A Chamber in the Royal Palace. Enter PRINCE FELIX and his Friend
FELIX: Ammontilado, is it not grand news
That we are off to war ‘gainst Aquilegia?
After six years of peace, at last a chance
To prove my prowess on the battlefield?
I scarce can wait to plunge my bloody brand
Into the body of a real live foeman.
AMMONTILADO: He’ll be real dead when thou hast finished with him.
Thou know’st I was at the siege of Antirrhinum
When I was page to th’ king of Salvia;
I saw more dead than thou hast had hot dinners.
FELIX: Aye, and I know that thou didst win a name
As a courageous soldier in that action:
Tell me, how doth it feel to kill thy man?
AMMONTILADO: We were within the walls of Antirrhinum;
The troops of King Melodeon did besiege us
With mighty engines and the sapper’s art.
The army fast approached the city gate
While stones from trebuchets and mangonels
Rained down on us: we stood upon the rampart
Waiting until the first rank came within range
Of harquebuss or crossbow. O the surge
Of simple pleasure as we stood together!
When they approached, the colonel gave the order
To open fire: we made them drop like rabbits.
I felled three ere they started to retreat,
And thought no more than if I had been hunting;
Nor all the men with me. On the next day,
They rolled a tall siege engine to the wall:
A tower on wheels, shielded with iron plates
With ladders in it. We ran to the spot
Just as the first man came over the wall.
I struck him with my pike, and he fell back
Over the battlement, and as he fell
He looked into my eyes. I’ll not forget
That look he gave me on the brink of death:
Thou’lt see it for thyself quite soon enough,
I’ll say no more. When the next man came
Waving his sword, I could not bring myself
To strike him, and for th’ first time I felt fear
Sapping my strength. But in that very instant
The man behind me shot him with a pistol,
And no more came, and they rolled back the tower,
Seeing they could not take us by surprise.
The next day came the army of King Lobo
And raised the siege, and thus the war did end.
But I do tell thee, I have lost my taste
For glorious battle and the clash of arms;
And I think thou wilt, an thou live t’ come home.
FELIX: What is ‘t with all this gloom, Ammontilado?
Do men not praise the deeds of mighty heroes
Who killed and killed again without remorse?
Is it not fine to slay the enemy
Who, after all, is trying to slay thee?
AMMONTILADO: ‘Tis necessary sometimes, there’s an end on ‘t.
I’ll go to war and do must what be done,
But do not speak to me o’ th’ joy of battle.
And mind thou heed thy father’s wise advice,
Aye, and thy mother’s: wars are nasty things,
Thou canst get killed in them, an thou be heedless.
Let’s speak of happier things: a certain friend
Told me he’s seen thee looking at a lass
With more than usual interest: he said
Her name was Tilda, seamstress to the queen.
FELIX: Who told thee that? I’ll have his guts for garters.
AMMONTILADO: Then I’ll not tell thee. But I see ’tis true:
Thou’rt blushing like a beetroot. Well, ’tis time
Thou lost thy cherry, thou art nearly twenty.
She is quite some tomato, by my halidom:
Dost thou not long to get her in the sack?
(Enter, above, TILDA and ETTY. The Others do not see them.)
FELIX: I wish thou wouldst not speak of Tilda thus.
Though born of peasants, she is well brought up,
Not like the rude girls thou dost oft consort with.
Yea, I am mighty fond of her, I’d not deny
That I do fancy her like anything;
But how can I plight my troth t’ a common lass,
Fair as she be? For I must wed a princess:
I hope my father hath not chosen me
That Wilhelmina of Aschafnaburg:
Her face is not unlike the back o’ a tumbril.
AMMONTILADO: What’s all this talk of weddings, silly Felix?
Have her, she’ll be right willing to have thee.
Thy father hath a score of concubines,
And none do think the worse of him for it
Except thy mother, and she seems to bear it.
FELIX: Nay, ’tis not right. She is an honest lass
And I’ve no right to filch her maidenhead;
Besides, I scarce know how.
AMMONTILADO: Then go and practise.
Ask thy old man to lend thee two o’ his strumpets:
They’ll put thee in the way of things i’ a trice.
FELIX: What vile ideas thou hast, Ammontilado!
I’ll hear no more. Come, let us to the chase.
(Exeunt FELIX and AMMONTILADO.)
ETTY: Didst thou hear that? He really fancies thee.
O what a stroke of luck for thee, my Tilda!
The post of royal mistress is most pleasant,
With all the clothes and shoes a girl could wish for
And scare an hour of duty in the day
And that of an agreeable kind, forsooth;
And when he tires of thee, he’ll make thee countess
And give thee a castle and a handsome pension.
What more could a lass want? O were it I!
TILDA: He is more scrupulous in his behaviour
Than thou dost think. His feelings do him credit.
He will not drag me to his bed and have me
And then cast me away: he is a prince,
Noble and fair. Thou know’st that I do love him,
Yet I would not be treated by him thus.
But I fear greatly that he spoke the truth
About my humble origin, and his:
How can I be more than a plaything for him?
ETTY: There’s hope yet, Tilda: if ye feel for each other
As I believe – then, as my gran doth say,
Where there’s a will, there sure will be a way.