Debits and Credits, by Rudyard Kipling

Gow’s Watch

Act IV. Scene 4.

The Head of the Bargi Pass — in snow. Gow and Ferdinand with their Captains.

GOW (to Ferdinand). The Queen’s host would be delivered me today-but that these Mountain Men have sent battalia to hold the Pass. They’re shod, helmed and torqued with soft gold. For the rest, naked. By no argument can I persuade ’em their gilt carcasses against my bombards avail not. What’s to do, Fox?

FERDINAND. Fatherless folk go furthest. These loud pagans Are doubly fatherless. Consider; they came Over the passes, out of all man’s world — Adullamites, unable to endure Its ancient pinch and belly-ache — full of revenges Or wilfully forgetful. The land they found Was manless — her raw airs uncloven by speech. Earth without wheel-track, hoof-mark, hearth or ploughshare Since God created; nor even a cave where men. When night was a new thing, had hid themselves.

GOW. Excellent. Do I fight them, or let go?

FERDINAND. Unused earth, air and water for their spoil. And none to make comparison of their deeds.

No unbribed dead to judge, accuse ’em or comfort — Their present all their future and their past. What should they know of reason — litters of folk — New whelped to emptiness?

GOW. Nothing. They bar my path.

FERDINAND. Turn it, then — turn it. Give them their triumph. They’ll be wiser anon — Some thirty generations hence.

GOW. Amen! I’m no disposed murderer. (To the Mountain Men) Most magnificent Senors! Lords of all Suns, Moons, Firmaments–Sole Architects of Yourselves and this present Universe! Yon Philosopher in the hairy cloak bids me wait only a thousand years, till ye’ve sorted yourselves more to the likeness of mankind.

THE PRIEST OF THE MOUNTAIN MEN. There are none beside ourselves to lead the world!

GOW. That is common knowledge. I supplicate you to allow us the head of the Pass, that we may better reach the Queen’s host yonder. Ye will not? Why?

THE PRIEST. Because it is our will. There is none other law for all the earth.

GOW. (That a few feet of snow on a nest of rocky mountains should have hatched this dream-people!) (To Priest) Ye have reason in nature — all you’ve known of it . . . But — a thousand years — I fear they will not suffice.

THE PRIEST. Go you back! We hold the passes into and out of the world. Do you defy us?

FERDINAND. (To Gow) I warned you. There’s none like them under Heaven. Say it!

GOW. Defy your puissance, Senors? Not I. We’ll have our bombards away, all, by noon; and our poor hosts with them. And you, Senors, shall have your triumph upon us.

FERDINAND. Ah! That touches! Let them shout and blow their horns half a day and they’ll not think of aught else!

GOW. Fall to your riots then! Senors, ye have won. We’ll leave you the head of the Pass — for thirty generations. (Loudly) The mules to the bombards and away!

FERDINAND. Most admirably you spoke to my poor text.

GOW. Maybe the better, Fox, because the discourse has drawn them to the head of the Pass. Meantime, our main body has taken the lower road, with all the Artillery.

FERDINAND. Had you no bombards here, then?

GOW. None, Innocence, at all! None, except your talk and theirs

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Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38