A Village Wooing, by George Bernard Shaw
Wireless Programmes Palestine Post. Thursday, September 15, 1938
יום חמישי 15 בספטמבר 1938
PALESTINE BROADCASTING SERVICE (PBS): ENGLISH PROGRAMME
9.45 p.m. A Village Wooing, a Comedietta for two Voices by George Bernard Shaw. Part II:
Unfortunately, no recording of the PBS broadcast or the transcript has so far been located.
To fill the gap, this particular broadcast, is presented as what it might have sounded like. It is an RTE (Ireland) radio version starring Cyril Cusack and Siobhán McKenna. With an introduction by Aidan Mathews. and can also be found at: https://www.rte.ie/drama/radio/plays/classic/2012/0403/647039-genres-classic-thevillagewooing/
VILLAGE WOOING: A Comedietta for Two Voices by George Bernard Shaw
SECOND CONVERSATION: In a Village Shop and Post Office on the Wiltshire Downs
In a village shop and post office on the Wiltshire Downs on a fine summer morning. The counter is for general shopping for most of its length; but one end is reserved and railed in for postal business. A couple of chairs are available for customers. The goods for sale include ginger beer in stone bottles, tablets of milk chocolate, glass jars of sweets containing (inter alia) sugared almonds, all on the counter; cheese, butter, and Hovis bread handy to the scales; and, in front of the counter, a sack of apples on the floor and some string bags hanging from the rafters.
Z. [invisible] Th-reee ni-nnn. Sorry: no such number. Whoommm do you want? Doctor Byles? One fi-fff. You are through.
A comes in. He is in hiking costume, with stick and rucksack, but wears well cut breeches (not plus fours) instead of shorts. Seeing nobody to attend to him he raps loudly on the counter with his stick. Z emerges.
A. I want a packet of milk chocolate--
Z. Thanks very much.
A. [continuing]--a couple of hard apples--
Z. Thanks very much. [She comes out through the counter to get them from the sack].
A. [continuing]--quarter of a pound of Cheddar cheese--
Z. Thanks very much.
A. Dont interrupt me. You can express your gratitude for the order when I have finished. Quarter of a pound of your best butter, a small loaf of Hovis, and two-pennyworth of sugared almonds.
Z. Anything else?
A. No, thank you.
Z. Thanks very much [she goes back through the counter to cut and weigh the butter and cheese].
He sits down watching her deft but leisurely proceedings.
A. Do you sell baskets?
Z. We sell everything. Hadnt you better have a string bag? It's handier; and it packs away almost to nothing when it's empty.
A. What is a string bag? Shew me one.
Z. [coming out and taking one down] This is the cheapest. Or would you like a better quality with a Zip fastening?
A. Certainly not. I should have the trouble of opening and shutting it, and the worry of wondering whether it would open or shut, with no compensatory advantage whatever.
Z. Thats just like you. Youre not a bit changed.
A. What do you mean? I have been in this shop for less than two minutes. Why should I have changed in that time?
Z. Excuse me: I shouldnt have mentioned it. Will you take a string bag?
Z. Thanks very much. Shall I put the rest of the order into it?
A. Of course. What else do you suppose I am buying it for? Have you any buttermilk?
Z. Sorry. We dont stock it.
A. Any ginger beer?
Z. Yes. We have a very good local brew.
A. Shove a bottle into the string bag.
Z. Thanks very much.
A. How many times a day do you say thanks very much?
Z. Depends on the number of orders.
A. Dont say it to me again, if you dont mind. It gets on my nerves.
Z. It used to get on mine, at first. But I am used to it.
A. Have you a guide book of this village?
Z. Sorry. Theres a leaflet in the church, written by the vicar. You are expected to put tuppence in the box for it. Excuse me; but the chocolates are tuppence, sixpence, and a shilling. Which size would you run to?
A. It is a poor heart that never rejoices. I will have a shilling one.
Z. Thanks very much.
Z. Excuse me: I cant help it. I say it without thinking: same as if you touched a button.
The telephone rings.
A. Someone has touched the button.
Z. [vanshing into the post office section] What number please? Whitehall on-n-n-e two on-n-n-e two. I will ring you. Whitehall one two one two. Yes. [She reappears] Thats a police call.
A. You need not point the information at me. I am not the criminal.
Z. Oh, it isnt a criminal. Somebody thats been broadcasted on the wireless as lost. You know the sort of thing. Missing from his home since January the first. Last seen in a deck chair on the Empress of Patagonia talking to a female. Suffering from loss of memory.
A. How extraor--[the telephone rings again].
Z. Excuse me. [She vanishes]. You are through to Whitehall. [She reappears].
A. You have hit on an extraordinary coincidence. I wonder whether you will believe me when I tell you that in January last I was sitting on the deck of a ship named the Empress of Patagonia, and that I was talking to a female--or rather she was talking to me. How that woman did talk!
Z. And are you suffering from loss of memory?
A. Certainly not. I never forget anything.
Z. Oh, then it cant be you, can it?
A. There! Can it? That woman always finished up with can it? wont it? isnt it? so that you had to answer her out of common politeness. Take care never to pick up that trick or you will be murdered some day.
Z. Some people are like that. It often goes with orange colored eyes [or whatever color her eyes happen to be]. Did you notice the color of her eyes?
A. No: I never notice things like that. I am not a detective. It is people's characters that impress me; I cant tell you the color of her hair or the shape of her nose; but I can tell you that she was a most fearful nuisance. How much does all that come to?
Z. The string bag sixpence, chocolates a shilling: one and sixpence. The ginger beer is--
A. Spare me the details. Will ten shillings cover it?
Z. Oh yes, of course. You shouldnt be so careless about money.
A. [presenting a Treasury note] Cease preaching. Take it; and give me the change.
Z. Let me see. Eighteenpence, and fourpence for the ginger beer is one and tenpence, isnt it?
A. Have I denied it?
Z. Cheese threepence: two and a penny; butter sixpence: two and sevenpence; apples we sell by the pound. Hadnt you better have a pound?
A. How many to the pound?
A. I cannot eat more than two apples at a time. Charge me for a pound; and eat the odd one yourself.
Z. Oh well, say threepence for two: thats two and tenpence, isnt it?
A. I dont know.
Z. Hovis, tuppence halfpenny. Three shillings and a halfpenny. Do you happen to have a halfpenny to save having to take fippence halfpenny in coppers?
A. I hate halfpennies: I always throw them away. Stop. I have one. Here.
Z. Thanks very much. [Handing him his change coin by coin] Three, four, five, seven and six, ten. Thanks very much.
A. [pocketing his change, but remaining comfortably seated] Dont you find it rather dull in this village shop saying thanks very much all day?
Z. Well, no matter where you are you are doing the same thing all day and every day, arnt you? The only way to get it off your mind is to live in the same place and stick at the same job. Then you never have to think about it. Thats the way the people live here; and they live for ever so long: eighty's no age here. Grandfather will be a hundred and two in August. Thats because he's never had to worry about what he'll do or where he'll go. He just imagines and imagines. It's the only way to be happy and long lived.
A. But if your imagination has only one village in it it must be pretty bare. How would you like to live in a room with only one chair in it.
Z. Well, if you have only one seat what more do you want than one chair? Up at the castle there are thirty-six chairs of one sort or another in the big drawing-room; but Lady Flopping cant flop on more than one, can she?
A. [pointing to the vacant chair] May I suggest that you flop on that one while we talk?
Z. [sitting down] Thanks very much.
A. I am not interrupting your work, I hope. There is nothing so maddening as to be talked to when you want to work.
Z. Talking is part of the work in a village shop.
A. Tell me: do you ever read?
Z. I used to read travels and guide books. We used to stock the Marco Polo series. I was mad about travelling. I had daydreams about the glory that was Greece, the grandeur that was Rome, and all that flapdoodle.
Z. Well, I suppose I shouldnt call it that; but it ended in my going to Rome and Athens. They were all right; but the old parts were half knocked down; and I couldnt see any glory or grandeur different to Cheltenham. I was glad to be home again. And I had so wanted to meet the Marco Polo man and walk about with him in the ruins by moonlight and hear him go on about them!
A. The Marco Polo man! The milkman! the postman! the muffin man! the Marco Polo man! Some frustrated poet, earning his crust by quoting scraps of verse to bring the Call of the East to dreaming telephone girls.
A. Operators dont dream. Girls! girls of the golden west. Did that poor devil never bring you the Call of the East?
Z. I'd read about it in novels and seen it on the films. They were all about moony drunkards and sheeks and the sort of girls that go dotty about them. I went right round the world to see the reality. Pretty places, of course; but the heat! and the mosquitoes! and the smells!! Travelling just destroyed the world for me as I imagined it. Give me this village all the time.
A. Had you no thrill when you stood somewhere where a poet had said "Stop; for thy tread is on an empire's dust"?
Z. A guide, you mean. Theyd take the poetry out of anything; and all the time youre thinking what you ought to give them. If you fancy empires' dusts and all that sort of thing you should meet our vicar and start him talking about our standing stones, and the barrows on the downs, and the Mound. Every grain of our dust, he says, is full of history. Same everywhere, I expect.
A. Are you married?
Z. No. Why? Have you any intentions?
A. Dont be in a hurry. Weve known each other less than ten minutes.
Z. How much better do you think you will know me when we have talked for twenty years?
A. That is profoundly true. Still, I must think it over.
Z. Nobody would ever marry if they thought it over. Youve got to take your chance, no matter how long you think.
A. You are in a hurry.
Z. Well, I am past the age at which girls marry here, though I'm the pick of this village. Thats because I thought all my offers over. So I have made up my mind to take the next man that asks me, provided he's reasonably suitable.
A. Do I strike you as being reasonably suitable?
Z. Well, I think I have the sort of commonsense you need to keep you straight. And you being a widower know what to expect from a woman. An inexperienced man expects the earth.
A. How do you know that I am a widower?
Z. You told me.
A. Did I? When did I tell you?
Z. Never mind. You did. I have noticed you have a bad memory; but I have a very good one; so it wont matter.
A. Steady. Steady. I have not yet made myself liable to an action for breach of promise.
Z. Dont be afraid. I'm not that sort. We dont consider it respectable here.
A. Should I get any money with you? Do you own the shop?
Z. No. All the money I ever had I blued on a trip round the world. But Mrs Ward is getting too old for the business: she couldnt run it now without me. If you could afford to buy her an annuity she'd sell it.
A. I dont know how much annuities cost.
Z. You will find it in Whitaker's almanac.
A. This is rather upsetting. Somehow I have always taken it for granted that when I married again I'd marry a woman with money.
Z. Oh, that wouldnt suit you at all. She'd want to spend it going into society and travelling about. How could you bear that sort of life? you that never spoke to anyone on the ship and wouldnt take any part in their games and dances! When it got about that you were the Marco Polo man--the man of all our dreams as you might say--I made a bet that I'd get you to talk to me; and I had all the trouble in the world to win it.
A. Do you mean to say that we have met before? That you were on that trip round the world?
Z. Of course I do. But you never notice anything. Youre always reading or writing. The world doesnt exist for you. You never looked at me really. Youre shy with strangers, arnt you?
A. I am absolutely certain I never spoke to any woman on that ship. If I talk to women they always want to marry me.
Z. Well, there you are, you see! The moment I set eyes on you I said to myself, "Now thats the sort of man that would suit me as a husband." I'd have said it even if you hadnt been the Marco Polo man.
A. Love at first sight: what?
Z. Oh no. You know, if I fell in love with a man I'd never marry him: he could make me so miserable. But there was something about you: I dont exactly know what; but it made me feel that I could do with you in the house; and then I could fall in love with anyone I liked without any fear of making a fool of myself. I suppose it was because you are one of the quiet sort and dont run after women.
A. How do you know I dont run after women?
Z. Well, if you want to know, it's because you didnt run after me. You mightnt believe it; but men do run after me.
Z. Oh, how do I know? They dont know, themselves. But the lot of money they spend on things they dont want merely to come in and have a look at me and a word with me, you wouldnt believe. It's worth at least twenty pounds a year to the business.
A. [putting on his glasses and looking at her attentively for the first time] I shouldnt call you a pretty woman.
Z. Oh, I'm not pretty. But what you might call desirable, dont you think?
A. [alarmed] No I dont think. May I explain? I am a man of letters and a gentleman. I am accustomed to associate with ladies. That means that I am accustomed to speak under certain well understood reserves which act as a necessary protection to both parties. You are not a lady: you are a villager; but somebody has educated you--probably the Church or the local authority--to a point at which you can impose on unobservant and unwary travellers. You have had finishing lessons on the telephone which give you a distinguished articulation: you can say Th-reee fiv-v-v-v-e ni-n-n-n instead of theree fauv nawn. But you have not acquired any of the reserves. You say what you think. You announce all the plans that well-bred women conceal. You play with your cards on the table instead of keeping them where a lady should keep them: up your sleeve.
Z. Well, wheres the harm?
A. Oh, no harm. Quite the contrary. But I feel rushed.
Z. What do you mean? rushed?
A. Rushed. Precipitated. Carried to lengths I had no intention of going to.
Z. Well, it gets you somewhere: doesnt it?
A. Yes; but where?
Z. Here. Theres no mystery about it. Here, in a good business in a village shop in a quiet place, with me to keep it straight and look after you.
A. May I ask how much that expression "looking after me" includes? Let me be clear on the point. As a matter of fact I possess a small property which I could sell for enough to purchase an annuity for old Mrs Williams--
A. I believe I have enough to purchase annuities for both Mrs Ward and Mrs Williams, as they are presumably both centenarians. But why on earth should I complicate the transaction by marrying you? I could pay you your present wages--
A. I beg your pardon: salary. You will retain your present position as my shopgirl.
Z. Shop assistant.
A. I beg your pardon: shop assistant. You can then make your own matrimonial arrangements, and leave me to make mine.
Z. Oh, I'll make my own matrimonial arrangements all right enough. You may depend on that.
A. Excuse me: I added "and leave me to make mine." Can I depend on you for that also?
Z. Well, we'll see.
A. [angrily] No: you will not see.
Z. Well, what?
A. I dont know what. I will not commit myself. We'll see.
Z. Just so: we'll see. It's a bargain then?
A. No: it most certainly is not a bargain. When I entered this shop half an hour ago I had not the faintest notion of buying a village shop or marrying a village maiden or any of the things you have put into my head. Have you ever read the fable of the spider and the fly?
Z. No; but I used to sing a song called the honeysuckle and the bee.
A. [resolutely] Good morning. [He makes for the door].
Z. [following him with the string bag] You are forgetting your things.
A. [taking it] Thank you.
Z. Thanks very much.
She tempts him to kiss her.
A. No!!! [he strides out].
END OF SECOND CONVERSATION