If (Dunsany)/Act 3

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If by Lord Dunsany
Act 3

ACT III[edit]

SCENE 1

Six and a half years later. Al Shaldomir. A room in the palace.

MIRALDA reclines on a heap of cushions, JOHN beside her.

Bazzalol and Thoothoobaba fan them.

OMAR [declaiming to a zither]

Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir,
 The nightingales that guard thy ways
Cease not to give thee, after God
 And after Paradise, all praise.
 Thou art the theme of all their lays.
Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir. . . .

MIRALDA

Go now, Omar.

OMAR

O lady, I depart. [Exit.]

MIRALDA [languidly]

John, John. I wish you'd marry me.

JOHN

Miralda, you're thinking of those old customs again that we left behind us seven years ago. What's the good of it?

MIRALDA

I had a fancy that I wished you would.

JOHN

What's the good of it? You know you are my beloved. There are none of those clergymen within hundreds of miles. What's the good of it?

MIRALDA

We could find one, John.

JOHN

O, yes, I suppose we could, but . . .

MIRALDA

Why won't you?

JOHN

I told you why.

MIRALDA

O, yes, that instinct that you must not marry. That's not your reason, John.

JOHN

Yes, it is.

MIRALDA

It's a silly reason. It's a crazy reason. It's no reason at all. There's some other reason.

JOHN

No, there isn't. But I feel that in my bones. I don't know why. You know that I love none else but you. Besides, we're never going back, and it doesn't matter. This isn't Blackheath.

MIRALDA

So I must live as your slave.

JOHN

No, no, Miralda. My dear, you are not my slave. Did not the singer compare our love to the desire of the nightingale for the evening star? All know that you are my queen.

MIRALDA

They do not know at home.

JOHN

Home? Home? How could they know? What have we in common with home? Rows and rows of little houses; and if they hear a nightingale there they write to the papers. And--and if they saw this they'd think they were drunk. Miralda, don't be absurd. What has set you thinking of home?

MIRALDA

I want to be crowned queen.

JOHN

But I am not a king. I am only Shereef.

MIRALDA

You are all-powerful here, John, you can do what you please, if you wish to. You don't love me at all.

JOHN

Miralda, you know I love you. Didn't I kill Hussein for you?

MIRALDA

Yes, but you don't love me now.

JOHN

And Hussein's people killed ARCHIE. That was for you too. I brought my brother out here to help you. He was engaged to be married, too.

MIRALDA

But you don't love me now.

JOHN

Yes, I do. I love you as the dawn loves the iris marshes. You know the song they sing. (footnote: poem just before Act III)

MIRALDA

Then why won't you marry me?

JOHN

I told you, I told you. I had a dream about the future. I forgot the dream, but I know I was not to marry. I will not wrong the future.

MIRALDA

Don't be crazy.

JOHN

I will have what fancies I please, crazy or sane. Am I not Shereef of Shaldomir? Who dare stop me if I would be mad as Herod?

MIRALDA

I will be crowned queen.

JOHN

It is not my wish.

MIRALDA

I will, I will, I will.

JOHN

Drive me not to anger. If I have you cast into a well and take twenty of the fairest daughters of Al Shaldomir in your place, who can gainsay me?

MIRALDA

I will be crowned queen.

JOHN

O, do not be tiresome.

MIRALDA

Was it not my money that brought you here? Was it not I who said " Kill Hussein"? What power could you have had, had Hussein lived? What would you have been doing now, but for me?

JOHN

I don't know, Miralda.

MIRALDA

Catching some silly train to the City. Working for some dull firm. Living in some small suburban house. It is I, I, that brought you from all that, and you won't make me a queen.

JOHN

Is it not enough that you are my beloved? You know there is none other but you. Is it not enough, Miralda?

MIRALDA

It is not enough. I will be queen.

JOHN

Tchah! . . . Miralda, I know you are a wonderful woman, the most wonderful in the East; how you ever came to be in the West I don't know, and a train of all places; but, Miralda, you must not have petty whims, they don't become you.

MIRALDA

Is it a petty whim to wish to be a queen?

JOHN

Yes, when it is only the name you want. You are a queen. You have all you wish for. Are you not my beloved? And have I not power here over all men? Could I not close the pass?

MIRALDA

I want to be queen.

JOHN

Oh-h! I will leave you. I have more to do than to sit and hear your whims. When I come back you will have some other whim. Miralda, you have too many whims.

[He rises.]

MIRALDA

Will you be back soon?

JOHN

No.

MIRALDA

When will you come back, John?

[She is reclining, looking fair, fanning slightly.]

JOHN

In half an hour.

MIRALDA

In half an hour?

JOHN

Yes.

[Exit.]

MIRALDA

Half an hour.

[Her fan is laid down. She clutches it with sudden resolve. She goes to the wall, fanning herself slowly. She leans against it. She fans herself now with obvious deliberation. Three times the great fan goes pat against the window, and then again separately three times; and then she puts it against the window once with a smile of ecstasy. She has signalled. She returns to the cushions and reclines with beautiful care, fanning herself softly.

Enter the Vizier, HAFIZ EL ALCOLAHN]

HAFIZ

Lady! You bade me come.

MIRALDA

Did I, Hafiz?

HAFIZ

Lady, your fan.

MIRALDA

Ah, I was fanning myself.

HAFIZ

Seven times, lady.

MIRALDA

Ah, was it? Well, now you're here.

HAFIZ

Lady, O star of these times. O light over lonely marshes. [He kneels by her and embraces her.] Is the Shereef gone, lady?

MIRALDA

For half an hour, Hafiz.

HAFIZ

How know you for half an hour?

MIRALDA

He said so.

HAFIZ

He said so? Then is the time to fear, if a man say so.

MIRALDA

I know him.

HAFIZ

In our country who knows any man so much? None.

MIRALDA

He'll be away for half an hour.

HAFIZ [embracing]

O, exquisite lily of unattainable mountains.

MIRALDA

Ah, Hafiz, would you do a little thing for me?

HAFIZ

I would do all things, lady, O evening star.

MIRANDA

Would you make me a queen, Hafiz?

HAFIZ

If--if the Shereef were gathered?

MIRALDA

Even so, Hafiz.

HAFIZ

Lady, I would make you queen of all that lies west of the passes.

MIRANDA

You would make me queen?

HAFIZ

Indeed, before all my wives, before all women, over all Shaldomir, named the elect.

MIRALDA

O, well, Hafiz; then you may kiss me. [HAFIZ does so ad lib.]

Hafiz, the Shereef has irked me.

HAFIZ

Lady, O singing star, to all men is the hour.

MIRALDA

The appointed hour?

HAFIZ

Even the appointed hour, the last, leading to darkness.

MIRALDA

Is it written, think you, that the Shereef's hour is soon?

HAFIZ

Lady, O dawn's delight, let there be a banquet. Let the great ones of Shaldomir be bidden there.

MIRALDA

There shall be a banquet, Hafiz.

HAFIZ

Soon, O lady. Let it be soon, sole lily of the garden.

MIRALDA

It shall be soon, Hafiz. [More embraces.]

HAFIZ

And above all, O lady, bid Daoud, the son of the baker.

MIRALDA

He shall be bidden, Hafiz.

HAFIZ

O lady, it is well.

MIRALDA

Go now, Hafiz.

HAFIZ

Lady, I go [giving a bag of gold to BAZZALOL]. Silence. Silence. Silence.

BAZZALOL [kneeling]

O, master!

HAFIZ

Let the tomb speak; let the stars cry out; but do you be silent.

BAZZALOL

Aye, master.

HAFIZ [to THOOTHOOBABA]

And you. Though this one speak, yet be silent, or dread the shadow of Hafiz el Alcolahn.

[He drops a bag of gold. THOOTHOOBABA goes down and grabs at the gold; his eyes gloat over it.]

THOOTHOOBABA

Master, I speak not. Oh-h-h.

[Exit HAFIZ.

MIRALDA arranges herself on the cushions. She looks idly at each Nubian. The Nubians put each a finger over his lips and go on fanning with one hand.]

MIRALDA

A queen. I shall look sweet as a queen.

[Enter JOHN. She rises to greet him caressingly.

Enter DAOUD.]

Oh, you have brought Daoud with you.

JOHN

Why not?

MIRALDA

You know that I don't like Daoud.

JOHN

I wish to speak with him.

[MIRALDA looks straight at JOHN and moves away in silence. Exit L.]

JOHN

Daoud.

DAOUD

Great master.

JOHN

Daoud, one day in spring, in the cemetery of those called Blessed, beyond the city's gates, you swore to me by the graves of both your parents . . . .

DAOUD

Great master, even so I swore.

JOHN

. . . . to be true to me always.

DAOUD

There is no Shereef but my master.

JOHN

Daoud, you have kept your word.

DAOUD

I have sought to, master.

JOHN

You have helped me often, Daoud, warned me and helped me often. Through you I knew those currents that run through the deeps of the market, in silence and all men feel them, but a ruler never. You told me of them, and when I knew--then I could look after myself, Daoud. They could do nothing against me then. Well, now I hold this people. I hold them at last, Daoud, and now --well, I can rest a little.

DAOUD

Not in the East, master.

JOHN

Not in the East, Daoud?

DAOUD

No, master.

JOHN

Why? What do you mean?

DAOUD

In Western countries, master, whose tales I have read, in a wonderful book named the "Good Child's History of England," in the West a man hath power over a land, and lo! the power is his and descends to his son's son after him.

JOHN

Well, doesn't it in the East?

DAOUD

Not if he does not watch, master; in the night and the day, and in the twilight between the day and the night, and in the dawn between the night and the day.

JOHN

I thought you had pretty long dynasties in these parts, and pretty lazy ones.

DAOUD

Master, he that was mightiest of those that were kings in Babylon had a secret door prepared in an inner chamber, which led to a little room, the smallest in the palace, whose back door opened secretly to the river, even to great Euphrates, where a small boat waited all the days of his reign.

JOHN

Did he really now? Well, he was taking no chances. Did he have to use it?

DAOUD

No, master. Such boats are never used. Those that watch like that do not need to seek them, and the others, they would never be able to reach the river in time, even though the boat were there.

JOHN

I shouldn't like to have to live like that. Why, a river runs by the back of this palace. I suppose palaces usually are on rivers. I'm glad I don't have to keep a boat there.

DAOUD

No, master.

JOHN

Well, what is it you are worrying about? Who is it you are afraid of?

DAOUD

Hafiz el Alcolahn.

JOHN

O, Hafiz. I have no fears of Hafiz. Lately I ordered my spies to watch him no longer. Why does he hate me?

DAOUD

Because, most excellent master, you slew Hussein.

JOHN

Slew Hussein? What is that to do with him? May I not slay whom I please?

DAOUD

Even so, master. Even so. But he was Hussein's enemy.

JOHN

His enemy, eh?

DAOUD

For years he had dreamed of the joy of killing Hussein.

JOHN

Well, he should have done it before I came. We don't hang over things and brood over them for years where I come from. If a thing's to be done, it's done.

DAOUD

Even so, master. Hafiz had laid his plans for years. He would have killed him and got his substance; and then, when the hour drew near, you came, and Hussein died, swiftly, not as Hafiz would have had him die; and lo! thou art the lord of the pass, and Hafiz is no more than a beetle that runs about in the dirt.

JOHN

Well, so you fear Hafiz?

DAOUD

Not for himself, master. Nay, I fear not Hafiz. But, master, hast thou seen when the thunder is coming, but no rumble is heard and the sky is scarce yet black, how little winds run in the grass and sigh and die; and the flower beckons a moment with its head; all the world full of whispers, master, all saying nothing; then the lightning, master, and the anger of God; and men say it came without warning? [Simply.] I hear those things coming, master.

JOHN

Well?

DAOUD

Master, it is all silent in the market. Once, when the price of turquoises was high, men abused the Shereef. When the merchant men could not sell their pomegranates for silver they abused the Shereef. It is men's way, master, men's way. Now it is all silent in the market. It is like the grasses with the idle winds, that whisper and sigh and die away; like the flowers beckoning to nothing. And so, master, and so . . . .

JOHN

I see, you fear some danger.

DAOUD

I fear it, master.

JOHN

What danger, Daoud?

DAOUD

Master, I know not.

JOHN

From what quarter, Daoud?

DAOUD

O master, O sole Lord of Al Shaldomir, named the elect, from that quarter.

JOHN

That quarter? Why, that is the gracious lady's innermost chamber.

DAOUD

From that quarter, great master, O Lord of the Pass.

JOHN

Daoud, I have cast men into prison for saying less than this. Men have been flogged on the feet for less than this.

DAOUD

Slay me, master, but hear my words.

JOHN

I will not slay you. You are mistaken, Daoud. You have made a great mistake. The thing is absurd. Why, the gracious lady has scarcely seen Hafiz. She knows nothing of the talk of the market. Who could tell her? No one comes here. It is absurd. Only the other day she said to me . . . But it is absurd, it is absurd, Daoud. Besides, the people would never rebel against me. Do I not govern them well?

DAOUD

Even so, master.

JOHN

Why should they rebel, then?

DAOUD

They think of the old times, master.

JOHN

The old times? Why, their lives weren't safe. The robbers came down from the mountains and robbed the market whenever they had a mind.

DAOUD

Master, men were content in the old times.

JOHN

But were the merchants content?

DAOUD

Those that loved merchandise were content, master. Those that loved it not went into the mountains.

JOHN

But were they content when they were robbed?

DAOUD

They soon recovered their losses, master. Their prices were unjust and they loved usury.

JOHN

And were the people content with unjust prices?

DAOUD

Some were, master, as men have to be in all countries. The others went into the mountains and robbed the merchants.

JOHN

I see.

DAOUD

But now, master, a man robs a merchant and he is cast into prison. Now a man is slain in the market and his son, his own son, master, may not follow after the aggressor and slay him and burn his house. They are ill-content, master. No man robs the merchants, no man slays them, and the merchants' hearts are hardened and they oppress all men.

JOHN

I see. They don't like good government?

DAOUD

They sigh for the old times, master.

JOHN

I see; I see. In spite of all I have done for them, they want their old bad government back again.

DAOUD

It is the old way, master.

JOHN

Yes, yes. And so they would rebel. Well, we must watch. You have warned me once again, Daoud, and I am grateful. But you are wrong, Daoud, about the gracious lady. You are mistaken. It is impossible. You are mistaken, Daoud. I know it could not be.

DAOUD

I am mistaken, master. Indeed, I am mistaken. Yet, watch. Watch, master.

JOHN

Well, I will watch.

DAOUD

And, master, if ever I come to you bearing oars, then watch no longer, master, but follow me through the banquet chamber and through the room beyond it. Move as the wild deer move when there is danger, without pausing, without wondering, without turning round; for in that hour, master, in that hour . . . .

JOHN

Through the room beyond the banquet chamber, Daoud?

DAOUD

Aye, master, following me.

JOHN

But there is no door beyond, Daoud.

DAOUD

Master, I have prepared a door.

JOHN

A door, Daoud?

DAOUD

A door none wots of, master.

JOHN

Whither does it lead?

DAOUD

To a room that you know not of, a little room; you must stoop, master.

JOHN

O, and then?

DAOUD

To the river, master.

JOHN

The river! But there's no boat there.

DAOUD

Under the golden willow, master.

JOHN

A boat?

DAOUD

Even so, under the branches.

JOHN

Is it come to that? . . . No, Daoud, all this is unnecessary. It can't come to that.

DAOUD

If ever I come before you bearing two oars, in that hour, master, it is necessary.

JOHN

But you will not come. It will never come to that.

DAOUD

No, master.

JOHN

A wise man can stop things before they get as far as that.

DAOUD

They that were kings in Babylon were wise men, master.

JOHN

Babylon! But that was thousands of years ago.

DAOUD

Man changes not, master.

JOHN

Well, Daoud, I will trust you, and if it ever comes to that . . .

[Enter MIRALDA.]

MIRALDA

I thought Daoud was gone.

DAOUD

Even now I go, gracious lady.

[Exit DAOUD. Rather strained silence with JOHN and MIRALDA till he goes. She goes and retakes herself comfortable on the cushions. He is not entirely at ease.]

MIRALDA

You had a long talk with Daoud.

JOHN

Yes, he came and talked a good deal.

MIRALDA

What about?

JOHN

O, just talk; you know these Eastern people.

MIRALDA

I thought it was something you were discussing with him.

JOHN

O, no.

MIRALDA

Some important secret.

JOHN

No, not at all.

MIRALDA

You often talk with Daoud.

JOHN

Yes, he is useful to me. When he talks sense I listen, but to-day . . .

MIRALDA

What did he come for to-day?

JOHN

O, nothing.

MIRALDA

You have a secret with Daoud that you will not share with me.

JOHN

No, I have not.

MIRALDA

What was it he said?

JOHN

He said there was a king in Babylon who . . .

[DAOUD slips into the room.]

MIRALDA

In Babylon? What has that to do with us?

JOHN

Nothing. I told you he was not talking sense.

MIRALDA

Well, what did he say?

JOHN

He said that in Babylon . . .

DAOUD

Hist!

JOHN

O, well . . .

[MIRALDA glares, but calms herself and says nothing.

Exit DAOUD.]

MIRALDA

What did Daoud say of Babylon?

JOHN

O, well, as you say, it had nothing to do with us.

MIRALDA

But I wish to hear it.

JOHN

I forget.

[For a moment there is silence.]

MIRALDA

John, John. Will you do a little thing for me?

JOHN

What is it?

MIRALDA

Say you will do it, John. I should love to have one of my little wishes granted.

JOHN

What is it?

MIRALDA

Kill Daoud, John. I want you to kill Daoud.

JOHN

I will not.

[He walks up and down in front of the two Nubians in silence. She plucks petulantly at a pillow. She suddenly calms herself. A light comes into her eyes. The Nubians go on fanning. JOHN goes on pacing.]

MIRALDA

John, John, I have forgotten my foolish fancies.

JOHN

I am glad of it.

MIRALDA

I do not really wish you to kill Daoud.

JOHN [same voice]

I'm glad you don't.

MIRALDA

I have only one fancy now, John.

JOHN

Well, what is it?

MIRALDA

Give a banquet, John. I want you to give a banquet.

JOHN

A banquet? Why?

MIRALDA

Is there any harm in my fancy?

JOHN

No.

MIRALDA

Then if I may not be a queen, and if you will not kill Daoud for me, give a banquet, John. There is no harm in a banquet.

JOHN

Very well. When do you want it?

MIRALDA

To-morrow, John. Bid all the great ones to it, all the illustrious ones in Al Shaldomir.

JOHN

Very well.

MIRALDA

And bid Daoud come.

JOHN

Daoud? You asked me to kill him.

MIRALDA

I do not wish that any longer, John.

JOHN

You have queer moods, Miralda.

MIRALDA

May I not change my moods, John?

JOHN

I don't know. I don't understand them.

MIRALDA

And ask Hafiz el Alcolahn, John.

JOHN

Hafiz? Why?

MIRALDA

I don't know, John. It was just my fancy.

JOHN

Your fancy, eh?

MIRALDA

That was all.

JOHN

Then I will ask him. Have you any other fancy?

MIRALDA

Not now, John.

JOHN

Then go, Miralda.

MIRALDA

Go?

JOHN

Yes.

MIRALDA

Why?

JOHN

Because I command it.

MIRALDA

Because you command it?

JOHN

Yes, I, the Shereef Al Shaldomir.

MIRALDA

Very well.

[Exit L.

He walks to the door to see that she is really gone. He comes back to centre and stands with back to audience, pulling a cord quietly from his pocket and arranging it.

He moves half left and comes up behind BAZZALOL. Suddenly he slips the cord over BAZZALOL's head, and tightens it round his neck.]

[BAZZALOL flops on his knees.

THOOTHOOBABA goes on fanning.]

JOHN

Speak!

[BAZZALOL is silent.

JOHN tightens it more. THOOTHOOBABA goes on quietly fanning.]

BAZZALOL

I cannot.

JOHN

If you would speak, raise your left hand. If you raise your left hand and do not speak you shall die.

[BAZZALOL is silent. JOHN tightens more. BAZZALOL raises his great flabby left hand high. JOHN releases the cord. BAZZALOL blinks and moves his mouth.]

BAZZALOL

Gracious Shereef, one visited the great lady and gave us gold, saying, "Speak not."

JOHN

When?

BAZZALOL

Great master, one hour since.

JOHN [a little viciously]

Who?

BAZZALOL

O heaven-sent, he was Hafiz el Alcolahn.

JOHN

Give me the gold.

[BAZZALOL gives it.]

[To THOOTHOOBABA.] Give me the gold.

THOOTHOOBABA

Master, none gave me gold.

[John touches his dagger, and looks like using it.

THOOTHOOBABA gives it.]

JOHN

Take back your gold. Be silent about this. You too.

[He throws gold to BAZZALOL.]

Gold does not make you silent, but there is a thing that does. What is that thing? Speak. What thing makes you silent?

BAZZALOL

O, great master, it is death.

JOHN

Death, eh? And how will you die if you speak? You know how you will die?

BAZZALOL

Yes, heaven-sent.

JOHN

Tell your comrade, then.

BAZZALOL

We shall be eaten, great master.

JOHN

You know by what?

BAZZALOL

Small things, great master, small things. Oh-h-h-h. Oh-h-h.

[THOOTHOOBABA's knees scarcely hold him.]

JOHN

It is well.


Curtain

SCENE 2

A small street. Al Shaldomir.

Time: Next day.

[Enter L. the SHEIK OF THE BISHAREENS.

He goes to an old green door, pointed of course in the Arabic way.]

SHEIK OF THE BISHAREENS

Ho, Bishareens!

[The BISHAREENS run on.]

SHEIK

It is the place and the hour.

BISHAREENS

Ah, ah!

SHEIK [to FIRST BISHAREEN]

Watch.

[FIRST BISHAREEN goes to right and watches up sunny street.]

FIRST BISHAREEN

He comes.

[Enter HAFIZ EL ALCOLAHN. He goes straight up to the SHEIK and whispers.]

SHEIK [turning]

Hear, O Bishareens.

[HAFIZ places flute to his lips.]

A BISHAREEN

And the gold, master?

SHEIK

Silence! It is the signal.

[HAFIZ plays a weird, strange tune on his flute.]

HAFIZ

So.

SHEIK

Master, once more.

[HAFIZ raises the flute again to his lips.]

SHEIK

Hear, O Bishareens!

[He plays the brief tune again.]

HAFIZ [to SHEIK]

Like that.

SHEIK

We have heard, O master.

[He walks away L. Hands move in the direction of knife-hilts.]

THE BISHAREENS

Ah, ah!

[Exit HAFIZ.

He plays a merry little tune on his flute as he walks away.]

Curtain

SCENE 3

The banqueting hall. A table along the back. JOHN and MIRALDA seated with notables of Al Shaldomir.

JOHN sits in the centre, with MIRALDA on his right and, next to her, HAFIZ EL ALCOLAHN.

MIRALDA [to JOHN]

You bade Daoud be present?

JOHN

Yes.

MIRALDA

He is not here.

JOHN

Daoud not here?

MIRALDA

No.

JOHN

Why?

MIRALDA

We all obey you, but not Daoud.

JOHN

I do not understand it.

A NOTABLE

The Shereef has frowned.

[Enter R. an OFFICER-AT-ARMS. He halts at once and salutes with his sword, then takes a side pace to his left, standing against the wall, sword at the carry.

JOHN acknowledges salute by touching his forehead with the inner tips of his fingers.]

OFFICER-AT-ARMS

Soldiers of Al Shaldomir; with the dance-step; march.

[Enter R. some men in single file; uniform, pale green silks; swords at carry. They advance in single file, in a slightly serpentine way, deviating to their left a little out of the straight and returning to it, stepping neatly on the tips of their toes. Their march is fantastic and odd without being exactly funny.

The OFFICER-AT-ARMS falls in on their left flank and marches about level with the third or fourth man. When he reaches the centre he gives another word of command.]

OFFICER-AT-ARMS

With reverence: Salute.

[The actor who takes this part should have been an officer or N. C. O.

JOHN stands up and acknowledges their salute by touching his forehead with the fingers of the right hand, palm turned inwards.

Exeunt soldiers L. JOHN sits down.]

A NOTABLE

He does not smile this evening.

A WOMAN

The Shereef?

NOTABLE

He has not smiled.

[Enter R. ZABNOOL, a CONJURER, with brass bowl. He bows. He walks to centre opposite JOHN. He exhibits his bowl.]

ZABNOOL

Behold. The bowl is empty.

[ZABNOOL produces a snake.]

ZABNOOL

Ah, little servant of Death.

[He produces flowers.]

Flowers, master, flowers. All the way from Nowhere.

[He produces birds.]

Birds, master. Birds from Nowhere. Sing, sing to the Shereef. Sing the little empty songs of the land of Nowhere.

[He seats himself on the ground facing JOHN. He puts the bowl on the ground. He places a piece of silk, with queer designs on it over the bowl. He partly draws the silk away with his left hand and puts in his right. He brings out a young crocodile and holds it by the neck.]

CONJURER

Behold, O Shereef; O people, behold; a crocodile.

[He arises and bows to JOHN and wraps up the crocodile in some drapery and walks away. As he goes he addresses his crocodile.]

O eater of lambs, O troubler of the rivers, you sought to evade me in an empty bowl. O thief, O appetite, you sought to evade the Shereef. The Shereef has seen you, O vexer of swimmers, O pig in armour, O . . .

[Exit.

SHABEESH, another CONJURER, rushes on.]

SHABEESH

Bad man, master; he very, very bad man.

[He pushes ZABNOOL away roughly, impetus of which carries ZABNOOL to the wings.]

Very, very bad man, master.

MIRALDA [reprovingly]

Zabnool has amused us.

SHABEESH

He very, very bad man, lily lady. He get crocodile from devil. From devil Poolyana, lily lady. Very, very bad.

MIRALDA

He may call on devils if he amuse us, Shabeesh.

SHABEESH

But Poolyana, my devil. He call on my devil, lily lady. Very, very, very bad. My devil Poolyana.

MIRALDA

Call on him yourself, Shabeesh. Amuse us.

SHABEESH

Shall one devil serve two masters?

MIRALDA

Why not?

SHABEESH [beginning to wave priestly conjurer's hands]

Very bad man go away. Go away, bad man: go away, bad man. Poolyana not want bad man: Poolyana only work for good man. He mighty fine devil. Poolyana, Poolyana. Big, black, fine, furry devil. Poolyana, Poolyana, Poolyana. O fine, fat devil with big angry tail. Poolyana, Poolyana, Poolyana. Send me up fine young pig for the Shereef. Poolyana, Poolyana. Lil yellow pig with curly tail. [Small pig appears.] O Poolyana, great Poolyana. Fine black fur and grey fur underneath. Fine ferocious devil you my devil, Poolyana. O, Poolyana, Poolyana, Poolyana. Send me a big beast what chew bad man's crocodile. Big beast with big teeth, eat him like a worm.

[He has spread large silk handkerchief on floor and is edging back from it in alarm.]

Long nails in him toes, big like lion, Poolyana. Send great smelly big beast--eat up bad man's crocodile.

[At first stir of handkerchief SHABEESH leaps in alarm.]

He come, he come. I see his teeth and horns.

[Enter small live rabbit from trapdoor under handkerchief.]

O, Poolyana, you big devil have your liddle joke. You laugh at poor conjuring man. You send him lil rabbit to eat big crocodile. Bad Poolyana. Bad Poolyana.

[Whacks ground with stick.]

You plenty bad devil, Poolyana.

[Whacking it again. Handkerchief has been thrown on ground again. Handkerchief stirs slightly.]

No, no, Poolyana. You not bad devil. You not bad devil. You plenty good devil, Poolyana. No, no, no! Poor conjuring man quite happy on muddy earth. No, Poolyana, no! O, no, no, devil. O, no, no! Hell plenty nice place for devil. Master! He not my devil! He other man's devil!

JOHN

What's this noise? What's it about? What's the matter?

SHABEESH [in utmost terror]

He coming, master! Coming!

ZABNOOL

Poolyana, Poolyana, Poolyana. Stay down, stay down, Poolyana. Stay down in nice warm hell, Poolyana. The Shereef want no devil to-day.

[ZABNOOL before speaking returns to centre and pats air over ground where handkerchief lies.

Then SHABEESH and ZABNOOL come together side by side and bow and smile together toward the SHEREEF. Gold is thrown to them, which ZABNOOL gathers and hands to SHABEESH, who gives a share back to ZABNOOL.]

A NOTABLE

The Shereef is silent.

[Enter three women R. in single file, dancing, and carrying baskets full of pink rose-leaves. They dance across, throwing down rose-leaves, leaving a path of them behind them. Exeunt L.]

A NOTABLE

Still he is silent.

MIRALDA

Why do you not speak?

JOHN

I do not wish to speak.

MIRALDA

Why?

[Enter OMAR with his zither.]

OMAR [singing]

Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir, 
Birds sing thy praises night and day;
The nightingale in every wood,  
Blackbirds in fields profound with may;   
Birds sing of thee by every way.

Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir,  
My heart is ringing with thee still 
Though far away, O fairy fields,   
My soul flies low by every hill 
And misses not one daffodil.

Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir, 
O mother of my roving dreams  
Blue is the night above thy spires 
And blue by myriads of streams 
Paradise through thy gateway gleams.

MIRALDA

Why do you not wish to speak?

JOHN

You desire me to speak?

MIRALDA

No. They all wonder why you do not speak; that is all.

JOHN

I will speak. They shall hear me.

MIRALDA

O, there is no need to.

JOHN

There is a need. [He rises.] People of Shaldomir, behold I know your plottings. I know the murmurings that you murmur against me. When I sleep in my inner chamber my ear is in the market, while I sit at meat I hear men whisper far hence and know their innermost thoughts. Hope not to overcome me by your plans nor by any manner of craftiness. My gods are gods of brass; none have escaped them. They cannot be overthrown. Of all men they favour my people. Their hands reach out to the uttermost ends of the earth. Take heed, for my gods are terrible. I am the Shereef; if any dare withstand me I will call on my gods and they shall crush him utterly. They shall grind him into the earth and trample him under, as though he had not been. The uttermost parts have feared the gods of the English. They reach out, they destroy, there is no escape from them. Be warned; for I do not permit any to stand against me. The laws that I have given you, you shall keep; there shall be no other laws. Whoso murmurs shall know my wrath and the wrath of my gods. Take heed, I speak not twice. I spoke once to Hussein. Hussein heard not; and Hussein is dead, his ears are closed for ever. Hear, O people.

HAFIZ

O Shereef, we murmur not against you.

JOHN

I know thoughts and hear whispers. I need not instruction, Hafiz.

HAFIZ

You exalt yourself over us as none did aforetime.

JOHN

Yes. And I will exalt myself. I have been Shereef hitherto, but now I will be king. Al Shaldomir is less than I desire. I have ruled too long over a little country. I will be the equal of Persia. I will be king; I proclaim it. The pass is mine; the mountains shall be mine also. And he that rules the mountains has mastery over all the plains beyond. If the men of the plains will not own it let them make ready; for my wrath will fall on them in the hour when they think me afar, on a night when they think I dream. I proclaim myself king over . . .

[HAFIZ pulls out his flute and plays the weird, strange tune. JOHN looks at him in horrified anger.]

JOHN

The penalty is death! Death is the punishment for what you do, Hafiz. You have dared while I spoke. Hafiz, your contempt is death. Go to Hussein. I, the king . . . say it.

[DAOUD has entered R., bearing two oars. DAOUD walks across, not looking at JOHN. Exit by small door in L. near back.

JOHN gives one look at the banqueters, then he follows DAOUD. Exit.

All look astonished. Some rise and peer. HAFIZ draws his knife.]

OMAR [singing]

Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir, The nightingales that guard thy ways Cease not to give thee, after God And after Paradise, all praise,

CRIES [off]

Kill the unbeliever. Kill the dog. Kill the Christian.

[Enter the SHEIK OF THE BISHAREENS, followed by all his men.]

SHEIK

We are the Bishareens, master.

[MIRALDA standing up, right arm akimbo, left arm pointing perfectly straight out towards the small door, hand extended.]

MIRALDA

He is there.

[The BISHAREENS run off through the little door.]

A NOTABLE

Not to interfere with old ways is wisest.

ANOTHER

Indeed, it would have been well for him.

[The BISHAREENS begin to return looking all about them like disappointed hounds.]

A BISHAREEN

He is not there, master.

HAFIZ

Not there? Not there? Why, there is no door beyond. He must needs be there, and his chief spy with him.

SHEIK [off]

He is not here.

MIRALDA [turning round and clawing the wall]

O, I was weary of him. I was weary of him.

HAFIZ

Be comforted, pearl of the morning; he is gone.

MIRALDA

When I am weary of a man he must die.

[He embraces her knees.]

ZAGBOOLA [who has come on with a little crowd that followed the BISHAREENS. She is blind.]

Lead me to Hafiz. I am the mother of Hafiz. Lead me to Hafiz. [They lead her near.] Hafiz! Hafiz!

[She finds his shoulder and tries to drag him away.]

HAFIZ

Go! Go! I have found the sole pearl of the innermost deeps of the sea.

[He is kneeling and kissing MIRALDA's hand. ZAGBOOLA wails.]

Curtain