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The Master of Mrs. Chilvers
by Jerome K. Jerome
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[A burst of cheering is heard. A shrill male voice: "Three cheers for Winston Churchill!" It is followed by an explosion of yells.]

ST. HERBERT Who's that?

LAMB [He has opened the window.] Phoebe Mogton!

SIGSBY What a family!

[JANET has entered.]

JANET Is that Mrs. Chilvers? [To LAMB and ST. HERBERT.] Good evening.

ST. HERBERT Good evening.

LAMB No; it's her sister.

JANET I wonder she doesn't come.

SIGSBY What are the latest figures? Do you know?

[PHOEBE enters.]

JANET I forget the numbers. Mrs. Chilvers is forty ahead.

PHOEBE Forty ahead! [To JANET.] Did you order the band?

LAMB [To SIGSBY.] The Dock division was against him to a man; that Shipping Bill has upset them.

JANET No. I didn't think we should want the band.

PHOEBE Not want it! My dear girl -

JANET Perhaps Lady Mogton has ordered it, I'll ask her. [She goes out.]

SIGSBY Hadn't you better "Wait and see"? It isn't over yet.

PHOEBE We may as well have it! It can play the Dead March in "Saul" if you win. [She laughs.]

SIGSBY [Grunts. To LAMB.] Are you coming?

[He goes out.]

LAMB Yes. [To ST. HERBERT.] Are you coming?

ST. HERBERT Hardly worth while; nearly over, isn't it?

LAMB It generally takes an hour and a half. [He looks at his watch.] Another forty minutes. Perhaps less. [He goes out.]

PHOEBE I do love to make him ratty. Wish it wasn't poor old Geoff we were fighting.

ST. HERBERT When I marry, it will be the womanly woman.

PHOEBE No chance for me then?

ST. HERBERT I don't say that. I can see you taking your political opinions from your husband, and thinking them your own.

PHOEBE Good heavens!

ST. HERBERT The brainy woman will think for herself. And then I foresee some lively breakfast tables.

PHOEBE Humph! No fear, I suppose, of a man taking his views from his wife and thinking them his own?

ST. HERBERT That may be the solution. The brainy woman will have to marry the manly man.

[GINGER enters.]

JAWBONES [He is on his knees blowing the fire. In a low growl.] Shut the door!

GINGER Can't till I'm inside, can I? [Shuts it.] Where's Lady Mogton?

JAWBONES I don't know.

PHOEBE What do you want her for?

GINGER Only to tell her that I can't find Chilvers.

PHOEBE Isn't she here?

GINGER Not unless she's come while I've been out.

[JANET enters.]

JANET Oh, Lady Mogton -

PHOEBE [Interrupting her.] Isn't Annys here?

JANET No. [To GINGER.] Haven't you found her?

GINGER [Shakes her head.] Been everywhere I could think of.

PHOEBE [To herself.] She couldn't have gone home? Is there a telephone here?

JANET The room's locked up.

JAWBONES There's one at 118, High Street. Shall I go, miss?

PHOEBE No, thanks. I'll go myself. Oh, what about the band?

JANET Lady Mogton says she'd like it. If it isn't too tired.

GINGER It's at Sell's Coffee-'ouse in Piggott Street. I 'eard them practising.

PHOEBE Good. I shan't be more than a few minutes.

ST. HERBERT I'll come with you, if I may? I've got some news that may be of use to you.

PHOEBE Do. [To GINGER.] Stop here, I may want you.

[PHOEBE and ST. HERBERT go out.]

JANET How was Mrs. Chilvers seeming this afternoon?

GINGER Never 'eard 'er speak better, miss.

JANET Did you stop to the end?

GINGER Not quite. Mrs. Spender wanted some shopping done.

[JANET goes out.]

GINGER Can I 'elp yer?

JAWBONES Yer might hold the piper while I blow.

[The fire begins to burn.]

GINGER It's getting brighter.

JAWBONES That's caught it.

GINGER Wonderful what a little coaxing will do.

JAWBONES [He is still squatting on his heels, folding up the paper. He looks up.] Ain't yer ever thought of that, instead of worrying about the vote?

GINGER [She moves away.] You don't understand us wimmin.

JAWBONES [He has risen. He pauses in his folding of the paper.] Don't say that.

GINGER Why should we coax yer—for our rights?

JAWBONES Because it's the easiest way of getting 'em.

GINGER [She has become oratorical.] Our appeal is not to man [with upraised hand] but to Justice!

JAWBONES Oh! And what does the lidy say?

GINGER [Descending.] 'Ow do yer mean?

JAWBONES To your appeal. Is she goin' to give 'em to yer ? You tike my tip: if yer in a 'urry, you get a bit on account—from Man. 'Ere. [He dives into his pocket, produces, wrapped up in tissue paper, a ring, which he exhibits to her.] That's a bit more in your line.

GINGER [Her eyes sparkle. She takes the ring in her hand. Then problems come to her.] Why do yer want me, William?

JAWBONES Because, in spite of all, I love yer.

GINGER [She looks into the future.] What will I be? A general servant, without wages.

JAWBONES The question, as it seems to me, is, which of us two is the biggest fool? Instead of thirty bob a week in my pocket to spend as I like—guess I'll 'ave to be content with three 'alf- crowns.

GINGER Seven an' six! Rather a lot, Bill, out o' thirty bob. Don't leave much for me an' the children.

JAWBONES I shall 'ave to get my dinners.

GINGER I could mike yer somethin' tasty to tike with yer. Then with, say—three shillings -

JAWBONES 'Ere—[He is on the point of snatching back the ring. He encounters her eyes. There is a moment's battle. The Eternal Feminine conquers.] Will yer always look as sweet as yer do now?

GINGER Always, Bill. So long as yer good to me!

[She slips the ring over her finger, still with her eyes drawing him. He catches her to him in fierce passion, kisses her.]

[A loud shrill female cheer comes from the crowd. The cheer is renewed and renewed.]

JAWBONES [He breaks away and goes to the window.] 'Ullo! What are they shoutin' about now? [He looks out.] It's the Donah!

GINGER Mrs. Chilvers?

JAWBONES Yus. Better not get wearin' it—may shock their feelings.

GINGER [She gazes rapturously at the ring as she draws it off.] It is a beauty! I do love yer, Bill.

[There enter ANNYS and ELIZABETH. ANNYS is excited; she is laughing and talking.]

ANNYS [Laughing while she rearranges her hat and hair.] A little embarrassing. That red-haired girl—she carried me right up the steps. I was afraid she would -

[JAWBONES has been quick enough to swing a chair into place just in time to receive her.]

[She recovers herself.] Thank you.

ELIZABETH [She hands ANNYS a smelling-bottle. To JAWBONES.] Open the window a few inches.

[He does so. Some woman, much interrupted, is making a speech.]

[JANET opens the door a little way and looks in.]

JANET Oh, it is you! I am glad!

[She goes out again.]

ELIZABETH Are the others all here?

GINGER 'Er ladyship is watching the counting. Miss Phoebe 'as just gone out -

[PHOEBE enters.]

Oh, 'ere she is.

PHOEBE Hullo! [She is taking off her things.] Wherever have you been? We've been scouring the neighbourhood -

[LADY MOGTON enters, followed by JANET.]

I say, you're looking jolly chippy.

ELIZABETH We had an extra enthusiastic meeting. She spoke for rather a long time. I made her come home with me and lie down. I think she is all right now.

LADY MOGTON Would you like to see a doctor?

PHOEBE There is a very good man close here. [She turns to JAWBONES, who is still near the window.] Gordon -

ANNYS [Interrupting.] No. Please don't. I am quite all right. I hate strange doctors.

PHOEBE Well, let me send for Whitby; he could be here in twenty minutes.

ANNYS I wish you would all leave me alone. There's absolutely nothing to fuss about whatever. We pampered women—we can't breathe the same air that ordinary mortals have to. We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.

PHOEBE [To herself.] Obstinate pig.

[She catches JAWBONES' eye; unnoticed by the others, she takes him aside. They whisper.]

ANNYS How is it going?

LADY MOGTON You must be prepared for winning. [She puts again the question that ANNYS has frequently been asked to answer during the last few days.] What are you going to do?

[MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS enters, as usual in a flutter of excitement.]

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS Am I late?

[They brush her back into silence. ELIZABETH takes charge of her.]

ANNYS [She has risen.] You think it wise tactics, to make it impossible for Geoffrey to be anything else in the future but our enemy?

LADY MOGTON [Contemptuously.] You are thinking of him, and not of the cause.

ANNYS And if I were! Haven't I made sacrifice enough?—more than any of you will ever know. Ay—and would make more, if I felt it was demanded of me. I don't! [Her burst of anger is finished. She turns, smiling.] I'm much more cunning than you think. There will be other elections we shall want to fight. With the Under- Secretary for Home Affairs in sympathy with us, the Government will find it difficult to interfere. Don't you see how clever I am?

[JAWBONES, having received his instructions from PHOEBE, has slipped out unobserved. He has beckoned to GINGER; she has followed him. PHOEBE has joined the group.]

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. There's something in that.

JANET Is Mr. Chilvers still in sympathy with us?

PHOEBE Of course he is. A bit rubbed up the wrong way just at present; that's our fault. When Annys goes down, early next mouth, to fight the Exchange Division of Manchester, we shall have him with us.

[A moment.]

LADY MOGTON Where do you get that from?

PHOEBE From St. Herbert. The present member is his cousin. They say he can't live more than a week.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS It really seems like Providence.

ANNYS [Has taken the opportunity of giving PHOEBE a grateful squeeze of the hand.].

LADY MOGTON You will fight Manchester?

ANNYS Yes. [Laughs.] And make myself a public nuisance if I win.

LADY MOGTON Well, must be content with that, I suppose. Better not come in; the room's rather crowded. I'll keep you informed how things are going.

[She goes out, followed by JANET.]

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS I'll stay with you, dear.

PHOEBE I want you to come and be photographed for the Daily Mirror. The man's waiting downstairs.

ELIZABETH I'll stop with Annys.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS I'm not quite sure, you know, that I take well by flashlight.

PHOEBE You wait till you've seen mamma! We must have you. They want you for the centre of the page.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS Well, if it's really -

PHOEBE [To the others.] Shall see you again. [She winks. Then to MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS.] We mustn't keep them waiting. They are giving us a whole page.

[PHOEBE takes MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS out. ELIZABETH has followed to the door; she closes it. ANNYS has reseated herself, facing the fire.]

ELIZABETH When did you see your husband last?

ANNYS Not since—Tuesday, wasn't it, that we went round to his rooms. Why?

ELIZABETH I'm thinking about Manchester. What was it he said to you?

ANNYS Oh, we were, both of us, a little over-excited, I suppose. He has—[she hesitates, finally answers]—he has always been so eager for children.

ELIZABETH Yes. So many men are; not having to bear the pain and inconvenience themselves.

ANNYS Oh, well, they have to provide for them when they do come. That's fair enough division, I su- [Suddenly she turns fiercely.] Why do you talk like that? As if we women were cowards. Do you think if God sent me a child I should grudge Him the price!

ELIZABETH Do you want Him to?

ANNYS I don't know; prayed Him to, once.

ELIZABETH [She lays her hand upon her.] It isn't a few more mothers that the world has need of. It is the women whom God has appointed—to whom He has given freedom, that they may champion the cause of the mothers, helpless by reason of their motherhood.

[A moment. GEOFFREY enters.]

GEOFFREY Good evening.

ANNYS [Rises; a smile struggles for possession. But he only shakes hands, and it dies away.]

ELIZABETH Good evening.

[They shake hands.]

GEOFFREY You are not interested in the counting?

ANNYS The room is rather crowded. Mamma thought I would be better out here. How have you been?

GEOFFREY Oh, all right. It's going to be a very near thing, they tell me.

ANNYS Yes, I shall be glad when it's over.

GEOFFREY It's always a trying time. What are you going to do, if you win?

[LADY MOGTON looks in.]

LADY MOGTON [Seeing GEOFFREY.] Oh, good evening.

GEOFFREY Good evening.

LADY MOGTON Chilvers, 2,960—Annys Chilvers, 2,874.

[She disappears—closes door.]

ANNYS Perhaps I'm not going to win. [She goes to him, smiling.] I hope you'll win. I would so much rather you won.

GEOFFREY Very kind of you. I'm afraid that won't make it a certainty.

ANNYS [His answer has hardened her again.] How can I? It would not be fair. Without your consent I should never have entered upon it. It was understood that the seat, in any case, would be yours.

GEOFFREY I would rather you considered yourself quite free. In warfare it doesn't pay to be "fair" to one's enemy.

ANNYS [Still hardening.] Besides, there is no need. There will be other opportunities. I can contest some other constituency. If I win, claim the seat for that.

[A moment.]

GEOFFREY So this is only the beginning? You have decided to devote yourself to a political career?

ANNYS Why not?

GEOFFREY If I were to ask you to abandon it, to come back to your place at my side—helping me, strengthening me?

ANNYS You mean you would have me abandon my own task—merge myself in you?

GEOFFREY Be my wife.

ANNYS It would not be right. I, too, have my work.

GEOFFREY If it takes you away from me?

ANNYS Why need it take me away from you? Why cannot we work together for common ends, each in our own way?

GEOFFREY We talked like that before we tried it. Marriage is not a partnership; it is a leadership.

ANNYS [She looks at him.] You mean—an ownership.

GEOFFREY Perhaps you're right. I didn't make it. I'm only— beginning to understand it.

ANNYS And I too. It is not what I want.

GEOFFREY You mean its duties have become irksome to you.

ANNYS I mean I want to be the judge myself of what are my duties.

GEOFFREY I no longer count. You will go your way without me?

ANNYS I must go the way I think right.

GEOFFREY [He flings away.] If you win to-night you will do well to make the most of it. Take my advice and claim the seat.

ANNYS [Looks at him puzzled.]

ELIZABETH Why?

GEOFFREY Because [with a short, ugly laugh] the Lord only knows when you'll get another opportunity.

ELIZABETH You are going to stop us?

GEOFFREY To stop women from going to the poll. The Bill will be introduced on Monday. Carried through all its stages the same week.

ELIZABETH You think it will pass?

GEOFFREY The Whips assure me that it will.

ANNYS But they cannot, they dare not, without your assent. The— [The light breaks in upon her.] Who is bringing it in?

GEOFFREY I am.

ANNYS [Is going to speak.]

GEOFFREY [He stops her.] Oh, I'm prepared for all that—ridicule, abuse. "Chilvers's Bill for the Better Regulation of Mrs. Chilvers," they'll call it. I can hear their laughter. Yours won't be among it.

ANNYS But, Geoffrey! What is the meaning? Merely to spite me, are you going to betray a cause that you have professed belief in— that you have fought for?

GEOFFREY Yes—if it is going to take you away from me. I want you. No, I don't want a friend—"a fellow-worker"—some interesting rival in well doing. I can get all that outside my home. I want a wife. I want the woman I love to belong to me—to be mine. I am not troubling about being up to date; I'm talking what I feel—what every male creature must have felt since the protoplasmic cell developed instincts. I want a woman to love—a woman to work for—a woman to fight for—a woman to be a slave to. But mine—mine, and nothing else. All the rest [he makes a gesture] is talk.

[He closes the window, shutting out the hubbub of the crowd.]

ANNYS [A strange, new light has stolen in. She is bewildered, groping.] But—all this is new between us. You have not talked like this for—not since— We were just good friends—comrades.

GEOFFREY And might have remained so, God knows! I suppose we're made like that. So long as there was no danger passion slept. I cannot explain it. I only know that now, beside the thought of losing you, all else in the world seems meaningless. The Woman's Movement! [He makes a gesture of contempt.] Men have wrecked kingdoms for a woman before now—and will again. I want you! [He comes to her.] Won't you come back to me, that we may build up the home we used to dream of? Wasn't the old love good? What has this new love to give you? Work that man can do better. The cause of the women—the children! Has woman loved woman better than man? Will the world be better for the children, man and woman contending? Come back to me. Help me. Help me to fight for all good women. Teach me how I may make the world better—for our children.

ANNYS [The light is in her eyes. She stands a moment. Her hands are going out to him.]

ELIZABETH [She comes between them.] Yes, go to him. He will be very good to you. Good men are kind to women, kind even to their dogs. You will be among the pampered few! You will be happy. And the others! What does it matter?

[They draw apart. She stands between them, the incarnation of the spirit of sex war.]

The women that have not kind owners—the dogs that have not kind masters—the dumb women, chained to their endless, unpaid drudgery! Let them be content. What are they but man's chattel? To be honoured if it pleases him, or to be cast into the dust. Man's pauper! Bound by his laws, subject to his whim; her every hope, her every aspiration, owed to his charity. She toils for him without ceasing: it should be her "pleasure." She bears him children, when he chooses to desire them. They are his to do as he will by. Why seek to change it? Our man is kind. What have they to do with us: the women beaten, driven, overtasked—the women without hope or joy, the livers of grey lives that men may laugh and spend—the women degraded lower than the beasts to pander to the beast in man—the women outraged and abandoned, bearing to the grave the burden of man's lust? Let them go their way. They are but our sisters of sorrow. And we who could help them—we to whom God has given the weapons: the brain, and the courage—we make answer: "I have married a husband, and I cannot come."

[A silence.]

GEOFFREY Well, you have heard. [He makes a gesture.] What is your answer?

ANNYS [She comes to him.] Don't you love me enough to humour me a little—to put up with my vexing ways? I so want to help, to feel I am doing just a little, to make the world kinder. I know you can do it better, but I want so to be "in it." [She laughs.] Let us forget all this. Wake up to-morrow morning with fresh hearts. You will be Member for East Poplar. And then you shall help me to win Manchester. [She puts her hands upon his breast: she would have him take her in his arms.] I am not strong enough to fight alone.

GEOFFREY I want you. Let Manchester find some one else.

ANNYS [She draws away from him.] And if I cannot—will not?

GEOFFREY I bring in my Bill on Monday. We'll be quite frank about it. That is my price—you. I want you!

ANNYS You mean it comes to that: a whole cause dependent on a man and a woman!

GEOFFREY Yes, that is how the world is built. On each man and woman. "How does it shape my life, my hopes?" So will each make answer.

[LADY MOGTON enters. She stands silent.]

ELIZABETH Is it over?

LADY MOGTON Annys Chilvers, 3,604—Geoffrey Chilvers, 3,590.

[JANET enters.]

JANET [She rushes to ANNYS, embraces her.] You've won, you've won! [She flies to the window, opens it, and goes out on to the balcony.]

[PHOEBE enters, followed by MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS.]

PHOEBE Is it true?

LADY MOGTON Pretty close. Majority of 14.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS For us?

LADY MOGTON For us.

[JANET by this time has announced the figures. There is heard a great burst of cheering, renewed again and again.]

JANET [Re-entering.] They want you! They want you!

[Mingled with the cheering come cries of "Speech! Speech!"]

LADY MOGTON You must say something.

[The band strikes up "The Conquering Hero." The women crowd round ANNYS, congratulating her. GEOFFREY stands apart.]

PHOEBE [Screaming above the din.] Put on your cloak.

JANET [Rushes and gets it.]

[They wrap it round her.]

[ANNYS goes out on to the balcony, followed by the other women. ELIZABETH, going last, fires a parting smile of triumph at GEOFFREY.]

[A renewed burst of cheering announces their arrival on the balcony. The crowd bursts into "For She's a Jolly Good Fellow"— the band, making a quick change, joins in. GEOFFREY remains centre.]

[JAWBONES enters unobserved. The singing ends with three cheers. ANNYS is speaking. GEOFFREY turns and sees JAWBONES.]

GEOFFREY [With a smile.] Give me down my coat, will you?

JAWBONES [He is sympathetic. He helps him on with it.] Shall I get you a cab, sir?

GEOFFREY No, thanks. I'll pick one up. [He goes towards the door, then stops.] Is there any other way out—not through the main entrance?

JAWBONES Yes, sir. There's a side door opening on Woodstock Road. I'll show it you.

GEOFFREY Thanks. [He follows JAWBONES out.]

[A burst of cheering comes from the crowd.]

CURTAIN.



THE FOURTH ACT



SCENE:- Russell Square. The morning-room [on the ground floor]. A small, cheerful room, furnished in Chippendale, white panelled, with Adams fireplace in which a bright fire is burning. Two deep easy-chairs are before the fire. The window-curtains of red damask are drawn. An oval table occupies the centre of the room. The door at back opens upon the hall. Only one light burns, an electric lamp on a table just above the fire.

TIME:- Midnight.

[The door opens. GEOFFREY enters. He has left his out-door things in the hall. He crosses and rings the bell. A moment.]

[HAKE enters.]

GEOFFREY Oh, you, Hake! There wasn't any need for you to have stopped.

HAKE I was not sure of your arrangements. I thought perhaps I might be wanted.

GEOFFREY Sorry. I ought to have told you.

HAKE It's been no inconvenience, sir. I told Mrs. Hake not to sit up.

GEOFFREY [He is opening and reading his letters left for him on the table.] Does she generally sit up for you?

HAKE As a rule, sir. We like a little chat before going to bed.

GEOFFREY [His eyes on a letter.] What do you find to chat about?

HAKE Oh, there is so much for a husband and wife to talk about. The— As a rule.

[A clock on the mantelpiece strikes one.]

GEOFFREY What's that?

HAKE Quarter past twelve, sir.

GEOFFREY Has your mistress come in?

HAKE Not yet, sir. Has the election gone all right, sir?

GEOFFREY For Mrs. Chilvers, yes. She is now member for East Poplar.

HAKE I am sorry. It has been a great surprise to me.

GEOFFREY The result?

HAKE The whole thing, sir. Such a sweet lady, we all thought her.

GEOFFREY Life, Hake, is a surprising affair.

[A ring is heard.]

I expect that's she. She has forgotten her key.

[HAKE goes out.]

[GEOFFREY continues his letters. A few moments pass; HAKE re- enters, closes the door.]

HAKE [He seems puzzled.] It's a lady, sir

[GEOFFREY turns.]

HAKE At least—hardly a lady. A Mrs. Chinn.

GEOFFREY Mrs. Chinn! [He glances at his watch.] At twelve o'clock at night. Well, all right. I'll see her.

[HAKE opens the door, speaks to MRS. CHINN. She enters, in bonnet and shawl.]

HAKE Mrs. Chinn.

GEOFFREY Good evening, Mrs. Chinn.

MRS. CHINN Good evening, sir.

GEOFFREY You needn't stop, Hake. I shan't be wanting anything.

HAKE Thank you.

GEOFFREY Apologise for me to Mrs. Hake. Good-night.

HAKE Good-night, sir.

[HAKE goes out. A minute later the front door is heard to slam.]

GEOFFREY Won't you sit down? [He puts a chair for her left of the table.]

MRS. CHINN [Seating herself.] Thank you, sir.

GEOFFREY [He half sits on the arm of the easy-chair below the fire.] What's the trouble?

MRS. CHINN It's my boy, sir—my youngest. He's been taking money that didn't belong to him.

GEOFFREY Um. Has it been going on for long?

MRS. CHINN About six months, sir. I only heard of it to-night. You see, his wife died a year ago. She was such a good manager. And after she was gone he seems to have got into debt.

GEOFFREY What were his wages?

MRS. CHINN Nineteen shillings a week, sir. And that with the rent and three young children—well, it wants thinking out.

GEOFFREY From whom did he take the money—his employers?

MRS. CHINN Yes, sir. He was the carman. They had always trusted him to collect the accounts.

GEOFFREY How much, would you say, was the defalcation?

MRS. CHINN I beg pardon, sir.

GEOFFREY How much does it amount to, the sums that he has taken?

MRS. CHINN Six pounds, sir, Mr. Cohen says it comes to.

GEOFFREY Won't they accept repayment?

MRS. CHINN Yes, sir. Mr. Cohen has been very nice about it. He is going to let me pay it off by instalments.

GEOFFREY Well, then, that gets over most of the trouble.

MRS. CHINN Well, you see, sir, unfortunately, Mr. Cohen gave information to the police the moment he discovered it.

GEOFFREY Umph! Can't he say he made a mistake?

MRS. CHINN They say it must go for trial, sir. That he can only withdraw the charge in court.

GEOFFREY Um!

MRS. CHINN You see, sir—a thing like that—[She recovers herself.] It clings to a lad.

GEOFFREY What do you want me to do?

MRS. CHINN Well, sir, I thought that, perhaps—you see, sir, he has got a brother in Canada who would help him; and I thought that if I could ship him off -

GEOFFREY You want me to tip the wink to the police to look the other way while you smuggle this young malefactor out of the clutches of the law?

MRS. CHINN [Quite indifferent to the moral aspect of the case.] If you would be so kind, sir.

GEOFFREY Umph! I suppose you know what you're doing; appealing through your womanhood to man's weakness—employing "backstairs influence" to gain your private ends, indifferent to the higher issues of the public weal? All the things that are going to cease when woman has the vote.

MRS. CHINN You see, sir, he's the youngest.

[Gradually the decent but dingy figure of MRS. CHINN has taken to itself new shape. To GEOFFREY, it almost seems as though there were growing out of the shadows over against him the figure of great Artemis herself—Artemis of the Thousand Breasts. He had returned home angry, bitter against all women. As she unfolds her simple tale understanding comes to him. So long as there are "Mrs. Chinns" in the world, Woman claims homage.]

GEOFFREY How many were there?

MRS. CHINN Ten altogether, six living.

GEOFFREY Been a bit of a struggle for you, hasn't it?

MRS. CHINN It has been a bit difficult, at times; especially after their poor father died.

GEOFFREY How many were you left with?

MRS. CHINN Eight, sir.

GEOFFREY How on earth did you manage to keep them?

MRS. CHINN Well, you see, sir, the two eldest, they were earning a little. I don't think I could have done it without that.

GEOFFREY Wasn't there any source from which you could have obtained help? What was your husband?

MRS. CHINN He worked in the shipyards, sir. There was some talk about it. But, of course, that always means taking the children away from you.

GEOFFREY Would not that have been better for them?

MRS. CHINN Not always, sir. Of course, if I hadn't been able to do my duty by them I should have had to. But, thank God, I've always been strong.

GEOFFREY [He rises.] I will see what can be done.

MRS. CHINN Thank you, sir.

GEOFFREY [Half-way, he turns.] When does the next boat sail—for Canada?

MRS. CHINN To-morrow night, sir, from Glasgow. I have booked his passage.

GEOFFREY [With a smile.] You seem to have taken everything for granted.

MRS. CHINN You see, sir, it's the disgrace. All the others are doing so well. It would upset them so.

[He goes out.]

[There is a moment.]

[ANNYS enters. She is wearing her outdoor things.]

ANNYS Mrs. Chinn!

MRS. CHINN [She has risen; she curtseys.] Good evening, ma'am.

ANNYS [She is taking off her hat.] Nothing wrong, is there?

MRS. CHINN My boy, ma'am, my youngest, has been getting into trouble.

ANNYS [She pauses, her hat in her hand.] They will, won't they? It's nothing serious, I hope?

MRS. CHINN I think it will be all right, ma'am, thanks to your good gentleman.

ANNYS [She lays aside her hat.] You have had a good many children, haven't you, Mrs. Chinn?

MRS. CHINN Ten altogether, ma'am; six living.

ANNYS Can one love ten, all at once?

[The cloak has fallen aside. MRS. CHINN is a much experienced lady.]

MRS. CHINN Just as many as come, dear. God sends the love with them.

[There is a moment; the two women are very close to one another. Then ANNYS gives a little cry and somehow their arms are round one another.]

[She mothers her into the easy chair above the fire; places a footstool under her feet.] You have your cry out, dearie, it will do you good.

ANNYS You look so strong and great.

MRS. CHINN It's the tears, dearie. [She arranges the foot-stool.] You keep your feet up.

[The handle of the door is heard. MRS. CHINN is standing beside her own chair. She is putting back her handkerchief into her bag.]

[GEOFFREY re-enters.]

[ANNYS is hidden in the easy chair. He does not see her.]

GEOFFREY Well, Mrs. Chinn, an exhaustive search for the accused will be commenced—next week.

MRS. CHINN Thank you, sir.

GEOFFREY What about the children—are they going with him?

MRS. CHINN No, sir; I thought he would be better without them till everything is settled.

GEOFFREY Who is taking care of them—you?

MRS. CHINN Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY And the passage money—how much was that?

MRS. CHINN Four pound fifteen.

GEOFFREY Would you mind my coming in, as a friend?

MRS. CHINN Well, if you don't mind, I'd rather not. I've always done everything for the children myself. It's been a fad of mine.

GEOFFREY [He makes a gesture of despair.] You mothers! You're so greedy. [He holds out his hand, smiling.] Goodbye.

MRS. CHINN [She takes his hand in hers.] God bless you, sir. And your good lady.

GEOFFREY [As he takes her to the door.] How will you get home?

MRS. CHINN I can get the Underground from Gower Street, sir.

[They go out talking about last trains and leaving the door open. The next moment the front door is heard to slam.]

[GEOFFREY re-enters.]

[ANNYS has moved round, so that coming back into the room he finds her there.]

GEOFFREY How long have you been in?

[He closes the door.]

ANNYS Only a few minutes—while you were at the telephone. I had to rest for a little while. Dr. Whitby brought me back in his motor.

GEOFFREY Was he down there?

ANNYS Phoebe had sent for him. I had been taken a little giddy earlier in the day.

GEOFFREY [He grunts. He is fighting with his tenderness.] Don't wonder at it. All this overwork and excitement.

ANNYS I'm afraid I've been hurting you.

GEOFFREY [Still growling.] Both been hurting each other, I expect.

ANNYS [She smiles.] It's so easy to hurt those that love us.

[She makes a little movement, feebly stretches out her arms to him. Wondering, he comes across to her. She draws him down beside her, takes his arms and places them about her.] I want to feel that I belong to you. That you are strong. That I can rest upon you.

GEOFFREY [He cannot understand.] But only an hour ago—[He looks at her.] Have you, too, turned traitor to the Woman's Cause?

ANNYS [She answers smiling.] No. But woman, dear, is a much more complicated person than I thought her. It is only in this hour that God has revealed her to me. [She draws him closer.] I want you, dear—dear husband. Take care of us—both, won't you? I love you, I love you. I did not know how much.

GEOFFREY [He gathers her to him, kissing her, crooning over her.] Oh, my dear, my dear! My little one, my love, my wife!

ANNYS [She is laughing, crying.] But, Geoffrey, dear -

[He tries to calm her.]

No, let me. I want to— And then I'll be quite good, I promise— It's only fair to warn you. When I'm strong and can think again, I shall still want the vote. I shall want it more than ever.

GEOFFREY [He answers with a happy laugh, holding her in his arms.]

ANNYS You will help us? Because it's right, dear, isn't it? He will be my child as well as yours. You will let me help you make the world better for our child—and for all the children—and for all the mothers—and for all the dear, kind men: you will, won't you?

GEOFFREY I thought you were drifting away from me: that strange voices were calling you away from life and motherhood. God has laughed at my fears. He has sent you back to me with His command. We will fashion His world together, we two lovers, Man and Woman, joined together in all things. It is His will. His chains are the children's hands.

[Kneeling, he holds her in his arms.]

[THE CURTAIN FALLS.]

THE END

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