The Magic Fish-bone
/After Charles Dickens/
Speaker 1: There was once a king and he had a queen; and he was the manliest of his sex, and she was the loveliest of hers.
Speaker 2: They had 19 children and were always having more.
Speaker 1: Seventeen of these children took care of the baby, and Alicia, the eldest, took care of them all.
Speaker 2: One day when the king was going to the office
Speaker 1: He was in his private profession, under government!
Speaker 2: He stopped at the fishmonger’s to buy a pound and a half of salmon
Speaker 1: not too near the tail
Speaker 2: which the queen
Speaker 1: (who was a careful housekeeper)
Speaker 2: had requested him to send home.
Speaker 1: And there in the shop he didn’t notice an old lady, who was invisible to him, though visible to children.
Speaker 2: So strange she was!
Old lady: King Watkins the First, I believe?
King: Watkins is my name.
Old lady: Papa, if I am not mistaken, of the beautiful Princess Alicia?
King: And of eighteen other darlings.
Old lady: Listen. I am the good Fairy Grandmarina. Attend! When you return home to dinner, politely invite the Princess Alicia to have some of the salmon you bought just now.
King: It may disagree with her.
Old lady: We hear a great deal too much about this thing disagreeing, and that thing disagreeing. Don’t be greedy. I think you want it all yourself.
King: Oh, no!
Old lady: Be good, then, and don’t! When the beautiful Princess Alicia consents to partake of the salmon – as I think she will – you will find she will leave a fish-bone on her plate. Tell her to dry it, and to rub it, and to polish it, till it shines like mother-of-pearl, and to take care of it as a present from me.
King: Is that all?
Old lady: Don’t be impatient, sir! Don’t catch people short, before they have done speaking. Just the way with you grown-up persons. You are always doing it.
King: Sorry, mam. I won’t do so any more.
Old lady: Be good, then, and don’t! Tell the Princess Alicia, with my love, that the fish-bone is a magic present which can only be used once at the right time. That is the massage. Take care of it.
King: Might I ask the reason?
Old lady: Will you be good, sir? The reason for this, and the reason for that, indeed! You are always wanting the reason. No reason. There! Hoity toity me! I’m sick of your grown-up reasons!
King: I’m very-very sorry to have offended you. I didn’t mean that. I won’t ask for reasons any more.
Old lady: Be good, then, and don’t!
Alicia: Oh, mummy! What’s wrong?
Queen: O h, dear me, dear me; my head, my head!
Alicia: Wait a minute! I’ll help you.
Queen: What a trot you are! I couldn’t have done it better myself!
Speaker 1: The queen was very ill indeed, for a long time.
Speaker 2: The Princess Alicia kept seventeen young princes and princesses quiet, and dressed and undressed
Speaker 1: and danced the baby, and made the kettle boil, and heated the soup,
Speaker 2: and nursed the queen, and did all that ever she could,
Speaker 1: and was busy, busy, busy as busy could be.
Speaker 2: For there were not many servants at that palace for three reasons:
Speaker 1: because the king was short of money,
Speaker 2: because the rise in his office never seemed to come,
Speaker 1: and because quarter-day (the day when people get their salary) was so far off that it looked as little as one of the stars.
Alicia: Yes, papa.
King: What has become with the magic fish-bone?
Alicia: In my pocket, papa.
King: I thought you had lost it?
Alicia: Oh, no, papa!
King: Or forgotten it?
Alicia: No, indeed, papa. What’s the matter? Why are you sighing so heavily?
King: I am dreadfully poor, my child.
Alicia: Have you no money at all, papa?
King: None, my child.
Alicia: Is there no way of getting any, papa?
King: No way. I have tried very hard, and I have tried all ways.
Alicia: Papa, when we have tried very hard, and tried all ways, we must have done our very, very best?
King: No doubt, Alicia.
Alicia: When we have done our very, very best, papa, and that is not enough, then I think the right time must have come for asking help of others.
(She takes the fish-bone out of her pocket, kisses it)
Alicia: I wish it to be quarter-day! (Money appears. The old Fairy comes in)
Old Fairy: Alicia, my dear, how do you do? I hope I see you pretty well? Give me a kiss.
(to the king) Are you good?
King: I hope I am.
Old Lady: I suppose you know the reason now, why my god-daughter here did not apply to the fish-bone sooner? Ah! But you didn’t then? Any more reasons to ask for?
King: No. I am so sorry.
Old Lady: Be good, then, and live happy ever afterwards. Since today and in future there will be 8 quarter-days in every year, except in leap-year, when there will be ten. And for you, Alicia, there is a good husband. He is a real Prince, too. And you will be happy together. My dear, you will have 35 children and they will all be good and beautiful. 17 of your children will be boys, and 18 will be girls. The hair of the whole of your children will curl naturally, and they will never have any diseases.
(Hip, hip, hip, hurrah!)