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Ger. Right. We're all soldiers--or ought to be. I will put you to your catechism. What is a soldier's first duty ?
Col. G. Obedience, sir. [GER: sits down and leans his head on his
hands. Col. G. watches him. Ger. Ah! obedience, is it? Then turn those women out. They will hurt you-may kill you;
but you must not mind that. They burn, they blister, and they blast, for as white as they look! The hottest is the white fire. But duty, old soldier !-obedience, you know !-Ha! ha! Oh, my head!
head! I believe I am losing my senses, William. I was in a bad part of the town this morning. I went to see a place I knew long ago. It had gone to hell—but the black edges of it were left. There was a smell—and I can't get it out of me. Oh, William ! William ! take hold of me. Don't let them come near me. Psyche is laughing at me. I to throw the red cloth over her.
told you Col. G. My poor boy !
Ger. Don't fancy you're my father, though! I wish you were. But I cannot allow that.Why the devil didn't you throw the red cloth over that butterfly? She's sucking the blood from my heart.
Col. G. You said the Psyche, sir ! The red cloth is over the Psyche, sir. Look.
Ger. Yes. Yes. I beg your pardon. Take it off. It is too red. It will scorch her wings. It burns my brain. Take it off, I say! (Col. G. uncovers the Psyche.) There ! I told you! She's laughing at me! Ungrateful child! I'm not her Cupid. Cover her up. Not the red cloth again. It's too hot, I say.
I won't torture her. I am a man and I can bear it. She's a woman and she shan't bear it. Sinks back in his chair. Col. G. lays him
on the dais, and sits down beside him. Col. G. His heart's all right! And when a fellow's miserable over his faults,
there must be some way out of them.But the consequences ?—Ah! there's the rub.
Ger. What's the matter? Where am I?
Col. G. I must fetch a doctor, sir. You've been in a faint.
Ger. Why couldn't I keep in it? It was very nice : you know nothing—and that's the nicest thing of all. Why is it we can't stop, William ?
Col. G. I don't understand you, sir. .Ger. Stop living, I mean. It's no use killing yourself, for you don't stop then. At least they say you go on living all the same. If I thought it did mean stopping, William
Col. G. Do come to your room, sir.
Ger. I won't. I'll stop here. How hot it is! Don't let anybody in. Stretches out his hand. Col. G. holds it.
He falls asleep. Col. G. What shall I do? If he married her, he'd be miserable, and make her miserable too. I'll take her away somewhere. I'll be a father to her; I'll tend her as if she were his widow. But what confusions would follow! Alas! alas ! one crime is the mother of a thousand miseries! And now he's in for a fever-typhus, perhaps !—I must find this girl !—What a sweet creature that Miss Lacordère is! If only he might have her! I don't care what she was.
Ger. Don't let them near me, William ! They will drive me mad. They think I shall love them. I will not. If she comes one step nearer, I shall strike her. You Diana ! Hecate! Hell-cat !—Fire-hearted Chaos is burning me to ashes! My brain is a cinder! Some water, William !
Col. G. Here it is, sir.
Ger. But just look to Psyche there. Ah! she’s off! There she goes ! melting away in the blue, like a dissolving vapour. Bring me my field-glass, William. I may catch a glimpse of her yet. Make haste.
Col. G. Pray don't talk so, sir.
Do be quiet, or you will make yourself very ill. Think what will become of me if
Ger. What worse would you be, William ? You are a soldier. I must talk. You are all wrong about it: it keeps me quiet (holding · his head with both hands). I should go raving mad else (wildly). Give me some water. (He drinks eagerly, then looks slowly round the room.)
Now they are gone, and I do believe they won't come again ! everything—and your face, William. You are very good to me-very patient ! I should die if it weren't for you. Col. G. I would die for
sir. Ger. Would
you ? But perhaps you don't care much for your life. Anybody might have my life for the asking. I dare say
it's just as good to be dead. -Ah! there is a toad
-a toad with a tail! No; it's a toad with a slow-worm after him.
Take them away, William !—Thank you. I used to think life