Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 3.1

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
An Encampment outside the Walls of the City of Allium in Aquilegia. Enter
HAMFAST: Now, Felix, is it not a noble thing
To be i’ th’ field? I hear the clash of swords
As our men practise for the coming fray:
‘Tis music to mine ears.
FELIX:        As is the snort
O’ th’ fiery chargers stabled in their lines,
The twang of bows, the thump of harquebusses,
The clattering o’ the cooks as they make dinner –
I hope ’twill not be stew with raspberries,
We’ve had it every day for near a week.
HAMFAST: Why, ’tis the national dish of Permia:
It makes us strong i’ th’ thew and fierce as tigers.
We’ll eat it till the end of this campaign
Whether it be t’ thy taste, or it be not:
Let’s hear no more of this.
FELIX:         Your pardon, sir.
HAMFAST: Granted, I’m sure. Doth all go well with thee?
FELIX: Aye, if it would stop raining. There’s a stream
A foot in depth flowing right through my tent:
I had to spend the night upon the table.
HAMFAST: We soldiers laugh at inconvenience.
Why, when I was at th’ siege of Vilnius
There was so little space inside our tent
We had to spend the night hanging on hooks.
My beard was frozen solid to my sark;
We’d naught to drink but ice thawed o’er a candle,
And naught to eat but mildewed cabbage leaves –
I can recall the smell t’ this very day.
Ah, soldiering’s a fine life for a man.
DUBIO: I mind me of the march to Quinoa
When we ran day and night for seven weeks
Living upon wild roots and the odd rat.
When we were young, what stalwart lads we were:
Nothing would daunt us. Once, at Myosotis
I took on forty men with pikes and muskets
And strangled every one with my bare hands.
The modern generation cannot match us:
They are soft lads, fresh from their feather beds,
Dreaming about their mistress, or their dinner.
FELIX: We’ll see about that when the fight begins.
– And by the way, when it is due to start?
DUBIO: At any moment now: mark how our van
Drives on toward the main gate of the city.
There is the army of Prince Manticore,
Our ally from the isle of Tapioca.
They are in musket range o’ th’ Aquilegians:
Hear how they shriek defiance of the foe.
FELIX: Yet now they seem to fall away again
Leaving men lying on the bloody field.
I fear that shriek was not what thou didst think.
HAMFAST: They are regrouping for a fresh attack:
See how they run towards the enemy.
FELIX: And past them, and away along the valley:
I fear we’ll see no more of them today.
Now look towards the gates of Allium:
They open, and a host of men come forth,
Running towards us with their pikes aloft.
Huzza! My first real battle! Let us smite them.
HAMFAST: I must go to my men. Prithee, engage
The enemy in my absence, while I marshal
My dauntless army for our next attack. (Exit.)
FELIX (to DUBIO): Could he not first attack th’ advancing foe?
There seems to be rather a lot of them.
DUBIO: One thing thou’lt learn, prince, is that thou shouldst not
Rely upon the courage of thine allies:
I fear the king will not be seen on th’ field.
Come let us do as well as e’er we can
To hold them off, and maybe when old Hamfast
Sees that we have turned back the enemy,
He’ll kindly come and help us with the looting.
Ho, men, to arms: let fly the mangonel!
Take up the halberd and the harquebuss!
They come, and only we stand firm to stop ’em.
FELIX: Then let them come, and with my blazing brand
I’ll spit them like so many ortolans.
(Enter ENEMY SOLDIERS. They fight, and FELIX’s Men are driven back.)
FELIX: Is ‘t always thus in battle, Dubio?
‘Tis rougher than I thought. I like it little:
‘Tis fortunate I smeared that bdellium on
And put the powdered dung into mine ears:
‘Twould be quite dangerous here otherwise.
DUBIO: They have the mastery of us, and our ranks
Can hold for little longer. Sound the retreat!
(The Retreat is sounded. As FELIX’s Men fall back, an ENEMY SOLDIER
strikes FELIX on the head with a Mace, and he falls senseless to the
DUBIO: Fly, for the king is lost! Run for your lives!
However shall I tell poor King Vusillus
That I have carelessly mislaid his son? (Exit.)
FIRST SOLDIER: Here, do not kill this one. See th’ gilded armour
And the Toledo blade with jewelled hilt.
SECOND SOLDIER: He is a royal prince, at the very least.
FIRST SOLDIER: We’ll take him to the king, to hold for ransom,
Haply the king will pay us a reward.
SECOND SOLDIER: Let’s take his arms: we’ll get a good price for ’em.
(The ENEMY SOLDIERS lift FELIX and bear him away.)
© Tachybaptus 2017