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If by Lord Dunsany

Part 2 out of 4

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money, and the toll on the camels was what
they call the security. They always carry
gold and turquoise, you know.

JOHN

Do they?

MIRALDA

Yes, they get it from the rivers.

JOHN

I see.

MIRALDA

It does seem a shame his not paying,
doesn't it?

JOHN

A shame? I should think it is. An awful
shame. Why, it's a crying shame. He ought
to go to prison.

MIRALDA

Yes, he ought. But you see it's so hard
to find him. It isn't as if it was this side of
Persia. It's being on the other side that is
such a pity. If only it was in a country like,
like . . .

JOHN

I'd soon find him. I'd . . . Why, a man
like that deserves anything.

MIRALDA

It is good of you to say that.

JOHN

Why, I'd . . . And you say you never
got a penny?

MIRALDA

No.

JOHN

Well, that is a shame. I call that a
downright shame.

MIRALDA

Now, what ought I to do?

JOHN

Do? Well, now, you know in business
there's nothing like being on the spot. When
you're on the spot you can--but then, of
course, it's so far.

MIRALDA

It is, isn't it?

JOHN

Still, I think you should go if you could.
If only I could offer to help you in any way,
I would gladly, but of course . . .

MIRALDA

What would you do?

JOHN

I'd go and find that Hussein fellow; and
then . . .

MIRALDA

Yes?

JOHN

Why, I'd tell him a bit about the law, and
make him see that you didn't keep all that
money that belonged to someone else.

MIRALDA

Would you really?

JOHN

Nothing would please me better.

MIRALDA

Would you really? Would you go all that
way?

JOHN

It's just the sort of thing that I should like,
apart from the crying shame. The man
ought to be . . .

MIRALDA

We're getting into Holborn. Would you
come and lunch somewhere with me and talk
it over?

JOHN

Gladly. I'd be glad to help. I've got to
see a man on business first. I've come up to
see him. And then after that, after that
there was something I wanted to do after that.
I can't think what it was. But something I
wanted to do after that. O, heavens, what
was it?

[Pause.]

MIRALDA

Can't you think?

JOHN

No. O, well, it can't have been so very
important. And yet . . . Well, where shall
we lunch?

MIRALDA

Gratzenheim's.

JOHN

Right. What time?

MIRALDA

One-thirty. Would that suit?

JOHN

Perfectly. I'd like to get a man like
Hussein in prison. I'd like . . . O, I beg your
pardon.

[He hurries to open the door. Exit
MIRALDA.]

Now what was it I wanted to do
afterwards?

[Throws hand to forehead.]
O, never mind.

Curtain

ACT II

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

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