Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 5.2

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
A House in Constantinople. Enter PRINCE FELIX, RAUCUS, ELECTOR OF
PIFFELBERG with his Arm in a Sling, and the TURKISH CAPTAIN, who
stand before the Door.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Friends, here we are at th’ house of my friend Selim.
Now pray remember what I said to you
When we were at the janissaries’ office:
Ye stay here on parole, as ye gave your word;
Ye can go i’ th’ street within the city limits,
But not a foot beyond the gates, on pain
Of being thrown back into th’ city gaol.
FELIX: We hear thy words, captain, and shall obey them;
And thank thee for thy kindly offices
In keeping us from gaol till we be ransomed.
RAUCUS: Aye, and since we are in Constantinople,
The ancient city of a thousand charms,
What boots it to range further for a while?
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Thou’lt find much pleasure in our noble city,
Mayhap a little more than thou canst bear:
I do advise thee to go carefully
And to avoid strange men i’ th’ bagnio
Who offer thee illegal substances
And more unlawful pleasures o’ every kind.
Now, let’s go in, for Selim doth await us.
(He knocks on the Door. It is opened by ZULEIKA, a Maidservant.)
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Peace be on thee and on this house, Zuleika:
Thy master is expecting us, I trow.
ZULEIKA: And on you too, sir captain. Pray ye, enter;
And whom have I the pleasure of announcing?
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Here I have Raucus, Elector o’ Piffelberg,
And here Prince Felix of Uraemia.
ZULEIKA: I am honoured, noble sirs, to meet with ye.
Are ye the prince of whom I have heard tell,
Who fought so boldly on the pirate brig?
FELIX: Aye, I was there, but ’tis exaggerated:
I did what seemed right in the heat o’ th’ moment.
ZULEIKA: Mayhap ye’ll tell me of your gallant actions
When we have time. Now, I must fetch the master. (Exit.)
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Felix, thou art the talk of the bazaar,
And that fair maid was coming on to thee:
I think thou’lt have a merry month or two.
FELIX: I saw it not, but thanks for warning me;
My heart is pledged to a simple peasant maid
And I would not betray her for the world.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: We take a different view of things in Turkey:
When a man enters marriage, it behoves him
T’ have learnt the art of pleasuring a maid;
How would he win her love if he knew ‘t not?
(Enter SELIM, attended by ZULEIKA.)
SELIM: Welcome, good captain and my honoured guests:
All that our poor house hath to offer is yours.
Pray seat yourselves: Zuleika, make us coffee. (Exit ZULEIKA.)
I see that one of you hath a wounded arm;
I’ll call for salves and soothing poultices:
Zuleika, bring the chest of medicines!
Captain, pray introduce me to thy friends.
CAPTAIN: Raucus, Elector o’ Piffelberg, allow me
To introduce Abu Selim bin Laina,
High Coffee Grinder to the Sublime Porte.
SELIM: Your royal presence honours my poor dwelling.
RAUCUS: Your hospitality is more than welcome.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: And this is Felix, Prince o’ Uraemia.
SELIM: Aha, the hero of the naval action!
I am most honoured t’ welcome ye as a guest.
FELIX: And I equally honoured by this meeting.
I hope ye do not credit all that gossip:
I am no warrior. Yet here I stand
In Asia, where in past times Xenophon
And all his army wandered many months
And reached the coast, not very far from here,
Shouting Thalassa; or is it Thalatta?
SELIM: I always did incline towards the latter.
Yet who knows how the ancients uttered it?
I see ye are well read i’ th’ antique authors:
We shall have much to speak about anon.
(Re-enter ZULEIKA, with Coffee and Medicines. She attends to RAUCUS’s
Arm. SELIM pours Coffee for his Guests.)
FELIX: Pray tell me, sir, what is this darksome drink
Brewed in a little pot? Is ‘t medicine?
SELIM: Aye, ’tis a medicine for melancholy:
It doth restore the mind, and lift the spirits,
But not intoxicate: we are forbidden
All sprituous drink by command o’ th’ Prophet,
Peace be on him. Not that we take much notice.
FELIX: The taste is strange, at one time sweet and bitter.
‘Tis good, but I believe the Europeans
Would never take to any kind of drink
That did not make them bosko absoluto.
SELIM: Pray, gentlemen, accept a second cup
As is your duty as my honoured guests.
Now, Felix, tell us of your part i’ th’ action:
There’s no need to be modest among friends.
FELIX: There’s naught to tell: the gallant captain here
Brought up our ship beside the pirate brig,
Using uncommon skill to keep us clear
Of the ship’s broadside as she came about;
And we climbed up, and th’ battle went our way.
ZULEIKA: But did ye not kill twelve men with thy sword?
FELIX: Nay, only two, whatever folk may tell.
SELIM: Folk may say what they will, but one thing’s clear:
The pirate Vindalo was th’ scourge o’ the seas
For many a year, and took a hundred ships,
Most of whom yielded to him on the spot
For fear of his ferocious reputation:
Everyone knows pirates cannot be beaten.
Not that it did the poor souls any good:
Those that he did not kill, he sold as slaves.
And then a galley rowed by prisoners
– An easy victim, Vindalo would deem –
Puts up an unexpected fight, and wins:
Ye cannot contradict the truth of that.
ZULEIKA (to Felix): Your modesty is the true grace of princes.
Now that your friend’s arm is newly bound up,
He needs to rest lest his wound grow inflamed.
Meanwhile, if th’ master grant me his permission,
I’d like to show you something of our city:
Say, will ye come with me?
SELIM:         Take him, Zuleika,
But guard him well, for he is new to th’ city
And likely to buy all kinds of old rubbish
Offered him by the draggle of the souk:
False sundials claimed as Swiss, and cotton scarves
Said t’ be silk, and pornographic pictures.
FELIX: No danger there: I do not have a sol.
I’ll go most willingly with thee, Zuleika:
Thou dost remind me of my own true love
Who languishes in far Uraemia.
O Tilda! Shall I see thy gentle face again?
ZULEIKA: Bear up, my prince, we’ll find ourselves amusements
Shall make you cry with the sheer wonder of them.
(Exeunt FELIX and ZULEIKA.)
TURKISH CAPTAIN: That lass hath really sunk her hooks in him;
She’ll cure him of virginity i’ a trice.
SELIM: ‘Tis what he needs after a spell in gaol.
I’ve never known her stratagems to fail.
© Tachybaptus 2017