THE GENTLEMAN [returning to his former place on the note taker’s left] How do you do it, if I may ask?
THE NOTE TAKER. Simply phonetics. The science of speech. That’s my profession; also my hobby. Happy is the man who can make a living by his hobby! You can spot an Irishman or a Yorkshireman by his brogue. I can place any man within six miles. I can place him within two miles in London. Sometimes within two streets.
THE FLOWER GIRL. Ought to be ashamed of himself, unmanly coward!
THE GENTLEMAN. But is there a living in that?
THE NOTE TAKER. Oh yes. Quite a fat one. This is an age of upstarts. Men begin in Kentish Town with 80 pounds a year, and end in Park Lane with a hundred thousand. They want to drop Kentish Town; but they give themselves away every time they open their mouths. Now I can teach them—
THE FLOWER GIRL. Let him mind his own business and leave a poor girl—
THE NOTE TAKER [explosively] Woman: cease this detestable boohooing instantly; or else seek the shelter of some other place of worship.
THE FLOWER GIRL [with feeble defiance] I’ve a right to be here if I like, same as you.
THE NOTE TAKER. A woman who utters such depressing and disgusting sounds has no right to be anywhere—no right to live. Remember that you are a human being with a soul and the divine gift of articulate speech: that your native language is the language of Shakespear and Milton and The Bible; and don’t sit there crooning like a bilious pigeon.
THE FLOWER GIRL [quite overwhelmed, and looking up at him in mingled wonder and deprecation without daring to raise her head] Ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—oo!
THE NOTE TAKER [whipping out his book] Heavens! what a sound! [He writes; then holds out the book and reads, reproducing her vowels exactly] Ah—ah—ah—ow—ow—ow—oo!
THE FLOWER GIRL [tickled by the performance, and laughing in spite of herself] Garn!
THE NOTE TAKER. You see this creature with her kerbstone English: the English that will keep her in the gutter to the end of her days. Well, sir, in three months I could pass that girl off as a duchess at an ambassador’s garden party. I could even get her a place as lady’s maid or shop assistant, which requires better English. That’s the sort of thing I do for commercial millionaires. And on the profits of it I do genuine scientific work in phonetics, and a little as a poet on Miltonic lines.
THE GENTLEMAN. I am myself a student of Indian dialects; and—
THE NOTE TAKER [eagerly] Are you? Do you know Colonel Pickering, the author of Spoken Sanscrit?
THE GENTLEMAN. I am Colonel Pickering. Who are you?
THE NOTE TAKER. Henry Higgins, author of Higgins’s Universal Alphabet.
PICKERING [with enthusiasm] I came from India to meet you.
HIGGINS. I was going to India to meet you.
PICKERING. Where do you live?
HIGGINS. 27A Wimpole Street. Come and see me tomorrow.
PICKERING. I’m at the Carlton. Come with me now and let’s have a jaw over some supper.
HIGGINS. Right you are.
THE FLOWER GIRL [to Pickering, as he passes her] Buy a flower, kind gentleman. I’m short for my lodging.
PICKERING. I really haven’t any change. I’m sorry [he goes away].
HIGGINS [shocked at girl’s mendacity] Liar. You said you could change half-a-crown.
THE FLOWER GIRL [rising in desperation] You ought to be stuffed with nails, you ought. [Flinging the basket at his feet] Take the whole blooming basket for sixpence.
The church clock strikes the second quarter.
HIGGINS [hearing in it the voice of God, rebuking him for his Pharisaic want of charity to the poor girl] A reminder. [He raises his hat solemnly; then throws a handful of money into the basket and follows Pickering].
THE FLOWER GIRL [picking up a half-crown] Ah—ow—ooh! [Picking up a couple of florins] Aaah—ow—ooh! [Picking up several coins] Aaaaaah—ow—ooh! [Picking up a half-sovereign] Aasaaaaaaaaah—ow—ooh!!!
FREDDY [springing out of a taxicab] Got one at last. Hallo! [To the girl] Where are the two ladies that were here?
THE FLOWER GIRL. They walked to the bus when the rain stopped.
FREDDY. And left me with a cab on my hands. Damnation!
THE FLOWER GIRL [with grandeur] Never you mind, young man. I’m going home in a taxi. [She sails off to the cab. The driver puts his hand behind him and holds the door firmly shut against her. Quite understanding his mistrust, she shows him her handful of money]. Eightpence ain’t no object to me, Charlie. [He grins and opens the door]. Angel Court, Drury Lane, round the corner of Micklejohn’s oil shop. Let’s see how fast you can make her hop it. [She gets in and pulls the door to with a slam as the taxicab starts].
FREDDY. Well, I’m dashed!