The Fall of Fonthill
(OPENING MUSIC, TO CREATE THE MOOD AND PERIOD. TAKE DOWN BEHIND THE FOLLOWING AND LOSE:)
(LARGISH SITTING ROOM INTERIOR AT FONTHILL SPLENDENS)
ALDERMAN:William, my boy! Here, come and sit on my knee, sir. (SOUND OF LITTLE BECKFORD CLAMBERING ON HIS FATHER'S KNEE) Now you must tell me what you have learned today from Mr Drysdale here, your tutor.
LITTLE BECKFORD:(AGE 10) A good deal of Latin verbs.
DRYSDALE:(HEARTY, WISHING TO COUNTERACT IMPRESSION WITH FLATTERY) The boy continues to make great strides through the conjugations, Alderman Beckford.
ALDERMAN:He's a credit to our foresight. Do you know, Mr Drysdale, while this lad was still puling at his nurse's breast ...
MRS BECKFORD:Alderman Beckford!
ALDERMAN:Sorry, my dear. When he was but a babe we had already decided to give him the best possible education. The reason - I may have a half a dozen children already and a few sons at that.
MRS BECKFORD:Alderman, how you go on and go on. Do we have to hear this?
ALDERMAN:This one is especial. And the reason? This one and only this one was born in holy wedlock. Music for example. We had him first taught by young Mozart, the prodigy.
DRYSDALE:Yes. Master William has told me.
ALDERMAN:It's a pity I'm so seldom down to Wiltshire to view my boy's progress here at Fonthill. The months go by. One day baby-talk, and the next I hear from his lips Latin and French. But there's much to do in Parliament. If we are to deal with a King George, who finds it hard to mind his own business, what?
MRS BECKFORD:So often we talk amongst ourselves, asking, what is he destined to be? A politician like his father? Manage the great affairs of state?
DRYSDALE:It could well be. If his studies continue to -
LITTLE BECKFORD:(OVERLAY) I plan to be a prince!
ALDERMAN:Hm! (HIS GOOD HUMOUR IS CHECKED, TURNING INTO MOCKERY) A prince, is it? Why not a king whilst you're about it?
LITTLE BECKFORD:I could be that too! I have royal blood in my veins!
ALDERMAN:Royal blood! Oh, you have, have you?
LITTLE BECKFORD:Well, through my mother I'm great grandson of the sixth Earl of Abercorn! Aren't I, mother?
MRS BECKFORD:Er, yes.
ALDERMAN:That's noble blood, sir, not royal. Anyhow, you'll not inherit that title, or indeed any title. They're all from your mother's side of the family. Mrs Beckford might as well have been plain Jane of Petticoat Lane for all it matters, as regards your nobility.
LITTLE BECKFORD:I am noble! I am!
MRS BECKFORD:I've told him we might acquire him a title one day. A Baronetcy.
ALDERMAN:A title. A Baronetcy. Tut, such store as folks set by it! Alderman Beckford they call me, and Alderman Beckford I am, and proud of it. Alderman Beckford M.P. Who minds what handles you'll have to your name when you'll inherit more money one day than precious kings and queens and nobility put together?
LITTLE BECKFORD:I care little for money. It's of no real importance.
MRS BECKFORD:It has its uses, darling.
ALDERMAN:True. Look at this place here. Look at all the costly objects around us. Impressive, eh? Good, honest Jamaican lucre is what bought it all. Noble Fonthill Splendens, there's not its peer in Wiltshire, a good honest house and estate for good honest Jamaica plantation people. That and business ability, and the labour of thousands of Africans on the said plantations. What need a Beckford care for lineage? Your Grandfather Peter, on my side of course, even married into the Herings, God save him.
MRS BECKFORD:Don't say it like that! Don't mock your own! They're the oldest family in Jamaica.
DRYSDALE:(TRYING TO DIFFUSE THE SITUATION) Yes, I've heard that, a very ancient family. That is, for Jamaica.
ALDERMAN:Some antiquity for you! Whelped by shoemakers, spawned by brigands! The cream of white Jamaica. (HE MAY SAY IT IN THE AFRO CARRIBEAN WAY)
LITTLE BECKFORD:(IN TEARS) I have got noble blood! (RUNS TO MRS BECKFORD) Mama! (SOBS)
MRS BECKFORD:See what you've done! You're not in Parliament now, sir! There, there, my lovely.
ALDERMAN:You mollycoddle him.
MRS BECKFORD:He is delicate.
ALDERMAN:Delicate, my foot!
MRS BECKFORD:And there is no call to mock his lineage. From my side of the family, you know he has three lines of Royal descent.
LITTLE BECKFORD:(THROUGH SOBS) So there!
MRS BECKFORD:From King Edward III.
ALDERMAN:(GUFFAWS) So does everyone else!
DRYSDALE:(CLEARS THROAT) Alderman, Sir, I hope you won't think I speak out of turn. But, since you are here with us in the country, I feel there is something I would like, with your permission, to mention.
ALDERMAN:I know what you're going to say. Mrs Beckford indulges him.
MRS BECKFORD:I don't! (OVERLAY)
DRYSDALE:Not exactly. No, it was not exactly this. It is - now he is almost of the age, would it not be prudent to consider a public school? The experience of the rough-and-tumble can be invigorating and checks pretention ...
LITTLE BECKFORD:No! (OVERLAY)
MRS BECKFORD:What, fling our precious William into the midst of loutish boys and drunken schoolmasters? At the tender age of ten! And where he may hear talk of - oh, I know not. Oh, no! I won't hear of it.
(A PAUSE WHILE THEY WAIT FOR THE ALDERMAN'S RESPONSE)
ALDERMAN:Nor will I, it so happens. This boy is no everyday child. One day he may indeed become a statesman, a new Pitt, perhaps, and who knows what else? We can afford to pay for private teachers. And so, let him be trained according to the highest standards.
DRYSDALE:But lessons are not the only things to be learned at school. Perhaps in the company of other boys ...
LITTLE BECKFORD:Royalty don't go to school.
ALDERMAN:No, Royalty don't go to school. Royalty - and Beckfords - have tutors. Come here my darling. (HE ENJOYED THE SPIRITED REPLY OF HIS SON, AND HIS VOICE IS SOFTER)
(MUSIC - OPTIONAL - TO DENOTE PASSAGE OF TIME)
(SCHOOLROOM INTERIOR AT FONTHILL SPLENDENS)
COZENS:(DRAWING) Don't fret over such a trifle, William.
BECKFORD:(NOW 15-16) You call it a trifle, it means little to you! You're my tutor, you're supposed to care about what happens to me. (PAUSE) I thought after my father died things would change but now it's even worse! Why does my mother have to decide everything I do?
COZENS:Patience ... Only a few years now.
BECKFORD:It's just the cramming of Greek, Greek and more Greek down my throat.
COZENS:There are, though, one or two things to be usefully learned from the Greeks. Anyway, surely you like what you learn from me?
BECKFORD:Yes. When you listen to what I want. This drawing bores me. (MOCK SERIOUS) Can we do something else, Mr Cozens?
COZENS:Certainly. Here. (WITH APPROPRIATE F/X, B.G.) A smudge or inkblot or two - see? Now, a little water. To float on the smudges.
BECKFORD:(AT ONCE INTRIGUED) It looks somewhat - accidental!
COZENS:Accidental, fiddlesticks. Nothing is accidental in the great system of life. Then I take another sheet - I impress it upon the first, and take it away, and then - by the exercise of your fertile imagination - you begin to see - what?
COZENS:What do you see?
BECKFORD:I see - romantic woods.
BECKFORD:Towns! Steeples! Cottages! Rivers!
COZENS:And here: fields, and waterfalls! And what is this, here?
BECKFORD:Is it Fonthill? Or is it a city?
BECKFORD:A city known to me?
BECKFORD:A distant, far-off city. A city you know?
BECKFORD:You were born there. And your father was the Czar - so they say!
COZENS:Hmm (HE'S NOT CONFIRMING OR DENYING THIS) What else do you see?
BECKFORD:I see ... The houses made of timber! And wood-paved streets, and wharves. And here ...
COZENS:The River Drina, clean and clear. And here, a Georgian princess, surrounded by her slave-boys ... And here, the tents of the elephants.
BECKFORD:I had a dream last night.
COZENS:And what was that about?
BECKFORD:You and I wandered alone together, through forests.
COZENS:Just the two of us?
BECKFORD:(SLIGHT LAUGH, MOMENTARILY A LITTLE SELF-CONSCIOUS) Yes. And night came, and we pitched our tent.
COZENS:Tent? Glad we had a tent!
BECKFORD:... by moonlight in the wilderness. The deer were bounding over the lawn, and the goats were frisking by the stream; we lay alone, dreaming dreams of inspiration.
COZENS:Inspiration. (PAUSE) Good. Well, let's return to our inspirational smudges and blots. Do not let us become too far diverted.
BECKFORD:What is to become of us? Are they going to send you away?
COZENS:Why? Why should they?
(INTERIOR AT FONTHILL SPLENDENS)
MRS BECKFORD:No sooner do we send away that immoral person and lodge you safely abroad than there is this, as I have just discovered, Mr Lettice! Listen. (FLOURISHES PAPER) "I am enraptured by my dreams of the East, of woods, of spice trees, strange animals, vast rivers. They say - Is it not better to study the histories of Europe? I answer - such is my taste; I prefer this to the little bustles and paltry concerns of Europe." (SCRUNCHES PAPER) He's still writing to him and the rot goes deeper, even than we thought. I dispatched him abroad with you to get away from this sort of thing.
LETTICE:Mrs Beckford, I too was surprised at the effect it had on him. He is very innocent.
MRS BECKFORD:Innocent! You were the innocent one. Else I would not have come out to get you.
MRS BECKFORD:Ah, William!
BECKFORD:(NOW 19-20. SUBDUED. OFF) Mama.
MRS BECKFORD:Kiss me, dear. Time was when you had no need of my bidding.
BECKFORD:(APPROACHING) I was a boy then. (KISSES HER)
MRS BECKFORD:And now you are a man. Good! Anyway, (SHE ADOPTS A MORE WHEEDLING TONE) William, my precious boy. You are closer to my heart than anyone else in the world. You know I think only of you and your advancement. That is why I have made the plans I have for the coming months. The time has come for your introduction into society! Mr Lettice agrees, don't you?
MRS BECKFORD:Don't pull that face. That's why I thought it right you should return to England.
BECKFORD:Mr Lettice and I were very content in the mountains.
LETTICE:Yes, well ... (HE'S NOT SURE WHICH SIDE TO TAKE)
MRS BECKFORD:Dreaming your dreams and no doubt writing more letters to your friend Mr Cozens about them! Well, it must cease now. Just because Alexander Cozens never grew up is no reason why you shall not.
BECKFORD:I won't have you put him down!
MRS BECKFORD:There is first the London season ...
BECKFORD:Oh, no! My father, who you instruct me to admire, didn't do the London season.
MRS BECKFORD:The London season, to acquire the social graces, and to make the acquaintance of well-born young ladies of equal rank to yours.
BECKFORD:I don't want to meet young ladies, well-born or otherwise.
MRS BECKFORD:This is what comes of being robbed too long of the company of the fair sex. Well now, after the season, a tour of the country houses. (BECKFORD GROANS) So? One goes with the other! In Town you imbibe of delicacy; in the country of shooting, riding to hounds, that sort of thing. For example, one place I've arranged for you to go is to the Courtenays at Powderham Castle in Devonshire. (SHE RISES AND BEGINS TO DEPART) Let us hope you will come to yourself in the company of the young bloods of some of the oldest families of England.
(OUTDOORS IN GROUNDS OF POWDERHAM CASTLE. WIND THROUGH TREES. BECKFORD AND WILLIAM COURTENAY PLAYING TAG, RUNNING ROUND. COURTENAY SHRIEKS AND GIGGLES AS BECKFORD BRINGS HIM DOWN ON THE GRASS DURING THE FOLLOWING OPENING LINES:)
BECKFORD:(TUSSLE) I've got you, young Lord Will!
(GIGGLING SUBSIDES. PAUSE. STILLNESS)
COURTENAY:Don't. Not here. They'll see through the windows.
BECKFORD:They're all out fox-hunting. Or badger-baiting.
COURTENAY:(GIGGLES) Badger baiting?
BECKFORD:Nobility and gentry do little all day but massacre harmless animals. Your family's no exception, I'm afraid.
COURTENAY:I don't. (INNOCENTLY) I prefer cock-fighting. They do it to each other.
BECKFORD:Better, I suppose. Anyway, you're my little harmless animal! (ANOTHER BRIEF PLAYFUL STRUGGLE WITH GIGGLES, THEN SILENCE) A kitty cat perhaps. I think I shall call you Kitty.
COURTENAY:(MEWS LIKE SMALL CAT. THEN, SEDUCTIVELY:) Tell me a story. I know you like telling me - funny - stories.
COURTENAY:I don't know. What about the one about Zuzu - Zuzu - I forget.
BECKFORD:Oh, yes. The mountains of Zuzubooka. In the country of Abababalonica. (COURTENAY GIGGLES) Yes. Well, there dwelt three sages in a cavern. The first bore a majestic figure, his hoary hair bound by a fillet inscribed with unknown characters. The second, a woman of imperial mein, a sublime port, and in her eyes a fire which I dare not describe. And the third ...
BECKFORD:A thirteen year old boy. (PAUSE)
COURTENAY:Why do you like thirteen year old boys?
BECKFORD:William, of all the people I've ever known you are the only one that's cast in my mold. We belong together so much that I think we must have known each other in a previous existence.
COURTENAY:Another life before this one?
COURTENAY:Then - then - there must have been some time in another life ... when I was never so happy before.
BECKFORD:(LAUGHS LIKE A FREE SPIRIT) At last I've discovered it is possible to love someone other than myself!
COURTENAY:(IN A RATHER PRACTICAL VOICE) Would you die for me?
BECKFORD:Oh, there would be more luxury in dying for you than in living for the rest of the universe!
COURTENAY:What if I should die?
BECKFORD:I'm more afraid of your love for me dying.
COURTENAY:Oh no, I'll go on loving.
BECKFORD:But will you go on loving me? Will your father let you come to me at Fonthill?
COURTENAY:Do ask him.
BECKFORD:What if he says no?
COURTENAY:I'll get my sisters to talk to him. He's quite under their thumb. He'll do anything for them. It would be awful if when you go away we can't see each other.
BECKFORD:Yes. In that case, my only consolation would be to wait till the time comes to mingle our last breaths together and share the same dark tomb.
COURTENAY:(AFTER A BRIEF PAUSE HE LAUGHS) You're morbid.
BECKFORD:Not morbid, Kitty. Not morbid. Just romantic. Something has changed in me because I love you. My ferocious spirit has been tamed. I'm now as gentle as you are.
COURTENAY:It's not true.
COURTENAY:I mean about me! I'm not gentle!
BECKFORD:All right. I'll call you Ferocious Tiger of India! (COURTENAY GIGGLES AS PERHAPS BECKFORD TICKLES HIM) And speaking of tigers and other such creatures, let me tell you a horrid dream I had.
COURTENAY:Horrid, oh good. I hope it's very horrid!
BECKFORD:Yes. I was sitting with you on an afternoon like this one, my arm around your neck. And as we gave way to a melancholy tenderness, of a sudden two snakes ...
BECKFORD:... started from the hedge and twined round us! You turned pale and your limbs trembled! My arms pressed you closely. There was the cold writhing of the snakes in our bosoms, and trembling with fluttering hearts we joined our lips for the last time!
COURTENAY:(A LITTLE FRIGHTENED) The last time?
BECKFORD:And then we - expired.
COURTENAY:(AFTER A BRIEF PAUSE, SHIVERS) Did you know such dreams have haunted me?
(A BALL AT FONTHILL SPLENDENS. BACKGROUND MUSIC AND CROWD, WHICH COULD HAVE BEGUN UNDERNEATH THE END OF THE PREVIOUS SCENE. LOUISA AND BECKFORD TALK IN FOREGROUND. THEY ALREADY KNOW EACH OTHER QUITE WELL. SHE LOVES HIM ALTHOUGH HE MAY NOT KNOW IT YET)
LOUISA:But a ball like this at Fonthill, that's far better than nothing, Cousin William. If only we could have one.
BECKFORD:Ask my mother then. She dreamed all this up. Perhaps she'll arrange one for you, Louisa.
LOUISA:My husband would never allow it. Not only does he keep me permanently rusticated in Dorset but - he doesn't really like entertainment. So, go and dance now. Cut a dash with the young and - unmarried.
BECKFORD:I'll dance with you. You're young.
LOUISA:Standing here now I don't feel it. These young things have a future. For me, nothing.
BECKFORD:There is nothing here for me though, either, except you.
LOUISA:Me! But I know too there is one who could bathe all this scene in splendour with one soft glance. I know the cause of your melancholy.
BECKFORD:Do you? I had not thought that cause famously known.
LOUISA:Only by the perceptive. And I too have spent time with the lad in question.
LOUISA:I understand you. I too know what it is to pine.
BECKFORD:In your case, pining for escape from a marriage to someone you don't love? Or something - or someone - more?
LOUISA:That would be telling.
BECKFORD:Would I were yet my own master. I'm not. I'm being sent again to Europe.
LOUISA:To help you to forget?
BECKFORD:I suppose so.
LOUISA:Will you write to me? To make our exile more bearable. Yours in Europe, my lifetime in Dorset!
BECKFORD:Well, yes. Yes.
LOUISA:It may be there's something else I could do for you. (FLIRTATIOUSLY)
BECKFORD:And what's that?
LOUISA:You can send your letters to him care of me, if you wish. And I can secretly get them to him. I suspect you can't write direct.
BECKFORD:(WITH TREMENDOUS RELIEF) Oh, thank you! Well, now that that is all arranged to our satisfaction, shall we join the dance?
LOUISA:Why not? (THEY ARE GETTING UP) Oh, my William. (AS HE PUTS HIS ARM ROUND HER, BREATHLESS) Yes!
(SWELL BACKGROUND MUSIC TO FOREGROUND AND THEN PULL BACK AND HOLD UNDER)
BECKFORD:(URGENTLY AS THEY DANCE) Louisa, this Christmas I will be back from Europe. Fonthill Splendens will be finally mine and I plan a party. Not like this. A proper party. A dozen youthful fresh persons like us will be there. You must come. Can you escape your husband.
(WE MAY HEAR A CARRIAGE AT FULL GALLOP. TOOTING HORN. IT DRAWS UP OUTSIDE FONTHILL SPLENDENS. THREE PEOPLE ALIGHT. A BELL RINGS DISTANTLY IN THE SERVANTS QUARTERS. THE DOOR BURSTS OPEN, OPENED FROM INSIDE BY A FOOTMAN)
BECKFORD:My Kitty! At last! Come in!
COURTENAY:(NOW ABOUT 15, A COUPLE OF YEARS OLDER THAN IN PREVIOUS SCENE) William! Jolly terrific!
BECKFORD:Alright, take the team round the back and feed them royally.
GROOM:Very good, sir.
(THE CARRIAGE CLATTERS AWAY)
BECKFORD:And enter you too, Alex! Louisa and the others have not yet arrived. So, you two will be the first to behold...
(THEY STEP INDOORS. GREAT DOOR SHUTS, AWESOMELY. LARGE, ECHOEY INTERIOR)
COZENS:Hm. What has occurred? Fonthill Splendens seems to have changed somewhat now you've come to own it. We seem transported to a warm, illuminated palace - raised by spells in this lonely Wiltshire wilderness, no doubt?
COURTENAY:Can this be the same house I came to before?
BECKFORD:Fonthill Splendens transformed.
COURTENAY:Yes, but how?
BECKFORD:By the genius of de Loutherberg and others.
COZENS:Ha! I fancy I recognise some of those theatrical devices he created on the stage at the Adelphi!
COURTENAY:Evidently, and even more ingenious.
BECKFORD:Did you see his work in London too, Kitty?
BECKFORD:(A LITTLE THROWN BY KITTY'S NEW SOPHISTICATION) My plan is that here will ten of us be immured for many days.
COZENS:(ENJOYING IT BUT ALSO RELISHING THE ABSURDITY OF IT ALL) You mentioned. But - no visits or neighbours? No jaunts?
BECKFORD:No. Doors and windows will be strictly closed, so that neither common daylight nor commonplace visitors can get in.
COZENS:Won't we suffocate?
BECKFORD:We don't need these County people. What are they to us?
COZENS:I mean from each other!
BECKFORD:On the contrary, our own company will be an inspiration! Because careworn faces will be completely absent. No sunk-in mouths or furrowed foreheads will be permitted.
COZENS:That leaves me out.
BECKFORD:Apart from your grizzled visage, dear Alex, our society will be youthful and lovely to look on. But come and see! (FADE)
(ANOTHER LARGE INTERIOR AT FONTHILL SPLENDENS)
BECKFORD:See how this Egyptian Hall seems as if hewn from living rock!
COZENS:Yes, sublime vault upon vault.
COURTENAY:What is this rising vapour? How did you do that?
COZENS:De Loutherberg once more, I suspect.
BECKFORD:Yes. But don't ask how. Just enjoy it. Come onwards. Let's roam through the galleries.
COURTENAY:What a strange light! Sublime!
COZENS:See how it gleams on the marble pavements.
COURTENAY:And what warm breezes!
BECKFORD:It is to be inclement weather so they say. For us, no worry. For while the world outside is dark and howling, the very air of summer will play about us!
COURTENAY:How will you do that?
BECKFORD:(FEELING THAT WILLIAM HAS GOT A BIT PROSAIC) Do not seek to know. Just let's wander through it all - yes, why not? - hand in hand!
COURTENAY:(JUST A LITTLE 'KNOWING') Why not?
BECKFORD:And let me show the remarkable acoustics of this chamber with a verse I wrote myself;
Like the low murmer of the secret stream
That through the alders winds its shaded way
My suppliant voice is heard -
O do not deem
That on vain toys I throw my hours away.
(AN EXOTIC, ECHOEY MUSIC HAS BECOME AUDIBLE)
COURTENAY:What's the music?
BECKFORD:Oh, strains of music - "No one knows whence."
COURTENAY:You must do.
BECKFORD:(ROGUISHLY) Not at all.
COZENS:Certainly no one could divine from whence on earth - or anywhere damnably else - it comes.
COURTENAY:Yes, but who's doing it?
BECKFORD:Would not those melting tones bring even those least beloved, least susceptible, into tears?
COURTENAY:Yes. (SEDUCTIVELY, BUT ALSO CAMPING IT UP JUST A LITTLE) How true!
BECKFORD:(A LITTLE BREATHLESS BUT PULLING HIMSELF TOGETHER, TRYING TO CONTROL HIS ATTRACTION TO COURTENAY) Delightful, these romantic wanderings, the straying about this little interior world in all the freshness of our early bloom, so fitted to enjoy it.
COURTENAY:(ALSO A LITTLE BREATHLESS) Through the vapours I'm catching sight of distant walls and ceilings, all very fairly painted, cost a few pence, I'll wager. Fine classical attitudes - from the antique I suppose.
BECKFORD:Yes. And through these vapours I fancy it may be impossible for any person to define exactly where he may be standing, so perplexing is the confusion of so many stories and galleries and - sensations.
COZENS:Yes. Well, at this point it strikes me I have a notion to wander on a little, to make a more exact appraisal of certain points concerning the winds and vapours etcetera, and leave you two alone.
BECKFORD:Only if you so desire.
COURTENAY:(OVERLAY) Thank you!
(SWELL 'ETHEREAL' MUSIC AND THEN TAKE DOWN)
COURTENAY:(RATHER BREATHLESS) The vapours are thicker now.
BECKFORD:(BREATHLESS) We are to be surrounded by nothing but lovely beings. Soon my old tutor Henley arrives with a band of -
COURTENAY:What, schoolmasters and clergy?
BECKFORD:No, a handful of fresh picked young lads from among his pupils.
BECKFORD:School hasn't changed you!?
COURTENAY:I don't think so.
(SWELL MUSIC: PERHAPS HERE A TRANSITION TO SOMETHING MORE ECSTATIC, AN UNDERCURRENT MOTIF TO SUGGEST SENSUAL DELIRIUM)
(CROSSFADE MUSIC INTO DINING ROOM AFTER-DINNER WINE-DRINKING WITH OTHER FRIENDS IN THE BACKGROUND. PERHAPS SOME DIFFERENT EXOTIC MUSIC PLAYED BY THE HIRED MUSICIANS. ALL ARE A LITTLE TIPSY)
COZENS:So great an ability for so many things, eh, Louisa?
LOUISA:Yes. It seems you have the power to win anything you seek, William Beckford!
COZENS:(A TRIFLE IRONIC PERHAPS) Surely now after all this it must be agreed that you may be, must be destined for great position in the affairs of this Nation. Just like your father.
BECKFORD:True. (MODESTLY) True, the blood of the Hamiltons flows in my veins. And there are many kings in my lineage.
LOUISA:Not maybe but surely. The blood of the Hamiltons, the wealth of a limitless fortune. Surely you will go into politics?
OTHERS:(SYCOPHANTIC CHEERS AND HANDCLAP FROM ONE OR TWO)
BECKFORD:No, Louisa. What good could such as I do amid the squalid gloom of parliament?
COZENS:You don't care to tread in your father's footsteps?
BECKFORD:No. I'm not my father. No, let me be happy and flutter in the light a few years longer. Scamper on verdant banks. All too ready, alas, to crumble but rainbow tinted and flower strewn. Age will soon draw on for all of us. Then can we mumble and mutter and growl and snarl and bite and be political!
OTHERS:(LAUGH AND APPLAUD)
BECKFORD:No, I see my place in the world as something greater than any earthly ambition.
BECKFORD:I dream of Sultans and Caliphs! The fantastic powers of Oriental despots!
COZENS:Good heavens! And how do you plan to get them?
BECKFORD:Magic! I will rule the multitudes through magic! And there are those here who will help me!
COZENS:Don't count on me.
LOUISA:Are you asking me?
BECKFORD:You know that I have studied something of Oriental crafts while abroad, and have read books on the secret arts! I shall teach you, Louisa.
COURTENAY:And what about me?
COZENS:Something tells me you'll have some willing pupils.
(SWELL MUSIC. THEN, AS IT SINKS, COMES A DRAB, RATHER 'MORNING AFTER' FEELING)
BECKFORD:(SIGHS) Our experiments seem less effective, now Kitty's back to school.
BECKFORD:And why have the servants allowed the warm air currents to expire? They're worked by gigantic bellows, you know. Very exhausting to operate. I'll have to enquire.
LOUISA:We still have ourselves.
BECKFORD:That's true, Louisa.
LOUISA:And I'm distraut I can provide no further little victim to sacrifice on your altar. I wish to God my eldest was old enough.
BECKFORD:Ah. How old is he?
LOUISA:Young as yet. But he grows every day more and more lovely. In time I'm sure he'll answer our purpose to perfection!
BECKFORD:Wonderful! But meanwhile ...
(SWELL MUSIC: PERHAPS HERE A TRANSITION TO OUR SENSUAL DELIRIUM THEME)
LOUISA:Let us not sink into the dark abyss without having experienced all the pleasures to the utmost - both innocent and otherwise. I am ripe for any mischievous undertaking you suggest, my lovely prompter! Point out any who will be your victims! It shall be my care to lure them into your snares and you shall find them at your wish - panting on your altars!
BECKFORD:(ALSO ECSTATIC) Louisa!
LOUISA:And your apartments adorned with the youthful sacrifice may in the ultimate be sanctified by his presence!
LOUISA:Yes, in the mystic shape of a goat he will receive in person our adorations!
BECKFORD:(NOW IN A STATE OF DELIRIUM) Louisa!
(MUSIC RISES TO CLIMAX AND CROSSFADES TO SOUND OF PERIOD LONDON STREET TRAFFIC. OPTIONAL FOOTSTEPS, BECKFORD AND COURTENAY WALKING)
COURTENAY:I mustn't stay away longer. You know last time when they missed me they beat me later.
BECKFORD:That cursed Westminster School. Don't forget me, Kitty - the happy hours we've passed together. Your poor mother loved you not better than I do.
(THEIR OPTIONAL FOOTSTEPS HAVE STOPPED. THEY ARE JUST OUT OF SIGHT OF THE PORTER'S LODGE THAT GUARDS THE ENTRANCE TO WESTMINSTER SCHOOL)
COURTENAY:Nor me you.
BECKFORD:I - I was so happy for the words of love you wrote me at the end of Louisa's letter. Let it be soon we meet again.
COURTENAY:Not too soon. My father is much set against us now. He's told them.
BECKFORD:What, the school? What have we done? Why can't they let us be friends in peace? Is there a crime in loving each other as we do?
COURTENAY:No! No crime! (PAUSE) I must go now.
(HE RUNS OFF TO SCHOOL)
BECKFORD:Write to me soon for God's sake.
BECKFORD:(RAISES HIS VOICE AS COURTENAY DEPARTS) I too! (REALISING COURTENAY CAN NO LONGER HEAR HIM) Though you'll hardly be able to read my letter. It will be blotted in tears!
(INTERIOR. THE BECKFORD HOUSE AT NO.1 GREEK STREET, SOHO, LONDON. PERHAPS MUFFLED STREET ATMOSPHERE B.G.)
MRS BECKFORD:Scandal! Nothing but scandal! If you're not careful you'll lose the lot. You have been foolish, William.
BECKFORD:If I have been, Mother, then I'm sorry. But what scandal?
MRS BECKFORD:Your cousin Louisa, to start with. Where will that precious Barony of yours come from now?
BECKFORD:I surely cannot lose my peerage just because of one party.
MRS BECKFORD:One party? Some party! At Christmas time! Orgy!
BECKFORD:It was just a party. People have parties at Christmas.
MRS BECKFORD:With typical Christmas decorations, I suppose! What was wrong with Fonthill Splendens as it was, I'd like to know?
BECKFORD:Well, my father had very good taste - for a Jamaican.
MRS BECKFORD:How dare you?
BECKFORD:Enough of all this. What are you saying and what would you have me do?
MRS BECKFORD:Cease to seek the company of those who were at the party. Forsake Cozens, forsake Louisa, and - one other. You know of whom I speak.
BECKFORD:That other is the one dearest to me, in all the world.
MRS BECKFORD:Ha! You dare to say it! Do you want society to turn its back on you? Close all doors? End up peniless? Well? (PAUSE) Penniless, I said. Before you say more I'll be grateful, you may have noticed that Mr Wildman, our solicitor, is present.
BECKFORD:I had in fact noticed. How d'ye do, Mr Wildman.
WILDMAN:(WITH REGRET) Well, it is true, sir.
BECKFORD:(NOW TRULY BROUGHT TO HIS SENSES BY WILDMAN'S TONE OF VOICE) What's true?
WILDMAN:Your mother asked me to have a word with you.
BECKFORD:What are you trying to say to me?
WILDMAN:I have to tell you, sir, that your illegitimate brother Richard ...
BECKFORD:Richard - yes, what?
WILDMAN:Your father's firstborn son of course. Is suing for your estates. His plan is to get hold of the major part of them.
BECKFORD:But - he can't inherit.
WILDMAN:In law, though, he might have a chance if he could prove you were incompetent to run them.
BECKFORD:I, incompetent? How could he prove that?
WILDMAN:Sir - your spending since you came of age has in fact been at a level much beyond even your income.
BECKFORD:Oh, I see. And which estates?
WILDMAN:The Jamaican sugar plantations.
BECKFORD:That's almost the entire family fortune!
WILDMAN:This is true, sir.
MRS BECKFORD:(WHO HAS BEEN QUIETLY SEETHING BEHIND ALL THIS) Tell him what you think - what you really think.
WILDMAN:It can't go on, sir. There are rumours, sir. If they persist, as your solicitor, I can't answer for the consequences.
BECKFORD:What, legal consequences?
MRS BECKFORD:There is one thing you can do. One way which might just still scotch all rumours and regain your respectability.
BECKFORD:I'll do it. What is it?
MRS BECKFORD:Marry! Engage yourself!
BECKFORD:(PAUSE) Good God!
MRS BECKFORD:To a respectable young woman of your own rank! Who is not a married woman already, and not a - schoolboy.
BECKFORD:No. Anyway, I really ought to have someone in mind.
MRS BECKFORD:Indeed. And you have, or at any rate I have, on your behalf, found the woman in question. You must remember her: she was at the Ball at Fonthill. Lady Margaret Gordon, the Earl of Aboyne's daughter.
MRS BECKFORD:Eighteen years old, eligible, pretty, and - suitable.
BECKFORD:(IRONIC) Perhaps she has been consulted?
MRS BECKFORD:Yes, and I can tell you, you made quite an impression. She is willing. More than willing. Very excited, indeed.
WILDMAN:Yes, well I have to add that I can ...
BECKFORD:(OVERLAY) I can't do it.
MRS BECKFORD:A drastic measure but there's nothing for it. He needs but a little time to think it over, Mr Wildman.
BECKFORD:I can never do it!
WILDMAN:That would be my respectful advice, too, sir. Drastic action is called for.
MRS BECKFORD:We can leave him now, Mr Wildman. To think things over.
Scene 12 (optional)
(INTERIOR OR GARDEN OF LOUISA'S HOME IN DORSET)
LOUISA:No! No! Do not do it! Why should she be exalted to such a height of happiness, and possess - eternally - what I would die ten thousand deaths to enjoy again for even a day? Why, William?
LOUISA:Can I help what I will feel when I shall imagine her panting on your breast?
LOUISA:Mingling her soul with yours?
BECKFORD:It will clear your name, too.
LOUISA:And under the virtuous veil of marriage, indulge in all the fancies of vice!
BECKFORD:I'll stay chaste.
LOUISA:Don't give away all that's best in you like this - please!
BECKFORD:Believe me, if you knew the pangs that rend my soul, Louisa ... (A PAUSE) It's too late.
LOUISA:(PAUSE, THEN GENTLY BUT DOOMFULLY) Goodbye to our fantasies. William, you have espoused reality. It will follow you wherever you go.
BECKFORD:(SLIGHT ECHO?) We have reached Secheron. We stay by the lake and we, I and my wife, are alone. And I am unhappy in the midst of sublime scenery and smirking faces: Margaret is altogether pleasant, charming and intelligent, the picture of a young and beautiful wife. Yet the recollections of past times, and of happy moments forever gone, are with me constantly. Sometimes they force me wildly to walk about on the shore. I lay down in the open meadows and observe above me the clouds rolling their shapes along the sky. I look down to see them casting their shadows on the mountains. And it is then that fancies rush upon me.
LOUISA:(SLIGHT ECHO?) William! What have you done? But I will not reproach you. I will continue to be your truest friend, and advise you now - most seriously - to turn all your thoughts and affections towards - her. Forget what you were, remember what you now must be.
BECKFORD:I dream of Kitty, Louisa, and Fonthill at Christmas. If I can but free myself from the past.
LOUISA:You still send to me letters about the past. You must forget the past. The fatal ceremony has been performed. You must say goodbye. (A LITTLE MORE DISTORTED) You have espoused reality, William.
BECKFORD:(A LITTLE MORE DISTORTED) My dear Cousin Louisa. Only to you may I pour out my heart in my grief. Margaret's and my child, all that has been looked forward to, my only consolation, and her claim to joy and future happiness - has been born - dead.
LOUISA:It will follow you wherever you go.
(INTERIOR OF NO.1 GREEK STREET)
MRS BECKFORD:(HAS LOST MUCH OF HER USUAL OVERBEARING QUALITY: GENUINELY WORRIED AND IN EARNEST:) I beg of you William. Don't go to Powderham Castle.
BECKFORD:Why not? Where's the difficulty?
MRS BECKFORD:You know.
BECKFORD:Oh, that, or rather, him. There's no danger.
MRS BECKFORD:No danger?
BECKFORD:Margaret will be with me.
MRS BECKFORD:William, I beg you. If I have no sway over you as a mother, then please think of me as a friend, with only your good at heart. Powderham shelters your enemies, people who put the very worst interpretation on your friendship with - the boy.
BECKFORD:All the more reason to go, then, and show our innocence. We've been invited.
MRS BECKFORD:That's not the real reason you're going, is it? I know you, William. It is he who draws you there! And they know it! They have planned it.
(A HINT OF THE SENSUAL DELIRIUM THEME)
(CORRIDOR OF POWDERHAM CASTLE. BEHIND A CLOSED DOOR, WHIP LASHES MAY BE HEARD, LATER DESCRIBED AS A 'CREAKING AND BUSTLE', AND SHORT YELPS FROM COURTENAY. DOOR HANDLE TURNS BY SOMEONE FINDING IT LOCKED. THE DOOR IS SHAKEN)
TAYLOR:I say, open up there!
(THE WHIPPING STOPS. VIGOROUS KNOCKS, CLOSE TO MIC., ON THE DOOR)
TAYLOR:I say, open up! Open up at once!
(THE DOOR IS SHAKEN AGAIN. BECKFORD'S FOOTSTEPS ACROSS THE ROOM, AND BREECHES BEING PULLED UP. WHIP BEING PUT DOWN. KEY TURNS IN LOCK. THE DOOR IS OPENED)
BECKFORD:Oh. Mr Taylor. Was there something you wanted?
TAYLOR:What has been going on in here at four in the morning? Why, the boy's breeches are barely fastened and much disordered! And what's the reason for this door being locked?
BECKFORD:And do you always lurk about keyholes, Mr Taylor? And what are these insinuations?
TAYLOR:(DEPARTING DOWN CORRIDOR. WITH GREAT SATISFACTION) Lord William's father shall hear of this. And swiftly.
BECKFORD:(CALLING AFTER HIM) Blest if I know what there's to tell him!
COURTENAY:No, and blest if I do! (THEN QUIETLY) William ...
(THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME FOR THESE TWO AGAIN)
(THE HOUSE AT NO.1 GREEK STREET)
BECKFORD:Allow me to explain. Charlotte Loughborough and her husband were staying with us at Powderham. In the past she was in love with me, we had a fling. This time she wished to renew the 'acquaintance' and used young Courtenay, who is her nephew, to carry a letter to me, secretly. The young dolt was foolish enough to get caught. The letter was shown to her husband. You can imagine his reaction. So, next morning I went to the boy's room to give him a very sound thrashing. His tutor, Taylor, was lying in wait and - well, you know the rest.
MRS BECKFORD:(WANTING TO BELIEVE IT) It could be true. What do you think, Lord Thurlow?
BECKFORD:Do you doubt my word, Mother?
THURLOW:Whether it's true or not is not in my view the principle matter at issue. Which is - the boy's father and the Loughboroughs think it is true. And, true or not, they may have the power to ruin you.
BECKFORD:My wife was there all the time.
MRS BECKFORD:Were not you and your wife requested to leave Powderham Castle? And is not the whole place in uproar?
BECKFORD:Yes, but ...
WILDMAN:May I speak?
THURLOW:Yes. You usually talk a ha'porth of sense, Wildman.
WILDMAN:Since they are that angry, Lord Thurlow, can you suggest why the Courtenay family has so far not made the accusation public? May it not be that the evidence in their possession is too weak for an open attack that would stand up in law?
THURLOW:I certainly hope so because I believe there may be the most firm intention. Maybe they're waiting for something.
MRS BECKFORD:(REALISING WHAT HE MAY BE THINKING) Pressure of every kind will be brought down on the wretched young Courtenay to force him to admit to -
BECKFORD:But there's nothing to admit to.
MRS BECKFORD:Does the boy still have all your 'sentimental' letters? They'll have them off him, for a start.
THURLOW:(THOUGHTFUL AT THIS INFORMATION) Letters - were they incriminating?
MRS BECKFORD:William, you've been a fool: a rash, unadvised, inadvisable fool! Goodness knows you've written enough 'sentimental' letters. You'll back me up on the rashness of any legal proceeding on my son's part, won't you, Mr Wildman?
WILDMAN:If, madam, such letters were in existence upon which such a construction could be placed, and such letters were to fall into the possession of the other party, that could mitigate against any notion of an action for slander we might undertake against them.
MRS BECKFORD:(OVERLAY, RISING TO SHRILLNESS) What you've done is a capital offence! You can hang for this. It happens. That is the law.
BECKFORD:But it was never like that! Never! I fear no accusations! I loved - (HE BITES BACK HIS WORDS, REALISING THEIR IMPLICATION)
THURLOW:There's quite a lot of talk around the clubs.
MRS BECKFORD:There's one thing for it. Go to Covent Garden, pick up half a dozen women and show yourself to us all as an average man with normal appetites.
BECKFORD:I can't do that. Think of my wife's feelings!
MRS BECKFORD:Would that you had thought of them long since!
WILDMAN:(PAUSE) May I respectfully but however earnestly and urgently suggest that Mr Beckford should consider passing another spell of time abroad? Long enough for these unfortunate matters to maybe be forgotton? Taking the Lady Margaret, his wife, of course.
THURLOW:Yes. We all hold your life dear, William. We don't want harm done to your neck. Keep out of harm's way.
MRS BECKFORD:Margaret is in no condition to travel at the moment, however. She is pregnant, again.
OTHERS:(RESPONSE ALONG THE LINES OF 'OH WELL, THAT'S SOMETHING')
BECKFORD:I'll go. She can join me later.
OTHERS:(RESPONSE ALONG THE LINES OF 'THANK GOODNESS')
MRS BECKFORD:What do you think, Lord Thurlow? What would be the effect of that on public opinion?
THURLOW:To be honest I'd be greatly relieved. There's a chance still that if he does this, this whole damn thing will even now be forgotten.
NEWSHEET 1:(TWO SPEAKERS CAN PROBABLY ALTERNATE HERE) Morning Herald, November 27, 1784. The rumour concerning a grammatical mistake of Mr B and the Hon Master C in regard to the genders we hope - for the honour of nature - originates in calumny, and that the alleged nasty flagitious business we have been so shocked to hear about ...
NEWSHEET 2:(OVERLAP WITH THE ABOVE) Detestable scenes lately acted by a pair of fashionable male lovers. It is remarkable how many defections of this sort have happened of late and let it be said ...
NEWSHEET 3:(OVERLAP) Public Advertiser, December 1st. 1784. The Fonthill fool is ere now departed for Italy. Are we as foolishly to let his money go after him?
NEWSHEET 2:(OVERLAP) We recall how an earlier owner of the Fonthill Estate, Mervin the 2nd Earl of Castlehaven, was executed for sodomy in 1631.
(AT A LONDON CLUB)
THURLOW:(HELPING HIMSELF TO A GLASS OF PORT OVER THE DINNER TABLE) Yes, well, he had been promised a peerage. The list of names of those to be honoured was published and his was on it. That business with the horse whip at Powderham put an end to that. You have suspected the real nature of this flagitious business, I suspect.
THURLOW'S FRIEND:Well, that the innocent young Courtenay was debauched by Beckford, the bugger.
THURLOW:Who was the one debauched, though? There was a name for the likes of young Lord C when I was at Eton. Beckford was debauched by young C, that's more like it. And if he'd been to public school like you and me he would have got rather more used to it all. This cock would have been able to strut on his dung heap without having to make such of a cocklededoo of it all.
FRIEND:Without the need to foul his own pitch and foul all our pitches by fouling his own?
THURLOW:Lost his seat in parliament, too. And he could have gained fame as a writer, so they tell me, but he queered that pitch as well, if that's the word.
FRIEND:I heard about that one. What with the scandal, it got pirated. Was stolen by one of his old tutors and published without his name on it. Said to have been translated from the Arabic. Great success it's been, too! But nobody knows he wrote it.
THURLOW:Hm. Silly pretentious sententious self flagellating colt - or filly. Overnight he flagitiously schemed himself out of a peerage, a literary reputation, and his seat in parliament. But, between you and me, what was his crime? Did he actually do anything wrong, apart from being stupid?
FRIEND:(PONDERING) Well. You and I were at Eton ...
THURLOW:His crime was not sexual. It was social. The Beckfords are very nouveau. We can't have a Jamaican upstart whipping the son of a noble British Lord from a very ancient line, now can we?
NEWSHEET I:The Morning Herald, June 20 1786. Lady Margaret Beckford, young wife of the celebrated William Beckford, is dead. Emotional scenes were witnessed on the lake of Vevey ...
NEWSHEET II:(OVERLAY) Public Advertiser, June 22. Lady Margaret Beckford, neé Hamilton, has died in Switzerland. Our intelligence is that the sickness that brought so much of beauty and intelligence to the grave in Lady Margaret Beckford was - a broken heart.
(IN THE ALPS. A STRONG BREEZE MAY BE HEARD IN THE BACKGROUND)
BECKFORD:(GRAVELY AND SLOWLY. A VOICE BETRAYING SOME PREVIOUS SUFFERING. PERHAPS MORE MATURE THAN BEFORE) So even my family, they too have all disowned me?
LOTTIE:Never mind them! I've not disowned you.
BECKFORD:And what do the newspapers say, Cousin Lottie?
LOTTIE:They speak their usual nonsense.
BECKFORD:Does any speak up for me?
LOTTIE:You know what these journalists are.
BECKFORD:Margaret and I were never so happy together as in those final months. If only God had seen fit to save her, not the baby. (PAUSE. THEN IN AN EMOTIONAL OUTBURST:) I came to love her! Who will believe it, but we did truly love one another! Her own love was - was - wonderful in its simplicity, it brought me to - well, what does it matter now?
LOTTIE:I heard the fever that came on her after she gave birth was very rapid. So I suppose she didn't suffer for long.
LOTTIE:And we may thank God at least that the babe is safe. And at the least your wife rests at Fonthill.
BECKFORD:Yes. Margaret rests at Fonthill. Though I can't go there.
LOTTIE:Could you not have come back for the funeral?
BECKFORD:No. Further 'evidence' has been discovered. One step in England now and I could hang.
LOTTIE:Can that be true?
BECKFORD:Who knows? That's what I've been advised and I'm in no mood to go and try it out. I value my neck. Even more than those other parts of the body I hold in such esteem.
BECKFORD:Maybe I'll never be able to go back.
LOTTIE:What will you do if that's so? Where will you live?
BECKFORD:I don't know. I shall travel. Alone.
(MUSIC DENOTES THE PASSAGE OF TIME)
(INTERIOR AT LISBON. PERHAPS FROM OPEN WINDOW NIGHT-TIME SOUND OF CICADAS TO INDICATE SOUTHERN NIGHT. A VOICE IS BEING ACCOMPANIED BY BECKFORD ON PIANO FORTE. POSSIBLY DIDO'S LAST LAMENT FROM DIDO AND AENEAS, OR PURCELL'S 'FAIREST ISLE')
BECKFORD:I cannot continue further. (HE'S GETTING UP FROM PIANO FORTE) The sublimity of your rendering of Purcell's immortal -
GREGORIO:Senyor, you mock me.
BECKFORD:No! Never. It was sublime. My very face went pale.
GREGORIO:You're making fun of me.
GREGORIO:Because I'm so poor a singer. Because I'm just a boy.
BECKFORD:No, Gregorio. Never, even at the most Holy Mass have you so deliciously ... And I would never mock you for being 'just a boy'.
GREGORIO:Deliciously ...? And it was for my voice you wanted me to come over tonight?
BECKFORD:That and much else. Month after month, I remain in Lisbon, the seedy and flyblown, with the weeds growing out of the walls.
GREGORIO:(LUXURIOUSLY, BEING EMBRACED BY BECKFORD) Never got over the earthquake, you see. But you like it here. People are good to you here. From the King - to the rest of them downwards. You said people were bad to you in your country. That they have no feelings. That they are cold.
BECKFORD:One hour with you as teacher might sort a few of them out! But even here one has to be careful. (SIGHS) How tired I am of keeping a mask on my face! I shall get in a scrape if I'm not careful!
GREGORIO:(KISSES HIM) Senyor, that is not a mask.
BECKFORD:Hum! Seems not.
GREGORIO:Would you tell me this? My family had to leave Napoli and come here to Lisbon because we were poor. But you, a rich man, comes to Lisbon, milord. There is little for a rich man here.
BECKFORD:There's you. But, (GENTLY) I shan't stay here for ever.
GREGORIO:Where will you go?
BECKFORD:(SIGHS) Spain first, then on to Italy. Not to England where certain persons have finally got hold of certain sentimental letters of mine.
GREGORIO:Letters? Who to?
BECKFORD:The boy of noble birth I told you about.
GREGORIO:Ah, the boy you loved! You say he is like a girl now. Does he have titties?
BECKFORD:No, but a girl with warts and big feet. Now when he talks he quacks like a duck and powders his face to hide his pustules.
GREGORIO:Anyway, you don't love him no more. You love me now.
BECKFORD:But of course, my cherub!
GREGORIO:You won't ever go back to him?
BECKFORD:No, my angel.
GREGORIO:When will you go away from here? It will be soon? Yes? William, my heart could not bear for you to go!
BECKFORD:You know I don't need your Latin endearments - I am already quite besotted as it is.
GREGORIO:Take me with you, where you go!
BECKFORD:What, when you are the choicest ornament of the Royal choir? Deprive the choirmaster of your talents?
GREGORIO:Does it mean nothing I love you?
BECKFORD:Of course it does.
GREGORIO:Does it mean nothing I am young and innocent?
BECKFORD: Why do you say it, as if of such significance?
GREGORIO:[Fourteen. My voice is already breaking.] They have asked me to stay in the choir. It is employment for all my life. My parents urge me to accept.
BECKFORD:Oh. So why are you not delighted at that?
GREGORIO:You are cold just like all the others in your country. When you go, take me with you.
[(A PAUSE. IT IS BECOMING CLEAR TO BOTH THAT THEY ARE AT CROSS PURPOSES. GREGORIO SNIFFS)]
BECKFORD:What is this? Tears? (MORE SERIOUS) Gregorio, how could I take you away from your mother and father and your career as a singer? Let alone your wife and daughter. They would never forgive me.
GREGORIO:I'm not just good only for singing and loving! I could be your servant - bring your clothes, your newspapers, see you not cheated by landlords! As well as being your - lover. You need - you need - (PAUSE) - you need to be cared for, when you are through with all those others who don't understand you.
BECKFORD:But how would the life of a servant compare with being the divine - and respected - musician of the Cathedral here? What price could compare?
GREGORIO:There is one price that is too much.
GREGORIO:To lose you, Senyor.
BECKFORD:I shall speak to your father!
GREGORIO:(EMBRACING HIM) William!
BECKFORD:If you are certain?
GREGORIO:Of course I am certain.
BECKFORD:When I speak to him, would money help?
GREGORIO:Oh, yes. Money will help.
BECKFORD:(THEY EMBRACE, MUCH MOVED) Good God! My adorable salsiccion -
GREGORIO:I may not be able to come at once. But soon. In a few months. They won't be offended. (PAUSE) And then one day when you go back to England I will come with you and you will be a real milord again! In a grand palazzo!
BECKFORD:(SUDDENLY DEJECTED) Yes, one day perhaps. One day it will be safe again for me to go back. [But I'd rather lose my neck than you should lose your -] Even taking my dear friend with me.
GREGORIO:One day. I can tell it is in your heart always. One day you will go. And I will go with you.
BECKFORD:And I will buy you a title. That is, a Portuguese title.
(MUSIC TO DENOTE LONG PASSAGE OF TIME. WHEN WE NEXT COME TO BECKFORD HE IS A MAN IN HIS LATE FORTIES: GREGORIO IS NOW IN HIS THIRTIES)
(LARGE INTERIOR AT FONTHILL SPLENDENS. A BIT 'EMPTY') (WE HEAR THE VOICE OF GREGORIO, NOW IN HIS THIRTIES, SINGING THE SAME NUMBER THAT HE SUNG, [AS A BOY,] AT THE START OF SCENE 20)
BECKFORD:(IN HIS LATE 40S) I had wanted you to hear this piano forte. All the time we have waited for it to be safe - for us to return, together.
GREGORIO:It is wonderful.
BECKFORD:Too much of Fonthill Splendens is draped in dust-sheets! I had ordered them to make it more ready than this! But is there not more vernal delight in one of our English green lawns than in all your olive groves and vineyards?
GREGORIO:I feel it very cold in England.
BECKFORD:I shall immediately have the servants light a fire to warm your southern Portuguese bottom, my dear.
GREGORIO:(HIS OPTIMISTIC NATURE NOW GETTING THE BETTER OF HIM) Now as the mists draw back, I have to say that we have this most beautiful of prospects to welcome us.
BECKFORD:So we do ... Open the windows.
(WINDOWS OPENED. OUTDOOR BIRDSONG WAFTS IN)
BECKFORD:Hmm. Rather more trees about than I recall. Quite a forest, isn't it? I don't remember ... Do you know, those trees I ordered, they've actually been planting them in my absence! Look there: larch, spruce, fir - all sorts! What a magnificent thing! They will shield us from - (VERY QUIETLY AND DELIBERATELY) ostracism.
GREGORIO:Those hills over there - are they yours?
GREGORIO:Why not plant trees on them, too?
BECKFORD:We could be entirely enclosed! Live like jolly recluses! Who needs the world, after all? Gregorio, my sausage!
GREGORIO:Yes, my dear?
BECKFORD:Suddenly I am bursting to shoot off ideas! A rocket in flight! (THINKING RAPIDLY) Plans ... An ancient Abbey. A tower. A tower that will rise straighter, higher ... than anything known before. Astonishing all those who see it!
GREGORIO:Good, good! That is good!
BECKFORD:A tower up which we will climb, dear Boy of Boys, away from the land of men into a purer air, uncontaminated by the breath of wretches! The scum is as mean as the dregs. Let us go far from the constipated county squires and their wives who, despite what they think, are so many thousand times our inferior.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
Almost all of the content of these webpages is copyright of the estate of
Jeremy Sandford, RIP.
They are provided here for your private research, and as a tribute to Jeremy.
However the index and sorting and coding are copyright of me,
George @ dicegeorge.com(c)2006
[Jeremy Sandford FanClub]