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- Captain Brassbound's Conversion - 10/21 -


you are missing, what will your newspapers say? A foolhardy tourist. What will your learned friends at the bar say? That it was time for you to make room for younger and better men. YOU a national hero! You had better find a goldfield in the Atlas Mountains. Then all the governments of Europe will rush to your rescue. Until then, take care of yourself; for you are going to see at last the hypocrisy in the sanctimonious speech of the judge who is sentencing you, instead of the despair in the white face of the wretch you are recommending to the mercy of your God.

SIR HOWARD (deeply and personally offended by this slight to his profession, and for the first time throwing away his assumed dignity and rising to approach Brassbound with his fists clenched; so that Lady Cicely lifts one eye from her work to assure herself that the table is between them). I have no more to say to you, sir. I am not afraid of you, nor of any bandit with whom you may be in league. As to your property, it is ready for you as soon as you come to your senses and claim it as your father's heir. Commit a crime, and you will become an outlaw, and not only lose the property, but shut the doors of civilization against yourself for ever.

BRASSBOUND. I will not sell my mother's revenge for ten properties.

LADY CICELY (placidly). Besides, really, Howard, as the property now costs 150 pounds a year to keep up instead of bringing in anything, I am afraid it would not be of much use to him. (Brassbound stands amazed at this revelation.)

SIR HOWARD (taken aback). I must say, Cicely, I think you might have chosen a more suitable moment to mention that fact.

BRASSBOUND (with disgust). Agh! Trickster! Lawyer! Even the price you offer for your life is to be paid in false coin. (Calling) Hallo there! Johnson! Redbrook! Some of you there! (To Sir Howard) You ask for a little privacy: you shall have it. I will not endure the company of such a fellow--

SIR HOWARD (very angry, and full of the crustiest pluck). You insult me, sir. You are a rascal. You are a rascal.

Johnson, Redbrook, and a few others come in through the arch.

BRASSBOUND. Take this man away.

JOHNSON. Where are we to put him?

BRASSBOUND. Put him where you please so long as you can find him when he is wanted.

SIR HOWARD. You will be laid by the heels yet, my friend.

REDBROOK (with cheerful tact). Tut tut, Sir Howard: what's the use of talking back? Come along: we'll make you comfortable.

Sir Howard goes out through the arch between Johnson and Redbrook, muttering wrathfully. The rest, except Brassbound and Lady Cicely, follow.

Brassbound walks up and down the room, nursing his indignation. In doing so he unconsciously enters upon an unequal contest with Lady Cicely, who sits quietly stitching. It soon becomes clear that a tranquil woman can go on sewing longer than an angry man can go on fuming. Further, it begins to dawn on Brassbound's wrath-blurred perception that Lady Cicely has at some unnoticed stage in the proceedings finished Marzo's bandage, and is now stitching a coat. He stops; glances at his shirtsleeves; finally realizes the situation.

BRASSBOUND. What are you doing there, madam?

LADY CICELY. Mending your coat, Captain Brassbound.

BRASSBOUND. I have no recollection of asking you to take that trouble.

LADY CICELY. No: I don't suppose you even knew it was torn. Some men are BORN untidy. You cannot very well receive Sidi el--what's his name?--with your sleeve half out.

BRASSBOUND (disconcerted). I--I don't know how it got torn.

LADY CICELY. You should not get virtuously indignant with people. It bursts clothes more than anything else, Mr. Hallam.

BRASSBOUND (flushing, quickly). I beg you will not call me Mr. Hallam. I hate the name.

LADY CICELY. Black Paquito is your pet name, isn't it?

BRASSBOUND (huffily). I am not usually called so to my face.

LADY CICELY (turning the coat a little). I'm so sorry. (She takes another piece of thread and puts it into her needle, looking placidly and reflectively upward meanwhile.) Do you know, You are wonderfully like your uncle.

BRASSBOUND. Damnation!

LADY CICELY. Eh?

BRASSBOUND. If I thought my veins contained a drop of his black blood, I would drain them empty with my knife. I have no relations. I had a mother: that was all.

LADY CICELY (unconvinced) I daresay you have your mother's complexion. But didn't you notice Sir Howard's temper, his doggedness, his high spirit: above all, his belief in ruling people by force, as you rule your men; and in revenge and punishment, just as you want to revenge your mother? Didn't you recognize yourself in that?

BRASSBOUND (startled). Myself!--in that!

LADY CECILY (returning to the tailoring question as if her last remark were of no consequence whatever). Did this sleeve catch you at all under the arm? Perhaps I had better make it a little easier for you.

BRASSBOUND (irritably). Let my coat alone. It will do very well as it is. Put it down.

LADY CICIELY. Oh, don't ask me to sit doing nothing. It bores me so.

BRASSBOUND. In Heaven's name then, do what you like! Only don't worry me with it.

LADY CICELY. I'm so sorry. All the Hallams are irritable.

BRASSBOUND (penning up his fury with difficulty). As I have already said, that remark has no application to me.

LADY CICELY (resuming her stitching). That's so funny! They all hate to be told that they are like one another.

BRASSBOUND (with the beginnings of despair in his voice). Why did you come here? My trap was laid for him, not for you. Do you know the danger you are in?

LADY CICELY. There's always a danger of something or other. Do you think it's worth bothering about?

BRASSBOUND (scolding her). Do I THINK! Do you think my coat's worth mending?

LADY CICELY (prosaically). Oh yes: it's not so far gone as that.

BRASSBOUND. Have you any feeling? Or are you a fool?

LADY CICELY. I'm afraid I'm a dreadful fool. But I can't help it. I was made so, I suppose.

BRASSBOUND. Perhaps you don't realize that your friend my good uncle will be pretty fortunate if he is allowed to live out his life as a slave with a set of chains on him?

LADY CICELY. Oh, I don't know about that, Mr. H--I mean Captain Brassbound. Men are always thinking that they are going to do something grandly wicked to their enemies; but when it comes to the point, really bad men are just as rare as really good ones.

BRASSBOUND. You forget that I am like my uncle, according to you. Have you any doubt as to the reality of HIS badness?

LADY CICELY. Bless me! your uncle Howard is one of the most harmless of men--much nicer than most professional people. Of course he does dreadful things as a judge; but then if you take a man and pay him 5,000 pounds a year to be wicked, and praise him for it, and have policemen and courts and laws and juries to drive him into it so that he can't help doing it, what can you expect? Sir Howard's all right when he's left to himself. We caught a burglar one night at Waynflete when he was staying with us; and I insisted on his locking the poor man up until the police came, in a room with a window opening on the lawn. The man came back next day and said he must return to a life of crime unless I gave him a job in the garden; and I did. It was much more sensible than giving him ten years penal servitude: Howard admitted it. So you see he's not a bit bad really.

BRASSBOUND. He had a fellow feeling for a thief, knowing he was a thief himself. Do you forget that he sent my mother to prison?

LADY CICELY (softly). Were you very fond of your poor mother, and always very good to her?

BRASSBOUND (rather taken aback). I was not worse than other sons, I suppose.

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 she--she--

LADY CICELY. Yes: so you told Howard. (With genuine pity for him) You must have had a very unhappy childhood.


Captain Brassbound's Conversion - 10/21

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