If (Dunsany)/Act 2

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ACT II[edit]

SCENE

JOHN's tent in Al Shaldomir. There are two heaps of idols, left and right, lying upon the ground inside the tent. DAOUD carries another idol in his arms. JOHN looks at its face.

Six months have elapsed since the scene in the second-class railway carriage.

JOHN BEAL

This god is holy.


[He points to the left heap. DAOUD carries it there and lays it on the heap.]

DAOUD

Yes, great master.

JOHN BEAL

You are in no wise to call me great master. Have not I said so? I am not your master. I am helping you people. I know better than you what you ought to do, because I am English. But that's all. I'm not your master, See?

DAOUD

Yes, great master.

JOHN BEAL

O, go and get some more idols. Hurry.

DAOUD

Great master, I go. [Exit.]

JOHN BEAL

I can't make these people out.

DAOUD [returning]

I have three gods.

JOHN BEAL [looking at their faces, pointing to the two smaller idols first] These two are holy. This one is unholy.

DAOUD

Yes, great master.

JOHN BEAL

Put them on the heap.

[DAOUD does so, two left, one right.]

Get some more.

[DAOUD salaams. Exit.]

[Looking at right heap.] What a--what a filthy people

[Enter DAOUD with two idols.]

JOHN BEAL [after scrutiny]

This god is holy, this is unholy.

[Enter ARCHIE BEAL, wearing a "Bowler" hat.]

Why, ARCHIE, this is splendid of you! You've come! Why, that's splendid! All that way!

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, I've come. Whatever are you doing?

JOHN BEAL

ARCHIE, it's grand of you to come! I never ought to have asked it of you, only . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

O, that's all right. But what in the world are you doing?

JOHN BEAL

ARCHIE, it's splendid of you.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, cut it. That's all right. But what's all this?

JOHN BEAL

O, this. Well, well they're the very oddest people here. It's a long story. But I wanted to tell you first how enormously grateful I am to you for coming.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, that's all right. But I want to know what you're doing with all these genuine antiques.

JOHN BEAL

Well, ARCHIE, the fact of it is they're a real odd lot of people here. I've learnt their language, more or less, but I don't think I quite understand them yet. A lot of them are Mahommedans; they worship Mahommed, you know. He's dead. But a lot of them worship these things, and . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, what have you got 'em all in here for?

JOHN BEAL

Yes, that's just it. I hate interfering with them, but, well, I simply had to. You see there's two sorts of idols here; they offer fruit and rats to some of them; they lay them on their hands or their laps.

ARCHIE BEAL

Why do they offer them rats?

JOHN BEAL

O, I don't know. They don't know either. It's the right thing to do out here, it's been the right thing for hundreds of years; nobody exactly knows why. It's like the bows we have on evening shoes, or anything else. But it's all right.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, what are you putting them in heaps for?

JOHN BEAL

Because there's the other kind, the ones with wide mouths and rust round them.

ARCHIE BEAL

Rust? Yes, so there is. What do they do?

JOHN BEAL

They offer blood to them, ARCHIE. They pour it down their throats. Sometimes they kill people, sometimes they only bleed them. It depends how much blood the idol wants.

ARCHIE BEAL

How much blood it wants? Good Lord! How do they know?

JOHN BEAL

The priests tell them. Sometimes they fill them up to their necks--they're all hollow, you know. In spring it's awful.

ARCHIE BEAL

Why are they worse in spring?

JOHN BEAL

I don't know. The priests ask for more blood then. Much more. They say it always was so.

ARCHIE BEAL

And you're stopping it?

JOHN BEAL

Yes, I'm stopping these. One must. I'm letting them worship those. Of course, it's idolatry and all that kind of thing, but I don't like interfering short of actual murder.

ARCHIE BEAL

And they're obeying you?

JOHN BEAL

'M, y-yes. I think so.

ARCHIE BEAL

You must have got a great hold over them.

JOHN BEAL

Well, I don't know about that. It's the pass that counts.

ARCHIE BEAL

The pass?

JOHN BEAL

Yes, that place you came over. It's the only way anyone can get here.

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, I suppose it is. But how does the pass affect these idols?

JOHN BEAL

It affects everything here. If that pass were closed no living man would ever enter or leave, or even hear of, this country. It's absolutely cut off except for that one pass. Why, ARCHIE, it isn't even on the map.

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, I know.

JOHN BEAL

Well, whoever owns that pass is everybody. No one else counts.

ARCHIE BEAL

And who does own it?

JOHN BEAL

Well, it's actually owned by a fellow called Hussein, but Miss Clement's uncle, a man called Hinnard, a kind of lonely explorer, seems to have come this way; and I think he understood what this pass is worth. Anyhow, he lent Hussein a big sum of money and got an acknowledgment from Hussein. Old Hinnard must have been a wonderfully shrewd man. For that acknowledgment is no more legal than an I.O.U., and Hussein is simply a brigand.

ARCHIE BEAL

Not very good security.

JOHN BEAL

Well, you're wrong there. Hussein himself respects that piece of parchment he signed. There's the name of some god or other written on it Hussein is frightened of. Now you see how things are. That pass is as holy as all the gods that there are in Al Shaldomir. Hussein possesses it. But he owes an enormous sum to Miss Miralda Clement, and I am here as her agent; and you've come to help me like a great sportsman.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, never mind that. Well, it all seems pretty simple.

JOHN BEAL

Well, I don't know, ARCHIE. Hussein admits the debt, but . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

But what?

JOHN BEAL

I don't know what he'll do.

ARCHIE BEAL

Wants watching, does he?

JOHN BEAL

Yes. And meanwhile I feel sort of responsible for all these silly people. Somebody's got to look after them. Daoud!

DAOUD [off]

Great master.

JOHN BEAL

Bring in some more gods.

DAOUD

Yes, great master.

JOHN BEAL

I can't get them to stop calling me absurd titles. They're so infernally Oriental.

[Enter DAOUD.]

ARCHIE BEAL

He's got two big ones this time.

JOHN BEAL [to ARCHIE]

You see, there is rust about their mouths. [To DAOUD]: They are both unholy.

[He points to R. heap, and DAOUD puts them there. To DAOUD.]

Bring in some more.

DAOUD

Great master, there are no more gods in Al Shaldomir.

JOHN BEAL

It is well.

DAOUD

What orders, great master.

JOHN BEAL

Listen. At night you shall come and take these gods away. These shall be worshipped again in their own place, these you shall cast into the great river and tell no man where you cast them.

DAOUD

Yes, great master.

JOHN BEAL

You will do this, Daoud?

DAOUD

Even so, great master.

JOHN BEAL

I am sorry to make you do it. You are sad that you have to do it. Yet it must be done.

DAOUD

Yes, I am sad, great master.

JOHN BEAL

But why are you sad, Daoud?

DAOUD

Great master, in times you do not know these gods were holy. In times you have not guessed. In old centuries, master, perhaps before the pass. Men have prayed to them, sorrowed before them, given offerings to them. The light of old hearths has shone on them, flames from old battles. The shadow of the mountains has fallen on them, so many times, master, so many times. Dawn and sunset have shone on them, master, like firelight flickering; dawn and sunset, dawn and sunset, flicker, flicker, flicker for century after century. They have sat there watching the dawns like old men by the fire. They are so old, master, so old. And some day dawn and sunset will die away and shine on the world no more, and they would have still sat on in the cold. And now they go. . . They are our history, master, they are our old times. Though they be bad times they are our times, master; and now they go. I am sad, master, when the old gods go.

JOHN BEAL

But they are bad gods, Daoud.

DAOUD

I am sad when the bad gods go.

JOHN BEAL

They must go, Daoud. See, there is no one watching. Take them now.

DAOUD

Even so, great master.

[He takes up the largest of the gods with rust.]

Come, Aho-oomlah, thou shalt not drink Nideesh.

JOHN BEAL

Was Nideesh to have been sacrificed?

DAOUD

He was to have been drunk by Aho-oomlah.

JOHN BEAL

Nideesh. Who is he?

DAOUD

He is my son.

[Exit with Aho-oomlah. JOHN BEAL almost gasps.]

ARCHIE BEAL [who has been looking round the tent]

What has he been saying?

JOHN BEAL

They're--they're a strange people. I can't make them out.

ARCHIE BEAL

Is that the heap that oughtn't to be worshipped?

JOHN BEAL

Yes.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, do you know, I'm going to chuck this hat there. It doesn't seem to me somehow to be any more right here than those idols would be at home. Odd isn't it? Here goes.

[He throws hat on right heap of idols. JOHN BEAL does not smile.]

Why, what's the matter?

JOHN BEAL

I don't like to see a decent Christian hat among these filthy idols. They've all got rust on their mouths. I don't like to see it, Archie; it's sort of like what they call an omen. I don't like it.

ARCHIE BEAL

Do they keep malaria here?

JOHN BEAL

I don't think so. Why?

ARCHIE BEAL

Then what's the matter, Johnny? Your nerves are bad.

JOHN BEAL

You don't know these people, and I've brought you out here. I feel kind of responsible. If Hussein's lot turn nasty you don't know what he'd do, with all those idols and all.

ARCHIE BEAL

He'll give 'em a drink, you mean.

JOHN BEAL

Don't, ARCHIE. There's no saying. And I feel responsible for you.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, they can have my hat. It looks silly, somehow. I don't know why. What are we going to do?

JOHN BEAL

Well, now that you've come we can go ahead.

ARCHIE BEAL

Righto. What at?

JOHN BEAL

We've got to see Hussein's accounts, and get everything clear in black and white, and see just what he owes to Miss Miralda Clement.

ARCHIE BEAL

But they don't keep accounts here.

JOHN BEAL

How do you know?

ARCHIE BEAL

Why, of course they don't. One can see that.

JOHN BEAL

But they must.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, you haven't changed a bit for your six months here.

JOHN BEAL

Haven't changed?

ARCHIE BEAL

No. Just quietly thinking of business. You'll be a great business man, Johnny.

JOHN BEAL

But we must do business; that's what I came here for.

ARCHIE BEAL

You'll never make these people do it.

JOHN BEAL

Well, what do you suggest?

ARCHIE BEAL

Let's have a look at old Hussein.

JOHN BEAL

Yes, that's what I have been waiting for. Daoud!

DAOUD [off]

Master. [Enters.]

JOHN BEAL

Go to the palace of the Lord of the pass and beat on the outer door. Say that I desire to see him. Pray him to come to my tent.

[DAOUD bows and Exit.]

[To ARCHIE.] I've sent him to the palace to ask Hussein to come.

ARCHIE BEAL

Lives in a palace, does he?

JOHN BEAL

Yes, it's a palace, it's a wonderful place. It's bigger than the Mansion House, much.

ARCHIE BEAL

And you're going to teach him to keep accounts.

JOHN BEAL

Well, I must. I hate doing it. It seems almost like being rude to the Lord Mayor. But there's two things I can't stand--cheating in business is one and murder's another. I've got to interfere. You see, if one happens to know the right from wrong as we do, we've simply got to tell people who don't. But it isn't pleasant. I almost wish I'd never come.

ARCHIE BEAL

Why, it's the greatest sport in the world. It's splendid.

JOHN BEAL

I don't see it that way. To me those idols are just horrid murder. And this man owes money to this girl with no one to look after her, and he's got to pay. But I hate being rude to a man in a place like the Mansion House, even if he is black. Why, good Lord, who am I? It seems such cheek.

ARCHIE BEAL

I say, Johnny, tell me about the lady. Is she pretty?

JOHN BEAL

What, Miss Miralda? Yes.

ARCHIE BEAL

But what I mean is--what's she like?

JOHN BEAL

Oh, I don't know. It's very hard to say. She's, she's tall and she's fair and she's got blue eyes.

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, but I mean what kind of a person is she? How does she strike you?

JOHN BEAL

Well, she's pretty hard up until she gets this money, and she hasn't got any job that's any good, and no real prospects bar this, and nobody particular by birth, and doesn't know anybody who is, and lives in the least fashionable suburb and can only just afford a second-class fare and . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, yes, go on.

JOHN BEAL

And yet somehow she sort of seems like a--like a queen.

ARCHIE BEAL

Lord above us! And what kind of a queen?

JOHN BEAL

O, I don't know. Well, look here, ARCHIE, it's only my impression. I don't know her well yet. It's only my impression. I only tell you in absolute confidence. You won't pass it on to anybody, of course.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, no. Go on.

JOHN BEAL

Well, I don't know, only she seemed more like well, a kind of autocrat, you know, who'd stop at nothing. Well, no, I don't mean that, only . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

So you're not going to marry her?

JOHN BEAL

Marry her! Good Lord, no. Why, you'd never dare ask her. She's not that sort. I tell you she's a sort of queen. And (Good Lord!) she'd be a queen if it wasn't for Hussein, or something very like one. We can't go marrying queens. Anyhow, not one like her.

ARCHIE BEAL

Why not one like her?

JOHN BEAL

I tell you--she's a--well, a kind of goddess. You couldn't ask her if she loved you. It would be such, such . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

Such what?

JOHN BEAL

Such infernal cheek.

ARCHIE BEAL

I see. Well, I see you aren't in love with her. But it seems to me you'll be seeing a good deal of her some day if we pull this off. And then, my boy-o, you'll be going and getting in love with her.

JOHN BEAL

I tell you I daren't. I'd as soon propose to the Queen of Sheba.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, Johnny, I'm going to protect you from her all I can.

JOHN BEAL

Protect me from her? Why?

ARCHIE BEAL

Why, because there's lots of other girls and it seems to me you might be happier with some of them.

JOHN BEAL

But you haven't even seen her.

ARCHIE BEAL

Nor I have. Still, if I'm here to protect you I somehow think I will. And if I'm not . . .

JOHN BEAL

Well, and what then?

ARCHIE BEAL

What nonsense I'm talking. Fate does everything. I can't protect you.

JOHN BEAL

Yes, it's nonsense all right, ARCHIE, but . . .

HUSSEIN [off]

I am here.

JOHN BEAL

Be seen.

[HUSSEIN enters. He is not unlike Bluebeard.]

JOHN BEAL [pointing to ARCHIE] My brother.

[ARCHIE shakes hands with HUSSEIN. HUSSEIN looks at his hand when it is over in a puzzled way. JOHN BEAL and Hussein then bow to each other.]

HUSSEIN

You desired my presence.

JOHN BEAL

I am honoured.

HUSSEIN

And I.

JOHN BEAL

The white traveller, whom we call Hinnard, lent you one thousand greater gold pieces, which in our money is one hundred thousand pounds, as you acknowledge. [Hussein nods his head.] And every year you were to pay him for this two hundred and fifty of your greater gold pieces--as you acknowledge also.

HUSSEIN

Even so.

JOHN BEAL

And this you have not yet had chance to pay, but owe it still.

HUSSEIN

I do.

JOHN BEAL

And now Hinnard is dead.

HUSSEIN

Peace be with him.

JOHN BEAL

His heiress is Miss Miralda Clement, who instructs me to be her agent. What have you to say?

HUSSEIN

Peace be with Hinnard.

JOHN BEAL

You acknowledge your debt to this lady, Miss Miralda Clement?

HUSSEIN

I know her not.

JOHN BEAL

You will not pay your debt?

HUSSEIN

I will pay.

JOHN BEAL

If you bring the gold to my tent, my brother will take it to Miss Clement.

HUSSEIN

I do not pay to Miss Clement.

JOHN BEAL

To whom do you pay?

HUSSEIN

I pay to Hinnard.

JOHN BEAL

Hinnard is dead.

HUSSEIN

I pay to Hinnard.

JOHN BEAL

How will you pay to Hinnard?

HUSSEIN

If he be buried in the sea . . .


JOHN BEAL

He is not buried at sea.

HUSSEIN

If he be buried by any river I go to the god of rivers.

JOHN BEAL

He is buried on land near no river.

HUSSEIN

Therefore I will go to a bronze god of earth, very holy, having the soil in his care and the things of earth. I will take unto him the greater pieces of gold due up to the year when the white traveller died, and will melt them in fire at his feet by night on the mountains, saying, " O, Lruru-onn (this is his name) take this by the way of earth to the grave of Hinnard." And so I shall be free of my debt before all gods.

JOHN BEAL

But not before me. I am English. And we are greater than gods.

ARCHIE BEAL

What's that, Johnny?

JOHN BEAL

He won't pay, but I told him we're English and that they're greater than all his bronze gods.

ARCHIE BEAL

That's right, Johnny.

[HUSSEIN looks fiercely at ARCHIE. He sees ARCHIE's hat lying before a big idol. He points at the hat and looks in the face of the idol.]

HUSSEIN [to the idol] Drink! Drink!

[He bows. Exit.]

ARCHIE BEAL

What's that he's saying?

JOHN BEAL [meditatively] O, nothing--nothing.

ARCHIE BEAL

He won't pay, oh?

JOHN BEAL

No, not to Miss Miralda.

ARCHIE BEAL

Who to?

JOHN BEAL

To one of his gods.

ARCHIE BEAL

That won't do.

JOHN BEAL

No.

ARCHIE BEAL

What'll we do?

JOHN BEAL

I don't quite know. It isn't as if we were in England.

ARCHIE BEAL

No, it isn't.

JOHN BEAL

If we were in England . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

I know; if we were in England you could call a policeman. I tell you what it is, Johnny.

JOHN BEAL

Yes?

ARCHIE BEAL

I tell you what; you want to see more of Miss Clement.

JOHN BEAL

Why?

ARCHIE BEAL

Why, because at the present moment our friend Hussein is a craftier fellow than you, and looks like getting the best of it.

JOHN BEAL

How will seeing more of Miss Miralda help us?

ARCHIE BEAL

Why, because you want to be a bit craftier than Hussein, and I fancy she might make you.

JOHN BEAL

She? How?

ARCHIE BEAL

We're mostly made what we are by some woman or other. We think it's our own cleverness, but we're wrong. As things are you're no match for Hussein, but if you altered . . .

JOHN BEAL

Why, ARCHIE; where did you get all those ideas from?

ARCHIE BEAL

O, I don't know.

JOHN BEAL

You never used to talk like that.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, well.

JOHN BEAL

You haven't been getting in love, ARCHIE, have you?

ARCHIE BEAL

What are we to do about Hussein?

JOHN BEAL

It's funny your mentioning Miss Miralda. I got a letter from her the same day I got yours.

ARCHIE BEAL

What does she say?

JOHN BEAL

I couldn't make it out.

ARCHIE BEAL

What were her words?

JOHN BEAL

She said she was going into it closer. She underlined closer. What could she mean by that? How could she get closer?

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, the same way as I did.

JOHN BEAL

How do you mean? I don't understand.

ARCHIE BEAL

By coming here.

JOHN BEAL

By coming here? But she can't come here.

ARCHIE BEAL

Why not?

JOHN BEAL

Because it's impossible. Absolutely impossible. Why--good Lord--she couldn't come here. Why, she'd want a chaperon and a house and--and--everything. Good Lord, she couldn't come here. It would be--well it would be impossible--it couldn't be done.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, all right. Then I don't know what she meant.

JOHN BEAL

ARCHIE! You don't really think she'd come here? You don't really think it, do you?

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, it's the sort of thing that that sort of girl might do, but of course I can't say . . .

JOHN BEAL

Good Lord, ARCHIE! That would be awful.

ARCHIE BEAL

But why?

JOHN BEAL

Why? But what would I do? Where would she go? Where would her chaperon go? The chaperon would be some elderly lady. Why, it would kill her.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, if it did you've never met her, so you needn't go into mourning for an elderly lady that you don't know; not yet, anyway.

JOHN BEAL

No, of course not. You're laughing at me, ARCHIE. But for the moment I took you seriously. Of course, she won't come. One can go into a thing closely without doing it absolutely literally. But, good Lord, wouldn't it be an awful situation if she did.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, I don't know.

JOHN BEAL

All alone with me here? No, impossible. And the country isn't civilised.

ARCHIE BEAL.

Women aren't civilised.

JOHN BEAL

Women aren't . . .? Good Lord, ARCHIE, what an awful remark. What do you mean?

ARCHIE BEAL

We're tame, they're wild. We like all the dull things and the quiet things, they like all the romantic things and the dangerous things.

JOHN BEAL

Why, ARCHIE, it's just the other way about.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, yes; we do all the romantic things, and all the dangerous things. But why?

JOHN BEAL

Why? Because we like them, I suppose. I can't think of any other reason.

ARCHIE BEAL

I hate danger. Don't you?

JOHN BEAL

Er--well, yes, I suppose I do, really.

ARCHIE BEAL

Of course you do. We all do. It's the women that put us up to it. She's putting you up to this. And the more she puts you up to the more likely is Hussein to get it in his fat neck.

JOHN BEAL

But--but you don't mean you'd hurt Hussein? Not--not badly, I mean.

ARCHIE BEAL

We're under her orders, Johnny. See what she says.

JOHN BEAL

You, you don't really think she'll come here?

ARCHIE BEAL

Of course I do, and the best thing too. It's her show; she ought to come.

JOHN BEAL

But, but you don't understand. She's just a young girl, A girl like Miss Miralda couldn't come out here over the pass and down these mountains, she'd never stand it, and as for the chaperon . . . You've never met Miss Miralda.

ARCHIE BEAL

No, Johnny. But the girl that was able to get you to go from Bromley to this place can look after herself.

JOHN BEAL

I don't see what that's got to do with it. She was in trouble and I had to help her.

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, and she'll be in trouble all the way here from Blackheath, and everyone will have to help her.

JOHN BEAL

What beats me is how you can have the very faintest inkling of what she's like without ever having seen her and without my having spoken of her to you for more than a minute.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, Johnny, you're not a romantic bird, you're not a traveller by nature, barring your one trip to Eastbourne, and it was I that took you there. And contrariwise, as they say in a book you've never read, you're a levelheaded business man and a hardworking respectable stay-at-home. You meet a girl in a train, and the next time I see you you're in a place that isn't marked on the map and telling it what gods it ought to worship and what gods it ought to have agnosticism about. Well, I say some girl.

JOHN BEAL

Well, I must say you make the most extraordinary deductions, but it was awfully good of you to come, and I ought to be grateful; and I am, too, I'm awfully grateful; and I ought to let you talk all the rot you like. Go ahead. You shall say what you like and do what you like. It isn't many brothers that would do what you've done.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, that's nothing. I like this country. I'm glad I came. And if I can help you with Hussein, why all the better.

JOHN BEAL

It's an awful country, Archie, but we've got to see this through.

ARCHIE BEAL

Does she know all about Hussein?

JOHN BEAL

Yes, everything. I've written fully.

OMAR [Off]

Al Shaldomir, Al Shaldomir, The nightingales that guard thy ways . . .

JOHN BEAL [shouting|

O, go away, go away. [To ARCHIE.] I said it was an awful country. They sit down outside one's tent and do that kind of thing for no earthly reason.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, I'd let them sing.

JOHN BEAL

O, you can't have people doing that kind of thing.

OMAR [in doorway]

Master, I go.

JOHN BEAL

But why do you come?

OMAR

I came to sing a joyous song to you, master.

JOHN BEAL

Why did you want to sing me a joyous song?

OMAR

Because a lady is riding out of the West. [Exit.]

JOHN BEAL

A lady out of . . . Good Lord!

ARCHIE BEAL

She's coming, Johnny.

JOHN BEAL

Coming? Good Lord, no, Archie. He said a lady; there'd be the chaperon too. There'd be two of them if it was Miss Miralda. But he said a lady. One lady. It can't be her. A girl like that alone in Al Shaldomir. Clean off the map. Oh, no, it isn't possible.

ARCHIE BEAL

I wouldn't worry.

JOHN BEAL

Wouldn't worry? But, good Lord, the situation's impossible. People would talk. Don't you see what people would say? And where could they go? Who would look after them? Do try and understand how awful it is. But it isn't. It's impossible. It can't be them. For heaven's sake run out and see if it is; and (good Lord!) I haven't brushed my hair all day, and, and--oh, look at me.

[He rushes to camp mirror. Exit ARCHIE.

JOHN BEAL tidies up desperately.

Enter ARCHIE.]

ARCHIE BEAL

It's what you call THEM.

JOHN BEAL

What I call THEM? Whatever do you mean?

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, it's her. She's just like what you said.

JOHN BEAL

But it can't be. She doesn't ride. She can never have been able to afford a horse.

ARCHIE BEAL

She's on a camel. She'll be here in a moment. [He goes to door.] Hurry up with that hair; she's dismounted.

JOHN BEAL

O, Lord! What's the chaperon like?

ARCHIE BEAL

O, she's attending to that herself.

JOHN BEAL

Attending to it herself? What do you mean?

ARCHIE BEAL

I expect she'll attend to most things.

[Enter HAFIZ EL ALCOLAHN in doorway of tent, pulling back flap a little.]

JOHN BEAL

Who are you?

HAFIZ

I show the gracious lady to your tent.

[Enter MIRALDA CLEMENT, throwing a smile to HAFIZ.]

MIRALDA

Hullo, Mr. Beal.

JOHN BEAL

Er--er--how do you do?

[She looks at ARCHIE.]

O, this is my brother--Miss Clement.

MIRANDA and ARCHIE BEAL

How do you do?

MIRALDA

I like this country.

JOHN BEAL

I'm afraid I hardly expected you.

MIRALDA

Didn't you?

JOHN BEAL

No. You see er--it's such a long way. And wasn't it very expensive?

MIRALDA

Well, the captain of the ship was very kind to me.

JOHN BEAL

O! But what did you do when you landed?

MIRALDA

O, there were some Arabs coming this way in a caravan. They were really very good to me too.

JOHN BEAL

But the camel?

MIRALDA

O, there were some people the other side of the mountains. Everybody has been very kind about it. And then there was the man who showed me here. He's called Hafiz el Alcolahn. It's a nice name, don't you think?

JOHN BEAL

But, you know, this country, Miss Clement, I'm half afraid it's hardly--isn't it, Archie? Er--how long did you think of staying?

MIRALDA

O, a week or so.

JOHN BEAL

I don't know what you'll think of Al Shaldomir. I'm afraid you'll find it . . .

MIRALDA

Oh, I like it. Just that hollow in the mountains, and the one pass, and no record of it anywhere. I like that. I think it's lovely.

JOHN BEAL

You see, I'm afraid--what I mean is I'm afraid the place isn't even on the map!

MIRALDA

O, that's lovely of it.

JOHN BEAL

All decent places are.

MIRALDA

You mean if a place is on the map we've got to behave accordingly. But if not, why . . .

JOHN BEAL

Hussein won't pay.

MIRALDA

Let's see Hussein.

JOHN BEAL

I'm afraid he's rather, he's rather a savage-looking brigand.

MIRALDA

Never mind.

[ARCHIE is quietly listening and smiling sometimes.

Enter DAOUD. He goes up to the unholy heap and takes away two large idols, one under each arm. Exit.]

What's that, Mr. Beal?

JOHN BEAL

O, that. I'm afraid it's rather horrible. I told you it was an awful country. They pray to these idols here, and some are all right, though of course it's terribly blasphemous, but that heap, well, I'm afraid, well that heap is very bad indeed.

MIRALDA

What do they do?

JOHN BEAL

They kill people.

MIRALDA

Do they? How?

JOHN BEAL

I'm afraid they pour their blood down those horrible throats.

MIRALDA

Do they? How do you know?

JOHN BEAL

I've seen them do it, and those mouths are all rusty. But it's all right now. It won't happen any more.

MIRALDA

Won't it? Why not?

JOHN BEAL

Well, I . . .

ARCHIE BEAL

He's stopped them, Miss Clement. They're all going to be thrown into the river.

MIRALDA

Have you?

JOHN BEAL

Well, yes. I had to. So it's all right now. They won't do it any more.

MIRALDA

H'm.

JOHN BEAL

What, what is it? I promise you that's all right. They won't do that any more.

MIRALDA

H'm. I've never known anyone that tried to govern a country or anything of that sort, but . . .

JOHN BEAL

Of course, I'm just doing what I can to put them right.. . . I'd be very glad of your advice. . . Of course, I'm only here in your name.

MIRALDA

What I mean is that I'd always thought that the one thing you shouldn't do, if you don't mind my saying so. . .

JOHN BEAL

No, certainly.

MIRALDA

Was to interfere in people's religious beliefs.

JOHN BEAL

But, but I don't think you quite understand. The priests knife these people in the throat, boys and girls, and then acolytes lift them up and the blood runs down. I've seen them.

MIRALDA

I think it's best to leave religion to the priests. They understand that kind of thing.

[JOHN BEAL opens his mouth in horror and looks at ARCHIE. ARCHIE returns the glance; there is very nearly a twinkle in ARCHIE's eyes.]

MIRALDA

Let's see Hussein.

JOHN BEAL

What do you think, Archie?

ARCHIE BEAL

Poor fellow. We'd better send for him.

MIRALDA

Why do you say "poor fellow"?

ARCHIE BEAL

Oh, because he's so much in debt. It's awful to be in debt. I'd sooner almost anything happened to me than to owe a lot of money.

MIRALDA

Your remark didn't sound very complimentary.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, I only meant that I'd hate to be in debt. And I should hate owing money to you, Because . . .

MIRALDA

Why?

ARCHIE BEAL

Because I should so awfully want to pay it.

MIRALDA

I see.

ARCHIE BEAL

That's all I meant.

MIRALDA

Does Hussein awfully want to pay it?

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, no. But he hasn't seen you yet. He will then, of course.

[Enter DAOUD. He goes to the unholy heap.]

JOHN BEAL

Daoud, for the present these gods must stay. Aho-oomlah's gone, but the rest must stay for the present.

DAOUD

Even so, great master.

JOHN BEAL

Daoud, go once more to the palace of the Lord of the Pass and beat the outer door. Say that the great lady herself would see him. The great lady, Miss Clement, the white traveller's heiress.

DAOUD

Yes, master.

JOHN BEAL

Hasten.

[Exit DAOUD.]

I have sent him for Hussein.

MIRALDA

I don't know their language.

JOHN BEAL

You will see him, and I'll tell you what he says.

MIRALDA [to ARCHIE]

Have you been here long?

ARCHIE BEAL

No. I think he wrote to me by the same mail as he wrote to you (if they have mails here). I came at once.

MIRALDA

So did I; but you weren't on the Empress of Switzerland.

ARCHIE BEAL

No, I came round more by land.

JOHN BEAL

You know, I hardly like bringing Hussein in here to see you. He's such a--he's rather a . . .

MIRALDA

What's the matter with him?

JOHN BEAL

Well, he's rather of the brigand type, and one doesn't know what he'll do.

MIRALDA

Well, we must see him first and hear what he has to say before we take any steps.

JOHN BEAL

But what do you propose to do?

MIRALDA

Why, if he pays me everything he owes, or gives up the security . . .

JOHN BEAL

The security is the pass.

MIRALDA

Yes. If he gives up that or pays . . .

JOHN BEAL

You know he's practically king of the whole country. It seems rather cheek almost my sending for him like this.

MIRALDA

He must come.

JOHN BEAL

But what are you going to do?

MIRALDA

If he gives up the pass . . .

JOHN BEAL

Why, if he gives up the pass you'd be you'd be a kind of queen of it all.

MIRALDA

Well, if he does that, all right. . .

JOHN BEAL

But what if he doesn't?

MIRALDA

Why, if he doesn't pay . . .

HUSSEIN [off]

I am here.

JOHN BEAL

Be seen.

[Enter HUSSEIN.]

HUSSEIN

Greeting once more.

JOHN BEAL

Again greeting.... The great lady, Miss Clement, is here.

[HUSSEIN and MIRALDA look at each other.]

You will pay to Miss Clement and not to your god of bronze. On the word of an Englishman, your god of bronze shall not have one gold piece that belongs to the great lady!

HUSSEIN [looking contemptuous]

On the word of the Lord of the Pass, I only pay to Hinnard.

[He stands smiling while MIRALDA regards him. Exit.]

ARCHIE BEAL

Well?

JOHN BEAL

He won't pay.

ARCHIE BEAL

What are we to do now?

JOHN BEAL [to MIRALDA]

I'm afraid he's rather an ugly customer to introduce you to like that. I'm sorry he came now.

MIRALDA

O, I like him, I think he looks splendid.

ARCHIE BEAL

Well, what are we to do?

JOHN BEAL

Yes.

ARCHIE BEAL

What do you say, Miss Clement?

JOHN BEAL

Yes, what do you feel we ought to do?

MIRALDA

Well, perhaps I ought to leave all that to you.

ARCHIE BEAL

O, no.

JOHN BEAL

No, it's your money. What do you think we really ought to do?

MIRALDA

Well, of course, I think you ought to kill Hussein.

[JOHN BEAL and ARCHIE BEAL look at each other a little startled.]

JOHN BEAL

But wouldn't that--wouldn't that be--murder?

MIRALDA

O, yes, according to the English law.

JOHN BEAL

I see; you mean--you mean we're not--but we are English.

MIRALDA

I mean it wouldn't be murder--by your law, unless you made it so.

JOHN BEAL

By my law?

MIRALDA

Yes, if you can interfere with their religion like this, and none of them say a word, why--you can make any laws you like.

JOHN BEAL

But Hussein is king here; he is Lord of the Pass, and that's everything here. I'm nobody.

MIRALDA

O, if you like to be nobody, of course that's different.

ARCHIE BEAL

I think she means that if Hussein weren't there there'd be only you. Of course, I don't know. I've only just come.

JOHN BEAL

But we can't kill Hussein!

[MIRALDA begins to cry.]

O Lord! Good heavens! Please, Miss Clement! I'm awfully sorry if I've said anything you didn't like. I wouldn't do that for worlds. I'm awfully sorry. It's a beastly country, I know. I'm really sorry you came. I feel it's all my fault. I'm really awfully sorry. . .

MIRALDA

Never mind. Never mind. I was so helpless, and I asked you to help me. I never ought to have done it. I oughtn't to have spoken to you at all in that train without being introduced; but I was so helpless. And now, and now, I haven't a penny in the world, and, O, I don't know what to do.

ARCHIE BEAL

We'll do anything for you, Miss Clement.

JOHN BEAL

Anything in the wide world. Please, please don't cry. We'll do anything.

MIRALDA

I . . . I only, I only wanted to--to kill Hussein. But never mind, it doesn't matter now.

JOHN BEAL

We'll do it, Miss Clement, won't we, Archie? Only don't cry. We'll do it. I--I suppose he deserves it, doesn't he?

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, I suppose he does.

JOHN BEAL

Well, all right, Miss Clement, that's settled. My brother and I will talk it over.

MIRALDA [still sniping]

And--and--don't hang him or anything--he looks so fine.... I--I wouldn't like him treated like that. He has such a grand beard. He ought to die fighting.

JOHN BEAL

We'll see what we can do, Miss Clement.

MIRALDA

It is sweet of you. It's really sweet. It's sweet of both of you. I don't know what I d have done without you. I seemed to know it that day the moment I saw you.

JOHN BEAL

O, it's nothing, Miss Clement, nothing at all.

ARCHIE BEAL

That's all right.

MIRALDA

Well, now I'll have to look for an hotel.

JOHN BEAL

Yes, that's the trouble, that really is the trouble. That's what I've been thinking of

MIRALDA

Why, isn't there . . .

JOHN BEAL

No, I'm afraid there isn't. What are we to do, Archie.

ARCHIE BEAL

I--I can't think. Perhaps Miss Clement would have a scheme.

MIRALDA [to JOHN BEAL]

I rely on you, Mr. Beal.

JOHN BEAL

I--I; but what can I . . . You see, you're all alone. If you'd anyone with you, you could have . . .

MIRALDA

I did think of bringing a rather nice aunt. But on the whole I thought it better not to tell anyone.

JOHN BEAL

Not to tell . . .

MIRALDA

No, on the whole I didn't.

JOHN BEAL

I say, Archie, what are we to do?

ARCHIE BEAL

Here's Daoud.

[Enter DAOUD.]

JOHN BEAL

The one man I trust in Al Shaldomir!

DAOUD

I have brought two watchers of the doorstep to guard the noble lady.

JOHN BEAL

He says he's brought two watchers of the doorstep to look after Miss Clement.

ARCHIE BEAL

Two chaperons! Splendid! She can go anywhere now.

JOHN BEAL

Well, really, that is better. Yes that will be all right. We can find a room for you now. The trouble was your being alone. I hope you'll like them. [To DAOUD.] Tell them to enter here.

DAOUD [beckoning in the doorway]

Ho! Enter!

JOHN BEAL

That's all right, ARCHIE, isn't it?

ARCHIE BEAL

Yes, that's all right. A chaperon's a chaperon, black or white.

JOHN BEAL

You won't mind their being black, will you, Miss Clement?

MIRALDA

No, I shan't mind. They can't be worse than white ones.

[Enter BAZZALOL and THOOTHOOBABA two enormous Nubians, bearing peacock fans and wearing scimitars. All stare at them. They begin to fan slightly.]

DAOUD

The watchers of the doorstep.

JOHN BEAL

Idiot, Daoud! Fools! Dolts! Men may not guard a lady's door.

[BAZZALOL and THOOTHOOBABA smile ingratiatingly.]

We are not men.

BAZZALOL [bowing]

Curtain

Six and a half years elapse


THE SONG OF THE IRIS MARSHES

When morn is bright on the mountains olden
 Till dawn is lost in the blaze of day,
 When morn is bright and the marshes golden,
Where shall the lost lights fade away?
 And where, my love, shall we dream to-day?

Dawn is fled to the marshy hollows
 Where ghosts of stars in the dimness stray,
And the water is streaked with the flash of
swallows
 And all through summer the iris sway.
 But where, my love, shall we dream to-day?

When night is black in the iris marshes.