Early morning in the small Welsh town of Llareggub.
| FIRST VOICE|
Let us now turn several pages of the White Book of Llareggub, detailing as it does the myriad doings, the comings and goings, trials and tribulations, births, marriages, deaths, dreams and infidelities of the folk of this small town. All lovingly recorded in the fair hand of the Reverend Eli Jenkins.
The town’s inhabitants are about their usual morning bustle and business. Yet something about this one Summer's day is not at all as usual.
Mrs. Pugh, nag-wife of Schoolmaster, (and by-the-by, her would-be poisoner), Mr. Pugh, demands her glasses and looks out to see.
It is half past eight, and Mary Ann Sailors is not at her window. God rest her poor soul.
She might just be ill dear.
MRS PUGH (With acid certainty)
No. She has departed this world for a better, I’m sure.
If you say so dear.
Mrs Pugh is correct for in the bar of the Sailors Arms, sits Sinbad Sailors, Grandson and sole heir of the late Mary Ann Sailors. He is deep in his cups of mourning.
The Sailors Arms is closed today. My Grandma has died aged eighty-eight years, four months and six days. It’s a mark of proper respect.
Sup up lads. Let’s drink to Grandma’s memory.
In Bethesda House, the Reverend Eli Jenkins fastidiously blots the ink that records the final entry of the late Mary Ann Sailors in his White Book. As he does so, he murmurs.
REV. ELI JENKINS
God gathers us all to his tender breast.
And outside the Sailors Arms, darkly gleaming in the morning sunshine, the venerable hearse of Evans the Death, slides up respectfully. A small dapper man in tail coat, (made much taller by his stove-like top hat), charcoal gloves and shoes that are twin dark mirrors, Evans clears his throat, then glides silent and Dignified, into the Sailors Arms.
To make arrangements.
That’s not someone I know.
Who is it?
They’re going to Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard’s.
Ho ho! A fine frosty welcome they’ll get from that starchy old besom.
[Firm and confident knocking on door]
[Footsteps approaching. Then door opening.]
MRS OGMORE-PRITCHARD (Coldly)
Good morning. Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard is it? My name is Griffiths Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard, Rhys Griffiths. I’m from Swansea and I would very much like to rent one of your rooms. Only you come highly recommended as keeping a very clean house and I’m most particular about my lodgings. They simply have to be clean. It’s something that I insist upon. You have a room free of course, it being off-season. Oh good. I shall be staying a month and will be paying in advance of course. I’m here on holiday you see. Actually it’s doctors orders. Said I needed a break from the office and positively insisted, and well here I am you see. May I see my room now please?
CAPTAIN CAT (Whistles softly to himself)
Well I never did. How did he manage that?
Ghostly in the garden, the shades of the late Mr. Ogmore and the late Mr. Pritchard, both, formerly, husband to the formidable woman who now bears both their names, are in an unusual state of consternation at this most unexpected turn of events.
MR PRITCHARD (Astonished)
Did you see that Mr. Ogmore?
Indeed I did Mr. Pritchard.
She let him in.
To Bay View.
She hasn’t had a guest since before you died Mr Ogmore.
I know Mr. Pritchard. She didn’t like them messing up her nice clean sheets.
Let us go in and see what is happening.
After you Mr. Ogmore.
And invisible in the bright morning sunlight they insubstantially drift into the house, where Mr. Griffiths is, against all expectations, examining his room.
Oh yes. This is excellent. Very clean. Nice sea view. This will do perfectly. I’ll just pop my things away tidy like, and then I’ll take a turn along the sea-front I think. Thank you Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard. I’m sure that we’ll become great friends during my stay. Now what time is dinner?
And an increasingly flustered Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard who has thus far found herself increasingly wrong-footed by her guest. Her hand holding a wad of crisp new notes, finds herself saying.
Would six o'clock be acceptable?
Perfect. Well I’m sure I can amuse myself until then. I shalln’t be under your feet Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard. Doctor’s orders you see. I must get out, he positively insists. Lots of walking, fresh air and suchlike.
Mrs. Ogmore-Pritchard like some suddenly toothless dragon finds herself ushered politely, but firmly, out of one of her caves.
I would never have believed it Mr. Pritchard.
I suddenly feel all faint like Mr. Ogmore.
It’s the shock Mr. Pritchard. Let us retire to the woodshed. I’m sure that you’ll feel better there.
Like vigorous tongues of flame licking greedily through a field of tinder dry bracken, soon all the town is ablaze with the hot news that Bay View has a guest.
In Mrs. Organ Morgan’s general shop, Mrs Pugh is already asking questions.
And what does he look like then? This paying guest?
As Mrs. Organ Morgan's customers have talked of little else that morning, she has a ready answer.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
Mrs. Richards said she saw him and he looks a nice young man, probably in his early twenties. He’s tall and he has a mop of brown curly hair. Well dressed and a pleasant manner, she said.
It would take more than good looks and a pleasant manner to get a room at Bay View.
He must have a silver tongue at least.
Did you hear Mary Ann Sailors has died?
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
Oh it’s a terrible shame.
I hear Sinbad is drowning in sorrow.
MRS PUGH (Snorts)
Reverend Jenkins said she went very peacefully. Slipped away in her sleep.
God rest her poor soul.
A hush falls over the women as the nice young man enters the shop.
Good morning. No. I tell a lie…
As he glances at his watch.
Good afternoon ladies.
As he flashes them a dazzling smile of clean strong teeth.
Do you have such thing as a notebook at all please?
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
Over there. Near the brown paper and sealing wax.
Ah perfect. Thank you, yes this will do splendidly. Now what do I owe you please?
And paying for his notebook. Mr. Griffiths leaves, smiling broadly to one and all as he does.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN
What a charming young man.
Such nice manners.
SECOND WOMAN (A little acidly)
And a silver tongue.
He’ll cause trouble I’m sure of it.
All men do.
MRS ORGAN MORGAN (Tartly)
Oh Mrs. Pugh. You judge everyone by the standards of Mr. Pugh.
MRS PUGH (With a sniff)
[Sound of shop door opening, then closing with a bang]
Mr. Pugh always wants to fly his standards at half mast for Mrs. Pugh.