In the garden, Hector, as he comes out through the glass door of the poop, finds Lady Utterword lying voluptuously in the hammock on the east side of the flagstaff, in the circle of light cast by the electric arc, which is like a moon in its opal globe. Beneath the head of the hammock, a campstool. On the other side of the flagstaff, on the long garden seat, Captain Shotover is asleep, with Ellie beside him, leaning affectionately against him on his right hand. On his left is a deck chair. Behind them in the gloom, Hesione is strolling about with Mangan. It is a fine still night, moonless.
Lady Utterword. What a lovely night! It seems made for us.
Hector. The night takes no interest in us. What are we to the night? [He sits down moodily in the deck chair].
Ellie [dreamily, nestling against the captain]. Its beauty soaks into my nerves. In the night there is peace for the old and hope for the young.
Hector. Is that remark your own?
Ellie. No. Only the last thing the captain said before he went to sleep.
Captain Shotover. I’m not asleep.
Hector. Randall is. Also Mr Mazzini Dunn. Mangan, too, probably.
Hector. Oh, you are there. I thought Hesione would have sent you to bed by this time.
Mrs Hushabye [coming to the back of the garden seat, into the light, with Mangan]. I think I shall. He keeps telling me he has a presentiment that he is going to die. I never met a man so greedy for sympathy.
Mangan [plaintively]. But I have a presentiment. I really have. And you wouldn’t listen.
Mrs Hushabye. I was listening for something else. There was a sort of splendid drumming in the sky. Did none of you hear it? It came from a distance and then died away.
Mangan. I tell you it was a train.
Mrs Hushabye. And I tell you, Alf, there is no train at this hour. The last is nine forty-five.
Mangan. But a goods train.
Mrs Hushabye. Not on our little line. They tack a truck on to the passenger train. What can it have been, Hector?
Hector. Heaven’s threatening growl of disgust at us useless futile creatures. [Fiercely]. I tell you, one of two things must happen. Either out of that darkness some new creation will come to supplant us as we have supplanted the animals, or the heavens will fall in thunder and destroy us.
Lady Utterword [in a cool instructive manner, wallowing comfortably in her hammock]. We have not supplanted the animals, Hector. Why do you ask heaven to destroy this house, which could be made quite comfortable if Hesione had any notion of how to live? Don’t you know what is wrong with it?
Hector. We are wrong with it. There is no sense in us. We are useless, dangerous, and ought to be abolished.
Lady Utterword. Nonsense! Hastings told me the very first day he came here, nearly twenty-four years ago, what is wrong with the house.
Captain Shotover. What! The numskull said there was something wrong with my house!
Lady Utterword. I said Hastings said it; and he is not in the least a numskull.
Captain Shotover. What’s wrong with my house?
Lady Utterword. Just what is wrong with a ship, papa. Wasn’t it clever of Hastings to see that?
Captain Shotover. The man’s a fool. There’s nothing wrong with a ship.
Lady Utterword. Yes, there is.
Mrs Hushabye. But what is it? Don’t be aggravating, Addy.
Lady Utterword. Guess.
Hector. Demons. Daughters of the witch of Zanzibar. Demons.
Lady Utterword. Not a bit. I assure you, all this house needs to make it a sensible, healthy, pleasant house, with good appetites and sound sleep in it, is horses.
Mrs Hushabye. Horses! What rubbish!
Lady Utterword. Yes: horses. Why have we never been able to let this house? Because there are no proper stables. Go anywhere in England where there are natural, wholesome, contented, and really nice English people; and what do you always find? That the stables are the real centre of the household; and that if any visitor wants to play the piano the whole room has to be upset before it can be opened, there are so many things piled on it. I never lived until I learned to ride; and I shall never ride really well because I didn’t begin as a child. There are only two classes in good society in England: the equestrian classes and the neurotic classes. It isn’t mere convention: everybody can see that the people who hunt are the right people and the people who don’t are the wrong ones.
Captain Shotover. There is some truth in this. My ship made a man of me; and a ship is the horse of the sea.
Lady Utterword. Exactly how Hastings explained your being a gentleman.
Captain Shotover. Not bad for a numskull. Bring the man here with you next time: I must talk to him.
Lady Utterword. Why is Randall such an obvious rotter? He is well bred; he has been at a public school and a university; he has been in the Foreign Office; he knows the best people and has lived all his life among them. Why is he so unsatisfactory, so contemptible? Why can’t he get a valet to stay with him longer than a few months? Just because he is too lazy and pleasure-loving to hunt and shoot. He strums the piano, and sketches, and runs after married women, and reads literary books and poems. He actually plays the flute; but I never let him bring it into my house. If he would only —[she is interrupted by the melancholy strains of a flute coming from an open window above. She raises herself indignantly in the hammock]. Randall, you have not gone to bed. Have you been listening? [The flute replies pertly]. How vulgar! Go to bed instantly, Randall: how dare you? [The window is slammed down. She subsides]. How can anyone care for such a creature!
Mrs Hushabye. Addy: do you think Ellie ought to marry poor Alfred merely for his money?
Mangan [much alarmed]. What’s that? Mrs Hushabye, are my affairs to be discussed like this before everybody?
Lady Utterword. I don’t think Randall is listening now.
Mangan. Everybody is listening. It isn’t right.
Mrs Hushabye. But in the dark, what does it matter? Ellie doesn’t mind. Do you, Ellie?
Ellie. Not in the least. What is your opinion, Lady Utterword? You have so much good sense.
Mangan. But it isn’t right. It —[Mrs Hushabye puts her hand on his mouth]. Oh, very well.
Lady Utterword. How much money have you, Mr. Mangan?
Mangan. Really — No: I can’t stand this.
Lady Utterword. Nonsense, Mr Mangan! It all turns on your income, doesn’t it?
Mangan. Well, if you come to that, how much money has she?
Lady Utterword. You are answered, Mr Mangan. And now, as you have made Miss Dunn throw her cards on the table, you cannot refuse to show your own.
Mrs Hushabye. Come, Alf! out with it! How much?
Mangan [baited out of all prudence]. Well, if you want to know, I have no money and never had any.
Mrs Hushabye. Alfred, you mustn’t tell naughty stories.
Mangan. I’m not telling you stories. I’m telling you the raw truth.
Lady Utterword. Then what do you live on, Mr Mangan?
Mangan. Travelling expenses. And a trifle of commission.
Captain Shotover. What more have any of us but travelling expenses for our life’s journey?
Mrs Hushabye. But you have factories and capital and things?
Mangan. People think I have. People think I’m an industrial Napoleon. That’s why Miss Ellie wants to marry me. But I tell you I have nothing.
Ellie. Do you mean that the factories are like Marcus’s tigers? That they don’t exist?
Mangan. They exist all right enough. But they’re not mine. They belong to syndicates and shareholders and all sorts of lazy good-for-nothing capitalists. I get money from such people to start the factories. I find people like Miss Dunn’s father to work them, and keep a tight hand so as to make them pay. Of course I make them keep me going pretty well; but it’s a dog’s life; and I don’t own anything.
Mrs Hushabye. Alfred, Alfred, you are making a poor mouth of it to get out of marrying Ellie.
Mangan. I’m telling the truth about my money for the first time in my life; and it’s the first time my word has ever been doubted.
Lady Utterword. How sad! Why don’t you go in for politics, Mr Mangan?
Mangan. Go in for politics! Where have you been living? I am in politics.
Lady Utterword. I’m sure I beg your pardon. I never heard of you.
Mangan. Let me tell you, Lady Utterword, that the Prime Minister of this country asked me to join the Government without even going through the nonsense of an election, as the dictator of a great public department.
Lady Utterword. As a Conservative or a Liberal?
Mangan. No such nonsense. As a practical business man. [They all burst out laughing]. What are you all laughing at?
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, Alfred, Alfred!
Ellie. You! who have to get my father to do everything for you!
Mrs Hushabye. You! who are afraid of your own workmen!
Hector. You! with whom three women have been playing cat and mouse all the evening!
Lady Utterword. You must have given an immense sum to the party funds, Mr Mangan.
Mangan. Not a penny out of my own pocket. The syndicate found the money: they knew how useful I should be to them in the Government.
Lady Utterword. This is most interesting and unexpected, Mr Mangan. And what have your administrative achievements been, so far?
Mangan. Achievements? Well, I don’t know what you call achievements; but I’ve jolly well put a stop to the games of the other fellows in the other departments. Every man of them thought he was going to save the country all by himself, and do me out of the credit and out of my chance of a title. I took good care that if they wouldn’t let me do it they shouldn’t do it themselves either. I may not know anything about my own machinery; but I know how to stick a ramrod into the other fellow’s. And now they all look the biggest fools going.
Hector. And in heaven’s name, what do you look like?
Mangan. I look like the fellow that was too clever for all the others, don’t I? If that isn’t a triumph of practical business, what is?
Hector. Is this England, or is it a madhouse?
Lady Utterword. Do you expect to save the country, Mr Mangan?
Mangan. Well, who else will? Will your Mr Randall save it?
Lady Utterword. Randall the rotter! Certainly not.
Mangan. Will your brother-in-law save it with his moustache and his fine talk?
Hector. Yes, if they will let me.
Mangan [sneering]. Ah! Will they let you?
Hector. No. They prefer you.
Mangan. Very well then, as you’re in a world where I’m appreciated and you’re not, you’d best be civil to me, hadn’t you? Who else is there but me?
Lady Utterword. There is Hastings. Get rid of your ridiculous sham democracy; and give Hastings the necessary powers, and a good supply of bamboo to bring the British native to his senses: he will save the country with the greatest ease.
Captain Shotover. It had better be lost. Any fool can govern with a stick in his hand. I could govern that way. It is not God’s way. The man is a numskull.
Lady Utterword. The man is worth all of you rolled into one. What do you say, Miss Dunn?
Ellie. I think my father would do very well if people did not put upon him and cheat him and despise him because he is so good.
Mangan [contemptuously]. I think I see Mazzini Dunn getting into parliament or pushing his way into the Government. We’ve not come to that yet, thank God! What do you say, Mrs Hushabye?
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, I say it matters very little which of you governs the country so long as we govern you.
Hector. We? Who is we, pray?
Mrs Hushabye. The devil’s granddaughters, dear. The lovely women.
Hector [raising his hands as before]. Fall, I say, and deliver us from the lures of Satan!
Ellie. There seems to be nothing real in the world except my father and Shakespeare. Marcus’s tigers are false; Mr Mangan’s millions are false; there is nothing really strong and true about Hesione but her beautiful black hair; and Lady Utterword’s is too pretty to be real. The one thing that was left to me was the Captain’s seventh degree of concentration; and that turns out to be —
Captain Shotover. Rum.
Lady Utterword [placidly]. A good deal of my hair is quite genuine. The Duchess of Dithering offered me fifty guineas for this [touching her forehead] under the impression that it was a transformation; but it is all natural except the color.
Mangan [wildly]. Look here: I’m going to take off all my clothes [he begins tearing off his coat].
Lady Utterword. [in consternation] Mr. Mangan!
Captain Shotover. What’s that?
Hector. Ha! Ha! Do. Do.
Ellie. Please don’t.
Mrs Hushabye [catching his arm and stopping him]. Alfred, for shame! Are you mad?
Mangan. Shame! What shame is there in this house? Let’s all strip stark naked. We may as well do the thing thoroughly when we’re about it. We’ve stripped ourselves morally naked: well, let us strip ourselves physically naked as well, and see how we like it. I tell you I can’t bear this. I was brought up to be respectable. I don’t mind the women dyeing their hair and the men drinking: it’s human nature. But it’s not human nature to tell everybody about it. Every time one of you opens your mouth I go like this [he cowers as if to avoid a missile], afraid of what will come next. How are we to have any self-respect if we don’t keep it up that we’re better than we really are?
Lady Utterword. I quite sympathize with you, Mr Mangan. I have been through it all; and I know by experience that men and women are delicate plants and must be cultivated under glass. Our family habit of throwing stones in all directions and letting the air in is not only unbearably rude, but positively dangerous. Still, there is no use catching physical colds as well as moral ones; so please keep your clothes on.
Mangan. I’ll do as I like: not what you tell me. Am I a child or a grown man? I won’t stand this mothering tyranny. I’ll go back to the city, where I’m respected and made much of.
Mrs Hushabye. Goodbye, Alf. Think of us sometimes in the city. Think of Ellie’s youth!
Ellie. Think of Hesione’s eyes and hair!
Captain Shotover. Think of this garden in which you are not a dog barking to keep the truth out!
Hector. Think of Lady Utterword’s beauty! her good sense! her style!
Lady Utterword. Flatterer. Think, Mr. Mangan, whether you can really do any better for yourself elsewhere: that is the essential point, isn’t it?
Mangan [surrendering]. All right: all right. I’m done. Have it your own way. Only let me alone. I don’t know whether I’m on my head or my heels when you all start on me like this. I’ll stay. I’ll marry her. I’ll do anything for a quiet life. Are you satisfied now?
Ellie. No. I never really intended to make you marry me, Mr Mangan. Never in the depths of my soul. I only wanted to feel my strength: to know that you could not escape if I chose to take you.
Mangan [indignantly]. What! Do you mean to say you are going to throw me over after my acting so handsome?
Lady Utterword. I should not be too hasty, Miss Dunn. You can throw Mr Mangan over at any time up to the last moment. Very few men in his position go bankrupt. You can live very comfortably on his reputation for immense wealth.
Ellie. I cannot commit bigamy, Lady Utterword.
Mrs Hushabye. Bigamy! Whatever on earth are you talking about, Ellie?
Lady Utterword. [exclaiming altogether] Bigamy! What do you mean, Miss Dunn?
Mangan Bigamy! Do you mean to say you’re married already?
Hector Bigamy! This is some enigma.
Ellie. Only half an hour ago I became Captain Shotover’s white wife.
Mrs Hushabye. Ellie! What nonsense! Where?
Ellie. In heaven, where all true marriages are made.
Lady Utterword. Really, Miss Dunn! Really, papa!
Mangan. He told me I was too old! And him a mummy!
Hector [quoting Shelley].
“Their altar the grassy earth outspreads
And their priest the muttering wind.”
Ellie. Yes: I, Ellie Dunn, give my broken heart and my strong sound soul to its natural captain, my spiritual husband and second father.
She draws the captain’s arm through hers, and pats his hand. The captain remains fast asleep.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, that’s very clever of you, pettikins. Very clever. Alfred, you could never have lived up to Ellie. You must be content with a little share of me.
Mangan [snifflng and wiping his eyes]. It isn’t kind —[his emotion chokes him].
Lady Utterword. You are well out of it, Mr Mangan. Miss Dunn is the most conceited young woman I have met since I came back to England.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, Ellie isn’t conceited. Are you, pettikins?
Ellie. I know my strength now, Hesione.
Mangan. Brazen, I call you. Brazen.
Mrs Hushabye. Tut, tut, Alfred: don’t be rude. Don’t you feel how lovely this marriage night is, made in heaven? Aren’t you happy, you and Hector? Open your eyes: Addy and Ellie look beautiful enough to please the most fastidious man: we live and love and have not a care in the world. We women have managed all that for you. Why in the name of common sense do you go on as if you were two miserable wretches?
Captain Shotover. I tell you happiness is no good. You can be happy when you are only half alive. I am happier now I am half dead than ever I was in my prime. But there is no blessing on my happiness.
Ellie [her face lighting up]. Life with a blessing! that is what I want. Now I know the real reason why I couldn’t marry Mr Mangan: there would be no blessing on our marriage. There is a blessing on my broken heart. There is a blessing on your beauty, Hesione. There is a blessing on your father’s spirit. Even on the lies of Marcus there is a blessing; but on Mr Mangan’s money there is none.
Mangan. I don’t understand a word of that.
Ellie. Neither do I. But I know it means something.
Mangan. Don’t say there was any difficulty about the blessing. I was ready to get a bishop to marry us.
Mrs Hushabye. Isn’t he a fool, pettikins?
Hector [fiercely]. Do not scorn the man. We are all fools.
Mazzini, in pyjamas and a richly colored silk dressing gown, comes from the house, on Lady Utterword’s side.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh! here comes the only man who ever resisted me. What’s the matter, Mr Dunn? Is the house on fire?
Mazzini. Oh, no: nothing’s the matter: but really it’s impossible to go to sleep with such an interesting conversation going on under one’s window, and on such a beautiful night too. I just had to come down and join you all. What has it all been about?
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, wonderful things, soldier of freedom.
Hector. For example, Mangan, as a practical business man, has tried to undress himself and has failed ignominiously; whilst you, as an idealist, have succeeded brilliantly.
Mazzini. I hope you don’t mind my being like this, Mrs Hushabye. [He sits down on the campstool].
Mrs Hushabye. On the contrary, I could wish you always like that.
Lady Utterword. Your daughter’s match is off, Mr Dunn. It seems that Mr Mangan, whom we all supposed to be a man of property, owns absolutely nothing.
Mazzini. Well, of course I knew that, Lady Utterword. But if people believe in him and are always giving him money, whereas they don’t believe in me and never give me any, how can I ask poor Ellie to depend on what I can do for her?
Mangan. Don’t you run away with this idea that I have nothing. I—
Hector. Oh, don’t explain. We understand. You have a couple of thousand pounds in exchequer bills, 50,000 shares worth tenpence a dozen, and half a dozen tabloids of cyanide of potassium to poison yourself with when you are found out. That’s the reality of your millions.
Mazzini. Oh no, no, no. He is quite honest: the businesses are genuine and perfectly legal.
Hector [disgusted]. Yah! Not even a great swindler!
Mangan. So you think. But I’ve been too many for some honest men, for all that.
Lady Utterword. There is no pleasing you, Mr Mangan. You are determined to be neither rich nor poor, honest nor dishonest.
Mangan. There you go again. Ever since I came into this silly house I have been made to look like a fool, though I’m as good a man in this house as in the city.
Ellie [musically]. Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy house, this agonizing house, this house without foundations. I shall call it Heartbreak House.
Mrs Hushabye. Stop, Ellie; or I shall howl like an animal.
Mangan [breaks into a low snivelling]!!!
Mrs Hushabye. There! you have set Alfred off.
Ellie. I like him best when he is howling.
Captain Shotover. Silence! [Mangan subsides into silence]. I say, let the heart break in silence.
Hector. Do you accept that name for your house?
Captain Shotover. It is not my house: it is only my kennel.
Hector. We have been too long here. We do not live in this house: we haunt it.
Lady Utterword [heart torn]. It is dreadful to think how you have been here all these years while I have gone round the world. I escaped young; but it has drawn me back. It wants to break my heart too. But it shan’t. I have left you and it behind. It was silly of me to come back. I felt sentimental about papa and Hesione and the old place. I felt them calling to me.
Mazzini. But what a very natural and kindly and charming human feeling, Lady Utterword!
Lady Utterword. So I thought, Mr Dunn. But I know now that it was only the last of my influenza. I found that I was not remembered and not wanted.
Captain Shotover. You left because you did not want us. Was there no heartbreak in that for your father? You tore yourself up by the roots; and the ground healed up and brought forth fresh plants and forgot you. What right had you to come back and probe old wounds?
Mrs Hushabye. You were a complete stranger to me at first, Addy; but now I feel as if you had never been away.
Lady Utterword. Thank you, Hesione; but the influenza is quite cured. The place may be Heartbreak House to you, Miss Dunn, and to this gentleman from the city who seems to have so little self-control; but to me it is only a very ill-regulated and rather untidy villa without any stables.
Hector. Inhabited by —?
Ellie. A crazy old sea captain and a young singer who adores him.
Mrs Hushabye. A sluttish female, trying to stave off a double chin and an elderly spread, vainly wooing a born soldier of freedom.
Mazzini. Oh, really, Mrs Hushabye —
Mangan. A member of His Majesty’s Government that everybody sets down as a nincompoop: don’t forget him, Lady Utterword.
Lady Utterword. And a very fascinating gentleman whose chief occupation is to be married to my sister.
Hector. All heartbroken imbeciles.
Mazzini. Oh no. Surely, if I may say so, rather a favorable specimen of what is best in our English culture. You are very charming people, most advanced, unprejudiced, frank, humane, unconventional, democratic, free-thinking, and everything that is delightful to thoughtful people.
Mrs Hushabye. You do us proud, Mazzini.
Mazzini. I am not flattering, really. Where else could I feel perfectly at ease in my pyjamas? I sometimes dream that I am in very distinguished society, and suddenly I have nothing on but my pyjamas! Sometimes I haven’t even pyjamas. And I always feel overwhelmed with confusion. But here, I don’t mind in the least: it seems quite natural.
Lady Utterword. An infallible sign that you are now not in really distinguished society, Mr Dunn. If you were in my house, you would feel embarrassed.
Mazzini. I shall take particular care to keep out of your house, Lady Utterword.
Lady Utterword. You will be quite wrong, Mr Dunn. I should make you very comfortable; and you would not have the trouble and anxiety of wondering whether you should wear your purple and gold or your green and crimson dressing-gown at dinner. You complicate life instead of simplifying it by doing these ridiculous things.
Ellie. Your house is not Heartbreak House: is it, Lady Utterword?
Hector. Yet she breaks hearts, easy as her house is. That poor devil upstairs with his flute howls when she twists his heart, just as Mangan howls when my wife twists his.
Lady Utterword. That is because Randall has nothing to do but have his heart broken. It is a change from having his head shampooed. Catch anyone breaking Hastings’ heart!
Captain Shotover. The numskull wins, after all.
Lady Utterword. I shall go back to my numskull with the greatest satisfaction when I am tired of you all, clever as you are.
Mangan [huffily]. I never set up to be clever.
Lady Utterword. I forgot you, Mr Mangan.
Mangan. Well, I don’t see that quite, either.
Lady Utterword. You may not be clever, Mr Mangan; but you are successful.
Mangan. But I don’t want to be regarded merely as a successful man. I have an imagination like anyone else. I have a presentiment.
Mrs Hushabye. Oh, you are impossible, Alfred. Here I am devoting myself to you; and you think of nothing but your ridiculous presentiment. You bore me. Come and talk poetry to me under the stars. [She drags him away into the darkness].
Mangan [tearfully, as he disappears]. Yes: it’s all very well to make fun of me; but if you only knew —
Hector [impatiently]. How is all this going to end?
Mazzini. It won’t end, Mr Hushabye. Life doesn’t end: it goes on.
Ellie. Oh, it can’t go on forever. I’m always expecting something. I don’t know what it is; but life must come to a point sometime.
Lady Utterword. The point for a young woman of your age is a baby.
Hector. Yes, but, damn it, I have the same feeling; and I can’t have a baby.
Lady Utterword. By deputy, Hector.
Hector. But I have children. All that is over and done with for me: and yet I too feel that this can’t last. We sit here talking, and leave everything to Mangan and to chance and to the devil. Think of the powers of destruction that Mangan and his mutual admiration gang wield! It’s madness: it’s like giving a torpedo to a badly brought up child to play at earthquakes with.
Mazzini. I know. I used often to think about that when I was young.
Hector. Think! What’s the good of thinking about it? Why didn’t you do something?
Mazzini. But I did. I joined societies and made speeches and wrote pamphlets. That was all I could do. But, you know, though the people in the societies thought they knew more than Mangan, most of them wouldn’t have joined if they had known as much. You see they had never had any money to handle or any men to manage. Every year I expected a revolution, or some frightful smash-up: it seemed impossible that we could blunder and muddle on any longer. But nothing happened, except, of course, the usual poverty and crime and drink that we are used to. Nothing ever does happen. It’s amazing how well we get along, all things considered.
Lady Utterword. Perhaps somebody cleverer than you and Mr Mangan was at work all the time.
Mazzini. Perhaps so. Though I was brought up not to believe in anything, I often feel that there is a great deal to be said for the theory of an over-ruling Providence, after all.
Lady Utterword. Providence! I meant Hastings.
Mazzini. Oh, I beg your pardon, Lady Utterword.
Captain Shotover. Every drunken skipper trusts to Providence. But one of the ways of Providence with drunken skippers is to run them on the rocks.
Mazzini. Very true, no doubt, at sea. But in politics, I assure you, they only run into jellyfish. Nothing happens.
Captain Shotover. At sea nothing happens to the sea. Nothing happens to the sky. The sun comes up from the east and goes down to the west. The moon grows from a sickle to an arc lamp, and comes later and later until she is lost in the light as other things are lost in the darkness. After the typhoon, the flying-fish glitter in the sunshine like birds. It’s amazing how they get along, all things considered. Nothing happens, except something not worth mentioning.
Ellie. What is that, O Captain, O my captain?
Captain Shotover [savagely]. Nothing but the smash of the drunken skipper’s ship on the rocks, the splintering of her rotten timbers, the tearing of her rusty plates, the drowning of the crew like rats in a trap.
Ellie. Moral: don’t take rum.
Captain Shotover [vehemently]. That is a lie, child. Let a man drink ten barrels of rum a day, he is not a drunken skipper until he is a drifting skipper. Whilst he can lay his course and stand on his bridge and steer it, he is no drunkard. It is the man who lies drinking in his bunk and trusts to Providence that I call the drunken skipper, though he drank nothing but the waters of the River Jordan.
Ellie. Splendid! And you haven’t had a drop for an hour. You see you don’t need it: your own spirit is not dead.
Captain Shotover. Echoes: nothing but echoes. The last shot was fired years ago.
Hector. And this ship that we are all in? This soul’s prison we call England?
Captain Shotover. The captain is in his bunk, drinking bottled ditch-water; and the crew is gambling in the forecastle. She will strike and sink and split. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?
Hector. Well, I don’t mean to be drowned like a rat in a trap. I still have the will to live. What am I to do?
Captain Shotover. Do? Nothing simpler. Learn your business as an Englishman.
Hector. And what may my business as an Englishman be, pray?
Captain Shotover. Navigation. Learn it and live; or leave it and be damned.
Ellie. Quiet, quiet: you’ll tire yourself.
Mazzini. I thought all that once, Captain; but I assure you nothing will happen.
A dull distant explosion is heard.
Hector [starting up]. What was that?
Captain Shotover. Something happening [he blows his whistle]. Breakers ahead!
The light goes out.
Hector [furiously]. Who put that light out? Who dared put that light out?
Nurse Guinness [running in from the house to the middle of the esplanade]. I did, sir. The police have telephoned to say we’ll be summoned if we don’t put that light out: it can be seen for miles.
Hector. It shall be seen for a hundred miles [he dashes into the house].
Nurse Guinness. The Rectory is nothing but a heap of bricks, they say. Unless we can give the Rector a bed he has nowhere to lay his head this night.
Captain Shotover. The Church is on the rocks, breaking up. I told him it would unless it headed for God’s open sea.
Nurse Guinness. And you are all to go down to the cellars.
Captain Shotover. Go there yourself, you and all the crew. Batten down the hatches.
Nurse Guinness. And hide beside the coward I married! I’ll go on the roof first. [The lamp lights up again]. There! Mr Hushabye’s turned it on again.
The Burglar [hurrying in and appealing to Nurse Guinness]. Here: where’s the way to that gravel pit? The boot-boy says there’s a cave in the gravel pit. Them cellars is no use. Where’s the gravel pit, Captain?
Nurse Guinness. Go straight on past the flagstaff until you fall into it and break your dirty neck. [She pushes him contemptuously towards the flagstaff, and herself goes to the foot of the hammock and waits there, as it were by Ariadne’s cradle].
Another and louder explosion is heard. The burglar stops and stands trembling.
Ellie [rising]. That was nearer.
Captain Shotover. The next one will get us. [He rises]. Stand by, all hands, for judgment.
The Burglar. Oh my Lordy God! [He rushes away frantically past the flagstaff into the gloom].
Mrs Hushabye [emerging panting from the darkness]. Who was that running away? [She comes to Ellie]. Did you hear the explosions? And the sound in the sky: it’s splendid: it’s like an orchestra: it’s like Beethoven.
Ellie. By thunder, Hesione: it is Beethoven.
She and Hesione throw themselves into one another’s arms in wild excitement. The light increases.
Mazzini [anxiously]. The light is getting brighter.
Nurse Guinness [looking up at the house]. It’s Mr Hushabye turning on all the lights in the house and tearing down the curtains.
Randall [rushing in in his pyjamas, distractedly waving a flute]. Ariadne, my soul, my precious, go down to the cellars: I beg and implore you, go down to the cellars!
Lady Utterword [quite composed in her hammock]. The governor’s wife in the cellars with the servants! Really, Randall!
Randall. But what shall I do if you are killed?
Lady Utterword. You will probably be killed, too, Randall. Now play your flute to show that you are not afraid; and be good. Play us “Keep the home fires burning.”
Nurse Guinness [grimly]. THEY’LL keep the home fires burning for us: them up there.
Randall [having tried to play]. My lips are trembling. I can’t get a sound.
Mazzini. I hope poor Mangan is safe.
Mrs Hushabye. He is hiding in the cave in the gravel pit.
Captain Shotover. My dynamite drew him there. It is the hand of God.
Hector [returning from the house and striding across to his former place]. There is not half light enough. We should be blazing to the skies.
Ellie [tense with excitement]. Set fire to the house, Marcus.
Mrs Hushabye. My house! No.
Hector. I thought of that; but it would not be ready in time.
Captain Shotover. The judgment has come. Courage will not save you; but it will show that your souls are still live.
Mrs Hushabye. Sh-sh! Listen: do you hear it now? It’s magnificent.
They all turn away from the house and look up, listening.
Hector [gravely]. Miss Dunn, you can do no good here. We of this house are only moths flying into the candle. You had better go down to the cellar.
Ellie [scornfully]. I don’t think.
Mazzini. Ellie, dear, there is no disgrace in going to the cellar. An officer would order his soldiers to take cover. Mr Hushabye is behaving like an amateur. Mangan and the burglar are acting very sensibly; and it is they who will survive.
Ellie. Let them. I shall behave like an amateur. But why should you run any risk?
Mazzini. Think of the risk those poor fellows up there are running!
Nurse Guinness. Think of them, indeed, the murdering blackguards! What next?
A terrific explosion shakes the earth. They reel back into their seats, or clutch the nearest support. They hear the falling of the shattered glass from the windows.
Mazzini. Is anyone hurt?
Hector. Where did it fall?
Nurse Guinness [in hideous triumph]. Right in the gravel pit: I seen it. Serve un right! I seen it [she runs away towards the gravel pit, laughing harshly].
Hector. One husband gone.
Captain Shotover. Thirty pounds of good dynamite wasted.
Mazzini. Oh, poor Mangan!
Hector. Are you immortal that you need pity him? Our turn next.
They wait in silence and intense expectation. Hesione and Ellie hold each other’s hand tight.
A distant explosion is heard.
Mrs Hushabye [relaxing her grip]. Oh! they have passed us.
Lady Utterword. The danger is over, Randall. Go to bed.
Captain Shotover. Turn in, all hands. The ship is safe. [He sits down and goes asleep].
Ellie [disappointedly]. Safe!
Hector [disgustedly]. Yes, safe. And how damnably dull the world has become again suddenly! [he sits down].
Mazzini [sitting down]. I was quite wrong, after all. It is we who have survived; and Mangan and the burglar —
Hector. — the two burglars —
Lady Utterword. — the two practical men of business —
Mazzini. — both gone. And the poor clergyman will have to get a new house.
Mrs Hushabye. But what a glorious experience! I hope they’ll come again tomorrow night.
Ellie [radiant at the prospect]. Oh, I hope so.
Randall at last succeeds in keeping the home fires burning on his flute.
This web edition published by:
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University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:54