With pleasure. I'm not exactly frightened, but I'd sooner have company, and I daresay George here would be glad to be allowed to make up a bed on the floor.

BELDON. Certainly.

MALCOLM. Well, that's settled. A majority of three to one ought to stop any ghost. Will that arrangement suit you, George?

GEORGE. Thank you, sir. And if you gentlemen would kindly come down to the bar with me while I put out the gas. I could never be sufficiently grateful, and when (at door) we come back we can let the Doctor out at the front door. Will that do, sir?

LEEK. All right; I'll be getting my coat on. (GEORGE gets to door. They exit at door L. LEEK picks up his coat off chair up L., puts it on and then turns up trousers. Footsteps heard in flies, then goes to the window R., pulls curtain aside and opens the shutters of the window nearest the fire. A flood of moonlight streams in from R. Clock strikes twelve.) By Jove, what a lovely night. That poor devil did get a fright, and no mistake. (Crossing down to fireplace for his cap which is on the mantelpiece. MALCOLM, BELDON and GEORGE return--the door closes after them.) Well, no sign of it, eh?

MALCOLM. No, we've seen nothing this time. Here, give me the candle, George, while you turn out the gas.

LEEK. All right, George, I'll put this one out. (Turns out gas below fire.)

(MALCOLM and BELDON are up at sideboard, GEORGE having put the other gas out, goes up to them and is just lighting the candles for them. The DOCTOR is filling his pipe at mantel-shelf, and stooping to get a light with a paper spill. LEEK whistles and lights spill. The handle of the door is heard moving. OMNES stand motionless--MALCOLM and BELDON very frightened. They all watch. The room is lit only by the firelight which is very much fainter than it was at the beginning of the play, by the candle which GEORGE holds, and by the flood of moonlight from the window.)

(The door slowly opens, a hand is seen, then a figure appears in dark breeches, white stockings, buckled shoes, white shirt, very neat in every detail, with a long white or spotted handkerchief tied round the neck, the long end hanging down in front. The face cadaverous, with sunken eyes and a leering smile, and close cropped red hair. The figure blinks at the candle, then slowly raises its hands and unties the handkerchief, its head falls on to one shoulder, it holds handkerchief out at arm's length and advances towards MALCOLM.)

(Just as the figure reaches the place where the moonbeams touch the floor, LEEK fires--he has very quietly and unobtrusively drawn his revolver. GEORGE drops the candle and the figure, writhing, drops to the floor. It coughs once a choking cough. MALCOLM goes slowly forward, touches it with his foot, and kneels by figure, lifts figure up, gazes at it, and pulls the red wig off, discovering HIRST. MALCOLM gasps out "DOCTOR." LEEK places the revolver on chair, kneels behind HIRST. MALCOLM is L. C., kneeling. At this moment SOMERS enters very brightly with lighted candle.)

SOMERS. Well, did Hirst win his bet? (Seeing HIRST on floor, he realizes the matter). My God, you didn't--I told him not to. I told him not to!! I told him--(falls fainting into arms of GEORGE.)

Curtain.


NOTE. When played at The Haymarket the piece finished with a different ending as given below. MR. CYRIL MAUDE fearing the above tragic termination would be too serious.

From SOMERS' entrance.

SOMERS enters with lighted candle, and exclaims very brightly.

SOMERS. Well, did Hirst win his bet?

Slight pause.

HIRST (suddenly sitting up). Yes. (Turning to DR. LEEK.) You're a damned bad shot, Doctor. (Then to MALCOLM.) And I'll trouble you for that sovereign.

The remaining characters express astonishment.

CURTAIN.




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