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SHIRLEY. Todger Fairmile o Balls Pond. Him that won 20 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 cant.

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

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

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

SHIRLEY (looking down on him with unfathomable disdain). Y o u box! Slap an old woman with the back o your hand! You hadnt even the sense to hit her where a magistrate couldnt see the mark of it, you silly young lump of conceit and ignorance. Hit a girl in the jaw and ony make her cry! If Todger Fairmile'd done it, she wouldnt 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 youll come to it yourself; and then youll know. Youll come to it sooner than a teetotaller like me, fillin yourself with gin at this hour o the mornin!

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

BILL (checked ). Garn!

SHIRLEY. Youll see.

BILL (his resolution oozing). Well, I aint 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! theres no jastice in this country. To think wot them people can do! I'm as good as er.

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

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

BARBARA. Good morning.

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

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

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

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

SHIRLEY. I did. Me age come out at a coroner's inquest on me daughter.

BARBARA. Steady?

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

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

SHIRLEY. (suddenly stubborn). My 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.) Whats your name?

BILL. (insolently). Wots 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: youre 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 dont know. Perhaps it was you that cut her lip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BILL (dogged). Er 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 dont want to get shut of you. I want to keep you here and save your soul. Youd better stay: youre going to have a bad time today, Bill.

BILL. Who's goin to give it to me? Y o u, praps.

BARBARA. Someone you dont believe in. But youll 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 dont 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. Shes got another bloke.

BILL. Wot!

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

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

BARBARA. It's quite lovely now, because she wears a new look in her eyes with it. It's a pity youre 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 is 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. Thats him.

BILL. Im that wrastled in the music all?

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

BILL. Wots is weight?

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

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

BARBARA (calling). Jenny!

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

BARBARA. Send Rummy Mitchens out to clear away here.

JENNY. I think shes afraid.

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

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 dont feel angry with him, do you?

JENNY. Oh no, no, no: indeed I dont, Major, bless his poor heart! (Barbara kisses her; and she runs array 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 is still some milk left in it.

RUMMY. There aint any crumbs. This aint a time to waste good bread on birds.

PRICE (appearing at the shelter door). Gentleman come to see the shelter, Major. Says hes 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. Youre 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 dont get yourself into more trouble by talking.

RUMMY (with hauteur). I aint ad the pleasure o being hintroduced to you, as I can remember. (She goes into the shelter with the plates.)

SHIRLEY. Thats the --




Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw
Category:
General Fiction
Book Review:
Read Bernard Shaw’s “Major Barbara”, and you will be surprised as to how easily you will be convinced that poverty is “the worst of our crimes”, that the Church is the instrument of capitalism, and that real progress can only be achieved by the power of gunpowder. With the strategy of Shavian paradox
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