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Jerome K. Jerome.

The Master of Mrs. Chilvers online

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(_The door opens_. GEOFFREY _enters_. _He has left his out-door things
in the hall_. _He crosses and rings the bell_. _A moment_.)

(HAKE _enters_.)

GEOFFREY. Oh, you, Hake! There wasn’t any need for you to have stopped.

HAKE. I was not sure of your arrangements. I thought perhaps I might be
wanted.

GEOFFREY. Sorry. I ought to have told you.

HAKE. It’s been no inconvenience, sir. I told Mrs. Hake not to sit up.

GEOFFREY. (_He is opening and reading his letters left for him on the
table_.) Does she generally sit up for you?

HAKE. As a rule, sir. We like a little chat before going to bed.

GEOFFREY. (_His eyes on a letter_.) What do you find to chat about?

HAKE. Oh, there is so much for a husband and wife to talk about. The—
As a rule.

(_A clock on the mantelpiece strikes one_.)

GEOFFREY. What’s that?

HAKE. Quarter past twelve, sir.

GEOFFREY. Has your mistress come in?

HAKE. Not yet, sir. Has the election gone all right, sir?

GEOFFREY. For Mrs. Chilvers, yes. She is now member for East Poplar.

HAKE. I am sorry. It has been a great surprise to me.

GEOFFREY. The result?

HAKE. The whole thing, sir. Such a sweet lady, we all thought her.

GEOFFREY. Life, Hake, is a surprising affair.

(_A ring is heard_.)

I expect that’s she. She has forgotten her key.

(HAKE _goes out_.)

(GEOFFREY _continues his letters_. _A few moments pass_; HAKE
_re-enters_, _closes the door_.)

HAKE. (_He seems puzzled_.) It’s a lady, sir

(GEOFFREY _turns_.)

HAKE. At least—hardly a lady. A Mrs. Chinn.

GEOFFREY. Mrs. Chinn! (_He glances at his watch_.) At twelve o’clock
at night. Well, all right. I’ll see her.

(HAKE _opens the door_, _speaks to_ MRS. CHINN. _She enters_, _in
bonnet and shawl_.)

HAKE. Mrs. Chinn.

GEOFFREY. Good evening, Mrs. Chinn.

MRS. CHINN. Good evening, sir.

GEOFFREY. You needn’t stop, Hake. I shan’t be wanting anything.

HAKE. Thank you.

GEOFFREY. Apologise for me to Mrs. Hake. Good-night.

HAKE. Good-night, sir.

(HAKE _goes out_. _A minute later the front door is heard to slam_.)

GEOFFREY. Won’t you sit down? (_He puts a chair for her left of the
table_.)

MRS. CHINN. (_Seating herself_.) Thank you, sir.

GEOFFREY. (_He half sits on the arm of the easy-chair below the fire_.)
What’s the trouble?

MRS. CHINN. It’s my boy, sir—my youngest. He’s been taking money that
didn’t belong to him.

GEOFFREY. Um. Has it been going on for long?

MRS. CHINN. About six months, sir. I only heard of it to-night. You
see, his wife died a year ago. She was such a good manager. And after
she was gone he seems to have got into debt.

GEOFFREY. What were his wages?

MRS. CHINN. Nineteen shillings a week, sir. And that with the rent and
three young children—well, it wants thinking out.

GEOFFREY. From whom did he take the money—his employers?

MRS. CHINN. Yes, sir. He was the carman. They had always trusted him
to collect the accounts.

GEOFFREY. How much, would you say, was the defalcation?

MRS. CHINN. I beg pardon, sir.

GEOFFREY. How much does it amount to, the sums that he has taken?

MRS. CHINN. Six pounds, sir, Mr. Cohen says it comes to.

GEOFFREY. Won’t they accept repayment?

MRS. CHINN. Yes, sir. Mr. Cohen has been very nice about it. He is
going to let me pay it off by instalments.

GEOFFREY. Well, then, that gets over most of the trouble.

MRS. CHINN. Well, you see, sir, unfortunately, Mr. Cohen gave
information to the police the moment he discovered it.

GEOFFREY. Umph! Can’t he say he made a mistake?

MRS. CHINN. They say it must go for trial, sir. That he can only
withdraw the charge in court.

GEOFFREY. Um!

MRS. CHINN. You see, sir—a thing like that—(_She recovers herself_.) It
clings to a lad.

GEOFFREY. What do you want me to do?

MRS. CHINN. Well, sir, I thought that, perhaps—you see, sir, he has got
a brother in Canada who would help him; and I thought that if I could
ship him off—

GEOFFREY. You want me to tip the wink to the police to look the other
way while you smuggle this young malefactor out of the clutches of the
law?

MRS. CHINN. (_Quite indifferent to the moral aspect of the case_.) If
you would be so kind, sir.

GEOFFREY. Umph! I suppose you know what you’re doing; appealing through
your womanhood to man’s weakness—employing “backstairs influence” to gain
your private ends, indifferent to the higher issues of the public weal?
All the things that are going to cease when woman has the vote.

MRS. CHINN. You see, sir, he’s the youngest.

(_Gradually the decent but dingy figure of_ MRS. CHINN _has taken to
itself new shape_. _To_ GEOFFREY, _it almost seems as though there
were growing out of the shadows over against him the figure of great
Artemis herself—Artemis of the Thousand Breasts_. _He had returned
home angry_, _bitter against all women_. _As she unfolds her simple
tale understanding comes to him_. _So long as there are_ “_Mrs.
Chinns_” _in the world_, _Woman claims homage_.)

GEOFFREY. How many were there?

MRS. CHINN. Ten altogether, six living.

GEOFFREY. Been a bit of a struggle for you, hasn’t it?

MRS. CHINN. It has been a bit difficult, at times; especially after
their poor father died.

GEOFFREY. How many were you left with?

MRS. CHINN. Eight, sir.

GEOFFREY. How on earth did you manage to keep them?

MRS. CHINN. Well, you see, sir, the two eldest, they were earning a
little. I don’t think I could have done it without that.

GEOFFREY. Wasn’t there any source from which you could have obtained
help? What was your husband?

MRS. CHINN. He worked in the shipyards, sir. There was some talk about
it. But, of course, that always means taking the children away from you.

GEOFFREY. Would not that have been better for them?

MRS. CHINN. Not always, sir. Of course, if I hadn’t been able to do my
duty by them I should have had to. But, thank God, I’ve always been
strong.

GEOFFREY. (_He rises_.) I will see what can be done.

MRS. CHINN. Thank you, sir.

GEOFFREY. (_Half-way_, _he turns_.) When does the next boat sail—for
Canada?

MRS. CHINN. To-morrow night, sir, from Glasgow. I have booked his
passage.

GEOFFREY. (_With a smile_.) You seem to have taken everything for
granted.

MRS. CHINN. You see, sir, it’s the disgrace. All the others are doing
so well. It would upset them so.

(_He goes out_.)

(_There is a moment_.)

(ANNYS _enters_. _She is wearing her outdoor things_.)

ANNYS. Mrs. Chinn!

MRS. CHINN. (_She has risen_; _she curtseys_.) Good evening, ma’am.

ANNYS. (_She is taking off her hat_.) Nothing wrong, is there?

MRS. CHINN. My boy, ma’am, my youngest, has been getting into trouble.

ANNYS. (_She pauses_, _her hat in her hand_.) They will, won’t they?
It’s nothing serious, I hope?

MRS. CHINN. I think it will be all right, ma’am, thanks to your good
gentleman.

ANNYS. (_She lays aside her hat_.) You have had a good many children,
haven’t you, Mrs. Chinn?

MRS. CHINN. Ten altogether, ma’am; six living.

ANNYS. Can one love ten, all at once?

(_The cloak has fallen aside_. MRS. CHINN _is a much experienced
lady_.)

MRS. CHINN. Just as many as come, dear. God sends the love with them.

(_There is a moment_; _the two women are very close to one another_.
_Then_ ANNYS _gives a little cry and somehow their arms are round one
another_.)

(_She mothers her into the easy chair above the fire_; _places a
footstool under her feet_.) You have your cry out, dearie, it will do
you good.

ANNYS. You look so strong and great.

MRS. CHINN. It’s the tears, dearie. (_She arranges the foot-stool_.)
You keep your feet up.

(_The handle of the door is heard_. MRS. CHINN _is standing beside her
own chair_. _She is putting back her handkerchief into her bag_.)

(GEOFFREY _re-enters_.)

(ANNYS _is hidden in the easy chair_. _He does not see her_.)

GEOFFREY. Well, Mrs. Chinn, an exhaustive search for the accused will be
commenced—next week.

MRS. CHINN. Thank you, sir.

GEOFFREY. What about the children—are they going with him?

MRS. CHINN. No, sir; I thought he would be better without them till
everything is settled.

GEOFFREY. Who is taking care of them—you?

MRS. CHINN. Yes, sir.

GEOFFREY. And the passage money—how much was that?

MRS. CHINN. Four pound fifteen.

GEOFFREY. Would you mind my coming in, as a friend?

MRS. CHINN. Well, if you don’t mind, I’d rather not. I’ve always done
everything for the children myself. It’s been a fad of mine.

GEOFFREY. (_He makes a gesture of despair_.) You mothers! You’re so
greedy. (_He holds out his hand_, _smiling_.) Goodbye.

MRS. CHINN. (_She takes his hand in hers_.) God bless you, sir. And
your good lady.

GEOFFREY. (_As he takes her to the door_.) How will you get home?

MRS. CHINN. I can get the Underground from Gower Street, sir.

(_They go out talking about last trains and leaving the door open_.
_The next moment the front door is heard to slam_.)

(GEOFFREY _re-enters_.)

(ANNYS _has moved round_, _so that coming back into the room he finds
her there_.)

GEOFFREY. How long have you been in?

(_He closes the door_.)

ANNYS. Only a few minutes—while you were at the telephone. I had to
rest for a little while. Dr. Whitby brought me back in his motor.

GEOFFREY. Was he down there?

ANNYS. Phoebe had sent for him. I had been taken a little giddy earlier
in the day.

GEOFFREY. (_He grunts_. _He is fighting with his tenderness_.) Don’t
wonder at it. All this overwork and excitement.

ANNYS. I’m afraid I’ve been hurting you.

GEOFFREY. (_Still growling_.) Both been hurting each other, I expect.

ANNYS. (_She smiles_.) It’s so easy to hurt those that love us.

(_She makes a little movement_, _feebly stretches out her arms to him_.
_Wondering_, _he comes across to her_. _She draws him down beside
her_, _takes his arms and places them about her_.) I want to feel that
I belong to you. That you are strong. That I can rest upon you.

GEOFFREY. (_He cannot understand_.) But only an hour ago—(_He looks at
her_.) Have you, too, turned traitor to the Woman’s Cause?

ANNYS. (_She answers smiling_.) No. But woman, dear, is a much more
complicated person than I thought her. It is only in this hour that God
has revealed her to me. (_She draws him closer_.) I want you, dear—dear
husband. Take care of us—both, won’t you? I love you, I love you. I
did not know how much.

GEOFFREY. (_He gathers her to him_, _kissing her_, _crooning over her_.)
Oh, my dear, my dear! My little one, my love, my wife!

ANNYS. (_She is laughing_, _crying_.) But, Geoffrey, dear—

(_He tries to calm her_.)

No, let me. I want to— And then I’ll be quite good, I promise— It’s
only fair to warn you. When I’m strong and can think again, I shall
still want the vote. I shall want it more than ever.

GEOFFREY. (_He answers with a happy laugh_, _holding her in his arms_.)

ANNYS. You will help us? Because it’s right, dear, isn’t it? He will
be my child as well as yours. You will let me help you make the world
better for our child—and for all the children—and for all the mothers—and
for all the dear, kind men: you will, won’t you?

GEOFFREY. I thought you were drifting away from me: that strange voices
were calling you away from life and motherhood. God has laughed at my
fears. He has sent you back to me with His command. We will fashion His
world together, we two lovers, Man and Woman, joined together in all
things. It is His will. His chains are the children’s hands.

(_Kneeling_, _he holds her in his arms_.)

(THE CURTAIN FALLS.)




***


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