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- John Bull's Other Island - 1/25 -
JOHN BULL'S OTHER ISLAND
by BERNARD SHAW
Great George Street, Westminster, is the address of Doyle and Broadbent, civil engineers. On the threshold one reads that the firm consists of Mr Lawrence Doyle and Mr Thomas Broadbent, and that their rooms are on the first floor. Most of their rooms are private; for the partners, being bachelors and bosom friends, live there; and the door marked Private, next the clerks' office, is their domestic sitting room as well as their reception room for clients. Let me describe it briefly from the point of view of a sparrow on the window sill. The outer door is in the opposite wall, close to the right hand corner. Between this door and the left hand corner is a hatstand and a table consisting of large drawing boards on trestles, with plans, rolls of tracing paper, mathematical instruments and other draughtsman's accessories on it. In the left hand wall is the fireplace, and the door of an inner room between the fireplace and our observant sparrow. Against the right hand wall is a filing cabinet, with a cupboard on it, and, nearer, a tall office desk and stool for one person. In the middle of the room a large double writing table is set across, with a chair at each end for the two partners. It is a room which no woman would tolerate, smelling of tobacco, and much in need of repapering, repainting, and recarpeting; but this it the effect of bachelor untidiness and indifference, not want of means; for nothing that Doyle and Broadbent themselves have purchased is cheap; nor is anything they want lacking. On the walls hang a large map of South America, a pictorial advertisement of a steamship company, an impressive portrait of Gladstone, and several caricatures of Mr Balfour as a rabbit and Mr Chamberlain as a fox by Francis Carruthers Gould.
At twenty minutes to five o'clock on a summer afternoon in 1904, the room is empty. Presently the outer door is opened, and a valet comes in laden with a large Gladstone bag, and a strap of rugs. He carries them into the inner room. He is a respectable valet, old enough to have lost all alacrity, and acquired an air of putting up patiently with a great deal of trouble and indifferent health. The luggage belongs to Broadbent, who enters after the valet. He pulls off his overcoat and hangs it with his hat on the stand. Then he comes to the writing table and looks through the letters which are waiting for him. He is a robust, full-blooded, energetic man in the prime of life, sometimes eager and credulous, sometimes shrewd and roguish, sometimes portentously solemn, sometimes jolly and impetuous, always buoyant and irresistible, mostly likeable, and enormously absurd in his most earnest moments. He bursts open his letters with his thumb, and glances through them, flinging the envelopes about the floor with reckless untidiness whilst he talks to the valet.
BROADBENT [calling] Hodson.
HODSON [in the bedroom] Yes sir.
BROADBENT. Don't unpack. Just take out the things I've worn; and put in clean things.
HODSON [appearing at the bedroom door] Yes sir. [He turns to go back into the bedroom.
BROADBENT. And look here! [Hodson turns again]. Do you remember where I put my revolver?
HODSON. Revolver, sir? Yes sir. Mr Doyle uses it as a paper-weight, sir, when he's drawing.
BROADBENT. Well, I want it packed. There's a packet of cartridges somewhere, I think. Find it and pack it as well.
HODSON. Yes sir.
BROADBENT. By the way, pack your own traps too. I shall take you with me this time.
HODSON [hesitant]. Is it a dangerous part you're going to, sir? Should I be expected to carry a revolver, sir?
BROADBENT. Perhaps it might be as well. I'm going to Ireland.
HODSON [reassured]. Yes sir.
BROADBENT. You don't feel nervous about it, I suppose?
HODSON. Not at all, sir. I'll risk it, sir.
BROADBENT. Have you ever been in Ireland?
HODSON. No sir. I understand it's a very wet climate, sir. I'd better pack your india-rubber overalls.
BROADBENT. Do. Where's Mr Doyle?
HODSON. I'm expecting him at five, sir. He went out after lunch.
BROADBENT. Anybody been looking for me?
HODSON. A person giving the name of Haffigan has called twice to- day, sir.
BROADBENT. Oh, I'm sorry. Why didn't he wait? I told him to wait if I wasn't in.
HODSON. Well Sir, I didn't know you expected him; so I thought it best to--to--not to encourage him, sir.
BROADBENT. Oh, he's all right. He's an Irishman, and not very particular about his appearance.
HODSON. Yes sir, I noticed that he was rather Irish....
BROADBENT. If he calls again let him come up.
HODSON. I think I saw him waiting about, sir, when you drove up. Shall I fetch him, sir?
BROADBENT. Do, Hodson.
HODSON. Yes sir [He makes for the outer door].
BROADBENT. He'll want tea. Let us have some.
HODSON [stopping]. I shouldn't think he drank tea, sir.
BROADBENT. Well, bring whatever you think he'd like.
HODSON. Yes sir [An electric bell rings]. Here he is, sir. Saw you arrive, sir.
BROADBENT. Right. Show him in. [Hodson goes out. Broadbent gets through the rest of his letters before Hodson returns with the visitor].
HODSON. Mr Affigan.
Haffigan is a stunted, shortnecked, smallheaded, redhaired man of about 30, with reddened nose and furtive eyes. He is dressed in seedy black, almost clerically, and might be a tenth-rate schoolmaster ruined by drink. He hastens to shake Broadbent's hand with a show of reckless geniality and high spirits, helped out by a rollicking stage brogue. This is perhaps a comfort to himself, as he is secretly pursued by the horrors of incipient delirium tremens.
HAFFIGAN. Tim Haffigan, sir, at your service. The top o the mornin to you, Misther Broadbent.
BROADBENT [delighted with his Irish visitor]. Good afternoon, Mr Haffigan.
TIM. An is it the afthernoon it is already? Begorra, what I call the mornin is all the time a man fasts afther breakfast.
BROADBENT. Haven't you lunched?
TIM. Divil a lunch!
BROADBENT. I'm sorry I couldn't get back from Brighton in time to offer you some; but--
TIM. Not a word, sir, not a word. Sure it'll do tomorrow. Besides, I'm Irish, sir: a poor ather, but a powerful dhrinker.
BROADBENT. I was just about to ring for tea when you came. Sit down, Mr Haffigan.
TIM. Tay is a good dhrink if your nerves can stand it. Mine can't.
Haffigan sits down at the writing table, with his back to the filing cabinet. Broadbent sits opposite him. Hodson enters emptyhanded; takes two glasses, a siphon, and a tantalus from the cupboard; places them before Broadbent on the writing table; looks ruthlessly at Haffigan, who cannot meet his eye; and retires.
BROADBENT. Try a whisky and soda.
TIM [sobered]. There you touch the national wakeness, sir. [Piously] Not that I share it meself. I've seen too much of the mischief of it.
BROADBENT [pouring the whisky]. Say when.
TIM. Not too sthrong. [Broadbent stops and looks enquiringly at him]. Say half-an-half. [Broadbent, somewhat startled by this demand, pours a little more, and again stops and looks]. Just a dhrain more: the lower half o the tumbler doesn't hold a fair half. Thankya.
BROADBENT [laughing]. You Irishmen certainly do know how to drink. [Pouring some whisky for himself] Now that's my poor English idea of a whisky and soda.
TIM. An a very good idea it is too. Dhrink is the curse o me unhappy counthry. I take it meself because I've a wake heart and a poor digestion; but in principle I'm a teetoatler.
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