The House of Gulag. The following morning. TILDA and ETTY are sleeping.
TILDA: Awake, dear Etty, for the light of day
Shall see the resolution of our ills:
Whether we live or die is in our hands.
ETTY: ‘Tis morning, is it? Well, the filthy Tartar
Will try another visit soon enough.
Think you he’ll bring more men to force the door?
O, I am hungry.
TILDA: Let us look around:
There’s not a crumb But what do we have here?
ETTY: It seems to be a cannon of some sort,
Hardly ideal for combat at close quarters.
TILDA: See, here’s the cannonballs and powder for ‘t,
And wads, and flint and steel to set it off.
Let’s aim it at the door, and when he comes,
Blow him and his foul crew to smithereens.
ETTY: I saw the sailors load them on the ship:
First, you put in about this much of powder –
We’ll have a double charge, just to make sure –
And then a wad to seal it, then the ball,
And ram it down – where in hell is the rammer?
TILDA: We’ll use this broom; there, that serves very well.
ETTY: Now turn it round and point it at the door.
A little powder sprinkled round the touch hole;
And now to light the tinder … there it goes …
Hand me the slow match. Now we’ll welcome thee
As thou deserv’st, thou basest scum o’ th’ earth.
TILDA: O Etty, do not stand behind the thing,
Or when it fires ’twill surely mammock thee –
If it doth fire.
ETTY: And why should it not fire?
I loaded it in quite the proper way.
TILDA: I did not mean to doubt thee, dearest Etty:
This wait is getting on my nerves.
ETTY: And mine.
I read a book – how long ago it seems! –
Describing war as periods of boredom
Relieved by intense fear.
TILDA: I do feel both.
O to be in Purdonium, with my Felix
Reading the story of the expedition,
And as we sat in safety in his room,
It was so far away in place and time,
An entertainment for a rainy day.
But now the story hath caught up with us,
And here we stand, hundreds of leagues from home
With just one chance to ‘scape an ugly death.
Listen! I hear a footstep on the stair.
Aye, here he is. Wait till they try the door,
And then a little, till they all be there.
(A Beating at the Door. The Barricade begins to tremble.)
A moment, Etty, I hear distant music:
‘Tis the Mongolian song! Our friends are here!
(She goes over to the window and sings)
Câr el la komunaj, etc.
(As she finishes the Song, the Barricade starts to fall. ETTY fires the cannon,
with a deafening Roar. The Room fills with Smoke.)
TILDA: Die, ye foul Tartars, like the dogs ye are!
(She seizes the broken Leg of a Table and runs towards the Door.)
ETTY: Dear Tilda, do put down that table leg:
They are reduced to their component parts.
TILDA: Indeed they are, the staircase is awash;
‘Tis most disgusting. I feel rather sick.
ETTY: Not half as sick as if they had got in.
(Enter SHOBIZ and his MEN through the Remains of the Door.)
SHOBIZ: Good heavens, girls, what have ye done in here?
There’s seven Tartars dead upon the stairs,
Or near about, to judge from various bits.
Even our Mongol women are less fierce.
And was that an explosion that I heard?
TILDA: Aye, that it was: we shot them with a cannon.
SHOBIZ: Which ye did have concealed about your persons?
ETTY: Nay, it was in the room, thou silly man.
He locked us in, to have his way with us.
TILDA: But we had other plans, as ye may see.
SHOBIZ: And did perform them to the very letter.
He though he had caught lambs, but in his snare
He found twin tigresses, Tilda and Etty,
Who tore him limb from limb, and all his men.
‘Twill be a pretty tale to tell your children.
Come, let’s to horse, our quest doth call us back:
Today we ride towards Kamysyak.
© Tachybaptus 2017