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happen first to someone in this room.

HASLAM. It wont happen to me: thats jolly sure.

CONRAD. It might happen to anyone. It might happen to the parlor maid.
How do we know?

SAVVY. The parlor maid! Oh, thats nonsense, Nunk.

LUBIN [_once more quite comfortable_] I think Miss Savvy has delivered
the final verdict.

BURGE. Do you mean to say that you have nothing more practical to offer
than the mere wish to live longer? Why, if people could live by merely
wishing to, we should all be living for ever already! Everybody would
like to live for ever. Why don't they?

CONRAD. Pshaw! Everybody would like to have a million of money. Why
havnt they? Because the men who would like to be millionaires wont save
sixpence even with the chance of starvation staring them in the face.
The men who want to live for ever wont cut off a glass of beer or a pipe
of tobacco, though they believe the teetotallers and non-smokers live
longer. That sort of liking is not willing. See what they do when they
know they must.

FRANKLYN. Do not mistake mere idle fancies for the tremendous
miracle-working force of Will nerved to creation by a conviction of
Necessity. I tell you men capable of such willing, and realizing its
necessity, will do it reluctantly, under inner compulsion, as all great
efforts are made. They will hide what they are doing from themselves:
they will take care not to know what they are doing. They will live
three hundred years, not because they would like to, but because the
soul deep down in them will know that they must, if the world is to be

LUBIN [_turning to Franklyn and patting him almost paternally_] Well,
my dear Barnabas, for the last thirty years the post has brought me at
least once a week a plan from some crank or other for the establishment
of the millennium. I think you are the maddest of all the cranks; but
you are much the most interesting. I am conscious of a very curious
mixture of relief and disappointment in finding that your plan is all
moonshine, and that you have nothing practical to offer us. But what
a pity! It is such a fascinating idea! I think you are too hard on us
practical men; but there are men in every Government, even on the Front
Bench, who deserve all you say. And now, before dropping the subject,
may I put just one question to you? An idle question, since nothing can
come of it; but still -

FRANKLYN. Ask your question.

LUBIN. Why do you fix three hundred years as the exact figure?

FRANKLYN. Because we must fix some figure. Less would not be enough; and
more would be more than we dare as yet face.

LUBIN. Pooh! I am quite prepared to face three thousand, not to say
three million.

CONRAD. Yes, because you don't believe you Will be called on to make
good your word.

FRANKLYN [_gently_] Also, perhaps, because you have never been troubled
much by vision of the future.

BURGE [_with intense conviction_] The future does not exist for Henry
Hopkins Lubin.

LUBIN. If by the future you mean the millennial delusions which you
use as a bunch of carrots to lure the uneducated British donkey to the
polling booth to vote for you, it certainly does not.

SURGE. I can see the future not only because, if I may say so in all
humility, I have been gifted with a certain power of spiritual vision,
but because I have practised as a solicitor. A solicitor has to advise
families. He has to think of the future and know the past. His office is
the real modern confessional. Among other things he has to make people's
wills for them. He has to shew them how to provide for their daughters
after their deaths. Has it occurred to you, Lubin, that if you live
three hundred years, your daughters will have to wait a devilish long
time for their money?

FRANKLYN. The money may not wait for them. Few investments flourish for
three hundred years.

SAVVY. And what about before your death? Suppose they didn't get
married! Imagine a girl living at home with her mother and on her father
for three hundred years! Theyd murder her if she didn't murder them

LUBIN. By the way, Barnabas, is your daughter to keep her good looks all
the time?

FRANKLYN. Will it matter? Can you conceive the most hardened flirt going
on flirting for three centuries? At the end of half the time we shall
hardly notice whether it is a woman or a man we are speaking to.

LUBIN [_not quite relishing this ascetic prospect_] Hm! [_He rises_].
Ah, well: you must come and tell my wife and my young people all about
it; and you will bring your daughter with you, of course. [_He shakes
hands with Savvy_]. Goodbye. [_He shakes hands with Franklyn_]. Goodbye,
Doctor. [_He shakes hands with Conrad_]. Come on, Burge: you must
really tell me what line you are going to take about the Church at the

BURGE. Havnt you heard? Havnt you taken in the revelation that has been
vouchsafed to us? The line I am going to take is Back to Methuselah.

LUBIN [_decisively_] Dont be ridiculous, Burge. You don't suppose, do
you, that our friends here are in earnest, or that our very pleasant
conversation has had anything to do with practical politics! They have
just been pulling our legs very wittily. Come along. [_He goes out,
Franklyn politely going with him, but shaking his head in mute

BURGE [_shaking Conrad's hand_] It's beyond the old man, Doctor. No
spiritual side to him: only a sort of classical side that goes down with
his own set. Besides, he's done, gone, past, burnt out, burst up; thinks
he is our leader and is only our rag and bottle department. But you may
depend on me. I will work this stunt of yours in. I see its value. [_He
begins moving towards the door with Conrad_]. Of course I cant put it
exactly in your way; but you are quite right about our needing something
fresh; and I believe an election can be fought on the death rate and on
Adam and Eve as scientific facts. It will take the Opposition right out
of its depth. And if we win there will be an O.M. for somebody when the
first honors list comes round [_by this time he has talked himself out
of the room and out of earshot, Conrad accompanying him_].

_Savvy and Haslam, left alone, seize each other in an ecstasy of
amusement, and jazz to the settee, where they sit down again side by

HASLAM [_caressing her_] Darling! what a priceless humbug old Lubin is!

SAVVY. Oh, sweet old thing! I love him. Burge is a flaming fraud if you

HASLAM. Did you notice one thing? It struck me as rather curious.

SAVVY. What?

HASLAM. Lubin and your father have both survived the war. But their sons
were killed in it.

SAVVY [_sobered_] Yes. Jim's death killed mother.

HASLAM. And they never said a word about it!

SAVVY. Well, why should they? The subject didn't come up. _I_ forgot
about it too; and I was very fond of Jim.

HASLAM. _I_ didn't forget it, because I'm of military age; and if I
hadnt been a parson I'd have had to go out and be killed too. To me the
awful thing about their political incompetence was that they had to
kill their own sons. It was the war casualty lists and the starvation
afterwards that finished me up with politics and the Church and
everything else except you.

SAVVY. Oh, I was just as bad as any of them. I sold flags in the streets
in my best clothes; and - hsh! [_she jumps up and pretends to be looking
for a book on the shelves behind the settee_].

_Franklyn and Conrad return, looking weary and glum._

CONRAD. Well, thats how the gospel of the brothers Barnabas is going to
be received! [_He drops into Burge's chair_].

FRANKLYN [_going back to his seat at the table_] It's no use. Were you
convinced, Mr Haslam?

HASLAM. About our being able to live three hundred years? Frankly no.

CONRAD [_to Savvy_] Nor you, I suppose?

SAVVY. Oh, I don't know. I thought I was for a moment. I can believe, in
a sort of way, that people might live for three hundred years. But when
you came down to tin tacks, and said that the parlor maid might, then I
saw how absurd it was.

FRANKLYN. Just so. We had better hold our tongues about it, Con. We
should only be laughed at, and lose the little credit we earned on false
pretences in the days of our ignorance.

CONRAD. I daresay. But Creative Evolution doesnt stop while people are
laughing. Laughing may even lubricate its job.

SAVVY. What does that mean?

CONRAD. It means that the first man to live three hundred years maynt
have the slightest notion that he is going to do it, and may be the
loudest laugher of the lot.

SAVVY. Or the first woman?

CONRAD [_assenting_] Or the first woman.

HASLAM. Well, it wont be one of us, anyhow.

FRANKLYN. How do you know?

_This is unanswerable. None of them have anything more to say._


The Thing Happens

_A summer afternoon in the year 2170 A.D. The official parlor of the
President of the British Islands. A board table, long enough for three
chairs at each side besides the presidential chair at the head and an
ordinary chair at the foot, occupies the breadth of the room. On the
table, opposite every chair, a small switchboard with a dial. There is
no fireplace. The end wall is a silvery screen nearly as large as a pair
of folding doors. The door is on your left as you face the screen; and
there is a row of thick pegs, padded and covered with velvet, beside it.

A stoutish middle-aged man, good-looking and breezily genial, dressed
in a silk smock, stockings, handsomely ornamented sandals, and a gold
fillet round his brows, comes in. He is like Joyce Burge, yet also like
Lubin, as if Nature had made a composite photograph of the two men.
He takes off the fillet and hangs it on a peg; then sits down in the
presidential chair at the head of the table, which is at the end
farthest from the door. He puts a peg into his switchboard; turns
the pointer on the dial; puts another peg in; and presses a button.
Immediately the silvery screen vanishes; and in its place appears, in
reverse from right to left, another office similarly furnished, with a
thin, unamiable man similarly dressed, but in duller colors, turning
over some documents at the table. His gold fillet is hanging up on a
similar peg beside the door. He is rather like Conrad Barnabas, but
younger, and much more commonplace._

BURGE-LUBIN. Hallo, Barnabas!

BARNABAS [_without looking round_] What number?

BURGE-LUBIN. Five double x three two gamma. Burge-Lubin.

_Barnabas puts a plug in number five; turns his pointer to double x; and
another plug in 32; presses a button and looks round at Burge-Lubin, who
is now visible to him as well as audible._

BARNABAS [_curtly_] Oh! That you, President?

BURGE-LUBIN. Yes. They told me you wanted me to ring you up. Anything

BARNABAS [_harsh and querulous_] I wish to make a protest.

BURGE-LUBIN [_good-humored and mocking_] What! Another protest! Whats
wrong now?

BARNABAS. If you only knew all the protests I havnt made, you would be
surprised at my patience. It is you who are always treating me with the
grossest want of consideration.

BURGE-LUBIN. What have I done now?

BARNABAS. You have put me down to go to the Record Office today to
receive that American fellow, and do the honors of a ridiculous cinema
show. That is not the business of the Accountant General: it is the
business of the President. It is an outrageous waste of my time, and an
unjustifiable shirking of your duty at my expense. I refuse to go. You
must go.

BURGE-LUBIN. My dear boy, nothing would give me greater pleasure than to
take the job off your hands -

BARNABAS. Then do it. Thats all I want [_he is about to switch off_].

BURGE-LUBIN. Dont switch off. Listen. This American has invented a
method of breathing under water.

BARNABAS. What do I care? I don't want to breathe under water.

BURGE-LUBIN. You may, my dear Barnabas, at any time. You know you never
look where you are going when you are immersed in your calculations.
Some day you will walk into the Serpentine. This man's invention may
save your life.

BARNABAS [_angrily_] Will you tell me what that has to do with your
putting your ceremonial duties on to my shoulders? I will not be trifled
[_he vanishes and is replaced by the blank screen_] -

BURGE-LUBIN [_indignantly holding down his button_] Dont cut us off,
please: we have not finished. I am the President, speaking to the
Accountant General. What are you dreaming of?

A WOMAN'S VOICE. Sorry. [_The screen shews Barnabas as before_].

BURGE-LUBIN. Since you take it that way, I will go in your place. It's a
pity, because, you see, this American thinks you are the greatest living
authority on the duration of human life; and -

BARNABAS [_interrupting_] The American thinks! What do you mean? I am
the greatest living authority on the duration of human life. Who dares
dispute it?

BURGE-LUBIN. Nobody, dear lad, nobody. Dont fly out at me. It is evident
that you have not read the American's book.

BARNABAS. Dont tell me that you have, or that you have read any book
except a novel for the last twenty years; for I wont believe you.

BURGE-LUBIN. Quite right, dear old fellow: I havnt read it. But I have
read what The Times Literary Supplement says about it.

BARNABAS. I don't care two straws what it says about it. Does it say
anything about me?


BARNABAS. Oh, does it? What?

BURGE-LUBIN. It points out that an extraordinary number of first-rate
persons like you and me have died by drowning during the last two
centuries, and that when this invention of breathing under water takes
effect, your estimate of the average duration of human life will be

BARNABAS [_alarmed_] Upset my estimate! Gracious Heavens! Does the fool
realize what that means? Do you realize what that means?

BURGE-LUBIN. I suppose it means that we shall have to amend the Act.

BARNABAS. Amend my Act! Monstrous!

BURGE-LUBIN. But we must. We cant ask people to go on working until they
are forty-three unless our figures are unchallengeable. You know what
a row there was over those last three years, and how nearly the
too-old-at-forty people won.

BARNABAS. They would have made the British Islands bankrupt if theyd
won. But you dont care for that; you care for nothing but being popular.

BURGE-LUBIN. Oh, well: I shouldn't worry if I were you; for most people
complain that there is not enough work for them, and would be only too
glad to stick on instead of retiring at forty-three, if only they were
asked as a favor instead of having to.

BARNABAS. Thank you: I need no consolation. [_He rises determinedly and
puts on his fillet_].

BURGE-LUBIN. Are you off? Where are you going to?

BARNABAS. To that cinema tomfoolery, of course. I shall put this
American impostor in his place. [_He goes out_].

BURGE-LUBIN [_calling after him_] God bless you, dear old chap! [_With
a chuckle, he switches off; and the screen becomes blank. He presses a
button and holds it down while he calls_] Hallo!


BURGE-LUBIN [_formally_] The President respectfully solicits the
privilege of an interview with the Chief Secretary, and holds himself
entirely at his honor's august disposal.

A CHINESE VOICE. He is coming.

BURGE-LUBIN. Oh! That you, Confucius? So good of you. Come along [_he
releases the button_].

_A man in a yellow gown, presenting the general appearance of a Chinese
sage, enters._

BURGE-LUBIN [_jocularly_] Well, illustrious Sage-&-Onions, how are your
poor sore feet?

CONFUCIUS [_gravely_] I thank you for your kind inquiries. I am well.

BURGE-LUBIN. Thats right. Sit down and make yourself comfortable. Any
business for me today?

CONFUCIUS [_sitting down on the first chair round the corner of the
table to the President's right_] None.

BURGE-LUBIN. Have you heard the result of the bye-election?

CONFUCIUS. A walk-over. Only one candidate.

BURGE-LUBIN. Any good?

CONFUCIUS. He was released from the County Lunatic Asylum a fortnight
ago. Not mad enough for the lethal chamber: not sane enough for any
place but the division lobby. A very popular speaker.

BURGE-LUBIN. I wish the people would take a serious interest in

CONFUCIUS. I do not agree. The Englishman is not fitted by nature to
understand politics. Ever since the public services have been manned by
Chinese, the country has been well and honestly governed. What more is

BURGE-LUBIN. What I cant make out is that China is one of the worst
governed countries on earth.

CONFUCIUS. No. It was badly governed twenty years ago; but since we
forbade any Chinaman to take part in our public services, and imported
natives of Scotland for that purpose, we have done well. Your
information here is always twenty years out of date.

BURGE-LUBIN. People don't seem to be able to govern themselves. I cant
understand it. Why should it be so?

CONFUCIUS. Justice is impartiality. Only strangers are impartial.

BURGE-LUBIN. It ends in the public services being so good that the
Government has nothing to do but think.

CONFUCIUS. Were it otherwise, the Government would have too much to do
to think.

BURGE-LUBIN. Is that any excuse for the English people electing a
parliament of lunatics?

CONFUCIUS. The English people always did elect parliaments of lunatics.
What does it matter if your permanent officials are honest and

BURGE-LUBIN. You do not know the history of this country. What would my
ancestors have said to the menagerie of degenerates that is still called
the House of Commons? Confucius: you will not believe me; and I do not
blame you for it; but England once saved the liberties of the world by
inventing parliamentary government, which was her peculiar and supreme

CONFUCIUS. I know the history of your country perfectly well. It proves
the exact contrary.

BURGE-LUBIN. How do you make that out?

CONFUCIUS. The only power your parliament ever had was the power of
withholding supplies from the king.

BURGE-LUBIN. Precisely. That great Englishman Simon de Montfort -

CONFUCIUS. He was not an Englishman: he was a Frenchman. He imported
parliaments from France.

BURGE-LUBIN [_surprised_] You dont say so!

CONFUCIUS. The king and his loyal subjects killed Simon for forcing his
French parliament on them. The first thing British parliaments always
did was to grant supplies to the king for life with enthusiastic
expressions of loyalty, lest they should have any real power, and be
expected to do something.

BURGE-LUBIN. Look here, Confucius: you know more history than I do, of
course; but democracy -

CONFUCIUS. An institution peculiar to China. And it was never really a
success there.

BURGE-LUBIN. But the Habeas Corpus Act!

CONFUCIUS. The English always suspended it when it threatened to be of
the slightest use.

BURGE-LUBIN. Well, trial by jury: you cant deny that we established

CONFUCIUS. All cases that were dangerous to the governing classes were
tried in the Star Chamber or by Court Martial, except when the prisoner
was not tried at all, but executed after calling him names enough to
make him unpopular.

BURGE-LUBIN. Oh, bother! You may be right in these little details; but
in the large we have managed to hold our own as a great race. Well,
people who could do nothing couldnt have done that, you know.

CONFUCIUS. I did not say you could do nothing. You could fight. You
could eat. You could drink. Until the twentieth century you could
produce children. You could play games. You could work when you were
forced to. But you could not govern yourselves.

BURGE-LUBIN. Then how did we get our reputation as the pioneers of

CONFUCIUS. By your steadfast refusal to be governed at all. A horse that
kicks everyone who tries to harness and guide him may be a pioneer of
liberty; but he is not a pioneer of government. In China he would be

BURGE-LUBIN. Stuff! Do you imply that the administration of which I am
president is no Government?

CONFUCIUS. I do. _I_ am the Government.

BURGE-LUBIN. You! You!! You fat yellow lump of conceit!

CONFUCIUS. Only an Englishman could be so ignorant of the nature of
government as to suppose that a capable statesman cannot be fat, yellow,
and conceited. Many Englishmen are slim, red-nosed, and modest. Put them
in my place, and within a year you will be back in the anarchy and chaos
of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

BURGE-LUBIN. Oh, if you go back to the dark ages, I have nothing more to
say. But we did not perish. We extricated ourselves from that chaos. We
are now the best governed country in the world. How did we manage that
if we are such fools as you pretend?

CONFUCIUS. You did not do it until the slaughter and ruin produced by
your anarchy forced you at last to recognize two inexorable facts.
First, that government is absolutely necessary to civilization, and that
you could not maintain civilization by merely doing down your neighbor,
as you called it, and cutting off the head of your king whenever he
happened to be a logical Scot and tried to take his position seriously.
Second, that government is an art of which you are congenitally
incapable. Accordingly, you imported educated negresses and Chinese to
govern you. Since then you have done very well.

BURGE-LUBIN. So have you, you old humbug. All the same, I don't know
how you stand the work you do. You seem to me positively to like public
business. Why wont you let me take you down to the coast some week-end
and teach you marine golf?

CONFUCIUS. It does not interest me. I am not a barbarian.

BURGE-LUBIN. You mean that I am?

CONFUCIUS. That is evident.


CONFUCIUS. People like you. They like cheerful goodnatured barbarians.
They have elected you President five times in succession. They will
elect you five times more. _I_ like you. You are better company than a
dog or a horse because you can speak.

BURGE-LUBIN. Am I a barbarian because you like me?

CONFUCIUS. Surely. Nobody likes me: I am held in awe. Capable persons
are never liked. I am not likeable; but I am indispensable.

BURGE-LUBIN. Oh, cheer up, old man: theres nothing so disagreeable about
you as all that. I don't dislike you; and if you think I'm afraid of
you, you jolly well don't know Burge-Lubin: thats all.

CONFUCIUS. You are brave: yes. It is a form of stupidity.

BURGE-LUBIN. You may not be brave: one doesn't expect it from a Chink.
But you have the devil's own cheek.

CONFUCIUS. I have the assured certainty of the man who sees and knows.
Your genial bluster, your cheery self-confidence, are pleasant, like the
open air. But they are blind: they are vain. I seem to see a great dog
wag his tail and bark joyously. But if he leaves my heel he is lost.

BURGE-LUBIN. Thank you for a handsome compliment. I have a big dog; and
he is the best fellow I know. If you knew how much uglier you are than a
chow, you wouldn't start those comparisons, though. [_Rising_] Well, if
you have nothing for me to do, I am going to leave your heel for the
rest of the day and enjoy myself. What would you recommend me to do with

CONFUCIUS. Give yourself up to contemplation; and great thoughts will
come to you.

BURGE-LUBIN. Will they? If you think I am going to sit here on a fine
day like this with my legs crossed waiting for great thoughts, you
exaggerate my taste for them. I prefer marine golf. [_Stopping short_]
Oh, by the way, I forgot something. I have a word or two to say to the
Minister of health. [_He goes back to his chair_].

CONFUCIUS. Her number is -

BURGE-LUBIN. I know it.

CONFUCIUS [_rising_] I cannot understand her attraction for you. For me
a woman who is not yellow does not exist, save as an official. [_He goes

_Burge-Lubin operates his switchboard as before. The screen vanishes:
and a dainty room with a bed, a wardrobe, and a dressing-table with a
mirror and a switch on it, appears. Seated at it a handsome negress is
trying on a brilliant head scarf. Her dressing-gown is thrown back
from her shoulders to her chair. She is in corset, knickers, and silk

BURGE-LUBIN [_horrified_] I beg your pardon a thousand times - [_The
startled negress snatches the peg out of her switchboard and vanishes_].


BURGE-LUBIN. Me. The President. Burge-Lubin. I had no idea your bedroom
switch was in. I beg your pardon.

_The negress reappears. She has pulled the dressing-gown perfunctorily
over her shoulders, and continues her experiments with the scarf, not at
all put out, and rather amused by Surge's prudery._

THE NEGRESS. Stupid of me. I was talking to another lady this morning;

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