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
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.