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- Captain Brassbound's Conversion - 6/21 -
free choice. If they are dissatisfied, they go. If I am dissatisfied, they go. They take care that I am not dissatisfied.
SIR HOWARD (who has listened with approval and growing confidence). Captain Brassbound: you are the man I want. If your terms are at all reasonable, I will accept your services if we decide to make an excursion. You do not object, Cicely, I hope.
LADY CICELY. Oh no. After all, those men must really like you, Captain Brassbound. I feel sure you have a kind heart. You have such nice eyes.
SIR HOWARD (scandalized). My DEAR Cicely: you really must restrain your expressions of confidence in people's eyes and faces. (To Brassbound) Now, about terms, Captain?
BRASSBOUND. Where do you propose to go?
SIR HOWARD. I hardly know. Where CAN we go, Mr. Rankin?
RANKIN. Take my advice, Sir Howrrd. Don't go far.
BRASSBOUND. I can take you to Meskala, from which you can see the Atlas Mountains. From Meskala I can take you to an ancient castle in the hills, where you can put up as long as you please. The customary charge is half a dollar a man per day and his food. I charge double.
SIR HOWARD. I suppose you answer for your men being sturdy fellows, who will stand to their guns if necessary.
BRASSBOUND. I can answer for their being more afraid of me than of the Moors.
LADY CICELY. That doesn't matter in the least, Howard. The important thing, Captain Brassbound, is: first, that we should have as few men as possible, because men give such a lot of trouble travelling. And then, they must have good lungs and not be always catching cold. Above all, their clothes must be of good wearing material. Otherwise I shall be nursing and stitching and mending all the way; and it will be trouble enough, I assure you, to keep them washed and fed without that.
BRASSBOUND (haughtily). My men, madam, are not children in the nursery.
LADY CICELY (with unanswerable conviction). Captain Brassbound: all men are children in the nursery. I see that you don't notice things. That poor Italian had only one proper bootlace: the other was a bit of string. And I am sure from Mr. Drinkwater's complexion that he ought to have some medicine.
BRASSBOUND (outwardly determined not to be trifled with: inwardly puzzled and rather daunted). Madam: if you want an escort, I can provide you with an escort. If you want a Sunday School treat, I can NOT provide it.
LADY CICELY (with sweet melancholy). Ah, don't you wish you could, Captain? Oh, if I could only show you my children from Waynflete Sunday School! The darlings would love this place, with all the camels and black men. I'm sure you would enjoy having them here, Captain Brassbound; and it would be such an education for your men! (Brassbound stares at her with drying lips.)
SIR HOWARD. Cicely: when you have quite done talking nonsense to Captain Brassbound, we can proceed to make some definite arrangement with him.
LADY CICELY. But it's arranged already. We'll start at eight o'clock to-morrow morning, if you please, Captain. Never mind about the Italian: I have a big box of clothes with me for my brother in Rome; and there are some bootlaces in it. Now go home to bed and don't fuss yourself. All you have to do is to bring your men round; and I'll see to the rest. Men are always so nervous about moving. Goodnight. (She offers him her hand. Surprised, he pulls off his cap for the first time. Some scruple prevents him from taking her hand at once. He hesitates; then turns to Sir Howard and addresses him with warning earnestness.)
BRASSBOUND. Sir Howard Hallam: I advise you not to attempt this expedition.
SIR HOWARD. Indeed! Why?
BRASSBOUND. You are safe here. I warn you, in those hills there is a justice that is not the justice of your courts in England. If you have wronged a man, you may meet that man there. If you have wronged a woman, you may meet her son there. The justice of those hills is the justice of vengeance.
SIR HOWARD (faintly amused). You are superstitious, Captain. Most sailors are, I notice. However, I have complete confidence in your escort.
BRASSBOUND (almost threateningly). Take care. The avenger may be one of the escort.
SIR HOWARD. I have already met the only member of your escort who might have borne a grudge against me, Captain; and he was acquitted.
BRASSBOUND. You are fated to come, then?
SIR HOWARD (smiling). It seems so.
BRASSBOUND. On your head be it! (To Lady Cicely, accepting her hand at last) Goodnight.
He goes. It is by this time starry night.
Midday. A roam in a Moorish castle. A divan seat runs round the dilapidated adobe walls, which are partly painted, partly faced with white tiles patterned in green and yellow. The ceiling is made up of little squares, painted in bright colors, with gilded edges, and ornamented with gilt knobs. On the cement floor are mattings, sheepskins, and leathern cushions with geometrical patterns on them. There is a tiny Moorish table in the middle; and at it a huge saddle, with saddle cloths of various colors, showing that the room is used by foreigners accustomed to chairs. Anyone sitting at the table in this seat would have the chief entrance, a large horseshoe arch, on his left, and another saddle seat between him and the arch; whilst, if susceptible to draughts, he would probably catch cold from a little Moorish door in the wall behind him to his right.
Two or three of Brassbound's men, overcome by the midday heat, sprawl supine on the floor, with their reefer coats under their heads, their knees uplifted, and their calves laid comfortably on the divan. Those who wear shirts have them open at the throat for greater coolness. Some have jerseys. All wear boots and belts, and have guns ready to their hands. One of them, lying with his head against the second saddle seat, wears what was once a fashionable white English yachting suit. He is evidently a pleasantly worthless young English gentleman gone to the bad, but retaining sufficient self-respect to shave carefully and brush his hair, which is wearing thin, and does not seem to have been luxuriant even in its best days.
The silence is broken only by the snores of the young gentleman, whose mouth has fallen open, until a few distant shots half waken him. He shuts his mouth convulsively, and opens his eyes sleepily. A door is violently kicked outside; and the voice of Drinkwater is heard raising urgent alarm.
DRINKWATER. Wot ow! Wike ap there, will yr. Wike ap. (He rushes in through the horseshoe arch, hot and excited, and runs round, kicking the sleepers) Nah then. Git ap. Git ap, will yr, Kiddy Redbrook. (He gives the young qentleman a rude shove.)
REDBOOK (sitting up). Stow that, will you. What's amiss?
DRINKWATER (disgusted). Wot's amiss! Didn't eah naow fawrin, I spowse.
DRINKWATER (sneering). Naow. Thort it sifer nort, didn't yr?
REDBROOK (with crisp intelligence). What! You're running away, are you? (He springs up, crying) Look alive, Johnnies: there's danger. Brandyfaced Jack's on the run. (They spring up hastily, grasping their guns.)
DRINKWATER. Dineger! Yuss: should think there wors dineger. It's howver, thow, as it mowstly his baw the tawm YOU'RE awike. (They relapse into lassitude.) Waw wasn't you on the look-aht to give us a end? Bin hattecked baw the Benny Seeras (Beni Siras), we ev, an ed to rawd for it pretty strite, too, aw teoll yr. Mawtzow is it: the bullet glawnst all rahnd is bloomin brisket. Brarsbahnd e dropt the Shike's oss at six unnern fifty yawds. (Bustling them about) Nah then: git the plice ready for the British herristoracy, Lawd Ellam and Lidy Wineflete.
REDBOOK. Lady faint, eh?
DRINKWATER. Fynt! Not lawkly. Wornted to gow an talk, to the Benny Seeras: blaow me if she didn't! huz wot we was frahtnd of. Tyin up Mawtzow's wound, she is, like a bloomin orspittle nass. (Sir Howard, with a copious pagri on his white hat, enters through the horseshoe arch, followed by a couple of men supporting the wounded Marzo, who, weeping and terrorstricken by the prospect of death and of subsequent torments for which he is conscious of having eminently qualified himself, has his coat off and a bandage round his chest. One of his supporters is a blackbearded, thickset, slow, middle-aged man with an air of damaged respectability, named--as it afterwards appears--Johnson. Lady Cicely walks beside Marzo. Redbrook, a little shamefaced, crosses the room to the opposite wall as far away as possible from the visitors. Drinkwater turns and receives them with jocular ceremony.) Weolcome to Brarsbahnd Cawstl, Sr Ahrd an lidy. This eah is the corfee and commercial room.
Sir Howard goes to the table and sits on the saddle, rather exhausted. Lady Cicely comes to Drinkwater.
LADY CICELY. Where is Marzo's bed?
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