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- Captain Brassbound's Conversion - 3/21 -

racecourse attire.

The lady is between thirty and forty, tall, very goodlooking, sympathetic, intelligent, tender and humorous, dressed with cunning simplicity not as a businesslike, tailor made, gaitered tourist, but as if she lived at the next cottage and had dropped in for tea in blouse and flowered straw hat. A woman of great vitality and humanity, who begins a casual acquaintance at the point usually attained by English people after thirty years acquaintance when they are capable of reaching it at all. She pounces genially on Drinkwater, who is smirking at her, hat in hand, with an air of hearty welcome. The gentleman, on the other hand, comes down the side of the garden next the house, instinctively maintaining a distance between himself and the others.

THE LADY (to Drinkwater). How dye do? Are you the missionary?

DRINKWATER (modestly). Naow, lidy, aw will not deceive you, thow the mistike his but netral. Awm wanne of the missionary's good works, lidy--is first cornvert, a umble British seaman-- countrymen o yours, lidy, and of is lawdship's. This eah is Mr. Renkin, the bust worker in the wust cowst vawnyawd. (Introducing the judge) Mr. Renkin: is lawdship Sr Ahrd Ellam. (He withdraws discreetly into the house.)

SIR HOWARD (to Rankin). I am sorry to intrude on you, Mr. Rankin; but in the absence of a hotel there seems to be no alternative.

LADY CICELY (beaming on him). Besides, we would so much RATHER stay with you, if you will have us, Mr. Rankin.

SIR HOWARD (introducing her). My sister-in-law, Lady Cicely Waynflete, Mr. Rankin.

RANKIN. I am glad to be of service to your leddyship. You will be wishing to have some tea after your journey, I'm thinking.

LADY CICELY. Thoughtful man that you are, Mr. Rankin! But we've had some already on board the yacht. And I've arranged everything with your servants; so you must go on gardening just as if we were not here.

SIR HOWARD. I am sorry to have to warn you, Mr. Rankin, that Lady Cicely, from travelling in Africa, has acquired a habit of walking into people's houses and behaving as if she were in her own.

LADY CICELY. But, my dear Howard, I assure you the natives like it.

RANKIN (gallantly). So do I.

LADY CICELY (delighted). Oh, that is so nice of you, Mr. Rankin. This is a delicious country! And the people seem so good! They have such nice faces! We had such a handsome Moor to carry our luggage up! And two perfect pets of Krooboys! Did you notice their faces, Howard?

SIR HOWARD. I did; and I can confidently say, after a long experience of faces of the worst type looking at me from the dock, that I have never seen so entirely villainous a trio as that Moor and the two Krooboys, to whom you gave five dollars when they would have been perfectly satisfied with one.

RANKIN (throwing up his hands). Five dollars! 'Tis easy to see you are not Scotch, my leddy.

LADY CICELY. Oh, poor things, they must want it more than we do; and you know, Howard, that Mahometans never spend money in drink.

RANKIN. Excuse me a moment, my leddy. I have a word in season to say to that same Moor. (He goes into the house.)

LADY CICELY (walking about the garden, looking at the view and at the flowers). I think this is a perfectly heavenly place.

Drinkwater returns from the house with a chair.

DRINKWATER (placing the chair for Sir Howard). Awskink yr pawdn for the libbety, Sr Ahrd.

SIR HOWARD (looking a him). I have seen you before somewhere.

DRINKWATER. You ev, Sr Ahrd. But aw do assure yer it were hall a mistike.

SIR HOWARD. As usual. (He sits down.) Wrongfully convicted, of course.

DRINKWATER (with sly delight). Naow, gavner. (Half whispering, with an ineffable grin) Wrorngfully hacquittid!

SIR HOWARD. Indeed! That's the first case of the kind I have ever met.

DRINKWATER. Lawd, Sr Ahrd, wot jagginses them jurymen was! You an me knaowed it too, didn't we?

SIR HOWARD. I daresay we did. I am sorry to say I forget the exact nature of the difficulty you were in. Can you refresh my memory?

DRINKWATER. Owny the aw sperrits o youth, y' lawdship. Worterleoo Rowd kice. Wot they calls Ooliganism.

SIR HOWARD. Oh! You were a Hooligan, were you?

LADY CICELY (puzzled). A Hooligan!

DRINKWATER (deprecatingly). Nime giv huz pore thortless leds baw a gent on the Dily Chrornicle, lidy. (Rankin returns. Drinkwater immediately withdraws, stopping the missionary for a moment near the threshold to say, touching his forelock) Awll eng abaht within ile, gavner, hin kice aw should be wornted. (He goes into the house with soft steps.)

Lady Cicely sits down on the bench under the tamarisk. Rankin takes his stool from the flowerbed and sits down on her left, Sir Howard being on her right.

LADY CICELY. What a pleasant face your sailor friend has, Mr. Rankin! He has been so frank and truthful with us. You know I don't think anybody can pay me a greater compliment than to be quite sincere with me at first sight. It's the perfection of natural good manners.

SIR HOWARD. You must not suppose, Mr. Rankin, that my sister-in-law talks nonsense on purpose. She will continue to believe in your friend until he steals her watch; and even then she will find excuses for him.

RANKIN (drily changing the subject). And how have ye been, Sir Howrrd, since our last meeting that morning nigh forty year ago down at the docks in London?

SIR HOWARD (greatly surprised, pulling himself together) Our last meeting! Mr. Rankin: have I been unfortunate enough to forget an old acquaintance?

RANKIN. Well, perhaps hardly an acquaintance, Sir Howrrd. But I was a close friend of your brother Miles: and when he sailed for Brazil I was one of the little party that saw him off. You were one of the party also, if I'm not mistaken. I took particular notice of you because you were Miles's brother and I had never seen ye before. But ye had no call to take notice of me.

SIR HOWARD (reflecting). Yes: there was a young friend of my brother's who might well be you. But the name, as I recollect it, was Leslie.

RANKIN. That was me, sir. My name is Leslie Rankin; and your brother and I were always Miles and Leslie to one another.

SIR HOWARD (pluming himself a little). Ah! that explains it. I can trust my memory still, Mr. Rankin; though some people do complain that I am growing old.

RANKIN. And where may Miles be now, Sir Howard?

SIR HOWARD (abruptly). Don't you know that he is dead?

RANKIN (much shocked). Never haird of it. Dear, dear: I shall never see him again; and I can scarcely bring his face to mind after all these years. (With moistening eyes, which at once touch Lady Cicely's sympathy) I'm right sorry--right sorry.

SIR HOWARD (decorously subduing his voice). Yes: he did not live long: indeed, he never came back to England. It must be nearly thirty years ago now that he died in the West Indies on his property there.

RANKIN (surprised). His proaperty! Miles with a proaperty!

SIR HOWARD. Yes: he became a planter, and did well out there, Mr. Rankin. The history of that property is a very curious and interesting one--at least it is so to a lawyer like myself.

RANKIN. I should be glad to hear it for Miles's sake, though I am no lawyer, Sir Howrrd.

LADY CICELY. I never knew you had a brother, Howard.

SIR HOWARD (not pleased by this remark). Perhaps because you never asked me. (Turning more blandly to Rankin) I will tell you the story, Mr. Rankin. When Miles died, he left an estate in one of the West Indian islands. It was in charge of an agent who was a sharpish fellow, with all his wits about him. Now, sir, that man did a thing which probably could hardly be done with impunity even here in Morocco, under the most barbarous of surviving civilizations. He quite simply took the estate for himself and kept it.

RANKIN. But how about the law?

SIR HOWARD. The law, sir, in that island, consisted practically of the Attorney General and the Solicitor General; and these gentlemen were both retained by the agent. Consequently there was no solicitor in the island to take up the case against him.

Captain Brassbound's Conversion - 3/21

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