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- Press Cuttings - 5/9 -
braces, theyll tell him he ought to get a new one. Let alone the way he swears at me.
MITCHENER. When a man has risked his life on eight battlefields, Mrs. Farrell, he has given sufficient proof of his self-control to be excused a little strong language.
MRS. FARRELL. Would you put up with bad language from me because Ive risked my life eight times in childbed?
MITCHENER. My dear Mrs. Farrell, you surely would not compare a risk of that harmless domestic kind to the fearful risks of the battlefield?
MRS. FARRELL. I wouldnt compare risks run to bear living people into the world to risks run to blow them out of it. A mother's risk is jooty: a soldier's nothin but divilmint.
MITCHENER (nettled). Let me tell you, Mrs. Farrell, that if the men did not fight, the women would have to fight themselves. We spare you that, at all events.
MRS. FARRELL. You cant help yourselves. If three-quarters of you was killed we could replace you with the help of the other quarter. If three-quarters of us was killed, how many people would there be in England in another generation? If it wasnt for that, the mand put the fightin on us just as they put all the other dhrudgery. What would YOU do if we was all kilt? Would you go to bed and have twins?
MITCHENER. Really, Mrs. Farrell, you must discuss these questions with a medical man. You make me blush, positively.
MRS. FARRELL. A good job too. If I could have made Farrell blush I wouldnt have had to risk me life too often. You n your risks n your bravery n your selfcontrol indeed! "Why don't you conthrol yourself?" I sez to Farrell. "Its agen me religion," he sez.
MITCHENER (plaintively). Mrs. Farrell, youre a woman of very powerful mind. Im not qualified to argue these delicate matters with you. I ask you to spare me, and to be good enough to take these clothes to Mr. Balsquith when the ladies leave.
The Orderly comes in.
THE ORDERLY. Lady Corinthia Fanshawe and Mrs. Banger wish to see you, sir. Mr. Balsquith told me to tell you.
MRS. FARRELL. Theyve come about the vote. I dont know whether its them that want it or them that doesnt want it: anyhow, they're all alike when they get into a state about it. (She goes out, having gathered Balsquith's suffraget disguise from the desk.)
MITCHENER. Is Mr. Balsquith not with them?
THE ORDERLY. No, Sir. Couldnt stand Mrs. Banger, I expect. Fair caution she is. (He chuckles.) Couldnt help larfin when I sor im op it.
MITCHENER. How dare you indulge in this unseemly mirth in the presence of your commanding officer? Have you no sense of a soldier's duty?
THE ORDERLY (sadly). Im afraid I shant ever get the ang of it, sir. You see my father has a tidy little barbers business down off Shoreditch; and I was brought up to be chatty and easy like with everybody. I tell you, when I drew the number in the conscription it gave my old mother the needle and it gev me the ump. I should take it very kind, sir, if youd let me off the drill and let me shave you instead. Youd appreciate my qualities then: you would indeed sir. I shant never do myself justice at soljering, sir: I cant bring myself to think of it as proper work for a man with an active mind, as you might say, sir. Arf of its only ousemaidin; and the other arf is dress-up and make-believe.
MITCHENER. Stuff, Sir. Its the easiest life in the world. Once you learn your drill all you have to do is to hold your tongue and obey your orders.
THE ORDERLY. But I do assure you, sir, arf the time they're the wrong orders; and I get into trouble when I obey them. The sergeants orders is all right; but the officers dont know what theyre talkin about. Why the orses knows better sometimes. "Fours" says Lieutenant Trevor at the gate of Bucknam Palace only this morning when we was on duty for a State visit to the Coal Trust. I was fourth man like in the first file; and when I started the orse eld back; and the sergeant was on to me straight. Threes, you bally fool, he whispers. And he was on to me again about it when we came back, and called me a fathead, he did. What am I to do, I says: the lieutenant's orders was fours, I says. Ill show you whos lieutenant here, e says. In future you attend to my orders and not to iz, e says: what does he know about it? You didnt give me any orders, I says. Couldnt you see for yourself there wasnt room for fours, e says: why cant you THINK? General Mitchener tells me Im not to think but to obey orders, I says. Is Mitchener your sergeant or am I, e says in his bullyin way. You are, I says. Well, he says, youve got to do what your sergeant tells you: thats discipline, he says. What am I to do for the General I says. Youre to let im talk, e says: thats what es for.
MITCHENER (groaning). It is impossible for the human mind to conceive anything more dreadful than this. Youre a disgrace to the service.
THE ORDERLY (deeply wounded). The service is a disgrace to me. When my mother's people pass me in the street with this uniform on, I ardly know which way to look. There never was a soldier in my family before.
MITCHENER. There never was anything else in mine, sir.
THE ORDERLY. My mother's second cousin was one of the Parkinsons of Stepney. (Almost in tears.) What do you know of the feelings of a respectable family in the middle station of life? I cant bear to be looked down on as a common soldier. Why cant my father be let buy my discharge? Youve done away with the soldier's right to have his discharge bought for him by his relations. The country didnt know you were going to do that or it would never have stood it. Is an Englishman to be made a mockery like this?
MITCHENER. Silence. Attention. Right about face. March.
THE ORDERLY (retiring to the standing desk and bedewing it with passionate tears). Oh that I should have lived to be spoke to as if I was the lowest of the low. Me! that has shaved a City of London aldermen wiv me own hand.
MITCHENER. Poltroon. Crybaby. Well, better disgrace yourself here than disgrace your country on the field of battle.
THE ORDERLY (angrily coming to the table). Whos going to disgrace his country on the field of battle? Its not fightin I object to: its soljerin. Show me a German and Ill have a go at him as fast as you or any man. But to ave me time wasted like this, an be stuck in a sentry box at a street corner for an ornament to be stared at; and to be told "right about face: march" if I speak as one man to another: that aint pluck: that aint fightin: that aint patriotism: its bein made a bloomin sheep of.
MITCHENER. A sheep has many valuable military qualities. Emulate them: dont disparage them.
THE ORDERLY. Oh, wots the good of talkin to you? If I wasnt a poor soldier I could punch your head for forty shillins for a month. But because youre my commanding officer you deprive me of my right to a magistrate and make a compliment of giving me two years ard sted of shootin me. Why cant you take your chance the same as any civilian does?
MITCHENER (rising majestically). I search the pages of history in vain for a parallel to such a speech made by a Private to a general. But for the coherence of your remarks I should conclude that you were drunk. As it is, you must be mad. You shall be placed under restraint at once. Call the guard.
THE ORDERLY. Call your grandmother. If you take one man off the doors the place'll be full of Suffragets before you can wink.
MITCHENER. Then arrest yourself; and off with you to the guardroom.
THE ORDERLY. What am I to arrest myself for?
MITCHENER. Thats nothing to you. You have your orders: obey them. Do you hear? Right about face. March.
THE ORDERLY. How would you feel yourself if you was told to right-about-face and march as if you was a doormat?
MITCHENER. I should feel as if my country had spoken through the voice of my officer. I should feel proud and honored to be able to serve my country by obeying its commands. No thought of self-- no vulgar preoccupation with my own petty vanity could touch my mind at such a moment. To me my officer would not be a mere man: he would be for the moment--whatever his personal frailties--the incarnation of our national destiny.
THE ORDERLY. What Im saying to you is the voice of old England a jolly sight more than all this rot that you get out of books. Id rather be spoke to by a sergeant than by you. He tells me to go to hell when I challenges him to argue it out like a man. It aint polite; but its English. What you say aint anything at all. You dont act on it yourself. You dont believe in it. Youd punch my head if I tried it on you; and serve me right. And look here. Heres another point for you to argue.
MITCHENER (with a shriek of protest). No--
Mrs. Banger comes in, followed by Lady Corinthia Fanshawe.
Mrs. Banger is a masculine woman of forty, with a powerful voice and great physical strength. Lady Corinthia, who is also over thirty, is beautiful and romantic.
MRS. BANGER (throwing the door open decisively and marching straight to Michener). Pray how much longer is the Anti-Suffrage League to be kept waiting? (She passes him contemptuously and sits down with impressive confidence in the chair next the
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