F. Anstey.

The Brass Bottle: A Farcical Fantastic Play in Four Acts



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Mrs. Futvoye

It's my husband who has to be brought round Ц and there's no time to be lost!

Horace

I know Ц but if I press Fakrash in his present mood, I shall only make matters worse.

Pringle

Well, if you can't Ц or won'tЦ†get him to do something, one of us must try! Perhaps if Miss Sylvia could bring herself to appeal to his better feelings Ц ?

Sylvia

[Shrinking back.] People who come out of bottles can't have better feelings! I couldn't Чreally, I couldn't.

Pringle

You'd rather not? [Sylvia shudders.] Then I must see what I can do.

Mrs. Futvoye

How good of you!

Horace

[Drawing Pringle back as he is going towards Fakrash.] I wouldn't, Pringle! He's in a vile temper. And, unless you're anxious to become a domestic animal of some sort Ч

Sylvia

Pray don't run such a risk, dear Mr. Pringle!

Pringle

I shall be very careful, and I trust that, with ordinary tact Ц [He makes a step towards Fakrash.] Ahem! [Fakrash turns suddenly round with a feline snarl; all retreat to left; Pringle pulls himself together and tries again.] My Ц my dear sir, may I ask your attention for a few moments?

Fakrash

[Striding towards him.] Who art thou? Ц a friend of yonder serpent's?

Horace

[Indignantly.] Oh, I say! "Serpent," you know! "Serpent" is a bit Ч

[Fakrash ignores him.

Pringle

No, no, I repudiate him. I represent this unfortunate family Чthey repudiate him too.

Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia

[Together.] Yes, yes, indeed Чindeed we do!

[Horace sinks speechlessly on chair by sofa on right.
Fakrash

[To Pringle.] I will hearken unto thee, for indeed thou seemest a person of abundant intelligence and excellent conduct.

Pringle

You're very kind Ц I hope I am. Hem! [Going nearer Fakrash.] I am sure, sir, that, if you had realised the serious embarrassment you have caused the members of this household by transforming its head into a one-eyed mule, you would never have allowed your Ц your sense of humour to carry you so far.

Fakrash

For mine own safety was it accomplished Ц for the sage threatened to deliver me into custody.

Horace

[Starting up and coming towards Fakrash.] He never meant it! And, anyhow, you're safe enough!

Fakrash

[Turning on him fiercely.] Hold thy lying tongue!

Pringle

Ventimore, I must beg you not to interfere.

Horace

Damn it all, Pringle, he's my Jinnee Ц not yours!

[He attempts to join Mrs.
Futvoye and Sylvia, who turn their backs on him, after which he returns to his former place, crushed.
Pringle

[To Fakrash.] Evidently, sir, there has been some slight misunderstanding on both sides. But I feel confident that, if you will only consent to see this unfortunate gentleman, the matter can very soon be amicably arranged.

Fakrash

I am here for this very purpose. Let this learned man appear before me.

Pringle

I won't keep you waiting long. [He goes up to the sliding-doors and calls.] Professor! If you will kindly step this way, Mr. Fakrash would be glad to see you.

[A pause. The Mule comes slowly on from the left side of the sliding doors.
Horace

[Overwhelmed.] Great Heavens above!

Pringle

[Trying to be polite and at his ease.] Er Ц how do you do, Professor? Sorry to see you looking so Ц so unlike yourself. [The Mule shows irritation; Pringle retreats nervously; then, in an undertone to Mrs. Futvoye.] He Ц he can't jump that sofa, can he?

Mrs. Futvoye

[In an undertone, to him.] Of course not Ц that's why it's there!

Pringle

[To Fakrash.] A distinguished arch?ologist, sir, a corresponding member of every learned society in Europe Ц reduced to these extremities! [To The Mule, which seems to feel its position acutely.] Professor, as Ventimore has refused to interfere, I have taken on myself to assure this Ц this venerable Jane Ч

Horace

[In an undertone to Pringle.] Jinnee! Call him "Jinnee"!

Pringle

[To Horace.] I prefer to leave such familiarities to you, Ventimore Ц [To Mule.] Ц this venerable personage, Professor, that if you have inadvertently offended him, you are ready to make any reasonable apology. That is so?

[The Mule bows its head.
Fakrash

Ask if he be willing to surrender the stopper of the bottle wherein I was enclosed.

[Mule shakes head.
Pringle

Now, Professor, if you consent to a request which I must say seems to me a very moderate and proper one, will you Ц er Ц signify the same in the usual manner by raising Ц er Ц your right ear?

[The Mule's left ear goes up sharply.
Fakrash

The left ear! He refuseth!

Pringle

No, no, he meant the right ear Ц he hasn't got complete muscular control as yet. I really think we should get on better if you gave him back his power of speech.

Fakrash

It may be so. [He approaches The Mule and addresses it.] O thou of remarkable attainments, whom I have caused to assume the shape of this mule, speak, I command thee, and say if thou wilt restore my stopper.

The Mule

[Laying back its ears and showing its teeth.] I'll see you damned first!

[General sensation.
Mrs. Futvoye

[Going towards The Mule in distress.] Oh! he wouldn't be so obstinate if he wasn't a mule!

Fakrash

[To The Mule.] Thou art trifling with my safety and thine own! Reveal unto me the spot in which thou hast hidden the stopper and delay not Ц for it will be no difficult undertaking to transform these women of thine into mules like thyself.

[Horror of Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia, and despair and rage of Horace, who rises and rushes towards Fakrash.
The Mule

You can do it for all I care Ц !

Mrs. Futvoye

Oh, Anthony!

The Mule

We shall at least be a more united family than we are now!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Frantically.] Anthony! Don't provoke him! Think of others!

Fakrash

[With some anxiety.] Hearken! I am disposed to show thee indulgence. Obey,†Ц and I will restore thee to what thou wert.

The Mule

Why couldn't you say so before? I'll accept those terms, as there's no alternative. Only Ц [with his head on one side reflectively] Ц I can't for the life of me recollect what I did with that seal. Tut-tut!

Mrs. Futvoye

Oh, Anthony! Think! Think!

[General suspense and excitement.
The Mule

[Irritably.] I am thinking, Sophia! [After further reflection.] Ah! I remember now! I put it inside one of the vases on the mantelpiece, for safety.

[Horace looks aimlessly under the table and sofa; Mrs. Futvoye, Sylvia, and Pringle rush to the fireplace and search the vases.
Mrs. Futvoye and Sylvia

[Turning vases upside down.] Which? Which? No. It's not there! It's not here.

Pringle

[As he finds the metal cap in the last vase.] I've got it! [Going to Fakrash, and presenting it.] Allow me, sir.

[Fakrash snatches it eagerly. Pringle goes up to The Mule and reassures it, Mrs. Futvoye accompanying him.
Fakrash

[Gloating over the cap.] It is indeed my stopper! Now shall I be secure from disturbance!

Horace

[Going to Fakrash, seizing his arm, and drawing him to the right; then, in an undertone.] Pitch into me afterwards if you like Ц but listen now. You must keep your side of the bargain!

Fakrash

[Coldly.] What I have promised I perform.

Horace

[Relieved.] Ah, I knew you were a good old sort Ц at bottom. And Ц I say Чdo make them understand that I've had nothing to do with all this.

Fakrash

[Grimly.] Have no uneasiness Ц for thou shalt receive justice. [Horace retires to sofa on right, expecting to be rehabilitated.] Hear, O company, my words! I repent of my conduct in obeying the orders of yonder wretch Ц [pointing to Horace, who gasps in stupefaction] Ц who is seeking even now to deter me from showing kindness.

Horace

Liar! Liar!

Fakrash

Being desirous of escaping marriage with this damsel Ц [with a step towards Sylvia] Ц he commanded me to transform her father as ye see. And I, whom he had delivered from a bottle of brass, was compelled by gratitude to fulfil all his desires.

Horace

[Going up to Fakrash furiously.] You infernal old scoundrel! [Fakrash smiles malignantly and stalks off to the right; Horace crosses to Sylvia.] You don't believe him, Sylvia? You can't!

Sylvia

Don't speak to me! Don't come near me!

[Mrs. Futvoye and Pringle express disgust and indignation.
Horace

You're devilish hard on me, all of you. [He staggers to the sofa in front of sliding-doors and falls back, hitting his head against The Mule's nose; The Mule makes a grab at him; he rises in confusion.] I Ц I beg your pardon, sir!

[He retreats to the left of the sofa.
Sylvia

[Down on left, to Fakrash.] But you won't obey him any longer, will you? You are going to restore poor father?

Fakrash

[On the right.] Let him first swear that he and all his household will preserve secrecy concerning this affair.

The Mule

[Angrily.] Damn it, sir, we're not likely to chatter about it!

Pringle

[Approaching Fakrash, reassuringly.] It will never be allowed to go beyond the family.

Fakrash

[To Pringle.] O eloquent and comely-faced one, I accept thy undertaking, for thou art indeed a worthy and honourable person. [As Pringle, highly flattered, returns to The Mule, Fakrash beckons Mrs. Futvoye.] In order that I may restore thy husband, bring me hither a cup of fair water.

Mrs. Futvoye

There's some in the dining-room. [Going towards door to hall.] At least, it's filtered, if that will do!

The Mule

Don't ask foolish questions, Sophia Ц do as you're told!

Mrs. Futvoye

[With dignity.] I think you forget yourself, Anthony!

[Pringle opens the door for her, and she goes out.
Sylvia

[Going to Pringle, and taking his hand.] Dear, dear Mr. Pringle! Where should we be without you?

Pringle

[Modestly.] Don't mention it, Miss Sylvia! That is Ц no trouble, I assure you!

[They come down together to the left, talking in dumb show.
Horace

[Going to Fakrash on the right.] You Ц you pig-headed old muddler Ц [pointing to Sylvia and Pringle] Ц look at that! You've done for me this time.

Fakrash

[Darkly.] Nay Ц not yet.

[Mrs. Futvoye enters from the hall, carrying a glass goblet full of water.
Mrs. Futvoye

[To Fakrash.] I've brought it in this, but if you prefer a breakfast-cup Ч

The Mule

[Impatiently.] What the devil does it matter? Let him get on with it!

Fakrash

[As he meets Mrs. Futvoye and takes the goblet from her.] This will serve. [He goes up to The Mule and sprinkles some drops of water on its head.] Quit this form and return unto the form in which thou wert!

[The Mule fades into the Professor, who appears gasping and in an extremely bad temper; Pringle shifts the sofa to let him pass; Fakrash retires to near the window.
Sylvia

[Rushing to the Professor.] Father!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Coming to his other side.] Now, Anthony, after all you have been through, you'd better sit down for a little.

Sylvia

[As she and Mrs. Futvoye bring him down to the chair left of sofa on right.] It is lovely to have you back, father dear!

Pringle

[Joining them.] You're looking better already, sir!

Professor Futvoye

[Sinking into the chair by sofa.] Tut-tut! There, there Ц nothing to make all this fuss about! If one of you had only had the sense to try cold water, I should have come round long before this!

Sylvia

But, father!†Ц you forget that, but for Mr. Pringle Ч

Professor Futvoye

No, my dear, I do not. I owe much Ц very much Ц to Pringle's good offices Ц as I shall remember, my dear Pringle, as I shall remember. But I attribute my restoration in some measure to the fact that Ц from first to last Ц I was able to preserve perfect calm and self-control.

Pringle

[With an involuntary glance at the study, in which every article of furniture is smashed.] Quite so! And now I want you Ц all three Ц to celebrate your recovery by dining with me this evening at the Savoy. You promised you would last night, Professor. Not in the restaurant Ц I'll engage a private room.

Professor Futvoye

No, no Ц not to-night, my boy. I don't feel up to going out just yet.

Mrs. Futvoye

Nonsense, Anthony! You can dine out anywhere now, you know Ц and it will do you good. Thank you, Mr. Pringle, we shall be delighted. Sha'n't we, Sylvia?

Sylvia

I think I would rather stay at home this evening, mother.

[Pringle tries to persuade her in by-play.
Professor Futvoye

[Rising.] We'll come, Pringle, we'll come. [To Fakrash, who is still standing by the window.] Now then, sir, you've got all you came for Ц what are you waiting for?

Fakrash

To receive thy thanks.

Professor Futvoye

What? For exposing me to all this humiliation! You'll get no thanks from me, sir Ц and the sooner you and your accomplice relieve this house of your presence the better!

Fakrash

[Moving to right behind the sofa.] Let the rat, while he is still between the leopard's paws, observe rigidly all the laws of politeness! Take heed Ц or thou mayst become more hideous even than a mule!

[General sensation.

Professor Futvoye

Eh? I spoke hastily Ц but I meant nothing offensive! I Ц I'm very much obliged to you. And now don't let us detain you Чeither of you Ц from your other engagements.

Horace

[Coming forward.] I'm going, sir Ц but I must say one last word to Sylvia Ц !

Fakrash

[To Sylvia.] Hearken not to this deceiver, O damsel,†Ц for he will never wed thee!

Sylvia

[Indignantly.] I'll never wed him!

Fakrash

Thou wilt not Ц for he is betrothed to a darker bride.

Horace

What!

Sylvia

Ah! [To Horace, coldly.] The Ц the lady I met last night? I wish you every happiness. [Turning to Pringle.] On second thoughts, Mr. Pringle, I will come to dinner to-night.

[Pringle expresses his gratification.
Horace

[Going nearer Sylvia.] Sylvia! It may be for the last time Ц !

Fakrash

It is! Come! [He extends his right hand towards Horace, who is irresistibly drawn backwards to him.] For I will tarry no longer.

[He seizes his arm.
Horace

[Making an ineffectual resistance.] Let me go, Fakrash! Where are you taking me to?

Fakrash

[Seizes him round the waist.] To meet Ц [he soars up with Horace through the open window on the right, and the remainder of the sentence is continued outside in mid-air] Ц thy bride!

[The others go to window and gaze after them, pointing upwards.
Pringle

[With solemn disapproval.] Disgraceful! They've flown right over the chimney-pots!

THE CURTAIN FALLS
END OF THE THIRD ACT

THE FOURTH ACT

SCENE I
Horace's rooms, as in the opening of the play

The time is immediately after the close of the Third Act.

As the curtain rises Mrs. Rapkin is arranging various articles on the table. Rapkin enters from the door leading to landing, carrying a pair of boots on trees, which he takes into Horace's bedroom by the door down on the right, and then returns.

Rapkin

[Uneasily, to Mrs. Rapkin.] Marire, did Mr. Ventimore say anythink this morning Ц regarding last night?

Mrs. Rapkin

Ah, you may well ask! After sneakin' off first thing like you did, and leavin' me to make your excuses!

Rapkin

You'd some to make on your own, Marire. [Sitting on right of table.] If his friends got any dinner, it was no thanks to you!

Mrs. Rapkin

I'd never have gone if I 'adn't fancied the 'ouse was changed into Arabian 'alls and full o' grinnin' niggers!

Rapkin

Fancied! Why, I see 'em same as you did, didn't I?

Mrs. Rapkin

You! You'd ha' seen anythink in the condition you was in! And, any'ow, the 'ouse was just as usual when we come in.

Rapkin

It wasֆand that on'y made it all the rummier! For you can't deny as there was somethink queer goin' on 'ere.

Mrs. Rapkin

[Severely.] There was you, William! And you'll go on from bad to worse if you don't give up nippin'!

[She goes up to bookcase on the left.
Rapkin

Oh, come orf it, Marire! You tole me yourself you see a percession of camels stop at our door long before I got 'ome!

Mrs. Rapkin

And I did Ц if it was my last words. Camuels and furrin' parties as brought in packages off of them. Luckily, they was all gone afore the neighbours 'ad time to take notice. [Coming down to table.] And the best thing you and me can do is to let bygones be bygones, and 'old our tongues about it.

Rapkin

All very fine Ц but 'ow do we know Mr. Ventimore mayn't be up to more of these 'ere games?

Mrs. Rapkin

Mr. Ventimore! I did blame him Ц at first. But I'm sure now as 'e 'ad nothink to do with it. Poor dear young gentleman, we've never known 'im beyave otherwise than as a gentleman, and Ц [There is a sound outside of rushing wind, as Fakrash swoops down with Horace and both alight on the balcony; Mrs. Rapkin turns, screams, and sinks into a chair on the right of the fireplace.] Bless us and save us! Oh, Mr. Ventimore! [Seeing Fakrash.] And who's that?

Horace

[Disengaging himself from Fakrash, and stepping in.] That will do, Mrs. Rapkin. Can't I bring a Ц a friend in with me without your making all this fuss about it?

Mrs. Rapkin

[Rising, with dignity.] When you and your friends come flyin' in at first-floor windows like pidgins, Mr. Ventimore, you must expect some notice to be took. [Rapkin makes a movement to the left as though fascinated by Fakrash, who stands impassively by the window.] It's giving my 'ouse a bad name, and, as I've always kep' these apartments respectable 'itherto, you'll be good enough to find others where they're less partickler, for put up with it I won't!

Horace

All right, all right! You can go now Ц [touching Rapkin, who seems spellbound with fear of Fakrash] Чboth of you. I've some business to settle with this Ц gentleman.

Mrs. Rapkin

[At door.] I'm going.

Rapkin

[As he follows, still keeping his eyes on Fakrash.] 'E's done it, Marire Ц sold 'isself, 'e 'as! Ah! [As he goes out with Mrs. Rapkin.] I wouldn't be in his shoes for somethink!

[The moment they have gone Horace rushes to the door, opens it to make sure that they are not listening outside, then locks it, and comes down to Fakrash in a white rage.

Horace

Now then, you Ц you unspeakable old swine! What do you mean by bringing me here like this?

Fakrash

[Crossing to the right.] Verily I was tempted to drop thee in mid-air, forgetting my purpose.

Horace

To introduce me to that precious bride of yours, eh? I've told you already I'll have nothing to do with her.

Fakrash

Thou canst not escape this bride Ц [he suddenly produces a huge scimitar and brandishes it] Ц for her name is Ц Death!

Horace

Death! I say, you don't mean that! [As Fakrash advances on him with a sweep of the scimitar, which Horace ducks to avoid.] Yes, you do! [Backing below window.] By Gad! you're dangerous! Well, just tell me thisֆwhat on earth have I done to deserve death?

Fakrash

I have brought thee hither Ц not to parley with thee, but to strike off thy head in the very place of thy perjuries.

Horace

[Trying to keep cool.] I see. You seem to have forgotten that this is the very place where I let you out of that bottle.

Fakrash

[Wrathfully.] Far better were it hadst thou suffered me to remain therein!

Horace

I quite agree with you there. [As Fakrash makes another cut at him with the scimitar.] Now, before you begin this execution, you'd better listen to me. You've got hold of some quite imaginary grievance, and I can tell you you'll look uncommonly foolish if you find after you've cut off my head that there's nothing in it Ц [correcting himself, annoyed] Ц in the grievance, I mean!

Fakrash

O thou of plausible tongue, know that I have discovered thy treachery and deceit! Didst thou not assure me that I was free to wander where I would, since there was no longer any that had authority over the Jinn!

Horace

I don't know of anybody that has. [Half to himself.] Wish to Heaven I did!

Fakrash

[With raised scimitar.] Thou hast lied Ц for there is such a potentate! Since I visited thee this morn I have traversed many lands Ц and in all have I seen the signs of his dominion and his wrath against us of the Jinn!

Horace

[Blankly.] I've no idea what you're driving at.

Fakrash

Again thou liest! [As he is about to raise scimitar again Horace keeps Fakrash's right arm down.] From this very spot whereon we stand thou canst behold such signs. [Pointing with left hand through the open windows.] Tell me, what are yonder strongholds of blackened brick?

Horace

[Mystified.] Those? Oh, factories Ц works of sorts.

Fakrash

[Pointing with scimitar.] And yonder strange and gigantic cylinders red as blood?

Horace

[Pushing Fakrash's hand away.] Gasometers.

Fakrash

Call them what thou wilt Ц they are prison-houses! All, all dungeons wherein my wretched brethren labour in torment till the Day of Doom! [Pacing towards the right.] And every city throughout the world is filled with such abominations! Therefore Ц [turning on him again] Ц before I slay thee, I demand that thou tell me the name of the potentate by whom these punishments are imposed.

Horace

[Whose expression during the above speech shows that a way out is beginning to suggest itself; to himself.] If I can Ц if only I can! [As Fakrash again waves the scimitar.] All right! I'll try to tell you. [He seats himself on the edge of the table.] The Ц er Ц potentate has several names, but his most popular title is Progress.

Fakrash

[Salaaming.] On whom be peace!

Horace

By all means! Well, Progress has subdued the Ц er Ц unruly forces of Nature, and compelled them to labour for humanity.

Fakrash

Then why didst thou conceal from me that I, too, am in danger of being seized and condemned to toil?

Horace

Why? Because I thought you were such a respectable, harmless old foozle that you'd never do anything to deserve it. [Watching him.] But, of course, you will if you cut my head off. You'll have a much worse time than ever you had in the bottle!



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