George Bernard Shaw.

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FRANKLYN. Yes: all right [_he hurries out_].

_The parlor maid goes to the hearthrug to make up the fire. Conrad
rises and strolls to the middle of the room, where he stops and looks
quizzically down at her._

CONRAD. So you have only one life to live, eh?

THE PARLOR MAID [_dropping on her knees in consternation_] I meant no
offence, sir.

CONRAD. You didn't give any. But you know you could live a devil of a
long life if you really wanted to.

THE PARLOR MAID [_sitting down on her heels_] Oh, dont say that, sir.
It's so unsettling.

CONRAD. Why? Have you been thinking about it?

THE PARLOR MAID. It would never have come into my head if you hadnt put
it there, sir. Me and cook had a look at your book.


You and cook
Had a look
At my book!

And my niece wouldn't open it! The prophet is without honor in his own
family. Well, what do you think of living for several hundred years? Are
you going to have a try for it?

THE PARLOR MAID. Well, of course youre not in earnest, sir. But it does
set one thinking, especially when one is going to be married.

CONRAD. What has that to do with it? He may live as long as you, you

THE PARLOR MAID. Thats just it, sir. You see, he must take me for better
for worse, til death do us part. Do you think he would be so ready to do
that, sir, if he thought it might be for several hundred years?

CONRAD. Thats true. And what about yourself?

THE PARLOR MAID. Oh, I tell you straight out, sir, I'd never
promise to live with the same man as long as that. I wouldnt put
up with my own children as long as that. Why, cook figured it
out, sir, that when you were only 200, you might marry your own
great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson and not even know who he

CONRAD. Well, why not? For all you know, the man you are going to
marry may be your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother's

THE PARLOR MAID. But do you think it would ever be thought respectable,

CONRAD. My good girl, all biological necessities have to be made
respectable whether we like it or not; so you neednt worry yourself
about that.

_Franklyn returns and crosses the room to his chair, but does not sit
down. The parlor maid goes out._

CONRAD. Well, what does Joyce Burge want?

FRANKLYN. Oh, a silly misunderstanding. I have promised to address a
meeting in Middlesborough; and some fool has put it into the papers that
I am 'coming to Middlesborough,' without any explanation. Of course, now
that we are on the eve of a general election, political people think I
am coming there to contest the parliamentary seat. Burge knows that I
have a following, and thinks I could get into the House of Commons and
head a group there. So he insists on coming to see me. He is staying
with some people at Dollis Hill, and can be here in five or ten minutes,
he says.

CONRAD. But didn't you tell him that it's a false alarm?

FRANKLYN. Of course I did; but he wont believe me.

CONRAD. Called you a liar, in fact?

FRANKLYN. No: I wish he had: any sort of plain speaking is better than
the nauseous sham good fellowship our democratic public men get up for
shop use. He pretends to believe me, and assures me his visit is quite
disinterested; but why should he come if he has no axe to grind? These
chaps never believe anything they say themselves; and naturally they
cannot believe anything anyone else says.

CONRAD [_rising_] Well, I shall clear out. It was hard enough to stand
the party politicians before the war; but now that they have managed to
half kill Europe between them, I cant be civil to them, and I dont see
why I should be.

FRANKLYN. Wait a bit. We have to find out how the world will take our
new gospel. [_Conrad sits down again_]. Party politicians are still
unfortunately an important part of the world. Suppose we try it on Joyce

CONRAD. How can you? You can tell things only to people who can listen.
Joyce Burge has talked so much that he has lost the power of listening.
He doesnt listen even in the House of Commons.

_Savvy rushes in breathless, followed by Haslam, who remains timidly
just inside the door._

SAVVY [_running to Franklyn_] I say! Who do you think has just driven up
in a big car?

FRANKLYN. Mr Joyce Burge, perhaps.

SAVVY [_disappointed_] Oh, they know, Bill. Why didnt you tell us he was
coming? I have nothing on.

HASLAM. I'd better go, hadnt I?

CONRAD. You just wait here, both of you. When you start yawning, Joyce
Burge will take the hint, perhaps.

SAVVY [_to Franklyn_] May we?

FRANKLYN. Yes, if you promise to behave yourself.

SAVVY [_making a wry face_] That will be a treat, wont it?

THE PARLOR MAID [_entering and announcing_] Mr Joyce Burge.

_Haslam hastily moves to the fireplace; and the parlor maid goes out and
shuts the door when the visitor has passed in._

FRANKLYN [_hurrying past Savvy to his guest with the false cordiality he
has just been denouncing_] Oh! Here you are. Delighted to see you. [_He
shakes Burge's hand, and introduces Savvy_] My daughter.

SAVVY [_not daring to approach_] Very kind of you to come.

_Joyce Burge stands fast and says nothing; but he screws up his cheeks
into a smile at each introduction, and makes his eyes shine in a very
winning manner. He is a well-fed man turned fifty, with broad forehead,
and grey hair which, his neck being short, falls almost to his collar._

FRANKLYN. Mr Haslam, our rector.

_Burge conveys an impression of shining like a church window; and Haslam
seizes the nearest library chair on the hearth, and swings it round for
Burge between the stool and Conrad. He then retires to the window seat
at the other side of the room, and is joined by Savvy. They sit there,
side by side, hunched up with their elbows on their knees and their
chins on their hands, providing Burge with a sort of Stranger's Gallery
during the ensuing sitting._

FRANKLYN. I forget whether you know my brother Conrad. He is a

BURGE [_suddenly bursting into energetic action and shaking hands
heartily with Conrad_] By reputation only, but very well, of course.
How I wish I could have devoted myself to biology! I have always been
interested in rocks and strata and volcanoes and so forth: they throw
such a light on the age of the earth. [_With conviction_] There is
nothing like biology. 'The cloud-capped towers, the solemn binnacles,
the gorgeous temples, the great globe itself: yea, all that it inherit
shall dissolve, and, like this influential pageant faded, leave not a
rack behind.' Thats biology, you know: good sound biology. [_He sits
down. So do the others, Franklyn on the stool, and Conrad on his
Chippendale_]. Well, my dear Barnabas, what do you think of the
situation? Dont you think the time has come for us to make a move?

FRANKLYN. The time has always come to make a move.

BURGE. How true! But what is the move to be? You are a man of enormous
influence. We know that. Weve always known it. We have to consult you
whether we like it or not. We -

FRANKLYN [_interrupting firmly_] I never meddle in party politics now.

SAVVY. It's no use saying you have no influence, daddy. Heaps of people
swear by you.

BURGE [_shining at her_] Of course they do. Come! let me prove to you
what we think of you. Shall we find you a first-rate constituency
to contest at the next election? One that wont cost you a penny. A
metropolitan seat. What do you say to the Strand?

FRANKLYN. My dear Burge, I am not a child. Why do you go on wasting your
party funds on the Strand? You know you cannot win it.

BURGE. We cannot win it; but you -

FRANKLYN. Oh, please!

SAVVY. The Strand's no use, Mr Burge. I once canvassed for a Socialist
there. Cheese it.

BURGE. Cheese it!

HASLAM [_spluttering with suppressed laughter_] Priceless!

SAVVY. Well, I suppose I shouldnt say cheese it to a Right Honorable.
But the Strand, you know! Do come off it.

FRANKLYN. You must excuse my daughter's shocking manners, Burge; but I
agree with her that popular democratic statesmen soon come to believe
that everyone they speak to is an ignorant dupe and a born fool into the

BURGE [_laughing genially_] You old aristocrat, you! But believe me, the
instinct of the people is sound -

CONRAD [_cutting in sharply_] Then why are you in the Opposition instead
of in the Government?

BURGE [_shewing signs of temper under this heckling_] I deny that I
am in the Opposition _morally_. The Government does not represent the
country. I was chucked out of the Coalition by a Tory conspiracy. The
people want me back. I dont want to go back.

FRANKLYN [_gently remonstrant_] My dear Burge: of course you do.

BURGE [_turning on him_] Not a bit of it. I want to cultivate my garden.
I am not interested in politics: I am interested in roses. I havnt a
scrap of ambition. I went into politics because my wife shoved me into
them, bless her! But I want to serve my country. What else am I for? I
want to save my country from the Tories. They dont represent the people.
The man they have made Prime Minister has never represented the people;
and you know it. Lord Dunreen is the bitterest old Tory left alive. What
has he to offer to the people?

FRANKLYN [_cutting in before Burge can proceed - as he evidently
intends - to answer his own question_] I will tell you. He has
ascertainable beliefs and principles to offer. The people know where
they are with Lord Dunreen. They know what he thinks right and what he
thinks wrong. With your followers they never know where they are. With
you they never know where they are.

BURGE [_amazed_] With me!

FRANKLYN. Well, where are you? What are you?

BURGE. Barnabas: you must be mad. You ask me what I am?


BURGE. I am, if I mistake not, Joyce Burge, pretty well known throughout
Europe, and indeed throughout the world, as the man who - unworthily
perhaps, but not quite unsuccessfully - held the helm when the ship
of State weathered the mightiest hurricane that has ever burst with
earth-shaking violence on the land of our fathers.

FRANKLYN. I know that. I know who you are. And the earth-shaking part of
it to me is that though you were placed in that enormously responsible
position, neither I nor anyone else knows what your beliefs are, or even
whether you have either beliefs or principles. What we did know was that
your Government was formed largely of men who regarded you as a robber
of henroosts, and whom you regarded as enemies of the people.

BURGE [_adroitly, as he thinks_] I agree with you. I agree with you
absolutely. I dont believe in coalition governments.

FRANKLYN. Precisely. Yet you formed two.

BURGE. Why? Because we were at war. That is what you fellows never would
realize. The Hun was at the gate. Our country, our lives, the honor of
our wives and mothers and daughters, the tender flesh of our innocent
babes, were at stake. Was that a time to argue about principles?

FRANKLYN. I should say it was the time of all others to confirm the
resolution of our own men and gain the confidence and support of public
opinion throughout the world by a declaration of principle. Do you think
the Hun would ever have come to the gate if he had known that it would
be shut in his face on principle? Did he not hold his own against you
until America boldly affirmed the democratic principle and came to our
rescue? Why did you let America snatch that honor from England?

BURGE. Barnabas: America was carried away by words, and had to eat them
at the Peace Conference. Beware of eloquence: it is the bane of popular
speakers like you.

FRANKLYN} [_exclaiming_]{Well!!
SAVVY} [_all_]{I like that!
HASLAM} [_together_]{Priceless!

BURGE [_continuing remorselessly_] Come down to facts. It wasn't
principle that won the war: it was the British fleet and the blockade.
America found the talk: I found the shells. You cannot win wars by
principles; but you _can_ win elections by them. There I am with you.
You want the next election to be fought on principles: that is what it
comes to, doesnt it?

FRANKLYN. I dont want it to be fought at all! An election is a moral
horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood: a mud bath for every
soul concerned in it. You know very well that it will not be fought on

BURGE. On the contrary it will be fought on nothing else. I believe a
program is a mistake. I agree with you that principle is what we want.

FRANKLYN. Principle without program, eh?

BURGE. Exactly. There it is in three words.

FRANKLYN. Why not in one word? Platitudes. That is what principle
without program means.

BURGE [_puzzled but patient, trying to get at Franklyn's drift in order
to ascertain his price_] I have not made myself clear. Listen. I am
agreeing with you. I am on your side. I am accepting your proposal.
There isnt going to be any more coalition. This time there wont be a
Tory in the Cabinet. Every candidate will have to pledge himself to Free
Trade, slightly modified by consideration for our Overseas Dominions; to
Disestablishment; to Reform of the House of Lords; to a revised scheme
of Taxation of Land Values; and to doing something or other to keep the
Irish quiet. Does that satisfy you?

FRANKLYN. It does not even interest me. Suppose your friends do commit
themselves to all this! What does it prove about them except that they
are hopelessly out of date even in party politics? that they have learnt
nothing and forgotten nothing since 1885? What is it to me that they
hate the Church and hate the landed gentry; that they are jealous of the
nobility, and have shipping shares instead of manufacturing businesses
in the Midlands? I can find you hundreds of the most sordid rascals, or
the most densely stupid reactionaries, with all these qualifications.

BURGE. Personal abuse proves nothing. Do you suppose the Tories are all
angels because they are all members of the Church of England?

FRANKLYN. No; but they stand together as members of the Church of
England, whereas your people, in attacking the Church, are all over the
shop. The supporters of the Church are of one mind about religion: its
enemies are of a dozen minds. The Churchmen are a phalanx: your people
are a mob in which atheists are jostled by Plymouth Brethren, and
Positivists by Pillars of Fire. You have with you all the crudest
unbelievers and all the crudest fanatics.

BURGE. We stand, as Cromwell did, for liberty of conscience, if that is
what you mean.

FRANKLYN. How can you talk such rubbish over the graves of your
conscientious objectors? All law limits liberty of conscience: if a
man's conscience allows him to steal your watch or to shirk military
service, how much liberty do you allow it? Liberty of conscience is not
my point.

BURGE [_testily_] I wish you would come to your point. Half the time
you are saying that you must have principles; and when I offer you
principles you say they wont work.

FRANKLYN. You have not offered me any principles. Your party shibboleths
are not principles. If you get into power again you will find yourself
at the head of a rabble of Socialists and anti-Socialists, of Jingo
Imperialists and Little Englanders, of cast-iron Materialists
and ecstatic Quakers, of Christian Scientists and Compulsory
Inoculationists, of Syndicalists and Bureaucrats: in short, of men
differing fiercely and irreconcilably on every principle that goes to
the root of human society and destiny; and the impossibility of keeping
such a team together will force you to sell the pass again to the solid
Conservative Opposition.

BURGE [_rising in wrath_] Sell the pass again! You accuse me of having
sold the pass!

FRANKLYN. When the terrible impact of real warfare swept your
parliamentary sham warfare into the dustbin, you had to go behind the
backs of your followers and make a secret agreement with the leaders of
the Opposition to keep you in power on condition that you dropped all
legislation of which they did not approve. And you could not even hold
them to their bargain; for they presently betrayed the secret and forced
the coalition on you.

BURGE. I solemnly declare that this is a false and monstrous accusation.

FRANKLYN. Do you deny that the thing occurred? Were the uncontradicted
reports false? Were the published letters forgeries?

BURGE. Certainly not. But _I_ did not do it. I was not Prime Minister
then. It was that old dotard, that played-out old humbug Lubin. He was
Prime Minister then, not I.

FRANKLYN. Do you mean to say you did not know?

BURGE [_sitting down again with a shrug_] Oh, I had to be told. But what
could I do? If we had refused we might have had to go out of office.

FRANKLYN. Precisely.

BURGE. Well, could we desert the country at such a crisis? The Hun was
at the gate. Everyone has to make sacrifices for the sake of the country
at such moments. We had to rise above party; and I am proud to say we
never gave party a second thought. We stuck to -

CONRAD. Office?

SURGE [_turning on him_] Yes, sir, to office: that is, to
responsibility, to danger, to heart-sickening toil, to abuse and
misunderstanding, to a martyrdom that made us envy the very soldiers in
the trenches. If you had had to live for months on aspirin and bromide
of potassium to get a wink of sleep, you wouldn't talk about office as
if it were a catch.

FRANKLYN. Still, you admit that under our parliamentary system Lubin
could not have helped himself?

BURGE. On that subject my lips are closed. Nothing will induce me to say
one word against the old man. I never have; and I never will. Lubin is
old: he has never been a real statesman: he is as lazy as a cat on
a hearthrug: you cant get him to attend to anything: he is good for
nothing but getting up and making speeches with a peroration that goes
down with the back benches. But I say nothing against him. I gather that
you do not think much of me as a statesman; but at all events I can get
things done. I can hustle: even you will admit that. But Lubin! Oh my
stars, Lubin!! If you only knew -

_The parlor maid opens the door and announces a visitor._


SURGE [_bounding from his chair_] Lubin! Is this a conspiracy?

_They all rise in amazement, staring at the door. Lubin enters: a man
at the end of his sixties, a Yorkshireman with the last traces of
Scandinavian flax still in his white hair, undistinguished in stature,
unassuming in his manner, and taking his simple dignity for granted,
but wonderfully comfortable and quite self-assured in contrast to
the intellectual restlessness of Franklyn and the mesmeric
self-assertiveness of Burge. His presence suddenly brings out the fact
that they are unhappy men, ill at ease, square pegs in round holes,
whilst he flourishes like a primrose.

The parlor maid withdraws._

LUBIN [_coming to Franklyn_] How do you do, Mr Barnabas? [_He speaks
very comfortably and kindly, much as if he were the host, and Franklyn
an embarrassed but welcome guest_]. I had the pleasure of meeting you
once at the Mansion House. I think it was to celebrate the conclusion of
the hundred years peace with America.

FRANKLYN [_shaking hands_] It was long before that: a meeting about
Venezuela, when we were on the point of going to war with America.

LUBIN [_not at all put out_] Yes: you are quite right. I knew it was
something about America. [_He pats Franklyn's hand_]. And how have you
been all this time? Well, eh?

FRANKLYN [_smiling to soften the sarcasm_] A few vicissitudes of health
naturally in so long a time.

LUBIN. Just so. Just so. [_Looking round at Savvy_] The young lady is - ?

FRANKLYN. My daughter, Savvy.

_Savvy comes from the window between her father and Lubin._

LUBIN [_taking her hand affectionately in both his_] And why has she
never come to see us?

BURGE. I don't know whether you have noticed, Lubin, that I am present.

_Savvy takes advantage of this diversion to slip away to the settee,
where she is stealthily joined by Haslam, who sits down on her left._

LUBIN [_seating himself in Burge's chair with ineffable
comfortableness_] My dear Burge: if you imagine that it is possible to
be within ten miles of your energetic presence without being acutely
aware of it, you do yourself the greatest injustice. How are you?
And how are your good newspaper friends? [_Burge makes an explosive
movement; but Lubin goes on calmly and sweetly_] And what are you doing
here with my old friend Barnabas, if I may ask?

BURGE [_sitting down in Conrad's chair, leaving him standing uneasily in
the corner_] Well, just what you are doing, if you want to know. I am
trying to enlist Mr Barnabas's valuable support for my party.

LUBIN. Your party, eh? The newspaper party?

BURGE. The Liberal Party. The party of which I have the honor to be

LUBIN. Have you now? Thats very interesting; for I thought _I_ was the
leader of the Liberal Party. However, it is very kind of you to take it
off my hands, if the party will let you.

BURGE. Do you suggest that I have not the support and confidence of the

LUBIN. I dont suggest anything, my dear Burge. Mr Barnabas will tell you
that we all think very highly of you. The country owes you a great deal.
During the war, you did very creditably over the munitions; and if you
were not quite so successful with the peace, nobody doubted that you
meant well.

BURGE. Very kind of you, Lubin. Let me remark that you cannot lead a
progressive party without getting a move on.

LUBIN. You mean you cannot. I did it for ten years without the least
difficulty. And very comfortable, prosperous, pleasant years they were.

BURGE. Yes; but what did they end in?

LUBIN. In you, Burge. You don't complain of that, do you?

BURGE [_fiercely_] In plague, pestilence, and famine; battle, murder,
and sudden death.

LUBIN [_with an appreciative chuckle_] The Nonconformist can quote the
prayer-book for his own purposes, I see. How you enjoyed yourself over
that business, Burge! Do you remember the Knock-Out Blow?

BURGE. It came off: don't forget that. Do _you_ remember fighting to the
last drop of your blood?

LUBIN [_unruffled, to Franklyn_] By the way, I remember your brother
Conrad - a wonderful brain and a dear good fellow - explaining to me that
I couldn't fight to the last drop of my blood, because I should be dead
long before I came to it. Most interesting, and quite true. He was
introduced to me at a meeting where the suffragettes kept disturbing me.
They had to be carried out kicking and making a horrid disturbance.

CONRAD. No: it was later, at a meeting to support the Franchise Bill
which gave them the vote.

LUBIN [_discovering Conrad's presence for the first time_] Youre right:
it was. I knew it had something to do with women. My memory never
deceives me. Thank you. Will you introduce me to this gentleman,

CONRAD [_not at all affably_] I am the Conrad in question. [_He sits
down in dudgeon on the vacant Chippendale_].

LUBIN. Are you? [_Looking at him pleasantly_] Yes: of course you are. I
never forget a face. But [_with an arch turn of his eyes to Savvy_] your
pretty niece engaged all my powers of vision.

BURGE. I wish youd be serious, Lubin. God knows we have passed through
times terrible enough to make any man serious.

LUBIN. I do not think I need to be reminded of that. In peace time
I used to keep myself fresh for my work by banishing all worldly
considerations from my mind on Sundays; but war has no respect for the
Sabbath; and there have been Sundays within the last few years on which
I have had to play as many as sixty-six games of bridge to keep my mind
off the news from the front.

BURGE [_scandalized_] Sixty-six games of bridge on Sunday!!!

LUBIN. You probably sang sixty-six hymns. But as I cannot boast either
your admirable voice or your spiritual fervor, I had to fall back on

FRANKLYN. If I may go back to the subject of your visit, it seems to me
that you may both be completely superseded by the Labor Party.

BURGE. But I am in the truest sense myself a Labor leader. I - [_he
stops, as Lubin has risen with a half-suppressed yawn, and is already
talking calmly, but without a pretence of interest_].

LUBIN. The Labor Party! Oh no, Mr Barnabas. No, no, no, no, no. [_He
moves in Savvy's direction_]. There will be no trouble about that. Of
course we must give them a few seats: more, I quite admit, than we
should have dreamt of leaving to them before the war; but - [_by this
time he has reached the sofa where Savvy and Haslam are seated. He sits
down between them; takes her hand; and drops the subject of Labor_].

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