Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
A Road near Delirium.
Enter TILDA, VULPECULA, ETTY, JESSICA and HUMPHREY aboard the Haywain, with PATRICK half concealed in the Hay.
TILDA: O but a barmaid’s life’s a pleasant one
Compared to that of a crowned queen. The folk
May clamour and demand, but in my palace
The courtiers thronged in droves, and their requests
For patronage and titles and estates
Were more outrageous than the need for beer.
I have missed being among the people.
ETTY: I too, though a poet’s life’s a pleasant one:
Rising whene’er I like, wandering i’ th’ fields
Waiting for lines to fall into my head.
There’s ease in idleness, but greater pleasure
Comes from immersion in a worthy task,
And what more worthy than t’ refresh good folk
With liquor at the ending of the day?
HUMPHREY: Aye, I did love my life as a publican;
What greater joy than to bring joy to others?
But see, we are coming to Delirium
Where we may gratify the honest folk
One time, before we join the king i’ th’ woods.
VULPECULA: Beware! I sense th’ approach of something evil.
Ah! ’Tis a gang of dismal Thetan thugs
Waylaying honest folk upon the road,
Demanding ransom in the guise of tolls;
And, should they find aught that displeases them,
Calling the guards, with whom they are hand in glove.
Patrick, get down within the load: they come.
(Enter three THETANS, armed with Pikes.)
FIRST THETAN: Ho, serfs, what have we here? A cart of hay?
Yet hay may hide much that displeases Satan.
We’ll search thy load: stand aside from th’ wain.
(All but PATRICK climb down.)
VULPECULA (aside, to Jessica): Quick, Jessica, make an enormous goat!
I will speak through its mouth.
(A vast and hideous pink Goat appears next to the Wain.)
VULPECULA (as the Goat): Ho, Thetan folk!
What do ye here, waylaying travellers
For bribes and theft, when now ye should be reading
My holy book writ by the prophet Badmash
To glorify my name, thy ruler Satan?
Down, miserable wretches, in the dust!
(The Thetans grovel.)
FIRST THETAN: O glorious Satan, hallowed be thy name!
SECOND THETAN: Satan, our master, we but seek to serve thee!
THIRD THETAN: Great Satan, smite us not! We are thy folk,
And seek to serve thee every waking hour.
VULPECULA: Avaunt, vile scum! If I see ye again
Looning around when ye should be at prayer
T’ my gracious deity, I’ll burn you black
And cast you in the nether pit of hell
Where ye shall fry for all eternity.
I have spoken: run to save your worthless lives!
(Exit the THETANS in great Haste.)
VULPECULA: Ah, that went passing well. Thanks, Jessica,
Thy goat did save us all. But I must ask:
Pray, why is everything thou makest pink?
JESSICA: It is my favourite colour.
VULPECULA: Well enough;
TILDA: Maisie did say often enough
It was a phase that she was going through –
Starting when she was two; that’s a long phase.
But say, Vulpecula, why choose a goat?
VULPECULA: They worship Satan as the Goat of Mendes,
The Hornèd One, and other goatish names.
All goats are sacred to them; they’ll not eat
Their flesh – as if any sane person would.
A sacred goat is penned in all their temples
And fed with costly fare, when it would rather
Be out i’ th’ fields, bolting down thorns and thistles.
PATRICK (emerging from the Hay): By all the saints! What did I see anon,
Peering between the stems? A fiery goat
Of monstrous size, speaking in tones of thunder?
Who conjured up this fearsome beast?
JESSICA: ’Twas I.
VULPECULA: And I gave to the goat its dreadful voice.
PATRICK: Faith, what a power this little child doth wield!
She’ll smash our enemies to smithereens,
And I will scarce need to unsheathe my sword.
VULPECULA: Hold thou thy horses. Jessica may not use
Her power to harm any folk, e’en the Thetans.
If she should do so at her tender age
She’d grow to be a dark witch of such evil
She’d make the Thetans look like fluffy bunnies.
Visions and trickery are not forbidden,
And thou hast seen what she can do with them.
PATRICK: We fight with one arm tied behind our backs,
Seeking to rout the evil ones with good.
And yet, I see some righteousness in this:
What profit, if we win but lose our souls?
Besides. I’ll have a chance to wield my sword
That hath been rusting in a farmer’s cart.
HUMPHREY: Let’s head for th’ hills without undue delay.
Th’ town swarms with foul Thetans, clustering
Like bluebottles upon a week-old corpse;
Though we can scare them, there’s no purpose in’t.
We’ll find king Felix: left the fight begin!
PATRICK: My friend, I thought thou wert a man of peace,
And slow to anger. But when roused to wrath
Thou’rt fierce as any Glasgow gallowglass.
ETTY: And I was peaceful too, among my books,
When I read of a war, how I did tremble!
And now the war is real, I still do fear,
For every moment may bring my undoing.
But danger heightens th’ senses: I feel keen
And wary as a deer upon the plain,
And there’s the joy of good companionship
Among shared dangers. Let us to the hills:
We shall have frights and woes, and laughs and thrills.