A SENSE OF TASTE
Higgins [as he shuts the last drawer] Well, I think thats the whole show.
Pickering It�s really amazing. I hasn�t taken half of it in, you know.
Higgins Would you like to go over any of it again?
Pickering [rising and coming over to the fireplace where he plants himself with his back to the fire] No, thank you; not now. I�m quite done up for this morning.
Higgins [following him, and standing beside him on his left] Tired of listening to sounds?
Pickering Yes. It�s a fearful strain. I rather fancied myself because I can pronounce twenty-four distinct vowel sounds; but your hundred and thirty beat me. I can�t hear a bit of difference between most of them.
Higgins [chuckling, and going over to the piano to eat sweets] Oh, that comes with practice. You hear no difference at first; but you keep on listening, and presently you find they�re all as different as A from B. [Mrs Pearce looks in: she is Higgins�s housekeeper]. What�s the matter?
Mrs Pearce [hesitating, evidently perplexed] A young woman wants to see you, sir.
Higgins A young woman! What does she want?
Mrs Pearce Well, sir, she says you�ll be glad to see her when you know what she�s come about. She�s quite a common girl, sir. Very common indeed. I should have sent her away, only I thought perhaps you wanted her to talk into your machines. I hope I�ve not done wrong: but really you see such queer people sometimes � you�ll excuse me. I�m sure, sir �
Higgins Oh, that�s all right, Mrs Pearce. Has she an interesting accent?
Mrs Pearce Oh, something dreadful, sir, really. I don�t know how you can take an interest in it.
Higgins [to Pickering] Lets have her up. Shew her up, Mrs Pearce [he rushes across to his working table and picks out a cylinder to use on the phonograp].
Mrs Pearce [only half resigned to it] Very well, sir. It�s for you to say. [She goes downstairs].
Higgins This is rather a bit of luck. I�ll shew you how I make records. We�ll set her talking; and I�ll take it down first in Bell�s visible Speech; then in broad Romic; and then we�ll get her on the phonograph so that you can turn her on as often as you like with the written transcript before you.
Mrs Pearce [returning] This is the young woman, sir.
Higgins [brusquely, recognizing her (Eliza) with unconcealed disappointment, and at once, babylike, making an intolerable grievance of it] Why, this is the girl I jotted down last night. She�s no use: I�ve got all the records I want of the Lisson Grove lingo; and I�m not going to waste another cylinder on it. [To the girl] Be off with you: I don�t want you.
The Flower Girl Don�t you be so saucy. You aint heard what I come for yet. [To Mrs Pearce, who is waiting at the door for further instructions] Did you tell him I come in a taxi?
Mrs Pearce Nonsense, girl! What do you think a gentleman like Mr Higgins cares what you came in?
The Flower Girl Oh, we are proud! He aint above giving lessons, not him: I heard him say so. Well, I aint come here to ask for any compliment; and if my money�s not good enough I can go elsewhere.
Higgins Good enough for what?
The Flower Girl Good enough for ye-oo. Now you know, don�t you? I�m come to have lessons, I am. And to pay for em too: make no mistake.
Higgins [stupent] Well!!! [Recovering his breath with a gasp] What do you expect me to say to you?
The Flower Girl Well, if you was a gentleman, you might ask me to sit down, I think. Don�t I tell you I�m bringing you business?
Higgins Pickering: shall we ask this baggage to sit down, or shall we throw her out of the window?
The Flower Girl [running away in terror to the piano, where she turns at bay] Ah-ah-oh-ow-ow-ow-oo! [Wounded and whimpering] I won�t be called a baggage when I�ve offered to pay like any lady.
Motionless, the two men stare at her from the other side of the room, amazed.
Pickering [gently] What is it you want, my girl?
The Flower Girl I want to be a lady in a flower shop stead of selling at the comer of Tottenham Court Road. But they won�t take me unless I can talk more genteel. He said he could teach me. Well, here I am ready to pay him � not asking any favour � and he treats me as if I was dirt.
Mrs Pearce How can you be such a foolish ignorant girl as to think you could afford to pay Mr Higgins?
The Flower Girl Why shouldn�t I? I know what lessons cost as well as you do; and I�m ready to pay.
Higgins How much?
The Flower Girl [coming back to him, triumphant] Now you�re talking! I thought you�d come off it when you saw a chance of getting back a bit of what you chucked at me last night. [Confidentially] You had a drop in, hadn�t you?
Higgins [peremptonrily] Sit down.
The Flower Girl Oh, if you�re going to make a compliment of it �
Higgins [thundering at her] Sit down.
Mrs Pearce [severely] Sit down, girl. Do as You�re told. [She places the stray chair near the hearthrug between Higgins and Pickering, and stands behind it waiting for the girl to sit down].
The Flower Girl Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo! [She stands, half rebellious, half bewildered].
Pickering [very courteous] Won�t you sit down?
Liza [coyly] Don�t mind if I do. [She sits down. Pickering returns to the hearthrug].
Higgins What�s your name?
The Flower Girl Liza Doolittle.
Higgins How much do you propose to pay me for the lessons?
Liza Oh, I know what�s right. A lady friend of mine gets French lessons for eighteen pence an hour from a real French gentleman. Well, you wouldn�t have the face to ask me the same for teaching me my own language as you would for French; so I won�t give more than a shilling. Take it or leave it.
Higgins [walking up and down the room, rattling his keys and his cash in his pockets] You know, Pickering, if you consider a shilling, not as a simple shilling, but as a percentage of this girl�s income, it works out as fully equivalent to sixty or seventy guineas from a millionaire.
Pickering How so?
Higgins Figure it out. A millionaire has about �150 a day. She earns about half-a-crown.
Liza [haughtily] Who told you I only �
Higgins [continuing] She offers me two-fifths of her day�s income for a lesson. Two-fifths of a millionaire�s income for a day would be somewhere about �60. It�s handsome. By George, it�s enormous! It�s the biggest offer I ever had.
Liza [rising, terrified] Sixty pounds! What are you talking about? I never offered you sixty pounds. Where would I get �
Higgins Hold your tongue.
Liza [weeping] But I aint got sixty pounds.Oh �
Mrs Pearce Don�t cry, you silly girl. Sit down. Nobody is going to touch your money.
Higgins Somebody is going to touch you, with a broomstick, if you don�t stop snivelling. Sit down.
Liza [obeying slowly] Ah-ah-ah-ow-oo-o! One would think you was my father.
Higgins If I decide to teach you, I�ll be worse than two fathers to you. Here! [he offers her his silk handkerchief]
Liza What�s this for?
Higgins To wipe your eyes. To wipe any part of your face that feels moist. Remember: that�s your handkerchief; and that�s your sleeve. Don�t mistake the one for the other if you wish to become a lady in a shop.
Liza, utterly bewildered, stares helplessly at him.
Mrs Pearce It�s no use talking to her like that, Mr Higgins: she doesn�t understand you. Besides, you�re quite wrong: she doesn�t do it that way at all [she takes the handkerchief].
Liza [snatching it] Here! You give me that handkerchief. He give it to me, not to you.
Pickering [laughing] He did. I think it must be regarded as her property, Mrs Pearce.
Mrs Pearce [resigning herself] Serve you right, Mr Higgins.
Pickering Higgins: I�m interested. What about the ambassador�s garden party? 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 cant 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 extremly] Ah-ah-ah-ah-owow-oo-oo!!! I am dirty: I washed my face and hands afore I come, I did.
Pickering You�re certainly not going to turn her head with flattery, Higgins.
Mrs Pearce [uneasy] Oh, don�t say that, sir: there�s more ways than one of turning a girl�s head; and nobody can do it better than Mr Higgins, though he may not always mean it. I do hope, sir, you wont encourage him to do anything foolish.
Higgins [becoming excited as the idea grows on him] What is life but a series of inspired follies? The difficulty is to find them to do. Never lose a chance: it doesn�t come every day. I shall make a duchess of this draggle-tailed guttersnipe.
Liza [strongly deprecating this view of her] Ah-ah-ah-ow-ow-oo!
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 to-day: now! this moment! Take her away and clean her, Mrs Pearce.
Liza [speaking with pedantic correctness of pronunciation and great beauty of tone] How do you do, Mrs Higgins?
[She gasps silghtly in making sure of the H in Higgins, but I is quite successful]. Mr Higgins told me I might come.
Mrs Higgins [cordially] Quite right: I�m very glad indeed to see you.
Pickering How do you do, Miss Doolittle?
Liza [shaking hands with him] Colonel Pickering, is it not?
Mrs Eynsford-hill I feel sure we have met before, Miss Doolittle. I remember your eyes.
Liza How do you do? [She sits down on the ottoman graceftuly in the place just left vacant by Higgins].
Mrs Eynsford-hill [introducing] My daughter Clara.
Liza How do you do?
Clara [impulsively] How do you do? [She sits down on the ottoman beside Liza, devouring her with her eyes].
Freddy [coming to their side of the ottoman] I�ve certainly had the pleasure.
Mrs Eynsford-hill [introducing] My son Freddy.
Liza How do you do?
A long and painful pause ensues.
Mrs Higgins [at last, conversationally] Will it rain, do you think?
Liza The shallow depression in the west of these islands is likely to move slowly in an easterly direction. There are no indications of any great change in the barometrical situation.
Freddy Ha! ha! how awfully funny!
Liza What is wrong with that, young man? I bet I got it right.
Mrs Eynsford-hill I�m sure I hope it wont turn cold. There�s so much influenza about. It runs right through our whole family regularly every spring.
Liza [darkly] My aunt died of influenza: so they said.
Mrs Eynsford-hill [clicks her tongue sympathetically]!!!
Liza [in the same tragic tone] But it�s my belief they done the old woman in.
Mrs Higgins [puzzled] Done her in?
Liza Y-e-e-e-es, Lord love you! Why should she die of influenza? She come through diphtheria right enough the year before. I saw her with my own eyes.
Fairly blue with it, she was. They all thought she was dead; but my father he kept ladling gin down her throat til she came to so sudden that she bit the bowl off the spoon.
Mrs Eynsford-hill [startled] Dear me!
Liza [piling up the indictment] What call would a woman with that strength in her have to die of influenza? What become of her new straw hat that should have come to me? Somebody pinched it; and what I say is, them as pinched it done her in.
Mrs Eynsford-hill What does doing her in mean?
Higgins [hastily] Oh, that�s the new small talk. To do a person in means to kill them.
Mrs Eynsford-hill [to Eliza, horrified] You surely don�t believe that your aunt was killed.
Liza Do I not! Them she lived with would have killed her for a hat-pin, let alone a hat.
Mrs Eynsford-hill But it cant have been right for your father to pour spirits down her throat like that. It might have killed her.
Liza Not her. Gin was mother�s milk to her. Besides, he�d poured so much down his own throat that he knew the good of it.
Mrs Eynsford-hill Do you mean that he drank?
Liza Drank! My word! Something chronic.
Mrs Eynsford-hill How dreadful for you!
Liza Not a bit. It never did him no harm what I could see. But then he did not keep it up regular. [To Freddy, who is in convulsions of suppressed laughter] Here! what are you sniggering at?
Freddy The new small talk. You do it so awfully well.
Liza If I was doing it proper, what was you laughing at? [To Higgins] Have I said anything I oughtn�t?
Mrs Higgins [interposing] Not at all, Miss Doolittle.
Liza Well, that�s a mercy, anyhow. [Expansively] What I always say is �
Higgins [rising and looking at his watch] Ahem!
Liza [looking round at him; taking the hint; and rising] Well: I must go. [They all rise. Freddy goes to the door]. So pleased to have met you. Goodbye. [She shakes hands with Mrs Higgins]
Mrs Higgins Goodbye.
Liza Goodbye, Colonel Pickering.
Pickering Goodbye, Miss Doolittle. [They shake hands].
Liza [nodding to the others] Goodbye, all.
Freddy [opening the door for her] Are you walking across the Park, Miss Doolittle? If so �
Liza Walk! Not bloody likely [Sensation]. I am going in a taxi. [She goes out].
Pickering gasps and sits down. Freddy goes out on the balcony to catch another glimpse of Eliza
Quite honestly, I don�t know how you�ve put up with it for all these years. Personally, I would have left after a few weeks. After all, it�s not as though it was your fault, I mean to say, he was the one that was so keen on it in the first place. Actually, he had to work really hard to persuade you, if I remember rightly. Frankly, I think you should remind him of that a bit more often. You are still speaking to each other presumably? I wouldn�t blame you if you weren�t! Seriously though, enough is enough. Admittedly he wasn�t to know, but he should have made it his job to find out! After all, he always prides himself on his thoroughness! Ideally, he should have had it surveyed properly. Of course it costs a bit, but it�s always worth it. Obviously he trusted his own judgement. Well, all I can say is it certainly let him down badly this time! Let�s hope he�s learnt a lesson from it! Next time � and I hope it�s soon for your sake � maybe he�ll listen to you. Surely he will? Incidentally, do you know the Turners are thinking of moving to the same estate? As a matter of fact, Jane was telling me they�ve already viewed a couple of properties. In all fairness we�ll just have to warn them. Perhaps you should get Jack to tell them!
Dialogues for completion
A There�s some crab in the fridge if you�re hungry, but I don�t suppose you like seafood, do you?
B As a matter of fact, I adore seafood.
A Have you heard that Jane is thinking of getting married to that chap Paul?
B Quite honestly,…..
B I don�t know where she met him.
A If I remember rightly,….
A I wonder if they�ll have a church wedding or go to registry office?
B He�s been married three times before. Did you know that?
A I think she�s too young, too immature, for marriage.
B I really don�t think so. After all,…
B I wonder why they want to get married?
A I�m sure they�ll both be very happy.
B So am I. Incidentally,…
B I�d like to congratulate them, but I don�t know when I�ll see them again.
A As a matter of fact,….
A Ah, well. Good old Jane and Paul.
B Mmm. Best of luck to them. Anyway,….