Tilda and the Witches 3.1

Tachybaptus, Going Postal
Illustrations © Zenobia 2018



The Town of Tritium, in the North of Uraemia, on Market Day.


TRADERS are at their Stalls.


FIRST TRADER: Who’ll buy my fine butter, fresh from the dairy?
O what a snip at two sols for the pound!
SECOND TRADER: Radishes, radishes, get your radishes here!
A sol a bunch, hey, who could rival that?
Cutting my own throat giving you that price.
THIRD TRADER: Ho, bring your pots and pans here to be mended!
’Tis high-class work, a three-hour guarantee.
FOURTH TRADER: Fine ridgels, dongs and parbuckles, wombles and spliffs!
All you could wish for, and at wholesale prices.
FIFTH TRADER: Eggs fresh from the cow; sorry, the hen!
SIXTH TRADER: Bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread!
(Enter surreptitiously GHASTLI and ORFEL, two Thetan Soldiers.)
GHASTLI: In Satan’s name, we’ll hang around and listen;
There may be rumours that we can report.
ORFEL: Aye, may the grace of Satan light on us!
I’ll go round this way, you go round the other.
(Enter above VULPECULA and ETTY, swathed in Peasants’ Cloaks, carrying Baskets.)
VULPECULA: Etty, do thou go down and buy our goods.
With what we have, we’ll get a dozen eggs,
A loaf of bread and a new frying pan.
Ah, when I think last month we were in a palace
And could have bought frying pans by the million!
But I’ve seen worse than this in my long life;
And I can laugh at th’ scurvy tricks of fortune.
Remember now, at every stall to pass
Rumours of an invasion from the north.
ETTY: Aye, so it shall be – lo, the Zinnians come
With many a horse, vambrace and arquebus,
Scallions, embrasures, all that befits an army.
(She goes down to the Market.)
FIFTH TRADER: The freshest eggs, buy them before they go!
ETTY: Before they go what? Dost thou mean go bad?
FIFTH TRADER: See’st thou this pail of water by my feet?
Drop in an egg and it will surely sink –
A sign that it is fresh as morning dew.
(ETTY tests an Egg, which sinks.)
ETTY: Aye, they will pass, I’ll pay a sol for a dozen.
FIFTH TRADER: In thy dreams, lass. I want three sols for them,
And that’s my final price.
ETTY:            One and a halfpenny.
FIFTH TRADER: Two and a half.
ETTY:            Two.
FIFTH TRADER: Ah, very well, ye’ll have ’em,
Daughter o’ a shark upon the seven seas.
ETTY: Say, hast thou heard? The Zinnians are coming,
Their army throngs through th’ valley o’ the Drongo
To bring us succour in our hour of need.
FIFTH TRADER: By th’ saints, speakest thou sooth?
ETTY:            Aye, verily;
My friend saw them with snow upon their boots.
FIFTH TRADER: O, how I pray that this account be true!
(ETTY moves on to the SIXTH TRADER.)
SIXTH TRADER: Bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread, bread!
ETTY: I do not mean to interrupt thy discourse,
But, an it please you, may I have some bread?
SIXTH TRADER: Bread? Aye, bread: a sol for a quartern loaf.
ETTY: ’Tis stale and, see, there’s sawdust in the flour.
SIXTH TRADER: Raise not thy voice, and I’ll say half a sol.
ETTY: One loaf, and here’s the coin. Say, didst thou hear
The news from th’ north?
SIXTH TRADER:            Nay, prithee tell me of it.
ETTY: The Zinnians bring us aid, coming down the Drongo.
SIXTH TRADER: Joyful tidings indeed, worth the half sol
That thy hard heart hath chiselled out of me.
(ETTY goes to the THIRD TRADER’s Stall.)
ETTY: Pray, gentle sir, hast thou a frying pan?
THIRD TRADER: Of course I have, my lass; hast thou no eyes
To see the pots and pans upon my stall?
ETTY: How much for th’ big one with the dent in it?
THIRD TRADER: That is no dent: a sign o’ artisan work.
Only the cheapest pans are without blemish.
ETTY: Marry, ’tis dented: I’ll give thee two sols.
ETTY:            Let’s get on with ’t, four: my final word.
THIRD TRADER: Done, though thou woundest me to th’ very soul.
ETTY: Hist! A friend tells me that the Zinnian army
Is coming to our aid through th’ northern passes.
He saw them marching in their countless thousands.
THIRD TRADER: I will believe that story when I see them.
But O, with what joy we would welcome them!
(ETTY takes her Goods and stands at the Side, listening.)
SIXTH TRADER (to FIRST TRADER): Say, didst thou hear? The Zinnians are coming!
SECOND TRADER: The Zinnians, saidst thou? Coming from the north?
FOURTH TRADER: Our allies come to stand against the Thetans?
If it be true, I will take up my grapnel
And stand in line with them, shoulder to shoulder.
(GHASTLI and ORFEL meet again.)
GHASTLI: Orfel, heardst thou, by Satan? There is talk;
They say the Zinnians march down from the north.
ORFEL: I heard it, Ghastli. By the horns of Satan,
We must report this news unto headquarters.
GHASTLI: Satan is great! But we’ll make sure of it;
Else it will be the rack and thumbscrews for us.
(Exit GHASTLI and ORFEL. ETTY goes up again to meet VULPECULA.)
VULPECULA: How didst thou?
ETTY:            Six and a half sols for it all,
I’ve spread the rumour: mark how they do chatter.
And see those Thetans scurrying away;
They heard it too, and run off to report it.
VULPECULA: Heardst thou their names?
ETTY:            They are Ghastli and Orfel.
VULPECULA: Aye, so they are. But tell, what are their names?
ETTY: Those are their names!
VULPECULA:            ’Tis what I need to hear:
For if I have their names, my scrying glass
Will find them both, wherever they should go.
We’ll trick them, and bring ruin to the foe.


Text © Tachybaptus 2018. Images © Zenobia 2018.