A Chamber at the Royal Palace. Enter KING VUSILLUS, QUEEN
VULPECULA, PRINCE VISCUS, PRINCESS GLOXINIA and COURTIERS,
attended by TILDA, ETTY and CLEMENTINE.
VULPECULA: Viscus, my boy, dost thou have news o’ our gold?
VISCUS: Sir Percy hath it, and it is invested.
He promised that within a sennight’s space
It would return sixfold; and that’s enough
To pay the ransom and redeem the crown.
VULPECULA: I shall believe that when I see the money.
If, as I fear, he hath taken it on th’ lam,
Then no blame doth attach to thee, my son:
‘Twas we who did entrust it to the villain.
O Viscus, how I grieve for my dear son!
I’d give my life to have him back again.
VISCUS: Then thou wouldst never see him, mother mine.
But fret thou not about our little venture:
Sir Percy is my friend, he would not cheat me,
I’m sure his scheme is sound, and the gold safe.
(Enter HOB and JESS. They remain by the Door.)
VULPECULA (to TILDA): Tilda, are those thy parents by the door?
TILDA: Indeed they are madam. Shall they draw nigh?
VULPECULA (to HOB and JESS): Come in, good folk, be not afraid of us.
What matter brings ye to the royal chambers?
HOB: Your majesty, I know not how to start:
It be a matter terrible to hear.
May we speak private-like to ye and th’ king?
VULPECULA: Indeed ye may: come over to the window.
Princess, wilt thou excuse us for a space?
(VUSILLUS, VULPECULA, HOB and JESS go to the Window.)
VULPECULA: Now, my good man, begin at the beginning:
There’s naught to fear if ye do tell the truth.
HOB: Yestreen we took our dinner at an inn,
The Dog and Mitre by Saint Quilda’s church,
Good value, though the ale be a mite weak.
While we did sit there, in come that Sir Percy
Who were the cause for us leaving the village.
‘Twere dark, he did not see us. And then, madam …
‘Tis hard to say.
VULPECULA: Come, there’s no cause to fear:
I hate that villain near as much as ye do.
JESS: And after him, in come your son Prince Viscus,
And they did talk so quiet we could not hear,
But th’ Prince gave him a purse under the table.
VUSILLUS: No harm in that: I gave the money to him
So that Sir Percy could invest it for us.
JESS: But after the prince left, there come two ruffians
And said Sir Percy owed six thousand ducats,
And were about t’ give him a mammocking
Till he gave them the purse, with all the gold.
Alack, your majesties, I fear ’tis gone.
VULPECULA: Alack indeed, here is what I most feared,
For if the gold be gone, my son goes too.
O my poor Felix, lost to us for ever!
VUSILLUS: Did ye observe aught else while ye were there?
HOB: The men did speak of Don Perfidio;
I think he were their leader.
VULPECULA: Ah, that rogue!
He doth make loans to those who are fool enough
And uses any means to get them back.
He lives beyond the border o’ Eczema
And sends his louts to do his dirty work:
The money will be in his chest by now,
And no way left for us to fetch it back.
Ye have done well to bring us this report:
When there’s ill news to tell, someone must say ‘t.
Pray you, stay here a space, and we’ll speak more.
(VUSILLUS and VULPECULA return to the Others.)
VUSILLUS: O Viscus, the affair hath not gone well:
Thy friend hath lost the money, and thy brother.
VISCUS: How could he lose it when it is invested?
He told me that it was as safe as houses.
VUSILLUS: No matter, it is gone. What shall we do?
VULPECULA: First, I shall find Sir Percy. When I have him
He’ll pay his debt to us. He’ll pay so well,
He’ll wish he were in Don Perfidio’s cellar
Having his eyes removed wi’ a tablespoon.
VUSILLUS: Do it, my love, if but to soothe thy anger,
But that will not return our son to us.
GLOXINA: Well, if the prince be gone, I shall be too:
There is no reason now to hang about.
There’s plenty more fish in the sea, I trow.
Your majesties, adieu. Come, Clementine.
(Exit GLOXINIA and CLEMENTINE.)
VULPECULA: Small loss, I’d little love to th’ brassy bitch.
Far more important, who shall save my son?
Viscus, ’tis up to thee to rescue him:
Say thou wilt go.
VISCUS: How can I, mother?
Our army’s scattered, and old Dubio
Is dead or captured; and thou know’st besides,
With Felix gone, I am thine only son:
How can I risk the throne by such a venture?
VUSILLUS: Viscus, thy heart is faint, but thy words are true.
E’en wert thou man enough to undertake it
– Which thou art not – I would not let thee go.
Is there no man here at my royal court
Who hath the stomach for this venture? Speak!
(The COURTIERS remain silent for a While.)
FIRST COURTIER: I’d go, your majesty, but I am sick
And could not brook the rigour of the journey.
SECOND COURTIER: And I, but my dear wife hath been delivered
O’ a baby boy: I must look after her.
THIRD COURTIER: What would we do without the aid o’ th’ army?
I fear …
VUSILLUS: Ye all do fear: that is the trouble.
TILDA: I’ll go! I’ll rescue dear Prince Felix for you.
Though I be but a simple peasant lass,
And Felix guarded by a thousand men,
I have a secret weapon in my breast:
It is my heart; ’tis filled with such great love
That though a regiment should bar my way
Its power would drive me past their useless swords
Until I reached the prince whom I adore
And brought him safe back to his native land.
ETTY: And I will go with thee, Tilda, my friend:
Sometimes a regiment takes two to beat.
Together we shall be a fighting band
That folk shall sing about: the two bold girls
Who rescued the fair prince from durance vile.
How can we fail, if love be on our side?
TILDA: God bless thee, Etty, for a trusty friend:
I’ll have thee by me gladly on my quest.
VULPECULA (to TILDA): So thou dost love my son; I had not known.
And thou dost love him truly, if thou risk
Thy life for him. Therefore I say to thee:
If thou canst rescue him, and he consent
To wed thee, ye shall do it with my blessing
And reign as queen over Uraemia.
VUSILLUS: And with my blessing also, my dear girl.
Yet, though folk say that love shall find a way,
Ye are but two young lasses ‘gainst an army:
They’ll throw thee back as I brush off this fly.
TILDA: We do not mean to battle with an army.
For women can do things that men can not:
There’s places we can go where no men enter,
There’s ways to win men’s hearts, and bend their wills,
And to make warders look the other way.
And if the watch should find us in the street
Long after curfew, we’d flutter our eyelashes
And say we’re sorry, we’re from out of town,
And pray, what is the way to th’ Golden Hind?
VULPECULA: ‘Tis true: men look no farther than their noses,
Or possibly an organ lower down.
VUSILLUS: Ye have the makings of a scheme, my dears,
And I shall aid ye every way I can,
As shall the queen, with her most powerful charms.
Tilda, what say thy parents of thy plan?
For they stand here, although thou hast forgot.
HOB: She shall go with my blessing. I be proud of her:
She hath more courage in her than your courtiers.
VUSILLUS: Well said: they are a sorry piece of work.
(To the COURTIERS) This peasant lass hath shamed the whole of you:
Away, and hang your heads for very shame!
JESS: And though it break my heart, she hath my leave.
Go Tilda, go and win thy handsome prince.
But O my daughter, take good care o’ thyself:
The world do be a savage place, and thou
Fresh from the cradle. Etty, look after her.
ETTY: O Jess, I’ll do the best that I can do:
She is my friend, and I would die for her.
JESS: Let’s have no talk of dying now, my lass.
Ye shall be always in my daily prayers,
And all God’s angels shall watch over thee
Lest thou should dash thy foot against a stone.
VUSILLUS: Amen: and in the prayers of all of us.
VULPECULA: Now I shall make ye charms that shall protect ye
And give ye strength to walk the weary miles,
And divers tricks to foil your enemies.
O, how my heart is lifted by thy courage!
I have a premonition ’twill go well:
Come now with me unto my witch’s cell.
(Exeunt VULPECULA, TILDA and ETTY. Exeunt on the other Side
VUSILLUS, HOB and JESS.)
© Tachybaptus 2017