Mrs Arabella Hathaway, Dick’s Aunt
Street Sellers 1, 2 and 3
Sir Edward Fitzwarren
Alice, Sir Edward’s daughter
Mrs Scrubbs, the Cook
Daisy, The Scullery Maid
Banks, the Butler
Rose, the Lady’s Maid
Jacque Clousseau, an Incompetent Detective
Jess the Cat
The Sultan of Marrakesh
Chorus of Rats
Chorus of Servants
Chorus of Pirates
Act 1, Scene 1
Miss Hathaway’s Cottage, Little Snoring, Gloucestershire
The scene is one of cosy rural life in a humble, but comfortable cottage. Two chairs are pulled up round the fire. Arabella paces nervously up and downstage as if in a quandary.
ARABELLA: Oh my, what am I to do? Poor Dick, goes out each morning in search of a job and every evening returns forlorn and dejected. The thing is, you see, we are destitute. For the uneducated ones among you it means we’re poor. (Ah!) We’re much poorer than that. (Big ah!) You see, although my father was a rich man, I am the last one of ten children. The boys inherited the estate and what little money I was given has run out. To make matters worse, I have to feed and clothe young Dick, my nephew. He eats like a horse and grows like a giraffe. I have to keep extending his trousers and jackets. Don’t get me wrong, I love him dearly – I just can’t afford to keep him any longer. So, I’ve come to a decision…
(Noises off of whistling.)
Oh dear, here he comes now. Come a little closer and you’ll hear what I’ve decided to do. (Enter Dick, wearing patchwork clothes.)
DICK: Hey ho, Aunt, what’s for supper?
ARABELLA: Turnip soup.
DICK: Oh, not again! We had turnip soup yesterday, and the day before, and the day before. It seems to taste more like water each day.
ARABELLA: That’s because I’m using the same turnips.
DICK: Oh Aunt Arabella, are we so poor?
ARABELLA: Yes, I’m afraid we are, Dick. Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that…
DICK; Look what I brought you, Auntie. A pair of trout, fresh from the river.
ARABELLA: Why, thank you, Dick. But you should have spent the time looking for a job. Now, Dick, I need to speak to you…
DICK: You are speaking to me. Hey, guess what! I nearly got a job today, Aunt.
ARABELLA: What do you mean, ‘nearly’? You either got it or you didn’t.
DICK: Well, the man in front of me in the queue got it. If I’d been a few minutes earlier…
ARABELLA: But you weren’t, were you. Look, Dick, it’s time we had a talk.
DICK: But Auntie, we always talk.
ARABELLA: Sit down, Dick, I’m being serious. (He looks at her, then at the audience.)
DICK: Oh dear, you really are serious.
ARABELLA: Dick, I’ll come straight to the point. (Dick is grimacing.) You’ll have to leave!
DICK: (Sniffing his armpit) Why do I smell or something? If I do it’s probably just the fish…
ARABELLA: No, I mean for good – permanently.
DICK: What, leave home – for good. (Looks woefully at the audience.)
ARABELLA: You must understand, Dick, that we have no money. I cannot afford to keep you any longer. You must go to London to seek your fortune.
DICK: Why can’t I seek it in Little Snoring.
ARABELLA: All there is here is a church, a pub and a handful of cottages. There is nothing for you here.
DICK: But London – it’s over a hundred miles away! I suppose I could get a bus.
ARABELLA: A what?
DICK: Oh no, they haven’t been invented yet. I suppose I’ll just have to walk. But what will become of you, Aunt Arabella?
ARABELLA: Don’t worry about me – I’ll be just fine.
DICK: One day, when I’m rich, I’ll come back and repay you for your kindness. You’ve dedicated your life to bringing me up since my parents died when I was a baby.
ARABELLA: Your mother was my sister, remember, and as I never married, you are my closest family.
DICK: But why did you not find a husband?
ARABELLA: I did have a sweetheart, in my youth. He was a dashing young gentleman. We called him Bunny, although that was just a nickname. We were engaged to be married.
DICK: What happened, Auntie? Why did it not work out?
ARABELLA: Well, rather like you, he had no money. He went off to London to find fame and fortune – and I never saw him again.
(She takes out her hanky and sniffs. Dick puts his arm around her.)
DICK: Why, that’s terrible. What became of him.
ARABELLA: The last I heard he had gone to sea with some friend who knew a sea captain. I don’t even know whether he is alive or dead.
DICK: Aunt Arabella, I shall go to London, I shall become rich and just as soon as I do I shall return to Little Snoring to look after you.
ARABELLA: Thank you, Dick.
DICK: As you so rightly said, I am your only family – and I don’t intend to desert you.
Portmoak Primary School, Portmoak, Kinross, Scotland