Buoyant Billions/Act IV

Free texts and images.
Jump to: navigation, search

Act III. A Drawing-room in Belgrave Square. The Discussion Buoyant Billions
Act IV
written by George Bernard Shaw
The Author Explains


When the temple reappears the censer is on the altar. The Priest and the Native are rearranging the chairs.

Old Bill Buoyant comes in. A greybeard, like any other greybeard; but a gorgeous golden dressing gown and yellow slippers give him a hieratic air.

OLD BILL. Have they all cleared out?

PRIEST. All. The temple is cleansed.

OLD BILL. Good. Who is your friend?

NATIVE. I am the servant of your daughter.

OLD BILL. Which daughter?

NATIVE. From Panama.

OLD BILL. Good. Has she left the house yet?

NATIVE. Not without me. I drive her car.

OLD BILL. Good. Tell her to come and see me here.

NATIVE. At your service, O sage. [He salaams and goes out].

OLD BILL. Shall I profane the temple if I kiss my daughter here? I am fond of her.

PRIEST. Truly no. The temple will sanctify your kiss.

OLD BILL. Good. It is curious how happy I always feel here. I am not a religious man. I do not go to church.

PRIEST. You meditate.

OLD BILL. No. Meditation is not in my line: I speculate. And my speculations turn out well when I spend an hour here and just empty my mind.

PRIEST. When the mind is empty the gods take possession. And the gods know.

OLD BILL. Yes: I suppose thats it. But it's a queer business: I thought I was the very last man in the world to put my nose into a temple. However, you know all this. I am repeating myself, and boring you. Leave me to myself. [He seats himself in the bishop's chair].

PRIEST. I repeat the service every day; yet it does not bore me: there is always something new in it. They tell me it is the same with your orchestral symphonies: the great ones cannot be heard too often. But as you desire, I leave you to your aftercalm.

OLD BILL. So long, Mahatma.

The Priest nods gravely, and is going when She and He come in.

THE PRIEST. Peace be with you three. [He goes].

SHE [rushing to Old Bill and kissing him] Daddyest!

OLD BILL [returning her embrace] My Babzy! Who is the man?

SHE. I dont know. He wants to marry me.

OLD BILL. Does he indeed? Do you want to marry him?

SHE. I am considering it. I am not dead set against it.

OLD BILL. Whats his name?

SHE. I dont know.

OLD BILL. The devil you dont!

SHE [to Him] Whats your name?

HE. Smith. Only Smith. Christened Junius.

OLD BILL. Have you nothing else to say for yourself?

JUNIUS. Nothing whatever.

OLD BILL. Any profession?

HE. World betterer. Nothing paying.

SHE. If I marry him I shall have to keep him and manage for him. But that is not altogether a drawback. I do not mean to be any man's kept slave.

OLD BILL [to Junius] What about you? Do you want to be any woman's kept man?

JUNIUS. I dont want anything but your daughter. I dont know why. I know nothing about her; and she knows nothing about me. I am simply mad on the subject.

OLD BILL [to Her] Are you mad on the subject?

SHE. Not so mad as he is. I can do without him. If not, I should be his slave.

OLD BILL. Do you hear that, young man? You will be the slave.

JUNIUS. I suppose so. But I must risk it. So must she. You can understand this. You have made your billions by taking risks.

OLD BILL. I have seen men ruined by taking risks. I have a sort of instinct about them which brings me out all right. For old Bill Buoyant there are no risks. But for you, perhaps???

JUNIUS. Well, there may be none for your daughter. She may inherit your genius.

OLD BILL. She does. But my genius tells me not to throw away my daughter on a young lunatic.

JUNIUS. You are jealous, eh? Let me remind you that all parents must see their children walk out sooner or later. Mothers-in-law are stock jokes. Nobody jokes about fathers-in-law; but they are troublesome enough when they hold on too long.

SHE. Parents cannot be turned out into the woods to die. We are not savages. Daddy will always be a part of my life.

JUNIUS. Not always. How long do you intend to live, old man?

OLD BILL. Not for ever: God forbid! [To Her] The fellow is right, darling. Leave me out of the question.

SHE. I cant leave you out, Daddy. But you will know your natural place in my house: you have always known it in your own. I can trust you.

JUNIUS. I have no objection to your father as long as he lasts. He has the billions.

OLD BILL. The billions will stop when I die. Would you be as keen if there were no billions?

JUNIUS. Just as keen. How often must I tell you that I am mad about her? But we shall want the money. I have earned nothing so far.

OLD BILL [to Her] He has an eye for facts, this chap. I rather like him.

SHE. Yes: so do I. He has no illusions about himself nor about me. After all, if he turns out badly I can divorce him.

OLD BILL. Well, our parting must come someday; and if you and I were the wisest father and daughter on earth the upshot would be just as much a toss-up as if we were the two damndest fools. Still, there are certain precautions one can take.

JUNIUS. A joint annuity, for instance.

OLD BILL. Your sense of money is very clear, young man. But I have already bought her an annuity for her life. Not for yours. Any further precautions you must take yourself.

JUNIUS. I must agree. The Life Force has got me. I can make no conditions.

OLD BILL [to Her] Well, will you marry him?

SHE. I will consider it.

JUNIUS. If you consider it you will refuse. There would be no marriages if the two started considering.

OLD BILL. That is the first stupid thing you have said, young man. All marriages are very anxiously considered; but considering has never yet prevented a marriage. If you are her man she will have you, consideration or no consideration.

SHE. What do you advise, Daddy?

OLD BILL. Oh, take him, take him. I like him; and he will do as well as another. You may regret it; but you will regret it worse if you are afraid to try your luck.

JUNIUS. I am surprised and deeply obliged to you, Mr Buoyant. I expected you to use all your influence against me. You are a model father-in-law.

SHE. I feel as if I were going to commit suicide.

JUNIUS. In a sense, you are. So am I. The chrysalis dies when the dragonfly is born.

SHE. I am no chrysalis. I am a working bee: you are a drone.

JUNIUS. That is nature's arrangement. We cannot change it.

OLD BILL. A working husband is no husband at all. When I had to work, my wife was only my housekeeper: she saw next to nothing of me except when I came home at night hungry and tired and dirty. When I did nothing but send telegrams to my stockbroker--I dont call that work--and buy fancy waistcoats and diamond cravat pins, she began to enjoy her marriage and love me. And long as she has been dead now, I have never been unfaithful to her, nor ever shall be.

JUNIUS. But you married again.

OLD BILL. It was not the same thing. I wanted more children because I was so fond of the one I had. But it was not the same.

JUNIUS. Did you never think of bettering the world with your money?

OLD BILL. What the devil do I care about the world? What did it care about me when I was poor? Dont talk your world bettering cant to me if we are to get on together. I am not going to buy any of your shares.

JUNIUS. I apologize. My shares pay no dividends. I will not pursue the subject. When are we to get married? Name the day.

OLD BILL. Dont frighten her. When she names it, you will be frightened.

JUNIUS. I am frightened already. But we must dare. By the way, where shall we live? Not in Panama, I hope.

SHE. No. In Panama I should be nervous about you when you were out of my sight. You cannot charm the rattlers and gaters as I can.

JUNIUS. Why not? I can learn the saxophone.

SHE. True; but we should be out of reach of Daddy. We shall live in Park Lane.

JUNIUS. You know, of course, that there are plenty of rattlers and gaters of the human variety in Park Lane?

SHE. Yes; and you may be one of them.

JUNIUS. You have an answer for everything. What a prospect for me!

SHE. We are both taking chances. We shall live where I like.

JUNIUS. Or where I like. I can assert myself.

SHE. So can I. We shall see which of us wins. Stop chattering; and go out and buy a marriage licence.

JUNIUS [taken aback] Oh, I say! This is very sudden.

OLD BILL. Frightened, eh? Go. Get it over. You will have to arrange for two witnesses.

JUNIUS. I wish I could arrange for an anesthetist. The operation is terrifying.

SHE. Dont forget to buy a wedding ring. Have you money enough?

JUNIUS. I have what is left of the thousand pounds my father started me with. Panama made a big hole in it.

OLD BILL. Off with you, damn you. You are stealing my daughter from me. I hope she will soon tire of you and come back to me. [To Her] Give him one of your rings to get the fit right. Never mind the witnesses: Tom and Dick will do.

JUNIUS [to Her] Wouldnt you like to be married in church and have the banns called? That would give us three weeks to think it over.

SHE. No. Now or never.

JUNIUS. I am being rushed.

OLD BILL. You will spend your life being rushed if you live with Babz. Better get used to it at once.

SHE. A ring that will fit your middle finger will be big enough for my third. I have bigger hands. I was brought up to use them. You werent.

JUNIUS. You must put up with that. My hands are those of a philosopher: yours of a charwoman. Oh, why, WHY am I infatuated with you? I know so many apparently superior women.

SHE. Same here. Daddy is worth ten of you.

JUNIUS. You think so. But if you only knew how quickly I can lose money. He can only make it.

OLD BILL. Leave me out of it: I shall not last much longer: you have a lifetime to give her. Away with you to the registry office and stop talking.

JUNIUS. I go. But I'm not sure I shall ever come back. [He goes out].

SHE. I half hope he wont.

JUNIUS [coming back] By the way, whats your Christian name?

SHE. Clementina Alexandra.

JUNIUS. Righto! [Making a note of it] Cle-Men-Tina Alexandra. [He goes].

SHE [throwing her arms round Old Bill's neck and kissing him] Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!

The Native comes in and closes the door carefully. Babz quickly releases her father.

THE NATIVE [to Her] Sir Flopper, the illustrious law servant of God, has waited until your venerable father is disengaged. May he enter?

OLD BILL. Yes. Shew him in.

THE NATIVE [looks to Her for confirmation??]

SHE. Yes. Shew him in.

THE NATIVE [throwing the door open] Enter, Excellency.

Sir Ferdinand comes in. The Native withdraws.

SIR FERDINAND [to Old Bill] Pardon. I thought you were alone.

OLD BILL. Get out, Babzy.

SHE. Au revoir, Sir Ferdinand.

He opens the door for her and bows gravely as she passes out, then closes the door, and, after an inviting gesture from Old Bill, sits down in the chair vacated by her.

SIR FERDINAND. First let me say that I am not here professionally.

OLD BILL. Why not? You must live.

SIR FERDINAND. My reason is that I am totally incapable of advising you on the subject of your extraordinary family. They are outside my experience. If I were a medical adviser I should certify them as insane.

OLD BILL. And me?

SIR FERDINAND. Well, hardly yet. Your instructions were rational enough. I put your financial case before your sons as you desired. I was interrupted by the arrival from America of the lady who has just left us. I was interrupted again by the arrival of a young man who proposed to marry her for her money. Your daughter made no objection: she seemed to prefer it to a disinterested proposal. Your family did not demur. I am prepared to learn that you do not demur. In any other family he would have been kicked out of the house.

OLD BILL. I like the fellow.

SIR FERDINAND. Like the fellow! Like an impudent fortune hunter! In Heaven's name, why?

OLD BILL. He asks straight questions and gives straight answers. So does my daughter. I taught her to do it. It was all I could teach her. Didnt you notice it?

SIR FERDINAND. I did indeed. And I have come to tell you I can no longer act as your solicitor. My brother Cyril is a doctor, head of a mental hospital for incurables. He is the man you should consult. Lawyers are useless here.

OLD BILL. Come, come, Flopper! You know as well as I do that people who marry for money are happy together as often as other people. It is the love matches that break down because Providence wants sound children and does not care a snap of its fingers whether the parents are happy or not. It makes them mad about one another until the children are born, and then drops them like hot potatoes. Money guarantees comfort and what you call culture. Love guarantees nothing. I know this. You know it. My daughter knows it. The young man knows it. Are we mad because we act and speak accordingly? Are you sane because you pretend to be shocked by it? It is you who should go to the mental hospital.

SIR FERDINAND. That also is a matter for medical, not legal opinion. I will not discuss it. I have only to tell you that I explained to your second family as you instructed me, that the source of their incomes would dry up at your death, and they must then fend for themselves.

OLD BILL. Good. What did they say to that?

SIR FERDINAND. Nothing. I had to suggest that they should live by directorships founded on your reputation.

OLD BILL. Guinea pigs. No use: that game is up. The new Labor Government gives such jobs to superannuated Trade Union secretaries.

SIR FERDINAND. Then why have you not provided for your second family as you did for your first daughter?

OLD BILL. It is not the same. They dont belong to me as she does.

SIR FERDINAND. They will starve.

OLD BILL. No they wont. They can live on their wives' incomes. I took care of that.

SIR FERDINAND. Well, that is all I have to say. I shall accept no fees for it; but I shall be glad to keep up our acquaintance, if that will be agreeable to you.


SIR FERDINAND. Pure curiosity.

OLD BILL. I dont believe you.

SIR FERDINAND [rising, offended] Do you accuse me of lying?

OLD BILL. Yes. There must be some attraction. Which woman is it? One of my sons' wives, eh?

SIR FERDINAND [sitting down again, deflated] Well, really! No: they are married women. You have two unmarried daughters.

OLD BILL. Darkie? I actually forgot Darkie. Think of that!

SIR FERDINAND. Do not misunderstand me. I am a bachelor, not a libertine. I want a daughter.

OLD BILL. Good. Ive always had an uneasy conscience about Darkie. Ive never been able to give her the affection Ive heaped on Babzy. She has never had a father. Take her; and be a father to her. Come as often as you please: you are one of the family now.

SIR FERDINAND. You take my breath away. This is too sudden. A minute ago I did not know why I wanted to keep on terms with you all. You have shoved it down my throat.

OLD BILL. That is the Buoyant way: it saves a lot of time. Now that you know, you had better stay to lunch.

SIR FERDINAND. No. I must go home and think it over. Never fear: I shall not back out.

Darkie comes in.

OLD BILL. Here she is. Telepathy. It runs in the family.

DARKIE. Oh! I beg your pardon. I did not know you were engaged. It is only to ask whether you will have asparagus or broad beans for lunch.

OLD BILL. Sparrowgrass? Yes: plenty of it. [She turns to go.] Wait a bit. Sir Ferdinand Flopper here has fallen for you. He wants to be your father.

DARKIE. I dont want a father. Ive never had a real father: I'm not accustomed to it. I'm only a housekeeper.

OLD BILL. Well, my child, you can have a real father now, a baronet. Try him. You can drop him if he doesnt suit. Somebody to spoil you as Ive spoilt Babzy.

DARKIE. I dont want to be spoilt. I like housekeeping; and I'm not sentimental. If I ever want to be spoilt I shall get married. I am sorry to disappoint you, Sir Ferdinand; but daughtering is a game I have no turn for.

SIR FERDINAND. I see. But at least youll not mind my keeping up my acquaintance with the family.

DARKIE. Not a bit. Let me know what you like to eat and drink: that is all. I must go now to see about father's lunch. Tata.

She goes out.

OLD BILL. Dumbfounded, eh?

SIR FERDINAND. Completely. What a house this is! She was not a bit surprised, though she was quite unprepared.

OLD BILL. We Buoyants are always prepared for the worst.

SIR FERDINAND. Or the best, I hope. My offer is hardly a misfortune, as I see it.

OLD BILL. It isnt. Dont fancy you have escaped her. She asked about your grub. She is glad to have one more to housekeep for. You may consider yourself adopted.

SIR FERDINAND. I am past considering anything.

OLD BILL. Youll get used to it.

SIR FERDINAND. Yes: I suppose I shall. The curious thing is, I am beginning to like it.

OLD BILL. Good. [Looking at his watch] I wonder whether that chap is coming back. He ought to be here by now.

The Widower enters.

THE WIDOWER. Look here, Ee Pee: the young man from Panama says he is going to be married to Clemmy. He wants me and Dick to be witnesses. Is that all right?

OLD BILL. Yes. Quite all right. Has he got the licence?

THE WIDOWER. Yes. And he has borrowed my wife's wedding ring for the ceremony. He was short of pocket money for a new one. The money for the licence cleaned him out.

OLD BILL. Then he has come back?

THE WIDOWER. Yes. A bit upset, naturally; but he means business.


SIR FERDINAND. Excuse me: but what does Ee Pee mean? Esteemed Parent?

OLD BILL. No. Earthly Providence. Darkie's invention.

SIR FERDINAND. Ah! Precisely.

The youth Fiffy comes in.

FIFFY. Look here, Ee Pee. Clemmy and the man from Panama are going to marry. He has got the licence.

OLD BILL. Well, what is that to you, you young rip?

FIFFY. Only that the chap is a World Betterer. I thought you had enough of that from me.

OLD BILL. So I have. The pair of you want to better the world when you dont know enough of it to manage a fish and chips business.

FIFFY. True, O king. But we are needed in the world bettering business, not in fish and chips. Still, one World Betterer is enough in one family.

OLD BILL. Keep out of it then, you. You were born to talk and say nothing, to write and do nothing. That pays.

FIFFY. To make sure, I shall marry for money, as the Panama chap is doing. Dont you agree, Sir Ferdinand?

SIR FERDINAND. Yes, if you can find the lady. Dress better; and oil your hair.

Babzy comes back with her two stepsisters-in-law.

SHE. Dick, dear: shall I marry the man from Panama?

SECONDBORN. My dearest Clemmy: I cannot advise you. You must take chances; but they are not calculable mathematically. We have no figures to go on: the proportion of happy love marriages to happy marriages of convenience has never been counted.

MRS SECONDBORN. Do stop talking heartless nonsense, Dick. Has the man any means or expectations? Is he a gentleman? He speaks like a gentleman. He dresses like a gentleman. But he has not the feelings of a gentleman. He says things that no gentleman would dream of saying. That is all we know about him. Dont marry him, Clemmy.

SECONDBORN. My dear: she must take chances or not marry at all.

MRS SECONDBORN. Oh, bother your chances! Chances! Chances! Chances! You are always talking about chances. Talk sense.

SECONDBORN. You tell me so almost every day, dear. I took my chance when I married you. But I do not regret it. You are the stupidest woman on earth; but you are a part of my life.

MRS SECONDBORN. Well, ask Sir Ferdinand which of us is right. Clemmy has low tastes; but that is no reason why she should throw herself away on a nobody.

SIR FERDINAND. I do not think, Mr Buoyant, that you can treat this question altogether as a mathematical one. You must take account of feelings, passions, emotions, intuitions, instincts, as well as cold quantities and figures and logic.

SECONDBORN [rising to the occasion eloquently] And who dares say that mathematics and reasoning are not passions? Mathematic perception is the noblest of all the faculties! This cant about their being soulless, dead, inhuman mechanisms is contrary to the plainest facts of life and history. What has carried our minds farther than mathematical foresight? Who has done more for enlightenment and civilization than Giordano Bruno, Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Descartes, Rutherford, Einstein, all of them far seeing guessers carried away by the passion for measuring truth and knowledge that possessed and drove them? Will you set above this great passion the vulgar concupiscences of Don Juan and Casanova, and the romance of Beatrice and Francesca, of Irish Deirdre, the greatest bores in literature, mere names incidentally immortalized by a few lines in a great poem?

MRS THIRDBORN. They had hearts, Dick.

SECONDBORN. Hearts! What are hearts without brains? You mean that they had glands: pituitary glands, adrenal glands, thyroid glands, pouring hormones into their blood. Do you suppose that there is no mathematical hormone? Our anatomists have not yet discovered it; but it is there, undiscovered and invisible, pouring into our brains, controlled by our enzymes and catalysts as surely as our appetites for beef and brandy. La Rochefoucauld told you two centuries ago that though the appetite we call love is in everybody's mouth very few have ever experienced it. God is not Love: Love is not Enough: the appetite for more truth, more knowledge, for measurement and precision, is far more universal: even the dullest fools have some glimmer of it. My wife here never tires of playing bridge and solving crossword puzzles as she tires of housekeeping. Her love for me is very variable: it turns to hate in its terrible reactions. Mathematical passion alone has no reaction: our pleasure in it promises a development in which life will be an intellectual ecstasy surpassing the ecstasies of saints. Think of that, Clara. Take your chance, Clemmy. Forgive my prolixity. Ive done.

He flings himself back into his chair.

MRS SECONDBORN [humbled] Well, Dick, I will say that you are wonderful when you speak your piece, though I never understand a word. You must be the greatest man in the family: you always make me feel like a fool. I am proud of you. I may lose my temper sometimes; but I never hate you.

Darkie comes in.

OLD BILL. Ah! there you are. Youve missed something.

DARKIE. No: Ive been listening at the door.

FIFFY. By George, Dick, you were splendid. World bettering be damned! I shall qualify as a doctor and look for that hormone.

Junius comes in with the licence in his hand.

JUNIUS. Well, Ive come back after all. Here is the licence. Ive got the witnesses. Is it yes or no?

SHE. I suppose I must take my chance. Yes.

DARKIE. What I want to know is how many of you are staying for lunch.

The curtain falls and ends the play.