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Pygmalion

PICKERING. Higgins, I'm interested. I'll say you're the greatest teacher alive if you make that good. I'll bet you all the expenses of the experiment you can't do it. And I'll pay for the lessons.

LIZA. Oh, you are real good. Thank you, Captain.

HIGGINS [tempted, looking at her] It's almost irresistible. She's so deliciously low—so horribly dirty—

LIZA [protesting extremely] Ah—ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—oooo!!! I ain't dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did. …

HIGGINS [carried away] Yes: in six months—in three if she has a good ear and a quick tongue—I'll take her anywhere and pass her off as anything. We'll start today: now! this moment! Take her away and clean her, Mrs. Pearce. Take all her clothes off and burn them. Call the dress shops for new ones. Wrap her up in brown paper till they come. Take her away, Mrs. Pearce. If she gives you any trouble, wallop her.

LIZA [springing up and running between Pickering and Mrs. Pearce for protection] No! I'll call the police, I will.

MRS. PEARCE. But I've no place to put her.

HIGGINS. Put her in the dustbin.

LIZA. Ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—oo!

PICKERING. Oh come, Higgins! be reasonable.

MRS. PEARCE [firmly] You must be reasonable, Mr. Higgins: really you must. You can't walk over everybody like this. …you can't take a girl up like that as if you were picking up a pebble on the beach.

HIGGINS. Why not?

MRS. PEARCE. Why not! But you don't know anything about her. What about her parents? She may be married.

LIZA. Garn! …Who'd marry me?

HIGGINS

[suddenly resorting to the most thrillingly beautiful low tones in his most cultured style] By George, Eliza, the streets will be strewn with men falling at your feet before I've done with you.

MRS. PEARCE. Nonsense, sir. You mustn't talk like that to her.

LIZA [standing up with determination] I'm going away. He's off his chump, he is. I don't want no balmies teaching me.

HIGGINS [wounded in his tenderest point by her resistance to his beautiful speech] Oh, indeed! I'm mad, am I? Very well, Mrs. Pearce: you needn't order the new clothes for her. Throw her out.

LIZA [whimpering] Nah—ow. You got no right to touch me.

HIGGINS. This is my return for offering to take you out of the gutter and dress you beautifully and make a lady of you.

MRS. PEARCE. Stop, Mr. Higgins. I won't allow it. It's you that are wicked. Go home to your parents, girl; and tell them to take better care of you.

LIZA. I ain't got no parents. They told me I was big enough to earn my own living and turned me out.

MRS. PEARCE. Where's your mother?

LIZA. I ain't got no mother. Her that turned me out was my sixth stepmother. But I done without them. And I'm a good girl, I am.

HIGGINS. Very well, then, what on earth is all this fuss about? The girl doesn't belong to anybody—is no use to anybody but me.

MRS. PEARCE. But what's to become of her? Is she to be paid anything? Do be sensible, sir.

HIGGINS. Oh, pay her whatever is necessary: put it down in the housekeeping book. [Impatiently] What on earth will she want with money? She'll have her food and her clothes. She'll only drink if you give her money.

LIZA [turning on him] Oh you are a brute. It's a lie: nobody ever saw the sign of liquor on me. [She goes back to her chair and plants herself there defiantly].

PICKERING [with good-humored criticism] Does it occur to you, Higgins, that the girl has some feelings?

HIGGINS [looking critically at her] Oh no, I don't think so. Not any feelings that we need bother about. [Cheerily] Have you, Eliza?

LIZA. I got my feelings same as anyone else.

HIGGINS [to Pickering] You see the difficulty?

PICKERING. Eh? What difficulty?

HIGGINS. To get her to talk grammar. The mere pronunciation is easy enough.

LIZA. I don't want to talk grammar. I want to talk like a lady.

MRS. PEARCE. Will you please keep to the point, Mr. Higgins. I want to know on what terms the girl is to be here. Is she to have any wages? And what is to become of her when you've finished your teaching? You must look ahead a little.

HIGGINS [impatiently] What's to become of her if I leave her in the gutter? Tell me that, Mrs. Pearce.

MRS. PEARCE. That's her own business, not yours, Mr. Higgins.

HIGGINS. Well, when I've done with her, we can throw her back into the gutter; and then it will be her own business again; so that's all right.

LIZA. Oh, you've no feeling heart in you: you don't care for nothing but yourself [she rises and takes the floor boldly]. Here! I've had enough of this. I'm going [making for the door]. You ought to be ashamed of yourself, you ought.

PICKERING. Excuse me, Higgins; but I really must interfere. Mrs. Pearce is quite right. If this girl is to put herself in your hands for six months for an experiment in teaching, she must understand thoroughly what she's doing.

HIGGINS. How can she? She's incapable of understanding anything. Besides, do any of us understand what we are doing? If we did, would we ever do it?

PICKERING. Very clever, Higgins; but not sound sense. [To Eliza] Miss Doolittle—

LIZA [overwhelmed] Ah—ah—ow—oo!

HIGGINS. There! That's all you get out of Eliza. Ah—ah—ow—oo! No use explaining. .... Eliza: you are to live here for the next six months, learning how to speak beautifully, like a lady in a florist's shop. At the end of six months you shall go to Buckingham Palace in a carriage, beautifully dressed. If the King finds out you're not a lady, you will be taken by the police to the Tower of London, where your head will be cut off as a warning to other disrespectful flower girls. If you are not found out, you shall have a present of seven-and-sixpence to start life with as a lady in a shop. [To Pickering] Now are you satisfied, Pickering? [To Mrs. Pearce] Can I put it more plainly and fairly, Mrs. Pearce?

MRS. PEARCE [patiently] I think you'd better let me speak to the girl properly in private. …Of course I know you don't mean her any harm; but when you get what you call interested in people's accents, you never think or care what may happen to them or you. Come with me, Eliza.

HIGGINS. That's all right. Thank you, Mrs. Pearce. Bundle her off to the bath-room.

LIZA [rising reluctantly and suspiciously] You're a great bully, you are. I won't stay here if I don't like. I never asked to go to Bucknam Palace, I didn't. I was never in trouble with the police, not me. I'm a good girl—

MRS. PEARCE. Don't answer back, girl. You don't understand the gentleman. Come with me. [She leads the way to the door, and holds it open for Eliza].


Source: Pygmalion
By George Bernard Shaw, Gutenberg.org

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