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Title:      The Apple Cart
Author:     George Bernard Shaw
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300431.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          March 2003
Date most recently updated: March 2003

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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      The Apple Cart
Author:     George Bernard Shaw



A Political Extravaganza





CONTENTS


Preface

THE APPLE CART

  Period--The Future

  ACT I  An Office in the Royal Palace.  A Summer Morning.  11 a.m.

  An Interlude:  Orinthia's Boudoir.  The Same Day.  3.15 p.m.

  ACT II  A Terrace overlooking the Palace Gardens.  Later in the
          Afternoon.

Mr Shaw Replies to His Critics

A Walk and a Talk with Mr Shaw

Bernard Shaw's Denial

Mr Shaw and Democracy

The Apple Cart Again




Preface


The first performances of this play at home and abroad provoked
several confident anticipations that it would be published with an
elaborate prefatory treatise on Democracy to explain why I,
formerly a notorious democrat, have apparently veered round to the
opposite quarter and become a devoted Royalist.  In Dresden the
performance was actually prohibited as a blasphemy against
Democracy.

What was all this pother about?  I had written a comedy in which a
King defeats an attempt by his popularly elected Prime Minister to
deprive him of the right to influence public opinion through the
press and the platform: in short, to reduce him to a cipher.  The
King's reply is that rather than be a cipher he will abandon his
throne and take his obviously very rosy chance of becoming a
popularly elected Prime Minister himself.  To those who believe
that our system of votes for everybody produces parliaments which
represent the people it should seem that this solution of the
difficulty is completely democratic, and that the Prime Minister
must at once accept it joyfully as such.  He knows better.  The
change would rally the anti-democratic royalist vote against him,
and impose on him a rival in the person of the only public man
whose ability he has to fear.  The comedic paradox of the situation
is that the King wins, not by exercising his royal authority, but
by threatening to resign it and go to the democratic poll.

That so many critics who believe themselves to be ardent democrats
should take the entirely personal triumph of the hereditary king
over the elected minister to be a triumph of autocracy over
democracy, and its dramatization an act of political apostasy on
the part of the author, convinces me that our professed devotion to
political principles is only a mask for our idolatry of eminent
persons.  The Apple Cart exposes the unreality of both democracy
and royalty as our idealists conceive them.  Our Liberal democrats
believe in a figment called a constitutional monarch, a sort of
Punch puppet who cannot move until his Prime Minister's fingers are
in his sleeves.  They believe in another figment called a
responsible minister, who moves only when similarly actuated by the
million fingers of the electorate.  But the most superficial
inspection of any two such figures shews that they are not puppets
but living men, and that the supposed control of one by the other
and of both by the electorate amounts to no more than a not very
deterrent fear of uncertain and under ordinary circumstances quite
remote consequences.  The nearest thing to a puppet in our
political system is a Cabinet minister at the head of a great
public office.  Unless he possesses a very exceptional share of
dominating ability and relevant knowledge he is helpless in the
hands of his officials.  He must sign whatever documents they
present to him, and repeat whatever words they put into his mouth
when answering questions in parliament, with a docility which
cannot be imposed on a king who works at his job; for the king
works continuously whilst his ministers are in office for spells
only, the spells being few and brief, and often occurring for the
first time to men of advanced age with little or no training for
and experience of supreme responsibility.  George the Third and
Queen Victoria were not, like Queen Elizabeth, the natural
superiors of their ministers in political genius and general
capacity; but they were for many purposes of State necessarily
superior to them in experience, in cunning, in exact knowledge of
the limits of their responsibility and consequently of the limits
of their irresponsibility: in short, in the authority and practical
power that these superiorities produce.  Very clever men who have
come into contact with monarchs have been so impressed that they
have attributed to them extraordinary natural qualifications which
they, as now visible to us in historical perspective, clearly did
not possess.  In conflicts between monarchs and popularly elected
ministers the monarchs win every time when personal ability and
good sense are at all equally divided.

In The Apple Cart this equality is assumed.  It is masked by a
strong contrast of character and methods which has led my less
considerate critics to complain that I have packed the cards by
making the King a wise man and the minister a fool.  But that is
not at all the relation between the two.  Both play with equal
skill; and the King wins, not by greater astuteness, but because he
has the ace of trumps in his hand and knows when to play it.  As
the prettier player of the two he has the sympathy of the audience.
Not being as pampered and powerful as an operatic prima donna, and
depending as he does not on some commercially valuable talent but
on his conformity to the popular ideal of dignity and perfect
breeding, he has to be trained, and to train himself, to accept
good manners as an indispensable condition of his intercourse with
his subjects, and to leave to the less highly placed such
indulgences as tempers, tantrums, bullyings, sneerings, swearings,
kickings: in short, the commoner violences and intemperances of
authority.

His ministers have much laxer standards.  It is open to them, if it
will save their time, to get their own way by making scenes, flying
into calculated rages, and substituting vulgar abuse for argument.
A clever minister, not having had a royal training, will, if he
finds himself involved in a duel with his king, be careful not to
choose the weapons at which the king can beat him.  Rather will he
in cold blood oppose to the king's perfect behavior an intentional
misbehavior and apparently childish petulance which he can always
drop at the right moment for a demeanor as urbane as that of the
king himself, thus employing two sets of weapons to the king's one.
This gives him the advantages of his own training as a successful
ambitious man who has pushed his way from obscurity to celebrity: a
process involving a considerable use of the shorter and more
selfish methods of dominating the feebly recalcitrant, the
unreasonable, the timid, and the stupid, as well as a sharp sense
of the danger of these methods when dealing with persons of strong
character in strong positions.

In this light the style of fighting adopted by the antagonists in
the scrap between King Magnus and Mr Joseph Proteus is seen to be a
plain deduction from their relative positions and antecedents, and
not a manufactured contrast between democracy and royalty to the
disadvantage of the former.  Those who so mistook it are out of
date.  They still regard democracy as the under dog in the
conflict.  But to me it is the king who is doomed to be tragically
in that position in the future into which the play is projected: in
fact, he is visibly at least half in it already; and the theory of
constitutional monarchy assumes that he is wholly in it, and has
been so since the end of the seventeenth century.

Besides, the conflict is not really between royalty and democracy.
It is between both and plutocracy, which, having destroyed the
royal power by frank force under democratic pretexts, has bought
and swallowed democracy.  Money talks: money prints: money
broadcasts: money reigns; and kings and labor leaders alike have to
register its decrees, and even, by a staggering paradox, to finance
its enterprises and guarantee its profits.  Democracy is no longer
bought: it is bilked.  Ministers who are Socialists to the backbone
are as helpless in the grip of Breakages Limited as its acknowledged
henchmen: from the moment when they attain to what is with
unintentional irony called power (meaning the drudgery of carrying
on for the plutocrats) they no longer dare even to talk of
nationalizing any industry, however socially vital, that has a
farthing of profit for plutocracy still left in it, or that can be
made to yield a farthing for it by subsidies.

King Magnus's little tactical victory, which bulks so largely in
the playhouse, leaves him in a worse plight than his defeated
opponent, who can always plead that he is only the instrument of
the people's will, whereas the unfortunate monarch, making a
desperate bid for dictatorship on the perfectly true plea that
democracy has destroyed all other responsibility (has not Mussolini
said that there is a vacant throne in every country in Europe
waiting for a capable man to fill it?), is compelled to assume full
responsibility himself, and face all the reproaches that Mr Proteus
can shirk.  In his Cabinet there is only one friendly man who has
courage, principle, and genuine good manners when he is courteously
treated; and that man is an uncompromising republican, his rival
for the dictatorship.  The splendidly honest and devoted Die-hard
lady is too scornfully tactless to help much; but with a little
more experience in the art of handling effective men and women as
distinguished from the art of handling mass meetings Mr Bill
Boanerges might surprise those who, because he makes them laugh,
see nothing in him but a caricature.

In short, those critics of mine who have taken The Apple Cart for a
story of a struggle between a hero and a roomful of guys have been
grossly taken in.  It is never safe to take my plays at their
suburban face value: it ends in your finding in them only what you
bring to them, and so getting nothing for your money.

On the subject of Democracy generally I have nothing to say that
can take the problem farther than I have already carried it in my
Intelligent Woman's Guide to Socialism and Capitalism.  We have to
solve two inseparable main problems: the economic problem of how to
produce and distribute our subsistence, and the political problem
of how to select our rulers and prevent them from abusing their
authority in their own interests or those of their class or
religion.  Our solution of the economic problem is the Capitalist
system, which achieves miracles in production, but fails so
ludicrously and disastrously to distribute its products rationally,
or to produce in the order of social need, that it is always
complaining of being paralysed by its "overproduction" of things of
which millions of us stand in desperate want.  Our solution of the
political problem is Votes for Everybody and Every Authority
Elected by Vote, an expedient originally devised to prevent rulers
from tyrannizing by the very effectual method of preventing them
from doing anything, and thus leaving everything to irresponsible
private enterprise.  But as private enterprise will do nothing that
is not profitable to its little self, and the very existence of
civilization now depends on the swift and unhampered public
execution of enterprises that supersede private enterprise and are
not merely profitable but vitally necessary to the whole community,
this purely inhibitive check on tyranny has become a stranglehold
on genuine democracy.  Its painfully evolved machinery of
parliament and Party System and Cabinet is so effective in
obstruction that we take thirty years by constitutional methods to
do thirty minutes work, and shall presently be forced to clear up
thirty years arrears in thirty minutes by unconstitutional ones
unless we pass a Reform Bill that will make a complete revolution
in our political machinery and procedure.  When we see parliaments
like ours kicked into the gutter by dictators, both in kingdoms and
republics, it is foolish to wait until the dictator dies or
collapses, and then do nothing but pick the poor old things up and
try to scrape the mud off them: the only sane course is to take the
step by which the dictatorship could have been anticipated and
averted, and construct a political system for rapid positive work
instead of slow nugatory work, made to fit into the twentieth
century instead of into the sixteenth.

Until we face this task and accomplish it we shall not be able to
produce electorates capable of doing anything by their votes except
pave the way to their own destruction.  An election at present,
considered as a means of selecting the best qualified rulers, is so
absurd that if the last dozen parliaments had consisted of the
candidates who were at the foot of the poll instead of those who
were at the head of it there is no reason to suppose that we should
have been a step more or less advanced than we are today.  In
neither case would the electorate have had any real choice of
representatives.  If it had, we might have had to struggle with
parliaments of Titus Oateses and Lord George Gordons dominating a
few generals and artists, with Cabinets made up of the sort of
orator who is said to carry away his hearers by his eloquence
because, having first ascertained by a few cautious feelers what
they are ready to applaud, he gives it to them a dozen times over
in an overwhelming crescendo, and is in effect carried away by
them.  As it is, the voters have no real choice of candidates: they
have to take what they can get and make the best of it according to
their lights, which is often the worst of it by the light of
heaven.  By chance rather than by judgment they find themselves
represented in parliament by a fortunate proportion of reasonably
honest and public spirited persons who happen to be also successful
public speakers.  The rest are in parliament because they can
afford it and have a fancy for it or an interest in it.


Last October (1929) I was asked to address the enormous audience
created by the new invention of Wireless Broadcast on a range of
political and cultural topics introduced by a previous speaker
under the general heading of Points of View.  Among the topics was
Democracy, presented, as usual, in a completely abstract guise as
an infinitely beneficent principle in which we must trust though it
slay us.  I was determined that this time Votes for Everybody and
Every Authority Elected by Vote should not escape by wearing its
imposing mask.  I delivered myself as follows:


Your Majesties, your Royal Highnesses, your Excellencies, your
Graces and Reverences, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, fellow-
citizens of all degrees: I am going to talk to you about Democracy
objectively: that is, as it exists and as we must all reckon with
it equally, no matter what our points of view may be.  Suppose I
were to talk to you not about Democracy, but about the sea, which
is in some respects rather like Democracy!  We all have our own
views of the sea.  Some of us hate it and are never well when we
are at it or on it.  Others love it, and are never so happy as when
they are in it or on it or looking at it.  Some of us regard it as
Britain's natural realm and surest bulwark: others want a Channel
Tunnel.  But certain facts about the sea are quite independent of
our feelings towards it.  If I take it for granted that the sea
exists, none of you will contradict me.  If I say that the sea is
sometimes furiously violent and always uncertain, and that those
who are most familiar with it trust it least, you will not
immediately shriek out that I do not believe in the sea; that I am
an enemy of the sea; that I want to abolish the sea; that I am
going to make bathing illegal; that I am out to ruin our carrying
trade and lay waste all our seaside resorts and scrap the British
Navy.  If I tell you that you cannot breathe in the sea, you will
not take that as a personal insult and ask me indignantly if I
consider you inferior to a fish.  Well, you must please be equally
sensible when I tell you some hard facts about Democracy.  When I
tell you that it is sometimes furiously violent and always
dangerous and treacherous, and that those who are familiar with it
as practical statesmen trust it least, you must not at once
denounce me as a paid agent of Benito Mussolini, or declare that I
have become a Tory Die-hard in my old age, and accuse me of wanting
to take away your votes and make an end of parliament, and the
franchise, and free speech, and public meeting, and trial by jury.
Still less must you rise in your places and give me three rousing
cheers as a champion of medieval monarchy and feudalism.  I am
quite innocent of any such extravagances.  All I mean is that
whether we are Democrats or Tories, Catholics or Protestants,
Communists or Fascists, we are all face to face with a certain
force in the world called Democracy; and we must understand the
nature of that force whether we want to fight it or to forward it.
Our business is not to deny the perils of Democracy, but to provide
against them as far as we can, and then consider whether the risks
we cannot provide against are worth taking.

Democracy, as you know it, is seldom more than a long word
beginning with a capital letter, which we accept reverently or
disparage contemptuously without asking any questions.  Now we
should never accept anything reverently until we have asked it a
great many very searching questions, the first two being What are
you? and Where do you live?  When I put these questions to
Democracy the answer I get is "My name is Demos; and I live in the
British Empire, the United States of America, and wherever the love
of liberty burns in the heart of man.  You, my friend Shaw, are a
unit of Democracy: your name is also Demos: you are a citizen of a
great democratic community: you are a potential constituent of the
Parliament of Man, The Federation of the World."  At this I usually
burst into loud cheers, which do credit to my enthusiastic nature.
To-night, however, I shall do nothing of the sort: I shall say
"Dont talk nonsense.  My name is not Demos: it is Bernard Shaw.  My
address is not the British Empire, nor the United States of
America, nor wherever the love of liberty burns in the heart of
man: it is at such and such a number in such and such a street in
London; and it will be time enough to discuss my seat in the
Parliament of Man when that celebrated institution comes into
existence.  I dont believe your name is Demos: nobody's name is
Demos; and all I can make of your address is that you have no
address, and are just a tramp--if indeed you exist at all."

You will notice that I am too polite to call Demos a windbag or a
hot air merchant; but I am going to ask you to begin our study of
Democracy by considering it first as a big balloon, filled with gas
or hot air, and sent up so that you shall be kept looking up at the
sky whilst other people are picking your pockets.  When the balloon
comes down to earth every five years or so you are invited to get
into the basket if you can throw out one of the people who are
sitting tightly in it; but as you can afford neither the time nor
the money, and there are forty millions of you and hardly room for
six hundred in the basket, the balloon goes up again with much the
same lot in it and leaves you where you were before.  I think you
will admit that the balloon as an image of Democracy corresponds to
the parliamentary facts.

Now let us examine a more poetic conception of Democracy.  Abraham
Lincoln is represented as standing amid the carnage of the
battlefield of Gettysburg, and declaring that all that slaughter of
Americans by Americans occurred in order that Democracy, defined as
government OF the people FOR the people BY the people, should not
perish from the earth.  Let us pick this famous peroration to
pieces and see what there really is inside it.  (By the way,
Lincoln did not really declaim it on the field of Gettysburg; and
the American Civil War was not fought in defence of any such
principle, but, on the contrary, to enable one half of the United
States to force the other half to be governed as they did not wish
to be governed.  But never mind that.  I mentioned it only to
remind you that it seems impossible for statesmen to make speeches
about Democracy, or journalists to report them, without obscuring
it in a cloud of humbug.)

Now for the three articles of the definition.  Number One:
Government OF the people: that, evidently, is necessary: a human
community can no more exist without a government than a human being
can exist without a co-ordinated control of its breathing and blood
circulation.  Number Two:  Government FOR the people, is most
important.  Dean Inge put it perfectly for us when he called
Democracy a form of society which means equal consideration for
all.  He added that it is a Christian principle, and that, as a
Christian, he believes in it.  So do I.  That is why I insist on
equality of income.  Equal consideration for a person with a
hundred a year and one with a hundred thousand is impossible.  But
Number Three:  Government BY the people, is quite a different
matter.  All the monarchs, all the tyrants, all the dictators, all
the Die-hard Tories are agreed that we must be governed.  Democrats
like the Dean and myself are agreed that we must be governed with
equal consideration for everybody.  But we repudiate Number Three
on the ground that the people cannot govern.  The thing is a
physical impossibility.  Every citizen cannot be a ruler any more
than every boy can be an engine driver or a pirate king.  A nation
of prime ministers or dictators is as absurd as an army of field
marshals.  Government by the people is not and never can be a
reality: it is only a cry by which demagogues humbug us into voting
for them.  If you doubt this--if you ask me "Why should not the
people make their own laws?" I need only ask you "Why should not
the people write their own plays?"  They cannot.  It is much easier
to write a good play than to make a good law.  And there are not a
hundred men in the world who can write a play good enough to stand
daily wear and tear as long as a law must.

Now comes the question, If we cannot govern ourselves, what can we
do to save ourselves from being at the mercy of those who CAN
govern, and who may quite possibly be thoroughpaced grafters and
scoundrels?  The primitive answer is that as we are always in a
huge majority we can, if rulers oppress us intolerably, burn their
houses and tear them to pieces.  This is not satisfactory.  Decent
people never do it until they have quite lost their heads; and when
they have lost their heads they are as likely as not to burn the
wrong house and tear the wrong man to pieces.  When we have what is
called a popular movement very few people who take part in it know
what it is all about.  I once saw a real popular movement in
London.  People were running excitedly through the streets.
Everyone who saw them doing it immediately joined in the rush.
They ran simply because everyone else was doing it.  It was most
impressive to see thousands of people sweeping along at full speed
like that.  There could be no doubt that it was literally a popular
movement.  I ascertained afterwards that it was started by a
runaway cow.  That cow had an important share in my education as a
political philosopher; and I can assure you that if you will study
crowds, and lost and terrified animals, and things like that,
instead of reading books and newspaper articles, you will learn a
great deal about politics from them.  Most general elections, for
instance, are nothing but stampedes.  Our last but one was a
conspicuous example of this.  The cow was a Russian one.

I think we may take it that neither mob violence nor popular
movements can be depended on as checks upon the abuse of power by
governments.  One might suppose that at least they would act as a
last resort when an autocrat goes mad and commits outrageous
excesses of tyranny and cruelty.  But it is a curious fact that
they never do.  Take two famous cases: those of Nero and Tsar Paul
the First of Russia.  If Nero had been an ordinary professional
fiddler he would probably have been no worse a man than any member
of the wireless orchestra.  If Paul had been a lieutenant in a line
regiment we should never have heard of him.  But when these two
poor fellows were invested with absolute powers over their fellow-
creatures they went mad, and did such appalling things that they
had to be killed like mad dogs.  Only, it was not the people that
rose up and killed them.  They were dispatched quite privately by a
very select circle of their own bodyguards.  For a genuinely
democratic execution of unpopular statesmen we must turn to the
brothers De Witt, who were torn to pieces by a Dutch mob in the
seventeenth century.  They were neither tyrants nor autocrats.  On
the contrary, one of them had been imprisoned and tortured for his
resistance to the despotism of William of Orange; and the other had
come to meet him as he came out of prison.  The mob was on the side
of the autocrat.  We may take it that the shortest way for a tyrant
to get rid of a troublesome champion of liberty is to raise a hue
and cry against him as an unpatriotic person, and leave the mob to
do the rest after supplying them with a well tipped ringleader.
Nowadays this is called direct action by the revolutionary
proletariat.  Those who put their faith in it soon find that
proletariats are never revolutionary, and that their direct action,
when it is controlled at all, is usually controlled by police
agents.

Democracy, then, cannot be government by the people: it can only be
government by consent of the governed.  Unfortunately, when
democratic statesmen propose to govern us by our own consent, they
find that we dont want to be governed at all, and that we regard
rates and taxes and rents and death duties as intolerable burdens.
What we want to know is how little government we can get along with
without being murdered in our beds.  That question cannot be
answered until we have explained what we mean by getting along.
Savages manage to get along.  Unruly Arabs and Tartars get along.
The only rule in the matter is that the civilized way of getting
along is the way of corporate action, not individual action; and
corporate action involves more government than individual action.

Thus government, which used to be a comparatively simple affair,
today has to manage an enormous development of Socialism and
Communism.  Our industrial and social life is set in a huge
communistic framework of public roadways, streets, bridges, water
supplies, power supplies, lighting, tramways, schools, dockyards,
and public aids and conveniences, employing a prodigious army of
police, inspectors, teachers, and officials of all grades in
hundreds of departments.  We have found by bitter experience that
it is impossible to trust factories, workshops, and mines to
private management.  Only by stern laws enforced by constant
inspection have we stopped the monstrous waste of human life and
welfare it cost when it was left uncontrolled by the Government.
During the war our attempt to leave the munitioning of the army to
private enterprise led us to the verge of defeat and caused an
appalling slaughter of our soldiers.  When the Government took the
work out of private hands and had it done in national factories it
was at once successful.  The private firms were still allowed to do
what little they could; but they had to be taught to do it
economically, and to keep their accounts properly, by Government
officials.  Our big capitalist enterprises now run to the
Government for help as a lamb runs to its mother.  They cannot even
make an extension of the Tube railway in London without Government
aid.  Unassisted private capitalism is breaking down or getting
left behind in all directions.  If all our Socialism and Communism
and the drastic taxation of unearned incomes which finances it were
to stop, our private enterprises would drop like shot stags, and we
should all be dead in a month.  When Mr Baldwin tried to win the
last election by declaring that Socialism had been a failure
whenever and wherever it had been tried, Socialism went over him
like a steam roller and handed his office to a Socialist Prime
Minister.  Nothing could save us in the war but a great extension
of Socialism; and now it is clear enough that only still greater
extensions of it can repair the ravages of the war and keep pace
with the growing requirements of civilization.

What we have to ask ourselves, then, is not whether we will have
Socialism and Communism or not, but whether Democracy can keep pace
with the developments of both that are being forced on us by the
growth of national and international corporate action.

Now corporate action is impossible without a governing body.  It
may be the central Government: it may be a municipal corporation, a
county council, a district council, or a parish council.  It may be
the board of directors of a joint stock company, or of a trust made
by combining several joint stock companies.  Such boards, elected
by the votes of the shareholders, are little States within the
State, and very powerful ones, too, some of them.  If they have not
laws and kings, they have by-laws and chairmen.  And you and I, the
consumers of their services, are more at the mercy of the boards
that organize them than we are at the mercy of parliament.  Several
active politicians who began as Liberals and are now Socialists
have said to me that they were converted by seeing that the nation
had to choose, not between governmental control of industry and
control by separate private individuals kept in order by their
competition for our custom, but between governmental control
and control by gigantic trusts wielding great power without
responsibility, and having no object but to make as much money out
of us as possible.  Our Government is at this moment having much
more trouble with the private corporations on whom we are dependent
for our coals and cotton goods than with France or the United
States of America.  We are in the hands of our corporate bodies,
public or private, for the satisfaction of our everyday needs.
Their powers are life and death powers.  I need not labor this
point: we all know it.

But what we do not all realize is that we are equally dependent on
corporate action for the satisfaction of our religious needs.  Dean
Inge tells us that our general elections have become public
auctions at which the contending parties bid against one another
for our votes by each promising us a larger share than the other of
the plunder of the minority.  Now that is perfectly true.  The
contending parties do not as yet venture to put it exactly in those
words; but that is what it comes to.  And the Dean's profession
obliges him to urge his congregation, which is much wider than that
of St. Paul's (it extends across the Atlantic), always to vote for
the party which pledges itself to go farthest in enabling those of
us who have great possessions to sell them and give the price to
the poor.  But we cannot do this as private persons.  It must be
done by the Government or not at all.  Take my own case.  I am not
a young man with great possessions; but I am an old man paying
enough income tax and surtax to provide doles for some hundreds of
unemployed and old age pensioners.  I have not the smallest
objection to this: on the contrary, I advocated it strongly for
years before I had any income worth taxing.  But I could not do it
if the Government did not arrange it for me.  If the Government
ceased taxing my superfluous money and redistributing it among
people who have no incomes at all, I could do nothing by myself.
What could I do?  Can you suggest anything?  I could send my war
bonds to the Chancellor of the Exchequer and invite him to cancel
the part of the National Debt that they represent; and he would
undoubtedly thank me in the most courteous official terms for my
patriotism.  But the poor would not get any of it.  The other
payers of surtax and income tax and death duties would save the
interest they now have to pay on it: that is all.  I should only
have made the rich richer and myself poorer.  I could burn all my
share certificates and inform the secretaries of the companies that
they might write off that much of their capital indebtedness.  The
result would be a bigger dividend for the rest of the shareholders,
with the poor out in the cold as before.  I might sell my war bonds
and share certificates for cash, and throw the money into the
street to be scrambled for; but it would be snatched up, not by
the poorest, but by the best fed and most able-bodied of the
scramblers.  Besides, if we all tried to sell our bonds and shares--
and this is what you have to consider; for Christ's advice was not
addressed to me alone but to all who have great possessions--the
result would be that their value would fall to nothing, as the
Stock Exchange would immediately become a market in which there
were all sellers and no buyers.  Accordingly, any spare money that
the Government leaves me is invested where I can get the highest
interest and the best security, as thereby I can make sure that it
goes where it is most wanted and gives immediate employment.  This
is the best I can do without Government interference: indeed any
other way of dealing with my spare money would be foolish and
demoralizing; but the result is that I become richer and richer,
and the poor become relatively poorer and poorer.  So you see I
cannot even be a Christian except through Government action; and
neither can the Dean.

Now let us get down to our problem.  We cannot govern ourselves;
yet if we entrust the immense powers and revenues which are
necessary in an effective modern Government to an absolute monarch
or dictator, he goes more or less mad unless he is a quite
extraordinary and therefore very seldom obtainable person.
Besides, modern government is not a one-man job: it is too big for
that.  If we resort to a committee or parliament of superior
persons, they will set up an oligarchy and abuse their power for
their own benefit.  Our dilemma is that men in the lump cannot
govern themselves; and yet, as William Morris put it, no man is
good enough to be another man's master.  We need to be governed,
and yet to control our governors.  But the best governors will not
accept any control except that of their own consciences; and, as we
who are governed are also apt to abuse any power of control we
have, our ignorance, our passions, our private and immediate
interests are constantly in conflict with the knowledge, the
wisdom, and the public spirit and regard for the future of our best
qualified governors.

Still, if we cannot control our governors, can we not at least
choose them and change them if they do not suit?

Let me invent a primitive example of democratic choice.  It is
always best to take imaginary examples: they offend nobody.
Imagine then that we are the inhabitants of a village.  We have to
elect somebody for the office of postman.  There are several
candidates; but one stands out conspicuously, because he has
frequently treated us at the public-house, has subscribed a
shilling to our little flower show, has a kind word for the
children when he passes, and is a victim of oppression by the
squire because his late father was one of our most successful
poachers.  We elect him triumphantly; and he is duly installed,
uniformed, provided with a red bicycle, and given a batch of
letters to deliver.  As his motive in seeking the post has been
pure ambition, he has not thought much beforehand about his duties;
and it now occurs to him for the first time that he cannot read.
So he hires a boy to come round with him and read the addresses.
The boy conceals himself in the lane whilst the postman delivers
the letters at the house, takes the Christmas boxes, and gets the
whole credit of the transaction.  In course of time he dies with a
high reputation for efficiency in the discharge of his duties; and
we elect another equally illiterate successor on similar grounds.
But by this time the boy has grown up and become an institution.
He presents himself to the new postman as an established and
indispensable feature of the postal system, and finally becomes
recognized and paid by the village as such.

Here you have the perfect image of a popularly elected Cabinet
Minister and the Civil Service department over which he presides.
It may work very well; for our postman, though illiterate, may be a
very capable fellow; and the boy who reads the addresses for him
may be quite incapable of doing anything more.  But this does not
always happen.  Whether it happens or not, the system is not a
democratic reality: it is a democratic illusion.  The boy, when he
has ability to take advantage of the situation, is the master of
the man.  The person elected to do the work is not really doing it:
he is a popular humbug who is merely doing what a permanent
official tells him to do.  That is how it comes about that we are
now governed by a Civil Service which has such enormous power that
its regulations are taking the place of the laws of England, though
some of them are made for the convenience of the officials without
the slightest regard to the convenience or even the rights of the
public.  And how are our Civil Servants selected?  Mostly by an
educational test which nobody but an expensively schooled youth can
pass, thus making the most powerful and effective part of our
government an irresponsible class government.

Now, what control have you or I over the Services?  We have votes.
I have used mine a few times to see what it is like.  Well, it is
like this.  When the election approaches, two or three persons of
whom I know nothing write to me soliciting my vote and enclosing a
list of meetings, an election address, and a polling card.  One of
the addresses reads like an article in The Morning Post, and has a
Union Jack on it.  Another is like The Daily News or Manchester
Guardian.  Both might have been compiled from the editorial waste
paper baskets of a hundred years ago.  A third address, more up-to-
date and much better phrased, convinces me that the sender has had
it written for him at the headquarters of the Labor Party.  A
fourth, the most hopelessly out of date of them all, contains
scraps of the early English translations of the Communist Manifesto
of 1848.  I have no guarantee that any of these documents were
written by the candidates.  They convey nothing whatever to me
as to their character or political capacity.  The half-tone
photographic portraits which adorn the front pages do not even tell
me their ages, having been taken twenty years ago.  If I go to one
of the meetings I find a schoolroom packed with people who find an
election meeting cheaper and funnier than a theatre.  On the
platform sit one or two poor men who have worked hard to keep party
politics alive in the constituency.  They ought to be the
candidates; but they have no more chance of such eminence than they
have of possessing a Rolls-Royce car.  They move votes of
confidence in the candidate, though as the candidate is a stranger
to them and to everybody else present nobody can possibly feel any
such confidence.  They lead the applause for him; they prompt him
when questions are asked; and when he is completely floored they
jump up and cry "Let me answer that, Mr Chairman!" and then pretend
that he has answered it.  The old shibboleths are droned over; and
nothing has any sense or reality in it except the vituperation of
the opposition party, which is received with shouts of relief by
the audience.  Yet it is nothing but an exhibition of bad manners.
If I vote for one of these candidates, and he or she is elected, I
am supposed to be enjoying a democratic control of the government--
to be exercising government OF myself, FOR myself, BY myself.  Do
you wonder that the Dean cannot believe such nonsense?  If I
believed it I should not be fit to vote at all.  If this is
Democracy, who can blame Signor Mussolini for describing it as a
putrefying corpse?

The candidates may ask me what more they can do for me but present
themselves and answer any questions I may put to them.  I quite
admit that they can do nothing; but that does not mend matters.
What I should like is a real test of their capacity.  Shortly
before the war a doctor in San Francisco discovered that if a drop
of a candidate's blood can be obtained on a piece of blotting paper
it is possible to discover within half an hour what is wrong with
him physically.  What I am waiting for is the discovery of a
process by which on delivery of a drop of his blood or a lock of
his hair we can ascertain what is right with him mentally.  We
could then have a graded series of panels of capable persons for
all employments, public or private, and not allow any person,
however popular, to undertake the employment of governing us unless
he or she were on the appropriate panel.  At the lower end of the
scale there would be a panel of persons qualified to take part in a
parish meeting; at the higher end a panel of persons qualified to
act as Secretaries of State for Foreign Affairs or Finance
Ministers.  At present not more than two per thousand of the
population would be available for the highest panel.  I should then
be in no danger of electing a postman and finding that he could
neither read nor write.  My choice of candidates would be perhaps
more restricted than at present; but I do not desire liberty to
choose windbags and nincompoops to represent me in parliament; and
my power to choose between one qualified candidate and another
would give me as much control as is either possible or desirable.
The voting and counting would be done by machinery: I should
connect my telephone with the proper office; touch a button; and
the machinery would do the rest.

Pending such a completion of the American doctor's discovery, how
are we to go on?  Well, as best we can, with the sort of government
that our present system produces.  Several reforms are possible
without any new discovery.  Our present parliament is obsolete: it
can no more do the work of a modern State than Julius Caesar's
galley could do the work of an Atlantic liner.  We need in these
islands two or three additional federal legislatures, working on
our municipal committee system instead of our parliamentary party
system.  We need a central authority to co-ordinate the federal
work.  Our obsolete little internal frontiers must be obliterated,
and our units of local government enlarged to dimensions compatible
with the recent prodigious advances in facility of communication
and co-operation.  Commonwealth affairs and super-national
activities through the League of Nations or otherwise will have to
be provided for, and Cabinet function to be transformed.  All the
pseudo-democratic obstructive functions of our political machinery
must be ruthlessly scrapped, and the general problem of government
approached from a positive viewpoint at which mere anarchic
national sovereignty as distinguished from self-government will
have no meaning.

I must conclude by warning you that when everything has been done
that can be done, civilization will still be dependent on the
consciences of the governors and the governed.  Our natural
dispositions may be good; but we have been badly brought up, and
are full of anti-social personal ambitions and prejudices and
snobberies.  Had we not better teach our children to be better
citizens than ourselves?  We are not doing that at present.  The
Russians ARE.  That is my last word.  Think over it.


So much for my broadcast on Democracy!  And now a word about
Breakages, Limited.  Like all Socialists who know their business I
have an exasperated sense of the mischief done by our system of
private Capitalism in setting up huge vested interests in
destruction, waste, and disease.  The armament firms thrive on war;
the glaziers gain by broken windows; the operating surgeons depend
on cancer for their children's bread; the distillers and brewers
build cathedrals to sanctify the profits of drunkenness; and the
prosperity of Dives costs the privation of a hundred Lazaruses.

The title Breakages, Limited, was suggested to me by the fate of
that remarkable genius, the late Alfred Warwick Gattie, with whom I
was personally acquainted.  I knew him first as the author of a
play.  He was a disturbing man, afflicted--or, as it turned out,
gifted--with chronic hyperæsthesia, feeling everything violently
and expressing his feelings vehemently and on occasion volcanically.
I concluded that he was not sufficiently cold-blooded to do much as
a playwright; so that when, having lost sight of him for some years,
I was told that he had made an invention of first-rate importance, I
was incredulous, and concluded that the invention was only a Utopian
project.  Our friend Henry Murray was so provoked by my attitude
that to appease him I consented to investigate the alleged great
invention in person on Gattie's promising to behave like a
reasonable being during the process, a promise which he redeemed
with the greatest dignity, remaining silent whilst an engineer
explained his miracles to me, and contenting himself with the
reading of a brief statement shewing that the adoption of his plan
would release from industry enough men to utterly overwhelm the
Central Empires with whom we were then at war.

I approached the investigation very sceptically.  Our friend spoke
of "the works."  I could not believe that Gattie had any works,
except in his fervid imagination.  He mentioned "the company."
That was more credible: anyone may form a company; but that it had
any resources seemed to me doubtful.  However, I suffered myself to
be taken to Battersea; and there, sure enough, I found a workshop,
duly labelled as the premises of The New Transport Company,
Limited, and spacious enough to accommodate a double railway line
with a platform.  The affair was unquestionably real, so far.  The
platform was not provided with a station: its sole equipment was a
table with a row of buttons on it for making electrical contacts.
Each line of railway had on it a truck with a steel lid.  The
practical part of the proceedings began by placing an armchair on
the lid of one of the trucks and seating me in it.  A brimming
glass of water was then set at my feet.  I could not imagine what I
was expected to do with the water or what was going to happen; and
there was a suggestion of electrocution about the chair which made
me nervous.  Gattie then sat down majestically at the table on the
platform with his hand hovering over the buttons.  Intimating that
the miracle would take place when my truck passed the other truck,
he asked me to choose whether it should occur at the first passage
or later, and to dictate the order in which it should be repeated.
I was by that time incapable of choosing; so I said the sooner the
better; and the two trucks started.  When the other truck had
passed mine I found myself magically sitting on it, chair and all,
with the glass of water unspilled at my feet.

The rest of the story is a tragi-comedy.  When I said to Gattie
apologetically (I felt deeply guilty of having underrated him) that
I had never known that he was an engineer, and had taken him to be
the usual amateur inventor with no professional training, he told
me that this was exactly what he was: just like Sir Christopher
Wren.  He had been concerned in an electric lighting business, and
had been revolted by the prodigious number of breakages of glass
bulbs involved by the handling of the crates in which they were
packed for transport by rail and road.  What was needed was a
method of transferring the crates from truck to truck, and from
truck to road lorry, and from road lorry to warehouse lift without
shock, friction, or handling.  Gattie, being, I suppose, by natural
genius an inventor though by mistaken vocation a playwright, solved
the mechanical problem without apparent difficulty, and offered his
nation the means of effecting an enormous saving of labor and
smash.  But instead of being received with open arms as a social
benefactor he found himself up against Breakages, Limited.  The
glass blowers whose employment was threatened, the exploiters of
the great industry of repairing our railway trucks (every time a
goods train is stopped a series of 150 violent collisions is
propagated from end to end of the train, as those who live within
earshot know to their cost), and the railway porters who dump the
crates from truck to platform and then hurl them into other trucks,
shattering bulbs, battering cans, and too often rupturing
themselves in the process, saw in Gattie an enemy of the human
race, a wrecker of homes and a starver of innocent babes.  He
fought them undauntedly; but they were too strong for him; and in
due time his patents expired and he died almost unrecognized,
whilst Unknown Soldiers were being canonized throughout the world.
So far, The Apple Cart is his only shrine; and as it does not even
bear his name, I have written it here pending its tardy appearance
in the roll of fame.

I must not leave my readers to assume that Gattie was an easy man
to deal with, or that he handled the opposition in a conciliatory
manner with due allowance for the inertia of a somewhat
unimaginative officialdom which had not, like myself, sat on his
trucks, and probably set him down as a Utopian (a species much
dreaded in Government departments) and thus missed the real point,
which was that he was an inventor.  Like many men of genius he
could not understand why things obvious to him should not be so at
once to other people, and found it easier to believe that they were
corrupt than that they could be so stupid.  Once, after I had urged
him to be more diplomatic, he brought me, with some pride, a letter
to the Board of Trade which he considered a masterpiece of tact and
good temper.  It contained not a word descriptive of his invention;
and it began somewhat in this fashion:  "Sir:  If you are an honest
man you cannot deny that among the worst abuses of this corrupt age
is the acceptance of city directorships by retired members of the
Board of Trade."  Clearly it was not easy for the Board of Trade to
deal with an inventor who wished to interest them, not in his new
machines, but in the desirability of its abolishing itself as
infamous.

The last time I saw him he called on me to unfold a new scheme of
much greater importance, as he declared, than his trucks.  He was
very interesting on that occasion.  He began by giving me a vivid
account of the pirates who used to infest the Thames below London
Bridge before the docks were built.  He described how the docks had
come into existence not as wharves for loading and unloading but as
strongholds in which ships and their cargoes could be secure from
piracy.  They are now, he declared, a waste of fabulously valuable
ground; and their work should be done in quite another way.  He
then produced plans of a pier to be built in the middle of the
river, communicating directly by rail and road with the shore and
the great main lines.  The ships would come alongside the pier; and
by a simple system of hoists the contents of their holds would be
lifted out and transferred (like myself in the armchair) to railway
trucks or motor lorries without being touched by a human hand and
therefore without risk of breakage.  It was all so masterly, so
simple in its complexity, so convincing as to its practicability,
and so prodigiously valuable socially, that I, taking it very
seriously, proceeded to discuss what could be done to interest the
proper people in it.

To my amazement Gattie began to shew unmistakeable signs of
disappointment and indignation.  "You do not seem to understand
me," he said.  "I have shewn you all this mechanical stuff merely
by way of illustration.  What I have come to consult you about is a
great melodrama I am going to write, the scene of which will be the
Pool of London in the seventeenth century among the pirates!"

What could I or anyone do with a man like that?  He was naïvely
surprised when I laughed; and he went away only half persuaded that
his scheme for turning the docks into building land; expediting the
Thames traffic; saving much dangerous and demoralizingly casual
labor; and transfiguring the underpaid stevedore into a fullfed
electrician, was stupendously more important than any ridiculous
melodrama.  He admitted that there was of course all that in it;
but I could see that his heart was in the melodrama.

As it was evident that officialdom, writhing under his insults and
shocked by his utter lack of veneration for bigwigs, besides being
hampered as all our Government departments are by the vested
interests of Breakages, Limited, would do nothing for him, I
induced some less embarrassed public persons to take a ride in the
trucks and be convinced that they really existed and worked.  But
here again the parallel between Gattie and his fellow-amateur Sir
Christopher Wren came in.  Wren was not content to redesign and
rebuild St Paul's: he wanted to redesign London as well.  He was
quite right: what we have lost by not letting him do it is
incalculable.  Similarly, Gattie was not content to improve the
luggage arrangements of our railways: he would not listen to you if
your mind was not large enough to grasp the immediate necessity for
a new central clearing house in Farringdon Market, connected with
the existing railways by a system of new tubes.  He was of course
right; and we have already lost by sticking to our old ways more
than the gigantic sum his scheme would have cost.  But neither the
money nor the enterprise was available just then, with the war on
our hands.  The Clearing House, like the Thames pier, remains on
paper; and Gattie is in his grave.  But I still hold that there
must have been something great in a man who, having not only
imagined them but invented their machinery, could, far from being
crushed by their rejection, exclaim "Perish all my mechanical trash
if only it provides material for one bad play!"

This little history will explain how it actually did provide
material for Breakages, Limited, and for the bitter cry of the
Powermistress General.  Not until Breakages is itself broken will
it cease to have a message for us.


AYOT ST LAWRENCE, March 1930




ACT I


An office in the royal palace.  Two writing-tables face each other
from opposite sides of the room, leaving plenty of room between
them.  Each table has a chair by it for visitors.  The door is in
the middle of the farthest wall.  The clock shews that it is a
little past 11; and the light is that of a fine summer morning.

Sempronius, smart and still presentably young, shews his right
profile as he sits at one of the tables opening the King's letters.

Pamphilius, middle aged, shews his left as he leans back in his
chair at the other table with a pile of the morning papers at his
elbow, reading one of them.  This goes on silently for some time.
Then Pamphilius, putting down his paper, looks at Sempronius for a
moment before speaking.


PAMPHILIUS.  What was your father?

SEMPRONIUS [startled]  Eh?

PAMPHILIUS.  What was your father?

SEMPRONIUS.  My father?

PAMPHILIUS.  Yes.  What was he?

SEMPRONIUS.  A Ritualist.

PAMPHILIUS.  I dont mean his religion.  I mean his profession.  And
his politics.

SEMPRONIUS.  He was a Ritualist by profession, a Ritualist in
politics, a Ritualist in religion: a raging emotional Die Hard
Ritualist right down to his boots.

PAMPHILIUS.  Do you mean that he was a parson?

SEMPRONIUS.  Not at all.  He was a sort of spectacular artist.  He
got up pageants and Lord Mayors' Shows and military tattoos and big
public ceremonies and things like that.  He arranged the last two
coronations.  That was how I got my job here in the palace.  All
our royal people knew him quite well: he was behind the scenes with
them.

PAMPHILIUS.  Behind the scenes and yet believed they were all real!

SEMPRONIUS.  Yes.  Believed in them with all his soul.

PAMPHILIUS.  Although he manufactured them himself?

SEMPRONIUS.  Certainly.  Do you suppose a baker cannot believe
sincerely in the sacrifice of the Mass or in holy communion because
he has baked the consecrated wafer himself?

PAMPHILIUS.  I never thought of that.

SEMPRONIUS.  My father might have made millions in the theatres and
film studios.  But he refused to touch them because the things they
represented hadnt really happened.  He didnt mind doing the
christening of Queen Elizabeth in Shakespear's Henry the Eighth
because that had really happened.  It was a celebration of royalty.
But not anything romantic: not though they offered him thousands.

PAMPHILIUS.  Did you ever ask him what he really thought about it
all?  But of course you didnt: one cant ask one's father anything
about himself.

SEMPRONIUS.  My dear Pam: my father never thought.  He didnt know
what thought meant.  Very few people do, you know.  He had vision:
actual bodily vision, I mean; and he had an oddly limited sort of
imagination.  What I mean is that he couldnt imagine anything he
didnt see; but he could imagine that what he did see was divine and
holy and omniscient and omnipotent and eternal and everything that
is impossible if only it looked splendid enough, and the organ was
solemn enough, or the military bands brassy enough.

PAMPHILIUS.  You mean that he had to get everything from outside.

SEMPRONIUS.  Exactly.  He'd never have felt anything if he hadnt
had parents to feel about in his childhood, and a wife and babies
to feel about when he grew up.  He'd never have known anything if
he hadnt been taught at school.  He couldnt amuse himself: he had
to pay oceans of money to other people to amuse him with all sorts
of ghastly sports and pleasures that would have driven me into a
monastery to escape from them.  You see it was all ritual: he went
to the Riviera every winter just as he went to church.

PAMPHILIUS.  By the way, is he alive?  I should like to know him.

SEMPRONIUS.  No.  He died in 1962, of solitude.

PAMPHILIUS.  What do you mean? of solitude?

SEMPRONIUS.  He couldnt bear to be alone for a moment: it was death
to him.  Somebody had to be with him always.

PAMPHILIUS.  Oh well, come!  That was friendly and kindly.  It
shews he had something inside him after all.

SEMPRONIUS.  Not a bit.  He never talked to his friends.  He played
cards with them.  They never exchanged a thought.

PAMPHILIUS.  He must have been a rum old bird.

SEMPRONIUS.  Not rum enough to be noticed.  There are millions like
him.

PAMPHILIUS.  But what about his dying of solitude?  Was he
imprisoned?

SEMPRONIUS.  No.  His yacht struck a reef and sank somewhere off
the north of Scotland; and he managed to swim to an uninhabited
island.  All the rest were drowned; and he was not taken off for
three weeks.  When they found him he was melancholy mad, poor old
boy; and he never got over it.  Simply from having no one to play
cards with, and no church to go to.

PAMPHILIUS.  My dear Sem: one isnt alone on an uninhabited island.
My mother used to stand me on the table and make me recite about
it.

[He declaims]

     To sit on rocks; to muse o'er flood and fell;
     To slowly trace the forest's shady scene
     Where things that own not man's dominion dwell
     And mortal foot hath ne'er or rarely been;
     To climb the trackless mountain all unseen
     With the wild flock that never needs a fold;
     Alone o'er steeps and foaming falls to lean:
     This is not solitude: 'tis but to hold
     Converse with Nature's charms, and view her stores unrolled.

SEMPRONIUS.  Now you have hit the really funny thing about my
father.  All that about the lonely woods and the rest of it--what
you call Nature--didnt exist for him.  It had to be something
artificial to get at him.  Nature to him meant nakedness; and
nakedness only disgusted him.  He wouldnt look at a horse grazing
in a field; but put splendid trappings on it and stick it into a
procession and he just loved it.  The same with men and women: they
were nothing to him until they were dressed up in fancy costumes
and painted and wigged and titled.  To him the sacredness of the
priest was the beauty of his vestment, the loveliness of women the
dazzle of their jewels and robes, the charm of the countryside not
in its hills and trees, nor in the blue smoke from its cottages in
the winter evenings, but of its temples, palaces, mansions, park
gates, and porticoed country houses.  Think of the horror of that
island to him!  A void! a place where he was deaf and dumb and
blind and lonely!  If only there had been a peacock with its tail
in full bloom it might have saved his reason; but all the birds
were gulls; and gulls are not decorative.  Our King could have
lived there for thirty years with nothing but his own thoughts.
You would have been all right with a fishing rod and a golf ball
with a bag of clubs.  I should have been as happy as a man in a
picture gallery looking at the dawns and sunsets, the changing
seasons, the continual miracle of life ever renewing itself.  Who
could be dull with pools in the rocks to watch?  Yet my father,
with all that under his nose, was driven mad by its nothingness.
They say that where there is nothing the king loses his rights.  My
father found that where there is nothing a man loses his reason and
dies.

PAMPHILIUS.  Let me add that in this palace, when the king's
letters are not ready for him at 12 o'clock, a secretary loses his
job.

SEMPRONIUS [hastily resuming his work]  Yes, devil take you: why
did you start me talking before I had finished my work?  You have
nothing to do but pretend to read the newspapers for him; and when
you say "Nothing particular this morning, Sir," all he says is
"Thank Heaven!"  But if I missed a note from one of his aunts
inviting herself to tea, or a little line from Orinthia the Beloved
marked "Strictly private and confidential: to be opened by His
Majesty alone," I should never hear the end of it.  He had six love
letters yesterday; and all he said when I told him was "Take them
to the Queen."  He thinks they amuse her.  I believe they make her
as sick as they make me.

PAMPHILIUS.  Do Orinthia's letters go to the Queen?

SEMPRONIUS.  No, by George!  Even I dont read Orinthia's letters.
My instructions are to read everything; but I take care to forget
to open hers.  And I notice that I am not rebuked for my
negligence.

PAMPHILIUS [thoughtfully]  I suppose--

SEMPRONIUS.  Oh shut up, Pam.  I shall never get through if you go
on talking.

PAMPHILIUS.  I was only going to say that I suppose--

SEMPRONIUS.  Something about Orinthia.  Dont.  If you indulge in
supposition on that subject, you will lose your job, old chap.  So
stow it.

PAMPHILIUS.  Dont cry out before Orinthia is hurt, young chap.  I
was going to say that I suppose you know that that bull-roarer
Boanerges has just been taken into the Cabinet as President of the
Board of Trade, and that he is coming here today to give the King a
piece of his mind, or what he calls his mind, about the crisis.

SEMPRONIUS.  What does the King care about the crisis?  There has
been a crisis every two months since he came to the throne; but he
has always been too clever for them.  He'll turn Boanerges inside
out after letting him roar the palace down.

Boanerges enters, dressed in a Russian blouse and peaked cap, which
he keeps on.  He is fifty, heavily built and aggressively self-
assertive.

BOANERGES.  Look here.  The King has an appointment with me at a
quarter to twelve.  How long more am I to be kept waiting?

SEMPRONIUS [with cheerful politeness]  Good morning.  Mr Boanerges,
I think.

BOANERGES [shortly, but a little taken aback]  Oh, good morning to
you.  They say that politeness is the punctuality of kings--

SEMPRONIUS.  The other way about, Mr Boanerges.  Punctuality is the
politeness of kings; and King Magnus is a model in that respect.
Your arrival cannot have been announced to His Majesty.  I will see
about it.  [He hurries out].

PAMPHILIUS.  Be seated, Mr Boanerges.

BOANERGES [seating himself by Pamphilius's writing-table]  A nice
lot of young upstarts you have in this palace, Mr--?

PAMPHILIUS.  Pamphilius is my name.

BOANERGES.  Oh yes: Ive heard of you.  Youre one of the king's
private secretaries.

PAMPHILIUS.  I am.  And what have our young upstarts been doing to
you, Mr Boanerges?

BOANERGES.  Well, I told one of them to tell the king I was here,
and to look sharp about it.  He looked at me as if I was a
performing elephant, and took himself off after whispering to
another flunkey.  Then this other chap comes over to me and
pretends he doesnt know who I am! asks me can he have my name!  "My
lad" I said: "not to know me argues yourself unknown.  You know who
I am as well as I do myself.  Go and tell the king I'm waiting for
him, d'ye see?"  So he took himself off with a flea in his ear.  I
waited until I was fed up with it, and then opened the nearest door
and came in here.

PAMPHILIUS.  Young rascals!  However, my friend Mr Sempronius will
make it all right for you.

BOANERGES.  Oh: that was Sempronius, was it.  Ive heard of him too.

PAMPHILIUS.  You seem to have heard of all of us.  You will be
quite at home in the palace now that you are a Cabinet Minister.
By the way, may I congratulate you on your appointment--or rather
congratulate the Cabinet on your accession?

SEMPRONIUS [returning]  The King.  [He goes to his table and takes
the visitor's chair in his hand, ready for the king's instructions
as to where to place it].

Pamphilius rises.  Boanerges turns to the door in his chair without
rising.  King Magnus, a tallish studious looking gentleman of 45 or
thereabouts, enters, and comes quickly down the middle of the room
to Boanerges, proffering his hand cordially.

MAGNUS.  You are very welcome to my little palace, Mr Boanerges.
Wont you sit down?

BOANERGES.  I am sitting down.

MAGNUS.  True, Mr Boanerges.  I had not noticed it.  Forgive me:
force of habit.

He indicates to Sempronius that he wishes to sit near Boanerges, on
his right.  Sempronius places the chair accordingly.

MAGNUS.  You will allow me to be seated?

BOANERGES.  Oh, sit down, man, sit down.  Youre in your own house:
ceremony cuts no ice with me.

MAGNUS [gratefully]  Thank you.

The King sits.  Pamphilius sits.  Sempronius returns to his table
and sits.

MAGNUS.  It is a great pleasure to meet you at last, Mr Boanerges.
I have followed your career with interest ever since you contested
Northampton twenty-five years ago.

BOANERGES [pleased and credulous]  I should just think you have,
King Magnus.  I have made you sit up once or twice, eh?

MAGNUS [smiling]  Your voice has shaken the throne oftener than
that.

BOANERGES [indicating the secretaries with a jerk of his head]
What about these two?  Are they to overhear everything that passes?

MAGNUS.  My private secretaries.  Do they incommode you?

BOANERGES.  Oh, they dont incommode me.  I am ready to have our
talk out in Trafalgar Square if you like, or have it broadcast on
the wireless.

MAGNUS.  That would be a treat for my people, Mr Boanerges.  I am
sorry we have not arranged for it.

BOANERGES [gathering himself together formidably]  Yes; but do you
realize that I am going to say things to you that have never been
said to a king before?

MAGNUS.  I am very glad indeed to hear it, Mr Boanerges.  I thought
I had already heard everything that could be said to a king.  I
shall be grateful for the smallest novelty.

BOANERGES.  I warn you it wont be agreeable.  I am a plain man,
Magnus: a very plain man.

MAGNUS.  Not at all, I assure you--

BOANERGES [indignantly]  I was not alluding to my personal
appearance.

MAGNUS [gravely]  Nor was I.  Do not deceive yourself, Mr
Boanerges.  You are very far from being a plain man.  To me you
have always been an Enigma.

BOANERGES [surprised and enormously flattered; he cannot help
smiling with pleasure]  Well, perhaps I am a bit of an enigma.
Perhaps I am.

MAGNUS [humbly]  I wish I could see through you, Mr Boanerges.  But
I have not your sort of cleverness.  I can only ask you to be frank
with me.

BOANERGES [now convinced that he has the upper hand]  You mean
about the crisis.  Well, frank is just what I have come here to be.
And the first thing I am going to tell you frankly about it is that
this country has got to be governed, not by you, but by your
ministers.

MAGNUS.  I shall be only too grateful to them for taking a very
difficult and thankless job off my hands.

BOANERGES.  But it's not on your hands.  It's on your ministers'
hands.  You are only a constitutional monarch.  Do you know what
they call that in Belgium?

MAGNUS.  An indiarubber stamp, I think.  Am I right?

BOANERGES.  You are, King Magnus.  An indiarubber stamp.  Thats
what you have got to be; and dont you forget it.

MAGNUS.  Yes: thats what we are most of the time: both of us.

BOANERGES [outraged]  What do you mean? both of us?

MAGNUS.  They bring us papers.  We sign.  You have no time to read
them, luckily for you.  But I am expected to read everything.  I do
not always agree; but I must sign: there is nothing else to be
done.  For instance, death warrants.  Not only have I to sign the
death warrants of persons who in my opinion ought not to be killed;
but I may not even issue death warrants for a great many people who
in my opinion ought to be killed.

BOANERGES [sarcastic]  Youd like to be able to say "Off with his
head!" wouldnt you?

MAGNUS.  Many men would hardly miss their heads, there is so little
in them.  Still, killing is a serious business: at least the person
who is to be killed is usually conceited enough to think so.  I
think that if there were a question of killing me--

BOANERGES [grimly]  There may be, someday.  I have heard it
discussed.

MAGNUS.  Oh, quite.  I have not forgotten King Charles's head.
Well, I hope it will be settled by a living person and not by an
indiarubber stamp.

BOANERGES.  It will be settled by the Home Secretary, your duly
constituted democratic minister.

MAGNUS.  Another indiarubber stamp, eh?

BOANERGES.  At present, perhaps.  But not when I am Home Secretary,
by Jingo!  Nobody will make an indiarubber stamp of Bill Boanerges:
take that from me.

MAGNUS.  Of course not.  Is it not curious how people idealize
their rulers?  In the old days the king--poor man!--was a god, and
was actually called God and worshipped as infallible and
omniscient.  That was monstrous--

BOANERGES.  It was silly: just silly.

MAGNUS.  But was it half so silly as our pretence that he is an
indiarubber stamp?  The ancient Roman emperor-god had not infinite
wisdom, infinite knowledge, infinite power; but he had some:
perhaps even as much as his ministers.  He was alive, not dead.
What man has ever approached either a king or a minister and been
able to pick him up from the table and use him as one picks up and
uses a piece of wood and brass and rubber?  Permanent officials of
your department will try to pick you up and use you like that.
Nineteen times out of twenty you will have to let them do it,
because you cannot know everything; and even if you could you
cannot do everything and be everywhere.  But what about the
twentieth time?

BOANERGES.  The twentieth time they will find they are up against
Bill Boanerges, eh?

MAGNUS.  Precisely.  The indiarubber stamp theory will not work, Mr
Boanerges.  The old divine theory worked because there is a divine
spark in us all; and the stupidest or worst monarch or minister, if
not wholly god, is a bit of a god--an attempt at a god--however
little the bit and unsuccessful the attempt.  But the indiarubber
stamp theory breaks down in every real emergency, because no king
or minister is the very least little bit like a stamp: he is a
living soul.

BOANERGES.  A soul, eh?  You kings still believe in that, I
suppose.

MAGNUS.  I find the word convenient: it is short and familiar.  But
if you dislike being called a soul, let us say that you are animate
matter as distinguished from inanimate.

BOANERGES [not quite liking this]  I think I'd rather you called me
a soul, you know, if you must call me anything at all.  I know I
have too much matter about me: the doctor says I ought to knock off
a stone or two; but there's something more to me than beef.  Call
it a soul if you like; only not in a superstitious sense, if you
understand me.

MAGNUS.  Perfectly.  So you see, Mr Boanerges, that though we have
been dealing with one another for less than ten minutes, you have
already led me into an intellectual discussion which shews that we
are something more than a pair of indiarubber stamps.  You are up
against my brains, such as they are.

BOANERGES.  And you are up against mine.

MAGNUS [gallantly]  There can be no doubt of that.

BOANERGES [grinning]  Such as they are, eh?

MAGNUS.  It is not for me to make that qualification, except in my
own case.  Besides, you have given your proofs.  No common man
could have risen as you have done.  As for me, I am a king because
I was the nephew of my uncle, and because my two elder brothers
died.  If I had been the stupidest man in the country I should
still be its king.  I have not won my position by my merits.  If I
had been born as you were in the--in the--

BOANERGES.  In the gutter.  Out with it.  Picked up by a policeman
at the foot of Captain Coram's statue.  Adopted by the policeman's
grandmother, bless her!

MAGNUS.  Where should _I_ have been if the policeman had picked me
up?

BOANERGES.  Ah!  Where?  Not, mind you, that you mightnt have done
pretty well for yourself.  Youre no fool, Magnus: I will say that
for you.

MAGNUS.  You flatter me.

BOANERGES.  Flatter a king!  Never.  Not Bill Boanerges.

MAGNUS.  Yes, yes: everybody flatters the King.  But everybody has
not your tact, and, may I say? your good nature.

BOANERGES [beaming with self-satisfaction]  Perhaps not.  Still, I
am a Republican, you know.

MAGNUS.  That is what has always surprised me.  Do you really think
that any man should have as much personal power as the presidents
of the republican States have?  Ambitious kings envy them.

BOANERGES.  What's that?  I dont follow that.

MAGNUS [smiling]  You cannot humbug me, Mr Boanerges.  I see why
you are a Republican.  If the English people send me packing and
establish a republic, no man has a better chance of being the first
British president than you.

BOANERGES [almost blushing]  Oh! I dont say that.

MAGNUS.  Come come!  You know it as well as I do.  Well, if it
happens you will have ten times more power than I have ever had.

BOANERGES [not quite convinced]  How can that be?  Youre King.

MAGNUS.  And what is the King?  An idol set up by a group of
plutocrats so that they can rule the country with the King as their
scapegoat and puppet.  Presidents, now, are chosen by the people,
who always want a Strong Man to protect them against the rich.

BOANERGES.  Well, speaking as a bit of a Strong Man myself, there
may be something in that.  But honestly, Magnus, as man to man, do
you tell me youd rather be a president than what you are?

MAGNUS.  By no means.  You wouldnt believe me if I did; and you
would be quite right.  You see, my security is very comfortable.

BOANERGES.  Security, eh?  You admitted just now that even a modest
individual like myself had given your throne a shake or two.

MAGNUS.  True.  You are quite right to remind me of it.  I know
that the monarchy may come to an end at any moment.  But while the
monarchy lasts--while it lasts, mark you--I am very secure.  I
escape the dreadful and demoralizing drudgery of electioneering.  I
have no voters to please.  Ministers come and ministers go; but I
go on for ever.  The terrible precariousness of your position--

BOANERGES.  What's that?  How is my position precarious?

MAGNUS.  The vote may go against you.  Yours is a Trade Union seat,
is it not?  If the Hydro-Electric Workers Federation throw you
over, where would you be?

BOANERGES [confidently]  They wont throw me over.  You dont know
the workers, Magnus: you have never been a worker.

MAGNUS [lifts his eyebrows]!

BOANERGES [continuing]  No king on earth is as safe in his job as a
Trade Union Official.  There is only one thing that can get him
sacked; and that is drink.  Not even that, as long as he doesnt
actually fall down.  I talk democracy to these men and women.  I
tell them that they have the vote, and that theirs is the kingdom
and the power and the glory.  I say to them "You are supreme:
exercise your power."  They say, "That's right: tell us what to
do"; and I tell them.  I say "Exercise your vote intelligently by
voting for me."  And they do.  That's democracy; and a splendid
thing it is too for putting the right men in the right place.

MAGNUS.  Magnificent!  I have never heard it better described.  You
certainly have a head on you, Mr Boanerges.  You should write an
essay on democracy.  But--

BOANERGES.  But what?

MAGNUS.  Suppose a man with a bigger voice comes along!  Some fool!
Some windbag!  Some upstart with a platform trick of gulling the
multitude!

BOANERGES.  Youre thinking of Iky Jacobus?  He is only a talker.
[Snapping his fingers]  I dont give that for him.

MAGNUS.  I never even heard of Mr Jacobus.  But why do you say
"only a talker."  Talkers are very formidable rivals for popular
favor.  The multitude understands talk: it does not understand
work.  I mean brain work, like yours and mine.

BOANERGES.  That's true.  But I can talk Iky's head off.

MAGNUS.  Lucky man: you have all the trumps in your hand.  But I,
who cannot pretend to your gifts, am very glad that Iky cannot
upset me as long as I am the nephew of my uncle.

A young lady, dressed for walking, rushes in impetuously.

THE YOUNG LADY.  Papa: I cannot find the address--

MAGNUS [cutting her short]  No, no, no, dear: not now.  Go away.
Dont you see that I am particularly engaged with the President of
the Board of Trade?  You must excuse my unruly daughter, Mr
Boanerges.  May I present her to you?  Alice, my eldest girl.  Mr
Boanerges, dear.

ALICE.  Oh!  Are you the great Mr Boanerges?

BOANERGES [rising in a glow of gratification]  Well, I dont call
myself that, you know.  But I believe the expression is in use, as
you might say.  I am very pleased indeed to make the acquaintance
of the Princess Royal.

They shake hands.

ALICE.  Why do you wear such awful clothes, Mr Boanerges?

MAGNUS [remonstrating]  My dear--!

ALICE [continuing]  I cant go out walking with you in that
[pointing to his blouse].

BOANERGES.  The uniform of Labor, your Royal Highness.  I'm proud
of it.

ALICE.  Oh yes, I know all that, Mr Boanerges.  But you dont look
the part, you know.  Anyone can see that you belong naturally to
the governing class.

BOANERGES [struck by this view]  In a way, perhaps.  But I have
earned my bread by my hands.  Not as a laborer, though.  I am a
skilled mechanic, or was until my country called on me to lead it.

MAGNUS [to Alice]  Well, my dear, you have broken up a most
interesting conversation, and to me a most instructive one.  It's
no use our trying to go on, Mr Boanerges: I must go and find what
my daughter wants, though I strongly suspect that what she really
came in for was to see my wonderful new minister.  We shall meet
again presently: you know that the Prime Minister is calling on me
today with some of his colleagues--including, I hope, yourself--to
discuss the crisis.  [Taking Alice's arm and turning towards the
door]  You will excuse us, wont you?

BOANERGES [graciously]  Oh, thats all right.  Thats quite all
right.

The King and the Princess go out, apparently much pleased.

BOANERGES [to Sempronius and Pamphilius comprehensively]  Well, say
what you will, the King is no fool.  Not when you know how to
handle him.

PAMPHILIUS.  Of course, that makes all the difference.

BOANERGES.  And the girl hasnt been spoilt.  I was glad to see
that.  She doesnt seem to know that she is the Princess Royal, eh?

SEMPRONIUS.  Well, she wouldnt dream of giving herself any airs
with you.

BOANERGES.  What!  Isnt she always like that?

SEMPRONIUS.  Oh no.  It's not everybody who is received as you have
been.  I hope you have enjoyed your visit.

BOANERGES.  Well, I pulled Magnus through it pretty well: eh?  Dont
you think so?

SEMPRONIUS.  He was pleased.  You have a way with him, Mr
President.

BOANERGES.  Well, perhaps I have, perhaps I have.

A bevy of five Cabinet Ministers, resplendent in diplomatic
uniforms, enters.  Proteus the Prime Minister has on his left,
Pliny, Chancellor of the Exchequer, good-humored and conciliatory,
and Nicobar, Foreign Secretary, snaky and censorious.  On his right
Crassus, Colonial Secretary, elderly and anxious, and Balbus, Home
Secretary, rude and thoughtless.

BALBUS.  Holy snakes! look at Bill.  [To Boanerges]  Go home and
dress yourself properly, man.

NICOBAR.  Where do you think you are?

CRASSUS.  Who do you think you are?

PLINY [fingering the blouse]  Where did you buy it, Bill?

BOANERGES [turning on them like a baited bear]  Well, if you come
to that, who do you think you are, the lot of you?

PROTEUS [conciliatory]  Never mind them, Bill: theyre jealous
because they didnt think of it themselves.  How did you get on with
the King?

BOANERGES.  Right as rain, Joe.  You leave the King to me.  I know
how to handle him.  If I'd been in the Cabinet these last three
months there'd have been no crisis.

NICOBAR.  He put you through it, did he?

BOANERGES.  What do you mean? put me through it?  Is this a police
office?

PLINY.  The third degree is not unknown in this palace, my boy.
[To Pamphilius]  Did the matron take a hand?

PAMPHILIUS.  No.  But the Princess Alice happened to drop in.  She
was greatly impressed by the President.

They all laugh uproariously at Boanerges.

BOANERGES.  What in hell are you laughing at?

PROTEUS.  Take no notice of them, Bill: they are only having their
bit of fun with you as a new comer.  Come, lads! enough of fooling:
lets get to business.  [He takes the chair vacated by the King].

Sempronius and Pamphilius at once rise and go out busily, taking
some of their papers with them.  Pliny takes Boanerges' chair,
Balbus that of Sempronius, Boanerges that of Pamphilius, whilst
Nicobar and Crassus take chairs from the wall and sit down at the
ends of the writing tables, left and right of the Prime Minister
respectively.

PROTEUS.  Now to start with, do you chaps all fully realize that
though we wiped out every other party at the last election, and
have been in power for the last three years, this country has been
governed during that time by the King?

NICOBAR.  I dont see that.  We--

PROTEUS [impatiently]  Well, if you dont, then for Heaven's sake
either resign and get out of the way of men who can see facts and
look them in the face, or else take my job and lead the party
yourself.

NICOBAR.  The worst of you is that you wont face the fact that
though youre Prime Minister youre not God Almighty.  The king cant
do anything except what we advise him to do.  How can he govern the
country if we have all the power and he has none?

BOANERGES.  Dont talk silly, Nick.  This indiarubber stamp theory
doesnt work.  What man has ever approached a king or a minister and
been able to pick him up from the table and use him as youd use a
bit of wood and brass and rubber?  The King's a live man; and what
more are you, with your blessed advice?

PLINY.  Hullo, Bill!  You have been having your mind improved by
somebody.

BOANERGES.  What do you mean?  Isnt it what I have always said?

PROTEUS [whose nerves are on edge]  Oh, will you stop squabbling.
What are we going to say to the King when he comes in?  If you will
only hold together and say the same thing--or let me say it--he
must give way.  But he is as artful as the very devil.  He'll have
a pin to stick into the seat of every man of you.  If you all start
quarrelling and scolding and bawling, which is just what he wants
you to do, it will end in his having his own way as usual, because
one man that has a mind and knows it can always beat ten men who
havnt and dont.

PLINY.  Steady, Prime Minister.  Youre overwrought.

PROTEUS.  It's enough to drive a man mad.  I am sorry.

PLINY [changing the subject]  Where's Mandy?

NICOBAR.  And Lizzie?

PROTEUS.  Late as usual.  Come!  Business, business, business.

BOANERGES [thunderously]  Order order!

PROTEUS.  The King is working the Press against us.  The King is
making speeches.  Things have come to a head.  He said yesterday on
the opening of the new Chamber of Commerce building that the king's
veto is the only remaining defence of the people against corrupt
legislation.

BOANERGES.  So it is, by Jingo.  What other defence is there?
Democracy?  Yah!  We know what Democracy is worth.  What we need is
a Strong Man.

NICOBAR [sneering]  Yourself for instance.

BOANERGES.  I should stand a better chance than you, my lad, if we
were a Republic, and the people could choose.  And let me tell you
that a republican president has more power than a king because the
people know that they need a Strong Man to protect them against the
rich.

PROTEUS [flinging himself back in his chair in desperation]  This
is a nice thing.  Two Labor papers have leading articles this
morning supporting the King; and the latest addition to the Cabinet
here is a King's man.  I resign.

General consternation except on the part of Nicobar, who displays
cheerful unconcern, and of Boanerges, who squares himself with an
iron face.

PLINY.  } No: dont do that, Joe.
BALBUS. } What!  Now!  You cant.  You mustnt.
CRASSUS.} Of course not.  Out of the question.

PROTEUS.  No use.  [Rising]  I resign, I tell you.  You can all go
to the devil.  I have lost my health, and almost lost my reason,
trying to keep this Cabinet together in the face of the cunningest
enemy popular government has ever had to face.  I have had enough
of it.  [Sitting down again]  I resign.

CRASSUS.  But not at such a moment as this.  Dont let us swop
horses when crossing a stream.

NICOBAR.  Why not, if the horse you have got is subject to
hysterics?

BOANERGES.  Not to mention that you may have more than one horse at
your disposal.

PROTEUS.  Right you are.  Perfectly true.  Take my job, Nick.  It's
vacant for you, Bill.  I wish you joy of it.

PLINY.  Now boys, boys, boys: be good.  We cant make a new Cabinet
before Magnus comes in.  You have something in your pocket, Joe.
Out with it.  Read it to them.

PROTEUS [taking a paper from his pocket]  What I was going to
propose--and you can take it or leave it--is an ultimatum.

CRASSUS.  Good!

PROTEUS.  Either he signs this, or--[he pauses significantly]--!

NICOBAR.  Or what?

PROTEUS [disgusted]  Oh, you make me sick.

NICOBAR.  Youre sick already, by your own account.  I only ask,
suppose he refuses to sign your ultimatum?

PROTEUS.  You call yourself a Cabinet Minister, and you cant answer
that!

NICOBAR.  No I cant.  I press my question.  You said he must sign,
OR.  I ask, or what?

PROTEUS.  Or we resign and tell the country that we cant carry on
the King's Government under conditions which destroy our
responsibility.

BALBUS.  Thatll do it.  He couldnt face that.

CRASSUS.  Yes: thatll bunker him.

PROTEUS.  Is that agreed?

PLINY.   }
CRASSUS. } Yes, yes, yes, 'greed 'greed 'greed.
BALBUS.  }

BOANERGES.  I retain an open mind.  Let us hear the ultimatum.

NICOBAR.  Yes: lets hear it.

PROTEUS.  Memorandum of understanding arrived at--

The King enters, with Amanda, Postmistress General, a merry lady in
uniform like the men, on his left, and Lysistrata, Powermistress
General, a grave lady in academic robes, on his right.  All rise.
The Prime Minister's face darkens.

MAGNUS.  Welcome, gentlemen.  I hope I am not too early.  [Noting
the Prime Minister's scowl]  Am I intruding?

PROTEUS.  I protest.  It is intolerable.  I call a conference of my
Cabinet to consider our position in regard to the prerogative; and
I find the two lady members, the Postmistress General and the
Powermistress General, closeted with your Majesty instead of being
in their places to confer with me.

LYSISTRATA.  You mind your own business, Joe.

MAGNUS.  Oh no: really, really, my dear Lysistrata, you must not
take that line.  Our business is to meddle in everybody's business.
A Prime Minister is a busybody by profession.  So is a monarch.  So
are we all.

LYSISTRATA.  Well, they say everybody's business is nobody's
business, which is just what Joe is fit for.  [She takes a chair
from the wall with a powerful hand, and swings it forward to the
inside corner of Sempronius's table, where she stands waiting for
the King to sit down.]

PROTEUS.  This is what I have to put up with when I am on the verge
of a nervous breakdown [he sits down distractedly, and buries his
face in his hands].

AMANDA [going to him and petting him]  Come, Joe! dont make a
scene.  You asked for it, you know.

NICOBAR.  What do you go provoking Lizzie for like that?  You know
she has a temper.

LYSISTRATA.  There is nothing whatever wrong with my temper.  But I
am not going to stand any of Joe's nonsense; and the sooner he
makes up his mind to that the smoother our proceedings are likely
to be.

BOANERGES.  I protest.  I say, let us be dignified.  I say, let us
respect ourselves and respect the throne.  All this Joe and Bill
and Nick and Lizzie: we might as well be hobnobbing in a fried fish
shop.  The Prime Minister is the prime minister: he isnt Joe.  The
Powermistress isnt Lizzie: she's Lysis Traitor.

LYSISTRATA [who has evidently been a schoolmistress]  Certainly
not, Bill.  She is Ly Sistrata.  You had better say Lizzie: it is
easier to pronounce.

BOANERGES [scornfully]  Ly Sistrata!  A more foolish affectation I
never heard: you might as well call me Bo Annerjeeze [he flings
himself into his chair].

MAGNUS [sweetly]  Shall we sit, ladies and gentlemen!

Boanerges hastily rises and sits down again.  The King sits in
Pliny's chair.  Lysistrata and the rest of the men resume their
seats, leaving Pliny and Amanda standing.  Amanda takes an empty
chair in each hand and plants them side by side between the King
and the table of Pamphilius.

AMANDA.  There you are, Plin.  [She sits next the table].

PLINY.  Ta ta, Mandy.  Pardon me: I should have said Amanda.  [He
sits next the King].

AMANDA.  Don't mention it, darling.

BOANERGES.  Order, order!

AMANDA [waves him a kiss]!!

MAGNUS.  Prime Minister: the word is with you.  Why have you all
simultaneously given me the great pleasure of exercising your
constitutional right of access to the sovereign?

LYSISTRATA.  Have I that right, sir; or havnt I?

MAGNUS.  Most undoubtedly you have.

LYSISTRATA.  You hear that, Joe?

PROTEUS.  I--

BALBUS.  Oh for Heaven's sake dont contradict her, Joe.  We shall
never get anywhere at this rate.  Come to the crisis.

NICOBAR. }            {Yes yes: the crisis!
CRASSUS. } [together] {Yes yes: come along!
PLINY.   }            {The crisis: out with it!

BALBUS.  The ultimatum.  Lets have the ultimatum.

MAGNUS.  Oh, there is an ultimatum!  I gathered from yesterday's
evening papers that there is a crisis--another crisis.  But the
ultimatum is new to me.  [To Proteus]  Have you an ultimatum?

PROTEUS.  Your Majesty's allusion to the royal veto in a speech
yesterday has brought matters to a head.

MAGNUS.  It was perhaps indelicate.  But you all allude so freely
to your own powers--to the supremacy of Parliament and the voice of
the people and so forth--that I fear I have lost any little
delicacy I ever possessed.  If you may flourish your thunderbolts
why may I not shoulder my little popgun of a veto and strut up and
down with it for a moment?

NICOBAR.  This is not a subject for jesting--

MAGNUS [interrupting him quickly]  I am not jesting, Mr Nicobar.
But I am certainly trying to discuss our differences in a good-
humored manner.  Do you wish me to lose my temper and make scenes?

AMANDA.  Oh please no, your Majesty.  We get enough of that from
Joe.

PROTEUS.  I pro--

MAGNUS [his hand persuasively on the Prime Minister's arm]  Take
care, Prime Minister: take care: do not let your wily Postmistress
General provoke you to supply the evidence against yourself.

All the rest laugh.

PROTEUS [coolly]  I thank your Majesty for the caution.  The
Postmistress General has never forgiven me for not making her First
Lady of the Admiralty.  She has three nephews in the navy.

AMANDA.  Oh you--[She swallows the epithet, and contents herself
with shaking her fist at the Premier].

MAGNUS.  Tch-tch-tch!  Gently, Amanda, gently.  Three very
promising lads: they do you credit.

AMANDA.  I never wanted them to go to sea.  I could have found them
better jobs in the Post Office.

MAGNUS.  Apart from Amanda's family relations, am I face to face
with a united Cabinet.

PLINY.  No, sir.  You are face to face with a squabbling Cabinet;
but, on the constitutional question, united we stand: divided we
fall.

BALBUS.  That is so.

NICOBAR.  Hear hear!

MAGNUS.  What is the constitutional question?  Do you deny the
royal veto? or do you object only to my reminding my subjects of
its existence?

NICOBAR.  What we say is that the king has no right to remind his
subjects of anything constitutional except by the advice of the
Prime Minister, and in words which he has read and approved.

MAGNUS.  Which Prime Minister?  There are so many of them in the
Cabinet.

BOANERGES.  There!  Serves you all right!  Arnt you ashamed of
yourselves?  But I am not surprised, Joseph Proteus.  I own I like
a Prime Minister that knows how to be a Prime Minister.  Why do you
let them take the word out of your mouth every time?

PROTEUS.  If His Majesty wants a Cabinet of dumb dogs he will not
get it from my party.

BALBUS.  Hear, hear, Joe!

MAGNUS.  Heaven forbid!  The variety of opinion in the Cabinet is
always most instructive and interesting.  Who is to be its
spokesman today?

PROTEUS.  I know your Majesty's opinion of me; but let--

MAGNUS [before he can proceed]  Let me state it quite frankly.  My
opinion of you is that no man knows better than you when to speak
and when to let others speak for you; when to make scenes and
threaten resignation; and when to be as cool as a cucumber.

PROTEUS [not altogether displeased]  Well, sir, I hope I am not
such a fool as some fools think me.  I may not always keep my
temper.  You would not be surprised at that if you knew how much
temper I have to keep.  [He straightens up and becomes impressively
eloquent].  At this moment my cue is to shew you, not my own
temper, but the temper of my Cabinet.  What the Foreign Secretary
and the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Home Secretary have
told you is true.  If we are to carry on your government we cannot
have you making speeches that express your own opinions and not
ours.  We cannot have you implying that everything that is of any
value in our legislation is your doing and not ours.  We cannot
have you telling people that their only safeguard against the
political encroachments of big business whilst we are doing nothing
but bungling and squabbling is your power of veto.  It has got to
stop, once for all.

BALBUS.  }
         } Hear hear!
NICOBAR. }

PROTEUS.  Is that clear?

MAGNUS.  Far clearer than I have ever dared to make it, Mr Proteus.
Except, by the way, on one point.  When you say that all this of
which you complain must cease once for all, do you mean that
henceforth I am to agree with you or you with me?

PROTEUS.  I mean that when you disagree with us you are to keep
your disagreement to yourself.

MAGNUS.  That would be a very heavy responsibility for me.  If I
see you leading the nation over the edge of a precipice may I not
warn it?

BALBUS.  It is our business to warn it, not yours.

MAGNUS.  Suppose you dont do your business!  Suppose you dont see
the danger!  That has happened.  It may happen again.

CRASSUS [insinuating]  As democrats, I think we are bound to
proceed on the assumption that such a thing cannot happen.

BOANERGES.  Rot!  It's happening all the time until somebody has
the gumption to put his foot down and stop it.

CRASSUS.  Yes: I know.  But that is not democracy.

BOANERGES.  Democracy be--[he leaves the word unspoken]!  I have
thirty years experience of democracy.  So have most of you.  I say
no more.

BALBUS.  Wages are too high, if you ask me.  Anybody can earn from
five to twenty pounds a week now, and a big dole when there is no
job for him.  And what Englishman will give his mind to politics as
long as he can afford to keep a motor car?

NICOBAR.  How many voted at the last election?  Not seven per cent
of the register.

BALBUS.  Yes; and the seven per cent were only a parcel of sillies
playing at ins and outs.  To make democracy work in Crassus's way
we need poverty and hardship.

PROTEUS [emphatically]  And we have abolished poverty and hardship.
That is why the people trust us.  [To the King]  And that is why
you will have to give way to us.  We have the people of England in
comfort--solid middle class comfort--at our backs.

MAGNUS.  No: we have not abolished poverty and hardship.  Our big
business men have abolished them.  But how?  By sending our capital
abroad to places where poverty and hardship still exist: in other
words, where labor is cheap.  We live in comfort on the imported
profits of that capital.  We are all ladies and gentlemen now.

NICOBAR.  Well, what more do you want?

PLINY.  You surely dont grudge us our wonderful prosperity, sir.

MAGNUS.  I want it to last.

NICOBAR.  Why shouldnt it last?  [Rising]  Own the truth.  You had
rather have the people poor, and pose as their champion and savior,
than have to admit that the people are better off under our
government--under our squabbling and bungling, as you call it.

MAGNUS.  No: it was the Prime Minister who used those expressions.

NICOBAR.  Dont quibble: he was quoting them from your reptile
press.  What I say is that we stand for high wages, and you are
always belittling and opposing the men that pay them.  Well, the
voters like high wages.  They know when they are well off; and they
dont know what you are grumbling about; and thats what will beat
you every time you try to stir them against us [he resumes his
seat].

PLINY.  There is no need to rub it in like that, Nick.  We're all
good friends.  Nobody objects to prosperity.

MAGNUS.  You think this prosperity is safe?

NICOBAR.  Safe!

PLINY.  Oh come, sir!  Really!

BALBUS.  Safe!  Look at my constituency: Northeast-by-north
Birmingham, with its four square miles of confectionery works!  Do
you know that in the Christmas cracker trade Birmingham is the
workshop of the world?

CRASSUS.  Take Gateshead and Middlesbrough alone!  Do you know that
there has not been a day's unemployment there for five years past,
and that their daily output of chocolate creams totals up to twenty
thousand tons?

MAGNUS.  It is certainly a consoling thought that if we were
peacefully blockaded by the League of Nations we could live for at
least three weeks on our chocolate creams.

NICOBAR.  You neednt sneer at the sweets: we turn out plenty of
solid stuff.  Where will you find the equal of the English golf
club?

BALBUS.  Look at the potteries: the new crown Derby! the new
Chelsea!  Look at the tapestries!  Why, Greenwich Goblin has chased
the French stuff out of the market.

CRASSUS.  Dont forget our racing motor boats and cars, sir: the
finest on earth, and all individually designed.  No cheap mass
production stuff there.

PLINY.  And our live stock!  Can you beat the English polo pony?

AMANDA.  Or the English parlormaid?  She wins in all the
international beauty shows.

PLINY.  Now Mandy, Mandy!  None of your triviality.

MAGNUS.  I am not sure that the British parlormaid is not the only
real asset in your balance sheet.

AMANDA [triumphant]  Aha!  [To Pliny]  You go home to bed and
reflect on that, old man.

PROTEUS.  Well, sir?  Are you satisfied that we have the best paid
proletariat in the world on our side?

MAGNUS [gravely]  I dread revolution.

All except the two women laugh uproariously at this.

BOANERGES.  I must join them there, sir.  I am as much against
chocolate creams as you are: they never agree with me.  But a
revolution in England!!!  Put that out of your head, sir.  Not if
you were to tear up Magna Carta in Trafalgar Square, and light the
fires of Smithfield to burn every member of the House of Commons.

MAGNUS.  I was not thinking of a revolution in England.  I was
thinking of the countries on whose tribute we are living.  Suppose
it occurs to them to stop paying it!  That has happened before.

PLINY.  Oh no, sir: no, no, no.  What would become of their foreign
trade with us?

MAGNUS.  At a pinch, I think they could do without the Christmas
crackers.

CRASSUS.  Oh, thats childish.

MAGNUS.  Children in their innocence are sometimes very practical,
Mr Colonial Secretary.  The more I see of the sort of prosperity
that comes of your leaving our vital industries to big business men
as long as they keep your constituents quiet with high wages, the
more I feel as if I were sitting on a volcano.

LYSISTRATA [who has been listening with implacable contempt to the
discussion, suddenly breaks in in a sepulchral contralto]  Hear
hear!  My department was perfectly able and ready to deal with the
supply of power from the tides in the north of Scotland, and you
gave it away, like the boobs you are, to the Pentland Firth
Syndicate: a gang of foreign capitalists who will make billions out
of it at the people's expense while we are bungling and squabbling.
Crassus worked that.  His uncle is chairman.

CRASSUS.  A lie.  A flat lie.  He is not related to me.  He is only
my stepson's father-in-law.

BALBUS.  I demand an explanation of the words bungling and
squabbling.  We have had quite enough of them here today.  Who are
you getting at?  It was not I who bungled the Factory Bill.  I
found it on my desk when I took office, with all His Majesty's
suggestions in the margin; and you know it.

PROTEUS.  Have you all done playing straight into His Majesty's
hand, and making my situation here impossible?

Guilty silence.

PROTEUS [proceeding deliberately and authoritatively]  The question
before us is not one of our manners and our abilities.  His Majesty
will not press that question, because if he did he would oblige us
to raise the question of his own morals.

MAGNUS [starts]  What!

BALBUS.  Good, Joe!

CRASSUS [aside to Amanda]  Thats got him.

MAGNUS.  Am I to take that threat seriously, Mr Proteus?

PROTEUS.  If you try to prejudice what is a purely constitutional
question by personal scandal, it will be easy enough for us to
throw your mud back.  In this conflict we are the challengers.  You
have the choice of weapons.  If you choose scandal, we'll take you
on at that.  Personally I shall deplore it if you do.  No good will
come of washing our dirty linen in public.  But dont make any
mistake as to what will happen.  I will be plain with you: I will
dot the Is and cross the Ts.  You will say that Crassus is a
jobber.

CRASSUS [springing up]  I--

PROTEUS [fiercely crushing him]  Sit down.  Leave this to me.

CRASSUS [sits]  I a jobber!  Well!

PROTEUS [continuing]  You will say that I should never have given
the Home Office to a bully like Balbus--

BALBUS [intimidated by the fate of Crassus, but unable to forbear a
protest]  Look here, Joe--

PROTEUS.  You shut up, Bert.  It's true.

BALBUS [subsides with a shrug]!

PROTEUS.  Well, what will happen?  There will be no denials, no
excuses, no vindications.  We shall not fall into that trap, clever
as you are at setting it.  Crassus will say just simply that you
are a freethinker.  And Balbus will say that you are a libertine.

THE MALE CABINET [below their breaths]  Aha-a-a-a-h!!!

PROTEUS.  Now, King Magnus!  Our cards are on the table.  What have
you to say?

MAGNUS.  Admirably put!  People ask how it is that with all these
strong characters around you hold your own as the only possible
Prime Minister, in spite of your hysterics and tantrums, your
secretiveness and your appalling laziness--

BALBUS [delighted]  Hear hear!  Youre getting it now, Joe.

MAGNUS [continuing]  But when the decisive moment comes, they find
out what a wonderful man you are.

PROTEUS.  I am not a wonderful man.  There is not a man or woman
here whose job I could do as well as they do it.  I am Prime
Minister for the same reason that all Prime Ministers have been
Prime Ministers: because I am good for nothing else.  But I can
keep to the point--when it suits me.  And I can keep you to the
point, sir, whether it suits you or not.

MAGNUS.  At all events you do not flatter kings.  One of them, at
least, is grateful to you for that.

PROTEUS.  Kings, as you and I very well know, rule their ministers
by flattering them; and now that you are the only king left in the
civilized half of Europe Nature seems to have concentrated in you
all the genius for flattery that she used to have to divide between
half a dozen kings, three emperors, and a Sultan.

MAGNUS.  But what interest has a king in flattering a subject?

AMANDA.  Suppose she's a goodlooking woman, sir!

NICOBAR.  Suppose he has a lot of money, and the king's hard up!

PROTEUS.  Suppose he is a Prime Minister, and you can do nothing
except by his advice.

MAGNUS [smiling with his utmost charm]  Ah, there you have hit the
nail on the head.  Well, I suppose I must surrender.  I am beaten.
You are all too clever for me.

BOANERGES.  Well, nothing can be fairer than that.

PLINY [rubbing his hands]  You are a gentleman, sir.  We shant rub
it in, you know.

BALBUS.  Ever the best of friends.  I am the last to kick a man
when he's down.

CRASSUS.  I may be a jobber; but nobody shall say that I am an
ungenerous opponent.

BOANERGES [suddenly overwhelmed with emotion, rises and begins
singing in stentorian tones]

     Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
     And never brought to mind--

Amanda bursts into uncontrollable laughter.  The King looks
reproachfully at her, struggling hard to keep his countenance.  The
others are beginning to join in the chorus when Proteus rises in a
fury.

PROTEUS.  Are you all drunk?

Dead silence.  Boanerges sits down hastily.  The other singers
pretend that they have disapproved of his minstrelsy.

PROTEUS.  You are at present engaged in a tug of war with the King:
the tug of your lives.  You think you have won.  You havnt.  All
that has happened is that the King has let go the rope.  You are
sprawling on your backs; and he is laughing at you.  Look at him!
[He sits down contemptuously].

MAGNUS [making no further attempt to conceal his merriment]  Come
to my rescue, Amanda.  It was you who set me off.

AMANDA [wreathed with smiles]  You got me so nicely, sir.  [To
Boanerges]  Bill: you are a great boob.

BOANERGES.  I dont understand this, I understood His Majesty to
give way to us in, I must say, the handsomest manner.  Cant we take
our victory like gentlemen?

MAGNUS.  Perhaps I had better explain.  I quite appreciate the
frank and magnanimous spirit--may I say the English spirit?--in
which my little concession has been received, especially by you, Mr
Boanerges.  But in truth it leaves matters just where they were;
for I should never have dreamt of entering on a campaign of
recrimination such as the Prime Minister suggested.  As he has
reminded you, my own character is far too vulnerable.  A king is
not allowed the luxury of a good character.  Our country has
produced millions of blameless greengrocers, but not one blameless
monarch.  I have to rule over more religious sects than I can
count.  To rule them impartially I must not belong to any of them;
and they all regard people who do not belong to them as atheists.
My court includes several perfectly respectable wives and mothers
whose strange vanity it is to be talked about as abandoned females.
To gain the reputation of being the king's mistress they would do
almost anything except give the unfortunate monarch the pleasure of
substantiating their claim.  Side by side with them are the ladies
who are really unscrupulous.  They are so careful of their
reputations that they lose no opportunity of indignantly denying
that they have ever yielded to solicitations which have in fact
never been made to them.  Thus every king is supposed to be a
libertine; and as, oddly enough, he owes a great part of his
popularity to this belief, he cannot deny it without deeply
disappointing his subjects.

There is a rather grim silence, during which the King looks round
in vain for some encouraging response.

LYSISTRATA [severely]  Your Majesty's private affairs do not
concern us, in any case.

AMANDA [splutters into an irrepressible laugh]!!

MAGNUS [looks reproachfully at Amanda]!

AMANDA [composing her features as best she can]  Excuse me.

CRASSUS.  I hope your Majesty recognizes that kings are not the
only people to whom certain sorts of mud always stick, no matter
what fool throws them.  Call a minister a jobber--

BALBUS.  Or a bungler.

CRASSUS.  Yes, or a bungler, and everybody believes it.  Jobbery
and incompetence are the two sorts of mud that stick to us, no
matter how honest or capable we are; and we havnt the royal vantage
that you enjoy, that the more the ladies take away your character
the better the people like you.

BOANERGES [suddenly]  Prime Minister: will you tell me what the
Postmistress General is sniggering at?

AMANDA.  This a free country, Bill.  A sense of humor is not a
crime.  And when the King is not setting me off, you are.

BOANERGES.  Where is the joke?  I dont see it.

AMANDA.  If you could see a joke, Bill, you wouldnt be the great
popular orator you are.

BOANERGES.  Thank Heaven, I am not a silly giggler like some I
could mention.

AMANDA.  Thanks, dearest Bill.  Now, Joe: dont you think you have
let us run loose long enough?  What about that ultimatum?

MAGNUS [shaking his head at her]  Traitor!

PROTEUS.  I am in no hurry.  His Majesty's speeches are very wise
and interesting; and your back chat amuses both you and him.  But
the ultimatum is here all the time; and I shall not leave this room
until I have His Majesty's signed pledge that its conditions will
be observed.

All become gravely attentive.

MAGNUS.  What are its terms?

PROTEUS.  First, no more royal speeches.

MAGNUS.  What!  Not even if you dictate them?

PROTEUS.  Not even if we dictate them.  Your Majesty has a way of
unrolling the manuscript and winking--

MAGNUS.  Winking!

PROTEUS.  You know what I mean.  The best speech in the world can
be read in such a way as to set the audience laughing at it.  We
have had enough of that.  So, in future, no speeches.

MAGNUS.  A dumb king?

PROTEUS.  Of course we cannot object to such speeches as "We
declare this foundation stone well and truly laid" and so forth.
But politically, yes: a dumb king.

PLINY [to soften it]  A constitutional king.

PROTEUS [implacably]  A dumb king.

MAGNUS.  Hm!  What next?

PROTEUS.  The working of the Press from the palace back stairs must
cease.

MAGNUS.  You know that I have no control of the Press.  The Press
is in the hands of men much richer than I, who would not insert a
single paragraph against their own interests even if it were signed
by my own hand and sent to them with a royal command.

PROTEUS.  We know that.  But though these men are richer than you,
they are not cleverer.  They get amusing articles, spiced with
exclusive backstairs information, that dont seem to them to have
anything to do with politics.  The next thing they know is that
their pet shares have dropped fifteen points; that capital is
frightened off their best prospectuses; and that some of the best
measures in our party program are made to look like city jobs.

MAGNUS.  Am I supposed to write these articles?

NICOBAR.  Your man Sempronius does.  I can spot his fist out of
fifty columns.

CRASSUS.  So can I.  When he is getting at me he always begins the
sentence with "Singularly enough."

PLINY [chuckling]  Thats his trademark.  "Singularly enough."  Ha!
ha!

MAGNUS.  Is there to be any restriction on the other side?  I have
noticed, for instance, that in a certain newspaper which loses no
opportunity of disparaging the throne, the last sentence of the
leading article almost invariably begins with the words "Once for
all."  Whose trademark is that?

PROTEUS.  Mine.

MAGNUS.  Frank, Mr Proteus.

PROTEUS.  I know when to be frank.  I learnt the trick from Your
Majesty.

AMANDA [tries not to laugh]!

MAGNUS [gently reproachful]  Amanda: what is the joke now?  I am
surprised at you.

AMANDA.  Joe frank!  When I want to find out what he is up to I
have to come and ask your Majesty.

LYSISTRATA.  That is perfectly true.  In this Cabinet there is no
such thing as a policy.  Every man plays for his own hand.

NICOBAR.  It's like a game of cards.

BALBUS.  Only there are no partners.

LYSISTRATA.  Except Crassus and Nicobar.

PLINY.  Good, Lizzie!  He! he! he!

NICOBAR.  What do you mean?

LYSISTRATA.  You know quite well what I mean.  When will you learn,
Nicobar, that it is no use trying to browbeat me.  I began life as
a schoolmistress; and I can browbeat any man in this Cabinet or out
of it if he is fool enough to try to compete with me in that
department.

BOANERGES.  Order! order!  Cannot the Prime Minister check these
unseemly personalities?

PROTEUS.  They give me time to think, Bill.  When you have had as
much parliamentary experience as I have you will be very glad of an
interruption occasionally.  May I proceed?

Silence.

PROTEUS.  His Majesty asks whether the restriction on press
campaigning is to be entirely onesided.  That, I take it, sir, is
your question.

MAGNUS [nods assent]!

PROTEUS.  The answer is in the affirmative.

BALBUS.  Good!

MAGNUS.  Anything more?

PROTEUS.  Yes: one thing more.  The veto must not be mentioned
again.  That can apply to both sides, if you like.  The veto is
dead.

MAGNUS.  May we not make a historical reference to the corpse?

PROTEUS.  No.  I cannot carry on the King's government unless I can
give pledges and carry them out.  What is my pledge worth if our
constituents are reminded every day that the King may veto anything
that Parliament does?  Do you expect me to say, when I am asked for
a pledge, "You must ask the King"?

MAGNUS.  I have to say "You must ask the Prime Minister."

PLINY [consoling him]  Thats the constitution, you know.

MAGNUS.  Quite.  I only mention it to shew that the Prime Minister
does not really wish to kill the veto.  He only wishes to move it
next door.

PROTEUS.  The people live next door.  The name on the brass plate
is Public Opinion.

MAGNUS [gravely]  Admirably turned, Mr Prime Minister; but unreal.
I am far more subject to public opinion than you, because, thanks
to the general belief in democracy, you can always pretend that
what you do is done by the will of the people, who, God knows,
never dreamt of it, and would not have understood it if they had;
whereas, for what a king does, he, and he alone, is held
responsible.  A demagogue may steal a horse where a king dare not
look over a hedge.

LYSISTRATA.  I doubt if that is any longer true, sir.  I know that
I get blamed for everything that goes wrong in my department.

MAGNUS.  Ah!  But what a despot you are, Lysistrata!  Granted,
however, that the people have found out long ago that democracy is
humbug, and that instead of establishing responsible government it
has abolished it, do you not see what this means?

BOANERGES [scandalized]  Steady, steady!  I cannot sit here and
listen to such a word as humbug being applied to democracy.  I am
sorry, sir; but with all respect for you, I really must draw the
line at that.

MAGNUS.  You are right, Mr Boanerges, as you always are.  Democracy
is a very real thing, with much less humbug about it than many
older institutions.  But it means, not that the people govern, but
that the responsibility and the veto now belong neither to kings
nor demagogues as such, but to whoever is clever enough to get
them.

LYSISTRATA.  Yourself, sir, for example?

MAGNUS.  I think I am in the running.  That is why I do not feel
bound to accept this ultimatum.  By signing it I put myself out of
the running.  Why should I?

BALBUS.  Because youre the king: thats why.

MAGNUS.  Does it follow?

PROTEUS.  If two men ride the same horse, one must ride behind.

LYSISTRATA.  Which?

PROTEUS [turning to her sharply]  What was that you said?

LYSISTRATA [with placid but formidable obstinacy and ironical
explicitness]  I said Which?  You said that if two men rode the
same horse one of them must ride behind.  I said Which?
[Explanatorily]  Which man must ride behind?

AMANDA.  Got it, Joe?

PROTEUS.  That is exactly the question that has to be settled here
and now.

AMANDA.  "Once for all."

Everybody laughs except Proteus, who rises in a fury.

PROTEUS.  I will not stand this perpetual tomfooling.  I had rather
be a dog than the Prime Minister of a country where the only things
the inhabitants can be serious about are football and refreshments.
Lick the King's boots: that is all you are fit for.  [He dashes out
of the room].

BALBUS.  Youve done it now, Mandy.  I hope youre proud of yourself.

MAGNUS.  It is you, Amanda, who should go and coax him back.  But I
suppose I must do it myself, as usual.  Excuse me, ladies and
gentlemen.

He rises.  The rest rise.  He goes out.

BOANERGES.  I told you.  I told you what would come of conducting a
conference with His Majesty as if it were a smoking concert.  I am
disgusted.  [He flings himself back into his chair].

BALBUS.  We'd just cornered the old fox; and then Amanda must have
her silly laugh and lets him out of it [he sits].

NICOBAR.  What are we to do now? thats what I want to know.

AMANDA [incorrigible]  I suggest a little community singing [she
makes conductorlike gestures].

NICOBAR.  Yah!!  [he sits down very sulkily].

AMANDA [sits down with a little splutter of laughter]!

CRASSUS [thoughtful]  Take it easy, friends.  Joe knows what he is
about.

LYSISTRATA.  Of course he does.  I can excuse you, Bill, because
it's your first day in the Cabinet.  But if the rest of you havnt
found out by this time that Joe's rages are invariably calculated,
then nothing will ever teach you anything [she sits down
contemptuously].

BOANERGES [in his grandest manner]  Well, madam, I know I am a
newcomer: everything must have a beginning.  I am open to argument
and conviction.  The Prime Minister brought this conference, in
what I admit was a very able and resolute manner, to the verge of a
decision.  Then, in a fit of childish temper he breaks up the
conference, leaving us looking like fools with nothing done.  And
you tell me he did it on purpose!  Where was the advantage to him
in such a display? answer me that.

LYSISTRATA.  He is settling the whole business with the King behind
our backs.  That is what Joe always contrives to do, by hook or
crook.

PLINY.  You didnt arrange it with him, Mandy: did you?

AMANDA.  There wasnt any need to arrange it.  Joe can always depend
on one or other of us saying something that will give him an excuse
for flying out.

CRASSUS.  In my opinion, ladies and gentlemen, we have done our
bit, and may leave the rest to Joe.  Matters had reached a point at
which it was yes or no between the Cabinet and the Crown.  There is
only one sort of committee that is better than a committee of two;
and that is a committee of one.  Like the family in Wordsworth's
poem, we are seven--

LYSISTRATA.  Eight.

CRASSUS.  Well, seven or eight, we were too many for the final
grapple.  Two persons sticking to the point are worth eight all
over the shop.  So my advice is that we just sit here quietly until
Joe comes back and tells us whats been settled.  Perhaps Amanda
will oblige with a song.  [He resumes his seat].

The King returns with Proteus, who looks glum.  All rise.  The two
resume their seats in silence.  The rest sit down.

MAGNUS [very grave]  The Prime Minister has been good enough to
pursue the discussion with me in private to a point at which the
issue is now clear.  If I do not accept the ultimatum I shall
receive your resignations and his; and the country will learn from
his explanatory speech in the House of Commons that it is to choose
between Cabinet government and monarchical government: an issue on
which I frankly say that I should be very sorry to win, as I cannot
carry on without the support of a body of ministers whose existence
gives the English people a sensation of self-government.

AMANDA [splutters]!

CRASSUS [whispers]  Shut up, will you?

MAGNUS [continuing]  Naturally I want to avert a conflict in which
success would damage me and failure disable me.  But you tell me
that I can do so only by signing pledges which would make me a mere
Lord Chamberlain, without even the despotism which he exercises
over the theatre.  I should sink below the level of the meanest of
my subjects, my sole privilege being that of being shot at when
some victim of misgovernment resorts to assassination to avenge
himself.  How am I to defend myself?  You are many: I oppose you
single-handed.  There was a time when the king could depend on the
support of the aristocracy and the cultivated bourgeoisie.  Today
there is not a single aristocrat left in politics, not a single
member of the professions, not a single leading personage in big
business or finance.  They are richer than ever, more powerful than
ever, more able and better educated than ever.  But not one of them
will touch this drudgery of government, this public work that never
ends because we cannot finish one job without creating ten fresh
ones.  We get no thanks for it because ninety-nine hundredths of it
is unknown to the people, and the remaining hundredth is resented
by them as an invasion of their liberty or an increase in their
taxation.  It wears out the strongest man, and even the strongest
woman, in five or six years.  It slows down to nothing when we are
fresh from our holidays and best able to bear it, and rises in an
overwhelming wave through some unforeseen catastrophe when we are
on the verge of nervous breakdown from overwork and fit for rest
and sleep only.  And this drudgery, remember, is a sweated trade,
the only one now left in this country.  My civil list leaves me a
poor man among multi-millionaires.  Your salaries can be earned ten
times over in the city by anyone with outstanding organizing or
administrative ability.  History tells us that the first Lord
Chancellor who abandoned the woolsack for the city boardroom struck
the nation with amazement: today the nation would be equally amazed
if a man of his ability thought it worth his while to prefer the
woolsack even to the stool of an office boy as a jumping-off place
for his ambition.  Our work is no longer even respected.  It is
looked down on by our men of genius as dirty work.  What great
actor would exchange his stage? what great barrister his court?
what great preacher his pulpit? for the squalor of the political
arena in which we have to struggle with foolish factions in
parliament and with ignorant voters in the constituencies?  The
scientists will have nothing to do with us; for the atmosphere of
politics is not the atmosphere of science.  Even political science,
the science by which civilization must live or die, is busy
explaining the past whilst we have to grapple with the present: it
leaves the ground before our feet in black darkness whilst it
lights up every corner of the landscape behind us.  All the talent
and genius of the country is bought up by the flood of unearned
money.  On that poisoned wealth talent and genius live far more
luxuriously in the service of the rich than we in the service of
our country.  Politics, once the centre of attraction for ability,
public spirit, and ambition, has now become the refuge of a few
fanciers of public speaking and party intrigue who find all the
other avenues to distinction closed to them either by their lack of
practical ability, their comparative poverty and lack of education,
or, let me hasten to add, their hatred of oppression and injustice,
and their contempt for the chicaneries and false pretences of
commercialized professionalism.  History tells us of a gentleman-
statesman who declared that such people were not fit to govern.
Within a year it was discovered that they could govern at least as
well as anyone else who could be persuaded to take on the job.
Then began that abandonment of politics by the old governing class
which has ended in all Cabinets, conservative no less than
progressive, being what were called in the days of that rash
statesman Labor Cabinets.  Do not misunderstand me: I do not want
the old governing class back.  It governed so selfishly that the
people would have perished if democracy had not swept it out of
politics.  But evil as it was in many ways, at least it stood above
the tyranny of popular ignorance and popular poverty.  Today only
the king stands above that tyranny.  You are dangerously subject to
it.  In spite of my urgings and remonstrances you have not yet
dared to take command of our schools and put a stop to the
inculcation upon your unfortunate children of superstitions and
prejudices that stand like stone walls across every forward path.
Are you well advised in trying to reduce me to your own slavery to
them?  If I do not stand above them there is no longer any reason
for my existence at all.  I stand for the future and the past, for
the posterity that has no vote and the tradition that never had
any.  I stand for the great abstractions: for conscience and
virtue; for the eternal against the expedient; for the evolutionary
appetite against the day's gluttony; for intellectual integrity,
for humanity, for the rescue of industry from commercialism and of
science from professionalism, for everything that you desire as
sincerely as I, but which in you is held in leash by the Press,
which can organize against you the ignorance and superstition, the
timidity and credulity, the gullibility and prudery, the hating and
hunting instinct of the voting mob, and cast you down from power if
you utter a word to alarm or displease the adventurers who have the
Press in their pockets.  Between you and that tyranny stands the
throne.  I have no elections to fear; and if any newspaper magnate
dares offend me, that magnate's fashionable wife and marriageable
daughters will soon make him understand that the King's displeasure
is still a sentence of social death within range of St James's
Palace.  Think of the things you dare not do! the persons you dare
not offend!  Well, a king with a little courage may tackle them for
you.  Responsibilities which would break your backs may still be
borne on a king's shoulders.  But he must be a king, not a puppet.
You would be responsible for a puppet: remember that.  But whilst
you continue to support me as a separate and independent estate of
the realm, I am your scapegoat: you get the credit of all our
popular legislation whilst you put the odium of all our resistance
to ignorant popular clamor on me.  I ask you, before you play your
last card and destroy me, to consider where you will be without me.
Think once: think twice: for your danger is, not that I may defeat
you, but that your success is certain if you insist.

LYSISTRATA.  Splendid!

AMANDA.  You did speak that piece beautifully, sir.

BALBUS [grumbling]  All very well; but what about my brother-in-law
Mike?

LYSISTRATA [maddened]  Oh, confound your brother-in-law Mike!

BOANERGES.  Order! order!

LYSISTRATA [to the King]  I beg your pardon, sir; but really--at a
moment like this--[words fail her].

MAGNUS [to Balbus]  If I had not put my foot down, Mr Balbus, the
Prime Minister would have been unable to keep your brother-in-law
out of the Cabinet.

BALBUS [aggressively] And why should he not be in the Cabinet?

AMANDA.  Booze, my Balby: booze.  Raising the elbow!

BALBUS [bullying]  Who says so?

AMANDA.  I do, darling.

BALBUS [subsiding] Well, perhaps it would surprise you all to know
that Mike doesnt drink as much as I do.

AMANDA.  You carry it better, Bert.

PLINY.  Mike never knows when to stop.

CRASSUS.  The time for Mike to stop is before he begins, if you ask
me.

LYSISTRATA [impetuously]  What sort of animals are you--you men?
The King puts before us the most serious question of principle we
shall ever have to deal with; and off you start discussing whether
this drunken wretch takes honest whisky like Balbus or methylated
spirit or petrol or whatever he can lay his hands on when the fit
takes him.

BALBUS.  I agree with that.  What does it matter what Mike drinks?
What does it matter whether he drinks or not?  Mike would
strengthen the Cabinet because he represents Breakages, Limited,
the biggest industrial corporation in the country.

LYSISTRATA [letting herself go]  Just so!  Breakages, Limited! just
so!  Listen to me, sir; and judge whether I have not reason to feel
everything you have just said to the very marrow of my bones.  Here
am I, the Powermistress Royal.  I have to organize and administer
all the motor power in the country for the good of the country.  I
have to harness the winds and the tides, the oils and the coal
seams.  I have to see that every little sewing machine in the
Hebrides, every dentist's drill in Shetland, every carpet sweeper
in Margate, has its stream of driving power on tap from a switch in
the wall as punctually as the great thundering dynamos of our big
industrial plants.  I do it; but it costs twice as much as it
should.  Why?  Because every new invention is bought up and
suppressed by Breakages, Limited.  Every breakdown, every accident,
every smash and crash, is a job for them.  But for them we should
have unbreakable glass, unbreakable steel, imperishable materials
of all sorts.  But for them our goods trains could be started and
stopped without battering and tearing the vitals out of every wagon
and sending it to their repair shops once a week instead of once a
year.  Our national repair bill runs up to hundreds of millions.  I
could name you a dozen inventions within my own term of office
which would have effected enormous economies in breakages and
breakdowns; but these people can afford to pay an inventor more for
his machine or his process or whatever it may be than he could hope
to make by a legitimate use of it; and when they have bought it
they smother it.  When the inventor is poor and not good at
defending himself they make bogus trials of his machine and report
that it is no use.  I have been shot at twice by inventors driven
crazy by this sort of thing: they blamed me for it--as if I could
stand up against this monster with its millions and its newspapers
and its fingers in every pie.  It is heartbreaking.  I love my
department: I dream of nothing but its efficiency: with me it comes
before every personal tie, every happiness that common women run
after.  I would give my right hand to see these people in the
bankruptcy court with half their business abolished and the other
half done in public workshops where public losses are not private
gains.  You stand for that, sir; and I would be with you to the
last drop of my blood if I dared.  But what can I do?  If I said
one word of this in public, not a week would pass in the next two
years without an article on the inefficiency and corruption of all
Government departments, especially departments managed, like mine,
by females.  They would dig up the very machines they have buried,
and make out that it is my fault that they have never been brought
into use.  They would set their private police to watch me day and
night to get something against my private character.  One of their
directors told me to my face that by lifting up his finger he could
get my windows broken by the mob; and that Breakages, Limited,
would get the job of putting in new glass.  And it is true.  It is
infamous; it is outrageous; but if I attempt to fight them I shall
be hounded out of public life, and they will shove Mouldly Mike
into the Cabinet to run my department in their interests: that is,
to make such a failure of it that Joe will have to sell it to
Breakages, Limited, at scrap iron prices.  I--I--oh, it is beyond
bearing [she breaks down].

There is a troubled silence for a moment.  Then the voice of the
Prime Minister breaks it impressively as he addresses the King.

PROTEUS.  You hear that, sir.  Your one supporter in the Cabinet
admits that the industrial situation is too strong for her.  I do
not pretend to be able to control the women in my Cabinet; but not
one of them dare support you.

AMANDA [springing up]  Whats that?  Not dare!  What do you bet that
I dont go down to Mouldy Mike's constituency and say everything
that Lizzie has said and a lot more too, if I choose?  I tell you,
Breakages, Limited, never interferes in my department.  I'd like to
catch them at it.

MAGNUS.  I am afraid that that is only because the efficiency of
the Post Office is as important to them as to the general public.

AMANDA.  Stuff!  They could get rid of me without shutting up the
Post Office.  Theyre afraid of me--of me, Amanda Postlethwaite.

MAGNUS.  You coax them, I am afraid.

AMANDA.  Coax!  What do you think they care for coaxing?  They can
have all the coaxing they want from younger and prettier women than
I by paying for it.  No use trying to coax that lot.  Intimidate
them: thats the way to handle them.

LYSISTRATA [her voice still broken]  I wish I could intimidate
them.

MAGNUS.  But what can Amanda do that you cannot do?

AMANDA.  I'll tell you.  She cant mimic people.  And she cant sing
funny songs.  I can do both; and that--with all respect, sir--makes
me the real queen of England.

BOANERGES.  Oh, come!  Disgraceful!  Shame!

AMANDA.  If you provoke me, Bill, I'll drive you out of your
constituency inside of two months.

BOANERGES.  Ho!  You will, will you?  How?

AMANDA.  Just as I drove the Chairman of Breakages out of my own
constituency when he came down there and tried to take my seat from
me.

MAGNUS.  I never quite understood why he turned tail.  How did you
do it?

AMANDA.  I'll tell you.  He opened his campaign with a great
Saturday night speech against me in the Home Lovers' Hall to five
thousand people.  In that same hall a week later, I faced a meeting
of the very same people.  I didnt argue.  I mimicked him.  I took
all the high-falutin passages in his speech, and repeated them in
his best manner until I had the whole five thousand laughing at
him.  Then I asked them would they like me to sing; and their Yes
nearly lifted the roof off.  I had two songs.  They both had
choruses.  One went "She lets me go out on Saturday night, on
Saturday night, on Saturday night"--like that.  The other went
"Boo!  Hoo!  I want Amanda's Teddy bear to play with."  They sang
it under the windows of his hotel next time he came.  He cancelled
his meeting and left.  And thats how England is governed by yours
truly, sir.  Lucky for England that Queen Amanda is a good sort, in
spite of some surface faults.  [She resumes her seat with
triumphant self-satisfaction].

BALBUS.  Lucky for England theres only one of you: thats what _I_
say.

AMANDA [wafts him a kiss]!

MAGNUS.  Should not the Queen support the King, your Majesty?

AMANDA.  Sorry, sir; but there isnt room for two monarchs in my
realm.  I am against you on principle because the talent for
mimicry isnt hereditary.

PROTEUS.  Now, anybody else?  We have heard why the two ladies
cannot support the King.  Is there anybody who can?

Silence.

MAGNUS.  I see that my appeal has been in vain.  I do not reproach
you, ladies and gentlemen, because I perceive that your situation
is a difficult one.  The question is how to change it.

NICOBAR.  Sign the ultimatum: that is how.

MAGNUS.  I am not quite convinced of that.  The Home Secretary's
brother-in-law was quite willing to sign the pledge of total
abstinence if I would admit him to the Cabinet.  His offer was not
accepted, because, though none of us doubted that he would sign the
pledge, we were not equally certain that the infirmities of his
nature would allow him to keep it.  My nature is also subject to
infirmity.  Are you satisfied, Mr Proteus, that if I sign this
ultimatum, I shall not inevitably relapse into the conduct that my
nature dictates?

PROTEUS [his patience strained]  What is the use of going on like
this?  You are a man on the scaffold, spinning out his prayers to
put off the inevitable execution as long as possible.  Nothing that
you can say will make any difference.  You know you must sign.  Why
not sign and have done with it?

NICOBAR.  Now youre talking, Joe.

BALBUS.  Thats the stuff to give him.

PLINY.  Gulp it down, sir.  It wont get any sweeter by keeping:
what?

LYSISTRATA.  Oh, for God's sake, sign, sir.  This is torture to me.

MAGNUS.  I perceive, gentlemen, that I have come to the end of your
patience.  I will tax it no further: you have been very forbearing;
and I thank you for it.  I will say no more by way of discussion;
but I must have until five o'clock this evening to consider my
decision.  At that hour, if I can find no other way out, I will
sign without another word.  Meanwhile, ladies and gentlemen, au
revoir!

He rises.  All rise.  He marches out.

PROTEUS.  His last wriggle.  Never mind: we have him safe enough.
What about lunch?  I am starving.  Will you lunch with me, Lizzie.

LYSISTRATA.  Dont speak to me.  [She rushes out distractedly].

AMANDA.  Poor darling Lizzie!  She's a regular old true blue
Diehard.  If only I had her brains and education! or if she had my
variety talent! what a queen she'd make!  Like old Queen Elizabeth,
eh?  Dont grieve, Joe: I'll lunch with you since youre so pressing.

CRASSUS.  Come and lunch with me--all of you.

AMANDA.  What opulence!  Can you afford it?

CRASSUS.  Breakages will pay.  They have a standing account at the
Ritz.  Over five thousand a year, it comes to.

PROTEUS.  Right.  Let us spoil the Egyptians.

BOANERGES [with Roman dignity]  My lunch will cost me one and
sixpence; and I shall pay for it myself [he stalks out].

AMANDA [calling after him]  Dont make a beast of yourself, Bill.
Ta ta!

PROTEUS.  Come on, come on: it's ever so late.

They all hurry out.  Sempronius and Pamphilius, entering, have to
stand aside to let them pass before returning to their desks.
Proteus, with Amanda on his arm, stops in the doorway on seeing
them.

PROTEUS.  Have you two been listening, may I ask?

PAMPHILIUS.  Well, it would be rather inconvenient wouldnt it, if
we had to be told everything that passed?

SEMPRONIUS.  Once for all, Mr Proteus, the King's private
secretaries must hear everything, see everything, and know
everything.

PROTEUS.  Singularly enough, Mr Sempronius, I havnt the slightest
objection [he goes].

AMANDA [going with him]  Goodbye, Semmy.  So long Pam.

SEMPRONIUS.  } [seating themselves at their writing 
PAMPHILIUS.  } tables and yawning prodigiously]
             } Ou-ou-ou-ou-ou-fff!!!




AN INTERLUDE


Orinthia's boudoir at half-past fifteen on the same day.  She is at
her writing-table scribbling notes.  She is romantically beautiful,
and beautifully dressed.  As the table is against the wall near a
corner, with the other wall on her left, her back alone is visible
from the middle of the room.  The door is near the corner
diagonally opposite.  There is a large settee in the middle of the
room.

The King enters and waits on the threshold.


ORINTHIA [crossly, without looking round]  Who is that?

MAGNUS.  His Majesty the King.

ORINTHIA.  I dont want to see him.

MAGNUS.  How soon will you be disengaged?

ORINTHIA.  I didnt say I was engaged.  Tell the king I dont want to
see him.

MAGNUS.  He awaits your pleasure [he comes in and seats himself on
the settee].

ORINTHIA.  Go away.  [A pause].  I wont speak to you.  [Another
pause].  If my private rooms are to be broken into at any moment
because they are in the palace, and the king is not a gentleman, I
must take a house outside.  I am writing to the agents about one
now.

MAGNUS.  What is our quarrel today, belovéd?

ORINTHIA.  Ask your conscience.

MAGNUS.  I have none when you are concerned.  You must tell me.

She takes a book from the table and rises; then sweeps superbly
forward to the settee and flings the book into his hands.

ORINTHIA.  There!

MAGNUS.  What is this?

ORINTHIA.  Page 16.  Look at it.

MAGNUS [looking at the title on the back of the book]  "Songs of
our Great Great Grandparents."  What page did you say?

ORINTHIA [between her teeth]  Six-teen.

MAGNUS [opening the book and finding the page, his eye lighting up
with recognition as he looks at it]  Ah!  The Pilgrim of Love!

ORINTHIA.  Read the first three words--if you dare.

MAGNUS [smiling as he caresses the phrase]  "Orinthia, my belovéd".

ORINTHIA.  The name you pretended to invent specially for me, the
only women in the world for you.  Picked up out of the rubbish
basket in a secondhand bookseller's!  And I thought you were a
poet!

MAGNUS.  Well, one poet may consecrate a name for another.
Orinthia is a name full of magic for me.  It could not be that if I
had invented it myself.  I heard it at a concert of ancient music
when I was a child; and I have treasured it ever since.

ORINTHIA.  You always have a pretty excuse.  You are the King of
liars and humbugs.  You cannot understand how a falsehood like that
wounds me.

MAGNUS [remorsefully, stretching out his arms towards her]
Belovéd: I am sorry.

ORINTHIA.  Put your hands in your pockets: they shall not touch me
ever again.

MAGNUS [obeying]  Dont pretend to be hurt unless you really are,
dearest.  It wrings my heart.

ORINTHIA.  Since when have you set up a heart?  Did you buy that,
too, secondhand?

MAGNUS.  I have something in me that winces when you are hurt--or
pretend to be.

ORINTHIA [contemptuously]  Yes: I have only to squeal, and you will
take me up and pet me as you would a puppy run over by a car.
[Sitting down beside him, but beyond arm's length]  That is what
you give me when my heart demands love.  I had rather you kicked
me.

MAGNUS.  I should like to kick you sometimes, when you are
specially aggravating.  But I shouldnt do it well.  I should be
afraid of hurting you all the time.

ORINTHIA.  I believe you would sign my death warrant without
turning a hair.

MAGNUS.  That is true, in a way.  It is wonderful how subtle your
mind is, as far as it goes.

ORINTHIA.  It does not go as far as yours, I suppose.

MAGNUS.  I dont know.  Our minds go together half way.  Whether it
is that your mind stops there or else that the road forks, and you
take the high road and I take the low road, I cannot say; but
somehow after a certain point we lose one another.

ORINTHIA.  And then you go back to your Amandas and Lysistratas:
creatures whose idea of romance is a minister in love with a
department, and whose bedside books are blue books.

MAGNUS.  They are not always thinking of some man or other.  That
is a rather desirable extension of their interests, in my opinion.
If Lysistrata had a lover I should not be interested in him in the
least; and she would bore me to distraction if she could talk of
nothing else.  But I am very much interested in her department.
Her devotion to it gives us a topic of endless interest.

ORINTHIA.  Well, go to her: I am not detaining you.  But dont tell
her that I have nothing to talk about but men; for that is a lie;
and you know it.

MAGNUS.  It is, as you say, a lie; and I know it.  But I did not
say it.

ORINTHIA.  You implied it.  You meant it.  When those ridiculous
political women are with us you talk to them all the time, and
never say a word to me.

MAGNUS.  Nor you to me.  We cannot talk to one another in public:
we have nothing to say that could be said before other people.  Yet
we find enough to say to one another when we are alone together.
Would you change that if you could?

ORINTHIA.  You are as slippery as an eel; but you shall not slip
through my fingers.  Why do you surround yourself with political
bores and frumps and dowdy busybodies who cant talk: they can only
debate about their dull departments and their fads and their
election chances.  [Rising impatiently]  Who could talk to such
people?  If it were not for the nonentities of wives and husbands
they drag about with them, there would be nobody to talk to at all.
And even they can talk of nothing but the servants and the baby.
[Suddenly returning to her seat]  Listen to me, Magnus.  Why can
you not be a real king?

MAGNUS.  In what way, belovédest?

ORINTHIA.  Send all these stupid people packing.  Make them do
their drudgeries in their departments without bothering you about
it, as you make your servants sweep the floors and dust the
furniture.  Live a really noble and beautiful life--a kingly life--
with me.  What you need to make you a real king is a real queen.

MAGNUS.  But I have got one.

ORINTHIA.  Oh, you are blind.  You are worse than blind: you have
low tastes.  Heaven is offering you a rose; and you cling to a
cabbage.

MAGNUS [laughing]  That is a very apt metaphor, belovéd.  But what
wise man, if you force him to choose between doing without roses
and doing without cabbages, would not secure the cabbages?
Besides, all these old married cabbages were once roses; and,
though young things like you dont remember that, their husbands do.
They dont notice the change.  Besides, you should know better than
anyone else that when a man gets tired of his wife and leaves her
it is never because she has lost her good looks.  The new love is
often older and uglier than the old.

ORINTHIA.  Why should I know it better than anyone else?

MAGNUS.  Why, because you have been married twice; and both your
husbands have run away from you to much plainer and stupider women.
When I begged your present husband to come back to court for a
while for the sake of appearances he said no man could call his
soul his own in the same house with you.  And yet that man was
utterly infatuated with your beauty when he married you.  Your
first husband actually forced a good wife to divorce him so that he
might marry you; but before two years were out he went back to her
and died in her arms, poor chap.

ORINTHIA.  Shall I tell you why these men could not live with me?
It was because I am a thoroughbred, and they were only hacks.  They
had nothing against me: I was perfectly faithful to them.  I kept
their houses beautifully: I fed them better than they had ever been
fed in their lives.  But because I was higher than they were, and
greater, they could not stand the strain of trying to live up to
me.  So I let them go their way, poor wretches, back to their
cabbages.  Look at the old creature Ignatius is living with now!
She gives you his real measure.

MAGNUS.  An excellent woman.  Ignatius is quite happy with her.  I
never saw a man so changed.

ORINTHIA.  Just what he is fit for.  Commonplace.  Bourgeoise.  She
trots through the streets shopping.  [Rising]  I tread the plains
of Heaven.  Common women cannot come where I am; and common men
find themselves out and slink away.

MAGNUS.  It must be magnificent to have the consciousness of a
goddess without ever doing a thing to justify it.

ORINTHIA.  Give me a goddess's work to do; and I will do it.  I
will even stoop to a queen's work if you will share the throne with
me.  But do not pretend that people become great by doing great
things.  They do great things because they are great, if the great
things come along.  But they are great just the same when the great
things do not come along.  If I never did anything but sit in this
room and powder my face and tell you what a clever fool you are, I
should still be heavens high above the millions of common women who
do their domestic duty, and sacrifice themselves, and run Trade
departments and all the rest of the vulgarities.  Has all the
tedious public work you have done made you any the better?  I have
seen you before and after your boasted strokes of policy; and you
were the same man, and would have been the same man to me and to
yourself if you had never done them.  Thank God my self-
consciousness is something nobler than vulgar conceit in having
done something.  It is what I am, not what I do, that you must
worship in me.  If you want deeds, go to your men and women of
action, as you call them, who are all in a conspiracy to pretend
that the mechanical things they do, the foolhardy way they risk
their worthless lives, or their getting up in the morning at four
and working sixteen hours a day for thirty years, like coral
insects, make them great.  What are they for? these dull slaves?
To keep the streets swept for me.  To enable me to reign over them
in beauty like the stars without having anything to do with their
slavery except to console it, to dazzle it, to enable them to
forget it in adoring dreams of me.  Am I not worth it?  [She sits,
fascinating him].  Look into my eyes and tell the truth.  Am I
worth it or not?

MAGNUS.  To me, who love beauty, yes.  But you should hear the
speeches Balbus makes about your pension.

ORINTHIA.  And my debts: do not forget my debts, my mortgages, the
bill of sale on my furniture, the thousands I have had from the
moneylenders to save me from being sold up because I will not
borrow from my friends.  Lecture me again about them; but do not
dare pretend that the people grudge me my pension.  They glory in
it, and in my extravagance, as you call it.

MAGNUS [more gravely]  By the way, Orinthia, when your dressmakers
took up that last bill for you, they were speculating, were they
not, in your chances of becoming my queen some day?

ORINTHIA.  Well, what if they were?

MAGNUS.  They would hardly have ventured on that without a hint
from somebody.  Was it from you?

ORINTHIA.  You think me capable of that!  You have a very low side
to you, Magnus.

MAGNUS.  No doubt: like other mortal fabrics I have a wrong side
and a right side.  But it is no use your giving yourself airs,
belovédest.  You are capable of anything.  Do you deny that there
was some suggestion of the kind?

ORINTHIA.  How dare you challenge me to deny it?  I never deny.  Of
course there was a suggestion of the kind.

MAGNUS.  I thought so.

ORINTHIA.  Oh, stupid! stupid!  Go keep a grocer's shop: that is
what you are fit for.  Do you suppose that the suggestion came from
me?  Why, you great oaf, it is in the air: when my dressmaker
hinted at it I told her that if she ever dared to repeat such a
thing she should never get another order from me.  But can I help
people seeing what is as plain as the sun in the heavens?  [Rising
again]  Everyone knows that I am the real queen.  Everyone treats
me as the real queen.  They cheer me in the streets.  When I open
one of the art exhibitions or launch a new ship they crowd the
place out.  I am one of Nature's queens; and they know it.  If you
do not, you are not one of Nature's kings.

MAGNUS.  Sublime!  Nothing but genuine inspiration could give a
woman such cheek.

ORINTHIA.  Yes: inspiration, not cheek.  [Sitting as before]
Magnus: when are you going to face my destiny, and your own?

MAGNUS.  But my wife? the queen?  What is to become of my poor dear
Jemima?

ORINTHIA.  Oh, drown her: shoot her: tell your chauffeur to drive
her into the Serpentine and leave her there.  The woman makes you
ridiculous.

MAGNUS.  I dont think I should like that.  And the public would
think it illnatured.

ORINTHIA.  Oh, you know what I mean.  Divorce her.  Make her
divorce you.  It is quite easy.  That was how Ronny married me.
Everybody does it when they need a change.

MAGNUS.  But I cant imagine what I should do without Jemima.

ORINTHIA.  Nobody else can imagine what you do with her.  But you
need not do without her.  You can see as much of her as you like
when we are married.  I shall not be jealous and make scenes.

MAGNUS.  That is very magnanimous of you.  But I am afraid it does
not settle the difficulty.  Jemima would not think it right to keep
up her present intimacy with me if I were married to you.

ORINTHIA.  What a woman!  Would she be in any worse position then
than I am in now?

MAGNUS.  No.

ORINTHIA.  You mean, then, that you do not mind placing me in a
position that you do not think good enough for her?

MAGNUS.  Orinthia: I did not place you in your present position.
You placed yourself in it.  I could not resist you.  You gathered
me like a daisy.

ORINTHIA.  Did you want to resist me?

MAGNUS.  Oh no.  I never resist temptation, because I have found
that things that are bad for me do not tempt me.

ORINTHIA.  Well, then, what are we talking about?

MAGNUS.  I forget.  I think I was explaining the impossibility of
my wife changing places with you.

ORINTHIA.  Why impossible, pray?

MAGNUS.  I cannot make you understand: you see you have never been
really married, though you have led two captives to the altar, and
borne children to one of them.  Being your husband is only a job
for which one man will do as well as another, and which the last
man holds subject to six months notice in the divorce court.  Being
my wife is something quite different.  The smallest derogation to
Jemima's dignity would hit me like the lash of a whip across the
face.  About yours, somehow, I do not care a rap.

ORINTHIA.  Nothing can derogate from my dignity: it is divine.
Hers is only a convention: that is why you tremble when it is
challenged.

MAGNUS.  Not a bit.  It is because she is a part of my real
workaday self.  You belong to fairyland.

ORINTHIA.  Suppose she dies!  Will you die too?

MAGNUS.  Not immediately.  I shall have to carry on as best I can
without her, though the prospect terrifies me.

ORINTHIA.  Might not carrying on without her include marrying me?

MAGNUS.  My dear Orinthia, I had rather marry the devil.  Being a
wife is not your job.

ORINTHIA.  You think so because you have no imagination.  And you
dont know me because I have never let you really possess me.  I
should make you more happy than any man has ever yet been on earth.

MAGNUS.  I defy you to make me more happy than our strangely
innocent relations have already made me.

ORINTHIA [rising restlessly]  You talk like a child or a saint.
[Turning on him]  I can give you a new life: one of which you have
no conception.  I can give you beautiful, wonderful children: have
you ever seen a lovelier boy than my Basil?

MAGNUS.  Your children are beautiful; but they are fairy children;
and I have several very real ones already.  A divorce would not
sweep them out of the way of the fairies.

ORINTHIA.  In short, when your golden moment comes--when the gates
of heaven open before you, you are afraid to come out of your
pigsty.

MAGNUS.  If I am a pig, a pigsty is the proper place for me.

ORINTHIA.  I cannot understand it.  All men are fools and moral
cowards when you come to know them.  But you are less of a fool and
less of a moral coward than any man I have ever known.  You have
almost the makings of a first rate woman in you.  When I leave the
earth and soar up to the regions which are my real eternal home,
you can follow me: I can speak to you as I can speak to no one
else; and you can say things to me that would just make your stupid
wife cry.  There is more of you in me than of any other man within
my reach.  There is more of me in you than of any other woman
within your reach.  We are meant for oneanother: it is written
across the sky that you and I are queen and king.  How can you
hesitate?  What attraction is there for you in your common healthy
jolly lumps of children and your common housekeeper wife and the
rabble of dowdies and upstarts and intriguers and clowns that think
they are governing the country when they are only squabbling with
you?  Look again at me, man: again and again.  Am I not worth a
million such?  Is not life with me as high above them as the sun is
above the gutter?

MAGNUS.  Yes yes yes yes, of course.  You are lovely: you are
divine [she cannot restrain a gesture of triumph].  And you are
enormously amusing.

This anti-climax is too much for Orinthia's exaltation; but she is
too clever not to appreciate it.  With another gesture, this time
of deflation, she sits down at his left hand with an air of
suffering patience, and listens in silence to the harangue which
follows.

MAGNUS.  Some day perhaps Nature will graft the roses on the
cabbages and make every woman as enchanting as you; and then what a
glorious lark life will be!  But at present, what I come here for
is to enjoy talking to you like this when I need an hour's respite
from royalty: when my stupid wife has been worrying me, or my jolly
lumps of children bothering me, or my turbulent Cabinet obstructing
me: when, as the doctors say, what I need is a change.  You see, my
dear, there is no wife on earth so precious, no children so jolly,
no Cabinet so tactful that it is impossible ever to get tired of
them.  Jemima has her limitations, as you have observed.  And I
have mine.  Now if our limitations exactly corresponded I should
never want to talk to anyone else; and neither would she.  But as
that never happens, we are like all other married couples: that is,
there are subjects which can never be discussed between us because
they are sore subjects.  There are people we avoid mentioning to
oneanother because one of us likes them and the other doesnt.  Not
only individuals, but whole sorts of people.  For instance, your
sort.  My wife doesnt like your sort, doesnt understand it,
mistrusts and dreads it.  Not without reason; for women like you
are dangerous to wives.  But I dont dislike your sort: I understand
it, being a little in that line myself.  At all events I am not
afraid of it; though the least allusion to it brings a cloud over
my wife's face.  So when I want to talk freely about it I come and
talk to you.  And I take it she talks to friends of hers about
people of whom she never talks to me.  She has men friends from
whom she can get some things that she cannot get from me.  If she
didnt do so she would be limited by my limitations, which would end
in her hating me.  So I always do my best to make her men friends
feel at home with us.

ORINTHIA.  A model husband in a model household!  And when the
model household becomes a bore, I am the diversion.

MAGNUS.  Well, what more can you ask?  Do not let us fall into the
common mistake of expecting to become one flesh and one spirit.
Every star has its own orbit; and between it and its nearest
neighbor there is not only a powerful attraction but an infinite
distance.  When the attraction becomes stronger than the distance
the two do not embrace: they crash together in ruin.  We two also
have our orbits, and must keep an infinite distance between us to
avoid a disastrous collision.  Keeping our distance is the whole
secret of good manners; and without good manners human society is
intolerable and impossible.

ORINTHIA.  Would any other woman stand your sermons, and even like
them?

MAGNUS.  Orinthia: we are only two children at play; and you must
be content to be my queen in fairyland.  And [rising] I must go
back to my work.

ORINTHIA.  What work have you that is more important than being
with me?

MAGNUS.  None.

ORINTHIA.  Then sit down.

MAGNUS.  Unfortunately, this silly business of government must be
carried on.  And there is a crisis this evening, as usual.

ORINTHIA.  But the crisis is not until five: I heard all about it
from Sempronius.  Why do you encourage that greedy schemer Proteus?
He humbugs you.  He humbugs everybody.  He even humbugs himself;
and of course he humbugs that Cabinet which is a disgrace to you:
it is like an overcrowded third class carriage.  Why do you allow
such riffraff to waste your time?  After all, what are you paid
for?  To be a king: that is, to wipe your boots on common people.

MAGNUS.  Yes: but this king business, as the Americans call it, has
got itself so mixed up with democracy that half the country expects
me to wipe my perfectly polished boots on the Cabinet, and the
other half expects me to let the Cabinet wipe its muddy boots on
me.  The Crisis at five o'clock is to decide which of us is to be
the doormat.

ORINTHIA.  And you will condescend to fight with Proteus for power?

MAGNUS.  Oh no: I never fight.  But I sometimes win.

ORINTHIA.  If you let yourself be beaten by that trickster and
poseur, never dare to approach me again.

MAGNUS.  Proteus is a clever fellow: even on occasion a fine
fellow.  It would give me no satisfaction to beat him: I hate
beating people.  But there would be some innocent fun in outwitting
him.

ORINTHIA.  Magnus: you are a mollycoddle.  If you were a real man
you would just delight in beating him to a jelly.

MAGNUS.  A real man would never do as a king.  I am only an idol,
my love; and all I can do is to draw the line at being a cruel
idol.  [He looks at his watch]  Now I must really be off.  Au
revoir.

ORINTHIA [looking at her wrist watch]  But it is only twenty-five
minutes past four.  You have heaps of time before five.

MAGNUS.  Yes; but tea is at half-past four.

ORINTHIA [catching him by the arm with a snakelike dart]  Never
mind your tea.  I will give you your tea.

MAGNUS.  Impossible, belovéd.  Jemima does not like to be kept
waiting.

ORINTHIA.  Oh, bother Jemima!  You shall not leave me to go to
Jemima [she pulls him back so vigorously that he falls into the
seat beside her].

MAGNUS.  My dear, I must.

ORINTHIA.  No, not today.  Listen, Magnus.  I have something very
particular to say to you.

MAGNUS.  You have not.  You are only trying to make me late to
annoy my wife.  [He tries to rise, but is pulled back].  Let me go,
please.

ORINTHIA [holding on]  Why are you so afraid of your wife?  You are
the laughing stock of London, you poor henpecked darling.

MAGNUS.  Henpecked!  What do you call this?  At least my wife does
not restrain me by bodily violence.

ORINTHIA.  I will not be deserted for your old Dutch.

MAGNUS.  Listen, Orinthia.  Dont be absurd.  You know I must go.
Do be good.

ORINTHIA.  Only ten minutes more.

MAGNUS.  It is half-past already.

He tries to rise; but she holds him back.

MAGNUS [pausing for breath]  You are doing this out of sheer
devilment.  You are so abominably strong that I cannot break loose
without hurting you.  Must I call the guard?

ORINTHIA.  Do, do.  It will be in all the papers tomorrow.

MAGNUS.  Fiend.  [Summoning all his dignity]  Orinthia: I command
you.

ORINTHIA [laughs wildly]!!!

MAGNUS [furious]  Very well, then, you she-devil: you shall let go.

He tackles her in earnest.  She flings her arms round him and holds
on with mischievous enjoyment.  There is a tapping at the door;
they do not hear it.  As he is breaking loose she suddenly shifts
her grip to his waist and drags him on to the floor, where they
roll over one another.  Sempronius enters.  He stares at the
scandalous scene for a moment; then hastily slips out; shuts the
door; clears his throat and blows his nose noisily; and knocks
loudly and repeatedly.  The two combatants cease hostilities and
scramble hastily to their feet.

MAGNUS.  Come in.

SEMPRONIUS [entering]  Her Majesty sent me to remind you that tea
is waiting, sir.

MAGNUS.  Thank you.  [He goes quickly out].

ORINTHIA [panting but greatly pleased with herself]  The King
forgets everything when he is here.  So do I, I am afraid.  I am so
sorry.

SEMPRONIUS [stiffly]  No explanations are needed.  I saw what
happened.  [He goes out].

ORINTHIA.  The beast!  He must have looked through the keyhole.
[She throws her hand up with a gesture of laughing defiance, and
dances back to her seat at the writing-table].



ACT II


Later in the afternoon.  The Terrace of the Palace.  A low
balustrade separates it from the lawn.  Terrace chairs in
abundance, ranged along the balustrade.  Some dining room chairs
also, not ranged, but standing about as if they had just been
occupied.  The terrace is accessible from the lawn by a central
flight of steps.

The King and Queen are sitting apart near the corners of the steps,
the Queen to the King's right.  He is reading the evening paper:
she is knitting.  She has a little work table on her right, with a
small gong on it.


THE QUEEN.  Why did you tell them to leave the chairs when they
took away the tea?

MAGNUS.  I shall receive the Cabinet here.

THE QUEEN.  Here!  Why?

MAGNUS.  Well, I think the open air and the evening light will have
a quieting effect on them.  They cannot make speeches at me so
easily as in a room.

THE QUEEN.  Are you sure?  When Robert asked Boanerges where he
learnt to speak so beautifully, he said "In Hyde Park."

MAGNUS.  Yes; but with a crowd to stimulate him.

THE QUEEN.  Robert says you have tamed Boanerges.

MAGNUS.  No: I have not tamed him.  I have taught him how to
behave.  I have to valet all the beginners; but that does not tame
them: it teaches them how to use their strength instead of wasting
it in making fools of themselves.  So much the worse for me when I
have to fight them.

THE QUEEN.  You get no thanks for it.  They think you are only
humbugging them.

MAGNUS.  Well, so I am, in the elementary lessons.  But when it
comes to real business humbug is no use: they pick it up themselves
too quickly.

Pamphilius enters along the terrace, from the Queen's side.

MAGNUS [looking at his watch]  Good Heavens!  They havnt come, have
they?  It's not five yet.

PAMPHILIUS.  No, sir.  It's the American ambassador.

THE QUEEN [resenting this a little]  Has he an audience?

PAMPHILIUS.  No, maam.  He is rather excited about something, I
think.  I cant get anything out of him.  He says he must see His
Majesty at once.

THE QUEEN.  Must!!  An American must see the King at once, without
an audience!  Well!

MAGNUS [rising]  Send him in, Pam.

Pamphilius goes out.

THE QUEEN.  _I_ should have told him to write for an audience, and
then kept him waiting a week for it.

MAGNUS.  What!  When we still owe America that old war debt.  And
with a mad imperialist president like Bossfield!  No you wouldnt,
my dear: you would be crawlingly civil to him, as I am going to be,
confound him!

PAMPHILIUS [re-appearing]  His Excellency the American Ambassador.
Mr Vanhattan.

He retires as Mr Vanhattan enters in an effusive condition, and,
like a man assured of an enthusiastic welcome, hurries to the
Queen, and salutes her with a handshake so prolonged that she
stares in astonishment, first at him, and then appealingly at the
King, with her hands being vigorously wrung and waved up and down
all the time.

MAGNUS.  What on earth is the matter, Mr Vanhattan?  You are
shaking Her Majesty's rings off.

VANHATTAN [desisting]  Her Majesty will excuse me when she learns
the nature of my errand here.  This, King Magnus, is a great
historic scene: one of the greatest, perhaps, that history has ever
recorded or will ever again record.

MAGNUS.  Have you had tea?

VANHATTAN.  Tea!  Who can think of tea at such a moment as this?

THE QUEEN [rather coldly]  It is hard for us to share your
enthusiasm in complete ignorance of its cause.

VANHATTAN.  That is true, maam.  I am just behaving like a crazy
man.  But you shall hear.  You shall judge, and then you shall say
whether I exaggerate the importance--the immensity--of an occasion
that cannot be exaggerated.

MAGNUS.  Goodness gracious!  Wont you sit down?

VANHATTAN [taking a chair and placing it between them]  I thank
your Majesty.  [He sits].

MAGNUS.  You have some exciting news for us, apparently.  Is it
private or official?

VANHATTAN.  Official, sir.  No mistake about it.  What I am going
to tell you is authentic from the United States of America to the
British Empire.

THE QUEEN.  Perhaps I had better go.

VANHATTAN.  No, maam: you shall not go.  Whatever may be the limits
of your privileges as the consort of your sovereign, it is your
right as an Englishwoman to learn what I have come here to
communicate.

MAGNUS.  My dear Vanhattan, what the devil is the matter?

VANHATTAN.  King Magnus: between your country and mine there is a
debt.

MAGNUS.  Does that matter, now that our capitalists have invested
so heavily in American concerns that after paying yourselves the
interest on the debt you have to send us two thousand million
dollars a year to balance the account.

VANHATTAN.  King Magnus: for the moment, forget figures.  Between
your country and mine there is not only a debt but a frontier: the
frontier that has on it not a single gun nor a single soldier, and
across which the American citizen every day shakes the hand of the
Canadian subject of your throne.

MAGNUS.  There is also the frontier of the ocean, which is somewhat
more expensively defended at our joint expense by the League of
Nations.

VANHATTAN [rising to give his words more impressiveness]  Sir: the
debt is cancelled.  The frontier no longer exists.

THE QUEEN.  How can that be?

MAGNUS.  Am I to understand, Mr Vanhattan, that by some convulsion
of Nature the continent of North America has been submerged in the
Atlantic?

VANHATTAN.  Something even more wonderful than that has happened.
One may say that the Atlantic Ocean has been submerged in the
British Empire.

MAGNUS.  I think you had better tell us as succinctly as possible
what has happened.  Pray sit down.

VANHATTAN [resuming his seat]  You are aware, sir, that the United
States of America at one time formed a part of your empire.

MAGNUS.  There is a tradition to that effect.

VANHATTAN.  No mere tradition, sir.  An undoubted historical fact.
In the eighteenth century--

MAGNUS.  That is a long time ago.

VANHATTAN.  Centuries count for but little in the lifetimes of
great nations, sir.  Let me recall the parable of the prodigal son.

MAGNUS.  Oh really, Mr Vanhattan, that was a very very long time
ago.  I take it that something important has happened since
yesterday.

VANHATTAN.  It has.  It has indeed, King Magnus.

MAGNUS.  Then what is it?  I have not time to attend to the
eighteenth century and the prodigal son at this moment.

THE QUEEN.  The King has a Cabinet meeting in ten minutes, Mr
Vanhattan.

VANHATTAN.  I should like to see the faces of your Cabinet
ministers, King Magnus, when they hear what I have to tell you.

MAGNUS.  So should I.  But I am not in a position to tell it to
them, because I dont know what it is.

VANHATTAN.  The prodigal, sir, has returned to his father's house.
Not poor, not hungry, not ragged, as of old.  Oh no.  This time he
returns bringing with him the riches of the earth to the ancestral
home.

MAGNUS [starting from his chair]  You dont mean to say--

VANHATTAN [rising also, blandly triumphant]  I do, sir.  The
Declaration of Independence is cancelled.  The treaties which
endorsed it are torn up.  We have decided to rejoin the British
Empire.  We shall of course enjoy Dominion Home Rule under the
Presidency of Mr Bossfield.  I shall revisit you here shortly, not
as the Ambassador of a foreign power, but as High Commissioner for
the greatest of your dominions, and your very loyal and devoted
subject, sir.

MAGNUS [collapsing into his chair]  The devil you will!  [He stares
haggardly into futurity, now for the first time utterly at a loss].

THE QUEEN.  What a splendid thing, Mr Vanhattan!

VANHATTAN.  I thought your Majesty would say so.  The most splendid
thing that has ever happened.  [He resumes his seat].

THE QUEEN [looking anxiously at the King]  Dont you think so,
Magnus?

MAGNUS [pulling himself together with a visible effort]  May I ask,
Mr Vanhattan, with whom did this--this--this masterstroke of
American policy originate?  Frankly, I have been accustomed to
regard your President as a statesman whose mouth was the most
efficient part of his head.  He cannot have thought of this
himself.  Who suggested it to him?

VANHATTAN.  I must accept your criticism of Mr Bossfield with all
doo reserve, but I may mention that we Americans will probably
connect the good news with the recent visit to our shores of the
President of the Irish Free State.  I cannot pronounce his name in
its official Gaelic form; and there is only one typist in our
bureau who can spell it; but he is known to his friends as Mick
O'Rafferty.

MAGNUS.  The rascal!  Jemima: we shall have to live in Dublin.
This is the end of England.

VANHATTAN.  In a sense that may be so.  But England will not
perish.  She will merge--merge, sir--into a bigger and brighter
concern.  Perhaps I should have mentioned that one of our
conditions will be that you shall be Emperor.  King may be good
enough for this little island; but if we come in we shall require
something grander.

MAGNUS.  This little island!  "This little gem set in a silver
sea!"  Has it occurred to you, Mr Vanhattan, that rather than be
reduced to a mere appendage of a big American concern, we might
raise the old warcry of Sinn Fein, and fight for our independence
to the last drop of our blood?

VANHATTAN.  I should be right sorry to contemplate such a reversion
to a barbarous past.  Fortunately, it's impossible--immpawsibl.
The old warcry would not appeal to the cosmopolitan crews of the
fleet of the League of Nations in the Atlantic.  That fleet would
blockade you, sir.  And I fear we should be obliged to boycott you.
The two thousand million dollars a year would stop.

MAGNUS.  But the continental Powers!  Do you suppose they would
consent for a moment to such a change in the balance of power?

VANHATTAN.  Why not?  The change would be only nominal.

MAGNUS.  Nominal!  You call an amalgamation of the British
Commonwealth with the United States a nominal change!  What will
France and Germany call it?

VANHATTAN [shaking his head indulgently]  France and Germany?
These queer old geographical expressions which you use here from
old family habit do not trouble us.  I suppose you mean by Germany
the chain of more or less Soviet Republics between the Ural
Mountains and the North Sea.  Well, the clever people at Moscow and
Berlin and Geneva are trying to federate them; and it is fully
understood between us that if we dont object to their move they
will not object to ours.  France, by which I take it you mean the
Government at New Timgad, is too busy in Africa to fuss about what
is happening at the ends of your little Channel Tube.  So long as
Paris is full of Americans, and Americans are full of money, all's
well in the west from the French point of view.  One of the great
attractions of Paris for Americans is the excursion to Old England.
The French want us to feel at home here.  And so we do.  Why
shouldnt we?  After all, we are at home here.

MAGNUS.  In what sense, may I ask?

VANHATTAN.  Well, we find here everything we are accustomed to: our
industrial products, our books, our plays, our sports, our
Christian Science churches, our osteopaths, our movies and talkies.
Put it in a small parcel and say our goods and our ideas.  A
political union with us will be just the official recognition of an
already accomplished fact.  A union of hearts, you might call it.

THE QUEEN.  You forget, Mr Vanhattan.  We have a great national
tradition.

VANHATTAN.  The United States, maam, have absorbed all the great
national traditions, and blended them with their own glorious
tradition of Freedom into something that is unique and universal.

THE QUEEN.  We have a civilized culture which is peculiar to
ourselves.  It may not be better than yours; but it is different.

VANHATTAN.  Well, is it?  We found that culture enshrined in
British material works of art: in the stately country homes of your
nobility, in the cathedrals our common forefathers built as the
country houses of God.  What did you do with them?  You sold them
to us.  I was brought up in the shade of Ely cathedral, the removal
of which from the county of Cambridge to New Jersey was my dear old
father's first big professional job.  The building which stands on
its former site is a very fine one: in my opinion the best example
of reinforced concrete of its period; but it was designed by an
American architect, and built by the Synthetic Building Materials
Trust, an international affair.  Believe me, the English people,
the real English people who take things as they come instead of
reading books about them, will be more at home with us than they
are with the old English notions which our tourists try to keep
alive.  When you find some country gentleman keeping up the old
English customs at Christmas and so forth, who is he?  An American
who has bought the place.  Your people get up the show for him
because he pays for it, not because it is natural to them.

THE QUEEN [with a sigh]  Our own best families go so much to
Ireland nowadays.  People should not be allowed to go from England
to Ireland.  They never come back.

VANHATTAN.  Well, can you blame them, maam?  Look at the climate!

THE QUEEN.  No: it is not the climate.  It is the Horse Show.

The King rises very thoughtfully; and Vanhattan follows his
example.

MAGNUS.  I must think over this.  I have known for years past that
it was on the cards.  When I was young, and under the influence of
our family tradition, which of course never recognized the
rebellion of the American colonies as valid, I actually dreamt of a
reunited English speaking empire at the head of civilization.

VANHATTAN.  Fine!  Great!  And now come true.

MAGNUS.  Not yet.  Now that I am older and wiser I find the reality
less attractive than the dream.

VANHATTAN.  And is that all I am to report to the President, sir?
He will be disappointed.  I am a little taken aback, myself.

MAGNUS.  For the present, that is all.  This may be a great idea--

VANHATTAN.  Surely, surely.

MAGNUS.  It may also be a trap in which England will perish.

VANHATTAN [encouragingly]  Oh, I shouldnt look at it that way.
Besides, nothing--not even dear old England--can last for ever.
Progress, you know, sir, progress, progress!

MAGNUS.  Just so, just so.  We may survive only as another star on
your flag.  Still, we cling to the little scrap of individuality
you have left us.  If we must merge, as you call it--or did you say
submerge?--some of us will swim to the last.  [To the Queen]  My
dear.

The Queen strikes her gong.

Pamphilius returns.

MAGNUS.  You shall hear from me after the Cabinet meets.  Not
tonight: you must not sit up waiting for a message.  Early
tomorrow, I hope.  Thank you for bringing me the news before the
papers got it: that seldom happens now.  Pamphilius: you will
reconduct his Excellency.  Good evening.  [He shakes hands].

VANHATTAN.  I thank your Majesty.  [To the Queen]  Good evening,
maam.  I look forward to presenting myself in court dress soon.

THE QUEEN.  You will look very nice in it, Mr Vanhattan.  Good
evening.

The Ambassador goes out with Pamphilius.

MAGNUS [striding grimly to and fro]  The scoundrels!  That
blackguard O'Rafferty!  That booby bullroarer Bossfield!
Breakages, Limited, have taken it into their heads to mend the
British Commonwealth.

THE QUEEN [quietly]  I think it is a very good thing.  You will
make a very good emperor.  We shall civilize these Americans.

MAGNUS.  How can we when we have not yet civilized ourselves?  They
have come to regard us as a mere tribe of redskins.  England will
be just a reservation.

THE QUEEN.  Nonsense, dear!  They know that we are their natural
superiors.  You can see it by the way their women behave at court.
They really love and reverence royalty; while our English peeresses
are hardly civil--when they condescend to come at all.

MAGNUS.  Well, my dear, I do many things to please you that I
should never do to please myself; and I suppose I shall end as
American Emperor just to keep you amused.

THE QUEEN.  I never desire anything that is not good for you,
Magnus.  You do not always know what is good for you.

MAGNUS.  Well, well, well, well!  Have it your own way, dearest.
Where are these infernal ministers?  Theyre late.

THE QUEEN [looking out into the garden]  Coming across the lawn
with Sempronius.

The Cabinet arrives.  The men take off their hats as they come up
the steps.  Boanerges has taken advantage of the interval to
procure a brilliant uniform and change into it.  Proteus, with
Sempronius, heads the procession, followed immediately by the two
lady ministers.  The Queen rises as Proteus turns to her.
Sempronius moves the little table quickly back to the balustrade
out of the way, and puts the Queen's chair in the centre for the
King.

THE QUEEN [shaking hands]  How do you do, Mr Proteus?

PROTEUS.  May I present the President of the Board of Trade, Mr
Boanerges?

THE QUEEN.  I remember seeing you, Mr Boanerges, at the opening of
the Transport Workers' Summer Palace.  You wore a most becoming
costume then.  I hope you have not given it up.

BOANERGES.  But the Princess told me I looked ridiculous in it!

THE QUEEN.  That was very naughty of the Princess.  You looked
particularly well in it.  However, you look well in anything.  And
now I leave you all to your labors.

She goes out along the terrace.  Sempronius follows with her
knitting.

MAGNUS [sitting down]  Be seated, ladies and gentlemen.

They take chairs of one sort or another where they can find them,
first leaving their hats on the balustrade.  When they are seated,
their order from the King's right to his left is Nicobar, Crassus,
Boanerges, Amanda, the King, Proteus, Lysistrata, Pliny, and
Balbus.

A pause, Proteus waiting for the King to begin.  He, deep in
thought, says nothing.  The silence becomes oppressive.

PLINY [chattily]  Nice weather we're having, these evenings.

AMANDA [splutters]!!!

MAGNUS.  There is rather a threatening cloud on the western
horizon, Mr Pliny.  [To Proteus]  Have you heard the news from
America?

PROTEUS.  I have, sir.

MAGNUS.  Am I to be favored with the advice of my ministers on that
subject?

PROTEUS.  By your Majesty's leave, we will take the question of the
ultimatum first.

MAGNUS.  Do you think the ultimatum will matter much when the
capital of the British Commonwealth is shifted to Washington?

NICOBAR.  We'll see it shifted to Melbourne or Montreal or
Johannesburg first.

MAGNUS.  It would not stay there.  It will stay at a real centre of
gravity only.

PROTEUS.  We are agreed about that.  If it shifts at all it will
shift either west to Washington or east to Moscow.

BOANERGES.  Moscow thinks a lot of itself.  But what has Moscow to
teach us that we cannot teach ourselves?  Moscow is built on
English history, written in London by Karl Marx.

PROTEUS.  Yes; and the English king has sidetracked you again.  [To
Magnus]  What about the ultimatum, sir?  You promised us your
decision at five o'clock.  It is now a quarter past.

MAGNUS.  Are you inexorably determined to force this issue to its
logical end?  You know how unEnglish it is to do that?

PROTEUS.  My people came from Scotland.

LYSISTRATA.  I wish they had stayed there.  I am English: every
bone in my body.

BOANERGES [vociferously]  Same here!

PROTEUS.  God help England if she had no Scots to think for her!

MAGNUS.  What does the Cabinet say to that?

AMANDA.  All their people came from Scotland or Ireland or Wales or
Jerusalem or somewhere, sir.  It is no use appealing to English
sentiment here.

CRASSUS.  Politics are not suited to the English, if you ask me.

MAGNUS.  Then I, the only Englishman left in politics, apparently,
am to be reduced to complete nullity?

PROTEUS [bluntly]  Yes.  You cannot frighten us out of our position
by painting it red.  I could paint your position black if I liked.
In plain terms we require from you an unconditional surrender.  If
you refuse it then I go to the country on the question whether
England is to be an absolute monarchy or a constitutional one.  We
are all agreed on that: there will be no resignations.  I have
letters from the absent members of the Government: those present
will speak for themselves.

ALL THE OTHER MEN.  Agreed, agreed.

PROTEUS.  Now, what is your answer?

MAGNUS.  The day for absolute monarchies is past.  You think you
can do without me; and I know that I cannot do without you.  I
decide, of course, in favor of a constitutional monarchy.

THE MEN [greatly relieved and delighted]  Hear! hear!

MAGNUS.  Wait a moment.

Sudden silence and mistrust.

PROTEUS.  So!  There is a catch in it, is there?

MAGNUS.  Not exactly a catch.  But you have driven me to face the
fact that I am unfitted to be a constitutional monarch.  I am by
nature incapable of the necessary self-effacement.

AMANDA.  Well, thats true, at all events.  You and I are a pair,
sir.

MAGNUS.  Thank you.  Therefore, whilst accepting your constitutional
principle without the slightest reserve, I cannot sign your
ultimatum, because by doing so I should be making personal promises
which I know I should break--which in fact I must break because I
have forces within me which your constitutional limits cannot hold
in check.

BALBUS.  How can you accept our principle if you dont sign the
ultimatum?

MAGNUS.  Oh, there is no difficulty about that.  When an honest man
finds himself incapable of discharging the duties of a public post,
he resigns.

PROTEUS [alarmed]  Resigns!  What are you driving at?

CRASSUS.  A king cannot resign.

NICOBAR.  You might as well talk of beheading yourself.  You cant
behead yourself.

BOANERGES.  Other people can, though.

MAGNUS.  Do not let us quarrel about words, gentlemen.  I cannot
resign.  But I can abdicate.

ALL THE REST [starting to their feet]  Abdicate!  [They stare at
him in consternation].

AMANDA [whistling a descending minor scale very expressively]
!!!!!!!!  [She sits down].

MAGNUS.  Of course, abdicate.  Lysistrata: you have been a teacher
of history.  You can assure your colleagues that there is nothing
unprecedented in an abdication.  The Emperor Charles the Fifth, for
instance--

LYSISTRATA.  Oh, Charles the Fifth be--be bothered! he's not good
enough.  Sir: I have stood by you as far as I dared.  Dont throw me
over.  You must not abdicate.  [She sits down, distressed].

PROTEUS.  You cannot abdicate except by my advice.

MAGNUS.  I am acting upon your advice.

PROTEUS.  Nonsense!  [He sits down].

BALBUS.  Ridiculous!  [He sits down].

PLINY.  Youre not serious, you know.  [He sits down].

NICOBAR.  You cant upset the apple cart like this.  [He sits down].

CRASSUS.  I must say this is not playing the game.  [He sits down].

BOANERGES [powerfully]  Well, why not?  Why not?  Though as an old
Republican I have no respect for His Majesty as a King, I have a
great respect for him as a Strong Man.  But he is not the only
pebble on the beach.  Why not have done with this superstition of
monarchy, and bring the British Commonwealth into line with all the
other great Powers today as a republic?  [He sits down].

MAGNUS.  My abdication does not involve that, Mr Boanerges.  I am
abdicating to save the monarchy, not to destroy it.  I shall be
succeeded by my son Robert, Prince of Wales.  He will make an
admirable constitutional monarch.

PLINY.  Oh, come!  Dont be hard on the lad, sir.  He has plenty of
brains.

MAGNUS.  Oh yes, yes, yes: I did not mean that he is a nonentity:
quite the contrary: he is much cleverer than I am.  But I have
never been able to induce him to take any interest in parliamentary
politics.  He prefers intellectual pursuits.

NICOBAR.  Dont you believe it.  He is up to his neck in business.

MAGNUS.  Just so.  He asks me why I waste my time with you here
pretending to govern the country when it is really governed by
Breakages, Limited.  And really I hardly know how to answer him.

CRASSUS.  Things are like that nowadays.  My son says just the
same.

LYSISTRATA.  Personally I get on very well with the Prince; but
somehow I do not feel that he is interested in what I am doing.

BALBUS.  He isnt.  He wont interfere with you as long as you dont
interfere with him.  Just the right king for us.  Not pigheaded.
Not meddlesome.  Thinks that nothing we do matters a rap.  What do
you say, Joe?

PROTEUS.  After all, why not? if your Majesty is in earnest.

MAGNUS.  I assure you I am very much in earnest.

PROTEUS.  Well, I confess I did not foresee this turn of events.
But I ought to have foreseen it.  What your Majesty proposes is the
straightforward, logical, intellectually honest solution of our
difficulty.  Consequently it is the last solution I could have
expected in politics.  But I reckoned without your Majesty's
character.  The more I think of it the more clearly I see that you
are right--that you are taking the only course open to you.

CRASSUS.  I never said I was against it, Joe.

BALBUS.  Neither did I.

NICOBAR.  I think theres a great deal to be said for it.  _I_ have
no objection.

PLINY.  One king is no worse than another, is he?

BOANERGES.  Is he any better?  The way you fellows scuttle backward
and forward from one mind to another whenever Joe holds up his
finger is disgusting.  This is a Cabinet of sheep.

PROTEUS.  Well, give the flock a better lead if you can.  Have you
anything else to propose?

BOANERGES.  I dont know that I have on the spur of the moment.  We
should have had notice of this.  But I suppose the King must do as
he thinks right.

PROTEUS.  Then the goat goes with the sheep; so thats all right.

BOANERGES.  Who are you calling a goat?

NICOBAR.  If you come to that, who are you calling sheep?

AMANDA.  Steady there, children! steady! steady!  [To the King]
You have brought us all round, sir, as usual.

PROTEUS.  There is nothing more to be said.

AMANDA.  That means another half hour at least.

BOANERGES.  Woman: this is not the moment for your tomfooleries.

PROTEUS [impressively]  Bill is right, Amanda.  [He rises and
becomes the conventional House of Commons orator].

Ministers compose themselves to listen with grave attention, as if
in church; but Lysistrata is contemptuous and Amanda amused.

PROTEUS [continuing]  It is a solemn moment.  It is a moment in
which an old tie is being broken.  I am not ashamed to confess that
it is a tie from which I have learned something.

MALE MINISTERS [murmur]  Hear hear!  Hear hear!

PROTEUS.  For my own part--and I think I may speak for others here
as well--it has been no mere political tie, but a tie of sincere
friendship.

Renewed murmurs of sympathy.  Increasing emotion.

PROTEUS.  We have had our disagreements--as which of us has not?--
but they have been family quarrels.

CRASSUS.  Thats all.  Nothing more.

PROTEUS.  May I say lovers' quarrels?

PLINY [wiping his eyes]  You may, Joe.  You may.

PROTEUS.  My friends, we came here to a meeting.  We find, alas!
that the meeting is to be a leavetaking.  [Crassus sniffs
tearfully].  It is a sad leavetaking on our part, but a cordial
one.  [Hear Hear from Pliny].  We are cast down, but not
discouraged.  Looking back to the past with regret, we can still
look forward to the future with hope.  That future has its dangers
and its difficulties.  It will bring us new problems; and it will
bring us face to face with a new king.  But the new problems and
the new king will not make us forget our old counsellor, monarch,
and--he will allow me to say--comrade.  [Hear Hears ad libitum].  I
know my words will find an echo in all your hearts when I conclude
by saying that whatsoever king shall reign--

AMANDA.  Youll be the Vicar of Bray, Joe.

Uproar.  Proteus flings himself into his chair indignantly.

BALBUS.  Shame!

NICOBAR.  Shut up, you b--

PLINY.  A joke's a joke; but really--

CRASSUS.  Too bad, Amanda!  Behave yourself.

LYSISTRATA.  She has a perfect right to speak.  You are a parcel of
sentimental fools.

BOANERGES [rising]  Silence.  Order.

AMANDA.  Sorry.

BOANERGES.  So you ought to be.  Where's your manners?  Where's
your education?  King Magnus: we part; but we part as strong men
part: as friends.  The Prime Minister has correctly represented the
sentiments of all the men present.  I call on them to express those
sentiments in the good old English fashion.  [Singing in stentorian
tones]  Fo-o-o-o-r-r-r

MALE MINISTERS EXCEPT PROTEUS [rising and singing]

     --he's a jolly good fel-low
       For he's a jolly good fel-low
       For he's--

MAGNUS [peremptorily]  Stop.  Stop.

Sudden silence and misgiving.  They sit down furtively.

MAGNUS.  I thank you with all my heart; but there is a
misapprehension.  We are not taking leave of one another.  I have
no intention of withdrawing from an active part in politics.

PROTEUS.  What!!

MAGNUS.  You are looking on me, with an emotion which has deeply
touched me, as a man with a political past.  But I look on myself
rather as a man with a political future.  I have not yet told you
my plans.

NICOBAR.  What plans?

BALBUS.  A retired king cant have plans and a future.

MAGNUS.  Why not?  I am looking forward to a most exciting and
enjoyable time.  As I shall of course dissolve parliament, the fun
will begin with a general election.

BOANERGES [dismayed]  But Ive only just been elected.  Do you mean
that I shall have to stand two elections in one month?  Have you
thought of the expenses?

MAGNUS.  Surely your expenses will be paid by the State.

BOANERGES.  Paid by the State!  Is that all you know about
electioneering in England?

PROTEUS.  You will get your whack out of the party funds, Bill; and
if you cant find the extras you must put up with straight votes.
Go on, sir: we want to hear about those plans of yours.

MAGNUS.  My last act of royal authority will be to divest myself of
all titles and dignities; so that I may step down at once into the
position of a commoner.

BOANERGES.  Step up, you mean.  The common man is the superior, not
the inferior, of the titled man.

MAGNUS.  That is why I am going to make myself a common man, Mr
Boanerges.

PLINY.  Well, it does you honor.

CRASSUS.  Not all of us would be capable of a sacrifice like that.

BOANERGES.  A fine gesture, sir.  A fine gesture.  I admit it.

PROTEUS [suspicious]  And since when, pray, has your Majesty taken
to making gestures?  Whats the game this time?

BOANERGES.  Shame!

PROTEUS.  Shut up, you gaby.  [To the King]  I say, whats the game?

MAGNUS.  There is no imposing on you, Prime Minister.  The game is,
of course, that when I come back into politics I shall be in a
better position as a commoner than as a peer.  I shall seek a
parliamentary seat.

PROTEUS.  You in the House of Commons!

MAGNUS [blandly]  It is my intention to offer myself to the Royal
Borough of Windsor as a candidate at the forthcoming General
Election.

All the rest except Boanerges and the ladies rise in consternation.

PROTEUS.  This is treachery.

BALBUS.  A dirty trick.

NICOBAR.  The meanest on record.

PLINY.  He'll be at the top of the poll.

CRASSUS.  There wont be any poll: it will be a walkover.

BALBUS.  This shews what all your fine manners and friendly ways
are worth.

NICOBAR.  Hypocrite!

CRASSUS.  Humbug!

LYSISTRATA.  I wish your Majesty every success.

AMANDA.  Hear hear!  Fair play, boys.  Why shouldnt he go into
parliament with us?

BOANERGES.  Well said! well said!  Why not?

THE OTHER MALE MINISTERS.  Ya-a-a-ah!  [They sit down in utter
disgust].

PROTEUS [very sullen]  And when you are in Parliament, what then?

MAGNUS.  There are several possibilities.  I shall naturally
endeavor to form a party.  My son King Robert will have to call on
some Party leader who can depend on the support of the House of
Commons to form a Government.  He may call on you.  He may even
call on me.

AMANDA [breaks the glum silence by whistling a bar or two of the
National Anthem]!!

MAGNUS.  Whatever happens, it will be a great relief to us to be
able to speak out quite frankly about oneanother in public.  You
have never been able to tell the British people what you really
think of me: no real criticism of the King is possible.  I have
never been able to speak my mind as to your various capacities and
characters.  All that reserve, that tedious affectation, that
unwholesome concealment will end.  I hope you look forward to our
new footing as pleasurably as I do.

LYSISTRATA.  I am delighted, sir.  You will fight Breakages for me.

AMANDA.  It will be awful fun.

BOANERGES.  Now, Mr Prime Minister, we are waiting for you.  What
have you to say about it?

PROTEUS [rising and speaking slowly, with his brows deeply knitted]
Has Your Majesty got that ultimatum on you?

MAGNUS [produces it from his breast pocket and presents it to him]!

PROTEUS [with measured emphasis, after tearing the paper up into
four pieces at two deliberate strokes, and throwing the pieces
away]  There is not going to be any abdication.  There is not going
to be any general election.  There is not going to be any
ultimatum.  We go on as before.  The crisis is a washout.  [To the
King, with deadly concentration]  I will never forgive you for
this.  You stole your ace of trumps from the hand I played this
morning.  [He takes his hat from the balustrade and goes away
through the park].

BOANERGES [rising]  That was a very deplorable exhibition of temper
on the part of the Prime Minister, sir.  It was not the gesture of
a Strong Man.  I will remonstrate with him.  You may depend on me.
[He takes his hat and follows Proteus in a serious and dignified
manner].

NICOBAR [rising]  Well, I shall not say what I think.  [He is
taking his hat when the King addresses him].

MAGNUS.  So I have not upset the apple cart after all, Mr Nicobar.

NICOBAR.  You can upset it as soon as you like for all I care.  I
am going out of politics.  Politics is a mug's game.  [He goes].

CRASSUS [rising reluctantly and taking his hat]  If Nick goes, I
shall have to go too.

MAGNUS.  Can you really tear yourself away from politics?

CRASSUS.  Only too glad to be well out of them, if Breakages will
let me.  They shoved me into it; and I daresay theyll find another
job for me.  [He goes].

PLINY [cheerful to the last as he, too, goes for his hat]  Well, I
am glad nothing's happened.  You know, sir, nothing ever really
does happen in the Cabinet.  Never mind their bit of temper.
Theyll feed out of your hand tomorrow.  [He goes].

BALBUS [after taking his hat]  Now that theyre all gone I dont mind
saying that if anything should ever happen to the throne, and your
Majesty should become a President with a Cabinet to pick, you might
easily find a worse Home Secretary than me, with all my faults.

MAGNUS.  I shall bear it in mind.  By the way, if you should happen
to overtake the Prime Minister, will you be so good as to remind
him that we quite forgot to settle that little affair of the
proposal of America to annex the British Commonwealth.

BALBUS.  By the Lord, so we did!  Well, thats a good one!  Ha ha!
Ha ha ha ha ha!  [He goes out laughing heartily].

MAGNUS.  They dont take it in, Lizzie: not one bit.  It is as if
another planet were crashing into us.  The kingdom and the power
and the glory will pass from us and leave us naked, face to face
with our real selves at last.

LYSISTRATA.  So much the better, if by our real selves you mean the
old English stock that was unlike any other.  Nowadays men all over
the world are as much alike as hotel dinners.  It's no use
pretending that the America of George Washington is going to
swallow up the England of Queen Anne.  The America of George
Washington is as dead as Queen Anne.  What they call an American is
only a wop pretending to be a Pilgrim Father.  He is no more Uncle
Jonathan than you are John Bull.

MAGNUS.  Yes: we live in a world of wops, all melting into one
another; and when all the frontiers are down London may be outvoted
by Tennessee, and all the other places where we still madly teach
our children the mentality of an eighteenth century village school.

LYSISTRATA.  Never fear, sir.  It is not the most ignorant national
crowd that will come out on top, but the best power station; for
you cant do without power stations, and you cant run them on
patriotic songs and hatred of the foreigner, and guff and bugaboo,
though you can run nationalism on nothing else.  But I am
heartbroken at your not coming into the House with us to keep old
England in front and lead a new Party against Breakages [tears come
into her eyes].

MAGNUS [patting her consolingly on the back]  That would have been
splendid, wouldnt it?  But I am too old fashioned.  This is a farce
that younger men must finish.

AMANDA [taking her arm]  Come home with me, dear.  I will sing to
you until you cant help laughing.  Come.

Lysistrata pockets her handkerchief; shakes the King's hands
impulsively; and goes with Amanda.  The King plunges into deep
thought.  Presently the Queen comes back.

THE QUEEN.  Now Magnus: it's time to dress for dinner.

MAGNUS [much disturbed]  Oh, not now.  I have something very big to
think about.  I dont want any dinner.

THE QUEEN [peremptorily]  No dinner!  Did anyone ever hear of such
a thing!  You know you will not sleep if you think after seven
o'clock.

MAGNUS [worried]  But really, Jemima--

THE QUEEN [going to him and taking his arm]  Now, now, now! dont be
naughty.  I musnt be late for dinner.  Come on, like a good little
boy.

The King, with a grimace of hopeless tenderness, allows himself to
be led away.




Mr Shaw Replies to His Critics


(Written statement, presented as interview, Daily Mail, London, 21
August 1929)


Mr Bernard Shaw laughingly declined to discuss the Press notices of
his new play, "The Apple Cart," when I saw him this evening.
"Surely you have formed some opinion about it all?" I asked.  He
replied:

Well, I am very pleased with the nice notices, but what can I say
on the subject?  It is getting an extremely serious matter
nowadays.

In the old days one used to write a play and have it produced and
criticised and there was an end of it.  But now the Press has been
clamouring throughout the day for a statement of what I think about
the critics' reviews.

One can only say that the people had better read the criticisms of
the play and criticise the critics for themselves.

I am an old dramatic critic so that I know all about it.

Of course I read the criticisms, and if the critics say anything
helpful I should be prepared to make use of it, but that does not
usually happen.

Whatever they said, I should not rewrite the play.  When I had
finished writing it I had said exactly what I wanted to say.

Some of the criticisms might have been better done.  There are
different sorts.




A Walk and a Talk with Mr Shaw


(Interview by G. W. Bishop, large portions of which were provided
by Shaw in written statements, The Observer, London, 8 September
1929)


No play, not even any other one of Mr. Shaw's, has been talked
about so much as "The Apple Cart"; it is all so like the epilogue
to "Fanny's First Play"!  "Shaw--what I've always told you about
Shaw." . . . "Let's talk about Shaw"--for the last three weeks has
been the favourite occupation of everybody who saw the play at
Malvern, and of a good many who didn't.

I enjoyed the play so much that I made a special journey to
Birmingham on Monday last to see it again.  I travelled up with
Cedric Hardwicke (who plays King Magnus), and Charles Carson (the
Prime Minister), and on the journey we talked about Shaw; at supper
after the performance we met again and, until the early hours,
again talked about Shaw.  At another table there were two other
members of the cast--also, I am certain, talking about Shaw, and
when I met Miss Edith Evans, who takes the part of Orinthia, we
plunged at once into the subject of the moment and started
discussing the controversial second act.

Nobody, of course, talks more illuminatingly, more amusingly, more
provocatively or more interestingly about Shaw than G. B. S.
himself.  And it was Cedric Hardwicke's idea that we should
continue the discussion the following day at Malvern, where the
author of "The Apple Cart" was staying on for a few days of
recuperating from the excitement of watching his own plays for a
fortnight.  There was something that Hardwicke wanted to ask him; I
had a hundred things I wanted to talk to Mr Shaw about.

                    *     *     *     *     *

Shaw is, of course, the kindest, gentlest, and most courteous
person living.  He finds it difficult to refuse anybody anything--
except newspaper men seeking an interview--and even then, if he is
without the protection of his secretary. . . .

Perhaps it was because I came clinging to Hardwicke's mudguard, as
it were: I like to think, however, that it was for my own sake--
sublime vanity!--that he said when we arrived:  "I feel stuffy;
will you let me take you for a walk while Hardwicke entertains Mrs.
Shaw!"

Away we strode.  With some difficulty I managed to keep up with his
pace; it was with considerably more difficulty that I could keep up
with his talk.  We happened to pass a cinema poster and I mentioned
the "talkies."  "Of course the 'talkies' have come to stay," he
said; "a producer can spend £50,000 on a talking film, and is often
guaranteed most of what he has spent before it is released, and it
is bound to take the place of an ordinary stage production, upon
which £50 has been spent."

                    *     *     *     *     *

"But surely theatre-goers will still demand the three-dimensional
actor?" I suggested.

"Certainly," he replied, "but not the same person.  The ordinary
actor--as such--is unsuitable for talking film work.  It is an
entirely different technique.  I tested that for myself.  When I
was shown the first picture I made I said to the producer, 'This is
ludicrous; it is all wrong; it isn't me at all.'  He replied:  'The
camera cannot lie.'  To which I retorted:  'The camera can lie and
it has.'  I then realised that in order to present a talking
picture of Shaw I had to master a new method of moving and talking.
If one acts naturally the result is simply--fussy.

"Look at the pictures taken of street scenes in the animated
gazettes.  The people who are walking give the impression of moving
their legs quickly and running like this"--here Mr. Shaw
illustrated what he meant--"whereas a movie actor has to walk in
this way"--a few solemn steps were then "registered" in the middle
of Malvern--"and the result on the screen is the ordinary natural
walk.  The screen magnifies and intensifies, and the technique is
an entirely different one from the stage.  'Movie' actresses like
Mary Pickford are clever enough not to appear on the stage without
the glorious intensification of the camera.  She knows that her
public would consider that the real Mary Pickford is an
insignificant person.  She isn't, of course, but having always seen
her magnified it would be like looking at her suddenly through the
wrong end of the telescope.

                    *     *     *     *     *

"'Movie' acting is a different art," Mr. Shaw went on; "mainly it
is the art of not moving at all!  Then, along came the 'talkies,'
and in rushed the ordinary 'movie' actor, and he has, on the whole,
failed because he knows all about the reproduction of movement, but
nothing about the voice.  The stage actor, as such, is no good, and
we shall have to breed a new race of 'talkie' actors and, what is
more important, a race of intelligent producers."

"You will then allow your plays to be made into 'talkies'?"

"I know it is possible to reproduce dialogue, and it is now
established that action can be reproduced on the screen.  When it
is as certain that the actual performers have mastered the
technique and that there are some artistic producers who also
understand the technique I shall consent."

"Don't you think that authors will have to write specifically for
the screen?" I asked him as we finished our round and got back to
the hotel.

"Possibly.  I may write a 'talkie' myself, but I see no reason,
given the conditions I have mentioned, that 'The Apple Cart' should
not be reproduced exactly as it is written."

We had been out for nearly half an hour and I have only given the
bare bones, a slight impression, of a talk which illuminated the
whole subject as far as I was concerned.  It gives little idea of
the witty phrase, the apt illustration and Mr. Shaw's description
of the banalities of the average moving picture.

                    *     *     *     *     *

Inside, Mrs. Shaw was waiting for us with tea and we plunged into
the subject of "The Apple Cart" at once.  I mentioned the
criticisms.

"Critics rely very much on labels," Mr. Shaw said.  "I was not
shown a proof of the programme and therefore the sub-title which
will be printed when the play is seen in London, was omitted.
The full title should have read:  'The Apple Cart--A Political
Extravaganza in Two Acts and an Interlude.'  The word 'extravaganza'
would have helped them and they might then have been less worried
by the short second act."

"Although it is an 'extravaganza' the play has a serious
background?" I said.

"So serious that I intend to tell Mr. MacDonald when he returns
from Geneva that he must refuse to take any young man into his
Cabinet who hasn't seen 'The Apple Cart' at least six times.  It is
intended as a salutary lesson, as I feel it is a state of things
into which we could drift.

                    *     *     *     *     *

"Few of the critics have realised that one of the points of the
play is the recognition that there is no governing class.  By which
I mean the real governors are not a class, but are members of all
classes.  The King sees at once that Boanerges, who was picked out
of the gutter by a policeman, is of the governing class.  The great
revelation that comes to Boanerges is that the King is also a
member of the governing class.  The 'plain-man' joke between the
King and Boanerges has upset one or two people, but as a matter of
fact it is a piece of tactful diplomacy on the part of the King.
'I'm a plain man,' boasts Boanerges.  'Not at all,' protests the
King--the usual joke, it is asserted--but the King, after a pause,
adds, 'you are anything but plain; in fact, to me, you have always
been an enigma.'  This flatters Boanerges, and puts him at his
ease.

"Curiously, too, the Prime Minister has been called a dummy and a
fool.  But Proteus is really a very elaborate study of an able man.
The King represents the classical example of the governing type;
Proteus the womanly type--'I use the word woman,' Mr. Shaw added to
his wife, 'in the stage sense'.  He is hysterical and gets
flustered, but he jumps at the true position of things at once, as
I show at the end of the play, when he immediately grasps the fact
that the King has beaten them.  In the first act, too, Proteus and
the King, in the two minutes they have alone together, arrive at a
complete understanding.  More is accomplished in that time than in
the half an hour's previous talk."

                    *     *     *     *     *

"But the main oversight in the criticism of 'The Apple Cart,'" Mr.
Shaw said, "is the failure to grasp the significance of the fact
that the King wins, not qua King, but qua potential Commoner.  The
tearing up of the ultimatum is almost a defeat for him.  It is
certainly a defeat for Lysistrata (the Power Mistress), whose
depression the King shares when the shouting is over.

"The critics have also missed the point of Boanerges' refusal to
listen to a word against the Democracy which he himself ridiculed
as an instrument of popular government.  The Strong Man is a
democrat because Democracy places power within his reach.  As
Magnus expressly says, Democracy has destroyed responsible
government and gives the power to (as Bunyan put it) 'him that can
get it.'  'Yourself, sir, for instance?' says Lysistrata.  'I think
I am in the running,' replies the King.'  But the great point is
that he thinks he is in the running as Able Man, not as monarch.
Only once in the whole play does Magnus assume royal authority, and
that is in the interlude when he cries, 'Orinthia, I command you.'
And then both Orinthia and the audience laugh him to scorn.

"No serious student of how monarchy and democracy actually work
will demur to my handling of them," Mr. Shaw added.

"The protests that have actually been made sound as if George Odger
had risen from his grave.  But you have probably never heard of
George Odger*--"


* George Odger was born in 1820 and died in 1877.  He was one of
the early trade-unionists who exercised remarkable influence on the
labour movement.  He became a member of the National Reform League
and helped to organise a popular welcome to Garibaldi in 1862, and
the great meeting in St. James's Hall in support of the Northern
States of America against slavery.  He made five unsuccessful
attempts to get into Parliament as an independent labour candidate.
His funeral was the occasion of a great demonstration by the London
working men, who regarded him as their leader.  [Note by G. W.
Bishop]

                    *     *     *     *     *

"Now, about the second act--the interlude?"

"Composers are permitted a slow second movement in their symphony;
why shouldn't I be allowed one in my composition?" Mr. Shaw
protested.  "Or, if you prefer it, the second act is a piece of
relief, comic relief, if you like.  What has the grave-diggers'
scene to do with the character of Hamlet?  But Shakespeare
understood what I understand--if you put humour into a play it must
be cheap humour!"

"The second act has, of course, a great dramatic significance, as
great a significance as the porter's scene in 'Macbeth.'  It
completes the portrait of the King who in the middle of the crisis
is seen, not merely as a statesman but as a human being with a
domestic life."

Here Mr. Hardwicke suggested that the King held the Cabinet in the
third act with some of Orinthia's powder still on his uniform.
"Symbolically, yes," Mr. Shaw said, "nevertheless, Hardwicke, I
hope that you will always brush your coat before the third act.
The King knows that in married life the important thing is the
recognition of the other's limitations.  There are some subjects he
cannot talk about to Jemima, his wife, and, on the other hand, the
beautiful Orinthia certainly has HER limitations.  It is an
important scene, and not there merely to amuse.  I can only
conclude that the critics who did not understand it are happily
married to wives who combine in themselves Orinthia and Jemima.
The average man is not so fortunate.  There are hundreds of nice
middle-class families who do not understand why they squabble.  The
scene between the King and Orinthia will serve as a dose of castor
oil.  Shakespeare suggested the same idea when Beatrice says, in
reply to Don Pedro's proposal, 'No, my lord, unless I might have
another for workingdays: your grace is too costly to wear every
day.'  Jemima, intellectually, is good for every-day wear, and
Magnus knows this; Orinthia is the splendid Sunday relaxation.
Married people will get on better after they have seen the second
act of 'The Apple Cart.'"

                    *     *     *     *     *

We might have gone on for hours if Cedric Hardwicke had not
suddenly remembered that in an hour or two he would be acting the
King (instead of talking about him) on the stage of the Birmingham
Repertory Theatre.

After he had waved us farewell it occurred to me that the author of
"The Apple Cart" did not know that he was being "interviewed."
When he sees this totally inadequate account of the talk in print
he may blame Hardwicke for taking me over to Malvern.  Mr. Shaw
will not be too severe, I feel, because he admires the actor's
performance as King Magnus tremendously.




Bernard Shaw's Denial


(Statement to the press, The Star, London, 30 September 1929)


The report of a conversation I had with a prominent Polish
journalist which has been sent by Reuter and published in several
papers, makes it necessary for me to offer one or two elucidations.

I seem to have conveyed to my distinguished foreign visitor that
the Prime Minister discussed 'The Apple Cart' with me after the
performance, and that I intended to base King Magnus on the
personality of Marshal Pilsudski, but refrained lest it should be
said that the Marshal had paid me to do so.

I also seem to have conveyed that the play has not been received
here with the enthusiasm it evoked in Poland.

This is not precisely what I meant to say.  I have not spoken to
the Prime Minister since he was present on the first night, when we
exchanged a few words before the rise of the curtain.

I cannot claim the privilege of personal acquaintance with Marshal
Pilsudski.  I never dreamt of using him, or any other living
person, as a model, though every living ruler in the world will
find a melancholy resemblance between his predicament and that of
King Magnus.

I cannot avoid the suggestion that I have been paid by him, because
it has already been made, and will probably be repeated, mutatis
mutandis in every country where the play is produced.

Finally, as to the alleged more enthusiastic reception of 'The
Apple Cart' in Poland than in London, all I can say is that the
reception in London has reached its box-office limit, and that
Polish enthusiasm, however frenzied, can go no further from the
author's point of view.

Naturally I am glad to learn that King Magnus's Crown fits the
heads of all the rulers and that his subjects in all lands vie with
one another in appreciation of my picture of their political
situation.  That is all I need say at present.




Mr Shaw and Democracy


(Interview by G. W. Bishop, based on written statement by Shaw, The
Observer, London, 23 March 1930)


"'The Apple Cart' is laid in the future.  There seems to be
confusion about the approximate date.  Is it--as was suggested
before the play was produced--at a time when all people now living
are dead?"

"Yes."

"Do you seriously think that democracy may drift into the state of
things shown in the play?"

"It has already drifted into it."

"Is not the tendency in this country towards a bigger percentage of
voting and a more enlightened use of the franchise?"

"The tendency to disuse the franchise is so strong that in some
countries it is a punishable offence not to vote.  People vote in
times of great social strain for which the government is blamed.
The newly enfranchised (the women, for instance) vote whilst the
novelty lasts.  But in a condition of general satisfaction, or of
general disgust at the failure of political parties to make good
their promises, people will not vote.  In the old vestries, for
which anybody could vote, a little ring of men used to meet and
elect one another without the interference of a single general
elector.  Shareholders' meetings are very much the same.  Do YOU
ever vote?"


THE IDEAL RULER


"You do not believe, I assume, that a benevolent monarchy is a
better form of government than a democracy?  Do you think the veto
of a hereditary ruler is a valuable safeguard in any self-governing
country?  Is the ideal government when the two work smoothly
together?"

"Benevolent monarchies and democracies are idealisations which have
never been realised.  Even government itself is a very imperfectly
realised ideal.  Benevolence is not a qualification for rulership
at all: capable rulers have often been infernal scoundrels, and
benevolent monarchs hopelessly incapable rulers.

"The veto of a hereditary ruler has no value as a safeguard.  The
veto of a capable ruler, whether he be hereditary monarch,
dictator, president, prime minister, or chief constable of a
county, has the value of his capacity.

"The desideratum is a method of government in which the governed
choose their rulers and can change them, but in which only capable
persons are eligible for choice or change.  Hereditary monarchy
obviously cannot supply this.  The notion that adult suffrage can
supply it has been reduced to absurdity by experience.  It is worse
than hereditary monarchy, which may accidentally and occasionally
produce a capable ruler, whereas adult suffrage, through the
general dislike of capable rulers, and the popularity of agreeable
and extravagant ne'er-do-weels (compare William the Conqueror with
King Stephen), positively prevents capable rulers from entering
politics, and exalts Titus Oateses to commanding positions."


THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING PEOPLES


"Would the United States be better off with a hereditary monarchy?"

"What sort of monarchy?  Constitutional or Autocratic.  The
question in a practical form would be, 'Are the United States
better off than the British Commonwealth?'  The useless but only
possible answer is, 'In some respects, yes; in others, no.'
Evidently the difference is not great enough to produce a demand in
either country for the form of government used in the other."

"Is America gradually annexing Great Britain?  Can you conceive
that a day will come when there will be an Empire of the English--
or American--speaking peoples?"

"America is certainly Americanising Great Britain more than Europe
is Europeanising it.  In fact, America is Americanising Europe,
whilst remaining itself blatantly American.  Asia and Africa are
not in the running.  Russia is America's only rival as a basic
civilising influence.

"Whether the United States will ever include all the States and
Dominions in which English is the language of the people, is still
a matter for speculation.  It is not impossible.  But, so far, it
cannot be said that the bond of Western European civilisation is
weaker than the bond of language.  And do not forget that the
Marxian dream of a world-wide proletarian revolution, though it is
not now practical politics, may yet upset all our conceptions of
international relations.  The Reformation did not seem practicable
in the Middle Ages; but it happened for all that."


GERMAN OBJECTIONS


"You told me when we met a short time ago that the most violent
objections to 'The Apple Cart' came from the Social Democrats in
Germany.  Would you care to reply to those objections?"

"I don't know what they are.  The idea seems to be that as a
democrat I should have made the King the villain of the piece.
Even if I were a democrat in the sense of believing that good
government is secured by giving Jack and Jill a vote, which I am
not and have never pretended to be, the idea would still seem
childish to me.  My business is not to satirise the vices of an
autocracy which does not exist, but those of the pseudo-democracy
which does exist."

"Were the members of the Cabinet dressed in fancy dress in the
English production to meet the requirements of the Lord
Chamberlain?"

"No.  The Lord Chamberlain made no requirements.  The play was
licensed without demur at the first asking, quite unconditionally.
The fancy dresses, in so far as they are not purely decorative,
were prescribed by the author to remove the play as far as possible
from the Cabinet and Court of to-day."

"When I saw the play for the third time recently, I thought that
the curtain should have come down when the King is left alone on
the stage?  I felt that the entrance of the Queen was an anti-
climax."

"Max Reinhardt, in Berlin, thought so, too, and did what you in
your masculine idiocy suggest.  Ask any woman what she thinks of
your brains and Max's."


NO NEW PLAY AT PRESENT


"Is it true that 'The Apple Cart' is the first of a trilogy and
that a new play by you may be seen at the Malvern festival this
year?"

"No, there is no question of a trilogy.  I will write another play
for Malvern if I can; but as I am under contract to complete
certain literary work involving prolonged labour this spring, it
seems almost impossible that I can be in time for the Festival with
a new play this year.  It will have to be a very hasty one, in any
case.  I have not had time to give a thought to it yet."

"Has the play a special message for American audiences?"

"It has a special message for all audiences--even American ones."




The Apple-Cart Again


(Replies to a questionnaire by John Rintoul Hunt, Courier, London,
Autumn 1943)


In The Apple-Cart, Mr. Shaw, you dramatised in prophetic fashion
the prospect of the British Empire and the United States of America
re-uniting at no very distant date.  That was in 1928-9, some
fifteen years ago.  Now, under the pressure of world catastrophes,
and in spite of the handicap of a common history and a common
language (more or less), the two countries are closer in spirit as
well as in material matters than they have been for more than a
century and a half.  What do you imagine is the likeliest next
move?

The imagined next move never takes place: so I do not waste my time
imagining it.  The situation in The Apple-Cart made a good last act
for a comedy; but if I had wanted one for the first act of a
tragedy I should have made England renew the old alliance with
Japan made by the late Lord Lansdowne, followed by the immediate
secession of New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Canada from
the British Commonwealth and their federation with the United
States in a defensive combination against Japan.  Nobody who has
not been to the Pacific has the faintest notion of what Japan means
there.

Of course, as you realised at the time, some pretty constitutional
problems would be set if ever the subject came up for debate by
statesmen and lawyers, those wise but unpractical dreamers.  Your
"King Magnus" was put in the very devil of embarrassment when
Vanhattan, the U.S. Ambassador, came bounding in with his demand,
or ultimatum, that the U.S.A. be received back in the Empire and
the Declaration of Independence and the Acts relating thereto be
cancelled.  Have you any idea how the lawyers would get round such
difficulties as the American Constitution and the Statute of
Westminster?

Not at all.  There would be no trouble about that if both sides
meant business.  If they did not, then of course the lawyers and
diplomatists would have no difficulty in proving that the thing is
utterly impossible, or would take fifty years to work out.  But if
the two Governments were in earnest, they would just do it, and
leave the rearrangements to follow the event, as they would have
to, difficulties or no difficulties.  The Statute of Westminster
and the American Constitution are only scraps of paper; but facts
are facts.

On the other hand, Americans--or quite a number of them--might
prefer that the United Kingdom were admitted to the Union as the
49th State?  And the self-governing Dominions as the 50th, 51st,
52nd and so on.  With the Crown Colonies and India given a similar
status to that of the Philippines.

The old nomenclatures need not be preserved.  Why should they,
seeing that they will only make trouble?

Where would you fit Ireland into the new scheme of things, Mr Shaw?
In The Apple-Cart, the Queen was so shocked at the whole proposal
that she could only envisage the Court taking refuge in Dublin.
That, I venture, was not suggested in all seriousness, was it?
Would Belfast take Dublin's place?  Or perhaps as a compromise the
ancient glories of Tara or Galway be revived?

Eire will have to fit itself into any change as best it can.  Its
military forces are too small to be considered by the big powers
who will dominate the situation.  It owes its present neutrality to
the Partition, which gives England a foothold in the island, that
would otherwise have had to be taken by force by either England or
America.  Ireland must live by her wits, which means that she must
have alliances; but as she cannot ally herself with Japan or
Germany her choice is restricted practically to England and
America.  And England is much more easily humbugged or bullied or
coaxed than America.  As to Dublin, which is within half an hour of
the most enchanting mountain and seaside scenery, it is in these
days of air transit one of the pleasantest seats of Government in
the world.  There is nothing wrong with it except its slums with
their shocking vital statistics, and the perpetual derisive gabble
of its inhabitants.

There is one aspect, referred to in The Apple-Cart, which we have
not touched on here--the attitude of the British Dominions.  On a
Gallup Poll taken in Canada this year slightly more than 20 per
cent. of those canvassed for their views opted for inclusion in the
United States.  Opinion in Australia seems to favour closer links
with the U.S. and to feel that Britain is too distant to afford
permanent protection against the Japs.  South Africa, after Smuts,
may experience a reaction and desire a change of allegiance.  What
do you think, Mr. Shaw?

These are talking points.  The Dominions will have to take what
they can get, which will be by no means all they want.

Finally, what of Moscow?  This is a little aside from the main
discussion.  My excuse for troubling you is not merely that Moscow
cannot be left out of any discussion anyway but also that in your
play Moscow through your character, Boanerges, came prominently
into it.  Our statesmen, willy-nilly, have blundered into
cooperation with Soviet Russia as well as perilously close to
Anglo-American reunion--ought we not to see they don't blunder out
of it again?

When the war is over Moscow will be cock of the walk, but at the
cost of internal damage that will keep her too busy at home to make
trouble for herself abroad, provided always that her Western
frontiers are accepted as they stood before the German attack.
Stalin has been explicit and emphatic about that from the
beginning.  Moscow will be strong enough to impose that condition.
The question of whether Hong Kong is to be British or Chinese may
prove more troublesome.

(Boanerges in the play was not a Russian; he was a vivid caricature
of the late John Burns.)

Thank you, Mr. Shaw.  The world has been transformed in the past 50
years, chiefly through your plays, and perhaps in another 50 years
we shall all be good sensible Shavians.  Isn't it true that history
is made from the 50-year plans of poets and philosophers rather
than the 5-year plans of sanitary engineers and production experts?

Until the poets know all about sanitary engineering and the
sanitary engineers all about poetry and philosophy neither of them
will be of any use as planners.  Our present way of giving votes to
ignorance and calling it democracy will upset any plan.  Wisdom,
knowledge, and energy can save civilisation; electioneering can
only wreck it.



THE END




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