Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 5.3

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
The Witch’s Cell of VULPECULA at the Royal Palace at Purdonium. Enter
KING VUSILLUS with QUEEN VULPECULA, bearing her Crystal Ball.
VULPECULA: My dear, the glass hath not worked as I hoped:
One fleeting glimpse of Tilda, that was all;
And sorry failure to find our Felix.
My ring is brighter than of late: he’s well,
But that is all we know. Mayhap the glass
Failed in not having a sufficient power
To reach far Allium. So I went t’ th market
And had more memory installed in it.
Let’s try again. I’ll use the words of power:
Vulpecula! Bunnykins! Felix, Prince of Uraemia!
VUSILLUS: I can see nothing.
VULPECULA:        Give the thing a moment.
Behold, an image forms within the glass:
‘Tis Felix, with a lass in baggy trews.
VUSILLUS: Can it be Tilda, in another guise?
The last time she was garbed in gaudy robes.
VULPECULA: I cannot see, the image is too small;
Meseems I need a larger glass as well,
Or possibly some stronger spectacles.
She hath dark hair, and a most shapely form,
And Felix seems right glad o’ her company.
My children! Come and see your brother Felix.
VUSILLUS: He hath his arm around her: good for th’ lad!
I never thought he’d have the nerve to do ‘t.
But say, I know that dome behind the twain:
It is the lofty Church of Holy Wisdom
In far Constantinople. What is this?
First Tilda dressed as an Indian, now as a Turk,
Felix in Constantinople! ‘Tis too much:
I cannot credit these strange images,
I think the glass doth have a virus in ‘t.
VULPECULA: Come to the glass, my children: there he is,
Walking the shore of far Constantinople.
O how my heart doth lift to see him well!
VISCUS: Ye called us here to see that feeble picture?
How do we know if it be true or no?
‘Tis naught but a poor image in a glass.
It may be Felix, or a mere illusion.
SHEBA: That’s never Tilda, mark how she doth walk,
Swaying her hips like a great dromedary.
I think our brother’s woken up at last
To frolic with a bit of eastern totty.
O, Tilda will be mad if she doth find him!
VULPECULA: Thou’rt right, my daughter: that is not our Tilda,
And Felix is behaving rather badly.
VISCUS: I think doth quite well, by th’ looks of it:
He’ll be at first base in a brace of shakes.
VULPECULA: Viscus, wash out thy mouth with soap and water!
However, thy first words were all too true:
Why should my son be in Constantinople,
Seeming at liberty, when we know full well
That he lies in a gaol at Allium?
And why was Tilda clad in eastern robes,
Cavorting in a carriage with a wizard?
VUSILLUS: Let’s look for Tilda: if she’s at Allium
Perchance we’ll see into the castle dungeon.
Doth this machine find places, or just names?
VULPECULA: I know not. Where’s the blasted manual?
I had it in my hand but yesterday.
O, never mind. We’ll do a search for Tilda:
Tilda Dodecagon!
SHEBA:        What didst thou say?
Dodecagon is little Tilda’s name?
‘Tis silly.
VULPECULA:        Well, thy father thought of it.
I think ’tis rather pretty, in a way.
See now, another image starts to form:
Tilda and Etty! What are those girls doing?
Garbed in old rags like a pair o’ barefoot lads,
And climbing in the branches of a tree.
VISCUS: Nay, that is not a tree, it is the yard
On a ship’s mast: see how they furl the sail
And lash it to the yard. No land in sight,
Naught but the ocean stretching far away.
VUSILLUS: Our girls are sailor boys, would ye believe?
I really think thy glass is out of order.
VULPECULA: Suppose it be not, say, what is their course?
VUSILLUS: I learned about this long ago i’ th’ scouts;
Now, if I only can remember it …
The sun is on their right, and it is noon;
So they sail east. Mayhap they make their way
Towards Constantinople, and our Felix.
I hope the lad doth see them, ere they see him.
VULPECULA: I scarcely know what I am to believe.
Felix, if it be he, is greatly changed,
Though Tilda as a sailor I can credit:
That lass doth have more fighting spirit in her
Than fifty of your run-o’-th’-mill princesses;
I’m not excepting present company.
SHEBA: Mother, be not so foul to thy dear daughter!
I have most ladylike accomplishments.
VULPECULA: Thy tutor beat a few things into thee.
Thou canst play chopsticks on the psaltery;
But canst thou furl the mainsail of a ship?
SHEBA: Why should I wish to? I am a princess,
And she is but a bit of peasant totty.
VULPECULA: And had not furled a sail in her whole life.
If thou wert on that ship, thou wouldst be weeping
Because thou chipped thy nail on th’ binnacle
Or caught thy heel i’ th’ scuppers, worthless girl.
VISCUS (to VUSILLUS): Suppose our Felix come not home again
– He doth look very happy where he is –
Can I be king, when thou hast bought the farm?
VISCUS: Nay, son, not even over my dead body.
I have the power to choose my own successor,
So why should I pick thee, thou nincompoop?
I trust our Felix shall come safely home
And reign with Tilda as his loving queen.
What boots it if he toy wi’ a Turkish tart?
I sowed my wild oats when I was a lad,
And then I wed thy mother.
VULPECULA:        And went on
Sowing them fast as any man could sow.
I know about the Countess of Magnesium,
And little Maisie in the laundry room,
And Lady Rumen’s African maidservant,
The Duchess o’ Kelp, and Bess, the grocer’s daughter,
And dirty Dot …
VUSILLUS:         Spare us the rest of them,
I have been true to thee in mine own way.
VULPECULA: We’ll say no more. Thou art but a mere man
Who cannot keep his trews buttoned for long.
Men are such weak-willed creatures; they do change
With every phase of the inconstant moon.
I’m sure that even if our dearest Felix
Should fall for a tasty bit o’ eastern promise,
He will come back to Tilda, who loves him
Like life itself, and will not let him go;
As I will not let thee, thou daft old sod.
Let’s to the garden, for a game of bowls:
I’ll give thee two, and still I’ll whip thine arse.
(Exeunt Omnes.)
© Tachybaptus 2017