Act One, Scene Nine
Castle Great Hall. A ball is in progress. LORD CASTLE, LADY CASTLE, CHAD, HILDA and NOBLEPERSONS are standing around, talking, eating and dancing.
Cuthbert: (to HILDA). And you’re sure she’s coming tonight?
Hilda: That’s what the bishop said: some girl’s been asking after you and the bishop is bringing her along as his guest.
Cuthbert: But are you sure it’s her.
Hilda: Dear Cuthbert, how many girls have asked after you this year? No, let me put it another way: how many girls have ever asked after you?
Cuthbert: But what if it isn’t her?
Hilda: Then you’ve got yourself a secret admirer.
LORD CASTLE crosses over to Cuthbert.
Lord Castle: (drunkenly). My son, my son, you look tense. Have a drink, have five, helps you relax. Look at the women, are they not fabulous? No? Have a drink; it’ll make them look fabulous. Worked with your mother, isn’t that right, dear?
Lady Castle: (extricating herself from CHAD). Yes, darling, the alcohol worked very well.
Cuthbert: Thank you, father, but that’s not necessary.
Lord Castle: Oh no? You’re not looking at the … the … you know… the blokes?
Cuthbert: (coldly). And what if I am?
Lord Castle: Oh, Klute! I … I can’t believe … I … (looking at HILDA). You!
Lord Castle: What have you done to him? No, don’t answer. (Hissing). When we get back to our quarters, we’re having words. (Pointing at the GUARDS) You two watch them; don’t let them out of your sights. (He storms off).
Cuthbert: I hate him!
Hilda: Join the club.
HATFIELD, MARY and MELT enter.
Hatfield: Right, stick close to me and do as I do.
Mary: Where’s Cuthbert?
Melt: Where’s my head?
Lord Castle: Ah, Hattie! (They embrace). How are you, you old dog?
Hatfield: As sprightly as ever, as I believe you are.
Lord Castle: Of course. You’ve pre-lashed, I assume. (HATFIELD nods). Excellent. Tequila slammers it is. (He guides HATFIELD off).
Melt: (uncertainly). Should we follow?
Mary: No, we need to find Cuthbert.
Melt: And my head.
(They peer around the room).
Mary: Ah, there he is. Damn, guards all around. Klute, look at that one, she’s hideous, could probably break a leg with her fists. Where do they recruit their guards from?
Melt: I reckon I could take her.
Mary: No, we need a distraction. (HATFIELD enters, stumbling drunkenly). Ah, Bishop Hatfield…
Hatfield: Hattie, if you please. Hattie the Hare … and Lion: half-hare, half-lion, haha!
Mary: Right. Hattie, we need a distraction. Can you think of anything?
Hatfield: A distraction? Of course, stand back. HAAAAAAATFIELD!
The room freezes, everyone turns very slowly and looks at HATFIELD. HATFIELD giggles and then rapidly exits; MELT follows. A moment’s pause, then everyone chases after him, shouting and screaming. All leave except MARY, CUTHBERT and HILDA. HILDA looks at them both then leaves indiscreetly. MARY crosses to CUTHBERT.
Cuthbert: Hi. I’m Cuthbert (extends a hand).
Mary: I know, I’m Mary (shakes).
Mary: (aside). Our first awkward silence, how romantic.
Cuthbert: I’m guessing you’re not noble.
Mary: Does it matter?
Cuthbert: Oh, of course not. It’s better: my father will have a fit, and anyway, noblewomen are so stuffy. It’s refreshing to meet some who… punches first and asks questions later.
Mary: (looking abashed). Oh yes, sorry about that; I panicked. I hope I didn’t hurt you.
Cuthbert: Just a black eye. Don’t worry about it: I told father I got into a scrap with some locals. He was so very proud.
Mary: Your father – Lord Castle?
Cuthbert: That’s right. He’s a good man, if you like drinking and fornicating.
Mary: Sounds like a bit of a dick.
Cuthbert: (laughing). Oh yes, a massive one, although I dare you to tell him that to his face. Still, I’ve heard your friend Hatfield could give him a run for his money back in the day.
Mary: He’s not my friend.
Cuthbert: Just an acquaintance.
Mary: A contact, and a useful one: he brought me to you.
Cuthbert: An agent of good fortune…
Mary: With the face of an ass. (They both laugh).
Cuthbert: I like you, Mary. Talking to you, it’s invigorating. Whereabouts do you live? I should like to visit.
Mary: (quietly). The Viaduct.
Mary: The Viaduct, all right? I live in the ghetto. (She turns away).
Cuthbert: (placing a hand on her shoulder). Are you ashamed? Why should you be?
Mary: Because I live in a cesspit and you live (she spins around) here. Why would you visit the Viaduct?
Cuthbert: Because you live there. Why should I care where you live? I’d much rather live in a cesspit than be locked in this gilded cage.
Mary: I’d rephrase that if I were you. I think the wine’s gone to your head.
Cuthbert: Good point. But I’ve never thought clearer about anything or anyone. I find you intriguing. Do you live alone?
Mary: Oh no. There’s me, Melt – he’s around here somewhere – and Butterwood.
Cuthbert: Dr Butterwood? That’s reason in itself to visit: I find him fascinating; my father can’t stand the man.
Mary: Hm, something he and I can agree on.
Cuthbert: Hopefully the only thing. Mary, I can’t say when I’ll be able to visit the Viaduct, but could I see you again?
Mary: Of course, I’d like that. I could visit you, if it’d be easier. I’m sure Hatfield could get us in.
MELT enters at a run and laughing hysterically.
Melt: (grabbing MARY). Mary, we have to go.
Mary: But you haven’t been introduced: Cuthbert, Melt; Melt, Cuthbert.
Cuthbert: (extending his hand). A pleasure to make your acquaintance.
Melt: And yours, ponce. Now, come on, Mary, we have to go.
Mary: What’s the matter with you?
Melt: Hatfield’s just been sick on the Black Staircase. The crowd’s out for blood. We need to scram, now.
Mary: But, shouldn’t we help him?
Melt: Are you insane? The guy’s covered in vomit – I’m not touching him with a bargepole. At the moment, he’s their mess, let’s keep it that way.
Mary: But they’ll kill him.
Melt: Then they’ll have to deal with the mess. Don’t you see? We’re getting a good deal out of this. Now, let’s go. (He begins dragging her offstage).
Cuthbert: Mary, will I see you again?
Mary: Of course, Cuthbert dearest, I shall return.
MARY and MELT exit.
MAN IN TURBAN enters.
Man in Turban: Troll in the Dunge-… (looks around). Oh, sorry, wrong castle.