DALRYMPLE BULTHROP, ESQ., C.S., Commissioner and Superintendent Biaspur Division.
PERCY SMALLWEED, ESQ., C.S...... Judicial Assistant Commissioner.
AN ENGLISH LOAFER, alias CAPTAIN FRANK WILMOT, R.A.
KHAN BAHADUR NUBBEE BAKSH.... Inspector of Police.
EDITH BULTHROP.......................... Daughter of the Commissioner.
KHITMUTGAR, POLICE SEPOYS, VILLAGERS. &c.
BULTHROP.—Knickerbocker suit of puttoo—gold pince-nez.
SMALLWEED.—Trim dark morning suit—spectacles.
WILMOT.—Red wig and beard, wide-awake hat, much battered, dirty puggree—working man's clothes.
EDITH.—Morning dress—very simple and neat.
NUBBEE BAKSH.— Full dress of a Punjab Inspector of Police.
SCENE—INTERIOR OF A WELL-APPOINTED, DOUBLE-POLED TENT.
Breakfast table; Khitmutgar moving with knives and spoons between sideboard and table, preparing to clear away; chicks at back, one rolled up; whips, hog-spears, and guns in corner; black-buck horns at side; folding chairs; camp-couch; card table, right, with woollen table cover hanging to the ground ; durrees on floor, with leopard skins, &c.
BULTHROP AND EDITH. (He lights his cheroot from a waxmatch held saucily by Edith; "Pioneer" newspaper in left hand.) Thanks, pet,—so you don't find roughing it in camp so formidable a business, eh?
EDITH.—Not a bit. It's the greatest fun I ever bad in my life. I'm writing such a letter to Auntie, describing the early morning marches, the strings of camels looping along the road, the chupatees, and all the other servants.
BULTHROP (interrupting).—Chuprassees, you mean.
EDITH.—Well, it's all the same you know-to Auntie;-and the solemn old native swells, all shawls and whiskers, who come in to make a salaam and offer you a couple of rupees in a silk handkerchief; and as to roughing it, I don't believe anybody ever does rough it in India. Confess now, papa, there is just a touch of humbug in this talk of hardship and roughing it? Why, compared with Miss Verjuice's school or with sea-side lodgings, I call this luxurious. (Glancing round.)
BULTHROP.—Yes, Edie; but then at the sea-side, instead of a crusty old father, you had that silly aunt of yours to spoil you; and her precious military friends to roam about the beach and gather shells with. She told me all about it!
EDITH.—Oh! Did she?
BULTHROP.—Yes, and how you were admired by this and that young jackanapes, till I declare, if I hadn't interfered, the next time I should have seen my little Edith would have been as Mrs.—Mrs. What the deuce was the name of the young coxcomb who was first in the running?—I have it! Mrs. Frank Wilmot! A most circumstantial person is your aunt Matilda!
EDITH (affecting to be angry).—Auntie is the dearest, kindest and quite the best creature in the world, and you may say what you like, papa, although I don't care two pins for the gentleman, who, after all, was the son of one of Auntie's oldest friends, I must say that, compared with some people I know, he is simply perfection!
BULTHROP.—Yes! of course, child, they always are! But, thank goodness, it's a pretty far cry from Southsea to the Punjab, and, like a good girl, you will forget these childish follies. We'll make a burra mem of you yet, and develop no end of accomplishments. You ride like Di Vernon for your own pleasure, you play whist like Maskelyne's automaton for mine, and you learn oriental literature for Smallweed's. How do you get on with your Hindustani?
EDITH.—Oh, famously! Mr. Smallweed takes such pains. I can say Khitmutgár khana láo and Ayah dustana kahan hai? and I can order Prince and tell the sais to give him a bran mash; and I should be able to take the khánsáma's accounts if you would only let me. And one picks up new words daily. By the way, papa, what is an ooloo ka batcha?
BULTHROP.—Ooloo ka batcha means literally a young owl, but is generally used in a figurative sense and addressed to a stupid person. (Edith laughs.) But surely nobody has been calling you an ooloo ka batcha.
EDITH.—No; but the ayah brought the fragments of my camp-stool I lent Mr. Smallweed to take out sketching, and said:—Wuh ooloo ka batcha, Stunt Sáhib, Miss Sáhib ke chota chokee done broke.
BULTHROP.—Like her impertinence! I hope you pulled her up sharply. It's very seldom native servants take liberties of this kind, but you should never let them pass.
EDITH (demurely).—Well, papa, I didn't know what it meant. You always say, too, these people are good judges of character; and does it never occur to you that Mr. Smallweed is rather an ooloo ka batcha?
BULTHROP (severely) .—Smallweed is an awfully clever fellow, and will be one of the ornaments of our service. I grant you he is not at all of the old Haileybury type, and has not the airs and graces one sees some military men affect, but no one can gainsay his talent.
EDITH.—He ought to be very clever at something to make up for the number of things he cannot do. He can't ride, he can't dance, he can't shoot, he can't sing, he can't play lawn tennis or polo, be can't smoke, he can't run, be can't fence, and the worst is, he looks as if be couldn't do all these things.
BULTHROP.—Ah! but he can write! (Goes to side-shelves and brings an orange-covered pamphlet.) You should read his masterly report on some peculiarities of the Revenue Settlement of this division, to appreciate the way in which he has handled Jamma-bundee. Why, there have been Lieutenant-Governors of this province who have never grasped the first principles of that great subject!
EDITH.—Do they hurt?
BULTHROP (laughing).—Don't be absurd! If you make fun of me remember, I can run you in for contempt of court; and as Commissioner and Superintendent of the Biaspur division, I shall imprison you in a bear's hug: and at all events he is our guest now, and, though you affect to make fun of him, you must admit he is vastly civil and attentive to always anxious to please.
EDITH.—Yes, so very anxious to please, it's really a pity he doesn't know how! And on my part I do my best to entertain him. I try to remember about the edicts of Asoka and the Gupta Kings and Budhism, and all sorts of archaeological rubbish, which isn't a bit more interesting than Jamma—bundee. And I've improved his riding. He used to turn pea-green when that antiquarian old pony of his shook her ears, but now he trots beautifully, rising and falling as fast as my sewing machine. (Imitates him with her hands before her.)
BULTHROP.—I suspect he will make you as much of an archeologist as you will make him a horseman, or I shall make him a whist-player; but I must not waste a whole morning talking to a saucy puss who pretends she cannot recognise sterling merit when she sees it. I must be off; there's an awful file of cases to be got through.
EDITH.—You are going to cutcherry church?
BULTHROP.—Cutcherry church! What do you mean?
EDITH.—I looked in the other day and saw you, with your legs up, fast asleep; while the munshi was chaunting psalms in Hindustáni though his nose, exactly like church on a hot Sunday afternoon!
BULTHROP (indignantly).—I wasn't asleep! I was listening to cases, with my eyes closed, it is true; but I follow the sense better when my eyes are closed. I never went to sleep while listening to a case.
BULTHROP.—My dear child, if you imagine I am going to be idiot enough to reply, "Well, hardly ever!" you are very much mistaken. What I mean to say is, you may accuse us of a good many things, but nobody could say of the Indian Civilian that he went to sleep over his work.
(Enter Nubbee Baksh.)
BULTHROP.—Well, Nubbee Baksh, what is it?
NUBBEE BAKSH.—Smallweed Sáhib says, what we are to do with the prisoner I brought in last night—the English loafer?
BULTHROP—Tell Mr. Smallweed I'll see about it and send him instructions. (Exit Nubbee Baksh.) By Jove, Edith, I quite forgot our prisoner ! An English loafer, it seems, came drunk into the neighbouring village, demanded ghee and dál from the village bunnia, the grocer and provision-dealer, you know, and when he was refused, thrashed the bunnia within an inch of his life, and was arrested by Nubbee Baksh, after having knocked down four constables! And, as in the Mofussil I have no jurisdiction over Europeans, we shall have to drag the scoundrel about in camp with us till we can send him off under proper guard to Calcutta.
EDITH.—How very dreadful!
BULTHROP.—Yes, it is a nuisance. But that's the law. And he's in a sort our guest, and now I think of it, the scamp has had no breakfast. Poor devil ! I dare say he was very hungry when he assaulted the bunnia; but he must be taught that the Natives of this country are not to be beaten with impunity. Couldn't he have some ham and eggs, eh? and some hunter's beef, and perhaps he would like chicken curry? The scoundrel! to come and budnam the English in this way; and yes, and that pâté. The abandoned wretch smokes too, I dare say; those loafers generally do, I notice. You might send him a cheroot.
EDITH.—Well, papa, you seem to be bent on treating him pretty handsomely for a criminal; now I should have given him bread and water and one of Auntie's temperance tracts to improve his mind.
I agree with you, Miss Bulthrop, if you are speaking of Nubee Baksh's prisoner. A more determined ruffian I never saw. I would send him to the Andamans for life on the spot if I had the disposal of his case. I have just been putting a few questions to him, and I don't half like the fellow!
MR. BULTHROP.—I am sure neither of you would be half so hard as you pretend. At all events, give him some breakfast. I shall see you in half an hour, Smallweed, eh?
SMALLWEED.—Your father, Miss Edith, is much too kind and gentle to everybody. You are not going to give that villain páté de foie gras, surely?
EDITH.—Commissioner Sahib ka hookum! But I will send him a tract too, and I daresay you will let him know what you think of his conduct. So we may, perhaps, reform him among us.
SMALLWEED.—Ah! Miss Edith! Why won't you look at things seriously. The English loafer is one of the cankers at the root of our administrative tree. On the one hand you have a Service which represents, I trust not unfitly, the culture and civic virtue of England, and on the other, a class of men who show the depths of degradation of which it is capable.
EDITH.—Now, Mr. Smallweed, don't you think, if you would only write all this in a little tract, it would be more edifying. Give me the butter, please. toast for him?
SMALLWEED.—Why, you are not going to butter that criminal's toast for him?
EDITH.—Yes, I am. I have noticed when visiting poor people that the working classes are very fond of buttered toast, and they always arrange it ready buttered on a plate—so. (Shows him plate.) But please go on. You were saying that there are only two sorts of people in India-cultured civilians like you and papa, and abandoned ruffians and adventurers like our guest. Are there not a few Soldiers, Merchants, Engineers, and so on?
SMALLWEED.—Merchants, Engineers, Railway people, are adventurers whom we have to tolerate; and as for Soldiers, Miss Edith, they are a tertium quid—necessary evils. I have no sympathy with the military spirit.
EDITH.—So I should have thought.
SMALLWEED.—Their want of true culture, their arrogance, their self-sufficiency—
SMALLWEED.—Their insufferable conceit, which I am sorry to say your sex does its best to encourage.
EDITH.-How very sad!
SMALLWEED (tenderly).—But you don't care for soldiers, I am sure. You have a mind above the childish fascination some young ladies find in a spangled uniform. Oh! Miss Bulthrop, you have been kind enough to take an interest in my pursuits. You have allowed me to tell you a little of the history of the ancient rulers of this country. Won't you be persuaded to look kindly on one of its modem rulers? (Poses sentimentally.)
EDITH (laughing).-A modern ruler! Do you know I never looked upon you in that light before? and you really are imposing. But if you are a modern ruler, I'm a home ruler, and my decree is that you go now and rule your millions in cutcherry with papa, while I send the prisoner his breakfast. Good morning, Mr. Smallweed!
SMALLWEED (aside on exit).—lf, even when she chaffs me, she would only call me Percy.
EDlTH.—A ruler indeed! Ah well! I suppose papa is right, and Mr. Smallweed is one of the most admirable and excellent of competition-wallahs. But—heigho! I Wonder what Frank is doing at this minute! I didn't tell a fib when I said to papa I didn't care for him, for though we were the best of friends, and I am sure he liked me, he wasn't always talking sentimentally about himself—he wasn't a spoon in short. If papa could only know him, I am sure he would give up his absurd prejudice about the army. I can understand Mr. Smallweed not liking soldiers, because, though a ruler, he is—if not quite an ooloo ka batcha, a muff. (Nubbee Baksh appears at side and signs mysteriously to Edith.)
EDITH.—Ah! there's Nubbee Baksh come about his prisoner's breakfast. But what is he looking so mysterious about?
NUBBEE BAKSH.—Want to speak to Miss Sahib very very particularly.
NUBBEE BAKSH.-That prisoner says he must see Miss Sahib himself. Miss Sahib will do great mihrbáni to talk to that poor man.
EDITH.-Now what's mihrbáni? I've heard it before somewhere. But why does he want to see me? I'm not his judge.
NUBBEE BAKSH (eagerly).-That prisoner says Miss Sahib is his judge, his jury, his sudder adáwlut, his gurib purwar, everything!
EDITH.-All that ! Well, he is an Englishman. I don't see why I should be afraid after all. Perhaps he has some explanation to offer, and I may be able to say a word for the poor fellow with papa. Let him come in.
NUBBEE BAKSH (with enthusiasm).-Bahut achcha! (Exit.)
EDITH.-! wonder whether I ought to speak to him after all. Perhaps it's illegal to talk to prisoners. I don't think I am afraid.
(Enter Captain Wilmot disguised as a loafer; Nubbee Baksh ushering him in with a grin; Wilmot making a clumsy bow.)
WILMOT.-Ax your pardon, Miss, for intruding; but I thought perhaps you might be inclined to say a word for me to Mr. Bulthrop. I hear he's very hard on old soldiers who have played the fool and got into trouble.
EDITH (Aside: I must have heard his voice before somewhere).-I am afraid I cannot be of much use. Papa is very angry; he says it was very wicked of you to beat the poor bunnia and to knock the constables down; it is such a pity that you drank more than you ought to have done. I will give you a tract, if you will read it. (Edith goes to side-shelves for a tract. Wilmot comes forward.)
EDITH (Aside: I suspect he will relish his breakfast more than a tract; but it is my
duty to do the best I can for him). Here is a very nice one on Temperance about a little boy who took the pledge at six years old, and kept it till he died of consumption at fifteen, and I hope you will try to give over drinking and being wicked.
WILMOT (a little more boldly and in a more natural voice).—Well, in my case the devil is scarcely so black as he's painted, or as he painted himself.
EDITH (startled).-I don't understand you.
WILMOT.-The fact is, Miss Bulthrop, there was no bunnia beaten and no constable
knocked down; and, in short—(Takes off beard and red wig with a rapid movement.) Don't you know me, Edith?
(Nubbee Baksh disappears from the back.)
EDITH (impulsively starts forward.—O Frankl You here!).
WILMOT (kissing her).-Yes, dear, the same old Frank; and the same dear Edith.
EDITH (disengaging herself).-But how did you come? When did you leave England? Where are you stationed? And why are you in this disguise?
WILMOT.-I was posted at a day's notice to a Battery at Meean Meer. Your aunt told me how angry your father had been with all the good soul had told him about us, and she assured me that he would never consent to let me see you ; and it seemed such awfully hard lines to be so near and not to know whether you still cherished any of the old feeling, that I invented a little stratagem, took four days' leave, and here I am.
EDITH.-My prisoner! But, O Frank! it's very wrong, and I ought not to have kissed you just now. (Slily.)
WILMOT.-Certainly not; it was I who ought to have kissed you-so! There, that's all right. (Kisses her.)
EDITH.-You may take papa in by your device, but how did you take in the police?
WILMOT.-In this country, Edith, the police are not taken in; they are bought. Nubbee Baksh was formerly a havildár of mine, but he was quite too awfully clever for the regular line, so he joined the police; and I arranged this little matter with him. And to-night I escape; the bunnia will be found to have lied like a-like a-well, like a bunnia, and I shall go joyfully back to Meean Meer, having seen my Edith looking as bonny as ever, and learnt that she is still of the same mind as when we gathered shells together-eh?
EDITH.-You are a very, very naughty, dear old Frank! But you must be hungry?
WILMOT.-Well, yes-rather. But tell me, Edith,
dear, who was the muffin-faced young gentleman in spectacles who came and slanged me this morning? Never was so near punching a man's head in all my life.
EDITH.-Punching his head! Why, Frank, that's the most distinguished and rising of young Indian Civilians; he says you are the most abandoned ruffian he ever saw, and he wants to send you to the Andamans. He's a Judicial Assistant, and he's staying in our camp. He is very clever, very learned, and—(maliciously)—when you come to know him, and are not a loafer, you know, very nice; and he's teaching me all sorts of things.
WILMOT.-Deuced kind of him, confound him!
EDITH.-I'm sorry he was rude to you, but if you will put yourself in equivocal positions you must take the consequences. But he might come in any minute. Please be a horrid loafer again, and have some breakfast. (Calls khitmutgar.) Oh! but Frank, what will the khitmutgar think if he sees us talking together?
WILMOT.-Khitmutgars don't think. They wait at table. (Wilmot seats himself at table. (Edith carves, and the khitmutgar hands breakfast.)
EDITH.-Papa says you are an abandoned scoundrel, but that I am to give you ham and eggs, hunters' beef, chicken curry and pate, and that being a ruffian, you probably smoked.
WILMOT (with his mouth full).-Why, he is almost worthy to be your father, Edith!
EDITH.-Do you take tea or coffee, and do you like plenty of sugar?
WILMOT.--Tea, please, and as much sugar as you like.
(Sees Smallweed, who enters with a large inscription in his hand, and, rising, makes a military salute. Stands at attention behind the table.)
WILMOT.—A'avin' breakfast, sir!
SMALLWEED.-So I see. But Mr. Bulthrop never meants this man to be brought in here and fed on the fat of the land in this disgusting manner.
WILMOT (imitating loafer)—'Taint so very disgusting, sir. That 'unters' beef is doocid good.
SMALLWEED.-Hold your tongue, sir! Now, Miss Edith, do you think that this-(pointing to table)-is the proper treatment for a common tramp who goes about the country assaulting innocent and gentle bunnias and knocking down constables like nine-pins?
(Edith, smiling to herself, has gone to side, and brings out a box of Manilla cheroots, takes out a handful, and lays them in front of Wilmot.)
SMALLWEED.-It is simply an incitement to crime, almost an abetment of felony, and-(taking up cheroots)-you mustn't give him these! They are Mr. Bulthrop's choicest manillas.
EDITH (severely) .-Mr. Smallweed!
SMALLWEED (sheepishly drops cheroots, looks at Wilmot, who returns his gaze steadily as he pockets the cheroots . Aside, as he turns down the stage, I don't half like that fellow!)
EDITH (to Wilmot).-Now, I think, you may go on with your breakfast.
WILMOT (seating himself touches his forelock with a
significant look at Edith).-Thankee kindly, Miss.
EDITH (sharply to Smallweed).-I thought you were in cutcherry, sir?
SMALLWEED.-Ah! Miss Bulthrop, why can't you be as kind to me as you are to that
degraded wretch-that public enemy?
EDITH.-We are commanded to love our enemies, you know.
SMALLWEED.-Yes, but not to give them páté and Mr. Bulthrop's best cigars.
EDITH.-Really, Mr. Smallweed.
SMALLWEED.-Pray forgive me; let us dismiss the ruffian from our minds. (Edith and Wilmot exchange glances.) I was thinking how delightful it would be for you to go with me this evening to see the stone from which I have got this lovely inscription. (Unfolds a very large paper with Sanscrit inscription in black and white.) Isn't it lovely? We could have such a delightful stroll among the ruins, and there would be a little moon to come home to dinner by.
EDITH .-Please hold the paper a little higher.
(Smallweed raises paper so that it is between him and Edith) who looks round to ·Wilmot. The latter kisses his hand to her; nearly caught in the act by Smallweed. Edith shakes her head. Comic business with paper.)
Page 117, Quartette
SMALLWEED (sentimentally) .-I could hold it up forever for you to study.
EDITH (looking at Wilmot tenderly).-You really like to be here?
WILMOT (Aside: A new version of Phyramus and Thisbe, by Jove!) (He makes a gesture in reply).
SMALLWEED.-Oh, so much! I ought to be in cutcherry; but so long as you take an interest in antiquities, it is hard to stick to the desk.
EDITH (looking at Wilmot).-Do you really think I ought to go?
(Wilmot shakes his head emphatically.)
SMALLWEED,-Oh! do come; it's such a lovely inscription only look at this bull,—the Vahan of Shiva.
EDITH.-More like a donkey; isn't it?
WILMOT (aside, Very much more, I should think.)
SMALLWEED (sternly).-Did you speak, sir? (Aside: I don't half like that fellow!)
WILMOT.-Me, sir? No, sir!
SMALLWEED (folding up paper) .-Well, now you've bad your breakfast, you'd better clear out.
WILMOT.-Beg your pardon, sir; I'm in custody.
SMALLWEED.-Qui hai! We'll send for Nubbee Baksh and get rid of that fellow—(looking at Wilmot contemptuously) --for though he's only a loafer, he is terribly in the way. You must see my good man,-I mean bad man,-that, as Lord Palmerston said of dirt, you are "matter in the wrong place." I have something very particular to say to this young lady, who has been much too good to you; and you are a most awkward and inopportune person.
WILMOT.-Seems to me, sir, I just came in the nick of time.
EDITH.-0 yes, for breakfast; I hope you found something to eat.
(Enter Chuprasse.) To Smallweed.- Commisioner Sáhib salaam deta!
SMALLWEED.-I can't go and leave you alone with that ferocious ruffian.
EDITH.-You need not be afraid for me; for though he is not a Civilian, he is an Englishman; and I am sure he wouldn't hurt me. To Wilmot.-Would you now? (Wilmot smiles.)
SMALLWEED.-Pray don't provoke him. (Aside on exit): I don't half like that fellow!
(Wilmot comes rapidly round table.)
WILMOT.-Well, Edith, on the whole, I think I did well to come. They don't give us half such a breakfast at our Mess, and (significantly)-I have made the acquaintance of Mr. Smallweed.
EDITH (maliciously).-Yes,-isn't he nice?
WILMOT.-Oh! awfully! But I should like to punch his head all the same.
EDITH.-I am afraid you must go back to durance vile now, Frank.
WILMOT.-And you won't forget me, will you, Edith, in spite of Sanscrit inscriptions, Brahminy bulls, and the amiable Mr. Smallweed?
EDITH (tenderly).-Do you really think I did forget you, or am likely to forget you ? If you are very good, I will give you something to read in your confinement,-a letter I was going to send to Auntie to forward to you. (Gives Wilmot a letter, which he takes eagerly.) Oh! it isn't sentimental or anything of that sort. You know, Frank, we never did spoon. Did we?
WILMOT (kissing her with effusion).-No, never.
EDITH.--I hear Nubbee Baksh coughing outside, and I fear you must go. Good-bye, you dear old loafer.
(Nubbee Baksh appears at door and signals.)
(Exit Edith, kissing her hand. Nubbee Baksh collars Wilmot with a mock air of stemness. Tableau.)
WILMOT.-Lead on, Nubbee Baksh, to the deepest dungeon beneath the castle moat ! (Taking out a cheroot.) By Jove! if all the prisoners and captives we pray for in church have such luck as mine, I should say it was rather a comfortable state of life—bar Smallweed. You have arranged that nobody is to be near my tent at dusk, you sly old villain?
NUNBEE BAKSH.-Oh yes, Sáhib! All constables that time cooking roti khhna. Sáhib only walk half a mile across to the grand trunk road; there sais waiting with horse under a tree by that small temple. All very pucca bundobust!
WILMOT.-Confound it! I shall be sorry to go-just at the time, too, that amiable young beak proposes to go philandering with Edith. Never mind! he never gathered shells with her. I suppose I must be off. Hullo! here's her handkerchief; I'll keep it for her till we meet again. (Picks it up, and is kissing it.)
BULTHROP.-Come, I say; this is a little too bad. Give me that handkerchief, sir.
WILMOT (caught).-Handkerchief, sir; yes, sir. The young lady must 'ave dropped it; smells very nice, sir.
BULTHROP.-But that's no reason you should steal it!
WILMOT.-Steal it, sir ! Now, what use would that be to me! I was only thinking what a beautiful young lady it belonged to; and that if everybody was as good and kind to poor fellows down on their luck as she has been to me, sir, giving me my breakfast, and
tracts, and good advice, there would be precious few loafers, sir.
BULTHROP.-Poor fellow! he really seems touched in his rough way. Perhaps the dear girl has been able to comfort him a little. But where is she? Qui hai !—Edith (Enter Edith. Wilmot retires slowly with Nubbee Baksh.) Look here, Edith, I've been
thinking as it will be an hour before the dak comes in, and I have got throught the thick of my work, we might have a little whist- just a lesson, you know. I notice both you and Smallweed have vague notions on the subject of calling for trumps. What do you say to another brief lesson in Cavendish?
EDITH.-It's so stupid playing with a dummy; indeed, when Mr. Smallweed plays, one might say with two dummies.
BULTHROP.-Oh, Smallweed will learn in time! Here he is. (Enter Smallweed.) I was just proposing a little lesson in whist to pass the time before the dák comes in.
SMALLWEED.-Isn't it rather dull work playing with a dummy?
BULTHROP.-You learn just as much I think; but,-happy thought !-perhaps the loafer, our
EDITH (eagerly) -I'm sure he does!
BULTHROP.—Like all your sex, Edie, when a man is in trouble, you are kind to him, and forthwith invest him with sorts of fanciful attributes. Now, why should you think he plays whist?
EDITH (confused).—Because, because,—he has a sensible expression of face.
SMALLWEED (sneering). —Because, in addition to being a violent blackguard, he is probably a professional gambler and black-leg!
BULTHROP.—We'll see, any how. Bearer. Tash ke mez taiyar karo!
(Bearer places card table with deep cloth cover in centre of stage, produces cards, and exit.)
(Bulthrop beckons to Nubbee Baksh and prisoner.) Hi! you by the way, what's your name?
WILMOT (coming down)—Smith, sir!
BULTHROP (drily).—Yes, I thought so. Well, Smith, can you play whist?
WILMOT (lighting up).—Yes, sir.
BULTHROP.—By George! Edith's right. He looks as if he could. You see, Smith, these young people hvae very hazy notions about whist, and I much want to teach them better. You perhaps know that in whist it is possible to set up a conversation with the cards you throw out. Conversation is not a matter of lips and tongue alone—eh?
WILMOT (looking at Edith.)—Not altogether, sir.
(Bulthrop busies himself at table.)
SMALLWEED (to Wilmot).—I suppose you've had a good deal of leisure to study cards,—in prison, you know.
WILMOT.—I never played whist in prison, but when I have been in a mess I have found it passes the time.
SMALLWEED.—You have been in a good many messes I expect.
WILMOT (carelessly).—Yes, a few! (Moves up to table.)
SMALLWEED.—The hardened villain! He glories in his crimes.
BULTHROP.—Shall we cut for partners! (They cut, Wilmot and Edith partners.)
BULTHROP.—And deal; it's ours. (Deals cards, glancing up at Nubbee Baksh as he deals).—Now, what does that fellow want again? He's been in and out all day like a dog at a fair. Your prisoner's safe, man! Give him a peg, and he won't run away! Will you, Smith? Peg lao.
NUBEE BAKSH.—Not afraid for prisoner, sir; but that tiger leopard, sir, coming out of the river side jungle again, Sahib, frightened the grass-cuts, and they say he's coming up this way.
BULTHROP (while Wilmot plays).—Yes, I didn't want to frighten you, Edith, but there has been a leopard about; the brute has eaten two dhobies' donkeys and several pariah dogs, and he may be proposing to breakfast off your Fido. I've been prowling about after him, but leopards are the most casual creatures; you never know where they'll turn up next.
SMALLWEED (Aside: Like loafers).—A marauding quadruped is troublesome, sir, but he may be shot, while the biped—(Throws down his card viciously.)
EDITH (playing)—Is to be treated civilly at all events. (Takes trick and plays.)
BULTHROP.—The leopard won't come out in daylight; no such luck. You may go, Nubbee Baksh.
NUBBEE BAKSH (goes to opening where chick is rolled up. Cries outside of '"Bagh! Bagh! maro!").—I think that leopard has arrived. (Excitedly: I saw him behind that bullock cart; now he's coming round; the horses are breaking loose. I go fetch—Bolts.)
(Bulthrop throws down his cards, rushes to the stand in corner, seizes gun and solah topee, and exit at back. Wilmot is following him.)
SMALLWEED.—Stop! you're a prisoner. I am no sportsman, Miss Edith, and I am unfamiliar with the use of lethal weapons; but you shall see that I may be depended upon to act in a crisis of this kind.
EDITH.—Oh! don't be rash, Mr. Smallweed.
SMALLWEED (Takes hog-spear from corner and brandishes it awkwardly, Wilmot and Edith carefully avoiding him).—If an arm of this kind can be used effectively against the mighty boar, why should the wily leopard be proof against it?
WILMOT (dodging the spear).—For goodness' sake, take care, sir!
SMALLWEED.—It won't go off, my good man. But stay! Where's my umbrella? Did you never read when you were a child, Miss Edith, of the English lady who, when a tiger suddenly appeared at a picnic, and was about to make cold pie of the guests, suddenly opened her umbrella in his face, so!—(opens large white umbrella)—and frightened him away. Wonderful presence of mind! I was always remarkable for presence of mind. Now, where's that leopard?
WILMOT (looking off).—There he is, crouching behind those camel saddles. Now he's sidling along towards the bullock carts. But Mr. Bulthrop does not seem to see him. Oh! for a gun!
SMALLWEED.—Bother guns! Now is the time for moral superiority. Stand aside, sir! Don't be afraid, Miss Edith, I have my umbrella and this hog-spear, and I will rescue Mr. Bulthrop.
EDITH.—But papa has another gun, Frank; and here are his cartridges.
WILMOT (stooping hastily over gun case, loads gun; his wig and whiskers fall off, and are hurriedly thrown aside).—Now, where are they? Your learned young friend is prancing along with his umbrella over one shoulder and his spear over the other. He will hurt somebody before he's done, and I don't think it will be the leopard. But where is the brute?
EDITH (looking over his shoulder).—I can see papa looking about for him. Ah! there he is!
WILMOT.—Bright eyes see far. Yes, he was startled by the row those saices are kicking up. Yonder he goes. Your father will have a splendid shot; I wouldn't rob him of it for anything. But your antiquarian Nimrod is capering about near him and brandishing his long spear in the most dangerous fashion. (Shot heard.) Missed, by Jove! Now it's my turn fairly. (Fires. Cries of "Mara, Mara," and a harroosh of native voices.) That stopped him anyhow. Darling! you are not afraid, are you?
EDITH (on Wilmot's shoulder).—I think Frank dear, I was very much afraid, and I believe I am going to faint.
WILMOT.—Nonsense; it's all right now, the leopard's dead; and, as your friend says, now is the time for moral superiority. So look up and—
(Enter BULTHROP gun in hand.)—Well done, Smith! You shoot, egad as well as you play whist; and I'm immensely obliged to you. I shouldn't have missed him myself, but just as I was pulling the trigger I felt a sharp prick in the calf of my leg. But how's this? Where's the loafer and—Edith!
EDITH.—O papa! I'm so glad you are safe. I can scarcely tell you that there isn't a loafer—there never was a loafer; —and please, papa, this is Captain Wilmot of the Artillery, who called on us, in a little disguise, you know, to explain that he never beat the bannia nor assaulted the constables, and saved your life and— —
BULTHROP (shaking hands with Wilmot).—I have heard you name before, sir; indeed it was only this morning we were talking of you, and I must say I am glad to make the acquaintance of a man whose accomplishments are so much to my taste. But—
(Enter SMALLWEED at back, with umbrella and hog-spear in front of coolies carrying the dead leopard on a charpoy).—This is glorious! I'll be a sportsman myself.
BULTRHOP.—In that case I advise you to leave hog-spears at home. Are you aware, sir, that an inch and a half of that weapon entered the calf of my leg five minutes ago, and that I missed my shot in consequence, while the leopard was killed by this gentleman?
SMALLWEED.—Gentleman? Why, he's the prisoner. (To Wilmot: How dare you, sir!)
EDITH.—Allow me to introduce you—Captain Wilmot of the Royal Artillery, Mr. Smallweed of the Bengal Civil Service.
SMALLWEED.—I—I—beg your pardon. So you are not a loafer after all?
WILMOT.—No, I am only a soldier.
EDITH (on Wilmot's arm).—A necessary evil, you know, Mr. Smallweed—a mere tertium quid.
SMALLWEED.—Quite so; quite so. (Aside: I never did like that fellow.)
(Enter Nubbee Baksh.)
BULTHROP.—Want you prisoner again, Nubbee Baksh? (Shakes his fist at him.) This is your contrivance, eh
NUBBEE BAKSH (folding his hands).—Sircar ma bap hai. Everybody always saying Biaspur Division police bahut efficient.
BULTHROP.—Efficient indeed! But it's of no use being angry, nor is it the first time I suppose that an old man's prejudice has had to give way to a young girl's will.
EDITH.—Auntie always said you would like Captain Wilmot if you could really know him, and we will explain everything. Won't we, Frank?
WILMOT.—Certainly, sir, and I trust you'll forgive me.
BULTHROP.—Oh! the situation is clear enough. Captain Wilmot, I hope will stay to tiffin—
SMALLWEED.—And I will return to cutcherry.
BULTHROP.—So will I.
EDITH.—But, papa, remember you two are not the only judges present. (Points to audience.) There is the dread tribunal before which even Commissioners and Judicial Assistants must bow. (All bow.)
This page has paths:
This page has tags:
This page references:
- Muffosil Jurisdiction