know now that it took me a whole century to grow up. I began my serious
life when I was a hundred and twenty. Asiatics cannot control me: I am
not a child in their hands, as you are, Mr President. Neither, I am
sure, is the Archbishop. They respect me. You are not grown up enough
even for that, though you were kind enough to say that I frighten you.
BURGE-LUBIN. Honestly, you do. And will you think me very rude if I
say that if I must choose between a white woman old enough to be my
great-grandmother and a black woman of my own age, I shall probably find
the black woman more sympathetic?
MRS LUTESTRING. And more attractive in color, perhaps?
BURGE-LUBIN. Yes. Since you ask me, more - well, not more attractive:
I do not deny that you have an excellent appearance - but I will say,
richer. More Venetian. Tropical. 'The shadowed livery of the burnished
MRS LUTESTRING. Our women, and their favorite story writers, begin
already to talk about men with golden complexions.
CONFUCIUS [_expanding into a smile all across both face and body_]
BURGE-LUBIN. Well, what of it, madam? Have you read a very interesting
book by the librarian of the Biological Society suggesting that the
future of the world lies with the Mulatto?
MRS LUTESTRING [_rising_] Mr Archbishop: if the white race is to be
saved, our destiny is apparent.
THE ARCHBISHOP. Yes: our duty is pretty clear.
MRS LUTESTRING. Have you time to come home with me and discuss the
THE ARCHBISHOP [_rising_] With pleasure.
BARNABAS [_rising also and rushing past Mrs Lutestring to the door,
where he turns to bar her way_] No you don't. Burge: you understand,
BURGE-LUBIN. No. What is it?
BARNABAS. These two are going to marry.
BURGE-LUBIN. Why shouldn't they, if they want to?
BARNABAS. They don't want to. They will do it in cold blood because
their children will live three hundred years. It mustnt be allowed.
CONFUCIUS. You cannot prevent it. There is no law that gives you power
to interfere with them.
BARNABAS. If they force me to it I will obtain legislation against
marriages above the age of seventy-eight.
THE ARCHBISHOP. There is not time for that before we are married, Mr
Accountant General. Be good enough to get out of the lady's way.
BARNABAS. There is time to send the lady to the lethal chamber before
anything comes of your marriage. Dont forget that.
MRS LUTESTRING. What nonsense, Mr Accountant General! Good afternoon,
Mr President. Good afternoon, Mr Chief Secretary. [_They rise and
acknowledge her salutation with bows. She walks straight at the
Accountant General, who instinctively shrinks out of her way as she
leaves the room_].
THE ARCHBISHOP. I am surprised at you, Mr Barnabas. Your tone was like
an echo from the Dark Ages. [_He follows the Domestic Minister_].
_Confucius, shaking his head and clucking with his tongue in deprecation
of this painful episode, moves to the chair just vacated by the
Archbishop and stands behind it with folded palms, looking at the
President. The Accountant General shakes his fist after the departed
visitors, and bursts into savage abuse of them._
BARNABAS. Thieves! Cursed thieves! Vampires! What are you going to do,
BARNABAS. Yes, do. There must be dozens of these people in existence.
Are you going to let them do what the two who have just left us mean to
do, and crowd us off the face of the earth?
BURGE-LUBIN [_sitting down_] Oh, come, Barnabas! What harm are they
doing? Arnt you interested in them? Dont you like them?
BARNABAS. Like them! I hate them. They are monsters, unnatural monsters.
They are poison to me.
BURGE-LUBIN. What possible objection can there be to their living as
long as they can? It does not shorten our lives, does it?
BARNABAS. If I have to die when I am seventy-eight, I don't see
why another man should be privileged to live to be two hundred and
seventy-eight. It does shorten my life, relatively. It makes us
ridiculous. If they grew to be twelve feet high they would make us all
dwarfs. They talked to us as if we were children. There is no love lost
between us: their hatred of us came out soon enough. You heard what the
woman said, and how the Archbishop backed her up?
BURGE-LUBIN. But what can we do to them?
BARNABAS. Kill them.
BARNABAS. Lock them up. Sterilize them somehow, anyhow.
BURGE-LUBIN. But what reason could we give?
BARNABAS. What reason can you give for killing a snake? Nature tells you
to do it.
BURGE-LUBIN. My dear Barnabas, you are out of your mind.
BARNABAS. Havnt you said that once too often already this morning?
BURGE-LUBIN. I don't believe you will carry a single soul with you.
BARNABAS. I understand. I know you. You think you are one of them.
CONFUCIUS. Mr Accountant General: you may be one of them.
BARNABAS. How dare you accuse me of such a thing? I am an honest man,
not a monster. I won my place in public life by demonstrating that the
true expectation of human life is seventy-eight point six. And I will
resist any attempt to alter or upset it to the last drop of my blood if
BURGE-LUBIN. Oh, tut tut! Come, come! Pull yourself together. How can
you, a descendant of the great Conrad Barnabas, the man who is still
remembered by his masterly Biography of a Black Beetle, be so absurd?
BARNABAS. You had better go and write the autobiography of a jackass. I
am going to raise the country against this horror, and against you, if
you shew the slightest sign of weakness about it.
CONFUCIUS [_very impressively_] You will regret it if you do.
BARNABAS. What is to make me regret it?
CONFUCIUS. Every mortal man and woman in the community will begin to
count on living for three centuries. Things will happen which you do not
foresee: terrible things. The family will dissolve: parents and children
will be no longer the old and the young: brothers and sisters will meet
as strangers after a hundred years separation: the ties of blood will
lose their innocence. The imaginations of men, let loose over the
possibilities of three centuries of life, will drive them mad and wreck
human society. This discovery must be kept a dead secret. [_He sits
BARNABAS. And if I refuse to keep the secret?
CONFUCIUS. I shall have you safe in a lunatic asylum the day after you
BARNABAS. You forget that I can produce the Archbishop to prove my
CONFUCIUS. So can I. Which of us do you think he will support when I
explain to him that your object in revealing his age is to get him
BARNABAS [_desperate_] Burge: are you going to back up this yellow
abomination against me? Are we public men and members of the Government?
or are we damned blackguards?
CONFUCIUS [_unmoved_] Have you ever known a public man who was not what
vituperative people called a damned blackguard when some inconsiderate
person wanted to tell the public more than was good for it?
BARNABAS. Hold your tongue, you insolent heathen. Burge: I spoke to you.
BURGE-LUBIN. Well, you know, my dear Barnabas, Confucius is a very
long-headed chap. I see his point.
BARNABAS. Do you? Then let me tell you that, except officially, I will
never speak to you again. Do you hear?
BURGE-LUBIN [_cheerfully_] You will. You will.
BARNABAS. And don't you ever dare speak to me again. Do you hear? [_He
turns to the door_].
BURGE-LUBIN. I will. I will. Goodbye, Barnabas. God bless you.
BARNABAS. May you live forever, and be the laughingstock of the whole
world! [_he dashes out in a fury_].
BURGE-LUBIN [_laughing indulgently_] He will keep the secret all right.
I know Barnabas. You neednt worry.
CONFUCIUS [_troubled and grave_] There are no secrets except the secrets
that keep themselves. Consider. There are those films at the Record
Office. We have no power to prevent the Master of the Records from
publishing this discovery made in his department. We cannot silence the
American - who can silence an American? - nor the people who were there
today to receive him. Fortunately, a film can prove nothing but a
BURGE-LUBIN. Thats very true. After all, the whole thing is confounded
nonsense, isnt it?
CONFUCIUS [_raising his head to look at him_] You have decided not to
believe it now that you realize its inconveniences. That is the English
method. It may not work in this case.
BURGE-LUBIN. English be hanged! It's common sense. You know, those two
people got us hypnotized: not a doubt of it. They must have been kidding
us. They were, werent they?
CONFUCIUS. You looked into that woman's face; and you believed.
BURGE-LUBIN. Just so. Thats where she had me. I shouldn't have believed
her a bit if she'd turned her back to me.
CONFUCIUS [_shakes his head slowly and repeatedly_]???
BURGE-LUBIN. You really think - ? [_he hesitates_].
CONFUCIUS. The Archbishop has always been a puzzle to me. Ever since
I learnt to distinguish between one English face and another I have
noticed what the woman pointed out: that the English face is not an
adult face, just as the English mind is not an adult mind.
BURGE-LUBIN. Stow it, John Chinaman. If ever there was a race divinely
appointed to take charge of the non-adult races and guide them and train
them and keep them out of mischief until they grow up to be capable of
adopting our institutions, that race is the English race. It is the only
race in the world that has that characteristic. Now!
CONFUCIUS. That is the fancy of a child nursing a doll. But it is ten
times more childish of you to dispute the highest compliment ever paid
BURGE-LUBIN. You call it a compliment to class us as grown-up children.
CONFUCIUS. Not grown-up children, children at fifty, sixty, seventy.
Your maturity is so late that you never attain to it. You have to be
governed by races which are mature at forty. That means that you are
potentially the most highly developed race on earth, and would be
actually the greatest if you could live long enough to attain to
BURGE-LUBIN [_grasping the idea at last_] By George, Confucius, youre
right! I never thought of that. That explains everything. We are just
a lot of schoolboys: theres no denying it. Talk to an Englishman about
anything serious, and he listens to you curiously for a moment just as
he listens to a chap playing classical music. Then he goes back to
his marine golf, or motoring, or flying, or women, just like a bit of
stretched elastic when you let it go. [_Soaring to the height of his
theme_] Oh, youre quite right. We are only in our infancy. I ought to
be in a perambulator, with a nurse shoving me along. It's true: it's
absolutely true. But some day we'll grow up; and then, by Jingo, we'll
CONFUCIUS. The Archbishop is an adult. When I was a child I was
dominated and intimidated by people whom I now know to have been weaker
and sillier than I, because there was some mysterious quality in their
mere age that overawed me. I confess that, though I have kept up
appearances, I have always been afraid of the Archbishop.
BURGE-LUBIN. Between ourselves, Confucius, so have I.
CONFUCIUS. It is this that convinced me. It was this in the woman's face
that convinced you. Their new departure in the history of the race is no
fraud. It does not even surprise me.
BURGE-LUBIN. Oh, come! Not surprise you! It's your pose never to be
surprised at anything; but if you are not surprised at this you are not
CONFUCIUS. I am staggered, just as a man may be staggered by an
explosion for which he has himself laid the charge and lighted the fuse.
But I am not surprised, because, as a philosopher and a student of
evolutionary biology, I have come to regard some such development as
this as inevitable. If I had not thus prepared myself to be credulous,
no mere evidence of films and well-told tales would have persuaded me to
believe. As it is, I do believe.
BURGE-LUBIN. Well, that being settled, what the devil is to happen next?
Whats the next move for us?
CONFUCIUS. We do not make the next move. The next move will be made by
the Archbishop and the woman.
BURGE-LUBIN. Their marriage?
CONFUCIUS. More than that. They have made the momentous discovery that
they are not alone in the world.
BURGE-LUBIN. You think there are others?
CONFUCIUS. There must be many others. Each of them believes that he or
she is the only one to whom the miracle has happened. But the Archbishop
knows better now. He will advertise in terms which only the longlived
people will understand. He will bring them together and organize them.
They will hasten from all parts of the earth. They will become a great
BURGE-LUBIN [_a little alarmed_] I say, will they? I suppose they will.
I wonder is Barnabas right after all? Ought we to allow it?
CONFUCIUS. Nothing that we can do will stop it. We cannot in our souls
really want to stop it: the vital force that has produced this change
would paralyse our opposition to it, if we were mad enough to oppose.
But we will not oppose. You and I may be of the elect, too.
BURGE-LUBIN. Yes: thats what gets us every time. What the deuce ought we
to do? Something must be done about it, you know.
CONFUCIUS. Let us sit still, and meditate in silence on the vistas
BURGE-LUBIN. By George, I believe youre right. Let us.
_They sit meditating, the Chinaman naturally, the President with visible
effort and intensity. He is positively glaring into the future when the
voice of the Negress is heard._
THE NEGRESS. Mr President.
BURGE-LUBIN [_joyfully_] Yes. [_Taking up a peg_] Are you at home?
THE NEGRESS. No. Omega, zero, x squared.
_The President rapidly puts the peg in the switchboard; works the dial;
and presses the button. The screen becomes transparent; and the Negress,
brilliantly dressed, appears on what looks like the bridge of a steam
yacht in glorious sea weather. The installation with which she is
communicating is beside the binnacle._
CONFUCIUS [_looking round, and recoiling with a shriek of disgust_] Ach!
Avaunt! Avaunt! [_He rushes from the room_].
BURGE-LUBIN. What part of the coast is that?
THE NEGRESS. Fishguard Bay. Why not run over and join me for the
afternoon? I am disposed to be approachable at last.
BURGE-LUBIN. But Fishguard! Two hundred and seventy miles!
THE NEGRESS. There is a lightning express on the Irish Air Service at
half-past sixteen. They will drop you by a parachute in the bay. The
dip will do you good. I will pick you up and dry you and give you a
BURGE-LUBIN. Delightful. But a little risky, isnt it?
THE NEGRESS. Risky! I thought you were afraid of nothing.
BURGE-LUBIN. I am not exactly afraid; but -
THE NEGRESS [_offended_] But you think it is not good enough. Very well
[_she raises her hand to take the peg out of her switchboard_].
BURGE-LUBIN [_imploringly_] No: stop: let me explain: hold the line just
one moment. Oh, please.
THE NEGRESS [_waiting with her hand poised over the peg_] Well?
BURGE-LUBIN. The fact is, I have been behaving very recklessly for some
time past under the impression that my life would be so short that
it was not worth bothering about. But I have just learnt that I may
live - well, much longer than I expected. I am sure your good sense will
tell you that this alters the case. I -
THE NEGRESS [_with suppressed rage_] Oh, quite. Pray don't risk your
precious, life on my account. Sorry for troubling you. Goodbye. [_She
snatches out her peg and vanishes_].
BURGE-LUBIN [_urgently_] No: please hold on. I can convince you - [_a
loud buzz-uzz-uzz_]. Engaged! Who is she calling up now? [_Represses the
button and calls_] The Chief Secretary. Say I want to see him again,
just for a moment.
CONFUCIUS'S VOICE. Is the woman gone?
BURGE-LUBIN. Yes, yes: it's all right. Just a moment, if - [_Confucius
returns_] Confucius: I have some important business at Fishguard. The
Irish Air Service can drop me in the bay by parachute. I suppose it's
quite safe, isnt it?
CONFUCIUS. Nothing is quite safe. The air service is as safe as any
other travelling service. The parachute is safe. But the water is not
BURGE-LUBIN. Why? They will give me an unsinkable tunic, wont they?
CONFUCIUS. You will not sink; but the sea is very cold. You may get
rheumatism for life.
BURGE-LUBIN. For life! That settles it: I wont risk it.
CONFUCIUS. Good. You have at last become prudent: you are no longer what
you call a sportsman: you are a sensible coward, almost a grown-up man.
I congratulate you.
BURGE-LUBIN [_resolutely_] Coward or no coward, I will not face an
eternity of rheumatism for any woman that ever was born. [_He rises and
goes to the rack for his fillet_] I have changed my mind: I am going
home. [_He cocks the fillet rakishly_] Good evening.
CONFUCIUS. So early? If the Minister of Health rings you up, what shall
I tell her?
BURGE-LUBIN. Tell her to go to the devil. [_He goes out_].
CONFUCIUS [_shaking his head, shocked at the President's impoliteness_]
No. No, no, no, no, no. Oh, these English! these crude young
civilizations! Their manners! Hogs. Hogs.
Tragedy of an Elderly Gentleman
_Burrin pier on the south shore of Galway Bay in Ireland, a region of
stone-capped hills and granite fields. It is a fine summer day in the
year 3000 A.D. On an ancient stone stump, about three feet thick and
three feet high, used for securing ships by ropes to the shore, and
called a bollard or holdfast, an elderly gentleman sits facing the land
with his head bowed and his face in his hands, sobbing. His sunburnt
skin contrasts with his white whiskers and eyebrows. He wears a black
frock-coat, a white waistcoat, lavender trousers, a brilliant silk
cravat with a jewelled pin stuck in it, a tall hat of grey felt, and
patent leather boots with white spats. His starched linen cuffs protrude
from his coat sleeves; and his collar, also of starched white linen, is
Gladstonian. On his right, three or four full sacks, lying side by side
on the flags, suggest that the pier, unlike many remote Irish piers,
is occasionally useful as well as romantic. On his left, behind him, a
flight of stone steps descends out of sight to the sea level.
A woman in a silk tunic and sandals, wearing little else except a cap
with the number 2 on it in gold, comes up the steps from the sea, and
stares in astonishment at the sobbing man. Her age cannot be guessed:
her face is firm and chiselled like a young face; but her expression is
unyouthful in its severity and determination._
THE WOMAN. What is the matter?
_The elderly gentleman looks up; hastily pulls himself together; takes
out a silk handkerchief and dries his tears lightly with a brave attempt
to smile through them; and tries to rise gallantly, but sinks back._
THE WOMAN. Do you need assistance?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. No. Thank you very much. No. Nothing. The heat.
[_He punctuates with sniffs, and dabs with his handkerchief at his eyes
and nose._] Hay fever.
THE WOMAN. You are a foreigner, are you not?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. No. You must not regard me as a foreigner. I am a
THE WOMAN. You come from some part of the British Commonwealth?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_amiably pompous_] From its capital, madam.
THE WOMAN. From Baghdad?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. Yes. You may not be aware, madam, that these
islands were once the centre of the British Commonwealth, during a
period now known as The Exile. They were its headquarters a thousand
years ago. Few people know this interesting circumstance now; but I
assure you it is true. I have come here on a pious pilgrimage to one of
the numerous lands of my fathers. We are of the same stock, you and I.
Blood is thicker than water. We are cousins.
THE WOMAN. I do not understand. You say you have come here on a pious
pilgrimage. Is that some new means of transport?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_again shewing signs of distress_] I find it
very difficult to make myself understood here. I was not referring to a
machine, but to a - a - a sentimental journey.
THE WOMAN. I am afraid I am as much in the dark as before. You said also
that blood is thicker than water. No doubt it is; but what of it?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. Its meaning is obvious.
THE WOMAN. Perfectly. But I assure you I am quite aware that blood is
thicker than water.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_sniffing: almost in tears again_] We will leave
it at that, madam.
THE WOMAN [going _nearer to him and scrutinizing him with some concern_]
I am afraid you are not well. Were you not warned that it is dangerous
for shortlived people to come to this country? There is a deadly disease
called discouragement, against which shortlived people have to take very
strict precautions. Intercourse with us puts too great a strain on them.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_pulling himself together huffily_] It has no
effect on me, madam. I fear my conversation does not interest you. If
not, the remedy is in your own hands.
THE WOMAN [_looking at her hands, and then looking inquiringly at him_]
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_breaking down_] Oh, this is dreadful. No
understanding, no intelligence, no sympathy - [_his sobs choke him_].
THE WOMAN. You see, you are ill.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_nerved by indignation_] I am not ill. I have
never had a day's illness in my life.
THE WOMAN. May I advise you?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. I have no need of a lady doctor, thank you,
THE WOMAN [_shaking her head_] I am afraid I do not understand. I said
nothing about a butterfly.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. Well, _I_ said nothing about a butterfly.
THE WOMAN. You spoke of a lady doctor. The word is known here only as
the name of a butterfly.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_insanely_] I give up. I can bear this no longer.
It is easier to go out of my mind at once. [_He rises and dances about,
I'd be a butterfly, born in a bower,
Making apple dumplings without any flour.
THE WOMAN [_smiling gravely_] It must be at least a hundred and fifty
years since I last laughed. But if you do that any more I shall
certainly break out like a primary of sixty. Your dress is so
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_halting abruptly in his antics_] My dress
ridiculous! I may not be dressed like a Foreign Office clerk; but
my clothes are perfectly in fashion in my native metropolis, where
yours - pardon my saying so - would be considered extremely unusual and
THE WOMAN. Decent? There is no such word in our language. What does it
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. It would not be decent for me to explain. Decency
cannot be discussed without indecency.
THE WOMAN. I cannot understand you at all. I fear you have not been
observing the rules laid down for shortlived visitors.
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. Surely, madam, they do not apply to persons of my
age and standing. I am not a child, nor an agricultural laborer.
THE WOMAN [_severely_] They apply to you very strictly. You are expected
to confine yourself to the society of children under sixty. You
are absolutely forbidden to approach fully adult natives under any
circumstances. You cannot converse with persons of my age for long
without bringing on a dangerous attack of discouragement. Do you realize
that you are already shewing grave symptoms of that very distressing and
usually fatal complaint?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. Certainly not, madam. I am fortunately in no
danger of contracting it. I am quite accustomed to converse intimately
and at the greatest length with the most distinguished persons. If you
cannot discriminate between hay fever and imbecility, I can only say
that your advanced years carry with them the inevitable penalty of
THE WOMAN. I am one of the guardians of this district; and I am
responsible for your welfare -
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. The Guardians! Do you take me for a pauper?
THE WOMAN. I do not know what a pauper is. You must tell me who you are,
if it is possible for you to express yourself intelligibly -
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_snorts indignantly_]!
THE WOMAN [_continuing_] - and why you are wandering here alone without a
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN [_outraged_] Nurse!
THE WOMAN. Shortlived visitors are not allowed to go about here without
nurses. Do you not know that rules are meant to be kept?
THE ELDERLY GENTLEMAN. By the lower classes, no doubt. But to persons
in my position there are certain courtesies which are never denied by
well-bred people; and -
THE WOMAN. There are only two human classes here: the shortlived and