eBooks Cube

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 note 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. Cant 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. Dont you know somebody? couldnt you? wouldnt 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 cant disappoint you; and I cant deny myself the satisfaction of making Bodger pay up. You shall have your five thousand pounds.

MRS. BAINES. Thank God!

UNDERSHAFT. You dont thank m e?

MRS. BAINES. Oh sir, dont try to be cynical: dont 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 shew at the meeting, wont 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 match 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 drink-ruined 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 tomorrow 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 remorsely)! 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

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 throning 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 cant 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 arnt you coming?

BARBARA. No. (She begins taking off the silver S brooch from her collar.)

MRS. BAINES. Barbara: what are you doing?

JENNY. Why are you taking your badge off? You cant 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). Dont be frightened. (She pins the badge on and steps back towards the table, sheaving him to the others.) There! It's not much for 5000, is it?

MRS. BAINES. Barbara: if you wont come and pray w i t h us, promise me you will pray f o r us.

BARBARA. I cant pray now. Perhaps I shall never pray again.

MRS. BAINES. Barbara!

JENNY. Major!

BARBARA (almost delirious). I cant bear any more. Quick march!

CUSINS (calling to the procession in the street outside). Off we go. Play up, there! I m m e n s o g i u b i l o. (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. Youre 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! (fourishing 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. Dont you hit her when shes down.

BILL. She it me wen aw wiz dahn. Waw shouldnt I git a bit o me own back?

BARBARA (raising her head ). I didnt take y o u r 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 warnt enough for you. (Turning to the drum, he misses the money.) Ellow! If you aint took it summun else az. Weres it gorn? Blame me if Jenny Ill didnt 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 didnt you call thief on him, you silly old mucker you?

RUMMY. To serve you aht for ittin me acrost the fice. It's cost y'pahnd, that az. (Raising a paean of squalid triumph.) I done you. I'm even with you. Ive 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 mornin 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 cant 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 aint to be bought.

SHIRLEY. Aint you? Youd sell yourself to the devil for a pint o beer; ony there aint no devil to make the offer.

BILL (unshamed). So I would, mate, and often av, cheerful. But s h e cawnt buy me. (Approaching Barbara.) You wanted my soul, did you? Well, you aint got it.

BARBARA. I nearly got it, Bill. But weve 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 cawnt get rahnd me nah. I dont blieve in it; and Ive 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 thets 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. Youve youth an hope. Thats two better than me.

BARBARA. I'll get you a job, Peter. Thats hope for you: 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.) Dont be proud, Peter: it's sharing between friends. And promise me youll 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.)


Major Barbara by Bernard Shaw
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
Nabou.com: the big site