If by Lord Dunsany

If by Lord Dunsany DRAMATIS PERSONAE JOHN BEAL MARY BEAL LIZA ALI BERT, BILL: two railway porters THE MAN IN THE CORNER MIRALDA CLEMENT HAFIZ EL ALCOLAHN DAOUD ARCHIE BEAL BAZZALOL, THOOTHOOBABA: two Nubian door-keepers BEN HUSSEIN, Lord of the Pass ZABNOOL, SHABEESH: two conjurers OMAR, a singer ZAGBOOLA, mother of Hafiz THE SHEIK OF
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If

by Lord Dunsany [Edward John Plunkett]

DRAMATIS PERSONAE

JOHN BEAL
MARY BEAL
LIZA
ALI
BERT, BILL: two railway porters
THE MAN IN THE CORNER
MIRALDA CLEMENT
HAFIZ EL ALCOLAHN
DAOUD
ARCHIE BEAL
BAZZALOL, THOOTHOOBABA: two Nubian door-keepers BEN HUSSEIN, Lord of the Pass
ZABNOOL, SHABEESH: two conjurers
OMAR, a singer
ZAGBOOLA, mother of Hafiz
THE SHEIK OF THE BISHAREENS

Notables, soldiers, Bishareens, dancers, etc.

IF

ACT I

SCENE 1

A small railway station near London.
Time: Ten years ago.

BERT

‘Ow goes it, Bill?

BILL

Goes it? ‘Ow d’yer think it goes?

BERT

I don’t know, Bill. ‘Ow is it?

BILL

Bloody.

BERT

Why? What’s wrong?

BILL

Wrong? Nothing ain’t wrong.

BERT

What’s up then?

BILL

Nothing ain’t right.

BERT

Why, wot’s the worry?

BILL

Wot’s the worry? They don’t give you
better wages nor a dog, and then they thinks they can talk at yer and talk at yer, and say wot they likes, like.

BERT

Why? You been on the carpet, Bill?

BILL

Ain’t I! Proper.

BERT

Why, wot about, Bill?

BILL

Wot about? I’ll tell yer. Just coz I let a lidy get into a train. That’s wot about. Said I ought to ‘av stopped ‘er. Thought the train was moving. Thought it was dangerous. Thought I tried to murder ‘er, I suppose.

BERT

Wot? The other day?

BILL

Yes.

BERT

Tuesday?

BILL

Yes.

BERT

Why. The one that dropped her bag?

BILL

Yes. Drops ‘er bag. Writes to the company. They writes back she shouldn’t ‘av
got in. She writes back she should. Then they gets on to me. Any more of it and
I’ll…

BERT

I wouldn’t, Bill; don’t you.

BILL

I will.

BERT

Don’t you, Bill. You’ve got your family to consider.

BILL

Well, anyway, I won’t let any more of them passengers go jumping into trains any more, not when they’re moving, I won’t.
When the train gets in, doors shut. That’s the rule. And they’ll ‘ave to abide by it.

BERT

Well, I wouldn’t stop one, not if…

BILL

I don’t care. They ain’t going to ‘ave me on the mat again and talk all that stuff to me. No, if someone ‘as to suffer . . .
‘Ere she is.

[Noise of approaching train heard.]

BERT

Ay, that’s her.

BILL

And shut goes the door.

[Enter JOHN BEAL.]

BERT

Wait a moment, Bill.

BILL

Not if he’s . . . Not if he was ever so.

JOHN [preparing to pass]

Good morning. . . .

BILL

Can’t come through. Too late.

JOHN

Too late? Why, the train’s only just in.

BILL

Don’t care. It’s the rule.

JOHN

O, nonsense. [He carries on.]

BILL

It’s too late. I tell you you can’t come.

JOHN

But that’s absurd. I want to catch my train.

BILL

It’s too late.

BERT

Let him go, Bill.

BILL

I’m blowed if I let him go.

JOHN

I want to catch my train.

[JOHN is stopped by BILL and pushed
back by the face. JOHN advances towards BILL looking like fighting. The train has gone.]

BILL

Only doing my duty.

[JOHN stops and reflects at this, deciding it isn’t good enough. He shrugs his
shoulders, turns round and goes away.]

JOHN

I shouldn’t be surprised if I didn’t get even with you one of these days, you . . . . . and some way you won’t expect.

Curtain

SCENE 2

Yesterday evening.

[Curtain rises on JOHN and MARY in
their suburban home.]

JOHN

I say, dear. Don’t you think we ought to plant an acacia?

MARY

An acacia, what’s that, John?

JOHN

O, it’s one of those trees that they have.

MARY

But why, John?

JOHN

Well, you see the house is called The Acacias, and it seems rather silly not to have at least one.

MARY

O, I don’t think that matters. Lots of places are called lots of things. Everyone does.

JOHN

Yes, but it might help the postman.

MARY

O, no, it wouldn’t, dear. He wouldn’t know an acacia if he saw it any more than I should.

JOHN

Quite right, Mary, you’re always right. What a clever head you’ve got!

MARY

Have I, John? We’ll plant an acacia if you like. I’ll ask about it at the grocer’s.

JOHN

You can’t get one there.

MARY

No, but he’s sure to know where it can be got.

JOHN

Where do they grow, Mary?

MARY

I don’t know, John; but I am sure they do, somewhere.

JOHN

Somehow I wish sometimes, I almost wish I could have gone abroad for a week or so to places like where acacias grow naturally.

MARY

O, would you really, John?

JOHN

No, not really. But I just think of it sometimes.

MARY

Where would you have gone?

JOHN

O, I don’t know. The East or some such place. I’ve often heard people speak of it, and somehow it seemed so. . .

MARY

The East, John? Not the East. I don’t think the East somehow is quite respectable.

JOHN

O well, it’s all right, I never went, and never shall go now. It doesn’t matter.

MARY [the photographs catching her eye]

O, John, I meant to tell you. Such a dreadful thing happened.

JOHN

What, Mary?

MARY

Well, Liza was dusting the photographs, and when she came to Jane’s she says she hadn’t really begun to dust it, only looked at it, and it fell down, and that bit of glass is broken right out of it.

JOHN

Ask her not to look at it so hard another time.

MARY

O, what do you mean, John?

JOHN

Well, that’s how she broke it; she said so, and as I know you believe in Liza . . .

MARY

Well, I can’t think she’d tell a lie, John.

JOHN

No, of course not. But she mustn’t look so hard another time.

MARY

And it’s poor little Jane’s photograph. She will feel it so.

JOHN

O, that’s all right, we’ll get it mended.

MARY

Still, it’s a dreadful thing to have happened.

JOHN

We’ll get it mended, and if Jane is unhappy about it she can have Alice’s frame. Alice is too young to notice it.

MARY

She isn’t, John. She’d notice it quick.

JOHN

Well, George, then.

MARY [looking at photo thoughtfully]

Well, perhaps George might give up his frame.

JOHN

Yes, tell Liza to change it. Why not make her do it now?

MARY

Not to-day, John. Not on a Sunday.
She shall do it to-morrow by the time you get back from the office.

JOHN

All right. It might have been worse.

MARY

It’s bad enough. I wish it hadn’t happened.

JOHN

It might have been worse. It might have been Aunt Martha.

MARY

I’d sooner it had been her than poor little Jane.

JOHN

If it had been Aunt Martha’s photograph she’d have walked in next day and seen it for certain; I know Aunt Martha. Then there’d have been trouble.

MARY

But, John, how could she have known?

JOHN

I don’t know, but she would have; it’s a kind of devilish sense she has.

MARY

John!

JOHN

What’s the matter?

MARY

John! What a dreadful word you used.
And on a Sunday too! Really!

JOHN

O, I’m sorry. It slipped out somehow. I’m very sorry.

[Enter LIZA.]

LIZA

There’s a gentleman to see you, sir, which isn’t, properly speaking, a gentleman at all. Not what I should call one, that is, like.

MARY

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

LIZA

He’s black.

MARY

Black?

JOHN [reassuring]

O . . . yes, that would be Ali. A queer old customer, Mary; perfectly harmless. Our firm gets hundreds of carpets through him; and then one day . . .

MARY

But what is he doing here, John?

JOHN

Well, one day he turned up in London; broke, he said; and wanted the firm to give him a little cash. Well, old Briggs was for giving him ten shillings. But I said “here’s a man that’s helped us in making thousands of pounds. Let’s give him fifty.”

MARY

Fifty pounds!

JOHN

Yes, it seems a lot; but it seemed only fair. Ten shillings would have been an insult to the old fellow, and he’d have taken it as such. You don’t know what he’d have done.

MARY

Well, he doesn’t want more?

JOHN

No, I expect he’s come to thank me. He seemed pretty keen on getting some cash. Badly broke, you see. Don’t know what he was doing in London. Never can tell with these fellows. East is East, and there’s an end of it.

MARY

How did he trace you here?

JOHN

O, got the address at the office. Briggs and Cater won’t let theirs be known. Not got such a smart little house, I expect.

MARY

I don’t like letting people in that you don’t know where they come from.

JOHN

O, he comes from the East.

MARY

Yes, I–I know. But the East doesn’t seem quite to count, somehow, as the proper sort of place to come from, does it, dear?

JOHN

No.

MARY

It’s not like Sydenham or Bromley, some place you can put your finger on.

JOHN

Perhaps just for once, I don’t think there’s any harm in him.

MARY

Well, just for once. But we can’t make a practice of it. And you don’t want to be thinking of business on a Sunday, your only day off.

JOHN

O, it isn’t business, you know. He only wants to say thank you.

MARY

I hope he won’t say it in some queer
Eastern way. You don’t know what these people. . . .

JOHN

O, no. Show him up, Liza.

LIZA

As you like, mum.
[Exit.]

MARY

And you gave him fifty pounds?

JOHN

Well, old Briggs agreed to it. So I suppose that’s what he got. Cater paid him.

MARY

It seems a lot of money. But I think, as the man is actually coming up the stairs, I’m glad he’s got something to be grateful for.

[Enter ALI, shown in by LIZA.]

ALI

Protector of the Just.

JOHN

O, er–yes. Good evening.

ALI

My soul was parched and you bathed it in rivers of gold.

JOHN

O, ah, yes.

ALI

Wherefore the name Briggs, Cater, and Beal shall be magnified and called blessed.

JOHN

Ha, yes. Very good of you.

ALI [advancing, handing trinket]

Protector of the Just, my offering.

JOHN

Your offering?

ALI

Hush. It is beyond price. I am not
bidden to sell it. I was in my extremity, but I was not bidden to sell it. It is a token of gratitude, a gift, as it came to me.

JOHN

As it came to you?

ALI

Yes, it was given me.

JOHN

I see. Then you had given somebody what you call rivers of gold?

ALI

Not gold; it was in Sahara.

JOHN

O, and what do you give in the Sahara instead of gold?

ALI

Water.

JOHN

I see. You got it for a glass of water, like.

ALI

Even so.

JOHN

And–and what happened?

MARY

I wouldn’t take his only crystal, dear. It’s a nice little thing, but [to ALI], but you think a lot of it, don’t you?

ALI

Even so.

JOHN

But look here, what does it do?

ALI

Much.

JOHN

Well, what?

ALI

He that taketh this crystal, so, in his hand, at night, and wishes, saying “At a certain hour let it be”; the hour comes and he will go back eight, ten, even twelve years if he will, into the past, and do a thing again, or act otherwise than he did. The day passes; the ten years are accomplished once again; he is here once more; but he is what he might have become had he done that one thing
otherwise.

MARY

John!

JOHN

I–I don’t understand.

ALI

To-night you wish. All to-morrow you
live the last ten years; a new way, master, a new way, how you please. To-morrow night you are here, what those years have made you.

JOHN

By Jove!

MARY

Have nothing to do with it, John.

JOHN

All right, Mary, I’m not going to. But, do you mean one could go back ten years?

ALI

Even so.

JOHN

Well, it seems odd, but I’ll take your word for it. But look here, you can’t live ten years in a day, you know.

ALI

My master has power over time.

MARY

John, don’t have anything to do with him.

JOHN

All right, Mary. But who is your master?

ALI

He is carved of one piece of jade, a god in the greenest mountains. The years are his dreams. This crystal is his treasure. Guard it safely, for his power is in this more than in all the peaks of his native hills. See what I give you, master.

JOHN

Well, really, it’s very good of you.

MARY

Good night, Mr. Ali. We are very much obliged for your kind offer, which we are so sorry we can’t avail ourselves of.

JOHN

One moment, Mary. Do you mean that
I can go back ten years, and live till–till now again, and only be away a day?

ALI

Start early and you will be here before midnight.

JOHN

Would eight o’clock do!

ALI

You could be back by eleven that evening.

JOHN

I don’t quite see how ten years could go in a single day.

ALI

They will go as dreams go.

JOHN

Even so, it seems rather unusual, doesn’t it?

ALI

Time is the slave of my master

MARY

John!

JOHN

All right, Mary. [In a lower voice.] I’m only trying to see what he’ll say.

MARY

All right, John, only . . .

ALI

Is there no step that you would wish
untrodden, nor stride that you would make where once you faltered?

JOHN

I say, why don’t you use it yourself?

ALI

I? I am afraid of the past. But you
Engleesh, and the great firm of Briggs, Cater, and Beal; you are afraid of nothing.

JOHN

Ha, ha. Well–I wouldn’t go quite as far as that, but–well, give me the crystal.

MARY

Don’t take it, John! Don’t take it.

JOHN

Why, Mary? It won’t hurt me.

MARY

If it can do all that–if it can do all that . . .

JOHN

Well?

MARY

Why, you might never have met me.

JOHN

Never have met you? I never thought of that.

MARY

Leave the past alone, John.

JOHN

All right, Mary. I needn’t use it. But I want to hear about it, it’s so odd, it’s so what-you-might-call queer; I don’t think I ever—– [To ALI.] You mean if I work
hard for ten years, which will only be all to-morrow, I may be Governor of the Bank of England to-morrow night.

ALI

Even so.

MARY

O, don’t do it, John.

JOHN

But you said–I’ll be back here before midnight to-morrow.

ALI

It is so.

JOHN

But the Governor of the Bank of England would live in the City, and he’d have a much bigger house anyway. He wouldn’t live in Lewisham.

ALI

The crystal will bring you to this house when the hour is accomplished, even
tomorrow night. If you be the great banker you will perhaps come to chastise one of your slaves who will dwell in this house. If you be head of Briggs and Cater you will come to give an edict to one of your firm. Perchance this street will be yours and you will come to show your power unto it. But you will come.

JOHN

And if the house is not mine?

MARY

John! John! Don’t.

ALI

Still you will come.

JOHN

Shall I remember?

ALI

No.

JOHN

If I want to do anything different to what I did, how shall I remember when I get back there?

MARY

Don’t. Don’t do anything different, John.

JOHN

All right.

ALI

Choose just before the hour of the step you desire to change. Memory lingers a little at first, and fades away slowly.

JOHN

Five minutes?

ALI

Even ten.

JOHN

Then I can change one thing. After that I forget.

ALI

Even so. One thing. And the rest follows.

JOHN

Well, it’s very good of you to make me this nice present, I’m sure.

ALI

Sell it not. Give it, as I gave it, if the heart impels. So shall it come back one day to the hills that are brighter than grass, made richer by the gratitude of many men. And my
master shall smile thereat and the vale shall be glad.

JOHN

It’s very good of you, I’m sure.

MARY

I don’t like it, John. I don’t like tampering with what’s gone.

ALI

My master’s power is in your hands.
Farewell.

[Exit.]

JOHN

I say, he’s gone.

MARY

O, he’s a dreadful man.

JOHN

I never really meant to take it.

MARY

O, John, I wish you hadn’t

JOHN

Why? I’m not going to use it.

MARY

Not going to use it, John?

JOHN

No, no. Not if you don’t want me to.

MARY

O, I’m so glad.

JOHN

And besides, I don’t want things different. I’ve got fond of this little house. And Briggs is a good old sort, you know. Cater’s a bit of an ass, but there’s no harm in him. In fact, I’m contented, Mary. I wouldn’t even change Aunt Martha now.

[Points at frowning framed photograph centrally hung.]

You remember when she first came and
you said “Where shall we hang her?” I said the cellar. You said we couldn’t. So she had to go there. But I wouldn’t change her now. I suppose there are old watch-dogs like her in every family. I wouldn’t change anything.

MARY

O, John, wouldn’t you really?

JOHN

No, I’m contented. Grim old soul, I
wouldn’t even change Aunt Martha.

MARY

I’m glad of that, John. I was frightened. I couldn’t bear to tamper with the past. You don’t know what it is, it’s what’s gone. But if it really isn’t gone at all, if it can be dug up like that, why you don’t know what
mightn’t happen! I don’t mind the future, but if the past can come back like that…. O, don’t, don’t, John. Don’t think of it. It isn’t canny. There’s the children, John.

JOHN

Yes, yes, that’s all right. It’s only a little ornament. I won’t use it. And I tell you I’m content. [Happily] It’s no use to me.

MARY

I’m so glad you’re content, John. Are you really? Is there nothing that you’d have had different? I sometimes thought you’d rather that Jane had been a boy.

JOHN

Not a bit of it. Well, I may have at the time, but Arthur’s good enough for me.

MARY

I’m so glad. And there’s nothing you ever regret at all?

JOHN

Nothing. And you? Is there nothing you regret, Mary?

MARY

Me? Oh, no. I still think that sofa would have been better green, but you would have it red.

JOHN

Yes, so I would. No, there’s nothing I regret.

MARY

I don’t suppose there’s many men can say that.

JOHN

No, I don’t suppose they can. They’re not all married to you. I don’t suppose
many of them can.

[MARY smiles.]

MARY

I should think that very few could say that they regretted nothing . . . very few in the whole world.

JOHN

Well, I won’t say nothing.

MARY

What is it you regret, John?

JOHN

Well, there is one thing.

MARY

And what is that?

JOHN

One thing has rankled a bit.

MARY

Yes, John?

JOHN

O, it’s nothing, it’s nothing worth
mentioning. But it rankled for years.

MARY

What was it, John?

JOHN

O, it seems silly to mention it. It was nothing.

MARY

But what?

JOHN

O, well, if you want to know, it was once when I missed a train. I don’t mind missing a train, but it was the way the porter pushed me out of the way. He pushed me by the
face. I couldn’t hit back, because, well, you know what lawyers make of it; I might have been ruined. So it just rankled. It was years ago before we married.

MARY

Pushed you by the face. Good gracious!

JOHN

Yes, I’d like to have caught that train in spite of him. I sometimes think of it still. Silly of me, isn’t it?

MARY

What a brute of a man.

JOHN

O, I suppose he was doing his silly duty. But it rankled.

MARY

He’d no right to do any such thing! He’d no right to touch you!

JOHN

O, well, never mind.

MARY

I should like to have been there. . . I’d have . . .

JOHN

O, well, it can’t be helped now; but I’d like to have caught it in sp . . .
[An idea seizes him.]

MARY

What is it?

JOHN

Can’t be helped, I said. It’s the very thing that can be helped.

MARY

Can be helped, John? Whatever do you
mean?

JOHN

I mean he’d no right to stop me catching that train. I’ve got the crystal, and I’ll catch it yet!

MARY

O, John, that’s what you said you wouldn’t do.

JOHN

No. I said I’d do nothing to alter the past. And I won’t. I’m too content, Mary. But
this can’t alter it. This is nothing.

MARY

What were you going to catch the train for, John?

JOHN

For London. I wasn’t at the office then. It was a business appointment. There was a man who had promised to get me a job, and I was going up to . . .

MARY

John, it may alter your whole life!

JOHN

Now do listen, Mary, do listen. He never turned up. I got a letter from him apologising to me before I posted mine to him. It
turned out he never meant to help me, mere meaningless affabilities. He never came to London that day at all. I should have taken the next train back. That can’t affect the future.

MARY

N-no, John. Still, I don’t like it.

JOHN

What difference could it make?

MARY

N-n-no.

JOHN

Think how we met. We met at ARCHIE’s
wedding. I take it one has to go to one’s brother’s wedding. It would take a pretty big change to alter that. And. you were her bridesmaid. We were bound to meet. And
having once met, well, there you are. If we’d met by chance, in a train, or anything like that, well, then I admit some little change might alter it. But when we met at ARCHIE’s wedding and you were her bridesmaid, why, Mary, it’s a cert. Besides, I believe in predestination. It was our fate; we couldn’t have missed it.

MARY

No, I suppose not; still . .

JOHN

Well, what?

MARY

I don’t like it.

JOHN

O, Mary, I have so longed to catch that infernal train. Just think of it, annoyed on and off for ten years by the eight-fifteen.

MARY

I’d rather you didn’t, John.

JOHN

But why?

MARY

O, John, suppose there’s a railway
accident? You might be killed, and we should never meet.

JOHN

There wasn’t.

MARY

There wasn’t, John? What do you mean?

JOHN

There wasn’t an accident to the eight-fifteen. It got safely to London just ten years ago.

MARY

Why, nor there was.

JOHN

You see how groundless your fears are. I shall catch that train, and all the rest will happen the same as before. Just think
Mary, all those old days again. I wish I could take you with me. But you soon will be. But just think of the old days coming back again. Hampton Court again and Kew, and Richmond Park again with all the May. And that bun you bought, and the corked
ginger-beer, and those birds singing and the ‘bus past Isleworth. O, Mary, you wouldn’t grudge me that?

MARY

Well, well then all right, John.

JOHN

And you will remember there wasn’t an accident, won’t you?

MARY [resignedly, sadly]

O, yes, John. And you won’t try to get rich or do anything silly, will you?

JOHN

No, Mary. I only want to catch that
train. I’m content with the rest. The same things must happen, and they must lead me the same way, to you, Mary. Good night,
now, dear.

MARY

Good night?

JOHN

I shall stay here on the sofa holding the crystal and thinking. Then I’ll have a
biscuit and start at seven.

MARY

Thinking, John? What about?

JOHN

Getting it clear in my mind what I want to do. That one thing and the rest the same. There must be no mistakes.

MARY [sadly]

Good night, John.

JOHN

Have supper ready at eleven.

MARY

Very well, John.
[Exit.]

JOHN [on the sofa, after a moment or two]

I’ll catch that infernal train in spite of him.

[He takes the crystal and closes it up in the palm of his left hand.]

I wish to go back ten years, two weeks and a day, at, at–8.10 a.m. to-morrow; 8.10 a.m. to-morrow, 8.10.

[Re-enter MARY in doorway.]

MARY

John! John! You are sure he did get
his fifty pounds?

JOHN

Yes. Didn’t he come to thank me for the money?

MARY

You are sure it wasn’t ten shillings?

JOHN

Cater paid him, I didn’t.

MARY

Are you sure that Cater didn’t give him ten shillings?

JOHN

It’s the sort of silly thing Cater would have done!

MARY

O, John!

JOHN

Hmm.

Curtain

SCENE 3

Scene: As in Act I, Scene 1.
Time. Ten years ago.

BERT

‘Ow goes it, Bill?

BILL

Goes it? ‘Ow d’yer think it goes?

BERT

I don’t know, Bill. ‘Ow is it?

BILL

Bloody.

BERT

Why, what’s wrong?

BILL

Wrong? Nothing ain’t wrong.

BERT

What’s up, then?

BILL

Nothing ain’t right.

BERT

Why, wot’s the worry?

BILL

Wot’s the worry? They don’t give you
better wages nor a dog, and then they thinks they can talk at yer and talk at yer, and say wot they likes, like.

BERT

Why? You been on the carpet, Bill?

BILL

Ain’t I! Proper.

BERT

Why? Wot about, Bill?

BILL

Wot about? I’ll tell yer. Just coz I let a lidy get into a train. That’s wot about. Said I ought to ‘av stopped ‘er. Thought the train was moving. Thought it was dangerous. Thought I tried to murder ‘er, I suppose.

BERT

Wot? The other day?

BILL

Yes.

BERT?

Tuesday?

BILL

Yes.

BERT

Why? The one that dropped her bag?

BILL

Yes. Drops ‘er bag. Writes to the
company. They writes back she shouldn’t ‘av got in. She writes back she should. Then they gets on to me. Any more of it and I’ll. . .

BERT

I wouldn’t, Bill; don’t you.

BILL

I will.

BERT

Don’t you, Bill. You’ve got your family to consider.

BILL

Well, anyway, I won’t let any more of them passengers go jumping into trains any more, not when they’re moving, I won’t.
When the train gets in, doors shut. That’s the rule, and they’ll have to abide by it.

[Enter JOHN BEAL.]

BILL [touching his hat]
Good morning, sir.

[JOHN does not answer, but walks to the door between them.]

Carry your bag, sir?

JOHN

Go to hell!

[Exit through door.]

BILL

Ullo.

BERT

Somebody’s been getting at ‘im.

BILL

Well, I never did. Why, I knows the young feller.

BERT

Pleasant spoken, ain’t ‘e, as a rule?

BILL

Never knew ‘im like this.

BERT

You ain’t bin sayin’ nothing to ‘im, ‘ave yer?

BILL

Never in my life.

BERT

Well, I never.

BILL

‘Ad some trouble o’ some kind.

BERT

Must ‘ave.

[Train is heard.]

BILL

Ah, ‘ere she is. Well, as I was saying . . .

Curtain

SCENE 4

In a second-class railway carriage.

Time: Same morning as Scene 1, Act I.

Noise, and a scene drawn past the
windows. The scene, showing a
momentary glimpse of fair English hills, is almost entirely placards, “GIVE HER
BOVRIL,” “GIVE HER OXO,”
alternately, for ever.

Occupants, JOHN BEAL, a girl, a man.

All sit in stoical silence like the two images near Luxor. The man has the
window seat, and therefore the right of control over the window.

MIRALDA CLEMENT

Would you mind having the window open?

THE MAN IN THE CORNER [shrugging his
shoulders in a shivery way]

Er–certainly. [Meaning he does not mind. He opens the window.]

MIRALDA CLEMENT

Thank you so much.

MAN IN THE CORNER

Not at all. [He does not mean to contradict her. Stoical silence again.]

MIRALDA CLEMENT

Would you mind having it shut now? I
think it is rather cold.

MAN IN THE CORNER

Certainly.

[He shuts it. Silence again.]

MIRALDA CLEMENT

I think I’d like the window open again now for a bit. It is rather stuffy, isn’t it?

MAN IN THE CORNER

Well, I think it’s very cold.

MIRALDA CLEMENT

O, do you? But would you mind opening it for me?

MAN IN THE CORNER

I’d much rather it was shut, if you don’t mind.

[She sighs, moves her hands slightly, and her pretty face expresses the resignation of the Christian martyr in the presence of
lions. This for the benefit of John.]

JOHN

Allow me, madam.

[He leans across the window’s rightful owner, a bigger man than he, and opens his window.

MAN IN THE CORNER shrugs his shoulders and, quite sensibly, turns to his paper.]

MIRALDA

O, thank you so much.

JOHN

Don’t mention it.

[Silence again.]

VOICES OF PORTERS [Off]

Fan Kar, Fan Kar.

[MAN IN THE CORNER gets out.]

MIRALDA

Could you tell me where this is?

JOHN

Yes. Elephant and Castle.

MIRALDA

Thank you so much. It was kind of you to protect me from that horrid man. He wanted to suffocate me.

JOHN

O, very glad to assist you, I’m sure. Very glad.

MIRALDA

I should have been afraid to have done it in spite of him. It was splendid of you.

JOHN

O, that was nothing.

MIRALDA

O, it was, really.

JOHN

Only too glad to help you in any little way.

MIRALDA

It was so kind of you.

JOHN

O, not at all.

[Silence for a bit.]

MIRALDA

I’ve nobody to help me.

JOHN

Er, er, haven’t you really?

MIRALDA

No, nobody.

JOHN

I’d be very glad to help you in any little way.

MIRALDA

I wonder if you could advise me.

JOHN

I–I’d do my best.

MIRALDA

You see, I have nobody to advise me.

JOHN

No, of course not.

MIRALDA

I live with my aunt, and she doesn’t
understand. I’ve no father or mother.

JOHN

O, er, er, really?

MIRALDA

No. And an uncle died and he left me a hundred thousand pounds.

JOHN

Really?

MIRALDA

Yes. He didn’t like me. I think he did it out of contrariness as much as anything. He was always like that to me.

JOHN

Was he? Was he really?

MIRALDA

Yes. It was invested at twenty-five per cent. He never liked me. Thought I was
too–I don’t know what.

JOHN

No.

MIRALDA

That was five years ago, and I’ve never got a penny of it.

JOHN

Really. But, but that’s not right.

MIRALDA [sadly]

No.

JOHN

Where’s it invested?

MIRALDA

In Al Shaldomir.

JOHN

Where’s that?

MIRALDA

I don’t quite know. I never was good at geography. I never quite knew where Persia ends.

JOHN

And what kind of an investment was it?

MIRALDA

There’s a pass in some mountains that they can get camels over, and a huge toll is levied on everything that goes by; that is the custom of the tribe that lives there, and I believe the toll is regularly collected.

JOHN

And who gets it?

MIRALDA

The chief of the tribe. He is called Ben Hussein. But my uncle lent him all this