Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Major Barbara

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Major Barbara


with an Essay as First Aid to Critics


Bernard Shaw, 105


ACT I


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It is after dinner on a January night, in the library in Lady Britomart Undershafts house in Wilton Crescent. A large and comfortable settee is in the middle of the room, upholstered in dark leather. A person sitting on it (it is vacant at present) would have, on his right, Lady Britomarts writing-table, with the lady herself busy at it; a smaller writing-table behind him on his left; the door behind him on Lady Britomarts side; and a window with a window-seat directly on his left. Near the window is an armchair.


Lady Britomart is a woman of fifty or thereabouts, well dressed and yet careless of her dress, well bred and quite reckless of her breeding, well mannered and yet appallingly outspoken and indifferent to the opinion of her interlocutors, amiable and yet peremptory, arbitrary, and high-tempered to the last bearable degree, and withal a very typical managing matron of the upper dass, treated as a naughty child until she grew into a scolding mother, and finally settling down with plenty of practical ability and worldly experience, limited in the oddest way with domestic and class limitations, conceiving the universe exactly as if it were a large house in Wilton Crescent, though handling her corner of it very effectively on that assumption, and being quite enlightened and liberal as to the books in the library, the pictures on the walls, the music in the portfolios, and the articles in the papers.


Her son, Stephen, comes in. He is a gravely correct young man under 5, taking himself very seriously, but still in some awe of his mother, from childish habit and bachelor shyness rather than from any weakness of character.


STEPHEN. Whats the matter?


LADY BRITOMART. Presently, Stephen. (Stephen submissively walks to the settee and sits down. He takes up The Speaker.)


LADY BRITOMART. Dont begin to read, Stephen. I shall require all your attention.


STEPHEN. It vas only while I was waiting --


LADY BRITOMART. Dont make excuses, Stephen. (He puts down The Speaker.) Now! (She finishes her writing; rises; and comes to the settee.) I have not kept you waiting v e r y long, I think.


STEPHEN. Not at all, mother.


LADY BRITOMART. Bring me my cushion. (He takes the cushion from the chair at the desk and arranges it for her as she sits down on the settee.) Sit down. (He sits down and fingers his tie nervously.) Dont fiddle with your tie, Stephen there is nothing the matter with it.


STEPHEN. I beg your pardon. (He paddles with his watch chain instead.)


LADY BRITOMART. Now are you attending to me, Stephen?


STEPHEN. Of course, mother.


LADY BRITOMART. No its n o t of course. I want something much more than your everyday matter-of-course attention. I am going to speak to you very seriously, Stephen. I wish you would let that chain alone.


STEPHEN (hastily relinquishing the chain). Have I done anything to annoy you, mother? If so, it was quite unintentional.


LADY BRITOMART (astonished). Nonsense! (With some remorse.) My poor boy, did you think I was angry with you?


STEPHEN. What is it, then, mother? You are making me very uneasy.


LADY BRITOMART (squaring herself at him rather aggressively). Stephen may I ask how soon you intend to realize that you are a grown-up man, and that I am only a woman?


STEPHEN (amazed). Only a --


LADY BRITOMART. Dont repeat my words, please it is a most aggravating habit. You must learn to face life seriously, Stephen. I really cannot bear the whole burden of our family affairs any longer. You must advise me you must assume the responsibility.


STEPHEN. I!


LADY BRITOMART. Yes, you, of course. You were 4 last June. Youve been at Harrow and Cambridge. Youve been to India and Japan. You must know a lot of things, now; unless you have wasted your time most scandalously. Well, a d v i s e me.


STEPHEN (much perplexed). You know I have never interfered in the household --


LADY BRITOMART. No I should think not. I dont want you to order the dinner.


STEPHEN. I mean in our family affairs.


LADY BRITOMART. Well, you must interfere now; for they are getting quite beyond me.


STEPHEN (troubled). I have thought sometimes that perhaps I ought; but really, mother, I know so little about them; and what I do know is so painful -- it is so impossible to mention some things to you -- (he stops, ashamed).


LADY BRITOMART. I suppose you mean your father.


STEPHEN (almost inaudibly). Yes.


LADY BRITOMART. My dear we cant go on all our lives not mentioning him. Of course you were quite right not to open the subject until I asked you to; but you are old enough now to be taken into my confidence, and to help me to deal with him about the girls.


STEPHEN. But the girls are all right. They are engaged.


LADY BRITOMART (complacently). Yes I have made a very good match for Sarah. Charles Lomax will be a millionaire at 5. But that is ten years ahead; and in the meantime his trustees cannot under the terms of his fathers will allow him more than L800 a year.


STEPHEN. But the will says also that if he increases his income by his own exertions, they may double the increase.


LADY BRITOMART. Charles Lomaxs exertions are much more likely to decrease his income than to increase it. Sarah will have to find at least another L800 a year for the next ten years; and even then they will be as poor as church mice. And what about Barbara? I thought Barbara was going to make the most brilliant career of all of you. And what does she do? Joins the Salvation Army; discharges her maid; lives on a pound a week; and walks in one evening with a professor of Greek whom she has picked up in the street, and who pretends to be a Salvationist, and actually plays the big drum for her in public because he has fallen head over ears in love with her.


STEPHEN. I was certainly rather taken aback when I heard they were engaged. Cusins is a very nice fellow, certainly nobody would ever guess that he was born in Australia; but --


LADY BRITOMART. Oh, Adolphus Cusins will make a very good husband. After all, nobody can say a word against Greek it stamps a man at once as an educated gentleman. And my family, thank Heaven, is not a pig-headed Tory one. We are Whigs, and believe in liberty. Let snobbish people say what they please Barbara shall marry, not the man they like, but the man I like.


STEPHEN. Of course I was thinking only of his income. However, he is not likely to be extravagant.


LADY BRITOMART. Dont be too sure of that, Stephen. I know your quiet, simple, refined, poetic people like Adolphus--quite content with the best of everything! They cost more than your extravagant people, who are always as mean as they are second rate. No Barbara will need at least L000 a year. You see it means two additional households. Besides, my dear, y o u must marry soon. I dont approve of the present fashion of philandering bachelors and late marriages; and I am trying to arrange something for you.


STEPHEN. Its very good of you, mother; but perhaps I had better arrange that for myself.


LADY BRITOMART. Nonsense! you are much too young to begin matchmaking you would be taken in by some pretty little nobody. Of course I dont mean that you are not to be consulted you know that as well as I do. (Stephen closes his lips and is silent.) Now dont sulk, Stephen.


STEPHEN. I am not sulking, mother. What has all this got to do with -- with -- with my father?


LADY BRITOMART. My dear Stephen where is the money to come from? It is easy enough for you and the other children to live on my income as long as we are in the same house; but I cant keep four families in four separate houses. You know how poor my father is he has barely seven thousand a year now; and really, if he were not the Earl of Stevenage, he would have to give up society. He can do nothing for us. He says, naturally enough, that it is absurd that he should be asked to provide for the children of a man who is rolling in money. You see, Stephen, your father must be fabulously wealthy, because there is always a war going on somewhere.


STEPHEN. You need not remind me of that, mother. I have hardly ever opened a newspaper in my life without seeing our name in it. The Undershaft torpedo! The Undershaft quick firers! The Undershaft ten inch! the Undershaft disappearing rampart gun! the Undershaft submarine! and now the Undershaft aerial battleship! At Harrow they called me the Woolwich Infant. At Cambridge it was the same. A little brute at Kings who was always trying to get up revivals, spoilt my Bible -- your first birthday present to me -- by writing under my name, Son and heir to Undershaft and Lazarus, Death and Destruction Dealers address, Christendom and Judea. But that was not so bad as the way I was kowtowed to everywhere because my father was making millions by selling cannons.


LADY BRITOMART. It is not only the cannons, but the war loans that Lazarus arranges under cover of giving credit for the cannons. You know, Stephen, its perfectly scandalous. Those two men, Andrew Undershaft and Lazarus, positively have Europe under their thumbs. That is why your father is able to behave as he does. He is above the law. Do you think Bismarck or Gladstone or Disraeli could have openly defied every social and moral obligation all their lives as your father has? They simply wouldnt have dared. I asked Gladstone to take it up. I asked The Times to take it up. I asked the Lord Chamberlain to take it up. But it was just like asking them to declare war on the Sultan. They w o u l d n t. They said they couldnt touch him. I believe they were afraid.


STEPHEN. What could they do? He does not actually break the law.


LADY BRITOMART. Not break the law! He is always breaking the law. He broke the law when he was born his parents were not married.


STEPHEN. Mother! Is that true?


LADY BRITOMART. Of course its true that was why we separated.


STEPHEN. He married without letting you know this!


LADY BRITOMART (rather taken aback by this inference). Oh no. To do Andrew justice, that was not the sort of thing he did. Besides, you know the Undershaft motto Unashamed. Everybody knew.


STEPHEN. But you said that was why you separated.


LADY BRITOMART. Yes, because he was not content with being a foundling himself he wanted to disinherit you for another foundling. That was what I couldnt stand.


STEPHEN (ashamed). Do you mean for -- for -- for --


LADY BRITOMART. Dont stammer, Stephen. Speak distinctly.


STEPHEN. But this so frightful to me, mother. To have to speak to you about such things!


LADY BRITOMART. Its not pleasant for me, either, especially if you are still so childish that you must make it worse by a display of embarrassment. It is only in the middle classes, Stephen, that people get into a state of dumb helpless horror when they find that there are wicked people in the world. In our class, we have to decide what is to be done with wicked people; and nothing should disturb our self-possession. Now ask your question properly.


STEPHEN. Mother you have no consideration for me. For Heavens sake either treat me as a child, as you always do, and tell me nothing at all; or tell me everything and let me take it as best I can.


LADY BRITOMART. Treat you as a child! What do you mean? It is most unkind and ungrateful of you to say such a thing. You know I have never treated any of you as children. I have always made you my companions and friends, and allowed you perfect freedom to do and say whatever you liked, so long as you liked what I could approve of.


STEPHEN (desperately). I daresay we have been the very imperfect children of a very perfect mother; but I do beg you to let me alone for once, and tell me about this horrible business of my father wanting to set me aside for another son.


LADY BRITOMART (amazed). Another son! I never said anything of the kind. I never dreamt of such a thing. This is what comes of interrupting me.


STEPHEN. But you said --


LADY BRITOMART (cutting him shot). Now be a good boy, Stephen, and listen to me patiently. The Undershafts are descended from a foundling in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft in the city. That was long ago, in the reign of James the First. Well, this foundling was adopted by an armorer and gun-maker. In the course of time the foundling succeeded to the business; and from some notion of gratitude, or some vow or something, he adopted another foundling, and left the business to him. And that foundling did the same. Ever since that, the cannon business has always been left to an adopted foundling named Andrew Undershaft.


STEPHEN. But did they never marry? Were there no legitimate sons?


LADY BRITOMART. Oh yes they married just as your father did; and they were rich enough to buy land for their own children and leave them well provided for. But they always adopted and trained some foundling to succeed them in the business; and of course they always quarrelled with their wives furiously over it. Your father was adopted in that way; and he pretends to consider himself bound to keep up the tradition and adopt somebody to leave the business to. Of course I was not going to stand that. There may have been some reason for it when the Undershafts could only marry women in their own class, whose sons were not fit to govern great estates. But there could be no excuse for passing over m y son.


STEPHEN (dubiously). I am afraid I should make a poor hand of managing a cannon foundry.


LADY BRITOMART. Nonsense! you could easily get a manager and pay him a salary.


STEPHEN. My father evidently had no great opinion of my capacity.


LADY BRITOMART. Stuff, child! you were only a baby it had nothing to do with your capacity. Andrew did it on principle, just as he did every perverse and wicked thing on principle. When my father remonstrated, Andrew actually told him to his face that history tells us of only two successful institutions one the Undershaft firm, and the other the Roman Empire under the Antonines. That was because the Antonine emperors all adopted their successors. Such rubbish! The Stevenages are as good as the Antonines, I hope; and you are a Stevenage. But that was Andrew all over. There you have the man! Always clever and unanswerable when he was defending nonsense and wickedness always awkward and sullen when he had to behave sensibly and decently!


STEPHEN. Then it was on my account that your home life was broken up, mother. I am sorry.


LADY BRITOMART. Well, dear, there were other differences. I really cannot bear an immoral man. I am not a Pharisee, I hope; and I should not have minded his merely doing wrong things we are none of us perfect. But your father didnt exactly d o wrong things he said them and thought them that was what was so dreadful. He really had a sort of religion of wrongness. Just as one doesnt mind men practising immorality so long as they own that they are in the wrong by preaching morality; so I couldnt forgive Andrew for preaching immorality while he practised morality. You would all have grown up without principles, without any knowledge of right and wrong, if he had been in the house. You know, my dear, your father was a very attractive man in some ways. Children did not dislike him; and he took advantage of it to put the wickedest ideas into their heads, and make them quite unmanageable. I did not dislike him myself very far from it; but nothing can bridge over moral disagreement.


STEPHEN. All this simply bewilders me, mother. People may differ about matters of opinion, or even about religion; but how can they differ about right and wrong? Right is right; and wrong is wrong; and if a man cannot distinguish them properly, he is either a fool or a rascal thats all.


LADY BRITOMART (touched). Thats my own boy (she pats his cheek)! Your father never could answer that he used to laugh and get out of it under cover of some affectionate nonsense. And now that you understand the situation, what do you advise me to do?


STEPHEN. Well, what c a n you do?


LADY BRITOMART. I must get the money somehow.


STEPHEN. We cannot take money from him. I had rather go and live in some cheap place like Bedford Square or even Hampstead than take a farthing of his money.


LADY BRITOMART. But after all, Stephen, our present income comes from Andrew.


STEPHEN (shocked). I never knew that.


LADY BRITOMART. Well, you surely didnt suppose your grandfather had anything to give me. The Stevenages could not do everything for you. We gave you social position. Andrew had to contribute s o m e t h i n g. He had a very good bargain, I think.


STEPHEN (bitterly). We are utterly dependent on him and his cannons, then?


LADY BRITOMART. Certainly not the money is settled. But he provided it. So you see it is not a question of taking money from him or not it is simply a question of how much. I dont want any more for myself.


STEPHEN. Nor do I.


LADY BRITOMART. But Sarah does; and Barbara does. That is, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins will cost them more. So I must put my pride in my pocket and ask for it, I suppose. That is your advice, Stephen, is it not?


STEPHEN. No.


LADY BRITOMART (sharply). Stephen!


STEPHEN. Of course if you are determined --


LADY BRITOMART. I am not determined I ask your advice; and I am waiting for it. I will not have all the responsibility thrown on my shoulders.


STEPHEN (obstinately). I would die sooner than ask him for another penny.


LADY BRITOMART (resignedly). You mean that I must ask him. Very well, Stephen it shall be as you wish. You will be glad to know that your grandfather concurs. But he thinks I ought to ask Andrew to come here and see the girls. After all, he must have some natural affection for them.


STEPHEN. Ask him here!!!


LADY BRITOMART. Do n o t repeat my words, Stephen. Where else can I ask him?


STEPHEN. I never expected you to ask him at all.


LADY BRITOMART. Now dont tease, Stephen. Come! you see that it is necessary that he should pay us a visit, dont you?


STEPHEN (reluctantly). I suppose so, if the girls cannot do without his money.


LADY BRITOMART. Thank you, Stephen I knew you would give me the right advice when it was properly explained to you. I have asked your father to come this evening. (Stephen bounds from his seat.) Dont jump, Stephen it fidgets me.


STEPHEN (in utter consternation). Do you mean to say that my father is coming here to-night -- that he may be here at any moment?


LADY BRITOMART (looking at her watch). I said nine. (He gasps. She rises.) Ring the bell, please. (Stephen goes to the smaller writing table; presses a button on it; and sits at it with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands, outwitted and overwhelmed.) It is ten minutes to nine yet; and I have to prepare the girls. I asked Charles Lomax and Adolphus to dinner on purpose that they might be here. Andrew had better see them in case he should cherish any delusions as to their being capable of supporting their wives. (The butler enters Lady Britomart goes behind the settee to speak to him.) Morrison go up to the drawingroom and tell everybody to come down here at once. (Morrison withdraws. Lady Britomart turns to Stephen.) Now remember, Stephen I shall need all your countenance and authority. (He rises and tries to recover some vestige of these attributes.) Give me a chair, dear. (He pushes a chair forward from the wall to where she stands, near the smaller writing table. She sits down; and he goes to the arm-chair, into which he throws himself.) I dont know how Barbara will take it. Ever since they made her a major in the Salvation Army she has developed a propensity to have her own way and order people about which quite cows me sometimes. Its not ladylike Im sure I dont know where she picked it up. Anyhow, Barbara shant bully m e; but still its just as well that your father should be here before she has time to refuse to meet him or make a fuss. Dont look nervous, Stephen; it will only encourage Barbara to make difficulties. I am nervous enough, goodness knows; but I dont shew it.


Sarah and Barbara come in with their respective young men, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins. Sarah is slender, bored, and mundane. Barbara is robuster, jollier, much more energetic. Sarah is fashionably dressed Barbara is in Salvation Army uniform. Lomax, a young man about town, is like many other young men about town. He is afflicted with a frivolous sense of humor which plunges him at the most inopportune moments into paroxysms of imperfectly suppressed laughter. Cusins is a spectacled student, slight, thin haired, and sweet voiced, with a more complex form of Lomaxs complaint. His sense of humor is intellectual and subtle, and is complicated by an appalling temper. The lifelong struggle of a benevolent temperament and a high conscience against impulses of inhuman ridicule and fierce impatience has set up a chronic strain which has visibly wrecked his constitution. He is a most implacable, determined, tenacious, intolerant person who by mere force of character presents himself as -- and indeed actually is -- considerate, gentle, explanatory, even mild and apologetic, capable possibly of murder, but not of cruelty or coarseness. By the operation of some instinct which is not merciful enough to blind him with the illusions of love, he is obstinately bent on marrying Barbara. Lomax likes Sarah and thinks it will be rather a lark to marry her. Consequently he has not attempted to resist Lady Britomarts arrangements to that end.


All four look as if they had been having a good deal of fun in the drawingroom. The girls enter first, leaving the swains outside. Sarah comes to the settee. Barbara comes in after her and stops at the door.


BARBARA. Are Cholly and Dolly to come in?


LADY BRITOMART (forcibly). Barbara I will not have Charles called Cholly the vulgarity of it positively makes me ill.


BARBARA. Its all right, mother. Cholly is quite correct nowadays. Are they to come in?


LADY BRITOMART. Yes, if they will behave themselves.


BARBARA (through the door). Come in, Dolly, and behave yourself.


Barbara comes to her mothers writing table. Cusins enters smiling, and wanders towards Lady Britomart.


SARAH (calling). Come in, Cholly. (Lomax enters, controlling his features very imperfectly, and places himself vaguely between Sarah and Barbara.)


LADY BRITOMART (peremptorily). Sit down, all of you. (They sit. Cusins crosses to the window and seats himself there. Lomax takes a chair. Barbara sits at the writing table and Sarah on the settee.) I dont in the least know what you are laughing at, Adolphus. I am surprised at you, though I expected nothing better from Charles Lomax.


CUSINS (in a remarkably gentle voice). Barbara has been trying to teach me the West Ham Salvation March.


LADY BRITOMART. I see nothing to laugh at in that; nor should you if you are really converted.


CUSINS (sweetly). You were not present. It was really funny, I believe.


LOMAX. Ripping.


LADY BRITOMART. Be quiet, Charles. Now listen to me, children. Your father is coming here this evening. (General stupefaction.)


LOMAX (remonstrating). Oh I say!


LADY BRITOMART. You are not called on to say anything, Charles.


SARAH. Are you serious, mother?


LADY BRITOMART. Of course I am serious. It is on your account, Sarah, and also on Charless. (Silence. Charles looks painfully unworthy.) I hope you are not going to object, Barbara.


BARBARA. I! why should I? My father has a soul to be saved like anybody else. Hes quite welcome as far as I am concerned.


LOMAX (still remonstrant). But really, dont you know! Oh I say!


LADY BRITOMART (frigidly). What do you wish to convey, Charles?


LOMAX. Well, you must admit that this is a bit thick.


LADY BRITOMART (turning with ominous suavity to Cusins). Adolphus you are a professor of Greek. Can you translate Charles Lomaxs remarks into reputable English for us?


CUSINS (cautiously). If I may say so, Lady Brit, I think Charles has rather happily expressed what we all feel. Homer, speaking of Autolycus, uses the same phrase. pukinon domon elthein means a bit thick.


LOMAX (handsomely). Not that I mind, you know, if Sarah dont.


LADY BRITOMART (crushingly). Thank you. Have I your permission, Adolphus, to invite my own husband to my own house?


CUSINS (gallantly). You have my unhesitating support in everything you do.


LADY BRITOMART. Sarah have you nothing to say?


SARAH. Do you mean that he is coming regularly to live here?


LADY BRITOMART. Certainly not. The spare room is ready for him if he likes to stay for a day or two and see a little more of you; but there are limits.


SARAH. Well, he cant eat us, I suppose. I dont mind.


LOMAX (chuckling). I wonder how the old man will take it.


LADY BRITOMART. Much as the old woman will, no doubt, Charles.


LOMAX (abashed). I didnt mean -- at least --


LADY BRITOMART. You didnt t h i n k, Charles. You never do; and the result is, you never mean anything. And now please attend to me, children. Your father will be quite a stranger to us.


LOMAX. I suppose he hasnt seen Sarah since she was a little kid.


LADY BRITOMART. Not since she was a little kid, Charles, as you express it with that elegance of diction and refinement of thought that seem never to desert you. Accordingly -- er -- (impatiently) Now I have forgotten what I was going to say. That comes of your provoking me to be sarcastic, Charles. Adolphus will you kindly tell me where I was.


CUSINS (sweetly). You were saying that as Mr. Undershaft has not seen his children since they were babies, he will form his opinion of the way you have brought them up from their behavior to-night, and that therefore you wish us all to be particularly careful to conduct ourselves well, especially Charles.


LOMAX. Look here Lady Brit didnt say that.


LADY BRITOMART (vehemently). I did, Charles. Adolphuss recollection is perfectly correct. It is most important that you should be good; and I do beg you for once not to pair off into opposite corners and giggle and whisper while I am speaking to your father.


BARBARA. All right, mother. Well do you credit.


LADY BRITOMART. Remember, Charles, that Sarah will want to feel proud of you instead of ashamed of you.


LOMAX. Oh I say! theres nothing to be exactly proud of, dont you know.


LADY BRITOMART. Well, try and look as if there was.


Morrison, pale and dismayed, breaks into the room in unconcealed disorder.


MORRISON. Might I speak a word to you, my lady?


LADY BRITOMART. Nonsense! Shew him up.


MORRISON. Yes, my lady. (He goes.)


LOMAX. Does Morrison know who it is?


LADY BRITOMART. Of course. Morrison has always been with us.


LOMAX. It must be a regular corker for him, dont you know.


LADY BRITOMART. Is this a moment to get on my nerves, Charles, with your outrageous expressions?


LOMAX. But this is something out of the ordinary, really --


MORRISON (at the door). The -- er -- Mr. Undershaft. (He retreats in confusion.)


Andrew Undershaft comes in. All rise. Lady Britomart meets him in the middle of the room behind the settee.


Andrew is, on the surface, a stoutish, easygoing elderly man, with kindly patient manners, and an engaging simplicity of character. But he has a watchful, deliberate, waiting, listening face, and formidable reserves of power, both bodily and mental, in his capacious chest and long head. His gentleness is partly that of a strong man who has learnt by experience that his natural grip hurts ordinary people unless he handles them very carefully, and partly the mellowness of age and success. He is also a little shy in his present very delicate situation.


LADY BRITOMART. Good evening, Andrew.


UNDERSHAFT. How dye do, my dear.


LADY BRITOMART. You look a good deal older.


UNDERSHAFT (apologetically). I a m somewhat older. (With a touch of courtship.) Time has stood still with you.


LADY BRITOMART (promptly). Rubbish! This is your family.


UNDERSHAFT (surprised). Is it so large? I am sorry to say my memory is failing very badly in some things. (He offers his hand with paternal kindness to Lomax.)


LOMAX (jerkily shaking his hand). Ahdedoo.


UNDERSHAFT. I can see you are my eldest. I am very glad to meet you again, my boy.


LOMAX (remonstrating). No but look here dont you know -- (Overcome.) Oh I say!


LADY BRITOMART (recovering from momentary speechlessness). Andrew do you mean to say that you dont remember how many children you have?


UNDERSHAFT. Well, I am afraid I --. They have grown so much -- er. Am I making any ridiculous mistake? I may as well confess I recollect only one son. But so many things have happened since, of course -- er --


LADY BRITOMART (decisively). Andrew you are talking nonsense. Of course you have only one son.


UNDERSHAFT. Perhaps you will be good enough to introduce me, my dear.


LADY BRITOMART. That is Charles Lomax, who is engaged to Sarah.


UNDERSHAFT. My dear sir, I beg your pardon.


LOMAX. Notatall. Delighted, I assure you.


LADY BRITOMART. This is Stephen.


UNDERSHAFT (bowing). Happy to make your acquaintance, Mr. Stephen. Then (going to Cusins) y o u must be my son. (Taking Cusins hands in his.) How are you, my young friend? (To Lady Britomart.) He is very like you, my love.


CUSINS. You flatter me, Mr. Undershaft. My name is Cusins engaged to Barbara. (Very explicitly.) That is Major Barbara Undershaft, of the Salvation Army. That is Sarah, your second daughter. This is Stephen Undershaft, your son.


UNDERSHAFT. My dear Stephen, I b e g your pardon.


STEPHEN. Not at all.


UNDERSHAFT. Mr. Cusins I am much indebted to you for explaining so precisely. (Turning to Sarah.) Barbara, my dear --


SARAH (prompting him). Sarah.


UNDERSHAFT. Sarah, of course. (They shake hands. He goes over to Barbara.) Barbara -- I am right this time, I hope.


BARBARA. Quite right. (They shake hands.)


LADY BRITOMART (resuming command). Sit down, all of you. Sit down, Andrew. (She comes forward and sits on the settee. Cusins also brings his chair forward on her left. Barbara and Stephen resume their seats. Lomax gives his chair to Sarah and goes for another.)


UNDERSHAFT. Thank you, my love.


LOMAX (conversationally, as he brings a chair forward between the writing table and the settee, and offers it to Undershaft). Takes you some time to find out exactly where you are, dont it?


UNDERSHAFT (accepting the chair). That is not what embarrasses me, Mr. Lomax. My difficulty is that if I play the part of a father, I shall produce the effect of an intrusive stranger; and if I play the part of a discreet stranger, I may appear a callous father.


LADY BRITOMART. There is no need for you to play any part at all, Andrew. You had much better be sincere and natural.


UNDERSHAFT (submissively). Yes, my dear I daresay that will be best. (Making himself comfortable.) Well, here I am. Now what can I do for you all?


LADY BRITOMART. You need not do anything, Andrew. You are one of the family. You can sit with us and enjoy yourself.


Lomaxs too long suppressed mirth explodes in agonized neighings.


LADY BRITOMART (outraged). Charles Lomax if you can behave yourself, behave yourself. If not, leave the room.


LOMAX. Im awfully sorry, Lady Brit; but really, you know, upon my soul! (He sits on the settee between Lady Britomart and Undershaft, quite overcome.)


BARBARA. Why dont you laugh if you want to Cholly? Its good for your inside.


LADY BRITOMART. Barbara you have had the education of a lady. Please let your father see that; and dont talk like a street girl.


UNDERSHAFT. Never mind me, my dear. As you know, I am not a gentleman; and I was never educated.


LOMAX (encouragingly). Nobodyd know it, I assure you. You look all right, you know.


CUSINS. Let me advise you to study Greek, Mr. Undershaft. Greek scholars are privileged men. Few of them know Greek; and none of them know anything else; but their position is unchallengeable. Other languages are the qualifications of waiters and commercial travellers Greek is to a man of position what the hallmark is to silver.


BARBARA. Dolly dont be insincere. Cholly fetch your concertina and play something for us.


LOMAX (doubtfully to Undershaft). Perhaps that sort of thing isnt in your line, eh?


UNDERSHAFT. I am particularly fond of music.


LOMAX (delighted). Are you? Then Ill get it. (He goes upstairs for the instrument.)


UNDERSHAFT. Do you play, Barbara?


BARBARA. Only the tambourine. But Chollys teaching me the concertina.


UNDERSHAFT. Is Cholly also a member of the Salvation Army?


BARBARA. No he says its bad form to be a dissenter. But I dont despair of Cholly. I made him come yesterday to a meeting at the dock gates, and took the collection in his hat.


LADY BRITOMART. It is not my doing, Andrew. Barbara is old enough to take her own way. She has no father to advise her.


BARBARA. Oh yes she has. There are no orphans in the Salvation Army.


UNDERSHAFT. Your father there has a great many children and plenty of experience, eh?


BARBARA (looking at him with quick interest and nodding). Just so. How did y o u come to understand that? (Lomax is heard at the door trying the concertina.)


LADY BRITOMART. Come in, Charles. Play us something at once.


LOMAX. Righto! (He sits down in his former place, and preludes.)


UNDERSHAFT. One moment, Mr. Lomax. I am rather interested in the Salvation Army. Its motto might be my own Blood and Fire.


LOMAX (shocked). But not your sort of blood and fire, you know.


UNDERSHAFT. My sort of blood cleanses my sort of fire purifies.


BARBARA. So do ours. Come down to-morrow to my shelter -- the West Ham shelter -- and see what were doing. We re going to march to a great meeting in the Assembly Hall at Mile End. Come and see the shelter and then march with us it will do you a lot of good. Can you play anything?


UNDERSHAFT. In my youth I earned pennies, and even shillings occasionally, in the streets and in public house parlors by my natural talent for stepdancing. Later on, I became a member of the Undershaft orchestral society, and performed passably on the tenor trombone.


LOMAX (scandalized). Oh I say!


BARBARA. Many a sinner has played himself into heaven on the trombone, thanks to the Army.


LOMAX (to Barbara, still rather shocked). Yes; but what about the cannon business, dont you know? (To Undershaft.) Getting into heaven is not exactly in your line, is it?


LADY BRITOMART. Charles!!!


LOMAX. Well; but it stands to reason, dont it? The cannon business may be necessary and all that we cant get on without cannons; but it isnt right, you know. On the other hand, there may be a certain amount of tosh about the Salvation Army -- I belong to the Established Church myself -- but still you cant deny that its religion; and you cant go against religion, can you? At least unless youre downright immoral, dont you know.


UNDERSHAFT. You hardly appreciate my position, Mr. Lomax --


LOMAX (hastily). Im not saying anything against you personally, you know.


UNDERSHAFT. Quite so, quite so. But consider for a moment. Here I am, a manufacturer of mutilation and murder. I find myself in a specially amiable humor just now because, this morning, down at the foundry, we blew twenty-seven dummy soldiers into fragments with a gun which formerly destroyed only thirteen.


LOMAX (leniently). Well, the more destructive war becomes, the sooner it will be abolished, eh?


UNDERSHAFT. Not at all. The more destructive war becomes the more fascinating we find it. No, Mr. Lomax I am obliged to you for making the usual excuse for my trade; but I am not ashamed of it. I am not one of those men who keep their morals and their business in watertight compartments. All the spare money my trade rivals spend on hospitals, cathedrals and other receptacles for conscience money, I devote to experiments and researches in improved methods of destroying life and property. I have always done so; and I always shall. Therefore your Christmas card moralities of peace on earth and goodwill among men are of no use to me. Your Christianity, which enjoins you to resist not evil, and to turn the other cheek, would make me a bankrupt. M y morality -- my religion -- must have a place for cannons and torpedoes in it.


STEPHEN (coldly -- almost sullenly). You speak as if there were half a dozen moralities and religions to choose from, instead of one true morality and one true religion.


UNDERSHAFT. For me there is only one true morality; but it might not fit you, as you do not manufacture aerial battleships. There is only one true morality for every man; but every man has not the same true morality.


LOMAX (overtaxed). Wold you mind saying that again? I didnt quite follow it.


CUSINS. Its quite simple. As Euripides says, one mans meat is another mans poison morally as well as physically.


UNDERSHAFT. Precisely.


LOMAX. Oh, that. Yes, yes, yes. True. True.


STEPHEN. In other words some men are honest and some are scoundrels.


BARBARA. Bosh. There are no scoundrels.


UNDERSHAFT. Indeed? Are there any good men?


BARBARA. No. Not one. There are neither good men nor scoundrels there are just children of one Father; and the sooner they stop calling one another names the better. You neednt talk to me I know them. Ive had scores of them through my hands scoundrels, criminals, infidels, philanthropists, missionaries, county councillors, all sorts. Theyre all just the same sort of sinner; and theres the same salvation ready for them all.


UNDERSHAFT. May I ask have you ever saved a maker of cannons?


BARBARA. No. Will you let me try?


UNDERSHAFT. Well, I will make a bargain with you. If I go to see you to-morrow in your Salvation Shelter, will you come the day after to see me in my cannon works?


BARBARA. Take care. It may end in your giving up the cannons for the sake of the Salvation Army.


UNDERSHAFT. Are you sure it will not end in your giving up the Salvation Army for the sake of the cannons?


BARBARA. I will take my chance of that.


UNDERSHAFT. And I will take my chance of the other. (They shake hands on it.) Where is your shelter?


BARBARA. In West Ham. At the sign of the cross. Ask anybody in Canning Town. Where are your works?


UNDERSHAFT. In Perivale St. Andrews. At the sign of the sword. Ask anybody in Europe.


LOMAX. Hadnt I better play something?


BARBARA. Yes. Give us Onward, Christian Soldiers.


LOMAX. Well, thats rather a strong order to begin with, dont you know. Suppose I sing Thourt passing hence, my brother. Its much the same tune.


BARBARA. Its too melancholy. You get saved, Cholly; and youll pass hence, my brother, without making such a fuss about it.


LADY BRITOMART. Really, Barbara, you go on as if religion were a pleasant subject. Do have some sense of propriety.


UNDERSHAFT. I do not find it an unpleasant subject, my dear. It is the only one that capable people really care for.


LADY BRITOMART (looking at her watch). Well, if you are determined to have it, I insist on having it in a proper and respectable way. Charles ring for prayers. (General amazement. Stephen rises in dismay.)


LOMAX (rising). Oh I say!


UNDERSHAFT (rising). I am afraid I must be going.


LADY BRITOMART. You cannot go now, Andrew it would be most improper. Sit down. What will the servants think?


UNDERSHAFT. My dear I have conscientious scruples. May I suggest a compromise? If Barbara will conduct a little service in the drawingroom, with Mr. Lomax as organist, I will attend it willingly. I will even take part, if a trombone can be procured.


LADY BRITOMART. Dont mock, Andrew.


UNDERSHAFT (shocked -- to Barbara). You dont think I am mocking, my love, I hope.


BARBARA. No, of course not; and it wouldnt matter if you were half the Army came to their first meeting for a lark. (Rising.) Come along. Come, Dolly, Come, Cholly. (She goes out with Undershaft, who opens the door for her. Cusins rises.)


LADY BRITOMART. I will not be disobeyed by everybody. Adolphus sit down. Charles you may go. You are not fit for prayers you cannot keep your countenance.


LOMAX. Oh I say! (He goes out.)


LADY BRITOMART (continuing). But you, Adolphus, can behave yourself if you choose to. I insist on your staying.


CUSINS. My dear Lady Brit there are things in the family prayer book that I couldnt bear to hear you say.


LADY BRITOMART. What things, pray?


CUSINS. Well, you would have to say before all the servants that we have done things we ought not to have done, and left undone things we ought to have done, and that there is no health in us. I cannot bear to hear you doing yourself such an injustice, and Barbara such an injustice. As for myself, I flatly deny it I have done my best. I shouldnt dare to marry Barbara -- I couldnt look you in the face -- if it were true. So I must go to the drawingroom.


LADY BRITOMART (offended). Well, go. (He starts for the door.) And remember this, Adolphus (he turns to listen) I have a very strong suspicion that you went to the Salvation Army to worship Barbara and nothing else. And I quite appreciate the very clever way in which you systematically humbug me. I have found you out. Take care Barbara doesnt. Thats all.


CUSINS (with unruffled sweetness). Dont tell on me. (He goes out.)


LADY BRITOMART. Sarah if you want to go, go. Anythings better than to sit there as if you wished you were a thousand miles away.


SARAH (languidly). Very well, mamma. (She goes.) Lady Britomart, with a sudden flounce, gives way to a little gust of tears.


STEPHEN (going to her). Mother whats the matter?


LADY BRITOMART (swishing away her tears with her handkerchief). Nothing. Foolishness. You can go with him, too, if you like, and leave me with the servants.


STEPHEN. Oh, you mustnt think that, mother. I-I dont like him.


LADY BRITOMART. The others do. That is the injustice of a womans lot. A woman has to bring up her children; and that means to restrain tbem, to deny them things they want, to set them tasks, to punish them when they do wrong, to do all the unpleasant things. And then the father, who has nothing to do but pet them and spoil them, comes in when all her work is done and steals their affection from her.


STEPHEN. He has not stolen our affection from you. It is only curiosity.


LADY BRITOMART (violently). I wont be consoled, Stephen. There is nothing the matter with me. (She rises and goes towards the door.)


STEPHEN. Where are you going, mother?


LADY BRITOMART. To the drawingroom, of course. (She goes out. Onward, Christian Soldiers, on the concertina, with tambourine accompaniment, is heard when the door opens.) Are you coming, Stephen?


STEPHEN. No. Certainly not. (She goes. He sits down on the settee, with compressed lips and an expression of strong dislike.)


END OF ACT I


ACT II


The yard of the West Ham shelter of the Salvation Army is a cold place on a January morning. The building itself, an old warehouse, is newly whitewashed. Its gabled end projects into the yard in the middle, with a door on the ground floor, and another in the loft above it without any balcony or ladder, but with a pulley rigged over it for hoisting sacks. Those who come from this central gable end into the yard have the gateway leading to the street on their left, with a stone horse-trough just beyond it, and, on the right, a penthouse shielding a table from the weather. There are forms at the table, and on them are seated a man and a woman, both much down on their luck, finishing a meal of bread (one thick slice each, with margarine and golden syrup) and diluted milk.


The man, a workman out of employment, is young, agile, a talker, a poser, sharp enough to be capable of anything in reason except honesty or altruistic considerations of any kind. The woman is a commonplace old bundle of poverty and hard-core humanity. She looks sixty and probably is forty-five. If they were rich people, gloved and muffed and even wrapped up in furs and overcoats, they would be numbed and miserable; for it is a grindingly cold, raw, January day; and a glance at the background of grimy warehouses and leaden sky visible over the whitewashed walls of the yard would drive any idle rich person straight to the Mediterranean. But these two, being no more troubled with visions of the Mediterranean than of the moon, and being compelled to keep more of their clothes in the pawnshop, and less on their persons, in winter than in summer, are not depressed by the cold rather are they stung into vivacity, to which their meal has just now given an almost jolly turn. The man takes a pull at his mug, and then gets up and moves about the yard with his hands deep in his pockets, occasionally breaking into a stepdance.


THE WOMAN. Feel better arter your meal, sir?


THE MAN. No. Call that a meal! Good enough for you, praps; but wot is it to me, an intelligent workin man.


THE WOMAN. Workin man! Wot are you?


THE MAN. Painter.


THE WOMAN (skeptically). Yus, I dessay.


THE MAN. Yus, you dessay! I know. Every loafer that cant do nothink calls isself a painter. Well, Im a real painter grainer, finisher, thirty-eight bob a week when I can get it.


THE WOMAN. Then why dont you go and get it?


THE MAN. Ill tell you why. Fust Im intelligent --fffff! its rotten cold here (he dances a step or two) yes intelligent beyond the station o life into which it has pleased the capitalists to call me; and they dont like a man that sees through em. Second, an intelligent bein needs a doo share of appiness, so I drink somethink cruel when I get the chawnce. Third, I stand by my class and do as little as I can sos to leave arf the job for me fellow workers. Fourth, Im fly enough to know wots inside the law and wots outside it; and inside it I do as the capitalists do pinch wot I can lay me ands on. In a proper state of society I am sober, industrious and honest in Rome, so to speak, I do as the Romans do. Wots the consequence? When trade is bad and its rotten bad just now and the employers az to sack arf their men, they generally start on me.


THE WOMAN. Whats your name?


THE MAN. Price. Bronterre OBrien Price. Usually called Snobby Price, for short.


THE WOMAN. Snobbys a carpenter, aint it? You said you was a painter.


PRICE. Not that kind of snob, but the genteel sort. Im too uppish, owing to my intelligence, and my father being a Chartist and a reading, thinking man a stationer, too. Im none of your common hewers of wood and drawers of water; and dont you forget it. (He returns to his seat at the table, and takes up his mug.) Wots y o u r name?


THE WOMAN. Rummy Mitchens, sir.


PRICE (quaffing the remains of his milk to her). Your elth, Miss Mitchens.


RUMMY (correcting him). Missis Mitchens.


PRICE. Wot! Oh Rummy, Rummy! Respectable married woman, Rummy, gittin rescued by the Salvation Army by pretendin to be a bad un. Same old game!


RUMMY. What am I to do? I cant starve. Them Salvation lasses is dear good girls; but the better you are, the worse they likes to think you were before they rescued you. Why shouldnt they av a bit o credit, poor loves? theyre worn to rags by their work. And where would they get the money to rescue us if we was to let on were no worse than other people? You know what ladies and gentlemen are.


PRICE. Thievin swine! Wish I ad their job, Rummy, all the same. Wot does Rummy stand for? Pet name praps?


RUMMY. Short for Romola.


PRICE. For wot!?


RUMMY. Romola. It was out of a new book. Somebody me mother wanted me to grow up like.


PRICE. Were companions in misfortune, Rummy. Both on us got names that nobody cawnt pronounce. Consequently Im Snobby and youre Rummy because Bill and Sally wasnt good enough for our parents. Such is life!


RUMMY. Who saved you, Mr. Price? Was it Major Barbara?


PRICE. No I come here on my own. Im goin to be Bronterre OBrien Price, the converted painter. I know wot they like. Ill tell em how I blasphemed and gambled and wopped my poor old mother--


RUMMY (shocked). Used you to beat your mother?


PRICE. Not likely. She used to beat me. No matter you come and listen to the converted painter, and youll hear how she was a pious woman that taught me me prayers at er knee, an how I used to come home drunk and drag her out o bed be er snow white airs, an lam into er with the poker.


RUMMY. Thats whats so unfair to us women. Your confessions is just as big lies as ours you dont tell what you really done no more than us; but you men can tell your lies right out at the meetins and be made much of for it; while the sort o confessions we az to make az to be whispered to one lady at a time. It aint right, spite of all their piety.


PRICE. Right! Do you spose the Army d be allowed if it went and did right? Not much. It combs our air and makes us good little blokes to be robbed and put upon. But Ill play the game as good as any of em. Ill see somebody struck by lightnin, or hear a voice sayin Snobby Price where will you spend eternity? Ill ave a time of it, I tell you.


RUMMY. You wont be let drink, though.


PRICE. Ill take it out in gorspellin, then. I dont want to drink if I can get fun enough any other way.


Jenny Hill, a pale, overwrought, pretty Salvation lass of 18, comes in through the yard gate, leading Peter Shirley, a half hardened, half worn-out elderly man, weak with hunger.


JENNY (supporting him). Come! pluck up. Ill get you something to eat. Youll be all right then.


PRICE (rising and hurrying officiously to take the old man off Jennys hands). Poor old man! Cheer up, brother youll find rest and peace and appiness ere. Hurry up with the food, miss es fair done. (Jenny hurries into the shelter.) Ere, buck up, daddy! shes fetchin ya thick slice o breadn treacle, an a mug o skyblue. (He seats him at the corner of the table.)


RUMMY (gaily). Keep up your old art! Never say die!


SHIRLEY. Im not an old man. Im ony 46. Im as good as ever I was. The grey patch come in my hair before I was thirty. All it wants is three pennorth o hair dye am I to be turned on the streets to starve for it? Holy God! Ive worked ten to twelve hours a day since I was thirteen, and paid my way all through; and now am I to be thrown into the gutter and my job given to a young man that can do it no better than me because Ive black hair that goes white at the first change?


PRICE (cheerfully). No good jawrin about it. Youre ony a jumped-up, jerked-off, orspittle-turned-out incurable of an ole workin man who cares about you? Eh? Make the thievin swine give you a meal theyve stole many a one from you. Get a bit o your own back. (Jenny returns with the usual meal.) There you are, brother. Awsk a blessin an tuck that into you.


SHIRLEY (looking at it ravenously but not touching it, and crying like a child). I never took anything before.


JENNY (petting him). Come, come! the Lord sends it to you he wasnt above taking bread from his friends; and why should you be? Besides, when we find you a job you can pay us for it if you like.


SHIRLEY (eagerly). Yes, yes thats true. I can pay you back its only a loan. (Shivering.) Oh Lord! oh Lord! (He turns to the table and attacks the meal ravenously. )


JENNY. Well, Rummy, are you more comfortable now?


RUMMY. God bless you, lovey! youve fed my body and saved my soul, havent you? (Jenny, touched, kisses her.) Sit down and rest a bit you must be ready to drop.


JENNY. Ive been going hard since morning. But theres more work than we can do. I mustnt stop.


RUMMY. Try a prayer for just two minutes. Youll work all the better after.


JENNY (her eyes lighting up). Oh isnt it wonderful how a few minutes prayer revives you! I was quite lightheaded at twelve oclock, I was so tired; but Major Barbara just sent me to pray for five minutes; and I was able to go on as if I had only just begun. (To Price.) Did you have a piece of bread?


PRICE (with unction). Yes, miss; but Ive got the piece that I value more; and thats the peace that passeth hall hannerstennin.


RUMMY (fervently). Glory Hallelujah!


Bill Walker, a rough customer of about 5, appears at the yard gate and looks malevolently at Jenny.


JENNY. That makes me so happy. When you say that, I feel wicked for loitering here. I must get to work again. She is hurrying to the shelter, when the newcomer moves quickly up to the door and intercepts her. His manner is so threatening that she retreats as he comes at her truculently, driving her do on the yard.


BILL. I know you. Youre the one that took away my girl. Youre the one that set er agen me. Well, Im goin to av er out. Not that I care a curse for her or you see? But Ill let er know; and Ill let you know. Im goin to give er a doin thatll teach er to cut away from me. Now in with you and tell er to come out afore I come in and kick er out. Tell er Bill Walker wants er. Shell know what that means; and if she keeps me waitin itll be worse. You stop to jaw back at me; and Ill start on you dye hear? Theres your way. In you go. (He takes her by the arm and slings her towards the door of the shelter. She falls on her hand and knee. Rummy helps her up again.)


PRICE (rising, and venturing irresolutely towards Bill). Easy there, mate. She aint doin you no arm.


BILL. Who are you callin mate? (Standing over him threateningly.) Youre goin to stand up for her, are you? Put up your ands.


RUMMY (running indignantly to him to scold him). Oh, you great brute-- (He instantly savings his left hand back against her face. She screams and reels back to the trough, where she sits down, covering her bruised face with her hands and rocking herself and moaning with pain.)


JENNY (going to her). Oh God forgive you! How could you strike an old woman like that?


BILL (seizing her by the hair so violently that she also screams, and tearing her away from the old woman). You Gawd forgive me again and Ill Gawd forgive you one on the jaw thatll stop you prayin for a week. (Holding her and turning fiercely on Price.) Av you anything to say agen it? Eh?


PRICE (intimidated). No, matey she aint anything to do with me.


BILL. Good job for you! Id put two meals into you and fight you with one finger after, you starved cur. (To Jenny.) Now are you goin to fetch out Mog Habbijam; or am I to knock your face off you and fetch her myself?


JENNY (writhing in his grasp). Oh please someone go in and tell Major Barbara (she screams again as he wrenches her head down; and Price and Rummy flee into the shelter).


BILL. You want to go in and tell your Major of men do you?


JENNY. Oh please dont drag my hair. Let me go.


BILL. Do you or dont you? (She stifles a scream.) Yes or no.


JENNY. God give me strength


BILL (striking her with his fist in the face). Go and shew her that, and tell her if she Rants one like it to come and interfere with me. (Jenny, crying With pain, goes into the shed He goes to the form and addresses the old man.) Here finish your mess; and get out o my way.


SHIRLEY (springing up and facing him fiercely, With the mug in his hand). You take a liberty with me, and Ill smash you over the face with the mug and cut your eye out. Aint you satisfied young whelps like you with takin the bread out o the mouths of your elders that have brought you up and slaved for you, but you must come shovin and cheekin and bullyin in here, where the bread o charity is sickenin in our stummicks?


BILL (contemptuously, but backing a little). Wot good are you, you old palsy mug? Wot good are you?


SHIRLEY. As good as you and better. Ill do a days work agen you or any fat young soaker of your age. Go and take my job at Horrockses, where I worked for ten year. They want young men there they cant afford to keep men over forty-five. Theyre very sorry -- give you a character and happy to help you to get anything suited to your years -- sure a steady man wont be long out of a job. Well, let em try you. Theyll find the differ. What do you know? Not as much as how to beeyave yourself -- layin your dirty fist across the mouth of a respectable woman!


BILL. Dont provoke me to lay it acrost yours dye. hear?


SHIRLEY (with blighting contempt). Yes you like an old man to hit, dont you, when youve finished with the women. I aint seen you hit a young one yet.


BILL (stung). You lie, you old soupkitchener, you. There was a young man here. Did I offer to hit him or did I not?


SHIRLEY. Was he starvin or was he not? Was he a man or only a crosseyed thief an a loafer? Would you hit my son-in-laws brother?


BILL. Whos he?


SHIRLEY. Todger Fairmile o Balls Pond. Him that won L 0 off the Japanese wrastler at the music hall by standin out 17 minutes 4 seconds agen him.


BILL (sullenly). Im no music hall wrastler. Can he box?


SHIRLEY. Yes an you cant.


BILL. Wot! I cant, cant I? Wots that you say (threatening him)?


SHIRLEY (not budging an inch). Will you box Todger Fairmile if I put him on to you? Say the word.


BILL (subsiding with a slouch). Ill stand up to any man alive, if he was ten Todger Fairmiles. But I dont set up to be a perfessional.


SHIRLEY (looking down on him with unfathomable disdain). Y o u box! Slap an old woman with the back o your hand! You hadnt even the sense to hit her where a magistrate couldnt see the mark of it, you silly young lump of conceit and ignorance. Hit a girl in the jaw and ony make her cry! If Todger Fairmiled done it, she wouldnt a got up inside o ten minutes, no more than you would if he got on to you. Yah! Id set about you myself if I had a weeks feedin in me instead o two months starvation. (He returns to the table to finish his meal.)


BILL (following him and stooping over him to drive the taunt in). You lie! you have the bread and treacle in you that you come here to beg.


SHIRLEY (bursting into tears). Oh God! its true Im only an old pauper on the scrap heap. (Furiously.) But youll come to it yourself; and then youll know. Youll come to it sooner than a teetotaller like me, fillin yourself with gin at this hour o the mornin!


BILL. Im no gin drinker, you old liar; but when I want to give my girl a bloomin good idin I like to av a bit o devil in me see? An here I am, talkin to a rotten old blighter like you sted o givin her wot for. (Working himself into a rage.) Im goin in there to fetch her out. (He makes vengefully for the shelter door.)


SHIRLEY. Youre goin to the station on a stretcher, more likely; and theyll take the gin and the devil out of you there when they get you inside. You mind what youre about the major here is the Earl o Stevenages granddaughter.


BILL (checked ). Garn!


SHIRLEY. Youll see.


BILL (his resolution oozing). Well, I aint done nothin to er.


SHIRLEY. Spose she said you did! whod believe you?


BILL (very uneasy, skulking back to the corner of the penthouse). Gawd! theres no jastice in this country. To think wot them people can do! Im as good as er.


SHIRLEY. Tell her so. Its just what a fool like you would do.


Barbara, brisk and businesslike, comes from the shelter with a note book, and addresses herself to Shirley. Bill, cowed, sits down in the corner on a form, and turns his back on them.


BARBARA. Good morning.


SHIRLEY (standing up and taking off his hat). Good morning, miss.


BARBARA. Sit down make yourself at home. (He hesitates; but she puts a friendly hand on his shoulder and makes him obey.) Now then! since youve made friends with us, we want to know all about you. Names and addresses and trades.


SHIRLEY. Peter Shirley. Fitter. Chucked out two months ago because I was too old.


BARBARA (not at all surprised). Youd pass still. Why didnt you dye your hair?


SHIRLEY. I did. Me age come out at a coroners inquest on me daughter.


BARBARA. Steady?


SHIRLEY. Teetotaller. Never out of a job before. Good worker. And sent to the knackers like an old horse!


BARBARA. No matter if you did your part God will do his.


SHIRLEY. (suddenly stubborn). My religions no concern of anybody but myself.


BARBARA. (guessing). I know. Secularist?


SHIRLEY. (hotly). Did I offer to deny it?


BARBARA. Why should you? My own fathers a Secularist, I think. Our Father -- yours and mine -- fulfils himself in many ways; and I daresay he knew what he was about when he made a Secularist of you. So buck up, Peter! we can always find a job for a steady man like you. (Shirley, disarmed, touches his hat. She turns from him to Bill.) Whats your name?


BILL. (insolently). Wots that to you?


BARBARA. (calmly making a note). Afraid to give his name. Any trade?


BILL. Whos afraid to give his name? (Doggedly, with a sense of heroically defying the House of Lords in the person of Lord Stevenage.) If you want to bring a charge agen me, bring it. (She waits, unruffled.) My names Bill Walker.


BARBARA (as if the name were familiar trying to remember how). Bill Walker? (Recollecting.) Oh, I know youre the man that Jenny Hill was praying for inside just now. (She enters his name in her note book.)


BILL. Whos Jenny Hill? And what call has she to pray for me?


BARBARA. I dont know. Perhaps it was you that cut her lip.


BILL (defiantly). Yes, it was me that cut her lip. I aint afraid o y o u.


BARBARA. How could you be, since youre not afraid of God? Youre a brave man, Mr. Walker. It takes some pluck to do our work here; but none of us dare lift our hand against a girl like little Jenny, for fear of her father in heaven.


BILL (sullenly). I want none o your cantin jaw. I suppose you think I come here to beg from you, like this damaged lot here. Not me. I dont want your bread and scrape and catlap. I dont believe in your Gawd, no more than you do yourself.


BARBARA (sunnily apologetic and ladylike, as on a new footing with him). Oh, I beg your pardon for putting your name down, Mr. Walker. I didnt understand. Ill strike it out.


BILL (taking this as a slight, and deeply Wounded by it). Eah! you let my name alone. Aint it good enough to be in your book?


BARBARA (considering). Well, you see, theres no use putting down your name unless I can do something for you, is there? Whats your trade?


BILL (still smarting). Thats no concern o yours.


BARBARA. Just so. (Very businesslike.) Ill put you down as (writing) the man who struck poor little Jenny Hillin the mouth.


BILL (rising threateningly). See here. Ive ad enough o this.


BARBARA (quite sunny and fearless). What did you come to us for?


BILL. I come for my girl, see? I come to take her out o this and to break er jawr for her.


BARBARA (complacently). You see I was right about your trade. (Bill, on the point of retorting furiously, finds himself, to his great shame and terror, in danger of crying instead. He sits down again suddenly.) Whats her name?


BILL (dogged). Er names Mog Abbijam thats wot her name is.


BARBARA. Oh, shes gone to Canning Town, to our barracks there.


BILL (fortified by his resentment of Mogs perfidy). Is she? (Vindictively.) Then Im goin to Kennintahn arter her. (He crosses to the gate, hesitates; finally comes back at Barbara.) Are you lyin to me to get shut o me?


BARBARA. I dont want to get shut of you. I want to keep you here and save your soul. Youd better stay youre going to have a bad time today, Bill.


BILL. Whos goin to give it to me? Y o u, praps.


BARBARA. Someone you dont believe in. But youll be glad afterwards.


BILL (slinking off). Ill go to Kennintahn to be out o the reach o your tongue. (Suddenly turning on her with intense malice.) And if I dont find Mog there, Ill come back and do two years for you, selp me Gawd if I dont!


BARBARA (a shade kindlier, if possible). Its no use, Bill. Shes got another bloke.


BILL. Wot!


BARBARA. One of her own converts. He fell in love with her when he saw her with her soul saved, and her face clean, and her hair washed.


BILL (surprised). Wottud she wash it for, the carroty slut? Its red.


BARBARA. Its quite lovely now, because she wears a new look in her eyes with it. Its a pity youre too late. The new bloke has put your nose out of joint, Bill.


BILL. Ill put his nose out o joint for him. Not that I care a curse for her, mind that. But Ill teach her to drop me as if I was dirt. And Ill teach him to meddle with my judy. Wots is bleedin name?


BARBARA. Sergeant Todger Fairmile.


SHIRLEY (rising with grim joy). Ill go with him, miss. I want to see them two meet. Ill take him to the infirmary when its over.


BILL (to Shirley, With undissembled misgiving). Is that im you was speakin on?


SHIRLEY. Thats him.


BILL. Im that wrastled in the music all?


SHIRLEY. The competitions at the National Sportin Club was worth nigh a hundred a year to him. Hes gev em up now for religion; so hes a bit fresh for want of the exercise he was accustomed to. Hell be glad to see you. Come along.


BILL. Wots is weight?


SHIRLEY. Thirteen four. (Bills last hope expires.)


BARBARA. Go and talk to him, Bill. Hell convert you.


SHIRLEY. Hell convert your head into a mashed potato.


BILL (sullenly). I aint afraid of him. I aint afraid of ennybody. But he can lick me. Shes done me. (He sits down moodily on the edge of the horse trough.)


SHIRLEY. You aint goin. I thought not. (He resumes his seat.)


BARBARA (calling). Jenny!


JENNY (appearing at the shelter door with a plaster on the corner of her mouth). Yes, Major.


BARBARA. Send Rummy Mitchens out to clear away here.


JENNY. I think shes afraid.


BARBARA (her resemblance to her mother washing out for a moment). Nonsense! she must do as shes told.


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