Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 5.4

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
The Harbour at Constantinople. Enter PRINCE FELIX and ZULEIKA.
ZULEIKA: The Golden Horn, my prince! Is it not fine?
FELIX: I sure have never seen so fair a place.
My father’s city of Purdonium
Hath many beauties – the old church o’ St Quilda,
The Rope Exchange, the Costermongers’ Hall –
But they are naught beside the myriad wonders
That thou hast shown me in Constantinople.
And prithee, call me Felix, I’m but a man.
ZULEIKA: And what a man, Felix. Thou must have lasses
Crowding round thee like wasps about a jampot.
FELIX: Well, no, indeed, Zuleika, not that many.
ZULEIKA: How many?
FELIX:         None at all, I must confess.
But I do love one lass, though she know ‘t not,
For I have never spoken to her of it.
ZULEIKA: O Felix, thou’rt so shy. I like that well:
Modesty’s most becoming in a man.
But hast thou taken her into thy bed?
FELIX: Certainly not, she is a virtuous girl:
Dost think that I would take advantage of her?
ZULEIKA: But how then, Felix, dost thou get thy jollies?
FELIX: What means that word, Zuleika, is it Turkish?
ZULEIKA: O Felix, thou dost have so much to learn!
Come, let us sit upon this bale of rags
In the dark privacy of this little arch,
And I shall teach thee all the pleasant arts
Of what a man and a maid can do together.
FELIX: But I must not betray my dearest Tilda:
I wish to keep my body pure for her.
ZULEIKA: Pure? O, ye make me laugh, my pretty Felix.
So when ye get together, thou’lt be pure,
And inexperienced, awkward and clumsy,
And ye will have a miserable time
And probably put her off thee for life.
I tell thee, maids expect their lads to know
More than a little of the arts of love,
Otherwise, how would their lovers ever please them?
Now, let’s have no more argument, sweet lad:
Put thine arms round me, so, and kiss my mouth.
(A Xebec pulls rapidly up to the Quay. Enter four CORSAIRS, who seize
FELIX: What dastard deed is this? Who are these men?
ZULEIKA: O help! O murder! Let my Felix go!
(FELIX struggles free, seizes a piece of Timber and fights with the
CORSAIRS, striking two of them down. ZULEIKA draws a Dagger and stabs
them. The other two CORSAIRS overcome FELIX and drag him on to the
Xebec, which begins to move.)
FELIX: Send for the janissaries and the coastguard!
I’ll be all right, I am quite used to this.
ZULEIKA: O Felix, this was nothing of my doing.
FELIX: I know ’tis true, Zuleika, do not fret:
I’ll see thee in a happier time and place.
(The Xebec disappears from Sight. Enter two POLICEMEN.)
FIRST POLICEMAN: Halloo, halloo, and what do we have here?
Two dead men, and a lass wi’ a bloody dagger.
ZULEIKA: My prince is taken, he is on that xebec:
Send to the harbourmaster to arrest them!
FIRST POLICEMAN: I saw them do no wrong. But here ’tis different,
And I do have no choice but to detain thee.
Now I shall caution thee, if thou say aught
It may be used in evidence against thee.
Thou mayst send for thy lawyer; if thou have none,
A public lawyer shall be found for thee.
ZULEIKA: Listen to me: those men have snatched a prince
Held as a hostage of the Sublime Porte.
My master is Abu Selim bin Laina,
A court official, pray ye, send for him,
He lives nearby i’ th’ street of the knife sharpeners;
And he will tell ye I do speak the truth.
FIRST POLICEMAN (to SECOND POLICEMAN): Go thou and fetch him,
and the janissaries. (Exit SECOND POLICEMAN.)
(To ZULEIKA): He’ll not be long. Tell me, my pretty lass,
Didst thou account for both those men thyself?
ZULEIKA: Nay, Felix felled thim with a plank of wood
And I made sure they’d not get up again.
Who are those men? Why did they take my Felix?
FIRST POLICEMAN: My guess is that they be Tangerine slavers:
See’st thou their turbans tied i’ th’ Moorish fashion?
They seize young men and girls, and bear them off
To sell them in the market at Sebastopol.
Their xebecs are the swiftest on the seas,
There’s none can catch them.
ZULEIKA:        Why did they take him,
And let me be?
FIRST POLICEMAN:        Sometimes they do take lasses,
And sometimes men, but never both at once:
It makes for easier packing of the cargo.
ZULEIKA: O Felix, what shall be thy unhappy fate?
Stuffed in the filthy hold o’ a Tangerine xebec,
Sold at Sebastopol to Lord knows who,
And all because I took thee for a walk.
Ah, Felix, one brief moment, and I lose thee!
What have I done? What will my master say?
He’ll have me whipped upon the soles o’ the’ feet.
FIRST POLICEMAN: Not if we hang thee first: cheer up, my lass.
SELIM: What hast thou done, Zuleika? Where is Felix?
(ZULEIKA throws herself at his Feet.)
ZULEIKA: O master, O forgive thy unworthy slave!
The corsairs came and dragged him to their ship.
It was my fault, I brought him to this place,
I should have known that it was perilous.
SELIM: Stand up, poor lass. I lay no blame on thee:
How couldst thou influence the course of fate?
It was the will of God that this occurred,
Whose ways are not for mortal men to know.
(He turns one of the dead CORSAIRS over with his foot.)
I know this man, his name is Abu Nasti,
One of the foulest pirates of these shores,
Zuleika, thou didst well to rid us of him.
JANISSARY: Aye, and the other is his henchman Bulbul.
Officer, let the lass go free at once:
‘Tis not a crime to rid the world of trash.
(Enter the TURKISH CAPTAIN with TILDA and ETTY.)
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Selim, we heard that there had been a fight:
But where is Felix? Th’ girls are come for him
Upon the pirate brig we took as a prize.
SELIM: Felix is taken by the Tangerines.
TILDA: My Felix taken? Have they wounded him?
O Felix, thou wast almost in my arms,
Then snatched away once more by cruel fate!
SELIM: Art thou then Tilda, whom the prince spoke of?
It breaks my heart to bring thee heavy news,
But he is taken by a slaving ship
Sailing t’ Sebastopol on the Euxine Sea.
TILDA: Then we shall sail straight to Sebastopol
And fetch him back again. Come along, Etty,
We have not come so far to give up now.
Where is Sebastopol? Is it in Turkey?
SELIM: Tilda, forgive me. I have lost thy prince,
Whose safety was entrusted to my care:
I am much to blame, and I must make amends.
Captain, is thy galley ready to sail?
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Aye, we have got new rowers from the prison
And leave for Corinth at first light tomorrow.
SELIM: Then change thy plans. Here is a hundred ducats:
I charter thee to carry these two lasses
With utmost speed unto Sebastopol.
And here’s a hundred more to buy him back,
And if ye bring him safely home again
Thou’lt have another hundred for thy trouble.
TILDA: O sir, I do not even know your name,
But we are overwhelmed by your great kindness.
SELIM: My name is Selim. Felix spoke often of thee:
I know he loves thee dearly.
ZULEIKA:        As do I:
For though I tempted him with all my charms,
He thought of none but thee.
TILDA:        O Felix mine!
Is it then possible that thou lov’st me?
ZULEIKA: There’s not a shadow of a doubt of it:
How else could he resist Turkish delight?
Now run and get him back, and God go with thee.
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Away, my girls, there is no time to lose.
TILDA: Adieu, Selim, may we all meet again.
SELIM: Farewell, Tilda, and may thou find thy Felix.
ETTY (aside, to the TURKISH CAPTAIN): How many days is it t’
TURKISH CAPTAIN: Ten days, or more if the wind be contrary.
ETTY: We’ll find a way to pass the time, old captain.
gather up the dead CORSAIRS. Exeunt with the JANISSARY, SELIM and
© Tachybaptus 2017