Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 4.2

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
A Chamber in the Royal Palace at Purdonium. Enter KING VUSILLUS and
QUEEN VULPECULA, with ATTENDANTS bearing a Crystal Ball and a
weighty Book. The ATTENDANTS set the Crystal Ball and the Book on a
VULPECULA: That will be all; pray send us Hob and Jess.
(To VUSILLUS) My dear, I have a toy to show to thee.
It is a scrying glass o’ th’ latest mode
Cousin Crudelia hath dispatched to me.
‘Twill see a person many leagues away,
But needs much practice to employ it right.
She gave me th’ user’s manual: here it is.
Come, let us see if we can fire it up:
Read me the manual, while I work the glass.
VUSILLUS: Page one, installation. Please insert the disc
From the back cover of this manual
And follow the instructions it shall give ye.
VULPECULA: ‘Tis done.
VUSILLUS:        But not much seems to be occurring.
VULPECULA: Give it a moment. Ah! I can see letters:
‘Utter the user’s name.’ (She bends over the Crystal Ball.) Vulpecula!
And now it saith, ‘Pray choose a word of power,
That ye may use for your security.
Warning, this word should not be written down
Lest those unauthorised should use the glass.’
What shall we choose?
VUSILLUS:         My secret name for thee,
Which none knows in the world but thou and I.
VULPECULA: Thou fond old fart, so be it. (To the Crystal Ball) Bunnykins!
Now it doth read, ‘Welcome, Vulpecula.’
Well, ’tis polite, at least. ‘Pray utter th’ name
O’ th’ chosen person whom ye wish to access.’
Tilda! Alack, look what the glass doth say:
‘Invalid name. Pray give first name and surname.’
(Enter HOB and JESS. VULPECULA turns to them.)
Welcome, good folk, come ye and stand by us.
We try to trace the progress of your Tilda
With this new scrying glass. What is your surname?
HOB: We do be peasants, we don’t have no surnames:
I be plain Hob, she be plain Jess, and Tilda
Be naught but Tilda from the farm on th’ hill.
VUSILLUS (reading the Book): It saith here, ‘If the person have no surname,
A name must be assigned by royal decree.’
How fortunate that I should be a king!
VULPECULA: Thou’rt some use for the first time in thy life,
Thou daft old nincompoop. Get on with it.
VUSILLUS: Hob, Jess and Tilda, by my royal command
I give you th’ surname of … Dodecagon.
JESS: Sire, thank ‘ee kindly, ’tis a mighty name.
VULPECULA: I’ll try it now: Tilda Dodecagon!
The glass is clearing: I can see a room.
Nay, it is moving: Lo! it is a carriage
And Tilda is therein, in a strange garb:
Methinks ’tis that of the mysterious east,
And at her side, a man in wizard’s weeds.
What means this vision? Is ‘t for good or ill?
JESS: She do look well enough, and that’s a mercy.
VUSILLUS: What means this rude intrusion? We are busy.
Why, ’tis squire Percy! Wherefore is he here?
FIRST GUARD: Your majesty, pray pardon. ‘Twas like this:
We found him skulking in the northern courtyard
Under the window of the Princess Sheba,
Bearing a ladder stolen from the garden.
VUSILLUS: Intolerable! Bring the wretch to me,
And one of you make haste and fetch my daughter. (Exit one
(To PERCY): Poisonous little man, what hast thou done?
If thou’st laid hands on Sheba, thou shalt die.
VULPECULA: I’ll get the truth from him. (To SIR PERCY) Seest thou this
Etrurian chalcedony, th’ stone of truth.
Here, set it on thy hand. If thou do lie,
The gem shall burn thee to the very bone.
(She forces the Ring on to PERCY’s Finger.)
Now, dirtbag, tell me, why was thou i’ th’ palace?
PERCY: Your majesty, I lost my way … Gadzooks!
Mercy! This ring doth sear me like a gleed.
VULPECULA: Then tell the truth, thou sorry heap of filth.
PERCY: I met the Princess at the Dog and Mitre:
His highness the Prince Viscus brought her there,
And she did look quite friendly towards me,
So afterwards I thought I’d try my chances.
I meant no harm … O, how this ring doth burn!
SHEBA: Mother, this man hath dragged me out of bed …
Percy! What art thou doing in the palace?
I told thee in the inn to leave me be!
Mother, he is not here with my consent.
VULPECULA: Thou hast been very foolish, Sheba my lass.
Thy brother hath set thee a bad example,
And I’ll forgive thee this time. But mark well:
Thou’lt go no more unto that filthy inn,
Nor to the hundred other noisome places
Where feckless Viscus likes to waste his time.
Go to thy room. I’ll have words with thee later.
But ere thou go, bid farewell to Sir Percy:
Thou’lt never see him in this form again.
SHEBA: I do not care: turn him into a newt
And step on him. ‘Tis all the same to me. (Exit.)
VULPECULA: Now, Percy, be afraid. I have thought well
Of all the things that I might do to thee.
Sheba suggests a newt: but even newts
Experience some pleasure now and then.
Nay, Percy thou shalt stay in human form,
And I shall give thee a most priceless gift.
PERCY: A gift, madam? I do not understand.
VULPECULA: I’ll give the th’ gift of immortality.
PERCY: What, shall I live for ever? O, what joy!
VULPECULA: But not eternal youth. Thou shalt grow old,
Older and older with each passing year
Till life shall be a burden past all bearing
And still thou shalt not die.
PERCY:        Ah me, alack!
O heavy fate, the worst that time could hold!
Is there no way I can escape this fate?
VULPECULA: Nay, there is not. So give me back my ring.
Thou’rt banished from the kingdom. Now, avaunt:
Wander for aeons of decrepitude;
I’ll put some thirty years on thee at once.
(She turns SIR PERCY into an Old Man. He falls to the Ground.)
Maybe, a thousand years from hence, when thou
Hast understood the ill that thou hast done
And thought upon it every sleepless night,
Some kindly breeze may blow thy bones to dust;
Though I should not much care to bet on it.
Master Dodecagon, and thy good lady,
Come ye with me, and let’s talk of thy lass
And down a quart of sack to wish her luck.
(Exit ATTENDANTS dragging SIR PERCY. The Others leave on the other
© Tachybaptus 2017