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BILL (savagely). Dont 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). Dont you be afeerd. You aint 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, didnt I? Perhaps youll 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 i s 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. Youre 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. Whats kep us poor? Keepin you rich. I wouldnt have your conscience, not for all your income.

UNDERSHAFT. I wouldnt 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 wouldnt 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, aint I?

BARBARA. Oh, not because youre in their debt; but for love of them, Peter, for love of them. (He cannot understand, and is rather scandalized.) There! dont 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. Youd 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, whats 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, wouldnt 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 aint miserable. (He sits down again, and stretches his legs in an attempt to seem indifferent.)

BARBARA. Well, if youre happy, why dont you look happy, as we do?

BILL (his legs curling back in spite of him). I'm appy enough, I tell you. Why dont you lea me alown? Wot av I done to y o u? I aint smashed y o u r face, av I?

BARBARA (softly: wooing his soul). It's not me tbats getting at you, Bill.

BILL. Who else is it?

BARBARA. Somebody that doesnt 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 m e! Aint I a man? eh? aint I a man? Who sez I'm not a man?

BARBARA. Theres a man in you somewhere, I suppose. But why did he let you hit poor little Jenny Hill? That wasnt very manly of him, was it?

BILL (tormented). Av done with it, I tell you. Chack 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? Youre not getting converted, are you?

BILL (with conviction). Not ME. Not likely. Not arf.

BARBARA. Thats right, Bill. Hold out against it. Put out your strength. Dont lets 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 didnt give in to his salvation until his heart was going to break. Perhaps youll escape that. You havnt any heart, have you?

BILL. Wot d'ye mean? Wy aint I got a art the same as ennybody else?

BARBARA. A man with a heart wouldnt have bashed poor little Jenny's face, would he?

BILL (almost crying). Ow, w i l l you lea me alown? Av I ever offered to meddle with y o u, that you come naggin 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 thats hurting you, Bill, and not me. Weve 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?

BARBARA. Yes.

BILL (fervently). Gord elp im! Gawd elp im!

BARBARA. Why? Do you think he wont be happy with me?

BILL. Ive 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 cant tear myself away from her.

BILL. Well, I can. (To Barbara.) Eah! do you know where I'm going to, and wot I'm goin to do?

BARBARA. Yes: youre going to heaven; and youre 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 shew it to er. E'll it me ardern I it e r. Thatll make us square. (To Adolphus.) Is that fair or is it not? Youre a genlmn: you oughter know.

BARBARA. Two black eyes wont make one white one, Bill.

BILL. I didnt ast y o u. Cawnt you never keep your mahth shut? I ast the genlmn.

CUSINS. (refectively). Yes: I think youre right, Mr. Walker. Yes: I should do it. Its curious: its 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 aint no sach a thing as a soul. Ah kin you tell wether Ive a soul or not? You never seen it.

BARBARA. Ive 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 youd feel urtin, so I would. (To Adolphus.) You take my tip, mate. Stop er jawr; or you die afore your time. (With income expression.) wore aht: thets wot youll be: wore aht. (He goes away through the gate.)

CUSINS (looking after him). I wonder!

BARBARA. Dolly! (indignant, is her mother's manner.)

CUSINS. Yes, my dear, it's very wearing to be in love with you. If it lasts, I quite thinly 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, weve not forgotten you. Dolly: explain the place to papa: I havnt time. (She goes busily into the shelter.) Undershaft and Adolphus none 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 act 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?

UNDERSHAFT. Yes.

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 a n d gunpowder; for without enough of both you cannot afford the others.

CUSINS. That is your religion?

UNDERSHAFT. Yes.

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 wont 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 ans 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 hell-ridden 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.




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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