Mrs. Higgins was brought up on Morris and Burne Jones; and her room, which is very unlike her son’s room in Wimpole Street, is not crowded with furniture and little tables and nicknacks. In the middle of the room there is a big ottoman; and this, with the carpet, the Morris wall-papers, and the Morris chintz window curtains and brocade covers of the ottoman and its cushions, supply all the ornament, and are much too handsome to be hidden by odds and ends of useless things. A few good oil-paintings from the exhibitions in the Grosvenor Gallery thirty years ago (the Burne Jones, not the Whistler side of them) are on the walls. The only landscape is a Cecil Lawson on the scale of a Rubens. There is a portrait of Mrs. Higgins as she was when she defied fashion in her youth in one of the beautiful Rossettian costumes which, when caricatured by people who did not understand, led to the absurdities of popular estheticism in the eighteen-seventies.
In the corner diagonally opposite the door Mrs. Higgins, now over sixty and long past taking the trouble to dress out of the fashion, sits writing at an elegantly simple writing-table with a bell button within reach of her hand. There is a Chippendale chair further back in the room between her and the window nearest her side. At the other side of the room, further forward, is an Elizabethan chair roughly carved in the taste of Inigo Jones. On the same side a piano in a decorated case. The corner between the fireplace and the window is occupied by a divan cushioned in Morris chintz.
It is between four and five in the afternoon.
The door is opened violently; and Higgins enters with his hat on.
Mrs. Higgins [dismayed] Henry [scolding him]! What are you doing here to-day? It is my at home day: you promised not to come. [As he bends to kiss her, she takes his hat off, and presents it to him].
Higgins. Oh bother! [He throws the hat down on the table].
Mrs. Higgins. Go home at once.
Higgins [kissing her] I know, mother. I came on purpose.
Mrs. Higgins. But you mustn’t. I’m serious, Henry. You offend all my friends: they stop coming whenever they meet you.
Higgins. Nonsense! I know I have no small talk; but people don’t mind. [He sits on the settee].
Mrs. Higgins. Oh! don’t they? Small talk indeed! What about your large talk? Really, dear, you mustn’t stay.
Higgins. I must. I’ve a job for you. A phonetic job.
Mrs. Higgins. No use, dear. I’m sorry; but I can’t get round your vowels; and though I like to get pretty postcards in your patent shorthand, I always have to read the copies in ordinary writing you so thoughtfully send me.
Higgins. Well, this isn’t a phonetic job.
Mrs. Higgins. You said it was.