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From the play "Sheppey", by W. Somerset Maugham


SHEPPEY But I say, if you ain't there really, 'ow is it I see you?

DEATH Can't you guess?

SHEPPEY [with a sudden movement of dismay] Look 'ere, you ain't come 'ere on my account?


SHEPPEY You're joking. I thought you'd just come to 'ave a little chat. I'm sorry, my dear, there's nothing doing today. You must call again some other time.

DEATH I'm too busy for that.

SHEPPEY I don't think that's treating me right. Coming in all friendly and pleasant. If I'd known what you was after I'd 'ave nipped off with Cooper when 'e asked me.

DEATH That wouldn't have helped you much.

SHEPPEY I wish now I'd gone down to the Isle of Sheppey when the doctor advised it. You wouldn't 'ave thought of looking for me there.

DEATH There was a merchant in Bagdad who sent his servant to market to buy provisions and in a little while the servant came back, white and trembling, and said, Master, just now when I was in the market place I was jostled by a woman in the crowd and when I turned I saw it was death that jostled me. She looked at me and made a threatening gesture; now, lend me your horse, and I will ride away from this city and avoid my fate. I will go to Samarra and there death will not find me. The merchant lent him his horse and the servant mounted it, and he dug his spurs in its flanks andÿas fast as the horse could gallop he went. Then the merchant went down to the market-place and he saw me standing in the crowd and he came to me and said, Why did you make a threatening gesture to my servant when you saw him this morning? That was not a threatening gesture, I said, it was only a start of surprise. I was astonished to see him in Bagdad, for I had an appointment with him tonight in Samarra.

SHEPPEY [with a little shudder] D'you mean there's no escaping you?


SHEPPEY [trying to wheedle her] I don't fancy the idea of leaving this world. I know my way about and I'm at 'ome 'ere. Seems silly at my age to go on a wild-goose chase like this.

DEATH Are you afraid?

SHEPPEY What of? The Judgement Day? [With a little smile] No, not really. You see, the way I look at it is this I've 'ad dozens of apprentices under me, and often they was silly and inattentive and broke things, you know what boys are, fond of a lark; well, of course I told 'em off, but I never 'eld it up against them. I'm not going to believe in a God that's not got as much common sense and as much sense of 'umour as I 'ave.

DEATH Are you ready then?

SHEPPEY What for?

DEATH To start.

SHEPPEY Now? This minute? I never knew you meant that. Why, what's the 'urry? I must talk it over with my wife first. I never do a thing without consulting 'er.