Jerome K. Jerome.

The Master of Mrs. Chilvers online

. (page 2 of 6)
Online LibraryJerome K. JeromeThe Master of Mrs. Chilvers → online text (page 2 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

ANNYS. (_Rises_. _She goes to the centre of the room_.)

LADY MOGTON. Where are you going?

ANNYS. (_She turns_; _there are tears in her eyes_. _The question seems
to recall her to herself_.) Nowhere. I am so sorry. I can’t help it.
It seems to me to mean so much. It gives us the right to go before the
people—to plead to them, not for ourselves, for them. (_Again she seems
to lose consciousness of those at the table_, _of the room_.) To the men
we will say: “Will you not trust us? Is it harm we have ever done you?
Have we not suffered for you and with you? Were we not sent into the
world to be your helpmeet? Are not the children ours as well as yours?
Shall we not work together to shape the world where they must dwell? Is
it only the mother-voice that shall not be heard in your councils? Is it
only the mother-hand that shall not help to guide?” To the women we will
say: “Tell them—tell them it is from no love of ourselves that we come
from our sheltered homes into the street. It is to give, not to get—to
mingle with the sterner judgments of men the deeper truths that God,
through pain, has taught to women—to mingle with man’s justice woman’s
pity, till there shall arise the perfect law—not made of man nor woman,
but of both, each bringing what the other lacks.” And they will listen
to us. Till now it has seemed to them that we were clamouring only for
selfish ends. They have not understood. We shall speak to them of
common purposes, use the language of fellow-citizens. They will see that
we are worthy of the place we claim. They will welcome us as helpers in
a common cause. They—

(_She turns_—_the present comes back to her_.)

LADY MOGTON. (_After a pause_.) The business (_she dwells severely on
the word_) before the meeting—

ANNYS. (_She resents herself meekly_. _Apologising generally_.) I
_must_ learn to control myself.

LADY MOGTON. (_Who has waited_.) —is McCaw versus Potts. Its bearing
upon the movement for the extension of the franchise to women. My own
view I venture to submit in the form of a resolution. (_She takes up a
paper on which she has been writing_.) As follows: That the Council of
the Woman’s Parliamentary Franchise League, having regard to the decision
of the House of Lords in McCaw v. Potts—

ST. HERBERT. (_Looking over_.) Two t’s.

LADY MOGTON. —resolves to bring forward a woman candidate to contest the
next bye-election. (_Suddenly to_ MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS, _who is
chattering_.) Do you agree or disagree?

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. My dear! How can you ask? Of course we all
agree. (_To Elizabeth_.) You agree, don’t you?

ELIZABETH. Of course, even if elected, she would not be allowed to take
her seat.

PHOEBE. How do you know? Nothing more full of surprises than English

LADY MOGTON. At the present stage I regard that point as immaterial.
What I am thinking of is the advertisement. A female candidate upon the
platform will concentrate the whole attention of the country on our

ST. HERBERT. It might even be prudent—until you have got the vote—to
keep it dark that you will soon be proceeding to the next inevitable

ELIZABETH. You think even man could be so easily deceived!

ST. HERBERT. Man has had so much practice in being deceived. It comes
naturally to him.

ELIZABETH. Poor devil!

LADY MOGTON. The only question remaining to be discussed is the

ANNYS. Is there not danger that between now and the next bye-election
the Government may, having regard to this case, bring in a bill to stop
women candidates from going to the poll?

ST. HERBERT. I have thought of that. Fortunately, the case seems to
have attracted very little attention. If a bye-election occurred soon
there would hardly be time.

LADY MOGTON. It must be the very next one that does occur—wherever it

JANET. I am sure that in the East End we should have a chance.

PHOEBE. Great Scott! Just think. If we were to win it!

ST. HERBERT. If you could get a straight fight against a Liberal I
believe you would.

ANNYS. Why is the Government so unpopular?

ST. HERBERT. Well, take the weather alone—twelve degrees of frost again
last night.

JANET. In St. George’s Road the sewer has burst. The water is in the
rooms where the children are sleeping. (_She clenches her hands_.)

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. (_She shakes her head_.) Something ought
really to be done.

LADY MOGTON. Has anybody any suggestion to make?—as regards the
candidate. There’s no advantage in going outside. It will have to be
one of ourselves.


LADY MOGTON. I shall be better employed organising. My own feeling is
that it ought to be Annys. (_To_ ST. HERBERT.) What do you think?

ST. HERBERT. Undoubtedly.

ANNYS. I’d rather not.

LADY MOGTON. It’s not a question of liking. It’s a question of duty.
For this occasion we shall be appealing to the male voter. Our candidate
must be a woman popular with men. The choice is somewhat limited.

ELIZABETH. No one will put up so good a fight as you.

ANNYS. Will you give me till this evening?

LADY MOGTON. What for?

ANNYS. I should like to consult Geoffrey.

LADY MOGTON. You think he would object?

ANNYS. (_A little doubtfully_.) No. But we have always talked
everything over together.

LADY MOGTON. Absurd! He’s one of our staunchest supporters. Of course
he’ll be delighted.

ELIZABETH. I think the thing ought to be settled at once.

LADY MOGTON. It must be. I have to return to Manchester to-night. We
shall have to get to work immediately.

ST. HERBERT. Geoffrey will surely take it as a compliment.

JANET. Don’t you feel that woman, all over the world, is calling to you?

ANNYS. It isn’t that. I’m not trying to shirk it. I merely thought
that if there had been time—of course, if you really think—

LADY MOGTON. You consent?

ANNYS. Yes. If it’s everybody’s wish.

LADY MOGTON. That’s settled.

PHOEBE. (_She springs up_, _waving a handkerchief_.) Chilvers for ever!

JANET. (_Rises_.) God bless you!

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. (_Clapping her hands_.) Now we shan’t be long!

LADY MOGTON. (_Hammers_.) Order, please!

(_The three subside_.)

This is serious business. The next step is, of course—

(_The door opens_; GEOFFREY _enters_. _He is a youngish-looking man of
three or four and thirty_. LADY MOGTON, _at the sound of the door_,
_turns_. ST. HERBERT _rises_. _There is a pause_.)

LADY MOGTON. We’ve been talking about you. We must apologise for
turning your drawing-room—

GEOFFREY. My dear mother-in-law, it is Providence. (_He kisses her_.)
There is no one I was more longing to see.

ANNYS. (_She has risen_.) Hake told me you would be dining at the

GEOFFREY. (_He comes to her_, _kisses her_, _he is in a state of
suppressed excitement_.) I shall be. I came back to bring you some

PHOEBE. We’ve got some news for you. Have you heard—

GEOFFREY. (_He stays her_.) May I claim man’s privilege for the first
word? It is news, I am sure, you will all be delighted to hear. A
friend of yours has been appointed to an office where—it is quite
possible—he may be of service to you.

PHOEBE. Governorship of Holloway Gaol?

GEOFFREY. Not a bad guess. Very near it. To the Under-Secretaryship
for Home Affairs.

LADY MOGTON. Who is it?

GEOFFREY. (_He bows_.) Your affectionate and devoted servant.


PHOEBE. (_Genuinely delighted_. _She is not a quick thinker_.) Bravo!
Congratulations, old boy! (_She has risen_—_she slaps him on the back_.)

ANNYS. Geoffrey! (_She puts her arms about him_.) You never told me

GEOFFREY. I know, dear. I was afraid. It mightn’t have come off. And
then you would have been so disappointed.

ANNYS. (_There are tears in her eyes_. _She still clings to him_.) I
am so glad. Oh, I am so glad!

GEOFFREY. It is all your doing. You have been such a splendid help.
(_He breaks gently away from her_. _Turns to_ ST. HERBERT, _with a
lighter tone_.) Haven’t you anything to say to a fellow? You’re not
usually dumb.

ST. HERBERT. It has all been so sudden—as the early Victorian heroine
was fond of remarking!

GEOFFREY. (_Laughs_.) It has been sudden. We had, none of us, any idea
till yesterday that old Bullock was thinking of resigning.

ELIZABETH. (_She has risen and moved towards the fire_.) Won’t it
necessitate a bye-election?

(LADY MOGTON _and_ ST. HERBERT _have been thinking it out_. _On the
others the word falls like a bombshell_.)

GEOFFREY. (_He turns to her_. _He does not see their faces_.) Yes.
But I don’t anticipate a contest. The Conservatives are without a
candidate, and I am on good terms with the Labour Party. Perhaps Mr.
Hunnable—(_He laughs_, _then_, _turning_, _catches sight of his wife’s
face_. _From_ ANNYS _he looks to the others_.)

LADY MOGTON. (_She has risen_.) You haven’t heard, then, of McCaw
versus Potts?

GEOFFREY. “McCaw versus Potts!” What the—

ST. HERBERT. Was decided in the House of Lords late yesterday afternoon.
Briefly stated, it confers upon women the right of becoming Parliamentary

GEOFFREY. (_He is staggered_.) You mean—

LADY MOGTON. Having regard to which, we have decided to bring forward a
woman candidate to contest the next bye-election.

GEOFFREY. Um! I see.

ANNYS. But we never thought—we never anticipated it would be Geoffrey’s.

LADY MOGTON. I really cannot admit that that alters the case. Geoffrey
himself would never dream, I am sure, of asking us to sacrifice our cause
to his convenience.

GEOFFREY. No. Of course not. Certainly not.

LADY MOGTON. It is perhaps unfortunate that the candidate selected—

ANNYS. It is quite impossible. Such a dilemma was never dreamed of.

LADY MOGTON. And if not? Is the solidarity of woman—

GEOFFREY. (_Beginning to guess_.) Forgive my impatience; but whom
_have_ you selected?

ELIZABETH. (_When she likes she can be quite sweet_.) Your wife. (_He
expected it_.) We rather assumed (_she appeals to the others with a
gesture_), I think, that the president of the Man’s League for the
Extension of the Franchise to Women would regard it as a compliment.

GEOFFREY. (_His dislike of her is already in existence_.) Yes. Very

ANNYS. You must choose some one else.

PHOEBE. But there _is_ no one else.

ANNYS. There’s mamma.

PHOEBE. Mamma’s too heavy.

ANNYS. Well, then, there’s Elizabeth—there’s you!

GEOFFREY. Yes. Why not you? You and I could have a jolly little fight.

LADY MOGTON. This is not a laughing matter. If I could think of any one
to take Annys’s place I should not insist. I cannot.

PHOEBE. You see, it mustn’t be a crank.

GEOFFREY. (_He is losing his temper_.) Yes, I suppose that does limit

ELIZABETH. And then—thanks to you—Mrs. Chilvers has had such excellent
training in politics. It was that, I think, that decided us.

GEOFFREY. (_Convention forbids his strangling her_.) Will somebody
kindly introduce me to this lady?

ST. HERBERT. Ah, yes, of course. You don’t know each other, do you?
Mr. Geoffrey Chilvers—Mrs. Joseph Spender. Mrs. Spender—Mr. Chilvers,

ELIZABETH. (_Sweetly_.) Delighted!

GEOFFREY. (_Not_.) Charmed.

LADY MOGTON. (_To_ ANNYS.) I am not indifferent to your difficulty.
But the history of woman, my dear Annys, is a history of sacrifice. We
give our sons—if necessary, our husbands.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. (_Affected_.) How true!

ANNYS. But you are not asking me to give him. You are asking me to
fight him. I can’t.

LADY MOGTON. You mean you won’t.

ANNYS. You can put it that way if you like. I won’t.

(_A pause_.)

JANET. I thought Mrs. Chilvers had pledged her word.

ELIZABETH. Yes. But without her husband’s consent. So, of course, it
doesn’t count.

GEOFFREY. (_He turns on her_.) Why not you—if there must be a fight?
Or would it be against your principles?

ELIZABETH. Not in the least.


ELIZABETH. I would offer myself as a substitute. Only it might seem
like coming between husband and wife.

GEOFFREY. (_He turns away with a grunt of disgust_.)

PHOEBE. It’s awfully rough on you, Geoffrey. I can see it from your
point of view. But one can’t help remembering the things that you
yourself have said.

GEOFFREY. I know; I know. I’ve been going up and down the country,
excusing even your excesses on the ground that no movement can force its
way to the front without treading on innumerable toes. For me, now, to
cry halt merely because it happens to be my own toes that are in the way
would be—ridiculous—absurd—would be monstrous. (_Nobody contradicts
him_.) You are perfectly justified—if this case means what you say it
does—in putting up a candidate against me for East Poplar. Only,
naturally, it cannot be Annys. (_He reaches out his hand to where_ ANNYS
_stands a little behind him_, _takes her hand_.) Annys and I have fought
more than one election. It has been side by side.

ELIZABETH. The lady a little behind.

GEOFFREY. (_He moves away with an expression of deep annoyance_.)

JANET. (_She comes forward_. _She holds forth her hands with a
half-appealing_, _half-commanding gesture_. _She almost seems
inspired_.) Would it not be so much better if, in this first political
contest between man and woman, the opponents were two people honouring
one another, loving one another? Would it not show to all the world that
man and woman may meet—contend in public life without anger, without
scorn? (_There is a pause_. _They stand listening_.) I do not know,
but it seems to me that if Mr. Chilvers could bring himself to do this it
would be such a big thing—perhaps the most chivalrous thing that a man
has ever done to help women. If he would put aside, quite voluntarily,
all the man’s privilege—just say to the people, “Now choose—one of us two
to serve you. We stand before you, equal, my wife and I.” I don’t know
how to put it, but I feel that by merely doing that one thing Mr.
Chilvers would solve the whole problem. It would prove that good men are
ready to give us of their free accord all that we claim. We should gain
our rights, not by warfare, but through love and understanding. Wouldn’t
that be—so much better? (_She looks—her hands still appealing—from one
to the other_.)

(_Another silence_. _They have all been carried a little off their
feet by_ JANET’S _earnestness_.)

ANNYS. (_She touches him_.) What do you think, dear?

GEOFFREY. Yes, there’s a good deal, of course, in what Miss Blake says.

ANNYS. It _would_ be a big thing for you to do.

PHOEBE. You see, whatever happened, the seat would be yours. This case
only gives us the right to go to the poll. We are keen upon Annys
because she’s our best card, that’s all.

GEOFFREY. Do you wish it?

ANNYS. (_She smiles up at him_.) I’d rather fight you than any one

GEOFFREY. You are not afraid that the situation might be—just a trifle

ANNYS. (_Shakes her head_.) No. I think everybody will say it was
rather splendid of you.

GEOFFREY. Well, if it will help women.

ANNYS. (_She holds out her hand_. _She is still in exalted mood_.) We
will show how man and woman may be drawn nearer to one another by rivalry
for noble ends.

ST. HERBERT. (_He shakes_ GEOFFREY’S _somewhat limp hand_.) I envy you.
The situation promises to be piquant.

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. It will be a battle of roses.

LADY MOGTON. I must go. I shall see you both again to-morrow. (_She
kisses_ GEOFFREY.) This is an historic day.

GEOFFREY. Yes. I daresay we shall all remember it.

LADY MOGTON. (_To_ JANET.) I will get you to come to the station with
me. I can give you your instructions in the cab. (_She kisses_ ANNYS.)
You have been called to a great work. Be worthy of it.

(_They are all making ready to go_. ANNYS _has rung the bell for_

JANET. (_To_ ANNYS.) Are you glad?

ANNYS. (_Kisses her_.) You showed me the whole thing in a new light.
You were splendid. (_She turns to_ ELIZABETH.) Didn’t I tell you he
would convert you?

ELIZABETH. I was wrong to judge all men guilty. There are also—the

ANNYS. (_For a moment—but a moment only—she is pleased_. _Then the
doubtful meaning of_ ELIZABETH’S _words strikes her_.)

(_Enter_ HAKE.)

ANNYS. (_She has to dismiss_ ELIZABETH.) Oh, Hake—(_To_ LADY MOGTON.)
You’ll want a cab, won’t you, mamma?

LADY MOGTON. A taxi— Goodbye, everybody.

(_She sails out_.)

MRS. MOUNTCALM-VILLIERS. I have my carriage. (_To_ ELIZABETH.) Can I
give you a lift?

ELIZABETH. Thank you. (_To_ GEOFFREY.) We shall meet again.

GEOFFREY. I feel sure of it.


PHOEBE. (_To_ HAKE.) Are Miss Blake’s things dry yet?

JANET. They’ll be quite all right, dear. Please don’t trouble. (_She
advances a timid hand to_ GEOFFREY.) Goodbye, Mr. Chilvers.

GEOFFREY. (_He takes it smiling_.) Goodbye.

(_She goes out_; HAKE _follows_.)

PHOEBE. Goodbye, old boy. (_They shake hands_.) Don’t you let her walk
over you. Make her fight.

ANNYS. (_Laughing_.) Don’t you worry about that.

ST. HERBERT. Would you care to look through McCaw v. Potts? (_He has
the papers in his hand_.)

GEOFFREY. I’ll ask you for it when I want it.

PHOEBE. (_At door_.) You’ll be alone this evening?

ANNYS. Yes. Come in to dinner.

PHOEBE. All right. Goodbye.

ST. HERBERT. Goodbye.

(GEOFFREY _and_ ANNYS _answer them_. _They go out_, _closing the
door_. GEOFFREY _is by the fire_. ANNYS _comes to him_.)

ANNYS. (_She puts her arms round him_.) You don’t mind?

GEOFFREY. (_He holds her at arms’ length—looking into her eyes and
smiling_.) I believe you are looking forward to it.

ANNYS. Do you know how long we have been married? Eight years. And do
you know, sir, that all that time we have never had a difference? Don’t
you think it will be good for you?

GEOFFREY. Do you know _why_ we have never had a difference? Because you
have always had your own way.


GEOFFREY. You have got so used to it, you don’t notice it.

ANNYS. Then it will be good for me. I must learn to suffer opposition.
(_She laughs_.)

GEOFFREY. You won’t like it.

ANNYS. Do you know, I’m not at all sure that I shan’t. (_Unconsciously
they let loose of one another_.) You see, I shall have the right of
hitting back. (_Again she laughs_.)

GEOFFREY. (_Also laughingly_.) Is woman going to develop the fighting

ANNYS. I wonder.

(_A moment’s silence_.)

GEOFFREY. The difficulty in our case is there seems nothing to fight

ANNYS. We must think of something. (_Laughs_.)

GEOFFREY. What line are you going to take—what is your argument: why
they should vote for you in preference to me?

ANNYS. Simply that I am a woman.

GEOFFREY. My dear child, that won’t be enough. Why should they vote for
you merely because you’re a woman?

ANNYS. (_Slightly astonished_.) Because—because women are wanted in
public life.

GEOFFREY. Who wants them?

ANNYS. (_More astonished_.) Who? Why—(_it doesn’t seem too clear_.)
Why, all of us—you, yourself!

GEOFFREY. I’m not East Poplar.

ANNYS. (_Is puzzled a moment_, _then valiantly_.) I shall ask them to
send me to Parliament to represent the interests of their women—and
therefore of themselves—the interests of their children.

GEOFFREY. Children! What do you know about children?

(_Another silence_.)

ANNYS. Personally—no. We have had no children of our own, of course.
But (_hopefully_) it is a woman’s instinct.

GEOFFREY. Oh, Lord! That’s what the lady said who had buried seven.

ANNYS. (_Her mouth is growing hard_.) Don’t you believe in the right of
women to share in the government of the country?

GEOFFREY. Some women. Yes. I can see some capable—

ANNYS. (_Winces_.)

GEOFFREY. —elderly, motherly woman who has brought up a dozen children
of her own—who knows the world, being of some real use.

ANNYS. If it comes to that, there must be—I don’t say more “capable,”
but more experienced, more fatherly men than yourself.

(_He turns_, _they look at one another_. _His tone almost touched
contempt—hers was veiled anger_.)

GEOFFREY. _That’s_ the danger. It may come to a real fight.

ANNYS. (_Upon her also the fear has fallen_.) It must not. (_She
flings her arms around him_.) We must show the world that man and woman
can meet—contend in public life without anger, without scorn.

GEOFFREY. (_He folds her to him_.) The very words sound ugly, don’t

ANNYS. It would be hideous. (_She draws away_.) How long will the
election last?

GEOFFREY. Not long. The writ will be issued on Wednesday. Nomination
on Monday—polling, I expect, on Saturday. Puts me in mind—I must prepare
my election address.

ANNYS. I ought to be getting on with mine, too, I suppose.

GEOFFREY. It ought to be out by to-morrow.

ANNYS. (_With inspiration_.) We’ll do yours first. (_She wonders why
he hesitates_.)

GEOFFREY. “We?” Shan’t I have to do it alone—this time?

ANNYS. Alone! Nonsense! How can you?

GEOFFREY. I’m afraid I shall have to try.

ANNYS. Um! I suppose you’re right. What a nuisance! (_She turns
away_.) I shan’t like it.

GEOFFREY. (_He moves towards the folding-doors_.) No. It won’t be
quite the same thing. Goodbye.

ANNYS. (_She crosses to her desk by the window_. _Not the same instant
but the next his_ “_Goodbye_” _strikes her_. _She turns_.) You’re not
going out, are you?

GEOFFREY. (_He stops and turns—puzzled at her question_.) No. Only
into my study.

ANNYS. You said “Goodbye.”

GEOFFREY. (_Not remembering_.) _I_ did! Must have been thinking of
something else. I shall be in here if you want me. (_He goes into the
other room_.)

ANNYS. (_She has crossed to her desk_. _She is humming_. _She seats
herself_, _takes paper and pen_, _writes_. _Without turning—still
writing—she raises her voice_.) Geoffrey! How do you spell
“experimental”? One “r” or two?

(_There is no answer_. _Puzzled at the silence_, _she looks round_.
_The great folding-doors are closed_. _She stares in front of her_,
_thinking_, _then turns again to her work_.)



SCENE:—_Liberal Central Committee Rooms_, _East India Dock Road_,
_Poplar_. _A large_, _high room on the first floor of an old-fashioned
house_. _Two high windows right_. _A door at back is the main
entrance_. _A door left leads to other rooms_. _The walls are papered
with election literature_. _Conspicuous among the posters displayed is_
“_A Man for Men_.” “_No Petticoat Government_.” “_Will you be
Henpecked_?” _A large_, _round table centre is littered with papers and
pamphlets_. _A large desk stands between the windows_. _A settee is
against the left wall_.

(_When the curtain rises_, ROSE MERTON (_otherwise_ “GINGER”) _is
discovered seated_, _her left arm resting on the table_. _She is a young
lady typical of the Cockney slavey type_, _dressed according to the ideas
of her class as regards the perfect lady_. _Her hat is characteristic_.
_Her gloves_, _her reticule_, _her umbrella—the latter something rather_
“_saucy_”—_are displayed around her_. _She is feeling comfortable and
airing her views_. MRS. CHINN _is laying the cloth over a portion of the
table_, _with some tea-things_. MRS. CHINN _is a thin_, _narrow-chested
lady with thin hands and bony wrists_. _No one since her husband died
has ever seen her without her bonnet_. _Its appearance suggests the
possibility that she sleeps in it_. _It is black_, _like her dress_.
_The whole figure is decent_, _but dingy_.)

2 4 5 6

Online LibraryJerome K. JeromeThe Master of Mrs. Chilvers → online text (page 2 of 6)