F. Anstey.

The Brass Bottle: A Farcical Fantastic Play in Four Acts





Fakrash

It is no matter. Thou shalt receive other rewards more to thy liking.

Horace

[Alarmed.] No, no! I assure you I don't want anything. I can get along quite well by myself. Because of course, you wouldn't know it, but [with pride] I've got a client now!

Fakrash

[Calmly.] I know it. Was he not my first gift unto thee?

Horace

[Staggered.] Your first ? No, no don't you go taking credit for that! He assured me himself that he came of his own accord!

Fakrash

He knew no better. Nevertheless it was I that procured him for thee.

Horace

How?

Fakrash

[Airily.] In the easiest manner possible. Having remarked him upon a bridge, I transported him instantly to thy dwelling, impressing him without his knowledge with thy names and thy marvellous abilities.

Horace

[Horrified to himself.] Good Lord! He said he came in by the window! [To Fakrash.] So you did that, did you? Then you took a confounded liberty! You'd no business to introduce clients to me in that irregular way! Don't you ever do this sort of thing again! Just attend to your own affairs in future. I understood you were going off in search of Suleym?n. It's high time you started. You won't find him in this country, you know.

Fakrash

He is on some journey for in Jerusalem itself could I find no sign of him.

Horace

Oh, come! You can't have flown as far as Jerusalem and back already!

Fakrash

Know'st thou not that, to a Jinnee of the Jinn, distance is but a trifling matter?

Horace

So much the better! You'll be back in the East all the sooner. And when you are there, you stay there. Don't get disheartened if you don't find Suleym?n directly. Keep on pegging away till you do! Why, the mere travelling will be a pleasant change for you!

Fakrash

[On right of table; sententiously.] Well and wisely was it written: "In travel there are five advantages. [Proceeding to enumerate them on his fingers.] The first of these is "

Horace

[Impatiently, as he moves to his bedroom door on right.] I know, I know! Don't you bother to run through them nowI've got to dress for dinner. Just you bundle off to Arabia and search for Suleym?n like billy-oh. Good-bye!

Fakrash

May Allah never deprive thy friends of thy presence! Never have I encountered a mortal who has pleased me so greatly!

Horace

[At bedroom door.] Awfully good of you to say so!

Fakrash

Farewell! Prepare to receive a reward beyond all thine expectations!

[He waves his arm, and for ten seconds the room is in utter darkness.
There are sounds as of a rushing wind and crashes and rumblings. Then the glimmer of three Arabian hanging lanterns is seen faintly illuminating a large central arch and two smaller side ones. An immense perforated lantern hanging from the domed roof then becomes lit, and reveals an octagonal hall with four curtained arches, the fourth, down on the right, being where
Horace's bedroom door had been. The walls are decorated in crimson, blue, and gold arabesques. Above the bedroom door is a low divan with richly embroidered cushions. Opposite to it, on the left, is a similar divan. High in the wall overhead is a window with gilded lattice-work, through which is seen a soft blue evening sky.
Horace

[With his back to the audience.] Great Scott! What's that old idiot let me in for now?

Mrs. Rapkin

[Heard outside the arch up on right of central arch.] Oh, whatever is it now? What's 'appened? [She enters.] Goodness gracious! Mr. Ventimore, sir what's come to the 'ouse?

Horace

Then you see a difference, Mrs. Rapkin?

Mrs. Rapkin

I don't see nothink as ain't different. For mercy's sake, sir, 'oo's been alterin' of it like this?

Horace

Well, I haven't.

Mrs. Rapkin

But where are you going to 'ave your dinner-party now, sir?

Horace

Where? Why, here! There's lots of room.

Mrs. Rapkin

But I don't see no dinner-table, nor yet no sideboard.

Horace

Never mind never mind! Don't make difficulties, Mrs. Rapkin. You must manage somehow.

Mrs. Rapkin

I'll try, sir, but not to deceive you I feel that upset I 'ardly know where I am.

Horace

You you'll get used to it. [Persuasively.] And you're going to see me through this, I'm sure. I must go and dress now. [Looking round the hall.] I suppose you haven't any idea where my bedroom is?

Mrs. Rapkin

I've no idea where any of the rooms has got to, sir!

Horace

[Going to arch down on right.] I expect it's through here.

[As he goes out, Rapkin enters from the arch on left of central arch. He is respectably dressed type of elderly retired butler; just now he is slightly and solemnly fuddled.
Mrs. Rapkin

William, this is a pretty state o' things!

Rapkin

What's marrer, M'rire? I'm all ri'. On'y bin a-improvin' o' my mind in Public Libery.

Mrs. Rapkin

Public Libery, indeed! You and your Public Libery.

Rapkin

It's pos'tive fac'. Bin p'rusin' En-ensicklypejia Britannia.

[He stands blinking and slightly swaying.
Mrs. Rapkin

But do you mean to say you don't see nothing?

Rapkin

[Muzzily.] Not over distinct, M'rire. Curus opt'cal d'lusion due to overshtudy everything's spinnin' round. 'Ave I stepped into Alhambra, or 'ave I not? That's all I want to know.

Horace

[Outside from right.] That you, Rapkin? I want you.

Mrs. Rapkin

[To Rapkin.] You ast 'im where you are he's better able to tell you than I am. I'm going back to my kitching.

[She hesitates for a moment as to which arch to go out by, and finally goes out by the one on right of central arch.

Horace

[Outside.] Rapkin, I say! [Then entering from the lower arch on right as soon as Mrs. Rapkin has gone; he is wearing a richly embroidered Oriental robe, &c., and a jewelled turban and plume, of which he is entirely unconscious.] Oh, there you are! Don't stand there gaping like a fish at a flower-show! Where the deuce are my evening clothes?

Rapkin

[Staring at him.] I don't know if it's 'nother opt'cal d'lusion but you appear t' me to ha' gorrem on.

Horace

Eh, what? Nonsense! [Suddenly discovering that he is in a robe and turban.] Hang it! I can't dine in these things! Just see if you can't find no, there's no time. You haven't changed yet! Look sharp, the people will be here in a minute or two you must be ready to open the door to them.

Rapkin

[Looking round the hall.] I don't seem to see no doors on'y arches. I can't open a arch even if it would stay still.

Horace

Pull yourself together, man! [He twists Rapkin sharply round.] Come, a little cold water on your head will soon bring you round.

Rapkin

I'm comin' round. Don't see s'many arches already!

Mrs. Rapkin

[Rushing in from arch on right of centre arch.] Oh, William, William! Come away at once!

Rapkin

[Peacefully.] I'm aw'ri, M'rire!

Mrs. Rapkin

[Seeing Horace's costume.] Oh, Mr. Ventimore, who's been and dressed you up like that? Why, it's 'ardly Christian! [To Rapkin.] Come away out of this 'orrible 'ouse, do!

Rapkin

What's 'orrible about it?

Mrs. Rapkin

Everything! Can't you see it's all turned into Arabian 'alls?

Rapkin

Is it? [He suddenly becomes indignant.] 'Oo's bin and took sech a liberty?

Mrs. Rapkin

Ah, you may well ask! Oh, Mr. Ventimore. [Crossing to Horace.] You've a deal to answer for, you 'ave!

Rapkin

What? 'Im? 'E's done it all?

Horace

Mrs. Rapkin, don't you lose your head! I depend on you, you know. Get your husband away and make him sober or the dinner's bound to come to grief!

Mrs. Rapkin

Dinner indeed! And me unable to get into my own kitching for them nasty niggers o' yours as is swarmin' there like beedles! The gell's bolted already, and you and me'll go next, William, for stay under this roof with sech I won't!

[She drags Rapkin by the arm to arch up on right.
Horace

I say, Mr. Rapkin, don't you two desert me now! Just think of the hole I'm in!

Mrs. Rapkin

Bein' a 'ole of your own makin', sir, you can get out of it yourself! Come, William!

Rapkin

I'm comin', M'rire! [As he is dragged through arch by Mrs. Rapkin.] You'll 'ear more o' this, Mr. Ventimore!

Horace

[Alone on stage.] What's to be done now? Can't dine here! [The front door bell rings with a long jangling tingle.] There they are! What am I to do with 'em? It'll have to be the Carlton, after all! [He glances down at his robes.] Can't go like this, though! [He tries to take off his turban.] This damned thing won't come off! [Searching himself for money.] And where are my pockets? [With resigned despair.] Well, I suppose I must let them in, and and tell 'em how it is!

[As he turns to go up to the centre arch, the hangings are drawn back with a rattle, disclosing a smaller hall behind. A row of sinister-looking but richly robed black slaves forms on each side of the arch; a still more richly dressed Chief Slave salaams to Horace, and with a magnificent gesture ushers in the Professor, Mrs. Futvoye, and Sylvia, to each of whom the double row of slaves salaam obsequiously, to their intense amazement.
Professor Futvoye

[Coming down to the right and looking round him.] Why, why, why? What's all this? Where are we?

Mrs. Futvoye

[Following him closely.] We've evidently mistaken the house!

Sylvia

[Following her mother, and suddenly seeing Horace.] But surely that's yes, it is Horace!

[At a gesture from their chief, the slaves retire, and he follows.
Horace

[With some constraint, but trying to seem at his ease.] Yes, it's me all right. There's no mistake. Most awfully glad to see you!

Mrs. Futvoye

Dear me! [Coming towards Horace.] I really didn't recognise you for the moment.

Professor Futvoye

[Snappishly.] I don't know who would!

Horace

Oh, ah you mean in these things. I I must apologise for not dressing, Mrs. Futvoye, but the fact is, I I found myself like this, and I hadn't time to put on anything else.

Professor Futvoye

[Crossing to Horace.] Any apologies for the simplicity of your costume are quite unnecessary.

Sylvia

You really are magnificent, Horace! My poor frock is simply nowhere!

Professor Futvoye

[Glaring round.] I observe that this is a very different room from the one we were in this afternoon.

Horace

Ah, I thought you'd notice that! [Deciding on perfect candour.] I I'd better tell you about that. The the fact is

[He starts nervously, as the hangings of the centre arch are drawn back once more, the slaves form a double row, and their chief appears, beckoning to some one to follow him.
Pringle

[Heard outside, addressing Chief Slave.] Mr. Pringle. Mr. Spencer Pringle Oh, if you can't manage it, it don't matter! [He enters, and stares at the salaaming slaves, then round the hall.] My aunt!

Horace

[Coming forward.] Here you are, eh, old fellow?

[The slaves go out.

Pringle

[Staring after the slaves.] Yes, here I am. [Reproachfully, as he observes Horace's costume.] You might have told me it was a fancy-dress affair.

Horace

It isn't. I I'll explain presently.

Pringle

[Sees the Futvoyes, and crosses to them.] How do you do again, Miss Sylvia? How are you, Mrs. Futvoye? We meet sooner than we expected, eh? [Turning to the Professor.] Well, Professor, I suppose you weren't surprised at finding our good host in [he looks round the hall again] this exceedingly snug little sanctum? I must confess I am.

Professor Futvoye

My dear fellow, you can't be more surprised than we are!

Pringle

[With satisfaction.] You don't mean it! [Turning to Horace, who is on the other side of the hall, talking to Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia.] Then you've only just got this place finished, eh, Ventimore?

Horace

That's all, Pringle.

Professor Futvoye

To build and decorate such a place as this must have cost a very considerable sum of money.

Horace

You'd think so, wouldn't you? But it didn't.

Professor Futvoye

[Coming towards him.] And that costume you're wearing, those negroes in rich liveries, all this senseless profusion and display we see around us are you going to tell me they haven't cost you anything?

Horace

I I was going to explain about that. It's a most extraordinary thing, but well, you remember that old brass bottle I showed you this afternoon?

Professor Futvoye

Remember it? Of course I remember it! But what of it, sir, what of it?

Horace

Why er in a manner of speaking everything you see here has er more or less come out of that bottle

Professor Futvoye

[Infuriated.] That is enough, sir, that is enough! You choose to give me a frivolous answer! I will not submit to be treated like this I would rather leave the house at once. And I will, too!

[He makes a movement towards the arch. Sylvia and her mother look on in distress, and Pringle with secret gratification.
Horace

No, but I haven't finished! You see, it was like this: When I opened the bottle

Professor Futvoye

[Savagely.] Tchah! As you seem unable to realise that this is not a fit time for fooling, I will not stay here to be trifled with. Sophia, Sylvia, we must find some other place to dine in!

Sylvia

[Going to Horace, and speaking in a rapid undertone.] Horace! Can't you see? He means it. You must be serious or else !

Horace

[To her.] Yes, I see Professor, I'm sorry. I I never thought you'd be annoyed. All I really meant by by my feeble little joke was to tell you in a sort of figurative way, do you see? that that my luck has turned at last.

The Others

[Together.] Turned? How turned? What do you mean?

Horace

Well, I've got a client.

The Others

[As before.] A client? How? Where? When?

Horace

Just after you all left this afternoon. A clinking good client, too! He's asked me to build him a big country-house, and my commission can't come to less than seven or eight thousand pounds.

Pringle

[At the end of a general chorus of surprise.] Seven or eight thousand! [Incredulously.] May we know the name of this wonderful client of yours?

Horace

It's a Mr. Samuel Wackerbath, a big City auctioneer, I believe.

Sylvia

Why, he's my godfather!

Mrs. Futvoye

An old friend of ours. Eliza Wackerbath and I were at school together.

Horace

[To Professor.] So you see, sir, I I'm not so badly off as you thought. I can afford to to launch out a bit.

Professor Futvoye

[Somewhat mollified.] Hardly, I should have thought, to this extent. However, in the circumstances, I consent to remain.

Sylvia

[In an undertone to Horace.] I thought it was all over with us!

Horace

[In the same to her.] So did I! But I think I'm out of the cart this time.

[He goes up towards the left, talking to her.

Pringle

[Crossing to the Professor; in an undertone.] So glad you decided to stay, Professor. I was really half afraid you'd go as a protest against all this ostentation.

[Mrs. Futvoye is admiring the workmanship of the hangings.
Professor Futvoye

[In an undertone to Pringle.] I should have done so, Pringle, I should have done so but for the inconvenience of dining elsewhere at this hour. [Aloud, to Horace.] Ventimore! [Pringle joins Mrs. Futvoye.] I don't know if you are getting hungry, but I own I am. Will it be long before they announce dinner?

Horace

[Turning, with a start.] Dinner? Oh, I hope not I mean, I think not.

Professor Futvoye

I see no table is laid here. [Acidly.] But probably you have an equally spacious dining-hall adjoining this?

Horace

Yes. That is, probably, you know. I mean, it's quite possible.

[The curtains of the arch on left of centre arch are drawn.
Professor Futvoye

Do you mean to tell me you haven't settled yet where we are to dine?

Horace

[At a loss for an instant, then he suddenly sees the slaves enter from the arch on left, bearing a low round table, which they place in the centre of the hall.] Oh, we dine here, of course! here. I I leave it to these fellows.

[Four of the slaves fetch cushions and arrange them as seats around the table, the Chief Slave directing them.
Pringle

I say, Ventimore, what an odd idea of yours, having all these black footmen! Don't you find them a nuisance at times?

Horace

Oh, they they've only come in for the evening. You see they're er quieter than the ordinary hired waiter and and they don't blow on the top of your head.

Sylvia

[In an undertone, nervously.] Horace! I don't like them! They're so creepy-crawly, somehow!

Horace

[Suppressing his own antipathy.] After all, darling, we we mustn't forget that they're men and brothers. [To the others, as the Chief Slave advances to him and makes elaborate gesticulations.] I think what he means is that dinner is served. Shall we sit down?

Mrs. Futvoye

I don't see any chairs.

Horace

No. It it's such a low table, you see. So we sit on cushions. M much better fun!

Professor Futvoye

[Grimly.] May I ask if the entire dinner is to be carried out on strictly Arabian principles?

Horace

[Helplessly.] I I rather think that is the idea. I hope you don't mind, Professor?

Professor Futvoye

I am in your hands, sir, in your hands! Sophia!

[He indicates to Mrs. Futvoye that she is expected to sit down, and seats himself on the right of table with many precautions; Horace leads Mrs. Futvoye to a cushion on his right, and establishes Sylvia on his left, inviting Pringle to the place below Mrs. Futvoye and opposite the Professor. A slave brings on a large covered golden dish, which he places on the table in front of Horace.
Horace

[With a pathetic attempt to be cheery, as another slave raises the cover.] Ha! Now we shall see what they've given us!

[The expressions of the party indicate that, whatever the food may be, its savour is not exactly appetising.
Professor Futvoye

I should just like to remark that, having lived in the East myself and had considerable experience of native cooking, I expect to be extremely unwell to-morrow.

Horace

Let's hope for the best, Professor, hope for the best! [Turning to the Chief Slave behind him.] But, I say! You've forgotten the knives and forks. Nobody has any! What are these fellows about? [The Chief Slave explains in pantomime that fingers and thumbs are all that is necessary Eh? Do without them? Dip into the dish and help ourselves? Oh if you say we've got to! [To Mrs. Futvoye.] Mrs. Futvoye, can I persuade you to er have first dip?

Mrs. Futvoye

Really, Horace, I must get my gloves off first!

[She removes them.
Horace

It does seem a little messy. But quite Arabian, you know quite Arabian!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Vainly trying to reach the dish.] I'm such a long way off!

Horace

Yes. I think we'd better all er close up a bit.

[They all work themselves up uncomfortably on their respective cushions nearer the table.
Professor Futvoye

[As Horace takes Mrs. Futvoye's and Sylvia's right hands and guides them to the dish.] And he calls this a simple, ordinary little dinner!

Curtain

THE SECOND ACT

The scene is the Arabian Hall an hour later. The slaves are offering the guests water in golden bowls, and insisting on wiping their hands for them, an attention which the Professor resents.

Professor Futvoye

Ventimore!

Horace

[Seated in utter dejection.] Yes, Professor?

Professor Futvoye

I infer from the fact that the last course seemed to be something in the nature of ah sweets

[Mrs. Futvoye and Pringle exchange glances, and sigh audibly.
Horace

They were rather beastly, weren't they?

[A slave takes the Professor's hands with great respect, and inserts them into the bowl.
Professor Futvoye

As I was saying, I infer from that, and the circumstance that your attendant has again attempted to wash my hands, that the ah banquet has come to an end. Is that so?

Horace

[Miserably.] I hope so! I mean I think so.

Professor Futvoye

Then, as I have been suffering agonies of cramp from having had to sit for an hour on a cushion with my legs crossed, I should be glad, with your permission, to stretch them again.

Horace

So sorry! Mrs. Futvoye, shall we ?

[He helps Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia to rise. Pringle has also risen; the Professor remains on his cushion.
Professor Futvoye

I should be glad of some slight assistance.

[Sylvia comes to him; Horace and Mrs. Futvoye are by the divan on the left.
Pringle

[Crossing in front of table.] Allow me, Professor, allow me!

[He helps him to his feet.
Professor Futvoye

Thank you, Pringle, thank you. A word with you [drawing him away to the right, while Sylvia joins her mother and Horace up on the left.] Pringle. [Lowering his voice.] I declare to you that never, never have I been called upon to swallow a more repulsive and generally villainous meal! And that in a life which has had its ah ups and downs!

Pringle

It's the same here, I can assure you. I don't understand our host's partiality for Arab cookery. And the wine! [With a reminiscent shudder.] Did you try the wine?

Professor Futvoye

I did. It must have been kept in a goat-skin for years! And yet he must have spent a perfectly scandalous amount on this preposterous banquet of his!

Pringle

A small fortune! Ah, well I suppose he feels entitled to indulge in these costly fancies now.

Professor Futvoye

He's no business to just after he's engaged to my daughter!

Pringle

Ah! It's a thousand pities. Still he may give up some of this magnificence, when he's married.

Professor Futvoye

I shall take very good care he does that if he marries Sylvia at all!

[He lowers his voice still more, and the conversation continues in dumb show, Pringle by his manner showing that he is doing all in his power to prejudice Horace while ostensibly defending him. The slaves return, clear away cushions, and remove the table.
Horace

[To Mrs. Futvoye, while Sylvia stands slightly apart with a somewhat resentful expression.] It's awfully kind of you to be so nice about it but I know only too well you can't really have enjoyed it. It was a shocking bad dinner from start to finish!





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