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Title:      Too True to be Good
Author:     George Bernard Shaw
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Language:   English
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A Project Gutenberg of Australia eBook

Title:      Too True to be Good
Author:     George Bernard Shaw

Too True to be Good:
A Political Extravaganza




Period--The Present.

  ACT I.  One of the Best Bedrooms in one of the Best Suburban
          Villas in one of the Richest Cities in England.

  ACT II.  A Sea Beach in a Mountainous Country.

  ACT III.  A Narrow Gap leading down to the Beach.

From the Malvern Festival Book, 1932

Why "Too True to be Good" Failed: A Moral in Favour of a National



  Money and Happiness

  The Vampire and the Calf

  The Old Soldier and the Public House

  The Unloading Millionaires

  Delusions of Poverty

  Trying it for an Hour

  Consolations of the Landed Gentry

  Miseries of the Vagrant Rootless Rich

  The Redemption from Property

  Fundamental Natural Conditions of Human Society

  The Catholic Solution

  Need for a Common Faith

  Russia Rediscovers the Church System

  Why the Christian System Failed

  Government by Everybody

  Failure All Round

  Obsolete Vows

  Supernatural Pretensions

  Eclectic Democracy


Somehow my play, Too True To Be Good, has in performance excited an
animosity and an enthusiasm which will hardly be accounted for by
the printed text.  Some of the spectators felt that they had had a
divine revelation, and overlooked the fact that the eloquent
gentleman through whose extremely active mouth they had received it
was the most hopeless sort of scoundrel: that is, one whose
scoundrelism consists in the absence of conscience rather than in
any positive vices, and is masked by good looks and agreeable
manners.  The less intellectual journalist critics sulked as they
always do when their poverty but not their will consents to their
witnessing a play of mine; but over and above the resultant
querulousness to which I have long been accustomed I thought I
detected an unusual intensity of resentment, as if I had hit them
in some new and unbearably sore spot.

Where, then, was the offence that so exceedingly disgruntled these
unhappy persons?  I think it must have been the main gist and moral
of the play, which is not, as usual, that our social system is
unjust to the poor, but that it is cruel to the rich.  Our
revolutionary writers have dwelt on the horrors of poverty.  Our
conventional and romantic writers have ignored those horrors,
dwelling pleasantly on the elegances of an existence free from
pecuniary care.  The poor have been pitied for miseries which do
not, unfortunately, make them unbearably miserable.  But who has
pitied the idle rich or really believed that they have a worse time
of it than those who have to live on ten shillings a day or less,
and earn it?  My play is a story of three reckless young people
who come into possession of, for the moment, unlimited riches,
and set out to have a thoroughly good time with all the modern
machinery of pleasure to aid them.  The result is that they get
nothing for their money but a multitude of worries and a maddening


I doubt whether this state of things is ever intentionally
produced.  We see a man apparently slaving to place his children in
the position of my three adventurers; but on closer investigation
we generally find that he does not care twopence for his children,
and is wholly wrapped up in the fascinating game of making
money.  Like other games it is enjoyable only by people with an
irresistible and virtually exclusive fancy for it, and enough
arithmetical ability and flair for market values to play it well;
but with these qualifications the poorest men can make the most
astounding fortunes.  They accumulate nothing but powers of
extracting money every six months from their less acquisitive
neighbors; and their children accumulate nothing but obligations to
spend it.  As between these two processes of bleeding and being
bled, bleeding is the better fun.  The vampire has a better time
than the calf hung up by the heels with its throat cut.  The
moneygetter spends less on his food, clothes, and amusements than
his clerks do, and is happy.  His wife and sons and daughters,
spending fabulous sums on themselves, are no happier than their
housemaids, if so happy; for the routine of fashion is virtually as
compulsory as the routine of a housemaid, its dressing is as much
dictated as her uniform, its snubbings are as humiliating, and its
monotony is more tedious because more senseless and useless, not to
mention that it must be pleasanter to be tipped than to tip.  And,
as I surmise, the housemaid's day off or evening off is really off:
in those hard earned hours she ceases to be a housemaid and can be
herself; but the lady of fashion never has a moment off: she has to
be fashionable even in her little leisure, and dies without ever
having had any self at all.  Here and there you find rich ladies
taking up occupations and interests which keep them so busy doing
professional or public work that they might as well have five
hundred a year as fifty thousand "for all the good it does them" as
the poor say in their amazement when they see people who could
afford to be fashionable and extravagant working hard and dressing
rather plainly.  But that requires a personal endowment of tastes
and talents quite out of the common run.

I remember a soldier of the old never-do-well type drifting into a
little Socialist Society which I happened to be addressing more
than fifty years ago.  As he had evidently blundered into the wrong
shop and was half drunk, some of the comrades began to chaff him,
and finally held me up to him as an example of the advantages of
teetotalism.  With the most complete conviction he denounced me as
a hypocrite and a liar affirming it to be a well-known and
inexorable law of nature that no man with money in his pocket could
pass a public house without going in for a drink.


I have never forgotten that soldier, because his delusion, in less
crude forms, and his conception of happiness, seem to afflict
everybody in England more or less.  When I say less crude forms I
do not mean truer forms; for the soldier, being half drunk, was
probably happier than he would have been if quite sober, whereas
the plutocrat who has spent a hundred pounds in a day in the search
for pleasure is not happier than if he had spent only five
shillings.  For it must be admitted that a private soldier, outside
that surprising centre of culture, the Red Army of Russia, has so
little to be happy about when sober that his case is hardly a fair
one.  But it serves to illustrate the moral of my play, which is,
that our capitalistic system, with its golden exceptions of idle
richery and its leaden rule of anxious poverty, is as desperate a
failure from the point of view of the rich as of the poor.  We are
all amazed and incredulous, like the soldier, when we hear of the
multimillionaire passing the public house without going in and
drinking himself silly; and we envy his sons and daughters who do
go in and drink themselves silly.  The vulgar pub may be in fact a
Palace Hotel, and the pints of beer or glasses of whisky an
elaborate dinner with many courses and wines culminating in cigars
and liqueurs; but the illusion and the results are cognate.

I therefore plead for a science of happiness to cure us of the
miserable delusion that we can achieve it by becoming richer than
our neighbors.  Modern colossal fortunes have demonstrated its
vanity.  When country parsons were "passing rich with forty pounds
a year" there was some excuse for believing that to be rich was to
be happy, as the conception of riches did not venture beyond enough
to pay for the necessities of a cultivated life.  A hundred years
ago Samuel Warren wrote a famous novel about a man who became
enormously rich.  The title of the novel was Ten Thousand a Year;
and this, to any resident Irish family in my boyhood, represented
an opulence beyond which only Lords Lieutenant and their like could
aspire.  The scale has changed since then.  I have just seen in the
papers a picture of the funeral of a shipping magnate whose income,
if the capital value of the property left by him be correctly
stated, must have been over four thousand pounds a day or a million
and a half a year.  If happiness is to be measured by riches he
must have been fourteen thousand times as happy as the laborer
lucky enough to be earning two pounds a week.  Those who believe
that riches are the reward of virtue are bound to conclude that he
was also fourteen thousand times as sober, honest, and industrious,
which would lead to the quaint conclusion that if he drank a bottle
of wine a day the laborer must have drunk fourteen thousand.


This is so obviously monstrous that it may now be dismissed as an
illusion of the poor who know nothing of the lives of the rich.
Poverty, when it involves continual privation and anxiety, is, like
toothache, so painful that the victim can desire nothing happier
than the cessation of the pain.  But it takes no very extraordinary
supply of money to enable a humble person to say "I want for
nothing"; and when that modest point is reached the power of money
to produce happiness vanishes, and the trouble which an excess of
it brings begins to assert itself, and finally reaches a point at
which the multimillionaires are seen frantically unloading on
charitable, educational, scientific, religious, and even (though
rarely) artistic and political "causes" of all kinds, mostly
without stopping to examine whether the causes produce any effects,
and if so what effects.  And far from suffering a loss of happiness
every time they give away a thousand pounds, they find themselves
rather in the enviable state of mind of the reveller in The
Pilgrim's Progress with his riddle "There was a man, though some
did think him mad, the more he gave away the more he had."


The notion that the rich must be happy is complemented by the
delusion that the poor must be miserable.  Our society is so
constituted that most people remain all their lives in the
condition in which they were born, and have to depend on their
imagination for their notions of what it is like to be in the
opposite condition.  The upstarts and the downstarts, though we
hear a great deal about them either as popular celebrities or
criminals, are exceptional.  The rich, it is said, do not know how
the poor live; but nobody insists on the more mischievous fact that
the poor do not know how the rich live.  The rich are a minority;
and they are not consumed with envy of the poor.  But the poor are
a huge majority and they are so demoralized by the notion that they
would be happy if only they were rich, that they make themselves
poorer, if hopefuller, by backing horses and buying sweepstake
tickets on the chance of realizing their daydreams of unearned
fortunes.  Our penny newspapers now depend for their circulation,
and consequently for their existence, on the sale of what are
virtually lottery coupons.  The real opposition to Socialism
comes from the fear (well founded) that it would cut off the
possibilities of becoming rich beyond those dreams of avarice which
our capitalist system encourages.  The odds against a poor person
becoming a millionaire are of astronomical magnitude; but they are
sufficient to establish and maintain the Totalisator as a national
institution, and to produce unlimited daydreams of bequests from
imaginary long lost uncles in Australia or a lucky ticket in the
Calcutta or Irish Sweeps.


Besides, even quite poor people save up for holidays during which
they can be idle and rich, if not for life, at least for an hour,
an afternoon, or even a week.  And for the poor these moments
derive such a charm from the change from the monotony of daily toil
and servitude, that the most intolerable hardships and discomforts
and fatigues in excursion trains and overcrowded lodgings seem
delightful, and leave the reveller with a completely false notion
of what a lifetime of such revelry would be.

I maintain that nobody with a sane sense of values can feel that
the sole prize which our villainous capitalist system has to offer,
the prize of admission to the ranks of the idle rich, can possibly
confer either happiness or health or freedom on its winner.  No one
can convict me of crying sour grapes; for during the last thirty-
five years I have been under no compulsion to work nor had any
material privation or social ostracism to fear as a consequence of
not working.  But, like all the intelligent rich people of my
acquaintance, I have worked as hard, ate and drunk no more, and
dressed no better than when I had to work or starve.  When my
pockets were empty I did not buy any of the luxuries in the London
shops because I had no money to buy them with.  When, later on, I
had enough to buy anything that London could tempt me with, the
result was the same: I returned home day after day without having
made a single purchase.  And I am no ascetic: no man alive is freer
than I from the fancy that selfmortification will propitiate a
spiteful deity or increase my balance in a salvation bank in a
world beyond the grave.  I would and could live the life of the
idle rich if I liked it; and my sole reason for not living it is
that I dont like it.  I have every opportunity of observing it both
in its daily practice and its remoter results; and I know that a
year of it would make me more unhappy than anything else of an
accepted kind that I can imagine.  For, just as the bean-feaster
can live like a lord for an afternoon, and the Lancashire factory
operative have a gorgeous week at Blackpool when the wakes are on,
so I have had my afternoons as an idle rich man, and know only too
well what it is like.  It makes me feel suicidal.

You may say that I am an exceptional man.  So I am, in respect
of being able to write plays and books; but as everybody is
exceptional in respect of being able to do something that most
other people cannot do, there is nothing in that.  Where I am
really a little exceptional is in respect of my having experienced
both poverty and riches, servitude and selfgovernment, and also
having for some reason or other (possibly when I was assured in my
infancy that some nasty medicine was delicious) made up my mind
early in life never to let myself be persuaded that I am enjoying
myself gloriously when I am, as a matter of fact, being bored and
pestered and plundered and worried and tired.  You cannot humbug me
on this point: I understand perfectly why Florence Nightingale fled
from fashionable society in London to the horrors of the Crimean
hospitals rather than behave like a lady, and why my neighbour Mr
Apsley Cherry-Garrard, the sole survivor of what he calls with good
reason "the worst journey in the world" through the Antarctic
winter, was no poor sailorman driven by his need for daily bread to
make a hard living before the mast, but a country gentleman opulent
enough to choose the best that London society could offer him if he
chose.  Better the wards of the most terrible of field hospitals
than a drawingroom in Mayfair: better the South Pole at its
blackest six months winter night and its most murderous extremities
of cold than Sunday by the Serpentine in the height of the season.


To some extent this misery of riches is a new thing.  Anyone who
has the run of our country houses, with their great parks and
gardens, their staffs of retainers, indoor and outdoor, and the
local public work that is always available for the resident landed
gentry, will at once challenge the unqualified assertion that the
rich, in a lump, are miserable.  Clearly they are nothing of the
sort, any more than the poor in a lump.  But then they are neither
idle nor free.  A lady with a big house to manage, and the rearing
of a family to supervise, has a reasonably busy time of it
even without counting her share in the routine of sport and
entertainment and occasional travel which to people brought up to
it is a necessary and important part of a well ordered life.  The
landed gentry have enough exercise and occupation and sense of
social importance and utility to keep them on very good terms with
themselves and their neighbors.  If you suddenly asked them whether
they really enjoyed their routine and whether they would not rather
be Communists in Russia they would be more sincerely scandalized
than if you had turned to them in Church and asked them whether
they really believed every clause in the Apostles' Creed.  When one
of their ugly ducklings becomes a revolutionist it is not because
country-house life is idle, but because its activities are
uncongenial and because the duckling has tastes or talents which it
thwarts, or a faculty for social criticism which discovers that the
great country house is not built on the eternal rock but on the
sandy shore of an ocean of poverty which may at any moment pass
from calm to tempest.  On the whole, there is no reason why a
territorial lady should not be as happy as her dairymaid, or her
husband be as happy as his gamekeeper.  The riches of the county
families are attached to property; and the only miserable county
people are those who will not work at their job.


But the new thing is riches detached from real property: that is,
detached from work, from responsibility, from tradition, and from
every sort of prescribed routine, even from the routine of going to
the village church every Sunday, paying and receiving calls, and
having every month set apart for the killing of some particular
bird or animal.  It means being a tramp without the daily recurrent
obligation to beg or steal your dinner and the price of your bed.
Instead, you have the daily question "What shall I do?  Where shall
I go?" and the daily answer "Do what you please: go where you like:
it doesnt matter what you do or where you go."  In short, the
perfect liberty of which slaves dream because they have no
experience of its horrors.  Of course the answer of outraged Nature
is drowned for a time by the luxury merchants shouting "Come and
shop, whether you need anything or not.  Come to our palace hotels.
Come round the world in our liners.  Come and wallow in our
swimming pools.  Come and see our latest model automobile: we have
changed the inventor's design for-better-for-worse solely to give
you an excuse for buying a new one and selling your old one at
scrap iron prices.  Come and buy our latest fashions in dress: you
cannot possibly be seen in last season's garments."  And so on and
so forth.  But the old questions come home to the rich tourists in
the palace hotels and luxury liners just as they do to the tramps
on the highroad.  They come up when you have the latest car and the
latest wardrobe and all the rest of it.  The only want that money
can satisfy without satiating for more than a few hours is the need
for food and drink and sleep.  So from one serious meal a day and
two very minor ones you go on to three serious meals a day and two
minor ones.  Then you work another minor one between breakfast and
lunch "to sustain you"; and you soon find that you cannot tackle
any meal without a cocktail, and that you cannot sleep.  That
obliges you to resort to the latest soporific drug, guaranteed in
the advertisements to have none of the ruinous effects of its
equally guaranteed forerunner.  Then comes the doctor, with his
tonics, which are simply additional cocktails, and his sure
knowledge that if he tells you the truth about yourself and refuses
to prescribe the tonics and the drugs, his children will starve.
If you indulge in such a luxury as a clerical spiritual adviser it
is his duty to tell you what is the matter with you is that you are
an idle useless glutton and drunkard and that you are going to
hell; but alas! he, like the doctor, cannot afford this, as he may
have to ask you for a subscription tomorrow to keep his church
going.  And that is "Liberty: thou choicest treasure."

This sort of life has been made possible, and indeed inevitable, by
what William Cobbett, who had a sturdy sense of vital values,
denounced as The Funding System.  It was a product of war, which
obliged belligerent governments to obtain enormous sums from all
and sundry by giving them in exchange the right to live for nothing
on the future income of the country until their money was returned:
a system now so popular among people with any money to spare that
they can be induced to part with it only on condition that the
Government promises not to repay it before a certain more or less
remote day.  When joint stock companies were formed to run big
industrial concerns with money raised on the still more tempting
terms that the money is never to be repaid, the system became so
extensive that the idle upstart rich became a definitely
mischievous and miserable class quite different in character from
the old feudal rich.


When I propose the abolition of our capitalistic system to redeem
mankind from the double curse of poverty and riches, loud wailings
arise.  The most articulate sounds in the hubbub are to the effect
that the wretched slaves of the curse will lose their liberty if
they are forced to earn their living honorably.  The retort that
they have nothing to lose but their chains, with the addition that
the gold chains are as bad as the iron ones, cannot silence them,
because they think they are free, and have been brought up to
believe that unless the country remains the private property of
irresponsible owners maintaining a parliament to make any change
impossible, with churches schools and universities to inculcate the
sacredness of private property and party government disguised as
religion education and democracy, civilization must perish.  I am
accused of every sort of reactionary extravagance by the people who
think themselves advanced, and of every sort of destructive madness
by people who thank God they are no wiser than their fathers.

Now I cannot profitably discuss politics religion and economics
with terrified ignoramuses who understand neither what they are
defending nor what they are attacking.  But it happens that Mr
Gilbert Chesterton, who is not an ignoramus and not in the least
terrified, and whose very interesting conversion to Roman
Catholicism has obliged him to face the problem of social
organization fundamentally, discarding the Protestant impostures on
English history which inspired the vigorous Liberalism of his salad
days, has lately taken me to task for the entirely imaginary
offence of advocating government by a committee of celebrities.  To
clear up the matter I have replied to Mr Chesterton very fully and
in Catholic terms.  Those who have read my reply in the magazines
in which it appeared need read no further, unless they wish, as I
should advise, to read it twice.  For the benefit of the rest, and
to put it on permanent record, here it is.


1.  Government is necessary wherever two or three are gathered
together--or two or three billions--for keeps.

2.  Government is neither automatic nor abstract: it must be
performed by human rulers and agents as best they can.

3.  The business of the rulers is to check disastrously selfish or
unexpected behaviour on the part of individuals in social affairs.

4.  This business can be done only by devizing and enforcing rules
of social conduct codifying the greatest common measure of
agreement as to the necessary sacrifice of individual liberty to
the good of the community.

5.  The paradox of government is that as the good of the community
involves a maximum of individual liberty for all its members the
rulers have at the same time to enslave everyone ruthlessly and to
secure for everyone the utmost possible freedom.

6.  In primitive communities people feed and lodge themselves
without bothering the Government.  In big civilizations this is
impossible; so the first business of the Government is to provide
for the production and distribution of wealth from day to day and
the just sharing of the labor and leisure involved.  Thus the
individual citizen has to be compelled not only to behave himself
properly, but to work productively.

7.  The moral slavery of the compulsion to behave properly is a
whole-time compulsion admitting of no liberty; but the personal
slavery of the compulsion to work lasts only as many hours daily as
suffice to discharge the economic duties of the citizen, the
remaining hours (over and above those needed for feeding, sleeping,
locomotion, etc.) being his leisure.

8.  Leisure is the sphere of individual liberty: labor is the
sphere of slavery.

9.  People who think they can be honestly free all the time are
idiots: people who seek whole-time freedom by putting their share
of productive work on others are thieves.

10.  The use of the word slavery to denote subjection to public
government has grown up among the idiots and thieves, and is
resorted to here only because it is expedient to explain things to
fools according to their folly.

So much for the fundamental natural conditions of social
organization.  They are as completely beyond argument as the
precession of the equinoxes; but they present different problems to
different people.  To the thief, for instance, the problem is how
to evade his share of the labor of production, to increase his
share in the distribution of the product, and to corrupt the
Government so that it may protect and glorify his chicaneries
instead of liquidating him.  To Mr Chesterton the Distributist
(or Extreme Left Communist) and Catholic (or Equalitarian
Internationalist) it is how to select rulers who will govern
righteously and impartially in accordance with the fundamental
natural conditions.

The history of civilization is the history of the conflict between
these rival views of the situation.  The Pirate King, the Robber
Baron, and the Manchester Man produced between them a government
which they called the Empire, the state, the Realm, the Republic,
or any other imposing name that did not give away its central
purpose.  The Chestertonians produced a government which they
called The Church; and in due time the Last of the Chestertons
joined this Catholic Church, like a very large ship entering a very
small harbor, to the great peril of its many rickety old piers
and wharves, and the swamping of all the small craft in its
neighborhood.  So let us see what the Catholic Church made of its
governmental problem.


To begin with, the Church, being catholic, was necessarily
democratic to the extent that its aim was to save the souls of all
persons without regard to their age, sex, nationality, class, or
color.  The nobleman who felt that God would not lightly damn a man
of his quality received no countenance from the Church in that
conviction.  Within its fold all souls were equal before God.

But the Church did not draw the ridiculous conclusion that all men
and women are equally qualified or equally desirous to legislate,
to govern, to administer, to make decisions, to manage public
affairs or even their own private affairs.  It faced the fact that
only about five per cent. of the population are capable of
exercising these powers, and are certain to be corrupted by them
unless they have an irresistible religious vocation for public work
and a faith in its beneficence which will induce them to take vows
to abstain from any profit that is not shared by all the rest, and
from all indulgences which might blunt their consciences or subject
them to the family influences so bitterly deprecated by Jesus.

This natural "called" minority was never elected in the scandalous
way we call democratic.  Its members were in the first instance
self-elected: that is, they voluntarily lived holy lives and
devoted themselves to the public welfare in obedience to the
impulse of the Holy Ghost within them.  This impulse was their
vocation.  They were called from above, not chosen by the uncalled.
To protect themselves and obtain the necessary power, they
organized themselves, and called their organization The Church.
After that, the genuineness and sufficiency of the vocation of the
new recruits were judged by The Church.  If the judgment was
favorable, and the candidates took certain vows, they were admitted
to the official priesthood and set to govern as priests in the
parish and spiritual directors in the family, all of them being
eligible, if they had the requisite ability, for promotion to the
work of governing the Church itself as bishops or cardinals, or to
the supreme rank of Pope or Vicar of Christ on earth.  And all this
without the smallest reference to the opinions of the uncalled and


Now comes the question, why should persons of genuine vocation be
asked to take vows before being placed in authority?  Is not the
vocation a sufficient guarantee of their wisdom?

No.  Before priests can govern they must have a common faith as to
the fundamental conditions of a stable human society.  Otherwise
the result might be an assembly of random men of genius unable to
agree on a single legislative measure or point of policy.  An
ecumenical council consisting of Einstein and Colonel Lynch,
Aquinas and Francis Bacon, Dante and Galileo, Lenin and Lloyd
George, could seldom come to an unanimous decision, if indeed to
any decision except in the negative against a minority of one, on
any point beyond the capacity of a coroner's jury.  The Pope must
not be an eccentric genius presiding over a conclave of variously
disposed cardinals: he must have an absolutely closed mind on what
Herbert Spencer called Social Statics; and in this the cardinals
must resemble and agree with him.  What is more, they must to some
extent represent the conscience of the common people; for it is
evident that if they made laws and gave personal directions which
would produce general horror or be taken as proofs of insanity
their authority would collapse.  Hence the need for vows committing
all who take them to definite articles of faith on social statics,
and to their logical consequences in law and custom.  Such vows
automatically exclude revolutionary geniuses, who, being uncommon,
are not representative, more especially scientific geniuses, with
whom it is a point of honor to have unconditionally open minds even
on the most apparently sacred subjects.


A tremendous importance is given to a clear understanding of the
Catholic system at this moment by the staggering fact that the
biggest State in the modern world, having made a clean sweep of its
Church by denouncing its religion as dope, depriving its priests
and bishops of any greater authority than a quack can pick up at a
fair, encouraging its most seriously minded children to form a
League of the Godless, shooting its pious Tsar, turning its
cathedrals into historical museums illustrating the infamies of
ecclesiastical history and expressly entitling them anti-religious:
in short, addressing itself solemnly and implacably to a root-and-
branch extermination of everything that we associate with
priesthood, has, under pressure of circumstances, unconsciously and
spontaneously established as its system of government an as-close-
as-possible reproduction of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.
The nomenclature is changed, of course: the Church is called the
Communist Party; and the Holy Office and its familiars are known as
the Komintern and the Gay Pay Oo.  There is the popular safeguard
of having the symptoms of the priestly vocation verified in the
first instance by the group of peasants or industrial workers with
whom the postulant's daily life has been passed, thus giving a
genuine democratic basis to the system; and the hierarchy elected
on this basis is not only up to date for the moment, but amenable
to the daily lessons of trial and error in its practical operations
and in no way pledged against change and innovation as such.  But
essentially the system is that of the old Christian Catholic
Church, even to its fundamental vow of Communism and the death
penalty on Ananias and Sapphira for violating it.

If our newspapers knew what is really happening in the world, or
could discriminate between the news value of a bicycle accident in
Clapham and that of a capsize of civilization, their columns would
be full of this literally epoch-making event.  And the first
question they would address to Russia would be "Why, seeing that
the Christian system has been such a hopeless failure, do you go
back to it, and invite us to go back to it?"


The answer is that the Christian system failed, not because it was
wrong in its psychology, its fundamental postulate of equality, or
its anticipation of Lenin's principle that the rulers must be as
poor as the ruled so that they can raise themselves only by raising
their people, but because the old priests' ignorance of economics
and political science blinded them to the mischief latent in the
selfishness of private property in the physical earth.  Before the
Church knew where it was (it has not quite located itself yet) it
found itself so prodigiously rich that the Pope was a secular
Italian prince with armies and frontiers, enjoying not only the
rent of Church lands, but selling salvation on such a scale that
when Torquemada began burning Jews instead of allowing them to
ransom their bodies by payments to the Roman treasury, and leaving
their souls to God, a first-rate quarrel between the Church and the
Spanish Inquisition was the result.

But the riches of the Church were nothing compared to the riches of
the Church's great rival, the Empire.  And the poverty of the
priest was opulence compared to the poverty of the proletarian.
Whilst the Church was being so corrupted by its own property, and
by the influence on it of the lay proprietors, that it lost all its
moral prestige, the warriors and robbers of the Empire had been
learning from experience that a pirate ship needs a hierarchy of
officers and an iron discipline even more than police boats, and
that the work of robbing the poor all the time involves a very
elaborate system of government to ensure that the poor shall, like
bees, continue to produce not only their own subsistence but the
surplus that can be robbed from them without bringing on them the
doom of the goose that lays the golden eggs.  Naked coercion is so
expensive that it became necessary to practise on the imaginations
of the poor to the extent of making them believe that it is a pious
duty to be robbed, and that their moment of life in this world is
only a prelude to an eternity in which the poor will be blest and
happy, and the rich horribly tortured.

Matters at last reached a point at which there was more law and
order in the Empire than in The Church.  Emperor Philip of Spain
was enormously more respectable and pious, if less amiable, than
Pope Alexander Borgia.  The Empire gained moral prestige as The
Church lost it until the Empire, virtuously indignant, took it on
itself to reform The Church, all the more readily as the
restoration of priestly poverty was a first-rate excuse for
plundering it.

Now The Church could not with any decency allow itself to be
reformed by a plutocracy of pirate kings, robber barons, commercial
adventurers, moneylenders, and deserters from its own ranks.  It
reformed itself from within by its own saints and the Orders they
founded, and thus "dished" the Reformation; whilst the Reformers
set up national Churches and free Churches of their own under the
general definition of Protestants, and thereby found themselves
committed to a curious adulteration of their doctrine of
Individualism, or the right of private judgment, with most of the
ecclesiastical corruptions against which they had protested.  And
as neither Church nor Empire would share the government of mankind
with the other nor allow the common people any say in the matter,
the Catholics and Protestants set to work to exterminate one
another with rack and stake, fire, sword, and gunpowder, aided by
the poison gas of scurrilous calumny, until the very name of
religion began to stink in the nostrils of all really charitable
and faithful people.


The moral drawn from all this was that as nobody could be trusted
to govern the people the people must govern themselves, which was
nonsense.  Nevertheless it was assumed that by inscribing every
man's name on a register of voters we could realize the ideal of
every man his own Solon and his own Plato, as to which one could
only ask why not every man his own Shakespear and his own Einstein?
But this assumption suited the plutocrats very well, as they had
only to master the easy art of stampeding elections by their
newspapers to do anything they liked in the name of the people.
Votes for everybody (called for short, Democracy) ended in
government neither of the best nor of the worst, but in an official
government which could do nothing but talk, and an actual
government of landlords, employers, and financiers at war with
an Opposition of trade unionists, strikers, pickets, and--
occasionally--rioters.  The resultant disorder, indiscipline,
and breakdown of distribution, produced a reaction of pure
disappointment and distress in which the people looked wildly round
for a Savior, and were ready to give a hopeful trial to anyone bold
enough to assume dictatorship and kick aside the impotent official
government until he had completely muzzled and subjugated it.


That is the history of Catholicism and Protestantism.  Church and
Empire, Liberalism and Democracy, up to date.  Clearly a ghastly
failure, both positively as an attempt to solve the problem of
government and negatively as an attempt to secure freedom of
thought and facility of change to keep pace with thought.

Now this does not mean in the least that the original Catholic plan
was wrong.  On the contrary, all the disasters to which it has led
have been demonstrations of the eternal need for it.  The
alternative to vocational government is a mixture of a haporth of
very incompetent official government with an intolerable deal of
very competent private tyranny.  Providence, or Nature if you
prefer that expression, has not ordained that all men shall have a
vocation for being "servants of all the rest" as saints or rulers.
Providence knows better than to provide armies consisting
exclusively of commanders-in-chief or factories staffed exclusively
with managing directors; and to that inexorable natural fact we
shall always have to come back, just as the Russian revolutionists,
who were reeking with Protestant Liberal superstitions at the
beginning, have had to come back to it.  But we have now thought
out much more carefully than St Peter the basic articles of faith,
without which the vocation of the priest is inevitably pushed out
by the vocation of the robbers and the racketeers, self-elected as
gentlemen and ladies.  We know that private property distributes
wealth, work, and leisure so unevenly that a wretchedly poor and
miserably overworked majority are forced to maintain a minority
inordinately rich and passionately convinced that labor is so
disgraceful to them that they dare not be seen carrying a parcel
down Bond Street.  We know that the strains set up by such a
division of interests also destroys peace, justice, religion, good
breeding, honor, reasonable freedom, and everything that government
exists to secure, and that all this iniquity arises automatically
when we thoughtlessly allow a person to own a thousand acres of
land in the middle of London much more completely than he owns the
pair of boots in which he walks over it; for he may not kick me out
of my house into the street with his boots; but he may do so with
his writ of ejectment.  And so we are driven to the conclusion that
the modern priesthood must utterly renounce, abjure, abhor,
abominate and annihilate private property as the very worst of all
the devil's inventions for the demoralization and damnation of
mankind.  Civilized men and women must live by their ordered and
equal share in the work needed to support the community, and must
find their freedom in their ordered and equal share of the leisure
produced by scientific economy in producing that support.  It still
takes some conviction to repudiate an institution so well spoken of
as private property; but the facts must be faced: our clandestine
methods of violating it by income tax and surtax, which mean only
"What a thief stole steal thou from the thief," will no longer
serve; for a modern government, as the Russians soon found out,
must not take money, even from thieves, until it is ready to employ
it productively.  To throw it away in doles as our governing
duffers do, is to burn the candle at both ends and precipitate the
catastrophe they are trying to avert.


As to the vows, some of the old ones must go.  The Catholic Church
and our Board of Education insist on celibacy, the one for priests
and the other for schoolmistresses.  That is a remnant of the
cynical superstition of original sin.  Married people have a right
to married rulers; mothers have a right to have their children
taught and handled by mothers; and priests and pastors who meddle
with family affairs should know what they are talking about.

Another important modern discovery is that government is not a
whole-time job for all its agents.  A council of peasants derives
its ancient wisdom from its normal day's work on the land, without
which it would be a council of tramps and village idiots.  It is
not desirable that an ordinary parish priest should have no other
occupation, nor an abnormal occupation, even that of a scholar.
Nor is it desirable that his uniform should be too sacerdotal;
for that is the method of idolatry, which substitutes for
rational authority the superstitious awe produced by a contrived
singularity.  St Vincent de Paul knew thoroughly well what he
was about when he constituted his Sisterhood of Charity on the
rule that the sister should not be distinguishable from an
ordinary respectable woman.  Unfortunately, the costume prescribed
under this rule has in the course of the centuries become as
extraordinary as that of the Bluecoat boy; and St Vincent's idea is
consequently lost; but modern industrial experience confirms it;
for the latest rediscovery of the Vincentian principle has been
made by Mr Ford, who has testified that if you want a staff of
helpful persons who will turn their hands to anything at need you
must not give them either title, rank, or uniform, as the immediate
result will be their partial disablement by the exclusion from
their activities of many of the most necessary jobs as beneath
their dignity.

Another stipulation made by St Vincent, who already in the
sixteenth century was far ahead of us, was that no sister may
pledge herself for longer than a year at a time, however often she
may renew her vows.  Thus the sisters can never lose their freedom
nor suffer from cold feet.  If he were alive today St Vincent would
probably propose a clean sweep of all our difficulties about
marriage and divorce by forbidding people to marry for longer than
a year, and make them renew their vows every twelve months.  In
Russia the members of the Communist Party cannot dedicate
themselves eternally: they can drop out into the laity when they
please, and if they do not please and nevertheless have become
slack in their ministry, they are pushed out.


Furthermore, modern priests must not make supernatural pretensions.
They must not be impostors.  A vocation for politics, though
essentially a religious vocation, must be on the same footing as a
vocation for music or mathematics or cooking or nursing or acting
or architecture or farming or billiards or any other born aptitude.
The authority which must attach to all public officials and
councils must rest on their ability and efficiency.  In the Royal
Navy every mishap to a ship involves a court martial on the
responsible officer: if the officer makes a mistake he forfeits his
command unless he can convince the court that he is still worthy of
it.  In no other way can our hackneyed phrase "responsible
government" acquire any real meaning.  When a Catholic priest goes
wrong (or too right) he is silenced: when a Russian Commissar goes
wrong, he is expelled from the Party.  Such responsibility
necessarily makes official authority very authoritative and
frightens off the unduly nervous.  Stalin and Mussolini are the
most responsible statesmen in Europe because they have no hold on
their places except their efficiency; and their authority is
consequently greater than that of any of the monarchs, presidents,
and prime ministers who have to deal with them.  Stalin is one of
the higher functionaries with whom governing is necessarily a
whole-time job.  But he is no richer than his neighbors, and can
"better himself" only by bettering them, not by buttering them like
a British demagogue.


I think my views on intellectual aristocracy and democracy and all
the rest of it are now plain enough.  As between the intentions of
The Church and the intentions of The Empire (unrealized ideals
both) I am on the side of The Church.  As to the evil done by The
Church with the best intentions and the good done by The Empire
with the worst, I am an Eclectic: there is much to be learnt from
each.  I harp on Russia because the Moscow experiment is the only
really new departure from Tweedledum and Tweedledee: Fascism is
still wavering between Empire and Church, between private property
and Communism.  Years ago, I said that what democracy needed was a
trustworthy anthropometric machine for the selection of qualified
rulers.  Since then I have elaborated this by demanding the
formation of panels of tested persons eligible for the different
grades in the governmental hierarchy.  Panel A would be for
diplomacy and international finance, Panel B for national affairs,
Panel C for municipal and county affairs, Panel D for the village
councils and so forth.  Under such a panel system the voters would
lose their present liberty to return such candidates as the late
Horatio Bottomley to parliament by enormous majorities; but they
would gain the advantage of at least knowing that their rulers know
how to read and write, which they do not enjoy at present.

Nobody ventured to disagree with me when I urged the need for such
panels; but when I was challenged to produce my anthropometric
machine or my endocrine or phrenological tests, I was obliged to
confess that they had not yet been invented, and that such existing
attempts at them as competitive examinations are so irrelevant and
misleading as to be worse than useless as tests of vocation.  But
the Soviet system, hammered out under the sternest pressure of
circumstances, supplies an excellent provisional solution, which
turns out to be the solution of the old Catholic Church purged of
supernatural pretension, assumption of final perfection, and the
poison of private property with its fatal consequences.  Mr Stalin
is not in the least like an Emperor, nor an Archbishop, nor a Prime
Minister, nor a Chancellor; but he would be strikingly like a Pope,
claiming for form's sake an apostolic succession from Marx, were it
not for his frank method of Trial and Error, his entirely human
footing, and his liability to removal at a moment's notice if his
eminence should upset his mental balance.  At the other end of the
scale are the rank and file of the Communist Party, doing an
ordinary day's work with the common folk, and giving only their
leisure to the Party.  For their election as representatives of the
commons they must depend on the votes of their intimate and equal
neighbors and workmates.  They have no incentive to seek election
except the vocational incentive; for success, in the first
instance, means, not release from the day's ordinary work, but the
sacrifice of all one's leisure to politics, and, if promotion to
the whole-time-grades be achieved, a comparatively ascetic
discipline and virtually no pecuniary gain.

If anyone can suggest a better practically tested plan, now is the
time to do it; for it is all up with the old Anarchist-Liberal
parliamentary systems in the face of thirty millions of unemployed,
and World Idiotic Conferences at which each nation implores all the
others to absorb its unemployed by a revival of international
trade.  Mr Chesterton says truly that a government, if it is to
govern, "cannot select one ruler to do something and another to
undo it, one intellectual to restore the nation and another to ruin
the nation."  But that is precisely what our parliamentary party
system does.  Mr Chesterton has put it in a nutshell; and I hope he
will appreciate the sound Catholicism with which I have cracked it.



Night.  One of the best bedrooms in one of the best suburban villas
in one of the richest cities in England.  A young lady with an
unhealthy complexion is asleep in the bed.  A small table at the
head of the bed, convenient to her right hand, and crowded with a
medicine bottle, a measuring glass, a pill box, a clinical
thermometer in a glass of water, a half read book with the place
marked by a handkerchief, a powder puff and handmirror, and an
electric bell handle on a flex, shews that the bed is a sick bed
and the young lady an invalid.

The furniture includes a very handsome dressing table with
silverbacked hairbrushes and toilet articles, a dainty pincushion,
a stand of rings, a jewel box of black steel with the lid open and
a rope of pearls heaped carelessly half in and half out, a Louis
Quinze writing table and chair with inkstand, blotter, and cabinet
of stationery, a magnificent wardrobe, a luxurious couch, and a
tall screen of Chinese workmanship which, like the expensive carpet
and everything else in the room, proclaims that the owner has money
enough to buy the best things at the best shops in the best
purchaseable taste.

The bed is nearly in the middle of the room, so that the patient's
nurses can pass freely between the wall and the head of it.  If we
contemplate the room from the foot of the bed, with the patient's
toes pointing straight at us, we have the door (carefully
sandbagged lest a draught of fresh air should creep underneath)
level with us in the righthand wall, the couch against the same
wall farther away, the window (every ray of moonlight excluded by
closed curtains and a dark green spring blind) in the middle of the
left wall with the wardrobe on its right and the writing table on
its left, the screen at right angles to the wardrobe, and the
dressing table against the wall facing us halfway between the bed
and the couch.

Besides the chair at the writing table there is an easy chair at
the medicine table, and a chair at each side of the dressing table.

The room is lighted by invisible cornice lights, and by two mirror
lights on the dressing table and a portable one on the writing
table; but these are now switched off; and the only light in action
is another portable one on the medicine table, very carefully
subdued by a green shade.

The patient is sleeping heavily.  Near her, in the easy chair, sits
a Monster.  In shape and size it resembles a human being; but in
substance it seems to be made of a luminous jelly with a visible
skeleton of short black rods.  It drops forward in the chair with
its head in its hands, and seems in the last degree wretched.

THE MONSTER.  Oh!  Oh!!  Oh!!!  I am so ill! so miserable!  Oh, I
wish I were dead.  Why doesnt she die and release me from my
sufferings?  What right has she to get ill and make me ill like
this?  Measles: thats what she's got.  Measles!  German measles!
And she's given them to me, a poor innocent microbe that never did
her any harm.  And she says that _I_ gave them to her.  Oh, is this
justice?  Oh, I feel so rotten.  I wonder what my temperature is:
they took it from under her tongue half an hour ago.  [Scrutinizing
the table and discovering the thermometer in the glass].  Here's
the thermometer: theyve left it for the doctor to see instead of
shaking it down.  If it's over a hundred I'm done for: I darent
look.  Oh, can it be that I'm dying?  I must look.  [It looks, and
drops the thermometer back into the glass with a gasping scream].
A hundred and three!  It's all over.  [It collapses].

The door opens; and an elderly lady and a young doctor come in.
The lady steals along on tiptoe, full of the deepest concern for
the invalid.  The doctor is indifferent, but keeps up his bedside
manner carefully, though he evidently does not think the case is so
serious as the lady does.  She comes to the bedside on the
invalid's left.  He comes to the other side of the bed and looks
attentively at his patient.

THE ELDERLY LADY [in a whisper sibilant enough to wake the dead]
She is asleep.

THE MONSTER.  I should think so.  This fool here, the doctor, has
given her a dose of the latest fashionable opiate that would keep a
cock asleep till half past eleven on a May morning.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh doctor, do you think there is any chance?  Can
she possibly survive this last terrible complication?

THE MONSTER.  Measles!  He mistook it for influenza.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  It was so unexpected! such a crushing blow!  And
I have taken such care of her.  She is my only surviving child: my
pet: my precious one.  Why do they all die?  I have never neglected
the smallest symptom of illness.  She has had doctors in attendance
on her almost constantly since she was born.

THE MONSTER.  She has the constitution of a horse or she'd have died
like the others.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, dont you think, dear doctor--of course you
know best; but I am so terribly anxious--dont you think you ought
to change the prescription?  I had such hopes of that last bottle;
but you know it was after that that she developed measles.

THE DOCTOR.  My dear Mrs Mopply, you may rest assured that the
bottle had nothing to do with the measles.  It was merely a gentle

THE MONSTER.  Strychnine!

THE DOCTOR.--to brace her up.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  But she got measles after it.

THE DOCTOR.  That was a specific infection: a germ, a microbe.

THE MONSTER.  Me!  Put it all on me.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  But how did it get in?  I keep the windows closed
so carefully.  And there is a sheet steeped in carbolic acid always
hung over the door.

THE MONSTER [in tears]  Not a breath of fresh air for me!

THE DOCTOR.  Who knows?  It may have lurked here since the house was
built.  You never can tell.  But you must not worry.  It is not
serious: a light rubeola: you can hardly call it measles.  We shall
pull her through, believe me.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  It is such a comfort to hear you say so, doctor.
I am sure I shall never be able to express my gratitude for all you
have done for us.

THE DOCTOR.  Oh, that is my profession.  We do what we can.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Yes; but some doctors are dreadful.  There was
that man at Folkestone: he was impossible.  He tore aside the
curtain and let the blazing sunlight into the room, though she
cannot bear it without green spectacles.  He opened the windows and
let in all the cold morning air.  I told him he was a murderer; and
he only said "One guinea, please".  I am sure he let in that

THE DOCTOR.  Oh, three months ago!  No: it was not that.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Then what was it?  Oh, are you quite quite sure
that it would not be better to change the prescription?

THE DOCTOR.  Well, I have already changed it.

THE MONSTER.  Three times!

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, I know you have, doctor: nobody could have
been kinder.  But it really did not do her any good.  She got

THE DOCTOR.  But, my dear lady, she was sickening for measles.
That was not the fault of my prescription.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, of course not.  You mustnt think that I ever
doubted for a moment that everything you did was for the best.

THE DOCTOR.  Oh, very well, very well: I will write another

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, thank you, thank you: I felt sure you would.
I have so often known a change of medicine work wonders.

THE DOCTOR.  When we have pulled her through this attack I think a
change of air--

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh no: dont say that.  She must be near a doctor
who knows her constitution.  Dear old Dr Newland knew it so well
from her very birth.

THE DOCTOR.  Unfortunately, Newland is dead.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Yes; but you bought his practice.  I should
never be easy in my mind if you were not within call.  You
persuaded me to take her to Folkestone; and see what happened!  No:
never again.

THE DOCTOR.  Oh, well!  [He shrugs his shoulders resignedly, and
goes to the bedside table].  What about the temperature?

THE ELDERLY LADY.  The day nurse took it.  I havnt dared to look.

THE DOCTOR [looking at the thermometer]  Hm!

THE ELDERLY LADY [trembling]  Has it gone up?  Oh, doctor!

THE DOCTOR [hastily shaking the mercury down]  No.  Nothing.
Nearly normal.


THE ELDERLY LADY.  What a relief!

THE DOCTOR.  You must be careful, though.  Dont fancy she's well
yet: she isnt.  She must not get out of bed for a moment.  The
slightest chill might be serious.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Doctor: are you sure you are not concealing
something from me?  Why does she never get well in spite of the
fortune I have spent on her illnesses?  There must be some deep-
rooted cause.  Tell me the worst: I have dreaded it all my life.
Perhaps I should have told you the whole truth; but I was afraid.
Her uncle's stepfather died of an enlarged heart.  Is that what it

THE DOCTOR.  Good gracious, NO!  What put that into your head?

THE ELDERLY LADY.  But even before this rash broke out there were

THE MONSTER.  Boils!  Too many chocolate creams.

THE DOCTOR.  Oh, that!  Nothing.  Her blood is not quite what it
should be.  But we shall get that right.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  You are sure it is not her lungs?

THE DOCTOR.  My good lady, her lungs are as sound as a seagull's.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Then it must be her heart.  Dont deceive me.  She
has palpitations.  She told me the other day that it stopped for
five minutes when that horrid nurse was rude to her.

THE DOCTOR.  Nonsense!  She wouldnt be alive now if her heart had
stopped for five seconds.  There is nothing constitutionally
wrong.  A little below par: that is all.  We shall feed her up
scientifically.  Plenty of good fresh meat.  A half bottle of
champagne at lunch and a glass of port after dinner will make
another woman of her.  A chop at breakfast, rather underdone, is
sometimes very helpful.

THE MONSTER.  I shall die of overfeeding.  So will she too: thats
one consolation.

THE DOCTOR.  Dont worry about the measles.  It's really quite a
light case.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, you can depend on me for that.  Nobody can
say that I am a worrier.  You wont forget the new prescription?

THE DOCTOR.  I will write it here and now [he takes out his pen and
book, and sits down at the writing table].

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, thank you.  And I will go and see what the
new night nurse is doing.  They take so long with their cups of tea
[she goes to the door and is about to go out when she hesitates and
comes back].  Doctor: I know you dont believe in inoculations; but
I cant help thinking she ought to have one.  They do so much good.

THE DOCTOR [almost at the end of his patience]  My dear Mrs Mopply:
I never said that I dont believe in inoculations.  But it is no use
inoculating when the patient is already fully infected.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  But I have found it so necessary myself.  I was
inoculated against influenza three years ago; and I have had it
only four times since.  My sister has it every February.  Do, to
please me, give her an inoculation.  I feel such a responsibility
if anything is left undone to cure her.

THE DOCTOR.  Oh very well, very well: I will see what can be done.
She shall have both an inoculation and a new prescription.  Will
that set your mind at rest?

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, thank you.  You have lifted such a weight
from my conscience.  I feel sure they will do her the greatest
good.  And now excuse me a moment while I fetch the nurse.  [She
goes out].

THE DOCTOR.  What a perfectly maddening woman!

THE MONSTER [rising and coming behind him]  Yes: aint she?

THE DOCTOR [starting]  What!  Who is that?

THE MONSTER.  Nobody but me and the patient.  And you have dosed her
so that she wont speak again for ten hours.  You will overdo that
some day.

THE DOCTOR.  Rubbish!  She thought it was an opiate; but it was only
an aspirin dissolved in ether.  But who am I talking to?  I must be

THE MONSTER.  Not a bit of it.

THE DOCTOR.  Then who are you?  What are you?  Where are you?  Is
this a trick?

THE MONSTER.  I'm only an unfortunate sick bacillus.

THE DOCTOR.  A sick bacillus!

THE MONSTER.  Yes.  I suppose it never occurs to you that a bacillus
can be sick like anyone else.

THE DOCTOR.  Whats the matter with you?

THE MONSTER.  Measles.

THE DOCTOR.  Rot!  The microbe of measles has never been discovered.
If there is a microbe it cannot be measles: it must be parameasles.

THE MONSTER.  Great Heavens! what are parameasles?

THE DOCTOR.  Something so like measles that nobody can see any

THE MONSTER.  If there is no measles microbe why did you tell the
old girl that her daughter caught measles from a microbe?

THE DOCTOR.  Patients insist on having microbes nowadays.  If I told
her there is no measles microbe she wouldnt believe me; and I
should lose my patient.  When there is no microbe I invent one.  Am
I to understand that you are the missing microbe of measles, and
that you have given them to this patient here?

THE MONSTER.  No: she gave them to me.  These humans are full of
horrid diseases: they infect us poor microbes with them; and you
doctors pretend that it is we that infect them.  You ought all to
be struck off the register.

THE DOCTOR.  We should be, if we talked like that.

THE MONSTER.  Oh, I feel so wretched!  Please cure my measles.

THE DOCTOR.  I cant.  I cant cure any disease.  But I get the credit
when the patients cure themselves.  When she cures herself she will
cure you too.

THE MONSTER.  But she cant cure herself because you and her mother
wont give her a dog's chance.  You wont let her have even a breath
of fresh air.  I tell you she's naturally as strong as a
rhinoceros.  Curse your silly bottles and inoculations!  Why dont
you chuck them and turn faith healer?

THE DOCTOR.  I am a faith healer.  You dont suppose I believe the
bottles cure people?  But the patient's faith in the bottle does.

THE MONSTER.  Youre a humbug: thats what you are.

THE DOCTOR.  Faith is humbug.  But it works.

THE MONSTER.  Then why do you call it science?

THE DOCTOR.  Because people believe in science.  The Christian
Scientists call their fudge science for the same reason.

THE MONSTER.  The Christian Scientists let their patients cure
themselves.  Why dont you?

THE DOCTOR.  I do.  But I help them.  You see, it's easier to
believe in bottles and inoculations than in oneself and in that
mysterious power that gives us our life and that none of us knows
anything about.  Lots of people believe in the bottles and wouldnt
know what you were talking about if you suggested the real thing.
And the bottles do the trick.  My patients get well as often as
not.  That is, unless their number's up.  Then we all have to go.

THE MONSTER.  No girl's number is up until she's worn out.  I tell
you this girl could cure herself and cure me if youd let her.

THE DOCTOR.  And I tell you that it would be very hard work for her.
Well, why should she work hard when she can afford to pay other
people to work for her?  She doesnt black her own boots or scrub
her own floors.  She pays somebody else to do it.  Why should she
cure herself, which is harder work than blacking boots or scrubbing
floors, when she can afford to pay the doctor to cure her?  It pays
her and it pays me.  That's logic, my friend.  And now, if you will
excuse me, I shall take myself off before the old woman comes back
and provokes me to wring her neck.  [Rising]  Mark my words:
someday somebody will fetch her a clout over the head.  Somebody
who can afford to.  Not the doctor.  She has driven me mad already:
the proof is that I hear voices and talk to them.  [He goes out].

THE MONSTER.  Youre saner than most of them, you fool.  They think I
have the keys of life and death in my pocket; but I have nothing
but a horrid headache.  Oh dear! oh dear!

The Monster wanders away behind the screen.  The patient, left
alone, begins to stir in her bed.  She turns over and calls
querulously for somebody to attend to her.

THE PATIENT.  Nurse!  Mother!  Oh, is anyone there?  [Crying]
Selfish beasts! to leave me like this.  [She snatches angrily at
the electric bell which hangs within her reach and presses the
button repeatedly].

The Elderly Lady and the night nurse come running in.  The nurse is
young, quick, active, resolute, and decidedly pretty.  Mrs Mopply
goes to the bedside table, the nurse going to the patient's left.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  What is it, darling?  Are you awake?  Was the
sleeping draught no good?  Are you worse?  What has happened?  What
has become of the doctor?

THE PATIENT.  I am in the most frightful agony.  I have been lying
here ringing for ages and ages, and no one has come to attend to
me.  Nobody cares whether I am alive or dead.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, how can you say such things, darling?  I left
the doctor here.  I was away only for a minute.  I had to receive
the new night nurse and give her her instructions.  Here she is.
And oh, do cover up your arm, darling.  You will get a chill; and
then it will be all over.  Nurse: see that she is never uncovered
for a moment.  Do you think it would be well to have another hot
water bottle against her arm until it is quite warm again?  Do you
feel it cold, darling?

THE PATIENT [angrily]  Yes, deadly cold.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh dont say that.  And there is so much
pneumonia about.  I wish the doctor had not gone.  He could sound
your lungs--

NIGHT NURSE [feeling the patient's arm]  She is quite warm enough.

THE PATIENT [bursting into tears]  Mother: take this hateful woman
away.  She wants to kill me.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh no, dear: she has been so highly recommended.
I cant get a new nurse at this hour.  Wont you try, for my sake, to
put up with her until the day nurse comes in the morning?

THE NURSE.  Come!  Let me arrange your pillows and make you
comfortable.  You are smothered with all this bedding.  Four thick
blankets and an eiderdown!  No wonder you feel irritable.

THE PATIENT [screaming]  Dont touch me.  Go away.  You want to
murder me.  Nobody cares whether I am alive or dead.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, darling, dont keep on saying that.  You know
it's not true; and it does hurt me so.

THE NURSE.  You must not mind what a sick person says, madam.  You
had better go to bed and leave the patient to me.  You are quite
worn out.  [She comes to Mrs Mopply and takes her arm coaxingly but

THE ELDERLY LADY.  I know I am: I am ready to drop.  How
sympathetic of you to notice it!  But how can I leave her at such a

THE NURSE.  She ought not to have more than one person in the room
at a time.  You see how it excites and worries her.

THE ELDERLY LADY.  Oh, thats very true.  The doctor said she was to
be kept as quiet as possible.

THE NURSE [leading her to the door]  You need a good night's sleep.
You may trust me to do what is right and necessary.

THE ELDERLY LADY [whispering]  I will indeed.  How kind of you!  You
will let me know if anything--

THE NURSE.  Yes, yes.  I promise to come for you and wake you if
anything happens.  Good night, madam.

THE ELDERLY LADY [sotto voce]  Good night.  [She steals out].

The nurse, left alone with her patient, pays no attention to her,
but goes to the window.  She opens the curtains and raises the
blind, admitting a flood of moonlight.  She unfastens the sash and
throws it right up.  She then makes for the door where the electric
switch is.

THE PATIENT [huddling herself up in the bedclothes]  What are you
doing?  Shut that window and pull down that blind and close those
curtains at once.  Do you want to kill me?

The nurse turns all the lights full on.

THE PATIENT [hiding her eyes] Oh!  Oh!  I cant bear it: turn it

The nurse switches the lights off.

THE PATIENT.  So inconsiderate of you!

The nurse switches the lights on again.

THE PATIENT.  Oh, please, please.  Not all that light.

The nurse switches off.

THE PATIENT.  No, no.  Leave me something to read by.  My bedside
lamp is not enough, you stupid idiot.

The nurse switches on again, and calmly returns to the bedside.

THE PATIENT.  I cant imagine how anyone can be so thoughtless and
clumsy when I am so ill.  I am suffering horribly.  Shut that
window and switch off half those lights at once: do you hear?

The nurse snatches the eiderdown and one of the pillows rudely from
the bed, letting the patient down with a jerk, and arranges them
comfortably in the bedside chair.

THE PATIENT.  How dare you touch my pillow?  The audacity!

The nurse sits down; takes out a leaf from an illustrated journal;
and proceeds to study it attentively.

THE PATIENT.  Well!  How much longer are you going to sit there
neglecting me?  Shut that window instantly.

THE NURSE [insolently, in her commonest dialect]  Oh go to--to
sleep [she resumes her study of the document].

THE PATIENT.  Dont dare address me like that.  I dont believe you
are a properly qualified nurse.

THE NURSE [calmly]  I should think not.  I wouldnt take five
thousand a year to be a nurse.  But I know how to deal with you and
your like, because I was once a patient in a hospital where the
women patients were a rough lot, and the nurses had to treat them
accordingly.  I kept my eyes open there, and learnt a little of the
game.  [She takes a paper packet from her pocket and opens it on
the bedside table.  It contains about half a pound of kitchen
salt].  Do you know what that is and what it's for?

THE PATIENT.  Is it medicine?

THE NURSE.  Yes.  It's a cure for screaming and hysterics and
tantrums.  When a woman starts making a row, the first thing she
does is to open her mouth.  A nurse who knows her business just
shoves a handful of this into it.  Common kitchen salt.  No more
screaming.  Understand?

THE PATIENT [hardily]  No I dont [she reaches for the bell].

THE NURSE [intercepting her quickly]  No you dont.  [She throws the
bell cord with its button away on the floor behind the bed].  Now
we shant be disturbed.  No bell.  And if you open your mouth too
wide, youll get the salt.  See?

THE PATIENT.  And do you think I am a poor woman in a hospital whom
you can illtreat as you please?  Do you know what will happen to
you when my mother comes in the morning?

THE NURSE.  In the morning, darling, I shall be over the hills and
far away.

THE PATIENT.  And you expect me, sick as I am, to stay here alone
with you!

THE NURSE.  We shant be alone.  I'm expecting a friend.

THE PATIENT.  A friend!

THE NURSE.  A gentleman friend.  I told him he might drop in when he
saw the lights switched off twice.

THE PATIENT.  So that was why--

THE NURSE.  That was why.

THE PATIENT.  And you calmly propose to have your young man here in
my room to amuse yourself all night before my face.

THE NURSE.  You can go to sleep.

THE PATIENT.  I shall do nothing of the sort.  You will have to
behave yourself decently before me.

THE NURSE.  Oh, dont worry about that.  He's coming on business.
He's my business partner, in fact: not my best boy.

THE PATIENT.  And can you not find some more suitable place for your
business than in my room at night?

THE NURSE.  You see, you dont know the nature of the business yet.
It's got to be done here and at night.  Here he is, I think.

A burglar, well dressed, wearing rubber gloves and a small white
mask over his nose, clambers in.  He is still in his early
thirties, and quite goodlooking.  His voice is disarmingly

THE BURGLAR.  All right, Sweetie?

THE NURSE.  All right, Popsy.

The burglar closes the window softly; draws the curtains; and comes
past the nurse to the bedside.

THE BURGLAR.  Damn it, she's awake.  Didnt you give her a sleeping

THE PATIENT.  Do you expect me to sleep with you in the room?  Who
are you? and what are you wearing that mask for?

THE BURGLAR.  Only so that you will not recognize me if we should
happen to meet again.

THE PATIENT.  I have no intention of meeting you again.  So you may
just as well take it off.

THE NURSE.  I havnt broken to her what we are here for, Popsy.

THE PATIENT.  I neither know nor care what you are here for.  All I
can tell you is that if you dont leave the room at once and send my
mother to me, I will give you both measles.

THE BURGLAR.  We have both had them, dear invalid.  I am afraid we
must intrude a little longer.  [To the nurse]  Have you found out
where it is?

THE NURSE.  No: I havnt had time.  The dressing table's over there.
Try that.

The burglar crosses to the other side of the bed, coming round by
the foot of it, and is making for the dressing table when--

THE PATIENT.  What do you want at my dressing table?

THE BURGLAR.  Obviously, your celebrated pearl necklace.

THE PATIENT [escaping from her bed with a formidable bound and
planting herself with her back to the dressing table as a bulwark
for the jewel case]  Not if I know it, you shant.

THE BURGLAR [approaching her]  You really must allow me.

THE PATIENT.  Take that.

Holding on to the table edge behind her, she lifts her foot
vigorously waist high, and shoots it hard into his solar plexus.
He curls up on the bed with an agonized groan and rolls off on to
the carpet at the other side.  The nurse rushes across behind the
head of the bed and tackles the patient.  The patient swoops at her
knees; lifts her; and sends her flying.  She comes down with a
thump flat on her back on the couch.  The patient pants hard; sways
giddily; staggers to the bed and falls on it, exhausted.  The
nurse, dazed by the patient's very unexpected athleticism, but not
hurt, springs up.

THE NURSE.  Quick, Popsy: tie her feet.  She's fainted.

THE BURGLAR [utters a lamentable groan and rolls over on his

THE NURSE.  Be quick, will you?

THE BURGLAR [trying to rise]  Ugh!  Ugh!

THE NURSE [running to him and shaking him]  My God, you are a fool,
Popsy.  Come and help me before she comes to.  She's too strong for

THE BURGLAR.  Ugh!  Let me die.

THE NURSE.  Are you going to lie there for ever?  Has she killed

THE BURGLAR [rising slowly to his knees]  As nearly as doesnt
matter.  Oh, Sweetie, why did you tell me that this heavyweight
champion was a helpless invalid?

THE NURSE.  Shut up.  Get the pearls.

THE BURGLAR [rising with difficulty]  I dont seem to want any
pearls.  She got me just in the wind.  I am sorry to have been of
so little assistance; but oh, my Sweetie-Weetie, Nature never
intended us to be burglars.  Our first attempt has been a hopeless
failure.  Let us apologize and withdraw.

THE NURSE.  Fathead!  Dont be such a coward.  [Looking closely at
the patient]  I say, Popsy: I believe she's asleep.

THE BURGLAR.  Let her sleep.  Wake not the lioness's wrath.

THE NURSE.  You maddening fool, dont you see that we can tie her
feet and gag her before she wakes, and get away with the pearls.
It's quite easy if we do it quick together.  Come along.

THE BURGLAR.  Do not deceive yourself, my pet: we should have about
as much chance as if we tried to take a female gorilla to the Zoo.
No: I am not going to steal those jewels.  Honesty is the best
policy.  I have another idea, and a much better one.  You leave
this to me.  [He goes to the dressing table.  She follows him].

THE NURSE.  Whatever have you got into your silly head now?

THE BURGLAR.  You shall see.  [Handling the jewel case]  One of
these safes that open by a secret arrangement of letters.  As they
are as troublesome as an automatic telephone nobody ever locks
them.  Here is the necklace.  By Jove!  If they are all real, it
must be worth about twenty thousand pounds.  Gosh! here's a ring
with a big blue diamond in it.  Worth four thousand pounds if it's
worth a penny.  Sweetie: we are on velvet for the rest of our

THE NURSE.  What good are blue diamonds to us if we dont steal

THE BURGLAR.  Wait.  Wait and see.  Go and sit down in that chair
and look as like a nice gentle nurse as you can.


THE BURGLAR.  Do as you are told.  Have faith--faith in your Popsy.

THE NURSE [obeying]  Well, I give it up.  Youre mad.

THE BURGLAR.  I was never saner in my life.  Stop.  How does she
call people?  Hasnt she an electric bell?  Where is it?

THE NURSE [picking it up]  Here.  I chucked it out of her reach
when she was grabbing at it.

THE BURGLAR.  Put it on the bed close to her hand.

THE NURSE.  Popsy: youre off your chump.  She--

THE BURGLAR.  Sweetie: in our firm I am the brains: you are the
hand.  This is going to be our most glorious achievement.  Obey me

THE NURSE [resignedly]  Oh, very well.  [She places the handle of
the bell as desired].  I wash my hands of this job.  [She sits down

THE BURGLAR [coming to the bedside]  By the way, she is hardly a
success as The Sleeping Beauty.  She has a wretched complexion; and
her breath is not precisely ambrosial.  But if we can turn her out
to grass she may put up some good looks.  And if her punch is
anything like her kick she will be an invaluable bodyguard for us
two weaklings--if I can persuade her to join us.

THE NURSE.  Join us!  What do you mean?

THE BURGLAR.  Shshshshsh.  Not too much noise: we must wake her
gently.  [He stoops to the patient's ear and whispers]  Miss

THE PATIENT [in a murmur of protest]  Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

THE NURSE.  What does she say?

THE BURGLAR.  She says, in effect, "You have waked me too soon: I
must slumber again."  [To the patient, more distinctly]  It is not
your dear mother, Miss Mopply: it is the burglar.  [The patient
springs half up, threateningly.  He falls on his knees and throws
up his hands].  Kamerad, Miss Mopply: Kamerad!  I am utterly at
your mercy.  The bell is on your bed, close to your hand: look at
it.  You have only to press the button to bring your mother and the
police in upon me [she seizes the handle of the bell] and be a
miserable invalid again for the rest of your life.  [She drops the
bell thoughtfully].  Not an attractive prospect, is it?  Now
listen.  I have something to propose to you of the greatest
importance: something that may make another woman of you and change
your entire destiny.  You can listen to me in perfect security: at
any moment you can ring your bell, or throw us out of the window if
you prefer it.  I ask you for five minutes only.

THE PATIENT [still dangerously on guard] Well?

THE BURGLAR [rising]  Let me give you one more proof of my
confidence.  [He takes off his mask].  Look.  Can you be afraid of
such a face?  Do I look like a burglar?

THE PATIENT [relaxing, and even shewing signs of goodhumor]  No:
you look like a curate.

THE BURGLAR [a little hurt]  Oh, not a curate.  I hope I look at
least like a beneficed clergyman.  But it is very clever of you to
have found me out.  The fact is, I am a clergyman.  But I must ask
you to keep it a dead secret: for my father, who is an atheist,
would disinherit me if he knew.  I was secretly ordained when I was
up at Oxford.

THE PATIENT.  Oh, this is ridiculous.  I'm dreaming.  It must be
that new sleeping draught the doctor gave me.  But it's delicious,
because I'm dreaming that I'm perfectly well.  Ive never been so
happy in my life.  Go on with the dream, Pops: the nicest part of
it is that I am in love with you.  My beautiful Pops, my own, my
darling, you are a perfect film hero, only more like an English
gentleman.  [She waves him a kiss].

THE NURSE.  Well I'll be da--

THE BURGLAR.  Shshshshsh.  Break not the spell.

THE PATIENT [with a deep sigh of contentment]  Let nobody wake me.
I'm in heaven.  [She sinks back blissfully on her pillows].  Go on,
Pops.  Tell me another.

THE BURGLAR.  Splendid.  [He takes a chair from beside the dressing
table and seats himself comfortably at the bedside].  We are going
to have an ideal night.  Now listen.  Picture to yourself a
heavenly afternoon in July: a Scottish loch surrounded by mirrored
mountains, and a boat--may I call it a shallop?--

THE PATIENT [ecstatically]  A shallop!  Oh, Popsy!

THE BURGLAR.--with Sweetie sitting in the stern, and I stretched
out at full length with my head pillowed on Sweetie's knees.

THE PATIENT.  You can leave Sweetie out, Pops.  Her amorous emotions
do not interest me.

THE BURGLAR.  You misunderstand.  Sweetie's thoughts were far from
me.  She was thinking about you.

THE PATIENT.  Just like her impudence!  How did she know about me?

THE BURGLAR.  Simply enough.  In her lily hand was a copy of The
Lady's Pictorial.  It contained an illustrated account of your
jewels.  Can you guess what Sweetie said to me as she gazed at the
soft majesty of the mountains and bathed her soul in the beauty of
the sunset?

THE PATIENT.  Yes.  She said "Popsy: we must pinch that necklace."

THE BURGLAR.  Exactly.  Word for word.  But now can you guess what
_I_ said?

THE PATIENT.  I suppose you said "Right you are, Sweetie" or
something vulgar like that.

THE BURGLAR.  Wrong.  I said, "If that girl had any sense she'd
steal the necklace herself."

THE PATIENT.  Oh!  This is getting interesting.  How could I steal
my own necklace?

THE BURGLAR.  Sell it; and have a glorious spree with the price.
See life.  Live.  You dont call being an invalid living, do you?

THE PATIENT.  Why shouldnt I call it living?  I am not dead.  Of
course when I am awake I am terribly delicate--

THE BURGLAR.  Delicate!  It's not five minutes since you knocked me
out, and threw Sweetie all over the room.  If you can fight like
that for a string of pearls that you never have a chance of
wearing, why not fight for freedom to do what you like, with your
pocket full of money and all the fun in the wide world at your
command?  Hang it all, dont you want to be young and goodlooking
and have a sweet breath and be a lawn tennis champion and enjoy
everything that is to be enjoyed instead of frowsting here and
being messed about by your silly mother and all the doctors that
live on her folly?  Have you no conscience, that you waste God's
gifts so shamefully?  You think you are in a state of illness.
Youre not: youre in a state of sin.  Sell the necklace and buy your
salvation with the proceeds.

THE PATIENT.  Youre a clergyman all right, Pops.  But I dont know
how to sell the necklace.

THE BURGLAR.  I do.  Let me sell it for you.  You will of course
give us a fairly handsome commission on the transaction.

THE PATIENT.  Theres some catch in this.  If I trust you with it how
do I know that you will not keep the whole price for yourself?

THE BURGLAR.  Sweetie: Miss Mopply has the makings of a good
business woman in her.  [To the patient]  Just reflect, Mops (Let
us call one another Mops and Pops for short).  If I steal that
necklace, I shall have to sell it as a burglar to a man who will
know perfectly well that I have stolen it.  I shall be lucky if I
get a fiftieth of its value.  But if I sell it on the square, as
the agent of its lawful owner, I shall be able to get its full
market value.  The payment will be made to you; and I will trust
you to pay me the commission.  Sweetie and I will be more than
satisfied with fifty per cent.

THE PATIENT.  Fifty!  Oh!

THE BURGLAR [firmly]  I think you will admit that we deserve it
for our enterprise, our risk, and the priceless boon of your
emancipation from this wretched home.  Is it a bargain, Mops?

THE PATIENT.  It's a monstrous overcharge; but in dreamland
generosity costs nothing.  You shall have your fifty.  Lucky for
you that I'm asleep.  If I wake up I shall never get loose from my
people and my social position.  It's all very well for you two
criminals: you can do what you like.  If you were ladies and
gentlemen, youd know how hard it is not to do what everybody else

THE BURGLAR.  Pardon me; but I think you will feel more at ease with
us if I inform you that we are ladies and gentlemen.  My own rank--
not that I would presume on it for a moment--is, if you ask Burke
or Debrett, higher than your own.  Your people's money was made in
trade: my people have always lived by owning property or governing
Crown Colonies.  Sweetie would be a woman of the highest position
but for the unfortunate fact that her parents, though united in the
sight of Heaven, were not legally married.  At least so she tells

THE NURSE [hotly]  I tell you what is true.  [To the patient]
Popsy and I are as good company as ever you kept.

THE PATIENT.  No, Sweetie: you are a common little devil and a liar.
But you amuse me.  If you were a real lady you wouldnt amuse me.
Youd be afraid to be so unladylike.

THE BURGLAR.  Just so.  Come! confess! we are better fun than your
dear anxious mother and the curate and all the sympathizing
relatives, arnt we?  Of course we are.

THE PATIENT.  I think it perfectly scandalous that you two, who
ought to be in prison, are having all the fun while I, because I am
respectable and a lady, might just as well be in prison.

THE BURGLAR.  Dont you wish you could come with us?

THE PATIENT [calmly]  I fully intend to come with you.  I'm going
to make the most of this dream.  Do you forget that I love you,
Pops.  The world is before us.  You and Sweetie have had a week in
the land of the mountain and the flood for seven guineas, tips
included.  Now you shall have an eternity with your Mops in the
loveliest earthly paradise we can find, for nothing.

THE NURSE.  And where do I come in?

THE PATIENT.  You will be our chaperone.

THE NURSE.  Chaperone!  Well, you have a nerve, you have.

THE PATIENT.  Listen.  You will be a Countess.  We shall go abroad,
where nobody will know the difference.  You shall have a splendid
foreign title.  The Countess Valbrioni: doesnt that tempt you?

THE NURSE.  Tempt me hell!  I'll see you further first.

THE BURGLAR.  Stop.  Sweetie: I have another idea.  A regular
dazzler.  Lets stage a kidnap.

THE NURSE.  What do you mean? stage a kidnap.

THE BURGLAR.  It's quite simple.  We kidnap Mops: that is, we shall
hide her in the mountains of Corsica or Istria or Dalmatia or
Greece or in the Atlas or where you please that is out of reach of
Scotland Yard.  We shall pretend to be brigands.  Her devoted
mother will cough up five thousand to ransom her.  We shall share
the ransom fifty-fifty: fifty for Mops, twentyfive for you,
twentyfive for me.  Mops: you will realize not only the value of
the pearls, but of yourself.  What a stroke of finance!

THE PATIENT [excited]  Greece!  Dalmatia!  Kidnapped!  Brigands!
Ransomed!  [Collapsing a little]  Oh, dont tantalize me, you two
fools: you have forgotten the measles.

The Monster suddenly reappears from behind the screen.  It is
transfigured.  The bloated moribund Caliban has become a dainty

THE MONSTER [picking up the last remark of the patient]  So have
you.  No more measles: that scrap for the jewels cured you and
cured me.  Ha ha!  I am well, I am well, I am well.  [It bounds
about ecstatically, and finally perches on the pillows and gets
into bed beside the patient].

THE NURSE.  If you could jump out of bed to knock out Popsy and me
you can jump out to dress yourself and hop it from here.  Wrap
yourself up well: we have a car waiting.

THE BURGLAR.  It's no worse than being taken to a nursing home,
Mops.  Strike for freedom.  Up with you!

They pull her out of bed.

THE PATIENT.  But I cant dress myself without a maid.

THE NURSE.  Have you ever tried?

THE BURGLAR.  We will give you five minutes.  If you are not ready
we go without you [he looks at his watch].

The patient dashes at the wardrobe and tears out a fur cloak, a
hat, a walking dress, a combination, a pair of stockings, black
silk breeches, and shoes, all of which she flings on the floor.
The nurse picks up most of them; the patient snatches up the rest;
the two retire behind the screen.  Meanwhile the burglar comes
forward to the foot of the bed and comments oratorically, half
auctioneer, half clergyman.

THE BURGLAR.  Fur cloak.  Seal.  Old fashioned but worth forty-five
guineas.  Hat.  Quiet and ladylike.  Tailor made frock.  
Combination: silk and wool.  Real silk stockings without ladders.
Knickers: how daringly modern!  Shoes: heels only two inches but no
use for the mountains.  What a theme for a sermon!  The well
brought up maiden revolts against her respectable life.  The
aspiring soul escapes from home, sweet home, which, as a wellknown
author has said, is the girl's prison and the woman's workhouse.
The intrusive care of her anxious parents, the officious concern of
the family clergyman for her salvation and of the family doctor for
her health, the imposed affection of uninteresting brothers and
sisters, the outrage of being called by her Christian name by
distant cousins who will not keep their distance, the invasion of
her privacy and independence at every turn by questions as to where
she has been and what she has been doing, the whispering behind her
back about her chances of marriage, the continual violation of that
sacred aura which surrounds every living soul like the halo
surrounding the heads of saints in religious pictures: against all
these devices for worrying her to death the innermost uppermost
life in her rises like milk in a boiling saucepan and cries "Down
with you! away with you! henceforth my gates are open to real life,
bring what it may.  For what sense is there in this world of
hazards, disasters, elations and victories, except as a field for
the adventures of the life everlasting?  In vain do we disfigure
our streets with scrawls of Safety First: in vain do the nations
clamor for Security, security, security.  They who cry Safety First
never cross the street: the empires which sacrifice life to
security find it in the grave.  For me Safety Last; and Forward,
Forward, always For--"

THE NURSE [coming from behind the screen]  Dry up, Popsy: she's

The patient, cloaked, hatted, and shoed, follows her breathless,
and comes to the burglar, on his left.

THE PATIENT.  Here I am, Pops.  One kiss; and then--Lead on.

THE BURGLAR.  Good.  Your complexion still leaves something to be
desired; but [kissing her] your breath is sweet: you breathe the
air of freedom.

THE MONSTER.  Never mind her complexion: look at mine!

THE BURGLAR [releasing the patient and turning to the nurse]  Did
you speak?

THE NURSE.  No.  Hurry up, will you.

THE BURGLAR.  It must have been your mother snoring, Mops.  It will
be long before you hear that music again.  Drop a tear.

THE PATIENT.  Not one.  A woman's future is not with her mother.

THE NURSE.  If you are going to start preaching like Popsy, the
milkman will be here before we get away.  Remember, I have to take
off this uniform and put on my walking things downstairs.  Popsy:
there may be a copper on his beat outside.  Spy out and see.
Safety First [she hurries out].

THE BURGLAR.  Well, for just this once, safety first [he makes for
the window].

THE PATIENT [stopping him]  Idiot: the police cant touch you if I
back you up.  It's I who run the risk of being caught by my mother.

THE BURGLAR.  True.  You have an unexpectedly powerful mind.  Pray
Heaven that in kidnapping you I am not biting off more than I can
chew.  Come along.  [He runs out].

THE PATIENT.  He's forgotten the pearls!!!  Thank Heaven he's a
fool, a lovely fool: I shall be able to do as I like with him.
[She rushes to the dressing table; bundles the jewels into their
case; and carries it out].

THE MONSTER [sitting up]  The play is now virtually over; but the
characters will discuss it at great length for two acts more.  The
exit doors are all in order.  Goodnight.  [It draws up the
bedclothes round its neck and goes to sleep].


A sea beach in a mountainous country.  Sand dunes rise to a brow
which cuts off the view of the plain beyond, only the summits of
the distant mountain range which bounds it being visible.  An army
hut on hither side, with a klaxon electric horn projecting from a
board on the wall, shews that we are in a military cantoonment.
Opposite the hut is a particolored canvas bathing pavilion with a
folding stool beside the entrance.  As seen from the sand dunes the
hut is on the right and the pavilion on the left.  From the
neighborhood of the hut a date palm throws a long shadow; for it is
early morning.

In this shadow sits a British colonel in a deck chair, peacefully
reading the weekly edition of The Times, but with a revolver in his
equipment.  A light cane chair for use by his visitors is at hand
by the hut.  Though well over fifty, he is still slender, handsome,
well set up, and every inch a commanding officer.  His full style
and title is Colonel Tallboys V.C., D.S.O.  He won his cross as a
company-officer, and has never looked back since then.

He is disturbed by a shattering series of explosions announcing the
approach of a powerful and very imperfectly silenced motor bicycle
from the side opposite to the huts.

TALLBOYS.  Damn that noise!

The unseen rider dismounts and races his engine with a hideous

TALLBOYS [angrily]  Stop that motorbike, will you?

The noise stops; and the bicyclist, having hoiked his machine up on
to its stand, taken off his goggles and gloves, and extracted a
letter from his carrier, comes past the pavilion into the colonel's
view with the letter in his hand.

He is an insignificant looking private soldier, dusty as to his
clothes and a bit gritty as to his windbeaten face.  Otherwise
there is nothing to find fault with: his tunic and puttees are
smart and correct, and his speech ready and rapid.  Yet the
colonel, already irritated by the racket of the bicycle and the
interruption to his newspaper, contemplates him with stern
disfavor; for there is something exasperatingly and inexplicably
wrong about him.  He wears a pith helmet with a pagri; and in
profile this pagri suggests a shirt which he has forgotten to tuck
in behind, whilst its front view as it falls on his shoulders gives
a feminine air of having ringlets and a veil which is in the last
degree unsoldierly.  His figure is that of a boy of seventeen; but
he seems to have borrowed a long head and Wellingtonian nose and
chin from somebody else for the express purpose of annoying the
colonel.  Fortunately for him these are offences which cannot be
stated on a charge sheet and dealt with by the provo-marshal; and
of this the colonel is angrily aware.  The dispatch rider seems
conscious of his incongruities; for, though very prompt, concise,
and soldierly in his replies, he somehow suggests that there is an
imprescriptible joke somewhere by an invisible smile which
unhappily produces at times an impression of irony.

He salutes; hands the letter to the colonel; and stands at

TALLBOYS [taking the letter]  Whats this?

THE RIDER.  I was sent with a letter to the headman of the native
village in the mountains, sir.  That is his answer, sir.

TALLBOYS.  I know nothing about it.  Who sent you?

THE RIDER.  Colonel Saxby, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Colonel Saxby has just returned to the base, seriously
ill.  I have taken over from him.  I am Colonel Tallboys.

THE RIDER.  So I understand, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Well, is this a personal letter to be sent on to him, or
is it a dispatch?

THE RIDER.  Dispatch, sir.  Service document, sir.  You may open

TALLBOYS [turning in his chair and concentrating on him with fierce
sarcasm]  Thank you.  [He surveys him from his instep to his nose].
What is your name?

THE RIDER.  Meek, sir.

TALLBOYS [with disgust]  What!

THE RIDER.  Meek, sir.  M, double e, k.

The colonel looks at him with loathing, and tears open the letter.
There is a painful silence whilst he puzzles over it.

TALLBOYS.  In dialect.  Send the interpreter to me.

MEEK.  It's of no consequence, sir.  It was only to impress the

TALLBOYS.  INNdeed.  Who picked you for this duty?

MEEK.  Sergeant, sir.

TALLBOYS.  He should have selected a capable responsible person,
with sufficient style to impress the native headman to whom Colonel
Saxby's letter was addressed.  How did he come to select you?

MEEK.  I volunteered, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Did you indeed?  You consider yourself an impressive
person, eh?  You think you carry about with you the atmosphere of
the British Empire, do you?

MEEK.  No, sir.  I know the country.  I can speak the dialects a

TALLBOYS.  Marvellous!  And why, with all these accomplishments,
are you not at least a corporal?

MEEK.  Not educationally qualified, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Illiterate!  Are you not ashamed?

MEEK.  No, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Proud of it, eh?

MEEK.  Cant help it, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Where did you pick up your knowledge of the country?

MEEK.  I was mostly a sort of tramp before I enlisted, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Well, if I could get hold of the recruiting sergeant who
enlisted you, I'd have his stripes off.  Youre a disgrace to the

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  Go and send the interpreter to me.  And dont come back
with him.  Keep out of my sight.

MEEK [hesitates]  Er--

TALLBOYS [peremptorily]  Now then!  Did you hear me give you an
order?  Send me the interpreter.

MEEK.  The fact is, Colonel--

TALLBOYS [outraged]  How dare you say Colonel and tell me that the
fact is?  Obey your order and hold your tongue.

MEEK.  Yessir.  Sorry, sir.  _I_ am the interpreter.

Tallboys bounds to his feet; towers over Meek, who looks smaller
than ever; and folds his arms to give emphasis to a terrible
rejoinder.  On the point of delivering it, he suddenly unfolds them
again and sits down resignedly.

TALLBOYS [wearily and quite gently]  Very well.  If you are the
interpreter you had better interpret this for me.  [He proffers the

MEEK [not accepting it]  No need, thank you, sir.  The headman
couldnt compose a letter, sir.  I had to do it for him.

TALLBOYS.  How did you know what was in Colonel Saxby's letter?

MEEK.  I read it to him, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Did he ask you to?

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  He had no right to communicate the contents of such a
letter to a private soldier.  He cannot have known what he was
doing.  You must have represented yourself as being a responsible
officer.  Did you?

MEEK.  It would be all the same to him, sir.  He addressed me as
Lord of the Western Isles.

TALLBOYS.  You!  You worm!  If my letter was sent by the hands of
an irresponsible messenger it should have contained a statement to
that effect.  Who drafted it?

MEEK.  Quartermaster's clerk, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Send him to me.  Tell him to bring his note of Colonel
Saxby's instructions.  Do you hear?  Stop making idiotic faces; and
get a move on.  Send me the quartermaster's clerk.

MEEK.  The fact is--

TALLBOYS [thundering]  Again!

MEEK.  Sorry, sir.  _I_ am the quartermaster's clerk.

TALLBOYS.  What!  You wrote both the letter and the headman's

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  Then either you are lying now or you were lying when you
said you were illiterate.  Which is it?

MEEK.  I dont seem to be able to pass the examination when they
want to promote me.  It's my nerves, sir, I suppose.

TALLBOYS.  Your nerves!  What business has a soldier with nerves?
You mean that you are no use for fighting, and have to be put to do
anything that can be done without it.

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  Well, next time you are sent with a letter I hope the
brigands will catch you and keep you.

MEEK.  There are no brigands, sir.

TALLBOYS.  No brigands!  Did you say no brigands?

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  You are acquainted with the Articles of War, are you

MEEK.  I have heard them read out, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Do you understand them?

MEEK.  I think so, sir.

TALLBOYS.  You think so!  Well, do a little more thinking.  You are
serving on an expeditionary force sent out to suppress brigandage
in this district and to rescue a British lady who is being held for
ransom.  You know that.  You dont think it: you know it, eh?

MEEK.  So they say, sir.

TALLBOYS.  You know also that under the Articles of War any soldier
who knowingly does when on active service any act calculated to
imperil the success of his Majesty's forces or any part thereof
shall be liable to suffer death.  Do you understand?  Death!

MEEK.  Yessir.  Army Act, Part One, Section Four, Number Six.  I
think you mean Section Five, Number Five, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Do I?  Perhaps you will be good enough to quote Section
Five, Number Five.

MEEK.  Yessir.  "By word of mouth spreads reports calculated to
create unnecessary alarm or despondency."

TALLBOYS.  It is fortunate for you, Private Meek, that the Act says
nothing about private soldiers who create despondency by their
personal appearance.  Had it done so your life would not be worth
half an hour's purchase.

MEEK.  No, sir.  Am I to file the letter and the reply with a
translation, sir?

TALLBOYS [tearing the letter to pieces and throwing them away]
Your folly has made a mockery of both.  What did the headman say?

MEEK.  Only that the country has very good roads now, sir.  Motor
coaches ply every day all the year round.  The last active brigand
retired fifteen years ago, and is ninety years old.

TALLBOYS.  The usual tissue of lies.  That headman is in league
with the brigands.  He takes a turn himself occasionally, I should

MEEK.  I think not, sir.  The fact is--

TALLBOYS.  Did I hear you say "The fact is"?

MEEK.  Sorry, sir.  That old brigand was the headman himself.  He
is sending you a present of a sheep and six turkeys.

TALLBOYS.  Send them back instantly.  Take them back on your damned
bicycle.  Inform him that British officers are not orientals, and
do not accept bribes from officials in whose districts they have to
restore order.

MEEK.  He wont understand, sir.  He wont believe you have any
authority unless you take presents.  Besides, they havnt arrived

TALLBOYS.  Well, when his messengers arrive pack them back with
their sheep and their turkeys and a note to say that my favor can
be earned by honesty and diligence, but not purchased.

MEEK.  They wont dare take back either the presents or the note,
sir.  Theyll steal the sheep and turkeys and report gracious
messages from you.  Better keep the meat and the birds, sir: they
will be welcome after a long stretch of regulation food.

TALLBOYS.  Private Meek.

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  If you should be at any future time entrusted with the
command of this expedition you will no doubt give effect to your
own views and moral standards.  For the present will you be good
enough to obey my orders without comment?

MEEK.  Yessir.  Sorry, sir.

As Meek salutes and turns to go, he is confronted by the nurse,
who, brilliantly undressed for bathing under a variegated silk
wrap, comes from the pavilion, followed by the patient in the
character of a native servant.  All traces of the patient's illness
have disappeared: she is sunburnt to the color of terra cotta; and
her muscles are hard and glistening with unguent.  She is disguised
en belle sauvage by headdress, wig, ornaments, and girdle proper to
no locality on earth except perhaps the Russian ballet.  She
carries a sun umbrella and a rug.

TALLBOYS [rising gallantly]  Ah, my dear Countess, delighted to see
you.  How good of you to come!

THE COUNTESS [giving him her finger tips]  How do, Colonel?  Hot,
isnt it?  [Her dialect is now a spirited amalgamation of the
foreign accents of all the waiters she has known].

TALLBOYS.  Take my chair.  [He goes behind it and moves it nearer
to her].

THE COUNTESS.  Thanks.  [She throws off her wrap, which the patient
takes, and flings herself with careless elegance into the chair,
calling]  Mr Meek.  Mr Mee-e-e-eek!

Meek returns smartly, and touches the front of his cap.

THE COUNTESS.  My new things from Paris have arrived at last.  If
you could be so very sweet as to get them to my bungalow somehow.
Of course I will pay anything necessary.  And could you get a
letter of credit cashed for me.  I'd better have three hundred
pounds to go on with.

MEEK [quite at his ease: unconsciously dropping the soldier and
assuming the gentleman]  How many boxes, Countess?

THE COUNTESS.  Six, I am afraid.  Will it be a lot of trouble?

MEEK.  It will involve a camel.

THE COUNTESS.  Oh, strings of camels if necessary.  Expense is no
object.  And the letter of credit?

MEEK.  Sorry, Countess: I have only two hundred on me.  You shall
have the other hundred tomorrow.  [He hands her a roll of notes;
and she gives him the letter of credit].

THE COUNTESS.  You are never at a loss.  Thanks.  So good of you.

TALLBOYS.  Chut!  Dismiss.

Meek comes to attention, salutes, left-turns, and goes out at the

TALLBOYS [who has listened to this colloquy in renewed
stupefaction]  Countess: that was very naughty of you.

THE COUNTESS.  What have I done?

TALLBOYS.  In camp you must never forget discipline.  We keep it in
the background; but it is always there and always necessary.  That
man is a private soldier.  Any sort of social relation--any hint of
familiarity with him--is impossible for you.

THE COUNTESS.  But surely I may treat him as a human being.

TALLBOYS.  Most certainly not.  Your intention is natural and
kindly; but if you treat a private soldier as a human being the
result is disastrous to himself.  He presumes.  He takes liberties.
And the consequence of that is that he gets into trouble and has a
very bad time of it until he is taught his proper place by
appropriate disciplinary measures.  I must ask you to be
particularly careful with this man Meek.  He is only half-witted:
he carries all his money about with him.  If you have occasion to
speak to him, make him feel by your tone that the relation between
you is one of a superior addressing a very distant inferior.  Never
let him address you on his own initiative, or call you anything but
"my lady."  If there is anything we can do for you we shall be
delighted to do it; but you must always ask me.

The patient, greatly pleased with the colonel for snubbing Sweetie,
deposits her rug and umbrella on the sand, and places a chair for
him on the lady's right with grinning courtesy.  She then seats
herself on the rug, and listens to them, hugging her knees and her
umbrella, and trying to look as indigenous as possible.

TALLBOYS.  Thank you.  [He sits down].

THE COUNTESS.  I am so sorry.  But if I ask anyone else they only
look helpless and say "You had better see Meek about it."

TALLBOYS.  No doubt they put everything on the poor fellow because
he is not quite all there.  Is it understood that in future you
come to me, and not to Meek?

THE COUNTESS.  I will indeed, Colonel.  I am so sorry, and I
thoroughly understand.  I am scolded and forgiven, arnt I?

TALLBOYS [smiling graciously]  Admonished, we call it.  But of
course it is not your fault: I have no right to scold you.  It is I
who must ask your forgiveness.


THE PATIENT [in waiting behind them, coughs significantly]!!

THE COUNTESS [hastily]  A vulgar expression, Colonel, isnt it?  But
so simple and direct.  I like it.

TALLBOYS.  I didnt know it was vulgar.  It is concise.

THE COUNTESS.  Of course it isnt really vulgar.  But a little lower
middle class, if you follow me.

THE PATIENT [pokes the chair with the sun umbrella]!

THE COUNTESS [as before]  Any news of the brigands, Colonel?

TALLBOYS.  No; but Miss Mopply's mother, who is in a distracted
condition--very naturally of course, poor woman!--has actually sent
me the ransom.  She implores me to pay it and release her child.
She is afraid that if I make the slightest hostile demonstration
the brigands will cut off the girl's fingers and send them in one
by one until the ransom is paid.  She thinks they may even begin
with her ears, and disfigure her for life.  Of course that is a
possibility: such things have been done; and the poor lady points
out very justly that I cannot replace her daughter's ears by
exterminating the brigands afterwards, as I shall most certainly
do if they dare lay a hand on a British lady.  But I cannot
countenance such a concession to deliberate criminality as the
payment of a ransom.  [The two conspirators exchange dismayed
glances].  I have sent a message to the old lady by wireless to say
that the payment of a ransom is out of the question, but that the
British Government is offering a substantial reward for

THE COUNTESS [jumping up excitedly]  Wotjesoy?  A reward on top of
the ransom?

THE PATIENT [pokes her savagely with the umbrella]!!!!

TALLBOYS [surprised]  No.  Instead of the ransom.

THE COUNTESS [recollecting herself]  Of course.  How silly of me!
[She sits down and adds, reflectively]  If this native girl could
find out anything would she get the reward?

TALLBOYS.  Certainly she would.  Good idea that: what?

THE COUNTESS.  Yes, Colonel, isnt it?

TALLBOYS.  By the way, Countess, I met three people yesterday who
know you very well.

THE PATIENT [forgetting herself and scrambling forward to her
knees]  But you--

THE COUNTESS [stopping her with a backhand slap on the mouth]
Silence, girl.  How dare you interrupt the colonel?  Go back to
your place and hold your tongue.

The Patient obeys humbly until the Colonel delicately turns his
head away, when she shakes her fist threateningly at the smiter.

TALLBOYS.  One of them was a lady.  I happened to mention your
brother's name; and she lit up at once and said "Dear Aubrey Bagot!
I know his sister intimately.  We were all three children

THE COUNTESS.  It must have been dear Florence Dorchester.  I hope
she wont come here.  I want to have an absolute holiday.  I dont
want to see anybody--except you, Colonel.

TALLBOYS.  Haw!  Very good of you to say so.

The Burglar comes from the bathing tent, very elegant in black and
white bathing costume and black silken wrap with white silk lapels:
a clerical touch.

TALLBOYS [continuing]  Ah, Bagot!  Ready for your dip?  I was just
telling the Countess that I met some friends of yours yesterday.
Fancy coming on them out here of all places!  Shews how small the
world is, after all.  [Rising]  And now I am off to inspect stores.
There is a shortage of maroons that I dont understand.

THE COUNTESS.  What a pity!  I love maroons.  They have such nice
ones at that confectioner's near the Place Vendôme.

TALLBOYS.  Oh, youre thinking of marrons glacés.  No: maroons are
fireworks: things that go off with a bang.  For signalling.

THE COUNTESS.  Oh! the things they used to have in the war to warn
us of an air raid?

TALLBOYS.  Just so.  Well, au revoir.

THE COUNTESS.  Au revoir.  Au revoir.

The Colonel touches his cap gallantly and bustles off past the hut
to his inspection.

THE PATIENT [rising vengefully]  You dare smack me in the face
again, my girl, and I'll lay you out flat, even if I have to give
away the whole show.

THE COUNTESS.  Well, you keep that umbrella to yourself next time.
What do you suppose I'm made of?  Leather?

AUBREY [coming between them]  Now! now! now!  Children! children!
Whats wrong?

THE PATIENT.  This silly bitch--

AUBREY.  Oh no, no, no, Mops.  Damn it, be a lady.  Whats the
matter, Sweetie?

THE COUNTESS.  You shouldnt talk like that, dearie.  A low girl
might say a thing like that; but youre expected to know better.

AUBREY.  Mops: youve shocked Sweetie.

THE PATIENT.  Well: do you think she never shocks me?  She's a
walking earthquake.  And now what are we to do if these people the
colonel has met turn up?  There must be a real Countess Valbrioni.

THE COUNTESS.  Not much there isnt.  Do you suppose we three are
the only liars in the world?  All you have to do is to give
yourself a swell title, and all the snobs within fifty miles will
swear that you are their dearest friend.

AUBREY.  The first lesson a crook has to learn, darling, is that
nothing succeeds like lying.  Make any statement that is so true
that it has been staring us in the face all our lives, and the
whole world will rise up and passionately contradict you.  If you
dont withdraw and apologize, it will be the worse for you.  But
just tell a thundering silly lie that everyone knows is a lie, and
a murmur of pleased assent will hum up from every quarter of the
globe.  If Sweetie had introduced herself as what she obviously is:
that is, an ex-hotel chambermaid who became a criminal on principle
through the preaching of an ex-army chaplain--me!--with whom she
fell in love deeply but transitorily, nobody would have believed
her.  But she has no sooner made the impossible statement that she
is a countess, and that the ex-chaplain is her half stepbrother the
Honorable Aubrey Bagot, than clouds of witnesses spring up to
assure Colonel Tallboys that it is all gospel truth.  So have no
fear of exposure, darling; and do you, my Sweetie, lie and lie and
lie until your imagination bursts.

THE PATIENT [throwing herself moodily into the deck chair]  I
wonder are all crooks as fond of preaching as you are.

AUBREY [bending affectionately over her]  Not all, dearest.  I dont
preach because I am a crook, but because I have a gift--a divine
gift--that way.

THE PATIENT.  Where did you get it?  Is your father a bishop?

AUBREY [straightening himself up to declaim]  Have I not told you
that he is an atheist, and, like all atheists, an inflexible
moralist?  He said I might become a preacher if I believed what I
preached.  That, of course, was nonsense: my gift of preaching is
not confined to what I believe: I can preach anything, true or
false.  I am like a violin, on which you can play all sorts of
music, from jazz to Mozart.  [Relaxing]  But the old man never
could be brought to see it.  He said the proper profession for me
was the bar.  [He snatches up the rug; replaces it on the patient's
left; and throws himself down lazily on it].

THE COUNTESS.  Aint we going to bathe?

AUBREY.  Oh, dash it, dont lets go into the water.  Lets sunbathe.

THE COUNTESS.  Lazy devil!  [She takes the folding stool from the
pavilion, and sits down discontentedly].

THE PATIENT.  Your father was right.  If you have no conscience
about what you preach, your proper job is at the bar.  But as you
have no conscience about what you do, you will probably end in the

AUBREY.  Most likely.  But I am a born preacher, not a pleader.
The theory of legal procedure is that if you set two liars to
expose one another, the truth will emerge.  That would not suit me.
I greatly dislike being contradicted; and the only place where a
man is safe from contradiction is in the pulpit.  I detest
argument: it is unmannerly, and obscures the preacher's message.
Besides, the law is too much concerned with crude facts and too
little with spiritual things; and it is in spiritual things that I
am interested: they alone call my gift into full play.

THE PATIENT.  You call preaching things you dont believe spiritual,
do you?

AUBREY.  Put a sock in it, Mops.  My gift is divine: it is not
limited by my petty personal convictions.  It is a gift of lucidity
as well as of eloquence.  Lucidity is one of the most precious of
gifts: the gift of the teacher: the gift of explanation.  I can
explain anything to anybody; and I love doing it.  I feel I must do
it if only the doctrine is beautiful and subtle and exquisitely put
together.  I may feel instinctively that it is the rottenest
nonsense.  Still, if I can get a moving dramatic effect out of it,
and preach a really splendid sermon about it, my gift takes
possession of me and obliges me to sail in and do it.  Sweetie: go
and get me a cushion for my head: there's a dear.

THE PATIENT.  Do nothing of the kind, Sweetie.  Let him wait on

THE COUNTESS [rising]  He'd only mess everything about looking for
it.  I like to have my rooms left tidy.  [She goes into the

THE PATIENT.  Isnt that funny, Pops?  She has a conscience as a
chambermaid and none as a woman.

AUBREY.  Very few people have more than one point of honor, Mops.
And lots of them havnt even one.

THE COUNTESS [returning with a silk cushion, which she hurls hard
at Aubrey's head]  There!  And now I give you both notice.  I'm
getting bored with this place.

AUBREY [making himself comfortable with his cushion]  Oh, you are
always getting bored.

THE PATIENT.  I suppose that means that you are tired of Tallboys.

THE COUNTESS [moving restlessly about]  I am fed up with him to
that degree that I sometimes feel I could almost marry him, just to
put him on the list of the inevitables that I must put up with
willynilly, like getting up in the morning, and washing and
dressing and eating and drinking: things you darent let yourself
get tired of because if you did theyd drive you mad.  Lets go and
have a bit of real life somewhere.

THE PATIENT.  Real life!  I wonder where thats to be found!  Weve
spent nearly six thousand pounds in two months looking for it.  The
money we got for the necklace wont last for ever.

AUBREY.  Sweetie: you will have to stick it in this spot until we
touch that ransom; and that's all about it.

THE COUNTESS.  I'll do as I like, not what you tell me.  And I tell
you again--the two of you--you can take a week's notice.  I'm bored
with this business.  I need a change.

AUBREY.  What are we to do with her, Mops?  Always change! change!

THE COUNTESS.  Well, I like to see new faces.

AUBREY.  I could be happy as a Buddha in a temple, eternally
contemplating my own middle and having the same old priest to
polish me up every day.  But Sweetie wants a new face every
fortnight.  I have known her fall in love with a new face twice in
the same week.  [Turning to her]  Woman: have you any sense of the
greatness of constancy?

COUNTESS.  I might be constant if I were a real countess.  But I'm
only a hotel chambermaid; and a hotel chambermaid gets so used to
new faces that at last they become a necessity.  [She sits down on
the stool].

AUBREY.  And the oftener the faces change the more the tips come
to, eh?

COUNTESS.  Oh, it's not that, though of course that counts.  The
real secret of it is that though men are awfully nice for the first
few days, it doesnt last.  You get the best out of men by having
them always new.  What I say is that a love affair should always be
a honeymoon.  And the only way to make sure of that is to keep
changing the man; for the same man can never keep it up.  In all my
life I have known only one man that kept it up til he died.

THE PATIENT [interested]  Ah!  Then the thing is possible?

COUNTESS.  Yes: it was a man that married my sister: that was how I
came to know about it.

AUBREY.  And his ardor never palled?  Day in and day out, until
death did them part, he was the same as on the wedding day?  Is
that really true, Sweetie?

THE COUNTESS.  It is.  But then he beat her on their wedding day;
and he beat her just as hard every day afterwards.  I made her get
a separation order; but she went back to him because nobody else
paid her any attention.

AUBREY.  Why didnt you tell me that before?  I'd have beaten you
black and blue sooner than lose you.  [Sitting up]  Would you
believe it, Mops, I was in love with this woman: madly in love with
her.  She was not my intellectual equal; and I had to teach her
table manners.  But there was an extraordinary sympathy between our
lower centres; and when after ten days she threw me over for
another man I was restrained from murder and suicide only by the
most resolute exercise of my reasoning powers, my determination to
be a civilized man, and fear of the police.

THE COUNTESS.  Well, I gave you a good time for the ten days, didnt
I?  Lots of people dont get that much to look back on.  Besides,
you know it was for your own good, Popsy.  We werent really suited,
were we?

AUBREY.  You had acquired an insatiable taste for commercial
travellers.  You could sample them at the rate of three a week.  I
could not help admiring such amazing mobility of the affections.  I
had heard operatic tenors bawling Woman is Fickle; but it always
seemed to me what was to be dreaded in women was their implacable
constancy.  But you!  Fickle!  I should think so.

THE COUNTESS.  Well, the travellers were just as bad, you know.

AUBREY.  Just as bad!  Say just as good.  Fickleness means simply
mobility, and mobility is a mark of civilization.  You should pride
yourself on it.  If you dont you will lose your self-respect; and I
cannot endure a woman who has no self-respect.

THE COUNTESS.  Oh, whats the use of us talking about self-respect?
You are a thief and so am I.  I go a little further than that,
myself; and so would you if you were a woman.  Dont you be a
hypocrite, Popsy: at least not with me.

AUBREY.  At least not with you!  Sweetie: that touch of concern for
my spiritual welfare almost convinces me that you still love me.

THE COUNTESS.  Not me.  Not much.  I'm through with you, my lad.
And I cant quite fancy the colonel: he's too old, and too much the

AUBREY.  He's better than nobody.  Who else is there?

THE COUNTESS.  Well, there's the sergeant.  I daresay I have low
tastes; but he's my sort, and the colonel isnt.

THE PATIENT.  Have you fallen in love with Sergeant Fielding,

THE COUNTESS.  Well, yes; if you like to call it that.

AUBREY.  May I ask have you sounded him on the subject?

THE COUNTESS.  How can I?  I'm a countess; and he's only a sergeant.
If I as much as let on that I'm conscious of his existence I give
away the show to the colonel.  I can only look at him.  And I cant
do even that when anyone else is looking.  And all the time I want
to hug him [she breaks down in tears].

AUBREY.  Oh for Heaven's sake dont start crying.

THE PATIENT.  For all you know, Sweetie, the sergeant may be a
happily married man.

THE COUNTESS.  What difference does that make to my feelings?  I am
so lonely.  The place is so dull.  No pictures.  No dances.
Nothing to do but be ladylike.  And the one really lovable man
going to waste!  I'd rather be dead.

THE PATIENT.  Well, it's just as bad for me.

THE COUNTESS.  No it isnt.  Youre a real lady: youre broken in to
be dull.  Besides, you have Popsy.  And youre supposed to be our
servant.  That gives you the run of the whole camp when youre tired
of him.  You can pick up a private when you like.  Whats to prevent

THE PATIENT.  My ladylike morals, I suppose.

THE COUNTESS.  Morals your grandmother!  I thought youd left all
that flapdoodle behind you when you came away with us.

THE PATIENT.  I meant to.  Ive tried to.  But you shock me in spite
of myself every second time you open your mouth.

THE COUNTESS.  Dont you set up to be a more moral woman than I am,
because youre not.

THE PATIENT.  I dont pretend to be.  But I may tell you that my
infatuation for Popsy, which I now see was what really nerved me to
this astonishing breakaway, has been, so far, quite innocent.  Can
you believe that, you clod?

THE COUNTESS.  Oh yes I can: Popsy's satisfied as long as you let
him talk.  What I mean is--and I tell it to you straight--that with
all my faults I'm content with one man at a time.

THE PATIENT.  Do you suggest that I am carrying on with two men?

THE COUNTESS.  I dont suggest anything.  I say what I mean straight
out; and if you dont like it you can lump it.  You may be in love
with Popsy; but youre interested in Private Meek, though what you
see in that dry little worm beats me.

THE PATIENT.  Have you noticed, my Sweetie, that your big strapping
splendid sergeant is completely under the thumb of that dry little

THE COUNTESS.  He wont be when I get him under my thumb.  But you
just be careful.  Take this tip from me: one man at a time.  I am
advising you for your good, because youre only a beginner; and what
you think is love, and interest, and all that, is not real love at
all: three quarters of it is only unsatisfied curiosity.  Ive lived
at that address myself; and I know.  When I love a man now it's all
love and nothing else.  It's the real thing while it lasts.  I
havnt the least curiosity about my lovely sergeant: I know just
what he'll say and what he'll do.  I just want him to do it.

THE PATIENT [rising, revolted]  Sweetie: I really cannot bear any
more of this.  No doubt it's perfectly true.  It's quite right that
you should say it frankly and plainly.  I envy and admire the
frightful coolness with which you plump it all out.  Perhaps I
shall get used to it in time.  But at present it knocks me to
pieces.  I shall simply have to go away if you pursue the subject.
[She sits down in the cane chair with her back to them].

AUBREY.  Thats the worst of Sweetie.  We all have--to put it as
nicely as I can--our lower centres and our higher centres.  Our
lower centres act: they act with terrible power that sometimes
destroys us; but they dont talk.  Speech belongs to the higher
centres.  In all the great poetry and literature of the world the
higher centres speak.  In all respectable conversation the higher
centres speak, even when they are saying nothing or telling lies.
But the lower centres are there all the time: a sort of guilty
secret with every one of us, though they are dumb.  I remember
asking my tutor at college whether, if anyone's lower centres began
to talk, the shock would not be worse than the one Balaam got when
his donkey began talking to him.  He only told me half a dozen
improper stories to shew how openminded he was.  I never mentioned
the subject again until I met Sweetie.  Sweetie is Balaam's ass.

THE COUNTESS.  Keep a civil tongue in your head, Popsy.  I--

AUBREY [springing to his feet]  Woman: I am paying you a
compliment: Balaam's ass was wiser than Balaam.  You should read
your Bible.  That is what makes Sweetie almost superhuman.  Her
lower centres speak.  Since the war the lower centres have become
vocal.  And the effect is that of an earthquake.  For they speak
truths that have never been spoken before--truths that the makers
of our domestic institutions have tried to ignore.  And now that
Sweetie goes shouting them all over the place, the institutions are
rocking and splitting and sundering.  They leave us no place to
live, no certainties, no workable morality, no heaven, no hell, no
commandments, and no God.

THE PATIENT.  What about the light in our own souls that you were
so eloquent about the day before yesterday at lunch when you drank
a pint of champagne?

AUBREY.  Most of us seem to have no souls.  Or if we have them,
they have nothing to hang on to.  Meanwhile, Sweetie goes on
shouting.  [He takes refuge in the deck chair].

THE COUNTESS [rising]  Oh, what are you gassing about?  I am not
shouting.  I should be a good woman if it wasnt so dull.  If youre
goodnatured, you just get put upon.  Who are the good women?  Those
that enjoy being dull and like being put upon.  Theyve no
appetites.  Life's thrown away on them: they get nothing out of it.

THE PATIENT.  Well, come, Sweetie!  What do you get out of it?

THE COUNTESS.  Excitement: thats what I get out of it.  Look at
Popsy and me!  We're always planning robberies.  Of course I know
it's mostly imagination; but the fun is in the planning and the
expectation.  Even if we did them and were caught, there would be
the excitement of being tried and being in all the papers.  Look at
poor Harry Smiler that murdered the cop in Croydon!  When he came
and told us what he'd done Popsy offered to go out and get him some
cyanide to poison himself; for it was a dead sure thing that he'd
be caught and bumped off.  "What!" says Harry; "and lose the
excitement of being tried for my life!  I'd rather be hanged" he
says; and hanged he was.  And I say it must have been almost worth
it.  After all, he'd have died anyhow: perhaps of something really
painful.  Harry wasnt a bad man really; but he couldnt bear
dullness.  He had a wonderful collection of pistols that he had
begun as a boy: he picked up a lot in the war.  Just for the
romance of it, you know: he meant no harm.  But he'd never shot
anyone with them; and at last the temptation was too great and he
went out and shot the cop.  Just for nothing but the feeling that
he'd fired the thing off and done somebody in with it.  When Popsy
asked him why he'd done it, all he could say was that it was a sort
of fulfilment.  But it gives you an idea, doesnt it, of what I
mean?  [She sits down again, relieved by her outburst].

AUBREY.  All it means is a low vitality.  Here is a man with all
the miracles of the universe to stagger his imagination and all the
problems of human destiny to employ his mind, and he goes out and
shoots an innocent policeman because he can think of nothing more
interesting to do.  Quite right to hang him.  And all the people
who can find nothing more exciting to do than to crowd into the
court to watch him being sentenced to death should have been hanged
too.  You will be hanged someday, Sweetie, because you have not
what people call a richly stored mind.  I have tried to educate

THE COUNTESS.  Yes: you gave me books to read.  But I couldnt read
them: they were as dull as ditchwater.  Ive tried crossword puzzles
to occupy my mind and keep me off planning robberies; but what
crossword puzzle is half the fun and excitement of picking
somebody's pocket, let alone that you cant live by it?  You wanted
me to take to drink to keep me quiet.  But I dont like being drunk;
and what would become of my good looks if I did?  Ten bottles of
champagne couldnt make you feel as you do when you walk past a
policeman who has only to stop you and search you to put you away
for three years.

THE PATIENT.  Pops: did you really try to set her drinking?  What a
thoroughpaced blackguard you are!

AUBREY.  She is much better company when she's half drunk.  Listen
to her now, when she is sober.

THE PATIENT.  Sweetie: are you really having such a jolly time
after all?  You began by threatening to give up our exciting
enterprise because it is so dull.

AUBREY.  She is free.  There is the sergeant.  And there is always
the hope of something turning up and the sense of being ready for
it without having to break all the shackles and throw down all the
walls that imprison a respectable woman.

THE PATIENT.  Well, what about me?

AUBREY [puzzled]  Well, what about you?  You are free, arnt you?

THE PATIENT [rising very deliberately, and going behind him to his
left hand, which she picks up and fondles as she sermonizes, seated
on the arm of his chair]  My angel love, you have rescued me from
respectability so completely that I have for a month past been
living the life of a mountain goat.  I have got rid of my anxious
worrying mother as completely as a weaned kid, and I no longer hate
her.  My slavery to cooks stuffing me with long meals of fish,
flesh, and fowl is a thing of the miserable past: I eat dates and
bread and water and raw onions when I can get them; and when I cant
get them I fast, with the result that I have forgotten what illness
means; and if I ran away from you two neither of you could catch
me; and if you did I could fight the pair of you with one hand tied
behind me.  I revel in all your miracles of the universe: the
delicious dawns, the lovely sunsets, the changing winds, the cloud
pictures, the flowers, the animals and their ways, the birds and
insects and reptiles.  Every day is a day of adventure with its
cold and heat, its light and darkness, its cycles of exultant vigor
and exhaustion, hunger and satiety, its longings for action that
change into a longing for sleep, its thoughts of heavenly things
that change so suddenly into a need for food.

AUBREY.  What more could any mortal desire?

THE PATIENT [seizing him by the ears]  Liar.

AUBREY.  Thank you.  You mean, I presume, that these things do not
satisfy you: you want me as well.

THE PATIENT.  You!!  You!!! you selfish lazy sugary tongued
blackguard.  [Releasing him]  No: I included you with the animals
and their ways, just as I included Sweetie and the sergeant.

THE COUNTESS.  You let Sweetie and her sergeant alone: d'y'hear?  I
have had enough of that joke on me.

THE PATIENT [rising and taking her by the chin to turn her face up]
It is no joke, Sweetiest: it is the dead solemn earnest.  I called
Pops a liar, Sweetie, because all this is not enough.  The glories
of nature dont last any decently active person a week, unless
theyre professional naturalists or mathematicians or a painter or
something.  I want something sensible to do.  A beaver has a jolly
time because it has to build its dam and bring up its family.  I
want my little job like the beaver.  If I do nothing but
contemplate the universe there is so much in it that is cruel and
terrible and wantonly evil, and so much more that is oppressively
astronomical and endless and inconceivable and impossible, that I
shall just go stark raving mad and be taken back to my mother with
straws in my hair.  The truth is, I am free; I am healthy; I am
happy; and I am utterly miserable.  [Turning on Aubrey]  Do you
hear?  Utterly miserable.

AUBREY [losing his temper]  And what do you suppose I am?  Here
with nothing to do but drag about two damn' silly women and talk to

THE COUNTESS.  It's worse for them.  They have to listen to you.

THE PATIENT.  I despise you.  I hate you.  You--you--you--you
gentleman thief.  What right has a thief to be a gentleman?
Sweetie is bad enough, heaven knows, with her vulgarity and her low
cunning: always trying to get the better of somebody or to get hold
of a man; but at least she's a woman; and she's real.  Men are not
real: theyre all talk, talk, talk--

THE COUNTESS [half rising]  You keep a civil tongue in your head:
do you hear?

THE PATIENT.  Another syllable of your cheek, Sweetie; and I'll
give you a hiding that will keep you screaming for half an hour.
[Sweetie subsides].  I want to beat somebody: I want to kill
somebody.  I shall end by killing the two of you.  What are we, we
three glorious adventurers?  Just three inefficient fertilizers.

AUBREY.  What on earth do you mean by that?

THE PATIENT.  Yes: inefficient fertilizers.  We do nothing but
convert good food into bad manure.  We are walking factories of bad
manure: thats what we are.

THE COUNTESS [rising]  Well, I am not going to sit here and listen
to that sort of talk.  You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

AUBREY [rising also, shocked]  Miss Mopply: there are certain
disgusting truths that no lady would throw in the teeth of her
fellow creatures--

THE PATIENT.  I am not a lady: I am free now to say what I please.
How do you like it?

THE COUNTESS [relenting]  Look here, dearie.  You mustnt go off at
the deep end like this.  You--[The patient turns fiercely on her:
she screams].  Ah-a-a-ah!  Popsy: she's mad.  Save me.  [She runs
away, out past the pavilion].

AUBREY.  What is the matter with you?  Are you out of your senses?
[He tries to hold her; but she sends him sprawling].

THE PATIENT.  No.  I am exercising my freedom.  The freedom you
preached.  The freedom you made possible for me.  You dont like to
hear Sweetie's lower centres shouting.  Well, now you hear my
higher centres shouting.  You dont seem to like it any better.

AUBREY.  Mops: youre hysterical.  You felt splendid an hour ago;
and you will feel splendid again an hour from now.  You will always
feel splendid if you keep yourself fit.

THE PATIENT.  Fit for what?  A lost dog feels fit: thats what makes
him stray; but he's the unhappiest thing alive.  I am a lost dog: a
tramp, a vagabond.  Ive got nothing to do.  Ive got nowhere to go.
Sweetie's miserable; and youre miserable; and I'm miserable; and I
shall just kick you and beat you to a jelly.

She rushes at him.  He dodges her and runs off past the hut.  At
that moment Tallboys returns with Meek past the other side of the
hut; and the patient, unable to check herself, crashes into his

TALLBOYS [sternly]  Whats this?  What are you doing here?  Why are
you making this noise?  Dont clench your fists in my presence.
[She droops obsequiously].  Whats the matter?

THE PATIENT [salaaming and chanting] Bmal elttil a dah yram, Tuan.

TALLBOYS.  Can you speak English?

THE PATIENT.  No Engliss.

TALLBOYS.  Or French?

THE PATIENT.  No Frenns, Tuan.  Wons sa etihw saw eceelf sti.

TALLBOYS.  Very well: dont do it again.  Now off with you.

She goes out backward into the pavilion, salaaming.  Tallboys sits
down in the deck chair.

TALLBOYS [to Meek]  Here, you.  You say youre the interpreter.  Did
you understand what that girl said to me?

MEEK.  Yessir.

TALLBOYS.  What dialect was it?  It didnt sound like what the
natives speak here.

MEEK.  No sir.  I used to speak it at school.  English back slang,

TALLBOYS.  Back slang?  What do you mean?

MEEK.  English spelt backwards.  She reversed the order of the
words too, sir.  That shews that she has those two little speeches
off by heart.

TALLBOYS.  But how could a native girl do such a thing?  I couldnt
do it myself.

MEEK.  That shews that she's not a native girl, sir.

TALLBOYS.  But this must be looked into.  Were you able to pick up
what she said?

MEEK.  Only bmal elttil, sir.  That was quite easy.  It put me on
to the rest.

TALLBOYS.  But what does bmal elttil mean?

MEEK.  Little lamb, sir.

TALLBOYS.  She called me a little lamb!

MEEK.  No sir.  All she said was "Mary had a little lamb."  And
when you asked her could she speak French she said, of course, "Its
fleece was white as snow."

TALLBOYS.  But that was insolence.

MEEK.  It got her out of her difficulty, sir.

TALLBOYS.  This is very serious.  The woman is passing herself off
on the Countess as a native servant.

MEEK.  Do you think so, sir?

TALLBOYS.  I dont think so: I know so.  Dont be a fool, man.  Pull
yourself together, and dont make silly answers.

MEEK.  Yessir.  No sir.

TALLBOYS [angrily bawling at him]  "Ba Ba black sheep: have you any
wool?  Yes sir, no sir, three bags full."  Dont say yessir no sir
to me.

MEEK.  No sir.

TALLBOYS.  Go and fetch that girl back.  Not a word to her about my
finding her out, mind.  When I have finished with her you will
explain to me about those maroons.

MEEK.  Yessir.  [He goes into the pavilion].

TALLBOYS.  Hurry up.  [He settles himself comfortably and takes out
his cigarette case].

The Countess peers round the corner of the pavilion to see whether
she may safely return.  Aubrey makes a similar reconnaissance round
the corner of the hut.

THE COUNTESS.  Here I am again, you see.  [She smiles fascinatingly
at the Colonel and sits down on her stool].

AUBREY.  Moi aussi.  May I--[he stretches himself on the rug].

TALLBOYS [sitting up and putting the cigarette case back in his
pocket]  Just in the nick of time.  I was about to send for you.  I
have made a very grave discovery.  That native servant of yours is
not a native.  Her lingo is a ridiculous fraud.  She is an

AUBREY.  You dont say so!

THE COUNTESS.  Oh, impossible.

TALLBOYS.  Not a doubt of it.  She's a fraud: take care of your
jewels.  Or else--and this is what I suspect--she's a spy.

AUBREY.  A spy!  But we are not at war.

TALLBOYS.  The League of Nations has spies everywhere.  [To the
Countess]  You must allow me to search her luggage at once, before
she knows that I have found her out.

THE COUNTESS.  But I have missed nothing.  I am sure she hasnt
stolen anything.  What do you want to search her luggage for?

TALLBOYS.  For maroons.

THE COUNTESS } [together] {Maroons!
AUBREY       }            {Maroons!

TALLBOYS.  Yes, maroons.  I inspected the stores this morning; and
the maroons are missing.  I particularly wanted them to recall me
at lunch time when I go sketching.  I am rather a dab at
watercolors.  And there is not a single maroon left.  There should
be fifteen.

AUBREY.  Oh, I can clear that up.  It's one of your men: Meek.  He
goes about on a motor bicycle with a sack full of maroons and a lot
of wire.  He said he was surveying.  He was evidently very anxious
to get rid of me; so I did not press my inquiries.  But that
accounts for the maroons.

TALLBOYS.  Not at all.  This is very serious.  Meek is a half
witted creature who should never have been enlisted.  He is like a
child: this woman could do anything she pleases with him.

THE COUNTESS.  But what could she possibly want with maroons?

TALLBOYS.  I dont know.  This expedition has been sent out without
the sanction of the League of Nations.  We always forget to consult
it when there is anything serious in hand.  The woman may be an
emissary of the League.  She may be working against us.

THE COUNTESS.  But even so, what harm can she do us?

TALLBOYS [tapping his revolver]  My dear lady, do you suppose I am
carrying this for fun?  Dont you realize that the hills here are
full of hostile tribes who may try to raid us at any moment?  Look
at that electric horn there.  If it starts honking, look out; for
it will mean that a body of tribesmen has been spotted advancing on

THE COUNTESS [alarmed]  If I'd known that, you wouldnt have got me
here.  Is that so, Popsy?

AUBREY.  Well, yes; but it doesnt matter: theyre afraid of us.

TALLBOYS.  Yes, because they dont know that we are a mere handful
of men.  But if this woman is in communication with them and has
got hold of that idiot Meek, we may have them down on us like a
swarm of hornets.  I dont like this at all.  I must get to the
bottom of it at once.  Ah! here she comes.

Meek appears at the entrance to the pavilion.  He stands politely
aside to let the patient pass him, and remains there.

MEEK.  The colonel would like a word with you, Miss.

AUBREY.  Go easy with her, Colonel.  She can run like a deer.  And
she has muscles of iron.  You had better turn out the guard before
you tackle her.

TALLBOYS.  Pooh!  Here, you!

The patient comes to him past the Countess with an air of disarming
innocence; falls on her knees; lifts her palms, and smites the
ground with her forehead.

TALLBOYS.  They tell me you can run fast.  Well, a bullet can run
faster.  [He taps his revolver].  Do you understand that?

THE PATIENT [salaaming]  Bmal elttil a dah yram wons sa etihw saw
eceelf sti--

TALLBOYS [tonitruant]  And everywhere that Mary went--

THE PATIENT [adroitly cutting in]  That lamb was sure to go.  Got
me, Colonel.  How clever of you!  Well, what of it?

TALLBOYS.  That is what I intend to find out.  You are not a

THE PATIENT.  Yes, of Somerset.

TALLBOYS.  Precisely.  Well, why are you disguised?  Why did you
try to make me believe that you dont understand English?

THE PATIENT.  For a lark, Colonel.

TALLBOYS.  Thats not good enough.  Why have you passed yourself off
on this lady as a native servant?  Being a servant is no lark.
Answer me.  Dont stand there trying to invent a lie.  Why did you
pretend to be a servant?

THE PATIENT.  One has so much more control of the house as a servant
than as a mistress nowadays, Colonel.

TALLBOYS.  Very smart, that.  You will tell me next that one
controls a regiment much more effectively as a private than as a
colonel, eh?

The klaxon sounds stridently.  The Colonel draws his revolver and
makes a dash for the top of the sandhill, but is outraced by
Meek, who gets there first and takes the word of command with
irresistible authority, leaving him stupent.  Aubrey, who has
scrambled to his feet, moves towards the sand dunes to see what is
happening.  Sweetie clutches the patient's arm in terror and drags
her towards the pavilion.  She is fiercely shaken off; and Mops
stands her ground defiantly and runs towards the sound of the guns
when they begin.

MEEK.  Stand to.  Charge your magazines.  Stand by the maroons.
How many do you make them, sergeant?  How far off?

SERGEANT FIELDING [invisible]  Forty horse.  Nine hundred yards,
about, I make it.

MEEK.  Rifles at the ready.  Cut-offs open.  Sights up to eighteen
hundred, right over their heads: no hitting.  Ten rounds rapid:
fire.  [Fusillade of rifles].  How is that?

SERGEANT'S VOICE.  Theyre coming on, sir.

MEEK.  Number one maroons: ready.  Contact.  [Formidable explosions
on the right].  How is that?

SERGEANT'S VOICE.  Theyve stopped.

MEEK.  Number two maroons ready.  Contact.  [Explosions on the
left].  How is that?

SERGEANT'S VOICE.  Bolted, sir, every man of them.  Meek returns
from the hill in the character of an insignificant private,
followed by Aubrey, to the Colonel's left and right respectively.

MEEK.  Thats all right, sir.  Excuse interruption.

TALLBOYS.  Oh!  You call this an interruption?

MEEK.  Yessir: theres nothing in it to trouble you about.  Shall I
draw up the report, sir?  Important engagement: enemy routed: no
British casualties.  D.S.O. for you, perhaps, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Private Meek: may I ask--if you will pardon my
presumption--who is in command of this expedition, you or I?

MEEK.  You, sir.

TALLBOYS [repouching the revolver]  You flatter me.  Thank you.
May I ask, further, who the devil gave you leave to plant the
entire regimental stock of maroons all over the hills and explode
them in the face of the enemy?

MEEK.  It was the duty of the intelligence orderly, sir.  I'm the
intelligence orderly.  I had to make the enemy believe that the
hills are bristling with British cannon.  They think that now, sir.
No more trouble from them.

TALLBOYS.  Indeed!  Quartermaster's clerk, interpreter,
intelligence orderly.  Any further rank of which I have not been

MEEK.  No sir.

TALLBOYS.  Quite sure youre not a fieldmarshal, eh?

MEEK.  Quite sure, sir.  I never was anything higher than a

TALLBOYS.  You a colonel?  What do you mean?

MEEK.  Not a real colonel, sir.  Mostly a brevet, sir, to save
appearances when I had to take command.

TALLBOYS.  And how do you come to be a private now?

MEEK.  I prefer the ranks, sir.  I have a freer hand.  And the
conversation in the officers' mess doesnt suit me.  I always resign
a commission and enlist again.

TALLBOYS.  Always!  How many commissions have you held?

MEEK.  I dont quite remember, sir.  Three, I think.

TALLBOYS.  Well, I am dashed!

THE PATIENT.  Oh, Colonel!  And you mistook this great military
genius for a half wit!!!

TALLBOYS [with aplomb]  Naturally.  The symptoms are precisely the
same.  [To Meek]  Dismiss.

Meek salutes and trots smartly out past the hut.

AUBREY.  By Jove!!

THE COUNTESS.  Well I ne--[Correcting herself]  Tiens, tiens,
tiens, tiens!

THE PATIENT.  What are you going to do about him, Colonel?

TALLBOYS.  Madam: the secret of command, in the army and elsewhere,
is never to waste a moment doing anything that can be delegated to
a subordinate.  I have a passion for sketching in watercolors.
Hitherto the work of commanding my regiment has interfered very
seriously with its gratification.  Henceforth I shall devote myself
almost entirely to sketching, and leave the command of the
expedition to Private Meek.  And since you all seem to be on more
intimate terms with him than I can claim, will you be good enough
to convey to him--casually, you understand--that I already possess
the D.S.O. and that what I am out for at present is a K.C.B.  Or
rather, to be strictly accurate, that is what my wife is out for.
For myself, my sole concern for the moment is whether I should
paint that sky with Prussian blue or with cobalt.

THE COUNTESS.  Fancy you wasting your time on painting pictures!

TALLBOYS.  Countess: I paint pictures to make me feel sane.
Dealing with men and women makes me feel mad.  Humanity always
fails me: Nature never.


A narrow gap leading down to the beach through masses of soft brown
sandstone, pitted with natural grottoes.  Sand and big stones in
the foreground.  Two of the grottoes are accessible from the beach
by mounting from the stones, which make rough platforms in front of
them.  The soldiers have amused themselves by hewing them into a
rude architecture and giving them fancy names.  The one on your
right as you descend the rough path through the gap is taller than
it is broad, and has a natural pillar and a stone like an altar in
it, giving a Gothic suggestion which has been assisted by knocking
the top of the opening into something like a pointed arch, and
surmounting it with the inscription SN PAULS.  The grotto to the
left is much wider.  It contains a bench long enough to accommodate
two persons; its recesses are illuminated rosily by bulbs wrapped
in pink paper; and some scholarly soldier has carved above it in
Greek characters the word [Greek word--Agapemone], beneath which
is written in red chalk THE ABODE OF LOVE, under which again some
ribald has added in white chalk, NO NEED TO WASTE THE ELECTRIC

For the moment The Abode of Love has been taken possession of by
the sergeant, a wellbuilt handsome man, getting on for forty.  He
is sitting on the bench, and is completely absorbed in two books,
comparing them with rapt attention.

St Pauls is also occupied.  A very tall gaunt elder, by his dress
and bearing a well-to-do English gentleman, sits on a stone at the
altar, resting his elbows on it with his chin in his hands.  He is
in the deepest mourning; and his attitude is one of hopeless

Sweetie, now fully and brilliantly dressed, comes slowly down the
path through the gap, moody and bored.  On the beach she finds
nothing to interest her until the sergeant unconsciously attracts
her notice by finding some remarkable confirmation or contradiction
between his two books, and smiting one of them appreciatively with
his fist.  She instantly brightens up; climbs to the mouth of the
grotto eagerly; and posts herself beside him, on his right.  But he
is so rapt in his books that she waits in vain to be noticed.

SWEETIE [contemplating him ardently]  Ahem!

The Sergeant looks up.  Seeing who it is, he springs to his feet
and stands to attention.

SWEETIE [giving herself no airs]  You neednt stand up for me, you

THE SERGEANT [stiffly]  Beg pardon, your ladyship.  I was not aware
of your ladyship's presence.

SWEETIE.  Can all that stuff, Sergeant.  [She sits on the bench on
his right].  Dont lets waste time.  This place is as dull for me as
it is for you.  Dont you think we two could amuse ourselves a bit
if we were friends?

THE SERGEANT [with stern contempt]  No, my lady, I dont.  I saw a
lot of that in the war: pretty ladies brightening up the hospitals
and losing their silly heads, let alone upsetting the men; and I
dont hold with it.  Keep to your class: I'll keep to mine.

SWEETIE.  My class!  Garn!  I'm no countess; and I'm fed up with
pretending to be one.  Didnt you guess?

THE SERGEANT [resuming his seat and treating her as one of his own
class]  Why should I trouble to start guessing about you?  Any girl
can be a countess nowadays if she's goodlooking enough to pick up a

SWEETIE.  Oh!  You think I'm goodlooking, do you?

THE SERGEANT.  Come!  If youre not a countess what are you?  Whats
the game, eh?

SWEETIE.  The game, darling, is that youre my fancy.  I love you.

THE SERGEANT.  Whats that to me?  A man of my figure can have his

SWEETIE.  Not here, dear.  Theres only one other white woman within
fifty miles; and she's a real lady.  She wouldnt look at you.

THE SERGEANT.  Well, thats a point.  Thats a point, certainly.

SWEETIE [snuggling to him]  Yes, isnt it?

THE SERGEANT [suffering the advance but not responding]  This
climate plays the devil with a man, no matter how serious minded he

SWEETIE [slipping her arm through his]  Well, isnt it natural?
Whats the use of pretending?

THE SERGEANT.  Still, I'm not a man to treat a woman as a mere
necessity.  Many soldiers do: to them a woman is no more than a jar
of marmalade, to be consumed and put away.  I dont take that view.
I admit that there is that side to it, and that for people
incapable of anything better--mere animals as you might say--thats
the beginning and the end of it.  But to me thats only the smallest
part of it.  I like getting a woman's opinions.  I like to explore
her mind as well as her body.  See these two little books I was
deep in when you accosted me?  I carry them with me wherever I go.
I put the problems they raise for me to every woman I meet.

SWEETIE [with growing misgiving]  What are they?

THE SERGEANT [pointing to them successively]  The Bible.  The
Pilgrim's Progress from this world to that which is to come.

SWEETIE [dismayed, trying to rise]  Oh, my God!

SERGEANT [holding her ruthlessly in the crook of his elbow]  No you
dont.  Sit quiet; and dont take the name of the Lord your God in
vain.  If you believe in him, it's blasphemy: if you dont, it's
nonsense.  You must learn to exercise your mind: what is a woman
without an active mind to a man but a mere convenience?

SWEETIE.  I have plenty to exercise my mind looking after my own
affairs.  What I look to you for, my lad, is a bit of fun.

THE SERGEANT.  Quite.  But when men and women pick one another up
just for a bit of fun, they find theyve picked up more than they
bargained for, because men and women have a top storey as well as a
ground floor; and you cant have the one without the other.  Theyre
always trying to; but it doesnt work.  Youve picked up my mind as
well as my body; and youve got to explore it.  You thought you
could have a face and a figure like mine with the limitations of a
gorilla.  Youre finding out your mistake: thats all.

SWEETIE.  Oh, let me go: I have had enough of this.  If I'd thought
you were religious I'd have given you a wide berth, I tell you.
Let me go, will you?

THE SERGEANT.  Wait a bit.  Nature may be using me as a sort of
bait to draw you to take an interest in things of the mind.  Nature
may be using your pleasant animal warmth to stimulate my mind.  I
want your advice.  I dont say I'll take it; but it may suggest
something to me.  You see, I'm in a mess.

SWEETIE.  Well, of course.  Youre in the sergeants' mess.

THE SERGEANT.  Thats not the mess I mean.  My mind's in a mess--a
muddle.  I used to be a religious man; but I'm not so clear about
it as I was.

SWEETIE.  Thank goodness for that, anyhow.

THE SERGEANT.  Look at these two books.  I used to believe every
word of them because they seemed to have nothing to do with real
life.  But war brought those old stories home quite real; and then
one starts asking questions.  Look at this bit here [he points to a
page of the Pilgrim's Progress].  It's on the very first page of
it.  "I am for certain informed that this our city will be burned
with fire from heaven, in which fearful overthrow both myself, with
thee my wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to
ruin, except some way of escape can be found whereby we may be
delivered."  Well, London and Paris and Berlin and Rome and the
rest of them will be burned with fire from heaven all right in the
next war: thats certain.  Theyre all Cities of Destruction.  And
our Government chaps are running about with a great burden of
corpses and debts on their backs, crying "What must we do to be
saved?"  There it is: not a story in a book as it used to be, but
God's truth in the real actual world.  And all the comfort they get
is "Flee from the wrath to come."  But where are they to flee to?
There they are, meeting at Geneva or hobnobbing at Chequers over
the weekend, asking one another, like the man in the book, "Whither
must we flee?"  And nobody can tell them.  The man in the book says
"Do you see yonder shining light?"  Well, today the place is
blazing with shining lights: shining lights in parliament, in the
papers, in the churches, and in the books that they call Outlines--
Outlines of History and Science and what not--and in spite of all
their ballyhoo here we are waiting in the City of Destruction like
so many sheep for the wrath to come.  This uneducated tinker tells
me the way is straight before us and so narrow that we cant miss
it.  But he starts by calling the place the wilderness of this
world.  Well, theres no road in a wilderness: you have to make one.
All the straight roads are made by soldiers; and the soldiers didnt
get to heaven along them.  A lot of them landed up in the other
place.  No, John: you could tell a story well; and they say you
were a soldier; but soldiers that try to make storytelling do for
service end in the clink; and thats were they put you.  Twelve
years in Bedford Gaol, he got.  He used to read the Bible in gaol;

SWEETIE.  Well, what else was there to read there?  It's all they
give you in some gaols.

THE SERGEANT.  How do you know that?

SWEETIE.  Never you mind how I know it.  It's nothing to do with

THE SERGEANT.  Nothing to do with me!  You dont know me, my lass.
Some men would just order you off; but to me the most interesting
thing in the world is the experience of a woman thats been shut up
in a cell for years at a time with nothing but a Bible to read.

SWEETIE.  Years!  What are you talking about?  The longest I ever
did was nine months; and if anyone says I ever did a day longer
she's a liar.

THE SERGEANT [laying his hand on the bible]  You could read that
book from cover to cover in nine months.

SWEETIE.  Some of it would drive you melancholy mad.  It only got
me into trouble: it did.  The chaplain asked me what I was in for.
Spoiling the Egyptians, I says; and heres chapter and verse for it.
He went and reported me, the swine; and I lost seven days remission
for it.

THE SERGEANT.  Serve you right!  I dont hold with spoiling the
Egyptians.  Before the war, spoiling the Egyptians was something
holy.  Now I see plainly it's nothing but thieving.

SWEETIE [shocked]  Oh, you shouldnt say that.  But what I say is,
if Moses might do it why maynt I?

THE SERGEANT.  If thats the effect it had on your mind, it's a bad
effect.  Some of this scripture is all right.  Do justice; love
mercy; and walk humbly before your God.  That appeals to a man if
only it could be set out in plain army regulations.  But all this
thieving, and slaughtering your enemies without giving quarter, and
offering up human sacrifices, and thinking you can do what you like
to other people because youre the chosen people of God, and you are
in the right and everyone else is in the wrong: how does that look
when you have had four years of the real thing instead of merely
reading about it.  No: damn it, we're civilized men; and though it
may have gone down with those old Jews it isnt religion.  And, if
it isnt, where are we?  Thats what I want to know.

SWEETIE.  And is this all you care about?  Sitting here and
thinking of things like that?

THE SERGEANT.  Well, somebody must think about them, or whats going
to become of us all?  The officers wont think about them.  The
colonel goes out sketching: the lootnants go out and kill the birds
and animals, or play polo.  They wont flee from the wrath to come,
not they.  When they wont do their military duties I have to do
them.  It's the same with our religious duties.  It's the
chaplain's job, not mine; but when you get a real religious
chaplain you find he doesnt believe any of the old stuff; and if
you get a gentleman, all he cares about is to shew you that he's a
real sport and not a mealy mouthed parson.  So I have to puzzle it
out for myself.

SWEETIE.  Well, God help the woman that marries you: thats all I
have to say to you.  I dont call you a man.  [She rises quickly to
escape from him].

THE SERGEANT [also rising, and seizing her in a very hearty
embrace]  Not a man, eh?  [He kisses her]  How does that feel,

SWEETIE [struggling, but not very resolutely]  You let me go, will
you.  I dont want you now.

THE SERGEANT.  You will if I kiss you half a dozen times, more than
you ever wanted anything in your life before.  Thats a hard fact of
human nature; and its one of the facts that religion has to make
room for.

SWEETIE.  Oh, well, kiss me and have done with it.  You cant kiss
and talk about religion at the same time.

THE ELDER [springing from his cell to the platform in front of it]
Forbear this fooling, both of you.  You, sir, are not an ignorant
man: you know that the universe is wrecked.

SWEETIE [clinging to the sergeant]  He's mad.

THE ELDER.  I am sane in a world of lunatics.

THE SERGEANT [putting Sweetie away]  It's a queer thing, isnt it,
that though there is a point at which I'd rather kiss a woman than
do anything else in the world, yet I'd rather be shot than let
anyone see me doing it?

THE ELDER.  Sir: women are not, as they suppose, more interesting
than the universe.  When the universe is crumbling let women be
silent; and let men rise to something nobler than kissing them.

The Sergeant, interested and overawed, sits down quietly and makes
Sweetie sit beside him as before.  The Elder continues to declaim
with fanatical intensity.

THE ELDER.  Yes, sir: the universe of Isaac Newton, which has been
an impregnable citadel of modern civilization for three hundred
years, has crumbled like the walls of Jericho before the criticism
of Einstein.  Newton's universe was the stronghold of rational
Determinism: the stars in their orbits obeyed immutably fixed laws;
and when we turned from surveying their vastness to study the
infinite littleness of the atoms, there too we found the electrons
in their orbits obeying the same universal laws.  Every moment of
time dictated and determined the following moment, and was itself
dictated and determined by the moment that came before it.
Everything was calculable: everything happened because it must: the
commandments were erased from the tables of the law; and in their
place came the cosmic algebra: the equations of the mathematicians.
Here was my faith: here I found my dogma of infallibility: I, who
scorned alike the Catholic with his vain dream of responsible Free
Will, and the Protestant with his pretence of private judgment.
And now--now--what is left of it?  The orbit of the electron obeys
no law: it chooses one path and rejects another: it is as
capricious as the planet Mercury, who wanders from his road to warm
his hands at the sun.  All is caprice: the calculable world has
become incalculable: Purpose and Design, the pretexts for all the
vilest superstitions, have risen from the dead to cast down the
mighty from their seats and put paper crowns on presumptuous fools.
Formerly, when differences with my wife, or business worries, tried
me too hard, I sought consolation and reassurance in our natural
history museums, where I could forget all common cares in wondering
at the diversity of forms and colors in the birds and fishes and
animals, all produced without the agency of any designer by the
operation of Natural Selection.  Today I dare not enter an
aquarium, because I can see nothing in those grotesque monsters of
the deep but the caricatures of some freakish demon artist: some
Zeus-Mephistopheles with paintbox and plasticine, trying to surpass
himself in the production of fantastic and laughable creatures to
people a Noah's ark for his baby.  I have to rush from the building
lest I go mad, crying, like the man in your book, "What must I do
to be saved?"  Nothing can save us from a perpetual headlong fall
into a bottomless abyss but a solid footing of dogma; and we no
sooner agree to that than we find that the only trustworthy dogma
is that there is no dogma.  As I stand here I am falling into that
abyss, down, down, down.  We are all falling into it; and our dizzy
brains can utter nothing but madness.  My wife has died cursing me.
I do not know how to live without her: we were unhappy together for
forty years.  My son, whom I brought up to be an incorruptible
Godfearing atheist, has become a thief and a scoundrel; and I can
say nothing to him but "Go, boy: perish in your villainy; for
neither your father nor anyone else can now give you a good reason
for being a man of honor."

He turns from them and is rushing distractedly away when Aubrey, in
white tropicals, comes strolling along the beach from the St Pauls
side, and hails him nonchalantly.

AUBREY.  Hullo, father, is it really you?  I thought I heard the
old trombone: I couldnt mistake it.  How the dickens did you turn
up here?

THE ELDER [to the sergeant]  This is my prodigal son.

AUBREY.  I am not a prodigal son.  The prodigal son was a
spendthrift and neer-do-weel who was reduced to eating the husks
that the swine did eat.  I am not ruined: I am rolling in money.  I
have never owed a farthing to any man.  I am a model son; but I
regret to say that you are very far from being a model father.

THE ELDER.  What right have you to say that, sir?  In what way have
I fallen short?

AUBREY.  You tried to thwart my manifest destiny.  Nature meant me
for the Church.  I had to get ordained secretly.

THE ELDER.  Ordained!  You dared to get ordained without my

AUBREY.  Of course.  You objected.  How could I have done it with
your knowledge?  You would have stopped my allowance.

THE ELDER [sitting down on the nearest stone, overwhelmed]  My son
a clergyman!  This will kill me.

AUBREY [coolly taking another stone, on his father's right]  Not a
bit of it: fathers are not so easily killed.  It was at the
university that I became what was then called a sky pilot.  When
the war took me it seemed natural that I should pursue that
avocation as a member of the air force.  As a flying ace I won a
very poorly designed silver medal for committing atrocities which
were irreconcilable with the profession of a Christian clergyman.
When I was wounded and lost my nerve for flying, I became an army
chaplain.  I then found myself obliged to tell mortally wounded men
that they were dying in a state of grace and were going straight to
heaven when as a matter of fact they were dying in mortal sin and
going elsewhere.  To expiate this blasphemy I kept as much under
fire as possible; but my nerve failed again: I had to take three
months leave and go into a nursing home.  In that home I met my

THE ELDER.  What do you mean by your doom?  You are alive and well,
to my sorrow and shame.

AUBREY.  To be precise, I met Sweetie.  Thats Sweetie.

SWEETIE.  Very pleased to meet Popsy's father, I'm sure.

THE ELDER.  My son was called Popsy in his infancy, I put a stop to
it, on principle, when he entered on his sixth year.  It is strange
to hear the name from your lips after so long an interval.

SWEETIE.  I always ask a man what his mother called him, and call
him that.  It takes the starch out of him, somehow.

AUBREY [resuming his narrative]  Sweetie was quite the rottenest
nurse that ever raised the mortality of a hospital by ten per cent.

SWEETIE.  Oh, what a lie!  It was the other nurses that killed the
men: waking them up at six in the morning and washing them!  Half
of them died of chills.

AUBREY.  Well, you will not deny that you were the prettiest woman
in the place.

SWEETIE.  You thought so, anyhow.

THE ELDER.  Oh, cease--cease this trifling.  I cannot endure this
unending sex appeal.

AUBREY.  During the war it was found that sex appeal was as
necessary for wounded or shellshocked soldiers as skilled nursing;
so pretty girls were allowed to pose as nurses because they could
sit about on beds and prevent the men from going mad.  Sweetie did
not prevent me going mad: on the contrary, she drove me mad.  I saw
in Sweetie not only every charm, but every virtue.  And she
returned my love.  When I left that nursing home, she left it too.
I was discharged as cured on the third of the month: she had been
kicked out on the first.  The trained staff could stand a good
deal; but they could not stand Sweetie.

SWEETIE.  They were jealous; and you know it.

AUBREY.  I daresay they were.  Anyhow, Sweetie and I took the same
lodgings; and she was faithful to me for ten days.  It was a record
for her.

SWEETIE.  Popsy: are you going to give the whole show away, or only
part of it?  The Countess Valbrioni would like to know.

AUBREY.  We may as well be frank up to the point at which we should
lose money by it.  But perhaps I am boring the company.

THE ELDER.  Complete your confession, sir.  You have just said that
you and this lady took the same lodging.  Am I to understand that
you are husband and wife.

SWEETIE.  We might have been if we could have depended on you for a
good time.  But how could I marry an army chaplain with nothing but
his pay and an atheist for his father?

AUBREY.  So that was the calculation, Sweetie, was it?  I never
dreamt that the idea of marriage had occurred to either of us.  It
certainly never occurred to me.  I went to live with you quite
simply because I felt I could not live without you.  The
improbability of that statement is the measure of my infatuation.

SWEETIE.  Dont you be so spiteful.  Did I give you a good time or
did I not?

AUBREY.  Heavenly.  That also seems improbable; but it is gospel

THE ELDER.  Wretched boy: do not dare to trifle with me.  You said
just now that you owe no man anything, and that you are rolling in
money.  Where did you get that money?

AUBREY.  I stole a very valuable pearl necklace and restored it to
the owner.  She rewarded me munificently.  Hence my present
opulence.  Honesty is the best policy--sometimes.

THE ELDER.  Worse even than a clergyman!  A thief!

AUBREY.  Why make such a fuss about nothing?

THE ELDER.  Do you call the theft of a pearl necklace nothing?

AUBREY.  Less than nothing, compared to the things I have done with
your approval.  I was hardly more than a boy when I first dropped a
bomb on a sleeping village.  I cried all night after doing that.
Later on I swooped into a street and sent machine gun bullets into
a crowd of civilians: women, children, and all.  I was past crying
by that time.  And now you preach to me about stealing a pearl
necklace!  Doesnt that seem a little ridiculous?

THE SERGEANT.  That was war, sir.

AUBREY.  It was me, sergeant: ME.  You cannot divide my conscience
into a war department and a peace department.  Do you suppose that
a man who will commit murder for political ends will hesitate to
commit theft for personal ends?  Do you suppose you can make a man
the mortal enemy of sixty millions of his fellow creatures without
making him a little less scrupulous about his next door neighbour?

THE ELDER.  I did not approve.  Had I been of military age I should
have been a conscientious objector.

AUBREY.  Oh, you were a conscientious objector to everything, even
to God.  But my mother was an enthusiast for everything: that was
why you never could get on with her.  She would have shoved me into
the war if I had needed any shoving.  She shoved my brother into
it, though he did not believe a word of all the lies we were
stuffed with, and didnt want to go.  He was killed; and when it
came out afterwards that he was right, and that we were all a
parcel of fools killing one another for nothing, she lost the
courage to face life, and died of it.

THE SERGEANT.  Well, sir, I'd never let a son of mine talk to me
like that.  Let him have a bit of your Determinism, sir.

THE ELDER [rising impulsively]  Determinism is gone, shattered,
buried with a thousand dead religions, evaporated with the clouds
of a million forgotten winters.  The science I pinned my faith to
is bankrupt: its tales were more foolish than all the miracles of
the priests, its cruelties more horrible than all the atrocities of
the Inquisition.  Its spread of enlightenment has been a spread of
cancer: its counsels that were to have established the millennium
have led straight to European suicide.  And I--I who believed in it
as no religious fanatic has ever believed in his superstition!  For
its sake I helped to destroy the faith of millions of worshippers
in the temples of a thousand creeds.  And now look at me and behold
the supreme tragedy of the atheist who has lost his faith--his
faith in atheism, for which more martyrs have perished than for all
the creeds put together.  Here I stand, dumb before my scoundrel of
a son; for that is what you are, boy, a common scoundrel and
nothing else.

AUBREY.  Well, why not?  If I become an honest man I shall become a
poor man; and then nobody will respect me: nobody will admire me:
nobody will say thank you to me.  If on the contrary I am bold,
unscrupulous, acquisitive, successful and rich, everyone will
respect me, admire me, court me, grovel before me.  Then no doubt I
shall be able to afford the luxury of honesty.  I learnt that from
my religious education.

THE ELDER.  How dare you say that you had a religious education.  I
shielded you from that, at least.

AUBREY.  You thought you did, old man; but you reckoned without my


AUBREY.  You forbad me to read the Bible; but my mother made me
learn three verses of it every day, and whacked me if I could not
repeat them without misplacing a word.  She threatened to whack me
still worse if I told you.

THE ELDER [thunderstruck]  Your mother!!!

AUBREY.  So I learnt my lesson.  Six days on the make, and on the
seventh shalt thou rest.  I shall spend another six years on the
make, and then I shall retire and be a saint.

THE ELDER.  A saint!  Say rather the ruined son of an incorrigibly
superstitious mother.  Retire now--from the life you have
dishonored.  There is the sea.  Go.  Drown yourself.  In that
graveyard there are no lying epitaphs.  [He mounts to his chapel
and again gives way to utter dejection].

AUBREY [unconcerned]  I shall do better as a saint.  A few
thousands to the hospitals and the political party funds will buy
me a halo as large as Sweetie's sun hat.  That is my program.  What
have any of you to say against it?

THE SERGEANT.  Not the program of a gentleman, as I understand the
word, sir.

AUBREY.  You cannot be a gentleman on less than fifty thousand a
year nowadays, sergeant.

THE SERGEANT.  You can in the army, by God.

AUBREY.  Yes: because you drop bombs on sleeping villages.  And
even then you have to be an officer.  Are you a gentleman?

THE SERGEANT.  No, sir: it wouldnt pay me.  I couldnt afford it.

Disturbance.  A voice is heard in complaint and lamentation.  It is
that of the Elderly Lady, Mrs Mopply.  She is pursuing Colonel
Tallboys down the path through the gap, the lady distracted and
insistent, the colonel almost equally distracted: she clutching him
and stopping him: he breaking loose and trying to get away from
her.  She is dressed in black precisely as if she were in
Cheltenham, except that she wears a sun helmet.  He is equipped
with a box of sketching materials slung over his shoulder, an
easel, which he has tucked under his left arm, and a sun umbrella,
a substantial affair of fawn lined with red, podgily rolled up,
which he carries in his right hand.

MRS MOPPLY.  I wont be patient.  I wont be quiet.  My child is being

TALLBOYS.  I tell you she is not being murdered.  Will you be good
enough to excuse me whilst I attend to my business.

MRS MOPPLY.  Your business is to save my child.  She is starving.

TALLBOYS.  Nonsense.  Nobody starves in this country.  There are
plenty of dates.  Will you be good enough--

MRS MOPPLY.  Do you think my child can live on dates?  She has to
have a sole for breakfast, a cup of nourishing soup at eleven, and
a nice chop and a sweetbread for lunch, a pint of beef-tea with her
ordinary afternoon tea, and a chicken and some lamb or veal--

TALLBOYS.  Will you be good enough--

MRS MOPPLY.  My poor delicate child with nothing to eat but dates!
And she is the only one I have left: they were all delicate--

TALLBOYS.  I really must--[He breaks away and hurries off along the
beach past the Abode of Love].

MRS MOPPLY [running after him]  Colonel, Colonel: you might have
the decency to listen to a distracted mother for a moment.
Colonel: my child is dying.  She may be dead for all I know.  And
nobody is doing anything: nobody cares.  Oh dear, wont you listen--
[Her voice is lost in the distance].

Whilst they are staring mutely after the retreating pair, the
patient, still in her slave girl attire, but with some brilliant
variations, comes down the path.

THE PATIENT.  My dream has become a nightmare.  My mother has
pursued me to these shores.  I cannot shake her off.  No woman can
shake off her mother.  There should be no mothers: there should be
only women, strong women able to stand by themselves, not clingers.
I would kill all the clingers.  Mothers cling: daughters cling: we
are all like drunken women clinging to lamp posts: none of us
stands upright.

THE ELDER.  There is great comfort in clinging, and great loneliness
in standing alone.

THE PATIENT.  Hallo!  [She climbs to the St Pauls platform and
peers into the cell].  A sententious anchorite!  [To Aubrey].  Who
is he?

AUBREY.  The next worst thing to a mother: a father.

THE ELDER.  A most unhappy father.

AUBREY.  My father, in fact.

THE PATIENT.  If only I had had a father to stand between me and my
mother's care.  Oh, that I had been an orphan!

THE SERGEANT.  You will be, miss, if the old lady drives the colonel
too hard.  She has been at him all the morning, ever since she
arrived; and I know the colonel.  He has a temper; and when it
gives way, it's a bit of high explosive.  He'll kill her if she
pushes him too far.

THE PATIENT.  Let him kill her.  I am young and strong: I want a
world without parents: there is no room for them in my dream.  I
shall found a sisterhood.

AUBREY.  All right, Mops.  Get thee to a nunnery.

THE PATIENT.  It need not be a nunnery if men will come in without
spoiling everything.  But all the women must be rich.  There must
be no chill of poverty.  There are plenty of rich women like me who
hate being devoured by parasites.

AUBREY.  Stop.  You have the most disgusting mental pictures.  I
really cannot stand intellectual coarseness.  Sweetie's vulgarity I
can forgive and even enjoy.  But you say perfectly filthy things
that stick in my mind, and break my spirit.  I can bear no more of
it.  [He rises angrily and tries to escape by the beach past the
Abode of Love].

SWEETIE.  Youre dainty, arnt you?  If chambermaids were as dainty
as you, youd have to empty your own slops.

AUBREY [recoiling from her with a yell of disgust]  You need not
throw them in my teeth, you beast.  [He sits in his former place,

THE ELDER.  Silence, boy.  These are home truths.  They are good for
you.  [To the patient]  May I ask young woman, what are the
relations between you and my son, whom you seem to know.

THE PATIENT.  Popsy stole my necklace, and got me to run away with
him by a wonderful speech he made about freedom and sunshine and
lovely scenery.  Sweetie made me write it all down and sell it to a
tourist agency as an advertisement.  And then I was devoured by
parasites: by tourist agencies, steamboat companies, railways,
motor car people, hotel keepers, dressmakers, servants, all trying
to get my money by selling me things I dont really want; shoving me
all over the globe to look at what they call new skies, though they
know as well as I do that it is only the same old sky everywhere;
and disabling me by doing all the things for me that I ought to do
for myself to keep myself in health.  They preyed on me to keep
themselves alive: they pretended they were making me happy when it
was only by drinking and drugging--cocktails and cocaine--that I
could endure my life.

AUBREY.  I regret to have to say it, Mops; but you have not the
instincts of a lady.  [He sits down moodily on a stone a little way
up the path].

THE PATIENT.  You fool, there is no such thing as a lady.  I have
the instincts of a good housekeeper: I want to clean up this filthy
world and keep it clean.  There must be other women who want it
too.  Florence Nightingale had the same instinct when she went to
clean up the Crimean war.  She wanted a sisterhood; but there wasnt

THE ELDER.  There were several.  But steeped in superstition,

THE PATIENT.  Yes, all mixed up with things that I dont believe.
Women have to set themselves apart to join them.  I dont want to
set myself apart.  I want to have every woman in my sisterhood, and
to have all the others strangled.

THE ELDER.  Down! down! down!  Even the young, the strong, the rich,
the beautiful, feel that they are plunging into a bottomless pit.

THE SERGEANT.  Your set, miss, if you will excuse me saying so, is
only a small bit of the world.  If you dont like the officers'
mess, the ranks are open to you.  Look at Meek!  That man could be
an emperor if he laid his mind to it: but he'd rather be a private.
He's happier so.

THE PATIENT.  I dont belong to the poor, and dont want to.  I always
knew that there were thousands of poor people; and I was taught to
believe that they were poor because God arranged it that way to
punish them for being dirty and drunken and dishonest, and not
knowing how to read and write.  But I didnt know that the rich were
miserable.  I didnt know that I was miserable.  I didnt know that
our respectability was uppish snobbery and our religion gluttonous
selfishness, and that my soul was starving on them.  I know now.  I
have found myself out thoroughly--in my dream.

THE ELDER.  You are young.  Some good man may cure you of this for a
few happy years.  When you fall in love, life will seem worth

THE PATIENT.  I did fall in love.  With that thing.  And though I
was never a hotel chambermaid I got tired of him sooner than
Sweetie did.  Love gets people into difficulties, not out of them.
No more lovers for me: I want a sisterhood.  Since I came here I
have been wanting to join the army, like Joan of Arc.  It's a
brotherhood, of a sort.

THE SERGEANT.  Yes, miss: that is so; and there used to be a peace
of mind in the army that you could find nowhere else.  But the war
made an end of that.  You see, miss, the great principle of
soldiering, I take it, is that the world is kept going by the
people who want the right thing killing the people who want the
wrong thing.  When the soldier is doing that, he is doing the work
of God, which my mother brought me up to do.  But thats a very
different thing from killing a man because he's a German and he
killing you because youre an Englishman.  We were not killing the
right people in 1915.  We werent even killing the wrong people.  It
was innocent men killing one another.

THE PATIENT.  Just for the fun of it.

THE SERGEANT.  No, miss: it was no fun.  For the misery of it.

THE PATIENT.  For the devilment of it, then.

THE SERGEANT.  For the devilment of the godless rulers of this
world.  Those that did the killing hadnt even the devilment to
comfort them: what comfort is there in screwing on a fuse or
pulling a string when the devilment it makes is from three to forty
miles off, and you dont know whether you have only made a harmless
hole in the ground or blown up a baby in its cradle that might have
been your own?  That wasnt devilment: it was damnation.  No, miss:
the bottom has come out of soldiering.  What the gentleman here
said about our all falling into a bottomless pit came home to me.
I feel like that too.

THE ELDER.  Lost souls, all of us.

THE PATIENT.  No: only lost dogs.  Cheer up, old man: the lost dogs
always find their way home.  [The voice of the Elderly Lady is
heard returning].  Oh! here she comes again!

Mrs Mopply is still pursuing the colonel, who is walking doggedly
and steadily away from her, with closed lips and a dangerous
expression on his set features.

MRS MOPPLY.  You wont even speak to me.  It's a disgrace.  I will
send a cable message home to the Government about it.  You were
sent out here to rescue my daughter from these dreadful brigands.
Why is nothing being done?  What are the relations between yourself
and that disgraceful countess who ought to have her coronet
stripped off her back?  You are all in a conspiracy to murder my
poor lost darling child.  You are in league with the brigands.  You

The Colonel turns at bay, and brings down his umbrella whack on
poor Mrs Mopply's helmet.

MRS MOPPLY.  Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  Oh!  [With a series of short, dry,
detached screams she totters and flutters back along the beach out
of sight like a wounded bird].

General stupefaction.  All stare at the Colonel aghast.  The
Sergeant rises in amazement, and remains standing afterwards as a
matter of military etiquette.

THE PATIENT.  Oh, if only someone had done that to her twenty years
ago, how different my childhood would have been!  But I must see to
the poor old dear.  [She runs after her mother].

AUBREY.  Colonel: you have our full, complete, unreserved sympathy.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.  But that does not
alter the fact that the man who would raise his hand to a woman,
save in the way of kindness, is unworthy the name of Briton.

TALLBOYS.  I am perfectly aware of that, sir.  I need no reminder.
The lady is entitled to an apology.  She shall have it.

THE ELDER.  But have you considered the possibility of a serious

TALLBOYS [cutting him short]  My umbrella is quite uninjured, thank
you.  The subject is now closed.  [He sits down on the stone below
St Pauls recently vacated by Aubrey.  His manner is so decisive
that nobody dares carry the matter further].

As they sit uneasily seeking one another's eyes and avoiding them
again, dumbfounded by the violence of the catastrophe, a noise like
that of a machine gun in action reaches their ears from afar.  It
increases to shattering intensity as it approaches.  They all put
their fingers to their ears.  It diminishes slightly, then suddenly
rises to a climax of speed and uproar, and stops.


AUBREY.  Meek.


THE ELDER.  What is this?  Why do you all say Meek?

Meek, dusty and gritty, but very alert, comes down the path through
the gap with a satchel of papers.

TALLBOYS.  My dear Meek, can you not be content with a motor cycle
of ordinary horse power?  Must you always travel at eighty miles an

MEEK.  I have good news for you, Colonel; and good news should
travel fast.

TALLBOYS.  For me?

MEEK.  Your K.C.B., sir.  [Presenting a paper]  Honors list by

TALLBOYS [rising joyously to take the paper]  Ah!  Congratulate me,
my friends.  My dear Sarah is Lady Tallboys at last.  [He resumes
his seat and pores over the paper].

AUBREY       }            {Splendid!
THE SERGEANT } [together] {You deserve it, sir, if I may say so.
SWEETIE      }            {Delighted, I am sure.

THE ELDER.  May I crave to know the nature of the distinguished
service which has won this official recognition, sir?

TALLBOYS.  I have won the battle of the maroons.  I have suppressed
brigandage here.  I have rescued a British lady from the clutches
of the brigands.  The Government is preparing for a general
election, and has had to make the most of these modest achievements.

THE ELDER.  Brigands!  Are there any here?


THE ELDER.  But--?  The British lady?  In their clutches?

TALLBOYS.  She has been in my clutches, and perfectly safe, all the

THE ELDER [more and more puzzled]  Oh!  Then the battle of the--

TALLBOYS.  Won by Private Meek.  I had nothing whatever to do with

AUBREY.  I invented the brigands and the British lady.  [To
Tallboys]  By the way, Colonel, the impressive old party in the
shrine is my father.

TALLBOYS.  Indeed!  Happy to meet you, sir, though I cannot
congratulate you on your son, except in so far as you have brought
into the world the most abandoned liar I have ever met.

THE ELDER.  And may I ask sir, is it your intention not only to
condone my son's frauds, but to take advantage of them to accept a
distinction which you have in no way earned?

TALLBOYS.  I have earned it, sir, ten times over.  Do you suppose,
because the brigandage which I am honored for suppressing has no
existence, that I have never suppressed real brigands?  Do you
forget that though this battle of which I am crowned victor was won
by a subordinate, I, too, have won real battles, and seen all the
honors go to a brigadier who did not even know what was happening?
In the army these things average themselves out: merit is rewarded
in the long run.  Justice is none the less justice though it is
always delayed, and finally done by mistake.  My turn today:
Private Meek's tomorrow.

THE ELDER.  And meanwhile Mr Meek--this humble and worthy soldier--
is to remain in obscurity and poverty whilst you are strutting as a

TALLBOYS.  How I envy him!  Look at me and look at him!  I, loaded
with responsibilities whilst my hands are tied, my body disabled,
my mind crippled because a colonel must not do anything but give
orders and look significant and profound when his mind is entirely
vacant! he, free to turn his hand to everything and to look like an
idiot when he feels like one!  I have been driven to sketching in
watercolors because I may not use my hands in life's daily useful
business.  A commanding officer must not do this, must not do that,
must not do the other, must not do anything but tell other men to
do it.  He may not even converse with them.  I see this man Meek
doing everything that is natural to a complete man: carpentering,
painting, digging, pulling and hauling, fetching and carrying,
helping himself and everybody else, whilst I, with a bigger body to
exercise and quite as much energy, must loaf and loll, allowed to
do nothing but read the papers and drink brandy and water to
prevent myself going mad.  I should have become a drunkard had it
not been for the colors.

THE SERGEANT.  Ah yes, sir, the colors.  The fear of disgracing them
has kept me off the drink many a time.

TALLBOYS.  Man: I do not mean the regimental colors, but the water
colors.  How willingly would I exchange my pay, my rank, my K.C.B.,
for Meek's poverty, his obscurity!

MEEK.  But, my dear Colonel--sorry, sir: what I mean to say is that
you can become a private if you wish.  Nothing easier: I have done
it again and again.  You resign your commission; take a new and
very common name by deed poll; dye your hair and give your age to
the recruiting sergeant as twenty-two; and there you are!  You can
select your own regiment.

TALLBOYS.  Meek: you should not tantalize your commanding officer.
No doubt you are an extraordinary soldier.  But have you ever
passed the extreme and final test of manly courage?

MEEK.  Which one is that, sir?

TALLBOYS.  Have you ever married?

MEEK.  No, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Then do not ask me why I do not resign my commission and
become a free and happy private.  My wife would not let me.

THE COUNTESS.  Why dont you hit her on the head with your umbrella?

TALLBOYS.  I dare not.  There are moments when I wish some other
man would.  But not in my presence.  I should kill him.

THE ELDER.  We are all slaves.  But at least your son is an honest

TALLBOYS.  Is he?  I am glad to hear it.  I have not spoken to him
since he shirked military service at the beginning of the war and
went into trade as a contractor.  He is now so enormously rich that
I cannot afford to keep up his acquaintance.  Neither need you keep
up that of your son.  By the way, he passes here as the half step-
brother of this lady, the Countess Valbrioni.

SWEETIE.  Valbrioni be blowed!  My name is Susan Simpkins.  Being a
countess isnt worth a damn.  There's no variety in it: no
excitement.  What I want is a month's leave for the sergeant.  Wont
you give it to him, Colonel?

TALLBOYS.  What for?

SWEETIE.  Never mind what for.  A fortnight might do; but I dont
know for certain yet.  There's something steadying about him; and I
suppose I will have to settle down some day.

TALLBOYS.  Nonsense!  The sergeant is a pious man, not your sort.
Eh, Sergeant?

SERGEANT.  Well, sir, a man should have one woman to prevent him
from thinking too much about women in general.  You cannot read
your Bible undisturbed if visions and wandering thoughts keep
coming between you and it.  And a pious man should not marry a
pious woman: two of a trade never agree.  Besides, it would give
the children a onesided view of life.  Life is very mixed, sir: it
is not all piety and it is not all gaiety.  This young woman has no
conscience; but I have enough for two.  I have no money; but she
seems to have enough for two.  Mind: I am not committing myself;
but I will go so far as to say that I am not dead set against it.
On the plane of this world and its vanities--and weve got to live
in it, you know, sir--she appeals to me.

AUBREY.  Take care, sergeant.  Constancy is not Sweetie's strong

THE SERGEANT.  Neither is it mine.  As a single man and a wandering
soldier I am fair game for every woman.  But if I settle down with
this girl she will keep the others off.  I'm a bit tired of

SWEETIE.  Well, if the truth must be told, so am I.  We were made
for oneanother, Sergeant.  What do you say?

THE SERGEANT.  Well, I dont mind keeping company for a while,
Susan, just to see how we get along together.

The voice of Mrs Mopply is again heard.  Its tone is hardy and even
threatening; and its sound is approaching rapidly.

MRS MOPPLY'S VOICE.  You just let me alone, will you?  Nobody asked
you to interfere.  Get away with you.

General awe and dismay.  Mrs Mopply appears striding resolutely
along the beach.  She walks straight up to the Colonel, and is
about to address him when he rises firmly to the occasion and takes
the word out of her mouth.

TALLBOYS.  Mrs Mopply: I have a duty to you which I must discharge
at once.  At our last meeting, I struck you.

MRS MOPPLY.  Struck me!  You bashed me.  Is that what you mean?

TALLBOYS.  If you consider my expression inadequate I am willing to
amend it.  Let us put it that I bashed you.  Well, I apologize
without reserve, fully and amply.  If you wish, I will give it to
you in writing.

MRS MOPPLY.  Very well.  Since you express your regret, I suppose
there is nothing more to be said.

TALLBOYS [darkening ominously]  Pardon me.  I apologized.  I did
not express my regret.

AUBREY.  Oh, for heaven's sake, Colonel, dont start her again.
Dont qualify your apology in any way.

MRS MOPPLY.  You shut up, whoever you are.

TALLBOYS.  I do not qualify my apology in the least.  My apology is
complete.  The lady has a right to it.  My action was inexcusable.
But no lady--no human being--has a right to impose a falsehood on
me.  I do not regret my action.  I have never done anything which
gave me more thorough and hearty satisfaction.  When I was a
company officer I once cut down an enemy in the field.  Had I not
done so he would have cut me down.  It gave me no satisfaction: I
was half ashamed of it.  I have never before spoken of it.  But
this time I struck with unmixed enjoyment.  In fact I am grateful
to Mrs Mopply.  I owe her one of the very few delightfully
satisfactory moments of my life.

MRS MOPPLY.  Well, thats a pretty sort of apology, isnt it?

TALLBOYS [firmly]  I have nothing to add, madam.

MRS MOPPLY.  Well, I forgive you, you peppery old blighter.

Sensation.  They catch their breaths, and stare at one another in
consternation.  The patient arrives.

THE PATIENT.  I am sorry to say, Colonel Tallboys, that you have
unsettled my mother's reason.  She wont believe that I am her
daughter.  She's not a bit like herself.

MRS MOPPLY.  Isnt she?  What do you know about myself? my real self?
They told me lies; and I had to pretend to be somebody quite

TALLBOYS.  Who told you lies, madam?  It was not with my authority.

MRS MOPPLY.  I wasnt thinking of you.  My mother told me lies.  My
nurse told me lies.  My governess told me lies.  Everybody told me
lies.  The world is not a bit like what they said it was.  I wasnt
a bit like what they said I ought to be.  I thought I had to
pretend.  And I neednt have pretended at all.

THE ELDER.  Another victim!  She, too, is falling through the
bottomless abyss.

MRS MOPPLY.  I dont know who you are or what you think you mean;
but you have just hit it: I dont know my head from my heels.  Why
did they tell me that children couldnt live without medicine and
three meat meals a day?  Do you know that I have killed two of my
children because they told me that?  My own children!  Murdered
them, just!

THE ELDER.  Medea!  Medea!

MRS MOPPLY.  It isnt an idea: it's the truth.  I will never believe
anything again as long as I live.  I'd have killed the only one I
had left if she hadnt run away from me.  I was told to sacrifice
myself--to live for others; and I did it if ever a woman did.  They
told me that everyone would love me for it; and I thought they
would; but my daughter ran away when I had sacrificed myself to her
until I found myself wishing she would die like the others and
leave me a little to myself.  And now I find it was not only my
daughter that hated me but all my friends, all the time they were
pretending to sympathize, were just longing to bash me over the
head with their umbrellas.  This poor man only did what all the
rest would have done if theyd dared.  When I said I forgave you I
meant it: I am greatly obliged to you.  [She kisses him].  But now
what am I to do?  How am I to behave in a world thats just the
opposite of everything I was told about it?

THE PATIENT.  Steady, mother! steady! steady!  Sit down.  [She picks
up a heavy stone and places it near the Abode of Love for Mrs
Mopply to sit on].

MRS MOPPLY [seating herself]  Dont you call me mother.  Do you
think my daughter could carry rocks about like that? she that had
to call the nurse to pick up her Pekingese dog when she wanted to
pet it!  You think you can get round me by pretending to be my
daughter; but that just shews what a fool you are; for I hate my
daughter and my daughter hates me, because I sacrificed myself to
her.  She was a horrid selfish girl, always ill and complaining,
and never satisfied, no matter how much you did for her.  The only
sensible thing she ever did was to steal her own necklace and sell
it and run away to spend the money on herself.  I expect she's in
bed somewhere with a dozen nurses and six doctors all dancing
attendance on her.  Youre not a bit like her, thank goodness: thats
why Ive taken a fancy to you.  You come with me, darling.  I have
lots of money, and sixty years of a misspent life to make up for;
so you will have a good time with me.  Come with me as my
companion; and lets forget that there are such miserable things in
the world as mothers and daughters.

THE PATIENT.  What use shall we be to one another?

MRS MOPPLY.  None, thank God.  We can do without one another if we
dont hit it off.

THE PATIENT.  Righto!  I'll take you on trial until Ive had time to
look about me and see what I'm going to do.  But only on trial,

MRS MOPPLY.  Just so, darling.  We'll both be on trial.  So thats

THE PATIENT.  And now, Mr Meek, what about the little commission you
promised to do for me?  Have you brought back my passport?

THE COUNTESS.  Your passport!  Whatever for?

AUBREY.  What have you been up to, Mops?  Are you going to desert

Meek advances and empties a heap of passports from his satchel on
the sand, kneeling down to sort out the patient's.

TALLBOYS.  What is the meaning of this?  Whose passports are these?
What are you doing with them?  Where did you get them?

MEEK.  Everybody within fifty miles is asking me to get a passport

TALLBOYS.  Visa'd!  For what country?

MEEK.  For Beotia, sir.

TALLBOYS.  Beotia?

MEEK.  Yessir.  The Union of Federated Sensible Societies, sir.
The U.F.S.S.  Everybody wants to go there now, sir.

THE COUNTESS.  Well I never!

THE ELDER.  And what is to become of our unhappy country if all its
inhabitants desert it for an outlandish place in which even
property is not respected?

MEEK.  No fear, sir: they wont have us.  They wont admit any more
English, sir: they say their lunatic asylums are too full already.
I couldnt get a single visa, except [to the Colonel] for you, sir.

TALLBOYS.  For me!  Damn their impudence!  I never asked for one.

MEEK.  No, sir; but their people have so much leisure that they are
at their wits' end for some occupation to keep them out of
mischief.  They want to introduce the only institution of ours that
they admire.

THE ELDER.  And pray which one is that?

MEEK.  The English school of watercolor painting, sir.  Theyve seen
some of the Colonel's work; and theyll make him head of their
centres of repose and culture if he'll settle there.

TALLBOYS.  This cannot be true, Meek.  It indicates a degree of
intelligence of which no Government is capable.

MEEK.  It's true, sir, I assure you.

TALLBOYS.  But my wife--

MEEK.  Yessir: I told them.  [He repacks his satchel].

TALLBOYS.  Well, well: there is nothing for it but to return to our
own country.

THE ELDER.  Can our own country return to its senses, sir? that is
the question.

TALLBOYS.  Ask Meek.

MEEK.  No use, sir: all the English privates want to be colonels:
there's no salvation for snobs.  [To Tallboys]  Shall I see about
getting the expedition back to England, sir?

TALLBOYS.  Yes.  And get me two tubes of rose madder and a big one
of Chinese White, will you?

MEEK [about to go]  Yessir.

THE ELDER.  Stop.  There are police in England.  What is to become
of my son there?

SWEETIE [rising]  Make Popsy a preacher, old man.  But dont start
him until weve gone.

THE ELDER.  Preach, my son, preach to your heart's content.  Do
anything rather than steal and make your military crimes an excuse
for your civil ones.  Let men call you the reverend.  Let them call
you anything rather than thief.

AUBREY [rising]  If I may be allowed to improve the occasion for a

General consternation.  All who are seated rise in alarm, except
the patient, who jumps up and claps her hands in mischievous
encouragement to the orator.

MRS MOPPLY  } [together] {You hold your tongue, young man.
SWEETIE     }            {Oh Lord! we're in for it now.
THE ELDER   }            {Shame and silence would better become
                           you, sir.
THE PATIENT }            {Go on, Pops.  It's the only thing
                           you do well.

AUBREY [continuing]--it is clear to me that though we seem to be
dispersing quietly to do very ordinary things: Sweetie and the
Sergeant to get married [the Sergeant hastily steals down from his
grotto, beckoning to Sweetie to follow him.  They both escape along
the beach] the colonel to his wife, his watercolors, and his K.C.B.
[the colonel hurries away noiselessly in the opposite direction]
Napoleon Alexander Trotsky Meek to his job of repatriating the
expedition [Meek takes to flight up the path through the gap] Mops,
like Saint Teresa, to found an unladylike sisterhood with her
mother as cook-housekeeper [Mrs Mopply hastily follows the
sergeant, dragging with her the patient, who is listening to Aubrey
with signs of becoming rapt in his discourse] yet they are all,
like my father here, falling, falling, falling endlessly and
hopelessly through a void in which they can find no footing.  [The
Elder vanishes into the recesses of St Pauls, leaving his son to
preach in solitude].  There is something fantastic about them,
something unreal and perverse, something profoundly unsatisfactory.
They are too absurd to be believed in: yet they are not fictions:
the newspapers are full of them: what storyteller, however reckless
a liar, would dare to invent figures so improbable as men and women
with their minds stripped naked?  Naked bodies no longer shock us:
our sunbathers, grinning at us from every illustrated summer number
of our magazines, are nuder than shorn lambs.  But the horror of
the naked mind is still more than we can bear.  Throw off the last
rag of your bathing costume; and I shall not blench nor expect you
to blush.  You may even throw away the outer garments of your
souls: the manners, the morals, the decencies.  Swear; use dirty
words; drink cocktails; kiss and caress and cuddle until girls who
are like roses at eighteen are like battered demireps at twenty-
two: in all these ways the bright young things of the victory have
scandalized their dull old prewar elders and left nobody but their
bright young selves a penny the worse.  But how are we to bear this
dreadful new nakedness: the nakedness of the souls who until now
have always disguised themselves from one another in beautiful
impossible idealisms to enable them to bear one another's company.
The iron lighting of war has burnt great rents in these angelic
veils, just as it has smashed great holes in our cathedral roofs
and torn great gashes in our hillsides.  Our souls go in rags now;
and the young are spying through the holes and getting glimpses of
the reality that was hidden.  And they are not horrified: they
exult in having found us out: they expose their own souls; and when
we their elders desperately try to patch our torn clothes with
scraps of the old material, the young lay violent hands on us and
tear from us even the rags that were left to us.  But when they
have stripped themselves and us utterly naked, will they be able to
bear the spectacle?  You have seen me try to strip my soul before
my father; but when these two young women stripped themselves more
boldly than I--when the old woman had the mask struck from her soul
and revelled in it instead of dying of it--I shrank from the
revelation as from a wind bringing from the unknown regions of the
future a breath which may be a breath of life, but of a life too
keen for me to bear, and therefore for me a blast of death.  I
stand midway between youth and age like a man who has missed his
train: too late for the last and too early for the next.  What am I
to do?  What am I?  A soldier who has lost his nerve, a thief who
at his first great theft has found honesty the best policy and
restored his booty to its owner.  Nature never intended me for
soldiering or thieving: I am by nature and destiny a preacher.  I
am the new Ecclesiastes.  But I have no Bible, no creed: the war
has shot both out of my hands.  The war has been a fiery forcing
house in which we have grown with a rush like flowers in a late
spring following a terrible winter.  And with what result?  This:
that we have outgrown our religion, outgrown our political system,
outgrown our own strength of mind and character.  The fatal word
NOT has been miraculously inserted into all our creeds: in the
desecrated temples where we knelt murmuring "I believe" we stand
with stiff knees and stiffer necks shouting "Up, all! the erect
posture is the mark of the man: let lesser creatures kneel and
crawl: we will not kneel and we do not believe."  But what next?
Is NO enough?  For a boy, yes: for a man, never.  Are we any the
less obsessed with a belief when we are denying it than when we
were affirming it?  No: I must have affirmations to preach.
Without them the young will not listen to me; for even the young
grow tired of denials.  The negativemonger falls before the
soldiers, the men of action, the fighters, strong in the old
uncompromising affirmations which give them status, duties,
certainty of consequences; so that the pugnacious spirit of man in
them can reach out and strike deathblows with steadfastly closed
minds.  Their way is straight and sure; but it is the way of death;
and the preacher must preach the way of life.  Oh, if I could only
find it!  [A white sea fog swirls up from the beach to his feet,
rising and thickening round him].  I am ignorant: I have lost my
nerve and am intimidated: all I know is that I must find the way of
life, for myself and all of us, or we shall surely perish.  And
meanwhile my gift has possession of me: I must preach and preach
and preach no matter how late the hour and how short the day, no
matter whether I have nothing to say--

The fog has enveloped him; the gap with its grottoes is lost to
sight; the ponderous stones are wisps of shifting white cloud;
there is left only fog: impenetrable fog; but the incorrigible
preacher will not be denied his peroration, which, could we only
hear it distinctly, would probably run--

--or whether in some pentecostal flame of revelation the Spirit
will descend on me and inspire me with a message the sound whereof
shall go out unto all lands and realize for us at last the Kingdom
and the Power and the Glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

The audience disperses (or the reader puts down the book) impressed
in the English manner with the Pentecostal flame and the echo from
the Lord's Prayer.  But fine words butter no parsnips.  A few of
the choicer spirits will know that the Pentecostal flame is always
alight at the service of those strong enough to bear its terrible
intensity.  They will not forget that it is accompanied by a
rushing mighty wind, and that any rascal who happens to be also a
windbag can get a prodigious volume of talk out of it without ever
going near enough to be shrivelled up.  The author, though himself
a professional talk maker, does not believe that the world can be
saved by talk alone.  He has given the rascal the last word; but
his own favorite is the woman of action, who begins by knocking the
wind out of the rascal, and ends with a cheerful conviction that
the lost dogs always find their own way home.  So they will,
perhaps, if the women go out and look for them.

From the Malvern Festival Book, 1932

Too True to be Good was written for Malvern; but as the Malvern
Festival comes only once a year, the Theatre Guild of the United
States captured the first performance, with Poland a good second.
The American critics (whom you must carefully distinguish from the
American public) on the whole disliked the play.  I am used to
that; but this time they annoyed me by taking the young gentleman-
soldier-burglar-chaplain in the play to be the mouthpiece of my own
opinions and the mirror of my own temperament, and informing the
world that I am finishing my life in a condition of pitiable but
theatrically very tiresome disillusion and despair, having recanted
all my professions, renounced all my convictions, abandoned all my
hopes, and demolished all my Utopias.

Many people are like that, both in America and here: if you hint
that there is not a paradise they call you a pessimist, though they
never stop grumbling at the abominable way in which they are being
treated by their own Governments.  They also never tire of
repeating that I point out evils without suggesting remedies, and
am therefore not a practical man.  Lest our English critics should
start all that over again when they come down to Malvern--and many
of them are quite capable of it--let me hasten to assure them that
I have not recanted, renounced, abandoned, nor demolished anything
whatever, and that extremely practical and precise remedies,
including a complete political reconstitution, a credible and
scientific religion, and a satisfactory economic scheme, are
discoverable by anyone under thirty (the older ones are past
praying for) who will take the trouble to bring his or her
education up to date by retiring into a House of Study and
Contemplation and reading my works carefully through from beginning
to end.  I wrote them with a view to that; for though my trade is
that of a playwright, my vocation is that of a prophet, with
occasional lapses into what uncivil people call buffoonery.  If my
admirers dislike these lapses they should take care not to make me
laugh, and to remember that there are others who think that I am
endurable only when I indulge my unfortunate sense of humor.

In Poland, where criticism seems better equipped culturally, the
success of the play so terrified the authorities, that they sacked
the censor who had, in deference to my reputation, passed the play
without reading it.  Do not, however, waste sympathy on this
enlightened official: he was reinstated three days later,
presumably to avert a pro-Shavian revolution; and the play was
allowed to proceed subject to the excision of all the disparagements
of war in the last act.  I invite the attention of the League of
Nations, and of all Pacifist leagues and conferences, to this
gesture by the Polish Government, and the light it throws on the
real views of Poland as to the moral respectability--not to say
glory--of war.  Not that I would suggest for a moment that those
views are a jot different from the views of the other imperialist
States; but none of them have been quite so candid about it as the
Polish Government in this instance.

The moral of my play, or rather the position illustrated by it, is
simple enough.  When wars were waged by professional armies, the
reversal of morality which they involved was kept in a conscience-
tight compartment: a civilian population might talk wickedly enough
in its patriotic fervor; but it did not know what it was talking
about: the actual slaughter and sack and rapine was only a story in
the newspapers, not a real experience.  But a war like that of
1914-18, in which the whole male population of military age was
forced to serve, hosts of women volunteered for work under fire,
and the new feature of aerial bombardment brought the bloody part
of the business crash into the civilians' bedrooms, was quite
another matter.  The shock to common morals was enormously greater
and more general.  So was the strain on the nerves.  This time all
the old romantic pretences of "fearlessness" were dropped: nobody
pretended to be immune either from actual funk under the barrage or
from the wild reaction into security and hero-worship when at home
on leave.  When terror had gone to its limit, subsequent indulgence
for everything, from the pitch and tone of a night at The Byng Boys
to the manslaughter of a correspondent, obeyed the law that action
and reaction are equal.  And so, for four years, it was taken as a
matter of course that young people, when they were not under fire,
must be allowed a good time.

Now I do not at all object to young people having a good time.  I
think they should have a good time all the time, at peace as well
as in war.  I think that their having a good time is one of the
tests of civilization.  But I very strenuously warn both young and
old against the monstrous folly of supposing that a good time has
any resemblance to those wartime reactions after paroxysms of
horror and terror, when the most childish indulgence seemed
heavenly and the most reckless excesses excusable on the plea of
"Let us eat and drink (especially drink), for tomorrow we die."
Our difficulty now is that what the bright young things after the
war tried to do, and what their wretched survivors are still trying
to do, is to get the reaction without the terror, to go on eating
cocaine and drinking cocktails as if they had only a few hours'
expectation of life instead of forty years.

In my play the ex-war nurse and the ex-airman-ace persuade a
respectable young lady, too respectable to have ever had a good
time, to come with them and enjoy the sort of good time they had in
the nightmare of 1914-18.  My stage picture of the result of the
experiment will, I hope, deter any respectable young lady who
witnesses it from relieving the tedium and worthlessness of idle
gentility in that way.

The demonstration is rather funny at first; but I know my business
as a playwright too well to fall into the common mistake of
believing that because it is pleasant to be kept laughing for an
hour, it must be trebly pleasant to be kept laughing for three
hours.  When people have laughed for an hour, they want to be
serio-comically entertained for the next hour; and when that is
over they are so tired of not being wholly serious that they can
bear nothing but a torrent of sermons.

My play is arranged accordingly.

July 1932

G. B. S.

Why "Too True to be Good" Failed:

A Moral in Favour of a National Theatre

(Everyman, London, 5 November 1932)

The opportunity is rather a good one to draw a moral in favour of a
National Theatre.  You may remember that after the old experiment
made by Vedrenne and Barker at the Court Theatre in 1904, which was
finally pushed as far as it would go, and ended a bit further,
Granville-Barker came to the conclusion that he could make a west
end London theatre, playing Shakespear and highbrow repertory, pay
its way if it were rent free and rate free.  An endowment to that
extent would solve the money problem.

In those days, remember, rents and salaries and production expenses
were so much lower than at present that George Alexander, running
the most expensive theatre of its size in London, complained to me
that he could not carry on unless his receipts were £1,000 a week.

Now it happens that this is the exact figure at which Too True was
withdrawn last Saturday.  Alexander would have run the play for six
months at such business; but Barry Jackson has to throw in his hand
unless the receipts are £1,600.

When Cochran gallantly produced O'Casey's Silver Tassie he had to
take it off, because his expenses were £1,700 a week.

Too True filled the cheaper seats and moved people as no play of
mine has moved them before; the houses in Birmingham were crowded
out for three weeks; and the tour is all right.  But because the
people who can afford to pay thirteen shillings for a stall do not
care for that sort of play in sufficient quantities, and left the
box office £50 short of "Stalls full" every night at the end, the
play is described as a failure and has to give place to musical
comedy.  And meanwhile at the Old Vic and Sadler's Wells, Cæsar and
Cleopatra fills these big houses with their reasonable prices.

Thus the case for a National Theatre grows stronger as the
commercial theatres and cinemas flourish more and more and raise
the standard of expenditure to a pitch undreamt of at the beginning
of the century.  Here am I, expected to force intellectual drama to
the utmost limits of human endurance--"as far as thought can
reach," in fact--rebuked austerely by every sap-head in the
critics' circle if I humanely venture to give my audiences the
least scrap of fun; and the reward I get is that when I have
increased the takings more than sevenfold in thirty years, and had
a success which in point of money would have ranked before the war
as a silver mine, the play has to be withdrawn, leaving me hammered
like an insolvent broker on the Stock Exchange.  I must have a
public pension of at least £10,000 a year if I am to carry on.  Too
True failed, as they call it, in America also.  That means that
after twelve weeks' roaring business, the receipts dropped in the
last week to $6,500.  Well, if the vanguard of the drama cannot
live on the drama when the plunder amounts to $6,500 a week, it
must perish unless governments and municipalities come to the
rescue with endowed theatres.  If this National Government will
only pay the rent of the New Theatre, Sir Barry Jackson will run
Too True for another year cheerfully.  Neither he nor I can say any
fairer than that, can we?


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