Part 1 out of 2
This etext was prepared by David Price, email email@example.com
from the 1911 T. Fisher Unwin edition.
THE MASTER OF MRS. CHILVERS--AN IMPROBABLE COMEDY
by Jerome K. Jerome
THE FIRST ACT
SCENE: Drawing-room, 91, Russell Square.
TIME: 3 p.m.
THE SECOND ACT
SCENE: Liberal Committee Room, East India Dock Road.
TIME: 5 p.m.
THE THIRD ACT
SCENE: The Town Hall, East Poplar.
TIME: 10 p.m.
THE FOURTH ACT
SCENE: Russell Square
THE CAST OF "THE MASTER OF MRS. CHILVERS"
AS IT WAS PRODUCED AT THE ROYALTY THEATRE, LONDON, ON APRIL 26TH,
1911, UNDER THE MANAGEMENT OF MESSRS. VEDRENNE & EADIE.
Lady Mogton Mary Rorke
Annys Chilvers Lena Ashwell
Phoebe Mogton Ethel Dane
Janet Blake Gillian Scaife
Mrs. Mountcalm Villiers Sarah Brooke
Elizabeth Spender Auriol Lee
Rose Merton Esme Beringer
Mrs. Chinn Sydney Fairbrother
Geoffrey Chilvers, M.P. Dennis Eadie
Dorian St. Herbert Leon Quartermaine
Ben Lamb, M.P. A. E. Benedict
William Gordon Edmund Gwenn
Sigsby Michael Sherbrooke
Hake H. B. Tabberer
Mr. Peekin Gerald Mirrielees
Mr. Hopper Stanley Logan
Mrs. Peekin Rowena Jerome
Miss Borlasse Cathleen Nesbitt
Miss Ricketts Hetta Bartlett
CHARACTERS IN THE PLAY
GEOFFREY CHILVERS, M.P. [President Men's League for the Extension
of the Franchise to Women] A loving husband, and (would-be)
affectionate father. Like many other good men, he is in sympathy
with the Woman's Movement: "not thinking it is coming in his
ANNYS CHILVERS [nee Mogton, Hon. Sec. Women's Parliamentary
Franchise League] A loving wife, and (would-be) affection mother.
Many thousands of years have gone to her making. A generation ago,
she would have been the ideal woman: the ideal helpmeet. But new
ideas are stirring in her blood, a new ideal of womanhood is
forcing itself upon her.
LADY MOGTON [President W.P.F.L.] She knows she would be of more
use in Parliament than many of the men who are there; is naturally
annoyed at the Law's stupidity in keeping her out.
PHOEBE MOGTON [Org. Sec. W.P.F.L.] The new girl, thinking more of
politics than of boys. But that will probably pass.
JANET BLAKE [Jt. Org. Sec. W.P.F.L.] She dreams of a new heaven
and a new earth when woman has the vote.
MRS. MOUNTCALM VILLIERS [Vice-President W.P.F.L.] She was getting
tired of flirting. The Woman's Movement has arrived just at the
ELIZABETH SPENDER [Hons. Treas. W.P.F.L.] She sees woman
everywhere the slave of man: now pampered, now beaten, but ever
the slave. She can see no hope of freedom but through warfare.
MRS. CHINN A mother.
JAWBONES A bill-poster. Movements that do not fit in with the
essentials of life on thirty shillings a week have no message so
far as Jawbones is concerned.
GINGER Whose proper name is Rose Merton, and who has to reconcile
herself to the fact that so far as her class is concerned the
primaeval laws still run.
DORIAN ST. HERBERT [Hon. Sec. M.L.E.F.W.] He is interested in all
things, the Woman's Movement included.
BEN LAMB, M.P. As a student of woman, he admits to being in the
SIGSBY An Election Agent. He thinks the modern woman suffers from
over-indulgence. He would recommend to her the teachings of St.
HAKE A butler. He does not see how to avoid his wife being
practically a domestic servant without wages.
A DEPUTATION It consists of two men and three women. Superior
people would call them Cranks. But Cranks have been of some
service to the world, and the use of superior people is still to be
THE FIRST ACT
SCENE:- Drawing-room, 91, Russell Square.
[MRS. ELIZABETH SPENDER sits near the fire, reading a book. She is
a tall, thin woman, with passionate eyes, set in an oval face of
olive complexion; the features are regular and severe; her massive
dark hair is almost primly arranged. She wears a tailor-made
costume, surmounted by a plain black hat. The door opens and
PHOEBE enters, shown in by HAKE, the butler, a thin, ascetic-
looking man of about thirty, with prematurely grey hair. PHOEBE
MOGTON is of the Fluffy Ruffles type, petite, with a retrousse
nose, remarkably bright eyes, and a quantity of fluffy light hair,
somewhat untidily arranged. She is fashionably dressed in the
fussy, flyaway style. ELIZABETH looks up; the two young women
PHOEBE Good woman. 'Tisn't three o'clock yet, is it?
ELIZABETH About five minutes to.
PHOEBE Annys is on her way. I just caught her in time. [To
HAKE.] Put a table and six chairs. Give mamma a hammer and a
cushion at her back.
HAKE A hammer, miss?
PHOEBE A chairman's hammer. Haven't you got one?
HAKE I'm afraid not, miss. Would a gravy spoon do?
PHOEBE [To ELIZABETH, after expression of disgust.] Fancy a house
without a chairman's hammer! [To HAKE.] See that there's
something. Did your wife go to the meeting last night?
HAKE [He is arranging furniture according to instructions.] I'm
not quite sure, miss. I gave her the evening out.
PHOEBE "Gave her the evening out"!
ELIZABETH We are speaking of your wife, man, not your servant.
HAKE Yes, miss. You see, we don't keep servants in our class.
Somebody's got to put the children to bed.
ELIZABETH Why not the man--occasionally?
HAKE Well, you see, miss, in my case, I rarely getting home much
before midnight, it would make it so late. Yesterday being my
night off, things fitted in, so to speak. Will there be any
PHOEBE Yes. See that there's plenty of blotting-paper. [To
ELIZABETH.] Mamma always splashes so.
HAKE Yes, miss. [He goes out.]
ELIZABETH Did you ever hear anything more delightfully naive? He
"gave" her the evening out. That's how they think of us--as their
servants. The gentleman hasn't the courage to be straightforward
about it. The butler blurts out the truth. Why are we meeting
here instead of at our own place?
PHOEBE For secrecy, I expect. Too many gasbags always about the
office. I fancy--I'm not quite sure--that mamma's got a new idea.
ELIZABETH Leading to Holloway?
PHOEBE Well, most roads lead there.
ELIZABETH And end there--so far as I can see.
PHOEBE You're too impatient.
ELIZABETH It's what our friends have been telling us--for the last
PHOEBE Look here, if it was only the usual sort of thing mamma
wouldn't want it kept secret. I'm inclined to think it's a new
[The door opens. There enters JANET BLAKE, followed by HAKE, who
proceeds with his work. JANET BLAKE is a slight, fragile-looking
creature, her great dark eyes--the eyes of a fanatic--emphasise the
pallor of her childish face. She is shabbily dressed; a plain,
uninteresting girl until she smiles, and then her face becomes
quite beautiful. PHOEBE darts to meet her.] Good girl. Was
afraid--I say, you're wet through.
JANET It was only a shower. The 'buses were all full. I had to
PHOEBE Silly kid, why didn't you take a cab?
JANET I've been reckoning it up. I've been half over London
chasing Mrs. Mountcalm-Villiers. Cabs would have come, at the very
least, to twelve-and-six.
PHOEBE Well -
JANET [To ELIZABETH.] Well--I want you to put me down as a
contributor for twelve-and-six. [She smiles.] It's the only way I
PHOEBE [She is taking off JANET'S cloak; throws it to HAKE.] Have
this put somewhere to dry. [She pushes JANET to the fire.] Get
near the fire. You're as cold as ice.
ELIZABETH All the seats inside, I suppose, occupied by the
JANET Oh, there was one young fellow offered to give me up his
place, but I wouldn't let him. You see, we're claiming equality.
ELIZABETH And are being granted it--in every direction where it
works to the convenience of man.
PHOEBE [Laughs.] Is she coming--the Villiers woman?
JANET Yes. I ran her down at last--at her dress-maker's. She
made an awful fuss about it, but I wouldn't leave till she'd
promised. Tell me, it's something quite important, isn't it?
PHOEBE I don't know anything, except that I had an urgent telegram
from mamma this morning to call a meeting of the entire Council
here at three o'clock. She's coming up from Manchester on purpose.
[To HAKE.] Mrs. Chilvers hasn't returned yet, has she?
HAKE Not yet, miss. Shall I telephone -
PHOEBE [Shakes her head.] No; it's all right. I have seen her.
Let her know we are here the moment she comes in.
HAKE Yes, miss. [He has finished the arrangements. The table has
been placed in the centre of the room, six chairs round it, one of
them being a large armchair. He has placed writing materials and a
large silver gravy spoon. He is going.]
PHOEBE Why aren't you sure your wife wasn't at the meeting last
night? Didn't she say anything?
HAKE Well, miss, unfortunately, just as she was starting, Mrs.
Comerford--that's the wife of the party that keeps the shop
downstairs--looked in with an order for the theatre.
HAKE So I thought it best to ask no questions.
PHOEBE Thank you.
HAKE Thank you, miss. [He goes out.]
ELIZABETH Can nothing be done to rouse the working-class woman out
of her apathy?
PHOEBE Well, if you ask me, I think a good deal has been done.
ELIZABETH Oh, what's the use of our deceiving ourselves? The
great mass are utterly indifferent.
JANET [She is seated in an easy-chair near the fire.] I was
talking to a woman only yesterday--in Bethnal Green. She keeps a
husband and three children by taking in washing. "Lord, miss," she
laughed, "what would we do with the vote if we did have it? Only
one thing more to give to the men."
PHOEBE That's rather good.
ELIZABETH The curse of it is that it's true. Why should they put
themselves out merely that one man instead of another should
dictate their laws to them?
PHOEBE My dear girl, precisely the same argument was used against
the Second Reform Bill. What earthly difference could it make to
the working men whether Tory Squire or Liberal capitalist ruled
over them? That was in 1868. To-day, fifty-four Labour Members
sit in Parliament. At the next election they will hold the
ELIZABETH Ah, if we could only hold out THAT sort of hope to them!
[ANNYS enters. She is in outdoor costume. She kisses PHOEBE,
shakes hands with the other two. ANNYS's age is about twenty-five.
She is a beautiful, spiritual-looking creature, tall and graceful,
with a manner that is at the same time appealing and commanding.
Her voice is soft and caressing, but capable of expressing all the
emotions. Her likeness to her younger sister PHOEBE is of the
slightest: the colouring is the same, and the eyes that can flash,
but there the similarity ends. She is simply but well dressed.
Her soft hair makes a quiet but wonderfully effective frame to her
ANNYS [She is taking off her outdoor things.] Hope I'm not late.
I had to look in at Caxton House. Why are we holding it here?
PHOEBE Mamma's instructions. Can't tell you anything more except
that I gather the matter's important, and is to be kept secret.
ANNYS Mamma isn't here, is she?
PHOEBE [Shakes her head.] Reaches St. Pancras at two-forty.
[Looks at her watch.] Train's late, I expect.
[HAKE has entered.]
ANNYS [She hands HAKE her hat and coat.] Have something ready in
case Lady Mogton hasn't lunched. Is your master in?
HAKE A messenger came for him soon after you left, ma'am. I was
to tell you he would most likely be dining at the House.
ANNYS Thank you.
[HAKE goes out.]
ANNYS [To ELIZABETH.] I so want you to meet Geoffrey. He'll
alter your opinion of men.
ELIZABETH My opinion of men has been altered once or twice--each
time for the worse.
ANNYS Why do you dislike men?
ELIZABETH [With a short laugh.] Why does the slave dislike the
PHOEBE Oh, come off the perch. You spend five thousand a year
provided for you by a husband that you only see on Sundays. We'd
all be slaves at that price.
ELIZABETH The chains have always been stretched for the few. My
sympathies are with my class.
ANNYS But men like Geoffrey--men who are devoting their whole time
and energy to furthering our cause; what can you have to say
ELIZABETH Simply that they don't know what they're doing. The
French Revolution was nursed in the salons of the French nobility.
When the true meaning of the woman's movement is understood we
shall have to get on without the male sympathiser.
ANNYS What do you understand is the true meaning of the woman's
ELIZABETH The dragging down of man from his position of supremacy.
What else can it mean?
ANNYS Something much better. The lifting up of woman to be his
ELIZABETH My dear Annys, the men who to-day are advocating votes
for women are doing so in the hope of securing obedient supporters
for their own political schemes. In New Zealand the working man
brings his female relations in a van to the poll, and sees to it
that they vote in accordance with his orders. When man once grasps
the fact that woman is not going to be his henchman, but his rival,
men and women will face one another as enemies.
[The door opens. HAKE announces LADY MOGTON and DORIAN ST.
HERBERT. LADY MOGTON is a large, strong-featured woman, with a
naturally loud voice. She is dressed with studied carelessness.
DORIAN ST. HERBERT, K.C., is a tall, thin man, about thirty. He is
elegantly, almost dandily dressed.]
ANNYS [Kissing her mother.] Have you had lunch?
LADY MOGTON In the train.
PHOEBE [Who has also kissed her mother and shaken hands with ST.
HERBERT.] We are all here except Villiers. She's coming. Did you
have a good meeting?
LADY MOGTON Fairly. Some young fool had chained himself to a
pillar and thrown the key out of window.
PHOEBE What did you do?
LADY MOGTON Tied a sack over his head and left him there.
[She turns aside for a moment to talk to ST. HERBERT, who has taken
some papers from his despatch-box.]
ANNYS [To ELIZABETH.] We must finish out our talk some other
time. You are quite wrong.
LADY MOGTON We had better begin. I have only got half an hour.
JANET I saw Mrs. Villiers. She promised she'd come.
LADY MOGTON You should have told her we were going to be
photographed. Then she'd have been punctual. [She has taken her
seat at the table. ST. HERBERT at her right.] Better put another
chair in case she does turn up.
JANET [Does so.] Shall I take any notes?
LADY MOGTON No. [To ANNYS.] Give instructions that we are not to
be interrupted for anything. [ANNYS rings bell.]
ST. HERBERT [He turns to PHOEBE, on his right.] Have you heard
There was an old man of Hong Kong,
Whose language was terribly strong.
[Enter HAKE. He brings a bottle and glass, which he places.]
ANNYS Oh, Hake, please, don't let us be interrupted for anything.
If Mrs. Mountcalm-Villiers comes, show her up. But nobody else.
HAKE Yes, ma'am.
ST. HERBERT [Continuing.]
It wasn't the words
That frightened the birds,
'Twas the 'orrible double-entendre.
LADY MOGTON [Who has sat waiting in grim silence.] Have you
ST. HERBERT Quite finished.
LADY MOGTON Thank you. [She raps for silence.] You will
understand, please, all, that this is a private meeting of the
Council. Nothing that transpires is to be allowed to leak out.
[There is a murmur.] Silence, please, for Mr. St. Herbert.
ST. HERBERT Before we begin, I should like to remind you, ladies,
that you are, all of you, persons mentally deficient -
[The door opens. MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS enters, announced by
HAKE. She is a showily-dressed, flamboyant lady.]
[HAKE goes out.]
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS I AM so sorry. I have only just this
minute--[She catches sight of ST. HERBERT.] You naughty creature,
why weren't you at my meeting last night? The Rajah came with both
his wives. We've elected them, all three, honorary members.
LADY MOGTON Do you mind sitting down?
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS Here, dear? [She takes the vacant chair.]
So nice of you. I read about your meeting. What a clever idea!
LADY MOGTON [Cuts her short.] Yes. We are here to consider a
very important matter. By way of commencement Mr. St. Herbert has
just reminded us that in the eye of the law all women are
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS I know, dear. Isn't it shocking?
ST. HERBERT Deplorable; but of course not your fault. I mention
it because of its importance to the present matter. Under Clause A
of the Act for the Better Regulation, &c., &c., all persons
"mentally deficient" are debarred from becoming members of
Parliament. The classification has been held to include idiots,
infants, and women.
[An interruption. LADY MOGTON hammers.]
Bearing this carefully in mind, we proceed. [He refers to his
notes.] Two years ago a bye-election took place for the South-west
division of Belfast.
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS My dear, may I? It has just occurred to
me. Why do we never go to Ireland?
LADY MOGTON For various sufficient reasons.
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS So many of the Irish members have
expressed themselves quite sympathetically.
LADY MOGTON We wish them to continue to do so. [Turns to ST.
HERBERT.] I'm sorry.
ST. HERBERT A leader of the Orange Party was opposed by a
Nationalist, and the proceedings promised to be lively. They
promised for a while to be still livelier, owing to the nomination
at the last moment of the local lunatic.
PHOEBE [To ANNYS.] This is where we come in.
ST. HERBERT There is always a local lunatic, who, if harmless, is
generally a popular character. James Washington McCaw appears to
have been a particularly cheerful specimen. One of his
eccentricities was to always have a skipping-rope in his pocket;
wherever the traffic allowed it, he would go through the streets
skipping. He said it kept him warm. Another of his tricks was to
let off fireworks from the roof of his house whenever he heard of
the death of anybody of importance. The Returning Officer refused
his nomination--which, so far as his nominators were concerned, was
intended only as a joke--on the grounds of his being by common
report a person of unsound mind. And there, so far as South-west
Belfast was concerned, the matter ended.
ST. HERBERT But not so far as the Returning Officer was concerned.
McCaw appears to have been a lunatic possessed of means, imbued
with all an Irishman's love of litigation. He at once brought an
action against the Returning Officer, his contention being that his
mental state was a private matter, of which the Returning Officer
was not the person to judge.
PHOEBE He wasn't a lunatic all over.
ST. HERBERT We none of us are. The case went from court to court.
In every instance the decision was in favour of the Returning
Officer. Until it reached the House of Lords. The decision was
given yesterday afternoon--in favour of the man McCaw.
ELIZABETH Then lunatics, at all events, are not debarred from
going to the poll.
ST. HERBERT The "mentally deficient" are no longer debarred from
going to the poll.
ELIZABETH What grounds were given for the decision?
ST. HERBERT [He refers again to his notes.] A Returning Officer
can only deal with objections arising out of the nomination paper.
He has no jurisdiction to go behind a nomination paper and
constitute himself a court of inquiry as to the fitness or
unfitness of a candidate.
PHOEBE Good old House of Lords!
[LADY MOGTON hammers.]
ELIZABETH But I thought it was part of the Returning Officer's
duty to inquire into objections, that a special time was appointed
to deal with them.
ST. HERBERT He will still be required to take cognisance of any
informality in the nomination paper or papers. Beyond that, this
decision relieves him of all further responsibility.
JANET But this gives us everything.
ST. HERBERT It depends upon what you call everything. It gives a
woman the right to go to the poll--a right which, as a matter of
fact, she has always possessed.
PHOEBE Then why did the Returning Officer for Camberwell in 1885 -
ST. HERBERT Because he did not know the law. And Miss Helen
Taylor had not the means possessed by our friend McCaw to teach it
ANNYS [Rises. She goes to the centre of the room.]
LADY MOGTON Where are you going?
ANNYS [She turns; there are tears in her eyes. The question seems
to recall her to herself.] Nowhere. I am so sorry. I can't help
it. It seems to me to mean so much. It gives us the right to go
before the people--to plead to them, not for ourselves, for them.
[Again she seems to lose consciousness of those at the table, of
the room.] To the men we will say: "Will you not trust us? Is it
harm we have ever done you? Have we not suffered for you and with
you? Were we not sent into the world to be your helpmeet? Are not
the children ours as well as yours? Shall we not work together to
shape the world where they must dwell? Is it only the mother-voice
that shall not be heard in your councils? Is it only the mother-
hand that shall not help to guide?" To the women we will say:
"Tell them--tell them it is from no love of ourselves that we come
from our sheltered homes into the street. It is to give, not to
get--to mingle with the sterner judgments of men the deeper truths
that God, through pain, has taught to women--to mingle with man's
justice woman's pity, till there shall arise the perfect law--not
made of man nor woman, but of both, each bringing what the other
lacks." And they will listen to us. Till now it has seemed to
them that we were clamouring only for selfish ends. They have not
understood. We shall speak to them of common purposes, use the
language of fellow-citizens. They will see that we are worthy of
the place we claim. They will welcome us as helpers in a common
cause. They -
[She turns--the present comes back to her.]
LADY MOGTON [After a pause.] The business [she dwells severely on
the word] before the meeting -
ANNYS [She resents herself meekly. Apologising generally.] I
must learn to control myself.
LADY MOGTON [Who has waited.]--is McCaw versus Potts. Its bearing
upon the movement for the extension of the franchise to women. My
own view I venture to submit in the form of a resolution. [She
takes up a paper on which she has been writing.] As follows: That
the Council of the Woman's Parliamentary Franchise League, having
regard to the decision of the House of Lords in McCaw v. Potts -
ST. HERBERT [Looking over.] Two t's.
LADY MOGTON --resolves to bring forward a woman candidate to
contest the next bye-election. [Suddenly to MRS. MOUNTCALM-
VILLIERS, who is chattering.] Do you agree or disagree?
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS My dear! How can you ask? Of course we
all agree. [To Elizabeth.] You agree, don't you?
ELIZABETH Of course, even if elected, she would not be allowed to
take her seat.
PHOEBE How do you know? Nothing more full of surprises than
LADY MOGTON At the present stage I regard that point as
immaterial. What I am thinking of is the advertisement. A female
candidate upon the platform will concentrate the whole attention of
the country on our movement.
ST. HERBERT It might even be prudent--until you have got the vote-
-to keep it dark that you will soon be proceeding to the next
ELIZABETH You think even man could be so easily deceived!
ST. HERBERT Man has had so much practice in being deceived. It
comes naturally to him.
ELIZABETH Poor devil!
LADY MOGTON The only question remaining to be discussed is the
ANNYS Is there not danger that between now and the next bye-
election the Government may, having regard to this case, bring in a
bill to stop women candidates from going to the poll?
ST. HERBERT I have thought of that. Fortunately, the case seems
to have attracted very little attention. If a bye-election
occurred soon there would hardly be time.
LADY MOGTON It must be the very next one that does occur--wherever
JANET I am sure that in the East End we should have a chance.
PHOEBE Great Scott! Just think. If we were to win it!
ST. HERBERT If you could get a straight fight against a Liberal I
believe you would.
ANNYS Why is the Government so unpopular?
ST. HERBERT Well, take the weather alone--twelve degrees of frost
again last night.
JANET In St. George's Road the sewer has burst. The water is in
the rooms where the children are sleeping. [She clenches her
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS [She shakes her head.] Something ought
really to be done.
LADY MOGTON Has anybody any suggestion to make?--as regards the
candidate. There's no advantage in going outside. It will have to
be one of ourselves.
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS Won't you, dear?
LADY MOGTON I shall be better employed organising. My own feeling
is that it ought to be Annys. [To ST. HERBERT.] What do you
ST. HERBERT Undoubtedly.
ANNYS I'd rather not.
LADY MOGTON It's not a question of liking. It's a question of
duty. For this occasion we shall be appealing to the male voter.
Our candidate must be a woman popular with men. The choice is
ELIZABETH No one will put up so good a fight as you.
ANNYS Will you give me till this evening?
LADY MOGTON What for?
ANNYS I should like to consult Geoffrey.
LADY MOGTON You think he would object?
ANNYS [A little doubtfully.] No. But we have always talked
everything over together.
LADY MOGTON Absurd! He's one of our staunchest supporters. Of
course he'll be delighted.
ELIZABETH I think the thing ought to be settled at once.
LADY MOGTON It must be. I have to return to Manchester to-night.
We shall have to get to work immediately.
ST. HERBERT Geoffrey will surely take it as a compliment.
JANET Don't you feel that woman, all over the world, is calling to
ANNYS It isn't that. I'm not trying to shirk it. I merely
thought that if there had been time--of course, if you really think
LADY MOGTON You consent?
ANNYS Yes. If it's everybody's wish.
LADY MOGTON That's settled.
PHOEBE [She springs up, waving a handkerchief.] Chilvers for
JANET [Rises.] God bless you!
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS [Clapping her hands.] Now we shan't be
LADY MOGTON [Hammers.] Order, please!
[The three subside.]
This is serious business. The next step is, of course -
[The door opens; GEOFFREY enters. He is a youngish-looking man of
three or four and thirty. LADY MOGTON, at the sound of the door,
turns. ST. HERBERT rises. There is a pause.]
LADY MOGTON We've been talking about you. We must apologise for
turning your drawing-room -
GEOFFREY My dear mother-in-law, it is Providence. [He kisses
her.] There is no one I was more longing to see.
ANNYS [She has risen.] Hake told me you would be dining at the
GEOFFREY [He comes to her, kisses her, he is in a state of
suppressed excitement.] I shall be. I came back to bring you some
PHOEBE We've got some news for you. Have you heard -
GEOFFREY [He stays her.] May I claim man's privilege for the
first word? It is news, I am sure, you will all be delighted to
hear. A friend of yours has been appointed to an office where--it
is quite possible--he may be of service to you.
PHOEBE Governorship of Holloway Gaol?
GEOFFREY Not a bad guess. Very near it. To the Under-
Secretaryship for Home Affairs.
LADY MOGTON Who is it?
GEOFFREY [He bows.] Your affectionate and devoted servant.
PHOEBE [Genuinely delighted. She is not a quick thinker.] Bravo!
Congratulations, old boy! [She has risen--she slaps him on the
ANNYS Geoffrey! [She puts her arms about him.] You never told me
GEOFFREY I know, dear. I was afraid. It mightn't have come off.
And then you would have been so disappointed.
ANNYS [There are tears in her eyes. She still clings to him.] I
am so glad. Oh, I am so glad!
GEOFFREY It is all your doing. You have been such a splendid
help. [He breaks gently away from her. Turns to ST. HERBERT, with
a lighter tone.] Haven't you anything to say to a fellow? You're
not usually dumb.
ST. HERBERT It has all been so sudden--as the early Victorian
heroine was fond of remarking!
GEOFFREY [Laughs.] It has been sudden. We had, none of us, any
idea till yesterday that old Bullock was thinking of resigning.
ELIZABETH [She has risen and moved towards the fire.] Won't it
necessitate a bye-election?
[LADY MOGTON and ST. HERBERT have been thinking it out. On the
others the word falls like a bombshell.]
GEOFFREY [He turns to her. He does not see their faces.] Yes.
But I don't anticipate a contest. The Conservatives are without a
candidate, and I am on good terms with the Labour Party. Perhaps
Mr. Hunnable--[He laughs, then, turning, catches sight of his
wife's face. From ANNYS he looks to the others.]
LADY MOGTON [She has risen.] You haven't heard, then, of McCaw
GEOFFREY "McCaw versus Potts!" What the -
ST. HERBERT Was decided in the House of Lords late yesterday
afternoon. Briefly stated, it confers upon women the right of
becoming Parliamentary candidates.
GEOFFREY [He is staggered.] You mean -
LADY MOGTON Having regard to which, we have decided to bring
forward a woman candidate to contest the next bye-election.
GEOFFREY Um! I see.
ANNYS But we never thought--we never anticipated it would be
LADY MOGTON I really cannot admit that that alters the case.
Geoffrey himself would never dream, I am sure, of asking us to
sacrifice our cause to his convenience.
GEOFFREY No. Of course not. Certainly not.
LADY MOGTON It is perhaps unfortunate that the candidate selected
ANNYS It is quite impossible. Such a dilemma was never dreamed
LADY MOGTON And if not? Is the solidarity of woman -
GEOFFREY [Beginning to guess.] Forgive my impatience; but whom
HAVE you selected?
ELIZABETH [When she likes she can be quite sweet.] Your wife.
[He expected it.] We rather assumed [she appeals to the others
with a gesture], I think, that the president of the Man's League
for the Extension of the Franchise to Women would regard it as a
GEOFFREY [His dislike of her is already in existence.] Yes. Very
ANNYS You must choose some one else.
PHOEBE But there IS no one else.
ANNYS There's mamma.
PHOEBE Mamma's too heavy.
ANNYS Well, then, there's Elizabeth--there's you!
GEOFFREY Yes. Why not you? You and I could have a jolly little
LADY MOGTON This is not a laughing matter. If I could think of
any one to take Annys's place I should not insist. I cannot.
PHOEBE You see, it mustn't be a crank.
GEOFFREY [He is losing his temper.] Yes, I suppose that does
ELIZABETH And then--thanks to you--Mrs. Chilvers has had such
excellent training in politics. It was that, I think, that decided
GEOFFREY [Convention forbids his strangling her.] Will somebody
kindly introduce me to this lady?
ST. HERBERT Ah, yes, of course. You don't know each other, do
you? Mr. Geoffrey Chilvers--Mrs. Joseph Spender. Mrs. Spender--
Mr. Chilvers, M.P.
ELIZABETH [Sweetly.] Delighted!
GEOFFREY [Not.] Charmed.
LADY MOGTON [To ANNYS.] I am not indifferent to your difficulty.
But the history of woman, my dear Annys, is a history of sacrifice.
We give our sons--if necessary, our husbands.
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS [Affected.] How true!
ANNYS But you are not asking me to give him. You are asking me to
fight him. I can't.
LADY MOGTON You mean you won't.
ANNYS You can put it that way if you like. I won't.
JANET I thought Mrs. Chilvers had pledged her word.
ELIZABETH Yes. But without her husband's consent. So, of course,
it doesn't count.
GEOFFREY [He turns on her.] Why not you--if there must be a
fight? Or would it be against your principles?
ELIZABETH Not in the least.
ELIZABETH I would offer myself as a substitute. Only it might
seem like coming between husband and wife.
GEOFFREY [He turns away with a grunt of disgust.]
PHOEBE It's awfully rough on you, Geoffrey. I can see it from
your point of view. But one can't help remembering the things that
you yourself have said.
GEOFFREY I know; I know. I've been going up and down the country,
excusing even your excesses on the ground that no movement can
force its way to the front without treading on innumerable toes.
For me, now, to cry halt merely because it happens to be my own
toes that are in the way would be--ridiculous--absurd--would be
monstrous. [Nobody contradicts him.] You are perfectly justified-
-if this case means what you say it does--in putting up a candidate
against me for East Poplar. Only, naturally, it cannot be Annys.
[He reaches out his hand to where ANNYS stands a little behind him,
takes her hand.] Annys and I have fought more than one election.
It has been side by side.
ELIZABETH The lady a little behind.
GEOFFREY [He moves away with an expression of deep annoyance.]
JANET [She comes forward. She holds forth her hands with a half-
appealing, half-commanding gesture. She almost seems inspired.]
Would it not be so much better if, in this first political contest
between man and woman, the opponents were two people honouring one
another, loving one another? Would it not show to all the world
that man and woman may meet--contend in public life without anger,
without scorn? [There is a pause. They stand listening.] I do
not know, but it seems to me that if Mr. Chilvers could bring
himself to do this it would be such a big thing--perhaps the most
chivalrous thing that a man has ever done to help women. If he
would put aside, quite voluntarily, all the man's privilege--just
say to the people, "Now choose--one of us two to serve you. We
stand before you, equal, my wife and I." I don't know how to put
it, but I feel that by merely doing that one thing Mr. Chilvers
would solve the whole problem. It would prove that good men are
ready to give us of their free accord all that we claim. We should
gain our rights, not by warfare, but through love and
understanding. Wouldn't that be--so much better? [She looks--her
hands still appealing--from one to the other.]
[Another silence. They have all been carried a little off their
feet by JANET'S earnestness.]
ANNYS [She touches him.] What do you think, dear?
GEOFFREY Yes, there's a good deal, of course, in what Miss Blake
ANNYS It WOULD be a big thing for you to do.
PHOEBE You see, whatever happened, the seat would be yours. This
case only gives us the right to go to the poll. We are keen upon
Annys because she's our best card, that's all.
GEOFFREY Do you wish it?
ANNYS [She smiles up at him.] I'd rather fight you than any one
GEOFFREY You are not afraid that the situation might be--just a
ANNYS [Shakes her head.] No. I think everybody will say it was
rather splendid of you.
GEOFFREY Well, if it will help women.
ANNYS [She holds out her hand. She is still in exalted mood.] We
will show how man and woman may be drawn nearer to one another by
rivalry for noble ends.
ST. HERBERT [He shakes GEOFFREY'S somewhat limp hand.] I envy
you. The situation promises to be piquant.
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS It will be a battle of roses.
LADY MOGTON I must go. I shall see you both again to-morrow.
[She kisses GEOFFREY.] This is an historic day.
GEOFFREY Yes. I daresay we shall all remember it.
LADY MOGTON [To JANET.] I will get you to come to the station
with me. I can give you your instructions in the cab. [She kisses
ANNYS.] You have been called to a great work. Be worthy of it.
[They are all making ready to go. ANNYS has rung the bell for
JANET [To ANNYS.] Are you glad?
ANNYS [Kisses her.] You showed me the whole thing in a new light.
You were splendid. [She turns to ELIZABETH.] Didn't I tell you he
would convert you?
ELIZABETH I was wrong to judge all men guilty. There are also--
ANNYS [For a moment--but a moment only--she is pleased. Then the
doubtful meaning of ELIZABETH'S words strikes her.]
ANNYS [She has to dismiss ELIZABETH.] Oh, Hake--[To LADY MOGTON.]
You'll want a cab, won't you, mamma?
LADY MOGTON A taxi-- Goodbye, everybody.
[She sails out.]
MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS I have my carriage. [To ELIZABETH.] Can
I give you a lift?
ELIZABETH Thank you. [To GEOFFREY.] We shall meet again.
GEOFFREY I feel sure of it.
[MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS and ELIZABETH go out.]
PHOEBE [To HAKE.] Are Miss Blake's things dry yet?
JANET They'll be quite all right, dear. Please don't trouble.
[She advances a timid hand to GEOFFREY.] Goodbye, Mr. Chilvers.
GEOFFREY [He takes it smiling.] Goodbye.
[She goes out; HAKE follows.]
PHOEBE Goodbye, old boy. [They shake hands.] Don't you let her
walk over you. Make her fight.
ANNYS [Laughing.] Don't you worry about that.
ST. HERBERT Would you care to look through McCaw v. Potts? [He
has the papers in his hand.]
GEOFFREY I'll ask you for it when I want it.
PHOEBE [At door.] You'll be alone this evening?
ANNYS Yes. Come in to dinner.
PHOEBE All right. Goodbye.
ST. HERBERT Goodbye.
[GEOFFREY and ANNYS answer them. They go out, closing the door.
GEOFFREY is by the fire. ANNYS comes to him.]
ANNYS [She puts her arms round him.] You don't mind?
GEOFFREY [He holds her at arms' length--looking into her eyes and
smiling.] I believe you are looking forward to it.
ANNYS Do you know how long we have been married? Eight years.
And do you know, sir, that all that time we have never had a
difference? Don't you think it will be good for you?
GEOFFREY Do you know WHY we have never had a difference? Because
you have always had your own way.
GEOFFREY You have got so used to it, you don't notice it.
ANNYS Then it will be good for me. I must learn to suffer
opposition. [She laughs.]
GEOFFREY You won't like it.
ANNYS Do you know, I'm not at all sure that I shan't.
[Unconsciously they let loose of one another.] You see, I shall
have the right of hitting back. [Again she laughs.]
GEOFFREY [Also laughingly.] Is woman going to develop the
ANNYS I wonder.
[A moment's silence.]
GEOFFREY The difficulty in our case is there seems nothing to
ANNYS We must think of something. [Laughs.]
GEOFFREY What line are you going to take--what is your argument:
why they should vote for you in preference to me?
ANNYS Simply that I am a woman.
GEOFFREY My dear child, that won't be enough. Why should they
vote for you merely because you're a woman?
ANNYS [Slightly astonished.] Because--because women are wanted in
GEOFFREY Who wants them?
ANNYS [More astonished.] Who? Why--[it doesn't seem too clear.]
Why, all of us--you, yourself!
GEOFFREY I'm not East Poplar.
ANNYS [Is puzzled a moment, then valiantly.] I shall ask them to
send me to Parliament to represent the interests of their women--
and therefore of themselves--the interests of their children.
GEOFFREY Children! What do you know about children?
ANNYS Personally--no. We have had no children of our own, of
course. But [hopefully] it is a woman's instinct.
GEOFFREY Oh, Lord! That's what the lady said who had buried
ANNYS [Her mouth is growing hard.] Don't you believe in the right
of women to share in the government of the country?
GEOFFREY Some women. Yes. I can see some capable -
GEOFFREY --elderly, motherly woman who has brought up a dozen
children of her own--who knows the world, being of some real use.
ANNYS If it comes to that, there must be--I don't say more
"capable," but more experienced, more fatherly men than yourself.
[He turns, they look at one another. His tone almost touched
contempt--hers was veiled anger.]
GEOFFREY THAT'S the danger. It may come to a real fight.
ANNYS [Upon her also the fear has fallen.] It must not. [She
flings her arms around him.] We must show the world that man and
woman can meet--contend in public life without anger, without
GEOFFREY [He folds her to him.] The very words sound ugly, don't
ANNYS It would be hideous. [She draws away.] How long will the
GEOFFREY Not long. The writ will be issued on Wednesday.
Nomination on Monday--polling, I expect, on Saturday. Puts me in
mind--I must prepare my election address.
ANNYS I ought to be getting on with mine, too, I suppose.
GEOFFREY It ought to be out by to-morrow.
ANNYS [With inspiration.] We'll do yours first. [She wonders why
GEOFFREY "We?" Shan't I have to do it alone--this time?
ANNYS Alone! Nonsense! How can you?
GEOFFREY I'm afraid I shall have to try.
ANNYS Um! I suppose you're right. What a nuisance! [She turns
away.] I shan't like it.
GEOFFREY [He moves towards the folding-doors.] No. It won't be
quite the same thing. Goodbye.
ANNYS [She crosses to her desk by the window. Not the same
instant but the next his "Goodbye" strikes her. She turns.]
You're not going out, are you?
GEOFFREY [He stops and turns--puzzled at her question.] No. Only
into my study.
ANNYS You said "Goodbye."
GEOFFREY [Not remembering.] _I_ did! Must have been thinking of
something else. I shall be in here if you want me. [He goes into
the other room.]
ANNYS [She has crossed to her desk. She is humming. She seats
herself, takes paper and pen, writes. Without turning--still
writing--she raises her voice.] Geoffrey! How do you spell
"experimental"? One "r" or two?
[There is no answer. Puzzled at the silence, she looks round. The
great folding-doors are closed. She stares in front of her,
thinking, then turns again to her work.]
THE SECOND ACT
SCENE:- Liberal Central Committee Rooms, East India Dock Road,
Poplar. A large, high room on the first floor of an old-fashioned
house. Two high windows right. A door at back is the main
entrance. A door left leads to other rooms. The walls are papered
with election literature. Conspicuous among the posters displayed
is "A Man for Men." "No Petticoat Government." "Will you be
Henpecked?" A large, round table centre is littered with papers
and pamphlets. A large desk stands between the windows. A settee
is against the left wall.
[When the curtain rises, ROSE MERTON (otherwise "GINGER") is
discovered seated, her left arm resting on the table. She is a
young lady typical of the Cockney slavey type, dressed according to
the ideas of her class as regards the perfect lady. Her hat is
characteristic. Her gloves, her reticule, her umbrella--the latter
something rather "saucy"--are displayed around her. She is feeling
comfortable and airing her views. MRS. CHINN is laying the cloth
over a portion of the table, with some tea-things. MRS. CHINN is a
thin, narrow-chested lady with thin hands and bony wrists. No one
since her husband died has ever seen her without her bonnet. Its
appearance suggests the possibility that she sleeps in it. It is
black, like her dress. The whole figure is decent, but dingy.]
GINGER Wot I say about the question is -
MRS. CHINN Do you mind moving your arm?
GINGER Beg pardon. [She shifts.] Wot I say is, why not give us
the vote and end all the talking?
MRS. CHINN You think it would have that effect?
GINGER Well! we don't want to go on being a nuisance--longer than
we can possibly 'elp!
MRS. CHINN Daresay you're right. It's about the time most people
GINGER You've never thought much about the question yourself, 'ave
you, Mrs. Chinn?
MRS. CHINN I ain't fretted much about it.
GINGER Was a time when I didn't. I used to be all for--you know--
larking about. I never thought much about anything.
MRS. CHINN Ah! it's a useful habit.
GINGER What is?
MRS. CHINN Thinking.
GINGER It's what we women 'aven't done enough of--in the past, I
mean. All that's going to be altered. In the future there's going
to be no difference between men and women.
MRS. CHINN [Slowly, quietly she turns upon GINGER her
GINGER Mentally, I mean, o' course.
MRS. CHINN [Takes back her eyes.]
GINGER Do you know, Mrs. Chinn, that once upon a time there was
only one sex? [She spreads herself.] Hus!
MRS. CHINN You ain't thinking of going back to it, are you?
GINGER Not if the men be'ave themselves.
MRS. CHINN Perhaps they're doing their best, poor things! It
don't do to be too impatient with them.
GINGER Was talking to old Dot-and-carry-one the other d'y. You
know who I mean--chap with the wooden leg as 'as 'is pitch outside
the "George." "Wot do you wimmen want worrying yourselves about
things outside the 'ome?" 'e says to me. "You've got the
children," 'e says. "Oh," I says, "and whose fault's that, I'd
like to know? You wait till we've got the vote," I says, "we'll
soon show you--"
[SIGSBY enters. SIGSBY is a dapper little man, very brisk and
bustling--hirsute--looks as if he wanted dusting, cleaning up
SIGSBY That young blackguard come back yet?
GINGER [At sound of SIGSBY'S voice she springs up. At first is
about to offer excuses for being found seated, but recollects
MRS. CHINN Which one, sir?
SIGSBY Young Jawbones--what's he call himself?--Gordon.
MRS. CHINN Not yet, sir.
SIGSBY [Grunts.] My chop ready?
MRS. CHINN I expect it's about done. I'll see.
[She goes out.]
SIGSBY [He turns to GINGER.] What can _I_ do for you?
GINGER [She produces a letter.] I was to wait for an answer.
SIGSBY [He opens and reads it.] What do they expect me to do?
GINGER 'Er ladyship thought as perhaps you would consult Mr.
Chilvers 'imself on the subject.
SIGSBY Look here. What I want to know is this: am I being asked
to regard Lady Mogton as my opponent's election agent, or as my
principal's mother-in-law? That point's got to be settled. [His
vehemence deepens.] Look at all these posters. Not to be used,
for fear the other side mayn't like them. Now Lady Mogton writes
me that my candidate's supporters are not to employ a certain
argument she disapproves of: because, if they do, she'll tell his
wife. Is this an election, or is it a family jar?
[JAWBONES enters. JAWBONES--otherwise WILLIAM GORDON--is a clean-
shaven young hooligan. He wears a bicycle cap on the back of his
head, allowing a picturesque tuft of hair to fall over his
forehead. Evidently he is suffering from controlled indignation.]
SIGSBY [Seeing him.] Oh, so you've come back, have you?
JAWBONES I 'ave, wot's left of me.
SIGSBY What have you been doing?
JAWBONES Clinging to a roof for the last three hours.
SIGSBY Clinging to a roof! What for?
JAWBONES [He boils over.] Wot for? 'Cos I didn't want to fall
off! Wot do you think: 'cos I was fond of it?
SIGSBY I don't understand -
JAWBONES You find yourself 'alf way up a ladder, posting bills as
the other side 'as took objection to--with a crowd of girls from
Pink's jam factory waiting for you at the bottom with a barrel of
treacle, and you WILL understand. Nothing else for me to do, o'
course, but to go up. Then they took the ladder away.
SIGSBY Where are the bills?
JAWBONES Last I see of them was their being put into a 'earse on
its way to Ilford Cemetery.
SIGSBY This has got to be seen into. This sort of thing can't be
allowed to go on. [He snatches up his hat.]
JAWBONES There's another suggestion I'd like to make.
JAWBONES That is, if this election is going to be fought fairly,
that our side should be provided with 'at-pins.
SIGSBY [Grunts.] Tell Mrs. Chinn to keep that chop warm. [He
GINGER [She begins to giggle. It grows into a shrill hee-haw.]
JAWBONES [He looks at her fixedly.]
GINGER [Her laugh, under the stern eye of JAWBONES, dies away.]
JAWBONES Ain't no crowd of you 'ere, you know. Nothing but my
inborn chivalry to prevent my pulling your nose.
GINGER [Cowed, but simmering.] Chivalry! [A shrill snort.]
JAWBONES Yus. And don't you put a strain upon it neither.
Because I tell you straight, it's weakening.
GINGER [His sudden fierceness has completely cowed her.]
JAWBONES You wimmin -
[There re-enters Mrs. CHINN with a tray. He is between them.]
That's old Sigsby's chop?
MRS. CHINN Yes. He hasn't gone out again, has he?
JAWBONES I'll 'ave it. Get 'im another. Guess 'e won't be back
for 'alf an hour.
MRS. CHINN He's nasty when his food ain't ready.
JAWBONES [He takes the tray from her.] Not your fault. Tell 'im
I took it from you by brute force.
MRS. CHINN [She acquiesces with her usual even absence of all
JAWBONES You needn't stop. Miss Rose Merton will do the waiting.
GINGER [Starts, then begins to collect her etceteras.]
MRS. CHINN Perhaps there'll be time to cook him another.
[She goes out.]
JAWBONES Take off that cover.
GINGER [She starts on a bolt for the door.]
JAWBONES [He is quite prepared. In an instant he is in front of
her.] No, yer don't.
Take off that cover.
GINGER [She still hesitates.]
JAWBONES If yer don't do what I tell yer, I'll 'ide yer. I'm in
GINGER [She takes off the cover.]
JAWBONES [He seats himself and falls to.] Now pour me out a cup
GINGER [Is pouring it out.]
JAWBONES Know why yer doing it?
GINGER [With shrill indignation.] Yus. Becos yer got me 'ere
alone, yer beast, with only that cracked image of a Mrs. Chinn -
JAWBONES That'll do.
GINGER [It is sufficient. She stops.]
JAWBONES None of your insults agen a lady as I 'olds in 'igh
respect. The rest of it is all right. Becos I've got yer 'ere
alone. You wimmin, you think it's going to pay you to chuck law
and order. You're out for a fight, are yer?
GINGER Yus, and we're going to win. Brute force 'as 'ad its d'y.
It's brains wot are going to rule the world. And we've got 'em.
[She has become quite oratorical.]
JAWBONES Glad to 'ear it. Take my tip: you'll use 'em.
Meanwhile I'll 'ave another cup o' tea.
GINGER [She takes the cup--is making for the window.]
JAWBONES [Fierce again.] I said tea.
GINGER All right, I was only going to throw the slops out of
window. There ain't no basin.
JAWBONES I'll tell yer when I want yer to open the window and call
for the p'lice. You can throw them into the waste-paper basket.
GINGER [She obeys.]
JAWBONES Thank you. Very much obliged. One of these d'ys, maybe,
GINGER When I do, it will be a man, not a monkey.
JAWBONES I'm not proposing. I'm talking to you for your good.
JAWBONES You've been listening to a lot of toffs. Easy enough for
them to talk about wimmen not being domestic drudges. They keep a
cook to do it. They don't pity 'e for being a down-trodden slive,
spending sixteen hours a d'y in THEIR kitchen with an evening out
once a week. When you marry it will be to a bloke like me, a
working man . . .
GINGER Working! [She follows it with a shrill laugh.]
JAWBONES Yus. There's always a class as laughs when you mention
the word "work." Them as knows wot it is, don't. I've been at it
since six o'clock this morning, carrying a ladder, a can of paste
weighing twenty pounds, and two 'undred double royal posters. You
try it! When 'e comes 'ome, 'e'll want 'is victuals. If you've
got 'em ready for 'im and are looking nice--no reason why you
shouldn't--and feeling amiable, you'll get on very well together.
If you are going to argue with 'im about woman's sphere, you'll get
the worst of it.
GINGER You always was a bully.
JAWBONES Not always. Remember last Bank 'oliday? [He winks.]
GINGER [She tries not to give in.]
JAWBONES 'Ave a cup of tea. [He pours it out for her.]
GINGER [The natural woman steals in--she sits.]
JAWBONES 'Ow are they doing you, fairly well?
GINGER Oh! Well, nothing to grumble at.
JAWBONES You can do a bit o' dressing on it.
GINGER [She meets his admiring eye. The suffragette departs.]
Dressing don't cost much--when you've got tyste.
JAWBONES Wot! Not that 'at?
GINGER Made it myself.
GINGER Honour bright! Tell yer -
[GEOFFREY and ST. HERBERT enter. JAWBONES and GINGER make to rise.
GEOFFREY All right, all right. Don't let me disturb the party.
Where's Mr. Sigsby?
JAWBONES Gone to look up the police, I think, sir. [Having
finished, he rises.] Some of those factory girls been up to their
GEOFFREY Umph! What's it about this time?
JAWBONES They've took objection to one of our posters.
GEOFFREY What, another! [To ST. HERBERT.] Woman has disappointed
me as a fighter. She's willing enough to strike. If you hit back,
she's surprised and grieved.
ST. HERBERT She's come to the game rather late.
GEOFFREY She might have learned the rules. [To JAWBONES.] Which
particular one is it that has failed to meet with their approval?
JAWBONES It's rather a good one, sir, from our point of view:
"Why she left her 'appy 'ome."
GEOFFREY I don't seem to remember it. Have I seen it?
JAWBONES I don't think you 'ave, sir. It was Mr. Sigsby's idea.
On the left, the ruined 'ome, baby crying it's little 'eart out--
eldest child lying on the floor, scalded--upset the tea-kettle over
itself--youngest boy in flames--been playing with the matches,
nobody there to stop 'im. At the open door the father, returning
from work. Nothing ready for 'im. On the other side--'ER, on a
tub, spouting politics.
GEOFFREY [To ST. HERBERT.] Sounds rather good.
JAWBONES Wait a minute. There was a copy somewhere about--a
proof. [He is searching for it on the desk--finds it.] Yus, 'ere
'tis. [To GINGER.] Catch 'old.
[JAWBONES and GINGER hold it displayed.] That's the one, sir.
ST. HERBERT Why is the working man, for pictorial purposes, always
GINGER It's the skirt we object to.
GEOFFREY The skirt! What's wrong with the skirt?
GINGER Well, it's only been out of fashion for the last three
years, that's all.
GEOFFREY Oh! I see. [To ST. HERBERT.] We've been hitting them
below the belt. What do you think I ought to do about it?
ST. HERBERT What would you have thought yourself, three weeks ago?
GEOFFREY You and I have been friends ever since we were boys. You
rather like me, don't you?
ST. HERBERT [Puzzled.] Yes.
GEOFFREY If I were to suddenly hit you on the nose, what would
ST. HERBERT I understand. Woman has suddenly started hitting man
on the nose. Her excuse being that she really couldn't keep her
hands off him any longer.
JAWBONES [He has pinned the poster to the wall.] They begun it.
To 'ear them talk, you'd think as man had never done anything
GEOFFREY He's quite right. Their posters are on every hoarding:
"Who's made all the Muddles? Man!" "Men's Promises! Why, it's
all Froth!" "Woman this Time!" I suppose it will have to go.
JAWBONES [Hopefully.] Up, sir?
GEOFFREY No, Jawbones. Into the dust-heap with the rest.
[JAWBONES is disgusted. GINGER is triumphant.]
GEOFFREY I must talk to Sigsby. He's taking the whole thing too
seriously. It will be some time before we reach that stage. [To
JAWBONES.] Ask Mrs. Chinn to bring me a cup of tea.
[JAWBONES goes out.]
[He seats himself at table and takes up some correspondence. To
GINGER.] Are you waiting for any one?
GINGER A letter from her ladyship. [She picks up from the desk
and hands him the letter SIGSBY had thrown there.] Her ladyship
thought you ought to be consulted.
GEOFFREY [He reads the short letter with a gathering frown--hands
it across to ST. HERBERT.]
ST. HERBERT [Having read, he passes it back in silence.]
GEOFFREY [To GINGER.] Do you know the contents of this letter?
GINGER The matter has been discussed among us--informally.
GEOFFREY Tell Lady Mogton I'll--talk to her myself on the subject.
GINGER Thank you. [She collects her etceteras.] Good afternoon.
GEOFFREY [Shortly.] Good afternoon.
GINGER [She bows graciously to ST. HERBERT, who responds. Goes
GEOFFREY The devil of it is that it's the truth.
ST. HERBERT Somebody was bound to say it, sooner or later!
GEOFFREY Yes, but one's own wife! This is a confoundedly awkward
ST. HERBERT [He comes to him, stands looking down at him.] Did it
never occur to you, when you were advocating equal political rights
for women, that awkward situations might arise?
GEOFFREY [He leans back in his chair.] Do you remember Tommy the
Terrier, as they used to call him in the House--was always
ST. HERBERT Quite the most amusing man I ever met!
GEOFFREY And not afraid of being honest. Do you remember his
answer when somebody asked him what he would do if Socialism, by
any chance, really became established in England? He had just
married an American heiress. He said he should emigrate. I am
still convinced that woman is entitled to equal political rights
with man. I didn't think it was coming in my time. There are
points in the problem remaining to be settled before we can arrive
at a working solution. This is one of them. [He takes up the
letter and reads.] "Are you prepared to have as your
representative a person who for six months out of every year may be
incapacitated from serving you?" It's easy enough to say I
oughtn't to allow my supporters to drag in the personal element. I
like it even less myself. But what's the answer?
[JAWBONES enters with a tray.]
JAWBONES [Places tray on table.] Tea's coming in a minute, sir.
[He is clearing away.]
GEOFFREY Never mind all that. [He hands him a slip.] Take this
to the printers. Tell them I must have a proof to-night.
JAWBONES Yes, sir. [Finds his cap and goes out.]
ST. HERBERT The answer, I should say, would be that the majority
of women will continue to find something better to do. The women
who will throw themselves into politics will be the unattached
women, the childless women. [In an instant he sees his mistake,
but it is too late.]
GEOFFREY [He rises, crosses to the desk, throws into a waste-
paper-basket a piece of crumpled paper that was in his hand; then
turns. The personal note has entered into the discussion.] The
women who WANT to be childless--what about them?
ST. HERBERT [He shrugs his shoulders.] Are there any such?
GEOFFREY There are women who talk openly of woman's share in the
general scheme being a "burden" on her--an "incubus."
ST. HERBERT A handful of cranks. To the normal woman motherhood
has always been the one supreme desire.
GEOFFREY Because children crowned her with honour. The barren
woman was despised. All that is changing. This movement is adding
impulse to it.
ST. HERBERT Movements do not alter instincts.
GEOFFREY But they do. Ever since man emerged from the jungle he
has been shedding his instincts--shaping them to new desires.
Where do you find this all-prevailing instinct towards maternity?
Among the women of society, who sacrifice it without a moment's
hesitation to their vanity--to their mere pleasures? The middle-
class woman--she, too, is demanding "freedom." Children, servants,
the home!--they are too much for her "nerves." And now there comes
this new development, appealing to the intellectual woman. Is
there not danger of her preferring political ambition, the
excitement of public life, to what has come to be regarded as the
"drudgery" of turning four walls into a home, of peopling the
silence with the voices of the children? [He crosses to the table-
-lays his hand again upon the open letter.] How do you know that
this may not be her answer--"I have no children. I never mean to
[SIGSBY enters in company with BEN LAMB, M.P. LAMB is a short,
thick-set, good-tempered man.]
Ah, Lamb, how are you?
LAMB [They greet one another.] How are things going?
SIGSBY They're not going at all well.
GEOFFREY Sigsby was ever the child of despondency.
SIGSBY Yes, and so will you be when you find yourself at the
bottom of the poll.
GEOFFREY [The notion takes him by surprise.]
LAMB It's going to be a closer affair than any of us thought.
It's the joke of the thing that appears to have got hold of them.
They want to see what will happen.
GEOFFREY Man's fatal curiosity concerning the eternal feminine!
SIGSBY Yes, and they won't have to pay for it. That will be our
ST. HERBERT [To SIGSBY.] What do you think they'll do, supposing
by any chance Mrs. Chilvers should head the poll?
SIGSBY How do you mean--"what'll they do?"
ST. HERBERT Do you think they'll claim the seat?
SIGSBY Claim the seat! What do you think they're out for--their
health? Get another six months' advertisement, if they don't get
anything else. Meanwhile what's our position--just at the
beginning of our ministerial career?
GEOFFREY They will not claim the seat.
SIGSBY How do you know?
GEOFFREY I know my wife.
LAMB [After a moment's silence.] Quite sure you do?
LAMB Ever seen a sheep fighting mad? I have. Damned sight worse
than the old ram.
GEOFFREY She doesn't fight the ram.
LAMB [He makes a sweeping movement that takes in the room, the
election--all things.] What's all this? We thought woman hadn't
got the fighting instinct--that we "knew her." My boy, we're in
the infants' class.
SIGSBY If you want to be his Majesty's Under-Secretary for Home
Affairs, you take my tip, guv'nor, you'll win this election.
GEOFFREY What more can I do than I'm doing? How can I countenance
this sort of thing? [He indicates the posters.] Declare myself
dead against the whole movement?
LAMB You'll do it later. May as well do it soon.
GEOFFREY Why must I do it?
LAMB Because you're beginning to find out what it means.
[A pause. The door is open. ANNYS is standing there.]
ANNYS Dare we venture into the enemy's camp?
[She enters, laughing, followed by ELIZABETH and PHOEBE. ANNYS is
somewhat changed from the grave, dreamy ANNYS of a short week ago.
She is brimming over with vitality--excitement. There is a
decisiveness, an egoism, about her that seems new to her. The
women's skirts make a flutter. A breeze seems to have entered.
ANNYS runs to her husband. For the moment the election fades away.
They are all smiles, tenderness for one another.]
ANNYS Don't tell, will you? Mamma would be so shocked. Do you
know you haven't been near me for three days?
GEOFFREY Umph! I like that. Where were you last night?
ANNYS Last night? In the neighbourhood of Leicester Square till
three o'clock. Oh, Geoff, there's such a lot wants altering!
[She turns to greet the others.]
GEOFFREY Your ruining your health won't do it. You're looking
fagged to death.
ANNYS [She shakes hands with SIGSBY.] How are you? [To LAMB.]
I'm so glad you're helping him. [She turns again to GEOFFREY.]
Pure imagination, dearest. I never felt better in my life.
GEOFFREY Umph! Look at all those lines underneath your eyes. [He
shakes hands with ELIZABETH.] How do you do? [To PHOEBE.] How
ANNYS [She comes back to him--makes to smooth the lines from his
forehead.] Look at all those, there. We'll run away together for
a holiday, when it's all over. What are you doing this evening?
SIGSBY You promised to speak at a Smoker to-night; the Bow and
ANNYS Oh, bother the Buffaloes. Take me out to dinner. I am free
[MRS. CHINN has entered--is arranging the table for tea. ANNYS
goes to her.]
How are you, Mrs. Chinn?
MRS. CHINN [She wipes her hand on her apron before taking ANNYS'S
GEOFFREY [To SIGSBY.] I can turn up there later in the evening.
[He joins the others for a moment--talks with them.]
MRS. CHINN [Now shaking hands.] Quite well, thank you, ma'am.
[She has cast a keen, motherly glance at ANNYS.] I hope you're
taking care of yourself, ma'am.
ANNYS Of course I am. We Politicians owe it to our Party.
[Laughs.] How are they getting on here, without me?
MRS. CHINN Well, ma'am, from what I can see, I think Mr. Chilvers
is trusting a little too much to his merits. Shall I bring some
more cups and saucers, sir?
GEOFFREY Ah! yes! [To ANNYS.] You'll have some tea?
ANNYS Strong, please, Mrs. Chinn.
[MRS. CHINN goes out.]
[Laughs.] Yes, I know it's bad for me. [She puts a hand over his
PHOEBE Old Mother Chinn is quite right, you know, Geoff. You're
not putting up a good fight.
GEOFFREY [A slight irritability begins to show itself.] I frankly
confess that I am not used to fighting women.
ELIZABETH Yes. It was easier, no doubt, when we took it lying
ANNYS You promised, if I brought you, that you would be good.
GEOFFREY I wish it had been you.
PHOEBE Yes, but we don't!
[As she and ELIZABETH move away.]
Did you have a row with the doctor when you were born?
[To which ELIZABETH replies, though the words reach only PHOEBE:
"I might have, if I had known that my mother was doing all the
work, while he was pocketing the fee!"]
LAMB You see, Mrs. Chilvers, our difficulty is that there is
nothing to be said against you--except one thing.
ANNYS What's that?
LAMB That you're a woman.
ANNYS [Smiling.] Isn't that enough?
SIGSBY Quite enough, Mrs. Chilvers, if the guv'nor would only say
ANNYS [To GEOFFREY.] Why don't you? I'll promise not to deny it.
[The others drift apart. They group themselves near to the window.
They talk together--grow evidently interested and excited.]
GEOFFREY I have just had a letter from your--Election Agent,
expressing indignation with one of my supporters for merely having
hinted at the fact.
ANNYS I don't understand.
GEOFFREY [He takes from the table the letter and hands it to her
in silence. He seats himself on the settee and watches her.]
ANNYS [She seats herself on a chair just opposite to him; reads
the letter through in silence.] In my case it does not apply.
GEOFFREY How do you know?
ANNYS [The atmosphere has grown suddenly oppressive.] Oh, I--I
think we might find some other reason than that. [She hands him
back the letter.]
GEOFFREY It's the only one of any importance. It embraces all the
others. Shall woman be mother--or politician? [He puts the letter
in his pocket.]
ANNYS Why cannot she be both?
GEOFFREY [He is looking at her searchingly.] Because if she is
the one, she doesn't want to be the other.
ANNYS You are wrong. It is the mother instinct that makes us
politicians. We want to take care of the world.
GEOFFREY Exactly. You think man's job more interesting than your
ANNYS [After a moment.] Who told you that it was a man's job?
GEOFFREY Well. [He shrugs his shoulders.] We can't do yours.
ANNYS Can't we help each other?
GEOFFREY As, for instance, in this election! [He gives a short
ANNYS Of course, this is an exceptional case.