Tilda — A Comedy in Six Acts — 5.6

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
The Slave Market at Sebastopol, the following Day. CITIZENS, as before.
Enter the SLAVEMASTER with two SLAVES.
SLAVEMASTER: Now here’s the cream o’ th’ crop, good citizens!
(Enter, from opposite Sides, TILDA with ETTY, and SHOBIZ, a Mongolian
Chieftain, with his MEN.)
A mighty Nubian as black as night,
He’d make thy neighbours green as grass with envy;
And this fair lad from Lithuania
Captured from off the beach at Trebizond,
Of lofty stature and with golden hair;
Could ye resist him, ladies and gentlemen?
TILDA: Excuse me, sir, I crave a word with you.
SLAVEMASTER: And which o’ th’ two shall ye be bidding for?
TILDA: For neither: I seek tidings of Prince Felix.
SLAVEMASTER: If ye wish not to buy … What’s that ye said?
Felix a prince? A curse upon my luck!
Blizzards and thunderclaps beat on my brain!
Why did the lad not tell me for himself?
I could have held him for a mighty ransom.
ETTY: No doubt that’s why he did not tell ye of it.
SLAVEMASTER: Then I shall make the best of a bad bargain.
If ye want news, ye’ll have to pay for it:
Ten ducats is the sum I have in mind.
ETTY: And one is more than we have in our pockets.
SLAVEMASTER: Avaunt, ye brace of pestilential serfs!
(SHOBIZ steps forward and seizes the SLAVEMASTER.)
SHOBIZ: Thou dog, that is no way to treat a lady!
Now, as it happens, I am also come
To seek for news of a Mongolian lad,
Ginfiz, my younger son; and ye shall give us
A full account of both of them, for nothing,
Or we shall make thee sorry thou wert born.
SLAVEMASTER: I sold them as a pair yesterday morn:
Wait, I will find the contract of their sale …
‘Tis here: Felix and Ginfiz, sold to one Grobag,
A Tartar gentleman, no address given,
But surely he was come from out of town;
The sum o’ a hundred ducats, received with thanks.
TILDA: A hundred ducats for my lovely Felix!
He’s worth a million.
SLAVEMASTER:        Do not rub it in.
SHOBIZ (to TILDA): It seems, my lass, we have a common interest.
(To the SLAVEMASTER) And hast thou any notion where he came from?
SLAVEMASTER: He did not have the accent o’ a Crimean:
I’d guess his place of birth as Astrakhan;
His robes were greasy, and he smelt of cheese.
That’s all that I can tell; pray, let me go.
(SHOBIZ releases the SLAVEMASTER and turns again to TILDA and ETTY.
Exit the SLAVEMASTER with the SLAVES, running.)
SHOBIZ: We’ll ride to Astrakhan with utmost haste:
Perchance we shall o’ertake them on the road.
Will ye ride with us, ladies? ‘Twill be hard
For such as you upon our half-wild steeds.
TILDA: I have been on a horse out of the cradle:
I could show you some feats of fancy riding
Would make your eyes pop.
SHOBIZ (to his MEN):        Gentlemen, a challenge!
This little lass thinks to outride a Mongol.
We’ll show her some fine sport. Go, my friend Geewiz,
And do one of thy party tricks for us. (Exit one of the MEN.)
ETTY: There he goes, pounding through the open square:
He stands upon the saddle!
TILDA:        I can do that.
ETTY: And flings an apple up into the air,
And throws his knife at it – and splits it through!
‘Tis marvellous; I start to fancy him.
TILDA: What marvel there? Thou dost that twice a day.
(Re-enter the MAN.)
SHOBIZ: And canst thou match that feat, my pretty lass?
TILDA: Sure, I can beat it: give me an apricot. (Exit, borrowing the MAN’s
ETTY: I never knew Tilda could ride like that:
See, she gets up – she stands upon her head,
Her skirts demurely clasped between her knees,
And throws the apricot up twenty feet
And cleaves it! But what is she doing now?
She slides under the belly of the horse
And clambers up again on t’other side!
SHOBIZ: I eat my words, she’s good as any of us.
Are ye as skilled i’ th’ saddle as thy friend?
ETTY: I can stay on, I’ll say no more than that.
(Re-enter TILDA.)
SHOBIZ: My lass, thou ridest like a free-born Mongol;
‘Twill be a privilege to travel with thee.
ETTY: And we are honoured to accept your offer:
I’d ride a thousand leagues to save my Felix.
SHOBIZ: And ye may have to: ’tis a tricky matter.
There are two ways to go to Astrakhan:
By land, through Krasnodar and Stavropol
Or sea to Rostov and the Volga river.
We’ll take the first, and if they go that way
We’ll surely catch them with our speedy horses.
But if they take a ship, we’ll have to search
All through the city and the neighbouring land.
How shall we do it? We have men and horses,
But Ginfiz may be pent in some dark cell
And we could go straight past him without seeing.
ETTY (to TILDA): I know how thou canst find thy precious Felix.
TILDA: How, say?
ETTY:        I read it in a history book,
Of how Blondel, King Richard’s faithful minstrel
Went round the fortresses of Austria
Singing the monarch’s favourite roundelay
Until at last he heard his master’s voice.
Sing the Pythagoras song!
SHOBIZ:        Pray, what is that?
TILDA (sings): In hydraulis dum Pythagora, etc.
SHOBIZ: A most exotic lay, but bravely sung.
But we waste time: to horse, my merry men!
And thou shalt teach thy song t’ us as we ride,
And I’ll teach thee a a song o’ our folk for Ginfiz.
(Exeunt SHOBIZ with his MEN, TILDA and ETTY. As they go, SHOBIZ
sings a Mongol Song.)
Câr el la komunaj
De la ômaro,
Neniu estas tiel
Vere gênerala
Kaj internacia,
Neniu estas, kiel
La Esperanto.
© Tachybaptus 2017