N.B. The Euripidean verses in the second act of Major Barbara are not by me, or even directly by Euripides. They are by Professor Gilbert Murray, whose English version of The Bacchae came into our dramatic literature with all the impulsive power of an original work shortly before Major Barbara was begun. The play, indeed, stands indebted to him in more ways than one.


First Aid to Critics

Before dealing with the deeper aspects of Major Barbara, let me, for the credit of English literature, make a protest against an unpatriotic habit into which many of my critics have fallen. Whenever my view strikes them as being at all outside the range of, say, an ordinary suburban churchwarden, they conclude that I am echoing Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Ibsen, Strindberg, Tolstoy, or some other heresiarch in northern or eastern Europe.

I confess there is something flattering in this simple faith in my accomplishment as a linguist and my erudition as a philosopher. But I cannot tolerate the assumption that life and literature is so poor in these islands that we must go abroad for all dramatic material that is not common and all ideas that are not superficial. I therefore venture to put my critics in possession of certain facts concerning my contact with modern ideas.

About half a century ago, an Irish novelist, Charles Lever, wrote a story entitled “A Day’s Ride: A Life’s Romance.” It was published by Charles Dickens in Household Words, and proved so strange to the public taste that Dickens pressed Lever to make short work of it. I read scraps of this novel when I was a child; and it made an enduring impression on me. The hero was a very romantic hero, trying to live bravely, chivalrously, and powerfully by dint of mere romance-fed imagination, without courage, without means, without knowledge, without skill, without anything real except his bodily appetites. Even in my childhood I found in this poor devil’s unsuccessful encounters with the facts of life, a poignant quality that romantic fiction lacked. The book, in spite of its first failure, is not dead: I saw its title the other day in the catalogue of Tauchnitz.

Now why is it that when I also deal in the tragicomic irony of the conflict between real life and the romantic imagination, no critic ever affiliates me to my countryman and immediate forerunner, Charles Lever, whilst they confidently derive me from a Norwegian author of whose language I do not know three words, and of whom I knew nothing until years after the Shavian Anschauung was already unequivocally declared in books full of what came, ten years later, to be perfunctorily labelled Ibsenism. I was not Ibsenist even at second hand; for Lever, though he may have read Henri Beyle, alias Stendhal, certainly never read Ibsen. Of the books that made Lever popular, such as Charles O’Malley and Harry Lorrequer, I know nothing but the names and some of the illustrations. But the story of the day’s ride and life’s romance of Potts (claiming alliance with Pozzo di Borgo) caught me and fascinated me as something strange and significant, though I already knew all about Alnaschar and Don Quixote and Simon Tappertit and many another romantic hero mocked by reality. From the plays of Aristophanes to the tales of Stevenson that mockery has been made familiar to all who are properly saturated with letters.

Where, then, was the novelty in Lever’s tale? Partly, I think, in a new seriousness in dealing with Potts’s disease. Formerly, the contrast between madness and sanity was deemed comic: Hogarth shows us how fashionable people went in parties to Bedlam to laugh at the lunatics. I myself have had a village idiot exhibited to me as something irresistibly funny. On the stage the madman was once a regular comic figure; that was how Hamlet got his opportunity before Shakespeare touched him. The originality of Shakespeare’s version lay in his taking the lunatic sympathetically and seriously, and thereby making an advance towards the eastern consciousness of the fact that lunacy may be inspiration in disguise, since a man who has more brains than his fellows necessarily appears as mad to them as one who has less. But Shakespeare did not do for Pistol and Parolles what he did for Hamlet. The particular sort of madman they represented, the romantic makebeliever, lay outside the pale of sympathy in literature: he was pitilessly despised and ridiculed here as he was in the east under the name of Alnaschar, and was doomed to be, centuries later, under the name of Simon Tappertit. When Cervantes relented over Don Quixote, and Dickens relented over Pickwick, they did not become impartial: they simply changed sides, and became friends and apologists where they had formerly been mockers.

In Lever’s story there is a real change of attitude. There is no relenting towards Potts: he never gains our affections like Don Quixote and Pickwick: he has not even the infatuate courage of Tappertit. But we dare not laugh at him, because, somehow, we recognize ourselves in Potts. We may, some of us, have enough nerve, enough muscle, enough luck, enough tact or skill or address or knowledge to carry things off better than he did; to impose on the people who saw through him; to fascinate Katinka (who cut Potts so ruthlessly at the end of the story); but for all that, we know that Potts plays an enormous part in ourselves and in the world, and that the social problem is not a problem of storybook heroes of the older pattern, but a problem of Pottses, and of how to make men of them. To fall back on my old phrase, we have the feeling⁠—one that Alnaschar, Pistol, Parolles, and Tappertit never gave us⁠—that Potts is a piece of really scientific natural history as distinguished from comic story telling. His author is not throwing a stone at a creature of another and inferior order, but making a confession, with the effect that the stone hits everybody full in the conscience and causes their self-esteem to smart very sorely. Hence the failure of Lever’s book to please the readers of Household Words. That pain in the self-esteem nowadays causes critics to raise a cry of Ibsenism. I therefore assure them that the sensation first came to me from Lever and may have come to him from Beyle, or at least out of the Stendhalian atmosphere. I exclude the hypothesis of complete originality on Lever’s part, because a man can no more be completely original in that sense than a tree can grow out of air.

Another mistake as to my literary ancestry is made whenever I violate the romantic convention that all women are angels when they are not devils; that they are better looking than men; that their part in courtship is entirely passive; and that the human female form is the most beautiful object in nature. Schopenhauer wrote a splenetic essay which, as it is neither polite nor profound, was probably intended to knock this nonsense violently on the head. A sentence denouncing the idolized form as ugly has been largely quoted. The English critics have read that sentence; and I must here affirm, with as much gentleness as the implication will bear, that it has yet to be proved that they have dipped any deeper. At all events, whenever an English playwright represents a young and marriageable woman as being anything but a romantic heroine, he is disposed of without further thought as an echo of Schopenhauer. My own case is a specially hard one, because, when I implore the critics who are obsessed with the Schopenhaurian formula to remember that playwrights, like sculptors, study their figures from life, and not from philosophic essays, they reply passionately that I am not a playwright and that my stage figures do not live. But even so, I may and do ask them why, if they must give the credit of my plays to a philosopher, they do not give it to an English philosopher? Long before I ever read a word by Schopenhauer, or even knew whether he was a philosopher or a chemist, the Socialist revival of the eighteen-eighties brought me into contact, both literary and personal, with Mr. Ernest Belfort Bax, an English Socialist and philosophic essayist, whose handling of modern feminism would provoke romantic protests from Schopenhauer himself, or even Strindberg. As a matter of fact I hardly noticed Schopenhauer’s disparagements of women when they came under my notice later on, so thoroughly had Mr. Bax familiarized me with the homoist attitude, and forced me to recognize the extent to which public opinion, and consequently legislation and jurisprudence, is corrupted by feminist sentiment.

But Mr. Bax’s essays were not confined to the Feminist question. He was a ruthless critic of current morality. Other writers have gained sympathy for dramatic criminals by eliciting the alleged “soul of goodness in things evil”; but Mr. Bax would propound some quite undramatic and apparently shabby violation of our commercial law and morality, and not merely defend it with the most disconcerting ingenuity, but actually prove it to be a positive duty that nothing but the certainty of police persecution should prevent every right-minded man from at once doing on principle. The Socialists were naturally shocked, being for the most part morbidly moral people; but at all events they were saved later on from the delusion that nobody but Nietzsche had ever challenged our mercanto-Christian morality. I first heard the name of Nietzsche from a German mathematician, Miss Borchardt, who had read my Quintessence of Ibsenism, and told me that she saw what I had been reading: namely, Nietzsche’s Jenseits von Gut and Bose. Which I protest I had never seen, and could not have read with any comfort, for want of the necessary German, if I had seen it.

Nietzsche, like Schopenhauer, is the victim in England of a single much quoted sentence containing the phrase “big blonde beast.” On the strength of this alliteration it is assumed that Nietzsche gained his European reputation by a senseless glorification of selfish bullying as the rule of life, just as it is assumed, on the strength of the single word Superman (Ubermensch) borrowed by me from Nietzsche, that I look for the salvation of society to the despotism of a single Napoleonic Superman, in spite of my careful demonstration of the folly of that outworn infatuation. But even the less recklessly superficial critics seem to believe that the modern objection to Christianity as a pernicious slave-morality was first put forward by Nietzsche. It was familiar to me before I ever heard of Nietzsche. The late Captain Wilson, author of several queer pamphlets, propagandist of a metaphysical system called Comprehensionism, and inventor of the term “Crosstianity” to distinguish the retrograde element in Christendom, was wont thirty years ago, in the discussions of the Dialectical Society, to protest earnestly against the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount as excuses for cowardice and servility, as destructive of our will, and consequently of our honor and manhood. Now it is true that Captain Wilson’s moral criticism of Christianity was not a historical theory of it, like Nietzsche’s; but this objection cannot be made to Mr. Stuart-Glennie, the successor of Buckle as a philosophic historian, who has devoted his life to the elaboration and propagation of his theory that Christianity is part of an epoch (or rather an aberration, since it began as recently as 6000 BC and is already collapsing) produced by the necessity in which the numerically inferior white races found themselves to impose their domination on the colored races by priestcraft, making a virtue and a popular religion of drudgery and submissiveness in this world not only as a means of achieving saintliness of character but of securing a reward in heaven. Here you have the slave-morality view formulated by a Scotch philosopher long before English writers began chattering about Nietzsche.

As Mr. Stuart-Glennie traced the evolution of society to the conflict of races, his theory made some sensation among Socialists⁠—that is, among the only people who were seriously thinking about historical evolution at all⁠—by its collision with the class-conflict theory of Karl Marx. Nietzsche, as I gather, regarded the slave-morality as having been invented and imposed on the world by slaves making a virtue of necessity and a religion of their servitude. Mr. Stuart-Glennie regards the slave-morality as an invention of the superior white race to subjugate the minds of the inferior races whom they wished to exploit, and who would have destroyed them by force of numbers if their minds had not been subjugated. As this process is in operation still, and can be studied at first hand not only in our Church schools and in the struggle between our modern proprietary classes and the proletariat, but in the part played by Christian missionaries in reconciling the black races of Africa to their subjugation by European Capitalism, we can judge for ourselves whether the initiative came from above or below. My object here is not to argue the historical point, but simply to make our theatre critics ashamed of their habit of treating Britain as an intellectual void, and assuming that every philosophical idea, every historic theory, every criticism of our moral, religious and juridical institutions, must necessarily be either imported from abroad, or else a fantastic sally (in rather questionable taste) totally unrelated to the existing body of thought. I urge them to remember that this body of thought is the slowest of growths and the rarest of blossomings, and that if there is such a thing on the philosophic plane as a matter of course, it is that no individual can make more than a minute contribution to it. In fact, their conception of clever persons parthenogenetically bringing forth complete original cosmogonies by dint of sheer “brilliancy” is part of that ignorant credulity which is the despair of the honest philosopher, and the opportunity of the religious impostor.

The Gospel of St. Andrew Undershaft

It is this credulity that drives me to help my critics out with Major Barbara by telling them what to say about it. In the millionaire Undershaft I have represented a man who has become intellectually and spiritually as well as practically conscious of the irresistible natural truth which we all abhor and repudiate: to wit, that the greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty, and that our first duty⁠—a duty to which every other consideration should be sacrificed⁠—is not to be poor. “Poor but honest,” “the respectable poor,” and such phrases are as intolerable and as immoral as “drunken but amiable,” “fraudulent but a good after-dinner speaker,” “splendidly criminal,” or the like. Security, the chief pretence of civilization, cannot exist where the worst of dangers, the danger of poverty, hangs over everyone’s head, and where the alleged protection of our persons from violence is only an accidental result of the existence of a police force whose real business is to force the poor man to see his children starve whilst idle people overfeed pet dogs with the money that might feed and clothe them.

It is exceedingly difficult to make people realize that an evil is an evil. For instance, we seize a man and deliberately do him a malicious injury: say, imprison him for years. One would not suppose that it needed any exceptional clearness of wit to recognize in this an act of diabolical cruelty. But in England such a recognition provokes a stare of surprise, followed by an explanation that the outrage is punishment or justice or something else that is all right, or perhaps by a heated attempt to argue that we should all be robbed and murdered in our beds if such senseless villainies as sentences of imprisonment were not committed daily. It is useless to argue that even if this were true, which it is not, the alternative to adding crimes of our own to the crimes from which we suffer is not helpless submission. Chickenpox is an evil; but if I were to declare that we must either submit to it or else repress it sternly by seizing everyone who suffers from it and punishing them by inoculation with smallpox, I should be laughed at; for though nobody could deny that the result would be to prevent chickenpox to some extent by making people avoid it much more carefully, and to effect a further apparent prevention by making them conceal it very anxiously, yet people would have sense enough to see that the deliberate propagation of smallpox was a creation of evil, and must therefore be ruled out in favor of purely humane and hygienic measures. Yet in the precisely parallel case of a man breaking into my house and stealing my wife’s diamonds I am expected as a matter of course to steal ten years of his life, torturing him all the time. If he tries to defeat that monstrous retaliation by shooting me, my survivors hang him. The net result suggested by the police statistics is that we inflict atrocious injuries on the burglars we catch in order to make the rest take effectual precautions against detection; so that instead of saving our wives’ diamonds from burglary we only greatly decrease our chances of ever getting them back, and increase our chances of being shot by the robber if we are unlucky enough to disturb him at his work.

But the thoughtless wickedness with which we scatter sentences of imprisonment, torture in the solitary cell and on the plank bed, and flogging, on moral invalids and energetic rebels, is as nothing compared to the stupid levity with which we tolerate poverty as if it were either a wholesome tonic for lazy people or else a virtue to be embraced as St. Francis embraced it. If a man is indolent, let him be poor. If he is drunken, let him be poor. If he is not a gentleman, let him be poor. If he is addicted to the fine arts or to pure science instead of to trade and finance, let him be poor. If he chooses to spend his urban eighteen shillings a week or his agricultural thirteen shillings a week on his beer and his family instead of saving it up for his old age, let him be poor. Let nothing be done for “the undeserving”: let him be poor. Serve him right! Also⁠—somewhat inconsistently⁠—blessed are the poor!

Now what does this Let Him Be Poor mean? It means let him be weak. Let him be ignorant. Let him become a nucleus of disease. Let him be a standing exhibition and example of ugliness and dirt. Let him have rickety children. Let him be cheap and let him drag his fellows down to his price by selling himself to do their work. Let his habitations turn our cities into poisonous congeries of slums. Let his daughters infect our young men with the diseases of the streets and his sons revenge him by turning the nation’s manhood into scrofula, cowardice, cruelty, hypocrisy, political imbecility, and all the other fruits of oppression and malnutrition. Let the undeserving become still less deserving; and let the deserving lay up for himself, not treasures in heaven, but horrors in hell upon earth. This being so, is it really wise to let him be poor? Would he not do ten times less harm as a prosperous burglar, incendiary, ravisher or murderer, to the utmost limits of humanity’s comparatively negligible impulses in these directions? Suppose we were to abolish all penalties for such activities, and decide that poverty is the one thing we will not tolerate⁠—that every adult with less than, say, 365 pounds a year, shall be painlessly but inexorably killed, and every hungry half-naked child forcibly fattened and clothed, would not that be an enormous improvement on our existing system, which has already destroyed so many civilizations, and is visibly destroying ours in the same way?

Is there any radicle of such legislation in our parliamentary system? Well, there are two measures just sprouting in the political soil, which may conceivably grow to something valuable. One is the institution of a Legal Minimum Wage. The other, Old Age Pensions. But there is a better plan than either of these. Some time ago I mentioned the subject of Universal Old Age Pensions to my fellow Socialist Mr. Cobden-Sanderson, famous as an artist-craftsman in bookbinding and printing. “Why not Universal Pensions for Life?” said Cobden-Sanderson. In saying this, he solved the industrial problem at a stroke. At present we say callously to each citizen: “If you want money, earn it,” as if his having or not having it were a matter that concerned himself alone. We do not even secure for him the opportunity of earning it: on the contrary, we allow our industry to be organized in open dependence on the maintenance of “a reserve army of unemployed” for the sake of “elasticity.” The sensible course would be Cobden-Sanderson’s: that is, to give every man enough to live well on, so as to guarantee the community against the possibility of a case of the malignant disease of poverty, and then (necessarily) to see that he earned it.

Undershaft, the hero of Major Barbara, is simply a man who, having grasped the fact that poverty is a crime, knows that when society offered him the alternative of poverty or a lucrative trade in death and destruction, it offered him, not a choice between opulent villainy and humble virtue, but between energetic enterprise and cowardly infamy. His conduct stands the Kantian test, which Peter Shirley’s does not. Peter Shirley is what we call the honest poor man. Undershaft is what we call the wicked rich one: Shirley is Lazarus, Undershaft Dives. Well, the misery of the world is due to the fact that the great mass of men act and believe as Peter Shirley acts and believes. If they acted and believed as Undershaft acts and believes, the immediate result would be a revolution of incalculable beneficence. To be wealthy, says Undershaft, is with me a point of honor for which I am prepared to kill at the risk of my own life. This preparedness is, as he says, the final test of sincerity. Like Froissart’s medieval hero, who saw that “to rob and pill was a good life,” he is not the dupe of that public sentiment against killing which is propagated and endowed by people who would otherwise be killed themselves, or of the mouth-honor paid to poverty and obedience by rich and insubordinate do-nothings who want to rob the poor without courage and command them without superiority. Froissart’s knight, in placing the achievement of a good life before all the other duties⁠—which indeed are not duties at all when they conflict with it, but plain wickednesses⁠—behaved bravely, admirably, and, in the final analysis, public-spiritedly. Medieval society, on the other hand, behaved very badly indeed in organizing itself so stupidly that a good life could be achieved by robbing and pilling. If the knight’s contemporaries had been all as resolute as he, robbing and pilling would have been the shortest way to the gallows, just as, if we were all as resolute and clearsighted as Undershaft, an attempt to live by means of what is called “an independent income” would be the shortest way to the lethal chamber. But as, thanks to our political imbecility and personal cowardice (fruits of poverty both), the best imitation of a good life now procurable is life on an independent income, all sensible people aim at securing such an income, and are, of course, careful to legalize and moralize both it and all the actions and sentiments which lead to it and support it as an institution. What else can they do? They know, of course, that they are rich because others are poor. But they cannot help that: it is for the poor to repudiate poverty when they have had enough of it. The thing can be done easily enough: the demonstrations to the contrary made by the economists, jurists, moralists and sentimentalists hired by the rich to defend them, or even doing the work gratuitously out of sheer folly and abjectness, impose only on the hirers.

The reason why the independent income-tax payers are not solid in defence of their position is that since we are not medieval rovers through a sparsely populated country, the poverty of those we rob prevents our having the good life for which we sacrifice them. Rich men or aristocrats with a developed sense of life⁠—men like Ruskin and William Morris and Kropotkin⁠—have enormous social appetites and very fastidious personal ones. They are not content with handsome houses: they want handsome cities. They are not content with bediamonded wives and blooming daughters: they complain because the charwoman is badly dressed, because the laundress smells of gin, because the sempstress is anemic, because every man they meet is not a friend and every woman not a romance. They turn up their noses at their neighbors’ drains, and are made ill by the architecture of their neighbors’ houses. Trade patterns made to suit vulgar people do not please them (and they can get nothing else): they cannot sleep nor sit at ease upon “slaughtered” cabinet makers’ furniture. The very air is not good enough for them: there is too much factory smoke in it. They even demand abstract conditions: justice, honor, a noble moral atmosphere, a mystic nexus to replace the cash nexus. Finally they declare that though to rob and pill with your own hand on horseback and in steel coat may have been a good life, to rob and pill by the hands of the policeman, the bailiff, and the soldier, and to underpay them meanly for doing it, is not a good life, but rather fatal to all possibility of even a tolerable one. They call on the poor to revolt, and, finding the poor shocked at their ungentlemanliness, despairingly revile the proletariat for its “damned wantlessness” (verdammte Bedürfnislosigkeit).

So far, however, their attack on society has lacked simplicity. The poor do not share their tastes nor understand their art-criticisms. They do not want the simple life, nor the esthetic life; on the contrary, they want very much to wallow in all the costly vulgarities from which the elect souls among the rich turn away with loathing. It is by surfeit and not by abstinence that they will be cured of their hankering after unwholesome sweets. What they do dislike and despise and are ashamed of is poverty. To ask them to fight for the difference between the Christmas number of the Illustrated London News and the Kelmscott Chaucer is silly: they prefer the News. The difference between a stockbroker’s cheap and dirty starched white shirt and collar and the comparatively costly and carefully dyed blue shirt of William Morris is a difference so disgraceful to Morris in their eyes that if they fought on the subject at all, they would fight in defence of the starch. “Cease to be slaves, in order that you may become cranks” is not a very inspiring call to arms; nor is it really improved by substituting saints for cranks. Both terms denote men of genius; and the common man does not want to live the life of a man of genius: he would much rather live the life of a pet collie if that were the only alternative. But he does want more money. Whatever else he may be vague about, he is clear about that. He may or may not prefer Major Barbara to the Drury Lane pantomime; but he always prefers five hundred pounds to five hundred shillings.

Now to deplore this preference as sordid, and teach children that it is sinful to desire money, is to strain towards the extreme possible limit of impudence in lying, and corruption in hypocrisy. The universal regard for money is the one hopeful fact in our civilization, the one sound spot in our social conscience. Money is the most important thing in the world. It represents health, strength, honor, generosity and beauty as conspicuously and undeniably as the want of it represents illness, weakness, disgrace, meanness and ugliness. Not the least of its virtues is that it destroys base people as certainly as it fortifies and dignifies noble people. It is only when it is cheapened to worthlessness for some, and made impossibly dear to others, that it becomes a curse. In short, it is a curse only in such foolish social conditions that life itself is a curse. For the two things are inseparable: money is the counter that enables life to be distributed socially: it is life as truly as sovereigns and bank notes are money. The first duty of every citizen is to insist on having money on reasonable terms; and this demand is not complied with by giving four men three shillings each for ten or twelve hours’ drudgery and one man a thousand pounds for nothing. The crying need of the nation is not for better morals, cheaper bread, temperance, liberty, culture, redemption of fallen sisters and erring brothers, nor the grace, love and fellowship of the Trinity, but simply for enough money. And the evil to be attacked is not sin, suffering, greed, priestcraft, kingcraft, demagogy, monopoly, ignorance, drink, war, pestilence, nor any other of the scapegoats which reformers sacrifice, but simply poverty.

Once take your eyes from the ends of the earth and fix them on this truth just under your nose; and Andrew Undershaft’s views will not perplex you in the least. Unless indeed his constant sense that he is only the instrument of a Will or Life Force which uses him for purposes wider than his own, may puzzle you. If so, that is because you are walking either in artificial Darwinian darkness, or to mere stupidity. All genuinely religious people have that consciousness. To them Undershaft the Mystic will be quite intelligible, and his perfect comprehension of his daughter the Salvationist and her lover the Euripidean republican natural and inevitable. That, however, is not new, even on the stage. What is new, as far as I know, is that article in Undershaft’s religion which recognizes in Money the first need and in poverty the vilest sin of man and society.

This dramatic conception has not, of course, been attained per saltum. Nor has it been borrowed from Nietzsche or from any man born beyond the Channel. The late Samuel Butler, in his own department the greatest English writer of the latter half of the XIX century, steadily inculcated the necessity and morality of a conscientious Laodiceanism in religion and of an earnest and constant sense of the importance of money. It drives one almost to despair of English literature when one sees so extraordinary a study of English life as Butler’s posthumous Way of All Flesh making so little impression that when, some years later, I produce plays in which Butler’s extraordinarily fresh, free and future-piercing suggestions have an obvious share, I am met with nothing but vague cacklings about Ibsen and Nietzsche, and am only too thankful that they are not about Alfred de Musset and Georges Sand. Really, the English do not deserve to have great men. They allowed Butler to die practically unknown, whilst I, a comparatively insignificant Irish journalist, was leading them by the nose into an advertisement of me which has made my own life a burden. In Sicily there is a Via Samuele Butler. When an English tourist sees it, he either asks “Who the devil was Samuele Butler?” or wonders why the Sicilians should perpetuate the memory of the author of Hudibras.

Well, it cannot be denied that the English are only too anxious to recognize a man of genius if somebody will kindly point him out to them. Having pointed myself out in this manner with some success, I now point out Samuel Butler, and trust that in consequence I shall hear a little less in future of the novelty and foreign origin of the ideas which are now making their way into the English theatre through plays written by Socialists. There are living men whose originality and power are as obvious as Butler’s; and when they die that fact will be discovered. Meanwhile I recommend them to insist on their own merits as an important part of their own business.

The Salvation Army

When Major Barbara was produced in London, the second act was reported in an important northern newspaper as a withering attack on the Salvation Army, and the despairing ejaculation of Barbara deplored by a London daily as a tasteless blasphemy. And they were set right, not by the professed critics of the theatre, but by religious and philosophical publicists like Sir Oliver Lodge and Dr. Stanton Coit, and strenuous Nonconformist journalists like Mr. William Stead, who not only understood the act as well as the Salvationists themselves, but also saw it in its relation to the religious life of the nation, a life which seems to lie not only outside the sympathy of many of our theatre critics, but actually outside their knowledge of society. Indeed nothing could be more ironically curious than the confrontation Major Barbara effected of the theatre enthusiasts with the religious enthusiasts. On the one hand was the playgoer, always seeking pleasure, paying exorbitantly for it, suffering unbearable discomforts for it, and hardly ever getting it. On the other hand was the Salvationist, repudiating gaiety and courting effort and sacrifice, yet always in the wildest spirits, laughing, joking, singing, rejoicing, drumming, and tambourining: his life flying by in a flash of excitement, and his death arriving as a climax of triumph. And, if you please, the playgoer despising the Salvationist as a joyless person, shut out from the heaven of the theatre, self-condemned to a life of hideous gloom; and the Salvationist mourning over the playgoer as over a prodigal with vine leaves in his hair, careering outrageously to hell amid the popping of champagne corks and the ribald laughter of sirens! Could misunderstanding be more complete, or sympathy worse misplaced?

Fortunately, the Salvationists are more accessible to the religious character of the drama than the playgoers to the gay energy and artistic fertility of religion. They can see, when it is pointed out to them, that a theatre, as a place where two or three are gathered together, takes from that divine presence an inalienable sanctity of which the grossest and profanest farce can no more deprive it than a hypocritical sermon by a snobbish bishop can desecrate Westminster Abbey. But in our professional playgoers this indispensable preliminary conception of sanctity seems wanting. They talk of actors as mimes and mummers, and, I fear, think of dramatic authors as liars and pandars, whose main business is the voluptuous soothing of the tired city speculator when what he calls the serious business of the day is over. Passion, the life of drama, means nothing to them but primitive sexual excitement: such phrases as “impassioned poetry” or “passionate love of truth” have fallen quite out of their vocabulary and been replaced by “passional crime” and the like. They assume, as far as I can gather, that people in whom passion has a larger scope are passionless and therefore uninteresting. Consequently they come to think of religious people as people who are not interesting and not amusing. And so, when Barbara cuts the regular Salvation Army jokes, and snatches a kiss from her lover across his drum, the devotees of the theatre think they ought to appear shocked, and conclude that the whole play is an elaborate mockery of the Army. And then either hypocritically rebuke me for mocking, or foolishly take part in the supposed mockery! Even the handful of mentally competent critics got into difficulties over my demonstration of the economic deadlock in which the Salvation Army finds itself. Some of them thought that the Army would not have taken money from a distiller and a cannon founder: others thought it should not have taken it: all assumed more or less definitely that it reduced itself to absurdity or hypocrisy by taking it. On the first point the reply of the Army itself was prompt and conclusive. As one of its officers said, they would take money from the devil himself and be only too glad to get it out of his hands and into God’s. They gratefully acknowledged that publicans not only give them money but allow them to collect it in the bar⁠—sometimes even when there is a Salvation meeting outside preaching teetotalism. In fact, they questioned the verisimilitude of the play, not because Mrs. Baines took the money, but because Barbara refused it.

On the point that the Army ought not to take such money, its justification is obvious. It must take the money because it cannot exist without money, and there is no other money to be had. Practically all the spare money in the country consists of a mass of rent, interest, and profit, every penny of which is bound up with crime, drink, prostitution, disease, and all the evil fruits of poverty, as inextricably as with enterprise, wealth, commercial probity, and national prosperity. The notion that you can earmark certain coins as tainted is an unpractical individualist superstition. None the less the fact that all our money is tainted gives a very severe shock to earnest young souls when some dramatic instance of the taint first makes them conscious of it. When an enthusiastic young clergyman of the Established Church first realizes that the Ecclesiastical Commissioners receive the rents of sporting public houses, brothels, and sweating dens; or that the most generous contributor at his last charity sermon was an employer trading in female labor cheapened by prostitution as unscrupulously as a hotel keeper trades in waiters’ labor cheapened by tips, or commissionaire’s labor cheapened by pensions; or that the only patron who can afford to rebuild his church or his schools or give his boys’ brigade a gymnasium or a library is the son-in-law of a Chicago meat King, that young clergyman has, like Barbara, a very bad quarter hour. But he cannot help himself by refusing to accept money from anybody except sweet old ladies with independent incomes and gentle and lovely ways of life. He has only to follow up the income of the sweet ladies to its industrial source, and there he will find Mrs. Warren’s profession and the poisonous canned meat and all the rest of it. His own stipend has the same root. He must either share the world’s guilt or go to another planet. He must save the world’s honor if he is to save his own. This is what all the Churches find just as the Salvation Army and Barbara find it in the play. Her discovery that she is her father’s accomplice; that the Salvation Army is the accomplice of the distiller and the dynamite maker; that they can no more escape one another than they can escape the air they breathe; that there is no salvation for them through personal righteousness, but only through the redemption of the whole nation from its vicious, lazy, competitive anarchy: this discovery has been made by everyone except the Pharisees and (apparently) the professional playgoers, who still wear their Tom Hood shirts and underpay their washerwomen without the slightest misgiving as to the elevation of their private characters, the purity of their private atmospheres, and their right to repudiate as foreign to themselves the coarse depravity of the garret and the slum. Not that they mean any harm: they only desire to be, in their little private way, what they call gentlemen. They do not understand Barbara’s lesson because they have not, like her, learnt it by taking their part in the larger life of the nation.

Barbara’s Return to the Colors

Barbara’s return to the colors may yet provide a subject for the dramatic historian of the future. To go back to the Salvation Army with the knowledge that even the Salvationists themselves are not saved yet; that poverty is not blessed, but a most damnable sin; and that when General Booth chose Blood and Fire for the emblem of Salvation instead of the Cross, he was perhaps better inspired than he knew: such knowledge, for the daughter of Andrew Undershaft, will clearly lead to something hopefuller than distributing bread and treacle at the expense of Bodger.

It is a very significant thing, this instinctive choice of the military form of organization, this substitution of the drum for the organ, by the Salvation Army. Does it not suggest that the Salvationists divine that they must actually fight the devil instead of merely praying at him? At present, it is true, they have not quite ascertained his correct address. When they do, they may give a very rude shock to that sense of security which he has gained from his experience of the fact that hard words, even when uttered by eloquent essayists and lecturers, or carried unanimously at enthusiastic public meetings on the motion of eminent reformers, break no bones. It has been said that the French Revolution was the work of Voltaire, Rousseau and the Encyclopedists. It seems to me to have been the work of men who had observed that virtuous indignation, caustic criticism, conclusive argument and instructive pamphleteering, even when done by the most earnest and witty literary geniuses, were as useless as praying, things going steadily from bad to worse whilst the Social Contract and the pamphlets of Voltaire were at the height of their vogue. Eventually, as we know, perfectly respectable citizens and earnest philanthropists connived at the September massacres because hard experience had convinced them that if they contented themselves with appeals to humanity and patriotism, the aristocracy, though it would read their appeals with the greatest enjoyment and appreciation, flattering and admiring the writers, would none the less continue to conspire with foreign monarchists to undo the revolution and restore the old system with every circumstance of savage vengeance and ruthless repression of popular liberties.

The nineteenth century saw the same lesson repeated in England. It had its Utilitarians, its Christian Socialists, its Fabians (still extant): it had Bentham, Mill, Dickens, Ruskin, Carlyle, Butler, Henry George, and Morris. And the end of all their efforts is the Chicago described by Mr. Upton Sinclair, and the London in which the people who pay to be amused by my dramatic representation of Peter Shirley turned out to starve at forty because there are younger slaves to be had for his wages, do not take, and have not the slightest intention of taking, any effective step to organize society in such a way as to make that everyday infamy impossible. I, who have preached and pamphleteered like any Encyclopedist, have to confess that my methods are no use, and would be no use if I were Voltaire, Rousseau, Bentham, Mill, Dickens, Carlyle, Ruskin, George, Butler, and Morris all rolled into one, with Euripides, More, Molière, Shakespeare, Beaumarchais, Swift, Goethe, Ibsen, Tolstoy, Moses and the prophets all thrown in (as indeed in some sort I actually am, standing as I do on all their shoulders). The problem being to make heroes out of cowards, we paper apostles and artist-magicians have succeeded only in giving cowards all the sensations of heroes whilst they tolerate every abomination, accept every plunder, and submit to every oppression. Christianity, in making a merit of such submission, has marked only that depth in the abyss at which the very sense of shame is lost. The Christian has been like Dickens’ doctor in the debtor’s prison, who tells the newcomer of its ineffable peace and security: no duns; no tyrannical collectors of rates, taxes, and rent; no importunate hopes nor exacting duties; nothing but the rest and safety of having no further to fall.

Yet in the poorest corner of this soul-destroying Christendom vitality suddenly begins to germinate again. Joyousness, a sacred gift long dethroned by the hellish laughter of derision and obscenity, rises like a flood miraculously out of the fetid dust and mud of the slums; rousing marches and impetuous dithyrambs rise to the heavens from people among whom the depressing noise called “sacred music” is a standing joke; a flag with Blood and Fire on it is unfurled, not in murderous rancor, but because fire is beautiful and blood a vital and splendid red; Fear, which we flatter by calling Self, vanishes; and transfigured men and women carry their gospel through a transfigured world, calling their leader General, themselves captains and brigadiers, and their whole body an Army: praying, but praying only for refreshment, for strength to fight, and for needful money (a notable sign, that); preaching, but not preaching submission; daring ill-usage and abuse, but not putting up with more of it than is inevitable; and practising what the world will let them practise, including soap and water, color and music. There is danger in such Activity; and where there is danger there is hope. Our present security is nothing, and can be nothing, but evil made irresistible.

Weaknesses of the Salvation Army

For the present, however, it is not my business to flatter the Salvation Army. Rather must I point out to it that it has almost as many weaknesses as the Church of England itself. It is building up a business organization which will compel it eventually to see that its present staff of enthusiast-commanders shall be succeeded by a bureaucracy of men of business who will be no better than bishops, and perhaps a good deal more unscrupulous. That has always happened sooner or later to great orders founded by saints; and the order founded by St. William Booth is not exempt from the same danger. It is even more dependent than the Church on rich people who would cut off supplies at once if it began to preach that indispensable revolt against poverty which must also be a revolt against riches. It is hampered by a heavy contingent of pious elders who are not really Salvationists at all, but Evangelicals of the old school. It still, as Commissioner Howard affirms, “sticks to Moses,” which is flat nonsense at this time of day if the Commissioner means, as I am afraid he does, that the Book of Genesis contains a trustworthy scientific account of the origin of species, and that the god to whom Jephthah sacrificed his daughter is any less obviously a tribal idol than Dagon or Chemosh.

Further, there is still too much otherworldliness about the Army. Like Frederick’s grenadier, the Salvationist wants to live forever (the most monstrous way of crying for the moon); and though it is evident to anyone who has ever heard General Booth and his best officers that they would work as hard for human salvation as they do at present if they believed that death would be the end of them individually, they and their followers have a bad habit of talking as if the Salvationists were heroically enduring a very bad time on earth as an investment which will bring them in dividends later on in the form, not of a better life to come for the whole world, but of an eternity spent by themselves personally in a sort of bliss which would bore any active person to a second death. Surely the truth is that the Salvationists are unusually happy people. And is it not the very diagnostic of true salvation that it shall overcome the fear of death? Now the man who has come to believe that there is no such thing as death, the change so called being merely the transition to an exquisitely happy and utterly careless life, has not overcome the fear of death at all: on the contrary, it has overcome him so completely that he refuses to die on any terms whatever. I do not call a Salvationist really saved until he is ready to lie down cheerfully on the scrap heap, having paid scot and lot and something over, and let his eternal life pass on to renew its youth in the battalions of the future.

Then there is the nasty lying habit called confession, which the Army encourages because it lends itself to dramatic oratory, with plenty of thrilling incident. For my part, when I hear a convert relating the violences and oaths and blasphemies he was guilty of before he was saved, making out that he was a very terrible fellow then and is the most contrite and chastened of Christians now, I believe him no more than I believe the millionaire who says he came up to London or Chicago as a boy with only three halfpence in his pocket. Salvationists have said to me that Barbara in my play would never have been taken in by so transparent a humbug as Snobby Price; and certainly I do not think Snobby could have taken in any experienced Salvationist on a point on which the Salvationist did not wish to be taken in. But on the point of conversion all Salvationists wish to be taken in; for the more obvious the sinner the more obvious the miracle of his conversion. When you advertize a converted burglar or reclaimed drunkard as one of the attractions at an experience meeting, your burglar can hardly have been too burglarious or your drunkard too drunken. As long as such attractions are relied on, you will have your Snobbies claiming to have beaten their mothers when they were as a matter of prosaic fact habitually beaten by them, and your Rummies of the tamest respectability pretending to a past of reckless and dazzling vice. Even when confessions are sincerely autobiographic there is no reason to assume at once that the impulse to make them is pious or the interest of the hearers wholesome. It might as well be assumed that the poor people who insist on showing appalling ulcers to district visitors are convinced hygienists, or that the curiosity which sometimes welcomes such exhibitions is a pleasant and creditable one. One is often tempted to suggest that those who pester our police superintendents with confessions of murder might very wisely be taken at their word and executed, except in the few cases in which a real murderer is seeking to be relieved of his guilt by confession and expiation. For though I am not, I hope, an unmerciful person, I do not think that the inexorability of the deed once done should be disguised by any ritual, whether in the confessional or on the scaffold.

And here my disagreement with the Salvation Army, and with all propagandists of the Cross (to which I object as I object to all gibbets) becomes deep indeed. Forgiveness, absolution, atonement, are figments: punishment is only a pretence of cancelling one crime by another; and you can no more have forgiveness without vindictiveness than you can have a cure without a disease. You will never get a high morality from people who conceive that their misdeeds are revocable and pardonable, or in a society where absolution and expiation are officially provided for us all. The demand may be very real; but the supply is spurious. Thus Bill Walker, in my play, having assaulted the Salvation Lass, presently finds himself overwhelmed with an intolerable conviction of sin under the skilled treatment of Barbara. Straightway he begins to try to unassault the lass and deruffianize his deed, first by getting punished for it in kind, and, when that relief is denied him, by fining himself a pound to compensate the girl. He is foiled both ways. He finds the Salvation Army as inexorable as fact itself. It will not punish him: it will not take his money. It will not tolerate a redeemed ruffian: it leaves him no means of salvation except ceasing to be a ruffian. In doing this, the Salvation Army instinctively grasps the central truth of Christianity and discards its central superstition: that central truth being the vanity of revenge and punishment, and that central superstition the salvation of the world by the gibbet.

For, be it noted, Bill has assaulted an old and starving woman also; and for this worse offence he feels no remorse whatever, because she makes it clear that her malice is as great as his own. “Let her have the law of me, as she said she would,” says Bill: “what I done to her is no more on what you might call my conscience than sticking a pig.” This shows a perfectly natural and wholesome state of mind on his part. The old woman, like the law she threatens him with, is perfectly ready to play the game of retaliation with him: to rob him if he steals, to flog him if he strikes, to murder him if he kills. By example and precept the law and public opinion teach him to impose his will on others by anger, violence, and cruelty, and to wipe off the moral score by punishment. That is sound Crosstianity. But this Crosstianity has got entangled with something which Barbara calls Christianity, and which unexpectedly causes her to refuse to play the hangman’s game of Satan casting out Satan. She refuses to prosecute a drunken ruffian; she converses on equal terms with a blackguard whom no lady could be seen speaking to in the public street: in short, she behaves as illegally and unbecomingly as possible under the circumstances. Bill’s conscience reacts to this just as naturally as it does to the old woman’s threats. He is placed in a position of unbearable moral inferiority, and strives by every means in his power to escape from it, whilst he is still quite ready to meet the abuse of the old woman by attempting to smash a mug on her face. And that is the triumphant justification of Barbara’s Christianity as against our system of judicial punishment and the vindictive villain-thrashings and “poetic justice” of the romantic stage.

For the credit of literature it must be pointed out that the situation is only partly novel. Victor Hugo long ago gave us the epic of the convict and the bishop’s candlesticks, of the Crosstian policeman annihilated by his encounter with the Christian Valjean. But Bill Walker is not, like Valjean, romantically changed from a demon into an angel. There are millions of Bill Walkers in all classes of society today; and the point which I, as a professor of natural psychology, desire to demonstrate, is that Bill, without any change in his character whatsoever, will react one way to one sort of treatment and another way to another.

In proof I might point to the sensational object lesson provided by our commercial millionaires today. They begin as brigands: merciless, unscrupulous, dealing out ruin and death and slavery to their competitors and employees, and facing desperately the worst that their competitors can do to them. The history of the English factories, the American trusts, the exploitation of African gold, diamonds, ivory and rubber, outdoes in villainy the worst that has ever been imagined of the buccaneers of the Spanish Main. Captain Kidd would have marooned a modern Trust magnate for conduct unworthy of a gentleman of fortune. The law every day seizes on unsuccessful scoundrels of this type and punishes them with a cruelty worse than their own, with the result that they come out of the torture house more dangerous than they went in, and renew their evil doing (nobody will employ them at anything else) until they are again seized, again tormented, and again let loose, with the same result.

But the successful scoundrel is dealt with very differently, and very Christianly. He is not only forgiven: he is idolized, respected, made much of, all but worshipped. Society returns him good for evil in the most extravagant overmeasure. And with what result? He begins to idolize himself, to respect himself, to live up to the treatment he receives. He preaches sermons; he writes books of the most edifying advice to young men, and actually persuades himself that he got on by taking his own advice; he endows educational institutions; he supports charities; he dies finally in the odor of sanctity, leaving a will which is a monument of public spirit and bounty. And all this without any change in his character. The spots of the leopard and the stripes of the tiger are as brilliant as ever; but the conduct of the world towards him has changed; and his conduct has changed accordingly. You have only to reverse your attitude towards him⁠—to lay hands on his property, revile him, assault him, and he will be a brigand again in a moment, as ready to crush you as you are to crush him, and quite as full of pretentious moral reasons for doing it.

In short, when Major Barbara says that there are no scoundrels, she is right: there are no absolute scoundrels, though there are impracticable people of whom I shall treat presently. Every practicable man (and woman) is a potential scoundrel and a potential good citizen. What a man is depends on his character; but what he does, and what we think of what he does, depends on his circumstances. The characteristics that ruin a man in one class make him eminent in another. The characters that behave differently in different circumstances behave alike in similar circumstances. Take a common English character like that of Bill Walker. We meet Bill everywhere: on the judicial bench, on the episcopal bench, in the Privy Council, at the War Office and Admiralty, as well as in the Old Bailey dock or in the ranks of casual unskilled labor. And the morality of Bill’s characteristics varies with these various circumstances. The faults of the burglar are the qualities of the financier: the manners and habits of a duke would cost a city clerk his situation. In short, though character is independent of circumstances, conduct is not; and our moral judgments of character are not: both are circumstantial. Take any condition of life in which the circumstances are for a mass of men practically alike: felony, the House of Lords, the factory, the stables, the gypsy encampment or where you please! In spite of diversity of character and temperament, the conduct and morals of the individuals in each group are as predicable and as alike in the main as if they were a flock of sheep, morals being mostly only social habits and circumstantial necessities. Strong people know this and count upon it. In nothing have the masterminds of the world been distinguished from the ordinary suburban season-ticket holder more than in their straightforward perception of the fact that mankind is practically a single species, and not a menagerie of gentlemen and bounders, villains and heroes, cowards and daredevils, peers and peasants, grocers and aristocrats, artisans and laborers, washerwomen and duchesses, in which all the grades of income and caste represent distinct animals who must not be introduced to one another or intermarry. Napoleon constructing a galaxy of generals and courtiers, and even of monarchs, out of his collection of social nobodies; Julius Caesar appointing as governor of Egypt the son of a freedman⁠—one who but a short time before would have been legally disqualified for the post even of a private soldier in the Roman army; Louis XI making his barber his privy councillor: all these had in their different ways a firm hold of the scientific fact of human equality, expressed by Barbara in the Christian formula that all men are children of one father. A man who believes that men are naturally divided into upper and lower and middle classes morally is making exactly the same mistake as the man who believes that they are naturally divided in the same way socially. And just as our persistent attempts to found political institutions on a basis of social inequality have always produced long periods of destructive friction relieved from time to time by violent explosions of revolution; so the attempt⁠—will Americans please note⁠—to found moral institutions on a basis of moral inequality can lead to nothing but unnatural Reigns of the Saints relieved by licentious Restorations; to Americans who have made divorce a public institution turning the face of Europe into one huge sardonic smile by refusing to stay in the same hotel with a Russian man of genius who has changed wives without the sanction of South Dakota; to grotesque hypocrisy, cruel persecution, and final utter confusion of conventions and compliances with benevolence and respectability. It is quite useless to declare that all men are born free if you deny that they are born good. Guarantee a man’s goodness and his liberty will take care of itself. To guarantee his freedom on condition that you approve of his moral character is formally to abolish all freedom whatsoever, as every man’s liberty is at the mercy of a moral indictment, which any fool can trump up against everyone who violates custom, whether as a prophet or as a rascal. This is the lesson Democracy has to learn before it can become anything but the most oppressive of all the priesthoods.

Let us now return to Bill Walker and his case of conscience against the Salvation Army. Major Barbara, not being a modern Tetzel, or the treasurer of a hospital, refuses to sell Bill absolution for a sovereign. Unfortunately, what the Army can afford to refuse in the case of Bill Walker, it cannot refuse in the case of Bodger. Bodger is master of the situation because he holds the purse strings. “Strive as you will,” says Bodger, in effect: “me you cannot do without. You cannot save Bill Walker without my money.” And the Army answers, quite rightly under the circumstances, “We will take money from the devil himself sooner than abandon the work of Salvation.” So Bodger pays his conscience-money and gets the absolution that is refused to Bill. In real life Bill would perhaps never know this. But I, the dramatist, whose business it is to show the connection between things that seem apart and unrelated in the haphazard order of events in real life, have contrived to make it known to Bill, with the result that the Salvation Army loses its hold of him at once.

But Bill may not be lost, for all that. He is still in the grip of the facts and of his own conscience, and may find his taste for blackguardism permanently spoiled. Still, I cannot guarantee that happy ending. Let anyone walk through the poorer quarters of our cities when the men are not working, but resting and chewing the cud of their reflections; and he will find that there is one expression on every mature face: the expression of cynicism. The discovery made by Bill Walker about the Salvation Army has been made by every one of them. They have found that every man has his price; and they have been foolishly or corruptly taught to mistrust and despise him for that necessary and salutary condition of social existence. When they learn that General Booth, too, has his price, they do not admire him because it is a high one, and admit the need of organizing society so that he shall get it in an honorable way: they conclude that his character is unsound and that all religious men are hypocrites and allies of their sweaters and oppressors. They know that the large subscriptions which help to support the Army are endowments, not of religion, but of the wicked doctrine of docility in poverty and humility under oppression; and they are rent by the most agonizing of all the doubts of the soul, the doubt whether their true salvation must not come from their most abhorrent passions, from murder, envy, greed, stubbornness, rage, and terrorism, rather than from public spirit, reasonableness, humanity, generosity, tenderness, delicacy, pity and kindness. The confirmation of that doubt, at which our newspapers have been working so hard for years past, is the morality of militarism; and the justification of militarism is that circumstances may at any time make it the true morality of the moment. It is by producing such moments that we produce violent and sanguinary revolutions, such as the one now in progress in Russia and the one which Capitalism in England and America is daily and diligently provoking.

At such moments it becomes the duty of the Churches to evoke all the powers of destruction against the existing order. But if they do this, the existing order must forcibly suppress them. Churches are suffered to exist only on condition that they preach submission to the State as at present capitalistically organized. The Church of England itself is compelled to add to the thirty-six articles in which it formulates its religious tenets, three more in which it apologetically protests that the moment any of these articles comes in conflict with the State it is to be entirely renounced, abjured, violated, abrogated and abhorred, the policeman being a much more important person than any of the Persons of the Trinity. And this is why no tolerated Church nor Salvation Army can ever win the entire confidence of the poor. It must be on the side of the police and the military, no matter what it believes or disbelieves; and as the police and the military are the instruments by which the rich rob and oppress the poor (on legal and moral principles made for the purpose), it is not possible to be on the side of the poor and of the police at the same time. Indeed the religious bodies, as the almoners of the rich, become a sort of auxiliary police, taking off the insurrectionary edge of poverty with coals and blankets, bread and treacle, and soothing and cheering the victims with hopes of immense and inexpensive happiness in another world when the process of working them to premature death in the service of the rich is complete in this.

Christianity and Anarchism

Such is the false position from which neither the Salvation Army nor the Church of England nor any other religious organization whatever can escape except through a reconstitution of society. Nor can they merely endure the State passively, washing their hands of its sins. The State is constantly forcing the consciences of men by violence and cruelty. Not content with exacting money from us for the maintenance of its soldiers and policemen, its gaolers and executioners, it forces us to take an active personal part in its proceedings on pain of becoming ourselves the victims of its violence. As I write these lines, a sensational example is given to the world. A royal marriage has been celebrated, first by sacrament in a cathedral, and then by a bullfight having for its main amusement the spectacle of horses gored and disembowelled by the bull, after which, when the bull is so exhausted as to be no longer dangerous, he is killed by a cautious matador. But the ironic contrast between the bullfight and the sacrament of marriage does not move anyone. Another contrast⁠—that between the splendor, the happiness, the atmosphere of kindly admiration surrounding the young couple, and the price paid for it under our abominable social arrangements in the misery, squalor and degradation of millions of other young couples⁠—is drawn at the same moment by a novelist, Mr. Upton Sinclair, who chips a corner of the veneering from the huge meat packing industries of Chicago, and shows it to us as a sample of what is going on all over the world underneath the top layer of prosperous plutocracy. One man is sufficiently moved by that contrast to pay his own life as the price of one terrible blow at the responsible parties. Unhappily his poverty leaves him also ignorant enough to be duped by the pretence that the innocent young bride and bridegroom, put forth and crowned by plutocracy as the heads of a State in which they have less personal power than any policeman, and less influence than any chairman of a trust, are responsible. At them accordingly he launches his sixpennorth of fulminate, missing his mark, but scattering the bowels of as many horses as any bull in the arena, and slaying twenty-three persons, besides wounding ninety-nine. And of all these, the horses alone are innocent of the guilt he is avenging: had he blown all Madrid to atoms with every adult person in it, not one could have escaped the charge of being an accessory, before, at, and after the fact, to poverty and prostitution, to such wholesale massacre of infants as Herod never dreamt of, to plague, pestilence and famine, battle, murder and lingering death⁠—perhaps not one who had not helped, through example, precept, connivance, and even clamor, to teach the dynamiter his well-learnt gospel of hatred and vengeance, by approving every day of sentences of years of imprisonment so infernal in its unnatural stupidity and panic-stricken cruelty, that their advocates can disavow neither the dagger nor the bomb without stripping the mask of justice and humanity from themselves also. Be it noted that at this very moment there appears the biography of one of our dukes, who, being Scotch, could argue about politics, and therefore stood out as a great brain among our aristocrats. And what, if you please, was his grace’s favorite historical episode, which he declared he never read without intense satisfaction? Why, the young General Bonaparte’s pounding of the Paris mob to pieces in 1795, called in playful approval by our respectable classes “the whiff of grapeshot,” though Napoleon, to do him justice, took a deeper view of it, and would fain have had it forgotten. And since the Duke of Argyll was not a demon, but a man of like passions with ourselves, by no means rancorous or cruel as men go, who can doubt that all over the world proletarians of the ducal kidney are now revelling in “the whiff of dynamite” (the flavor of the joke seems to evaporate a little, does it not?) because it was aimed at the class they hate even as our argute duke hated what he called the mob.

In such an atmosphere there can be only one sequel to the Madrid explosion. All Europe burns to emulate it. Vengeance! More blood! Tear “the Anarchist beast” to shreds. Drag him to the scaffold. Imprison him for life. Let all civilized States band together to drive his like off the face of the earth; and if any State refuses to join, make war on it. This time the leading London newspaper, anti-Liberal and therefore anti-Russian in politics, does not say “Serve you right” to the victims, as it did, in effect, when Bobrikoff, and De Plehve, and Grand Duke Sergius, were in the same manner unofficially fulminated into fragments. No: fulminate our rivals in Asia by all means, ye brave Russian revolutionaries; but to aim at an English princess⁠—monstrous! hideous! hound down the wretch to his doom; and observe, please, that we are a civilized and merciful people, and, however much we may regret it, must not treat him as Ravaillac and Damiens were treated. And meanwhile, since we have not yet caught him, let us soothe our quivering nerves with the bullfight, and comment in a courtly way on the unfailing tact and good taste of the ladies of our royal houses, who, though presumably of full normal natural tenderness, have been so effectually broken in to fashionable routine that they can be taken to see the horses slaughtered as helplessly as they could no doubt be taken to a gladiator show, if that happened to be the mode just now.

Strangely enough, in the midst of this raging fire of malice, the one man who still has faith in the kindness and intelligence of human nature is the fulminator, now a hunted wretch, with nothing, apparently, to secure his triumph over all the prisons and scaffolds of infuriate Europe except the revolver in his pocket and his readiness to discharge it at a moment’s notice into his own or any other head. Think of him setting out to find a gentleman and a Christian in the multitude of human wolves howling for his blood. Think also of this: that at the very first essay he finds what he seeks, a veritable grandee of Spain, a noble, high-thinking, unterrified, malice-void soul, in the guise⁠—of all masquerades in the world!⁠—of a modern editor. The Anarchist wolf, flying from the wolves of plutocracy, throws himself on the honor of the man. The man, not being a wolf (nor a London editor), and therefore not having enough sympathy with his exploit to be made bloodthirsty by it, does not throw him back to the pursuing wolves⁠—gives him, instead, what help he can to escape, and sends him off acquainted at last with a force that goes deeper than dynamite, though you cannot make so much of it for sixpence. That righteous and honorable high human deed is not wasted on Europe, let us hope, though it benefits the fugitive wolf only for a moment. The plutocratic wolves presently smell him out. The fugitive shoots the unlucky wolf whose nose is nearest; shoots himself; and then convinces the world, by his photograph, that he was no monstrous freak of reversion to the tiger, but a good looking young man with nothing abnormal about him except his appalling courage and resolution (that is why the terrified shriek “Coward” at him): one to whom murdering a happy young couple on their wedding morning would have been an unthinkably unnatural abomination under rational and kindly human circumstances.

Then comes the climax of irony and blind stupidity. The wolves, balked of their meal of fellow-wolf, turn on the man, and proceed to torture him, after their manner, by imprisonment, for refusing to fasten his teeth in the throat of the dynamiter and hold him down until they came to finish him.

Thus, you see, a man may not be a gentleman nowadays even if he wishes to. As to being a Christian, he is allowed some latitude in that matter, because, I repeat, Christianity has two faces. Popular Christianity has for its emblem a gibbet, for its chief sensation a sanguinary execution after torture, for its central mystery an insane vengeance bought off by a trumpery expiation. But there is a nobler and profounder Christianity which affirms the sacred mystery of Equality, and forbids the glaring futility and folly of vengeance, often politely called punishment or justice. The gibbet part of Christianity is tolerated. The other is criminal felony. Connoisseurs in irony are well aware of the fact that the only editor in England who denounces punishment as radically wrong, also repudiates Christianity; calls his paper The Freethinker; and has been imprisoned for two years for blasphemy.

Sane Conclusions

And now I must ask the excited reader not to lose his head on one side or the other, but to draw a sane moral from these grim absurdities. It is not good sense to propose that laws against crime should apply to principals only and not to accessories whose consent, counsel, or silence may secure impunity to the principal. If you institute punishment as part of the law, you must punish people for refusing to punish. If you have a police, part of its duty must be to compel everybody to assist the police. No doubt if your laws are unjust, and your policemen agents of oppression, the result will be an unbearable violation of the private consciences of citizens. But that cannot be helped: the remedy is, not to license everybody to thwart the law if they please, but to make laws that will command the public assent, and not to deal cruelly and stupidly with lawbreakers. Everybody disapproves of burglars; but the modern burglar, when caught and overpowered by a householder, usually appeals, and often, let us hope, with success, to his captor not to deliver him over to the useless horrors of penal servitude. In other cases the lawbreaker escapes because those who could give him up do not consider his breech of the law a guilty action. Sometimes, even, private tribunals are formed in opposition to the official tribunals; and these private tribunals employ assassins as executioners, as was done, for example, by Mahomet before he had established his power officially, and by the Ribbon lodges of Ireland in their long struggle with the landlords. Under such circumstances, the assassin goes free although everybody in the district knows who he is and what he has done. They do not betray him, partly because they justify him exactly as the regular Government justifies its official executioner, and partly because they would themselves be assassinated if they betrayed him: another method learnt from the official government. Given a tribunal, employing a slayer who has no personal quarrel with the slain; and there is clearly no moral difference between official and unofficial killing.

In short, all men are anarchists with regard to laws which are against their consciences, either in the preamble or in the penalty. In London our worst anarchists are the magistrates, because many of them are so old and ignorant that when they are called upon to administer any law that is based on ideas or knowledge less than half a century old, they disagree with it, and being mere ordinary homebred private Englishmen without any respect for law in the abstract, naively set the example of violating it. In this instance the man lags behind the law; but when the law lags behind the man, he becomes equally an anarchist. When some huge change in social conditions, such as the industrial revolution of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, throws our legal and industrial institutions out of date, Anarchism becomes almost a religion. The whole force of the most energetic geniuses of the time in philosophy, economics, and art, concentrates itself on demonstrations and reminders that morality and law are only conventions, fallible and continually obsolescing. Tragedies in which the heroes are bandits, and comedies in which law-abiding and conventionally moral folk are compelled to satirize themselves by outraging the conscience of the spectators every time they do their duty, appear simultaneously with economic treatises entitled “What is Property? Theft!” and with histories of “The Conflict between Religion and Science.”

Now this is not a healthy state of things. The advantages of living in society are proportionate, not to the freedom of the individual from a code, but to the complexity and subtlety of the code he is prepared not only to accept but to uphold as a matter of such vital importance that a lawbreaker at large is hardly to be tolerated on any plea. Such an attitude becomes impossible when the only men who can make themselves heard and remembered throughout the world spend all their energy in raising our gorge against current law, current morality, current respect ability, and legal property. The ordinary man, uneducated in social theory even when he is schooled in Latin verse, cannot be set against all the laws of his country and yet persuaded to regard law in the abstract as vitally necessary to society. Once he is brought to repudiate the laws and institutions he knows, he will repudiate the very conception of law and the very groundwork of institutions, ridiculing human rights, extolling brainless methods as “historical,” and tolerating nothing except pure empiricism in conduct, with dynamite as the basis of politics and vivisection as the basis of science. That is hideous; but what is to be done? Here am I, for instance, by class a respectable man, by common sense a hater of waste and disorder, by intellectual constitution legally minded to the verge of pedantry, and by temperament apprehensive and economically disposed to the limit of old-maidishness; yet I am, and have always been, and shall now always be, a revolutionary writer, because our laws make law impossible; our liberties destroy all freedom; our property is organized robbery; our morality is an impudent hypocrisy; our wisdom is administered by inexperienced or malexperienced dupes, our power wielded by cowards and weaklings, and our honor false in all its points. I am an enemy of the existing order for good reasons; but that does not make my attacks any less encouraging or helpful to people who are its enemies for bad reasons. The existing order may shriek that if I tell the truth about it, some foolish person may drive it to become still worse by trying to assassinate it. I cannot help that, even if I could see what worse it could do than it is already doing. And the disadvantage of that worst even from its own point of view is that society, with all its prisons and bayonets and whips and ostracisms and starvations, is powerless in the face of the Anarchist who is prepared to sacrifice his own life in the battle with it. Our natural safety from the cheap and devastating explosives which every Russian student can make, and every Russian grenadier has learnt to handle in Manchuria, lies in the fact that brave and resolute men, when they are rascals, will not risk their skins for the good of humanity, and, when they are sympathetic enough to care for humanity, abhor murder, and never commit it until their consciences are outraged beyond endurance. The remedy is, simply not to outrage their consciences.

Do not be afraid that they will not make allowances. All men make very large allowances indeed before they stake their own lives in a war to the death with society. Nobody demands or expects the millennium. But there are two things that must be set right, or we shall perish, like Rome, of soul atrophy disguised as empire. The first is, that the daily ceremony of dividing the wealth of the country among its inhabitants shall be so conducted that no crumb shall go to any able-bodied adults who are not producing by their personal exertions not only a full equivalent for what they take, but a surplus sufficient to provide for their superannuation and pay back the debt due for their nurture.

The second is that the deliberate infliction of malicious injuries which now goes on under the name of punishment be abandoned; so that the thief, the ruffian, the gambler, and the beggar, may without inhumanity be handed over to the law, and made to understand that a State which is too humane to punish will also be too thrifty to waste the life of honest men in watching or restraining dishonest ones. That is why we do not imprison dogs. We even take our chance of their first bite. But if a dog delights to bark and bite, it goes to the lethal chamber. That seems to me sensible. To allow the dog to expiate his bite by a period of torment, and then let him loose in a much more savage condition (for the chain makes a dog savage) to bite again and expiate again, having meanwhile spent a great deal of human life and happiness in the task of chaining and feeding and tormenting him, seems to me idiotic and superstitious. Yet that is what we do to men who bark and bite and steal. It would be far more sensible to put up with their vices, as we put up with their illnesses, until they give more trouble than they are worth, at which point we should, with many apologies and expressions of sympathy, and some generosity in complying with their last wishes, then, place them in the lethal chamber and get rid of them. Under no circumstances should they be allowed to expiate their misdeeds by a manufactured penalty, to subscribe to a charity, or to compensate the victims. If there is to be no punishment there can be no forgiveness. We shall never have real moral responsibility until everyone knows that his deeds are irrevocable, and that his life depends on his usefulness. Hitherto, alas! humanity has never dared face these hard facts. We frantically scatter conscience money and invent systems of conscience banking, with expiatory penalties, atonements, redemptions, salvations, hospital subscription lists and whatnot, to enable us to contract-out of the moral code. Not content with the old scapegoat and sacrificial lamb, we deify human saviors, and pray to miraculous virgin intercessors. We attribute mercy to the inexorable; soothe our consciences after committing murder by throwing ourselves on the bosom of divine love; and shrink even from our own gallows because we are forced to admit that it, at least, is irrevocable⁠—as if one hour of imprisonment were not as irrevocable as any execution!

If a man cannot look evil in the face without illusion, he will never know what it really is, or combat it effectually. The few men who have been able (relatively) to do this have been called cynics, and have sometimes had an abnormal share of evil in themselves, corresponding to the abnormal strength of their minds; but they have never done mischief unless they intended to do it. That is why great scoundrels have been beneficent rulers whilst amiable and privately harmless monarchs have ruined their countries by trusting to the hocus-pocus of innocence and guilt, reward and punishment, virtuous indignation and pardon, instead of standing up to the facts without either malice or mercy. Major Barbara stands up to Bill Walker in that way, with the result that the ruffian who cannot get hated, has to hate himself. To relieve this agony he tries to get punished; but the Salvationist whom he tries to provoke is as merciless as Barbara, and only prays for him. Then he tries to pay, but can get nobody to take his money. His doom is the doom of Cain, who, failing to find either a savior, a policeman, or an almoner to help him to pretend that his brother’s blood no longer cried from the ground, had to live and die a murderer. Cain took care not to commit another murder, unlike our railway shareholders (I am one) who kill and maim shunters by hundreds to save the cost of automatic couplings, and make atonement by annual subscriptions to deserving charities. Had Cain been allowed to pay off his score, he might possibly have killed Adam and Eve for the mere sake of a second luxurious reconciliation with God afterwards. Bodger, you may depend on it, will go on to the end of his life poisoning people with bad whisky, because he can always depend on the Salvation Army or the Church of England to negotiate a redemption for him in consideration of a trifling percentage of his profits. There is a third condition too, which must be fulfilled before the great teachers of the world will cease to scoff at its religions. Creeds must become intellectually honest. At present there is not a single credible established religion in the world. That is perhaps the most stupendous fact in the whole world-situation. This play of mine, Major Barbara, is, I hope, both true and inspired; but whoever says that it all happened, and that faith in it and understanding of it consist in believing that it is a record of an actual occurrence, is, to speak according to Scripture, a fool and a liar, and is hereby solemnly denounced and cursed as such by me, the author, to all posterity.

Major Barbara

Act I

It is after dinner on a January night, in the library in Lady Britomart Undershaft’s house in Wilton Crescent. A large and comfortable settee is in the middle of the room, upholstered in dark leather. A person sitting on it (it is vacant at present) would have, on his right, Lady Britomart’s writing table, with the lady herself busy at it; a smaller writing table behind him on his left; the door behind him on Lady Britomart’s side; and a window with a window seat directly on his left. Near the window is an armchair.

Lady Britomart is a woman of fifty or thereabouts, well dressed and yet careless of her dress, well bred and quite reckless of her breeding, well mannered and yet appallingly outspoken and indifferent to the opinion of her interlocutory, amiable and yet peremptory, arbitrary, and high-tempered to the last bearable degree, and withal a very typical managing matron of the upper class, treated as a naughty child until she grew into a scolding mother, and finally settling down with plenty of practical ability and worldly experience, limited in the oddest way with domestic and class limitations, conceiving the universe exactly as if it were a large house in Wilton Crescent, though handling her corner of it very effectively on that assumption, and being quite enlightened and liberal as to the books in the library, the pictures on the walls, the music in the portfolios, and the articles in the papers.
Her son, Stephen, comes in. He is a gravely correct young man under 25, taking himself very seriously, but still in some awe of his mother, from childish habit and bachelor shyness rather than from any weakness of character.
Stephen What’s the matter?
Lady Britomart Presently, Stephen.
Stephen submissively walks to the settee and sits down. He takes up The Speaker.
Lady Britomart Don’t begin to read, Stephen. I shall require all your attention.
Stephen It was only while I was waiting⁠—
Lady Britomart Don’t make excuses, Stephen. He puts down The Speaker. Now! She finishes her writing; rises; and comes to the settee. I have not kept you waiting very long, I think.
Stephen Not at all, mother.
Lady Britomart Bring me my cushion. He takes the cushion from the chair at the desk and arranges it for her as she sits down on the settee. Sit down. He sits down and fingers his tie nervously. Don’t fiddle with your tie, Stephen: there is nothing the matter with it.
Stephen I beg your pardon. He fiddles with his watch chain instead.
Lady Britomart Now are you attending to me, Stephen?
Stephen Of course, mother.
Lady Britomart No: it’s not of course. I want something much more than your everyday matter-of-course attention. I am going to speak to you very seriously, Stephen. I wish you would let that chain alone.
Stephen Hastily relinquishing the chain. Have I done anything to annoy you, mother? If so, it was quite unintentional.
Lady Britomart Astonished. Nonsense! With some remorse. My poor boy, did you think I was angry with you?
Stephen What is it, then, mother? You are making me very uneasy.
Lady Britomart Squaring herself at him rather aggressively. Stephen: may I ask how soon you intend to realize that you are a grownup man, and that I am only a woman?
Stephen Amazed. Only a⁠—
Lady Britomart Don’t repeat my words, please: It is a most aggravating habit. You must learn to face life seriously, Stephen. I really cannot bear the whole burden of our family affairs any longer. You must advise me: you must assume the responsibility.
Stephen I!
Lady Britomart Yes, you, of course. You were 24 last June. You’ve been at Harrow and Cambridge. You’ve been to India and Japan. You must know a lot of things now; unless you have wasted your time most scandalously. Well, advise me.
Stephen Much perplexed. You know I have never interfered in the household⁠—
Lady Britomart No: I should think not. I don’t want you to order the dinner.
Stephen I mean in our family affairs.
Lady Britomart Well, you must interfere now; for they are getting quite beyond me.
Stephen Troubled. I have thought sometimes that perhaps I ought; but really, mother, I know so little about them; and what I do know is so painful⁠—it is so impossible to mention some things to you⁠—He stops, ashamed.
Lady Britomart I suppose you mean your father.
Stephen Almost inaudibly. Yes.
Lady Britomart My dear: we can’t go on all our lives not mentioning him. Of course you were quite right not to open the subject until I asked you to; but you are old enough now to be taken into my confidence, and to help me to deal with him about the girls.
Stephen But the girls are all right. They are engaged.
Lady Britomart Complacently. Yes: I have made a very good match for Sarah. Charles Lomax will be a millionaire at 35. But that is ten years ahead; and in the meantime his trustees cannot under the terms of his father’s will allow him more than 800 pounds a year.
Stephen But the will says also that if he increases his income by his own exertions, they may double the increase.
Lady Britomart Charles Lomax’s exertions are much more likely to decrease his income than to increase it. Sarah will have to find at least another 800 pounds a year for the next ten years; and even then they will be as poor as church mice. And what about Barbara? I thought Barbara was going to make the most brilliant career of all of you. And what does she do? Joins the Salvation Army; discharges her maid; lives on a pound a week; and walks in one evening with a professor of Greek whom she has picked up in the street, and who pretends to be a Salvationist, and actually plays the big drum for her in public because he has fallen head over ears in love with her.
Stephen I was certainly rather taken aback when I heard they were engaged. Cusins is a very nice fellow, certainly: nobody would ever guess that he was born in Australia; but⁠—
Lady Britomart Oh, Adolphus Cusins will make a very good husband. After all, nobody can say a word against Greek: it stamps a man at once as an educated gentleman. And my family, thank Heaven, is not a pigheaded Tory one. We are Whigs, and believe in liberty. Let snobbish people say what they please: Barbara shall marry, not the man they like, but the man I like.
Stephen Of course I was thinking only of his income. However, he is not likely to be extravagant.
Lady Britomart Don’t be too sure of that, Stephen. I know your quiet, simple, refined, poetic people like Adolphus⁠—quite content with the best of everything! They cost more than your extravagant people, who are always as mean as they are second rate. No: Barbara will need at least 2,000 pounds a year. You see it means two additional households. Besides, my dear, you must marry soon. I don’t approve of the present fashion of philandering bachelors and late marriages; and I am trying to arrange something for you.
Stephen It’s very good of you, mother; but perhaps I had better arrange that for myself.
Lady Britomart Nonsense! you are much too young to begin matchmaking: you would be taken in by some pretty little nobody. Of course I don’t mean that you are not to be consulted: you know that as well as I do. Stephen closes his lips and is silent. Now don’t sulk, Stephen.
Stephen I am not sulking, mother. What has all this got to do with⁠—with⁠—with my father?
Lady Britomart My dear Stephen: where is the money to come from? It is easy enough for you and the other children to live on my income as long as we are in the same house; but I can’t keep four families in four separate houses. You know how poor my father is: he has barely seven thousand a year now; and really, if he were not the Earl of Stevenage, he would have to give up society. He can do nothing for us: he says, naturally enough, that it is absurd that he should be asked to provide for the children of a man who is rolling in money. You see, Stephen, your father must be fabulously wealthy, because there is always a war going on somewhere.
Stephen You need not remind me of that, mother. I have hardly ever opened a newspaper in my life without seeing our name in it. The Undershaft torpedo! The Undershaft quick firers! The Undershaft ten inch! the Undershaft disappearing rampart gun! the Undershaft submarine! and now the Undershaft aerial battleship! At Harrow they called me the Woolwich Infant. At Cambridge it was the same. A little brute at King’s who was always trying to get up revivals, spoilt my Bible⁠—your first birthday present to me⁠—by writing under my name, “Son and heir to Undershaft and Lazarus, Death and Destruction Dealers: address, Christendom and Judea.” But that was not so bad as the way I was kowtowed to everywhere because my father was making millions by selling cannons.
Lady Britomart It is not only the cannons, but the war loans that Lazarus arranges under cover of giving credit for the cannons. You know, Stephen, it’s perfectly scandalous. Those two men, Andrew Undershaft and Lazarus, positively have Europe under their thumbs. That is why your father is able to behave as he does. He is above the law. Do you think Bismarck or Gladstone or Disraeli could have openly defied every social and moral obligation all their lives as your father has? They simply wouldn’t have dared. I asked Gladstone to take it up. I asked The Times to take it up. I asked the Lord Chamberlain to take it up. But it was just like asking them to declare war on the Sultan. They wouldn’t. They said they couldn’t touch him. I believe they were afraid.
Stephen What could they do? He does not actually break the law.
Lady Britomart Not break the law! He is always breaking the law. He broke the law when he was born: his parents were not married.
Stephen Mother! Is that true?
Lady Britomart Of course it’s true: that was why we separated.
Stephen He married without letting you know this!
Lady Britomart Rather taken aback by this inference. Oh no. To do Andrew justice, that was not the sort of thing he did. Besides, you know the Undershaft motto: Unashamed. Everybody knew.
Stephen But you said that was why you separated.
Lady Britomart Yes, because he was not content with being a foundling himself: he wanted to disinherit you for another foundling. That was what I couldn’t stand.
Stephen Ashamed. Do you mean for⁠—for⁠—for⁠—
Lady Britomart Don’t stammer, Stephen. Speak distinctly.
Stephen But this is so frightful to me, mother. To have to speak to you about such things!
Lady Britomart It’s not pleasant for me, either, especially if you are still so childish that you must make it worse by a display of embarrassment. It is only in the middle classes, Stephen, that people get into a state of dumb helpless horror when they find that there are wicked people in the world. In our class, we have to decide what is to be done with wicked people; and nothing should disturb our self possession. Now ask your question properly.
Stephen Mother: you have no consideration for me. For Heaven’s sake either treat me as a child, as you always do, and tell me nothing at all; or tell me everything and let me take it as best I can.
Lady Britomart Treat you as a child! What do you mean? It is most unkind and ungrateful of you to say such a thing. You know I have never treated any of you as children. I have always made you my companions and friends, and allowed you perfect freedom to do and say whatever you liked, so long as you liked what I could approve of.
Stephen Desperately. I daresay we have been the very imperfect children of a very perfect mother; but I do beg you to let me alone for once, and tell me about this horrible business of my father wanting to set me aside for another son.
Lady Britomart Amazed. Another son! I never said anything of the kind. I never dreamt of such a thing. This is what comes of interrupting me.
Stephen But you said⁠—
Lady Britomart Cutting him short. Now be a good boy, Stephen, and listen to me patiently. The Undershafts are descended from a foundling in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft in the city. That was long ago, in the reign of James the First. Well, this foundling was adopted by an armorer and gun-maker. In the course of time the foundling succeeded to the business; and from some notion of gratitude, or some vow or something, he adopted another foundling, and left the business to him. And that foundling did the same. Ever since that, the cannon business has always been left to an adopted foundling named Andrew Undershaft.
Stephen But did they never marry? Were there no legitimate sons?
Lady Britomart Oh yes: they married just as your father did; and they were rich enough to buy land for their own children and leave them well provided for. But they always adopted and trained some foundling to succeed them in the business; and of course they always quarrelled with their wives furiously over it. Your father was adopted in that way; and he pretends to consider himself bound to keep up the tradition and adopt somebody to leave the business to. Of course I was not going to stand that. There may have been some reason for it when the Undershafts could only marry women in their own class, whose sons were not fit to govern great estates. But there could be no excuse for passing over my son.
Stephen Dubiously. I am afraid I should make a poor hand of managing a cannon foundry.
Lady Britomart Nonsense! you could easily get a manager and pay him a salary.
Stephen My father evidently had no great opinion of my capacity.
Lady Britomart Stuff, child! you were only a baby: it had nothing to do with your capacity. Andrew did it on principle, just as he did every perverse and wicked thing on principle. When my father remonstrated, Andrew actually told him to his face that history tells us of only two successful institutions: one the Undershaft firm, and the other the Roman Empire under the Antonines. That was because the Antonine emperors all adopted their successors. Such rubbish! The Stevenages are as good as the Antonines, I hope; and you are a Stevenage. But that was Andrew all over. There you have the man! Always clever and unanswerable when he was defending nonsense and wickedness: always awkward and sullen when he had to behave sensibly and decently!
Stephen Then it was on my account that your home life was broken up, mother. I am sorry.
Lady Britomart Well, dear, there were other differences. I really cannot bear an immoral man. I am not a Pharisee, I hope; and I should not have minded his merely doing wrong things: we are none of us perfect. But your father didn’t exactly do wrong things: he said them and thought them: that was what was so dreadful. He really had a sort of religion of wrongness just as one doesn’t mind men practising immorality so long as they own that they are in the wrong by preaching morality; so I couldn’t forgive Andrew for preaching immorality while he practised morality. You would all have grown up without principles, without any knowledge of right and wrong, if he had been in the house. You know, my dear, your father was a very attractive man in some ways. Children did not dislike him; and he took advantage of it to put the wickedest ideas into their heads, and make them quite unmanageable. I did not dislike him myself: very far from it; but nothing can bridge over moral disagreement.
Stephen All this simply bewilders me, mother. People may differ about matters of opinion, or even about religion; but how can they differ about right and wrong? Right is right; and wrong is wrong; and if a man cannot distinguish them properly, he is either a fool or a rascal: that’s all.
Lady Britomart Touched. That’s my own boy She pats his cheek! Your father never could answer that: he used to laugh and get out of it under cover of some affectionate nonsense. And now that you understand the situation, what do you advise me to do?
Stephen Well, what can you do?
Lady Britomart I must get the money somehow.
Stephen We cannot take money from him. I had rather go and live in some cheap place like Bedford Square or even Hampstead than take a farthing of his money.
Lady Britomart But after all, Stephen, our present income comes from Andrew.
Stephen Shocked. I never knew that.
Lady Britomart Well, you surely didn’t suppose your grandfather had anything to give me. The Stevenages could not do everything for you. We gave you social position. Andrew had to contribute something. He had a very good bargain, I think.
Stephen Bitterly. We are utterly dependent on him and his cannons, then!
Lady Britomart Certainly not: the money is settled. But he provided it. So you see it is not a question of taking money from him or not: it is simply a question of how much. I don’t want any more for myself.
Stephen Nor do I.
Lady Britomart But Sarah does; and Barbara does. That is, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins will cost them more. So I must put my pride in my pocket and ask for it, I suppose. That is your advice, Stephen, is it not?
Stephen No.
Lady Britomart Sharply. Stephen!
Stephen Of course if you are determined⁠—
Lady Britomart I am not determined: I ask your advice; and I am waiting for it. I will not have all the responsibility thrown on my shoulders.
Stephen Obstinately. I would die sooner than ask him for another penny.
Lady Britomart Resignedly. You mean that I must ask him. Very well, Stephen: It shall be as you wish. You will be glad to know that your grandfather concurs. But he thinks I ought to ask Andrew to come here and see the girls. After all, he must have some natural affection for them.
Stephen Ask him here!!!
Lady Britomart Do not repeat my words, Stephen. Where else can I ask him?
Stephen I never expected you to ask him at all.
Lady Britomart Now don’t tease, Stephen. Come! you see that it is necessary that he should pay us a visit, don’t you?
Stephen Reluctantly. I suppose so, if the girls cannot do without his money.
Lady Britomart Thank you, Stephen: I knew you would give me the right advice when it was properly explained to you. I have asked your father to come this evening. Stephen bounds from his seat. Don’t jump, Stephen: it fidgets me.
Stephen In utter consternation. Do you mean to say that my father is coming here tonight⁠—that he may be here at any moment?
Lady Britomart Looking at her watch. I said nine. He gasps. She rises. Ring the bell, please. Stephen goes to the smaller writing table; presses a button on it; and sits at it with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands, outwitted and overwhelmed. It is ten minutes to nine yet; and I have to prepare the girls. I asked Charles Lomax and Adolphus to dinner on purpose that they might be here. Andrew had better see them in case he should cherish any delusions as to their being capable of supporting their wives. The butler enters: Lady Britomart goes behind the settee to speak to him. Morrison: go up to the drawing-room and tell everybody to come down here at once. Morrison withdraws. Lady Britomart turns to Stephen. Now remember, Stephen, I shall need all your countenance and authority. He rises and tries to recover some vestige of these attributes. Give me a chair, dear. He pushes a chair forward from the wall to where she stands, near the smaller writing table. She sits down; and he goes to the armchair, into which he throws himself. I don’t know how Barbara will take it. Ever since they made her a major in the Salvation Army she has developed a propensity to have her own way and order people about which quite cows me sometimes. It’s not ladylike: I’m sure I don’t know where she picked it up. Anyhow, Barbara shan’t bully me; but still it’s just as well that your father should be here before she has time to refuse to meet him or make a fuss. Don’t look nervous, Stephen, it will only encourage Barbara to make difficulties. I am nervous enough, goodness knows; but I don’t show it.
Sarah and Barbara come in with their respective young men, Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins. Sarah is slender, bored, and mundane. Barbara is robuster, jollier, much more energetic. Sarah is fashionably dressed: Barbara is in Salvation Army uniform. Lomax, a young man about town, is like many other young men about town. He is affected with a frivolous sense of humor which plunges him at the most inopportune moments into paroxysms of imperfectly suppressed laughter. Cusins is a spectacled student, slight, thin haired, and sweet voiced, with a more complex form of Lomax’s complaint. His sense of humor is intellectual and subtle, and is complicated by an appalling temper. The lifelong struggle of a benevolent temperament and a high conscience against impulses of inhuman ridicule and fierce impatience has set up a chronic strain which has visibly wrecked his constitution. He is a most implacable, determined, tenacious, intolerant person who by mere force of character presents himself as⁠—and indeed actually is⁠—considerate, gentle, explanatory, even mild and apologetic, capable possibly of murder, but not of cruelty or coarseness. By the operation of some instinct which is not merciful enough to blind him with the illusions of love, he is obstinately bent on marrying Barbara. Lomax likes Sarah and thinks it will be rather a lark to marry her. Consequently he has not attempted to resist Lady Britomart’s arrangements to that end.
All four look as if they had been having a good deal of fun in the drawing-room. The girls enter first, leaving the swains outside. Sarah comes to the settee. Barbara comes in after her and stops at the door.
Barbara Are Cholly and Dolly to come in?
Lady Britomart Forcibly. Barbara: I will not have Charles called Cholly: the vulgarity of it positively makes me ill.
Barbara It’s all right, mother. Cholly is quite correct nowadays. Are they to come in?
Lady Britomart Yes, if they will behave themselves.
Barbara Through the door. Come in, Dolly, and behave yourself.
Barbara comes to her mother’s writing table. Cusins enters smiling, and wanders towards Lady Britomart.
Sarah Calling. Come in, Cholly. Lomax enters, controlling his features very imperfectly, and places himself vaguely between Sarah and Barbara.
Lady Britomart Peremptorily. Sit down, all of you. They sit. Cusins crosses to the window and seats himself there. Lomax takes a chair. Barbara sits at the writing table and Sarah on the settee. I don’t in the least know what you are laughing at, Adolphus. I am surprised at you, though I expected nothing better from Charles Lomax.
Cusins In a remarkably gentle voice. Barbara has been trying to teach me the West Ham Salvation March.
Lady Britomart I see nothing to laugh at in that; nor should you if you are really converted.
Cusins Sweetly. You were not present. It was really funny, I believe.
Lomax Ripping.
Lady Britomart Be quiet, Charles. Now listen to me, children. Your father is coming here this evening. General stupefaction.
Lomax Remonstrating. Oh I say!
Lady Britomart You are not called on to say anything, Charles.
Sarah Are you serious, mother?
Lady Britomart Of course I am serious. It is on your account, Sarah, and also on Charles’s. Silence. Charles looks painfully unworthy. I hope you are not going to object, Barbara.
Barbara I! why should I? My father has a soul to be saved like anybody else. He’s quite welcome as far as I am concerned.
Lomax Still remonstrant. But really, don’t you know! Oh I say!
Lady Britomart Frigidly. What do you wish to convey, Charles?
Lomax Well, you must admit that this is a bit thick.
Lady Britomart Turning with ominous suavity to Cusins. Adolphus: you are a professor of Greek. Can you translate Charles Lomax’s remarks into reputable English for us?
Cusins Cautiously. If I may say so, Lady Brit, I think Charles has rather happily expressed what we all feel. Homer, speaking of Autolycus, uses the same phrase. πυκινον δόμον ὲλθείν. means a bit thick.
Lomax Handsomely. Not that I mind, you know, if Sarah don’t.
Lady Britomart Crushingly. Thank you. Have I your permission, Adolphus, to invite my own husband to my own house?
Cusins Gallantly. You have my unhesitating support in everything you do.
Lady Britomart Sarah: have you nothing to say?
Sarah Do you mean that he is coming regularly to live here?
Lady Britomart Certainly not. The spare room is ready for him if he likes to stay for a day or two and see a little more of you; but there are limits.
Sarah Well, he can’t eat us, I suppose. I don’t mind.
Lomax Chuckling. I wonder how the old man will take it.
Lady Britomart Much as the old woman will, no doubt, Charles.
Lomax Abashed. I didn’t mean⁠—at least⁠—
Lady Britomart You didn’t think, Charles. You never do; and the result is, you never mean anything. And now please attend to me, children. Your father will be quite a stranger to us.
Lomax I suppose he hasn’t seen Sarah since she was a little kid.
Lady Britomart Not since she was a little kid, Charles, as you express it with that elegance of diction and refinement of thought that seem never to desert you. Accordingly⁠—er⁠—Impatiently. Now I have forgotten what I was going to say. That comes of your provoking me to be sarcastic, Charles. Adolphus: will you kindly tell me where I was.
Cusins Sweetly. You were saying that as Mr. Undershaft has not seen his children since they were babies, he will form his opinion of the way you have brought them up from their behavior tonight, and that therefore you wish us all to be particularly careful to conduct ourselves well, especially Charles.
Lomax Look here: Lady Brit didn’t say that.
Lady Britomart Vehemently. I did, Charles. Adolphus’s recollection is perfectly correct. It is most important that you should be good; and I do beg you for once not to pair off into opposite corners and giggle and whisper while I am speaking to your father.
Barbara All right, mother. We’ll do you credit.
Lady Britomart Remember, Charles, that Sarah will want to feel proud of you instead of ashamed of you.
Lomax Oh I say! There’s nothing to be exactly proud of, don’t you know.
Lady Britomart Well, try and look as if there was.
Morrison, pale and dismayed, breaks into the room in unconcealed disorder.
Morrison Might I speak a word to you, my lady?
Lady Britomart Nonsense! Show him up.
Morrison Yes, my lady. He goes.
Lomax Does Morrison know who he is?
Lady Britomart Of course. Morrison has always been with us.
Lomax It must be a regular corker for him, don’t you know.
Lady Britomart Is this a moment to get on my nerves, Charles, with your outrageous expressions?
Lomax But this is something out of the ordinary, really⁠—
Morrison At the door. The⁠—er⁠—Mr. Undershaft. He retreats in confusion.
Andrew Undershaft comes in. All rise. Lady Britomart meets him in the middle of the room behind the settee.
Andrew is, on the surface, a stoutish, easygoing elderly man, with kindly patient manners, and an engaging simplicity of character. But he has a watchful, deliberate, waiting, listening face, and formidable reserves of power, both bodily and mental, in his capacious chest and long head. His gentleness is partly that of a strong man who has learnt by experience that his natural grip hurts ordinary people unless he handles them very carefully, and partly the mellowness of age and success. He is also a little shy in his present very delicate situation.
Lady Britomart Good evening, Andrew.
Undershaft How d’ye do, my dear.
Lady Britomart You look a good deal older.
Undershaft Apologetically. I am somewhat older. With a touch of courtship. Time has stood still with you.
Lady Britomart Promptly. Rubbish! This is your family.
Undershaft Surprised. Is it so large? I am sorry to say my memory is failing very badly in some things. He offers his hand with paternal kindness to Lomax.
Lomax Jerkily shaking his hand. Ahdedoo.
Undershaft I can see you are my eldest. I am very glad to meet you again, my boy.
Lomax Remonstrating. No but look here don’t you know⁠—Overcome. Oh I say!
Lady Britomart Recovering from momentary speechlessness. Andrew: do you mean to say that you don’t remember how many children you have?
Undershaft Well, I am afraid I⁠—. They have grown so much⁠—er. Am I making any ridiculous mistake? I may as well confess: I recollect only one son. But so many things have happened since, of course⁠—er⁠—
Lady Britomart Decisively. Andrew: you are talking nonsense. Of course you have only one son.
Undershaft Perhaps you will be good enough to introduce me, my dear.
Lady Britomart That is Charles Lomax, who is engaged to Sarah.
Undershaft My dear sir, I beg your pardon.
Lomax Not at all. Delighted, I assure you.
Lady Britomart This is Stephen.
Undershaft Bowing. Happy to make your acquaintance, Mr. Stephen. Then going to Cusins. you must be my son. Taking Cusins’ hands in his. How are you, my young friend? To Lady Britomart. He is very like you, my love.
Cusins You flatter me, Mr. Undershaft. My name is Cusins: engaged to Barbara. Very explicitly. That is Major Barbara Undershaft, of the Salvation Army. That is Sarah, your second daughter. This is Stephen Undershaft, your son.
Undershaft My dear Stephen, I beg your pardon.
Stephen Not at all.
Undershaft Mr. Cusins: I am much indebted to you for explaining so precisely. Turning to Sarah. Barbara, my dear⁠—
Sarah Prompting him. Sarah.
Undershaft Sarah, of course. They shake hands. He goes over to Barbara. Barbara⁠—I am right this time, I hope.
Barbara Quite right. They shake hands.
Lady Britomart Resuming command. Sit down, all of you. Sit down, Andrew. She comes forward and sits on the settle. Cusins also brings his chair forward on her left. Barbara and Stephen resume their seats. Lomax gives his chair to Sarah and goes for another.
Undershaft Thank you, my love.
Lomax Conversationally, as he brings a chair forward between the writing table and the settee, and offers it to Undershaft. Takes you some time to find out exactly where you are, don’t it?
Undershaft Accepting the chair. That is not what embarrasses me, Mr. Lomax. My difficulty is that if I play the part of a father, I shall produce the effect of an intrusive stranger; and if I play the part of a discreet stranger, I may appear a callous father.
Lady Britomart There is no need for you to play any part at all, Andrew. You had much better be sincere and natural.
Undershaft Submissively. Yes, my dear: I daresay that will be best. Making himself comfortable. Well, here I am. Now what can I do for you all?
Lady Britomart You need not do anything, Andrew. You are one of the family. You can sit with us and enjoy yourself.
Lomax’s too long suppressed mirth explodes in agonized neighings.
Lady Britomart Outraged. Charles Lomax: if you can behave yourself, behave yourself. If not, leave the room.
Lomax I’m awfully sorry, Lady Brit; but really, you know, upon my soul! He sits on the settee between Lady Britomart and Undershaft, quite overcome.
Barbara Why don’t you laugh if you want to, Cholly? It’s good for your inside.
Lady Britomart Barbara: you have had the education of a lady. Please let your father see that; and don’t talk like a street girl.
Undershaft Never mind me, my dear. As you know, I am not a gentleman; and I was never educated.
Lomax Encouragingly. Nobody’d know it, I assure you. You look all right, you know.
Cusins Let me advise you to study Greek, Mr. Undershaft. Greek scholars are privileged men. Few of them know Greek; and none of them know anything else; but their position is unchallengeable. Other languages are the qualifications of waiters and commercial travellers: Greek is to a man of position what the hallmark is to silver.
Barbara Dolly: don’t be insincere. Cholly: fetch your concertina and play something for us.
Lomax Doubtfully to Undershaft. Perhaps that sort of thing isn’t in your line, eh?
Undershaft I am particularly fond of music.
Lomax Delighted. Are you? Then I’ll get it. He goes upstairs for the instrument.
Undershaft Do you play, Barbara?
Barbara Only the tambourine. But Cholly’s teaching me the concertina.
Undershaft Is Cholly also a member of the Salvation Army?
Barbara No: he says it’s bad form to be a dissenter. But I don’t despair of Cholly. I made him come yesterday to a meeting at the dock gates, and take the collection in his hat.
Lady Britomart It is not my doing, Andrew. Barbara is old enough to take her own way. She has no father to advise her.
Barbara Oh yes she has. There are no orphans in the Salvation Army.
Undershaft Your father there has a great many children and plenty of experience, eh?
Barbara Looking at him with quick interest and nodding. Just so. How did you come to understand that? Lomax is heard at the door trying the concertina.
Lady Britomart Come in, Charles. Play us something at once.
Lomax Righto! He sits down in his former place, and preludes.
Undershaft One moment, Mr. Lomax. I am rather interested in the Salvation Army. Its motto might be my own: Blood and Fire.
Lomax Shocked. But not your sort of blood and fire, you know.
Undershaft My sort of blood cleanses: my sort of fire purifies.
Barbara So do ours. Come down tomorrow to my shelter⁠—the West Ham shelter⁠—and see what we’re doing. We’re going to march to a great meeting in the Assembly Hall at Mile End. Come and see the shelter and then march with us: it will do you a lot of good. Can you play anything?
Undershaft In my youth I earned pennies, and even shillings occasionally, in the streets and in public house parlors by my natural talent for stepdancing. Later on, I became a member of the Undershaft orchestral society, and performed passably on the tenor trombone.
Lomax Scandalized. Oh I say!
Barbara Many a sinner has played himself into heaven on the trombone, thanks to the Army.
Lomax To Barbara, still rather shocked. Yes; but what about the cannon business, don’t you know? To Undershaft. Getting into heaven is not exactly in your line, is it?
Lady Britomart Charles!!!
Lomax Well; but it stands to reason, don’t it? The cannon business may be necessary and all that: we can’t get on without cannons; but it isn’t right, you know. On the other hand, there may be a certain amount of tosh about the Salvation Army⁠—I belong to the Established Church myself⁠—but still you can’t deny that it’s religion; and you can’t go against religion, can you? At least unless you’re downright immoral, don’t you know.
Undershaft You hardly appreciate my position, Mr. Lomax⁠—
Lomax Hastily. I’m not saying anything against you personally, you know.
Undershaft Quite so, quite so. But consider for a moment. Here I am, a manufacturer of mutilation and murder. I find myself in a specially amiable humor just now because, this morning, down at the foundry, we blew twenty-seven dummy soldiers into fragments with a gun which formerly destroyed only thirteen.
Lomax Leniently. Well, the more destructive war becomes, the sooner it will be abolished, eh?
Undershaft Not at all. The more destructive war becomes the more fascinating we find it. No, Mr. Lomax, I am obliged to you for making the usual excuse for my trade; but I am not ashamed of it. I am not one of those men who keep their morals and their business in watertight compartments. All the spare money my trade rivals spend on hospitals, cathedrals and other receptacles for conscience money, I devote to experiments and researches in improved methods of destroying life and property. I have always done so; and I always shall. Therefore your Christmas card moralities of peace on earth and goodwill among men are of no use to me. Your Christianity, which enjoins you to resist not evil, and to turn the other cheek, would make me a bankrupt. My morality⁠—my religion⁠—must have a place for cannons and torpedoes in it.
Stephen Coldly⁠—almost sullenly. You speak as if there were half a dozen moralities and religions to choose from, instead of one true morality and one true religion.
Undershaft For me there is only one true morality; but it might not fit you, as you do not manufacture aerial battleships. There is only one true morality for every man; but every man has not the same true morality.
Lomax Overtaxed. Would you mind saying that again? I didn’t quite follow it.
Cusins It’s quite simple. As Euripides says, one man’s meat is another man’s poison morally as well as physically.
Undershaft Precisely.
Lomax Oh, that. Yes, yes, yes. True. True.
Stephen In other words, some men are honest and some are scoundrels.
Barbara Bosh. There are no scoundrels.
Undershaft Indeed? Are there any good men?
Barbara No. Not one. There are neither good men nor scoundrels: there are just children of one Father; and the sooner they stop calling one another names the better. You needn’t talk to me: I know them. I’ve had scores of them through my hands: scoundrels, criminals, infidels, philanthropists, missionaries, county councillors, all sorts. They’re all just the same sort of sinner; and there’s the same salvation ready for them all.
Undershaft May I ask have you ever saved a maker of cannons?
Barbara No. Will you let me try?
Undershaft Well, I will make a bargain with you. If I go to see you tomorrow in your Salvation Shelter, will you come the day after to see me in my cannon works?
Barbara Take care. It may end in your giving up the cannons for the sake of the Salvation Army.
Undershaft Are you sure it will not end in your giving up the Salvation Army for the sake of the cannons?
Barbara I will take my chance of that.
Undershaft And I will take my chance of the other. They shake hands on it. Where is your shelter?
Barbara In West Ham. At the sign of the cross. Ask anybody in Canning Town. Where are your works?
Undershaft In Perivale St. Andrews. At the sign of the sword. Ask anybody in Europe.
Lomax Hadn’t I better play something?
Barbara Yes. Give us “Onward, Christian Soldiers.”
Lomax Well, that’s rather a strong order to begin with, don’t you know. Suppose I sing “Thou’rt passing hence, my brother.” It’s much the same tune.
Barbara It’s too melancholy. You get saved, Cholly; and you’ll pass hence, my brother, without making such a fuss about it.
Lady Britomart Really, Barbara, you go on as if religion were a pleasant subject. Do have some sense of propriety.
Undershaft I do not find it an unpleasant subject, my dear. It is the only one that capable people really care for.
Lady Britomart Looking at her watch. Well, if you are determined to have it, I insist on having it in a proper and respectable way. Charles: ring for prayers. General amazement. Stephen rises in dismay.
Lomax Rising. Oh I say!
Undershaft Rising. I am afraid I must be going.
Lady Britomart You cannot go now, Andrew: it would be most improper. Sit down. What will the servants think?
Undershaft My dear: I have conscientious scruples. May I suggest a compromise? If Barbara will conduct a little service in the drawing-room, with Mr. Lomax as organist, I will attend it willingly. I will even take part, if a trombone can be procured.
Lady Britomart Don’t mock, Andrew.
Undershaft Shocked⁠—to Barbara. You don’t think I am mocking, my love, I hope.
Barbara No, of course not; and it wouldn’t matter if you were: half the Army came to their first meeting for a lark. Rising. Come along. Come, Dolly. Come, Cholly. She goes out with Undershaft, who opens the door for her. Cusins rises.
Lady Britomart I will not be disobeyed by everybody. Adolphus: sit down. Charles: you may go. You are not fit for prayers: you cannot keep your countenance.
Lomax Oh I say! He goes out.
Lady Britomart Continuing. But you, Adolphus, can behave yourself if you choose to. I insist on your staying.
Cusins My dear Lady Brit: there are things in the family prayer book that I couldn’t bear to hear you say.
Lady Britomart What things, pray?
Cusins Well, you would have to say before all the servants that we have done things we ought not to have done, and left undone things we ought to have done, and that there is no health in us. I cannot bear to hear you doing yourself such an unjustice, and Barbara such an injustice. As for myself, I flatly deny it: I have done my best. I shouldn’t dare to marry Barbara⁠—I couldn’t look you in the face⁠—if it were true. So I must go to the drawing-room.
Lady Britomart Offended. Well, go. He starts for the door. And remember this, Adolphus He turns to listen: I have a very strong suspicion that you went to the Salvation Army to worship Barbara and nothing else. And I quite appreciate the very clever way in which you systematically humbug me. I have found you out. Take care Barbara doesn’t. That’s all.
Cusins With unruffled sweetness. Don’t tell on me. He goes out.
Lady Britomart Sarah: if you want to go, go. Anything’s better than to sit there as if you wished you were a thousand miles away.
Sarah Languidly. Very well, mamma. She goes.
Lady Britomart, with a sudden flounce, gives way to a little gust of tears.
Stephen Going to her. Mother: what’s the matter?
Lady Britomart Swishing away her tears with her handkerchief. Nothing. Foolishness. You can go with him, too, if you like, and leave me with the servants.
Stephen Oh, you mustn’t think that, mother. I⁠—I don’t like him.
Lady Britomart The others do. That is the injustice of a woman’s lot. A woman has to bring up her children; and that means to restrain them, to deny them things they want, to set them tasks, to punish them when they do wrong, to do all the unpleasant things. And then the father, who has nothing to do but pet them and spoil them, comes in when all her work is done and steals their affection from her.
Stephen He has not stolen our affection from you. It is only curiosity.
Lady Britomart Violently. I won’t be consoled, Stephen. There is nothing the matter with me. She rises and goes towards the door.
Stephen Where are you going, mother?
Lady Britomart To the drawing-room, of course. She goes out. “Onward, Christian Soldiers,” on the concertina, with tambourine accompaniment, is heard when the door opens. Are you coming, Stephen?
Stephen No. Certainly not. She goes. He sits down on the settee, with compressed lips and an expression of strong dislike.

Act II

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, props; 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’ bread ’n’ 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 newcomer 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 notebook, 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.
Barbara Steady?
Shirley Teetotaller. Never out of a job before. Good worker. And sent to the knockers 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 notebook.
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 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. 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, props.
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.
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 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 come 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 won’t 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 outpatient 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 d’ye 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?
Barbara Yes.
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 won’t 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?
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 and 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 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?
Undershaft No.
Cusins Declaiming.

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 forever?

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 forever 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 grownup 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?
Cusins No.
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 today?
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 can’t 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.
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! 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?
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 didn’t 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 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!” ’e sez; an’ Mog sez “Glory Allelloolier!”; an’ 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 ’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 o’ 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!
Price 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—
Barbara Hooray!
Jenny Glory!
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 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 percent 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 Adolpbus, 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 5,000 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!
Jenny Major!
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.


Next day after lunch Lady Britomart is writing in the library in Wilton Crescent. Sarah is reading in the armchair near the window. Barbara, in ordinary dress, pale and brooding, is on the settee. Charley Lomax enters. Coming forward between the settee and the writing table, he starts on seeing Barbara fashionably attired and in low spirits.

Lomax You’ve left off your uniform!
Barbara says nothing; but an expression of pain passes over her face.
Lady Britomart Warning him in low tones to be careful. Charles!
Lomax Much concerned, sitting down sympathetically on the settee beside Barbara. I’m awfully sorry, Barbara. You know I helped you all I could with the concertina and so forth. Momentously. Still, I have never shut my eyes to the fact that there is a certain amount of tosh about the Salvation Army. Now the claims of the Church of England⁠—
Lady Britomart That’s enough, Charles. Speak of something suited to your mental capacity.
Lomax But surely the Church of England is suited to all our capacities.
Barbara Pressing his hand. Thank you for your sympathy, Cholly. Now go and spoon with Sarah.
Lomax Rising and going to Sarah. How is my ownest today?
Sarah I wish you wouldn’t tell Cholly to do things, Barbara. He always comes straight and does them. Cholly: we’re going to the works at Perivale St. Andrews this afternoon.
Lomax What works?
Sarah The cannon works.
Lomax What! Your governor’s shop!
Sarah Yes.
Lomax Oh I say!
Cusins enters in poor condition. He also starts visibly when he sees Barbara without her uniform.
Barbara I expected you this morning, Dolly. Didn’t you guess that?
Cusins Sitting down beside her. I’m sorry. I have only just breakfasted.
Sarah But we’ve just finished lunch.
Barbara Have you had one of your bad nights?
Cusins No: I had rather a good night: in fact, one of the most remarkable nights I have ever passed.
Barbara The meeting?
Cusins No: after the meeting.
Lady Britomart You should have gone to bed after the meeting. What were you doing?
Cusins Drinking.
Lady Britomart Adolphus!
Sarah Dolly!
Barbara Dolly!
Lomax Oh I say!
Lady Britomart What were you drinking, may I ask?
Cusins A most devilish kind of Spanish burgundy, warranted free from added alcohol: a Temperance burgundy in fact. Its richness in natural alcohol made any addition superfluous.
Barbara Are you joking, Dolly?
Cusins Patiently. No. I have been making a night of it with the nominal head of this household: that is all.
Lady Britomart Andrew made you drunk!
Cusins No: he only provided the wine. I think it was Dionysos who made me drunk. To Barbara. I told you I was possessed.
Lady Britomart You’re not sober yet. Go home to bed at once.
Cusins I have never before ventured to reproach you, Lady Brit; but how could you marry the Prince of Darkness?
Lady Britomart It was much more excusable to marry him than to get drunk with him. That is a new accomplishment of Andrew’s, by the way. He usen’t to drink.
Cusins He doesn’t now. He only sat there and completed the wreck of my moral basis, the rout of my convictions, the purchase of my soul. He cares for you, Barbara. That is what makes him so dangerous to me.
Barbara That has nothing to do with it, Dolly. There are larger loves and diviner dreams than the fireside ones. You know that, don’t you?
Cusins Yes: that is our understanding. I know it. I hold to it. Unless he can win me on that holier ground he may amuse me for a while; but he can get no deeper hold, strong as he is.
Barbara Keep to that; and the end will be right. Now tell me what happened at the meeting?
Cusins It was an amazing meeting. Mrs. Baines almost died of emotion. Jenny Hill went stark mad with hysteria. The Prince of Darkness played his trombone like a madman: its brazen roarings were like the laughter of the damned. 117 conversions took place then and there. They prayed with the most touching sincerity and gratitude for Bodger, and for the anonymous donor of the 5,000 pounds. Your father would not let his name be given.
Lomax That was rather fine of the old man, you know. Most chaps would have wanted the advertisement.
Cusins He said all the charitable institutions would be down on him like kites on a battlefield if he gave his name.
Lady Britomart That’s Andrew all over. He never does a proper thing without giving an improper reason for it.
Cusins He convinced me that I have all my life been doing improper things for proper reasons.
Lady Britomart Adolphus: now that Barbara has left the Salvation Army, you had better leave it too. I will not have you playing that drum in the streets.
Cusins Your orders are already obeyed, Lady Brit.
Barbara Dolly: were you ever really in earnest about it? Would you have joined if you had never seen me?
Cusins Disingenuously. Well⁠—er⁠—well, possibly, as a collector of religions⁠—
Lomax Cunningly. Not as a drummer, though, you know. You are a very clearheaded brainy chap, Dolly; and it must have been apparent to you that there is a certain amount of tosh about⁠—
Lady Britomart Charles: if you must drivel, drivel like a grownup man and not like a schoolboy.
Lomax Out of countenance. Well, drivel is drivel, don’t you know, whatever a man’s age.
Lady Britomart In good society in England, Charles, men drivel at all ages by repeating silly formulas with an air of wisdom. Schoolboys make their own formulas out of slang, like you. When they reach your age, and get political private secretaryships and things of that sort, they drop slang and get their formulas out of The Spectator or The Times. You had better confine yourself to The Times. You will find that there is a certain amount of tosh about The Times; but at least its language is reputable.
Lomax Overwhelmed. You are so awfully strong-minded, Lady Brit⁠—
Lady Britomart Rubbish! Morrison comes in. What is it?
Morrison If you please, my lady, Mr. Undershaft has just drove up to the door.
Lady Britomart Well, let him in. Morrison hesitates. What’s the matter with you?
Morrison Shall I announce him, my lady; or is he at home here, so to speak, my lady?
Lady Britomart Announce him.
Morrison Thank you, my lady. You won’t mind my asking, I hope. The occasion is in a manner of speaking new to me.
Lady Britomart Quite right. Go and let him in.
Morrison Thank you, my lady. He withdraws.
Lady Britomart Children: go and get ready. Sarah and Barbara go upstairs for their out-of-door wrap. Charles: go and tell Stephen to come down here in five minutes: you will find him in the drawing room. Charles goes. Adolphus: tell them to send round the carriage in about fifteen minutes. Adolphus goes.
Morrison At the door. Mr. Undershaft.
Undershaft comes in. Morrison goes out.
Undershaft Alone! How fortunate!
Lady Britomart Rising. Don’t be sentimental, Andrew. Sit down. She sits on the settee: he sits beside her, on her left. She comes to the point before he has time to breathe. Sarah must have 800 pounds a year until Charles Lomax comes into his property. Barbara will need more, and need it permanently, because Adolphus hasn’t any property.
Undershaft Resignedly. Yes, my dear: I will see to it. Anything else? for yourself, for instance?
Lady Britomart I want to talk to you about Stephen.
Undershaft Rather wearily. Don’t, my dear. Stephen doesn’t interest me.
Lady Britomart He does interest me. He is our son.
Undershaft Do you really think so? He has induced us to bring him into the world; but he chose his parents very incongruously, I think. I see nothing of myself in him, and less of you.
Lady Britomart Andrew: Stephen is an excellent son, and a most steady, capable, highminded young man. You are simply trying to find an excuse for disinheriting him.
Undershaft My dear Biddy: the Undershaft tradition disinherits him. It would be dishonest of me to leave the cannon foundry to my son.
Lady Britomart It would be most unnatural and improper of you to leave it to anyone else, Andrew. Do you suppose this wicked and immoral tradition can be kept up forever? Do you pretend that Stephen could not carry on the foundry just as well as all the other sons of the big business houses?
Undershaft Yes: he could learn the office routine without understanding the business, like all the other sons; and the firm would go on by its own momentum until the real Undershaft⁠—probably an Italian or a German⁠—would invent a new method and cut him out.
Lady Britomart There is nothing that any Italian or German could do that Stephen could not do. And Stephen at least has breeding.
Undershaft The son of a foundling! nonsense!
Lady Britomart My son, Andrew! And even you may have good blood in your veins for all you know.
Undershaft True. Probably I have. That is another argument in favor of a foundling.
Lady Britomart Andrew: don’t be aggravating. And don’t be wicked. At present you are both.
Undershaft This conversation is part of the Undershaft tradition, Biddy. Every Undershaft’s wife has treated him to it ever since the house was founded. It is mere waste of breath. If the tradition be ever broken it will be for an abler man than Stephen.
Lady Britomart Pouting. Then go away.
Undershaft Deprecatory. Go away!
Lady Britomart Yes: go away. If you will do nothing for Stephen, you are not wanted here. Go to your foundling, whoever he is; and look after him.
Undershaft The fact is, Biddy⁠—
Lady Britomart Don’t call me Biddy. I don’t call you Andy.
Undershaft I will not call my wife Britomart: it is not good sense. Seriously, my love, the Undershaft tradition has landed me in a difficulty. I am getting on in years; and my partner Lazarus has at last made a stand and insisted that the succession must be settled one way or the other; and of course he is quite right. You see, I haven’t found a fit successor yet.
Lady Britomart Obstinately. There is Stephen.
Undershaft That’s just it: all the foundlings I can find are exactly like Stephen.
Lady Britomart Andrew!!
Undershaft I want a man with no relations and no schooling: that is, a man who would be out of the running altogether if he were not a strong man. And I can’t find him. Every blessed foundling nowadays is snapped up in his infancy by Barnardo homes, or School Board officers, or Boards of Guardians; and if he shows the least ability, he is fastened on by schoolmasters; trained to win scholarships like a racehorse; crammed with secondhand ideas; drilled and disciplined in docility and what they call good taste; and lamed for life so that he is fit for nothing but teaching. If you want to keep the foundry in the family, you had better find an eligible foundling and marry him to Barbara.
Lady Britomart Ah! Barbara! Your pet! You would sacrifice Stephen to Barbara.
Undershaft Cheerfully. And you, my dear, would boil Barbara to make soup for Stephen.
Lady Britomart Andrew: this is not a question of our likings and dislikings: it is a question of duty. It is your duty to make Stephen your successor.
Undershaft Just as much as it is your duty to submit to your husband. Come, Biddy! these tricks of the governing class are of no use with me. I am one of the governing class myself; and it is waste of time giving tracts to a missionary. I have the power in this matter; and I am not to be humbugged into using it for your purposes.
Lady Britomart Andrew: you can talk my head off; but you can’t change wrong into right. And your tie is all on one side. Put it straight.
Undershaft Disconcerted. It won’t stay unless it’s pinned He fumbles at it with childish grimaces.⁠—
Stephen comes in.
Stephen At the door. I beg your pardon about to retire.
Lady Britomart No: come in, Stephen. Stephen comes forward to his mother’s writing table.
Undershaft Not very cordially. Good afternoon.
Stephen Coldly. Good afternoon.
Undershaft To Lady Britomart. He knows all about the tradition, I suppose?
Lady Britomart Yes. To Stephen. It is what I told you last night, Stephen.
Undershaft Sulkily. I understand you want to come into the cannon business.
Stephen I go into trade! Certainly not.
Undershaft Opening his eyes, greatly eased in mind and manner. Oh! in that case⁠—!
Lady Britomart Cannons are not trade, Stephen. They are enterprise.
Stephen I have no intention of becoming a man of business in any sense. I have no capacity for business and no taste for it. I intend to devote myself to politics.
Undershaft Rising. My dear boy: this is an immense relief to me. And I trust it may prove an equally good thing for the country. I was afraid you would consider yourself disparaged and slighted. He moves towards Stephen as if to shake hands with him.
Lady Britomart Rising and interposing. Stephen: I cannot allow you to throw away an enormous property like this.
Stephen Stiffly. Mother: there must be an end of treating me as a child, if you please. Lady Britomart recoils, deeply wounded by his tone. Until last night I did not take your attitude seriously, because I did not think you meant it seriously. But I find now that you left me in the dark as to matters which you should have explained to me years ago. I am extremely hurt and offended. Any further discussion of my intentions had better take place with my father, as between one man and another.
Lady Britomart Stephen! She sits down again; and her eyes fill with tears.
Undershaft With grave compassion. You see, my dear, it is only the big men who can be treated as children.
Stephen I am sorry, mother, that you have forced me⁠—
Undershaft Stopping him. Yes, yes, yes, yes: that’s all right, Stephen. She won’t interfere with you any more: your independence is achieved: you have won your latchkey. Don’t rub it in; and above all, don’t apologize. He resumes his seat. Now what about your future, as between one man and another⁠—I beg your pardon, Biddy: as between two men and a woman.
Lady Britomart Who has pulled herself together strongly. I quite understand, Stephen. By all means go your own way if you feel strong enough. Stephen sits down magisterially in the chair at the writing table with an air of affirming his majority.
Undershaft It is settled that you do not ask for the succession to the cannon business.
Stephen I hope it is settled that I repudiate the cannon business.
Undershaft Come, come! Don’t be so devilishly sulky: it’s boyish. Freedom should be generous. Besides, I owe you a fair start in life in exchange for disinheriting you. You can’t become prime minister all at once. Haven’t you a turn for something? What about literature, art and so forth?
Stephen I have nothing of the artist about me, either in faculty or character, thank Heaven!
Undershaft A philosopher, perhaps? Eh?
Stephen I make no such ridiculous pretension.
Undershaft Just so. Well, there is the army, the navy, the Church, the Bar. The Bar requires some ability. What about the Bar?
Stephen I have not studied law. And I am afraid I have not the necessary push⁠—I believe that is the name barristers give to their vulgarity⁠—for success in pleading.
Undershaft Rather a difficult case, Stephen. Hardly anything left but the stage, is there? Stephen makes an impatient movement. Well, come! is there anything you know or care for?
Stephen Rising and looking at him steadily. I know the difference between right and wrong.
Undershaft Hugely tickled. You don’t say so! What! no capacity for business, no knowledge of law, no sympathy with art, no pretension to philosophy; only a simple knowledge of the secret that has puzzled all the philosophers, baffled all the lawyers, muddled all the men of business, and ruined most of the artists: the secret of right and wrong. Why, man, you’re a genius, master of masters, a god! At twenty-four, too!
Stephen Keeping his temper with difficulty. You are pleased to be facetious. I pretend to nothing more than any honorable English gentleman claims as his birthright he sits down angrily.
Undershaft Oh, that’s everybody’s birthright. Look at poor little Jenny Hill, the Salvation lassie! she would think you were laughing at her if you asked her to stand up in the street and teach grammar or geography or mathematics or even drawing-room dancing; but it never occurs to her to doubt that she can teach morals and religion. You are all alike, you respectable people. You can’t tell me the bursting strain of a ten-inch gun, which is a very simple matter; but you all think you can tell me the bursting strain of a man under temptation. You daren’t handle high explosives; but you’re all ready to handle honesty and truth and justice and the whole duty of man, and kill one another at that game. What a country! what a world!
Lady Britomart Uneasily. What do you think he had better do, Andrew?
Undershaft Oh, just what he wants to do. He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career. Get him a private secretaryship to someone who can get him an Under Secretaryship; and then leave him alone. He will find his natural and proper place in the end on the Treasury bench.
Stephen Springing up again. I am sorry, sir, that you force me to forget the respect due to you as my father. I am an Englishman; and I will not hear the government of my country insulted. He thrusts his hands in his pockets, and walks angrily across to the window.
Undershaft With a touch of brutality. The government of your country! I am the government of your country: I, and Lazarus. Do you suppose that you and half a dozen amateurs like you, sitting in a row in that foolish gabble shop, can govern Undershaft and Lazarus? No, my friend: you will do what pays us. You will make war when it suits us, and keep peace when it doesn’t. You will find out that trade requires certain measures when we have decided on those measures. When I want anything to keep my dividends up, you will discover that my want is a national need. When other people want something to keep my dividends down, you will call out the police and military. And in return you shall have the support and applause of my newspapers, and the delight of imagining that you are a great statesman. Government of your country! Be off with you, my boy, and play with your caucuses and leading articles and historic parties and great leaders and burning questions and the rest of your toys. I am going back to my counting house to pay the piper and call the tune.
Stephen Actually smiling, and putting his hand on his father’s shoulder with indulgent patronage. Really, my dear father, it is impossible to be angry with you. You don’t know how absurd all this sounds to me. You are very properly proud of having been industrious enough to make money; and it is greatly to your credit that you have made so much of it. But it has kept you in circles where you are valued for your money and deferred to for it, instead of in the doubtless very old-fashioned and behind-the-times public school and university where I formed my habits of mind. It is natural for you to think that money governs England; but you must allow me to think I know better.
Undershaft And what does govern England, pray?
Stephen Character, father, character.
Undershaft Whose character? Yours or mine?
Stephen Neither yours nor mine, father, but the best elements in the English national character.
Undershaft Stephen: I’ve found your profession for you. You’re a born journalist. I’ll start you with a high-toned weekly review. There!
Stephen goes to the smaller writing table and busies himself with his letters.
Sarah, Barbara, Lomax, and Cusins come in ready for walking. Barbara crosses the room to the window and looks out. Cusins drifts amiably to the armchair, and Lomax remains near the door, whilst Sarah comes to her mother.
Sarah Go and get ready, mamma: the carriage is waiting. Lady Britomart leaves the room.
Undershaft To Sarah. Good day, my dear. Good afternoon, Mr. Lomax.
Lomax Vaguely. Ahdedoo.
Undershaft To Cusins. quite well after last night, Euripides, eh?
Cusins As well as can be expected.
Undershaft That’s right. To Barbara. So you are coming to see my death and devastation factory, Barbara?
Barbara At the window. You came yesterday to see my salvation factory. I promised you a return visit.
Lomax Coming forward between Sarah and Undershaft. You’ll find it awfully interesting. I’ve been through the Woolwich Arsenal; and it gives you a ripping feeling of security, you know, to think of the lot of beggars we could kill if it came to fighting. To Undershaft, with sudden solemnity. Still, it must be rather an awful reflection for you, from the religious point of view as it were. You’re getting on, you know, and all that.
Sarah You don’t mind Cholly’s imbecility, papa, do you?
Lomax Much taken aback. Oh I say!
Undershaft Mr. Lomax looks at the matter in a very proper spirit, my dear.
Lomax Just so. That’s all I meant, I assure you.
Sarah Are you coming, Stephen?
Stephen Well, I am rather busy⁠—er⁠—Magnanimously. Oh well, yes: I’ll come. That is, if there is room for me.
Undershaft I can take two with me in a little motor I am experimenting with for field use. You won’t mind its being rather unfashionable. It’s not painted yet; but it’s bullet proof.
Lomax Appalled at the prospect of confronting Wilton Crescent in an unpainted motor. Oh I say!
Sarah The carriage for me, thank you. Barbara doesn’t mind what she’s seen in.
Lomax I say, Dolly old chap: do you really mind the car being a guy? Because of course if you do I’ll go in it. Still⁠—
Cusins I prefer it.
Lomax Thanks awfully, old man. Come, Sarah. He hurries out to secure his seat in the carriage. Sarah follows him.
Cusins Moodily walking across to Lady Britomart’s writing table. Why are we two coming to this Works Department of Hell? that is what I ask myself.
Barbara I have always thought of it as a sort of pit where lost creatures with blackened faces stirred up smoky fires and were driven and tormented by my father. Is it like that, dad?
Undershaft Scandalized. My dear! It is a spotlessly clean and beautiful hillside town.
Cusins With a Methodist chapel? Oh do say there’s a Methodist chapel.
Undershaft There are two: a primitive one and a sophisticated one. There is even an Ethical Society; but it is not much patronized, as my men are all strongly religious. In the High Explosives Sheds they object to the presence of Agnostics as unsafe.
Cusins And yet they don’t object to you!
Barbara Do they obey all your orders?
Undershaft I never give them any orders. When I speak to one of them it is “Well, Jones, is the baby doing well? and has Mrs. Jones made a good recovery?” “Nicely, thank you, sir.” And that’s all.
Cusins But Jones has to be kept in order. How do you maintain discipline among your men?
Undershaft I don’t. They do. You see, the one thing Jones won’t stand is any rebellion from the man under him, or any assertion of social equality between the wife of the man with 4 shillings a week less than himself and Mrs. Jones! Of course they all rebel against me, theoretically. Practically, every man of them keeps the man just below him in his place. I never meddle with them. I never bully them. I don’t even bully Lazarus. I say that certain things are to be done; but I don’t order anybody to do them. I don’t say, mind you, that there is no ordering about and snubbing and even bullying. The men snub the boys and order them about; the carmen snub the sweepers; the artisans snub the unskilled laborers; the foremen drive and bully both the laborers and artisans; the assistant engineers find fault with the foremen; the chief engineers drop on the assistants; the departmental managers worry the chiefs; and the clerks have tall hats and hymnbooks and keep up the social tone by refusing to associate on equal terms with anybody. The result is a colossal profit, which comes to me.
Cusins Revolted. You really are a⁠—well, what I was saying yesterday.
Barbara What was he saying yesterday?
Undershaft Never mind, my dear. He thinks I have made you unhappy. Have I?
Barbara Do you think I can be happy in this vulgar silly dress? I! who have worn the uniform. Do you understand what you have done to me? Yesterday I had a man’s soul in my hand. I set him in the way of life with his face to salvation. But when we took your money he turned back to drunkenness and derision. With intense conviction. I will never forgive you that. If I had a child, and you destroyed its body with your explosives⁠—if you murdered Dolly with your horrible guns⁠—I could forgive you if my forgiveness would open the gates of heaven to you. But to take a human soul from me, and turn it into the soul of a wolf! that is worse than any murder.
Undershaft Does my daughter despair so easily? Can you strike a man to the heart and leave no mark on him?
Barbara Her face lighting up. Oh, you are right: he can never be lost now: where was my faith?
Cusins Oh, clever clever devil!
Barbara You may be a devil; but God speaks through you sometimes. She takes her father’s hands and kisses them. You have given me back my happiness: I feel it deep down now, though my spirit is troubled.
Undershaft You have learnt something. That always feels at first as if you had lost something.
Barbara Well, take me to the factory of death, and let me learn something more. There must be some truth or other behind all this frightful irony. Come, Dolly. She goes out.
Cusins My guardian angel! To Undershaft. Avaunt! He follows Barbara.
Stephen Quietly, at the writing table. You must not mind Cusins, father. He is a very amiable good fellow; but he is a Greek scholar and naturally a little eccentric.
Undershaft Ah, quite so. Thank you, Stephen. Thank you. He goes out.
Stephen smiles patronizingly; buttons his coat responsibly; and crosses the room to the door. Lady Britomart, dressed for out-of-doors, opens it before he reaches it. She looks round for the others; looks at Stephen; and turns to go without a word.
Stephen Embarrassed. Mother⁠—
Lady Britomart Don’t be apologetic, Stephen. And don’t forget that you have outgrown your mother. She goes out.

Perivale St. Andrews lies between two Middlesex hills, half climbing the northern one. It is an almost smokeless town of white walls, roofs of narrow green slates or red tiles, tall trees, domes, campaniles, and slender chimney shafts, beautifully situated and beautiful in itself. The best view of it is obtained from the crest of a slope about half a mile to the east, where the high explosives are dealt with. The foundry lies hidden in the depths between, the tops of its chimneys sprouting like huge skittles into the middle distance. Across the crest runs a platform of concrete, with a parapet which suggests a fortification, because there is a huge cannon of the obsolete Woolwich Infant pattern peering across it at the town. The cannon is mounted on an experimental gun carriage: possibly the original model of the Undershaft disappearing rampart gun alluded to by Stephen. The parapet has a high step inside which serves as a seat.

Barbara is leaning over the parapet, looking towards the town. On her right is the cannon; on her left the end of a shed raised on piles, with a ladder of three or four steps up to the door, which opens outwards and has a little wooden landing at the threshold, with a fire bucket in the corner of the landing. The parapet stops short of the shed, leaving a gap which is the beginning of the path down the hill through the foundry to the town. Behind the cannon is a trolley carrying a huge conical bombshell, with a red band painted on it. Further from the parapet, on the same side, is a deck chair, near the door of an office, which, like the sheds, is of the lightest possible construction.
Cusins arrives by the path from the town.
Barbara Well?
Cusins Not a ray of hope. Everything perfect, wonderful, real. It only needs a cathedral to be a heavenly city instead of a hellish one.
Barbara Have you found out whether they have done anything for old Peter Shirley.
Cusins They have found him a job as gatekeeper and timekeeper. He’s frightfully miserable. He calls the timekeeping brainwork, and says he isn’t used to it; and his gate lodge is so splendid that he’s ashamed to use the rooms, and skulks in the scullery.
Barbara Poor Peter!
Stephen arrives from the town. He carries a field-glass.
Stephen Enthusiastically. Have you two seen the place? Why did you leave us?
Cusins I wanted to see everything I was not intended to see; and Barbara wanted to make the men talk.
Stephen Have you found anything discreditable?
Cusins No. They call him Dandy Andy and are proud of his being a cunning old rascal; but it’s all horribly, frightfully, immorally, unanswerably perfect.
Sarah arrives.
Sarah Heavens! what a place! She crosses to the trolley. Did you see the nursing home!? She sits down on the shell.
Stephen Did you see the libraries and schools!?
Sarah Did you see the ballroom and the banqueting chamber in the Town Hall!?
Stephen Have you gone into the insurance fund, the pension fund, the building society, the various applications of cooperation!?
Undershaft comes from the office, with a sheaf of telegrams in his hands.
Undershaft Well, have you seen everything? I’m sorry I was called away. Indicating the telegrams. News from Manchuria.
Stephen Good news, I hope.
Undershaft Very.
Stephen Another Japanese victory?
Undershaft Oh, I don’t know. Which side wins does not concern us here. No: the good news is that the aerial battleship is a tremendous success. At the first trial it has wiped out a fort with three hundred soldiers in it.
Cusins From the platform. Dummy soldiers?
Undershaft No: the real thing. Cusins and Barbara exchange glances. Then Cusins sits on the step and buries his face in his hands. Barbara gravely lays her hand on his shoulder, and he looks up at her in a sort of whimsical desperation. Well, Stephen, what do you think of the place?
Stephen Oh, magnificent. A perfect triumph of organization. Frankly, my dear father, I have been a fool: I had no idea of what it all meant⁠—of the wonderful forethought, the power of organization, the administrative capacity, the financial genius, the colossal capital it represents. I have been repeating to myself as I came through your streets “Peace hath her victories no less renowned than War.” I have only one misgiving about it all.
Undershaft Out with it.
Stephen Well, I cannot help thinking that all this provision for every want of your workmen may sap their independence and weaken their sense of responsibility. And greatly as we enjoyed our tea at that splendid restaurant⁠—how they gave us all that luxury and cake and jam and cream for threepence I really cannot imagine!⁠—still you must remember that restaurants break up home life. Look at the continent, for instance! Are you sure so much pampering is really good for the men’s characters?
Undershaft Well you see, my dear boy, when you are organizing civilization you have to make up your mind whether trouble and anxiety are good things or not. If you decide that they are, then, I take it, you simply don’t organize civilization; and there you are, with trouble and anxiety enough to make us all angels! But if you decide the other way, you may as well go through with it. However, Stephen, our characters are safe here. A sufficient dose of anxiety is always provided by the fact that we may be blown to smithereens at any moment.
Sarah By the way, papa, where do you make the explosives?
Undershaft In separate little sheds, like that one. When one of them blows up, it costs very little; and only the people quite close to it are killed.
Stephen, who is quite close to it, looks at it rather scaredly, and moves away quickly to the cannon. At the same moment the door of the shed is thrown abruptly open; and a foreman in overalls and list slippers comes out on the little landing and holds the door open for Lomax, who appears in the doorway.
Lomax With studied coolness. My good fellow: you needn’t get into a state of nerves. Nothing’s going to happen to you; and I suppose it wouldn’t be the end of the world if anything did. A little bit of British pluck is what you want, old chap. He descends and strolls across to Sarah.
Undershaft To the foreman. Anything wrong, Bilton?
Bilton With ironic calm. Gentleman walked into the high explosives shed and lit a cigarette, sir: that’s all.
Undershaft Ah, quite so. To Lomax. Do you happen to remember what you did with the match?
Lomax Oh come! I’m not a fool. I took jolly good care to blow it out before I chucked it away.
Undershaft The top of it was red hot inside, sir.
Lomax Well, suppose it was! I didn’t chuck it into any of your messes.
Undershaft Think no more of it, Mr. Lomax. By the way, would you mind lending me your matches?
Lomax Offering his box. Certainly.
Undershaft Thanks. He pockets the matches.
Lomax Lecturing to the company generally. You know, these high explosives don’t go off like gunpowder, except when they’re in a gun. When they’re spread loose, you can put a match to them without the least risk: they just burn quietly like a bit of paper. Warming to the scientific interest of the subject. Did you know that Undershaft? Have you ever tried?
Undershaft Not on a large scale, Mr. Lomax. Bilton will give you a sample of guncotton when you are leaving if you ask him. You can experiment with it at home. Bilton looks puzzled.
Sarah Bilton will do nothing of the sort, papa. I suppose it’s your business to blow up the Russians and Japs; but you might really stop short of blowing up poor Cholly. Bilton gives it up and retires into the shed.
Lomax My ownest, there is no danger. He sits beside her on the shell.
Lady Britomart arrives from the town with a bouquet.
Lady Britomart Coming impetuously between Undershaft and the deck chair. Andrew: you shouldn’t have let me see this place.
Undershaft Why, my dear?
Lady Britomart Never mind why: you shouldn’t have: that’s all. To think of all that Indicating the town. being yours! and that you have kept it to yourself all these years!
Undershaft It does not belong to me. I belong to it. It is the Undershaft inheritance.
Lady Britomart It is not. Your ridiculous cannons and that noisy banging foundry may be the Undershaft inheritance; but all that plate and linen, all that furniture and those houses and orchards and gardens belong to us. They belong to me: they are not a man’s business. I won’t give them up. You must be out of your senses to throw them all away; and if you persist in such folly, I will call in a doctor.
Undershaft Stooping to smell the bouquet. Where did you get the flowers, my dear?
Lady Britomart Your men presented them to me in your William Morris Labor Church.
Cusins Springing up. Oh! It needed only that. A Labor Church!
Lady Britomart Yes, with Morris’s words in mosaic letters ten feet high round the dome. No Man Is Good Enough To Be Another Man’s Master. The cynicism of it!
Undershaft It shocked the men at first, I am afraid. But now they take no more notice of it than of the ten commandments in church.
Lady Britomart Andrew: you are trying to put me off the subject of the inheritance by profane jokes. Well, you shan’t. I don’t ask it any longer for Stephen: he has inherited far too much of your perversity to be fit for it. But Barbara has rights as well as Stephen. Why should not Adolphus succeed to the inheritance? I could manage the town for him; and he can look after the cannons, if they are really necessary.
Undershaft I should ask nothing better if Adolphus were a foundling. He is exactly the sort of new blood that is wanted in English business. But he’s not a foundling; and there’s an end of it.
Cusins Diplomatically. Not quite. They all turn and stare at him. He comes from the platform past the shed to Undershaft. I think⁠—Mind! I am not committing myself in any way as to my future course⁠—but I think the foundling difficulty can be got over.
Undershaft What do you mean?
Cusins Well, I have something to say which is in the nature of a confession.
Sarah Confession!
Lady Britomart
Lomax Oh I say!
Cusins Yes, a confession. Listen, all. Until I met Barbara I thought myself in the main an honorable, truthful man, because I wanted the approval of my conscience more than I wanted anything else. But the moment I saw Barbara, I wanted her far more than the approval of my conscience.
Lady Britomart Adolphus!
Cusins It is true. You accused me yourself, Lady Brit, of joining the Army to worship Barbara; and so I did. She bought my soul like a flower at a street corner; but she bought it for herself.
Undershaft What! Not for Dionysos or another?
Cusins Dionysos and all the others are in herself. I adored what was divine in her, and was therefore a true worshipper. But I was romantic about her too. I thought she was a woman of the people, and that a marriage with a professor of Greek would be far beyond the wildest social ambitions of her rank.
Lady Britomart Adolphus!!
Lomax Oh I say!!!
Cusins When I learnt the horrible truth⁠—
Lady Britomart What do you mean by the horrible truth, pray?
Cusins That she was enormously rich; that her grandfather was an earl; that her father was the Prince of Darkness⁠—
Undershaft Chut!
Cusins —and that I was only an adventurer trying to catch a rich wife, then I stooped to deceive about my birth.
Lady Britomart Your birth! Now Adolphus, don’t dare to make up a wicked story for the sake of these wretched cannons. Remember: I have seen photographs of your parents; and the Agent General for South Western Australia knows them personally and has assured me that they are most respectable married people.
Cusins So they are in Australia; but here they are outcasts. Their marriage is legal in Australia, but not in England. My mother is my father’s deceased wife’s sister; and in this island I am consequently a foundling. Sensation. Is the subterfuge good enough, Machiavelli?
Undershaft Thoughtfully. Biddy: this may be a way out of the difficulty.
Lady Britomart Stuff! A man can’t make cannons any the better for being his own cousin instead of his proper self She sits down in the deck chair with a bounce that expresses her downright contempt for their casuistry.
Undershaft To Cusins. You are an educated man. That is against the tradition.
Cusins Once in ten thousand times it happens that the schoolboy is a born master of what they try to teach him. Greek has not destroyed my mind: it has nourished it. Besides, I did not learn it at an English public school.
Undershaft Hm! Well, I cannot afford to be too particular: you have cornered the foundling market. Let it pass. You are eligible, Euripides: you are eligible.
Barbara Coming from the platform and interposing between Cusins and Undershaft. Dolly: yesterday morning, when Stephen told us all about the tradition, you became very silent; and you have been strange and excited ever since. Were you thinking of your birth then?
Cusins When the finger of Destiny suddenly points at a man in the middle of his breakfast, it makes him thoughtful. Barbara turns away sadly and stands near her mother, listening perturbedly.
Undershaft Aha! You have had your eye on the business, my young friend, have you?
Cusins Take care! There is an abyss of moral horror between me and your accursed aerial battleships.
Undershaft Never mind the abyss for the present. Let us settle the practical details and leave your final decision open. You know that you will have to change your name. Do you object to that?
Cusins Would any man named Adolphus⁠—any man called Dolly!⁠—object to be called something else?
Undershaft Good. Now, as to money! I propose to treat you handsomely from the beginning. You shall start at a thousand a year.
Cusins With sudden heat, his spectacles twinkling with mischief. A thousand! You dare offer a miserable thousand to the son-in-law of a millionaire! No, by Heavens, Machiavelli! you shall not cheat me. You cannot do without me; and I can do without you. I must have two thousand five hundred a year for two years. At the end of that time, if I am a failure, I go. But if I am a success, and stay on, you must give me the other five thousand.
Undershaft What other five thousand?
Cusins To make the two years up to five thousand a year. The two thousand five hundred is only half pay in case I should turn out a failure. The third year I must have ten percent on the profits.
Undershaft Taken aback. Ten percent! Why, man, do you know what my profits are?
Cusins Enormous, I hope: otherwise I shall require twenty-five percent.
Undershaft But, Mr. Cusins, this is a serious matter of business. You are not bringing any capital into the concern.
Cusins What! no capital! Is my mastery of Greek no capital? Is my access to the subtlest thought, the loftiest poetry yet attained by humanity, no capital? my character! my intellect! my life! my career! what Barbara calls my soul! are these no capital? Say another word; and I double my salary.
Undershaft Be reasonable⁠—
Cusins Peremptorily. Mr. Undershaft: you have my terms. Take them or leave them.
Undershaft Recovering himself. Very well. I note your terms; and I offer you half.
Cusins Disgusted. Half!
Undershaft Firmly. Half.
Cusins You call yourself a gentleman; and you offer me half!!
Undershaft I do not call myself a gentleman; but I offer you half.
Cusins This to your future partner! your successor! your son-in-law!
Barbara You are selling your own soul, Dolly, not mine. Leave me out of the bargain, please.
Undershaft Come! I will go a step further for Barbara’s sake. I will give you three-fifths; but that is my last word.
Cusins Done!
Lomax Done in the eye. Why, I only get eight hundred, you know.
Cusins By the way, Mac, I am a classical scholar, not an arithmetical one. Is three-fifths more than half or less?
Undershaft More, of course.
Cusins I would have taken two hundred and fifty. How you can succeed in business when you are willing to pay all that money to a University don who is obviously not worth a junior clerk’s wages!⁠—well! What will Lazarus say?
Undershaft Lazarus is a gentle romantic Jew who cares for nothing but string quartets and stalls at fashionable theatres. He will get the credit of your rapacity in money matters, as he has hitherto had the credit of mine. You are a shark of the first order, Euripides. So much the better for the firm!
Barbara Is the bargain closed, Dolly? Does your soul belong to him now?
Cusins No: the price is settled: that is all. The real tug of war is still to come. What about the moral question?
Lady Britomart There is no moral question in the matter at all, Adolphus. You must simply sell cannons and weapons to people whose cause is right and just, and refuse them to foreigners and criminals.
Undershaft Determinedly. No: none of that. You must keep the true faith of an Armorer, or you don’t come in here.
Cusins What on earth is the true faith of an Armorer?
Undershaft To give arms to all men who offer an honest price for them, without respect of persons or principles: to aristocrat and republican, to Nihilist and Tsar, to Capitalist and Socialist, to Protestant and Catholic, to burglar and policeman, to black man, white man and yellow man, to all sorts and conditions, all nationalities, all faiths, all follies, all causes and all crimes. The first Undershaft wrote up in his shop If God Gave The Hand, Let Not Man Withhold The Sword. The second wrote up All Have The Right To Fight: None Have The Right To Judge. The third wrote up To Man The Weapon: To Heaven The Victory. The fourth had no literary turn; so he did not write up anything; but he sold cannons to Napoleon under the nose of George the Third. The fifth wrote up Peace Shall Not Prevail Save With A Sword In Her Hand. The sixth, my master, was the best of all. He wrote up Nothing Is Ever Done In This World Until Men Are Prepared To Kill One Another If It Is Not Done. After that, there was nothing left for the seventh to say. So he wrote up, simply, Unashamed.
Cusins My good Machiavelli, I shall certainly write something up on the wall; only, as I shall write it in Greek, you won’t be able to read it. But as to your Armorer’s faith, if I take my neck out of the noose of my own morality I am not going to put it into the noose of yours. I shall sell cannons to whom I please and refuse them to whom I please. So there!
Undershaft From the moment when you become Andrew Undershaft, you will never do as you please again. Don’t come here lusting for power, young man.
Cusins If power were my aim I should not come here for it. You have no power.
Undershaft None of my own, certainly.
Cusins I have more power than you, more will. You do not drive this place: it drives you. And what drives the place?
Undershaft Enigmatically. A will of which I am a part.
Barbara Startled. Father! Do you know what you are saying; or are you laying a snare for my soul?
Cusins Don’t listen to his metaphysics, Barbara. The place is driven by the most rascally part of society, the money hunters, the pleasure hunters, the military promotion hunters; and he is their slave.
Undershaft Not necessarily. Remember the Armorer’s Faith. I will take an order from a good man as cheerfully as from a bad one. If you good people prefer preaching and shirking to buying my weapons and fighting the rascals, don’t blame me. I can make cannons: I cannot make courage and conviction. Bah! You tire me, Euripides, with your morality mongering. Ask Barbara: she understands. He suddenly takes Barbara’s hands, and looks powerfully into her eyes. Tell him, my love, what power really means.
Barbara Hypnotized. Before I joined the Salvation Army, I was in my own power; and the consequence was that I never knew what to do with myself. When I joined it, I had not time enough for all the things I had to do.
Undershaft Approvingly. Just so. And why was that, do you suppose?
Barbara Yesterday I should have said, because I was in the power of God. She resumes her self-possession, withdrawing her hands from his with a power equal to his own. But you came and showed me that I was in the power of Bodger and Undershaft. Today I feel⁠—oh! how can I put it into words? Sarah: do you remember the earthquake at Cannes, when we were little children?⁠—how little the surprise of the first shock mattered compared to the dread and horror of waiting for the second? That is how I feel in this place today. I stood on the rock I thought eternal; and without a word of warning it reeled and crumbled under me. I was safe with an infinite wisdom watching me, an army marching to Salvation with me; and in a moment, at a stroke of your pen in a cheque book, I stood alone; and the heavens were empty. That was the first shock of the earthquake: I am waiting for the second.
Undershaft Come, come, my daughter! Don’t make too much of your little tinpot tragedy. What do we do here when we spend years of work and thought and thousands of pounds of solid cash on a new gun or an aerial battleship that turns out just a hairsbreadth wrong after all? Scrap it. Scrap it without wasting another hour or another pound on it. Well, you have made for yourself something that you call a morality or a religion or whatnot. It doesn’t fit the facts. Well, scrap it. Scrap it and get one that does fit. That is what is wrong with the world at present. It scraps its obsolete steam engines and dynamos; but it won’t scrap its old prejudices and its old moralities and its old religions and its old political constitutions. What’s the result? In machinery it does very well; but in morals and religion and politics it is working at a loss that brings it nearer bankruptcy every year. Don’t persist in that folly. If your old religion broke down yesterday, get a newer and a better one for tomorrow.
Barbara Oh how gladly I would take a better one to my soul! But you offer me a worse one. Turning on him with sudden vehemence. Justify yourself: show me some light through the darkness of this dreadful place, with its beautifully clean workshops, and respectable workmen, and model homes.
Undershaft Cleanliness and respectability do not need justification, Barbara: they justify themselves. I see no darkness here, no dreadfulness. In your Salvation shelter I saw poverty, misery, cold and hunger. You gave them bread and treacle and dreams of heaven. I give from thirty shillings a week to twelve thousand a year. They find their own dreams; but I look after the drainage.
Barbara And their souls?
Undershaft I save their souls just as I saved yours.
Barbara Revolted. You saved my soul! What do you mean?
Undershaft I fed you and clothed you and housed you. I took care that you should have money enough to live handsomely⁠—more than enough; so that you could be wasteful, careless, generous. That saved your soul from the seven deadly sins.
Barbara Bewildered. The seven deadly sins!
Undershaft Yes, the deadly seven. Counting on his fingers. Food, clothing, firing, rent, taxes, respectability and children. Nothing can lift those seven millstones from Man’s neck but money; and the spirit cannot soar until the millstones are lifted. I lifted them from your spirit. I enabled Barbara to become Major Barbara; and I saved her from the crime of poverty.
Cusins Do you call poverty a crime?
Undershaft The worst of crimes. All the other crimes are virtues beside it: all the other dishonors are chivalry itself by comparison. Poverty blights whole cities; spreads horrible pestilences; strikes dead the very souls of all who come within sight, sound or smell of it. What you call crime is nothing: a murder here and a theft there, a blow now and a curse then: what do they matter? they are only the accidents and illnesses of life: there are not fifty genuine professional criminals in London. But there are millions of poor people, abject people, dirty people, ill fed, ill clothed people. They poison us morally and physically: they kill the happiness of society: they force us to do away with our own liberties and to organize unnatural cruelties for fear they should rise against us and drag us down into their abyss. Only fools fear crime: we all fear poverty. Pah! Turning on Barbara. you talk of your half-saved ruffian in West Ham: you accuse me of dragging his soul back to perdition. Well, bring him to me here; and I will drag his soul back again to salvation for you. Not by words and dreams; but by thirty-eight shillings a week, a sound house in a handsome street, and a permanent job. In three weeks he will have a fancy waistcoat; in three months a tall hat and a chapel sitting; before the end of the year he will shake hands with a duchess at a Primrose League meeting, and join the Conservative Party.
Barbara And will he be the better for that?
Undershaft You know he will. Don’t be a hypocrite, Barbara. He will be better fed, better housed, better clothed, better behaved; and his children will be pounds heavier and bigger. That will be better than an American cloth mattress in a shelter, chopping firewood, eating bread and treacle, and being forced to kneel down from time to time to thank heaven for it: knee drill, I think you call it. It is cheap work converting starving men with a Bible in one hand and a slice of bread in the other. I will undertake to convert West Ham to Mahometanism on the same terms. Try your hand on my men: their souls are hungry because their bodies are full.
Barbara And leave the east end to starve?
Undershaft His energetic tone dropping into one of bitter and brooding remembrance. I was an east ender. I moralized and starved until one day I swore that I would be a full-fed free man at all costs⁠—that nothing should stop me except a bullet, neither reason nor morals nor the lives of other men. I said “Thou shalt starve ere I starve”; and with that word I became free and great. I was a dangerous man until I had my will: now I am a useful, beneficent, kindly person. That is the history of most self-made millionaires, I fancy. When it is the history of every Englishman we shall have an England worth living in.
Lady Britomart Stop making speeches, Andrew. This is not the place for them.
Undershaft Punctured. My dear: I have no other means of conveying my ideas.
Lady Britomart Your ideas are nonsense. You got oil because you were selfish and unscrupulous.
Undershaft Not at all. I had the strongest scruples about poverty and starvation. Your moralists are quite unscrupulous about both: they make virtues of them. I had rather be a thief than a pauper. I had rather be a murderer than a slave. I don’t want to be either; but if you force the alternative on me, then, by Heaven, I’ll choose the braver and more moral one. I hate poverty and slavery worse than any other crimes whatsoever. And let me tell you this. Poverty and slavery have stood up for centuries to your sermons and leading articles: they will not stand up to my machine guns. Don’t preach at them: don’t reason with them. Kill them.
Barbara Killing. Is that your remedy for everything?
Undershaft It is the final test of conviction, the only lever strong enough to overturn a social system, the only way of saying Must. Let six hundred and seventy fools loose in the street; and three policemen can scatter them. But huddle them together in a certain house in Westminster; and let them go through certain ceremonies and call themselves certain names until at last they get the courage to kill; and your six hundred and seventy fools become a government. Your pious mob fills up ballot papers and imagines it is governing its masters; but the ballot paper that really governs is the paper that has a bullet wrapped up in it.
Cusins That is perhaps why, like most intelligent people, I never vote.
Undershaft Vote! Bah! When you vote, you only change the names of the cabinet. When you shoot, you pull down governments, inaugurate new epochs, abolish old orders and set up new. Is that historically true, Mr. Learned Man, or is it not?
Cusins It is historically true. I loathe having to admit it. I repudiate your sentiments. I abhor your nature. I defy you in every possible way. Still, it is true. But it ought not to be true.
Undershaft Ought, ought, ought, ought, ought! Are you going to spend your life saying ought, like the rest of our moralists? Turn your oughts into shalls, man. Come and make explosives with me. Whatever can blow men up can blow society up. The history of the world is the history of those who had courage enough to embrace this truth. Have you the courage to embrace it, Barbara?
Lady Britomart Barbara, I positively forbid you to listen to your father’s abominable wickedness. And you, Adolphus, ought to know better than to go about saying that wrong things are true. What does it matter whether they are true if they are wrong?
Undershaft What does it matter whether they are wrong if they are true?
Lady Britomart Rising. Children: come home instantly. Andrew: I am exceedingly sorry I allowed you to call on us. You are wickeder than ever. Come at once.
Barbara Shaking her head. It’s no use running away from wicked people, mamma.
Lady Britomart It is every use. It shows your disapprobation of them.
Barbara It does not save them.
Lady Britomart I can see that you are going to disobey me. Sarah: are you coming home or are you not?
Sarah I daresay it’s very wicked of papa to make cannons; but I don’t think I shall cut him on that account.
Lomax Pouring oil on the troubled waters. The fact is, you know, there is a certain amount of tosh about this notion of wickedness. It doesn’t work. You must look at facts. Not that I would say a word in favor of anything wrong; but then, you see, all sorts of chaps are always doing all sorts of things; and we have to fit them in somehow, don’t you know. What I mean is that you can’t go cutting everybody; and that’s about what it comes to. Their rapt attention to his eloquence makes him nervous. Perhaps I don’t make myself clear.
Lady Britomart You are lucidity itself, Charles. Because Andrew is successful and has plenty of money to give to Sarah, you will flatter him and encourage him in his wickedness.
Lomax Unruffled. Well, where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered, don’t you know. To Undershaft. Eh? What?
Undershaft Precisely. By the way, may I call you Charles?
Lomax Delighted. Cholly is the usual ticket.
Undershaft To Lady Britomart. Biddy⁠—
Lady Britomart Violently. Don’t dare call me Biddy. Charles Lomax: you are a fool. Adolphus Cusins: you are a Jesuit. Stephen: you are a prig. Barbara: you are a lunatic. Andrew: you are a vulgar tradesman. Now you all know my opinion; and my conscience is clear, at all events She sits down again with a vehemence that almost wrecks the chair.
Undershaft My dear, you are the incarnation of morality. She snorts. Your conscience is clear and your duty done when you have called everybody names. Come, Euripides! it is getting late; and we all want to get home. Make up your mind.
Cusins Understand this, you old demon⁠—
Lady Britomart Adolphus!
Undershaft Let him alone, Biddy. Proceed, Euripides.
Cusins You have me in a horrible dilemma. I want Barbara.
Undershaft Like all young men, you greatly exaggerate the difference between one young woman and another.
Barbara Quite true, Dolly.
Cusins I also want to avoid being a rascal.
Undershaft With biting contempt. You lust for personal righteousness, for self-approval, for what you call a good conscience, for what Barbara calls salvation, for what I call patronizing people who are not so lucky as yourself.
Cusins I do not: all the poet in me recoils from being a good man. But there are things in me that I must reckon with: pity⁠—
Undershaft Pity! The scavenger of misery.
Cusins Well, love.
Undershaft I know. You love the needy and the outcast: you love the oppressed races, the negro, the Indian ryot, the Pole, the Irishman. Do you love the Japanese? Do you love the Germans? Do you love the English?
Cusins No. Every true Englishman detests the English. We are the wickedest nation on earth; and our success is a moral horror.
Undershaft That is what comes of your gospel of love, is it?
Cusins May I not love even my father-in-law?
Undershaft Who wants your love, man? By what right do you take the liberty of offering it to me? I will have your due heed and respect, or I will kill you. But your love! Damn your impertinence!
Cusins Grinning. I may not be able to control my affections, Mac.
Undershaft You are fencing, Euripides. You are weakening: your grip is slipping. Come! try your last weapon. Pity and love have broken in your hand: forgiveness is still left.
Cusins No: forgiveness is a beggar’s refuge. I am with you there: we must pay our debts.
Undershaft Well said. Come! you will suit me. Remember the words of Plato.
Cusins Starting. Plato! You dare quote Plato to me!
Undershaft Plato says, my friend, that society cannot be saved until either the Professors of Greek take to making gunpowder, or else the makers of gunpowder become Professors of Greek.
Cusins Oh, tempter, cunning tempter!
Undershaft Come! choose, man, choose.
Cusins But perhaps Barbara will not marry me if I make the wrong choice.
Barbara Perhaps not.
Cusins Desperately perplexed. You hear⁠—
Barbara Father: do you love nobody?
Undershaft I love my best friend.
Lady Britomart And who is that, pray?
Undershaft My bravest enemy. That is the man who keeps me up to the mark.
Cusins You know, the creature is really a sort of poet in his way. Suppose he is a great man, after all!
Undershaft Suppose you stop talking and make up your mind, my young friend.
Cusins But you are driving me against my nature. I hate war.
Undershaft Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated. Dare you make war on war? Here are the means: my friend Mr. Lomax is sitting on them.
Lomax Springing up. Oh I say! You don’t mean that this thing is loaded, do you? My ownest: come off it.
Sarah Sitting placidly on the shell. If I am to be blown up, the more thoroughly it is done the better. Don’t fuss, Cholly.
Lomax To Undershaft, strongly remonstrant. Your own daughter, you know.
Undershaft So I see. To Cusins. Well, my friend, may we expect you here at six tomorrow morning?
Cusins Firmly. Not on any account. I will see the whole establishment blown up with its own dynamite before I will get up at five. My hours are healthy, rational hours: eleven to five.
Undershaft Come when you please: before a week you will come at six and stay until I turn you out for the sake of your health. Calling. Bilton! He turns to Lady Britomart, who rises. My dear: let us leave these two young people to themselves for a moment. Bilton comes from the shed. I am going to take you through the guncotton shed.
Undershaft Barring the way. You can’t take anything explosive in here, Sir.
Lady Britomart What do you mean? Are you alluding to me?
Undershaft Unmoved. No, ma’am. Mr. Undershaft has the other gentleman’s matches in his pocket.
Lady Britomart Abruptly. Oh! I beg your pardon. She goes into the shed.
Undershaft Quite right, Bilton, quite right: here you are. He gives Bilton the box of matches. Come, Stephen. Come, Charles. Bring Sarah. He passes into the shed.
Bilton opens the box and deliberately drops the matches into the fire-bucket.
Lomax Oh I say! Bilton stolidly hands him the empty box. Infernal nonsense! Pure scientific ignorance! He goes in.
Sarah Am I all right, Bilton?
Undershaft You’ll have to put on list slippers, miss: that’s all. We’ve got em inside. She goes in.
Stephen Very seriously to Cusins. Dolly, old fellow, think. Think before you decide. Do you feel that you are a sufficiently practical man? It is a huge undertaking, an enormous responsibility. All this mass of business will be Greek to you.
Cusins Oh, I think it will be much less difficult than Greek.
Stephen Well, I just want to say this before I leave you to yourselves. Don’t let anything I have said about right and wrong prejudice you against this great chance in life. I have satisfied myself that the business is one of the highest character and a credit to our country. Emotionally. I am very proud of my father. I⁠—Unable to proceed, he presses Cusins’ hand and goes hastily into the shed, followed by Bilton.
Barbara and Cusins, left alone together, look at one another silently.
Cusins Barbara: I am going to accept this offer.
Barbara I thought you would.
Cusins You understand, don’t you, that I had to decide without consulting you. If I had thrown the burden of the choice on you, you would sooner or later have despised me for it.
Barbara Yes: I did not want you to sell your soul for me any more than for this inheritance.
Cusins It is not the sale of my soul that troubles me: I have sold it too often to care about that. I have sold it for a professorship. I have sold it for an income. I have sold it to escape being imprisoned for refusing to pay taxes for hangmen’s ropes and unjust wars and things that I abhor. What is all human conduct but the daily and hourly sale of our souls for trifles? What I am now selling it for is neither money nor position nor comfort, but for reality and for power.
Barbara You know that you will have no power, and that he has none.
Cusins I know. It is not for myself alone. I want to make power for the world.
Barbara I want to make power for the world too; but it must be spiritual power.
Cusins I think all power is spiritual: these cannons will not go off by themselves. I have tried to make spiritual power by teaching Greek. But the world can never be really touched by a dead language and a dead civilization. The people must have power; and the people cannot have Greek. Now the power that is made here can be wielded by all men.
Barbara Power to burn women’s houses down and kill their sons and tear their husbands to pieces.
Cusins You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother’s milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes. This power which only tears men’s bodies to pieces has never been so horribly abused as the intellectual power, the imaginative power, the poetic, religious power that can enslave men’s souls. As a teacher of Greek I gave the intellectual man weapons against the common man. I now want to give the common man weapons against the intellectual man. I love the common people. I want to arm them against the lawyer, the doctor, the priest, the literary man, the professor, the artist, and the politician, who, once in authority, are the most dangerous, disastrous, and tyrannical of all the fools, rascals, and impostors. I want a democratic power strong enough to force the intellectual oligarchy to use its genius for the general good or else perish.
Barbara Is there no higher power than that Pointing to the shell?
Cusins Yes: but that power can destroy the higher powers just as a tiger can destroy a man: therefore man must master that power first. I admitted this when the Turks and Greeks were last at war. My best pupil went out to fight for Hellas. My parting gift to him was not a copy of Plato’s Republic, but a revolver and a hundred Undershaft cartridges. The blood of every Turk he shot⁠—if he shot any⁠—is on my head as well as on Undershaft’s. That act committed me to this place forever. Your father’s challenge has beaten me. Dare I make war on war? I dare. I must. I will. And now, is it all over between us?
Barbara Touched by his evident dread of her answer. Silly baby Dolly! How could it be?
Cusins Overjoyed. Then you⁠—you⁠—you⁠—Oh for my drum! He flourishes imaginary drumsticks.
Barbara Angered by his levity. Take care, Dolly, take care. Oh, if only I could get away from you and from father and from it all! if I could have the wings of a dove and fly away to heaven!
Cusins And leave me!
Barbara Yes, you, and all the other naughty mischievous children of men. But I can’t. I was happy in the Salvation Army for a moment. I escaped from the world into a paradise of enthusiasm and prayer and soul saving; but the moment our money ran short, it all came back to Bodger: it was he who saved our people: he, and the Prince of Darkness, my papa. Undershaft and Bodger: their hands stretch everywhere: when we feed a starving fellow creature, it is with their bread, because there is no other bread; when we tend the sick, it is in the hospitals they endow; if we turn from the churches they build, we must kneel on the stones of the streets they pave. As long as that lasts, there is no getting away from them. Turning our backs on Bodger and Undershaft is turning our backs on life.
Cusins I thought you were determined to turn your back on the wicked side of life.
Barbara There is no wicked side: life is all one. And I never wanted to shirk my share in whatever evil must be endured, whether it be sin or suffering. I wish I could cure you of middle-class ideas, Dolly.
Cusins Gasping. Middle cl⁠—! A snub! A social snub to me! from the daughter of a foundling!
Barbara That is why I have no class, Dolly: I come straight out of the heart of the whole people. If I were middle-class I should turn my back on my father’s business; and we should both live in an artistic drawing-room, with you reading the reviews in one corner, and I in the other at the piano, playing Schumann: both very superior persons, and neither of us a bit of use. Sooner than that, I would sweep out the guncotton shed, or be one of Bodger’s barmaids. Do you know what would have happened if you had refused papa’s offer?
Cusins I wonder!
Barbara I should have given you up and married the man who accepted it. After all, my dear old mother has more sense than any of you. I felt like her when I saw this place⁠—felt that I must have it⁠—that never, never, never could I let it go; only she thought it was the houses and the kitchen ranges and the linen and china, when it was really all the human souls to be saved: not weak souls in starved bodies, crying with gratitude for a scrap of bread and treacle, but fullfed, quarrelsome, snobbish, uppish creatures, all standing on their little rights and dignities, and thinking that my father ought to be greatly obliged to them for making so much money for him⁠—and so he ought. That is where salvation is really wanted. My father shall never throw it in my teeth again that my converts were bribed with bread. She is transfigured. I have got rid of the bribe of bread. I have got rid of the bribe of heaven. Let God’s work be done for its own sake: the work he had to create us to do because it cannot be done by living men and women. When I die, let him be in my debt, not I in his; and let me forgive him as becomes a woman of my rank.
Cusins Then the way of life lies through the factory of death?
Barbara Yes, through the raising of hell to heaven and of man to God, through the unveiling of an eternal light in the Valley of The Shadow. Seizing him with both hands. Oh, did you think my courage would never come back? did you believe that I was a deserter? that I, who have stood in the streets, and taken my people to my heart, and talked of the holiest and greatest things with them, could ever turn back and chatter foolishly to fashionable people about nothing in a drawing-room? Never, never, never, never: Major Barbara will die with the colors. Oh! and I have my dear little Dolly boy still; and he has found me my place and my work. Glory Hallelujah! She kisses him.
Cusins My dearest: consider my delicate health. I cannot stand as much happiness as you can.
Barbara Yes: it is not easy work being in love with me, is it? But it’s good for you. She runs to the shed, and calls, childlike. Mamma! Mamma! Bilton comes out of the shed, followed by Undershaft. I want Mamma.
Undershaft She is taking off her list slippers, dear. He passes on to Cusins. Well? What does she say?
Cusins She has gone right up into the skies.
Lady Britomart Coming from the shed and stopping on the steps, obstructing Sarah, who follows with Lomax. Barbara clutches like a baby at her mother’s skirt. Barbara: when will you learn to be independent and to act and think for yourself? I know as well as possible what that cry of “Mamma, Mamma,” means. Always running to me!
Sarah Touching Lady Britomart’s ribs with her finger tips and imitating a bicycle horn. Pip! pip!
Lady Britomart Highly indignant. How dare you say Pip! pip! to me, Sarah? You are both very naughty children. What do you want, Barbara?
Barbara I want a house in the village to live in with Dolly. Dragging at the skirt. Come and tell me which one to take.
Undershaft To Cusins. Six o’clock tomorrow morning, my young friend.


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Major Barbara
was published in 1907 by
George Bernard Shaw.