Frederic Stewart Isham.

The thosand and second night, a romantic comedy online

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to save you —

FATMEH (brokenly)
He always did that.

FITZGERALD

He may come yet. There are scores
of reasons why he may be delayed.

Amad appears at door; stands un-
seen by them.

FATMEH
I pray it may not be the one great
reason, (draws breath)

FITZGERALD
Nonsense! (sees Amad tvho has sud-
denly stepped forward) Eh? (Fatmeh



48



sees Mm, also, and gives a startled ex-
clamation)

FITZGERALD (to Fatmeh)
Do you permit these — aw! — people
to come into your presence without be-
ing announced?

FATMEH
I — it is — (Her look tells Fitzgerald
who Amad is)

FITZGERALD
Not? — (aside) That old scoundrel of
a first husband!

AMAD (tranquilly)
I did not have myself announced, be-
cause I feared this lady (impersonal
gesture) might be averse to receiving
me.

FITZGERALD (dryhj)
At least, you are frank.

AMAD (coolly)
May I ask what it is to you,
whether —

FITZGERALD
I am a friend of this lady and, also,
of her husband.

AMAD
Ah, you are the Britisher who had
the devil car. (calmly) I, too, am a
friend of her husband.



FATMEH



You! You!



FITZGERALD
Ah, yes. A jest! Rather a poor one.

AMAD

It is no jest. At least, I am not his
enemy.

FATMEH (disconnectedly)
What trick is this? What have you
come to tell me? What do you ex-
pect? You were drawing near the
spot in the desert, where he was left
alone, by me, against my will —

FITZGERALD (to her)
There! there!

FATMEH
You found him. You! — (acctisingly)
Oh, I'm not afraid of you now. Let
me know, at once, even the worst —
Where is he?

AMAD (coldly)
I don't know.



FATMEH
But you wanted to —

AMAD (calmly)
Kill him? Oh, yes. I was sorry I
didn't. But the will of Allah (resign-
edly) was against it.

FATMEH
The will of Allah? — (Her eyes search
his) You have never told me anything
but lies — lies. How can I believe you
now?

AMAD (impervious to emotion)
That is not for me to say. I speak
the truth. I didn't kill him. I didn't
have the chance. Allah said "No,"
even at the moment when I aimed a
pistol at him. I had overtaken him in
the desert. I thought I had his life in
the palm of my hand. Joy filled my
soul. But the Compassionate One de-
prived me of the full fruition of my
pleasure by causing sand to be blown
into my eyes. What followed? Never
was such a storm. Pillars of sand
with the genii astride them! Howling;
shouting; shrieking! Men and camels
were buried. Ten thousand demons
exulted over another unmarked grave-
yard of the desert.

FATMEH (hardly able to speak)
But you — escaped?

AMAD (calmly)
Allah spared me for a life of further
usefulness.

FITZGERALD (noticing Fatmeh tries
to ask a question but is not able to,

at once)
And this lady's companion, the

American?

AMAD
He escaped the storm, too.

FATMEH (joyfully)
He escaped? It is true, then?

AMAD (steadily)
It is true.

FATMEH (looking at him. Slowly)
He speaks the truth.

AMAD
The ways of Allah are inscrutable.
He employs even our enemies for our
servants. Blessed be the name of
Allah. (He postures once or twice.)

FITZGERALD
You mean he served you? How?



49



AMAD
He, alone, managed to extricate him-
self from the sands after the storm.
He saw a flutter of my turban and
divined what lay beneath. Casting
off the sand, he worked over me and
gave me to drink when already was
my soul trembling in the balance and
consciousness had gone. He brought
back the life that like a leaf before the
breeze was fleeting away. The birds
on high waited and waited. Long they
were in doubt. Then suddenly they
disappeared. What had happened? An
eyelid had fluttered. They saw it. The
soul had returned. There was but one
camel alive — his and it was nearly
dead. Worn out, it would not have
carried two. He was young, I am old.
He had a better chance to get out of
the desert afoot, than I.

FATMEH (drawing nearer)
What? (she seems hardly able to
breathe)

■AMAD (calmly)
For me, it would have meant the
completion of that dissolution he had
just saved me from! Better he had
left me where I was. He appreciated
this delicate point and ordered me to
take the camel.

FATMEH (repeating)
He ordered you to —

AMAD
Take the camel. We divided the
water bottle with great fairness. There
was but one to be found. I would
have spoken with him of what had
gone before, forgiven him, perhaps —

FATMEH (abhorrence of tone)
Oh!



me in sight of safety. It was written.
(He bows toward Mecca)

FATMEH
You mean he did that for you? —

AMAD
It was, after all, an equitable ar-
rangement.



FATMEH



For you!



AMAD
Does not the prophet bid youth? —

FATMEH
He gave his life for yours?

AMAD

There is nothing more fleeting than
life! What is it? Nothing! Why
should we value it? —

FITZGERALD (aside)
In others?

AMAD
We are here to-day; to-morrow —



FATMEH



Go! go!



AMAD
There is still something —

FITZGERALD
About him?

AMAD
No; it pertains to business —

FATMEH (incoherently)
Business! —

AMAD
Important business!



AMAD (not noticing)
But he would have none of it, for-
got those nice courtesies which men
of noble station and character should
have in mind even under the most
trying circumstances. He comes, how-
ever, from a new country, a young
country, where manners, perhaps, are
rather crude. "Be off, before I change
my mind!" he said roughly. I would
have parted otherwise —

FITZGERALD (curtly)
But you went?

AMAD
I rode away. The camel died, but —
Allah be praised! — not before it put



FATMEH
Go — please — or — (looks at Fitzger-
ald)

FITZGERALD (to Amad)
Come. We will converse apart.

AMAD (bowing ceremoniously to

Fatnieh)
Peace be unto you!

FATMEH (sudden hysterical laughter)
Oh! Oh! (exit Fitzgerald and Amad)

FATMEH (goes to window and looks
■ out. then comes down stage)
The caravans! There was to be an-
other in to-day. (rings bell)



50



Enter servant

FATMEH (to servant)
Go the caravansary and see if there
are any new camelmen there now?

SERVANT
A number of them have come in.
The boy from the market just told me.

FATMEH
Bring their sheik here, (pausing)
No; I will go myself, (exits quickly)

SERVANT
It is always so. She goes hopefully,
and returns — (makes gesture of des-
pair)

Enter Fitzgerald followed by Amad.

FITZGERALD (looking toward desk)
Here we shall find paper and ink.
You will sign that?



AMAD



It was.



AMAD



I am willing.



FITZGERALD (to servant)
Your mistress has gone out?

SERVANT
To the caravansary, (exit servant)

FITZGERALD
In these matters it is well to be busi-
ness-like.



FITZGERALD (still loriting)
You mean now? —

AMAD
Have I not spoken?

FITZGERALD
And she? This young girl is as
nothing to you now? You have no
regrets?

AMAD
No woman should be as a consum-
ing flame.

FITZGERALD

That, too, came over you in the
vision?

AMAD
It did. I saw myself. Or, I saw I
was not myself. No man is himself
who is—



FITZGERALD



In love?



AMAD
Exactly. Love is a disease. A man
who has it, is ill. Now I am well.

FITZGERALD
You look it.



AMAD (calmly)
A Mohammedan's word is as good
as his bond.

FITZGERALD (ivriting)
So you were commanded to tell
this—

AMAD
In a vision. One never dares dis-
obey a voice in the wilderness.

FITZGERALD (writing)
Divine injunction, eh? Yes, I know
your people frequently have visions.
There's a water-pipe.

Servant enters, brings coal for pipe
and goes out. Amad smokes placidly.

FITZGERALD
The girl — Fatmeh has never known
anything of this?

AMAD

It was Light of Life's secret.



FITZGERALD



And yours!



I am tranquil.

FITZGERALD

You appear so.

AMAD
I see life once more as it should be.
A Muslim should have many wives.
Each in turn should share his favor.
It is hot equitable to prefer one too
greatly.

FITZGERALD (still ivriting)
Too great honor!

AMAD

Exactly! Besides, (impressively)
disorganizing a man's household, a
too passionate regard for one woman
is displeasing to Allah!

FITZGERALD
Indeed? Why?

AMAD
Love for Allah should take prece-
dence over all. This came over me. A



woman what is she? Like one of these
bubbles in this bottle!

FITZGERALD
Apt comparison!

AMAD (spreading out his arms)

While Allah is all. Allah is the
bubble, the bottle, the air, everything.
(His voire beeomes rapt.) Y'ammee!
Ashmakee! (ehanting)

"The Beloved of my heart, Allah
visited me in the night.

I stood to show him honor — "

FITZGERALD (aside, still biisy at

desk)
Ah, the Arab Solomon's Song! The
Song of Songs!

AMAD (half-intoning)
"Hast thou come at midnight and
not feared the watchman?
I feared, but love has taken my soul

and breath."
Love for Allah!

FITZGERALD (putting doivn pen and
turning)
Sign here.

AMAD (rising and crossing to the

desk)
There? It is done. I have obeyed
the voice in the vision. Peace! (He
bows and exits, with grand manner.)

FITZGERALD
If all evil doers only had visions!
Still it was as well to get his name to
the story. The effects of a vision may
wear off. A man may repent of re-
pentance, (rises) Small wonder Amad
and Light of Life plotted for the girl!
Where Amad made a fatal mistake was
not to have continued in the paternal
role. He should have let ambition and
avarice suffice, at his age. (Pauses)
What a secret! How will she take it?

Perhaps when she gets over this young
American's death? — (thoughtfully)
They say time assuages every grief.
The girl is beautiful. One can not be
long with her without — (suddenlij he
laughs) By Jove! Is villainy catch-
ing? (straightens) Too bad our
young American friend should never
have learned the real story of his left-
hand bride! —

VOICE OF DERVISH (below in the
street)
Draw near, all followers of the
prophet and lovers of a good tale!



FITZGERALD
Eh? (looking over balcony to scene
beneath)

DERVISH (below, unseen)
Never had Aboo-Zeydee a better
story to tell!

Fitzgerald goes to bell hastily and
rings.

DERVISH (below)
This one concerns a war-like hero —

Enter servant.

FITZGERALD
Go down there and bring up that
romance-reciter from the street, (ser-
vant exits)

FITZGERALD (looking doivn from

balcony)
It is—

DERVISH (below)
Draw near! — draw near! (murmur
of voices)

FITZGERALD (still looking down)
The servant speaks with him. The
crowd expostulates. But he comes —
(turns from balcony, closing window
after him.)

Enter Dervish. He wears Mohamme-
dan costume but does not have beard.
He seems weak and uncertain, and dis-
plays evidence of light-headedness.

FITZGERALD
I\Iy dear chap!



Fitzgerald!



DERVISH



FITZGERALD
So you did manage to pull it off, to
get here?

DERVISH

Yes. (quickly) She is safe?



Safe.



And well?



Except —



FITZGERALD

DERVISH
FITZGERALD



DERVISH (hastily)
Except?

FITZGERALD (laughing)
She has been somewhat solicitous
concerning the fate of a certain Aboo-
Zeydee, late her lord and master!



52



DERVISH (quickly)
She seemed, then, to care? (aside)
I had a mad dream she cared for me.
But now I know it tvas a dream, a
fever of the brain. What absurd fan-
cies come to a man in the desert! (to
Fitzgerald) I told you she was my
wife. But it was only a Mohammedan
wedding of convenience. I was a
make-shift husband. Ha! ha! (laugh-
ing derisively) An heroic role, eh, old
chap?

FITZGERALD (smiling)
Rather! With the few embellish-
ments you infused in the part! She
knows how you gave up your camel to
Amad, and when nothing was heard of
you, she has been led to expect you
paid for your wholly inexcusable mag-
nanimity with —

DERVISH
She knows about the camel and
Amad?— Then he?—

FITZGERALD
Has been here? Yes.

DERVISH (fiercely)
He has again found her. And I
(bitterly) gave him the means. He
has dared seek her and —

FITZGERALD
Annoy her? No. On the contrary!
But where have you been?

DERVISH
Hades! Water gave out. I, too!
Only the sun kept on boiling, blazing,
blistering. Bowled me over near a
lot of bones — a camel's and a man's.
Wondered if the unfortunate devil had
been parboiled, and sizzled and griz-
zled the way I was. Poor chap! Think
I went crazy. Tried to laugh, but it
hurt — how it hurt! Throat was like
dust — dry as a mummy's. Managed to
get up once or twice. Ridiculous!
Shadow just wobbled around! Looked
like a drunken shadow. No wonder
the birds laughed. Did you ever hear
the birds laugh? I have. It's like
lifting the lid off something — the in-
fernal place, I guess. Well, that
shadow wobbled some more, and then
gave it up. The universe looked so
big! The sands seemed never to get
tired bumping against the edge of the
sky. It seemed so absurd and hope-
less to keep on wobbling. So I went
to sleep and dreamed I was a fly that
had strayed into a kitchen stove and
someone had shut the door, (pause)
When I came to, found myself in a



Persian camp. Host was a sun-wor-
shipper. That seemed funny, too. But
he gave me the first water I ever drank
and let me forage with the dogs.
Pretty well done up, should like to
have stayed longer with him, but had
to go on, to get to the coast. Time
limit to our wager, you know.

FITZGERALD
Never mind that.

DERVISH
Got to. Must think of her. Fool to
throw away a fortune. She is, most
likely, penniless.

FITZGERALD (peculiar look)
Is she?

DERVISH
Going to take a pilgrim's ship in a
few days. Then for home. Win out
yet. Send her the ten thousand
pounds. That'll help some. You're to
let her think it's some of her own
estates, you've dug up. Her father
had an orange plantation or some-
thing.

FITZGERALD
Why not let her know it's from you?

DERVISH
She wouldn't take it. I'm only a —
a substitute husband. Just married
her so as to unmarry her. She under-
stands. Now she's safe from Amad,
I've got to pronounce that triple di-
vorce—set her free.

FITZGERALD
Do you want to do that?

DERVISH
Isn't a question of "want." Only
what's right and square.

FITZGERALD (chaffing tone)
Even if you learned she has turned
out to be far from the penniless young
person you fancied her?

DERVISH (eagerly)
She will have enough to live on,
then?

FITZGERALD
Enough and to spare! She can live
on Park Lane, London; near the Bois,
Paris; or on Fifth Avenue, New York.
Also, she will be "received," as the
world calls it, anywhere. Your own
countrymen, or women, will vie (laugh-
ing) with one another in adding her
to their list of eligibles. In fact, a



53



professional mustahall, or substitute
husband, would think twice before vol-
untarily giving up such a wife — espe-
cially after having placed her under
some slight (accent) obligation to him.

DERVISH (quickly)
That's just it. (feverish, over-confi-
dential manner) You see, she might
from a sense of gratitude —

FITZGERALD
Let the marriage stand?

DERVISH
You've hit it. Not that I've done
much! Only, don't you see, women
may exaggerate these things. There's
great danger of that, (over-confident-
ially) And it wouldn't be straight for
me to allow her to marry me, or re-
marry, (with a constrained laugh) for
any such reason as that.

FITZGERALD
Not if she loves you?

DERVISH (lifting hand)
Don't! I know the difference be-
tween desert dreams and reality now.

FITZGERALD (dryly)
Well, it isn't everyone who would
resign the daughter of an English
viscount.

DERVISH
What are you talking about?

FITZGERALD
Her father was no more Mohamme-
dan than you.

DERVISH (reproachfully)
Trying to usurp my job of romance-
reciter?

FITZGERALD

Truth is stranger than fiction.

DERVISH (false mirth)
Ha! ha! What I always say. Go
on, old chap.

FITZGERALD
Amad and Light of Life combined
a great deal of worldly calculation in
this young lady's first marriage. Light
of Life had secret evidence of her
real parentage. This information she
laid before Amad, and together they
entered into a little business arrange-
ment.

DERVISH (disapprovingly)
You'll have to do better than that!



FITZGERALD
Wait! Your wife's mother was a
lady of unimpeachable family who
lived in the little principality of Mon-
atania, bordering on the domains of
the sick man of Europe. Her father
was a wealthy viscount, not unknown
to me personally. Like Byron he took
a great deal of interest in the politics
of Greece, but, occasionally, business
called him home — to England. During
such an absence, the Turks, half-brig-
ands, half-soldiers, made one of their
periodical descents on the bordering
principality. They looted, pillaged and
killed. The mother, among the few
spared, doubtless on account of her
beauty, was carried off by the brutal
ravagers.

DERVISH (shaking head)
Commonplace! Commonplace! Lacks
invention, my dear chap!

FITZGERALD (tolerantly)
True; it does sound commonplace.
The Turks are always doing that —
carrying off someone. However, be
that as it may, the viscount offered a
great reward, and, doubtless, would
have recovered his wife, had not cer-
tain Greek troops, frenzied by these
atrocities, sought to avenge their
wrongs at the point of the sword. Some
of the brigands were cut to pieces;
others fled. The mother was reported
dead.

DERVISH (patronizingly)
That's better! That's the way to
hold your audience. You're improving.

FITZGERALD
As a matter of fact, the mother was
not slain but carried to a fanatical
Muslim center, where, thereafter she
was lost to her own world. Such things
have happened.

DERVISH (chuckling)
They have. Tum! tum! tum! (makes
as if playing on a kanoon) How like
you the tale, good people? I beg your
pardon, old chap. Go on.

FITZGERALD
Shortly after her captivity, the
mother gave birth to a child. Later, to
avoid being sold into slavery, the
mother became the Mohammedan wife
of a Musalman. The child, by the
English father, was placed in a mis-
sion when the mother died. Her story
was not revealed. The Mohammedan
husband took for his second wife —
Light of Life. This woman, learning



54



by some means of the child's ancestry
and that there were large possessions
in England to which she is legal heir-
ess, entered into a compact to marry
her to Amad. They expected to get
possession of the girl's money. For-
tunately about this time you came
along.

DERVISH
Like the hero in a popular novel!
Excellent! Bravo! (applauds ivith his
hands) Vast possessions! The daugh-
ter of a viscount! Not at all bad, old
chap! Of course, it's a joke. Your
English idea of humor. Ha! ha! But
you can't get the laugh on me. Think
I'm like the gaping rabble who drink
in all the silly tales about genii, or
princesses, or daughters of Emirs or
viscounts, and all that sort of thing?

FITZGERALD (looking at him keenly)
The tale, then, does not sound plaus-
ible?

DERVISH
All good tales do. (jeeringly) Why,
I make mine sometimes seem as real.
You did very well. Almost in the ro-
mance-reciter's class, yourself.

FITZGERALD (humoring him.)
Say no more about it. What's more
to the point, you had better lie down
and rest.

DERVISH
Rest? That sounds like a joke, too.
Lots to do before I can do that. Where
is she? She is well? Asked you that
before, (passes hand over forehead)
Must be off.



FITZGERALD



Sit down.



regards dervish) At once. You know
where to find — the person?

SERVANT

I think so. (Exit servant)

FITZGERALD (to dervish)
A little business. One must always
attend to business, you know, even —

DERVISH (rising)
I am interrupting —

FITZGERALD

On the contrary! Nothing to do
now, except to order for you, what
you Americans call a square meal.

DERVISH
No you won't. Can't accept. Wager,
you know.

FITZGERALD (aside)
That confounded wager! (aloud)
But, old chap, you're got to.

DERVISH
Won't. Besides, I've a piaster or
two in my pocket. Enough for one of
the native dishes. Jolly messes,
those! Hunger's the best sauce. Don't
I know? Why, I've eaten old goat
that was a dish for the gods. But I
really mustn't take up any more of
your time. How did you say she was?

FITZGERALD
Well. You're not going to see her
before you go?

DERVISH
Better not. Look at these rags.
(laughs) More appropriate for a pil-
grims' ship than in a lady's boudoir.



DERVISH (loavering weakly)
A moment, perhaps — no longer —

(sits)

FITZGERALD (going to desk)
Excuse me an instant, (writes and
reads as he does so) "He whom you
seek, is here. He is well, only light-
headed. A touch of desert fever. He
is bound to leave at once, (touches
bell. Dervish starts, relaxes into ab-
straction again) on a pilgrim ship. If
he does, I will not answer for the con-
sequences." (seals paper)

Enter servant.



FITZGERALD
Well, you were once two vagabonds,
together.



Or longer.



DERVISH
A thousand years ago.
(going)

FITZGERALD
Better wait!



DERVISH
Can't! See you again after — in New
York — if I get there. Appreciate all
you've done for her. Let me see? You
said Amad was here? What for?



FITZGERALD
Take this to — the person to whom it
is addressed. (Servant looks, starts.



FITZGERALD
Never mind, now. You might think
was romancing again. Only, do you



55



know, it was lucky you did give up
your camel to Amad.

DERVISH
Was tempted not to. After he re-
covered, I even started to ride away.
"Leave him there." "Give him half
the water." "That's enough for him."
"If he perishes, it is the will of Allah
and through no fault of yours." "She
will, then, be rid of him forever."
Those were the voices I heard. But I
rode back. Thank God! I rode back.
He is an old man. I think it was the
white of his beard suddenly held me.
It seemed like a white flag against the
pitiless yellow sands. Gad! How my
head swims! That cursed sun gets
into your brain. It burns and it bores.
Bores! That's the word. Makes you
feel as if someone has an auger and
is engaged in a little carpentering
work, with your head for a board. I'll
go somewhere, I guess, and lie down.
So long! Give her my regards! My
best, you understand? (stares before
him; steps toward door; stops; sivays
to and fro. The door opens.)

Enter Fatmeh.

FATMEH (agitated)
I met the servant with your note —
(suddenly starts. She sees dervish,
gives a cry)

DERVISH
Fatmeh! (He starts impulsively to-
wards her; stops.) No, no! The di-
vorce! Yes, that's what I came for.
(He steps toxcard Fitzgerald; assumes
joeular manner.) You be the witness,
old chap. Quite sufficient; it will do.
It will he binding. Or rather, unbind-
ing, (to Fatmeh) You are no longer
my wife. (Fatmeh shrinks) I say it
once. You heard me, Fitzgerald? Didn't
think it would be so hard to do it
when El Sabbagh asked me to marry
her that evening in the court of the
mosque. Seemed like a joke, then.
Not that's it's so very serious now, of
course, (forced jocularity, then to Fat-
meh) You are no longer —

FATMEH (putting out arms)
No, no!

DERVISH
— my wife. That's tivice. Fitzger-
old. Constitutes the lesser separation,
which is easily repaired. But the
greater? — the one for all time, for-
ever! — think of it! — the total and com-
plete divorce, that's what's coming
next. Had to keep her a little while



on account of Amad. But now she's
in a Christian zone, she's got to be
free! To be rid of a make-believe hus-
band; a make-believe man! That's
what she called me. Let me see? How
many times did I say it? Twice? Yes;
twice. Three times and out, according
to the laws under which we were made
one! (to Fatmeh) I divorce — set you
free! You are no longer my wife!



FATMEH



Oh! Oh!



DERVISH
There! it's done! (laughs) And
now, goodbye! See you in old Man-
hattan town, Fitzgerald, old man. (to
Fatmeh) Never see you again! Glad
everything's turned out so well — • Your
future, I mean.

FATMEH (hardly able to speak)
So well?

DERVISH (light icave of the hand)
Good-bye! (aside, passionately ) How
beautiful she is! (aloud, lightly) Good-
bye! (starts for door; suddenly lurches
and falls. Fatmeh, loith a cry, springs
forward, drops to the floor and takes
his head in her arms.)

FITZGERALD (looking toward her,
aside)
I don't believe there's any doulst
about his getting well now. (He steps
to desk, takes paper Amad has signed
from pocket and places it on desk.
Aside) She can read this document of
Amad's at her leisure.

DERVISH (arousing himself)
Fatmeh! Beloved!

FATMEH
Yes, yes! (to Fitzgerald) The doc-
tor!

FITZGERALD (going)
The missionary is both doctor and —
pastor. Do you want himf

FATMEH (not noticing significance of
question)


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Online LibraryFrederic Stewart IshamThe thosand and second night, a romantic comedy → online text (page 6 of 7)