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- Press Cuttings - 4/9 -
is going to shoot, not to be shot.
BALSQUITH (jumping up and walking about sulkily). Oh come! I like to hear you military people talking of cowardice. Why, you spend your lives in an ecstasy of terror of imaginary invasions. I dont believe you ever go to bed without looking under it for a burglar.
MITCHENER (calmly). A very sensible precaution, Balsquith. I always take it. And in consequence Ive never been burgled.
BALSQUITH. Neither have I. Anyhow dont you taunt me with cowardice. (He posts himself on the hearthrug beside Mitchener on his left.) I never look under my bed for a burglar. Im not always looking under the nation's bed for an invader. And if it comes to fighting Im quite willing to fight without being three to one.
MITCHENER. These are the romantic ravings of a Jingo civilian, Balsquith. At least youll not deny that the absolute command of the sea is essential to our security.
BALSQUITH. The absolute command of the sea is essential to the security of the principality of Monaco. But Monaco isnt going to get it.
MITCHENER. And consequently Monaco enjoys no security. What a frightful thing! How do the inhabitants sleep with the possibility of invasion, of bombardment, continually present to their minds? Would you have our English slumbers broken in the same way? Are we also to live without security?
BALSQUITH (dogmatically). Yes. Theres no such thing as security in the world: and there never can be as long as men are mortal. England will be secure when England is dead, just as the streets of London will be safe when there is no longer a man in her streets to be run over, or a vehicle to run over him. When you military chaps ask for security you are crying for the moon.
MITCHENER (very seriously). Let me tell you, Balsquith, that in these days of aeroplanes and Zeppelin airships, the question of the moon is becoming one of the greatest importance. It will be reached at no very distant date. Can you as an Englishman, tamely contemplate the posssibility of having to live under a German moon? The British flag must be planted there at all hazards.
BALSQUITH. My dear Mitchener, the moon is outside practical politics. Id swop it for a cooling station tomorrow with Germany or any other Power sufficiently military in its way of thinking to attach any importance to it.
MITCHENER (losing his temper). You are the friend of every country but your own.
BALSQUITH. Say nobodys enemy but my own. It sounds nicer. You really neednt be so horribly afraid of the other countries. Theyre all in the same fix as we are. Im much more interested in the death rate in Lambeth than in the German fleet.
MITCHENER. You darent say that in Lambeth.
BALSQUITH. Ill say it the day after you publish your scheme for invading Germany and repealing all the reform Acts.
The Orderly comes in.
MITCHENER. What do you want?
THE ORDERLY. I dont want anything, Governor, thank you. The secretary and president of the Anti-Suffraget League say they had an appointment with the Prime Minister, and that theyve been sent on here from Downing Street.
BALSQUITH (going to the table). Quite right. I forgot them. (To Mitchener.) Would you mind my seeing them here? I feel extraordinarily grateful to these women for standing by us and facing the suffragets, especially as they are naturally the gentler and timid sort of women. (The Orderly moans.) Did you say anything?
THE ORDERLY. No, Sir.
BALSQUITH. Did you catch their names.
THE ORDERLY. Yes, Sir. The president is Lady Corinthia Fanshawe; and the secretary is Mrs. Banger.
MITCHENER (abruptly). Mrs. what?
THE ORDERLY. Mrs. Banger.
BALSQUITH. Curious that quiet people always seem to have violent names.
THE ORDERLY. Not much quiet about her, sir.
MITCHENER (outraged). Attention. Speak when youre spoken to. Hold your tongue when youre not. Right about face. March. (The Orderly obeys.) Thats the way to keep these chaps up to the mark. (The Orderly returns.) Back again! What do you mean by this mutiny?
THE ORDERLY. What am I to say to the ladies, sir?
BALSQUITH. You dont mind my seeing them somewhere, do you?
MITCHENER. Not at all. Bring them in to see me when youve done with them: I understand that Lady Corinthia is a very fascinating woman. Who is she, by the way?
BALSQUITH. Daughter of Lord Broadstairs, the automatic turbine man. Gave quarter of a million to the party funds. Shes musical and romantic and all that--dont hunt: hates politics: stops in town all the year round: one never sees her anywhere except at the opera and at musical at-homes and so forth.
MITCHENER. What a life! Still, if she wants to see me I dont mind. (To the Orderly.) Where are the ladies?
THE ORDERLY. In No. 17, Sir.
MITCHENER. Show Mr. Balsquith there. And send Mrs. Farrell here.
THE ORDERLY (calling into the corridor). Mrs. Farrell! (To Balsquith.) This way sir. (He goes out with Balsquith.)
Mrs. Farrell, a lean, highly respectable Irish Charwoman of about 50 comes in.
MITCHENER. Mrs. Farrell: Ive a very important visit to pay: I shall want my full dress uniform and all my medals and orders and my presentation sword. There was a time when the British Army contained men capable of discharging these duties for their commanding officer. Those days are over. The compulsorily enlisted soldier runs to a woman for everything. Im therefore reluctantly obliged to trouble you.
MRS FARRELL. Your meddles n ordhers n the crooked sword with the ivory handle n your full dress uniform is in the waxworks in the Chamber o Military Glory over in the place they used to call the Banquetin Hall. I told you youd be sorry for sendin them away; n you told me to mind me own business. Youre wiser now.
MITCHENER. I am. I had not at that time discovered that you were the only person in the whole military establishment of this capital who could be trusted to remember where anything was, or to understand an order and obey it.
MRS. FARRELL. Its no good flattherin me. Im too old.
MITCHENER. Not at all, Mrs. Farrell. How is your daughter?
MRS. FARRELL. Which daughther.
MITCHENER. The one who has made such a gratifying success in the Music Halls.
MRS. FARRELL. Theres no music halls nowadays: theyre Variety Theatres. Shes got an offer of marriage from a young jook.
MITCHENER. Is it possible? What did you do?
MRS. FARRELL. I told his mother on him.
MITCHENER. Oh! what did she say?
MRS. FARRELL. She was as pleased as Punch. Thank Heaven, she says, hes got somebody thatll be able to keep him when the supertax is put up to twenty shillings in the pound.
MITCHENER. But your daughter herself? What did she say?
MRS. FARRELL. Accepted him, of course. What else would a young fool like her do? He inthrojooced her to the Poet Laureate, thinking shed inspire him.
MITCHENER. Did she?
MRS. FARRELL. Faith I dunna. All I know is she walked up to him as bold as brass n said "Write me a sketch, dear." Afther all the trouble I took with that chills manners shes no more notion how to behave herself than a pig. Youll have to wear General Sandstones uniform: its the ony one in the place, because he wont lend it to the shows.
MITCHENER. But Sandstones clothes wont fit me.
MRS. FARRELL (unmoved). Then youll have to fit THEM. Why shouldnt they fitcha as well as they fitted General Blake at the Mansion House?
MITCHENER. They didnt fit him. He looked a frightful guy.
MRS. FARRELL. Well, you must do the best you can with them. You cant exhibit your clothes and wear them too.
MITCHENER. And the public thinks the lot of a commanding officer a happy one! Oh, if they could only see the seamy side of it. (He returns to his table to resume work.)
MRS. FARRELL. If they could only see the seamy side of General Sandstones uniform, where his flask rubs agen the buckle of his
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