The Cocktail Party (Six O’Clock)

VOICE 1: Six o’clock in the evening. Fumes rise from the London gutters as if the Fires of Hell had been unleashed. Crowds of men-like worms crawl through Heathrow alleys, clashing… cursing their fate!

A boy attacks his shadow with a wooden saber under a lamplight unaware of thy Kingdom Come. Damn it! At my back I feel…

Heat.

And Fear!
Suffocating heat.

Stephen opens the window and starry whispers: breathe

BUCK: Champagne?

MIGUEL: No thanks.

(aside) Indulgence. Atonement…

BUCK: You should definitely have some champagne, chap. I’m telling ya, these parties can be awfully lousy when you’re sober. All the noise, the smoke, the senseless chitchat and… Anyway! Lets not lose our focus, right? I must introduce you to some girls; that’s what we are here for after all… Ladies: Beautiful, classy ladies. Yes! that’s my job: Buck lady-finder.

All right! Let’s see who’s here… Ha! See that girl smiling over there?

MIGUEL: The one with the funny shoes?

BUCK: Noooo! Not that one. That’s Gerty. All right! Listen carefully chap! Lesson number one: you don’t want to get caught by a girl like Gerty. Got it? Simple. Blimey! I hate their type. They can talk for hours and hours…; and besides she’s got that problem in her legs, you know… The poor devil: she’s legdicapped. Ha! Got it?…

That’s an awful joke isn’t it?

MIGUEL: Actually it is.

BUCK: I know, I know… Don’t look at me that way fellow… I know I should be ashamed of myself and believe me! Eventually, I will be. But I guess I need some more champagne to get there…

Forget about Gerty. See? That’s precisely the thing with her ilk. You don’t want to talk Gerty and you end up doing just that. Gerty here, Gerty there. Gerty in summer clothes, Gerty in winter clothes… Gerty in summer sales 50% off, Gerty’s winter collection. Get a cozy Gerty for your fireplace.

Jeepers! It’s terribly hot in here!

MIGUEL: It is. It is…

BUCK: I was talking about the girl beside her. See her? She’s got that Diana-like aura around her, like a halo of divine beauty hovering above her…

MIGUEL: Yes. I see what you mean. She looks like a photograph of the forties—kind of blurred.

BUCK: Exactly! That’s Belinda. You’d better remember that name. Be-lin-da. You should definitely talk to her, but not know. Not just yet. She’s more like the late-cocktail-party kind of girl, if you know what I mean. We need another kind, a more appropriate one for this time of the evening.

Oh! There! There she is! OPHELIA!, nymph in thy orisons…

OPHELIA: Oh shut up Mullingan! Are you drunk already, dear? For Heavens sake it just six o’clock.

VOICE 1: Three to the final stroke.

MIGUEL: (aside) The angel of the Lord…

BUCK: Drunk? I? No, never. Nevermore. Raptured by your beauty? Yes, I confess. You look lovely tonight, dear, with your alabaster shoulders and ravened hair. Dazzling I should rather say.

May I introduce you to my friend, Miguel de Tzalmavet, Príncipe de las Tinieblas Mordaces, hijo de sangre milenaria. Do you understand Spanish, love?

OPHELIA: It’s all Greek to me.

MIGUEL: (bowing) It is an honor, lady Ophelia.

OPHELIA: The honor is mine Mr. Tzalmavet.

BUCK: Mmmmm! Prince Miguel is actually the correct way to address. My Lord after the first dance.

OPHELIA: Oh really… I thought it was just a jest, coming from you Mulligan. The prince will surely excuse my ignorance, won’t he?

(MIGUEL bows kissing her hand)

BUCK: I can be quite serious when the occasion deserves it ma’am.

OPHELIA: I always thought peopled deserved things, not occasions. Will you be staying long in London, prince?

MIGUEL: It’s difficult to say…

BUCK: The prince is in London for business. Serious business, as you can imagine lady Ophelia, being of princely nature. Jeepers! I’m starting to babble… It’s bloody hot in here. Excuse my language.

OPHELIA: Buck, you’d better get some air, boy.

BUCK: Oh! there is lady Julia! Would you excuse me, my lady? Yesterday I promised to teach her to dance the foxtrot. Noblesse oblige!

OPHELIA: May Zephyr be propitious.

VOICE 1: Silence. Awkward Silence.

MIGUEL: It seems you don’t get along with Mullingan ma’am.

OPHELIA: Oh no! Not at all! He’s a jolly fellow alright. It is just that I think… he’s… how can I put it? Rather transient; ephemeral, would be a better way to express it, I guess… But, what kind of business brings you here, Prince? If you’ll excuse my indiscretion.

MIGUEL: I’m a writer, ma’am.

OPHELIA: A writer! (thinking) Well… that’s odd. Why would a prince want to be a writer? I mean, to be criticised by that terrible herd of logorrheic philistines… The critics, I mean. May the Almighty torture with fire and brimstone in Dis where they belong!

MIGUEL: Things have changed, milady. Even noblemen are forced to choose a profession these days. And if choose we must, it seems a suitable course of action. It is an old occupation, lady Ophelia, with a conspicuous tradition: the divine Dante, Homer, not to mention your own creator—may his glorious memory never fade!

OPHELIA: But they were poets, Prince, not writers! Poets fear not the perils lurking in the lands of the sublime, where feeble words falter and the imagination runs dry. Poets even dare to lift the night veils and catch a passing glimpse of that flame we—immortals—cannot endure. I’m sure you are a poet, my lord. You have the countenance of a bard:
Eyes full of pilgrimages that cannot lie.
Eyes full of horror,
Impenetrably dark.

MIGUEL: I am afraid I’ll disappoint you my lady… my world is painfully simple: a fallen leaf, a faint smile… If the muses are generous…, maybe, maybe a broken rhyme.

OPHELIA: I guess the world is changing then…

MIGUEL: It is indeed. For worse or better…

Cordelia: (Pulling Ophelia’s dress and clearing her throat) Mmmm.

OPHELIA: Cordelia, what in Heaven’s name are you doing here, darling? You should not…

Cordelia: I’m fifteen already, milady. I had a hard time persuading Sebastian to let me come with him, but here I am. Isn’t it lovely? All the glitter, the satin dresses… Is it true she’s coming?

OPHELIA: Fifteen already? Oh sweet heavens, I suddenly feel like Methuselah.

MIGUEL: Would you introduce me to the young gentleman milady?

OPHELIA: Oh certainly! Prince Miguel, Lady Cordelia Flyte. Cordelia, Prince MIGUEL de Tzalmavet, or something like that.

Cordelia: It is an honor prince. Would you like to dance with me?

OPHELIA: Cordelia! Where do you think you are?

MIGUEL: I am afraid I don’t dance very well young lady.

Cordelia: Never mind, Prince. That’s not really important, you see? Can I be sincere with you?

MIGUEL: Oh please be!

Cordelia: You see, I made a bet with Sebastian. He said I could never get anybody to dance with me. He said I was a ridiculous girl and he called me names… Well! I will prove him wrong. He agreed to give me 5 pounds if I get a Baronet and 10 for a Viscount. Earls, Marquesses and Dukes yield 20, 30, and 40 each. I bet I’ll get at least 50 for a prince! A prince! Imagine! Aloysius won’t believe it!

OPHELIA: Hold your tongue, you rascal! If your poor Mamma were here she would be ashamed of you. What will the prince think now?

Cordelia: But it’s not about the money. I will give every single penny to the poor. I promise. I’m the daughter of a Marquess, Prince, not a fortune-hunter.

MIGUEL: As I said I don’t dance very well, but it will be an honour… and I guess the poor will greatly benefit… from Sebastian, whoever he is.

Cordelia: He is my brother. You can see him over there. He’s the one talking with that good-looking fellow over there.

MIGUEL: The violins are calling us. If you’ll excuse us Lady Ophelia.

OPHELIA: (bowing) Prince…

Cordelia (dancing): So, where is your country prince?

MIGUEL: It’s a small land in the Pyrenees, but with long and old tales. My village is really just a few stone houses surrounded by beech-woods. You should see it in fall time. Never seen something so splendid: orange and crimson-green laments falling from the trees. Falling faintly, as someone once said.

Cordelia: Do you have a cathedral?

MIGUEL: Not a cathedral, but a very comely colegiata.

Cordelia: I’m afraid I don’t know what’s that, and it always seems so hard to learn… But you must come to Brideshead! Mamma would love to have you there. We’ve got a lovely house and a beautiful fountain with gods, angels, and cupidons: all the mythical apparel. We’ve got a ghost too! They say sometimes on Lucy’s eve, Saint Lucy’s, you can hear her wandering in the woods,
Grey-hooded,
Wrapped in voices of mourning… so we say.

MIGUEL: That would be nice. I know her lot too. I know all her children very well.

Cordelia: Her children?

MIGUEL: Yes, her children.
The Queen of Unending Tears…
I know her song too.
Heard it over and over again for years.
Rising softly from the wet ground
Like petrichor
Held it in my arms…

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