The Banqueting Hall at the Royal Palace. The Table is laden with rich
Viands. A Sennet. Enter KING VUSILLUS, QUEEN VULPECULA and
PRINCE FELIX with COURTIERS and ATTENDANTS.
VUSILLUS: At last, after that long and anxious council
We get our food. My dear, I always say
That dinner is the crowning of the day.
VULPECULA: Indeed thou dost, each day at th’ dinner hour,
Thou mad old bat: and yet I do forgive thee.
Let’s take our places, I am hungry too,
And now I do not need to wear my stays,
I’ll eat my fill. O, what a blest relief!
(VUSILLUS and VULPECULA sit down. The COURTIERS take their Places
at the Table.)
VUSILLUS: I saw that thou wert looking rather healthy.
Thy bosom swells like that of a young lass:
I fancy thee anew, my dear old witch.
Say, what’s the cause, hast thou at last succeeded
In making that rejuvenating potion
Thou worked on for so long?
VULPECULA: Nay, ’tis a brazier:
My new girl Tilda made the thing for me.
VUSILLUS: A brazier, thou sayst? ‘Tis full of coals?
What strange enchantment hath thy servant made?
Art thou then burnt like th’ phoenix, and reborn?
VULPECULA: Nay, my old cheese, though I do feel that way:
‘Tis but a garment to support my bosom
Without the aid of whales’ bones or iron bars.
Is it not fine?
VUSILLUS: Indeed it is, my precious:
What sayst thou to a tumble after dinner?
VULPECULA: With all my heart. And do not drink too much:
I do not want thee getting brewer’s droop.
My Tilda doth amaze: her fingers fly
As she makes braziers for the noble ladies.
She’s done one for the Countess of Euphoria,
That mighty dame – look down the table at her:
‘Tis lightly underwired for extra support.
And for the scrawny Lady Ermintrude
(Who’s late again, we’ll see her by and by)
She hath devised one farced with cotton wool;
She calls it th’ wonder brazier.
(Enter LADY ERMINTRUDE, in Haste.)
LADY ERMINTRUDE: Halloo, boys,
Do ye like what ye see?
VULPECULA: Behave thyself,
And take thy seat. We have been waiting on thee.
VUSILLUS: Thou certainly art looking very well:
We will forgive thy spirits. Let’s fall to.
(All begin to eat. VUSILLUS continues between Mouthfuls.)
I’ll tell thee what our council was about.
Th’ ambassador of the Permians was here:
War hath broke out ‘twixt them and Aquilegia,
We have a treaty with the Permians
And we must send an army to their aid.
FELIX: O father dear, pray may I go with th’ army?
VUSILLUS: I was about to ask thee, dearest son.
I am old, I trow my fighting days are over:
The last campaign against the Khan o’ th’ Tartars
Made my rheumatics act up something cruel,
Till I could hardly raise my battleaxe,
And the old king of Poland nearly had me.
I shall sit this one out in a warm palace.
Felix, I have a mind to make thee general:
I know that thou art young, but th’ soldiers love thee,
And I’ll appoint old General Dubio
As second in command; he shall advise thee.
And thou, do everything he tells thee to,
And do not rush into the bloody fray
Till thou hast listened to his sage advice.
FELIX: O father, I do thank thee a thousand times!
My first campaign, and I am to command it,
O joy! Father, I’ll make thee proud of me.
VULPECULA: See that thou take thy flannel underwear,
And do not fight i’ th’ rain, thou’lt catch a chill,
But above all take care, my dearest boy:
We wish to see the back here in one piece.
I’ll make thee sundry charms to keep thee safe,
But thou shouldst not rely on them too much:
The other army hath its witches too.
One thing I’ll give thee now: put on this ring.
‘Tis one o’ a pair I had the jeweller make:
Thine hath a sardine stone of sympathy,
And mine a diamond: and while thou art well
This diamond in my ring shall flash with fire.
If thou be sick, its lustre will be dulled,
But an it should turn black – I’ll say no more.
FELIX (putting on the Ring): I thank thee, mother. Fret thou not for me:
‘Twill be a little skirmish, and soon over.
VUSILLUS: Thy brother Viscus shall be here anon,
Down from the university of Goettingen:
He may be here to greet thee ere thou go.
FELIX: Glad news indeed! I have not seen my brother
For many a day; he must be near full grown.
VUSILLUS: He’ll not win his theology degree
If what his tutor wrote to me be true:
He hath been idle, going about with lasses
And drinking till the small hours of the morn.
I shall have words with him when he arrives.
VULPECULA: Be not too hard on him, he is but young:
He is a good lad, though too easily swayed
By th’ company he keeps, such as that Percy.
I’d hang that man from th’ gibbet by the gate,
But all his crimes are done in his own parish
Where he is magistrate, and judge, and jury.
We cannot touch him till he shall commit
Some heinous act in other territory:
Let him do that: we’ll have him by the bollocks.
VUSILLUS: They say that Percy hath gone back to Sebum.
VULPECULA: Then let him stay there till his liver rots
From all that metheglin that he doth swill.
Let him be slathered o’er with festering sores
Oozing black pus, crawling with noxious worms;
Let him have whooping cough and pleurisy
At th’ selfsame time, aye, and Saint Vitus’ dance
With compound fractures of his arms and legs.
May his brain turn to foetid watery sludge
And run out of his ears. Hast eaten enough?
VUSILLUS: Thank ‘ee, my dear, my hunger is quite gone.
Now, let us rise, and quickly climb the stair:
I’ll be the answer to a woman’s prayer.
(A Sennet. Exit VUSILLUS and VULPECULA, followed by the Others.)