Heartbreak House/Act III, § ii
MANGAN. There you go again. Ever since I came into this silly house I have been made to look like a fool, though I'm as good a man in this house as in the city.
ELLIE [musically]. Yes: this silly house, this strangely happy house, this agonizing house, this house without foundations. I shall call it Heartbreak House.
MRS HUSHABYE. Stop, Ellie; or I shall howl like an animal.
MANGAN [breaks into a low snivelling]!!!
MRS HUSAHBYE. There! you have set Alfred off.
ELLIE. I like him best when he is howling.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Silence! [Mangan subsides into silence]. I say, let the heart break in silence.
HECTOR. Do you accept that name for your house?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. It is not my house: it is only my kennel.
HECTOR. We have been too long here. We do not live in this house: we haunt it.
LADY UTTERWORD [heart torn]. It is dreadful to think how you have been here all these years while I have gone round the world. I escaped young; but it has drawn me back. It wants to break my heart too. But it shan't. I have left you and it behind. It was silly of me to come back. I felt sentimental about papa and Hesione and the old place. I felt them calling to me.
MAZZINI. But what a very natural and kindly and charming human feeling, Lady Utterword!
LADY UTTERWORD. So I thought, Mr Dunn. But I know now that it was only the last of my influenza. I found that I was not remembered and not wanted.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. You left because you did not want us. Was there no heartbreak in that for your father? You tore yourself up by the roots; and the ground healed up and brought forth fresh plants and forgot you. What right had you to come back and probe old wounds?
MRS HUSHABYE. You were a complete stranger to me at first, Addy; but now I feel as if you had never been away.
LADY UTTERWORD. Thank you, Hesione; but the influenza is quite cured. The place may be Heartbreak House to you, Miss Dunn, and to this gentleman from the city who seems to have so little self-control; but to me it is only a very ill-regulated and rather untidy villa without any stables.
HECTOR. Inhabited by—?
ELLIE. A crazy old sea captain and a young singer who adores him.
MRS HUSHABYE. A sluttish female, trying to stave off a double chin and an elderly spread, vainly wooing a born soldier of freedom.
MAZZINI. Oh, really, Mrs Hushabye—
MANGAN. A member of His Majesty's Government that everybody sets down as a nincompoop: don't forget him, Lady Utterword.
LADY UTTERWORD. And a very fascinating gentleman whose chief occupation is to be married to my sister.
HECTOR. All heartbroken imbeciles.
MAZZINI. Oh no. Surely, if I may say so, rather a favorable specimen of what is best in our English culture. You are very charming people, most advanced, unprejudiced, frank, humane, unconventional, democratic, free-thinking, and everything that is delightful to thoughtful people.
MRS HUSHABYE. You do us proud, Mazzini.
MAZZINI. I am not flattering, really. Where else could I feel perfectly at ease in my pyjamas? I sometimes dream that I am in very distinguished society, and suddenly I have nothing on but my pyjamas! Sometimes I haven't even pyjamas. And I always feel overwhelmed with confusion. But here, I don't mind in the least: it seems quite natural.
LADY UTTERWORD. An infallible sign that you are now not in really distinguished society, Mr Dunn. If you were in my house, you would feel embarrassed.
MAZZINI. I shall take particular care to keep out of your house, Lady Utterword.
LADY UTTERWORD. You will be quite wrong, Mr Dunn. I should make you very comfortable; and you would not have the trouble and anxiety of wondering whether you should wear your purple and gold or your green and crimson dressing-gown at dinner. You complicate life instead of simplifying it by doing these ridiculous things.
ELLIE. Your house is not Heartbreak House: is it, Lady Utterword?
HECTOR. Yet she breaks hearts, easy as her house is. That poor devil upstairs with his flute howls when she twists his heart, just as Mangan howls when my wife twists his.
LADY UTTERWORD. That is because Randall has nothing to do but have his heart broken. It is a change from having his head shampooed. Catch anyone breaking Hastings' heart!
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The numskull wins, after all.
LADY UTTERWORD. I shall go back to my numskull with the greatest satisfaction when I am tired of you all, clever as you are.
MANGAN [huffily]. I never set up to be clever.
LADY UTTERWORD. I forgot you, Mr Mangan.
MANGAN. Well, I don't see that quite, either.
LADY UTTERWORD. You may not be clever, Mr Mangan; but you are successful.
MANGAN. But I don't want to be regarded merely as a successful man. I have an imagination like anyone else. I have a presentiment
MRS HUSHABYE. Oh, you are impossible, Alfred. Here I am devoting myself to you; and you think of nothing but your ridiculous presentiment. You bore me. Come and talk poetry to me under the stars. [She drags him away into the darkness].
MANGAN [tearfully, as he disappears]. Yes: it's all very well to make fun of me; but if you only knew—
HECTOR [impatiently]. How is all this going to end?
MAZZINI. It won't end, Mr Hushabye. Life doesn't end: it goes on.
ELLIE. Oh, it can't go on forever. I'm always expecting something. I don't know what it is; but life must come to a point sometime.
LADY UTTERWORD. The point for a young woman of your age is a baby.
HECTOR. Yes, but, damn it, I have the same feeling; and I can't have a baby.
LADY UTTERWORD. By deputy, Hector.
HECTOR. But I have children. All that is over and done with for me: and yet I too feel that this can't last. We sit here talking, and leave everything to Mangan and to chance and to the devil. Think of the powers of destruction that Mangan and his mutual admiration gang wield! It's madness: it's like giving a torpedo to a badly brought up child to play at earthquakes with.
MAZZINI. I know. I used often to think about that when I was young.
HECTOR. Think! What's the good of thinking about it? Why didn't you do something?
MAZZINI. But I did. I joined societies and made speeches and wrote pamphlets. That was all I could do. But, you know, though the people in the societies thought they knew more than Mangan, most of them wouldn't have joined if they had known as much. You see they had never had any money to handle or any men to manage. Every year I expected a revolution, or some frightful smash-up: it seemed impossible that we could blunder and muddle on any longer. But nothing happened, except, of course, the usual poverty and crime and drink that we are used to. Nothing ever does happen. It's amazing how well we get along, all things considered.
LADY UTTERWORD. Perhaps somebody cleverer than you and Mr Mangan was at work all the time.
MAZZINI. Perhaps so. Though I was brought up not to believe in anything, I often feel that there is a great deal to be said for the theory of an over-ruling Providence, after all.
LADY UTTERWORD. Providence! I meant Hastings.
MAZZINI. Oh, I beg your pardon, Lady Utterword.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Every drunken skipper trusts to Providence. But one of the ways of Providence with drunken skippers is to run them on the rocks.
MAZZINI. Very true, no doubt, at sea. But in politics, I assure you, they only run into jellyfish. Nothing happens.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. At sea nothing happens to the sea. Nothing happens to the sky. The sun comes up from the east and goes down to the west. The moon grows from a sickle to an arc lamp, and comes later and later until she is lost in the light as other things are lost in the darkness. After the typhoon, the flying-fish glitter in the sunshine like birds. It's amazing how they get along, all things considered. Nothing happens, except something not worth mentioning.
ELLIE. What is that, O Captain, O my captain?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [savagely]. Nothing but the smash of the drunken skipper's ship on the rocks, the splintering of her rotten timbers, the tearing of her rusty plates, the drowning of the crew like rats in a trap.
ELLIE. Moral: don't take rum.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER [vehemently]. That is a lie, child. Let a man drink ten barrels of rum a day, he is not a drunken skipper until he is a drifting skipper. Whilst he can lay his course and stand on his bridge and steer it, he is no drunkard. It is the man who lies drinking in his bunk and trusts to Providence that I call the drunken skipper, though he drank nothing but the waters of the River Jordan.
ELLIE. Splendid! And you haven't had a drop for an hour. You see you don't need it: your own spirit is not dead.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Echoes: nothing but echoes. The last shot was fired years ago.
HECTOR. And this ship that we are all in? This soul's prison we call England?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The captain is in his bunk, drinking bottled ditch-water; and the crew is gambling in the forecastle. She will strike and sink and split. Do you think the laws of God will be suspended in favor of England because you were born in it?
HECTOR. Well, I don't mean to be drowned like a rat in a trap. I still have the will to live. What am I to do?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Do? Nothing simpler. Learn your business as an Englishman.
HECTOR. And what may my business as an Englishman be, pray?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Navigation. Learn it and live; or leave it and be damned.
ELLIE. Quiet, quiet: you'll tire yourself.
MAZZINI. I thought all that once, Captain; but I assure you nothing will happen.
- A dull distant explosion is heard.
HECTOR [starting up]. What was that?
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Something happening [he blows his whistle] Breakers ahead!
- The light goes out.
HECTOR [furiously]. Who put that light out? Who dared put that ight out?
NURSE GUINNESS [running in from the house to the middle of the esplanade]. I did, sir. The police have telephoned to say we'll be summoned if we don't put that light out: it can be seen for miles.
HECTOR. It shall be seen for a hundred miles [he dashes into the house].
NURSE GUINNESS. The Rectory is nothing but a heap of bricks, they say. Unless we can give the Rector a bed he has nowhere to lay his head this night.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The Church is on the rocks, breaking up. I told him it would unless it headed for God's open sea.
NURSE GUINNESS. And you are all to go down to the cellars.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Go there yourself, you and all the crew. Batten down the hatches.
NURSE GUINNESS. And hide beside the coward I married! I'll go on the roof first. [The lamp lights up again]. There! Mr Hushabye's turned it on again.
THE BURGLAR [hurrying in and appealing to Nurse Guinness]. Here: where's the way to that gravel pit? The boot-boy says there's a cave in the gravel pit. Them cellars is no use. Where's the gravel pit, Captain?
NURSE GUINNESS. Go straight on past the flagstaff until you fall into it and break your dirty neck. [She pushes him contemptuously towards the flagstaff, and herself goes to the foot of the hammock and waits there, as it were by Ariadne's cradle].
- Another and louder explosion is heard. The burglar stops and stands trembling.
ELLIE [rising]. That was nearer.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The next one will get us. [He rises]. Stand by, all hands, for judgment.
THE BURGLAR. Oh my Lordy God! [He rushes away frantically past the flagstaff into the gloom].
MRS HUSHABYE [emerging panting from the darkness]. Who was that running away? [She comes to Ellie]. Did you hear the explosions? And the sound in the sky: it's splendid: it's like an orchestra: it's like Beethoven.
ELLIE. By thunder, Hesione: it is Beethoven.
- She and Hesione throw themselves into one another's arms in wild excitement. The light increases.
MAZZINI [anxiously]. The light is getting brighter.
NURSE GUINNESS [looking up at the house]. It's Mr Hushabye turning on all the lights in the house and tearing down the curtains.
RANDALL [rushing in in his pyjamas, distractedly waving a flute]. Ariadne, my soul, my precious, go down to the cellars: I beg and implore you, go down to the cellars!
LADY UTTERWORD [quite composed in her hammock]. The governor's wife in the cellars with the servants! Really, Randall!
RANDALL. But what shall I do if you are killed?
LADY UTTERWORD. You will probably be killed, too, Randall. Now play your flute to show that you are not afraid; and be good. Play us "Keep the home fires burning."
NURSE GUINNESS [grimly]. THEY'LL keep the home fires burning for us: them up there.
RANDALL [having tried to play]. My lips are trembling. I can't get a sound.
MAZZINI. I hope poor Mangan is safe.
MRS HUSHABYE. He is hiding in the cave in the gravel pit.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. My dynamite drew him there. It is the hand of God.
HECTOR [returning from the house and striding across to his former place]. There is not half light enough. We should be blazing to the skies.
ELLIE [tense with excitement]. Set fire to the house, Marcus.
MRS HUSHABYE. My house! No.
HECTOR. I thought of that; but it would not be ready in time.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. The judgment has come. Courage will not save you; but it will show that your souls are still live.
MRS HUSHABYE. Sh-sh! Listen: do you hear it now? It's magnificent.
- They all turn away from the house and look up, listening.
HECTOR [gravely]. Miss Dunn, you can do no good here. We of this house are only moths flying into the candle. You had better go down to the cellar.
ELLIE [scornfully]. I don't think.
MAZZINI. Ellie, dear, there is no disgrace in going to the cellar. An officer would order his soldiers to take cover. Mr Hushabye is behaving like an amateur. Mangan and the burglar are acting very sensibly; and it is they who will survive.
ELLIE. Let them. I shall behave like an amateur. But why should you run any risk?
MAZZINI. Think of the risk those poor fellows up there are running!
NURSE GUINNESS. Think of them, indeed, the murdering blackguards! What next?
- A terrific explosion shakes the earth. They reel back into their seats, or clutch the nearest support. They hear the falling of the shattered glass from the windows.
MAZZINI. Is anyone hurt?
HECTOR. Where did it fall?
NURSE GUINNESS [in hideous triumph]. Right in the gravel pit: I seen it. Serve un right! I seen it [she runs away towards the gravel pit, laughing harshly].
HECTOR. One husband gone.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Thirty pounds of good dynamite wasted.
MAZZINI. Oh, poor Mangan!
HECTOR. Are you immortal that you need pity him? Our turn next.
- They wait in silence and intense expectation. Hesione and Ellie hold each other's hand tight.
- A distant explosion is heard.
MRS HUSHABYE [relaxing her grip]. Oh! they have passed us.
LADY UTTERWORD. The danger is over, Randall. Go to bed.
CAPTAIN SHOTOVER. Turn in, all hands. The ship is safe. [He sits down and goes asleep].
ELLIE [disappointedly]. Safe!
HECTOR [disgustedly]. Yes, safe. And how damnably dull the world has become again suddenly! [he sits down].
MAZZINI [sitting down]. I was quite wrong, after all. It is we who have survived; and Mangan and the burglar—
HECTOR. —the two burglars—
LADY UTTERWORD. —the two practical men of business—
MAZZINI. —both gone. And the poor clergyman will have to get a new house.
MRS HUSHABYE. But what a glorious experience! I hope they'll come again tomorrow night.
ELLIE [radiant at the prospect]. Oh, I hope so.
- Randall at last succeeds in keeping the home fires burning on his flute.