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- Captain Brassbound's Conversion - 1/21 -
CAPTAIN BRASSBOUND'S CONVERSION
On the heights overlooking the harbor of Mogador, a seaport on the west coast of Morocco, the missionary, in the coolness of the late afternoon, is following the precept of Voltaire by cultivating his garden. He is an elderly Scotchman, spiritually a little weatherbeaten, as having to navigate his creed in strange waters crowded with other craft but still a convinced son of the Free Church and the North African Mission, with a faithful brown eye, and a peaceful soul. Physically a wiry small-knit man, well tanned, clean shaven, with delicate resolute features and a twinkle of mild humor. He wears the sun helmet and pagri, the neutral-tinted spectacles, and the white canvas Spanish sand shoes of the modern Scotch missionary: but instead of a cheap tourist's suit from Glasgow, a grey flannel shirt with white collar, a green sailor knot tie with a cheap pin in it, he wears a suit of clean white linen, acceptable in color, if not in cut, to the Moorish mind.
The view from the garden includes much Atlantic Ocean and a long stretch of sandy coast to the south, swept by the north east trade wind, and scantily nourishing a few stunted pepper trees, mangy palms, and tamarisks. The prospect ends, as far as the land is concerned, in little hills that come nearly to the sea: rudiments, these, of the Atlas Mountains. The missionary, having had daily opportunities of looking at this seascape for thirty years or so, pays no heed to it, being absorbed in trimming a huge red geranium bush, to English eyes unnaturally big, which, with a dusty smilax or two, is the sole product of his pet flower-bed. He is sitting to his work on a Moorish stool. In the middle of the garden there is a pleasant seat in the shade of a tamarisk tree. The house is in the south west corner of the garden, and the geranium bush in the north east corner.
At the garden-door of the house there appears presently a man who is clearly no barbarian, being in fact a less agreeable product peculiar to modern commercial civilization. His frame and flesh are those of an ill-nourished lad of seventeen; but his age is inscrutable: only the absence of any sign of grey in his mud colored hair suggests that he is at all events probably under forty, without prejudice to the possibility of his being under twenty. A Londoner would recognize him at once as an extreme but hardy specimen of the abortion produced by nature in a city slum. His utterance, affectedly pumped and hearty, and naturally vulgar and nasal, is ready and fluent: nature, a Board School education, and some kerbstone practice having made him a bit of an orator. His dialect, apart from its base nasal delivery, is not unlike that of smart London society in its tendency to replace diphthongs by vowels (sometimes rather prettily) and to shuffle all the traditional vowel pronunciations. He pronounces ow as ah, and i as aw, using the ordinary ow for o, i for a, a for u, and e for a, with this reservation, that when any vowel is followed by an r he signifies its presence, not by pronouncing the r, which he never does under these circumstances, but by prolonging and modifyinq the vowel, sometimes even to the extreme degree of pronouncing it properly. As to his yol for l (a compendious delivery of the provincial eh-al), and other metropolitan refinements, amazing to all but cockneys, they cannot be indicated, save in the above imperfect manner, without the aid of a phonetic alphabet. He is dressed in somebody else's very second best as a coast-guardsman, and gives himself the airs of a stage tar with sufficient success to pass as a possible fish porter of bad character in casual employment during busy times at Billingsgate. His manner shows an earnest disposition to ingratiate himself with the missionary, probably for some dishonest purpose.
THE MAN. Awtenoon, Mr. Renkin. (The missionary sits up quickly, and turns, resigning himself dutifully to the interruption.) Yr honor's eolth.
RANKIN (reservedly). Good afternoon, Mr. Drinkwotter.
DRINKWATER. You're not best pleased to be hinterrupted in yr bit o gawdnin bow the lawk o me, gavner.
RANKIN. A missionary knows nothing of leks of that soart, or of disleks either, Mr. Drinkwotter. What can I do for ye?
DRINKWATER (heartily). Nathink, gavner. Awve brort noos fer yer.
RANKIN. Well, sit ye doon.
DRINKWATER. Aw thenk yr honor. (He sits down on the seat under the tree and composes himself for conversation.) Hever ear o Jadge Ellam?
RANKIN. Sir Howrrd Hallam?
DRINKWATER. Thet's im-enginest jadge in Hingland! --awlus gives the ket wen it's robbry with voylence, bless is awt. Aw sy nathink agin im: awm all fer lor mawseolf, AW em.
DRINKWATER. Hever ear of is sist-in-lor: Lidy Sisly Winefleet?
RANKIN. Do ye mean the celebrated Leddy--the traveller?
DRINKWATER. Yuss: should think aw doo. Walked acrost Harfricar with nathink but a little dawg, and wrowt abaht it in the Dily Mile (the Daily Mail, a popular London newspaper), she did.
RANKIN. Is she Sir Howrrd Hallam's sister-in-law?
DRINKWATER. Deeceased wawfe's sister: yuss: thet's wot SHE is.
RANKIN. Well, what about them?
DRINKWATER. Wot abaht them! Waw, they're EAH. Lannid aht of a steam yacht in Mogador awber not twenty minnits agow. Gorn to the British cornsl's. E'll send em orn to you: e ynt got naowheres to put em. Sor em awr (hire) a Harab an two Krooboys to kerry their laggige. Thort awd cam an teoll yer.
RANKIN. Thank you. It's verra kind of you, Mr. Drinkwotter.
DRINKWATER. Down't mention it, gavner. Lor bless yer, wawn't it you as converted me? Wot was aw wen aw cam eah but a pore lorst sinner? Down't aw ow y'a turn fer thet? Besawds, gavner, this Lidy Sisly Winefleet mawt wor't to tike a walk crost Morocker--a rawd inter the mahntns or sech lawk. Weoll, as you knaow, gavner, thet cawn't be done eah withaht a hescort.
RANKIN. It's impoassible: th' would oall b' murrdered. Morocco is not lek the rest of Africa.
DRINKWATER. No, gavner: these eah Moors ez their religion; an it mikes em dinegerous. Hever convert a Moor, gavner?
RANKIN (with a rueful smile). No.
DRINKWATER (solemnly). Nor never will, gavner.
RANKIN. I have been at work here for twenty-five years, Mr. Drinkwotter; and you are my first and only convert.
DRINKWATER. Down't seem naow good, do it, gavner?
RANKIN. I don't say that. I hope I have done some good. They come to me for medicine when they are ill; and they call me the Christian who is not a thief. THAT is something.
DRINKWATER. Their mawnds kennot rawse to Christiennity lawk hahrs ken, gavner: thet's ah it is. Weoll, ez haw was syin, if a hescort is wornted, there's maw friend and commawnder Kepn Brarsbahnd of the schooner Thenksgivin, an is crew, incloodin mawseolf, will see the lidy an Jadge Ellam through henny little excursion in reason. Yr honor mawt mention it.
RANKIN. I will certainly not propose anything so dangerous as an excursion.
DRINKWATER (virtuously). Naow, gavner, nor would I awst you to. (Shaking his head.) Naow, naow: it IS dinegerous. But hall the more call for a hescort if they should ev it hin their mawnds to gow.
RANKIN. I hope they won't.
DRINKWATER. An sow aw do too, gavner.
RANKIN (pondering). 'Tis strange that they should come to Mogador, of all places; and to my house! I once met Sir Howrrd Hallam, years ago.
DRINKWATER (amazed). Naow! didger? Think o thet, gavner! Waw, sow aw did too. But it were a misunnerstedin, thet wors. Lef the court withaht a stine on maw kerrickter, aw did.
RANKIN (with some indignation). I hope you don't think I met Sir Howrrd in that way.
DRINKWATER. Mawt yeppn to the honestest, best meanin pusson, aw do assure yer, gavner.
RANKIN. I would have you to know that I met him privately, Mr. Drinkwotter. His brother was a dear friend of mine. Years ago. He went out to the West Indies.
DRINKWATER. The Wust Hindies! Jist acrost there, tather sawd thet howcean (pointing seaward)! Dear me! We cams hin with vennity, an we deepawts in dawkness. Down't we, gavner?
RANKIN (pricking up his ears). Eh? Have you been reading that little book I gave you?
DRINKWATER. Aw hev, et odd tawms. Very camfitn, gavner. (He rises, apprehensive lest further catechism should find him unprepared.) Awll sy good awtenoon, gavner: you're busy hexpectin o Sr Ahrd an Lidy Sisly, ynt yer? (About to go.)
RANKIN (stopping him). No, stop: we're oalways ready for
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