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Title: Votes for Women - A Play in Three Acts
Author: Robins, Elizabeth, 1862-1952
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Votes for Women - A Play in Three Acts" ***

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Transcriber's note.

Minor punctuation inconsistencies have been silently repaired. A list
of other changes made, can be found at the end of the book.

Mark up: _italics_



  VOTES FOR WOMEN

  A PLAY IN THREE ACTS

  BY
  ELIZABETH ROBINS

  MILLS & BOON, LIMITED
  49 WHITCOMB STREET
  LONDON W. C.
  1909



COURT THEATRE PLAYBILL

VOTES FOR WOMEN!

A Dramatic Tract in Three Acts

By ELIZABETH ROBINS


  Lord John Wynnstay          Mr. ATHOL FORDE
  The Hon. Geoffrey Stonor    Mr. AUBREY SMITH
  Mr. St. John Greatorex      Mr. E. HOLMAN CLARK
  Mr. Richard Farnborough     Mr. P. CLAYTON GREENE
  Mr. Freddy Tunbridge        Mr. PERCY MARMONT
  Mr. Allen Trent             Mr. LEWIS CASSON
  [1]Mr. Walker               Mr. EDMUND GWENN
  Lady John Wynnstay          Miss MAUD MILTON
  Mrs. Heriot                 Miss FRANCES IVOR
  Miss Vida Levering          Miss WYNNE-MATTHISON
  [1]Miss Beatrice Dunbarton  Miss JEAN MACKINLAY
  Mrs. Freddy Tunbridge       Miss GERTRUDE BURNETT
  Miss Ernestine Blunt        Miss DOROTHY MINTO
  A Working Woman             Miss AGNES THOMAS


  ACT   I. Wynnstay House in Hertfordshire.
  ACT  II. Trafalgar Square, London.
  ACT III. Eaton Square, London.


The Entire Action of the Play takes place between Sunday noon and six
o'clock in the evening of the same day.


[1] In the text these characters have been altered to Mr. PILCHER and
Miss JEAN Dunbarton.



CAST


  LORD JOHN WYNNSTAY
  LADY JOHN WYNNSTAY            _His wife_
  MRS. HERIOT                   _Sister of Lady John_
  MISS JEAN DUNBARTON           _Niece to Lady John
                                            and Mrs. Heriot_
  THE HON. GEOFFREY STONOR      _Unionist M.P. affianced
                                            to Jean Dunbarton_
  MR. ST. JOHN GREATOREX        _Liberal M.P._
  THE HON. RICHARD FARNBOROUGH
  MR. FREDDY TUNBRIDGE
  MRS. FREDDY TUNBRIDGE
  MR. ALLEN TRENT
  MISS ERNESTINE BLUNT          _A Suffragette_
  MR. PILCHER                   _A working man_
  A WORKING WOMAN
    _and_
  MISS VIDA LEVERING
  PERSONS IN THE CROWD: SERVANTS IN THE TWO HOUSES.



  ACT I
  WYNNSTAY HOUSE IN HERTFORDSHIRE

  ACT II
  TRAFALGAR SQUARE, LONDON

  ACT III
  EATON SQUARE

    (_Entire Action of Play takes place between Sunday noon and six
      o'clock in the evening of the same day._)



ACT I.


THE HALL OF WYNNSTAY HOUSE.

[Illustration: Stage setting.]


_Twelve o'clock Sunday morning at end of June._

_Action takes place between twelve and six same day._



VOTES FOR WOMEN

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 the morning post.

BUTLER (_pausing nearly at the door_). Plans, m'la----

LADY JOHN. She'll understand. There they are. (_Glancing at the
clock._) It's very important she should have them in time to look over
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 didn'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.

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.

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----

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.

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 manoeuvre for that
Secretaryship!

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 than we expected.

    (LORD JOHN _leads_ FARNBOROUGH _towards the garden._)

FARN. The Freddy Tunbridges said _they_ were coming to you this week.

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.

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 little bit in the world. You'll see! He so wants to
know my best-beloved 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 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_). Mr. 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
      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 round_). 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?

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.

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 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.

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 in 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----

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
that 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 hate 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----

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 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 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?

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 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!

LORD J. (_lower_). Did you hear what Mrs. Heriot said about him? "So
kind; so munificent--so _vulgar_, poor soul, we couldn'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 round_). 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.

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.

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 mustn'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?

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 feel 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.

  JEAN                          Yes--oh, yes!
             (_simultaneously_)
  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.

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 four
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?

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 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 like this ... as if she were holding
back something by main force!

MRS. H. (_half under her breath_). Well, so she is.

    [_Exit_ LADY JOHN _into the lobby to look at the visitors' 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 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 became 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 understand is that she's
not a desirable companion for a young girl.

    (_Pause._)

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 to 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!

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 dust-coat, &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._)

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'd 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 thing 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?

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?

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 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.)

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 do 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.

GREAT. (_assenting angrily_). Public nuisances! Going about with dog
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!

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 round 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.

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.

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."_)

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?

MRS. F. Well, they can't help realising _now_ what they've done.

MISS L. (_quietly_). Isn't it just possible 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 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 thirty-seven years ago.

JEAN (_with wide eyes_). And what difference did it make?

MISS L. The men laughed rather louder.

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 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 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 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._)

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.)

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 LEVERINGS'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
      _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!

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! Whereabouts
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----

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.

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 to 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.



ACT II


    SCENE: _The north side of the Nelson Column in Trafalgar Square.
      The Curtain rises on an uproar. The crowd, which momentarily
      increases, is composed chiefly of weedy youths and wastrel old
      men. There are a few decent artisans; three or four "beery"
      out-o'-works; three or four young women of the domestic servant
      or Strand restaurant cashier class; one aged woman in rusty black
      peering with faded, wondering eyes, consulting the faces of the
      men and laughing nervously and apologetically from time to time;
      one or two quiet-looking, business-like women, thirty to forty;
      two middle-class men, who stare and whisper and smile. A quiet
      old man with a lot of unsold Sunday papers under one arm stands
      in an attitude of rapt attention, with the free hand round his
      deaf ear. A brisk-looking woman of forty-five or so, wearing
      pince-nez, goes round with a pile of propagandist literature on
      her arm. Many of the men smoking cigarettes--the old ones pipes.
      On the outskirts of this crowd, of several hundred, a couple
      of smart men in tall shining hats hover a few moments, single
      eyeglass up, and then saunter off. Against the middle of the
      Column, where it rises above the stone platform, is a great red
      banner, one supporting pole upheld by a grimy sandwichman, the
      other by a small, dirty boy of eight. If practicable only the
      lower portion of the banner need be seen, bearing the final words
      of the legend_--

                  "VOTES FOR WOMEN!"

    _in immense white letters. It will be well to get, to the full,
      the effect of the height above the crowd of the straggling group
      of speakers on the pedestal platform. These are, as the Curtain
      rises, a working-class woman who is waving her arms and talking
      very earnestly, her voice for the moment blurred in the uproar.
      She is dressed in brown serge and looks pinched and sallow. At her
      side is the_ CHAIRMAN _urging that she be given a fair hearing._
      ALLEN TRENT _is a tall, slim, brown-haired man of twenty-eight,
      with a slight stoop, an agreeable aspect, well-bred voice, and the
      gleaming brown eye of the visionary. Behind these two, looking on
      or talking among themselves, are several other carelessly dressed
      women; one, better turned out than the rest, is quite young, very
      slight and gracefully built, with round, very pink cheeks, full,
      scarlet lips, naturally waving brown hair, and an air of childish
      gravity. She looks at the unruly mob with imperturbable calm. The_
      CHAIRMAN'S _voice is drowned._

WORKING WOMAN (_with lean, brown finger out and voice raised shriller
now above the tumult_). I've got boys o' me own and we laugh at all
sorts o' things, but I should be ashymed and so would they if ever they
was to be'yve as you're doin' to-d'y.

    (_In laughter the noise dies._)

People 'ave been sayin' this is a middle-class woman's movement. It's a
libel. I'm a workin' woman myself, the wife of a working man. (_Voice_:
"Pore devil!") I'm a Poor Law Guardian and a----

NOISY YOUNG MAN. Think of that, now--gracious me!

    (_Laughter and interruption._)

OLD NEWSVENDOR (_to the noisy young man near him_). Oh, shut up, cawn't
yer?

NOISY YOUNG MAN. Not fur _you_!

VOICE. Go'ome and darn yer old man's stockens!

VOICE. Just clean yer _own_ doorstep!

WORKING WOMAN. It's a pore sort of 'ousekeeper that leaves 'er doorstep
till Sunday afternoon. Maybe that's when you would do _your_ doorstep.
I do mine in the mornin' before you men are awake.

OLD NEWSVENDOR. It's true, wot she says!--every word.

WORKING WOMAN. You say we women 'ave got no business servin' on boards
and thinkin' about politics. Wot's _politics_?

    (_A derisive roar._)

It's just 'ousekeepin' on a big scyle. 'Oo among you workin' men 'as
the most comfortable 'omes? Those of you that gives yer wives yer wyges.

    (_Loud laughter and jeers._)

          { That's it!
  VOICES. { Wantin' our money.
          { Lord 'Igh 'Ousekeeper of England.

WORKING WOMAN. If it wus only to use fur _our_ comfort, d'ye think
many o' you workin' men would be found turnin' over their wyges to
their wives? No! Wot's the reason thousands do--and the best and the
soberest? Because the workin' man knows that wot's a pound to _'im_ is
twenty shillin's to 'is wife. And she'll myke every penny in every one
o' them shillin's _tell_. She gets more fur _'im_ out of 'is wyges than
wot 'e can! Some o' you know wot the 'omes is like w'ere the men don't
let the women manage. Well, the Poor Laws and the 'ole Government is
just in the syme muddle because the men 'ave tried to do the national
'ousekeepin' without the women.

    (_Roars._)

But, like I told you before, it's a libel to say it's only the well-off
women wot's wantin' the vote. Wot about the 96,000 textile workers?
Wot about the Yorkshire tailoresses? I can tell you wot plenty o' the
poor women think about it. I'm one of them, and I can tell you we see
there's reforms needed. _We ought to 'ave the vote_ (_jeers_), and we
know 'ow to appreciate the other women 'oo go to prison fur tryin' to
get it fur us!

    (_With a little final bob of emphasis and a glance over shoulder at
      the old woman and the young one behind her, she seems about to
      retire, but pauses as the murmur in the crowd grows into distinct
      phrases._ "They get their 'air cut free." "Naow they don't,
      that's only us!" "Silly Suffragettes!" "Stop at 'ome!" "'Inderin'
      policemen--mykin' rows in the streets!")

VOICE (_louder than the others_). They sees yer ain't fit t'ave----

OTHER VOICES. "Ha, ha!" "Shut up!" "Keep quiet, cawn't yer?" (_General
uproar._)

CHAIRMAN. You evidently don't know what had to be done by _men_
before the extension of the Suffrage in '67. If it hadn't been for
demonstrations of violence----

    (_His voice is drowned._)

WORKING WOMAN (_coming forward again, her shrill note rising clear_).
You s'y woman's plyce is 'ome! Don't you know there's a third of the
women o' this country can't afford the luxury of stayin' in their
'omes? They _got_ to go out and 'elp make money to p'y the rent and
keep the 'ome from bein' sold up. Then there's all the women that
'aven't got even miseerable 'omes. They 'aven't got any 'omes _at all_.

NOISY YOUNG MAN. You said _you_ got one. W'y don't you stop in it?

WORKING WOMAN. Yes, that's like a man. If one o' you is all right, he
thinks the rest don't matter. We women----

NOISY YOUNG MAN. The lydies! God bless 'em!

    (_Voices drown her and the_ CHAIRMAN.)

OLD NEWSVENDOR (_to_ NOISY YOUNG MAN). Oh, take that extra 'alf pint
'ome and _sleep it off_!

WORKING WOMAN. P'r'aps _your_ 'omes are all right. P'r'aps you aren't
livin', old and young, married and single, in one room. I come from a
plyce where many fam'lies 'ave to live like that if they're to go on
livin' _at all_. If you don't believe me, come and let me show you!
(_She spreads out her lean arms._) Come with me to Canning Town!--come
with me to Bromley--come to Poplar and to Bow! No. You won't even
_think_ about the overworked women and the underfed children and the
'ovels they live in. And you want that we shouldn't think neither----

A VAGRANT. We'll do the thinkin'. You go 'ome and nuss the byby.

WORKING WOMAN. I do nurse my byby! I've nursed seven. What 'ave you
done for yours? P'r'aps your children never goes 'ungry, and maybe
you're satisfied--though I must say I wouldn't a' thought it from the
_look_ o' you.

VOICE. Oh, I s'y!

WORKING WOMAN. But we women are not satisfied. We don't only want
better things for our own children. We want better things for all.
_Every_ child is our child. We know in our 'earts we oughtn't to rest
till we've mothered 'em every one.

VOICE. "Women"--"children"--wot about the _men_? Are _they_ all 'appy?

    (_Derisive laughter and_ "No! no!" "Not precisely." "'Appy? Lord!")

WORKING WOMAN. No, there's lots o' you men I'm sorry for (_Shrill
Voice_: "Thanks awfully!"), an' we'll 'elp you if you let us.

VOICE. 'Elp us? You tyke the bread out of our mouths. You women are
black-leggin' the men!

WORKING WOMAN. _W'y_ does any woman tyke less wyges than a man for the
same work? Only because we can't get anything better. That's part the
reason w'y we're yere to-d'y. Do you reely think we tyke them there low
wyges because we got a _lykin'_ for low wyges? No. We're just like you.
We want as much as ever we can get. ("'Ear! 'Ear!" _and laughter_.)
We got a gryte deal to do with our wyges, we women has. We got the
children to think about. And w'en we get our rights, a woman's flesh
and blood won't be so much cheaper than a man's that employers can get
rich on keepin' you out o' work, and sweatin' us. If you men only could
see it, we got the _syme_ cause, and if you 'elped us you'd be 'elpin
yerselves.

VOICES. "Rot!" "Drivel."

OLD NEWSVENDOR. True as gospel!

    (_She retires against the banner with the others. There is some
      applause._)

A MAN (_patronisingly_). Well, now, that wusn't so bad--fur a woman.

ANOTHER. N-naw. _Not fur a woman._

CHAIRMAN (_speaking through this last_). Miss Ernestine Blunt will now
address you.

    (_Applause, chiefly ironic, laughter, a general moving closer and
      knitting up of attention._ ERNESTINE BLUNT _is about twenty-four,
      but looks younger. She is very downright, not to say
      pugnacious--the something amusing and attractive about her
      is there, as it were, against her will, and the more fetching
      for that. She has no conventional gestures, and none of any sort
      at first. As she warms to her work she uses her slim hands to
      enforce her emphasis, but as though unconsciously. Her manner of
      speech is less monotonous than that of the average woman-speaker,
      but she, too, has a fashion of leaning all her weight on the end
      of the sentence. She brings out the final word or two with an
      effort of underscoring, and makes a forward motion of the slim
      body as if the better to drive the last nail in. She evidently
      means to be immensely practical--the kind who is pleased to
      think she hasn't a grain of sentimentality in her composition,
      and whose feeling, when it does all but master her, communicates
      itself magnetically to others._ )

MISS ERNESTINE BLUNT. Perhaps I'd better begin by explaining a little
about our "tactics."

    (_Cries of_ "Tactics! We know!" "Mykin' trouble!" "Public scandal!")

To make you understand what we've done, I must remind you of what
others have done. Perhaps you don't know that women first petitioned
Parliament for the Franchise as long ago as 1866.

VOICE. How do _you_ know?

    (_She pauses a moment, taken off her guard by the suddenness of the
      attack._)

VOICE. You wasn't there!

VOICE. That was the trouble. Haw! haw!

MISS E. B. And the petition was presented----

VOICE. Give 'er a 'earin' now she 'as got out of 'er crydle.

MISS E. B.--presented to the House of Commons by that great Liberal,
John Stuart Mill. (_Voice_: "Mill? Who is he when he's at home?") Bills
or Resolutions have been before the House on and off for the last
thirty-six years. That, roughly, is our history. We found ourselves,
towards the close of the year 1905, with no assurance that if we went
on in the same way any girl born into the world in this generation
would live to exercise the rights of citizenship, though she lived
to be a hundred. So we said all this has been in vain. We must try
some other way. How did the working man get the Suffrage, we asked
ourselves? Well, we turned up the records, and we _saw_----

VOICES. "Not by scratching people's faces!" ... "Disraeli give it
'em!" "Dizzy? Get out!" "Cahnty Cahncil scholarships!" "Oh, Lord, this
education!" "Chartist riots, she's thinkin' of!"

    (_Noise in the crowd._)

MISS E. B. But we don't _want_ to follow such a violent example. We
would much rather _not_--but if that's the only way we can make the
country see we're in earnest, we are prepared to show them.

VOICE. An' they'll show you!--Give you another month 'ard.

MISS E. B. Don't think that going to prison has any fears for us. We'd
go _for life_ if by doing that we could get freedom for the rest of the
women.

VOICES. "Hear, hear!" "Rot!" "W'y don't the men 'elp ye to get your
rights?"

MISS E. B. Here's some one asking why the men don't help. It's partly
they don't understand yet--they _will_ before we've done! (_Laughter._)
Partly they don't understand yet what's at stake----

RESPECTABLE OLD MAN (_chuckling_). Lord, they're a 'educatin' of us!

VOICE. Wot next?

MISS E. B.--and partly that the bravest man is afraid of ridicule. Oh,
yes; we've heard a great deal all our lives about the timidity and the
sensitiveness of women. And it's true. We _are_ sensitive. But I tell
you, ridicule crumples a man up. It steels a woman. We've come to know
the value of ridicule. We've educated ourselves so that we welcome
ridicule. We owe our sincerest thanks to the comic writers. The
cartoonist is our unconscious friend. Who cartoons people who are of no
importance? What advertisement is so sure of being remembered?

POETIC YOUNG MAN. I admit that.

MISS E. B. If we didn't know it by any other sign, the comic papers
would tell us _we've arrived_! But our greatest debt of gratitude we
owe, to the man who called us female hooligans.

    (_The crowd bursts into laughter._)

We aren't hooligans, but we hope the fact will be overlooked. If
everybody said we were nice, well-behaved women, who'd come to hear us?
_Not the men._

    (_Roars._)

Men tell us it isn't womanly for us to care about politics. How do they
know what's womanly? It's for women to decide that. Let the men attend
to being manly. It will take them all their time.

VOICE. Are we down-'earted? Oh no!

MISS E. B. And they say it would be dreadful if we got the vote,
because then we'd be pitted against men in the economic struggle.
But that's come about already. Do you know that out of every hundred
women in this country eighty-two are wage-earning women? It used to
be thought unfeminine for women to be students and to aspire to the
arts--that bring fame and fortune. But nobody has ever said it was
unfeminine for women to do the heavy drudgery that's badly paid. That
kind of work had to be done by _some_body--and the men didn't hanker
after it. Oh, no.

    (_Laughter and interruption._)

A MAN ON THE OUTER FRINGE. She can _talk_--the little one can.

ANOTHER. Oh, they can all "talk."

A BEERY, DIRTY FELLOW OF FIFTY. I wouldn't like to be 'er 'usban'.
Think o' comin' 'ome to _that_!

HIS PAL. I'd soon learn 'er!

MISS E. B. (_speaking through the noise_). Oh, no! _Let_ the women
scrub and cook and wash. That's all right! But if they want to try
their hand at the better paid work of the liberal professions--oh,
very unfeminine indeed! Then there's another thing. Now I want you to
listen to this, because it's _very_ important. Men say if we persist in
competing with them for the bigger prizes, they're dreadfully afraid
we'd lose the beautiful protecting chivalry that---- Yes, I don't
wonder you laugh. _We_ laugh. (_Bending forward with lit eyes._) But
the women I found at the Ferry Tin Works working for five shillings
a week--I didn't see them laughing. The beautiful chivalry of the
employers of women doesn't prevent them from paying women tenpence a
day for sorting coal and loading and unloading carts--doesn't prevent
them from forcing women to earn bread in ways worse still. So we won't
talk about chivalry. It's being over-sarcastic. We'll just let this
poor ghost of chivalry go--in exchange for a little plain justice.

VOICE. If the House of Commons won't give you justice, why don't you go
to the House of Lords?

MISS E. B. What?

VOICE. Better 'urry up. Case of early closin'.

    (_Laughter. A man at the back asks the speaker something._)

MISS E. B. (_unable to hear_). You'll be allowed to ask any question
you like at the end of the meeting.

NEW-COMER (_boy of eighteen_). Oh, is it question time? I s'y, Miss,
'oo killed cock robin?

    (_She is about to resume, but above the general noise the voice of
      a man at the back reaches her indistinct but insistent. She leans
      forward trying to catch what he says. While the indistinguishable
      murmur has been going on_ GEOFFREY STONOR _has appeared on the
      edge of the crowd, followed by_ JEAN _and_ LADY JOHN _in motor
      veils._)

JEAN (_pressing forward eagerly and raising her veil_). Is she one of
them? That little thing!

STONOR (_doubtfully_). I--I suppose so.

JEAN. Oh, ask some one, Geoffrey. I'm so disappointed. I did so hope
we'd hear one of the--the worst.

MISS E. B. (_to the interrupter--on the other side_). What? What do you
say? (_She screws up her eyes with the effort to hear, and puts a hand
up to her ear. A few indistinguishable words between her and the man._)

LADY JOHN (_who has been studying the figures on the platform through
her lorgnon, turns to a working man beside her_). Can you tell me, my
man, which are the ones that--a--that make the disturbances?

WORKING MAN. The one that's doing the talking--she's the disturbingest
o' the lot.

JEAN (_craning to listen_). Not that nice little----

WORKING MAN. Don't you be took in, Miss.

MISS E. B. Oh, yes--I see. There's a man over here asking----

A YOUNG MAN. _I've_ got a question, too. Are--you--married?

ANOTHER (_sniggering_). Quick! There's yer chawnce. 'E's a bachelor.

    (_Laughter._)

MISS E. B. (_goes straight on as if she had not heard_)--man asking: if
the women get full citizenship, and a war is declared, will the women
fight?

POETIC YOUNG MAN. No, really--no, really, now!

    (_The Crowd_: "Haw! Haw!" "Yes!" "Yes, how about _that?_")

MISS E. B. (_smiling_). Well, you know, some people say the whole
trouble about us is that we _do_ fight. But it is only hard necessity
makes us do that. We don't _want_ to fight--as men seem to--just for
fighting's sake. Women are for peace.

VOICE. Hear, hear.

MISS E. B. And when we have a share in public affairs there'll be less
likelihood of war. But that's not to say women can't fight. The Boer
women did. The Russian women face conflicts worse than any battlefield
can show. (_Her voice shakes a little, and the eyes fill, but she
controls her emotion gallantly, and dashes on._) But we women know all
that is evil, and we're for peace. Our part--we're proud to remember
it--our part has been to go about after you men in war-time, and--_pick
up the pieces_!

    (_A great shout._)

Yes--seems funny, doesn't it? You men blow them to bits, and then we
come along and put them together again. If you know anything about
military nursing, you know a good deal of our work has been done in the
face of danger--_but it's always been done_.

OLD NEWSVENDOR. That's so. That's so.

MISS E. B. You complain that more and more we're taking away from you
men the work that's always been yours. You can't any longer keep women
out of the industries. The only question is upon what terms shall she
continue to be in? As long as she's in on bad terms, she's not only
hurting herself--she's hurting you. But if you're feeling discouraged
about our competing with you, we're willing to leave you your trade in
war. _Let_ the men take life! We _give_ life! (_Her voice is once more
moved and proud._) No one will pretend ours isn't one of the dangerous
trades either. I won't say any more to you now, because we've got
others to speak to you, and a new woman-helper that I want you to hear.

    (_She retires to the sound of clapping. There's a hurried
      consultation between her and the_ CHAIRMAN. _Voices in the
      Crowd_: "The little 'un's all right" "Ernestine's a corker," &c.)

JEAN (_looking at_ STONOR _to see how he's taken it_). Well?

STONOR (_smiling down at her_). Well----

JEAN. Nothing reprehensible in what _she_ said, was there?

STONOR (_shrugs_). Oh, reprehensible!

JEAN. It makes me rather miserable all the same.

STONOR (_draws her hand protectingly through his arm_). You mustn't
take it as much to heart as all that.

JEAN. I can't help it--I can't indeed, Geoffrey. I shall _never_ be
able to make a speech like that!

STONOR (_taken aback_). I hope not, indeed.

JEAN. Why, I thought you said you wanted me----?

STONOR (_smiling_). To make nice little speeches with composure--so I
did! So I---- (_Seems to lose his thread as he looks at her._)

JEAN (_with a little frown_). You _said_----

STONOR. That you have very pink cheeks? Well, I stick to that.

JEAN (_smiling_). Sh! Don't tell everybody.

STONOR. And you're the only female creature I ever saw who didn't look
a fright in motor things.

JEAN (_melted and smiling_). I'm glad you don't think me a fright.

CHAIRMAN. I will now ask (_name indistinguishable_) to address the
meeting.

JEAN (_as she sees_ LADY JOHN _moving to one side_). Oh, don't go yet,
Aunt Ellen!

LADY JOHN. Go? Certainly not. I want to hear another. (_Craning her
neck._) I can't believe, you know, she was really one of the worst.

    (_A big, sallow Cockney has come forward. His scanty hair grows in
      wisps on a great bony skull._)

VOICE. That's Pilcher.

ANOTHER. 'Oo's Pilcher?

ANOTHER. If you can't afford a bottle of Tatcho, w'y don't you get yer
'air cut.

MR. P. (_not in the least discomposed_). I've been addressin' a big
meetin' at 'Ammersmith this morning, and w'en I told 'em I wus comin'
'ere this awfternoon to speak fur the women--well--then the usual thing
began!

    (_An appreciative roar from the crowd._)

In these times if you want peace and quiet at a public meetin'----

    (_The crowd fills in the hiatus with laughter._)

There was a man at 'Ammersmith, too, talkin' about women's sphere bein'
'ome. _'Ome_ do you call it? You've got a kennel w'ere you can munch
your tommy. You've got a corner w'ere you can curl up fur a few hours
till you go out to work again. No, my man, there's too many of you
ain't able to _give_ the women 'omes--fit to live in, too many of you
in that fix fur you to go on jawin' at those o' the women 'oo want to
myke the 'omes a little decenter.

VOICE. If the vote ain't done us any good, 'ow'll it do the women any
good?

MR. P. Look 'ere! Any men here belongin' to the Labour Party?

    (_Shouts and applause._)

Well, I don't need to tell these men the vote 'as done us _some_ good.
They know it. And it'll do us a lot more good w'en you know 'ow to use
the power you got in your 'and.

VOICE. Power! It's those fellers at the bottom o' the street that's got
the power.

MR. P. It's you, and men like you, that gave it to 'em. You carried the
Liberals into Parliament Street on your own shoulders.

    (_Complacent applause._)

You believed all their fine words. You never asked yourselves, "_Wot's
a Liberal, anyw'y?_"

A VOICE. He's a jolly good fellow.

    (_Cheers and booing._)

MR. P. No, 'e ain't, or if 'e is jolly, it's only because 'e thinks
you're such silly codfish you'll go swellin' his majority again.
(_Laughter, in which_ STONOR _joins._) It's enough to make any Liberal
jolly to see sheep like you lookin' on, proud and 'appy, while you see
Liberal leaders desertin' Liberal principles.

    (_Voices in agreement and protest._)

You show me a Liberal, and I'll show you a Mr. Fycing-both-W'ys. Yuss.

    (STONOR _moves closer with an amused look._)

'E sheds the light of 'is warm and 'andsome smile on the working
man, and round on the other side 'e's tippin' a wink to the great
land-owners. That's to let 'em know 'e's standin' between them and the
Socialists. Huh! Socialists. Yuss, _Socialists_!

    (_General laughter, in which_ STONOR _joins._)

The Liberal, e's the judicial sort o' chap that sits in the middle----

VOICE. On the fence!

MR. P. Tories one side--Socialists the other. Well it ain't always so
comfortable in the middle. You're like to get squeezed. Now, I s'y
to the women, the Conservatives don't promise you much but what they
promise they _do_!

STONOR (_to_ JEAN). This fellow isn't half bad.

MR. P. The Liberals--they'll promise you the earth, and give yer ...
the whole o' nothing.

    (_Roars of approval._)

JEAN. _Isn't_ it fun? Now, aren't you glad I brought you?

STONOR (_laughing_). This chap's rather amusing!

MR. P. We men 'ave seen it 'appen over and over. But the women can tyke
a 'int quicker'n what we can. They won't stand the nonsense men do.
Only they 'aven't got a fair chawnce even to agitate fur their rights.
As I wus comin' up 'ere I 'eard a man sayin', "Look at this big crowd.
W'y, we're all _men_! If the women want the vote w'y ain't they 'ere to
s'y so?" Well, I'll tell you w'y. It's because they've 'ad to get the
dinner fur you and me, and now they're washin' up the dishes.

A VOICE. D'you think _we_ ought to st'y 'ome and wash the dishes?

MR. P. (_laughs good-naturedly_). If they'd leave it to us once or
twice per'aps we'd understand a little more about the Woman Question.
I know w'y _my_ wife isn't here. It's because she _knows_ I ain't much
use round the 'ouse, and she's 'opin' I can talk to some purpose. Maybe
she's mistaken. Any'ow, here I am to vote for her and all the other
women.

    ("_Hear! hear!_" "_Oh-h!_")

And to tell you men what improvements you can expect to see when women
'as the share in public affairs they _ought_ to 'ave!

VOICE. What do you know about it? You can't even talk grammar.

MR. P. (_is dashed a fraction of a moment, for the first and only
time_). I'm not 'ere to talk grammar but to talk Reform. I ain't
defendin' my grammar--but I'll say in pawssing that if my mother 'ad
'ad 'er rights, maybe my grammar would have been better.

    (STONOR _and_ JEAN _exchange smiles. He takes her arm again and
      bends his head to whisper something in her ear. She listens with
      lowered eyes and happy face. The discreet love-making goes on
      during the next few sentences. Interruption. One voice insistent
      but not clear. The speaker waits only a second and then resumes.
      "Yes, if the women" but he cannot instantly make himself heard.
      The boyish_ CHAIRMAN _looks harassed and anxious._ MISS ERNESTINE
      BLUNT _alert, watchful._)

MR. P. Wait a bit--'arf a minute, my man!

VOICE. 'Oo yer talkin' to? I ain't your man.

MR. P. Lucky for me! There seems to be a _gentleman_ 'ere who doesn't
think women ought to 'ave the vote.

VOICE. _One?_ Oh-h!

    (_Laughter._)

MR. P. Per'aps 'e doesn't know much about women?

    (_Indistinguishable repartee._)

Oh, the gentleman says 'e's married. Well, then, fur the syke of 'is
wife we musn't be too sorry 'e's 'ere. No doubt she's s'ying: "'Eaven
by prysed those women are mykin' a Demonstrytion in Trafalgar Square,
and I'll 'ave a little peace and quiet at 'ome for one Sunday in my
life."

    (_The crowd laughs and there are jeers for the interrupter--and at
      the speaker._)

(_Pointing._) Why, _you're_ like the man at 'Ammersmith this morning.
'E was awskin' me: "'Ow would you like men to st'y at 'ome and do the
fam'ly washin'?"

    (_Laughter._)

I told 'im I wouldn't advise it. I 'ave too much respect fur--me clo'es.

VAGRANT. It's their place--the women ought to do the washin'.

MR. P. I'm not sure you ain't right. For a good many o' you fellas,
from the look o' you--you cawn't even wash yerselves.

    (_Laughter._)

VOICE (_threatening_). 'Oo are you talkin' to?

    (_Chairman more anxious than before--movement in the crowd._)

THREATENING VOICE. Which of us d'you mean?

MR. P. (_coolly looking down_). Well, it takes about ten of your sort
to myke a man, so you may take it I mean the lot of you.

    (_Angry indistinguishable retorts and the crowd sways._ MISS
      ERNESTINE BLUNT, _who has been watching the fray with serious
      face, turns suddenly, catching sight of some one just arrived at
      the end of the platform._ MISS BLUNT _goes_ R. _with alacrity,
      saying audibly to_ PILCHER _as she passes, "Here she is," and
      proceeds to offer her hand helping some one to get up the
      improvised steps. Laughter and interruption in the crowd._)

LADY JOHN. Now, there's another woman going to speak.

JEAN. Oh, is she? Who? Which? I do hope she'll be one of the wild ones.

MR. P. (_speaking through this last. Glancing at the new arrival whose
hat appears above the platform_ R.). That's all right, then. (_Turns
to the left._) When I've attended to this microbe that's vitiating the
air on my right----

    (_Laughter and interruptions from the crowd._)

STONOR (_staring_ R., _one dazed instant, at the face of the new
arrival, his own changes_).

    (JEAN _withdraws her arm from his and quite suddenly presses a
      shade nearer the platform._ STONOR _moves forward and takes her
      by the arm._)

We're going now.

JEAN. Not yet--oh, please not yet. (_Breathless, looking back._) Why
I--I do believe----

STONOR (_to_ LADY JOHN, _with decision_). I'm going to take JEAN out of
this mob. Will you come?

LADY JOHN. What? Oh yes, if you think---- (_Another look through her
glasses._) But isn't that--_surely_ its----!!!

    (VIDA LEVERING _comes forward_ R. _She wears a long, plain, dark
      green dust-cloak. Stands talking to_ ERNESTINE BLUNT _and
      glancing a little apprehensively at the crowd._)

JEAN. Geoffrey!

STONOR (_trying to draw_ JEAN _away_). Lady John's tired----

JEAN. But you don't see who it is, Geoffrey----!

    (_Looks into his face, and is arrested by the look she finds
      there._)

    (LADY JOHN _has pushed in front of them amazed, transfixed, with
      glass up._ GEOFFREY STONOR _restrains a gesture of annoyance,
      and withdraws behind two big policemen._ JEAN _from time to time
      turns to look at him with a face of perplexity._)

MR. P. (_resuming through a fire of indistinct interruption_). I'll
come down and attend to that microbe while a lady will say a few words
to you (_raises his voice_)--if she can myke 'erself 'eard.

    (PILCHER _retires in the midst of booing and cheers._)

CHAIRMAN (_harassed and trying to create a diversion_). Some one
suggests--and it's such a good idea I'd like you to listen to it--

    (_Noise dies down._)

that a clause shall be inserted in the next Suffrage Bill that shall
expressly reserve to each Cabinet Minister, and to any respectable man,
the power to prevent the Franchise being given to the female members
of his family on his public declaration of their lack of sufficient
intelligence to entitle them to vote.

VOICES. Oh! oh!

CHAIRMAN. Now, I ask you to listen, as quietly as you can, to a lady
who is not accustomed to speaking--a--in Trafalgar Square--or a ... as
a matter of fact, at all.

VOICES. "A dumb lady." "Hooray!" "Three cheers for the dumb lady!"

CHAIRMAN. A lady who, as I've said, will tell you, if you'll behave
yourselves, her impressions of the administration of police-court
justice in this country.

    (JEAN _looks wondering at_ STONOR'S _sphinx-like face as_ VIDA
      LEVERING _comes to the edge of the platform._)

MISS L. Mr. Chairman, men and women----

VOICES (_off_). Speak up.

    (_She flushes, comes quite to the edge of the platform and raises
      her voice a little._)

MISS L. I just wanted to tell you that I was--I was--present in the
police-court when the women were charged for creating a disturbance.

VOICE. Y' oughtn't t' get mixed up in wot didn't concern you.

MISS L. I--I---- (_Stumbles and stops._)

    (_Talking and laughing increases._ "Wot's 'er name?" "Mrs. or
      Miss?" "Ain't seen this one before.")

CHAIRMAN (_anxiously_). Now, see here, men; don't interrupt----

A GIRL (_shrilly_). I like this one's _'at_. Ye can see she ain't one
of 'em.

MISS L. (_trying to recommence_). I----

VOICE. They're a disgrace--them women be'ind yer.

A MAN WITH A FATHERLY AIR. It's the w'y they goes on as mykes the
Government keep ye from gettin' yer rights.

CHAIRMAN (_losing his temper_). It's the way _you_ go on that----

    (_Noise increases._ CHAIRMAN _drowned, waves his arms and moves his
      lips._ MISS LEVERING _discouraged, turns and looks at_ ERNESTINE
      BLUNT _and pantomimes "It's no good. I can't go on."_ ERNESTINE
      BLUNT _comes forward, says a word to the_ CHAIRMAN, _who ceases
      gyrating, and nods._)

MISS E. B. (_facing the crowd_). Look here. If the Government withhold
the vote because they don't like the way some of us ask for it--_let
them give it to the Quiet Ones_. Does the Government want to punish
_all_ women because they don't like the manners of a handful? Perhaps
that's you men's notion of justice. It isn't women's.

VOICES. Haw! haw!

MISS L. Yes. Th-this is the first time I've ever "gone on," as you call
it, but they never gave me a vote.

MISS E. B. (_with energy_). No! And there are one--two--three--four
women on this platform. Now, we all want the vote, as you know. Well,
we'd agree to be disfranchised all our lives, if they'd give the vote
to all the other women.

VOICE. Look here, you made one speech, give the lady a chawnce.

MISS E. B. (_retires smiling_). That's _just_ what I wanted _you_ to do!

MISS L. Perhaps you--you don't know--you don't know----

VOICE (_sarcastic_). 'Ow 're we goin' to know if you can't tell us?

MISS L. (_flushing and smiling_). Thank you for that. We couldn't have
a better motto. How _are_ you to know if we can't somehow manage to
tell you? (_With a visible effort she goes on._) Well, I certainly
didn't know before that the sergeants and policemen are instructed to
deceive the people as to the time such cases are heard. You ask, and
you're sent to Marlborough Police Court instead of to Marylebone.

VOICE. They ought ter sent yer to 'Olloway--do y' good.

OLD NEWSVENDOR. You go on, Miss, don't mind 'im.

VOICE. Wot d'you expect from a pig but a grunt?

MISS L. You're told the case will be at two o'clock, and it's really
called for eleven. Well, I took a great deal of trouble, and I didn't
believe what I was told--

    (_Warming a little to her task._)

Yes, that's almost the first thing we have to learn--to get over our
touching faith that, because a man tells us something, it's true. I
got to the right court, and I was so anxious not to be late, I was
too early. The case before the Women's was just coming on. I heard a
noise. At the door I saw the helmets of two policemen, and I said to
myself: "What sort of crime shall I have to sit and hear about? Is this
a burglar coming along between the two big policemen, or will it be a
murderer? What sort of felon is to stand in the dock before the women
whose crime is they ask for the vote?" But, try as I would, I couldn't
see the prisoner. My heart misgave me. Is it a woman, I wondered?
Then the policemen got nearer, and I saw--(_she waits an instant_)--a
little, thin, half-starved boy. What do you think he was charged with?
Stealing. What had he been stealing--that small criminal? _Milk._
It seemed to me as I sat there looking on, that the men who had the
affairs of the world in their hands from the beginning, and who've made
so poor a business of it----

VOICES. Oh! oh! Pore benighted man! Are we down-'earted? _Oh_, no!

MISS L.--so poor a business of it as to have the poor and the
unemployed in the condition they're in to-day--when your only remedy
for a starving child is to hale him off to the police-court--because
he had managed to get a little milk--well, I _did_ wonder that the men
refuse to be helped with a problem they've so notoriously failed at. I
began to say to myself: "Isn't it time the women lent a hand?"

A VOICE. Would you have women magistrates?

    (_She is stumped by the suddenness of the demand._)

VOICES. Haw! Haw! Magistrates!

ANOTHER. Women! Let 'em prove first they deserve----

A SHABBY ART STUDENT (_his hair longish, soft hat, and flowing tie_).
They study music by thousands; where's their Beethoven? Where's their
Plato? Where's the woman Shakespeare?

ANOTHER. Yes--what 'a' they ever _done_?

    (_The speaker clenches her hands, and is recovering her presence
      of mind, so that by the time the_ CHAIRMAN _can make himself
      heard with, "Now men, give this lady a fair hearing--don't
      interrupt"--she, with the slightest of gestures, waves him aside
      with a low "It's all right."_)

MISS L. (_steadying and raising her voice_). These questions are quite
proper! They are often asked elsewhere; and I would like to ask in
return: Since when was human society held to exist for its handful of
geniuses? How many Platos are there here in this crowd?

A VOICE (_very loud and shrill_). Divil a wan!

    (_Laughter._)

MISS L. Not one. Yet that doesn't keep you men off the register. How
many Shakespeares are there in all England to-day? Not one. Yet the
State doesn't tumble to pieces. Railroads and ships are built--homes
are kept going, and babies are born. The world goes on! (_bending over
the crowd_) It goes on _by virtue of its common people_.

VOICES (_subdued_). Hear! hear!

MISS L. I am not concerned that you should think we women can paint
great pictures, or compose immortal music, or write good books. I am
content that we should be classed with the common people--who keep
the world going. But (_straightening up and taking a fresh start_),
I'd like the world to go a great deal better. We were talking about
justice. I have been inquiring into the kind of lodging the poorest
class of homeless women can get in this town of London. I find that
only the men of that class are provided for. Some measure to establish
Rowton Houses for women has been before the London County Council. They
looked into the question "very carefully," so their apologists say. And
what did they decide? They decided that _they could do nothing_.

LADY JOHN (_having forced her way to_ STONOR'S _side_). Is that true?

STONOR (_speaking through_ MISS LEVERING'S _next words_). I don't know.

MISS L. Why could that great, all-powerful body do nothing? Because,
if these cheap and decent houses were opened, they said, the homeless
women in the streets would make use of them! You'll think I'm not in
earnest. But that was actually the decision and the reason given for
it. Women that the bitter struggle for existence has forced into a life
of horror----

STONOR (_sternly to_ LADY JOHN). You think this is the kind of
thing---- (_A motion of the head towards_ JEAN.)

MISS L.--the outcast women might take advantage of the shelter these
decent, cheap places offered. But the _men_, I said! Are all who avail
themselves of Lord Rowton's hostels, are _they_ all angels? Or does
wrong-doing in a man not matter? Yet women are recommended to depend on
the chivalry of men.

    (_The two policemen, who at first had been strolling about, have
      stood during this scene in front of_ GEOFFREY STONOR. _They turn
      now and walk away, leaving_ STONOR _exposed. He, embarrassed,
      moves uneasily, and_ VIDA LEVERING'S _eye falls upon his big
      figure. He still has the collar of his motor coat turned up to
      his ears. A change passes over her face, and her nerve fails her
      an instant._)

MISS L. Justice and chivalry!! (_she steadies her voice and hurries
on_)--they both remind me of what those of you who read the
police-court news--(I have begun only lately to do that)--but you've
seen the accounts of the girl who's been tried in Manchester lately for
the murder of her child. Not pleasant reading. Even if we'd noticed it,
we wouldn't speak of it in my world. A few months ago I should have
turned away my eyes and forgotten even the headline as quickly as I
could. But since that morning in the police-court, I read these things.
This, as you'll remember, was about a little working girl--an orphan
of eighteen--who crawled with the dead body of her new-born child to
her master's back-door, and left the baby there. She dragged herself
a little way off and fainted. A few days later she found herself in
court, being tried for the murder of her child. Her master--a married
man--had of course reported the "find" at his back-door to the police,
and he had been summoned to give evidence. The girl cried out to him in
the open court, "You are the father!" He couldn't deny it. The Coroner
at the jury's request censured the man, and regretted that the law
didn't make him responsible. But he went scot-free. And that girl is
now serving her sentence in Strangeways Gaol.

    (_Murmuring and scraps of indistinguishable comment in the crowd,
      through which only_ JEAN'S _voice is clear._)

JEAN (_who has wormed her way to_ STONOR'S _side_). Why do you dislike
her so?

STONOR. I? Why should you think----

JEAN (_with a vaguely frightened air_). I never saw you look as you
did--as you do.

CHAIRMAN. Order, please--give the lady a fair----

MISS L. (_signing to him "It's all right"_). Men make boast that an
English citizen is tried by his peers. What woman is tried by hers?

    (_A sombre passion strengthens her voice and hurries her on._)

A woman is arrested by a man, brought before a man judge, tried by a
jury of men, condemned by men, taken to prison by a man, and by a man
she's hanged! Where in all this were _her_ "peers"? Why did men so
long ago insist on trial by "a jury of their peers"? So that justice
shouldn't miscarry--wasn't it? A man's peers would best understand his
circumstances, his temptation, the degree of his guilt. Yet there's no
such unlikeness between different classes of men as exists between man
and woman. What man has the knowledge that makes him a fit judge of
woman's deeds at that time of anguish--that hour--(_lowers her voice
and bends over the crowd_)--that hour that some woman struggled through
to put each man here into the world. I noticed when a previous speaker
quoted the Labour Party you applauded. Some of you here--I gather--call
yourselves Labour men. Every woman who has borne a child is a Labour
woman. No man among you can judge what she goes through in her hour of
darkness----

JEAN (_with frightened eyes on her lover's set, white face, whispers_).
Geoffrey----

MISS L. (_catching her fluttering breath, goes on very low_.)--in that
great agony when, even under the best conditions that money and
devotion can buy, many a woman falls into temporary mania, and not a
few go down to death. In the case of this poor little abandoned working
girl, what man can be the fit judge of her deeds in that awful moment
of half-crazed temptation? Women know of these things as those know
burning who have walked through fire.

    (STONOR _makes a motion towards_ JEAN _and she turns away
      fronting the audience. Her hands go up to her throat as though
      she suffered a choking sensation. It is in her face that she
      "knows."_ MISS LEVERING _leans over the platform and speaks with
      a low and thrilling earnestness._)

I would say in conclusion to the women here, it's not enough to be
sorry for these our unfortunate sisters. We must get the conditions
of life made fairer. We women must organise. We must learn to work
together. We have all (rich and poor, happy and unhappy) worked so
long and so exclusively for _men_, we hardly know how to work for one
another. But we must learn. Those who can, may give money----

VOICES (_grumbling_). Oh, yes--Money! Money!

MISS L. Those who haven't pennies to give--even those people aren't so
poor they can't give some part of their labour--some share of their
sympathy and support.

    (_Turns to hear something the_ CHAIRMAN _is whispering to her._)

JEAN (_low to_ LADY JOHN). Oh, I'm glad I've got power!

LADY JOHN (_bewildered_). Power!--_you?_

JEAN. Yes, all that money----

    (LADY JOHN _tries to make her way to_ STONOR.)

MISS L. (_suddenly turning from the_ CHAIRMAN _to the crowd_). Oh, yes,
I hope you'll all join the Union. Come up after the meeting and give
your names.

LOUD VOICE. You won't get many men.

MISS L. (_with fire_). Then it's to the women I appeal!

    (_She is about to retire when, with a sudden gleam in her lit eyes,
      she turns for the last time to the crowd, silencing the general
      murmur and holding the people by the sudden concentration of
      passion in her face._)

I don't mean to say it wouldn't be better if men and women did this
work together--shoulder to shoulder. But the mass of men won't have it
so. I only hope they'll realise in time the good they've renounced and
the spirit they've aroused. For I know as well as any man could tell
me, it would be a bad day for England if all women felt about all men
_as I do_.

    (_She retires in a tumult. The others on the platform close about
      her. The_ CHAIRMAN _tries in vain to get a hearing from the
      excited crowd._)

    (JEAN _tries to make her way through the knot of people surging
      round her._)

STONOR (_calls_). Here!--Follow me!

JEAN. No--no--I----

STONOR. You're going the wrong way.

JEAN. _This_ is the way I must go.

STONOR. You can get out quicker on this side.

JEAN. I don't _want_ to get out.

STONOR. What! Where are you going?

JEAN. To ask that woman to let me have the honour of working with her.

    (_She disappears in the crowd._)


CURTAIN.



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._)

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?

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 to-morrow's papers." (_Very
earnestly._) You see, Mr. Stonor, it's 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?

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.

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 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.

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.

JEAN (_drawing nearer_). It must have been terribly hard----

    (STONOR _turns towards 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 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?

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 revelation how
they can. And, Geoffrey, if I can't make you see this one of mine--I
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?

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, is 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 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_ L.)

STONOR (_catches her by the arm_). Wait!--a---- (_Hunting for some
means of gaining time._) Lady John 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 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.

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 in, 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----

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.

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 even 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_.

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.

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 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.

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 never 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!

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.

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 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't--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
is in my power. If you 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
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 to 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.

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!

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! 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----

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 impassable 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 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 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._)

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.

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,
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.

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
behaviour. (_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._)

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 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. 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 hands and the tears 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.

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.



  The Gresham Press,

  UNWIN BROTHERS, LIMITED, WOKING AND LONDON.



Corrections.

The first line indicates the original, the second the correction.

p. 43:

  we all realise it was a perfectiy lunatic proceeding
  we all realise it was a perfectly lunatic proceeding

p. 73:

  the unemployed in the condition they' e
  the unemployed in the condition they're

p. 92:

  you aren't going away lik that.
  you aren't going away like that.





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