Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 4.6

Tachybaptus, Going Postal

A Turkish Galley at Sea. PRISONERS, among them PRINCE FELIX and
FELIX: There’s no doubt we do travel with economy.
Think of the money we have saved on th’ fare:
‘Twould be a hundred ducats at the least.
RAUCUS: Aye, and they kindly throw in food and drink,
Which doth save forty; though I must observe
That if I had the choice, I would not go
For mouldy bread and water green with slime.
FELIX: And I would rather have a feather bed
Than a hard bench and a set of rusty fetters.
As for the conduct of the staff, it sucks.
(Enter the OVERSEER, bearing a Whip.)
OVERSEER: No talking there on th’ benches, Christian dogs!
(He lashes FELIX and RAUCUS with his Whip.)
FELIX (aside): See what I mean? Really, the service these days!
RAUCUS (aside): Be quiet, my friend, save thyself a sore back.
‘Tis only five days to Constantinople,
And I shall be right glad to be on land,
However foul the cell they throw us in.
VOICE OF LOOKOUT (from above): Sail ho! A ship upon the larboard
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Masthead! Canst thou see anything o’ th’ ship?
VOICE OF LOOKOUT: Aye, she be headed t’ get the wind-gage of us.
I think she be a brig, her sails be red.
CAPTAIN: By Allah, ’tis the pirate Vindalo!
He carries heavy metal on that brig.
Men, clear the decks for action, run out th’ guns!
(Enter SAILORS to carry out his Orders.)
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Though we be nimble, we have not th’ legs o’ her,
As long as she can stay upwind of us,
And her long guns outrange our own by far. 
One well aimed broadside would stave in our side.
Now, listen, slaves. ‘Twill be a chancy action,
And ye must row to th’ last ounce o’ your strength.
But, on my word as a good Mussulman,
I warrant ye, that if ye serve me right,
When we reach port, I shall do what I can
To ease the terms of your imprisonment,
Mayhap negotiate a lower ransom.
I’ll promise ye no more: ’tis all too likely
That in the space o’ an hour we shall be dead.
If Vindalo should have ye, there’s no mercy:
I’d not advise ye to go o’er to him.
At best ye would be sold to the Algerines,
Which makes a Turkish gaol look quite inviting;
At worst, he’d feed ye to the little fish.
Now, as an earnest of my word, I unchain thee.
Ho, overseer, take off these men’s fetters!
OVERSEER: Unchain them, sir? They do outnumber us.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Unchain them, and do not dispute my orders!
They know full well that I do speak the truth.
Belay that whip. They row for their own lives,
And thine, and mine, and those of all us sailors.
(The OVERSEER unchains the PRISONERS.)
VOICE OF LOOKOUT: Ahoy on deck! She closes on us fast!
Ye’ll see her from the deck.
TURKISH CAPTAIN:        Aye, there she is:
We’ll head upwind and pass astern of her.
‘Vast rowing on the larboard side, ye men!
Helmsman, hard o’er to larboard … now, ease off,
Ye larboard rowers, start on my command:
Ready, steady, row! Pull ye for your dear lives!
Helsman, now hold a course north by northwest!
VOICE OF LOOKOUT: She goes about!
TURKISH CAPTAIN:        Hell, that was smartly done.
She’ll cut us off whatever we should try.
We’ll ne’er outrun her while she hath the wind;
She’ll have us in her range at any moment.
There’s no choice, men, we’ll close and grapple with her:
If we are lucky we can dodge her broadside
And come up on the lee side under th’ guns.
Helmsman, steer north by east! Bring up the ladders!
Break out the cutlasses, arm every man!
OVERSEER: What, e’en the slaves?
TURKISH CAPTAIN:        Shut up and do it, man,
Or thou shalt be among them, if we live.
(SAILORS distribute Weapons.)
FELIX: Well, Raucus, I was being over-cautious
In saying that my military career
Had ended. Mayhap this time I’ll do better.
RAUCUS: I hope so, Felix. Things do not look good.
I’ve heard some horrid tales of Vindalo:
He boiled my cousin, Lupus of Dunderstadt,
When th’ ransom was delivered a day late,
And sent his body back i’ a paper parcel;
Ye should have smelt the thing when it arrived.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Helsman, two points to port; aim at her lee.
We close! Rowers, avast! Take up your arms!
Throw up the grapnels and set up the ladders!
Now, up and at ’em! Look ye lively, now!
(The Brig’s Guns fire, but the Balls pass over the low Deck of the Galley.
Enter PIRATES, above, bearing Cutlasses and Pistols. SAILORS and
PRISONERS, including FELIX and RAUCUS, climb up to them.)
FIRST PIRATE: Die, Turkish dogs! (He shoots a Sailor.)
FELIX:         Die, brigand, in thy turn!
(He kills the FIRST PIRATE with his Cutlass. A SECOND PIRATE attacks
RAUCUS with a Cutlass, and wounds him. Enter more PIRATES below.)
RAUCUS: Ah, help me Felix!
FELIX:        I come, Raucus, my friend.
(He kills the SECOND PIRATE, pulls RAUCUS out of Danger and returns to
the Battle. The other SAILORS and PRISONERS begin to overcome the
TURKISH CAPTAIN: We have them! Sailors, all aboard the brig!
Clean out the last o’ th’ filthy thieving curs!
(To FELIX) Ho, lad, I saw what thou didst do anon.
I’ll not forget thee when we come to port.
FELIX: ‘Twas them or me.
TURKISH CAPTAIN:        Aye, that’s the way of it.
(The Fighting abates. Felix goes over to RAUCUS.)
FELIX: Art thou sore hurt, Raucus my poor old friend?
RAUCUS: Nay, for my leather jerkin turned the blade.
It wounded but my arm; methinks I’ll live.
What didst thou think of some real fighting, Felix?
FELIX: ‘Twas most confusing, it all went so fast.
I’d not expected killing to be so easy,
Nor to feel unconcerned at doing it.
RAUCUS: Thou may’st feel different in a little while.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Take thou that man below, to the ship’s surgeon,
He’ll need some sewing on that arm of his.
(Exeunt FELIX and RAUCUS.)
Men, ye fought well. I am mindful of my oath,
And shall endeavour to improve your lot.
Rowers, ye still must pull to get us home,
So take your benches and your oars again.
Helmsman, steer east for fair Constantinople.
© Tachybaptus 2017