A Village Wooing, by George Bernard Shaw
Wireless Programmes Palestine Post. Thursday, September 22, 1938
יום חמישי 22 בספטמבר 1938
PALESTINE BROADCASTING SERVICE (PBS): ENGLISH PROGRAMME
10.00 p.m. A Village Wooing, a Comedietta for two Voices by George Bernard Shaw. Part III: Journey's End.
Unfortunately, no recording of the actual broadcast or the transcript has 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.
VILLAGE WOOING: A Comedietta for Two Voices by George Bernard Shaw
THIRD CONVERSATION: In the Same [Village Shop and Post Office on the Wiltshire Downs]
A is now the proprietor of the shop with Z as his hired assistant. The counter has been fitted with a desk at the opposite end to the post-office section. At this A sits writing. He wears pepper-and-salt trousers of country cut, with an apron. He is in his shirtsleeves, and looks every inch a shopkeeper. Z comes in through the post office, very fresh and matutinal.
Z. Morning, boss.
A. Good morning, slave.
Z. I havnt begun slaving yet. You have been at it for half an hour. Whatever on earth are you working at so hard?
A. I am making out my balance sheet.
Z. Oh, you neednt do that. The accountant's clerk from Salisbury does all that when he makes out the income tax return. Youre not expected to do figures in this village. Fancy old Mrs Ward doing such a thing!
A. When I bought this shop from Mrs Ward for an annuity I found she was much cleverer at figures than I was. She should have been a moneylender.
Z. She was. She lent a shilling for a penny a week.
A. That must have been between four and five hundred per cent per annum. Shylock would have blushed.
Z. Whats the good of it when you have to give credit at the shop, and then lend the customers the money to pay you?
A. Mrs Ward should have gone to Geneva. International finance would have come naturally to her.
Z. Thats too clever for me. Anyhow, you neednt worry over a balance sheet. The accountant will do all that for you.
A. [rising and waving the balance sheet proudly as he comes through the counter into the public part of the shop] This is not an accountant's balance sheet. It is a Robinson Crusoe balance sheet.
Z. [following him] Whatever's that?
A. Crusoe drew up a balance sheet of the advantages and disadvantages of being cast away on a desert island. I am cast away in a village on the Wiltshire Downs. I am drawing up a similar balance sheet. I propose to read it to you as far as I have got. [He takes one of the customer's chairs] You can remind me of anything I have forgotten.
Z. Lets have it. [She takes the other chair].
A. I begin with the credit entries.
Z. Things to your own credit, you mean?
A. No, to the credit of village shopkeeping as a way of life.
Z. Oh, you are a silly, boss.
A. That is a disrespectful remark. As such, it should not be made to a boss by his slave. The understanding on which I raised your salary when I engaged you as my assistant was that our relations should be completely conventional and businesslike on your side, however I might occasionally forget myself.
Z. [rising] Very well: you can keep your balance sheet to yourself. I will go on with the telephone call book.
A. You will do nothing of the sort. You will do what I tell you to do. That is what I pay you for. Sit down again. [She does so]. Now listen. [He takes up his manuscript and reads]. Item: I have sharpened my faculties, and greatly improved in observation and mathematics.
Z. Couldnt you put it into shorter words? What does it mean?
A. It means that formerly I always took what money was given me without condescending to count it or attempting to calculate it. I can now both calculate and count quite rapidly. Formerly I made no distinctions between grades of butter and eggs. To me an egg was an egg: butter was butter. I now make critical distinctions of the greatest subtlety, and value them in terms of money. I am forced to admit that the shopkeeper is enormously superior to the Marco Polo man, and that I have learnt more in three months in this shop than I learnt in three years in Oxford.
Z. I cant believe that about the learning. But see how your manners have improved!
A. My manners!!
Z. Yes. Why, on that ship you hadnt a word to throw to a dog; and if anyone came near you you shrank up into yourself like a hedgehog, afraid that they didnt belong to your class and wanted to speak to you without an introduction. Now it's a pleasure to hear you say "Good morning; and what can I do for you today, Mrs Burrell?" and "Have you noticed the cauliflowers today, maam? Not a touch of frost on them!" and "Sparrowgrass very good today, my lady, if you would be wanting some."
A. I positively deny that I have ever in my life called asparagus sparrowgrass to an educated customer. Of course, when people are too ignorant to know the names of what they eat, that is another matter.
Z. Well, anyhow, your manners have improved, havnt they?
A. I dont know. I know that they are no longer disinterested and sincere.
Z. No more they never used to be. Never easy with anybody. Now you are hail fellow well met, as you might say, with everybody.
A. The world has become a world of customers. Let me write that down. [He pencils on the back of his balance sheet] "Manners will never be universally good until every person is every other person's customer."
Z. Youre not a real shopkeeper yet, boss. All you want is to find something clever to write.
A. Well, why not? Find enough clever things to say, and you are a Prime Minister. Write them down, and you are a Shakespear.
Z. Yes; but who wants to be a Prime Minister or a Shakespear? Youve got to make a living.
A. Well, am I not making a living? I am no poorer than when I bought the shop.
Z. But if the money goes as fast as it comes you cant save anything.
A. I loathe saving. It turns human nature sour. "Cast your bread upon the waters; and it will return to you after many days."
Z. And how are you to live for the many days with nothing to eat?
A. I dont know. One does, somehow. Stop asking questions; and let us get on with the balance sheet.
Z. I speak for your good.
A. [rising wrathfully] The most offensive liberty one human being can possibly take with another. What business is it of yours?
Z. [rising and facing him] If you wont think for yourself somebody else must think for you. It's my business as much as yours.
A. Oh, indeed! Who does this shop belong to? I mean to whom does this shop belong?
Z. I get my living out of it, dont I. If it shuts up what becomes of me?
A. Well, if you come to that, what becomes of me? You can get another job. I very greatly doubt whether anyone would give me one. [Calming down] Can you not be content with the fact that the shop is making enough to support two people? [He resumes his seat].
Z. Aye; but suppose it had to support three people!
A. Why suppose? It hasnt: thats all.
Z. It's not all. If you marry a stranger there will be three. And what about the children?
A. The remedy is simple. I shall not marry.
Z. You dont know.
A. Neither do you.
Z. Yes I do. You have married once; and you will marry twice. Somebody will snap you up. You are that sort of man.
A. If a woman snaps me up she must take the consequences. She must assist in the shop. And you will get the sack.
Z. Oh, you are tiresome. [She sits down, discouraged]. But you see my point, at all events.
A. No. What point?
Z. Well, that it's really cheaper to keep a wife than to pay an assistant. Let alone that you dont have to live a single life.
A. You can get rid of an assistant if she doesnt suit. You cant get rid of a wife.
Z. If people thought that way, theyd never get married.
Z. In this life you have to take chances.
A. I have taken them, and escaped.
Z. You wont escape here. We dont hold with bachelors here.
A. You cant do without a general shop here, nor a post office. While I command both I am in an impregnable strategic position.
Z. Well, I dont like to say it; but people are beginning to talk.
A. Beginning! When did they ever stop?
Z. Oh, theres no use talking to you.
A. Not the slightest.
Z. Oh well then, take a month's notice. [She rises].
A. A month's notice!
Z. Yes: a month's notice.
A. A month's notice because I refuse to marry some ridiculous village maiden or illiterate widow with whom I could not hold a moment's conversation!
Z. Wives are not for conversation: thats for visitors. Youve had plenty of conversation with me.
A. Leave yourself out of this conversation, please.
Z. Oh, very well. A month's notice.
A. Dont say that again. Utter nonsense. What have you to complain of? You are quite well off here. I purposely pay you ten pounds a year more than you could get anywhere else.
A. What do you mean, why?
Z. Why do you pay me ten pounds more than you could get another assistant for?
A. Heaven only knows!
Z. [in a fury] I'll go this very day. I'll go this very minute. You can keep my month. You dont know when youre well off. Youre selfish. I dont wonder your wife died. Did she die mad?
A. [gravely] As a matter of fact, she did. I am one of those unlucky men who draw the black chances in the lottery of marriage.
Z. [remorsefully] Oh, I didnt know: I didnt indeed. I was only joking. [She sits again] I wouldnt have said it for the world if I'd known.
A. Never mind: I know you didnt mean it. By the way, I made an inconsiderate remark which hurt you. I did not intend that. I should have told you seriously that I pay you ten pounds more than the market rate because I value your services in the shop, and wish to offer you every inducement to stay here permanently.
Z. Ten pounds extra, to stay all my life here as a single woman!
A. Not necessarily. You can get married if you wish.
Z. Who to?
A. To whom? Oh, anyone.
Z. Anyone in the village is good enough for me; but nobody in the village is good enough for you: is that it?
A. Dont lose your temper again.
Z. I will if I like. And if you knew how near I was to putting a couple of extra words in, youd perhaps realize that a woman wants something more in life than a job and a salary.
A. I know that perfectly well. There is one thing we are all out for when we are young.
Z. And what is that, pray?
A. Trouble, adventure, hardship, care, disappointment, doubt, misery, danger, and death.
Z. Not me, thank you. All I want is a husband and the usual consequences.
A. The same thing. Marriage is the village form of all these adventures.
Z. Oh, why dont you take a more cheerful view of life?
A. I have learnt not to expect too much from life. That is the secret of real cheerfulness, because I am always getting agreeable surprises instead of desolating disappointments.
Z. Well, your second marriage may be an agreeable surprise, maynt it?
A. What, exactly, do you mean by my second marriage? I have only been married once. I mean I have been married only once.
Z. Well, look here. Straight, now. Is there any man in this village that would be suitable to me now that I have got used to you?
A. My dear: men are all alike.
Z. You mean it will make no difference to me who I marry.
A. Very little, I am afraid.
Z. And women are all alike too, arnt they?
A. [suspicious] What are you getting at?
Z. If it doesnt matter who anybody marries, then it doesnt matter who I marry and it doesnt matter who you marry.
A. Whom, not who.
Z. Oh, speak English: youre not on the telephone now. What I mean is that if it doesnt matter to me it doesnt matter to you either.
A. You admit, then, that it doesnt matter?
Z. No I dont. It's a lie.
Z. Dont "oh" me. All men are not alike to me. There are men--and good nice men, too--that I wouldn't let touch me. But when I saw you on the ship I said to myself "I could put up with him."
A. Not at all. You told me just now that you said something quite different. I believe you really said something much more rapturous. Being rather a futile sort of person I attract vigorous women like you.
Z. When you looked at me out of the corner of your eye--you looked at all the women out of the corner of your eye in spite of your keeping yourself so much to yourself--did you never say "I could put up with her"?
A. No. I said "Damn that women: she wont stop talking to me and interrupting my work."
Z. Well, I tell you we were made for oneanother. It maynt be as plain to you as to me yet; but if it's plain to me there must be something in it; for I'm never wrong when I see a thing quite plain. I dont believe youd ever have bought this shop and given up being a gentleman if I hadnt been here.
A. Now that you mention it I believe that is true. You were one of the amenities of the estate.
Z. Well, I might be one of the amenities of the estate of holy matrimony, mightnt I?
A. Take care. You may find what you are trying to do easier than you think. About five per cent of the human race consists of positive masterful acquisitive people like you, obsessed with some passion which they must gratify at all hazards. The rest let them have their own way because they have neither the strength nor the courage to resist, or because the things the masterful ones want seem trifling beside the starry heavens and the destiny of Man. I am not one of the masterful ones. I am not worth marrying. Any woman could marry me if she took trouble enough.
Z. Thats just what I'm afraid of. If I let you out of my sight for a month I might find you married to someone else at the end of it. Well, I'm taking no chances. I dont set up to be masterful: I dont like selfish uppish domineering people any more than you do; but I must and will have you; and thats all about it.
A. Well, you already have me--as an employer. And you are independent of me, and can leave me if you are not satisfied.
Z. How can I be satisfied when I cant lay my hands on you? I work for you like a slave for a month on end; and I would have to work harder as your wife than I do now; but there come times when I want to get hold of you in my arms, every bit of you; and when I do I'll give you something better to think about than the starry heavens, as you call them. Youll find that you have senses to gratify as well as fine things to say.
A. Senses! You dont know what youre talking about. Look around you. Here in this shop I have everything that can gratify the senses: apples, onions, and acid drops; pepper and mustard; cosy comforters and hot water bottles. Through the window I delight my eyes with the old church and market place, built in the days when beauty came naturally from the hands of mediaeval craftsmen. My ears are filled with delightful sounds, from the cooing of doves and the humming of bees to the wireless echoes of Beethoven and Elgar. My nose can gloat over our sack of fresh lavender or our special sixpenny Eau de Cologne when the smell of rain on dry earth is denied me. My senses are saturated with satisfactions of all sorts. But when I am full to the neck with onions and acid drops; when I am so fed up with the mediaeval architecture that I had rather die than look at another cathedral; when all I desire is rest from sensation, not more of it, what use will my senses be to me if the starry heavens still seem no more than a senseless avalanche of lumps of stone and wisps of gas--if the destiny of Man holds out no higher hope to him than the final extinction and annihilation of so mischievous and miserable a creature?
Z. We dont bother about all that in the village.
A. Yes you do. Our best seller here is Old Moore's Almanack; and next to it comes Napoleon's Book of Fate. Old Mrs Ward would never have sold the shop to me if she had not become persuaded that the Day of Judgment is fixed for the seventh of August next.
Z. I dont believe such nonsense. Whats it all got to do with you and me?
A. You are inexperienced. You dont know. You are the dupe of thoughtless words like sensuality, sensuousness, and all the rest of the twaddle of the Materialists. I am not a Materialist: I am a poet; and I know that to be in your arms will not gratify my senses at all. As a matter of mere physical sensation you will find the bodily contacts to which you are looking forward neither convenient nor decorous.
Z. Oh, dont talk like that. You mustnt let yourself think about it like that.
A. You must always let yourself think about everything. And you must think about everything as it is, not as it is talked about. Your secondhand gabble about gratifying my senses is only your virgin innocence. We shall get quite away from the world of sense. We shall light up for oneanother a lamp in the holy of holies in the temple of life; and the lamp will make its veil transparent. Aimless lumps of stone blundering through space will become stars singing in their spheres. Our dull purposeless village existence will become one irresistible purpose and nothing else. An extraordinary delight and an intense love will seize us. It will last hardly longer than the lightning flash which turns the black night into infinite radiance. It will be dark again before you can clear the light out of your eyes; but you will have seen; and for ever after you will think about what you have seen and not gabble catchwords invented by the wasted virgins that walk in darkness. It is to give ourselves this magic moment that we feel that we must and shall hold oneanother in our arms; and when the moment comes, the world of the senses will vanish; and for us there will be nothing ridiculous, nothing uncomfortable, nothing unclean, nothing but pure paradise.
Z. Well, I am glad you take a nice view of it; for now I come to think of it I never could bear to be nothing more to a man than a lollipop. But you mustnt expect too much.
A. I shall expect more than you have ever dreamt of giving, in spite of the boundless audacity of women. What great men would ever have been married if the female nobodies who snapped them up had known the enormity of their own presumption? I believe they all thought they were going to refine, to educate, to make real gentlemen of their husbands. What do you intend to make of me, I wonder?
Z. Well, I have made a decent shopkeeper of you already, havnt I? But you neednt be afraid of my not appreciating you. I want a fancy sort of husband, not a common villager that any woman could pick up. I shall be proud of you. And now Ive nailed you, I wonder at my own nerve.
A. So do I.
Z. I'm not a bit like that, you know, really. Something above me and beyond me drove me on. Thats why I know it will be all right. Dont be afraid. I cant make a fine speech about it like you; but it will be all right. I promise you that.
A. Very well. Go round to the rectory; and put up the banns. And tell the rector's wife that we got in some prime artichokes this morning. She's fond of artichokes.
Z. You are sure you feel happy about it?
A. I dont know what I feel about it. Go and do as you are told; and dont ask ridiculous questions.
The telephone rings. She hastens to answer it.
Z. Number, please? . . . Oh, an order. Thanks very much. . . . Yes: we have some very fine artichokes just in this morning. . . . Thanks very much: they shall be sent round directly. Oh; and theres something else--are you there? . . . Sorry to detain you: could I speak to the rector? . . . Yes: it's rather particular. It's about banns . . . banns . . . BANNS: b for beauty, a for audacity, two enns for nonsense, and s for singing. . . . Yes, banns: thats right. . . . Who are the what? . . . Oh, the parties! Of course. Well, it's--
The curtain falls
In the Sunda Strait, 27th January 1933