The Story of the Gadsby
Part 2 out of 2
CAPT. G. That is as my lady pleases.
MRS. G. Then your lady is pleased. (A pause.) D'you know that
we're two solemn, serious, grown-up people -CAPT. G. (Tilting
her straw hat over her eyes.) You grown-up! Pooh! You're a
MRS. G. And we're talking nonsense.
CAPT. G. Then let's go on talking nonsense. I rather like it. Pussy,
I'll tell you a secret. Promise not to repeat?
MRS. G. Ye-es. Only to you.
CAPT. G. I love you.
MRS. G. Re-ally! For how long?
CAPT. G. Forever and ever.
MRS. G. That's a long time.
CAPT. G. 'Think so? It's the shortest I can do with.
MRS. G. You're getting quite clever.
CAPT. G. I'm talking to you.
MRS. G. Prettily turned. Hold up your stupid old head and I'll pay
you for it.
CAPT. G. (Affecting supreme contempt.) Take it yourself if you
MRS. G. I've a great mind to-and I will! (Takes it and is repaid
CAPT. G, Little Featherweight, it's my opinion that we are a
couple of idiots.
MRS. G. We're the only two sensible people in the world. Ask the
eagle. He's coming by.
CAPT. G. Ah! I dare say he's seen a good many sensible people at
Mahasu. They say that those birds live for ever so long.
MRS. G. How long?
CAPT. G. A hundred and twenty years.
MRS. G. A hundred and twenty years! O-oh! And in a hundred
and twenty years where will these two sensible people be?
CAPT. G. What does it matter so long as we are together now?
MRS. G. (Looking round the horizon.) Yes. Only you and I-I and
you-in the whole wide, wide world until the end. (Sees the line of
the Snows.) How big and quiet the hills look! D'you think they care
CAPT. G. 'Can't say I've consulted em particularly. I care, and
that's enough for me.
MRS. G. (Drawing nearer to him.) Yes, now-but afterward.
What's that little black blur on the Snows?
CAPT. G. A snowstorm, forty miles away. You'll see it move, as
the wind carries it across the face of that spur and then it will be
MRS. G. And then it will be all gone. (Shivers.)
CAPT. G. (Anriously.) 'Not chilled, pet, are you? 'Better let me
get your cloak.
MRS. G. No. Don't leave me, Phil. Stay here. I believe I am afraid.
Oh, why are the hills so horrid! Phil, promise me that you'll always
CAPT. G. What's the trouble, darling? I can't promise any more
than I have; but I'll promise that again and again if you like.
MRs. G. (Her head on his shoulder.) Say it, then-say it! N-no-
don't! The-the-eagles would laugh. (Recovering.) My husband,
you've married a little goose.
CAPT. G. (Very tenderly.) Have I? I am content whatever she is,
so long as she is mine.
MRS. G. (Quickly.) Because she is yours or because she is me
CAPT. G. Because she is both. (Piteously.) I'm not clever, dear,
and I don't think I can make myself understood properly.
MRS. G. I understand. Pip, will you tell me something?
CAPT. G. Anything you like. (Aside.) I wonder what's coming
MRS. G. (Haltingly, her eyes 'owered.) You told me once in the
old days-centunes and centuries ago-that you had been engaged
before. I didn't say anything-then.
CAPT. G. (Innocently.) Why not?
MRS. G. (Raising her eyes to his.) Because-because I was afraid
of losing you, my heart. But now-tell about it-please.
CAPT. G. There's nothing to tell. I was awf'ly old then-nearly two
and twenty-and she was quite that.
MRS. G. That means she was older than you. I shouldn't like her to
have been younger. Well?
CAPT. G. Well, I fancied myself in love and raved about a bit,
and-oh, yes, by Jove! I made up poetry. Ha! Ha!
MRS. G. You never wrote any for me! What happened?
CAPT. G. I came out here, and the whole thing went phut. She
wrote to say that there had been a mistake, and then she married.
Mas. G. Did she care for you much?
CAPT. G. No. At least she didn't show it as far as I remember.
MRS. G. As far as you rememberl Do you remember her name?
(Hears it and bows her head.) Thank you, my husband.
CAPT. G. Who but you had the right? Now, Little Featherweight,
have you ever been mixed up in any dark and dismal tragedy?
MRS. G. If you call me Mrs. Gadsby, p'raps I'll tell.
CAPT. G. (Throwing Parade rasp into his voice.) Mrs. Gadsby,
MRS. G. Good Heavens, Phil! I never knew that you could speak
in that terrible voice.
CAPT. G. You don't know half my accomplishments yet. Wait till
we are settled in the Plains, and I'll show you how I bark at my
troop. You were going to say, darling?
MRS. G. I-I don't like to, after that voice. (Tremulously.) Phil,
never you dare to speak to me in that tone, whatever I may do!
CAPT. G. My poor little love! Why, you're shaking all over. I am
so sorry. Of course I never meant to upset you Don't tell me
anything, I'm a brute.
MRS. G. No, you aren't, and I will tell- There was a man.
CAPT. G. (Lightly.) Was there? Lucky man!
MRS. G. (In a whisper.) And I thougbt I cared for him.
CAPT. G. Still luckier man! Well?
MRS. G. And I thought I cared for him-and I didn't-and then you
came-and I cared for you very, very much indeed. That's all.
(Face hidden.) You aren't angry, are you?
CAPT. G. Angry? Not in the least. (Aside.) Good Lord, what have
I done to deserve this angel?
MRS. G. (Aside.) And he never asked for the name! How funny
men are! But perhaps it's as well.
CAPT. G. That man will go to heaven because you once thought
you cared for him. 'Wonder if you'll ever drag me up there?
MRS. G. (Firmly.) 'Sha'n't go if you don't.
CAPT. G. Thanks. I say, Pussy, I don't know much about your
religious beliefs. You were brought up to believe in a heaven and
all that, weren't you?
MRS. G. Yes. But it was a pincushion heaven, with hymn-books
in all the pews.
CAPT. G. (Wagging his head with intense conviction.) Never
mind. There is a pukka heaven.
MRS. G. Where do you bring that message from, my prophet?
CAPT. G. Here! Because we care for each other. So it's all right.
Mrs. G. (As a troop of langurs crash through the branches.) So it's
all right. But Darwin says that we came from those!
CAPT. G. (Placidly.) Ah! Darwin was never in love with an angel.
That settles it. Sstt, you brutes! Monkeys, indeed! You shouldn't
read those books.
MRS. G. (Folding her hands.) If it pleases my Lord the King to
CAPT. G. Don't, dear one. There are no orders between us. Only
I'd rather you didn't. They lead to nothing, and bother people's
MRS. G. Like your first engagement.
CAPT. G. (With an immense calm.) That was a necessary evil and
led to you. Are you nothing?
MRS. G. Not so very much, am I?
CAPT. G. All this world and the next to me.
MRS. G. (Very softly.) My boy of boys! Shall I tell you
CAPT. G. Yes, if it's not dreadful-about other men.
MRS. G. It's about my own bad little self.
CAPT. G. Then it must be good. Go on, dear.
MRS. G. (Slowly.) I don't know why I'm telling you, Pip; but if
ever you marry again-(Interlude.) Take your hand from my mouth
or I'll bite! In the future, then remember-I don't know quite how to
CAPT. G. (Snorting indignantly.) Don't try. "Marry again,"
MRS. G. I must. Listen, my husband. Never, never, never tell your
wife anything that you do not wish her to remember and think over
all her life. Because a woman-yes, I am a woman -can't forget.
CAPT. G. By Jove, how do you know that?
MRS. G. (Confusedly.) I don't. I'm only guessing. I am-I was-a silly
little girl; but I feel that I know so much, oh, so very much more
than you, dearest. To begin with, I'm your wife.
CAPT. G. So I have been led to believe.
MRS. G. And I shall want to know every one of your secrets-to
share everything you know with you. (Stares round desperately.)
CAPT. G. So you shall, dear, so you shall-but don't look like that.
MRS. G. For your own sake don't stop me, Phil. I shall never talk
to you in this way again. You must not tell me! At least, not now.
Later on, when I'm an old matron it won't matter, but if you love
me, be very good to me now; for this part of my life I shall never
forget! Have I made you understand?
CAPT. G. I think so, child. Have I said anything yet that you
MRS. G. Will you be very angry? That-that voice, and what you
said about the engagement-
CAPT. G. But you asked to be told that, darling.
MRS. G. And that's why you shouldn't have told me! You must
be the Judge, and, oh, Pip, dearly as I love you, I shan't be able to
help you! I shall hinder you, and you must judge in spite of me!
CAPT. G. (Meditatively.) We have a great many things to find out
together, God help us both-say so, Pussy-but we shall understand
each other better every day; and I think I'm beginning to see now.
How in the world did you come to know just the importance of
giving me just that lead?
MRS. G. I've told you that I don't know. Only somehow it seemed
that, in all this new life, I was being guided for your sake as well
as my own.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then Mafilin was right! They know, and
we-we're blind all of us. (Lightly.) 'Getting a little beyond our
depth, dear, aren't we? I'll remember, and, if I fail, let me be
punished as I deserve.
MRS. G. There shall be no punishment. We'll start into life
together from here-you and I-and no one else.
CAPT. G. And no one else. (A pause.) Your eyelashes are all
wet, Sweet? Was there ever such a quaint little Absurdity?
Mas. G. Was there ever such nonsense talked before?
CAPT. G. (Knocking the ashes out of his pipe.) 'Tisn't what we
say, it's what we don't say, that helps. And it's all the profoundest
philosophy. But no one would understand-even if it were put into a
MRS. G. The idea! No-only we ourselves, or people like
ourselves-if there are any people like us.
CAPT. G. (Magisterially.) All people, not like ourselves, are blind
MRS. G. (Wiping her eyes.) Do you think, then, that there are any
people as happy as we are?
CAPT. G. 'Must be-unless we've appropriated all the happiness in
MRS. G'. (Looking toward Simla.) Poor dears! Just fancy if we
CAPT. G. Then we'll hang on to the whole show, for it's a great
deal too jolly to lose-eh, wife o' mine?
MRS. G. O Pip! Pip! How much of you is a solemn, married man
and how much a horrid slangy schoolboy?
CAPT. G. When you tell me how much of you was eighteen last
birthday and how much is as old as the Sphinx and twice as
mysterious, perhaps I'll attend to you. Lend me that banjo. The
spirit moveth me to jowl at the sunset.
MRS. G. Mind! It's not tuned. Ah! How that jars!
CAPT G. (Turning pegs.) It's amazingly different to keep a banjo
to proper pitch.
MRS. G. It's the same with all musical instruments, What shall it
CAPT. G. "Vanity," and let the hills hear. (Sings through the first
and hal' of the second verse. Turning to MRS. G.) Now, chorus!
BOTH TOGETHRR. (Con brio, to the horror of the monkeys who
are settling for the night.)-
"Vanity, all is Vanity," said Wisdom. scorning me- I clasped my
true Love's tender hand and answered frank and free-ee "If this be
Vanity who'd be wise? If this be Vanity who'd be wise? If this be
Vanity who'd be wi-ise (Crescendo.) Vanity let it be!"
MRS. G. (Defiantly to the grey of the evening sky.) "Vanity let it
ECHO. (Prom the Fagoo spur.) Let it be!
And you may go in every room of the house and see everything
that is there, but into the Blue Room you must not go.-The Story of
SCENE.-The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains. Time, 11 A. M.
on a Sunday morning. Captain GADSBY, in his shirt-sleeves, is
bending over a complete set of Hussar's equipment, from saddle to
picketing-rope, which is neatly spread over the floor of his study.
He is smoking an unclean briar, and his forehead is puckered with
CAPT. G. (To himself, fingering a headstall.) Jack's an ass.
There's enough brass on this to load a mule-and, if the Americans
know anything about anything, it can be cut down to a bit only.
'Don't want the watering-bridle, either. Humbug!-Half a dozen sets
of chains and pulleys for one horse! Rot! (Scratching his head.)
Now, let's consider it all over from the he-ginning. By Jove, I've
forgotten the scale of weights! Ne'er mind. 'Keep the bit only, and
eliminate every boss from the crupper to breastplate. No
breastplate at all. Simple leather strap across the breast-like the
Russians. Hi! Jack never thought of that!
MRS. G. (Entering hastily, her hand bound in a cloth.) Oh, Pip,
I've scalded my hand over that horrid, horrid Tiparee jam!
CAPT. G. (Absently.) Eb! Wha-at?
MRS. G. (With round-eyed reproach.) I've scalded it aw-fully!
Aren't you sorry? And I did so want that jam to jam properly.
CAPT. G. Poor little woman! Let me kiss the place and make it
well. (Unrolling bandage.) You small sinner! Where's that scald?
I can't see it.
MRS. G. On the top of the little finger. There!-It's a most
'normous big burn!
CAPT. G. (Kissing little finger.) Baby! Let Hyder look after the
jam. You know I don't care for sweets.
Mas. G. In-deed?-Pip!
CAPT. G. Not of that kind, anyhow. And now run along, Minnie,
and leave me to my own base devices. I'm busy.
MRS. G. (Calmly settling herself in long chair.) So I see. What a
mess you're making! Why have you brought all that smelly leather
stuff into the house?
CAPT. G. To play with. Do you mind, dear?
MRS. G. Let me play too. I'd like it.
CAPT. G. I'm afraid you wouldn't. Pussy- Don't you think that jam
will burn, or whatever it is that jam does when it's not looked after
by a clever little housekeeper?
MRS. G. I thought you said Hyder could attend to it. I left him in
the veranda, stirring-when I hurt myself so.
CAPT. G. (His eye returning to the equipment.) Po-oor little
woman!-Three pounds four and seven is three eleven, and that can
be cut down to two eight, with just a lee-tie care, with-out
weakening anything. Farriery is all rot in incompetent hands.
What's the use of a shoe-case when a man's scouting? He can't
stick it on with a lick-like a stamp-the shoe! Skittles
MRS. G. What's skittles? Pah! What is this leather cleaned with?
CAPT. G. Cream and champagne and- Look here, dear, do you
really want to talk to me about anything important?
MRS. G. No. I've done my accounts, and I thought I'd like to see
what you're doing.
CAPT. G. Well, love, now you've seen and- Would you mind?-
That is to say-Minnie, I really am busy.
MRS. G. You want me to go?
CAPT. G, Yes, dear, for a little while. This tobacco will hang in
your dress, and saddlery doesn't interest you.
MRS. G. Everything you do interests me, Pip.
CAPT. G. Yes, I know, I know, dear. I'll tell you all about it some
day when I've put a head on this thing. In the meantime-
MRS. G. I'm to be turned out of the room like a troublesome child?
CAPT. G. No-o. I don't mean that exactly. But, you see, I shall be
tramping up and down, shifting these things to and fro, and I shall
be in your way. Don't you think so?
MRS. G. Can't I lift them about? Let me try. (Reaches forward to
CAPT. G. Good gracious, child, don't touch it. You'll hurt yourself.
(Picking up saddle.) Little girls aren't expected to handle
numdahs. Now, where would you like it put? (Holds saddle above
MRS. G. (A break in her voice.) Nowhere. Pip, how good you
are-and how strong! Oh, what's that ugly red streak inside your
CAPT. G. (Lowering saddle quickly.) Nothing. It's a mark of sorts.
(Aside.) And Jack's coming to tiffin with his notions all cut and
MRS. G. I know it's a mark, but I've never seen it before. It runs
all up the arm. What is it?
CAPT. G. A cut-if you want to know.
MRS. G. Want to know! Of course I do! I can't have my husband
cut to pieces in this way. How did it come? Was it an accident?
Tell me, Pip.
CAPT. G. (Grimly.) No. 'Twasn't an accident. I got it-from a
MRS. G. In action? Oh, Pip, and you never told me!
CAPT. G. I'd forgotten all about it.
MRS. G. Hold up your arm! What a horrid, ugly scar! Are you
sure it doesn't hurt now! How did the man give it you?
CAPT. G. (Desperately looking at his watch.) With a knife. I came
down-old Van Loo did, that's to say-and fell on my leg, so I
couldn't run. And then this man came up and began chopping at
me as I sprawled.
MRS. G. Oh, don't, don't! That's enough!- Well, what happened?
CAPT. G. I couldn't get to my holster, and Mafflin came round the
corner and stopped the performance.
MRS. G. How? He's such a lazy man, I don't believe he did.
CAPT. G. Don't you? I don't think the man had much doubt about
it. Jack cut his head off.
Mas. G. Cut-his-head-off! "With one blow," as they say in the
CAPT. G. I'm not sure. I was too interested in myself to know
much about it. Anyhow, the head was off, and Jack was punching
old Van Loo in the ribs to make him get up. Now you know all
about it, dear, and now-
MRS. G. You want me to go, of course. You never told me about
this, though I've been married to you for ever so long; and you
never would have told me if I hadn't found out; and you never do
tell me anything about yourself, or what you do, or what you take
an interest in.
CAPT. G. Darling, I'm always with you, aren't I?
MRS. G. Always in my pocket, you were going to say. I know you
are; but you are always thinking away from me.
CAPT. G. (Trying to hide a smile.) Am I? I wasn't aware of it.
I'm awf'ly sorry.
MRS. G. (Piteously.) Oh, don't make fun of me! Pip, you know
what I mean. When you are reading one of those things about
Cavalry, by that idiotic Prince-why doesn't he be a Prince instead
of a stable-boy?
CAPT. G. Prince Kraft a stable-boy-Oh, my Aunt! Never mind,
dear. You were going to say?
MRS. G. It doesn't matter; you don't care for what I say. Only-only
you get up and walk about the room, staring in front of you, and
then Mafflin comes in to dinner, and after I'm in the drawmg-room
I can hear you and him talking, and talking, and talking, about
things I can't understand, and-oh, I get so tired and feel so lonely!-I
don't want to complain and be a trouble, Pip; but I do indeed I do!
CAPT. G. My poor darling! I never thought of that. Why don't you
ask some nice people in to dinner?
MRS. G. Nice people! Where am I to find them? Horrid frumps!
And if I did, I shouldn't be amused. You know I only want you.
CAPT, G. And you have me surely, Sweetheart?
MRS. G. I have not! Pip why don't you take me into your life?
CAPT. G. More than I do? That would be difficult, dear.
MRS. G. Yes, I suppose it would-to you. I'm no help to you-no
companion to you; and you like to have it so.
CAPT. G. Aren't you a little unreasonable, Pussy?
MRS. G. (Stamping her foot.) I'm the most reasonable woman in
the world-when I'm treated properly.
CAPT. G. And since when have I been treating you improperly?
MRS. G. Always-and since the beginning. You know you have.
CAPT. G. I don't; but I'm willing to be convinced.
MRS. G. (Pointing to saddlery.) There!
CAPT. G. How do you mean?
MRS. G. What does all that mean? Why am I not to be told? Is it
CAPT. G. I forget its exact Government value just at present. It
means that it is a great deal too heavy.
MRS. G. Then why do you touch it?
CAPT. G. To make it lighter. See here, little love, I've one notion
and Jack has another, but we are both agreed that all this
equipment is about thirty pounds too heavy. The thing is how to
cut it down without weakening any part of it, and, at the same
time, allowing the trooper to carry everything he wants for his own
comfort-socks and shirts and things of that kind.
MRS. G. Why doesn't he pack them in a little trunk?
CAPT. G. (Kissing her.) Oh, you darling! Pack them in a little
trunk, indeed! Hussars don't carry trunks, and it's a most important
thing to make the horse do all the carrying.
MRS. G. But why need you bother about it? You're not a trooper.
CAPT. G. No; but I command a few score of him; and equipment
is nearly everything in these days.
MRS. G. More than me?
CAPT. G. Stupid! Of course not; but it's a matter that I'm
tremendously interested in, because if I or Jack, or I and Jack,
work out some sort of lighter saddlery and all that. it's possible
that we may get it adopted.
MRS. G. How?
CAPT. G. Sanctioned at Home, where they will make a sealed
pattern-a pattern that all the saddlers must copy-and so it will be
used by all the regiments.
MRS. G. And that interests you?
CAPT. G. It's part of my profession, y'know, and my profession is
a good deal to me. Everything in a soldier's equipment is
important, and if we can improve that equipment, so much the
better for the soldiers and for us.
Mas. G. Who's "us"?
CAPT. G. Jack and I; only Jack's notions are too radical. What's
that big sigh for, Minnie?
MRS. G. Oh, nothing-and you've kept all this a secret from me!
CAPT. G. Not a secret, exactly, dear. I didn't say anything about it
to you because I didn't think it would amuse you.
MRS. G. And am I only made to be amused?
CAPT. G. No, of course. I merely mean that it couldn't interest
MRS. G. It's your work and-and if you'd let me, I'd count all these
things up. If they are too heavy, you know by how much they are
too heavy, and you must have a list of things made out to your
scale of lightness, and-
CAPT. G. I have got both scales somewhere in my head; hut it's
hard to tell how light you can make a head-stall, for instance, until
you've actually had a model made.
MRS. G. But if you read out the list, I could copy it down, and pin
it up there just above your table. Wouldn't that do?
CAPT. G. It would be awf'ly nice, dear, but it would be giving you
trouble for nothing. I can't work that way. I go by rule of thumb. I
know the present scale of weights, and the other one-the one that
I'm trying to work to-will shift and vary so much that I couldn't be
certain, even if I wrote it down.
MRS. G. I'm so sorry. I thought I might help. Is there anything else
that I could be of use in?
CAPT. G. (Looking round the room.) I can't think of anything.
You're always helping me you know.
MRS. G. Am I? How?
CAPT. G. You are of course, and as long as you're near me-I can't
explain exactly, but it's in the air.
MRS. G. And that's why you wanted to send me away?
CAPT. G. That's only when I'm trying to do work-grubby work like
MRS. G. Mafflin's better, then, isn't he?
CAPT. G. (Rashly.) Of course he is. Jack and I have been
thinking along the same groove for two or three years about this
equipment. It's our hobby, and it may really be useful some day.
MRS. G. (After a pause.) And that's all that you have away from
CAPT. G. It isn't very far away from you now. Take care the oil on
that bit doesn't come off on your dress.
MRS. G. I wish-I wish so much that I could really help you. I
believe I could-if I left the room. But that's not what I mean.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Give me patience! I wish she would go.
(Aloud.) I as-sure you you can't do anything for me, Minnie, and I
must really settle down to this. Where's my pouch?
MRS. G. (Crossing to writing-table.) Here you are, Bear. What a
mess you keep your table in!
CAPT. G. Don't touch it. There's a method in my madness,
though you mightn't think of it.
MRS. G. (At table.) I want to look- Do you keep accounts, Pip?
CAPT. G. (Bending over saddlery.) Of a sort. Are you rummaging
among the Troop papers? Be careful.
MRs. G. Why? I sha'n't disturb anything. Good gracious! I had
no idea that you had anything to do with so many sick horses.
CAPT. G. 'Wish I hadn't, but they insist on falling sick. Minnie, if
1 were you I really should not investigate those papers. You may
come across something that you won't like.
MRS. G. Why will you always treat me like a child? I know I'm
not displacing the horrid things.
CAPT. G. (Resignedly.) Very well, then. Don't blame me if
anything happens. Play with the table and let me go on with the
saddlery. (Slipping hand into trousers-pocket.) Oh, the deuce!
MRS. G. (Her back to G.) What's that for?
CAPT. G. Nothing. (Aside.) There's not much in it, but I wish I'd
torn it up.
MRS. G. (Turning over contents of table.) I know you'll hate me
for this; but I do want to see what your work is like. (A pause.)
Pip, what are "farcybuds"?
CAPT. G. Hab! Would you really like to know? They aren't
MRS. G. This Journal of Veterinary Science says they are of
"absorbing interest." Tell me.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It may turn her attention.
Gives a long and designedly loathsome account of glanders and
MRS. G. Oh, that's enough. Don't go on!
CAPT. G. But you wanted to know-Then these things suppurate
and matterate and spread-
MRS. G. Pin, you're making me sick! You're a horrid, disgusting
CAPT. G. (On his knees among the bridles.) You asked to be
told. It's not my fault if you worry me into talking about horrors.
Mas. G. Why didn't you say-No?
CAPT. G. Good Heavens, child! Have you come in here simply to
Mas. G. I bully you? How could I! You're so strong. (Hysterically.)
Strong enough to pick me up and put me outside the door and
leave me there to cry. Aren't you?
CAPT. G. It seems to me that you're an irrational little baby. Are
you quite well?
MRS. G. Do I look ill? (Returning to table). Who is your lady
friend with the big grey envelope and the fat monogram outside?
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Then it wasn't locked up, confound it.
(Aloud.) "God made her, therefore let her pass for a woman." You
remember what farcybuds are like?
Mas. G. (Showing envelope.) This has nothing to do with them.
I'm going to open it. May I?
CAPT. G. Certainly, if you want to. I'd sooner you didn't though. I
don't ask to look at your letters to the Deer-court girl.
Mas. G. You'd better not, Sir! (Takes letter from envelope.) Now,
may I look? If you say no, I shall cry.
CAPT. G. You've never cried in my knowledge of you, and I don't
believe you could.
Mas. G. I feel very like it to-day, Pip. Don't be hard on me. (Reads
letter.) It begins in the middle, with-out any "Dear Captain
Gadsby," or anything. How funny!
CAPT. G. (Aside.) No, it's not Dear Captain Gadsby, or anything,
now. How funny!
Mas. G. What a strange letter! (Reads.) "And so the moth has
come too near the candle at last, and has been singed into-shall I
say Respectability? I congratulate him, and hope he will be as
happy as he deserves to be." What does that mean? Is she
congratulating you about our marriage?
CAPT. G. Yes, I suppose so.
Mas. G. (Still r'ading letter.) She seems to be a particular friend of
CAPT. G. Yes. She was an excellent matron of sorts-a Mrs.
Herriott-wife of a Colonel Herriott. I used to know some of her
people at Home long ago-before I came out.
Mas. G. Some Colonel's wives are young-as young as me. I knew
one who was younger.
CAPT. G. Then it couldn't have been Mrs. Herriott. She was old
enough to have been ycur mother, dear.
Mas. G. I remember now. Mrs. Scargill was talking about her at
the Dutfins' tennis, before you came for me, on Tuesday. Captain
Mafflin said she was a "dear old woman." Do you know, I think
Mafilin is a very clumsy man with his feet.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) Good old Jack! (Aloud.) Why, dear?
Mas. G. He had put his cup down on the ground then, and he
literally stepped into it. Some of the tea spirted over my dress-the
grey one. I meant to tell you about it before.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) There are the makings of a strategist about
Jack though his methods are coarse. (Aloud.) You'd better get a
new dress, then. (Aside.) Let us pray that that will turn her.
Mas. G. Oh, it isn't stained in the least. I only thought that I'd tell
you. (Returning to letter.) What an extraordinary person! (Reads.)
"But need I remind you that you have taken upon yourself a charge
of wardship"-what in the world is a charge of wardship?-"which as
you yourself know, may end in Consequences"-
CAPT. G. (Aside.) It's safest to let em see everything as they come
across it; but 'seems to me that there are exceptions to the rule.
(Aloud.) I told you that there was nothing to be gained from
rearranging my table.
Mas. G. (Absently.) What does the woman mean? She goes on
talking about Consequences-' 'almost inevitable Consequences"
with a capital C-for half a page. (Flushing scarlet.) Oh, good
gracious! How abominable!
CAPT. G. (Promptly.) Do you think so? Doesn't it show a sort of
motherly interest in us? (Aside.) Thank Heaven. Harry always
wrapped her meaning up safely! (Aloud.) Is it absolutely necessary
to go on with the letter, darling?
Mas. G. It's impertinent-it's simply horrid. What right has this
woman to write in this way to you? She oughtn't to.
CAPT. G. When you write to the Deercourt girl, I notice that you
generally fill three or four sheets. Can't you let an old woman
babble on paper once in a way? She means well.
MRS. G. I don't care. She shouldn't write, and if she did, you ought
to have shown me her letter.
CAPT. G. Can't you understand why I kept it to myself, or must I
explain at length-as I explained the farcybuds?
Mas. G. (Furiously.) Pip I hate you! This is as bad as those
idiotic saddle-bags on the floor. Never mind whether it would
please me or not, you ought to have given it to me to read.
CAPT. G. It comes to the same thing. You took it yourself.
MRS. G. Yes, but if I hadn't taken it, you wouldn't have said a
word. I think this Harriet Herriott-it's like a name in a book-is an
interfering old Thing.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) So long as you thoroughly understand that she
is old, I don't much care what you think. (Aloud.) Very good, dear.
Would you like to write and tell her so? She's seven thousand
MRS. G. I don't want to have any-thing to do with her, but you
ought to have told me. (Turning to last page of letter.) And she
patronizes me, too. I've never seen her! (Reads.) "I do not know
how the world stands with you; in all human probability I shall
never know; but whatever I may have said before, I pray for her
sake more than for yours that all may be well. I have learned what
misery means, and I dare not wish that any one dear to you should
share my knowledge."
CAPT. G. Good God! Can't you leave that letter alone, or, at
least, can't you refrain from reading it aloud? I've been through it
once. Put it back on 'he desk. Do you hear me?
Mas. G. (Irresolutely.) I sh-sha'n't! (Looks at G.'s eyes.) Oh, Pip,
please! I didn't mean to make you angry- 'Deed, I didn't. Pip, I'm
so sorry. I know I've wasted your time-CAPT. G. (Grimly.) You
have. Now, will you be good enough to go-if there is nothing more
in my room that you are anxious to pry into?
Mas. G. (Putting out her hands.) Oh, Pip, don't look at me like
that! I've never seen you look like that before and it hu-urts me!
I'm sorry. I oughtn't to have been here at all, and -and- and-
(sobbing.) Oh, be good to me! Be good to me! There's only
you-anywhere! Breaks down in long chair, hiding face in cushions.
CAPT. G. (Aside.) She doesn't know how she flicked me on the
raw. (Aloud, bending over chair.) I didn't mean to be harsh, dear-I
didn't really. You can stay here as long as you please, and do what
you please. Don't cry like that. You'll make yourself sick. (Aside.)
What on earth has come over her? (Aloud.) Darling, what's the
matter with you?
Mrs. G. (Her face still hidden.) Let me go-let me go to my own
room. Only-only say you aren't angry with me.
CAPT. G. Angry with you, love! Of course not. I was angry with
myself. I'd lost my temper over the saddlery-Don't hide your face,
Pussy. I want to kiss it.
Bends lower, Mas. G. slides right arm round his neck. Several
interludes and much sobbing.
Mas. G. (In a whisper.) I didn't mean about the jam when I came
in to tell you-
CAPT'. G. Bother the jam and the equipment! (Interlude.)
Mas. G. (Still more faintly.) My finger wasn't scalded at all. I-[
wanted to speak to you about-about -something else, and-I didn't
CAPT. G. Speak away, then. (Looking into her eyes.) Eb!
Wha-at? Minnie! Here, don't go away! You don't mean?
Mas. G. (Hysterically, backing to portiere and hiding her face in
its fold's.) The-the Almost Inevitable Consequences! (Flits through
portiere as G. attempts to catch her, and bolts her self in her own
CAPT. G. (His arms full of portiere.) Oh! (Sitting down heavily
in chair.) I'm a brutea pig-a bully, and a blackguard. My poor,
poor little darling! "Made to be amused only?"-
THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW
Knowing Good and Evil.
SCENE.-The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, in June.
Punkah-coolies asleep in veranda where Captain GADBY is
walking up and down. DOCTOR'S trap in porch. JUNIOR
CHAPLAIN drifting generally and uneasily through the house.
Time, 3:4O A. M. Heat 94 degrees in veranda.
DOCTOR. (Coming into veranda and touching G. on the
shoulder.) You had better go in and see her now.
CAPT. G. (The color of good cigar-ash.) Eb, wha-at? Oh, yes, of
course. What did you say?
DOCTOR. (Syllable by syllable.) Go -in-to-the -room -and- see-
her. She wants to speak to you. (Aside, testily.) I shall have him
on my hands next.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (In half-lighted dining room.) Isn't there
DOCTOR. (Savagely.) Hsb, you little fool!
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Let me do my work. Gadsby, stop a minute
I (Edges after G.)
DOCTOR. Wait till she sends for you at least-at least. Man alive,
he'll kill you if you go in there! What are you bothering him for?
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Coming into veranda.) I've given him a
stiff brandy-peg. He wants it. You've forgotten him for the last
ten hours and-forgotten yourself too.
CAPT. G. enters bedroom, which is lit by one night-lamp. Ayak on
floor pretending to be asleep.
VOICE. (From the bed.) All down the street-such bonfires! Ayah,
go and put them out! (Appealingly.) How can I sleep with an
installation of the C.I.E. in my room? No-not C.I.E. Something
else. What was it?
CAPT. G. (Trying to control his voice.) Minnie, I'm here.
(Bending over bed.) Don't you know me, Mmnie? It's me-it's
Phil-it's your husband.
VOICE. (Mechanically.) It's me-it's Phil-it's your husband.
CAPT. G. She doesn't know mel-It's your own husband, darling.
VOICE. Your own husband, darling. AYAH. (With an inspiration.)
Memsahib understanding all I saying.
CAPT. G. Make her understand me then-quick!
AYAH. (Hand on Mas. G.'s fore-head.) Memsahib! Captain Sahib
VOICE. Salaem do. (Fretfully.) I know I'm not fit to be seen.
AYAH. (Aside to G.) Say "marneen" same as breakfash.
CAPT. G. Good-morning, little woman. How are we to-day?
VOICE. That's Phil. Poor old Phil. (Viciously.) Phil, you fool, I
can't see you. Come nearer.
CAPT. G. Minnie! Minnie! It's me -you know me?
VOICE. (Mockingly.) Of course I do. Who does not know the
man who was so cruel to his wife-almost the only one he ever had?
CAPT. G. Yes, dear. Yes-of course, of course. But won't you
speak to bim? He wants to speak to you so much.
VOICE. They'd never let him in. The Doctor would give darwaza
bund even if he were in the house. He'll never come.
(Despairingly.) O Judas! Judas! Judas!
CAPT. G. (Putting out his arms.) They have let him in, and he
always was in the house Oh, my love-don't you know me?
VOrCE. (In a half chant.) "And it came to pass at the eleventh
hour that this poor soul repented." It knocked at the gates, but they
were shut-tight as a plaster-a great, burning plaster They had
pasted our marriage certificate all across the door, and it was made
of red-hot iron-people really ought to be more careful, you know.
CAPT. G. What am I to do? (Taking her in his arms.) Minnie!
speak to me-to Phil.
VOICE. What shall I say? Oh, tell me what to say before it's too
late! They are all going away and I can't say anything.
CAPT. G. Say you know me! Only say you know me!
DOCTOR. (Who has entered quietly.) For pity's sake don't take it
too much to heart, Gadsby. It's this way sometimes. They won't
recognize. They say all sorts of queer things-don't you see?
CAPT. G. All right! All right! Go away now; she'll recognize me;
you're bothering her. She must-mustn't she?
DOCTOR. She will before- Have I your leave to try?-
CAPT. G. Anything you please, so long as she'll know me. It's
only a question of-hours, isn't it?
DOCTOR. (Professionally.) While there's life there's hope
y'know. But don't build on it.
CAPT. G. I don't. Pull her together if it's possible. (Aside.) What
have I done to deserve this?
DOCTOR. (Bending over bed.) Now, Mrs. Gadsby! We shall be
all right tomorrow. You must take it, or I sha'n't let Phil see you. It
isn't nasty, is it?
Voice. Medicines! Always more medicines! Can't you leave me
CAPT. G. Oh, leave her in peace, Doc!
DOCTOR. (Stepping back,-aside.) May I be forgiven if I've none
wrong. (Aloud.) In a few minutes she ought to be sensible; but I
daren't tell you to look for anything. It's only-
CAPT. G. What? Go on, man.
DOCTOR. (In a whisper.) Forcing the last rally.
CAPT. G. Then leave us alone.
DOCTOR. Don't mind what she says at first, if you can. They- they
-they turn against those they love most sometimes in this.-It's hard,
CAPT. G. Am I her husband or are you? Leave us alone for what
time we have together.
VOICE. (Confidentially.) And we were engaged quite suddenly,
Emma. I assure you that I never thought of it for a moment; but,
oh, my little Me!-I don't know what I should have done if he hadn't
CAPT. G. She thinks of that Deercourt girl before she thinks of
me. (Aloud.) Minnie!
VOICE. Not from the shops, Mummy dear. You can get the real
leaves from Kaintu, and (laughing weakly) never mind about the
blossoms-Dead white silk is only fit for widows, and I won't wear
it. It's as bad as a winding sheet. (A long pause.)
CAPT. G. I never asked a favor yet. If there is anybody to listen to
me, let her know me-even if I die too!
VOICE. (Very faintly.) Pip, Pip dear.
CAPT. G. I'm here, darling.
VOICE. What has happened? They've been bothering me so with
medicines and things, and they wouldn't let you come and see me.
I was never ill before. Am I ill now?
CAPT. G. You-you aren't quite well.
VOICE. How funny! Have I been ill long?
CAPT. G. Some day; but you'll be all right in a little time.
VOICE. Do you think so, Pip? I don't feel well and- Oh! what
have they done to my hair?
CAPT. G. I d-d-on't know.
VOICE. They've cut it off. What a shame!
CAPT. G. It must have been to make your head cooler.
VOICE. Just like a boy's wig. Don't I look horrid?
CAPT. G. Never looked prettier in your life, dear. (Aside.) How
am I to ask her to say good-bye?
VOICE. I don't feel pretty. I feel very ill. My heart won't work.
It's nearly dead inside me, and there's a funny feeling in my eyes.
Everything seems the same distance-you and the almirah and the
table inside my eyes or miles away. What does it mean, Pip?
CAPT. G. You're a little feverish, Sweetheart-very feverish.
(Breaking down.) My love! my love! How can I let you go?
VOICE. I thought so. Why didn't you tell me that at first?
CAPT. G. What?
VOICE. That I am going to-die.
CAPT. G. But you aren't! You sha'n't.
AYAH to punkah-coolie. (Stepping into veranda after a glance at
the bed. ). Punkah chor do! (Stop pulling the punkah.)
VOICE. It's hard, Pip. So very, very hard after one year-just one
(Wailing.) And I'm only twenty. Most girls aren't even married at
twenty. Can't they do anything to help me? I don't want to die.
CAPT. G. Hush, dear. You won't.
VOICE. What's the use of talking? Help me! You've never failed
me yet. Oh, Phil, help me to keep alive. (Feverishly.) I don't
believe you wish me to live. You weren't a bit sorry when that
horrid Baby thing died. I wish I'd killed it!
CAPT. G. (Drawing his hand across his forehead.) It's more than a
man's meant to bear-it's not right. (Aloud.) Minnie, love, I'd die for
you if it would help.
VOICE. No more death. There's enough already. Pip, don't you die
CAPT. G. I wish I dared.
VOICE. It says: "Till Death do us part." Nothing after that-and so
it would be no use. It stops at the dying. Why does it stop there?
Only such a very short life, too. Pip, I'm sorry we married.
CAPT. G. No! Anything but that, Mm!
VOICE. Because you'll forget and I'll forget. Oh, Pip, don't forget!
I always loved you, though I was cross sometimes. If I ever did
anything that you didn't like, say you forgive me now.
CAPT. G. You never did, darling. On my soul and honor you never
did. I haven't a thing to forgive you.
VOICE. I sulked for a whole week about those petunias. (With a
laugh.) What a little wretch I was, and how grieved you were!
Forgive me that, Pp.
CAPT. G. There's nothing to forgive. It was my fault. They were
too near the drive. For God's sake don't talk so, Minnie! There's
such a lot to say and so little time to say it in.
VOICE. Say that you'll always love me-until the end.
CAPT. G. Until the end. (Carried away.) It's a lie. It must be,
because we've loved each other. This isn't the end.
VOICE. (Relapsing into semi-delirium.) My Church-service has
an ivory-cross on the back, and it says so, so it must be true. "Till
Death do us part."-but that's a lie. (With a parody of G.'s manner.)
A damned lie! (Recklessly.) Yes, I can swear as well as a Trooper,
Pip. I can't make my head think, though. That's because they cut
off my hair. How can one think with one's head all fuzzy?
(Pleadingly.) Hold me, Pip! Keep me with you always and always.
(Relapsing.) But if you marry the Thorniss girl when I'm dead, I'll
come back and howl under our bedroom window all night. Oh,
bother! You'll think I'm a jackall. Pip, what time is it?
CAPT. G. A little before the dawn, dear.
VOICE. I wonder where I shall be this time to-morrow?
CAPT. G. Would you like to see the Padre?
VOICE. Why should I? He'd tell me that I am going to heaven;
and that wouldn't be true, because you are here. Do you recollect
when he upset the cream-ice all over his trousers at the Gassers'
CAPT. G. Yes, dear.
VOICE. I often wondered whether he got another pair of trousers;
but then his are so shiny all over that you really couldn't tell unless
you were told. Let's call him in and ask.
CAPT. G. (Gravely.) No. I don't think he'd like that. 'Your head
VOICE. (Faintly with a sigh of contentment.) Yeth! Gracious, Pip,
when did you shave last? Your chin's worse than the barrel of a
musical box.-No, don't lift it up. I like it. (A pause.) You said
you've never cried at all. You're crying all over my cheek.
CAPT. G. I-I-I can't help it, dear.
VOICE. How funny! I couldn't cry now to save my life. (G.
shivers.) I want to sing.
CAPT. G. Won't it tire you? 'Better not, perhaps.
VOICE. Why? I won't be bothered about. (Begins in a hoarse
"Minnie bakes oaten cake, Minnie brews ale, All because her
Johnnie's coming home from the sea. (That's parade, Pip.) And she
grows red as a rose, who was so pale; And 'Are you sure the
church-clock goes?' says she."
(Pettishly.) I knew I couldn't take the last note. How do the bass
chords run? (Puts out her hands and begins playing piano on the
CAPT. G. (Catching up hands.) Ahh! Don't do that, Pussy, if you
VOICE. Love you? Of course I do. Who else should it be? (A
VOICE. (Very clearly.) Pip, I'm gomg now. Something's choking
me cruelly. (Indistinctly.) Into the dark-without you, my heart -But
it's a lie, dear-we mustn't believe it.-Forever and ever, living or
dead. Don't let me go, my husband-hold me tight.-They can't-
whatever happens. (A cough.) Pip-my Pip! Not for always-and-
so-soon! (Voice ceases.)
Pause of ten minutes. G. buries his face in the side of the bed while
AYAH bends over bed from opposite side and feels Mas. G.'s
breast and forehead.
CAPT. G. (Rising.) Doctor Sahib ko salaam do.
AYAH. (Still by bedside, with a shriek.) Ail Ail Tuta-phuta! My
Memsahib! Not getting-not have got! -Pusseena agyal (The sweat
has come.) (Fiercely to G.) TUM jao Doctor Sahib ko jaldi! (You
go to the doctor.) Oh, my Memsahib!
DOCTOR. (Entering hastily.) Come away, Gadsby. (Bends over
bed.) Eb! The Dev- What inspired you to stop the punkab? Get out,
man-go away-wait outside! Go! Here, Ayab! (Over his shoulder to
G.) Mind I promise nothing.
The dawn breaks as G. stumbles into the garden.
CAPT. M. (Rehung up at the gate on his way to parade and very
soberly.) Old man, how goes?
CAPT. G. (Dazed.) I don't quite know. Stay a bit. Have a drink
or something. Don't run away. You're just getting amusing. Ha!
CAPT. M. (Aside.) What am I let in for? Gaddy has aged ten years
in the night.
CAPT. G. (Slowly, fingering charger's headstall.) Your curb's too
CAPT. M. So it is. Put it straight, will you? (Aside.) I shall be late
for parade. Poor Gaddy.
CAPT. G. links and unlinks curb-chain aimlessly, and finally
stands staring toward the veranda. The day brightens.
DOCTOR. (Knocked out of professional gravity, tramping across
flower-beds and shaking G's hands.) It'-it's-it's !-Gadsby, tbere's a
fair chance-a dashed fair chance. The flicker, y'know. The sweat,
y'know I saw how it would be. The punkab, y'know. Deuced
clever woman that Ayah of yours. Stopped the punkab just at the
right time. A dashed good chance! No-you don't go in. We'll pull
her through yet I promise on my reputation-under Providence.
Send a man with this note to Bingle. Two heads better than one.
'Specially the Ayah! We'll pull her round. (Retreats hastily to
CAPT. G. (His head on neck of M.'s charger.) Jack! I bub-bu-
believe, I'm going to make a bu-bub-bloody exhibitiod of byself.
CAPT. M. (Sniffing openly and feelmg in his left cuff.) I
b-b-believe, I'b doing it already. Old bad, what cad I say? I'b as
pleased as-Cod dab you, Gaddy! You're one big idiot and I'b
adother. (Pulling himself together.) Sit tight! Here comes the
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Who is not in the Doctor's confidence.)
We-we are only men in these things, Gadsby. I know that I can say
nothing now to help
CAPT. M. (fealously.) Then don't say it Leave him alone. It's not
bad enough to croak over. Here, Gaddy, take the chit to Bingle
and ride hell-for-leather. It'll do you good. I can't go.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Do him good! (Smiling.) Give me the chit
and I'll drive. Let him lie down. Your horse is blocking my
CAPT. M. (Slowly without reining back.) I beg your pardon-I'll
apologize. On paper if you like.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (Flicking M.'s charger.) That'll do, thanks.
Turn in, Gadsby, and I'll bring Bingle back-ahem-"hell-for-
CAPT. M. (Solus.) It would have served me right if he'd cut me
across the face. He can drive too. I shouldn't care to go that pace in
a bamboo cart. What a faith he must have in his Maker-of harness!
Come hup, you brute! (Gallops off to parade, blowing his nose, as
the sun rises.)
(INTERVAL OF' FIVE WEEKS.)
MRS. G. (Very white and pinched, in morning wrapper at break
fast table.) How big and strange the room looks, and how glad I am
to see it again! What dust, though! I must talk to the servants.
Sugar, Pip? I've almost forgotten. (Seriously.) Wasn't I very ill?
CAPT. G. Iller than I liked. (Tenderly.) Oh, you bad little Pussy,
what a start you gave me'
MRS. G. I'll never do it again.
CAPT. G. You'd better not. And now get those poor pale cheeks
pink again, or I shall be angry. Don't try to lift the urn. You'll
upset it. Wait. (Comes round to head of table and lifts urn.)
Mas. G. (Quickly.) Khitmatgar, howarchikhana see kettly lao.
Butler, get a kettle from the cook-house. (Drawing down G.'s face
to her own.) Pip dear, I remember.
CAPT. G. What?
Mas. G. That last terrible night.
CAPT'. G. Then just you forget all about it.
Mas. G. (Softly, her eyes filling.) Never. It has brought us very
close together, my husband. There! (Interlude.) I'm going to give
Junda a saree.
CAPT. G. I gave her fifty dibs.
Mas. G. So she told me. It was a 'normous reward. Was I worth
it? (Several interludes.) Don't! Here's the khitmatgar.-Two lumps
or one Sir?
THE SWELLING OF JORDAN
If thou hast run with the footmen and they have wearied thee, then
how canst thou contend with horses? And if in the land of peace
wherein thou trustedst they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in
the swelling of Jordan?
SCENE.-The GADSBYS' bungalow in the Plains, on a January
morning. Mas. G. arguing with bearer in back veranda.
CAPT. M. rides up.
CAPT. M. 'Mornin', Mrs. Gadsby. How's the Infant Phenomenon
and the Proud Proprietor?
Mas. G. You'll find them in the front veranda; go through the
house. I'm Martha just now.
CAPT. M, 'Cumbered about with cares of Khitmatgars? I fly.
Passes into front veranda, where GADSBV is watching GADSBY
JUNIOR, aged ten months, crawling about the matting.
CAPT. M. What's the trouble, Gaddy-spoiling an honest man's
Europe morning this way? (Seeing G. JUNIOR.) By Jove, that
yearling's comm' on amaxingly! Any amount of bone below the
CAPT. G. Yes, he's a healthy little scoundrel. Don't you think his
CAPT. M. Let's have a look. Hi! Hst Come here, General Luck,
and we'll report on you.
MRS. G. (Within.) What absurd name will you give him next?
Why do you call him that?
CAPT. M. Isn't he our Inspector-General of Cavalry? Doesn't he
come down in his seventeen-two perambulator every morning the
Pink Hussars parade? Don't wriggle, Brigadier. Give us your
private opinion on the way the third squadron went past. 'Trifle
ragged, weren t they?
CAPT. G. A bigger set of tailors than the new draft I don't wish to
see. They've given me more than my fair share-knocking the
squadron out of shape. It's sickening!
CAPT. M. When you're in command, you'll do better, young 'un.
Can't you walk yet? Grip my finger and try. (To G.) 'Twon't hurt
his hocks, will it?
CAPT. G. Oh, no. Don't let him flop, though, or he'll lick all the
blacking off your boots.
MRS. G. (Within.) Who's destroy mg my son's character?
CAPT. M. And my Godson's. I'm ashamed of you, Gaddy. Punch
your father in the eye, Jack! Don't you stand it! Hit him again I
CAPT. G. (Sotto voce.) Put The Butcha down and come to the
end of the veranda. I'd rather the Wife didn't hear-just now.
CAPT. M. You look awf'ly serious. Anything wrong?
CAPT. G. 'Depends on your view entirely. I say, Jack, you won't
think more hardly of me than you can help, will you? Come further
this way.-The fact of the matter is, that I've made up my mind-at
least I'm thinking seriously of-cutting the Service.
CAPT. M. Hwhatt?
CAPT. G. Don't shout. I'm going to send in my papers.
CAPT. M. You! Are you mad?
CAPT. G. No-only married.
CAPT. M. Look here! What's the meaning of it all? You never
intend to leave us. You can't. Isn't the best squadron of the best
regiment of the best cavalry in all the world good enough for you?
CAPT. G. (Jerking his head over his shoulder.) She doesn't seem
to thrive in this God-forsaken country, and there's The Butcha to
be considered and all that, you know.
CAPT. M. Does she say that she doesn't like India?
CAPT. G. That's the worst of it. She won't for fear of leaving me.
CAPT. M. What are the Hills made for?
CAPT. G. Not for my wife, at any rate.
CAPT. M. You know too much, Gaddy, and -I don't like you any
the better for it!
CAPT. G. Never mind that. She wants England, and The Butcha
would be all the better for it. I'm going to chuck. You don't
CAPT. M. (Hotly.) I understand this One hundred and
thirty-seven new horse to be licked into shape somehow before
Luck comes round again; a hairy-heeled draft who'll give more
trouble than the horses; a camp next cold weather for a certainty;
ourselves the first on the roster; the Russian shindy ready to come
to a head at five minutes' notice, and you, the best of us all,
backing out of it all! Think a little, Gaddy. You won't do it.
CAPT. G. Hang it, a man has some duties toward his family, I
CAPT. M. I remember a man, though, who told me, the night after
Amdheran, when we were picketed under Jagai, and he'd left his
sword-by the way, did you ever pay Ranken for that sword?-in an
Utmanzai's head-that man told me that he'd stick by me and the
Pinks as long as he lived. I don't blame him for not sticking by
me-I'm not much of a man-but I do blame him for not sticking by
the Pink Hussars.
CAPT. G. (Uneasily.) We were little more than boys then. Can't
you see, Jack, how things stand? 'Tisn't as if we were serving for
our bread. We've all of us, more or less, got the filthy lucre. I'm
luckier than some, perhaps. There's no call for me to serve on.
CAPT. M. None in the world for you or for us, except the
Regimental. If you don't choose to answer to that, of course-
CAPT. G. Don't be too hard on a man. You know that a lot of us
only take up the thing for a few years and then go back to Town
and catch on with the rest.
CAPT. M. Not lots, and they aren't some of Us.
CAPT. G. And then there are one's affairs at Home to be
considered-my place and the rents, and all that. I don't suppose my
father can last much longer, and that means the title, and so on.
CAPT. M. 'Fraid you won't be entered in the Stud Book correctly
unless you go Home? Take six months, then, and come out in
October. If I could slay off a brother or two, I s'pose I should be a
Marquis of sorts. Any fool can be that; but it needs men, Gaddy-
men like you-to lead flanking squadrons properly. Don't you
delude yourself into the belief that you're going Home to take your
place and prance about among pink-nosed Kabuli dowagers. You
aren't built that way. I know better.
CAPT. G. A man has a right to live his life as happily as he can.
You aren't married.
CAPT. M. No-praise be to Providence and the one or two women
who have had the good sense to jawab me.
CAPT. G. Then you don't know what it is to go into your own
room and see your wife's head on the pillow, and when everything
else is safe and the house shut up for the night, to wonder whether
the roof-beams won't give and kill her.
CAPT. M. (Aside.) Revelations first and second! (Aloud.) So-o!
I knew a man who got squiffy at our Mess once and confided to
me that he never helped his wife on to her horse without praymg
that she'd break her neck before she came back. All husbands
aren't alike, you see.
CAPT. G. What on earth has that to do with my case? The man
must ha' been mad, or his wife as bad as they make 'em.
CAPT. M. (Aside.) 'No fault of yours if either weren't all you say.
You've forgotten the time when you were insane about the Herriott
woman. You always were a good hand at forgetting. (Aloud.) Not
more mad than men who go to the other extreme. Be reasonable,
Gaddy. Your roof-beams are sound enough.
CAPT. G. That was only a way of speaking. I've been uneasy and
worried about the Wife ever since that awful business three years
ago-when-I nearly lost her. Can you wonder?
CAPT. M. Oh, a shell never falls twice in the same place. You've
paid your toll to misfortune-why should your Wife be picked out
more than anybody else's?
CAPT. G. I can talk just as reasonably as you can, but you don't
understand-you don't understand. And then there's The Butcha.
Deuce knows where the Ayah takes him to sit in the evening! He
has a bit of a cough. Haven't you noticed it?
CAPT. M. Bosh! The Brigadier's jumping out of his skin with
pure condition. He's got a muzzle like a rose-leaf and the chest of a
two-year-old. What's demoralized you?
CAPT. G. Funk. That's the long and the short of it. Funk!
CAPT. M. But what is there to funk?
CAPT. G. Everything. It's ghastly.
CAPT. M. Ah! I see.
You don't want to fight, And by Jingo when we do, You've got the
kid, you've got the Wife, You've got the money, too.
That's about the case, eh?
CAPT. G. I suppose that's it. But it's not br myself. It's because of
them. At least I think it is.
CAPT. M. Are you sure? Looking at the matter in a cold-blooded
light, the Wife is provided for even if you were wiped out tonight.
She has an ancestral home to go to, money and the Brigadier to
carry on the illustrious name.
CAPT. G. Then it is for myself or because they are part of me. You
don't see it. My life's so good, so pleasant, as it is, that I want to
make it quite safe. Can't you understand?
CAPT. M. Perfectly. "Shelter-pit for the Off'cer's charger," as they
say in the Line.
CAPT. G. And I have everything to my hand to make it so. I'm
sick of the strain and the worry for their sakes out here; and there
isn't a single real difficulty to prevent my dropping it altogether.
It'll only cost me-Jack, I hope you'll never know the shame that I've
been going through for the past six months.
CAPT. M. Hold on there! I don't wish to he told. Every man has
his moods and tenses sometimes.
CAPT. G. (Laughing brtterly.) Has he? What do you call craning
over to see where your near-fore lands?
CAPT. M. In my case it means that I have been on the
Considerable Bend, and have come to parade with a Head and a
Hand. It passes in three strides.
CAPT. G. (Lowering voice.) It never passes w'th me, Jack. I'm
always thinking about it. Phil Gadsby funking a fall on parade!
Sweet picture, isn't it! Draw it for me.
CAPT. M. (Gravely.) Heaven forbid! A man like you can't be as
bad as that. A fall is no nice thing, but one never gives it a thought.
CAPT. G. Doesn't one? Wait till you've got a wife and a youngster
of your own, and then you'll know how the roar of the squadron
behind you turns you cold all up the back.
CAPT. M. (Aside.) And this man led at Amdheran after Bagal
Deasin went under, and we were all mixed up together, and he
came out of the snow dripping like a butcher. (Aloud.) Skittles!
The men can always open out, and you can always pick your way
more or less. We haven't the dust to bother us, as the men have,
and whoever heard of a horse stepping on a man?
CAPT. G. Never-as long as he can see. But did they open out for
CAPT. M. Oh, this is childish!
CAPT. G. I know it is, worse than that. I don't care. You've ridden
Van Loo. Is he the sort of brute to pick his way-'specially when
we're coming up in column of troop with any pace on?
CAPT. M. Once in a Blue Moon do we gallop in column of troop,
and then only to save time. Aren't three lengths enough for you?
CAPT. G. Yes-quite enough. They just allow for the full
development of the smash. I'm talking like a cur, I know: but I tell
you that, for the past three months, I've felt every hoof of the
squadron in the small of my back every time that I've led.
CAPT. M. But, Gaddy, this is awful!
CAPT. G. Isn't it lovely? Isn't it royal? A Captain of the Pink
Hussars watering up his charger before parade like the blasted
boozing Colonel of a Black Regiment!
CAPT. M. You never did!
CAPT. G. Once Only. He squelched like a mussuck, and the
Troop-Sergeant-Major cocked his eye at me. You know old Haffy's
eye. I was afraid to do it again.
CAPT. M. I should think so. That was the best way to rupture old
Van Loo's tummy, and make him crumple you up. You knew that.
CAPT. G. I didn't care. It took the edge off him.
CAPT. M. "Took the edge off him"? Gaddy, you-you-you
mustn't, you know! Think of the men.
CAPT. G. That's another thing I am afraid of. D'you s'pose they
CAPT. M. Let's hope not; but they're deadly quick to spot
skirm-little things of that kind. See here, old man, send the Wife
Home for the hot weather and come to Kashmir with me. We'll
start a boat on the Dal or cross the Rhotang-shoot ibex or loaf-
which you please. Only come! You're a bit off your oats and you're
talking nonsense. Look at the Colonel-swag-bellied rascal that he
is. He has a wife and no end of a bow-window of his own. Can any
one of us ride round him-chalkstones and all? I can't, and I think I
can shove a crock along a bit.
CAPT. G. Some men are different. I haven't any nerve. Lord
help me, I haven't the nerve! I've taken up a hole and a half to get
my knees well under the wallets. I can't help it. I'm so afraid of
anything happening to me. On my soul, I ought to be broke in front
of the squadron, for cowardice.
CAPT. M. Ugly word, that. I should never have the courage to own
CAPT. G. I meant to lie about my reasons when I began, but-I've
got out of the habit of lying to you, old man. Jack, you won't?-But
I know you won't.
CAPT. M. Of course not. (Half aloud.) The Pinks are paying
dearly for their Pride.
CAPT. G. Eb! What-at?
CAPT. M. Don't you know? The men have called Mrs. Gadsby the
Pride of the Pink Hussars ever since she came to us.
CAPT. G. 'Tisn't her fault. Don't think that. It's all mine.
CAPT. M. What does she say?
CAPT. G. I haven't exactly put it before her. She's the best little
woman in the world, Jack, and all that-but she wouldn't counsel a
man to stick to his calling if it came between him and her. At least,
CAPT. M. Never mind. Don't tell her what you told me. Go on
the Peerage and Landed-Gentry tack.
CAPT. G. She'd see through it. She's five times cleverer than I am.
CAPT. M. (Aside.) Then she'll accept the sacrifice and think a
little bit worse of him for the rest of her days.
CAPT. G. (Absentl'y.) I say, do you despise me?
CAPT. M. 'Queer way of putting it. Have you ever been asked that
question? Think a minute. What answer used you to give?
CAPT. G. So bad as that? I'm not entitled to expect anything
more, but it's a bit hard when one's best friend turns round and-
CAPT. M. So ! have found But you will have consolations-Bailiffs
and Drains and Liquid Manure and the Primrose League, and,
perhaps, if you're lucky, the Colonelcy of a Yeomanry Cav-al-ry
Regiment-all uniform and no riding, I believe. How old are you?
CAPT. G. Thirty-three. I know it's-
CAPT. M. At forty you'll be a fool of a J. P. landlord. At fifty
you'll own a bath-chair, and The Brigadier, if he takes after you,
will be fluttering the dovecotes of-what's the particular dunghill
you're going to? Also, Mrs. Gadsby will be fat.
CAPT. G. (Limply.) This is rather more than a joke.
CAPT. M. D'you think so? Isn't cutting the Service a joke? It
generally takes a man fifty years to arrive at it. You're quite right,
though. It is more than a joke. You've managed it in thirty-three.
CAPT. G. Don't make me feel worse than I do. Will it satisfy you
if I own that I am a shirker, a skrim-shanker, and a coward?
CAPT. M. It wil! not, because I'm the only man in the world who
can talk to you like this without being knocked down. You mustn't
take all that I've said to heart in this way. I only spoke-a lot of it at
least-out of pure selfishness, because, because-Oh, damn it all, old
man,-I don't know what I shall do without you. Of course, you've
got the money and the place and all that-and there are two very
good reasons why you should take care of yourself.
CAPT. G. 'Doesn't make it any sweeter. I'm backing out-I know I
am. I always had a soft drop in me somewhere-and I daren't risk
any danger to them.
CAPT. M. Why in the world should you? You're bound to think of
your family-bound to think. Er-hmm. If I wasn't a younger son
I'd go too-be shot if I wouldn't I!
CAPT. G. Thank you, Jack. It's a kind lie, but it's the blackest
you've told for some time. I know what I'm doing, and I'm going
into it with my eyes open. Old man, I can't help it. What would you
do if you were in my place?
CAPT. M. (Aside.) 'Couldn't conceive any woman getting
permanently between me and the Regiment. (Aloud.) 'Can't say.
'Very likely I should do no better. I'm sorry for you-awf'ly sorry-but
"if them's your sentiments," I believe, I really do, that you are
CAPT. G. Do you? I hope you do. (In a whisper.) Jack, be very
sure of yourself before you marry. I'm an ungrateful ruffian to say
this, but marriage-even as good a marriage as mine has been-
hampers a man's work, it cripples his sword-arm, and oh, it plays
Hell with his notions of duty. Sometimes-good and sweet as she
is-sometimes I could wish that I had kept my freedom- No, I don't
mean that exactly.
MRS. G. (Coming down veranda.) What are you wagging your
head ove; Pip?
CAPT. M. (Turning quickly.) Me, as usual. The old sermon. Your
husband is recommending me to get married. 'Never saw such a
MRS. G. Well, why don't you? I dare say you would make some
woman very happy.
CAPT. G. There's the Law and the Prophets, Jack. Never mind the
Regiment. Make a woman happy. (Aside.) O Lord!
CAPT. M. We'll see. I must be off to make a Troop Cook
desperately unhappy. I won't have the wily Hussar fed on
Government Bullock Train shinbones- (Hastily.) Surely black ants
can't be good for The Brigadier. He's picking em off the matting
and eating 'em. Here, Senor Comandante Don Grubbynuse, come
and talk to me. (Lifts G. JUNIOR in his arms.) 'Want my watch?
You won't be able to put it into your mouth, but you can try. (G.
JUNIOR drops watch, breaking dial and hands.)
MRS. G. Oh, Captain Mafflin, I am so sorry! Jack, you bad, bad
little villain. Ahhh!
CAPT. M. It's not the least consequence, I assure you. He'd treat
the world in the same way if he could get it into his hands.
Everything's made to be played, with and broken, isn't it, young
* * * * * *
MRS. G. Mafflin didn't at all like his watch being broken, though
he was too polite to say so. It was entirely his fault for giving it to
the child. Dem little puds are werry, werry feeble, aren't dey, by
Jack-in-de-box? (To G.) What did he want to see you for?
CAPT. G. Regimental shop as usual.
MRS. G. The Regiment! Always the Regiment. On my word, I
sometimes feel jealous of Mafflin.
CAPT. G. (Wearily.) Poor old Jack? I don't think you need. Isn't it
time for The Butcha to have his nap? Bring a chair out here, dear.
I've got some thing to talk over with you.
AND THIS IS THE END OF THE STORY OF THE GADSBYS
Back to Full Books