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Home -> George Bernard Shaw -> Major Barbara -> Act III - Continues

Major Barbara - Act III - Continues

1. Act I

2. Act II

3. Act II - continues

4. Act III

5. Act III - Continues

CUSINS. It is not the sale of my soul that troubles me: I have
sold it too often to care about that. I have sold it for a
professorship. I have sold it for an income. I have sold it to
escape being imprisoned for refusing to pay taxes for hangmen's
ropes and unjust wars and things that I abhor. What is all human
conduct but the daily and hourly sale of our souls for trifles?
What I am now selling it for is neither money nor position nor
comfort, but for reality and for power.

BARBARA. You know that you will have no power, and that he has

CUSINS. I know. It is not for myself alone. I want to make power
for the world.

BARBARA. I want to make power for the world too; but it must be
spiritual power.

CUSINS. I think all power is spiritual: these cannons will not go
off by themselves. I have tried to make spiritual power by
teaching Greek. But the world can never be really touched by a
dead language and a dead civilization. The people must have
power; and the people cannot have Greek. Now the power that is
made here can be wielded by all men.

BARBARA. Power to burn women's houses down and kill their sons
and tear their husbands to pieces.

CUSINS. You cannot have power for good without having power for
evil too. Even mother's milk nourishes murderers as well as
heroes. This power which only tears men's bodies to pieces has
never been so horribly abused as the intellectual power, the
imaginative power, the poetic, religious power that can enslave
men's souls. As a teacher of Greek I gave the intellectual man
weapons against the common man. I now want to give the common man
weapons against the intellectual man. I love the common people. I
want to arm them against the lawyer, the doctor, the priest, the
literary man, the professor, the artist, and the politician, who,
once in authority, are the most dangerous, disastrous, and
tyrannical of all the fools, rascals, and impostors. I want a
democratic power strong enough to force the intellectual
oligarchy to use its genius for the general good or else perish.

BARBARA. Is there no higher power than that [pointing to the

CUSINS. Yes: but that power can destroy the higher powers just as
a tiger can destroy a man: therefore man must master that power
first. I admitted this when the Turks and Greeks were last at
war. My best pupil went out to fight for Hellas. My parting gift
to him was not a copy of Plato's Republic, but a revolver and a
hundred Undershaft cartridges. The blood of every Turk he shot--
if he shot any--is on my head as well as on Undershaft's. That
act committed me to this place for ever. Your father's challenge
has beaten me. Dare I make war on war? I dare. I must. I will.
And now, is it all over between us?

BARBARA [touched by his evident dread of her answer] Silly baby
Dolly! How could it be?

CUSINS [overjoyed] Then you--you--you-- Oh for my drum! [He
flourishes imaginary drumsticks].

BARBARA [angered by his levity] Take care, Dolly, take care. Oh,
if only I could get away from you and from father and from it
all! if I could have the wings of a dove and fly away to heaven!

CUSINS. And leave me!

BARBARA. Yes, you, and all the other naughty mischievous children
of men. But I can't. I was happy in the Salvation Army for a
moment. I escaped from the world into a paradise of enthusiasm
and prayer and soul saving; but the moment our money ran short,
it all came back to Bodger: it was he who saved our people: he,
and the Prince of Darkness, my papa. Undershaft and Bodger: their
hands stretch everywhere: when we feed a starving fellow
creature, it is with their bread, because there is no other
bread; when we tend the sick, it is in the hospitals they endow;
if we turn from the churches they build, we must kneel on the
stones of the streets they pave. As long as that lasts, there is
no getting away from them. Turning our backs on Bodger and
Undershaft is turning our backs on life.

CUSINS. I thought you were determined to turn your back on the
wicked side of life.

BARBARA. There is no wicked side: life is all one. And I never
wanted to shirk my share in whatever evil must be endured,
whether it be sin or suffering. I wish I could cure you of
middle-class ideas, Dolly.

CUSINS [gasping] Middle cl--! A snub! A social snub to ME! from
the daughter of a foundling!

BARBARA. That is why I have no class, Dolly: I come straight out
of the heart of the whole people. If I were middle-class I should
turn my back on my father's business; and we should both live in
an artistic drawingroom, with you reading the reviews in one
corner, and I in the other at the piano, playing Schumann: both
very superior persons, and neither of us a bit of use. Sooner
than that, I would sweep out the guncotton shed, or be one of
Bodger's barmaids. Do you know what would have happened if you
had refused papa's offer?

CUSINS. I wonder!

BARBARA. I should have given you up and married the man who
accepted it. After all, my dear old mother has more sense than
any of you. I felt like her when I saw this place--felt that I
must have it--that never, never, never could I let it go; only
she thought it was the houses and the kitchen ranges and the
linen and china, when it was really all the human souls to be
saved: not weak souls in starved bodies, crying with gratitude or
a scrap of bread and treacle, but fullfed, quarrelsome, snobbish,
uppish creatures, all standing on their little rights and
dignities, and thinking that my father ought to be greatly
obliged to them for making so much money for him--and so he
ought. That is where salvation is really wanted. My father shall
never throw it in my teeth again that my converts were bribed
with bread. [She is transfigured]. I have got rid of the bribe of
bread. I have got rid of the bribe of heaven. Let God's work be
done for its own sake: the work he had to create us to do because
it cannot be done by living men and women. When I die, let him be
in my debt, not I in his; and let me forgive him as becomes a
woman of my rank.

CUSINS. Then the way of life lies through the factory of death?

BARBARA. Yes, through the raising of hell to heaven and of man to
God, through the unveiling of an eternal light in the Valley of
The Shadow. [Seizing him with both hands] Oh, did you think my
courage would never come back? did you believe that I was a
deserter? that I, who have stood in the streets, and taken my
people to my heart, and talked of the holiest and greatest things
with them, could ever turn back and chatter foolishly to
fashionable people about nothing in a drawingroom? Never, never,
never, never: Major Barbara will die with the colors. Oh! and I
have my dear little Dolly boy still; and he has found me my place
and my work. Glory Hallelujah! [She kisses him].

CUSINS. My dearest: consider my delicate health. I cannot stand
as much happiness as you can.

BARBARA. Yes: it is not easy work being in love with me, is it?
But it's good for you. [She runs to the shed, and calls,
childlike] Mamma! Mamma! [Bilton comes out of the shed, followed
by Undershaft]. I want Mamma.

UNDERSHAFT. She is taking off her list slippers, dear. [He passes
on to Cusins]. Well? What does she say?

CUSINS. She has gone right up into the skies.

LADY BRITOMART [coming from the shed and stopping on the steps,
obstructing Sarah, who follows with Lomax. Barbara clutches like
a baby at her mother's skirt]. Barbara: when will you learn to be
independent and to act and think for yourself? I know as well as
possible what that cry of "Mamma, Mamma," means. Always running
to me!

SARAH [touching Lady Britomart's ribs with her finger tips and
imitating a bicycle horn] Pip! Pip!

LADY BRITOMART [highly indignant] How dare you say Pip! pip! to
me, Sarah? You are both very naughty children. What do you want,

BARBARA. I want a house in the village to live in with Dolly.
[Dragging at the skirt] Come and tell me which one to take.

UNDERSHAFT [to Cusins] Six o'clock tomorrow morning, my young

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