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George Bernard Shaw combined ironic wit with weighty commentary on a variety of social issues, advocating for the working class, whom he felt was badly exploited. In Village Wooing Shaw portrays the relationship of a domineering woman with a man whom they are pursuing in marriage. Will she be happy with her conquest?
37 pages, with a reading time of ~1.25 hours (9,383 words), and first published in 1933. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, 2015.
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The lounge deck of the Empress of Patagonia, a pleasure ship. Two of the deck chairs are occupied by A, a literary looking pale gentleman under forty in green spectacles, a limp black beard, and a tropical suit of white silk, who is writing and does not wish to be disturbed, and Z, a young woman, presentable but not aristocratic, who is bored with her book. She is undressed for bathing, but is very modestly covered up with a not too flamboyant wrap.
Z. Excuse me. Could you tell me the time?
A. [curtly] Eleven.
Z. My watch makes it half past ten.
A. The clocks were put on half an hour last night. We are going east.
Z. I always think it adds to the interest of a voyage having to put on your watch.
A. I am glad you are so easily interested [he resumes his writing pointedly].
Z. The steward will be round with the soup in half an hour. I thought we should have to wait an hour.
A. I never take it. It interrupts my work.
Z. Why do you work all the time? It’s not what one comes on a pleasure cruise for, is it?
A. Work is my only pleasure.
Z. Oh, thats not good sense, is it? It gives me the pip to see you always sitting there over your writing, and never enjoying yourself, nor even taking a drop of soup. You should get up and have a game of deck quoits: you will feel ever so much better after it.
A. I feel perfectly well, thank you. And I loathe deck games, especially deck quoits. The slapping of those silly things on the deck destroys the quiet of the ship.
Z. Oh, I see. That is why you select this end of the deck. I often wondered why.
A. Within the last fortnight you have inspected the priceless antiquities of Naples, Athens, Egypt, and the Holy Land. Please occupy your mind with them until the soup comes.
Z. I never cared much for geography. Where are we now?
A. We are on the Red Sea.
Z. But it’s blue.
A. What did you expect it to be?
Z. Well, I didnt know what color the sea might be in these parts. I always thought the Red Sea would be red.
A. Well, it isnt.
Z. And isnt the Black Sea black?
A. It is precisely the color of the sea at Margate.
Z. [eagerly] Oh, I am so glad you know Margate. Theres no place like it in the season, is there?
A. I dont know: I have never been there.
Z. [disappointed] Oh, you ought to go. You could write a book about it.
A. [shudders, sighs, and pretends to write very hard]!
Z. I wonder why they call it the Red Sea.
A. Because their fathers did. Why do you call America America?
Z. Well, because it is America. What else would you call it?
A. Oh, call it what you like, dear lady; but I have five hundred words to write before lunch; and I cannot do that if I talk to you.
Z. [sympathetically] Yes: it is awful to have to talk to people, isnt it? Oh, that reminds me: I have something really interesting to tell you. I believe the man in the cabin next mine beats his wife.
A. I feel a little like him myself. Some women would provoke any men to beat them.
Z. I will say this for him, that she always begins it.
A. No doubt.
Z. I hate a nagger: dont you?
A. It is your privilege as a woman to have the last word. Please take it and dont end all your remarks with a question.
Z. You are funny.
A. Am I? I never felt less funny in my life.
Z. I can’t make you out at all. I am rather good at making out people as a rule; but I cant make head or tail of you.
A. I am not here to be made out. You are not here to make people out, but to revel in the enjoyments you have paid for. Deck tennis, deck quoits, shuffleboard, golf, squash rackets, the swimming pool, the gymnasium all invite you.
Z. I am no good at games: besides, theyre silly. I’d rather sit and talk.
A. Then for heaven’s sake talk to somebody else. I have no time for talk. I have to work my passage.
Z. What do you mean: work your passage? You are not a sailor.
A. No. I make a precarious living on board ship by writing the Marco Polo Series of Chatty Guide Books. Unless I complete two thousand words a day I am bankrupt. I cannot complete them if you persist in talking to me.
Z. Do you mean you are writing a book about this cruise?
A. I am trying to–under great difficulties.
Z. Will I be in it?
A. [grimly] You will.
Z. How thrilling! I have never been put in a book before. You will read me what you have written about me, wont you?
A. When the book is published you can read it to your heart’s content.
Z. But I should like you to get me right. After all, what do you know about me? I will tell you the whole of my life if you like.
A. Great heavens, NO. Please dont.
Z. Oh, I dont care who knows it.
A. Evidently. You would hardly offer to tell it to a perfect stranger if you cared, or if it was of the smallest interest.