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´╗┐Title: Press Cuttings
Author: Shaw, Bernard, 1856-1950
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Press Cuttings" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



PRESS CUTTINGS

Bernard Shaw

1913



TRANSCRIBER'S NOTE: The edition from which this etext was taken lacks
contractions, so it reads dont for don't and Ill for I'll, for example.
The play has been reproduced exactly as printed.



The forenoon of the first of April, 1911.

General Mitchener is at his writing table in the War Office, opening
letters. On his left is the fireplace, with a fire burning. On his
right, against the opposite wall is a standing desk with an office
stool. The door is in the wall behind him, half way between the table
and the desk. The table is not quite in the middle of the room: it is
nearer to the hearthrug than to the desk. There is a chair at each end
of it for persons having business with the general. There is a telephone
on the table. Long silence.

A VOICE OUTSIDE. Votes for Women!

The General starts convulsively; snatches a revolver from a drawer,
and listens in an agony of apprehension. Nothing happens. He puts the
revolver back, ashamed; wipes his brow; and resumes his work. He
is startled afresh by the entry of an Orderly. This Orderly is an
unsoldierly, slovenly, discontented young man.

MITCHENER. Oh, it's only you. Well?

THE ORDERLY. Another one, sir. Shes chained herself.

MITCHENER. Chained herself? How? To what? Weve taken away the railings
and everything that a chain can be passed through.

THE ORDERLY. We forgot the doorscraper, sir. She laid down on the flags
and got the chain through before she started hollerin. Shes lying there
now; and she says that youve got the key of the padlock in a letter in a
buff envelope, and that you will see her when you open it.

MITCHENER. Shes mad. Have the scraper dug up and let her go home with it
hanging round her neck.

THE ORDERLY. Theres a buff envelope there, sir.

MITCHENER. Youre all afraid of these women (picking the letter up). It
does seem to have a key in it. (He opens the letter, and takes out a key
and a note.) "Dear Mitch"--Well, I'm dashed!

THE ORDERLY. Yes Sir.

MITCHENER. What do you mean by Yes Sir?

THE ORDERLY. Well, you said you was dashed, Sir; and you did look if
youll excuse my saying it, Sir--well, you looked it.

MITCHENER (who has been reading the letter, and is too astonished to
attend to the Orderlys reply). This is a letter from the Prime Minister
asking me to release the woman with this key if she padlocks herself,
and to have her shown up and see her at once.

THE ORDERLY (tremulously). Dont do it, governor.

MITCHENER (angrily). How often have I ordered you not to address me as
governor. Remember that you are a soldier and not a vulgar civilian.
Remember also that when a man enters the army he leaves fear behind him.
Heres the key. Unlock her and show her up.

THE ORDERLY. Me unlock her! I dursent. Lord knows what she'd do to me.

MITCHENER (pepperily, rising). Obey your orders instantly, Sir, and dont
presume to argue. Even if she kills you, it is your duty to die for your
country. Right about face. March. (The Orderly goes out, trembling.)

THE VOICE OUTSIDE. Votes for Women! Votes for Women! Votes for Women!

MITCHENER (mimicking her). Votes for Women! Votes for Women! Votes for
Women! (in his natural voice) Votes for children! Votes for babies!
Votes for monkeys! (He posts himself on the hearthrug, and awaits the
enemy.)

THE ORDERLY (outside). In you go. (He pushes a panting Suffraget into
the room.) The person sir. (He withdraws.)

The Suffraget takes off her tailor made skirt and reveals a pair of
fashionable trousers.

MITCHENER (horrified). Stop, madam. What are you doing? You must not
undress in my presence. I protest. Not even your letter from the Prime
Minister--

THE SUFFRAGET. My dear Mitchener: I AM the Prime Minister. (He tears off
his hat and cloak; throws them on the desk; and confronts the General in
the ordinary costume of a Cabinet minister.)

MITCHENER. Good heavens! Balsquith!

BALSQUITH (throwing himself into Mitchener's chair). Yes: it is indeed
Balsquith. It has come to this: that the only way that the Prime
Minister of England can get from Downing Street to the War Office is
by assuming this disguise; shrieking "VOTES for Women"; and chaining
himself to your doorscraper. They were at the corner in force. They
cheered me. Bellachristina herself was there. She shook my hand and told
me to say I was a vegetarian, as the diet was better in Holloway for
vegetarians.

MITCHENER. Why didnt you telephone?

BALSQUITH. They tap the telephone. Every switchboard in London is in
their hands or in those of their young men.

MITCHENER. Where on Earth did you get that dress?

BALSQUITH. I stole it from a little Exhibition got up by my wife in
Downing Street.

MITCHENER. You dont mean to say its a French dress?

BALSQUITH. Great Heavens, no. My wife isnt allowed even to put on her
gloves with French chalk. Everything labelled Made in Camberwell. She
advised me to come to you. And what I have to say must be said here to
you personally, in the most intimate confidence, with the most urgent
persuasion. Mitchener: Sandstone has resigned.

MITCHENER (amazed). Old Red resigned!

BALSQUITH. Resigned.

MITCHENER. But how? Why? Oh, impossible! the proclamation of martial law
last Tuesday made Sandstone virtually Dictator in the metropolis, and to
resign now is flat desertion.

BALSQUITH. Yes, yes, my dear Mitchener; I know all that as well as you
do: I argued with him until I was black in the face and he so red
about the neck that if I had gone on he would have burst. He is furious
because we have abandoned his plan.

MITCHENER. But you accepted it unconditionally.

BALSQUITH. Yes, before we knew what it was. It was unworkable, you know.

MITCHENER. I dont know. Why is it unworkable?

BALSQUITH. I mean the part about drawing a cordon round Westminster at a
distance of two miles; and turning all women out of it.

MITCHENER. A masterpiece of strategy. Let me explain. The Suffragets are
a very small body; but they are numerous enough to be troublesome--even
dangerous--when they are all concentrated in one place--say in
Parliament Square. But by making a two-mile radius and pushing them
beyond it, you scatter their attack over a circular line twelve miles
long. A superb piece of tactics. Just what Wellington would have done.

BALSQUITH. But the women wont go.

MITCHENER. Nonsense: they must go.

BALSQUITH. They wont.

MITCHENER. What does Sandstone say?

BALSQUITH. He says: Shoot them down.

MITCHENER. Of course.

BALSQUITH. Youre not serious?

MITCHENER. Im perfectly serious.

BALSQUITH. But you cant shoot them down! Women, you know!

MITCHENER (straddling confidently). Yes you can. Strange as it may seem
to you as a civilian, Balsquith, if you point a rifle at a woman and
fire it, she will drop exactly as a man drops.

BALSQUITH. But suppose your own daughters--Helen and Georgina.

MITCHENER. My daughters would not dream of disobeying the proclamation.
(As an after thought.) At least Helen wouldnt.

BALSQUITH. But Georgina?

MITCHENER. Georgina would if she knew shed be shot if she didnt. Thats
how the thing would work. Military methods are really the most merciful
in the end. You keep sending these misguided women to Holloway and
killing them slowly and inhumanely by ruining their health; and it does
no good: they go on worse than ever. Shoot a few, promptly and humanely;
and there will be an end at once of all resistance and of all the
suffering that resistance entails.

BALSQUITH. But public opinion would never stand it.

MITCHENER (walking about and laying down the law). Theres no such thing
as public opinion.

BALSQUITH. No such thing as public opinion!!

MITCHENER. Absolutely no such thing as public opinion. There are certain
persons who entertain certain opinions. Well, shoot them down. When you
have shot them down, there are no longer any persons entertaining those
opinions alive: consequently there is no longer any more of the public
opinion you are so much afraid of. Grasp that fact, my dear Balsquith;
and you have grasped the secret of government. Public opinion is mind.
Mind is inseparable from matter. Shoot down the matter and you kill the
mind.

BALSQUITH. But hang it all--

MITCHENER (intolerantly). No I wont hang it all. It's no use coming
to me and talking about public opinion. You have put yourself into the
hands of the army; and you are committed to military methods. And the
basis of all military methods is that when people wont do what they are
told to do, you shoot them down.

BALSQUITH. Oh, yes; it's all jolly fine for you and Old Red. You dont
depend on votes for your places. What do you suppose will happen at the
next election?

MITCHENER. Have no next election. Bring in a Bill at once repealing
all the reform Acts and vesting the Government in a properly trained
magistracy responsible only to a Council of War. It answers perfectly in
India. If anyone objects, shoot him down.

BALSQUITH. But none of the members of my party would be on the Council
of War. Neither should I. Do you expect us to vote for making ourselves
nobodies?

MITCHENER. You'll have to, sooner or later, or the Socialists will make
nobodies of the lot of you by collaring every penny you possess. Do you
suppose this damned democracy can be allowed to go on now that the mob
is beginning to take it seriously and using its power to lay hands on
property? Parliament must abolish itself. The Irish parliament voted for
its own extinction. The English parliament will do the same if the same
means are taken to persuade it.

BALSQUITH. That would cost a lot of money.

MITCHENER. Not money necessarily. Bribe them with titles.

BALSQUITH. Do you think we dare?

MITCHENER (scornfully). Dare! Dare! What is life but daring, man? "To
dare, to dare, and again to dare"--

WOMAN'S VOICE OUTSIDE. Votes for Women!

Mitchener, revolver in hand, rushes to the door and locks it. Balsquith
hides under the table.

A shot is heard.

BALSQUITH (emerging in the greatest alarm). Good heavens, you havent
given orders to fire on them have you?

MITCHENER. No; but its a sentinel's duty to fire on anyone who persists
in attempting to pass without giving the word.

BALSQUITH (wiping his brow). This military business is really awful.

MITCHENER. Be calm, Balsquith. These things must happen; they save
bloodshed in the long run, believe me. Ive seen plenty of it; and I
know.

BALSQUITH. I havent; and I dont know. I wish those guns didnt make such
a devil of a noise. We must adopt Maxim's Silencer for the army rifles
if we are going to shoot women. I really couldnt stand hearing it.

Some one outside tries to open the door and then knocks.

MITCHENER and BALSQUITH. Whats that?

MITCHENER. Whos there?

THE ORDERLY. It's only me, governor. Its all right.

MITCHENER (unlocking the door and admitting the Orderly, who comes
between them). What was it?

THE ORDERLY. Suffraget, Sir.

BALSQUITH. Did the sentry shoot her?

THE ORDERLY. No, Sir: she shot the sentry.

BALSQUITH (relieved). Oh: is that all?

MITCHENER (most indignantly). All? A civilian shoots down one of His
Majesty's soldiers on duty; and the Prime Minister of England asks Is
that all? Have you no regard for the sanctity of human life?

BALSQUITH (much relieved). Well, getting shot is what a soldier is for.
Besides, he doesnt vote.

MITCHENER. Neither do the Suffragets.

BALSQUITH. Their husbands do. (To the Orderly.) By the way, did she kill
him?

THE ORDERLY. No, Sir. He got a stinger on his trousers, Sir; but it
didnt penetrate. He lost his temper a bit and put down his gun and
clouted her head for her. So she said he was no gentleman; and we let
her go, thinking she'd had enough, Sir.

MITCHENER (groaning). Clouted her head! These women are making the
army as lawless as themselves. Clouted her head indeed! A purely civil
procedure.

THE ORDERLY. Any orders, Sir?

MITCHENER. No. Yes. No. Yes: send everybody who took part in this
disgraceful scene to the guardroom. No. Ill address the men on the
subject after lunch. Parade them for that purpose--full kit. Don't grin
at me, Sir. Right about face. March. (The Orderly obeys and goes out.)

BALSQUITH (taking Mitchener affectionately by the arm and walking him
persuasively to and fro). And now, Mitchener, will you come to the
rescue of the Government and take the command that Old Red has thrown
up?

MITCHENER. How can I? You know that the people are devoted heart and
soul to Sandstone. He is only bringing you "on the knee," as we say in
the army. Could any other living man have persuaded the British nation
to accept universal compulsory military service as he did last year?
Why, even the Church refused exemption. He is supreme--omnipotent.

BALSQUITH. He WAS, a year ago. But ever since your book of reminiscences
went into two more editions than his, and the rush for it led to the
wrecking of the Times Book Club, you have become to all intents and
purposes his senior. He lost ground by saying that the wrecking was got
up by the booksellers. It showed jealousy: and the public felt it.

MITCHENER. But I cracked him up in my book--you see I could do no less
after the handsome way he cracked me up in his--and I cant go back on it
now. (Breaking loose from Balsquith.) No: its no use, Balsquith: he can
dictate his terms to you.

BALSQUITH. Not a bit of it. That affair of the curate--

MITCHENER (impatiently). Oh, damn that curate. Ive heard of nothing but
that wretched mutineer for a fortnight past. He is not a curate: whilst
he is serving in the army he is a private soldier and nothing else. I
really havent time to discuss him further. Im busy. Good morning. (He
sits down at his table and takes up his letters.)

BALSQUITH (near the door). I am sorry you take that tone, Mitchener.
Since you do take it, let me tell you frankly that I think Lieutenant
Chubbs-Jenkinson showed a great want of consideration for the Government
in giving an unreasonable and unpopular order, and bringing compulsory
military service into disrepute. When the leader of the Labor Party
appealed to me and to the House last year not to throw away all the
liberties of Englishmen by accepting universal Compulsory military
service without insisting on full civil rights for the soldier--

MITCHENER. Rot.

BALSQUITH. --I said that no British officer would be capable of abusing
the authority with which it was absolutely necessary to invest him.

MITCHENER. Quite right.

BALSQUITH. That carried the House and carried the country--

MITCHENER. Naturally.

BALSQUITH. --And the feeling was that the Labor Party were soulless
cads.

MITCHENER. So they are.

BALSQUITH. And now comes this unmannerly young whelp Chubbs-Jenkinson,
the only son of what they call a soda king, and orders a curate to lick
his boots. And when the curate punches his head, you first sentence him
to be shot; and then make a great show of clemency by commuting it to a
flogging. What did you expect the curate to do?

MITCHENER (throwing down his pen and his letters and jumping up to
confront Balsquith). His duty was perfectly simple. He should have
obeyed the order; and then laid his complaint against the officer in
proper form. He would have received the fullest satisfaction.

BALSQUITH. What satisfaction?

MITCHENER. Chubbs-Jenkinson would have been reprimanded. In fact, he
WAS reprimanded. Besides, the man was thoroughly insubordinate. You
cant deny that the very first thing he did when they took him down after
flogging him was to walk up to Chubbs-Jenkinson and break his jaw. That
showed there was no use flogging him; so now he will get two years hard
labor; and serve him right.

BALSQUITH. I bet you a guinea he wont get even a week. I bet you another
that Chubbs-Jenkinson apologizes abjectly. You evidently havent heard
the news.

MITCHENER. What news?

BALSQUITH. It turns out that the curate is well connected. (Mitchener
staggers at the shock. Speechless he contemplates Balsquith with a wild
and ghastly stare; then reels into his chair and buries his face in his
hands over the blotter. Balsquith continues remorselessly, stooping
over him to rub it in.) He has three aunts in the peerage; and Lady
Richmond's one of them; (Mitchener utters a heartrending groan) and
they all adore him. The invitations for six garden parties and fourteen
dances have been cancelled for all the subalterns in Chubbs's regiment.
Is it possible you havent heard of it?

MITCHENER. Not a word.

BALSQUITH (shaking his head). I suppose nobody dared to tell you. (He
sits down carelessly on Mitchener's right.)

MITCHENER. What an infernal young fool Chubbs-Jenkinson is, not to know
the standing of his man better! Why didnt he know? It was his business
to know. He ought to be flogged.

BALSQUITH. Probably he will be, by the other subalterns.

MITCHENER. I hope so. Anyhow, out he goes! Out of the army! He or I.

BALSQUITH. His father has subscribed a million to the party funds. We
owe him a peerage.

MITCHENER. I dont care.

BALSQUITH. I do. How do you think parties are kept up? Not by the
subscriptions of the local associations, I hope. They dont pay for the
gas at the meetings.

MITCHENER. Man; can you not be serious? Here are we, face to face with
Lady Richmond's grave displeasure; and you talk to me about gas and
subscriptions. Her own nephew.

BALSQUITH (gloomily). Its unfortunate. He was at Oxford with Bobby
Bassborough.

MITCHENER. Worse and worse. What shall we do?

Balsquith shakes his head. They contemplate one another in miserable
silence.

A VOICE WITHOUT. Votes for Women! Votes for Women!

A terrific explosion shakes the building--they take no notice.

MITCHENER (breaking down). You dont know what this means to me,
Balsquith. I love the army. I love my country.

BALSQUITH. It certainly is rather awkward.

The Orderly comes in.

MITCHENER (angrily). What is it? How dare you interrupt us like this?

THE ORDERLY. Didnt you hear the explosion, Sir?

MITCHENER. Explosion. What explosion? No: I heard no explosion: I have
something more serious to attend to than explosions. Great Heavens: Lady
Richmond's nephew has been treated like any common laborer; and while
England is reeling under the shock a private comes in and asks me if I
heard an explosion.

BALSQUITH. By the way, what was the explosion?

THE ORDERLY. Only a sort of bombshell, Sir.

BALSQUITH. Bombshell!

THE ORDERLY. A pasteboard one, Sir. Full of papers with Votes for
Women in red letters. Fired into the yard from the roof of the Alliance
Office.

MITCHENER. Pooh! Go away. Go away.

The Orderly, bewildered, goes out.

BALSQUITH. Mitchener: you can save the country yet. Put on your
full-dress uniform and your medals and orders and so forth. Get a guard
of honor--something showy--horse guards or something of that sort; and
call on the old girl--

MITCHENER. The old girl?

BALSQUITH. Well, Lady Richmond. Apologize to her. Ask her leave to
accept the command. Tell her that youve made the curate your adjutant or
your aide-de-camp or whatever is the proper thing. By the way, what can
you make him?

MITCHENER. I might make him my chaplain. I dont see why I shouldnt have
a chaplain on my staff. He showed a very proper spirit in punching that
young cub's head. I should have done the same myself.

BALSQUITH. Then Ive your promise to take command if Lady Richmond
consents?

MITCHENER. On condition that I have a free hand. No nonsense about
public opinion or democracy.

BALSQUITH. As far as possible, I think I may say yes.

MITCHENER (rising intolerantly and going to the hearthrug). That wont do
for me. Dont be weak-kneed, Balsquith. You know perfectly well that the
real government of this country is and always must be the government of
the masses by the classes. You know that democracy is damned nonsense,
and that no class stands less of it than the working class. You know
that we are already discussing the steps that will have to be taken if
the country should ever be face to face with the possibility of a
Labor majority in parliament. You know that in that case we should
disfranchise the mob, and, if they made a fuss, shoot them down. You
know that if we need public opinion to support us, we can get any
quantity of it manufactured in our papers by poor devils of journalists
who will sell their souls for five shillings. You know--

BALSQUITH. Stop. Stop, I say. I dont know. That is the difference
between your job and mine, Mitchener. After twenty years in the army a
man thinks he knows everything. After twenty months in the Cabinet he
knows that he knows nothing.

MITCHENER. We learn from history--

BALSQUITH. We learn from history that men never learn anything from
history. Thats not my own: its Hegel.

MITCHENER. Whos Hegel?

BALSQUITH. Dead. A German philosopher. (He half rises, but recollects
something and sits down again.) Oh confound it: that reminds me. The
Germans have laid down four more Dreadnoughts.

MITCHENER. Then you must lay down twelve.

BALSQUITH. Oh yes: its easy to say that: but think of what theyll cost.

MITCHENER. Think of what it would cost to be invaded by Germany and
forced to pay an indemnity of five hundred millions.

BALSQUITH. But you said that if you got compulsory military service
there would be an end of the danger of invasion.

MITCHENER. On the contrary, my dear fellow, it increases the danger
tenfold, because it increases German jealousy of our military supremacy.

BALSQUITH. After all, why should the Germans invade us?

MITCHENER. Why shouldnt they? What else has their army to do? What else
are they building a navy for?

BALSQUITH. Well, we never think of invading Germany.

MITCHENER. Yes we do. I have thought of nothing else for the last ten
years. Say what you will, Balsquith, the Germans have never recognized,
and until they get a stern lesson, they never WILL recognize, the plain
fact that the interests of the British Empire are paramount, and that
the command of the sea belongs by nature to England.

BALSQUITH. But if they wont recognize it, what can I do?

MITCHENER. Shoot them down.

BALSQUITH. I cant shoot them down.

MITCHENER. Yes you can. You dont realize it; but if you fire a rifle
into a German he drops just as surely as a rabbit does.

BALSQUITH But dash it all, man, a rabbit hasnt got a rifle and a German
has. Suppose he shoots you down.

MITCHENER. Excuse me, Balsquith; but that consideration is what we call
cowardice in the army. A soldier always assumes that he is going to
shoot, not to be shot.

BALSQUITH (jumping up and walking about sulkily). Oh come! I like to
hear you military people talking of cowardice. Why, you spend your lives
in an ecstasy of terror of imaginary invasions. I dont believe you ever
go to bed without looking under it for a burglar.

MITCHENER (calmly). A very sensible precaution, Balsquith. I always take
it. And in consequence Ive never been burgled.

BALSQUITH. Neither have I. Anyhow dont you taunt me with cowardice. (He
posts himself on the hearthrug beside Mitchener on his left.) I never
look under my bed for a burglar. Im not always looking under the
nation's bed for an invader. And if it comes to fighting Im quite
willing to fight without being three to one.

MITCHENER. These are the romantic ravings of a Jingo civilian,
Balsquith. At least youll not deny that the absolute command of the sea
is essential to our security.

BALSQUITH. The absolute command of the sea is essential to the security
of the principality of Monaco. But Monaco isnt going to get it.

MITCHENER. And consequently Monaco enjoys no security. What a frightful
thing! How do the inhabitants sleep with the possibility of invasion,
of bombardment, continually present to their minds? Would you have our
English slumbers broken in the same way? Are we also to live without
security?

BALSQUITH (dogmatically). Yes. Theres no such thing as security in the
world: and there never can be as long as men are mortal. England will be
secure when England is dead, just as the streets of London will be
safe when there is no longer a man in her streets to be run over, or a
vehicle to run over him. When you military chaps ask for security you
are crying for the moon.

MITCHENER (very seriously). Let me tell you, Balsquith, that in these
days of aeroplanes and Zeppelin airships, the question of the moon is
becoming one of the greatest importance. It will be reached at no
very distant date. Can you as an Englishman, tamely contemplate the
possibility of having to live under a German moon? The British flag
must be planted there at all hazards.

BALSQUITH. My dear Mitchener, the moon is outside practical politics. Id
swop it for a cooling station tomorrow with Germany or any other Power
sufficiently military in its way of thinking to attach any importance to
it.

MITCHENER (losing his temper). You are the friend of every country but
your own.

BALSQUITH. Say nobodys enemy but my own. It sounds nicer. You really
neednt be so horribly afraid of the other countries. Theyre all in the
same fix as we are. Im much more interested in the death rate in Lambeth
than in the German fleet.

MITCHENER. You darent say that in Lambeth.

BALSQUITH. Ill say it the day after you publish your scheme for invading
Germany and repealing all the reform Acts.

The Orderly comes in.

MITCHENER. What do you want?

THE ORDERLY. I dont want anything, Governor, thank you. The secretary
and president of the Anti-Suffraget League say they had an appointment
with the Prime Minister, and that theyve been sent on here from Downing
Street.

BALSQUITH (going to the table). Quite right. I forgot them. (To
Mitchener.) Would you mind my seeing them here? I feel extraordinarily
grateful to these women for standing by us and facing the suffragets,
especially as they are naturally the gentler and timid sort of women.
(The Orderly moans.) Did you say anything?

THE ORDERLY. No, Sir.

BALSQUITH. Did you catch their names.

THE ORDERLY. Yes, Sir. The president is Lady Corinthia Fanshawe; and the
secretary is Mrs. Banger.

MITCHENER (abruptly). Mrs. what?

THE ORDERLY. Mrs. Banger.

BALSQUITH. Curious that quiet people always seem to have violent names.

THE ORDERLY. Not much quiet about her, sir.

MITCHENER (outraged). Attention. Speak when youre spoken to. Hold your
tongue when youre not. Right about face. March. (The Orderly obeys.)
Thats the way to keep these chaps up to the mark. (The Orderly returns.)
Back again! What do you mean by this mutiny?

THE ORDERLY. What am I to say to the ladies, sir?

BALSQUITH. You dont mind my seeing them somewhere, do you?

MITCHENER. Not at all. Bring them in to see me when youve done with
them: I understand that Lady Corinthia is a very fascinating woman. Who
is she, by the way?

BALSQUITH. Daughter of Lord Broadstairs, the automatic turbine man. Gave
quarter of a million to the party funds. Shes musical and romantic and
all that--dont hunt: hates politics: stops in town all the year round:
one never sees her anywhere except at the opera and at musical at-homes
and so forth.

MITCHENER. What a life! Still, if she wants to see me I dont mind. (To
the Orderly.) Where are the ladies?

THE ORDERLY. In No. 17, Sir.

MITCHENER. Show Mr. Balsquith there. And send Mrs. Farrell here.

THE ORDERLY (calling into the corridor). Mrs. Farrell! (To Balsquith.)
This way sir. (He goes out with Balsquith.)

Mrs. Farrell, a lean, highly respectable Irish Charwoman of about 50
comes in.

MITCHENER. Mrs. Farrell: Ive a very important visit to pay: I shall want
my full dress uniform and all my medals and orders and my presentation
sword. There was a time when the British Army contained men capable of
discharging these duties for their commanding officer. Those days are
over. The compulsorily enlisted soldier runs to a woman for everything.
Im therefore reluctantly obliged to trouble you.

MRS FARRELL. Your meddles n ordhers n the crooked sword with the ivory
handle n your full dress uniform is in the waxworks in the Chamber o
Military Glory over in the place they used to call the Banquetin Hall.
I told you youd be sorry for sendin them away; n you told me to mind me
own business. Youre wiser now.

MITCHENER. I am. I had not at that time discovered that you were the
only person in the whole military establishment of this capital who
could be trusted to remember where anything was, or to understand an
order and obey it.

MRS. FARRELL. Its no good flattherin me. Im too old.

MITCHENER. Not at all, Mrs. Farrell. How is your daughter?

MRS. FARRELL. Which daughther.

MITCHENER. The one who has made such a gratifying success in the Music
Halls.

MRS. FARRELL. Theres no music halls nowadays: theyre Variety Theatres.
Shes got an offer of marriage from a young jook.

MITCHENER. Is it possible? What did you do?

MRS. FARRELL. I told his mother on him.

MITCHENER. Oh! what did she say?

MRS. FARRELL. She was as pleased as Punch. Thank Heaven, she says, hes
got somebody thatll be able to keep him when the supertax is put up to
twenty shillings in the pound.

MITCHENER. But your daughter herself? What did she say?

MRS. FARRELL. Accepted him, of course. What else would a young fool like
her do? He inthrojooced her to the Poet Laureate, thinking shed inspire
him.

MITCHENER. Did she?

MRS. FARRELL. Faith I dunna. All I know is she walked up to him as bold
as brass n said "Write me a sketch, dear." Afther all the trouble I took
with that chills manners shes no more notion how to behave herself than
a pig. Youll have to wear General Sandstones uniform: its the ony one in
the place, because he wont lend it to the shows.

MITCHENER. But Sandstones clothes wont fit me.

MRS. FARRELL (unmoved). Then youll have to fit THEM. Why shouldnt they
fitcha as well as they fitted General Blake at the Mansion House?

MITCHENER. They didnt fit him. He looked a frightful guy.

MRS. FARRELL. Well, you must do the best you can with them. You cant
exhibit your clothes and wear them too.

MITCHENER. And the public thinks the lot of a commanding officer a happy
one! Oh, if they could only see the seamy side of it. (He returns to his
table to resume work.)

MRS. FARRELL. If they could only see the seamy side of General
Sandstones uniform, where his flask rubs agen the buckle of his braces,
theyll tell him he ought to get a new one. Let alone the way he swears
at me.

MITCHENER. When a man has risked his life on eight battlefields, Mrs.
Farrell, he has given sufficient proof of his self-control to be excused
a little strong language.

MRS. FARRELL. Would you put up with bad language from me because Ive
risked my life eight times in childbed?

MITCHENER. My dear Mrs. Farrell, you surely would not compare a risk of
that harmless domestic kind to the fearful risks of the battlefield?

MRS. FARRELL. I wouldnt compare risks run to bear living people into the
world to risks run to blow them out of it. A mother's risk is jooty: a
soldier's nothin but divilmint.

MITCHENER (nettled). Let me tell you, Mrs. Farrell, that if the men did
not fight, the women would have to fight themselves. We spare you that,
at all events.

MRS. FARRELL. You cant help yourselves. If three-quarters of you was
killed we could replace you with the help of the other quarter. If
three-quarters of us was killed, how many people would there be in
England in another generation? If it wasnt for that, the man d put the
fightin on us just as they put all the other dhrudgery. What would YOU
do if we was all kilt? Would you go to bed and have twins?

MITCHENER. Really, Mrs. Farrell, you must discuss these questions with a
medical man. You make me blush, positively.

MRS. FARRELL. A good job too. If I could have made Farrell blush I
wouldnt have had to risk me life too often. You n your risks n your
bravery n your selfcontrol indeed! "Why don't you conthrol yourself?" I
sez to Farrell. "Its agen me religion," he sez.

MITCHENER (plaintively). Mrs. Farrell, youre a woman of very powerful
mind. Im not qualified to argue these delicate matters with you. I ask
you to spare me, and to be good enough to take these clothes to Mr.
Balsquith when the ladies leave.

The Orderly comes in.

THE ORDERLY. Lady Corinthia Fanshawe and Mrs. Banger wish to see you,
sir. Mr. Balsquith told me to tell you.

MRS. FARRELL. Theyve come about the vote. I dont know whether its them
that want it or them that doesnt want it: anyhow, they're all alike
when they get into a state about it. (She goes out, having gathered
Balsquith's suffraget disguise from the desk.)

MITCHENER. Is Mr. Balsquith not with them?

THE ORDERLY. No, Sir. Couldnt stand Mrs. Banger, I expect. Fair caution
she is. (He chuckles.) Couldnt help larfin when I sor im op it.

MITCHENER. How dare you indulge in this unseemly mirth in the presence
of your commanding officer? Have you no sense of a soldier's duty?

THE ORDERLY (sadly). Im afraid I shant ever get the ang of it, sir. You
see my father has a tidy little barbers business down off Shoreditch;
and I was brought up to be chatty and easy like with everybody. I tell
you, when I drew the number in the conscription it gave my old mother
the needle and it gev me the ump. I should take it very kind, sir, if
youd let me off the drill and let me shave you instead. Youd appreciate
my qualities then: you would indeed sir. I shant never do myself justice
at soljering, sir: I cant bring myself to think of it as proper work
for a man with an active mind, as you might say, sir. Arf of its only
ousemaidin; and the other arf is dress-up and make-believe.

MITCHENER. Stuff, Sir. Its the easiest life in the world. Once you
learn your drill all you have to do is to hold your tongue and obey your
orders.

THE ORDERLY. But I do assure you, sir, arf the time they're the wrong
orders; and I get into trouble when I obey them. The sergeants orders is
all right; but the officers dont know what theyre talkin about. Why the
orses knows better sometimes. "Fours" says Lieutenant Trevor at the
gate of Bucknam Palace only this morning when we was on duty for a State
visit to the Coal Trust. I was fourth man like in the first file;
and when I started the orse eld back; and the sergeant was on to me
straight. Threes, you bally fool, he whispers. And he was on to me again
about it when we came back, and called me a fathead, he did. What am I
to do, I says: the lieutenant's orders was fours, I says. Ill show you
whos lieutenant here, e says. In future you attend to my orders and not
to iz, e says: what does he know about it? You didnt give me any orders,
I says. Couldnt you see for yourself there wasnt room for fours, e says:
why cant you THINK? General Mitchener tells me Im not to think but to
obey orders, I says. Is Mitchener your sergeant or am I, e says in his
bullyin way. You are, I says. Well, he says, youve got to do what your
sergeant tells you: thats discipline, he says. What am I to do for the
General I says. Youre to let im talk, e says: thats what es for.

MITCHENER (groaning). It is impossible for the human mind to conceive
anything more dreadful than this. Youre a disgrace to the service.

THE ORDERLY (deeply wounded). The service is a disgrace to me. When my
mother's people pass me in the street with this uniform on, I ardly know
which way to look. There never was a soldier in my family before.

MITCHENER. There never was anything else in mine, sir.

THE ORDERLY. My mother's second cousin was one of the Parkinsons of
Stepney. (Almost in tears.) What do you know of the feelings of a
respectable family in the middle station of life? I cant bear to be
looked down on as a common soldier. Why cant my father be let buy
my discharge? Youve done away with the soldier's right to have his
discharge bought for him by his relations. The country didnt know you
were going to do that or it would never have stood it. Is an Englishman
to be made a mockery like this?

MITCHENER. Silence. Attention. Right about face. March.

THE ORDERLY (retiring to the standing desk and bedewing it with
passionate tears). Oh that I should have lived to be spoke to as if I
was the lowest of the low. Me! that has shaved a City of London aldermen
wiv me own hand.

MITCHENER. Poltroon. Crybaby. Well, better disgrace yourself here than
disgrace your country on the field of battle.

THE ORDERLY (angrily coming to the table). Whos going to disgrace
his country on the field of battle? Its not fightin I object to: its
soljerin. Show me a German and Ill have a go at him as fast as you or
any man. But to ave me time wasted like this, an be stuck in a sentry
box at a street corner for an ornament to be stared at; and to be told
"right about face: march" if I speak as one man to another: that aint
pluck: that aint fightin: that aint patriotism: its bein made a bloomin
sheep of.

MITCHENER. A sheep has many valuable military qualities. Emulate them:
dont disparage them.

THE ORDERLY. Oh, wots the good of talkin to you? If I wasnt a poor
soldier I could punch your head for forty shillins for a month. But
because youre my commanding officer you deprive me of my right to a
magistrate and make a compliment of giving me two years ard sted of
shootin me. Why cant you take your chance the same as any civilian does?

MITCHENER (rising majestically). I search the pages of history in vain
for a parallel to such a speech made by a Private to a general. But for
the coherence of your remarks I should conclude that you were drunk.
As it is, you must be mad. You shall be placed under restraint at once.
Call the guard.

THE ORDERLY. Call your grandmother. If you take one man off the doors
the place'll be full of Suffragets before you can wink.

MITCHENER. Then arrest yourself; and off with you to the guardroom.

THE ORDERLY. What am I to arrest myself for?

MITCHENER. Thats nothing to you. You have your orders: obey them. Do you
hear? Right about face. March.

THE ORDERLY. How would you feel yourself if you was told to
right-about-face and march as if you was a doormat?

MITCHENER. I should feel as if my country had spoken through the voice
of my officer. I should feel proud and honored to be able to serve
my country by obeying its commands. No thought of self--no vulgar
preoccupation with my own petty vanity could touch my mind at such a
moment. To me my officer would not be a mere man: he would be for the
moment--whatever his personal frailties--the incarnation of our national
destiny.

THE ORDERLY. What Im saying to you is the voice of old England a jolly
sight more than all this rot that you get out of books. Id rather be
spoke to by a sergeant than by you. He tells me to go to hell when
I challenges him to argue it out like a man. It aint polite; but its
English. What you say aint anything at all. You dont act on it yourself.
You dont believe in it. Youd punch my head if I tried it on you; and
serve me right. And look here. Heres another point for you to argue.

MITCHENER (with a shriek of protest). No--

Mrs. Banger comes in, followed by Lady Corinthia Fanshawe.

Mrs. Banger is a masculine woman of forty, with a powerful voice and
great physical strength. Lady Corinthia, who is also over thirty, is
beautiful and romantic.

MRS. BANGER (throwing the door open decisively and marching straight to
Michener). Pray how much longer is the Anti-Suffrage League to be kept
waiting? (She passes him contemptuously and sits down with impressive
confidence in the chair next the fireplace. Lady Corinthia takes the
chair on the opposite side of the table with equal aplomb.)

MITCHENER. Im extremely sorry. You really do not know what I have to put
with. This imbecile, incompetent, unsoldierly disgrace to the uniform
he should never have been allowed to put on, ought to have shown you in
fifteen minutes ago.

THE ORDERLY. All I said was--

MITCHENER. Not another word. Attention. Right about face. March. (The
Orderly sits down doggedly.) Get out of the room this instant, you fool,
or Ill kick you out.

THE ORDERLY (civilly). I dont mind that, sir. Its human. Its English.
Why couldnt you have said it before? (He goes out).

MITCHENER. Take no notice I beg: these scenes are of daily occurrence
now that we have compulsory service under the command of the halfpenny
papers. Pray sit down.

LADY CORINTHIA AND MRS. BANGER (rising). Thank you. (They sit down
again.)

MITCHENER (sitting down with a slight chuckle of satisfaction). And now,
ladies, to what am I indebted?

MRS. BANGER. Let me introduce us. I am Rosa Carmina Banger--Mrs.
Banger, organizing secretary of the Anti-Suffraget League. This is
Lady Corinthia Fanshawe, the president of the League, known in musical
circles--I am not myself musical--as the Richmond Park nightingale. A
soprano. I am myself said to be almost a baritone; but I do not profess
to understand these dis-tinctions.

MITCHENER (murmuring politely). Most happy, Im sure.

MRS. BANGER. We have come to tell you plainly that the Anti-Suffragets
are going to fight.

MITCHENER (gallantly). Oh, pray leave that to the men, Mrs. Banger.

LADY CORINTHIA. We can no longer trust the men.

MRS. BANGER. They have shown neither the strength, the courage, nor the
determination which are needed to combat women like the Suffragets.

LADY CORINTHIA. Nature is too strong for the combatants.

MRS. BANGER. Physical struggles between persons of opposite sexes are
unseemly.

LADY CORINTHIA. Demoralizing.

MRS. BANGER. Insincere.

LADY CORINTHIA. They are merely embraces in disguise.

MRS. BANGER. No such suspicion can attach to combats in which the
antagonists are of the same sex.

LADY CORINTHIA. The Anti-Suffragets have resolved to take the field.

MRS. BANGER. They will enforce the order of General Sandstone for the
removal of all women from the two mile radius--that is, all women except
themselves.

MITCHENER. I am sorry to have to inform you, Madam, that the Government
has given up that project, and that General Sandstone has resigned in
consequence.

MRS. BANGER. That does not concern us in the least. We approve of the
project and will see that it is carried out. We have spent a good deal
of money arming ourselves; and we are not going to have that money
thrown away through the pusillanimity of a Cabinet of males.

MITCHENER. Arming yourselves! But, my dear ladies, under the latest
proclamation women are strictly forbidden to carry chains, padlocks,
tracts on the franchise, or weapons of any description.

LADY CORINTHIA (producing an ivory-handled revolver and pointing it at
his nose). You little know your countrywomen, General Mitchener.

MITCHENER (without flinching). Madam: it is my duty to take possession
of that weapon in accordance with the proclamation. Be good enough to
put it down.

MRS. BANGER (producing an XVIII century horse pistol). Is it your duty
to take possession of this also?

MITCHENER. That, madam, is not a weapon; it is a curiosity. If you would
be kind enough to place it in some museum instead of pointing it at my
head, I should be obliged to you.

MRS. BANGER. This pistol, sir, was carried at Waterloo by my
grandmother.

MITCHENER. I presume you mean your grandfather.

MRS. BANGER. You presume unwarrantably.

LADY CORINTHIA. Mrs. Banger's grandmother commanded a canteen at that
celebrated battle.

MRS. BANGER. Who my grandfather was is a point that has never been quite
clearly settled. I put my trust not in my ancestors, but in my good
sword, which is at my lodgings.

MITCHENER. Your sword!

MRS. BANGER. The sword with which I slew five Egyptians with my own hand
at Kassassin, where I served as a trooper.

MITCHENER. Lord bless me! But was your sex never discovered?

MRS. BANGER. It was never even suspected. I had a comrade--a gentleman
ranker--whom they called Fanny. They never called ME Fanny.

LADY CORINTHIA. The suffragets have turned the whole woman movement on
to the wrong track. They ask for a vote.

MRS. BANGER. What use is a vote? Men have the vote.

LADY CORINTHIA. And men are slaves.

MRS. BANGER. What women need is the right to military service. Give me a
well-mounted regiment of women with sabres, opposed to a regiment of men
with votes. We shall see which will go down before the other. (rises)
No: we have had enough of these gentle pretty creatures who merely talk
and cross-examine ministers in police courts, and go to prison like
sheep, and suffer and sacrifice themselves. This question must be solved
by blood and iron, as was well said by Bismarck, whom I have reason to
believe was a woman in disguise.

MITCHENER. Bismarck a woman?

MRS. BANGER. All the really strong men of history have been disguised
women.

MITCHENER (remonstrating). My dear lady!

MRS. BANGER. How can you tell? You never knew that the hero of the
charge at Kassassin was a woman: yet she was: it was I, Rosa Carmina
Banger. Would Napoleon have been so brutal to women, think you, had he
been a man?

MITCHENER. Oh, come, come! Really! Surely female rulers have often shown
all the feminine weaknesses. Queen Elizabeth, for instance. Her vanity,
her levity.

MRS. BANGER. Nobody who has studied the history of Queen Elizabeth can
doubt for a moment that she was a disguised man.

LADY CORINTHIA (admiring Mrs. Banger). Isnt she splendid?

MRS. BANGER (rising with a large gesture). This very afternoon I shall
cast off this hampering skirt for ever; mount my charger; and with my
good sabre lead the Anti-Suffragets to victory. (She strides to the
other side of the room, snorting.)

MITCHENER. But I cant allow anything of the sort, madam. I shall stand
no such ridiculous nonsense. Im perfectly determined to put my foot
down.

LADY CORINTHIA. Dont be hysterical, General.

MITCHENER. Hysterical!

MRS. BANGER. Do you think we are to be stopped by these childish
exhibitions of temper. They are useless; and your tears and
entreaties--a man's last resource--will avail you just as little.
I sweep them away, just as I sweep your plans of campaign "made in
Germany--"

MITCHENER (flying into a transport of rage). How dare you repeat
that infamous slander? (He rings the bell violently.) If this is the
alternative to votes for women, I shall advocate giving every woman in
the country six votes.

The Orderly comes in.

Remove that woman. See that she leaves the building at once.

The Orderly forlornly contemplates the iron front presented by Mrs.
Banger.

THE ORDERLY (propitiatorily). Would you av the feelin art to step out,
madam.

MRS. BANGER. You are a soldier. Obey your orders. Put me out. If I got
such an order, I should not hesitate.

THE ORDERLY (To Mitchener). Would you mind lendin me a and, Guvner?

LADY CORINTHIA (raising her revolver). I shall be obliged to shoot you
if you stir, General.

MRS. BANGER (To the Orderly). When you are ordered to put a person out
you should do it like this. (She hurls him from the room. He is heard
falling headlong downstairs and crashing through a glass door.) I shall
now wait on General Sandstone. If he shows any sign of weakness, he
shall share that poor wretch's fate. (She goes out.)

LADY CORINTHIA. Isnt she magnificent?

MITCHENER. Thank heaven shes gone. And now, my dear lady, is it
necessary to keep that loaded pistol to my nose all through our
conversation?

LADY CORINTHIA. Its not loaded. Its heavy enough, goodness knows,
without putting bullets in it.

MITCHENER (triumphantly snatching his revolver from the drawer). Then I
am master of the situation. This IS loaded. Ha, ha!

LADY CORINTHIA. But since we are not really going to shoot one another,
what difference can it possibly make?

MITCHENER (putting his pistol down on the table). True. Quite true. I
recognize there the practical good sense that has prevented you from
falling into the snares of the Suffragets.

LADY CORINTHIA. The Suffragets, General, are the dupes of dowdies. A
really attractive and clever woman--

MITCHENER (gallantly). Yourself, for instance.

LADY CORINTHIA (snatching up his revolver). Another step and you are a
dead man.

MITCHENER (amazed). My dear lady!

LADY CORINTHIA. I am not your dear lady. You are not the first man who
has concluded that because I am devoted to music and can reach F flat
with the greatest facility--Patti never got above E flat--I am marked
out as the prey of every libertine. You think I am like the thousands of
weak women whom you have ruined--

MITCHENER. I solemnly protest--

LADY CORINTHIA. Oh, I know what you officers are. To you a woman's honor
is nothing, and the idle pleasure of the moment is everything.

MITCHENER. This is perfectly ridiculous. I never ruined anyone in my
life.

LADY CORINTHIA. Never! Are you in earnest?

MITCHENER. Certainly I am in earnest. Most indignantly in earnest.

LADY CORINTHIA (throwing down the pistol contemptuously). Then you have
no temperament; you are not an artist. You have no soul for music.

MITCHENER. Ive subscribed to the regimental band all my life. I bought
two sarrusophones for it out of my own pocket. When I sang Tosti's
Goodbye for Ever at Knightsbridge in 1880, the whole regiment wept. You
are too young to remember that.

LADY CORINTHIA. Your advances are useless. I--

MITCHENER. Confound it, madam, can you not receive an innocent
compliment without suspecting me of dishonorable intentions?

LADY CORINTHIA. Love--real love--makes all intentions honorable. But YOU
could never understand that.

MITCHENER. Ill not submit to the vulgar penny-novelette notion that an
officer is less honorable than a civilian in his relations with women.
While I live Ill raise my voice--

LADY CORINTHIA. Tush!

MITCHENER. What do you mean by tush?

LADY CORINTHIA. You cant raise your voice above its natural compass.
What sort of voice have you?

MITCHENER. A tenor. What sort had you?

LADY CORINTHIA. Had? I have it still. I tell you I am the highest living
soprano. (Scornfully.) What was your highest note, pray?

MITCHENER. B flat--once--in 1879. I was drunk at the time.

LADY CORINTHIA (gazing at him almost tenderly). Though you may not
believe me, I find you are more interesting when you talk about music
than when you are endeavoring to betray a woman who has trusted you by
remaining alone with you in your apartment.

MITCHENER (springing up and fuming away to the fireplace). These
repeated insults to a man of blameless life are as disgraceful to you
as they are undeserved by me, Lady Corinthia. Such suspicions invite the
conduct they impute. (She raises the pistol.) You need not be alarmed: I
am only going to leave the room.

LADY CORINTHIA. Fish.

MITCHENER. Fish! This is worse than tush. Why fish?

LADY CORINTHIA. Yes, fish: coldblooded fish.

MITCHENER. Dash it all, madam, do you WANT me to make advances to you?

LADY CORINTHIA. I have not the slightest intention of yielding to them;
but to make them would be a tribute to romance. What is life without
romance?

MITCHENER (making a movement toward her). I tell you--

LADY CORINTHIA. Stop. No nearer. No vulgar sensuousness. If you must
adore, adore at a distance.

MITCHENER. This is worse than Mrs. Banger. I shall ask that estimable
woman to come back.

LADY CORINTHIA. Poor Mrs. Banger! Do not for a moment suppose, General
Mitchener, that Mrs. Banger represents my views on the suffrage
question. Mrs. Banger is a man in petticoats. I am every inch a woman;
but I find it convenient to work with her.

MITCHENER. Do you find the combination comfortable?

LADY CORINTHIA. I do not wear combinations, General: (with dignity) they
are unwomanly.

MITCHENER (throwing himself despairingly into the chair next the
hearthrug). I shall go mad. I never for a moment dreamt of alluding to
anything of the sort.

LADY CORINTHIA. There is no need to blush and become self-conscious at
the mention of underclothing. You are extremely vulgar, General.

MITCHENER. Lady Corinthia: you have my pistol. Will you have the
goodness to blow my brains out. I should prefer it to any further effort
to follow the gyrations of the weathercock you no doubt call your mind.
If you refuse, then I warn you that youll not get another word out of
me--not if we sit here until doomsday.

LADY CORINTHIA. I dont want you to talk. I want you to listen. You do
not yet understand my views on the question of the Suffrage. (She rises
to make a speech.) I must preface my remarks by reminding you that the
Suffraget movement is essentially a dowdy movement. The suffragets are
not all dowdies; but they are mainly supported by dowdies. Now I am not
a dowdy. Oh, no compliments--

MITCHENER. I did not utter a sound.

LADY CORINTHIA (smiling). It is easy to read your thoughts. I am one
of those women who are accustomed to rule the world through men. Man is
ruled by beauty, by charm. The men who are not have no influence. The
Salic Law, which forbade women to occupy a throne, is founded on the
fact that when a woman is on the throne the country is ruled by men, and
therefore ruled badly; whereas when a man is on the throne, the country
is ruled by women, and therefore ruled well. The suffragets would
degrade women from being rulers to being voters, mere politicians,
the drudges of the caucus and the polling booth. We should lose our
influence completely under such a state of affairs. The New Zealand
women have the vote. What is the result? No poet ever makes a New
Zealand woman his heroine. One might as well be romantic about New
Zealand mutton. Look at the suffragets themselves. The only ones who are
popular are the pretty ones, who flirt with mobs as ordinary women flirt
with officers.

MITCHENER. Then I understand you to hold that the country should be
governed by the women after all.

LADY CORINTHIA. Not by all the women. By certain women. I had almost
said by one woman. By the women who have charm--who have artistic
talent--who wield a legitimate, a refining influence over the men.
(She sits down gracefully, smiling, and arranging her draperies with
conscious elegance.)

MITCHENER. In short, madam, you think that if you give the vote to the
man, you give the power to the women who can get round the man.

LADY CORINTHIA. That is not a very delicate way of putting it; but I
suppose that is how you would express what I mean.

MITCHENER. Perhaps youve never had any experience of garrison life.
If you had, you'd have noticed that the sort of woman who is clever at
getting round men is sometimes rather a bad lot.

LADY CORINTHIA. What do you mean by a bad lot?

MITCHENER. I mean a woman who would play the very devil if the
other women didnt keep her in pretty strict order. I dont approve of
democracy, because its rot; and Im against giving the vote to women
because Im not accustomed to it and therefore am able to see with an
unprejudiced eye what infernal nonsense it is. But I tell you plainly,
Lady Corinthia, that there is one game that I dislike more than either
Democracy or Votes For Women: and that is the game of Antony and
Cleopatra. If I must be ruled by women, let me have decent women and
not--well, not the other sort.

LADY CORINTHIA. You have a coarse mind, General Mitchener.

MITCHENER. So has Mrs. Banger. And by George! I prefer Mrs. Banger to
you!

LADY CORINTHIA (bounding to her feet.) You prefer Mrs. Banger to me!!!

MITCHENER. I do. You said yourself she was splendid.

LADY CORINTHIA. You are no true man. You are one of those unsexed
creatures who have no joy in life, no sense of beauty, no high notes.

MITCHENER. No doubt I am, Madam. As a matter of fact, I am not clever at
discussing public questions, because, as an English gentleman, I was not
brought up to use my brains. But occasionally, after a number of remarks
which are perhaps sometimes rather idiotic, I get certain convictions.
Thanks to you, I have now got a conviction that this woman question is
not a question of lovely and accomplished females, but of dowdies. The
average Englishwoman is a dowdy and never has half a chance of becoming
anything else. She hasnt any charm; and she has no high notes except
when shes giving her husband a piece of her mind, or calling down the
street for one of the children.

LADY CORINTHIA. How disgusting!

MITCHENER. Somebody must do the dowdy work! If we had to choose between
pitching all the dowdies into the Thames and pitching all the lovely and
accomplished women, the lovely ones would have to go.

LADY CORINTHIA. And if you had to do without Wagner's music or do
without your breakfast, you would do without Wagner. Pray does that make
eggs and bacon more precious than music, or the butcher and baker better
than the poet and philosopher? The scullery may be more necessary to our
bare existence than the cathedral. Even humbler apartments might make
the same claim. But which is the more essential to the higher life?

MITCHENER. Your arguments are so devilishly ingenious that I feel
convinced you got them out of some confounded book. Mine--such as they
are--are my own. I imagine its something like this. There is an old
saying that if you take care of the pence, the pounds will take care
of themselves. Well, perhaps if we take care of the dowdies and the
butchers and the bakers, the beauties and the bigwigs will take care of
themselves. (Rising and facing her determinedly.) Anyhow, I dont want to
have things arranged for me by Wagner. Im not Wagner. How does he know
where the shoe pinches me? How do you know where the shoe pinches your
washerwoman?--you and your high F in alt. How are you to know when you
havent made her comfortable unless she has a vote? Do you want her to
come and break your windows?

LADY CORINTHIA. Am I to understand that General Mitchener is a democrat
and a suffraget?

MITCHENER. Yes: you have converted me--you and Mrs. Banger.

LADY CORINTHIA. Farewell, creature. (Balsquith enters hurriedly.) Mr.
Balsquith: I am going to wait on General Sandstone. He at least is an
officer and a gentleman. (She sails out.)

BALSQUITH. Mitchener: the game is up.

MITCHENER. What do you mean?

BALSQUITH. The strain is too much for the Cabinet. The old Liberal
and Unionist Free Traders declare that if they are defeated on their
resolution to invite tenders from private contractors for carrying on
the Army and Navy, they will go solid for votes for women as the only
means of restoring the liberties of the country which we have destroyed
by compulsory military service.

MITCHENER. Infernal impudence?

BALSQUITH. The Labor party is taking the same line. They say the men got
the Factory Acts by hiding behind the women's petticoats, and that they
will get votes for the army in the same way.

MITCHENER. Balsquith: we must not yield to clamor. I have just told this
lady that I am at last convinced--

BALSQUITH (joyfully). That the suffragets must be supported.

MITCHENER. No: that the anti-suffragets must be put down at all hazards.

BALSQUITH. Same thing.

MITCHENER. No. For you now tell me that the Labor Party demands votes
for women. That makes it impossible to give them, because it would be
yielding to clamor. The one condition on which we can consent to grant
anything in this country is that nobody shall presume to want it.

BALSQUITH (earnestly). Mitchener: its no use. You cant have the
conveniences of Democracy without its occasional inconveniences.

MITCHENER. What are its conveniences, I should like to know?

BALSQUITH. When you tell people that they are the real rulers and they
can do what they like, nine times out of ten, they say, "All right, tell
us what to do." But it happens sometimes that they get an idea of their
own; and then of course youre landed.

MITCHENER. Sh--

BALSQUITH (desperately shouting him down). No: its no use telling me to
shoot them down: Im not going to do it. After all, I dont suppose votes
for women will make much difference. It hasnt in the other countries in
which it has been tried.

MITCHENER. I never supposed it would make much difference. What I cant
stand is giving in to that Pankhurst lot. Hang it all, Balsquith, it
seems only yesterday that we put them in quod for a month. I said at the
time that it ought to have been ten years. If my advice had been taken
this wouldnt have happened. Its a consolation to me that events are
proving how thoroughly right I was.

The Orderly rushes in.

THE ORDERLY. Look ere, sir: Mrs. Banger locked the door of General
Sandstone's room on the inside; and shes sitting on his ead until he
signs a proclamation for women to serve in the army.

MITCHENER. Put your shoulder to the door and burst it open.

THE ORDERLY. Its only in story books that doors burst open as easy as
that. Besides, Im only too thankful to have a locked door between me and
Mrs. B.; and so is all the rest of us.

MITCHENER. Cowards. Balsquith: to the rescue! (He dashes out.)

BALSQUITH (ambling calmly to the hearth). This is the business of the
Sergeant at Arms rather than of the leader of the House. Theres no use
in my tackling Mrs. Banger: she would only sit on my head too.

THE ORDERLY. You take my tip, Mr. Balsquith. Give the women the vote and
give the army civil rights; and av done with it.

Mitchener returns.

MITCHENER. Balsquith: prepare to hear the worst.

BALSQUITH. Sandstone is no more?

MITCHENER. On the contrary, he is particularly lively. He has softened
Mrs. Banger by a proposal of marriage in which he appears to be
perfectly in earnest. He says he has met his ideal at last, a really
soldierly woman. She will sit on his head for the rest of his life; and
the British Army is now to all intents and purposes commanded by Mrs.
Banger. When I remonstrated with Sandstone she positively shouted
"Right-about-face. March" at me in the most offensive tone. If she hadnt
been a woman I should have punched her head. I precious nearly punched
Sandstone's. The horrors of martial law administered by Mrs. Banger are
too terrible to be faced. I demand civil rights for the army.

THE ORDERLY (chuckling). Wot oh, General! Wot oh!

MITCHENER. Hold your tongue. (He goes to the door and calls.) Mrs.
Farrell! (Returning, and again addressing the Orderly.) Civil rights
don't mean the right to be uncivil. (Pleased with his own wit.) Almost a
pun. Ha ha!

MRS. FARRELL. Whats the matther now? (She comes to the table.)

MITCHENER (to the Orderly). I have private business with Mrs. Farrell.
Outside, you infernal blackguard.

THE ORDERLY (arguing, as usual). Well, I didnt ask to--(Mitchener seizes
him by the nape; rushes him out; and slams the door).

MITCHENER. Excuse the abruptness of this communication, Mrs. Farrell;
but I know only one woman in the country whose practical ability and
force of character can maintain her husband in competition with the
husband of Mrs. Banger. I have the honor to propose for your hand.

MRS. FARRELL. Dye mean you want to marry me?

MITCHENER. I do.

MRS. FARRELL. No thank you. Id have to work for you just the same; only
I shouldnt get any wages for it.

BALSQUITH. That will be remedied when women get the vote. Ive had to
promise that.

MITCHENER (winningly). Mrs. Farrell: you have been charwoman here now
ever since I took up my duties. Have you really never, in your more
romantic moments, cast a favorable eye on my person?

MRS. FARRELL. Ive been too busy casting an unfavorable eye on your cloze
and on the litther you make with your papers.

MITCHENER (wounded). Am I to understand that you refuse me?

MRS. FARRELL. Just wait a bit. (She takes Mitchener's chair and rings up
the telephone.) Double three oh seven Elephant.

MITCHENER. I trust youre not ringing for the police, Mrs. Farrell. I
assure you Im perfectly sane.

MRS. FARRELL (into the telephone). Is that you, Eliza? (She listens for
the answer.) Not out of bed yet! Go and pull her out by the heels,
the lazy sthreel; and tell her her mother wants to speak to her very
particularly about General Mitchener. (To Mitchener.) Dont you be
afeard: I know youre sane enough when youre not talkin about the
Germans. (Into the telephone.) Is that you, Eliza? (She listens for the
answer.) Dye remember me givin you a clout on the side of the head for
tellin me that if I only knew how to play me cards I could marry any
general on the staff instead o disgracin you be bein a charwoman? (She
listens for the answer.) Well, I can have General Mitchener without
playing any cards at all. What dye think I ought to say? (She listens.)
Well, Im no chicken myself. (To Mitchener.) How old are you?

MITCHENER (with an effort). Fifty-two.

MRS. FARRELL (into the telephone). He says hes fifty-two. (She listens;
then, to Mitchener.) She says youre down in Who's Who as sixty-one.

MITCHENER. Damn Who's Who.

MRS. FARRELL (into the telephone). Anyhow I wouldnt let that stand in
the way. (She listens.) If I really WHAT? (She listens.)I cant hear you.
If I really WHAT? (She listens.) WHO druv him? I never said a word
to-- Eh? (She listens.) Oh, LOVE him. Arra dont be a fool, child. (To
Mitchener.) She wants to know do I really love you.(Into the telephone.)
Its likely indeed Id frighten the man off with any such nonsense, at my
age. What? (She listens.) Well, thats just what I was thinkin.

MITCHENER. May I ask what you were thinking, Mrs. Farrell? This suspense
is awful.

MRS. FARRELL. I was thinkin that perhaps the Duchess might like her
daughter-in-law's mother to be a General's lady betther than to be a
charwoman. (Into the telephone.) Waitle youre married yourself, me fine
lady: you'll find out that every woman is a charwoman from the day shes
married. (She listens.) Then you think I might take him? (She listens.)
Glang, you young scald: if I had you here Id teach you manners. (She
listens.) Thats enough now. Back wid you to bed; and be thankful Im not
there to put me slipper across you. (She rings off.) The impudence!
(To Mitchener.) Bless you, me childher, may you be happy, she says. (To
Balsquith, going to his side of the room.) Give dear, old Mich me love,
she says.

The Orderly opens the door, ushering in Lady Corinthia.

THE ORDERLY. Lady Corinthia Fanshawe to speak to you, sir.

LADY CORINTHIA. General Mitchener: your designs on Mrs. Banger are
defeated. She is engaged to General Sandstone. Do you still prefer her
to me?

MRS. FARRELL. Hes out o the hunt. Hes engaged to me.

The Orderly overcome by this news reels from the door to the standing
desk, and clutches the stool to save himself from collapsing.

MITCHENER. And extremely proud of it, Lady Corinthia.

LADY CORINTHIA (contemptuously). She suits you exactly. (Coming to
Balsquith.) Mr. Balsquith: you at least, are not a Philistine.

BALSQUITH. No, Lady Corinthia; but Im a confirmed bachelor. I don't want
a wife; but I want an Egeria.

MRS. FARRELL. More shame for you.

LADY CORINTHIA. Silence, woman. The position and functions of a wife may
suit your gross nature. An Egeria is exactly what I desire to be. (To
Balsquith.) Can you play accompaniments?

BALSQUITH. Melodies only, I regret to say. With one finger. But my
brother, who is a very obliging fellow, and not unlike me personally, is
acquainted with three chords, with which he manages to accompany most of
the comic songs of the day.

LADY CORINTHIA. I do not sing comic songs. Neither will you when I am
your Egeria. Come. I give a musical at-home this afternoon. I will allow
you to sit at my feet.

BALSQUITH. That is my ideal of romantic happiness. It commits me exactly
as far as I desire to venture. Thank you.

THE ORDERLY. Wot price me, General? Wont you celebrate your engagement
by doing something for me? Maynt I be promoted to be a sergeant.

MITCHENER. Youre too utterly incompetent to discharge the duties of a
sergeant. You are only fit to be a lieutenant. I shall recommend you for
a commission.

THE ORDERLY. Hooray! The Parkinsons of Stepney will be proud to have
me call on them now. Ill go and tell the sergeant what I think of him.
Hooray! (He rushes out.)

MRS. FARRELL (going to the door and calling after him.) You might have
the manners to shut the door idther you. (She shuts it and comes between
Mitchener and Lady Corinthia.)

MITCHENER. Poor wretch; the day after civil rights are conceded to the
army he and Chubbs-Jenkinson will be found incapable of maintaining
discipline. They will be sacked and replaced by really capable men. Mrs.
Farrell: as we are engaged, and I am anxious to do the correct thing in
every way, I am quite willing to kiss you if you wish it.

MRS. FARRELL. Youd only feel like a fool; and so would I.

MITCHENER. You are really the most sensible woman. Ive made an extremely
wise choice.

LADY CORINTHIA (To Balsquith). You may kiss my hand, if you wish.

BALSQUITH (cautiously). I think we had better not commit ourselves too
far. If I might carry your parasol, that would quite satisfy me. Let us
change a subject which threatens to become embarrassing. (To Mitchener.)
The moral of the occasion for you, Mitchener, appears to be that youve
got to give up treating soldiers as if they were schoolboys.

MITCHENER. The moral for you, Balsquith, is that youve got to give up
treating women as if they were angels. Ha ha!

MRS. FARRELL. Its a mercy youve found one another out at last. That's
enough now.

CURTAIN





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