Knowing Good and Evil.
SCENE.--_The_ GADSBYS' _bungalow in the Plains, in June. Punkah-coolies asleep in veranda where_ CAPTAIN GADSBY _is walking up and down._ DOCTOR'S _trap in porch._ JUNIOR CHAPLAIN _drifting generally and uneasily through the house. Time,_ 3.40 A. M. _Heat 94 degrees in veranda._
DOCTOR. (_Coming into veranda and touching_ G. _on the shoulder._) You had better go in and see her now.
CAPT. G. (_The colour of good cigar-ash._) Eh, wha-at? Oh, yes, of course. What did you say?
DOCTOR. (_Syllable by syllable._) Go--in--to--the--room--and--see--her. She wants to speak to you. (_Aside, testily._) I shall have _him_ on my hands next.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (_In half-lighted dining-room._) Isn't there any--?
DOCTOR. (_Savagely._) Hsh, you little fool!
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Let me do my work. Gadsby, stop a minute! (_Edges after_ G.)
DOCTOR. Wait till she sends for you at least--_at least_. Man alive, he'll kill you if you go in there! What are you bothering him for?
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (_Coming into veranda._) I've given him a stiff brandy-peg. He wants it. You've forgotten him for the last ten hours and--forgotten yourself too.
G. _enters bedroom, which is lit by one night-lamp.
Ayah on the floor pretending to be asleep._
VOICE. (_From the bed._) All down the street--such_ bonfires! _Ayah_, go and put them out! (_Appealingly._) How can I sleep with an installation of the C.I.E. in my room? No--not C.I.E. Something else. _What_ was it?
CAPT. G. (_Trying to control his voice._) Minnie, I'm here. (_Bending over bed._) Don't you know me, Minnie? It's me--it's Phil--it's your husband.
VOICE. (_Mechanically._) It's me--it's Phil--it's your husband.
CAPT. G. She doesn't know me!--It's your own husband, darling,
VOICE. Your own husband, darling.
AYAH. (_With an inspiration._) _Memsahib_ understanding all _I_ saying.
CAPT. G. Make her understand me then--quick!
AYAH. (_Hand on_ MRS. G's _forehead._) _Memsahib!_ Captain Sahib here.
VOICE. _Salma do._ (_Fretfully._) I know I'm not fit to be seen.
AYAH. (_Aside to_ G.) Say _'marneen'_ same as breakfash.
CAPT. G. Good-morning, little woman. How are we to-day?
VOICE. That's Phil. Poor old Phil. (_Viciously._) Phil, you fool, I can't see you. Come nearer.
CAPT. G. Minnie! Minnie! It's me--you know me?
VOICE. (_Mockingly._) Of course I do. Who does not know the man who was so cruel to his wife--almost the only one he ever had?
CAPT. G. Yes, dear. Yes--of course, of course. But won't you speak to him? He wants to speak to you so much.
VOICE. They'd never let him in. The Doctor would give _darwaza bund_ even if he were in the house. He'll never come. (_Despairingly._) O Judas! Judas! Judas!
CAPT. G. (_Putting out his arms._) They have let him in, and he always was in the house. Oh, my love--don't you know me?
VOICE. (_In a half chant._) 'And it came to pass at the eleventh hour that this poor soul repented.' It knocked at the gates, but they were shut--tight as a plaster--a great, burning plaster. They had pasted our marriage certificate all across the door, and it was made of red-hot iron--people really ought to be more careful, you know.
CAPT. G. What _am_ I to do? (_Takes her in his arms._) Minnie! speak to me--to Phil.
VOICE. What shall I say? Oh, tell me what to say before it's too late! They are all going away and I can't say anything.
CAPT. G. Say you know me! Only say you know me!
DOCTOR. (_Who has entered quietly._) For pity's sake don't take it too much to heart, Gadsby. It's this way sometimes. They won't recognise. They say all sorts of queer things--don't you _see?_
CAPT. G. All right! All right! Go away now, she'll recognise me; you're bothering her. She _must_--mustn't she?
DOCTOR. She will before-- Have I your leave to try--?
CAPT. G. Anything you please, so long as she'll know me. It's only a question of--hours, isn't it?
DOCTOR. (_Professionally._) While there's life there's hope, y'know. But don't build on it.
CAPT. G. I don't. Pull her together if it's possible. (_Aside._) What have I done to deserve this?
DOCTOR. (_Bending over bed._) Now, Mrs. Gadsby! We shall be all right to-morrow. You _must_ take it, or I shan't let Phil see you. It isn't nasty, is it?
VOICE. Medicines! _Always_ more medicines! Can't you leave me alone?
CAPT. G. Oh, leave her in peace, Doc!
DOCTOR. (_Stepping back,--aside._) May I be forgiven if I've done wrong. (_Aloud._) In a few minutes she ought to be sensible; but I daren't tell you to look for anything. It's only--
CAPT. G. What? Go _on_, man.
DOCTOR. (_In a whisper._) Forcing the last rally.
CAPT. G. Then leave us alone.
DOCTOR. Don't mind what she says at first, if you can. They--they--they turn against those they love most sometimes in this.--It's hard, but--
CAPT. G. Am I her husband or are you? Leave us alone for what time we have together.
VOICE. (_Confidentially._) And we were engaged _quite_ suddenly, Emma. I assure you that I never thought of it for a moment; but, oh, my little Me!--I don't know _what_ I should have done if he _hadn't_ proposed.
CAPT. G. She thinks of that Deercourt girl before she thinks of me. (_Aloud._) Minnie!
VOICE. Not from the shops, Mummy dear. You can get the real leaves from Kaintu, and (_laughing weakly_) never mind about the blossoms--Dead white silk is only fit for widows, and I _won't_ wear it. It's as bad as a winding sheet. (_A long pause._)
CAPT. G. I never asked a favour yet. If there is anybody to listen to me, let her know me--even if I die too!
VOICE. (_Very faintly._) Pip, Pip dear.
CAPT. G. I'm here, darling.
VOICE. What has happened? They've been bothering me so with medicines and things, and they wouldn't let you come and see me. I was never ill before. Am I ill now?
CAPT. G. You--you aren't quite well.
VOICE. How funny! Have I been ill long?
CAPT. G. Some days; but you'll be all right in a little time.
VOICE. Do you think so, Pip? I don't feel well and--Oh! what _have_ they done to my hair?
CAPT. G. I d-d-don't know.
VOICE. They've cut it off. What a shame!
CAPT. G. It must have been to make your head cooler.
VOICE. 'Just like a boy's wig. Don't I look horrid?
CAPT. G. Never looked prettier in your life, dear. (_Aside._) How am I to ask her to say good-bye?
VOICE. I don't _feel_ pretty. I feel very ill. My heart won't work. It's nearly dead inside me, and there's a funny feeling in my eyes. Everything seems the same distance--you and the almirah and the table--inside my eyes or miles away. What does it mean, Pip?
CAPT. G. You're a little feverish, Sweetheart--very feverish. (_Breaking down._) My love! my love! How can I let you go?
VOICE. I thought so. Why didn't you tell me that at first?
CAPT. G. What?
VOICE. That I am going to--die.
CAPT. G. But you aren't! You shan't.
AYAH _to punkah-coolie_. (_Stepping into veranda after a glance at the bed._) _Punkah chor do!_ (Stop pulling the punkah.)
VOICE. It's hard, Pip. So very, _very_ hard after one year--just one year. (_Wailing._) And I'm only twenty. Most girls aren't even married at twenty. Can't they do _anything_ to help me? I don't _want_ to die.
CAPT. G. Hush, dear. You won't.
VOICE. What's the use of talking? _Help_ me! You've never failed me yet. Oh, Phil, help me to keep alive. (_Feverishly._) I don't believe you wish me to live. You weren't a bit sorry when that horrid Baby thing died. I wish I'd killed it!
CAPT. G. (_Drawing his hand across his forehead._) It's more than a man's meant to bear--it's not right. (_Aloud._) Minnie, love, I'd die for you if it would help.
VOICE. No more death. There's enough already. Pip, don't _you_ die too.
CAPT. G. I wish I dared.
VOICE. It says: 'Till Death do us part.' Nothing after that--and so it would be no use. It stops at the dying. _Why_ does it stop there? Only such a very short life, too. Pip, I'm sorry we married.
CAPT. G. No! Anything but that, Min!
VOICE. Because you'll forget and I'll forget. Oh, Pip, _don't_ forget! I always loved you, though I was cross sometimes. If I ever did anything that you didn't like, say you forgive me now.
CAPT. G. You never did, darling. On my soul and honour you never did. I haven't a thing to forgive you.
VOICE. I sulked for a whole week about those petunias. (_With a laugh._) What a little wretch I was, and how grieved you were! Forgive me that, Pip.
CAPT. G. There's nothing to forgive. It was my fault. They _were_ too near the drive. For God's sake _don't_ talk so, Minnie! There's such a lot to say and so little time to say it in.
VOICE. Say that you'll always love me--until the end.
CAPT. G. Until the end. (_Carried away._) It's a lie. It _must_ be, because we've loved each other. This isn't the end.
VOICE. (_Relapsing into semi-delirium._) _My_ Church-service has an ivory-cross on the back, and _it_ says so, so it must be true. 'Till Death do us part.'--But that's a lie. (_With a parody of_ G.'s _manner._) A damned lie! (_Recklessly._) Yes, I can swear as well as Trooper Pip. I can't make my head think, though. That's because they cut off my hair. How _can_ one think with one's head all fuzzy? (_Pleadingly._) Hold me, Pip! Keep me with you always and always. (_Relapsing._) But if you marry the Thorniss girl when I'm dead, I'll come back and howl under our bedroom window all night. Oh, bother! You'll think I'm a jackal. Pip, what time is it?
CAPT. G. I--I--I can't help it, dear.
VOICE. How funny! I couldn't cry now to save my life. (G. _shivers._) _I_ want to sing.
CAPT. G. Won't it tire you? Better not, perhaps.
VOICE. Why? I _won't_ be bothered about. (_Begins in a hoarse quaver_):--
'Minnie bakes oaten cake, Minnie brews ale,
All because her Johnnie's coming home from the sea.
(That's parade, Pip.)
And she grows red as rose, who was so pale;
And "Are you sure the church-clock goes?" says she.'
(_Pettishly._) I knew I couldn't take the last note. How do the bass chords run? (_Puts out her hands and begins playing piano on the sheet._)
CAPT. G. (_Catching up hands._) Ahh! Don't do that, Pussy, if you love me.
VOICE. Love you? Of course I do. Who else should it be? (_A pause._)
VOICE. (_Very clearly._) Pip, I'm going now. Something's choking me cruelly. (_Indistinctly._) Into the dark--without you, my heart.--But it's a lie, dear--we mustn't believe it.--For ever and ever, living or dead. Don't let me go, my husband--hold me tight.--They can't--whatever happens. (_A cough._) Pip--_my_ Pip! Not for always--and--so--soon! (_Voice ceases._)
_Pause of ten minutes._ G. _buries his face in the side
of the bed while ayah bends over bed from opposite
side and feels_ MRS. G.'s _breast and forehead._
CAPT. G. (_Rising._) _Doctor Sahib ko salaam do._
AYAH. (_Still by bedside, with a shriek._) Ai! Ai! _Tuta---phuta!_ My _Memsahib!_ Not getting--not have got!--_Pusseena agya!_ (The sweat has come.) (_Fiercely to _G.) TUM _jao Doctor Sahib ko jaldi!_ (_You_ go to the doctor.) _Oh,_ my _Memsahib!_
DOCTOR. (_Entering hastily._) Come away, Gadsby. (_Bends over bed._) Eh! The Dev--What inspired you to stop the punkah? Get out, man--go away--wait outside! _Go!_ Here, Ayah! (_Over his shoulder to_ G.) Mind, I promise nothing.
_The dawn breaks as_ G. _stumbles into the garden._
CAPT. M. (_Reining up at the gate on his way to parade and very soberly._) Old man, how goes?
CAPT. G. (_Dazed._) I don't quite know. Stay a bit. Have a drink or something. Don't run away. You're just getting amusing. Ha! Ha!
CAPT. M. (_Aside._) What _am_ I let in for? Gaddy has aged ten years in the night.
CAPT. G. (_Slowly, fingering charger's headstall._) Your curb's too loose.
CAPT. M. So it is. Put it straight, will you? (_Aside._) I shall be late for parade. Poor Gaddy.
CAPT. G. _links and unlinks curb-chain aimlessly, and finally stands staring towards the veranda. The day brightens._
DOCTOR. (_Knocked out of professional gravity, tramping across flower-beds and shaking_ G.'s _hands._) It's--it's--it's!--Gadsby, there's a fair chance--a _dashed_ fair chance! The flicker, y'know. The sweat, y'know! I _saw_ how it would be. The punkah, y'know. Deuced clever woman that Ayah of yours. Stopped the punkah just at the right time. A _dashed_ good chance! No--you don't go in. We'll pull her through yet I promise on my reputation--under Providence. Send a man with this note to Bingle. Two heads better than one. 'Specially the Ayah! _We'll_ pull her round. (_Retreats hastily to house._)
CAPT. G. (_His head on neck of_ M.'s _charger._) _Jack!_ I bub--bub--believe, I'm going to make a bub--bub--bloody exhibitiod of byself.
CAPT. M. (_Sniffing openly and feeling in his left cuff._) I b-b--believe, I'b doing it already. Old bad, what _cad_ I say? I'b as pleased as--Cod _dab_ you, Gaddy! You're one big idiot and I'b adother. (_Pulling himself together._) Sit tight! Here comes the Devil-dodger.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (_Who is not in the Doctor's confidence._) We--we are only men in these things, Gadsby. I know that I can say nothing now to help--
CAPT. M. (_Jealously._) Then don't say it! Leave him alone. It's not bad enough to croak over. Here, Gaddy, take the _chit_ to Bingle and ride hell-for-leather. It'll do you good. I can't go.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. Do him good! (_Smiling._) Give me the _chit_ and I'll drive. Let him lie down. Your horse is blocking my cart--_please!_
CAPT. M. (_Slowly without reining back._) I beg your pardon--I'll apologise. On paper if you like.
JUNIOR CHAPLAIN. (_Flicking_ M.'s _charger._) That'll do, thanks. Turn in, Gadsby, and I'll bring Bingle back--ahem--'hell-for-leather.'
CAPT. M. (_Solus._) It would have served me right if he'd cut me across the face. He can drive too. I shouldn't care to go that pace in a bamboo cart. What a faith he must have in his Maker--of harness! Come _hup_, you brute! (_Gallops off to parade, blowing his nose, as the sun rises._)
(INTERVAL OF FIVE WEEKS.)
MRS. G. (_Very white and pinched, in morning wrapper at breakfast table._) How big and strange the room looks, and oh how glad I am to see it again! What dust, though! I must talk to the servants. Sugar, Pip? I've almost forgotten. (_Seriously._) Wasn't I very ill?
CAPT. G. Iller than I liked. (_Tenderly._) Oh, you bad little Pussy, what a start you gave me!
MRS. G. I'll never do it again.
CAPT. G. You'd better not. And now get those poor pale cheeks pink again, or I shall be angry. Don't try to lift the urn. You'll upset it. Wait. (_Comes round to head of table and lifts urn._)
MRS. G. (_Quickly._) _Khitmatgar, bowarchi-khana see kettly lao_. Butler, get a kettle from the cook-house. (_Drawing down_ G.'s _face to her own._) Pip dear, _I_ remember.
CAPT. G. What?
MRS. G. That last terrible night.
CAPT. G. Then just you forget all about it.
MRS. G. (_Softly, her eyes filling._) Never. It has brought us _very_ close together, my husband. There! (_Interlude._) I'm going to give Junda a _saree._
CAPT. G. I gave her fifty dibs.
MRS. G. So she told me. It was a 'normous reward. Was I worth it? (_Several interludes._) Don't! Here's the _khitmatgar_.--Two lumps or one, Sir?
Return to the Rudyard Kipling library , or . . . Read the next short story; The Village That Voted The Earth Was Flat