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The Gospel of the Brothers Barnabas

In the first years after the war an impressive-looking gentleman of 50
is seated writing in a well-furnished spacious study. He is dressed in
black. His coat is a frock-coat; his tie is white; and his waistcoat,
though it is not quite a clergyman's waistcoat, and his collar, though
it buttons in front instead of behind, combine with the prosperity
indicated by his surroundings, and his air of personal distinction, to
suggest the clerical dignitary. Still, he is clearly neither dean nor
bishop; he is rather too starkly intellectual for a popular Free Church
enthusiast; and he is not careworn enough to be a great headmaster.

The study windows, which have broad comfortable window seats, overlook
Hampstead Heath towards London. Consequently, it being a fine afternoon
in spring, the room is sunny. As you face these windows, you have on
your right the fireplace, with a few logs smouldering in it, and a
couple of comfortable library chairs on the hearthrug; beyond it and
beside it the door; before you the writing-table, at which the clerical
gentleman sits a little to your left facing the door with his right
profile presented to you; on your left a settee; and on your right a
couple of Chippendale chairs. There is also an upholstered square stool
in the middle of the room, against the writing-table. The walls are
covered with bookshelves above and lockers beneath.

The door opens; and another gentleman, shorter than the clerical one,
within a year or two of the same age, dressed in a well-worn tweed
lounge suit, with a short beard and much less style in his bearing and
carriage, looks in.


THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [_familiar and by no means cordial_] Hallo! I
didn't expect you until the five o'clock train.

THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [_coming in very slowly_] I have something on my
mind. I thought I'd come early.

THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [_throwing down his pen_] What is on your mind?

THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [_sitting down on the stool, heavily preoccupied
with his thought_] I have made up my mind at last about the time. I make
it three hundred years.

THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [_sitting up energetically_] Now that is
extraordinary. Most extraordinary. The very last words I wrote when you
interrupted me were 'at least three centuries.' [_He snatches up his
manuscript, and points to it_]. Here it is: [_reading_] 'the term of
human life must be extended to at least three centuries.'

THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN. How did you arrive at it?

_A parlor maid opens the door, ushering in a young clergyman._

THE PARLOR MAID. Mr Haslam. [_She withdraws_].

_The visitor is so very unwelcome that his host forgets to rise; and
the two brothers stare at the intruder, quite unable to conceal their
dismay. Haslam, who has nothing clerical about him except his collar,
and wears a snuff-colored suit, smiles with a frank school-boyishness
that makes it impossible to be unkind to him, and explodes into
obviously unpremeditated speech._

HASLAM. I'm afraid I'm an awful nuisance. I'm the rector; and I suppose
one ought to call on people.

THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [_in ghostly tones_] We're not Church people, you

HASLAM. Oh, I don't mind that, if you don't. The Church people here are
mostly as dull as ditch-water. I have heard such a lot about you; and
there are so jolly few people to talk to. I thought you perhaps wouldn't
mind. _Do_ you mind? for of course I'll go like a shot if I'm in the

THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [_rising, disarmed_] Sit down, Mr--er?

HASLAM. Haslam.


THE TWEEDED GENTLEMAN [_rising and offering him the stool_] Sit down.
[_He retreats towards the Chippendale chairs_].

HASLAM [_sitting down on the stool_] Thanks awfully.

THE CLERICAL GENTLEMAN [_resuming his seat_] This is my brother Conrad,
Professor of Biology at Jarrowfields University: Dr. Conrad Barnabas. My
name is Franklyn: Franklyn Barnabas. I was in the Church myself for some

HASLAM [_sympathizing_] Yes: one cant help it. If theres a living in
the family, or one's Governor knows a patron, one gets shoved into the
Church by one's parents.

CONRAD [_sitting down on the furthest Chippendale with a snort of
amusement_] Mp!

FRANKLYN. One gets shoved out of it, sometimes, by one's conscience.

HASLAM. Oh yes; but where is a chap like me to go? I'm afraid I'm not
intellectual enough to split straws when theres a job in front of me,
and nothing better for me to do. I daresay the Church was a bit thick
for you; but it's good enough for me. It will last my time, anyhow [_he
laughs good-humoredly_].

FRANKLYN [_with renewed energy_] There again! You see, Con. It will last
his time. Life is too short for men to take it seriously.

HASLAM. Thats a way of looking at it, certainly.

FRANKLYN. I was not shoved into the Church, Mr Haslam: I felt it to be
my vocation to walk with God, like Enoch. After twenty years of it I
realized that I was walking with my own ignorance and self-conceit, and
that I was not within a hundred and fifty years of the experience and
wisdom I was pretending to.

HASLAM. Now I come to think of it, old Methuselah must have had to think
twice before he took on anything for life. If I thought I was going to
live nine hundred and sixty years, I don't think I should stay in the

FRANKLYN. If men lived even a third of that time, the Church would be
very different from the thing it is.

CONRAD. If I could count on nine hundred and sixty years I could make
myself a real biologist, instead of what I am now: a child trying to
walk. Are you sure you might not become a good clergyman if you had a
few centuries to do it in?

HASLAM. Oh, theres nothing much the matter with _me_: it's quite easy to
be a decent parson. It's the Church that chokes me off. I couldnt stick
it for nine hundred years. I should chuck it. You know, sometimes, when
the bishop, who is the most priceless of fossils, lets off something
more than usually out-of-date, the bird starts in my garden.

FRANKLYN. The bird?

HASLAM. Oh yes. Theres a bird there that keeps on singing 'Stick it or
chuck it: stick it or chuck it'--just like that--for an hour on end in
the spring. I wish my father had found some other shop for me.

_The parlor maid comes back._

THE PARLOR MAID. Any letters for the post, sir?

FRANKLYN. These. [_He proffers a basket of letters. She comes to the
table and takes them_].

HASLAM [_to the maid_] Have you told Mr Barnabas yet?

THE PARLOR MAID [_flinching a little_] No, sir.

FRANKLYN. Told me what?

HASLAM. She is going to leave you?

FRANKLYN. Indeed? I'm sorry. Is it our fault, Mr Haslam?

HASLAM. Not a bit. She is jolly well off here.

THE PARLOR MAID [_reddening_] I have never denied it, sir: I couldnt ask
for a better place. But I have only one life to live; and I maynt get
a second chance. Excuse me, sir; but the letters must go to catch the
post. [_She goes out with the letters._]

_The two brothers look inquiringly at Haslam._

HASLAM. Silly girl! Going to marry a village woodman and live in a hovel
with him and a lot of kids tumbling over one another, just because the
fellow has poetic-looking eyes and a moustache.

CONRAD [_demurring_] She said it was because she had only one life.

HASLAM. Same thing, poor girl! The fellow persuaded her to chuck it; and
when she marries him she'll have to stick it. Rotten state of things, I
call it.

CONRAD. You see, she hasnt time to find out what life really means. She
has to die before she knows.

HASLAM [_agreeably_] Thats it.

FRANKLYN. She hasnt time to form a well-instructed conscience.

HASLAM [_still more cheerfully_] Quite.

FRANKLYN. It goes deeper. She hasnt time to form a genuine conscience
at all. Some romantic points of honor and a few conventions. A world
without conscience: that is the horror of our condition.

HASLAM [_beaming_] Simply fatuous. [_Rising_] Well, I suppose I'd better
be going. It's most awfully good of you to put up with my calling.

CONRAD [_in his former low ghostly tone_] You neednt go, you know, if
you are really interested.

HASLAM [_fed up_] Well, I'm afraid I ought to--I really must get back--I
have something to do in the--

FRANKLYN [_smiling benignly and rising to proffer his hand_] Goodbye.

CONRAD [_gruffly, giving him up as a bad job_] Goodbye.

HASLAM. Goodbye. Sorry--er--

_As the rector moves to shake hands with Franklyn, feeling that he is
making a frightful mess of his departure, a vigorous sunburnt young lady
with hazel hair cut to the level of her neck, like an Italian youth in a
Gozzoli picture, comes in impetuously. She seems to have nothing on but
her short skirt, her blouse, her stockings, and a pair of Norwegian
shoes: in short, she is a Simple-Lifer._

THE SIMPLE-LIFER [_swooping on Conrad and kissing him_] Hallo, Nunk.
Youre before your time.

CONRAD. Behave yourself. Theres a visitor.

_She turns quickly and sees the rector. She instinctively switches at
her Gozzoli fringe with her fingers, but gives it up as hopeless._

FRANKLYN. Mr Haslam, our new rector. [_To Haslam_] My daughter Cynthia.

CONRAD. Usually called Savvy, short for Savage.

SAVVY. I usually call Mr Haslam Bill, short for William. [_She strolls
to the hearthrug, and surveys them calmly from that commanding

FRANKLYN. You know him?

SAVVY. Rather. Sit down, Bill.

FRANKLYN. Mr Haslam is going, Savvy. He has an engagement.

SAVVY. I know. I'm the engagement.

CONRAD. In that case, would you mind taking him into the garden while I
talk to your father?

SAVVY [_to Haslam_] Tennis?

HASLAM. Rather!

SAVVY. Come on. [_She dances out. He runs boyishly after her_].

FRANKLYN [_leaving his table and beginning to walk up and down the room
discontentedly_] Savvy's manners jar on me. They would have horrified
her grandmother.

CONRAD [_obstinately_] They are happier manners than Mother's manners.

FRANKLYN. Yes: they are franker, wholesomer, better in a hundred ways.
And yet I squirm at them. I cannot get it out of my head that Mother was
a well-mannered woman, and that Savvy has no manners at all.

CONRAD. There wasnt any pleasure in Mother's fine manners. That makes a
biological difference.

FRANKLYN. But there was beauty in Mother's manners, grace in them, style
in them: above all, decision in them. Savvy is such a cub.

CONRAD. So she ought to be, at her age.

FRANKLYN. There it comes again! Her age! her age!

CONRAD. You want her to be fully grown at eighteen. You want to force
her into a stuck-up, artificial, premature self-possession before she
has any self to possess. You just let her alone: she is right enough for
her years.

FRANKLYN. I have let her alone; and look at the result! Like all the
other young people who have been let alone, she becomes a Socialist.
That is, she becomes hopelessly demoralized.

CONRAD. Well, arnt you a Socialist?

FRANKLYN. Yes; but that is not the same thing. You and I were brought
up in the old bourgeois morality. We were taught bourgeois manners and
bourgeois points of honor. Bourgeois manners may be snobbish manners:
there may be no pleasure in them, as you say; but they are better than
no manners. Many bourgeois points of honor may be false; but at least
they exist. The women know what to expect and what is expected of
them. Savvy doesn't. She is a Bolshevist and nothing else. She has to
improvise her manners and her conduct as she goes along. It's often
charming, no doubt; but sometimes she puts her foot in it frightfully;
and then I feel that she is blaming me for not teaching her better.

CONRAD. Well, you have something better to teach her now, at all events.

FRANKLYN. Yes: but it is too late. She doesn't trust me now. She doesn't
talk about such things to me. She doesnt read anything I write. She
never comes to hear me lecture. I am out of it as far as Savvy is
concerned. [_He resumes his seat at the writing-table_].

CONRAD. I must have a talk to her.

FRANKLYN. Perhaps she will listen to you. You are not her father.

CONRAD. I sent her my last book. I can break the ice by asking her what
she made of it.

FRANKLYN. When she heard you were coming, she asked me whether all the
leaves were cut, in case it fell into your hands. She hasnt read a word
of it.

CONRAD [_rising indignantly_] What!

FRANKLYN [_inexorably_] Not a word of it.

CONRAD [_beaten_] Well, I suppose it's only natural. Biology is a dry
subject for a girl; and I am a pretty dry old codger.

[_He sits down again resignedly_].

FRANKLYN. Brother: if that is so; if biology as you have worked at it,
and religion as I have worked at it, are dry subjects like the old stuff
they taught under these names, and we two are dry old codgers, like the
old preachers and professors, then the Gospel of the Brothers Barnabas
is a delusion. Unless this withered thing religion, and this dry thing
science, have come alive in our hands, alive and intensely interesting,
we may just as well go out and dig the garden until it is time to dig
our graves. [_The parlor maid returns. Franklyn is impatient at the
interruption_]. Well? what is it now?

THE PARLOR MAID. Mr Joyce Burge on the telephone, sir. He wants to speak
to you.

FRANKLYN [_astonished_] Mr Joyce Burge!


FRANKLYN [_to Conrad_] What on earth does this mean? I havnt heard from
him nor exchanged a word with him for years. I resigned the chairmanship
of the Liberal Association and shook the dust of party politics from
my feet before he was Prime Minister in the Coalition. Of course, he
dropped me like a hot potato.

CONRAD. Well, now that the Coalition has chucked him out, and he is only
one of the half-dozen leaders of the Opposition, perhaps he wants to
pick you up again.

THE PARLOR MAID [_warningly_] He is holding the line, sir.

FRANKLYN. Yes: all right [_he hurries out_].

_The parlor maid goes to the hearthrug to make up the fire. Conrad
rises and strolls to the middle of the room, where he stops and looks
quizzically down at her._

CONRAD. So you have only one life to live, eh?

THE PARLOR MAID [_dropping on her knees in consternation_] I meant no
offence, sir.

CONRAD. You didn't give any. But you know you could live a devil of a
long life if you really wanted to.

THE PARLOR MAID [_sitting down on her heels_] Oh, dont say that, sir.
It's so unsettling.

CONRAD. Why? Have you been thinking about it?

THE PARLOR MAID. It would never have come into my head if you hadnt put
it there, sir. Me and cook had a look at your book.


You and cook
Had a look
At my book!

And my niece wouldn't open it! The prophet is without honor in his own
family. Well, what do you think of living for several hundred years? Are
you going to have a try for it?

THE PARLOR MAID. Well, of course youre not in earnest, sir. But it does
set one thinking, especially when one is going to be married.

CONRAD. What has that to do with it? He may live as long as you, you

THE PARLOR MAID. Thats just it, sir. You see, he must take me for better
for worse, til death do us part. Do you think he would be so ready to do
that, sir, if he thought it might be for several hundred years?

CONRAD. Thats true. And what about yourself?

THE PARLOR MAID. Oh, I tell you straight out, sir, I'd never
promise to live with the same man as long as that. I wouldnt put
up with my own children as long as that. Why, cook figured it
out, sir, that when you were only 200, you might marry your own
great-great-great-great-great-great-grandson and not even know who he

CONRAD. Well, why not? For all you know, the man you are going to
marry may be your great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother's

THE PARLOR MAID. But do you think it would ever be thought respectable,

CONRAD. My good girl, all biological necessities have to be made
respectable whether we like it or not; so you neednt worry yourself
about that.

_Franklyn returns and crosses the room to his chair, but does not sit
down. The parlor maid goes out._

CONRAD. Well, what does Joyce Burge want?

FRANKLYN. Oh, a silly misunderstanding. I have promised to address a
meeting in Middlesborough; and some fool has put it into the papers that
I am 'coming to Middlesborough,' without any explanation. Of course, now
that we are on the eve of a general election, political people think I
am coming there to contest the parliamentary seat. Burge knows that I
have a following, and thinks I could get into the House of Commons and
head a group there. So he insists on coming to see me. He is staying
with some people at Dollis Hill, and can be here in five or ten minutes,
he says.

CONRAD. But didn't you tell him that it's a false alarm?

FRANKLYN. Of course I did; but he wont believe me.

CONRAD. Called you a liar, in fact?

FRANKLYN. No: I wish he had: any sort of plain speaking is better than
the nauseous sham good fellowship our democratic public men get up for
shop use. He pretends to believe me, and assures me his visit is quite
disinterested; but why should he come if he has no axe to grind? These
chaps never believe anything they say themselves; and naturally they
cannot believe anything anyone else says.

CONRAD [_rising_] Well, I shall clear out. It was hard enough to stand
the party politicians before the war; but now that they have managed to
half kill Europe between them, I cant be civil to them, and I dont see
why I should be.

FRANKLYN. Wait a bit. We have to find out how the world will take our
new gospel. [_Conrad sits down again_]. Party politicians are still
unfortunately an important part of the world. Suppose we try it on Joyce

CONRAD. How can you? You can tell things only to people who can listen.
Joyce Burge has talked so much that he has lost the power of listening.
He doesnt listen even in the House of Commons.

_Savvy rushes in breathless, followed by Haslam, who remains timidly
just inside the door._

SAVVY [_running to Franklyn_] I say! Who do you think has just driven up
in a big car?

FRANKLYN. Mr Joyce Burge, perhaps.

SAVVY [_disappointed_] Oh, they know, Bill. Why didnt you tell us he was
coming? I have nothing on.

HASLAM. I'd better go, hadnt I?

CONRAD. You just wait here, both of you. When you start yawning, Joyce
Burge will take the hint, perhaps.

SAVVY [_to Franklyn_] May we?

FRANKLYN. Yes, if you promise to behave yourself.

SAVVY [_making a wry face_] That will be a treat, wont it?

THE PARLOR MAID [_entering and announcing_] Mr Joyce Burge.

_Haslam hastily moves to the fireplace; and the parlor maid goes out and
shuts the door when the visitor has passed in._

FRANKLYN [_hurrying past Savvy to his guest with the false cordiality he
has just been denouncing_] Oh! Here you are. Delighted to see you. [_He
shakes Burge's hand, and introduces Savvy_] My daughter.

SAVVY [_not daring to approach_] Very kind of you to come.

_Joyce Burge stands fast and says nothing; but he screws up his cheeks
into a smile at each introduction, and makes his eyes shine in a very
winning manner. He is a well-fed man turned fifty, with broad forehead,
and grey hair which, his neck being short, falls almost to his collar._

FRANKLYN. Mr Haslam, our rector.

_Burge conveys an impression of shining like a church window; and Haslam
seizes the nearest library chair on the hearth, and swings it round for
Burge between the stool and Conrad. He then retires to the window seat
at the other side of the room, and is joined by Savvy. They sit there,
side by side, hunched up with their elbows on their knees and their
chins on their hands, providing Burge with a sort of Stranger's Gallery
during the ensuing sitting._

FRANKLYN. I forget whether you know my brother Conrad. He is a

BURGE [_suddenly bursting into energetic action and shaking hands
heartily with Conrad_] By reputation only, but very well, of course.
How I wish I could have devoted myself to biology! I have always been
interested in rocks and strata and volcanoes and so forth: they throw
such a light on the age of the earth. [_With conviction_] There is
nothing like biology. 'The cloud-capped towers, the solemn binnacles,
the gorgeous temples, the great globe itself: yea, all that it inherit
shall dissolve, and, like this influential pageant faded, leave not a
rack behind.' Thats biology, you know: good sound biology. [_He sits
down. So do the others, Franklyn on the stool, and Conrad on his
Chippendale_]. Well, my dear Barnabas, what do you think of the
situation? Dont you think the time has come for us to make a move?

FRANKLYN. The time has always come to make a move.

BURGE. How true! But what is the move to be? You are a man of enormous
influence. We know that. Weve always known it. We have to consult you
whether we like it or not. We--

FRANKLYN [_interrupting firmly_] I never meddle in party politics now.

SAVVY. It's no use saying you have no influence, daddy. Heaps of people
swear by you.

BURGE [_shining at her_] Of course they do. Come! let me prove to you
what we think of you. Shall we find you a first-rate constituency
to contest at the next election? One that wont cost you a penny. A
metropolitan seat. What do you say to the Strand?

FRANKLYN. My dear Burge, I am not a child. Why do you go on wasting your
party funds on the Strand? You know you cannot win it.

BURGE. We cannot win it; but you--

FRANKLYN. Oh, please!

SAVVY. The Strand's no use, Mr Burge. I once canvassed for a Socialist
there. Cheese it.

BURGE. Cheese it!

HASLAM [_spluttering with suppressed laughter_] Priceless!

SAVVY. Well, I suppose I shouldnt say cheese it to a Right Honorable.
But the Strand, you know! Do come off it.

FRANKLYN. You must excuse my daughter's shocking manners, Burge; but I
agree with her that popular democratic statesmen soon come to believe
that everyone they speak to is an ignorant dupe and a born fool into the

BURGE [_laughing genially_] You old aristocrat, you! But believe me, the
instinct of the people is sound--

CONRAD [_cutting in sharply_] Then why are you in the Opposition instead
of in the Government?

BURGE [_shewing signs of temper under this heckling_] I deny that I
am in the Opposition _morally_. The Government does not represent the
country. I was chucked out of the Coalition by a Tory conspiracy. The
people want me back. I dont want to go back.

FRANKLYN [_gently remonstrant_] My dear Burge: of course you do.

BURGE [_turning on him_] Not a bit of it. I want to cultivate my garden.
I am not interested in politics: I am interested in roses. I havnt a
scrap of ambition. I went into politics because my wife shoved me into
them, bless her! But I want to serve my country. What else am I for? I
want to save my country from the Tories. They dont represent the people.
The man they have made Prime Minister has never represented the people;
and you know it. Lord Dunreen is the bitterest old Tory left alive. What
has he to offer to the people?

FRANKLYN [_cutting in before Burge can proceed--as he evidently
intends--to answer his own question_] I will tell you. He has
ascertainable beliefs and principles to offer. The people know where
they are with Lord Dunreen. They know what he thinks right and what he
thinks wrong. With your followers they never know where they are. With
you they never know where they are.

BURGE [_amazed_] With me!

FRANKLYN. Well, where are you? What are you?

BURGE. Barnabas: you must be mad. You ask me what I am?


BURGE. I am, if I mistake not, Joyce Burge, pretty well known throughout
Europe, and indeed throughout the world, as the man who--unworthily
perhaps, but not quite unsuccessfully--held the helm when the ship
of State weathered the mightiest hurricane that has ever burst with
earth-shaking violence on the land of our fathers.

FRANKLYN. I know that. I know who you are. And the earth-shaking part of
it to me is that though you were placed in that enormously responsible
position, neither I nor anyone else knows what your beliefs are, or even
whether you have either beliefs or principles. What we did know was that
your Government was formed largely of men who regarded you as a robber
of henroosts, and whom you regarded as enemies of the people.

BURGE [_adroitly, as he thinks_] I agree with you. I agree with you
absolutely. I dont believe in coalition governments.

FRANKLYN. Precisely. Yet you formed two.

BURGE. Why? Because we were at war. That is what you fellows never would
realize. The Hun was at the gate. Our country, our lives, the honor of
our wives and mothers and daughters, the tender flesh of our innocent
babes, were at stake. Was that a time to argue about principles?

FRANKLYN. I should say it was the time of all others to confirm the
resolution of our own men and gain the confidence and support of public
opinion throughout the world by a declaration of principle. Do you think
the Hun would ever have come to the gate if he had known that it would
be shut in his face on principle? Did he not hold his own against you
until America boldly affirmed the democratic principle and came to our
rescue? Why did you let America snatch that honor from England?

BURGE. Barnabas: America was carried away by words, and had to eat them
at the Peace Conference. Beware of eloquence: it is the bane of popular
speakers like you.

FRANKLYN} [_exclaiming_]{Well!!
SAVVY} [_all_]{I like that!
HASLAM} [_together_]{Priceless!

BURGE [_continuing remorselessly_] Come down to facts. It wasn't
principle that won the war: it was the British fleet and the blockade.
America found the talk: I found the shells. You cannot win wars by
principles; but you _can_ win elections by them. There I am with you.
You want the next election to be fought on principles: that is what it
comes to, doesnt it?

FRANKLYN. I dont want it to be fought at all! An election is a moral
horror, as bad as a battle except for the blood: a mud bath for every
soul concerned in it. You know very well that it will not be fought on

BURGE. On the contrary it will be fought on nothing else. I believe a
program is a mistake. I agree with you that principle is what we want.

FRANKLYN. Principle without program, eh?

BURGE. Exactly. There it is in three words.

FRANKLYN. Why not in one word? Platitudes. That is what principle
without program means.

BURGE [_puzzled but patient, trying to get at Franklyn's drift in order
to ascertain his price_] I have not made myself clear. Listen. I am
agreeing with you. I am on your side. I am accepting your proposal.
There isnt going to be any more coalition. This time there wont be a
Tory in the Cabinet. Every candidate will have to pledge himself to Free
Trade, slightly modified by consideration for our Overseas Dominions; to
Disestablishment; to Reform of the House of Lords; to a revised scheme
of Taxation of Land Values; and to doing something or other to keep the
Irish quiet. Does that satisfy you?

FRANKLYN. It does not even interest me. Suppose your friends do commit
themselves to all this! What does it prove about them except that they
are hopelessly out of date even in party politics? that they have learnt
nothing and forgotten nothing since 1885? What is it to me that they
hate the Church and hate the landed gentry; that they are jealous of the
nobility, and have shipping shares instead of manufacturing businesses
in the Midlands? I can find you hundreds of the most sordid rascals, or
the most densely stupid reactionaries, with all these qualifications.

BURGE. Personal abuse proves nothing. Do you suppose the Tories are all
angels because they are all members of the Church of England?

FRANKLYN. No; but they stand together as members of the Church of
England, whereas your people, in attacking the Church, are all over the
shop. The supporters of the Church are of one mind about religion: its
enemies are of a dozen minds. The Churchmen are a phalanx: your people
are a mob in which atheists are jostled by Plymouth Brethren, and
Positivists by Pillars of Fire. You have with you all the crudest
unbelievers and all the crudest fanatics.

BURGE. We stand, as Cromwell did, for liberty of conscience, if that is
what you mean.

FRANKLYN. How can you talk such rubbish over the graves of your
conscientious objectors? All law limits liberty of conscience: if a
man's conscience allows him to steal your watch or to shirk military
service, how much liberty do you allow it? Liberty of conscience is not
my point.

BURGE [_testily_] I wish you would come to your point. Half the time
you are saying that you must have principles; and when I offer you
principles you say they wont work.

FRANKLYN. You have not offered me any principles. Your party shibboleths
are not principles. If you get into power again you will find yourself
at the head of a rabble of Socialists and anti-Socialists, of Jingo
Imperialists and Little Englanders, of cast-iron Materialists
and ecstatic Quakers, of Christian Scientists and Compulsory
Inoculationists, of Syndicalists and Bureaucrats: in short, of men
differing fiercely and irreconcilably on every principle that goes to
the root of human society and destiny; and the impossibility of keeping
such a team together will force you to sell the pass again to the solid
Conservative Opposition.

BURGE [_rising in wrath_] Sell the pass again! You accuse me of having
sold the pass!

FRANKLYN. When the terrible impact of real warfare swept your
parliamentary sham warfare into the dustbin, you had to go behind the
backs of your followers and make a secret agreement with the leaders of
the Opposition to keep you in power on condition that you dropped all
legislation of which they did not approve. And you could not even hold
them to their bargain; for they presently betrayed the secret and forced
the coalition on you.

BURGE. I solemnly declare that this is a false and monstrous accusation.

FRANKLYN. Do you deny that the thing occurred? Were the uncontradicted
reports false? Were the published letters forgeries?

BURGE. Certainly not. But _I_ did not do it. I was not Prime Minister
then. It was that old dotard, that played-out old humbug Lubin. He was
Prime Minister then, not I.

FRANKLYN. Do you mean to say you did not know?

BURGE [_sitting down again with a shrug_] Oh, I had to be told. But what
could I do? If we had refused we might have had to go out of office.

FRANKLYN. Precisely.

BURGE. Well, could we desert the country at such a crisis? The Hun was
at the gate. Everyone has to make sacrifices for the sake of the country
at such moments. We had to rise above party; and I am proud to say we
never gave party a second thought. We stuck to--

CONRAD. Office?

SURGE [_turning on him_] Yes, sir, to office: that is, to
responsibility, to danger, to heart-sickening toil, to abuse and
misunderstanding, to a martyrdom that made us envy the very soldiers in
the trenches. If you had had to live for months on aspirin and bromide
of potassium to get a wink of sleep, you wouldn't talk about office as
if it were a catch.

FRANKLYN. Still, you admit that under our parliamentary system Lubin
could not have helped himself?

BURGE. On that subject my lips are closed. Nothing will induce me to say
one word against the old man. I never have; and I never will. Lubin is
old: he has never been a real statesman: he is as lazy as a cat on
a hearthrug: you cant get him to attend to anything: he is good for
nothing but getting up and making speeches with a peroration that goes
down with the back benches. But I say nothing against him. I gather that
you do not think much of me as a statesman; but at all events I can get
things done. I can hustle: even you will admit that. But Lubin! Oh my
stars, Lubin!! If you only knew--

_The parlor maid opens the door and announces a visitor._


SURGE [_bounding from his chair_] Lubin! Is this a conspiracy?

_They all rise in amazement, staring at the door. Lubin enters: a man
at the end of his sixties, a Yorkshireman with the last traces of
Scandinavian flax still in his white hair, undistinguished in stature,
unassuming in his manner, and taking his simple dignity for granted,
but wonderfully comfortable and quite self-assured in contrast to
the intellectual restlessness of Franklyn and the mesmeric
self-assertiveness of Burge. His presence suddenly brings out the fact
that they are unhappy men, ill at ease, square pegs in round holes,
whilst he flourishes like a primrose.

The parlor maid withdraws._

LUBIN [_coming to Franklyn_] How do you do, Mr Barnabas? [_He speaks
very comfortably and kindly, much as if he were the host, and Franklyn
an embarrassed but welcome guest_]. I had the pleasure of meeting you
once at the Mansion House. I think it was to celebrate the conclusion of
the hundred years peace with America.

FRANKLYN [_shaking hands_] It was long before that: a meeting about
Venezuela, when we were on the point of going to war with America.

LUBIN [_not at all put out_] Yes: you are quite right. I knew it was
something about America. [_He pats Franklyn's hand_]. And how have you
been all this time? Well, eh?

FRANKLYN [_smiling to soften the sarcasm_] A few vicissitudes of health
naturally in so long a time.

LUBIN. Just so. Just so. [_Looking round at Savvy_] The young lady is--?

FRANKLYN. My daughter, Savvy.

_Savvy comes from the window between her father and Lubin._

LUBIN [_taking her hand affectionately in both his_] And why has she
never come to see us?

BURGE. I don't know whether you have noticed, Lubin, that I am present.

_Savvy takes advantage of this diversion to slip away to the settee,
where she is stealthily joined by Haslam, who sits down on her left._

LUBIN [_seating himself in Burge's chair with ineffable
comfortableness_] My dear Burge: if you imagine that it is possible to
be within ten miles of your energetic presence without being acutely
aware of it, you do yourself the greatest injustice. How are you?
And how are your good newspaper friends? [_Burge makes an explosive
movement; but Lubin goes on calmly and sweetly_] And what are you doing
here with my old friend Barnabas, if I may ask?

BURGE [_sitting down in Conrad's chair, leaving him standing uneasily in
the corner_] Well, just what you are doing, if you want to know. I am
trying to enlist Mr Barnabas's valuable support for my party.

LUBIN. Your party, eh? The newspaper party?

BURGE. The Liberal Party. The party of which I have the honor to be

LUBIN. Have you now? Thats very interesting; for I thought _I_ was the
leader of the Liberal Party. However, it is very kind of you to take it
off my hands, if the party will let you.

BURGE. Do you suggest that I have not the support and confidence of the

LUBIN. I dont suggest anything, my dear Burge. Mr Barnabas will tell you
that we all think very highly of you. The country owes you a great deal.
During the war, you did very creditably over the munitions; and if you
were not quite so successful with the peace, nobody doubted that you
meant well.

BURGE. Very kind of you, Lubin. Let me remark that you cannot lead a
progressive party without getting a move on.

LUBIN. You mean you cannot. I did it for ten years without the least
difficulty. And very comfortable, prosperous, pleasant years they were.

BURGE. Yes; but what did they end in?

LUBIN. In you, Burge. You don't complain of that, do you?

BURGE [_fiercely_] In plague, pestilence, and famine; battle, murder,
and sudden death.

LUBIN [_with an appreciative chuckle_] The Nonconformist can quote the
prayer-book for his own purposes, I see. How you enjoyed yourself over
that business, Burge! Do you remember the Knock-Out Blow?

BURGE. It came off: don't forget that. Do _you_ remember fighting to the
last drop of your blood?

LUBIN [_unruffled, to Franklyn_] By the way, I remember your brother
Conrad--a wonderful brain and a dear good fellow--explaining to me that
I couldn't fight to the last drop of my blood, because I should be dead
long before I came to it. Most interesting, and quite true. He was
introduced to me at a meeting where the suffragettes kept disturbing me.
They had to be carried out kicking and making a horrid disturbance.

CONRAD. No: it was later, at a meeting to support the Franchise Bill
which gave them the vote.

LUBIN [_discovering Conrad's presence for the first time_] Youre right:
it was. I knew it had something to do with women. My memory never
deceives me. Thank you. Will you introduce me to this gentleman,

CONRAD [_not at all affably_] I am the Conrad in question. [_He sits
down in dudgeon on the vacant Chippendale_].

LUBIN. Are you? [_Looking at him pleasantly_] Yes: of course you are. I
never forget a face. But [_with an arch turn of his eyes to Savvy_] your
pretty niece engaged all my powers of vision.

BURGE. I wish youd be serious, Lubin. God knows we have passed through
times terrible enough to make any man serious.

LUBIN. I do not think I need to be reminded of that. In peace time
I used to keep myself fresh for my work by banishing all worldly
considerations from my mind on Sundays; but war has no respect for the
Sabbath; and there have been Sundays within the last few years on which
I have had to play as many as sixty-six games of bridge to keep my mind
off the news from the front.

BURGE [_scandalized_] Sixty-six games of bridge on Sunday!!!

LUBIN. You probably sang sixty-six hymns. But as I cannot boast either
your admirable voice or your spiritual fervor, I had to fall back on

FRANKLYN. If I may go back to the subject of your visit, it seems to me
that you may both be completely superseded by the Labor Party.

BURGE. But I am in the truest sense myself a Labor leader. I--[_he
stops, as Lubin has risen with a half-suppressed yawn, and is already
talking calmly, but without a pretence of interest_].

LUBIN. The Labor Party! Oh no, Mr Barnabas. No, no, no, no, no. [_He
moves in Savvy's direction_]. There will be no trouble about that. Of
course we must give them a few seats: more, I quite admit, than we
should have dreamt of leaving to them before the war; but--[_by this
time he has reached the sofa where Savvy and Haslam are seated. He sits
down between them; takes her hand; and drops the subject of Labor_].
Well, my dear young lady? What is the latest news? Whats going on? Have
you seen Shoddy's new play? Tell me all about it, and all about the
latest books, and all about everything.

SAVVY. You have not met Mr Haslam. Our Rector.

LUBIN [_who has quite overlooked Haslam_] Never heard of him. Is he any

FRANKLYN. I was introducing him. This is Mr Haslam.

HASLAM. How d'ye do?

LUBIN. I beg your pardon, Mr Haslam. Delighted to meet you. [_To Savvy_]
Well, now, how many books have you written?

SAVVY [_rather overwhelmed but attracted_] None. I don't write.

LUBIN. You dont say so; Well, what do you do? Music? Skirt-dancing?

SAVVY. I dont do anything.

LUBIN. Thank God! You and I were born for one another. Who is your
favorite poet, Sally?

SAVVY. Savvy.

LUBIN. Savvy! I never heard of him. Tell me all about him. Keep me up to

SAVVY. It's not a poet. _I_ am Savvy, not Sally.

LUBIN. Savvy! Thats a funny name, and very pretty. Savvy. It sounds
Chinese. What does it mean?

CONRAD. Short for Savage.

LUBIN [_patting her hand_] La belle Sauvage.

HASLAM [_rising and surrendering Savvy to Lubin by crossing to the
fireplace_] I suppose the Church is out of it as far as progressive
politics are concerned.

BURGE. Nonsense! That notion about the Church being unprogressive is one
of those shibboleths that our party must drop. The Church is all right
essentially. Get rid of the establishment; get rid of the bishops; get
rid of the candlesticks; get rid of the 39 articles; and the Church of
England is just as good as any other Church; and I don't care who hears
me say so.

LUBIN. It doesn't matter a bit who hears you say so, my dear Burge. [_To
Savvy_] Who did you say your favorite poet was?

SAVVY. I dont make pets of poets. Who's yours?

LUBIN. Horace.

SAVVY. Horace who?

LUBIN. Quintus Horatius Flaccus: the noblest Roman of them all, my dear.

SAVVY. Oh, if he is dead, that explains it. I have a theory that all the
dead people we feel especially interested in must have been ourselves.
You must be Horace's reincarnation.

LUBIN [_delighted_] That is the very most charming and penetrating and
intelligent thing that has ever been said to me. Barnabas: will you
exchange daughters with me? I can give you your choice of two.

FRANKLYN. Man proposes. Savvy disposes.

LUBIN. What does Savvy say?

BURGE. Lubin: I came here to talk politics.

LUBIN. Yes: you have only one subject, Burge. I came here to talk to
Savvy. Take Burge into the next room, Barnabas; and let him rip.

BURGE [_half-angry, half-indulgent_] No; but really, Lubin, we are at a

LUBIN. My dear Burge, life is a disease; and the only difference between
one man and another is the stage of the disease at which he lives. You
are always at the crisis; I am always in the convalescent stage. I enjoy
convalescence. It is the part that makes the illness worth while.

SAVVY [_half-rising_] Perhaps I'd better run away. I am distracting you.

LUBIN [_making her sit down again_] Not at all, my dear. You are only
distracting Burge. Jolly good thing for him to be distracted by a pretty
girl. Just what he needs.

BURGE. I sometimes envy you, Lubin. The great movement of mankind, the
giant sweep of the ages, passes you by and leaves you standing.

LUBIN. It leaves me sitting, and quite comfortable, thank you. Go on
sweeping. When you are tired of it, come back; and you will find England
where it was, and me in my accustomed place, with Miss Savvy telling me
all sorts of interesting things.

SAVVY [_who has been growing more and more restless_] Dont let him shut
you up, Mr Burge. You know, Mr Lubin, I am frightfully interested in the
Labor movement, and in Theosophy, and in reconstruction after the war,
and all sorts of things. I daresay the flappers in your smart set are
tremendously flattered when you sit beside them and are nice to them
as you are being nice to me; but I am not smart; and I am no use as
a flapper. I am dowdy and serious. I want you to be serious. If you
refuse, I shall go and sit beside Mr Burge, and ask him to hold my hand.

LUBIN. He wouldnt know how to do it, my dear. Burge has a reputation as
a profligate--

BURGE [_starting_] Lubin: this is monstrous. I--

LUBIN [_continuing_]--but he is really a model of domesticity. His name
is coupled with all the most celebrated beauties; but for him there is
only one woman; and that is not you, my dear, but his very charming

BURGE. You are destroying my character in the act of pretending to save
it. Have the goodness to confine yourself to your own character and your
own wife. Both of them need all your attention.

LUBIN. I have the privilege of my age and of my transparent innocence. I
have not to struggle with your volcanic energy.

BURGE [_with an immense sense of power_] No, by George!

FRANKLYN. I think I shall speak both for my brother and myself, and
possibly also for my daughter, if I say that since the object of your
visit and Mr Joyce Burge's is to some extent political, we should hear
with great interest something about your political aims, Mr Lubin.

LUBIN [_assenting with complete good humor, and becoming attentive,
clear, and businesslike in his tone_] By all means, Mr Barnabas. What
we have to consider first, I take it, is what prospect there is of our
finding you beside us in the House after the next election.

FRANKLYN. When I speak of politics, Mr Lubin, I am not thinking of
elections, or available seats, or party funds, or the registers, or
even, I am sorry to have to add, of parliament as it exists at present.
I had much rather you talked about bridge than about electioneering: it
is the more interesting game of the two.

BURGE. He wants to discuss principles, Lubin.

LUBIN [_very cool and clear_] I understand Mr Barnabas quite well. But
elections are unsettled things; principles are settled things.

CONRAD [_impatiently_] Great Heavens!--

LUBIN [_interrupting him with quiet authority_] One moment, Dr Barnabas.
The main principles on which modern civilized society is founded
are pretty well understood among educated people. That is what our
dangerously half-educated masses and their pet demagogues--if Burge will
excuse that expression--

BURGE. Dont mind me. Go on. I shall have something to say presently.

LUBIN.--that is what our dangerously half-educated people do not
realize. Take all this fuss about the Labor Party, with its imaginary
new principles and new politics. The Labor members will find that
the immutable laws of political economy take no more notice of their
ambitions and aspirations than the law of gravitation. I speak, if I may
say so, with knowledge; for I have made a special, study of the Labor

FRANKLYN [_with interest and some surprise_] Indeed?

LUBIN. Yes. It occurred quite at the beginning of my career. I was asked
to deliver an address to the students at the Working Men's College; and
I was strongly advised to comply, as Gladstone and Morley and others
were doing that sort of thing at the moment. It was rather a troublesome
job, because I had not gone into political economy at the time. As you
know, at the university I was a classical scholar; and my profession
was the Law. But I looked up the text-books, and got up the case most
carefully. I found that the correct view is that all this Trade Unionism
and Socialism and so forth is founded on the ignorant delusion that
wages and the production and distribution of wealth can be controlled by
legislation or by any human action whatever. They obey fixed scientific
laws, which have been ascertained and settled finally by the highest
economic authorities. Naturally I do not at this distance of time
remember the exact process of reasoning; but I can get up the case again
at any time in a couple of days; and you may rely on me absolutely,
should the occasion arise, to deal with all these ignorant and
unpractical people in a conclusive and convincing way, except, of
course, as far as it may be advisable to indulge and flatter them a
little so as to let them down without creating ill feeling in the
working-class electorate. In short, I can get that lecture up again
almost at a moment's notice.

SAVVY. But, Mr Lubin, I have had a university education too; and all
this about wages and distribution being fixed by immutable laws of
political economy is obsolete rot.

FRANKLYN [_shocked_] Oh, my dear! That is not polite.

LUBIN. No, no, no. Dont scold her. She mustnt be scolded. [_To Savvy_] I
understand. You are a disciple of Karl Marx.

SAVVY. No, no. Karl Marx's economics are all rot.

LUBIN [_at last a little taken aback_] Dear me!

SAVVY. You must excuse me, Mr Lubin; but it's like hearing a man talk
about the Garden of Eden.

CONRAD. Why shouldnt he talk about the Garden of Eden? It was a first
attempt at biology anyhow.

LUBIN [_recovering his self-possession_] I am sound on the Garden of
Eden. I have heard of Darwin.

SAVVY. But Darwin is all rot.

LUBIN. What! Already!

SAVVY. It's no good your smiling at me like a Cheshire cat, Mr Lubin;
and I am not going to sit here mumchance like an old-fashioned goody
goody wife while you men monopolize the conversation and pay out the
very ghastliest exploded drivel as the latest thing in politics. I am
not giving you my own ideas, Mr Lubin, but just the regular orthodox
science of today. Only the most awful old fossils think that Socialism
is bad economics and that Darwin invented Evolution. Ask Papa. Ask
Uncle. Ask the first person you meet in the street. [_She rises and
crosses to Haslam_]. Give me a cigaret, Bill, will you?

HASLAM. Priceless. [_He complies_].

FRANKLYN. Savvy has not lived long enough to have any manners, Mr Lubin;
but that is where you stand with the younger generation. Dont smoke,

_Savvy, with a shrug of rather mutinous resignation, throws the cigaret
into the fire. Haslam, on the point of lighting one for himself, changes
his mind._

LUBIN [_shrewd and serious_] Mr Barnabas: I confess I am surprised; and
I will not pretend that I am convinced. But I am open to conviction. I
may be wrong.

BURGE [_in a burst of irony_] Oh no. Impossible! Impossible!

LUBIN. Yes, Mr Barnabas, though I do not possess Burge's genius for
being always wrong, I have been in that position once or twice. I could
not conceal from you, even if I wished to, that my time has been so
completely filled by my professional work as a lawyer, and later on
by my duties as leader of the House of Commons in the days when Prime
Ministers were also leaders--

BURGE [_stung_] Not to mention bridge and smart society.

LUBIN.--not to mention the continual and trying effort to make Burge
behave himself, that I have not been able to keep my academic reading up
to date. I have kept my classics brushed up out of sheer love for them;
but my economics and my science, such as they were, may possibly be a
little rusty. Yet I think I may say that if you and your brother will
be so good as to put me on the track of the necessary documents, I will
undertake to put the case to the House or to the country to your entire
satisfaction. You see, as long as you can shew these troublesome
half-educated people who want to turn the world upside down that they
are talking nonsense, it really does not matter very much whether you do
it in terms of what Miss Barnabas calls obsolete rot or in terms of
what her granddaughter will probably call unmitigated tosh. I have no
objection whatever to denounce Karl Marx. Anything I can say against
Darwin will please a large body of sincerely pious voters. If it will be
easier to carry on the business of the country on the understanding
that the present state of things is to be called Socialism, I have no
objection in the world to call it Socialism. There is the precedent
of the Emperor Constantine, who saved the society of his own day by
agreeing to call his Imperialism Christianity. Mind: I must not go ahead
of the electorate. You must not call a voter a Socialist until--

FRANKLYN. Until he is a Socialist. Agreed.

LUBIN. Oh, not at all. You need not wait for that. You must not call
him a Socialist until he wishes to be called a Socialist: that is all.
Surely you would not say that I must not address my constituents as
gentlemen until they are gentlemen. I address them as gentlemen because
they wish to be so addressed. [_He rises from the sofa and goes to
Franklyn, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder_]. Do not be afraid
of Socialism, Mr Barnabas. You need not tremble for your property or
your position or your dignity. England will remain what England is, no
matter what new political names may come into vogue. I do not intend to
resist the transition to Socialism. You may depend on me to guide it, to
lead it, to give suitable expression to its aspirations, and to steer it
clear of Utopian absurdities. I can honestly ask for your support on the
most advanced Socialist grounds no less than on the soundest Liberal

BURGE. In short, Lubin, youre incorrigible. You dont believe anything
is going to change. The millions are still to toil--the people--my
people--for I am a man of the people--

LUBIN [_interrupting him contemptuously_] Dont be ridiculous, Burge. You
are a country solicitor, further removed from the people, more foreign
to them, more jealous of letting them up to your level, than any duke or
any archbishop.

BURGE [_hotly_] I deny it. You think I have never been poor. You think
I have never cleaned my own boots. You think my fingers have never come
out through the soles when I was cleaning them. You think--

LUBIN. I think you fall into the very common mistake of supposing that
it is poverty that makes the proletarian and money that makes the
gentleman. You are quite wrong. You never belonged to the people: you
belonged to the impecunious. Impecuniosity and broken boots are the lot
of the unsuccessful middle class, and the commonplaces of the early
struggles of the professional and younger son class. I defy you to find
a farm laborer in England with broken boots. Call a mechanic one of the
poor, and he'll punch your head. When you talk to your constituents
about the toiling millions, they don't consider that you are referring
to them. They are all third cousins of somebody with a title or a park.
I am a Yorkshireman, my friend. I know England; and you don't. If you
did you would know--

SURGE. What do you know that I don't know?

LUBIN. I know that we are taking up too much of Mr Barnabas's time.
[_Franklyn rises_]. May I take it, my dear Barnabas, that I may count
on your support if we succeed in forcing an election before the new
register is in full working order?

SURGE [_rising also_] May the party count on your support? I say nothing
about myself. Can the party depend on you? Is there any question of
yours that I have left unanswered?

CONRAD. We havnt asked you any, you know.

BURGE. May I take that as a mark of confidence?

CONRAD. If I were a laborer in your constituency, I should ask you a
biological question?

LUBIN. No you wouldnt, my dear Doctor. Laborers never ask questions.

BURGE. Ask it now. I have never flinched from being heckled. Out with
it. Is it about the land?


SURGE. Is it about the Church?


BURGE. Is it about the House of Lords?


BURGE. Is it about Proportional Representation?


SURGE. Is it about Free Trade?


SURGE. Is it about the priest in the school?


BURGE. Is it about Ireland?


BURGE. Is it about Germany?


BURGE. Well, is it about Republicanism? Come! I wont flinch. Is it about
the Monarchy?


SURGE. Well, what the devil is it about, then?

CONRAD. You understand that I am asking the question in the character of
a laborer who earned thirteen shillings a week before the war and earns
thirty now, when he can get it?

BURGE. Yes: I understand that. I am ready for you. Out with it.

CONRAD. And whom you propose to represent n parliament?

SURGE. Yes, yes, yes. Come on.

CONRAD. The question is this. Would you allow your son to marry my
daughter, or your daughter to marry my son?

BURGE [_taken aback_] Oh, come! Thats not a political question.

CONRAD. Then, as a biologist, I don't take the slightest interest in
your politics; and I shall not walk across the street to vote for you or
anyone else at the election. Good evening.

LUBIN. Serve you right, Burge! Dr Barnabas: you have my assurance that
my daughter shall marry the man of her choice, whether he be lord or
laborer. May _I_ count on your support?

SURGE [_hurling the epithet at him_] Humbug!

SAVVY. Stop. [_They all stop short in the movement of leave-taking to
look at her_]. Daddy: are you going to let them off like this? How are
they to know anything if nobody ever tells them? If you don't, I will.

CONRAD. You cant. You didn't read my book; and you know nothing about
it. You just hold your tongue.

SAVVY. I just wont, Nunk. I shall have a vote when I am thirty; and I
ought to have it now. Why are these two ridiculous people to be allowed
to come in and walk over us as if the world existed only to play their
silly parliamentary game?

FRANKLYN [_severely_] Savvy: you really must not be uncivil to our

SAVVY. I'm sorry. But Mr Lubin didn't stand on much ceremony with me,
did he? And Mr Burge hasnt addressed a single word to me. I'm not going
to stand it. You and Nunk have a much better program than either of
them. It's the only one we are going to vote for; and they ought to be
told about it for the credit of the family and the good of their own
souls. You just tip them a chapter from the gospel of the brothers
Barnabas, Daddy.

_Lubin and Burge turn inquiringly to Franklyn, suspecting a move to form
a new party._

FRANKLYN. It is quite true, Mr Lubin, that I and my brother have a
little program of our own which--

CONRAD [_interrupting_] It's not a little program: it's an almighty big
one. It's not our own: it's the program of the whole of civilization.

BURGE. Then why split the party before you have put it to us? For God's
sake let us have no more splits. I am here to learn. I am here to gather
your opinions and represent them. I invite you to put your views before
me. I offer myself to be heckled. You have asked me only an absurd
non-political question.

FRANKLYN. Candidly, I fear our program will be thrown away on you. It
would not interest you.

BURGE [_with challenging audacity_] Try. Lubin can go if he likes; but I
am still open to new ideas, if only I can find them.

FRANKLYN [_to Lubin_] Are you prepared to listen, Mr Lubin; or shall I
thank you for your very kind and welcome visit, and say good evening?

LUBIN [_sitting down resignedly on the settee, but involuntarily making
a movement which looks like the stifling of a yawn_] With pleasure, Mr
Barnabas. Of course you know that before I can adopt any new plank
in the party platform, it will have to reach me through the National
Liberal Federation, which you can approach through your local Liberal
and Radical Association.

FRANKLYN. I could recall to you several instances of the addition
to your party program of measures of which no local branch of your
Federation had ever dreamt. But I understand that you are not really
interested. I will spare you, and drop the subject.

LUBIN [_waking up a little_] You quite misunderstand me. Please do not
take it in that way. I only--

BURGE [_talking him down_] Never mind the Federation: _I_ will answer
for the Federation. Go on, Barnabas: go on. Never mind Lubin [_he sits
down in the chair from which Lubin first displaced him_].

FRANKLYN. Our program is only that the term of human life shall be
extended to three hundred years.

LUBIN [_softly_] Eh?

BURGE [_explosively_] What!

SAVVY. Our election cry is 'Back to Methuselah!'

HASLAM. Priceless!

_Lubin and Surge look at one another._

CONRAD. No. We are not mad.

SAVVY. Theyre not joking either. They mean it.

LUBIN [_cautiously_] Assuming that, in some sense which I am for the
moment unable to fathom, you are in earnest, Mr Barnabas, may I ask what
this has to do with politics?

FRANKLYN. The connection is very evident. You are now, Mr Lubin, within
immediate reach of your seventieth year. Mr Joyce Surge is your junior
by about eleven years. You will go down to posterity as one of a
European group of immature statesmen and monarchs who, doing the very
best for your respective countries of which you were capable, succeeded
in all-but-wrecking the civilization of Europe, and did, in effect, wipe
out of existence many millions of its inhabitants.

BURGE. Less than a million.

FRANKLYN. That was our loss alone.

BURGE. Oh, if you count foreigners--!

HAS LAM. God counts foreigners, you know.

SAVVY [_with intense satisfaction_] Well said, Bill.

FRANKLYN. I am not blaming you. Your task was beyond human capacity.
What with our huge armaments, our terrible engines of destruction, our
systems of coercion manned by an irresistible police, you were called on
to control powers so gigantic that one shudders at the thought of their
being entrusted even to an infinitely experienced and benevolent God,
much less to mortal men whose whole life does not last a hundred years.

BURGE. We won the war: don't forget that.

FRANKLYN. No: the soldiers and sailors won it, and left you to finish
it. And you were so utterly incompetent that the multitudes of children
slain by hunger in the first years of peace made us all wish we were at
war again.

CONRAD. It's no use arguing about it. It is now absolutely certain that
the political and social problems raised by our civilization cannot be
solved by mere human mushrooms who decay and die when they are just
beginning to have a glimmer of the wisdom and knowledge needed for their
own government.

LUBIN. Quite an interesting idea, Doctor. Extravagant. Fantastic. But
quite interesting. When I was young I used to feel my human limitations
very acutely.

BURGE. God knows I have often felt that I could not go on if it had not
been for the sense that I was only an instrument in the hands of a Power
above us.

CONRAD. I'm glad you both agree with us, and with one another.

LUBIN. I have not gone so far as that, I think. After all, we have had
many very able political leaders even within your recollection and mine.

FRANKLYN. Have you read the recent biographies--Dilke's, for
instance--which revealed the truth about them?

LUBIN. I did not discover any new truth revealed in these books, Mr

FRANKLYN. What! Not the truth that England was governed all that time by
a little woman who knew her own mind?

SAVVY. Hear, hear!

LUBIN. That often happens. Which woman do you mean?

FRANKLYN. Queen Victoria, to whom your Prime Ministers stood in the
relation of naughty children whose heads she knocked together when their
tempers and quarrels became intolerable. Within thirteen years of her
death Europe became a hell.

SURGE. Quite true. That was because she was piously brought up, and
regarded herself as an instrument. If a statesman remembers that he is
only an instrument, and feels quite sure that he is rightly interpreting
the divine purpose, he will come out all right, you know.

FRANKLYN. The Kaiser felt like that. Did he come out all right?

SURGE. Well, let us be fair, even to the Kaiser. Let us be fair.

FRANKLYN. Were you fair to him when you won an election on the program
of hanging him?

SURGE. Stuff! I am the last man alive to hang anybody; but the people
wouldnt listen to reason. Besides, I knew the Dutch wouldnt give him up.

SAVVY. Oh, don't start arguing about poor old Bill. Stick to our point.
Let these two gentlemen settle the question for themselves. Mr Burge: do
you think Mr Lubin is fit to govern England?

SURGE. No. Frankly, I dont.

LUBIN [_remonstrant_] Really!


BURGE. Because he has no conscience: thats why.

LUBIN [_shocked and amazed_] Oh!

FRANKLYN. Mr Lubin: do you consider Joyce Burge qualified to govern

LUBIN [_with dignified emotion, wounded, but without bitterness_] Excuse
me, Mr Barnabas; but before I answer that question I want to say this.
Burge: we have had differences of opinion; and your newspaper friends
have said hard things of me. But we worked together for years; and I
hope I have done nothing to justify you in the amazing accusation you
have just brought against me. Do you realize that you said that I have
no conscience?

BURGE. Lubin: I am very accessible to an appeal to my emotions; and you
are very cunning in making such appeals. I will meet you to this extent.
I dont mean that you are a bad man. I dont mean that I dislike you, in
spite of your continual attempts to discourage and depress me. But you
have a mind like a looking-glass. You are very clear and smooth and
lucid as to what is standing in front of you. But you have no foresight
and no hindsight. You have no vision and no memory. You have no
continuity; and a man without continuity can have neither conscience nor
honor from one day to another. The result is that you have always been
a damned bad minister; and you have sometimes been a damned bad friend.
Now you can answer Barnabas's question and take it out of me to your
heart's content. He asked you was I fit to govern England.

LUBIN [_recovering himself_] After what has just passed I sincerely
wish I could honestly say yes, Burge. But it seems to me that you have
condemned yourself out of your own mouth. You represent something which
has had far too much influence and popularity in this country since
Joseph Chamberlain set the fashion; and that is mere energy without
intellect and without knowledge. Your mind is not a trained mind: it has
not been stored with the best information, nor cultivated by intercourse
with educated minds at any of our great seats of learning. As I happen
to have enjoyed that advantage, it follows that you do not understand my
mind. Candidly, I think that disqualifies you. The peace found out your

BURGE. Oh! What did it find out in you?

LUBIN. You and your newspaper confederates took the peace out of my
hands. The peace did not find me out because it did not find me in.

FRANKLYN. Come! Confess, both of you! You were only flies on the wheel.
The war went England's way; but the peace went its own way, and not
England's way nor any of the ways you had so glibly appointed for it.
Your peace treaty was a scrap of paper before the ink dried on it. The
statesmen of Europe were incapable of governing Europe. What they needed
was a couple of hundred years training and experience: what they had
actually had was a few years at the bar or in a counting-house or on
the grouse moors and golf courses. And now we are waiting, with monster
cannons trained on every city and seaport, and huge aeroplanes ready to
spring into the air and drop bombs every one of which will obliterate a
whole street, and poison gases that will strike multitudes dead with a
breath, until one of you gentlemen rises in his helplessness to tell us,
who are as helpless as himself, that we are at war again.

CONRAD. Aha! What consolation will it be for us then that you two are
able to tell off one another's defects so cleverly in your afternoon

BURGE [_angrily_] If you come to that, what consolation will it be that
you two can sit there and tell both of us off? you, who have had no
responsibility! you, who havnt lifted a finger, as far as I know, to
help us through this awful crisis which has left me ten years older than
my proper age! Can you tell me a single thing you did to help us during
the whole infernal business?

CONRAD. We're not blaming you: you hadnt lived long enough. No more had
we. Cant you see that three-score-and-ten, though it may be long
enough for a very crude sort of village life, isnt long enough for a
complicated civilization like ours? Flinders Petrie has counted nine
attempts at civilization made by people exactly like us; and every one
of them failed just as ours is failing. They failed because the citizens
and statesmen died of old age or over-eating before they had grown out
of schoolboy games and savage sports and cigars and champagne. The signs
of the end are always the same: Democracy, Socialism, and Votes for
Women. We shall go to smash within the lifetime of men now living unless
we recognize that we must live longer.

LUBIN. I am glad you agree with me that Socialism and Votes for Women
are signs of decay.

FRANKLYN. Not at all: they are only the difficulties that overtax your
capacity. If you cannot organize Socialism you cannot organize civilized
life; and you will relapse into barbarism accordingly.

SAVVY. Hear, hear!

SURGE. A useful point. We cannot put back the clock.

HASLAM. _I_ can. Ive often done it.

LUBIN. Tut tut! My dear Burge: what are you dreaming of? Mr Barnabas: I
am a very patient man. But will you tell me what earthly use or interest
there is in a conclusion that cannot be realized? I grant you that if
we could live three hundred years we should all be, perhaps wiser,
certainly older. You will grant me in return, I hope, that if the sky
fell we should all catch larks.

FRANKLYN. Your turn now, Conrad. Go ahead.

CONRAD. I don't think it's any good. I don't think they want to live
longer than usual.

LUBIN. Although I am a mere child of 69, I am old enough to have lost,
the habit of crying for the moon.

BURGE. Have you discovered the elixir of life or have you not? If not, I
agree with Lubin that you are wasting our time.

CONRAD. Is your time of any value?

SURGE [_unable to believe his ears_] My time of any value! What do you

LUBIN [_smiling comfortably_] From your high scientific point of view,
I daresay, none whatever, Professor. In any case I think a little
perfectly idle discussion would do Burge good. After all, we might as
well hear about the elixir of life as read novels, or whatever Burge
does when he is not playing golf on Walton Heath. What is your elixir,
Dr Barnabas? Lemons? Sour milk? Or what is the latest?

SURGE. We were just beginning to talk seriously; and now you snatch at
the chance of talking rot. [_He rises_]. Good evening. [_He turns to the

CONRAD [_rudely_] Die as soon as you like. Good evening.

BURGE [_hesitating_] Look here. I took sour milk twice a day until
Metchnikoff died. He thought it would keep him alive for ever; and he
died of it.

CONRAD. You might as well have taken sour beer.

BURGE. You believe in lemons?

CONRAD. I wouldn't eat a lemon for ten pounds.

BURGE [_sitting down again_] What do you recommend?

CONRAD [_rising with a gesture of despair_] Whats the use of going on,
Frank? Because I am a doctor, and because they think I have a bottle to
give them that will make them live for ever, they are listening to me
for the first time with their mouths open and their eyes shut. Thats
their notion of science.

SAVVY. Steady, Nunk! Hold the fort.

CONRAD [_growls and sits down_]!!!

LUBIN. You volunteered the consultation, Doctor. I may tell you that,
far from sharing the credulity as to science which is now the fashion, I
am prepared to demonstrate that during the last fifty years, though the
Church has often been wrong, and even the Liberal Party has not been
infallible, the men of science have always been wrong.

CONRAD. Yes: the fellows you call men of science. The people who make
money by it, and their medical hangers-on. But has anybody been right?

LUBIN. The poets and story tellers, especially the classical poets and
story tellers, have been, in the main, right. I will ask you not
to repeat this as my opinion outside; for the vote of the medical
profession and its worshippers is not to be trifled with.

FRANKLYN. You are quite right: the poem is our real clue to biological
science. The most scientific document we possess at present is, as your
grandmother would have told you quite truly, the story of the Garden of

BURGE [_pricking up his ears_] Whats that? If you can establish that,
Barnabas, I am prepared to hear you out with my very best attention. I
am listening. Go on.

FRANKLYN. Well, you remember, don't you, that in the Garden of Eden Adam
and Eve were not created mortal, and that natural death, as we call it,
was not a part of life, but a later and quite separate invention?

SURGE. Now you mention it, thats true. Death came afterwards.

LUBIN. What about accidental death? That was always possible.

FRANKLYN. Precisely. Adam and Eve were hung up between two frightful
possibilities. One was the extinction of mankind by their accidental
death. The other was the prospect of living for ever. They could bear
neither. They decided that they would just take a short turn of a
thousand years, and meanwhile hand on their work to a new pair.
Consequently, they had to invent natural birth and natural death, which
are, after all, only modes of perpetuating life without putting on any
single creature the terrible burden of immortality.

LUBIN. I see. The old must make room for the new.

SURGE. Death is nothing but making room. Thats all there is in it or
ever has been in it.

FRANKLYN. Yes; but the old must not desert their posts until the new are
ripe for them. They desert them now two hundred years too soon.

SAVVY. I believe the old people are the new people reincarnated, Nunk.
I suspect I am Eve. I am very fond of apples; and they always disagree
with me.

CONRAD. You are Eve, in a sense. The Eternal Life persists; only It
wears out Its bodies and minds and gets new ones, like new clothes. You
are only a new hat and frock on Eve.

FRANKLYN. Yes. Bodies and minds ever better and better fitted to carry
out Its eternal pursuit.

LUBIN [_with quiet scepticism_] What pursuit, may one ask, Mr Barnabas?

FRANKLYN. The pursuit of omnipotence and omniscience. Greater power and
greater knowledge: these are what we are all pursuing even at the risk
of our lives and the sacrifice of our pleasures. Evolution is that
pursuit and nothing else. It is the path to godhead. A man differs from
a microbe only in being further on the path.

LUBIN. And how soon do you expect this modest end to be reached?

FRANKLYN. Never, thank God! As there is no limit to power and knowledge
there can be no end. 'The power and the glory, world without end': have
those words meant nothing to you?

BURGE [_pulling out an old envelope_] I should like to make a note of
that. [_He does so_].

CONRAD. There will always be something to live for.

SURGE [_pocketing his envelope and becoming more and more businesslike_]
Right: I have got that. Now what about sin? What about the Fall? How do
you work them in?

CONRAD. I don't work in the Fall. The Fall is outside Science. But I
daresay Frank can work it in for you.

SURGE [_to Franklyn_] I wish you would, you know. It's important. Very

FRANKLYN. Well, consider it this way. It is clear that when Adam and
Eve were immortal it was necessary that they should make the earth an
extremely comfortable place to live in.

BURGE. True. If you take a house on a ninety-nine years lease, you
spend a good deal of money on it. If you take it for three months you
generally have a bill for dilapidations to pay at the end of them.

FRANKLYN. Just so. Consequently, when Adam had the Garden of Eden on a
lease for ever, he took care to make it what the house agents call a
highly desirable country residence. But the moment he invented death,
and became a tenant for life only, the place was no longer worth the
trouble. It was then that he let the thistles grow. Life was so short
that it was no longer worth his while to do anything thoroughly well.

BURGE. Do you think that is enough to constitute what an average elector
would consider a Fall? Is it tragic enough?

FRANKLYN. That is only the first step of the Fall. Adam did not fall
down that step only: he fell down a whole flight. For instance, before
he invented birth he dared not have lost his temper; for if he had
killed Eve he would have been lonely and barren to all eternity. But
when he invented birth, and anyone who was killed could be replaced, he
could afford to let himself go. He undoubtedly invented wife-beating;
and that was another step down. One of his sons invented meat-eating.
The other was horrified at the innovation. With the ferocity which
is still characteristic of bulls and other vegetarians, he slew his
beefsteak-eating brother, and thus invented murder. That was a very
steep step. It was so exciting that all the others began to kill one
another for sport, and thus invented war, the steepest step of all. They
even took to killing animals as a means of killing time, and then, of
course, ate them to save the long and difficult labor of agriculture. I
ask you to contemplate our fathers as they came crashing down all the
steps of this Jacob's ladder that reached from paradise to a hell on
earth in which they had multiplied the chances of death from violence,
accident, and disease until they could hardly count on three score and
ten years of life, much less the thousand that Adam had been ready to
face! With that picture before you, will you now ask me where was the
Fall? You might as well stand at the foot of Snowdon and ask me where is
the mountain. The very children see it so plainly that they compress its
history into a two line epic:

Old Daddy Long Legs wouldn't say his prayers:
Take him by the hind legs and throw him downstairs.

LUBIN [_still immovably sceptical_] And what does Science say to this
fairy tale, Doctor Barnabas? Surely Science knows nothing of Genesis, or
of Adam and Eve.

CONRAD. Then it isnt Science: thats all. Science has to account for
everything; and everything includes the Bible.

FRANKLYN. The Book of Genesis is a part of nature like any other part of
nature. The fact that the tale of the Garden of Eden has survived and
held the imagination of men spellbound for centuries, whilst hundreds
of much more plausible and amusing stories have gone out of fashion
and perished like last year's popular song, is a scientific fact; and
Science is bound to explain it. You tell me that Science knows nothing
of it. Then Science is more ignorant than the children at any village

CONRAD. Of course if you think it more scientific to say that what we
are discussing is not Adam and Eve and Eden, but the phylogeny of the

SAVVY. You neednt swear, Nunk.

CONRAD. Shut up, you: I am not swearing. [_To Lubin_] If you want the
professional humbug of rewriting the Bible in words of four syllables,
and pretending it's something new, I can humbug you to your heart's
content. I can call Genesis Phylogenesis. Let the Creator say, if you
like, 'I will establish an antipathetic symbiosis between thee and the
female, and between thy blastoderm and her blastoderm.' Nobody will
understand you; and Savvy will think you are swearing. The meaning is
the same.

HASLAM. Priceless. But it's quite simple. The one version is poetry: the
other is science.

FRANKLYN. The one is classroom jargon: the other is inspired human

LUBIN [_calmly reminiscent_] One of the few modern authors into whom
I have occasionally glanced is Rousseau, who was a sort of Deist like

BURGE [_interrupting him forcibly_] Lubin: has this stupendously
important communication which Professor Barnabas has just made to us: a
communication for which I shall be indebted to him all my life long: has
this, I say, no deeper effect on you than to set you pulling my leg by
trying to make out that I am an infidel?

LUBIN. It's very interesting and amusing, Burge; and I think I see a
case in it. I think I could undertake to argue it in an ecclesiastical
court. But important is hardly a word I should attach to it.

BURGE. Good God! Here is this professor: a man utterly removed from the
turmoil of our political life: devoted to pure learning in its most
abstract phases; and I solemnly declare he is the greatest politician,
the most inspired party leader, in the kingdom. I take off my hat to
him. I, Joyce Burge, give him best. And you sit there purring like an
Angora cat, and can see nothing in it!

CONRAD [_opening his eyes widely_] Hallo! What have I done to deserve
this tribute?

SURGE. Done! You have put the Liberal Party into power for the next
thirty years, Doctor: thats what you've done.

CONRAD. God forbid!

BURGE. It's all up with the Church now. Thanks to you, we go to the
country with one cry and one only. Back to the Bible! Think of the
effect on the Nonconformist vote. You gather that in with one hand; and
you gather in the modern scientific sceptical professional vote with the
other. The village atheist and the first cornet in the local Salvation
Army band meet on the village green and shake hands. You take your
school children, your Bible class under the Cowper-Temple clause, into
the museum. You shew the kids the Piltdown skull; and you say, 'Thats
Adam. Thats Eve's husband.' You take the spectacled science student
from the laboratory in Owens College; and when he asks you for a truly
scientific history of Evolution, you put into his hand The Pilgrim's
Progress. You--[_Savvy and Haslam explode into shrieks of merriment_].
What are you two laughing at?

SAVVY. Oh, go on, Mr Burge. Dont stop.

HASLAM. Priceless!

FRANKLYN. Would thirty years of office for the Liberal Party seem so
important to you, Mr Burge, if you had another two and a half centuries
to live?

BURGE [_decisively_] No. You will have to drop that part of it. The
constituencies wont swallow it.

LUBIN [_seriously_] I am not so sure of that, Burge. I am not sure that
it may not prove the only point they will swallow.

BURGE. It will be no use to us even if they do. It's not a party point.
It's as good for the other side as for us.

LUBIN. Not necessarily. If we get in first with it, it will be
associated in the public mind with our party. Suppose I put it forward
as a plank in our program that we advocate the extension of human life
to three hundred years! Dunreen, as leader of the opposite party, will
be bound to oppose me: to denounce me as a visionary and so forth. By
doing so he will place himself in the position of wanting to rob the
people of two hundred and thirty years of their natural life. The
Unionists will become the party of Premature Death; and we shall become
the Longevity party.

BURGE [_shaken_] You really think the electorate would swallow it?

LUBIN. My dear Burge: is there anything the electorate will not swallow
if it is judiciously put to them? But we must make sure of our ground.
We must have the support of the men of science. Is there serious
agreement among them, Doctor, as to the possibility of such an evolution
as you have described?

CONRAD. Yes. Ever since the reaction against Darwin set in at the
beginning of the present century, all scientific opinion worth counting
has been converging rapidly upon Creative Evolution.

FRANKLYN. Poetry has been converging on it: philosophy has been
converging on it: religion has been converging on it. It is going to
be the religion of the twentieth century: a religion that has its
intellectual roots in philosophy and science just as medieval
Christianity had its intellectual roots in Aristotle.

LUBIN. But surely any change would be so extremely gradual that--

CONRAD. Dont deceive yourself. It's only the politicians who improve the
world so gradually that nobody can see the improvement. The notion that
Nature does not proceed by jumps is only one of the budget of plausible
lies that we call classical education. Nature always proceeds by jumps.
She may spend twenty thousand years making up her mind to jump; but when
she makes it up at last, the jump is big enough to take us into a new

LUBIN [_impressed_] Fancy my being leader of the party for the next
three hundred years!

BURGE. What!!

LUBIN. Perhaps hard on some of the younger men. I think in fairness I
shall have to step aside to make room after another century or so: that
is, if Mimi can be persuaded to give up Downing Street.

BURGE. This is too much. Your colossal conceit blinds you to the most
obvious necessity of the political situation.

LUBIN. You mean my retirement. I really cannot see that it is a
necessity. I could not see it when I was almost an old man--or at least
an elderly one. Now that it appears that I am a young man, the case
for it breaks down completely. [_To Conrad_] May I ask are there any
alternative theories? Is there a scientific Opposition?

CONRAD. Well, some authorities hold that the human race is a failure,
and that a new form of life, better adapted to high civilization, will
supersede us as we have superseded the ape and the elephant.

BURGE. The superman: eh!

CONRAD. No. Some being quite different from us.

LUBIN. Is that altogether desirable?

FRANKLYN. I fear so. However that may be, we may be quite sure of one
thing. We shall not be let alone. The force behind evolution, call it
what you will, is determined to solve the problem of civilization; and
if it cannot do it through us, it will produce some more capable agents.
Man is not God's last word: God can still create. If you cannot do His
work He will produce some being who can.

BURGE [_with zealous reverence_] What do we know about Him, Barnabas?
What does anyone know about Him?

CONRAD. We know this about Him with absolute certainty. The power my
brother calls God proceeds by the method of Trial and Error; and if we
turn out to be one of the errors, we shall go the way of the mastodon
and the megatherium and all the other scrapped experiments.

LUBIN [_rising and beginning to walk up and down the room with his
considering cap on_] I admit that I am impressed, gentlemen. I will go
so far as to say that your theory is likely to prove more interesting
than ever Welsh Disestablishment was. But as a practical politician--hm!
Eh, Burge?

CONRAD. We are not practical politicians. We are out to get something
done. Practical politicians are people who have mastered the art of
using parliament to prevent anything being done.

FRANKLYN. When we get matured statesmen and citizens--

LUBIN [_stopping short_] Citizens! Oh! Are the citizens to live three
hundred years as well as the statesmen?

CONRAD. Of course.

LUBIN. I confess that had not occurred to me [_he sits down abruptly,
evidently very unfavorably affected by this new light_].

_Savvy and Haslam look at one another with unspeakable feelings._

BURGE. Do you think it would be wise to go quite so far at first? Surely
it would be more prudent to begin with the best men.

FRANKLYN. You need not be anxious about that. It will begin with the
best men.

LUBIN. I am glad to hear you say so. You see, we must put this into a
practical parliamentary shape.

BURGE. We shall have to draft a Bill: that is the long and the short of
it. Until you have your Bill drafted you don't know what you are really
doing: that is my experience.

LUBIN. Quite so. My idea is that whilst we should interest the
electorate in this as a sort of religious aspiration and personal hope,
using it at the same time to remove their prejudices against those of us
who are getting on in years, it would be in the last degree upsetting
and even dangerous to enable everyone to live longer than usual.
Take the mere question of the manufacture of the specific, whatever
it may be! There are forty millions of people in the country. Let
me assume for the sake of illustration that each person would
have to consume, say, five ounces a day of the elixir. That
would be--let me see--five times three hundred and sixty-five
is--um--twenty-five--thirty-two--eighteen--eighteen hundred and
twenty-five ounces a year: just two ounces over the hundredweight.

BURGE. Two million tons a year, in round numbers, of stuff that everyone
would clamor for: that men would trample down women and children in the
streets to get at. You couldnt produce it. There would be blue murder.
It's out of the question. We must keep the actual secret to ourselves.

CONRAD [_staring at them_] The actual secret! What on earth is the man
talking about?

BURGE. The stuff. The powder. The bottle. The tabloid. Whatever it is.
You said it wasnt lemons.

CONRAD. My good sir: I have no powder, no bottle, no tabloid. I am not a
quack: I am a biologist. This is a thing thats going to happen.

LUBIN [_completely let down_] Going to happen! Oh! Is that all? [_He
looks at his watch_].

BURGE. Going to happen! What do you mean? Do you mean that you cant make
it happen?

CONRAD. No more than I could have made you happen.

FRANKLYN. We can put it into men's heads that there is nothing to
prevent its happening but their own will to die before their work is
done, and their own ignorance of the splendid work there is for them to

CONRAD. Spread that knowledge and that conviction; and as surely as the
sun will rise tomorrow, the thing will happen.

FRANKLYN. We don't know where or when or to whom it will happen. It may
happen first to someone in this room.

HASLAM. It wont happen to me: thats jolly sure.

CONRAD. It might happen to anyone. It might happen to the parlor maid.
How do we know?

SAVVY. The parlor maid! Oh, thats nonsense, Nunk.

LUBIN [_once more quite comfortable_] I think Miss Savvy has delivered
the final verdict.

BURGE. Do you mean to say that you have nothing more practical to offer
than the mere wish to live longer? Why, if people could live by merely
wishing to, we should all be living for ever already! Everybody would
like to live for ever. Why don't they?

CONRAD. Pshaw! Everybody would like to have a million of money. Why
havnt they? Because the men who would like to be millionaires wont save
sixpence even with the chance of starvation staring them in the face.
The men who want to live for ever wont cut off a glass of beer or a pipe
of tobacco, though they believe the teetotallers and non-smokers live
longer. That sort of liking is not willing. See what they do when they
know they must.

FRANKLYN. Do not mistake mere idle fancies for the tremendous
miracle-working force of Will nerved to creation by a conviction of
Necessity. I tell you men capable of such willing, and realizing its
necessity, will do it reluctantly, under inner compulsion, as all great
efforts are made. They will hide what they are doing from themselves:
they will take care not to know what they are doing. They will live
three hundred years, not because they would like to, but because the
soul deep down in them will know that they must, if the world is to be

LUBIN [_turning to Franklyn and patting him almost paternally_] Well,
my dear Barnabas, for the last thirty years the post has brought me at
least once a week a plan from some crank or other for the establishment
of the millennium. I think you are the maddest of all the cranks; but
you are much the most interesting. I am conscious of a very curious
mixture of relief and disappointment in finding that your plan is all
moonshine, and that you have nothing practical to offer us. But what
a pity! It is such a fascinating idea! I think you are too hard on us
practical men; but there are men in every Government, even on the Front
Bench, who deserve all you say. And now, before dropping the subject,
may I put just one question to you? An idle question, since nothing can
come of it; but still--

FRANKLYN. Ask your question.

LUBIN. Why do you fix three hundred years as the exact figure?

FRANKLYN. Because we must fix some figure. Less would not be enough; and
more would be more than we dare as yet face.

LUBIN. Pooh! I am quite prepared to face three thousand, not to say
three million.

CONRAD. Yes, because you don't believe you Will be called on to make
good your word.

FRANKLYN [_gently_] Also, perhaps, because you have never been troubled
much by vision of the future.

BURGE [_with intense conviction_] The future does not exist for Henry
Hopkins Lubin.

LUBIN. If by the future you mean the millennial delusions which you
use as a bunch of carrots to lure the uneducated British donkey to the
polling booth to vote for you, it certainly does not.

SURGE. I can see the future not only because, if I may say so in all
humility, I have been gifted with a certain power of spiritual vision,
but because I have practised as a solicitor. A solicitor has to advise
families. He has to think of the future and know the past. His office is
the real modern confessional. Among other things he has to make people's
wills for them. He has to shew them how to provide for their daughters
after their deaths. Has it occurred to you, Lubin, that if you live
three hundred years, your daughters will have to wait a devilish long
time for their money?

FRANKLYN. The money may not wait for them. Few investments flourish for
three hundred years.

SAVVY. And what about before your death? Suppose they didn't get
married! Imagine a girl living at home with her mother and on her father
for three hundred years! Theyd murder her if she didn't murder them

LUBIN. By the way, Barnabas, is your daughter to keep her good looks all
the time?

FRANKLYN. Will it matter? Can you conceive the most hardened flirt going
on flirting for three centuries? At the end of half the time we shall
hardly notice whether it is a woman or a man we are speaking to.

LUBIN [_not quite relishing this ascetic prospect_] Hm! [_He rises_].
Ah, well: you must come and tell my wife and my young people all about
it; and you will bring your daughter with you, of course. [_He shakes
hands with Savvy_]. Goodbye. [_He shakes hands with Franklyn_]. Goodbye,
Doctor. [_He shakes hands with Conrad_]. Come on, Burge: you must
really tell me what line you are going to take about the Church at the

BURGE. Havnt you heard? Havnt you taken in the revelation that has been
vouchsafed to us? The line I am going to take is Back to Methuselah.

LUBIN [_decisively_] Dont be ridiculous, Burge. You don't suppose, do
you, that our friends here are in earnest, or that our very pleasant
conversation has had anything to do with practical politics! They have
just been pulling our legs very wittily. Come along. [_He goes out,
Franklyn politely going with him, but shaking his head in mute

BURGE [_shaking Conrad's hand_] It's beyond the old man, Doctor. No
spiritual side to him: only a sort of classical side that goes down with
his own set. Besides, he's done, gone, past, burnt out, burst up; thinks
he is our leader and is only our rag and bottle department. But you may
depend on me. I will work this stunt of yours in. I see its value. [_He
begins moving towards the door with Conrad_]. Of course I cant put it
exactly in your way; but you are quite right about our needing something
fresh; and I believe an election can be fought on the death rate and on
Adam and Eve as scientific facts. It will take the Opposition right out
of its depth. And if we win there will be an O.M. for somebody when the
first honors list comes round [_by this time he has talked himself out
of the room and out of earshot, Conrad accompanying him_].

_Savvy and Haslam, left alone, seize each other in an ecstasy of
amusement, and jazz to the settee, where they sit down again side by

HASLAM [_caressing her_] Darling! what a priceless humbug old Lubin is!

SAVVY. Oh, sweet old thing! I love him. Burge is a flaming fraud if you

HASLAM. Did you notice one thing? It struck me as rather curious.

SAVVY. What?

HASLAM. Lubin and your father have both survived the war. But their sons
were killed in it.

SAVVY [_sobered_] Yes. Jim's death killed mother.

HASLAM. And they never said a word about it!

SAVVY. Well, why should they? The subject didn't come up. _I_ forgot
about it too; and I was very fond of Jim.

HASLAM. _I_ didn't forget it, because I'm of military age; and if I
hadnt been a parson I'd have had to go out and be killed too. To me the
awful thing about their political incompetence was that they had to
kill their own sons. It was the war casualty lists and the starvation
afterwards that finished me up with politics and the Church and
everything else except you.

SAVVY. Oh, I was just as bad as any of them. I sold flags in the streets
in my best clothes; and--hsh! [_she jumps up and pretends to be looking
for a book on the shelves behind the settee_].

_Franklyn and Conrad return, looking weary and glum._

CONRAD. Well, thats how the gospel of the brothers Barnabas is going to
be received! [_He drops into Burge's chair_].

FRANKLYN [_going back to his seat at the table_] It's no use. Were you
convinced, Mr Haslam?

HASLAM. About our being able to live three hundred years? Frankly no.

CONRAD [_to Savvy_] Nor you, I suppose?

SAVVY. Oh, I don't know. I thought I was for a moment. I can believe, in
a sort of way, that people might live for three hundred years. But when
you came down to tin tacks, and said that the parlor maid might, then I
saw how absurd it was.

FRANKLYN. Just so. We had better hold our tongues about it, Con. We
should only be laughed at, and lose the little credit we earned on false
pretences in the days of our ignorance.

CONRAD. I daresay. But Creative Evolution doesnt stop while people are
laughing. Laughing may even lubricate its job.

SAVVY. What does that mean?

CONRAD. It means that the first man to live three hundred years maynt
have the slightest notion that he is going to do it, and may be the
loudest laugher of the lot.

SAVVY. Or the first woman?

CONRAD [_assenting_] Or the first woman.

HASLAM. Well, it wont be one of us, anyhow.

FRANKLYN. How do you know?

This is unanswerable. None of them have anything more to say.

George Bernard Shaw

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