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“If you're really posh, have your butler read this article for you”
Calthorpe's Comeuppance is the tale of Arthur Calthorpe-Drummondsley and his butler, Bill. Calthorpe is the quintessential upper-class twit, and his butler a streetwise, conniving servant who has no trouble getting one over his master. Calthorpe manages to be humiliated by his butler, and has a reunion with a friend which goes disastrously wrong.
It was broadcast on the BBC in 1985, and here follows the original script.
edit Scene One
Its 1985. Arthur, a member of the diminishing upper-class gentry in Britain, is sitting in his bedroom, looking forlorn. His butler walks in with a tray of tea and biscuits.
Bill: What seems to be the problem sir?
Arthur: Ahhh well...I just wish I was more clever sometimes. I mean, in the past few weeks I've been doing crosswords, solving sudokus... and I still feel that I'm no closer to warding off Alzheimer's.
Bill: I'm sorry to hear this sir.
Arthur: Yes, I once bought a chess set, but rather than play with the pieces I used to throw them at my brother when I was bored.
Bill: Well, at least you improved your co-ordination.
Arthur: Yes it did - and my strength too. The pieces were made of lead. But then he got angry and he smashed the chessboard over my head, in effect 'glassing' me. So 'chess' was banned from the house after that... Actually, I did manage to finish a sudoku yesterday. It was one in the Times. A fiendish one.
Bill: Really? I thought you couldn't count past five.
Arthur: Nonsense. Why, only yesterday I was tackling the the Times Crossword after tea at around half past....<pause>
Arthur: No, one actually!
Bill: I see. But I don't remember taking tea at half-one. It would in fact have been dinner at that time.
Arthur: Ok then, it was dinner. Yes, dinner! And I had four courses that dinnertime. See I can count!
Bill: Right, dinner it most definitely was then. Ok then, how many letters does the word 'dinner' have sir?
Bill: You were close...
Bill: Let me finish sir. You were as close to the right answer... as Alaska is to Argentina.
Arthur: Oh its no good - to hell with this clever-talk. I want to be able to have fun and be clever at the same time.
Bill: Being clever isn't fun sir - just ask Galileo Galilei.
Arthur: Who is he?
Bill: Some Italian stargazer who pissed off the church.
Arthur: Not very clever, pissing off the church.
Bill: Not at all sir, but it is fun.
Arthur: Yes, I can just imagine the fun if you happened to wet some poor chap beneath you.
Bill: Er no sir, he didn't urinate off the top of a church building; he pissed off members of the church.
Arthur: Ah I see. Well that's definitely not a clever thing to do.
Bill: And how sir, would you know?
Bill: Brilliant minds, sir.
Arthur: Yes, Socrates with his invention of the sock, and Mill with his invention of the windmill.
Bill: Dare I enquire as to what you think Immanuel Kant invented? Anyway my master, I must get on with my daily duties. By the way sir, here's the money I owe you from last night's gambling. I have no cash on me, so its a cheque.
Arthur: Splendid, good chap. I take back my previous calumniation. Wait a minute - you haven't written the amount you owe me - it's blank. I can't remember myself the exact figure.
Bill: Well sir, me neither. But here's what a clever person would do: They would start at one, and work their way through all the numbers they could 'til they couldn't count any more. And then they would take the last number that they counted, and use that as the amount which I shall owe you.
Arthur: I say, how brainbustingly-brilliant! Ok, here goes: One...two........three, four......five. Five! You owe me five pounds clever boy!
Bill: Well, write five pounds on the cheque sir! I've already signed it. I should really count up my losses in future - this gambling could turn out to be a losing venture.
Arthur: Yes, well I'm only five pounds down at the minute, but whenever I'm up, I'm only five pounds up.
Bill: Indeed sir. And don't let anyone tell you that those notes which have the letters 'F-I-F-T-Y- P-O-U-N-D-S' written on them equal any more than five pounds sir! Its a special gambling rule that, especially when you're playing against me. And you know me to be a fair man who always upholds the rules.
Arthur: Absolutely. Well, off with you then, Bill.
edit Scene Two
Back at the house of Calthorpe-Drummondsley, and Arthur is sporting a ridiculous smile on his face. His butler Bill walks in, after performing several errands about the town for his master, such as sending off various letters, ordering a gross of quail's eggs, and applying for entry into the Stupidly Rich and Stupid in General Club.
Bill: Afternoon sir, and what explains the ridiculous grin on your face?
Arthur: Well, while you were out I have in fact been working on my counting, and have added five numbers to my counting repertoire. Not only that, but I've worked on my decimals too!
Bill: Well sir, this is a turn-up for the plus-fours.
Arthur: Yes indeed!
Bill: Well go on then sir - tell me these new numbers you've learnt.
Arthur: Ok, from the beginning then. One, two, three, four, five.....
Arthur: Five point one, five point two, five point three, five point four...and five point five!!
Bill: Astonishing sir. And I am 5.5% impressed with that intellectual feat of yours.
Arthur: So you're totally impressed then! I knew you would be.
Bill: You're in a jolly fine mood aren't you master?
Arthur: Why yes! And why should not I be? I'm becoming cleverer and cleverer by the day. Who knows who many numbers I'll have learnt by tomorrow.
Bill: I think its a fairly safe bet how many numbers you'll learn tomorrow sir. Anyway, I've made us both some afternoon crumpets, with jam, marmalade, or whatever you like on it. How many would you like?
Arthur: Five! Actually, make that five point four!
Bill: (aside) Oh dear lord!
- Sir, let's just round that off to five shall we? It will make things much simpler.
Arthur: Right you are.
Bill: You know sir, if you were a number, you'd be the e-number.
Arthur: Well I hate to break it you but e isn't a number - its a letter!
Bill: I know, but the 'e number' is a type of number - named after the man who discovered it. He was called Euler.
Arthur: Really? What's so special about the e-number then?
Bill: Its irrational. That's why it suits you.
Arthur: Irrational? Absurd. Hmmm...E-rational? Get it! Ha ha ha.
Bill: Hilarious sir. Words, sorry, numbers fail me.
Arthur: There you go again! Getting confused over your letters and numbers.
Bill: One point to you sir. You have me. One point to you, set against the vast number of points I have scored against you.
Arthur: Oh right? And when have you ever beaten me in a debate?
Bill: Oh come now sir, let's not argue over this.
Arthur: Ah! You're just saying that to make me let my guard down.
Bill: You're forgetting one thing -
Arthur: What's that?
Bill: You don't have a guard to let down.
Arthur: Hogwash. I am better at debating, and have won many more points over you, however many they might be.
Bill: Ok then sir - try this one. 2 plus 2 is 4. Prove me wrong or else forfeit.
Arthur: Oh damn it. I'm going to have to forfeit. You win.
Bill: Thank you.
Arthur: I'm going to have to think of a counterclaim to that. It's such a convincing argument.
Bill: Indeed - the power of numbers.
The two gentlemen pause for thought. Or in Arthur's case, he just pauses. Arthur suddenly remembers something.
Arthur: By the way Billers, I've invited a friend and his wife over for tea. He's a clever chap, you'll get on with him rather well.
Bill: Perhaps so sir, but do you not get along with him?
Arthur: I do - and he's also got a very attractive wife. I'd like to speak to her more really. Get to know her better, who knows where it might end. She's a complete stunner...
Bill: But she's married.
Arthur:...Perfect body, soft hair, charming personality -
Bill: But....she is married - to your friend.
Arthur: Yes I know. I had an opportunity to make her mine in a roundabout sort of way.
Bill: Tell all sir, but be aware that the crumpets are cooling.
Arthur: Well once a while back, me and said friend were skylarking about at my parents' house. Anyway, me and an elder boy had these air-rifles we'd found, and during some target practice I accidentally shot him in the foot!
Bill: And how sir, was that your opportunity to marry this lovely lady? Was she turned on by men who accidentally cripple their friends? What a strange fetish.
Arthur: No sir, think! If I would have killed him, then she would never have met him, and hence be free to marry who she chooses! And I'd propose to her, naturally.
Bill: But then, you'd have no friend, and you'd probably be in prison.
Arthur: Well, any sacrifice for her - you'll see what I mean when you meet her!
Bill: You are full of these wonderful notions aren't you sir? Of course! How can I forget what you once suggested to someone who complained of heart palpitations from drinking too much coffee.
Arthur: Oh yes, I can't remember. What was my wonderful suggestion?
Bill: Well, rather than suggest to them that they stop drinking coffee, or switch to a decaffeinated type, you suggested that they have their heart removed.
Arthur: Exactly! No more palpitations! Ever again!
Bill: Yes - no more palpitations, circulation of blood around the body, or upkeep of life in general....I dread to think what sort of medical advice you'd offer to someone who had headaches. Anyway sir, what time do these people arrive so I can prepare refreshments and tea for them?
Arthur: Five o' clock!
Bill: It's two o' clock now. Plenty of time. I'll bring the crumpets through. What are the names of this couple?
Arthur: They are the Armitraos. Sourav and Meera. They're a bit younger than I.
Bill: Excellent - some Darjeeling tea should be just the thing!
edit Scene Three
Bill is stood waiting alone in the entranceway to Arthur's grand house. He muses, sotto voce
Bill: Honestly, why would anyone want to come to the house of this fool, whose vast house compliments his head by being mostly uninhabitated and airy. The only ability, or abilities if I am being kind, is that he is able to be tactful in the presence of deaf people, attractive in the presence of the blind, intelligent in the presence of the dumb, and all three on planets where no other life exists. Well, some of us have all the luck, and none of the money. Ah, what's that?
There is a knock at the door. Bill opens the door to find two smartly-dressed Indians. A handsome boy, and a highly attractive girl of similar height, who both appear to be in their late teens.
Bill: Ah, you must be the children of the Armitraos!
Armitrao 1: That's right.
Bill: Well, are your parents expected to arrive any minute now to dine with my master?
Armitrao 1: I was not aware that our parents were invited...
Bill: Well, my master told me that he invited Meera and Sourav Armitrao, but he didn't mention anything about his children.
Armitrao 1: I am Sourav Armitrao!
Sourav: I am the son of Rahul Armitrao, and this is my wife Meera.
Bill: How do you do? Hang on! When I asked you if you were the children of the Armitrao's I assume Sourav that you just meant yourself, yes?
Sourav: No, my wife is also born of an Armitrao.
Bill: Oh good lord (aside) What sort of people does Arthur associate with?
Sourav: Is there something the matter.
Bill: No, nothing, nothing! Errr...I just thought that there were laws against...well y'know...inter-marriage. Maybe they don't apply to the upper-class!
Sourav: Oh dear, what are you insinuating? Please let me explain. My wife Meera is...
Meera: Yes, I was an Armitrao before I married, but from a completely and unrelated different clan to Sourav's! We did laugh when we first found out that we had identical last names when we dated, and the registry office initially refused us! But, fear not, we aren't related, except by name and by law.
Bill: Thank god for that! Excuse my horrid accusation. And you both look so young and radiant.
Meera: Thank you, we're both 24!
Bill: Well, you make a charming couple. Please follow me through.
Sourav: You will have to excuse my limp - I had a rather awful accident as a child.
Bill: Ah yes. Arthur was telling me about it.
Sourav: Really? I hardly knew Art then. My parents still don't really know happened, and I can't remember much of it.
Meera: Come on Sourav, you must remember.
The three walk into the dining room adjacent to Arthur's room
Sourav: I wish I could! All I know is, I was two years old, and we were around at Arthur's parents house, as my parents were friends of theirs. Arthur will have been ten at the time, and he was just a carefree boy. Anyway, I was crawling about, trying to walk, and failing, as you do at that age, and I had this enormous pain in my foot. I thought I had trodden on a dead wasp or something, but it turns out I had been shot! Everyone was panicking. But they never found out who did it. I've just learnt to accept it since though.
Bill: Errrrr, right...Can you just excuse me for a minute while I sort out some...personnel issues. I shan't be long. Help yourself to crumpets, and biscuits.
Sourav: Thanks. Oooh, these crumpets are cold.
Bill leaves the couple, who admire Arthur's many artifacts and oddities hung upon the wall. Bill walks agitatedly straight into Arthur's room, where he is combing his moustache and admiring himself in a mirror. Bill thinks about letting out a tirade, but considers his guests, and regains a little composure.
Bill: Sir - about that incident with Sourav, and the rifle.
Arthur: Oh god, you didn't mention it did you??
Bill: No, he did. But he didn't know that you shot him! But more importantly than that - what on earth possessed you to shoot a two year old toddler!
Arthur: Oh dear, oh dear! Please keep this a secret Billany!
Bill: Its Bill - you upper-class people are always adding unnecessary endings to names. And why should I keep it a secret that you maimed a two year old?
Arthur: I had no desire to maim him! We were aiming for his metal pram, because the noise it made would have scared every one silly!
Bill: Well, you certainly achieved your objective of 'Scaring everyone stupid'...How far away was the pram from Sourav?
Arthur: He was in the next garden, about half a mile away.
Bill: Half a mile? You are a truly awful shot sir! I bet when you play tennis your partner has to stand in another court to receive your serve!
Arthur: Look don't mention any of this to Sourav. In fact, I'll pay you an extra 5 pounds a week.
Bill: 5 POUNDS?! Wait a minute! How about 5 pounds a week, for this month, and another 5 months after that, for the next five years - all of that money, times five. Then I'll say nothing.
Arthur: Excellent, its a done deal.
Bill: Ok sir, just wait, and then I'll call you in for dinner.
Just as Bill opens the door, Sourav bursts in.
Sourav: Just one second there butler! I heard all of that sordid confession and bribery. I care not if your master wastes his money by buying your silence. I've heard all of it!
Arthur: Oh..it was all just a big joke!
Sourav: I see. I might not be upper-class, but I thought that you preferred to shoot foxes, rather than small children.
Bill: What puzzles me is why you didn't confess to it. What's the worst your parents would have done? Forfeit your dukedom? Force you to study 'Media Studies' at Eton? Make you play lawn tennis with a wooden racquet for the rest of your teenage years?
Arthur: They would have done much worse actually!
Arthur: Yes. They would have made me preen the privet hedges around the 500-acre garden we have.
Sourav: Oh how agonizing. Well I tell you what Arthur, I'll challenge you to a game of tennis.
Bill: Well, you'd best have your wife Meera standing in another court...
Her ears burning, Meera walks in.
Meera: What's this about courts? Are you in trouble with the law Sourav?
Sourav: Hardly my dear. I was just wondering if you could be a ball-girl as me and Arthur are going to have a game of tennis. Or you could play Bill.
Meera: But we haven't eaten yet.
Bill: Well, we can go after we've eaten.
Sourav: Yes. And Arthur, you have to play with a wooden racquet. If you win, I will say nothing. If you lose, I demand the sum of £100000 in compensation for my injury. Is that fair?
Arthur: How much was that again?
Bill: I'll sort it out. And I had better keep score of my master's tennis match too...