Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Plays of Gods and Men Plays of Gods and Men by Lord Dunsany

Part 3 out of 4

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 0.3 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Almost, had it not been for this, almost I had asked you to let me go
away among the camel-drivers to golden Mecca. I have done the work of
a King now for five years and listened to my councilors, and all the
while the desert called to me; he said, "Come to the tents of my
children, to the tents of my children!" And all the while I dwelt
among these walls.

Chamberlain:

If your majesty left the city now----

King:

I will not, we must raise an army to punish the men of Iktra.

Chamberlain:

Your Majesty will appoint the commanders by name. A tribe of your
Majesty's fighting men must be summoned from Agrarva and another from
Coloono, the jungle city, as well as one from Mirsk. This must be done
by warrants sealed by your hand. Your Majesty's advisers await you in
the council-hall.

King:

The sun is very low. Why have the caravans not started yet?

Chamberlain:

I do not know. And then your Majesty----

King: [laying his hand on the Chamberlain's arm]

Look, look! It is the shadows of the camels moving towards Mecca. How
silently they slip over the ground, beautiful shadows. Soon they are
out in the desert flat on the golden sands. And then the sun will set
and they will be one with night.

Chamberlain:

If your Majesty has time for such things there are the camels
themselves.

King:

No, no, I do not wish to watch the camels. They can never take me out
to the beautiful desert to be free forever from cities. Here I must
stay to do the work of a King. Only my dreams can go, and the shadows
of the camels carry them, to find peace by the tents of the Arabs.

Chamberlain:

Will your Majesty now come to the council-hall?

King:

Yes, yes, I come.

[Voices off: "Ho-_Yo!_ Ho-_Yay!_ ...Ho-_Yo!_ Ho-_Yay!_"]

Now the whole caravan has started. Hark to the drivers of the
baggage-camels. They will run behind them for the first ten miles, and
tomorrow they will mount them. They will be out of sight of Thalanna
then, and the desert will lie all round them with sunlight falling on
its golden smiles. And a new look will come into their faces. I am
sure that the desert whispers to them by night saying, "Be at peace,
my children, at peace, my children."

[Meanwhile the Chamberlain has opened the door for the King and
is waiting there bowing, with his hand resolutely on the opened
door.]

Chamberlain:

Your Majesty will come to the council-hall?

King:

Yes, I will come. Had it not been for Iktra I might have gone away and
lived in the golden desert for a year, and seen holy Mecca.

Chamberlain:

Perhaps your Majesty might have gone had it not been for Iktra.

King:

My curse upon Iktra! [He goes through the doorway.]

[As they stand in doorway enter Zabra R.]

Zabra:

Your Majesty.

King:

O-ho. More work for an unhappy King.

Zabra:

Iktra is pacified.

King:

Is pacified?

Zabra:

It happened suddenly. The men of Iktra met with a few of your Majesty's
fighting men and an arrow chanced to kill the leader of the revolt, and
therefore the mob fled away although they were many, and they have all
cried for three hours, "Great is the King!"

King:

I will even yet see Mecca and the dreamed-of tents of the Arabs. I
will go down now into the golden sands, I----

Chamberlain:

Your Majesty----

King:

In a few years I will return to you.

Chamberlain:

Your Majesty, it cannot be. We could not govern the people for more
than a year. They would say, "The King is dead, the King----"

King:

Then I will return in a year. In one year only.

Chamberlain:

It is a long time, your Majesty.

King:

I will return at noon a year from to-day.

Chamberlain:

But, your Majesty, a princess is being sent for from Tharba.

King:

I thought one was coming from Karshish.

Chamberlain:

It has been thought more advisable that your Majesty should wed in
Tharba. The passes across the mountains belong to the King of Tharba
and he has great traffic with Sharan and the Isles.

King:

Let it be as you will.

Chamberlain:

But, your Majesty, the ambassadors start this week; the princess will
be here in three months' time.

King:

Let her come in a year and a day.

Chamberlain:

Your Majesty!

King:

Farewell, I am in haste. I go to make ready for the desert. [Exit
through door still speaking.] The olden, golden mother of happy men.

Chamberlain: [to Zabra]

One from whom God had not withheld all wisdom would not have given
that message to our crazy young King.

Zabra:

But it must be known. Many things might happen if it were not known at
once.

Chamberlain:

I knew it this morning. He is off to the desert now.

Zabra:

That is evil indeed; but we can lure him back.

Chamberlain:

Perhaps not for many days.

Zabra:

The King's favour is like gold.

Chamberlain:

It is like much gold. Who are the Arabs that the King's favour should
be cast among them? The walls of their houses are canvas. Even the
common snail has a finer wall to his house.

Zabra:

O, it is most evil. Alas that I told him this! We shall be poor men.

Chamberlain:

No one will give us gold for many days.

Zabra:

Yet you will govern Thalanna while he is away. You can increase the
taxes of the merchants and the tribute of the men that till the
fields.

Chamberlain:

They will only pay taxes and tribute to the King, who gives of his
bounty to just and upright men when he is in Thalanna. But while he is
away the surfeit of his wealth will go to unjust men and to men whose
beards are unclean and who fear not God.

Zabra:

We shall indeed be poor.

Chamberlain:

A little gold perhaps from evil-doers for justice. Or a little money
to decide the dispute of some righteous wealthy man; but no more till
the King returns, whom God prosper.

Zabra:

God increase him. Will you yet try to detain him?

Chamberlain:

No. When he comes by with his retinue and escort I will walk beside
his horse and tell him that a progress through the desert will well
impress the Arabs with his splendour and turn their hearts towards
him. And I will speak privily to some captain at the rear of the
escort and he shall afterwards speak to the chief commander that he
may lose the camel-track in a few days' time and take the King and his
followers to wander in the desert and so return by chance to Thalanna
again. And it may yet be well with us. We will wait here till they
come by.

Zabra:

Will the chief commander do this thing certainly?

Chamberlain:

Yes, he will be one Thakbar, a poor man and a righteous.

Zabra:

But if he be not Thakbar but some greedy man who demands more gold
than we would give to Thakbar?

Chamberlain:

Why, then we must give him even what he demands, and God will punish
his greed.

Zabra:

He must come past us here.

Chamberlain:

Yes, he must come this way. He will summon the cavalry from the Saloia
Samang.

Zabra:

It will be nearly dark before they can come.

Chamberlain:

No, he is in great haste. He will pass before sunset. He will make
them mount at once.

Zabra: [looking off R.]

I do not see stir at the Saloia.

Chamberlain: [looking, too] No--no. I do not see. He will _make_ a
stir.

[As they look a man comes through the doorway wearing a coarse
brown cloak which falls over his forehead. Exit furtively L.]

What man is that? He has gone down to the camels.

Zabra:

He has given a piece of money to one of the camel-drivers.

Chamberlain:

See, he has mounted.

Zabra:

Can it have been the King!

[Voice off L. "Ho-Yo! Ho-Yay!"]

Chamberlain:

It is only some camel-driver going into the desert. How glad his voice
sounds.

Zabra:

The Siroc will swallow him.

Chamberlain:

What--if it _were_ the King!

Zabra:

Why, if it were the King we should starve for a year.

[One year elapses between the first and second acts.]

Act II

[The same scene.]

[The King, wrapped in a camel-driver's cloak, sits by Eznarza, a
gypsy of the desert.]

King:

Now I have known the desert and dwelt in the tents of the Arabs.

Eznarza:

There is no land like the desert and like the Arabs no people.

King:

It is all over and done; I return to the walls of my fathers.

Eznarza:

Time cannot put it away; I go back to the desert that nursed me.

King:

Did you think in those days on the sands, or among the tents in the
mornings, that my year would ever end, and I be brought away by
strength of my word to the prisoning of a palace?

Eznarza:

I knew that Time would do it, for my people have learned the way of
him.

King:

Is it then Time that has mocked our futile prayers? Is he then greater
than God that he has laughed at our praying?

Eznarza:

We may not say that he is greater than God. Yet we prayed that our own
year might not pass away. God could not save it.

King:

Yes, yes. We prayed that prayer. All men would laugh at it.

Eznarza:

The prayer was not laughable. Only he that is lord of the years is
obdurate. If a man prayed for life to a furious, merciless Sultan well
might the Sultan's slaves laugh. Yet it is not laughable to pray for
life.

King:

Yes, we are slaves of Time. To-morrow brings the princess who comes
from Tharba. We must bow our heads.

Eznarza:

My people say that Time lives in the desert. He lies there in the sun.

King:

No, no, not in the desert. Nothing alters there.

Eznarza:

My people say that the desert is his country. He smites not his own
country, my people say. But he overwhelms all other lands of the
world.

King:

Yes, the desert is always the same, even the littlest rocks of it.

Eznarza:

They say that he loves the Sphinx and does not harm her. They say that
he does not dare to harm the Sphinx. She has borne him many gods whom
the infidels worship.

King:

Their father is more terrible than all the false gods.

Eznarza:

O, that he had but spared our little year.

King:

He destroys all things utterly.

Eznarza:

There is a little child of man that is mightier than he, and who saves
the world from Time.

King:

Who is this little child that is mightier than Time? Is it Love that
is mightier?

Eznarza:

No, not Love.

King:

If he conquers even Love then none are mightier.

Eznarza:

He scares Love away with weak white hairs and with wrinkles. Poor
little Love, poor Love, Time scares him away.

King:

What is this child of man that can conquer Time and that is braver
than Love?

Eznarza:

Even Memory.

King:

Yes. I will call to him when the wind is from the desert and the
locusts are beaten against my obdurate walls. I will call to him more
when I cannot see the desert and cannot hear the wind of it.

Eznarza:

He shall bring back our year to us that Time cannot destroy. Time
cannot slaughter it if Memory says no. It is reprieved, though
banished. We shall often see it though a little far off and all its
hours and days shall dance to us and go by one by one and come back
and dance again.

King:

Why, that is true. They shall come back to us. I had thought that they
that work miracles whether in Heaven or Earth were unable to do one
thing. I thought that they could not bring back days again when once
they had fallen into the hands of Time.

Eznarza:

It is a trick that Memory can do. He comes up softly in the town or
the desert, wherever a few men are, like the strange dark conjurors
who sing to snakes, and he does his trick before them, and does it
again and again.

King:

We will often make him bring the old days back when you are gone to
your people and I am miserably wedded to the princess coming from
Tharba.

Eznarza:

They will come with sand on their feet from the golden, beautiful
desert; they will come with a long-gone sunset each one over his head.
Their lips will laugh with the olden evening voices.

King:

It is nearly noon. It is nearly noon. It is nearly noon.

Eznarza:

Why, we part then.

King:

O, come into the city and be Queen there. I will send its princess
back again to Tharba. You shall be Queen in Thalanna.

Eznarza:

I go now back to my people. You will wed the princess from Tharba on
the morrow. You have said it. I have said it.

King:

O, that I had not given my word to return.

Eznarza:

A King's word is like a King's crown and a King's sceptre and a King's
throne. It is in fact a foolish thing, like a city.

King:

I cannot break my word. But you can be Queen in Thalanna.

Eznarza:

Thalanna will not have a gypsy for a Queen.

King:

I will make Thalanna have her for a Queen.

Eznarza:

You cannot make a gypsy live for a year in a city.

King:

I knew of a gypsy that lived once in a city.

Eznarza:

Not such a gypsy as I... come back to the tents of the Arabs.

King:

I cannot. I gave my word.

Eznarza:

Kings have broken their words.

King:

Not such a King as I.

Eznarza:

We have only that little child of man whose name is Memory.

King:

Come. He shall bring back to us, before we part, one of those days
that were banished.

Eznarza:

Let it be the first day. The day we met by the well when the camels
came to El-Lolith.

King:

Our year lacked some few days. For my year began here. The camels were
some days out.

Eznarza:

You were riding a little wide of the caravan, upon the side of the
sunset. Your camel was swinging on with easy strides. But you were
tired.

King:

You had come to the well for water. At first I could see your eyes,
then the stars came out, and it grew dark and I only saw your shape,
and there was a little light about your hair: I do not know if it was
the light of the stars, I only knew that it shone.

Eznarza:

And then you spoke to me about the camels.

King:

Then I heard your voice. You did not say the things you would say now.

Eznarza:

Of course I did not.

King:

You did not say things in the same way even.

Eznarza:

How the hours come dancing back!

King:

No, no. Only their shadows. We went together then to Holy Mecca. We
dwelt alone in tents in the golden desert. We heard the wild free day
sing sings in his freedom, we heard the beautiful night wind. Nothing
remains of our year but desolate shadows. Memory whips them and they
will not dance.

[Eznarza does not answer.]

We made our farewells where the desert was. The city shall not hear
them.

[Eznarza covers her face. The King rises softly and walks up the
steps. Enter L. the Chamberlain and Zabra, only noticing each
other.]

Chamberlain:

He will come. He will come.

Zabra:

But it is noon now. Our fatness has left us. Our enemies mock at us.
If he do not come God has forgotten us and our friends will pity us!

[Enter Bel-Narb and Aoob.]

Chamberlain:

If he is alive he will come.

Zabra:

I fear that it is past noon.

Chamberlain:

Then he is dead or robbers have waylaid him.

[Chamberlain and Zabra put dust upon their heads.]

Bel-Narb: [To Aoob.]

God is just!

[To Chamberlain and Zabra.]

I am the King!

[The King's hand is on the door. When Bel-Narb says this he goes
down the steps again and sits beside the gypsy. She raises her
head from her hands and looks at him fixedly. He watches Bel-Narb,
and the Chamberlain and Zabra. He partially covers his face Arab
fashion.]

Chamberlain:

Are you indeed the King?

Bel-Narb:

I am the King.

Chamberlain:

Your Majesty has altered much since a year ago.

Bel-Narb:

Men alter in the desert. And alter much.

Aoob:

Indeed, your Excellency, he is the King. When the King went into the
desert disguised I fed his camel. Indeed he is the King.

Zabra:

He is the King. I know the King when I see him.

Chamberlain:

You have seen the King seldom.

Zabra:

I have often seen the King.

Bel-Narb:

Yes, we have often met, often and often.

Chamberlain:

If some one could recognize your Majesty, some one besides this man
who came with you, then we should all be certain.

Bel-Narb:

There is no need of it. I am the King.

[The King rises and stretches out his hand palm downwards.]

King:

In holy Mecca, in green-roofed Mecca of the many gates, we knew him
for the King.

Bel-Narb:

Yes, that is true. I saw this man in Mecca.

Chamberlain: [Bowing low.]

Pardon, your Majesty. The desert had altered you.

Zabra:

I knew your Majesty.

Aoob:

As well as I do.

Bel-Narb: [Pointing to the King.]

Let this man be rewarded suitably. Give him some post in the palace.

Chamberlain:

Yes, your Majesty.

King:

I am a camel-driver and we go back to our camels.

Chamberlain:

As you wish.

[Exeunt Bel-Narb, Aoob, Chamberlain and Zabra through door.]

Eznarza:

You have done wisely, wisely, and the reward of wisdom is happiness.

King:

They have their king now. But we will turn again to the tents of the
Arabs.

Eznarza:

They are foolish people.

King:

They have found a foolish King.

Eznarza:

It is a foolish man that would choose to dwell among walls.

King:

Some are born kings, but this man has chosen to be one.

Eznarza:

Come, let us leave them.

King:

We will go back again.

Eznarza:

Come back to the tents of my people.

King:

We will dwell a little apart in a dear brown tent of our own.

Eznarza:

We shall hear the sand again, whispering low to the dawn wind.

King:

We shall hear the nomads stirring in their camps far off because it is
dawn.

Eznarza:

The jackals will patter past us slipping back to the hills.

King:

When at evening the sun is set we shall weep for no day that is gone.

Eznarza:

I will raise up my head of a night time against the sky, and the old,
old, unbought stars shall twinkle through my hair, and we shall not
envy any of the diademmed queens of the world.

CURTAIN

A Night at an Inn

Dramatis Personae

A. E. Scott-Fortescue (the Toff, dilapidated gentleman)
William Jones (Bill)
Albert Thomas
Jacob Smith (Sniggers) (All Merchant Sailors.)
1st Priest of Klesh
2nd Priest of Klesh
3rd Priest of Klesh
Klesh

[The Curtain rises on a room in an inn.]

[Sniggers and Bill are talking. The Toff is reading a paper.
Albert sits a little apart.]

Sniggers:

What's his idea, I wonder?

Bill:

I don't know.

Sniggers:

And how much longer will he keep us here?

Bill:

We've been here three days.

Sniggers:

And 'aven't seen a soul.

Bill:

And a pretty penny it cost us when he rented the pub.

Sniggers:

'Ow long did 'e rent the pub for?

Bill:

You never know with him.

Sniggers:

It's lonely enough.

Bill:

'Ow long did you rent the pub for, Toffy?

[The Toff continues to read a sporting paper; he takes no notice
of what is said.]

Sniggers:

'E's _such_ a toff.

Bill:

Yet 'e's clever, no mistake.

Sniggers:

Those clever ones are the beggars to make a muddle. Their plans are
clever enough, but they don't work, and then they make a mess of
things much worse than you or me.

Bill:

Ah

Sniggers:

I don't like this place.

Bill:

Why not?

Sniggers:

I don't like the looks of it.

Bill:

He's keeping us here because those niggers can't find us. The three
heathen priests what was looking for us so. But we want to go and sell
our ruby soon.

Albert:

There's no sense in it.

Bill:

Why not, Albert?

Albert:

Because I gave those black devils the slip in Hull.

Bill:

You give 'em the slip, Albert?

Albert:

The slip, all three of them. The fellows with the gold spots on their
foreheads. I had the ruby then, and I give them the slip in Hull.

Bill:

How did you do it, Albert?

Albert:

I had the ruby and they were following me....

Bill:

Who told them you had the ruby? You didn't show it?

Albert:

No.... But they kind of know.

Sniggers:

They kind of know, Albert?

Albert:

Yes, they know if you've got it. Well, they sort of mouched after me,
and I tells a policeman and he says, O they were only three poor
niggers and they wouldn't hurt me. Ugh! When I thought of what they
did in Malta to poor old Jim.

Bill:

Yes, and to George in Bombay before we started.

Sniggers:

Ugh!

Bill:

Why didn't you give 'em in charge?

Albert:

What about the ruby, Bill?

Bill:

Ah!

Albert:

Well, I did better than that. I walks up and down through Hull. I
walks slow enough. And then I turns a corner and I runs. I never sees
a corner but I turns it. But sometimes I let a corner pass just to
fool them. I twists about like a hare. Then I sits down and waits. No
priests.

Sniggers:

What?

Albert:

No heathen black devils with gold spots on their face. I give 'em the
slip.

Bill:

Well done, Albert.

Sniggers: [after a sigh of content]

Why didn't you tell us?

Albert:

'Cause 'e won't let you speak. 'E's got 'is plans and 'e thinks we're
silly folk. Things must be done 'is way. And all the time I've give
'em the slip. Might 'ave 'ad one of them crooked knives in him before
now but for me who give 'em the slip in Hull.

Bill:

Well done, Albert.

Sniggers:

Do you hear that, Toffy? Albert has give 'em the slip.

The Toff:

Yes, I hear.

Sniggers:

Well, what do you say to that?

The Toff:

O... Well done, Albert.

Albert:

And what a' you going to do?

The Toff:

Going to wait.

Albert:

Don't seem to know what 'e's waiting for.

Sniggers:

It's a nasty place.

Albert:

It's getting silly, Bill. Our money's gone and we want to sell the
ruby. Let's get on to a town.

Bill:

But 'e won't come.

Albert:

Then we'll leave him.

Sniggers:

We'll be all right if we keep away from Hull.

Albert:

We'll go to London.

Bill:

But 'e must 'ave 'is share.

Sniggers:

All right. Only let's go. [to the Toff] We're going, do you hear? Give
us the ruby.

The Toff:

Certainly.

[He gives them a ruby from his waistcoat pocket: it is the size
of a small hen's egg.]

[He goes on reading his paper.]

Albert:

Come on, Sniggers.

[Exeunt Albert and Sniggers.]

Bill:

Good-bye, old man. We'll give you your fair share, but there's nothing
to do here, no girls, no halls, and we must sell the ruby.

The Toff:

I'm not a fool, Bill.

Bill:

No, no, of course not. Of course you ain't, and you've helped us a
lot. Good-bye. You'll say good-bye?

The Toff:

Oh, yes. Good-bye.

[Still reads paper. Exit Bill.]

[The Toff puts a revolver on the table beside him and goes on
with his paper.]

Sniggers: [Out of breath.]

We've come back, Toffy.

The Toff:

So you have.

Albert:

Toffy--How did they get here?

The Toff:

They walked, of course.

Albert:

But it's eighty miles.

Sniggers:

Did you know they were here, Toffy?

The Toff:

Expected them about now.

Albert:

Eighty miles.

Bill:

Toffy, old man--what are we to do?

The Toff:

Ask Albert.

Bill:

If they can do things like this there's no one can save us but you,
Toffy--I always knew you were a clever one. We won't be fools any
more. We'll obey you, Toffy.

The Toff:

You're brave enough and strong enough. There isn't many that would
steal a ruby eye out of an idol's head, and such an idol as that was
to look at, and on such a night. You're brave enough, Bill. But you're
all three of you fools. Jim would have none of my plans and where's
Jim? And George. What did they do to him?

Sniggers:

Don't, Toffy!

The Toff:

Well, then, your strength is no use to you. You want cleverness; or
they'll have you the way that they had George and Jim.

All:

Ugh!

The Toff:

Those black priests would follow you round the world in circles, year
after year, till they got the idol's eye. And if we died with it
they'd follow our grandchildren. That fool thinks he can escape men
like that by running round three streets in the town of Hull.

Albert:

God's truth, _you_ 'aven't escaped them, because they're _'ere_.

The Toff:

So I supposed.

Albert:

You _supposed_?

The Toff:

Yes, I believe there's no announcement in the Society papers. But I
took this country seat especially to receive them. There's plenty of
room if you dig; it is pleasantly situated and what is most important
it is in a very quiet neighbourhood. So I am at home to them this
afternoon.

Bill:

Well, you're a deep one.

The Toff:

And remember you've only my wits between you and death, and don't put
your futile plans against those of an educated gentleman.

Albert:

If you're a gentleman, why don't you go about among gentlemen instead
of the likes of us?

The Toff:

Because I was too clever for them as I am too clever for you.

Albert:

Too clever for them?

The Toff:

I never lost a game of cards in my life.

Bill:

You never lost a game?

The Toff:

Not when there was money on it.

Bill:

Well, well.

The Toff:

Have a game of poker?

All:

No, thanks.

The Toff:

Then do as you're told.

Bill:

All right, Toffy.

Sniggers:

I saw something just then. Hadn't we better draw the curtains?

The Toff:

No.

Sniggers:

What?

The Toff:

Don't draw the curtains.

Sniggers:

O all right.

Bill:

But Toffy, they can see us. One doesn't let the enemy do that. I don't
see why....

The Toff:

No, of course you don't.

Bill:

O all right, Toffy.

[All begin to pull out revolvers.]

The Toff: [putting his own away]

No revolvers, please.

Albert:

Why not?

The Toff:

Because I don't want any noise at my party. We might get guests that
hadn't been invited. _Knives_ are a different matter.

[All draw knives. The Toff signs to them not to draw them yet.
Toffy has already taken back his ruby.]

Bill:

I think they're coming, Toffy.

The Toff:

Not yet.

Albert:

When will they come?

The Toff:

When I am quite ready to receive them. Not before.

Sniggers:

I should like to get this over.

The Toff:

Should you? Then we'll have them now.

Sniggers:

Now?

The Toff:

Yes. Listen to me. You shall do as you see me do. You will all pretend
to go out. I'll show you how. I've got the ruby. When they see me
alone they will come for their idol's eye.

Bill:

How can they tell like this which one of us has it?

The Toff:

I confess I don't know, but they seem to.

Sniggers:

What will you do when they come in?

The Toff:

I shall do nothing.

Sniggers:

What?

The Toff:

They will creep up behind me. Then my friends, Sniggers and Bill and
Albert, who gave them the slip, will do what they can.

Bill:

All right, Toffy. Trust us.

The Toff:

If you're a little slow you will see enacted the cheerful spectacle
that accompanied the demise of Jim.

Sniggers:

Don't, Toffy. We'll be there all right.

The Toff:

Very well. Now watch me.

[He goes past the windows to the inner door R.; he opens it
inwards. Then under cover of the open door he slips down on his
knee and closes it, remaining on the inside, appearing to have
gone out. He signs to the others who understand. Then he appears
to re-enter in the same manner.]

Now, I shall sit with my back to the door. You go out one by one so
far as our friends can make out. Crouch very low to be on the safe
side. They mustn't see you through the window.

[Bill makes his sham exit.]

The Toff:

Remember, no revolvers. The police are, I believe, proverbially
inquisitive.

[The other two follow Bill. All three are now crouching inside
the door R. The Toff puts the ruby beside him on the table. He
lights a cigarette.]

[The door in back opens so slowly that you can hardly say at what
moment it began. The Toff picks up his paper.]

[A Native of India wriggles along the floor ever so slowly,
seeking cover from chairs. He moves L. where the Toff is. The
three sailors are R. Sniggers and Albert lean forward. Bill's arm
keeps them back. An armchair had better conceal them from the
Indian. The black Priest nears the Toff.]

[Bill watches to see if any more are coming. Then he leaps
forward alone (he has taken his boots off) and knifes the
Priest.]

[The Priest tries to shout but Bill's left hand is over his mouth.]

[The Toff continues to read his sporting paper. He never looks round.]

Bill: [sotto voce]

There's only one, Toffy. What shall we do?

The Toff: [without turning his head]

Only one?

Bill:

Yes.

The Toff:

Wait a moment. Let me think.

[Still apparently absorbed in his paper.]

Ah, yes. You go back, Bill. We must attract another guest. Now are you
ready?

Bill:

Yes.

The Toff:

All right. You shall now see my demise at my Yorkshire residence. You
must receive guests for me.

[He leaps up in full view of the window, flings up both arms and
falls on to the floor near the dead Priest.]

Now be ready.

[His eyes close.]

[There is a long pause. Again the door opens, very very slowly.
Another Priest creeps in. He has three golden spots upon his
forehead. He looks round, then he creeps up to his companion and
turns him over and looks inside each of his clenched hands. Then
he looks at the recumbent Toff. Then he creeps towards him. Bill
slips after him and knifes him like the other with his left hand
over his mouth.]

Bill: [sotto voce]

We've only got two, Toffy.

The Toff:

Still another.

Bill:

What'll we do?

The Toff: [sitting up]

Hum.

Bill:

This is the best way, much.

The Toff:

Out of the question. Never play the same game twice.

Bill:

Why not, Toffy?

The Toff:

Doesn't work if you do.

Bill:

Well?

The Toff:

I have it, Albert. You will now walk into the room. I showed you how
to do it.

Albert:

Yes.

The Toff:

Just run over here and have a fight at this window with these two men.

Albert:

But they're----

The Toff:

Yes, they're dead, my perspicuous Albert. But Bill and I are going to
resuscitate them.----. Come on.

[Bill picks up a body under the arms.]

That's right, Bill. [Does the same.] Come and help us, Sniggers----
[Sniggers comes] Keep low, keep low. Wave their arms about, Sniggers.
Don't show yourself. Now, Albert, over you go. Our Albert is slain.
Back you get, Bill. Back, Sniggers. Still, Albert. Mustn't move when
he comes. Not a muscle.

[A Face appears at the window and stays for some time. Then the
door opens and looking craftily round the third Priest enters. He
looks at his companions' bodies and turns round. He suspects
something. He takes up one of the knives and with a knife in each
hand he puts his back to the wall. He looks to the left and
right.]

The Toff:

Come on, Bill.

[The Priest rushes to the door. The Toff knifes the last Priest
from behind.]

The Toff:

A good day's work, my friends.

Bill:

Well done, Toffy. Oh, you are a deep one.

Albert:

A deep one if ever there was one.

Sniggers:

There ain't any more, Bill, are there?

The Toff:

No more in the world, my friend.

Bill:

Aye, that's all there are. There were only three in the temple. Three
priests and their beastly idol.

Albert:

What is it worth, Toffy? Is it worth a thousand pounds?

The Toff:

It's worth all they've got in the shop. Worth just whatever we like to
ask for it.

Albert:

Then we're millionaires, now.

The Toff:

Yes, and what is more important, we no longer have any heirs.

Bill:

We'll have to sell it now.

Albert:

That won't be easy. It's a pity it isn't small and we had half a
dozen. Hadn't the idol any other on him?

Bill:

No, he was green jade all over and only had this one eye. He had it in
the middle of his forehead, and was a long sight uglier than anything
else in the world.

Sniggers:

I'm sure we ought all to be very grateful to Toffy.

Bill:

And indeed we ought.

Albert:

If it hadn't 'ave been for him----

Bill:

Yes, if it hadn't 'a' been for old Toffy....

Sniggers:

He's a deep one.

The Toff:

Well, you see, I just have a knack of foreseeing things.

Sniggers:

I should think you did.

Bill:

Why, I don't suppose anything happens that our Toff doesn't foresee.
Does it, Toffy?

The Toff:

Well, I don't think it does, Bill. I don't think it often does.

Bill:

Life is no more than just a game of cards to our old Toff.

The Toff:

Well, we've taken these fellows' trick.

Sniggers: [going to the window]

It wouldn't do for any one to see them.

The Toff:

O nobody will come this way. We're all alone on a moor.

Bill:

Where will we put them?

The Toff:

Bury them in the cellar, but there's no hurry.

Bill:

And what then, Toffy?

The Toff:

Why, then we'll go to London and upset the ruby business. We'll have
really come through this job very nicely.

Bill:

I think the first thing we ought to do is give a little supper to old
Toffy. We'll bury these fellows to-night.

Albert:

Yes, let's.

Sniggers:

The very thing.

Bill:

And we'll all drink his health.

Albert:

Good old Toffy.

Sniggers:

He ought to have been a general or a premier.

[They get bottles from cupboard, etc.]

The Toff:

Well, we've earned our bit of a supper.

[They sit down.]

Bill: [Glass in hand.]

Here's to old Toffy who guessed everything.

Albert and Sniggers:

Good old Toffy.

Bill:

Toffy who saved our lives and made our fortunes.

Albert and Sniggers:

Hear. Hear.

The Toff:

And here's to Bill who saved me twice to-night.

Bill:

Couldn't have done it but for your cleverness, Toffy.

Sniggers:

Hear, hear. Hear, hear.

Albert:

He foresees everything.

Bill:

A speech, Toffy. A speech from our general.

All:

Yes, a speech.

Sniggers:

A speech.

The Toff:

Well, get me some water. This whiskey's too much for my head, and I
must keep it clear till our friends are safe in the cellar.

Bill:

Water. Yes, of course. Get him some water, Sniggers.

Sniggers:

We don't use water here. Where shall I get it?

Bill:

Outside in the garden.

[Exit Sniggers.]

Albert:

Here's to fortune. [They all drink.]

Bill:

Here's to Albert Thomas, Esquire. [He drinks.]

The Toff:

Albert Thomas, Esquire. [He drinks.]

Albert:

And William Jones Esquire.

The Toff:

Albert Jones, Esquire. [The Toff and Albert drink.]

[Re-enter Sniggers terrified.]

The Toff:

Hullo, here's Jacob Smith Esquire, J.P., alias Sniggers, back again.

Sniggers:

Toffy, I've been thinking about my share in that ruby. I don't want
it, Toffy, I don't want it.

The Toff:

Nonsense, Sniggers, nonsense.

Sniggers:

You shall have it, Toffy, you shall have it yourself, only say
Sniggers has no share in this 'ere ruby. Say it, Toffy, say it.

Bill:

Want to turn informer, Sniggers?

Sniggers:

No, no. Only I don't want the ruby, Toffy....

The Toff:

No more nonsense, Sniggers, we're all in together in this, if one hangs
we all hang; but they won't outwit me. Besides, it's not a hanging
affair, they had their knives.

Sniggers:

Toffy, Toffy, I've always treated you fair, Toffy. I was always one to
say, Give Toffy a chance. Take back my share, Toffy.

The Toff:

What's the matter? What are you driving at?

Sniggers:

Take it back, Toffy.

The Toff:

Answer me; what are you up to?

Sniggers:

I don't want my share any more.

Bill:

Have you seen the police?

[Albert pulls out his knife.]

The Toff:

No, no knives, Albert.

Albert:

What then?

The Toff:

The honest truth in open court, barring the ruby. We were attacked.

Sniggers:

There's no police.

The Toff:

Well, then, what's the matter?

Bill:

Out with it.

Sniggers:

I swear to God...

Albert:

Well?

The Toff:

Don't interrupt.

Sniggers:

I swear I saw something _what I didn't like._

The Toff:

What you didn't like?

Sniggers: [In tears.]

O Toffy, Toffy, take it back. Take my share. Say you take it.

The Toff:

What has he seen?

[Dead silence only broken by Sniggers' sobs. Then stony steps
are heard.]

[Enter a hideous Idol. It is blind and gropes its way. It gropes
its way to the ruby and picks it up and screws it into a socket
in the forehead.]

[Sniggers still weeps softly; the rest stare in horror. The Idol
steps out, not groping. Its steps move off then stops.]

The Toff:

O great heavens!

Albert: [In a childish, plaintive voice.]

What is it, Toffy?

Bill:

Albert, it is that obscene idol [in a whisper] come from India.

Albert:

It is gone.

Bill:

It has taken its eye.

Sniggers:

We are saved.

Off, a Voice: [With outlandish accent.]

Meestaire William Jones, Able Seaman.

[The Toff has never spoken, never moved. He only gazes stupidly
in horror.]

Bill:

Albert, Albert, what is this?

[He rises and walks out. One moan is heard. Sniggers goes to
window. He falls back sickly.]

Albert: [In a whisper.]

What has happened?

Sniggers:

I have seen it. I have seen it. O I have seen it. [He returns to
table.]

The Toff: [Laying his hand very gently on Sniggers' arm, speaking
softly and winningly.]

What was it, Sniggers?

Sniggers:

I have seen it.

Albert:

What?

Sniggers:

O.

Book of the day: