CLARA [throwing herself discontentedly into the Elizabethan chair]. Oh, it's all right, mamma, quite right. People will think we never go anywhere or see anybody if you are so old-fashioned.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. I daresay I am very old-fashioned; but I do hope you won't begin using that expression, Clara. I have got accustomed to hear you talking about men as rotters, and calling everything filthy and beastly; though I do think it horrible and unladylike. But this last is really too much. Don't you think so, Colonel Pickering?
PICKERING. Don't ask me. I've been away in India for several years; and manners have changed so much that I sometimes don't know whether I'm at a respectable dinner-table or in a ship's forecastle.
CLARA. It's all a matter of habit. There's no right or wrong in it. Nobody means anything by it. And it's so quaint, and gives such a smart emphasis to things that are not in themselves very witty. I find the new small talk delightful and quite innocent.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [rising] Well, after that, I think it's time for us to go.
Pickering and Higgins rise.
CLARA [rising] Oh yes: we have three at homes to go to still. Good-bye, Mrs. Higgins. Good-bye, Colonel Pickering. Good-bye, Professor Higgins.
HIGGINS [coming grimly at her from the divan, and accompanying her to the door] Good-bye. Be sure you try on that small talk at the three at-homes. Don't be nervous about it. Pitch it in strong.
CLARA [all smiles] I will. Good-bye. Such nonsense, all this early Victorian prudery!
HIGGINS [tempting her] Such damned nonsense!
CLARA. Such bloody nonsense!
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [convulsively] Clara!
CLARA. Ha! ha! [She goes out radiant, conscious of being thoroughly up to date, and is heard descending the stairs in a stream of silvery laughter].
FREDDY [to the heavens at large] Well, I ask you [He gives it up, and comes to Mrs. Higgins]. Good-bye.
MRS. HIGGINS [shaking hands] Good-bye. Would you like to meet Miss Doolittle again?
FREDDY [eagerly] Yes, I should, most awfully.
MRS. HIGGINS. Well, you know my days.
FREDDY. Yes. Thanks awfully. Good-bye. [He goes out].
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. Good-bye, Mr. Higgins.
HIGGINS. Good-bye. Good-bye.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [to Pickering] It's no use. I shall never be able to bring myself to use that word.
PICKERING. Don't. It's not compulsory, you know. You'll get on quite well without it.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. Only, Clara is so down on me if I am not positively reeking with the latest slang. Good-bye.
PICKERING. Good-bye [They shake hands].
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL [to Mrs. Higgins] You mustn't mind Clara. [Pickering, catching from her lowered tone that this is not meant for him to hear, discreetly joins Higgins at the window]. We're so poor! and she gets so few parties, poor child! She doesn't quite know. [Mrs. Higgins, seeing that her eyes are moist, takes her hand sympathetically and goes with her to the door]. But the boy is nice. Don't you think so?
MRS. HIGGINS. Oh, quite nice. I shall always be delighted to see him.
MRS. EYNSFORD HILL. Thank you, dear. Good-bye. [She goes out].
HIGGINS [eagerly] Well? Is Eliza presentable [he swoops on his mother and drags her to the ottoman, where she sits down in Eliza's place with her son on her left]?
Pickering returns to his chair on her right.
MRS. HIGGINS. You silly boy, of course she's not presentable. She's a triumph of your art and of her dressmaker's; but if you suppose for a moment that she doesn't give herself away in every sentence she utters, you must be perfectly cracked about her.
PICKERING. But don't you think something might be done? I mean something to eliminate the sanguinary element from her conversation.
MRS. HIGGINS. Not as long as she is in Henry's hands.
HIGGINS [aggrieved] Do you mean that my language is improper?
MRS. HIGGINS. No, dearest: it would be quite proper — say on a canal barge; but it would not be proper for her at a garden party.
HIGGINS [deeply injured] Well I must say —
PICKERING [interrupting him] Come, Higgins: you must learn to know yourself. I haven't heard such language as yours since we used to review the volunteers in Hyde Park twenty years ago.
HIGGINS [sulkily] Oh, well, if you say so, I suppose I don't always talk like a bishop.
MRS. HIGGINS [quieting Henry with a touch] Colonel Pickering: will you tell me what is the exact state of things in Wimpole Street?
PICKERING [cheerfully: as if this completely changed the subject] Well, I have come to live there with Henry. We work together at my Indian Dialects; and we think it more convenient —
MRS. HIGGINS. Quite so. I know all about that: it's an excellent arrangement. But where does this girl live?
HIGGINS. With us, of course. Where would she live?
MRS. HIGGINS. But on what terms? Is she a servant? If not, what is she?
PICKERING [slowly] I think I know what you mean, Mrs. Higgins.
HIGGINS. Well, dash me if I do! I've had to work at the girl every day for months to get her to her present pitch. Besides, she's useful. She knows where my things are, and remembers my appointments and so forth.
MRS. HIGGINS. How does your housekeeper get on with her?
HIGGINS. Mrs. Pearce? Oh, she's jolly glad to get so much taken off her hands; for before Eliza came, she had to have to find things and remind me of my appointments. But she's got some silly bee in her bonnet about Eliza. She keeps saying "You don't think, sir": doesn't she, Pick?
PICKERING. Yes: that's the formula. "You don't think, sir." That's the end of every conversation about Eliza.
HIGGINS. As if I ever stop thinking about the girl and her confounded vowels and consonants. I'm worn out, thinking about her, and watching her lips and her teeth and her tongue, not to mention her soul, which is the quaintest of the lot.
MRS. HIGGINS. You certainly are a pretty pair of babies, playing with your live doll.
HIGGINS. Playing! The hardest job I ever tackled: make no mistake about that, mother. But you have no idea how frightfully interesting it is to take a human being and change her into a quite different human being by creating a new speech for her. It's filling up the deepest gulf that separates class from class and soul from soul.
PICKERING [drawing his chair closer to Mrs. Higgins and bending over to her eagerly] Yes: it's enormously interesting. I assure you, Mrs. Higgins, we take Eliza very seriously. Every week — every day almost — there is some new change. [Closer again] We keep records of every stage — dozens of gramophone disks and photographs —
HIGGINS [assailing her at the other ear] Yes, by George: it's the most absorbing experiment I ever tackled. She regularly fills our lives up; doesn't she, Pick?
PICKERING. We're always talking Eliza.
HIGGINS. Teaching Eliza.
PICKERING. Dressing Eliza.
MRS. HIGGINS. What!
HIGGINS. Inventing new Elizas.
Higgins and Pickering, speaking together:
HIGGINS. You know, she has the most extraordinary quickness of ear: PICKERING. I assure you, my dear Mrs. Higgins, that girl HIGGINS. just like a parrot. I've tried her with every PICKERING. is a genius. She can play the piano quite beautifully HIGGINS. possible sort of sound that a human being can make — PICKERING. We have taken her to classical concerts and to music HIGGINS. Continental dialects, African dialects, Hottentot PICKERING. halls; and it's all the same to her: she plays everything HIGGINS. clicks, things it took me years to get hold of; and PICKERING. she hears right off when she comes home, whether it's HIGGINS. she picks them up like a shot, right away, as if she had PICKERING. Beethoven and Brahms or Lehar and Lionel Morickton; HIGGINS. been at it all her life. PICKERING. though six months ago, she'd never as much as touched a piano.
MRS. HIGGINS [putting her fingers in her ears, as they are by this time shouting one another down with an intolerable noise] Sh — sh — sh — sh! [They stop].
PICKERING. I beg your pardon. [He draws his chair back apologetically].
HIGGINS. Sorry. When Pickering starts shouting nobody can get a word in edgeways.
MRS. HIGGINS. Be quiet, Henry. Colonel Pickering: don't you realize that when Eliza walked into Wimpole Street, something walked in with her?
PICKERING. Her father did. But Henry soon got rid of him.
MRS. HIGGINS. It would have been more to the point if her mother had. But as her mother didn't something else did.
PICKERING. But what?