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CUSINS (revolted). You really are an infernal old rascal.

UNDERSHAFT (indicating Peter Shirley, who has just come from the shelter and strolled dejectedly down the yard betveen 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, sots 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. Weve just had a splendid experience meeting at the other gate in Cripps's lane. Ive 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 hare got the whole five shillings!

PRICE. If she heard you say that, miss, she'd be sorry I didnt. 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 cant 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 dont 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: dont 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, isnt 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 cant 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, dont comfort me. It will be all right. We shall get the money.

UNDERSHAFT. How?

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! heres that man back again.

BARBARA. What man?

JENNY. The man that hit me. Oh, I hope hes 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 sence, av you?

BARBARA. Pretty nearly. Well, has Todger paid you out for poor Jenny's jaw?

BILL. No he aint.

BARBARA. I thought your jacket looked a bit snowy.

BILL. So it is snowy. You want to know where the snow come from, dont you?

BARBARA. Yes.

BILL. Well, it come from off the ground in Parkinses Corner in Kennintahn. It got rubbed off be my shoulders: see?

BARBARA. Pity you didnt rub some off with your knees, Bill! That would have done you a lot of good.

BILL (with sour 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 dont urt is dear art." That was wot she said. "Dont urt is dear art"! An er bloke -- thirteen stun four! -- kneelin wiv all is weight on me. Funny, aint 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!" e sez; an Mog sez "Glory Allelloolier!"; and then e called me Brother, an dahned me as if I was a kid and e was me mother washin me a Setterda nawt. I adnt 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: youd a got in a hextra bit o talk on me, wouldnt you?

JENNY. I'm so sorry, Mr. Walker.

BILL (fiercely). Dont you go bein sorry for me: youve no call. Listen ere. I broke your jawr.

JENNY. No, it didnt hurt me: indeed it didnt, except for a moment. It was only that I was frightened.

BILL. I dont 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: cawnt you listen to wots bein told you? All I got be it was bein made a sight of in the public street for me pains. Well, if I cawnt settisfaw you one way, I can another. Listen ere! I ad two quid saved agen the frost; an Ive a pahnd of it left. A mate o mine last week ad words with the judy e's goin to marry. E give er wotfor; an e's bin fined fifteen bob. E ad a right to it er because they was goin to be marrid; but I adnt no right to it you; so put anather fawv bob on an call it a pahnd's worth. (He produces a sovereign.) Eres the money. Take it; and lets 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 couldnt take it, Mr. Walker. But if you would give a shilling or two to poor Rummy Mitchens! you really did hurt her; and shes 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! S h e aint 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 wont av played agen me: this bloomin forgivin an naggin an jawrin that makes a man that sore that in lawf's a burdn to im. I wont av its 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 aint enough. Me an me few shillins is not good enough for you. Youre 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, youre 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.) Youll never have another quiet moment, Bill, until you come round to us. You cant stand out against your salvation.

BILL (sullenly). I cawnt stend aht agen music-all wrastlers and artful tongued women. Ive 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 wont 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 shewn 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 poumds to seventy-nine thousand! I remember quite well.

MRS. BAINES. Well, wont you help me to get at the people? They wont break windows then. Come here, Price. Let me shew you to this gentleman (Price comes to be inspected). Do you remember the window breaking?

PRICE. My ole father thought it was the revolution, maam.

MRS. BAINES. Would you break windows now?

PRICE. Oh no maam. 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 couldnt face her now, maam, 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 signing 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 an the shelters open. Lord Saxmundham has promised us five thousand pounds --

BARBARA. Hooray!

JENNY. Glory!




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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