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Title: Ann Veronica: A Modern Love Story
Author: Wells, H. G. (Herbert George)
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 "Ann Veronica: A Modern Love Story" ***

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ANN VERONICA

A MODERN LOVE STORY

By H. G. Wells



     CONTENTSCHAP.
     I.        ANN VERONICA TALKS TO HER FATHER
     II.       ANN VERONICA GATHERS POINTS OF VIEW
     III.      THE MORNING OF THE CRISIS
     IV.       THE CRISIS
     V.        THE FLIGHT TO LONDON
     VI.       EXPOSTULATIONS
     VII.      IDEALS AND A REALITY
     VIII.     BIOLOGY
     IX.       DISCORDS
     X.        THE SUFFRAGETTES
     XI.       THOUGHTS IN PRISON
     XII.      ANN VERONICA PUTS THINGS IN ORDER
     XIII.     THE SAPPHIRE RING
     XIV.      THE COLLAPSE OF THE PENITENT
     XV.       THE LAST DAYS AT HOME
     XVI.      IN THE MOUNTAINS
     XVII.     IN PERSPECTIVE



     “The art of ignoring is one of the accomplishments of every
     well-bred girl, so carefully instilled that at last she can even
     ignore her own thoughts and her own knowledge.”



ANN VERONICA



CHAPTER THE FIRST

ANN VERONICA TALKS TO HER FATHER


Part 1


One Wednesday afternoon in late September, Ann Veronica Stanley came
down from London in a state of solemn excitement and quite resolved to
have things out with her father that very evening. She had trembled on
the verge of such a resolution before, but this time quite definitely
she made it. A crisis had been reached, and she was almost glad it had
been reached. She made up her mind in the train home that it should be
a decisive crisis. It is for that reason that this novel begins with
her there, and neither earlier nor later, for it is the history of this
crisis and its consequences that this novel has to tell.

She had a compartment to herself in the train from London to Morningside
Park, and she sat with both her feet on the seat in an attitude that
would certainly have distressed her mother to see, and horrified her
grandmother beyond measure; she sat with her knees up to her chin and
her hands clasped before them, and she was so lost in thought that
she discovered with a start, from a lettered lamp, that she was at
Morningside Park, and thought she was moving out of the station, whereas
she was only moving in. “Lord!” she said. She jumped up at once,
caught up a leather clutch containing notebooks, a fat text-book, and
a chocolate-and-yellow-covered pamphlet, and leaped neatly from the
carriage, only to discover that the train was slowing down and that she
had to traverse the full length of the platform past it again as the
result of her precipitation. “Sold again,” she remarked. “Idiot!” She
raged inwardly while she walked along with that air of self-contained
serenity that is proper to a young lady of nearly two-and-twenty under
the eye of the world.

She walked down the station approach, past the neat, obtrusive offices
of the coal merchant and the house agent, and so to the wicket-gate by
the butcher’s shop that led to the field path to her home. Outside the
post-office stood a no-hatted, blond young man in gray flannels, who was
elaborately affixing a stamp to a letter. At the sight of her he became
rigid and a singularly bright shade of pink. She made herself serenely
unaware of his existence, though it may be it was his presence that sent
her by the field detour instead of by the direct path up the Avenue.

“Umph!” he said, and regarded his letter doubtfully before consigning it
to the pillar-box. “Here goes,” he said. Then he hovered undecidedly for
some seconds with his hands in his pockets and his mouth puckered to a
whistle before he turned to go home by the Avenue.

Ann Veronica forgot him as soon as she was through the gate, and her
face resumed its expression of stern preoccupation. “It’s either now or
never,” she said to herself....

Morningside Park was a suburb that had not altogether, as people say,
come off. It consisted, like pre-Roman Gaul, of three parts. There was
first the Avenue, which ran in a consciously elegant curve from the
railway station into an undeveloped wilderness of agriculture, with big,
yellow brick villas on either side, and then there was the pavement, the
little clump of shops about the post-office, and under the railway arch
was a congestion of workmen’s dwellings. The road from Surbiton and
Epsom ran under the arch, and, like a bright fungoid growth in the
ditch, there was now appearing a sort of fourth estate of little
red-and-white rough-cast villas, with meretricious gables and very
brassy window-blinds. Behind the Avenue was a little hill, and an
iron-fenced path went over the crest of this to a stile under an
elm-tree, and forked there, with one branch going back into the Avenue
again.

“It’s either now or never,” said Ann Veronica, again ascending this
stile. “Much as I hate rows, I’ve either got to make a stand or give in
altogether.”

She seated herself in a loose and easy attitude and surveyed the
backs of the Avenue houses; then her eyes wandered to where the new
red-and-white villas peeped among the trees. She seemed to be making
some sort of inventory. “Ye Gods!” she said at last. “WHAT a place!

“Stuffy isn’t the word for it.

“I wonder what he takes me for?”

When presently she got down from the stile a certain note of internal
conflict, a touch of doubt, had gone from her warm-tinted face. She had
now the clear and tranquil expression of one whose mind is made up. Her
back had stiffened, and her hazel eyes looked steadfastly ahead.

As she approached the corner of the Avenue the blond, no-hatted man in
gray flannels appeared. There was a certain air of forced fortuity in
his manner. He saluted awkwardly. “Hello, Vee!” he said.

“Hello, Teddy!” she answered.

He hung vaguely for a moment as she passed.

But it was clear she was in no mood for Teddys. He realized that he was
committed to the path across the fields, an uninteresting walk at the
best of times.

“Oh, dammit!” he remarked, “dammit!” with great bitterness as he faced
it.



Part 2


Ann Veronica Stanley was twenty-one and a half years old. She had black
hair, fine eyebrows, and a clear complexion; and the forces that had
modelled her features had loved and lingered at their work and made them
subtle and fine. She was slender, and sometimes she seemed tall, and
walked and carried herself lightly and joyfully as one who commonly
and habitually feels well, and sometimes she stooped a little and
was preoccupied. Her lips came together with an expression between
contentment and the faintest shadow of a smile, her manner was one of
quiet reserve, and behind this mask she was wildly discontented and
eager for freedom and life.

She wanted to live. She was vehemently impatient--she did not clearly
know for what--to do, to be, to experience. And experience was slow in
coming. All the world about her seemed to be--how can one put it?--in
wrappers, like a house when people leave it in the summer. The blinds
were all drawn, the sunlight kept out, one could not tell what
colors these gray swathings hid. She wanted to know. And there was no
intimation whatever that the blinds would ever go up or the windows or
doors be opened, or the chandeliers, that seemed to promise such a blaze
of fire, unveiled and furnished and lit. Dim souls flitted about her,
not only speaking but it would seem even thinking in undertones....

During her school days, especially her earlier school days, the world
had been very explicit with her, telling her what to do, what not to do,
giving her lessons to learn and games to play and interests of the most
suitable and various kinds. Presently she woke up to the fact that there
was a considerable group of interests called being in love and getting
married, with certain attractive and amusing subsidiary developments,
such as flirtation and “being interested” in people of the opposite sex.
She approached this field with her usual liveliness of apprehension. But
here she met with a check. These interests her world promptly, through
the agency of schoolmistresses, older school-mates, her aunt, and a
number of other responsible and authoritative people, assured her she
must on no account think about. Miss Moffatt, the history and moral
instruction mistress, was particularly explicit upon this score, and
they all agreed in indicating contempt and pity for girls whose minds
ran on such matters, and who betrayed it in their conversation or dress
or bearing. It was, in fact, a group of interests quite unlike any
other group, peculiar and special, and one to be thoroughly ashamed of.
Nevertheless, Ann Veronica found it a difficult matter not to think of
these things. However having a considerable amount of pride, she decided
she would disavow these undesirable topics and keep her mind away from
them just as far as she could, but it left her at the end of her school
days with that wrapped feeling I have described, and rather at loose
ends.

The world, she discovered, with these matters barred had no particular
place for her at all, nothing for her to do, except a functionless
existence varied by calls, tennis, selected novels, walks, and dusting
in her father’s house. She thought study would be better. She was a
clever girl, the best of her year in the High School, and she made
a valiant fight for Somerville or Newnham but her father had met and
argued with a Somerville girl at a friend’s dinner-table and he thought
that sort of thing unsexed a woman. He said simply that he wanted her to
live at home. There was a certain amount of disputation, and meanwhile
she went on at school. They compromised at length on the science course
at the Tredgold Women’s College--she had already matriculated into
London University from school--she came of age, and she bickered with
her aunt for latch-key privileges on the strength of that and her season
ticket. Shamefaced curiosities began to come back into her mind, thinly
disguised as literature and art. She read voraciously, and presently,
because of her aunt’s censorship, she took to smuggling any books she
thought might be prohibited instead of bringing them home openly, and
she went to the theatre whenever she could produce an acceptable friend
to accompany her. She passed her general science examination with double
honors and specialized in science. She happened to have an acute sense
of form and unusual mental lucidity, and she found in biology, and
particularly in comparative anatomy, a very considerable interest,
albeit the illumination it cast upon her personal life was not
altogether direct. She dissected well, and in a year she found herself
chafing at the limitations of the lady B. Sc. who retailed a store of
faded learning in the Tredgold laboratory. She had already realized that
this instructress was hopelessly wrong and foggy--it is the test of the
good comparative anatomist--upon the skull. She discovered a desire to
enter as a student in the Imperial College at Westminster, where Russell
taught, and go on with her work at the fountain-head.

She had asked about that already, and her father had replied, evasively:
“We’ll have to see about that, little Vee; we’ll have to see about
that.” In that posture of being seen about the matter hung until she
seemed committed to another session at the Tredgold College, and in the
mean time a small conflict arose and brought the latch-key question, and
in fact the question of Ann Veronica’s position generally, to an acute
issue.

In addition to the various business men, solicitors, civil servants,
and widow ladies who lived in the Morningside Park Avenue, there was a
certain family of alien sympathies and artistic quality, the Widgetts,
with which Ann Veronica had become very friendly. Mr. Widgett was a
journalist and art critic, addicted to a greenish-gray tweed suit
and “art” brown ties; he smoked corncob pipes in the Avenue on Sunday
morning, travelled third class to London by unusual trains, and openly
despised golf. He occupied one of the smaller houses near the station.
He had one son, who had been co-educated, and three daughters with
peculiarly jolly red hair that Ann Veronica found adorable. Two of these
had been her particular intimates at the High School, and had done much
to send her mind exploring beyond the limits of the available literature
at home. It was a cheerful, irresponsible, shamelessly hard-up family in
the key of faded green and flattened purple, and the girls went on from
the High School to the Fadden Art School and a bright, eventful life of
art student dances, Socialist meetings, theatre galleries, talking about
work, and even, at intervals, work; and ever and again they drew Ann
Veronica from her sound persistent industry into the circle of these
experiences. They had asked her to come to the first of the two great
annual Fadden Dances, the October one, and Ann Veronica had accepted
with enthusiasm. And now her father said she must not go.

He had “put his foot down,” and said she must not go.

Going involved two things that all Ann Veronica’s tact had been
ineffectual to conceal from her aunt and father. Her usual dignified
reserve had availed her nothing. One point was that she was to wear
fancy dress in the likeness of a Corsair’s bride, and the other was that
she was to spend whatever vestiges of the night remained after the dance
was over in London with the Widgett girls and a select party in “quite a
decent little hotel” near Fitzroy Square.

“But, my dear!” said Ann Veronica’s aunt.

“You see,” said Ann Veronica, with the air of one who shares a
difficulty, “I’ve promised to go. I didn’t realize--I don’t see how I
can get out of it now.”

Then it was her father issued his ultimatum. He had conveyed it to her,
not verbally, but by means of a letter, which seemed to her a singularly
ignoble method of prohibition. “He couldn’t look me in the face and say
it,” said Ann Veronica.

“But of course it’s aunt’s doing really.”

And thus it was that as Ann Veronica neared the gates of home, she said
to herself: “I’ll have it out with him somehow. I’ll have it out with
him. And if he won’t--”

But she did not give even unspoken words to the alternative at that
time.



Part 3


Ann Veronica’s father was a solicitor with a good deal of company
business: a lean, trustworthy, worried-looking, neuralgic, clean-shaven
man of fifty-three, with a hard mouth, a sharp nose, iron-gray hair,
gray eyes, gold-framed glasses, and a small, circular baldness at the
crown of his head. His name was Peter. He had had five children at
irregular intervals, of whom Ann Veronica was the youngest, so that as
a parent he came to her perhaps a little practised and jaded and
inattentive; and he called her his “little Vee,” and patted her
unexpectedly and disconcertingly, and treated her promiscuously as of
any age between eleven and eight-and-twenty. The City worried him a good
deal, and what energy he had left over he spent partly in golf, a game
he treated very seriously, and partly in the practices of microscopic
petrography.

He “went in” for microscopy in the unphilosophical Victorian manner as
his “hobby.” A birthday present of a microscope had turned his mind to
technical microscopy when he was eighteen, and a chance friendship with
a Holborn microscope dealer had confirmed that bent. He had remarkably
skilful fingers and a love of detailed processes, and he had become one
of the most dexterous amateur makers of rock sections in the world.
He spent a good deal more money and time than he could afford upon the
little room at the top of the house, in producing new lapidary apparatus
and new microscopic accessories and in rubbing down slices of rock to
a transparent thinness and mounting them in a beautiful and dignified
manner. He did it, he said, “to distract his mind.” His chief successes
he exhibited to the Lowndean Microscopical Society, where their high
technical merit never failed to excite admiration. Their scientific
value was less considerable, since he chose rocks entirely with a
view to their difficulty of handling or their attractiveness at
conversaziones when done. He had a great contempt for the sections the
“theorizers” produced. They proved all sorts of things perhaps, but they
were thick, unequal, pitiful pieces of work. Yet an indiscriminating,
wrong-headed world gave such fellows all sorts of distinctions....

He read but little, and that chiefly healthy light fiction with
chromatic titles, The Red Sword, The Black Helmet, The Purple Robe, also
in order “to distract his mind.” He read it in winter in the evening
after dinner, and Ann Veronica associated it with a tendency to
monopolize the lamp, and to spread a very worn pair of dappled fawn-skin
slippers across the fender. She wondered occasionally why his mind
needed so much distraction. His favorite newspaper was the Times, which
he began at breakfast in the morning often with manifest irritation, and
carried off to finish in the train, leaving no other paper at home.

It occurred to Ann Veronica once that she had known him when he was
younger, but day had followed day, and each had largely obliterated the
impression of its predecessor. But she certainly remembered that when
she was a little girl he sometimes wore tennis flannels, and also rode a
bicycle very dexterously in through the gates to the front door. And
in those days, too, he used to help her mother with her gardening, and
hover about her while she stood on the ladder and hammered creepers to
the scullery wall.

It had been Ann Veronica’s lot as the youngest child to live in a home
that became less animated and various as she grew up. Her mother had
died when she was thirteen, her two much older sisters had married
off--one submissively, one insubordinately; her two brothers had gone
out into the world well ahead of her, and so she had made what she could
of her father. But he was not a father one could make much of.

His ideas about girls and women were of a sentimental and modest
quality; they were creatures, he thought, either too bad for a modern
vocabulary, and then frequently most undesirably desirable, or too pure
and good for life. He made this simple classification of a large and
various sex to the exclusion of all intermediate kinds; he held that
the two classes had to be kept apart even in thought and remote from one
another. Women are made like the potter’s vessels--either for worship
or contumely, and are withal fragile vessels. He had never wanted
daughters. Each time a daughter had been born to him he had concealed
his chagrin with great tenderness and effusion from his wife, and had
sworn unwontedly and with passionate sincerity in the bathroom. He was
a manly man, free from any strong maternal strain, and he had loved his
dark-eyed, dainty bright-colored, and active little wife with a real
vein of passion in his sentiment. But he had always felt (he had never
allowed himself to think of it) that the promptitude of their family
was a little indelicate of her, and in a sense an intrusion. He had,
however, planned brilliant careers for his two sons, and, with a certain
human amount of warping and delay, they were pursuing these. One was
in the Indian Civil Service and one in the rapidly developing motor
business. The daughters, he had hoped, would be their mother’s care.

He had no ideas about daughters. They happen to a man.

Of course a little daughter is a delightful thing enough. It runs about
gayly, it romps, it is bright and pretty, it has enormous quantities of
soft hair and more power of expressing affection than its brothers. It
is a lovely little appendage to the mother who smiles over it, and it
does things quaintly like her, gestures with her very gestures. It makes
wonderful sentences that you can repeat in the City and are good
enough for Punch. You call it a lot of nicknames--“Babs” and “Bibs” and
“Viddles” and “Vee”; you whack at it playfully, and it whacks you back.
It loves to sit on your knee. All that is jolly and as it should be.

But a little daughter is one thing and a daughter quite another. There
one comes to a relationship that Mr. Stanley had never thought out.
When he found himself thinking about it, it upset him so that he at once
resorted to distraction. The chromatic fiction with which he relieved
his mind glanced but slightly at this aspect of life, and never with any
quality of guidance. Its heroes never had daughters, they borrowed other
people’s. The one fault, indeed, of this school of fiction for him was
that it had rather a light way with parental rights. His instinct was in
the direction of considering his daughters his absolute property, bound
to obey him, his to give away or his to keep to be a comfort in his
declining years just as he thought fit. About this conception of
ownership he perceived and desired a certain sentimental glamour, he
liked everything properly dressed, but it remained ownership. Ownership
seemed only a reasonable return for the cares and expenses of a
daughter’s upbringing. Daughters were not like sons. He perceived,
however, that both the novels he read and the world he lived in
discountenanced these assumptions. Nothing else was put in their place,
and they remained sotto voce, as it were, in his mind. The new and
the old cancelled out; his daughters became quasi-independent
dependents--which is absurd. One married as he wished and one against
his wishes, and now here was Ann Veronica, his little Vee, discontented
with her beautiful, safe, and sheltering home, going about with hatless
friends to Socialist meetings and art-class dances, and displaying a
disposition to carry her scientific ambitions to unwomanly lengths. She
seemed to think he was merely the paymaster, handing over the means
of her freedom. And now she insisted that she MUST leave the chastened
security of the Tredgold Women’s College for Russell’s unbridled
classes, and wanted to go to fancy dress dances in pirate costume and
spend the residue of the night with Widgett’s ramshackle girls in some
indescribable hotel in Soho!

He had done his best not to think about her at all, but the situation
and his sister had become altogether too urgent. He had finally put
aside The Lilac Sunbonnet, gone into his study, lit the gas fire, and
written the letter that had brought these unsatisfactory relations to a
head.


Part 4

MY DEAR VEE, he wrote.

These daughters! He gnawed his pen and reflected, tore the sheet up, and
began again.

“MY DEAR VERONICA,--Your aunt tells me you have involved yourself in
some arrangement with the Widgett girls about a Fancy Dress Ball in
London. I gather you wish to go up in some fantastic get-up, wrapped
about in your opera cloak, and that after the festivities you propose to
stay with these friends of yours, and without any older people in your
party, at an hotel. Now I am sorry to cross you in anything you have set
your heart upon, but I regret to say--”

“H’m,” he reflected, and crossed out the last four words.

“--but this cannot be.”

“No,” he said, and tried again: “but I must tell you quite definitely
that I feel it to be my duty to forbid any such exploit.”

“Damn!” he remarked at the defaced letter; and, taking a fresh sheet, he
recopied what he had written. A certain irritation crept into his manner
as he did so.

“I regret that you should ever have proposed it,” he went on.

He meditated, and began a new paragraph.

“The fact of it is, and this absurd project of yours only brings it to
a head, you have begun to get hold of some very queer ideas about what a
young lady in your position may or may not venture to do. I do not think
you quite understand my ideals or what is becoming as between father and
daughter. Your attitude to me--”

He fell into a brown study. It was so difficult to put precisely.

“--and your aunt--”

For a time he searched for the mot juste. Then he went on:

“--and, indeed, to most of the established things in life is, frankly,
unsatisfactory. You are restless, aggressive, critical with all
the crude unthinking criticism of youth. You have no grasp upon the
essential facts of life (I pray God you never may), and in your rash
ignorance you are prepared to dash into positions that may end in
lifelong regret. The life of a young girl is set about with prowling
pitfalls.”

He was arrested for a moment by an indistinct picture of Veronica
reading this last sentence. But he was now too deeply moved to trace
a certain unsatisfactoriness to its source in a mixture of metaphors.
“Well,” he said, argumentatively, “it IS. That’s all about it. It’s time
she knew.”

“The life of a young girl is set about with prowling pitfalls, from
which she must be shielded at all costs.”

His lips tightened, and he frowned with solemn resolution.

“So long as I am your father, so long as your life is entrusted to my
care, I feel bound by every obligation to use my authority to check this
odd disposition of yours toward extravagant enterprises. A day will come
when you will thank me. It is not, my dear Veronica, that I think there
is any harm in you; there is not. But a girl is soiled not only by evil
but by the proximity of evil, and a reputation for rashness may do
her as serious an injury as really reprehensible conduct. So do please
believe that in this matter I am acting for the best.”

He signed his name and reflected. Then he opened the study door and
called “Mollie!” and returned to assume an attitude of authority on the
hearthrug, before the blue flames and orange glow of the gas fire.

His sister appeared.

She was dressed in one of those complicated dresses that are all lace
and work and confused patternings of black and purple and cream about
the body, and she was in many ways a younger feminine version of the
same theme as himself. She had the same sharp nose--which, indeed, only
Ann Veronica, of all the family, had escaped. She carried herself well,
whereas her brother slouched, and there was a certain aristocratic
dignity about her that she had acquired through her long engagement to
a curate of family, a scion of the Wiltshire Edmondshaws. He had died
before they married, and when her brother became a widower she had
come to his assistance and taken over much of the care of his youngest
daughter. But from the first her rather old-fashioned conception of life
had jarred with the suburban atmosphere, the High School spirit and the
memories of the light and little Mrs. Stanley, whose family had been by
any reckoning inconsiderable--to use the kindliest term. Miss Stanley
had determined from the outset to have the warmest affection for her
youngest niece and to be a second mother in her life--a second and a
better one; but she had found much to battle with, and there was much in
herself that Ann Veronica failed to understand. She came in now with an
air of reserved solicitude.

Mr. Stanley pointed to the letter with a pipe he had drawn from his
jacket pocket. “What do you think of that?” he asked.

She took it up in her many-ringed hands and read it judicially. He
filled his pipe slowly.

“Yes,” she said at last, “it is firm and affectionate.”

“I could have said more.”

“You seem to have said just what had to be said. It seems to me exactly
what is wanted. She really must not go to that affair.”

She paused, and he waited for her to speak.

“I don’t think she quite sees the harm of those people or the sort of
life to which they would draw her,” she said. “They would spoil every
chance.”

“She has chances?” he said, helping her out.

“She is an extremely attractive girl,” she said; and added, “to some
people. Of course, one doesn’t like to talk about things until there are
things to talk about.”

“All the more reason why she shouldn’t get herself talked about.”

“That is exactly what I feel.”

Mr. Stanley took the letter and stood with it in his hand thoughtfully
for a time. “I’d give anything,” he remarked, “to see our little Vee
happily and comfortably married.”

He gave the note to the parlormaid the next morning in an inadvertent,
casual manner just as he was leaving the house to catch his London
train. When Ann Veronica got it she had at first a wild, fantastic idea
that it contained a tip.


Part 5


Ann Veronica’s resolve to have things out with her father was not
accomplished without difficulty.

He was not due from the City until about six, and so she went and played
Badminton with the Widgett girls until dinner-time. The atmosphere at
dinner was not propitious. Her aunt was blandly amiable above a certain
tremulous undertow, and talked as if to a caller about the alarming
spread of marigolds that summer at the end of the garden, a sort of
Yellow Peril to all the smaller hardy annuals, while her father brought
some papers to table and presented himself as preoccupied with them. “It
really seems as if we shall have to put down marigolds altogether next
year,” Aunt Molly repeated three times, “and do away with marguerites.
They seed beyond all reason.” Elizabeth, the parlormaid, kept coming in
to hand vegetables whenever there seemed a chance of Ann Veronica asking
for an interview. Directly dinner was over Mr. Stanley, having pretended
to linger to smoke, fled suddenly up-stairs to petrography, and when
Veronica tapped he answered through the locked door, “Go away, Vee! I’m
busy,” and made a lapidary’s wheel buzz loudly.

Breakfast, too, was an impossible occasion. He read the Times with an
unusually passionate intentness, and then declared suddenly for the
earlier of the two trains he used.

“I’ll come to the station,” said Ann Veronica. “I may as well come up by
this train.”

“I may have to run,” said her father, with an appeal to his watch.

“I’ll run, too,” she volunteered.

Instead of which they walked sharply....

“I say, daddy,” she began, and was suddenly short of breath.

“If it’s about that dance project,” he said, “it’s no good, Veronica.
I’ve made up my mind.”

“You’ll make me look a fool before all my friends.”

“You shouldn’t have made an engagement until you’d consulted your aunt.”

“I thought I was old enough,” she gasped, between laughter and crying.

Her father’s step quickened to a trot. “I won’t have you quarrelling and
crying in the Avenue,” he said. “Stop it!... If you’ve got anything
to say, you must say it to your aunt--”

“But look here, daddy!”

He flapped the Times at her with an imperious gesture.

“It’s settled. You’re not to go. You’re NOT to go.”

“But it’s about other things.”

“I don’t care. This isn’t the place.”

“Then may I come to the study to-night--after dinner?”

“I’m--BUSY!”

“It’s important. If I can’t talk anywhere else--I DO want an
understanding.”

Ahead of them walked a gentleman whom it was evident they must at their
present pace very speedily overtake. It was Ramage, the occupant of the
big house at the end of the Avenue. He had recently made Mr. Stanley’s
acquaintance in the train and shown him one or two trifling civilities.
He was an outside broker and the proprietor of a financial newspaper; he
had come up very rapidly in the last few years, and Mr. Stanley admired
and detested him in almost equal measure. It was intolerable to think
that he might overhear words and phrases. Mr. Stanley’s pace slackened.

“You’ve no right to badger me like this, Veronica,” he said. “I can’t
see what possible benefit can come of discussing things that are
settled. If you want advice, your aunt is the person. However, if you
must air your opinions--”

“To-night, then, daddy!”

He made an angry but conceivably an assenting noise, and then Ramage
glanced back and stopped, saluted elaborately, and waited for them to
come up. He was a square-faced man of nearly fifty, with iron-gray hair
a mobile, clean-shaven mouth and rather protuberant black eyes that now
scrutinized Ann Veronica. He dressed rather after the fashion of the
West End than the City, and affected a cultured urbanity that somehow
disconcerted and always annoyed Ann Veronica’s father extremely. He
did not play golf, but took his exercise on horseback, which was also
unsympathetic.

“Stuffy these trees make the Avenue,” said Mr. Stanley as they drew
alongside, to account for his own ruffled and heated expression. “They
ought to have been lopped in the spring.”

“There’s plenty of time,” said Ramage. “Is Miss Stanley coming up with
us?”

“I go second,” she said, “and change at Wimbledon.”

“We’ll all go second,” said Ramage, “if we may?”

Mr. Stanley wanted to object strongly, but as he could not immediately
think how to put it, he contented himself with a grunt, and the motion
was carried. “How’s Mrs. Ramage?” he asked.

“Very much as usual,” said Ramage. “She finds lying up so much very
irksome. But, you see, she HAS to lie up.”

The topic of his invalid wife bored him, and he turned at once to Ann
Veronica. “And where are YOU going?” he said. “Are you going on again
this winter with that scientific work of yours? It’s an instance of
heredity, I suppose.” For a moment Mr. Stanley almost liked Ramage.
“You’re a biologist, aren’t you?”

He began to talk of his own impressions of biology as a commonplace
magazine reader who had to get what he could from the monthly reviews,
and was glad to meet with any information from nearer the fountainhead.
In a little while he and she were talking quite easily and agreeably.
They went on talking in the train--it seemed to her father a slight want
of deference to him--and he listened and pretended to read the Times. He
was struck disagreeably by Ramage’s air of gallant consideration and Ann
Veronica’s self-possessed answers. These things did not harmonize with
his conception of the forthcoming (if unavoidable) interview. After
all, it came to him suddenly as a harsh discovery that she might be in
a sense regarded as grownup. He was a man who in all things classified
without nuance, and for him there were in the matter of age just two
feminine classes and no more--girls and women. The distinction lay
chiefly in the right to pat their heads. But here was a girl--she must
be a girl, since she was his daughter and pat-able--imitating the
woman quite remarkably and cleverly. He resumed his listening. She was
discussing one of those modern advanced plays with a remarkable, with an
extraordinary, confidence.

“His love-making,” she remarked, “struck me as unconvincing. He seemed
too noisy.”

The full significance of her words did not instantly appear to him. Then
it dawned. Good heavens! She was discussing love-making. For a time he
heard no more, and stared with stony eyes at a Book-War proclamation in
leaded type that filled half a column of the Times that day. Could she
understand what she was talking about? Luckily it was a second-class
carriage and the ordinary fellow-travellers were not there. Everybody,
he felt, must be listening behind their papers.

Of course, girls repeat phrases and opinions of which they cannot
possibly understand the meaning. But a middle-aged man like Ramage ought
to know better than to draw out a girl, the daughter of a friend and
neighbor....

Well, after all, he seemed to be turning the subject. “Broddick is a
heavy man,” he was saying, “and the main interest of the play was the
embezzlement.” Thank Heaven! Mr. Stanley allowed his paper to drop
a little, and scrutinized the hats and brows of their three
fellow-travellers.

They reached Wimbledon, and Ramage whipped out to hand Miss Stanley
to the platform as though she had been a duchess, and she descended as
though such attentions from middle-aged, but still gallant, merchants
were a matter of course. Then, as Ramage readjusted himself in a corner,
he remarked: “These young people shoot up, Stanley. It seems only
yesterday that she was running down the Avenue, all hair and legs.”

Mr. Stanley regarded him through his glasses with something approaching
animosity.

“Now she’s all hat and ideas,” he said, with an air of humor.

“She seems an unusually clever girl,” said Ramage.

Mr. Stanley regarded his neighbor’s clean-shaven face almost warily.
“I’m not sure whether we don’t rather overdo all this higher education,”
 he said, with an effect of conveying profound meanings.


Part 6


He became quite sure, by a sort of accumulation of reflection, as the
day wore on. He found his youngest daughter intrusive in his thoughts
all through the morning, and still more so in the afternoon. He saw her
young and graceful back as she descended from the carriage, severely
ignoring him, and recalled a glimpse he had of her face, bright and
serene, as his train ran out of Wimbledon. He recalled with exasperating
perplexity her clear, matter-of-fact tone as she talked about
love-making being unconvincing. He was really very proud of her, and
extraordinarily angry and resentful at the innocent and audacious
self-reliance that seemed to intimate her sense of absolute independence
of him, her absolute security without him. After all, she only LOOKED a
woman. She was rash and ignorant, absolutely inexperienced. Absolutely.
He began to think of speeches, very firm, explicit speeches, he would
make.

He lunched in the Legal Club in Chancery Lane, and met Ogilvy. Daughters
were in the air that day. Ogilvy was full of a client’s trouble in
that matter, a grave and even tragic trouble. He told some of the
particulars.

“Curious case,” said Ogilvy, buttering his bread and cutting it up in a
way he had. “Curious case--and sets one thinking.”

He resumed, after a mouthful: “Here is a girl of sixteen or seventeen,
seventeen and a half to be exact, running about, as one might say, in
London. Schoolgirl. Her family are solid West End people, Kensington
people. Father--dead. She goes out and comes home. Afterward goes on to
Oxford. Twenty-one, twenty-two. Why doesn’t she marry? Plenty of money
under her father’s will. Charming girl.”

He consumed Irish stew for some moments.

“Married already,” he said, with his mouth full. “Shopman.”

“Good God!” said Mr. Stanley.

“Good-looking rascal she met at Worthing. Very romantic and all that. He
fixed it.”

“But--”

“He left her alone. Pure romantic nonsense on her part. Sheer
calculation on his. Went up to Somerset House to examine the will before
he did it. Yes. Nice position.”

“She doesn’t care for him now?”

“Not a bit. What a girl of sixteen cares for is hair and a high color
and moonlight and a tenor voice. I suppose most of our daughters would
marry organ-grinders if they had a chance--at that age. My son wanted
to marry a woman of thirty in a tobacconist’s shop. Only a son’s another
story. We fixed that. Well, that’s the situation. My people don’t know
what to do. Can’t face a scandal. Can’t ask the gent to go abroad and
condone a bigamy. He misstated her age and address; but you can’t get
home on him for a thing like that.... There you are! Girl spoilt for
life. Makes one want to go back to the Oriental system!”

Mr. Stanley poured wine. “Damned Rascal!” he said. “Isn’t there a
brother to kick him?”

“Mere satisfaction,” reflected Ogilvy. “Mere sensuality. I rather think
they have kicked him, from the tone of some of the letters. Nice, of
course. But it doesn’t alter the situation.”

“It’s these Rascals,” said Mr. Stanley, and paused.

“Always has been,” said Ogilvy. “Our interest lies in heading them off.”

“There was a time when girls didn’t get these extravagant ideas.”

“Lydia Languish, for example. Anyhow, they didn’t run about so much.”

“Yes. That’s about the beginning. It’s these damned novels. All this
torrent of misleading, spurious stuff that pours from the press. These
sham ideals and advanced notions. Women who Dids, and all that kind of
thing....”

Ogilvy reflected. “This girl--she’s really a very charming, frank
person--had had her imagination fired, so she told me, by a school
performance of Romeo and Juliet.”

Mr. Stanley decided to treat that as irrelevant. “There ought to be a
Censorship of Books. We want it badly at the present time. Even WITH
the Censorship of Plays there’s hardly a decent thing to which a man can
take his wife and daughters, a creeping taint of suggestion everywhere.
What would it be without that safeguard?”

Ogilvy pursued his own topic. “I’m inclined to think, Stanley, myself
that as a matter of fact it was the expurgated Romeo and Juliet did the
mischief. If our young person hadn’t had the nurse part cut out, eh? She
might have known more and done less. I was curious about that. All they
left it was the moon and stars. And the balcony and ‘My Romeo!’”

“Shakespeare is altogether different from the modern stuff. Altogether
different. I’m not discussing Shakespeare. I don’t want to Bowdlerize
Shakespeare. I’m not that sort I quite agree. But this modern miasma--”

Mr. Stanley took mustard savagely.

“Well, we won’t go into Shakespeare,” said Ogilvy “What interests me
is that our young women nowadays are running about as free as air
practically, with registry offices and all sorts of accommodation round
the corner. Nothing to check their proceedings but a declining habit of
telling the truth and the limitations of their imaginations. And in that
respect they stir up one another. Not my affair, of course, but I think
we ought to teach them more or restrain them more. One or the other.
They’re too free for their innocence or too innocent for their freedom.
That’s my point. Are you going to have any apple-tart, Stanley? The
apple-tart’s been very good lately--very good!”



Part 7


At the end of dinner that evening Ann Veronica began: “Father!”

Her father looked at her over his glasses and spoke with grave
deliberation; “If there is anything you want to say to me,” he said,
“you must say it in the study. I am going to smoke a little here, and
then I shall go to the study. I don’t see what you can have to say. I
should have thought my note cleared up everything. There are some papers
I have to look through to-night--important papers.”

“I won’t keep you very long, daddy,” said Ann Veronica.

“I don’t see, Mollie,” he remarked, taking a cigar from the box on
the table as his sister and daughter rose, “why you and Vee shouldn’t
discuss this little affair--whatever it is--without bothering me.”

It was the first time this controversy had become triangular, for all
three of them were shy by habit.

He stopped in mid-sentence, and Ann Veronica opened the door for her
aunt. The air was thick with feelings. Her aunt went out of the room
with dignity and a rustle, and up-stairs to the fastness of her own
room. She agreed entirely with her brother. It distressed and confused
her that the girl should not come to her.

It seemed to show a want of affection, to be a deliberate and unmerited
disregard, to justify the reprisal of being hurt.

When Ann Veronica came into the study she found every evidence of a
carefully foreseen grouping about the gas fire. Both arm-chairs had been
moved a little so as to face each other on either side of the
fender, and in the circular glow of the green-shaded lamp there lay,
conspicuously waiting, a thick bundle of blue and white papers tied
with pink tape. Her father held some printed document in his hand,
and appeared not to observe her entry. “Sit down,” he said, and
perused--“perused” is the word for it--for some moments. Then he put
the paper by. “And what is it all about, Veronica?” he asked, with a
deliberate note of irony, looking at her a little quizzically over his
glasses.

Ann Veronica looked bright and a little elated, and she disregarded
her father’s invitation to be seated. She stood on the mat instead, and
looked down on him. “Look here, daddy,” she said, in a tone of great
reasonableness, “I MUST go to that dance, you know.”

Her father’s irony deepened. “Why?” he asked, suavely.

Her answer was not quite ready. “Well, because I don’t see any reason
why I shouldn’t.”

“You see I do.”

“Why shouldn’t I go?”

“It isn’t a suitable place; it isn’t a suitable gathering.”

“But, daddy, what do you know of the place and the gathering?”

“And it’s entirely out of order; it isn’t right, it isn’t correct;
it’s impossible for you to stay in an hotel in London--the idea is
preposterous. I can’t imagine what possessed you, Veronica.”

He put his head on one side, pulled down the corners of his mouth, and
looked at her over his glasses.

“But why is it preposterous?” asked Ann Veronica, and fiddled with a
pipe on the mantel.

“Surely!” he remarked, with an expression of worried appeal.

“You see, daddy, I don’t think it IS preposterous. That’s really what
I want to discuss. It comes to this--am I to be trusted to take care of
myself, or am I not?”

“To judge from this proposal of yours, I should say not.”

“I think I am.”

“As long as you remain under my roof--” he began, and paused.

“You are going to treat me as though I wasn’t. Well, I don’t think
that’s fair.”

“Your ideas of fairness--” he remarked, and discontinued that sentence.
“My dear girl,” he said, in a tone of patient reasonableness, “you are a
mere child. You know nothing of life, nothing of its dangers, nothing of
its possibilities. You think everything is harmless and simple, and so
forth. It isn’t. It isn’t. That’s where you go wrong. In some things,
in many things, you must trust to your elders, to those who know more of
life than you do. Your aunt and I have discussed all this matter. There
it is. You can’t go.”

The conversation hung for a moment. Ann Veronica tried to keep hold of
a complicated situation and not lose her head. She had turned round
sideways, so as to look down into the fire.

“You see, father,” she said, “it isn’t only this affair of the dance.
I want to go to that because it’s a new experience, because I think
it will be interesting and give me a view of things. You say I know
nothing. That’s probably true. But how am I to know of things?”

“Some things I hope you may never know,” he said.

“I’m not so sure. I want to know--just as much as I can.”

“Tut!” he said, fuming, and put out his hand to the papers in the pink
tape.

“Well, I do. It’s just that I want to say. I want to be a human being;
I want to learn about things and know about things, and not to be
protected as something too precious for life, cooped up in one narrow
little corner.”

“Cooped up!” he cried. “Did I stand in the way of your going to college?
Have I ever prevented you going about at any reasonable hour? You’ve got
a bicycle!”

“H’m!” said Ann Veronica, and then went on “I want to be taken
seriously. A girl--at my age--is grown-up. I want to go on with
my University work under proper conditions, now that I’ve done the
Intermediate. It isn’t as though I haven’t done well. I’ve never muffed
an exam yet. Roddy muffed two....”

Her father interrupted. “Now look here, Veronica, let us be plain with
each other. You are not going to that infidel Russell’s classes. You are
not going anywhere but to the Tredgold College. I’ve thought that out,
and you must make up your mind to it. All sorts of considerations come
in. While you live in my house you must follow my ideas. You are wrong
even about that man’s scientific position and his standard of work.
There are men in the Lowndean who laugh at him--simply laugh at him.
And I have seen work by his pupils myself that struck me as being--well,
next door to shameful. There’s stories, too, about his demonstrator,
Capes Something or other. The kind of man who isn’t content with his
science, and writes articles in the monthly reviews. Anyhow, there it
is: YOU ARE NOT GOING THERE.”

The girl received this intimation in silence, but the face that looked
down upon the gas fire took an expression of obstinacy that brought out
a hitherto latent resemblance between parent and child. When she spoke,
her lips twitched.

“Then I suppose when I have graduated I am to come home?”

“It seems the natural course--”

“And do nothing?”

“There are plenty of things a girl can find to do at home.”

“Until some one takes pity on me and marries me?”

He raised his eyebrows in mild appeal. His foot tapped impatiently, and
he took up the papers.

“Look here, father,” she said, with a change in her voice, “suppose I
won’t stand it?”

He regarded her as though this was a new idea.

“Suppose, for example, I go to this dance?”

“You won’t.”

“Well”--her breath failed her for a moment. “How would you prevent it?”
 she asked.

“But I have forbidden it!” he said, raising his voice.

“Yes, I know. But suppose I go?”

“Now, Veronica! No, no. This won’t do. Understand me! I forbid it. I
do not want to hear from you even the threat of disobedience.” He spoke
loudly. “The thing is forbidden!”

“I am ready to give up anything that you show to be wrong.”

“You will give up anything I wish you to give up.”

They stared at each other through a pause, and both faces were flushed
and obstinate.

She was trying by some wonderful, secret, and motionless gymnastics to
restrain her tears. But when she spoke her lips quivered, and they
came. “I mean to go to that dance!” she blubbered. “I mean to go to
that dance! I meant to reason with you, but you won’t reason. You’re
dogmatic.”

At the sight of her tears his expression changed to a mingling of
triumph and concern. He stood up, apparently intending to put an
arm about her, but she stepped back from him quickly. She produced a
handkerchief, and with one sweep of this and a simultaneous gulp had
abolished her fit of weeping. His voice now had lost its ironies.

“Now, Veronica,” he pleaded, “Veronica, this is most unreasonable. All
we do is for your good. Neither your aunt nor I have any other thought
but what is best for you.”

“Only you won’t let me live. Only you won’t let me exist!”

Mr. Stanley lost patience. He bullied frankly.

“What nonsense is this? What raving! My dear child, you DO live, you
DO exist! You have this home. You have friends, acquaintances, social
standing, brothers and sisters, every advantage! Instead of which, you
want to go to some mixed classes or other and cut up rabbits and dance
about at nights in wild costumes with casual art student friends and God
knows who. That--that isn’t living! You are beside yourself. You don’t
know what you ask nor what you say. You have neither reason nor logic.
I am sorry to seem to hurt you, but all I say is for your good. You
MUST not, you SHALL not go. On this I am resolved. I put my foot down
like--like adamant. And a time will come, Veronica, mark my words, a
time will come when you will bless me for my firmness to-night. It goes
to my heart to disappoint you, but this thing must not be.”

He sidled toward her, but she recoiled from him, leaving him in
possession of the hearth-rug.

“Well,” she said, “good-night, father.”

“What!” he asked; “not a kiss?”

She affected not to hear.

The door closed softly upon her. For a long time he remained standing
before the fire, staring at the situation. Then he sat down and filled
his pipe slowly and thoughtfully....

“I don’t see what else I could have said,” he remarked.



CHAPTER THE SECOND

ANN VERONICA GATHERS POINTS OF VIEW

Part 1


“Are you coming to the Fadden Dance, Ann Veronica?” asked Constance
Widgett.

Ann Veronica considered her answer. “I mean to,” she replied.

“You are making your dress?”

“Such as it is.”

They were in the elder Widgett girl’s bedroom; Hetty was laid up, she
said, with a sprained ankle, and a miscellaneous party was gossiping
away her tedium. It was a large, littered, self-forgetful apartment,
decorated with unframed charcoal sketches by various incipient masters;
and an open bookcase, surmounted by plaster casts and the half of a
human skull, displayed an odd miscellany of books--Shaw and Swinburne,
Tom Jones, Fabian Essays, Pope and Dumas, cheek by jowl. Constance
Widgett’s abundant copper-red hair was bent down over some dimly
remunerative work--stencilling in colors upon rough, white material--at
a kitchen table she had dragged up-stairs for the purpose, while on her
bed there was seated a slender lady of thirty or so in a dingy green
dress, whom Constance had introduced with a wave of her hand as Miss
Miniver. Miss Miniver looked out on the world through large emotional
blue eyes that were further magnified by the glasses she wore, and her
nose was pinched and pink, and her mouth was whimsically petulant. Her
glasses moved quickly as her glance travelled from face to face.
She seemed bursting with the desire to talk, and watching for her
opportunity. On her lapel was an ivory button, bearing the words “Votes
for Women.” Ann Veronica sat at the foot of the sufferer’s bed, while
Teddy Widgett, being something of an athlete, occupied the only
bed-room chair--a decadent piece, essentially a tripod and largely a
formality--and smoked cigarettes, and tried to conceal the fact that
he was looking all the time at Ann Veronica’s eyebrows. Teddy was the
hatless young man who had turned Ann Veronica aside from the Avenue two
days before. He was the junior of both his sisters, co-educated and
much broken in to feminine society. A bowl of roses, just brought by
Ann Veronica, adorned the communal dressing-table, and Ann Veronica was
particularly trim in preparation for a call she was to make with her
aunt later in the afternoon.

Ann Veronica decided to be more explicit. “I’ve been,” she said,
“forbidden to come.”

“Hul-LO!” said Hetty, turning her head on the pillow; and Teddy remarked
with profound emotion, “My God!”

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, “and that complicates the situation.”

“Auntie?” asked Constance, who was conversant with Ann Veronica’s
affairs.

“No! My father. It’s--it’s a serious prohibition.”

“Why?” asked Hetty.

“That’s the point. I asked him why, and he hadn’t a reason.”

“YOU ASKED YOUR FATHER FOR A REASON!” said Miss Miniver, with great
intensity.

“Yes. I tried to have it out with him, but he wouldn’t have it out.” Ann
Veronica reflected for an instant “That’s why I think I ought to come.”

“You asked your father for a reason!” Miss Miniver repeated.

“We always have things out with OUR father, poor dear!” said Hetty.
“He’s got almost to like it.”

“Men,” said Miss Miniver, “NEVER have a reason. Never! And they don’t
know it! They have no idea of it. It’s one of their worst traits, one of
their very worst.”

“But I say, Vee,” said Constance, “if you come and you are forbidden to
come there’ll be the deuce of a row.”

Ann Veronica was deciding for further confidences. Her situation
was perplexing her very much, and the Widgett atmosphere was lax and
sympathetic, and provocative of discussion. “It isn’t only the dance,”
 she said.

“There’s the classes,” said Constance, the well-informed.

“There’s the whole situation. Apparently I’m not to exist yet. I’m not
to study, I’m not to grow. I’ve got to stay at home and remain in a
state of suspended animation.”

“DUSTING!” said Miss Miniver, in a sepulchral voice.

“Until you marry, Vee,” said Hetty.

“Well, I don’t feel like standing it.”

“Thousands of women have married merely for freedom,” said Miss Miniver.
“Thousands! Ugh! And found it a worse slavery.”

“I suppose,” said Constance, stencilling away at bright pink petals,
“it’s our lot. But it’s very beastly.”

“What’s our lot?” asked her sister.

“Slavery! Downtroddenness! When I think of it I feel all over boot
marks--men’s boots. We hide it bravely, but so it is. Damn! I’ve
splashed.”

Miss Miniver’s manner became impressive. She addressed Ann Veronica
with an air of conveying great open secrets to her. “As things are at
present,” she said, “it is true. We live under man-made institutions,
and that is what they amount to. Every girl in the world practically,
except a few of us who teach or type-write, and then we’re underpaid and
sweated--it’s dreadful to think how we are sweated!” She had lost her
generalization, whatever it was. She hung for a moment, and then went
on, conclusively, “Until we have the vote that is how things WILL be.”

“I’m all for the vote,” said Teddy.

“I suppose a girl MUST be underpaid and sweated,” said Ann Veronica. “I
suppose there’s no way of getting a decent income--independently.”

“Women have practically NO economic freedom,” said Miss Miniver,
“because they have no political freedom. Men have seen to that. The one
profession, the one decent profession, I mean, for a woman--except the
stage--is teaching, and there we trample on one another. Everywhere
else--the law, medicine, the Stock Exchange--prejudice bars us.”

“There’s art,” said Ann Veronica, “and writing.”

“Every one hasn’t the Gift. Even there a woman never gets a fair chance.
Men are against her. Whatever she does is minimized. All the best
novels have been written by women, and yet see how men sneer at the lady
novelist still! There’s only one way to get on for a woman, and that is
to please men. That is what they think we are for!”

“We’re beasts,” said Teddy. “Beasts!”

But Miss Miniver took no notice of his admission.

“Of course,” said Miss Miniver--she went on in a regularly undulating
voice--“we DO please men. We have that gift. We can see round them and
behind them and through them, and most of us use that knowledge, in the
silent way we have, for our great ends. Not all of us, but some of us.
Too many. I wonder what men would say if we threw the mask aside--if
we really told them what WE thought of them, really showed them what WE
were.” A flush of excitement crept into her cheeks.

“Maternity,” she said, “has been our undoing.”

From that she opened out into a long, confused emphatic discourse on the
position of women, full of wonderful statements, while Constance worked
at her stencilling and Ann Veronica and Hetty listened, and Teddy
contributed sympathetic noises and consumed cheap cigarettes. As she
talked she made weak little gestures with her hands, and she thrust her
face forward from her bent shoulders; and she peered sometimes at Ann
Veronica and sometimes at a photograph of the Axenstrasse, near
Fluelen, that hung upon the wall. Ann Veronica watched her face, vaguely
sympathizing with her, vaguely disliking her physical insufficiency and
her convulsive movements, and the fine eyebrows were knit with a faint
perplexity. Essentially the talk was a mixture of fragments of sentences
heard, of passages read, or arguments indicated rather than stated, and
all of it was served in a sauce of strange enthusiasm, thin yet
intense. Ann Veronica had had some training at the Tredgold College in
disentangling threads from confused statements, and she had a curious
persuasion that in all this fluent muddle there was something--something
real, something that signified. But it was very hard to follow. She did
not understand the note of hostility to men that ran through it all, the
bitter vindictiveness that lit Miss Miniver’s cheeks and eyes, the
sense of some at last insupportable wrong slowly accumulated. She had no
inkling of that insupportable wrong.

“We are the species,” said Miss Miniver, “men are only incidents.
They give themselves airs, but so it is. In all the species of animals
the females are more important than the males; the males have to please
them. Look at the cock’s feathers, look at the competition there is
everywhere, except among humans. The stags and oxen and things all
have to fight for us, everywhere. Only in man is the male made the
most important. And that happens through our maternity; it’s our very
importance that degrades us.

“While we were minding the children they stole our rights and liberties.
The children made us slaves, and the men took advantage of it.
It’s--Mrs. Shalford says--the accidental conquering the essential.
Originally in the first animals there were no males, none at all. It
has been proved. Then they appear among the lower things”--she made
meticulous gestures to figure the scale of life; she seemed to be
holding up specimens, and peering through her glasses at them--“among
crustaceans and things, just as little creatures, ever so inferior to
the females. Mere hangers on. Things you would laugh at. And among human
beings, too, women to begin with were the rulers and leaders; they owned
all the property, they invented all the arts.

“The primitive government was the Matriarchate. The Matriarchate! The
Lords of Creation just ran about and did what they were told.”

“But is that really so?” said Ann Veronica.

“It has been proved,” said Miss Miniver, and added, “by American
professors.”

“But how did they prove it?”

“By science,” said Miss Miniver, and hurried on, putting out a
rhetorical hand that showed a slash of finger through its glove. “And
now, look at us! See what we have become. Toys! Delicate trifles! A sex
of invalids. It is we who have become the parasites and toys.”

It was, Ann Veronica felt, at once absurd and extraordinarily right.
Hetty, who had periods of lucid expression, put the thing for her
from her pillow. She charged boldly into the space of Miss Miniver’s
rhetorical pause.

“It isn’t quite that we’re toys. Nobody toys with me. Nobody regards
Constance or Vee as a delicate trifle.”

Teddy made some confused noise, a thoracic street row; some remark was
assassinated by a rival in his throat and buried hastily under a cough.

“They’d better not,” said Hetty. “The point is we’re not toys, toys
isn’t the word; we’re litter. We’re handfuls. We’re regarded as
inflammable litter that mustn’t be left about. We are the species, and
maternity is our game; that’s all right, but nobody wants that admitted
for fear we should all catch fire, and set about fulfilling the purpose
of our beings without waiting for further explanations. As if we didn’t
know! The practical trouble is our ages. They used to marry us off at
seventeen, rush us into things before we had time to protest. They don’t
now. Heaven knows why! They don’t marry most of us off now until high up
in the twenties. And the age gets higher. We have to hang about in the
interval. There’s a great gulf opened, and nobody’s got any plans what
to do with us. So the world is choked with waste and waiting daughters.
Hanging about! And they start thinking and asking questions, and begin
to be neither one thing nor the other. We’re partly human beings and
partly females in suspense.”

Miss Miniver followed with an expression of perplexity, her mouth shaped
to futile expositions. The Widgett method of thought puzzled her weakly
rhetorical mind. “There is no remedy, girls,” she began, breathlessly,
“except the Vote. Give us that--”

Ann Veronica came in with a certain disregard of Miss Miniver. “That’s
it,” she said. “They have no plans for us. They have no ideas what to do
with us.”

“Except,” said Constance, surveying her work with her head on one side,
“to keep the matches from the litter.”

“And they won’t let us make plans for ourselves.”

“We will,” said Miss Miniver, refusing to be suppressed, “if some of us
have to be killed to get it.” And she pressed her lips together in white
resolution and nodded, and she was manifestly full of that same passion
for conflict and self-sacrifice that has given the world martyrs since
the beginning of things. “I wish I could make every woman, every girl,
see this as clearly as I see it--just what the Vote means to us. Just
what it means....”



Part 2


As Ann Veronica went back along the Avenue to her aunt she became aware
of a light-footed pursuer running. Teddy overtook her, a little out of
breath, his innocent face flushed, his straw-colored hair disordered. He
was out of breath, and spoke in broken sentences.

“I say, Vee. Half a minute, Vee. It’s like this: You want freedom. Look
here. You know--if you want freedom. Just an idea of mine. You know
how those Russian students do? In Russia. Just a formal marriage. Mere
formality. Liberates the girl from parental control. See? You marry me.
Simply. No further responsibility whatever. Without hindrance--present
occupation. Why not? Quite willing. Get a license--just an idea of mine.
Doesn’t matter a bit to me. Do anything to please you, Vee. Anything.
Not fit to be dust on your boots. Still--there you are!”

He paused.

Ann Veronica’s desire to laugh unrestrainedly was checked by the
tremendous earnestness of his expression. “Awfully good of you, Teddy.”
 she said.

He nodded silently, too full for words.

“But I don’t see,” said Ann Veronica, “just how it fits the present
situation.”

“No! Well, I just suggested it. Threw it out. Of course, if at any
time--see reason--alter your opinion. Always at your service. No
offence, I hope. All right! I’m off. Due to play hockey. Jackson’s.
Horrid snorters! So long, Vee! Just suggested it. See? Nothing really.
Passing thought.”

“Teddy,” said Ann Veronica, “you’re a dear!”

“Oh, quite!” said Teddy, convulsively, and lifted an imaginary hat and
left her.



Part 3


The call Ann Veronica paid with her aunt that afternoon had at first
much the same relation to the Widgett conversation that a plaster statue
of Mr. Gladstone would have to a carelessly displayed interior on a
dissecting-room table. The Widgetts talked with a remarkable absence of
external coverings; the Palsworthys found all the meanings of life on
its surfaces. They seemed the most wrapped things in all Ann Veronica’s
wrappered world. The Widgett mental furniture was perhaps worn and
shabby, but there it was before you, undisguised, fading visibly in an
almost pitiless sunlight. Lady Palsworthy was the widow of a knight
who had won his spurs in the wholesale coal trade, she was of good
seventeenth-century attorney blood, a county family, and distantly
related to Aunt Mollie’s deceased curate. She was the social leader of
Morningside Park, and in her superficial and euphuistic way an extremely
kind and pleasant woman. With her lived a Mrs. Pramlay, a sister of
the Morningside Park doctor, and a very active and useful member of the
Committee of the Impoverished Gentlewomen’s Aid Society. Both ladies
were on easy and friendly terms with all that was best in Morningside
Park society; they had an afternoon once a month that was quite well
attended, they sometimes gave musical evenings, they dined out and gave
a finish to people’s dinners, they had a full-sized croquet lawn and
tennis beyond, and understood the art of bringing people together.
And they never talked of anything at all, never discussed, never even
encouraged gossip. They were just nice.

Ann Veronica found herself walking back down the Avenue that had just
been the scene of her first proposal beside her aunt, and speculating
for the first time in her life about that lady’s mental attitudes. Her
prevailing effect was one of quiet and complete assurance, as though she
knew all about everything, and was only restrained by her instinctive
delicacy from telling what she knew. But the restraint exercised by her
instinctive delicacy was very great; over and above coarse or sexual
matters it covered religion and politics and any mention of money
matters or crime, and Ann Veronica found herself wondering whether these
exclusions represented, after all, anything more than suppressions. Was
there anything at all in those locked rooms of her aunt’s mind? Were
they fully furnished and only a little dusty and cobwebby and in need of
an airing, or were they stark vacancy except, perhaps, for a cockroach
or so or the gnawing of a rat? What was the mental equivalent of a rat’s
gnawing? The image was going astray. But what would her aunt think of
Teddy’s recent off-hand suggestion of marriage? What would she think of
the Widgett conversation? Suppose she was to tell her aunt quietly
but firmly about the parasitic males of degraded crustacea. The girl
suppressed a chuckle that would have been inexplicable.

There came a wild rush of anthropological lore into her brain, a flare
of indecorous humor. It was one of the secret troubles of her mind, this
grotesque twist her ideas would sometimes take, as though they rebelled
and rioted. After all, she found herself reflecting, behind her aunt’s
complacent visage there was a past as lurid as any one’s--not, of
course, her aunt’s own personal past, which was apparently just that
curate and almost incredibly jejune, but an ancestral past with all
sorts of scandalous things in it: fire and slaughterings, exogamy,
marriage by capture, corroborees, cannibalism! Ancestresses with perhaps
dim anticipatory likenesses to her aunt, their hair less neatly done,
no doubt, their manners and gestures as yet undisciplined, but still
ancestresses in the direct line, must have danced through a brief and
stirring life in the woady buff. Was there no echo anywhere in Miss
Stanley’s pacified brain? Those empty rooms, if they were empty, were
the equivalents of astoundingly decorated predecessors. Perhaps it was
just as well there was no inherited memory.

Ann Veronica was by this time quite shocked at her own thoughts, and yet
they would go on with their freaks. Great vistas of history opened, and
she and her aunt were near reverting to the primitive and passionate and
entirely indecorous arboreal--were swinging from branches by the
arms, and really going on quite dreadfully--when their arrival at
the Palsworthys’ happily checked this play of fancy, and brought Ann
Veronica back to the exigencies of the wrappered life again.

Lady Palsworthy liked Ann Veronica because she was never awkward,
had steady eyes, and an almost invariable neatness and dignity in her
clothes. She seemed just as stiff and shy as a girl ought to be, Lady
Palsworthy thought, neither garrulous nor unready, and free from nearly
all the heavy aggressiveness, the overgrown, overblown quality, the
egotism and want of consideration of the typical modern girl. But then
Lady Palsworthy had never seen Ann Veronica running like the wind
at hockey. She had never seen her sitting on tables nor heard her
discussing theology, and had failed to observe that the graceful figure
was a natural one and not due to ably chosen stays. She took it for
granted Ann Veronica wore stays--mild stays, perhaps, but stays, and
thought no more of the matter. She had seen her really only at teas,
with the Stanley strain in her uppermost. There are so many girls
nowadays who are quite unpresentable at tea, with their untrimmed
laughs, their awful dispositions of their legs when they sit down, their
slangy disrespect; they no longer smoke, it is true, like the girls of
the eighties and nineties, nevertheless to a fine intelligence they have
the flavor of tobacco. They have no amenities, they scratch the
mellow surface of things almost as if they did it on purpose; and
Lady Palsworthy and Mrs. Pramlay lived for amenities and the mellowed
surfaces of things. Ann Veronica was one of the few young people--and
one must have young people just as one must have flowers--one could ask
to a little gathering without the risk of a painful discord. Then the
distant relationship to Miss Stanley gave them a slight but pleasant
sense of proprietorship in the girl. They had their little dreams about
her.

Mrs. Pramlay received them in the pretty chintz drawing-room, which
opened by French windows on the trim garden, with its croquet lawn, its
tennis-net in the middle distance, and its remote rose alley lined
with smart dahlias and flaming sunflowers. Her eye met Miss Stanley’s
understandingly, and she was if anything a trifle more affectionate in
her greeting to Ann Veronica. Then Ann Veronica passed on toward the
tea in the garden, which was dotted with the elite of Morningside Park
society, and there she was pounced upon by Lady Palsworthy and given tea
and led about. Across the lawn and hovering indecisively, Ann Veronica
saw and immediately affected not to see Mr. Manning, Lady Palsworthy’s
nephew, a tall young man of seven-and-thirty with a handsome,
thoughtful, impassive face, a full black mustache, and a certain heavy
luxuriousness of gesture. The party resolved itself for Ann Veronica
into a game in which she manoeuvred unostentatiously and finally
unsuccessfully to avoid talking alone with this gentleman.

Mr. Manning had shown on previous occasions that he found Ann Veronica
interesting and that he wished to interest her. He was a civil servant
of some standing, and after a previous conversation upon aesthetics of
a sententious, nebulous, and sympathetic character, he had sent her a
small volume, which he described as the fruits of his leisure and which
was as a matter of fact rather carefully finished verse. It dealt with
fine aspects of Mr. Manning’s feelings, and as Ann Veronica’s mind
was still largely engaged with fundamentals and found no pleasure in
metrical forms, she had not as yet cut its pages. So that as she saw him
she remarked to herself very faintly but definitely, “Oh, golly!” and
set up a campaign of avoidance that Mr. Manning at last broke down by
coming directly at her as she talked with the vicar’s aunt about some of
the details of the alleged smell of the new church lamps. He did not so
much cut into this conversation as loom over it, for he was a tall, if
rather studiously stooping, man.

The face that looked down upon Ann Veronica was full of amiable
intention. “Splendid you are looking to-day, Miss Stanley,” he said.
“How well and jolly you must be feeling.”

He beamed over the effect of this and shook hands with effusion, and
Lady Palsworthy suddenly appeared as his confederate and disentangled
the vicar’s aunt.

“I love this warm end of summer more than words can tell,” he said.
“I’ve tried to make words tell it. It’s no good. Mild, you know, and
boon. You want music.”

Ann Veronica agreed, and tried to make the manner of her assent cover a
possible knowledge of a probable poem.

“Splendid it must be to be a composer. Glorious! The Pastoral.
Beethoven; he’s the best of them. Don’t you think? Tum, tay, tum, tay.”

Ann Veronica did.

“What have you been doing since our last talk? Still cutting up
rabbits and probing into things? I’ve often thought of that talk of
ours--often.”

He did not appear to require any answer to his question.

“Often,” he repeated, a little heavily.

“Beautiful these autumn flowers are,” said Ann Veronica, in a wide,
uncomfortable pause.

“Do come and see the Michaelmas daisies at the end of the garden,” said
Mr. Manning, “they’re a dream.” And Ann Veronica found herself being
carried off to an isolation even remoter and more conspicuous than the
corner of the lawn, with the whole of the party aiding and abetting and
glancing at them. “Damn!” said Ann Veronica to herself, rousing herself
for a conflict.

Mr. Manning told her he loved beauty, and extorted a similar admission
from her; he then expatiated upon his own love of beauty. He said that
for him beauty justified life, that he could not imagine a good action
that was not a beautiful one nor any beautiful thing that could be
altogether bad. Ann Veronica hazarded an opinion that as a matter of
history some very beautiful people had, to a quite considerable extent,
been bad, but Mr. Manning questioned whether when they were bad they
were really beautiful or when they were beautiful bad. Ann Veronica
found her attention wandering a little as he told her that he was not
ashamed to feel almost slavish in the presence of really beautiful
people, and then they came to the Michaelmas daisies. They were really
very fine and abundant, with a blaze of perennial sunflowers behind
them.

“They make me want to shout,” said Mr. Manning, with a sweep of the arm.

“They’re very good this year,” said Ann Veronica, avoiding controversial
matter.

“Either I want to shout,” said Mr. Manning, “when I see beautiful
things, or else I want to weep.” He paused and looked at her, and said,
with a sudden drop into a confidential undertone, “Or else I want to
pray.”

“When is Michaelmas Day?” said Ann Veronica, a little abruptly.

“Heaven knows!” said Mr. Manning; and added, “the twenty-ninth.”

“I thought it was earlier,” said Ann Veronica. “Wasn’t Parliament to
reassemble?”

He put out his hand and leaned against a tree and crossed his legs.
“You’re not interested in politics?” he asked, almost with a note of
protest.

“Well, rather,” said Ann Veronica. “It seems--It’s interesting.”

“Do you think so? I find my interest in that sort of thing decline and
decline.”

“I’m curious. Perhaps because I don’t know. I suppose an intelligent
person OUGHT to be interested in political affairs. They concern us
all.”

“I wonder,” said Mr. Manning, with a baffling smile.

“I think they do. After all, they’re history in the making.”

“A sort of history,” said Mr. Manning; and repeated, “a sort of history.
But look at these glorious daisies!”

“But don’t you think political questions ARE important?”

“I don’t think they are this afternoon, and I don’t think they are to
you.”

Ann Veronica turned her back on the Michaelmas daisies, and faced toward
the house with an air of a duty completed.

“Just come to that seat now you are here, Miss Stanley, and look down
the other path; there’s a vista of just the common sort. Better even
than these.”

Ann Veronica walked as he indicated.

“You know I’m old-fashioned, Miss Stanley. I don’t think women need to
trouble about political questions.”

“I want a vote,” said Ann Veronica.

“Really!” said Mr. Manning, in an earnest voice, and waved his hand to
the alley of mauve and purple. “I wish you didn’t.”

“Why not?” She turned on him.

“It jars. It jars with all my ideas. Women to me are something so
serene, so fine, so feminine, and politics are so dusty, so sordid,
so wearisome and quarrelsome. It seems to me a woman’s duty to be
beautiful, to BE beautiful and to behave beautifully, and politics
are by their very nature ugly. You see, I--I am a woman worshipper.
I worshipped women long before I found any woman I might ever hope
to worship. Long ago. And--the idea of committees, of hustings, of
agenda-papers!”

“I don’t see why the responsibility of beauty should all be shifted on
to the women,” said Ann Veronica, suddenly remembering a part of Miss
Miniver’s discourse.

“It rests with them by the nature of things. Why should you who are
queens come down from your thrones? If you can afford it, WE can’t. We
can’t afford to turn our women, our Madonnas, our Saint Catherines, our
Mona Lisas, our goddesses and angels and fairy princesses, into a sort
of man. Womanhood is sacred to me. My politics in that matter wouldn’t
be to give women votes. I’m a Socialist, Miss Stanley.”

“WHAT?” said Ann Veronica, startled.

“A Socialist of the order of John Ruskin. Indeed I am! I would make this
country a collective monarchy, and all the girls and women in it should
be the Queen. They should never come into contact with politics or
economics--or any of those things. And we men would work for them and
serve them in loyal fealty.”

“That’s rather the theory now,” said Ann Veronica. “Only so many men
neglect their duties.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Manning, with an air of emerging from an elaborate
demonstration, “and so each of us must, under existing conditions, being
chivalrous indeed to all women, choose for himself his own particular
and worshipful queen.”

“So far as one can judge from the system in practice,” said Ann
Veronica, speaking in a loud, common-sense, detached tone, and beginning
to walk slowly but resolutely toward the lawn, “it doesn’t work.”

“Every one must be experimental,” said Mr. Manning, and glanced round
hastily for further horticultural points of interest in secluded
corners. None presented themselves to save him from that return.

“That’s all very well when one isn’t the material experimented upon,”
 Ann Veronica had remarked.

“Women would--they DO have far more power than they think, as
influences, as inspirations.”

Ann Veronica said nothing in answer to that.

“You say you want a vote,” said Mr. Manning, abruptly.

“I think I ought to have one.”

“Well, I have two,” said Mr. Manning--“one in Oxford University and one
in Kensington.” He caught up and went on with a sort of clumsiness: “Let
me present you with them and be your voter.”

There followed an instant’s pause, and then Ann Veronica had decided to
misunderstand.

“I want a vote for myself,” she said. “I don’t see why I should take it
second-hand. Though it’s very kind of you. And rather unscrupulous. Have
you ever voted, Mr. Manning? I suppose there’s a sort of place like a
ticket-office. And a ballot-box--” Her face assumed an expression of
intellectual conflict. “What is a ballot-box like, exactly?” she asked,
as though it was very important to her.

Mr. Manning regarded her thoughtfully for a moment and stroked his
mustache. “A ballot-box, you know,” he said, “is very largely just a
box.” He made quite a long pause, and went on, with a sigh: “You have a
voting paper given you--”

They emerged into the publicity of the lawn.

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, “yes,” to his explanation, and saw across
the lawn Lady Palsworthy talking to her aunt, and both of them staring
frankly across at her and Mr. Manning as they talked.



CHAPTER THE THIRD

THE MORNING OF THE CRISIS

Part 1

Two days after came the day of the Crisis, the day of the Fadden Dance.
It would have been a crisis anyhow, but it was complicated in Ann
Veronica’s mind by the fact that a letter lay on the breakfast-table
from Mr. Manning, and that her aunt focussed a brightly tactful
disregard upon this throughout the meal. Ann Veronica had come down
thinking of nothing in the world but her inflexible resolution to go to
the dance in the teeth of all opposition. She did not know Mr. Manning’s
handwriting, and opened his letter and read some lines before its import
appeared. Then for a time she forgot the Fadden affair altogether.
With a well-simulated unconcern and a heightened color she finished her
breakfast.

She was not obliged to go to the Tredgold College, because as yet the
College had not settled down for the session. She was supposed to be
reading at home, and after breakfast she strolled into the vegetable
garden, and having taken up a position upon the staging of a disused
greenhouse that had the double advantage of being hidden from the
windows of the house and secure from the sudden appearance of any one,
she resumed the reading of Mr. Manning’s letter.

Mr. Manning’s handwriting had an air of being clear without being easily
legible; it was large and rather roundish, with a lack of definition
about the letters and a disposition to treat the large ones as
liberal-minded people nowadays treat opinions, as all amounting to the
same thing really--a years-smoothed boyish rather than an adult hand.
And it filled seven sheets of notepaper, each written only on one side.


“MY DEAR MISS STANLEY,” it began,--“I hope you will forgive my
bothering you with a letter, but I have been thinking very much over our
conversation at Lady Palsworthy’s, and I feel there are things I want
to say to you so much that I cannot wait until we meet again. It is the
worst of talk under such social circumstances that it is always getting
cut off so soon as it is beginning; and I went home that afternoon
feeling I had said nothing--literally nothing--of the things I had meant
to say to you and that were coursing through my head. They were things I
had meant very much to talk to you about, so that I went home vexed and
disappointed, and only relieved myself a little by writing a few verses.
I wonder if you will mind very much when I tell you they were suggested
by you. You must forgive the poet’s license I take. Here is one verse.
The metrical irregularity is intentional, because I want, as it were, to
put you apart: to change the lilt and the mood altogether when I speak
of you.

     “‘A SONG OF LADIES AND MY LADY

     “‘Saintly white and a lily is Mary,
     Margaret’s violets, sweet and shy;
     Green and dewy is Nellie-bud fairy,
     Forget-me-nots live in Gwendolen’s eye.
     Annabel shines like a star in the darkness,
     Rosamund queens it a rose, deep rose;
     But the lady I love is like sunshine in April weather,
     She gleams and gladdens, she warms--and goes.’

“Crude, I admit. But let that verse tell my secret. All bad
verse--originally the epigram was Lang’s, I believe--is written in a
state of emotion.

“My dear Miss Stanley, when I talked to you the other afternoon of work
and politics and such-like things, my mind was all the time resenting it
beyond measure. There we were discussing whether you should have a vote,
and I remembered the last occasion we met it was about your prospects of
success in the medical profession or as a Government official such as a
number of women now are, and all the time my heart was crying out within
me, ‘Here is the Queen of your career.’ I wanted, as I have never wanted
before, to take you up, to make you mine, to carry you off and set you
apart from all the strain and turmoil of life. For nothing will ever
convince me that it is not the man’s share in life to shield, to
protect, to lead and toil and watch and battle with the world at large.
I want to be your knight, your servant, your protector, your--I dare
scarcely write the word--your husband. So I come suppliant. I am
five-and-thirty, and I have knocked about in the world and tasted the
quality of life. I had a hard fight to begin with to win my way into the
Upper Division--I was third on a list of forty-seven--and since then I
have found myself promoted almost yearly in a widening sphere of social
service. Before I met you I never met any one whom I felt I could
love, but you have discovered depths in my own nature I had scarcely
suspected. Except for a few early ebullitions of passion, natural to
a warm and romantic disposition, and leaving no harmful
after-effects--ebullitions that by the standards of the higher truth I
feel no one can justly cast a stone at, and of which I for one am by no
means ashamed--I come to you a pure and unencumbered man. I love you.
In addition to my public salary I have a certain private property and
further expectations through my aunt, so that I can offer you a life
of wide and generous refinement, travel, books, discussion, and easy
relations with a circle of clever and brilliant and thoughtful people
with whom my literary work has brought me into contact, and of which,
seeing me only as you have done alone in Morningside Park, you can have
no idea. I have a certain standing not only as a singer but as a critic,
and I belong to one of the most brilliant causerie dinner clubs of
the day, in which successful Bohemianism, politicians, men of affairs,
artists, sculptors, and cultivated noblemen generally, mingle together
in the easiest and most delightful intercourse. That is my real milieu,
and one that I am convinced you would not only adorn but delight in.

“I find it very hard to write this letter. There are so many things
I want to tell you, and they stand on such different levels, that
the effect is necessarily confusing and discordant, and I find myself
doubting if I am really giving you the thread of emotion that should run
through all this letter. For although I must confess it reads very much
like an application or a testimonial or some such thing as that, I can
assure you I am writing this in fear and trembling with a sinking heart.
My mind is full of ideas and images that I have been cherishing and
accumulating--dreams of travelling side by side, of lunching quietly
together in some jolly restaurant, of moonlight and music and all that
side of life, of seeing you dressed like a queen and shining in some
brilliant throng--mine; of your looking at flowers in some old-world
garden, our garden--there are splendid places to be got down in Surrey,
and a little runabout motor is quite within my means. You know they say,
as, indeed, I have just quoted already, that all bad poetry is written
in a state of emotion, but I have no doubt that this is true of bad
offers of marriage. I have often felt before that it is only when one
has nothing to say that one can write easy poetry. Witness Browning. And
how can I get into one brief letter the complex accumulated desires of
what is now, I find on reference to my diary, nearly sixteen months of
letting my mind run on you--ever since that jolly party at Surbiton,
where we raced and beat the other boat. You steered and I rowed stroke.
My very sentences stumble and give way. But I do not even care if I am
absurd. I am a resolute man, and hitherto when I have wanted a thing I
have got it; but I have never yet wanted anything in my life as I have
wanted you. It isn’t the same thing. I am afraid because I love you, so
that the mere thought of failure hurts. If I did not love you so much I
believe I could win you by sheer force of character, for people tell me
I am naturally of the dominating type. Most of my successes in life have
been made with a sort of reckless vigor.

“Well, I have said what I had to say, stumblingly and badly, and baldly.
But I am sick of tearing up letters and hopeless of getting what I have
to say better said. It would be easy enough for me to write an eloquent
letter about something else. Only I do not care to write about anything
else. Let me put the main question to you now that I could not put the
other afternoon. Will you marry me, Ann Veronica?

“Very sincerely yours,

“HUBERT MANNING.”


Ann Veronica read this letter through with grave, attentive eyes.

Her interest grew as she read, a certain distaste disappeared. Twice she
smiled, but not unkindly. Then she went back and mixed up the sheets in
a search for particular passages. Finally she fell into reflection.

“Odd!” she said. “I suppose I shall have to write an answer. It’s so
different from what one has been led to expect.”

She became aware of her aunt, through the panes of the greenhouse,
advancing with an air of serene unconsciousness from among the raspberry
canes.

“No you don’t!” said Ann Veronica, and walked out at a brisk and
business-like pace toward the house.

“I’m going for a long tramp, auntie,” she said.

“Alone, dear?”

“Yes, aunt. I’ve got a lot of things to think about.”

Miss Stanley reflected as Ann Veronica went toward the house. She
thought her niece very hard and very self-possessed and self-confident.
She ought to be softened and tender and confidential at this phase of
her life. She seemed to have no idea whatever of the emotional states
that were becoming to her age and position. Miss Stanley walked round
the garden thinking, and presently house and garden reverberated to Ann
Veronica’s slamming of the front door.

“I wonder!” said Miss Stanley.

For a long time she surveyed a row of towering holly-hocks, as though
they offered an explanation. Then she went in and up-stairs, hesitated
on the landing, and finally, a little breathless and with an air of
great dignity, opened the door and walked into Ann Veronica’s room. It
was a neat, efficient-looking room, with a writing-table placed with a
business-like regard to the window, and a bookcase surmounted by a
pig’s skull, a dissected frog in a sealed bottle, and a pile of
shiny, black-covered note-books. In the corner of the room were two
hockey-sticks and a tennis-racket, and upon the walls Ann Veronica,
by means of autotypes, had indicated her proclivities in art. But Miss
Stanley took no notice of these things. She walked straight across to
the wardrobe and opened it. There, hanging among Ann Veronica’s more
normal clothing, was a skimpy dress of red canvas, trimmed with cheap
and tawdry braid, and short--it could hardly reach below the knee. On
the same peg and evidently belonging to it was a black velvet Zouave
jacket. And then! a garment that was conceivably a secondary skirt.

Miss Stanley hesitated, and took first one and then another of the
constituents of this costume off its peg and surveyed it.

The third item she took with a trembling hand by its waistbelt. As she
raised it, its lower portion fell apart into two baggy crimson masses.

“TROUSERS!” she whispered.

Her eyes travelled about the room as if in appeal to the very chairs.

Tucked under the writing-table a pair of yellow and gold Turkish
slippers of a highly meretricious quality caught her eye. She walked
over to them still carrying the trousers in her hands, and stooped to
examine them. They were ingenious disguises of gilt paper destructively
gummed, it would seem, to Ann Veronicas’ best dancing-slippers.

Then she reverted to the trousers.

“How CAN I tell him?” whispered Miss Stanley.


Part 2


Ann Veronica carried a light but business-like walking-stick. She walked
with an easy quickness down the Avenue and through the proletarian
portion of Morningside Park, and crossing these fields came into a
pretty overhung lane that led toward Caddington and the Downs. And
then her pace slackened. She tucked her stick under her arm and re-read
Manning’s letter.

“Let me think,” said Ann Veronica. “I wish this hadn’t turned up to-day
of all days.”

She found it difficult to begin thinking, and indeed she was anything
but clear what it was she had to think about. Practically it was most
of the chief interests in life that she proposed to settle in this
pedestrian meditation. Primarily it was her own problem, and in
particular the answer she had to give to Mr. Manning’s letter, but in
order to get data for that she found that she, having a logical and
ordered mind, had to decide upon the general relations of men to women,
the objects and conditions of marriage and its bearing upon the
welfare of the race, the purpose of the race, the purpose, if any, of
everything....

“Frightful lot of things aren’t settled,” said Ann Veronica. In
addition, the Fadden Dance business, all out of proportion, occupied
the whole foreground of her thoughts and threw a color of rebellion
over everything. She kept thinking she was thinking about Mr. Manning’s
proposal of marriage and finding she was thinking of the dance.

For a time her efforts to achieve a comprehensive concentration were
dispersed by the passage of the village street of Caddington, the
passing of a goggled car-load of motorists, and the struggles of a
stable lad mounted on one recalcitrant horse and leading another. When
she got back to her questions again in the monotonous high-road that led
up the hill, she found the image of Mr. Manning central in her mind.
He stood there, large and dark, enunciating, in his clear voice from
beneath his large mustache, clear flat sentences, deliberately kindly.
He proposed, he wanted to possess her! He loved her.

Ann Veronica felt no repulsion at the prospect. That Mr. Manning loved
her presented itself to her bloodlessly, stilled from any imaginative
quiver or thrill of passion or disgust. The relationship seemed to have
almost as much to do with blood and body as a mortgage. It was something
that would create a mutual claim, a relationship. It was in another
world from that in which men will die for a kiss, and touching hands
lights fires that burn up lives--the world of romance, the world of
passionately beautiful things.

But that other world, in spite of her resolute exclusion of it, was
always looking round corners and peeping through chinks and crannies,
and rustling and raiding into the order in which she chose to live,
shining out of pictures at her, echoing in lyrics and music; it invaded
her dreams, it wrote up broken and enigmatical sentences upon the
passage walls of her mind. She was aware of it now as if it were a
voice shouting outside a house, shouting passionate verities in a hot
sunlight, a voice that cries while people talk insincerely in a darkened
room and pretend not to hear. Its shouting now did in some occult manner
convey a protest that Mr. Manning would on no account do, though he
was tall and dark and handsome and kind, and thirty-five and adequately
prosperous, and all that a husband should be. But there was, it
insisted, no mobility in his face, no movement, nothing about him that
warmed. If Ann Veronica could have put words to that song they
would have been, “Hot-blooded marriage or none!” but she was far too
indistinct in this matter to frame any words at all.

“I don’t love him,” said Ann Veronica, getting a gleam. “I don’t see
that his being a good sort matters. That really settles about that....
But it means no end of a row.”

For a time she sat on a rail before leaving the road for the downland
turf. “But I wish,” she said, “I had some idea what I was really up to.”

Her thoughts went into solution for a time, while she listened to a lark
singing.

“Marriage and mothering,” said Ann Veronica, with her mind crystallizing
out again as the lark dropped to the nest in the turf. “And all the rest
of it perhaps is a song.”



Part 3


Her mind got back to the Fadden Ball.

She meant to go, she meant to go, she meant to go. Nothing would stop
her, and she was prepared to face the consequences. Suppose her father
turned her out of doors! She did not care, she meant to go. She would
just walk out of the house and go....

She thought of her costume in some detail and with considerable
satisfaction, and particularly of a very jolly property dagger with
large glass jewels in the handle, that reposed in a drawer in her room.
She was to be a Corsair’s Bride. “Fancy stabbing a man for jealousy!”
 she thought. “You’d have to think how to get in between his bones.”

She thought of her father, and with an effort dismissed him from her
mind.

She tried to imagine the collective effect of the Fadden Ball; she had
never seen a fancy-dress gathering in her life. Mr. Manning came into
her thoughts again, an unexpected, tall, dark, self-contained presence
at the Fadden. One might suppose him turning up; he knew a lot of clever
people, and some of them might belong to the class. What would he come
as?

Presently she roused herself with a guilty start from the task of
dressing and re-dressing Mr. Manning in fancy costume, as though he
was a doll. She had tried him as a Crusader, in which guise he seemed
plausible but heavy--“There IS something heavy about him; I wonder if
it’s his mustache?”--and as a Hussar, which made him preposterous, and
as a Black Brunswicker, which was better, and as an Arab sheik. Also
she had tried him as a dragoman and as a gendarme, which seemed the most
suitable of all to his severely handsome, immobile profile. She felt
he would tell people the way, control traffic, and refuse admission
to public buildings with invincible correctness and the very finest
explicit feelings possible. For each costume she had devised a suitable
form of matrimonial refusal. “Oh, Lord!” she said, discovering what she
was up to, and dropped lightly from the fence upon the turf and went on
her way toward the crest.

“I shall never marry,” said Ann Veronica, resolutely; “I’m not the sort.
That’s why it’s so important I should take my own line now.”


Part 4


Ann Veronica’s ideas of marriage were limited and unsystematic. Her
teachers and mistresses had done their best to stamp her mind with an
ineradicable persuasion that it was tremendously important, and on no
account to be thought about. Her first intimations of marriage as a fact
of extreme significance in a woman’s life had come with the marriage of
Alice and the elopement of her second sister, Gwen.

These convulsions occurred when Ann Veronica was about twelve. There
was a gulf of eight years between her and the youngest of her brace of
sisters--an impassable gulf inhabited chaotically by two noisy brothers.
These sisters moved in a grown-up world inaccessible to Ann Veronica’s
sympathies, and to a large extent remote from her curiosity. She got
into rows through meddling with their shoes and tennis-rackets, and had
moments of carefully concealed admiration when she was privileged to see
them just before her bedtime, rather radiantly dressed in white or pink
or amber and prepared to go out with her mother. She thought Alice a bit
of a sneak, an opinion her brothers shared, and Gwen rather a snatch
at meals. She saw nothing of their love-making, and came home from her
boarding-school in a state of decently suppressed curiosity for Alice’s
wedding.

Her impressions of this cardinal ceremony were rich and confused,
complicated by a quite transitory passion that awakened no reciprocal
fire for a fat curly headed cousin in black velveteen and a lace
collar, who assisted as a page. She followed him about persistently, and
succeeded, after a brisk, unchivalrous struggle (in which he pinched and
asked her to “cheese it”), in kissing him among the raspberries behind
the greenhouse. Afterward her brother Roddy, also strange in velveteen,
feeling rather than knowing of this relationship, punched this Adonis’s
head.

A marriage in the house proved to be exciting but extremely
disorganizing. Everything seemed designed to unhinge the mind and
make the cat wretched. All the furniture was moved, all the meals were
disarranged, and everybody, Ann Veronica included, appeared in new,
bright costumes. She had to wear cream and a brown sash and a short
frock and her hair down, and Gwen cream and a brown sash and a long
skirt and her hair up. And her mother, looking unusually alert and
hectic, wore cream and brown also, made up in a more complicated manner.

Ann Veronica was much impressed by a mighty trying on and altering and
fussing about Alice’s “things”--Alice was being re-costumed from garret
to cellar, with a walking-dress and walking-boots to measure, and a
bride’s costume of the most ravishing description, and stockings and
such like beyond the dreams of avarice--and a constant and increasing
dripping into the house of irrelevant remarkable objects, such as--

Real lace bedspread;

Gilt travelling clock;

Ornamental pewter plaque;

Salad bowl (silver mounted) and servers;

Madgett’s “English Poets” (twelve volumes), bound purple morocco;

Etc., etc.

Through all this flutter of novelty there came and went a solicitous,
preoccupied, almost depressed figure. It was Doctor Ralph, formerly
the partner of Doctor Stickell in the Avenue, and now with a thriving
practice of his own in Wamblesmith. He had shaved his side-whiskers and
come over in flannels, but he was still indisputably the same person
who had attended Ann Veronica for the measles and when she swallowed
the fish-bone. But his role was altered, and he was now playing the
bridegroom in this remarkable drama. Alice was going to be Mrs. Ralph.
He came in apologetically; all the old “Well, and how ARE we?” note
gone; and once he asked Ann Veronica, almost furtively,

“How’s Alice getting on, Vee?” Finally, on the Day, he appeared like
his old professional self transfigured, in the most beautiful light gray
trousers Ann Veronica had ever seen and a new shiny silk hat with a most
becoming roll....

It was not simply that all the rooms were rearranged and everybody
dressed in unusual fashions, and all the routines of life abolished and
put away: people’s tempers and emotions also seemed strangely disturbed
and shifted about. Her father was distinctly irascible, and disposed
more than ever to hide away among the petrological things--the study was
turned out. At table he carved in a gloomy but resolute manner. On the
Day he had trumpet-like outbreaks of cordiality, varied by a watchful
preoccupation. Gwen and Alice were fantastically friendly, which seemed
to annoy him, and Mrs. Stanley was throughout enigmatical, with an
anxious eye on her husband and Alice.

There was a confused impression of livery carriages and whips with white
favors, people fussily wanting other people to get in before them,
and then the church. People sat in unusual pews, and a wide margin of
hassocky emptiness intervened between the ceremony and the walls.

Ann Veronica had a number of fragmentary impressions of Alice strangely
transfigured in bridal raiment. It seemed to make her sister downcast
beyond any precedent. The bridesmaids and pages got rather jumbled
in the aisle, and she had an effect of Alice’s white back and
sloping shoulders and veiled head receding toward the altar. In some
incomprehensible way that back view made her feel sorry for Alice. Also
she remembered very vividly the smell of orange blossom, and Alice,
drooping and spiritless, mumbling responses, facing Doctor Ralph, while
the Rev. Edward Bribble stood between them with an open book. Doctor
Ralph looked kind and large, and listened to Alice’s responses as though
he was listening to symptoms and thought that on the whole she was
progressing favorably.

And afterward her mother and Alice kissed long and clung to each other.
And Doctor Ralph stood by looking considerate. He and her father shook
hands manfully.

Ann Veronica had got quite interested in Mr. Bribble’s rendering of the
service--he had the sort of voice that brings out things--and was still
teeming with ideas about it when finally a wild outburst from the organ
made it clear that, whatever snivelling there might be down in the
chancel, that excellent wind instrument was, in its Mendelssohnian
way, as glad as ever it could be. “Pump, pump, per-um-pump, Pum, Pump,
Per-um....”

The wedding-breakfast was for Ann Veronica a spectacle of the unreal
consuming the real; she liked that part very well, until she was
carelessly served against her expressed wishes with mayonnaise. She
was caught by an uncle, whose opinion she valued, making faces at Roddy
because he had exulted at this.

Of the vast mass of these impressions Ann Veronica could make nothing
at the time; there they were--Fact! She stored them away in a mind
naturally retentive, as a squirrel stores away nuts, for further
digestion. Only one thing emerged with any reasonable clarity in her
mind at once, and that was that unless she was saved from drowning by
an unmarried man, in which case the ceremony is unavoidable, or totally
destitute of under-clothing, and so driven to get a trousseau, in which
hardship a trousseau would certainly be “ripping,” marriage was an
experience to be strenuously evaded.

When they were going home she asked her mother why she and Gwen and
Alice had cried.

“Ssh!” said her mother, and then added, “A little natural feeling,
dear.”

“But didn’t Alice want to marry Doctor Ralph?”

“Oh, ssh, Vee!” said her mother, with an evasion as patent as an
advertisement board. “I am sure she will be very happy indeed with
Doctor Ralph.”

But Ann Veronica was by no means sure of that until she went over
to Wamblesmith and saw her sister, very remote and domestic and
authoritative, in a becoming tea-gown, in command of Doctor Ralph’s
home. Doctor Ralph came in to tea and put his arm round Alice and kissed
her, and Alice called him “Squiggles,” and stood in the shelter of his
arms for a moment with an expression of satisfied proprietorship. She
HAD cried, Ann Veronica knew. There had been fusses and scenes dimly
apprehended through half-open doors. She had heard Alice talking and
crying at the same time, a painful noise. Perhaps marriage hurt. But now
it was all over, and Alice was getting on well. It reminded Ann Veronica
of having a tooth stopped.

And after that Alice became remoter than ever, and, after a time, ill.
Then she had a baby and became as old as any really grown-up person, or
older, and very dull. Then she and her husband went off to a Yorkshire
practice, and had four more babies, none of whom photographed well, and
so she passed beyond the sphere of Ann Veronica’s sympathies altogether.



Part 5


The Gwen affair happened when she was away at school at
Marticombe-on-Sea, a term before she went to the High School, and was
never very clear to her.

Her mother missed writing for a week, and then she wrote in an unusual
key. “My dear,” the letter ran, “I have to tell you that your sister
Gwen has offended your father very much. I hope you will always love
her, but I want you to remember she has offended your father and married
without his consent. Your father is very angry, and will not have her
name mentioned in his hearing. She has married some one he could not
approve of, and gone right away....”

When the next holidays came Ann Veronica’s mother was ill, and Gwen was
in the sick-room when Ann Veronica returned home. She was in one of her
old walking-dresses, her hair was done in an unfamiliar manner, she wore
a wedding-ring, and she looked as if she had been crying.

“Hello, Gwen!” said Ann Veronica, trying to put every one at their ease.
“Been and married?... What’s the name of the happy man?”

Gwen owned to “Fortescue.”

“Got a photograph of him or anything?” said Ann Veronica, after kissing
her mother.

Gwen made an inquiry, and, directed by Mrs. Stanley, produced a portrait
from its hiding-place in the jewel-drawer under the mirror. It presented
a clean-shaven face with a large Corinthian nose, hair tremendously
waving off the forehead and more chin and neck than is good for a man.

“LOOKS all right,” said Ann Veronica, regarding him with her head first
on one side and then on the other, and trying to be agreeable. “What’s
the objection?”

“I suppose she ought to know?” said Gwen to her mother, trying to alter
the key of the conversation.

“You see, Vee,” said Mrs. Stanley, “Mr. Fortescue is an actor, and your
father does not approve of the profession.”

“Oh!” said Ann Veronica. “I thought they made knights of actors?”

“They may of Hal some day,” said Gwen. “But it’s a long business.”

“I suppose this makes you an actress?” said Ann Veronica.

“I don’t know whether I shall go on,” said Gwen, a novel note of
languorous professionalism creeping into her voice. “The other women
don’t much like it if husband and wife work together, and I don’t think
Hal would like me to act away from him.”

Ann Veronica regarded her sister with a new respect, but the traditions
of family life are strong. “I don’t suppose you’ll be able to do it
much,” said Ann Veronica.

Later Gwen’s trouble weighed so heavily on Mrs. Stanley in her illness
that her husband consented to receive Mr. Fortescue in the drawing-room,
and actually shake hands with him in an entirely hopeless manner and
hope everything would turn out for the best.

The forgiveness and reconciliation was a cold and formal affair, and
afterwards her father went off gloomily to his study, and Mr. Fortescue
rambled round the garden with soft, propitiatory steps, the Corinthian
nose upraised and his hands behind his back, pausing to look long and
hard at the fruit-trees against the wall.

Ann Veronica watched him from the dining-room window, and after some
moments of maidenly hesitation rambled out into the garden in a reverse
direction to Mr. Fortescue’s steps, and encountered him with an air of
artless surprise.

“Hello!” said Ann Veronica, with arms akimbo and a careless, breathless
manner. “You Mr. Fortescue?”

“At your service. You Ann Veronica?”

“Rather! I say--did you marry Gwen?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

Mr. Fortescue raised his eyebrows and assumed a light-comedy expression.
“I suppose I fell in love with her, Ann Veronica.”

“Rum,” said Ann Veronica. “Have you got to keep her now?”

“To the best of my ability,” said Mr. Fortescue, with a bow.

“Have you much ability?” asked Ann Veronica.

Mr. Fortescue tried to act embarrassment in order to conceal its
reality, and Ann Veronica went on to ask a string of questions about
acting, and whether her sister would act, and was she beautiful enough
for it, and who would make her dresses, and so on.

As a matter of fact Mr. Fortescue had not much ability to keep her
sister, and a little while after her mother’s death Ann Veronica
met Gwen suddenly on the staircase coming from her father’s study,
shockingly dingy in dusty mourning and tearful and resentful, and after
that Gwen receded from the Morningside Park world, and not even the
begging letters and distressful communications that her father and aunt
received, but only a vague intimation of dreadfulness, a leakage of
incidental comment, flashes of paternal anger at “that blackguard,” came
to Ann Veronica’s ears.



Part 6


These were Ann Veronica’s leading cases in the question of marriage.
They were the only real marriages she had seen clearly. For the rest,
she derived her ideas of the married state from the observed behavior of
married women, which impressed her in Morningside Park as being tied and
dull and inelastic in comparison with the life of the young, and from a
remarkably various reading among books. As a net result she had come to
think of all married people much as one thinks of insects that have
lost their wings, and of her sisters as new hatched creatures who had
scarcely for a moment had wings. She evolved a dim image of herself
cooped up in a house under the benevolent shadow of Mr. Manning.
Who knows?--on the analogy of “Squiggles” she might come to call him
“Mangles!”

“I don’t think I can ever marry any one,” she said, and fell suddenly
into another set of considerations that perplexed her for a time. Had
romance to be banished from life?...

It was hard to part with romance, but she had never thirsted so keenly
to go on with her University work in her life as she did that day. She
had never felt so acutely the desire for free initiative, for a life
unhampered by others. At any cost! Her brothers had it practically--at
least they had it far more than it seemed likely she would unless she
exerted herself with quite exceptional vigor. Between her and the fair,
far prospect of freedom and self-development manoeuvred Mr. Manning, her
aunt and father, neighbors, customs, traditions, forces. They seemed to
her that morning to be all armed with nets and prepared to throw them
over her directly her movements became in any manner truly free.

She had a feeling as though something had dropped from her eyes, as
though she had just discovered herself for the first time--discovered
herself as a sleep-walker might do, abruptly among dangers, hindrances,
and perplexities, on the verge of a cardinal crisis.

The life of a girl presented itself to her as something happy and
heedless and unthinking, yet really guided and controlled by others, and
going on amidst unsuspected screens and concealments.

And in its way it was very well. Then suddenly with a rush came reality,
came “growing up”; a hasty imperative appeal for seriousness, for
supreme seriousness. The Ralphs and Mannings and Fortescues came down
upon the raw inexperience, upon the blinking ignorance of the newcomer;
and before her eyes were fairly open, before she knew what had
happened, a new set of guides and controls, a new set of obligations and
responsibilities and limitations, had replaced the old. “I want to be
a Person,” said Ann Veronica to the downs and the open sky; “I will not
have this happen to me, whatever else may happen in its place.”

Ann Veronica had three things very definitely settled by the time when,
a little after mid-day, she found herself perched up on a gate between a
bridle-path and a field that commanded the whole wide stretch of country
between Chalking and Waldersham. Firstly, she did not intend to marry at
all, and particularly she did not mean to marry Mr. Manning; secondly,
by some measure or other, she meant to go on with her studies, not at
the Tredgold Schools but at the Imperial College; and, thirdly, she was,
as an immediate and decisive act, a symbol of just exactly where she
stood, a declaration of free and adult initiative, going that night to
the Fadden Ball.

But the possible attitude of her father she had still to face. So far
she had the utmost difficulty in getting on to that vitally important
matter. The whole of that relationship persisted in remaining obscure.
What would happen when next morning she returned to Morningside Park?

He couldn’t turn her out of doors. But what he could do or might do she
could not imagine. She was not afraid of violence, but she was afraid of
something mean, some secondary kind of force. Suppose he stopped all her
allowance, made it imperative that she should either stay ineffectually
resentful at home or earn a living for herself at once.... It
appeared highly probable to her that he would stop her allowance.

What can a girl do?

Somewhere at this point Ann Veronica’s speculations were interrupted
and turned aside by the approach of a horse and rider. Mr. Ramage, that
iron-gray man of the world, appeared dressed in a bowler hat and a suit
of hard gray, astride of a black horse. He pulled rein at the sight of
her, saluted, and regarded her with his rather too protuberant eyes. The
girl’s gaze met his in interested inquiry.

“You’ve got my view,” he said, after a pensive second. “I always get off
here and lean over that rail for a bit. May I do so to-day?”

“It’s your gate,” she said, amiably; “you got it first. It’s for you to
say if I may sit on it.”

He slipped off the horse. “Let me introduce you to Caesar,” he said;
and she patted Caesar’s neck, and remarked how soft his nose was, and
secretly deplored the ugliness of equine teeth. Ramage tethered the
horse to the farther gate-post, and Caesar blew heavily and began to
investigate the hedge.

Ramage leaned over the gate at Ann Veronica’s side, and for a moment
there was silence.

He made some obvious comments on the wide view warming toward its
autumnal blaze that spread itself in hill and valley, wood and village,
below.

“It’s as broad as life,” said Mr. Ramage, regarding it and putting a
well-booted foot up on the bottom rail.



Part 7


“And what are you doing here, young lady,” he said, looking up at her
face, “wandering alone so far from home?”

“I like long walks,” said Ann Veronica, looking down on him.

“Solitary walks?”

“That’s the point of them. I think over all sorts of things.”

“Problems?”

“Sometimes quite difficult problems.”

“You’re lucky to live in an age when you can do so. Your mother,
for instance, couldn’t. She had to do her thinking at home--under
inspection.”

She looked down on him thoughtfully, and he let his admiration of her
free young poise show in his face.

“I suppose things have changed?” she said.

“Never was such an age of transition.”

She wondered what to. Mr. Ramage did not know. “Sufficient unto me is
the change thereof,” he said, with all the effect of an epigram.

“I must confess,” he said, “the New Woman and the New Girl intrigue me
profoundly. I am one of those people who are interested in women, more
interested than I am in anything else. I don’t conceal it. And the
change, the change of attitude! The way all the old clingingness
has been thrown aside is amazing. And all the old--the old trick of
shrinking up like a snail at a touch. If you had lived twenty years ago
you would have been called a Young Person, and it would have been your
chief duty in life not to know, never to have heard of, and never to
understand.”

“There’s quite enough still,” said Ann Veronica, smiling, “that one
doesn’t understand.”

“Quite. But your role would have been to go about saying, ‘I beg your
pardon’ in a reproving tone to things you understood quite well in your
heart and saw no harm in. That terrible Young Person! she’s vanished.
Lost, stolen, or strayed, the Young Person!... I hope we may never
find her again.”

He rejoiced over this emancipation. “While that lamb was about every man
of any spirit was regarded as a dangerous wolf. We wore invisible chains
and invisible blinkers. Now, you and I can gossip at a gate, and Honi
soit qui mal y pense. The change has given man one good thing he never
had before,” he said. “Girl friends. And I am coming to believe the best
as well as the most beautiful friends a man can have are girl friends.”

He paused, and went on, after a keen look at her:

“I had rather gossip to a really intelligent girl than to any man
alive.”

“I suppose we ARE more free than we were?” said Ann Veronica, keeping
the question general.

“Oh, there’s no doubt of it! Since the girls of the eighties broke
bounds and sailed away on bicycles--my young days go back to the very
beginnings of that--it’s been one triumphant relaxation.”

“Relaxation, perhaps. But are we any more free?”

“Well?”

“I mean we’ve long strings to tether us, but we are bound all the same.
A woman isn’t much freer--in reality.”

Mr. Ramage demurred.

“One runs about,” said Ann Veronica.

“Yes.”

“But it’s on condition one doesn’t do anything.”

“Do what?”

“Oh!--anything.”

He looked interrogation with a faint smile.

“It seems to me it comes to earning one’s living in the long run,” said
Ann Veronica, coloring faintly. “Until a girl can go away as a son does
and earn her independent income, she’s still on a string. It may be a
long string, long enough if you like to tangle up all sorts of people;
but there it is! If the paymaster pulls, home she must go. That’s what I
mean.”

Mr. Ramage admitted the force of that. He was a little impressed by
Ann Veronica’s metaphor of the string, which, indeed, she owed to Hetty
Widgett. “YOU wouldn’t like to be independent?” he asked, abruptly. “I
mean REALLY independent. On your own. It isn’t such fun as it seems.”

“Every one wants to be independent,” said Ann Veronica. “Every one. Man
or woman.”

“And you?”

“Rather!”

“I wonder why?”

“There’s no why. It’s just to feel--one owns one’s self.”

“Nobody does that,” said Ramage, and kept silence for a moment.

“But a boy--a boy goes out into the world and presently stands on his
own feet. He buys his own clothes, chooses his own company, makes his
own way of living.”

“You’d like to do that?”

“Exactly.”

“Would you like to be a boy?”

“I wonder! It’s out of the question, any way.”

Ramage reflected. “Why don’t you?”

“Well, it might mean rather a row.”

“I know--” said Ramage, with sympathy.

“And besides,” said Ann Veronica, sweeping that aspect aside, “what
could I do? A boy sails out into a trade or profession. But--it’s one
of the things I’ve just been thinking over. Suppose--suppose a girl
did want to start in life, start in life for herself--” She looked him
frankly in the eyes. “What ought she to do?”

“Suppose you--”

“Yes, suppose I--”

He felt that his advice was being asked. He became a little more
personal and intimate. “I wonder what you could do?” he said. “I should
think YOU could do all sorts of things....

“What ought you to do?” He began to produce his knowledge of the world
for her benefit, jerkily and allusively, and with a strong, rank flavor
of “savoir faire.” He took an optimist view of her chances. Ann Veronica
listened thoughtfully, with her eyes on the turf, and now and then she
asked a question or looked up to discuss a point. In the meanwhile,
as he talked, he scrutinized her face, ran his eyes over her careless,
gracious poise, wondered hard about her. He described her privately to
himself as a splendid girl. It was clear she wanted to get away from
home, that she was impatient to get away from home. Why? While the front
of his mind was busy warning her not to fall into the hopeless miseries
of underpaid teaching, and explaining his idea that for women of
initiative, quite as much as for men, the world of business had by far
the best chances, the back chambers of his brain were busy with the
problem of that “Why?”

His first idea as a man of the world was to explain her unrest by a
lover, some secret or forbidden or impossible lover. But he dismissed
that because then she would ask her lover and not him all these things.
Restlessness, then, was the trouble, simple restlessness: home bored
her. He could quite understand the daughter of Mr. Stanley being bored
and feeling limited. But was that enough? Dim, formless suspicions
of something more vital wandered about his mind. Was the young lady
impatient for experience? Was she adventurous? As a man of the world he
did not think it becoming to accept maidenly calm as anything more than
a mask. Warm life was behind that always, even if it slept. If it
was not an actual personal lover, it still might be the lover not yet
incarnate, not yet perhaps suspected....

He had diverged only a little from the truth when he said that his
chief interest in life was women. It wasn’t so much women as Woman that
engaged his mind. His was the Latin turn of thinking; he had fallen
in love at thirteen, and he was still capable--he prided himself--of
falling in love. His invalid wife and her money had been only the thin
thread that held his life together; beaded on that permanent relation
had been an inter-weaving series of other feminine experiences,
disturbing, absorbing, interesting, memorable affairs. Each one had
been different from the others, each had had a quality all its own, a
distinctive freshness, a distinctive beauty. He could not understand how
men could live ignoring this one predominant interest, this wonderful
research into personality and the possibilities of pleasing, these
complex, fascinating expeditions that began in interest and mounted to
the supremest, most passionate intimacy. All the rest of his existence
was subordinate to this pursuit; he lived for it, worked for it, kept
himself in training for it.

So while he talked to this girl of work and freedom, his slightly
protuberant eyes were noting the gracious balance of her limbs and body
across the gate, the fine lines of her chin and neck. Her grave fine
face, her warm clear complexion, had already aroused his curiosity as he
had gone to and fro in Morningside Park, and here suddenly he was
near to her and talking freely and intimately. He had found her in
a communicative mood, and he used the accumulated skill of years in
turning that to account.

She was pleased and a little flattered by his interest and sympathy. She
became eager to explain herself, to show herself in the right light. He
was manifestly exerting his mind for her, and she found herself fully
disposed to justify his interest.

She, perhaps, displayed herself rather consciously as a fine
person unduly limited. She even touched lightly on her father’s
unreasonableness.

“I wonder,” said Ramage, “that more girls don’t think as you do and want
to strike out in the world.”

And then he speculated. “I wonder if you will?”

“Let me say one thing,” he said. “If ever you do and I can help you
in any way, by advice or inquiry or recommendation--You see, I’m no
believer in feminine incapacity, but I do perceive there is such a thing
as feminine inexperience. As a sex you’re a little under-trained--in
affairs. I’d take it--forgive me if I seem a little urgent--as a sort of
proof of friendliness. I can imagine nothing more pleasant in life than
to help you, because I know it would pay to help you. There’s something
about you, a little flavor of Will, I suppose, that makes one feel--good
luck about you and success....”

And while he talked and watched her as he talked, she answered, and
behind her listening watched and thought about him. She liked the
animated eagerness of his manner.

His mind seemed to be a remarkably full one; his knowledge of detailed
reality came in just where her own mind was most weakly equipped.
Through all he said ran one quality that pleased her--the quality of a
man who feels that things can be done, that one need not wait for the
world to push one before one moved. Compared with her father and Mr.
Manning and the men in “fixed” positions generally that she knew,
Ramage, presented by himself, had a fine suggestion of freedom, of
power, of deliberate and sustained adventure....

She was particularly charmed by his theory of friendship. It was really
very jolly to talk to a man in this way--who saw the woman in her and
did not treat her as a child. She was inclined to think that perhaps
for a girl the converse of his method was the case; an older man, a
man beyond the range of anything “nonsensical,” was, perhaps, the most
interesting sort of friend one could meet. But in that reservation it
may be she went a little beyond the converse of his view....

They got on wonderfully well together. They talked for the better part
of an hour, and at last walked together to the junction of highroad
and the bridle-path. There, after protestations of friendliness and
helpfulness that were almost ardent, he mounted a little clumsily and
rode off at an amiable pace, looking his best, making a leg with
his riding gaiters, smiling and saluting, while Ann Veronica turned
northward and so came to Micklechesil. There, in a little tea and
sweet-stuff shop, she bought and consumed slowly and absent-mindedly the
insufficient nourishment that is natural to her sex on such occasions.



CHAPTER THE FOURTH

THE CRISIS


Part 1


We left Miss Stanley with Ann Veronica’s fancy dress in her hands and
her eyes directed to Ann Veronica’s pseudo-Turkish slippers.

When Mr. Stanley came home at a quarter to six--an earlier train by
fifteen minutes than he affected--his sister met him in the hall with
a hushed expression. “I’m so glad you’re here, Peter,” she said. “She
means to go.”

“Go!” he said. “Where?”

“To that ball.”

“What ball?” The question was rhetorical. He knew.

“I believe she’s dressing up-stairs--now.”

“Then tell her to undress, confound her!” The City had been thoroughly
annoying that day, and he was angry from the outset.

Miss Stanley reflected on this proposal for a moment.

“I don’t think she will,” she said.

“She must,” said Mr. Stanley, and went into his study. His sister
followed. “She can’t go now. She’ll have to wait for dinner,” he said,
uncomfortably.

“She’s going to have some sort of meal with the Widgetts down the
Avenue, and go up with them.

“She told you that?”

“Yes.”

“When?”

“At tea.”

“But why didn’t you prohibit once for all the whole thing? How dared she
tell you that?”

“Out of defiance. She just sat and told me that was her arrangement.
I’ve never seen her quite so sure of herself.”

“What did you say?”

“I said, ‘My dear Veronica! how can you think of such things?’”

“And then?”

“She had two more cups of tea and some cake, and told me of her walk.”

“She’ll meet somebody one of these days--walking about like that.”

“She didn’t say she’d met any one.”

“But didn’t you say some more about that ball?”

“I said everything I could say as soon as I realized she was trying to
avoid the topic. I said, ‘It is no use your telling me about this walk
and pretend I’ve been told about the ball, because you haven’t. Your
father has forbidden you to go!’”

“Well?”

“She said, ‘I hate being horrid to you and father, but I feel it my duty
to go to that ball!’”

“Felt it her duty!”

“‘Very well,’ I said, ‘then I wash my hands of the whole business. Your
disobedience be upon your own head.’”

“But that is flat rebellion!” said Mr. Stanley, standing on the
hearthrug with his back to the unlit gas-fire. “You ought at once--you
ought at once to have told her that. What duty does a girl owe to any
one before her father? Obedience to him, that is surely the first law.
What CAN she put before that?” His voice began to rise. “One would think
I had said nothing about the matter. One would think I had agreed to
her going. I suppose this is what she learns in her infernal London
colleges. I suppose this is the sort of damned rubbish--”

“Oh! Ssh, Peter!” cried Miss Stanley.

He stopped abruptly. In the pause a door could be heard opening and
closing on the landing up-stairs. Then light footsteps became audible,
descending the staircase with a certain deliberation and a faint rustle
of skirts.

“Tell her,” said Mr. Stanley, with an imperious gesture, “to come in
here.”



Part 2


Miss Stanley emerged from the study and stood watching Ann Veronica
descend.

The girl was flushed with excitement, bright-eyed, and braced for a
struggle; her aunt had never seen her looking so fine or so pretty.
Her fancy dress, save for the green-gray stockings, the pseudo-Turkish
slippers, and baggy silk trousered ends natural to a Corsair’s bride,
was hidden in a large black-silk-hooded opera-cloak. Beneath the hood
it was evident that her rebellious hair was bound up with red silk, and
fastened by some device in her ears (unless she had them pierced, which
was too dreadful a thing to suppose!) were long brass filigree earrings.

“I’m just off, aunt,” said Ann Veronica.

“Your father is in the study and wishes to speak to you.”

Ann Veronica hesitated, and then stood in the open doorway and regarded
her father’s stern presence. She spoke with an entirely false note of
cheerful off-handedness. “I’m just in time to say good-bye before I go,
father. I’m going up to London with the Widgetts to that ball.”

“Now look here, Ann Veronica,” said Mr. Stanley, “just a moment. You are
NOT going to that ball!”

Ann Veronica tried a less genial, more dignified note.

“I thought we had discussed that, father.”

“You are not going to that ball! You are not going out of this house in
that get-up!”

Ann Veronica tried yet more earnestly to treat him, as she would treat
any man, with an insistence upon her due of masculine respect. “You
see,” she said, very gently, “I AM going. I am sorry to seem to disobey
you, but I am. I wish”--she found she had embarked on a bad sentence--“I
wish we needn’t have quarrelled.”

She stopped abruptly, and turned about toward the front door. In a
moment he was beside her. “I don’t think you can have heard me, Vee,”
 he said, with intensely controlled fury. “I said you were”--he
shouted--“NOT TO GO!”

She made, and overdid, an immense effort to be a princess. She tossed
her head, and, having no further words, moved toward the door. Her
father intercepted her, and for a moment she and he struggled with their
hands upon the latch. A common rage flushed their faces. “Let go!” she
gasped at him, a blaze of anger.

“Veronica!” cried Miss Stanley, warningly, and, “Peter!”

For a moment they seemed on the verge of an altogether desperate
scuffle. Never for a moment had violence come between these two since
long ago he had, in spite of her mother’s protest in the background,
carried her kicking and squalling to the nursery for some forgotten
crime. With something near to horror they found themselves thus
confronted.

The door was fastened by a catch and a latch with an inside key, to
which at night a chain and two bolts were added. Carefully abstaining
from thrusting against each other, Ann Veronica and her father began an
absurdly desperate struggle, the one to open the door, the other to keep
it fastened. She seized the key, and he grasped her hand and squeezed
it roughly and painfully between the handle and the ward as she tried to
turn it. His grip twisted her wrist. She cried out with the pain of it.

A wild passion of shame and self-disgust swept over her. Her spirit
awoke in dismay to an affection in ruins, to the immense undignified
disaster that had come to them.

Abruptly she desisted, recoiled, and turned and fled up-stairs.

She made noises between weeping and laughter as she went. She gained her
room, and slammed her door and locked it as though she feared violence
and pursuit.

“Oh God!” she cried, “Oh God!” and flung aside her opera-cloak, and for
a time walked about the room--a Corsair’s bride at a crisis of emotion.
“Why can’t he reason with me,” she said, again and again, “instead of
doing this?”



Part 3


There presently came a phase in which she said: “I WON’T stand it even
now. I will go to-night.”

She went as far as her door, then turned to the window. She opened
this and scrambled out--a thing she had not done for five long years of
adolescence--upon the leaded space above the built-out bath-room on the
first floor. Once upon a time she and Roddy had descended thence by the
drain-pipe.

But things that a girl of sixteen may do in short skirts are not
things to be done by a young lady of twenty-one in fancy dress and
an opera-cloak, and just as she was coming unaided to an adequate
realization of this, she discovered Mr. Pragmar, the wholesale druggist,
who lived three gardens away, and who had been mowing his lawn to get
an appetite for dinner, standing in a fascinated attitude beside the
forgotten lawn-mower and watching her intently.

She found it extremely difficult to infuse an air of quiet correctitude
into her return through the window, and when she was safely inside she
waved clinched fists and executed a noiseless dance of rage.

When she reflected that Mr. Pragmar probably knew Mr. Ramage, and might
describe the affair to him, she cried “Oh!” with renewed vexation, and
repeated some steps of her dance in a new and more ecstatic measure.



Part 4


At eight that evening Miss Stanley tapped at Ann Veronica’s bedroom
door.

“I’ve brought you up some dinner, Vee,” she said.

Ann Veronica was lying on her bed in a darkling room staring at the
ceiling. She reflected before answering. She was frightfully hungry.
She had eaten little or no tea, and her mid-day meal had been worse than
nothing.

She got up and unlocked the door.

Her aunt did not object to capital punishment or war, or the industrial
system or casual wards, or flogging of criminals or the Congo Free
State, because none of these things really got hold of her imagination;
but she did object, she did not like, she could not bear to think of
people not having and enjoying their meals. It was her distinctive test
of an emotional state, its interference with a kindly normal digestion.
Any one very badly moved choked down a few mouthfuls; the symptom of
supreme distress was not to be able to touch a bit. So that the thought
of Ann Veronica up-stairs had been extremely painful for her through all
the silent dinner-time that night. As soon as dinner was over she went
into the kitchen and devoted herself to compiling a tray--not a tray
merely of half-cooled dinner things, but a specially prepared “nice”
 tray, suitable for tempting any one. With this she now entered.

Ann Veronica found herself in the presence of the most disconcerting
fact in human experience, the kindliness of people you believe to be
thoroughly wrong. She took the tray with both hands, gulped, and gave
way to tears.

Her aunt leaped unhappily to the thought of penitence.

“My dear,” she began, with an affectionate hand on Ann Veronica’s
shoulder, “I do SO wish you would realize how it grieves your father.”

Ann Veronica flung away from her hand, and the pepper-pot on the tray
upset, sending a puff of pepper into the air and instantly filling them
both with an intense desire to sneeze.

“I don’t think you see,” she replied, with tears on her cheeks, and her
brows knitting, “how it shames and, ah!--disgraces me--AH TISHU!”

She put down the tray with a concussion on her toilet-table.

“But, dear, think! He is your father. SHOOH!”

“That’s no reason,” said Ann Veronica, speaking through her handkerchief
and stopping abruptly.

Niece and aunt regarded each other for a moment over their
pocket-handkerchiefs with watery but antagonistic eyes, each far too
profoundly moved to see the absurdity of the position.

“I hope,” said Miss Stanley, with dignity, and turned doorward with
features in civil warfare. “Better state of mind,” she gasped....

Ann Veronica stood in the twilight room staring at the door that had
slammed upon her aunt, her pocket-handkerchief rolled tightly in her
hand. Her soul was full of the sense of disaster. She had made her first
fight for dignity and freedom as a grown-up and independent Person, and
this was how the universe had treated her. It had neither succumbed
to her nor wrathfully overwhelmed her. It had thrust her back with an
undignified scuffle, with vulgar comedy, with an unendurable, scornful
grin.

“By God!” said Ann Veronica for the first time in her life. “But I will!
I will!”



CHAPTER THE FIFTH

THE FLIGHT TO LONDON


Part 1


Ann Veronica had an impression that she did not sleep at all that night,
and at any rate she got through an immense amount of feverish feeling
and thinking.

What was she going to do?

One main idea possessed her: she must get away from home, she must
assert herself at once or perish. “Very well,” she would say, “then I
must go.” To remain, she felt, was to concede everything. And she would
have to go to-morrow. It was clear it must be to-morrow. If she delayed
a day she would delay two days, if she delayed two days she would delay
a week, and after a week things would be adjusted to submission forever.
“I’ll go,” she vowed to the night, “or I’ll die!” She made plans and
estimated means and resources. These and her general preparations had
perhaps a certain disproportion. She had a gold watch, a very good gold
watch that had been her mother’s, a pearl necklace that was also pretty
good, some unpretending rings, some silver bangles and a few other such
inferior trinkets, three pounds thirteen shillings unspent of her
dress and book allowance and a few good salable books. So equipped, she
proposed to set up a separate establishment in the world.

And then she would find work.

For most of a long and fluctuating night she was fairly confident that
she would find work; she knew herself to be strong, intelligent, and
capable by the standards of most of the girls she knew. She was not
quite clear how she should find it, but she felt she would. Then
she would write and tell her father what she had done, and put their
relationship on a new footing.

That was how she projected it, and in general terms it seemed plausible
and possible. But in between these wider phases of comparative
confidence were gaps of disconcerting doubt, when the universe was
presented as making sinister and threatening faces at her, defying her
to defy, preparing a humiliating and shameful overthrow. “I don’t care,”
 said Ann Veronica to the darkness; “I’ll fight it.”

She tried to plan her proceedings in detail. The only difficulties that
presented themselves clearly to her were the difficulties of getting
away from Morningside Park, and not the difficulties at the other end
of the journey. These were so outside her experience that she found it
possible to thrust them almost out of sight by saying they would be “all
right” in confident tones to herself. But still she knew they were not
right, and at times they became a horrible obsession as of something
waiting for her round the corner. She tried to imagine herself “getting
something,” to project herself as sitting down at a desk and writing,
or as returning after her work to some pleasantly equipped and free and
independent flat. For a time she furnished the flat. But even with
that furniture it remained extremely vague, the possible good and the
possible evil as well!

The possible evil! “I’ll go,” said Ann Veronica for the hundredth time.
“I’ll go. I don’t care WHAT happens.”

She awoke out of a doze, as though she had never been sleeping. It was
time to get up.

She sat on the edge of her bed and looked about her, at her room, at the
row of black-covered books and the pig’s skull. “I must take them,”
 she said, to help herself over her own incredulity. “How shall I get my
luggage out of the house?...”

The figure of her aunt, a little distant, a little propitiatory, behind
the coffee things, filled her with a sense of almost catastrophic
adventure. Perhaps she might never come back to that breakfast-room
again. Never! Perhaps some day, quite soon, she might regret that
breakfast-room. She helped herself to the remainder of the slightly
congealed bacon, and reverted to the problem of getting her luggage
out of the house. She decided to call in the help of Teddy Widgett, or,
failing him, of one of his sisters.



Part 2


She found the younger generation of the Widgetts engaged in languid
reminiscences, and all, as they expressed it, a “bit decayed.” Every
one became tremendously animated when they heard that Ann Veronica had
failed them because she had been, as she expressed it, “locked in.”

“My God!” said Teddy, more impressively than ever.

“But what are you going to do?” asked Hetty.

“What can one do?” asked Ann Veronica. “Would you stand it? I’m going to
clear out.”

“Clear out?” cried Hetty.

“Go to London,” said Ann Veronica.

She had expected sympathetic admiration, but instead the whole Widgett
family, except Teddy, expressed a common dismay. “But how can you?”
 asked Constance. “Who will you stop with?”

“I shall go on my own. Take a room!”

“I say!” said Constance. “But who’s going to pay for the room?”

“I’ve got money,” said Ann Veronica. “Anything is better than this--this
stifled life down here.” And seeing that Hetty and Constance were
obviously developing objections, she plunged at once into a demand for
help. “I’ve got nothing in the world to pack with except a toy size
portmanteau. Can you lend me some stuff?”

“You ARE a chap!” said Constance, and warmed only slowly from the idea
of dissuasion to the idea of help. But they did what they could for her.
They agreed to lend her their hold-all and a large, formless bag which
they called the communal trunk. And Teddy declared himself ready to go
to the ends of the earth for her, and carry her luggage all the way.

Hetty, looking out of the window--she always smoked her after-breakfast
cigarette at the window for the benefit of the less advanced section of
Morningside Park society--and trying not to raise objections, saw Miss
Stanley going down toward the shops.

“If you must go on with it,” said Hetty, “now’s your time.” And Ann
Veronica at once went back with the hold-all, trying not to hurry
indecently but to keep up her dignified air of being a wronged person
doing the right thing at a smart trot, to pack. Teddy went round by the
garden backs and dropped the bag over the fence. All this was exciting
and entertaining. Her aunt returned before the packing was done, and
Ann Veronica lunched with an uneasy sense of bag and hold-all packed
up-stairs and inadequately hidden from chance intruders by the valance
of the bed. She went down, flushed and light-hearted, to the Widgetts’
after lunch to make some final arrangements and then, as soon as her
aunt had retired to lie down for her usual digestive hour, took the
risk of the servants having the enterprise to report her proceedings
and carried her bag and hold-all to the garden gate, whence Teddy, in
a state of ecstatic service, bore them to the railway station. Then she
went up-stairs again, dressed herself carefully for town, put on her
most businesslike-looking hat, and with a wave of emotion she found it
hard to control, walked down to catch the 3.17 up-train.

Teddy handed her into the second-class compartment her season-ticket
warranted, and declared she was “simply splendid.” “If you want
anything,” he said, “or get into any trouble, wire me. I’d come back
from the ends of the earth. I’d do anything, Vee. It’s horrible to think
of you!”

“You’re an awful brick, Teddy!” she said.

“Who wouldn’t be for you?”

The train began to move. “You’re splendid!” said Teddy, with his hair
wild in the wind. “Good luck! Good luck!”

She waved from the window until the bend hid him.

She found herself alone in the train asking herself what she must do
next, and trying not to think of herself as cut off from home or any
refuge whatever from the world she had resolved to face. She felt
smaller and more adventurous even than she had expected to feel. “Let
me see,” she said to herself, trying to control a slight sinking of the
heart, “I am going to take a room in a lodging-house because that is
cheaper.... But perhaps I had better get a room in an hotel to-night
and look round....

“It’s bound to be all right,” she said.

But her heart kept on sinking. What hotel should she go to? If she told
a cabman to drive to an hotel, any hotel, what would he do--or say? He
might drive to something dreadfully expensive, and not at all the quiet
sort of thing she required. Finally she decided that even for an hotel
she must look round, and that meanwhile she would “book” her luggage at
Waterloo. She told the porter to take it to the booking-office, and it
was only after a disconcerting moment or so that she found she ought to
have directed him to go to the cloak-room. But that was soon put right,
and she walked out into London with a peculiar exaltation of mind, an
exaltation that partook of panic and defiance, but was chiefly a sense
of vast unexampled release.

She inhaled a deep breath of air--London air.



Part 3


She dismissed the first hotels she passed, she scarcely knew why, mainly
perhaps from the mere dread of entering them, and crossed Waterloo
Bridge at a leisurely pace. It was high afternoon, there was no great
throng of foot-passengers, and many an eye from omnibus and pavement
rested gratefully on her fresh, trim presence as she passed young
and erect, with the light of determination shining through the quiet
self-possession of her face. She was dressed as English girls do dress
for town, without either coquetry or harshness: her collarless blouse
confessed a pretty neck, her eyes were bright and steady, and her dark
hair waved loosely and graciously over her ears....

It seemed at first the most beautiful afternoon of all time to her,
and perhaps the thrill of her excitement did add a distinctive and
culminating keenness to the day. The river, the big buildings on the
north bank, Westminster, and St. Paul’s, were rich and wonderful with
the soft sunshine of London, the softest, the finest grained, the most
penetrating and least emphatic sunshine in the world. The very carts
and vans and cabs that Wellington Street poured out incessantly upon
the bridge seemed ripe and good in her eyes. A traffic of copious barges
slumbered over the face of the river-barges either altogether stagnant
or dreaming along in the wake of fussy tugs; and above circled, urbanely
voracious, the London seagulls. She had never been there before at that
hour, in that light, and it seemed to her as if she came to it all for
the first time. And this great mellow place, this London, now was hers,
to struggle with, to go where she pleased in, to overcome and live in.
“I am glad,” she told herself, “I came.”

She marked an hotel that seemed neither opulent nor odd in a little side
street opening on the Embankment, made up her mind with an effort, and,
returning by Hungerford Bridge to Waterloo, took a cab to this chosen
refuge with her two pieces of luggage. There was just a minute’s
hesitation before they gave her a room.

The young lady in the bureau said she would inquire, and Ann Veronica,
while she affected to read the appeal on a hospital collecting-box upon
the bureau counter, had a disagreeable sense of being surveyed from
behind by a small, whiskered gentleman in a frock-coat, who came out of
the inner office and into the hall among a number of equally observant
green porters to look at her and her bags. But the survey was
satisfactory, and she found herself presently in Room No. 47,
straightening her hat and waiting for her luggage to appear.

“All right so far,” she said to herself....



Part 4


But presently, as she sat on the one antimacassared red silk chair
and surveyed her hold-all and bag in that tidy, rather vacant, and
dehumanized apartment, with its empty wardrobe and desert toilet-table
and pictureless walls and stereotyped furnishings, a sudden blankness
came upon her as though she didn’t matter, and had been thrust away into
this impersonal corner, she and her gear....

She decided to go out into the London afternoon again and get something
to eat in an Aerated Bread shop or some such place, and perhaps find a
cheap room for herself. Of course that was what she had to do; she had
to find a cheap room for herself and work!

This Room No. 47 was no more than a sort of railway compartment on the
way to that.

How does one get work?

She walked along the Strand and across Trafalgar Square, and by the
Haymarket to Piccadilly, and so through dignified squares and palatial
alleys to Oxford Street; and her mind was divided between a speculative
treatment of employment on the one hand, and breezes--zephyr breezes--of
the keenest appreciation for London, on the other. The jolly part of it
was that for the first time in her life so far as London was concerned,
she was not going anywhere in particular; for the first time in her life
it seemed to her she was taking London in.

She tried to think how people get work. Ought she to walk into some
of these places and tell them what she could do? She hesitated at the
window of a shipping-office in Cockspur Street and at the Army and
Navy Stores, but decided that perhaps there would be some special and
customary hour, and that it would be better for her to find this out
before she made her attempt. And, besides, she didn’t just immediately
want to make her attempt.

She fell into a pleasant dream of positions and work. Behind every one
of these myriad fronts she passed there must be a career or careers. Her
ideas of women’s employment and a modern woman’s pose in life were based
largely on the figure of Vivie Warren in Mrs. Warren’s Profession. She
had seen Mrs. Warren’s Profession furtively with Hetty Widgett from the
gallery of a Stage Society performance one Monday afternoon. Most of
it had been incomprehensible to her, or comprehensible in a way that
checked further curiosity, but the figure of Vivien, hard, capable,
successful, and bullying, and ordering about a veritable Teddy in the
person of Frank Gardner, appealed to her. She saw herself in very much
Vivie’s position--managing something.

Her thoughts were deflected from Vivie Warren by the peculiar behavior
of a middle-aged gentleman in Piccadilly. He appeared suddenly from
the infinite in the neighborhood of the Burlington Arcade, crossing
the pavement toward her and with his eyes upon her. He seemed to her
indistinguishably about her father’s age. He wore a silk hat a little
tilted, and a morning coat buttoned round a tight, contained figure;
and a white slip gave a finish to his costume and endorsed the quiet
distinction of his tie. His face was a little flushed perhaps, and his
small, brown eyes were bright. He stopped on the curb-stone, not facing
her but as if he was on his way to cross the road, and spoke to her
suddenly over his shoulder.

“Whither away?” he said, very distinctly in a curiously wheedling voice.
Ann Veronica stared at his foolish, propitiatory smile, his hungry gaze,
through one moment of amazement, then stepped aside and went on her way
with a quickened step. But her mind was ruffled, and its mirror-like
surface of satisfaction was not easily restored.

Queer old gentleman!

The art of ignoring is one of the accomplishments of every well-bred
girl, so carefully instilled that at last she can even ignore her own
thoughts and her own knowledge. Ann Veronica could at the same time ask
herself what this queer old gentleman could have meant by speaking to
her, and know--know in general terms, at least--what that accosting
signified. About her, as she had gone day by day to and from the
Tredgold College, she had seen and not seen many an incidental aspect
of those sides of life about which girls are expected to know nothing,
aspects that were extraordinarily relevant to her own position and
outlook on the world, and yet by convention ineffably remote. For all
that she was of exceptional intellectual enterprise, she had never
yet considered these things with unaverted eyes. She had viewed them
askance, and without exchanging ideas with any one else in the world
about them.

She went on her way now no longer dreaming and appreciative, but
disturbed and unwillingly observant behind her mask of serene
contentment.

That delightful sense of free, unembarrassed movement was gone.

As she neared the bottom of the dip in Piccadilly she saw a woman
approaching her from the opposite direction--a tall woman who at the
first glance seemed altogether beautiful and fine. She came along with
the fluttering assurance of some tall ship. Then as she drew nearer
paint showed upon her face, and a harsh purpose behind the quiet
expression of her open countenance, and a sort of unreality in her
splendor betrayed itself for which Ann Veronica could not recall the
right word--a word, half understood, that lurked and hid in her mind,
the word “meretricious.” Behind this woman and a little to the side
of her, walked a man smartly dressed, with desire and appraisal in his
eyes. Something insisted that those two were mysteriously linked--that
the woman knew the man was there.

It was a second reminder that against her claim to go free and
untrammelled there was a case to be made, that after all it was true
that a girl does not go alone in the world unchallenged, nor ever has
gone freely alone in the world, that evil walks abroad and dangers, and
petty insults more irritating than dangers, lurk.

It was in the quiet streets and squares toward Oxford Street that
it first came into her head disagreeably that she herself was being
followed. She observed a man walking on the opposite side of the way and
looking toward her.

“Bother it all!” she swore. “Bother!” and decided that this was not so,
and would not look to right or left again.

Beyond the Circus Ann Veronica went into a British Tea-Table Company
shop to get some tea. And as she was yet waiting for her tea to come she
saw this man again. Either it was an unfortunate recovery of a trail, or
he had followed her from Mayfair. There was no mistaking his intentions
this time. He came down the shop looking for her quite obviously, and
took up a position on the other side against a mirror in which he was
able to regard her steadfastly.

Beneath the serene unconcern of Ann Veronica’s face was a boiling
tumult. She was furiously angry. She gazed with a quiet detachment
toward the window and the Oxford Street traffic, and in her heart she
was busy kicking this man to death. He HAD followed her! What had he
followed her for? He must have followed her all the way from beyond
Grosvenor Square.

He was a tall man and fair, with bluish eyes that were rather
protuberant, and long white hands of which he made a display. He had
removed his silk hat, and now sat looking at Ann Veronica over an
untouched cup of tea; he sat gloating upon her, trying to catch her eye.
Once, when he thought he had done so, he smiled an ingratiating smile.
He moved, after quiet intervals, with a quick little movement, and ever
and again stroked his small mustache and coughed a self-conscious cough.

“That he should be in the same world with me!” said Ann Veronica,
reduced to reading the list of good things the British Tea-Table Company
had priced for its patrons.

Heaven knows what dim and tawdry conceptions of passion and desire were
in that blond cranium, what romance-begotten dreams of intrigue and
adventure! but they sufficed, when presently Ann Veronica went out
into the darkling street again, to inspire a flitting, dogged pursuit,
idiotic, exasperating, indecent.

She had no idea what she should do. If she spoke to a policeman she did
not know what would ensue. Perhaps she would have to charge this man and
appear in a police-court next day.

She became angry with herself. She would not be driven in by this
persistent, sneaking aggression. She would ignore him. Surely she could
ignore him. She stopped abruptly, and looked in a flower-shop window. He
passed, and came loitering back and stood beside her, silently looking
into her face.

The afternoon had passed now into twilight. The shops were lighting
up into gigantic lanterns of color, the street lamps were glowing
into existence, and she had lost her way. She had lost her sense of
direction, and was among unfamiliar streets. She went on from street to
street, and all the glory of London had departed. Against the sinister,
the threatening, monstrous inhumanity of the limitless city, there was
nothing now but this supreme, ugly fact of a pursuit--the pursuit of the
undesired, persistent male.

For a second time Ann Veronica wanted to swear at the universe.

There were moments when she thought of turning upon this man and
talking to him. But there was something in his face at once stupid and
invincible that told her he would go on forcing himself upon her, that
he would esteem speech with her a great point gained. In the twilight
he had ceased to be a person one could tackle and shame; he had become
something more general, a something that crawled and sneaked toward her
and would not let her alone....

Then, when the tension was getting unendurable, and she was on the verge
of speaking to some casual passer-by and demanding help, her follower
vanished. For a time she could scarcely believe he was gone. He had. The
night had swallowed him up, but his work on her was done. She had lost
her nerve, and there was no more freedom in London for her that night.
She was glad to join in the stream of hurrying homeward workers that was
now welling out of a thousand places of employment, and to imitate their
driven, preoccupied haste. She had followed a bobbing white hat and gray
jacket until she reached the Euston Road corner of Tottenham Court Road,
and there, by the name on a bus and the cries of a conductor, she made
a guess of her way. And she did not merely affect to be driven--she felt
driven. She was afraid people would follow her, she was afraid of the
dark, open doorways she passed, and afraid of the blazes of light; she
was afraid to be alone, and she knew not what it was she feared.

It was past seven when she got back to her hotel. She thought then that
she had shaken off the man of the bulging blue eyes forever, but that
night she found he followed her into her dreams. He stalked her, he
stared at her, he craved her, he sidled slinking and propitiatory
and yet relentlessly toward her, until at last she awoke from the
suffocating nightmare nearness of his approach, and lay awake in fear
and horror listening to the unaccustomed sounds of the hotel.

She came very near that night to resolving that she would return to
her home next morning. But the morning brought courage again, and those
first intimations of horror vanished completely from her mind.



Part 5


She had sent her father a telegram from the East Strand post-office
worded thus:

     |   All   |    is     |   well   |   with   |   me    |
     |---------|-----------|----------|----------|---------|
     |   and   |   quite   |   safe   | Veronica |         |
     -----------------------------------------------------

and afterward she had dined a la carte upon a cutlet, and had then set
herself to write an answer to Mr. Manning’s proposal of marriage. But
she had found it very difficult.


“DEAR MR. MANNING,” she had begun. So far it had been plain sailing,
and it had seemed fairly evident to go on: “I find it very difficult to
answer your letter.”

But after that neither ideas nor phrases had come and she had fallen
thinking of the events of the day. She had decided that she would spend
the next morning answering advertisements in the papers that abounded in
the writing-room; and so, after half an hour’s perusal of back numbers
of the Sketch in the drawing-room, she had gone to bed.

She found next morning, when she came to this advertisement answering,
that it was more difficult than she had supposed. In the first place
there were not so many suitable advertisements as she had expected.
She sat down by the paper-rack with a general feeling of resemblance
to Vivie Warren, and looked through the Morning Post and Standard and
Telegraph, and afterward the half-penny sheets. The Morning Post was
hungry for governesses and nursery governesses, but held out no other
hopes; the Daily Telegraph that morning seemed eager only for skirt
hands. She went to a writing-desk and made some memoranda on a sheet of
note-paper, and then remembered that she had no address as yet to which
letters could be sent.

She decided to leave this matter until the morrow and devote the morning
to settling up with Mr. Manning. At the cost of quite a number of torn
drafts she succeeded in evolving this:

“DEAR MR. MANNING,--I find it very difficult to answer your letter.
I hope you won’t mind if I say first that I think it does me an
extraordinary honor that you should think of any one like myself
so highly and seriously, and, secondly, that I wish it had not been
written.”

She surveyed this sentence for some time before going on. “I wonder,”
 she said, “why one writes him sentences like that? It’ll have to go,”
 she decided, “I’ve written too many already.” She went on, with a
desperate attempt to be easy and colloquial:

“You see, we were rather good friends, I thought, and now perhaps it
will be difficult for us to get back to the old friendly footing. But if
that can possibly be done I want it to be done. You see, the plain fact
of the case is that I think I am too young and ignorant for marriage.
I have been thinking these things over lately, and it seems to me that
marriage for a girl is just the supremest thing in life. It isn’t just
one among a number of important things; for her it is the important
thing, and until she knows far more than I know of the facts of life,
how is she to undertake it? So please; if you will, forget that you
wrote that letter, and forgive this answer. I want you to think of me
just as if I was a man, and quite outside marriage altogether.

“I do hope you will be able to do this, because I value men friends.
I shall be very sorry if I cannot have you for a friend. I think that
there is no better friend for a girl than a man rather older than
herself.

“Perhaps by this time you will have heard of the step I have taken in
leaving my home. Very likely you will disapprove highly of what I have
done--I wonder? You may, perhaps, think I have done it just in a fit of
childish petulance because my father locked me in when I wanted to go
to a ball of which he did not approve. But really it is much more
than that. At Morningside Park I feel as though all my growing up was
presently to stop, as though I was being shut in from the light of life,
and, as they say in botany, etiolated. I was just like a sort of dummy
that does things as it is told--that is to say, as the strings are
pulled. I want to be a person by myself, and to pull my own strings. I
had rather have trouble and hardship like that than be taken care of by
others. I want to be myself. I wonder if a man can quite understand that
passionate feeling? It is quite a passionate feeling. So I am already
no longer the girl you knew at Morningside Park. I am a young person
seeking employment and freedom and self-development, just as in quite
our first talk of all I said I wanted to be.

“I do hope you will see how things are, and not be offended with me or
frightfully shocked and distressed by what I have done.

“Very sincerely yours,

“ANN VERONICA STANLEY.”



Part 6


In the afternoon she resumed her search for apartments. The intoxicating
sense of novelty had given place to a more business-like mood. She
drifted northward from the Strand, and came on some queer and dingy
quarters.

She had never imagined life was half so sinister as it looked to her in
the beginning of these investigations. She found herself again in the
presence of some element in life about which she had been trained not
to think, about which she was perhaps instinctively indisposed to think;
something which jarred, in spite of all her mental resistance, with
all her preconceptions of a clean and courageous girl walking out from
Morningside Park as one walks out of a cell into a free and spacious
world. One or two landladies refused her with an air of conscious virtue
that she found hard to explain. “We don’t let to ladies,” they said.

She drifted, via Theobald’s Road, obliquely toward the region about
Titchfield Street. Such apartments as she saw were either scandalously
dirty or unaccountably dear, or both. And some were adorned with
engravings that struck her as being more vulgar and undesirable than
anything she had ever seen in her life. Ann Veronica loved beautiful
things, and the beauty of undraped loveliness not least among them; but
these were pictures that did but insist coarsely upon the roundness of
women’s bodies. The windows of these rooms were obscured with draperies,
their floors a carpet patchwork; the china ornaments on their mantels
were of a class apart. After the first onset several of the women who
had apartments to let said she would not do for them, and in effect
dismissed her. This also struck her as odd.

About many of these houses hung a mysterious taint as of something
weakly and commonly and dustily evil; the women who negotiated the rooms
looked out through a friendly manner as though it was a mask, with hard,
defiant eyes. Then one old crone, short-sighted and shaky-handed, called
Ann Veronica “dearie,” and made some remark, obscure and slangy, of
which the spirit rather than the words penetrated to her understanding.

For a time she looked at no more apartments, and walked through
gaunt and ill-cleaned streets, through the sordid under side of life,
perplexed and troubled, ashamed of her previous obtuseness.

She had something of the feeling a Hindoo must experience who has been
into surroundings or touched something that offends his caste. She
passed people in the streets and regarded them with a quickening
apprehension, once or twice came girls dressed in slatternly finery,
going toward Regent Street from out these places. It did not occur to
her that they at least had found a way of earning a living, and had that
much economic superiority to herself. It did not occur to her that save
for some accidents of education and character they had souls like her
own.

For a time Ann Veronica went on her way gauging the quality of sordid
streets. At last, a little way to the northward of Euston Road, the
moral cloud seemed to lift, the moral atmosphere to change; clean blinds
appeared in the windows, clean doorsteps before the doors, a different
appeal in the neatly placed cards bearing the word

     --------------------------
     |        APARTMENTS        |
     --------------------------

in the clear bright windows. At last in a street near the Hampstead Road
she hit upon a room that had an exceptional quality of space and order,
and a tall woman with a kindly face to show it. “You’re a student,
perhaps?” said the tall woman. “At the Tredgold Women’s College,” said
Ann Veronica. She felt it would save explanations if she did not state
she had left her home and was looking for employment. The room was
papered with green, large-patterned paper that was at worst a trifle
dingy, and the arm-chair and the seats of the other chairs were covered
with the unusual brightness of a large-patterned chintz, which also
supplied the window-curtain. There was a round table covered, not with
the usual “tapestry” cover, but with a plain green cloth that went
passably with the wall-paper. In the recess beside the fireplace
were some open bookshelves. The carpet was a quiet drugget and not
excessively worn, and the bed in the corner was covered by a white
quilt. There were neither texts nor rubbish on the walls, but only a
stirring version of Belshazzar’s feast, a steel engraving in the early
Victorian manner that had some satisfactory blacks. And the woman who
showed this room was tall, with an understanding eye and the quiet
manner of the well-trained servant.

Ann Veronica brought her luggage in a cab from the hotel; she tipped the
hotel porter sixpence and overpaid the cabman eighteenpence, unpacked
some of her books and possessions, and so made the room a little
homelike, and then sat down in a by no means uncomfortable arm-chair
before the fire. She had arranged for a supper of tea, a boiled egg, and
some tinned peaches. She had discussed the general question of supplies
with the helpful landlady. “And now,” said Ann Veronica surveying her
apartment with an unprecedented sense of proprietorship, “what is the
next step?”

She spent the evening in writing--it was a little difficult--to her
father and--which was easier--to the Widgetts. She was greatly heartened
by doing this. The necessity of defending herself and assuming a
confident and secure tone did much to dispell the sense of being
exposed and indefensible in a huge dingy world that abounded in sinister
possibilities. She addressed her letters, meditated on them for a time,
and then took them out and posted them. Afterward she wanted to get her
letter to her father back in order to read it over again, and, if it
tallied with her general impression of it, re-write it.

He would know her address to-morrow. She reflected upon that with a
thrill of terror that was also, somehow, in some faint remote way,
gleeful.

“Dear old Daddy,” she said, “he’ll make a fearful fuss. Well, it had to
happen somewhen.... Somehow. I wonder what he’ll say?”



CHAPTER THE SIXTH

EXPOSTULATIONS


Part 1


The next morning opened calmly, and Ann Veronica sat in her own room,
her very own room, and consumed an egg and marmalade, and read the
advertisements in the Daily Telegraph. Then began expostulations,
preluded by a telegram and headed by her aunt. The telegram reminded
Ann Veronica that she had no place for interviews except her
bed-sitting-room, and she sought her landlady and negotiated hastily for
the use of the ground floor parlor, which very fortunately was vacant.
She explained she was expecting an important interview, and asked that
her visitor should be duly shown in. Her aunt arrived about half-past
ten, in black and with an unusually thick spotted veil. She raised this
with the air of a conspirator unmasking, and displayed a tear-flushed
face. For a moment she remained silent.

“My dear,” she said, when she could get her breath, “you must come home
at once.”

Ann Veronica closed the door quite softly and stood still.

“This has almost killed your father.... After Gwen!”

“I sent a telegram.”

“He cares so much for you. He did so care for you.”

“I sent a telegram to say I was all right.”

“All right! And I never dreamed anything of the sort was going on. I
had no idea!” She sat down abruptly and threw her wrists limply upon the
table. “Oh, Veronica!” she said, “to leave your home!”

She had been weeping. She was weeping now. Ann Veronica was overcome by
this amount of emotion.

“Why did you do it?” her aunt urged. “Why could you not confide in us?”

“Do what?” said Ann Veronica.

“What you have done.”

“But what have I done?”

“Elope! Go off in this way. We had no idea. We had such a pride in
you, such hope in you. I had no idea you were not the happiest girl.
Everything I could do! Your father sat up all night. Until at last I
persuaded him to go to bed. He wanted to put on his overcoat and come
after you and look for you--in London. We made sure it was just like
Gwen. Only Gwen left a letter on the pincushion. You didn’t even do that
Vee; not even that.”

“I sent a telegram, aunt,” said Ann Veronica.

“Like a stab. You didn’t even put the twelve words.”

“I said I was all right.”

“Gwen said she was happy. Before that came your father didn’t even
know you were gone. He was just getting cross about your being late for
dinner--you know his way--when it came. He opened it--just off-hand, and
then when he saw what it was he hit at the table and sent his soup spoon
flying and splashing on to the tablecloth. ‘My God!’ he said, ‘I’ll go
after them and kill him. I’ll go after them and kill him.’ For the
moment I thought it was a telegram from Gwen.”

“But what did father imagine?”

“Of course he imagined! Any one would! ‘What has happened, Peter?’ I
asked. He was standing up with the telegram crumpled in his hand. He
used a most awful word! Then he said, ‘It’s Ann Veronica gone to join
her sister!’ ‘Gone!’ I said. ‘Gone!’ he said. ‘Read that,’ and threw the
telegram at me, so that it went into the tureen. He swore when I tried
to get it out with the ladle, and told me what it said. Then he sat
down again in a chair and said that people who wrote novels ought to be
strung up. It was as much as I could do to prevent him flying out of the
house there and then and coming after you. Never since I was a girl have
I seen your father so moved. ‘Oh! little Vee!’ he cried, ‘little Vee!’
and put his face between his hands and sat still for a long time before
he broke out again.”

Ann Veronica had remained standing while her aunt spoke.

“Do you mean, aunt,” she asked, “that my father thought I had gone
off--with some man?”

“What else COULD he think? Would any one DREAM you would be so mad as to
go off alone?”

“After--after what had happened the night before?”

“Oh, why raise up old scores? If you could see him this morning, his
poor face as white as a sheet and all cut about with shaving! He was
for coming up by the very first train and looking for you, but I said to
him, ‘Wait for the letters,’ and there, sure enough, was yours. He could
hardly open the envelope, he trembled so. Then he threw the letter at
me. ‘Go and fetch her home,’ he said; ‘it isn’t what we thought! It’s
just a practical joke of hers.’ And with that he went off to the City,
stern and silent, leaving his bacon on his plate--a great slice of bacon
hardly touched. No breakfast, he’s had no dinner, hardly a mouthful of
soup--since yesterday at tea.”

She stopped. Aunt and niece regarded each other silently.

“You must come home to him at once,” said Miss Stanley.

Ann Veronica looked down at her fingers on the claret-colored
table-cloth. Her aunt had summoned up an altogether too vivid picture
of her father as the masterful man, overbearing, emphatic, sentimental,
noisy, aimless. Why on earth couldn’t he leave her to grow in her own
way? Her pride rose at the bare thought of return.

“I don’t think I CAN do that,” she said. She looked up and said, a
little breathlessly, “I’m sorry, aunt, but I don’t think I can.”


Part 2


Then it was the expostulations really began.

From first to last, on this occasion, her aunt expostulated for about
two hours. “But, my dear,” she began, “it is Impossible! It is quite out
of the Question. You simply can’t.” And to that, through vast rhetorical
meanderings, she clung. It reached her only slowly that Ann Veronica was
standing to her resolution. “How will you live?” she appealed. “Think
of what people will say!” That became a refrain. “Think of what Lady
Palsworthy will say! Think of what”--So-and-so--“will say! What are we
to tell people?

“Besides, what am I to tell your father?”

At first it had not been at all clear to Ann Veronica that she would
refuse to return home; she had had some dream of a capitulation that
should leave her an enlarged and defined freedom, but as her aunt put
this aspect and that of her flight to her, as she wandered illogically
and inconsistently from one urgent consideration to another, as she
mingled assurances and aspects and emotions, it became clearer and
clearer to the girl that there could be little or no change in the
position of things if she returned. “And what will Mr. Manning think?”
 said her aunt.

“I don’t care what any one thinks,” said Ann Veronica.

“I can’t imagine what has come over you,” said her aunt. “I can’t
conceive what you want. You foolish girl!”

Ann Veronica took that in silence. At the back of her mind, dim and yet
disconcerting, was the perception that she herself did not know what she
wanted. And yet she knew it was not fair to call her a foolish girl.

“Don’t you care for Mr. Manning?” said her aunt.

“I don’t see what he has to do with my coming to London?”

“He--he worships the ground you tread on. You don’t deserve it, but he
does. Or at least he did the day before yesterday. And here you are!”

Her aunt opened all the fingers of her gloved hand in a rhetorical
gesture. “It seems to me all madness--madness! Just because your
father--wouldn’t let you disobey him!”



Part 3


In the afternoon the task of expostulation was taken up by Mr. Stanley
in person. Her father’s ideas of expostulation were a little harsh and
forcible, and over the claret-colored table-cloth and under the gas
chandelier, with his hat and umbrella between them like the mace in
Parliament, he and his daughter contrived to have a violent quarrel. She
had intended to be quietly dignified, but he was in a smouldering rage
from the beginning, and began by assuming, which alone was more than
flesh and blood could stand, that the insurrection was over and that she
was coming home submissively. In his desire to be emphatic and to avenge
himself for his over-night distresses, he speedily became brutal, more
brutal than she had ever known him before.

“A nice time of anxiety you’ve given me, young lady,” he said, as he
entered the room. “I hope you’re satisfied.”

She was frightened--his anger always did frighten her--and in her
resolve to conceal her fright she carried a queen-like dignity to what
she felt even at the time was a preposterous pitch. She said she hoped
she had not distressed him by the course she had felt obliged to take,
and he told her not to be a fool. She tried to keep her side up by
declaring that he had put her into an impossible position, and he
replied by shouting, “Nonsense! Nonsense! Any father in my place would
have done what I did.”

Then he went on to say: “Well, you’ve had your little adventure, and I
hope now you’ve had enough of it. So go up-stairs and get your things
together while I look out for a hansom.”

To which the only possible reply seemed to be, “I’m not coming home.”

“Not coming home!”

“No!” And, in spite of her resolve to be a Person, Ann Veronica began
to weep with terror at herself. Apparently she was always doomed to weep
when she talked to her father. But he was always forcing her to say and
do such unexpectedly conclusive things. She feared he might take her
tears as a sign of weakness. So she said: “I won’t come home. I’d rather
starve!”

For a moment the conversation hung upon that declaration. Then Mr.
Stanley, putting his hands on the table in the manner rather of a
barrister than a solicitor, and regarding her balefully through his
glasses with quite undisguised animosity, asked, “And may I presume to
inquire, then, what you mean to do?--how do you propose to live?”

“I shall live,” sobbed Ann Veronica. “You needn’t be anxious about that!
I shall contrive to live.”

“But I AM anxious,” said Mr. Stanley, “I am anxious. Do you think it’s
nothing to me to have my daughter running about London looking for odd
jobs and disgracing herself?”

“Sha’n’t get odd jobs,” said Ann Veronica, wiping her eyes.

And from that point they went on to a thoroughly embittering wrangle.
Mr. Stanley used his authority, and commanded Ann Veronica to come home,
to which, of course, she said she wouldn’t; and then he warned her not
to defy him, warned her very solemnly, and then commanded her again.
He then said that if she would not obey him in this course she should
“never darken his doors again,” and was, indeed, frightfully abusive.
This threat terrified Ann Veronica so much that she declared with sobs
and vehemence that she would never come home again, and for a time both
talked at once and very wildly. He asked her whether she understood what
she was saying, and went on to say still more precisely that she should
never touch a penny of his money until she came home again--not one
penny. Ann Veronica said she didn’t care.

Then abruptly Mr. Stanley changed his key. “You poor child!” he said;
“don’t you see the infinite folly of these proceedings? Think! Think of
the love and affection you abandon! Think of your aunt, a second mother
to you. Think if your own mother was alive!”

He paused, deeply moved.

“If my own mother was alive,” sobbed Ann Veronica, “she would
understand.”

The talk became more and more inconclusive and exhausting. Ann Veronica
found herself incompetent, undignified, and detestable, holding on
desperately to a hardening antagonism to her father, quarrelling with
him, wrangling with him, thinking of repartees--almost as if he was a
brother. It was horrible, but what could she do? She meant to live
her own life, and he meant, with contempt and insults, to prevent her.
Anything else that was said she now regarded only as an aspect of or
diversion from that.

In the retrospect she was amazed to think how things had gone to pieces,
for at the outset she had been quite prepared to go home again upon
terms. While waiting for his coming she had stated her present
and future relations with him with what had seemed to her the most
satisfactory lucidity and completeness. She had looked forward to an
explanation. Instead had come this storm, this shouting, this weeping,
this confusion of threats and irrelevant appeals. It was not only that
her father had said all sorts of inconsistent and unreasonable things,
but that by some incomprehensible infection she herself had replied in
the same vein. He had assumed that her leaving home was the point at
issue, that everything turned on that, and that the sole alternative was
obedience, and she had fallen in with that assumption until rebellion
seemed a sacred principle. Moreover, atrociously and inexorably, he
allowed it to appear ever and again in horrible gleams that he suspected
there was some man in the case.... Some man!

And to conclude it all was the figure of her father in the doorway,
giving her a last chance, his hat in one hand, his umbrella in the
other, shaken at her to emphasize his point.

“You understand, then,” he was saying, “you understand?”

“I understand,” said Ann Veronica, tear-wet and flushed with a
reciprocal passion, but standing up to him with an equality that amazed
even herself, “I understand.” She controlled a sob. “Not a penny--not
one penny--and never darken your doors again!”



Part 4


The next day her aunt came again and expostulated, and was just saying
it was “an unheard-of thing” for a girl to leave her home as Ann
Veronica had done, when her father arrived, and was shown in by the
pleasant-faced landlady.

Her father had determined on a new line. He put down his hat and
umbrella, rested his hands on his hips, and regarded Ann Veronica
firmly.

“Now,” he said, quietly, “it’s time we stopped this nonsense.”

Ann Veronica was about to reply, when he went on, with a still more
deadly quiet: “I am not here to bandy words with you. Let us have no
more of this humbug. You are to come home.”

“I thought I explained--”

“I don’t think you can have heard me,” said her father; “I have told you
to come home.”

“I thought I explained--”

“Come home!”

Ann Veronica shrugged her shoulders.

“Very well,” said her father.

“I think this ends the business,” he said, turning to his sister.

“It’s not for us to supplicate any more. She must learn wisdom--as God
pleases.”

“But, my dear Peter!” said Miss Stanley.

“No,” said her brother, conclusively, “it’s not for a parent to go on
persuading a child.”

Miss Stanley rose and regarded Ann Veronica fixedly. The girl stood with
her hands behind her back, sulky, resolute, and intelligent, a strand
of her black hair over one eye and looking more than usually
delicate-featured, and more than ever like an obdurate child.

“She doesn’t know.”

“She does.”

“I can’t imagine what makes you fly out against everything like this,”
 said Miss Stanley to her niece.

“What is the good of talking?” said her brother. “She must go her own
way. A man’s children nowadays are not his own. That’s the fact of the
matter. Their minds are turned against him.... Rubbishy novels and
pernicious rascals. We can’t even protect them from themselves.”

An immense gulf seemed to open between father and daughter as he said
these words.

“I don’t see,” gasped Ann Veronica, “why parents and children...
shouldn’t be friends.”

“Friends!” said her father. “When we see you going through disobedience
to the devil! Come, Molly, she must go her own way. I’ve tried to use my
authority. And she defies me. What more is there to be said? She defies
me!”

It was extraordinary. Ann Veronica felt suddenly an effect of tremendous
pathos; she would have given anything to have been able to frame and
make some appeal, some utterance that should bridge this bottomless
chasm that had opened between her and her father, and she could find
nothing whatever to say that was in the least sincere and appealing.

“Father,” she cried, “I have to live!”

He misunderstood her. “That,” he said, grimly, with his hand on the
door-handle, “must be your own affair, unless you choose to live at
Morningside Park.”

Miss Stanley turned to her. “Vee,” she said, “come home. Before it is
too late.”

“Come, Molly,” said Mr. Stanley, at the door.

“Vee!” said Miss Stanley, “you hear what your father says!”

Miss Stanley struggled with emotion. She made a curious movement toward
her niece, then suddenly, convulsively, she dabbed down something lumpy
on the table and turned to follow her brother. Ann Veronica stared for a
moment in amazement at this dark-green object that clashed as it was
put down. It was a purse. She made a step forward. “Aunt!” she said, “I
can’t--”

Then she caught a wild appeal in her aunt’s blue eye, halted, and the
door clicked upon them.

There was a pause, and then the front door slammed....

Ann Veronica realized that she was alone with the world. And this time
the departure had a tremendous effect of finality. She had to resist an
impulse of sheer terror, to run out after them and give in.

“Gods,” she said, at last, “I’ve done it this time!”

“Well!” She took up the neat morocco purse, opened it, and examined the
contents.

It contained three sovereigns, six and fourpence, two postage stamps, a
small key, and her aunt’s return half ticket to Morningside Park.



Part 5


After the interview Ann Veronica considered herself formally cut off
from home. If nothing else had clinched that, the purse had.

Nevertheless there came a residuum of expostulations. Her brother Roddy,
who was in the motor line, came to expostulate; her sister Alice wrote.
And Mr. Manning called.

Her sister Alice seemed to have developed a religious sense away there
in Yorkshire, and made appeals that had no meaning for Ann Veronica’s
mind. She exhorted Ann Veronica not to become one of “those unsexed
intellectuals, neither man nor woman.”

Ann Veronica meditated over that phrase. “That’s HIM,” said Ann
Veronica, in sound, idiomatic English. “Poor old Alice!”

Her brother Roddy came to her and demanded tea, and asked her to state
a case. “Bit thick on the old man, isn’t it?” said Roddy, who had
developed a bluff, straightforward style in the motor shop.

“Mind my smoking?” said Roddy. “I don’t see quite what your game is,
Vee, but I suppose you’ve got a game on somewhere.

“Rummy lot we are!” said Roddy. “Alice--Alice gone dotty, and all over
kids. Gwen--I saw Gwen the other day, and the paint’s thicker than ever.
Jim is up to the neck in Mahatmas and Theosophy and Higher Thought and
rot--writes letters worse than Alice. And now YOU’RE on the war-path. I
believe I’m the only sane member of the family left. The G.V.’s as mad
as any of you, in spite of all his respectability; not a bit of him
straight anywhere, not one bit.”

“Straight?”

“Not a bit of it! He’s been out after eight per cent. since the
beginning. Eight per cent.! He’ll come a cropper one of these days,
if you ask me. He’s been near it once or twice already. That’s got his
nerves to rags. I suppose we’re all human beings really, but what price
the sacred Institution of the Family! Us as a bundle! Eh?... I don’t
half disagree with you, Vee, really; only thing is, I don’t see
how you’re going to pull it off. A home MAY be a sort of cage, but
still--it’s a home. Gives you a right to hang on to the old man until he
busts--practically. Jolly hard life for a girl, getting a living. Not MY
affair.”

He asked questions and listened to her views for a time.

“I’d chuck this lark right off if I were you, Vee,” he said. “I’m five
years older than you, and no end wiser, being a man. What you’re after
is too risky. It’s a damned hard thing to do. It’s all very handsome
starting out on your own, but it’s too damned hard. That’s my opinion,
if you ask me. There’s nothing a girl can do that isn’t sweated to the
bone. You square the G.V., and go home before you have to. That’s my
advice. If you don’t eat humble-pie now you may live to fare worse
later. _I_ can’t help you a cent. Life’s hard enough nowadays for an
unprotected male. Let alone a girl. You got to take the world as it is,
and the only possible trade for a girl that isn’t sweated is to get hold
of a man and make him do it for her. It’s no good flying out at that,
Vee; _I_ didn’t arrange it. It’s Providence. That’s how things are;
that’s the order of the world. Like appendicitis. It isn’t pretty, but
we’re made so. Rot, no doubt; but we can’t alter it. You go home and
live on the G.V., and get some other man to live on as soon as possible.
It isn’t sentiment but it’s horse sense. All this Woman-who-Diddery--no
damn good. After all, old P.--Providence, I mean--HAS arranged it so
that men will keep you, more or less. He made the universe on those
lines. You’ve got to take what you can get.”

That was the quintessence of her brother Roddy.

He played variations on this theme for the better part of an hour.

“You go home,” he said, at parting; “you go home. It’s all very fine and
all that, Vee, this freedom, but it isn’t going to work. The world isn’t
ready for girls to start out on their own yet; that’s the plain fact of
the case. Babies and females have got to keep hold of somebody or go
under--anyhow, for the next few generations. You go home and wait a
century, Vee, and then try again. Then you may have a bit of a chance.
Now you haven’t the ghost of one--not if you play the game fair.”



Part 6


It was remarkable to Ann Veronica how completely Mr. Manning, in his
entirely different dialect, indorsed her brother Roddy’s view of things.
He came along, he said, just to call, with large, loud apologies,
radiantly kind and good. Miss Stanley, it was manifest, had given him
Ann Veronica’s address. The kindly faced landlady had failed to catch
his name, and said he was a tall, handsome gentleman with a great black
mustache. Ann Veronica, with a sigh at the cost of hospitality, made a
hasty negotiation for an extra tea and for a fire in the ground-floor
apartment, and preened herself carefully for the interview. In the
little apartment, under the gas chandelier, his inches and his stoop
were certainly very effective. In the bad light he looked at once
military and sentimental and studious, like one of Ouida’s guardsmen
revised by Mr. Haldane and the London School of Economics and finished
in the Keltic school.

“It’s unforgivable of me to call, Miss Stanley,” he said, shaking hands
in a peculiar, high, fashionable manner; “but you know you said we might
be friends.”

“It’s dreadful for you to be here,” he said, indicating the yellow
presence of the first fog of the year without, “but your aunt told me
something of what had happened. It’s just like your Splendid Pride to do
it. Quite!”

He sat in the arm-chair and took tea, and consumed several of the
extra cakes which she had sent out for and talked to her and expressed
himself, looking very earnestly at her with his deep-set eyes, and
carefully avoiding any crumbs on his mustache the while. Ann Veronica
sat firelit by her tea-tray with, quite unconsciously, the air of an
expert hostess.

“But how is it all going to end?” said Mr. Manning.

“Your father, of course,” he said, “must come to realize just how
Splendid you are! He doesn’t understand. I’ve seen him, and he doesn’t
a bit understand. _I_ didn’t understand before that letter. It makes me
want to be just everything I CAN be to you. You’re like some splendid
Princess in Exile in these Dreadful Dingy apartments!”

“I’m afraid I’m anything but a Princess when it comes to earning a
salary,” said Ann Veronica. “But frankly, I mean to fight this through
if I possibly can.”

“My God!” said Manning, in a stage-aside. “Earning a salary!”

“You’re like a Princess in Exile!” he repeated, overruling her. “You
come into these sordid surroundings--you mustn’t mind my calling them
sordid--and it makes them seem as though they didn’t matter.... I
don’t think they do matter. I don’t think any surroundings could throw a
shadow on you.”

Ann Veronica felt a slight embarrassment. “Won’t you have some more tea,
Mr. Manning?” she asked.

“You know--,” said Mr. Manning, relinquishing his cup without answering
her question, “when I hear you talk of earning a living, it’s as if I
heard of an archangel going on the Stock Exchange--or Christ selling
doves.... Forgive my daring. I couldn’t help the thought.”

“It’s a very good image,” said Ann Veronica.

“I knew you wouldn’t mind.”

“But does it correspond with the facts of the case? You know, Mr.
Manning, all this sort of thing is very well as sentiment, but does it
correspond with the realities? Are women truly such angelic things and
men so chivalrous? You men have, I know, meant to make us Queens and
Goddesses, but in practice--well, look, for example, at the stream of
girls one meets going to work of a morning, round-shouldered, cheap, and
underfed! They aren’t queens, and no one is treating them as queens.
And look, again, at the women one finds letting lodgings.... I was
looking for rooms last week. It got on my nerves--the women I saw. Worse
than any man. Everywhere I went and rapped at a door I found behind it
another dreadful dingy woman--another fallen queen, I suppose--dingier
than the last, dirty, you know, in grain. Their poor hands!”

“I know,” said Mr. Manning, with entirely suitable emotion.

“And think of the ordinary wives and mothers, with their anxiety, their
limitations, their swarms of children!”

Mr. Manning displayed distress. He fended these things off from him with
the rump of his fourth piece of cake. “I know that our social order is
dreadful enough,” he said, “and sacrifices all that is best and most
beautiful in life. I don’t defend it.”

“And besides, when it comes to the idea of queens,” Ann Veronica went
on, “there’s twenty-one and a half million women to twenty million men.
Suppose our proper place is a shrine. Still, that leaves over a million
shrines short, not reckoning widows who re-marry. And more boys die than
girls, so that the real disproportion among adults is even greater.”

“I know,” said Mr Manning, “I know these Dreadful Statistics. I know
there’s a sort of right in your impatience at the slowness of Progress.
But tell me one thing I don’t understand--tell me one thing: How can you
help it by coming down into the battle and the mire? That’s the thing
that concerns me.”

“Oh, I’m not trying to help it,” said Ann Veronica. “I’m only arguing
against your position of what a woman should be, and trying to get
it clear in my own mind. I’m in this apartment and looking for work
because--Well, what else can I do, when my father practically locks me
up?”

“I know,” said Mr. Manning, “I know. Don’t think I can’t sympathize and
understand. Still, here we are in this dingy, foggy city. Ye gods! what
a wilderness it is! Every one trying to get the better of every one,
every one regardless of every one--it’s one of those days when every one
bumps against you--every one pouring coal smoke into the air and making
confusion worse confounded, motor omnibuses clattering and smelling,
a horse down in the Tottenham Court Road, an old woman at the corner
coughing dreadfully--all the painful sights of a great city, and here
you come into it to take your chances. It’s too valiant, Miss Stanley,
too valiant altogether!”

Ann Veronica meditated. She had had two days of employment-seeking now.
“I wonder if it is.”

“It isn’t,” said Mr. Manning, “that I mind Courage in a Woman--I love
and admire Courage. What could be more splendid than a beautiful girl
facing a great, glorious tiger? Una and the Lion again, and all that!
But this isn’t that sort of thing; this is just a great, ugly, endless
wilderness of selfish, sweating, vulgar competition!”

“That you want to keep me out of?”

“Exactly!” said Mr. Manning.

“In a sort of beautiful garden-close--wearing lovely dresses and picking
beautiful flowers?”

“Ah! If one could!”

“While those other girls trudge to business and those other women let
lodgings. And in reality even that magic garden-close resolves itself
into a villa at Morningside Park and my father being more and more
cross and overbearing at meals--and a general feeling of insecurity and
futility.”

Mr. Manning relinquished his cup, and looked meaningly at Ann Veronica.
“There,” he said, “you don’t treat me fairly, Miss Stanley. My
garden-close would be a better thing than that.”



CHAPTER THE SEVENTH

IDEALS AND A REALITY


Part 1


And now for some weeks Ann Veronica was to test her market value in the
world. She went about in a negligent November London that had become
very dark and foggy and greasy and forbidding indeed, and tried to find
that modest but independent employment she had so rashly assumed. She
went about, intent-looking and self-possessed, trim and fine, concealing
her emotions whatever they were, as the realities of her position opened
out before her. Her little bed-sitting-room was like a lair, and she
went out from it into this vast, dun world, with its smoke-gray houses,
its glaring streets of shops, its dark streets of homes, its orange-lit
windows, under skies of dull copper or muddy gray or black, much as an
animal goes out to seek food. She would come back and write letters,
carefully planned and written letters, or read some book she had fetched
from Mudie’s--she had invested a half-guinea with Mudie’s--or sit over
her fire and think.

Slowly and reluctantly she came to realize that Vivie Warren was what
is called an “ideal.” There were no such girls and no such positions. No
work that offered was at all of the quality she had vaguely postulated
for herself. With such qualifications as she possessed, two chief
channels of employment lay open, and neither attracted her, neither
seemed really to offer a conclusive escape from that subjection to
mankind against which, in the person of her father, she was rebelling.
One main avenue was for her to become a sort of salaried accessory wife
or mother, to be a governess or an assistant schoolmistress, or a very
high type of governess-nurse. The other was to go into business--into a
photographer’s reception-room, for example, or a costumer’s or hat-shop.
The first set of occupations seemed to her to be altogether too domestic
and restricted; for the latter she was dreadfully handicapped by her
want of experience. And also she didn’t like them. She didn’t like the
shops, she didn’t like the other women’s faces; she thought the
smirking men in frock-coats who dominated these establishments the
most intolerable persons she had ever had to face. One called her very
distinctly “My dear!”

Two secretarial posts did indeed seem to offer themselves in which, at
least, there was no specific exclusion of womanhood; one was under
a Radical Member of Parliament, and the other under a Harley Street
doctor, and both men declined her proffered services with the utmost
civility and admiration and terror. There was also a curious interview
at a big hotel with a middle-aged, white-powdered woman, all covered
with jewels and reeking of scent, who wanted a Companion. She did not
think Ann Veronica would do as her companion.

And nearly all these things were fearfully ill-paid. They carried no
more than bare subsistence wages; and they demanded all her time and
energy. She had heard of women journalists, women writers, and so
forth; but she was not even admitted to the presence of the editors she
demanded to see, and by no means sure that if she had been she could
have done any work they might have given her. One day she desisted from
her search and went unexpectedly to the Tredgold College. Her place
was not filled; she had been simply noted as absent, and she did a
comforting day of admirable dissection upon the tortoise. She was so
interested, and this was such a relief from the trudging anxiety of her
search for work, that she went on for a whole week as if she was still
living at home. Then a third secretarial opening occurred and renewed
her hopes again: a position as amanuensis--with which some of the
lighter duties of a nurse were combined--to an infirm gentleman of means
living at Twickenham, and engaged upon a great literary research to
prove that the “Faery Queen” was really a treatise upon molecular
chemistry written in a peculiar and picturesquely handled cipher.



Part 2


Now, while Ann Veronica was taking these soundings in the industrial
sea, and measuring herself against the world as it is, she was also
making extensive explorations among the ideas and attitudes of a number
of human beings who seemed to be largely concerned with the world as it
ought to be. She was drawn first by Miss Miniver, and then by her own
natural interest, into a curious stratum of people who are busied with
dreams of world progress, of great and fundamental changes, of a New Age
that is to replace all the stresses and disorders of contemporary life.

Miss Miniver learned of her flight and got her address from the
Widgetts. She arrived about nine o’clock the next evening in a state of
tremulous enthusiasm. She followed the landlady half way up-stairs, and
called up to Ann Veronica, “May I come up? It’s me! You know--Nettie
Miniver!” She appeared before Ann Veronica could clearly recall who
Nettie Miniver might be.

There was a wild light in her eye, and her straight hair was out
demonstrating and suffragetting upon some independent notions of its
own. Her fingers were bursting through her gloves, as if to get at once
into touch with Ann Veronica. “You’re Glorious!” said Miss Miniver in
tones of rapture, holding a hand in each of hers and peering up into Ann
Veronica’s face. “Glorious! You’re so calm, dear, and so resolute, so
serene!

“It’s girls like you who will show them what We are,” said Miss Miniver;
“girls whose spirits have not been broken!”

Ann Veronica sunned herself a little in this warmth.

“I was watching you at Morningside Park, dear,” said Miss Miniver. “I am
getting to watch all women. I thought then perhaps you didn’t care, that
you were like so many of them. NOW it’s just as though you had grown up
suddenly.”

She stopped, and then suggested: “I wonder--I should love--if it was
anything _I_ said.”

She did not wait for Ann Veronica’s reply. She seemed to assume that it
must certainly be something she had said. “They all catch on,” she said.
“It spreads like wildfire. This is such a grand time! Such a glorious
time! There never was such a time as this! Everything seems so close to
fruition, so coming on and leading on! The Insurrection of Women! They
spring up everywhere. Tell me all that happened, one sister-woman to
another.”

She chilled Ann Veronica a little by that last phrase, and yet the
magnetism of her fellowship and enthusiasm was very strong; and it was
pleasant to be made out a heroine after so much expostulation and so
many secret doubts.

But she did not listen long; she wanted to talk. She sat, crouched
together, by the corner of the hearthrug under the bookcase that
supported the pig’s skull, and looked into the fire and up at Ann
Veronica’s face, and let herself go. “Let us put the lamp out,” she
said; “the flames are ever so much better for talking,” and Ann Veronica
agreed. “You are coming right out into life--facing it all.”

Ann Veronica sat with her chin on her hand, red-lit and saying little,
and Miss Miniver discoursed. As she talked, the drift and significance
of what she was saying shaped itself slowly to Ann Veronica’s
apprehension. It presented itself in the likeness of a great, gray, dull
world--a brutal, superstitious, confused, and wrong-headed world,
that hurt people and limited people unaccountably. In remote times and
countries its evil tendencies had expressed themselves in the form of
tyrannies, massacres, wars, and what not; but just at present in England
they shaped as commercialism and competition, silk hats, suburban
morals, the sweating system, and the subjection of women. So far the
thing was acceptable enough. But over against the world Miss Miniver
assembled a small but energetic minority, the Children of Light--people
she described as “being in the van,” or “altogether in the van,” about
whom Ann Veronica’s mind was disposed to be more sceptical.

Everything, Miss Miniver said, was “working up,” everything was “coming
on”--the Higher Thought, the Simple Life, Socialism, Humanitarianism, it
was all the same really. She loved to be there, taking part in it all,
breathing it, being it. Hitherto in the world’s history there had been
precursors of this Progress at great intervals, voices that had spoken
and ceased, but now it was all coming on together in a rush. She
mentioned, with familiar respect, Christ and Buddha and Shelley and
Nietzsche and Plato. Pioneers all of them. Such names shone brightly in
the darkness, with black spaces of unilluminated emptiness about them,
as stars shine in the night; but now--now it was different; now it was
dawn--the real dawn.

“The women are taking it up,” said Miss Miniver; “the women and the
common people, all pressing forward, all roused.”

Ann Veronica listened with her eyes on the fire.

“Everybody is taking it up,” said Miss Miniver. “YOU had to come in. You
couldn’t help it. Something drew you. Something draws everybody. From
suburbs, from country towns--everywhere. I see all the Movements. As
far as I can, I belong to them all. I keep my finger on the pulse of
things.”

Ann Veronica said nothing.

“The dawn!” said Miss Miniver, with her glasses reflecting the fire like
pools of blood-red flame.

“I came to London,” said Ann Veronica, “rather because of my own
difficulty. I don’t know that I understand altogether.”

“Of course you don’t,” said Miss Miniver, gesticulating triumphantly
with her thin hand and thinner wrist, and patting Ann Veronica’s knee.
“Of course you don’t. That’s the wonder of it. But you will, you
will. You must let me take you to things--to meetings and things, to
conferences and talks. Then you will begin to see. You will begin to see
it all opening out. I am up to the ears in it all--every moment I can
spare. I throw up work--everything! I just teach in one school, one good
school, three days a week. All the rest--Movements! I can live now on
fourpence a day. Think how free that leaves me to follow things up! I
must take you everywhere. I must take you to the Suffrage people, and
the Tolstoyans, and the Fabians.”

“I have heard of the Fabians,” said Ann Veronica.

“It’s THE Society!” said Miss Miniver. “It’s the centre of the
intellectuals. Some of the meetings are wonderful! Such earnest,
beautiful women! Such deep-browed men!... And to think that there
they are making history! There they are putting together the plans of a
new world. Almost light-heartedly. There is Shaw, and Webb, and Wilkins
the author, and Toomer, and Doctor Tumpany--the most wonderful people!
There you see them discussing, deciding, planning! Just think--THEY ARE
MAKING A NEW WORLD!”

“But ARE these people going to alter everything?” said Ann Veronica.

“What else can happen?” asked Miss Miniver, with a little weak gesture
at the glow. “What else can possibly happen--as things are going now?”



Part 3


Miss Miniver let Ann Veronica into her peculiar levels of the world
with so enthusiastic a generosity that it seemed ingratitude to remain
critical. Indeed, almost insensibly Ann Veronica became habituated to
the peculiar appearance and the peculiar manners of the people “in the
van.” The shock of their intellectual attitude was over, usage robbed
it of the first quaint effect of deliberate unreason. They were in many
respects so right; she clung to that, and shirked more and more the
paradoxical conviction that they were also somehow, and even in direct
relation to that rightness, absurd.

Very central in Miss Miniver’s universe were the Goopes. The Goopes were
the oddest little couple conceivable, following a fruitarian career upon
an upper floor in Theobald’s Road. They were childless and servantless,
and they had reduced simple living to the finest of fine arts. Mr.
Goopes, Ann Veronica gathered, was a mathematical tutor and visited
schools, and his wife wrote a weekly column in New Ideas upon vegetarian
cookery, vivisection, degeneration, the lacteal secretion, appendicitis,
and the Higher Thought generally, and assisted in the management of
a fruit shop in the Tottenham Court Road. Their very furniture had
mysteriously a high-browed quality, and Mr. Goopes when at home dressed
simply in a pajama-shaped suit of canvas sacking tied with brown
ribbons, while his wife wore a purple djibbah with a richly
embroidered yoke. He was a small, dark, reserved man, with a large
inflexible-looking convex forehead, and his wife was very pink and
high-spirited, with one of those chins that pass insensibly into a full,
strong neck. Once a week, every Saturday, they had a little gathering
from nine till the small hours, just talk and perhaps reading aloud and
fruitarian refreshments--chestnut sandwiches buttered with nut tose,
and so forth--and lemonade and unfermented wine; and to one of these
symposia Miss Miniver after a good deal of preliminary solicitude,
conducted Ann Veronica.

She was introduced, perhaps a little too obviously for her taste, as
a girl who was standing out against her people, to a gathering that
consisted of a very old lady with an extremely wrinkled skin and a deep
voice who was wearing what appeared to Ann Veronica’s inexperienced
eye to be an antimacassar upon her head, a shy, blond young man with a
narrow forehead and glasses, two undistinguished women in plain skirts
and blouses, and a middle-aged couple, very fat and alike in black, Mr.
and Mrs. Alderman Dunstable, of the Borough Council of Marylebone.
These were seated in an imperfect semicircle about a very copper-adorned
fireplace, surmounted by a carved wood inscription:

“DO IT NOW.”

And to them were presently added a roguish-looking young man, with
reddish hair, an orange tie, and a fluffy tweed suit, and others who,
in Ann Veronica’s memory, in spite of her efforts to recall details,
remained obstinately just “others.”

The talk was animated, and remained always brilliant in form even when
it ceased to be brilliant in substance. There were moments when Ann
Veronica rather more than suspected the chief speakers to be, as
school-boys say, showing off at her.

They talked of a new substitute for dripping in vegetarian cookery that
Mrs. Goopes was convinced exercised an exceptionally purifying influence
on the mind. And then they talked of Anarchism and Socialism, and
whether the former was the exact opposite of the latter or only a higher
form. The reddish-haired young man contributed allusions to the Hegelian
philosophy that momentarily confused the discussion. Then Alderman
Dunstable, who had hitherto been silent, broke out into speech and went
off at a tangent, and gave his personal impressions of quite a number
of his fellow-councillors. He continued to do this for the rest of the
evening intermittently, in and out, among other topics. He addressed
himself chiefly to Goopes, and spoke as if in reply to long-sustained
inquiries on the part of Goopes into the personnel of the Marylebone
Borough Council. “If you were to ask me,” he would say, “I should say
Blinders is straight. An ordinary type, of course--”

Mrs. Dunstable’s contributions to the conversation were entirely in the
form of nods; whenever Alderman Dunstable praised or blamed she nodded
twice or thrice, according to the requirements of his emphasis. And
she seemed always to keep one eye on Ann Veronica’s dress. Mrs.
Goopes disconcerted the Alderman a little by abruptly challenging the
roguish-looking young man in the orange tie (who, it seemed, was the
assistant editor of New Ideas) upon a critique of Nietzsche and Tolstoy
that had appeared in his paper, in which doubts had been cast upon the
perfect sincerity of the latter. Everybody seemed greatly concerned
about the sincerity of Tolstoy.

Miss Miniver said that if once she lost her faith in Tolstoy’s
sincerity, nothing she felt would really matter much any more, and she
appealed to Ann Veronica whether she did not feel the same; and Mr.
Goopes said that we must distinguish between sincerity and irony, which
was often indeed no more than sincerity at the sublimated level.

Alderman Dunstable said that sincerity was often a matter of
opportunity, and illustrated the point to the fair young man with an
anecdote about Blinders on the Dust Destructor Committee, during which
the young man in the orange tie succeeded in giving the whole discussion
a daring and erotic flavor by questioning whether any one could be
perfectly sincere in love.

Miss Miniver thought that there was no true sincerity except in love,
and appealed to Ann Veronica, but the young man in the orange tie went
on to declare that it was quite possible to be sincerely in love with
two people at the same time, although perhaps on different planes with
each individual, and deceiving them both. But that brought Mrs. Goopes
down on him with the lesson Titian teaches so beautifully in his “Sacred
and Profane Love,” and became quite eloquent upon the impossibility of
any deception in the former.

Then they discoursed on love for a time, and Alderman Dunstable, turning
back to the shy, blond young man and speaking in undertones of the
utmost clearness, gave a brief and confidential account of an unfounded
rumor of the bifurcation of the affections of Blinders that had led to a
situation of some unpleasantness upon the Borough Council.

The very old lady in the antimacassar touched Ann Veronica’s arm
suddenly, and said, in a deep, arch voice:

“Talking of love again; spring again, love again. Oh! you young people!”

The young man with the orange tie, in spite of Sisyphus-like efforts
on the part of Goopes to get the topic on to a higher plane, displayed
great persistence in speculating upon the possible distribution of the
affections of highly developed modern types.

The old lady in the antimacassar said, abruptly, “Ah! you young people,
you young people, if you only knew!” and then laughed and then mused in
a marked manner; and the young man with the narrow forehead and glasses
cleared his throat and asked the young man in the orange tie whether he
believed that Platonic love was possible. Mrs. Goopes said she believed
in nothing else, and with that she glanced at Ann Veronica, rose a
little abruptly, and directed Goopes and the shy young man in the
handing of refreshments.

But the young man with the orange tie remained in his place, disputing
whether the body had not something or other which he called its
legitimate claims. And from that they came back by way of the Kreutzer
Sonata and Resurrection to Tolstoy again.

So the talk went on. Goopes, who had at first been a little reserved,
resorted presently to the Socratic method to restrain the young man with
the orange tie, and bent his forehead over him, and brought out at last
very clearly from him that the body was only illusion and everything
nothing but just spirit and molecules of thought. It became a sort of
duel at last between them, and all the others sat and listened--every
one, that is, except the Alderman, who had got the blond young man into
a corner by the green-stained dresser with the aluminum things, and was
sitting with his back to every one else, holding one hand over his mouth
for greater privacy, and telling him, with an accent of confidential
admission, in whispers of the chronic struggle between the natural
modesty and general inoffensiveness of the Borough Council and the
social evil in Marylebone.

So the talk went on, and presently they were criticising novelists, and
certain daring essays of Wilkins got their due share of attention,
and then they were discussing the future of the theatre. Ann Veronica
intervened a little in the novelist discussion with a defence of Esmond
and a denial that the Egoist was obscure, and when she spoke every one
else stopped talking and listened. Then they deliberated whether Bernard
Shaw ought to go into Parliament. And that brought them to vegetarianism
and teetotalism, and the young man in the orange tie and Mrs. Goopes
had a great set-to about the sincerity of Chesterton and Belloc that was
ended by Goopes showing signs of resuming the Socratic method.

And at last Ann Veronica and Miss Miniver came down the dark staircase
and out into the foggy spaces of the London squares, and crossed Russell
Square, Woburn Square, Gordon Square, making an oblique route to Ann
Veronica’s lodging. They trudged along a little hungry, because of the
fruitarian refreshments, and mentally very active. And Miss Miniver fell
discussing whether Goopes or Bernard Shaw or Tolstoy or Doctor Tumpany
or Wilkins the author had the more powerful and perfect mind in
existence at the present time. She was clear there were no other minds
like them in all the world.



Part 4


Then one evening Ann Veronica went with Miss Miniver into the back seats
of the gallery at Essex Hall, and heard and saw the giant leaders of the
Fabian Society who are re-making the world: Bernard Shaw and Toomer and
Doctor Tumpany and Wilkins the author, all displayed upon a platform.
The place was crowded, and the people about her were almost equally
made up of very good-looking and enthusiastic young people and a great
variety of Goopes-like types. In the discussion there was the oddest
mixture of things that were personal and petty with an idealist devotion
that was fine beyond dispute. In nearly every speech she heard was the
same implication of great and necessary changes in the world--changes
to be won by effort and sacrifice indeed, but surely to be won. And
afterward she saw a very much larger and more enthusiastic gathering,
a meeting of the advanced section of the woman movement in Caxton Hall,
where the same note of vast changes in progress sounded; and she went
to a soiree of the Dress Reform Association and visited a Food Reform
Exhibition, where imminent change was made even alarmingly visible.
The women’s meeting was much more charged with emotional force than the
Socialists’. Ann Veronica was carried off her intellectual and critical
feet by it altogether, and applauded and uttered cries that subsequent
reflection failed to endorse. “I knew you would feel it,” said Miss
Miniver, as they came away flushed and heated. “I knew you would begin
to see how it all falls into place together.”

It did begin to fall into place together. She became more and more
alive, not so much to a system of ideas as to a big diffused
impulse toward change, to a great discontent with and criticism of
life as it is lived, to a clamorous confusion of ideas for
reconstruction--reconstruction of the methods of business, of economic
development, of the rules of property, of the status of children, of the
clothing and feeding and teaching of every one; she developed a quite
exaggerated consciousness of a multitude of people going about the
swarming spaces of London with their minds full, their talk and gestures
full, their very clothing charged with the suggestion of the urgency of
this pervasive project of alteration. Some indeed carried themselves,
dressed themselves even, rather as foreign visitors from the land
of “Looking Backward” and “News from Nowhere” than as the indigenous
Londoners they were. For the most part these were detached people: men
practising the plastic arts, young writers, young men in employment, a
very large proportion of girls and women--self-supporting women or girls
of the student class. They made a stratum into which Ann Veronica was
now plunged up to her neck; it had become her stratum.

None of the things they said and did were altogether new to Ann
Veronica, but now she got them massed and alive, instead of by glimpses
or in books--alive and articulate and insistent. The London backgrounds,
in Bloomsbury and Marylebone, against which these people went to
and fro, took on, by reason of their gray facades, their implacably
respectable windows and window-blinds, their reiterated unmeaning iron
railings, a stronger and stronger suggestion of the flavor of her father
at his most obdurate phase, and of all that she felt herself fighting
against.

She was already a little prepared by her discursive reading and
discussion under the Widgett influence for ideas and “movements,” though
temperamentally perhaps she was rather disposed to resist and criticise
than embrace them. But the people among whom she was now thrown through
the social exertions of Miss Miniver and the Widgetts--for Teddy and
Hetty came up from Morningside Park and took her to an eighteen-penny
dinner in Soho and introduced her to some art students, who were also
Socialists, and so opened the way to an evening of meandering talk in a
studio--carried with them like an atmosphere this implication, not only
that the world was in some stupid and even obvious way WRONG, with which
indeed she was quite prepared to agree, but that it needed only a
few pioneers to behave as such and be thoroughly and indiscriminately
“advanced,” for the new order to achieve itself.

When ninety per cent. out of the ten or twelve people one meets in a
month not only say but feel and assume a thing, it is very hard not
to fall into the belief that the thing is so. Imperceptibly almost Ann
Veronica began to acquire the new attitude, even while her mind still
resisted the felted ideas that went with it. And Miss Miniver began to
sway her.

The very facts that Miss Miniver never stated an argument clearly, that
she was never embarrassed by a sense of self-contradiction, and had
little more respect for consistency of statement than a washerwoman
has for wisps of vapor, which made Ann Veronica critical and hostile at
their first encounter in Morningside Park, became at last with constant
association the secret of Miss Miniver’s growing influence. The brain
tires of resistance, and when it meets again and again, incoherently
active, the same phrases, the same ideas that it has already slain,
exposed and dissected and buried, it becomes less and less energetic to
repeat the operation. There must be something, one feels, in ideas that
achieve persistently a successful resurrection. What Miss Miniver would
have called the Higher Truth supervenes.

Yet through these talks, these meetings and conferences, these movements
and efforts, Ann Veronica, for all that she went with her friend, and
at times applauded with her enthusiastically, yet went nevertheless with
eyes that grew more and more puzzled, and fine eyebrows more and more
disposed to knit. She was with these movements--akin to them, she felt
it at times intensely--and yet something eluded her. Morningside Park
had been passive and defective; all this rushed about and was active,
but it was still defective. It still failed in something. It did seem
germane to the matter that so many of the people “in the van” were plain
people, or faded people, or tired-looking people. It did affect the
business that they all argued badly and were egotistical in their
manners and inconsistent in their phrases. There were moments when she
doubted whether the whole mass of movements and societies and gatherings
and talks was not simply one coherent spectacle of failure protecting
itself from abjection by the glamour of its own assertions. It happened
that at the extremest point of Ann Veronica’s social circle from the
Widgetts was the family of the Morningside Park horse-dealer, a company
of extremely dressy and hilarious young women, with one equestrian
brother addicted to fancy waistcoats, cigars, and facial spots. These
girls wore hats at remarkable angles and bows to startle and kill; they
liked to be right on the spot every time and up to everything that
was it from the very beginning and they rendered their conception of
Socialists and all reformers by the words “positively frightening”
 and “weird.” Well, it was beyond dispute that these words did convey
a certain quality of the Movements in general amid which Miss Miniver
disported herself. They WERE weird. And yet for all that--

It got into Ann Veronica’s nights at last and kept her awake, the
perplexing contrast between the advanced thought and the advanced
thinker. The general propositions of Socialism, for example, struck her
as admirable, but she certainly did not extend her admiration to any
of its exponents. She was still more stirred by the idea of the equal
citizenship of men and women, by the realization that a big and growing
organization of women were giving form and a generalized expression
to just that personal pride, that aspiration for personal freedom and
respect which had brought her to London; but when she heard Miss Miniver
discoursing on the next step in the suffrage campaign, or read of women
badgering Cabinet Ministers, padlocked to railings, or getting up in a
public meeting to pipe out a demand for votes and be carried out kicking
and screaming, her soul revolted. She could not part with dignity.
Something as yet unformulated within her kept her estranged from all
these practical aspects of her beliefs.

“Not for these things, O Ann Veronica, have you revolted,” it said; “and
this is not your appropriate purpose.”

It was as if she faced a darkness in which was something very beautiful
and wonderful as yet unimagined. The little pucker in her brows became
more perceptible.



Part 5


In the beginning of December Ann Veronica began to speculate privately
upon the procedure of pawning. She had decided that she would begin
with her pearl necklace. She spent a very disagreeable afternoon and
evening--it was raining fast outside, and she had very unwisely left
her soundest pair of boots in the boothole of her father’s house in
Morningside Park--thinking over the economic situation and planning a
course of action. Her aunt had secretly sent on to Ann Veronica some new
warm underclothing, a dozen pairs of stockings, and her last winter’s
jacket, but the dear lady had overlooked those boots.

These things illuminated her situation extremely. Finally she decided
upon a step that had always seemed reasonable to her, but that hitherto
she had, from motives too faint for her to formulate, refrained from
taking. She resolved to go into the City to Ramage and ask for his
advice. And next morning she attired herself with especial care and
neatness, found his address in the Directory at a post-office, and went
to him.

She had to wait some minutes in an outer office, wherein three young
men of spirited costume and appearance regarded her with ill-concealed
curiosity and admiration. Then Ramage appeared with effusion, and
ushered her into his inner apartment. The three young men exchanged
expressive glances.

The inner apartment was rather gracefully furnished with a thick, fine
Turkish carpet, a good brass fender, a fine old bureau, and on the walls
were engravings of two young girls’ heads by Greuze, and of some modern
picture of boys bathing in a sunlit pool.

“But this is a surprise!” said Ramage. “This is wonderful! I’ve been
feeling that you had vanished from my world. Have you been away from
Morningside Park?”

“I’m not interrupting you?”

“You are. Splendidly. Business exists for such interruptions. There you
are, the best client’s chair.”

Ann Veronica sat down, and Ramage’s eager eyes feasted on her.

“I’ve been looking out for you,” he said. “I confess it.”

She had not, she reflected, remembered how prominent his eyes were.

“I want some advice,” said Ann Veronica.

“Yes?”

“You remember once, how we talked--at a gate on the Downs? We talked
about how a girl might get an independent living.”

“Yes, yes.”

“Well, you see, something has happened at home.”

She paused.

“Nothing has happened to Mr. Stanley?”

“I’ve fallen out with my father. It was about--a question of what I
might do or might not do. He--In fact, he--he locked me in my room.
Practically.”

Her breath left her for a moment.

“I SAY!” said Mr. Ramage.

“I wanted to go to an art-student ball of which he disapproved.”

“And why shouldn’t you?”

“I felt that sort of thing couldn’t go on. So I packed up and came to
London next day.”

“To a friend?”

“To lodgings--alone.”

“I say, you know, you have some pluck. You did it on your own?”

Ann Veronica smiled. “Quite on my own,” she said.

“It’s magnificent!” He leaned back and regarded her with his head a
little on one side. “By Jove!” he said, “there is something direct about
you. I wonder if I should have locked you up if I’d been your father.
Luckily I’m not. And you started out forthwith to fight the world and be
a citizen on your own basis?” He came forward again and folded his hands
under him on his desk.

“How has the world taken it?” he asked. “If I was the world I think I
should have put down a crimson carpet, and asked you to say what you
wanted, and generally walk over me. But the world didn’t do that.”

“Not exactly.”

“It presented a large impenetrable back, and went on thinking about
something else.”

“It offered from fifteen to two-and-twenty shillings a week--for
drudgery.”

“The world has no sense of what is due to youth and courage. It never
has had.”

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica. “But the thing is, I want a job.”

“Exactly! And so you came along to me. And you see, I don’t turn my
back, and I am looking at you and thinking about you from top to toe.”

“And what do you think I ought to do?”

“Exactly!” He lifted a paper-weight and dabbed it gently down again.
“What ought you to do?”

“I’ve hunted up all sorts of things.”

“The point to note is that fundamentally you don’t want particularly to
do it.”

“I don’t understand.”

“You want to be free and so forth, yes. But you don’t particularly
want to do the job that sets you free--for its own sake. I mean that it
doesn’t interest you in itself.”

“I suppose not.”

“That’s one of our differences. We men are like children. We can get
absorbed in play, in games, in the business we do. That’s really why
we do them sometimes rather well and get on. But women--women as a rule
don’t throw themselves into things like that. As a matter of fact it
isn’t their affair. And as a natural consequence, they don’t do so well,
and they don’t get on--and so the world doesn’t pay them. They don’t
catch on to discursive interests, you see, because they are more
serious, they are concentrated on the central reality of life, and a
little impatient of its--its outer aspects. At least that, I think, is
what makes a clever woman’s independent career so much more difficult
than a clever man’s.”

“She doesn’t develop a specialty.” Ann Veronica was doing her best to
follow him.

“She has one, that’s why. Her specialty is the central thing in life, it
is life itself, the warmth of life, sex--and love.”

He pronounced this with an air of profound conviction and with his
eyes on Ann Veronica’s face. He had an air of having told her a deep,
personal secret. She winced as he thrust the fact at her, was about to
answer, and checked herself. She colored faintly.

“That doesn’t touch the question I asked you,” she said. “It may be
true, but it isn’t quite what I have in mind.”

“Of course not,” said Ramage, as one who rouses himself from deep
preoccupations And he began to question her in a business-like way upon
the steps she had taken and the inquiries she had made. He displayed
none of the airy optimism of their previous talk over the downland gate.
He was helpful, but gravely dubious. “You see,” he said, “from my point
of view you’re grown up--you’re as old as all the goddesses and the
contemporary of any man alive. But from the--the economic point of view
you’re a very young and altogether inexperienced person.”

He returned to and developed that idea. “You’re still,” he said, “in the
educational years. From the point of view of most things in the world
of employment which a woman can do reasonably well and earn a living
by, you’re unripe and half-educated. If you had taken your degree, for
example.”

He spoke of secretarial work, but even there she would need to be able
to do typing and shorthand. He made it more and more evident to her that
her proper course was not to earn a salary but to accumulate equipment.
“You see,” he said, “you are like an inaccessible gold-mine in all this
sort of matter. You’re splendid stuff, you know, but you’ve got nothing
ready to sell. That’s the flat business situation.”

He thought. Then he slapped his hand on his desk and looked up with
the air of a man struck by a brilliant idea. “Look here,” he said,
protruding his eyes; “why get anything to do at all just yet? Why, if
you must be free, why not do the sensible thing? Make yourself worth
a decent freedom. Go on with your studies at the Imperial College,
for example, get a degree, and make yourself good value. Or become a
thorough-going typist and stenographer and secretarial expert.”

“But I can’t do that.”

“Why not?”

“You see, if I do go home my father objects to the College, and as for
typing--”

“Don’t go home.”

“Yes, but you forget; how am I to live?”

“Easily. Easily.... Borrow.... From me.”

“I couldn’t do that,” said Ann Veronica, sharply.

“I see no reason why you shouldn’t.”

“It’s impossible.”

“As one friend to another. Men are always doing it, and if you set up to
be a man--”

“No, it’s absolutely out of the question, Mr. Ramage.” And Ann
Veronica’s face was hot.

Ramage pursed his rather loose lips and shrugged his shoulders, with
his eyes fixed steadily upon her. “Well anyhow--I don’t see the force of
your objection, you know. That’s my advice to you. Here I am. Consider
you’ve got resources deposited with me. Perhaps at the first blush--it
strikes you as odd. People are brought up to be so shy about money. As
though it was indelicate--it’s just a sort of shyness. But here I am to
draw upon. Here I am as an alternative either to nasty work--or going
home.”

“It’s very kind of you--” began Ann Veronica.

“Not a bit. Just a friendly polite suggestion. I don’t suggest any
philanthropy. I shall charge you five per cent., you know, fair and
square.”

Ann Veronica opened her lips quickly and did not speak. But the five per
cent. certainly did seem to improve the aspect of Ramage’s suggestion.

“Well, anyhow, consider it open.” He dabbed with his paper-weight again,
and spoke in an entirely indifferent tone. “And now tell me, please, how
you eloped from Morningside Park. How did you get your luggage out of
the house? Wasn’t it--wasn’t it rather in some respects--rather a lark?
It’s one of my regrets for my lost youth. I never ran away from anywhere
with anybody anywhen. And now--I suppose I should be considered too
old. I don’t feel it.... Didn’t you feel rather EVENTFUL--in the
train--coming up to Waterloo?”



Part 6


Before Christmas Ann Veronica had gone to Ramage again and accepted this
offer she had at first declined.

Many little things had contributed to that decision. The chief influence
was her awakening sense of the need of money. She had been forced to buy
herself that pair of boots and a walking-skirt, and the pearl necklace
at the pawnbrokers’ had yielded very disappointingly. And, also, she
wanted to borrow that money. It did seem in so many ways exactly what
Ramage said it was--the sensible thing to do. There it was--to be
borrowed. It would put the whole adventure on a broader and better
footing; it seemed, indeed, almost the only possible way in which she
might emerge from her rebellion with anything like success. If only for
the sake of her argument with her home, she wanted success. And why,
after all, should she not borrow money from Ramage?

It was so true what he said; middle-class people WERE ridiculously
squeamish about money. Why should they be?

She and Ramage were friends, very good friends. If she was in a position
to help him she would help him; only it happened to be the other way
round. He was in a position to help her. What was the objection?

She found it impossible to look her own diffidence in the face. So she
went to Ramage and came to the point almost at once.

“Can you spare me forty pounds?” she said.

Mr. Ramage controlled his expression and thought very quickly.

“Agreed,” he said, “certainly,” and drew a checkbook toward him.

“It’s best,” he said, “to make it a good round sum.

“I won’t give you a check though--Yes, I will. I’ll give you an
uncrossed check, and then you can get it at the bank here, quite close
by.... You’d better not have all the money on you; you had better
open a small account in the post-office and draw it out a fiver at a
time. That won’t involve references, as a bank account would--and all
that sort of thing. The money will last longer, and--it won’t bother
you.”

He stood up rather close to her and looked into her eyes. He seemed to
be trying to understand something very perplexing and elusive. “It’s
jolly,” he said, “to feel you have come to me. It’s a sort of guarantee
of confidence. Last time--you made me feel snubbed.”

He hesitated, and went off at a tangent. “There’s no end of things I’d
like to talk over with you. It’s just upon my lunch-time. Come and have
lunch with me.”

Ann Veronica fenced for a moment. “I don’t want to take up your time.”

“We won’t go to any of these City places. They’re just all men, and no
one is safe from scandal. But I know a little place where we’ll get a
little quiet talk.”

Ann Veronica for some indefinable reason did not want to lunch with him,
a reason indeed so indefinable that she dismissed it, and Ramage went
through the outer office with her, alert and attentive, to the vivid
interest of the three clerks. The three clerks fought for the only
window, and saw her whisked into a hansom. Their subsequent conversation
is outside the scope of our story.

“Ritter’s!” said Ramage to the driver, “Dean Street.”

It was rare that Ann Veronica used hansoms, and to be in one was itself
eventful and exhilarating. She liked the high, easy swing of the thing
over its big wheels, the quick clatter-patter of the horse, the passage
of the teeming streets. She admitted her pleasure to Ramage.

And Ritter’s, too, was very amusing and foreign and discreet; a little
rambling room with a number of small tables, with red electric light
shades and flowers. It was an overcast day, albeit not foggy, and
the electric light shades glowed warmly, and an Italian waiter with
insufficient English took Ramage’s orders, and waited with an appearance
of affection. Ann Veronica thought the whole affair rather jolly. Ritter
sold better food than most of his compatriots, and cooked it better, and
Ramage, with a fine perception of a feminine palate, ordered Vero Capri.
It was, Ann Veronica felt, as a sip or so of that remarkable blend
warmed her blood, just the sort of thing that her aunt would not
approve, to be lunching thus, tete-a-tete with a man; and yet at the
same time it was a perfectly innocent as well as agreeable proceeding.

They talked across their meal in an easy and friendly manner about Ann
Veronica’s affairs. He was really very bright and clever, with a sort of
conversational boldness that was just within the limits of permissible
daring. She described the Goopes and the Fabians to him, and gave him
a sketch of her landlady; and he talked in the most liberal and
entertaining way of a modern young woman’s outlook. He seemed to know
a great deal about life. He gave glimpses of possibilities. He roused
curiosities. He contrasted wonderfully with the empty showing-off of
Teddy. His friendship seemed a thing worth having....

But when she was thinking it over in her room that evening vague and
baffling doubts came drifting across this conviction. She doubted how
she stood toward him and what the restrained gleam of his face might
signify. She felt that perhaps, in her desire to play an adequate part
in the conversation, she had talked rather more freely than she ought to
have done, and given him a wrong impression of herself.



Part 7


That was two days before Christmas Eve. The next morning came a compact
letter from her father.


“MY DEAR DAUGHTER,” it ran,--“Here, on the verge of the season
of forgiveness I hold out a last hand to you in the hope of a
reconciliation. I ask you, although it is not my place to ask you, to
return home. This roof is still open to you. You will not be taunted
if you return and everything that can be done will be done to make you
happy.

“Indeed, I must implore you to return. This adventure of yours has gone
on altogether too long; it has become a serious distress to both your
aunt and myself. We fail altogether to understand your motives in doing
what you are doing, or, indeed, how you are managing to do it, or what
you are managing on. If you will think only of one trifling aspect--the
inconvenience it must be to us to explain your absence--I think you may
begin to realize what it all means for us. I need hardly say that your
aunt joins with me very heartily in this request.

“Please come home. You will not find me unreasonable with you.

“Your affectionate

“FATHER.”


Ann Veronica sat over her fire with her father’s note in her hand.
“Queer letters he writes,” she said. “I suppose most people’s letters
are queer. Roof open--like a Noah’s Ark. I wonder if he really wants me
to go home. It’s odd how little I know of him, and of how he feels and
what he feels.”

“I wonder how he treated Gwen.”

Her mind drifted into a speculation about her sister. “I ought to look
up Gwen,” she said. “I wonder what happened.”

Then she fell to thinking about her aunt. “I would like to go home,” she
cried, “to please her. She has been a dear. Considering how little he
lets her have.”

The truth prevailed. “The unaccountable thing is that I wouldn’t go home
to please her. She is, in her way, a dear. One OUGHT to want to please
her. And I don’t. I don’t care. I can’t even make myself care.”

Presently, as if for comparison with her father’s letter, she got out
Ramage’s check from the box that contained her papers. For so far she
had kept it uncashed. She had not even endorsed it.

“Suppose I chuck it,” she remarked, standing with the mauve slip in her
hand--“suppose I chuck it, and surrender and go home! Perhaps, after
all, Roddy was right!

“Father keeps opening the door and shutting it, but a time will come--

“I could still go home!”

She held Ramage’s check as if to tear it across. “No,” she said at last;
“I’m a human being--not a timid female. What could I do at home? The
other’s a crumple-up--just surrender. Funk! I’ll see it out.”



CHAPTER THE EIGHTH

BIOLOGY


Part 1


January found Ann Veronica a student in the biological laboratory of the
Central Imperial College that towers up from among the back streets in
the angle between Euston Road and Great Portland Street. She was working
very steadily at the Advanced Course in Comparative Anatomy, wonderfully
relieved to have her mind engaged upon one methodically developing theme
in the place of the discursive uncertainties of the previous two months,
and doing her utmost to keep right in the back of her mind and out
of sight the facts, firstly, that she had achieved this haven of
satisfactory activity by incurring a debt to Ramage of forty pounds,
and, secondly, that her present position was necessarily temporary and
her outlook quite uncertain.

The biological laboratory had an atmosphere that was all its own.

It was at the top of the building, and looked clear over a clustering
mass of inferior buildings toward Regent’s Park. It was long and narrow,
a well-lit, well-ventilated, quiet gallery of small tables and sinks,
pervaded by a thin smell of methylated spirit and of a mitigated
and sterilized organic decay. Along the inner side was a wonderfully
arranged series of displayed specimens that Russell himself had
prepared. The supreme effect for Ann Veronica was its surpassing
relevance; it made every other atmosphere she knew seem discursive and
confused. The whole place and everything in it aimed at one thing--to
illustrate, to elaborate, to criticise and illuminate, and make ever
plainer and plainer the significance of animal and vegetable structure.
It dealt from floor to ceiling and end to end with the Theory of the
Forms of Life; the very duster by the blackboard was there to do its
share in that work, the very washers in the taps; the room was more
simply concentrated in aim even than a church. To that, perhaps, a
large part of its satisfyingness was due. Contrasted with the confused
movement and presences of a Fabian meeting, or the inexplicable
enthusiasm behind the suffrage demand, with the speeches that were
partly egotistical displays, partly artful manoeuvres, and partly
incoherent cries for unsoundly formulated ends, compared with the
comings and goings of audiences and supporters that were like the
eddy-driven drift of paper in the street, this long, quiet, methodical
chamber shone like a star seen through clouds.

Day after day for a measured hour in the lecture-theatre, with elaborate
power and patience, Russell pieced together difficulty and suggestion,
instance and counter-instance, in the elaborate construction of the
family tree of life. And then the students went into the long laboratory
and followed out these facts in almost living tissue with microscope and
scalpel, probe and microtome, and the utmost of their skill and care,
making now and then a raid into the compact museum of illustration next
door, in which specimens and models and directions stood in disciplined
ranks, under the direction of the demonstrator Capes. There was a couple
of blackboards at each end of the aisle of tables, and at these Capes,
with quick and nervous speech that contrasted vividly with Russell’s
slow, definitive articulation, directed the dissection and made
illuminating comments on the structures under examination. Then he
would come along the laboratory, sitting down by each student in
turn, checking the work and discussing its difficulties, and answering
questions arising out of Russell’s lecture.

Ann Veronica had come to the Imperial College obsessed by the
great figure of Russell, by the part he had played in the Darwinian
controversies, and by the resolute effect of the grim-lipped, yellow,
leonine face beneath the mane of silvery hair. Capes was rather a
discovery. Capes was something superadded. Russell burned like a beacon,
but Capes illuminated by darting flashes and threw light, even if it
was but momentary light, into a hundred corners that Russell left
steadfastly in the shade.

Capes was an exceptionally fair man of two or three-and-thirty, so
ruddily blond that it was a mercy he had escaped light eyelashes, and
with a minor but by no means contemptible reputation of his own. He
talked at the blackboard in a pleasant, very slightly lisping voice with
a curious spontaneity, and was sometimes very clumsy in his exposition,
and sometimes very vivid. He dissected rather awkwardly and hurriedly,
but, on the whole, effectively, and drew with an impatient directness
that made up in significance what it lacked in precision. Across the
blackboard the colored chalks flew like flights of variously tinted
rockets as diagram after diagram flickered into being.

There happened that year to be an unusual proportion of girls and women
in the advanced laboratory, perhaps because the class as a whole was an
exceptionally small one. It numbered nine, and four of these were women
students. As a consequence of its small size, it was possible to get
along with the work on a much easier and more colloquial footing than
a larger class would have permitted. And a custom had grown up of a
general tea at four o’clock, under the auspices of a Miss Garvice, a
tall and graceful girl of distinguished intellectual incompetence, in
whom the hostess instinct seemed to be abnormally developed.

Capes would come to these teas; he evidently liked to come, and he
would appear in the doorway of the preparation-room, a pleasing note of
shyness in his manner, hovering for an invitation.

From the first, Ann Veronica found him an exceptionally interesting man.
To begin with, he struck her as being the most variable person she had
ever encountered. At times he was brilliant and masterful, talked round
and over every one, and would have been domineering if he had not
been extraordinarily kindly; at times he was almost monosyllabic, and
defeated Miss Garvice’s most skilful attempts to draw him out. Sometimes
he was obviously irritable and uncomfortable and unfortunate in his
efforts to seem at ease. And sometimes he overflowed with a peculiarly
malignant wit that played, with devastating effect, upon any topics that
had the courage to face it. Ann Veronica’s experiences of men had been
among more stable types--Teddy, who was always absurd; her father,
who was always authoritative and sentimental; Manning, who was always
Manning. And most of the others she had met had, she felt, the same
steadfastness. Goopes, she was sure was always high-browed and slow and
Socratic. And Ramage too--about Ramage there would always be that air of
avidity, that air of knowledge and inquiry, the mixture of things in his
talk that were rather good with things that were rather poor. But one
could not count with any confidence upon Capes.

The five men students were a mixed company. There was a very white-faced
youngster of eighteen who brushed back his hair exactly in Russell’s
manner, and was disposed to be uncomfortably silent when he was
near her, and to whom she felt it was only Christian kindness to be
consistently pleasant; and a lax young man of five-and-twenty in navy
blue, who mingled Marx and Bebel with the more orthodox gods of the
biological pantheon. There was a short, red-faced, resolute youth who
inherited an authoritative attitude upon bacteriology from his father;
a Japanese student of unassuming manners who drew beautifully and had
an imperfect knowledge of English; and a dark, unwashed Scotchman
with complicated spectacles, who would come every morning as a sort of
volunteer supplementary demonstrator, look very closely at her work
and her, tell her that her dissections were “fairish,” or “very fairish
indeed,” or “high above the normal female standard,” hover as if for
some outbreak of passionate gratitude and with admiring retrospects
that made the facetted spectacles gleam like diamonds, return to his own
place.

The women, Ann Veronica thought, were not quite so interesting as the
men. There were two school-mistresses, one of whom--Miss Klegg--might
have been a first cousin to Miss Miniver, she had so many Miniver
traits; there was a preoccupied girl whose name Ann Veronica never
learned, but who worked remarkably well; and Miss Garvice, who began
by attracting her very greatly--she moved so beautifully--and ended by
giving her the impression that moving beautifully was the beginning and
end of her being.



Part 2


The next few weeks were a time of the very liveliest thought and growth
for Ann Veronica. The crowding impressions of the previous weeks seemed
to run together directly her mind left the chaotic search for employment
and came into touch again with a coherent and systematic development
of ideas. The advanced work at the Central Imperial College was in the
closest touch with living interests and current controversies; it drew
its illustrations and material from Russell’s two great researches--upon
the relation of the brachiopods to the echinodermata, and upon the
secondary and tertiary mammalian and pseudo-mammalian factors in the
free larval forms of various marine organisms. Moreover, a vigorous fire
of mutual criticism was going on now between the Imperial College and
the Cambridge Mendelians and echoed in the lectures. From beginning to
end it was first-hand stuff.

But the influence of the science radiated far beyond its own special
field--beyond those beautiful but highly technical problems with which
we do not propose for a moment to trouble the naturally terrified
reader. Biology is an extraordinarily digestive science. It throws out a
number of broad experimental generalizations, and then sets out to
bring into harmony or relation with these an infinitely multifarious
collection of phenomena. The little streaks upon the germinating area
of an egg, the nervous movements of an impatient horse, the trick of
a calculating boy, the senses of a fish, the fungus at the root of a
garden flower, and the slime upon a sea-wet rock--ten thousand such
things bear their witness and are illuminated. And not only did these
tentacular generalizations gather all the facts of natural history and
comparative anatomy together, but they seemed always stretching out
further and further into a world of interests that lay altogether
outside their legitimate bounds.

It came to Ann Veronica one night after a long talk with Miss Miniver,
as a sudden remarkable thing, as a grotesque, novel aspect, that this
slowly elaborating biological scheme had something more than an academic
interest for herself. And not only so, but that it was after all, a more
systematic and particular method of examining just the same questions
that underlay the discussions of the Fabian Society, the talk of the
West Central Arts Club, the chatter of the studios and the deep, the
bottomless discussions of the simple-life homes. It was the same Bios
whose nature and drift and ways and methods and aspects engaged
them all. And she, she in her own person too, was this eternal Bios,
beginning again its recurrent journey to selection and multiplication
and failure or survival.

But this was but a momentary gleam of personal application, and at this
time she followed it up no further.

And now Ann Veronica’s evenings were also becoming very busy. She
pursued her interest in the Socialist movement and in the Suffragist
agitation in the company of Miss Miniver. They went to various central
and local Fabian gatherings, and to a number of suffrage meetings. Teddy
Widgett hovered on the fringe of all these gatherings, blinking at Ann
Veronica and occasionally making a wildly friendly dash at her, and
carrying her and Miss Miniver off to drink cocoa with a choice diversity
of other youthful and congenial Fabians after the meetings. Then Mr.
Manning loomed up ever and again into her world, full of a futile
solicitude, and almost always declaring she was splendid, splendid, and
wishing he could talk things out with her. Teas he contributed to the
commissariat of Ann Veronica’s campaign--quite a number of teas. He
would get her to come to tea with him, usually in a pleasant tea-room
over a fruit-shop in Tottenham Court Road, and he would discuss his own
point of view and hint at a thousand devotions were she but to command
him. And he would express various artistic sensibilities and aesthetic
appreciations in carefully punctuated sentences and a large, clear
voice. At Christmas he gave her a set of a small edition of Meredith’s
novels, very prettily bound in flexible leather, being guided in the
choice of an author, as he intimated, rather by her preferences than his
own.

There was something markedly and deliberately liberal-minded in his
manner in all their encounters. He conveyed not only his sense of the
extreme want of correctitude in their unsanctioned meetings, but also
that, so far as he was concerned, this irregularity mattered not at
all, that he had flung--and kept on flinging--such considerations to the
wind.

And, in addition, she was now seeing and talking to Ramage almost
weekly, on a theory which she took very gravely, that they were
exceptionally friends. He would ask her to come to dinner with him in
some little Italian or semi-Bohemian restaurant in the district toward
Soho, or in one of the more stylish and magnificent establishments about
Piccadilly Circus, and for the most part she did not care to refuse.
Nor, indeed, did she want to refuse. These dinners, from their lavish
display of ambiguous hors d’oeuvre to their skimpy ices in dishes of
frilled paper, with their Chianti flasks and Parmesan dishes and their
polyglot waiters and polyglot clientele, were very funny and bright;
and she really liked Ramage, and valued his help and advice. It was
interesting to see how different and characteristic his mode of approach
was to all sorts of questions that interested her, and it was amusing to
discover this other side to the life of a Morningside Park inhabitant.
She had thought that all Morningside Park householders came home before
seven at the latest, as her father usually did. Ramage talked always
about women or some woman’s concern, and very much about Ann Veronica’s
own outlook upon life. He was always drawing contrasts between a woman’s
lot and a man’s, and treating her as a wonderful new departure in this
comparison. Ann Veronica liked their relationship all the more because
it was an unusual one.

After these dinners they would have a walk, usually to the Thames
Embankment to see the two sweeps of river on either side of Waterloo
Bridge; and then they would part at Westminster Bridge, perhaps, and
he would go on to Waterloo. Once he suggested they should go to a
music-hall and see a wonderful new dancer, but Ann Veronica did not feel
she cared to see a new dancer. So, instead, they talked of dancing
and what it might mean in a human life. Ann Veronica thought it was
a spontaneous release of energy expressive of well-being, but Ramage
thought that by dancing, men, and such birds and animals as dance, come
to feel and think of their bodies.

This intercourse, which had been planned to warm Ann Veronica to a
familiar affection with Ramage, was certainly warming Ramage to a
constantly deepening interest in Ann Veronica. He felt that he was
getting on with her very slowly indeed, but he did not see how he could
get on faster. He had, he felt, to create certain ideas and vivify
certain curiosities and feelings in her. Until that was done a certain
experience of life assured him that a girl is a locked coldness against
a man’s approach. She had all the fascination of being absolutely
perplexing in this respect. On the one hand, she seemed to think plainly
and simply, and would talk serenely and freely about topics that most
women have been trained either to avoid or conceal; and on the other she
was unconscious, or else she had an air of being unconscious--that was
the riddle--to all sorts of personal applications that almost any girl
or woman, one might have thought, would have made. He was always doing
his best to call her attention to the fact that he was a man of spirit
and quality and experience, and she a young and beautiful woman, and
that all sorts of constructions upon their relationship were possible,
trusting her to go on from that to the idea that all sorts of
relationships were possible. She responded with an unfaltering
appearance of insensibility, and never as a young and beautiful woman
conscious of sex; always in the character of an intelligent girl
student.

His perception of her personal beauty deepened and quickened with each
encounter. Every now and then her general presence became radiantly
dazzling in his eyes; she would appear in the street coming toward him,
a surprise, so fine and smiling and welcoming was she, so expanded and
illuminated and living, in contrast with his mere expectation. Or he
would find something--a wave in her hair, a little line in the contour
of her brow or neck, that made an exquisite discovery.

He was beginning to think about her inordinately. He would sit in
his inner office and compose conversations with her, penetrating,
illuminating, and nearly conclusive--conversations that never proved to
be of the slightest use at all with her when he met her face to face.
And he began also at times to wake at night and think about her.

He thought of her and himself, and no longer in that vein of incidental
adventure in which he had begun. He thought, too, of the fretful invalid
who lay in the next room to his, whose money had created his business
and made his position in the world.

“I’ve had most of the things I wanted,” said Ramage, in the stillness of
the night.



Part 3


For a time Ann Veronica’s family had desisted from direct offers of a
free pardon; they were evidently waiting for her resources to come to
an end. Neither father, aunt, nor brothers made a sign, and then
one afternoon in early February her aunt came up in a state between
expostulation and dignified resentment, but obviously very anxious for
Ann Veronica’s welfare. “I had a dream in the night,” she said. “I saw
you in a sort of sloping, slippery place, holding on by your hands and
slipping. You seemed to me to be slipping and slipping, and your face
was white. It was really most vivid, most vivid! You seemed to be
slipping and just going to tumble and holding on. It made me wake up,
and there I lay thinking of you, spending your nights up here all alone,
and no one to look after you. I wondered what you could be doing and
what might be happening to you. I said to myself at once, ‘Either this
is a coincidence or the caper sauce.’ But I made sure it was you. I felt
I MUST do something anyhow, and up I came just as soon as I could to see
you.”

She had spoken rather rapidly. “I can’t help saying it,” she said, with
the quality of her voice altering, “but I do NOT think it is right for
an unprotected girl to be in London alone as you are.”

“But I’m quite equal to taking care of myself, aunt.”

“It must be most uncomfortable here. It is most uncomfortable for every
one concerned.”

She spoke with a certain asperity. She felt that Ann Veronica had duped
her in that dream, and now that she had come up to London she might as
well speak her mind.

“No Christmas dinner,” she said, “or anything nice! One doesn’t even
know what you are doing.”

“I’m going on working for my degree.”

“Why couldn’t you do that at home?”

“I’m working at the Imperial College. You see, aunt, it’s the only
possible way for me to get a good degree in my subjects, and father
won’t hear of it. There’d only be endless rows if I was at home. And how
could I come home--when he locks me in rooms and all that?”

“I do wish this wasn’t going on,” said Miss Stanley, after a pause. “I
do wish you and your father could come to some agreement.”

Ann Veronica responded with conviction: “I wish so, too.”

“Can’t we arrange something? Can’t we make a sort of treaty?”

“He wouldn’t keep it. He would get very cross one evening and no one
would dare to remind him of it.”

“How can you say such things?”

“But he would!”

“Still, it isn’t your place to say so.”

“It prevents a treaty.”

“Couldn’t _I_ make a treaty?”

Ann Veronica thought, and could not see any possible treaty that would
leave it open for her to have quasi-surreptitious dinners with Ramage
or go on walking round the London squares discussing Socialism with Miss
Miniver toward the small hours. She had tasted freedom now, and so far
she had not felt the need of protection. Still, there certainly was
something in the idea of a treaty.

“I don’t see at all how you can be managing,” said Miss Stanley, and Ann
Veronica hastened to reply, “I do on very little.” Her mind went back to
that treaty.

“And aren’t there fees to pay at the Imperial College?” her aunt was
saying--a disagreeable question.

“There are a few fees.”

“Then how have you managed?”

“Bother!” said Ann Veronica to herself, and tried not to look guilty. “I
was able to borrow the money.”

“Borrow the money! But who lent you the money?”

“A friend,” said Ann Veronica.

She felt herself getting into a corner. She sought hastily in her mind
for a plausible answer to an obvious question that didn’t come. Her aunt
went off at a tangent. “But my dear Ann Veronica, you will be getting
into debt!”

Ann Veronica at once, and with a feeling of immense relief, took refuge
in her dignity. “I think, aunt,” she said, “you might trust to my
self-respect to keep me out of that.”

For the moment her aunt could not think of any reply to this
counterstroke, and Ann Veronica followed up her advantage by a sudden
inquiry about her abandoned boots.

But in the train going home her aunt reasoned it out.

“If she is borrowing money,” said Miss Stanley, “she MUST be getting
into debt. It’s all nonsense....”



Part 4


It was by imperceptible degrees that Capes became important in Ann
Veronica’s thoughts. But then he began to take steps, and, at last,
strides to something more and more like predominance. She began by being
interested in his demonstrations and his biological theory, then she was
attracted by his character, and then, in a manner, she fell in love with
his mind.

One day they were at tea in the laboratory and a discussion sprang up
about the question of women’s suffrage. The movement was then in its
earlier militant phases, and one of the women only, Miss Garvice,
opposed it, though Ann Veronica was disposed to be lukewarm. But a man’s
opposition always inclined her to the suffrage side; she had a curious
feeling of loyalty in seeing the more aggressive women through. Capes
was irritatingly judicial in the matter, neither absurdly against, in
which case one might have smashed him, or hopelessly undecided, but
tepidly sceptical. Miss Klegg and the youngest girl made a vigorous
attack on Miss Garvice, who had said she thought women lost something
infinitely precious by mingling in the conflicts of life. The discussion
wandered, and was punctuated with bread and butter. Capes was inclined
to support Miss Klegg until Miss Garvice cornered him by quoting him
against himself, and citing a recent paper in the Nineteenth Century, in
which, following Atkinson, he had made a vigorous and damaging attack
on Lester Ward’s case for the primitive matriarchate and the predominant
importance of the female throughout the animal kingdom.

Ann Veronica was not aware of this literary side of her teacher; she had
a little tinge of annoyance at Miss Garvice’s advantage. Afterwards
she hunted up the article in question, and it seemed to her quite
delightfully written and argued. Capes had the gift of easy, unaffected
writing, coupled with very clear and logical thinking, and to follow
his written thought gave her the sensation of cutting things with a
perfectly new, perfectly sharp knife. She found herself anxious to read
more of him, and the next Wednesday she went to the British Museum and
hunted first among the half-crown magazines for his essays and then
through various scientific quarterlies for his research papers. The
ordinary research paper, when it is not extravagant theorizing, is apt
to be rather sawdusty in texture, and Ann Veronica was delighted to find
the same easy and confident luminosity that distinguished his work for
the general reader. She returned to these latter, and at the back of
her mind, as she looked them over again, was a very distinct resolve
to quote them after the manner of Miss Garvice at the very first
opportunity.

When she got home to her lodgings that evening she reflected with
something like surprise upon her half-day’s employment, and decided
that it showed nothing more nor less than that Capes was a really very
interesting person indeed.

And then she fell into a musing about Capes. She wondered why he was so
distinctive, so unlike other men, and it never occurred to her for some
time that this might be because she was falling in love with him.



Part 5


Yet Ann Veronica was thinking a very great deal about love. A dozen
shynesses and intellectual barriers were being outflanked or broken
down in her mind. All the influences about her worked with her own
predisposition and against all the traditions of her home and upbringing
to deal with the facts of life in an unabashed manner. Ramage, by a
hundred skilful hints had led her to realize that the problem of her own
life was inseparably associated with, and indeed only one special case
of, the problems of any woman’s life, and that the problem of a woman’s
life is love.

“A young man comes into life asking how best he may place himself,”
 Ramage had said; “a woman comes into life thinking instinctively how
best she may give herself.”

She noted that as a good saying, and it germinated and spread tentacles
of explanation through her brain. The biological laboratory, perpetually
viewing life as pairing and breeding and selection, and again pairing
and breeding, seemed only a translated generalization of that assertion.
And all the talk of the Miniver people and the Widgett people seemed
always to be like a ship in adverse weather on the lee shore of love.
“For seven years,” said Ann Veronica, “I have been trying to keep myself
from thinking about love....

“I have been training myself to look askance at beautiful things.”

She gave herself permission now to look at this squarely. She made
herself a private declaration of liberty. “This is mere nonsense, mere
tongue-tied fear!” she said. “This is the slavery of the veiled life.
I might as well be at Morningside Park. This business of love is the
supreme affair in life, it is the woman’s one event and crisis that
makes up for all her other restrictions, and I cower--as we all
cower--with a blushing and paralyzed mind until it overtakes me!...

“I’ll be hanged if I do.”

But she could not talk freely about love, she found, for all that
manumission.

Ramage seemed always fencing about the forbidden topic, probing for
openings, and she wondered why she did not give him them. But something
instinctive prevented that, and with the finest resolve not to be
“silly” and prudish she found that whenever he became at all bold
in this matter she became severely scientific and impersonal, almost
entomological indeed, in her method; she killed every remark as he made
it and pinned it out for examination. In the biological laboratory that
was their invincible tone. But she disapproved more and more of her own
mental austerity. Here was an experienced man of the world, her friend,
who evidently took a great interest in this supreme topic and was
willing to give her the benefit of his experiences! Why should not she
be at her ease with him? Why should not she know things? It is hard
enough anyhow for a human being to learn, she decided, but it is a dozen
times more difficult than it need be because of all this locking of the
lips and thoughts.

She contrived to break down the barriers of shyness at last in one
direction, and talked one night of love and the facts of love with Miss
Miniver.

But Miss Miniver was highly unsatisfactory. She repeated phrases of Mrs.
Goopes’s: “Advanced people,” she said, with an air of great elucidation,
“tend to GENERALIZE love. ‘He prayeth best who loveth best--all things
both great and small.’ For my own part I go about loving.”

“Yes, but men;” said Ann Veronica, plunging; “don’t you want the love of
men?”

For some seconds they remained silent, both shocked by this question.

Miss Miniver looked over her glasses at her friend almost balefully.
“NO!” she said, at last, with something in her voice that reminded Ann
Veronica of a sprung tennis-racket.

“I’ve been through all that,” she went on, after a pause.

She spoke slowly. “I have never yet met a man whose intellect I could
respect.”

Ann Veronica looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, and decided to
persist on principle.

“But if you had?” she said.

“I can’t imagine it,” said Miss Miniver. “And think, think”--her voice
sank--“of the horrible coarseness!”

“What coarseness?” said Ann Veronica.

“My dear Vee!” Her voice became very low. “Don’t you know?”

“Oh! I know--”

“Well--” Her face was an unaccustomed pink.

Ann Veronica ignored her friend’s confusion.

“Don’t we all rather humbug about the coarseness? All we women, I mean,”
 said she. She decided to go on, after a momentary halt. “We pretend
bodies are ugly. Really they are the most beautiful things in the world.
We pretend we never think of everything that makes us what we are.”

“No,” cried Miss Miniver, almost vehemently. “You are wrong! I did not
think you thought such things. Bodies! Bodies! Horrible things! We are
souls. Love lives on a higher plane. We are not animals. If ever I
did meet a man I could love, I should love him”--her voice dropped
again--“platonically.”

She made her glasses glint. “Absolutely platonically,” she said.

“Soul to soul.”

She turned her face to the fire, gripped her hands upon her elbows, and
drew her thin shoulders together in a shrug. “Ugh!” she said.

Ann Veronica watched her and wondered about her.

“We do not want the men,” said Miss Miniver; “we do not want them, with
their sneers and loud laughter. Empty, silly, coarse brutes. Brutes!
They are the brute still with us! Science some day may teach us a way
to do without them. It is only the women matter. It is not every sort of
creature needs--these males. Some have no males.”

“There’s green-fly,” admitted Ann Veronica. “And even then--”

The conversation hung for a thoughtful moment.

Ann Veronica readjusted her chin on her hand. “I wonder which of us is
right,” she said. “I haven’t a scrap--of this sort of aversion.”

“Tolstoy is so good about this,” said Miss Miniver, regardless of her
friend’s attitude. “He sees through it all. The Higher Life and the
Lower. He sees men all defiled by coarse thoughts, coarse ways of living
cruelties. Simply because they are hardened by--by bestiality,
and poisoned by the juices of meat slain in anger and fermented
drinks--fancy! drinks that have been swarmed in by thousands and
thousands of horrible little bacteria!”

“It’s yeast,” said Ann Veronica--“a vegetable.”

“It’s all the same,” said Miss Miniver. “And then they are swollen up
and inflamed and drunken with matter. They are blinded to all fine
and subtle things--they look at life with bloodshot eyes and dilated
nostrils. They are arbitrary and unjust and dogmatic and brutish and
lustful.”

“But do you really think men’s minds are altered by the food they eat?”

“I know it,” said Miss Miniver. “Experte credo. When I am leading a true
life, a pure and simple life free of all stimulants and excitements, I
think--I think--oh! with pellucid clearness; but if I so much as take a
mouthful of meat--or anything--the mirror is all blurred.”



Part 6


Then, arising she knew not how, like a new-born appetite, came a craving
in Ann Veronica for the sight and sound of beauty.

It was as if her aesthetic sense had become inflamed. Her mind turned
and accused itself of having been cold and hard. She began to look for
beauty and discover it in unexpected aspects and places. Hitherto she
had seen it chiefly in pictures and other works of art, incidentally,
and as a thing taken out of life. Now the sense of beauty was spreading
to a multitude of hitherto unsuspected aspects of the world about her.

The thought of beauty became an obsession. It interwove with her
biological work. She found herself asking more and more curiously, “Why,
on the principle of the survival of the fittest, have I any sense of
beauty at all?” That enabled her to go on thinking about beauty when it
seemed to her right that she should be thinking about biology.

She was very greatly exercised by the two systems of values--the two
series of explanations that her comparative anatomy on the one hand and
her sense of beauty on the other, set going in her thoughts. She could
not make up her mind which was the finer, more elemental thing, which
gave its values to the other. Was it that the struggle of things
to survive produced as a sort of necessary by-product these intense
preferences and appreciations, or was it that some mystical outer thing,
some great force, drove life beautyward, even in spite of expediency,
regardless of survival value and all the manifest discretions of life?
She went to Capes with that riddle and put it to him very carefully and
clearly, and he talked well--he always talked at some length when she
took a difficulty to him--and sent her to a various literature upon the
markings of butterflies, the incomprehensible elaboration and splendor
of birds of Paradise and humming-birds’ plumes, the patterning of
tigers, and a leopard’s spots. He was interesting and inconclusive, and
the original papers to which he referred her discursive were at best
only suggestive. Afterward, one afternoon, he hovered about her, and
came and sat beside her and talked of beauty and the riddle of beauty
for some time. He displayed a quite unprofessional vein of mysticism in
the matter. He contrasted with Russell, whose intellectual methods were,
so to speak, sceptically dogmatic. Their talk drifted to the beauty of
music, and they took that up again at tea-time.

But as the students sat about Miss Garvice’s tea-pot and drank tea or
smoked cigarettes, the talk got away from Capes. The Scotchman informed
Ann Veronica that your view of beauty necessarily depended on your
metaphysical premises, and the young man with the Russell-like hair
became anxious to distinguish himself by telling the Japanese student
that Western art was symmetrical and Eastern art asymmetrical, and that
among the higher organisms the tendency was toward an external symmetry
veiling an internal want of balance. Ann Veronica decided she would have
to go on with Capes another day, and, looking up, discovered him sitting
on a stool with his hands in his pockets and his head a little on one
side, regarding her with a thoughtful expression. She met his eye for a
moment in curious surprise.

He turned his eyes and stared at Miss Garvice like one who wakes from
a reverie, and then got up and strolled down the laboratory toward his
refuge, the preparation-room.



Part 7


Then one day a little thing happened that clothed itself in
significance.

She had been working upon a ribbon of microtome sections of the
developing salamander, and he came to see what she had made of them. She
stood up and he sat down at the microscope, and for a time he was busy
scrutinizing one section after another. She looked down at him and saw
that the sunlight was gleaming from his cheeks, and that all over
his cheeks was a fine golden down of delicate hairs. And at the sight
something leaped within her.

Something changed for her.

She became aware of his presence as she had never been aware of any
human being in her life before. She became aware of the modelling of his
ear, of the muscles of his neck and the textures of the hair that came
off his brow, the soft minute curve of eyelid that she could just see
beyond his brow; she perceived all these familiar objects as though
they were acutely beautiful things. They WERE, she realized, acutely
beautiful things. Her sense followed the shoulders under his coat, down
to where his flexible, sensitive-looking hand rested lightly upon the
table. She felt him as something solid and strong and trustworthy beyond
measure. The perception of him flooded her being.

He got up. “Here’s something rather good,” he said, and with a start and
an effort she took his place at the microscope, while he stood beside
her and almost leaning over her.

She found she was trembling at his nearness and full of a thrilling
dread that he might touch her. She pulled herself together and put her
eye to the eye-piece.

“You see the pointer?” he asked.

“I see the pointer,” she said.

“It’s like this,” he said, and dragged a stool beside her and sat down
with his elbow four inches from hers and made a sketch. Then he got up
and left her.

She had a feeling at his departure as of an immense cavity, of something
enormously gone; she could not tell whether it was infinite regret or
infinite relief....

But now Ann Veronica knew what was the matter with her.



Part 8


And as she sat on her bed that night, musing and half-undressed, she
began to run one hand down her arm and scrutinize the soft flow of
muscle under her skin. She thought of the marvellous beauty of skin,
and all the delightfulness of living texture. Oh the back of her arm she
found the faintest down of hair in the world. “Etherialized monkey,” she
said. She held out her arm straight before her, and turned her hand this
way and that.

“Why should one pretend?” she whispered. “Why should one pretend?

“Think of all the beauty in the world that is covered up and overlaid.”

She glanced shyly at the mirror above her dressing-table, and then about
her at the furniture, as though it might penetrate to the thoughts that
peeped in her mind.

“I wonder,” said Ann Veronica at last, “if I am beautiful? I wonder if I
shall ever shine like a light, like a translucent goddess?--

“I wonder--

“I suppose girls and women have prayed for this, have come to this--In
Babylon, in Nineveh.

“Why shouldn’t one face the facts of one’s self?”

She stood up. She posed herself before her mirror and surveyed herself
with gravely thoughtful, gravely critical, and yet admiring eyes. “And,
after all, I am just one common person!”

She watched the throb of the arteries in the stem of her neck, and
put her hand at last gently and almost timidly to where her heart beat
beneath her breast.



Part 9


The realization that she was in love flooded Ann Veronica’s mind, and
altered the quality of all its topics.

She began to think persistently of Capes, and it seemed to her now that
for some weeks at least she must have been thinking persistently of
him unawares. She was surprised to find how stored her mind was with
impressions and memories of him, how vividly she remembered his gestures
and little things that he had said. It occurred to her that it was
absurd and wrong to be so continuously thinking of one engrossing topic,
and she made a strenuous effort to force her mind to other questions.

But it was extraordinary what seemingly irrelevant things could restore
her to the thought of Capes again. And when she went to sleep, then
always Capes became the novel and wonderful guest of her dreams.

For a time it really seemed all-sufficient to her that she should love.
That Capes should love her seemed beyond the compass of her imagination.
Indeed, she did not want to think of him as loving her. She wanted to
think of him as her beloved person, to be near him and watch him,
to have him going about, doing this and that, saying this and that,
unconscious of her, while she too remained unconscious of herself. To
think of him as loving her would make all that different. Then he would
turn his face to her, and she would have to think of herself in his
eyes. She would become defensive--what she did would be the thing that
mattered. He would require things of her, and she would be passionately
concerned to meet his requirements. Loving was better than that. Loving
was self-forgetfulness, pure delighting in another human being. She felt
that with Capes near to her she would be content always to go on loving.

She went next day to the schools, and her world seemed all made of
happiness just worked up roughly into shapes and occasions and duties.
She found she could do her microscope work all the better for being in
love. She winced when first she heard the preparation-room door open and
Capes came down the laboratory; but when at last he reached her she was
self-possessed. She put a stool for him at a little distance from her
own, and after he had seen the day’s work he hesitated, and then plunged
into a resumption of their discussion about beauty.

“I think,” he said, “I was a little too mystical about beauty the other
day.”

“I like the mystical way,” she said.

“Our business here is the right way. I’ve been thinking, you know--I’m
not sure that primarily the perception of beauty isn’t just intensity
of feeling free from pain; intensity of perception without any tissue
destruction.”

“I like the mystical way better,” said Ann Veronica, and thought.

“A number of beautiful things are not intense.”

“But delicacy, for example, may be intensely perceived.”

“But why is one face beautiful and another not?” objected Ann Veronica;
“on your theory any two faces side by side in the sunlight ought to be
equally beautiful. One must get them with exactly the same intensity.”

He did not agree with that. “I don’t mean simply intensity of sensation.
I said intensity of perception. You may perceive harmony, proportion,
rhythm, intensely. They are things faint and slight in themselves, as
physical facts, but they are like the detonator of a bomb: they
let loose the explosive. There’s the internal factor as well as the
external.... I don’t know if I express myself clearly. I mean that
the point is that vividness of perception is the essential factor of
beauty; but, of course, vividness may be created by a whisper.”

“That brings us back,” said Ann Veronica, “to the mystery. Why should
some things and not others open the deeps?”

“Well, that might, after all, be an outcome of selection--like the
preference for blue flowers, which are not nearly so bright as yellow,
of some insects.”

“That doesn’t explain sunsets.”

“Not quite so easily as it explains an insect alighting on colored
paper. But perhaps if people didn’t like clear, bright, healthy
eyes--which is biologically understandable--they couldn’t like precious
stones. One thing may be a necessary collateral of the others. And,
after all, a fine clear sky of bright colors is the signal to come out
of hiding and rejoice and go on with life.”

“H’m!” said Ann Veronica, and shook her head.

Capes smiled cheerfully with his eyes meeting hers. “I throw it out
in passing,” he said. “What I am after is that beauty isn’t a special
inserted sort of thing; that’s my idea. It’s just life, pure life, life
nascent, running clear and strong.”

He stood up to go on to the next student.

“There’s morbid beauty,” said Ann Veronica.

“I wonder if there is!” said Capes, and paused, and then bent down over
the boy who wore his hair like Russell.

Ann Veronica surveyed his sloping back for a moment, and then drew her
microscope toward her. Then for a time she sat very still. She felt that
she had passed a difficult corner, and that now she could go on talking
with him again, just as she had been used to do before she understood
what was the matter with her....

She had one idea, she found, very clear in her mind--that she would get
a Research Scholarship, and so contrive another year in the laboratory.

“Now I see what everything means,” said Ann Veronica to herself; and it
really felt for some days as though the secret of the universe, that had
been wrapped and hidden from her so obstinately, was at last altogether
displayed.



CHAPTER THE NINTH

DISCORDS

Part 1

One afternoon, soon after Ann Veronica’s great discovery, a telegram
came into the laboratory for her. It ran:

     ---------------------------------------------------
     |   Bored  |  and      | nothing  |   to   |   do   |
     |----------|-----------|----------|--------|--------|
     |   will   |    you    |   dine   |  with  |   me   |
     |----------|-----------|----------|--------|--------|
     | to-night | somewhere |   and    |  talk  |   I    |
     |----------|-----------|----------|--------|--------|
     |  shall   |     be    | grateful | Ramage |        |
     ---------------------------------------------------

Ann Veronica was rather pleased by this. She had not seen Ramage for ten
or eleven days, and she was quite ready for a gossip with him. And now
her mind was so full of the thought that she was in love--in love!--that
marvellous state! that I really believe she had some dim idea of talking
to him about it. At any rate, it would be good to hear him saying the
sort of things he did--perhaps now she would grasp them better--with
this world-shaking secret brandishing itself about inside her head
within a yard of him.

She was sorry to find Ramage a little disposed to be melancholy.

“I have made over seven hundred pounds in the last week,” he said.

“That’s exhilarating,” said Ann Veronica.

“Not a bit of it,” he said; “it’s only a score in a game.”

“It’s a score you can buy all sorts of things with.”

“Nothing that one wants.”

He turned to the waiter, who held a wine-card. “Nothing can cheer me,”
 he said, “except champagne.” He meditated. “This,” he said, and then:
“No! Is this sweeter? Very well.”

“Everything goes well with me,” he said, folding his arms under him and
regarding Ann Veronica with the slightly projecting eyes wide open. “And
I’m not happy. I believe I’m in love.”

He leaned back for his soup.

Presently he resumed: “I believe I must be in love.”

“You can’t be that,” said Ann Veronica, wisely.

“How do you know?”

“Well, it isn’t exactly a depressing state, is it?”

“YOU don’t know.”

“One has theories,” said Ann Veronica, radiantly.

“Oh, theories! Being in love is a fact.”

“It ought to make one happy.”

“It’s an unrest--a longing--What’s that?” The waiter had intervened.
“Parmesan--take it away!”

He glanced at Ann Veronica’s face, and it seemed to him that she really
was exceptionally radiant. He wondered why she thought love made people
happy, and began to talk of the smilax and pinks that adorned the table.
He filled her glass with champagne. “You MUST,” he said, “because of my
depression.”

They were eating quails when they returned to the topic of love. “What
made you think” he said, abruptly, with the gleam of avidity in his
face, “that love makes people happy?”

“I know it must.”

“But how?”

He was, she thought, a little too insistent. “Women know these things by
instinct,” she answered.

“I wonder,” he said, “if women do know things by instinct? I have
my doubts about feminine instinct. It’s one of our conventional
superstitions. A woman is supposed to know when a man is in love with
her. Do you think she does?”

Ann Veronica picked among her salad with a judicial expression of face.
“I think she would,” she decided.

“Ah!” said Ramage, impressively.

Ann Veronica looked up at him and found him regarding her with eyes that
were almost woebegone, and into which, indeed, he was trying to throw
much more expression than they could carry. There was a little pause
between them, full for Ann Veronica of rapid elusive suspicions and
intimations.

“Perhaps one talks nonsense about a woman’s instinct,” she said. “It’s
a way of avoiding explanations. And girls and women, perhaps, are
different. I don’t know. I don’t suppose a girl can tell if a man is in
love with her or not in love with her.” Her mind went off to Capes. Her
thoughts took words for themselves. “She can’t. I suppose it depends on
her own state of mind. If one wants a thing very much, perhaps one is
inclined to think one can’t have it. I suppose if one were to love some
one, one would feel doubtful. And if one were to love some one very
much, it’s just so that one would be blindest, just when one wanted most
to see.”

She stopped abruptly, afraid that Ramage might be able to infer Capes
from the things she had said, and indeed his face was very eager.

“Yes?” he said.

Ann Veronica blushed. “That’s all,” she said “I’m afraid I’m a little
confused about these things.”

Ramage looked at her, and then fell into deep reflection as the waiter
came to paragraph their talk again.

“Have you ever been to the opera, Ann Veronica?” said Ramage.

“Once or twice.”

“Shall we go now?”

“I think I would like to listen to music. What is there?”

“Tristan.”

“I’ve never heard Tristan and Isolde.”

“That settles it. We’ll go. There’s sure to be a place somewhere.”

“It’s rather jolly of you,” said Ann Veronica.

“It’s jolly of you to come,” said Ramage.

So presently they got into a hansom together, and Ann Veronica sat back
feeling very luxurious and pleasant, and looked at the light and stir
and misty glitter of the street traffic from under slightly drooping
eyelids, while Ramage sat closer to her than he need have done, and
glanced ever and again at her face, and made to speak and said nothing.
And when they got to Covent Garden Ramage secured one of the little
upper boxes, and they came into it as the overture began.

Ann Veronica took off her jacket and sat down in the corner chair, and
leaned forward to look into the great hazy warm brown cavity of the
house, and Ramage placed his chair to sit beside her and near her,
facing the stage. The music took hold of her slowly as her eyes wandered
from the indistinct still ranks of the audience to the little busy
orchestra with its quivering violins, its methodical movements of brown
and silver instruments, its brightly lit scores and shaded lights. She
had never been to the opera before except as one of a congested mass of
people in the cheaper seats, and with backs and heads and women’s hats
for the frame of the spectacle; there was by contrast a fine large sense
of space and ease in her present position. The curtain rose out of the
concluding bars of the overture and revealed Isolde on the prow of the
barbaric ship. The voice of the young seaman came floating down from the
masthead, and the story of the immortal lovers had begun. She knew
the story only imperfectly, and followed it now with a passionate and
deepening interest. The splendid voices sang on from phase to phase of
love’s unfolding, the ship drove across the sea to the beating rhythm of
the rowers. The lovers broke into passionate knowledge of themselves and
each other, and then, a jarring intervention, came King Mark amidst the
shouts of the sailormen, and stood beside them.

The curtain came festooning slowly down, the music ceased, the lights
in the auditorium glowed out, and Ann Veronica woke out of her confused
dream of involuntary and commanding love in a glory of sound and colors
to discover that Ramage was sitting close beside her with one hand
resting lightly on her waist. She made a quick movement, and the hand
fell away.

“By God! Ann Veronica,” he said, sighing deeply. “This stirs one.”

She sat quite still looking at him.

“I wish you and I had drunk that love potion,” he said.

She found no ready reply to that, and he went on: “This music is the
food of love. It makes me desire life beyond measure. Life! Life and
love! It makes me want to be always young, always strong, always
devoting my life--and dying splendidly.”

“It is very beautiful,” said Ann Veronica in a low tone.

They said no more for a moment, and each was now acutely aware of the
other. Ann Veronica was excited and puzzled, with a sense of a strange
and disconcerting new light breaking over her relations with Ramage.
She had never thought of him at all in that way before. It did not shock
her; it amazed her, interested her beyond measure. But also this must
not go on. She felt he was going to say something more--something
still more personal and intimate. She was curious, and at the same time
clearly resolved she must not hear it. She felt she must get him talking
upon some impersonal theme at any cost. She snatched about in her mind.
“What is the exact force of a motif?” she asked at random. “Before I
heard much Wagnerian music I heard enthusiastic descriptions of it from
a mistress I didn’t like at school. She gave me an impression of a sort
of patched quilt; little bits of patterned stuff coming up again and
again.”

She stopped with an air of interrogation.

Ramage looked at her for a long and discriminating interval without
speaking. He seemed to be hesitating between two courses of action. “I
don’t know much about the technique of music,” he said at last, with his
eyes upon her. “It’s a matter of feeling with me.”

He contradicted himself by plunging into an exposition of motifs.

By a tacit agreement they ignored the significant thing between them,
ignored the slipping away of the ground on which they had stood together
hitherto....

All through the love music of the second act, until the hunting horns of
Mark break in upon the dream, Ann Veronica’s consciousness was flooded
with the perception of a man close beside her, preparing some new thing
to say to her, preparing, perhaps, to touch her, stretching hungry
invisible tentacles about her. She tried to think what she should do in
this eventuality or that. Her mind had been and was full of the thought
of Capes, a huge generalized Capes-lover. And in some incomprehensible
way, Ramage was confused with Capes; she had a grotesque disposition to
persuade herself that this was really Capes who surrounded her, as it
were, with wings of desire. The fact that it was her trusted friend
making illicit love to her remained, in spite of all her effort, an
insignificant thing in her mind. The music confused and distracted her,
and made her struggle against a feeling of intoxication. Her head swam.
That was the inconvenience of it; her head was swimming. The music
throbbed into the warnings that preceded the king’s irruption.

Abruptly he gripped her wrist. “I love you, Ann Veronica. I love
you--with all my heart and soul.”

She put her face closer to his. She felt the warm nearness of his.
“DON’T!” she said, and wrenched her wrist from his retaining hand.

“My God! Ann Veronica,” he said, struggling to keep his hold upon her;
“my God! Tell me--tell me now--tell me you love me!”

His expression was as it were rapaciously furtive. She answered in
whispers, for there was the white arm of a woman in the next box peeping
beyond the partition within a yard of him.

“My hand! This isn’t the place.”

He released her hand and talked in eager undertones against an auditory
background of urgency and distress.

“Ann Veronica,” he said, “I tell you this is love. I love the soles of
your feet. I love your very breath. I have tried not to tell you--tried
to be simply your friend. It is no good. I want you. I worship you. I
would do anything--I would give anything to make you mine.... Do you
hear me? Do you hear what I am saying?... Love!”

He held her arm and abandoned it again at her quick defensive movement.
For a long time neither spoke again.

She sat drawn together in her chair in the corner of the box, at a loss
what to say or do--afraid, curious, perplexed. It seemed to her that
it was her duty to get up and clamor to go home to her room, to protest
against his advances as an insult. But she did not in the least want
to do that. These sweeping dignities were not within the compass of her
will; she remembered she liked Ramage, and owed things to him, and she
was interested--she was profoundly interested. He was in love with
her! She tried to grasp all the welter of values in the situation
simultaneously, and draw some conclusion from their disorder.

He began to talk again in quick undertones that she could not clearly
hear.

“I have loved you,” he was saying, “ever since you sat on that gate and
talked. I have always loved you. I don’t care what divides us. I don’t
care what else there is in the world. I want you beyond measure or
reckoning....”

His voice rose and fell amidst the music and the singing of Tristan and
King Mark, like a voice heard in a badly connected telephone. She stared
at his pleading face.

She turned to the stage, and Tristan was wounded in Kurvenal’s arms,
with Isolde at his feet, and King Mark, the incarnation of masculine
force and obligation, the masculine creditor of love and beauty, stood
over him, and the second climax was ending in wreaths and reek of
melodies; and then the curtain was coming down in a series of short
rushes, the music had ended, and the people were stirring and breaking
out into applause, and the lights of the auditorium were resuming. The
lighting-up pierced the obscurity of the box, and Ramage stopped his
urgent flow of words abruptly and sat back. This helped to restore Ann
Veronica’s self-command.

She turned her eyes to him again, and saw her late friend and pleasant
and trusted companion, who had seen fit suddenly to change into a lover,
babbling interesting inacceptable things. He looked eager and flushed
and troubled. His eyes caught at hers with passionate inquiries. “Tell
me,” he said; “speak to me.” She realized it was possible to be sorry
for him--acutely sorry for the situation. Of course this thing was
absolutely impossible. But she was disturbed, mysteriously disturbed.
She remembered abruptly that she was really living upon his money. She
leaned forward and addressed him.

“Mr. Ramage,” she said, “please don’t talk like this.”

He made to speak and did not.

“I don’t want you to do it, to go on talking to me. I don’t want to hear
you. If I had known that you had meant to talk like this I wouldn’t have
come here.”

“But how can I help it? How can I keep silence?”

“Please!” she insisted. “Please not now.”

“I MUST talk with you. I must say what I have to say!”

“But not now--not here.”

“It came,” he said. “I never planned it--And now I have begun--”

She felt acutely that he was entitled to explanations, and as acutely
that explanations were impossible that night. She wanted to think.

“Mr. Ramage,” she said, “I can’t--Not now. Will you please--Not now, or
I must go.”

He stared at her, trying to guess at the mystery of her thoughts.

“You don’t want to go?”

“No. But I must--I ought--”

“I MUST talk about this. Indeed I must.”

“Not now.”

“But I love you. I love you--unendurably.”

“Then don’t talk to me now. I don’t want you to talk to me now. There is
a place--This isn’t the place. You have misunderstood. I can’t explain--”

They regarded one another, each blinded to the other. “Forgive me,” he
decided to say at last, and his voice had a little quiver of emotion,
and he laid his hand on hers upon her knee. “I am the most foolish of
men. I was stupid--stupid and impulsive beyond measure to burst upon
you in this way. I--I am a love-sick idiot, and not accountable for my
actions. Will you forgive me--if I say no more?”

She looked at him with perplexed, earnest eyes.

“Pretend,” he said, “that all I have said hasn’t been said. And let us
go on with our evening. Why not? Imagine I’ve had a fit of hysteria--and
that I’ve come round.”

“Yes,” she said, and abruptly she liked him enormously. She felt this
was the sensible way out of this oddly sinister situation.

He still watched her and questioned her.

“And let us have a talk about this--some other time. Somewhere, where we
can talk without interruption. Will you?”

She thought, and it seemed to him she had never looked so
self-disciplined and deliberate and beautiful. “Yes,” she said, “that
is what we ought to do.” But now she doubted again of the quality of the
armistice they had just made.

He had a wild impulse to shout. “Agreed,” he said with queer exaltation,
and his grip tightened on her hand. “And to-night we are friends?”

“We are friends,” said Ann Veronica, and drew her hand quickly away from
him.

“To-night we are as we have always been. Except that this music we have
been swimming in is divine. While I have been pestering you, have you
heard it? At least, you heard the first act. And all the third act is
love-sick music. Tristan dying and Isolde coming to crown his death.
Wagner had just been in love when he wrote it all. It begins with that
queer piccolo solo. Now I shall never hear it but what this evening will
come pouring back over me.”

The lights sank, the prelude to the third act was beginning, the
music rose and fell in crowded intimations of lovers separated--lovers
separated with scars and memories between them, and the curtain went
reefing up to display Tristan lying wounded on his couch and the
shepherd crouching with his pipe.



Part 2


They had their explanations the next evening, but they were explanations
in quite other terms than Ann Veronica had anticipated, quite other and
much more startling and illuminating terms. Ramage came for her at her
lodgings, and she met him graciously and kindly as a queen who knows she
must needs give sorrow to a faithful liege. She was unusually soft
and gentle in her manner to him. He was wearing a new silk hat, with a
slightly more generous brim than its predecessor, and it suited his type
of face, robbed his dark eyes a little of their aggressiveness and gave
him a solid and dignified and benevolent air. A faint anticipation of
triumph showed in his manner and a subdued excitement.

“We’ll go to a place where we can have a private room,” he said.
“Then--then we can talk things out.”

So they went this time to the Rococo, in Germain Street, and up-stairs
to a landing upon which stood a bald-headed waiter with whiskers like a
French admiral and discretion beyond all limits in his manner. He seemed
to have expected them. He ushered them with an amiable flat hand into a
minute apartment with a little gas-stove, a silk crimson-covered sofa,
and a bright little table, gay with napery and hot-house flowers.

“Odd little room,” said Ann Veronica, dimly apprehending that obtrusive
sofa.

“One can talk without undertones, so to speak,” said Ramage.
“It’s--private.” He stood looking at the preparations before them with
an unusual preoccupation of manner, then roused himself to take her
jacket, a little awkwardly, and hand it to the waiter who hung it in the
corner of the room. It appeared he had already ordered dinner and
wine, and the whiskered waiter waved in his subordinate with the soup
forthwith.

“I’m going to talk of indifferent themes,” said Ramage, a little
fussily, “until these interruptions of the service are over. Then--then
we shall be together.... How did you like Tristan?”

Ann Veronica paused the fraction of a second before her reply came.

“I thought much of it amazingly beautiful.”

“Isn’t it. And to think that man got it all out of the poorest little
love-story for a respectable titled lady! Have you read of it?”

“Never.”

“It gives in a nutshell the miracle of art and the imagination. You get
this queer irascible musician quite impossibly and unfortunately in
love with a wealthy patroness, and then out of his brain comes THIS, a
tapestry of glorious music, setting out love to lovers, lovers who love
in spite of all that is wise and respectable and right.”

Ann Veronica thought. She did not want to seem to shrink from
conversation, but all sorts of odd questions were running through her
mind. “I wonder why people in love are so defiant, so careless of other
considerations?”

“The very hares grow brave. I suppose because it IS the chief thing in
life.” He stopped and said earnestly: “It is the chief thing in
life, and everything else goes down before it. Everything, my dear,
everything!... But we have got to talk upon indifferent themes until
we have done with this blond young gentleman from Bavaria....”

The dinner came to an end at last, and the whiskered waiter presented
his bill and evacuated the apartment and closed the door behind him with
an almost ostentatious discretion. Ramage stood up, and suddenly turned
the key in the door in an off-hand manner. “Now,” he said, “no one can
blunder in upon us. We are alone and we can say and do what we please.
We two.” He stood still, looking at her.

Ann Veronica tried to seem absolutely unconcerned. The turning of the
key startled her, but she did not see how she could make an objection.
She felt she had stepped into a world of unknown usages.

“I have waited for this,” he said, and stood quite still, looking at her
until the silence became oppressive.

“Won’t you sit down,” she said, “and tell me what you want to say?” Her
voice was flat and faint. Suddenly she had become afraid. She struggled
not to be afraid. After all, what could happen?

He was looking at her very hard and earnestly. “Ann Veronica,” he said.

Then before she could say a word to arrest him he was at her side.
“Don’t!” she said, weakly, as he had bent down and put one arm about her
and seized her hands with his disengaged hand and kissed her--kissed her
almost upon her lips. He seemed to do ten things before she could think
to do one, to leap upon her and take possession.

Ann Veronica’s universe, which had never been altogether so respectful
to her as she could have wished, gave a shout and whirled head over
heels. Everything in the world had changed for her. If hate could kill,
Ramage would have been killed by a flash of hate. “Mr. Ramage!” she
cried, and struggled to her feet.

“My darling!” he said, clasping her resolutely in his arms, “my
dearest!”

“Mr. Ramage!” she began, and his mouth sealed hers and his breath was
mixed with her breath. Her eye met his four inches away, and his was
glaring, immense, and full of resolution, a stupendous monster of an
eye.

She shut her lips hard, her jaw hardened, and she set herself to
struggle with him. She wrenched her head away from his grip and got her
arm between his chest and hers. They began to wrestle fiercely. Each
became frightfully aware of the other as a plastic energetic body,
of the strong muscles of neck against cheek, of hands gripping
shoulder-blade and waist. “How dare you!” she panted, with her world
screaming and grimacing insult at her. “How dare you!”

They were both astonished at the other’s strength. Perhaps Ramage was
the more astonished. Ann Veronica had been an ardent hockey player and
had had a course of jiu-jitsu in the High School. Her defence ceased
rapidly to be in any sense ladylike, and became vigorous and effective;
a strand of black hair that had escaped its hairpins came athwart
Ramage’s eyes, and then the knuckles of a small but very hardly clinched
fist had thrust itself with extreme effectiveness and painfulness under
his jawbone and ear.

“Let go!” said Ann Veronica, through her teeth, strenuously inflicting
agony, and he cried out sharply and let go and receded a pace.

“NOW!” said Ann Veronica. “Why did you dare to do that?”



Part 3


Each of them stared at the other, set in a universe that had changed its
system of values with kaleidoscopic completeness. She was flushed, and
her eyes were bright and angry; her breath came sobbing, and her hair
was all abroad in wandering strands of black. He too was flushed and
ruffled; one side of his collar had slipped from its stud and he held a
hand to the corner of his jaw.

“You vixen!” said Mr. Ramage, speaking the simplest first thought of his
heart.

“You had no right--” panted Ann Veronica.

“Why on earth,” he asked, “did you hurt me like that?”

Ann Veronica did her best to think she had not deliberately attempted to
cause him pain. She ignored his question.

“I never dreamt!” she said.

“What on earth did you expect me to do, then?” he asked.



Part 4


Interpretation came pouring down upon her almost blindingly; she
understood now the room, the waiter, the whole situation. She
understood. She leaped to a world of shabby knowledge, of furtive base
realizations. She wanted to cry out upon herself for the uttermost fool
in existence.

“I thought you wanted to have a talk to me,” she said.

“I wanted to make love to you.

“You knew it,” he added, in her momentary silence.

“You said you were in love with me,” said Ann Veronica; “I wanted to
explain--”

“I said I loved and wanted you.” The brutality of his first astonishment
was evaporating. “I am in love with you. You know I am in love with you.
And then you go--and half throttle me.... I believe you’ve crushed a
gland or something. It feels like it.”

“I am sorry,” said Ann Veronica. “What else was I to do?”

For some seconds she stood watching him and both were thinking very
quickly. Her state of mind would have seemed altogether discreditable to
her grandmother. She ought to have been disposed to faint and scream at
all these happenings; she ought to have maintained a front of outraged
dignity to veil the sinking of her heart. I would like to have to tell
it so. But indeed that is not at all a good description of her attitude.
She was an indignant queen, no doubt she was alarmed and disgusted
within limits; but she was highly excited, and there was something, some
low adventurous strain in her being, some element, subtle at least if
base, going about the rioting ways and crowded insurgent meeting-places
of her mind declaring that the whole affair was after all--they are the
only words that express it--a very great lark indeed. At the bottom
of her heart she was not a bit afraid of Ramage. She had unaccountable
gleams of sympathy with and liking for him. And the grotesquest fact
was that she did not so much loathe, as experience with a quite critical
condemnation this strange sensation of being kissed. Never before had
any human being kissed her lips....

It was only some hours after that these ambiguous elements evaporated
and vanished and loathing came, and she really began to be thoroughly
sick and ashamed of the whole disgraceful quarrel and scuffle.

He, for his part, was trying to grasp the series of unexpected reactions
that had so wrecked their tete-a-tete. He had meant to be master of his
fate that evening and it had escaped him altogether. It had, as it were,
blown up at the concussion of his first step. It dawned upon him that he
had been abominably used by Ann Veronica.

“Look here,” he said, “I brought you here to make love to you.”

“I didn’t understand--your idea of making love. You had better let me go
again.”

“Not yet,” he said. “I do love you. I love you all the more for the
streak of sheer devil in you.... You are the most beautiful, the most
desirable thing I have ever met in this world. It was good to kiss you,
even at the price. But, by Jove! you are fierce! You are like those
Roman women who carry stilettos in their hair.”

“I came here to talk reasonably, Mr. Ramage. It is abominable--”

“What is the use of keeping up this note of indignation, Ann Veronica?
Here I am! I am your lover, burning for you. I mean to have you! Don’t
frown me off now. Don’t go back into Victorian respectability and
pretend you don’t know and you can’t think and all the rest of it. One
comes at last to the step from dreams to reality. This is your moment.
No one will ever love you as I love you now. I have been dreaming of
your body and you night after night. I have been imaging--”

“Mr. Ramage, I came here--I didn’t suppose for one moment you would
dare--”

“Nonsense! That is your mistake! You are too intellectual. You want to
do everything with your mind. You are afraid of kisses. You are afraid
of the warmth in your blood. It’s just because all that side of your
life hasn’t fairly begun.”

He made a step toward her.

“Mr. Ramage,” she said, sharply, “I have to make it plain to you. I
don’t think you understand. I don’t love you. I don’t. I can’t love you.
I love some one else. It is repulsive. It disgusts me that you should
touch me.”

He stared in amazement at this new aspect of the situation. “You love
some one else?” he repeated.

“I love some one else. I could not dream of loving you.”

And then he flashed his whole conception of the relations of men and
women upon her in one astonishing question. His hand went with an almost
instinctive inquiry to his jawbone again. “Then why the devil,” he
demanded, “do you let me stand you dinners and the opera--and why do you
come to a cabinet particuliar with me?”

He became radiant with anger. “You mean to tell me” he said, “that you
have a lover? While I have been keeping you! Yes--keeping you!”

This view of life he hurled at her as if it were an offensive missile.
It stunned her. She felt she must fly before it and could no longer do
so. She did not think for one moment what interpretation he might put
upon the word “lover.”

“Mr. Ramage,” she said, clinging to her one point, “I want to get out of
this horrible little room. It has all been a mistake. I have been stupid
and foolish. Will you unlock that door?”

“Never!” he said. “Confound your lover! Look here! Do you really think
I am going to run you while he makes love to you? No fear! I never heard
of anything so cool. If he wants you, let him get you. You’re mine. I’ve
paid for you and helped you, and I’m going to conquer you somehow--if
I have to break you to do it. Hitherto you’ve seen only my easy, kindly
side. But now confound it! how can you prevent it? I will kiss you.”

“You won’t!” said Ann Veronica; with the clearest note of determination.

He seemed to be about to move toward her. She stepped back quickly, and
her hand knocked a wine-glass from the table to smash noisily on the
floor. She caught at the idea. “If you come a step nearer to me,” she
said, “I will smash every glass on this table.”

“Then, by God!” he said, “you’ll be locked up!”

Ann Veronica was disconcerted for a moment. She had a vision of
policemen, reproving magistrates, a crowded court, public disgrace. She
saw her aunt in tears, her father white-faced and hard hit. “Don’t come
nearer!” she said.

There was a discreet knocking at the door, and Ramage’s face changed.

“No,” she said, under her breath, “you can’t face it.” And she knew that
she was safe.

He went to the door. “It’s all right,” he said, reassuringly to the
inquirer without.

Ann Veronica glanced at the mirror to discover a flushed and dishevelled
disorder. She began at once a hasty readjustment of her hair, while
Ramage parleyed with inaudible interrogations. “A glass slipped from the
table,” he explained.... “Non. Fas du tout. Non.... Niente.... Bitte!...
Oui, dans la note.... Presently. Presently.” That conversation ended and
he turned to her again.

“I am going,” she said grimly, with three hairpins in her mouth.

She took her hat from the peg in the corner and began to put it on. He
regarded that perennial miracle of pinning with wrathful eyes.

“Look here, Ann Veronica,” he began. “I want a plain word with you about
all this. Do you mean to tell me you didn’t understand why I wanted you
to come here?”

“Not a bit of it,” said Ann Veronica stoutly.

“You didn’t expect that I should kiss you?”

“How was I to know that a man would--would think it was possible--when
there was nothing--no love?”

“How did I know there wasn’t love?”

That silenced her for a moment. “And what on earth,” he said, “do you
think the world is made of? Why do you think I have been doing things
for you? The abstract pleasure of goodness? Are you one of the members
of that great white sisterhood that takes and does not give? The good
accepting woman! Do you really suppose a girl is entitled to live at
free quarters on any man she meets without giving any return?”

“I thought,” said Ann Veronica, “you were my friend.”

“Friend! What have a man and a girl in common to make them friends? Ask
that lover of yours! And even with friends, would you have it all Give
on one side and all Take on the other?... Does HE know I keep you?...
You won’t have a man’s lips near you, but you’ll eat out of his hand
fast enough.”

Ann Veronica was stung to helpless anger.

“Mr. Ramage,” she cried, “you are outrageous! You understand nothing.
You are--horrible. Will you let me go out of this room?”

“No,” cried Ramage; “hear me out! I’ll have that satisfaction, anyhow.
You women, with your tricks of evasion, you’re a sex of swindlers.
You have all the instinctive dexterity of parasites. You make yourself
charming for help. You climb by disappointing men. This lover of
yours--”

“He doesn’t know!” cried Ann Veronica.

“Well, you know.”

Ann Veronica could have wept with vexation. Indeed, a note of weeping
broke her voice for a moment as she burst out, “You know as well as I do
that money was a loan!”

“Loan!”

“You yourself called it a loan!”

“Euphuism. We both understood that.”

“You shall have every penny of it back.”

“I’ll frame it--when I get it.”

“I’ll pay you if I have to work at shirt-making at threepence an hour.”

“You’ll never pay me. You think you will. It’s your way of glossing over
the ethical position. It’s the sort of way a woman always does gloss
over her ethical positions. You’re all dependents--all of you. By
instinct. Only you good ones--shirk. You shirk a straightforward and
decent return for what you get from us--taking refuge in purity and
delicacy and such-like when it comes to payment.”

“Mr. Ramage,” said Ann Veronica, “I want to go--NOW!”



Part 5


But she did not get away just then.

Ramage’s bitterness passed as abruptly as his aggression. “Oh,
Ann Veronica!” he cried, “I cannot let you go like this! You don’t
understand. You can’t possibly understand!”

He began a confused explanation, a perplexing contradictory apology for
his urgency and wrath. He loved Ann Veronica, he said; he was so mad
to have her that he defeated himself, and did crude and alarming and
senseless things. His vicious abusiveness vanished. He suddenly became
eloquent and plausible. He did make her perceive something of the acute,
tormenting desire for her that had arisen in him and possessed him.
She stood, as it were, directed doorward, with her eyes watching every
movement, listening to him, repelled by him and yet dimly understanding.

At any rate he made it very clear that night that there was an
ineradicable discord in life, a jarring something that must shatter all
her dreams of a way of living for women that would enable them to be
free and spacious and friendly with men, and that was the passionate
predisposition of men to believe that the love of women can be earned
and won and controlled and compelled.

He flung aside all his talk of help and disinterested friendship as
though it had never been even a disguise between them, as though
from the first it was no more than a fancy dress they had put quite
understandingly upon their relationship. He had set out to win her, and
she had let him start. And at the thought of that other lover--he was
convinced that that beloved person was a lover, and she found herself
unable to say a word to explain to him that this other person, the
person she loved, did not even know of her love--Ramage grew angry
and savage once more, and returned suddenly to gibe and insult. Men do
services for the love of women, and the woman who takes must pay. Such
was the simple code that displayed itself in all his thoughts. He left
that arid rule clear of the least mist of refinement or delicacy.

That he should pay forty pounds to help this girl who preferred another
man was no less in his eyes than a fraud and mockery that made her
denial a maddening and outrageous disgrace to him. And this though he
was evidently passionately in love with her.

For a while he threatened her. “You have put all your life in my hands,”
 he declared. “Think of that check you endorsed. There it is--against
you. I defy you to explain it away. What do you think people will make
of that? What will this lover of yours make of that?”

At intervals Ann Veronica demanded to go, declaring her undying resolve
to repay him at any cost, and made short movements doorward.

But at last this ordeal was over, and Ramage opened the door. She
emerged with a white face and wide-open eyes upon a little, red-lit
landing. She went past three keenly observant and ostentatiously
preoccupied waiters down the thick-carpeted staircase and out of the
Hotel Rococo, that remarkable laboratory of relationships, past a tall
porter in blue and crimson, into a cool, clear night.



Part 6


When Ann Veronica reached her little bed-sitting-room again, every nerve
in her body was quivering with shame and self-disgust.

She threw hat and coat on the bed and sat down before the fire.

“And now,” she said, splintering the surviving piece of coal into
indignant flame-spurting fragments with one dexterous blow, “what am I
to do?

“I’m in a hole!--mess is a better word, expresses it better. I’m in a
mess--a nasty mess! a filthy mess! Oh, no end of a mess!

“Do you hear, Ann Veronica?--you’re in a nasty, filthy, unforgivable
mess!

“Haven’t I just made a silly mess of things?

“Forty pounds! I haven’t got twenty!”

She got up, stamped with her foot, and then, suddenly remembering the
lodger below, sat down and wrenched off her boots.

“This is what comes of being a young woman up to date. By Jove! I’m
beginning to have my doubts about freedom!

“You silly young woman, Ann Veronica! You silly young woman! The
smeariness of the thing!

“The smeariness of this sort of thing!... Mauled about!”

She fell to rubbing her insulted lips savagely with the back of her
hand. “Ugh!” she said.

“The young women of Jane Austen’s time didn’t get into this sort of
scrape! At least--one thinks so.... I wonder if some of them did--and
it didn’t get reported. Aunt Jane had her quiet moments. Most of
them didn’t, anyhow. They were properly brought up, and sat still and
straight, and took the luck fate brought them as gentlewomen should.
And they had an idea of what men were like behind all their nicety. They
knew they were all Bogey in disguise. I didn’t! I didn’t! After all--”

For a time her mind ran on daintiness and its defensive restraints
as though it was the one desirable thing. That world of fine printed
cambrics and escorted maidens, of delicate secondary meanings and
refined allusiveness, presented itself to her imagination with the
brightness of a lost paradise, as indeed for many women it is a lost
paradise.

“I wonder if there is anything wrong with my manners,” she said. “I
wonder if I’ve been properly brought up. If I had been quite quiet and
white and dignified, wouldn’t it have been different? Would he have
dared?...”

For some creditable moments in her life Ann Veronica was utterly
disgusted with herself; she was wrung with a passionate and belated
desire to move gently, to speak softly and ambiguously--to be, in
effect, prim.

Horrible details recurred to her.

“Why, among other things, did I put my knuckles in his
neck--deliberately to hurt him?”

She tried to sound the humorous note.

“Are you aware, Ann Veronica, you nearly throttled that gentleman?”

Then she reviled her own foolish way of putting it.

“You ass and imbecile, Ann Veronica! You female cad! Cad! Cad!... Why
aren’t you folded up clean in lavender--as every young woman ought to
be? What have you been doing with yourself?...”

She raked into the fire with the poker.

“All of which doesn’t help me in the slightest degree to pay back that
money.”

That night was the most intolerable one that Ann Veronica had ever
spent. She washed her face with unwonted elaboration before she went
to bed. This time, there was no doubt, she did not sleep. The more
she disentangled the lines of her situation the deeper grew her
self-disgust. Occasionally the mere fact of lying in bed became
unendurable, and she rolled out and marched about her room and whispered
abuse of herself--usually until she hit against some article of
furniture.

Then she would have quiet times, in which she would say to herself, “Now
look here! Let me think it all out!”

For the first time, it seemed to her, she faced the facts of a woman’s
position in the world--the meagre realities of such freedom as it
permitted her, the almost unavoidable obligation to some individual man
under which she must labor for even a foothold in the world. She had
flung away from her father’s support with the finest assumption of
personal independence. And here she was--in a mess because it had
been impossible for her to avoid leaning upon another man. She had
thought--What had she thought? That this dependence of women was but
an illusion which needed only to be denied to vanish. She had denied it
with vigor, and here she was!

She did not so much exhaust this general question as pass from it to her
insoluble individual problem again: “What am I to do?”

She wanted first of all to fling the forty pounds back into Ramage’s
face. But she had spent nearly half of it, and had no conception of how
such a sum could be made good again. She thought of all sorts of odd and
desperate expedients, and with passionate petulance rejected them all.

She took refuge in beating her pillow and inventing insulting epithets
for herself. She got up, drew up her blind, and stared out of window at
a dawn-cold vision of chimneys for a time, and then went and sat on the
edge of her bed. What was the alternative to going home? No alternative
appeared in that darkness.

It seemed intolerable that she should go home and admit herself beaten.
She did most urgently desire to save her face in Morningside Park, and
for long hours she could think of no way of putting it that would not be
in the nature of unconditional admission of defeat.

“I’d rather go as a chorus-girl,” she said.

She was not very clear about the position and duties of a chorus-girl,
but it certainly had the air of being a last desperate resort.
There sprang from that a vague hope that perhaps she might extort a
capitulation from her father by a threat to seek that position, and then
with overwhelming clearness it came to her that whatever happened she
would never be able to tell her father about her debt. The completest
capitulation would not wipe out that trouble. And she felt that if she
went home it was imperative to pay. She would always be going to and fro
up the Avenue, getting glimpses of Ramage, seeing him in trains....

For a time she promenaded the room.

“Why did I ever take that loan? An idiot girl in an asylum would have
known better than that!

“Vulgarity of soul and innocence of mind--the worst of all conceivable
combinations. I wish some one would kill Ramage by accident!...

“But then they would find that check endorsed in his bureau....

“I wonder what he will do?” She tried to imagine situations that might
arise out of Ramage’s antagonism, for he had been so bitter and savage
that she could not believe that he would leave things as they were.

The next morning she went out with her post-office savings bank-book,
and telegraphed for a warrant to draw out all the money she had in the
world. It amounted to two-and-twenty pounds. She addressed an envelope
to Ramage, and scrawled on a half-sheet of paper, “The rest shall
follow.” The money would be available in the afternoon, and she would
send him four five-pound notes. The rest she meant to keep for
her immediate necessities. A little relieved by this step toward
reinstatement, she went on to the Imperial College to forget her muddle
of problems for a time, if she could, in the presence of Capes.



Part 7


For a time the biological laboratory was full of healing virtue. Her
sleepless night had left her languid but not stupefied, and for an hour
or so the work distracted her altogether from her troubles.

Then, after Capes had been through her work and had gone on, it came to
her that the fabric of this life of hers was doomed to almost immediate
collapse; that in a little while these studies would cease, and perhaps
she would never set eyes on him again. After that consolations fled.

The overnight nervous strain began to tell; she became inattentive
to the work before her, and it did not get on. She felt sleepy and
unusually irritable. She lunched at a creamery in Great Portland Street,
and as the day was full of wintry sunshine, spent the rest of the
lunch-hour in a drowsy gloom, which she imagined to be thought upon the
problems of her position, on a seat in Regent’s Park. A girl of fifteen
or sixteen gave her a handbill that she regarded as a tract until she
saw “Votes for Women” at the top. That turned her mind to the more
generalized aspects of her perplexities again. She had never been so
disposed to agree that the position of women in the modern world is
intolerable.

Capes joined the students at tea, and displayed himself in an impish
mood that sometimes possessed him. He did not notice that Ann Veronica
was preoccupied and heavy-eyed. Miss Klegg raised the question of
women’s suffrage, and he set himself to provoke a duel between her and
Miss Garvice. The youth with the hair brushed back and the spectacled
Scotchman joined in the fray for and against the women’s vote.

Ever and again Capes appealed to Ann Veronica. He liked to draw her in,
and she did her best to talk. But she did not talk readily, and in
order to say something she plunged a little, and felt she plunged.
Capes scored back with an uncompromising vigor that was his way of
complimenting her intelligence. But this afternoon it discovered an
unusual vein of irritability in her. He had been reading Belfort Bax,
and declared himself a convert. He contrasted the lot of women in
general with the lot of men, presented men as patient, self-immolating
martyrs, and women as the pampered favorites of Nature. A vein of
conviction mingled with his burlesque.

For a time he and Miss Klegg contradicted one another.

The question ceased to be a tea-table talk, and became suddenly
tragically real for Ann Veronica. There he sat, cheerfully friendly
in his sex’s freedom--the man she loved, the one man she cared
should unlock the way to the wide world for her imprisoned feminine
possibilities, and he seemed regardless that she stifled under his eyes;
he made a jest of all this passionate insurgence of the souls of women
against the fate of their conditions.

Miss Garvice repeated again, and almost in the same words she used at
every discussion, her contribution to the great question.

She thought that women were not made for the struggle and turmoil of
life--their place was the little world, the home; that their power lay
not in votes but in influence over men and in making the minds of their
children fine and splendid.

“Women should understand men’s affairs, perhaps,” said Miss Garvice,
“but to mingle in them is just to sacrifice that power of influencing
they can exercise now.”

“There IS something sound in that position,” said Capes, intervening as
if to defend Miss Garvice against a possible attack from Ann Veronica.
“It may not be just and so forth, but, after all, it is how things are.
Women are not in the world in the same sense that men are--fighting
individuals in a scramble. I don’t see how they can be. Every home is a
little recess, a niche, out of the world of business and competition, in
which women and the future shelter.”

“A little pit!” said Ann Veronica; “a little prison!”

“It’s just as often a little refuge. Anyhow, that is how things are.”

“And the man stands as the master at the mouth of the den.”

“As sentinel. You forget all the mass of training and tradition and
instinct that go to make him a tolerable master. Nature is a mother; her
sympathies have always been feminist, and she has tempered the man to
the shorn woman.”

“I wish,” said Ann Veronica, with sudden anger, “that you could know
what it is to live in a pit!”

She stood up as she spoke, and put down her cup beside Miss Garvice’s.
She addressed Capes as though she spoke to him alone.

“I can’t endure it,” she said.

Every one turned to her in astonishment.

She felt she had to go on. “No man can realize,” she said, “what that
pit can be. The way--the way we are led on! We are taught to believe we
are free in the world, to think we are queens.... Then we find out.
We find out no man will treat a woman fairly as man to man--no man. He
wants you--or he doesn’t; and then he helps some other woman against
you.... What you say is probably all true and necessary.... But
think of the disillusionment! Except for our sex we have minds like men,
desires like men. We come out into the world, some of us--”

She paused. Her words, as she said them, seemed to her to mean nothing,
and there was so much that struggled for expression. “Women are mocked,”
 she said. “Whenever they try to take hold of life a man intervenes.”

She felt, with a sudden horror, that she might weep. She wished she had
not stood up. She wondered wildly why she had stood up. No one spoke,
and she was impelled to flounder on. “Think of the mockery!” she said.
“Think how dumb we find ourselves and stifled! I know we seem to have
a sort of freedom.... Have you ever tried to run and jump in
petticoats, Mr. Capes? Well, think what it must be to live in them--soul
and mind and body! It’s fun for a man to jest at our position.”

“I wasn’t jesting,” said Capes, abruptly.

She stood face to face with him, and his voice cut across her speech
and made her stop abruptly. She was sore and overstrung, and it was
intolerable to her that he should stand within three yards of her
unsuspectingly, with an incalculably vast power over her happiness. She
was sore with the perplexities of her preposterous position. She was
sick of herself, of her life, of everything but him; and for him all her
masked and hidden being was crying out.

She stopped abruptly at the sound of his voice, and lost the thread
of what she was saying. In the pause she realized the attention of the
others converged upon her, and that the tears were brimming over her
eyes. She felt a storm of emotion surging up within her. She became
aware of the Scotch student regarding her with stupendous amazement,
a tea-cup poised in one hairy hand and his faceted glasses showing a
various enlargement of segments of his eye.

The door into the passage offered itself with an irresistible
invitation--the one alternative to a public, inexplicable passion of
weeping.

Capes flashed to an understanding of her intention, sprang to his feet,
and opened the door for her retreat.



Part 8


“Why should I ever come back?” she said to herself, as she went down the
staircase.

She went to the post-office and drew out and sent off her money
to Ramage. And then she came out into the street, sure only of one
thing--that she could not return directly to her lodgings. She wanted
air--and the distraction of having moving and changing things about her.
The evenings were beginning to draw out, and it would not be dark for
an hour. She resolved to walk across the Park to the Zoological gardens,
and so on by way of Primrose Hill to Hampstead Heath. There she would
wander about in the kindly darkness. And think things out....

Presently she became aware of footsteps hurrying after her, and glanced
back to find Miss Klegg, a little out of breath, in pursuit.

Ann Veronica halted a pace, and Miss Klegg came alongside.

“Do YOU go across the Park?”

“Not usually. But I’m going to-day. I want a walk.”

“I’m not surprised at it. I thought Mr. Capes most trying.”

“Oh, it wasn’t that. I’ve had a headache all day.”

“I thought Mr. Capes most unfair,” Miss Klegg went on in a small, even
voice; “MOST unfair! I’m glad you spoke out as you did.”

“I didn’t mind that little argument.”

“You gave it him well. What you said wanted saying. After you went he
got up and took refuge in the preparation-room. Or else _I_ would have
finished him.”

Ann Veronica said nothing, and Miss Klegg went on: “He very often
IS--most unfair. He has a way of sitting on people. He wouldn’t like it
if people did it to him. He jumps the words out of your mouth; he takes
hold of what you have to say before you have had time to express it
properly.”

Pause.

“I suppose he’s frightfully clever,” said Miss Klegg.

“He’s a Fellow of the Royal Society, and he can’t be much over thirty,”
 said Miss Klegg.

“He writes very well,” said Ann Veronica.

“He can’t be more than thirty. He must have married when he was quite a
young man.”

“Married?” said Ann Veronica.

“Didn’t you know he was married?” asked Miss Klegg, and was struck by a
thought that made her glance quickly at her companion.

Ann Veronica had no answer for a moment. She turned her head away
sharply. Some automaton within her produced in a quite unfamiliar voice
the remark, “They’re playing football.”

“It’s too far for the ball to reach us,” said Miss Klegg.

“I didn’t know Mr. Capes was married,” said Ann Veronica, resuming the
conversation with an entire disappearance of her former lassitude.

“Oh yes,” said Miss Klegg; “I thought every one knew.”

“No,” said Ann Veronica, offhandedly. “Never heard anything of it.”

“I thought every one knew. I thought every one had heard about it.”

“But why?”

“He’s married--and, I believe, living separated from his wife. There was
a case, or something, some years ago.”

“What case?”

“A divorce--or something--I don’t know. But I have heard that he almost
had to leave the schools. If it hadn’t been for Professor Russell
standing up for him, they say he would have had to leave.”

“Was he divorced, do you mean?”

“No, but he got himself mixed up in a divorce case. I forget the
particulars, but I know it was something very disagreeable. It was among
artistic people.”

Ann Veronica was silent for a while.

“I thought every one had heard,” said Miss Klegg. “Or I wouldn’t have
said anything about it.”

“I suppose all men,” said Ann Veronica, in a tone of detached criticism,
“get some such entanglement. And, anyhow, it doesn’t matter to us.” She
turned abruptly at right angles to the path they followed. “This is my
way back to my side of the Park,” she said.

“I thought you were coming right across the Park.”

“Oh no,” said Ann Veronica; “I have some work to do. I just wanted a
breath of air. And they’ll shut the gates presently. It’s not far from
twilight.”



Part 9


She was sitting brooding over her fire about ten o’clock that night when
a sealed and registered envelope was brought up to her.

She opened it and drew out a letter, and folded within it were the notes
she had sent off to Ramage that day. The letter began:


“MY DEAREST GIRL,--I cannot let you do this foolish thing--”


She crumpled notes and letter together in her hand, and then with a
passionate gesture flung them into the fire. Instantly she seized the
poker and made a desperate effort to get them out again. But she was
only able to save a corner of the letter. The twenty pounds burned with
avidity.

She remained for some seconds crouching at the fender, poker in hand.

“By Jove!” she said, standing up at last, “that about finishes it, Ann
Veronica!”



CHAPTER THE TENTH

THE SUFFRAGETTES


Part 1


“There is only one way out of all this,” said Ann Veronica, sitting up
in her little bed in the darkness and biting at her nails.

“I thought I was just up against Morningside Park and father, but it’s
the whole order of things--the whole blessed order of things....”

She shivered. She frowned and gripped her hands about her knees very
tightly. Her mind developed into savage wrath at the present conditions
of a woman’s life.

“I suppose all life is an affair of chances. But a woman’s life is all
chance. It’s artificially chance. Find your man, that’s the rule. All
the rest is humbug and delicacy. He’s the handle of life for you. He
will let you live if it pleases him....

“Can’t it be altered?

“I suppose an actress is free?...”

She tried to think of some altered state of affairs in which these
monstrous limitations would be alleviated, in which women would stand on
their own feet in equal citizenship with men. For a time she brooded on
the ideals and suggestions of the Socialists, on the vague intimations
of an Endowment of Motherhood, of a complete relaxation of that intense
individual dependence for women which is woven into the existing social
order. At the back of her mind there seemed always one irrelevant
qualifying spectator whose presence she sought to disregard. She would
not look at him, would not think of him; when her mind wavered, then
she muttered to herself in the darkness so as to keep hold of her
generalizations.

“It is true. It is no good waiving the thing; it is true. Unless women
are never to be free, never to be even respected, there must be a
generation of martyrs.... Why shouldn’t we be martyrs? There’s
nothing else for most of us, anyhow. It’s a sort of blacklegging to want
to have a life of one’s own....”

She repeated, as if she answered an objector: “A sort of blacklegging.

“A sex of blacklegging clients.”

Her mind diverged to other aspects, and another type of womanhood.

“Poor little Miniver! What can she be but what she is?... Because
she states her case in a tangle, drags it through swamps of nonsense, it
doesn’t alter the fact that she is right.”

That phrase about dragging the truth through swamps of nonsense she
remembered from Capes. At the recollection that it was his, she seemed
to fall through a thin surface, as one might fall through the crust of
a lava into glowing depths. She wallowed for a time in the thought of
Capes, unable to escape from his image and the idea of his presence in
her life.

She let her mind run into dreams of that cloud paradise of an altered
world in which the Goopes and Minivers, the Fabians and reforming people
believed. Across that world was written in letters of light, “Endowment
of Motherhood.” Suppose in some complex yet conceivable way women were
endowed, were no longer economically and socially dependent on men. “If
one was free,” she said, “one could go to him.... This vile hovering
to catch a man’s eye!... One could go to him and tell him one loved
him. I want to love him. A little love from him would be enough. It
would hurt no one. It would not burden him with any obligation.”

She groaned aloud and bowed her forehead to her knees. She floundered
deep. She wanted to kiss his feet. His feet would have the firm texture
of his hands.

Then suddenly her spirit rose in revolt. “I will not have this slavery,”
 she said. “I will not have this slavery.”

She shook her fist ceilingward. “Do you hear!” she said “whatever you
are, wherever you are! I will not be slave to the thought of any man,
slave to the customs of any time. Confound this slavery of sex! I am a
man! I will get this under if I am killed in doing it!”

She scowled into the cold blacknesses about her.

“Manning,” she said, and contemplated a figure of inaggressive
persistence. “No!” Her thoughts had turned in a new direction.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, after a long interval, “if they are
absurd. They mean something. They mean everything that women can
mean--except submission. The vote is only the beginning, the necessary
beginning. If we do not begin--”

She had come to a resolution. Abruptly she got out of bed, smoothed
her sheet and straightened her pillow and lay down, and fell almost
instantly asleep.



Part 2


The next morning was as dark and foggy as if it was mid-November instead
of early March. Ann Veronica woke rather later than usual, and lay awake
for some minutes before she remembered a certain resolution she
had taken in the small hours. Then instantly she got out of bed and
proceeded to dress.

She did not start for the Imperial College. She spent the morning up
to ten in writing a series of unsuccessful letters to Ramage, which she
tore up unfinished; and finally she desisted and put on her jacket and
went out into the lamp-lit obscurity and slimy streets. She turned a
resolute face southward.

She followed Oxford Street into Holborn, and then she inquired for
Chancery Lane. There she sought and at last found 107A, one of those
heterogeneous piles of offices which occupy the eastern side of the
lane. She studied the painted names of firms and persons and enterprises
on the wall, and discovered that the Women’s Bond of Freedom occupied
several contiguous suites on the first floor. She went up-stairs and
hesitated between four doors with ground-glass panes, each of which
professed “The Women’s Bond of Freedom” in neat black letters. She
opened one and found herself in a large untidy room set with chairs that
were a little disarranged as if by an overnight meeting. On the walls
were notice-boards bearing clusters of newspaper slips, three or four
big posters of monster meetings, one of which Ann Veronica had attended
with Miss Miniver, and a series of announcements in purple copying-ink,
and in one corner was a pile of banners. There was no one at all in this
room, but through the half-open door of one of the small apartments
that gave upon it she had a glimpse of two very young girls sitting at a
littered table and writing briskly.

She walked across to this apartment and, opening the door a little
wider, discovered a press section of the movement at work.

“I want to inquire,” said Ann Veronica.

“Next door,” said a spectacled young person of seventeen or eighteen,
with an impatient indication of the direction.

In the adjacent apartment Ann Veronica found a middle-aged woman with
a tired face under the tired hat she wore, sitting at a desk opening
letters while a dusky, untidy girl of eight-or nine-and-twenty hammered
industriously at a typewriter. The tired woman looked up in inquiring
silence at Ann Veronica’s diffident entry.

“I want to know more about this movement,” said Ann Veronica.

“Are you with us?” said the tired woman.

“I don’t know,” said Ann Veronica; “I think I am. I want very much to do
something for women. But I want to know what you are doing.”

The tired woman sat still for a moment. “You haven’t come here to make a
lot of difficulties?” she asked.

“No,” said Ann Veronica, “but I want to know.”

The tired woman shut her eyes tightly for a moment, and then looked with
them at Ann Veronica. “What can you do?” she asked.

“Do?”

“Are you prepared to do things for us? Distribute bills? Write letters?
Interrupt meetings? Canvass at elections? Face dangers?”

“If I am satisfied--”

“If we satisfy you?”

“Then, if possible, I would like to go to prison.”

“It isn’t nice going to prison.”

“It would suit me.”

“It isn’t nice getting there.”

“That’s a question of detail,” said Ann Veronica.

The tired woman looked quietly at her. “What are your objections?” she
said.

“It isn’t objections exactly. I want to know what you are doing; how you
think this work of yours really does serve women.”

“We are working for the equal citizenship of men and women,” said the
tired woman. “Women have been and are treated as the inferiors of men,
we want to make them their equals.”

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, “I agree to that. But--”

The tired woman raised her eyebrows in mild protest.

“Isn’t the question more complicated than that?” said Ann Veronica.

“You could have a talk to Miss Kitty Brett this afternoon, if you liked.
Shall I make an appointment for you?”

Miss Kitty Brett was one of the most conspicuous leaders of the
movement. Ann Veronica snatched at the opportunity, and spent most
of the intervening time in the Assyrian Court of the British Museum,
reading and thinking over a little book upon the feminist movement the
tired woman had made her buy. She got a bun and some cocoa in the little
refreshment-room, and then wandered through the galleries up-stairs,
crowded with Polynesian idols and Polynesian dancing-garments, and all
the simple immodest accessories to life in Polynesia, to a seat among
the mummies. She was trying to bring her problems to a head, and her
mind insisted upon being even more discursive and atmospheric than
usual. It generalized everything she put to it.

“Why should women be dependent on men?” she asked; and the question was
at once converted into a system of variations upon the theme of “Why
are things as they are?”--“Why are human beings viviparous?”--“Why are
people hungry thrice a day?”--“Why does one faint at danger?”

She stood for a time looking at the dry limbs and still human face of
that desiccated unwrapped mummy from the very beginnings of social life.
It looked very patient, she thought, and a little self-satisfied. It
looked as if it had taken its world for granted and prospered on that
assumption--a world in which children were trained to obey their
elders and the wills of women over-ruled as a matter of course. It was
wonderful to think this thing had lived, had felt and suffered. Perhaps
once it had desired some other human being intolerably. Perhaps some one
had kissed the brow that was now so cadaverous, rubbed that sunken cheek
with loving fingers, held that stringy neck with passionately living
hands. But all of that was forgotten. “In the end,” it seemed to be
thinking, “they embalmed me with the utmost respect--sound spices chosen
to endure--the best! I took my world as I found it. THINGS ARE SO!”



Part 3


Ann Veronica’s first impression of Kitty Brett was that she was
aggressive and disagreeable; her next that she was a person of amazing
persuasive power. She was perhaps three-and-twenty, and very pink and
healthy-looking, showing a great deal of white and rounded neck above
her business-like but altogether feminine blouse, and a good deal of
plump, gesticulating forearm out of her short sleeve. She had animated
dark blue-gray eyes under her fine eyebrows, and dark brown hair that
rolled back simply and effectively from her broad low forehead. And she
was about as capable of intelligent argument as a runaway steam-roller.
She was a trained being--trained by an implacable mother to one end.

She spoke with fluent enthusiasm. She did not so much deal with Ann
Veronica’s interpolations as dispose of them with quick and use-hardened
repartee, and then she went on with a fine directness to sketch the case
for her agitation, for that remarkable rebellion of the women that was
then agitating the whole world of politics and discussion. She assumed
with a kind of mesmeric force all the propositions that Ann Veronica
wanted her to define.

“What do we want? What is the goal?” asked Ann Veronica.

“Freedom! Citizenship! And the way to that--the way to everything--is
the Vote.”

Ann Veronica said something about a general change of ideas.

“How can you change people’s ideas if you have no power?” said Kitty
Brett.

Ann Veronica was not ready enough to deal with that counter-stroke.

“One doesn’t want to turn the whole thing into a mere sex antagonism.”

“When women get justice,” said Kitty Brett, “there will be no sex
antagonism. None at all. Until then we mean to keep on hammering away.”

“It seems to me that much of a woman’s difficulties are economic.”

“That will follow,” said Kitty Brett--“that will follow.”

She interrupted as Ann Veronica was about to speak again, with a bright
contagious hopefulness. “Everything will follow,” she said.

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, trying to think where they were, trying to
get things plain again that had seemed plain enough in the quiet of the
night.

“Nothing was ever done,” Miss Brett asserted, “without a certain element
of Faith. After we have got the Vote and are recognized as citizens,
then we can come to all these other things.”

Even in the glamour of Miss Brett’s assurance it seemed to Ann Veronica
that this was, after all, no more than the gospel of Miss Miniver with
a new set of resonances. And like that gospel it meant something,
something different from its phrases, something elusive, and yet
something that in spite of the superficial incoherence of its phrasing,
was largely essentially true. There was something holding women down,
holding women back, and if it wasn’t exactly man-made law, man-made
law was an aspect of it. There was something indeed holding the whole
species back from the imaginable largeness of life....

“The Vote is the symbol of everything,” said Miss Brett.

She made an abrupt personal appeal.

“Oh! please don’t lose yourself in a wilderness of secondary
considerations,” she said. “Don’t ask me to tell you all that women can
do, all that women can be. There is a new life, different from the old
life of dependence, possible. If only we are not divided. If only we
work together. This is the one movement that brings women of different
classes together for a common purpose. If you could see how it gives
them souls, women who have taken things for granted, who have given
themselves up altogether to pettiness and vanity....”

“Give me something to do,” said Ann Veronica, interrupting her
persuasions at last. “It has been very kind of you to see me, but I
don’t want to sit and talk and use your time any longer. I want to do
something. I want to hammer myself against all this that pens women in.
I feel that I shall stifle unless I can do something--and do something
soon.”



Part 4


It was not Ann Veronica’s fault that the night’s work should have taken
upon itself the forms of wild burlesque. She was in deadly earnest in
everything she did. It seemed to her the last desperate attack upon the
universe that would not let her live as she desired to live, that penned
her in and controlled her and directed her and disapproved of her, the
same invincible wrappering, the same leaden tyranny of a universe that
she had vowed to overcome after that memorable conflict with her father
at Morningside Park.

She was listed for the raid--she was informed it was to be a raid upon
the House of Commons, though no particulars were given her--and told to
go alone to 14, Dexter Street, Westminster, and not to ask any policeman
to direct her. 14, Dexter Street, Westminster, she found was not a house
but a yard in an obscure street, with big gates and the name of Podgers
& Carlo, Carriers and Furniture Removers, thereon. She was perplexed by
this, and stood for some seconds in the empty street hesitating, until
the appearance of another circumspect woman under the street lamp at the
corner reassured her. In one of the big gates was a little door, and she
rapped at this. It was immediately opened by a man with light eyelashes
and a manner suggestive of restrained passion. “Come right in,” he
hissed under his breath, with the true conspirator’s note, closed the
door very softly and pointed, “Through there!”

By the meagre light of a gas lamp she perceived a cobbled yard with four
large furniture vans standing with horses and lamps alight. A slender
young man, wearing glasses, appeared from the shadow of the nearest van.
“Are you A, B, C, or D?” he asked.

“They told me D,” said Ann Veronica.

“Through there,” he said, and pointed with the pamphlet he was carrying.

Ann Veronica found herself in a little stirring crowd of excited women,
whispering and tittering and speaking in undertones.

The light was poor, so that she saw their gleaming faces dimly and
indistinctly. No one spoke to her. She stood among them, watching
them and feeling curiously alien to them. The oblique ruddy lighting
distorted them oddly, made queer bars and patches of shadow upon their
clothes. “It’s Kitty’s idea,” said one, “we are to go in the vans.”

“Kitty is wonderful,” said another.

“Wonderful!”

“I have always longed for prison service,” said a voice, “always.
From the beginning. But it’s only now I’m able to do it.”

A little blond creature close at hand suddenly gave way to a fit of
hysterical laughter, and caught up the end of it with a sob.

“Before I took up the Suffrage,” a firm, flat voice remarked, “I could
scarcely walk up-stairs without palpitations.”

Some one hidden from Ann Veronica appeared to be marshalling the
assembly. “We have to get in, I think,” said a nice little old lady in
a bonnet to Ann Veronica, speaking with a voice that quavered a little.
“My dear, can you see in this light? I think I would like to get in.
Which is C?”

Ann Veronica, with a curious sinking of the heart, regarded the black
cavities of the vans. Their doors stood open, and placards with big
letters indicated the section assigned to each. She directed the little
old woman and then made her way to van D. A young woman with a white
badge on her arm stood and counted the sections as they entered their
vans.

“When they tap the roof,” she said, in a voice of authority, “you are to
come out. You will be opposite the big entrance in Old Palace Yard. It’s
the public entrance. You are to make for that and get into the lobby if
you can, and so try and reach the floor of the House, crying ‘Votes for
Women!’ as you go.”

She spoke like a mistress addressing school-children.

“Don’t bunch too much as you come out,” she added.

“All right?” asked the man with the light eyelashes, suddenly appearing
in the doorway. He waited for an instant, wasting an encouraging smile
in the imperfect light, and then shut the doors of the van, leaving the
women in darkness....

The van started with a jerk and rumbled on its way.

“It’s like Troy!” said a voice of rapture. “It’s exactly like Troy!”



Part 5


So Ann Veronica, enterprising and a little dubious as ever, mingled with
the stream of history and wrote her Christian name upon the police-court
records of the land.

But out of a belated regard for her father she wrote the surname of some
one else.

Some day, when the rewards of literature permit the arduous research
required, the Campaign of the Women will find its Carlyle, and the
particulars of that marvellous series of exploits by which Miss Brett
and her colleagues nagged the whole Western world into the discussion of
women’s position become the material for the most delightful and amazing
descriptions. At present the world waits for that writer, and the
confused record of the newspapers remains the only resource of the
curious. When he comes he will do that raid of the pantechnicons the
justice it deserves; he will picture the orderly evening scene about the
Imperial Legislature in convincing detail, the coming and going of cabs
and motor-cabs and broughams through the chill, damp evening into New
Palace Yard, the reinforced but untroubled and unsuspecting police about
the entries of those great buildings whose square and panelled Victorian
Gothic streams up from the glare of the lamps into the murkiness of
the night; Big Ben shining overhead, an unassailable beacon, and the
incidental traffic of Westminster, cabs, carts, and glowing omnibuses
going to and from the bridge. About the Abbey and Abingdon Street stood
the outer pickets and detachments of the police, their attention all
directed westward to where the women in Caxton Hall, Westminster, hummed
like an angry hive. Squads reached to the very portal of that centre of
disturbance. And through all these defences and into Old Palace
Yard, into the very vitals of the defenders’ position, lumbered the
unsuspected vans.

They travelled past the few idle sightseers who had braved the
uninviting evening to see what the Suffragettes might be doing; they
pulled up unchallenged within thirty yards of those coveted portals.

And then they disgorged.

Were I a painter of subject pictures, I would exhaust all my skill
in proportion and perspective and atmosphere upon the august seat
of empire, I would present it gray and dignified and immense and
respectable beyond any mere verbal description, and then, in vivid
black and very small, I would put in those valiantly impertinent
vans, squatting at the base of its altitudes and pouring out a swift,
straggling rush of ominous little black objects, minute figures of
determined women at war with the universe.

Ann Veronica was in their very forefront.

In an instant the expectant calm of Westminster was ended, and the very
Speaker in the chair blenched at the sound of the policemen’s whistles.
The bolder members in the House left their places to go lobbyward,
grinning. Others pulled hats over their noses, cowered in their seats,
and feigned that all was right with the world. In Old Palace Yard
everybody ran. They either ran to see or ran for shelter. Even two
Cabinet Ministers took to their heels, grinning insincerely. At the
opening of the van doors and the emergence into the fresh air Ann
Veronica’s doubt and depression gave place to the wildest exhilaration.
That same adventurousness that had already buoyed her through crises
that would have overwhelmed any normally feminine girl with shame and
horror now became uppermost again. Before her was a great Gothic portal.
Through that she had to go.

Past her shot the little old lady in the bonnet, running incredibly
fast, but otherwise still alertly respectable, and she was making a
strange threatening sound as she ran, such as one would use in driving
ducks out of a garden--“B-r-r-r-r-r--!” and pawing with black-gloved
hands. The policemen were closing in from the sides to intervene. The
little old lady struck like a projectile upon the resounding chest
of the foremost of these, and then Ann Veronica had got past and was
ascending the steps.

Then most horribly she was clasped about the waist from behind and
lifted from the ground.

At that a new element poured into her excitement, an element of wild
disgust and terror. She had never experienced anything so disagreeable
in her life as the sense of being held helplessly off her feet. She
screamed involuntarily--she had never in her life screamed before--and
then she began to wriggle and fight like a frightened animal against the
men who were holding her.

The affair passed at one leap from a spree to a nightmare of violence
and disgust. Her hair got loose, her hat came over one eye, and she had
no arm free to replace it. She felt she must suffocate if these men did
not put her down, and for a time they would not put her down. Then with
an indescribable relief her feet were on the pavement, and she was
being urged along by two policemen, who were gripping her wrists in an
irresistible expert manner. She was writhing to get her hands loose
and found herself gasping with passionate violence, “It’s
damnable!--damnable!” to the manifest disgust of the fatherly policeman
on her right.

Then they had released her arms and were trying to push her away.

“You be off, missie,” said the fatherly policeman. “This ain’t no place
for you.”

He pushed her a dozen yards along the greasy pavement with flat,
well-trained hands that there seemed to be no opposing. Before her
stretched blank spaces, dotted with running people coming toward her,
and below them railings and a statue. She almost submitted to this
ending of her adventure. But at the word “home” she turned again.

“I won’t go home,” she said; “I won’t!” and she evaded the clutch of the
fatherly policeman and tried to thrust herself past him in the direction
of that big portal. “Steady on!” he cried.

A diversion was created by the violent struggles of the little old
lady. She seemed to be endowed with superhuman strength. A knot of
three policemen in conflict with her staggered toward Ann Veronica’s
attendants and distracted their attention. “I WILL be arrested! I WON’T
go home!” the little old lady was screaming over and over again. They
put her down, and she leaped at them; she smote a helmet to the ground.

“You’ll have to take her!” shouted an inspector on horseback, and she
echoed his cry: “You’ll have to take me!” They seized upon her and
lifted her, and she screamed. Ann Veronica became violently excited at
the sight. “You cowards!” said Ann Veronica, “put her down!” and tore
herself from a detaining hand and battered with her fists upon the big
red ear and blue shoulder of the policeman who held the little old lady.

So Ann Veronica also was arrested.

And then came the vile experience of being forced and borne along the
street to the police-station. Whatever anticipation Ann Veronica had
formed of this vanished in the reality. Presently she was going through
a swaying, noisy crowd, whose faces grinned and stared pitilessly in the
light of the electric standards. “Go it, miss!” cried one. “Kick aht at
‘em!” though, indeed, she went now with Christian meekness, resenting
only the thrusting policemen’s hands. Several people in the crowd seemed
to be fighting. Insulting cries became frequent and various, but for the
most part she could not understand what was said. “Who’ll mind the baby
nar?” was one of the night’s inspirations, and very frequent. A lean
young man in spectacles pursued her for some time, crying “Courage!
Courage!” Somebody threw a dab of mud at her, and some of it got down
her neck. Immeasurable disgust possessed her. She felt draggled and
insulted beyond redemption.

She could not hide her face. She attempted by a sheer act of will to
end the scene, to will herself out of it anywhere. She had a horrible
glimpse of the once nice little old lady being also borne stationward,
still faintly battling and very muddy--one lock of grayish hair
straggling over her neck, her face scared, white, but triumphant. Her
bonnet dropped off and was trampled into the gutter. A little Cockney
recovered it, and made ridiculous attempts to get to her and replace it.

“You must arrest me!” she gasped, breathlessly, insisting insanely on a
point already carried; “you shall!”

The police-station at the end seemed to Ann Veronica like a refuge from
unnamable disgraces. She hesitated about her name, and, being prompted,
gave it at last as Ann Veronica Smith, 107A, Chancery Lane....

Indignation carried her through that night, that men and the world
could so entreat her. The arrested women were herded in a passage of
the Panton Street Police-station that opened upon a cell too unclean for
occupation, and most of them spent the night standing. Hot coffee
and cakes were sent in to them in the morning by some intelligent
sympathizer, or she would have starved all day. Submission to the
inevitable carried her through the circumstances of her appearance
before the magistrate.

He was no doubt doing his best to express the attitude of society toward
these wearily heroic defendants, but he seemed to be merely rude and
unfair to Ann Veronica. He was not, it seemed, the proper stipendiary at
all, and there had been some demur to his jurisdiction that had ruffled
him. He resented being regarded as irregular. He felt he was human
wisdom prudentially interpolated.... “You silly wimmin,” he said over
and over again throughout the hearing, plucking at his blotting-pad
with busy hands. “You silly creatures! Ugh! Fie upon you!” The court was
crowded with people, for the most part supporters and admirers of the
defendants, and the man with the light eyelashes was conspicuously
active and omnipresent.

Ann Veronica’s appearance was brief and undistinguished. She had nothing
to say for herself. She was guided into the dock and prompted by a
helpful police inspector. She was aware of the body of the court,
of clerks seated at a black table littered with papers, of policemen
standing about stiffly with expressions of conscious integrity, and
a murmuring background of the heads and shoulders of spectators close
behind her. On a high chair behind a raised counter the stipendiary’s
substitute regarded her malevolently over his glasses. A disagreeable
young man, with red hair and a loose mouth, seated at the reporter’s
table, was only too manifestly sketching her.

She was interested by the swearing of the witnesses. The kissing of the
book struck her as particularly odd, and then the policemen gave their
evidence in staccato jerks and stereotyped phrases.

“Have you anything to ask the witness?” asked the helpful inspector.

The ribald demons that infested the back of Ann Veronica’s mind urged
various facetious interrogations upon her, as, for example, where
the witness had acquired his prose style. She controlled herself, and
answered meekly, “No.”

“Well, Ann Veronica Smith,” the magistrate remarked when the case was
all before him, “you’re a good-looking, strong, respectable gell, and
it’s a pity you silly young wimmin can’t find something better to do
with your exuberance. Two-and-twenty! I can’t imagine what your parents
can be thinking about to let you get into these scrapes.”

Ann Veronica’s mind was filled with confused unutterable replies.

“You are persuaded to come and take part in these outrageous
proceedings--many of you, I am convinced, have no idea whatever of
their nature. I don’t suppose you could tell me even the derivation of
suffrage if I asked you. No! not even the derivation! But the fashion’s
been set and in it you must be.”

The men at the reporter’s table lifted their eyebrows, smiled faintly,
and leaned back to watch how she took her scolding. One with the
appearance of a bald little gnome yawned agonizingly. They had got all
this down already--they heard the substance of it now for the fourteenth
time. The stipendiary would have done it all very differently.

She found presently she was out of the dock and confronted with the
alternative of being bound over in one surety for the sum of forty
pounds--whatever that might mean or a month’s imprisonment.

“Second class,” said some one, but first and second were all alike to
her. She elected to go to prison.

At last, after a long rumbling journey in a stuffy windowless van, she
reached Canongate Prison--for Holloway had its quota already. It was bad
luck to go to Canongate.

Prison was beastly. Prison was bleak without spaciousness, and pervaded
by a faint, oppressive smell; and she had to wait two hours in the
sullenly defiant company of two unclean women thieves before a cell
could be assigned to her. Its dreariness, like the filthiness of the
police cell, was a discovery for her. She had imagined that prisons
were white-tiled places, reeking of lime-wash and immaculately
sanitary. Instead, they appeared to be at the hygienic level of tramps’
lodging-houses. She was bathed in turbid water that had already been
used. She was not allowed to bathe herself: another prisoner, with a
privileged manner, washed her. Conscientious objectors to that process
are not permitted, she found, in Canongate. Her hair was washed for her
also. Then they dressed her in a dirty dress of coarse serge and a cap,
and took away her own clothes. The dress came to her only too manifestly
unwashed from its former wearer; even the under-linen they gave her
seemed unclean. Horrible memories of things seen beneath the microscope
of the baser forms of life crawled across her mind and set her
shuddering with imagined irritations. She sat on the edge of the
bed--the wardress was too busy with the flood of arrivals that day
to discover that she had it down--and her skin was shivering from the
contact of these garments. She surveyed accommodation that seemed at
first merely austere, and became more and more manifestly inadequate as
the moments fled by. She meditated profoundly through several enormous
cold hours on all that had happened and all that she had done since the
swirl of the suffrage movement had submerged her personal affairs....

Very slowly emerging out of a phase of stupefaction, these personal
affairs and her personal problem resumed possession of her mind. She had
imagined she had drowned them altogether.



CHAPTER THE ELEVENTH

THOUGHTS IN PRISON


Part 1


The first night in prison she found it impossible to sleep. The bed
was hard beyond any experience of hers, the bed-clothes coarse and
insufficient, the cell at once cold and stuffy. The little grating
in the door, the sense of constant inspection, worried her. She kept
opening her eyes and looking at it. She was fatigued physically and
mentally, and neither mind nor body could rest. She became aware that
at regular intervals a light flashed upon her face and a bodiless eye
regarded her, and this, as the night wore on, became a torment....

Capes came back into her mind. He haunted a state between hectic
dreaming and mild delirium, and she found herself talking aloud to
him. All through the night an entirely impossible and monumental
Capes confronted her, and she argued with him about men and women. She
visualized him as in a policeman’s uniform and quite impassive. On some
insane score she fancied she had to state her case in verse. “We are the
music and you are the instrument,” she said; “we are verse and you are
prose.

     “For men have reason, women rhyme
     A man scores always, all the time.”

This couplet sprang into her mind from nowhere, and immediately begot an
endless series of similar couplets that she began to compose and address
to Capes. They came teeming distressfully through her aching brain:

     “A man can kick, his skirts don’t tear;
     A man scores always, everywhere.

     “His dress for no man lays a snare;
     A man scores always, everywhere.
     For hats that fail and hats that flare;
     Toppers their universal wear;
     A man scores always, everywhere.

     “Men’s waists are neither here nor there;
     A man scores always, everywhere.

     “A man can manage without hair;
     A man scores always, everywhere.

     “There are no males at men to stare;
     A man scores always, everywhere.

     “And children must we women bear--

“Oh, damn!” she cried, as the hundred-and-first couplet or so presented
itself in her unwilling brain.

For a time she worried about that compulsory bath and cutaneous
diseases.

Then she fell into a fever of remorse for the habit of bad language she
had acquired.

     “A man can smoke, a man can swear;
     A man scores always, everywhere.”

She rolled over on her face, and stuffed her fingers in her ears to shut
out the rhythm from her mind. She lay still for a long time, and her
mind resumed at a more tolerable pace. She found herself talking to
Capes in an undertone of rational admission.

“There is something to be said for the lady-like theory after all,” she
admitted. “Women ought to be gentle and submissive persons, strong only
in virtue and in resistance to evil compulsion. My dear--I can call you
that here, anyhow--I know that. The Victorians over-did it a little, I
admit. Their idea of maidenly innocence was just a blank white--the sort
of flat white that doesn’t shine. But that doesn’t alter the fact
that there IS innocence. And I’ve read, and thought, and guessed, and
looked--until MY innocence--it’s smirched.

“Smirched!...

“You see, dear, one IS passionately anxious for something--what is it?
One wants to be CLEAN. You want me to be clean. You would want me to be
clean, if you gave me a thought, that is....

“I wonder if you give me a thought....

“I’m not a good woman. I don’t mean I’m not a good woman--I mean that
I’m not a GOOD woman. My poor brain is so mixed, dear, I hardly know
what I am saying. I mean I’m not a good specimen of a woman. I’ve got a
streak of male. Things happen to women--proper women--and all they have
to do is to take them well. They’ve just got to keep white. But I’m
always trying to make things happen. And I get myself dirty...

“It’s all dirt that washes off, dear, but it’s dirt.

“The white unaggressive woman who corrects and nurses and serves, and is
worshipped and betrayed--the martyr-queen of men, the white mother....
You can’t do that sort of thing unless you do it over religion, and
there’s no religion in me--of that sort--worth a rap.

“I’m not gentle. Certainly not a gentlewoman.

“I’m not coarse--no! But I’ve got no purity of mind--no real purity of
mind. A good woman’s mind has angels with flaming swords at the portals
to keep out fallen thoughts....

“I wonder if there are any good women really.

“I wish I didn’t swear. I do swear. It began as a joke.... It
developed into a sort of secret and private bad manners. It’s got to be
at last like tobacco-ash over all my sayings and doings....

“‘Go it, missie,’ they said; “kick aht!’

“I swore at that policeman--and disgusted him. Disgusted him!

     “For men policemen never blush;
     A man in all things scores so much...

“Damn! Things are getting plainer. It must be the dawn creeping in.

     “Now here hath been dawning another blue day;
     I’m just a poor woman, please take it away.

“Oh, sleep! Sleep! Sleep! Sleep!”



Part 2


“Now,” said Ann Veronica, after the half-hour of exercise, and sitting
on the uncomfortable wooden seat without a back that was her perch by
day, “it’s no good staying here in a sort of maze. I’ve got nothing to
do for a month but think. I may as well think. I ought to be able to
think things out.

“How shall I put the question? What am I? What have I got to do with
myself?...

“I wonder if many people HAVE thought things out?

“Are we all just seizing hold of phrases and obeying moods?

“It wasn’t so with old-fashioned people, they knew right from wrong;
they had a clear-cut, religious faith that seemed to explain everything
and give a rule for everything. We haven’t. I haven’t, anyhow. And it’s
no good pretending there is one when there isn’t.... I suppose I
believe in God.... Never really thought about Him--people don’t..
.. I suppose my creed is, ‘I believe rather indistinctly in God the
Father Almighty, substratum of the evolutionary process, and, in a vein
of vague sentimentality that doesn’t give a datum for anything at all,
in Jesus Christ, His Son.’...

“It’s no sort of good, Ann Veronica, pretending one does believe when
one doesn’t....

“And as for praying for faith--this sort of monologue is about as near
as any one of my sort ever gets to prayer. Aren’t I asking--asking
plainly now?...

“We’ve all been mixing our ideas, and we’ve got intellectual hot
coppers--every blessed one of us....

“A confusion of motives--that’s what I am!...

“There is this absurd craving for Mr. Capes--the ‘Capes crave,’ they
would call it in America. Why do I want him so badly? Why do I want him,
and think about him, and fail to get away from him?

“It isn’t all of me.

“The first person you love, Ann Veronica, is yourself--get hold of that!
The soul you have to save is Ann Veronica’s soul....”

She knelt upon the floor of her cell and clasped her hands, and remained
for a long time in silence.

“Oh, God!” she said at last, “how I wish I had been taught to pray!”



Part 3


She had some idea of putting these subtle and difficult issues to the
chaplain when she was warned of his advent. But she had not reckoned
with the etiquette of Canongate. She got up, as she had been told to
do, at his appearance, and he amazed her by sitting down, according to
custom, on her stool. He still wore his hat, to show that the days
of miracles and Christ being civil to sinners are over forever. She
perceived that his countenance was only composed by a great effort, his
features severely compressed. He was ruffled, and his ears were red,
no doubt from some adjacent controversy. He classified her as he seated
himself.

“Another young woman, I suppose,” he said, “who knows better than her
Maker about her place in the world. Have you anything to ask me?”

Ann Veronica readjusted her mind hastily. Her back stiffened. She
produced from the depths of her pride the ugly investigatory note of
the modern district visitor. “Are you a special sort of clergyman,” she
said, after a pause, and looking down her nose at him, “or do you go to
the Universities?”

“Oh!” he said, profoundly.

He panted for a moment with unuttered replies, and then, with a scornful
gesture, got up and left the cell.

So that Ann Veronica was not able to get the expert advice she certainly
needed upon her spiritual state.



Part 4


After a day or so she thought more steadily. She found herself in a
phase of violent reaction against the suffrage movement, a phase
greatly promoted by one of those unreasonable objections people of Ann
Veronica’s temperament take at times--to the girl in the next cell to
her own. She was a large, resilient girl, with a foolish smile, a still
more foolish expression of earnestness, and a throaty contralto voice.
She was noisy and hilarious and enthusiastic, and her hair was always
abominably done. In the chapel she sang with an open-lunged gusto that
silenced Ann Veronica altogether, and in the exercising-yard slouched
round with carelessly dispersed feet. Ann Veronica decided that
“hoydenish ragger” was the only phrase to express her. She was always
breaking rules, whispering asides, intimating signals. She became at
times an embodiment for Ann Veronica of all that made the suffrage
movement defective and unsatisfying.

She was always initiating petty breaches of discipline. Her greatest
exploit was the howling before the mid-day meal. This was an imitation
of the noises made by the carnivora at the Zoological Gardens at
feeding-time; the idea was taken up by prisoner after prisoner until
the whole place was alive with barkings, yappings, roarings, pelican
chatterings, and feline yowlings, interspersed with shrieks of
hysterical laughter. To many in that crowded solitude it came as an
extraordinary relief. It was better even than the hymn-singing. But it
annoyed Ann Veronica.

“Idiots!” she said, when she heard this pandemonium, and with particular
reference to this young lady with the throaty contralto next door.
“Intolerable idiots!...”

It took some days for this phase to pass, and it left some scars and
something like a decision. “Violence won’t do it,” said Ann Veronica.
“Begin violence, and the woman goes under....

“But all the rest of our case is right.... Yes.”

As the long, solitary days wore on, Ann Veronica found a number of
definite attitudes and conclusions in her mind.

One of these was a classification of women into women who are and women
who are not hostile to men. “The real reason why I am out of place
here,” she said, “is because I like men. I can talk with them. I’ve
never found them hostile. I’ve got no feminine class feeling. I don’t
want any laws or freedoms to protect me from a man like Mr. Capes. I
know that in my heart I would take whatever he gave....

“A woman wants a proper alliance with a man, a man who is better stuff
than herself. She wants that and needs it more than anything else in
the world. It may not be just, it may not be fair, but things are so. It
isn’t law, nor custom, nor masculine violence settled that. It is just
how things happen to be. She wants to be free--she wants to be legally
and economically free, so as not to be subject to the wrong man; but
only God, who made the world, can alter things to prevent her being
slave to the right one.

“And if she can’t have the right one?

“We’ve developed such a quality of preference!”

She rubbed her knuckles into her forehead. “Oh, but life is difficult!”
 she groaned. “When you loosen the tangle in one place you tie a knot in
another.... Before there is any change, any real change, I shall be
dead--dead--dead and finished--two hundred years!...”



Part 5


One afternoon, while everything was still, the wardress heard her cry
out suddenly and alarmingly, and with great and unmistakable passion,
“Why in the name of goodness did I burn that twenty pounds?”



Part 6


She sat regarding her dinner. The meat was coarse and disagreeably
served.

“I suppose some one makes a bit on the food,” she said....

“One has such ridiculous ideas of the wicked common people and the
beautiful machinery of order that ropes them in. And here are these
places, full of contagion!

“Of course, this is the real texture of life, this is what we refined
secure people forget. We think the whole thing is straight and noble at
bottom, and it isn’t. We think if we just defy the friends we have and
go out into the world everything will become easy and splendid.
One doesn’t realize that even the sort of civilization one has at
Morningside Park is held together with difficulty. By policemen one
mustn’t shock.

“This isn’t a world for an innocent girl to walk about in. It’s a world
of dirt and skin diseases and parasites. It’s a world in which the
law can be a stupid pig and the police-stations dirty dens. One wants
helpers and protectors--and clean water.

“Am I becoming reasonable or am I being tamed?

“I’m simply discovering that life is many-sided and complex and
puzzling. I thought one had only to take it by the throat.

“It hasn’t GOT a throat!”



Part 7


One day the idea of self-sacrifice came into her head, and she made, she
thought, some important moral discoveries.

It came with an extreme effect of re-discovery, a remarkable novelty.
“What have I been all this time?” she asked herself, and answered, “Just
stark egotism, crude assertion of Ann Veronica, without a modest rag of
religion or discipline or respect for authority to cover me!”

It seemed to her as though she had at last found the touchstone of
conduct. She perceived she had never really thought of any one but
herself in all her acts and plans. Even Capes had been for her merely an
excitant to passionate love--a mere idol at whose feet one could enjoy
imaginative wallowings. She had set out to get a beautiful life, a free,
untrammelled life, self-development, without counting the cost either
for herself or others.

“I have hurt my father,” she said; “I have hurt my aunt. I have hurt and
snubbed poor Teddy. I’ve made no one happy. I deserve pretty much what
I’ve got....

“If only because of the way one hurts others if one kicks loose and
free, one has to submit....

“Broken-in people! I suppose the world is just all egotistical children
and broken-in people.

“Your little flag of pride must flutter down with the rest of them, Ann
Veronica....

“Compromise--and kindness.

“Compromise and kindness.

“Who are YOU that the world should lie down at your feet?

“You’ve got to be a decent citizen, Ann Veronica. Take your half loaf
with the others. You mustn’t go clawing after a man that doesn’t belong
to you--that isn’t even interested in you. That’s one thing clear.

“You’ve got to take the decent reasonable way. You’ve got to adjust
yourself to the people God has set about you. Every one else does.”

She thought more and more along that line. There was no reason why
she shouldn’t be Capes’ friend. He did like her, anyhow; he was always
pleased to be with her. There was no reason why she shouldn’t be his
restrained and dignified friend. After all, that was life. Nothing was
given away, and no one came so rich to the stall as to command all that
it had to offer. Every one has to make a deal with the world.

It would be very good to be Capes’ friend.

She might be able to go on with biology, possibly even work upon the
same questions that he dealt with....

Perhaps her granddaughter might marry his grandson....

It grew clear to her that throughout all her wild raid for independence
she had done nothing for anybody, and many people had done things for
her. She thought of her aunt and that purse that was dropped on the
table, and of many troublesome and ill-requited kindnesses; she thought
of the help of the Widgetts, of Teddy’s admiration; she thought, with
a new-born charity, of her father, of Manning’s conscientious
unselfishness, of Miss Miniver’s devotion.

“And for me it has been Pride and Pride and Pride!

“I am the prodigal daughter. I will arise and go to my father, and will
say unto him--

“I suppose pride and self-assertion are sin? Sinned against heaven--Yes,
I have sinned against heaven and before thee....

“Poor old daddy! I wonder if he’ll spend much on the fatted calf?...

“The wrappered life-discipline! One comes to that at last. I begin to
understand Jane Austen and chintz covers and decency and refinement and
all the rest of it. One puts gloves on one’s greedy fingers. One learns
to sit up...

“And somehow or other,” she added, after a long interval, “I must pay
Mr. Ramage back his forty pounds.”



CHAPTER THE TWELFTH

ANN VERONICA PUTS THINGS IN ORDER


Part 1


Ann Veronica made a strenuous attempt to carry out her good resolutions.
She meditated long and carefully upon her letter to her father before
she wrote it, and gravely and deliberately again before she despatched
it.


“MY DEAR FATHER,” she wrote,--“I have been thinking hard about
everything since I was sent to this prison. All these experiences have
taught me a great deal about life and realities. I see that compromise
is more necessary to life than I ignorantly supposed it to be, and I
have been trying to get Lord Morley’s book on that subject, but it does
not appear to be available in the prison library, and the chaplain seems
to regard him as an undesirable writer.”

At this point she had perceived that she was drifting from her subject.

“I must read him when I come out. But I see very clearly that as things
are a daughter is necessarily dependent on her father and bound while
she is in that position to live harmoniously with his ideals.”

“Bit starchy,” said Ann Veronica, and altered the key abruptly. Her
concluding paragraph was, on the whole, perhaps, hardly starchy enough.

“Really, daddy, I am sorry for all I have done to put you out. May I
come home and try to be a better daughter to you?

“ANN VERONICA.”



Part 2


Her aunt came to meet her outside Canongate, and, being a little
confused between what was official and what was merely a rebellious
slight upon our national justice, found herself involved in a triumphal
procession to the Vindicator Vegetarian Restaurant, and was specifically
and personally cheered by a small, shabby crowd outside that rendezvous.
They decided quite audibly, “She’s an Old Dear, anyhow. Voting wouldn’t
do no ‘arm to ‘er.” She was on the very verge of a vegetarian meal
before she recovered her head again. Obeying some fine instinct, she had
come to the prison in a dark veil, but she had pushed this up to kiss
Ann Veronica and never drawn it down again. Eggs were procured for her,
and she sat out the subsequent emotions and eloquence with the dignity
becoming an injured lady of good family. The quiet encounter and
home-coming Ann Veronica and she had contemplated was entirely
disorganized by this misadventure; there were no adequate explanations,
and after they had settled things at Ann Veronica’s lodgings, they
reached home in the early afternoon estranged and depressed, with
headaches and the trumpet voice of the indomitable Kitty Brett still
ringing in their ears.

“Dreadful women, my dear!” said Miss Stanley. “And some of them quite
pretty and well dressed. No need to do such things. We must never
let your father know we went. Why ever did you let me get into that
wagonette?”

“I thought we had to,” said Ann Veronica, who had also been a little
under the compulsion of the marshals of the occasion. “It was very
tiring.”

“We will have some tea in the drawing-room as soon as ever we can--and I
will take my things off. I don’t think I shall ever care for this bonnet
again. We’ll have some buttered toast. Your poor cheeks are quite sunken
and hollow....”



Part 3


When Ann Veronica found herself in her father’s study that evening it
seemed to her for a moment as though all the events of the past six
months had been a dream. The big gray spaces of London, the shop-lit,
greasy, shining streets, had become very remote; the biological
laboratory with its work and emotions, the meetings and discussions,
the rides in hansoms with Ramage, were like things in a book read and
closed. The study seemed absolutely unaltered, there was still the same
lamp with a little chip out of the shade, still the same gas fire, still
the same bundle of blue and white papers, it seemed, with the same pink
tape about them, at the elbow of the arm-chair, still the same father.
He sat in much the same attitude, and she stood just as she had stood
when he told her she could not go to the Fadden Dance. Both had dropped
the rather elaborate politeness of the dining-room, and in their faces
an impartial observer would have discovered little lines of obstinate
wilfulness in common; a certain hardness--sharp, indeed, in the father
and softly rounded in the daughter--but hardness nevertheless, that made
every compromise a bargain and every charity a discount.

“And so you have been thinking?” her father began, quoting her letter
and looking over his slanting glasses at her. “Well, my girl, I wish you
had thought about all these things before these bothers began.”

Ann Veronica perceived that she must not forget to remain eminently
reasonable.

“One has to live and learn,” she remarked, with a passable imitation of
her father’s manner.

“So long as you learn,” said Mr. Stanley.

Their conversation hung.

“I suppose, daddy, you’ve no objection to my going on with my work at
the Imperial College?” she asked.

“If it will keep you busy,” he said, with a faintly ironical smile.

“The fees are paid to the end of the session.”

He nodded twice, with his eyes on the fire, as though that was a formal
statement.

“You may go on with that work,” he said, “so long as you keep in harmony
with things at home. I’m convinced that much of Russell’s investigations
are on wrong lines, unsound lines. Still--you must learn for yourself.
You’re of age--you’re of age.”

“The work’s almost essential for the B.Sc. exam.”

“It’s scandalous, but I suppose it is.”

Their agreement so far seemed remarkable, and yet as a home-coming the
thing was a little lacking in warmth. But Ann Veronica had still to get
to her chief topic. They were silent for a time. “It’s a period of crude
views and crude work,” said Mr. Stanley. “Still, these Mendelian fellows
seem likely to give Mr. Russell trouble, a good lot of trouble. Some of
their specimens--wonderfully selected, wonderfully got up.”

“Daddy,” said Ann Veronica, “these affairs--being away from home
has--cost money.”

“I thought you would find that out.”

“As a matter of fact, I happen to have got a little into debt.”

“NEVER!”

Her heart sank at the change in his expression.

“Well, lodgings and things! And I paid my fees at the College.”

“Yes. But how could you get--Who gave you credit?

“You see,” said Ann Veronica, “my landlady kept on my room while I
was in Holloway, and the fees for the College mounted up pretty
considerably.” She spoke rather quickly, because she found her father’s
question the most awkward she had ever had to answer in her life.

“Molly and you settled about the rooms. She said you HAD some money.”

“I borrowed it,” said Ann Veronica in a casual tone, with white despair
in her heart.

“But who could have lent you money?”

“I pawned my pearl necklace. I got three pounds, and there’s three on my
watch.”

“Six pounds. H’m. Got the tickets? Yes, but then--you said you
borrowed?”

“I did, too,” said Ann Veronica.

“Who from?”

She met his eye for a second and her heart failed her. The truth
was impossible, indecent. If she mentioned Ramage he might have a
fit--anything might happen. She lied. “The Widgetts,” she said.

“Tut, tut!” he said. “Really, Vee, you seem to have advertised our
relations pretty generally!”

“They--they knew, of course. Because of the Dance.”

“How much do you owe them?”

She knew forty pounds was a quite impossible sum for their neighbors.
She knew, too, she must not hesitate. “Eight pounds,” she plunged, and
added foolishly, “fifteen pounds will see me clear of everything.” She
muttered some unlady-like comment upon herself under her breath and
engaged in secret additions.

Mr. Stanley determined to improve the occasion. He seemed to deliberate.
“Well,” he said at last slowly, “I’ll pay it. I’ll pay it. But I do
hope, Vee, I do hope--this is the end of these adventures. I hope you
have learned your lesson now and come to see--come to realize--how
things are. People, nobody, can do as they like in this world.
Everywhere there are limitations.”

“I know,” said Ann Veronica (fifteen pounds!). “I have learned that. I
mean--I mean to do what I can.” (Fifteen pounds. Fifteen from forty is
twenty-five.)

He hesitated. She could think of nothing more to say.

“Well,” she achieved at last. “Here goes for the new life!”

“Here goes for the new life,” he echoed and stood up. Father and
daughter regarded each other warily, each more than a little insecure
with the other. He made a movement toward her, and then recalled the
circumstances of their last conversation in that study. She saw his
purpose and his doubt hesitated also, and then went to him, took his
coat lapels, and kissed him on the cheek.

“Ah, Vee,” he said, “that’s better! and kissed her back rather clumsily.

“We’re going to be sensible.”

She disengaged herself from him and went out of the room with a grave,
preoccupied expression. (Fifteen pounds! And she wanted forty!)



Part 4


It was, perhaps, the natural consequence of a long and tiring and
exciting day that Ann Veronica should pass a broken and distressful
night, a night in which the noble and self-subduing resolutions of
Canongate displayed themselves for the first time in an atmosphere of
almost lurid dismay. Her father’s peculiar stiffness of soul presented
itself now as something altogether left out of the calculations upon
which her plans were based, and, in particular, she had not anticipated
the difficulty she would find in borrowing the forty pounds she needed
for Ramage. That had taken her by surprise, and her tired wits had
failed her. She was to have fifteen pounds, and no more. She knew that
to expect more now was like anticipating a gold-mine in the garden. The
chance had gone. It became suddenly glaringly apparent to her that it
was impossible to return fifteen pounds or any sum less than twenty
pounds to Ramage--absolutely impossible. She realized that with a pang
of disgust and horror.

Already she had sent him twenty pounds, and never written to explain to
him why it was she had not sent it back sharply directly he returned
it. She ought to have written at once and told him exactly what had
happened. Now if she sent fifteen pounds the suggestion that she had
spent a five-pound note in the meanwhile would be irresistible. No! That
was impossible. She would have just to keep the fifteen pounds until she
could make it twenty. That might happen on her birthday--in August.

She turned about, and was persecuted by visions, half memories,
half dreams, of Ramage. He became ugly and monstrous, dunning her,
threatening her, assailing her.

“Confound sex from first to last!” said Ann Veronica. “Why can’t we
propagate by sexless spores, as the ferns do? We restrict each other, we
badger each other, friendship is poisoned and buried under it!... I
MUST pay off that forty pounds. I MUST.”

For a time there seemed no comfort for her even in Capes. She was to see
Capes to-morrow, but now, in this state of misery she had achieved, she
felt assured he would turn his back upon her, take no notice of her at
all. And if he didn’t, what was the good of seeing him?

“I wish he was a woman,” she said, “then I could make him my friend. I
want him as my friend. I want to talk to him and go about with him. Just
go about with him.”

She was silent for a time, with her nose on the pillow, and that brought
her to: “What’s the good of pretending?

“I love him,” she said aloud to the dim forms of her room, and repeated
it, and went on to imagine herself doing acts of tragically dog-like
devotion to the biologist, who, for the purposes of the drama, remained
entirely unconscious of and indifferent to her proceedings.

At last some anodyne formed itself from these exercises,
and, with eyelashes wet with such feeble tears as only
three-o’clock-in-the-morning pathos can distil, she fell asleep.



Part 5


Pursuant to some altogether private calculations she did not go up to
the Imperial College until after mid-day, and she found the laboratory
deserted, even as she desired. She went to the table under the end
window at which she had been accustomed to work, and found it swept and
garnished with full bottles of re-agents. Everything was very neat; it
had evidently been straightened up and kept for her. She put down the
sketch-books and apparatus she had brought with her, pulled out her
stool, and sat down. As she did so the preparation-room door opened
behind her. She heard it open, but as she felt unable to look round in
a careless manner she pretended not to hear it. Then Capes’ footsteps
approached. She turned with an effort.

“I expected you this morning,” he said. “I saw--they knocked off your
fetters yesterday.”

“I think it is very good of me to come this afternoon.”

“I began to be afraid you might not come at all.”

“Afraid!”

“Yes. I’m glad you’re back for all sorts of reasons.” He spoke a little
nervously. “Among other things, you know, I didn’t understand quite--I
didn’t understand that you were so keenly interested in this suffrage
question. I have it on my conscience that I offended you--”

“Offended me when?”

“I’ve been haunted by the memory of you. I was rude and stupid. We were
talking about the suffrage--and I rather scoffed.”

“You weren’t rude,” she said.

“I didn’t know you were so keen on this suffrage business.”

“Nor I. You haven’t had it on your mind all this time?”

“I have rather. I felt somehow I’d hurt you.”

“You didn’t. I--I hurt myself.”

“I mean--”

“I behaved like an idiot, that’s all. My nerves were in rags. I was
worried. We’re the hysterical animal, Mr. Capes. I got myself locked up
to cool off. By a sort of instinct. As a dog eats grass. I’m right again
now.”

“Because your nerves were exposed, that was no excuse for my touching
them. I ought to have seen--”

“It doesn’t matter a rap--if you’re not disposed to resent the--the way
I behaved.”

“_I_ resent!”

“I was only sorry I’d been so stupid.”

“Well, I take it we’re straight again,” said Capes with a note of
relief, and assumed an easier position on the edge of her table. “But
if you weren’t keen on the suffrage business, why on earth did you go to
prison?”

Ann Veronica reflected. “It was a phase,” she said.

He smiled. “It’s a new phase in the life history,” he remarked.
“Everybody seems to have it now. Everybody who’s going to develop into a
woman.”

“There’s Miss Garvice.”

“She’s coming on,” said Capes. “And, you know, you’re altering us all.
I’M shaken. The campaign’s a success.” He met her questioning eye, and
repeated, “Oh! it IS a success. A man is so apt to--to take women a
little too lightly. Unless they remind him now and then not to....
YOU did.”

“Then I didn’t waste my time in prison altogether?”

“It wasn’t the prison impressed me. But I liked the things you said
here. I felt suddenly I understood you--as an intelligent person. If
you’ll forgive my saying that, and implying what goes with it. There’s
something--puppyish in a man’s usual attitude to women. That is what
I’ve had on my conscience.... I don’t think we’re altogether to blame
if we don’t take some of your lot seriously. Some of your sex, I mean.
But we smirk a little, I’m afraid, habitually when we talk to you. We
smirk, and we’re a bit--furtive.”

He paused, with his eyes studying her gravely. “You, anyhow, don’t
deserve it,” he said.

Their colloquy was ended abruptly by the apparition of Miss Klegg at
the further door. When she saw Ann Veronica she stood for a moment as if
entranced, and then advanced with outstretched hands. “Veronique!” she
cried with a rising intonation, though never before had she called Ann
Veronica anything but Miss Stanley, and seized her and squeezed her and
kissed her with profound emotion. “To think that you were going to do
it--and never said a word! You are a little thin, but except for that
you look--you look better than ever. Was it VERY horrible? I tried to
get into the police-court, but the crowd was ever so much too big, push
as I would....

“I mean to go to prison directly the session is over,” said Miss Klegg.
“Wild horses--not if they have all the mounted police in London--shan’t
keep me out.”



Part 6


Capes lit things wonderfully for Ann Veronica all that afternoon, he was
so friendly, so palpably interested in her, and glad to have her back
with him. Tea in the laboratory was a sort of suffragette reception.
Miss Garvice assumed a quality of neutrality, professed herself almost
won over by Ann Veronica’s example, and the Scotchman decided that if
women had a distinctive sphere it was, at any rate, an enlarging sphere,
and no one who believed in the doctrine of evolution could logically
deny the vote to women “ultimately,” however much they might be disposed
to doubt the advisability of its immediate concession. It was a refusal
of expediency, he said, and not an absolute refusal. The youth with his
hair like Russell cleared his throat and said rather irrelevantly that
he knew a man who knew Thomas Bayard Simmons, who had rioted in the
Strangers’ Gallery, and then Capes, finding them all distinctly pro-Ann
Veronica, if not pro-feminist, ventured to be perverse, and started a
vein of speculation upon the Scotchman’s idea--that there were still
hopes of women evolving into something higher.

He was unusually absurd and ready, and all the time it seemed to Ann
Veronica as a delightful possibility, as a thing not indeed to be
entertained seriously, but to be half furtively felt, that he was being
so agreeable because she had come back again. She returned home through
a world that was as roseate as it had been gray overnight.

But as she got out of the train at Morningside Park Station she had a
shock. She saw, twenty yards down the platform, the shiny hat and broad
back and inimitable swagger of Ramage. She dived at once behind the
cover of the lamp-room and affected serious trouble with her shoe-lace
until he was out of the station, and then she followed slowly and with
extreme discretion until the bifurcation of the Avenue from the field
way insured her escape. Ramage went up the Avenue, and she hurried
along the path with a beating heart and a disagreeable sense of unsolved
problems in her mind.

“That thing’s going on,” she told herself. “Everything goes on, confound
it! One doesn’t change anything one has set going by making good
resolutions.”

And then ahead of her she saw the radiant and welcoming figure of
Manning. He came as an agreeable diversion from an insoluble perplexity.
She smiled at the sight of him, and thereat his radiation increased.

“I missed the hour of your release,” he said, “but I was at the
Vindicator Restaurant. You did not see me, I know. I was among the
common herd in the place below, but I took good care to see you.”

“Of course you’re converted?” she said.

“To the view that all those Splendid Women in the movement ought to have
votes. Rather! Who could help it?”

He towered up over her and smiled down at her in his fatherly way.

“To the view that all women ought to have votes whether they like it or
not.”

He shook his head, and his eyes and the mouth under the black mustache
wrinkled with his smile. And as he walked by her side they began a
wrangle that was none the less pleasant to Ann Veronica because it
served to banish a disagreeable preoccupation. It seemed to her in her
restored geniality that she liked Manning extremely. The brightness
Capes had diffused over the world glorified even his rival.



Part 7


The steps by which Ann Veronica determined to engage herself to marry
Manning were never very clear to her. A medley of motives warred in her,
and it was certainly not one of the least of these that she knew herself
to be passionately in love with Capes; at moments she had a giddy
intimation that he was beginning to feel keenly interested in her.
She realized more and more the quality of the brink upon which she
stood--the dreadful readiness with which in certain moods she
might plunge, the unmitigated wrongness and recklessness of such a
self-abandonment. “He must never know,” she would whisper to herself,
“he must never know. Or else--Else it will be impossible that I can be
his friend.”

That simple statement of the case was by no means all that went on in
Ann Veronica’s mind. But it was the form of her ruling determination; it
was the only form that she ever allowed to see daylight. What else was
there lurked in shadows and deep places; if in some mood of reverie it
came out into the light, it was presently overwhelmed and hustled back
again into hiding. She would never look squarely at these dream forms
that mocked the social order in which she lived, never admit she
listened to the soft whisperings in her ear. But Manning seemed more and
more clearly indicated as a refuge, as security. Certain simple purposes
emerged from the disingenuous muddle of her feelings and desires. Seeing
Capes from day to day made a bright eventfulness that hampered her in
the course she had resolved to follow. She vanished from the laboratory
for a week, a week of oddly interesting days....

When she renewed her attendance at the Imperial College the third finger
of her left hand was adorned with a very fine old ring with dark blue
sapphires that had once belonged to a great-aunt of Manning’s.

That ring manifestly occupied her thoughts a great deal. She kept
pausing in her work and regarding it, and when Capes came round to her,
she first put her hand in her lap and then rather awkwardly in front of
him. But men are often blind to rings. He seemed to be.

In the afternoon she had considered certain doubts very carefully,
and decided on a more emphatic course of action. “Are these ordinary
sapphires?” she said. He bent to her hand, and she slipped off the ring
and gave it to him to examine.

“Very good,” he said. “Rather darker than most of them. But I’m
generously ignorant of gems. Is it an old ring?” he asked, returning it.

“I believe it is. It’s an engagement ring....” She slipped it on her
finger, and added, in a voice she tried to make matter-of-fact: “It was
given to me last week.”

“Oh!” he said, in a colorless tone, and with his eyes on her face.

“Yes. Last week.”

She glanced at him, and it was suddenly apparent for one instant of
illumination that this ring upon her finger was the crowning blunder
of her life. It was apparent, and then it faded into the quality of an
inevitable necessity.

“Odd!” he remarked, rather surprisingly, after a little interval.

There was a brief pause, a crowded pause, between them.

She sat very still, and his eyes rested on that ornament for a moment,
and then travelled slowly to her wrist and the soft lines of her
forearm.

“I suppose I ought to congratulate you,” he said. Their eyes met, and
his expressed perplexity and curiosity. “The fact is--I don’t know
why--this takes me by surprise. Somehow I haven’t connected the idea
with you. You seemed complete--without that.”

“Did I?” she said.

“I don’t know why. But this is like--like walking round a house that
looks square and complete and finding an unexpected long wing running
out behind.”

She looked up at him, and found he was watching her closely. For some
seconds of voluminous thinking they looked at the ring between them,
and neither spoke. Then Capes shifted his eyes to her microscope and
the little trays of unmounted sections beside it. “How is that carmine
working?” he asked, with a forced interest.

“Better,” said Ann Veronica, with an unreal alacrity. “But it still
misses the nucleolus.”



CHAPTER THE THIRTEENTH

THE SAPPHIRE RING


Part 1


For a time that ring set with sapphires seemed to be, after all, the
satisfactory solution of Ann Veronica’s difficulties. It was like
pouring a strong acid over dulled metal. A tarnish of constraint that
had recently spread over her intercourse with Capes vanished again. They
embarked upon an open and declared friendship. They even talked about
friendship. They went to the Zoological Gardens together one Saturday to
see for themselves a point of morphological interest about the toucan’s
bill--that friendly and entertaining bird--and they spent the rest of
the afternoon walking about and elaborating in general terms this theme
and the superiority of intellectual fellowship to all merely passionate
relationships. Upon this topic Capes was heavy and conscientious, but
that seemed to her to be just exactly what he ought to be. He was also,
had she known it, more than a little insincere. “We are only in the dawn
of the Age of Friendship,” he said, “when interest, I suppose, will
take the place of passions. Either you have had to love people or hate
them--which is a sort of love, too, in its way--to get anything out of
them. Now, more and more, we’re going to be interested in them, to be
curious about them and--quite mildly-experimental with them.” He seemed
to be elaborating ideas as he talked. They watched the chimpanzees in
the new apes’ house, and admired the gentle humanity of their eyes--“so
much more human than human beings”--and they watched the Agile Gibbon in
the next apartment doing wonderful leaps and aerial somersaults.

“I wonder which of us enjoys that most,” said Capes--“does he, or do
we?”

“He seems to get a zest--”

“He does it and forgets it. We remember it. These joyful bounds just
lace into the stuff of my memories and stay there forever. Living’s just
material.”

“It’s very good to be alive.”

“It’s better to know life than be life.”

“One may do both,” said Ann Veronica.

She was in a very uncritical state that afternoon. When he said, “Let’s
go and see the wart-hog,” she thought no one ever had had so quick a
flow of good ideas as he; and when he explained that sugar and not buns
was the talisman of popularity among the animals, she marvelled at his
practical omniscience.

Finally, at the exit into Regent’s Park, they ran against Miss Klegg.
It was the expression of Miss Klegg’s face that put the idea into Ann
Veronica’s head of showing Manning at the College one day, an idea which
she didn’t for some reason or other carry out for a fortnight.



Part 2


When at last she did so, the sapphire ring took on a new quality in the
imagination of Capes. It ceased to be the symbol of liberty and a remote
and quite abstracted person, and became suddenly and very disagreeably
the token of a large and portentous body visible and tangible.

Manning appeared just at the end of the afternoon’s work, and the
biologist was going through some perplexities the Scotchman had created
by a metaphysical treatment of the skulls of Hyrax and a young African
elephant. He was clearing up these difficulties by tracing a partially
obliterated suture the Scotchman had overlooked when the door from the
passage opened, and Manning came into his universe.

Seen down the length of the laboratory, Manning looked a very handsome
and shapely gentleman indeed, and, at the sight of his eager advance to
his fiancee, Miss Klegg replaced one long-cherished romance about Ann
Veronica by one more normal and simple. He carried a cane and a silk
hat with a mourning-band in one gray-gloved hand; his frock-coat and
trousers were admirable; his handsome face, his black mustache, his
prominent brow conveyed an eager solicitude.

“I want,” he said, with a white hand outstretched, “to take you out to
tea.”

“I’ve been clearing up,” said Ann Veronica, brightly.

“All your dreadful scientific things?” he said, with a smile that Miss
Klegg thought extraordinarily kindly.

“All my dreadful scientific things,” said Ann Veronica.

He stood back, smiling with an air of proprietorship, and looking about
him at the business-like equipment of the room. The low ceiling made him
seem abnormally tall. Ann Veronica wiped a scalpel, put a card over a
watch-glass containing thin shreds of embryonic guinea-pig swimming in
mauve stain, and dismantled her microscope.

“I wish I understood more of biology,” said Manning.

“I’m ready,” said Ann Veronica, closing her microscope-box with a click,
and looking for one brief instant up the laboratory. “We have no airs
and graces here, and my hat hangs from a peg in the passage.”

She led the way to the door, and Manning passed behind her and round her
and opened the door for her. When Capes glanced up at them for a moment,
Manning seemed to be holding his arms all about her, and there was
nothing but quiet acquiescence in her bearing.

After Capes had finished the Scotchman’s troubles he went back into the
preparation-room. He sat down on the sill of the open window, folded his
arms, and stared straight before him for a long time over the wilderness
of tiles and chimney-pots into a sky that was blue and empty. He was not
addicted to monologue, and the only audible comment he permitted himself
at first upon a universe that was evidently anything but satisfactory to
him that afternoon, was one compact and entirely unassigned “Damn!”

The word must have had some gratifying quality, because he repeated
it. Then he stood up and repeated it again. “The fool I have been!” he
cried; and now speech was coming to him. He tried this sentence with
expletives. “Ass!” he went on, still warming. “Muck-headed moral ass! I
ought to have done anything.

“I ought to have done anything!

“What’s a man for?

“Friendship!”

He doubled up his fist, and seemed to contemplate thrusting it through
the window. He turned his back on that temptation. Then suddenly he
seized a new preparation bottle that stood upon his table and contained
the better part of a week’s work--a displayed dissection of a snail,
beautifully done--and hurled it across the room, to smash resoundingly
upon the cemented floor under the bookcase; then, without either haste
or pause, he swept his arm along a shelf of re-agents and sent them to
mingle with the debris on the floor. They fell in a diapason of smashes.
“H’m!” he said, regarding the wreckage with a calmer visage. “Silly!” he
remarked after a pause. “One hardly knows--all the time.”

He put his hands in his pockets, his mouth puckered to a whistle, and he
went to the door of the outer preparation-room and stood there, looking,
save for the faintest intensification of his natural ruddiness, the
embodiment of blond serenity.

“Gellett,” he called, “just come and clear up a mess, will you? I’ve
smashed some things.”



Part 3


There was one serious flaw in Ann Veronica’s arrangements for
self-rehabilitation, and that was Ramage. He hung over her--he and his
loan to her and his connection with her and that terrible evening--a
vague, disconcerting possibility of annoyance and exposure. She could
not see any relief from this anxiety except repayment, and repayment
seemed impossible. The raising of twenty-five pounds was a task
altogether beyond her powers. Her birthday was four months away, and
that, at its extremist point, might give her another five pounds.

The thing rankled in her mind night and day. She would wake in the night
to repeat her bitter cry: “Oh, why did I burn those notes?”

It added greatly to the annoyance of the situation that she had twice
seen Ramage in the Avenue since her return to the shelter of her
father’s roof. He had saluted her with elaborate civility, his eyes
distended with indecipherable meanings.

She felt she was bound in honor to tell the whole affair to Manning
sooner or later. Indeed, it seemed inevitable that she must clear it up
with his assistance, or not at all. And when Manning was not about
the thing seemed simple enough. She would compose extremely lucid and
honorable explanations. But when it came to broaching them, it proved to
be much more difficult than she had supposed.

They went down the great staircase of the building, and, while she
sought in her mind for a beginning, he broke into appreciation of her
simple dress and self-congratulations upon their engagement.

“It makes me feel,” he said, “that nothing is impossible--to have you
here beside me. I said, that day at Surbiton, ‘There’s many good things
in life, but there’s only one best, and that’s the wild-haired girl
who’s pulling away at that oar. I will make her my Grail, and some day,
perhaps, if God wills, she shall become my wife!’”

He looked very hard before him as he said this, and his voice was full
of deep feeling.

“Grail!” said Ann Veronica, and then: “Oh, yes--of course! Anything but
a holy one, I’m afraid.”

“Altogether holy, Ann Veronica. Ah! but you can’t imagine what you are
to me and what you mean to me! I suppose there is something mystical and
wonderful about all women.”

“There is something mystical and wonderful about all human beings. I
don’t see that men need bank it with the women.”

“A man does,” said Manning--“a true man, anyhow. And for me there is
only one treasure-house. By Jove! When I think of it I want to leap and
shout!”

“It would astonish that man with the barrow.”

“It astonishes me that I don’t,” said Manning, in a tone of intense
self-enjoyment.

“I think,” began Ann Veronica, “that you don’t realize--”

He disregarded her entirely. He waved an arm and spoke with a peculiar
resonance. “I feel like a giant! I believe now I shall do great things.
Gods! what it must be to pour out strong, splendid verse--mighty
lines! mighty lines! If I do, Ann Veronica, it will be you. It will be
altogether you. I will dedicate my books to you. I will lay them all at
your feet.”

He beamed upon her.

“I don’t think you realize,” Ann Veronica began again, “that I am rather
a defective human being.”

“I don’t want to,” said Manning. “They say there are spots on the sun.
Not for me. It warms me, and lights me, and fills my world with flowers.
Why should I peep at it through smoked glass to see things that don’t
affect me?” He smiled his delight at his companion.

“I’ve got bad faults.”

He shook his head slowly, smiling mysteriously.

“But perhaps I want to confess them.”

“I grant you absolution.”

“I don’t want absolution. I want to make myself visible to you.”

“I wish I could make you visible to yourself. I don’t believe in the
faults. They’re just a joyous softening of the outline--more beautiful
than perfection. Like the flaws of an old marble. If you talk of your
faults, I shall talk of your splendors.”

“I do want to tell you things, nevertheless.”

“We’ll have, thank God! ten myriad days to tell each other things. When
I think of it--”

“But these are things I want to tell you now!”

“I made a little song of it. Let me say it to you. I’ve no name for it
yet. Epithalamy might do.

     “Like him who stood on Darien
     I view uncharted sea
     Ten thousand days, ten thousand nights
     Before my Queen and me.

“And that only brings me up to about sixty-five!

     “A glittering wilderness of time
     That to the sunset reaches
     No keel as yet its waves has ploughed
     Or gritted on its beaches.

     “And we will sail that splendor wide,
     From day to day together,
     From isle to isle of happiness
     Through year’s of God’s own weather.”

“Yes,” said his prospective fellow-sailor, “that’s very pretty.” She
stopped short, full of things un-said. Pretty! Ten thousand days, ten
thousand nights!

“You shall tell me your faults,” said Manning. “If they matter to you,
they matter.”

“It isn’t precisely faults,” said Ann Veronica. “It’s something that
bothers me.” Ten thousand! Put that way it seemed so different.

“Then assuredly!” said Manning.

She found a little difficulty in beginning. She was glad when he went
on: “I want to be your city of refuge from every sort of bother. I want
to stand between you and all the force and vileness of the world. I want
to make you feel that here is a place where the crowd does not clamor
nor ill-winds blow.”

“That is all very well,” said Ann Veronica, unheeded.

“That is my dream of you,” said Manning, warming. “I want my life to be
beaten gold just in order to make it a fitting setting for yours. There
you will be, in an inner temple. I want to enrich it with hangings and
gladden it with verses. I want to fill it with fine and precious things.
And by degrees, perhaps, that maiden distrust of yours that makes you
shrink from my kisses, will vanish.... Forgive me if a certain
warmth creeps into my words! The Park is green and gray to-day, but I am
glowing pink and gold.... It is difficult to express these things.”



Part 4


They sat with tea and strawberries and cream before them at a little
table in front of the pavilion in Regent’s Park. Her confession was
still unmade. Manning leaned forward on the table, talking discursively
on the probable brilliance of their married life. Ann Veronica sat back
in an attitude of inattention, her eyes on a distant game of cricket,
her mind perplexed and busy. She was recalling the circumstances under
which she had engaged herself to Manning, and trying to understand a
curious development of the quality of this relationship.

The particulars of her engagement were very clear in her memory. She had
taken care he should have this momentous talk with her on a garden-seat
commanded by the windows of the house. They had been playing tennis,
with his manifest intention looming over her.

“Let us sit down for a moment,” he had said. He made his speech a little
elaborately. She plucked at the knots of her racket and heard him to the
end, then spoke in a restrained undertone.

“You ask me to be engaged to you, Mr. Manning,” she began.

“I want to lay all my life at your feet.”

“Mr. Manning, I do not think I love you.... I want to be very plain
with you. I have nothing, nothing that can possibly be passion for you.
I am sure. Nothing at all.”

He was silent for some moments.

“Perhaps that is only sleeping,” he said. “How can you know?”

“I think--perhaps I am rather a cold-blooded person.”

She stopped. He remained listening attentively.

“You have been very kind to me,” she said.

“I would give my life for you.”

Her heart had warmed toward him. It had seemed to her that life might
be very good indeed with his kindliness and sacrifice about her. She
thought of him as always courteous and helpful, as realizing, indeed,
his ideal of protection and service, as chivalrously leaving her free to
live her own life, rejoicing with an infinite generosity in every detail
of her irresponsive being. She twanged the catgut under her fingers.

“It seems so unfair,” she said, “to take all you offer me and give so
little in return.”

“It is all the world to me. And we are not traders looking at
equivalents.”

“You know, Mr. Manning, I do not really want to marry.”

“No.”

“It seems so--so unworthy”--she picked among her phrases “of the noble
love you give--”

She stopped, through the difficulty she found in expressing herself.

“But I am judge of that,” said Manning.

“Would you wait for me?”

Manning was silent for a space. “As my lady wills.”

“Would you let me go on studying for a time?”

“If you order patience.”

“I think, Mr. Manning... I do not know. It is so difficult. When I
think of the love you give me--One ought to give you back love.”

“You like me?”

“Yes. And I am grateful to you....”

Manning tapped with his racket on the turf through some moments of
silence. “You are the most perfect, the most glorious of created
things--tender, frank intellectual, brave, beautiful. I am your
servitor. I am ready to wait for you, to wait your pleasure, to give all
my life to winning it. Let me only wear your livery. Give me but leave
to try. You want to think for a time, to be free for a time. That is so
like you, Diana--Pallas Athene! (Pallas Athene is better.) You are all
the slender goddesses. I understand. Let me engage myself. That is all I
ask.”

She looked at him; his face, downcast and in profile, was handsome and
strong. Her gratitude swelled within her.

“You are too good for me,” she said in a low voice.

“Then you--you will?”

A long pause.

“It isn’t fair....”

“But will you?”

“YES.”

For some seconds he had remained quite still.

“If I sit here,” he said, standing up before her abruptly, “I shall
have to shout. Let us walk about. Tum, tum, tirray, tum, tum, tum,
te-tum--that thing of Mendelssohn’s! If making one human being
absolutely happy is any satisfaction to you--”

He held out his hands, and she also stood up.

He drew her close up to him with a strong, steady pull. Then suddenly,
in front of all those windows, he folded her in his arms and pressed her
to him, and kissed her unresisting face.

“Don’t!” cried Ann Veronica, struggling faintly, and he released her.

“Forgive me,” he said. “But I am at singing-pitch.”

She had a moment of sheer panic at the thing she had done. “Mr.
Manning,” she said, “for a time--Will you tell no one? Will you keep
this--our secret? I’m doubtful--Will you please not even tell my aunt?”

“As you will,” he said. “But if my manner tells! I cannot help it if
that shows. You only mean a secret for a little time?”

“Just for a little time,” she said; “yes....”

But the ring, and her aunt’s triumphant eye, and a note of approval in
her father’s manner, and a novel disposition in him to praise Manning
in a just, impartial voice had soon placed very definite qualifications
upon that covenanted secrecy.



Part 5


At first the quality of her relationship to Manning seemed moving and
beautiful to Ann Veronica. She admired and rather pitied him, and she
was unfeignedly grateful to him. She even thought that perhaps she might
come to love him, in spite of that faint indefinable flavor of absurdity
that pervaded his courtly bearing. She would never love him as she
loved Capes, of course, but there are grades and qualities of love.
For Manning it would be a more temperate love altogether. Much more
temperate; the discreet and joyless love of a virtuous, reluctant,
condescending wife. She had been quite convinced that an engagement with
him and at last a marriage had exactly that quality of compromise which
distinguishes the ways of the wise. It would be the wrappered world
almost at its best. She saw herself building up a life upon that--a
life restrained, kindly, beautiful, a little pathetic and altogether
dignified; a life of great disciplines and suppressions and extensive
reserves...

But the Ramage affair needed clearing up, of course; it was a flaw upon
that project. She had to explain about and pay off that forty pounds....

Then, quite insensibly, her queenliness had declined. She was never able
to trace the changes her attitude had undergone, from the time when she
believed herself to be the pampered Queen of Fortune, the crown of a
good man’s love (and secretly, but nobly, worshipping some one else),
to the time when she realized she was in fact just a mannequin for her
lover’s imagination, and that he cared no more for the realities of her
being, for the things she felt and desired, for the passions and dreams
that might move her, than a child cares for the sawdust in its doll. She
was the actress his whim had chosen to play a passive part....

It was one of the most educational disillusionments in Ann Veronica’s
career.

But did many women get anything better?

This afternoon, when she was urgent to explain her hampering and
tainting complication with Ramage, the realization of this alien quality
in her relationship with Manning became acute. Hitherto it had been
qualified by her conception of all life as a compromise, by her new
effort to be unexacting of life. But she perceived that to tell Manning
of her Ramage adventures as they had happened would be like tarring
figures upon a water-color. They were in different key, they had a
different timbre. How could she tell him what indeed already began to
puzzle herself, why she had borrowed that money at all? The plain fact
was that she had grabbed a bait. She had grabbed! She became less and
less attentive to his meditative, self-complacent fragments of talk as
she told herself this. Her secret thoughts made some hasty, half-hearted
excursions into the possibility of telling the thing in romantic
tones--Ramage was as a black villain, she as a white, fantastically
white, maiden.... She doubted if Manning would even listen to that.
He would refuse to listen and absolve her unshriven.

Then it came to her with a shock, as an extraordinary oversight, that
she could never tell Manning about Ramage--never.

She dismissed the idea of doing so. But that still left the forty
pounds!...

Her mind went on generalizing. So it would always be between herself and
Manning. She saw her life before her robbed of all generous illusions,
the wrappered life unwrappered forever, vistas of dull responses, crises
of make-believe, years of exacting mutual disregard in a misty garden of
fine sentiments.

But did any woman get anything better from a man? Perhaps every woman
conceals herself from a man perforce!...

She thought of Capes. She could not help thinking of Capes. Surely
Capes was different. Capes looked at one and not over one, spoke to one,
treated one as a visible concrete fact. Capes saw her, felt for her,
cared for her greatly, even if he did not love her. Anyhow, he did not
sentimentalize her. And she had been doubting since that walk in the
Zoological Gardens whether, indeed, he did simply care for her. Little
things, almost impalpable, had happened to justify that doubt; something
in his manner had belied his words. Did he not look for her in the
morning when she entered--come very quickly to her? She thought of him
as she had last seen him looking down the length of the laboratory to
see her go. Why had he glanced up--quite in that way?...

The thought of Capes flooded her being like long-veiled sunlight
breaking again through clouds. It came to her like a dear thing
rediscovered, that she loved Capes. It came to her that to marry any
one but Capes was impossible. If she could not marry him, she would not
marry any one. She would end this sham with Manning. It ought never
to have begun. It was cheating, pitiful cheating. And then if some day
Capes wanted her--saw fit to alter his views upon friendship....

Dim possibilities that she would not seem to look at even to herself
gesticulated in the twilight background of her mind.

She leaped suddenly at a desperate resolution, and in one moment had
made it into a new self. She flung aside every plan she had in life,
every discretion. Of course, why not? She would be honest, anyhow!

She turned her eyes to Manning.

He was sitting back from the table now, with one arm over the back
of his green chair and the other resting on the little table. He was
smiling under his heavy mustache, and his head was a little on one side
as he looked at her.

“And what was that dreadful confession you had to make?” he was saying.
His quiet, kindly smile implied his serene disbelief in any confessible
thing. Ann Veronica pushed aside a tea-cup and the vestiges of her
strawberries and cream, and put her elbows before her on the table. “Mr.
Manning,” she said, “I HAVE a confession to make.”

“I wish you would use my Christian name,” he said.

She attended to that, and then dismissed it as unimportant.

Something in her voice and manner conveyed an effect of unwonted gravity
to him. For the first time he seemed to wonder what it might be that she
had to confess. His smile faded.

“I don’t think our engagement can go on,” she plunged, and felt exactly
that loss of breath that comes with a dive into icy water.

“But, how,” he said, sitting up astonished beyond measure, “not go on?”

“I have been thinking while you have been talking. You see--I didn’t
understand.”

She stared hard at her finger-nails. “It is hard to express one’s self,
but I do want to be honest with you. When I promised to marry you I
thought I could; I thought it was a possible arrangement. I did think it
could be done. I admired your chivalry. I was grateful.”

She paused.

“Go on,” he said.

She moved her elbow nearer to him and spoke in a still lower tone. “I
told you I did not love you.”

“I know,” said Manning, nodding gravely. “It was fine and brave of you.”

“But there is something more.”

She paused again.

“I--I am sorry--I didn’t explain. These things are difficult. It wasn’t
clear to me that I had to explain.... I love some one else.”

They remained looking at each other for three or four seconds. Then
Manning flopped back in his chair and dropped his chin like a man shot.
There was a long silence between them.

“My God!” he said at last, with tremendous feeling, and then again, “My
God!”

Now that this thing was said her mind was clear and calm. She heard this
standard expression of a strong soul wrung with a critical coldness that
astonished herself. She realized dimly that there was no personal thing
behind his cry, that countless myriads of Mannings had “My God!”-ed with
an equal gusto at situations as flatly apprehended. This mitigated
her remorse enormously. He rested his brow on his hand and conveyed
magnificent tragedy by his pose.

“But why,” he said in the gasping voice of one subduing an agony, and
looked at her from under a pain-wrinkled brow, “why did you not tell me
this before?”

“I didn’t know--I thought I might be able to control myself.”

“And you can’t?”

“I don’t think I ought to control myself.”

“And I have been dreaming and thinking--”

“I am frightfully sorry....”

“But--This bolt from the blue! My God! Ann Veronica, you don’t
understand. This--this shatters a world!”

She tried to feel sorry, but her sense of his immense egotism was strong
and clear.

He went on with intense urgency.

“Why did you ever let me love you? Why did you ever let me peep through
the gates of Paradise? Oh! my God! I don’t begin to feel and realize
this yet. It seems to me just talk; it seems to me like the fancy of a
dream. Tell me I haven’t heard. This is a joke of yours.” He made his
voice very low and full, and looked closely into her face.

She twisted her fingers tightly. “It isn’t a joke,” she said. “I feel
shabby and disgraced.... I ought never to have thought of it. Of you,
I mean....”

He fell back in his chair with an expression of tremendous desolation.
“My God!” he said again....

They became aware of the waitress standing over them with book and
pencil ready for their bill. “Never mind the bill,” said Manning
tragically, standing up and thrusting a four-shilling piece into her
hand, and turning a broad back on her astonishment. “Let us walk across
the Park at least,” he said to Ann Veronica. “Just at present my mind
simply won’t take hold of this at all.... I tell you--never mind the
bill. Keep it! Keep it!”



Part 6


They walked a long way that afternoon. They crossed the Park to the
westward, and then turned back and walked round the circle about the
Royal Botanical Gardens and then southwardly toward Waterloo. They
trudged and talked, and Manning struggled, as he said, to “get the hang
of it all.”

It was a long, meandering talk, stupid, shameful, and unavoidable. Ann
Veronica was apologetic to the bottom of her soul. At the same time she
was wildly exultant at the resolution she had taken, the end she had
made to her blunder. She had only to get through this, to solace Manning
as much as she could, to put such clumsy plasterings on his wounds as
were possible, and then, anyhow, she would be free--free to put her fate
to the test. She made a few protests, a few excuses for her action in
accepting him, a few lame explanations, but he did not heed them or care
for them. Then she realized that it was her business to let Manning talk
and impose his own interpretations upon the situation so far as he was
concerned. She did her best to do this. But about his unknown rival he
was acutely curious.

He made her tell him the core of the difficulty.

“I cannot say who he is,” said Ann Veronica, “but he is a married
man.... No! I do not even know that he cares for me. It is no good going
into that. Only I just want him. I just want him, and no one else will
do. It is no good arguing about a thing like that.”

“But you thought you could forget him.”

“I suppose I must have thought so. I didn’t understand. Now I do.”

“By God!” said Manning, making the most of the word, “I suppose it’s
fate. Fate! You are so frank so splendid!

“I’m taking this calmly now,” he said, almost as if he apologized,
“because I’m a little stunned.”

Then he asked, “Tell me! has this man, has he DARED to make love to
you?”

Ann Veronica had a vicious moment. “I wish he had,” she said.

“But--”

The long inconsecutive conversation by that time was getting on her
nerves. “When one wants a thing more than anything else in the world,”
 she said with outrageous frankness, “one naturally wishes one had it.”

She shocked him by that. She shattered the edifice he was building up
of himself as a devoted lover, waiting only his chance to win her from a
hopeless and consuming passion.

“Mr. Manning,” she said, “I warned you not to idealize me. Men ought not
to idealize any woman. We aren’t worth it. We’ve done nothing to deserve
it. And it hampers us. You don’t know the thoughts we have; the things
we can do and say. You are a sisterless man; you have never heard the
ordinary talk that goes on at a girls’ boarding-school.”

“Oh! but you ARE splendid and open and fearless! As if I couldn’t allow!
What are all these little things? Nothing! Nothing! You can’t sully
yourself. You can’t! I tell you frankly you may break off your
engagement to me--I shall hold myself still engaged to you, yours just
the same. As for this infatuation--it’s like some obsession, some
magic thing laid upon you. It’s not you--not a bit. It’s a thing that’s
happened to you. It is like some accident. I don’t care. In a sense I
don’t care. It makes no difference.... All the same, I wish I had
that fellow by the throat! Just the virile, unregenerate man in me
wishes that....

“I suppose I should let go if I had.

“You know,” he went on, “this doesn’t seem to me to end anything.

“I’m rather a persistent person. I’m the sort of dog, if you turn it out
of the room it lies down on the mat at the door. I’m not a lovesick
boy. I’m a man, and I know what I mean. It’s a tremendous blow, of
course--but it doesn’t kill me. And the situation it makes!--the
situation!”

Thus Manning, egotistical, inconsecutive, unreal. And Ann Veronica
walked beside him, trying in vain to soften her heart to him by the
thought of how she had ill-used him, and all the time, as her feet and
mind grew weary together, rejoicing more and more that at the cost
of this one interminable walk she escaped the prospect of--what was
it?--“Ten thousand days, ten thousand nights” in his company. Whatever
happened she need never return to that possibility.

“For me,” Manning went on, “this isn’t final. In a sense it alters
nothing. I shall still wear your favor--even if it is a stolen and
forbidden favor--in my casque.... I shall still believe in you. Trust
you.”

He repeated several times that he would trust her, though it remained
obscure just exactly where the trust came in.

“Look here,” he cried out of a silence, with a sudden flash of
understanding, “did you mean to throw me over when you came out with me
this afternoon?”

Ann Veronica hesitated, and with a startled mind realized the truth.
“No,” she answered, reluctantly.

“Very well,” said Manning. “Then I don’t take this as final. That’s all.
I’ve bored you or something.... You think you love this other man! No
doubt you do love him. Before you have lived--”

He became darkly prophetic. He thrust out a rhetorical hand.

“I will MAKE you love me! Until he has faded--faded into a memory...”

He saw her into the train at Waterloo, and stood, a tall, grave figure,
with hat upraised, as the carriage moved forward slowly and hid him.
Ann Veronica sat back with a sigh of relief. Manning might go on now
idealizing her as much as he liked. She was no longer a confederate in
that. He might go on as the devoted lover until he tired. She had done
forever with the Age of Chivalry, and her own base adaptations of its
traditions to the compromising life. She was honest again.

But when she turned her thoughts to Morningside Park she perceived the
tangled skein of life was now to be further complicated by his romantic
importunity.



CHAPTER THE FOURTEENTH

THE COLLAPSE OF THE PENITENT


Part 1


Spring had held back that year until the dawn of May, and then spring
and summer came with a rush together. Two days after this conversation
between Manning and Ann Veronica, Capes came into the laboratory at
lunch-time and found her alone there standing by the open window, and
not even pretending to be doing anything.

He came in with his hands in his trousers pockets and a general air
of depression in his bearing. He was engaged in detesting Manning and
himself in almost equal measure. His face brightened at the sight of
her, and he came toward her.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Nothing,” said Ann Veronica, and stared over her shoulder out of the
window.

“So am I.... Lassitude?”

“I suppose so.”

“_I_ can’t work.”

“Nor I,” said Ann Veronica.

Pause.

“It’s the spring,” he said. “It’s the warming up of the year, the coming
of the light mornings, the way in which everything begins to run about
and begin new things. Work becomes distasteful; one thinks of holidays.
This year--I’ve got it badly. I want to get away. I’ve never wanted to
get away so much.”

“Where do you go?”

“Oh!--Alps.”

“Climbing?”

“Yes.”

“That’s rather a fine sort of holiday!”

He made no answer for three or four seconds.

“Yes,” he said, “I want to get away. I feel at moments as though I could
bolt for it.... Silly, isn’t it? Undisciplined.”

He went to the window and fidgeted with the blind, looking out to where
the tree-tops of Regent’s Park showed distantly over the houses. He
turned round toward her and found her looking at him and standing very
still.

“It’s the stir of spring,” he said.

“I believe it is.”

She glanced out of the window, and the distant trees were a froth of
hard spring green and almond blossom. She formed a wild resolution,
and, lest she should waver from it, she set about at once to realize it.
“I’ve broken off my engagement,” she said, in a matter-of-fact tone, and
found her heart thumping in her neck. He moved slightly, and she
went on, with a slight catching of her breath: “It’s a bother and
disturbance, but you see--” She had to go through with it now, because
she could think of nothing but her preconceived words. Her voice was
weak and flat.

“I’ve fallen in love.”

He never helped her by a sound.

“I--I didn’t love the man I was engaged to,” she said. She met his eyes
for a moment, and could not interpret their expression. They struck her
as cold and indifferent.

Her heart failed her and her resolution became water. She remained
standing stiffly, unable even to move. She could not look at him through
an interval that seemed to her a vast gulf of time. But she felt his lax
figure become rigid.

At last his voice came to release her tension.

“I thought you weren’t keeping up to the mark. You--It’s jolly of you to
confide in me. Still--” Then, with incredible and obviously deliberate
stupidity, and a voice as flat as her own, he asked, “Who is the man?”

Her spirit raged within her at the dumbness, the paralysis that had
fallen upon her. Grace, confidence, the power of movement even, seemed
gone from her. A fever of shame ran through her being. Horrible doubts
assailed her. She sat down awkwardly and helplessly on one of the little
stools by her table and covered her face with her hands.

“Can’t you SEE how things are?” she said.



Part 2


Before Capes could answer her in any way the door at the end of the
laboratory opened noisily and Miss Klegg appeared. She went to her own
table and sat down. At the sound of the door Ann Veronica uncovered
a tearless face, and with one swift movement assumed a conversational
attitude. Things hung for a moment in an awkward silence.

“You see,” said Ann Veronica, staring before her at the window-sash,
“that’s the form my question takes at the present time.”

Capes had not quite the same power of recovery. He stood with his
hands in his pockets looking at Miss Klegg’s back. His face was white.
“It’s--it’s a difficult question.” He appeared to be paralyzed by
abstruse acoustic calculations. Then, very awkwardly, he took a stool
and placed it at the end of Ann Veronica’s table, and sat down. He
glanced at Miss Klegg again, and spoke quickly and furtively, with eager
eyes on Ann Veronica’s face.

“I had a faint idea once that things were as you say they are, but the
affair of the ring--of the unexpected ring--puzzled me. Wish SHE”--he
indicated Miss Klegg’s back with a nod--“was at the bottom of the
sea.... I would like to talk to you about this--soon. If you don’t think
it would be a social outrage, perhaps I might walk with you to your
railway station.”

“I will wait,” said Ann Veronica, still not looking at him, “and we will
go into Regent’s Park. No--you shall come with me to Waterloo.”

“Right!” he said, and hesitated, and then got up and went into the
preparation-room.



Part 3


For a time they walked in silence through the back streets that lead
southward from the College. Capes bore a face of infinite perplexity.

“The thing I feel most disposed to say, Miss Stanley,” he began at last,
“is that this is very sudden.”

“It’s been coming on since first I came into the laboratory.”

“What do you want?” he asked, bluntly.

“You!” said Ann Veronica.

The sense of publicity, of people coming and going about them, kept
them both unemotional. And neither had any of that theatricality which
demands gestures and facial expression.

“I suppose you know I like you tremendously?” he pursued.

“You told me that in the Zoological Gardens.”

She found her muscles a-tremble. But there was nothing in her bearing
that a passer-by would have noted, to tell of the excitement that
possessed her.

“I”--he seemed to have a difficulty with the word--“I love you. I’ve
told you that practically already. But I can give it its name now. You
needn’t be in any doubt about it. I tell you that because it puts us on
a footing....”

They went on for a time without another word.

“But don’t you know about me?” he said at last.

“Something. Not much.”

“I’m a married man. And my wife won’t live with me for reasons that I
think most women would consider sound.... Or I should have made love
to you long ago.”

There came a silence again.

“I don’t care,” said Ann Veronica.

“But if you knew anything of that--”

“I did. It doesn’t matter.”

“Why did you tell me? I thought--I thought we were going to be friends.”

He was suddenly resentful. He seemed to charge her with the ruin of
their situation. “Why on earth did you TELL me?” he cried.

“I couldn’t help it. It was an impulse. I HAD to.”

“But it changes things. I thought you understood.”

“I had to,” she repeated. “I was sick of the make-believe. I don’t care!
I’m glad I did. I’m glad I did.”

“Look here!” said Capes, “what on earth do you want? What do you think
we can do? Don’t you know what men are, and what life is?--to come to me
and talk to me like this!”

“I know--something, anyhow. But I don’t care; I haven’t a spark of
shame. I don’t see any good in life if it hasn’t got you in it. I wanted
you to know. And now you know. And the fences are down for good. You
can’t look me in the eyes and say you don’t care for me.”

“I’ve told you,” he said.

“Very well,” said Ann Veronica, with an air of concluding the
discussion.

They walked side by side for a time.

“In that laboratory one gets to disregard these passions,” began Capes.
“Men are curious animals, with a trick of falling in love readily
with girls about your age. One has to train one’s self not to. I’ve
accustomed myself to think of you--as if you were like every other
girl who works at the schools--as something quite outside these
possibilities. If only out of loyalty to co-education one has to do
that. Apart from everything else, this meeting of ours is a breach of a
good rule.”

“Rules are for every day,” said Ann Veronica. “This is not every day.
This is something above all rules.”

“For you.”

“Not for you?”

“No. No; I’m going to stick to the rules.... It’s odd, but nothing
but cliche seems to meet this case. You’ve placed me in a very
exceptional position, Miss Stanley.” The note of his own voice
exasperated him. “Oh, damn!” he said.

She made no answer, and for a time he debated some problems with
himself.

“No!” he said aloud at last.

“The plain common-sense of the case,” he said, “is that we can’t
possibly be lovers in the ordinary sense. That, I think, is manifest.
You know, I’ve done no work at all this afternoon. I’ve been smoking
cigarettes in the preparation-room and thinking this out. We can’t be
lovers in the ordinary sense, but we can be great and intimate friends.”

“We are,” said Ann Veronica.

“You’ve interested me enormously....”

He paused with a sense of ineptitude. “I want to be your friend,” he
said. “I said that at the Zoo, and I mean it. Let us be friends--as near
and close as friends can be.”

Ann Veronica gave him a pallid profile.

“What is the good of pretending?” she said.

“We don’t pretend.”

“We do. Love is one thing and friendship quite another. Because I’m
younger than you.... I’ve got imagination.... I know what I am
talking about. Mr. Capes, do you think... do you think I don’t know
the meaning of love?”



Part 4


Capes made no answer for a time.

“My mind is full of confused stuff,” he said at length. “I’ve been
thinking--all the afternoon. Oh, and weeks and months of thought and
feeling there are bottled up too.... I feel a mixture of beast and
uncle. I feel like a fraudulent trustee. Every rule is against me--Why
did I let you begin this? I might have told--”

“I don’t see that you could help--”

“I might have helped--”

“You couldn’t.”

“I ought to have--all the same.

“I wonder,” he said, and went off at a tangent. “You know about my
scandalous past?”

“Very little. It doesn’t seem to matter. Does it?”

“I think it does. Profoundly.”

“How?”

“It prevents our marrying. It forbids--all sorts of things.”

“It can’t prevent our loving.”

“I’m afraid it can’t. But, by Jove! it’s going to make our loving a
fiercely abstract thing.”

“You are separated from your wife?”

“Yes, but do you know how?”

“Not exactly.”

“Why on earth--? A man ought to be labelled. You see, I’m separated from
my wife. But she doesn’t and won’t divorce me. You don’t understand
the fix I am in. And you don’t know what led to our separation. And, in
fact, all round the problem you don’t know and I don’t see how I could
possibly have told you before. I wanted to, that day in the Zoo. But I
trusted to that ring of yours.”

“Poor old ring!” said Ann Veronica.

“I ought never have gone to the Zoo, I suppose. I asked you to go. But
a man is a mixed creature.... I wanted the time with you. I wanted it
badly.”

“Tell me about yourself,” said Ann Veronica.

“To begin with, I was--I was in the divorce court. I was--I was a
co-respondent. You understand that term?”

Ann Veronica smiled faintly. “A modern girl does understand these terms.
She reads novels--and history--and all sorts of things. Did you really
doubt if I knew?”

“No. But I don’t suppose you can understand.”

“I don’t see why I shouldn’t.”

“To know things by name is one thing; to know them by seeing them and
feeling them and being them quite another. That is where life takes
advantage of youth. You don’t understand.”

“Perhaps I don’t.”

“You don’t. That’s the difficulty. If I told you the facts, I expect,
since you are in love with me, you’d explain the whole business as being
very fine and honorable for me--the Higher Morality, or something of
that sort.... It wasn’t.”

“I don’t deal very much,” said Ann Veronica, “in the Higher Morality, or
the Higher Truth, or any of those things.”

“Perhaps you don’t. But a human being who is young and clean, as you
are, is apt to ennoble--or explain away.”

“I’ve had a biological training. I’m a hard young woman.”

“Nice clean hardness, anyhow. I think you are hard. There’s
something--something ADULT about you. I’m talking to you now as though
you had all the wisdom and charity in the world. I’m going to tell you
things plainly. Plainly. It’s best. And then you can go home and think
things over before we talk again. I want you to be clear what you’re
really and truly up to, anyhow.”

“I don’t mind knowing,” said Ann Veronica.

“It’s precious unromantic.”

“Well, tell me.”

“I married pretty young,” said Capes. “I’ve got--I have to tell you this
to make myself clear--a streak of ardent animal in my composition. I
married--I married a woman whom I still think one of the most beautiful
persons in the world. She is a year or so older than I am, and she is,
well, of a very serene and proud and dignified temperament. If you met
her you would, I am certain, think her as fine as I do. She has never
done a really ignoble thing that I know of--never. I met her when we
were both very young, as young as you are. I loved her and made love to
her, and I don’t think she quite loved me back in the same way.”

He paused for a time. Ann Veronica said nothing.

“These are the sort of things that aren’t supposed to happen. They leave
them out of novels--these incompatibilities. Young people ignore them
until they find themselves up against them. My wife doesn’t understand,
doesn’t understand now. She despises me, I suppose.... We married,
and for a time we were happy. She was fine and tender. I worshipped her
and subdued myself.”

He left off abruptly. “Do you understand what I am talking about? It’s
no good if you don’t.”

“I think so,” said Ann Veronica, and colored. “In fact, yes, I do.”

“Do you think of these things--these matters--as belonging to our Higher
Nature or our Lower?”

“I don’t deal in Higher Things, I tell you,” said Ann Veronica, “or
Lower, for the matter of that. I don’t classify.” She hesitated. “Flesh
and flowers are all alike to me.”

“That’s the comfort of you. Well, after a time there came a fever in
my blood. Don’t think it was anything better than fever--or a bit
beautiful. It wasn’t. Quite soon, after we were married--it was just
within a year--I formed a friendship with the wife of a friend, a woman
eight years older than myself.... It wasn’t anything splendid, you
know. It was just a shabby, stupid, furtive business that began between
us. Like stealing. We dressed it in a little music.... I want you to
understand clearly that I was indebted to the man in many small ways. I
was mean to him.... It was the gratification of an immense necessity.
We were two people with a craving. We felt like thieves. We WERE
thieves.... We LIKED each other well enough. Well, my friend found
us out, and would give no quarter. He divorced her. How do you like the
story?”

“Go on,” said Ann Veronica, a little hoarsely, “tell me all of it.”

“My wife was astounded--wounded beyond measure. She thought me--filthy.
All her pride raged at me. One particularly humiliating thing came
out--humiliating for me. There was a second co-respondent. I hadn’t
heard of him before the trial. I don’t know why that should be so
acutely humiliating. There’s no logic in these things. It was.”

“Poor you!” said Ann Veronica.

“My wife refused absolutely to have anything more to do with me. She
could hardly speak to me; she insisted relentlessly upon a separation.
She had money of her own--much more than I have--and there was no need
to squabble about that. She has given herself up to social work.”

“Well--”

“That’s all. Practically all. And yet--Wait a little, you’d better have
every bit of it. One doesn’t go about with these passions allayed simply
because they have made wreckage and a scandal. There one is! The same
stuff still! One has a craving in one’s blood, a craving roused, cut off
from its redeeming and guiding emotional side. A man has more freedom to
do evil than a woman. Irregularly, in a quite inglorious and unromantic
way, you know, I am a vicious man. That’s--that’s my private life. Until
the last few months. It isn’t what I have been but what I am. I haven’t
taken much account of it until now. My honor has been in my scientific
work and public discussion and the things I write. Lots of us are like
that. But, you see, I’m smirched. For the sort of love-making you think
about. I’ve muddled all this business. I’ve had my time and lost my
chances. I’m damaged goods. And you’re as clean as fire. You come with
those clear eyes of yours, as valiant as an angel....”

He stopped abruptly.

“Well?” she said.

“That’s all.”

“It’s so strange to think of you--troubled by such things. I didn’t
think--I don’t know what I thought. Suddenly all this makes you human.
Makes you real.”

“But don’t you see how I must stand to you? Don’t you see how it bars us
from being lovers--You can’t--at first. You must think it over. It’s all
outside the world of your experience.”

“I don’t think it makes a rap of difference, except for one thing. I
love you more. I’ve wanted you--always. I didn’t dream, not even in my
wildest dreaming, that--you might have any need of me.”

He made a little noise in his throat as if something had cried out
within him, and for a time they were both too full for speech.

They were going up the slope into Waterloo Station.

“You go home and think of all this,” he said, “and talk about it
to-morrow. Don’t, don’t say anything now, not anything. As for loving
you, I do. I do--with all my heart. It’s no good hiding it any more.
I could never have talked to you like this, forgetting everything that
parts us, forgetting even your age, if I did not love you utterly. If
I were a clean, free man--We’ll have to talk of all these things. Thank
goodness there’s plenty of opportunity! And we two can talk. Anyhow, now
you’ve begun it, there’s nothing to keep us in all this from being the
best friends in the world. And talking of every conceivable thing. Is
there?”

“Nothing,” said Ann Veronica, with a radiant face.

“Before this there was a sort of restraint--a make-believe. It’s gone.”

“It’s gone.”

“Friendship and love being separate things. And that confounded
engagement!”

“Gone!”

They came upon a platform, and stood before her compartment.

He took her hand and looked into her eyes and spoke, divided against
himself, in a voice that was forced and insincere.

“I shall be very glad to have you for a friend,” he said, “loving
friend. I had never dreamed of such a friend as you.”

She smiled, sure of herself beyond any pretending, into his troubled
eyes. Hadn’t they settled that already?

“I want you as a friend,” he persisted, almost as if he disputed
something.



Part 5


The next morning she waited in the laboratory at the lunch-hour in the
reasonable certainty that he would come to her.

“Well, you have thought it over?” he said, sitting down beside her.

“I’ve been thinking of you all night,” she answered.

“Well?”

“I don’t care a rap for all these things.”

He said nothing for a space.

“I don’t see there’s any getting away from the fact that you and I love
each other,” he said, slowly. “So far you’ve got me and I you....
You’ve got me. I’m like a creature just wakened up. My eyes are open to
you. I keep on thinking of you. I keep on thinking of little details and
aspects of your voice, your eyes, the way you walk, the way your hair
goes back from the side of your forehead. I believe I have always been
in love with you. Always. Before ever I knew you.”

She sat motionless, with her hand tightening over the edge of the table,
and he, too, said no more. She began to tremble violently.

He stood up abruptly and went to the window.

“We have,” he said, “to be the utmost friends.”

She stood up and held her arms toward him. “I want you to kiss me,” she
said.

He gripped the window-sill behind him.

“If I do,” he said.... “No! I want to do without that. I want to
do without that for a time. I want to give you time to think. I am a
man--of a sort of experience. You are a girl with very little. Just sit
down on that stool again and let’s talk of this in cold blood. People of
your sort--I don’t want the instincts to--to rush our situation. Are you
sure what it is you want of me?”

“I want you. I want you to be my lover. I want to give myself to you.
I want to be whatever I can to you.” She paused for a moment. “Is that
plain?” she asked.

“If I didn’t love you better than myself,” said Capes, “I wouldn’t fence
like this with you.

“I am convinced you haven’t thought this out,” he went on. “You do not
know what such a relation means. We are in love. Our heads swim with
the thought of being together. But what can we do? Here am I, fixed to
respectability and this laboratory; you’re living at home. It means...
just furtive meetings.”

“I don’t care how we meet,” she said.

“It will spoil your life.”

“It will make it. I want you. I am clear I want you. You are different
from all the world for me. You can think all round me. You are the one
person I can understand and feel--feel right with. I don’t idealize you.
Don’t imagine that. It isn’t because you’re good, but because I may be
rotten bad; and there’s something--something living and understanding
in you. Something that is born anew each time we meet, and pines when
we are separated. You see, I’m selfish. I’m rather scornful. I think
too much about myself. You’re the only person I’ve really given good,
straight, unselfish thought to. I’m making a mess of my life--unless
you come in and take it. I am. In you--if you can love me--there
is salvation. Salvation. I know what I am doing better than you do.
Think--think of that engagement!”

Their talk had come to eloquent silences that contradicted all he had to
say.

She stood up before him, smiling faintly.

“I think we’ve exhausted this discussion,” she said.

“I think we have,” he answered, gravely, and took her in his arms, and
smoothed her hair from her forehead, and very tenderly kissed her lips.



Part 6


They spent the next Sunday in Richmond Park, and mingled the happy
sensation of being together uninterruptedly through the long sunshine
of a summer’s day with the ample discussion of their position. “This has
all the clean freshness of spring and youth,” said Capes; “it is love
with the down on; it is like the glitter of dew in the sunlight to be
lovers such as we are, with no more than one warm kiss between us. I
love everything to-day, and all of you, but I love this, this--this
innocence upon us most of all.

“You can’t imagine,” he said, “what a beastly thing a furtive love
affair can be.

“This isn’t furtive,” said Ann Veronica.

“Not a bit of it. And we won’t make it so.... We mustn’t make it so.”

They loitered under trees, they sat on mossy banks they gossiped on
friendly benches, they came back to lunch at the “Star and Garter,”
 and talked their afternoon away in the garden that looks out upon the
crescent of the river. They had a universe to talk about--two universes.

“What are we going to do?” said Capes, with his eyes on the broad
distances beyond the ribbon of the river.

“I will do whatever you want,” said Ann Veronica.

“My first love was all blundering,” said Capes.

He thought for a moment, and went on: “Love is something that has to be
taken care of. One has to be so careful.... It’s a beautiful plant,
but a tender one.... I didn’t know. I’ve a dread of love dropping its
petals, becoming mean and ugly. How can I tell you all I feel? I love
you beyond measure. And I’m afraid.... I’m anxious, joyfully anxious,
like a man when he has found a treasure.”

“YOU know,” said Ann Veronica. “I just came to you and put myself in
your hands.”

“That’s why, in a way, I’m prudish. I’ve--dreads. I don’t want to tear
at you with hot, rough hands.”

“As you will, dear lover. But for me it doesn’t matter. Nothing is wrong
that you do. Nothing. I am quite clear about this. I know exactly what I
am doing. I give myself to you.”

“God send you may never repent it!” cried Capes.

She put her hand in his to be squeezed.

“You see,” he said, “it is doubtful if we can ever marry. Very doubtful.
I have been thinking--I will go to my wife again. I will do my utmost.
But for a long time, anyhow, we lovers have to be as if we were no more
than friends.”

He paused. She answered slowly. “That is as you will,” she said.

“Why should it matter?” he said.

And then, as she answered nothing, “Seeing that we are lovers.”



Part 7


It was rather less than a week after that walk that Capes came and sat
down beside Ann Veronica for their customary talk in the lunch hour. He
took a handful of almonds and raisins that she held out to him--for
both these young people had given up the practice of going out for
luncheon--and kept her hand for a moment to kiss her finger-tips. He did
not speak for a moment.

“Well?” she said.

“I say!” he said, without any movement. “Let’s go.”

“Go!” She did not understand him at first, and then her heart began to
beat very rapidly.

“Stop this--this humbugging,” he explained. “It’s like the Picture and
the Bust. I can’t stand it. Let’s go. Go off and live together--until we
can marry. Dare you?”

“Do you mean NOW?”

“At the end of the session. It’s the only clean way for us. Are you
prepared to do it?”

Her hands clenched. “Yes,” she said, very faintly. And then: “Of course!
Always. It is what I have wanted, what I have meant all along.”

She stared before her, trying to keep back a rush of tears.

Capes kept obstinately stiff, and spoke between his teeth.

“There’s endless reasons, no doubt, why we shouldn’t,” he said.
“Endless. It’s wrong in the eyes of most people. For many of them it
will smirch us forever.... You DO understand?”

“Who cares for most people?” she said, not looking at him.

“I do. It means social isolation--struggle.”

“If you dare--I dare,” said Ann Veronica. “I was never so clear in all
my life as I have been in this business.” She lifted steadfast eyes to
him. “Dare!” she said. The tears were welling over now, but her voice
was steady. “You’re not a man for me--not one of a sex, I mean. You’re
just a particular being with nothing else in the world to class with
you. You are just necessary to life for me. I’ve never met any one
like you. To have you is all important. Nothing else weighs against it.
Morals only begin when that is settled. I sha’n’t care a rap if we can
never marry. I’m not a bit afraid of anything--scandal, difficulty,
struggle.... I rather want them. I do want them.”

“You’ll get them,” he said. “This means a plunge.”

“Are you afraid?”

“Only for you! Most of my income will vanish. Even unbelieving
biological demonstrators must respect decorum; and besides, you see--you
were a student. We shall have--hardly any money.”

“I don’t care.”

“Hardship and danger.”

“With you!”

“And as for your people?”

“They don’t count. That is the dreadful truth. This--all this swamps
them. They don’t count, and I don’t care.”

Capes suddenly abandoned his attitude of meditative restraint. “By
Jove!” he broke out, “one tries to take a serious, sober view. I don’t
quite know why. But this is a great lark, Ann Veronica! This turns life
into a glorious adventure!”

“Ah!” she cried in triumph.

“I shall have to give up biology, anyhow. I’ve always had a sneaking
desire for the writing-trade. That is what I must do. I can.”

“Of course you can.”

“And biology was beginning to bore me a bit. One research is very like
another.... Latterly I’ve been doing things.... Creative work
appeals to me wonderfully. Things seem to come rather easily.... But
that, and that sort of thing, is just a day-dream. For a time I must do
journalism and work hard.... What isn’t a day-dream is this: that you
and I are going to put an end to flummery--and go!”

“Go!” said Ann Veronica, clenching her hands.

“For better or worse.”

“For richer or poorer.”

She could not go on, for she was laughing and crying at the same time.
“We were bound to do this when you kissed me,” she sobbed through
her tears. “We have been all this time--Only your queer code of
honor--Honor! Once you begin with love you have to see it through.”



CHAPTER THE FIFTEENTH

THE LAST DAYS AT HOME


Part 1


They decided to go to Switzerland at the session’s end. “We’ll clean up
everything tidy,” said Capes....

For her pride’s sake, and to save herself from long day-dreams and an
unappeasable longing for her lover, Ann Veronica worked hard at her
biology during those closing weeks. She was, as Capes had said, a
hard young woman. She was keenly resolved to do well in the school
examination, and not to be drowned in the seas of emotion that
threatened to submerge her intellectual being.

Nevertheless, she could not prevent a rising excitement as the dawn of
the new life drew near to her--a thrilling of the nerves, a secret
and delicious exaltation above the common circumstances of
existence. Sometimes her straying mind would become astonishingly
active--embroidering bright and decorative things that she could say to
Capes; sometimes it passed into a state of passive acquiescence, into
a radiant, formless, golden joy. She was aware of people--her aunt,
her father, her fellow-students, friends, and neighbors--moving about
outside this glowing secret, very much as an actor is aware of the dim
audience beyond the barrier of the footlights. They might applaud, or
object, or interfere, but the drama was her very own. She was going
through with that, anyhow.

The feeling of last days grew stronger with her as their number
diminished. She went about the familiar home with a clearer and clearer
sense of inevitable conclusions. She became exceptionally considerate
and affectionate with her father and aunt, and more and more concerned
about the coming catastrophe that she was about to precipitate upon
them. Her aunt had a once exasperating habit of interrupting her work
with demands for small household services, but now Ann Veronica rendered
them with a queer readiness of anticipatory propitiation. She was
greatly exercised by the problem of confiding in the Widgetts; they were
dears, and she talked away two evenings with Constance without broaching
the topic; she made some vague intimations in letters to Miss Miniver
that Miss Miniver failed to mark. But she did not bother her head very
much about her relations with these sympathizers.

And at length her penultimate day in Morningside Park dawned for her.
She got up early, and walked about the garden in the dewy June sunshine
and revived her childhood. She was saying good-bye to childhood and
home, and her making; she was going out into the great, multitudinous
world; this time there would be no returning. She was at the end of
girlhood and on the eve of a woman’s crowning experience. She visited
the corner that had been her own little garden--her forget-me-nots and
candytuft had long since been elbowed into insignificance by weeds; she
visited the raspberry-canes that had sheltered that first love affair
with the little boy in velvet, and the greenhouse where she had been
wont to read her secret letters. Here was the place behind the shed
where she had used to hide from Roddy’s persecutions, and here the
border of herbaceous perennials under whose stems was fairyland. The
back of the house had been the Alps for climbing, and the shrubs
in front of it a Terai. The knots and broken pale that made the
garden-fence scalable, and gave access to the fields behind, were still
to be traced. And here against a wall were the plum-trees. In spite of
God and wasps and her father, she had stolen plums; and once because of
discovered misdeeds, and once because she had realized that her mother
was dead, she had lain on her face in the unmown grass, beneath the
elm-trees that came beyond the vegetables, and poured out her soul in
weeping.

Remote little Ann Veronica! She would never know the heart of that child
again! That child had loved fairy princes with velvet suits and golden
locks, and she was in love with a real man named Capes, with little
gleams of gold on his cheek and a pleasant voice and firm and shapely
hands. She was going to him soon and certainly, going to his strong,
embracing arms. She was going through a new world with him side by side.
She had been so busy with life that, for a vast gulf of time, as it
seemed, she had given no thought to those ancient, imagined things of
her childhood. Now, abruptly, they were real again, though very distant,
and she had come to say farewell to them across one sundering year.

She was unusually helpful at breakfast, and unselfish about the eggs:
and then she went off to catch the train before her father’s. She did
this to please him. He hated travelling second-class with her--indeed,
he never did--but he also disliked travelling in the same train when his
daughter was in an inferior class, because of the look of the thing.
So he liked to go by a different train. And in the Avenue she had an
encounter with Ramage.

It was an odd little encounter, that left vague and dubitable
impressions in her mind. She was aware of him--a silk-hatted,
shiny-black figure on the opposite side of the Avenue; and then,
abruptly and startlingly, he crossed the road and saluted and spoke to
her.

“I MUST speak to you,” he said. “I can’t keep away from you.”

She made some inane response. She was struck by a change in his
appearance. His eyes looked a little bloodshot to her; his face had lost
something of its ruddy freshness.

He began a jerky, broken conversation that lasted until they reached the
station, and left her puzzled at its drift and meaning. She quickened
her pace, and so did he, talking at her slightly averted ear. She made
lumpish and inadequate interruptions rather than replies. At times he
seemed to be claiming pity from her; at times he was threatening her
with her check and exposure; at times he was boasting of his inflexible
will, and how, in the end, he always got what he wanted. He said that
his life was boring and stupid without her. Something or other--she
did not catch what--he was damned if he could stand. He was evidently
nervous, and very anxious to be impressive; his projecting eyes sought
to dominate. The crowning aspect of the incident, for her mind, was the
discovery that he and her indiscretion with him no longer mattered very
much. Its importance had vanished with her abandonment of compromise.
Even her debt to him was a triviality now.

And of course! She had a brilliant idea. It surprised her she hadn’t
thought of it before! She tried to explain that she was going to pay
him forty pounds without fail next week. She said as much to him. She
repeated this breathlessly.

“I was glad you did not send it back again,” he said.

He touched a long-standing sore, and Ann Veronica found herself vainly
trying to explain--the inexplicable. “It’s because I mean to send it
back altogether,” she said.

He ignored her protests in order to pursue some impressive line of his
own.

“Here we are, living in the same suburb,” he began. “We have to
be--modern.”

Her heart leaped within her as she caught that phrase. That knot also
would be cut. Modern, indeed! She was going to be as primordial as
chipped flint.



Part 2


In the late afternoon, as Ann Veronica was gathering flowers for the
dinner-table, her father came strolling across the lawn toward her with
an affectation of great deliberation.

“I want to speak to you about a little thing, Vee,” said Mr. Stanley.

Ann Veronica’s tense nerves started, and she stood still with her eyes
upon him, wondering what it might be that impended.

“You were talking to that fellow Ramage to-day--in the Avenue. Walking
to the station with him.”

So that was it!

“He came and talked to me.”

“Ye--e--es.” Mr. Stanley considered. “Well, I don’t want you to talk to
him,” he said, very firmly.

Ann Veronica paused before she answered. “Don’t you think I ought to?”
 she asked, very submissively.

“No.” Mr. Stanley coughed and faced toward the house. “He is not--I
don’t like him. I think it inadvisable--I don’t want an intimacy to
spring up between you and a man of that type.”

Ann Veronica reflected. “I HAVE--had one or two talks with him, daddy.”

“Don’t let there be any more. I--In fact, I dislike him extremely.”

“Suppose he comes and talks to me?”

“A girl can always keep a man at a distance if she cares to do it.
She--She can snub him.”

Ann Veronica picked a cornflower.

“I wouldn’t make this objection,” Mr. Stanley went on, “but there are
things--there are stories about Ramage. He’s--He lives in a world of
possibilities outside your imagination. His treatment of his wife
is most unsatisfactory. Most unsatisfactory. A bad man, in fact. A
dissipated, loose-living man.”

“I’ll try not to see him again,” said Ann Veronica. “I didn’t know you
objected to him, daddy.”

“Strongly,” said Mr. Stanley, “very strongly.”

The conversation hung. Ann Veronica wondered what her father would do if
she were to tell him the full story of her relations with Ramage.

“A man like that taints a girl by looking at her, by his mere
conversation.” He adjusted his glasses on his nose. There was another
little thing he had to say. “One has to be so careful of one’s friends
and acquaintances,” he remarked, by way of transition. “They mould one
insensibly.” His voice assumed an easy detached tone. “I suppose, Vee,
you don’t see much of those Widgetts now?”

“I go in and talk to Constance sometimes.”

“Do you?”

“We were great friends at school.”

“No doubt.... Still--I don’t know whether I quite like--Something
ramshackle about those people, Vee. While I am talking about your
friends, I feel--I think you ought to know how I look at it.” His voice
conveyed studied moderation. “I don’t mind, of course, your seeing
her sometimes, still there are differences--differences in social
atmospheres. One gets drawn into things. Before you know where you
are you find yourself in a complication. I don’t want to influence you
unduly--But--They’re artistic people, Vee. That’s the fact about them.
We’re different.”

“I suppose we are,” said Vee, rearranging the flowers in her hand.

“Friendships that are all very well between school-girls don’t always go
on into later life. It’s--it’s a social difference.”

“I like Constance very much.”

“No doubt. Still, one has to be reasonable. As you admitted to me--one
has to square one’s self with the world. You don’t know. With people
of that sort all sorts of things may happen. We don’t want things to
happen.”

Ann Veronica made no answer.

A vague desire to justify himself ruffled her father. “I may seem
unduly--anxious. I can’t forget about your sister. It’s that has always
made me--SHE, you know, was drawn into a set--didn’t discriminate
Private theatricals.”

Ann Veronica remained anxious to hear more of her sister’s story from
her father’s point of view, but he did not go on. Even so much allusion
as this to that family shadow, she felt, was an immense recognition of
her ripening years. She glanced at him. He stood a little anxious and
fussy, bothered by the responsibility of her, entirely careless of what
her life was or was likely to be, ignoring her thoughts and feelings,
ignorant of every fact of importance in her life, explaining everything
he could not understand in her as nonsense and perversity, concerned
only with a terror of bothers and undesirable situations. “We don’t want
things to happen!” Never had he shown his daughter so clearly that the
womenkind he was persuaded he had to protect and control could please
him in one way, and in one way only, and that was by doing nothing
except the punctual domestic duties and being nothing except restful
appearances. He had quite enough to see to and worry about in the City
without their doing things. He had no use for Ann Veronica; he had
never had a use for her since she had been too old to sit upon his knee.
Nothing but the constraint of social usage now linked him to her. And
the less “anything” happened the better. The less she lived, in fact,
the better. These realizations rushed into Ann Veronica’s mind and
hardened her heart against him. She spoke slowly. “I may not see the
Widgetts for some little time, father,” she said. “I don’t think I
shall.”

“Some little tiff?”

“No; but I don’t think I shall see them.”

Suppose she were to add, “I am going away!”

“I’m glad to hear you say it,” said Mr. Stanley, and was so evidently
pleased that Ann Veronica’s heart smote her.

“I am very glad to hear you say it,” he repeated, and refrained from
further inquiry. “I think we are growing sensible,” he said. “I think
you are getting to understand me better.”

He hesitated, and walked away from her toward the house. Her eyes
followed him. The curve of his shoulders, the very angle of his feet,
expressed relief at her apparent obedience. “Thank goodness!” said
that retreating aspect, “that’s said and over. Vee’s all right. There’s
nothing happened at all!” She didn’t mean, he concluded, to give him any
more trouble ever, and he was free to begin a fresh chromatic novel--he
had just finished the Blue Lagoon, which he thought very beautiful and
tender and absolutely irrelevant to Morningside Park--or work in peace
at his microtome without bothering about her in the least.

The immense disillusionment that awaited him! The devastating
disillusionment! She had a vague desire to run after him, to state her
case to him, to wring some understanding from him of what life was to
her. She felt a cheat and a sneak to his unsuspecting retreating back.

“But what can one do?” asked Ann Veronica.



Part 3


She dressed carefully for dinner in a black dress that her father
liked, and that made her look serious and responsible. Dinner was quite
uneventful. Her father read a draft prospectus warily, and her aunt
dropped fragments of her projects for managing while the cook had a
holiday. After dinner Ann Veronica went into the drawing-room with Miss
Stanley, and her father went up to his den for his pipe and pensive
petrography. Later in the evening she heard him whistling, poor man!

She felt very restless and excited. She refused coffee, though she knew
that anyhow she was doomed to a sleepless night. She took up one of her
father’s novels and put it down again, fretted up to her own room for
some work, sat on her bed and meditated upon the room that she was now
really abandoning forever, and returned at length with a stocking to
darn. Her aunt was making herself cuffs out of little slips of insertion
under the newly lit lamp.

Ann Veronica sat down in the other arm-chair and darned badly for a
minute or so. Then she looked at her aunt, and traced with a curious eye
the careful arrangement of her hair, her sharp nose, the little drooping
lines of mouth and chin and cheek.

Her thought spoke aloud. “Were you ever in love, aunt?” she asked.

Her aunt glanced up startled, and then sat very still, with hands that
had ceased to work. “What makes you ask such a question, Vee?” she said.

“I wondered.”

Her aunt answered in a low voice: “I was engaged to him, dear, for seven
years, and then he died.”

Ann Veronica made a sympathetic little murmur.

“He was in holy orders, and we were to have been married when he got a
living. He was a Wiltshire Edmondshaw, a very old family.”

She sat very still.

Ann Veronica hesitated with a question that had leaped up in her mind,
and that she felt was cruel. “Are you sorry you waited, aunt?” she said.

Her aunt was a long time before she answered. “His stipend forbade it,”
 she said, and seemed to fall into a train of thought. “It would have
been rash and unwise,” she said at the end of a meditation. “What he had
was altogether insufficient.”

Ann Veronica looked at the mildly pensive gray eyes and the comfortable,
rather refined face with a penetrating curiosity. Presently her aunt
sighed deeply and looked at the clock. “Time for my Patience,” she said.
She got up, put the neat cuffs she had made into her work-basket,
and went to the bureau for the little cards in the morocco case. Ann
Veronica jumped up to get her the card-table. “I haven’t seen the new
Patience, dear,” she said. “May I sit beside you?”

“It’s a very difficult one,” said her aunt. “Perhaps you will help me
shuffle?”

Ann Veronica did, and also assisted nimbly with the arrangements of the
rows of eight with which the struggle began. Then she sat watching the
play, sometimes offering a helpful suggestion, sometimes letting her
attention wander to the smoothly shining arms she had folded across her
knees just below the edge of the table. She was feeling extraordinarily
well that night, so that the sense of her body was a deep delight, a
realization of a gentle warmth and strength and elastic firmness. Then
she glanced at the cards again, over which her aunt’s many-ringed hand
played, and then at the rather weak, rather plump face that surveyed its
operations.

It came to Ann Veronica that life was wonderful beyond measure. It
seemed incredible that she and her aunt were, indeed, creatures of the
same blood, only by a birth or so different beings, and part of that
same broad interlacing stream of human life that has invented the fauns
and nymphs, Astarte, Aphrodite, Freya, and all the twining beauty of
the gods. The love-songs of all the ages were singing in her blood, the
scent of night stock from the garden filled the air, and the moths that
beat upon the closed frames of the window next the lamp set her mind
dreaming of kisses in the dusk. Yet her aunt, with a ringed hand
flitting to her lips and a puzzled, worried look in her eyes, deaf
to all this riot of warmth and flitting desire, was playing
Patience--playing Patience, as if Dionysius and her curate had died
together. A faint buzz above the ceiling witnessed that petrography,
too, was active. Gray and tranquil world! Amazing, passionless world! A
world in which days without meaning, days in which “we don’t want things
to happen” followed days without meaning--until the last thing happened,
the ultimate, unavoidable, coarse, “disagreeable.” It was her last
evening in that wrappered life against which she had rebelled. Warm
reality was now so near her she could hear it beating in her ears. Away
in London even now Capes was packing and preparing; Capes, the magic man
whose touch turned one to trembling fire. What was he doing? What was he
thinking? It was less than a day now, less than twenty hours. Seventeen
hours, sixteen hours. She glanced at the soft-ticking clock with the
exposed brass pendulum upon the white marble mantel, and made a rapid
calculation. To be exact, it was just sixteen hours and twenty minutes.
The slow stars circled on to the moment of their meeting. The softly
glittering summer stars! She saw them shining over mountains of snow,
over valleys of haze and warm darkness.... There would be no moon.

“I believe after all it’s coming out!” said Miss Stanley. “The aces made
it easy.”

Ann Veronica started from her reverie, sat up in her chair, became
attentive. “Look, dear,” she said presently, “you can put the ten on the
Jack.”



CHAPTER THE SIXTEENTH

IN THE MOUNTAINS


Part 1


Next day Ann Veronica and Capes felt like newborn things. It seemed
to them they could never have been really alive before, but only
dimly anticipating existence. They sat face to face beneath an
experienced-looking rucksack and a brand new portmanteau and a leather
handbag, in the afternoon-boat train that goes from Charing Cross to
Folkestone for Boulogne. They tried to read illustrated papers in an
unconcerned manner and with forced attention, lest they should catch
the leaping exultation in each other’s eyes. And they admired Kent
sedulously from the windows.

They crossed the Channel in sunshine and a breeze that just ruffled the
sea to glittering scales of silver. Some of the people who watched them
standing side by side thought they must be newly wedded because of their
happy faces, and others that they were an old-established couple because
of their easy confidence in each other.

At Boulogne they took train to Basle; next morning they breakfasted
together in the buffet of that station, and thence they caught the
Interlaken express, and so went by way of Spies to Frutigen. There was
no railway beyond Frutigen in those days; they sent their baggage by
post to Kandersteg, and walked along the mule path to the left of the
stream to that queer hollow among the precipices, Blau See, where the
petrifying branches of trees lie in the blue deeps of an icy lake, and
pine-trees clamber among gigantic boulders. A little inn flying a
Swiss flag nestles under a great rock, and there they put aside their
knapsacks and lunched and rested in the mid-day shadow of the gorge
and the scent of resin. And later they paddled in a boat above the
mysterious deeps of the See, and peered down into the green-blues and
the blue-greens together. By that time it seemed to them they had lived
together twenty years.

Except for one memorable school excursion to Paris, Ann Veronica had
never yet been outside England. So that it seemed to her the whole world
had changed--the very light of it had changed. Instead of English villas
and cottages there were chalets and Italian-built houses shining white;
there were lakes of emerald and sapphire and clustering castles, and
such sweeps of hill and mountain, such shining uplands of snow, as she
had never seen before. Everything was fresh and bright, from the kindly
manners of the Frutigen cobbler, who hammered mountain nails into her
boots, to the unfamiliar wild flowers that spangled the wayside. And
Capes had changed into the easiest and jolliest companion in the world.
The mere fact that he was there in the train alongside her, helping her,
sitting opposite to her in the dining-car, presently sleeping on a seat
within a yard of her, made her heart sing until she was afraid their
fellow passengers would hear it. It was too good to be true. She would
not sleep for fear of losing a moment of that sense of his proximity. To
walk beside him, dressed akin to him, rucksacked and companionable, was
bliss in itself; each step she took was like stepping once more across
the threshold of heaven.

One trouble, however, shot its slanting bolts athwart the shining warmth
of that opening day and marred its perfection, and that was the thought
of her father.

She had treated him badly; she had hurt him and her aunt; she had done
wrong by their standards, and she would never persuade them that she
had done right. She thought of her father in the garden, and of her aunt
with her Patience, as she had seen them--how many ages was it ago? Just
one day intervened. She felt as if she had struck them unawares. The
thought of them distressed her without subtracting at all from the
oceans of happiness in which she swam. But she wished she could put the
thing she had done in some way to them so that it would not hurt them
so much as the truth would certainly do. The thought of their faces,
and particularly of her aunt’s, as it would meet the fact--disconcerted,
unfriendly, condemning, pained--occurred to her again and again.

“Oh! I wish,” she said, “that people thought alike about these things.”

Capes watched the limpid water dripping from his oar. “I wish they did,”
 he said, “but they don’t.”

“I feel--All this is the rightest of all conceivable things. I want to
tell every one. I want to boast myself.”

“I know.”

“I told them a lie. I told them lies. I wrote three letters yesterday
and tore them up. It was so hopeless to put it to them. At last--I told
a story.”

“You didn’t tell them our position?”

“I implied we had married.”

“They’ll find out. They’ll know.”

“Not yet.”

“Sooner or later.”

“Possibly--bit by bit.... But it was hopelessly hard to put. I said
I knew he disliked and distrusted you and your work--that you shared
all Russell’s opinions: he hates Russell beyond measure--and that we
couldn’t possibly face a conventional marriage. What else could one say?
I left him to suppose--a registry perhaps....”

Capes let his oar smack on the water.

“Do you mind very much?”

He shook his head.

“But it makes me feel inhuman,” he added.

“And me....”

“It’s the perpetual trouble,” he said, “of parent and child. They
can’t help seeing things in the way they do. Nor can we. WE don’t
think they’re right, but they don’t think we are. A deadlock. In a very
definite sense we are in the wrong--hopelessly in the wrong. But--It’s
just this: who was to be hurt?”

“I wish no one had to be hurt,” said Ann Veronica. “When one is happy--I
don’t like to think of them. Last time I left home I felt as hard as
nails. But this is all different. It is different.”

“There’s a sort of instinct of rebellion,” said Capes. “It isn’t
anything to do with our times particularly. People think it is, but they
are wrong. It’s to do with adolescence. Long before religion and Society
heard of Doubt, girls were all for midnight coaches and Gretna Green.
It’s a sort of home-leaving instinct.”

He followed up a line of thought.

“There’s another instinct, too,” he went on, “in a state of suppression,
unless I’m very much mistaken; a child-expelling instinct.... I
wonder.... There’s no family uniting instinct, anyhow; it’s habit
and sentiment and material convenience hold families together after
adolescence. There’s always friction, conflict, unwilling concessions.
Always! I don’t believe there is any strong natural affection at all
between parents and growing-up children. There wasn’t, I know, between
myself and my father. I didn’t allow myself to see things as they were
in those days; now I do. I bored him. I hated him. I suppose that
shocks one’s ideas.... It’s true.... There are sentimental and
traditional deferences and reverences, I know, between father and
son; but that’s just exactly what prevents the development of an easy
friendship. Father-worshipping sons are abnormal--and they’re no good.
No good at all. One’s got to be a better man than one’s father, or what
is the good of successive generations? Life is rebellion, or nothing.”

He rowed a stroke and watched the swirl of water from his oar broaden
and die away. At last he took up his thoughts again: “I wonder if, some
day, one won’t need to rebel against customs and laws? If this discord
will have gone? Some day, perhaps--who knows?--the old won’t coddle and
hamper the young, and the young won’t need to fly in the faces of the
old. They’ll face facts as facts, and understand. Oh, to face facts!
Gods! what a world it might be if people faced facts! Understanding!
Understanding! There is no other salvation. Some day older people,
perhaps, will trouble to understand younger people, and there won’t
be these fierce disruptions; there won’t be barriers one must defy or
perish.... That’s really our choice now, defy--or futility.... The
world, perhaps, will be educated out of its idea of fixed standards....
I wonder, Ann Veronica, if, when our time comes, we shall be any
wiser?”

Ann Veronica watched a water-beetle fussing across the green depths.
“One can’t tell. I’m a female thing at bottom. I like high tone for a
flourish and stars and ideas; but I want my things.”



Part 2


Capes thought.

“It’s odd--I have no doubt in my mind that what we are doing is wrong,”
 he said. “And yet I do it without compunction.”

“I never felt so absolutely right,” said Ann Veronica.

“You ARE a female thing at bottom,” he admitted. “I’m not nearly so sure
as you. As for me, I look twice at it.... Life is two things,
that’s how I see it; two things mixed and muddled up together. Life is
morality--life is adventure. Squire and master. Adventure rules, and
morality--looks up the trains in the Bradshaw. Morality tells you what
is right, and adventure moves you. If morality means anything it means
keeping bounds, respecting implications, respecting implicit bounds. If
individuality means anything it means breaking bounds--adventure.

“Will you be moral and your species, or immoral and yourself? We’ve
decided to be immoral. We needn’t try and give ourselves airs. We’ve
deserted the posts in which we found ourselves, cut our duties, exposed
ourselves to risks that may destroy any sort of social usefulness in
us.... I don’t know. One keeps rules in order to be one’s self. One
studies Nature in order not to be blindly ruled by her. There’s no sense
in morality, I suppose, unless you are fundamentally immoral.”

She watched his face as he traced his way through these speculative
thickets.

“Look at our affair,” he went on, looking up at her. “No power on earth
will persuade me we’re not two rather disreputable persons. You desert
your home; I throw up useful teaching, risk every hope in your career.
Here we are absconding, pretending to be what we are not; shady, to say
the least of it. It’s not a bit of good pretending there’s any Higher
Truth or wonderful principle in this business. There isn’t. We never
started out in any high-browed manner to scandalize and Shelleyfy.
When first you left your home you had no idea that _I_ was the hidden
impulse. I wasn’t. You came out like an ant for your nuptial flight. It
was just a chance that we in particular hit against each other--nothing
predestined about it. We just hit against each other, and here we are
flying off at a tangent, a little surprised at what we are doing, all
our principles abandoned, and tremendously and quite unreasonably proud
of ourselves. Out of all this we have struck a sort of harmony....
And it’s gorgeous!”

“Glorious!” said Ann Veronica.

“Would YOU like us--if some one told you the bare outline of our
story?--and what we are doing?”

“I shouldn’t mind,” said Ann Veronica.

“But if some one else asked your advice? If some one else said, ‘Here is
my teacher, a jaded married man on the verge of middle age, and he and I
have a violent passion for one another. We propose to disregard all our
ties, all our obligations, all the established prohibitions of society,
and begin life together afresh.’ What would you tell her?”

“If she asked advice, I should say she wasn’t fit to do anything of the
sort. I should say that having a doubt was enough to condemn it.”

“But waive that point.”

“It would be different all the same. It wouldn’t be you.”

“It wouldn’t be you either. I suppose that’s the gist of the whole
thing.” He stared at a little eddy. “The rule’s all right, so long as
there isn’t a case. Rules are for established things, like the pieces
and positions of a game. Men and women are not established things;
they’re experiments, all of them. Every human being is a new thing,
exists to do new things. Find the thing you want to do most intensely,
make sure that’s it, and do it with all your might. If you live, well
and good; if you die, well and good. Your purpose is done.... Well,
this is OUR thing.”

He woke the glassy water to swirling activity again, and made the
deep-blue shapes below writhe and shiver.

“This is MY thing,” said Ann Veronica, softly, with thoughtful eyes upon
him.

Then she looked up the sweep of pine-trees to the towering sunlit cliffs
and the high heaven above and then back to his face. She drew in a deep
breath of the sweet mountain air. Her eyes were soft and grave, and
there was the faintest of smiles upon her resolute lips.



Part 3


Later they loitered along a winding path above the inn, and made love
to one another. Their journey had made them indolent, the afternoon was
warm, and it seemed impossible to breathe a sweeter air. The flowers and
turf, a wild strawberry, a rare butterfly, and suchlike little intimate
things had become more interesting than mountains. Their flitting hands
were always touching. Deep silences came between them....

“I had thought to go on to Kandersteg,” said Capes, “but this is a
pleasant place. There is not a soul in the inn but ourselves. Let
us stay the night here. Then we can loiter and gossip to our heart’s
content.”

“Agreed,” said Ann Veronica.

“After all, it’s our honeymoon.”

“All we shall get,” said Ann Veronica.

“This place is very beautiful.”

“Any place would be beautiful,” said Ann Veronica, in a low voice.

For a time they walked in silence.

“I wonder,” she began, presently, “why I love you--and love you so
much?... I know now what it is to be an abandoned female. I AM an
abandoned female. I’m not ashamed--of the things I’m doing. I want to
put myself into your hands. You know--I wish I could roll my little body
up small and squeeze it into your hand and grip your fingers upon it.
Tight. I want you to hold me and have me SO.... Everything. Everything.
It’s a pure joy of giving--giving to YOU. I have never spoken of these
things to any human being. Just dreamed--and ran away even from my
dreams. It is as if my lips had been sealed about them. And now I break
the seals--for you. Only I wish--I wish to-day I was a thousand times,
ten thousand times more beautiful.”

Capes lifted her hand and kissed it.

“You are a thousand times more beautiful,” he said, “than anything else
could be.... You are you. You are all the beauty in the world. Beauty
doesn’t mean, never has meant, anything--anything at all but you. It
heralded you, promised you....”



Part 4


They lay side by side in a shallow nest of turf and mosses among
bowlders and stunted bushes on a high rock, and watched the day sky
deepen to evening between the vast precipices overhead and looked over
the tree-tops down the widening gorge. A distant suggestion of chalets
and a glimpse of the road set them talking for a time of the world they
had left behind.

Capes spoke casually of their plans for work. “It’s a flabby,
loose-willed world we have to face. It won’t even know whether to be
scandalized at us or forgiving. It will hold aloof, a little undecided
whether to pelt or not--”

“That depends whether we carry ourselves as though we expected pelting,”
 said Ann Veronica.

“We won’t.”

“No fear!”

“Then, as we succeed, it will begin to sidle back to us. It will do its
best to overlook things--”

“If we let it, poor dear.”

“That’s if we succeed. If we fail,” said Capes, “then--”

“We aren’t going to fail,” said Ann Veronica.

Life seemed a very brave and glorious enterprise to Ann Veronica that
day. She was quivering with the sense of Capes at her side and glowing
with heroic love; it seemed to her that if they put their hands jointly
against the Alps and pushed they would be able to push them aside. She
lay and nibbled at a sprig of dwarf rhododendron.

“FAIL!” she said.



Part 5


Presently it occurred to Ann Veronica to ask about the journey he had
planned. He had his sections of the Siegfried map folded in his pocket,
and he squatted up with his legs crossed like an Indian idol while
she lay prone beside him and followed every movement of his indicatory
finger.

“Here,” he said, “is this Blau See, and here we rest until to-morrow. I
think we rest here until to-morrow?”

There was a brief silence.

“It is a very pleasant place,” said Ann Veronica, biting a rhododendron
stalk through, and with that faint shadow of a smile returning to her
lips....

“And then?” said Ann Veronica.

“Then we go on to this place, the Oeschinensee. It’s a lake among
precipices, and there is a little inn where we can stay, and sit and eat
our dinner at a pleasant table that looks upon the lake. For some days
we shall be very idle there among the trees and rocks. There are boats
on the lake and shady depths and wildernesses of pine-wood. After a day
or so, perhaps, we will go on one or two little excursions and see how
good your head is--a mild scramble or so; and then up to a hut on a pass
just here, and out upon the Blumlis-alp glacier that spreads out so and
so.”

She roused herself from some dream at the word. “Glaciers?” she said.

“Under the Wilde Frau--which was named after you.”

He bent and kissed her hair and paused, and then forced his attention
back to the map. “One day,” he resumed, “we will start off early and
come down into Kandersteg and up these zigzags and here and here, and so
past this Daubensee to a tiny inn--it won’t be busy yet, though; we
may get it all to ourselves--on the brim of the steepest zigzag you can
imagine, thousands of feet of zigzag; and you will sit and eat lunch
with me and look out across the Rhone Valley and over blue distances
beyond blue distances to the Matterhorn and Monte Rosa and a long
regiment of sunny, snowy mountains. And when we see them we shall at
once want to go to them--that’s the way with beautiful things--and
down we shall go, like flies down a wall, to Leukerbad, and so to Leuk
Station, here, and then by train up the Rhone Valley and this little
side valley to Stalden; and there, in the cool of the afternoon, we
shall start off up a gorge, torrents and cliffs below us and above us,
to sleep in a half-way inn, and go on next day to Saas Fee, Saas of
the Magic, Saas of the Pagan People. And there, about Saas, are ice
and snows again, and sometimes we will loiter among the rocks and trees
about Saas or peep into Samuel Butler’s chapels, and sometimes we will
climb up out of the way of the other people on to the glaciers and snow.
And, for one expedition at least, we will go up this desolate valley
here to Mattmark, and so on to Monte Moro. There indeed you see Monte
Rosa. Almost the best of all.”

“Is it very beautiful?”

“When I saw it there it was very beautiful. It was wonderful. It was the
crowned queen of mountains in her robes of shining white. It towered up
high above the level of the pass, thousands of feet, still, shining, and
white, and below, thousands of feet below, was a floor of little woolly
clouds. And then presently these clouds began to wear thin and expose
steep, deep slopes, going down and down, with grass and pine-trees, down
and down, and at last, through a great rent in the clouds, bare roofs,
shining like very minute pin-heads, and a road like a fibre of white
silk-Macugnana, in Italy. That will be a fine day--it will have to be,
when first you set eyes on Italy.... That’s as far as we go.”

“Can’t we go down into Italy?”

“No,” he said; “it won’t run to that now. We must wave our hands at the
blue hills far away there and go back to London and work.”

“But Italy--”

“Italy’s for a good girl,” he said, and laid his hand for a moment on
her shoulder. “She must look forward to Italy.”

“I say,” she reflected, “you ARE rather the master, you know.”

The idea struck him as novel. “Of course I’m manager for this
expedition,” he said, after an interval of self-examination.

She slid her cheek down the tweed sleeve of his coat. “Nice sleeve,” she
said, and came to his hand and kissed it.

“I say!” he cried. “Look here! Aren’t you going a little too far?
This--this is degradation--making a fuss with sleeves. You mustn’t do
things like that.”

“Why not?”

“Free woman--and equal.”

“I do it--of my own free will,” said Ann Veronica, kissing his hand
again. “It’s nothing to what I WILL do.”

“Oh, well!” he said, a little doubtfully, “it’s just a phase,” and bent
down and rested his hand on her shoulder for a moment, with his heart
beating and his nerves a-quiver. Then as she lay very still, with her
hands clinched and her black hair tumbled about her face, he came still
closer and softly kissed the nape of her neck....



Part 6


Most of the things that he had planned they did. But they climbed more
than he had intended because Ann Veronica proved rather a good climber,
steady-headed and plucky, rather daring, but quite willing to be
cautious at his command.

One of the things that most surprised him in her was her capacity for
blind obedience. She loved to be told to do things.

He knew the circle of mountains about Saas Fee fairly well: he had been
there twice before, and it was fine to get away from the straggling
pedestrians into the high, lonely places, and sit and munch sandwiches
and talk together and do things together that were just a little
difficult and dangerous. And they could talk, they found; and never
once, it seemed, did their meaning and intention hitch. They were
enormously pleased with one another; they found each other beyond
measure better than they had expected, if only because of the want of
substance in mere expectation. Their conversation degenerated again
and again into a strain of self-congratulation that would have irked an
eavesdropper.

“You’re--I don’t know,” said Ann Veronica. “You’re splendid.”

“It isn’t that you’re splendid or I,” said Capes. “But we satisfy one
another. Heaven alone knows why. So completely! The oddest fitness!
What is it made of? Texture of skin and texture of mind? Complexion and
voice. I don’t think I’ve got illusions, nor you.... If I had never
met anything of you at all but a scrap of your skin binding a book, Ann
Veronica, I know I would have kept that somewhere near to me.... All
your faults are just jolly modelling to make you real and solid.”

“The faults are the best part of it,” said Ann Veronica; “why, even our
little vicious strains run the same way. Even our coarseness.”

“Coarse?” said Capes, “We’re not coarse.”

“But if we were?” said Ann Veronica.

“I can talk to you and you to me without a scrap of effort,” said
Capes; “that’s the essence of it. It’s made up of things as small as the
diameter of hairs and big as life and death.... One always dreamed
of this and never believed it. It’s the rarest luck, the wildest, most
impossible accident. Most people, every one I know else, seem to have
mated with foreigners and to talk uneasily in unfamiliar tongues, to be
afraid of the knowledge the other one has, of the other one’s perpetual
misjudgment and misunderstandings.

“Why don’t they wait?” he added.

Ann Veronica had one of her flashes of insight.

“One doesn’t wait,” said Ann Veronica.

She expanded that. “_I_ shouldn’t have waited,” she said. “I might have
muddled for a time. But it’s as you say. I’ve had the rarest luck and
fallen on my feet.”

“We’ve both fallen on our feet! We’re the rarest of mortals! The real
thing! There’s not a compromise nor a sham nor a concession between
us. We aren’t afraid; we don’t bother. We don’t consider each other;
we needn’t. That wrappered life, as you call it--we’ve burned the
confounded rags! Danced out of it! We’re stark!”

“Stark!” echoed Ann Veronica.



Part 7


As they came back from that day’s climb--it was up the Mittaghorn--they
had to cross a shining space of wet, steep rocks between two grass
slopes that needed a little care. There were a few loose, broken
fragments of rock to reckon with upon the ledges, and one place where
hands did as much work as toes. They used the rope--not that a rope was
at all necessary, but because Ann Veronica’s exalted state of mind made
the fact of the rope agreeably symbolical; and, anyhow, it did insure a
joint death in the event of some remotely possibly mischance. Capes went
first, finding footholds and, where the drops in the strata-edges came
like long, awkward steps, placing Ann Veronica’s feet. About half-way
across this interval, when everything seemed going well, Capes had a
shock.

“Heavens!” exclaimed Ann Veronica, with extraordinary passion. “My God!”
 and ceased to move.

Capes became rigid and adhesive. Nothing ensued. “All right?” he asked.

“I’ll have to pay it.”

“Eh?”

“I’ve forgotten something. Oh, cuss it!”

“Eh?”

“He said I would.”

“What?”

“That’s the devil of it!”

“Devil of what?... You DO use vile language!”

“Forget about it like this.”

“Forget WHAT?”

“And I said I wouldn’t. I said I’d do anything. I said I’d make shirts.”

“Shirts?”

“Shirts at one--and--something a dozen. Oh, goodness! Bilking! Ann
Veronica, you’re a bilker!”

Pause.

“Will you tell me what all this is about?” said Capes.

“It’s about forty pounds.”

Capes waited patiently.

“G. I’m sorry.... But you’ve got to lend me forty pounds.”

“It’s some sort of delirium,” said Capes. “The rarefied air? I thought
you had a better head.”

“No! I’ll explain lower. It’s all right. Let’s go on climbing now. It’s
a thing I’ve unaccountably overlooked. All right really. It can wait
a bit longer. I borrowed forty pounds from Mr. Ramage. Thank goodness
you’ll understand. That’s why I chucked Manning.... All right, I’m
coming. But all this business has driven it clean out of my head....
That’s why he was so annoyed, you know.”

“Who was annoyed?”

“Mr. Ramage--about the forty pounds.” She took a step. “My dear,” she
added, by way of afterthought, “you DO obliterate things!”



Part 8


They found themselves next day talking love to one another high up on
some rocks above a steep bank of snow that overhung a precipice on the
eastern side of the Fee glacier. By this time Capes’ hair had bleached
nearly white, and his skin had become a skin of red copper shot with
gold. They were now both in a state of unprecedented physical fitness.
And such skirts as Ann Veronica had had when she entered the valley of
Saas were safely packed away in the hotel, and she wore a leather belt
and loose knickerbockers and puttees--a costume that suited the fine,
long lines of her limbs far better than any feminine walking-dress could
do. Her complexion had resisted the snow-glare wonderfully; her skin had
only deepened its natural warmth a little under the Alpine sun. She had
pushed aside her azure veil, taken off her snow-glasses, and sat smiling
under her hand at the shining glories--the lit cornices, the blue
shadows, the softly rounded, enormous snow masses, the deep places
full of quivering luminosity--of the Taschhorn and Dom. The sky was
cloudless, effulgent blue.

Capes sat watching and admiring her, and then he fell praising the day
and fortune and their love for each other.

“Here we are,” he said, “shining through each other like light through a
stained-glass window. With this air in our blood, this sunlight soaking
us.... Life is so good. Can it ever be so good again?”

Ann Veronica put out a firm hand and squeezed his arm. “It’s very good,”
 she said. “It’s glorious good!”

“Suppose now--look at this long snow-slope and then that blue deep
beyond--do you see that round pool of color in the ice--a thousand feet
or more below? Yes? Well, think--we’ve got to go but ten steps and lie
down and put our arms about each other. See? Down we should rush in a
foam--in a cloud of snow--to flight and a dream. All the rest of
our lives would be together then, Ann Veronica. Every moment. And no
ill-chances.”

“If you tempt me too much,” she said, after a silence, “I shall do
it. I need only just jump up and throw myself upon you. I’m a desperate
young woman. And then as we went down you’d try to explain. And that
would spoil it.... You know you don’t mean it.”

“No, I don’t. But I liked to say it.”

“Rather! But I wonder why you don’t mean it?”

“Because, I suppose, the other thing is better. What other reason could
there be? It’s more complex, but it’s better. THIS, this glissade, would
be damned scoundrelism. You know that, and I know that, though we might
be put to it to find a reason why. It would be swindling. Drawing the
pay of life and then not living. And besides--We’re going to live, Ann
Veronica! Oh, the things we’ll do, the life we’ll lead! There’ll be
trouble in it at times--you and I aren’t going to run without friction.
But we’ve got the brains to get over that, and tongues in our heads to
talk to each other. We sha’n’t hang up on any misunderstanding. Not us.
And we’re going to fight that old world down there. That old world that
had shoved up that silly old hotel, and all the rest of it.... If we
don’t live it will think we are afraid of it.... Die, indeed! We’re
going to do work; we’re going to unfold about each other; we’re going to
have children.”

“Girls!” cried Ann Veronica.

“Boys!” said Capes.

“Both!” said Ann Veronica. “Lots of ‘em!”

Capes chuckled. “You delicate female!”

“Who cares,” said Ann Veronica, “seeing it’s you? Warm, soft little
wonders! Of course I want them.”



Part 9


“All sorts of things we’re going to do,” said Capes; “all sorts of times
we’re going to have. Sooner or later we’ll certainly do something to
clean those prisons you told me about--limewash the underside of life.
You and I. We can love on a snow cornice, we can love over a pail of
whitewash. Love anywhere. Anywhere! Moonlight and music--pleasing, you
know, but quite unnecessary. We met dissecting dogfish.... Do you
remember your first day with me?... Do you indeed remember? The smell
of decay and cheap methylated spirit!... My dear! we’ve had so many
moments! I used to go over the times we’d had together, the things we’d
said--like a rosary of beads. But now it’s beads by the cask--like the
hold of a West African trader. It feels like too much gold-dust clutched
in one’s hand. One doesn’t want to lose a grain. And one must--some of
it must slip through one’s fingers.”

“I don’t care if it does,” said Ann Veronica. “I don’t care a rap for
remembering. I care for you. This moment couldn’t be better until the
next moment comes. That’s how it takes me. Why should WE hoard? We
aren’t going out presently, like Japanese lanterns in a gale. It’s the
poor dears who do, who know they will, know they can’t keep it up, who
need to clutch at way-side flowers. And put ‘em in little books for
remembrance. Flattened flowers aren’t for the likes of us. Moments,
indeed! We like each other fresh and fresh. It isn’t illusions--for us.
We two just love each other--the real, identical other--all the time.”

“The real, identical other,” said Capes, and took and bit the tip of her
little finger.

“There’s no delusions, so far as I know,” said Ann Veronica.

“I don’t believe there is one. If there is, it’s a mere
wrapping--there’s better underneath. It’s only as if I’d begun to know
you the day before yesterday or there-abouts. You keep on coming truer,
after you have seemed to come altogether true. You... brick!”



Part 10


“To think,” he cried, “you are ten years younger than I!... There are
times when you make me feel a little thing at your feet--a young, silly,
protected thing. Do you know, Ann Veronica, it is all a lie about your
birth certificate; a forgery--and fooling at that. You are one of the
Immortals. Immortal! You were in the beginning, and all the men in the
world who have known what love is have worshipped at your feet. You have
converted me to--Lester Ward! You are my dear friend, you are a slip of
a girl, but there are moments when my head has been on your breast, when
your heart has been beating close to my ears, when I have known you for
the goddess, when I have wished myself your slave, when I have wished
that you could kill me for the joy of being killed by you. You are the
High Priestess of Life....”

“Your priestess,” whispered Ann Veronica, softly. “A silly little
priestess who knew nothing of life at all until she came to you.”



Part 11


They sat for a time without speaking a word, in an enormous shining
globe of mutual satisfaction.

“Well,” said Capes, at length, “we’ve to go down, Ann Veronica. Life
waits for us.”

He stood up and waited for her to move.

“Gods!” cried Ann Veronica, and kept him standing. “And to think that
it’s not a full year ago since I was a black-hearted rebel school-girl,
distressed, puzzled, perplexed, not understanding that this great
force of love was bursting its way through me! All those nameless
discontents--they were no more than love’s birth-pangs. I felt--I
felt living in a masked world. I felt as though I had bandaged eyes. I
felt--wrapped in thick cobwebs. They blinded me. They got in my mouth.
And now--Dear! Dear! The dayspring from on high hath visited me. I love.
I am loved. I want to shout! I want to sing! I am glad! I am glad to be
alive because you are alive! I am glad to be a woman because you are a
man! I am glad! I am glad! I am glad! I thank God for life and you. I
thank God for His sunlight on your face. I thank God for the beauty
you love and the faults you love. I thank God for the very skin that is
peeling from your nose, for all things great and small that make us what
we are. This is grace I am saying! Oh! my dear! all the joy and weeping
of life are mixed in me now and all the gratitude. Never a new-born
dragon-fly that spread its wings in the morning has felt as glad as I!”



CHAPTER THE SEVENTEENTH

IN PERSPECTIVE


Part 1


About four years and a quarter later--to be exact, it was four years and
four months--Mr. and Mrs. Capes stood side by side upon an old Persian
carpet that did duty as a hearthrug in the dining-room of their flat
and surveyed a shining dinner-table set for four people, lit by
skilfully-shaded electric lights, brightened by frequent gleams of
silver, and carefully and simply adorned with sweet-pea blossom. Capes
had altered scarcely at all during the interval, except for a new
quality of smartness in the cut of his clothes, but Ann Veronica was
nearly half an inch taller; her face was at once stronger and softer,
her neck firmer and rounder, and her carriage definitely more womanly
than it had been in the days of her rebellion. She was a woman now to
the tips of her fingers; she had said good-bye to her girlhood in the
old garden four years and a quarter ago. She was dressed in a simple
evening gown of soft creamy silk, with a yoke of dark old embroidery
that enhanced the gentle gravity of her style, and her black hair flowed
off her open forehead to pass under the control of a simple ribbon of
silver. A silver necklace enhanced the dusky beauty of her neck. Both
husband and wife affected an unnatural ease of manner for the benefit of
the efficient parlor-maid, who was putting the finishing touches to the
sideboard arrangements.

“It looks all right,” said Capes.

“I think everything’s right,” said Ann Veronica, with the roaming eye of
a capable but not devoted house-mistress.

“I wonder if they will seem altered,” she remarked for the third time.

“There I can’t help,” said Capes.

He walked through a wide open archway, curtained with deep-blue
curtains, into the apartment that served as a reception-room. Ann
Veronica, after a last survey of the dinner appointments, followed him,
rustling, came to his side by the high brass fender, and touched two or
three ornaments on the mantel above the cheerful fireplace.

“It’s still a marvel to me that we are to be forgiven,” she said,
turning.

“My charm of manner, I suppose. But, indeed, he’s very human.”

“Did you tell him of the registry office?”

“No--o--certainly not so emphatically as I did about the play.”

“It was an inspiration--your speaking to him?”

“I felt impudent. I believe I am getting impudent. I had not been near
the Royal Society since--since you disgraced me. What’s that?”

They both stood listening. It was not the arrival of the guests, but
merely the maid moving about in the hall.

“Wonderful man!” said Ann Veronica, reassured, and stroking his cheek
with her finger.

Capes made a quick movement as if to bite that aggressive digit, but it
withdrew to Ann Veronica’s side.

“I was really interested in his stuff. I WAS talking to him before I saw
his name on the card beside the row of microscopes. Then, naturally, I
went on talking. He--he has rather a poor opinion of his contemporaries.
Of course, he had no idea who I was.”

“But how did you tell him? You’ve never told me. Wasn’t it--a little bit
of a scene?”

“Oh! let me see. I said I hadn’t been at the Royal Society soiree for
four years, and got him to tell me about some of the fresh Mendelian
work. He loves the Mendelians because he hates all the big names of
the eighties and nineties. Then I think I remarked that science was
disgracefully under-endowed, and confessed I’d had to take to
more profitable courses. ‘The fact of it is,’ I said, ‘I’m the new
playwright, Thomas More. Perhaps you’ve heard--?’ Well, you know, he
had.”

“Fame!”

“Isn’t it? ‘I’ve not seen your play, Mr. More,’ he said, ‘but I’m told
it’s the most amusing thing in London at the present time. A friend
of mine, Ogilvy’--I suppose that’s Ogilvy & Ogilvy, who do so many
divorces, Vee?--‘was speaking very highly of it--very highly!’” He
smiled into her eyes.

“You are developing far too retentive a memory for praises,” said Ann
Veronica.

“I’m still new to them. But after that it was easy. I told him instantly
and shamelessly that the play was going to be worth ten thousand pounds.
He agreed it was disgraceful. Then I assumed a rather portentous manner
to prepare him.”

“How? Show me.”

“I can’t be portentous, dear, when you’re about. It’s my other side of
the moon. But I was portentous, I can assure you. ‘My name’s NOT More,
Mr. Stanley,’ I said. ‘That’s my pet name.’”

“Yes?”

“I think--yes, I went on in a pleasing blend of the casual and sotto
voce, ‘The fact of it is, sir, I happen to be your son-in-law, Capes. I
do wish you could come and dine with us some evening. It would make my
wife very happy.’”

“What did he say?”

“What does any one say to an invitation to dinner point-blank? One tries
to collect one’s wits. ‘She is constantly thinking of you,’ I said.”

“And he accepted meekly?”

“Practically. What else could he do? You can’t kick up a scene on the
spur of the moment in the face of such conflicting values as he
had before him. With me behaving as if everything was infinitely
matter-of-fact, what could he do? And just then Heaven sent old
Manningtree--I didn’t tell you before of the fortunate intervention of
Manningtree, did I? He was looking quite infernally distinguished, with
a wide crimson ribbon across him--what IS a wide crimson ribbon? Some
sort of knight, I suppose. He is a knight. ‘Well, young man,’ he said,
‘we haven’t seen you lately,’ and something about ‘Bateson & Co.’--he’s
frightfully anti-Mendelian--having it all their own way. So I introduced
him to my father-in-law like a shot. I think that WAS decision. Yes, it
was Manningtree really secured your father. He--”

“Here they are!” said Ann Veronica as the bell sounded.



Part 2


They received the guests in their pretty little hall with genuine
effusion. Miss Stanley threw aside a black cloak to reveal a discreet
and dignified arrangement of brown silk, and then embraced Ann Veronica
with warmth. “So very clear and cold,” she said. “I feared we might
have a fog.” The housemaid’s presence acted as a useful restraint. Ann
Veronica passed from her aunt to her father, and put her arms about him
and kissed his cheek. “Dear old daddy!” she said, and was amazed to
find herself shedding tears. She veiled her emotion by taking off his
overcoat. “And this is Mr. Capes?” she heard her aunt saying.

All four people moved a little nervously into the drawing-room,
maintaining a sort of fluttered amiability of sound and movement.

Mr. Stanley professed a great solicitude to warm his hands. “Quite
unusually cold for the time of year,” he said. “Everything very nice,
I am sure,” Miss Stanley murmured to Capes as he steered her to a place
upon the little sofa before the fire. Also she made little pussy-like
sounds of a reassuring nature.

“And let’s have a look at you, Vee!” said Mr. Stanley, standing up with
a sudden geniality and rubbing his hands together.

Ann Veronica, who knew her dress became her, dropped a curtsy to her
father’s regard.

Happily they had no one else to wait for, and it heartened her mightily
to think that she had ordered the promptest possible service of the
dinner. Capes stood beside Miss Stanley, who was beaming unnaturally,
and Mr. Stanley, in his effort to seem at ease, took entire possession
of the hearthrug.

“You found the flat easily?” said Capes in the pause. “The numbers are a
little difficult to see in the archway. They ought to put a lamp.”

Her father declared there had been no difficulty.

“Dinner is served, m’m,” said the efficient parlor-maid in the archway,
and the worst was over.

“Come, daddy,” said Ann Veronica, following her husband and Miss
Stanley; and in the fulness of her heart she gave a friendly squeeze to
the parental arm.

“Excellent fellow!” he answered a little irrelevantly. “I didn’t
understand, Vee.”

“Quite charming apartments,” Miss Stanley admired; “charming! Everything
is so pretty and convenient.”

The dinner was admirable as a dinner; nothing went wrong, from the
golden and excellent clear soup to the delightful iced marrons
and cream; and Miss Stanley’s praises died away to an appreciative
acquiescence. A brisk talk sprang up between Capes and Mr. Stanley, to
which the two ladies subordinated themselves intelligently. The
burning topic of the Mendelian controversy was approached on one or two
occasions, but avoided dexterously; and they talked chiefly of letters
and art and the censorship of the English stage. Mr. Stanley was
inclined to think the censorship should be extended to the supply of
what he styled latter-day fiction; good wholesome stories were being
ousted, he said, by “vicious, corrupting stuff” that “left a bad taste
in the mouth.” He declared that no book could be satisfactory that left
a bad taste in the mouth, however much it seized and interested the
reader at the time. He did not like it, he said, with a significant
look, to be reminded of either his books or his dinners after he had
done with them. Capes agreed with the utmost cordiality.

“Life is upsetting enough, without the novels taking a share,” said Mr.
Stanley.

For a time Ann Veronica’s attention was diverted by her aunt’s interest
in the salted almonds.

“Quite particularly nice,” said her aunt. “Exceptionally so.”

When Ann Veronica could attend again she found the men were discussing
the ethics of the depreciation of house property through the increasing
tumult of traffic in the West End, and agreeing with each other to a
devastating extent. It came into her head with real emotional force that
this must be some particularly fantastic sort of dream. It seemed to her
that her father was in some inexplicable way meaner-looking than she
had supposed, and yet also, as unaccountably, appealing. His tie had
demanded a struggle; he ought to have taken a clean one after his
first failure. Why was she noting things like this? Capes seemed
self-possessed and elaborately genial and commonplace, but she knew him
to be nervous by a little occasional clumsiness, by the faintest shadow
of vulgarity in the urgency of his hospitality. She wished he could
smoke and dull his nerves a little. A gust of irrational impatience blew
through her being. Well, they’d got to the pheasants, and in a little
while he would smoke. What was it she had expected? Surely her moods
were getting a little out of hand.

She wished her father and aunt would not enjoy their dinner with such
quiet determination. Her father and her husband, who had both been a
little pale at their first encounter, were growing now just faintly
flushed. It was a pity people had to eat food.

“I suppose,” said her father, “I have read at least half the novels that
have been at all successful during the last twenty years. Three a week
is my allowance, and, if I get short ones, four. I change them in the
morning at Cannon Street, and take my book as I come down.”

It occurred to her that she had never seen her father dining out
before, never watched him critically as an equal. To Capes he was almost
deferential, and she had never seen him deferential in the old time,
never. The dinner was stranger than she had ever anticipated. It was
as if she had grown right past her father into something older and
of infinitely wider outlook, as if he had always been unsuspectedly a
flattened figure, and now she had discovered him from the other side.

It was a great relief to arrive at last at that pause when she could say
to her aunt, “Now, dear?” and rise and hold back the curtain through the
archway. Capes and her father stood up, and her father made a belated
movement toward the curtain. She realized that he was the sort of man
one does not think much about at dinners. And Capes was thinking that
his wife was a supremely beautiful woman. He reached a silver cigar and
cigarette box from the sideboard and put it before his father-in-law,
and for a time the preliminaries of smoking occupied them both. Then
Capes flittered to the hearthrug and poked the fire, stood up, and
turned about. “Ann Veronica is looking very well, don’t you think?” he
said, a little awkwardly.

“Very,” said Mr. Stanley. “Very,” and cracked a walnut appreciatively.

“Life--things--I don’t think her prospects now--Hopeful outlook.”

“You were in a difficult position,” Mr. Stanley pronounced, and seemed
to hesitate whether he had not gone too far. He looked at his port wine
as though that tawny ruby contained the solution of the matter. “All’s
well that ends well,” he said; “and the less one says about things the
better.”

“Of course,” said Capes, and threw a newly lit cigar into the fire
through sheer nervousness. “Have some more port wine, sir?”

“It’s a very sound wine,” said Mr. Stanley, consenting with dignity.

“Ann Veronica has never looked quite so well, I think,” said Capes,
clinging, because of a preconceived plan, to the suppressed topic.



Part 3


At last the evening was over, and Capes and his wife had gone down to
see Mr. Stanley and his sister into a taxicab, and had waved an amiable
farewell from the pavement steps.

“Great dears!” said Capes, as the vehicle passed out of sight.

“Yes, aren’t they?” said Ann Veronica, after a thoughtful pause. And
then, “They seem changed.”

“Come in out of the cold,” said Capes, and took her arm.

“They seem smaller, you know, even physically smaller,” she said.

“You’ve grown out of them.... Your aunt liked the pheasant.”

“She liked everything. Did you hear us through the archway, talking
cookery?”

They went up by the lift in silence.

“It’s odd,” said Ann Veronica, re-entering the flat.

“What’s odd?”

“Oh, everything!”

She shivered, and went to the fire and poked it. Capes sat down in the
arm-chair beside her.

“Life’s so queer,” she said, kneeling and looking into the flames. “I
wonder--I wonder if we shall ever get like that.”

She turned a firelit face to her husband. “Did you tell him?”

Capes smiled faintly. “Yes.”

“How?”

“Well--a little clumsily.”

“But how?”

“I poured him out some port wine, and I said--let me see--oh, ‘You are
going to be a grandfather!’”

“Yes. Was he pleased?”

“Calmly! He said--you won’t mind my telling you?”

“Not a bit.”

“He said, ‘Poor Alice has got no end!’”

“Alice’s are different,” said Ann Veronica, after an interval. “Quite
different. She didn’t choose her man.... Well, I told aunt....
Husband of mine, I think we have rather overrated the emotional capacity
of those--those dears.”

“What did your aunt say?”

“She didn’t even kiss me. She said”--Ann Veronica shivered again--“‘I
hope it won’t make you uncomfortable, my dear’--like that--‘and
whatever you do, do be careful of your hair!’ I think--I judge from
her manner--that she thought it was just a little indelicate of
us--considering everything; but she tried to be practical and
sympathetic and live down to our standards.”

Capes looked at his wife’s unsmiling face.

“Your father,” he said, “remarked that all’s well that ends well, and
that he was disposed to let bygones be bygones. He then spoke with a
certain fatherly kindliness of the past....”

“And my heart has ached for him!”

“Oh, no doubt it cut him at the time. It must have cut him.”

“We might even have--given it up for them!”

“I wonder if we could.”

“I suppose all IS well that ends well. Somehow to-night--I don’t know.”

“I suppose so. I’m glad the old sore is assuaged. Very glad. But if we
had gone under--!”

They regarded one another silently, and Ann Veronica had one of her
penetrating flashes.

“We are not the sort that goes under,” said Ann Veronica, holding her
hands so that the red reflections vanished from her eyes. “We settled
long ago--we’re hard stuff. We’re hard stuff!”

Then she went on: “To think that is my father! Oh, my dear! He stood
over me like a cliff; the thought of him nearly turned me aside from
everything we have done. He was the social order; he was law and wisdom.
And they come here, and they look at our furniture to see if it is good;
and they are not glad, it does not stir them, that at last, at last we
can dare to have children.”

She dropped back into a crouching attitude and began to weep. “Oh,
my dear!” she cried, and suddenly flung herself, kneeling, into her
husband’s arms.

“Do you remember the mountains? Do you remember how we loved one
another? How intensely we loved one another! Do you remember the light
on things and the glory of things? I’m greedy, I’m greedy! I want
children like the mountains and life like the sky. Oh! and love--love!
We’ve had so splendid a time, and fought our fight and won. And it’s
like the petals falling from a flower. Oh, I’ve loved love, dear! I’ve
loved love and you, and the glory of you; and the great time is over,
and I have to go carefully and bear children, and--take care of my
hair--and when I am done with that I shall be an old woman. The petals
have fallen--the red petals we loved so. We’re hedged about with
discretions--and all this furniture--and successes! We are successful
at last! Successful! But the mountains, dear! We won’t forget the
mountains, dear, ever. That shining slope of snow, and how we talked of
death! We might have died! Even when we are old, when we are rich as we
may be, we won’t forget the tune when we cared nothing for anything but
the joy of one another, when we risked everything for one another, when
all the wrappings and coverings seemed to have fallen from life and left
it light and fire. Stark and stark! Do you remember it all?... Say
you will never forget! That these common things and secondary things
sha’n’t overwhelm us. These petals! I’ve been wanting to cry all the
evening, cry here on your shoulder for my petals. Petals!... Silly
woman!... I’ve never had these crying fits before....”

“Blood of my heart!” whispered Capes, holding her close to him. “I know.
I understand.”





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