Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 2.2

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
The Sewing Room in the Royal Palace. Enter TILDA and ETTY, bearing a
Basket of Stuffs and Ribbons.
ETTY: By my troth, Tilda, thou didst make an impression on the old
mistress, and no mistake. ‘Tis grand to have thee with us: the late
seamstress, God rest her soul, were a demon for the aqua vitae, and when
she were drunk she did sew something horrible, and I had to unpick it all in
the night and do it again. We shall finish these braziers in two shakes o’ a
bee’s knee, with thy neat fingers.
TILDA: Why doth the queen want so many? She hath only two breasts, I
trow, and none shall see the garment except thou and I, and maybe his
majesty when he gets the urge.
ETTY: ‘Tis what great queens do: i’ sooth, she hath four thousand three
hundred and sixteen pair o’ shoon by the last count; they do have a whole
room to themselves and she hath taken on a librarian for ’em.
TILDA: Indeed, I have much to learn about the ways of queens. Thinkst thou
fifty will do for a beginning?
ETTY: Nay, twenty will serve for now; let’s choose the prettiest stuffs and
mayhap we shall content her. But if there be a fashion at court for these
braziers, then shall our poor fingers be flying so fast that they shall not be
seen, like to the poor owl i’ the conservatory.
TILDA: We could sell them for a penny each, in divers sizes.
ETTY: A shilling: they’d pay that. We’d be rich, we could open a shop in
the city and sell naught but braziers.
TILDA: Aye, cheap ones of linen for common folks, and fancy ones of silk
and satin for the nobs. We could call it Elda.
ETTY: Or Titty.
TILDA: Ah, Etty, thou’rt a one. But we must bend to this stitchery, or we
shall fall from the queen’s favour and mayhap get our heads chopped off.
ETTY: ‘Twould not suit thee, no way.
(They start their Work. After a While, TILDA begins to muse.)
TILDA: Ah me, how life hath changed in a scant week!
A sennight since, I was a cotter’s daughter
Who’d never ventured from the parish bounds.
But when that lecher leaped into my life,
In a bare instant everything was changed:
I and my parents roofless vagabonds,
Befriended by a company of players,
And rancid nights garbed in a camel’s skin.
And now I sit upon a gilded stool
Sewing a silken seam in a king’s palace.
Now I bethink me of my parents dear
Keeling the greasy pots from th’ king’s repast:
Though not as hard as ploughing, ’tis sad work.
ETTY: Ah, worry thee not. That Hodge may yell and scream, but he do have
a good heart. An they work hard, he will promote them to the making o’
furmity or some such. But say, who were the lecher, and who the players,
and why the camel, forsooth?
TILDA: The lecher were Sir Percy of Malpractice,
The sable-hearted squite of Sebum village.
ETTY: Ah, the old story, I did guess as much.
TILDA: As to the players, they are in the city.
Did thou not see the broadsheet, Radio Players?
ETTY: Alack, I cannot read, though it shame me t’ tell.
TILDA: ‘Tis easy, I will teach thee if thou like:
We’ll start when we have done these braziers,
And I have seen my parents in the kitchen.
ETTY: O wilt thou truly? ‘Twould be a fine thing
To read of valiant knights and fluffy cats,
Why women are from Venus, and men from Mars.
Tell me, though, while we stitch, about the camel.
TILDA: ‘Twas a disguise to hide us from the squire:
Sometimes we dressed as bears, to make a change.
Then, three days on the road, i’ th’ town o’ Pallium,
We had a troublous night of it: they jeered us,
And Radio taught me how to sing a song,
And when I sang it, they all clapped and cheered.
Say, shall I sing it for thee?
ETTY:        Aye, right gladly.
TILDA (sings): In hydraulis dum Pythagora, &c.
(While she sings, enter PRINCE FELIX on the Balcony above.)
FELIX: What singing do I hear? Such a true note,
And sweet as is the music of the spheres,
Though I can barely guess at th’ meaning of ‘t.
But soft, it is the lass from the green wood
Whom I did rescue from that loathsome squire,
Garbed as a forester. She will not know me,
Clad as I am in ruffled bombazine,
A cap of maintenance upon my head.
I’ll go down to the room and speak with her:
I feel a faint sweet stirring in my loins.
(He goes down to the Room. ETTY does him a Courtesy, followed hastily
by TILDA.)
FELIX: Greetings, good Etty. Wilt thou introduce me
To thy companion, whom I have not met?
TILDA: Indeed we have, sir, in a forest glade,
Where ye did save me from Sir Percy’s clutches
And very kindly brought me home again.
Ye told me not your name: pray, who are ye?
ETTY (to Tilda): This is the crown prince of Uraemia,
His royal highness, Felix of the Marches.
TILDA: Your worship, I had not the least idea …
FELIX: Nor need ye have, for I was in disguise.
I often go about my father’s realm
Garbed as a simple man, to hear the folk
Talk as they please on th’ way we govern them.
ETTY: And this is Tilda, newly the queen’s seamstress.
FELIX: I’m glad that thou hast fallen on thy feet.
Say, did the squire make trouble for thy folk?
ETTY: Aye, your high lordship, he did cast us out,
And we came here in search o’ a living wage:
My parents work as scullions in the kitchen.
FELIX: Well, if they be thy parents, they are good folk:
I’ll find them work less foul, and better paid.
‘Tis only fair to them: they have lost their farm
Through th’ act of one bad man, and it behoves me
To right the balance.
TILDA:        Ye are kind, my liege,
To heal the wrongs of folk ye’ve never met.
FELIX: What boots it if one be a royal prince
And cannot spend a coin from time to time?
And pray stop calling me your liege and such:
Prince is enough.
TILDA:        Prince. I do like that sound.
FELIX: And what do ye with all those silken stuffs?
TILDA: We do make braziers for thy royal mother.
FELIX: What is a brazier, prithee?
TILDA:        A thing for women:
It holds their titties up, begging your pardon.
The queen was sore constricted by her corset.
FELIX: Aye, she’d unlace it after dinner, and laugh
For very joy at getting out of it.
I do rejoice me at her new-found comfort:
She’s getting on a bit, the old baboon.
I must be on my way: I’ll see thee anon.
(He moves to the Door. As he goes, he remarks, aside)
I scarce could keep my eyes from off her charms
While we did talk of braziers and corsets
And other things t’ inflame a young man’s mind.
And yet, how can I speak my ardour to her?
I am a prince, and she a simple peasant.
I scorn t’ inveigle her into bed with tricks –
And yet, I talk like an experienced lecher,
When I have no experience at all.
Still, I do fancy the lass something rotten. (Exit.)
ETTY: Stap me vitals, but thou didst speak boldly to him. Met him in the
forest, eh? And did he get up to some hanky-panky at last, and not before
time, him being nigh on twenty and never got his end away, poor lad? I’d ha’
helped him, but he doth not fancy me. He were looking at thy titties like he
were committing them to memory, i’ faith, and blushing like a lobster in
TILDA: Is he not stalwart as a young oak tree
And handsome as the purple eglantine?
I never have felt thus about a youth,
I feel my insides all a-churn, forsooth.
(Exeunt, bearing Braziers.)