On the other side of the central door, to the left of the visitor, is a cabinet of shallow drawers. On it is a telephone and the telephone directory. The corner beyond, and most of the side wall, is occupied by a grand piano, with the keyboard at the end furthest from the door, and a bench for the player extending the full length of the keyboard. On the piano is a dessert dish heaped with fruit and sweets, mostly chocolates.
The middle of the room is clear. Besides the easy chair, the piano bench, and two chairs at the phonograph table, there is one stray chair. It stands near the fireplace. On the walls, engravings; mostly Piranesis and mezzotint portraits. No paintings.
Pickering is seated at the table, putting down some cards and a tuning-fork which he has been using. Higgins is standing up near him, closing two or three file drawers which are hanging out. He appears in the morning light as a robust, vital, appetizing sort of man of forty or thereabouts, dressed in a professional-looking black frock-coat with a white linen collar and black silk tie. He is of the energetic, scientific type, heartily, even violently interested in everything that can be studied as a scientific subject, and careless about himself and other people, including their feelings. He is, in fact, but for his years and size, rather like a very impetuous baby “taking notice” eagerly and loudly, and requiring almost as much watching to keep him out of unintended mischief. His manner varies from genial bullying when he is in a good humor to stormy petulance when anything goes wrong; but he is so entirely frank and void of malice that he remains likeable even in his least reasonable moments.
Higgins [as he shuts the last drawer] Well, I think that’s the whole show.
Pickering. It’s really amazing. I haven’t taken half of it in, you know.
Higgins. Would you like to go over any of it again?
Pickering [rising and coming to the fireplace, where he plants himself with his back to the fire] No, thank you; not now. I’m quite done up for this morning.
Higgins [following him, and standing beside him on his left] Tired of listening to sounds?
Pickering. Yes. It’s a fearful strain. I rather fancied myself because I can pronounce twenty-four distinct vowel sounds; but your hundred and thirty beat me. I can’t hear a bit of difference between most of them.
Higgins [chuckling, and going over to the piano to eat sweets] Oh, that comes with practice. You hear no difference at first; but you keep on listening, and presently you find they’re all as different as A from B. [Mrs. Pearce looks in: she is Higgins’s housekeeper] What’s the matter?
Mrs. Pearce [hesitating, evidently perplexed] A young woman wants to see you, sir.
Higgins. A young woman! What does she want?