Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 3.2

A Dungeon in the Citadel of Allium. PRISONERS in Chains, including
RAUCUS, ELECTOR OF PIFFELBERG, are lying on the Floor. Enter PRINCE
FELIX in Fetters, held by two SOLDIERS.
FIRST SOLDIER: There thou art, young feller. Fret not, thou’lt be out o’ here
in a few months an thy daddy’s rich enough to ransom thee. An he be not,
o’ course, thou’lt be here till thou handest in thy dinner pail. Seest thou that
old greybeard i’ th’ corner? He be King Morosus o’ Catalpa, taken in the
battle o’ the Tiger’s Gate nigh on forty year ago, and no one would raise a
sol for the old bugger, so here he do stay.
FELIX: My father is a king, but not a rich one:
What kind of money are we talking of?
FIRST SOLDIER: ‘Tis on a sliding scale, by a man’s rank.
Emperors do cost fifty thousand ducats,
Kings thirty-six, crown princes twenty-four,
Other kings’ sons eighteen; but be they dukes,
Twenty. We do not trouble wi’ others:
Viscounts and earls and barons and that trash:
The ransom be not worth the cost o’ their food,
And so we strangle them upon receipt.
Sometimes we keep the generals, if they’re good;
They can be worth a bit. What rank hast thou?
SECOND SOLDIER: I would advise thee, lad, to tell the truth:
‘Twill come out in the end, an thou be ransomed.
FELIX: My name is Felix, crown prince of Uraemia.
FIRST SOLDIER: Ha, we have got ourselves a twenty-four!
That is, if dad coughs up. Send for the clerk.
(Exit SECOND SOLDIER. Felix sits on the Floor.)
FELIX: Ah me, how my poor head doth smart like hell;
These fetters chafe my limbs; I scarce can bear ‘t.
O what a sorry thing is glorious war:
How could I think it would be glorious?
First I was sick upon that filthy ship
The whole way from Purdonium to Saint Trinian,
Then seven days tramping along a road,
Hungry and filthy, fed on horrid stew
With raspberries that made me sick at heart,
And when at last we get the call to arms
Our allies run away, the big girls’ blouses!
We scarce had drawn our swords, when some fell knave
Cracks me upon the head wi’ a bloody mace,
And here I am, cast in a stinking dungeon
Till God knows when. How can my father raise
Twenty-four thousand ducats from our people?
There scarce is that much in the breadth o’ th’ kingdom.
FIRST SOLDIER: Well, an ye be not ransomed in a month,
Ye may be sold on to another ruler.
We sent a package o’ princes to Magnolia
Last month, though th’ price was hardly worth the work.
We tried to sell Morosus several times:
No one would take his daft old majesty.
(Enter SECOND SOLDIER and a CLERK with Pen, Ink and Paper.)
CLERK: Who have we here? A crown prince, I have heard:
He looks a fine lad, shall we ask thirty for him?
FIRST SOLDIER: I doubt his dad will raise the twenty-four
From what he says. He’s for the transfer list.
CLERK: Hear what the lad doth have to say himself.
(To FELIX) Now, royal highness, if I have that right,
Whence are ye, and what is the rank ye bear?
FELIX: I am Prince Felix, heir to th’ Uraemian throne.
CLERK: Uraemia? A pity. ‘Tis a poor land.
We’ll ask for twenty-four; we might get twenty. (He writes.)
Now, sign this paper on the dotted line,
And then we’ll send it off t’ his majesty.
‘Tis done: ye’ll hear from us i’ a fortnight
If ye have luck. Farewell, your royal muchness.
(Exeunt CLERK and SOLDIERS.)
FELIX: O, I shall pass my whole life in this place,
Living on rats and rotten mildewed crusts:
‘Tis not to be endured. Ah, my sweet Tilda,
How I do miss the sight o’ thy busy fingers
And thy clear voice i’ th’ Pythagorean song!
Haply I shall not see thee e’er again.
RAUCUS: Thou hast a sweetheart, friend? I had one once:
Now she is married to another noble.
My name is Raucus, Elector o’ Piffelberg,
I have been here six months, since I was taken
By pirates and sold on to Aquilegia.
FELIX: ‘Tis good to meet thee, worthy royal cousin,
If any good befall men in this plight.
‘Tis true I love a lass, but also true
That I have hardly spoke a word to her:
I know not if she love me. O my Tilda!
RAUCUS: Bear up, it is not too bad in this place,
We have the pleasure of each other’s company,
And no one tortures us if we behave.
The food is quite disgusting, but I wager
Thou wilt not see a raspberry in thy bowl.
(Enter the SOLDIERS with GENERAL DUBIO. They throw him down on the
Floor and leave.)
FELIX: Poor Dubio, so they did take thee too!
And thou art wounded.
DUBIO:        Nay, ’tis but a scratch.
I have been here before, when I was captured
On the sea coast of Calcaeolaria:
They rated me at thirteen thousand ducats
After my victory at Trivium:
‘Twas long before thy time. The king paid up:
Those were the days, when I was worth a ransom.
FELIX: Then thou had best remember all thy victories
When th’ clerk doth come. The prices have gone up:
If thou do not rate highly, ’tis the chop.
(Enter the SOLDIERS with the CLERK.)
CLERK: Ho, General Dubio if I be right!
I do remember thee from years gone by,
They paid quite well for thee. But that was then,
And this is now. Thy score sheet’s none too good:
I trow the king shall hardly wish thee home.
We’ll sell thee to the Tartars, if they’ll have thee –
Hey, soldiers, put this man i’ th’ transfer pen!
(Exit the CLERK and the SOLDIERS with DUBIO.)
FELIX: Farewell, old general, may the powers preserve thee!
O, we are bought and sold like fruit i’ th’ market:
How hideous ’tis to trade in human flesh!
O Tilda, though thou art but a poor peasant
I love thee more than any royal princess
With sixty quarterings upon her shield.
Ah, how I wish I were in thy dear arms,
Taking my pleasure in thy luscious charms.
© Tachybaptus 2017