Act One, Scene Two
ODR: University College is the oldest college in Durham, and as such is steeped in tradition. Located in Durham Castle, we shall be visiting there next. Ruled by Lord Castle, it is a haven for those who enjoy the finer things in life: fine dining, fine quarters and morally excellent international relations. If you are considering putting Durham as your university choice, which I hope you are, I cannot recommend the Castle highly enough.
ODR exits. Curtain up on Cuthbert’s bedroom. CUTHBERT is examining his appearance in the mirror, HILDA is seated in a chair sewing.
Cuthbert: (whining). But why do I have to go to the ball?
Hilda: Because it is your duty: your father has requested your presence, so you must go.
Cuthbert: But he knows I don’t like them – all his stuffy old friends downing bottles of wine like animals, it’s unseemly.
Hilda: Maybe so, but your father needs to impress, and you are a part of this. I understand the ambassador from Ustinov will be in attendance.
Cuthbert: Why can’t Aidan do it? He enjoys these things.
Hilda: (patiently). Because he’s waging war on a small island in the South Pacific.
Cuthbert: (sighing). The Isle of Man isn’t in the South Pacific, Hilda.
Hilda: Isn’t it? I could have sworn Lord Castle said…
Cuthbert: (aside). Maybe father just wanted to be rid of you. (Finishing tying his tie and presenting himself to HILDA). What do you think?
Hilda: It looks lovely, darling. Bound to turn some heads tonight. Just what your father would want.
Hilda: Well, I shouldn’t be saying, but apparently the Ustinov ambassador has a lovely daughter.
Hilda: Well, it always helps a man feel at ease if he’s sure his daughter is well looked after.
Hilda: Oh, look, I’ve gone and said too much and made you nervous. There’s no need to panic, you’re not expected to do anything, just sit back and let her have a good time.
Enter LORD CASTLE, LADY CASTLE, CHAD and two GUARDS.
Lord Castle: What a racket in here. Getting excited for this evening, my boy?
Cuthbert: You monster! I won’t go through with it. How could you? Selling your younger son to the Ustinov ambassador.
Lord Castle: (flustered). Preposterous. Who told you such nonsense?
Lady Castle: (glancing at CHAD). Yes, such nonsense.
Cuthbert: Nurse did.
Lord Castle: (rounding on HILDA). You. You’re supposed to be in the South Pacific.
Hilda: Changed my mind, thought it’d be safer if I stayed here.
Lord Castle: (aside). Not for much longer it won’t be. (Placing his arm around CUTHBERT’s shoulder). Son, son, son, no one’s being sold to anyone – apart from the serfs, but they’re not people. Both of my children have their duties: your brother wages our wars, and you have to help me rule. Everyone has their duties, (to LADY CASTLE, who hastily extricates herself from CHAD) isn’t that right, darling?
Lady Castle: Yes, both of my children have their duties.
Lord Castle: You mean our children.
Lady Castle: Whatever helps you sleep, darling.
Lord Castle: Exactly. So, you see, Cuthbert, it’s all part of your duty. There’s nothing sordid about it. You just show this young woman the delights of the castle. If she is kept happy then the ambassador will be kept happy, and Ustinov is a valuable ally.
Cuthbert: (reluctantly). As you wish, father.
Lord Castle: Excellent. Right, we’d best get ready. So much to do, so little time. Captain (CHAD steps forwards), find me some guests. (Pointing to GUARDS) You two, make sure the boy doesn’t leave this room till this evening. (LORD CASTLE, LADY CASTLE and CHAD exit).
(GUARDS take up position by the ‘door’. Mutter to one another, challenging the other to speak).
Guard 1: Begging your pardon, sir, but we couldn’t help overhearing your predicament.
Guard 2: Yes, a right little pickle we can see you in.
Guard 1: But, you see, the way we see it, there’s no need for you to fret such.
Guard 2: No need at all. For, you see…
Guard 1: Or will see…
Guard 2: If you bear with me, my companion and I were thinking: we have some experience with Ustinov women, having spent a year up there…
Guard 1: In Ustinov, as it were. So, we were thinking, it is our duty to serve you, and you seem reluctant to be intimate with such a woman…
Guard 2: So, why not let us take this burden upon ourselves in your stead?
Hilda: (helpfully). They’re talking about sex.
Cuthbert: (horrified). You sick, twisted perverts. (He exits).
Guard 1: Well, how very inconsiderate.
Guard 2: When all we were trying to do was help.
Guard 1: No respect for the working man.