List Of Contents | Contents of Man and Superman, by Bernard Shaw
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HECTOR. Indeed! May I ask what other objection applies?

TANNER. [impatiently] Oh, tell him, tell him. We shall never be
able to keep the secret unless everybody knows what it is. Mr
Malone: if you go to Nice with Violet, you go with another man's
wife. She is married.

HECTOR. (thunderstruck] You don't tell me so!

TANNER. We do. In confidence.

RAMSDEN. [with an air of importance, lest Malone should suspect a
misalliance] Her marriage has not yet been made known: she
desires that it shall not be mentioned for the present.

HECTOR. I shall respect the lady's wishes. Would it be indiscreet
to ask who her husband is, in case I should have an opportunity
of consulting him about this trip?

TANNER. We don't know who he is.

HECTOR. [retiring into his shell in a very marked manner] In that
case, I have no more to say.

They become more embarrassed than ever.

OCTAVIUS. You must think this very strange.

HECTOR. A little singular. Pardon me for saving so.

RAMSDEN. [half apologetic, half huffy] The young lady was married
secretly; and her husband has forbidden her, it seems, to declare
his name. It is only right to tell you, since you are interested
in Miss--er--in Violet.

OCTAVIUS. [sympathetically] I hope this is not a disappointment
to you.

HECTOR. [softened, coming out of his shell again] Well it is a
blow. I can hardly understand how a man can leave a wife in such
a position. Surely it's not customary. It's not manly. It's not

OCTAVIUS. We feel that, as you may imagine, pretty deeply.

RAMSDEN. [testily] It is some young fool who has not enough
experience to know what mystifications of this kind lead to.

HECTOR. [with strong symptoms of moral repugnance] I hope so. A
man need be very young and pretty foolish too to be excused for
such conduct. You take a very lenient view, Mr Ramsden. Too
lenient to my mind. Surely marriage should ennoble a man.

TANNER. [sardonically] Ha!

HECTOR. Am I to gather from that cacchination that you don't
agree with me, Mr Tanner?

TANNER. [drily] Get married and try. You may find it delightful
for a while: you certainly won't find it ennobling. The greatest
common measure of a man and a woman is not necessarily greater
than the man's single measure.

HECTOR. Well, we think in America that a woman's moral number is
higher than a man's, and that the purer nature of a woman lifts a
man right out of himself, and makes him better than he was.

OCTAVIUS. [with conviction] So it does.

TANNER. No wonder American women prefer to live in Europe! It's
more comfortable than standing all their lives on an altar to be
worshipped. Anyhow, Violet's husband has not been ennobled. So
what's to be done?

HECTOR. [shaking his head] I can't dismiss that man's conduct as
lightly as you do, Mr Tanner. However, I'll say no more. Whoever
he is, he's Miss Robinson's husband; and I should be glad for her
sake to think better of him.

OCTAVIUS. [touched; for he divines a secret sorrow] I'm very
sorry, Malone. Very sorry.

HECTOR. [gratefully] You're a good fellow, Robinson, Thank you.

TANNER. Talk about something else. Violet's coming from the

HECTOR. I should esteem it a very great favor, men, if you would
take the opportunity to let me have a few words with the lady
alone. I shall have to cry off this trip; and it's rather a

RAMSDEN. [glad to escape] Say no more. Come Tanner, Come, Tavy.
[He strolls away into the park with Octavius and Tanner, past the
motor car].

Violet comes down the avenue to Hector.

VIOLET. Are they looking?


She kisses him.

VIOLET. Have you been telling lies for my sake?

HECTOR. Lying! Lying hardly describes it. I overdo it. I get
carried away in an ecstasy of mendacity. Violet: I wish you'd let
me own up.

VIOLET. [instantly becoming serious and resolute] No, no. Hector:
you promised me not to.

HECTOR. I'll keep my promise until you release me from it. But I
feel mean, lying to those men, and denying my wife. Just

VIOLET. I wish your father were not so unreasonable.

HECTOR. He's not unreasonable. He's right from his point of view.
He has a prejudice against the English middle class.

VIOLET. It's too ridiculous. You know how I dislike saying such
things to you, Hector; but if I were to--oh, well, no matter.

HECTOR. I know. If you were to marry the son of an English
manufacturer of office furniture, your friends would consider it
a misalliance. And here's my silly old dad, who is the biggest
office furniture man in the world, would show me the door for
marrying the most perfect lady in England merely because she has
no handle to her name. Of course it's just absurd. But I tell
you, Violet, I don't like deceiving him. I feel as if I was
stealing his money. Why won't you let me own up?

VIOLET. We can't afford it. You can be as romantic as you please
about love, Hector; but you mustn't be romantic about money.

HECTOR. [divided between his uxoriousness and his habitual
elevation of moral sentiment] That's very English. [Appealing
to her impulsively] Violet: Dad's bound to find us out some

VIOLET. Oh yes, later on of course. But don't let's go over this
every time we meet, dear. You promised--

HECTOR. All right, all right, I--

VIOLET. [not to be silenced] It is I and not you who suffer by
this concealment; and as to facing a struggle and poverty and all
that sort of thing I simply will not do it. It's too silly.

HECTOR. You shall not. I'll sort of borrow the money from my dad
until I get on my own feet; and then I can own up and pay up at
the same time.

VIOLET. [alarmed and indignant] Do you mean to work? Do you want
to spoil our marriage?

HECTOR. Well, I don't mean to let marriage spoil my character.
Your friend Mr Tanner has got the laugh on me a bit already about
that; and--

VIOLET. The beast! I hate Jack Tanner.

HECTOR. [magnanimously] Oh, he's all right: he only needs the
love of a good woman to ennoble him. Besides, he's proposed a
motoring trip to Nice; and I'm going to take you.

VIOLET. How jolly!

HECTOR. Yes; but how are we going to manage? You see, they've
warned me off going with you, so to speak. They've told me in
confidence that you're married. That's just the most overwhelming
confidence I've ever been honored with.

Tanner returns with Straker, who goes to his car.

TANNER. Your car is a great success, Mr Malone. Your engineer is
showing it off to Mr Ramsden.

HECTOR. [eagerly--forgetting himself] Let's come, Vi.

VIOLET. [coldly, warning him with her eyes] I beg your pardon,
Mr Malone, I did not quite catch--

HECTOR. [recollecting himself] I ask to be allowed the pleasure
of showing you my little American steam car, Miss Robinson.

VIOLET. I shall be very pleased. [They go off together down the

TANNER. About this trip, Straker.

STRAKER. [preoccupied with the car] Yes?

TANNER. Miss Whitefield is supposed to be coming with me.

STRAKER. So I gather.

TANNER. Mr Robinson is to be one of the party.


TANNER. Well, if you can manage so as to be a good deal occupied
with me, and leave Mr Robinson a good deal occupied with Miss
Whitefield, he will be deeply grateful to you.

STRAKER. [looking round at him] Evidently.

TANNER. "Evidently"! Your grandfather would have simply winked.

STRAKER. My grandfather would have touched his at.

TANNER. And I should have given your good nice respectful
grandfather a sovereign.

STRAKER. Five shillins, more likely. [He leaves the car and
approaches Tanner]. What about the lady's views?

TANNER. She is just as willing to be left to Mr Robinson as Mr
Robinson is to be left to her. [Straker looks at his principal
with cool scepticism; then turns to the car whistling his
favorite air]. Stop that aggravating noise. What do you mean by
it? [Straker calmly resumes the melody and finishes it. Tanner
politely hears it out before he again addresses Straker, this
time with elaborate seriousness]. Enry: I have ever been a warm
advocate of the spread of music among the masses; but I object to
your obliging the company whenever Miss Whitefield's name is
mentioned. You did it this morning, too.

STRAKER. [obstinately] It's not a bit o use. Mr Robinson may as
well give it up first as last.


STRAKER. Garn! You know why. Course it's not my business; but you
needn't start kiddin me about it.

TANNER. I am not kidding. I don't know why.

STRAKER. [Cheerfully sulky] Oh, very well. All right. It ain't my

TANNER. [impressively] I trust, Enry, that, as between employer
and engineer, I shall always know how to keep my proper distance,
and not intrude my private affairs on you. Even our business
arrangements are subject to the approval of your Trade Union. But
don't abuse your advantages. Let me remind you that Voltaire said
that what was too silly to be said could be sung.

STRAKER. It wasn't Voltaire: it was Bow Mar Shay.

TANNER. I stand corrected: Beaumarchais of course. Now you seem
to think that what is too delicate to be said can be whistled.
Unfortunately your whistling, though melodious, is unintelligible.
Come! there's nobody listening: neither my genteel relatives nor
the secretary of your confounded Union. As man to man, Enry, why
do you think that my friend has no chance with Miss Whitefield?

STRAKER. Cause she's arter summun else.

TANNER. Bosh! who else?



STRAKER. Mean to tell me you didn't know? Oh, come, Mr Tanner!

TANNER. [in fierce earnest] Are you playing the fool, or do you
mean it?

STRAKER. [with a flash of temper] I'm not playin no fool. [More
coolly] Why, it's as plain as the nose on your face. If you ain't
spotted that, you don't know much about these sort of things.
[Serene again] Ex-cuse me, you know, Mr Tanner; but you asked me
as man to man; and I told you as man to man.

TANNER. [wildly appealing to the heavens] Then I--I am the
bee, the spider, the marked down victim, the destined prey.

STRAKER. I dunno about the bee and the spider. But the marked
down victim, that's what you are and no mistake; and a jolly good
job for you, too, I should say.

TANNER. [momentously] Henry Straker: the moment of your life has

STRAKER. What d'y'mean?

TANNER. That record to Biskra.

STRAKER. [eagerly] Yes?

TANNER. Break it.

STRAKER. [rising to the height of his destiny] D'y'mean it?



TANNER. Now. Is that machine ready to start?

STRAKER. [quailing] But you can't--

TANNER. [cutting him short by getting into the car] Off we go.
First to the bank for money; then to my rooms for my kit; then to
your rooms for your kit; then break the record from London to
Dover or Folkestone; then across the channel and away like mad to
Marseilles, Gibraltar, Genoa, any port from which we can sail to
a Mahometan country where men are protected from women.

STRAKER. Garn! you're kiddin.

TANNER. [resolutely] Stay behind then. If you won't come I'll do
it alone. [He starts the motor].

STRAKER. [running after him] Here! Mister! arf a mo! steady on!
[he scrambles in as the car plunges forward].


Evening in the Sierra Nevada. Rolling slopes of brown, with olive
trees instead of apple trees in the cultivated patches, and
occasional prickly pears instead of gorse and bracken in the
wilds. Higher up, tall stone peaks and precipices, all handsome
and distinguished. No wild nature here: rather a most
aristocratic mountain landscape made by a fastidious
artist-creator. No vulgar profusion of vegetation: even a touch
of aridity in the frequent patches of stones: Spanish
magnificence and Spanish economy everywhere.

Not very far north of a spot at which the high road over one of
the passes crosses a tunnel on the railway from Malaga to
Granada, is one of the mountain amphitheatres of the Sierra.
Looking at it from the wide end of the horse-shoe, one sees, a
little to the right, in the face of the cliff, a romantic cave
which is really an abandoned quarry, and towards the left a
little hill, commanding a view of the road, which skirts the
amphitheatre on the left, maintaining its higher level on
embankments and on an occasional stone arch. On the hill,
watching the road, is a man who is either a Spaniard or a
Scotchman. Probably a Spaniard, since he wears the dress of a
Spanish goatherd and seems at home in the Sierra Nevada, but
very like a Scotchman for all that. In the hollow, on the slope
leading to the quarry-cave, are about a dozen men who, as they
recline at their cave round a heap of smouldering white ashes of
dead leaf and brushwood, have an air of being conscious of
themselves as picturesque scoundrels honoring the Sierra by
using it as an effective pictorial background. As a matter of
artistic fact they are not picturesque; and the mountains
tolerate them as lions tolerate lice. An English policeman or
Poor Law Guardian would recognize them as a selected band of
tramps and ablebodied paupers.

This description of them is not wholly contemptuous. Whoever has
intelligently observed the tramp, or visited the ablebodied ward
of a workhouse, will admit that our social failures are not all
drunkards and weaklings. Some of them are men who do not fit the
class they were born into. Precisely the same qualities that make
the educated gentleman an artist may make an uneducated manual
laborer an ablebodied pauper. There are men who fall helplessly
into the workhouse because they are good far nothing; but there
are also men who are there because they are strongminded enough
to disregard the social convention (obviously not a disinterested
one on the part of the ratepayer) which bids a man live by
heavy and badly paid drudgery when he has the alternative of
walking into the workhouse, announcing himself as a destitute
person, and legally compelling the Guardians to feed, clothe and
house him better than he could feed, clothe and house himself
without great exertion. When a man who is born a poet refuses a
stool in a stockbroker's office, and starves in a garret,
spunging on a poor landlady or on his friends and relatives
rather than work against his grain; or when a lady, because she
is a lady, will face any extremity of parasitic dependence rather
than take a situation as cook or parlormaid, we make large
allowances for them. To such allowances the ablebodied pauper and
his nomadic variant the tramp are equally entitled.

Further, the imaginative man, if his life is to be tolerable to
him, must have leisure to tell himself stories, and a position
which lends itself to imaginative decoration. The ranks of
unskilled labor offer no such positions. We misuse our laborers
horribly; and when a man refuses to be misused, we have no right
to say that he is refusing honest work. Let us be frank in this
matter before we go on with our play; so that we may enjoy it
without hypocrisy. If we were reasoning, farsighted people, four
fifths of us would go straight to the Guardians for relief, and
knock the whole social system to pieces with most beneficial

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