Pygmalion Act 2
The next morning Higgins gives Pickering an overview of all his work. The scene is set in Higgins laboratory, in which can be found a phonograph, laryngoscope, organ pipes, singing lamp chimneys, tuning forks, etc. Besides the strange accoutrements of the phonetician, the laboratory looks like the comfortable study of wealthy man. There is a fireplace, armchair, and a piano. Higgins is dressed well and appears to be a robust man of about forty. He is eagerly interested in anything scientific in nature, and careless about the feelings of people around him. "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." Act 2, pg. 34
Pickering is overwhelmed by all the information he has just gone through with Higgins. He cannot make out the distinctions between all the 124 vowel sounds Higgins has documented. Higgins chuckles and goes over to the piano to get a chocolate. Mrs. Pearce, Higgins housekeeper, enters the study to announce the arrival of an unknown woman. She says the woman has a dreadful accent, and Higgins decides to have her up so that he can record her voice in front of Pickering. Mrs. Pearce brings the flower girl into the study. Pickering straightens himself in the presence of the women. The flower girl has cleaned herself up a bit and is wearing a gaudy hat decorated with orange, blue, and red ostrich feathers. Higgins recognizes her immediately and is disappointed. He already has enough records of the Lisson Grove accent. He tells her to leave. She says she has come to get speech lessons, and intends to pay for them. Higgins and Pickering are amazed. Higgins asks her how much she will pay him, and tells her to sit down. She rebels and demands to be asked politely. Higgins refuses to play her game, but eventually Pickering soothes her. She tells them her name is Liza Doolittle, and says she knows a girl who gets French lessons for eighteen pence an hour. So, she intends to pay no more than a shilling for her English lessons. After some thought, Higgins remarks to Pickering that Liza has offered him two fifths of her day's income which would work out to sixty pounds from a millionaire. He exclaims that it is the biggest offer he has ever gotten. Liza denies that she offered him sixty pounds and begins to get hysterical. He tells her to be quiet and offers her his handkerchief. Pickering suggests a bet. He will pay for all the expenses of Liza's tutelage if Higgins can pass Liza off as a duchess at the ambassador's garden party. Higgins is tempted. "It's almost irresistible. She is so deliciously low - so horribly dirty" Act 2, pg. 40 Liza protests loudly. Higgins gets excited and tells Mrs. Pearce to go and wash Liza and burn all of her clothes. Liza's bewilderment turns into terror and she springs out of her chair and threatens to call the police. Liza says she will not be taught by a crazy man and attempts to leave, but Higgins temporarily soothes her by popping a chocolate in her mouth. Mrs. Pearce suggests that he delineate the terms of their agreement with Liza. Higgins tells Liza to think of chocolates, and taxis, and gold, and diamonds. He tells her she will marry an officer in the Guards. After some more insistence by Mrs. Pearce and Pickering, Higgins tells Liza she will stay in his house and learn proper English and the manners of duchesses for six months. If she is good, she will have a proper bedroom and all the chocolates and taxi rides she desires, but if she is idle, Mrs. Pearce will wallop her with a broom. At the end of the six months, she will be taken to Buckingham Palace and if it is found out that she is not a duchess she will have her head cut off. Mrs. Pearce decides to take the arrangements into her own hands, and brings the girl upstairs. Liza follows her reluctantly, warning Higgins that she will not stay if she does not like it.
Mrs. Pearce shows Liza her bedroom and begins preparing a bath. Liza does not think she is good enough to sleep in such an elegant room. She thinks the bathroom is a strange laundry room, but Mrs. Pearce explains that it is where people wash themselves. Liza fears she will catch her death if she gets entirely wet. Mrs. Pearce says that Higgins washes himself every morning. Eventually, Mrs. Pearce has to wrestle Liza into the tub and endure the ensuing screams.
Down in the study, Pickering is questioning Higgins' character with regards to women. Higgins says, "The moment I let a woman make friends with me, she becomes jealous, exacting, suspicious, and a damned nuisance. I find that the moment I let myself make friends with a woman, I become selfish and tyrannical. Women upset everything. When you let them into your life, you find that the woman is driving at one thing and you're driving at another." Act 2, pg. 50 He asserts that he is a confirmed bachelor. Pickering insists that he must be assured of Pickering's character if he is to endorse this experiment. Higgins assures him, as Mrs. Pearce enters.
Mrs. Pearce asks Higgins if he will be very careful about the way he treats Liza. He asserts that he is always careful about what he says. She refutes that statement, saying that he is reckless in his speech whenever he is mildly peeved. She tells him he must not swear in front of Liza, and that he must be particularly careful not to say the word that starts with b. The vulgar word she refers to is bloody. He denies that he ever uses that word, except in moments of extreme excitement. Mrs. Pearce says, "Only this morning you applied it to your boots, to the butter, and to the brown bread." Act 2, pg. 51 Higgins passes it off as mere alliteration, but agrees not to use it in front of Liza. Mrs. Pearce then requests that Higgins be more careful in his manners as well. He is indignant at this suggestion, but succumbs angrily after Mrs. Pearce refers to specific habits, such as wiping his hands on his dressing gown. After Mrs. Pearce leaves, Higgins tells Pickering her ideas are ludicrous, and that although he is shy and has never been able to feel really grown-up like other men, she believes him to be overbearing.
Mrs. Pearce reenters to announce the arrival of Alfred Doolittle, Liza's father. Doolittle, an expressive and confident dustman, comes into the study with a look of concern and resolution. Doolittle greets Higgins and Higgins rejoins by telling him his place of birth. Doolittle says he wants his daughter. Higgins tells him to take her away at once. Doolittle is taken aback. Higgins threatens to call the police and tell them Doolittle sent his daughter to his house in an attempt to blackmail him for money. Doolittle protests; he says he has not mentioned money and he did not send Liza to Higgins. Higgins demands to know how Doolittle knows Liza is at his house. Doolittle says sweetly, "I'm willing to tell you. I'm wanting to tell you. I'm waiting to tell you." Act 2, pg. 55 Higgins comments on this rhythmic phrasing, saying that sentimental rhetoric is common to the Welsh. Doolittle tells them that he found out from a boy Liza sent to get her things from her landlady. Doolittle has brought her things. Higgins asks why he has brought her things if he intends to take her away. Doolittle says he does not intend to stand in Liza's way. Higgins tells him he must take her away. Doolittle says he asks only for his rights as a father, he does not want Liza back. "Well whats a five-pound note to you? And whats Eliza to me?" Act 2, pg. 57 Doolittle says he would ask more if he thought Higgins were a dishonorable man. Higgins is shocked at Doolittle's confession that he would sell his daughter. Doolittle defends himself by arguing that middle class morality is just an excuse to never give anything to the poor. They are impressed by his speech and decide to give him the money. Doolittle turns Victorian morality on its head again by saying he will make good use of the money by spending it on an evening of drinking and entertainment. This use he argues will keep him from wasting it by saving it, and will pleasure him and employ others. He turns down Higgins offer of more money, explaining that a large sum of money might tempt him to become prudent and therefore unhappy. Higgins suggests that if they listen any longer to Doolittle they may loose all their convictions.
As Doolittle leaves the room, Eliza, dressed in a Japanese dress, which Higgins brought from Japan, enters. All three men are shocked by her appearance. Liza suggests that her father is there to ask Higgins for money and a fight ensues. Higgins steps between them and suggests that Doolittle come back to visit his daughter and meet a clergyman friend of his. He mentions the clergyman to discourage future visits from Doolittle. Doolittle assents and Mrs. Pearce escorts him out. Liza wishes her father would work at his trade instead of begging all the time. She asks if she can take a taxi to Tottenham Court Road so she can impress her old friends. Higgins suggests that she wait until her new clothes arrive. Mrs. Pearce announces their arrival, and Liza rushes out.
Eliza's first lesson is very disconcerting for her. She sits in Higgins laboratory as Higgins paces in front of her. She begins reciting her alphabet with a strong accent. Higgins stops her and asks her to say cup of tea. She obliges, and he suggests the proper placement for her tongue to produce better pronunciation. She gets it right on her next try. Higgins's rather intense lesson is characterized by exaggerated insults, compliments, and threats, and Eliza begins to weep. He tells her to leave and practice with Mrs. Pearce. Her lessons continue in this fashion for months before her first practice round in London society.