A Chamber in the Royal Palace. Enter KING VUSILLUS, QUEEN
VULPECULA attended by ETTY, and PRINCE FELIX.
VUSILLUS: My son, ’tis nearly time for thee to leave.
I wish thee glory in thy new career:
May thou rampage through th’ enemy, and knock
The Aquilegians to kingdom come.
VULPECULA: And may thou come safe home, my dearest son.
Here are some charms I have for thee, i’ a locket:
Wear it around thy neck, under thy sark.
This sapphire shall guard thee against enchantment
By any but a witch of the first league;
This amethyst against inebriation;
A bezoar, from th’ stomach of a goat
To keep thee safe from poison; and bdellium,
The aromatic gum o’ an orient tree
Which, if thou smear it well upon thy loins
Shall guard thee scatheless from the foeman’s blade.
And for protection from the flying bullets,
Here’s powdered dung from the true unicorn:
See how it glisters! Rub it on thine ears
And th’ cannonball shall hit somebody else.
VUSILLUS: Woman, that is a dirty, low-down trick.
VULPECULA: He is thy son as well; shall he then perish
Because I did not help him all I could?
VUSILLUS: Thou hast a point, my love, let th’ boy take it.
FELIX: I thank thee, mother, for thy kind protection:
I shall not spare to use it in the fray.
Do thou not fret for me, my dearest mother:
I shall come out of it with a whole skin.
Look at my father, sixty years of age
And fighting all his life, with nothing worse
To show for it than a rheumatic back.
VUSILLUS: I’ll have thee know that I was nearly killed
A score of times. See the wounds on my arm,
And on my leg – by God, I nearly lost it.
FELIX: I beg thy pardon, father. I shall take care,
As far as it be feasible at a time
When several thousand men essay to kill me.
VULPECULA: See that thou do. Now, my son, prithee tell me:
How went thy meeting with Gloxinia?
She is a sweet young lass, is she not indeed?
Thinkst thou that she will make a wife for thee,
Aye, and a queen, when we are dead and gone?
FELIX: I’m sure she will, mother. We have spoke twice:
The first time I knew hardly what to say
And I feared that she thought me a poor fish.
The second time it went a little better:
I told her how to spear a charging boar,
And how t’ inflate a football.
VULPECULA: Idiot boy!
Didst thou not breathe sweet nothings in her ear?
FELIX: Nay. Dost thou think she might have liked some nothings?
VULPECULA: ‘Tis like teaching a puppy to do calculus:
What can we hope for with a lad like this?
ETTY (aside): We can hope for better things than for the lad to wed that
brassy-haired, feather-headed piece of aristocratic trash, and that’s no lie.
(A Sennet. Enter GLOXINIA, attended by CLEMENTINE.)
GLOXINA: Your majesties, I beg t’ intrude on you
To take leave of your son, my dear betrothed.
Good morning, Felix. This is the last time
That I shall see thee ere thou go to war.
Fight well. I’ll see thee when thou dost come back.
FELIX: And I thee, sweet Gloxinia: so adieu.
VULPECULA (aside, to Felix): For pity’s sake, boy, show some animation!
She’d get more action from a block of wood.
Embrace her, kiss her, shed some manly tears!
(FELIX kisses GLOXINIA in a tentative Manner.)
VULPECULA (aside): Well, I suppose that that will have to serve.
Maybe when they are married, he will warm t’ her.
FELIX: Now, father mine, and thou my dearest mother,
I am away. My men wait at the door.
We sail this night for distant Permia.
VUSILLUS: God speed!
VULPECULA: Come safe to shore!
GLOXINIA: Have a nice day.
(Trumpets. The Doors open, revealing Soldiers. Exit FELIX.)
ETTY (aside, to CLEMENTINE): He ain’t always like that.
CLEMENTINE (aside): Nay? Do tell.
ETTY: Sometimes he be worse. There do be tales that his old nurse Gorilla
did drop him on his head on the castle flagstones when he were but a baby,
and since then he ha’ been one apple short of a barrel.
CLEMENTINE: He did seem a bit slow, like. My lady be not entirely
enraptured with him, if thou take my sense, strictly between thee and me
and the arras.
ETTY: He’s very clean.
CLEMENTINE: Ay, and that be an advantage when thou dost consider the
other choices for her. The best of them is that Prince Hamlet of Denmark,
and you can hardly see his face for spots. As for the ones from Bulgaria, the
less said about them, the better. Thinkst thou these twain could be king and
queen after a fashion?
ETTY: Aye, till the family madness took him, and that might be ten year or
more from now.
CLEMENTINE: I did hear naught of this. Nor did my lady, I trow, nor her
good father the king.
ETTY: ‘Tis from his mother: these witches are an inbred race. It doth not
strike the women, but the men who are born of them do become lunatical
after a space of years. Know’st thou of her father, the wizard Erysipelas? He
do dress in a dog’s skin and howl at the moon, forsooth, and will eat naught
but grapes these seven year.
CLEMENTINE: This be terrible, i’ faith. Why did no one tell my lady?
ETTY: They do keep him locked in the bell tower, and none can come nigh.
‘Tis a royal secret, and to disclose it do be death. But I did think it right to
CLEMENTINE: Aye, and I thank thee for it, Etty. I must tell my lady of this
when this royal shambles be over, but I’ll see that thy name be not
(Enter a SEWER, in Haste. He addresses VULPECULA.)
SEWER: Your majesty, I bear news from the watch:
Sir Percy of Malpractice is in town.
A man hath seen him in the lower city
Vomiting o’er the balcony o’ a stew.
VULPECULA: Thou hast done well: here is a groat for thee. (Exit SEWER.)
So, that spawn of the devil’s back again
To wreak his influence on little Viscus.
Well, if he step one fraction out of line
I’ll turn him to a thing so horrible
That even I shall have bad dreams about it.
VUSILLUS: Why dost thou not do ‘t straight away, my love?
VULPECULA: Think’st thou we witches have no principles?
Besides, my spells work better when I’m angry.
Come, let’s to th’ walls and wave farewell
To our dear son. Ah, but my heart is sore
As he goes gaily off to his first war.
© Tachybaptus 2017