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- MAJOR BARBARA - 4/24 -
comes of your provoking me to be sarcastic, Charles. Adolphus: will you kindly tell me where I was.
CUSINS [sweetly] You were saying that as Mr Undershaft has not seen his children since they were babies, he will form his opinion of the way you have brought them up from their behavior to-night, and that therefore you wish us all to be particularly careful to conduct ourselves well, especially Charles.
LOMAX. Look here: Lady Brit didn't say that.
LADY BRITOMART [vehemently] I did, Charles. Adolphus's recollection is perfectly correct. It is most important that you should be good; and I do beg you for once not to pair off into opposite corners and giggle and whisper while I am speaking to your father.
BARBARA. All right, mother. We'll do you credit.
LADY BRITOMART. Remember, Charles, that Sarah will want to feel proud of you instead of ashamed of you.
LOMAX. Oh I say! There's nothing to be exactly proud of, don't you know.
LADY BRITOMART. Well, try and look as if there was.
Morrison, pale and dismayed, breaks into the room in unconcealed disorder.
MORRISON. Might I speak a word to you, my lady?
LADY BRITOMART. Nonsense! Show him up.
MORRISON. Yes, my lady. [He goes].
LOMAX. Does Morrison know who he is?
LADY BRITOMART. Of course. Morrison has always been with us.
LOMAX. It must be a regular corker for him, don't you know.
LADY BRITOMART. Is this a moment to get on my nerves, Charles, with your outrageous expressions?
LOMAX. But this is something out of the ordinary, really--
MORRISON [at the door] The--er--Mr Undershaft. [He retreats in confusion].
Andrew Undershaft comes in. All rise. Lady Britomart meets him in the middle of the room behind the settee.
Andrew is, on the surface, a stoutish, easygoing elderly man, with kindly patient manners, and an engaging simplicity of character. But he has a watchful, deliberate, waiting, listening face, and formidable reserves of power, both bodily and mental, in his capacious chest and long head. His gentleness is partly that of a strong man who has learnt by experience that his natural grip hurts ordinary people unless he handles them very carefully, and partly the mellowness of age and success. He is also a little shy in his present very delicate situation.
LADY BRITOMART. Good evening, Andrew.
UNDERSHAFT. How d'ye do, my dear.
LADY BRITOMART. You look a good deal older.
UNDERSHAFT [apologetically] I AM somewhat older. [With a touch of courtship] Time has stood still with you.
LADY BRITOMART [promptly] Rubbish! This is your family.
UNDERSHAFT [surprised] Is it so large? I am sorry to say my memory is failing very badly in some things. [He offers his hand with paternal kindness to Lomax].
LOMAX [jerkily shaking his hand] Ahdedoo.
UNDERSHAFT. I can see you are my eldest. I am very glad to meet you again, my boy.
LOMAX [remonstrating] No but look here don't you know--[Overcome] Oh I say!
LADY BRITOMART [recovering from momentary speechlessness] Andrew: do you mean to say that you don't remember how many children you have?
UNDERSHAFT. Well, I am afraid I--. They have grown so much--er. Am I making any ridiculous mistake? I may as well confess: I recollect only one son. But so many things have happened since, of course--er--
LADY BRITOMART [decisively] Andrew: you are talking nonsense. Of course you have only one son.
UNDERSHAFT. Perhaps you will be good enough to introduce me, my dear.
LADY BRITOMART. That is Charles Lomax, who is engaged to Sarah.
UNDERSHAFT. My dear sir, I beg your pardon.
LOMAX. Notatall. Delighted, I assure you.
LADY BRITOMART. This is Stephen.
UNDERSHAFT [bowing] Happy to make your acquaintance, Mr Stephen. Then [going to Cusins] you must be my son. [Taking Cusins' hands in his] How are you, my young friend? [To Lady Britomart] He is very like you, my love.
CUSINS. You flatter me, Mr Undershaft. My name is Cusins: engaged to Barbara. [Very explicitly] That is Major Barbara Undershaft, of the Salvation Army. That is Sarah, your second daughter. This is Stephen Undershaft, your son.
UNDERSHAFT. My dear Stephen, I beg your pardon.
STEPHEN. Not at all.
UNDERSHAFT. Mr Cusins: I am much indebted to you for explaining so precisely. [Turning to Sarah] Barbara, my dear--
SARAH [prompting him] Sarah.
UNDERSHAFT. Sarah, of course. [They shake hands. He goes over to Barbara] Barbara--I am right this time, I hope.
BARBARA. Quite right. [They shake hands].
LADY BRITOMART [resuming command] Sit down, all of you. Sit down, Andrew. [She comes forward and sits on the settle. Cusins also brings his chair forward on her left. Barbara and Stephen resume their seats. Lomax gives his chair to Sarah and goes for another].
UNDERSHAFT. Thank you, my love.
LOMAX [conversationally, as he brings a chair forward between the writing table and the settee, and offers it to Undershaft] Takes you some time to find out exactly where you are, don't it?
UNDERSHAFT [accepting the chair] That is not what embarrasses me, Mr Lomax. My difficulty is that if I play the part of a father, I shall produce the effect of an intrusive stranger; and if I play the part of a discreet stranger, I may appear a callous father.
LADY BRITOMART. There is no need for you to play any part at all, Andrew. You had much better be sincere and natural.
UNDERSHAFT [submissively] Yes, my dear: I daresay that will be best. [Making himself comfortable] Well, here I am. Now what can I do for you all?
LADY BRITOMART. You need not do anything, Andrew. You are one of the family. You can sit with us and enjoy yourself.
Lomax's too long suppressed mirth explodes in agonized neighings.
LADY BRITOMART [outraged] Charles Lomax: if you can behave yourself, behave yourself. If not, leave the room.
LOMAX. I'm awfully sorry, Lady Brit; but really, you know, upon my soul! [He sits on the settee between Lady Britomart and Undershaft, quite overcome].
BARBARA. Why don't you laugh if you want to, Cholly? It's good for your inside.
LADY BRITOMART. Barbara: you have had the education of a lady. Please let your father see that; and don't talk like a street girl.
UNDERSHAFT. Never mind me, my dear. As you know, I am not a gentleman; and I was never educated.
LOMAX [encouragingly] Nobody'd know it, I assure you. You look all right, you know.
CUSINS. Let me advise you to study Greek, Mr Undershaft. Greek scholars are privileged men. Few of them know Greek; and none of them know anything else; but their position is unchallengeable. Other languages are the qualifications of waiters and commercial travellers: Greek is to a man of position what the hallmark is to silver.
BARBARA. Dolly: don't be insincere. Cholly: fetch your concertina and play something for us.
LOMAX [doubtfully to Undershaft] Perhaps that sort of thing isn't in your line, eh?
UNDERSHAFT. I am particularly fond of music.
LOMAX [delighted] Are you? Then I'll get it. [He goes upstairs for the instrument].
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