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JOSEPHINE TEY
WRITING AS GORDON DAVIOT

LEITH SANDS

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A PLAY IN ONE ACT

First Published in Leith Sands and Other Short Plays, Duckworth, 1946

This e-book edition: Roy Glashan's Library, 2016
Produced by Colin Choat and Roy Glashan

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                    CHARACTERS

                         In order of appearance

                    RAB SOUTER.
                    BELLE HEPBURN.
                    DUNCAN FORBES.
                    ALEXANDER LOCKHART.
                    WILL GOW.
                    JOHN MASSON.
                    JAMES KERR.
                    PETER BEATTIE.
                    SANDY CRAIG.

A taproom in Leith, on the 11th of April 1705. In the back wall are two
deep-set windows giving on the street, and, left of them, the door, now
closed. Against the right wall, behind a rough counter, is the
stock-in-trade: claret and brandy, a cask of ale, and whisky. A bench
and long table below the windows, another by the left wall, and a
smaller table with wooden chairs nearer the middle of the room.

The wind that is rarely still on that windy coast blows against the
windows in long gusts, but it is snug enough in the room, which is clean
and well kept, as if the owner took a pride in it.

The proprietor, RAB SOUTER, is pouring a drink behind the bar. He is
small, middle-aged, canny, honest, and self-respecting. Not the type to
lead a crusade; but the kind of man who likes to "see right done" and is
vaguely troubled at the vivid prejudices of his fellow-men. He is alone
except for one customer, BELLE HEPBURN, who is sitting with her back
to the nearer window. BELLE is not yet old enough for her profession
to have ruined her looks, but the mixture of vanity and greed that led
to her adoption of her calling ruins effectually enough any beauty she
possesses. Her face, for all its excellence of feature and colouring, is
a repellent one.

  RAB.: [Carrying the drink to her and putting it down] There you are.
I hope you've the money to pay for it.

  BELLE.: [Taking out money] It'll be a while yet before I lack the
price of a drink, Rab Souter. [Toasting him] Well! [Having drunk] I
didn't think you'd be open. Why are you no' at the hanging? Half
Scotland's there.

  RAB.: Maybe. But trade's trade.

  BELLE.: And some has weak stomachs.

  RAB.: [Stung, but still mildly] If it comes to that, why are you not
there yerself? It's thanks to you they're hanging, isn't it?

  BELLE.: [Screaming at him] Haud yer tongue! [Recovering] I was
there, if you want to know. There was sic a crowd I couldn't see a
thing, so I just came away.

  RAB.: [Pausing in the polishing of mugs at the counter] Confess,
Belle Hepburn, you didn't after all want to see a man you'd slept with
dangling at the end of a rope.

  BELLE.: Is it me would care that a wheen stuck-up Englishmen went to
their deaths?

  RAB.: He was a well set up young fellow, Captain Green. I saw him one
day coming from the trial.

  BELLE.: [Without emotion] Ay, he was bonnie enough. [With
satisfaction] But he was a pirate, and he's hanging for it.

  RAB.: There's some say he's hanging because he's English.

  BELLE.: [Banging her mug-bottom against the table in anger] So! A
"repriever", are you!

  RAB.: [Hastily] I'm not anything. I'm just repeating the clash of the
town.

  BELLE.: Well, don't repeat a thing like that if you like your health.
And your trade! This place would make a fine bonfire.

  RAB.: [Rousing to a threat of coercion as he has not roused to her
taunt of being weak-stomached] Things are coming to a pretty pass when
a man can't open his mouth without fear of being rabbled.

  BELLE.: You can open it, but not so wide.

  RAB.: And when the likes of you gives orders to the likes of me! Let me
tell you, I don't like Englishmen any better than the next Scot, but
there's one thing in this business sticks in my gullet.

  BELLE.: It wouldn't be your tongue, would it?

  RAB.: If he's a pirate, why wasn't there a single thing in his ship
that didn't belong there? [He says this not as one making a point but
as one troubled by an undeniable fact.]

  BELLE.: He had Sandy Craig's watch, hadn't he?

  RAB.: So you say.

  BELLE.: And what's wrong with my word!

  RAB.: Nothing. Only, where's the watch?

  BELLE.: It was stolen from him, he said. Likely he threw it away.
[Protesting against RAB'S unbelieving silence] I tell you he had
that watch the day he came ashore! Didn't I go out to the Worcester
when she anchored? And didn't he come back with me when he got rid of
all the yapping big-wigs that wanted to see the ship? [Imitating polite
Edinburgh] "And have you really been to India and back, Captain Green?"
"How clever of you to escape the French by sailing round Scotland to
London, Captain Green!" And next morning, there was the watch, lying on
my table. "Where did you get that?" says I. "It was my father's," says
he. But it was Sandy Craig's watch, with the anchor on the back of it.
Many a time I'd seen it before. And Sandy Craig went away in the Speedy
Return last year. And who has seen the Speedy Return, or any of her
crew, since that day?

  RAB.: [Slowly] An anchor's not a mighty uncommon thing to find on a
sailor's belongings. Even if you did see the watch—

  BELLE.: [Furious] Even if I did see it! What would I lie for?

  RAB.: [Still contemplative] How should I know? Because you don't like
Englishmen, perhaps; or because you wanted one of his Indian shawls and
he wouldn't give it to you; or because he took up with a nice
self-respecting girl and forgot you; or because someone offered you good
silver to remember seeing the watch—

  BELLE.: Are you suggesting . . .

  RAB.: I'm not suggesting anything. I'm only thinking of things that
would make a woman want to tell lies.

  BELLE.: Let me tell you . . .

   She pauses, as RAB'S eyes watch someone pass the windows, and
      turns her head to the door to see who comes.

   Enter DUNCAN FORBES. He is very young; a law student of twenty;
      and he is dressed entirely in black. He has a long shrewd nose
      which augurs well for his future success in his profession, and a
      wide good-natured mouth to promise humanity in his shrewdest
      dealings. At the moment his normally mobile face is wooden; stiff
      with some secret shock or grief. He moves forward to the counter
      without acknowledging the landlord's presence, as if his mind was
      still elsewhere.

  RAB.: [Greeting him] Good day to you, Mr. Forbes, sir. The usual for
you?

  FORBES.: No. Give me whisky.

  RAB.: [Thinking he could not have heard aright] I still have some of
that last bordeaux that you liked so much . . .

  FORBES.: [Unmistakably] Whisky!

  RAB.: [Pouring the required drink, genially] In all the times you've
been coming down for your daunder on Leith sands, Mr. Forbes, I've never
known you drink that stuff. Do you want to lose that fine palate of
yours?

  FORBES.: [After a slight pause, as if talking were an effort] No. I
want to lose my senses.

  RAB.: [Having considered him, tentatively] Are you in mourning, sir?

  FORBES.: Yes. For my country. [Without heat] If I could burn the Scot
out of me with hot iron I would do it to-day. It's a dreadful thing to
be ashamed of the very blood in one's veins, isn't it, Rab? [Pushes his
empty glass to be refilled.]

  BELLE.: [Into the silence while RAB is looking for an answer] If
that's the way you feel it's time someone let a little of your blood
out, my fine young sir!

  FORBES.: [Becoming aware of her for the first time, and turning to
look at her; in slow recognition] Oh. The Hepburn woman. [He does not
mean to be rude. He is still wrapt in himself.]

  BELLE.: Mistress Hepburn to you.

  FORBES.: Well, I suppose drink is as good a way as any other of
spending thirty pieces.

  BELLE.: I don't know what that may mean, but it has a quarrelling sound
to me.

  FORBES.: Thomas Green was looking forward to drinking too. In peace, in
a London tavern. All his dangers were behind him. The storms off the
Cape, the pirates in the Indian Ocean, the French in the Channel; fever
and snake-bite and thirst-madness and mirage. He had traded well, and
his cargo was rich. He had taken his ship half round the world and back
like a good seaman; and he was a proud young man sailing into the Forth;
home again and safe. No one had told him that Scotland was still
inhabited by savages.

   He turns to the counter again and takes the drink that RAB has
      poured for him.

   As he turns to his drink the door is burst open and three men enter,
      all in jovial spirits and talking as they come. The first is
      ALEXANDER LOCKHART, well-built, about forty years old, "well put
      on" and tolerably well educated; belonging, one would say, to the
      small-official class. Behind him is WILL GOW, tall, lean,
      saturnine; perhaps a printer or a clerk. And bringing up the rear
      JOHN MASSON, a small, thickset, genial creature, whose thicker
      burr and slight air of deference place him in a lower social
      category.

   They arrange themselves in the chairs round the small table as they
      talk, with much clatter and no little self-satisfaction.

  LOCKHART.: [As he comes in] And it's my suggestion that April the
Eleventh should be made a national holiday for ever.

  GOW.: [Grinning] The Kirk wouldn't like it.

  MASSON.: [With a fling at the thousand schisms of Scotland] Which
kirk?

  GOW.: All of them. Holidays are a devilish rival to the Sabbath.

  LOCKHART.: Maybe; but there isn't a minister in Scotland who didn't
lose his spare silver in the Darien scheme. Brandy for me, Rab.

  MASSON.: Ay; that's so. Not that it needed Darien. Our man [he means
his own particular clergyman]'s been praying against the English since
afore the Revolution. I doubt he'd look real kindly on a day that saw
three of them get their deserts. [Answering LOCKHART'S invitation]
Ale for me, Mr. Lockhart.

  LOCKHART.: Tuts, man, you're not going to drink ale on a day like this!
Brandy for Mr. Masson, Rob. What are you drinking, Gow?

  GOW.: Claret for me. Ah, there, Belle!

  LOCKHART.: [Turning to the woman] Good day to you, Mistress Hepburn.
A good day indeed, eh? Drink up and have another one with us. [It is
clear that in normal times LOCKHART would not have "looked the road
she was on", but to-day all Scots are brothers together, and has she not
done her share in the noble work?] Were you out there on the sands?

  BELLE.: [Without bothering to explain that she had left betimes] I
was. [Directing the remark at FORBES' back] Ay, a good day for
Scotland.

   The door is once more burst open and there enters JAMES
      KERR, a man who might be a prosperous small-tradesman,
      more or less supporting the large and undoubtedly drunk person of
      PETER BEATTIE. BEATTIE can still walk with comparative ease, but
      his head has long ago succumbed to the drunkard's idée fixe.

  KERR.: There we are, Peter boy. Home from home. [He bangs the door to
behind him and unfastens the short sword that is belted to his waist]
Well, I won't be needing this any more. [Flinging it on the long table,
left] Three months that thing's been tripping me up. Next time we have
to arm I'll get me a cudgel. [Like the rest, he is in very good humour
about it.]

  BEATTIE.: [Standing aimless and stupid by the table] Down with
England! Down with Englishmen! Scotland for ever! [After a moment he
subsides on to the bench by the left wall.]

      GOW, reminded of his own weapons, takes his heavy pistol from a
      pocket and lays it on the table in front of him, while MASSON
      unbuckles a truncheon from below his coat. LOCKHART continues
      to wear his sword, which he considers helpful in presenting a
      gentlemanly appearance.

  GOW.: [Picking up the pistol fondly almost as soon as he has put it
down] The muzzle of that was three inches from the Chancellor's nose in
the High Street yesterday. Talk of reprieve, would they!

  LOCKHART.: They've learned their lesson.

  GOW.: "The Queen is considering the evidence, and will let her decision
be known in due course"! [He laughs] Well, she has evidence now that
the Scots can decide for themselves.

  KERR.: [As RAB puts the brandy down in front of LOCKHART] Bring me
some of that, Mr. Souter. [Giving BEATTIE a friendly push] Rouse
yourself, Peter Beattie, and say what you'll drink.

  BEATTIE.: I'll drink Scotland dry.

  KERR.: Not unless you're paying for your own liquor, my mannie! [To
RAB] Bring him the same as me. [To the others] Ay, gentlemen, we've
struck a blow for freedom this day. We're not going to have any fine
fellows in London interfering in the decisions of our courts.

  MASSON.: No, nor Queen Anne herself.

  GOW.: Reprieve a murderer, would they!

  LOCKHART.: [Raising his glass] Well, here's the same death to every
Englishman that thinks he can pirate a Scots ship and go free!

  GOW.: [Joining him] Damnation to Englishmen anyhow! [MASSON drinks
too.]

  KERR.: I suppose he didn't confess, did he? I couldn't hear his speech.

  LOCKHART.: Confess, my friend! His speech made me want to puke. He was
so innocent, by his way of it, you'd wonder how he ever came to leave
his dame's-school. And the other two weren't much better.

  GOW.: [Mocking] Very affecting, it was. I'll wager Belle didn't shed
any tears.

  BELLE.: No; I'll keep my tears for the crew of the Speedy Return.
[With a meaning look at FORBES' back] Though there's some not so
particular!

   LOCKHART and his two companions waken to an intense interest in the
      man whose face they cannot see and whom they have up to now hardly
      been aware of. BELLE, her eyes discreetly on her drink, waits
      developments with inward pleasure.

  KERR.: [Unaware of the direction of her last remark, and not having
met her before] Mistress Hepburn, is it? Well, well. I'm proud to know
you, Mistress Hepburn. [With unctious earnestness] Sandy Craig will
sleep well to-night, now that his countrymen have avenged him.

  BEATTIE.: [Apropos of nothing, except that he now has his drink and is
momentarily roused to speech] Thieving, murdering English. Keep us out
of their trade, will they? We'll show them.

  KERR.: Gentlemen, I give you the memory of Captain Drummond and the
crew of the Speedy Return, foully done to death by the murderer Green.

  LOCKHART.: And all the other victims of his piracies, whoever they may
be! [His eyes are still speculatively on FORBES' back, and his voice
is provocative. Pausing before drinking] Won't you join us, sir, in so
loyal a toast?

  FORBES.: [Who has had a third drink but is still cool, turning to face
him] There was only one case of piracy in this affair, Alexander
Lockhart. And that was when you and your gang boarded the Worcester as
friendly visitors and seized her, with neither law nor good manners on
your side.

  LOCKHART.: [Restraining GOW'S instant movement to his weapon] Just
a moment, Gow. I don't admire your sentiments, sir, but I wonder at your
courage. You're a young man to be tired of life.

  FORBES.: If giving up my life would blot this day's work from my
country's record, I would die gladly.

  GOW.: [Still being restrained by LOCKHART] You'll probably die in any
case!

  MASSON.: [Aghast] Did ever you hear the like of his impudence!

  LOCKHART.: So you don't approve of your country's justice?

  FORBES.: Justice!

  LOCKHART.: You think, no doubt, it's a crying shame that the Englishmen
weren't reprieved?

  FORBES.: [With the first hint of passion in his tone] No. I think it
is a black disgrace that they were ever found guilty. [Sensation.] We
have hanged three men to-day—and we are going to hang more
to-morrow—on evidence that would not convict a cat of stealing cream.
And why were they hanged? Because Scotland wanted a blood sacrifice.
Because we had failed to make colonies like the English, and failed to
keep ships on the sea like the English, and we were sick with jealousy
and drunk with hate and shouting for blood. Well, we have had our blood.
But my business is law, not murder, and you will forgive me if I do not
share in the jubilation.

  KERR.: [Bewildered at the way this nice friendly drinking party is
turning out] But that's nonsense! I was there, a whole day, at the
trial; I was there myself. There was plenty evidence!

  MASSON.: It was his own men that gave evidence against him!

  LOCKHART.: May I remind you that there was no mention of piracy until
one of the Worcester's crew boasted of it?

  FORBES.: Did you ever know a sailor who wasn't a pirate after the third
drink? There was no mention of piracy, Mr. Lockhart, until you found
that your seizing of the Worcester was going to be awkward for you.
You thought she was an East Indiaman, didn't you? And you would take her
as reprisal for the AnnandaleMASSON.: The English had no right to take the Annandale.

  FORBES.: They had every right. She had broken the law, and they took
her by law. It is an English custom that we would do well to imitate.
But Green's ship had broken no law. She was not even, so it turned out,
one of the hated East Indiamen. It was going to be very awkward for
those who had so rashly—

  GOW.: [Who has been simmering in speechless rage, springing up] Are
you going to let him stand there and fling it in our faces that
we—[LOCKHART once more restrains him, as RAB remonstrates with
FORBES.]

  RAB.: [Laying a tentative hand on FORBES' shoulder from behind, in
appeal] Please, Mr. Forbes, sir. We don't want any trouble.

  FORBES.: [His taut nerves snapping at the touch, turning on RAB] No,
you don't want trouble! And you the guiltiest of them all. [Seeing
RAB'S astounded face] Do you think Green and his men are dangling out
there in the wind only because a vain drab lied and because the mob hate
England? No, they're—

  BELLE.: Call me a liar—!

  LOCKHART.: I've let you talk long enough—

  FORBES.: [Shouting them down] Hold your tongues! [As they stop in
very astonishment] No! They're swinging there because the nice douce
citizens of Edinburgh didn't want any trouble. Because a few innocent
men hanging at their door was better than having their windows
broken—

  KERR.: Innocent men, indeed!

  MASSON.: It's not windows that would be broken but heads if they'd let
that murdering pirate go free.

  KERR.: I heard the evidence myself. Wasn't it one of his own men who
told how they killed their victims with hatchets and flung them
overboard. One of his own men!

  FORBES.: [The excitement gone from him; in a sort of weary contempt]
Yes. A black cook's mate who understood no English, was so poor that he
would have sworn to anything for a shilling, and was proved not to have
joined the Worcester until six months after the date in question.

  LOCKHART.: The ship's surgeon isn't black, nor illiterate, nor poor
enough to bribe with a shilling.

  FORBES.: No. He is a man with a grudge. In fact, he hated Green so much
that I am surprised he didn't make his story a better one.

  LOCKHART.: His story was true.

  FORBES.: Perhaps. What does it amount to? He was ashore and he heard
guns; he went on board some days later and three of the crew were
wounded. The guns were the Worcester's salute to Captain Grandell's
ship and Grandell's five-gun acknowledgment; and the "wounds" prove to
have been one snake bite, one broken arm through falling down a hatch,
and one head broken by a bottle. Is that your evidence of piracy? And
where in all this is the Speedy Return? Not so much as a rope's-end of
her! Not even a suggestion that she was ever in the same sea with the
Worcester!

  BELLE.: [Shrilly] No? Then how was Sandy Craig's watch in her
captain's pocket?

  FORBES.: Was it?

  BELLE.: It was, and I'll thank you not to call me a liar to my face
again!

  FORBES.: [Taking two steps towards her so that only the table
separates them, and leaning forward so that they are face to face] Why
didn't you wait to see Green hanged?

  BELLE.: [Taken aback by his unexpected movement, his proximity, and
his surprising question] What's that you say?

  FORBES.: I said: Why didn't you wait to see Green hanged?

   The others begin to protest that she has seen the man hanged, that
      she has said so; but their protests die away as BELLE'S face
      shows her confusion.

  BELLE.: [Knowing that RAB is a witness to her early departure, and
unable in the crowded moment to think what her previous excuse was]
Never mind why! What I do or don't do is my own business. [It sounds
very feeble, and the pause on FORBES' part before he straightens
himself gives the feebleness full effect.]

  FORBES.: [Resuming as if he had not spoken to her] Captain Green said
that his watch had a cross on the back of it, and that he had never
owned a watch engraved with an anchor.

  BELLE.: [Sullenly] It was an anchor, and it was Sandy Craig's.

  FORBES.: [Ignoring her] May I suggest that the two decorations look
greatly alike and that it is possible to be—mistaken, shall we
say?—about them.

  BEATTIE.: [Quite unaware of anything that is going on around him]
Bloody murdering English, keeping us out of their trade!

  FORBES.: In the months that the Worcester has been lying at
Burntisland [he tilts his head to an imaginary firth] industrious
Scots have torn the very planks out of her in search of better evidence
than an unproducible watch. And what have they found? Nothing! There
wasn't a nail in her that couldn't be accounted for. No stolen goods, no
bloodstains, no damage by gunfire, no false entries in her papers.
[Overriding interruption] Seventeen ships have come home from India
since the Worcester sailed from there, and not one of them has heard
of any such piracy. [Overriding interruption] When the Worcester's
own crew first heard that they were to be charged with such a crime they
were scattered in lodgings all over the district. Did any one of them
try to escape? On the contrary: several came in of their own accord. It
seemed to all of them amusing to be dubbed pirates, when there was no
tittle of evidence to support the charge. But they reckoned without my
countrymen. Fifteen good Scots found them guilty—

[Chorus]. They were guilty! Guilty as hell! Murdering cut-throats,
whatever you say!

  FORBES.: Found them guilty on the evidence of a black slave who was not
there, of a ship's surgeon who was on shore, and of a woman who saw an
old lover's watch in the hands of a presumed murderer and made no outcry
until five weeks later, when evidence of piracy was wanted.

   He turns to his ready-filled glass, and so gives his interrupters
      their chance at last. BELLE, KERR, GOW and MASSON all have
      things to say, but give way to LOCKHART after the first few
      words.

  LOCKHART.: [Angry but smooth] You've a fine, glib tongue, my friend,
and you may know something about law, but I'd just remind you that no
less than five of those fifteen men were ships' masters, and perhaps
you'll allow them to know something of sea business.

  FORBES.: [Turning on him] And what sea business moves their mariner
minds at the moment? The Annandale! What moves the whole of Scotland,
if it comes to that? The English confiscate our last Company ship in the
Thames—the English, who have fifty ships to our one!—and you think
that five ships' captains in a jury of fifteen make a good—

  KERR.: There were ten others, weren't there! Ten that had nothing to do
with the sea. Lairds like Fleming of Rathbyres and merchants like
William Neilson—

  GOW.: Ay, well-respected men like Robert Innes—

  LOCKHART.: Ay, do you think folk like Forrest and Blockwood are going
to vote a prisoner guilty just because a few men in London acted
unneighbourly?

  FORBES.: No.

  LOCKHART.: Why did they, then!

  FORBES.: I take it, because twenty thousand armed men were waiting for
them outside the court-house in Edinburgh. [Into the momentary pause
which succeeds this riposte] And when the verdict was noised abroad,
and the gratified Scots were dancing in the streets, what did those same
unneighbourly English do? Did they threaten? Was there talk of war? Or
promise of reprisal if we hanged their men? No! They asked that the day
of execution might be postponed for two weeks, so that—

  MASSON.: Ay, so that they could think of a way of wriggling out!

  FORBES.: So that there might be time to collect more evidence.

  LOCKHART.: They had three months to collect evidence if they'd wanted
to.

  FORBES.: You forget. There was no case to answer. It would hardly occur
to the English that men could be condemned on a piece of hearsay.

  KERR.: They were condemned because they were guilty. I heard the
evidence myself!

  FORBES.: [Ignoring him] When they learned what perjury and prejudice
had achieved in Scotland they wanted time to defend their men; time to
use their own weapons of statement and evidence—

  GOW.: Time to use fresh lies—

  FORBES.: Time! Time! Time! That is all they asked. And every one of
them from Queen Anne to the crossing-sweeper in the Strand took it for
granted that we would give it to them. We were civilised, weren't we? We
had courts and laws. We ate our bread and powdered our wigs like other
men. We sent embassies to the nations, and shared a Queen with England.
We would not hang fourteen men without making sure that they were
guilty. How were they to know, the trusting English fools, that they
were dealing with barbarians?

  LOCKHART.: If that is meant as a personal reflection . . .

  FORBES.: [His natural courage no wise lessened by the consumption of
his fourth drink] It's a reflection on all of you! On all the venomous
mob that refused a hearing to condemned men, so that our country's name
will be a by-word in Europe. You were afraid of what that evidence from
London might be, weren't you? Afraid of finding that you wouldn't be
able to hang the Englishmen after all? Already some very awkward facts
had blown up from the south. The surgeon had said in his evidence that
the captured ship was sold in Quillon, hadn't he? And now the English
send proof that no one in Quillon had ever heard of it. That was
awkward, wasn't it? And every post that came into Edinburgh might carry
news as awkward. It looked as if you might be cheated of the blood you
had so nearly tasted—

  LOCKHART.: You're drunk!

  FORBES.: Alas, no!

  GOW.: Why are we listening to him? Let's cut the clattering tongue out
of his head.

  RAB.: Please, gentlemen. Please, Mr. Forbes.

  MASSON.: Ay, I cracked a man's skull yesterday for saying a hundredth
part of what he's saying the now.

  LOCKHART.: Presently, presently. You're not cutting out his tongue till
he's taken back a few of his words.

  FORBES.: I'll take back nothing.

  LOCKHART.: This is a personal matter between me and Mr. . . .

  FORBES.: My name is Forbes. Duncan Forbes.

  LOCKHART.: Between me and Mr. Forbes. He can greet all he likes about
his country's reputation—Scotland can take care of her own good
name!—but when he miscalls a man to his face he has to answer for it.
[His left hand draws his sword a few inches from its sheath and lets it
fall back again with a click.]

  RAB.: Mr. Forbes is a bit overwrought, Mr. Lockhart, and the whisky
he's been drinking is not good stuff to take counsel on—

  LOCKHART.: [Ignoring him] I doubt too many hours in the law courts
has made him forget that the law's privileges stop at the court door.
Outside that a man's answerable for what he says.

  FORBES.: If you're thinking of using that fine sword of yours, Mr.
Lockhart, I think it's only fair to tell you that I may be a law
student, but I was born the wrong side of the Highland line and I was
bred to the sword.

  LOCKHART.: [Obviously staggered, but recovering, and very angry] Who
said anything about a sword? I wouldn't waste good steel on you, you
damned Highland trash. I'll wring your neck myself when Gow's had the
pleasure of cutting your tongue out.

  MASSON.: Don't I get a share?

  LOCKHART.: Meanwhile, as long as your gullet's in working order, I'll
give myself the pleasure of hearing you swallow some of these fine words
of yours.

  BELLE.: Ay, make him swallow what he said about me!

  LOCKHART.: Hold your tongue. [To FORBES] There was something about my
seizing the Worcester when I had no right to . . .

  FORBES.: And didn't you?

  LOCKHART.: And raising the cry of piracy merely to get myself out of a
hole!

  FORBES.: I may have been wrong about that.

  LOCKHART.: So!

  FORBES.: It may of course have been to get yourself some the rich
pickings the cargo would provide. There is no direct evidence either
way.

  LOCKHART.: Damn your soul, do you say that I procured false witness to
hang those men!

  FORBES.: Is that any worse than standing over the Privy Council with
pistols to prevent them postponing the execution? That is what you were
doing all day yesterday, wasn't it?

  LOCKHART.: And to-morrow I shall be explaining to your friends how you
fell over an ale-house counter and broke your neck. [He takes a step
forward, and becomes aware that a small black knife has appeared as if
by magic in FORBES' hand. He is holding it Highland fashion, point
upward. He has not altered his attitude, and the knife might not be
there unless one noticed his hand.] What good do you think that
bodkin's going to do you?

  FORBES.: It's been a lot of good so far. I've cut rodden whistles with
it, and gralloched a deer with it, and cut a heart on a tree with it,
and picked stones out of my pony's—

  GOW.: And picked your teeth with it. Go on!

                                                     The others laugh.

  FORBES.: And I can split a hazel wand at twenty feet with it.
[Something in his still easy tone gives them pause] It's a pretty
weapon the sword [there is genuine love in his voice] but I gave it up
when I took to the law. It seemed to me that Scotland had suffered
enough from her children's liking for steel. I could serve her better by
learning how to arbitrate. But I can still throw a knife quicker than
any of you gentlemen can move an arm. I hope you wont force me to
display my skill. It would be sad to have renounced the sword only to
become a knife-thrower.

  LOCKHART.: There's only one thing wrong with your bodkin, Mr. Forbes.
It doesn't throw five ways at once.

  FORBES.: And which of you is going to be the sheath for it?

  GOW.: That's for you to decide. We're coming together and you can take
your pick. For myself, a knife-prick will be a small price for the
pleasure of having my hands on you.

  LOCKHART.: If you know any prayers, say them. And don't make them long
ones.

  RAB.: You can't do it, gentlemen. At least give him a sword and let him
fight for his—

  GOW.: Shut your mouth, you, or we'll make a loch of your liquor and
drown you in it!

  BEATTIE.: Bloody Englishmen, are they? Kill them!

  LOCKHART.: Well, Forbes, have you prayed?

   On a great gust of wind there enters a smallish red-haired man
      carrying a sailor's bundle. He bangs the door to behind him with
      his foot, as KERR did, and drops his bundle by the door. Since
      no one has yet reached for a weapon, the scene in the room appears
      to him perfectly normal: one man leaning against the counter and
      facing the others in argument. Except for head-turning no one
      moves at his entrance, but as he speaks BELLE, recognising him,
      rises slowly to her feet. He is SANDY CRAIG.

  SANDY.: Whew! Blowing a half-gale as usual. Leith was aye a windy port.
A fine day to come home, too. [With a jerk of his thumb to outdoors]
Is it the Privy Council they're hanging? You could walk on the heads of
the crowd halfway to Edinburgh!

  BELLE.: [Still not sure whether to believe her eyes, and hoping that
she is wrong] Sandy! Sandy Craig!

  SANDY.: [Noticing her for the first time; in high good humour] Belle!
Well, now, this is what I call a welcome! [He means finding an old
friend so soon.] Belle, my beauty . . . [He goes towards her, but she
draws back.]

  BELLE.: You're not dead?

  SANDY.: [Mistaking her tone] Och, have you been crying for me! [As
she shrinks from his outstretched hand] What is it? Are you afraid I'm
a ghost? [Rapping with his knuckles on the table] A good solid ghost,
let me tell you; and one with a thirst. [Moving to the counter] Is
nobody going to offer a sailor a drink? [As they stare in silence]
Well [turning in good humour to RAB], it looks as if I'll have to pay
for my own. That'll be the first time for three years. What a country to
belong to!

  FORBES.: [The first to come to life, quietly] Are you Sandy Craig?

  SANDY.: I am. [To RAB] Brandy.

  FORBES.: Of the Speedy Return?

  SANDY.: Ay, of the Speedy Return. That was a bad name to call a good
ship!

  FORBES.: What happened to her?

  SANDY.: Pirates got her, eighteen months ago.

  BELLE.: [Shrill with relief] I was right, you see, I was right!

  SANDY.: You were always right, Belle, my dear.

  BELLE.: He had your watch. [It seems to her that a miracle has
happened.]

  SANDY.: Who had?

  BELLE.: Captain Green.

  SANDY.: Captain Green? Never heard of him. What's he captain of?

  FORBES.: He was [he slightly accents the tense] captain of the
Worcester.

  SANDY.: Never heard of her. East Indiaman?

  BELLE.: You mean it wasn't the Worcester that took the Speedy
Return!

  SANDY.: It wasn't any ship at all that took us. That old pirate Bowen
walked on board when she was in harbour in Madagascar, and just hung up
his hat. All the crew was ashore but three, and they had more sense than
to argue with Bowen. [As the queerness in the atmosphere begins to
penetrate] What's this to do with Captain Green, anyhow?

   In the silence, FORBES drops some coins on the counter and turns
      to depart. The various emotions that have upheld him are spent,
      and he is suddenly exhausted and a little drunk. He looks so ill
      that RAB is concerned.

  RAB.: Will I send for your horse, Mr. Forbes? Are you going back to
Edinburgh?

  FORBES.: [Gathering himself together with an effort] No. No, I am
going to help bury the men we have murdered.

   They watch him go in silence. As he closes the door, BELLE begins
      to sob.

                              SLOW CURTAIN


THE END


Roy Glashan's Library
Non sibi sed omnibus
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