Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
A Cabin on a Ship bound for the Island of Tapioca.
Enter TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY, JESSICA and MAISIE with little VUSILLUS.
ETTY: ’Tis sad to see Uraemia fall away
Beneath the dim horizon of the sea,
Ruined by heathens, while we feebly fly.
TILDA: Yet I remember, not so long ago,
When thou and I were hands aboard the Cockroach;
In desperate times, my Felix held to ransom,
Ourselves penniless and clothed in rags,
What japes we had, skylarking in the rigging!
We were young then, but we were full of hope;
Are we so hopeless now? Nay, we shall rally
And find a way to set our country free.
Once we are at the court of Tapioca,
The children safe under King Sago’s care,
Then thou and I shall find a battleground
– Not that of men, we’ll fight in our own way –
And we shall be the terror of the foe.
ETTY: Bold words, my friend, and I am cheered by them.
VULPECULA: Our army’s beaten, but our people live.
We’ll fight the enemy on our own soil
In every town and field, by day and night:
How can we not prevail? This is no war
Of armoured men upon a battlefield,
But of a million angry folk against
A few invaders, be they ne’er so savage.
I am old, but I have power. I am a witch,
Of a long line of witches not the strongest,
But anger shall lend vigour to my spells.
ETTY: I have no gift beyond the power of words,
But words can have great strength in time of war:
Poems and songs and slogans spur the people
To action when mere orders will not move them.
MAISIE: I have no power at all, save that of love,
But what I have, I offer to my country;
I’d give my life to cast out these foul Thetans.
TILDA: Well said, good Maisie. And if all our folk
Have faith like thee, we shall yet win the day.
(A sound of Pistols and clashing Cutlasses.)
TILDA: What noise is this? It seems that war hath found us.
Quick, let me tie our purse upon a string
And hang it out the porthole to be safe.
(Enter PIRATES. TILDA and ETTY fly at them, but are held by three Men each.)
TILDA: Unhand me, pirate dog!
FIRST PIRATE: Not on thy nelly,
Thou horrid bitch, thou kicked me in the bollocks.
O how they smart! Thou’lt surely pay for that.
SECOND PIRATE: And this one broke my nose, the little trollop.
(Enter RED KEVIN, the Pirate Chief.)
KEVIN: What ho, my men, I see that ye are bleeding
Though all the crew yielded like frightened sheep.
Who did this to you?
FIRST PIRATE: Sir, ’tis hard to say:
These women seem to have some demon in them,
They fought like tigers.
KEVIN: Are ye beat by women,
Ye lily-livered scum o’ th’ seven seas?
Fie, fie for shame, ye puny pack of pussies!
Search them, we’ll take such money as they have,
And then I’ll think of what to do with them.
(There is a Struggle, during which TILDA kicks KEVIN in the Face and ETTY bites him on the Hand, but they are gagged and bound.)
KEVIN: Now I see what ye mean. They are she-devils;
Even the old dame dealt me a cruel blow.
But they have not a penny to their name,
And we gain nothing. I had thought to sell them
At the slave market in Tangier. But who
Would pay a ducat for such vicious shrews?
We’ll sell the sailors off for galley slaves
For a fair profit. But ye know full well,
A woman on a ship portends ill fortune,
And they have dealt us more than enough harm.
Yet I respect their courage, when the men
Yielded so soon at the mere sight of us.
Go set them in a boat and cast them off
To meet what fortune hath in store for them.
Give them some biscuit and a cask of water:
I am a pirate, not a murderer.