The fourth episode of Ripping Yarns
, the series of splendid adventures set in the early 1900s created by Terry Jones
and Michael Palin
. "Murder at Moorstones Manor" was first aired on 11th October 1977, and featured Palin as the brothers Charles and Hugo.
Scotland, 1926. Moorstones Manor lies in wild, craggy moorland, far from anywhere. It is inhabited by the aged, irascible Sir Clive Chiddingfold and his long-suffering, sensible wife Lady Chiddingfold. Their two sons Hugo and Charles are driving up with their fiancees. Sir Clive might be 87 but he isn't dead yet, not by a long chalk, and he'll be damned if his relatives are going to get their hands on his estate so soon.
Hugo is the elder son. He's frightfully interested in motor cars, in fact he talks about them all the time, without let, to the exclusion of all else. Other people sadly refer to this as his illness, but his father calls him a loony. Lady Chiddingfold cautions him, reminding him what the doctors in London said.
"Doctors! (He spits.) What doctors need is a damn good flogging... You know what the Ottoman Turks used to do with loonies--"
"He is not a loony, Dada, he--"
"They used to tie them to a tree and beat them senseless... they didn't have any nonsense."
Simple Hugo's fiancee
is poor Dora
, a sweet girl who puts up with him, until in the middle of Darkstones Moor she gets fed up with his incessant yammering and braying about pistons, distributors, carburettor
s, and crankcase
s and orders him to choose between her and the car. He chooses the car without a second's thought, and she gets out in a huff and slams the door shut dramatically. He drives off in perfect, oblivious composure, and she screams after him, as black rainclouds gather above the wild, inhospitable
The other son is the sophisticated Charles, and his fiancee Ruth is very stylish. They confirm that poor Dora was looking terribly bedraggled struggling along out on the moor when they passed her. As Charles goes up to chat with Daddy over billiards, Ruth rejects Lady Chiddingfold's offer of tea with a knowing suggestion that perhaps after that drive she might like something a little stronger. She is offered coffee, Bovril, and Marmite until she spells out that she had been thinking of whisky.
"Bovril and whisky?"
"No... just the whisky."
"Ah! I'm so sorry Ruth my dear. (She pulls a bellcord to summon Manners.) Of course! I'm in such a damned muddle at the moment. (Manners appears.) Ah, Manners, a whisky, please."
"With Bovril, M'Lady?"
At dinner, Sir Clive is as usual regaling the company with anecdotes of terrible things he has seen: "...he ordered the whole platoon
to get their bayonet
s. Then he gets them to pull back their own fingernail
s... one by one, and put quicklime
This is too much for Ruth, who passes out face-first into her cottage pie. Sir Clive is momentarily irritated by this, and dismisses squeamishness as nonsense. His last comment on it is the splendidly foreboding line "The only time I ever felt squeamish--", but he is interrupted by his loony son Hugo coming down from bed and trying to tell him about cylinders and throttles. Lady Chiddingfold gently takes Hugo up to bed, and as she's calming him she hears a shot: "Oh no! That'll be your father being murdered!"
At this point the body count is two, one shot through the back and one drowned in cottage pie. Charles, the younger son, the one who doesn't stand to inherit so much, kindly offers to go upstairs and check whether his elder brother is dead yet.
In the middle of the night Dora turns up banging on the door in a dreadful state, half dead. Hugo is also either dead or at any rate mostly dead, having been shot last night while Charles was with him but looking away, and shot again in the morning, by accident. Charles, impatient to get the will read and collect the money, learns from the solicitor that Hugo left all his money and cars to Dora, who is now upstairs on the point of death. Charles decides to check on her.
A new arrival is Dr Farson, a doctor from Inverness summoned to attend their little domestic problem. Dr Farson is instantly obsessed with the beauty of Lady Chiddingfold and has no interest in looking more than cursorily at the dead bodies that still litter the breakfast table, now decently covered with sheets. However he is persuaded to go and look at Dora after her night on Darkstones Moor, despite Charles's assurance that there's no point really as she's slipping away fast.
"How was she?"
"She is in a state of severe shock, Lady Chiddingfold, but I think she will recover. She had some traumatic experience last night she still finds difficult to describe... something terrible happened to her."
"Is there anything you can do?"
"Well, I rubbed some Vick on her chest.
"Did that help?"
(slightly distantly) "Yes... Yes it did, thank you."
From this point on everyone starts confessing to killing the others, hauling out guns, shooting each other, and scorning each other's claims to have killed them. It all ends rather messily
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