Opening Scene - part seven
(At this point Ned's grip slips and he flies upwards and backwards, crashing into the tray his mother is holding. Ned is left lying flat on his back and for a moment there is silence.)
Ned I think my nose is bleeding again.
Mother (Turning on her husband) Gilbert Hydes, what do you think you're doing to my son with this wicked instrument of torture?
Father It's only a barbell! It's for his own good.
Mother Then why is he lying on his back with a broken nose?
Father His nose isnítÖ
Mother What will you do tomorrow 'for his own good*? Break his arm!
Father Ooooohh! (He turns his back on the situation in frustration.)
Mother (Going to the recovering Ned.) Come here angel, let mummy see.
Ned It was my own fault mum.
Mother Don't make excuses for him; he should have known better. He just doesn't understand you like I do. He can't see that you're different from other children; he doesn't appreciate your talents. He simply wants you to be stupid and muscle bound - like he is!
Ned I don't think that you ought ...
Mother But I know the real you. You are tender, compassionate, discriminating bright and alert; you have an inner dignity and manner that I'm afraid seem totally out of place in our present surroundings - and you love your mother! (Ned is looking rather embarrassed by now.) I can still remember the first poem you wrote;
Oh how I love you mummy dear,
And I hope you'll always be near.
You're the best there will ever be,
You're the only one for me.
That's so beautiful!
Father (Under his breath) Help him with that one did you?
Ned I was only seven at the time!
Mother But even then I recognised your gift, didn't I. Some day, Edmund, when you're older, you will be known throughout the land. You will be the greatest poet that there has ever been.
Ned I don't really like writing poetry anymore.
Mother It's just a phase dear. You'll grow out of it. Always remember that mummy knows best.
Father He'll have great difficulty forgetting won't he - you remind him often enough!
Mother There's no need to start ...
Father (He has been quietly fuming for some time.) You fuss over him all the time; you won't let him do anything that isn't 'respectable' or 'refined'! All that you're doing is turning him into a right mother's boy.
Mother Better that than a crude brute!
Father Well I'm not going to stand for it any longer. (Taking hold of Ned and talking directly to him.) Ned - you can put all your mother's notions of being a poet or some fool minstrel out of your head. You're going to practise every day with that barbell until you're good and strong so that you will be fit to take my place as the next village Dragonslayer - and that's an end to it!
Mother He will do no such thing! (Taking Ned and directing him towards her.) I will not stand by and see my son ruined. Edmund - every day you must practise your writing; remember, practise makes perfect. You will also begin having singing and elocution lessons. You will have to be well spoken if you are to present your songs and poems at court one day.
Father He is not going to be a poet: he will be a Dragonslayer! (Seizes Ned)
Mother He will be a poet! (Snatches Ned back. In the following speeches Ned is pulled back and forth.)
Father A Dragonslayer!
Mother A poet!
Father A Dragonslayer!
Father Dragon slayer!
Mother Po ... !
(Ned, who has been getting increasingly annoyed at his treatment suddenly can take no more and interrupts.)
Ned Stop it! Stop it, both of you! (His parents are quite taken aback by what follows.) I can't stand this anymore - all this arguing and bickering about what I'm going to do. Why don't you ask me what I want to do? All you care about is what you want. You don't care about me at all - neither of you! I don't want to be a Dragonslayer and I don't want to be a poet! All that I want is... is... ( He is searching for the words.) is the chance to be me. ( Pause.) But you won't let me! I'm going out! (Exit running.)
Mother ( Calling) Edmund, Edmund! What about your dinner?
(They look accusingly at each other.)
Mother &Father Now see what you've done!
( Lights fade.)