Gow’s Watch

Scenes from an unfinished play

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Act II Scene 2

(the first eight lines are used as a heading to
chapter X of Kim, attributed to “Old Play”)


The Pavilion in the Gardens. Enter FERDINAND and the KING

FERDINAND. Your tiercel’s too long at hack, Sir.
He’s no eyass but a passage-hawk that footed ere we caught him,
Dangerously free o’ the air. ‘Faith were he mine
(As mine’s the glove he binds to for his tirings)
I’d fly him with a make-hawk. He’s in yarak
Plumed to the very point. So manned so—weathered!
Give him the firmament God made him for
And what shall take the air of him?

THE KING. A young wing yet
Bold—overbold on the perch but, think you, Ferdinand,
He can endure the raw skies yonder? Cozen
Advantage out of the teeth of the hurricane?
Choose his own mate against the lammer-geier?
Ride out a night-long tempest, hold his pitch
Between the lightning and the cloud it leaps from,
Never too pressed to kill?

FERDINAND. I’ll answer for him.
Bating all parable, I know the Prince.
There’s a bleak devil in the young, my Lord;
God put it there to save ’em from their elders
And break their father’s heart, but bear them scatheless
Through mire and thorns and blood if need be. Think
What our prime saw! Such glory, such achievements
As now our children, wondering at, examine
Themselves to see if they shall hardly equal.
But what cared we while we wrought the wonders? Nothing!
The rampant deed contented.

THE KING. Little enough. God knows! But afterwards.—
after— Then comes the reckoning. I would save him that.

FERDINAND. Save him dry scars that ache of winternights,
Worn out self-pity and as much of knowledge
As makes old men fear judgment? Then loose him—loose him
A’ God’s name loose him to adventure early!
And trust some random pike, or half-backed horse,
Besides what’s caught in Italy, to save him.

THE KING. I know. I know. And yet. . . . What stirs in the

Enter GOW and a GARDENER bearing the Prince’s body

FERDINAND. (Gods give me patience!) Gow and a gardener
Bearing some load along in the dusk to the dunghill.
Nay—a dead branch— But as I said, the Prince——

THE KING. They’ve laid it down. Strange they should work
so late.

GOW (setting down the body). Heark, you unsanctified fool
while I set out our story.We found it, this side the North Park
wall which it had climbed to pluck nectarines from the alley.
Heark again! There was a nectarine in its hand when we found it,
and the naughty brick that slippedfrom the coping beneath its foot
and so caused its death, lies now under the wall for the King to see.

THE KING (above). The King to see! Why should he? Who’s
the man?

GOW. That is your tale. Swerve from it by so much as the
breadth of my dagger and here’s your
instant reward. You heard not, saw not, and by the Horns of
ninefold-cuckolded Jupiter you thought
not nor dreamed not anything more or other!

THE KING. Ninefold-cuckolded Jupiter. That’s a rare oath!
Shall we look closer?

FERDINAND. Not yet, my Lord! (I cannot hear him breathe.)

GARDENER. The North Park wall? It was so. Plucking nectarines.
It shall be. But how shall I sayif any ask why our Lady the Queen——

GOW (stabs him). Thus! Hie after the Prince and tell him y’are the
first fruits of his nectarine
tree. Bleed there behind the laurels.

THE KING. Why did Gow buffet the clown? What said he? I’ll
go look.

FERDINAND (above). Save yourself! It is the King!

Enter the KING and FERDINAND to GOW GOW. God save you!
Thiswas the Prince!

THE KING. The Prince! Not a dead branch? (Uncovers the face.)
My flesh
and blood! My son! my son! my son!

FERDINAND (to Gow). I had feared something of this. And that
fool yonder?

GOW. Dead, or as good. He cannot speak.

FERDINAND. Better so.

THE KING. “Loosed to adventure early!” Tell the tale.

GOW. Saddest truth alack! I came upon him not a half hour since,
fallen from the North Parkwall over against the Deerpark side—dead—
dead!—a nectarine in his hand that the dear lad musthave climbed for,
and plucked the very instant, look you, that a brick slipped on the coping.
’Tis there now. So I lifted him, but his neck was as you see—and already

THE KING. Oh, very cold. But why should he have troubled to climb?
He was free of all the fruit in my garden God knows! . . . What, Gow?

GOW. Surely, God knows!

THE KING. A lad’s trick. But I love him the better for it . . . . True, he’s past
loving . . . .And now we must tell our Queen. What a coil at the day’s end!
She’ll grieve for him. Not as Ishall, Ferdinand, but as youth for youth.
They were much of the same age. Playmate for playmate.
See, he wears her colours. That is the knot she gave him last—last . . . .
Oh God! When was yesterday?

FERDINAND. Come in! Come in, my Lord. There’s a dew falling.

THE KING. He’ll take no harm of it. I’ll follow presently.
He’s all his mother’s now and none of mine—
Her very face on the bride-pillow. Yet I tricked her.
But that was later—and she never guessed.
I do not think he sinned much—he’s too young—
Much the same age as my Queen. God must not judge him
Too hardly for such slips as youth may fall in.
But I’ll entreat that Throne.

(Prays by the body.)

GOW. The Heavens hold up still. Earth opens not and this dew’s
mere water. What shall a man think of it all? (To GARDENER.)
Not dead yet, sirrah? I bade you follow the Prince. Despatch!

GARDENER. Some kind soul pluck out the dagger. Why did you
slay me? I’d done no wrong. I’d ha’ kept it secret till my dying day.
But not now—not now! I’m dying. The Prince fell from the
Queen’s chamber window. I saw it in the nut-alley. He was——

FERDINAND. But what made you in the nut-alley at that hour?

GARDENER. No wrong. No more than another man’s wife. Jocasta
of the still-room. She’d kissed me good-night too; but that’s over with
the rest . . . . I’ve stumbled on the Prince’s beastly loves, and I pay
for all. Let me pass!

GOW. Count it your fortune, honest man. You would have revealed
it to your woman at the next meeting. You fleshmongers are all one
feather. (Plucks out the dagger.) Go in peace and lay your death to
Fortune’s door. He’s sped—thank Fortune!

FERDINAND. Who knows not Fortune, glutted on easy thrones,
Stealing from feasts as rare to coney-catch
Privily in the hedgerows for a clown,
With that same cruel-lustful hand and eye,
Those nails and wedges, that one hammer and lead,
And the very gerb of long-stored lightning loosed.
Yesterday ’gainst some King.

THE KING. I have pursued with prayers where my heart warns
me My soul shall overtake—

Enter the QUEEN THE KING. Look not! Wait till I tell you, dearest. . .
. Air! . . .
“Loosed to adventure early”
. . . I go late. (Dies.)

GOW. So! God hath cut off the Prince in his pleasures. Gow,
to save the King, hath silencedone poor fool who knew how
it befell, and, now the King’s dead, ’needs only that the Queen
shouldkill Gow and all’s safe for her this side o’ the judgment . . . .
Señor Ferdinand, the wind’s easterly. I’m for the road.

FERDINAND. My horse is at the gate. God speed you. Whither?

GOW. To the Duke, if the Queen does not lay hands on me before.
However it goes, I charge you bear witness,Señor Ferdinand,
I served the old King faithfully. To the death, Señor Ferdinand—
to the death!


Act Ill Scene 2

(used as a heading for “Mrs Bathurst” – 1904, collected in
Traffics and Discoveries, attributed to “Lyden’s Irenius”)

GOW Had it been your Prince instead of a groom caught in this
noose there’s not an astrologer of the city—

PRINCE Sacked ! Sacked ! We were a city yesterday.

GOW So be it, but I was not governor. Not an astrologer, but
would ha’ sworn he’d foreseen it at the last versary of Venus,
when Vulcan caught her with Mars in the house of stinking
Capricorn. But since ’tis Jack of the Straw that hangs, the
forgetful stars had it not on their tablets.

PRtNCE Another life ! Were there any left to die? How did the
poor fool come by it ?

GOW Simpliciter thus. She that damned him to death knew not t
hat she did it, or would have died ere she had done it. For she loved
him. He that hangs him does so in obedience to the Duke, and
asks no more ‘ Where is the rope ? ‘ The Duke, very exactly he hath
told us, works God’s will, in which holy employ he’s not to be
questioned. We have then left upon this danger, only Jack whose
soul now plucks the left sleeve of Destiny in Hell to overtake why
she clapped him up like a fly on a sunny wall. Whuff ! Soh !

PRINCE Your cloak, Ferdinand. I’ll sleep now,

FERDINAND Sleep, then . . . He too, loved his life ?

GOW. He was born of woman . . . but at the end threw life from
him like your Prince, for a little sleep . . . ‘ Have I any look of a King?’
said he, clanking his chain—’to be so baited on all sides by Fortune,
hat I must e’en die now to live with myself one day longer.’ I left him
railing at Fortune and woman’s love.

FERDINAND Ah, woman’s love !
(Aside) Who knows not Fortune, glutted on easy thrones,
Stealing from feasts as rare to coney catch,
Privily in the hedgerows for a clown
With that same cruel-lustful hand and eye,
Those nails and wedges, that one hammer and lcad,
And the very gcrb of long-stored lightnings loosed
Yesterday ‘gainst some King.

THE KING. I have pursued with prayers where my heart warns me
My soul shall overtake-

Enter the QUEEN

THE KING. Look not! Wait till I tell you, dearest….  Air …

” Loosed to adventure early”   I go late. (Dies)

GOW. So! God hath cut off the Prince in his pleasures. Gow, to save the King, hath silenced one
poor fool who knew how it befell, and, now the King’s dead, ‘needs only that the Queen should kill
Gow and all’s safe for her this side o’ the Judgment…. Senor Ferdinand, the wind’s easterly.
I’m for the road.

FERDINAND. My horse is at the gate. God speed you. hither?

GOW To the Duke, if the Queen does not lay hands on me before. However it goes, I charge you bear
witness Senor Ferdinand, I served the old King faithfully, to the death Senor Ferdinand, to the death.


Act IV Scene 4


(follows the story “The Prophet and the
Country” – 1924, in Debits and Credits)

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
to-day—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 a thousand years,
till ye’ve sorted

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

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

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

GOW (That a few feet of snow on a nest of rocky mountains’d
have hatched this dream-people!) (To PRIEST) Ye have reason
in nature—all you’ve known of it . . . . But—a thousand vears—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
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 I


Act V Scene 3

(follows the story “A Madonna of the
Trenches” – 1924, in Debits and Credits)

(After the Battle. The PRINCESS by the Standard on the Ravelin.
Enter Gow, with the Crown of the Kingdom)

GOW Here’s earnest of the Queen’s submission. This by her last
herald—and in haste.

PRINCESS ‘Twas ours already. Where is the woman?

GOW Fled with her horse. They broke at dawn. Noon has not
struck, and you’re Queen questionless.

PRINCESS By you—through you. How shall I honour you?

GOW Me? But for what?

PRINCESS. For all—all—all—
Since the realm sunk beneath us! Hear him! ‘For what?’
Your body ‘twixt my bosom and her knife,
Your lips on the cup she proffered for my death;
Your one cloak over me, that night in the snows,
We held the Pass at Bargi. Every hour,
New strengths, to this most unbelievable last.
‘Honour him?’ I will honour—will honour you—
‘Tis at your choice.

GOW Child, mine was long ago.

(Enter FERDINAND, as from horse)

But here’s one worthy honour. Welcome, Fox!

FERDINAND And to you, Watchdog. This day clenches all—
we·ve made it and seen it.

GOW Is the city held?

FERDINAND Loyally. Oh, they’re drunk with loyalty yonder.
A virtuous mood . Your bombards helped ’em to it . . .
But here’s my word for you. The Lady Frances—

PRINCESS I left her sick in the city. No harm, I pray.

FERDINAND. Nothing that she called harm. In truth, so little
That (to GOW) I am bidden tell you, she’ll be here
Almost as soon as I.

GOW She says it ?

This (gives him letter) yester eve… ‘T’was given me by the priest—
He with her in her hour.

GOW So? (Reads) So it is.
She will be here. (To FERDINAND) And all is safe in the city?

FERDINAND As thy long sword and my lean wits can make it.
You’ve naught to stay for. Is it the road again?

GOW Ay. This time, not alone. . . . She will be here?

PRINCESS I am here. You have not looked at me awhile.

GOW The rest is with you, Ferdinand . . . Then free.

PRINCESS And at my service more than ever. I claim—
(Our wars have taught me)—being your Queen, now, claim
You wholly mine.

GOW Then free. . . . She will be here? A little while—

PRINCESS (to FERDINAND) He looks beyond, not at me.

FERDINAND Weariness.
We are not so young as once was. Two days’ fight—
A worthy servitor—to be allowed
Some freedom.

PRINCESS I have offered him all he would.

FERDINAND He takes what he has taken.

(The Spirit of the LADY FRANCES appears to Gow)

GOW Frances!

PRINCESS Distraught!

FERDINAND An old head-blow, maybe. He has dealt in them.

GOW (to the Spirit) What can the Grave against us, O my Heart,
Comfort and light and reason in all things
Visible and invisible—my one God?
Thou that wast I these barren unyoked years
Of triflings now at end! Frances!

PRINCESS She’s old.

FERDINAND. True. By most reckonings old. They must keep other count.

PRINCESS. He kisses his hand to the air!

FERDINAND. His ring, rather, he kisses. Yes—for sure-the ring.

GOW Dear and most dear! And now—those very arms!

PRINCESS Oh, look! He faints. Haste, you! Unhelm him!

FERDINAND. Needless. No help avails against that poison. He is sped.

PRINCESS. By his own hand? This hour? When I had offered—

FERDINAND. He had made other choice—an old, old choice,
Ne’er swerved from, and now patently sealed in death.

PRINCESS He called on—the Lady Frances, was it? Wherefore?

FERDINAND. Because she was his life. Forgive, my friend—
(covers Gow’s face)
God’s uttermost beyond me in all faith,
Service and passion—that I unveil at last
The secret. (To the PRINCESS) Thought-dreamed you, it was for you
He poured himself—for you resoldered the Crown?
Struck here, held there, amended, broke, built up
His multiplied imaginings for you?

PRINCESS. I thought—I thought he—

FERDINAND. Looked beyond. Her wish
Was the sole Law he knew. She did not choose
Your House should perish. Therefore he bade it stand.
Enough for him when she had breathed a word:
‘Twas his to make it iron, stone, or fire,
Driving our flesh and blood before his ways
As the wind straws. Her one face unregarded
Waiting you with your mantle or your glove—
That is the God whom he is gone to worship.

(Trumpets without. Enter the PRINCE’S Heralds)

And here’s the craft of Kingship begun again.
These from the Prince of Bargi—to whose sword
You owe such help as may, he thinks, be paid.
He’s equal in blood, in fortune more than peer,
Young, most well favoured, with a heart to love—
And two States in the balance. Do you meet him?

PRINCESS. God and my Misery! I have seen Love at last.
What shall content me after?


                                           (this is as far as the story goes ……..)