Matia
   
 
 

Arms and the Man (Chocolate Cream Soldier) by George Bernard Shaw

 
 

ACT III

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In the library after lunch. It is not much of a library, its literary equipment consisting of a single fixed shelf stocked with old paper-covered novels, broken backed, coffee stained, torn and thumbed, and a couple of little hanging shelves with a few gift books on them, the rest of the wall space being occupied by trophies of war and the chase. But it is a most comfortable sitting-room. A row of three large windows in the front of the house shew a mountain panorama, which is just now seen in one of its softest aspects in the mellowing afternoon light. In the left hand corner, a square earthenware stove, a perfect tower of colored pottery, rises nearly to the ceiling and guarantees plenty of warmth. The ottoman in the middle is a circular bank of decorated cushions, and the window seats are well upholstered divans. Little Turkish tables, one of them with an elaborate hookah on it, and a screen to match them, complete the handsome effect of the furnishing. There is one object, however, which is hopelessly out of keeping with its surroundings. This is a small kitchen table, much the worse for wear, fitted as a writing table with an old canister full of pens, an eggcup filled with ink, and a deplorable scrap of severely used pink blotting paper.

At the side of this table, which stands on the right, Bluntschli is hard at work, with a couple of maps before him, writing orders. At the head of it sits Sergius, who is also supposed to be at work, but who is actually gnawing the feather of a pen, and contemplating Bluntschli's quick, sure, businesslike progress with a mixture of envious irritation at his own incapacity, and awestruck wonder at an ability which seems to him almost miraculous, though its prosaic character forbids him to esteem it. The major is comfortably established on the ottoman, with a newspaper in his hand and the tube of the hookah within his reach. Catherine sits at the stove, with her back to them, embroidering. Raina, reclining on the divan under the left hand window, is gazing in a daydream out at the Balkan landscape, with a neglected novel in her lap.

The door is on the left. The button of the electric bell is between the door and the fireplace.

PETKOFF (looking up from his paper to watch how they are getting on at the table). Are you sure I can't help you in any way, Bluntschli?

BLUNTSCHLI (without interrupting his writing or looking up). Quite sure, thank you. Saranoff and I will manage it.

SERGIUS (grimly). Yes: we'll manage it. He finds out what to do; draws up the orders; and I sign 'em. Division of labour, Major. (Bluntschli passes him a paper.) Another one? Thank you. (He plants the papers squarely before him; sets his chair carefully parallel to them; and signs with the air of a man resolutely performing a difficult and dangerous feat.) This hand is more accustomed to the sword than to the pen.

PETKOFF. It's very good of you, Bluntschli, it is indeed, to let yourself be put upon in this way. Now are you quite sure I can do nothing?

CATHERINE (in a low, warning tone). You can stop interrupting, Paul.

PETKOFF (starting and looking round at her). Eh? Oh! Quite right, my love, quite right. (He takes his newspaper up, but lets it drop again.) Ah, you haven't been campaigning, Catherine: you don't know how pleasant it is for us to sit here, after a good lunch, with nothing to do but enjoy ourselves. There's only one thing I want to make me thoroughly comfortable.

CATHERINE. What is that?

PETKOFF. My old coat. I'm not at home in this one: I feel as if I were on parade.

CATHERINE. My dear Paul, how absurd you are about that old coat! It must be hanging in the blue closet where you left it.

PETKOFF. My dear Catherine, I tell you I've looked there. Am I to believe my own eyes or not? (Catherine quietly rises and presses the button of the electric bell by the fireplace.) What are you shewing off that bell for? (She looks at him majestically, and silently resumes her chair and her needlework.) My dear: if you think the obstinacy of your sex can make a coat out of two old dressing gowns of Raina's, your waterproof, and my mackintosh, you're mistaken. That's exactly what the blue closet contains at present. (Nicola presents himself.)

CATHERINE (unmoved by Petkoff's sally). Nicola: go to the blue closet and bring your master's old coat here - the braided one he usually wears in the house.

NICOLA. Yes, madam. (Nicola goes out.)

PETKOFF. Catherine.

CATHERINE. Yes, Paul?

PETKOFF. I bet you any piece of jewellery you like to order from Sophia against a week's housekeeping money, that the coat isn't there.

CATHERINE. Done, Paul.

PETKOFF (excited by the prospect of a gamble). Come: here's an opportunity for some sport. Who'll bet on it? Bluntschli: I'll give you six to one.

BLUNTSCHLI (imperturbably). It would be robbing you, Major. Madame is sure to be right. (Without looking up, he passes another batch of papers to Sergius.)

SERGIUS (also excited). Bravo, Switzerland! Major: I bet my best charger against an Arab mare for Raina that Nicola finds the coat in the blue closet.

PETKOFF (eagerly). Your best char -

CATHERINE (hastily interrupting him). Don't be foolish, Paul. An Arabian mare will cost you 50,000 levas.

RAINA (suddenly coming out of her picturesque revery). Really, mother, if you are going to take the jewellery, I don't see why you should grudge me my Arab.

(Nicola comes back with the coat and brings it to Petkoff, who can hardly believe his eyes.)

CATHERINE. Where was it, Nicola?

NICOLA. Hanging in the blue closet, madam.

PETKOFF. Well, I am d -

CATHERINE (stopping him). Paul!

PETKOFF. I could have sworn it wasn't there. Age is beginning to tell on me. I'm getting hallucinations. (To Nicola.) Here: help me to change. Excuse me, Bluntschli. (He begins changing coats, Nicola acting as valet.) Remember: I didn't take that bet of yours, Sergius. You'd better give Raina that Arab steed yourself, since you've roused her expectations. Eh, Raina? (He looks round at her; but she is again rapt in the landscape. With a little gush of paternal affection and pride, he points her out to them and says) She's dreaming, as usual.

SERGIUS. Assuredly she shall not be the loser.

PETKOFF. So much the better for her. I shan't come off so cheap, I expect. (The change is now complete. Nicola goes out with the discarded coat.) Ah, now I feel at home at last. (He sits down and takes his newspaper with a grunt of relief.)

BLUNTSCHLI (to Sergius, handing a paper). That's the last order.

PETKOFF (jumping up). What! finished?

BLUNTSCHLI. Finished. (Petkoff goes beside Sergius; looks curiously over his left shoulder as he signs; and says with childlike envy) Haven't you anything for me to sign?

BLUNTSCHLI. Not necessary. His signature will do.

PETKOFF. Ah, well, I think we've done a thundering good day's work. (He goes away from the table.) Can I do anything more?

BLUNTSCHLI. You had better both see the fellows that are to take these. (To Sergius.) Pack them off at once; and shew them that I've marked on the orders the time they should hand them in by. Tell them that if they stop to drink or tell stories - if they're five minutes late, they'll have the skin taken off their backs.

SERGIUS (rising indignantly). I'll say so. And if one of them is man enough to spit in my face for insulting him, I'll buy his discharge and give him a pension. (He strides out, his humanity deeply outraged.)

BLUNTSCHLI (confidentially). Just see that he talks to them properly, Major, will you?

PETKOFF (officiously). Quite right, Bluntschli, quite right. I'll see to it. (He goes to the door importantly, but hesitates on the threshold.) By the bye, Catherine, you may as well come, too. They'll be far more frightened of you than of me.

CATHERINE (putting down her embroidery). I daresay I had better. You will only splutter at them. (She goes out, Petkoff holding the door for her and following her.)

BLUNTSCHLI. What a country! They make cannons out of cherry trees; and the officers send for their wives to keep discipline! (He begins to fold and docket the papers. Raina, who has risen from the divan, strolls down the room with her hands clasped behind her, and looks mischievously at him.)

RAINA. You look ever so much nicer than when we last met. (He looks up, surprised.) What have you done to yourself?

BLUNTSCHLI. Washed; brushed; good night's sleep and breakfast. That's all.

RAINA. Did you get back safely that morning?

BLUNTSCHLI. Quite, thanks.

RAINA. Were they angry with you for running away from Sergius's charge?

BLUNTSCHLI. No, they were glad; because they'd all just run away themselves.

RAINA (going to the table, and leaning over it towards him). It must have made a lovely story for them - all that about me and my room.

BLUNTSCHLI. Capital story. But I only told it to one of them - a particular friend.

RAINA. On whose discretion you could absolutely rely?

BLUNTSCHLI. Absolutely.

RAINA. Hm! He told it all to my father and Sergius the day you exchanged the prisoners. (She turns away and strolls carelessly across to the other side of the room.)

BLUNTSCHLI (deeply concerned and half incredulous). No! you don't mean that, do you?

RAINA (turning, with sudden earnestness). I do indeed. But they don't know that it was in this house that you hid. If Sergius knew, he would challenge you and kill you in a duel.

BLUNTSCHLI. Bless me! then don't tell him.

RAINA (full of reproach for his levity). Can you realize what it is to me to deceive him? I want to be quite perfect with Sergius - no meanness, no smallness, no deceit. My relation to him is the one really beautiful and noble part of my life. I hope you can understand that.

BLUNTSCHLI (sceptically). You mean that you wouldn't like him to find out that the story about the ice pudding was a - a - a - You know.

RAINA (wincing). Ah, don't talk of it in that flippant way. I lied: I know it. But I did it to save your life. He would have killed you. That was the second time I ever uttered a falsehood. (Bluntschli rises quickly and looks doubtfully and somewhat severely at her.) Do you remember the first time?

BLUNTSCHLI. I! No. Was I present?

RAINA. Yes; and I told the officer who was searching for you that you were not present.

BLUNTSCHLI. True. I should have remembered it.

RAINA (greatly encouraged). Ah, it is natural that you should forget it first. It cost you nothing: it cost me a lie! - a lie!! (She sits down on the ottoman, looking straight before her with her hands clasped on her knee. Bluntschli, quite touched, goes to the ottoman with a particularly reassuring and considerate air, and sits down beside her.)

BLUNTSCHLI. My dear young lady, don't let this worry you. Remember: I'm a soldier. Now what are the two things that happen to a soldier so often that he comes to think nothing of them? One is hearing people tell lies (Raina recoils): the other is getting his life saved in all sorts of ways by all sorts of people.

RAINA (rising in indignant protest). And so he becomes a creature incapable of faith and of gratitude.

BLUNTSCHLI (making a wry face). Do you like gratitude? I don't. If pity is akin to love, gratitude is akin to the other thing.

RAINA. Gratitude! (Turning on him.) If you are incapable of gratitude you are incapable of any noble sentiment. Even animals are grateful. Oh, I see now exactly what you think of me! You were not surprised to hear me lie. To you it was something I probably did every day - every hour. That is how men think of women. (She walks up the room melodramatically.)

BLUNTSCHLI (dubiously). There's reason in everything. You said you'd told only two lies in your whole life. Dear young lady: isn't that rather a short allowance? I'm quite a straightforward man myself; but it wouldn't last me a whole morning.

RAINA (staring haughtily at him). Do you know, sir, that you are insulting me?

BLUNTSCHLI. I can't help it. When you get into that noble attitude and speak in that thrilling voice, I admire you; but I find it impossible to believe a single word you say.

RAINA (superbly). Captain Bluntschli!

BLUNTSCHLI (unmoved). Yes?

RAINA (coming a little towards him, as if she could not believe her senses). Do you mean what you said just now? Do you know what you said just now?

BLUNTSCHLI. I do.

RAINA (gasping). I! I!!! (She points to herself incredulously, meaning "I, Raina Petkoff, tell lies!" He meets her gaze unflinchingly. She suddenly sits down beside him, and adds, with a complete change of manner from the heroic to the familiar) How did you find me out?

BLUNTSCHLI (promptly). Instinct, dear young lady. Instinct, and experience of the world.

RAINA (wonderingly). Do you know, you are the first man I ever met who did not take me seriously?

BLUNTSCHLI. You mean, don't you, that I am the first man that has ever taken you quite seriously?

RAINA. Yes, I suppose I do mean that. (Cosily, quite at her ease with him.) How strange it is to be talked to in such a way! You know, I've always gone on like that - I mean the noble attitude and the thrilling voice. I did it when I was a tiny child to my nurse. She believed in it. I do it before my parents. They believe in it. I do it before Sergius. He believes in it.

BLUNTSCHLI. Yes: he's a little in that line himself, isn't he?

RAINA (startled). Do you think so?

BLUNTSCHLI. You know him better than I do.

RAINA. I wonder - I wonder is he? If I thought that - ! (Discouraged.) Ah, well, what does it matter? I suppose, now that you've found me out, you despise me.

BLUNTSCHLI (warmly, rising). No, my dear young lady, no, no, no a thousand times. It's part of your youth - part of your charm. I'm like all the rest of them - the nurse - your parents - Sergius: I'm your infatuated admirer.

RAINA (pleased). Really?

BLUNTSCHLI (slapping his breast smartly with his hand, German fashion). Hand aufs Herz! Really and truly.

RAINA (very happy). But what did you think of me for giving you my portrait?

BLUNTSCHLI (astonished). Your portrait! You never gave me your portrait.

RAINA (quickly). Do you mean to say you never got it?

BLUNTSCHLI. No. (He sits down beside her, with renewed interest, and says, with some complacency.) When did you send it to me?

RAINA (indignantly). I did not send it to you. (She turns her head away, and adds, reluctantly.) It was in the pocket of that coat.

BLUNTSCHLI (pursing his lips and rounding his eyes). Oh-o-oh! I never found it. It must be there still.

RAINA (springing up). There still! - for my father to find the first time he puts his hand in his pocket! Oh, how could you be so stupid?

BLUNTSCHLI (rising also). It doesn't matter: it's only a photograph: how can he tell who it was intended for? Tell him he put it there himself.

RAINA (impatiently). Yes, that is so clever - so clever! What shall I do?

BLUNTSCHLI. Ah, I see. You wrote something on it. That was rash!

RAINA (annoyed almost to tears). Oh, to have done such a thing for you, who care no more - except to laugh at me - oh! Are you sure nobody has touched it?

BLUNTSCHLI. Well, I can't be quite sure. You see I couldn't carry it about with me all the time: one can't take much luggage on active service.

RAINA. What did you do with it?

BLUNTSCHLI. When I got through to Peerot I had to put it in safe keeping somehow. I thought of the railway cloak room; but that's the surest place to get looted in modern warfare. So I pawned it.

RAINA. Pawned it!!!

BLUNTSCHLI. I know it doesn't sound nice; but it was much the safest plan. I redeemed it the day before yesterday. Heaven only knows whether the pawnbroker cleared out the pockets or not.

RAINA (furious - throwing the words right into his face). You have a low, shopkeeping mind. You think of things that would never come into a gentleman's head.

BLUNTSCHLI (phlegmatically). That's the Swiss national character, dear lady.

RAINA. Oh, I wish I had never met you. (She flounces away and sits at the window fuming.)

(Louka comes in with a heap of letters and telegrams on her salver, and crosses, with her bold, free gait, to the table. Her left sleeve is looped up to the shoulder with a brooch, shewing her naked arm, with a broad gilt bracelet covering the bruise.)

LOUKA (to Bluntschli). For you. (She empties the salver recklessly on the table.) The messenger is waiting. (She is determined not to be civil to a Servian, even if she must bring him his letters.)

BLUNTSCHLI (to Raina). Will you excuse me: the last postal delivery that reached me was three weeks ago. These are the subsequent accumulations. Four telegrams - a week old. (He opens one.) Oho! Bad news!

RAINA (rising and advancing a little remorsefully). Bad news?

BLUNTSCHLI. My father's dead. (He looks at the telegram with his lips pursed, musing on the unexpected change in his arrangements.)

RAINA. Oh, how very sad!

BLUNTSCHLI. Yes: I shall have to start for home in an hour. He has left a lot of big hotels behind him to be looked after. (Takes up a heavy letter in a long blue envelope.) Here's a whacking letter from the family solicitor. (He pulls out the enclosures and glances over them.) Great Heavens! Seventy! Two hundred! (In a crescendo of dismay.) Four hundred! Four thousand!! Nine thousand six hundred!!! What on earth shall I do with them all?

RAINA (timidly). Nine thousand hotels?

BLUNTSCHLI. Hotels! Nonsense. If you only knew! - oh, it's too ridiculous! Excuse me: I must give my fellow orders about starting. (He leaves the room hastily, with the documents in his hand.)

LOUKA (tauntingly). He has not much heart, that Swiss, though he is so fond of the Servians. He has not a word of grief for his poor father.

RAINA (bitterly). Grief! - a man who has been doing nothing but killing people for years! What does he care? What does any soldier care? (She goes to the door, evidently restraining her tears with difficulty.)

LOUKA. Major Saranoff has been fighting, too; and he has plenty of heart left. (Raina, at the door, looks haughtily at her and goes out.) Aha! I thought you wouldn't get much feeling out of your soldier. (She is following Raina when Nicola enters with an armful of logs for the fire.)

NICOLA (grinning amorously at her). I've been trying all the afternoon to get a minute alone with you, my girl. (His countenance changes as he notices her arm.) Why, what fashion is that of wearing your sleeve, child?

LOUKA (proudly). My own fashion.

NICOLA. Indeed! If the mistress catches you, she'll talk to you. (He throws the logs down on the ottoman, and sits comfortably beside them.)

LOUKA. Is that any reason why you should take it on yourself to talk to me?

NICOLA. Come: don't be so contrary with me. I've some good news for you. (He takes out some paper money. Louka, with an eager gleam in her eyes, comes close to look at it.) See, a twenty leva bill! Sergius gave me that out of pure swagger. A fool and his money are soon parted. There's ten levas more. The Swiss gave me that for backing up the mistress's and Raina's lies about him. He's no fool, he isn't. You should have heard old Catherine downstairs as polite as you please to me, telling me not to mind the Major being a little impatient; for they knew what a good servant I was - after making a fool and a liar of me before them all! The twenty will go to our savings; and you shall have the ten to spend if you'll only talk to me so as to remind me I'm a human being. I get tired of being a servant occasionally.

LOUKA (scornfully). Yes: sell your manhood for thirty levas, and buy me for ten! Keep your money. You were born to be a servant. I was not. When you set up your shop you will only be everybody's servant instead of somebody's servant.

NICOLA (picking up his logs, and going to the stove). Ah, wait till you see. We shall have our evenings to ourselves; and I shall be master in my own house, I promise you. (He throws the logs down and kneels at the stove.)

LOUKA. You shall never be master in mine. (She sits down on Sergius's chair.)

NICOLA (turning, still on his knees, and squatting down rather forlornly, on his calves, daunted by her implacable disdain). You have a great ambition in you, Louka. Remember: if any luck comes to you, it was I that made a woman of you.

LOUKA. You!

NICOLA (with dogged self-assertion). Yes, me. Who was it made you give up wearing a couple of pounds of false black hair on your head and reddening your lips and cheeks like any other Bulgarian girl? I did. Who taught you to trim your nails, and keep your hands clean, and be dainty about yourself, like a fine Russian lady? Me! do you hear that? me! (She tosses her head defiantly; and he rises, ill-humoredly, adding more coolly) I've often thought that if Raina were out of the way, and you just a little less of a fool and Sergius just a little more of one, you might come to be one of my grandest customers, instead of only being my wife and costing me money.

LOUKA. I believe you would rather be my servant than my husband. You would make more out of me. Oh, I know that soul of yours.

NICOLA (going up close to her for greater emphasis). Never you mind my soul; but just listen to my advice. If you want to be a lady, your present behaviour to me won't do at all, unless when we're alone. It's too sharp and imprudent; and impudence is a sort of familiarity: it shews affection for me. And don't you try being high and mighty with me either. You're like all country girls: you think it's genteel to treat a servant the way I treat a stable-boy. That's only your ignorance; and don't you forget it. And don't be so ready to defy everybody. Act as if you expected to have your own way, not as if you expected to be ordered about. The way to get on as a lady is the same as the way to get on as a servant: you've got to know your place; that's the secret of it. And you may depend on me to know my place if you get promoted. Think over it, my girl. I'll stand by you: one servant should always stand by another.

LOUKA (rising impatiently). Oh, I must behave in my own way. You take all the courage out of me with your cold-blooded wisdom. Go and put those logs on the fire: that's the sort of thing you understand. (Before Nicola can retort, Sergius comes in. He checks himself a moment on seeing Louka; then goes to the stove.)

SERGIUS (to Nicola). I am not in the way of your work, I hope.

NICOLA (in a smooth, elderly manner). Oh, no, sir, thank you kindly. I was only speaking to this foolish girl about her habit of running up here to the library whenever she gets a chance, to look at the books. That's the worst of her education, sir: it gives her habits above her station. (To Louka.) Make that table tidy, Louka, for the Major. (He goes out sedately.)

(Louka, without looking at Sergius, begins to arrange the papers on the table. He crosses slowly to her, and studies the arrangement of her sleeve reflectively.)

SERGIUS. Let me see: is there a mark there? (He turns up the bracelet and sees the bruise made by his grasp. She stands motionless, not looking at him: fascinated, but on her guard.) Ffff! Does it hurt?

LOUKA. Yes.

SERGIUS. Shall I cure it?

LOUKA (instantly withdrawing herself proudly, but still not looking at him). No. You cannot cure it now.

SERGIUS (masterfully). Quite sure? (He makes a movement as if to take her in his arms.)

LOUKA. Don't trifle with me, please. An officer should not trifle with a servant.

SERGIUS (touching the arm with a merciless stroke of his forefinger). That was no trifle, Louka.

LOUKA. No. (Looking at him for the first time.) Are you sorry?

SERGIUS (with measured emphasis, folding his arms). I am never sorry.

LOUKA (wistfully). I wish I could believe a man could be so unlike a woman as that. I wonder are you really a brave man?

SERGIUS (unaffectedly, relaxing his attitude). Yes: I am a brave man. My heart jumped like a woman's at the first shot; but in the charge I found that I was brave. Yes: that at least is real about me.

LOUKA. Did you find in the charge that the men whose fathers are poor like mine were any less brave than the men who are rich like you?

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