Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 4.3

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
The Harbour of Opprobrium on the Coast of Uraemia, with Ships.
CITIZENS, SAILORS and STALLHOLDERS are about their Business. Enter
TILDA, ETTY and WINDOZA in ordinary Garments.
WINDOZA: See here, lasses, this is the harbour front,
Where ye make take your passage on a ship
If any one be bound for Aquilegia.
Tilda, I thank thee for thy timely help
And also for the simples thou hast shown me.
From this time on, my remedies shall work
– ‘Tis more than one can say for most o’ our doctors –
And if Windoza’s fame and reputation
Be thus increased, what harm can come of that?
TILDA: Indeed, thy reputation’s most essential.
My mother always says that if ye add
A bit of mystic mummery to your cure
– A few strange gestures, Greek and Latin words,
The potion taken at the hour of midnight,
Tying a scarlet thread around your brow –
It makes the drug full half as strong again.
WINDOZA: Aye, many of my patients swore to me
That they were cured, when all that I had given them
Was coloured water with a mystic label
Printed with images of pyramids.
ETTY: My auntie Edna cured herself o’ th’ gout
By sitting in a trough of melted cheese;
Now what’s the sense in that?
WINDOZA:         Lord only knows.
O Etty, I shall miss thy careless prattle,
And Tilda’s skill in tending to my patients,
When ye are on your way to Allium.
I’ll leave you now: the Moor’s minding the shop,
He seems to be a touch distracted lately.
TILDA: Etty, what hast thou done to the poor Moor?
ETTY: He is but slightly tired from his exertions:
He was up late last night.
TILDA:        I bet he was.
WINDOZA: I’ll set him grinding spices: that should wake him.
Adieu, good friends, I wish you a swift voyage
And may ye find your prince and rescue him.
TILDA: Farewell, Windoza: may we meet again.
ETTY: And tell the Moor that I shall miss him sadly:
He is a man of parts, and no mistake.
TILDA: Let’s ask this sailor if one of these ships
Be Aquilegia bound, and take passage on ‘t.
Say, friend, shall thy ship call at Aquilegia?
SAILOR: Aye, and our ship do sail on th’ evening tide,
The only one i’ th’ harbour bound that way:
She’s called the Cockroach of the Seven Seas,
And I be captain of her, for my sins.
Do ye want passage with us, bonny lasses?
TILDA: Indeed we do and, pray, what doth it cost?
SAILOR: ‘Tis seven ducats each, including dinners,
If ye sleep on the deck: cabins is extra.
TILDA: Alas, we have but three between us twain.
SAILOR: Ye do sail free if ye can work your passage.
TILDA: And what work would that be?
SAILOR:        Why, offering comfort,
As ye might say, to th’ jolly sailor boys.
ETTY: I think we could do that. What say you, Tilda?
(TILDA draws ETTY aside.)
TILDA: Nay, Etty, we could not. And if thy lust
Doth still inflame thee, look at that old sailor
With draggled beard adorned with gravy stains
And noisome garments full of fleas and lice:
For sure he’d be included in thy contract.
ETTY: I see what thou dost mean. What shall we do?
TILDA: We shall disguise ourselves as sailor lads.
They would be glad o’ able-bodied men:
Look at those pitiful old derelicts
They have to man their ship i’ th’ winter storms.
Here is a stall that sells old clothes. Let’s see:
Those trews would fit thee, and that jerkin too.
I wonder if they have a larger size.
Ho, here’s a doublet, much the worse for wear,
A pair of breeches of capacious nature
And cotton stockings, somewhat full of holes.
They’ll serve, this is no time for vanity.
How much, good merchant, for the lot of them?
STALLHOLDER: Two ducats: there’s a lot of wear in them.
TILDA: Two ducats? Art thou serious, forsooth?
Thy trews are shreds all cobbled up with string,
This doublet has been nested in by rats,
And I’d not wipe my arse wi’ thy tatty stockings.
Thou shouldst pay me to take them off thy hands;
But since I am in a good mood today
I’ll give thee half a ducat for thy rags.
TILDA:        Seven sols: that’s my last word.
STALLHOLDER: ‘Tis done. Thou bargain’st hard, my bonny lass. (He
Here’s a receipt for thee, for seven sols.
But say, why do ye need this male attire?
TILDA: To work as sailors on the good ship Cockroach.
STALLHOLDER: Ye’ll never get away with that, i’ faith.
As for the Cockroach, ’tis a mighty wonder
That the old scow be still above the surface:
The planks be ate by worms, the keel be split,
The sails do much resemble thy new jerkin,
And when the press gang came t’ Opprobrium
They took one look at th’ crew and went away.
I’d rather take to sea i’ a cardboard box.
TILDA: ‘Tis th’ only ship, and we must take our chance.
Say, where can we do on our new attire?
STALLHOLDER: Get ye behind the stall, no one shall see.
(TILDA and ETTY go behind the Stall. The STALLHOLDER applies his Eye
to a Hole in the Canvas.)
STALLHOLDER (aside): Gadzooks, that be a sight for sore old eyes.
TILDA (behind the Stall): They’ll be a good deal sorer in a moment.
(The STALLHOLDER leaps back with a Cry, revealing TILDA’s Finger
sticking through the Hole.)
TILDA: Now, keep thy poxy face out o’ our business.
(TILDA and ETTY emerge from behind the Stall, dressed in Men’s Raiment.)
STALLHOLDER: Well, ye do look a proper pair o’ scoundrels
As do befit your conduct towards me.
But I’ll give ye some sound advice, my girls:
Drop not thy guard for a moment wi’ those sailors:
They may seem aged wrecks, but some o’ them
Retain an appetite for rumpy-pumpy,
And if they do discover ye are lasses,
There are fourteen o’ them, be they ne’er so old.
TILDA: We’ll heed thy wisdom. Sorry for the finger,
But thou shouldst know better at thy great age.
(TILDA and ETTY go back to the SAILOR.)
TILDA: Ho, sailor, do ye stand in need of men?
My name is Julian, this is my friend Sandy,
Both able seamen, lately from the Badger,
And we can reef and haul like anything.
SAILOR: The Badger? I know no ship of that name.
TILDA: She sails ‘twixt Bucharest and Vilnius:
‘Tis a long haul, as thou dost surely know.
SAILOR: Indeed I do, I have sailed it many a time.
If ye be able seamen, where be your tickets?
TILDA: Here, for us both, signed by the captain’s hand.
(She shows the SAILOR the Receipt.)
SAILOR: That be in order. Just one further test:
Run up the rigging to the top o’ th’ mast
And stand upon the cap. Ye have one minute.
ETTY (aside, to TILDA): O Lord, I have a dreadful fear of heights.
TILDA (aside, to ETTY): ‘Tis now or never. Think of fluffy bunnies
And nothing else, while I do help thee up.
(TILDA and ETTY climb up the Rigging and disappear from Sight.)
SAILOR: They do seem quite a healthy pair of lads,
Though why they want to sail on this old tub
Do pass my understanding, that be sure.
(Loudly) ‘Twill serve, ye may come down. What are ye doing?
Ye’ll fall if ye do clown about like that.
(TILDA and ETTY climb down.)
ETTY (aside, to TILDA): O, that was terrifying when I slipped:
I thought I was a goner till thou grabbed me.
SAILOR: We’ll sign ye on at seven sols a week
All found. Ye get a quart of rum a day
And four ounce o’ tobacco every week.
Now, go below and find yourselves a berth.
(Exeunt TILDA and ETTY.)
© Tachybaptus 2017