The Fires of Fate (play 1909)
From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia
The Fires of Fate (sub-titled: a modern morality play) is a British play in 4 acts written by Arthur Conan Doyle performed at the Lyric Theatre (London, UK) between 15 june and 11 august 1909, starring Lewis Waller as Colonel Cyril Egerton. The play was transferred to the Haymarket Theatre (London, UK) from 12 to 31 august 1909 starring Ben Webster replacing Waller who started a provincial touring from 23 august with a new cast. The play returned back to the Lyric Theatre on 6 september until 9 october 1909.
A revival of the play was played at the Adelphi Theatre (London) on 23, 27, 30 may and 3 june 1910 with Ben Webster as Colonel Cyril Egerton.
A Spring Tour was then toured in UK by J. E. Vedrenne from 31 january to 21 may 1910 with Stephen T. Ewart as Colonel Cyril Egerton. Then an Autumn Tour was toured in UK by Glennister & Ingram's companies in august and october 1910 with Lewis Fielder as Colonel Cyril Egerton.
- 1 Conan Doyle about the play
- 2 Photos
- 3 Cast
- 4 Performances
- 5 Ads
- 6 Reviews
- 7 Text
Conan Doyle about the play
In an interview in the Aberdeen Journal (2 june 1909, p. 7), Conan Doyle described the play as follow :
- « Yes, I have called my new play 'a modern morality play' — at least, that is the sub-title, 'The Fires of Fate' is the name. What is the philosophy? Well, it is as old as the hills, and yet needs to be restated and revindicated with every generation. It upholds that optimism which I believe to be the supreme human wisdom, and that faith which will enable a man to be optimistic upon general principles, however much the particular instance may seem to be an exception to his scheme of philosophy. If he works on true to those general principles, he will always find his faith justified in some fashion — often an unexpected one. In this play a man is tempted to take his own life. He does not take it, and the course of events shows how mistaken and foolish, as well as wicked, he would have been had he done so. Again, there is a group of characters who all start with the common weaknesses of our modern civilisation. Each has his spiritual fault. They have led happy and comfortable lives, in which evil habits have developed. They are plunged together into a terrible experience. You see how each takes it, and you see how far those who survive are the better for it, and how in this instance pain and sorrow have shown themselves to be the great chastening and renovating force in life. Dramatic difficulties? Yes, indeed. The greatest is that where you have a play which discusses philosophy and illustrates it in somewhat violent action. You necessarily have it set in two keys. Your more thoughtful scenes may offend those who love action, your active scenes may offend the thoughtful. However, you can only tell by trying. »
Lyric Theatre (15 june - 11 august 1909)
Lewis Waller's company
- Colonel Cyril Egerton : Lewis Waller
- Rev. Samuel Roden : A. E. George
- Dr. James Roden : J. Fisher White
- Miss Sadie Adams : Evelyn D'Alroy
- Thomas Belmont : Frederick Lloyd
- Cecil Brown : Evelyn Beerbohm
- Mr. Brodie : Alec F. Thompson
- Octave Fardet : Michael Sherbrooke
- Rudkin : Hervert Vyvyan
- Abdullah : Shiel Barry
- Captain Jack Archer : Charles Maude
- Sidi Mahomed : W. Cronin-Wilson
- Ali Wad Ibrahim : Frank Woolfe
- Abdurrahman : Henry Stevens
- Mrs. Belmont : Auriol Lee
- Miss Adams : Agnes Thomas
Haymarket Theatre (12-31 august 1909)
- Colonel Cyril Egerton : Ben Webster
- Rev. Samuel Roden : J. D. Beveridge
- Dr. James Roden : Lewis Casson
- Miss Sadie Adams : Auriol Lee
- Thomas Belmont : Frederick Lloyd
- Cecil Brown : Spencer Trevor
- Mr. Brodie : Hervert Vyvyan
- Octave Fardet : Michael Sherbrooke
- Rudkin : Arthur Ansell
- Abdullah : Hubert Druch
- Captain Jack Archer : Charles Maude
- Sidi Mahomed : W. Cronin-Wilson
- Ali Wad Ibrahim : Frank Woolfe
- Abdurrahman : Henry Stevens
- Mrs. Belmont : Dorothy Dix
- Miss Adams : Agnes Thomas
Provincial touring cast (august-september 1909)
Spring Tour (31 january - 21 may 1910)
J. D. Vedrenne's company, under the direction of George Parrington
- Colonel Cyril Egerton : Stephen T. Ewart
- Rev. Samuel Roden : Herbert Vyvyan
- Dr. James Roden : Charles Francis
- Miss Sadie Adams : Ruth Bower
- Mr. Belmont : Edward Coventry
- Cecil Brown : Stanley Logan
- Mr. Brodie : H. Maule
- Octave Fardet : Gerald Mirrielees
- Rudkin : Arthur Ansell
- Abdullah : Alfred Sandoe
- Captain Jack Archer : Frederick Worlock
- Mohamed, the Dervish Spy : G. T. Lambert
- Mrs. Belmont : Lydia Hayward
- Miss Adams : Gwendolen Floyd
- Arabs chiefs : Everard Vanderlip, Dennis Bryan
Revival Adelphi Theatre (23 may - 3 june 1910)
- Colonel Cyril Egerton : Ben Webster
- Rev. Samuel Roden : J. D. Beveridge
- Dr. James Roden : Bassett Roe
- Miss Sadie Adams : Ruth Bower
- Mr. Belmont : Arthur Burne
- Cecil Brown : Spencer Trevor
- Mr. Brodie : Alec F. Thompson
- Octave Fardet : Gerald Mirrielees
- Rudkin : Chas. Combe
- Abdullah : A. S. Homewood
- Captain Jack Archer : Chas. Maude
- Dervish Spy : W. Cronin Wilson
- Ali Wad Ibrahim : Frank Woolfe
- Abdurrahman : S. J. Warmington
- A Dervish : Caton Woodville
- Mrs. Belmont : Dorothea Desmond
- Miss Adams : Agnes Thomas
Autumn Tour (29 august - 3 december 1910)
Stage Management : A. C. Holmes
- Colonel Cyril Egerton : Lewis Fielder
- Miss Sadie Adams : Aimee de Burgh
- Rev. Samuel Roden : Gilbert Yorke
- Dr. James Roden : George F. Ide
- Captain Jack Archer : A. C. Holmes
- Miss Adams : Marie Darbyshire
- Abdullah : Sidney Carlisle
- London (1909)
- 15 june - 11 august 1909 : Lyric Theatre (London, UK)
- 12-31 august 1909 : Haymarket Theatre (London, UK)
- Provincial Tour (1909)
- 23>28 august 1909 : King's Theatre (Sunderland, UK)
- 18 september 1909 : Shakespeare Theatre (Liverpool, UK)
- 20>25? september 1909 : Theatre Royal (Newcastle-on-Tyne, UK)
- Back to London (1909)
- 6 september - 9 october 1909 : Lyric Theatre (London, UK)
- Spring Tour (1910)
- 31 jan - 5 feb 1910 : Fulham Theatre (Fulham, London suburb, UK)
- 7-12 february 1910 : Coronet Theatre (Notting Hill Gate, London suburb, UK)
- 14-19 february 1910 : Kennington Theatre (Kennington, London suburb, UK)
- 28 feb - 5 march 1910 : Opera House (Cheltenham, UK)
- ~21 february 1910 : Royal County Theatre (Kingston-On-Thames, UK)
- 7-12 march 1910 : New Theatre (Oxford, UK)
- 14-19 march 1910 : Grand Theatre (Hull, UK)
- 21-26 march 1910 : Theatre Royal (Edinburgh, UK)
- 28 march - 2 april 1910 : His Majesty's Theatre (Aberdeen, UK)
- 4-9 april 1910 : His Majesty's Theatre (Dundee, UK)
- 11-16 april 1910 : Theatre Royal (Glasgow, UK)
- 18-23 april 1910 : Opera House (Southport, UK)
- 25-30 april 1910 : Theatre Royal (Dublin, Ireland)
- 2-7 may 1910 : Theatre Royal (Manchester, UK)
- 9-14 may 1910 : Theatre Royal (Brighton, UK)
- 16-21 may 1910 : ? (Nottingham, UK)
- Autumn Tour (1910)
- 29-31 august 1910 : Gaiety Theatre (Hastings, UK)
- 1-3 september 1910 : Pleasure Gardens Theatre (Folkestone, UK)
- 5-7 september 1910 : Empire Theatre (Southend-on-Sea, UK)
- 8-10 september 1910 : Theatre Royal (Worthing, UK)
- 12-? september 1910 : Opera House (Tunbridge Wells, UK)
- 12-14 september 1910 : Theatre Royal (Margate, UK)
- 19-21 september 1910 : West Pier Theatre (Brighton, UK)
- 26 sept - 1 oct 1910 : Lyceum Theatre (Ipswitch, UK)
- 3-8 october 1910 : Devonshire Park Theatre (Eastbourne, UK)
- 10-15 october 1910 : Winter Gardens (Blackpool, UK)
- 17-22 october 1910 : ? (Middlesborough, UK)
- 24-29 october 1910 : Theatre Royal (Bolton, UK)
- 31 oct - 5 nov 1910 : Royal Theatre (Chatham, UK)
- 7-12 november 1910 : Grand Theatre (Swansea, UK)
- 21-26 november 1910 : New Theatre Royal (Portsmouth, UK)
- 28 nov - 3 dec 1910 : Royal Artillery Theatre & Opera House (Woolwich, UK)
- On saturday 10 july 1909, the Queen and suite visited the Lyric Theatre and witnesses Mr. Lewis Waller's production of "Fires of Fate". 
The Fires of Fate 
A Modern Morality Play
- Rev. Samuel Roden : Minister of Clayview Congregational Church, Hackney.
- James Roden, M.D., F.R.C.S. : 240 Harley Street, W.
- Colonel Cyril Egerton, D.S.O. : 53rd Bengal Lancers.
- Mr. Thomas Belmont : Of Dublin.
- Mr. Cecil Brown : Of London.
- Mr. Headingly : An American Student.
- Mons. Octave Fardet : Of Paris.
- Rudkin : A Butler.
- Abdullah : A Dragoman.
- Captain Jack Archer : Egyptian Camel Corps.
- A Dervish Spy :
- Ali Wad Ibrahim : Arab Chief.
- Abdurrahman : Arab Chief.
- Mrs. Belmont :
- Miss Adams : Of Boston U.S.A.
- Miss Sadie Adams : Her Niece.
Time : Winter, 1894.
The scene is laid in the Consulting room of James Roden, F.R.C.S., Eng. a fashionable Physician in Harley Street. He is a thin austere man. The usual medical fittings adorn the room.
(Plays 33 minutes)
At rise of Curtain DOCTOR RODEN at table R. crosses L. and sits at bookcase as Curtain rises. BUTLER enters L. and C.
Butler : (C.) May I have a word, sir?
Doctor : (Impatiently) Yes, yes! What is it?
Butler : May I ask, sir, how long you will be away?
Doctor : About ten weeks, Rudkin.
Butler : I'm sure you won't think it a liberty, sir, but may I ask what Mr. Humphrey — the gentleman with the arthritis — is to do during that time?
Doctor : He must go to Dr. Livingstone. I have arranged it.
Butler : And old Sir George?
Doctor : I tell you it is arranged.
Butler : It comes at an awkward time, sir.
Doctor : Rudkin, you may leave the room.
Butler : (C.) No offence meant, sir. I've been in practice here — (Doc. turns) I've been attached to this practice more than thirty years, Dr. Roden, and I can't help taking an interest in the patients. They'll feel deserted, sir, with Mr. Livingstone.
Doctor : (D.) There is no more highly — qualified man.
Butler : (C.) Yes, sir, but it's not what they are used to, and a sick man has his likings and his fancies. Now perhaps if I could go to Dr. Livingstone's and open the door for them, and make it seem a little homely——
Doctor : (L.) Nonsense, Rudkin! He has a staff of his own. (Rises Xs to R.)
Butler : (C.) No doubt, sir. I feel it would be irregular. But with both of us gone, it's hard upon them — very hard. During all those weeks when you are abroad——
Doctor : (Up to Butler) My good Rudkin, I allow you considerable latitude as an old servant, and a well-meaning man, but you constantly presume upon it. Am I to sacrifice my pleasures, my health, my very life, to the convenience of my patients? There is no one who knows better than you do how hard I earn the couple of months which I am able to take from each year.
Butler : I know it well, sir. (Ready Phone)
Doctor : Then why do you want to poison my holiday, when it does come, by talking about its effect upon my patients. (R. of table) (Sits) Every one of my patients is absolutely self-centered. So long as their own routine is undisturbed they think nothing of their doctor's health. Do they imagine I am a machine for grinding out diagnosis and prescriptions? Can't they realize that I have my own life to live, my own tastes to consult, my own pleasures to vary the monotony of constant work? Their egotism is monstruous! (Pause) (Ready Phone)
Butler : (Going up C.) Anything else, sir?
(Ready Voice L.)
Doctor : Where is my surgical case?
Butler : (Gets up C.) It is here, sir. (Back to table C. brings case down)
Doctor : Then it should not be there! How often have I told you, Rudkin, that I like everything in its exact place — blotting pad there, pens in front, then ink to the right, stethescope to the left. (Moves it.) It's most annoying! I've told you a hundred times.
Butler : I'll see to it, sir. (Tidies table)
Doctor : Well, well, you can do it later. I'll take this message, you can go.
(Sits, lifts receiver)
(Exit BUTLER up L.)
(Through telephone, with pauses)
Yes, I am Dr. Roden — I am leaving town tomorrow... Up the Nile with my brother... About ten weeks... Well, I can't help that... You will find Dr. Livingstone of Wimpole Street your man... Yes, if you came at once I could see you... Very complimentary, I'm sure... Did you say Egerton — Colonel Egerton? Very good. All right... Good-bye...
(Make note of appointment)
(NOISE outside L. Loud Voices. Doctor shows irritation at the interruption. Rings bell)
(Enter BUTLER up L. Noise louder)
What on earth is the matter, Rudkin?
Butler : It's Mr. Samuel, your brother, sir; he's arguing with the cabman.
Doctor : Really, for a clergyman — see if you can settle it, Rudkin.
Butler : Yes, sir. (Opens door) Ah! here he is, sir. The Reverend Samuel, sir.
(Enter RODEN — man of 53 years of age; fat, ruddy-faced, choleric; newspaper in hand)
Doctor : (Rises, meets him up R. C.) Ah, Samuel! I trust you keep well?
Roden : (Comes C. Heartily) Very well, James. A little ruffled in temper I admit. (Shakes hands with effusion, while the other is cold and dry) All packed up, I suppose. Ready for our early start to-morrow. (Crosses to table R. C., puts hat and paper on table)
Doctor : (L. C.) Yes, but as usual the patients are bothering me at the last moment. Complimentary, no doubt, nut annoying all the same. I have been remarking on their singular selfishness. (Enter BUTLER, comes down L. C.) Well, well, what is it?
Butler : (L. C. to Roden) I beg your pardon, sir. The cabman refuses to go away, sir, unless you pay him the other sixpence.
Roden : (C. furiously) One — two — three — four! (Pause) Well, well, I daresay the poor fellow has to drive a hard bargain to make both ends meet. (Crosses to Butler) Here! give it to him. (Hands coin to Butler)
(Exit BUTLER up L.)
Doctor : (Comes down R. C.) But why — one, two, three, four?
Roden : (L. C.) A little private discipline, James. You know my villainous temper?
Doctor : (R. C. smiling) Many a thump it has cost me in the days of old.
Roden : Well it is never too late to mend. Between ourselves, James, I am not fitted to be a Christian minister. I should have been the Viking captain of a long ship, a leader of wild outlaws, the desperate chief of a band of buccaneers — that's the kind of heady spirit that is fermenting inside this black broadcloth. But I will tame the beast yet.
Doctor : (R. C.) By counting?
Roden : (C.) Exactly! I have made a vow that when I am ruffled I never say a word until I have counted up to ten. But it always find the ridiculous side of it before I have finished my tally. (Turns) At the same time the cabman was a ruffian — a bully and a — one — two — three. Poor fellow, perhaps he had enough to make him so. (Crosses and sits L. C. Bus. pipe) Well, got the tickets?
Doctor : (L. of table) Yes, I went myself to Cook's this morning. We go in the large steamer as far as Assouan. Then the small one takes us up to Wady Halfa. (Sits L. of table)
Roden : An that is the extreme frontier?
Doctor : Since a few years ago when we lost Khartoum and the Soudan was abandoned to the Dervishes. I am told that with these Dervish raids it is as much as your life is worth to go a mile beyond the frontier.
Roden : It will certainly be most interesting. And our fellow voyagers? Is the boat full?
Doctor : One or two vacant places, I believe.
Roden : Did you now any of them?
Doctor : I was introduced to an Irishman named Belmont. He was in the office with his wife. He seemed a capital fellow.
Roden : Anyone else?
Doctor : I just run my eye over the list — there were two American ladies, one Frenchman from Paris, a Londoner named Brown. I believe he is the son of old Sir George Brown, in which case he should be a very wealthy man. I hope he is a better fellow than his father.
Roden : Yes, indeed — of all the purse-proud old rascals that ever I met! But there — to think that I — a Christian minister — should show so little charity. My soul, James, is like some crazy old building. I tinker it here, and mend it there, and just as I think I have got it presentable down falls the roof.
Doctor : Nonsense, Sam, you are much too self-conscious about that soul of yours. (Shrugs shoulders) It's notorious that if a man thinks too much of his body he encourages disease.
Roden : (Rises, crosses to him. Smiles) Ah, James, if I could get past that materialism of yours; you believe in nothing.
Doctor : I believe in everything that can be proved, in nothing which can't. I believe in protoplasm, because I can see it. If you ask me to believe in spirit, I can only reply by begging you to demonstrate it.
Roden : (Paces L. and back to C.) As if the mere fact of a Universe did not demonstrate it. As if, too, any man could walk through life and not see conscious design in every object, in every incident around him.
Doctor : I assure you I don't.
Roden : (Walks over L. again) You do, but you don't admit it. (Back C.) Do you seriously contend that Spirit is merely the outcome of Matter?
Doctor : I am forced to, since I have never met Spirit divorced from Matter. (Takes paper up here)
Roden : How could you, James, until your own spirit is divorced from Matter? You have only material senses. They only respond to Matter. But your finer reason, your intuitions, your instincts, don't they all unite to tell you that Spirit is the master? That Spirit is playing upon Matter as a musician plays upon an instrument, that it controls and dominates the world shaping it all to spiritual ends?
Doctor : Look here, Samuel, I didn't start this conversation — (Roden crosses L. C.) but really I won't be brow-beaten in the matter. The worst of you black-coated gentlemen is that we can't hit back at you for fear of hurting you. If you knock me off my perch, why you have done your duty. if I do as much for you, why, I have made a brutal assault upon your most intimate feelings.
Roden : (L. C. laughs, sits in chair L. C.) For my part, James, you can hit away! If my convictions won't stand a knock or two, I'd best lay them aside. I wouldn't put all that was in him into it.
Doctor : (Turns his chair to him) You are the most incorrigible idealist! Now look here, do I understand you to say that all the events of this life are working towards a beneficient end?
Roden : Certainly.
Doctor : (Opens paper) But look here, Sam! to sustain your argument, you have to explain any single event in a way that will fit into such a theory. Why, every item in this paper of yours would confute you.
Roden : For instance?
Doctor : (Looking at paper) Well, how's this as an example? "Painful occurrence in South Hackney". No need to read the details. Drunken husband aimed a blow at his wife — dashed out his child's brains. Where is the beneficence?
Roden : The man's name is Wormald.
Doctor : (Looks at paper): Yes, it is.
Roden : That is our Hackney Journal. I know all the details. This fellow was a man impenetrable to emotion — a lump, a stick, a stone. I don't say that he has been spiritualized by this horrible incident. That would be too much; but he has wept, he is touched, there is some softening — who knows what the end may be?
Doctor : And the child was sacrificed for that? (Throws paper on table)
Roden : We can't see the ultimate consequences, but at the first glance I am able as you see to show you some possible good, that is enough.
Doctor : (Rises, crosses to Roden) I suppose then, that is a brick fell on my head at this moment and dashed out my brains, the incident could be justified on the grounds that it caused some purifying emotion in your mind? It's monstrous, Samuel, monstrous! (Crosses back R. of table)
Roden : (Rises, crosses to Doctor) Either it is correct, James, or else this Universe is devil-ridden, which is unthinkable. We are here to be spiritualized. Are you happy? Then, you are marking time. Are you in trouble? Then, you are advancing. From pure Matter to pure Spirit — that's the journey, and we about halfway on the road. It's a trite old smile, but there is none so true as that of the cleansing fire — the Fires of Fate! In you spring — or in you are thrust — and only in that fire do you distill over in spirit and leave some dress behind. Flame after flame, and everyone leaving you a little purer and better. Drink, and disease, heartache and bodily pang — they are all so many retorts in a great laboratory of purification.
Doctor : (Crosses to chair R.) Well, if it makes you happy to believe it—
Roden : (Crosses to chair L. of table) I can't help believing it; it is forced upon me. Outside, that theory lie pure chaos and madness.
Doctor : (R.) Or honest admission of ignorance.
Roden : But I am not ignorant. Every fibre of my being, every instinct of my soul, tell me that it is as I say — that all works to a great pre-ordained end. Ah, James, (Sits R. C.) I see the naked misery of life up there in the north-east of London. (Doctor sits R.) It's worth living in — if it were only to see how nobly men may endure.
Doctor : I never denied that. What divides us in our view of the object of it all. You say it spiritualises, some hold that it brutalises. Without going so far, I at least claim that I can see no use in it.
Roden : (Turns to Doctor) I know one woman in a alum at the back of my house, who has been on her back for fifteen years — What a wasted life, you say — always agony, no sleep, every change of posture a torment. Far from being a wasted life she is an inspiration to my whole district. Who is going to pull a long face when that tortured creature is smiling from her pillow? She is a saint and the cause of saintliness — perhaps the most useful person in her street.
Doctor : (Seated R.) Horrible! Horrible! Speaking as a man, I should say that no human being is morally bound to endure such an existence.
Roden : (Rises) James, you shock me! (Moves C.)
Doctor : (Seated R.) Well, I speak for myself. I shouldn't feel called upon to bear such evil when a single tasteless capsule could free me.
Roden : (C.) Your life is not your own.
Doctor : (Leans forward to him) So you say. You continually mistake assertion for argument. I say it is. I say that if a man can own or direct anything upon earth it is just that. My mind controls. It is supreme. When my mind tells me that the balance of advantage is strongly against life, I would live no longer.
Roden : (L. of table C.) James, it is terrible to me to hear you talk in such a fashion. Think of those you leave.
Doctor : (R. of table C.) Ah! That is another question.
Roden : But your position in the next world?
Doctor : (Shaking his head) As the tree falls so shall it lie. (Roden crosses L. C.) It's no use, Sam. We can never agree on these subjects.
Roden : (Back C.) Because you are an obstinate fellow, James — a stiff-necked, argumentative, obstinate, pedantic — one, two, three. Well, there I am sure it is your misfortune rather than your fault. But when I think of your absolute perverseness — one — two — I put it down to your medical training.
(Enter BUTLER up L.)
Butler : Colonel Egerton, sir.
Doctor : (Rises) Ah! it is a patient who made an appointment through the telephone. He is a stranger.
Roden : I'll wait in the dining room. Let me know when he goes.
(Crosses R. takes paper with him)
Doctor : Show him in, Rudkin.
(Enter COLONEL EGERTON, up L. — a young, brown, alert, keen man with brisk manners. Comes C.)
Doctor : (R. of table) Good day, Colonel.
Colonel : (L. of table) Good day, Doctor. Sorry to disturb you on the eve of your holiday.
Doctor : Not at all; what can I do?
Colonel : Good enough of the Bengal Lancers, mentioned your name, I was dining at the Cavalry Club last night. He thinks a lot of you.
Doctor : Ah, yes! Major Goodenough — hepatic abscess — I remember.
Colonel : He got a liver in Burmah — on his back for three months — but as fit as a youngster now, thanks to you. He thought I had better come and be vetted.
Doctor : (Sits) Well, sir down; what is it? (Motions him to sit)
Colonel : (Sits L. of table) Oh, only a trifle; but still one wants to take a thing in time. (Taking gloves off) I believe it's this infernal fog that gets into my bones. November in London is no use to a man who has spent his days in India. By Jove! there's a lot to be said for those old fellows who worshipped the Sun!
Doctor : Is it rheumatism, then?
Colonel : I believe you've put your finger right on it. I am sure it is rheumatism. It comes quite suddenly. A sort of twinge, and then a tight grip as it were, as if I had a belt on with on occasional spike in it.
Doctor : (Seriously) A belt? A belt of pain?
Colonel : (Touching his waist) Yes, I feel it around here — (L. side) and here. (R. side)
Doctor : How long have you had this — this belt of pain?
Colonel : Off and on for some months; but it grows worse. I used to forget it sometimes. I don't get much chance to do that now.
Doctor : Hum! what is your age?
Colonel : Thirty-six.
Doctor : You are young for a Colonel.
Colonel : One comes along on the Indian frontier. The afridi is a good friend to the soldier man.
Doctor : What is your medical record?
Colonel : A clean sheet, bar a couple of small sunstrokes and the usual Burmese malaria. I was cut over the neck at Cabul when I was a subaltern. Here's the scar. It healed up all right, you see.
Doctor : (Rises, leans over table. Feeling it) Rather near the spine.
Colonel : So our surgeon said at the time.
Doctor : Let me feel your pulse. (Pause for bus: taking pulse) 70. About your normal, I fancy. No temperature. Appetite good? (Sits)
Colonel : No complaints to make.
Doctor : Don't you find that you are losing weight?
Colonel : I always ride rather light for my build.
Doctor : Can you take plenty of exercise?
Colonel : I assure you, Doctor, you couldn't find a man more fit, if it weren't for this annoyance. I know it's nothing — absolutely nothing — but a fellow likes to be told so by a doctor.
Doctor : I'm afraid I don't take so light a view of it.
Colonel : You don't mean to say it is serious?
Doctor : My diagnosis is not formed. But the nature of your pain is suspicious. Would you kindly sit over there?
(Colonel rises, crosses L., sits. Doctor follows, sits beside him)
Colonel : Certainly.
Doctor : Cross your leg. (Colonel does so. Doctor taps the nee twice. Leg remains motionless) No response. (Put chair back. Rises) Stand up! (Colonel does so) Take your hand off the chair. Put your heels together, now shut your eyes.
(Colonel sways forward, nearly falls)
Colonel : By Jove! I say, I was nearly over.
Doctor : (Puts chair back R. C.) I am sorry, Colonel Egerton, but I don't like your symptoms. (Crosses to table C. Lights a taper, crosses C. and holds it near patient's eyes. Aside) Hum! Worse than ever. Look at this finger. Now look into the distance. A most typical case. (Crosses back R. of table)
Colonel : (Comes R. C. rubbing his eyes) Look here, Doctor! I see it's serious. I'm not a child. I can face the music. Let's have it straight. What is it?
Doctor : Spinal sclerosis. Progressive degeneration of the posterior columns. There can be no doubt of it.
Colonel : Is it hopeless?
Doctor : Colonel Egerton, I'm extremely sorry, but it would be wicked to deceive you.
Colonel : My God! (Sits down L. of table)
(Long pause. Bus.)
Doctor : These are the worst moments in a physician's life.
Colonel : All right, Doctor. Don't take it to heart. I'm all right! Just staggered me for a moment. So sudden, you now. I — (Nervous laugh. Doc sits) — hadn't a suspicion of it when I came into this room. (Looks round him) Funny! I feel as if I had been in it a week. I'll remember the pattern of that carpet as long as I live. Strange how the brain acts, isn't it?
Doctor : You are a brave man, sir. You take it like a hero.
Colonel : I don't like it any the better. But there it is — and one must face it. (Turning to face Doc.) I suppose you are sure of your diagnosis?
Doctor : I wish I were less so. But I should wish you to have a second opinion.
Colonel : Well, I suppose one should in a vital matter. But I have no doubt of your judgment, if you say you have none yourself.
Doctor : I fear that I have none.
Colonel : That's good enough for me. Just answer me one or two questions, please. Straight, you know, Doctor, as between man and man. Don't bother about my feelings, or any nonsense of that kind.
Doctor : Well, sir?
Colonel : First of all — is this thing common?
Doctor : No, it is one of the rarer spinal affections.
Colonel : Rough luck! Well, in the second place, have you ever read of a cure?
Doctor : I must admit I never have.
Colonel : Ever heard of one?
Doctor : No, — well, perhaps I go too far there! I did once actually know of a case, but the circumstances were so very unusual that one could not argue from it.
Colonel : Let me hear them.
Doctor : Some months after developing the symptoms, the patient was in the great Railway accident; he was sadly knocked about and had his wife killed in the same compartment. Well, he lost his symptoms afterwards and the case became a classic. But I repeat that one can't argue from it.
Colonel : Well, I should think not. I take it that it is hopeless.
Doctor : That is certainly the wiser supposition.
Colonel : Well, then, to proceed. How long have I?
Doctor : A year perhaps — perhaps eighteen months.
Colonel : Quick work, eh? Well — better so, if it must come.
Doctor : I do admire the way you take it. (Half rise)
Colonel : I've not done with my questions. Straight now, Doctor. How does it come? Is it very bad?
Doctor : You put me in a very painful position.
Colonel : Come, come, sir — a serious answer!
Doctor : I fear I have nothing to say which can mitigate the fact that it is a painful degenerative process.
Colonel : (Wincing) Paralysis, I suppose?
Doctor : Towards the end.
Colonel : Pain?
Doctor : A good deal of that.
Colonel : Brain?
Doctor : No, that remains clear.
Colonel : Some comfort there! Could I get about?
Doctor : A Bath-chair, perhaps.
Colonel : A Bath-chair! A Bath-chair! (Rises — Xs . L.) Captain of the Umballa Polo Team! By Heavens! Doctor! it's the details that kill. Death — why I've had to face him a hundred times! (Sits again) But it's these infernal, humiliating, stuffy-room, gruel-and-water details! that take the sap out of a man. A Bath-chair! (Rises, crosses L.) No, by God! never! It shan't be!
Doctor : (Rises) What then? What do you mean?
Colonel : (L.) I have no kith nor kin upon earth. There's no one I owe a duty to, save my regiment, and I can never see that again. Why should I endure such an end as this?
Doctor : (R. C.) My dear sir!
Colonel : (Crosses back to Doctor) Well, Doctor, I ask you straight: You know my symptoms — you know my circumstances — would you see it through if you were in my shoes?
Doctor : (Looks away) Really, sir — I don't know how I might act. (Drops down a pace)
Colonel : Ah! You looked away. You couldn't face me. Come now, will you give me your word of honour as a gentleman that you wouldn't act as I propose to do? (Slight pause) Well?
Doctor : Many would disagree.
Colonel : But you would not.
Doctor : It's a question every man must settle for himself. (Moves away R.)
Colonel : That's what I have already done. (Xs. L.) Now who's the worse if I slip quietly away? No mess — no scandal — just a quiet gentlemanly exit, without fuss or trouble. (Moves to Doctor) What's best, Doctor? You know you are with me at heart. What would you take yourself and dodge the coroner? Aconite? Cyanide? Something that's quick and leaves no trace.
Doctor : No, no, you go too far. My office is to save life, not to take it. As to treatment—
Colonel : Treatment— (Takes hat from table) Prussic acid before sleep (Crosses C.)
Doctor : I can alleviate if I cannot cure. (Xs to table)
Colonel : No, I don't want your treatment, Doctor. Keep your eye on the front page of the Times. (Takes Doctor's hand) Good-bye!
Doctor : (Crosses C. takes Colonel's arm in his) No, no! It is really too dreadful! I feel as if I were conniving at a murder. Wait a moment! There's my brother. He is a clergyman and has strong opinions on this very subject. Will you listen to him?
Colonel : (Up L. C.) Where is he?
Doctor : (Up C.) Here, in the next room.
Colonel : Well, I have no objection. I expect I shall shock him — but that's your look out. (Doc. starts R.) Tobacco allowed? (Taking cigarette case from pocket)
Doctor : (Crosses R.) By all means. (Goes to door R. At door) I'll just say a word to him first.
(COLONEL lights cigarette)
(DOCTOR exits R.)
(Colonel crosses to table, sits down for a moment, then wipes his forehead. Gets up and lights cigarette. Paces the room. Sees brandy in a decanter. Raises it to his lips. Then gives a laugh — says "Bah!" Sets his teeth, squares his shoulders and swaggers up and down the room. Takes note-book out of his pocket. Goes to telephone above table C.)
Colonel : (Ringing bell) 260 London Wall. (Plays with Doctor's bottles on table. Opens one small bottle with red label and sniffs it) Exchange. Hullo! I want to speak to Mr. Simpson. I'm Colonel Egerton. Oh, is that you, Simpson? I want to see you to-morrow on a matter of business. Yes, yes, ten o'clock will do — make my will? Oh, no! Perfectly fit, but it's just as well to have it made. Good-bye! (Rings off — Rises — Bus.) Hullo! Are you there! Give me 469 Ken, please. Is Lady Constance in? Yes, all right. Is that you? I want to tell you I can't lead the Cotillion next week. Yes, yes, I know, perfectly barbarous! I knew exactly what you'd say. Ask Walton, he's better than I. No, really, I would if I could... Doctors won't have it... Oh, no, nothing to bother about, but I didn't want to disappoint you at the last... What?... ((Laughing) No, did he? How very funny... Good-bye... (Laughing. Ring off)
(Enter DOCTOR R.)
Doctor : Sorry to have kept you waiting.
Colonel : (Crosses to C.) Not at all. I've been using your telephone. (Doctor takes little bottle up and looks suspiciously at Colonel) No, no, I wouldn't take such a liberty. (Drops down C.)
(Enter SAMUEL RODEN, R.)
Doctor : (R.) May I introduce you? Colonel Egerton, this is my brother, Mr. Samuel Roden. I have told him how matters stand.
Roden : (Crosses to Colonel, shakes hands) Dear me, dear me! I am so very sorry. I trust — I trust I don't take a liberty.
Colonel : (C.) Not at all.
Roden : (R. C.) My brother told me of your rash resolution — that you upheld your right to control your own fate. Good heavens, Colonel Egerton, you can't really mean to uphold such a monstrous view?
Colonel : I'm up against it, sir. It's not a subject for a debating society. I've got to live it — or not. At present I think not.
Roden : But your people?
Colonel : I have none.
Roden : Your duties?
Colonel : I can no longer carry them out.
Roden : Those who depend upon you?
Colonel : I would leave my money for good causes. More people would depend upon me dead than living.
Roden : Colonel Egerton, I have such sympathy with your physical condition that I find it hard to express to you the absolute abhorrence I feel for the view which you take.
Colonel : I can stand a little plain-speaking. Let's have it, sir. (Crosses L. sits on edge of chair)
Roden : (Gets chair R. C.) Are you a Christian?
Colonel : Of sorts.
Roden : Well, at least you are a soldier. Is it Christian, is it soldierly, is it manly, to desert your post in this fashion? (Leaning on chair)
Colonel : If no good purpose i to be served by holding it.
Roden : Who are you to judge such a point? What would you say to your own sentry who told you that he could see no good purpose in remaining on guard? Even your finite brain would scorn such an argument. You would say to the man: "It is I — I your commanding officer, who know why you are placed there, and only I can tell you when that purpose is fulfilled." Perhaps your knowledge would show you that the fellow had slunk away at the very instant when his presence was most necessary. He failed you, and was not worthy of your trust. What would you do to him? (Sits)
Colonel : I expect he would catch it.
Roden : Ah, but you — you would desert your post in which you were placed by the Commander-in-Chief of the Universe. And why? Because you feared discomfort. Because you feared pain. You can't do it, Colonel Egerton! It's not possible for a soldier and a gentleman.
Colonel : What can I do? I give trouble. I shall be an object of disgust to myself and everyone about me. It's a good deal you ask, sir.
Roden : I admit it is hard, but the alternative is impossible. you couldn't do it after what I have said. I feel that you could not...
Colonel : Well, I am not so sure of that. I think that I could — and will.
Roden : No, no, don't harden your heart! I beg you not to garden your heart! (Moves chair nearer Colonel touches him on arm) You ask what good you may do? There are two ways of doing good. Pain and sorrow are the whetstone of the soul. Here is your whetstone. And you want not to use it, but to throw it away.
Colonel : Well, that's one point of view.
Roden : (Looks over at Doctor) And then there is the effect upon others. (Nearer to him) Suppose the worst — that your days are indeed numbered. Even so, each one of those days will have an effect upon everyone around you, and the harder your case may be the deeper is the impression which it will make, and the more inspiring the example which it will give.
Colonel : (Rising, crosses R. C.) Well, there's something in what you say— (Puts cigarette end in tray) I'll thin it over. (Takes up his hat)
Roden : (Risen, moves up C.) Colonel Egerton, I cannot — I cannot as a Christian minister, allow you to leave this room with such a question undecided. It is borne in upon me that there is still work for you to do, that perhaps the supreme experience and the highest and most useful moment of your life, still lie before you. I beg you, sir — (Colonel puts hat down again) I implore you — I am ready to kneel to you, lest your soul be as stricken as your body. Humble as I am, my voice is the voice of truth, the voice of duty — the voice of God Himself!
Colonel : (Gripping his hand) All right, padre, I'll stick it out.
Roden : Thank God! There's a brave, good fellow!
Doctor : And so say I! (Shakes his hand)
Colonel : I expect I shall bless you occasionally. But I feel that you are sound.
Roden : It's easy to point the path for another to walk. But it's duty, Colonel — duty all the way. (Moves away L. C.)
Doctor : You will take your prescription now and have that second opinion? (Gives it)
Colonel : (C.) Yes, I'll work through the whole programme, extras and all. Good Lord! (Gives Doctor his cheque) I have some fellows dining with me to-night at the Savoy!
Doctor : Put them off.
Colonel : (C.) No, no, they'll enjoy it. I needn't say anything. I can carry it off all right. But, Doctor, I can't stand these London fogs. I think I had best put in my time on the Riviera.
Doctor : (R. C.) Colonel Egerton — why not come with us up the Nile?
Roden : (Up to Colonel, L. of him) Brilliant, James! You are inspired! How could you possibly do better! (C.)
Colonel : Oh, I don't want to spoil other people's pleasure. You don't want a crook like me on your holiday.
Doctor : But your symptoms will not be obvious. Nothing need be said of your illness. Speaking professionally, it is the very climate and the very life which I should recommend. What do you say, Sam? There's one spare berth. I'll telephone to Cook's.
Colonel : (C.) Sure I won't be in the way.
Doctor : (R. C.) No, no, I'll answer for that.
Colonel : (C.) Well, I should ask nothing better.
Doctor : (R. C.) Most excellent! How about your packing?
Colonel : A soldier's packing is a simple thing.
Doctor : We leave Charing Cross Station at ten to-morrow.
Colonel : Good! I'll be there. I have nothing to detain me. (Gets that) I can see my lawyer and the second doctor to-night. It is very good of you to be burdened with me. Good-bye, Doctor! Good-bye, sir. I am indebted to you both for your advice. (Crosses L.) Charing Cross to-morrow at ten. (Shakes hands with Doctor. Exit up L.)
Scene : The deck of a Nile steamer, which is moored to the bank of the Nile. The Bank is higher than the bulwark and the gang plank goes up to it. The deck has deck chains scattered over it, with several doors leading into a long white deck house. One door for saloon; one for smoking room.
Time : Winter of 1894.
No one aft. HEADINGLEY — the American student — stands on the Deck, and paces slowly to and fro. Beneath a palm tree sits an old ARAB BEGGAR.
Enter CECIL BROWN in dinner jacket, etc. from the Saloon. Lights his cigarette, looks round.
Brown : Hullo! What are you doing there, Headingley?
Head. : Admiring the after-glow and the light on the river. Is it not fine?
Brown : No, I'm not in the humor to admire that or anything else. (Sits L.)
Head. : Why not?
Brown : It's that infernal dinner. (Rises)
Head. : (Coming down) Why, what's the matter with it?
Brown : Good heavens! What's the matter with it? (X it) What isn't the matter with it? Watery soup, tasteless fish, sapless meat. It' like the ghost of a dinner or something in a bad dream. I should suppose you did not relish it yourself since you came out so early. (Sits R. of T.)
Head. : I didn't think much about it. When you have been reared on a Vermont farm, Mr. Brown, you are not so critical. I just wanted to see the river in the gloaming, the great dark river flowing from the unknown. (L)
Arab : Guide to the Temple, Mister, English, speak English?
Brown : Shut up! (Xes up) Don't bother us.
Arab : Bachseech, Mister, backseesh!
Brown : Oh! go to the devil! You never get a moment's peace in this infernal country. (Down to chair and sits L.)
Head. : Well, I'm with you there, Mr. Brown. It takes all he romance clean out of it. When I present a check at the door and go in as if it were Barnum's Show, with that fool Abdullah talking all the time, it just turns it all modern and common. I want to stand and think all the time, but they never give you a chance. When I went to the Pyramids there were a dozen round as all wanting to boost me on to the top. (Rises) I took a kick at one man that would have sent him to the top at one jump if it had his meat. Fancy travelling all the way from America to see the Pyramid, and then finding nothing better to do than to kick an Arab in front of it. But I never tire of the river. (Up)
Brown : (Xes R.) I'm about fed up with the river. I've had it for three weeks now without a break.
Head. : I think more of it now than when I saw it first. I began with comparing it with our huge American rivers, and it seemed over-rated; but I understand now what it means in the world's record. It's just the little central spinal cord of history. Wisdom and Civilization grew out of the Nile mud.
Brown : Say, young chap, you're in a bad way, you've had an overdose of Baedecker! You'll be writing poetry if you ain't careful.
Head. : But with all its beauty it is sad — sad with the sadness of Time.
Brown : The sadness of indigestion — that's my trouble.
Head. : To me it seems a land which one should approach in a reverent and spiritualist mood.
Brown : What's up? (Xes to Head, leads him down C.) You seem a bit moony to-night.
Head. : Well, I do feel solemn at heart. (Both coming down)
Brown : Come down and have a coffee and curacoa. (Xes L.)
Head. : No, thanks!
Brown : I daresay you're wise. The coffee aboard this boat won't jolly anyone up. I've got a bit of hump myself. Come on, we'll stroll to the Temple, and drop in, in a friendly way, on old Ramsses II.
Arab : Bachsheesh, Mister, backsheesh! — Poor Arab! Guide to Temple!
Brown : Shut up. I don't know what you mean by bachsheesh and I don't want to.
(The two young men walk over plank, past Arab, and off the stage)
(When they are gone the Arab springs to his feet; locks round him, creeps to the head of the gangplank, spits to show his contempt, waits stealthily for a moment; slip down the plank, hides behind chair L.)
(Saloon door opens, enter SADIE L. she turns and looks back)
Sadie : Mind the step, auntie. (Enter MISS ADAMS up L.)
Miss A. : My! but it's good to feel the fresh air. I'm nigh cremated.
Sadie : (Goes to rail up R.) Yes, indeed. It was close in the saloon. Say, Auntie, do look at the after-glow! (Looks off up R.)
Miss A. : Why it's real fine to-night. (Xes up to Sadie)
Sadie : (Up to R. C.) See that purple, shading away into dull red. The sort of thing that will seem like a dream when we are back in the dark and cold of an American winter? Come and sit down! (Crosses R. behind Aunt)
Miss A. : (Cross, sits R.) Good land! I little knew what Sarah was fixing up when she asked me to take you to Europe.
Sadie : (Behind her, putting her arms round her heck from behind) Yes, but you're no a tiny bit tired of me——
Aunt : Yes I am.
Sadie : You know you're not.
Miss A. : Tired of you, child! No one could be tired of you, for you are never the same for an hour together. Colonel Egerton was saying to me to-day...
Sadie : (Eagerly) What did he say? Do tell, Auntie! (Kneels L. of her)
Miss A. : Nothing, child — nothing.
Sadie : Come, Auntie, what did he say? Something nice about me? What was it?
Miss A. : What does it matter, Sadie?
Sadie : Come, come, I like to now.
Miss A. : Well, he was saying——
Sadie : Yes.
Miss A. : Oh, I've clean forgotten it!
Sadie : Well, now, if you aren't too provoking for words! What was it about?
Miss A. : Well, it was something about scenery — that he didn't need to look at the scenery for he could see it all reflected in your expression.
Sadie : He seems to talk a lot about me.
Miss A. : Well, perhaps he does.
Sadie : That's because he knows your little weakness.
Miss A. : Maybe I can guess his.
Sadie : Don't you think the Colonel is a very strange man in some ways?
Miss A. : In what way, Sadie?
Sadie : (Sits) Well, you feel that he's just the soul of honor, and with a heart so kind that he wouldn't hurt a fly, and yet there are times when he hurts—
Miss A. : You don't mean that he hurts you?
Sadie : Well, auntie, it would hurt any girl, wouldn't it, when a man talks and smiles, and is just sweet one minute and then, the next minute, shuts down and will hardly answer a question? I always feel that he has some secret in his life. He must be a lonely man, for he has told me he had not a relative in the world.
Miss A. : Well, I expect a man that could always get one relative if he looked very hard for it. But don't get too fond of him Sadie. Remember, child, people are thrown very close in these excursions, and they amuse themselves with each other, but the day of parting comes, and the world is wide.
Sadie : I have a feeling that the Colonel won't lose sight of us because we leave this little boat. And yet I don't — no, I don't understand him. There is always the veil, but behind the veil I feel that there is something deep and good.
Miss A. : Sadie, Sadie, be careful!
Sadie : (Rises, laughing) All right, dear. Quite, quite heartwhole. Only interested, nothing more. (Goes to ladder and sees Arab crouching, L.) My Goodness. What's this?
Miss A. : (Rises, cross C.) What is it?
Sadie : (L. C.) Well, it looks like last week's wash.
Arab : (L.) Bachsheesh, missus, backsheesh!
Miss A. : (L.) You shouldn't be there! Get right up and go off the boat.
Arab : Backsheesh for poor Arab, mees, backsheesh!
Sadie : He's doing no harm, auntie. Maybe he will get a few piastres?
Miss A. : You're too kind-hearted, Sadie.
(Both cross back R. Miss A. sits R. C. Sadie sits R.)
(Enter MR. and MRS. BELMONT L.)
Mrs. B. : (Comes C.) What a perfect evening!
Belmont : (L. C.) Sit here, dear. Well, Miss Adams, have you reformed the East yet?
(Mrs. B. sits C.)
Miss A. : (Seated R. C.) It's a large proposition, Mr. Belmont.
Belmont : Well now, if you were an autocrat, where would you begin?
Miss A. : I'd make begging illegal. (Looks at Arab L.)
Belmont : And so, at one stroke, you would ruin the principal industry of the country. I fear you would meet the martyrdom which is the final sign of the great reformer. (Cross up C.)
Mrs. B. : (To Auntie) Didn't you tidy one of their houses this morning? (Sadie comes R. C. sits next her Ant, L. of her. Belmont gets up C. then round L. of his wife)
Sadie : We had a 'Boston Herald' and we papered all the shelves, — well, a few hours afterwards we looked in, and there was all the litter just the same as ever, and the only sign of our visit was that each of the children had a little paper hat. (Sits on deck L. of Aunt)
Belmont : And the result would be about the same if we left Egypt.
Mrs. B. : Well, Sadie, it's a pleasure t see you actually still for five minutes.
Sadie : It's my first real holiday, you know. (R. of Mrs. B. at chair, seated by her aunt on deck)
Mrs. B. : Does it all come up to your expectations?
Sadie : Oh, it's too beautiful for anything! I never thought I could have enjoyed it so much.
Belmont : Well, Miss Sadie, you pass it on to others. We might have found it a dull voyage without you. (C. seated)
Sadie : It's real nice of you to say that, Mr. Belmont.
Belmont : But you must not be so happy, all the same. (Rise)
Sadie : Why, it has just come to me — I can't help it.
Belmont : (Rises, puts stool back L.) Then you must try to help it. You must dodge it somehow.
(Enter REV. SAMUEL RODEN L.)
Sadie : But why?
Belmont : (Up L. C.) Here's the very man himself who preached the doctrine of gloom.
Miss A. : Well, I never knew a less gloomy minister than Mr. Roden.
Roden : (Comes C.) Now you don't mean that you are wasting your time discussing me, in the midst of these wonderful surroundings.
Belmont : (Up to C.) I was retailing your philosophy second-hand.
Roden : (R. C.) But what was the point?
Belmont : (Up C.) I told Miss Sadie she must not be so happy, that it was dangerous. (Sits on L. edge of his wife's chair)
Roden : (L. C.) Oh! what I said does not apply to Miss Sadie. She must have earned her right to be happy in some previous existence, (Sadie laughs), for it comes to her just as naturally as the scent to a flower, or the song to a bird.
Miss A. : Sadie, you'll be just spoiled before I get you back to Boston. (Seated R.) But what were you saying of happiness, Mr. Roden?
Roden : (Xes to C.) It was really addressed to myself and others of the more frivolous members of our party. I was pointing out that the world was originally planned, not as a playground, but rather as a workshop. This work is accomplished through sorrow. Therefore, if you have been too happy for the scheme of the universe, it is likely that you will soon be asked to make up your average.
Mrs. B. : (Seated C.) Good gracious, Mr. Roden, what a terrible doctrine!
Roden : (C) If you lived in the north east of London, Mrs. Belmont, you would come to the conclusion that the world is rather a terrible place.
Belmont : I've not found the world such a terrible place. (Looks at his wife)
Roden : Very likely not; but you have not finished with it yet.
Miss A. : I am an old woman now, and my life has been a happy one.
Roden : May it continue so to the end.
Sadie : Your words sound solemn, Mr. Roden.
Mrs. B. : Even sinister.
Belmont : How can you sadden people with such a doctrine? (Rise)
Roden : It shouldn't sadden them, but should rather be a very great consolation.
Mrs. B. : How can it console them to know that sorrow is their natural portion?
Roden : (L. C.) They'll find that out for themselves as they go through life. But they will find consolation in reflecting that whatever pain they endure, be it agony of body, or grief of mind, is the very best thing that could possibly befall, without which life is not worth living at all. Sorrow is the only real justification of life. The joys are incidental. The trouble is essential.
Belmont : (Cross to him) (Sadie xes U.C.) Come now,Mr. Roden, do you mean to tell us that you could cheer yourself up with this reflection if you woke at three in the morning with a bad toothache?
Roden : (Xes D.L.) Very likely not. It only shows that I am a very weak and unworthy disciple.
Sadie : (Still seated R. C. near Aunt — Rise) But it's just dreadful when it comes to the personal application. Look at my case; I have been coddled all my life between my dear mother and my aunt. No trouble could ever get at me with such a screen on either side. I went to Smith's College, and I was the happiest girl in the class. Now I have this beautiful tour. It has all been just heavenly! But if you are right, what a dreadful time must be coming.
Roden : (L. C.) Ah, Miss Sadie! No one would have the heart to apply it to you.
Belmont : (Leaning over chair) Besides, Miss Sadie, what would be the object? Surely the most rigid overseer does not want to improve you?
Roden : You must excuse my preaching. Belmont, you are responsible for this. (Sits down R. on stool)
Belmont : Take care, padre; that's a weak seat. You may have a little bit of luck by going through it, and hurting yourself. (Looks round —moves L. C.) Where's the Colonel? (Xes L.)
Roden : (Seated L.) He was talking politics with my brother and Fardet.
Belmont : (L. C.) This Frenchman got on your nerves at dinner with his political views.
Roden : I trust I did not show it.
Belmont : Well, you counted up to eight once.
(Cross to him)
Roden : To eight? Dear me! so I did!
(Mrs. B. rises and crosses R. C. to Sadie)
Belmont : When he said that the Queen took the land tax as her private perquisite.
Roden : (Rises) Well, now, did you ever in your life? — (Sadie counts) One, two, three! — After all, he can't help it, it is what he has been told. (Sits gain)
Belmont : (Up C.) What matter to anyone what he thinks? (DRAGOMAN comes up from L. He wears red tarboosh, cover-coat, petticoats, red shoes. Mrs. B. rises gets to back of chair C. Belmont moves to chair back) Hullo! here's Abdullah with the programme. (Goes L. to the door of the saloon) Come out, you politicians, here's the dragoman. (Enter FARDET, DR. RODEN and COLONEL EGERTON L.) (At this point the lights might go up) Come on, Abdullah, speak your piece. (Seated up C.)
(Colonel crosses and sits L.)
Abdullah : (Advances and salutes, smiles and bows, up C.) Good evening, ladies and gentleman. I come, as is my usual way on every yesterday to make it clear what you will make upon the previous to-morrow.
Belmont : (Seated up L. C.) Bravo, Abdullah!
(Colonel seated L.)
Abdullah : (Up C.) I thank you, sir. I give brief account of what happened in the future. (Arab down L. listens intently) Are all here? Mr. Headingley — Mr. Brown — they gone Temple. To those absent you will convey my respectful impression.
Roden : (Seated L. C.) Certainly, Abdullah. Go on and get it over.
Abdullah : (Up C.) We have now arrived at the last point of our journey up the Nile, and soon will return backwards. But to-morrow we make ascent of famous Aboussir Rock upon Libyan bank of the River. (All murmur) It is long way, so you will remember not to forget to rise when the gong strikes you — (All smile) — for to compress the journey before twelve o'clock.
Belmont : We will be there. (Seated ch. C.)
Mrs. B. : Don't interrupt him, Tom; he's beautiful.
(Behind Belmont's chair. Ab. bow, all laugh)
Abdullah : (Bows) I briefly sketch the outlook. Having arrived at the place where our donkeys expect us, — we shall ride five miles over the desert, passing very fine temple of Ammon-Ra upon the way, which dates itself from 18th Dynasty. So we reach the celebrated Pulpit Rock of Aboussir. The Pulpit Rock is supposed to have been called so, because it is a rock like a pulpit. (Laughter from all) When you have reached it you will be on the edge of the country of the wild Dervishes, which will be obvious to you from the top. Having passed the summit you will perceive the full extremity of the Second Cataract, embracing wild natural beauties of most alarming variety. Here all very famous men carve their names, so you will carve your names also.
All : Hear, hear! (Laughter)
Abdullah : We shall then return to Wady Halfa, and there remain two hours to suspect the Camel Corps, including the grooming of the beasts and the Bazaar before returning; (Comes down) so I wish you a very jolly good night. (Smiles, bows all round)
(Exit up R.)
(All rise. Sadie rises, crosses over and up R. C. Arab sinks down again into his previous position. Doctor crosses R. C.)
Belmont : (Comes C.) Well, what about whist? (Up C.) Will you play, dear?
Mrs. B. : (R. C.) I'll look on. Mr. Roden will play. (Cross L. and exit L.)
Belmont : (Up C.) Colonel Egerton?
Colonel : (L.) No, thank you, not to-night.
Belmont : Miss Adams, we can't make four without you?
Miss A. : Well, I won't spoil your game, but only one. (Exeunt Mrs. Belmont, Miss Adams, Belmont and Doctor Roden L. and Rev. Roden)
Sadie : (Up R. C.) Won't you read aloud, Colonel?
Colonel : (Down L.) You will excuse me one instant, I am sure. Monsieur Fardet, one word with you.
Fardet : (Up C.) Let us include Miss Sadie in our conversation the we are less likely to quarrel; or perhaps, Miss Sadie, some would think we are more likely to quarrel. (Comes down a little)
Colonel : (Up to him, L. C.) I have something for your ear first.
Fardet : (C.) Ah! What is it then?
Colonel : Before you became a deputy and a journalist, you were a soldier, were you not?
Fardet : Yes, sarr — a Chasseur. (Gives moustache an upward twirl)
Colonel : (He comes down more) Good! then we can talk as soldier to soldier. Have you seen upon the map this place to which we are going tomorrow?
Fardet : (C) Yes sarr — I have seen it.
Colonel : It is out in the desert on the west bank, some miles from the nearest armed post?
Fardet : Well, sarr, what then?
Colonel : Don't you think it dangerous?
Fardet : Danger! But from whom?
Colonel : From the Khalifa's men — from the Dervishes. Why shouldn't a raiding party cross from Dongola?
Fardet : Bah! What is all this talk of Dervishes? I tell you sarr, that there are no Dervishes. (Bus. Arab)
Colonel : No dervishes!
Fardet : They were invented in London in the year 1884.
Colonel : This is madness! Where have you lived? Have you never heard of the Siege of Khartoum? — of the death of Gordon? — Only nine years ago. Of all the fighting on the Upper Nile?
Fardet : Yes, sarr, I have heard of these things. There was an emeute — What you would call a little rising, it is understood. It gave England her pretext. England does not wish to go. As long as there are raids she has an excuse to stay. So there are raids. Bah! what is a raid? Some Bedouins, a little backsheesh, and some blank cartridges. We are not blind, we others.
Colonel : (Impatient) Remember that we have these ladies in the party. Are we prepared to risk it?
Fardet : (Snapping fingers) There is no risk. There are no Dervishes. It is talk — for ever talk! No one wants you in Egypt. Why should you be here at all?(Arab tries to sneak out) Meanwhile, when you can show me a Dervish I will talk to you again about this subject. I have the honor, sarr, to wish you a very good evening. (Raises his hat, and on the deck-house stumbles over crouching Arab up L.) (Colonel crosses R. impatiently) Sapristi! what is this? Who are you?
Arab : (Backing up C.) Backsheesh, Meester — backsheesh for poor Arab. (Sadie drops down R.)
Fardet : Go off the ship, sale animal! What do you mean? Allez! Vite! Go off, I say! What business have you? (He drives the Arab off up the gang plank. As he reaches the top, enter from R. side CAPTAIN ARCHER of the Camel Corps, preceded by a BOY with a torch. White evening kit with cummerbund. The Arab slinks past him)
Archer : (Up C.) Wait a bit! Halt there! Who are you? (Arab halts) (Holds it up and Arab runs out) Stop! Stop! (Comes on deck to Fardet) Do you know that Arab on deck, sir?
Fardet : (Up L. of Captain) Ni, I know him not.
Archer : (Up C.) I believe it's Sidi Mohammed.
Fardet : And who is he?
Archer : (Up C.) A pretty considerable ruffian!
(Fardet exits L.)
(Looking after Fardet)
Archer : (To the others) Excuse me, is Colonel Egerton aboard this boat, sir?
Colonel : (Down R. C.) Hullo! my name.
Archer : (C.) By Jove! there you are! (He runs down gangplank while Fardet strolls off) I say, you remember me? — I'm Jack Archer, your junior subaltern at Quetta.
Colonel : (R. C.) Why, my boy, whatever are you doing here?
(C. moves to him a little, shakes hands)
Archer : Ground bait for Dervishes.
Colonel : Frontier guard?
Archer : Yes, Bimbashi of Camel Corps.
Colonel : (C) Well, Archer, I'm delighted to see you again!
Archer : (L. C.) I heard you were on board, so I just ran down to pay my respects. But where's everyone?
Colonel : Playing whist — or up at the Temple. May I introduce you to Miss Sadie Adams — Captain Jack Archer of the Camel Corps.
Archer : (Cross to her) How do you do? I suppose you are coming up to see us to-morrow, what? (Shakes hands)
Sadie : (R.) Oh yes, the dragoman said so.
Archer : (R. C.) It's a work of mercy, you know. We chaps on Frontier guard would never see a woman's face if it were not for such visitors as you. You'll see the camel groomed, and then you'll come and have tea at my quarters, what? Our black cook's a nailer at cakes.
Sadie : (R.) Auntie, too?
Archer : (R. C.) As many as you can bring. No crockery, you know — tea in tin pannikins, soldier style.
Sadie : It will be just heavenly!
Archer : (R. C.) By Jove, it will! What? (Turns to Colonel) I say, Colonel, you're not here for your health, are you?
Colonel : (C) What makes you ask that?
Archer : (R. C.) Well, you look a bit too fine — not quite the man you were. Ride a stone lighter, I should guess.
Colonel : (C) I was a bit run down in England.
Archer : (Up to him) Do you remember when you threw the Champion Sikh at the Christmas Gymkana?
Sadie : Oh, do tell!
Colonel : (Cross to R. C.) Shut up, Archer — too much talk!
(Archer crosses to L. C.)
Sadie : (R. C.) But I want to hear.
Colonel : (R. C.) I used to wrestle a bit; but when your day is past you don't want to talk about these things. (Attempts to go up)
Sadie : (She stops him R. C.) You're not ill, are you, Colonel Egerton?
Colonel : (Turns up to chair C.) Oh, I'll be all right with a rest.
Archer : (L. C.) I should think so, indeed, you used to be the hardest of us all. (Moves up C.) Well, I just dropped in to say how do. Good evening, Miss Adams; tea and buns tomorrow. We've got a piano, but it's full of sand;
(Backing up C.)
Colonel : Just one word, Archer, before you go. Just one moment. (To Sadie) (Leads him down C.) How about the excursion to Aboussir? Is it safe?
Archer : (Comes down L. C.) Well, there's never been any accident. And you have an escort of sorts. Four blacks, I believe?
(Sadie seated R.)
Colonel : (C) What good is that?
Archer : (L. C.) They are good men. After all, even if the Dervishes were on the war path it's long odds on their being to Aboussir.
Colonel : (C.) Our movements are advertised, and we should be a bit of a catch.
Archer : Yes, if they could only know it. I'll tell you what I'll do. I'll keep an eye on you myself.
Colonel : How so?
Archer : I'm on duty out that way, but across the river.
Colonel : Across the Cataract! what good would you be to us?
Archer : Well, I'll go up the hill opposite and flag-wag you the time of day.
Colonel : What code?
Archer : Code?
Colonel : Yes.
Archer : The same old Indian code.
Colonel : Let's see — Twice across meant "All right"?
Archer : Exactly — twice across — and three times down (Business signaling) means the other thing. I say, you usedn't to be nervous what?
Colonel : Just think what a helpless crowd we should be. Think of the women!
Sadie : (Comes down R. C.) What terrible secrets have you?
Colonel : About our excursion to-morrow. (To Archer) Won't you step down and have a drink?
Archer : No, no, I must be off. Fact is, I should be on duty. Good-bye! I had a very strict commanding officer in India once, Miss Adams, — a perfect martinet, who was always drumming duty into me. (Cross to Colonel) What?
Colonel : Cheeky boy! Well, I won't keep you! Good night!
Archer : (Cross up C.) Au revoir, both of you! Don't forget, Miss Adams. I'll have the piano cleaned out. (Exit up plank R. saying "Good night". Exit also Torch Boy) (From the bank) we'll be looking out for you, you know.
Colonel : Can I get you anything before I go? (Cross to her R.)
Sadie : Where are you going? (Sits R.)
Colonel : (C.) I have some letters to write.
Sadie : You make me sad, Colonel Egerton. You're just the only thing in this country that does.
Colonel : (Moves to her) I'm sorry, why do I make you sad?
Sadie : Because I feel as if I had offended you, and it is the last thing on earth that I would do.
Colonel : (Sits) Offended me, Miss Sadie? Good Heavens! What could have put so absurd an idea into your head?
Sadie : There was a time when you seemed fond of talking to me; but it's all gone.
Colonel : (Fidgetting) I was getting — I was getting too fond.
Sadie : I can't understand you. I try to, and I can't.
Colonel : No, I daresay not. (Pulls himself straight) You'll forgive my gauche ways. I never had any sisters, and I've spent all my manhood soldiering on the frontier.No wonder that I seem a puzzle to you.
Sadie : Somehow I feel — (Turns to him) You won't think it a liberty if I speak frankly?
Colonel : Do, by all means.
Sadie : Well then, I feel — my woman's instinct tells me, that under all your quiet English ways you are really in trouble — in deep, deep trouble.
Colonel : What makes you think so?
Sadie : I feel it. I feel it all the time. I read it in your face when you forget yourself.
Colonel : Well, suppose it were so — suppose I were in trouble—
Sadie : I am so afraid of seeming to intrude.
Colonel : You can't do that. (Turning to hear)
Sadie : I there no way in which I can help you? It may be the mouse and the lion, but you never know.
Colonel : God bless you for the wish! No one can help me — (Sits) No one. It is true that I have a trouble; I never quite felt how heavy it was until these last days.
Sadie : (Still seated) Tell me of it.
Colonel : (R. C.) No, no; it is not to be spoken of.
Sadie : Has it to do with a — woman?
Colonel : (R. C.) It has only to do with myself.
Sadie : (Seated R. sighs) Then surely it has to do with everyone who is your friend.
Colonel : (R. C.) Thanks! but really it can't be. But it is good to think that your hand was held out to me. (Clasps knee) It means much to me — very much. (Enter RODEN & DOCTOR) Someone told me a month ago that the great emotion of my life was still in front of me. He was right.
(Saloon door opens L. Enter the TWO RODENS L.)
Roden : (Cross C.) Colonel Egerton, can I have a word with you? (Takes him aside L. C.) (Doctor crosses, talks to Sadie, who rises; Both work up C. back) I always took you as the best type of an English gentleman.
Colonel : (C.) I hope, sir, I have not lost your good opinion.
Roden : (L. C.) I am a plain-spoken man. Colonel Egerton, you have lost it.
Colonel : (C.) Indeed, and why?
Roden : (L. C.) You know the state of your health. I could not help observing as I came on deck just now your attentions to this young lady. I have seen it before. It is evident to all. The whole boat must observe it.
Colonel : (C.) Well, sir? What business is it of yours? Upon my word, sir, you take too much upon yourself.
Roden : Good Heavens! Colonel Egerton! it is little less than infamous. Yes, sir, it is painful to me to have to speak so; but I have a duty to do, and I repeat that it os scandalous. Here is a young, charming, happy girl, upon the threshold of life — you naturally arrest her attention with your manner, your appearance, your experience. You are allowing her to turn acquaintance into friendship, and friendship into love. All the time you know well that you are dooming her to bitter and irremediable sorrow in the near future. You know my brother's prognosis? Colonel Egerton, (Touches him on shoulder) are you justified in what you are doing?
Colonel : Yes, yes. (C. Slight pause) I feel that I am wrong. It happened before I was aware of it. Her society was so sunny, so soothing. Padre, I love her — I love her — but I would not hurt a hair of her bonny head. Oh, man what shall I do?
Roden : (L. C. putting his hand on his shoulder) There! there I spoke too harshly. Be brave! be strong! You have faced bodily evil like a hero. Now it is mental. You are surely being fashioned to some high end.
Colonel : (C.) If it would come in some other way!
Roden : (L. C.) Ah! that is always the cry of the children of men. But the way is ever best way.
Colonel : But what shall I do?
Roden : Be on your guard! Avoid her! check every advance; freeze it up at the outset.
Colonel : God pity me! God help me!
Roden : (Gets up L. C.) Amen! (Turns to the others up C.) Well, I bid you all good night.
Doctor : Wait a bit; I'll come with you. Good night, Miss Sadie.
(Cross L. and off. Exeunt Two Rodens)
Sadie : Good night. (Pause. Up C. to Colonel) Colonel Egerton, will you light this lamp for me?
Colonel : Certainly. (Cross R. does so) Is that all right? (He crosses back C.)
Sadie : (She drops down and sits. Seated R. C.) That will do; but my eyes tire... You have not read aloud lately.
Colonel : (C.) No.
Sadie : Don't you think it is pleasant to have a common subject of thought?
Colonel : It is possible that what interested you would not interest me.
Sadie : Oh! how very rude! But you are wrong there, for this book interests me deeply. And it must interest you.
Colonel : I don't see that that follows.
Sadie : That's because you don't know what the book is. It's Kipling's "Indian Tales".
Colonel : Indeed?
(READY LIGHTS OUT)
Sadie : (Turns to him) And is it all true? Is Indian life like that — so full of color and movement and adventure.
Colonel : (C.) Oh, he knows his India all right. (Leaning on rail)
Sadie : (Still up C. seated R. of T.) Well, it's fine! When I read about those men, the discomforts of their lives, the heat, the diseases, the hard work, and when I think that it is not just for a year or so, but for the whole of their lives, it really is splendid.
Colonel : (C.) There are some good chaps among them.
Sadie : They must be fine.
Colonel : (C.) They don't consider themselves to be so. That's the best of it. Just a lot of anxious, over-driven men, trying to keep the machine running. A silent lot of fellows who knew anything about them or their joys and their sorrows, until this young fellow came along with an eye like a search-light, and it shone up suddenly before the world.
Sadie : Tell me about your work here.
Colonel : (C.) I! Oh, I had little enough to do. There's the regiment, of course.
Sadie : Tell me about the regiment.
Colonel : (Xes down C.) It's a ripping good regiment! Yes, by George! it is! every officer as keen as mustard, and the men! and the horses, Lord! if you could only see them! (Pang of pain) But — but no, it won't do. (Moves away L. up)
Sadie : What do you say?
Colonel : No, no, I can't! — I won't! (Xes up L.)
Sadie : (Rises) You were talking of the regiment.
Colonel : (L. fiercely) What's the regiment to you? Why should I talk of it? (Cross up C.)
Sadie : You are not angry? What is the matter?
Colonel : (Up C.) I'll talk no more.
(Enter MISS ADAMS L.)
Miss A. : Are you going, Colonel? (Comes L. C.)
Colonel : (Up C.) Yes, I have letters to write. Good night. (Exit up L.)
(Miss A. crosses C.)
Sadie : (Up C. coming down) Oh! there are times when I just hate this boat and this country and myself — myself most of all!
Miss A. : (Following her down) Good land! Sadie, what sort of talk is this?
Sadie : (Up R. C.) There! I'm better already. I'm real sorry, Auntie. I'm just a little unstrung to-night. Perhaps it was Mr. Roden speaking of sorrow being the object of life.
(1st light out)
Miss A. : Come, dear, come — they're putting out the lights. Don't worry about Mr. Roden.
Sadie : No, no! let us stay in the cool air a little longer. (Both turn up R.) (Arab Beggar appears above, and crouches down as before under his tree) What's that? (Looking up L. C.)
Miss A. : It's only an Arab. (Starts to go)
Sadie : (X Aunt L.) I feel as if something evil, something dark and evil was near to us.
Miss A. : (Cross to Sadie) Tell your old aunt if there is anything on your mind, Sadie?
(Both up C.)
Sadie : (Into Aunt's arms) It's nothing, auntie.
Miss A. : (Up C.) You're shivering, child!
Sadie : Was I? (Drawing away)
Miss A. : Come to bed, we are the last. (Xes L.)
Sadie : (C.) I think you only get the real spirit of this country when you are alone. It's only then that the talk ceases and the laughter hushes, and you feel suddenly as if you were face to face with something terrible.
Miss A. : Sakes alive, child! How you talk! I've never seen yu like this! (Up C.)
Sadie : (Looks off — X L.) Look at the desert now in the moonlight! See the black of the rocks and the yellow of the sand like the stripes of a cruel beast. It frightens me to-night. (Clings to her Aunt) It frightens me, auntie.
Miss A. : Come, child, come!
(They exeunt L.)
(BROWN and HEADINGLEY appear in conversation upon the bank up R. As they pass, the Arab says:—)
Arab : (Up L.) Backsheesh. Temple guide, good English gentlemen!
Brown : Oh, shut up! I don't know what you mean by Bachsheesh? I don't want to know. (They pass over the plank together) Yes, the wine was corked, and I couldn't possibly drink the beastly stuff. We had the Steward up, and he smelt the bottle, and of course it was corked, just as I said—
(Exeunt L. talking)
(Arab stands up against the moon, kisses his knife and shakes it at the sleeping boat)
Scene : The Plateau on the top of the Pulpit Rock at Abousir. There are scattered black bolders, with yellow sand between; they run up to craggy peak at the back of the stage. A small hollow, like a very shallow cave, shows in the front of the rock behind. On the Left is a sharp edge of rock with indications of a precipice beyond. Blood handkerchief on rock piece. (Plays 23 Minutes)
Enter REVEREND SAMUEL up R. very hot, mopping his face. White cotton umbrella. With him his brother, hot, but without umbrella)
Roden : I say, I was first up; not bad for a heavy weight.
Doctor : (R. C. Followed by Brown who goes up on rocks.) You are always very active for your size. (Sits)
Roden : My congregation have a joke about me; they say that I am a man who carries all before me.
Brown : (Up C.) I begin to feel like luncheon. You know, really the food is abominable. It's a perfect scandal. There were seven dishes for breakfast and not one eatable one among them.
(Roden goes up. Sits L. C. on rocks)
Doctor : If they would give us quality instead of quantity. My own requirements are so absolutely simple, and yet I never seem able to get them. All I ask for are two lamb cutlers, nicely browned, with crumbs on one side and the other bare to absorb the gravy. Now you'd think that was simple enough, wouldn't you?
(X. D. L. sits)
Roden : (Up L.) I say, there's a lovely cave here. But you don't seem to pay much attention to scenery.
Brown : (C. Seated) We were discussing the abominable food.
Roden : (Up L. C.) Surely you are very unreasonable. Don't forget that you are in the heart of Africa. (Comes down C.)
(Enter TWO ARABS bringing on lunch basket and set it Center and go up)
Doctor : They never let you forget it.
Brown : (Excitedly L. of basket) Oh, I say! Here's the basket! There are drinks in it! Come on!
Roden : (Up C.) Don't you think we had better wait for the others? They'll be here in a minute.
Doctor : (Rises) What is in the basket? (Crosses to basket)
Brown : (L. C.) There's hock and seltzer for one thing.
Doctor : Come, Sam, flesh and blood can't stand that. We must really open the basket. (Moves to do so)
Roden : (Stops them) No, no, wait for the ladies. I insist upon it.
Brown : Oh, nonsense! We are thirsty. Open the basket.
(Reverend sits on the basket C.)
Brown : (L. C.) Come, Mr. Roden, this is past a joke. It's not your basket, and we have a perfect right to open it.
Roden : (C. Smiles) It's not your basket, and I have a perfect right to sit on it.
Brown : (L. C.) Well, if you weren't a clergyman, I'd know how to speak to you. I know exactly the word, By George, I'd have you off that basket quick!
Doctor : Your conduct, Sam, is most provocative — most offensive.
Roden : (Rises. Bus.) And yours, James, is utterably — Well, it certainly is very hot. (VOICES off stage) But here they are already! Well done, Miss Adams!
(Enter MISS ADAMS supported by the Colonel up R.)
Miss A. : (Comes down R. C.) I should never have got up but for the Colonel.
Colonel : (Up R.) They really ought to make a path so that the donkeys could reach the top. (Looks back) It must be a good way.
Miss A. : A good way! I should say. (Xs and sits R.)
(Roden up C.)
Colonel : (R. C.) But you walked up the great pyramid, didn't you?
Miss A. : (Sits R. C.) Well, they called it 'walking up'. There was an Arab at each arm and one behind me. After the word 'GO!' I knew no more. Guess if you said I tumbled up, it would express it better. But where's Sadie?
Colonel : (Looking back) She'll be here in a minute. (X. up R. looking off: Comes down C.)
Roden : (Up L.) Do come and look at this wonderful view. You can see the whole Cataract, and the desert on each side.
Miss A. : I must get my breath first.
Brown : On Rock L.) Have some hock and seltzer.
(Roden comes down)
(Crosses to C.)
Doctor : Yes, Miss Adams, do have some hock and seltzer (Crosses C.)
Miss A. : You must have been very thirsty yourself. It was real nice of you not to open the basket until I came.
(Pause. Brown, Roden and Doctor all look at each other)
Brown : Don't mention it!
(They fall upon teh basket and fill three glasses, one of which goes to Miss Adams. Doc hands glass and goes up to Roden. Gives Col. drink)
Miss A. : (Looking at Soldiers up C.) Well, if those soldiers don't look like ebony statues! Where are they raised?
Colonel : (R. coming down) They are recruited from the Dinkas of the Upper Nile.
Miss A. : (Seated R. C.) Not Arabs, then?
Colonel : (R.) No, the hereditary enemies of the Arabs. The Arabs are the slave-dealers. These are the slaves, when they can conquer them. (Goes up)
Miss A. : I wonder if I could knit them stockings, instead of those things round their limbs.
Colonel : Those are putties, and much better than stockings. (Xs up)
Miss A. : (Up C.) They remind me mostly of a sick horse.
(Enter MR. and MRS. BELMONT and HEADINGLY up R.)
(Brown crosses R.)
Mrs. B. : Miss Adams, you are splendid. Fancy being first up! (Comes C.)
Miss A. : Well, you see, I am the first down. Come and sit. (Mrs. Belmont sits R. C.)
Belmont : I'll get you a drink, dear.
(Crosses to basket C., gets drink)
(Enter FARDET, and SADIE up R.)
Colonel : (Gets up R.) Here comes our rear-guard, with Monsieur Fardet in command.
Fardet : (Up C. Helps Sadie up. Sadie runs up rock C. then down L.) The rear is the place of honor, with the enemy behind you. We guard Miss Sadie against the Dervishes. (Laugh loudly) Eh, Colonel, what about those so terrible raiders?
Sadie : (L. clapping her hands. Brown stays R. C.) Oh, isn't it too grand for anything! Come, Auntie, come and look at the Nile.
(All X. extreme L. looking off)
(Crosses up L. C. on the side of the precipice)
Miss A. : Come back, child! Sakes alive, you'll be over!
(Fardet gets up C.)
Mrs. B. : (Seated R. C.) Your Aunt is right, Sadie. It makes me giddy to watch you.
(Sits on basket. Brown is over R. Headingly up C.)
Sadie : (Up L. C.) But it's just fine to look down and see the shining black water. How high is it, Colonel.
Colonel : (Crosses up to her) I daresay five hundred feet. (Sadie looks over) Do, for Heaven's sake, stand back! (Pulls Sadie back) I can't bear it. (They drop down L. C.)
Sadie : Oh then, you do care?
(Aunt gives glass to Belmont R. He takes it back to basket)
Colonel : Care about what?
Sadie : Whether I fall over.
Colonel : How can you say such things?
Sadie : Well, considering you have never said one word to me all day, and were so cross last night...
Colonel : Cross! Was I cross?
Sadie : When I asked you about the regiment. You seemed to think I had taken a liberty.
(Roden drops down to Aunt R. C.)
Colonel : No, no, it was so kind of you. You don't understand. I — oh — I can't help myself.
(Turns away and joins group up C. on rocks. Sadie joins group C.)
Miss A. : Mr. Roden can I have a word with you?
Roden : (Goes to her R. C.) Why, of course. (Sits. The Belmonts and Sadie at basket up C.)
Miss A. : (Seated R.) You knew Colonel Egerton before you came on this trip?
Roden : (Sits R. C. L. of her) I met him once in London and I travelled out with him.
Miss A. : Well, he's not weak in the head, is he?
Roden : No man less so. Why should you ask?
(Head. Xs L. looks off)
Miss A. : Well, because I can't understand his conduct. Did you see him with my niece just now? He was speaking to her quite amiably, and then, in a moment, he broke away. It was the same last night. It's not fair to the girl. I guess no one would like it. Can you explain it? (Slight pause)
Roden : Well, it happens that I can. It is only fair to you, Miss Adams, that you should know the truth. Colonel Egerton is a very sick man.
Miss A. : You don't say!
Roden : My brother there, says that the chances are he cannot live above a few months. You can understand therefore, that whatever his own feelings may be, he would not wish to engage your charming niece's affections. If he saw any sign of such a thing, he would be bound to discourage it.
Miss A. : Well now, I call that real noble and unselfish.
Roden : You had best say nothing to the others. It would be very painful to the Colonel, if he thought that everyone knew his trouble.
Miss A. : Certainly — Certainly. (Enter ABDULLAH, Xs up on rock C. claps his hands). Well, now, if Abdullah isn't getting started. (Roden rises)
All : Oh!
Abdullah : (C.) Ladies and gentlemen...
(Colonel is up L. C. on rocks. Mr. and Mrs. Belmont are seated on basket C. All turn)
Headingly : (L.) Good Lord! He's off again!
Brown : (L.) Help! Help! Who's got a muzzle!
Belmont : (C.) Give the man a chance! Bravo, Abdullah, let us have it!
Abdullah : (Points off L.) Ladies and gentlemen, you are now upon the summit of the being the highest point. Below — (All rush over) you see the whole extent of the Second Cataract in drea variety. (Aunt gets up on rock R. helped by Roden.) At one end, thirty miles South, is the Fort of Sarras, by the Egyptians. At the other end, ten miles North, is Wady Halfa, from which we issue at the beginning. Between is light railway and telegraph wire, which is most useful to furnish Dervishes with iron for tips of spears. Please rotate. (ALL turn R.) In Blue distance, you now perceive (Turns, points off R.) two tops of mountains, very far away. These hills in Dongola, more than 100 miles onward and deep in country of Dervishes. Suppose we were there then — God help you!
Miss A. : (Standing on rock R. C.) Sakes alive! It scares me to hear him.
Abdullah : No fear, Miss Adams, I am here to see you are all safe. Please rotate. (ALL turn L.) Now, (Points off L.) on this side, see dreadful desert, beastly hot, being sand and black volcanic rock thereby. This desert stretches across Africa, from here to Atlantic Ocean. Suppose you go straight across there, Miss Sadie, the first house you meet, would be in United States America.
Sadie : (Down L.) You don't say! (To her AUNT) It makes me home-sick to hear it.
Miss A. : That's real interesting, isn't it?
Abdullah : Rotate once more. (Points back C. ALL turn up C.) Here is the rock on which famous people carve their names. Here is Belzoni. Here is Gordon. Space for one between.
Brown : (Crosses up between all) By Jove! It's lucky I've get my knife (To BELMONT. Up C. on rock. ALL Laugh)
Abdullah : (Comes down) And now I have explained everything, and I advise you to hurry so as to escape meridial heat of day. Donkeys still expect us below. Lunch on the boat at two. (Gets up R. sits. AUNT sits R.)
Doctor : (Up R. C.) Certainly the lunch will be very welcome and I think Abdullah's advice to hurry up, is quite sound.
Colonel : (Up C.) Yes, I think the sooner we are out of this place the better. (To Belmont L. C. Looks)
Sadie : (Up L. C.) What are you looking for?
Colonel : (Up L. C.) You see that black rock about a mile off over yonder! (Turns to Sadie) Archer told me that he would be on that hill sometime this morning.
Sadie : What, that funny young man who invited us to tea? He was too cute for anything. But with this river between, he might as well be in the moon.
Colonel : Yes, it's a good ten mile round, but we could talk.
Sadie : Talk!
Colonel : I remember our old flag signals well enough — the old semaphore idea. But he's not there. It's all deserted. (Puts down glass) Who's for home. We've been here long enough.
Belmont : Come on!
Fardet : (Crosses L. C.) No, no, let us see all that there is. Why do you hurry?
(Mrs. Belmont works down R. C.)
Headingly : (To Col.) Well, I think so too. (Crosses to C.) It cost us enough to get here, and I'm in favor of getting the full educational value. (C.)
Colonel : (Up L. C.) Well, perhaps the ladies had better come. You chaps can follow. (Xs R.)
Sadie : (Crosses on rock C.) Before I go, I'll have just one more look at that dear desert that leads to America. (Runs up hill C.)
(White light. NOISE outside)
Belmont : (Looking over) What are all the donkey boys hallooing shout?
(Group laugh L.)
Sadie : (Excitedly) Oh, oh! Now isn't that just too picturesque for anything? (Points R.) See, oh see! Those men on camels. Oh, Auntie, come and look.
Brown : Men on camels?
(Dead Silence. The Colonel stands stock still)
Colonel : (L. C. Pause) By the Lord, it's come off. (Crosses up to Abdullah) Who are they?
Abdullah : (Rises up R. Moves more R.) (BLACK CORPORAL rushes in, with rifle at trail. Given abrupt order. The two Blacks run down path loading their rifles. Exeunt the soldiers) (Abdullah running down stage L. widly) It is Dervishes — Dervishes — Dervishes! (Flaps his hands) Belmont — Doctor — Dervishes!
Miss A. : (Works down R.) You brought us, you're responsible for us. (Turns to Mrs. B.)
Brown : (L. of Abdullah) You represent the Company. I tell you straight, I'll have you for damages!
Doctor : (Comes down C.) Yes, you are in charge. I hold you responsible for our safety. (Works over and up L.)
Abdullah : Dervishes! Dervishes!
(Xs L. l. Ladies X. L.)
(He stands helpless, with Miss Adams on one side and Doctor Roden on the other side.)
(At this period, Brown and Rev. Samuel form one group. All staring. Belmont and Colonel are together. Mrs. Belmont, white but composed, Sadie, stands looking out with clasped hands)
Sadie : (Comes down R. C.) Oh, Auntie, Auntie! What ever shall we do!
Miss A. : Oh, Sadie, my darling, what will your mother think? What can I say to her? (Taking Sadie down R. They run to each other and embrace C.)
Colonel : (Up R.) Lord! What a fool I have been. I'll never forgive myself, never! Belmont, we must find some way out. No possible way down, I suppose? (Running to edge up C. All cross L. C.)
Belmont : No, that is only the way we came. They have us in a trap.
Colonel : (Up C.) There is a crowd of them. (Looking off up R.)
Belmont : My God! Look, they are killing the donkey boys!
Colonel : Oh! the cowards — the infernal cowards!
(Screams heard off)
(Roden is down L. with all the ladies)
Belmont : Poor boys! Oh, it's dreadful! Don't let the women see. 'Doc. and Roden push ladies back) One will escape — no, no, they have speared him! Horrible! Egerton, what, in God's Name, shall we do?
Colonel : (Up C.) We must keep our heads. Come here, you fellows, quick — a council of war.
Fardet : (Up R.) But these are brigands — assassins! Where are your English? Where is the Government?
Belmont : (Up R.) It's the women. What can we do with them? (Women talk amongst themselves) They must not fall alive into their hands. (Crosses down R.)
Colonel : We must hide the women! (Ladies are down L.) There's a cave up here. (Up C. back) We can wall them up. (Belmont Xs to Mrs. B.)
Mrs. B. : (Crosses C. to Belmont) No, no, don't separate us! It's worst of all. Let us face it together.
Belmont : No, darling, you must go. Then I am easier. Quick! Quick! (Takes her up C.)
(Doc. and Brown X. up. Bus. with rocks)
Colonel : Crosses to them L. C.) Come, Miss! Remember you are to slip out when all is safe, and give the alarm at Wady Halfa. Quick, with those stones. (Up C.) (The WOMEN huddle into the small cave. The Others lay slabs of rocks over it to hide them) By Jove! THat's splendid! (Comes down C. Fardet is L. C.)
Belmont : (Up R.) Well, what now? (Slight movement)
Colonel : (Comes down C.) We must face the music. Now listen, (Ab. works around R.) you fellows. They may kill us, or they may take us prisoners; but the game is for any man who can possibly get away, to lay the Gippies on our scent.
(Four rifle shots from without)
Belmont : (Up R.) My word! They are good chaps, those blacks. Good. By George! they've knocked one beggar off his camel. Hurrah! Splendid! (Jumps on rock, waving his hat.)
(Crackle of distant musketry)
Colonel : (Up C. pulling Belmont down) Look out, Belmont! Don't give yourself away.
Belmont : Tut, it's a thousand yards.
(All are crouching here except Colonel. The rifle fire should be a distant crackle, quite low, so as not to cover dialogue. Now and then a single loud shot should represent the answering fire of the blacks. Just as Rev. Roden makes his speech about the swarm of bees, the bullets should be seen occasionally to brush up spurts of dust, done by small tubes containing dust blown through the rocks, very effective in London production. When Headingly rises to wave his hat the bullets should strike the rock all round him before he falls dead. Also round the party who gather round his body. But the reports are still distant.)
Colonel : Keep down, man! They are firing from the opposite hill, and it command us.
Doctor : (Crosses R. C.) My God! This is terrible. This is terrible!
Roden : (Crosses to Doctor) Don't lose heart, James. Don't lose heart.
Doctor : (R. C.) Why did we come here? It is all so unnecessary.
Brown : (Up C.) Good Lord! That bullet chipped the rock at my elbow. This is getting too hot.
Doctor : (R. C.) Colonel Egerton, you are a soldier, what are we to do? Tell us what we are to do.
Brown : (Comes down L. C.) For God's sake, Colonel, get us out of it. It's a bit too hot. We didn't come up here to be murdered.
Colonel : (Up C.) We must do the best we can. Whining won't help us. Maybe the firing may bring us some help from Halfa.
Belmont : (Up C. points off L.) It's nearly ten miles to Halfa.
Colonel : Let me have another look. (Crosses up C. looks off L.) No sign of Archer.
Belmont : What good could he do us?
Colonel : He could pass the word on and get on our trail. (X. R.) Let us see where they are now. (Looks over rock R.)
(Belmont looking over his shoulder)
Colonel : Two of the blacks are down. They are closing in on us fast. They're swarming up the rocks, Hullo! (Hat flies off. Up C. picking it up) A close call, Belmont. Within an inch of your skull.
Doctor : (Rises, crosses R. C.) If we could only reason with these people. If we could show them how barbarous is their attitude. Good gracious! (Starts)
Headingly : (Rises C.) What can I do? Is there no way I can help? Why should we not try to give the alarm at Wady Halfa? I'll do it. (Crosses up C. Doc. rushes up. He rushes up the hill and waves hat at the top. Staggers down and falls on the stage.)
Doctor : Headingly!
Colonel : Poor chap! Through the head.
(Pause. They all gather round him up C.)
Doctor : Yes, yes, he is dead. It is monstruous—
Roden : God rest his soul. He was a brave man.
Fardet : Murderers! (Stands up R.) Ah, if we had but rifles, if we could only die like soldiers, with arms in our hands.
Colonel : Keep down, Fardet!
Fardet : (L. C.) Why should I keep down. I fear them not.
Belmont : What good are you doing? Just drawing fire on us all.
Colonel : Here's the Sergeant coming in. He's been hit. (Runs forward up R. and gives his hand to SOLDIER who creps up between two rocks. SERGEANT staggers to a stone and sits down. Holds up his empty bandolier, and shrugs his shoulders. Then falls across the rock and lies still) Poor fellow! No soldier could have done more. (VOICES) They are coming!
Roden : (Up C.) Boys, God save us and give us strength to meet our fate.
Colonel : (Up C.) You're a good man, Padre. You don't shirk. Pull yourselves together. Here they are! (Prayer. Murmur of many voices ascending the hill) Have a cigarette, Belmont.
(COLONEL and BELMONT stand smoking L. C. FARDET up C. strikes an attitude. DOCTOR sits groaning on a stone. ABDULLAH stands like a statue R. C. REVEREND pats his brother on the should R. C.)
(THREE ARABS, armed with rifles, appear over the rocks. They present rifles. One knocks up the barrels of the other two. They turn and beckon. OTHERS swarm on from every side, mostly with spears. They threaten the prisoners with their weapons, and drag them roughly together. ABDULLAH kneels before them. One of them kicks him in the side)
Colonel : (L. C.) Here, leave him alone!
(ARABS threatens COLONEL with a knife)
Belmont : (L.) Say nothing, Egerton, or we shall all be murdered.
(ARAB twists BROWN's arm — holds him so some appreciable time)
Brown : (Up L. C.) Look out! that brute! Look out, I say! You leave me alone! My God! What a brute! (Shrinks away)
Roden : (R.) Don't hurt him! Let him go! (Crosses C.)
(ARAB strikes REVEREND in body with a gun. REVEREND groans and sits down on rock R.)
Doctor : (R.) They haven't hurt you, Sam? (Groans and holds his hand to his side)
Fardet : I will try to save you all. I will say that I am a Frenchman.
Belmont : (Crosses up to FARDET, pulls him back) Be silent, Fardet! You would just work them up to murder us. As if they care a hang whether you are French or English. You're white; that's good enough for them.
(ENTER ARAB CHIEF, up R. — ALI WAD IBRAHAM)
(Long pause for BUS:)
(The ARABS all wave their rifles, and spears in greeting. He stands in the centre of the stage. A second CHIEF, younger, ABDURRAHMAN, is beside him. They speak together and point at the captives.)
(ARABS drag ABDULLAH down to CHIEF)
Doctor : (R.) Surely they would not butcher us in cold blood!
Belmont : We'll pay ransom?
(BROWN crosses to ARAB. Struck by ARABS.)
Fardet : If I could but speak with them, they would comprehend. Hola, dragoman, Abdullah!
(Crosses C. ARABS drag ABDULLAH to his feet. CHIEF points to FARDET and says in Arabic)
Abdullah : (To FARDET) This is the great Chief Wad Ibraham. He aks you what you wish to say.
Fardet : (L. C.) Tell him that I am a Frenchman, Dragoman. Tell him that I am not the enemy of the Khalifa.
Colonel : (L.) You'd best hold your tongue, you only make bad worse.
Fardet : It is our only chance. Tell him that my countrymen have never had any quarrel with him, and that his enemies are ours.
(ARAB speaks sternly to ABDULLAH. Crosses and speaks to L.)
Abdullah : The great Chief asks you what religion you call your own.
Fardet : Tell the great Chief, that in France we look upon all religion as good.
(ARAB talks. CHIEF talks)
Abdullah : The great Chief says, that none but a blaspheming dog would say that all religions were good. (FARDET starts to speak. SPY drops C.) But — Say nothing to anger him, sir, for he is now talking what is to become of us.
Fardet : (Pointing) I have seen that man before! Where was it! Ah! it was last night. (L. C. COLONEL, L. C.)
Colonel : (Crosses C.) It's the Arab beggar that was turned off the ship. He has met these rascals and set them on our track. (Crosses up C.)
Spy : (Coming forward C., seeing that they are talking of him) Ah, Engleesh dogs! Backsheesh! (COLONEL turns away L.) Temple guide! Now you die! Dogs! Dogs! Dogs! (Threatens them with his knife and spits at them. Crosses back R. C.)
Doctor : (R.) This is terrible! Terrible! It is pure barbarism!
Roden : (R. C.) Cheer up, James. Be of good heart.
- WARN #
Doctor : It is all so unnescessary.
(A CHIEF calls out in Arabic. ALL are silent. He speaks a few words — talks to ABDULLAH)
Colonel : (L. C.) Stay, you fellows — I think there's just a chance. We may scrape through after all.
Abdullah : Gentlemen! (BELMONT crosses to COLONEL) The Chief says, you will work as slaves for the Khalifa, unless he should wish you put to death. (Crawls R.) You are to mount yourselves upon the camels, and ride with the party.
(CHIEF motions to ARABS to enclose prisoners. DOCTOR and RODEN cross L. ALL cross over L. except ABDULLAH)
(The ARABS close in on the Prisoners, who are hemmed in and driven in a mob to the back of the stage. ARABS beat them across with clubs — great brutality. Suddenly there is a scream, and looking back, they see ABDULLAH led out and drop on his knees)
Brown : (L. C.) What is it, Colonel Egerton? They don't mean to kill him, surely?
Colonel : (L. C.) The Chief says no one would pay ransom for him.
Brown : (L.) I will pay ransom for you.
Colonel : I, too. (BUS: ABDULLAH points to women)
Doctor : So will I.
- READY SONG #
Belmont : And I! Quick, explain, Abdullah!
(NEGRO raises sword. ABDULLAH gives cry)
Abdullah : Ah!
(NEGRO drops sword. ARABS crowd round with excited gestures)
(Get the ARAB dialogue used in London production)
Roden : What is it? Have they spared him? (ARAB speaks) What does he say?
Colonel : My God! He's giving away the women!
- WARNING #
Belmont : Oh, the treacherous brute!
(COLONEL moves toward ABDULLAH, CHIEF stops him)
Colonel : You villain! hold your tongue, you miserable creature! Be silent! Better die! A thousand times better die.
(ARABS thrust the COLONEL back with spears)
(ABDULLAH points to hiding place and comes R. The ARABS rush forward, pull down the stones, and drag out the women.)
(ALL stand in silence while the ARABS inspect the Women. There is an argument between the two CHIEFS. Then the younger CHIEF gives a sign and an ARAB drags SADIE roughly apart down C. Drag all THREE WOMEN C. The TOURISTS give a general cry of anger and the COLONEL steps forward and is seized and held by two ARABS)
(SADIE breaks away and rushes back to AUNTIE, L. C.)
Sadie : Auntie! Auntie! (Throws her arms round her Aunt)
(At Cue "Auntie" — MRS. BELMONT, FARDET and MISS ADAMS driven off)
(YOUNG CHIEF seizes her — twists her arm and tears her away — She screams — He strikes her)
Colonel : My God! I can't stand this! (Breaks loose from two captors. Rushes at the ARAB CHIEF) Curse you! Curse you! Curse you! Your brute! You brute!
(COLONEL EGERTON is seized, but struggles loose. Is seized by half a dozen. One strikes him on the head. He staggers back and falls immediately.)
Belmont : Don't fight, old chap! You can do no good. You brutes! You've killed him! You cowards! (Crosses up L.)
(DOCTOR runs to COLONEL with handkerchief and puts it under his head)
Sadie : (R. C.) Oh! They have killed him!
(TWO ARABS take DOCTOR off)
Belmont : (L.) There are folks on the hill, see, see, they wave.
Brown : (Up C.) Too late, by George! Too late!
Belmont : (Comes down C.) Colonel, Colonel, — ah, too late! (Being dragged off)
( # ARABS SONG # )
(The ARABS point in the same direction. ARAB shouts an order. They round up the Prisoners and drive them hurriedly off the stage, looking over their shoulders as they do so. Their song of triumph is heard dying away in the distance, with one scream from SADIE. Their song continues till the fall of the curtain.)
(The COLONEL crawls along to rock L. C. Looks over at Archer's Hill. He has the handkerchief in his hand, bloodstained. He reaches top of rock and waves handkerchief three times, then rolls off on to the stage.)
CURTAIN and PICTURE
Scene 1 : Plays 25 Minutes. Two days later.
Scene : The Wells of Abou-teb. Palm trees and well at the back. Puddle to left, near the puddle sit FARDET and BROWN in rags, and very dirty, and bloody. Close to them are MISS ADAMS and SADIE leaning against fallen palm tree.
Miss A. : Sadie, child, put your head here and try to sleep. You are just wearied out.
Sadie : I think there's only so much pain that one can endure at one time. When your soul feels more your body may feel less. What are thirst and weariness compared to—— (begins to sob)
Miss A. : Oh, Sadie, my darling. I feared it was deeper than you knew
Sadie : It was trying to save me that he was struck down. He gave his life for me, Auntie.
Miss A. : I believe he loved you, Sadie.
Sadie : No never said so.
Miss A. : He was a sick man — (SADIE looks at Aunt) he had no hopes of life. He did not wish to bring unhappiness to you. The Minister told me.
Sadie : And that was it; that was his secret then? As if it was not the one thing that would have drawn me quickest to his side.
Miss A. : No, no, he was right. It was impossible.
Sadie : Tell me about Mrs. Belmont — how did she die?
Miss A. : She just went to sleep, dear, and the sleep deepened into death.
Sadie : How good she was — how gentle! How womanly! No one could be more fit to die. If I should live, Auntie, I should try to be like her. It is a terrible thing to think that no one in the world has ever been better for my life.
Miss A. : Nonsense, child, there's your mother and myself.
Sadie : No, no, you both took a pleasure in spoiling me. But what have I ever done myself. How little I thought of others so long as I was happy. Was I born in the world for that? — for amusements in a life that is full of suffering and pain? In the future I'll take life more seriously.
Miss A. : Put your head down, dear, and sleep.
Brown : (To FARDET) (X ing to well) I could drink some more water, but I am afraid of leaving none for them.
Fardet : Il n'importe! Fear not, these wells never dry!
Brown : Don't they, by Jove! (Crosses up C. Leans over the well)
Fardet : If you take this cloth, Mr. Brown you can strain the mud.
Brown : Mud! Who cares for mud? (drinks) My word, isn't it good?!
(REVEREND SAMUEL RODEN staggers in R. BROWN drops down C.)
Roden : (Comes R. C.) Water! Water! Mr. Brown, give me water!
Brown : (Up C.) Here, padre — drink.
Roden : (R. C.) No, no, I must carry it. It's for a dying man.
(SADIE gives BROWN pannikin — BROWN goes to well for water)
Sadie : (Rises, crosses C.) Take it in this. Can I come? Have they hurt you?
(BROWN drops down C.)
Roden : (R. C.) The brutes have shot Belmont. (X down R.) (MISS ADAMS rises, crosses to SADIE) He tried to break away to where they had left his wife. They shot him. (BROWN gives RODEN cup) He asked for water as he lay in my arms.
(Enter ABDULLAH, R. I. E. Bus. with ARAB)
Abdullah : (R.) He is dead! No more use!
(BROWN and FARDET put RODEN on rock R. C., then sit)
Roden : (sits R.) I feared I would be too late.
(BROWN gives tin to RODEN. ABDULLAH goes up)
Miss A. : (L. C.) To think of it! Colonel Egerton — Mr. Belmont — Mrs. Belmont!
Brown : (R. C. X and sit C.) Who would have believed it when we sat abroad that boat. To think that I grumbled at the dinner. Good Lord! I must have been mad!
Sadie : (C.) How happy we were — how light-hearted! How little we knew what was in store for us! (Cross L. and sits again L.)
(MISS ADAMS also sits L. C.)
Fardet : (R.) And it was only three days ago! (X to well with cup)
Brown : (Sits C.) Three days! What days they have been. Good Lord! Why it seems as if that life was years and years behind us. Such new thoughts! New feelings! All crowding upon each other! By George! It breaks down a fellow's pride and self-respect.
(Groan outside from DOCTOR. Enter DOCTOR and ARAB, R.)
Roden : James, old fellow! I hope they haven't hurt you?
(ARAB R. pushes DOCTOR roughly towards the others. He is thrown down up C.)
Doctor : (R. C.) All this is terrible — terrible! Why did we ever come here?
(ARAB joins group U. L.)
Roden : (C.) Jim, Jim — don't break down.
Doctor : (R. C.) I can't walk — I am cramped. They beat me, and it hurts me to breathe. I don't know why they beat me or what is to become of us. It is dreadful!
Roden : Come to the water. Lean on my shoulder.
(They cross L. C.)
Brown : (L. C.) Padre — here's some water. (Moves L.)
Miss A. : (Rises, L. C.) Come here, Dr. Roden. Lie here and rest.
(DOCTOR sinks down L., helped by MISS ADAMS — BROWN and RODEN. RODEN sits on saddle C. Aunt sits L.)
Abdullah : (Seated up R.) I am sorry all that has been, very sorry...
Brown : (Comes L. C. behind baggage) You infernal gas-bag! I hope to live long enough to lay that whip across your shoulders.
Abdullah : (C.) What would you have me do? It was death the other way. Now I am free and able to help.
Brown : (L. C.) We want none of your help. Clear out of this. (X. L.)
Abdullah : (C.) Very well, I go! (Turns away up C.)
Fardet : (R. C.) But this is folly. Come back, Abdullah — perhaps he can assist us! Here, Abdullah!
Abdullah : (Comes back C.) What you have? What you think now?
Fardet : Get us something to eat. We are starving!
Abdullah : When you think you not want me I am 'gas-bag' — you want me. Get what you wish for yourself. Or perhaps Mr. Brown get it.
(HE mixes with ARABS up C. RODEN X to ABDULLAH)
(BROWN crosses back)
Fardet : (R. C.) I have a good mind to shoot him. (Puts hand to hip)
Brown : (L. C. Cross to Fardet) I say, you haven't got a pistol?
Fardet : (R. C.) It is here. They have not found it. I could not use it, they were so many, but I keep it — I keep it.
Brown : (C.) For what?
(THEY move a little to R. C.)
Fardet : For mademoiselle.
Brown : (C.) Good! Give it to Miss Adams — she will be always at her side.
Fardet : You are right? (Cross L. C.) Miss Adams! One word if you please.
(BROWN moves R.)
Miss A. : (Rise, coming across to C.) Well, Mr. Fardet?
Fardet : (R. C.) Take this pistol. Let them not see. there! (Gives pistol)
Miss A. : (Moving away) What should I do with it?
Fardet : (R. C. looking across) You will know. It is better, Miss Adams, a pang of a moment than grief and shame forever.
Miss A. : (C.) What? My Saddie! Oh, I couldn't! (Offering it)
Brown : (Cross C. behind.) Only at the last.
(RODEN comes R. C. Ready — Shouts — R.)
Miss A. : Lord! To think I should have lived to hear such words — I couldn't! I couldn't!
Brown : (C., cross L. C.) Here, Mr. Roden! We want your help. Fardet has got a pistol. (RODEN looks at BROWN) At the last the girl cannot be left. (Back C.)
Miss A. : (C.) What am I to do, Mr. Roden?
Roden : (R. C.) No, no, the law is the law. We can't take it on ourselves.
Fardet : (R. C.) Would you have Mademoiselle in an Arab's harem? Is that better — or this? (Pointing to pistol. Aunt X to FARDET)
Roden : (C.) No , I say — no. (FARDET gives pistol to Aunt and X up) Who are we to judge? (Hands to head) A holiday jaunt! Good Lord, a holiday jaunt!
(MISS A. puts pistol in her bag)
Brown : (R.) Hush! She's listening.
Roden : There! I have least command of all — I, the preacher of Faith! (Cross up C. Shouts, off R. BROWN sits R.)
Brown : (R.) (All turn away) More of the rascals at the least! But what is that? (Rise) I say, look, you chaps! By George, yes, it is! There's a white man among them!
(All look off R.)
Fardet : (R. C.) Sapristi! You are right. Surely it's the Colonel.
(SADIE springing up.)
(Enter ARABS as SADIE reaches AUNT.)
(Miss A. pulls her down. There are explanations among the ARABS — ABDULLAH up C.))
(L. They join Group and exit L.)
Fardet : (R. C.) What do they say?
Abdullah : They say they found him in the desert coming after us. They think that he is mad! They are afraid to kill him.
(COLONEL enters R.)
(DOCTOR rises, greets COLONEL, then X to saddle and sits)
Colonel : (Comes C. to SADIE) Thank God, you are all right! And you, Miss Adams! And you, Padre?
Sadie : (L. C.) Some water? (Get dish L. C. walking up to well)
All : Yes, water, water!
Colonel : (Sinks on camel saddle C.) Splendid! (Drinks) And are you sure the brutes haven't hurt you?
Sadie : (Gets left of Colonel) No, no, but tell us of yourself. Oh! It is so wonderful, so wonderful to see you again.
Roden : Yes, tell us everything.
Colonel : (Seated C.) Gather close round then. I don't want those devils to over-hear us. You remember that that I got knocked out on the Abousir Rock? It dropped me, but I wasn't quite so bad as I seemed. I lay low and signalled to the Black Rock.
Roden : What, you gave the alarm?
Colonel : (Seated C.) Yes, but fainted as I did it. Heaven know if Arhar saw it or not.
Fardet : (Standing) Sarr, you are a brave man. I salute you, sarr.
Roden : You have brought us hope. We live again.
Colonel : (C.) Then you were right after all, padre. I have been of service in the world. The extra year has justified itself.
Sadie : (L. C.) What is that?
Colonel : (L. C.) Oh, the padre knows. You can take it from me that if I have been of any use it's to him that you owe it.
Brown : (R. C.) Well, but I say, Colonel, how did you manage to get caught again?
Colonel : Oh, just my luck.
Brown : I suppose you tried to push on to Halfa, and ran across the other party on the way?
Colonel : Well, that would account for it, wouldn't it?
Roden : We have had a sad loss — the Belmonts.
Colonel : Yes, yes, I know. I passed them on the way. Well, well, today, tomorrow, — what matter if one can but die at one's best?
(ARABS comes forward and throws down the bags — BROWN snatches them up — COLONEL, rises, X up. FARDET goes up)
Brown : (Rises) By Jove, this is something like. Dates and bread! Ladies first — here you are, Miss Adams. Miss Sadie!
Colonel : (To RODEN C.) I've got a map here. I must have a look where we are. (Goes aside, sits down with map. RODEN X to Doc.)
Sadie : (Xes to COLONEL) You've had nothing to eat.
Colonel : (C.) I had some food on the way, and I feel as strong as a lion.
Sadie : (R. C. kneels beside him R. C.) You're not — you're not a very good story teller. I suppose you have not had much practice at it.
Colonel : (Seated R.) Why?
Sadie : (Seated R. C.) Well, about those Arabs catching you. You know perfectly well you came of your own accord.
Colonel : I did — I did. I admit it.
Sadie : But why?
Colonel : Because... Oh, I must be honest — well, just because I couldn't bear to think of you in trouble and I not at your side. I can't keep it up longer, Sadie. I must tell you that there is something stronger than my will, stronger than life itself, which draws me to your side. Say just one thing, Sadie, say that you are glad I came.
Sadie : How could I be so selfish?
Colonel : But down in your heart — do tell me that you have felt happier?
Sadie : So selfish — oh, so selfish — isn't it dearful that I should feel a little spring of joy gushing in my heart when everyone else is in such trouble?
Colonel : A spring of joy! I never dared to hope that I might find it there. And now I wouldn't be anywhere else in the whole wide world.
Sadie : You would like to help me, then — when I need it?
Colonel : Of course I would.
Sadie : It's a natural feeling to you?
Colonel : Yes, it is.
Sadie : Well, don't you think others may have — the same feelings?
Colonel : What do you mean?
Sadie : Don't you think others might wish to help you in your trouble?
Colonel : What do you know of my trouble? Someone has been talking?
Sadie : I know now that you are ill.
Colonel : Then you know my — But oh! Sadie, one cannot be insincere now. I must tell you how I loved you all the time. I tried so hard to crush it down and to tear myself away, but it grew and grew until it filled my soul, and I lived for nothing else. I couldn't speak, for it could only bring you trouble, even now. God help me, I should be silent, but I can't — I can't!
Sadie : But if you were ill, wasn't that the time for me to help you? Did you think me so weak, so unwomanly, that you couldn't trust me?
Colonel : It was your future, Sadie. Who was I that I should cloud it over? But it is above human Strength to be silent now. In the shadow of death I can speak, and I'll die easier — for having told you what was in my heart.
(SADIE goes up)
Roden : (Rises — cross R.) Well, Colonel, have you found out where this place is?
Colonel : (Sits) (R.) This oasis is on the old trade route. (SADIE cross to her Aunt L. C. DOCTOR is L. C.) Come here, you fellows; (FARDET and BROWN X to Colonel) no wonder they don't trouble to guard us, for there is not another well for thirty miles.
Brown : What do you think of our chances? Four of our camels are dead beat. They can hardly move.
Colonel : (looking at map) If Archer saw the signal there's a chance — only a chance. Look at the distance they have to come. (R.) They'll be urging us on presently. We must take some sleep while we can. I'll watch. (Rises, crosses R. looks off. FARDET X R. U. BROWN to men then X. D. L.)
Roden : (R. C. Sits on Rock R.) Poor James is asleep already. Poor fellow, he is tired out — weary to death.
Brown : Have my coat, Miss Adams. Put it under your head. You'll be more comfortable. (Crosses L. sits)
(Long Pause. — They all settle down)
Abdullah : (Moves to BROWN, L. Kneels touching BROWN on the shoulder L.) Mr. Brown, I bring you safely. Two fast camels here. Suppose we escape.
Brown : What! (Half rise. L.) Why do you choose me?
Abdullah : (L.) I like you, Mr. Brown. I like you best. Poor faithful Abdullah always your friend. Besides you richest man, not so? You not forget your poor Abdullah who save you. When we reach Egypt, you give me five hundred pounds.
Brown : (L.) Freedom! (Pause) I couldn't do it!
Abdullah : All right? All right? I come tipa-toe when Arabs asleep. Then we creep up to camel, touch camel under knee, to make them lie down. (Touches BROWN) We up and onward to Egypt.
Brown : No, I won't come.
Abdullah : You fool, man, fool! I give you life and safety. What more you want?
Brown : (Rises) See here! Don't you stay here too long. It's just all I can do now to keep my hands off you, you informal traitor.
(Re-enter COLONEL. Pause. ABDULLAH goes up stage — he meets the DERVISH SPY coming on L., who points at the PRISONERS — and stands back while ABDULLAH comes down.)
Abdullah : (Crosses R. Claps hands.) Get up, Mr. Roden. Get up, Miss Adams. All are to rise. (Cross back C. SADIE half rise — also DOCTOR)
Miss A. : (L. C.) We have had no rest. (Rise)
Abdullah : (Comes R. C. BROWN X. L. C.) The chief says there has been rest enough, for you must on your further way. (Aside L.) When you s slave in Karthoum; Mr. Brown, you remember Abdullah — 'Poor Abdullah' — 'Gas-bag Abdullah.'
Fardet : (Rises) But our camels will carry us no further.
Abdullah : Some of you may need no more camel.
Colonel : What do you mean?
Abdullah : (SPY at back C.) Chief will only save whoever will take Koran. (General movement) Who takes it will not die. Listen to my advice. Chief very bad man to joke with. (RODEN half rises) Take the Koran, everyone. (General movement) Look at me. I was Christian before two days. Today I am Mohammedan. (RODEN rises) But I am Abdullah all the same. What it matter? I eat — I sleep — I smoke all the same. Take what I tell. (Cross up C.)
Dervish Spy : (Coming forward) Dogs, Koran, or you die! Dogs!
(Walk back and join Arabs up C.)
Colonel : (Cross C. — Looking round) Well, we're up against it now! What do you think?
Fardet : (R. C.) Well, for my part, it seems to me that we should do what Abdullah has said.
Colonel : (C.) What, you would turn renegade?
Fardet : (Up R. C. impatiently) La, la, la! That is only a word. (COLONEL crosses to SADIE) You would not have me throw away my life for what I have never been able to believe?
Doctor : (Rises, crosses R. C. L. of FARDET) Well, I agree with Monsieur Fardet. I see no cause why we should make bad worse by irritating these bigoted savages. I should certainly recommend that we do whatever they may desire.
Roden : (R.) James, James, you would never forgive yourself.
Brown : (Rises L. X to RODEN) If you do a thing under compulsion, you can't be held responsible. After all, it's only to say that we believe, and who's the worse for that?
Miss A. : (L. C.) Well, I just couldn't. It's only Providence that can save us, and we won't do any better by turning against our own religions.
Brown : (Irritated. C.) It's not turning, Miss Adams. It's only pretending to turn. (Crosses R. C.) Here, padre, you know very well that our one chance is to keep things going till help arrives? Why do you want to keep waving your religion before them? Give us all a chance.
Roden : (C.) I'm ashamed, Mr. Brown — ashamed — that an English gentleman—
Fardet : (L. C.) I say that it is folly — Mon Dieu! such madness.
Doctor : (L. C.) You are right, Monsieur Fardet.
Roden : (C.) You make me blush, James. But my mind is made up. You will all do as you choose, but I will never give up my ministry if I have the strength.
Fardet : Then we have come to the end.
Roden : Well, I only speak for myself.
Colonel : (L. C.) And for me, Padre. I won't even argue. (X up)
Brown : (R. C. X to RODEN) You take a great deal on yourselves. All our lives and the fate of these women are at stake.
Doctor : (Rise) Our blood will be on your head. It is you, not they, who will be our murderers. (BROWN crosses L.)
Roden : (R. C. X to C.) James! You have no right to speak so.
Brown : (R.) He has every right. What he says is perfectly true. (Sits)
Colonel : (L. C.) Well, there are three of you who are prepared to turn — you, Doctor, and you Brown, and you, Fardet?
Fardet : No, no, we cannot save ourselves along. Our honor is concerned.
Brown : (R. C.) That's right, Fardet — no fellow could do that.
Doctor : (L.) It's sheer bigotry, but I agree that we cannot save ourselves alone.
Colonel : (C.) There's a good lot of chaps. Then we are of one mind after all. We won't turn. That's settled. (Crosses up to well.)
(CHIEF enters up R.)
Brown : (L.) They're coming.
(ARABS assemble — SPY and ABDULLAH advance — FOUR DERVISHES drop down R.)
Spy : (Comes C.) Dogs! Which take Koran? Quick!
Fardet : (R. C.) All of us desire to take the Koran
Roden : (R.) No!
Doctor : (L. C.) Leave it to Fardet, Sam! That conscience of yours will be the death of us all.
Fardet : We wish instruction. We must be taught.
Brown : (L.) Bravo!
Spy : (C.) We not fools. You wish make time. Quick! Koran or die, dogs! You take Koran.
Roden : No, I will not.
Spy : (Goes up C. to Fardet) You take Koran? (To COLONEL) You?
Colonel : No.
(SPY makes gesture and ABDULLAH advances C.)
Abdullah : (L. C. to ARAB) Let go. Chief take only three. Two women. One man go. (Talks to CHIEF)
Roden : (R. X. c.) There's safety then for one of us. You speak Arabic, Colonel, you go!
Colonel : (L. C.) No, no, what is the use of saving a life like mine!
Fardet : You go, Mr. Brown.
Brown : Let the padre go.
Roden : I should be the last.
Abdullah : (C.) Chief ask me which is richest. I say Mr. Brown. He goes.
Brown : No, no! (X. C.) I can't leave you in a hole.
Colonel : Well, it's settled for us.
(Warn Bugle — Red 3.)
(Bus. of WOMEN dragged off, etc.)
Fardet : (To ABDULLAH) Well, what about us?
Abdullah : For you, he give you five minutes for prayer.
Spy : (Comes C.) Then you die!
Abdullah : I come back for you, Mr. Brown.
Roden : (R.) My friends, at this supreme moment can I in no way help you?
Doctor : (C.) You're a good fellow, Sam. You have lived up to your belief.
Fardet : (Seated R. C.) For my part, I die as I have lived. I have had no faith, little hope, and such charity as I could afford.
Doctor : (L. C.) There is more in life than I had thought, Sam. There is something behind it all. I have moved in a narrow groove. I can see it now. I should be a letter, more unselfish man if I were spared.
Colonel : (Looking up stage and starting) My God, what is that?
All : What in it? (Ready — Shouts — L.)
Colonel : Don't look round! Please don't look round. Sit down Fardet!
Roden : What is it?
Colonel : It's safety — to freedom — if only my eyes have not deceived me. Padre, do you look round— (OTHERS look around) not the others. Do you see that high yellow sand hill away over yonder in the gap of the trees?
(BROWN half rises)
Roden : Yes, yes, what of it?
Colonel : No, don't turn, Brown. Our lives may hang on it. Watch the top of that hill, padre, but don't call attention. Surely I didn't dream it.
Roden : What could one see at such a distance?
Colonel : Watch, padre — watch!
Roden : It is just a barren sand hill, nothing more.
Colonel : (HELIOGRAPH) There it is again.
Roden : It was a light — a little twinkle of brilliant light.
Colonel : I know that good old light — there's only one light that comes and goes like that. It's the helio — Archer has seen my signal. The Gippies are catching us up. They're signalling to some one. Their comrades must be over yonder to see the flash. They have them surrounded.
Roden : There are no more flashes.
Colonel : A good job too. It is the mercy of Providence that the Arabs have not seen them. I expect the Gippies picked up the other light and know each other's whereabouts. (Shouts off L.)
Brown : (R. X to C.) Good Lord! Does that mean they have seen the Heliograph!
Colonel : No. The Arabs are gathering for the march. The main body has started.
Doctor : (L.) Great Heavens, will help come in time!
Padre : We are in God's hands.
Colonel : The women will be saved whatever happens.
Brown : Yes, by Jove, but if it had come to the worst I take credit to myself that I had a ripping idea up my sleeve.
Colonel : What do you mean?
Brown : Why, there are two fast camels tethered over there by the camp. I should have put the ladies on them — started them off and nothing could have caught them.
Colonel : A gallant thought but you could not have done it.
Brown : Why not?
Roden : Consider the practical difficulties.
Brown : They could hold on by the saddle. Give them a slap and off they go.
Colonel : But — to get the ladies on.
Brown : You make the camels kneel.
Colonel : Easier said than done.
Brown : My dear chap, what I don't know about a camel isn't worth knowing. All you have to do to make the beggars kneel is to tap them under the knee with a stick. Just a sharp little tap here. (Taps COLONEL'S knee with his hand — foot jerks)
Doctor : (Who is watching) Eh, what's that — what's that! (Stares at COLONEL'S foot)
Brown : What's the matter?
Doctor : Do that once more, Colonel. (Foot jerks again)
Colonel : Brown — Brown — I believe you have saved me! The knee jerk! It's right! It's right! (Rise) Did you see it, Doctor?
Doctor : (Also on his feet) Yes! Yes! It seems quite normal.
Colonel : Then for God's sake tell me? Am I steady? Do I sway? Quick men, speak! (Shuts his eyes and stands)
Doctor : Steady as a rock. My dear fellow! Your symptoms are gone. (Shakes hands with COLONEL. Enter ABDULLAH with ARAB.)
Colonel : Gone! Cured! Cured!
Abdullah : Come, Mr. Brown, come. (Exit with BROWN)
Roden : My dear Colonel, your hand!
Colonel : Fardet! Fardet! (Shouts off L.)
Roden : Colonel, what's that? (Bugle)
Colonel : That's an Egyptian bugle and they've heard it! Never say die you fellows! (Bugle) (Echo) There's a great cloud of dust yonder. (Heliograph) See! See! They have them on each flank. Gallant rascals! How they stand! No use! No use! Down they go before the Maxim. Now they rally! They charge! No, they break once more. Human valor cannot do it. The Dervishes are in full flight.
Fardet : They run — mon Dieu, how they run!
(ARABS come down C.)
Doctor : (Looking up) But they are firing on us.
(Warn Bugle — Red 3.)
Roden : No, no, on our guard.
(TWO of the ARABS behind fell dead — the SPY runs towards the COLONEL. The OTHERS kneel and cry "RHAM! RHAM!" Shooting should stop. SPY falls on knees.)
Spy : (To COLONEL) Mercy, good English gentleman! Mercy! Poor Arab!
Colonel : You dog! It was you who threatened our women. — Serve you right if we shoot you off-hand.
Fardet : Sapristi, yes, I kill him.
Colonel : Wait, Fardet. Archer will be here in a minute. They will get their deserts.
(Bugle — Red 3. Warn.)
Fardet : Behold an officer! Vivent les Anglais! Vivent!
(Enter ARCHER and SOLDIERS)
Archer : Fetch those men! Ah, here you are, Colonel! Thank God you are all alive and well.
Colonel : The women, Archer? What of the women?
Archer : Right as the Mail. The doctor has got them and they are coming along.
Colonel : Thank God, they are safe!
Archer : We have travelled night and day since we got our signal on the rock. We had them in front — the Sarras crowd behind. They never had a dog's chance. It was a fair walk-over. It will take us some time to pick up the pieces. Then we trek for the Nile.
(Enter SADIE, MISS ADAMS and BROWN)
Sadie : Saved! Saved!
(COLONEL and SADIE embrace)
Colonel : Saved. Back to the Nile, and gladness and life! (To Padre) Padre, you can preach of good coming out of evil for the rest of your life, and I'm ready to pose as your stock example.
- Manchester Courier and Lancashire Genral Advertiser (12 july 1909, p. 6)
- The typescript is held at The New York Public Library, Billy Rose Theatre Division.
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): 4e0b0560-b511-0130-58d6-58d385a7bbd0.