Lord Dunsany. The Lost Silk Hat

      : A fashionable London street.

      {The Caller stands on a doorstep, "faultlessly dressed," buta hat. At first he shows despair, then a newengrosses him.
      Enter the Laborer.}
      Excuse me a moment. Excuse me -- but -- I'd be greatly
      obliged to you if -- if you could see your way -- in
      fact, you can be of great service to me if --
      Glad to do what I can, sir.
      Well, all I really want you to do is just to ring that
      bell and go up and say -- er -- say that you've come to
      see to the drains, or anything like that, you know, and
      get hold of my hat for me.
      Get hold of your 'at!
      Yes. You see, I left my hat behind most
      unfortunately. It's in the drawing-room {points to
      window}, that room there, half under the long sofa, the
      far end from the door. And if you could possibly go
      and get it, why I'd be {The Laborer's expression
      changes} -- Why, what's the matter?
      : {firmly}
      I don't like this job.
      Don't like this job! But, my dear fellow, don't be
      silly, what possible harm -- ?
      Ah-h. That's what I don't know.
      But what harm can there possibly be in so simple a
      request? What harm does there seem to be?
      Oh, it seems all right.
      *Well*, then.
      All these crack jobs do seem all right.
      But I'm not asking you to rob the house.
      Don't seem as if you are, certainly, but I don't like
      the looks of it; what if there's things what I can't
      'elp taking when I gets inside?
      I only want my hat -- Here, I say, please don't go away
      -- here's a sovereign, it will only take you a minute.
      *What I want to know* --
      -- Is what's *in* that hat?
      What's *in* the hat?
      Yes; that's what I want to know.
      What's *in* the hat?
      Yes, you are n't going to give me a sovereign -- ?
      I'll give you two sovereigns.
      You are n't going to give me a sovereign, and rise it
      to two sovereigns, for an *empty* hat?
      But I must have my hat. I can't be seen in the streets
      like this. There's nothing *in* the hat. What do you
      think's in the hat?
      Ah, I'm not clever enough to say that, but it looks as
      if the papers was in that hat.
      The papers?
      Yes, papers proving, if you can get them, that you're
      the heir to that big house, and some poor innocent will
      be defrauded.
      Look here, the hat's absolutely empty. I *must* have
      my hat. If there's anything in it you shall have it
      yourself as well as the two pounds, only get me my hat.
      Well, that seems all right.
      That's right, then you'll run up and get it?
      Seems all right to me and seems all right to you. But
      it's the police what you and I have got to think of.
      Will it seem all right to them?
      Oh, for heaven's sake --
      What a hopeless fool you are.
      Look here.
      Ah, I got you there, mister.
      Look here, for goodness sake don't go.
      Ah! {Exit}

      {Enter the Clerk}
      Excuse me, sir. Excuse me asking you, but, as you see,
      I am without a hat. I shall be extraordinarily obliged
      to you if you would be so very good as to get it for
      me. Pretend you have come to wind the clocks, you
      know. I left it in the drawing-room of this house,
      half under the long sofa, the far end.
      Oh, er -- all right, only --
      Thanks so much, I am immensely indebted to you. Just
      say you've come to wind the clocks, you know.
      I -- er -- don't think I'm very good at winding clocks,
      you know.
      Oh, that's all right, just stand in front of the clock
      and fool about with it. That's all they ever do. I
      must warn you there's a lady in the room.
      But that's all right, you know. Just walk past up to
      the clock.
      But I think, if you don't mind, as there's someone
      there --
      Oh, but she's quite young and very, very beautiful
      and --
      Why don't you get it yourself?
      That is impossible.
      Yes, I have sprained my ankle.
      Oh! Is it bad?
      Yes, very bad indeed.
      I don't mind trying to carry you up.
      No, that would be worse. My foot has to be kept on the
      But how will you get home?
      I can walk all right on the flat.
      I'm afraid I have to be going on. It's rather later
      than I thought.
      But for goodness sake don't leave me. You can't leave
      me here like this without a hat.
      I'm afraid I must, it's later than I thought.


      {Enter the Poet}
      Excuse me, sir. Excuse my stopping you. But I should
      be immensely obliged to you if you would do me a very
      great favor. I have unfortunately left my hat behind
      while calling at this house. It is half under the long
      sofa, at the far end. If you could possibly be so kind
      as to pretend you have come to tune the piano and fetch
      my hat for me I should be enormously grateful to you.
      But why cannot you get it for yourself?
      I cannot.
      If you would tell me the reason perhaps I could help
      I cannot. I can never enter that house again.
      If you have committed a murder, by all means tell me.
      I am not sufficiently interested in ethics to wish to
      have you hanged for it.
      Do I look like a murderer?
      No, of course not. I am only saying that you can
      safely trust me, for not only does the statute book and
      its penalties rather tend to bore me, and murder itself
      has always had a certain fascination for me. I write
      delicate and fastidious lyrics, yet, strange as it may
      appear, I read every murder trial, and my sympathies
      are always with the prisoner.
      But I tell you I am not a murderer.
      Then what have you done?
      I have quarrelled with a lady in that house and have
      sworn to join the Bosnians and die in Africa.
      But this is beautiful.
      Unfortunately I forgot my hat.
      You go to die for a hopeless love, and in a far
      country; it was the wont of the troubadours.
      But will you get my hat for me?
      That I will gladly do for you. But we must find an
      adequate reason for entering the house.
      You pretend to tune the piano.
      That, unfortunately, is impossible. The sound of a
      piano being unskillfully handled is to me what the
      continual drop of cold water on the same part of the
      head is said to be in countries where that interesting
      torture is practiced. There is --
      But what are we to do?
      There is a house where kind friends of mine have given
      me that security and comfort that are a poet's
      necessity. But there was a governess there and a
      piano. It is years and years since I was able even to
      see the faces of those friends without an inward
      Well, we'll have to think of something else.
      You are bringing back to these unhappy days the romance
      of an age of which the ballads tell us that kings
      sometimes fought in no other armor than their lady's
      Yes, but you know first of all I must get my *hat*.
      But why?
      I cannot possibly be seen in the streets without a hat.
      Why not?
      It can't be done.
      But you confuse externals with essentials.
      I don't know what you call essentials, but being
      decently dressed in London seems pretty essential to
      A hat is not one of the essential things of life.
      I don't want to appear rude, but my hat is n't quite
      like yours.
      Let us sit down and talk of things that matter, things
      that will be remembered after a hundred years. {They
      sit} Regarded in this light one sees at once the
      triviality of hats. But to die, and die beautifully
      for a hopeless love, that is a thing one could make a
      lyric about. That is the test of essential things --
      try and imagine them in a lyric. One could not write a
      lyric about a hat.
      I don't care whether you could write a lyric about my
      hat or whether you could n't. All I know is that I am
      not going to make myself absolutely ridiculous by
      walking about in London without a hat. Will you get it
      for me or will you not?
      To take any part in the tuning of a piano is impossible
      for me.
      Well, pretend you've come to look at the radiator.
      They have one under the window, and I happen to know it
      I suppose it has an artistic decoration on it.
      Yes, I think so.
      Then I decline to look at it or go near it. I know
      these decorations in cast iron. I once saw a
      pot-bellied Egyptian god, named Bes, and he was *meant*
      to be ugly, but he was n't as ugly as these decorations
      that the twentieth century can make with machinery.
      What has a plumber got to do with art that he should
      dare to attempt decoration?
      Then you won't help me.
      I won't look at ugly things and I won't listen to ugly
      noises, but if you can think of any reasonable plan I
      don't mind helping you.
      I can think of nothing else. You don't look like a
      plumber or a clock-winder. I can think of nothing
      more. I have had a terrible ordeal and I am not in the
      condition to think calmly.
      Then you will have to leave your hat to its altered
      Why can't you think of a plan? If you're a poet,
      thinking's rather in your line.
      If I could bring my thoughts to contemplate so absurd a
      thing as a hat for any length of time no doubt I could
      think of a plan, but the very triviality of the theme
      seems to drive them away.
      : {rising}
      Then I must get it myself.
      For Heaven's sake, don't do that! Think what it means!
      I know it will seem absurd, but not so absurd as
      walking through London without it.
      I don't mean that. But you will make it up. You will
      forgive each other, and you will marry her and have a
      family of noisy, pimply children like everyone else,
      and Romance will be dead. No, don't ring that bell.
      Go and buy a bayonet, or whatever one does buy, and
      join the Bosnians.
      I tell you I can't without a hat.
      What is a hat? Will you sacrifice for it a beautiful
      doom? Think of your bones, lying neglected and
      forgotten, lying forlornly because of hopeless love on
      endless golden sands. "Lying forlorn!" as Keats said.
      What a word! Forlorn in Africa. The careless Bedouins
      going past by day, at night the lion's roar, the
      grievous voice of the desert.
      As a matter of fact, I don't think you're right in
      speaking of it as desert. The Bosnians, I believe, are
      only taking it because it is supposed to be the most
      fertile land in the world.
      What of that? You will not be remembered by geography
      and statistics, but by golden-mouthed Romance. And
      that is how Romance sees Africa.
      Well, I'm going to get my hat.
      Think! Think! If you enter by that door you will
      never fall among the foremost Bosnians. You will never
      die in a far-off, lonely land to lie by immense
      Sahara. And she will never weep for your beautiful
      doom and call herself cruel in vain.
      Hark! She is playing the piano. It seems to me that
      she might be unhappy about it for years. I don't see
      much good in that.
      No. *I* will comfort her.
      I'm damned if you do! Look here! I don't mind saying,
      I'm damned if you do.
      Calm yourself. Calm yourself. I do not mean in that
      Then what on earth do you mean?
      I will make songs about your beautiful death, glad
      songs and sad songs. They shall be glad because they
      tell again the noble traditions of the troubadours, and
      sad because they tell of your sorrowful destiny and
      your hopeless love.
      I shall make legends about your lonely bones, telling
      perhaps how some Arabian men, finding them in the
      desert by some oasis, memorable in war, wonder who
      loved them. And then as I read them to her, she weeps
      perhaps a little, and I read instead of the glory of
      the soldier, how it overtops our transitory --
      Look here, I'm not aware that you've ever been
      introduced to her.
      A trifle, a trifle.
      It seems to me that you're in rather an undue hurry for
      me to get a Jubu spear in me; but I'm going to get my
      hat first.
      I appeal to you. I appeal to you in the name of
      beautiful battles, high deeds, and lost causes; in the
      name of love-tales told to cruel maidens and told in
      vain. In the name of stricken hearts broken like
      beautiful harp-strings, I appeal to you.
      I appeal in the ancient holy name of Romance; *do not
      ring that bell.*

      {Caller rings the bell.}
      : {sits down, abject}
      You will marry. You will sometimes take a ticket with
      your wife as far as Paris. Perhaps as far as Cannes.
      Then the family will come; a large sprawling family as
      far as the eye can see (I speak in hyperbole). You'll
      earn money and feed it and be like all the rest. No
      monument will ever be set up to your memory, but --

      {Servant answers bell. Caller says something
      inaudible. Exit through door.}
      : {rising, lifting hand}
      But let there be graven in brass upon this house;
      Romance was born again here out of due time and died
      young. {He sits down}

      {Enter Laborer and Clerk with Policeman. The music
      Anything wrong here?
      Everything's wrong. They're going to kill Romance.
      : {to Laborer}
      This gentleman does n't seem quite right somehow.
      They're none of them quite right today.

      {Music starts again}
      My God! It is a duet.
      He seems a bit wrong somehow.
      You should 'a seen the other one.