Illustrations © Zenobia 2018
The Royal Palace at Purdonium.
Music. Enter COURTIERS, dancing. Enter FELIX, TILDA, VULPECULA, JESSICA, ETTY, VISCUS and KEVIN.
FELIX: Is it not passing fine to be a king
And dance the polka in Purdonium?
TILDA: Aye, when I think of us some months ago
Scurrying into holes like frighted rats.
VISCUS: I thought that war would be a glorious thing,
Riding proud horses, clad in shining armour,
Instead of which we sat around i’ th’ mud
Dining on turnips stolen from a field.
We had our moments, but I have to say
Peace is my choice for the foreseeable future.
FELIX: Mine, too, but it is bought at a high price.
KEVIN: Word comes from th’ harbour at Opprobrium:
All Thetan troops have quit Opuntia;
They have abandoned all their conquered lands.
FELIX: And when the dust hath settled from this conflict
We shall exchange ambassadors with Theta.
’Tis well to keep an eye on them in case
The lurking devil worshippers should rise
And grip the country with their golden pincers.
Though their ambassador will spy on us
He shall see naught but strength and happiness
And what they might copy in their own nation.
VULPECULA: Felix, my dear, thou’rt such an optimist;
But he shall see folk doing what folk will do
Without oppression by satanic priests.
And mayhap Ethylene will rule the land
With righteous equity; or maybe not.
’Tis their affair, if they do us no harm.
ETTY: When I was making posters in the woods,
I had a thought. What if I printed news
Gathered from near and far by travellers?
Sailors bring tales when ships come into harbour,
Some of them true, others mere fantasies.
Do ye think folk would pay five sols to read it?
I thought I’d call the sheet a news paper.
TILDA: In truth they would. Besides, the more folk know,
The better for the country and the world.
We’ve seen how ignorance can twist men’s minds.
(Enter MAISIE with little VUSILLUS.)
TILDA: Vusillus, darling boy, come to thy mother!
I missed thee so these many months! Maisie,
’Tis grand to see thee safe returned to us
From far Polenta.
MAISIE: Master Orosius
Sent us when word came that our land was saved.
I heard that Jessica wrought mighty wonders.
JESSICA: I made armies, navies and bears and goats,
And we lived in the woods, and pirate ships;
’Twas such a grand adventure.
MAISIE: Dearest lass,
Thou’lt tell me all of it when we have leisure.
(Enter SATAN, arrayed as a handsome Youth clad in Black. He bows to FELIX.)
FELIX: Welcome, good stranger, to our celebrations;
Pray tell thy name, and whence thou com’st to us.
(SATAN removes his cap, revealing Horns.)
SATAN: My name is Satan, and I come from hell.
But fear ye not, I am not come to damn you,
Nor even tempt you into mortal sin;
Ye can do that well enough by yourselves.
Nay, rather, I stand here to thank you all,
For putting down the Thetans, worst of nations.
Though they pretended to revere my works
They far outdid me in malignity
And, worst of all, used my name as a swearword
In every sentence of their daily talk.
All I could hear was Satan, Satan, Satan;
All day, all night: truly ’twas most annoying.
And when they died, their souls came down to me
Expecting banquets, virgins and the like,
And when they got none, they set up a whine
As if all hell were filled with little dogs
Denied the comfort of a mistress’s lap.
I had to build a new domain for them
At nine leagues’ distance from the central precinct,
All walled with lead, and with a leaden roof
To drown the wretched din of their complaints.
’Tis over now: the last to come was Gonbad,
Worse than them all, but he is there with them,
And if they torture him in bitter fury
It saves my demons work. But I say truly,
Hell is no worse than earth. When folk arrive,
Denied the favour of the man upstairs,
They may fit in at once, and join our revels,
And if not, we will tweak them till they do.
Sometimes Archangel Michael, my old foe
And now my friend, will come down for a visit
And we will swap tall tales of former times
When I defied th’ Omnipotent to arms.
I’ve even visited Michael in heaven
Though, to my taste, it is a trifle dull.
But sooth, enough of this. I’ve said my thanks,
And now ’tis time to dance. Vulpecula,
Will ye do me th’ honour of the first galliard?
VULPECULA: Gladly, sir Lucifer. Let me take your arm.
TILDA: Now we have seen it all. Satan himself
Is sick of satanists and their dark ways.
Let’s hope that we have crushed their cult for ever.
(To FELIX:) Mark how thy mother trips it on the toe
With Lucifer; how fleet he is of foot.
My darling, thou tread’st often on my toes.
I’ll have the next dance with him, by my troth.
FELIX: Indeed thou shalt, my love, but after that
I’ll trip with thee and do my level best
To keep my great hooves off thy dainty tootsies.
TILDA: I’d rather dance with thee than anyone,
My darling Felix, clumsy though thou be.
ETTY: And I shall have the third with Lucifer;
Think of the headline: in large type I’ll write,
DANCE WITH THE DEVIL ON OUR VICTORY NIGHT!