Capt. M. (With a face like a wall.) Ya-as. Whose for choice?
Capt. G. If you're going to be a blackguard, I'm going on—What's the time?
Capt. M. (Hums.) An' since 'twas very clear we drank only ginger-beer, Faith, there must ha' been some stingo in the ginger." Come back, you maniac. I'm going to take you home, and you're going to lie down.
Capt. G. What on earth do I want to lie down for?
Capt. M. Give me a light from your cheroot and see.
Capt. G. (Watching cheroot-butt quiver like a tuning-fork.) Sweet state I'm in!
Capt. M. You are. I'll get you a peg and you'll go to sleep.
They return and M. compounds a four-finger peg.
Capt. G. O bus! bus! It'll make me as drunk as an owl.
Capt. M. 'Curious thing, 'twon't have the slightest effect on you. Drink it off, chuck yourself down there, and go to bye-bye.
Capt. G. It's absurd. I sha'n't sleep, I know I sha'n't!
Falls into heavy doze at end of seven minutes. Capt. M. watches him tenderly.
Capt. M. Poor old Gadsby! I've seen a few turned off before, but never one who went to the gallows in this condition. 'Can't tell how it affects "em, though. It's the thoroughbreds that sweat when they're backed into double-harness.—And that's the man who went through the guns at Amdheran like a devil possessed of devils. (Leans over G.) But this is worse than the guns, old pal—worse than the guns, isn't it? (G. turns in his sleep, and M. touches him clumsily on the forehead.) Poor, dear old Gaddy! Going like the rest of 'em—going like the rest of 'em—Friend that sticketh closer than a brother—eight years. Dashed bit of a slip of a girl—eight weeks! And—where's your friend? (Smokes disconsolately till church clock strikes three.)
Capt. M. Up with you! Get into your kit.
Capt. C. Already? Isn't it too soon? Hadn't I better have a shave?
Capt. M. No! You're all right. (Aside.) He'd chip his chin to pieces.
Capt. C. What's the hurry?
Capt. M. You've got to be there first.
Capt. C. To be stared at?
Capt. M. Exactly. You're part of the show. Where's the burnisher? Your spurs are in a shameful state.
Capt. G. (Gruffly.) Jack, I be damned if you shall do that for me.
Capt. M. (More gruffly.) Dry up and get dressed! If I choose to clean your spurs, you're under my orders.
Capt. G. dresses. M. follows suit.
Capt. M. (Critically, walking round.) M'—yes, you'll do. Only don"t look so like a criminal. Ring, gloves, fees—that's all right for me. Let your moustache alone. Now, if the ponies are ready, we'll go.
Capt. G. (Nervously.) It's much too soon. Let's light up! Let"s have a peg! Let's—
Capt. M. Let's make bally asses of ourselves!
BELLS. (Without.)— "Good-peo-ple-all To prayers-we call."
Capt. M. There go the bells! Come on—unless you'd rather not. (They ride off.)
BELLS.— "We honor the King And Brides joy do bring— Good tidings we tell, And ring the Dead's knell."
Capt. G. (Dismounting at the door of the Church.) I say, aren't we much too soon? There are no end of people inside. I say, aren't we much too late? Stick by me, Jack! What the devil do I do?
Capt. M. Strike an attitude at the bead of the aisle and wait for Her. (G. groans as M. wheels him into position before three hundred eyes.)
Capt. M. (Imploringly.) Gaddy, if you love me, for pity's sake, for the Honor of the Regiment, stand up! Chuck yourself into your uniform! Look like a man! I've got to speak to the Padre a minute. (G. breaks into a gentle Perspiration.) If you wipe your face I'll never be your best man again. Stand up! (G. trembles visibly.)
Capt. M. (Returning.) She's coming now. Look out when the music starts. There's the organ beginning to clack.
Bride steps out of 'rickshaw at Church door. G. catches a glimpse of her and takes heart.
ORGAN.— "The Voice that breathed o'er Eden, That earliest marriage day, The primal marriage-blessing, It hath not passed away."
Capt. M. (Watching G.) By Jove! He is looking well. 'Didn't think he had it in him.
Capt. G. How long does this hymn go on for?
Capt. M. It will be over directly. (Anxiously.) (Beginning to bleach and gulp.) Hold on, Gabby, and think 'o the Regiment.
Capt. G. (Measuredly.) I say, there's a big brown lizard crawling up that wall.
Capt. M. My Sainted Mother! The last stage of collapse!
Bride comes up to left of altar, lifts her eyes once to G., who is suddenly smitten mad.
Capt. G. (To himself again and again.) Little Featherweight's a woman—a woman! And I thought she was a little girl.
Capt. M. (In a whisper.) Form the halt—inward wheel.
Capt. G. obeys mechanically and the ceremony proceeds.
PADRE. . . . only unto her as ye both shall live?
Capt. G. (His throat useless.) Ha-hmmm!
Capt. M. Say you will or you won't. There's no second deal here.
Bride gives response with perfect coolness, and is given away by the father.
Capt. G. (Thinking to show his learning.) Jack give me away now, quick!
Capt. M. You've given yourself away quite enough. Her right hand, man! Repeat! Repeat! "Theodore Philip." Have you forgotten your own name?
Capt. G. stumbles through Affirmation, which Bride repeats without a tremor.
Capt. M. Now the ring! Follow the Padre! Don't pull off my glove! Here it is! Great Cupid, he's found his voice.
Capt. G. repeats Troth in a voice to be heard to the end of the Church and turns on his heel.
Capt. M. (Desperately.) Rein back! Back to your troop! 'Tisn't half legal yet.
PADRE. . . . joined together let no man put asunder.
Capt. G. paralyzed with fear jibs after Blessing.
Capt. M. (Quickly.) On your own front—one length. Take her with you. I don't come. You've nothing to say. (Capt. G. jingles up to altar.)
Capt. M. (In a piercing rattle meant to be a whisper.) Kneel, you stiff-necked ruffian! Kneel!
PADRE. . . whose daughters are ye so long as ye do well and are not afraid with any amazement.
Capt. M. Dismiss! Break off! Left wheel!
All troop to vestry. They sign.
Capt. M. Kiss Her, Gaddy.
Capt. G. (Rubbing the ink into his glove.) Eh! Wha-at?
Capt. M. (Taking one pace to Bride.) If you don't, I shall.
Capt. G. (Interposing an arm.) Not this journey!
General kissing, in which Capt. G. is pursued by unknown female.
Capt. G. (Faintly to M.) This is Hades! Can I wipe my face now?
Capt. M. My responsibility has ended. Better ask Misses GADSBY.
Capt. G. winces as though shot and procession is Mendelssohned out of Church to house, where usual tortures take place over the wedding-cake.
Capt. M. (At table.) Up with you, Gaddy. They expect a speech.
Capt. G. (After three minutes" agony.) Ha-hmmm. (Thunders Of applause.)
Capt. M. Doocid good, for a first attempt. Now go and change your kit while Mamma is weeping over "the Missus." (Capt. G. disappears. Capt. M. starts up tearing his hair.) It's not half legal. Where are the shoes? Get an ayah.
AYAH. Missie Captain Sahib done gone band karo all the jutis.
Capt. M. (Brandishing scab larded sword.) Woman, produce those shoes! Some one lend me a bread-knife. We mustn't crack Gaddy"s head more than it is. (Slices heel off white satin slipper and puts slipper up his sleeve.)
Where is the Bride? (To the company at large.) Be tender with that rice. It's a heathen custom. Give me the big bag. * * * * * *
Bride slips out quietly into 'rickshaw and departs toward the sunset.
Capt. M. (In the open.) Stole away, by Jove! So much the worse for Gaddy! Here he is. Now Gaddy, this'll be livelier than Amdberan! Where's your horse?
Capt. G. (Furiously, seeing that the women are out of an earshot.) Where the d -'s my Wife?
Capt. M. Half-way to Mahasu by this time. You'll have to ride like Young Lochinvar.
Horse comes round on his hind legs; refuses to let G. handle him.
Capt. G. Oh you will, will you? Get 'round, you brute—you hog—you beast! Get round!
Wrenches horse's head over, nearly breaking lower jaw: swings himself into saddle, and sends home both spurs in the midst of a spattering gale of Best Patna.
Capt. M. For your life and your love—ride, Gaddy—And God bless you!
Throws half a pound of rice at G. who disappears, bowed forward on the saddle, in a cloud of sunlit dust.
Capt. M. I've lost old Gaddy. (Lights cigarette and strolls off, singing absently):— "You may carve it on his tombstone, you may cut it on his card, That a young man married is a young man marred!"
Miss DEERCOURT. (From her horse.) Really, Captain Mafflin! You are more plain spoken than polite!
Capt. M. (Aside.) They say marriage is like cholera. 'Wonder who'll be the next victim.
White satin slipper slides from his sleeve and falls at his feet. Left wondering.
THE GARDEN OF EDEN And ye shall be as—Gods!
SCENE. Thymy grass-plot at back of the Mahasu dak-bungalow, overlooking little wooded valley. On the left, glimpse of the Dead Forest of Fagoo; on the right, Simla Hills. In background, line of the Snows. CAPTAIN GADSBY, now three weeks a husband, is smoking the pipe of peace on a rug in the sunshine. Banjo and tobacco-pouch on rug. Overhead the Fagoo eagles. Mrs. G. comes out of bungalow.
Mrs. G. My husband!
Capt. G. (Lazily, with intense enjoyment.) Eh, wha-at? Say that again.
Mrs. G. I've written to Mamma and told her that we shall be back on the 17th.
Capt. G. Did you give her my love?
Mrs. G. No, I kept all that for myself. (Sitting down by his side.) I thought you wouldn't mind.
Capt. G. (With mock sternness.) I object awf'ly. How did you know that it was yours to keep?
Mrs. G. I guessed, Phil.
Capt. G. (Rapturously.) Lit-tle Featherweight!
Mrs. G. I won" t be called those sporting pet names, bad boy.
Capt. G. You'll be called anything I choose. Has it ever occurred to you, Madam, that you are my Wife?
Mrs. G. It has. I haven't ceased wondering at it yet.
Capt. G. Nor I. It seems so strange; and yet, somehow, it doesn't. (Confidently.) You see, it could have been no one else.
Mrs. G. (Softly.) No. No one else—for me or for you. It must have been all arranged from the beginning. Phil, tell me again what made you care for me.
Capt. G. How could I help it? You were you, you know.
Mrs. G. Did you ever want to help it? Speak the truth!
Capt. G. (A twinkle in his eye.) I did, darling, just at the first. Rut only at the very first. (Chuckles.) I called you—stoop low and I'll whisper—"a little beast." Ho! Ho! Ho!
Mrs. G. (Taking him by the moustache and making him sit up.) "A-little-beast!" Stop laughing over your crime! And yet you had the—the—awful cheek to propose to me!
Capt. C. I'd changed my mind then. And you weren't a little beast any more.
Mrs. G. Thank you, sir! And when was I ever?
Capt. G. Never! But that first day, when you gave me tea in that peach-colored muslin gown thing, you looked—you did indeed, dear—such an absurd little mite. And I didn't know what to say to you.
Mrs. G. (Twisting moustache.) So you said "little beast." Upon my word, Sir! I called you a "Crrrreature," but I wish now I had called you something worse.
Capt. G. (Very meekly.) I apologize, but you're hurting me awf'ly. (Interlude.) You're welcome to torture me again on those terms.
Mrs. G. Oh, why did you let me do it?
Capt. G. (Looking across valley.) No reason in particular, but—if it amused you or did you any good—you might—wipe those dear little boots of yours on me.
Mrs. G. (Stretching out her hands.) Don't! Oh, don't! Philip, my King, please don't talk like that. It's how I feel. You're so much too good for me. So much too good!
Capt. G. Me! I'm not fit to put my arm around you. (Puts it round.)
Mrs. C. Yes, you are. But I—what have I ever done?
Capt. G. Given me a wee bit of your heart, haven't you, my Queen!
Mrs. G. That's nothing. Any one would do that. They cou—couldn'thelp it.
Capt. G. Pussy, you'll make me horribly conceited. Just when I was beginning to feel so humble, too.
Mrs. G. Humble! I don't believe it's in your character.
Capt. G. What do you know of my character, Impertinence?
Mrs. G. Ah, but I shall, shan't I, Phil? I shall have time in all the years and years to come, to know everything about you; and there will be no secrets between us.
Capt. G. Little witch! I believe you know me thoroughly already.
Mrs. G. I think I can guess. You're selfish?
Capt. G. Yes.
Mrs. G. Foolish?
Capt. G. Very.
Mrs. G. And a dear?
Capt. G. That is as my lady pleases.
Mrs. G. Then your lady is pleased. (A pause.) D'you know that we're two solemn, serious, grown-up people—
Capt. G. (Tilting her straw hat over her eyes.) You grown-up! Pooh! You're a baby.
Mrs. G. And we're talking nonsense.
Capt. G. Then let's go on talking nonsense. I rather like it. Pussy, I'll tell you a secret. Promise not to repeat?
Mrs. G. Ye-es. Only to you.
Capt. G. I love you.
Mrs. G. Re-ally! For how long?
Capt. G. Forever and ever.
Mrs. G. That's a long time.
Capt. G. 'Think so? It's the shortest I can do with.
Mrs. G. You're getting quite clever.
Capt. G. I'm talking to you.
Mrs. G. Prettily turned. Hold up your stupid old head and I'll pay you for it.
Capt. G. (Affecting supreme contempt.) Take it yourself if you want it.
Mrs. G. I've a great mind to—and I will! (Takes it and is repaid with interest.)
Capt. G, Little Featherweight, it's my opinion that we are a couple of idiots.
Mrs. G. We're the only two sensible people in the world. Ask the eagle. He's coming by.
Capt. G. Ah! I dare say he's seen a good many sensible people at Mahasu. They say that those birds live for ever so long.
Mrs. G. How long?
Capt. G. A hundred and twenty years.
Mrs. G. A hundred and twenty years! O-oh! And in a hundred and twenty years where will these two sensible people be?
Capt. G. What does it matter so long as we are together now?
Mrs. G. (Looking round the horizon.) Yes. Only you and I—I and you—in the whole wide, wide world until the end. (Sees the line of the Snows.) How big and quiet the hills look! D'you think they care for us?
Capt. G. 'Can't say I've consulted 'em particularly. I care, and that's enough for me.
Mrs. G. (Drawing nearer to him.) Yes, now—but afterward. What's that little black blur on the Snows?
Capt. G. A snowstorm, forty miles away. You'll see it move, as the wind carries it across the face of that spur and then it will be all gone.
Mrs. G. And then it will be all gone. (Shivers.)
Capt. G. (Anxiously.) 'Not chilled, pet, are you? 'Better let me get your cloak.
Mrs. G. No. Don't leave me, Phil. Stay here. I believe I am afraid. Oh, why are the hills so horrid! Phil, promise me that you'll always love me.
Capt. G. What's the trouble, darling? I can't promise any more than I have; but I'll promise that again and again if you like.
Mrs. G. (Her head on his shoulder.) Say it, then—say it! N-no—don't! The— the—eagles would laugh. (Recovering.) My husband, you've married a little goose.
Capt. G. (Very tenderly.) Have I? I am content whatever she is, so long as she is mine.
Mrs. G. (Quickly.) Because she is yours or because she is me mineself?
Capt. G. Because she is both. (Piteously.) I'm not clever, dear, and I don't think I can make myself understood properly.
Mrs. G. I understand. Pip, will you tell me something?
Capt. G. Anything you like. (Aside.) I wonder what's coming now.
Mrs. G. (Haltingly, her eyes lowered.) You told me once in the old days— centuries and centuries ago—that you had been engaged before. I didn't say anything—then.
Capt. G. (Innocently.) Why not?
Mrs. G. (Raising her eyes to his.) Because—because I was afraid of losing you, my heart. But now—tell about it—please.
Capt. G. There's nothing to tell. I was awf'ly old then—nearly two and twenty- -and she was quite that.
Mrs. G. That means she was older than you. I shouldn't like her to have been younger. Well?
Capt. G. Well, I fancied myself in love and raved about a bit, and—oh, yes, by Jove! I made up poetry. Ha! Ha!
Mrs. G. You never wrote any for me! What happened?
Capt. G. I came out here, and the whole thing went phut. She wrote to say that there had been a mistake, and then she married.
Mrs. G. Did she care for you much?
Capt. G. No. At least she didn't show it as far as I remember.
Mrs. G. As far as you remember! Do you remember her name? (Hears it and bows her head.) Thank you, my husband.
Capt. G. Who but you had the right? Now, Little Featherweight, have you ever been mixed up in any dark and dismal tragedy?
Mrs. G. If you call me Mrs. Gadsby, p'raps I'll tell.
Capt. G. (Throwing Parade rasp into his voice.) Mrs. Gadsby, confess!
Mrs. G. Good Heavens, Phil! I never knew that you could speak in that terrible voice.
Capt. G. You don't know half my accomplishments yet. Wait till we are settled in the Plains, and I'll show you how I bark at my troop. You were going to say, darling?
Mrs. G. I—I don't like to, after that voice. (Tremulously.) Phil, never you dare to speak to me in that tone, whatever I may do!
Capt. G. My poor little love! Why, you're shaking all over. I am so sorry. Of course I never meant to upset you Don't tell me anything, I'm a brute.
Mrs. G. No, you aren't, and I will tell—There was a man.
Capt. G. (Lightly.) Was there? Lucky man!
Mrs. G. (In a whisper.) And I thought I cared for him.
Capt. G. Still luckier man! Well?
Mrs. G. And I thought I cared for him—and I didn't—and then you came—and I cared for you very, very much indeed. That's all. (Face hidden.) You aren't angry, are you?
Capt. G. Angry? Not in the least. (Aside.) Good Lord, what have I done to deserve this angel?
Mrs. G. (Aside.) And he never asked for the name! How funny men are! But perhaps it's as well.
Capt. G. That man will go to heaven because you once thought you cared for him. 'Wonder if you'll ever drag me up there?
Mrs. G. (Firmly.) 'Sha'n't go if you don't.
Capt. G. Thanks. I say, Pussy, I don't know much about your religious beliefs. You were brought up to believe in a heaven and all that, weren't you?
Mrs. G. Yes. But it was a pincushion heaven, with hymn-books in all the pews.
Capt. G. (Wagging his head with intense conviction.) Never mind. There is a pukka heaven.
Mrs. G. Where do you bring that message from, my prophet?
Capt. G. Here! Because we care for each other. So it's all right.
Mrs. G. (As a troop of langurs crash through the branches.) So it's all right. But Darwin says that we came from those!
Capt. G. (Placidly.) Ah! Darwin was never in love with an angel. That settles it. Sstt, you brutes! Monkeys, indeed! You shouldn't read those books.
Mrs. G. (Folding her hands.) If it pleases my Lord the King to issue proclamation.
Capt. G. Don't, dear one. There are no orders between us. Only I'd rather you didn't. They lead to nothing, and bother people's heads.
Mrs. G. Like your first engagement.
Capt. G. (With an immense calm.) That was a necessary evil and led to you. Are you nothing?
Mrs. G. Not so very much, am I?
Capt. G. All this world and the next to me.
Mrs. G. (Very softly.) My boy of boys! Shall I tell you something?
Capt. G. Yes, if it's not dreadful—about other men.
Mrs. G. It's about my own bad little self.
Capt. G. Then it must be good. Go on, dear.
Mrs. G. (Slowly.) I don't know why I'm telling you, Pip; but if ever you marry again—(Interlude.) Take your hand from my mouth or I'll bite! In the future, then remember—I don't know quite how to put it!
Capt. G. (Snorting indignantly.) Don't try. "Marry again," indeed!
Mrs. G. I must. Listen, my husband. Never, never, never tell your wife anything that you do not wish her to remember and think over all her life. Because a woman—yes, I am a woman—can't forget.
Capt. G. By Jove, how do you know that?
Mrs. G. (Confusedly.) I don't. I'm only guessing. I am—I was—a silly little girl; but I feel that I know so much, oh, so very much more than you, dearest. To begin with, I'm your wife.
Capt. G. So I have been led to believe.
Mrs. G. And I shall want to know every one of your secrets—to share everything you know with you. (Stares round desperately.)
Capt. G. So you shall, dear, so you shall—but don't look like that.
Mrs. G. For your own sake don't stop me, Phil. I shall never talk to you in this way again. You must not tell me! At least, not now. Later on, when I'm an old matron it won't matter, but if you love me, be very good to me now; for this part of my life I shall never forget! Have I made you understand?
Capt. G. I think so, child. Have I said anything yet that you disapprove of?
Mrs. G. Will you be very angry? That—that voice, and what you said about the engagement—
Capt. G. But you asked to be told that, darling.
Mrs. G. And that's why you shouldn't have told me! You must be the Judge, and, oh, Pip, dearly as I love you, I shan't be able to help you! I shall hinder you, and you must judge in spite of me!
Capt. G. (Meditatively.) We have a great many things to find out together, God help us both—say so, Pussy—but we shall understand each other better every day; and I think I'm beginning to see now. How in the world did you come to know just the importance of giving me just that lead?
Mrs. G. I've told you that I don't know. Only somehow it seemed that, in all this new life, I was being guided for your sake as well as my own.
Capt. G. (Aside.) Then Mafflin was right! They know, and we—we're blind all of us. (Lightly.) 'Getting a little beyond our depth, dear, aren't we? I'll remember, and, if I fail, let me be punished as I deserve.
Mrs. G. There shall be no punishment. We'll start into life together from here- -you and I—and no one else.
Capt. G. And no one else. (A pause.) Your eyelashes are all wet, Sweet? Was there ever such a quaint little Absurdity?
Mrs. G. Was there ever such nonsense talked before?
Capt. G. (Knocking the ashes out of his pipe.) 'Tisn't what we say, it's what we don't say, that helps. And it's all the profoundest philosophy. But no one would understand—even if it were put into a book.
Mrs. G. The idea! No—only we ourselves, or people like ourselves—if there are any people like us.
Capt. G. (Magisterially.) All people, not like ourselves, are blind idiots.
Mrs. G. (Wiping her eyes.) Do you think, then, that there are any people as happy as we are?
Capt. G. 'Must be—unless we've appropriated all the happiness in the world.
Mrs. G. (Looking toward Simla.) Poor dears! Just fancy if we have!
Capt. G. Then we'll hang on to the whole show, for it's a great deal too jolly to lose—eh, wife 'o mine?
Mrs. G. O Pip! Pip! How much of you is a solemn, married man and how much a horrid slangy schoolboy?
Capt. G. When you tell me how much of you was eighteen last birthday and how much is as old as the Sphinx and twice as mysterious, perhaps I'll attend to you. Lend me that banjo. The spirit moveth me to yowl at the sunset.
Mrs. G. Mind! It's not tuned. Ah! How that jars!
Capt. G. (Turning pegs.) It's amazingly different to keep a banjo to proper pitch.
Mrs. G. It's the same with all musical instruments, What shall it be?
Capt. G. "Vanity," and let the hills hear. (Sings through the first and half of the second verse. Turning to Mrs. G.) Now, chorus! Sing, Pussy! BOTH TOGETHER. (Con brio, to the horror of the monkeys who are settling for the night.)—
"Vanity, all is Vanity," said Wisdom. scorning me— I clasped my true Love's tender hand and answered frank and free-ee "If this be Vanity who'd be wise? If this be Vanity who'd be wise? If this be Vanity who'd be wi-ise (Crescendo.) Vanity let it be!"
Mrs. G. (Defiantly to the grey of the evening sky.) "Vanity let it be!"
ECHO. (Prom the Fagoo spur.) Let it be!
And you may go in every room of the house and see everything that is there, but into the Blue Room you must not go. —The Story of Blue Beard.
SCENE. The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains. Time, 11 A. M. on a Sunday morning. Captain GADSBY, in his shirt-sleeves, is bending over a complete set of Hussar's equipment, from saddle to picketing-rope, which is neatly spread over the floor of his study. He is smoking an unclean briar, and his forehead is puckered with thought.
Capt. G. (To himself, fingering a headstall.) Jack's an ass. There's enough brass on this to load a mule—and, if the Americans know anything about anything, it can be cut down to a bit only. 'Don't want the watering-bridle, either. Humbug!—Half a dozen sets of chains and pulleys for one horse! Rot! (Scratching his head.) Now, let's consider it all over from the beginning. By Jove, I've forgotten the scale of weights! Never mind. 'Keep the bit only, and eliminate every boss from the crupper to breastplate. No breastplate at all. Simple leather strap across the breast—like the Russians. Hi! Jack never thought of that!
Mrs. G. (Entering hastily, her hand bound in a cloth.) Oh, Pip, I've scalded my hand over that horrid, horrid Tiparee jam!
Capt. G. (Absently.) Eh! Wha-at?
Mrs. G. (With round-eyed reproach.) I've scalded it aw-fully! Aren't you sorry? And I did so want that jam to jam properly.
Capt. G. Poor little woman! Let me kiss the place and make it well. (Unrolling bandage.) You small sinner! Where's that scald? I can't see it.
Mrs. G. On the top of the little finger. There!—It's a most 'normous big burn!
Capt. G. (Kissing little finger.) Baby! Let Hyder look after the jam. You know I don't care for sweets.
Mrs. G. Indeed?—Pip!
Capt. G. Not of that kind, anyhow. And now run along, Minnie, and leave me to my own base devices. I'm busy.
Mrs. G. (Calmly settling herself in long chair.) So I see. What a mess you're making! Why have you brought all that smelly leather stuff into the house?
Capt. G. To play with. Do you mind, dear?
Mrs. G. Let me play too. I'd like it.
Capt. G. I'm afraid you wouldn't. Pussy—Don't you think that jam will burn, or whatever it is that jam does when it's not looked after by a clever little housekeeper?
Mrs. G. I thought you said Hyder could attend to it. I left him in the veranda, stirring—when I hurt myself so.
Capt. G. (His eye returning to the equipment.) Po-oor little woman!—Three pounds four and seven is three eleven, and that can be cut down to two eight, with just a lee-tle care, without weakening anything. Farriery is all rot in incompetent hands. What's the use of a shoe-case when a man's scouting? He can't stick it on with a lick—like a stamp—the shoe! Skittles—
Mrs. G. What's skittles? Pah! What is this leather cleaned with?
Capt. G. Cream and champagne and—Look here, dear, do you really want to talk to me about anything important?
Mrs. G. No. I've done my accounts, and I thought I'd like to see what you're doing.
Capt. G. Well, love, now you've seen and—Would you mind?—That is to say— Minnie, I really am busy.
Mrs. G. You want me to go?
Capt. G, Yes, dear, for a little while. This tobacco will hang in your dress, and saddlery doesn't interest you.
Mrs. G. Everything you do interests me, Pip.
Capt. G. Yes, I know, I know, dear. I'll tell you all about it some day when I've put a head on this thing. In the meantime—
Mrs. G. I'm to be turned out of the room like a troublesome child?
Capt. G. No-o. I don't mean that exactly. But, you see, I shall be tramping up and down, shifting these things to and fro, and I shall be in your way. Don't you think so?
Mrs. G. Can't I lift them about? Let me try. (Reaches forward to trooper's saddle.)
Capt. G. Good gracious, child, don't touch it. You'll hurt yourself. (Picking up saddle.) Little girls aren't expected to handle numdahs. Now, where would you like it put? (Holds saddle above his head.)
Mrs. G. (A break in her voice.) Nowhere. Pip, how good you are—and how strong! Oh, what's that ugly red streak inside your arm?
Capt. G. (Lowering saddle quickly.) Nothing. It's a mark of sorts. (Aside.) And Jack's coming to tiffin with his notions all cut and dried!
Mrs. G. I know it's a mark, but I've never seen it before. It runs all up the arm. What is it?
Capt. G. A cut—if you want to know.
Mrs. G. Want to know! Of course I do! I can't have my husband cut to pieces in this way. How did it come? Was it an accident? Tell me, Pip.
Capt. G. (Grimly.) No. 'Twasn't an accident. I got it—from a man—in Afghanistan.
Mrs. G. In action? Oh, Pip, and you never told me!
Capt. G. I'd forgotten all about it.
Mrs. G. Hold up your arm! What a horrid, ugly scar! Are you sure it doesn't hurt now! How did the man give it you?
Capt. G. (Desperately looking at his watch.) With a knife. I came down—old Van Loo did, that's to say—and fell on my leg, so I couldn't run. And then this man came up and began chopping at me as I sprawled.
Mrs. G. Oh, don't, don't! That's enough!—Well, what happened?
Capt. G. I couldn't get to my holster, and Mafflin came round the corner and stopped the performance.
Mrs. G. How? He's such a lazy man, I don't believe he did.
Capt. G. Don't you? I don't think the man had much doubt about it. Jack cut his head off.
Mrs. G. Cut-his-head-off! "With one blow," as they say in the books?
Capt. G. I'm not sure. I was too interested in myself to know much about it. Anyhow, the head was off, and Jack was punching old Van Loo in the ribs to make him get up. Now you know all about it, dear, and now—
Mrs. G. You want me to go, of course. You never told me about this, though I've been married to you for ever so long; and you never would have told me if I hadn't found out; and you never do tell me anything about yourself, or what you do, or what you take an interest in.
Capt. G. Darling, I'm always with you, aren't I?
Mrs. G. Always in my pocket, you were going to say. I know you are; but you are always thinking away from me.
Capt. G. (Trying to hide a smile.) Am I? I wasn't aware of it. I'm awf'ly sorry.
Mrs. G. (Piteously.) Oh, don't make fun of me! Pip, you know what I mean. When you are reading one of those things about Cavalry, by that idiotic Prince—why doesn't he be a Prince instead of a stable-boy?
Capt. G. Prince Kraft a stable-boy—Oh, my Aunt! Never mind, dear. You were going to say?
Mrs. G. It doesn't matter; you don't care for what I say. Only—only you get up and walk about the room, staring in front of you, and then Mafflin comes in to dinner, and after I'm in the drawing-room I can hear you and him talking, and talking, and talking, about things I can't understand, and—oh, I get so tired and feel so lonely!—I don't want to complain and be a trouble, Pip; but I do indeed I do!
Capt. G. My poor darling! I never thought of that. Why don't you ask some nice people in to dinner?
Mrs. G. Nice people! Where am I to find them? Horrid frumps! And if I did, I shouldn't be amused. You know I only want you.
Capt. G. And you have me surely, Sweetheart?
Mrs. G. I have not! Pip why don't you take me into your life?
Capt. G. More than I do? That would be difficult, dear.
Mrs. G. Yes, I suppose it would—to you. I'm no help to you—no companion to you; and you like to have it so.
Capt. G. Aren't you a little unreasonable, Pussy?
Mrs. G. (Stamping her foot.) I'm the most reasonable woman in the world—when I'm treated properly.
Capt. G. And since when have I been treating you improperly?
Mrs. G. Always—and since the beginning. You know you have.
Capt. G. I don't; but I'm willing to be convinced.
Mrs. G. (Pointing to saddlery.) There!
Capt. G. How do you mean?
Mrs. G. What does all that mean? Why am I not to be told? Is it so precious?
Capt. G. I forget its exact Government value just at present. It means that it is a great deal too heavy.
Mrs. G. Then why do you touch it?
Capt. G. To make it lighter. See here, little love, I've one notion and Jack has another, but we are both agreed that all this equipment is about thirty pounds too heavy. The thing is how to cut it down without weakening any part of it, and, at the same time, allowing the trooper to carry everything he wants for his own comfort—socks and shirts and things of that kind.
Mrs. G. Why doesn't he pack them in a little trunk?
Capt. G. (Kissing her.) Oh, you darling! Pack them in a little trunk, indeed! Hussars don't carry trunks, and it's a most important thing to make the horse do all the carrying.
Mrs. G. But why need you bother about it? You're not a trooper.
Capt. G. No; but I command a few score of him; and equipment is nearly everything in these days.
Mrs. G. More than me?
Capt. G. Stupid! Of course not; but it's a matter that I'm tremendously interested in, because if I or Jack, or I and Jack, work out some sort of lighter saddlery and all that, it's possible that we may get it adopted.
Mrs. G. How?
Capt. G. Sanctioned at Home, where they will make a sealed pattern—a pattern that all the saddlers must copy—and so it will be used by all the regiments.
Mrs. G. And that interests you?
Capt. G. It's part of my profession, y'know, and my profession is a good deal to me. Everything in a soldier's equipment is important, and if we can improve that equipment, so much the better for the soldiers and for us.
Mrs. G. Who's "us"?
Capt. G. Jack and I; only Jack's notions are too radical. What's that big sigh for, Minnie?
Mrs. G. Oh, nothing—and you've kept all this a secret from me! Why?
Capt. G. Not a secret, exactly, dear. I didn't say anything about it to you because I didn't think it would amuse you.
Mrs. G. And am I only made to be amused?
Capt. G. No, of course. I merely mean that it couldn't interest you.
Mrs. G. It's your work and—and if you'd let me, I'd count all these things up. If they are too heavy, you know by how much they are too heavy, and you must have a list of things made out to your scale of lightness, and—
Capt. G. I have got both scales somewhere in my head; but it's hard to tell how light you can make a head-stall, for instance, until you've actually had a model made.
Mrs. G. But if you read out the list, I could copy it down, and pin it up there just above your table. Wouldn't that do?
Capt. G. It would be awf'ly nice, dear, but it would be giving you trouble for nothing. I can't work that way. I go by rule of thumb. I know the present scale of weights, and the other one—the one that I'm trying to work to—will shift and vary so much that I couldn't be certain, even if I wrote it down.
Mrs. G. I'm so sorry. I thought I might help. Is there anything else that I could be of use in?
Capt. G. (Looking round the room.) I can't think of anything. You're always helping me you know.
Mrs. G. Am I? How?
Capt. G. You are of course, and as long as you're near me—I can't explain exactly, but it's in the air.
Mrs. G. And that's why you wanted to send me away?
Capt. G. That's only when I'm trying to do work—grubby work like this.
Mrs. G. Mafflin's better, then, isn't he?
Capt. G. (Rashly.) Of course he is. Jack and I have been thinking along the same groove for two or three years about this equipment. It's our hobby, and it may really be useful some day.
Mrs. G. (After a pause.) And that's all that you have away from me?
Capt. G. It isn't very far away from you now. Take care the oil on that bit doesn't come off on your dress.
Mrs. G. I wish—I wish so much that I could really help you. I believe I could- -if I left the room. But that's not what I mean.
Capt. G. (Aside.) Give me patience! I wish she would go. (Aloud.) I assure you you can't do anything for me, Minnie, and I must really settle down to this. Where's my pouch?
Mrs. G. (Crossing to writing-table.) Here you are, Bear. What a mess you keep your table in!
Capt. G. Don' ttouch it. There's a method in my madness, though you mightn't think of it.
Mrs. G. (At table.) I want to look - Do you keep accounts, Pip?
Capt. G. (Bending over saddlery.) Of a sort. Are you rummaging among the Troop papers? Be careful.
Mrs. G. Why? I sha'n't disturb anything. Good gracious! I had no idea that you had anything to do with so many sick horses.
Capt. G. 'Wish I hadn't, but they insist on falling sick. Minnie, if 1 were you I really should not investigate those papers. You may come across something that you won't like.
Mrs. G. Why will you always treat me like a child? I know I'm not displacing the horrid things.
Capt. G. (Resignedly.) Very well, then. Don't blame me if anything happens. Play with the table and let me go on with the saddlery. (Slipping hand into trousers-pocket.) Oh, the deuce!
Mrs. G. (Her back to G.) What's that for?
Capt. G. Nothing. (Aside.) There's not much in it, but I wish I'd torn it up.
Mrs. G. (Turning over contents of table.) I know you'll hate me for this; but I do want to see what your work is like. (A pause.) Pip, what are "farcybuds"?
Capt. G. Hah! Would you really like to know? They aren't pretty things.
Mrs. G. This Journal of Veterinary Science says they are of "absorbing interest." Tell me.
Capt. G. (Aside.) It may turn her attention.
Gives a long and designedly loathsome account of glanders and farcy.
Mrs. G. Oh, that's enough. Don't go on!
Capt. G. But you wanted to know—Then these things suppurate and matterate and spread—
Mrs. G. Pin, you're making me sick! You're a horrid, disgusting schoolboy.
Capt. G. (On his knees among the bridles.) You asked to be told. It's not my fault if you worry me into talking about horrors.
Mrs. G. Why didn't you say No?
Capt. G. Good Heavens, child! Have you come in here simply to bully me?
Mrs. G. I bully you? How could I! You're so strong. (Hysterically.) Strong enough to pick me up and put me outside the door and leave me there to cry. Aren't you?
Capt. G. It seems to me that you're an irrational little baby. Are you quite well?
Mrs. G. Do I look ill? (Returning to table). Who is your lady friend with the big grey envelope and the fat monogram outside?
Capt. G. (Aside.) Then it wasn't locked up, confound it. (Aloud.) "God made her, therefore let her pass for a woman." You remember what farcybuds are like?
Mrs. G. (Showing envelope.) This has nothing to do with them. I'm going to open it. May I?
Capt. G. Certainly, if you want to. I'd sooner you didn't though. I don't ask to look at your letters to the Deercourt girl.
Mrs. G. You'd better not, Sir! (Takes letter from envelope.) Now, may I look? If you say no, I shall cry.
Capt. G. You've never cried in my knowledge of you, and I don't believe you could.
Mrs. G. I feel very like it today, Pip. Don't be hard on me. (Reads letter.) It begins in the middle, without any "Dear Captain Gadsby," or anything. How funny!
Capt. G. (Aside.) No, it's not Dear Captain Gadsby, or anything, now. How funny!
Mrs. G. What a strange letter! (Reads.) "And so the moth has come too near the candle at last, and has been singed into—shall I say Respectability? I congratulate him, and hope he will be as happy as he deserves to be." What does that mean? Is she congratulating you about our marriage?
Capt. G. Yes, I suppose so.
Mrs. G. (Still reading letter.) She seems to be a particular friend of yours.
Capt. G. Yes. She was an excellent matron of sorts—a Mrs. Herriott—wife of a Colonel Herriott. I used to know some of her people at Home long ago—before I came out.
Mrs. G. Some Colonel's wives are young—as young as me. I knew one who was younger.
Capt. G. Then it couldn't have been Mrs. Herriott. She was old enough to have been your mother, dear.
Mrs. G. I remember now. Mrs. Scargill was talking about her at the Dutfins' tennis, before you came for me, on Tuesday. Captain Mafflin said she was a "dear old woman." Do you know, I think Mafflin is a very clumsy man with his feet.
Capt. G. (Aside.) Good old Jack! (Aloud.) Why, dear?
Mrs. G. He had put his cup down on the ground then, and he literally stepped into it. Some of the tea spirted over my dress—the grey one. I meant to tell you about it before.
Capt. G. (Aside.) There are the makings of a strategist about Jack though his methods are coarse. (Aloud.) You'd better get a new dress, then. (Aside.) Let us pray that that will turn her.
Mrs. G. Oh, it isn't stained in the least. I only thought that I'd tell you. (Returning to letter.) What an extraordinary person! (Reads.) "But need I remind you that you have taken upon yourself a charge of wardship"—what in the world is a charge of wardship?—"which as you yourself know, may end in Consequences"—
Capt. G. (Aside.) It's safest to let em see everything as they come across it; but 'seems to me that there are exceptions to the rule. (Aloud.) I told you that there was nothing to be gained from rearranging my table.
Mrs. G. (Absently.) What does the woman mean? She goes on talking about Consequences—" "almost inevitable Consequences" with a capital C—for half a page. (Flushing scarlet.) Oh, good gracious! How abominable!
Capt. G. (Promptly.) Do you think so? Doesn't it show a sort of motherly interest in us? (Aside.) Thank Heaven. Harry always wrapped her meaning up safely! (Aloud.) Is it absolutely necessary to go on with the letter, darling?
Mrs. G. It's impertinent—it's simply horrid. What right has this woman to write in this way to you? She oughtn't to.
Capt. G. When you write to the Deercourt girl, I notice that you generally fill three or four sheets. Can't you let an old woman babble on paper once in a way? She means well.
Mrs. G. I don't care. She shouldn't write, and if she did, you ought to have shown me her letter.
Capt. G. Can't you understand why I kept it to myself, or must I explain at length—as I explained the farcybuds?
Mrs. G. (Furiously.) Pip I hate you! This is as bad as those idiotic saddle- bags on the floor. Never mind whether it would please me or not, you ought to have given it to me to read.
Capt. G. It comes to the same thing. You took it yourself.
Mrs. G. Yes, but if I hadn't taken it, you wouldn't have said a word. I think this Harriet Herriott—it's like a name in a book—is an interfering old Thing.
Capt. G. (Aside.) So long as you thoroughly understand that she is old, I don't much care what you think. (Aloud.) Very good, dear. Would you like to write and tell her so? She's seven thousand miles away.
Mrs. G. I don't want to have anything to do with her, but you ought to have told me. (Turning to last page of letter.) And she patronizes me, too. I've never seen her! (Reads.) "I do not know how the world stands with you; in all human probability I shall never know; but whatever I may have said before, I pray for her sake more than for yours that all may be well. I have learned what misery means, and I dare not wish that any one dear to you should share my knowledge."
Capt. G. Good God! Can't you leave that letter alone, or, at least, can't you refrain from reading it aloud? I've been through it once. Put it back on the desk. Do you hear me?
Mrs. G. (Irresolutely.) I sh-sha'n't! (Looks at G.'s eyes.) Oh, Pip, please! I didn't mean to make you angry—'Deed, I didn't. Pip, I'm so sorry. I know I've wasted your time—
Capt. G. (Grimly.) You have. Now, will you be good enough to go—if there is nothing more in my room that you are anxious to pry into?
Mrs. G. (Putting out her hands.) Oh, Pip, don't look at me like that! I've never seen you look like that before and it hu-urts me! I'm sorry. I oughtn't to have been here at all, and—and—and—(sobbing.) Oh, be good to me! Be good to me! There's only you—anywhere! Breaks down in long chair, hiding face in cushions.
Capt. G. (Aside.) She doesn't know how she flicked me on the raw. (Aloud, bending over chair.) I didn't mean to be harsh, dear—I didn't really. You can stay here as long as you please, and do what you please. Don't cry like that. You'll make yourself sick. (Aside.) What on earth has come over her? (Aloud.) Darling, what's the matter with you?
Mrs. G. (Her face still hidden.) Let me go—let me go to my own room. Only— only say you aren't angry with me.
Capt. G. Angry with you, love! Of course not. I was angry with myself. I'd lost my temper over the saddlery—Don't hide your face, Pussy. I want to kiss it.
Bends lower, Mrs. G. slides right arm round his neck. Several interludes and much sobbing.
Mrs. G. (In a whisper.) I didn't mean about the jam when I came in to tell you- -
CAPT. G. Bother the jam and the equipment! (Interlude.)
Mrs. G. (Still more faintly.) My finger wasn't scalded at all. I—[ wanted to speak to you about—about—something else, and—I didn't know how.
Capt. G. Speak away, then. (Looking into her eyes.) Eh! Wha-at? Minnie! Here, don't go away! You don't mean?
Mrs. G. (Hysterically, backing to portiere and hiding her face in its folds.) The—the Almost Inevitable Consequences! (Flits through portiere as G. attempts to catch her, and bolts her self in her own room.)
Capt. G. (His arms full of portiere.) Oh! (Sitting down heavily in chair.) I'm a brute, a pig—a bully, and a blackguard. My poor, poor little darling! "Made to be amused only?"—
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW Knowing Good and Evil.
SCENE.The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, in June. Punkah-coolies asleep in veranda where Captain GADSBY is walking up and down. DOCTOR'S trap in porch. JUNIOR CHAPLAIN drifting generally and uneasily through the house. Time, 3:4O A. M. Heat 94 degrees in veranda.
DOCTOR. (Coming into veranda and touching G. on the shoulder.) You had better go in and see her now.
Capt. G. (The color of good cigar-ash.) Eh, wha-at? Oh, yes, of course. What did you say?
DOCTOR. (Syllable by syllable.) Go-in-to-the-room-and-see-her. She wants to speak to you. (Aside, testily.) I shall have him on my hands next.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (In half-lighted dining room.) Isn't there any?—
DOCTOR. (Savagely.) Hsb, you little fool!
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Let me do my work. Gadsby, stop a minute—I (Edges after G.)
DOCTOR. Wait till she sends for you at least—at least. Man alive, he'll kill you if you go in there! What are you bothering him for?
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Coming into veranda.) I've given him a stiff brandy-peg. He wants it. You've forgotten him for the last ten hours and—forgotten yourself too.
G. enters bedroom, which is lit by one night-lamp. Ayah on the floor pretending to be asleep.
VOICE. (From the bed.) All down the street—such bonfires! Ayah, go and put them out! (Appealingly.) How can I sleep with an installation of the C.I.E. in my room? No—not C.I.E. Something else. What was it?
Capt. G. (Trying to control his voice.) Minnie, I'm here. (Bending over bed.) Don't you know me, Minnie? It's me—it's Phil—it's your husband.
VOICE. (Mechanically.) It's me—it's Phil—it's your husband.
Capt. G. She doesn't know me!—It's your own husband, darling.
VOICE. Your own husband, darling.
Ayah. (With an inspiration.) Memsahib understanding all I saying.
Capt. G. Make her understand me then—quick!
Ayah. (Hand on Mrs. G.'s fore-head.) Memsahib! Captain Sahib here.
VOICE. Salaem do. (Fretfully.) I know I'm not fit to be seen.
Ayah. (Aside to G.) Say "marneen" same as breakfash.
Capt. G. Good morning, little woman. How are we today?
VOICE. That's Phil. Poor old Phil. (Viciously.) Phil, you fool, I can't see you. Come nearer.
Capt. G. Minnie! Minnie! It's me—you know me?
VOICE. (Mockingly.) Of course I do. Who does not know the man who was so cruel to his wife—almost the only one he ever had?
Capt. G. Yes, dear. Yes—of course, of course. But won't you speak to him? He wants to speak to you so much.
VOICE. They'd never let him in. The Doctor would give darwaza band even if he were in the house. He'll never come. (Despairingly.) O Judas! Judas! Judas!
Capt. G. (Putting out his arms.) They have let him in, and he always was in the house Oh, my love—don't you know me?
VOICE. (In a half chant.) "And it came to pass at the eleventh hour that this poor soul repented." It knocked at the gates, but they were shut—tight as a plaster—a great, burning plaster. They had pasted our marriage certificate all across the door, and it was made of red-hot iron—people really ought to be more careful, you know.
Capt. G. What am I to do? (Taking her in his arms.) Minnie! speak to me—to Phil.
VOICE. What shall I say? Oh, tell me what to say before it's too late! They are all going away and I can't say anything.
Capt. G. Say you know me! Only say you know me!
DOCTOR. (Who has entered quietly.) For pity's sake don't take it too much to heart, Gadsby. It's this way sometimes. They won't recognize. They say all sorts of queer things—don't you see?
Capt. G. All right! All right! Go away now; she'll recognize me; you're bothering her. She must—mustn't she?
DOCTOR. She will before—Have I your leave to try?—
Capt. G. Anything you please, so long as she'll know me. It's only a question of hours, isn't it?
DOCTOR. (Professionally.) While there's life there's hope y'know. But don't build on it.
Capt. G. I don't. Pull her together if it's possible. (Aside.) What have I done to deserve this?
DOCTOR. (Bending over bed.) Now, Mrs. Gadsby! We shall be all right tomorrow. You must take it, or I sha'n't let Phil see you. It isn't nasty, is it?
Voice. Medicines! Always more medicines! Can't you leave me alone?
Capt. G. Oh, leave her in peace, Doc!
DOCTOR. (Stepping back,—aside.) May I be forgiven if I've done wrong. (Aloud.) In a few minutes she ought to be sensible; but I daren't tell you to look for anything. It's only—
Capt. G. What? Go on, man.
DOCTOR. (In a whisper.) Forcing the last rally.
Capt. G. Then leave us alone.
DOCTOR. Don't mind what she says at first, if you can. They—they—they turn against those they love most sometimes in this.—It's hard, but—
Capt. G. Am I her husband or are you? Leave us alone for what time we have together.
VOICE. (Confidentially.) And we were engaged quite suddenly, Emma. I assure you that I never thought of it for a moment; but, oh, my little Me!—I don't know what I should have done if he hadn't proposed.
Capt. G. She thinks of that Deercourt girl before she thinks of me. (Aloud.) Minnie!
VOICE. Not from the shops, Mummy dear. You can get the real leaves from Kaintu, and (laughing weakly) never mind about the blossoms—Dead white silk is only fit for widows, and I won't wear it. It's as bad as a winding sheet. (A long pause.)
Capt. G. I never asked a favor yet. If there is anybody to listen to me, let her know me—even if I die too!
VOICE. (Very faintly.) Pip, Pip dear.
Capt. G. I'm here, darling.
VOICE. What has happened? They've been bothering me so with medicines and things, and they wouldn't let you come and see me. I was never ill before. Am I ill now?
Capt. G. You—you aren't quite well.
VOICE. How funny! Have I been ill long?
Capt. G. Some days; but you'll be all right in a little time.
VOICE. Do you think so, Pip? I don't feel well and—Oh! what have they done to my hair?
Capt. G. I d-d-on't know.
VOICE. They've cut it off. What a shame!
Capt. G. It must have been to make your head cooler.
VOICE. Just like a boy's wig. Don't I look horrid?
Capt. G. Never looked prettier in your life, dear. (Aside.) How am I to ask her to say goodbye?
VOICE. I don't feel pretty. I feel very ill. My heart won't work. It's nearly dead inside me, and there's a funny feeling in my eyes. Everything seems the same distance—you and the almirah and the table inside my eyes or miles away. What does it mean, Pip?
Capt. G. You're a little feverish, Sweetheart—very feverish. (Breaking down.) My love! my love! How can I let you go?
VOICE. I thought so. Why didn't you tell me that at first?
Capt. G. What?
VOICE. That I am going to—die.
Capt. G. But you aren't! You sha'n't.
Ayah to punkah-coolie. (Stepping into veranda after a glance at the bed. ). Punkah chor do! (Stop pulling the punkah.)
VOICE. It's hard, Pip. So very, very hard after one year—just one year. (Wailing.) And I'm only twenty. Most girls aren't even married at twenty. Can't they do anything to help me? I don't want to die.
Capt. G. Hush, dear. You won't.
VOICE. What's the use of talking? Help me! You've never failed me yet. Oh, Phil, help me to keep alive. (Feverishly.) I don't believe you wish me to live. You weren't a bit sorry when that horrid Baby thing died. I wish I'd killed it!
Capt. G. (Drawing his hand across his forehead.) It's more than a man's meant to bear—it's not right. (Aloud.) Minnie, love, I'd die for you if it would help.
VOICE. No more death. There's enough already. Pip, don't you die too.
Capt. G. I wish I dared.
VOICE. It says: "Till Death do us part." Nothing after that—and so it would be no use. It stops at the dying. Why does it stop there? Only such a very short life, too. Pip, I'm sorry we married.
Capt. G. No! Anything but that, Min!
VOICE. Because you'll forget and I'll forget. Oh, Pip, don't forget! I always loved you, though I was cross sometimes. If I ever did anything that you didn't like, say you forgive me now.
Capt. G. You never did, darling. On my soul and honor you never did. I haven't a thing to forgive you.
VOICE. I sulked for a whole week about those petunias. (With a laugh.) What a little wretch I was, and how grieved you were! Forgive me that, Pp.
Capt. G. There's nothing to forgive. It was my fault. They were too near the drive. For God's sake don't talk so, Minnie! There's such a lot to say and so little time to say it in.
VOICE. Say that you'll always love me—until the end.
Capt. G. Until the end. (Carried away.) It's a lie. It must be, because we've loved each other. This isn't the end.
VOICE. (Relapsing into semi-delirium.) My Church-service has an ivory cross on the back, and it says so, so it must be true. "Till Death do us part."—but that's a lie. (With a parody of G.'s manner.) A damned lie! (Recklessly.) Yes, I can swear as well as a Trooper, Pip. I can't make my head think, though. That's because they cut off my hair. How can one think with one's head all fuzzy? (Pleadingly.) Hold me, Pip! Keep me with you always and always. (Relapsing.) But if you marry the Thorniss girl when I'm dead, I'll come back and howl under our bedroom window all night. Oh, bother! You'll think I'm a jackal. Pip, what time is it?
Capt. G. A little before the dawn, dear.
VOICE. I wonder where I shall be this time tomorrow?
Capt. G. Would you like to see the Padre?
VOICE. Why should I? He'd tell me that I am going to heaven; and that wouldn't be true, because you are here. Do you recollect when he upset the cream-ice all over his trousers at the Gassers' tennis?
Capt. G. Yes, dear.
VOICE. I often wondered whether he got another pair of trousers; but then his are so shiny all over that you really couldn't tell unless you were told. Let's call him in and ask.
Capt. G. (Gravely.) No. I don't think he'd like that. Your head comfy, Sweetheart?
VOICE. (Faintly with a sigh of contentment.) Yeth! Gracious, Pip, when did you shave last? Your chin's worse than the barrel of a musical box.—No, don't lift it up. I like it. (A pause.) You said you've never cried at all. You're crying all over my cheek.
Capt. G. I-I-I can't help it, dear.
VOICE. How funny! I couldn't cry now to save my life. (G. shivers.) I want to sing.
Capt. G. Won't it tire you? 'Better not, perhaps.
VOICE. Why? I won't be bothered about. (Begins in a hoarse quaver)
"Minnie bakes oaten cake, Minnie brews ale, All because her Johnnie's coming home from the sea." (That's parade, Pip.) "And she grows red as a rose, who was so pale; And 'Are you sure the church-clock goes?' says she."
(Pettishly.) I knew I couldn't take the last note. How do the bass chords run? (Puts out her hands and begins playing piano on the sheet.)
Capt. G. (Catching up hands.) Ahh! Don't do that, Pussy, if you love me.
VOICE. Love you? Of course I do. Who else should it be? (A pause.)
VOICE. (Very clearly.) Pip, I'm going now. Something's choking me cruelly. (Indistinctly.) Into the dark—without you, my heart—But it's a lie, dear—we mustn't believe it.—Forever and ever, living or dead. Don't let me go, my husband—hold me tight.—They can't—whatever happens. (A cough.) Pip—my Pip! Not for always—and—so—soon! (Voice ceases.)
Pause of ten minutes. G. buries his face in the side of the bed while AYAH bends over bed from opposite side and feels Mrs. G.'s breast and forehead.
Capt. G. (Rising.) Doctor Sahib ko salaam do.
Ayah. (Still by bedside, with a shriek.) Ail Ail Tuta-phuta! My Memsahib! Not getting—not have got!—Pusseena agyal (The sweat has come.) (Fiercely to G.) TUM jao Doctor Sahib ko jaldi! (You go to the doctor.) Oh, my Memsahib!
DOCTOR. (Entering hastily.) Come away, Gadsby. (Bends over bed.) Eh! The Dev— What inspired you to stop the punkah? Get out, man—go away—wait outside! Go! Here, Ayah! (Over his shoulder to G.) Mind I promise nothing.
The dawn breaks as G. stumbles into the garden.
Capt. M. (Rehung up at the gate on his way to parade and very soberly.) Old man, how goes?
Capt. G. (Dazed.) I don't quite know. Stay a bit. Have a drink or something. Don't run away. You're just getting amusing. Ha! ha!
Capt. M. (Aside.) What am I let in for? Gaddy has aged ten years in the night.
Capt. G. (Slowly, fingering charger's headstall.) Your curb's too loose.
Capt. M. So it is. Put it straight, will you? (Aside.) I shall be late for parade. Poor Gaddy.
Capt. G. links and unlinks curb-chain aimlessly, and finally stands staring toward the veranda. The day brightens.
DOCTOR. (Knocked out of professional gravity, tramping across flower-beds and shaking G's hands.) It'-it's-it's !—Gadsby, there's a fair chance—a dashed fair chance. The flicker, y'know. The sweat, y'know I saw how it would be. The punkah, y'know. Deuced clever woman that Ayah of yours. Stopped the punkah just at the right time. A dashed good chance! No—you don't go in. We'll pull her through yet I promise on my reputation—under Providence. Send a man with this note to Bingle. Two heads better than one. 'Specially the Ayah! We'll pull her round. (Retreats hastily to house.)
Capt. G. (His head on neck of M.'s charger.) Jack! I bub-bu- believe, I'm going to make a bu-bub-bloody exhibitiod of byself.
Capt. M. (Sniffing openly and feeling in his left cuff.) I b-b-believe, I'b doing it already. Old bad, what cad I say? I'b as pleased as—Cod dab you, Gaddy! You're one big idiot and I'b adother. (Pulling himself together.) Sit tight! Here comes the Devil-dodger.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Who is not in the Doctor's confidence.) We—we are only men in these things, Gadsby. I know that I can say nothing now to help
Capt. M. (jealously.) Then don't say it Leave him alone. It's not bad enough to croak over. Here, Gaddy, take the chit to Bingle and ride hell-for-leather. It'll do you good. I can't go.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Do him good! (Smiling.) Give me the chit and I'll drive. Let him lie down. Your horse is blocking my cart—please!
Capt. M. (Slowly without reining back.) I beg your pardon—I'll apologize. On paper if you like.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Flicking M.'s charger.) That'll do, thanks. Turn in, Gadsby, and I'll bring Bingle back—ahem—"hell-for-leather."
Capt. M. (Solus.) It would have served me right if he'd cut me across the face. He can drive too. I shouldn't care to go that pace in a bamboo cart. What a faith he must have in his Maker—of harness! Come hup, you brute! (Gallops off to parade, blowing his nose, as the sun rises.)
(INTERVAL OF FIVE WEEKS.)
Mrs. G. (Very white and pinched, in morning wrapper at breakfast table.) How big and strange the room looks, and how glad I am to see it again! What dust, though! I must talk to the servants. Sugar, Pip? I've almost forgotten. (Seriously.) Wasn't I very ill?
Capt. G. Iller than I liked. (Tenderly.) Oh, you bad little Pussy, what a start you gave me!
Mrs. G. I'll never do it again.
Capt. G. You'd better not. And now get those poor pale cheeks pink again, or I shall be angry. Don't try to lift the urn. You'll upset it. Wait. (Comes round to head of table and lifts urn.)
Mrs. G. (Quickly.) Khitmatgar, howarchikhana see kettly lao. Butler, get a kettle from the cook-house. (Drawing down G.'s face to her own.) Pip dear, I remember.
Capt. G. What?
Mrs. G. That last terrible night.
CAPT. G. Then just you forget all about it.
Mrs. G. (Softly, her eyes filling.) Never. It has brought us very close together, my husband. There! (Interlude.) I'm going to give Junda a saree.
Capt. G. I gave her fifty dibs.
Mrs. G. So she told me. It was a 'normous reward. Was I worth it? (Several interludes.) Don't! Here's the khitmatgar.—Two lumps or one Sir?
THE SWELLING OF JORDAN
If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace wherein thou trustedst they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan?
SCENE.The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, on a January morning. Mrs. G. arguing with bearer in back veranda.
Capt. M. rides up.
Capt. M. 'Mornin', Mrs. Gadsby. How's the Infant Phenomenon and the Proud Proprietor?
Mrs. G. You'll find them in the front veranda; go through the house. I'm Martha just now.
Capt. M, 'Cumbered about with cares of Khitmatgars? I fly.
Passes into front veranda, where GADSBV is watching GADSBY JUNIOR, aged ten months, crawling about the matting.
Capt. M. What's the trouble, Gaddy-spoiling an honest man's Europe morning this way? (Seeing G. JUNIOR.) By Jove, that yearling's comin' on amazingly! Any amount of bone below the knee there.
Capt. G. Yes, he's a healthy little scoundrel. Don't you think his hair's growing?
Capt. M. Let's have a look. Hi! Hst Come here, General Luck, and we'll report on you.
Mrs. G. (Within.) What absurd name will you give him next? Why do you call him that?
Capt. M. Isn't he our Inspector-General of Cavalry? Doesn't he come down in his seventeen-two perambulator every morning the Pink Hussars parade? Don't wriggle, Brigadier. Give us your private opinion on the way the third squadron went past. 'Trifle ragged, weren't they?
Capt. G. A bigger set of tailors than the new draft I don't wish to see. They've given me more than my fair share—knocking the squadron out of shape. It's sickening!
Capt. M. When you're in command, you'll do better, young 'un. Can'tyou walk yet? Grip my finger and try. (To G.) 'Twon't hurt his hocks, will it?
Capt. G. Oh, no. Don't let him flop, though, or he'll lick all the blacking off your boots.
Mrs. G. (Within.) Who's destroy mg my son's character?
Capt. M. And my Godson's. I'm ashamed of you, Gaddy. Punch your father in the eye, Jack! Don't you stand it! Hit him again I
Capt. G. (Sotto voce.) Put The Butcha down and come to the end of the veranda. I'd rather the Wife didn't hear—just now.
Capt. M. You look awf'ly serious. Anything wrong?
Capt. G. 'Depends on your view entirely. I say, Jack, you won't think more hardly of me than you can help, will you? Come further this way.—The fact of the matter is, that I've made up my mind—at least I'm thinking seriously of— cutting the Service.
Capt. M. Hwhatt?
Capt. G. Don't shout. I'm going to send in my papers.
Capt. M. You! Are you mad?
Capt. G. No—only married.
Capt. M. Look here! What's the meaning of it all? You never intend to leave us. You can't. Isn't the best squadron of the best regiment of the best cavalry in all the world good enough for you?
Capt. G. (Jerking his head over his shoulder.) She doesn't seem to thrive in this God-forsaken country, and there's The Butcha to be considered and all that, you know.
Capt. M. Does she say that she doesn't like India?
Capt. G. That's the worst of it. She won't for fear of leaving me.
Capt. M. What are the Hills made for?
Capt. G. Not for my wife, at any rate.
Capt. M. You know too much, Gaddy, and—I don't like you any the better for it!
Capt. G. Never mind that. She wants England, and The Butcha would be all the better for it. I'm going to chuck. You don't understand.
Capt. M. (Hotly.) I understand this!—One hundred and thirty-seven new horse to be licked into shape somehow before Luck comes round again; a hairy-heeled draft who'll give more trouble than the horses; a camp next cold weather for a certainty; ourselves the first on the roster; the Russian shindy ready to come to a head at five minutes' notice, and you, the best of us all, backing out of it all! Think a little, Gaddy. You won't do it.
Capt. G. Hang it, a man has some duties toward his family, I suppose.
Capt. M. I remember a man, though, who told me, the night after Amdheran, when we were picketed under Jagai, and he'd left his sword—by the way, did you ever pay Ranken for that sword?—in an Utmanzai's head—that man told me that he'd stick by me and the Pinks as long as he lived. I don't blame him for not sticking by me—I'm not much of a man—but I do blame him for not sticking by the Pink Hussars.
Capt. G. (Uneasily.) We were little more than boys then. Can't you see, Jack, how things stand? 'Tisn't as if we were serving for our bread. We've all of us, more or less, got the filthy lucre. I'm luckier than some, perhaps. There's no call for me to serve on.
Capt. M. None in the world for you or for us, except the Regimental. If you don't choose to answer to that, of course—
Capt. G. Don't be too hard on a man. You know that a lot of us only take up the thing for a few years and then go back to Town and catch on with the rest.
Capt. M. Not lots, and they aren't some of Us.
Capt. G. And then there are one's affairs at Home to be considered—my place and the rents, and all that. I don't suppose my father can last much longer, and that means the title, and so on.
Capt. M. 'Fraid you won't be entered in the Stud Book correctly unless you go Home? Take six months, then, and come out in October. If I could slay off a brother or two, I s'pose I should be a Marquis of sorts. Any fool can be that; but it needs men, Gaddy—men like you—to lead flanking squadrons properly. Don't you delude yourself into the belief that you're going Home to take your place and prance about among pink-nosed Kabuli dowagers. You aren't built that way. I know better.
Capt. G. A man has a right to live his life as happily as he can. You aren't married.
Capt. M. No—praise be to Providence and the one or two women who have had the good sense to jawab me.
Capt. G. Then you don't know what it is to go into your own room and see your wife's head on the pillow, and when everything else is safe and the house shut up for the night, to wonder whether the roof-beams won't give and kill her.
Capt. M. (Aside.) Revelations first and second! (Aloud.) So-o! I knew a man who got squiffy at our Mess once and confided to me that he never helped his wife on to her horse without praying that she'd break her neck before she came back. All husbands aren't alike, you see.
Capt. G. What on earth has that to do with my case? The man must ha' been mad, or his wife as bad as they make 'em.
Capt. M. (Aside.) 'No fault of yours if either weren't all you say. You've forgotten the time when you were insane about the Herriott woman. You always were a good hand at forgetting. (Aloud.) Not more mad than men who go to the other extreme. Be reasonable, Gaddy. Your roof-beams are sound enough.
Capt. G. That was only a way of speaking. I've been uneasy and worried about the Wife ever since that awful business three years ago—when—I nearly lost her. Can you wonder?
Capt. M. Oh, a shell never falls twice in the same place. You've paid your toll to misfortune—why should your Wife be picked out more than anybody else's?
Capt. G. I can talk just as reasonably as you can, but you don't understand— you don't understand. And then there's The Butcha. Deuce knows where the Ayah takes him to sit in the evening! He has a bit of a cough. Haven't you noticed it?
Capt. M. Bosh! The Brigadier's jumping out of his skin with pure condition. He's got a muzzle like a rose-leaf and the chest of a two-year-old. What's demoralized you?
Capt. G. Funk. That's the long and the short of it. Funk!
Capt. M. But what is there to funk?
Capt. G. Everything. It's ghastly.
Capt. M. Ah! I see. You don't want to fight, And by Jingo when we do, You've got the kid, you've got the Wife, You've got the money, too. That's about the case, eh?
Capt. G. I suppose that's it. But it's not for myself. It's because of them. At least I think it is.
Capt. M. Are you sure? Looking at the matter in a cold-blooded light, the Wife is provided for even if you were wiped out tonight. She has an ancestral home to go to, money and the Brigadier to carry on the illustrious name.
Capt. G. Then it is for myself or because they are part of me. You don't see it. My life's so good, so pleasant, as it is, that I want to make it quite safe. Can't you understand?
Capt. M. Perfectly. "Shelter-pit for the Off'cer's charger," as they say in the Line.
Capt. G. And I have everything to my hand to make it so. I'm sick of the strain and the worry for their sakes out here; and there isn't a single real difficulty to prevent my dropping it altogether. It'll only cost me—Jack, I hope you'll never know the shame that I've been going through for the past six months.
Capt. M. Hold on there! I don't wish to he told. Every man has his moods and tenses sometimes.
Capt. G. (Laughing bitterly.) Has he? What do you call craning over to see where your near-fore lands?
Capt. M. In my case it means that I have been on the Considerable Bend, and have come to parade with a Head and a Hand. It passes in three strides.
Capt. G. (Lowering voice.) It never passes with me, Jack. I'm always thinking about it. Phil Gadsby funking a fall on parade! Sweet picture, isn't it! Draw it for me.
Capt. M. (Gravely.) Heaven forbid! A man like you can't be as bad as that. A fall is no nice thing, but one never gives it a thought.
Capt. G. Doesn't one? Wait till you've got a wife and a youngster of your own, and then you'll know how the roar of the squadron behind you turns you cold all up the back.
Capt. M. (Aside.) And this man led at Amdheran after Bagal Deasin went under, and we were all mixed up together, and he came out of the snow dripping like a butcher. (Aloud.) Skittles! The men can always open out, and you can always pick your way more or less. We haven't the dust to bother us, as the men have, and whoever heard of a horse stepping on a man?
Capt. G. Never—as long as he can see. But did they open out for poor Errington?
Capt. M. Oh, this is childish!
Capt. G. I know it is, worse than that. I don't care. You've ridden Van Loo. Is he the sort of brute to pick his way—'specially when we're coming up in column of troop with any pace on?
Capt. M. Once in a Blue Moon do we gallop in column of troop, and then only to save time. Aren't three lengths enough for you?
Capt. G. Yes—quite enough. They just allow for the full development of the smash. I'm talking like a cur, I know: but I tell you that, for the past three months, I've felt every hoof of the squadron in the small of my back every time that I've led.
Capt. M. But, Gaddy, this is awful!
Capt. G. Isn't it lovely? Isn't it royal? A Captain of the Pink Hussars watering up his charger before parade like the blasted boozing Colonel of a Black Regiment!
Capt. M. You never did!
Capt. G. Once only. He squelched like a mussuck, and the Troop-Sergeant-Major cocked his eye at me. You know old Haffy's eye. I was afraid to do it again.
Capt. M. I should think so. That was the best way to rupture old Van Loo's tummy, and make him crumple you up. You knew that.
Capt. G. I didn't care. It took the edge off him.
Capt. M. "Took the edge off him"? Gaddy, you—you—you mustn't, you know! Think of the men.
Capt. G. That's another thing I am afraid of. D'you s'pose they know?
Capt. M. Let's hope not; but they're deadly quick to spot skirm—little things of that kind. See here, old man, send the Wife Home for the hot weather and come to Kashmir with me. We'll start a boat on the Dal or cross the Rhotang— shoot ibex or loaf—which you please. Only come! You're a bit off your oats and you're talking nonsense. Look at the Colonel—swag-bellied rascal that he is. He has a wife and no end of a bow-window of his own. Can any one of us ride round him—chalkstones and all? I can't, and I think I can shove a crock along a bit.
Capt. G. Some men are different. I haven't any nerve. Lord help me, I haven't the nerve! I've taken up a hole and a half to get my knees well under the wallets. I can't help it. I'm so afraid of anything happening to me. On my soul, I ought to be broke in front of the squadron, for cowardice.
Capt. M. Ugly word, that. I should never have the courage to own up.
Capt. G. I meant to lie about my reasons when I began, but—I've got out of the habit of lying to you, old man. Jack, you won't?—But I know you won't.
Capt. M. Of course not. (Half aloud.) The Pinks are paying dearly for their Pride.
Capt. G. Eh! Wha-at?
Capt. M. Don't you know? The men have called Mrs. Gadsby the Pride of the Pink Hussars ever since she came to us.
Capt. G. 'Tisn't her fault. Don't think that. It's all mine.
Capt. M. What does she say?
Capt. G. I haven't exactly put it before her. She's the best little woman in the world, Jack, and all that—but she wouldn't counsel a man to stick to his calling if it came between him and her. At least, I think—
Capt. M. Never mind. Don't tell her what you told me. Go on the Peerage and Landed-Gentry tack.
Capt. G. She'd see through it. She's five times cleverer than I am.
Capt. M. (Aside.) Then she'll accept the sacrifice and think a little bit worse of him for the rest of her days.
Capt. G. (Absently.) I say, do you despise me?
Capt. M. 'Queer way of putting it. Have you ever been asked that question? Think a minute. What answer used you to give?
Capt. G. So bad as that? I'm not entitled to expect anything more, but it's a bit hard when one's best friend turns round and—
Capt. M. So I have found. But you will have consolations—Bailiffs and Drains and Liquid Manure and the Primrose League, and, perhaps, if you're lucky, the Colonelcy of a Yeomanry Cav-al-ry Regiment—all uniform and no riding, I believe. How old are you?
Capt. G. Thirty-three. I know it's—
Capt. M. At forty you'll be a fool of a J. P. landlord. At fifty you'll own a bath-chair, and The Brigadier, if he takes after you, will be fluttering the dovecotes of—what's the particular dunghill you're going to? Also, Mrs. Gadsby will be fat.
Capt. G. (Limply.) This is rather more than a joke.
Capt. M. D'you think so? Isn't cutting the Service a joke? It generally takes a man fifty years to arrive at it. You're quite right, though. It is more than a joke. You've managed it in thirty-three.
Capt. G. Don't make me feel worse than I do. Will it satisfy you if I own that I am a shirker, a skrim-shanker, and a coward?
Capt. M. It will not, because I'm the only man in the world who can talk to you like this without being knocked down. You mustn't take all that I've said to heart in this way. I only spoke—a lot of it at least—out of pure selfishness, because, because—Oh, damn it all, old man,—I don't know what I shall do without you. Of course, you've got the money and the place and all that—and there are two very good reasons why you should take care of yourself.
Capt. G. 'Doesn't make it any sweeter. I'm backing out—I know I am. I always had a soft drop in me somewhere—and I daren't risk any danger to them.
Capt. M. Why in the world should you? You're bound to think of your family— bound to think. Er—hmm. If I wasn't a younger son I'd go too—be shot if I wouldn't!
Capt. G. Thank you, Jack. It's a kind lie, but it's the blackest you've told for some time. I know what I'm doing, and I'm going into it with my eyes open. Old man, I can't help it. What would you do if you were in my place?
Capt. M. (Aside.) 'Couldn't conceive any woman getting permanently between me and the Regiment. (Aloud.) 'Can't say. 'Very likely I should do no better. I'm sorry for you—awf'ly sorry—but "if them's your sentiments," I believe, I really do, that you are acting wisely.
Capt. G. Do you? I hope you do. (In a whisper.) Jack, be very sure of yourself before you marry. I'm an ungrateful ruffian to say this, but marriage—even as good a marriage as mine has been—hampers a man's work, it cripples his sword- arm, and oh, it plays Hell with his notions of duty. Sometimes—good and sweet as she is—sometimes I could wish that I had kept my freedom—No, I don't mean that exactly.
Mrs. G. (Coming down veranda.) What are you wagging your head over, Pip?
Capt. M. (Turning quickly.) Me, as usual. The old sermon. Your husband is recommending me to get married. 'Never saw such a one-ideaed man.
Mrs. G. Well, why don't you? I dare say you would make some woman very happy.
Capt. G. There's the Law and the Prophets, Jack. Never mind the Regiment. Make a woman happy. (Aside.) O Lord!
Capt. M. We'll see. I must be off to make a Troop Cook desperately unhappy. I won't have the wily Hussar fed on Government Bullock Train shinbones— (Hastily.) Surely black ants can't be good for The Brigadier. He's picking em off the matting and eating 'em. Here, Senor Comandante Don Grubbynose, come and talk to me. (Lifts G. JUNIOR in his arms.) 'Want my watch? You won't be able to put it into your mouth, but you can try. (G. JUNIOR drops watch, breaking dial and hands.)
Mrs. G. Oh, Captain Mafflin, I am so sorry! Jack, you bad, bad little villain. Ahhh!
Capt. M. It's not the least consequence, I assure you. He'd treat the world in the same way if he could get it into his hands. Everything's made to be played, with and broken, isn't it, young 'un? * * * * * *
Mrs. G. Mafflin didn't at all like his watch being broken, though he was too polite to say so. It was entirely his fault for giving it to the child. Dem little puds are werry, werry feeble, aren't dey, by Jack-in-de-box? (To G.) What did he want to see you for?
Capt. G. Regimental shop as usual.
Mrs. G. The Regiment! Always the Regiment. On my word, I sometimes feel jealous of Mafflin.
Capt. G. (Wearily.) Poor old Jack? I don't think you need. Isn't it time for The Butcha to have his nap? Bring a chair out here, dear. I've got some thing to talk over with you.
THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY OF THE GADSBYS
VOLUME VIII from MINE OWN PEOPLE
Bimi Namgay Doola The Recrudescence Of Imray Moti Guj—Mutineer
THE orangoutang in the big iron cage lashed to the sheep-pen began the discussion. The night was stiflingly hot, and as Hans Breitmann and I passed him, dragging our bedding to the fore-peak of the steamer, he roused himself and chattered obscenely. He had been caught somewhere in the Malayan Archipelago, and was going to England to be exhibited at a shilling a head. For four days he had struggled, yelled, and wrenched at the heavy iron bars of his prison without ceasing, and had nearly slain a Lascar incautious enough to come within reach of the great hairy paw.
"It would he well for you, mine friend, if you was a liddle seasick," said Hans Breitmann, pausing by the cage. "You haf too much Ego in your Cosmos."
The orangoutang's arm slid out negligently from between the bars. No one would have believed that it would make a sudden snake-like rush at the German's breast. The thin silk of the sleeping-suit tore out: Hans stepped back unconcernedly, to pluck a banana from a bunch hanging close to one of the boats.
"Too much Ego," said he, peeling the fruit and offering it to the caged devil, who was rending the silk to tatters.
Then we laid out our bedding in the bows, among the sleeping Lascars, to catch any breeze that the pace of the ship might give us. The sea was like smoky oil, except where it turned to fire under our forefoot and whirled back into the dark in smears of dull flame. There was a thunderstorm some miles away: we could see the glimmer of the lightning. The ship's cow, distressed by the heat and the smell of the ape-beast in the cage, lowed unhappily from time to time in exactly the same key as the lookout man at the bows answered the hourly call from the bridge. The trampling tune of the engines was very distinct, and the jarring of the ash-lift, as it was tipped into the sea, hurt the procession of hushed noise. Hans lay down by my side and lighted a good-night cigar. This was naturally the beginning of conversation. He owned a voice as soothing as the wash of the sea, and stores of experiences as vast as the sea itself; for his business in life was to wander up and down the world, collecting orchids and wild beasts and ethnological specimens for German and American dealers. I watched the glowing end of his cigar wax and wane in the gloom, as the sentences rose and fell, till I was nearly asleep. The orangoutang, troubled by some dream of the forests of his freedom, began to yell like a soul in purgatory, and to wrench madly at the bars of the cage.
"If he was out now dere would not be much of us left hereabouts," said Hans, lazily. "He screams good. See, now, how I shall tame him when he stops himself."
There was a pause in the outcry, and from Hans' mouth came an imitation of a snake's hiss, so perfect that I almost sprung to my feet. The sustained murderous sound ran along the deck, and the wrenching at the bars ceased. The orangoutang was quaking in an ecstasy of pure terror.
"Dot stop him," said Hans. "I learned dot trick in Mogoung Tanjong when I was collecting liddle monkeys for some peoples in Berlin. Efery one in der world is afraid of der monkeys except der snake. So I blay snake against monkey, and he keep quite still. Dere was too much Ego in his Cosmos. Dot is der soul-custom of monkeys. Are you asleep, or will you listen, and I will tell a dale dot you shall not pelief?"
"There's no tale in the wide world that I can't believe," I said.
"If you have learned pelief you haf learned somedings. Now I shall try your pelief. Good! When I was collecting dose liddle monkeys—it was in '79 or '80, und I was in der islands of der Archipelago—over dere in der dark"—he pointed southward to New Guinea generally—"Mein Gott! I would sooner collect life red devils than liddle monkeys. When dey do not bite off your thumbs dey are always dying from nostalgia—homesick—for dey haf der imperfect soul, which is midway arrested in defelopment—und too much Ego. I was dere for nearly a year, und dere I found a man dot was called Bertran. He was a Frenchman, und he was a goot man—naturalist to the bone. Dey said he was an escaped convict, but he was a naturalist, und dot was enough for me. He would call all her life beasts from der forests, und dey would come. I said he was St. Francis of Assisi in a new dransmigration produced, und he laughed und said he had never preach to der fishes. He sold dem for trepang—beche-de-mer.
"Und dot man, who was king of beasts-tamer men, he had in der house shush such anoder as dot devil-animal in der cage—a great orangoutang dot thought he was a man. He haf found him when he was a child—der orangoutang—und he was child and brother and opera comique all round to Bertran. He had his room in dot house—not a cage, but a room—mit a bed and sheets, and he would go to bed and get up in der morning and smoke his cigar und eat his dinner mit Bertran, und walk mit him hand-in-hand, which was most horrible. Herr Gott! I haf seen dot beast throw himself back in his chair and laugh when Bertran haf made fun of me. He was not a beast; he was a man, and he talked to Bertran, und Bertran comprehended, for I bave seen dem. Und he was always politeful to me except when I talk too long to Bertran und say nodings at all to him. Den he would pull me away—dis great, dark devil, mit his enormous paws shush as if I was a child. He was not a beast, he was a man. Dis I saw pefore I know him three months, und Bertran he haf saw the same; and Bimi, der orangoutang, haf understood us both, mit his cigar between his big-dog teeth und der blue gum.
"I was dere a year, dere und at dere oder islands—somedimes for monkeys and somedimes for butterflies und orchits. One time Bertran says to me dot he will be married, because he hass found a girl dot was goot, and he inquire if this marrying idea was right. I would not say, pecause it was not me dot was going to be married. Den he go off courting der girl—she was a half-caste French girl—very pretty. Haf you got a new light for my cigar? Oof! Very pretty. Only I say 'Haf you thought of Bimi? If he pulls me away when I talk to you, what will he do to your wife? He will pull her in pieces. If I was you, Bertran, I would gif my wife for wedding present der stuff figure of Bimi.' By dot time I bad learned somedings about der monkey peoples. 'Shoot him?' says Bertran. 'He is your beast,' I said; "if he was mine he would be shot now.'
"Den I felt at der back of my neck der fingers of Bimi. Mein Gott! I tell you dot he talked through dose fingers. It was der deaf-and-dumb alphabet all gomplete. He slide his hairy arm round my neck, and he tilt up my chin and look into my face, shust to see if I understood his talk so well as he understood mine. "'See now dere!' says Bertran, 'und you would shoot him while he is cuddling you? Dot is der Teuton ingrate!'
"But I knew dot I had made Bimi a life's enemy, pecause his fingers haf talk murder through the back of my neck. Next dime I see Bimi dere was a pistol in my belt, und he touch it once, and I open de breech to show him it was loaded. He haf seen der liddle monkeys killed in der woods, and he understood.
"So Bertran he was married, and he forgot clean about Bimi dot was skippin' alone on the beach mit der haf of a human soul in his belly. I was see him skip, und he took a big bough und thrash der sand till he haf made a great hole like a grave. So I says to Bertran 'For any sakes, kill Bimi. He is mad mit der jealousy.'
"Bertran haf said: 'He is not mad at all. He haf obey and love my wife, und if she speaks he will get her slippers,' und he looked at his wife across der room. She was a very pretty girl.
"Den I said to him: 'Dost thou pretend to know monkeys und dis beast dot is lashing himself mad upon der sands, pecause you do not talk to him? Shoot him when he comes to der house, for he haf der light in his eyes dot means killing- -und killing.' Bimi come to der house, but dere was no light in his eyes. It was all put away, cunning—so cunning—und he fetch der girl her slippers, and Bertran turn to me und say: 'Dost thou know him in nine months more dan I haf known him n twelve years? Shall a child stab his fader? I have fed him, und he was my child. Do not speak this nonsense to my wife or to me any more.'
"Dot next day Bertran came to my house to help me make some wood cases for der specimens, und he tell me dot he haf left his wife a liddle while mit Bimi in der garden. Den I finish my cases quick, und I say: 'Let us go to your house und get a trink.' He laugh und say: 'Come along, dry mans.'
"His wife was not in der garden, und Bimi did not come when Bertran called. Und his wife did not come when he called, und he knocked at her bedroom door und dot was shut tight-locked. Den he looked at me, und his face was white. I broke down der door mit my shoulder, und der thatch of der roof was torn into a great hole, und der sun came in upon der floor. Haf you ever seen paper in der waste- basket, or cards at whist on der table scattered? Dere was no wife dot could be seen. I tell you dere was noddings in dot room dot might be a woman. Dere was stuff on der floor, und dot was all. I looked at dese things und I was very sick; but Bertran looked a little longer at what was upon the floor und der walls, und der hole in der thatch. Den he pegan to laugh, soft and low, und I know und thank God dot he was mad. He nefer cried, he nefer prayed. He stood still in der doorway und laugh to himself. Den he said: 'She haf locked herself in dis room, and he haf torn up der thatch. Fi donc. Dot is so. We will mend der thatch und wait for Bimi. He will surely come.'
"I tell you we waited ten days in dot house, after der room was made into a room again, and once or twice we saw Bimi comin' a liddle way from der woods. He was afraid pecause he haf done wrong. Bertran called him when he was come to look on the tenth day, und Bimi come skipping along der beach und making noises, mit a long piece of Nack hair in his hands. Den Bertran laugh and say, 'Fi donc' shust as if it was a glass broken upon der table; und Bimi come nearer, und Bertran was honey-sweet in his voice and laughed to himself. For three days he made love to Bimi, pecause Bimi would not let himself be touched Den Bimi come to dinner at der same table mit us, und der hair on his hands was all black und thick mit—mit what had dried on his hands. Bertran gave him sangaree till Bimi was drunk and stupid, und den—"
Hans paused to puff at his cigar.
"And then?" said I.
"Und den Bertran kill him with his hands, und I go for a walk upon der heach. It was Bertran's own piziness. When I come back der ape he was dead, und Bertran he was dying abofe him; but still he laughed a liddle und low, and he was quite content. Now you know der formula uf der strength of der orangoutang- -it is more as seven to one in relation to man. But Bertran, he haf killed Bimi mit sooch dings as Gott gif him. Dot was der mericle."
The infernal clamor in the cage recommenced. "Aha! Dot friend of ours haf still too much Ego in his Cosmos, Be quiet, thou!"
Hans hissed long and venomously. We could hear the great beast quaking in his cage.
"But why in the world didn't you help Bertran instead of letting him be killed?" I asked.
"My friend," said Hans, composedly stretching himself to slumber, "it was not nice even to mineself dot I should lif after I had seen dot room wit der hole in der thatch. Und Bertran, he was her husband. Good-night, und sleep well."