R. U. R. (Rossum's Universal Robots)/Act 1

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Theatre Guild, R U R, Act 1.jpg
Setting by Lee Simonson Photograph by Francis Bruguiere
ACT I. FROM THE THEATRE GUILD PRODUCTION
 

R. U. R.
(ROSSUM'S UNIVERSAL ROBOTS)

 

ACT I

 

[Central office of the factory of Rossum's Universal Robots. Entrance on the right. The windows on the front wall look out on the rows of factory chimneys. On the left more managing departments. Domin is sitting in the revolving chair at a large American writing table. On the left-hand wall large maps showing steamship and railroad routes. On the right-hand wall are fastened printed placards. ("Robot's Cheapest Labor," etc.) In contrast to these wall fittings, the floor is covered with a splendid Turkish carpet, a sofa, leather armchair, and filing cabinets. At a desk near the windows Sulla is typing letters.]

 

Domin

[Dictating]: Ready?

 

Sulla

Yes.

 

Domin

To E. M. McVicker and Co., Southampton, England. "We undertake no guarantee for goods damaged in transit. As soon as the consignment was taken on board we drew your captain's attention to the fact that the vessel was unsuitable for the transport of Robots, and we are therefore not responsible for spoiled freight. We beg to remain for Rossum's Universal Robots. Yours truly." [Sulla, who has sat motionless during dictation, now types rapidly for a few seconds, then stops, withdrawing the completed letter.] Ready?

 

Sulla

Yes.

 

Domin

Another letter. To the E. B. Huyson Agency, New York, U. S. A. "We beg to acknowledge receipt of order for five thousand Robots. As you are sending your own vessel, please dispatch as cargo equal quantities of soft and hard coal for R. U. R., the same to be credited as part payment of the amount due to us. We beg to remain, for Rossum's Universal Robots. Yours truly." [Sulla repeats the rapid typing.] Ready?

 

Sulla

Yes.

 

Domin

Another letter. "Friedrichswerks, Hamburg, Germany. We beg to acknowledge receipt of order for fifteen thousand Robots." [Telephone rings.] Hello! This is the Central Office. Yes. Certainly. Well, send them a wire. Good. [Hangs up telephone.] Where did I leave off?

 

Sulla

"We beg to acknowledge receipt of order for fifteen thousand Robots."

 

Domin

Fifteen thousand R. Fifteen thousand R.
[Enter Marius.]

 

Domin

Well, what is it?

 

Marius

There's a lady, sir, asking to see you.

 

Domin

A lady? Who is she?

 

Marius

I don't know, sir. She brings this card of introduction.

 

Domin

[Reads the card]: Ah, from President Glory. Ask her to come in.

 

Marius

Please step this way.
[Enter Helena Glory.]
[Exit Marius.]

 

Helena

How do you do?

 

Domin

How do you do. [Standing up.] What can I do for you?

 

Helena

You are Mr. Domin, the General Manager.

 

Domin

I am.

 

Helena

I have come——

 

Domin

With President Glory's card. That is quite sufficient.

 

Helena

President Glory is my father. I am Helena Glory.

 

Domin

Miss Glory, this is such a great honor for us to be allowed to welcome our great President's daughter, that——

 

Helena

That you can't show me the door?

 

Domin

Please sit down. Sulla, you may go.
[Exit Sulla.]
[Sitting down.]

How can I be of service to you, Miss Glory?

 

Helena

I have come——

 

Domin

To have a look at our famous works where people are manufactured. Like all visitors. Well, there is no objection.

 

Helena

I thought it was forbidden to——

 

Domin

To enter the factory. Yes, of course. Everybody comes here with someone's visiting card, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

And you show them——

 

Domin

Only certain things. The manufacture of artificial people is a secret process.

 

Helena

If you only knew how enormously that——

 

Domin

Interests me. Europe's talking about nothing else.

 

Helena

Why don't you let me finish speaking?

 

Domin

I beg your pardon. Did you want to say something different?

 

Helena

I only wanted to ask——

 

Domin

Whether I could make a special exception in your case and show you our factory. Why, certainly Miss Glory.

 

Helena

How do you know I wanted to say that?

 

Domin

They all do. But we shall consider it a special honor to show you more than we do the rest.

 

Helena

Thank you.

 

Domin

But you must agree not to divulge the least . . .

 

Helena

[Standing up and giving him her hand]: My word of honor.

 

Domin

Thank you. Won't you raise your veil?

 

Helena

Of course. You want to see whether I'm a spy or not. I beg your pardon.

 

Domin

What is it?

 

Helena

Would you mind releasing my hand?

 

Domin

[Releasing it]: I beg your pardon.

 

Helena

[Raising her veil]: How cautious you have to be here, don't you?

 

Domin

[Observing her with deep interest]: Hm, of course—we—that is——

 

Helena

But what is it? What's the matter?

 

Domin

I'm remarkably pleased. Did you have a pleasant crossing?

 

Helena

Yes.

 

Domin

No difficulty?

 

Helena

Why?

 

Domin

What I mean to say is—you're so young.

 

Helena

May we go straight into the factory?

 

Domin

Yes. Twenty-two, I think.

 

Helena

Twenty-two what?

 

Domin

Years.

 

Helena

Twenty-one. Why do you want to know?

 

Domin

Because—as— [with enthusiasm] you will make a long stay, won't you?

 

Helena

That depends on how much of the factory you show me.

 

Domin

Oh, hang the factory. Oh, no, no, you shall see everything, Miss Glory. Indeed you shall. Won't you sit down?

 

Helena

[Crossing to couch and sitting]: Thank you.

 

Domin

But first would you like to hear the story of the invention?

 

Helena

Yes, indeed.

 

Domin

[Observes Helena with rapture and reels off rapidly]:

It was in the year 1920 that old Rossum, the great physiologist, who was then quite a young scientist, took himself to this distant island for the purpose of studying the ocean fauna, full stop. On this occasion he attempted by chemical synthesis to imitate the living matter known as protoplasm until he suddenly discovered a substance which behaved exactly like living matter although its chemical composition was different. That was in the year of 1932, exactly four hundred years after the discovery of America. Whew!

 

Helena

Do you know that by heart?

 

Domin

Yes. You see physiology is not in my line. Shall I go on?

 

Helena

Yes, please.

 

Domin

And then, Miss Glory, old Rossum wrote the following among his chemical specimens: "Nature has found only one method of organizing living matter. There is, however, another method, more simple, flexible and rapid, which has not yet occurred to nature at all. This second process by which life can be developed was discovered by me to-day." Now imagine him, Miss Glory, writing those wonderful words over some colloidal mess that a dog wouldn't look at. Imagine him sitting over a test tube, and thinking how the whole tree of life would grow from it, how all animals would proceed from it, beginning with some sort of beetle and ending with a man. A man of different substance from us. Miss Glory, that was a tremendous moment.

 

Helena

Well?

 

Domin

Now, the thing was how to get the life out of the test tubes, and hasten development and form organs, bones and nerves, and so on, and find such substances as catalytics, enzymes, hormones, and so forth, in short—you understand?

 

Helena

Not much, I'm afraid.

 

Domin

Never mind. You see with the help of his tinctures he could make whatever he wanted. He could have produced a Medusa with the brain of a Socrates or a worm fifty yards long. But being without a grain of humor, he took it into his head to make a vertebrate or perhaps a man. This artificial living matter of his had a raging thirst for life. It didn't mind being sewn or mixed together. That couldn't be done with natural albumen. And that's how he set about it.

 

Helena

About what?

 

Domin

About imitating nature. First of all he tried making an artificial dog. That took him several years and resulted in a sort of stunted calf which died in a few days. I'll show it to you in the museum. And then old Rossum started on the manufacture of man.

 

Helena

And I must divulge this to nobody?

 

Domin

To nobody in the world.

 

Helena

What a pity that it's to be found in all the school books of both Europe and America.

 

Domin

Yes. But do you know what isn't in the school books? That old Rossum was mad. Seriously, Miss Glory, you must keep this to yourself. The old crank wanted to actually make people.

 

Helena

But you do make people.

 

Domin

Approximately, Miss Glory. But old Rossum meant it literally. He wanted to become a sort of scientific substitute for God. He was a fearful materialist, and that's why he did it all. His sole purpose was nothing more nor less than to prove that God was no longer necessary. Do you know anything about anatomy?

 

Helena

Very little.

 

Domin

Neither do I. Well, he then decided to manufacture everything as in the human body. I'll show you in the museum the bungling attempt it took him ten years to produce. It was to have been a man, but it lived for three days only. Then up came young Rossum, an engineer. He was a wonderful fellow, Miss Glory. When he saw what a mess of it the old man was making, he said: "It's absurd to spend ten years making a man. If you can't make him quicker than nature, you might as well shut up shop." Then he set about learning anatomy himself.

 

Helena

There's nothing about that in the school books.

 

Domin

No. The school books are full of paid advertisements, and rubbish at that. What the school books say about the united efforts of the two great Rossums is all a fairy tale. They used to have dreadful rows. The old atheist hadn't the slightest conception of industrial matters, and the end of it was that young Rossum shut him up in some laboratory or other and let him fritter the time away with his monstrosities, while he himself started on the business from an engineer's point of view. Old Rossum cursed him and before he died he managed to botch up two physiological horrors. Then one day they found him dead in the laboratory. And that's his whole story.

 

Helena

And what about the young man?

 

Domin

Well, any one who has looked into human anatomy will have seen at once that man is too complicated, and that a good engineer could make him more simply. So young Rossum began to overhaul anatomy and tried to see what could be left out or simplified. In short—but this isn't boring you, Miss Glory?

 

Helena

No indeed. You're—it's awfully interesting.

 

Domin

So young Rossum said to himself: "A man is something that feels happy, plays the piano, likes going for a walk, and in fact, wants to do a whole lot of things that are really unnecessary."

 

Helena

Oh.

 

Domin

That are unnecessary when he wants, let us say, to weave or count. Do you play the piano?

 

Helena

Yes.

 

Domin

That's good. But a working machine must not play the piano, must not feel happy, must not do a whole lot of other things. A gasoline motor must not have tassels or ornaments, Miss Glory. And to manufacture artificial workers is the same thing as to manufacture gasoline motors. The process must be of the simplest, and the product of the best from a practical point of view. What sort of worker do you think is the best from a practical point of view?

 

Helena

What?

 

Domin

What sort of worker do you think is the best from a practical point of view?

 

Helena

Perhaps the one who is most honest and hard working.

 

Domin

No; the one that is the cheapest. The one whose requirements are the smallest. Young Rossum invented a worker with the minimum amount of requirements. He had to simplify him. He rejected everything that did not contribute directly to the progress of work—everything that makes man more expensive. In fact, he rejected man and made the Robot. My dear Miss Glory, the Robots are not people. Mechanically they are more perfect than we are, they have an enormously developed intelligence, but they have no soul.

 

Helena

How do you know they've no soul?

 

Domin

Have you ever seen what a Robot looks like inside?

 

Helena

No.

 

Domin

Very neat, very simple. Really, a beautiful piece of work. Not much in it, but everything in flawless order. The product of an engineer is technically at a higher pitch of perfection than a product of nature.

 

Helena

But man is supposed to be the product of God.

 

Domin

All the worse. God hasn't the least notion of modern engineering. Would you believe that young Rossum then proceeded to play at being God?

 

Helena

How do you mean?

 

Domin

He began to manufacture Super-Robots. Regular giants they were. He tried to make them twelve feet tall. But you wouldn't believe what a failure they were.

 

Helena

A failure?

 

Domin

Yes. For no reason at all their limbs used to keep snapping off. Evidently our planet is too small for giants. Now we only make Robots of normal size and of very high class human finish.

 

Helena

I saw the first Robots at home. The town counsel bought them for—I mean engaged them for work.

 

Domin

Bought them, dear Miss Glory. Robots are bought and sold.

 

Helena

These were employed as street sweepers. I saw them sweeping. They were so strange and quiet.

 

Domin

Rossum's Universal Robot factory doesn't produce a uniform brand of Robots. We have Robots of finer and coarser grades. The best will live about twenty years. [He rings for Marius.]

 

Helena

Then they die?

 

Domin

Yes, they get used up.
[Enter Marius.]

 

Domin

Marius, bring in samples of the Manual Labor Robot.
[Exit Marius].

 

Domin

I'll show you specimens of the two extremes. This first grade is comparatively inexpensive and is made in vast quantities.
[Marius reënters with two Manual Labor Robots.]

 

Domin

There you are; as powerful as a small tractor. Guaranteed to have average intelligence. That will do, Marius.
[Marius exits with Robots.]

 

Helena

They make me feel so strange.

 

Domin

[Rings]: Did you see my new typist? [He rings for Sulla.]

 

Helena

I didn’t notice her.
[Enter Sulla.]

 

Domin

Sulla, let Miss Glory see you.

 

Helena

So pleased to meet you. You must find it terribly dull in this out-of-the-way spot, don't you?

 

Sulla

I don't know, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

Where do you come from?

 

Sulla

From the factory.

 

Helena

Oh, you were born there?

 

Sulla

I was made there.

 

Helena

What?

 

Domin

[Laughing]: Sulla is a Robot, best grade.

 

Helena

Oh, I beg your pardon.

 

Domin

Sulla isn't angry. See, Miss Glory, the kind of skin we make. [Feels the skin on Sulla's face.] Feel her face.

 

Helena

Oh, no, no.

 

Domin

You wouldn't know that she's made of different material from us, would you? Turn round, Sulla.

 

Helena

Oh, stop, stop.

 

Domin

Talk to Miss Glory, Sulla.

 

Sulla

Please sit down. [Helena sits.] Did you have a pleasant crossing?

 

Helena

Oh, yes, certainly.

 

Sulla

Don't go back on the Amelia, Miss Glory. The barometer is falling steadily. Wait for the Pennsylvania. That's a good, powerful vessel.

 

Domin

What's its speed?

 

Sulla

Twenty knots. Fifty thousand tons. One of the latest vessels, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

Thank you.

 

Sulla

A crew of fifteen hundred, Captain Harpy, eight boilers——

 

Domin

That'll do, Sulla. Now show us your knowledge of French.

 

Helena

You know French?

 

Sulla

I know four languages. I can write: Dear Sir, Monsieur, Geehrter Herr, Cteny pane.

 

Helena

[Jumping up]: Oh, that's absurd! Sulla isn't a Robot. Sulla is a girl like me. Sulla, this is outrageous! Why do you take part in such a hoax?

 

Sulla

I am a Robot.

 

Helena

No, no, you are not telling the truth. I know they've forced you to do it for an advertisement. Sulla, you are a girl like me, aren't you?

 

Domin

I'm sorry, Miss Glory. Sulla is a Robot.

 

Helena

It's a lie!

 

Domin

What? [Rings.] Excuse me, Miss Glory, then I must convince you.
[Enter Marius.]

 

Domin

Marius, take Sulla into the dissecting room, and tell them to open her up at once.

 

Helena

Where?

 

Domin

Into the dissecting room. When they've cut her open, you can go and have a look.

 

Helena

No, no!

 

Domin

Excuse me, you spoke of lies.

 

Helena

You wouldn't have her killed?

 

Domin

You can't kill machines.

 

Helena

Don't be afraid, Sulla, I won't let you go. Tell me, my dear, are they always so cruel to you? You mustn't put up with it, Sulla. You mustn't.

 

Sulla

I am a Robot.

 

Helena

That doesn't matter. Robots are just as good as we are. Sulla, you wouldn't let yourself be cut to pieces?

 

Sulla

Yes.

 

Helena

Oh, you're not afraid of death, then?

 

Sulla

I cannot tell, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

Do you know what would happen to you in there?

 

Sulla

Yes, I should cease to move.

 

Helena

How dreadful!

 

Domin

Marius, tell Miss Glory what you are.

 

Marius

Marius, the Robot.

 

Domin

Would you take Sulla into the dissecting room?

 

Marius

Yes.

 

Domin

Would you be sorry for her?

 

Marius

I cannot tell.

 

Domin

What would happen to her?

 

Marius

She would cease to move. They would put her into the stamping mill.

 

Domin

That is death, Marius. Aren't you afraid of death?

 

Marius

No.

 

Domin

You see, Miss Glory, the Robots have no interest in life. They have no enjoyments. They are less than so much grass.

 

Helena

Oh, stop. Send them away.

 

Domin

Marius, Sulla, you may go.
[Exeunt Sulla and Marius.]

 

Helena

How terrible! It's outrageous what you are doing.

 

Domin

Why outrageous?

Helena

I don't know, but it is. Why do you call her Sulla?

 

Domin

Isn't it a nice name?

 

Helena

It's a man's name. Sulla was a Roman general.

 

Domin

Oh, we thought that Marius and Sulla were lovers.

 

Helena

Marius and Sulla were generals and fought against each other in the year—I've forgotten now.

 

Domin

Come here to the window.

 

Helena

What?

 

Domin

Come here. What do you see?

 

Helena

Bricklayers.

 

Domin

Robots. All our work people are Robots. And down there, can you see anything?

 

Helena

Some sort of office.

 

Domin

A counting house. And in it——

 

Helena

A lot of officials.

 

Domin

Robots. All our officials are Robots. And when you see the factory——
[Factory whistle blows.]

 

Domin

Noon. We have to blow the whistle because the Robots don't know when to stop work. In two hours I will show you the kneading trough.

 

Helena

Kneading trough?

 

Domin

The pestle for beating up the paste. In each one we mix the ingredients for a thousand Robots at one operation. Then there are the vats for the preparation of liver, brains, and so on. Then you will see the bone factory. After that I'll show you the spinning mill.

 

Helena

Spinning mill?

 

Domin

Yes. For weaving nerves and veins. Miles and miles of digestive tubes pass through it at a time.

 

Helena

Mayn't we talk about something else?

 

Domin

Perhaps it would be better. There's only a handful of us among a hundred thousand Robots, and not one woman. We talk about nothing but the factory all day, every day. It's just as if we were under a curse, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

I'm sorry I said that you were lying.
[A knock at the door.]

 

Domin

Come in.
[From the right enter Mr. Fabry, Dr. Gall, Dr. Hallemeier, Mr. Alquist.]

 

Dr. Gall

I beg your pardon, I hope we don't intrude.

 

Domin

Come in. Miss Glory, here are Alquist, Fabry, Gall, Hallemeier. This is President Glory's daughter.

 

Helena

How do you do.

 

Fabry

We had no idea——

 

Dr. Gall

Highly honored, I'm sure——

 

Alquist

Welcome, Miss Glory.
[Busman rushes in from the right.]

 

Busman

Hello, what's up?

 

Domin

Come in, Busman. This is Busman, Miss Glory. This is President Glory's daughter.

 

Busman

By jove, that's fine! Miss Glory, may we send a cablegram to the papers about your arrival?

 

Helena

No, no, please don't.

 

Domin

Sit down piease, Miss Glory.

 

Busman

Allow me——
[Dragging up armchairs.]

 

Dr. Gall

Please——

 

Fabry

Excuse me——

 

Alquist

What sort of a crossing did you have?

 

Dr. Gall

Are you going to stay long?

 

Fabry

What do you think of the factory, Miss Glory?

 

Hallemeier

Did you come over on the Amelia?

 

Domin

Be quiet and let Miss Glory speak.

 

Helena

[To Domin]: What am I to speak to them about?

 

Domin

Anything you like.

Helena

Shall . . . may I speak quite frankly?

 

Domin

Why, of course.

 

Helena

[Wavering, then in desperate resolution]: Tell me, doesn't it ever distress you the way you are treated?

 

Fabry

By whom, may I ask?

 

Helena

Why, everybody.

 

Alquist

Treated?

 

Dr. Gall

What makes you think——?

 

Helena

Don't you feel that you might be living a better life?

 

Dr. Gall

Well, that depends on what you mean, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

I mean that it's perfectly outrageous. It's terrible. [Standing up.] The whole of Europe is talking about the way you're being treated. That's why I came here, to see for myself, and it's a thousand times worse than could have been imagined. How can you put up with it?

 

Alquist

Put up with what?

 

Helena

Good heavens, you are living creatures, just like us, like the whole of Europe, like the whole world. It's disgraceful that you must live like this.

 

Busman

Good gracious, Miss Glory.

 

Fabry

Well, she's not far wrong. We live here just like red Indians.

 

Helena

Worse than red Indians. May I, oh, may I call you brothers?

 

Busman

Why not?

 

Helena

Brothers, I have not come here as the President's daughter. I have come on behalf of the Humanity League. Brothers, the Humanity League now has over two hundred thousand members. Two hundred thousand people are on your side, and offer you their help.

 

Busman

Two hundred thousand people! Miss Glory, that's a tidy lot. Not bad.

 

Fabry

I'm always telling you there's nothing like good old Europe. You see, they've not forgotten us. They're offering us help.

 

Dr. Gall

What help? A theatre, for instance?

 

Hallemeier

An orchestra?

 

Helena

More than that.

 

Alquist

Just you?

 

Helena

Oh, never mind about me. I'll stay as long as it is necessary.

 

Busman

By jove, that's good.

 

Alquist

Domin, I'm going to get the best room ready for Miss Glory.

 

Domin

Just a minute. I'm afraid that Miss Glory is of the opinion that she has been talking to Robots.

 

Helena

Of course.

 

Domin

I'm sorry. These gentlemen are human beings just like us.

 

Helena

You're not Robots?

 

Busman

Not Robots.

 

Hallemeier

Robots indeed!

 

Dr. Gall

No, thanks.

 

Fabry

Upon my honor, Miss Glory, we aren't Robots.

 

Helena

[To Domin]: Then why did you tell me that all your officials are Robots?

 

Domin

Yes, the officials, but not the managers. Allow me, Miss Glory: this is Mr. Fabry, General Technical Manager of R. U. R.; Dr. Gall, Head of the Psychological and Experimental Department; Dr. Hallemeier, Head of the Institute for the Psychological Training of Robots; Consul Busman, General Business Manager; and Alquist, Head of the Building Department of R. U. R.

 

Alquist

Just a builder.

 

Helena

Excuse me, gentlemen, for—for——. Have I done something dreadful?

 

Alquist

Not at all, Miss Glory. Please sit down.

 

Helena

I'm a stupid girl. Send me back by the first ship.

 

Dr. Gall

Not for anything in the world, Miss Glory. Why should we send you back?

 

Helena

Because you know I've come to disturb your Robots for you.

 

Domin

My dear Miss Glory, we've had close upon a hundred saviours and prophets here. Every ship brings us some. Missionaries, anarchists, Salvation Army, all sorts. It's astonishing what a number of churches and idiots there are in the world.

 

Helena

And you let them speak to the Robots?

 

Domin

So far we've let them all, why not? The Robots remember everything, but that's all. They don't even laugh at what the people say. Really, it is quite incredible. If it would amuse you, Miss Glory, I'll take you over to the Robot warehouse. It holds about three hundred thousand of them.

 

Busman

Three hundred and forty-seven thousand.

 

Domin

Good! And you can say whatever you like to them. You can read the Bible, recite the multiplication table, whatever you please. You can even preach to them about human rights.

 

Helena

Oh, I think that if you were to show them a little love——

 

Fabry

Impossible, Miss Glory. Nothing is harder to like than a Robot.

 

Helena

What do you make them for, then?

 

Busman

Ha, ha, ha, that's good! What are Robots made for?

 

Fabry

For work, Miss Glory! One Robot can replace two and a half workmen. The human machine, Miss Glory, was terribly imperfect. It had to be removed sooner or later.

 

Busman

It was too expensive.

 

Fabry

It was not effective. It no longer answers the requirements of modern engineering. Nature has no idea of keeping pace with modern labor. For example: from a technical point of view, the whole of childhood is a sheer absurdity. So much time lost. And then again——

 

Helena

Oh, no! No!

 

Fabry

Pardon me. But kindly tell me what is the real aim of your League—the . . . the Humanity League.

 

Helena

Its real purpose is to—to protect the Robots—and—and ensure good treatment for them.

 

Fabry

Not a bad object, either. A machine has to be treated properly. Upon my soul, I approve of that. I don't like damaged articles. Please, Miss Glory, enroll us all as contributing, or regular, or foundation members of your League.

 

Helena

No, you don't understand me. What we really want is to—to liberate the Robots.

 

Hallemeier

How do you propose to do that?

 

Helena

They are to be—to be dealt with like human beings.

 

Hallemeier

Aha. I suppose they're to vote? To drink beer? to order us about?

 

Helena

Why shouldn't they drink beer?

 

Hallemeier

Perhaps they're even to receive wages?

 

Helena

Of course they are.

 

Hallemeier

Fancy that, now! And what would they do with their wages, pray?

 

Helena

They would buy—what they need . . . what pleases them.

 

Hallemeier

That would be very nice, Miss Glory, only there's nothing that does please the Robots. Good heavens, what are they to buy? You can feed them on pine apples, straw, whatever you like. It's all the same to them, they've no appetite at all. They've no interest in anything, Miss Glory. Why, hang it all, nobody's ever yet seen a Robot smile.

 

Helena

Why . . . why don't you make them happier?

 

Hallemeier

That wouldn't do, Miss Glory. They are only workmen.

 

Helena

Oh, but they’re so intelligent.

 

Hallemeier

Confoundedly so, but they're nothing else. They've no will of their own. No passion. No soul.

 

Helena

No love?

 

Hallemeier

Love? Rather not. Robots don't love. Not even themselves.

Helena

Nor defiance?

 

Hallemeier

Defiance? I don't know. Only rarely, from time to time.

 

Helena

What?

 

hallemeier

Nothing particular. Occasionally they seem to go off their heads. Something like epilepsy, you know. It's called Robot's cramp. They'll suddenly sling down everything they're holding, stand still, gnash their teeth—and then they have to go into the stamping-mill. It's evidently some breakdown in the mechanism.

 

Domin

A flaw in the works that has to be removed.

 

Helena

No, no, that's the soul.

 

Fabry

Do you think that the soul first shows itself by a gnashing of teeth?

 

Helena

Perhaps it's a sort of revolt. Perhaps it's just a sign that there's a struggle within. Oh, if you could infuse them with it!

 

Domin

That'll be remedied, Miss Glory. Dr. Gall is just making some experiments——

 

Dr. Gall

Not with regard to that, Domin. At present I am making pain-nerves.

 

Helena

Pain-nerves?

 

Dr. Gall

Yes, the Robots feel practically no bodily pain. You see, young Rossum provided them with too limited a nervous system. We must introduce suffering.

 

Helena

Why do you want to cause them pain?

 

Dr. Gall

For industrial reasons, Miss Glory. Sometimes a Robot does damage to himself because it doesn't hurt him. He puts his hand into the machine, breaks his finger, smashes his head, it's all the same to him. We must provide them with pain. That's an automatic protection against damage.

 

Helena

Will they be happier when they feel pain?

 

Dr. Gall

On the contrary; but they will be more perfect from a technical point of view.

 

Helena

Why don't you create a soul for them?

 

Dr. Gall

That's not in our power.

 

Fabry

That's not in our interest.

 

Busman

That would increase the cost of production. Hang it all, my dear young lady, we turn them out at such a cheap rate. A hundred and fifty dollars each fully dressed, and fifteen years ago they cost ten thousand. Five years ago we used to buy the clothes for them. To-day we have our own weaving mill, and now we even export cloth five times cheaper than other factories. What do you pay a yard for cloth, Miss Glory?

 

Helena

I don't know really, I've forgotten.

 

Busman

Good gracious, and you want to found a Humanity League? It only costs a third now, Miss Glory. All prices are to-day a third of what they were and they'll fall still lower, lower, lower, like that.

 

Helena

I don't understand.

 

Busman

Why, bless you, Miss Glory, it means that the cost of labor has fallen. A Robot, food and all, costs three quarters of a cent per hour. That's mighty important, you know. All factories will go pop like chestnuts if they don't at once buy Robots to lower the cost of production.

 

Helena

And get rid of their workmen?

Busman

Of course. But in the meantime, we've dumped five hundred thousand tropical Robots down on the Argentine pampas to grow corn. Would you mind telling me how much you pay a pound for bread?

 

Helena

I've no idea.

 

Busman

Well, I'll tell you. It now costs two cents in good old Europe. A pound of bread for two cents, and the Humanity League knows nothing about it. Miss Glory, you don't realize that even that's too expensive. Why, in five years' time I'll wager——

 

Helena

What?

 

Busman

That the cost of everything won't be a tenth of what it is now. Why, in five years we'll be up to our ears in corn and everything else.

 

Alquist

Yes, and all the workers throughout the world will be unemployed.

 

Domin

Yes, Alquist, they will. Yes, Miss Glory, they will. But in ten years Rossum's Universal Robots will produce so much corn, so much cloth, so much everything, that things will be practically without price. There will be no poverty. All work will be done by living machines. Everybody will be free from worry and liberated from the degradation of labor. Everybody will live only to perfect himself.

 

Helena

Will he?

 

Domin

Of course. It's bound to happen. But then the servitude of man to man and the enslavement of man to matter will cease. Of course, terrible things may happen at first, but that simply can't be avoided. Nobody will get bread at the price of life and hatred. The Robots will wash the feet of the beggar and prepare a bed for him in his house.

 

Alquist

Domin, Domin. What you say sounds too much like Paradise. There was something good in service and something great in humility. There was some kind of virtue in toil and weariness.

 

Domin

Perhaps. But we cannot reckon with what is lost when we start out to transform the world. Man shall be free and supreme; he shall have no other aim, no other labor, no other care than to perfect himself. He shall serve neither matter nor man. He will not be a machine and a device for production. He will be Lord of creation.

 

Busman

Amen.

 

Fabry

So be it.

 

Helena

You have bewildered me—I should like—I should like to believe this.

 

Dr. Gall

You are younger than we are, Miss Glory. You will live to see it.

 

Hallemeier

True. Don't you think Miss Glory might lunch with us?

 

Dr. Gall

Of course. Domin, ask on behalf of us all

Domin

Miss Glory, will you do us the honor?

 

Helena

When you know why I've come——

 

Fabry

For the League of Humanity, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

Oh, in that case, perhaps——

 

Fabry

That's fine! Miss Glory, excuse me for five minutes.

 

Dr. Gall

Pardon me, too, dear Miss Glory.

 

Busman

I won't be long.

 

Hallemeier

We're all very glad you've come.

 

Busman

We'll be back in exactly five minutes.
[All rush out except Domin and Helena.]

 

Helena

What have they all gone off for?

 

Domin

To cook, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

To cook what?

 

Domin

Lunch. The Robots do our cooking for us and as they've no taste it's not altogether—— Hallemeier is awfully good at grills and Gall can make a kind of sauce, and Busman knows all about omelettes.

 

Helena

What a feast! And what's the specialty of Mr.—— your builder?

 

Domin

Alquist? Nothing. He only lays the table. And Fabry will get together a little fruit. Our cuisine is very modest, Miss Glory.

 

Helena

I wanted to ask you something——

 

Domin

And I wanted to ask you something, too [looking at watch]. Five minutes.

 

Helena

What did you want to ask me?

 

Domin

Excuse me, you asked first.

 

Helena

Perhaps it's silly of me, but why do you manufacture female Robots when—when——

 

Domin

When sex means nothing to them?

 

Helena

Yes.

 

Domin

There's a certain demand for them, you see. Servants, saleswomen, stenographers. People are used to it.

 

Helena

But—but, tell me, are the Robots male and female mutually—completely without——

 
Completely indifferent to each other, Miss Glory. There's no sign of any affection between them.
 

Helena

Oh, that's terrible.

 

Domin

Why?

 

Helena

It's so unnatural. One doesn't know whether to be disgusted or to hate them, or perhaps——

 

Domin

To pity them?

 

Helena

That's more like it. What did you want to ask me about?

 

Domin

I should like to ask you, Miss Helena, whether you will marry me?

 

Helena

What?

 

Domin

Will you be my wife?

 

Helena

No! The idea!

 

Domin

[Looking at his watch]: Another three minutes. If you won't marry me you'll have to marry one of the other five.

 

Helena

But why should I?

 

Domin

Because they're all going to ask you in turn.

 

Helena

How could they dare do such a thing?

 

Domin

I'm very sorry, Miss Glory. It seems they've all fallen in love with you.

 

Helena

Please don't let them. I'll—I'll go away at once.

 

Domin

Helena, you wouldn't be so cruel as to refuse us.

 

Helena

But, but—I can't marry all six.

 

Domin

No, but one anyhow. If you don't want me, marry Fabry.

 

Helena

I won't.

 

Domin

Dr. Gall.

 

Helena

I don't want any of you.

 

Domin

[again looking at his watch]: Another two minutes.

 

Helena

I think you'd marry any woman who came here.

 

Domin

Plenty of them have come, Helena.

 

Helena

Young?

 

Domin

Yes.

 

Helena

Why didn't you marry one of them?

 

Domin

Because I didn't lose my head. Until to-day. Then, as soon as you lifted your veil——
[Helena turns her head away.]

 

Domin

Another minute.

 

Helena

But I don't want you, I tell you.

 

Domin

[Laying both hands on her shoulders]: One more minute! Now you either have to look me straight in the eye and say "No," violently, and then I'll leave you alone—or——
[Helena looks at him.]

 

Helena

[Turning away]: You're mad!

 

Domin

A man has to be a bit mad, Helena. That's the best thing about him.

 

Helena

You are—you are——

 

Domin

Well?

 

Helena

Don't, you're hurting me.

 

Domin

The last chance, Helena. Now, or never——

 

Helena

But—but, Harry——[He embraces and kisses her.]
[Knocking at the door.]

 

Domin

[Releasing her]: Come in.
[Enter Busman, Dr. Gall, and Hallemeier in kitchen aprons. Fabry with a bouquet and Alquist with a napkin over his arm.]

 

Domin

Have you finished your job?

 

Busman

Yes.

 

Domin

So have we.

[For a moment the men stand nonplussed; but as soon as they realize what Domin means they rush forward, congratulating Helena and Domin as the curtain falls.]