Skip to Content
Indiana University

Search Options




View Options


Table of Contents



Votes for Women. Robins, Elizabeth, 1862–1952.
no previous
next

ACT I

HALL OF WYNNSTAY HOUSE.

Twelve o’clock, Sunday morning, end of June. With the rising of the Curtain, enter the BUTLER. As he is going, with majestic port, to answer the door L., enter briskly from the garden, by lower French window, LADY JOHN WYNNSTAY, flushed, and flapping a garden hat to fan herself. She is a pink‐cheeked woman of fifty‐four, who has plainly been a beauty, keeps her complexion, but is “gone to fat.”

LADY JOHN.

Has Miss Levering come down yet?

BUTLER

(pausing C.).

I haven’t seen her, m’lady.

LADY JOHN

(almost sharply as BUTLER turns L.).

I won’t have her disturbed if she’s resting. (To herself as she goes to writing‐table.) She certainly needs it.

BUTLER.

Yes, m’lady.

LADY JOHN

(sitting at writing‐table, her back to front door).

But I want her to know the moment she comes down that the new plans arrived by morning post.

BUTLER

(pausing nearly at the door).

Plans, m’la—

LADY JOHN.

She’ll understand. There they are. page: 2 (Glancing at the clock.) It’s very important she should have them in time to look over them before she goes— (BUTLER opens the door L.) (Over her shoulder.) Is that Miss Levering?

BUTLER.

No, m’lady. Mr. Farnborough.

[Exit BUTLER.

(Enter the HON. R. FARNBOROUGH. He is twenty‐six; reddish hair, high‐coloured, sanguine, self‐important.)

FARNBOROUGH.

I’m afraid I’m scandalously early. It didn’t take me nearly as long to motor over as Lord John said.

LADY JOHN

(shaking hands).

I’m afraid my husband is no authority on motoring—and he’s not home yet from church.

FARN.

It’s the greatest luck finding you. I thought Miss Levering was the only person under this roof who was ever allowed to observe Sunday as a real Day of Rest.

LADY JOHN.

If you’ve come to see Miss Levering—

FARN.

Is she here? I give you my word I did’t know it.

LADY JOHN

(unconvinced).

Oh?

FARN.

Does she come every week‐end?

LADY JOHN.

Whenever we can get her to. But we’ve only known her a couple of months.

FARN.

And I have only known her three weeks! Lady John, I’ve come to ask you to help me.

LADY JOHN

(quickly).

With Miss Levering? I can’t do it!

FARN.

No, no—all that’s no good. She only laughs.

page: 3

LADY JOHN

(relieved).

Ah!—she looks upon you as a boy.

FARN

(firing up).

Such rot! What do you think she said to me in London the other day?

LADY JOHN.

That she was four years older than you?

FARN.

Oh, I knew that. No. She said she knew she was all the charming things I’d been saying, but there was only one way to prove it—and that was to marry some one young enough to be her son. She’d noticed that was what the most attractive women did—and she named names.

LADY JOHN

(laughing).

You were too old!

FARN.

(nods).

Her future husband, she said, was probably just entering Eton.

LADY JOHN.

Just like her!

FARN.

(waving the subject away).

No. I wanted to see you about the Secretaryship.

LADY JOHN.

You didn’t get it then?

FARN.

No. It’s the grief of my life.

LADY JOHN.

Oh, if you don’t get one you’ll get another.

FARN.

But there is only one.

LADY JOHN.

Only one vacancy?

FARN.

Only one man I’d give my ears to work for.

LADY JOHN

(smiling).

I remember.

FARN.

(quickly).

Do I always talk about Stonor? Well, it’s a habit people have got into.

LADY JOHN.

I forget, do you know Mr. Stonor personally, or (smiling) are you just dazzled from afar?

FARN.

Oh, I know him. The trouble is he doesn’t know me. If he did he’d realise he can’t be sure of winning his election without my valuable services.

LADY JOHN.

Geoffrey Stonor’s re‐election is always a foregone conclusion.

page: 4

FARN.

That the great man shares that opinion is precisely his weak point. (Smiling.) His only one.

LADY JOHN.

You think because the Liberals swept the country the last time—

FARN.

How can we be sure any Conservative seat is safe after— (As LADY JOHN smiles and turns to her papers.) Forgive me, I know you’re not interested in politics qua politics. But this concerns Geoffrey Stonor.

LADY JOHN.

And you count on my being interested in him like all the rest of my sex.

FARN.

(leans forward).

Lady John, I’ve heard the news.

LADY JOHN.

What news?

FARN.

That your little niece—the Scotch heiress—is going to become Mrs. Geoffrey Stonor.

LADY JOHN.

Who told you that?

FARN.

Please don’t mind my knowing.

LADY JOHN

(visibly perturbed).

She had set her heart upon having a few days with just her family in the secret, before the flood of congratulations breaks loose.

FARN.

Oh, that’s all right. I always hear things before other people.

LADY JOHN.

Well, I must ask you to be good enough to be very circumspect. I wouldn’t have my niece think that I—

FARN.

Oh, of course not.

LADY JOHN.

She will be here in an hour.

FARN.

(jumping up delighted).

What? To‐day? The future Mrs. Stonor!

LADY JOHN

(harassed).

Yes. Unfortunately we had one or two people already asked for the week‐end—

page: 5

FARN.

And I go and invite myself to luncheon! Lady John, you can buy me off. I’ll promise to remove myself in five minutes if you’ll—

LADY JOHN.

No, the penalty is you shall stay and keep the others amused between church and luncheon, and so leave me free. (Takes up the plan.) Only remember

FARN.

Wild horses won’t get a hint out of me! I only mentioned it to you because—since we’ve come back to live in this part of the world you’ve been so awfully kind—I thought, I hoped maybe you—you’d put in a word for me.

LADY JOHN.

With—?

FARN.

With your nephew that is to be. Though I’m not the slavish satellite people make out, you can’t doubt—

LADY JOHN.

Oh, I don’t doubt. But you know Mr. Stonor inspires a similar enthusiasm in a good many young—

FARN.

They haven’t studied the situation as I have. They don’t know what’s at stake. They don’t go to that hole Dutfield as I did just to hear his Friday speech.

LADY JOHN.

Ah! But you were rewarded. Jean—my niece—wrote me it was “glorious.”

FARN.

(judicially).

Well, you know, I was disappointed. He’s too content just to criticise, just to make his delicate pungent fun of the men who are grappling—very inadequately, of course—still grappling with the big questions. There’s a carrying power (gets up and faces an imaginary audience) —some of Stonor’s friends ought to point it out—there’s a driving power in the poorest constructive policy that makes the most brilliant criticism look barren.

page: 6

LADY JOHN

(with good‐humoured malice).

Who told you that?

FARN.

You think there’s nothing in it because I say it. But now that he’s coming into the family, Lord John or somebody really ought to point out—Stonor’s overdoing his rôle of magnificent security.

LADY JOHN.

I don’t see even Lord John offering to instruct Mr. Stonor.

FARN.

Believe me, that’s just Stonor’s danger! Nobody saying a word, everybody hoping he’s on the point of adopting some definite line, something strong and original that’s going to fire the public imagination and bring the Tories back into power.

LADY JOHN.

So he will.

FARN.

(hotly).

Not if he disappoints meetings—goes calmly up to town—and leaves the field to the Liberals.

LADY JOHN.

When did he do anything like that?

FARN.

Yesterday! (With a harassed air.) And now that he’s got this other preoccupation—

LADY JOHN.

You mean—

FARN.

Yes, your niece—that spoilt child of Fortune. Of course! (Stopping suddenly.) She kept him from the meeting last night. Well! (sits down) if that’s the effect she’s going to have it’s pretty serious!

LADY JOHN

(smiling).

You are!

FARN.

I can assure you the election agent’s more so. He’s simply tearing his hair.

LADY JOHN

(more gravely and coming nearer).

How do you know?

FARN.

He told me so himself—yesterday. I scraped acquaintance with the agent just to see if—if—

LADY JOHN.

It’s not only here that you manœuvre for that Secretaryship!

page: 7

FARN.

(confidentially).

You can never tell when your chance might come! That election chap’s promised to keep me posted.

(The door flies open and JEAN DUNBARTON rushes in.)

JEAN.

Aunt Ellen—here I—

LADY JOHN

(astonished).

My dear child!

(They embrace. Enter LORD JOHN from the garden—a benevolent, silver‐haired despot of sixty‐two.)

LORD JOHN.

I thought that was you running up the avenue.

(JEAN greets her uncle warmly, but all the time she and her aunt talk together. “How did you get here so early?” “I knew you’d be surprised—wasn’t it clever of me to manage it? I don’t deserve all the credit.” “But there isn’t any train between—” “Yes, wait till I tell you.” “You walked in the broiling sun—” “No, no.” “You must be dead. Why didn’t you telegraph? I ordered the carriage to meet the 1.10. Didn’t you say the 1.10? Yes, I’m sure you did—here’s your letter.”)

LORD J.

(has shaken hands with FARNBOROUGH and speaks through the torrent).

Now they’ll tell each other for ten minutes that she’s an hour earlier that we expected.

(LORD JOHN leads FARNBOROUGH towards the garden.)

FARN.

The Freddy Tunbridges said they were coming to you this week.

page: 8

LORD J.

Yes, they’re dawdling through the park with the Church Brigade.

FARN.

Oh! (With a glance back at JEAN.) I’ll go and meet them.

[Exit FARNBOROUGH.

LORD J.

(as he turns back).

That discreet young man will get on.

LADY JOHN

(to JEAN).

But how did you get here?

JEAN

(breathless).

“He” motored me down.

LADY JOHN.

Geoffrey Stonor? (JEAN nods.) Why, where is he, then?

JEAN.

He dropped me at the end of the avenue and went on to see a supporter about something.

LORD J.

You let him go off like that without—

LADY JOHN

(taking JEAN’S two hands).

Just tell me, my child, is it all right?

JEAN.

My engagement? (Radiantly.) Yes, absolutely.

LADY JOHN.

Geoffrey Stonor isn’t going to be—a little too old for you?

JEAN

(laughing).

Bless me, am I such a chicken?

LADY JOHN.

Twenty‐four used not to be so young—but it’s become so.

JEAN.

Yes, we don’t grow up so quick. (Gaily.) But on the other hand we stay up longer.

LORD J.

You’ve got what’s vulgarly called “looks,” my dear, and that will help to keep you up!

JEAN

(smiling).

I know what Uncle John’s thinking. But I’m not the only girl who’s been left “what’s vulgarly called” money.

LORD J.

You’re the only one of our immediate circle who’s been left so beautifully much.

JEAN.

Ah, but remember Geoffrey could—everybody knows he could have married any one in England.

page: 9

LADY JOHN

(faintly ironic).

I’m afraid everybody does know it—not excepting Mr. Stonor.

LORD J.

Well, how spoilt is the great man?

JEAN.

Not the least bit in the world. You’ll see! He wants so to know my best‐loved relations better. (Another embrace.) An orphan has so few belongings, she has to make the most of them.

LORD J.

(smiling).

Let us hope he’ll approve of us on more intimate acquaintance.

JEAN

(firmly).

He will. He’s an angel. Why, he gets on with my grandfather!

LADY JOHN.

Does he? (Teasing.) You mean to say Mr. Geoffrey Stonor isn’t just a tiny bit—“superior” about Dissenters.

JEAN

(stoutly).

Not half as much as Uncle John and all the rest of you! My grandfather’s been ill again, you know, and rather difficult—bless him! (Radiantly.) But Geoffrey— (Clasps her hands.)

LADY JOHN.

He must have powers of persuasion!— to get that old Covenanter to let you come in an abhorred motor‐car—on Sunday too!

JEAN

(half whispering).

Grandfather didn’t know!

LADY JOHN.

Didn’t know?

JEAN.

I honestly meant to come by train. Geoffrey met me on my way to the station. We had the most glorious run. Oh, Aunt Ellen, we’re so happy! (Embracing her.) I’ve so looked forward to having you to myself the whole day just to talk to you about—

LORD J.

(turning away with affected displeasure).

Oh, very well—

JEAN

(catches him affectionately by the arm).

You’d find it dreffly dull to hear me talk about Geoffrey the whole blessed day!

LADY JOHN.

Well, till luncheon, my dear, you page: 10 mustn’t mind if I— (To LORD JOHN, as she goes to writing‐table.) Miss Levering wasn’t only tired last night, she was ill.

LORD J.

I thought she looked very white.

JEAN.

Who is Miss — You don’t mean to say there are other people?

LADY JOHN.

One or two. Your uncle’s responsible for asking that old cynic, St. John Greatorex, and I—

JEAN

(gravely).

My Greatorex—he’s a Radical, isn’t he?

LORD J.

(laughing).

Jean! Beginning to “think in parties”!

LADY JOHN.

It’s very natural now that she should—

JEAN.

I only meant it was odd he should be here. Naturally at my grandfather’s—

LORD J.

It’s all right, my child. Of course we expect now that you’ll begin to think like Geoffrey Stonor, and to feel like Geoffrey Stonor, and to talk like Geoffrey Stonor. And quite proper too.

JEAN

(smiling).

Well, if I do think with my husband and feel with him—as, of course, I shall—it will surprise me if I ever find myself talking a tenth as well— (Following her uncle to the French window.) You should have heard him at Dutfield— (Stopping short, delighted.) Oh! The Freddy Tunbridges. What? Not Aunt Lydia! Oh‐h! Looking back reproachfully at LADY JOHN, who makes a discreet motion “I couldn’t help it.’)

(Enter the TUNBRIDGES. MR. FREDDY, of no profession and of independent means. Well‐groomed; pleasant‐looking; of few page: 11 words. A “nice man” who likes “nice women,” and has married one of them. MRS. FREDDY is thirty. An attractive figure, delicate face, intelligent grey eyes, over‐sensitive mouth, and naturally curling dust‐coloured hair.)

MRS. FREDDY.

What a delightful surprise!

JEAN

(shaking hands warmly).

I’m so glad. How d’ye do, Mr. Freddy?

(Enter LADY JOHN’S sister, MRS. HERIOT—smart, pompous, fifty—followed by FARNBOROUGH.)

MRS. HERIOT.

My dear Jean! My darling child!

JEAN.

How do you do, aunt?

MRS. H.

(sotto voce).

I wasn’t surprised. I always prophesied—

JEAN.

Sh! Please!

FARN.

We haven’t met since you were in short skirts. I’m Dick Farnborough.

JEAN.

Oh, I remember.

(They shake hands.)

MRS. F.

(looking around).

Not down yet—the Elusive One?

JEAN.

Who is the Elusive One?

MRS. F.

Lady John’s new friend.

LORD J.

(to JEAN).

Oh, I forgot you hadn’t seen Miss Levering; such a nice creature! (To MRS. FREDDY.) —don’t you think?

MRS. F.

Of course I do. You’re lucky to get her to come so often. She won’t go to other people.

LADY JOHN.

She knows she can rest here.

FREDDY

(who has joined LADY JOHN near the writing‐table).

What does she do to tire her?

page: 12

LADY JOHN.

She ’s been helping my sister and me with a scheme of ours.

MRS. H.

She certainly knows how to inveigle money out of the men.

LADY JOHN.

It would sound less equivocal, Lydia, if you added that the money is to build baths in our Shelter for Homeless Women.

MRS. F.

Homeless women?

LADY JOHN.

Yes, in the most insanitary part of Soho.

FREDDY.

Oh—a—really.

FARN.

It doesn’t sound quite in Miss Levering’s line!

LADY JOHN.

My dear boy, you know as little about what’s in a woman’s line as most men.

FREDDY

(laughing).

Oh, I say!

LORD J.

(indulgently to MR. FREDDY and FARNBOROUGH).

Philanthropy in a woman like Miss Levering is a form of restlessness. But she’s a nice creature; all she needs is to get some “nice” fella to marry her.

MRS. F.

(laughing as she hangs on her husband’s arm).

Yes, a woman needs a balance wheel—if only to keep her from flying back to town on a hot day like this.

LORD J.

Who’s proposing anything so—

MRS. F.

The Elusive One.

LORD J.

Not Miss—

MRS. F.

Yes, before luncheon!

[Exit FARNBOROUGH to garden.

LADY JOHN.

She must be in London by this afternoon, she says.

LORD J.

What for in the name of—

LADY JOHN.

Well, that I didn’t ask her. But (consults watch) I think I’ll just go up and see if she’s changed her plans.

[Exit LADY JOHN.

page: 13

LORD J.

Oh, she must be made to. Such a nice creature! All she needs—

(Voices outside. Enter fussily, talking and gesticulating, ST. JOHN GREATOREX, followed by MISS LEVERING and FARNBOROUGH. GREATOREX is sixty, wealthy, a county magnate, and Liberal M.P. He is square, thick‐set, square‐bearded. His shining bald pate has two strands of coal‐black hair trained across his crown from left ear to right and securely pasted there. He has small, twinkling eyes and a reputation for telling good stories after dinner when ladies have left the room. He is carrying a little book for MISS LEVERING. She (parasol over shoulder), an attractive, essentially feminine, and rather “smart” woman of thirty‐two, with a somewhat foreign grace; the kind of woman whom men and women alike say, “What’s her story? Why doesn’t she marry?”)

GREATOREX.

I protest! Good Lord! what are the women of this country coming to? I protest against Miss Levering being carried off to discuss anything so revolting. Bless my soul! what can a woman like you know about it?

MISS LEVERING

(smiling).

Little enough. Good morning.

GREAT.

(relieved).

I should think so indeed!

LORD J.

(aside).

You aren’t serious about going—

GREAT.

(waggishly breaking in).

We were so happy out there in the summer‐house, weren’t we?

MISS L.

Ideally.

page: 14

GREAT.

And to be haled out to talk about Public Sanitation forsooth! (Hurries after MISS LEVERING as she advances to speak to the FREDDYS, &c.) Why, God bless my soul, do you realise that’s drains?

MISS L.

I’m dreadfully afraid it is! (Holds out her hand for the small book GREATOREX is carrying.)

(GREATOREX returns MISS LEVERING’S book open; he has been keeping the place with his finger. She opens it and shuts her handkerchief in.)

GREAT.

And we in the act of discussing Italian literature! Perhaps you’ll tell me that isn’t a more savoury topic for a lady.

MISS L.

But for the tramp population less conducive to savouriness, don’t you think, than—baths?

GREAT.

No, I can’t understand this morbid interest in vagrants. You’re much too—leave it to the others.

JEAN.

What others?

GREAT.

(with smiling impertinence).

Oh, the sort of woman who smells of indiarubber. The typical English spinster. (To MISS LEVERING.) You know—Italy’s full of her. She never goes anywhere without a mackintosh and a collapsible bath—rubber. When you look at her, it’s borne upon you that she doesn’t only smell of rubber. She’s rubber too.

LORD J.

(laughing).

This is my niece, Miss Jean Dunbarton, Miss Levering.

JEAN.

How do you do? (They shake hands.)

GREAT.

(to JEAN).

I’m sure you agree with me.

JEAN.

About Miss Levering being too—

page: 15

GREAT.

For that sort of thing—much too—

MISS L.

What a pity you’ve exhausted the more eloquent adjectives.

GREAT.

But I haven’t!

MISS L.

Well, you can’t say to me as you did to Mrs. Freddy: “You’re too young and too happily married—and too— (Glances round smiling at MRS. FREDDY, who, oblivious, is laughing and talking to her husband and MRS. HERIOT.)

JEAN.

For what was Mrs. Freddy too happily married and all the rest?

MISS L.

(lightly).

Mr. Greatorex was repudiating the horrid rumour the Mrs. Freddy had been speaking in public; about Women’s Trade Unions—wasn’t that what you said, Mrs. Heriot?

LORD J.

(chuckling).

Yes, it isn’t made up as carefully as your aunt’s parties usually are. Here we’ve got Greatorex (takes his arm) who hates political women, and we’ve got in that mild and inoffensive looking little lady— (Motion over his shoulder towards MRS. FREDDY.)

GREAT.

(shrinking down stage in comic terror).

You don’t mean she’s really

JEAN

(simultaneously and gaily rising).

Oh, and you’ve got me!

LORD J.

(with genial affection).

My dear child, he doesn’t hare the charming wives and sweethearts who help to win seats.

(JEAN makes her uncle a discreet little signal of warning.)

MISS L.

Mr. Greatorex objects only to the unsexed creatures who—a—

page: 16

LORD J.

(hastily to cover up his slip).

Yes, yes, who want to act independently of men.

MISS L.

Vote, and do silly things of that sort.

LORD J.

(with enthusiasm).

Exactly.

MRS. H.

It will be a long time before we hear any more of that nonsense.

JEAN.

You mean that rowdy scene in the House of Commons?

MRS. H.

Yes. No decent woman will be able to say “Suffrage” without blushing for another generation, thank Heaven!

MISS L.

(smiling).

Oh? I understood that so little I almost imagined people were more stirred up about it than they’d ever been before.

GREAT.

(with a quizzical affectation of gallantry).

Not people like you.

MISS L.

(teasingly).

How do you know?

GREAT.

(with a start).

God bless my soul!

LORD J.

She’s saying that only to get a rise out of you.

GREAT.

Ah, yes, your frocks aren’t serious enough.

MISS L.

I’m told it’s an exploded notion that the Suffrage women are all dowdy and dull.

GREAT.

Don’t you believe it!

MISS L.

Well, of course we know you’ve been an authority on the subject for—let’s see, how many years is it you’ve kept the House in roars whenever Woman’s Rights are mentioned?

GREAT.

(flattered but not entirely comfortable).

Oh, as long as I’ve known anything about politics there have been a few discontented old maids and hungry widows—

MISS L.

“A Few!” That’s really rather forbearing of you, Mr. Greatorex. I’m afraid the number of page: 17 the discontented and the hungry was 96,000—among the mill operatives alone. (Hastily.) At least the papers said so, didn’t they?

GREAT.

Oh, don’t ask me; that kind of woman doesn’t interest me, I’m afraid. Only I am able to point out to the people who lose their heads and seem inclined to treat the phenomenon seriously that there’s absolutely nothing new in it. There have been women for the last forty years who haven’t had anything more pressing to do than petition Parliament.

MISS L.

(reflectively).

And that’s as far as they’ve got.

LORD J.

(turning on his heel).

It’s as far as they’ll ever get.

(Meets the group up R. coming down.)

MISS L.

(chaffing GREATOREX).

Let me see, wasn’t it a deputation sent to you not long ago? (Sits C.)

GREAT.

H’m! (Irritably.) Yes, yes.

MISS L.

(as though she has just recalled the circumstances).

Oh, yes, I remember. I thought at the time, in my modest way, it was nothing short of heroic of them to go asking audience of their arch opponent.

GREAT.

(stoutly).

It didn’t come off.

MISS L.

(innocently).

Oh! I thought they insisted on bearding the lion in his den.

GREAT.

Of course I wasn’t going to be bothered with a lot of—

MISS L.

You don’t mean you refused to go out and face them!

GREAT.

(with a comic look of terror).

I wouldn’t have done it for worlds. But a friend of mine went and had a look at ’em.

MISS L.

(smiling).

Well, did he get back alive?

page: 18

GREAT.

Yes, but he advised me not to go. “You’re quite right,” he said. “Don’t you think of bothering,” he said. “I’ve looked over the lot,” he said, “and there isn’t a week‐ender among ’em.”

JEAN.

(gaily precipitates herself into the conversation).

You remember Mrs. Freddy’s friend who came to tea here in the winter? (To GREATOREX.) He was a member of Parliament too—quite a little young one—he said women would never be respected till they had the vote!

(GREATOREX snorts, the other men smile and all the women except MRS. HERIOT.)

MRS. H.

(sniffing).

I remember telling him that he was too young to know what he was talking about.

LORD J.

Yes, I’m afraid you all sat on the poor gentleman.

LADY JOHN

(entering).

Oh, there you are!

(Greets MISS LEVERING.)

JEAN.

It was such fun. He was flat as a pancake when we’d done with him. Aunt Ellen told him with her most distinguished air she didn’t want to be “respected.”

MRS. F.

(with a little laugh of remonstrance).

My dear Lady John!

FARN.

Quite right! Awful idea to think you’re respected!

MISS L.

(smiling).

Simply revolting.

LADY JOHN

(at writing‐table).

Now, you frivolous people, go away. We’ve only got a few minutes to talk over the terms of the late Mr. Soper’s munificence before the carriage comes for Miss Levering—

MRS. F.

(to FARNBOROUGH).

Did you know she’d page: 19 got that old horror to give Lady John £8,000 for her charity before he died?

MRS F.

Who got him to?

LADY JOHN.

Miss Levering. He wouldn’t do it for me, but she brought him round.

FREDDY.

Yes, Bah‐ee Jove! I expect so.

MRS F.

(turning enthusiastically to her husband).

Isn’t she wonderful?

LORD J.

(aside).

Nice creature. All she needs is—

MR. and MRS. FREDDY and FARNBOROUGH stroll off to the garden. LADY JOHN on far side of the writing‐table. MRS. HERIOT at the top. JEAN and LORD JOHN, L.)

GREAT.

(on divan C., aside to MISS LEVERING).

Too “wonderful” to waste your time on the wrong people.

MISS L.

I shall waste less of my time after this.

GREAT.

I’m relieved to hear it. I can’t see you wheedling money for shelters and rot of that sort out of retired grocers.

MISS L.

You see, you call it rot. We couldn’t have got £8,000 out of you.

GREAT.

(very low).

I’m not sure.

(MISS LEVERING looks at him.)

GREAT.

If I gave you that much—for your little projects—what would you give me?

MISS L.

(speaking quietly).

Soper didn’t ask that.

GREAT.

(horrified).

Soper! I should think not!

LORD J.

(turning to MISS LEVERING).

Soper? You two still talking Soper? How flattered the old beggar’d be!

page: 20

LORD J.

(lower).

Did you hear what Mrs. Heriot said about him? “So kind: so munificent—so vulgar, poor soul, we could’t know him in London—but we shall meet him in heaven.

(GREATOREX and LORD JOHN go off laughing.)

LADY JOHN

(to Miss Levering).

Sit over there, my dear. (Indicating chair in front of writing‐table.) You needn’t stay, Jean. This won’t interest you.

MISS L.

(in the tone of one agreeing).

It’s only an effort to meet the greatest evil in the world?

JEAN

(pausing as she’s following the others).

What do you call the greatest evil in the world?

(Looks pass between MRS. HERIOT and LADY JOHN.)

MISS L.

(without emphasis).

The helplessness of women.

(JEAN stands still.)

LADY JOHN

(rising and putting her arm about the girl’s shoulder).

Jean, darling, I know you can think of nothing but (aside) him—so just go and—

JEAN

(brightly).

Indeed, indeed, I can think of everything better than I ever did before. He has lit up everything for me—made everything vivider, more—more significant.

MISS L.

(turning around).

Who has?

JEAN.

Oh, yes, I don’t care about other things less but a thousand times more.

LADY JOHN.

You are in love.

MISS L.

Oh, that’s it! (Smiling at JEAN.) I congratulate you.

LADY JOHN

(returning to the outspread plan).

Well—this, you see, obviates the difficulty you raised.

MISS L.

Yes, quite.

MRS. H.

But it’s going to cost a great deal more.

MISS L.

It’s worth it.

page: 21

MRS. H.

We’ll have nothing left for the organ at St. Pilgrim’s.

LADY JOHN.

My dear Lydia, we’re putting the organ aside.

MRS. H.

(with asperity).

We can’t afford to “put aside” the elevating effect of music.

LADY JOHN.

What we must make for, first, is the cheap and humanely conducted lodging‐house.

MRS. H.

There are several of those already, but poor St. Pilgrim’s—

MISS L.

There are none for the poorest women.

LADY JOHN.

No, even the excellent Soper was for multiplying Rowton Houses. You can never get men to realise—you can’t always get women—

MISS L.

It’s the work least able to wait.

MRS. H.

I don’t agree with you, and I happen to have spent a great deal of my life in works of charity.

MISS L.

Ah, then you’ll be interested in the girl I saw dying in a Tramp Ward a little while ago. Glad her cough was worse—only she mustn’t die before her father. Two reasons. Nobody but her to keep the old man out of the workhouse—and “father is so proud.” If she died first, he would starve; worst of all he might hear what had happened up in London to his girl.

MRS. H.

She didn’t say, I suppose, how she happened to fall so low.

MISS L.

Yes, she had been in service. She lost the train back one Sunday night and was too terrified of her employer to dare ring him up after hours. The wrong person found her crying on the platform.

MRS. H.

She should have gone to one of the Friendly Societies.

page: 22

MISS L.

At eleven at night?

MRS. H.

And there are the Rescue Leagues. I myself have been connected with one for twenty years—

MISS L.

(reflectively).

“Twenty years!” Always arriving “after the train’s gone”—after the girl and the Wrong Person have got to the journey’s end.

(MRS. HERIOT’s eyes flash.)

JEAN.

Where is she now?

LADY JOHN.

Never mind.

MISS L.

Two nights ago she was waiting at a street corner in the rain.

MRS. H.

Near a public‐house, I suppose.

MISS L.

Yes, a sort of “public‐house.” She was plainly dying—she was told she shouldn’t be out in the rain. “I musn’t go in yet,” she said. “This is what he gave me,” and she began to cry. In her hand were two pennies silvered over to look like half‐crowns.

MRS. H.

I don’t believe that story. It’s just the sort of thing some sensation‐monger trumps up—now, who tells you such—

MISS L.

Several credible people. I didn’t believe them till—

JEAN.

Till—?

MISS L.

Till last week I saw for myself.

LADY JOHN.

Saw? Where?

MISS L.

In a low lodging‐house not a hundred yards from the church you want a new organ for.

MRS. H.

How did you happen to be there?

MISS L.

I was on a pilgrimage.

JEAN.

A pilgrimage?

MISS L.

Into the Underworld.

LADY JOHN.

You went?

JEAN.

How could you?

page: 23

MISS L.

I put on an old gown and a tawdry hat— (Turns to LADY JOHN.) You’ll never know how many things are hidden from a woman in good clothes. The bold, free look of a man at a woman he believes to be destitute—you must feel that look on you before you can understand—a good half of history.

MRS. H.

(rises).

Jean!—

JEAN.

But where did you go—dressed like that?

MISS L.

Down among the homeless women—on a wet night looking for shelter.

LADY JOHN

(hastily).

No wonder you’ve been ill.

JEAN

(under breath).

And it’s like that?

MISS L.

No.

JEAN.

No?

MISS L.

It’s so much worse I dare not tell about it—even if you weren’t here I couldn’t.

MRS. H.

(to JEAN).

You needn’t suppose, darling, that those wretched creatures felt it as we would.

MISS L.

The girls who need shelter and work aren’t all serving‐maids.

MRS. H.

(with an involuntary flash).

We know that all the women who—make mistakes aren’t.

MISS L.

(steadily).

That is why every woman ought to take an interest in this—every girl too.

(simultaneously)

JEAN

Yes—oh, yes!

LADY JOHN

No. This is a matter for us older—

MRS. H.

(with an air of sly challenge).

Or for a person who has some special knowledge. (Significantly.) We can’t pretend to have access to such sources of information as Miss Levering.

MISS L.

(meeting MRS. HERIOT’S eye steadily).

Yes, for I can give you access. As you seem to think, I have some first‐hand knowledge about homeless girls.

page: 24

LADY JOHN

(cheerfully turning it aside).

Well, my dear, it will all come in convenient. (Tapping the plan.)

MISS L.

It once happened to me to take offence at an ugly thing that was going on under my father’s roof. Oh, years ago! I was an impulsive girl. I turned my back on my father’s house—

LADY JOHN

(for JEAN’S benefit).

That was ill‐advised.

MRS. H.

Of course, if a girl does that

MISS L.

That was what all my relations said (with a glance at JEAN), and I couldn’t explain.

JEAN.

Not to your mother?

MISS L.

She was dead. I went to London to a small hotel and tried to find employment. I wandered about all day and every day from agency to agency. I was supposed to be educated. I’d been brought up partly in Paris; I could play several instruments, and sing little songs in different tongues. (Slight pause.)

JEAN.

Did nobody want you to teach French or sing the little songs?

MISS L.

The heads of schools thought me too young. There were people ready to listen to my singing, but the terms—they were too hard. Soon my money was gone. I began to pawn my trinkets. They went.

JEAN.

And still no work?

MISS L.

No; but by that time I had some real education—an unpaid hotel bill, and not a shilling in the world. (Slight pause.) Some girls think it hardship to have to earn their living. The horror is not to be allowed to—

JEAN.

(bending forward).

What happened?

page: 25

LADY JOHN

(rises).

My dear (to MISS LEVERING), have your things been sent down? Are you quite ready?

MISS L.

Yes, all but my hat.

JEAN.

Well?

MISS L.

Well, by chance I met a friend of my family.

JEAN.

That was lucky.

MISS L.

I thought so. He was nearly ten years older than I. He said he wanted to help me. (Pause.)

JEAN.

And didn’t he?

(LADY JOHN lays her hand on MISS LEVERING’S shoulder.)

MISS L.

Perhaps after all he did. (With sudden change of tone.) Why do I waste time over myself? I belonged to the little class of armed women. My body wasn’t born weak, and my spirit wasn’t broken by the habit of slavery. But, as Mrs. Heriot was kind enough to hint, I do know something about the possible fate of homeless girls. I found there were pleasant parks, museums, free libraries in our great rich London—and not one single place where destitute women can be sure of work that isn’t killing or food that isn’t worse than prison fare. That’s why women ought not to sleep o’ nights till this Shelter stands spreading out wide arms.

JEAN.

No, no—

MRS. H.

(gathering up her gloves, fan, prayer‐book, &c.).

Even when it’s built—you’ll see! Many of those creatures will prefer the life they lead. They like it.

MISS L.

A woman told me—one of the sort that page: 26 knows—told me many of them “like it” so much that they are indifferent to the risk of being sent to prison. “It gives them a rest,” she said.

LADY JOHN.

A rest!

(MISS LEVERING glances at the clock as she rises to go upstairs.)

(LADY JOHN and MRS. HERIOT bend their heads over the plan, covertly talking.)

JEAN

(intercepting MISS LEVERING).

I want to begin to understand something of—I’m horribly ignorant.

MISS L.

(Looks at her searchingly).

I’m a rather busy person—

JEAN.

(interrupting).

I have a quite special reason for wanting not to be ignorant. (Impulsively). I’ll go to town to‐morrow, if you’ll come and lunch with me.

MISS L.

Thank you—I (catches MRS. HERIOT’S eye) —I must go and put my hat on.

[Exit upstairs.

MRS. H.

(aside).

How little she minds all these horrors!

LADY JOHN.

They turn me cold. Ugh! (Rising, harassed.) I wonder if she’s signed the visitors’ book!

MRS. H.

For all her Shelter schemes, she’s a hard woman.

JEAN.

Miss Levering is?

MRS. H.

Oh, of course you won’t think so. She has angled very adroitly for your sympathy.

JEAN.

She doesn’t look hard.

LADY JOHN

(glancing at JEAN and taking alarm).

I’m not sure but what she does. Her mouth—always page: 27 like this . . . as if she were holding something by main force!

MRS. H.

(half under her breath).

Well, so she is.

[Exit LADY JOHN into the lobby to look at the visitor’s book.

JEAN.

Why haven’t I seen her before?

MRS. H.

Oh, she’s lived abroad. (Debating with herself.) You don’t know about her, I suppose?

JEAN.

I don’t know how Aunt Ellen came to know her.

MRS. H.

That was my doing. But I didn’t bargain for her being introduced to you.

JEAN.

She seems to go everywhere. And why shouldn’t she?

MRS. H.

(quickly).

You mustn’t ask her to Eaton Square.

JEAN.

I have.

MRS. H.

Then you’ll have to get out of it.

JEAN.

(with a stubborn look).

I must have a reason. And a very good reason.

MRS. H.

Well, it’s not a thing I should have preferred to tell you, but I know how difficult you are to guide . . . so I suppose you’ll have to know. (Lowering her voice.) It was ten or twelve years ago. I found her horribly ill in a lonely Welsh farmhouse. We had taken the Manor for that August. THE farmer’s wife was frightened, and begged me to go and see what I thought. I soon saw how it was—I thought she was dying.

JEAN.

Dying! What was the—

MRS. H.

I got no more out of her than the farmer’s wife did. She had had no letters. There had been no one to see her except a man down from London, a page: 28 shady‐looking doctor—nameless, of course. And then this result. The farmer and his wife, highly respectable people, were incensed. They were for turning the girl out.

JEAN.

Oh! but—

MRS. H.

Yes. Pitiless some of these people are! I insisted they should treat the girl humanely, and we because friends . . . that is, “sort of.” In spite of all I did for her—

JEAN.

What did you do?

MRS. H.

I—I’ve told you, and I lent her money. No small sum either.

JEAN.

Has she never paid it back?

MRS. H.

Oh, yes, after a time. But I always kept her secret—as much as I knew of it.

JEAN.

But you’ve been telling me!

MRS. H.

That was my duty—and I never had her full confidence.

JEAN.

Wasn’t it natural she—

MRS. H.

Well, all things considered, she might have wanted to tell me who was responsible.

JEAN.

Oh! Aunt Lydia!

MRS. H.

All she ever said was that she was ashamed— (losing her temper and her fine feeling for the innocence of her auditor) —ashamed that she “hadn’t had the courage to resist”—not the original temptation but the pressure brought to bear on her “not to go through with it,” as she said.

JEAN

(wrinkling her brows).

You are being so delicate—I’m not sure I understand.

MRS. H.

(irritably).

The only thing you need to understand is that she’s not a desirable companion for a young girl.

(Pause.)

page: 29

JEAN.

When did you see her after—after—

MRS. H.

(with a slight grimace).

I met her last winter at the Bishop’s. (Hurriedly.) She’s a connection of his wife’s. They’d got her to help with some of their work. Then she took hold of ours. Your aunt and uncle are quite foolish about her, and I’m debarred from taking any steps, at least till the Shelter is out of hand.

JEAN.

I do rather wonder she can bring herself to talk about—the unfortunate women of the world.

MRS. H.

The effrontery of it!

JEAN.

Or . . . The courage! (Puts her hand up to her throat as if the sentence had caught there.)

MRS. H.

Even presumes to set me right! Of course I don’t mind in the least, poor soul . . . But I feel I owe it to your dead mother to tell you about her, especially as you’re old enough now to know something about life—

JEAN

(slowly)

—and since a girl needn’t be very old to suffer for her ignorance. (Moves a little away.) I felt she was rather wonderful.

MRS. H.

Wonderful!

JEAN

(pausing)

. . . To have lived through that when she was . . . how old?

MRS. H.

(rising).

Oh, nineteen or thereabouts.

JEAN.

Five years younger than I. To be abandoned and to come out of it like this!

MRS. H.

(laying her hand on the girl’s shoulder).

It was too bad to have tell you Such a sordid story to‐day of all days.

JEAN.

It is a very terrible story, but this wasn’t a bad time. I feel very sorry to‐day for women who aren’t happy. (Motor horn heard faintly.)(Jumping up.) That’s Geoffrey!

page: 30

MRS. H.

Mr. Stonor! What makes you think . . . ?

JEAN.

Yes, yes. I’m sure, I’m sure—

(Checks herself as she is flying off. Turns and sees LORD JOHN entering from the garden.)

(Motor horn louder.)

LORD J.

Who do you think is motoring up the drive?

JEAN

(catching hold of him).

Oh, dear! How am I ever going to be able to behave like a girl who isn’t engaged to the only man in the world worth marrying?

MRS. H.

You were expecting Mr. Stonor all the time!

JEAN.

He promised he’d come to luncheon if it was humanly possible; but I was afraid to tell you for fear he’d be prevented.

LORD J.

(laughing as he crosses to the lobby).

You felt we couldn’t have borne the disappointment.

JEAN.

I felt I couldn’t.

(The lobby door opens. LADY JOHN appears radiant, followed by a tall figure in a dustcoat, &c., no goggles. He has straight, firm features, a little blunt; fair skin, high‐coloured; fine, straight hair, very fair; grey eyes, set somewhat prominently and heavy when not interested; lips full, but firmly moulded. GEOFFREY STONOR is heavier than a man of forty should be, but otherwise in the pink of physical condition. The FOOTMAN stands waiting to help him off with his motor coat.)

LADY JOHN.

Here’s an agreeable surprise!

(JEAN has gone forward only a step, and stands smiling at the approaching figure.)

page: 31

LORD J.

How do you do? (As he comes between them and briskly shakes hands with STONOR.)

(FARNBOROUGH appears at the French window.)

FARN.

Yes, by Jove! ( Turning to the others clustered round the window.) What gigantic luck!

(Those outside crane and glance, and then elaborately turn their backs and pretend to be talking among themselves, but betray as far as manners permit the enormous sensation the arrival has created.)

STONOR.

How do you do?

(Shakes hands with MRS. HERIOT, who has rushed up to him with both hers outstretched. He crosses to JEAN, who meets him half way; they shake hands, smiling into each other’s eyes.)

JEAN.

Such a long time since we met!

LORD J.

(to STONOR).

You’re growing very enterprising. I could hardly believe my ears when I heard you motored all the way from town to see a supporter on Sunday.

STONOR.

I don’t know how we covered the ground in the old days. (To LADY JOHN.) It’s no use to stand for your borough any more. The American, you know, he “runs” for Congress. By and by we shall all be flying after the things we want. (Smiles at JEAN.)

JEAN.

Sh! (Smiles and then glances over her shoulder and speaks low.) All sorts of irrelevant people here.

FARN.

(unable to resist the temptation, comes forward).

How do you do, Mr. Stonor?

page: 32

STONOR.

Oh—how d’you do.

FARN.

Some of them were arguing in the smoking‐room last night whether it didn’t hurt a man’s chances going about in a motor.

LORD J.

Yes, we’ve been hearing a lot of stories about the unpopularity of motor‐cars—among the class that hasn’t got ’em, of course. What do you say?

LADY JOHN.

I’m sure you gain more votes by being able to reach so many more of your constituency than we used—

STONOR.

Well, I don’t know—I’ve sometimes wondered whether the charm of our presence wasn’t counterbalanced by the way we tear about smothering our fellow‐beings in dust and running down their pigs and chickens, not to speak of their children.

LORD J.

(anxiously).

What on the whole are the prospects?

(FARNBOROUGH cranes forward.)

STONOR

(gravely).

We shall have to work harder than we realised.

FARN.

Ah! (Retires towards group.)

JEAN

(in a half‐aside as she slips her arm in her uncle’s and smiles at GEOFFREY).

He says he believes I’ll be able to make a real difference to his chances. Isn’t it angelic of him?

STONOR

(in a jocular tone).

Angelic? Macchiavelian. I pin all my hopes on your being able to counteract the pernicious influence of my opponent’s glib wife.

JEAN.

You want me to have a real share in it all, don’t you Geoffrey?

page: 33

STONOR

(smiling into her eyes).

Of course I do.

(FARNBOROUGH drops down again on pretence of talking to MRS. HERIOT.)

LORD J.

I don’t gather you’re altogether sanguine. Any complication?

(JEAN and LADY JOHN stand close together (C.), the girl radiant, following STONOR with her eyes and whispering to the sympathetic elder woman.)

STONOR.

Well (taking Sunday paper out of pocket), there’s this agitation about the Woman Question. Oddly enough, it seems likely to affect the issue.

LORD J.

Why should it? Can’t you do what the other four hundred have done?

STONOR

(laughs).

Easily. But, you see, the mere fact that four hundred and twenty members have been worried into promising support—and then once in the House have let the matter severely alone—

LORD J.

(to STONOR).

Let it alone! Bless my soul, I should think so indeed.

STONOR.

Of course. Only it’s a device that’s somewhat worn.

(Enter MISS LEVERING, with a hat on; gloves and veil in her hand.)

LORD J.

Still if they think they’re getting a future Cabinet Minister on their side—

STONOR

. . . it will be sufficiently embarrassing for the Cabinet Minister.

(STONOR turns to speak to JEAN. Stops dead seeing MISS LEVERING.)

page: 34

JEAN

(smiling).

You know one another?

MISS L.

(looking at STONOR with intentness but quite calmly).

Everybody in this part of the world knows Mr. Stonor, but he doesn’t know me.

LORD J.

Miss Levering.

(They bow.)

Enter GREATOREX, sidling in with an air of giving MRS. FREDDY a wide berth.)

JEAN

(to MISS LEVERING with artless enthusiasm).

Oh, have you been hearing him speak?

MISS L.

Yes, I was visiting some relations near Dutfield. They took me to hear you.

STONOR.

Oh—the night the Suffragettes made their customary row.

MISS L.

The night they asked you—

STONOR

(flying at the first chance of distraction, shakes hands with MRS. FREDDY).

Well, Mrs. Freddy, what you think of your friends now?

MRS. F.

My friends?

STONOR

(offering her the Sunday paper).

Yes, the disorderly women.

MRS. F.

(with dignity).

They are not my friends, but I don’t think you must call them—

STONOR.

Why not? (Laughs.) I can forgive them for worrying the late Government. But they are disorderly.

MISS L.

(quietly).

Isn’t the phrase consecrated to a different class?

GREAT.

(who has got hold of the Sunday paper).

He’s perfectly right. How do you do? Disorderly women! That’s what they are!

FARN.

(reading over his shoulder).

Ought to be locked up! every one of ’em.

page: 35

GREAT.

(assenting angrily).

Public nuisances! Going about with dogs and whips and spitting in policemen’s faces.

MRS. F.

(with a harassed air).

I wonder if they did spit?

GREAT.

(exulting).

Of course they did.

MRS. F.

(turns on him).

You’re no authority on what they do. You run away.

GREAT.

(trying to turn the laugh).

Run away? Yes. (Backing a few paces.) And if ever I muster up courage to come back, it will be to vote for better manners in public life, not worse than we have already.

MRS. F.

(meekly).

So should I. Don’t think that I defend the Suffragette methods.

JEAN.

(with cheerful curiosity).

Still, you are an advocate of the Suffrage, aren’t you?

MRS. F.

Here? (Shrugs.) I don’t beat the air.

GREAT.

(mocking).

Only policemen.

MRS. F.

(plaintively).

If you cared to know the attitude of the real workers in the reform, you might have noticed in any paper last week we lost no time in dissociating ourselves from the little group of hysterical— (Catches her husband’s eye, and instantly checks her flow of words.)

MRS. H.

They have lowered the whole sex in the eyes of the entire world.

JEAN

(joining GEOFFREY STONOR).

I can’t quite see what they want—those Suffragettes.

GREAT.

Notoriety.

FARN.

What they want? A good thrashin’—that’s what I’d give ’em.

MISS L.

(murmurs).

Spirited fellow!

page: 36

LORD J.

Well, there’s one sure thing—they’ve dished their goose. (GREATOREX chuckles, still reading the account.) I believe these silly scenes are a pure joy to you.

GREAT.

Final death‐blow to the whole silly business!

JEAN

(mystified, looking from one to the other).

The Suffragettes don’t seem to know they’re dead.

GREAT.

They still keep up a sort of death‐rattle. But they’ve done for themselves.

JEAN

(clasping her hands with fervour).

Oh, I hope they’ll last till the election’s over.

FARN.

(stares).

Why?

JEAN.

Oh, we want them to get the working man to— (stumbling and a little confused) —to vote for . . . the Conservative candidate. Isn’t that so? (Looking around for help. General laughter.)

LORD J.

Fancy, Jean—!

GREAT.

The working man’s a good deal of an ass, but even he won’t listen to—

JEAN

(again appealing to the silent STONOR).

But he does listen like anything! I asked why there were so few at the Long Mitcham meeting, and I was told, “Oh, they’ve all gone to hear Miss—”

STONOR.

Just for a lark, that was.

LORD J.

It has no real effect on the vote.

GREAT.

Not the smallest.

JEAN

(wide‐eyed, to STONOR).

Why, I thought you said—

STONOR

(hastily, rubbing his hand over the lower part of his face and speaking quickly).

I’ve a notion a little soap and water wouldn’t do me any harm.

page: 37

LORD J.

I’ll take you up. You know Freddy Tunbridge.

(STONOR pauses to shake hands. Exeunt all three.)

JEAN

(perplexed, as STONOR turns away, says to GREATOREX).

Well, if women are of no importance in politics, it isn’t for the reason you gave. There is now and then a week‐ender among them.

GREAT.

(shuffles about uneasily).

Hm—Hm. (Finds himself near MRS. FREDDY.) Lord! The perils that beset the feet of man! (With an air of comic caution, moves away, L.)

JEAN

(to FARNBOROUGH, aside, laughing).

Why does he behave like that?

FARN.

His moral sense is shocked.

JEAN.

Why, I saw him and Mrs. Freddy together at the French Play the other night—as thick as thieves.

MISS L.

Ah, that was before he knew her revolting views.

JEAN.

What revolting views?

GREAT.

Sh! Sunday. (As GREATOREX sidles cautiously further away.)

JEAN

(laughing in spite of herself).

I can’t believe women are so helpless when I see men so afraid of them.

GREAT.

The great mistake was in teaching them to read and write.

JEAN

(over MISS LEVERING’S shoulder, whispers).

Say something.

MISS L.

(to GREATOREX, smiling).

Oh no, that wasn’t the worst mistake.

GREAT.

Yes, it was.

page: 38

MISS L.

No. Believe me. The mistake was in letting women learn to talk.

GREAT.

Ah! (Wheels about with sudden rapture.) I see now what’s to be the next great reform.

MISS L.

(holding up the little volume).

When women are all dumb, no more discussions of the “Paradiso.”

GREAT.

(with a gesture of mock rapture).

The thing itself! (Aside.) That’s a great deal better than talking about it, as I’m sure you know.

MISS L.

Why do you think I know?

GREAT.

Only the plain women are in any doubt.

(JEAN joins MISS LEVERING.)

GREAT.

Wait for me, Farnborough. I cannot go about unprotected.

[Exeunt FARNBOROUGH and GREATOREX.

MRS. F.

It’s true what that old cynic says. The scene in the House has put back the reform a generation.

JEAN.

I wish ’d been there.

MRS. F.

I was.

JEAN.

Oh, was it like the papers said?

MRS. F.

Worse. I’ve never been so moved in public. No tragedy, no great opera ever gripped an audience as the situation in the House did that night. There we all sat breathless—with everything more favourable to us than it had been within the memory of women. Another five minutes and the Resolution would have passed. Then . . . all in a moment—

LADY JOHN

(to MRS. HERIOT).

Listen—they’re talking about the female hooligans.

MRS. H.

No, thank you! (Sits apart with the “Church Times.”

page: 39

MRS. F.

(excitedly).

All in a moment a horrible dingy little flag was poked through the grille of the Woman’s Gallery—cries—insults—scuffling—the police—the ignominious turning out of the women—us as well as the— Oh, I can’t think of it without— (Jumps up and walks to and fro.) (Pauses.) Then the next morning! The people gloating. Our friends antagonised—people who were wavering—nearly won over—all thrown back—heart breaking! Even my husband! Freddy’s been an angel about letting me take my share when I felt I must—but of course I’ve always known he doesn’t really like it. It makes him shy. I’m sure it gives him a horrid twist inside when he sees my name among the speakers on the placards. But he’s always been an angel about it before this. After the disgraceful scene he said, “It just shows how unfit women are for any sort of coherent thinking or concerted action.”

JEAN.

To think that it should be women who’ve given the Cause the worst blow it ever had!

MRS. F.

The work of forty years destroyed in five minutes!

JEAN.

They must have felt pretty sick when they woke up the next morning—the Suffragettes.

MRS. F.

I don’t waste any sympathy on them. I’m thinking of the penalty all women have to pay because a handful of hysterical—

JEAN.

Still I think I’m sorry for them. It must be dreadful to find you’ve done such a lot of harm to the thing you care most about in the world.

MISS L.

Do you picture the Suffragettes sitting in sackcloth?

page: 40

MRS. F.

Well, they can’t help realising now what they’ve done.

MISS L.

(quietly).

Isn’t it just possible that they realise they’ve waked up interest in the Woman Question so that it’s advertised in every paper and discussed in every house from Land’s End to John o’Groats? Don’t you think they know there’s been more said and written about it in these ten days since the scene, than in the ten years before it?

MRS. F.

You aren’t saying you think it was a good way to get what they wanted?

MISS L.

(shrugs).

I’m only pointing out that it seems not such a bad way to get it known they do want something—and (smiling) “want it bad.”

JEAN

(getting up).

Didn’t Mr. Greatorex say women had been politely petitioning Parliament for forty years?

MISS L.

And men have only laughed.

JEAN.

But they’d come round. (She looks from one to the other.) Mrs. Tunbridge says, before that horrid scene, everything was favourable at last.

MISS L.

At last? Hadn’t it just been just as “favourable” before?

MRS. F.

No. We’d never had so many members pledged to our side.

MISS L.

I thought I’d heard somebody say the Bill had got as far as that, time and time again.

JEAN.

Oh no. Surely not—

MRS. F.

(reluctantly).

Y‐yes. This was only a Resolution. The Bill passed a second reading seven years ago.

JEAN

(with wide eyes).

And what difference did it make?

MISS L.

The men laughed rather louder.

page: 41

MRS. F.

Oh, it’s got as far as a second reading several times—but we never had so many friends in the House before—

MISS L.

(with a faint smile).

“Friends!”

JEAN.

Why do you say it like that?

MISS L.

Perhaps because I was thinking of a funny story—he said it was funny—a Liberal Whip told me the other day. A Radical Member went out of the House after his speech in favour of the Woman’s Bill, and as he came back half an hour later, he heard some Members talking in the Lobby about the astonishing number who were going to vote for the measure. And the Friend of Woman dropped his jaw and clutched the man next to him : “My God!” he said, “you don’t mean to say they’re going to give it to them!”

JEAN.

Oh!

MRS. F.

You don’t think all men in Parliament are like that!

MISS L.

I don’t think all men are burglars, but I lock my doors.

JEAN

(below her breath).

You think that night of the scene— you think the men didn’t mean to play fair?

MISS L.

(her coolness in contrast to the excitement of the others).

Didn’t the women sit quiet till ten minutes to closing time?

JEAN.

Ten minutes to settle a question like that!

MISS L.

(quietly to MRS. FREDDY)

Couldn’t you see the men were at their old game?

LADY JOHN

(coming forward).

You think they were just putting off the issue till it was too late?

MISS L.

(in a detached tone).

I wasn’t there, but I haven’t heard anybody deny that the women waited till ten minutes to eleven. Then they discovered the page: 42 policeman who’d been sent up at the psychological moment to the back of the gallery. Then, I’m told, when the women saw they were betrayed once more, they utilised the few minutes left, to impress on the country at large the fact of their demands—did it in the only way left to them. (Sits leaning forward reflectively smiling, chin in hand.) It does rather look to the outsider as if the well‐behaved women had worked for forty years and made less impression on the world then those fiery young women made in five minutes.

MRS. F.

Oh, come, be fair!

MISS L.

Well, you must admit that, next day, every newspaper reader in Europe and America knew there were women in England in such dead earnest about the Suffrage that the men had stopped laughing at last, and turned them out of the House. Men even advertised how little they appreciated the fun by sending the women to gaol in pretty sober earnest. And all the world was talking about it.

(MRS> HERIOT lays down the “Church Times” and joins the others.)

LADY JOHN.

I have noticed, whenever the men aren’t there, the women sit and discuss that scene.

JEAN

(cheerfully).

I shan’t have to wait till the men are gone. (Leans over LADY JOHN’S shoulder and says half aside) He’s in sympathy.

LADY JOHN.

How do you know?

JEAN.

He told the interrupting women so.

(MRS. FREDDY looks mystified. The others smile.)

page: 43

LADY JOHN.

Oh!

(MR. FREDDY and LORD JOHN appear by the door they went out of. They stop to talk.)

MRS. F.

Here’s Freddy! (Lower, hastily to MISS LEVERING.) You’re judging from the outside. Those of us who have been working for years . . . we all realise it was a perfectly lunatic proceeding. Why, think! The only chance of our getting what we want is by winning over the men. (Her watchful eye, leaving her husband for a moment, catches MISS LEVERING’S little involuntary gesture.) What’s the matter?

MISS L.

“Winning over the men” has been the woman’s way for centuries. Do you think the result should make us proud of our policy? Yes? Then go and walk in Piccadilly at midnight. (The older women glance at JEAN.) No, I forgot—

MRS. H.

(with majesty).

Yes, it’s not the first time you’ve forgotten.

MISS L.

I forgot the magistrate’s ruling. He said no decent woman had any business to be in London’s main thoroughfare at night unless she has a man with her. I heard that in Nine Elms, too. “You’re obliged to take up with a chap!“ was what the woman said.

MRS. H.

(rising).

JEAN! Come!

(She takes JEAN by her arm and draws her to the window, where she signals GREATOREX and FARNBOROUGH. MRS. FREDDY joins her husband and LORD JOHN.)

page: 44

LADY JOHN

(kindly, aside to MISS LEVERING).

My dear, I think Lydia Heriot’s right. We oughtn’t to do anything or say anything to encourage this ferment of feminism, and I’ll tell you why: it’s likely to bring a very terrible thing in its train.

MISS L.

What terrible thing?

LADY JOHN.

Sex antagonism.

MISS L.

(rising).

It’s here.

LADY JOHN

(very gravely).

Don’t say that.

(JEAN has quietly disengaged herself from MRS. HERIOT, and the group at the window returns and stands behind LADY JOHN, looking up into MISS LEVERING’S face.)

MISS L.

(to LADY JOHN).

You’re so conscious it’s here, you’re afraid to have it mentioned.

LADY JOHN

(turning and seeing JEAN. Rising hastily).

If it’s here, it is the fault of those women agitators.

MISS L.

(gently).

No woman begins that way. (Leans forward with clasped hands looking into vacancy.) Every woman’s in a state of natural subjection (smiles at JEAN) —no, I’d rather say allegiance to her idea of romance and her hope of motherhood. They’re embodied for her in man. They’re the strongest things in life—till man kills them. (Rousing herself and looking into LADY JOHN’S face.) Let’s be fair. Each woman knows why that allegiance died.

(LADY JOHN turns hastily, sees LORD JOHN coming down with MR. FREDDY and meets them at the foot of the stairs. MISS LEVERING page: 45 has turned to the table looking for her gloves, &c., among the papers; unconsciously drops the handkerchief she had in her little book.)

JEAN

(in a low voice to MISS LEVERING).

All this talk against the wicked Suffragettes—it makes me want to go and hear what they’ve got to say for themselves.

MISS L.

(smiling with a non‐committal air as she finds the veil she’s been searching for).

Well, they’re holding a meeting in Trafalgar Square at three o’clock.

JEAN.

This afternoon? But that’s no use to people out of town— Unless I could invent some excuse . . .

LORD J.

(benevolently).

Still talking over the Shelter plans?

MISS L.

No. We left the Shelter some time ago.

LORD J.

(to JEAN).

Then what’s all the chatterment about?

(JEAN, a little confused, looks at MISS LEVERING.)

MISS L.

The latest thing in veils. (Ties hers round her hat.)

GREAT.

The invincible frivolity of woman!

LORD J.

(genially).

Don’t scold them. It’s a very proper topic.

MISS L.

(whimsically).

Oh, I was afraid you’d despise us for it.

BOTH MEN

(with condescension).

Not at all—not at all.

JEAN

(to MISS LEVERING as FOOTMAN appears).

Oh, they’re coming for you. Don’t forget your book. (FOOTMAN holds out a salver with a telegram on it for JEAN.) Why, it’s for me!

page: 46

MISS L.

But it’s time I was—

(Crosses to table.)

JEAN

(opening the telegram).

May I? (Reads, and glances over the paper at MISS LEVERING.) I’ve got your book. (Crosses to MISS LEVERING, and, looking at the back of the volume) Dante! Where‐abouts are you? (Opening at the marker.) Oh, the “Inferno.”

MISS L.

No; I’m in a worse place.

JEAN.

I didn’t know there was a worse.

MISS L.

Yes; it’s worse with the Vigliacchi.

JEAN.

I forget. Were they Guelf or Ghibelline?

MISS L.

(smiling).

They weren’t either, and that was why Dante couldn’t stand them. (More gravely.) He said there was no place in Heaven nor in Purgatory—not even a corner in Hell—for the souls who had stood aloof from strife. (Looking steadily into the girl’s eyes.) He called them “wretches who never lived,” Dante did, because they’d never felt the pangs of partizanship. And so they wander homeless on the skirts of limbo among the abortions and off‐scourings of Creation.

JEAN

(a long breath after a long look. When MISS LEVERING has turned away to make her leisurely adieux JEAN’S eyes fall on the open telegram).

Aunt Ellen, I’ve got to go to London.

STONOR, re‐entering, hears this, but pretends to talk to MR. FREDDY, &c.)

LADY JOHN.

My dear child!

MRS. H.

Nonsense! Is your grandfather worse?

JEAN

(folding the telegram).

No‐o. I don’t think so. But it’s necessary I should go, all the same.

MRS. H.

Go away when Mr. Stonor—

page: 47

JEAN.

He said he’d have to leave directly after luncheon.

LADY JOHN.

I’ll just see Miss Levering off, and then I’ll come back and talk about it.

LORD J.

(to MISS LEVERING).

Why are you saying goodbye as if you were never coming back?

MISS L.

(smiling).

One never knows. Maybe I shan’t come back. (To STONOR.) Goodbye.

(STONOR bows ceremoniously. The others go up laughing. STONOR comes down.)

JEAN

(impulsively).

There mayn’t be another train! Miss Levering—

STONOR

(standing in front of her).

What if there isn’t? I’ll take you back in the motor.

JEAN

(rapturously).

Will you? (Inadvertently drops the telegram.) I must be there by three!

STONOR

(picks up the telegram and a handkerchief lying near, glances at the message).

Why, it’s only an invitation to dine—Wednesday!

JEAN.

Sh! (Takes the telegram and puts it in her pocket.)

STONOR.

Oh, I see! (Lower, smiling.) It’s rather dear of you to arrange our going off like that. You are a clever little girl!

JEAN.

It’s not that I was arranging. I want to hear those women in Trafalgar Square—the Suffragettes.

STONOR

(incredulous, but smiling).

How perfectly absurd! (Looking after LADY JOHN.) Besides, I expect she wouldn’t like my carrying you off like that.

JEAN.

Then she’ll have to make an excuse and come too.

page: 48

STONOR.

Ah, it wouldn’t be quite the same—

JEAN

(rapidly thinking it out).

We could get back here in time for dinner.

(GEOFFREY STONOR glances down at the handkerchief still in his hand, and turns it half mechanically from corner to corner.)

JEAN

(absent‐mindedly).

Mine?

STONOR

(hastily, without reflection).

No. (Hands it to MISS LEVERING as she passes.) Yours.

(MISS LEVERING, on her way to the lobby with LORD JOHN seems not to notice.)

JEAN

(takes the handkerchief to give her, glancing down at the embroidered corner; stops).

But that’s not an L! It’s Vi—!

(GEOFFREY STONOR suddenly turns his back and takes up the newspaper.)

LADY JOHN

(from the lobby).

Come, Vida, since you will go.

MISS L.

Yes; I’m coming.

[Exit MISS LEVERING.

JEAN.

I didn’t know her name was Vida; how did you?

STONOR stares silently over the top of his paper.)

CURTAIN.

no previous
next