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Ann Veronica by H. G. Wells

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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--l 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. l 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

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