Second Act

Scene: Drawing-room at Hunstanton, after dinner, lamps lit. Door L.C. Door R.C. Ladies seated on sofas

Mrs Allonby What a comfort it is to have got rid of the men for a little!

Lady Stutfield Yes; men persecute us dreadfully, don’t they?

Mrs Allonby Persecute us? I wish they did.

Lady Hunstanton My dear!

Mrs Allonby The annoying thing is that the wretches can be perfectly happy without us. That is why I think it is every woman’s duty never to leave them alone for a single moment, except during this short breathing space° after dinner; without which I believe we poor women would be absolutely worn to shadows.

Enter Servants with coffee

Lady Hunstanton Worn to shadows, dear?

Mrs Allonby Yes, Lady Hunstanton. It is such a strain keeping men up to the mark. They are always trying to escape from us.

Lady Stutfield It seems to me that it is we who are always trying to escape from them. Men are so very, very heartless. They know their power and use it.

Lady Caroline (takes coffee from Servant) What stuff and nonsense all this about men is! The thing to do is to keep men in their proper place.

Mrs Allonby But what is their proper place, Lady Caroline?

Lady Caroline Looking after their wives, Mrs Allonby.

Mrs Allonby (takes coffee from Servant) Really? And if they’re not married?

Lady Caroline If they are not married, they should be looking after a wife. It’s perfectly scandalous the amount of bachelors who are going about society. There should be a law passed to compel them all to marry within twelve months.

Lady Stutfield (refuses coffee) But if they’re in love with someone who, perhaps, is tied to another?

Lady Caroline In that case, Lady Stutfield, they should be married off in a week to some plain respectable girl, in order to teach them not to meddle with other people’s property.

Mrs Allonby I don’t think that we should ever be spoken of as other people’s property. All men are married women’s property.° That is the only true definition of what married women’s property really is. But we don’t belong to anyone.

[Exeunt Servants]

Lady Stutfield Oh, I am so very, very glad to hear you say so.

Lady Hunstanton But do you really think, dear Caroline, that legislation would improve matters in any way? I am told that, nowadays, all the married men live like bachelors, and all the bachelors like married men.

Mrs Allonby I certainly never know one from the other.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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