F. Anstey.

The Brass Bottle: A Farcical Fantastic Play in Four Acts



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Mrs. Futvoye

[Tolerantly.] Oh, you mustn't say that! Perhaps, next time, if you could tell your landlady not to scent all the dishes quite so strongly with musk Ч

Horace

I shall certainly mention thatֆif I get the chance. [Looking across at the Professor, whose temper is evidently rising.] I'm afraid the Professor won't get over this in a hurry.

Mrs. Futvoye

Perhaps I'd better go and see how he's feeling.

[She crosses, leaving Horace with Sylvia.
Horace

[To Sylvia.] I can guess how you're feeling about this.

Sylvia

[Coldly.] Can you? Then it isn't necessary for me to tell you.

Horace

No, I Ц this little dinner of mine hasn't turned out quite as we expected, has it?

Sylvia

I don't know what you expected ЧI thought it was going to be so delightful!.. How could you be so foolish?

Horace

You see, dear, you don't understand how it all came about yet. If you'd only let me tell you Ч

Sylvia

I think you had much better say no more about it.

Horace

Ah, but I can't! I must get it off my chest. [Before he can begin the slaves enter once more, and shift the divans on either side to lower and rather more oblique positions, after which the Head Slave approaches Horace, and makes signs.] What do you want?

Sylvia

[Clinging to Horace.] Oh, don't let him come too near me!

Horace

[As the Chief Slave repeats the signs.] He sha'n't, darling Ц but he's quite friendly. He's only suggesting that we should sit down.

[Horace and Sylvia sit on the divan on left. The Chief Slave turns to Professor and repeats the gestures.
Professor Futvoye

[Puzzled and irritable.] What does he want me to do now?

Mrs. Futvoye

[Soothingly.] Why, to sit down, of course, and take your coffee comfortably.

Professor Futvoye

[Appeased.] Oh, is that it? [Going to divan on right.] I sha'n't be sorry to rest my back against something. [Sitting.] You'd better sit down yourself, Sophia.

Mrs. Futvoye

[Placidly.] I was going to, Anthony.

[She sits on the Professor's left.
Professor Futvoye

Plenty of room for you, Pringle.

[Pringle seats himself on Professor's right.] I think I might feel better after a cup of strong coffee ЧTurkish coffee Ц and perhaps a glass of liqueur brandy. [As the Chief Slave moves up to the centre arch without paying any attention to him.] As you said, Pringle, the attendance is disgraceful! [Raising his voice, and calling across to Horace.] Ventimore, is your Ц ah Ц major-domo Ц going to bring us our coffee and what not soon?

Horace

At once, Professor, at once!

[He claps his hands, and the Chief Slave stalks forward majestically.
Professor Futvoye

And a cigar Ц a good cigar, if it's not asking too much?

Horace

What am I thinking of? Of course! [To the Chief Slave.] Serve coffee at once, please. [The Chief Slave expresses in pantomime that he fails to understand Horace's desires.] I said "Coffee." You know what coffee is! [Apparently the Chief Slave does not.] I never saw such a fellow! Well, cigars, then! Come, you must know them! Things to smoke? [He imitates the action of smoking. The Chief Slave seems to take this as a dismissal. He salaams, motions to the other slaves to retire, upon which they all go out, then salaams once more and stalks off.] That beggar must be a born idiot! I can't make him understand.

Professor Futvoye

[Drily.] So I perceive. No matter, I must do without my usual after-dinner coffee, that's all! But at least, Ventimore, you must know where to lay your hand on your cigar-box!

Horace

I did Ц before the place was altered so,†Ц but I'm not sure if Ц [He rises.] I'll just go and have a look in my bedroom.

[He crosses and goes out by the lower arch on the right.
Pringle

[To the Professor.] Seems to me that Oriental hospitality has been rather over-rated!

Professor Futvoye

[Gloomily.] Ah! I know I wish I'd ordered our cab for ten o'clock, instead of eleven! Receiving us with all this ostentation, and yet grudging us the most ordinary comforts Ц I can't understand it!

Pringle

[Rising.] It may be his notion of humour. [As he moves across to Sylvia.] If you and Mrs. Futvoye and Miss Sylvia will only give me the pleasure of dining with me some night at the Holborn,†Ц or rather the Savoy Ц I would endeavour to wipe out the memory of this evening's sufferings.

[He takes Horace's place by Sylvia's side.
Professor Futvoye

Whenever you please, my dear Pringle, whenever you please,†Ц and the sooner the better! Sophia! [He turns to Mrs. Futvoye, and discovers that she is gently dozing.] Asleep! How she can do it!†Ц but I won't disturb her now. [To Horace, who returns from arch down right.] Well? Have you found your cigars?

Horace

[Standing in centre depressed.] No. There's nothing in there Ц except that beastly brass bottle. I am so sorry!

Sylvia

[Rising and going to Horace.] Horace! It is all over, isn't it? You're sure there's nothing more to come?

[Pringle, finding himself deserted, returns to his place on the divan by the Professor.
Horace

[Looking round anxiously.] I Ц I hope not. No, I think we're all right. We shall have no more trouble now all those black Johnnies have cleared out.

[At this moment there is a confused sound of Oriental instruments outside, with wailing cries. Sylvia turns from Horace, and goes back indignantly to the divan on the left. Horace follows, and sits by her.
Mrs. Futvoye

[Waking up as the music stops.] Dear me! What is that horrible noise? Not cats?

Professor Futvoye

Cats! No,†Ц it's Arab music! [To Horace.] So you've a fresh surprise in store for us, eh, sir?

Horace

[Forlornly.] It Ц it does sound rather like it, Professor.

[Four negro musicians enter, playing a tom-tom, mandoline, flageolet, and native fiddle respectively, while they chant a weird ditty, and sit cross-legged, right and left of the central arch.
Sylvia

[As the music stops.] Horace, this is really too bad of you! You assured me there was nothing more coming!

[She turns her shoulder on him with marked displeasure.
Pringle

So you keep a private band, do you, Ventimore?

Horace

No, no,†Ц of course I don't. It Ц it's only engaged for the evening.

Pringle

I see. Hired from the Arab encampment at Earl's Court, eh?

Horace

[Irritated.] You've guessed it first time, Pringle!

Pringle

That's odd. Because, now I come to think of it, there isn't any Arab encampment there this season.

Horace

Then they come from somewhere else. At all events, they're playing here for nothing.

Professor Futvoye

Ah! They know their own value!

Mrs. Futvoye

Now, Anthony, you're finding fault before they've even begun! [She rises.] That was only tuning, of course! [She passes in front of the Musicians, and then comes down to Horace.] Can they play English music? Do ask them if they know "The Choristers."

Horace

I'm afraid they're not at all likely to be familiar with it.

[The Musicians begin once more, and Mrs. Futvoye retreats hastily to the divan, as they sing and play for a few bars in hideous cacophony.
Pringle

[As they stop once more.] Vocal as well as instrumental, eh? Are they going to give us any more little things like that, Ventimore?

Horace

No. Not if I know it! They've done now!

[At this the music starts again, louder and more discordant than ever.
Professor Futvoye

[Springing to his feet in a fury, and shouting.] Ventimore! You must put a stop to this abominable din! Do you hear? I can't and won't put up with it!

Horace

[Rising, and going to the Musicians.] Here, you chaps! Hi! That's enough! [He claps his hands.] Get out! Get out!

[The Musicians seem to treat this as an encouragement, for they play with more vigour than ever; then, as they reach the climax, the music changes to slower strains, in which some sort of air is recognisable, and a troop of Oriental Dancing Girls come writhing and posturing in from the arches on right and left of the centre arch. Horace recoils in horror, and collapses on the divan by Sylvia's side.
Mrs. Futvoye

[Making her voice carry above the music.] And do these young persons come from Earl's Court, too?

Horace

[Wildly.] No! Oh, dear no! They come from Ц from Harrod's. The Entertainment Department, don't you know!

[He sits paralysed as the Principal Dancing Girl suddenly floats down from the central arch, and executes a slow and sinuous Oriental dance in the middle of the other performers. The Professor and his wife exchange scandalised comments, and Pringle endeavours to look shocked and grieved.
Horace

[As the Principal Dancing Girl has glided down opposite him, and stands posturing, with her eyes fixed on his face; to Sylvia.] I Ц I don't think she's bad.

Sylvia

[Coldly.] Don't you? I'm perfectly sure she is!

Horace

No, no. She Ц she's a lady and all that. They all are. Highly respectable girls! They only give their dances at private parties.

Sylvia

I don't think you need have engaged them for yours! Really, Horace!

[The music stops; all, except the Principal Dancer, who remains standing and smiling at Horace, fall on their hands and faces in a line across the stage.
Horace

It was a mistake. But I'll get rid of them! [He rises and goes towards the Principal Dancer.] It's charming Ц charming Ц but that will do, you know. You can go away now. You can all of you go away!

[The Principal Dancing Girl, with a swift, sudden movement, throws herself at his feet and embraces his knees; Sylvia starts up indignantly. The Professor, Mrs. Futvoye, and Pringle rise also.
Principal Dancing Girl

[In Arabic, in a tone of adoring submission.] Yah S?d?! Yah noor ainy! Yah nass al Kalbi S?d?!

Horace

[To the others.] She is a little hysterical, that's all Ц the artistic temperament. [As he succeeds in freeing himself.] I don't know what on earth she's talking about! I fancy she says she's feeling seedy.

Professor Futvoye

[Who has come down on the right.] "S?d?" Ц as you may well know Ц is the ordinary Arabic word for "Master," and, if I follow her correctly, she is calling you her Protector, the Light of her Eyes, and the Vital Spirit of her Heart!

[The Principal Dancing Girl has fallen on her hands and face in front of the others.
Sylvia

Oh! So this is what you were trying to confess to me!

Horace

She's quite mistaken, you know. I'm not the light of her eyes, I've never seen her before in all my life!

Sylvia

You think I believe that! [She rushes across to Mrs. Futvoye.] Oh, mother Ц mother!

Horace

Professor, you know Arabic. Couldn't you get these people to understand that they aren't wanted?

Professor Futvoye

[Coming forward.] I intend to. [In Arabic.] Eerga dugghery gowan illa bait bettah Harrood!

[As he speaks all the dancing girls raise their heads in horror, then rise screaming and holding their hands to their ears, and rush out through arches, followed by the musicians. The moment they disappear through the arches all is silent.
Pringle

[Coming down to centre.] They weren't long in taking your hint, Professor. What did you say to them?

Professor Futvoye

[Rather puzzled.] I merely told them, in the best Arabic I could command, to go back to Harrod's at once.

Mrs. Futvoye

I am quite sure they cannot have come from Harrod's!

Horace

You're perfectly right, Mrs. Futvoye. They didn't.

Professor Futvoye

[Advancing to him.] After that admission, you will hardly be surprised if I tell you Ц as I doЦ†that you may consider your engagement to my daughter at an end.

Horace

At an end! Why, what have I done?

Professor Futvoye

Done, sir, done? You ask that, after grossly insulting my wife and daughter by this Ц this outrageous exhibition!

[He goes up, followed by Pringle.
Horace

[Going to Mrs. Futvoye.] Mrs. Futvoye, you don't misunderstand me, I'm sure?

Mrs. Futvoye

[Icily.] For once, I entirely agree with my husband, and I believe Sylvia herself will tell you Ч

[She turns, and joins the Professor on the left.
Horace

No, she won't? Will you, Sylvia? You won't give me up?

Sylvia

What else can I do?

Horace

What else? Why, trust me, stick to me Ц in spite of everything and everybody!

Sylvia

After what I've just seen! No, that's too much to expect!†Ц unless, of course, you've some satisfactory explanation?

Horace

Well, I haveЦ†if you'll all promise to listen to it Ц you wouldn't when I tried to explain before, you know. Now you must hear me out! [They all prepare to listen attentively.] It's like this. Sylvia wasn't far wrong about that beastly jar I bought this afternoon Ц there was a Jinnee inside it.


Horace

There you are, you see! You won't give me a hearing! I ought to know what was inside the bottle, considering I let it out. Fakrash-el Чwhat did he tell me his name was?†Ц oh, Aamash Ц Fakrash-el-Aamash. He's a Jinnee. Of the Green Jinn.

Pringle

Well, we're not Green Jennies!

Horace

[Losing his temper.] Shut up, Pringle! This is my story Ц and you'll be good enough to let me finish it. Well, according to old Fakrash, he'd been sealed up in that bottle by Solomon Ч

Professor Futvoye

What, in the name of common sense, has all this to do with the case?

Horace

I'm coming to that, if you'll only have a little patience. Naturally, he was grateful to me for letting him out, and, in a weak moment, I Ц I blurted out that you were all coming to dinner here to-night. And what does the old idiot do but transform my rooms into these halls, and provide the whole entertainment himself! And Ц as might be expected Ц it was pretty rotten!

[He sinks on the divan on right in despair, as he sees the general incredulity.
Professor Futvoye

Ha! And you seriously expect us to believe this cock-and-bull story as an explanation Ц unsupported by any kind of proof?

Horace

Not unsupported, Professor! How about these halls?

Professor Futvoye

They are only evidence of your unbridled extravagance, sir! Where is this precious Jinnee you talk about? Produce him Ц let me see him with my own eyes, and I might Ц but, bah! you won't venture to accept that challenge, I'm sure of that!

[He crosses to Mrs. Futvoye and Pringle.
Horace

It's unfortunate Ц but Fakrash has Ц er Ц left the country. I don't expect him back for some time Ц if at all.

Professor Futvoye

Nor I, sir, nor I! Sophia, you and Sylvia had better go to the vestibule and get your things on.

Mrs. Futvoye

I am only too anxious to go. [To Sylvia.] Come, darling.

[She moves towards arch on right.
Sylvia

[In sudden alarm.] Mother! Not with all those horrid dancing-girls and things! They're in there!

Mrs. Futvoye

[At arch.] Trust me to deal with them!

[She goes out with Sylvia.
Professor Futvoye

[Going up and calling after them.] Make haste, Sophia! We must walk till we get a cab, that's all!

Horace

[Who has risen.] Professor, don't go yet. I've just remembered. If you'll only wait a moment, I believe I can bring you something to prove I've been telling the simple truth.

[He goes out by lower arch on right.

Professor Futvoye

[Approaching Pringle.] "Prove he's been telling the truth!" You heard that, Pringle? Did you ever hear such bare-faced impudence in all your life?

Pringle

[Virtuously.] Never, Professor, never! I quite share your indignation. Perhaps I may be allowed to accompany you? I am going your way.

Professor Futvoye

Do so, Pringle; do so, my dear fellow. As we may have to walk some distance, my daughter will be glad of your escort. [As Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia appear from arch up right.] Ah, they're ready, I see. Go and get your coat on and bring mine, and we'll leave at once.

Pringle

[With alacrity, as he goes up.] By all means, Professor! I won't be a minute.

[He goes out by the arch up right.
Horace

[Returning at the same moment from lower arch on right.] I've had a hunt Ц but I've found it. [He offers a metal cap to the Professor.] Now, if you'll only examine this, Professor.

Professor Futvoye

What do you mean by offering me that piece of dirty old metal, sir? Take the thing away!

Horace

It's the cap or stopper that belongs to that brass bottle. And, I don't know, but I rather fancy there's something engraved on it.

Professor Futvoye

Eh, what? [He takes the cap.] So far as I can tell by feeling it, there does seem to be Ц but what if there is Ц what if there is?

Horace

Well, it might refer to a Jinnee having been bottled up by Solomon, don't you know.

Professor Futvoye

Bah!†Ц but no matter. [He slips the cap into his tail-coat pocket.] Whatever it is, I will examine this inscription Ц after breakfast to-morrow morning. [Triumphantly.] And I shall decipher it, sir,†Ц you may depend upon that! [To Pringle, who returns with coat and helps him into it.] Thank you, my boy, thank you. Now, Sophia,†Ц if you are ready!

Mrs. Futvoye

I am only waiting for you, Anthony. [Frostily, to Horace.] Mr. Ventimore, I will wish you good-night.

[She goes out by central arch.
Pringle

[Approaching Sylvia.] Good-night, Ventimore. Miss Sylvia Ц [offering his arm] Ц I am to have the privilege of taking care of you.

Sylvia

[Declining his arm.] Thank you, Mr. Pringle,†Ц but I can quite well take care of myself. [She turns to Horace.] Horace, I want to say just this before I go Ц I will trust you still,†Ц in spite of everything and everybody!

Horace

[Putting his arm round her.] You little brick! And you won't have to go on trusting me much longer!

Professor Futvoye

[Interposing and separating them.] That she will not, sir! Let her go! [Horace releases Sylvia, who goes up towards central arch, Horace attempting to follow her, when he is stopped by the Professor.] Stay where you are!

[Sylvia and Pringle pass through to the outer hall.
Horace

Surely I may go as far as the door with her!

Professor Futvoye

[By the central arch.] Not another step, sir! One last word. This precious seal of yours will enable me to expose you as a shameless liar. That is all I have to say. Good evening.

[He goes out. Pause, the front door is heard to slam.
Horace

[To himself, in despair.] Gone! She's gone! [He flings himself down on the divan on the left, with his face to the audience.] The Professor may be right Ц the seal mayn't be Solomon's! How do I know old Fakrash hasn't been lying? And if he has Ц well, I'm done for! [Fakrash suddenly appears through the hangings, comes down to the divan, and touches Horace on the shoulder; Horace starts, then swings round to a sitting posture, facing Fakrash.] Eh? So you have come back!

Fakrash

[Benevolently.] May thy head long survive!

Horace

[Choking with rage.] If you'd only turned up four minutes earlier I could have introduced you to my guests. It's too late now!

Fakrash

Thou hast dismissed them already?

Horace

They've gone, anyhow.

Fakrash

[Beaming.] And were they not astounded by the magnificence of thy dwelling and the liberality of their entertainment?

Horace

Distinctly so. But I warn you Ц don't you press me on the subject of that entertainment. I can't trust myself to talk about it just yet.

Fakrash

Render me no thanks.

Horace

[Exasperated.] Thanks! Thanks!!

Fakrash

I perceive that something hath displeased thee.

Horace

[With an angry laugh.] No, do you? You're getting quite observant! Something jolly well has displeased me. Not so much the banquet Ц I could pass that Ц we did pass most of it! [Rising.] It was what came after the banquet!

Fakrash

After the banquet I provided that a company of houris, lovelier than the full moon and graceful as young gazelles, should dance for the delight of thy guests. [With uneasiness.] Can I have failed in bringing this to pass?

Horace

[Bitterly.] Oh, you brought that off all right Ц the houris came! [With rising resentment.] And what do you think the Chief Gazelle did?.. Hugged my knees and called me her lord and protector and the light of her eyes! Pretty good that Ц for a gazelle!

Fakrash

[With a fatuous smile of approval.] Excellent indeed!

Horace

[Turning on him.] Perhaps, when I tell you that the company included the young lady I was engaged to marry Чand her father and mother, and that they put the most unfavourable construction on the houri's behaviour, it may begin to dawn, even on you, that you might have been more tactful! I've lost Sylvia now Ц and all through you and your confounded gazelle!

Fakrash

[Pulling his beard, and appearing slightly disconcerted.] Verily thy fortune is unlucky! But dismiss uneasiness, for to remedy this mischance will be the simplest thing possible.

Horace

[More mildly.] Oh, if you'll do that! But how?

Fakrash

[Standing in centre of hall.] By procuring thee another bride of far greater beauty and accomplishments.

Horace

[Striding past him in a fury.] Another! You Ц you hopeless old ass! Can't you understand?

Fakrash

[Seizing his arm, and bringing him down the stage.] Wait! Thou hast not yet heard the list of her perfections. A forehead shall she have like the gleaming dome of a temple, eyes like unto blazing lamps, a nose that shineth brighter than a sword, teeth resembling pearls strung on native gold, a bosom Ч

Horace

Stop, I tell you! I don't want her Ц I won't have her! I want Sylvia, and I'll marry nobody else! Just get that into your muddled old head, will you! If you can't pull me out of this mess you've got me into, why the deuce have you come back at all?

[He sits on the divan on left.
Fakrash

I am returned to impart unto thee wondrous intelligence.

Horace

Oh? Well, fire away. Take a cushion.

[Flinging him one from the divan.
Fakrash

[Squatting on cushion.] Hearken! During my wanderings I have learnt that, beyond all doubt, Suleym?n, the son of D?ood, sleeps with his fathers!



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