DOOLITTLE [softening his manner in deference to her sex] That's the tragedy of it, ma'am. It's easy to say chuck it; but I haven't the nerve. Which one of us has? We're all intimidated. Intimidated, ma'am: that's what we are. What is there for me if I chuck it but the workhouse in my old age? I have to dye my hair already to keep my job as a dustman. If I was one of the deserving poor, and had put by a bit, I could chuck it; but then why should I, acause the deserving poor might as well be millionaires for all the happiness they ever has. They don't know what happiness is. But I, as one of the undeserving poor, have nothing between me and the pauper's uniform but this here blasted three thousand a year that shoves me into the middle class. (Excuse the expression, ma'am: you'd use it yourself if you had my provocation). They've got you every way you turn: it's a choice between the Skilly of the workhouse and the Char Bydis of the middle class; and I haven't the nerve for the workhouse. Intimidated: that's what I am. Broke. Bought up. Happier men than me will call for my dust, and touch me for their tip; and I'll look on helpless, and envy them. And that's what your son has brought me to. [He is overcome by emotion].
MRS. HIGGINS. Well, I'm very glad you're not going to do anything foolish, Mr. Doolittle. For this solves the problem of Eliza's future. You can provide for her now.
DOOLITTLE [with melancholy resignation] Yes, ma'am; I'm expected to provide for everyone now, out of three thousand a year.
HIGGINS [jumping up] Nonsense! he can't provide for her. He shan't provide for her. She doesn't belong to him. I paid him five pounds for her. Doolittle: either you're an honest man or a rogue.
DOOLITTLE [tolerantly] A little of both, Henry, like the rest of us: a little of both.
HIGGINS. Well, you took that money for the girl; and you have no right to take her as well.
MRS. HIGGINS. Henry: don't be absurd. If you really want to know where Eliza is, she is upstairs.
HIGGINS [amazed] Upstairs!!! Then I shall jolly soon fetch her downstairs. [He makes resolutely for the door].
MRS. HIGGINS [rising and following him] Be quiet, Henry. Sit down.
HIGGINS. I —
MRS. HIGGINS. Sit down, dear; and listen to me.
HIGGINS. Oh very well, very well, very well. [He throws himself ungraciously on the ottoman, with his face towards the windows]. But I think you might have told me this half an hour ago.
MRS. HIGGINS. Eliza came to me this morning. She passed the night partly walking about in a rage, partly trying to throw herself into the river and being afraid to, and partly in the Carlton Hotel. She told me of the brutal way you two treated her.
HIGGINS [bounding up again] What!
PICKERING [rising also] My dear Mrs. Higgins, she's been telling you stories. We didn't treat her brutally. We hardly said a word to her; and we parted on particularly good terms. [Turning on Higgins]. Higgins did you bully her after I went to bed?
HIGGINS. Just the other way about. She threw my slippers in my face. She behaved in the most outrageous way. I never gave her the slightest provocation. The slippers came bang into my face the moment I entered the room — before I had uttered a word. And used perfectly awful language.
PICKERING [astonished] But why? What did we do to her?
MRS. HIGGINS. I think I know pretty well what you did. The girl is naturally rather affectionate, I think. Isn't she, Mr. Doolittle?
DOOLITTLE. Very tender-hearted, ma'am. Takes after me.
MRS. HIGGINS. Just so. She had become attached to you both. She worked very hard for you, Henry! I don't think you quite realize what anything in the nature of brain work means to a girl like that. Well, it seems that when the great day of trial came, and she did this wonderful thing for you without making a single mistake, you two sat there and never said a word to her, but talked together of how glad you were that it was all over and how you had been bored with the whole thing. And then you were surprised because she threw your slippers at you! I should have thrown the fire-irons at you.
HIGGINS. We said nothing except that we were tired and wanted to go to bed. Did we, Pick?
PICKERING [shrugging his shoulders] That was all.
MRS. HIGGINS [ironically] Quite sure?
PICKERING. Absolutely. Really, that was all.
MRS. HIGGINS. You didn't thank her, or pet her, or admire her, or tell her how splendid she'd been.
HIGGINS [impatiently] But she knew all about that. We didn't make speeches to her, if that's what you mean.
PICKERING [conscience stricken] Perhaps we were a little inconsiderate. Is she very angry?
MRS. HIGGINS [returning to her place at the writing-table] Well, I'm afraid she won't go back to Wimpole Street, especially now that Mr. Doolittle is able to keep up the position you have thrust on her; but she says she is quite willing to meet you on friendly terms and to let bygones be bygones.
HIGGINS [furious] Is she, by George? Ho!
MRS. HIGGINS. If you promise to behave yourself, Henry, I'll ask her to come down. If not, go home; for you have taken up quite enough of my time.
HIGGINS. Oh, all right. Very well. Pick: you behave yourself. Let us put on our best Sunday manners for this creature that we picked out of the mud. [He flings himself sulkily into the Elizabethan chair].
DOOLITTLE [remonstrating] Now, now, Henry Higgins! have some consideration for my feelings as a middle class man.
MRS. HIGGINS. Remember your promise, Henry. [She presses the bell-button on the writing-table]. Mr. Doolittle: will you be so good as to step out on the balcony for a moment. I don't want Eliza to have the shock of your news until she has made it up with these two gentlemen. Would you mind?
DOOLITTLE. As you wish, lady. Anything to help Henry to keep her off my hands. [He disappears through the window].
The parlor-maid answers the bell. Pickering sits down in Doolittle's place.
MRS. HIGGINS. Ask Miss Doolittle to come down, please.
THE PARLOR-MAID. Yes, mam. [She goes out].
MRS. HIGGINS. Now, Henry: be good.
HIGGINS. I am behaving myself perfectly.
PICKERING. He is doing his best, Mrs. Higgins.
A pause. Higgins throws back his head; stretches out his legs; and begins to whistle.
MRS. HIGGINS. Henry, dearest, you don't look at all nice in that attitude.
HIGGINS [pulling himself together] I was not trying to look nice, mother.
MRS. HIGGINS. It doesn't matter, dear. I only wanted to make you speak.
MRS. HIGGINS. Because you can't speak and whistle at the same time.
Higgins groans. Another very trying pause.
HIGGINS [springing up, out of patience] Where the devil is that girl? Are we to wait here all day?
Eliza enters, sunny, self-possessed, and giving a staggeringly convincing exhibition of ease of manner. She carries a little work-basket, and is very much at home. Pickering is too much taken aback to rise.
LIZA. How do you do, Professor Higgins? Are you quite well?
HIGGINS [choking] Am I — [He can say no more].
LIZA. But of course you are: you are never ill. So glad to see you again, Colonel Pickering. [He rises hastily; and they shake hands]. Quite chilly this morning, isn't it? [She sits down on his left. He sits beside her].
HIGGINS. Don't you dare try this game on me. I taught it to you; and it doesn't take me in. Get up and come home; and don't be a fool.
Eliza takes a piece of needlework from her basket, and begins to stitch at it, without taking the least notice of this outburst.
MRS. HIGGINS. Very nicely put, indeed, Henry. No woman could resist such an invitation.
HIGGINS. You let her alone, mother. Let her speak for herself. You will jolly soon see whether she has an idea that I haven't put into her head or a word that I haven't put into her mouth. I tell you I have created this thing out of the squashed cabbage leaves of Covent Garden; and now she pretends to play the fine lady with me.
MRS. HIGGINS [placidly] Yes, dear; but you'll sit down, won't you?
Higgins sits down again, savagely.
LIZA [to Pickering, taking no apparent notice of Higgins, and working away deftly] Will you drop me altogether now that the experiment is over, Colonel Pickering?
PICKERING. Oh don't. You mustn't think of it as an experiment. It shocks me, somehow.
LIZA. Oh, I'm only a squashed cabbage leaf.
PICKERING [impulsively] No.
LIZA [continuing quietly] — but I owe so much to you that I should be very unhappy if you forgot me.
PICKERING. It's very kind of you to say so, Miss Doolittle.
LIZA. It's not because you paid for my dresses. I know you are generous to everybody with money. But it was from you that I learnt really nice manners; and that is what makes one a lady, isn't it? You see it was so very difficult for me with the example of Professor Higgins always before me. I was brought up to be just like him, unable to control myself, and using bad language on the slightest provocation. And I should never have known that ladies and gentlemen didn't behave like that if you hadn't been there.
PICKERING. Oh, that's only his way, you know. He doesn't mean it.