The Millionairess is a play written in 1936 by George Bernard Shaw. It tells the story of Epifania, a spoilt heiress, and her search for a suitor. Shaw wrote the play expressly for Edith Evans, who rejected the role, calling it too icy.
137 pages with a reading time of ~2.25 hours (34286 words), and first published in 1936. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2014.
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Mr Julius Sagamore, a smart young solicitor, is in his office in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. It is a fine morning in May. The room, an old panelled one, is so arranged that Mr Sagamore, whom we see sitting under the window in profile with his back to it and his left side presented to us, is fenced off by his writing table from excessive intimacy with emotional clients or possible assault by violent or insane ones. The door is on his right towards the farther end of the room. The faces of the clients are thus illuminated by the window whilst his own countenance is in shadow. The fireplace, of Adam design, is in the wall facing him. It is surmounted by a dingy portrait of a judge. In the wall on his right, near the corner farthest from him, is the door, with a cleft pediment enshrining a bust of some other judge. The rest of this wall is occupied by shelves of calf-bound law books. The wall behind Mr Sagamore has the big window as aforesaid, and beside it a stand of black tin boxes inscribed with clients’ names.
So far, the place proclaims the eighteenth century; but as the year is 1935, and Mr Sagamore has no taste for dust and mould, and requires a room which suggests opulence, and in which lady clients will look their best, everything is well dusted and polished; the green carpet is new, rich, and thick; and the half dozen chairs, four of which are ranged under the bookshelves, are Chippendales of the very latest fake. Of the other two one is occupied by himself, and the other stands half way between his table and the fireplace for the accommodation of his clients.
The telephone, on the table at his elbow, rings.
SAGAMORE [listening] Yes? … [Impressed] Oh! Send her up at once.
A tragic looking woman, athletically built and expensively dressed, storms into the room. He rises obsequiously.
THE LADY. Are you Julius Sagamore, the worthless nephew of my late solicitor Pontifex Sagamore?
SAGAMORE. I do not advertize myself as worthless; but Pontifex Sagamore was my uncle; and I have returned from Australia to succeed to as much of his business as I can persuade his clients to trust me with.
THE LADY. I have heard him speak of you; and I naturally concluded that as you had been packed off to Australia you must be worthless. But it does not matter, as my business is very simple. I desire to make my will, leaving everything I possess to my husband. You can hardly go wrong about that, I suppose.
SAGAMORE. I shall do my best. Pray sit down.
THE LADY. No: I am restless. I shall sit down when I feel tired.
SAGAMORE. As you please. Before I draw up the will it will be necessary for me to know who your husband is.
THE LADY. My husband is a fool and a blackguard. You will state that fact in the will. You will add that it was his conduct that drove me to commit suicide.
SAGAMORE. But you have not committed suicide.
THE LADY. I shall have, when the will is signed.
SAGAMORE. Of course, quite so: stupid of me. And his name?
THE LADY. His name is Alastair Fitzfassenden.
SAGAMORE. What! The amateur tennis champion and heavy weight boxer?
THE LADY. Do you know him?
SAGAMORE. Every morning we swim together at the club.
THE LADY. The acquaintance does you little credit.
SAGAMORE. I had better tell you that he and I are great friends, Mrs Fitzfassen–
THE LADY. Do not call me by his detestable name. Put me in your books as Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga.
SAGAMORE [bowing] Oh! I am indeed honored. Pray be seated.
EPIFANIA. Sit down yourself; and dont fuss.
SAGAMORE. If you prefer it, certainly. [He sits]. Your father was a very wonderful man, madam.
EPIFANIA. My father was the greatest man in the world. And he died a pauper. I shall never forgive the world for that.
SAGAMORE. A pauper! You amaze me. It was reported that he left you, his only child, thirty millions.
EPIFANIA. Well, what was thirty millions to him? He lost a hundred and fifty millions. He had promised to leave me two hundred millions. I was left with a beggarly thirty. It broke his heart.
SAGAMORE. Still, an income of a million and a half–
EPIFANIA. Man: you forget the death duties. I have barely seven hundred thousand a year. Do you know what that means to a woman brought up on an income of seven figures? The humiliation of it!
SAGAMORE. You take away my breath, madam.
EPIFANIA. As I am about to take my own breath away, I have no time to attend to yours.
SAGAMORE. Oh, the suicide! I had forgotten that.
EPIFANIA. Had you indeed? Well, will you please give your mind to it for a moment, and draw up a will for me to sign, leaving everything to Alastair.
SAGAMORE. To humiliate him?
EPIFANIA. No. To ruin him. To destroy him. To make him a beggar on horseback so that he may ride to the devil. Money goes to his head. I have seen it at work on him.
SAGAMORE. I also have seen that happen. But you cannot be sure. He might marry some sensible woman.