Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
The Road to Opprobrium.
Enter TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY and JESSICA, with MAISIE carrying little VUSILLUS. All are in the garb of Peasants.
VULPECULA: Night falls, and I am weary to the bone.
We’ll halt and sleep, and march on in the morn.
JESSICA: For all thou saidst this was a great adventure
There’s so much walking in it, so much dust.
I’m tired, my feet hurt, and I want my supper.
VULPECULA: Bear up, my darling, in a day or so
We shall be on a ship to Tapioca,
And thou canst take thine ease like a princess.
TILDA: Is this a monastery by the road?
Perchance the monks are hospitable folk
Who’ll grant a bed to weary wanderers.
VULPECULA: They are the order o’ Saint Convolvulus,
The country folk call them the Swivelling Monks.
(She knocks on the Door. It is opened by a MONK.)
MONK: Welcome, good travellers, seek ye food and rest?
VULPECULA: Aye, that we do, kind sir, may we come in?
MONK: Enter, and may a blessing be upon you,
And ye shall share what viands we can offer,
Though naught but turnips from our barren fields.
While these are dressed, we practise our devotions
After the rule of Saint Convolvulus.
(They enter. Inside, there are Rows of revolving Stools on which Monks are spinning.)
TILDA: Pray tell me, sir, why do ye swivel so?
MONK: We have no gaudy rites of pomp and power;
Hymns, vestments, incense are unknown to us.
A humble stool suffices all our needs:
We spin till we are giddy, and we see
Visions of glory and the saints in heaven.
(While he is speaking, JESSICA climbs on to a Stool and starts spinning in Imitation of the Monks.)
MONK: Thy little girl already hath the way of ’t.
Mark how she twirls, and laughs for th’ love of God.
JESSICA: O how I love this twirly whirly thing!
It makes me giggle, and I feel so dizzy.
(The Room is filled with pink Bears and Unicorns.)
MONK: What devilry is this?
TILDA: ’Tis but my girl,
And there’s no harm in her envisioned beasts.
She hath such power in her imagination
That what she sees is often seen by all.
MAISIE: Jessica, dear, do put away those creatures!
It is not good to fright our gracious hosts.
MONK: In all my years of seeing holy visions
I have seen naught like these. But if they mean
No harm to us, nor any disrespect
To th’ holy monks of Saint Convolvulus
Why, let her have her strangely coloured beasts.
But tell me sooth, what fate brings you folk here?
Ye are dressed like simple peasants, but thy speech
And thy demeanour are of noble kind.
TILDA: I fear I have unwelcome news for thee
And for thy house: we are in headlong flight.
The fiendish Thetans are in full advance,
Purdonium is theirs; in a short span
Their army will sweep south and overwhelm you.
Our troops are scattered, heading for the hills,
They’ll fight as best they can, but for the present
Ye’ll be in the fell power of Satan’s own.
MONK: Ah, that is heavy news. But do not grieve
For us, for we are poor, and have no gold
That they can seize. And if we are cast out,
We’ll take to th’ fields and woods, and swivel there
And none can stop us spinning as we please.
Did not the great Convolvulus himself,
When he was cast out of Forsythia,
Wander the roads, rotating as he went,
Sustained by ravens who brought berries to him?
Fear not for us, but take care of yourselves,
And of the children, guardians of the future.
I know now who thou art, our good queen Tilda –
But I shall say no more, and I do bow
Only before my Maker. Eat and sleep,
And in the morn we’ll send you on your way
And pray you may survive these evil times
To ride in triumph through Purdonium.
TILDA: I thank thee from the bottom of my heart,
As do we all. And when peace comes again
We shall remember that in time of need
The swivelling brethren rallied to our aid.
(Enter SECOND MONK, reeling and staggering.)
SECOND MONK: O, I have seen a holy blessed vision!
I saw three ladies riding on pink horses
Crushing rank reptiles ’neath their rosy hooves.
I know not what it means, but it bodes well.
The Lord be praised!
TILDA: Let him be praised indeed,
And may it be a harbinger of victory.
ETTY: Now, while we can, to supper and to bed
To fortify us for the road ahead.