CONFUCIUS [looking round, and recoiling with a
shriek of disgust] Ach!
Avaunt! Avaunt! [He rushes from the room].
BURGE-LUBIN. What part of the coast is that?
THE NEGRESS. Fishguard Bay. Why not run over and join me for the afternoon? I am disposed to be approachable at last.
BURGE-LUBIN. But Fishguard! Two hundred and seventy miles!
THE NEGRESS. There is a lightning express on the Irish Air Service at half-past sixteen. They will drop you by a parachute in the bay. The dip will do you good. I will pick you up and dry you and give you a first-rate time.
BURGE-LUBIN. Delightful. But a little risky, isnt it?
THE NEGRESS. Risky! I thought you were afraid of nothing.
BURGE-LUBIN. I am not exactly afraid; but—
THE NEGRESS [offended] But you think it is not good enough. Very well [she raises her hand to take the peg out of her switchboard].
BURGE-LUBIN [imploringly] No: stop: let me explain: hold the line just one moment. Oh, please.
THE NEGRESS [waiting with her hand poised over the peg] Well?
BURGE-LUBIN. The fact is, I have been behaving very recklessly for some time past under the impression that my life would be so short that it was not worth bothering about. But I have just learnt that I may live—well, much longer than I expected. I am sure your good sense will tell you that this alters the case. I—
THE NEGRESS [with suppressed rage] Oh, quite. Pray don’t risk your precious, life on my account. Sorry for troubling you. Goodbye. [She snatches out her peg and vanishes].
BURGE-LUBIN [urgently] No: please hold on. I can convince you—[a loud buzz-uzz-uzz]. Engaged! Who is she calling up now? [Represses the button and calls] The Chief Secretary. Say I want to see him again, just for a moment.
CONFUCIUS’S VOICE. Is the woman gone?
BURGE-LUBIN. Yes, yes: it’s all right. Just a moment, if—[Confucius returns] Confucius: I have some important business at Fishguard. The Irish Air Service can drop me in the bay by parachute. I suppose it’s quite safe, isnt it?
CONFUCIUS. Nothing is quite safe. The air service is as safe as any other travelling service. The parachute is safe. But the water is not safe.
BURGE-LUBIN. Why? They will give me an unsinkable tunic, wont they?
CONFUCIUS. You will not sink; but the sea is very cold. You may get rheumatism for life.
BURGE-LUBIN. For life! That settles it: I wont risk it.
CONFUCIUS. Good. You have at last become prudent: you are no longer what you call a sportsman: you are a sensible coward, almost a grown-up man. I congratulate you.
BURGE-LUBIN [resolutely] Coward or no coward, I will not face an eternity of rheumatism for any woman that ever was born. [He rises and goes to the rack for his fillet] I have changed my mind: I am going home. [He cocks the fillet rakishly] Good evening.