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Title:      The Fascinating Foundling
Author:     George Bernard Shaw
* A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook *
eBook No.:  0300461.txt
Language:   English
Date first posted:          March 2003
Date most recently updated: March 2003

This eBook was produced by: Don Lainson dlainson@sympatico.ca

Production notes: First published in Translations and Tomfooleries, 1926.

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Title:      The Fascinating Foundling
Author:     George Bernard Shaw





The Fascinating Foundling
A Disgrace to the Author




Morning.  Office of the Lord Chancellor.  Door on the right leading
to his private room, near the fireplace.  Door on the left leading
to the public staircase.  Mercer, an elderly clerk, seated at work.
Enter, to him, through the public door, Horace Brabazon, a smart
and beautiful young man of nineteen, dressed in the extremity of
fashion, with a walking stick.


BRABAZON.  I want to see the Lord Chancellor.

MERCER.  Have you an appointment?

BRABAZON.  No.

MERCER.  Then you cant see the Lord Chancellor.

BRABAZON.  I tell you I must see him.

MERCER.  I tell you you cant.  Look here: do you think the Lord
Chancellor's a palmist or a hair doctor that people can rush in out
of the street and see him whenever they want to?

BRABAZON.  That speech was meant to insult and humiliate me.  I
make it a rule to fight people who attempt to insult and humiliate
me.  [Throwing away his stick]  Put up your hands.  [He puts up his
own].

MERCER.  Here: you let me alone.  You leave this office, d'ye hear;
or I'll have the police in on you.

BRABAZON.  You are face to face with your destiny; and your destiny
is to fight me.  Be quick: I'm going to begin.  Dont look pale: I
scorn to take you by surprise.  I shall lead off with my left on
your right eye.  Put them up.

MERCER.  I aint going to fight you.  Let me alone, will you?  I
said nothing to you.

BRABAZON.  Liar and slave.  Fight, I tell you: fight.

MERCER.  Oh, was there ever the like of this?  Don't make such a
noise.

BRABAZON.  I'm making it on purpose.  I want you to fight because
itll make more noise than anything else.  The Lord Chancellor will
come to see what the noise is about if only it's loud enough.
Time! [he spars].

MERCER [retreating to the fireplace and snatching up the poker]
Ah, would you?  You come near me, and I'll split your head open, I
will.

BRABAZON [snatching up the tongs, and engaging him in a stage fight
of the noisiest]  Lay on, Macduff; and damned be he that first
cries Hold!  Enough!

The Lord Chancellor enters indignantly.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Whats this?  Who is this gentleman?

BRABAZON.  The Lord Chancellor.  Good.  [To Mercer]  Hence,
horrible shadow: unreal mockery, hence.  My lord, I have called on
professional business.  In the matter of Brabazon, an infant.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  If you are a solicitor, sir, you must be aware
that this is not the proper way to approach the Court.

BRABAZON.  I approach you as the father of all the orphans in
Chancery.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Sir--

BRABAZON.  Dont fly out: I'll explain everything.  You remember the
matter of Brabazon, an infant.  Come, now! frankly as man to man
you do remember the matter of Brabazon, an infant.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  There is such a case, I believe.

BRABAZON.  Of course there is.  Well, I'm the infant.  I'm
Brabazon.  I'll call thee Hamlet!  King! father!  Royal Dane: wilt
thou not answer me?  [Prosaically]  Now you see, dont you?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  You are young Horace Brabazon, are you?

BRABAZON.  I am, my lord.  Such is life!

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  You are a ward of the Court; and you have
systematically disobeyed every order made in your case.

BRABAZON.  The orders were unreasonable.  Fatuous, in fact.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Sir--

BRABAZON.  Let me explain.  One of the orders was that I was to go
into the Church.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  At your own desire.

BRABAZON.  Exactly.  But I should not have been indulged.  I was
too young.  How did I know what was good for me?  I put it to you
as one man to another: do I look like an archbishop?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Stuff, sir.

BRABAZON.  As you say, nothing could have been more idiotic.  You
ought to have known better.  No: the Church is not in my line.
Nature intended me for the stage.  The Unreal Mockery here was
practising Macduff with me when you came in.  Now what I want to
know is, can you get me an engagement?  As your ward, I have a
right to expect that of you.  You must know lots of people who
could give me a start.  And theres another thing: very important.
I--Oh, by the way, wont you sit down?  Excuse me keeping you
standing all this time.  Macduff: a chair.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR [with ironic politeness]  You are too good.
[He sits down].

BRABAZON.  Dont mention it.  Well, you know: I want some good home
influence to steady me.  You see you cant steady me: youre too much
occupied here with your shop: besides, you may shake a loose leg
yourself occasionally for all the public knows, eh?  Even if you
are virtuous, I should probably lead you astray.  No: what I want
is a wife.  Not a young woman, you know.  Someone old enough to be
my mother: say thirty or so.  I adore a mature woman.  Not old
enough to be your mother, you understand: old enough to be my
mother.  I attach some importance to that distinction; so be good
enough to bear it in mind.  One mustnt overdo these notions.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Mr Mercer, will you be good enough to make a
careful note of this gentleman's requirements: an engagement at a
leading theatre to play Macbeth, and a wife of quiet habits and
grave disposition.  Anything else, Mr Brabazon?

BRABAZON.  Nothing today, thank you.  And now, I know better than
to take up the time of a busy man.  Happy to have made your
acquaintance.  So long!  Ta, ta, Macduff.

He goes out.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  What do you mean by letting this lunatic in,
Mr Mercer?  I'm extremely annoyed.

MERCER.  I didnt let him in, my lord.  He came in, I was keeping
him from you at the risk of my life when you came in to ask what
the noise was.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR [with emotion]  My faithful Mercer.

MERCER.  My honored master.  [They shake hands, weeping].

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  We were happy together until this man came
between us.

MERCER.  Let us try to forget him, my lord.  [Turns to his desk and
sees Brabazon's walking stick on the floor]  My lord, he has left
his walking stick behind.  He will return for it.  Let us fly.  [He
picks it up and puts it on the desk].

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Nonsense, Mercer: we have no aeroplane; and if
we had we shouldnt know how to use it.  Hark!  A visitor at the
door.  [They both rush to it.  The handle is turned].  Tell him we
have both gone out.

MERCER.  Useless, my lord: he is a man of strong reasoning powers:
he would conclude, on hearing our voices, that we were both within.

A WOMAN'S VOICE.  Is anybody there?  Let me in.  [She rattles the
door].

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  That is the voice of a young and probably
beautiful woman.

MERCER.  It is, my lord.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Then why the dickens dont you open the door
instead of striking melodramatic attitudes?  How dare you keep the
lady waiting?  I'm very much annoyed.

MERCER.  I'm sorry, my lord.  [He opens the door].

Anastasia Vulliamy enters.

ANASTASIA [to Mercer]  Is this the Lord Chancellor's?

MERCER.  Yes.

ANASTASIA.  Sir Cardonius Boshington's?

MERCER.  Yes, maam.

ANASTASIA.  Are you the Lord Chancellor?

MERCER.  No, maam.  Leastways, not yet.

ANASTASIA.  What are you?

MERCER.  I'm the Lord Chancellor's--

ANASTASIA.  Secretary?

MERCER.  Well, hardly that, maam.  If you ask me, I should say I
was a sort of what you might call a clerk-valet to his lordship.

ANASTASIA.  Are you a gentleman?

MERCER [staggered]  Well, thats a poser, Miss, really.  I'm in a
manner of speaking a gentleman.

ANASTASIA.  In what manner of speaking are you a gentleman?

MERCER.  Well, Miss, I'm a gentleman to my tobacconist.  Every man
is a gentleman to his tobacconist.  The parliamentary candidate for
Hornsey always addresses me as a gentleman.  But then he aint
particular: leastways, not at election times.  You see, Miss, there
are three classes of gentry in this country.

ANASTASIA.  Only three?

MERCER.  Only three, maam.

ANASTASIA.  How do you tell one from the other?

MERCER.  You tell by the railway porters, Miss.  The real upper
class gives them a shilling; the upper middle class sixpence; and
the lower middle, tuppence.  I give tuppence myself.

ANASTASIA.  And which particular class of gentleman is it, pray,
that gives a lady a chair?

MERCER.  Oh, I'm sure I beg your pardon, Miss.  [He places a chair
for her].

ANASTASIA.  Thanks.  And now will you be good enough to tell Sir
Cardonius Boshington that Miss Anastasia Vulliamy wishes to see
him?

MERCER [to the Lord Chancellor]  Miss Anaesthesia Vulliamy, my
lord, to see you.

ANASTASIA [springing up]  Do you mean to tell me that this old man
in livery is the great Chancellor?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  At your service, Miss Vulliamy.

ANASTASIA [producing a newspaper]  Quite impossible.  I have here
an article on Sir Cardonius, headed Our Great Chancellor; and the
description does not correspond in the least.  [Reading]  "No man
of our time has succeeded in tempering the awe inspired by a
commanding stature and majestic presence with a love and confidence
which even the youngest and most timid ward of the Court feels at
the sound of his kindly voice and the encouraging beam, twinkling
with humor, of his tender grey eyes."  Do you mean to tell me that
thats you?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  It is not for me to say how far the
description is an accurate or a happy one, madam; but I believe I
am the person intended by the writer.

MERCER [producing another paper]  Perhaps youd recognize this
better, Miss.  Sir Cardonius and me is on opposite sides in
politics.

ANASTASIA [taking the paper and reading at the place he indicates]
"How much longer will the nation allow this despicable pantaloon to
occupy the woolsack--"  Whats the woolsack?

MERCER.  What the Lord Chancellor sits on in the House of Lords,
Miss.

ANASTASIA [continuing her reading] "whose contents only too
strongly resemble those of his own head."  Thats a nasty one, you
know: isnt it?  It means that your brains are woolly, doesnt it?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Its meaning is entirely beneath my notice.
I'm surprised, Mercer, to find you in possession of a scurrilous
rag of this character.  We may differ in our opinions; but if any
paper taken in by me were to speak of you in such unbecoming terms,
I should never open it again.

MERCER.  Well, my lord; politics is politics; and after all, what
is politics if it isnt shewing up the other side?  When I pay a
penny for a paper Ive a right to get value for my money the same as
any other man.

ANASTASIA.  But I dont understand.  [To the Chancellor]  Are you a
despicable pantaloon?  The other paper says your name will be
cherished by the warm hearts of the English people when Eldon and
Sir Thomas More are forgotten.  I thought that whatever is in the
papers must be true.  How do you explain being a great Chancellor
and a despicable pantaloon at the same time?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  I take it that the excellent journal from
which you first quoted has put all considerations of party aside,
and simply endeavored to place before you a dispassionate estimate
of such modest services as I have been able to render to my
country.  The other paper gives you nothing but the vituperative
ravings of an illiterate penny-a-liner blinded by party passion.

MERCER.  You should never read more than one paper, Miss.  It
unsettles the mind, let alone the waste of a penny.

ANASTASIA.  Well, it's a great relief to me to hear that the Great
Chancellor paper is the right one.  [To the Lord Chancellor]  You
think I may believe everything it says?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  I trust I shall not disappoint any favorable
opinion you may have founded on it.

ANASTASIA.  It says here that though you are stern with the
worthless and merciless to the impostor, yet your mature wisdom and
unparalleled legal knowledge are freely at the service of all
deserving persons, and that no distressed suitor has ever been
turned empty away from your door.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  That refers to my private house, madam.  I
dont keep food here.

MERCER.  I have a sandwich for my lunch, Miss.  Sooner than send
you empty away, I would give it to you, Miss, most joyfully.

ANASTASIA.  I ask, not charity, but justice.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Madam: I must request you to speak like a
lady and not like a procession of the unemployed.  The House of
Lords always gives charity and never gives justice.

MERCER.  The House of Lords will find itself unemployed one of
these days, if you ask me.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Silence, Mercer.  Have the goodness to keep
your Radicalism to yourself in the presence of this lady.

ANASTASIA.  Why do you allow your clerk to be a Radical?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Well, madam, to make him a Conservative and an
Imperialist I should have to raise his salary very considerably;
and I prefer to save money and put up with a Radical.

ANASTASIA.  Youll excuse me asking you all these questions; but as
Ive decided, after what the paper says, that you are the man to
advise me and be a father to me, it's very important that you
should be quite all right, isnt it?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  But it's not my business to be a father to
every young lady who walks into my office.

ANASTASIA.  Not your business!  Why, Whitaker's Almanack says you
get 10,000 a year.  You dont get that for nothing, I suppose.  [To
Mercer]  By the way, Whitaker doesnt say how much you get.

MERCER.  I get one-fifty.

ANASTASIA.  One-fifty into 10,000 goes about 66 times.  Why does
he get 66 times as much as you?  Is he sixty-six times as good?

MERCER.  He thinks so.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  I set up no such ridiculous pretension,
Mercer.

ANASTASIA [to the Lord Chancellor]  Perhaps youre 66 times as
sober.  How much do you drink every day?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  I am almost a teetotaller.  A single bottle of
burgundy is quite sufficient for me.

ANASTASIA [to Mercer]  Then I suppose you drink 66 bottles of
burgundy a day.

MERCER.  66 bottles of burgundy a day on one-fifty a year!  Not me.
It hardly runs to beer on Sundays.

ANASTASIA.  Well, there must be something awfully wrong about you,
you know, if you get only the sixty-sixth of what he gets.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  No, madam.  Mercer is an excellent man in his
proper place.

ANASTASIA.  Then there must be something awfully right about you.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  I hope so.

ANASTASIA.  I dont see the difference myself.

MERCER.  He's better fed.

ANASTASIA.  Is he?  I should have thought he was too red about the
nose to be quite healthy.  It's the burgundy, I expect.  However, I
didnt come here to talk about you two.  Call it selfish if you
will; but I came to talk about myself.  The fact is, I'm an orphan.
At least, I think I am.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Dont you know?

ANASTASIA.  No I was brought up in what you might politely call a
sort of public institution.  They found me on the doorstep, you
know.  Might have happened to anybody, mightnt it?

MERCER [scandalized]  And you have the audacity to come here and
talk up to us as if you was a lady.  Be off with you; and be
ashamed of yourself, you hussy.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Gently, Mercer, gently.  It is not the poor
girl's fault.

MERCER.  Not her fault!  Why, she aint anybody's daughter: she's
only an offspring.

ANASTASIA.  Perhaps I'm his daughter, my lord.

MERCER.  Oh, you wicked girl!  Oh, you naughty story, you!  Oh,
that I should have lived to have this accusation brought against
me: me! a respectable man!

ANASTASIA.  I had a feeling the moment I saw you.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  The voice of Nature!  Oh, Mercer, Mercer!

MERCER.  I'll have the law of you for this, I will.  Oh, say you
dont believe her, my lord.  Dont drive me mad.  Say you dont
believe her.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  I cant disregard the voice of Nature, Mercer.
The evidence against you is very black.

MERCER.  Me the father of a common girl found on a workhouse
doorstep!

ANASTASIA [rising most indignantly]  How dare you presume to say
such a thing?  A workhouse doorstep indeed!  I was found on the
doorstep of one of the very best houses in Park Lane.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR [overwhelmed]  My dear young lady, how can I
apologize--

MERCER [crushed]  I'm sure I beg your pardon most humbly, Miss.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Forget the rudeness of my clerk: he knows no
better.  Resume your seat, I beg.

MERCER.  If I had only known, Miss!  Park Lane!  I could bite my
tongue out for my bad manners, I do assure you.

ANASTASIA.  Say no more.  Of course you could not know my social
position.

MERCER.  Dont say that, Miss.  You have Park Lane in every feature.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR [effusively]  In your manners.

MERCER.  In your accent.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  In your tone--

MERCER.  Address--

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  A je ne sais quoi--

MERCER.  A tout ensemble--

ANASTASIA.  You speak French?

MERCER.  Not a word, Miss; but at the sight of that hat of yours
the French fairly burst out of me.

ANASTASIA.  You are very good--

THE LORD CHANCELLOR. } Oh, not at all.
MERCER.              } Dont mention it.

ANASTASIA.  Dont begin again.  I forgive you both.  Now, attention!
I'm a good-hearted but somewhat flighty girl; and I require some
serious interest in life to steady me.  As I had an ungovernable
appetite, and was naturally rather inclined to be stout, I tried
politics.  For you, a man, politics meant the House of Lords.  For
me, a woman, politics meant Holloway Gaol and the hunger strike.  I
refused to take food until I was so frightfully hungry that when
the Governor--who was a plump, chubby, tempting sort of man, you
know--came into my cell and remonstrated with me, I attempted to
devour him.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Pardon me.  I thought you Suffragist lambs
prided yourselves on acting always on principle.  On what
principle, may I ask do you justify an attempt to devour an
estimable public official?

ANASTASIA.  On the Cat and Mouse principle, my lord.  That is a
part of the law of England.

MERCER.  Never.  Not when the woman is the cat.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  May I ask, madam, what the unfortunate mouse
did on this occasion?

ANASTASIA.  He got quite angry, and said he wouldnt have me in his
prison another minute--not if I went down on my knees and begged
him to let me stay.  Of course I refused to go; but I had to let
the poor man have his way at last, though it took ten wardresses to
persuade me to do it.  I left them simply in ribbons, poor things.
Prison made a great change in me.  Before I went in I felt a great
want of something to love; but when I came out I felt nothing but a
great want of something to eat.  There were two public houses near
the prison.  One had a placard up "Sausage and Mashed," the other
"Sandwich and Small Lloyd George."  I visited both in succession,
and had two goes of each delicacy.  I then drove to the Holborn
Restaurant and had a five shilling lunch, stopping at three Pearce
and Plentys on the way to sustain exhausted nature.  At the Holborn
they refused to serve me with a second lunch; so I went on to the
Carlton.  Of my subsequent experiences at the Savoy, Pagani's,
Frascati's, Gatti's, five baked potato men, and a coffee stall, I
shall say nothing.  Suffice it that when at last the craving for
food was stilled, the craving for love returned in all its original
force.  I felt I must have something to cherish, to sacrifice
myself for.  You no doubt hold that self-sacrifice is a woman's
chief amusement.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Certainly I do.

ANASTASIA.  Any man would.  Well, what was I to love?  My friends
recommended marriage: a man, in fact.  But I hesitated to rush at
once to so expensive and troublesome an extreme.  I tried a pet
dog; but when it had been stolen for the sixth time by the man I
bought it from, I refused to pay any more rewards, and we were
parted for ever.  I tried a cat; but its conduct was so
disreputable that I really could not live in the same house with
it.  I adopted the orphan child of a crossing sweeper who was run
over; but when its aunt learnt that I had no parents she would not
permit it to stay.  Glad as I must confess I was to get rid of the
little beast, my starved heart still ached, my empty arms still
longed to gather some beloved object to my breast.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  If I can be of any service to you, madam--

ANASTASIA.  You?  You are married, are you not?

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Well, er, yes I er--am married.

MERCER [catching her eye]  I'm sorry, miss; but so am I.  Still, a
divorce would be a matter of only eighty pound or so if we made it
a fairly straight case.

ANASTASIA.  Never shall it be said that Anastasia Vulliamy built
her happiness on the ruin of another woman's home.  There are
younger and handsomer men than you, my lord: there are more genteel
characters than Mercer.  Neither of you, if I may be allowed the
expression, is precisely what I should call a peach.  And I want--
oh, I want a peach.  He must be a young peach.  Not that I am to be
seduced by the fleeting charms of a smooth cheek and a slim figure.
But it's a necessity of my position as a woman that I should marry
someone whom I can bully, because if a woman cant bully her
husband, her husband generally bullies her.


     You, my lord, you will, you can,
     Find me a young and foolish man.
     Into my arms: under my thumb
     Let him come, let him come.


I fear I am almost dropping into poetry; but the tumult of my
emotions carries me away.  I implore you not to keep me waiting.
My soul, my soul is thrilling as it never thrilled before.  My
arms, my arms are longing as they never longed before.  My heart,
my heart is beating as it never bet before.  Every nerve in my
body, every fibre in my heart--

Brabazon enters.

BRABAZON.  Excuse me: I left my stick, I think--

ANASTASIA [throwing herself into his arms]  He has come: he has
come: the very thing I want.

BRABAZON.  Quite out of the question, my dear lady.  Sir Cardonius
will tell you that you are too young, too irresponsible, too
impulsive to be anything more to me than an extremely agreeable
object of contemplation, and a charming hostess.  With that object
may I venture to propose a marriage to you?

ANASTASIA.  Silly! that is exactly what _I_ am proposing to you.

BRABAZON.  Not marriage to the same person, I think.  You, as I
understand it, propose to marry me.  _I_ propose that you should
marry one of my friends.  You can then invite me to your house, and
put on your best company manners for my benefit.  He will have the
privilege of paying for your hats, and enjoying your no-company
manners.

MERCER.  My lord: this man has a giant intellect.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  It will avail him as little as if he were the
biggest fool in creation.  Young man: you are lost.  I argued as
you do.  I tried to get out of it.

MERCER.  I moved all the way from Gospel Oak to Islington to
escape; but it was no use.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Beware how you anger her by shewing any
reluctance.  Remember:  "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned."

MERCER.  Whats the good of that nowadays?  When that was written a
woman would take no for an answer.  She wont now.

ANASTASIA.  You will begin walking out with me at once.  You are
only on approval, of course; but if you suit, you may consider next
Friday three weeks named as the day.

BRABAZON.  But where does the merit come in for me?  Where is the
moral discipline?  Where is the self-sacrifice?  You are an
agreeable person: to marry you would be an act of pure selfishness.

ANASTASIA.  So you think now, dearest.  You wont think that a year
hence.  I'll take care of that for my own boy.

BRABAZON.  Yes, but look here, you know.  Have you got any money?

ANASTASIA.  Not a rap.

BRABAZON.  And you expect to get a slave for nothing.  What cheek!

ANASTASIA.  I'm richer than you think, darling.  It's true that I'm
a poor penniless orphan.  Doesnt that touch you?

BRABAZON.  Not in the least.

ANASTASIA.  Thoughtless boy.  Have you forgotten that the women who
have money always belong to some family or other?

BRABAZON.  Well?

ANASTASIA.  Well, a family means relations.  You cant call your
house your own.  The brothers borrow money.  The sisters come and
stay for months.  The mothers quarrels with your mother.

MERCER.  Gospel truth, every word of it.

THE LORD CHANCELLOR.  Undeniable.  [He sighs deeply].

ANASTASIA.  I, my love, am not perfect.  I am a weak woman: I have
nothing to cling to but your love, nor any place to rest except
your very becoming fancy waistcoat.  But at least I'm a foundling.

BRABAZON [excited and hopeful]  A foundling?

ANASTASIA.  I havnt a relation in the world.

BRABAZON [clasping her]  Mine! mine! MINE!!!


AYOT ST LAWRENCE, 10th August 1909.

(First published in Translations and Tomfooleries, 1926.)



THE END




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