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- Press Cuttings - 2/9 -
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--
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--
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
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