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    The Fourth Act

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    Chapter 4
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    SCENE:- Russell Square. The morning-room [on the ground floor]. A small, cheerful room, furnished in Chippendale, white panelled, with Adams fireplace in which a bright fire is burning. Two deep easy-chairs are before the fire. The window-curtains of red damask are drawn. An oval table occupies the centre of the room. The door at back opens upon the hall. Only one light burns, an electric lamp on a table just above the fire.

    TIME:- Midnight.

    [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.]

    THE END.

    * * * * * * * * * * * *
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