your online library and language lab
Contents > Author > George Bernard Shaw > Heartbreak House (Act 3) 1856- 1950
Previous Next

George Bernard Shaw
Heartbreak House (Act 3)
printer friendly version

In the garden, Hector, as he comes out through the glass door
of the poop, finds Lady Utterword lying voluptuously in the
hammock on the east side of the flagstaff, in the circle of light
cast by the electric arc, which is like a moon in its opal globe.
Beneath the head of the hammock, a campstool. On the other
side of the flagstaff, on the long garden seat, Captain Shotover
is asleep, with Ellie beside him, leaning affectionately against
him on his right hand. On his left is a deck chair. Behind them
in the gloom, Hesione is strolling about with Mangan. It is a
fine still night, moonless.

LADY UTTERWORD. What a lovely night! It seems made for us.

HECTOR. The night takes no interest in us. What are we to the
night? [He sits down moodily in the deck chair].

ELLIE [dreamily, nestling against the captain]. Its beauty soaks
into my nerves. In the night there is peace for the old and hope
for the young.

HECTOR. Is that remark your own?

ELLIE. No. Only the last thing the captain said before he went to

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. I'm not asleep.

HECTOR. Randall is. Also Mr Mazzini Dunn. Mangan, too, probably.


HECTOR. Oh, you are there. I thought Hesione would have sent
you to bed by this time.

MRS HUSHABYE [coming to the back of the garden seat, into the
light, with Mangan]. I think I shall. He keeps telling me he has
a presentiment that he is going to die. I never met a man so
greedy for sympathy.

MANGAN [plaintively]. But I have a presentiment. I really have.
And you wouldn't listen.

MRS HUSHABYE. I was listening for something else. There was a
sort of splendid drumming in the sky. Did none of you hear it? It
came from a distance and then died away.

MANGAN. I tell you it was a train.

MRS HUSHABYE. And I tell you, Alf, there is no train at this
hour. The last is nine forty-five.

MANGAN. But a goods train.

MRS HUSHABYE. Not on our little line. They tack a truck on to the
passenger train. What can it have been, Hector?

HECTOR. Heaven's threatening growl of disgust at us useless
futile creatures. [Fiercely]. I tell you, one of two things must
happen. Either out of that darkness some new creation will come
to supplant us as we have supplanted the animals, or the
heavens will fall in thunder and destroy us.

LADY UTTERWORD [in a cool instructive manner, wallowing
comfortably in her hammock]. We have not supplanted the animals,
Hector. Why do you ask heaven to destroy this house, which could
be made quite comfortable if Hesione had any notion of how to
live? Don't you know what is wrong with it?

HECTOR. We are wrong with it. There is no sense in us. We are
useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished.

LADY UTTERWORD. Nonsense! Hastings told me the very first day
he came here, nearly twenty-four years ago, what is wrong with
the house.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. What! The numskull said there was
something wrong with my house!

LADY UTTERWORD. I said Hastings said it; and he is not in the
least a numskull.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. What's wrong with my house?

LADY UTTERWORD. Just what is wrong with a ship, papa. Wasn't
it clever of Hastings to see that?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The man's a fool. There's nothing wrong
with a ship.

LADY UTTERWORD. Yes, there is.

MRS HUSHABYE. But what is it? Don't be aggravating, Addy.


HECTOR. Demons. Daughters of the witch of Zanzibar. Demons.

LADY UTTERWORD. Not a bit. I assure you, all this house needs
to make it a sensible, healthy, pleasant house, with good
appetites and sound sleep in it, is horses.

MRS HUSHABYE. Horses! What rubbish!

LADY UTTERWORD. Yes: horses. Why have we never been able
to let this house? Because there are no proper stables. Go
anywhere in England where there are natural, wholesome,
contented, and really nice English people; and what do you
always find? That the stables are the real centre of the household;
and that if any visitor wants to play the piano the whole room
has to be upset before it can be opened, there are so many
things piled on it. I never lived until I learned to ride; and I
shall never ride really well because I didn't begin as a child.
There are only two classes in good society in England: the
equestrian classes and the neurotic classes. It isn't mere
convention: everybody can see that the people who hunt
are the right people and the people who don't are the wrong

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. There is some truth in this. My ship made
a man of me; and a ship is the horse of the sea.

LADY UTTERWORD. Exactly how Hastings explained your being
a gentleman.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Not bad for a numskull. Bring the man
here with you next time: I must talk to him.

LADY UTTERWORD. Why is Randall such an obvious rotter? He
is well bred; he has been at a public school and a university;
he has been in the Foreign Office; he knows the best people
and has lived all his life among them. Why is he so unsatisfactory,
so contemptible? Why can't he get a valet to stay with him longer
than a few months? Just because he is too lazy and
pleasure-loving to hunt and shoot. He strums the piano, and
sketches, and runs after married women, and reads literary books
and poems. He actually plays the flute; but I never let him bring
it into my house. If he would only--[she is interrupted by the
melancholy strains of a flute coming from an open window above.
She raises herself indignantly in the hammock]. Randall, you have
not gone to bed. Have you been listening? [The flute replies
pertly]. How vulgar! Go to bed instantly, Randall: how dare you?
[The window is slammed down. She subsides]. How can anyone
care for such a creature!

MRS HUSHABYE. Addy: do you think Ellie ought to marry poor
Alfred merely for his money?

MANGAN [much alarmed]. What's that? Mrs Hushabye, are my
affairs to be discussed like this before everybody?

LADY UTTERWORD. I don't think Randall is listening now.

MANGAN. Everybody is listening. It isn't right.

MRS HUSHABYE. But in the dark, what does it matter? Ellie
doesn't mind. Do you, Ellie?

ELLIE. Not in the least. What is your opinion, Lady Utterword?
You have so much good sense.

MANGAN. But it isn't right. It--[Mrs Hushabye puts her hand on
his mouth]. Oh, very well.

LADY UTTERWORD. How much money have you, Mr. Mangan?

MANGAN. Really--No: I can't stand this.

LADY UTTERWORD. Nonsense, Mr Mangan! It all turns on your
income, doesn't it?

MANGAN. Well, if you come to that, how much money has she?

ELLIE. None.

LADY UTTERWORD. You are answered, Mr Mangan. And now,
as you have made Miss Dunn throw her cards on the table,
you cannot refuse to show your own.

MRS HUSHABYE. Come, Alf! out with it! How much?

MANGAN [baited out of all prudence]. Well, if you want to
know, I have no money and never had any.

MRS HUSHABYE. Alfred, you mustn't tell naughty stories.

MANGAN. I'm not telling you stories. I'm telling you the raw

LADY UTTERWORD. Then what do you live on, Mr Mangan?

MANGAN. Travelling expenses. And a trifle of commission.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. What more have any of us but travelling
expenses for our life's journey?

MRS HUSHABYE. But you have factories and capital and things?

MANGAN. People think I have. People think I'm an industrial
Napoleon. That's why Miss Ellie wants to marry me. But I tell
you I have nothing.

ELLIE. Do you mean that the factories are like Marcus's tigers?
That they don't exist?

MANGAN. They exist all right enough. But they're not mine. They
belong to syndicates and shareholders and all sorts of lazy
good-for-nothing capitalists. I get money from such people to
start the factories. I find people like Miss Dunn's father to
work them, and keep a tight hand so as to make them pay. Of
course I make them keep me going pretty well; but it's a dog's
life; and I don't own anything.

MRS HUSHABYE. Alfred, Alfred, you are making a poor mouth
of it to get out of marrying Ellie.

MANGAN. I'm telling the truth about my money for the first time
in my life; and it's the first time my word has ever been

LADY UTTERWORD. How sad! Why don't you go in for politics,
Mr Mangan?

MANGAN. Go in for politics! Where have you been living? I
am in politics.

LADY UTTERWORD. I'm sure I beg your pardon. I never heard
of you.

MANGAN. Let me tell you, Lady Utterword, that the Prime Minister
of this country asked me to join the Government without even
going through the nonsense of an election, as the dictator of a
great public department.

LADY UTTERWORD. As a Conservative or a Liberal?

MANGAN. No such nonsense. As a practical business man. [They
all burst out laughing]. What are you all laughing at?

MRS HUSHARYE. Oh, Alfred, Alfred!

ELLIE. You! who have to get my father to do everything for you!

MRS HUSHABYE. You! who are afraid of your own workmen!

HECTOR. You! with whom three women have been playing cat and
mouse all the evening!

LADY UTTERWORD. You must have given an immense sum to the
party funds, Mr Mangan.

MANGAN. Not a penny out of my own pocket. The syndicate found
the money: they knew how useful I should be to them in the

LADY UTTERWORD. This is most interesting and unexpected, Mr
Mangan. And what have your administrative achievements been,
so far?

MANGAN. Achievements? Well, I don't know what you call
achievements; but I've jolly well put a stop to the games of the
other fellows in the other departments. Every man of them thought
he was going to save the country all by himself, and do me out of
the credit and out of my chance of a title. I took good care that
if they wouldn't let me do it they shouldn't do it themselves
either. I may not know anything about my own machinery; but I
know how to stick a ramrod into the other fellow's. And now they
all look the biggest fools going.

HECTOR. And in heaven's name, what do you look like?

MANGAN. I look like the fellow that was too clever for all the
others, don't I? If that isn't a triumph of practical business,
what is?

HECTOR. Is this England, or is it a madhouse?

LADY UTTERWORD. Do you expect to save the country, Mr

MANGAN. Well, who else will? Will your Mr Randall save it?

LADY UTTERWORD. Randall the rotter! Certainly not.

MANGAN. Will your brother-in-law save it with his moustache
and his fine talk?

HECTOR. Yes, if they will let me.

MANGAN [sneering]. Ah! Will they let you?

HECTOR. No. They prefer you.

MANGAN. Very well then, as you're in a world where I'm
appreciated and you're not, you'd best be civil to me, hadn't
you? Who else is there but me?

LADY UTTERWORD. There is Hastings. Get rid of your ridiculous
sham democracy; and give Hastings the necessary powers, and
a good supply of bamboo to bring the British native to his senses:
he will save the country with the greatest ease.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. It had better be lost. Any fool can govern with
a stick in his hand. I could govern that way. It is not God's
way. The man is a numskull.

LADY UTTERWORD. The man is worth all of you rolled into one.
What do you say, Miss Dunn?

ELLIE. I think my father would do very well if people did not put
upon him and cheat him and despise him because he is so good.

MANGAN [contemptuously]. I think I see Mazzini Dunn getting into
parliament or pushing his way into the Government. We've not
come to that yet, thank God! What do you say, Mrs Hushabye?

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, I say it matters very little which of you
governs the country so long as we govern you.

HECTOR. We? Who is we, pray?

MRS HUSHABYE. The devil's granddaughters, dear. The lovely

HECTOR [raising his hands as before]. Fall, I say, and deliver us
from the lures of Satan!

ELLIE. There seems to be nothing real in the world except my
father and Shakespeare. Marcus's tigers are false; Mr Mangan's
millions are false; there is nothing really strong and true about
Hesione but her beautiful black hair; and Lady Utterword's is too
pretty to be real. The one thing that was left to me was the
Captain's seventh degree of concentration; and that turns out to


LADY UTTERWORD [placidly]. A good deal of my hair is quite
genuine. The Duchess of Dithering offered me fifty guineas for
this [touching her forehead] under the impression that it was a
transformation; but it is all natural except the color.

MANGAN [wildly]. Look here: I'm going to take off all my clothes
[he begins tearing off his coat].

LADY UTTERWORD. } [in { Mr. Mangan!
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER } consterna- { What's that?
HECTOR. } tion] { Ha! Ha! Do. Do
ELLIE } { Please don't.

MRS HUSHABYE [catching his arm and stopping him]. Alfred, for
shame! Are you mad?

MANGAN. Shame! What shame is there in this house? Let's all strip
stark naked. We may as well do the thing thoroughly when we're
about it. We've stripped ourselves morally naked: well, let us
strip ourselves physically naked as well, and see how we like it.
I tell you I can't bear this. I was brought up to be respectable.
I don't mind the women dyeing their hair and the men drinking:
it's human nature. But it's not human nature to tell everybody
about it. Every time one of you opens your mouth I go like this
[he cowers as if to avoid a missile], afraid of what will come
next. How are we to have any self-respect if we don't keep it up
that we're better than we really are?

LADY UTTERWORD. I quite sympathize with you, Mr Mangan. I have
been through it all; and I know by experience that men and
women are delicate plants and must be cultivated under glass.
Our family habit of throwing stones in all directions and letting
the air in is not only unbearably rude, but positively dangerous.
Still, there is no use catching physical colds as well as moral
ones; so please keep your clothes on.

MANGAN. I'll do as I like: not what you tell me. Am I a child or
a grown man? I won't stand this mothering tyranny. I'll go back
to the city, where I'm respected and made much of.

MRS HUSHABYE. Goodbye, Alf. Think of us sometimes in the city.
Think of Ellie's youth!

ELLIE. Think of Hesione's eyes and hair!

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Think of this garden in which you are not
a dog barking to keep the truth out!

HECTOR. Think of Lady Utterword's beauty! her good sense!
her style!

LADY UTTERWORD. Flatterer. Think, Mr. Mangan, whether you
can really do any better for yourself elsewhere: that is the
essential point, isn't it?

MANGAN [surrendering]. All right: all right. I'm done. Have it
your own way. Only let me alone. I don't know whether I'm on
my head or my heels when you all start on me like this. I'll stay.
I'll marry her. I'll do anything for a quiet life. Are you
satisfied now?

ELLIE. No. I never really intended to make you marry me, Mr
Mangan. Never in the depths of my soul. I only wanted to feel my
strength: to know that you could not escape if I chose to take

MANGAN [indignantly]. What! Do you mean to say you are going
to throw me over after my acting so handsome?

LADY UTTERWORD. I should not be too hasty, Miss Dunn. You can
throw Mr Mangan over at any time up to the last moment. Very
few men in his position go bankrupt. You can live very comfortably
on his reputation for immense wealth.

ELLIE. I cannot commit bigamy, Lady Utterword.

MRS HUSHABYE. Bigamy! Whatever on earth are you talking
about, Ellie?
LADY UTTERWORD [exclaiming] Bigamy! What do you mean, Miss
MANGAN [altogether] Bigamy! Do you mean to say you're married
HECTOR. Bigamy! This is some enigma.

ELLIE. Only half an hour ago I became Captain Shotover's white

MRS HUSHABYE. Ellie! What nonsense! Where?

ELLIE. In heaven, where all true marriages are made.

LADY UTTERWORD. Really, Miss Dunn! Really, papa!

MANGAN. He told me I was too old! And him a mummy!

HECTOR [quoting Shelley].

"Their altar the grassy earth outspreads
And their priest the muttering wind."

ELLIE. Yes: I, Ellie Dunn, give my broken heart and my strong
sound soul to its natural captain, my spiritual husband and
second father.

She draws the captain's arm through hers, and pats his hand.
The captain remains fast asleep.

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, that's very clever of you, pettikins. Very
clever. Alfred, you could never have lived up to Ellie. You must
be content with a little share of me.

MANGAN [snifflng and wiping his eyes]. It isn't kind--[his
emotion chokes him].

LADY UTTERWORD. You are well out of it, Mr Mangan. Miss Dunn
is the most conceited young woman I have met since I came back
to England.

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, Ellie isn't conceited. Are you, pettikins?

ELLIE. I know my strength now, Hesione.

MANGAN. Brazen, I call you. Brazen.

MRS HUSHABYE. Tut, tut, Alfred: don't be rude. Don't you feel how
lovely this marriage night is, made in heaven? Aren't you happy,
you and Hector? Open your eyes: Addy and Ellie look beautiful
enough to please the most fastidious man: we live and love and
have not a care in the world. We women have managed all that
for you. Why in the name of common sense do you go on as if you
were two miserable wretches?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. I tell you happiness is no good. You can be
happy when you are only half alive. I am happier now I am half
dead than ever I was in my prime. But there is no blessing on my

ELLIE [her face lighting up]. Life with a blessing! that is what
I want. Now I know the real reason why I couldn't marry Mr
Mangan: there would be no blessing on our marriage. There is a
blessing on my broken heart. There is a blessing on your beauty,
Hesione. There is a blessing on your father's spirit. Even on the
lies of Marcus there is a blessing; but on Mr Mangan's money
there is none.

MANGAN. I don't understand a word of that.

ELLIE. Neither do I. But I know it means something.

MANGAN. Don't say there was any difficulty about the blessing.
I was ready to get a bishop to marry us.

MRS HUSHABYE. Isn't he a fool, pettikins?

HECTOR [fiercely]. Do not scorn the man. We are all fools.

Mazzini, in pyjamas and a richly colored silk dressing gown,
comes from the house, on Lady Utterword's side.

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh! here comes the only man who ever resisted
me. What's the matter, Mr Dunn? Is the house on fire?

MAZZINI. Oh, no: nothing's the matter: but really it's impossible
to go to sleep with such an interesting conversation going on
under one's window, and on such a beautiful night too. I just
had to come down and join you all. What has it all been about?

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, wonderful things, soldier of freedom.

HECTOR. For example, Mangan, as a practical business man,
has tried to undress himself and has failed ignominiously; whilst
you, as an idealist, have succeeded brilliantly.

MAZZINI. I hope you don't mind my being like this, Mrs Hushabye.
[He sits down on the campstool].

MRS HUSHABYE. On the contrary, I could wish you always like that.

LADY UTTERWORD. Your daughter's match is off, Mr Dunn. It seems
that Mr Mangan, whom we all supposed to be a man of property,
owns absolutely nothing.

MAZZINI. Well, of course I knew that, Lady Utterword. But if
people believe in him and are always giving him money, whereas
they don't believe in me and never give me any, how can I ask
poor Ellie to depend on what I can do for her?

MANGAN. Don't you run away with this idea that I have nothing.

HECTOR. Oh, don't explain. We understand. You have a couple of
thousand pounds in exchequer bills, 50,000 shares worth tenpence
a dozen, and half a dozen tabloids of cyanide of potassium to
poison yourself with when you are found out. That's the reality
of your millions.

MAZZINI. Oh no, no, no. He is quite honest: the businesses are
genuine and perfectly legal.

HECTOR [disgusted]. Yah! Not even a great swindler!

MANGAN. So you think. But I've been too many for some honest
men, for all that.

LADY UTTERWORD. There is no pleasing you, Mr Mangan. You
are determined to be neither rich nor poor, honest nor dishonest.

MANGAN. There you go again. Ever since I came into this silly
house I have been made to look like a fool, though I'm as good
a man in this house as in the city.

ELLIE [musically]. Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy
house, this agonizing house, this house without foundations. I
shall call it Heartbreak House.

MRS HUSHABYE. Stop, Ellie; or I shall howl like an animal.

MANGAN [breaks into a low snivelling]!!!

MRS HUSAHBYE. There! you have set Alfred off.

ELLIE. I like him best when he is howling.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Silence! [Mangan subsides into silence]. I
say, let the heart break in silence.

HECTOR. Do you accept that name for your house?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. It is not my house: it is only my kennel.

HECTOR. We have been too long here. We do not live in this house:
we haunt it.

LADY UTTERWORD [heart torn]. It is dreadful to think how you
have been here all these years while I have gone round the world.
I escaped young; but it has drawn me back. It wants to break my
heart too. But it shan't. I have left you and it behind. It was
silly of me to come back. I felt sentimental about papa and
Hesione and the old place. I felt them calling to me.

MAZZINI. But what a very natural and kindly and charming human
feeling, Lady Utterword!

LADY UTTERWORD. So I thought, Mr Dunn. But I know now that it
was only the last of my influenza. I found that I was not
remembered and not wanted.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. You left because you did not want us. Was
there no heartbreak in that for your father? You tore yourself up
by the roots; and the ground healed up and brought forth fresh
plants and forgot you. What right had you to come back and probe
old wounds?

MRS HUSHABYE. You were a complete stranger to me at first, Addy;
but now I feel as if you had never been away.

LADY UTTERWORD. Thank you, Hesione; but the influenza is quite
cured. The place may be Heartbreak House to you, Miss Dunn, and
to this gentleman from the city who seems to have so little
self-control; but to me it is only a very ill-regulated and
rather untidy villa without any stables.

HECTOR. Inhabited by--?

ELLIE. A crazy old sea captain and a young singer who adores him.

MRS HUSHABYE. A sluttish female, trying to stave off a double
chin and an elderly spread, vainly wooing a born soldier of

MAZZINI. Oh, really, Mrs Hushabye--

MANGAN. A member of His Majesty's Government that everybody
sets down as a nincompoop: don't forget him, Lady Utterword.

LADY UTTERWORD. And a very fascinating gentleman whose
chief occupation is to be married to my sister.

HECTOR. All heartbroken imbeciles.

MAZZINI. Oh no. Surely, if I may say so, rather a favorable
specimen of what is best in our English culture. You are very
charming people, most advanced, unprejudiced, frank, humane,
unconventional, democratic, free-thinking, and everything that
is delightful to thoughtful people.

MRS HUSHABYE. You do us proud, Mazzini.

MAZZINI. I am not flattering, really. Where else could I feel
perfectly at ease in my pyjamas? I sometimes dream that I am
in very distinguished society, and suddenly I have nothing on
but my pyjamas! Sometimes I haven't even pyjamas. And I
always feel overwhelmed with confusion. But here, I don't
mind in the least: it seems quite natural.

LADY UTTERWORD. An infallible sign that you are now not in
really distinguished society, Mr Dunn. If you were in my house,
you would feel embarrassed.

MAZZINI. I shall take particular care to keep out of your house,
Lady Utterword.

LADY UTTERWORD. You will be quite wrong, Mr Dunn. I should
make you very comfortable; and you would not have the trouble
and anxiety of wondering whether you should wear your purple
and gold or your green and crimson dressing-gown at dinner.
You complicate life instead of simplifying it by doing these
ridiculous things.

ELLIE. Your house is not Heartbreak House: is it, Lady Utterword?

HECTOR. Yet she breaks hearts, easy as her house is. That poor
devil upstairs with his flute howls when she twists his heart,
just as Mangan howls when my wife twists his.

LADY UTTERWORD. That is because Randall has nothing to do but
have his heart broken. It is a change from having his head
shampooed. Catch anyone breaking Hastings' heart!

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The numskull wins, after all.

LADY UTTERWORD. I shall go back to my numskull with the
greatest satisfaction when I am tired of you all, clever as you

MANGAN [huffily]. I never set up to be clever.

LADY UTTERWORD. I forgot you, Mr Mangan.

MANGAN. Well, I don't see that quite, either.

LADY UTTERWORD. You may not be clever, Mr Mangan; but
you are successful.

MANGAN. But I don't want to be regarded merely as a successful
man. I have an imagination like anyone else. I have a

MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, you are impossible, Alfred. Here I am devoting
myself to you; and you think of nothing but your ridiculous
presentiment. You bore me. Come and talk poetry to me under the
stars. [She drags him away into the darkness].

MANGAN [tearfully, as he disappears]. Yes: it's all very well to
make fun of me; but if you only knew--

HECTOR [impatiently]. How is all this going to end?

MAZZINI. It won't end, Mr Hushabye. Life doesn't end: it goes on.

ELLIE. Oh, it can't go on forever. I'm always expecting
something. I don't know what it is; but life must come to a point

LADY UTTERWORD. The point for a young woman of your age is a

HECTOR. Yes, but, damn it, I have the same feeling; and I can't
have a baby.

LADY UTTERWORD. By deputy, Hector.

HECTOR. But I have children. All that is over and done with for
me: and yet I too feel that this can't last. We sit here talking,
and leave everything to Mangan and to chance and to the devil.
Think of the powers of destruction that Mangan and his mutual
admiration gang wield! It's madness: it's like giving a torpedo
to a badly brought up child to play at earthquakes with.

MAZZINI. I know. I used often to think about that when I was

HECTOR. Think! What's the good of thinking about it? Why didn't
you do something?

MAZZINI. But I did. I joined societies and made speeches and
wrote pamphlets. That was all I could do. But, you know, though
the people in the societies thought they knew more than Mangan,
most of them wouldn't have joined if they had known as much.
You see they had never had any money to handle or any men
to manage. Every year I expected a revolution, or some frightful
smash-up: it seemed impossible that we could blunder and muddle
on any longer. But nothing happened, except, of course, the usual
poverty and crime and drink that we are used to. Nothing ever
does happen. It's amazing how well we get along, all things

LADY UTTERWORD. Perhaps somebody cleverer than you and Mr
Mangan was at work all the time.

MAZZINI. Perhaps so. Though I was brought up not to believe in
anything, I often feel that there is a great deal to be said for
the theory of an over-ruling Providence, after all.

LADY UTTERWORD. Providence! I meant Hastings.

MAZZINI. Oh, I beg your pardon, Lady Utterword.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Every drunken skipper trusts to Providence.
But one of the ways of Providence with drunken skippers is to
run them on the rocks.

MAZZINI. Very true, no doubt, at sea. But in politics, I assure
you, they only run into jellyfish. Nothing happens.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. At sea nothing happens to the sea. Nothing
happens to the sky. The sun comes up from the east and goes
down to the west. The moon grows from a sickle to an arc lamp,
and comes later and later until she is lost in the light as other
things are lost in the darkness. After the typhoon, the
flying-fish glitter in the sunshine like birds. It's amazing how
they get along, all things considered. Nothing happens, except
something not worth mentioning.

ELLIE. What is that, O Captain, O my captain?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [savagely]. Nothing but the smash of the
drunken skipper's ship on the rocks, the splintering of her rotten
timbers, the tearing of her rusty plates, the drowning of the
crew like rats in a trap.

ELLIE. Moral: don't take rum.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [vehemently]. That is a lie, child. Let a man
drink ten barrels of rum a day, he is not a drunken skipper until
he is a drifting skipper. Whilst he can lay his course and stand
on his bridge and steer it, he is no drunkard. It is the man who
lies drinking in his bunk and trusts to Providence that I call
the drunken skipper, though he drank nothing but the waters
of the River Jordan.

ELLIE. Splendid! And you haven't had a drop for an hour. You
see you don't need it: your own spirit is not dead.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Echoes: nothing but echoes. The last shot
was fired years ago.

HECTOR. And this ship that we are all in? This soul's prison we
call England?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The captain is in his bunk, drinking bottled
ditch-water; and the crew is gambling in the forecastle. She will
strike and sink and split. Do you think the laws of God will be
suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?

HECTOR. Well, I don't mean to be drowned like a rat in a trap. I
still have the will to live. What am I to do?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Do? Nothing simpler. Learn your business
as an Englishman.

HECTOR. And what may my business as an Englishman be, pray?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Navigation. Learn it and live; or leave it and
be damned.

ELLIE. Quiet, quiet: you'll tire yourself.

MAZZINI. I thought all that once, Captain; but I assure you
nothing will happen.

A dull distant explosion is heard.

HECTOR [starting up]. What was that?

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Something happening [he blows his whistle].
Breakers ahead!

The light goes out.

HECTOR [furiously]. Who put that light out? Who dared put that
light out?

NURSE GUINNESS [running in from the house to the middle of the
esplanade]. I did, sir. The police have telephoned to say we'll
be summoned if we don't put that light out: it can be seen for

HECTOR. It shall be seen for a hundred miles [he dashes into the

NURSE GUINNESS. The Rectory is nothing but a heap of bricks, they
say. Unless we can give the Rector a bed he has nowhere to lay
his head this night.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The Church is on the rocks, breaking up. I told
him it would unless it headed for God's open sea.

NURSE GUINNESS. And you are all to go down to the cellars.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Go there yourself, you and all the crew.
Batten down the hatches.

NURSE GUINNESS. And hide beside the coward I married! I'll go
on the roof first. [The lamp lights up again]. There! Mr Hushabye's
turned it on again.

THE BURGLAR [hurrying in and appealing to Nurse Guinness].
Here: where's the way to that gravel pit? The boot-boy says
there's a cave in the gravel pit. Them cellars is no use. Where's
the gravel pit, Captain?

NURSE GUINNESS. Go straight on past the flagstaff until you fall
into it and break your dirty neck. [She pushes him contemptuously
towards the flagstaff, and herself goes to the foot of the
hammock and waits there, as it were by Ariadne's cradle].

Another and louder explosion is heard. The burglar stops and
stands trembling.

ELLIE [rising]. That was nearer.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The next one will get us. [He rises]. Stand by,
all hands, for judgment.

THE BURGLAR. Oh my Lordy God! [He rushes away frantically past
the flagstaff into the gloom].

MRS HUSHABYE [emerging panting from the darkness]. Who was
that running away? [She comes to Ellie]. Did you hear the
explosions? And the sound in the sky: it's splendid: it's like an
orchestra: it's like Beethoven.

ELLIE. By thunder, Hesione: it is Beethoven.

She and Hesione throw themselves into one another's arms
in wild excitement. The light increases.

MAZZINI [anxiously]. The light is getting brighter.

NURSE GUINNESS [looking up at the house]. It's Mr Hushabye
turning on all the lights in the house and tearing down the

RANDALL [rushing in in his pyjamas, distractedly waving a flute].
Ariadne, my soul, my precious, go down to the cellars: I beg and
implore you, go down to the cellars!

LADY UTTERWORD [quite composed in her hammock]. The
governor's wife in the cellars with the servants! Really, Randall!

RANDALL. But what shall I do if you are killed?

LADY UTTERWORD. You will probably be killed, too, Randall. Now
play your flute to show that you are not afraid; and be good.
Play us "Keep the home fires burning."

NURSE GUINNESS [grimly]. THEY'LL keep the home fires burning for
us: them up there.

RANDALL [having tried to play]. My lips are trembling. I can't
get a sound.

MAZZINI. I hope poor Mangan is safe.

MRS HUSHABYE. He is hiding in the cave in the gravel pit.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. My dynamite drew him there. It is the hand of

HECTOR [returning from the house and striding across to his
former place]. There is not half light enough. We should be
blazing to the skies.

ELLIE [tense with excitement]. Set fire to the house, Marcus.

MRS HUSHABYE. My house! No.

HECTOR. I thought of that; but it would not be ready in time.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The judgment has come. Courage will not
save you; but it will show that your souls are still live.

MRS HUSHABYE. Sh-sh! Listen: do you hear it now? It's

They all turn away from the house and look up, listening.

HECTOR [gravely]. Miss Dunn, you can do no good here. We of
this house are only moths flying into the candle. You had better
go down to the cellar.

ELLIE [scornfully]. I don't think.

MAZZINI. Ellie, dear, there is no disgrace in going to the
cellar. An officer would order his soldiers to take cover. Mr
Hushabye is behaving like an amateur. Mangan and the
burglar are acting very sensibly; and it is they who will survive.

ELLIE. Let them. I shall behave like an amateur. But why
should you run any risk?

MAZZINI. Think of the risk those poor fellows up there are

NURSE GUINNESS. Think of them, indeed, the murdering
blackguards! What next?

A terrific explosion shakes the earth. They reel back into their
seats, or clutch the nearest support. They hear the falling of
the shattered glass from the windows.

MAZZINI. Is anyone hurt?

HECTOR. Where did it fall?

NURSE GUINNESS [in hideous triumph]. Right in the gravel pit:
I seen it. Serve un right! I seen it [she runs away towards
the gravel pit, laughing harshly].

HECTOR. One husband gone.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Thirty pounds of good dynamite wasted.

MAZZINI. Oh, poor Mangan!

HECTOR. Are you immortal that you need pity him? Our turn

They wait in silence and intense expectation. Hesione and Ellie
hold each other's hand tight.

A distant explosion is heard.

MRS HUSHABYE [relaxing her grip]. Oh! they have passed us.

LADY UTTERWORD. The danger is over, Randall. Go to bed.

CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Turn in, all hands. The ship is safe. [He sits
down and goes asleep].

ELLIE [disappointedly]. Safe!

HECTOR [disgustedly]. Yes, safe. And how damnably dull the
world has become again suddenly! [he sits down].

MAZZINI [sitting down]. I was quite wrong, after all. It is we
who have survived; and Mangan and the burglar--

HECTOR. -- the two burglars--

LADY UTTERWORD. -- the two practical men of business--

MAZZINI. -- both gone. And the poor clergyman will have to get
a new house.

MRS HUSHABYE. But what a glorious experience! I hope they'll
come again tomorrow night.

ELLIE [radiant at the prospect]. Oh, I hope so.

Randall at last succeeds in keeping the home fires burning on
his flute.


Previous Next

11643693 visitors
· 8908 texts · 2350 recordings · 957 authors · 194 readers

· Home · Index · Audio Clips · Links · Feedback · About Us · Contact Us ·

Copyright © All Rights Reserved.

Warning: Unknown: Your script possibly relies on a session side-effect which existed until PHP 4.2.3. Please be advised that the session extension does not consider global variables as a source of data, unless register_globals is enabled. You can disable this functionality and this warning by setting session.bug_compat_42 or session.bug_compat_warn to off, respectively in Unknown on line 0