HIGGINS [looking at him much as if he were a pickpocket] I'll take my oath I've met you before somewhere. Where was it?
FREDDY. I don't think so.
HIGGINS [resignedly] It don't matter, anyhow. Sit down. He shakes Freddy's hand, and almost slings him on the ottoman with his face to the windows; then comes round to the other side of it.
HIGGINS. Well, here we are, anyhow! [He sits down on the ottoman next Mrs. Eynsford Hill, on her left.] And now, what the devil are we going to talk about until Eliza comes?
MRS. HIGGINS. Henry: you are the life and soul of the Royal Society's soirees; but really you're rather trying on more commonplace occasions.
HIGGINS. Am I? Very sorry. [Beaming suddenly] I suppose I am, you know. [Uproariously] Ha, ha!
MISS EYNSFORD HILL [who considers Higgins quite eligible matrimonially] I sympathize. I haven't any small talk. If people would only be frank and say what they really think!
HIGGINS [relapsing into gloom] Lord forbid!
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [taking up her daughter's cue] But why?
HIGGINS. What they think they ought to think is bad enough, Lord knows; but what they really think would break up the whole show. Do you suppose it would be really agreeable if I were to come out now with what I really think?
MISS EYNSFORD HILL [gaily] Is it so very cynical?
HIGGINS. Cynical! Who the dickens said it was cynical? I mean it wouldn't be decent.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [seriously] Oh! I'm sure you don't mean that, Mr. Higgins.
HIGGINS. You see, we're all savages, more or less. We're supposed to be civilized and cultured — to know all about poetry and philosophy and art and science, and so on; but how many of us know even the meanings of these names? [To Miss Hill] What do you know of poetry? [To Mrs. Hill] What do you know of science? [Indicating Freddy] What does he know of art or science or anything else? What the devil do you imagine I know of philosophy?
MRS. HIGGINS [warningly] Or of manners, Henry?
THE PARLOR-MAID [opening the door] Miss Doolittle. [She withdraws].
HIGGINS [rising hastily and running to Mrs. Higgins] Here she is, mother. [He stands on tiptoe and makes signs over his mother's head to Eliza to indicate to her which lady is her hostess].
Eliza, who is exquisitely dressed, produces an impression of such remarkable distinction and beauty as she enters that they all rise, quite flustered. Guided by Higgins's signals, she comes to Mrs. Higgins with studied grace.
LIZA [speaking with pedantic correctness of pronunciation and great beauty of tone] How do you do, Mrs. Higgins? [She gasps slightly in making sure of the H in Higgins, but is quite successful]. Mr. Higgins told me I might come.
MRS. HIGGINS [cordially] Quite right: I'm very glad indeed to see you.
PICKERING. How do you do, Miss Doolittle?
LIZA [shaking hands with him] Colonel Pickering, is it not?
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. I feel sure we have met before, Miss Doolittle. I remember your eyes.
LIZA. How do you do? [She sits down on the ottoman gracefully in the place just left vacant by Higgins].
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [introducing] My daughter Clara.
LIZA. How do you do?
CLARA [impulsively] How do you do? [She sits down on the ottoman beside Eliza, devouring her with her eyes].
FREDDY [coming to their side of the ottoman] I've certainly had the pleasure.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [introducing] My son Freddy.
LIZA. How do you do?
Freddy bows and sits down in the Elizabethan chair, infatuated.
HIGGINS [suddenly] By George, yes: it all comes back to me! [They stare at him]. Covent Garden! [Lamentably] What a damned thing!
MRS. HIGGINS. Henry, please! [He is about to sit on the edge of the table]. Don't sit on my writing-table: you'll break it.
HIGGINS [sulkily] Sorry.
He goes to the divan, stumbling into the fender and over the fire-irons on his way; extricating himself with muttered imprecations; and finishing his disastrous journey by throwing himself so impatiently on the divan that he almost breaks it. Mrs. Higgins looks at him, but controls herself and says nothing.
A long and painful pause ensues.
MRS. HIGGINS [at last, conversationally] Will it rain, do you think?
LIZA. The shallow depression in the west of these islands is likely to move slowly in an easterly direction. There are no indications of any great change in the barometrical situation.
FREDDY. Ha! ha! how awfully funny!
LIZA. What is wrong with that, young man? I bet I got it right.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. I'm sure I hope it won't turn cold. There's so much influenza about. It runs right through our whole family regularly every spring.
LIZA [darkly] My aunt died of influenza: so they said.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [clicks her tongue sympathetically]!!!
LIZA [in the same tragic tone] But it's my belief they done the old woman in.
MRS. HIGGINS [puzzled] Done her in?
LIZA. Y-e-e-e-es, Lord love you! Why should she die of influenza? She come through diphtheria right enough the year before. I saw her with my own eyes. Fairly blue with it, she was. They all thought she was dead; but my father he kept ladling gin down her throat til she came to so sudden that she bit the bowl off the spoon.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [startled] Dear me!
LIZA [piling up the indictment] What call would a woman with that strength in her have to die of influenza? What become of her new straw hat that should have come to me? Somebody pinched it; and what I say is, them as pinched it done her in.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. What does doing her in mean?
HIGGINS [hastily] Oh, that's the new small talk. To do a person in means to kill them.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [to Eliza, horrified] You surely don't believe that your aunt was killed?
LIZA. Do I not! Them she lived with would have killed her for a hat-pin, let alone a hat.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. But it can't have been right for your father to pour spirits down her throat like that. It might have killed her.
LIZA. Not her. Gin was mother's milk to her. Besides, he'd poured so much down his own throat that he knew the good of it.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. Do you mean that he drank?
LIZA. Drank! My word! Something chronic.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. How dreadful for you!
LIZA. Not a bit. It never did him no harm what I could see. But then he did not keep it up regular. [Cheerfully] On the burst, as you might say, from time to time. And always more agreeable when he had a drop in. When he was out of work, my mother used to give him fourpence and tell him to go out and not come back until he'd drunk himself cheerful and loving-like. There's lots of women has to make their husbands drunk to make them fit to live with. [Now quite at her ease] You see, it's like this. If a man has a bit of a conscience, it always takes him when he's sober; and then it makes him low-spirited. A drop of booze just takes that off and makes him happy. [To Freddy, who is in convulsions of suppressed laughter] Here! what are you sniggering at?
FREDDY. The new small talk. You do it so awfully well.
LIZA. If I was doing it proper, what was you laughing at? [To Higgins] Have I said anything I oughtn't?
MRS. HIGGINS [interposing] Not at all, Miss Doolittle.
LIZA. Well, that's a mercy, anyhow. [Expansively] What I always say is —
HIGGINS [rising and looking at his watch] Ahem!
LIZA [looking round at him; taking the hint; and rising] Well: I must go. [They all rise. Freddy goes to the door]. So pleased to have met you. Good-bye. [She shakes hands with Mrs. Higgins].
MRS. HIGGINS. Good-bye.
LIZA. Good-bye, Colonel Pickering.
PICKERING. Good-bye, Miss Doolittle. [They shake hands].
LIZA [nodding to the others] Good-bye, all.
FREDDY [opening the door for her] Are you walking across the Park, Miss Doolittle? If so —
LIZA. Walk! Not bloody likely. [Sensation]. I am going in a taxi. [She goes out].
Pickering gasps and sits down. Freddy goes out on the balcony to catch another glimpse of Eliza.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [suffering from shock] Well, I really can't get used to the new ways.