The Bower of QUEEN VULPECULA in the Royal Palace of Purdonium.
Enter VULPECULA in her Undergarments and ETTY, her Maidservant,
bearing a Corset.
VULPECULA: Ah me, ’tis time to put that damned thing on!
Those bones do grind my ribs until they bleed,
My breasts are crammed into into outrageous shapes,
And I am squeezed till I can hardly breathe,
All to look shapely as a youthful maiden:
I am fifty-five, and the pretence wears thin.
Oh well, there’s no help for ‘t. Etty, get lacing.
ETTY (lacing the Corset): Ah madam, it be a bloody shame how us
womenfolk do have to stuff ourselves into silly things, and all o’ them
thought up by men, I trow. Oo, me bunions do be aching like buggery from
these heels, by your leave, madam.
TILDA: Your majesty, I beg your royal pardon.
The equerry said ye needed a new seamstress,
The previous one being dead of the convulsions.
VULPECULA: And canst thou sew a seam as well as she?
She made this dress, and this: are they not fine?
Prithee, regard the working of this gusset.
TILDA: I think I could do that, your majesty.
The dress I wear is all of my own making:
I sewed on all these sequins by myself.
VULPECULA: ‘Tis a bit tacky, but ’tis neat enough.
The purple fringe is rather a mistake,
Especially with th’ ruchings o’ apricot.
TILDA It wowed them at the Sebum farmers’ ball.
VULPECULA: No offence meant, child, ’tis a striking garment.
TILDA: If I may be so bold, your majesty,
As to suggest something.
VULPECULA: Let us hear it, then.
TILDA: Your majesty, that corset looks most painful.
Ye have no need to crush yourself with it:
No one is looking.
VULPECULA: Thank you very much!
– ‘Tis true, though, I am sadly past my prime.
I have won the hand o’ a king, I need no more:
Why should I force myself into this object?
And yet I must wear something: my old bosom
Hath long since set off on the journey south.
TILDA: I’ll show ye what we girls wear in the fields
At harvest time, when th’ white-hot sun beats down
Upon our backs as we do reap the grain.
‘Tis heavy work, and makes us sweat like pigs.
VULPECULA: How horrid.
TILDA: Nay, ’tis very elegant.
‘Twill shape your titties like a teenager’s:
My, how the lads did gawp at us i’ th’ fields.
VULPECULA: I will try anything to ease my pain:
Canst make it quickly? I must to the king
Within the hour.
TILDA: Surely, your majesty.
I’ll need a handkerchief and some silk ribbon,
Needle and thread and scissors, and two minutes.
VULPECULA: Etty, fetch thou the lass what she doth ask. (Exit ETTY.)
Now then, my girl, if thy confection please me,
The post is thine. And thou canst call me madam. (Re-enter ETTY.)
ETTY: I found some fine silk handkerchiefs given ye by the king of Bulimia,
madam. (She shows them to TILDA.) Will one o’ these do, then?
TILDA: ‘Twere pity to cut up so fine a thing.
VULPECULA: Pish, I have hundreds more. Go to it, lass.
TILDA: To start, I cut it from one corner to t’other,
And next I sew the cut sides to the ribbon:
I’ll do it quickly, there’s no time for neatness.
There! Now I stitch two ribbons to the corners,
And join the other ends to the first ribbon.
‘Tis done. Pray, madam, do ye remove your sark.
VULPECULA: Think’st thou that bit of string will work? Ah well,
I’ll try aught once but incest and folk-dancing.
(Etty removes the Queen’s Sark and TILDA attires her in the new Garment,
tying the Ribbons around her Back.)
TILDA: Ye can put back your sark on top of it.
Now, madam, is that not more comfortable?
Look in the mirror, and admire that bosom:
‘Twould be a wonder in a lass of twenty.
(ETTY puts on the Queen’s Sark and Dress.)
VULPECULA: I’ sooth, ’tis mighty shapely, and the comfort!
Why have I suffered for these thirty years
When this was to be had. What dost thou call it?
TILDA: The village maids call it a brazier,
Like to a bucket filled with burning charcoal:
I see no sense in it, but ’tis its name.
And by the way, madam, mine own is Tilda.
VULPECULA: Tilda, thou’rt hired, at sevenpence a day.
Pray make make me more of these new braziers:
They please me much. Etty will give thee ribbons
And kerchiefs of exotic stuffs and hues.
Now, let’s avaunt, the king doth wait on me:
His eyes shall light up at what he doth see.