It is after dinner on a January night, in the library in Lady Britomart Undershaft’s 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 Britomart’s writing table, with the lady herself busy at it; a smaller writing table behind him on his left; the door behind him on Lady Britomart’s 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 interlocutory, amiable and yet peremptory, arbitrary, and high-tempered to the last bearable degree, and withal a very typical managing matron of the upper class, 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 25, 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. What’s the matter?
LADY BRITOMART. Presently, Stephen.
Stephen submissively walks to the settee and sits down. He takes up The Speaker.
LADY BRITOMART. Don’t begin to read, Stephen. I shall require all your attention.
STEPHEN. It was only while I was waiting–
LADY BRITOMART. Don’t 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 very 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]. Don’t fiddle with your tie, Stephen: there is nothing the matter with it.
STEPHEN. I beg your pardon. [He fiddles with his watch chain instead].
LADY BRITOMART. Now are you attending to me, Stephen?
STEPHEN. Of course, mother.
LADY BRITOMART. No: it’s not 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. Don’t 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.
LADY BRITOMART. Yes, you, of course. You were 24 last June. You’ve been at Harrow and Cambridge. You’ve been to India and Japan. You must know a lot of things now; unless you have wasted your time most scandalously. Well, advise me.
STEPHEN [much perplexed] You know I have never interfered in the household–
LADY BRITOMART. No: I should think not. I don’t 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 can’t 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 35. But that is ten years ahead; and in the meantime his trustees cannot under the terms of his father’s will allow him more than 800 pounds 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 Lomax’s exertions are much more likely to decrease his income than to increase it. Sarah will have to find at least another 800 pounds 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. Don’t 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 2000 pounds a year. You see it means two additional households. Besides, my dear, you must marry soon. I don’t approve of the present fashion of philandering bachelors and late marriages; and I am trying to arrange something for you.
STEPHEN. It’s 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 don’t mean that you are not to be consulted: you know that as well as I do. [Stephen closes his lips and is silent]. Now don’t 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 can’t 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 King’s 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, it’s 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 wouldn’t 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 WOULDN’T. They said they couldn’t 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 it’s 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 couldn’t stand.
STEPHEN [ashamed] Do you mean for–for–for–
LADY BRITOMART. Don’t stammer, Stephen. Speak distinctly.
STEPHEN. But this is so frightful to me, mother. To have to speak to you about such things!
LADY BRITOMART. It’s 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 Heaven’s 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 short] 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 my 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 didn’t exactly do 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 doesn’t mind men practising immorality so long as they own that they are in the wrong by preaching morality; so I couldn’t 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: that’s all.
LADY BRITOMART [touched] That’s 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 can 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 didn’t 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 something. 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 don’t 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?
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 not repeat my words, Stephen. Where else can I ask him?
STEPHEN. I never expected you to ask him at all.
LADY BRITOMART. Now don’t tease, Stephen. Come! you see that it is necessary that he should pay us a visit, don’t 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] Don’t 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 armchair, into which he throws himself]. I don’t 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. It’s not ladylike: I’m sure I don’t know where she picked it up. Anyhow, Barbara shan’t bully me; but still it’s just as well that your father should be here before she has time to refuse to meet him or make a fuss. Don’t look nervous, Stephen, it will only encourage Barbara to make difficulties. I am nervous enough, goodness knows; but I don’t show 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 affected 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 Lomax’s 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 bas 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 Britomart’s arrangements to that end.
All four look as if they bad 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. It’s 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 mother’s 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 don’t 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.
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 Charles’s. [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. He’s quite welcome as far as I am concerned.
LOMAX [still remonstrant] But really, don’t 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 Lomax’s 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.
LOMAX [handsomely] Not that I mind, you know, if Sarah don’t.
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 can’t eat us, I suppose. I don’t 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 didn’t mean–at least–
LADY BRITOMART. You didn’t think, 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 hasn’t 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 didn’t say that.
LADY BRITOMART [vehemently] I did, Charles. Adolphus’s 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. We’ll 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! There’s nothing to be exactly proud of, don’t 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! Show him up.
MORRISON. Yes, my lady. [He goes].
LOMAX. Does Morrison know who he is?
LADY BRITOMART. Of course. Morrison has always been with us.
LOMAX. It must be a regular corker for him, don’t 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 d’ye do, my dear.
LADY BRITOMART. You look a good deal older.
UNDERSHAFT [apologetically] I AM 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 don’t you know–[Overcome] Oh I say!
LADY BRITOMART [recovering from momentary speechlessness] Andrew: do you mean to say that you don’t 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] you 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 beg 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 settle. 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, don’t 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.
Lomax’s 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. I’m 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 don’t you laugh if you want to, Cholly? It’s good for your inside.
LADY BRITOMART. Barbara: you have had the education of a lady. Please let your father see that; and don’t 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] Nobody’d 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: don’t be insincere. Cholly: fetch your concertina and play something for us.
LOMAX [doubtfully to Undershaft] Perhaps that sort of thing isn’t in your line, eh?
UNDERSHAFT. I am particularly fond of music.
LOMAX [delighted] Are you? Then I’ll get it. [He goes upstairs for the instrument].
UNDERSHAFT. Do you play, Barbara?
BARBARA. Only the tambourine. But Cholly’s teaching me the concertina.
UNDERSHAFT. Is Cholly also a member of the Salvation Army?
BARBARA. No: he says it’s bad form to be a dissenter. But I don’t despair of Cholly. I made him come yesterday to a meeting at the dock gates, and take 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 you 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 we’re 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, don’t 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, don’t it? The cannon business may be necessary and all that: we can’t get on without cannons; but it isn’t 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 can’t deny that it’s religion; and you can’t go against religion, can you? At least unless you’re downright immoral, don’t you know.
UNDERSHAFT. You hardly appreciate my position, Mr Lomax–
LOMAX [hastily] I’m 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. My 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] Would you mind saying that again? I didn’t quite follow it.
CUSINS. It’s quite simple. As Euripides says, one man’s meat is another man’s poison morally as well as physically.
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 needn’t talk to me: I know them. I’ve had scores of them through my hands: scoundrels, criminals, infidels, philanthropists, missionaries, county councillors, all sorts. They’re all just the same sort of sinner; and there’s 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. Hadn’t I better play something?
BARBARA. Yes. Give us Onward, Christian Soldiers.
LOMAX. Well, that’s rather a strong order to begin with, don’t you know. Suppose I sing Thou’rt passing hence, my brother. It’s much the same tune.
BARBARA. It’s too melancholy. You get saved, Cholly; and you’ll 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. Don’t mock, Andrew.
UNDERSHAFT [shocked–to Barhara] You don’t think I am mocking, my love, I hope.
BARBARA. No, of course not; and it wouldn’t 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 couldn’t 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 unjustice, and Barbara such an injustice. As for myself, I flatly deny it: I have done my best. I shouldn’t dare to marry Barbara–I couldn’t 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 doesn’t. That’s all.
CUSINS [with unruffled sweetness] Don’t tell on me. [He goes out].
LADY BRITOMART. Sarah: if you want to go, go. Anything’s 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: what’s 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 mustn’t think that, mother. I–I don’t like him.
LADY BRITOMART. The others do. That is the injustice of a woman’s lot. A woman has to bring up her children; and that means to restrain them, 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 won’t 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].
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-worn humanity. She looks sixty and probably is forty-five. If they were rich people, gloved and muffed and well 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 otter your meal, sir?
THE MAN. No. Call that a meal! Good enough for you, props; but wot is it to me, an intelligent workin man.
THE WOMAN. Workin man! Wot are you?
THE MAN. Painter.
THE WOMAN [sceptically] Yus, I dessay.
THE MAN. Yus, you dessay! I know. Every loafer that can’t do nothink calls isself a painter. Well, I’m a real painter: grainer, finisher, thirty-eight bob a week when I can get it.
THE WOMAN. Then why don’t you go and get it?
THE MAN. I’ll tell you why. Fust: I’m intelligent–fffff! it’s 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 don’t 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 so’s to leave arf the job for me fellow workers. Fourth, I’m 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 it’s rotten bad just now–and the employers az to sack arf their men, they generally start on me.
THE WOMAN. What’s your name?
THE MAN. Price. Bronterre O’Brien Price. Usually called Snobby Price, for short.
THE WOMAN. Snobby’s a carpenter, ain’t it? You said you was a painter.
PRICE. Not that kind of snob, but the genteel sort. I’m too uppish, owing to my intelligence, and my father being a Chartist and a reading, thinking man: a stationer, too. I’m none of your common hewers of wood and drawers of water; and don’t you forget it. [He returns to his seat at the table, and takes up his mug]. Wots YOUR 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 can’t 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 shouldn’t they av a bit o credit, poor loves? They’re worn to rags by their work. And where would they get the money to rescue us if we was to let on we’re 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 props?
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. We’re companions in misfortune, Rummy. Both on us got names that nobody cawnt pronounce. Consequently I’m Snobby and you’re Rummy because Bill and Sally wasn’t 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. I’m goin to be Bronterre O’Brien Price, the converted painter. I know wot they like. I’ll 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 you’ll 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. That’s what’s so unfair to us women. Your confessions is just as big lies as ours: you don’t 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 wispered to one lady at a time. It ain’t 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 I’ll play the game as good as any of em. I’ll see somebody struck by lightnin, or hear a voice sayin “Snobby Price: where will you spend eternity?” I’ll ave a time of it, I tell you.
RUMMY. You won’t be let drink, though.
PRICE. I’ll take it out in gorspellin, then. I don’t 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. I’ll get you something to eat. You’ll be all right then.
PRICE [rising and hurrying officiously to take the old man off Jenny’s hands] Poor old man! Cheer up, brother: you’ll find rest and peace and appiness ere. Hurry up with the food, miss: e’s fair done. [Jenny hurries into the shelter]. Ere, buck up, daddy! She’s fetchin y’a 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. I’m not an old man. I’m ony 46. I’m 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! I’ve 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 I’ve black hair that goes white at the first change?
PRICE [cheerfully] No good jawrin about it. You’re 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: they’ve 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 wasn’t 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: that’s true. I can pay you back: it’s 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! You’ve fed my body and saved my soul, haven’t you? [Jenny, touched, kisses her] Sit down and rest a bit: you must be ready to drop.
JENNY. I’ve been going hard since morning. But there’s more work than we can do. I mustn’t stop.
RUMMY. Try a prayer for just two minutes. You’ll work all the better after.
JENNY [her eyes lighting up] Oh isn’t it wonderful how a few minutes prayer revives you! I was quite lightheaded at twelve o’clock, 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?
PAIGE [with unction] Yes, miss; but I’ve got the piece that I value more; and that’s the peace that passeth hall hannerstennin.
RUMMY [fervently] Glory Hallelujah!
Bill Walker, a rough customer of about 25, 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 new-comer 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 down the yard.
BILL. I know you. You’re the one that took away my girl. You’re the one that set er agen me. Well, I’m goin to av er out. Not that I care a curse for her or you: see? But I’ll let er know; and I’ll let you know. I’m goin to give er a doin that’ll 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. She’ll know what that means; and if she keeps me waitin it’ll be worse. You stop to jaw back at me; and I’ll start on you: d’ye hear? There’s 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 ain’t doin you no arm.
BILL. Who are you callin mate? [Standing over him threateningly]. You’re 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 swings 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 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 I’ll Gawd forgive you one on the jaw that’ll 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 ain’t anything to do with me.
BILL. Good job for you! I’d 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 me, do you?
JENNY. Oh please don’t drag my hair. Let me go.
BILL. Do you or don’t you? [She stifles a scream]. Yes or no.
JENNY. God give me strength–
BILL [striking her with his fist in the face] Go and show her that, and tell her if she wants 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 I’ll smash you over the face with the mug and cut your eye out. Ain’t 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. I’ll do a day’s 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 can’t afford to keep men over forty-five. They’re very sorry–give you a character and happy to help you to get anything suited to your years–sure a steady man won’t be long out of a job. Well, let em try you. They’ll 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. Don’t provoke me to lay it acrost yours: d’ye hear?
SHIRLEY [with blighting contempt] Yes: you like an old man to hit, don’t you, when you’ve finished with the women. I ain’t 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-law’s brother?
BILL. Who’s he?
SHIRLEY. Todger Fairmile o Balls Pond. Him that won 20 pounds off the Japanese wrastler at the music hall by standin out 17 minutes 4 seconds agen him.
BILL [sullenly] I’m no music hall wrastler. Can he box?
SHIRLEY. Yes: an you can’t.
BILL. Wot! I can’t, can’t I? Wot’s 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] I’ll stand up to any man alive, if he was ten Todger Fairmiles. But I don’t set up to be a perfessional.
SHIRLEY [looking down on him with unfathomable disdain] YOU box! Slap an old woman with the back o your hand! You hadn’t even the sense to hit her where a magistrate couldn’t 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 Fairmile’d done it, she wouldn’t a got up inside o ten minutes, no more than you would if he got on to you. Yah! I’d set about you myself if I had a week’s 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! it’s true: I’m only an old pauper on the scrap heap. [Furiously] But you’ll come to it yourself; and then you’ll know. You’ll come to it sooner than a teetotaller like me, fillin yourself with gin at this hour o the mornin!
BILL. I’m 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] I’m goin in there to fetch her out. [He makes vengefully for the shelter door].
SHIRLEY. You’re goin to the station on a stretcher, more likely; and they’ll take the gin and the devil out of you there when they get you inside. You mind what you’re about: the major here is the Earl o Stevenage’s granddaughter.
BILL [checked] Garn!
SHIRLEY. You’ll see.
BILL [his resolution oozing] Well, I ain’t done nothin to er.
SHIRLEY. Spose she said you did! who’d believe you?
BILL [very uneasy, skulking back to the corner of the penthouse] Gawd! There’s no jastice in this country. To think wot them people can do! I’m as good as er.
SHIRLEY. Tell her so. It’s 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 you’ve 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] You’d pass still. Why didn’t you dye your hair?
SHIRLEY. I did. Me age come out at a coroner’s inquest on me daughter.
SHIRLEY. Teetotaller. Never out of a job before. Good worker. And sent to the knockers like an old horse!
BARBARA. No matter: if you did your part God will do his.
SHIRLEY [suddenly stubborn] My religion’s 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 father’s 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]. What’s your name?
BILL [insolently] Wot’s that to you?
BARBARA [calmly making a note] Afraid to give his name. Any trade?
BILL. Who’s 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 name’s Bill Walker.
BARBARA [as if the name were familiar: trying to remember how] Bill Walker? [Recollecting] Oh, I know: you’re the man that Jenny Hill was praying for inside just now. [She enters his name in her note book].
BILL. Who’s Jenny Hill? And what call has she to pray for me?
BARBARA. I don’t know. Perhaps it was you that cut her lip.
BILL [defiantly] Yes, it was me that cut her lip. I ain’t afraid o you.
BARBARA. How could you be, since you’re not afraid of God? You’re 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 that, 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 don’t want your bread and scrape and catlap. I don’t 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 didn’t understand. I’ll strike it out.
BILL [taking this as a slight, and deeply wounded by it] Eah! you let my name alone. Ain’t it good enough to be in your book?
BARBARA [considering] Well, you see, there’s no use putting down your name unless I can do something for you, is there? What’s your trade?
BILL [still smarting] That’s no concern o yours.
BARBARA. Just so. [very businesslike] I’ll put you down as [writing] the man who–struck–poor little Jenny Hill–in the mouth.
BILL [rising threateningly] See here. I’ve 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 jaws 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]. What’s her name?
BILL [dogged] Er name’s Mog Abbijam: thats wot her name is.
BARBARA. Oh, she’s gone to Canning Town, to our barracks there.
BILL [fortified by his resentment of Mog’s perfidy] is she? [Vindictively] Then I’m 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 don’t want to get shut of you. I want to keep you here and save your soul. You’d better stay: you’re going to have a bad time today, Bill.
BILL. Who’s goin to give it to me? You, props.
BARBARA. Someone you don’t believe in. But you’ll be glad afterwards.
BILL [slinking off] I’ll go to Kennintahn to be out o the reach o your tongue. [Suddenly turning on her with intense malice] And if I don’t find Mog there, I’ll come back and do two years for you, selp me Gawd if I don’t!
BARBARA [a shade kindlier, if possible] It’s no use, Bill. She’s got another bloke.
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? It’s red.
BARBARA. It’s quite lovely now, because she wears a new look in her eyes with it. It’s a pity you’re too late. The new bloke has put your nose out of joint, Bill.
BILL. I’ll put his nose out o joint for him. Not that I care a curse for her, mind that. But I’ll teach her to drop me as if I was dirt. And I’ll teach him to meddle with my Judy. Wots iz bleedin name?
BARBARA. Sergeant Todger Fairmile.
SHIRLEY [rising with grim joy] I’ll go with him, miss. I want to see them two meet. I’ll take him to the infirmary when it’s over.
BILL [to Shirley, with undissembled misgiving] Is that im you was speakin on?
SHIRLEY. That’s 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. He’s gev em up now for religion; so he’s a bit fresh for want of the exercise he was accustomed to. He’ll be glad to see you. Come along.
BILL. Wots is weight?
SHIRLEY. Thirteen four. [Bill’s last hope expires].
BARBARA. Go and talk to him, Bill. He’ll convert you.
SHIRLEY. He’ll convert your head into a mashed potato.
BILL [sullenly] I ain’t afraid of him. I ain’t afraid of ennybody. But he can lick me. She’s done me. [He sits down moodily on the edge of the horse trough].
SHIRLEY. You ain’t 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 she’s afraid.
BARBARA [her resemblance to her mother flashing out for a moment] Nonsense! she must do as she’s told.
JENNY [calling into the shelter] Rummy: the Major says you must come.
Jenny comes to Barbara, purposely keeping on the side next Bill, lest he should suppose that she shrank from him or bore malice.
BARBARA. Poor little Jenny! Are you tired? [Looking at the wounded cheek] Does it hurt?
JENNY. No: it’s all right now. It was nothing.
BARBARA [critically] It was as hard as he could hit, I expect. Poor Bill! You don’t feel angry with him, do you?
JENNY. Oh no, no, no: indeed I don’t, Major, bless his poor heart! [Barbara kisses her; and she runs away merrily into the shelter. Bill writhes with an agonizing return of his new and alarming symptoms, but says nothing. Rummy Mitchens comes from the shelter].
BARBARA [going to meet Rummy] Now Rummy, bustle. Take in those mugs and plates to be washed; and throw the crumbs about for the birds.
Rummy takes the three plates and mugs; but Shirley takes back his mug from her, as there it still come milk left in it.
RUMMY. There ain’t any crumbs. This ain’t a time to waste good bread on birds.
PRICE [appearing at the shelter door] Gentleman come to see the shelter, Major. Says he’s your father.
BARBARA. All right. Coming. [Snobby goes back into the shelter, followed by Barbara].
RUMMY [stealing across to Bill and addressing him in a subdued voice, but with intense conviction] I’d av the lor of you, you flat eared pignosed potwalloper, if she’d let me. You’re no gentleman, to hit a lady in the face. [Bill, with greater things moving in him, takes no notice].
SHIRLEY [following her] Here! in with you and don’t get yourself into more trouble by talking.
RUMMY [with hauteur] I ain’t ad the pleasure o being hintroduced to you, as I can remember. [She goes into the shelter with the plates].
BILL [savagely] Don’t you talk to me, d’ye hear. You lea me alone, or I’ll do you a mischief. I’m not dirt under your feet, anyway.
SHIRLEY [calmly] Don’t you be afeerd. You ain’t such prime company that you need expect to be sought after. [He is about to go into the shelter when Barbara comes out, with Undershaft on her right].
BARBARA. Oh there you are, Mr Shirley! [Between them] This is my father: I told you he was a Secularist, didn’t I? Perhaps you’ll be able to comfort one another.
UNDERSHAFT [startled] A Secularist! Not the least in the world: on the contrary, a confirmed mystic.
BARBARA. Sorry, I’m sure. By the way, papa, what is your religion–in case I have to introduce you again?
UNDERSHAFT. My religion? Well, my dear, I am a Millionaire. That is my religion.
BARBARA. Then I’m afraid you and Mr Shirley wont be able to comfort one another after all. You’re not a Millionaire, are you, Peter?
SHIRLEY. No; and proud of it.
UNDERSHAFT [gravely] Poverty, my friend, is not a thing to be proud of.
SHIRLEY [angrily] Who made your millions for you? Me and my like. What’s kep us poor? Keepin you rich. I wouldn’t have your conscience, not for all your income.
UNDERSHAFT. I wouldn’t have your income, not for all your conscience, Mr Shirley. [He goes to the penthouse and sits down on a form].
BARBARA [stopping Shirley adroitly as he is about to retort] You wouldn’t think he was my father, would you, Peter? Will you go into the shelter and lend the lasses a hand for a while: we’re worked off our feet.
SHIRLEY [bitterly] Yes: I’m in their debt for a meal, ain’t I?
BARBARA. Oh, not because you’re in their debt; but for love of them, Peter, for love of them. [He cannot understand, and is rather scandalized]. There! Don’t stare at me. In with you; and give that conscience of yours a holiday [bustling him into the shelter].
SHIRLEY [as he goes in] Ah! it’s a pity you never was trained to use your reason, miss. You’d have been a very taking lecturer on Secularism.
Barbara turns to her father.
UNDERSHAFT. Never mind me, my dear. Go about your work; and let me watch it for a while.
BARBARA. All right.
UNDERSHAFT. For instance, what’s the matter with that out-patient over there?
BARBARA [looking at Bill, whose attitude has never changed, and whose expression of brooding wrath has deepened] Oh, we shall cure him in no time. Just watch. [She goes over to Bill and waits. He glances up at her and casts his eyes down again, uneasy, but grimmer than ever]. It would be nice to just stamp on Mog Habbijam’s face, wouldn’t it, Bill?
BILL [starting up from the trough in consternation] It’s a lie: I never said so. [She shakes her head]. Who told you wot was in my mind?
BARBARA. Only your new friend.
BILL. Wot new friend?
BARBARA. The devil, Bill. When he gets round people they get miserable, just like you.
HILL [with a heartbreaking attempt at devil-may-care cheerfulness] I ain’t miserable. [He sits down again, and stretches his legs in an attempt to seem indifferent].
BARBARA. Well, if you’re happy, why don’t you look happy, as we do?
BILL [his legs curling back in spite of him] I’m appy enough, I tell you. Why don’t you lea me alown? Wot av I done to you? I ain’t smashed your face, av I?
BARBARA [softly: wooing his soul] It’s not me that’s getting at you, Bill.
BILL. Who else is it?
BARBARA. Somebody that doesn’t intend you to smash women’s faces, I suppose. Somebody or something that wants to make a man of you.
BILL [blustering] Make a man o ME! Ain’t I a man? eh? ain’t I a man? Who sez I’m not a man?
BARBARA. There’s a man in you somewhere, I suppose. But why did he let you hit poor little Jenny Hill? That wasn’t very manly of him, was it?
BILL [tormented] Av done with it, I tell you. Chock it. I’m sick of your Jenny Ill and er silly little face.
BARBARA. Then why do you keep thinking about it? Why does it keep coming up against you in your mind? You’re not getting converted, are you?
BILL [with conviction] Not ME. Not likely. Not arf.
BARBARA. That’s right, Bill. Hold out against it. Put out your strength. Don’t let’s get you cheap. Todger Fairmile said he wrestled for three nights against his Salvation harder than he ever wrestled with the Jap at the music hall. He gave in to the Jap when his arm was going to break. But he didn’t give in to his salvation until his heart was going to break. Perhaps you’ll escape that. You haven’t any heart, have you?
BILL. Wot dye mean? Wy ain’t I got a art the same as ennybody else?
BARBARA. A man with a heart wouldn’t have bashed poor little Jenny’s face, would he?
BILL [almost crying] Ow, will you lea me alown? Av I ever offered to meddle with you, that you come noggin and provowkin me lawk this? [He writhes convulsively from his eyes to his toes].
BARBARA [with a steady soothing hand on his arm and a gentle voice that never lets him go] It’s your soul that’s hurting you, Bill, and not me. We’ve been through it all ourselves. Come with us, Bill. [He looks wildly round]. To brave manhood on earth and eternal glory in heaven. [He is on the point of breaking down]. Come. [A drum is heard in the shelter; and Bill, with a gasp, escapes from the spell as Barbara turns quickly. Adolphus enters from the shelter with a big drum]. Oh! there you are, Dolly. Let me introduce a new friend of mine, Mr Bill Walker. This is my bloke, Bill: Mr Cusins. [Cusins salutes with his drumstick].
BILL. Goin to marry im?
BILL [fervently] Gawd elp im! Gawd elp im!
BARBARA. Why? Do you think he won’t be happy with me?
BILL. I’ve only ad to stand it for a mornin: e’ll av to stand it for a lifetime.
CUSINS. That is a frightful reflection, Mr Walker. But I can’t tear myself away from her.
BILL. Well, I can. [To Barbara] Eah! do you know where I’m goin to, and wot I’m goin to do?
BARBARA. Yes: you’re going to heaven; and you’re coming back here before the week’s out to tell me so.
BILL. You lie. I’m goin to Kennintahn, to spit in Todger Fairmile’s eye. I bashed Jenny Ill’s face; and now I’ll get me own face bashed and come back and show it to er. E’ll it me ardern I it er. That’ll make us square. [To Adolphus] Is that fair or is it not? You’re a genlmn: you oughter know.
BARBARA. Two black eyes wont make one white one, Bill.
BILL. I didn’t ast you. Cawn’t you never keep your mahth shut? I ast the genlmn.
CUSINS [reflectively] Yes: I think you’re right, Mr Walker. Yes: I should do it. It’s curious: it’s exactly what an ancient Greek would have done.
BARBARA. But what good will it do?
CUSINS. Well, it will give Mr Fairmile some exercise; and it will satisfy Mr Walker’s soul.
BILL. Rot! there ain’t no sach a thing as a soul. Ah kin you tell wether I’ve a soul or not? You never seen it.
BARBARA. I’ve seen it hurting you when you went against it.
BILL [with compressed aggravation] If you was my girl and took the word out o me mahth lawk thet, I’d give you suthink you’d feel urtin, so I would. [To Adolphus] You take my tip, mate. Stop er jawr; or you’ll die afore your time. [With intense expression] Wore aht: thets wot you’ll be: wore aht. [He goes away through the gate].
CUSINS [looking after him] I wonder!
BARBARA. Dolly! [indignant, in her mother’s manner].
CUSINS. Yes, my dear, it’s very wearing to be in love with you. If it lasts, I quite think I shall die young.
BARBARA. Should you mind?
CUSINS. Not at all. [He is suddenly softened, and kisses her over the drum, evidently not for the first time, as people cannot kiss over a big drum without practice. Undershaft coughs].
BARBARA. It’s all right, papa, we’ve not forgotten you. Dolly: explain the place to papa: I haven’t time. [She goes busily into the shelter].
Undershaft and Adolpbus now have the yard to themselves. Undershaft, seated on a form, and still keenly attentive, looks hard at Adolphus. Adolphus looks hard at him.
UNDERSHAFT. I fancy you guess something of what is in my mind, Mr Cusins. [Cusins flourishes his drumsticks as if in the art of beating a lively rataplan, but makes no sound]. Exactly so. But suppose Barbara finds you out!
CUSINS. You know, I do not admit that I am imposing on Barbara. I am quite genuinely interested in the views of the Salvation Army. The fact is, I am a sort of collector of religions; and the curious thing is that I find I can believe them all. By the way, have you any religion?
CUSINS. Anything out of the common?
UNDERSHAFT. Only that there are two things necessary to Salvation.
CUSINS [disappointed, but polite] Ah, the Church Catechism. Charles Lomax also belongs to the Established Church.
UNDERSHAFT. The two things are–
CUSINS. Baptism and–
UNDERSHAFT. No. Money and gunpowder.
CUSINS [surprised, but interested] That is the general opinion of our governing classes. The novelty is in hearing any man confess it.
UNDERSHAFT. Just so.
CUSINS. Excuse me: is there any place in your religion for honor, justice, truth, love, mercy and so forth?
UNDERSHAFT. Yes: they are the graces and luxuries of a rich, strong, and safe life.
CUSINS. Suppose one is forced to choose between them and money or gunpowder?
UNDERSHAFT. Choose money and gunpowder; for without enough of both you cannot afford the others.
CUSINS. That is your religion?
The cadence of this reply makes a full close in the conversation. Cusins twists his face dubiously and contemplates Undershaft. Undershaft contemplates him.
CUSINS. Barbara won’t stand that. You will have to choose between your religion and Barbara.