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A MODERN LOVE STORY
BY H. G. WELLS
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
VII. IDEALS AND A REALITY
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."
CHAPTER THE FIRST
ANN VERONICA TALKS TO HER FATHER
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
"--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
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.
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
"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
"I thought I was old enough," she gasped, between laughter and
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?"
"It's important. If I can't talk anywhere else--I DO want an
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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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."
"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
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
"There was a time when girls didn't get these extravagant ideas."
"Lydia Languish, for example. Anyhow, they didn't run about so
"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
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!"
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
"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
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
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
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
"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?"
"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
"Are you coming to the Fadden Dance, Ann Veronica?" asked
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"But is that really so?" said Ann Veronica.
"It has been proved," said Miss Miniver, and added, "by American
"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. .
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
"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!"
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
"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.
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
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
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
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
dread-fully--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,
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
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
"They're very good this year," said Ann Veronica, avoiding
"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
"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
"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'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
CHAPTER THE THIRD
THE MORNING OF THE CRISIS
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.
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
"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