Knowing Good and Evil.
SCENE.--_The_ GADSBYS′ _bungalow in the Plains, in June. Punkah-coolies asleep in veranda where_ CAPTAIN GADSBY _is walking up and down._ DOCTOR′S _trap in porch._ JUNIOR CHAPLAIN _drifting generally and uneasily through the house. Time,_ 3.40 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 colour of good cigar-ash._) Eh, 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 any--?
DOCTOR. (_Savagely._) Hsh, you little fool!
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Let me do my work. Gadsby, stop a minute! (_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.
G. _enters bedroom, which is lit by one night-lamp.
Ayah on the 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, Minnie? 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 me!--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_ MRS. G′s _forehead._) _Memsahib!_ Captain Sahib here.
VOICE. _Salma 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 him? 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?
VOICE. (_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? (_Takes 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 recognise. They say all sorts of queer things--don′t you _see?_
CAPT. G. All right! All right! Go away now, she′ll recognise 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 to-morrow. You _must_ take it, or I shan′t let Phil see you. It isn′t nasty, is it?
VOICE. Medicines! _Always_ more medicines! Can′t you leave me alone?
CAPT. G. Oh, leave her in peace, Doc!
DOCTOR. (_Stepping back,--aside._) May I be forgiven if I′ve done 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, but--
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_ proposed.
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 favour 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 days; 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-don′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 shan′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 year. (_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 too.
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, Min!
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 honour 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, Pip.
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 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 jackal. Pip, what time is it?
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 quaver_):--
′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 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 sheet._)
CAPT. G. (_Catching up hands._) Ahh! Don′t do that, Pussy, if you love me.
VOICE. Love you? Of course I do. Who else should it be? (_A pause._)
VOICE. (_Very clearly._) Pip, I′m going 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.--For ever 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_ MRS. G.′s _breast and forehead._
CAPT. G. (_Rising._) _Doctor Sahib ko salaam do._
AYAH. (_Still by bedside, with a shriek._) Ai! Ai! _Tuta---phuta!_ My _Memsahib!_ Not getting--not have got!--_Pusseena agya!_ (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._) Eh! The Dev--What inspired you to stop the punkah? Get out, man--go away--wait outside! _Go!_ Here, Ayah! (_Over his shoulder to_ G.) Mind, I promise nothing.
_The dawn breaks as_ G. _stumbles into the garden._
CAPT. M. (_Reining 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! 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 loose.
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 towards the veranda. The day brightens._
DOCTOR. (_Knocked out of professional gravity, tramping across flower-beds and shaking_ G.′s _hands._) It′s--it′s--it′s!--Gadsby, there′s a fair chance--a _dashed_ fair chance! The flicker, y′know. The sweat, y′know! I _saw_ how it would be. The punkah, y′know. Deuced clever woman that Ayah of yours. Stopped the punkah 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 house._)
CAPT. G. (_His head on neck of_ M.′s _charger._) _Jack!_ I bub--bub--believe, I′m going to make a bub--bub--bloody exhibitiod of byself.
CAPT. M. (_Sniffing openly and feeling 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 Devil-dodger.
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. (_Jealously._) 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 cart--_please!_
CAPT. M. (_Slowly without reining back._) I beg your pardon--I′ll apologise. 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-leather.′
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 breakfast table._) How big and strange the room looks, and oh 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._)
MRS. G. (_Quickly._) _Khitmatgar, bowarchi-khana 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?
MRS. G. That last terrible night.
CAPT. G. Then just you forget all about it.
MRS. 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.
MRS. 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?