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Heartbreak House by George Bernard Shaw

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LADY UTTERWORD. There is no pleasing you, Mr Mangan. You are
determined to be neither rich nor poor, honest nor dishonest.

MANGAN. There you go again. Ever since I came into this silly
house I have been made to look like a fool, though I'm as good a
man in this house as in the city.

ELLIE [musically]. Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy
house, this agonizing house, this house without foundations. I
shall call it Heartbreak House.

MRS HUSHABYE. Stop, Ellie; or I shall howl like an animal.

MANGAN [breaks into a low snivelling]!!!

MRS HUSAHBYE. There! you have set Alfred off.

ELLIE. I like him best when he is howling.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Silence! [Mangan subsides into silence]. I say,
let the heart break in silence.

HECTOR. Do you accept that name for your house?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. It is not my house: it is only my kennel.

HECTOR. We have been too long here. We do not live in this house:
we haunt it.

LADY UTTERWORD [heart torn]. It is dreadful to think how you have
been here all these years while I have gone round the world. I
escaped young; but it has drawn me back. It wants to break my
heart too. But it shan't. I have left you and it behind. It was
silly of me to come back. I felt sentimental about papa and
Hesione and the old place. I felt them calling to me.

MAZZINI. But what a very natural and kindly and charming human
feeling, Lady Utterword!

LADY UTTERWORD. So I thought, Mr Dunn. But I know now that it was
only the last of my influenza. I found that I was not remembered
and not wanted.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. You left because you did not want us. Was there
no heartbreak in that for your father? You tore yourself up by
the roots; and the ground healed up and brought forth fresh
plants and forgot you. What right had you to come back and probe
old wounds?

MRS HUSHABYE. You were a complete stranger to me at first, Addy;
but now I feel as if you had never been away.

LADY UTTERWORD. Thank you, Hesione; but the influenza is quite
cured. The place may be Heartbreak House to you, Miss Dunn, and
to this gentleman from the city who seems to have so little
self-control; but to me it is only a very ill-regulated and
rather untidy villa without any stables.

HECTOR. Inhabited by--?

ELLIE. A crazy old sea captain and a young singer who adores him.

MRS HUSHABYE. A sluttish female, trying to stave off a double
chin and an elderly spread, vainly wooing a born soldier of

MAZZINI. Oh, really, Mrs Hushabye--

MANGAN. A member of His Majesty's Government that everybody sets
down as a nincompoop: don't forget him, Lady Utterword.

LADY UTTERWORD. And a very fascinating gentleman whose chief
occupation is to be married to my sister.

HECTOR. All heartbroken imbeciles.

MAZZINI. Oh no. Surely, if I may say so, rather a favorable
specimen of what is best in our English culture. You are very
charming people, most advanced, unprejudiced, frank, humane,
unconventional, democratic, free-thinking, and everything that is
delightful to thoughtful people.

MRS HUSHABYE. You do us proud, Mazzini.

MAZZINI. I am not flattering, really. Where else could I feel
perfectly at ease in my pyjamas? I sometimes dream that I am in
very distinguished society, and suddenly I have nothing on but my
pyjamas! Sometimes I haven't even pyjamas. And I always feel
overwhelmed with confusion. But here, I don't mind in the least:
it seems quite natural.

LADY UTTERWORD. An infallible sign that you are now not in really
distinguished society, Mr Dunn. If you were in my house, you
would feel embarrassed.

MAZZINI. I shall take particular care to keep out of your house,
Lady Utterword.

LADY UTTERWORD. You will be quite wrong, Mr Dunn. I should make
you very comfortable; and you would not have the trouble and
anxiety of wondering whether you should wear your purple and gold
or your green and crimson dressing-gown at dinner. You complicate
life instead of simplifying it by doing these ridiculous things.

ELLIE. Your house is not Heartbreak House: is it, Lady Utterword?

HECTOR. Yet she breaks hearts, easy as her house is. That poor
devil upstairs with his flute howls when she twists his heart,
just as Mangan howls when my wife twists his.

LADY UTTERWORD. That is because Randall has nothing to do but
have his heart broken. It is a change from having his head
shampooed. Catch anyone breaking Hastings' heart!

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The numskull wins, after all.

LADY UTTERWORD. I shall go back to my numskull with the greatest
satisfaction when I am tired of you all, clever as you are.

MANGAN [huffily]. I never set up to be clever.

LADY UTTERWORD. I forgot you, Mr Mangan.

MANGAN. Well, I don't see that quite, either.

LADY UTTERWORD. You may not be clever, Mr Mangan; but you are

MANGAN. But I don't want to be regarded merely as a successful
man. I have an imagination like anyone else. I have a

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, you are impossible, Alfred. Here I am devoting
myself to you; and you think of nothing but your ridiculous
presentiment. You bore me. Come and talk poetry to me under the
stars. [She drags him away into the darkness].

MANGAN [tearfully, as he disappears]. Yes: it's all very well to
make fun of me; but if you only knew--

HECTOR [impatiently]. How is all this going to end?

MAZZINI. It won't end, Mr Hushabye. Life doesn't end: it goes on.

ELLIE. Oh, it can't go on forever. I'm always expecting
something. I don't know what it is; but life must come to a point

LADY UTTERWORD. The point for a young woman of your age is a

HECTOR. Yes, but, damn it, I have the same feeling; and I can't
have a baby.

LADY UTTERWORD. By deputy, Hector.

HECTOR. But I have children. All that is over and done with for
me: and yet I too feel that this can't last. We sit here talking,
and leave everything to Mangan and to chance and to the devil.
Think of the powers of destruction that Mangan and his mutual
admiration gang wield! It's madness: it's like giving a torpedo
to a badly brought up child to play at earthquakes with.

MAZZINI. I know. I used often to think about that when I was

HECTOR. Think! What's the good of thinking about it? Why didn't
you do something?

MAZZINI. But I did. I joined societies and made speeches and
wrote pamphlets. That was all I could do. But, you know, though
the people in the societies thought they knew more than Mangan,
most of them wouldn't have joined if they had known as much. You
see they had never had any money to handle or any men to manage.
Every year I expected a revolution, or some frightful smash-up:
it seemed impossible that we could blunder and muddle on any
longer. But nothing happened, except, of course, the usual
poverty and crime and drink that we are used to. Nothing ever
does happen. It's amazing how well we get along, all things

LADY UTTERWORD. Perhaps somebody cleverer than you and Mr Mangan
was at work all the time.

MAZZINI. Perhaps so. Though I was brought up not to believe in
anything, I often feel that there is a great deal to be said for
the theory of an over-ruling Providence, after all.

LADY UTTERWORD. Providence! I meant Hastings.

MAZZINI. Oh, I beg your pardon, Lady Utterword.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Every drunken skipper trusts to Providence. But
one of the ways of Providence with drunken skippers is to run
them on the rocks.

MAZZINI. Very true, no doubt, at sea. But in politics, I assure
you, they only run into jellyfish. Nothing happens.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. At sea nothing happens to the sea. Nothing
happens to the sky. The sun comes up from the east and goes down
to the west. The moon grows from a sickle to an arc lamp, and
comes later and later until she is lost in the light as other
things are lost in the darkness. After the typhoon, the
flying-fish glitter in the sunshine like birds. It's amazing how
they get along, all things considered. Nothing happens, except
something not worth mentioning.

ELLIE. What is that, O Captain, O my captain?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [savagely]. Nothing but the smash of the drunken
skipper's ship on the rocks, the splintering of her rotten
timbers, the tearing of her rusty plates, the drowning of the
crew like rats in a trap.

ELLIE. Moral: don't take rum.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [vehemently]. That is a lie, child. Let a man
drink ten barrels of rum a day, he is not a drunken skipper until
he is a drifting skipper. Whilst he can lay his course and stand
on his bridge and steer it, he is no drunkard. It is the man who
lies drinking in his bunk and trusts to Providence that I call
the drunken skipper, though he drank nothing but the waters of
the River Jordan.

ELLIE. Splendid! And you haven't had a drop for an hour. You see
you don't need it: your own spirit is not dead.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Echoes: nothing but echoes. The last shot was
fired years ago.

HECTOR. And this ship that we are all in? This soul's prison we
call England?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The captain is in his bunk, drinking bottled
ditch-water; and the crew is gambling in the forecastle. She will
strike and sink and split. Do you think the laws of God will be
suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?

HECTOR. Well, I don't mean to be drowned like a rat in a trap. I
still have the will to live. What am I to do?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Do? Nothing simpler. Learn your business as an

HECTOR. And what may my business as an Englishman be, pray?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Navigation. Learn it and live; or leave it and
be damned.

ELLIE. Quiet, quiet: you'll tire yourself.

MAZZINI. I thought all that once, Captain; but I assure you
nothing will happen.

A dull distant explosion is heard.

HECTOR [starting up]. What was that?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Something happening [he blows his whistle].
Breakers ahead!

The light goes out.

HECTOR [furiously]. Who put that light out? Who dared put that
light out?

NURSE GUINNESS [running in from the house to the middle of the
esplanade]. I did, sir. The police have telephoned to say we'll
be summoned if we don't put that light out: it can be seen for

HECTOR. It shall be seen for a hundred miles [he dashes into the

NURSE GUINNESS. The Rectory is nothing but a heap of bricks, they
say. Unless we can give the Rector a bed he has nowhere to lay
his head this night.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The Church is on the rocks, breaking up. I told
him it would unless it headed for God's open sea.

NURSE GUINNESS. And you are all to go down to the cellars.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Go there yourself, you and all the crew. Batten
down the hatches.

NURSE GUINNESS. And hide beside the coward I married! I'll go on
the roof first. [The lamp lights up again]. There! Mr Hushabye's
turned it on again.

THE BURGLAR [hurrying in and appealing to Nurse Guinness]. Here:
where's the way to that gravel pit? The boot-boy says there's a
cave in the gravel pit. Them cellars is no use. Where's the
gravel pit, Captain?

NURSE GUINNESS. Go straight on past the flagstaff until you fall
into it and break your dirty neck. [She pushes him contemptuously
towards the flagstaff, and herself goes to the foot of the
hammock and waits there, as it were by Ariadne's cradle].

Another and louder explosion is heard. The burglar stops and
stands trembling.

ELLIE [rising]. That was nearer.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The next one will get us. [He rises]. Stand by,
all hands, for judgment.

THE BURGLAR. Oh my Lordy God! [He rushes away frantically past
the flagstaff into the gloom].

MRS HUSHABYE [emerging panting from the darkness]. Who was that
running away? [She comes to Ellie]. Did you hear the explosions?
And the sound in the sky: it's splendid: it's like an orchestra:
it's like Beethoven.

ELLIE. By thunder, Hesione: it is Beethoven.

She and Hesione throw themselves into one another's arms in wild
excitement. The light increases.

MAZZINI [anxiously]. The light is getting brighter.

NURSE GUINNESS [looking up at the house]. It's Mr Hushabye
turning on all the lights in the house and tearing down the

RANDALL [rushing in in his pyjamas, distractedly waving a flute].
Ariadne, my soul, my precious, go down to the cellars: I beg and
implore you, go down to the cellars!

LADY UTTERWORD [quite composed in her hammock]. The governor's
wife in the cellars with the servants! Really, Randall!

RANDALL. But what shall I do if you are killed?

LADY UTTERWORD. You will probably be killed, too, Randall. Now
play your flute to show that you are not afraid; and be good.
Play us "Keep the home fires burning."

NURSE GUINNESS [grimly]. THEY'LL keep the home fires burning for
us: them up there.

RANDALL [having tried to play]. My lips are trembling. I can't
get a sound.

MAZZINI. I hope poor Mangan is safe.

MRS HUSHABYE. He is hiding in the cave in the gravel pit.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. My dynamite drew him there. It is the hand of

HECTOR [returning from the house and striding across to his
former place]. There is not half light enough. We should be
blazing to the skies.

ELLIE [tense with excitement]. Set fire to the house, Marcus.

MRS HUSHABYE. My house! No.

HECTOR. I thought of that; but it would not be ready in time.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The judgment has come. Courage will not save
you; but it will show that your souls are still live.

MRS HUSHABYE. Sh-sh! Listen: do you hear it now? It's

They all turn away from the house and look up, listening.

HECTOR [gravely]. Miss Dunn, you can do no good here. We of this
house are only moths flying into the candle. You had better go
down to the cellar.

ELLIE [scornfully]. I don't think.

MAZZINI. Ellie, dear, there is no disgrace in going to the
cellar. An officer would order his soldiers to take cover. Mr
Hushabye is behaving like an amateur. Mangan and the burglar are
acting very sensibly; and it is they who will survive.

ELLIE. Let them. I shall behave like an amateur. But why should
you run any risk?

MAZZINI. Think of the risk those poor fellows up there are

NURSE GUINNESS. Think of them, indeed, the murdering blackguards!
What next?

A terrific explosion shakes the earth. They reel back into their
seats, or clutch the nearest support. They hear the falling of
the shattered glass from the windows.

MAZZINI. Is anyone hurt?

HECTOR. Where did it fall?

NURSE GUINNESS [in hideous triumph]. Right in the gravel pit: I
seen it. Serve un right! I seen it [she runs away towards the
gravel pit, laughing harshly].

HECTOR. One husband gone.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Thirty pounds of good dynamite wasted.

MAZZINI. Oh, poor Mangan!

HECTOR. Are you immortal that you need pity him? Our turn next.

They wait in silence and intense expectation. Hesione and Ellie
hold each other's hand tight.

A distant explosion is heard.

MRS HUSHABYE [relaxing her grip]. Oh! they have passed us.

LADY UTTERWORD. The danger is over, Randall. Go to bed.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Turn in, all hands. The ship is safe. [He sits
down and goes asleep].

ELLIE [disappointedly]. Safe!

HECTOR [disgustedly]. Yes, safe. And how damnably dull the world
has become again suddenly! [he sits down].

MAZZINI [sitting down]. I was quite wrong, after all. It is we
who have survived; and Mangan and the burglar-

HECTOR. --the two burglars--

LADY UTTERWORD. --the two practical men of business--

MAZZINI. --both gone. And the poor clergyman will have to get a
new house.

MRS HUSHABYE. But what a glorious experience! I hope they'll come
again tomorrow night.

ELLIE [radiant at the prospect]. Oh, I hope so.

Randall at last succeeds in keeping the home fires burning on his flute.

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