F. Anstey.

The Brass Bottle: A Farcical Fantastic Play in Four Acts



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Fakrash

I know it. For no other reason have I recovered my stopper but to return into my bottle once more.

Horace

[Relieved.] I think you're wise. [Getting down from the table.] And I tell you what Ц if you'll only make it worth my while I'll seal you up myself.

Fakrash

O thou of imperfect understanding! Ere I re-enter my bottle thy head will already have been smitten from thy shoulders. [Pointing scimitar across table at Horace.] How, then, couldst thou Ц ?

Horace

[Wincing.] You needn't go on Ц I quite see your point. Only Ц if I don't seal you up, who will?

Fakrash

[Confidently.] I shall summon my Efreets to enclose me within the bottle and transport it to the Sea of El-Karkar, where I shall be undisturbed.

Horace

[Slightly dashed for the moment.] Oh! is that the idea? [Catching at a straw.] But Efreets, eh? [Watching him keenly.] Are you quite sure you can trust 'em? You know what Efreets are! [With triumph, as Fakrash plucks at his beard uneasily.] Ah! I thought you did!

Fakrash

Thinkest thou that they might betray me?

Horace

They'd love it! And as soon as they got you safely corked up, what's to prevent them from handing you over to Progress? Progress won't put up with your little ways Ц you can't go about beheading architects in this country without paying for your fun. I expect you'd catch it devilish hot!

Fakrash

[Falling on his knees in sudden terror.] Repentance, O Progress! I will not return to the like conduct ever! [He rises trembling.] Willingly will I depart from the world as it now is Ц for it hath ceased to be a pleasure-garden and become a place of desolation and horror!

Horace

[Calmly.] Quite so; and I can help you to return from it. I'm not an Efreet, and if I undertake to bottle you up and drop you into a deep part of our river here, you can depend on me to do it.

Fakrash

Undertake this, and in return I will grant thee thy life.

Horace

[Disguising his satisfaction.] Not good enough! You must offer better terms than that! What have you done to deserve any help from me?

Fakrash

Have I not loaded thee with kindnesses?

Horace

Kindnesses! Till I met you I was happy and hopeful Ц now, I'm miserable and desperate!

Fakrash

Is not life itself a sufficient boon?

Horace

What? When you've parted me for ever from the girl I love! Life is no boon to me now.

If you don't put an end to me I shall do it myself Ц by jumping over that balcony and breaking my neck!.. I've a good mind to do it now.

[He makes a sudden movement towards the balcony as though to carry out his threat.
Fakrash

[Detaining him.] Hold! I entreat thee! Do not abandon me thus, and all that I have done I will undo!

[As he speaks he throws away the scimitar, which, to Horace's amazement, vanishes.
Horace

[Going to the right with his back to the audience.] That's more like business! But Чcan you undo the mischief you've done?

Fakrash

With the greatest ease that can be! [He stalks towards the window, extends his right arm, and mutters some cryptic sentence, then turns complacently to Horace.] I have obliterated from the minds of thy betrothed and her parents all memory of myself and the brass bottle, and of every incident connected therewith.

Horace

By Jove! That's rather a neat way out Ц [with sudden doubt] Ц if you've really done all that!

Fakrash

May I be thy ransom if it be not accomplished!

Horace

Well,†Ц I must take your word for it. But there's Mr. and Mrs. Wackerbath,†Ц can you make them forget everything connected with you Ц except that I'm to build them a house?

Fakrash

[Going to the window and repeating the incantation, then returning to the centre of the room.] All else hath utterly passed from their recollection.

Horace

Splendid! Do the thing well while you're about it Ц better throw in their coachman Ц oh, and the couple you saw here just now,†Ц the Rapkins.

Fakrash

[Repeats the incantation, facing the door.] It is done. They remember naught of that they have seen. And now ask no more of me, but perform thy part and bring hither my bottle.

Horace

[Going to door down on the right.] Right! I'll go and get it out of my bedroom.

[He goes out.

Fakrash

[Pacing up and down in suspense and terror.] Haste! Haste! For until I am in my bottle once more every instant is an eternity!

Horace

[Returning with the bottle, which he sets down on the floor in front of the mantelpiece.] Here's your bottle! Got the stopper?

Fakrash

[After some fumbling in his robes, finds the metal cap and gives it to Horace.] It is here. Now swear to me by the beard of Progress that thou wilt drop me into deep waters, even as thou hast promised!

Horace

I swear it Ц by the beard of Progress Ц on whom be peace!.. You step in, sir, and leave the rest to me.

Fakrash

[As he raises his arms and moves towards the fireplace.] To escape into a bottle is pleasant!

Horace

Delightful!

Fakrash

[Who is now behind the bottle, with his arms extended in supplication and his back to the audience.] Towbah yah nebbi ullah Anna lah amill Kathalik ibadan! Wullah hi!

[With the last words he disappears through the neck of the bottle.
Horace

[Standing by the bottle with the cap.] Tucked yourself in comfortably? Say when.

[There is a knock at the door leading to landing.
Fakrash's Voice

[From interior of bottle.] I am betrayed! The constables of Progress are without! Let me forth that I may slay them and secure safety!

Horace

[Promptly clapping on the cap and screwing it tightly.] You're safer where you are, old cocky! Good-bye! [Wipes his forehead.] Phew! Near thing that! [The knock is repeated.] All right! Wait a bit! I'm busy!

[He takes the bottle into his bedroom.
Rapkin's Voice

[Outside door.] All right, sir! [Horace returns, goes to door at back, and unlocks it; to Rapkin, who is seen with a telegram.] What is it?

Rapkin

[Entering.] Reply telegram, sir. [Handing it to Horace.] Boy's waiting.

Horace

[Reading the telegram.] "Can you dine with wife and self, Savoy Hotel, 8.15 to-night? Quite small party. Could discuss plans new house. Ask for 'Pinafore' Room.†Ц Wackerbath." Good! Wackerbath's all right, anyhow! [He pulls a chair to the table and sits down to fill up the reply form. As he does so his face suddenly clouds.] The Savoy, though! Pringle's dining there to-nightЕ Good Lord! I forgot all about Pringle! I wonder if Fakrash has made him forget? If he didn't, by George! there'll be a pretty kettle of fish!

Rapkin

[Thinking he is being addressed.] Beg pardon, sir?

Horace

Nothing Ц I wasn't speaking to you. [Finishes writing the form and hands it to Rapkin.] Can you read it?

Rapkin

[Reading.] "Delighted. Savoy, 8.15 to-night.†Ц Ventimore." Excuse me, sir, but when is it you're expecting friends to dinner 'ere?

Horace

[At a loss for the moment.] Er Чwhen? I Ц I'm not sure. [As he crosses to his bedroom.] Oh, just tell Mrs. Rapkin I should like to see her.

[He goes into bedroom.
Rapkin

[Looking round, as Mrs. Rapkin enters from landing.] Mr. Ventimore was just asking for you, Marire.

Mrs. Rapkin

[Surprised.] Was he? I didn't know he'd come in.

[She crosses to the bookcase, places a newspaper on the shelf on left of fireplace, then goes to the windows and closes them.
Rapkin

Nor yet me Ц but he 'ave.

[He goes out, leaving door open.
Horace

[Coming from bedroom, carrying a bulky and apparently heavy kit-bag.] I only wanted to tell you that I sha'n't be in to dinner to-night, Mrs. Rapkin.

[He sets the bag down on the table.
Mrs. Rapkin

Goin' out of town, sir?

Horace

No. Why? [Mrs. Rapkin indicates the bag.] Oh, this kit-bag? I'm lending it Ц to a friend of mine. Just going to see him off Ц [taking up the bag again and going to the door] Ц for a long holiday. I shall come in to dress. [To himself.] Fool I was to forget Pringle!

[As Horace goes out the stage is in darkness for an interval of a minute or two, after which the curtain rises on the last scene.
SCENE II

The "Pinafore" private room at the Savoy Hotel.

At the back is a wide arch, beyond which is a glazed balcony, with a view over the tops of the Embankment trees of the river and the Surrey bank, with the Shot Towers, &c., and the ends of Waterloo Bridge on the extreme left, and of Charing Cross Railway Bridge on the extreme right.

At the rising of the curtain this view is seen in a warm sunset glow.

Above the arch there is a door on the right, leading to the corridor and restaurant; another on the left, by which the waiters come in and go out.

Below the arch, down on the right, is a fireplace; above the fireplace, at right angles to it, a couch, and behind the couch a long flower-stand filled with flowers and palms.

Up the stage, centre, is a round table, laid for six persons, and elaborately decorated with pink Gloire de France roses, under rose-shaded lamp. Six chairs are placed round it, and a seventh chair is in the glazed balcony.

Below the arch, on the left, is another door, and down on left, at a slight angle, a sofa, with occasional tables and chairs. Against the wall on left is a glazed cabinet.

The furniture and decorations are copied from the original room in the Savoy Hotel.

As the curtain rises the Second Waiter is placing the napkins under the supervision of the First Waiter. Waltz music is heard from the restaurant on the right.

Pringle's Voice

[Outside door above arch, to unseen attendant.] "Entrance from the Embankment as well," eh? Well, why didn't you tell me that? My friends have probably come in that way while I was waiting at the other end! This is the "Pinafore" Room, isn't it? Very well, then Ц I expect I shall find them in here. [He enters, and looks round the room.] No. They don't seem to have arrived yet.

First Waiter

[By the table.] Not yet. They vill be here soon.

[The Second Waiter goes out.
Pringle

Eh? Well, I hope so, I'm sure. They're behind their time as it is. [Inspecting table.] H'm! Not bad. But you needn't have had all those roses Ц half a dozen would have been quite sufficient. And Ц hang it all! You've laid for six people!

First Waiter

Pardon, m'sieu Ц we receive orders to lay for six person.

Pringle

Nonsense! Your orders were to lay for four. A "petty party carry" Ц if you know what that means.

First Waiter

Parfaitement Ц but I think perhaps there is some mistake. This is the "Pinafore" Room.

Pringle

I know thatֆand the manager told me this morning on the telephone that he's reserved the "Pinafore" Room for me. I'm only expecting three guests, though; so just clear away those two extra places, and look sharp about it.

[The Second Waiter returns.
First Waiter

But excuse Ц the manager he say to me Ч

Pringle

Confound you, do you suppose I don't know how many people I've asked? Have the table altered at once, or I shall send for the manager.

First Waiter

[With a shrug.] Bien, m'sieu! You tell me there is a mistake Ц that is enoff Ц I alter it.

[He gives orders in an undertone to the Second Waiter, who removes two of the chairs to the balcony, and takes off the corresponding plates, glasses, &c.
Pringle

[As he comes down to the left.] I sha'n't pay for more than four Ц mind that! [To himself, as he sits on the couch down left.] It's going to cost me quite enough without that, I can see! [The Westminster Clock-tower is heard striking the quarter; Pringle takes out his watch.] Eight-fifteen! And I asked them for eight sharp. Very singular Ц the Professor's generally so punctual! [He rises eagerly as the door on right above arch opens.] Ah, here they are! [Horace enters and comes down; Pringle draws himself up stiffly.] What, you, Ventimore! I scarcely expected to see you here to-night.

[The two Waiters go out; the waltz music stops.
Horace

[Coming down to couch by fireplace.] Didn't you? I rather thought I might run across you, somehow.

Pringle

[Austerely.] Considering that, when I last saw you, you were flying over the chimney-pots with an Oriental enchanter you had released from a brass bottle Ч

Horace

[Seating himself on sofa by fireplace.] Ah! So you haven't forgotten!

Pringle

It's hardly a thing one would be likely to forget in a hurry. You were being conducted to meet your bride, I think Ц are you beginning your honeymoon in this hotel?

Horace

If you want to know, I'm here because I'm dining with the Wackerbaths.

Pringle

What!†Ц the client I met in your office this morning? Then he must have an uncommonly short memory, that's all! But, whether you're dining with him or not, that's no reason why you should have forced your way in here! I suppose you're hoping that, if you can only see Miss Futvoye Ч

Horace

You're wrong, Pringle, quite wrong. I don't in the least expect to see Miss Futvoye here to-night. And I very much doubt if you will, either.

Pringle

Do you? You wouldn't if you'd heard her parting words to me this afternoon. I said to her: "You won't forget?" Her answer was: "As if I couldֆafter all you've done for us!"

Horace

It Ц it's just possible that all of them may have forgotten an engagement which was made under Ц rather peculiar circumstances.

Pringle

That's just why they're not likely to forget it. [Going to fireplace, and standing with his back to it.] They may be here at any moment!

Horace

They mayֆbut, if I were you, I shouldn't count on them.

Pringle

I do count on them Ц and I consider your intrusion here in the worst possible taste. I think you might have the decency to go!

Horace

[Rising.] I tell you I'm here because this is the room which Wackerbath asked me to come to.

Pringle

It won't do, you know! If it was, he'd be here to receive you Ц which he isn't.

[As he speaks Mr. Wackerbath bustles in from the door below the arch on the left. Horace goes forward to meet him, Pringle remaining by the fireplace in wrathful astonishment.
Mr. Wackerbath

[Shaking hands effusively with Horace.] My dear Mr. Ventimore, I really don't know how to apologise, neither the wife nor myself down to receive you! I do hope you haven't been waiting long?

Horace

Only just come, I assure you.

Mr. Wackerbath

We have a private room, you see Ц the wife prefers it to the Ц ah Ц publicity of the restaurant. [The First and Second Waiters enter from the door on the left above the arch.] If you'll excuse me for a moment, I'll just see how they've arranged the table. [He bustles up to the table.] Why, hullo! What's this? Only four places! I ordered dinner for six!

First Waiter

I regret Ц but it is not my fault. I lay for six, and a gentleman assure me I am wrong, it is for four person only.

Mr. Wackerbath

Don't talk about it Ц put it right at once. I want a chair in here Ц and another here.

[He remains by the table, while the Waiters replace chairs and bring back plates, glasses, &c.
Pringle

[To Horace.] Ventimore! [Horace crosses to fireplace.] Will you kindly explain to your host that that's my dinner-table he's taking these liberties with?

Horace

I know nothing about it. You had better settle that with him yourself.

Pringle

I intend to Ц presently.

[He stands, nursing his grievance, as Mr. Wackerbath comes down to Horace.
Mr. Wackerbath

[To Horace.] Those fellows seem to have mistaken their orders. Lucky I noticed it in time! [Mrs. Wackerbath enters from the door below arch.] Ah, here is my wife! Eliza, my dear Ц [presenting Horace] Ц our friend, Mr. Ventimore.

Mrs. Wackerbath

[To Horace, cordially, but with a nervous, fluttered manner.] Oh, how do you do? I am so pleased to meet you! I've been hearing so much about you from my husband. [She goes to sofa on the left, and sits.] It will be so delightful to have a home at last that is really fit to live in!

[Pringle, hearing this, makes a contemptuous ejaculation to himself.
Mr. Wackerbath

[To Horace.] I ought to tell you this is quite an impromptu little affair. The wife only came up this morning for a day or two in town, and asked some old friends of ours to dinner. So I wired to you on the off-chance of your being free to come and meet them.

Mrs. Wackerbath

So kind of you to come on such short notice!

Horace

I was delighted.

Mrs. Wackerbath

[Suddenly realising Pringle's presence; to Mr. Wackerbath.] But, Samuel, aren't you forgetting to introduce your other guest?

Horace

[To himself foreseeing trouble.] Good Lord!

[He goes up round the table to the glazed balcony.
Mr. Wackerbath

[Surprised, to Mrs. Wackerbath.] My otherЦ†? I was not aware Ц [He turns and sees Pringle, and advances to him.] You must excuse me, sir, but I didn't see you before. I Ц ah Ц haven't the pleasure of knowing your name Ц at present.

Pringle

[Coming forward.] My name is Pringle. YoursЦ [meaningly] Ц is quite well known to me, Mr. Wackerbath.

Mr. Wackerbath

[Gratified, but not surprised.] Ha! Very good of you to say so. And I needn't tell you that any friend of Mr. Ventimore's Ч

Pringle

[Tartly.] I am not here in that capacity, sir. I am here because I also am expecting friends to dine with me. And I was certainly given to understand that this room had been reserved for my own party.

Mrs. Wackerbath

[In some distress.] Oh, dear! I am so sorry. I'm afraid I'm to blame. I asked the manager for this room Ц he told me it was engaged, but he would arrange for you to have the "Patience" Room instead.

Pringle

I can only assure you that this is the first I've heard of it, or else Ч

Mrs. Wackerbath

[Rising.] I quite thought it would be explained to you, and I do so hope the change hasn't put you to any great inconvenience?

Pringle

[Sourly.] I'm afraid, Mrs. Wackerbath, it has put my guests to considerable inconvenience, as they have presumably been shown into the "Patience" Room, and been waiting there for nearly half an hour Ц if they haven't already left! So Ц [making a movement towards the arch] Ц if you will kindly permit me Ч

Horace

[Coming down, and intercepting him; in an under>tone.] You won't find them there, Pringle. They haven't come. They won't come now, I assure you.

Professor's Voice

[On left, outside door above arch.] This must be the room, Sophia Ц I observe "Pinafore" on the door.

Pringle

[In a triumphant undertone to Horace, who is completely staggered.] There! Who's right now? I knew they wouldn't forget!

[He advances to the end of the sofa by fireplace to receive the Futvoyes, while Horace effaces himself so far as possible in the corner behind the flower-stand.
Horace

[To himself in despair.] That old fool of a Fakrash! He's muffed it again!

[The Futvoyes enter; Mrs. Futvoye first, then Sylvia, and the Professor bringing up the rear.
Pringle

[Cheerily, to Mrs. Futvoye.] Aha!

[His welcome dies away as they all pass on without seeming to notice any one but Mr. and Mrs. Wackerbath, who advance from the left to receive them. Pringle retreats slightly, and looks on in speechless indignation.
Mr. Wackerbath

My dear Mrs. Futvoye, delighted to see you Ц delighted! [As Mrs. Futvoye greets Mrs. Wackerbath, to Sylvia.] And this smart young woman is my little god-daughter, eh? How d'ye do, my dear? [To Professor.] And how is our excellent Professor?

[They converse in by-play; Mrs. Wackerbath takes Mrs. Futvoye to sofa on left; Sylvia goes up towards arch to a place from which she can see neither Horace nor Pringle.
Mrs. Wackerbath

[To Mrs. Futvoye, as they seat themselves.] Dearest

Sophia! We meet so seldom now!

Mrs. Futvoye

We do indeed, Eliza!

[They talk in undertones.
Pringle

[By fireplace, to himself, with the deepest disgust.] First my room, and then my guests!

Mr. Wackerbath

[Turning to Mrs. Futvoye, as the Professor joins Sylvia.] I want to introduce a friend of ours Ц very rising young fellow Ц [He looks round for Horace, and discovers him by the flower stand.] Ah, there he is Ц Mr. Ventimore. [Horace pulls himself together and comes forward, not in the least knowing what reception to expect.] Mr. Ventimore, Mrs. Anthony Futvoye.

[Horace bows in considerable anxiety.
Mrs. Futvoye

Why, my dear Mr. Wackerbath, we know one another quite well already! [To Horace, laughing.] Don't we, Horace?

[Horace takes her hand with obvious relief.
Sylvia

[Coming down smiling, between Mr. Wackerbath and Horace.] How are you, Horace?

[Horace shakes hands warmly with her.
Professor Futvoye

[Approaching as Mr. Wackerbath turns to his wife and Mrs. Futvoye, to Horace not over cordially, but without asperity.] How are you, Ventimore? Curious we should meet like this! We were talking about you on our way here Ц that little dinner of yours, you know.

Horace

[With reviving anxiety.] That Ц little dinner, Professor?

Sylvia

Yes, Horace, we couldn't remember which night it is we're dining with you Ц is it to-morrow, or the night after?

Horace

[Relieved again.] Oh, it's to-morrow Ц to-morrow!

[Pringle has heard all this with a contempt and disgust that are indicated by his expression.
Sylvia

Then mother was right! I'd fearful misgivings that it was for last night, and that somehow we'd forgotten all about it. Wouldn't that have been too dreadful of us?

Horace

Oh, I Ц I don't know. I mean Ц I could have forgiven even that.

Professor Futvoye

Ah, now I think of it Ц [interposing between Sylvia and Horace, and drawing him apart, while Sylvia goes up towards the table] Ц did you find time to attend that sale for me yesterday?

Horace

[Blankly.] Oh, yes. I attended it.

Professor Futvoye

We called at your rooms yesterday afternoon, but you weren't in, so we didn't wait for you. Now tell me Ц [anxiously] Ц did you get any of those lots for me, or didn't you?



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