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Votes for Women. Robins, Elizabeth, 1862–1952.
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page: 81

ACT III

SCENE: The drawing‐room at old MR. DUNBARTON’S house in Eaton Square. Six o’clock the same evening. As the Curtain rises the door (L.) opens and JEAN appears on the threshold. She looks back into her own sitting‐room, then crosses the drawing‐room, treading softly on the parquet spaces between the rugs. She goes to the window and is in the act of parting the lace curtains when the folding doors (C.) are opened by the BUTLER.

JEAN

(to the Servant).

Sh! (She goes softly back to the door she has left open and closes it carefully. When she turns, the BUTLER has stepped aside to admit GEOFFREY STONOR, and departed, shutting the folding doors. STONOR comes rapidly forward.) (Before he gets a word out.) Speak low please.

STONOR

(angrily).

I waited about a whole hour for you to come back. (JEAN turns away as though vaguely looking for the nearest chair.) page: 82 If you didn’t mind leaving me like that, you might have considered Lady John.

JEAN

(pausing).

Is she here with you?

STONOR.

No. My place was nearer than this, and she was very tired. I left her to get some tea. We couldn’t tell whether you’d be here, or what had become of you.

JEAN.

Mr. Trent got us a hansom.

STONOR.

Trent?

JEAN.

The Chairman of the meeting.

STONOR.

“Got us—”?

JEAN.

Miss Levering and me.

STONOR

(incensed).

MISS L—

BUTLER

(opens the door and announces)

Mr. Farnborough.

(Enter MR. RICHARD FARNBOROUGH—more flurried than ever.)

FARN.

(seeing STONOR).

At last! You’ll forgive this incursion, Miss Dunbarton, when you hear— (Turns abruptly back to STONOR.) They’ve been telegraphing you all over London. In despair they set me on your track.

STONOR.

Who did? What’s up?

FARN.

(lays down his hat and fumbles agitatedly in his breast‐pocket).

There was the devil to pay at Dutfield last night. The Liberal chap tore down from London and took over your meeting!

STONOR.

Oh?—Nothing about it in the Sunday paper I saw.

FARN.

Wait till you see the Press to‐morrow morning! There was a great rally and the beggar made a rousing speech.

STONOR.

What about?

page: 83

FARN.

Abolition of the Upper House—

STONOR.

They were at that when I was at Eton!

FARN.

Yes. But this new man has got a way of putting things!—the people went mad. (Pompously.) The Liberal platform as defined at Dutfield is going to make a big difference.

STONOR

(drily).

You think so.

FARN.

Well, your agent says as much. (Opens telegram.)

STONOR.

My— (Taking telegram.) “Try find Stonor”—Hm! Hm!

FARN.

(pointing).

—“tremendous effect of last night’s Liberal manifesto ought to be counteracted in tomorrow’s papers.” (Very earnestly.) You see, Mr. Stonor, it’us a battle‐cry we want.

STONOR

(turns on his heel).

Claptrap!

FARN.

(a little dashed).

Well, they’ve been saying we have nothing to offer but personal popularity. No practical reform. No—

STONOR.

No truckling to the masses, I suppose. (Walks impatiently away.)

FARN.

(snubbed).

Well, in these democratic days—(Turns to JEAN for countenance.) I hope you’ll forgive my bursting in like this. (Struck by her face.) But I can see you realise the gravity— (Lowering his voice with an air of speaking for her ear alone.) It isn’t as if he were going to be a mere private member. Everybody knows he’ll be in the Cabinet.

STONOR

(drily).

It may be a Liberal Cabinet.

FARN.

Nobody thought so up to last night. Why, even your brother—but I am afraid I’m seeming officious. (Takes up his hat.)

STONOR

(coldly).

What about my brother?

page: 84

FARN.

I met Lord Windlesham as I rushed out of the Carlton.

STONOR.

Did he say anything?

FARN.

I told him the Dutfield news.

STONOR

(impatiently).

Well?

FARN.

He said it only confirmed his fears.

STONOR

(half under his breath).

Said that, did he?

FARN.

Yes. Defeat is inevitable, he thinks, unless— (Pause.) (GEOFFREY STONOR, who has been pacing the floor, stops but doesn’t raise his eyes.) unless you can “manufacture some political dynamite within the next few hours.” Those were his words.

STONOR

(resumes his walking to and fro, raises his head and catches sight of JEAN’S white, drawn face. Stops short).

You are very tired.

JEAN.

No. No.

STONOR

(to FARNBOROUGH).

I’m obliged to you for taking so much trouble. (Shakes hands by way of dismissing FARNBOROUGH.) I’ll see what can be done.

FARN.

(offering the reply‐paid form).

If you’d like to wire I’ll take it.

STONOR

(faintly amused).

You don’t understand, my young friend. Moves of this kind are not rushed at by responsible politicians. I must have time for consideration.

FARN.

(disappointed).

Oh, well, I only hope someone else won’t jump into the breach before you— (Watch in hand) I tell you. (To JEAN.) I’ll find out what time the newspapers go to press on Sunday. Goodbye. (To STONOR.) I’ll be at the Club just in case I can be of any use.

page: 85

STONOR

(firmly).

No, don’t do that. If I should have anything new to say—

FARN.

(feverishly).

B‐b‐but with our party, as your brother said—“heading straight for a vast electoral disaster—”

STONOR.

If I decide on a counterblast I shall simply telegraph to headquarters. Goodbye.

FARN.

Oh—a—g‐goodbye. (A gesture of “The country’s going to the dogs.”)

(JEAN rings the bell. Exit FARNBOROUGH.)

STONOR

(studying the carpet).

“Political dynamite,” eh? (Pause.) After all . . . women are much more conservative than men—aren’t they? (JEAN looks straight in front of her, making no attempt to reply.) Especially the women the property qualification would bring in. (He glances at JEAN as though for the first time conscious of her silence.) You see now (he throws himself into the chair by the table) one reason why I’ve encouraged you to take an interest in public affairs. Because people like us don’t go screaming about it, is no sign we don’t (some of us) see what’s on the way. However little they want to, women of our class will have to come into line. All the best things in the world—everything that civilisation has won will be in danger if—when this change comes—the only women who have practical political training are the women of the lower classes. Women of the lower classes, and (his brows knit heavily) —women inoculated by the Socialist virus.

JEAN.

Geoffrey.

STONOR

(draws the telegraph form towards him).

Let page: 86 us see, how we shall put it—when the time comes—shall we? (He detaches a pencil from his watch chain and bends over the paper, writing.)

(JEAN opens her lips to speak, moves a shade nearer the table and then falls back upon her silent, half‐incredulous misery.)

STONOR

(holds the paper off, smiling).

Enough dynamite in that! Rather too much, isn’t there, little girl?

JEAN.

Geoffrey, I know her story.

STONOR.

Whose story?

JEAN.

Miss Levering’s.

STONOR.

Whose?

JEAN.

Vida Levering’s. (STONOR stares speechless. Slight pause.) (The words escaping from her in a miserable cry) Why did you desert her?

STONOR

(staggered.)

I? I?

JEAN.

Oh, why did you do it?

STONOR

(bewildered).

What in the name of— What has she been saying to you?

JEAN.

Some one else told me part. Then the way you looked when you saw her at Aunt Ellen’s—Miss Levering’s saying you didn’t know her—then your letting out that you knew even the curious name on the handkerchief— Oh, I pieced it together—

STONOR

(with recovered self‐possession).

Your ingenuity is undeniable!

JEAN

—and then, when she said that at the meeting about “the dark hour” and I looked at your face—it flashed over me— Oh, why did you desert her?

STONOR.

I didn’t desert her.

page: 87

JEAN.

Ah‐h! (Puts her hands before her eyes.) (STONOR makes a passionate motion towards her, is checked by her muffled voice saying) I’m glad—I’m glad! (He stares bewildered. JEAN drops her hands in her lap and steadies her voice.) She went away from you, then?

STONOR.

You don’t expect me to enter into—

JEAN.

She went away from you?

STONOR

(with a look of almost uncontrollable anger).

Yes!

JEAN.

Was that because you wouldn’t marry her?

STONOR.

I couldn’t marry her—and she knew it.

JEAN.

Did you want to?

STONOR

(an instant’s angry scrutiny and then turning away his eyes).

I thought I did—then. It’s a long time ago.

JEAN.

And why “couldn’t” you?

STONOR

(a movement of strong irritation cut short).

Why are you catechising me? It’s a matter that concerns another woman.

JEAN.

If you’re saying that it doesn’t concern me, you’re saying— (her lip trembles) —that you don’t concern me.

STONOR

(commanding his temper with difficulty).

In those days I—I was absolutely dependent on my father.

JEAN.

Why, you must have been thirty, Geoffrey.

STONOR

(slight pause).

What? Oh—thereabouts.

JEAN.

And everybody says you’re so clever.

STONOR.

Well, everybody’s mistaken.

page: 88

JEAN

(drawing nearer).

It must have been terribly hard— (STONOR turns toward her.) for you both— (He arrests his movement and stands stonily.) that a man like you shouldn’t have had the freedom that even the lowest seem to have.

STONOR.

Freedom?

JEAN.

To marry the woman they choose.

STONOR.

She didn’t break off our relations because I couldn’t marry her.

JEAN.

Why was it, then?

STONOR.

You’re too young to discuss such a story. (Half turns away.)

JEAN.

I’m not so young as she was when—

STONOR

(wheeling upon her).

Very well, then, if you will have it! The truth is, it didn’t seem to weigh upon her, as it seems to on you, that I wasn’t able to marry her.

JEAN.

Why are you so sure of that?

STONOR.

Because she didn’t so much as hint such a thing when she wrote that she meant to break off the—the—

JEAN.

What made her write like that?

STONOR

(with suppressed rage).

Why will you go on talking of what’s so long over and ended?

JEAN.

What reason did she give?

STONOR.

If your curiosity has so got the upper hand—ask her.

JEAN

(her eyes upon him).

You’re afraid to tell me.

STONOR

(putting pressure on himself to answer quietly).

I still hoped—at that time—to win my father over. She blamed me because (goes to window page: 89 and looks blindly out and speaks in a low tone) if the child had lived it wouldn’t have been possible to get my father to—to overlook it.

JEAN

(faintly).

You wanted it overlooked? I don’t underst—

STONOR

(turning passionately back to her).

Of course you don’t. (He seizes her hand and tries to draw her to him.) If you did, you wouldn’t be the beautiful, tender, innocent child you are—

JEAN

(has withdrawn her hand and shrunk from him with an impulse—slight as is its expression—so tragically eloquent, that fear for the first time catches hold of him).

I am glad you didn’t mean to desert her, Geoffrey. It wasn’t your fault after all—only some misunderstanding that can be cleared up.

STONOR.

Cleared up?

JEAN.

Yes. Cleared up.

STONOR

(aghast).

You aren’t thinking that this miserable old affair I’d as good as forgotten—

JEAN

(in a horror‐struck whisper, with a glance at the door which he doesn’t see).

Forgotten!

STONOR.

No, no. I don’t mean exactly forgotten. But you’re torturing me so I don’t know what I’m saying. (He goes closer.) You aren’t—Jean! you—you aren’t going to let it come between you and me!

JEAN

(presses her handkerchief to her lips, and then, taking it away, answers steadily).

I can’t make or unmake what’s past. But I’m glad, at least, that you didn’t mean to desert her in her trouble. You’ll remind her of that first of all, won’t you? (Moves to the door, L.)

STONOR.

Where are you going? (Raising his voice.) Why should I remind anybody of what I want only to forget?

page: 90

JEAN

(finger on lip).

Sh!

STONOR

(with eyes on the door).

You don’t mean that she’s

JEAN.

Yes. I left her to get a little rest. (He recoils in an access of uncontrollable rage. She follows him. Speechless, he goes down R. to get his hat.) Geoffrey, don’t go before you hear me. I don’t know if what I think matters to you now—but I hope it does. (With tears.) You can still make me think of you without shrinking—if you will.

STONOR

(fixes her a moment with his eyes. Then sternly).

What is it you are asking of me?

JEAN.

To make amends, Geoffrey.

STONOR

(with an outburst).

You poor little innocent!

JEAN.

I’m poor enough. But (locking her hands together) I’m not so innocent but what I know you must right that old wrong now, if you’re ever to right it.

STONOR.

You aren’t insane enough to think I would turn round in these few hours and go back to something that ten years ago was ended for ever! Why, it’s stark, staring madness!

JEAN.

No. (Catching on his arm.) What you did ten years ago—that was mad. This is paying a debt.

STONOR.

Look here, Jean, you’re dreadfully wrought up and excited—tired too—

JEAN.

No, not tired—though I’ve travelled so far to‐day. I know you smile at sudden conversions. You think they’re hysterical—worse—vulgar. But people must get their revelations how they can. And, Geoffrey, if I can’t make you see this one of mine—I page: 91 shall know your love could never mean strength to me. Only weakness. And I shall be afraid. So afraid I’ll never dare to give you the chance of making me loathe myself. I shall never see you again.

STONOR.

How right I was to be afraid of that vein of fanaticism in you. (Moves towards the door.)

JEAN.

Certainly you couldn’t make a greater mistake than to go away now and think it any good ever to come back. (He turns.) Even if I came to feel different, I couldn’t do anything different. I should know all this couldn’t be forgotten. I should know that it would poison my life in the end. Yours too.

STONOR

(with suppressed fury).

She has made good use of her time! (With a sudden thought.) What has changed her? Has she been seeing visions too?

JEAN.

What do you mean?

STONOR.

Why is she intriguing to get hold of a man that, ten years ago, she flatly refused to see, or hold any communication with?

JEAN.

“Intriguing to get hold of?” She hasn’t mentioned you!

STONOR.

What! Then how in the name of Heaven do you know—that she wants—what you ask?

JEAN

(firmly).

There can’t be any doubt about that.

STONOR

(with immense relief).

You absurd, ridiculous child! Then all this is just your own unaided invention. Well—I could thank God! (Falls into the nearest chair and passes his handkerchief over his face.)

JEAN

(perplexed, uneasy).

For what are you thanking God?

page: 92

STONOR

(trying to think out his plan of action).

Suppose—(I’m not going to risk it)—but suppose— (He looks up and at the sight of JEAN’S face a new tenderness comes into his own. He rises suddenly.) Whether I deserve to suffer or not—it’s quite certain you don’t Don’t cry, dear one. It never was the real thing. I had to wait till I knew you before I understood.

JEAN

(lifts her eyes brimming).

Oh, it that true? (Checks her movement towards him.) Loving you has made things clear to me I didn’t dream of before. If I could think that because of me you were able to do this—

STONOR

(seizes her by the shoulders and says hoarsely).

Look here! Do you seriously ask me to give up the girl I love—to go and offer to marry a woman that even to think of—

JEAN.

You cared for her once. You’ll care about her again. She is beautiful and brilliant—everything. I’ve heard she could win any man she set herself to—

STONOR

(pushing JEAN from him).

She’s bewitched you!

JEAN.

Geoffrey, Geoffrey, you aren’t going away like lik that. This isn’t the end!

STONOR

(darkly—hesitating).

I suppose even if she refused me, you’d—

JEAN.

She won’t refuse you.

STONOR.

She did once.

JEAN.

She didn’t refuse to marry you—

(JEAN is going to the door.)

STONOR

(catches her by the arm)

Wait!—a— (Hunting for some means of gaining time.) Lady John page: 93 is waiting all this while for the car to go back with a message.

JEAN.

That’s not a matter of life and death—

STONOR.

All the same—I’ll go down and give the order.

JEAN

(stopping quite still on a sudden).

Very well. (Sits C.) You’ll come back if you’re the man I pray you are. (Breaks into a flood of silent tears, her elbows on the table (C.) her face in her hands.)

STONOR

(returns, bends over her, about to take her in his arms).

Dearest of all the world—

(Door L. opens softly and VIDA LEVERING appears. She is arrested at the sight of STONOR, and is in the act of drawing back when, upon the slight noise, STONOR looks round. His face darkens, he stands staring at her and then with a look of speechless anger goes silently out C. JEAN, hearing him shut the door, drops her head on the table with a sob. VIDA LEVERING crosses slowly to her and stands a moment silent at the girl’s side.)

MISS L.

What is the matter?

JEAN

(lifting her head and drying her eyes).

I—I’ve been seeing Geoffrey.

MISS L.

(with an attempt at lightness).

Is this the effect seeing Geoffrey has?

JEAN.

You see, I know now (as MISS LEVERING looks quite uncomprehending) —how he (drops her eyes) —how he spoiled some one else’s life.

MISS L.

(quickly).

Who tells you that?

JEAN.

Several people have told me.

page: 94

MISS L.

Well, you should be very careful how you believe what you hear.

JEAN

(passionately).

You know it’s true.

MISS L.

I know that it’s possible to be mistaken.

JEAN.

I see! You’re trying to shield him—

MISS L.

Why should I—what is it to me?

JEAN

(with tears).

Oh—h, how you must love him!

MISS L.

Listen to me—

JEAN

(rising).

What’s the use of your going on denying it? MISS LEVERING, about to break it, is silenced.) Geoffrey doesn’t (JEAN, struggling to command her feelings, goes to window. VIDA LEVERING relinquishes an impulse to follow, and sits left centre. JEAN comes slowly back with her eyes bent on the floor, does not lift them till she is quite near VIDA. Then the girl’s self‐absorbed face changes.) Oh, don’t look like that! I shall bring him back to you! (Drops on her knees beside the other’s chair.)

MISS L.

You would be impertinent (softening) if you weren’t a romantic child. You can’t bring him back.

JEAN.

Yes, he—

MISS L.

But there’s something you can do—

JEAN.

What?

MISS L.

Bring him to the point where he recognises that he’s in our debt.

JEAN.

In our debt?

MISS L.

In debt to women. He can’t repay the one he robbed—

page: 95

JEAN

(wincing and rising from her knees).

Yes, yes.

MISS L.

(sternly).

No, he can’t repay the dead. But there are the living. There are the thousands with hope still in their hearts and youth in their blood. Let him help them. Let him be a Friend to Women.

JEAN

(rising on a wave of enthusiasm).

Yes, yes—I understand. That too!

(The door opens. As STONOR enters with LADY JOHN, he makes a slight gesture towards the two as much as to say, “You see.”)

JEAN

(catching sight of him).

Thank you!

LADY JOHN

(in a clear, commonplace tone to JEAN).

Well, you rather gave us the slip. Vida, I believe Mr. Stonor wants to see you for a few minutes (glances at watch)—but I’d like a word with you first, as I must get back. (To STONOR.) Do you think the car—your man said something about re‐charging.

STONOR

(hastily).

Oh, did he?—I’ll see about it.

(As STONOR is going out he encounters the BUTLER. Exit STONOR.)

BUTLER.

Mr. Trent has called, Miss, to take Miss Levering to the meeting.

JEAN.

Bring Mr. Trent into my sitting‐room. I’ll tell him—you can’t go to‐night.

[Exeunt BUTLER C., JEAN L.

LADY JOHN

(hurriedly).

I know, my dear, you’re not aware of what that impulsive girl wants to insist on.

MISS L.

Yes, I am aware of it.

LADY JOHN.

But it isn’t with your sanction, surely, that she goes on making this extraordinary demand.

page: 96

MISS L.

(slowly).

I didn’t sanction it at first, but I’ve been thinking it over.

LADY JOHN.

Then all I can say is I am greatly disappointed in you. You threw this man over years ago for reasons—whatever they were—that seemed to you good and sufficient. And now you come between him and a younger woman—just to play Nemesis, so far as I can make out!

MISS L.

Is that what he says?

LADY JOHN.

He says nothing that isn’t fair and considerate.

MISS L.

I can see he’s changed.

LADY JOHN.

And you’re unchanged—is that it?

MISS L.

I’ve changed more than he.

LADY JOHN.

But (pity and annoyance blended in her tone)—you care about him still, Vida?

MISS L.

No.

LADY JOHN.

I see. It’s just that you wish to marry somebody—

MISS L.

Oh, Lady John, there are no men listening.

LADY JOHN

(surprised).

No, I didn’t suppose there were.

MISS L.

Then why keep up that old pretence?

LADY JOHN.

What pre—

MISS L.

That to marry at all costs is every woman’s dearest ambition till the grave closes over her. You and I know it isn’t true.

LADY JOHN.

Well, but— Oh! it was just the unexpected sight of him bringing it back— That was what fired you this afternoon! (With an honest attempt at sympathetic understanding.) Of course. The memory of a thing like that can never die—can never even be dimmed—for the woman.

page: 97

MISS L.

I mean her to think so.

LADY JOHN

(bewildered).

Jean!

(MISS LEVERING nods.)

LADY JOHN.

And it isn’t so?

MISS L.

You don’t seriously believe a woman with anything else to think about, comes to the end of ten years still absorbed in a memory of that sort?

LADY JOHN

(astonished).

You’ve got over it, then!

MISS L.

If the newspapers didn’t remind me I shouldn’t remember once a twelvemonth that there was ever such a person as Geoffrey Stonor in the world.

LADY JOHN

(with unconscious rapture).

Oh, I’m so glad!

MISS L.

(smiles grimly).

Yes, I’m glad too.

LADY JOHN.

And if Geoffrey Stonor offered you—what’s called “reparation”—you’d refuse it?

MISS L.

(smiles a little contemptuously).

Geoffrey Stonor! For me he’s simply one of the far‐back links in a chain of evidence. It’s certain I think a hundred times of other women’s present unhappiness, to once that I remember that old unhappiness of mine that’s past. I think of the nail and chain makers of Cradley Heath. The sweated girls of the slums. I think of the army of ill‐used women whose very existence I mustn’t mention—

LADY JOHN

(interrupting hurriedly).

Then why in Heaven’s name do you let poor Jean imagine—

MISS L.

(bending forward).

Look—I’ll trust you, Lady John. I don’t suffer from that old wrong as Jean thinks I do, but I shall coin her sympathy into gold for a greater cause than mine.

page: 98

LADY JOHN.

I don’t understand you.

MISS L.

Jean isn’t old enough to be able to care as much about a principle as about a person. But if my half‐forgotten pain can turn her generosity into the common treasury—

LADY JOHN.

What do you propose she shall do, poor child?

MISS L.

Use her hold over Geoffrey Stonor to make him help us!

LADY JOHN.

Help you?

MISS L.

The man who served one woman—God knows how many more—very ill, shall serve hundreds of thousands well. Geoffrey Stonor shall make it harder for his son, harder still for his grandson, to treat any woman as he treated me.

LADY JOHN.

How will he do that?

MISS L.

By putting an end to the helplessness of women.

LADY JOHN

(ironically).

You must think he has a great deal of power—

MISS L.

Power? Yes, men have too much over penniless and frightened women.

LADY JOHN

(impatiently).

What nonsense! You talk as though the women hadn’t their share of human nature. We aren’t made of ice any more than the men.

MISS L.

No, but all the same we have more self‐control.

LADY JOHN.

Than men?

MISS L.

You know we have.

LADY JOHN

(shrewdly).

I know we mustn’t admit it.

MISS L.

For fear they’d call us fishes!

LADY JOHN

(evasively).

They talk of our lack of page: 99 self‐control—but it’s the last thing they want women to have.

MISS L.

Oh, we know what they want us to have. So we make shift to have it. If we don’t, we go without hope—sometimes we go without bread.

LADY JOHN

(shocked).

Vida—do you mean to say that you—

MISS L.

I mean to say that men’s vanity won’t let them see it, but the thing’s largely a question of economics.

LADY JOHN

(shocked).

You never loved him, then!

MISS L.

Oh, yes, I loved him—once. It was my helplessness turned the best thing life can bring, into a curse for both of us.

LADY JOHN.

I don’t understand you—

MISS L.

Oh, being “understood!”—that’s too much to expect. When people come to know I’ve joined the Union—

LADY JOHN.

But you won’t—

MISS L.

—who is there who will resist the temptation to say, “Poor Vida Levering! What a pity she hasn’t got a husband and a baby to keep her quiet”? The few who know about me, they’ll be equally sure that it’s not the larger view of life I’ve gained—my own poor little story is responsible for my new departure. (Leans forward and looks into LADY JOHN’S face.) My best friend, she will be surest of all, that it’s a private sense of loss, or, lower yet, a grudge—! But I tell you the only difference between me and thousands of women with husbands and babies is that I’m free to say what I think. They aren’t.

LADY JOHN

(rising and looking at her watch).

I must get back—my poor ill‐used guests.

page: 100

MISS L.

(rising).

I won’t ring. I think you’ll find Mr. Stonor downstairs waiting for you.

LADY JOHN

(embarrassed).

Oh—a—he will have left word about the car in any case.

(MISS LEVERING has opened the door (C.). ALLEN TRENT is in the act of saying goodbye to JEAN in the hall.)

MISS L.

Well, Mr. Trent, I didn’t expect to see you this evening.

TRENT

(comes and stands in the doorway).

Why not? Have I ever failed?

MISS L.

Lady John, this is one of our allies. He is good enough to squire me through the rabble from time to time.

LADY JOHN.

Well, I think it’s very handsome of you, after what she said to‐day about men. (Shakes hands.)

TRENT.

I’ve no great opinion of most men myself. I might add—or of most women.

LADY JOHN.

Oh! Well, at any rate I shall go away relieved to think that Miss Levering’s plain speaking hasn’t alienated all masculine regard.

TRENT.

Why should it?

LADY JOHN.

That’s right, Mr. Trent! Don’t believe all she says in the heat of propaganda.

TRENT.

I do believe all she says. But I’m not cast down.

LADY JOHN

(smiling).

Not when she says—

TRENT

(interrupting).

Was there ever a mysogynist of my sex who ended by deciding to make an exception?

LADY JOHN

(smiling significantly).

Oh, if that’s what you build on!

page: 101

TRENT.

Well, why shouldn’t a man‐hater on your side prove equally open to reason?

MISS L.

That part of the question doesn’t concern me. I’ve come to a place where I realise that the first battles of this new campaign must be fought by women alone. The only effective help men could give—amendment of the law—they refuse. The rest is nothing.

LADY JOHN.

Don’t be ungrateful, Vida. Here’s Mr. Trent ready to face criticism in publicly championing you.

MISS L.

It’s an illusion that I as an individual need Mr. Trent. I am quite safe in the crowd. Please don’t wait for me, and don’t come for me again.

TRENT

(flushes).

Of course if you’d rather—

MISS L.

And that reminds me. I was asked to thank you and to tell you, too, that they—the women of the Union—they won’t need your chairmanship any more—though that, I beg you to believe, has nothing to do with any feeling of mine.

TRENT

(hurt).

Of course, I know there must be other men ready—better known men—

MISS L.

It isn’t that. It’s simply that they find a man can’t keep a rowdy meeting in order as well as a woman.

(He stares.)

LADY JOHN.

You aren’t serious?

MISS L.

(to TRENT).

Haven’t you noticed that all their worst disturbances come when men are in charge?

TRENT.

Well—a—(laughs a little ruefully as he moves to the door) I hadn’t connected the two ideas. Goodbye.

page: 102

MISS L.

Goodbye.

(JEAN takes him downstairs, right centre.)

LADY JOHN

(as TRENT disappears).

That nice boy’s in love with you.

(MISS LEVERING simply looks at her.)

LADY JOHN.

Goodbye. (They shake hands.) I wish you hadn’t been so unkind to that nice boy!

MISS L.

Do you?

LADY JOHN.

Yes, for then I would be more certain of your telling Geoffrey Stonor that intelligent women don’t nurse their wrongs and lie in wait to punish them.

MISS L.

You are not certain?

LADY JOHN

(goes close up to VIDA).

Are you?

(VIDA stands with her eyes on the ground, silent, motionless. LADY JOHN, with a nervous glance at her watch and a gesture of extreme perturbation, goes hurriedly out. VIDA shuts the door. She comes slowly back, sits down and covers her face with her hands. She rises and begins to walk up and down, obviously trying to master her agitation. Enter GEOFFREY STONOR.)

MISS L.

Well, have they primed you? Have you got your lesson (with a little broken laugh) by heart at last?

STONOR

(looking at her from immeasurable distance).

I am not sure I understand you. (Pause.) However unpropitious your mood may be—I shall discharge my errand. (Pause. Her silence irritates page: 103 him.) I have promised to offer you what I believe is called “amends.”

MISS L.

(quickly).

You’ve come to realise, then—after all these years—that you owed me something?

STONOR

(on the brink of protest, checks himself).

I am not here to deny it.

MISS L.

(fiercely).

Pay, then—pay.

STONOR

(a moment’s dread as he looks at her, his lips set. Then stonily).

I have promised that, if you exact it, I will.

MISS L.

Ah! If I insist you’ll “make it all good”! (Quite low.) Then don’t you know you must pay me in kind?

STONOR.

What do you mean.

MISS L.

Give me back what you took from me: my old faith. Give me that.

STONOR.

Oh, if you mean to make phrases— (A gesture of scant patience.)

MISS L.

(going closer).

Or give me back mere kindness—or even tolerance. Oh, I don’t mean your tolerance! Give me back the power to think fairly of my brothers—not as mockers—thieves.

STONOR.

I have not mocked you. And I have asked you—

MISS L.

Something you knew I should refuse! Or (her eyes blaze) did you dare to be afraid I wouldn’t?

STONOR.

I suppose, if we set our teeth, we could—

MISS L.

I couldn’—not even if I set my teeth. And you wouldn’t dream of asking me, if you thought there was the smallest chance.

STONOR.

I can do no more than make you an offer of such reparation as in my power. If you page: 104 don’t accept it— (He turns with an air of “That’s done.”)

MISS L.

Accept it? No! . . . Go away and live in debt! Pay and pay—and find yourself still in debt!—for a thing you’ll never be able to give me back. (Lower.) And when you come to die, say to yourself, “I paid all creditors but one.”

STONOR.

I’m rather tired, you know, of this talk of debt. If I hear that you persist in it I shall have to—

MISS L.

What? (she faces him).

STONOR.

No. I’ll keep my resolution. (Turning to the door.)

MISS L.

(intercepting him).

What resolution?

STONOR.

I came here, under considerable pressure, to speak of the future—not to re‐open the past.

MISS L.

The Future and the Past are one.

STONOR.

You talk as if that old madness was mine alone. It is the woman’s way.

MISS L.

I know. And it’s not fair. Men suffer as well as we by the woman’s starting wrong. We are taught to think the man a sort of demigod. If he tells her: “go down into Hell”—down into Hell she goes.

STONOR.

Make no mistake. Not the woman alone. They go down together.

MISS L.

Yes, they go down together, but the man comes up alone. As a rule. It is more convenient so—for him. And for the Other Woman.

(The eyes of both go to JEAN’S door.)

STONOR

(angrily).

My conscience is clear. I know—and so do you—that most men in my position wouldn’t have troubled themselves. I gave myself endless trouble.

page: 105

MISS L.

(with wondering eyes).

So you’ve gone about all these years feeling that you’d discharged every obligation.

STONOR.

Not only that. I stood by you with a fidelity that was nothing short of Quixotic. If, woman like, you must recall the Past—I insist on your recalling it correctly.

MISS L.

(very low).

You think I don’t recall it correctly?

STONOR.

Not when you make—other people believe that I deserted you. (With gathering wrath.) It’s a curious enough charge when you stop to consider— (Checks himself, and with a gesture of impatience sweeps the whole thing out of his way.)

MISS L.

Well, when we do—just for five minutes out of ten years—when we do stop to consider—

STONOR.

We remember it was you who did the deserting! Since you had to rake the story up, you might have had the fairness to tell the facts.

MISS L.

You think “the facts” would have excused you! (She sits.)

STONOR.

No doubt you’ve forgotten them, since Lady John tells me you wouldn’t remember my existence once a year if the newspapers didn’t—

MISS L.

Ah, you minded that!

STONOR

(with manly spirit).

I minded your giving false impressions. (She is about to speak, he advances on her.) Do you deny that you returned my letters unopened?

MISS L.

(quietly).

No.

STONOR.

Do you deny that you refused to see me—and that, when I persisted, you vanished?

MISS L.

I don’t deny any of those things.

STONOR.

Why, I had no trace of you for years!

page: 106

MISS L.

I suppose not.

STONOR.

Very well, then. What could I do?

MISS L.

Nothing. It was too late to do anything.

STONOR.

It wasn’t too late! You knew—since you “read the papers”—that my father died that same year. There was no longer any barrier between us.

MISS L.

Oh yes, there was a barrier.

STONOR.

Of your own making, then.

MISS L.

I had my guilty share in it—but the barrier (her voice trembles) —the barrier was your invention.

STONOR.

It was no “invention.” If you had ever known my father—

MISS L.

Oh, the echoes! How often you used to say, if I “knew your father!” But you said, too (lower)—you called the greatest barrier by another name.

STONOR.

What name?

MISS L.

(very low).

The child that was to come.

STONOR

(hastily).

That was before my father died. While I still hoped to get his consent.

MISS L.

(nods).

How the thought of that all‐powerful personage used to terrorise me! What chance had a little unborn child against “the last of the great feudal lords,” as you called him.

STONOR.

You know the child would have stood between you and me!

MISS L.

I know the child did stand between you and me!

STONOR

(with vague uneasiness).

It did stand—

MISS L.

Happy mothers teach their children. Mine had to teach me.

STONOR.

You talk as if—

page: 107

MISS L.

—teach me that a woman may do a thing for love’s sake that shall kill love.

(A silence.)

STONOR

(fearing and putting from him fuller comprehension, rises with an air of finality).

You certainly made it plain you had no love left for me.

MISS L.

I had need of it all for the child.

STONOR

(stares—comes closer, speaks hurriedly and very low).

Do you mean then that, after all—it lived?

MISS L.

No; I mean that it was sacrificed. But it showed me no barrier is so impassible as the one a little child can raise.

STONOR

(a light dawning).

Was that why you . . . was that why?

MISS L.

(nods, speechless a moment).

Day and night there it was!—between my thought of you and me. (He sits again, staring at her.) When I was most unhappy I would wake, thinking I heard it cry. It was my own crying I heard, but I seemed to have it in my arms. I suppose I was mad. I used to lie there in that lonely farmhouse pretending to hush it. It was so I hushed myself.

STONOR.

I never knew—

MISS L.

I didn’t blame you. You couldn’t risk being with me.

STONOR.

You agreed that for both our sakes—

MISS L.

Yes, you had to be very circumspect. You were so well known. Your autocratic father—your brilliant political future—

STONOR.

Be fair. Our future—as I saw it then.

MISS L.

Yes, it all hung on concealment. It must have looked quite simple to you. You didn’t page: 108 know that the ghost of a child that had never seen the light, the frail thing you meant to sweep aside and forget—have swept aside and forgotten—you didn’t know it was strong enough to push you out of my life, (Lower with an added intensity.) It can do more. (Leans over to him and whispers.) It can push that girl out. (STONOR’S face changes.) It can do more still.

STONOR.

Are you threatening me?

MISS L.

No, I am preparing you.

STONOR.

For what?

MISS L.

For the work that must be done. Either with your help—or that girl’s.

(STONOR lifts his eyes a moment.)

MISS L.

One of two things. Either her life, and all she has, given to this new service—or a Ransom, if I give her up to you.

STONOR.

I see. A price. Well—?

MISS L.

(looks searchingly in his face, hesitates and shakes her head).

Even if I could trust you to pay—no, it would be a poor bargain to give her up for anything you could do.

STONOR

(rising).

In spite of your assumption—she may not be your tool.

MISS L.

You are horribly afraid she is! But you are wrong. Don’t think it’s merely I that have got hold of Jean Dunbarton.

STONOR

(angrily).

Who else?

MISS L.

The New Spirit that’s abroad.

(STONOR turns away with an exclamation and begins to pace, sentinel‐like, up and down before JEAN’S door.)

page: 109

MISS L.

How else should that inexperienced girl have felt the new loyalty and responded as she did?

STONOR

(under his breath).

“New” indeed—however little loyal.

MISS L.

Loyal above all. But no newer than electricity was when it first lit up the world. It had been there since the world began—waiting to do away with the dark. So has the thing you’re fighting.

STONOR

(his voice held down to its lowest register).

The thing I’m fighting is nothing more than one person’s hold on a highly sensitive imagination. I consented to this interview with the hope—(A gesture of impotence.) It only remains for me to show her your true motive is revenge.

MISS L.

Once say that to her and you are lost!

(STONOR motionless; his look is the look of a man who sees happiness slipping away.)

MISS L.

I know what it is that men fear. It even seems as if it must be through fear that your enlightenment will come. That is why I see a value in Jean Dunbarton far beyond her fortune.

(STONOR lifts his eyes dully and fixes them on VIDA’S face.)

MISS L.

More than any girl I know—if I keep her from you—that gentle, inflexible creature could rouse in men the old half‐superstitious fear—

STONOR.

“Fear?” I believe you are mad.

MISS L.

“Mad.” “Unsexed.” These are the words to‐day. In the Middle Ages men cried out “Witch!” and burnt her—the woman who served no man’s bed or board.

page: 110

STONOR.

You want to make that poor child believe—

MISS L.

She sees for herself we’ve come to a place where we find there’s a value in women apart from the value men see in them. You teach us not to look to you for some of the things we need most. If women must be freed by women, we have need of such as—(her eyes go to JEAN’S door)—who knows? She may be the new Joan of Arc.

STONOR

(aghast).

That she should be the sacrifice!

MISS L.

You have taught us to look very calmly on the sacrifice of women. Men tell us in every tongue it’s “a necessary evil.”

(STONOR stands rooted, staring at the ground.)

MISS L.

One girl’s happiness—against a thing nobler than happiness for thousands—who can hesitate?—Not Jean.

STONOR.

Good God! Can’t you see that this crazed campaign you’d start her on—even if it’s successful, it can only be so through the help of men? What excuse shall you make your own soul for not going straight to the goal?

MISS L.

You think we wouldn’t be glad to go straight to the goal?

STONOR.

I do. I see you’d much rather punish me and see her revel in a morbid self‐sacrifice.

MISS L.

You say I want to punish you only because, like most men, you won’t take the trouble to understand what we do want—or how determined we are to have it. You can’t kill this new spirit among women. (Going nearer.) And you couldn’t make a greater mistake than to think it finds a home only in the exceptional, or the unhappy. It’s so strange, page: 111 Geoffrey, to see a man like you as much deluded as the Hyde Park loafers who say to Ernestine Blunt, “Who’s hurt your feelings?” Why not realise (going quite close to him) this is a thing that goes deeper than personal experience? And yet (lowering her voice and glancing at the door), if you take only the narrowest personal view, a good deal depends on what you and I agree upon in the next five minutes.

STONOR

(bringing her farther away from the door).

You recommend my realising the larger issues. But in your ambition to attach that girl to the chariot wheels of “Progress,” you quite ignore the fact that people fitter for such work—the men you look to enlist in the end—are ready waiting to give the thing a chance.

MISS L.

Men are ready! What men?

STONOR

(avoiding her eyes, picking his words).

Women have themselves to blame that the question has grown so delicate that responsible people shrink—for the moment—from being implicated in it.

MISS L.

We have seen the “shrinking.”

STONOR.

Without quoting any one else, I might point out that the New Antagonism seems to have blinded you to the small fact that I, for one, am not an opponent.

MISS L.

The phrase has a familiar ring. We have heard it from four hundred and twenty others.

STONOR.

I spoke, if I may say so, of some one who would count. Some one who can carry his party along with him—or risk a seat in the Cabinet.

MISS L.

(quickly).

Did you mean you are ready to do that?

STONOR.

An hour ago I was.

MISS L.

Ah! . . . an hour ago.

page: 112

STONOR.

Exactly. You don’t understand men. They can be led. They can’t be driven. Ten minutes before you came into the room I was ready to say I would throw in my political lot with this Reform.

MISS L.

And now . . . ?

STONOR.

Now you block my way by an attempt at coercion. By forcing my hand you give my adherence an air of bargain‐driving for a personal end. Exactly the mistake of the ignorant agitators of your “Union,” as you call it. You have a great deal to learn. This movement will go forward, not because of the agitation, but in spite of it. There are men in Parliament who would have been actively serving the Reform to‐day . . . as actively as so vast a constitutional change—

MISS L.

(smiles faintly).

And they haven’t done it because—

STONOR.

Because it would have put a premium on breaches of decent behavior. (He takes a crumpled piece of paper out of his pocket.) Look here!

MISS L.

(flushes with excitement as she reads the telegram).

This is very good. I see only one objection.

STONOR.

Objection!

MISS L.

You haven’t sent it.

STONOR.

That is your fault.

MISS L.

When did you write this?

STONOR.

Just before you came in—when— (He glances at the door.)

MISS L.

Ah! It must have pleased Jean—that message. (Offers him back the paper.)

(STONOR astonished at her yielding it up so lightly, and remembering JEAN had not so much as read it. He throws himself heavily into a chair and drops his head in his hands.)

page: 113

MISS L.

I could drive a hard‐and‐fast bargain with you, but I think I won’t. If both love and ambition urge you on, perhaps— (She gazes at the slack, hopeless figure with its sudden look of age—goes over silently and stands by his side.) After all, life hasn’t been quite fair to you— (He raises his heavy eyes.) You fall out of one ardent woman’s dreams into another’s.

STONOR.

You may as well tell me—do you mean to—?

MISS L.

To keep you and her apart? No.

STONOR

(for the first time tears come into his eyes. After a moment he holds out his hand).

What can I do for you?

(MISS LEVERING shakes her head—speechless.)

STONOR.

For the real you. Not the Reformer, or the would‐be politician—for the woman I so unwillingly hurt. (As she turns away, struggling with her feeling, he lays a detaining hand on her arm.) You may not believe it, but now that I understand, there is almost nothing I wouldn’t do to right that old wrong.

MISS L.

There’s nothing to be done. You can never give me back my child.

STONOR

(at the anguish in VIDA’S face his own has changed).

Will that ghost give you no rest?

MISS L.

Yes, oh, yes. I see life is nobler than I knew. There is work to do.

STONOR

(stopping her as she goes towards the folding doors).

Why should you think that it’s only you, these ten years have taught something to? Why not page: 114 give even a man credit for a willingness to learn something of life, and for being sorry—profoundly sorry—for the pain his instruction has cost others? You seem to think I’ve taken it all quite lightly. That’s not fair. All my life, ever since you disappeared, the thought of you has hurt. I would give anything I possess to know you—were happy again.

MISS L.

Oh, happiness!

STONOR

(significantly).

Why shouldn’t you find it still.

MISS L.

(stares an instant).

I see! She couldn’t help telling about Allen Trent—Lady John couldn’t.

STONOR.

You’re one of the people the years have not taken from, but given more to do. You are more than ever . . . You haven’t lost your beauty.

MISS L.

The gods saw it was so little effectual, it wasn’t worth taking away. (She stands looking out into the void.) One woman’s mishap?—what is that? A thing as trivial to the great world as it’s sordid in most eyes. But the time has come when a woman may look about her, and say, “What general significance has my secret pain? Does it ‘join on’ to anything?” And I find it does. I’m no longer merely a woman who has stumbled on the way. I’m one (she controls with difficulty the shake in her voice) who has got up bruised and bleeding, wiped the dust from her face, and said to herself not merely, “Here’s one luckless woman! but—here is a stone of stumbling to many. Let’s see if it can’t be moved out of other women’s way.” And she calls people to come and help. No mortal man, let alone a woman, by herself, can move that rock of offence. But (with a sudden sombre flame of enthusiasm) if many help, Geoffrey, the thing can be done.

page: 115

STONOR

(looks at her with wondering pity).

Lord! how you care!

MISS L.

(touched by his moved face).

Don’t be so sad. Shall I tell you a secret? Jean’s ardent dreams needn’t frighten you, if she has a child. That—from the beginning, it was not the strong arm—it was the weakest—the little, little arms that subdued the fiercest of us. (STONOR puts out a pitying hand uncertainly towards her. She does not take it, but speaks with great gentleness.) You will have other children, Geoffrey—for me there was to be only one. Well, well—(she brushes her tears away)—since men alone have tried and failed to make a decent world for the little children to live in—it’s as well some of us are childless.(Quietly taking up her hat and cloak.) Yes, we are the ones who have no excuse for standing aloof from the fight.

STONOR.

Vida!

MISS L.

What?

STONOR.

You’ve forgotten something. (As she looks back he is signing the message.) This.

(She goes out silently with the “political dynamite” in her hand.)

CURTAIN.

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