F. Anstey.

The Brass Bottle: A Farcical Fantastic Play in Four Acts



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Horace

Well, no. I had the most rotten luck.

Professor Futvoye

[With relief.] It's just as well you didn't Ц just as well. I doubt now whether I could afford the money. I find I shall be put to considerable expense Ц for repairs to my study.

[He turns to Mr. Wackerbath, who is on his right. Sylvia comes down, and Pringle advances to greet her, but, finding she evidently sees no one but Horace, he goes up towards the balcony fuming with rage.
Sylvia

[To Horace.] Come and sit down somewhere, and tell me everything you've been doing.

[Horace takes her to the sofa by the fireplace, where they sit down and talk in dumb show, while Pringle is now hanging about undecidedly near the flower-stand, waiting his opportunity for addressing Sylvia, and furiously jealous at finding her still too absorbed to notice him; Mrs. Futvoye and Mrs. Wackerbath are talking confidentially on the sofa on the left side of the room, and the Professor and Mr. Wackerbath are standing in the centre.
Mr. Wackerbath

So you and my young friend Ventimore are already acquainted, eh, Professor?

Professor Futvoye

Why, yes. In fact, he's supposed to be engaged to Sylvia. But, between ourselves, I should feel more satisfied if there was any prospect of his getting work.

Mr. Wackerbath

My dear Futvoye, you needn't be uneasy about that! Why, this house he's building for me will find him work enough. He's an able young chap, and I shouldn't be surprised if he gave me a perfect palace!

Pringle

[Who is near enough to hear this, comes down.] What, another palace, Mr. Wackerbath?

Mr. Wackerbath

[In some astonishment.] Eh? Why, bless my soul, sir, I thought you'd gone to the "Patience" Room long ago!

Pringle

[Drily.] I found it wasn't necessary. How are you, Professor? [With the air of a host.] Delighted to see you.

Professor Futvoye

[Shaking hands perfunctorily.] Oh, how are you, my boy, how are you? [Turning his shoulder on Pringle, and continuing to Mr. Wackerbath, as they go up together towards the table, ignoring Pringle.] Wackerbath, about this house of yours?†Ц do I understand that Ventimore is Ц ?

[They talk in dumb show, and during the next few speeches the First Waiter enters, and Mr. Wackerbath gives him an order, after which the Waiter goes out and returns with two cocktails. The Professor sits by the table and Mr.
Wackerbath stands as they drink. Pringle meanwhile has returned to the corner of the flower-stand and is no longer able to control his temper.
Pringle

[To Sylvia, with elaborate sarcasm, as he offers his hand, which she does not see at first.] Good evening, Miss Sylvia, it's really about time that I reminded you of my humble existence.

Sylvia

[With slightly raised eyebrows, as she shakes hands.] Oh, how do you do, Mr. Pringle? I didn't see you come in.

[Horace sits by in silence, feeling powerless to stop Pringle at present.
Pringle

[Unpleasantly.] No, you were so much engaged. [In a tone of injury.] And I must say I little expected when I last saw you at Cottesmore Gardens Ц scarcely seven hours ago Ц !

Sylvia

[Smiling, but surprised.] Seven hours! It is more like seven weeks!

Pringle

[Beaming fatuously.] Charming of you to put it in that way! I was almost beginning to fear that you had forgotten Ц [with meaning] Ц our last meeting.

Sylvia

[Innocently.] In Vincent Square yesterday afternoon? Of course not. I meant since you had been to see us. And that's ages ago!

Pringle

[Blankly.] Ages ago!

Sylvia

[Carelessly.] Oh, you said you'd been away, or working hard, or something, didn't you? I forgive you. And so you are dining with Mr. and Mrs. Wackerbath, too?

Pringle

[Stiffly.] With Mr. and Mrs.†Ц ! Pardon me, but I am under the impression that I am to have the honour of entertaining you.

Sylvia

[Rising; Horace rising as she does.] Entertaining us! Why, what could have made you think that?

Pringle

[In a low voice.] And you can throw me over like this! After all I've done for you? Oh, Sylvia!

Sylvia

[Coldly.] I don't understand you a bit this evening, Mr. Pringle. But there may have been some mistake. I will go and ask mother about it.

[She crosses to behind the sofa on which Mrs. Futvoye is seated, and talks to her in dumb show, Mrs. Futvoye appearing surprised by what she hears. Meanwhile.
Pringle

[In a savage undertone to Horace.] This is your work! I see how it is Ц you've made 'em all knuckle down, somehow!

Horace

[Earnestly, in an undertone to him.] It isn't that, my dear fellow. They've forgotten Ц utterly forgotten everything. And so will you if you're a wise man.

Pringle

They may pretend to forget if they like! But I'm hanged if I do!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Who has risen, leaving Sylvia to talk to Mrs. Wackerbath, now advances to Pringle.] What is this Sylvia tells me, Mr. Pringle? Surely you haven't been expecting us to dine with you to-night?

Pringle

I not only have been, I am, my dear lady.

Mrs. Futvoye

Then my husband must have Ц [Turning to the Professor, who is by the table talking to Mr. Wackerbath.] Anthony! [The Professor comes down.] Have you accepted an invitation from Mr. Pringle for to-night without telling me? How could you be so forgetful?

Professor Futvoye

My memory has not begun to fail yet, Sophia. [To Pringle.] My dear Pringle, I can only say that I received no such invitation. We had no engagement for this evening till Mrs. Wackerbath kindly rang my wife up this afternoon.

[He takes a chair on the left by Mrs. Wackerbath, and talks to her.
Mrs. Futvoye

Your invitation must have been lost in the post, Mr. Pringle.

Pringle

Hardly, as it happened to be given Ц and accepted Ц by word of mouth, Mrs. Futvoye. However, since you seem to have found a subsequent engagement more attractive, I have, of course, no option but to release you.

Mrs. Futvoye

Release us! But, my dear Mr. Pringle, when we've assured you Ч

Pringle

[Interrupting her with chilly magnanimity.] Pray say no more. I quite understand the situation Чquite.

[Mrs. Futvoye rejoins Sylvia, while Mr. Wackerbath, who has gradually drawn nearer, now comes forward genially.
Mr. Wackerbath

[To Pringle.] I think, sir, we can find a simple way out of this little difficulty. If you will waive the point of my being Ц ah Ц personally unknown to you, and give my wife and myself the pleasure of joining our little party Ц [the others suppress their dismay] Ц we shall all be happy.

Pringle

Well, Mr. Wackerbath, if you think it will contribute to the general gaiety, I Ц I don't mind if I do join your party.

Mr. Wackerbath

[Astonished, and with a touch of hauteur.] H'm! That's very obliging of you! [Looking round.] Where are those waiter-fellows?

[He goes up beyond the arch and beckons; the First and Second Waiters come in, and he explains in dumb show that he wants another cover laid. One waiter rearranges the chairs, the other brings plate and glasses. Mr. Wackerbath then seems to find that the table is too near the balcony, and orders it to be moved down, which is done under his instructions.
Sylvia

[As Mr. Wackerbath goes up to find the waiters, to her mother, in an undertone.] Mother, what is the matter with Mr. Pringle? He seems quite Ц quite odd.

Mrs. Futvoye

I can't make him out at all, my dear. He seems to be offended with us Ц and for no reason that I can see.

Sylvia

Nor I.

[They continue the conversation in dumb show, while the Professor, on a chair, is talking to Mrs. Wackerbath on the sofa on the left.
Pringle

[In an undertone to Horace, as they stand by the fireplace on the right.] I suppose you know why I've accepted that fellow's hospitality?

Horace

Not in the least Ц but I hope you don't mean to abuse it.

Pringle

I mean to show up the lot of you! I'm going to be the skeleton at your feast.

Horace

"An agreeable rattle," eh?

Pringle

It's too sickening! All of 'em grovelling and cringing to you because they're in a blue funk of that old Fakrash! You've managed to get him under control again!

Horace

[With much earnestness.] Now, my dear fellow Ц I'll explain everything when we're alone. But, for Heaven's sake, take my advice and keep quiet here!

Pringle

[Roughly.] I'm not afraid of you, or your Jinnee either Ц he rather took to me! And if the Futvoyes choose to drop me like this, I'm not going to take it lying down Ц I can make them look pretty foolish!

Horace

You'll be the only one to look foolish Ц upon my honour, you will!

Pringle

We'll see about that! You can't shut my mouth!

Mr. Wackerbath

[The Waiters having gone out, now comes down and addresses Mrs. Futvoye.] They tell me we shall have to wait a few minutes longer Ц but they'll be as quick as they can.

Mrs. Wackerbath

Oh, Samuel, the Professor has just been telling me about such an extraordinary affair that happened this morning Ц in his own study! Have you heard?

[Horace starts; Pringle prepares to assume the offensive.
Mr. Wackerbath

Not a word Ц not a word. What was it, Futvoye? Nothing, I hope, of Ц ah Ц an unpleasant nature!

Pringle

[Striking in before the Professor can reply.] "Unpleasant"? Oh, dear no! [Coming forward to centre.] Quite an ordinary occurrence! Ha-ha!

[General surprise.
Mrs. Futvoye

[With annoyance.] I don't know why Mr. Pringle should choose to answer for my husband. [To Mr. Wackerbath.] We considered it most unpleasant. In fact, we can only be thankful it was no worse!

Pringle

But are you thankful? I haven't noticed any signs of it, so far!

Horace

[In his ear.] Shut up, can't you?

Mrs. Futvoye

Really, Mr. Pringle! [To Mr. Wackerbath.] I was about to say Ц when Mr. Pringle interrupted me Ц that my husband found, on going into his study after lunch this afternoon, that it was completely wrecked.

Mr. Wackerbath

Wrecked? You don't say so!

Mrs. Futvoye

Everything Ц bookcases, all his ancient glass and pottery Ч

Professor Futvoye

A valuable mummy!

Mrs. Futvoye

Absolutely smashed to atoms!

Mr. Wackerbath

Dear me! How unfortunate! [To the Professor.] And have you any clue to the Ц ah Ц culprit?

Pringle

[With a wild sardonic laugh.] Ho-ho! He's no idea who the Ц ah Ц culprit is. Have you, Professor?

[Renewed astonishment.
Professor Futvoye

[Glaring at Pringle.] I can only surmise. My theory is that burglars must have broken in during the night, and that the scoundrels, disgusted at finding nothing of any value to them, revenged themselves by doing this irreparable damage.

Pringle

Bravo, Professor! Does you credit, that theory of yours! Most ingenious! Must have been burglars, of course! With gout in all their four legs Ц eh, Mrs. Futvoye?

[Mrs. Futvoye regards him with puzzled displeasure.
Horace

[In Pringle's ear.] Will you hold your confounded tongue!

Mrs. Wackerbath

[To the Professor.] The wretches! But what a mercy that you weren't disturbed!

Pringle

Oh, the Professor wasn't disturbed Ц not he! "Preserved perfect calm and self-control from first to last" Чdidn't you, Professor?

Professor Futvoye

[Acidly.] As I was sound asleep during the whole business, sir, I presume I did.

Pringle

Ha-ha! Sound asleep, eh? But you must have had a touch of nightmare when I saw you.

Professor Futvoye

When you Ц ! [Rising and coming towards him.] How and when could you possibly have seen me, Pringle?

Pringle

Oh, in your study. When you were lashing out at everything Ц with your hind legs.

[General sensation; Mrs. Wackerbath and Mrs. Futvoye both rise, and, with Sylvia, come somewhat nearer Pringle.
Professor Futvoye

With my hind legs!.. D'you know, my dear Pringle, you're talking rather wildly?

Pringle

It won't do, Professor, it won't do! I was there, remember. And lucky for you I wasЦ†or you'd be a wall-eyed mule at this very moment. [Exasperated by the Futvoyes' apparent astonishment.] Oh, it may suit you to forget it nowЦ†but you were all three Ц especially Sylvia Ц grateful enough to me then!

[Increased sensation.
Mrs. Futvoye

Grateful to you? May I ask what for?

Pringle

I suppose you won't deny that I was the only one who could tackle Ventimore's old Jinnee?

Mrs. Futvoye

[In a tone of hopeless bewilderment.] Horace! Does he mean that pleasant elderly landlady of yours?

Pringle

As if you didn't know, Mrs. Futvoye! I mean the old demon, or whatever he may be, that Ventimore let out of that brass bottle.

All the Others (except Horace)

[Together.] Brass bottle! What brass bottle? What is he talking about?

Pringle

I'm talking about the bottle he bought for you at that auction yesterday, Professor. You can surely remember that?

Professor Futvoye

I certainly did ask him to attend a sale. [Approaching Horace.] But I understood you to say just now, Ventimore, that you bought nothing for me?

Horace

That is so, Professor. As I told you, I was Ц unlucky.

Mr. Wackerbath

[Regarding Pringle with dignified displeasure.] You seem to me, sir, to be endeavouring to be Ц ah Ц facetious.

Pringle

[Turning on him.] No more facetious, Mr. Wackerbath, than you were when I saw you this morning in Ventimore's office.

Mr. Wackerbath

I didn't go to Mr. Ventimore's office. I entirely forgot the appointment Ц an unusual thing for me.

Pringle

Oh, no. You did an even more unusual thing. You were thereֆrunning about on all fours, and yelping like a dog!

Mr. Wackerbath

[Hardly believing his own ears.] Running about on all fours! Yelping like a dog! Me? Me!

Pringle

Yes, you. The Jinnee made you do it, if you remember, because you declined to live in that palace he built for you in a single night. And you didn't seem to like the idea of having to cross Westminster Bridge on all fours!

Mr. Wackerbath

[With dignity.] I'm afraid, sir, that when you accepted my invitation just now, you overlooked the fact that you had been dining already.

Pringle

I haven't dined since last night Ц in that Arabian hall of Ventimore's, with black slaves to wait, and dancing-girls. Professor, don't pretend you've forgotten those dancing-girls!

[Everybody speechless with indignation and surprise, except the Professor, who comes towards him with concern.
Professor Futvoye

[Soothingly, to Pringle.] There, there Ц you mustn't get excited about it. [He turns, and takes Mr. Wackerbath aside.] It's not what you think. Poor fellow! His only excess is overwork. [Turning to Pringle again.] Now, now, Pringle, my dear fellow, you're not Ц not quite yourself, you know Ц not quite yourself! Take my advice and go quietly home, and ask your doctor to come and have a look at you.

Pringle

[Staggered.] So Ц so you're trying to make out now that Ц that I'm mad, are you?

Professor Futvoye

Mad? No, no Ц only a little out of sorts. You've been working rather too hard, you know, that's all! All you want is a thorough rest.

Mr. Wackerbath

Yes, yes. A sea-voyage, now. Trip round the world. Set you up in no time!

Mrs. Futvoye

[Approaching Pringle.] Do go round the world, Mr. Pringle. You'll come back cured of all these fancies!

Pringle

[Reeling back a step or two.] Fancies!.. Ventimore! [Horace goes to him, while the others form a group on the left and discuss Pringle's case with pitying concern.] I've been a fool Ц I see that now. They're not pretending Ц they really have forgotten!

Horace

Completely. Fakrash hasn't foozled thatЦ†for a wonder! I ought to have included you; but Ц well, one can't think of everythingЦ†I forgot. I can only say I'm sorry.

Pringle

But they all think I'm mad! [He sinks on the sofa by fireplace.] You know I'm not that! [With sudden doubt.] Am I?

Horace

[Patting him on the shoulder.] Not a bit, my dear fellow,†Ц you're as sane as I am.

Pringle

[With relief.] I knew I was! But tell 'em so Ц tell 'em it's all true!

Horace

I can't. They'd only think I was mad, too.

Pringle

[In despair.] But you must get me out of this somehow,†Ц or I shall be ruined! Who'd employ a mad architect?

Horace

[Reflecting.] I'll get you out of it, if I can. But I shall have to stretch the truth a bit,†Ц so mind you back up everything I say.

Pringle

I will Ц I will! I'll say anything, do anything!

Horace

Then here goes! [He turns to the others, and comes towards centre.] Oh, er Ц Mrs. Wackerbath Ц [the others break off their conversation and listen to him] Ц I've found out what's the matter with Mr. Pringle,†Ц and I know you'll all be glad to hear that it's nothing serious. [Murmur of sympathetic relief from the others.] It seems he's been spending the afternoon with his dentist, and Ц [turning to Pringle] Ц was it two or three back teeth you had out, Pringle?

Pringle

[Sullenly.] One. Only one.

Horace

[To the others.] Only one. But under an an?sthetic. [To Pringle, as before.] Nitrous oxide, Pringle, or ether?

Pringle

I can't say Ц I didn't inquire.

Horace

[To the others.] Naturally Ц he wouldn't inquire. But Ц well, you know what ef Ц I mean, an?sthetics are!

All (except Pringle)

To be sure! Yes, yes. Of course!

Horace

They give you the queerest dreams. And, just before, as it happens, Mr. Pringle had been reading "The Arabian Nights." [To Pringle.] You did say "The Arabian Nights," didn't you?

Pringle

"The Arabian Nights" Ц yes. I read it regularly.

Horace

[To the others, airily.] Which probably accounts for his dreams. And, in some exceptional cases, the Efreets Ц I mean, the effectsЦ†don't go off altogether for hours after the operation. Mr. Pringle thinks he can't have been thoroughly awake Ч

Pringle

[Rising.] But I am now Ц I am now!

Horace

Oh, he is nowֆquite serious and sensible, and generally himself again.

[A general murmur of polite satisfaction.
Mr. Wackerbath

[Advancing towards Pringle.] I'm sure I'm very pleased to hear it, Mr. Pringle! Especially as it permits us to hope that we may still have the Ц ah Ц pleasure of your company.

[The others echo this sentiment in a somewhat half-hearted manner.
Pringle

You're extremely kind Ц but I think perhaps I shall be better at home.

Mrs. Futvoye

[In a motherly tone.] I'm sure you will, dear Mr. Pringle. What you ought to do is to go to bed and get a good night's sleep.

Mr. Wackerbath

[Obviously relieved.] Ah, well, I won't insist Ц I won't insist. Perhaps you will give us some other evening?

Pringle

[With extreme stiffness.] I'm obliged to you Ц but I dine out very seldom. Good-night. [He crosses to Mrs. Futvoye and shakes hands with her, and bows to Mr. and Mrs. Wackerbath, after which Mr. Wackerbath takes Mrs. Futvoye up to the glazed balcony to see the river, which by this time is in bright moonlight, the Professor, after having said good-night to Pringle, following with Mrs. Wackerbath. Pringle then turns to Sylvia, who is standing on the extreme left.] Good-night, Miss Sylvia. May I offer my congratulations? I can only hope that you may be as happy Ц as happy as Ц as possible.

[Faint waltz music is heard from the restaurant.
Sylvia

[Quietly.] Thanks so much, Mr. Pringle, I think I shall. [Giving him her hand.] Good-night.

[She goes up and joins the group in the glazed balcony.
Pringle

Good-night. [He turns to Horace.] One moment, Ventimore!

Horace

Oh, I'm coming to the door with you, old fellow.

[He is about to go up with him, when Pringle detains him.
Pringle

I only wanted to ask you this. [Lowering his voice.] Where is that Jinnee of yours now?

Horace

[Standing by the sofa by fireplace.] Well,†Ц do you see that patch of silver on the water just above the bridge Ц [pointing to the left] Ц where they're all looking?

Pringle

Yes, I see that. What about it?

Horace

Only that, somewhere under that patch, old Fakrash is lying, snugly curled up inside his bottle.

Pringle

[Incredulously.] What!

Horace

I happen to know, because I dropped it there myself this afternoon inside a kit-bag.

Pringle

Well, I must say I'm glad you've got rid of him. And Ц er Ц you can rely on me to keep quiet about it for the future.

Horace

[Drily.] My dear chap, I feel sure I can.

Pringle

[Going up to the door on right above the arch.] Good-night. [Disconsolately.] I shall go and get something to eat at an "A.B.C."

Horace

[Going up with him.] Good-night, old fellow. It's rough on you, but I did my best!

Pringle

[Turning on him with resentment.] You needn't have told 'em I'd had three teeth out! Good-night.

[He goes out, Horace closing the door after him. Waltz music from restaurant on right. After he has gone, Mr. Wackerbath and the others turn from the river as the Second Waiter enters and places a slice of melon on each plate.
Mr. Wackerbath

Oh, ready, eh? [The First Waiter enters and intimates that dinner is served.] Then shall we sit down, Mrs. Futvoye? [He goes to the chair at the top of the table with his back to the balcony, and places Mrs. Futvoye on his right.] Professor Ц [as Mrs. Wackerbath takes the chair at the bottom of the table, facing the river] Ц on my wife's left, please. Sylvia, my dear, next to me. [Sylvia takes the chair on Mr. Wackerbath's left; Horace still standing.] And you, Mr. Ventimore Ц [Observing that there are two places.] Stay, there's something wrong. Oh, of course! [To the First Waiter.] Take away that chair, it won't be wanted now Ц the other gentleman has gone.

First Waiter

Gone! De gentleman vat give so moch trouble? He vill not come back?

Mr. Wackerbath

Come back? [To Horace.] You don't think your friend is likely to do that, eh, Mr. Ventimore?

Sylvia

Oh, I hope not!

[The others assent fervently.
Horace

[Pausing in the act of taking the sixth chair.] It's all right. My friend Ц [with a glance at the bridge on the left] Ц the gentleman who gave so much trouble, is Ц [with a slow smile of deep satisfaction] Ц not in the least likely to come back!



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