STRAKER. [calling after them] Don't none of you go fooling with that car, d'ye hear?
MENDOZA. No fear, Monsieur le Chauffeur. The first one we captured cured us of that.
STRAKER. [interested] What did it do?
MENDOZA. It carried three brave comrades of ours, who did not know how to stop it, into Granada, and capsized them opposite the police station. Since then we never touch one without sending for the chauffeur. Shall we chat at our ease?
TANNER. By all means.
Tanner, Mendoza, and Straker sit down on the turf by the fire. Mendoza delicately waives his presidential dignity, of which the right to sit on the squared stone block is the appanage, by sitting on the ground like his guests, and using the stone only as a support for his back.
MENDOZA. It is the custom in Spain always to put off business until to-morrow. In fact, you have arrived out of office hours. However, if you would prefer to settle the question of ransom at once, I am at your service.
TANNER. To-morrow will do for me. I am rich enough to pay anything in reason.
MENDOZA. [respectfully, much struck by this admission] You are a remarkable man, sir. Our guests usually describe themselves as miserably poor.
TANNER. Pooh! Miserably poor people don't own motor cars.
MENDOZA. Precisely what we say to them.
TANNER. Treat us well: we shall not prove ungrateful.
STRAKER. No prickly pears and broiled rabbits, you know. Don't tell me you can't do us a bit better than that if you like.
MENDOZA. Wine, kids, milk, cheese and bread can be procured for ready money.
STRAKER. [graciously] Now you're talking.
TANNER. Are you all Socialists here, may I ask?
MENDOZA. [repudiating this humiliating misconception] Oh no, no, no: nothing of the kind, I assure you. We naturally have modern views as to the justice of the existing distribution of wealth: otherwise we should lose our self-respect. But nothing that you could take exception to, except two or three faddists.
TANNER. I had no intention of suggesting anything discreditable. In fact, I am a bit of a Socialist myself.
STRAKER. [drily] Most rich men are, I notice.
MENDOZA. Quite so. It has reached us, I admit. It is in the air of the century.
STRAKER. Socialism must be looking up a bit if your chaps are taking to it.
MENDOZA. That is true, sir. A movement which is confined to philosophers and honest men can never exercise any real political influence: there are too few of them. Until a movement shows itself capable of spreading among brigands, it can never hope for a political majority.
TANNER. But are your brigands any less honest than ordinary citizens?
MENDOZA. Sir: I will be frank with you. Brigandage is abnormal. Abnormal professions attract two classes: those who are not good enough for ordinary bourgeois life and those who are too good for it. We are dregs and scum, sir: the dregs very filthy, the scum very superior.
STRAKER. Take care! some o the dregs'll hear you.
MENDOZA. It does not matter: each brigand thinks himself scum, and likes to hear the others called dregs.
TANNER. Come! you are a wit. [Mendoza inclines his head, flattered]. May one ask you a blunt question?
MENDOZA. As blunt as you please.
TANNER. How does it pay a man of your talent to shepherd such a flock as this on broiled rabbit and prickly pears? I have seen men less gifted, and I'll swear less honest, supping at the Savoy on foie gras and champagne.
MENDOZA. Pooh! they have all had their turn at the broiled rabbit, just as I shall have my turn at the Savoy. Indeed, I have had a turn there already — as waiter.
TANNER. A waiter! You astonish me!
MENDOZA. [reflectively] Yes: I, Mendoza of the Sierra, was a waiter. Hence, perhaps, my cosmopolitanism. [With sudden intensity] Shall I tell you the story of my life?
STRAKER. [apprehensively] If it ain't too long, old chap —
TANNER. [interrupting him] Tsh-sh: you are a Philistine, Henry: you have no romance in you. [To Mendoza] You interest me extremely, President. Never mind Henry: he can go to sleep.
MENDOZA. The woman I loved —
STRAKER. Oh, this is a love story, is it? Right you are. Go on: I was only afraid you were going to talk about yourself.
MENDOZA. Myself! I have thrown myself away for her sake: that is why I am here. No matter: I count the world well lost for her. She had, I pledge you my word, the most magnificent head of hair I ever saw. She had humor; she had intellect; she could cook to perfection; and her highly strung temperament made her uncertain, incalculable, variable, capricious, cruel, in a word, enchanting.
STRAKER. A six shillin novel sort o woman, all but the cookin. Er name was Lady Gladys Plantagenet, wasn't it?
MENDOZA. No, sir: she was not an earl's daughter. Photography, reproduced by the half-tone process, has made me familiar with the appearance of the daughters of the English peerage; and I can honestly say that I would have sold the lot, faces, dowries, clothes, titles, and all, for a smile from this woman. Yet she was a woman of the people, a worker: otherwise — let me reciprocate your bluntness — I should have scorned her.
TANNER. Very properly. And did she respond to your love?
MENDOZA. Should I be here if she did? She objected to marry a Jew.
TANNER. On religious grounds?
MENDOZA. No: she was a freethinker. She said that every Jew considers in his heart that English people are dirty in their habits.
TANNER. [surprised] Dirty!
MENDOZA. It showed her extraordinary knowledge of the world; for it is undoubtedly true. Our elaborate sanitary code makes us unduly contemptuous of the Gentile.
TANNER. Did you ever hear that, Henry?
STRAKER. I've heard my sister say so. She was cook in a Jewish family once.
MENDOZA. I could not deny it; neither could I eradicate the impression it made on her mind. I could have got round any other objection; but no woman can stand a suspicion of indelicacy as to her person. My entreaties were in vain: she always retorted that she wasn't good enough for me, and recommended me to marry an accursed barmaid named Rebecca Lazarus, whom I loathed. I talked of suicide: she offered me a packet of beetle poison to do it with. I hinted at murder: she went into hysterics; and as I am a living man I went to America so that she might sleep without dreaming that I was stealing upstairs to cut her throat. In America I went out west and fell in with a man who was wanted by the police for holding up trains. It was he who had the idea of holding up motors cars — in the South of Europe: a welcome idea to a desperate and disappointed man. He gave me some valuable introductions to capitalists of the right sort. I formed a syndicate; and the present enterprise is the result. I became leader, as the Jew always becomes leader, by his brains and imagination. But with all my pride of race I would give everything I possess to be an Englishman. I am like a boy: I cut her name on the trees and her initials on the sod. When I am alone I lie down and tear my wretched hair and cry Louisa —