It is after dinner on a January night, in the library in
Lady Britomart Undershaft's house in Wilton Crescent. A large and
comfortable settee is in the middle of the room, upholstered in
dark leather. A person sitting on it [it is vacant at present]
would have, on his right, Lady Britomart's writing table, with
the lady herself busy at it; a smaller writing table behind him
on his left; the door behind him on Lady Britomart's side; and a
window with a window seat directly on his left. Near the window
is an armchair.
Lady Britomart is a woman of fifty or thereabouts, well dressed
and yet careless of her dress, well bred and quite reckless of
her breeding, well mannered and yet appallingly outspoken and
indifferent to the opinion of her interlocutory, amiable and yet
peremptory, arbitrary, and high-tempered to the last bearable
degree, and withal a very typical managing matron of the upper
class, treated as a naughty child until she grew into a scolding
mother, and finally settling down with plenty of practical
ability and worldly experience, limited in the oddest way with
domestic and class limitations, conceiving the universe exactly
as if it were a large house in Wilton Crescent, though handling
her corner of it very effectively on that assumption, and being
quite enlightened and liberal as to the books in the library, the
pictures on the walls, the music in the portfolios, and the
articles in the papers.
Her son, Stephen, comes in. He is a gravely correct young man
under 25, taking himself very seriously, but still in some awe of
his mother, from childish habit and bachelor shyness rather than
from any weakness of character.
STEPHEN. What's the matter?
LADY BRITOMART. Presently, Stephen.
Stephen submissively walks to the settee and sits down. He takes
up The Speaker.
LADY BRITOMART. Don't begin to read, Stephen. I shall require all
STEPHEN. It was only while I was waiting--
LADY BRITOMART. Don't make excuses, Stephen. [He puts down The
Speaker]. Now! [She finishes her writing; rises; and comes to the
settee]. I have not kept you waiting very long, I think.
STEPHEN. Not at all, mother.
LADY BRITOMART. Bring me my cushion. [He takes the cushion from
the chair at the desk and arranges it for her as she sits down on
the settee]. Sit down. [He sits down and fingers his tie
nervously]. Don't fiddle with your tie, Stephen: there is nothing
the matter with it.
STEPHEN. I beg your pardon. [He fiddles with his watch chain
LADY BRITOMART. Now are you attending to me, Stephen?
STEPHEN. Of course, mother.
LADY BRITOMART. No: it's not of course. I want something much
more than your everyday matter-of-course attention. I am going to
speak to you very seriously, Stephen. I wish you would let that
STEPHEN [hastily relinquishing the chain] Have I done anything to
annoy you, mother? If so, it was quite unintentional.
LADY BRITOMART [astonished] Nonsense! [With some remorse] My poor
boy, did you think I was angry with you?
STEPHEN. What is it, then, mother? You are making me very uneasy.
LADY BRITOMART [squaring herself at him rather aggressively]
Stephen: may I ask how soon you intend to realize that you are a
grown-up man, and that I am only a woman?
STEPHEN [amazed] Only a--
LADY BRITOMART. Don't repeat my words, please: It is a most
aggravating habit. You must learn to face life seriously,
Stephen. I really cannot bear the whole burden of our family
affairs any longer. You must advise me: you must assume the
LADY BRITOMART. Yes, you, of course. You were 24 last June.
You've been at Harrow and Cambridge. You've been to India and
Japan. You must know a lot of things now; unless you have wasted
your time most scandalously. Well, advise me.
STEPHEN [much perplexed] You know I have never interfered in the
LADY BRITOMART. No: I should think not. I don't want you to order
STEPHEN. I mean in our family affairs.
LADY BRITOMART. Well, you must interfere now; for they are
getting quite beyond me.
STEPHEN [troubled] I have thought sometimes that perhaps I ought;
but really, mother, I know so little about them; and what I do
know is so painful--it is so impossible to mention some things to
you--[he stops, ashamed].
LADY BRITOMART. I suppose you mean your father.
STEPHEN [almost inaudibly] Yes.
LADY BRITOMART. My dear: we can't go on all our lives not
mentioning him. Of course you were quite right not to open the
subject until I asked you to; but you are old enough now to be
taken into my confidence, and to help me to deal with him about
STEPHEN. But the girls are all right. They are engaged.
LADY BRITOMART [complacently] Yes: I have made a very good match
for Sarah. Charles Lomax will be a millionaire at 35. But that is
ten years ahead; and in the meantime his trustees cannot under
the terms of his father's will allow him more than 800 pounds a
STEPHEN. But the will says also that if he increases his income
by his own exertions, they may double the increase.
LADY BRITOMART. Charles Lomax's exertions are much more likely to
decrease his income than to increase it. Sarah will have to find
at least another 800 pounds a year for the next ten years; and
even then they will be as poor as church mice. And what about
Barbara? I thought Barbara was going to make the most brilliant
career of all of you. And what does she do? Joins the Salvation
Army; discharges her maid; lives on a pound a week; and walks in
one evening with a professor of Greek whom she has picked up in
the street, and who pretends to be a Salvationist, and actually
plays the big drum for her in public because he has fallen head
over ears in love with her.
STEPHEN. I was certainly rather taken aback when I heard they
were engaged. Cusins is a very nice fellow, certainly: nobody
would ever guess that he was born in Australia; but--
LADY BRITOMART. Oh, Adolphus Cusins will make a very good
husband. After all, nobody can say a word against Greek: it
stamps a man at once as an educated gentleman. And my family,
thank Heaven, is not a pig-headed Tory one. We are Whigs, and
believe in liberty. Let snobbish people say what they please:
Barbara shall marry, not the man they like, but the man I like.
STEPHEN. Of course I was thinking only of his income. However, he
is not likely to be extravagant.
LADY BRITOMART. Don't be too sure of that, Stephen. I know your
quiet, simple, refined, poetic people like Adolphus--quite
content with the best of everything! They cost more than your
extravagant people, who are always as mean as they are second
rate. No: Barbara will need at least 2000 pounds a year. You see
it means two additional households. Besides, my dear, you must
marry soon. I don't approve of the present fashion of
philandering bachelors and late marriages; and I am trying to
arrange something for you.
STEPHEN. It's very good of you, mother; but perhaps I had better
arrange that for myself.
LADY BRITOMART. Nonsense! you are much too young to begin
matchmaking: you would be taken in by some pretty little nobody.
Of course I don't mean that you are not to be consulted: you know
that as well as I do. [Stephen closes his lips and is silent].
Now don't sulk, Stephen.
STEPHEN. I am not sulking, mother. What has all this got to do
with--with--with my father?
LADY BRITOMART. My dear Stephen: where is the money to come from?
It is easy enough for you and the other children to live on my
income as long as we are in the same house; but I can't keep four
families in four separate houses. You know how poor my father is:
he has barely seven thousand a year now; and really, if he were
not the Earl of Stevenage, he would have to give up society. He
can do nothing for us: he says, naturally enough, that it is
absurd that he should be asked to provide for the children of a
man who is rolling in money. You see, Stephen, your father must
be fabulously wealthy, because there is always a war going on
STEPHEN. You need not remind me of that, mother. I have hardly
ever opened a newspaper in my life without seeing our name in it.
The Undershaft torpedo! The Undershaft quick firers! The
Undershaft ten inch! the Undershaft disappearing rampart gun! the
Undershaft submarine! and now the Undershaft aerial battleship!
At Harrow they called me the Woolwich Infant. At Cambridge it was
the same. A little brute at King's who was always trying to get
up revivals, spoilt my Bible--your first birthday present to me--
by writing under my name, "Son and heir to Undershaft and
Lazarus, Death and Destruction Dealers: address, Christendom and
Judea." But that was not so bad as the way I was kowtowed to
everywhere because my father was making millions by selling
LADY BRITOMART. It is not only the cannons, but the war loans
that Lazarus arranges under cover of giving credit for the
cannons. You know, Stephen, it's perfectly scandalous. Those two
men, Andrew Undershaft and Lazarus, positively have Europe under
their thumbs. That is why your father is able to behave as he
does. He is above the law. Do you think Bismarck or Gladstone or
Disraeli could have openly defied every social and moral
obligation all their lives as your father has? They simply
wouldn't have dared. I asked Gladstone to take it up. I asked The
Times to take it up. I asked the Lord Chamberlain to take it up.
But it was just like asking them to declare war on the Sultan.
They WOULDN'T. They said they couldn't touch him. I believe they
STEPHEN. What could they do? He does not actually break the law.
LADY BRITOMART. Not break the law! He is always breaking the law.
He broke the law when he was born: his parents were not married.
STEPHEN. Mother! Is that true?
LADY BRITOMART. Of course it's true: that was why we separated.
STEPHEN. He married without letting you know this!
LADY BRITOMART [rather taken aback by this inference] Oh no. To
do Andrew justice, that was not the sort of thing he did.
Besides, you know the Undershaft motto: Unashamed. Everybody
STEPHEN. But you said that was why you separated.
LADY BRITOMART. Yes, because he was not content with being a
foundling himself: he wanted to disinherit you for another
foundling. That was what I couldn't stand.
STEPHEN [ashamed] Do you mean for--for--for--
LADY BRITOMART. Don't stammer, Stephen. Speak distinctly.
STEPHEN. But this is so frightful to me, mother. To have to speak
to you about such things!
LADY BRITOMART. It's not pleasant for me, either, especially if
you are still so childish that you must make it worse by a
display of embarrassment. It is only in the middle classes,
Stephen, that people get into a state of dumb helpless horror
when they find that there are wicked people in the world. In our
class, we have to decide what is to be done with wicked people;
and nothing should disturb our self possession. Now ask your
STEPHEN. Mother: you have no consideration for me. For Heaven's
sake either treat me as a child, as you always do, and tell me
nothing at all; or tell me everything and let me take it as best
LADY BRITOMART. Treat you as a child! What do you mean? It is
most unkind and ungrateful of you to say such a thing. You know I
have never treated any of you as children. I have always made you
my companions and friends, and allowed you perfect freedom to do
and say whatever you liked, so long as you liked what I could
STEPHEN [desperately] I daresay we have been the very imperfect
children of a very perfect mother; but I do beg you to let me
alone for once, and tell me about this horrible business of my
father wanting to set me aside for another son.
LADY BRITOMART [amazed] Another son! I never said anything of the
kind. I never dreamt of such a thing. This is what comes of
STEPHEN. But you said--
LADY BRITOMART [cutting him short] Now be a good boy, Stephen,
and listen to me patiently. The Undershafts are descended from a
foundling in the parish of St. Andrew Undershaft in the city.
That was long ago, in the reign of James the First. Well, this
foundling was adopted by an armorer and gun-maker. In the course
of time the foundling succeeded to the business; and from some
notion of gratitude, or some vow or something, he adopted another
foundling, and left the business to him. And that foundling did
the same. Ever since that, the cannon business has always been
left to an adopted foundling named Andrew Undershaft.
STEPHEN. But did they never marry? Were there no legitimate sons?
LADY BRITOMART. Oh yes: they married just as your father did; and
they were rich enough to buy land for their own children and
leave them well provided for. But they always adopted and trained
some foundling to succeed them in the business; and of course
they always quarrelled with their wives furiously over it. Your
father was adopted in that way; and he pretends to consider
himself bound to keep up the tradition and adopt somebody to
leave the business to. Of course I was not going to stand that.
There may have been some reason for it when the Undershafts could
only marry women in their own class, whose sons were not fit to
govern great estates. But there could be no excuse for passing
over my son.
STEPHEN [dubiously] I am afraid I should make a poor hand of
managing a cannon foundry.
LADY BRITOMART. Nonsense! you could easily get a manager and pay
him a salary.
STEPHEN. My father evidently had no great opinion of my capacity.
LADY BRITOMART. Stuff, child! you were only a baby: it had
nothing to do with your capacity. Andrew did it on principle,
just as he did every perverse and wicked thing on principle. When
my father remonstrated, Andrew actually told him to his face that
history tells us of only two successful institutions: one the
Undershaft firm, and the other the Roman Empire under the
Antonines. That was because the Antonine emperors all adopted
their successors. Such rubbish! The Stevenages are as good as the
Antonines, I hope; and you are a Stevenage. But that was Andrew
all over. There you have the man! Always clever and unanswerable
when he was defending nonsense and wickedness: always awkward and
sullen when he had to behave sensibly and decently!
STEPHEN. Then it was on my account that your home life was broken
up, mother. I am sorry.
LADY BRITOMART. Well, dear, there were other differences. I
really cannot bear an immoral man. I am not a Pharisee, I hope;
and I should not have minded his merely doing wrong things: we
are none of us perfect. But your father didn't exactly do wrong
things: he said them and thought them: that was what was so
dreadful. He really had a sort of religion of wrongness just as
one doesn't mind men practising immorality so long as they own
that they are in the wrong by preaching morality; so I couldn't
forgive Andrew for preaching immorality while he practised
morality. You would all have grown up without principles, without
any knowledge of right and wrong, if he had been in the house.
You know, my dear, your father was a very attractive man in some
ways. Children did not dislike him; and he took advantage of it
to put the wickedest ideas into their heads, and make them quite
unmanageable. I did not dislike him myself: very far from it; but
nothing can bridge over moral disagreement.
STEPHEN. All this simply bewilders me, mother. People may differ
about matters of opinion, or even about religion; but how can
they differ about right and wrong? Right is right; and wrong is
wrong; and if a man cannot distinguish them properly, he is
either a fool or a rascal: that's all.
LADY BRITOMART [touched] That's my own boy [she pats his cheek]!
Your father never could answer that: he used to laugh and get out
of it under cover of some affectionate nonsense. And now that you
understand the situation, what do you advise me to do?
STEPHEN. Well, what can you do?
LADY BRITOMART. I must get the money somehow.
STEPHEN. We cannot take money from him. I had rather go and live
in some cheap place like Bedford Square or even Hampstead than
take a farthing of his money.
LADY BRITOMART. But after all, Stephen, our present income comes
STEPHEN [shocked] I never knew that.
LADY BRITOMART. Well, you surely didn't suppose your grandfather
had anything to give me. The Stevenages could not do everything
for you. We gave you social position. Andrew had to contribute
something. He had a very good bargain, I think.
STEPHEN [bitterly] We are utterly dependent on him and his
LADY BRITOMART. Certainly not: the money is settled. But he
provided it. So you see it is not a question of taking money from
him or not: it is simply a question of how much. I don't want any
more for myself.
STEPHEN. Nor do I.
LADY BRITOMART. But Sarah does; and Barbara does. That is,
Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins will cost them more. So I must
put my pride in my pocket and ask for it, I suppose. That is your
advice, Stephen, is it not?
LADY BRITOMART [sharply] Stephen!
STEPHEN. Of course if you are determined--
LADY BRITOMART. I am not determined: I ask your advice; and I am
waiting for it. I will not have all the responsibility thrown on
STEPHEN [obstinately] I would die sooner than ask him for another
LADY BRITOMART [resignedly] You mean that I must ask him. Very
well, Stephen: It shall be as you wish. You will be glad to know
that your grandfather concurs. But he thinks I ought to ask
Andrew to come here and see the girls. After all, he must have
some natural affection for them.
STEPHEN. Ask him here!!!
LADY BRITOMART. Do not repeat my words, Stephen. Where else can I
STEPHEN. I never expected you to ask him at all.
LADY BRITOMART. Now don't tease, Stephen. Come! you see that it
is necessary that he should pay us a visit, don't you?
STEPHEN [reluctantly] I suppose so, if the girls cannot do
without his money.
LADY BRITOMART. Thank you, Stephen: I knew you would give me the
right advice when it was properly explained to you. I have asked
your father to come this evening. [Stephen bounds from his seat]
Don't jump, Stephen: it fidgets me.
STEPHEN [in utter consternation] Do you mean to say that my
father is coming here to-night--that he may be here at any
LADY BRITOMART [looking at her watch] I said nine. [He gasps. She
rises]. Ring the bell, please. [Stephen goes to the smaller
writing table; presses a button on it; and sits at it with his
elbows on the table and his head in his hands, outwitted and
overwhelmed]. It is ten minutes to nine yet; and I have to
prepare the girls. I asked Charles Lomax and Adolphus to dinner
on purpose that they might be here. Andrew had better see them in
case he should cherish any delusions as to their being capable of
supporting their wives. [The butler enters: Lady Britomart goes
behind the settee to speak to him]. Morrison: go up to the
drawingroom and tell everybody to come down here at once.
[Morrison withdraws. Lady Britomart turns to Stephen]. Now
remember, Stephen, I shall need all your countenance and
authority. [He rises and tries to recover some vestige of these
attributes]. Give me a chair, dear. [He pushes a chair forward
from the wall to where she stands, near the smaller writing
table. She sits down; and he goes to the armchair, into which he
throws himself]. I don't know how Barbara will take it. Ever
since they made her a major in the Salvation Army she has
developed a propensity to have her own way and order people about
which quite cows me sometimes. It's not ladylike: I'm sure I
don't know where she picked it up. Anyhow, Barbara shan't bully
me; but still it's just as well that your father should be here
before she has time to refuse to meet him or make a fuss. Don't
look nervous, Stephen, it will only encourage Barbara to make
difficulties. I am nervous enough, goodness knows; but I don't
Sarah and Barbara come in with their respective young men,
Charles Lomax and Adolphus Cusins. Sarah is slender, bored, and
mundane. Barbara is robuster, jollier, much more energetic. Sarah
is fashionably dressed: Barbara is in Salvation Army uniform.
Lomax, a young man about town, is like many other young men about
town. He is affected with a frivolous sense of humor which
plunges him at the most inopportune moments into paroxysms of
imperfectly suppressed laughter. Cusins is a spectacled student,
slight, thin haired, and sweet voiced, with a more complex form
of Lomax's complaint. His sense of humor is intellectual and
subtle, and is complicated by an appalling temper. The lifelong
struggle of a benevolent temperament and a high conscience
against impulses of inhuman ridicule and fierce impatience has
set up a chronic strain which has visibly wrecked his
constitution. He is a most implacable, determined, tenacious,
intolerant person who by mere force of character presents himself
as--and indeed actually is--considerate, gentle, explanatory,
even mild and apologetic, capable possibly of murder, but not of
cruelty or coarseness. By the operation of some instinct which is
not merciful enough to blind him with the illusions of love, he
is obstinately bent on marrying Barbara. Lomax likes Sarah and
thinks it will be rather a lark to marry her. Consequently he has
not attempted to resist Lady Britomart's arrangements to that
All four look as if they had been having a good deal of fun in
the drawingroom. The girls enter first, leaving the swains
outside. Sarah comes to the settee. Barbara comes in after her
and stops at the door.
BARBARA. Are Cholly and Dolly to come in?
LADY BRITOMART [forcibly] Barbara: I will not have Charles called
Cholly: the vulgarity of it positively makes me ill.
BARBARA. It's all right, mother. Cholly is quite correct
nowadays. Are they to come in?
LADY BRITOMART. Yes, if they will behave themselves.
BARBARA [through the door] Come in, Dolly, and behave yourself.
Barbara comes to her mother's writing table. Cusins enters
smiling, and wanders towards Lady Britomart.
SARAH [calling] Come in, Cholly. [Lomax enters, controlling his
features very imperfectly, and places himself vaguely between
Sarah and Barbara].
LADY BRITOMART [peremptorily] Sit down, all of you. [They sit.
Cusins crosses to the window and seats himself there. Lomax takes
a chair. Barbara sits at the writing table and Sarah on the
settee]. I don't in the least know what you are laughing at,
Adolphus. I am surprised at you, though I expected nothing better
from Charles Lomax.
CUSINS [in a remarkably gentle voice] Barbara has been trying to
teach me the West Ham Salvation March.
LADY BRITOMART. I see nothing to laugh at in that; nor should you
if you are really converted.
CUSINS [sweetly] You were not present. It was really funny, I
LADY BRITOMART. Be quiet, Charles. Now listen to me, children.
Your father is coming here this evening. [General stupefaction].
LOMAX [remonstrating] Oh I say!
LADY BRITOMART. You are not called on to say anything, Charles.
SARAH. Are you serious, mother?
LADY BRITOMART. Of course I am serious. It is on your account,
Sarah, and also on Charles's. [Silence. Charles looks painfully
unworthy]. I hope you are not going to object, Barbara.
BARBARA. I! why should I? My father has a soul to be saved like
anybody else. He's quite welcome as far as I am concerned.
LOMAX [still remonstrant] But really, don't you know! Oh I say!
LADY BRITOMART [frigidly] What do you wish to convey, Charles?
LOMAX. Well, you must admit that this is a bit thick.
LADY BRITOMART [turning with ominous suavity to Cusins] Adolphus:
you are a professor of Greek. Can you translate Charles Lomax's
remarks into reputable English for us?
CUSINS [cautiously] If I may say so, Lady Brit, I think Charles
has rather happily expressed what we all feel. Homer, speaking of
Autolycus, uses the same phrase.
LOMAX [handsomely] Not that I mind, you know, if Sarah don't.
LADY BRITOMART [crushingly] Thank you. Have I your permission,
Adolphus, to invite my own husband to my own house?
CUSINS [gallantly] You have my unhesitating support in everything
LADY BRITOMART. Sarah: have you nothing to say?
SARAH. Do you mean that he is coming regularly to live here?
LADY BRITOMART. Certainly not. The spare room is ready for him if
he likes to stay for a day or two and see a little more of you;
but there are limits.
SARAH. Well, he can't eat us, I suppose. I don't mind.
LOMAX [chuckling] I wonder how the old man will take it.
LADY BRITOMART. Much as the old woman will, no doubt, Charles.
LOMAX [abashed] I didn't mean--at least--
LADY BRITOMART. You didn't think, Charles. You never do; and the
result is, you never mean anything. And now please attend to me,
children. Your father will be quite a stranger to us.
LOMAX. I suppose he hasn't seen Sarah since she was a little kid.
LADY BRITOMART. Not since she was a little kid, Charles, as you
express it with that elegance of diction and refinement of
thought that seem never to desert you. Accordingly--er--
[impatiently] Now I have forgotten what I was going to say. That
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
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
LADY BRITOMART. Well, try and look as if there was.
Morrison, pale and dismayed, breaks into the room in unconcealed
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
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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].
UNDERSHAFT. Do you play, Barbara?
BARBARA. Only the tambourine. But Cholly's teaching me the
UNDERSHAFT. Is Cholly also a member of the Salvation Army?
BARBARA. No: he says it's bad form to be a dissenter. But I don't
despair of Cholly. I made him come yesterday to a meeting at the
dock gates, and take the collection in his hat.
LADY BRITOMART. It is not my doing, Andrew. Barbara is old enough
to take her own way. She has no father to advise her.
BARBARA. Oh yes she has. There are no orphans in the Salvation
UNDERSHAFT. Your father there has a great many children and
plenty of experience, eh?
BARBARA [looking at him with quick interest and nodding] Just so.
How did you come to understand that? [Lomax is heard at the door
trying the concertina].
LADY BRITOMART. Come in, Charles. Play us something at once.
LOMAX. Righto! [He sits down in his former place, and preludes].
UNDERSHAFT. One moment, Mr Lomax. I am rather interested in the
Salvation Army. Its motto might be my own: Blood and Fire.
LOMAX [shocked] But not your sort of blood and fire, you know.
UNDERSHAFT. My sort of blood cleanses: my sort of fire purifies.
BARBARA. So do ours. Come down to-morrow to my shelter--the West
Ham shelter--and see what we're doing. We're going to march to a
great meeting in the Assembly Hall at Mile End. Come and see the
shelter and then march with us: it will do you a lot of good. Can
you play anything?
UNDERSHAFT. In my youth I earned pennies, and even shillings
occasionally, in the streets and in public house parlors by my
natural talent for stepdancing. Later on, I became a member of
the Undershaft orchestral society, and performed passably on the
LOMAX [scandalized] Oh I say!
BARBARA. Many a sinner has played himself into heaven on the
trombone, thanks to the Army.
LOMAX [to Barbara, still rather shocked] Yes; but what about the
cannon business, don't you know? [To Undershaft] Getting into
heaven is not exactly in your line, is it?
LADY BRITOMART. Charles!!!
LOMAX. Well; but it stands to reason, don't it? The cannon
business may be necessary and all that: we can't get on without
cannons; but it isn't right, you know. On the other hand, there
may be a certain amount of tosh about the Salvation Army--I
belong to the Established Church myself--but still you can't deny
that it's religion; and you can't go against religion, can you?
At least unless you're downright immoral, don't you know.
UNDERSHAFT. You hardly appreciate my position, Mr Lomax--
LOMAX [hastily] I'm not saying anything against you personally,
UNDERSHAFT. Quite so, quite so. But consider for a moment. Here I
am, a manufacturer of mutilation and murder. I find myself in a
specially amiable humor just now because, this morning, down at
the foundry, we blew twenty-seven dummy soldiers into fragments
with a gun which formerly destroyed only thirteen.
LOMAX [leniently] Well, the more destructive war becomes, the
sooner it will be abolished, eh?
UNDERSHAFT. Not at all. The more destructive war becomes the more
fascinating we find it. No, Mr Lomax, I am obliged to you for
making the usual excuse for my trade; but I am not ashamed of it.
I am not one of those men who keep their morals and their
business in watertight compartments. All the spare money my trade
rivals spend on hospitals, cathedrals and other receptacles for
conscience money, I devote to experiments and researches in
improved methods of destroying life and property. I have always
done so; and I always shall. Therefore your Christmas card
moralities of peace on earth and goodwill among men are of no use
to me. Your Christianity, which enjoins you to resist not evil,
and to turn the other cheek, would make me a bankrupt. My
morality--my religion--must have a place for cannons and
torpedoes in it.
STEPHEN [coldly--almost sullenly] You speak as if there were half
a dozen moralities and religions to choose from, instead of one
true morality and one true religion.
UNDERSHAFT. For me there is only one true morality; but it might
not fit you, as you do not manufacture aerial battleships. There
is only one true morality for every man; but every man has not
the same true morality.
LOMAX [overtaxed] Would you mind saying that again? I didn't
quite follow it.
CUSINS. It's quite simple. As Euripides says, one man's meat is
another man's poison morally as well as physically.
LOMAX. Oh, that. Yes, yes, yes. True. True.
STEPHEN. In other words, some men are honest and some are
BARBARA. Bosh. There are no scoundrels.
UNDERSHAFT. Indeed? Are there any good men?
BARBARA. No. Not one. There are neither good men nor scoundrels:
there are just children of one Father; and the sooner they stop
calling one another names the better. You needn't talk to me: I
know them. I've had scores of them through my hands: scoundrels,
criminals, infidels, philanthropists, missionaries, county
councillors, all sorts. They're all just the same sort of sinner;
and there's the same salvation ready for them all.
UNDERSHAFT. May I ask have you ever saved a maker of cannons?
BARBARA. No. Will you let me try?
UNDERSHAFT. Well, I will make a bargain with you. If I go to see
you to-morrow in your Salvation Shelter, will you come the day
after to see me in my cannon works?
BARBARA. Take care. It may end in your giving up the cannons for
the sake of the Salvation Army.
UNDERSHAFT. Are you sure it will not end in your giving up the
Salvation Army for the sake of the cannons?
BARBARA. I will take my chance of that.
UNDERSHAFT. And I will take my chance of the other. [They shake
hands on it]. Where is your shelter?
BARBARA. In West Ham. At the sign of the cross. Ask anybody in
Canning Town. Where are your works?
UNDERSHAFT. In Perivale St Andrews. At the sign of the sword. Ask
anybody in Europe.
LOMAX. Hadn't I better play something?
BARBARA. Yes. Give us Onward, Christian Soldiers.
LOMAX. Well, that's rather a strong order to begin with, don't
you know. Suppose I sing Thou'rt passing hence, my brother. It's
much the same tune.
BARBARA. It's too melancholy. You get saved, Cholly; and you'll
pass hence, my brother, without making such a fuss about it.
LADY BRITOMART. Really, Barbara, you go on as if religion were a
pleasant subject. Do have some sense of propriety.
UNDERSHAFT. I do not find it an unpleasant subject, my dear. It
is the only one that capable people really care for.
LADY BRITOMART [looking at her watch] Well, if you are determined
to have it, I insist on having it in a proper and respectable
way. Charles: ring for prayers. [General amazement. Stephen rises
LOMAX [rising] Oh I say!
UNDERSHAFT [rising] I am afraid I must be going.
LADY BRITOMART. You cannot go now, Andrew: it would be most
improper. Sit down. What will the servants think?
UNDERSHAFT. My dear: I have conscientious scruples. May I suggest
a compromise? If Barbara will conduct a little service in the
drawingroom, with Mr Lomax as organist, I will attend it
willingly. I will even take part, if a trombone can be procured.
LADY BRITOMART. Don't mock, Andrew.
UNDERSHAFT [shocked--to Barbara] You don't think I am mocking, my
love, I hope.
BARBARA. No, of course not; and it wouldn't matter if you were:
half the Army came to their first meeting for a lark. [Rising]
Come along. Come, Dolly. Come, Cholly. [She goes out with
Undershaft, who opens the door for her. Cusins rises].
LADY BRITOMART. I will not be disobeyed by everybody. Adolphus:
sit down. Charles: you may go. You are not fit for prayers: you
cannot keep your countenance.
LOMAX. Oh I say! [He goes out].
LADY BRITOMART [continuing] But you, Adolphus, can behave
yourself if you choose to. I insist on your staying.
CUSINS. My dear Lady Brit: there are things in the family prayer
book that I couldn't bear to hear you say.
LADY BRITOMART. What things, pray?
CUSINS. Well, you would have to say before all the servants that
we have done things we ought not to have done, and left undone
things we ought to have done, and that there is no health in us.
I cannot bear to hear you doing yourself such an unjustice, and
Barbara such an injustice. As for myself, I flatly deny it: I
have done my best. I shouldn't dare to marry Barbara--I couldn't
look you in the face--if it were true. So I must go to the
LADY BRITOMART [offended] Well, go. [He starts for the door]. And
remember this, Adolphus [he turns to listen]: I have a very
strong suspicion that you went to the Salvation Army to worship
Barbara and nothing else. And I quite appreciate the very clever
way in which you systematically humbug me. I have found you out.
Take care Barbara doesn't. That's all.
CUSINS [with unruffled sweetness] Don't tell on me. [He goes
LADY BRITOMART. Sarah: if you want to go, go. Anything's better
than to sit there as if you wished you were a thousand miles
SARAH [languidly] Very well, mamma. [She goes].
Lady Britomart, with a sudden flounce, gives way to a little gust
STEPHEN [going to her] Mother: what's the matter?
LADY BRITOMART [swishing away her tears with her handkerchief]
Nothing. Foolishness. You can go with him, too, if you like, and
leave me with the servants.
STEPHEN. Oh, you mustn't think that, mother. I--I don't like him.
LADY BRITOMART. The others do. That is the injustice of a woman's
lot. A woman has to bring up her children; and that means to
restrain them, to deny them things they want, to set them tasks,
to punish them when they do wrong, to do all the unpleasant
things. And then the father, who has nothing to do but pet them
and spoil them, comes in when all her work is done and steals
their affection from her.
STEPHEN. He has not stolen our affection from you. It is only
LADY BRITOMART [violently] I won't be consoled, Stephen. There is
nothing the matter with me. [She rises and goes towards the
STEPHEN. Where are you going, mother?
LADY BRITOMART. To the drawingroom, of course. [She goes out.
Onward, Christian Soldiers, on the concertina, with tambourine
accompaniment, is heard when the door opens]. Are you coming,
STEPHEN. No. Certainly not. [She goes. He sits down on the
settee, with compressed lips and an expression of strong