VULPECULA’s Cell. Enter VULPECULA, TILDA and ETTY.
VULPECULA: Now that ye twain are ready to depart,
See now, my girls, what I do have for thee:
I had to beg cousin Crudelia
To make me some of them. The most essential
Is in this leathern case: it is a phial
Holding a potion with a dual effect.
If ye should add a drop to meat or drink
And any man consume ‘t, he’ll fall in love
Quite helplessly with the first maid he sees
– Which should be one of you, I need not say.
TILDA: And what, madam, is th’ other effect of it?
VULPECULA: He shall become as feeble as a kitten:
A light slap with thy hand shall throw him down.
ETTY: I find that I can slap them hard enough
To make them reconsider their intentions;
But getting them to fall in love with me,
That’s the hard part.
TILDA: Etty, thou dost dissemble:
There’s half a hundred men within this palace
And thou hast had the bulk of them, I trow.
VULPECULA: Desist, my lasses, from this idle talk:
Lose not a moment in our pressing task.
TILDA: You pardon, majesty, we do attend.
VULPECULA: I’ve made these lockets for ye both to wear.
The charms I made for Felix – O my son! –
Were little use, so I have asked Crudelia
For some o’ her best, which are contained within.
This jasper guards against the bites of tigers
And other fell beasts ye may meet on th’ way;
This serpentine, an ye drop it in your drink,
Shall blacken should the beverage be poisoned.
And here’s a chalcedony of Etruria:
If any hold it in his hand when speaking
And he should tell a lie, it shall blaze up
And burn as if he held a coal of fire.
This is for use with th’ greatest of discretion,
And not when asking if the eggs be fresh,
Or ye would leave a trail of innkeepers
With serious burns wherever ye did go.
TILDA: We’ll use it sparingly. Say, what is that
Among the gems? It seems the stone o’ a fruit.
VULPECULA: Disdain it not, it is the best of all.
This peach stone hath a mighty charm on it:
If ye do eat it, for the space o’ an hour
Ye shall be quite invisible. But mark:
It doth work only once for each of ye.
ETTY: ‘Tis a relief, for I have no desire
To get it back when previously eaten.
VULPECULA: These rubies have no magic charm on them:
They are the last ones from my private coffer.
They’ll fetch a tidy sum, should ye have need.
TILDA: How can we take your gems, the last ye own?
VULPECULA: These stones are naught beside my dearest son.
Use them to win him back: they’ll bribe an earl,
Maybe a duke if he be not too choosy.
Now hang this little thing around thy neck:
It is a whistle for attracting attention.
TILDA: Your majesty, what a divine device!
VULPECULA: I’ve sent for Hob and Jess to bid farewell
To thee, Tilda; and for thee, Etty, I summoned
Young Paxo, for I think he is thy latest.
ETTY: Madam, how did ye know? I have told no one,
Nor yet hath he.
VULPECULA: A little bird did tell me:
I think he looked over the window sill
While th’ two of ye were at it in the gun room.
But hark, I hear them coming. Here are your packs,
Well stocked with hippocras and pemmican,
And here two purses with our last few ducats.
Would that I had more gold to give to you,
But we are down to our last drop of credit,
Even the milkman hath been getting stroppy.
(Enter HOB, JESS and PAXO.)
JESS: My little daughter, O how I do love thee!
How I shall miss ye when ye are away!
HOB: My bravest girl, be bold and win thy prince,
And be thou watchful of the wiles of strangers:
If any man should give thee wooden nickels,
Thou shouldst not take them, O my darling daughter,
For that be very much the safest plan.
TILDA: I shall not; but each hour that I am gone
I shall remember you, my own dear parents,
With fondest love. Adieu, father and mother!
PAXO: O Etty, what shall I do when thou art gone?
ETTY: Have Ermintrude instead, as thou art wont:
I did not ask for constancy in thee,
Knowing fidelity was not on offer.
Mayhap when I return we’ll get together:
Mayhap thou shalt have long forgotten me
And I put thee completely out of mind,
For that’s the way the beetroot oft doth bounce.
PAXO: I’ll ne’er forget thee.
ETTY: Yes, thou shalt, my lad;
But here I give thee a fond parting kiss
To cheer my spirits on the dusty road.
TILDA: And now we take our leave of all of you:
We’ll bring him back, your majesty. Adieu!
(Exeunt TILDA and ETTY.)
© Tachybaptus 2017