F. Anstey.

The Brass Bottle: A Farcical Fantastic Play in Four Acts



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[He goes out hurriedly.
[Fakrash turns to the window and stands there with folded arms, looking out in sombre abstraction. Pringle and Horace are on the other side of the room.
Pringle

[Going towards the door to his office, and lowering his voice.] I don't think you'll see any more of Mr. Wackerbath after this.

Horace

[In an undertone.] No, I've lost himֆthanks to that old busybody over there. He's done my business!

Pringle

It serves you right for having him about. Where on earth did you pick him up? Who is he?

Horace

Surely you don't need to be told! Why, he's the old Jinnee who was inside the bottle.

Pringle

Rats!†Ц excuse the vulgarity!

Horace

Hang it! You must have noticed something queer about him!

Pringle

I haveֆand if he's the person you're relying on to remove the Professor's objections, I think the old gentleman should be warned against seeing him.

[He goes into his office and shuts the door; Horace returns to table, takes up the sheet on which he had been working, crumples it up, and flings it away.
Fakrash

[Turns from window to Horace.] Receive news! Henceforth I shall cease to busy myself about thine affairs.

Horace

[Sardonically.] That's the best news I've heard from you Ц so far.

Fakrash

[Gloomily.] Uneasiness hath entered into my heart and I am sore troubled.

Horace

So you ought to be after your latest performance. I suppose you know you've wrecked my chances as an architect? But never mind that now Ц have you found time to look up the Professor yet?

Fakrash

I have but lately parted from him.

[He comes to fireplace.
Horace

And you went to Cottesmore Gardens in that kit? [Amused in spite of himself.] If you could only see yourself!

Fakrash

Didst thou not order me to assume such apparel as is worn in this city?

Horace

I didn't say on the 5th of November! However, you saw him. Did you get your seal back?

Fakrash

Nay, for the sage protested that he had mislaid it!

Horace

Oh, well, never mind Ц it'll turn up in time. What I really want to know is whether you convinced him that you'd come out of the brass bottle?

Fakrash

[Sombrely.] As to that I can tell thee naught.

On hearing that I came from thee, he reviled me as a person of no reputation, and threatened to summon a certain constable and have me delivered into custody. Whereupon I took measures Ц [he smiles cunningly] Ц to ensure his silence.

Horace

[Falling back in his chair in sudden terror.] His Чsilence! You Ц you old devil! You Ц you've not Чkilled him!

Fakrash

Nay, nay, I have not so much as harmed a hair of his head.

Horace

[Rising.] Phew! What a fright you gave me! [Moving towards fireplace, then turning.] But you've been up to some devilry or other Ц I'm sure of it. What have you done to him? Out with it!

Fakrash

[Going up towards door.] It was necessary for my security to Ц [at door] Ц transform him into a one-eyed mule.

Horace

[Petrified with horror.] A one-eyed what!

Fakrash

[Walks through the door, then turns, remaining visible through the door panels.] A one-eyed mule of hideous appearance. Farewell to thee.

[He disappears; Horace seizes his hat and rushes madly out as the curtain falls.
END OF THE FIRST SCENE OF THE THIRD ACT
SCENE II

The scene represents the drawing-room at 47 Cottesmore Gardens, Kensington.

It is a pleasant room, tastefully furnished. On the left a recessed fireplace, in which are ferns; on the mantelpiece are some large blue and white beakers and vases. On the right a bay-window and window-seat. The windows are wide open, showing window-boxes filled with scarlet geraniums and marguerites, and a quiet street with detached houses. At the back, on the right, is a door opening on the hall. To the left of this door are sliding-doors shutting off the Professor's study. In front of these sliding-doors is a long high backed sofa, completely covered in chintz, the flounce of which touches the floor. At the rising of the curtain these doors are closed. Behind them are curtains. Near the fireplace are an armchair and a small table. Against the wall, below the fireplace, is a cabinet. Between the sliding-doors and the door to the hall is another cabinet with door, which, when opened, shows shelves filled with ancient pottery. Above the bay-window is a bureau. Below it are a sofa and a small table.

As the curtain rises Mrs. Futvoye is seen seated in chair by the fireplace, trying to do some embroidery, though her thoughts are evidently elsewhere. From behind the sliding-doors proceed sounds as of some animal kicking and plunging.

Sylvia's voice is then heard crying: "Father, please don't!" [A succession of dull thuds as of battering hoofs.] "Oh, do take care!"

Mrs. Futvoye

[Lays down her work, rises, goes to the sliding-doors, and knocks.] Anthony! Don't go on like that, for goodness' sake! You must try and control yourself! Just think, if the servants heard you! [Jessie, a neat parlour-maid in morning costume, pink print, cap, and apron, enters from hall; Mrs. Futvoye hurriedly leaves the sofa by the sliding-doors, goes back to her chair, and takes up her work with an elaborate assumption of perfect calm.] What is it, Jessie? I haven't rung.

Jessie

I know, madam. But there's such a noise in the master's study I was afraid something had happened.

Mrs. Futvoye

[Severely.] Then it was very foolish of you. What should have happened? If you heard anything, it probably came from next door.

[Sounds of stamping from within sliding-doors, and then a noise as if some piece of furniture had been overturned.
Jessie

There it is again, madam! And it does seem to come from the study!

[Sounds as before, rather louder.
Mrs. Futvoye

Oh, that? That's nothing, nothing! The Professor is merely shifting some of the furniture.

Jessie

[Evidently devoured by curiosity.] Won't he find it too much for him, madam? Perhaps I might be able to help.

[She makes a movement towards the sliding-doors.
Mrs. Futvoye

You're not to go in there! You know your master allows nobody to touch his things. I can't have him disturbed.

[More stamping and banging Ц then a crash of broken glass.

Jessie

He seems to be disturbing of himself, madam Ц just had an accident with something. Hadn't I better go in and clear it up?

[She again makes a movement towards the sliding-doors.
Mrs. Futvoye

Certainly not! Leave the room and attend to your work. [The front door bell rings.] Good gracious! the visitors' bell! Jessie, I'm not at home! Nobody is at home! Whoever it is, mind!

Jessie

[Who has gone to the door leading to the hall and opened it, turns to Mrs. Futvoye.] I forgot to mention it, madam, but after that foreign gentleman called to see the master this morning, I found there's something wrong with the catch of the front door Ц leastways, I can't get it to shut, do what I will.

[Pringle comes in through the door which Jessie is holding open.
Mrs. Futvoye

[Rises and makes a step forward.] Mr. Pringle! You can go, Jessie.

[Jessie goes out with an air of baffled curiosity.

Pringle

[Shaking hands with Mrs. Futvoye.] Pray excuse my coming in unannounced Ц but it's rather urgent.

Mrs. Futvoye

How do you do, Mr. Pringle? [Indicating the sofa below the window.] Do sit down.

Pringle

I feel reassured already. I had a dreadful apprehension that I might come too late.

Mrs. Futvoye

[With a pathetic attempt to maintain appearances.] Half past twelve is surely quite early enough. Not that I am anything but delighted to see you, at any time.

Pringle

You are very kind. [He sits down.] But Ц to be quite frank Ц I called to see the Professor. Could I have a word or two with him at once?

Mrs. Futvoye

[Who has taken a chair near the sofa.] I'm so sorry Ц but that's really impossible just now.

Pringle

Indeed? I trust he is not unwell Ц after last night?

Mrs. Futvoye

N Ц not unwell exactly. But Ц not quite his usual self.

[More noise from study, and Sylvia's voice heard exclaiming: "Papa! Papa!"

Pringle

[Looking round.] He seems to be in his study,†Ц and I thought I heard Miss Sylvia's voice.

Mrs. Futvoye

Yes Ц yes Ц he Ц he's particularly busy this morning.

[Increased noise.
Pringle

[Puzzled.] So it appears. But Ц [rising] Ц I wouldn't interrupt him for long, and it really is most important.

Mrs. Futvoye

[Rising in agitation.] I do assure you he can see nobody at present.

[She seats herself, persuading him to sit down also.
Pringle

But, Mrs. Futvoye,†Ц if you knew what I have discovered Ц !

Mrs. Futvoye

[Rising again.] Discovered!

Pringle

About Ventimore. I want to put the Professor on his guard against receiving any Ц er Ц emissary from him.

Mrs. Futvoye

[Slightly relieved.] Oh, he's not likely to do thatֆhe has much more important matters to think about!

[The noise is renewed; stamping, plunging, overturned chairs.
Pringle

Just so. Then Ц if I might speak to Miss Sylvia?

Mrs. Futvoye

[Hastily.] She is very busy too, helping my husband. [Here the noise reaches its finale in a resounding crash and clatter of falling furniture and shivered glass; Mrs. Futvoye proceeds without appearing to have noticed it.] He Ц he sometimes makes use of her as Ц as his amanuensis.

[The sliding-doors are suddenly run back, and Sylvia appears. She does not see Pringle, who has risen and moved to the right, from which position he can see into the study. Mrs. Futvoye makes a movement towards her to check any disclosures.
Sylvia

[In despair.] Oh, Mother! Mother! You must come to father! He's kicking worse than ever, and I can't manage him any longer!

Pringle

[To himself, recoiling, after a glance through the sliding-doors, off.] My hat!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Warningly, as Sylvia carefully closes sliding-doors, pushes the sofa aside, and comes down.] Sylvia! Don't you see Mr. Pringle?

Sylvia

[Turning and starting.] Oh! What have I said?

Mrs. Futvoye

Nothing, my dear. [Turning to Pringle.] I must ask you to excuse me, Mr. Pringle. My husband is a little irritable this morning. [Going up to sliding-doors.] A sharp attack of Ц of gout. In both legs, you know! [She slips in behind the long sofa, pushes back doors, draws the curtains behind them.] Anthony, you must not excite yourself like this.

[She goes into study, closing the sliding-doors after her. A slight pause. Sylvia pushes the sofa back against the sliding-doors and seats herself on it.
Pringle

[Approaching the sofa, with sympathy.] I really had no idea your father was Ц was as bad as all this.

Sylvia

[On her guard.] People do kick, Mr. Pringle, when they have gout Ц in both legs.

Pringle

Do they? I should hardly have thought Ц particularly Ц [with meaning] Ц if they've gout in Ц all four.

Sylvia

[Shrinking back.] "All four!" Then Ц you know!

Pringle

Pardon me Ц but I couldn't help catching a glimpse just now Ц through these doors.

Sylvia

A glimpse? What did you Чsuppose you saw?

Pringle

I had an impression Ц of course I may be quite wrong!†Ц that any one who didn't know your father might almost mistake him, at first sight, for Ц I am trying to put it as delicately as I can Ц for some kind of Ц er Чquadruped.

[He sits on sofa beside her.

Sylvia

You mean a mule! [She rises in tears, and crosses to the mantelpiece.] I think I could have borne it better if he'd only been a nice mule. B Ц but Ц [breaking down] Ц he isn't!

Pringle

[Rising and going towards her.] You don't say so! [Sympathetically.] That, of course, must make it all the harder for you.

Sylvia

[Tearfully.] His temper is simply fearful! Why, just now, when I said he must try to manage some oats or a carrot for lunch, he Ц he lashed out and sent his hoofs through the mummy-case!

Pringle

Dear Ц dear! Perhaps if you could persuade him to see a vet Ц [Correcting himself.] I mean a doctorЧ

Sylvia

[Crossing towards sofa on right.] It would be no use Ц he never will take medicine! And what are we to do with him? It's too dreadful to think that he may have to be sent to Ц to a Home of Rest for Horses!

[She sinks on sofa, and bursts into tears once more.
Pringle

[Following her.] He never was what you might call a "horsey" man Ц let us hope he won't come to that! Have you any idea how he came to be Ц er Ц affected like this?

Sylvia

[Resentfully, through her tears.] There's no affectation about it, Mr. Pringle Ц oh, you mean "afflicted" Ц we can't think. He wasn't as bright as usual at breakfast Ц I think he was rather worried because he couldn't find that seal Horace lent him last night Ч

Pringle

But no amount of worryֆ! Pardon me, I interrupt you.

[He takes a chair by the sofa.
Sylvia

Well; then Jessie came in to say that a foreign gentleman had called to see him on important business. Father told her to show him into the study, and went in presently to hear what he came about. We heard them arguing, and father's voice seemed to be getting angry, so mother went in to beg him not to excite himself. She found father alone, and Ц just as she opened the door Ц he Ц he changed into a mule before her eyes.

[She breaks down entirely.
Pringle

Really? It Ц it must have upset her considerably.

Sylvia

It did. But, luckily, mother never loses her head. She locked the study doors at once, and we shut these, and I don't think the servants suspect anything at present. But they're sure to find out before long.

Pringle

Yes. I'm afraid it's bound to leak out.

Sylvia

But how could this horrible thing have happened?

Pringle

[Solemnly.] My dear Miss Sylvia, let me remind you that "there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in Ц "

Sylvia

[Petulantly.] Oh, don't quote that now, Mr. Pringle! It is so stale!

Pringle

[With wounded dignity.] It may be stale Ц but it's Shakespeare! And I can only conclude that Ц even in the twentieth century Ц magic is not the lost art I had always imagined it.

Sylvia

[Turning to him with more interest.] Then you believe now that Horace did find a Jinnee in that brass bottle?

Pringle

[Rising.] No, no. I don't go as far as that.

Sylvia

How far do you go?

Pringle

Well, I know that Ventimore is associated with an elderly Oriental who possesses extraordinary will-power. This very morning, in Ventimore's own office, they played a highly unprofessional and discreditable trick between them on your own godfather, Mr. Wackerbath.

Sylvia

On godfather! No, no, I'm sure Horace had nothing to do with that!

Pringle

I was thereЦ†and he evidently had a great deal to do with it. I thought at the time it was hypnotism Ц but it's clear enough now that this confederate of Ventimore's is a powerful and most unscrupulous magician.

Sylvia

[Springing up indignantly, and crossing to fireplace.] I won't hear any more! You're trying to make me doubt Horace again Ц but you can't! you can't! I know he'd never send a magician to hurt father! [As Horace enters from the hall, looking pale and wild.] Ah! Horace, you needn't tell me! You at least have no share in what has happened!

Horace

[Going to her and taking both her hands.] Darling! For Heaven's sake tell me what has happened?

Sylvia

[Triumphantly.] You hear, Mr. Pringle? He doesn't even know! Now will you dare to repeat what you were saying Ц to his face?

Pringle

If you insist. I've been saying, Ventimore, that I believe you to have inspired this abominable transformation of the Professor.

Horace

It's true, then? He Ц he really is a mule?

Sylvia

[Disengaging herself, with a sudden doubt.] Horace, tell me Чdid you send any one to father!

Horace

[Sinking into chair by sofa.] Heaven forgive me! I did.

Sylvia

[Recoiling from him with aversion.] To transform him into a mule?

[She goes to a chair below fireplace, and seats herself in despair.
Horace

[Rising and going towards her.] No, no! I wanted old Fakrash to convince him that he really had been in the bottle Ц but not like this! I thought I could trust him to do that! [Bitterly.] But I might have known!

Pringle

So you still stick to that story about the Jinnee?

Horace

Surely even you must believe it now?

Pringle

I Ц I admit that it doesn't seem so incredible as it did. But, if true, there's all the less excuse for you. Because you can make this Jinnee, or whatever he is, do anything you tell him. You can't deny that Ц I've seen you do it, you know!

Sylvia

Ah!

Horace

I can manage him right enough when he's thereֆit's when I haven't got my eye on him that he makes all these mistakes.

Sylvia

But why should he change poor father into a one-eyed mule? It's so utterly unreasonable!

Horace

I'm afraid the Professor alarmed him by threatening to send for a constable. However, darling Ц and this is what I'm here to tell you Ц it won't last long. I'll take care that your father will soon be restored.

Sylvia

[Rising, overjoyed.] You will? Oh, I must tell them! [Rushing to the sliding-doors and slightly opening them.] Mother, mother! I've news Чgood news!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Looking cautiously through the opening.] What is it, Sylvia? [Sees Horace with displeasure.] Mr. Ventimore! You here! [Stamping heard from study. Mrs. Futvoye turns and speaks over her shoulder.] Keep back, Anthony! Keep back! Remember Ц you're not fit to be seen, as you are!

Sylvia

[Happily.] It doesn't matter, mother. They both know. And Horace is going to make father all right again.

Mrs. Futvoye

Oh, in that case Ч

[She pushes the sofa aside and comes through, leaving the sliding-doors open, and pulling the curtains back, but replacing the sofa.
Horace

Mrs. Futvoye, I've something to say which I think will cheer the Professor up a bit.

Mrs. Futvoye

Unless you can say how and when my husband may expect to see an end of all this Ч

Horace

I shall make old Fakrash see to that.

Mrs. Futvoye

Make old Fakrash see to it?

Horace

The Jinnee I let out of that brass bottle. I told you all about him last night. You didn't believe me then.

Pringle

None of us did. But I'm afraid, Mrs. Futvoye, we've got to believe now.

Mrs. Futvoye

[To Horace.] Then Ц are you responsible for this?

Horace

Indirectly. Only indirectly. I couldn't prevent Fakrash making an ass of himself.

Mrs. Futvoye

You might have prevented his making a mule of my husband!

[Another plunge and crash of glass from behind.
Horace

I wasn't consulted! But I will say this for old Fakrash Ц nobody's readier to repair a blunder when once it's pointed out to him. He'll do anything for me.

Mrs. Futvoye

Then send for him and insist on his repairing what he's done here.

Sylvia

[Eagerly, down on right.] Yes, yes. Send for him, Horace, send for him!

Horace

[Heavily.] I'm afraid it wouldn't be any use.

Pringle

Nonsense! You could make him come if you chose!

Horace

I tell you I can't. I don't even know where he is Ц or if he hasn't gone off to Arabia again Ч

Mrs. Futvoye

Off to Arabia! [Going towards him.] And when Чwhen is he likely to be back?

Horace

[Suddenly.] Oh! [He collapses into the chair above the fireplace.] I Ц I've only just remembered. He told me he was going to settle down there!

[General consternation.

Mrs. Futvoye

And is my husband to remain a mule for the rest of his life?

[Furious plunging heard from study.
Horace

[In a choked voice.] Don't ask me, Mrs. Futvoye Ц don't ask me!

Pringle.

[Coming towards Horace.] I thought, Ventimore, you came to cheer the Professor up?

Sylvia

Horace, if you don't summon that odious Jinnee this instant, I shall hate you! I'm beginning to, as it is!

Horace

[Rising and coming towards her.] My darling, I'd do any mortal thing I could Ц but I'm helpless! [At this instant Fakrash, in Oriental robe and turban, and a long green cloak, suddenly emerges from the cabinet between the sliding-doors and the door to the hall, and stands scowling and evidently trying to repress both rage and fear. Horace sees him first.] No, I'm not! Hooray! we're saved! He's turned up, after all! [The others retreat towards the fireplace in alarm.] Leave him to me. I know how to manage him. [He approaches Fakrash.] So here you are! If you aren't ashamed of yourself, you jolly well ought to be! A pretty mess you've landed us in this time! Just you get us out of it again!

Fakrash

[Waving him aside.] No greeting to thee! I have come upon my own affairs.

Horace

You'll attend to mine first. Undo this infamous spell of yours Ц do you hear?

Fakrash

[Sullenly.] I will grant nothing more at thy request.

Horace

I don't think you quite understand. I don't requestֆI command. On the head and on the eye!

Fakrash

Thou art wasting breath. No longer am I under obligation to thee, O thou perfidious one!

Horace

[Anxiously.] Why Ц what's come to you? [Coaxingly.] I say! Fakrash Ц old chappie. Don't play the goat now! You can't mean to leave me on the mat like this!

Fakrash

[Glaring at him.] Canst thou not perceive how hateful thou hast become to me?

Horace

I do notice a coolness. But why? You were chummy enough not half an hour ago!

Fakrash

[Going from him towards right.] I had not then discovered thy treachery.

Horace

You're barking up the wrong tree, as usual, you know. Come Ц tell me what it's all about?

Fakrash

Not now. I will deal with thee hereafter, misbegotten cur that thou art!

[He stalks towards window.
Mrs. Futvoye

[From below fireplace, to Horace.] You don't seem to be managing him very well so far.

Pringle

[Coming down to Horace.] You gave us to understand that he would do anything for you.

Horace

So he will, generally Ц but not just now. [Crossing to Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia, while Fakrash remains apart, with his back to the others.] He's suddenly turned nasty Ц I've no idea why. But I shall bring him round Ц in time.



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