George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)
86 Major Barbara: Act II
George Bernard Shaw
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 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 [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 knackers 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, praps.
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 some 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.
Bill [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 Adolphus 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.
Undershaft. So will you, my friend. She will find out that that drum of yours is hollow.
Cusins. Father Undershaft: you are mistaken: I am a sincere Salvationist. You do not understand the Salvation Army. It is the army of joy, of love, of courage: it has banished the fear and remorse and despair of the old hellridden evangelical sects: it marches to fight the devil with trumpet and drum, with music and dancing, with banner and palm, as becomes a sally from heaven by its happy garrison. It picks the waster out of the public house and makes a man of him: it finds a worm wriggling in a back kitchen, and lo! a woman! Men and women of rank too, sons and daughters of the Highest. It takes the poor professor of Greek, the most artificial and self-suppressed of human creatures, from his meal of roots, and lets loose the rhapsodist in him; reveals the true worship of Dionysos to him; sends him down the public street drumming dithyrambs [he plays a thundering flourish on the drum].
Undershaft. You will alarm the shelter.
Cusins. Oh, they are accustomed to these sudden ecstasies of piety. However, if the drum worries you — [he pockets the drumsticks; unhooks the drum; and stands it on the ground opposite the gateway].
Undershaft. Thank you.
Cusins. You remember what Euripides says about your money and gunpowder?
One and another
In money and guns may outpass his brother;
And men in their millions float and flow
And seethe with a million hopes as leaven;
And they win their will; or they miss their will;
And their hopes are dead or are pined for still:
But whoe’er can know
As the long days go
That to live is happy, has found his heaven.
My translation: what do you think of it?
Undershaft. I think, my friend, that if you wish to know, as the long days go, that to live is happy, you must first acquire money enough for a decent life, and power enough to be your own master.
Cusins. You are damnably discouraging. [He resumes his declamation].
Is it so hard a thing to see
That the spirit of God — whate’er it be —
The Law that abides and changes not, ages long,
The Eternal and Nature-born: these things be strong.
What else is Wisdom? What of Man’s endeavor,
Or God’s high grace so lovely and so great?
To stand from fear set free? to breathe and wait?
To hold a hand uplifted over Fate?
And shall not Barbara be loved for ever?
Undershaft. Euripides mentions Barbara, does he?
Cusins. It is a fair translation. The word means Loveliness.
Undershaft. May I ask — as Barbara’s father — how much a year she is to be loved for ever on?
Cusins. As Barbara’s father, that is more your affair than mine. I can feed her by teaching Greek: that is about all.
Undershaft. Do you consider it a good match for her?
Cusins [with polite obstinacy] Mr Undershaft: I am in many ways a weak, timid, ineffectual person; and my health is far from satisfactory. But whenever I feel that I must have anything, I get it, sooner or later. I feel that way about Barbara. I don’t like marriage: I feel intensely afraid of it; and I don’t know what I shall do with Barbara or what she will do with me. But I feel that I and nobody else must marry her. Please regard that as settled.— Not that I wish to be arbitrary; but why should I waste your time in discussing what is inevitable?
Undershaft. You mean that you will stick at nothing not even the conversion of the Salvation Army to the worship of Dionysos.
Cusins. The business of the Salvation Army is to save, not to wrangle about the name of the pathfinder. Dionysos or another: what does it matter?
Undershaft [rising and approaching him] Professor Cusins you are a young man after my own heart.
Cusins. Mr Undershaft: you are, as far as I am able to gather, a most infernal old rascal; but you appeal very strongly to my sense of ironic humor.
Undershaft mutely offers his hand. They shake.
Undershaft [suddenly concentrating himself] And now to business.
Cusins. Pardon me. We were discussing religion. Why go back to such an uninteresting and unimportant subject as business?
Undershaft. Religion is our business at present, because it is through religion alone that we can win Barbara.
Cusins. Have you, too, fallen in love with Barbara?
Undershaft. Yes, with a father’s love.
Cusins. A father’s love for a grown-up daughter is the most dangerous of all infatuations. I apologize for mentioning my own pale, coy, mistrustful fancy in the same breath with it.
Undershaft. Keep to the point. We have to win her; and we are neither of us Methodists.
Cusins. That doesn’t matter. The power Barbara wields here — the power that wields Barbara herself — is not Calvinism, not Presbyterianism, not Methodism —
Undershaft. Not Greek Paganism either, eh?
Cusins. I admit that. Barbara is quite original in her religion.
Undershaft [triumphantly] Aha! Barbara Undershaft would be. Her inspiration comes from within herself.
Cusins. How do you suppose it got there?
Undershaft [in towering excitement] It is the Undershaft inheritance. I shall hand on my torch to my daughter. She shall make my converts and preach my gospel.
Cusins. What! Money and gunpowder!
Undershaft. Yes, money and gunpowder; freedom and power; command of life and command of death.
Cusins [urbanely: trying to bring him down to earth] This is extremely interesting, Mr Undershaft. Of course you know that you are mad.
Undershaft [with redoubled force] And you?
Cusins. Oh, mad as a hatter. You are welcome to my secret since I have discovered yours. But I am astonished. Can a madman make cannons?
Undershaft. Would anyone else than a madman make them? And now [with surging energy] question for question. Can a sane man translate Euripides?
Undershaft [reining him by the shoulder] Can a sane woman make a man of a waster or a woman of a worm?
Cusins [reeling before the storm] Father Colossus — Mammoth Millionaire —
Undershaft [pressing him] Are there two mad people or three in this Salvation shelter to-day?
Cusins. You mean Barbara is as mad as we are!
Undershaft [pushing him lightly off and resuming his equanimity suddenly and completely] Pooh, Professor! let us call things by their proper names. I am a millionaire; you are a poet; Barbara is a savior of souls. What have we three to do with the common mob of slaves and idolaters? [He sits down again with a shrug of contempt for the mob].
Cusins. Take care! Barbara is in love with the common people. So am I. Have you never felt the romance of that love?
Undershaft [cold and sardonic] Have you ever been in love with Poverty, like St Francis? Have you ever been in love with Dirt, like St Simeon? Have you ever been in love with disease and suffering, like our nurses and philanthropists? Such passions are not virtues, but the most unnatural of all the vices. This love of the common people may please an earl’s granddaughter and a university professor; but I have been a common man and a poor man; and it has no romance for me. Leave it to the poor to pretend that poverty is a blessing: leave it to the coward to make a religion of his cowardice by preaching humility: we know better than that. We three must stand together above the common people: how else can we help their children to climb up beside us? Barbara must belong to us, not to the Salvation Army.
Cusins. Well, I can only say that if you think you will get her away from the Salvation Army by talking to her as you have been talking to me, you don’t know Barbara.
Undershaft. My friend: I never ask for what I can buy.
Cusins [in a white fury] Do I understand you to imply that you can buy Barbara?
Undershaft. No; but I can buy the Salvation Army.
Cusins. Quite impossible.
Undershaft. You shall see. All religious organizations exist by selling themselves to the rich.
Cusins. Not the Army. That is the Church of the poor.
Undershaft. All the more reason for buying it.
Cusins. I don’t think you quite know what the Army does for the poor.
Undershaft. Oh yes I do. It draws their teeth: that is enough for me — as a man of business —
Cusins. Nonsense! It makes them sober —
Undershaft. I prefer sober workmen. The profits are larger.
Cusins. — honest —
Undershaft. Honest workmen are the most economical.
Cusins. — attached to their homes —
Undershaft. So much the better: they will put up with anything sooner than change their shop.
Cusins. — happy —
Undershaft. An invaluable safeguard against revolution.
Cusins. — unselfish —
Undershaft. Indifferent to their own interests, which suits me exactly.
Cusins. — with their thoughts on heavenly things —
Undershaft [rising] And not on Trade Unionism nor Socialism. Excellent.
Cusins [revolted] You really are an infernal old rascal.
Undershaft [indicating Peter Shirley, who has just came from the shelter and strolled dejectedly down the yard between them] And this is an honest man!
Shirley. Yes; and what av I got by it? [he passes on bitterly and sits on the form, in the corner of the penthouse].
Snobby Price, beaming sanctimoniously, and Jenny Hill, with a tambourine full of coppers, come from the shelter and go to the drum, on which Jenny begins to count the money.
Undershaft [replying to Shirley] Oh, your employers must have got a good deal by it from first to last. [He sits on the table, with one foot on the side form. Cusins, overwhelmed, sits down on the same form nearer the shelter. Barbara comes from the shelter to the middle of the yard. She is excited and a little overwrought].
Barbara. We’ve just had a splendid experience meeting at the other gate in Cripps’s lane. I’ve hardly ever seen them so much moved as they were by your confession, Mr Price.
Price. I could almost be glad of my past wickedness if I could believe that it would elp to keep hathers stright.
Barbara. So it will, Snobby. How much, Jenny?
Jenny. Four and tenpence, Major.
Barbara. Oh Snobby, if you had given your poor mother just one more kick, we should have got the whole five shillings!
Price. If she heard you say that, miss, she’d be sorry I didn’t. But I’m glad. Oh what a joy it will be to her when she hears I’m saved!
Undershaft. Shall I contribute the odd twopence, Barbara? The millionaire’s mite, eh? [He takes a couple of pennies from his pocket.]
Barbara. How did you make that twopence?
Undershaft. As usual. By selling cannons, torpedoes, submarines, and my new patent Grand Duke hand grenade.
Barbara. Put it back in your pocket. You can’t buy your Salvation here for twopence: you must work it out.
Undershaft. Is twopence not enough? I can afford a little more, if you press me.
Barbara. Two million millions would not be enough. There is bad blood on your hands; and nothing but good blood can cleanse them. Money is no use. Take it away. [She turns to Cusins]. Dolly: you must write another letter for me to the papers. [He makes a wry face]. Yes: I know you don’t like it; but it must be done. The starvation this winter is beating us: everybody is unemployed. The General says we must close this shelter if we cant get more money. I force the collections at the meetings until I am ashamed, don’t I, Snobby?
Price. It’s a fair treat to see you work it, miss. The way you got them up from three-and-six to four-and-ten with that hymn, penny by penny and verse by verse, was a caution. Not a Cheap Jack on Mile End Waste could touch you at it.
Barbara. Yes; but I wish we could do without it. I am getting at last to think more of the collection than of the people’s souls. And what are those hatfuls of pence and halfpence? We want thousands! tens of thousands! hundreds of thousands! I want to convert people, not to be always begging for the Army in a way I’d die sooner than beg for myself.
Undershaft [in profound irony] Genuine unselfishness is capable of anything, my dear.
Barbara [unsuspectingly, as she turns away to take the money from the drum and put it in a cash bag she carries] Yes, isn’t it? [Undershaft looks sardonically at Cusins].
Cusins [aside to Undershaft] Mephistopheles! Machiavelli!
Barbara [tears coming into her eyes as she ties the bag and pockets it] How are we to feed them? I can’t talk religion to a man with bodily hunger in his eyes. [Almost breaking down] It’s frightful.
Jenny [running to her] Major, dear —
Barbara [rebounding] No: don’t comfort me. It will be all right. We shall get the money.
Jenny. By praying for it, of course. Mrs Baines says she prayed for it last night; and she has never prayed for it in vain: never once. [She goes to the gate and looks out into the street].
Barbara [who has dried her eyes and regained her composure] By the way, dad, Mrs Baines has come to march with us to our big meeting this afternoon; and she is very anxious to meet you, for some reason or other. Perhaps she’ll convert you.
Undershaft. I shall be delighted, my dear.
Jenny [at the gate: excitedly] Major! Major! Here’s that man back again.
Barbara. What man?
Jenny. The man that hit me. Oh, I hope he’s coming back to join us.
Bill Walker, with frost on his jacket, comes through the gate, his hands deep in his pockets and his chin sunk between his shoulders, like a cleaned-out gambler. He halts between Barbara and the drum.
Barbara. Hullo, Bill! Back already!
Bill [nagging at her] Bin talkin ever sense, av you?
Barbara. Pretty nearly. Well, has Todger paid you out for poor Jenny’s jaw?
Bill. NO he ain’t.
Barbara. I thought your jacket looked a bit snowy.
Bill. So it is snowy. You want to know where the snow come from, don’t you?
Bill. Well, it come from off the ground in Parkinses Corner in Kennintahn. It got rubbed off be my shoulders see?
Barbara. Pity you didn’t rub some off with your knees, Bill! That would have done you a lot of good.
Bill [with your mirthless humor] I was saving another man’s knees at the time. E was kneelin on my ed, so e was.
Jenny. Who was kneeling on your head?
Bill. Todger was. E was prayin for me: prayin comfortable with me as a carpet. So was Mog. So was the ole bloomin meetin. Mog she sez “O Lord break is stubborn spirit; but don’t urt is dear art.” That was wot she said. “Don’t urt is dear art”! An er bloke — thirteen stun four!— kneelin wiv all is weight on me. Funny, ain’t it?
Jenny. Oh no. We’re so sorry, Mr Walker.
Barbara [enjoying it frankly] Nonsense! of course it’s funny. Served you right, Bill! You must have done something to him first.
Bill [doggedly] I did wot I said I’d do. I spit in is eye. E looks up at the sky and sez, “O that I should be fahnd worthy to be spit upon for the gospel’s sake!” a sez; an Mog sez “Glory Allelloolier!”; an then a called me Brother, an dahned me as if I was a kid and a was me mother washin me a Setterda nawt. I adn’t just no show wiv im at all. Arf the street prayed; an the tother arf larfed fit to split theirselves. [To Barbara] There! are you settisfawd nah?
Barbara [her eyes dancing] Wish I’d been there, Bill.
Bill. Yes: you’d a got in a hextra bit o talk on me, wouldn’t you?
Jenny. I’m so sorry, Mr. Walker.
Bill [fiercely] Don’t you go bein sorry for me: you’ve no call. Listen ere. I broke your jawr.
Jenny. No, it didn’t hurt me: indeed it didn’t, except for a moment. It was only that I was frightened.
Bill. I don’t want to be forgive be you, or be ennybody. Wot I did I’ll pay for. I tried to get me own jawr broke to settisfaw you —
Jenny [distressed] Oh no —
Bill [impatiently] Tell y’I did: cawn’t you listen to wot’s bein told you? All I got be it was bein made a sight of in the public street for me pains. Well, if I cawn’t settisfaw you one way, I can another. Listen ere! I ad two quid saved agen the frost; an I’ve a pahnd of it left. A mate n mine last week ad words with the Judy e’s goin to marry. E give er wot-for; an e’s bin fined fifteen bob. E ad a right to it er because they was goin to be marrid; but I adn’t no right to it you; so put anather fawv bob on an call it a pahnd’s worth. [He produces a sovereign]. Ere’s the money. Take it; and let’s av no more o your forgivin an prayin and your Major jawrin me. Let wot I done be done and paid for; and let there be a end of it.
Jenny. Oh, I couldn’t take it, Mr. Walker. But if you would give a shilling or two to poor Rummy Mitchens! you really did hurt her; and she’s old.
Bill [contemptuously] Not likely. I’d give her anather as soon as look at er. Let her av the lawr o me as she threatened! She ain’t forgiven me: not mach. Wot I done to er is not on me mawnd — wot she [indicating Barbara] might call on me conscience — no more than stickin a pig. It’s this Christian game o yours that I won’t av played agen me: this bloomin forgivin an noggin an jawrin that makes a man that sore that iz lawf’s a burdn to im. I won’t av it, I tell you; so take your money and stop throwin your silly bashed face hup agen me.
Jenny. Major: may I take a little of it for the Army?
Barbara. No: the Army is not to be bought. We want your soul, Bill; and we’ll take nothing less.
Bill [bitterly] I know. It ain’t enough. Me an me few shillins is not good enough for you. You’re a earl’s grendorter, you are. Nothin less than a underd pahnd for you.
Undershaft. Come, Barbara! you could do a great deal of good with a hundred pounds. If you will set this gentleman’s mind at ease by taking his pound, I will give the other ninety-nine [Bill, astounded by such opulence, instinctively touches his cap].
Barbara. Oh, you’re too extravagant, papa. Bill offers twenty pieces of silver. All you need offer is the other ten. That will make the standard price to buy anybody who’s for sale. I’m not; and the Army’s not. [To Bill] You’ll never have another quiet moment, Bill, until you come round to us. You can’t stand out against your salvation.
Bill [sullenly] I cawn’t stend aht agen music all wrastlers and artful tongued women. I’ve offered to pay. I can do no more. Take it or leave it. There it is. [He throws the sovereign on the drum, and sits down on the horse-trough. The coin fascinates Snobby Price, who takes an early opportunity of dropping his cap on it].
Mrs Baines comes from the shelter. She is dressed as a Salvation Army Commissioner. She is an earnest looking woman of about 40, with a caressing, urgent voice, and an appealing manner.
Barbara. This is my father, Mrs Baines. [Undershaft comes from the table, taking his hat off with marked civility]. Try what you can do with him. He won’t listen to me, because he remembers what a fool I was when I was a baby.
[She leaves them together and chats with Jenny].
Mrs Baines. Have you been shown over the shelter, Mr Undershaft? You know the work we’re doing, of course.
Undershaft [very civilly] The whole nation knows it, Mrs Baines.
Mrs Baines. No, Sir: the whole nation does not know it, or we should not be crippled as we are for want of money to carry our work through the length and breadth of the land. Let me tell you that there would have been rioting this winter in London but for us.
Undershaft. You really think so?
Mrs Baines. I know it. I remember 1886, when you rich gentlemen hardened your hearts against the cry of the poor. They broke the windows of your clubs in Pall Mall.
Undershaft [gleaming with approval of their method] And the Mansion House Fund went up next day from thirty thousand pounds to seventy-nine thousand! I remember quite well.
Mrs Baines. Well, won’t you help me to get at the people? They won’t break windows then. Come here, Price. Let me show you to this gentleman [Price comes to be inspected]. Do you remember the window breaking?
Price. My ole father thought it was the revolution, ma’am.
Mrs Baines. Would you break windows now?
Price. Oh no ma’m. The windows of eaven av bin opened to me. I know now that the rich man is a sinner like myself.
Rummy [appearing above at the loft door] Snobby Price!
Snobby. Wot is it?
Rummy. Your mother’s askin for you at the other gate in Crippses Lane. She’s heard about your confession [Price turns pale].
Mrs Baines. Go, Mr. Price; and pray with her.
Jenny. You can go through the shelter, Snobby.
Price [to Mrs Baines] I couldn’t face her now; ma’am, with all the weight of my sins fresh on me. Tell her she’ll find her son at ome, waitin for her in prayer. [He skulks off through the gate, incidentally stealing the sovereign on his way out by picking up his cap from the drum].
Mrs Baines [with swimming eyes] You see how we take the anger and the bitterness against you out of their hearts, Mr Undershaft.
Undershaft. It is certainly most convenient and gratifying to all large employers of labor, Mrs Baines.
Mrs Baines. Barbara: Jenny: I have good news: most wonderful news. [Jenny runs to her]. My prayers have been answered. I told you they would, Jenny, didn’t I?
Jenny. Yes, yes.
Barbara [moving nearer to the drum] Have we got money enough to keep the shelter open?
Mrs Baines. I hope we shall have enough to keep all the shelters open. Lord Saxmundham has promised us five thousand pounds —
Mrs Baines. — if —
Barbara. “If!” If what?
Mrs Baines. If five other gentlemen will give a thousand each to make it up to ten thousand.
Barbara. Who is Lord Saxmundham? I never heard of him.
Undershaft [who has pricked up his ears at the peer’s name, and is now watching Barbara curiously] A new creation, my dear. You have heard of Sir Horace Bodger?
Barbara. Bodger! Do you mean the distiller? Bodger’s whisky!
Undershaft. That is the man. He is one of the greatest of our public benefactors. He restored the cathedral at Hakington. They made him a baronet for that. He gave half a million to the funds of his party: they made him a baron for that.
Shirley. What will they give him for the five thousand?
Undershaft. There is nothing left to give him. So the five thousand, I should think, is to save his soul.
Mrs Baines. Heaven grant it may! Oh Mr. Undershaft, you have some very rich friends. Can’t you help us towards the other five thousand? We are going to hold a great meeting this afternoon at the Assembly Hall in the Mile End Road. If I could only announce that one gentleman had come forward to support Lord Saxmundham, others would follow. Don’t you know somebody? Couldn’t you? Wouldn’t you? [her eyes fill with tears] oh, think of those poor people, Mr Undershaft: think of how much it means to them, and how little to a great man like you.
Undershaft [sardonically gallant] Mrs Baines: you are irresistible. I can’t disappoint you; and I can’t deny myself the satisfaction of making Bodger pay up. You shall have your five thousand pounds.
Mrs Baines. Thank God!
Undershaft. You don’t thank me?
Mrs Baines. Oh sir, don’t try to be cynical: don’t be ashamed of being a good man. The Lord will bless you abundantly; and our prayers will be like a strong fortification round you all the days of your life. [With a touch of caution] You will let me have the cheque to show at the meeting, won’t you? Jenny: go in and fetch a pen and ink. [Jenny runs to the shelter door].
Undershaft. Do not disturb Miss Hill: I have a fountain pen. [Jenny halts. He sits at the table and writes the cheque. Cusins rises to make more room for him. They all watch him silently].
Bill [cynically, aside to Barbara, his voice and accent horribly debased] Wot prawce Selvytion nah?
Barbara. Stop. [Undershaft stops writing: they all turn to her in surprise]. Mrs Baines: are you really going to take this money?
Mrs Baines [astonished] Why not, dear?
Barbara. Why not! Do you know what my father is? Have you forgotten that Lord Saxmundham is Bodger the whisky man? Do you remember how we implored the County Council to stop him from writing Bodger’s Whisky in letters of fire against the sky; so that the poor drinkruined creatures on the embankment could not wake up from their snatches of sleep without being reminded of their deadly thirst by that wicked sky sign? Do you know that the worst thing I have had to fight here is not the devil, but Bodger, Bodger, Bodger, with his whisky, his distilleries, and his tied houses? Are you going to make our shelter another tied house for him, and ask me to keep it?
Bill. Rotten drunken whisky it is too.
Mrs Baines. Dear Barbara: Lord Saxmundham has a soul to be saved like any of us. If heaven has found the way to make a good use of his money, are we to set ourselves up against the answer to our prayers?
Barbara. I know he has a soul to be saved. Let him come down here; and I’ll do my best to help him to his salvation. But he wants to send his cheque down to buy us, and go on being as wicked as ever.
Undershaft [with a reasonableness which Cusins alone perceives to be ironical] My dear Barbara: alcohol is a very necessary article. It heals the sick —
Barbara. It does nothing of the sort.
Undershaft. Well, it assists the doctor: that is perhaps a less questionable way of putting it. It makes life bearable to millions of people who could not endure their existence if they were quite sober. It enables Parliament to do things at eleven at night that no sane person would do at eleven in the morning. Is it Bodger’s fault that this inestimable gift is deplorably abused by less than one per cent of the poor? [He turns again to the table; signs the cheque; and crosses it].
Mrs Baines. Barbara: will there be less drinking or more if all those poor souls we are saving come to-morrow and find the doors of our shelters shut in their faces? Lord Saxmundham gives us the money to stop drinking — to take his own business from him.
Cusins [impishly] Pure self-sacrifice on Bodger’s part, clearly! Bless dear Bodger! [Barbara almost breaks down as Adolphus, too, fails her].
Undershaft [tearing out the cheque and pocketing the book as he rises and goes past Cusins to Mrs Baines] I also, Mrs Baines, may claim a little disinterestedness. Think of my business! think of the widows and orphans! the men and lads torn to pieces with shrapnel and poisoned with lyddite [Mrs Baines shrinks; but he goes on remorselessly]! the oceans of blood, not one drop of which is shed in a really just cause! the ravaged crops! the peaceful peasants forced, women and men, to till their fields under the fire of opposing armies on pain of starvation! the bad blood of the fierce little cowards at home who egg on others to fight for the gratification of their national vanity! All this makes money for me: I am never richer, never busier than when the papers are full of it. Well, it is your work to preach peace on earth and goodwill to men. [Mrs Baines’s face lights up again]. Every convert you make is a vote against war. [Her lips move in prayer]. Yet I give you this money to help you to hasten my own commercial ruin. [He gives her the cheque].
Cusins [mounting the form in an ecstasy of mischief] The millennium will be inaugurated by the unselfishness of Undershaft and Bodger. Oh be joyful! [He takes the drumsticks from his pockets and flourishes them].
Mrs Baines [taking the cheque] The longer I live the more proof I see that there is an Infinite Goodness that turns everything to the work of salvation sooner or later. Who would have thought that any good could have come out of war and drink? And yet their profits are brought today to the feet of salvation to do its blessed work. [She is affected to tears].
Jenny [running to Mrs Baines and throwing her arms round her] Oh dear! how blessed, how glorious it all is!
Cusins [in a convulsion of irony] Let us seize this unspeakable moment. Let us march to the great meeting at once. Excuse me just an instant. [He rushes into the shelter. Jenny takes her tambourine from the drum head].
Mrs Baines. Mr Undershaft: have you ever seen a thousand people fall on their knees with one impulse and pray? Come with us to the meeting. Barbara shall tell them that the Army is saved, and saved through you.
Cusins [returning impetuously from the shelter with a flag and a trombone, and coming between Mrs Baines and Undershaft] You shall carry the flag down the first street, Mrs Baines [he gives her the flag]. Mr Undershaft is a gifted trombonist: he shall intone an Olympian diapason to the West Ham Salvation March. [Aside to Undershaft, as he forces the trombone on him] Blow, Machiavelli, blow.
Undershaft [aside to him, as he takes the trombone] The trumpet in Zion! [Cusins rushes to the drum, which he takes up and puts on. Undershaft continues, aloud] I will do my best. I could vamp a bass if I knew the tune.
Cusins. It is a wedding chorus from one of Donizetti’s operas; but we have converted it. We convert everything to good here, including Bodger. You remember the chorus. “For thee immense rejoicing — immenso giubilo — immenso giubilo.” [With drum obbligato] Rum tum ti tum tum, tum tum ti ta —
Barbara. Dolly: you are breaking my heart.
Cusins. What is a broken heart more or less here? Dionysos Undershaft has descended. I am possessed.
Mrs Baines. Come, Barbara: I must have my dear Major to carry the flag with me.
Jenny. Yes, yes, Major darling.
Cusins [snatches the tambourine out of Jenny’s hand and mutely offers it to Barbara].
Barbara [coming forward a little as she puts the offer behind her with a shudder, whilst Cusins recklessly tosses the tambourine back to Jenny and goes to the gate] I can’t come.
Jenny. Not come!
Mrs Baines [with tears in her eyes] Barbara: do you think I am wrong to take the money?
Barbara [impulsively going to her and kissing her] No, no: God help you, dear, you must: you are saving the Army. Go; and may you have a great meeting!
Jenny. But arn’t you coming?
Barbara. No. [She begins taking off the silver brooch from her collar].
Mrs Baines. Barbara: what are you doing?
Jenny. Why are you taking your badge off? You can’t be going to leave us, Major.
Barbara [quietly] Father: come here.
Undershaft [coming to her] My dear! [Seeing that she is going to pin the badge on his collar, he retreats to the penthouse in some alarm].
Barbara [following him] Don’t be frightened. [She pins the badge on and steps back towards the table, showing him to the others] There! It’s not much for 5000 pounds is it?
Mrs Baines. Barbara: if you won’t come and pray with us, promise me you will pray for us.
Barbara. I can’t pray now. Perhaps I shall never pray again.
Mrs Baines. Barbara!
Barbara [almost delirious] I can’t bear any more. Quick march!
Cusins [calling to the procession in the street outside] Off we go. Play up, there! Immenso giubilo. [He gives the time with his drum; and the band strikes up the march, which rapidly becomes more distant as the procession moves briskly away].
Mrs Baines. I must go, dear. You’re overworked: you will be all right tomorrow. We’ll never lose you. Now Jenny: step out with the old flag. Blood and Fire! [She marches out through the gate with her flag].
Jenny. Glory Hallelujah! [flourishing her tambourine and marching].
Undershaft [to Cusins, as he marches out past him easing the slide of his trombone] “My ducats and my daughter”!
Cusins [following him out] Money and gunpowder!
Barbara. Drunkenness and Murder! My God: why hast thou forsaken me?
She sinks on the form with her face buried in her hands. The march passes away into silence. Bill Walker steals across to her.
Bill [taunting] Wot prawce Selvytion nah?
Shirley. Don’t you hit her when she’s down.
Bill. She it me wen aw wiz dahn. Waw shouldn’t I git a bit o me own back?
Barbara [raising her head] I didn’t take your money, Bill. [She crosses the yard to the gate and turns her back on the two men to hide her face from them].
Bill [sneering after her] Naow, it warn’t enough for you. [Turning to the drum, he misses the money]. Ellow! If you ain’t took it summun else az. Were’s it gorn? Blame me if Jenny Ill didn’t take it arter all!
Rummy [screaming at him from the loft] You lie, you dirty blackguard! Snobby Price pinched it off the drum wen e took ap iz cap. I was ap ere all the time an see im do it.
Bill. Wot! Stowl maw money! Waw didn’t you call thief on him, you silly old mucker you?
Rummy. To serve you aht for ittin me acrost the face. It’s cost y’pahnd, that az. [Raising a paean of squalid triumph] I done you. I’m even with you. I’ve ad it aht o y —. [Bill snatches up Shirley’s mug and hurls it at her. She slams the loft door and vanishes. The mug smashes against the door and falls in fragments].
Bill [beginning to chuckle] Tell us, ole man, wot o’clock this morrun was it wen im as they call Snobby Prawce was sived?
Barbara [turning to him more composedly, and with unspoiled sweetness] About half past twelve, Bill. And he pinched your pound at a quarter to two. I know. Well, you can’t afford to lose it. I’ll send it to you.
Bill [his voice and accent suddenly improving] Not if I was to starve for it. I ain’t to be bought.
Shirley. Ain’t you? You’d sell yourself to the devil for a pint o beer; ony there ain’t no devil to make the offer.
Bill [unshamed] So I would, mate, and often av, cheerful. But she cawn’t buy me. [Approaching Barbara] You wanted my soul, did you? Well, you ain’t got it.
Barbara. I nearly got it, Bill. But we’ve sold it back to you for ten thousand pounds.
Shirley. And dear at the money!
Barbara. No, Peter: it was worth more than money.
Bill [salvationproof] It’s no good: you cawn’t get rahnd me nah. I don’t blieve in it; and I’ve seen today that I was right. [Going] So long, old soupkitchener! Ta, ta, Major Earl’s Grendorter! [Turning at the gate] Wot prawce Selvytion nah? Snobby Prawce! Ha! ha!
Barbara [offering her hand] Goodbye, Bill.
Bill [taken aback, half plucks his cap off then shoves it on again defiantly] Git aht. [Barbara drops her hand, discouraged. He has a twinge of remorse]. But thet’s aw rawt, you knaow. Nathink pasnl. Naow mellice. So long, Judy. [He goes].
Barbara. No malice. So long, Bill.
Shirley [shaking his head] You make too much of him, miss, in your innocence.
Barbara [going to him] Peter: I’m like you now. Cleaned out, and lost my job.
Shirley. You’ve youth an hope. That’s two better than me. That’s hope for you.
Barbara. I’ll get you a job, Peter, the youth will have to be enough for me. [She counts her money]. I have just enough left for two teas at Lockharts, a Rowton doss for you, and my tram and bus home. [He frowns and rises with offended pride. She takes his arm]. Don’t be proud, Peter: it’s sharing between friends. And promise me you’ll talk to me and not let me cry. [She draws him towards the gate].
Shirley. Well, I’m not accustomed to talk to the like of you —
Barbara [urgently] Yes, yes: you must talk to me. Tell me about Tom Paine’s books and Bradlaugh’s lectures. Come along.
Shirley. Ah, if you would only read Tom Paine in the proper spirit, miss! [They go out through the gate together].
- Benches. ↵
- After. ↵
- Clever. ↵
- Price was named after James Bronterre O’Brien (1805-1964), an Irish journalist and Chartist leader. ↵
- Chartism was a workng-class movement beginnng in 1837, whose six demands were listed in The People’s Charter of 1838. Their demands included manhood suffrage, vote by ballot, and abolition of property qualification for MPs. ↵
- Romola (1863). A novel by George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans). ↵
- Gospelling, preaching. ↵
- Skimmed milk. ↵
- Jawing, talking. ↵
- Hospital. Turned away by the hospitals. ↵
- “The peace of God which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). ↵
- That is, have her out of the shelter. ↵
- The name of Walker’s girlfriend. Possibly Maude Havisham or Haversham. ↵
- Horrocks, a cotton mill in Preston, Lancashire. ↵
- Letter of reference. ↵
- A road in Hackney, northeast London. ↵
- A beating. ↵
- A knacker’s yard is a slaughterhouse for horses. ↵
- An ethical system founded on natural morality and opposed to the tenets of revealed religion. ↵
- Milk. ↵
- 13 stone = 13 x 14 pounds plus 4, or 186 pounds. One stone is equal to 14 pounds. ↵
- The law. ↵
- Convincing. ↵
- Chuck, stop. ↵
- Greek god of wine, religious ecstasy, and theater. ↵
- Wild, impetuous lyric in praise of Dionysos (Bacchus). ↵
- From Euripides’ play The Bacchae (405 BC). Shaw uses here the 1904 translation of his friend, the Australian-born classicist Gilbert Murray (1866-1957), upon whom he based the character Adolphus Cusins. ↵
- Gen. William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army, was originally a Methodist. Methodism was a reformist sect founded by John Wesley (1703-1791) from within the Church of England. ↵
- A cheap-Jack is a travelling vendor of small wares, willing to take less than the price he first names. Mile End Waste is the market area of Mile End Road, London, the East End equivalent of Hyde Park Corner and place where William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, gave his first open-air sermon. ↵
- The devil who bought Faust’s soul. Machiavelli (1469-1527), Italian statesman and author whose name came to suggest politicians who use deceit to accomplish their ends. ↵
- Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15). ↵
- Trafalgar Square Demonstration and Riot, February 8, 1886. After meetings of two leftist organizations broke up in Trafalgar Square, a crowd of 5,000 people rushed into Pall Mall and St. James, smashing windows of the exclusive men’s clubs nearby. ↵
- Poor-relief fund originated by the Lord Mayor of London. Mansion House is the Lord Mayor’s official residence. ↵
- An invented title. ↵
- A public house tied by agreement to obtain its supplies from a particular firm. ↵
- An explosive made from picric acid. ↵
- An allusion to Joel 2:1, “Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD cometh....” ↵
- From the wedding chorus in Lucia di Lammermoor by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848). ↵
- In The Merchant of Venice, 2.8.16, Shylock calls for justice after his daughter Jessica has taken his money and eloped with a Christian. ↵
- The lament of the crucified Jesus (Matthew 27:46). ↵
- Lockharts, a chain of eating-houses in London; Rowton doss, a cheap hostel for working men, founded by Lord Rowton (1838-1903). ↵
- Charles Bradlaugh (1833-1891), a British atheist and free-thinker. ↵
- Tom Paine (1737-1809), author of The Rights of Man (1791), a defense of the French Revolution, and The Age of Reason (1793), which offers rationalist critique of organized religion. ↵