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If by Lord Dunsany

Part 4 out of 4

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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

ACT IV

SCENE 1

Three years elapse.

Scene: The street outside the Acacias.

Time: Evening.

[Ali leans on a pillar-box watching.
John shuffles on L. He is miserably
dressed, an Englishman down on his luck.
A nightingale sings far off.]

JOHN

A nightingale here. Well, I never.

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

The infernal place! I wish I had never
seen it! Wonder what set me thinking of
that?

[The nightingale sings another bar.
JOHN turns to his left and walks down the
little path that leads to the door of the
Acacias.]

I mustn't come here. Mustn't come to a
fine house like this. Mustn't. Mustn't.

[He draws near it reluctantly. He puts
his hand to the bell and withdraws it.
Then he rings and snatches his hand away.
He prepares to run away. Finally he rings
it repeatedly, feverishly, violently.

Enter LIZA, opening the door.]

LIZA

Ullo, 'Oo's this!

JOHN

I oughtn't to have rung, miss, I know. I
oughtn't to have rung your bell; but I've
seen better days, and wondered if--I
wondered . . .

LIZA

I oughtn't to 'ave opened the door, that's
wot I oughtn't. Now I look at you, I
oughtn't to 'ave opened it. Wot does you
want?

JOHN

O, don't turn me away now, miss. I must
come here. I must.

LIZA

Must? Why?

JOHN

I don't know.

LIZA

Wot do you want?

JOHN

Who lives here?

LIZA

Mr. and Mrs. Cater; firm of Briggs, Cater,
and Johnstone. What do you want?

JOHN

Could I see Mr. Cater?

LIZA

He's out. Dining at the Mansion House.

JOHN

Oh.

LIZA

He is.

JOHN

Could I see Mrs. Cater?

LIZA

See Mrs. Cater? No, of course you
couldn't.

[She prepares to shut the door.]

JOHN

Miss! Miss! Don't go, miss. Don't shut
me out. If you knew what I'd suffered, if
you knew what I'd suffered. Don't!

LIZA [coming forward again]

Suffered? Why? Ain't you got enough to
eat?

JOHN

No, I've had nothing all day.

LIZA

'Aven't you really now?

JOHN

No. And I get little enough at any time.

LIZA [kindly]

You ought to work.

JOHN

I . . . I can't. I can't bring myself . . .
I've seen better times.

LIZA

Still, you could work.

JOHN

I--I can't grub for halfpennies when I've
--when I've . . .

LIZA

When you've what?

JOHN

Lost millions.

LIZA

Millions?

JOHN

I've lost everything.

LIZA

'Ow did you lose it?

JOHN

Through being blind. But never mind,
never mind. It's all gone now, and I'm
hungry.

LIZA

'Ow long 'ave you been down on your luck?

JOHN

It's three years now.

LIZA

Couldn't get a regular job, like?

JOHN

Well, I suppose I might have. I suppose
it's my fault, miss. But the heart was out of
me.

LIZA

Dear me, now.

JOHN

Miss.

LIZA

Yes?

JOHN

You've a kind face . . .

LIZA

'Ave I?

JOHN

Yes. Would you do me a kind turn?

LIZA

Well, I dunno. I might, as yer so down
on yer luck--I don't like to see a man like
you are, I must say.

JOHN

Would you let me come into the big house
and speak to the missus a moment?

LIZA

She'd row me awful if I did. This house is
very respectable.

JOHN

I feel, if you would, I feel, I feel my luck
might change.

LIZA

But I don't know what she'd say if I did.

JOHN

Miss, I must.

LIZA

I don't know wot she'd say.

JOHN

I must come in, miss, I must.

LIZA

I don't know what she'll say.

JOHN

I must. I can't help myself.

LIZA

I don't know what she'll . . .

[JOHN is in, door shuts.]

[ALI throws his head up and laughs,
but quite silently.]

Curtain

SCENE 2

The drawing-room at the Acacias.

A moment later.

The scene is the same as in Act I, except
that the sofa which was red is now green,
and the photograph of Aunt Martha is
replaced by that of a frowning old colonel.
The ages of the four children in the
photographs are the same, but their sexes have
changed.

[MARY reading. Enter LIZA.]

LIZA

There's a gentleman to see you, mum,
which is, properly speaking, not a gentleman
at all, but 'e would come in, mum.

MARY

Not a gentleman! Good gracious, Liza,
whatever do you mean?

LIZA

'E would come in, mum.

MARY

But what does he want?

LIZA [over shoulder]

What does you want?

JOHN [entering]

I am a beggar.

MARY

O, really? You've no right to be coming
into houses like this, you know.

JOHN

I know that, madam, I know that. Yet
somehow I couldn't help myself. I've been
begging for nearly three years now, and I've
never done this before, yet somehow to-night
I felt impelled to come to this house. I beg
your pardon, humbly. Hunger drove me to
it.

MARY

Hunger?


JOHN

I'm very hungry, madam.

MARY

Unfortunately Mr. Cater has not yet
returned, or perhaps he might . . .

JOHN

If you could give me a little to eat
yourself, madam, a bit of stale bread, a crust,
something that Mr. Cater would not want.

MARY

It's very unusual, coming into a house like
this and at such an hour--it's past eleven
o'clock--and Mr. Cater not yet returned.
Are you really hungry?

JOHN

I'm very, very hungry.

MARY

Well, it's very unusual; but perhaps I
might get you a little something.

[She picks up an empty plate from the
supper table.]

JOHN

Madam, I do not know how to thank you.

MARY

O, don't mention it.

JOHN

I have not met such kindness for three
years. I . . . I'm starving. I've known
better times.

MARY [kindly]

I'll get you something. You've known
better times, you say?

JOHN

I had been intended for work in the City.
And then, then I travelled, and--and I got
very much taken with foreign countries, and
I thought--but it all went to pieces. I lost
everything. Here I am, starving.

MARY [as one might reply to the Mayoress who
had lost her gloves]

O, I'm so sorry.

[JOHN sighs deeply.]

MARY

I'll get a nice bit of something to eat.

JOHN

A thousand thanks to you, madam.

[Exit MARY with the plate.]

LIZA [who has been standing near the door all the
time]

Well, she's going to get you something.

JOHN

Heaven reward her.

LIZA

Hungry as all that?

JOHN

I'm on my beam ends.

LIZA

Cheer up!

JOHN

That's all very well to say, living in a fine
house, as you are, dry and warm and well-fed.
But what have I to cheer up about?

LIZA

Isn't there anything you could pop?

JOHN

What?

LIZA

Nothing you can take to the pawn-shop?
I've tided over times I wanted a bit of cash
that way sometimes.

JOHN

What could I pawn?

LIZA

Well, well you've a watch-chain.

JOHN

A bit of old leather.

LIZA

But what about the watch?

JOHN

I've no watch.

LIZA

O, funny having a watch-chain then.

JOHN

O, that's only for this; it's a bit of crystal.

LIZA

Funny bit of a thing. What's it for?

JOHN

I don't know.

LIZA

Was it give to you?

JOHN

I don't know. I don't know how I got it.

LIZA

Don't know how you got it?

JOHN

No, I can't remember at all. But I've a
feeling about it, I can't explain what I feel;
but I don't part with it.

LIZA

Don't you? You might get something on
it, likely and have a square meal.

JOHN

I won't part with it.

LIZA

Why?

JOHN

I feel I won't. I never have.

LIZA

Feel you won't?

JOHN

Yes, I have that feeling very strongly.
I've kept it always. Everything else is gone.

LIZA

Had it long?

JOHN

Yes, yes. About ten years. I found I had
it one morning in a train. It's odd that I
can't remember.

LIZA

But wot d'yer keep it for?

JOHN

Just for luck.

[LIZA breaks into laughter.]

LIZA

Well, you are funny.

JOHN

I'm on my beam ends. I don't know if that is funny.

LIZA

You're as down in your luck as ever you
can be, and you go keeping a thing like that
for luck. Why, you couldn't be funnier.

JOHN

Well, what would you do?

LIZA

Why, I 'ad a mascot once, all real gold; and
I had rotten luck. Rotten luck I had.
Rotten.

JOHN

And what did you do?

LIZA

Took it back to the shop.

JOHN

Yes?

LIZA

They was quite obliging about it. Gave
me a wooden one instead, what was
guaranteed. Luck changed very soon altogether.

JOHN

Could luck like mine change?

LIZA

Course it could.

JOHN

Look at me.

LIZA

You'll be all right one of these days. Give
me that mascot.

JOHN

I--I hardly like to. One has an awfully
strong feeling with it.

LIZA

Give it to me. It's no good.

JOHN

I--I don't like to.

LIZA

You just give it to me. I tell you it's doing
you no good. I know all about them mascots.
Give it me.

JOHN

Well, I'll give it you. You're the
first woman that's been kind to me since
. . . I'm on my beam ends.

[Face in hands--tears.]

LIZA

There, there. I'm going to smash it, I am.
These mascots! One's better without 'em.
Your luck'll turn, never fear. And you've a
nice supper coming.

[She puts it in a corner of the
mantelpiece and hammers it. It smashes.

The photographs of the four children
change slightly. The Colonel gives place
to Aunt Martha. The green sofa turns red.
JOHN's clothes become neat and tidy. The
hammer in LIZA's hand turns to a feather
duster. Nothing else changes.]

A VOICE [off, in agony]

Allah! Allah ! Allah!

LIZA

Some foreign gentleman must have hurt
himself.

JOHN

H'm. Sounds like it . . . Liza.

[LIZA, dusting the photographs on the
wall, just behind the corner of the
mantelpiece.]

LIZA

Funny. Thought I--thought I 'ad a
hammer in my hand.

JOHN

Really, Liza, I often think you have. You
really should be more careful. Only--only
yesterday you broke the glass of Miss Jane's
photograph.

LIZA

Thought it was a hammer.

JOHN

Really, I think it sometimes is. It's a
mistake you make too often, Liza. You--you
must be more careful.

LIZA

Very well, sir. Funny my thinking I 'ad
an 'ammer in my 'and, though.

[She goes to tidy the little supper table.
Enter MARY with food on a plate.]

MARY

I've brought you your supper, John.

JOHN

Thanks, Mary. I--I think I must have
taken a nap.

MARY

Did you, dear? Thanks, Liza. Run along
to bed now, Liza. Good gracious, it's
half-past eleven.

[MARY makes final arrangements of
supper table.]

LIZA

Thank you, mum.

[Exit ]

JOHN

Mary.

MARY

Yes, John.

JOHN

I--I thought I'd caught that train.

Curtain

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