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Augustus Does His Bit

by George Bernard Shaw







I wish to express my gratitude for certain good offices which
Augustus secured for me in January1917。 I had been invited to
visit the theatre of war in Flanders by the Commander´in´Chief
an invitation which was察under the circumstances察a summons to
duty。 Thus I had occasion to spend some days in procuring
the necessary passport and other official facilities for
my journey。 It happened just then that the Stage Society gave a
performance of this little play。 It opened the heart of every
official to me。 I have always been treated with distinguished
consideration in my contracts with bureaucracy during the war
but on this occasion I found myself persona grata in the highest
degree。 There was only one word when the formalities were
disposed of察and that was ;We are up against Augustus all day。;
The showing´up of Augustus scandalized one or two innocent and
patriotic critics who regarded the prowess of the British army as
inextricably bound up with Highcastle prestige。 But our
Government departments knew better此their problem was how to win
the war with Augustus on their backs察well´meaning察brave
patriotic察but obstructively fussy察self´important察imbecile察and
disastrous。

Save for the satisfaction of being able to laugh at Augustus in
the theatre察nothing察as far as I know察came of my dramatic
reduction of him to absurdity。 Generals察admirals察Prime
Ministers and Controllers察not to mention Emperors察Kaisers and
Tsars察were scrapped remorselessly at home and abroad察for their
sins or services察as the case might be。 But Augustus stood like
the Eddystone in a storm察and stands so to this day。 He gave us
his word that he was indispensable and we took it。

Augustus Does His Bit was performed for the first time at
the Court Theatre in London by the Stage Society on the
21st January察1917察with Lalla Vandervelde as The Lady察F。
B。J。 Sharp as Lord Augustus Highcastle察and Charles Rock as
Horatio Floyd Beamish。






AUGUSTUS DOES HIS BIT


The Mayor's parlor in the Town Hall of Little Pifflington。 Lord
Augustus Highcastle察a distinguished member of the governing
class察in the uniform of a colonel察and very well preserved at
forty´five察is comfortably seated at a writing´table with his
heels on it察reading The Morning Post。 The door faces him察a
little to his left察at the other side of the room。 The window is
behind him。 In the fireplace察a gas stove。 On the table a bell
button and a telephone。 Portraits of past Mayors察in robes and
gold chains察adorn the walls。 An elderly clerk with a short white
beard and whiskers察and a very red nose察shuffles in。

AUGUSTUS hastily putting aside his paper and replacing his feet
on the floorА Hullo Who are you

THE CLERK。 The staff a slight impediment in his speech adds to
the impression of incompetence produced by his age and
appearanceА

AUGUSTUS。 You the staff What do you mean察man

THE CLERK。 What I say。 There ain't anybody else。

AUGUSTUS。 Tush Where are the others

THE CLERK。 At the front。

AUGUSTUS。 Quite right。 Most proper。 Why aren't you at the front

THE CLERK。 Over age。 Fifty´seven。

AUGUSTUS。 But you can still do your bit。 Many an older man is in
the G。R。's察or volunteering for home defence。

THE CLERK。 I have volunteered。

AUGUSTUS。 Then why are you not in uniform

THE CLERK。 They said they wouldn't have me if I was given away
with a pound of tea。 Told me to go home and not be an old silly。
A sense of unbearable wrong察till now only smouldering in him
bursts into flame。АYoung Bill Knight察that I took with me察got
two and sevenpence。 I got nothing。 Is it justice拭This country is
going to the dogs察if you ask me。

AUGUSTUS rising indignantlyА I do not ask you察sir察and I will
not allow you to say such things in my presence。 Our statesmen
are the greatest known to history。 Our generals are invincible。
Our army is the admiration of the world。 Furiously。АHow dare
you tell me that the country is going to the dogs

THE CLERK。 Why did they give young Bill Knight two and
sevenpence察and not give me even my tram fare拭Do you call that
being great statesmen拭As good as robbing me察I call it。

AUGUSTUS。 That's enough。 Leave the room。 He sits down and takes
up his pen察settling himself to work。 The clerk shuffles to the
door。 Augustus adds察with cold politenessАSend me the Secretary。

THE CLERK。 I'M the Secretary。 I can't leave the room and send
myself to you at the same time察can I

AUGUSTUS察Don't be insolent。 Where is the gentleman I have been
corresponding with此Mr Horatio Floyd Beamish

THE CLERK returning and bowingА Here。 Me。

AUGUSTUS。 You Ridiculous。 What right have you to call yourself
by a pretentious name of that sort

THE CLERK。 You may drop the Horatio Floyd。 Beamish is good enough
for me。

AUGUSTUS。 Is there nobody else to take my instructions

THE CLERK。 It's me or nobody。 And for two pins I'd chuck it。
Don't you drive me too far。 Old uns like me is up in the world
now。

AUGUSTUS。 If we were not at war察I should discharge you on the
spot for disrespectful behavior。 But England is in danger察and I
cannot think of my personal dignity at such a moment。 Shouting
at him。АDon't you think of yours察either察worm that you are察or
I'll have you arrested under the Defence of the Realm Act察double
quick。

THE CLERK。 What do I care about the realm拭They done me out of
two and seven

AUGUSTUS。 Oh察damn your two and seven Did you receive my
letters

THE CLERK。 Yes。

AUGUSTUS。 I addressed a meeting here last nightwent straight to
the platform from the train。 I wrote to you that I should expect
you to be present and report yourself。 Why did you not do so

THE CLERK。 The police wouldn't let me on the platform。

AUGUSTUS。 Did you tell them who you were

THE CLERK。 They knew who I was。 That's why they wouldn't let me
up。

AUGUSTUS。 This is too silly for anything。 This town wants waking
up。 I made the best recruiting speech I ever made in my life察and
not a man joined。

THE CLERK。 What did you expect拭You told them our gallant fellows
is falling at the rate of a thousand a day in the big push。 Dying
for Little Pifflington察you says。 Come and take their places察you
says。 That ain't the way to recruit。

AUGUSTUS。 But I expressly told them their widows would have
pensions。

THE CLERK。 I heard you。 Would have been all right if it had been
the widows you wanted to get round。

AUGUSTUS rising angrilyА This town is inhabited by dastards。 I
say it with a full sense of responsibility察DASTARDS They call
themselves Englishmen察and they are afraid to fight。

THE CLERK。 Afraid to fight You should see them on a Saturday
night。

AUGUSTUS。 Yes察they fight one another察but they won't fight the
Germans。

THE CLERK。 They got grudges again one another此how can they have
grudges again the Huns that they never saw拭They've no
imagination此that's what it is。 Bring the Huns here察and they'll
quarrel with them fast enough。

AUGUSTUS returning to his seat with a grunt of disgustА Mf
They'll have them here if they're not careful。 Seated。АHave you
carried out my orders about the war saving

THE CLERK。 Yes。

AUGUSTUS。 The allowance of petrol has been reduced by three
quarters

THE CLERK。 It has。

AUGUSTUS。 And you have told the motor´car people to come here and
arrange to start munition work now that their motor business is
stopped

THE CLERK。 It ain't stopped。 They're busier than ever。

AUGUSTUS。 Busy at what

THE CLERK。 Making small cars。

AUGUSTUS。 NEW cars

THE CLERK。 The old cars only do twelve miles to the gallon。
Everybody has to have a car that will do thirty´five now。

AUGUSTUS。 Can't they take the train

THE CLERK。 There ain't no trains now。 They've tore up the rails
and sent them to the front。

AUGUSTUS。 Psha

THE CLERK。 Well察we have to get about somehow。

AUGUSTUS。 This is perfectly monstrous。 Not in the least what I
intended。

THE CLERK。 Hell

AUGUSTUS。 Sir

THE CLERK explainingА Hell察they says察is paved with good
intentions。

AUGUSTUS springing to his feetА Do you mean to insinuate that
hell is paved with MY good intentionswith the good intentions
of His Majesty's Government

THE CLERK。 I don't mean to insinuate anything until the Defence
of the Realm Act is repealed。 It ain't safe。

AUGUSTUS。 They told me that this town had set an example to all
England in the matter of economy。 I came down here to promise the
Mayor a knighthood for his exertions。

THE CLERK。 The Mayor Where do I come in

AUGUSTUS。 You don't come in。 You go out。 This is a fool of a
place。 I'm greatly disappointed。 Deeply disappointed。 Flinging
himself back into his chair。АDisgusted。

THE CLERK。 What more can we do拭We've shut up everything。 The
picture gallery is shut。 The museum is shut。 The theatres and
picture shows is shut此I haven't seen a movie picture for six
months。

AUGUSTUS。 Man察man此do you want to see picture shows when the Hun
is at the gate

THE CLERK mournfullyА I don't now察though it drove me
melancholy mad at first。 I was on the point of taking a pennorth
of rat p

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