Captain Brassbound's Conversion
George Bernard Shaw
Part 2 out of 3
LADY CICELY (opening her eyes very widely). Oh! Was THAT all?
BRASSBOUND (exculpating himself, full of gloomy remembrances). You
don't understand. It was not always possible to be very tender
with my mother. She had unfortunatly a very violent temper; and
LADY CICELY. Yes: so you told Howard. (With genuine pity for him)
You must have had a very unhappy childhood.
BRASSBOUND (grimily). Hell. That was what my childhood was. Hell.
LADY CICELY. Do you think she would really have killed Howard, as
she threatened, if he hadn't sent her to prison?
BRASSBOUND (breaking out again, with a growing sense of being
morally trapped). What if she did? Why did he rob her? Why did he
not help her to get the estate, as he got it for himself
LADY CICELY. He says he couldn't, you know. But perhaps the real
reason was that he didn't like her. You know, don't you, that if
you don't like people you think of all the reasons for not helping
them, and if you like them you think of all the opposite reasons.
BRASSBOUND. But his duty as a brother!
LADY CICELY. Are you going to do your duty as a nephew?
BRASSBOUND. Don't quibble with me. I am going to do my duty as a
son; and you know it.
LADY CICELY. But I should have thought that the time for that was
in your mother's lifetime, when you could have been kind and
forbearing with her. Hurting your uncle won't do her any good, you
BRASSBOUND. It will teach other scoundrels to respect widows and
orphans. Do you forget that there is such a thing as justice?
LADY CICELY (gaily shaking out the finished coat). Oh, if you are
going to dress yourself in ermine and call yourself Justice, I
give you up. You are just your uncle over again; only he gets
œ5,000 a year for it, and you do it for nothing.
(She holds the coat up to see whether any further repairs are
BRASSBOUND (sulkily). You twist my words very cleverly. But no man
or woman has ever changed me.
LADY CICELY. Dear me! That must be very nice for the people you
deal with, because they can always depend on you; but isn't it
rather inconvenient for yourself when you change your mind?
BRASSBOUND. I never change my mind.
LADY CICELY (rising with the coat in her hands). Oh! Oh!! Nothing
will ever persuade me that you are as pigheaded as that.
BRASSBOUND (offended). Pigheaded!
LADY CICELY (with quick, caressing apology). No, no, no. I didn't
mean that. Firm! Unalterable! Resolute! Ironwilled! Stonewall
Jackson! That's the idea, isn't it?
BRASSBOUND (hopelessly). You are laughing at me.
LADY CICELY. No: trembling, I assure you. Now will you try this on
for me: I'm SO afraid I have made it too tight under the arm. (She
holds it behind him.)
BRASSBOUND (obeying mechanically). You take me for a fool I think.
(He misses the sleeve.)
LADY CICELY. No: all men look foolish when they are feeling for
BRASSBOUND. Agh! (He turns and snatches the coat from her; then
puts it on himself and buttons the lowest button.)
LADY CICELY (horrified). Stop. No. You must NEVER pull a coat at
the skirts, Captain Brassbound: it spoils the sit of it. Allow me.
(She pulls the lappels of his coat vigorously forward) Put back
your shoulders. (He frowns, but obeys.) That's better. (She
buttons the top button.) Now button the rest from the top down.
DOES it catch you at all under the arm?
BRASSBOUND (miserably--all resistance beaten out of him). No.
LADY CICELY. That's right. Now before I go back to poor Marzo, say
thank you to me for mending your jacket, like a nice polite
BRASSBOUND (sitting down at the table in great agitation). Damn
you! you have belittled my whole life to me. (He bows his head on
his hands, convulsed.)
LADY CICELY (quite understanding, and putting her hand kindly on
his shoulder). Oh no. I am sure you have done lots of kind things
and brave things, if you could only recollect them. With Gordon
for instance? Nobody can belittle that.
He looks up at her for a moment; then kisses her hand. She presses
his and turns away with her eyes so wet that she sees Drinkwater,
coming in through the arch just then, with a prismatic halo round
him. Even when she sees him clearly, she hardly recognizes him;
for he is ludicrously clean and smoothly brushed; and his hair,
formerly mud color, is now a lively red.
DRINKWATER. Look eah, kepn. (Brassbound springs up and recovers
himself quickly.) Eahs the bloomin Shike jest appeahd on the
orawzn wiv abaht fifty men. Thy'll be eah insawd o ten minnits,
LADY CICELY. The Sheikh!
BRASSBOUND. Sidi el Assif and fifty men! (To Lady Cicely) You were
too late: I gave you up my vengeance when it was no longer in my
hand. (To Drinkwater) Call all hands to stand by and shut the
gates. Then all here to me for orders; and bring the prisoner.
DRINKWATER. Rawt, kepn. (He runs out.)
LADY CICELY. Is there really any danger for Howard?
BRASSBOUND. Yes. Danger for all of us unless I keep to my bargain
with this fanatic.
LADY CICELY. What bargain?
BRASSBOUND. I pay him so much a head for every party I escort
through to the interior. In return he protects me and lets my
caravans alone. But I have sworn an oath to him to take only Jews
and true believers--no Christians, you understand.
LADY CICELY. Then why did you take us?
BRASSBOUND. I took my uncle on purpose--and sent word to Sidi that
he was here.
LADY CICELY. Well, that's a pretty kettle of fish, isn't it?
BRASSBOUND. I will do what I can to save him--and you. But I fear
my repentance has come too late, as repentance usually does.
LADY CICELY (cheerfully). Well, I must go and look after Marzo, at
all events. (She goes out through the little door. Johnson,
Redbrook and the rest come in through the arch, with Sir Howard,
still very crusty and determined. He keeps close to Johnson, who
comes to Brassbound's right, Redbrook taking the other side.)
BRASSBOUND. Where's Drinkwater?
JOHNSON. On the lookout. Look here, Capn: we don't half like this
job. The gentleman has been talking to us a bit; and we think that
he IS a gentleman, and talks straight sense.
REDBROOK. Righto, Brother Johnson. (To Brassbound) Won't do,
governor. Not good enough.
BRASSBOUND (fiercely). Mutiny, eh?
REDBROOK. Not at all, governor. Don't talk Tommy rot with Brother
Sidi only five minutes gallop off. Can't hand over an Englishman
to a nigger to have his throat cut
BRASSBOUND (unexpectedly acquiescing). Very good. You know, I
suppose, that if you break my bargain with Sidi, you'll have to
defend this place and fight for your lives in five minutes. That
can't be done without discipline: you know that too. I'll take my
part with the rest under whatever leader you are willing to obey.
So choose your captain and look sharp about it. (Murmurs of
surprise and discontent.)
VOICES. No, no. Brassbound must command.
BRASSBOUND. You're wasting your five minutes. Try Johnson.
JOHNSON. No. I haven't the head for it.
BRASSBOUND. Well, Redbrook.
REDBROOK. Not this Johnny, thank you. Haven't character enough.
BRASSBOUND. Well, there's Sir Howard Hallam for You! HE has
A VOICE. He's too old.
ALL. No, no. Brassbound, Brassbound.
JOHNSON. There's nobody but you, Captain.
REDRROOK. The mutiny's over, governor. You win, hands down.
BRASSBOUND (turning on them). Now listen, you, all of you. If I am
to command here, I am going to do what I like, not what you like.
I'll give this gentleman here to Sidi or to the devil if I choose.
I'll not be intimidated or talked back to. Is that understood?
REDBROOK (diplomatically). He's offered a present of five hundred
quid if he gets safe back to Mogador, governor. Excuse my
SIR HOWARD. Myself AND Lady Cicely.
BRASSBOUND. What! A judge compound a felony! You greenhorns, he is
more likely to send you all to penal servitude if you are fools
enough to give him the chance.
VOICES. So he would. Whew! (Murmurs of conviction.)
REDBROOK. Righto, governor. That's the ace of trumps.
BRASSBOUND (to Sir Howard). Now, have you any other card to play?
Any other bribe? Any other threat? Quick. Time presses.
SIR HOWARD. My life is in the hands of Providence. Do your worst.
BRASSBOUND. Or my best. I still have that choice.
DRINKWATER (running in). Look eah, kepn. Eah's anather lot cammin
from the sahth heast. Hunnerds of em, this tawm. The owl dezzit is
lawk a bloomin Awd Pawk demonstrition. Aw blieve it's the Kidy
from Kintorfy. (General alarm. All look to Brassbound.)
BRASSBOUND (eagerly). The Cadi! How far off?
DRINKWATER. Matter o two mawl.
BRASSBOUND. We're saved. Open the gates to the Sheikh.
DRINKWATER (appalled, almost in tears). Naow, naow. Lissn, kepn
(Pointing to Sir Howard): e'll give huz fawv unnerd red uns. (To
the others) Ynt yer spowk to im, Miste Jornsn--Miste Redbrook--
BRASSBOUND (cutting him short). Now then, do you understand plain
English? Johnson and Redbrook: take what men you want and open the
gates to the Sheikh. Let him come straight to me. Look alive, will
JOHNSON. Ay ay, sir.
REDBROOK. Righto, governor.
They hurry out, with a few others. Drinkwater stares after them,
dumbfounded by their obedience.
BRASSBOUND (taking out a pistol). You wanted to sell me to my
prisoner, did you, you dog.
DRINKWATER (falling on his knees with a yell). Naow! (Brassbound
turns on him as if to kick him. He scrambles away and takes refuge
behind Sir Howard.)
BRASSBOUND. Sir Howard Hallam: you have one chance left. The Cadi
of Kintafi stands superior to the Sheikh as the responsible
governor of the whole province. It is the Cadi who will be
sacrificed by the Sultan if England demands satisfaction for any
injury to you. If we can hold the Sheikh in parley until the Cadi
arrives, you may frighten the Cadi into forcing the Sheikh to
release you. The Cadi's coming is a lucky chance for YOU.
SIR HOWARD. If it were a real chance, you would not tell me of it.
Don't try to play cat and mouse with me, man.
DRINKWATER (aside to Sir Howard, as Brassbound turns
contemptuously away to the other side of the room). It ynt mach of
a chawnst, Sr Ahrd. But if there was a ganbowt in Mogador Awbr,
awd put a bit on it, aw would.
Johnson, Redbrook, and the others return, rather mistrustfully
ushering in Sidi el Assif, attended by Osman and a troop of Arabs.
Brassbound's men keep together on the archway side, backing their
captain. Sidi's followers cross the room behind the table and
assemble near Sir Howard, who stands his ground. Drinkwater runs
across to Brassbound and stands at his elbow as he turns to face
Sidi el Aasif, clad in spotless white, is a nobly handsome Arab,
hardly thirty, with fine eyes, bronzed complexion, and
instinctively dignified carriage. He places himself between the
two groups, with Osman in attendance at his right hand.
OSMAN (pointing out Sir Howard). This is the infidel Cadi. (Sir
Howard bows to Sidi, but, being an infidel, receives only the
haughtiest stare in acknowledgement.) This (pointing to
Brassbound) is Brassbound the Franguestani captain, the servant of
DRINKWATER (not to be outdone, points out the Sheikh and Osman to
Brassbound). This eah is the Commawnder of the Fythful an is
SIDI. Where is the woman?
OSMAN. The shameless one is not here.
BRASSBOUND. Sidi el Assif, kinsman of the Prophet: you are
REDBROOK (with much aplomb). There is no majesty and no might save
in Allah, the Glorious, the Great!
DRINKWATER. Eah, eah!
OSMAN (to Sidi). The servant of the captain makes his profession
of faith as a true believer.
SIDI. It is well.
BRASSBOUND (aside to Redbrook). Where did you pick that up?
REDRROOK (aside to Brassbound). Captain Burton's Arabian Nights--
copy in the library of the National Liberal Club.
LADY CICELY (calling without). Mr. Drinkwater. Come and help me
with Marzo. (The Sheikh pricks up his ears. His nostrils and eyes
OSMAN. The shameless one!
BRASSBOUND (to Drinkwater, seizing him by the collar and slinging
him towards the door). Off with you.
Drinkwater goes out through the little door.
OSMAN. Shall we hide her face before she enters?
Lady Cicely, who has resumed her travelling equipment, and has her
hat slung across her arm, comes through the little door supporting
Marzo, who is very white, but able to get about. Drinkwater has
his other arm. Redbrook hastens to relieve Lady Cicely of Marzo,
taking him into the group behind Brassbound. Lady Cicely comes
forward between Brassbound and the Sheikh, to whom she turns
LADY CICELY (proffering her hand). Sidi el Assif, isn't it? How
dye do? (He recoils, blushing somewhat.)
OSMAN (scandalized). Woman; touch not the kinsman of the Prophet.
LADY CICELY. Oh, I see. I'm being presented at court. Very good.
(She makes a presentation curtsey.)
REDBROOK. Sidi el Assif: this is one of the mighty women Sheikhs
of Franguestan. She goes unveiled among Kings; and only princes
may touch her hand.
LADY CICELY. Allah upon thee, Sidi el Assif! Be a good little
Sheikh, and shake hands.
SIDI (timidly touching her hand). Now this is a wonderful thing,
and worthy to be chronicled with the story of Solomon and the
Queen of Sheba. Is it not so, Osman Ali?
OSMAN. Allah upon thee, master! it is so.
SIDI. Brassbound Ali: the oath of a just man fulfils itself
without many words. The infidel Cadi, thy captive, falls to my
BRASSBOUND (firmly). It cannot be, Sidi el Assif. (Sidi's brows
contract gravely.) The price of his blood will be required of our
lord the Sultan. I will take him to Morocco and deliver him up
SIDI (impressively). Brassbound: I am in mine own house and amid
mine own people. I am the Sultan here. Consider what you say; for
when my word goes forth for life or death, it may not be recalled.
BRASSBOUND. Sidi el Assif: I will buy the man from you at what
price you choose to name; and if I do not pay faithfully, you
shall take my head for his.
SIDI. It is well. You shall keep the man, and give me the woman in
SIR HOWARD AND BRASSBOUND (with the same impulse). No, no.
LADY CICELY (eagerly). Yes, yes. Certainly, Mr. Sidi. Certainly.
Sidi smiles gravely.
SIR HOWARD. Impossible.
BRASSBOUND. You don't know what you're doing.
LADY CICELY. Oh, don't I? I've not crossed Africa and stayed with
six cannibal chiefs for nothing. (To the Sheikh) It's all right,
Mr. Sidi: I shall be delighted.
SIR HOWARD. You are mad. Do you suppose this man will treat you as
a European gentleman would?
LADY CICELY. No: he'll treat me like one of Nature's gentlemen:
look at his perfectly splendid face! (Addressing Osman as if he
were her oldest and most attached retainer.) Osman: be sure you
choose me a good horse; and get a nice strong camel for my
Osman, after a moment of stupefaction, hurries out. Lady Cicely
puts on her hat and pins it to her hair, the Sheikh gazing at her
during the process with timid admiration.
DRINKWATER (chuckling). She'll mawch em all to church next Sunder
lawk a bloomin lot o' cherrity kids: you see if she doesn't.
LADY CICELY (busily). Goodbye, Howard: don't be anxious about me;
and above all, don't bring a parcel of men with guns to rescue me.
I shall be all right now that I am getting away from the escort.
Captain Brassbound: I rely on you to see that Sir Howard gets safe
to Mogador. (Whispering) Take your hand off that pistol. (He takes
his hand out of his pocket, reluctantly.) Goodbye.
A tumult without. They all turn apprehensively to the arch. Osman
OSMAN. The Cadi, the Cadi. He is in anger. His men are upon us.
The Cadi, a vigorous, fatfeatured, choleric, whitehaired and
bearded elder, rushes in, cudgel in hand, with an overwhelming
retinue, and silences Osman with a sounding thwack. In a moment
the back of the room is crowded with his followers. The Sheikh
retreats a little towards his men; and the Cadi comes impetuously
forward between him and Lady Cicely.
THE CADI. Now woe upon thee, Sidi el Assif, thou child of
SIDI (sternly). Am I a dog, Muley Othman, that thou speakest thus
THE CADI. Wilt thou destroy thy country, and give us all into the
hands of them that set the sea on fire but yesterday with their
ships of war? Where are the Franguestani captives?
LADY CICELY. Here we are, Cadi. How dye do?
THE CADI. Allah upon thee, thou moon at the full! Where is thy
kinsman, the Cadi of Franguestan? I am his friend, his servant. I
come on behalf of my master the Sultan to do him honor, and to
cast down his enemies.
SIR HOWARD. You are very good, I am sure.
SIDI (graver than ever). Muley Othman--
TAE CADI (fumbling in his breast). Peace, peace, thou
inconsiderate one. (He takes out a letter.)
THE CADI. Oh thou dog, thou, thou accursed Brassbound, son of a
wanton: it is thou hast led Sidi el Assif into this wrongdoing.
Read this writing that thou hast brought upon me from the
commander of the warship.
BRASSBOUND. Warship! (He takes the letter and opens it, his men
whispering to one another very low-spiritedly meanwhile.)
REDBROOK. Warship! Whew!
JOHNSON. Gunboat, praps.
DRINKWATER. Lawk bloomin Worterleoo buses, they are, on this
Brassbound folds up the letter, looking glum.
SIR HOWARD (sharply). Well, sir, are we not to have the benefit of
that letter? Your men are waiting to hear it, I think.
BRASSBOUND. It is not a British ship. (Sir Howard's face falls.)
LADY CICELY. What is it, then?
RASSBOUND. An American cruiser. The Santiago.
THE CADI (tearing his beard). Woe! alas! it is where they set the
sea on fire.
SIDI. Peace, Muley Othman: Allah is still above us.
JOHNSON. Would you mind readin it to us, capn?
BRASSBOUND (grimly). Oh, I'll read it to you. "Mogador Harbor. 26
Sept. 1899. Captain Hamlin Kearney, of the cruiser Santiago,
presents the compliments of the United States to the Cadi Muley
Othman el Kintafi, and announces that he is coming to look for the
two British travellers Sir Howard Hallam and Lady Cicely
Waynflete, in the Cadi's jurisdiction. As the search will be
conducted with machine guns, the prompt return of the travellers
to Mogador Harbor will save much trouble to all parties."
THE CADI. As I live, O Cadi, and thou, moon of loveliness, ye
shall be led back to Mogador with honor. And thou, accursed
Brassbound, shall go thither a prisoner in chains, thou and thy
people. (Brassbound and his men make a movement to defend
themselves.) Seize them.
LADY CICELY. Oh, please don't fight. (Brassbound, seeing that his
men are hopelessly outnumbered, makes no resistance. They are made
prisoners by the Cadi's followers.)
SIDI (attempting to draw his scimitar). The woman is mine: I will
not forego her. (He is seized and overpowered after a Homeric
SIR HOWARD (drily). I told you you were not in a strong position,
Captain Brassbound. (Looking implacably at him.) You are laid by
the heels, my friend, as I said you would be.
LADY CICELY. But I assure you--
BRASSBOUND (interrupting her). What have you to assure him of? You
persuaded me to spare him. Look at his face. Will you be able to
persuade him to spare me?
Torrid forenoon filtered through small Moorish windows high up in
the adobe walls of the largest room in Leslie Rankin's house. A
clean cool room, with the table (a Christian article) set in the
middle, a presidentially elbowed chair behind it, and an inkstand
and paper ready for the sitter. A couple of cheap American chairs
right and left of the table, facing the same way as the
presidential chair, give a judicial aspect to the arrangement.
Rankin is placing a little tray with a jug and some glasses near
the inkstand when Lady Cicely's voice is heard at the door, which
is behind him in the corner to his right.
LADE CICELY. Good morning. May I come in?
RANKIN. Certainly. (She comes in, to the nearest end of the table.
She has discarded all travelling equipment, and is dressed exactly
as she might be in Surrey on a very hot day.) Sit ye doon, Leddy
LADY CICELY (sitting down). How nice you've made the room for the
RANKIN (doubtfully). I could wish there were more chairs. Yon
American captain will preside in this; and that leaves but one for
Sir Howrrd and one for your leddyship. I could almost be tempted
to call it a maircy that your friend that owns the yacht has
sprained his ankle and cannot come. I misdoubt me it will not look
judeecial to have Captain Kearney's officers squatting on the
LADY CICELY. Oh, they won't mind. What about the prisoners?
RANKIN. They are to be broat here from the town gaol presently.
LADY CICELY. And where is that silly old Cadi, and my handsome
Sheikh Sidi? I must see them before the inquiry,or they'll give
Captain Kearney quite a false impression of what happened.
RANKIN. But ye cannot see them. They decamped last night, back to
their castles in the Atlas.
LADY CICELY (delighted). No!
RANKIN. Indeed and they did. The poor Cadi is so terrified by all
he has haird of the destruction of the Spanish fleet, that he
daren't trust himself in the captain's hands. (Looking
reproachfully at her) On your journey back here, ye seem to have
frightened the poor man yourself, Leddy Ceecily, by talking to him
about the fanatical Chreestianity of the Americans. Ye have
largely yourself to thank if he's gone.
LADY CICELY. Allah be praised! WHAT a weight off our minds, Mr.
RANKIN (puzzled). And why? Do ye not understand how necessary
their evidence is?
LADY CICELY. THEIR evidence! It would spoil everything. They would
perjure themselves out of pure spite against poor Captain
RANKIN (amazed). Do ye call him POOR Captain Brassbound! Does not
your leddyship know that this Brasshound is--Heaven forgive me for
judging him!--a precious scoundrel? Did ye not hear what Sir
Howrrd told me on the yacht last night?
LADY CICELY. All a mistake, Mr. Rankin: all a mistake, I assure
you. You said just now, Heaven forgive you for judging him! Well,
that's just what the whole quarrel is about. Captain Brassbound is
just like you: he thinks we have no right to judge one another;
and its Sir Howard gets œ5,000 a year for doing nothing else but
judging people, he thinks poor Captain Brassbound a regular
Anarchist. They quarreled dreadfully at the castle. You mustn't
mind what Sir Howard says about him: you really mustn't.
RANKIN. But his conduct--
LADY CICELY. Perfectly saintly, Mr. Rankin. Worthy of yourself in
your best moments. He forgave Sir Howard, and did all he could to
RANKIN. Ye astoanish me, Leddy Ceecily.
LADY CICELY. And think of the temptation to behave badly when he
had us all there helpless!
RANKIN. The temptation! ay: that's true. Ye're ower bonny to be
cast away among a parcel o lone, lawless men, my leddy.
LADY CICELY (naively). Bless me, that's quite true; and I never
thought of it! Oh, after that you really must do all you can to
help Captain Brassbound.
RANKIN (reservedly). No: I cannot say that, Leddy Ceecily. I doubt
he has imposed on your good nature and sweet disposeetion. I had a
crack with the Cadi as well as with Sir Howrrd;and there is little
question in my mind but that Captain Brassbound is no better than
LADY CICELY (apparently deeply impressed). I wonder whether he can
be, Mr. Rankin. If you think so, that's heavily against him in my
opinion, because you have more knowledge of men than anyone else
here. Perhaps I'm mistaken. I only thought you might like to help
him as the son of your old friend.
RANKIN (startled). The son of my old friend! What d'ye mean?
LADY CICELY. Oh! Didn't Sir Howard tell you that? Why, Captain
Brassbound turns out to be Sir Howard's nephew, the son of the
brother you knew.
RANKIN (overwhelmed). I saw the likeness the night he came here!
It's true: it's true. Uncle and nephew!
LADY CICELY. Yes: that's why they quarrelled so.
RANKIN (with a momentary sense of ill usage). I think Sir Howrrd
might have told me that.
LADY CICELY. Of course he OUGHT to have told you. You see he only
tells one side of the story. That comes from his training as a
barrister. You mustn't think he's naturally deceitful: if he'd
been brought up as a clergyman, he'd have told you the whole truth
as a matter of course.
RANKIN (too much perturbed to dwell on his grievance). Leddy
Ceecily: I must go to the prison and see the lad. He may have been
a bit wild; but I can't leave poor Miles's son unbefriended in a
LADY CICELY (rising, radiant). Oh, how good of you! You have a
real kind heart of gold, Mr. Rankin. Now, before you go, shall we
just put our heads together, and consider how to give Miles's son
every chance--I mean of course every chance that he ought to have.
RANKIN (rather addled). I am so confused by this astoanishing
LADY CICELY. Yes, yes: of course you are. But don't you think he
would make a better impression on the American captain if he were
a little more respectably dressed?
RANKIN. Mebbe. But how can that be remedied here in Mogador?
LADY CICELY. Oh, I've thought of that. You know I'm going back to
England by way of Rome, Mr. Rankin; and I'm bringing a portmanteau
full of clothes for my brother there: he's ambassador, you know,
and has to be VERY particular as to what he wears. I had the
portmanteau brought here this morning. Now WOULD you mind taking
it to the prison, and smartening up Captain Brassbound a little.
Tell him he ought to do it to show his respect for me; and he
will. It will be quite easy: there are two Krooboys waiting to
carry the portmanteau. You will: I know you will. (She edges him
to the door.) And do you think there is time to get him shaved?
RANKIN (succumbing, half bewildered). I'll do my best.
LADY CICELY. I know you will. (As he is going out) Oh! one word,
Mr. Rankin. (He comes back.) The Cadi didn't know that Captain
Brassbound was Sir Howard's nephew, did he?
LADY CICELY. Then he must have misunderstood everything quite
dreadfully. I'm afraid, Mr. Rankin--though you know best, of
course--that we are bound not to repeat anything at the inquiry
that the Cadi said. He didn't know, you see.
RANKIN (cannily). I take your point, Leddy Ceecily. It alters the
case. I shall certainly make no allusion to it.
LADY CICELY (magnanimously). Well, then, I won't either. There!
They shake hands on it. Sir Howard comes in.
SIR HOWARD. Good morning Mr. Rankin. I hope you got home safely
from the yacht last night.
RANKIN. Quite safe, thank ye, Sir Howrrd.
LADY CICELY. Howard, he's in a hurry. Don't make him stop to talk.
SIR HOWARD. Very good, very good. (He comes to the table and takes
Lady Cicely's chair.)
RANKIN. Oo revoir, Leddy Ceecily.
LADY CICELY. Bless you, Mr. Rankin. (Rankin goes out. She comes to
the other end of the table, looking at Sir Howard with a troubled,
sorrowfully sympathetic air, but unconsciously making her right
hand stalk about the table on the tips of its fingers in a
tentative stealthy way which would put Sir Howard on his guard if
he were in a suspicious frame of mind, which, as it happens, he is
not.) I'm so sorry for you, Howard, about this unfortunate
SIR HOWARD (swinging round on his chair, astonished). Sorry for
LADY CICELY. It will look so dreadful. Your own nephew, you know.
SIR HOWARD. Cicely: an English judge has no nephews, no sons even,
when he has to carry out the law.
LADY CICELY. But then he oughtn't to have any property either.
People will never understand about the West Indian Estate. They'll
think you're the wicked uncle out of the Babes in the Wood. (With
a fresh gush of compassion) I'm so SO sorry for you.
SIR HOWARD (rather stiffly). I really do not see how I need your
commiseration, Cicely. The woman was an impossible person, half
mad, half drunk. Do you understand what such a creature is when
she has a grievance, and imagines some innocent person to be the
author of it?
LADY CICELY (with a touch of impatience). Oh, quite. THAT'll be
made clear enough. I can see it all in the papers already: our
half mad, half drunk sister-in-law, making scenes with you in the
street, with the police called in, and prison and all the rest of
it. The family will be furious. (Sir Howard quails. She instantly
follows up her advantage with) Think of papa!
SIR HOWARD. I shall expect Lord Waynflete to look at the matter as
a reasonable man.
LADY CICELY. Do you think he's so greatly changed as that, Howard?
SIR HOWARD (falling back on the fatalism of the depersonalized
public man). My dear Cicely: there is no use discussing the
matter. It cannot be helped, however disagreeable it may be.
LADY CICELY. Of course not. That's what's so dreadful. Do you
think people will understand?
SIR HOWARD. I really cannot say. Whether they do or not, I cannot
LADY CICELY. If you were anybody but a judge, it wouldn't matter
so much. But a judge mustn't even be misunderstood. (Despairingly)
Oh, it's dreadful, Howard: it's terrible! What would poor Mary say
if she were alive now?
SIR HOWARD (with emotion). I don't think, Cicely, that my dear
wife would misunderstand me.
LADY CICELY. No: SHE'D know you mean well. And when you came home
and said, "Mary: I've just told all the world that your
sister-in-law was a police court criminal, and that I sent her to
prison; and your nephew is a brigand, and I'm sending HIM to
prison" she'd have thought it must be all right because you did
it. But you don't think she would have LIKED it, any more than
papa and the rest of us, do you?
SIR HOWARD (appalled). But what am I to do? Do you ask me to
compound a felony?
LADY CICELY (sternly). Certainly not. I would not allow such a
thing, even if you were wicked enough to attempt it. No. What I
say is, that you ought not to tell the story yourself
SIR HOWARD. Why?
LADY CICELY. Because everybody would say you are such a clever
lawyer you could make a poor simple sailor like Captain Kearney
believe anything. The proper thing for you to do, Howard, is to
let ME tell the exact truth. Then you can simply say that you are
bound to confirm me. Nobody can blame you for that.
SIR HOWARD (looking suspiciously at her). Cicely: you are up to
LADY CICELY (promptly washing her hands of his interests). Oh,
very well. Tell the story yourself, in your own clever way. I only
proposed to tell the exact truth. You call that devilment. So it
is, I daresay, from a lawyer's point of view.
SIR HOWARD. I hope you're not offended.
LADY CICELY (with the utmost goodhumor). My dear Howard, not a
bit. Of course you're right: you know how these things ought to be
done. I'll do exactly what you tell me, and confirm everything you
SIR HOWARD (alarmed by the completeness of his victory). Oh, my
dear, you mustn't act in MY interest. You must give your evidence
with absolute impartiality. (She nods, as if thoroughly impressed
and reproved, and gazes at him with the steadfast candor peculiar
to liars who read novels. His eyes turn to the ground; and his
brow clouds perplexedly. He rises; rubs his chin nervously with
his forefinger; and adds) I think, perhaps, on reflection, that
there is something to be said for your proposal to relieve me of
the very painful duty of telling what has occurred.
LADI CICELY (holding off). But you'd do it so very much better.
SIR HOWARD. For that very reason, perhaps, it had better come from
LADY CICELY (reluctantly). Well, if you'd rather.
SIR HOWARD. But mind, Cicely, the exact truth.
LADY CICELY (with conviction). The exact truth. (They shake hands
SIR HOWARD (holding her hand). Fiat justitia: ruat coelum!
LADY CICELY. Let Justice be done, though the ceiling fall.
An American bluejacket appears at the door.
BLUEJACKET. Captain Kearney's cawmpliments to Lady Waynflete; and
may he come in?
LADY CICELY. Yes. By all means. Where are the prisoners?
BLUEJACKET. Party gawn to the jail to fetch em, marm.
LADY CICELY. Thank you. I should like to be told when they are
coming, if I might.
BLUEJACKET. You shall so, marm. (He stands aside, saluting, to
admit his captain, and goes out.)
Captain Hamlin Kearney is a robustly built western American, with
the keen, squeezed, wind beaten eyes and obstinately enduring
mouth of his profession. A curious ethnological specimen, with all
the nations of the old world at war in his veins, he is developing
artificially in the direction of sleekness and culture under the
restraints of an overwhelming dread of European criticism, and
climatically in the direction of the indiginous North American,
who is already in possession of his hair, his cheekbones, and the
manlier instincts in him, which the sea has rescued from
civilization. The world, pondering on the great part of its own
future which is in his hands, contemplates him with wonder as to
what the devil he will evolve into in another century or two.
Meanwhile he presents himself to Lady Cicely as a blunt sailor who
has something to say to her concerning her conduct which he wishes
to put politely, as becomes an officer addressing a lady, but also
with an emphatically implied rebuke, as an American addressing an
English person who has taken a liberty.
LADY CICELY (as he enters). So glad you've come, Captain Kearney.
KEARNEY (coming between Sir Howard and Lady Cicely). When we
parted yesterday ahfternoon, Lady Waynflete, I was unaware that in
the course of your visit to my ship you had entirely altered the
sleeping arrangements of my stokers. I thahnk you. As captain of
the ship, I am customairily cawnsulted before the orders of
English visitors are carried out; but as your alterations appear
to cawndooce to the comfort of the men, I have not interfered with
LADY CICELY. How clever of you to find out! I believe you know
every bolt in that ship.
Kearney softens perceptibly.
SIR HOWARD. I am really very sorry that my sister-in-law has taken
so serious a liberty, Captain Kearney. It is a mania of hers--
simply a mania. Why did your men pay any attention to her?
KEARNEY (with gravely dissembled humor). Well, I ahsked that
question too. I said, Why did you obey that lady's orders instead
of waiting for mine? They said they didn't see exactly how they
could refuse. I ahsked whether they cawnsidered that discipline.
They said, Well, sir, will you talk to the lady yourself next
LADY CICELY. I'm so sorry. But you know, Captain, the one thing
that one misses on board a man-of-war is a woman.
KEARNEY. We often feel that deprivation verry keenly, Lady
LADY CICELY. My uncle is first Lord of the Admiralty; and I am
always telling him what a scandal it is that an English captain
should be forbidden to take his wife on board to look after the
KEARNEY. Stranger still, Lady Waynflete, he is not forbidden to
take any other lady. Yours is an extraordinairy country--to an
LADY CICELY. But it's most serious, Captain. The poor men go
melancholy mad, and ram each other's ships and do all sorts of
SIR HOWARD. Cicely: I beg you will not talk nonsense to Captain
Kearney. Your ideas on some subjects are really hardly decorous.
LADY CICELY (to Kearney). That's what English people are like,
Captain Kearney. They won't hear of anything concerning you poor
sailors except Nelson and Trafalgar. YOU understand me, don't you?
KEARNEY (gallantly). I cawnsider that you have more sense in your
wedding ring finger than the British Ahdmiralty has in its whole
cawnstitootion, Lady Waynflete.
LADY CICELY. Of course I have. Sailors always understand things.
The bluejacket reappears.
BLUEJACKET (to Lady Cicely). Prisoners coming up the hill, marm.
KEARNEY (turning sharply on him). Who sent you in to say that?
BLUEJACKET (calmly). British lady's orders, sir. (Hs goes out,
unruffled, leaving Kearney dumbfounded.)
SIR HOWARD (contemplating Kearney's expression with dismay). I am
really very sorry, Captain Kearney. I am quite aware that Lady
Cicely has no right whatever to give orders to your men.
LADY CICELY. I didn't give orders: I just asked him. He has such a
nice face! Don't you think so, Captain Kearney? (He gasps,
speechless.) And now will you excuse me a moment. I want to speak
to somebody before the inquiry begins. (She hurries out.)
KEARNEY. There is sertnly a wonderful chahrn about the British
aristocracy, Sir Howard Hallam. Are they all like that? (He takes
the presidential chair.)
SIR HOWARD (resuming his seat on Kearney's right). Fortunately
not, Captain Kearney. Half a dozen such women would make an end of
law in England in six months.
The bluejacket comes to the door again.
BLUEJACKET. All ready, sir.
KEARNEY. Verry good. I'm waiting.
The bluejacket turns and intimates this to those without.
The officers of the Santiago enter.
SIR HOWARD (rising and bobbing to them in a judicial manner). Good
They acknowledge the greeting rather shyly, bowing or touching
their caps, and stand in a group behind Kearney.
KEARNEY (to Sir Howard). You will be glahd to hear that I have a
verry good account of one of our prisoners from our chahplain, who
visited them in the gaol. He has expressed a wish to be cawnverted
SIR HOWARD (drily). Yes, I think I know him.
KEARNEY. Bring in the prisoners.
BLUEJACKET (at the door). They are engaged with the British lady,
sir. Shall I ask her--
KEARNEY (jumping up and exploding in storm piercing tones). Bring
in the prisoners. Tell the lady those are my orders. Do you hear?
Tell her so. (The bluejacket goes out dubiously. The officers look
at one another in mute comment on the unaccountable pepperiness of
SIR HOWARD (suavely). Mr. Rankin will be present, I presume.
KEARNEY (angrily). Rahnkin! Who is Rahnkin?
SIR HOWARD. Our host the missionary.
KEARNEY (subsiding unwillingly). Oh! Rahnkin, is he? He'd better
look sharp or he'll be late. (Again exploding.) What are they
doing with those prisoners?
Rankin hurries in, and takes his place near Sir Howard.
SIR HOWARD. This is Mr. Rankin, Captain Kearney.
RANKIN. Excuse my delay, Captain Kearney. The leddy sent me on an
errand. (Kearney grunts.) I thought I should be late. But the
first thing I heard when I arrived was your officer giving your
compliments to Leddy Ceecily, and would she kindly allow the
prisoners to come in, as you were anxious to see her again. Then I
knew I was in time.
KEARNEY. Oh, that was it, was it? May I ask, sir, did you notice
any sign on Lady Waynflete's part of cawmplying with that verry
LADY CICELY (outside). Coming, coming.
The prisoners are brought in by a guard of armed bluejackets.
Drinkwater first, again elaborately clean, and conveying by a
virtuous and steadfast smirk a cheerful confidence in his
innocence. Johnson solid and inexpressive, Redbrook unconcerned
and debonair, Marzo uneasy. These four form a little group
together on the captain's left. The rest wait unintelligently on
Providence in a row against the wall on the same side, shepherded
by the bluejackets. The first bluejacket, a petty officer, posts
himself on the captain's right, behind Rankin and Sir Howard.
Finally Brassbound appears with Lady Cicely on his arm. He is in
fashionable frock coat and trousers, spotless collar and cuffs,
and elegant boots. He carries a glossy tall hat in his hand. To an
unsophisticated eye, the change is monstrous and appalling; and
its effect on himself is so unmanning that he is quite out of
countenance--a shaven Samson. Lady Cicely, however, is greatly
pleased with it; and the rest regard it as an unquestionable
improvement. The officers fall back gallantly to allow her to
pass. Kearney rises to receive her, and stares with some surprise
at Brassbound as he stops at the table on his left. Sir Howard
rises punctiliously when Kearney rises and sits when he sits.
KEARNEY. Is this another gentleman of your party, Lady Waynflete?
I presume I met you lahst night, sir, on board the yacht.
BRASSBOUND. No. I am your prisoner. My name is Brassbound.
DRINKWATER (officiously). Kepn Brarsbahnd, of the schooner
REDBROOK (hastily). Shut up, you fool. (He elbows Drinkwater into
KEARNEY (surprised and rather suspicious). Well, I hardly
understahnd this. However, if you are Captain Brassbound, you can
take your place with the rest. (Brassbound joins Redbrook and
Johnson. Kearney sits down again, after inviting Lady Cicely, with
a solemn gesture, to take the vacant chair.) Now let me see. You
are a man of experience in these matters, Sir Howard Hallam. If
you had to conduct this business, how would you start?
LADY CICELY. He'd call on the counsel for the prosecution,
wouldn't you, Howard?
SIR HOWARD. But there is no counsel for the prosecution, Cicely.
LADY CICELY. Oh yes there is. I'm counsel for the prosecution. You
mustn't let Sir Howard make a speech, Captain Kearney: his doctors
have positively forbidden anything of that sort. Will you begin
KEARNEY. By your leave, Lady Waynfiete, I think I will just begin
with myself. Sailor fashion will do as well here as lawyer
LADY CICELY. Ever so much better, dear Captain Kearney. (Silence.
Kearney composes himself to speak. She breaks out again). You look
so nice as a judge!
A general smile. Drinkwater splutters into a half suppressed
REDBROOK (in a fierce whisper). Shut up, you fool, will you?
(Again he pushes him back with a furtive kick.)
SIR HOWARD (remonstrating). Cicely!
KEARNEY (grimly keeping his countenance). Your ladyship's
cawmpliments will be in order at a later stage. Captain
Brassbound: the position is this. My ship, the United States
cruiser Santiago, was spoken off Mogador latest Thursday by the
yacht Redgauntlet. The owner of the aforesaid yacht, who is not
present through having sprained his ankle, gave me sertn
information. In cawnsequence of that information the Santiago made
the twenty knots to Mogador Harbor inside of fifty-seven minutes.
Before noon next day a messenger of mine gave the Cadi of the
district sertn information. In cawnsequence of that information
the Cadi stimulated himself to some ten knots an hour, and lodged
you and your men in Mogador jail at my disposal. The Cadi then
went back to his mountain fahstnesses; so we shall not have the
pleasure of his company here to-day. Do you follow me so far?
BRASSBOUND. Yes. I know what you did and what the Cadi did. The
point is, why did you do it?
KEARNEY. With doo patience we shall come to that presently. Mr.
Rahnkin: will you kindly take up the parable?
RANKIN. On the very day that Sir Howrrd and Lady Cicely started on
their excursion I was applied to for medicine by a follower of the
Sheikh Sidi el Assif. He told me I should never see Sir Howrrd
again, because his master knew he was a Christian and would take
him out of the hands of Captain Brassbound. I hurried on board the
yacht and told the owner to scour the coast for a gunboat or
cruiser to come into the harbor and put persuasion on the
authorities. (Sir Howard turns and looks at Rankin with a sudden
doubt of his integrity as a witness.)
KEARNEY. But I understood from our chahplain that you reported
Captain Brassbound as in league with the Sheikh to deliver Sir
Howard up to him.
RANKIN. That was my first hasty conclusion, Captain Kearney. But
it appears that the compact between them was that Captain
Brassbound should escort travellers under the Sheikh's protection
at a certain payment per head, provided none of them were
Christians. As I understand it, he tried to smuggle Sir Howrrd
through under this compact, and the Sheikh found him out.
DRINKWATER. Rawt, gavner. Thet's jest ah it wors. The Kepn--
REDBROOK (again suppressing him). Shut up, you fool, I tell you.
SIR HOWARD (to Rankin). May I ask have you had any conversation
with Lady Cicely on this subject?
RANKIN (naively). Yes. (Sir Howard qrunts emphatically, as who
should say "I thought so." Rankin continues. addressing the court)
May I say how sorry I am that there are so few chairs, Captain and
KEARNEY (with genial American courtesy). Oh, THAT's all right, Mr.
Rahnkin. Well, I see no harm so far: it's human fawlly, but not
human crime. Now the counsel for the prosecution can proceed to
prosecute. The floor is yours, Lady Waynflete.
LADY CICELY (rising). I can only tell you the exact truth--
DRINKWATER (involuntarily). Naow, down't do thet, lidy--
REDBROOK (as before). SHUT up, you fool, will you?
LADY CICELY. We had a most delightful trip in the hills; and
Captain Brassbound's men could not have been nicer--I must say
that for them--until we saw a tribe of Arabs--such nice looking
men!--and then the poor things were frightened.
KEARNEY. The Arabs?
LADY CICELY. No: Arabs are never frightened. The escort, of
course: escorts are always frightened. I wanted to speak to the
Arab chief; but Captain Brassbound cruelly shot his horse; and the
chief shot the Count; and then--
KEARNEY. The Count! What Count?
LADY CICELY. Marzo. That's Marzo (pointing to Marzo, who grins and
touches his forehead).
KEARNEY (slightly overwhelmed by the unexpected profusion of
incident and character in her story). Well, what happened then?
LADY CICELY. Then the escort ran away--all escorts do--and dragged
me into the castle, which you really ought to make them clean and
whitewash thoroughly, Captain Kearney. Then Captain Brassbound and
Sir Howard turned out to be related to one another (sensation);
and then of course, there was a quarrel. The Hallams always
SIR HOWARD (rising to protest). Cicely! Captain Kearney: this man
LADY CICELY (swiftly interrupting him). You mustn't say what
people told you: it's not evidence. (Sir Howard chokes with
KEARNEY (calmly). Allow the lady to proceed, Sir Howard Hallam.
SIR HOWARD (recovering his self-control with a gulp, and resuming
his seat). I beg your pardon, Captain Kearney.
LADY CICELY. Then Sidi came.
KEARNEY. Sidney! Who was Sidney?
LADY CICELY. No, Sidi. The Sheikh. Sidi el Assif. A noble
creature, with such a fine face! He fell in love with me at first
SIR HOWARD (remonstrating). Cicely!
LADY CICELY. He did: you know he did. You told me to tell the
KEARNEY. I can readily believe it, madam. Proceed.
LADY CICELY. Well, that put the poor fellow into a most cruel
dilemma. You see, he could claim to carry off Sir Howard, because
Sir Howard is a Christian. But as I am only a woman, he had no
claim to me.
KEARNEY (somewhat sternly, suspecting Lady Cicely of aristocratic
atheism). But you are a Christian woman.
LADY CICELY. No: the Arabs don't count women. They don't believe
we have any souls.
RANKIN. That is true, Captain: the poor benighted creatures!
LADY CICELY. Well, what was he to do? He wasn't in love with Sir
Howard; and he WAS in love with me. So he naturally offered to
swop Sir Howard for me. Don't you think that was nice of him,
KEARNEY. I should have done the same myself, Lady Waynflete.
LADY CICELY. Captain Brassbound, I must say, was nobleness itself,
in spite of the quarrel between himself and Sir Howard. He refused
to give up either of us, and was on the point of fighting for us
when in came the Cadi with your most amusing and delightful
letter, captain, and bundled us all back to Mogador after calling
my poor Sidi the most dreadful names, and putting all the blame on
Captain Brassbound. So here we are. Now, Howard, isn't that the
exact truth, every word of it?
SIR HOWARD. It is the truth, Cicely, and nothing but the truth.
But the English law requires a witness to tell the WHOLE truth.
LADY CICELY. What nonsense! As if anybody ever knew the whole
truth about anything! (Sitting down, much hurt and discouraged.)
I'm sorry you wish Captain Kearney to understand that I am an
SIR HOWARD. No: but--
LADY CICELY. Very well, then: please don't say things that convey
KEARNEY. But Sir Howard told me yesterday that Captain Brassbound
threatened to sell him into slavery.
LADY CICELY (springing up again). Did Sir Howard tell you the
things he said about Captain Brassbound's mother? (Renewed
sensation.) I told you they quarrelled, Captain Kearney. I said
so, didn't I?
REDBROOK (crisply). Distinctly. (Drinkwater opens his mouth to
corroborate.) Shut up, you fool.
LADY CICELY. Of course I did. Now, Captain Kearney, do YOU want
me--does Sir Howard want me--does ANYBODY want me to go into the
details of that shocking family quarrel? Am I to stand here in the
absence of any individual of my own sex and repeat the language of
two angry men?
KEARNEY (rising impressively). The United States navy will have no
hahnd in offering any violence to the pure instincts of womanhood.
Lady Waynflete: I thahnk you for the delicacy with which you have
given your evidence. (Lady Cicely beams on him gratefully and sits
down triumphant.) Captain Brassbound: I shall not hold you
respawnsible for what you may have said when the English bench
addressed you in the language of the English forecastle-- (Sir
Howard is about to protest.) No, Sir Howard Hallam: excuse ME.
In moments of pahssion I have called a man that myself. We are
glahd to find real flesh and blood beneath the ermine of the
judge. We will all now drop a subject that should never have been
broached in a lady's presence. (He resumes his seat, and adds, in
a businesslike tone) Is there anything further before we release
BLUEJACKET. There are some dawcuments handed over by the Cadi,
sir. He reckoned they were sort of magic spells. The chahplain
ordered them to be reported to you and burnt, with your leave,
KEARNEY. What are they?
BLUEJACKET (reading from a list). Four books, torn and dirty, made
up of separate numbers, value each wawn penny, and entitled Sweeny
Todd, the Demon Barber of London; The Skeleton Horseman--
DRINKWATER (rushing forward in painful alarm. and anxiety). It's
maw lawbrary, gavner. Down't burn em.
KEARNEY. You'll be better without that sort of reading, my man.
DRINKWATER (in intense distress, appealing to Lady Cicely) Down't
let em burn em, Lidy. They dasn't if you horder them not to. (With
desperate eloquence) Yer dunno wot them books is to me. They took
me aht of the sawdid reeyellities of the Worterleoo Rowd. They
formed maw mawnd: they shaowed me sathink awgher than the squalor
of a corster's lawf--
REDBROOK (collaring him). Oh shut up, you fool. Get out. Hold your
DRINKWATER (frantically breaking from him). Lidy, lidy: sy a word
for me. Ev a feelin awt. (His tears choke him: he clasps his hands
in dumb entreaty.)
LADY CICELY (touched). Don't burn his books. Captain. Let me give
them back to him.
KEARNEY. The books will be handed over to the lady.
DRINKWATER (in a small voice). Thenkyer, Lidy. (He retires among
his comrades, snivelling subduedly.)
REDBROOK (aside to him as he passes). You silly ass, you.
(Drinkwater sniffs and does not reply.)
KEARNEY. I suppose you and your men accept this lady's account of
what passed, Captain Brassbound.
BRASSBOUND (gloomily). Yes. It is true--as far as it goes.
KEARNEY (impatiently). Do you wawnt it to go any further?
MARZO. She leave out something. Arab shoot me. She nurse me. She
KEARNEY. And who are you, pray?
MARZO (seized with a sanctimonious desire to demonstrate his
higher nature). Only dam thief. Dam liar. Dam rascal. She no lady.
JOHNSON (revolted by the seeming insult to the English peerage
from a low Italian). What? What's that you say?
MARZO. No lady nurse dam rascal. Only saint. She saint. She get me
to heaven--get us all to heaven. We do what we like now.
LADY CICELY. Indeed you will do nothing of the sort Marzo, unless
you like to behave yourself very nicely indeed. What hour did you
say we were to lunch at, Captain Kearney?
KEARNEY. You recall me to my dooty, Lady Waynflete. My barge will
be ready to take off you and Sir Howard to the Santiago at one
o'clawk. (He rises.) Captain Brassbound: this innquery has
elicited no reason why I should detain you or your men. I advise
you to ahct as escort in future to heathens exclusively. Mr.
Rahnkin: I thahnk you in the name of the United States for the
hospitahlity you have extended to us today; and I invite you to
accompany me bahck to my ship with a view to lunch at half-past
one. Gentlemen: we will wait on the governor of the gaol on our
way to the harbor (He goes out, following his officers, and
followed by the bluejackets and the petty officer.)
SIR HOWARD (to Lady Cicely). Cicely: in the course of my
professional career I have met with unscrupulous witnesses, and, I
am sorry to say, unscrupulous counsel also. But the combination of
unscrupulous witness and unscrupulous counsel I have met to-day
has taken away my breath You have made me your accomplice in
LADY CICELY. Yes: aren't you glad it's been defeated for once?
(She takes his arm to go out with him.) Captain Brassbound: I will
come back to say goodbye before I go. (He nods gloomily. She goes
out with Sir Howard, following the Captain and his staff.)
RANKIN (running to Brassbound and taking both his hands). I'm
right glad ye're cleared. I'll come back and have a crack with ye
when yon lunch is over. God bless ye. (Hs goes out quickly.)
Brassbound and his men, left by themselves in the room, free and
unobserved, go straight out of their senses. They laugh; they
dance; they embrace one another; they set to partners and waltz
clumsily; they shake hands repeatedly and maudlinly. Three only
retain some sort of self-possession. Marzo, proud of having
successfully thrust himself into a leading part in the recent
proceedings and made a dramatic speech, inflates his chest, curls
his scanty moustache, and throws himself into a swaggering pose,
chin up and right foot forward, despising the emotional English
barbarians around him. Brassbound's eyes and the working of his
mouth show that he is infected with the general excitement; but he
bridles himself savagely. Redbrook, trained to affect
indifference, grins cynically; winks at Brassbound; and finally
relieves himself by assuming the character of a circus ringmaster,
flourishing an imaginary whip and egging on the rest to wilder
exertions. A climax is reached when Drinkwater, let loose without
a stain on his character for the second time, is rapt by belief in
his star into an ecstasy in which, scorning all partnership, he
becomes as it were a whirling dervish, and executes so miraculous
a clog dance that the others gradually cease their slower antics
to stare at him.
BRASSBOUND (tearing off his hat and striding forward as Drinkwater
collapses, exhausted, and is picked up by Redbrook). Now to get
rid of this respectable clobber and feel like a man again. Stand
by, all hands, to jump on the captain's tall hat. (He puts the hat
down and prepares to jump on it. The effect is startling, and
takes him completely aback. His followers, far from appreciating
his iconoclasm, are shocked into scandalized sobriety, except
Redbrook, who is immensely tickled by their prudery.)
DRINKWATER. Naow, look eah, kepn: that ynt rawt. Dror a lawn
JOHNSON. I say nothin agen a bit of fun, Capn;, but let's be
REDBROOK. I suggest to you, Brassbound, that the clobber belongs
to Lady Sis. Ain't you going to give it back to her?
BRASSBOUND (picking up the hat and brushing the dust off it
anxiously). That's true. I'm a fool. All the same, she shall not
see me again like this. (He pulls off the coat and waistcoat
together.) Does any man here know how to fold up this sort of
REDBROOK. Allow me, governor. (He takes the coat and waistcoat to
the table, and folds them up.)
BRASSBOUND (loosening his collar and the front of his shirt).
Brandyfaced Jack: you're looking at these studs. I know what's in
DRINKWATER (indignantly). Naow yer down't: nort a bit on it. Wot's
in maw mawnd is secrifawce, seolf-secrifawce.
BRASSBOUND. If one brass pin of that lady's property is missing,
I'll hang you with my own hands at the gaff of the Thanksgiving--
and would, if she were lying under the guns of all the fleets in
Europe. (He pulls off the shirt and stands in his blue jersey,
with his hair ruffled. He passes his hand through it and exclaims)
Now I am half a man, at any rate.
REDBROOK. A horrible combination, governor: churchwarden from the
waist down, and the rest pirate. Lady Sis won't speak to you in
BRASSBOUND. I'll change altogether. (He leaves the room to get his
REDBROOK (softly). Look here, Johnson, and gents generally. (They
gather about him.) Spose she takes him back to England!
MARZO (trying to repeat his success). Im! Im only dam pirate. She
saint, I tell you--no take any man nowhere.
JOHNSON (severely). Don't you be a ignorant and immoral foreigner.
(The rebuke is well received; and Marzo is hustled into the
background and extinguished.) She won't take him for harm; but she
might take him for good. And then where should we be?
DRINKWATER. Brarsbahnd ynt the ownly kepn in the world. Wot mikes
a kepn is brines an knollidge o lawf. It ynt thet ther's naow
sitch pusson: it's thet you dunno where to look fr im. (The
implication that he is such a person is so intolerable that they
receive it with a prolonged burst of booing.)
BRASSBOUND (returning in his own clothes, getting into his jacket
as he comes). Stand by, all. (They start asunder guiltily, and
wait for orders.) Redbrook: you pack that clobber in the lady's
portmanteau, and put it aboard the yacht for her. Johnson: you
take all hands aboard the Thanksgiving; look through the stores:
weigh anchor; and make all ready for sea. Then send Jack to wait
for me at the slip with a boat; and give me a gunfire for n
signal. Lose no time.
JOHNSON. Ay, ay, air. All aboard, mates.
ALL. Ay, ay. (They rush out tumultuously.)
When they are gone, Brassbound sits down at the end of the table,
with his elbows on it and his head on his fists, gloomily
thinking. Then he takes from the breast pocket of his jacket a
leather case, from which he extracts a scrappy packet of dirty
letters and newspaper cuttings. These he throws on the table. Next
comes a photograph in a cheap frame. He throws it down untenderly
beside the papers; then folds his arms, and is looking at it with
grim distaste when Lady Cicely enters. His back is towards her;
and he does not hear her. Perceiving this, she shuts the door
loudly enough to attract his attention. He starts up.
LADY CICELY (coming to the opposite end of the table). So you've
taken off all my beautiful clothes!
BRASSBOUND. Your brother's, you mean. A man should wear his own
clothes; and a man should tell his own lies. I'm sorry you had to
tell mine for me to-day.
LADY CICELY. Oh, women spend half their lives telling little lies
for men, and sometimes big ones. We're used to it. But mind! I
don't admit that I told any to-day.
BRASSBOUND. How did you square my uncle?
LADY CICELY. I don't understand the expression.
BRASSBOUND. I mean--
LADY CICELY. I'm afraid we haven't time to go into what you mean
before lunch. I want to speak to you about your future. May I?
BRASSBOUND (darkening a little, but politely). Sit down. (She sits
down. So does he.)
LADY CICELY. What are your plans?
BRASSBOUND. I have no plans. You will hear a gun fired in the
harbor presently. That will mean that the Thanksgiving's anchor's
weighed and that she is waiting for her captain to put out to sea.
And her captain doesn't know now whether to turn her head north or
LADY CICELY. Why not north for England?
BRASSBOUND. Why not south for the Pole?
LADY CICELY. But you must do something with yourself.
BRASSBOUND (settling himself with his fists and elbows weightily
on the table and looking straight and powerfully at her). Look
you: when you and I first met, I was a man with a purpose. I stood
alone: I saddled no friend, woman or man, with that purpose,
because it was against law, against religion, against my own
credit and safety. But I believed in it; and I stood alone for it,
as a man should stand for his belief, against law and religion as
much as against wickedness and selfishness. Whatever I may be, I
am none of your fairweather sailors that'll do nothing for their
creed but go to Heaven for it. I was ready to go to hell for mine.
Perhaps you don't understand that.
LADY CICELY. Oh bless you, yes. It's so very like a certain sort
BRASSBOUND. I daresay but I've not met many of that sort. Anyhow,
that was what I was like. I don't say I was happy in it; but I
wasn't unhappy, because I wasn't drifting. I was steering a course
and had work in hand. Give a man health and a course to steer; and
he'll never stop to trouble about whether he's happy or not.
LADY CICELY. Sometimes he won't even stop to trouble about whether
other people are happy or not.
BRASBIiOUND. I don't deny that: nothing makes a man so selfish as
work. But I was not self-seeking: it seemed to me that I had put
justice above self. I tell you life meant something to me then. Do
you see that dirty little bundle of scraps of paper?
LADY CICELY. What are they?
BRASSBOUND. Accounts cut out of newspapers. Speeches made by my
uncle at charitable dinners, or sentencing men to death--pious,
highminded speeches by a man who was to me a thief and a murderer!
To my mind they were more weighty, more momentous, better
revelations of the wickedness of law and respectability than the
book of the prophet Amos. What are they now? (He quietly tears the
newspaper cuttings into little fragments and throws them away,
looking fixedly at her meanwhile.)
LADY CICELY. Well, that's a comfort, at all events.
BRASSBOUND. Yes; but it's a part of my life gone: YOUR doing,
remember. What have I left? See here! (He take up the letters) the
letters my uncle wrote to my mother, with her comments on their
cold drawn insolence, their treachery and cruelty. And the piteous
letters she wrote to him later on, returned unopened. Must they go
LADY CICELY (uneasily). I can't ask you to destroy your mother's
BRASSBOUND. Why not, now that you have taken the meaning out of
them? (He tears them.) Is that a comfort too?
LADY CICELY. It's a little sad; but perhaps it is best so.
BRASSBOOND. That leaves one relic: her portrait. (He plucks the
photograph out of its cheap case.)
LADY CICELY (with vivid curiosity). Oh, let me see. (He hands it
to her. Before she can control herself, her expression changes to
one of unmistakable disappointment and repulsion.)
BRASSBOUND (with a single sardonic cachinnation). Ha! You expected
something better than that. Well, you're right. Her face does not
look well opposite yours.
LADY CICELY (distressed). I said nothing.
BRASSSOUND. What could you say? (He takes back the portrait: she
relinquishes it without a word. He looks at it; shakes his head;
and takes it quietly between his finger and thumb to tear it.)
LADY CICELY (staying his hand). Oh, not your mother's picture!
BRASSBOUND. If that were your picture, would you like your son to
keep it for younger and better women to see?
LADY CICELY (releasing his hand). Oh, you are dreadful! Tear it,
tear it. (She covers her eyes for a moment to shut out the sight.)
BRASSBOUND (tearing it quietly). You killed her for me that day in
the castle; and I am better without her. (He throws away the
fragments.) Now everything is gone. You have taken the old meaning
out of my life; but you have put no new meaning into it. I can see
that you have some clue to the world that makes all its
difficulties easy for you; but I'm not clever enough to seize it.
You've lamed me by showing me that I take life the wrong way when
I'm left to myself.
LADY CICELY. Oh no. Why do you say that?
BRASSBOUND. What else can I say? See what I've done! My uncle is
no worse a man than myself--better, most likely; for he has a
better head and a higher place. Well, I took him for a villain out
of a storybook. My mother would have opened anybody else's eyes:
she shut mine. I'm a stupider man than Brandyfaced Jack even; for
he got his romantic nonsense out of his penny numbers and such
like trash; but I got just the same nonsense out of life and
experience. (Shaking his head) It was vulgar--VULGAR. I see that
now; for you've opened my eyes to the past; but what good is that
for the future? What am I to do? Where am I to go?
LADY CICELY. It's quite simple. Do whatever you like. That's what
I always do.
BRASSBOUND. That answer is no good to me. What I like is to have
something to do; and I have nothing. You might as well talk like
the missionary and tell me to do my duty.
LADY CICELY (quickly). Oh no thank you. I've had quite enough of
your duty, and Howard's duty. Where would you both be now if I'd
let you do it?
BRASSBOUND. We'd have been somewhere, at all events. It seems to
me that now I am nowhere.
LADY CICELY. But aren't you coming back to England with us?
BRASSBOUND. What for?
LADY CICELY. Why, to make the most of your opportunities.
BRASSBOUND. What opportunities?
LADY CICELY. Don't you understand that when you are the nephew of
a great bigwig, and have influential connexions, and good friends
among them, lots of things can be done for you that are never done
for ordinary ship captains?
BRASSBOUND. Ah; but I'm not an aristocrat,you see. And like most
poor men, I'm proud. I don't like being patronized.
LADY CICELY. What is the use of saying that? In my world, which is
now your world--OUR world--getting patronage is the whole art of
life. A man can't have a career without it.
BRASSBOUND. In my world a man can navigate a ship and get his
living by it.
LADY CICELY. Oh, I see you're one of the Idealists--the
Impossibilists! We have them, too, occasionally, in our world.
There's only one thing to be done with them.
BRASSBOUND. What's that?
LADY CICELY. Marry them straight off to some girl with enough
money for them, and plenty of sentiment. That's their fate.
BRASSBOUND. You've spoiled even that chance for me. Do you think I
could look at any ordinary woman after you? You seem to be able to
make me do pretty well what you like; but you can't make me marry
anybody but yourself.
LADY CICELY. Do you know, Captain Paquito, that I've married no
less than seventeen men (Brassbound stares) to other women. And
they all opened the subject by saying that they would never marry
anybody but me.
BRASSBOUND. Then I shall be the first man you ever found to stand
to his word.
LADY CICELY (part pleased, part amused, part sympathetic). Do you
really want a wife?
BRASSBOUND. I want a commander. Don't undervalue me: I am a good
man when I have a good leader. I have courage: I have
determination: I'm not a drinker: I can command a schooner and a
shore party if I can't command a ship or an army. When work is put
upon me, I turn neither to save my life nor to fill my pocket.
Gordon trusted me; and he never regretted it. If you trust me, you
shan't regret it. All the same, there's something wanting in me: I
suppose I'm stupid.
LADY CICELY. Oh, you're not stupid.
BRASSBOUND. Yes I am. Since you saw me for the first time in that
garden, you've heard me say nothing clever. And I've heard you say
nothing that didn't make me laugh, or make me feel friendly, as
well as telling me what to think and what to do. That's what I
mean by real cleverness. Well, I haven't got it. I can give an
order when I know what order to give. I can make men obey it,
willing or unwilling. But I'm stupid, I tell you: stupid. When
there's no Gordon to command me, I can't think of what to do. Left
to myself, I've become half a brigand. I can kick that little
gutterscrub Drinkwater; but I find myself doing what he puts into
my head because I can't think of anything else. When you came, I
took your orders as naturally as I took Gordon's, though I little
thought my next commander would be a woman. I want to take service
under you. And there's no way in which that can be done except
marrying you. Will you let me do it?
LADY CICELY. I'm afraid you don't quite know how odd a match it
would be for me according to the ideas of English society.
BRASSBOUND. I care nothing about English society: let it mind its
LADY CICELY (rising, a little alarmed). Captain Paquito: I am not
in love with you.
BRASSBOUND (also rising, with his gaze still steadfastly on her).
I didn't suppose you were: the commander is not usually in love
with his subordinate.
LADY CICELY. Nor the subordinate with the commander.
BRASSBOUND (assenting firmly). Nor the subordinate with the
LADY CICELY (learning for the first time in her life what terror
is, as she finds that he is unconsciously mesmerizing her). Oh,
you are dangerous!
BRASSBOUND. Come: are you in love with anybody else? That's the
LADY CICELY (shaking her head). I have never been in love with any
real person; and I never shall. How could I manage people if I had
that mad little bit of self left in me? That's my secret.
BRASSBOUND. Then throw away the last bit of self. Marry me.
LADY CICELY (vainly struggling to recall her wandering will). Must
BRASSBOUND. There is no must. You CAN. I ask you to. My fate
depends on it.
LADY CICELY. It's frightful; for I don't mean to--don't wish to.
BRASSBOUND. But you will.
LADY CICELY (quite lost, slowly stretches out her hand to give it
to him). I-- (Gunfire from the Thanksgiving. His eyes dilate. It
wakes her from her trance) What is that?
BRASSBOUND. It is farewell. Rescue for you--safety, freedom! You
were made to be something better than the wife of Black Paquito.
(He kneels and takes her hands) You can do no more for me now: I
have blundered somehow on the secret of command at last (he kisses
her hands): thanks for that, and for a man's power and purpose
restored and righted. And farewell, farewell, farewell.
LADY CICELY (in a strange ecstasy, holding his hands as he rises).
Oh, farewell. With my heart's deepest feeling, farewell, farewell.
BRASSBOUND. With my heart's noblest honor and triumph, farewell.
(He turns and flies.)
LADY CICELY. How glorious! how glorious! And what an escape!
NOTES TO CAPTAIN BRASSBOUND'S CONVERSION
SOURCES OF THE PLAY
I claim as a notable merit in the authorship of this play that I
have been intelligent enough to steal its scenery, its
surroundings, its atmosphere, its geography, its knowledge of the
east, its fascinating Cadis and Kearneys and Sheikhs and mud
castles from an excellent book of philosophic travel and vivid
adventure entitled Mogreb-el-Acksa (Morocco the Most Holy) by
Cunninghame Graham. My own first hand knowledge of Morocco is
based on a morning's walk through Tangier, and a cursory
observation of the coast through a binocular from the deck of an
Orient steamer, both later in date than the writing of the play.
Cunninghame Graham is the hero of his own book; but I have not
made him the hero of my play, because so incredible a personage
must have destroyed its likelihood--such as it is. There are
moments when I do not myself believe in his existence. And yet he
must be real; for I have seen him with these eyes; and I am one of
the few men living who can decipher the curious alphabet in which
he writes his private letters. The man is on public record too.
The battle of Trafalgar Square, in which he personally and bodily
assailed civilization as represented by the concentrated military
and constabular forces of the capital of the world, can scarcely
be forgotten by the more discreet spectators, of whom I was one.
On that occasion civilization, qualitatively his inferior, was
quantitatively so hugely in excess of him that it put him in
prison, but had not sense enough to keep him there. Yet his
getting out of prison was as nothing compared to his getting into
the House of Commons. How he did it I know not; but the thing
certainly happened, somehow. That he made pregnant utterances as a
legislator may be taken as proved by the keen philosophy of the
travels and tales he has since tossed to us; but the House, strong
in stupidity, did not understand him until in an inspired moment
he voiced a universal impulse by bluntly damning its hypocrisy. Of
all the eloquence of that silly parliament, there remains only one
single damn. It has survived the front bench speeches of the
eighties as the word of Cervantes survives the oraculations of the
Dons and Deys who put him, too, in prison. The shocked House
demanded that he should withdraw his cruel word. "I never
withdraw," said he; and I promptly stole the potent phrase for the
sake of its perfect style, and used it as a cockade for the
Bulgarian hero of Arms and the Man. The theft prospered; and I
naturally take the first opportunity of repeating it. In what
other Lepantos besides Trafalgar Square Cunninghame Graham has
fought, I cannot tell. He is a fascinating mystery to a sedentary
person like myself. The horse, a dangerous animal whom, when I
cannot avoid, I propitiate with apples and sugar, he bestrides and
dominates fearlessly, yet with a true republican sense of the
rights of the fourlegged fellowcreature whose martyrdom, and man's
shame therein, he has told most powerfully in his Calvary, a tale
with an edge that will cut the soft cruel hearts and strike fire
from the hard kind ones. He handles the other lethal weapons as
familiarly as the pen: medieval sword and modern Mauser are to him
as umbrellas and kodaks are to me. His tales of adventure have the
true Cervantes touch of the man who has been there--so
refreshingly different from the scenes imagined by bloody-minded
clerks who escape from their servitude into literature to tell us
how men and cities are conceived in the counting house and the
volunteer corps. He is, I understand, a Spanish hidalgo: hence the
superbity of his portrait by Lavery (Velasquez being no longer
available). He is, I know, a Scotch laird. How he contrives to be
authentically the two things at the same time is no more
intelligible to me than the fact that everything that has ever
happened to him seems to have happened in Paraguay or Texas
instead of in Spain or Scotland. He is, I regret to add, an
impenitent and unashamed dandy: such boots, such a hat, would have
dazzled D'Orsay himself. With that hat he once saluted me in
Regent St. when I was walking with my mother. Her interest was
instantly kindled; and the following conversation ensued. "Who is
that?" "Cunninghame Graham." "Nonsense! Cunninghame Graham is one
of your Socialists: that man is a gentleman." This is the
punishment of vanity, a fault I have myself always avoided, as I
find conceit less troublesome and much less expensive. Later on
somebody told him of Tarudant, a city in Morocco in which no
Christian had ever set foot. Concluding at once that it must be an
exceptionally desirable place to live in, he took ship and horse:
changed the hat for a turban; and made straight for the sacred
city, via Mogador. How he fared, and how he fell into the hands of
the Cadi of Kintafi, who rightly held that there was more danger
to Islam in one Cunninghame Graham than in a thousand Christians,
may be learnt from his account of it in Mogreb-el-Acksa, without
which Captain Brassbound's Conversion would never have been
I am equally guiltless of any exercise of invention concerning the
story of the West Indian estate which so very nearly serves as a
peg to hang Captain Brassbound. To Mr. Frederick Jackson of
Hindhead, who, against all his principles, encourages and abets me
in my career as a dramatist, I owe my knowledge of those main
facts of the case which became public through an attempt to make
the House of Commons act on them. This being so, I must add that
the character of Captain Brassbound's mother, like the recovery of
the estate by the next heir, is an interpolation of my own. It is
not, however, an invention. One of the evils of the pretence that
our institutions represent abstract principles of justice instead
of being mere social scaffolding is that persons of a certain
temperament take the pretence seriously, and when the law is on
the side of injustice, will not accept the situation, and are
driven mad by their vain struggle against it. Dickens has drawn
the type in his Man from Shropshire in Bleak House. Most public
men and all lawyers have been appealed to by victims of this sense
of injustice--the most unhelpable of afflictions in a society like
ENGLISH AND AMERICAN DIALECTS
The fact that English is spelt conventionally and not phonetically
makes the art of recording speech almost impossible. What is more,
it places the modern dramatist, who writes for America as well as
England, in a most trying position. Take for example my American
captain and my English lady. I have spelt the word conduce, as
uttered by the American captain, as cawndooce, to suggest (very
roughly) the American pronunciation to English readers. Then why
not spell the same word, when uttered by Lady Cicely, as
kerndewce, to suggest the English pronunciation to American
readers? To this I have absolutely no defence: I can only plead
that an author who lives in England necessarily loses his
consciousness of the peculiarities of English speech, and sharpens
his consciousness of the points in which American speech differs
from it; so that it is more convenient to leave English
peculiarities to be recorded by American authors. I must, however,
most vehemently disclaim any intention of suggesting that English
pronunciation is authoritative and correct. My own tongue is
neither American English nor English English, but Irish English;
so I am as nearly impartial in the matter as it is in human nature
to be. Besides, there is no standard English pronunciation any
more than there is an American one: in England every county has
its catchwords, just as no doubt every state in the Union has. I
cannot believe that the pioneer American, for example, can spare
time to learn that last refinement of modern speech, the exquisite
diphthong, a farfetched combination of the French eu and the
English e, with which a New Yorker pronounces such words as world,
bird &c. I have spent months without success in trying to achieve
glibness with it.
To Felix Drinkwater also I owe some apology for implying that all
his vowel pronunciations are unfashionable. They are very far from
being so. As far as my social experience goes (and I have kept
very mixed company) there is no class in English society in which
a good deal of Drinkwater pronunciation does not pass unchallenged
save by the expert phonetician. This is no mere rash and ignorant
jibe of my own at the expense of my English neighbors. Academic
authority in the matter of English speech is represented at
present by Mr. Henry Sweet, of the University of Oxford, whose
Elementarbuch des gesprochenen Engliach, translated into his
native language for the use of British islanders as a Primer of
Spoken English, is the most accessible standard work on the
subject. In such words as plum, come, humbug, up, gum, etc., Mr.
Sweet's evidence is conclusive. Ladies and gentlemen in Southern
England pronounce them as plam, kam, hambag, ap, gan, etc.,
exactly as Felix Drinkwater does. I could not claim Mr. Sweet's
authority if I dared to whisper that such coster English as the
rather pretty dahn tahn for down town, or the decidedly ugly
cowcow for cocoa is current in very polite circles. The entire
nation, costers and all, would undoubtedly repudiate any such
pronunciation as vulgar. All the same, if I were to attempt to
represent current "smart" cockney speech as I have attempted to
represent Drinkwater's, without the niceties of Mr. Sweet's Romic
alphabets, I am afraid I should often have to write dahn tahn and
cowcow as being at least nearer to the actual sound than down town
and cocoa. And this would give such offence that I should have to
leave the country; for nothing annoys a native speaker of English
more than a faithful setting down in phonetic spelling of the
sounds he utters. He imagines that a departure from conventional
spelling indicates a departure from the correct standard English
of good society. Alas! this correct standard English of good
society is unknown to phoneticians. It is only one of the many
figments that bewilder our poor snobbish brains. No such thing
exists; but what does that matter to people trained from infancy
to make a point of honor of belief in abstractions and
incredibilities? And so I am compelled to hide Lady Cicely's
speech under the veil of conventional orthography.
I need not shield Drinkwater, because he will never read my book.
So I have taken the liberty of making a special example of him, as
far as that can be done without a phonetic alphabet, for the
benefit of the mass of readers outside London who still form their
notions of cockney dialect on Sam Weller. When I came to London in
1876, the Sam Weller dialect had passed away so completely that I
should have given it up as a literary fiction if I had not
discovered it surviving in a Middlesex village, and heard of it
from an Essex one. Some time in the eighties the late Andrew Tuer
called attention in the Pall Mall Gazette to several peculiarities
of modern cockney, and to the obsolescence of the Dickens dialect
that was still being copied from book to book by authors who never
dreamt of using their ears, much less of training them to listen.
Then came Mr. Anstey's cockney dialogues in Punch, a great
advance, and Mr. Chevalier's coster songs and patter. The Tompkins
verses contributed by Mr. Barry Pain to the London Daily Chronicle
have also done something to bring the literary convention for
cockney English up to date. But Tompkins sometimes perpetrates
horrible solecisms. He will pronounce face as fits, accurately
enough; but he will rhyme it quite impossibly to nice, which
Tompkins would pronounce as newts: for example Mawl Enn Rowd for
Mile End Road. This aw for i, which I have made Drinkwater use, is
the latest stage of the old diphthongal oi, which Mr. Chevalier
still uses. Irish, Scotch and north country readers must remember
that Drinkwater's rs are absolutely unpronounced when they follow
a vowel, though they modify the vowel very considerably. Thus,
luggage is pronounced by him as laggige, but turn is not
pronounced as tern, but as teun with the eu sounded as in French.
The London r seems thoroughly understood in America, with the
result, however, that the use of the r by Artemus Ward and other
American dialect writers causes Irish people to misread them
grotesquely. I once saw the pronunciation of malheureux
represented in a cockney handbook by mal-err-err: not at all a bad
makeshift to instruct a Londoner, but out of the question
elsewhere in the British Isles. In America, representations of
English speech dwell too derisively on the dropped or interpolated
h. American writers have apparently not noticed the fact that the
south English h is not the same as the never-dropped Irish and
American h, and that to ridicule an Englishman for dropping it is
as absurd as to ridicule the whole French and Italian nation for
doing the same. The American h, helped out by a general agreement
to pronounce wh as hw, is tempestuously audible, and cannot be
dropped without being immediately missed. The London h is so
comparatively quiet at all times, and so completely inaudible in
wh, that it probably fell out of use simply by escaping the ears
of children learning to speak. However that may be, it is kept
alive only by the literate classes who are reminded constantly of
its existence by seeing it on paper.
Roughly speaking, I should say that in England he who bothers
about his hs is a fool, and he who ridicules a dropped h a snob.
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