H. G. Wells
Part 4 out of 7
"I don't see at all how you can be managing," said Miss Stanley,
and Ann Veronica hastened to reply, "I do on very little." Her
mind went back to that treaty.
"And aren't there fees to pay at the Imperial College?" her aunt
was saying--a disagreeable question.
"There are a few fees."
"Then how have you managed?"
"Bother!" said Ann Veronica to herself, and tried not to look
guilty. "I was able to borrow the money."
"Borrow the money! But who lent you the money?"
"A friend," said Ann Veronica.
She felt herself getting into a corner. She sought hastily in
her mind for a plausible answer to an obvious question that
didn't come. Her aunt went off at a tangent. "But my dear Ann
Veronica, you will be getting into debt!"
Ann Veronica at once, and with a feeling of immense relief, took
refuge in her dignity. "I think, aunt," she said, "you might
trust to my self-respect to keep me out of that."
For the moment her aunt could not think of any reply to this
counterstroke, and Ann Veronica followed up her advantage by a
sudden inquiry about her abandoned boots.
But in the train going home her aunt reasoned it out.
"If she is borrowing money," said Miss Stanley, "she MUST be
getting into debt. It's all nonsense. . . ."
It was by imperceptible degrees that Capes became important in
Ann Veronica's thoughts. But then he began to take steps, and,
at last, strides to something more and more like predominance.
She began by being interested in his demonstrations and his
biological theory, then she was attracted by his character, and
then, in a manner, she fell in love with his mind.
One day they were at tea in the laboratory and a discussion
sprang up about the question of women's suffrage. The movement
was then in its earlier militant phases, and one of the women
only, Miss Garvice, opposed it, though Ann Veronica was disposed
to be lukewarm. But a man's opposition always inclined her to
the suffrage side; she had a curious feeling of loyalty in seeing
the more aggressive women through. Capes was irritatingly
judicial in the matter, neither absurdly against, in which case
one might have smashed him, or hopelessly undecided, but tepidly
sceptical. Miss Klegg and the youngest girl made a vigorous
attack on Miss Garvice, who had said she thought women lost
something infinitely precious by mingling in the conflicts of
life. The discussion wandered, and was punctuated with bread and
butter. Capes was inclined to support Miss Klegg until Miss
Garvice cornered him by quoting him against himself, and citing a
recent paper in the Nineteenth Century, in which, following
Atkinson, he had made a vigorous and damaging attack on Lester
Ward's case for the primitive matriarchate and the predominant
importance of the female throughout the animal kingdom.
Ann Veronica was not aware of this literary side of her teacher;
she had a little tinge of annoyance at Miss Garvice's advantage.
Afterwards she hunted up the article in question, and it seemed
to her quite delightfully written and argued. Capes had the gift
of easy, unaffected writing, coupled with very clear and logical
thinking, and to follow his written thought gave her the
sensation of cutting things with a perfectly new, perfectly sharp
knife. She found herself anxious to read more of him, and the
next Wednesday she went to the British Museum and hunted first
among the half-crown magazines for his essays and then through
various scientific quarterlies for his research papers. The
ordinary research paper, when it is not extravagant theorizing,
is apt to be rather sawdusty in texture, and Ann Veronica was
delighted to find the same easy and confident luminosity that
distinguished his work for the general reader. She returned to
these latter, and at the back of her mind, as she looked them
over again, was a very distinct resolve to quote them after the
manner of Miss Garvice at the very first opportunity.
When she got home to her lodgings that evening she reflected with
something like surprise upon her half-day's employment, and
decided that it showed nothing more nor less than that Capes was
a really very interesting person indeed.
And then she fell into a musing about Capes. She wondered why he
was so distinctive, so unlike other men, and it never occurred to
her for some time that this might be because she was falling in
love with him.
Yet Ann Veronica was thinking a very great deal about love. A
dozen shynesses and intellectual barriers were being outflanked
or broken down in her mind. All the influences about her worked
with her own predisposition and against all the traditions of her
home and upbringing to deal with the facts of life in an
unabashed manner. Ramage, by a hundred skilful hints had led her
to realize that the problem of her own life was inseparably
associated with, and indeed only one special case of, the
problems of any woman's life, and that the problem of a woman's
life is love.
"A young man comes into life asking how best he may place
himself," Ramage had said; "a woman comes into life thinking
instinctively how best she may give herself."
She noted that as a good saying, and it germinated and spread
tentacles of explanation through her brain. The biological
laboratory, perpetually viewing life as pairing and breeding and
selection, and again pairing and breeding, seemed only a
translated generalization of that assertion. And all the talk of
the Miniver people and the Widgett people seemed always to be
like a ship in adverse weather on the lee shore of love. "For
seven years," said Ann Veronica, "I have been trying to keep
myself from thinking about love. . . .
"I have been training myself to look askance at beautiful
She gave herself permission now to look at this squarely. She
made herself a private declaration of liberty. "This is mere
nonsense, mere tongue-tied fear!" she said. "This is the slavery
of the veiled life. I might as well be at Morningside Park.
This business of love is the supreme affair in life, it is the
woman's one event and crisis that makes up for all her other
restrictions, and I cower--as we all cower--with a blushing and
paralyzed mind until it overtakes me! . . .
"I'll be hanged if I do."
But she could not talk freely about love, she found, for all that
Ramage seemed always fencing about the forbidden topic, probing
for openings, and she wondered why she did not give him them.
But something instinctive prevented that, and with the finest
resolve not to be "silly" and prudish she found that whenever he
became at all bold in this matter she became severely scientific
and impersonal, almost entomological indeed, in her method; she
killed every remark as he made it and pinned it out for
examination. In the biological laboratory that was their
invincible tone. But she disapproved more and more of her own
mental austerity. Here was an experienced man of the world, her
friend, who evidently took a great interest in this supreme topic
and was willing to give her the benefit of his experiences! Why
should not she be at her ease with him? Why should not she know
things? It is hard enough anyhow for a human being to learn, she
decided, but it is a dozen times more difficult than it need be
because of all this locking of the lips and thoughts.
She contrived to break down the barriers of shyness at last in
one direction, and talked one night of love and the facts of love
with Miss Miniver.
But Miss Miniver was highly unsatisfactory. She repeated phrases
of Mrs. Goopes's: "Advanced people," she said, with an air of
great elucidation, "tend to GENERALIZE love. 'He prayeth best
who loveth best--all things both great and small.' For my own
part I go about loving."
"Yes, but men;" said Ann Veronica, plunging; "don't you want the
love of men?"
For some seconds they remained silent, both shocked by this
Miss Miniver looked over her glasses at her friend almost
balefully. "NO!" she said, at last, with something in her voice
that reminded Ann Veronica of a sprung tennis-racket.
"I've been through all that," she went on, after a pause.
She spoke slowly. "I have never yet met a man whose intellect I
Ann Veronica looked at her thoughtfully for a moment, and decided
to persist on principle.
"But if you had?" she said.
"I can't imagine it," said Miss Miniver. "And think, think"--her
voice sank--"of the horrible coarseness!"
"What coarseness?" said Ann Veronica.
"My dear Vee!" Her voice became very low. "Don't you know?"
"Oh! I know--"
"Well--" Her face was an unaccustomed pink.
Ann Veronica ignored her friend's confusion.
"Don't we all rather humbug about the coarseness? All we women, I
mean," said she. She decided to go on, after a momentary halt.
"We pretend bodies are ugly. Really they are the most beautiful
things in the world. We pretend we never think of everything
that makes us what we are."
"No," cried Miss Miniver, almost vehemently. "You are wrong! I
did not think you thought such things. Bodies! Bodies! Horrible
things! We are souls. Love lives on a higher plane. We are not
animals. If ever I did meet a man I could love, I should love
him" --her voice dropped again--"platonically."
She made her glasses glint. "Absolutely platonically," she said.
"Soul to soul."
She turned her face to the fire, gripped her hands upon her
elbows, and drew her thin shoulders together in a shrug. "Ugh!"
Ann Veronica watched her and wondered about her.
"We do not want the men," said Miss Miniver; "we do not want
them, with their sneers and loud laughter. Empty, silly, coarse
brutes. Brutes! They are the brute still with us! Science some
day may teach us a way to do without them. It is only the women
matter. It is not every sort of creature needs--these males. Some
have no males."
"There's green-fly," admitted Ann Veronica. "And even then--"
The conversation hung for a thoughtful moment.
Ann Veronica readjusted her chin on her hand. "I wonder which of
us is right," she said. "I haven't a scrap--of this sort of
"Tolstoy is so good about this," said Miss Miniver, regardless of
her friend's attitude. "He sees through it all. The Higher Life
and the Lower. He sees men all defiled by coarse thoughts,
coarse ways of living cruelties. Simply because they are
hardened by--by bestiality, and poisoned by the juices of meat
slain in anger and fermented drinks--fancy! drinks that have been
swarmed in by thousands and thousands of horrible little
"It's yeast," said Ann Veronica--"a vegetable."
"It's all the same," said Miss Miniver. "And then they are
swollen up and inflamed and drunken with matter. They are
blinded to all fine and subtle things--they look at life with
bloodshot eyes and dilated nostrils. They are arbitrary and
unjust and dogmatic and brutish and lustful."
"But do you really think men's minds are altered by the food they
"I know it," said Miss Miniver. "Experte credo. When I am
leading a true life, a pure and simple life free of all
stimulants and excitements, I think--I think --oh! with pellucid
clearness; but if I so much as take a mouthful of meat--or
anything--the mirror is all blurred."
Then, arising she knew not how, like a new-born appetite, came a
craving in Ann Veronica for the sight and sound of beauty.
It was as if her aesthetic sense had become inflamed. Her mind
turned and accused itself of having been cold and hard. She
began to look for beauty and discover it in unexpected aspects
and places. Hitherto she had seen it chiefly in pictures and
other works of art, incidentally, and as a thing taken out of
life. Now the sense of beauty was spreading to a multitude of
hitherto unsuspected aspects of the world about her.
The thought of beauty became an obsession. It interwove with her
biological work. She found herself asking more and more
curiously, "Why, on the principle of the survival of the fittest,
have I any sense of beauty at all?" That enabled her to go on
thinking about beauty when it seemed to her right that she should
be thinking about biology.
She was very greatly exercised by the two systems of values--the
two series of explanations that her comparative anatomy on the
one hand and her sense of beauty on the other, set going in her
thoughts. She could not make up her mind which was the finer,
more elemental thing, which gave its values to the other. Was it
that the struggle of things to survive produced as a sort of
necessary by-product these intense preferences and appreciations,
or was it that some mystical outer thing, some great force, drove
life beautyward, even in spite of expediency, regardless of
survival value and all the manifest discretions of life? She
went to Capes with that riddle and put it to him very carefully
and clearly, and he talked well--he always talked at some length
when she took a difficulty to him--and sent her to a various
literature upon the markings of butterflies, the incomprehensible
elaboration and splendor of birds of Paradise and humming-birds'
plumes, the patterning of tigers, and a leopard's spots. He was
interesting and inconclusive, and the original papers to which he
referred her discursive were at best only suggestive. Afterward,
one afternoon, he hovered about her, and came and sat beside her
and talked of beauty and the riddle of beauty for some time. He
displayed a quite unprofessional vein of mysticism in the matter.
He contrasted with Russell, whose intellectual methods were, so
to speak, sceptically dogmatic. Their talk drifted to the beauty
of music, and they took that up again at tea-time.
But as the students sat about Miss Garvice's tea-pot and drank
tea or smoked cigarettes, the talk got away from Capes. The
Scotchman informed Ann Veronica that your view of beauty
necessarily depended on your metaphysical premises, and the young
man with the Russell-like hair became anxious to distinguish
himself by telling the Japanese student that Western art was
symmetrical and Eastern art asymmetrical, and that among the
higher organisms the tendency was toward an external symmetry
veiling an internal want of balance. Ann Veronica decided she
would have to go on with Capes another day, and, looking up,
discovered him sitting on a stool with his hands in his pockets
and his head a little on one side, regarding her with a
thoughtful expression. She met his eye for a moment in curious
He turned his eyes and stared at Miss Garvice like one who wakes
from a reverie, and then got up and strolled down the laboratory
toward his refuge, the preparation-room.
Then one day a little thing happened that clothed itself in
She had been working upon a ribbon of microtome sections of the
developing salamander, and he came to see what she had made of
them. She stood up and he sat down at the microscope, and for a
time he was busy scrutinizing one section after another. She
looked down at him and saw that the sunlight was gleaming from
his cheeks, and that all over his cheeks was a fine golden down
of delicate hairs. And at the sight something leaped within her.
Something changed for her.
She became aware of his presence as she had never been aware of
any human being in her life before. She became aware of the
modelling of his ear, of the muscles of his neck and the textures
of the hair that came off his brow, the soft minute curve of
eyelid that she could just see beyond his brow; she perceived all
these familiar objects as though they were acutely beautiful
things. They WERE, she realized, acutely beautiful things. Her
sense followed the shoulders under his coat, down to where his
flexible, sensitive-looking hand rested lightly upon the table.
She felt him as something solid and strong and trustworthy beyond
measure. The perception of him flooded her being.
He got up. "Here's something rather good," he said, and with a
start and an effort she took his place at the microscope, while
he stood beside her and almost leaning over her.
She found she was trembling at his nearness and full of a
thrilling dread that he might touch her. She pulled herself
together and put her eye to the eye-piece.
"You see the pointer?" he asked.
"I see the pointer," she said.
"It's like this," he said, and dragged a stool beside her and sat
down with his elbow four inches from hers and made a sketch.
Then he got up and left her.
She had a feeling at his departure as of an immense cavity, of
something enormously gone; she could not tell whether it was
infinite regret or infinite relief. . . .
But now Ann Veronica knew what was the matter with her.
And as she sat on her bed that night, musing and half-undressed,
she began to run one hand down her arm and scrutinize the soft
flow of muscle under her skin. She thought of the marvellous
beauty of skin, and all the delightfulness of living texture. Oh
the back of her arm she found the faintest down of hair in the
world. "Etherialized monkey," she said. She held out her arm
straight before her, and turned her hand this way and that.
"Why should one pretend?" she whispered. "Why should one
"Think of all the beauty in the world that is covered up and
She glanced shyly at the mirror above her dressing-table, and
then about her at the furniture, as though it might penetrate to
the thoughts that peeped in her mind.
"I wonder," said Ann Veronica at last, "if I am beautiful? I
wonder if I shall ever shine like a light, like a translucent
"I suppose girls and women have prayed for this, have come to
this-- In Babylon, in Nineveh.
"Why shouldn't one face the facts of one's self?"
She stood up. She posed herself before her mirror and surveyed
herself with gravely thoughtful, gravely critical, and yet
admiring eyes. "And, after all, I am just one common person!"
She watched the throb of the arteries in the stem of her neck,
and put her hand at last gently and almost timidly to where her
heart beat beneath her breast.
The realization that she was in love flooded Ann Veronica's mind,
and altered the quality of all its topics.
She began to think persistently of Capes, and it seemed to her
now that for some weeks at least she must have been thinking
persistently of him unawares. She was surprised to find how
stored her mind was with impressions and memories of him, how
vividly she remembered his gestures and little things that he had
said. It occurred to her that it was absurd and wrong to be so
continuously thinking of one engrossing topic, and she made a
strenuous effort to force her mind to other questions.
But it was extraordinary what seemingly irrelevant things could
restore her to the thought of Capes again. And when she went to
sleep, then always Capes became the novel and wonderful guest of
For a time it really seemed all-sufficient to her that she should
love. That Capes should love her seemed beyond the compass of
her imagination. Indeed, she did not want to think of him as
loving her. She wanted to think of him as her beloved person, to
be near him and watch him, to have him going about, doing this
and that, saying this and that, unconscious of her, while she too
remained unconscious of herself. To think of him as loving her
would make all that different. Then he would turn his face to
her, and she would have to think of herself in his eyes. She
would become defensive--what she did would be the thing that
mattered. He would require things of her, and she would be
passionately concerned to meet his requirements. Loving was
better than that. Loving was self-forgetfulness, pure delighting
in another human being. She felt that with Capes near to her she
would be content always to go on loving.
She went next day to the schools, and her world seemed all made
of happiness just worked up roughly into shapes and occasions and
duties. She found she could do her microscope work all the
better for being in love. She winced when first she heard the
preparation-room door open and Capes came down the laboratory;
but when at last he reached her she was self-possessed. She put
a stool for him at a little distance from her own, and after he
had seen the day's work he hesitated, and then plunged into a
resumption of their discussion about beauty.
"I think," he said, "I was a little too mystical about beauty the
"I like the mystical way," she said.
"Our business here is the right way. I've been thinking, you
know-- I'm not sure that primarily the perception of beauty isn't
just intensity of feeling free from pain; intensity of perception
without any tissue destruction."
"I like the mystical way better," said Ann Veronica, and thought.
"A number of beautiful things are not intense."
"But delicacy, for example, may be intensely perceived."
"But why is one face beautiful and another not?" objected Ann
Veronica; "on your theory any two faces side by side in the
sunlight ought to be equally beautiful. One must get them with
exactly the same intensity."
He did not agree with that. "I don't mean simply intensity of
sensation. I said intensity of perception. You may perceive
harmony, proportion, rhythm, intensely. They are things faint
and slight in themselves, as physical facts, but they are like
the detonator of a bomb: they let loose the explosive. There's
the internal factor as well as the external. . . . I don't know
if I express myself clearly. I mean that the point is that
vividness of perception is the essential factor of beauty; but,
of course, vividness may be created by a whisper."
"That brings us back," said Ann Veronica, "to the mystery. Why
should some things and not others open the deeps?"
"Well, that might, after all, be an outcome of selection --like
the preference for blue flowers, which are not nearly so bright
as yellow, of some insects."
"That doesn't explain sunsets."
"Not quite so easily as it explains an insect alighting on
colored paper. But perhaps if people didn't like clear, bright,
healthy eyes--which is biologically understandable--they couldn't
like precious stones. One thing may be a necessary collateral of
the others. And, after all, a fine clear sky of bright colors is
the signal to come out of hiding and rejoice and go on with
"H'm!" said Ann Veronica, and shook her head.
Capes smiled cheerfully with his eyes meeting hers. "I throw it
out in passing," he said. "What I am after is that beauty isn't
a special inserted sort of thing; that's my idea. It's just
life, pure life, life nascent, running clear and strong."
He stood up to go on to the next student.
"There's morbid beauty," said Ann Veronica.
"I wonder if there is!" said Capes, and paused, and then bent
down over the boy who wore his hair like Russell.
Ann Veronica surveyed his sloping back for a moment, and then
drew her microscope toward her. Then for a time she sat very
still. She felt that she had passed a difficult corner, and that
now she could go on talking with him again, just as she had been
used to do before she understood what was the matter with her. .
She had one idea, she found, very clear in her mind--that she
would get a Research Scholarship, and so contrive another year in
"Now I see what everything means," said Ann Veronica to herself;
and it really felt for some days as though the secret of the
universe, that had been wrapped and hidden from her so
obstinately, was at last altogether displayed.
CHAPTER THE NINTH
One afternoon, soon after Ann Veronica's great discovery, a
telegram came into the laboratory for her. It ran:
| Bored | and | nothing | to | do |
| will | you | dine | with | me |
| to-night | somewhere | and | talk | I |
| shall | be | grateful | Ramage | |
Ann Veronica was rather pleased by this. She had not seen Ramage
for ten or eleven days, and she was quite ready for a gossip with
him. And now her mind was so full of the thought that she was in
love--in love!--that marvellous state! that I really believe she
had some dim idea of talking to him about it. At any rate, it
would be good to hear him saying the sort of things he
did--perhaps now she would grasp them better--with this
world--shaking secret brandishing itself about inside her head
within a yard of him.
She was sorry to find Ramage a little disposed to be melancholy.
"I have made over seven hundred pounds in the last week," he
"That's exhilarating," said Ann Veronica.
"Not a bit of it," he said; "it's only a score in a game."
"It's a score you can buy all sorts of things with."
"Nothing that one wants."
He turned to the waiter, who held a wine-card. "Nothing can cheer
me," he said, "except champagne." He meditated. "This," he said,
and then: "No! Is this sweeter? Very well."
"Everything goes well with me," he said, folding his arms under
him and regarding Ann Veronica with the slightly projecting eyes
wide open. "And I'm not happy. I believe I'm in love."
He leaned back for his soup.
Presently he resumed: "I believe I must be in love."
"You can't be that," said Ann Veronica, wisely.
"How do you know?"
"Well, it isn't exactly a depressing state, is it?"
"YOU don't know."
"One has theories," said Ann Veronica, radiantly.
"Oh, theories! Being in love is a fact."
"It ought to make one happy."
"It's an unrest--a longing-- What's that?" The waiter had
intervened. "Parmesan--take it away!"
He glanced at Ann Veronica's face, and it seemed to him that she
really was exceptionally radiant. He wondered why she thought
love made people happy, and began to talk of the smilax and pinks
that adorned the table. He filled her glass with champagne.
"You MUST," he said, "because of my depression."
They were eating quails when they returned to the topic of love.
"What made you think" he said, abruptly, with the gleam of
avidity in his face, "that love makes people happy?"
"I know it must."
He was, she thought, a little too insistent. "Women know these
things by instinct," she answered.
"I wonder," he said, "if women do know things by instinct? I
have my doubts about feminine instinct. It's one of our
conventional superstitions. A woman is supposed to know when a
man is in love with her. Do you think she does?"
Ann Veronica picked among her salad with a judicial expression of
face. "I think she would," she decided.
"Ah!" said Ramage, impressively.
Ann Veronica looked up at him and found him regarding her with
eyes that were almost woebegone, and into which, indeed, he was
trying to throw much more expression than they could carry.
There was a little pause between them, full for Ann Veronica of
rapid elusive suspicions and intimations.
"Perhaps one talks nonsense about a woman's instinct," she said.
"It's a way of avoiding explanations. And girls and women,
perhaps, are different. I don't know. I don't suppose a girl
can tell if a man is in love with her or not in love with her."
Her mind went off to Capes. Her thoughts took words for
themselves. "She can't. I suppose it depends on her own state of
mind. If one wants a thing very much, perhaps one is inclined to
think one can't have it. I suppose if one were to love some one,
one would feel doubtful. And if one were to love some one very
much, it's just so that one would be blindest, just when one
wanted most to see."
She stopped abruptly, afraid that Ramage might be able to infer
Capes from the things she had said, and indeed his face was very
"Yes?" he said.
Ann Veronica blushed. "That's all," she said "I'm afraid I'm a
little confused about these things."
Ramage looked at her, and then fell into deep reflection as the
waiter came to paragraph their talk again.
"Have you ever been to the opera, Ann Veronica?" said Ramage.
"Once or twice."
"Shall we go now?"
"I think I would like to listen to music. What is there?"
"I've never heard Tristan and Isolde."
"That settles it. We'll go. There's sure to be a place
"It's rather jolly of you," said Ann Veronica.
"It's jolly of you to come," said Ramage.
So presently they got into a hansom together, and Ann Veronica
sat back feeling very luxurious and pleasant, and looked at the
light and stir and misty glitter of the street traffic from under
slightly drooping eyelids, while Ramage sat closer to her than he
need have done, and glanced ever and again at her face, and made
to speak and said nothing. And when they got to Covent Garden
Ramage secured one of the little upper boxes, and they came into
it as the overture began.
Ann Veronica took off her jacket and sat down in the corner
chair, and leaned forward to look into the great hazy warm brown
cavity of the house, and Ramage placed his chair to sit beside
her and near her, facing the stage. The music took hold of her
slowly as her eyes wandered from the indistinct still ranks of
the audience to the little busy orchestra with its quivering
violins, its methodical movements of brown and silver
instruments, its brightly lit scores and shaded lights. She had
never been to the opera before except as one of a congested mass
of people in the cheaper seats, and with backs and heads and
women's hats for the frame of the spectacle; there was by
contrast a fine large sense of space and ease in her present
position. The curtain rose out of the concluding bars of the
overture and revealed Isolde on the prow of the barbaric ship.
The voice of the young seaman came floating down from the
masthead, and the story of the immortal lovers had begun. She
knew the story only imperfectly, and followed it now with a
passionate and deepening interest. The splendid voices sang on
from phase to phase of love's unfolding, the ship drove across
the sea to the beating rhythm of the rowers. The lovers broke
into passionate knowledge of themselves and each other, and then,
a jarring intervention, came King Mark amidst the shouts of the
sailormen, and stood beside them.
The curtain came festooning slowly down, the music ceased, the
lights in the auditorium glowed out, and Ann Veronica woke out of
her confused dream of involuntary and commanding love in a glory
of sound and colors to discover that Ramage was sitting close
beside her with one hand resting lightly on her waist. She made a
quick movement, and the hand fell away.
"By God! Ann Veronica," he said, sighing deeply. "This stirs
She sat quite still looking at him.
"I wish you and I had drunk that love potion," he said.
She found no ready reply to that, and he went on: "This music is
the food of love. It makes me desire life beyond measure. Life!
Life and love! It makes me want to be always young, always
strong, always devoting my life--and dying splendidly."
"It is very beautiful," said Ann Veronica in a low tone.
They said no more for a moment, and each was now acutely aware of
the other. Ann Veronica was excited and puzzled, with a sense of
a strange and disconcerting new light breaking over her relations
with Ramage. She had never thought of him at all in that way
before. It did not shock her; it amazed her, interested her
beyond measure. But also this must not go on. She felt he was
going to say something more--something still more personal and
intimate. She was curious, and at the same time clearly resolved
she must not hear it. She felt she must get him talking upon some
impersonal theme at any cost. She snatched about in her mind.
"What is the exact force of a motif?" she asked at random.
"Before I heard much Wagnerian music I heard enthusiastic
descriptions of it from a mistress I didn't like at school. She
gave me an impression of a sort of patched quilt; little bits of
patterned stuff coming up again and again."
She stopped with an air of interrogation.
Ramage looked at her for a long and discriminating interval
without speaking. He seemed to be hesitating between two courses
of action. "I don't know much about the technique of music," he
said at last, with his eyes upon her. "It's a matter of feeling
He contradicted himself by plunging into an exposition of motifs.
By a tacit agreement they ignored the significant thing between
them, ignored the slipping away of the ground on which they had
stood together hitherto. . . .
All through the love music of the second act, until the hunting
horns of Mark break in upon the dream, Ann Veronica's
consciousness was flooded with the perception of a man close
beside her, preparing some new thing to say to her, preparing,
perhaps, to touch her, stretching hungry invisible tentacles
about her. She tried to think what she should do in this
eventuality or that. Her mind had been and was full of the
thought of Capes, a huge generalized Capes-lover. And in some
incomprehensible way, Ramage was confused with Capes; she had a
grotesque disposition to persuade herself that this was really
Capes who surrounded her, as it were, with wings of desire. The
fact that it was her trusted friend making illicit love to her
remained, in spite of all her effort, an insignificant thing in
her mind. The music confused and distracted her, and made her
struggle against a feeling of intoxication. Her head swam. That
was the inconvenience of it; her head was swimming. The music
throbbed into the warnings that preceded the king's irruption.
Abruptly he gripped her wrist. "I love you, Ann Veronica. I
love you--with all my heart and soul."
She put her face closer to his. She felt the warm nearness of
his. "DON'T!" she said, and wrenched her wrist from his
"My God! Ann Veronica," he said, struggling to keep his hold
upon her; "my God! Tell me--tell me now--tell me you love me!"
His expression was as it were rapaciously furtive. She answered
in whispers, for there was the white arm of a woman in the next
box peeping beyond the partition within a yard of him.
"My hand! This isn't the place."
He released her hand and talked in eager undertones against an
auditory background of urgency and distress.
"Ann Veronica," he said, "I tell you this is love. I love the
soles of your feet. I love your very breath. I have tried not to
tell you--tried to be simply your friend. It is no good. I want
you. I worship you. I would do anything--I would give anything
to make you mine. . . . Do you hear me? Do you hear what I am
saying? . . . Love!"
He held her arm and abandoned it again at her quick defensive
movement. For a long time neither spoke again.
She sat drawn together in her chair in the corner of the box, at
a loss what to say or do--afraid, curious, perplexed. It seemed
to her that it was her duty to get up and clamor to go home to
her room, to protest against his advances as an insult. But she
did not in the least want to do that. These sweeping dignities
were not within the compass of her will; she remembered she liked
Ramage, and owed things to him, and she was interested--she was
profoundly interested. He was in love with her! She tried to
grasp all the welter of values in the situation simultaneously,
and draw some conclusion from their disorder.
He began to talk again in quick undertones that she could not
"I have loved you," he was saying, "ever since you sat on that
gate and talked. I have always loved you. I don't care what
divides us. I don't care what else there is in the world. I
want you beyond measure or reckoning. . . ."
His voice rose and fell amidst the music and the singing of
Tristan and King Mark, like a voice heard in a badly connected
telephone. She stared at his pleading face.
She turned to the stage, and Tristan was wounded in Kurvenal's
arms, with Isolde at his feet, and King Mark, the incarnation of
masculine force and obligation, the masculine creditor of love
and beauty, stood over him, and the second climax was ending in
wreaths and reek of melodies; and then the curtain was coming
down in a series of short rushes, the music had ended, and the
people were stirring and breaking out into applause, and the
lights of the auditorium were resuming. The lighting-up pierced
the obscurity of the box, and Ramage stopped his urgent flow of
words abruptly and sat back. This helped to restore Ann
She turned her eyes to him again, and saw her late friend and
pleasant and trusted companion, who had seen fit suddenly to
change into a lover, babbling interesting inacceptable things.
He looked eager and flushed and troubled. His eyes caught at
hers with passionate inquiries. "Tell me," he said; "speak to
me." She realized it was possible to be sorry for him--acutely
sorry for the situation. Of course this thing was absolutely
impossible. But she was disturbed, mysteriously disturbed. She
remembered abruptly that she was really living upon his money.
She leaned forward and addressed him.
"Mr. Ramage," she said, "please don't talk like this."
He made to speak and did not.
"I don't want you to do it, to go on talking to me. I don't want
to hear you. If I had known that you had meant to talk like this
I wouldn't have come here."
"But how can I help it? How can I keep silence?"
"Please!" she insisted. "Please not now."
"I MUST talk with you. I must say what I have to say!"
"But not now--not here."
"It came," he said. "I never planned it-- And now I have
She felt acutely that he was entitled to explanations, and as
acutely that explanations were impossible that night. She wanted
"Mr. Ramage," she said, "I can't-- Not now. Will you please--
Not now, or I must go."
He stared at her, trying to guess at the mystery of her thoughts.
"You don't want to go?"
"No. But I must--I ought--"
"I MUST talk about this. Indeed I must."
"But I love you. I love you--unendurably."
"Then don't talk to me now. I don't want you to talk to me now.
There is a place-- This isn't the place. You have misunderstood.
I can't explain--"
They regarded one another, each blinded to the other. "Forgive
me," he decided to say at last, and his voice had a little quiver
of emotion, and he laid his hand on hers upon her knee. "I am
the most foolish of men. I was stupid--stupid and impulsive
beyond measure to burst upon you in this way. I--I am a love-
sick idiot, and not accountable for my actions. Will you forgive
me--if I say no more?"
She looked at him with perplexed, earnest eyes.
"Pretend," he said, "that all I have said hasn't been said. And
let us go on with our evening. Why not? Imagine I've had a fit
of hysteria--and that I've come round."
"Yes," she said, and abruptly she liked him enormously. She felt
this was the sensible way out of this oddly sinister situation.
He still watched her and questioned her.
"And let us have a talk about this--some other time. Somewhere,
where we can talk without interruption. Will you?"
She thought, and it seemed to him she had never looked so
self-disciplined and deliberate and beautiful. "Yes," she said,
"that is what we ought to do." But now she doubted again of the
quality of the armistice they had just made.
He had a wild impulse to shout. "Agreed," he said with queer
exaltation, and his grip tightened on her hand. "And to-night we
"We are friends," said Ann Veronica, and drew her hand quickly
away from him.
"To-night we are as we have always been. Except that this music
we have been swimming in is divine. While I have been pestering
you, have you heard it? At least, you heard the first act. And
all the third act is love-sick music. Tristan dying and Isolde
coming to crown his death. Wagner had just been in love when he
wrote it all. It begins with that queer piccolo solo. Now I
shall never hear it but what this evening will come pouring back
The lights sank, the prelude to the third act was beginning, the
music rose and fell in crowded intimations of lovers
separated--lovers separated with scars and memories between them,
and the curtain went reefing up to display Tristan lying wounded
on his couch and the shepherd crouching with his pipe.
They had their explanations the next evening, but they were
explanations in quite other terms than Ann Veronica had
anticipated, quite other and much more startling and illuminating
terms. Ramage came for her at her lodgings, and she met him
graciously and kindly as a queen who knows she must needs give
sorrow to a faithful liege. She was unusually soft and gentle in
her manner to him. He was wearing a new silk hat, with a
slightly more generous brim than its predecessor, and it suited
his type of face, robbed his dark eyes a little of their
aggressiveness and gave him a solid and dignified and benevolent
air. A faint anticipation of triumph showed in his manner and a
"We'll go to a place where we can have a private room," he said.
"Then--then we can talk things out."
So they went this time to the Rococo, in Germain Street, and
up-stairs to a landing upon which stood a bald-headed waiter with
whiskers like a French admiral and discretion beyond all limits
in his manner. He seemed to have expected them. He ushered them
with an amiable flat hand into a minute apartment with a little
gas-stove, a silk crimson-covered sofa, and a bright little
table, gay with napery and hot-house flowers.
"Odd little room," said Ann Veronica, dimly apprehending that
"One can talk without undertones, so to speak," said Ramage.
"It's--private." He stood looking at the preparations before
them with an unusual preoccupation of manner, then roused himself
to take her jacket, a little awkwardly, and hand it to the waiter
who hung it in the corner of the room. It appeared he had
already ordered dinner and wine, and the whiskered waiter waved
in his subordinate with the soup forthwith.
"I'm going to talk of indifferent themes," said Ramage, a little
fussily, "until these interruptions of the service are over.
Then--then we shall be together. . . . How did you like Tristan?"
Ann Veronica paused the fraction of a second before her reply
"I thought much of it amazingly beautiful."
"Isn't it. And to think that man got it all out of the poorest
little love-story for a respectable titled lady! Have you read of
"It gives in a nutshell the miracle of art and the imagination.
You get this queer irascible musician quite impossibly and
unfortunately in love with a wealthy patroness, and then out of
his brain comes THIS, a tapestry of glorious music, setting out
love to lovers, lovers who love in spite of all that is wise and
respectable and right."
Ann Veronica thought. She did not want to seem to shrink from
conversation, but all sorts of odd questions were running through
her mind. "I wonder why people in love are so defiant, so
careless of other considerations?"
"The very hares grow brave. I suppose because it IS the chief
thing in life." He stopped and said earnestly: "It is the chief
thing in life, and everything else goes down before it.
Everything, my dear, everything! . . . But we have got to talk
upon indifferent themes until we have done with this blond young
gentleman from Bavaria. . . ."
The dinner came to an end at last, and the whiskered waiter
presented his bill and evacuated the apartment and closed the
door behind him with an almost ostentatious discretion. Ramage
stood up, and suddenly turned the key in the door in an off-hand
manner. "Now," he said, "no one can blunder in upon us. We are
alone and we can say and do what we please. We two." He stood
still, looking at her.
Ann Veronica tried to seem absolutely unconcerned. The turning of
the key startled her, but she did not see how she could make an
objection. She felt she had stepped into a world of unknown
"I have waited for this," he said, and stood quite still, looking
at her until the silence became oppressive.
"Won't you sit down," she said, "and tell me what you want to
say?" Her voice was flat and faint. Suddenly she had become
afraid. She struggled not to be afraid. After all, what could
He was looking at her very hard and earnestly. "Ann Veronica," he
Then before she could say a word to arrest him he was at her
side. "Don't!" she said, weakly, as he had bent down and put one
arm about her and seized her hands with his disengaged hand and
kissed her--kissed her almost upon her lips. He seemed to do ten
things before she could think to do one, to leap upon her and
Ann Veronica's universe, which had never been altogether so
respectful to her as she could have wished, gave a shout and
whirled head over heels. Everything in the world had changed for
her. If hate could kill, Ramage would have been killed by a
flash of hate. "Mr. Ramage!" she cried, and struggled to her
"My darling!" he said, clasping her resolutely in his arms, "my
"Mr. Ramage!" she began, and his mouth sealed hers and his breath
was mixed with her breath. Her eye met his four inches away, and
his was glaring, immense, and full of resolution, a stupendous
monster of an eye.
She shut her lips hard, her jaw hardened, and she set herself to
struggle with him. She wrenched her head away from his grip and
got her arm between his chest and hers. They began to wrestle
fiercely. Each became frightfully aware of the other as a
plastic energetic body, of the strong muscles of neck against
cheek, of hands gripping shoulder-blade and waist. "How dare
you!" she panted, with her world screaming and grimacing insult
at her. "How dare you!"
They were both astonished at the other's strength. Perhaps Ramage
was the more astonished. Ann Veronica had been an ardent hockey
player and had had a course of jiu-jitsu in the High School. Her
defence ceased rapidly to be in any sense ladylike, and became
vigorous and effective; a strand of black hair that had escaped
its hairpins came athwart Ramage's eyes, and then the knuckles of
a small but very hardly clinched fist had thrust itself with
extreme effectiveness and painfulness under his jawbone and ear.
"Let go!" said Ann Veronica, through her teeth, strenuously
inflicting agony, and he cried out sharply and let go and receded
"NOW!" said Ann Veronica. "Why did you dare to do that?"
Each of them stared at the other, set in a universe that had
changed its system of values with kaleidoscopic completeness.
She was flushed, and her eyes were bright and angry; her breath
came sobbing, and her hair was all abroad in wandering strands of
black. He too was flushed and ruffled; one side of his collar had
slipped from its stud and he held a hand to the corner of his
"You vixen!" said Mr. Ramage, speaking the simplest first thought
of his heart.
"You had no right--" panted Ann Veronica.
"Why on earth," he asked, "did you hurt me like that?"
Ann Veronica did her best to think she had not deliberately
attempted to cause him pain. She ignored his question.
"I never dreamt!" she said.
"What on earth did you expect me to do, then?" he asked.
Interpretation came pouring down upon her almost blindingly; she
understood now the room, the waiter, the whole situation. She
understood. She leaped to a world of shabby knowledge, of
furtive base realizations. She wanted to cry out upon herself for
the uttermost fool in existence.
"I thought you wanted to have a talk to me," she said.
"I wanted to make love to you.
"You knew it," he added, in her momentary silence.
"You said you were in love with me," said Ann Veronica; "I wanted
"I said I loved and wanted you." The brutality of his first
astonishment was evaporating. "I am in love with you. You know
I am in love with you. And then you go--and half throttle me. .
. . I believe you've crushed a gland or something. It feels
"I am sorry," said Ann Veronica. "What else was I to do?"
For some seconds she stood watching him. and both were thinking
very quickly. Her state of mind would have seemed altogether
discreditable to her grandmother. She ought to have been disposed
to faint and scream at all these happenings; she ought to have
maintained a front of outraged dignity to veil the sinking of her
heart. I would like to have to tell it so. But indeed that is
not at all a good description of her attitude. She was an
indignant queen, no doubt she was alarmed and disgusted within
limits; but she was highly excited, and there was something, some
low adventurous strain in her being, some element, subtle at
least if base, going about the rioting ways and crowded insurgent
meeting-places of her mind declaring that the whole affair was
after all--they are the only words that express it--a very great
lark indeed. At the bottom of her heart she was not a bit afraid
of Ramage. She had unaccountable gleams of sympathy with and
liking for him. And the grotesquest fact was that she did not so
much loathe, as experience with a quite critical condemnation
this strange sensation of being kissed. Never before had any
human being kissed her lips. . . .
It was only some hours after that these ambiguous elements
evaporated and vanished and loathing came, and she really began
to be thoroughly sick and ashamed of the whole disgraceful
quarrel and scuffle.
He, for his part, was trying to grasp the series of unexpected
reactions that had so wrecked their tete-a-tete. He had meant to
be master of his fate that evening and it had escaped him
altogether. It had, as it were, blown up at the concussion of
his first step. It dawned upon him that he had been abominably
used by Ann Veronica.
"Look here," he said, "I brought you here to make love to you."
"I didn't understand--your idea of making love. You had better
let me go again."
"Not yet," he said. "I do love you. I love you all the more for
the streak of sheer devil in you. . . . You are the most
beautiful, the most desirable thing I have ever met in this
world. It was good to kiss you, even at the price. But, by
Jove! you are fierce! You are like those Roman women who carry
stilettos in their hair."
"I came here to talk reasonably, Mr. Ramage. It is abominable--"
"What is the use of keeping up this note of indignation, Ann
Veronica? Here I am! I am your lover, burning for you. I mean
to have you! Don't frown me off now. Don't go back into
Victorian respectability and pretend you don't know and you can't
think and all the rest of it. One comes at last to the step from
dreams to reality. This is your moment. No one will ever love
you as I love you now. I have been dreaming of your body and you
night after night. I have been imaging--"
"Mr. Ramage, I came here-- I didn't suppose for one moment you
"Nonsense! That is your mistake! You are too intellectual. You
want to do everything with your mind. You are afraid of kisses.
You are afraid of the warmth in your blood. It's just because
all that side of your life hasn't fairly begun."
He made a step toward her.
"Mr. Ramage," she said, sharply, "I have to make it plain to you.
I don't think you understand. I don't love you. I don't. I
can't love you. I love some one else. It is repulsive. It
disgusts me that you should touch me."
He stared in amazement at this new aspect of the situation. "You
love some one else?" he repeated.
"I love some one else. I could not dream of loving you."
And then he flashed his whole conception of the relations of men
and women upon her in one astonishing question. His hand went
with an almost instinctive inquiry to his jawbone again. "Then
why the devil," he demanded, "do you let me stand you dinners and
the opera--and why do you come to a cabinet particulier with me?"
He became radiant with anger. "You mean to tell me" he said,
"that you have a lover? While I have been keeping you!
This view of life he hurled at her as if it were an offensive
missile. It stunned her. She felt she must fly before it and
could no longer do so. She did not think for one moment what
interpretation he might put upon the word "lover."
"Mr. Ramage," she said, clinging to her one point, "I want to get
out of this horrible little room. It has all been a mistake. I
have been stupid and foolish. Will you unlock that door?"
"Never!" he said. "Confound your lover! Look here! Do you
really think I am going to run you while he makes love to you?
No fear! I never heard of anything so cool. If he wants you,
let him get you. You're mine. I've paid for you and helped you,
and I'm going to conquer you somehow--if I have to break you to
do it. Hitherto you've seen only my easy, kindly side. But now
confound it! how can you prevent it? I will kiss you."
"You won't!" said Ann Veronica; with the clearest note of
He seemed to be about to move toward her. She stepped back
quickly, and her hand knocked a wine-glass from the table to
smash noisily on the floor. She caught at the idea. "If you
come a step nearer to me," she said, "I will smash every glass on
"Then, by God!" he said, "you'll be locked up!"
Ann Veronica was disconcerted for a moment. She had a vision of
policemen, reproving magistrates, a crowded court, public
disgrace. She saw her aunt in tears, her father white-faced and
hard hit. "Don't come nearer!" she said.
There was a discreet knocking at the door, and Ramage's face
"No," she said, under her breath, "you can't face it." And she
knew that she was safe.
He went to the door. "It's all right," he said, reassuringly to
the inquirer without.
Ann Veronica glanced at the mirror to discover a flushed and
dishevelled disorder. She began at once a hasty readjustment of
her hair, while Ramage parleyed with inaudible interrogations.
"A glass slipped from the table," he explained. . . . "Non. Fas
du tout. Non. . . . Niente. . . . Bitte! . . . Oui, dans la
note. . . . Presently. Presently." That conversation ended and
he turned to her again.
"I am going," she said grimly, with three hairpins in her mouth.
She took her hat from the peg in the corner and began to put it
on. He regarded that perennial miracle of pinning with wrathful
"Look here, Ann Veronica," he began. "I want a plain word with
you about all this. Do you mean to tell me you didn't understand
why I wanted you to come here?"
"Not a bit of it," said Ann Veronica stoutly.
"You didn't expect that I should kiss you?"
"How was I to know that a man would--would think it was
possible--when there was nothing--no love?"
"How did I know there wasn't love?"
That silenced her for a moment. "And what on earth," he said,
"do you think the world is made of? Why do you think I have been
doing things for you? The abstract pleasure of goodness? Are
you one of the members of that great white sisterhood that takes
and does not give? The good accepting woman! Do you really
suppose a girl is entitled to live at free quarters on any man
she meets without giving any return?"
"I thought," said Ann Veronica, "you were my friend."
"Friend! What have a man and a girl in common to make them
friends? Ask that lover of yours! And even with friends, would
you have it all Give on one side and all Take on the other? . . .
Does HE know I keep you? . . . You won't have a man's lips near
you, but you'll eat out of his hand fast enough."
Ann Veronica was stung to helpless anger.
"Mr. Ramage," she cried, "you are outrageous! You understand
nothing. You are--horrible. Will you let me go out of this
"No," cried Ramage; "hear me out! I'll have that satisfaction,
anyhow. You women, with your tricks of evasion, you're a sex of
swindlers. You have all the instinctive dexterity of parasites.
You make yourself charming for help. You climb by disappointing
men. This lover of yours--"
"He doesn't know!" cried Ann Veronica.
"Well, you know."
Ann Veronica could have wept with vexation. Indeed, a note of
weeping broke her voice for a moment as she burst out, "You know
as well as I do that money was a loan!"
"You yourself called it a loan!"
"Euphuism. We both understood that."
"You shall have every penny of it back."
"I'll frame it--when I get it."
"I'll pay you if I have to work at shirt-making at threepence an
"You'll never pay me. You think you will. It's your way of
glossing over the ethical position. It's the sort of way a woman
always does gloss over her ethical positions. You're all
dependents--all of you. By instinct. Only you good ones--shirk.
You shirk a straightforward and decent return for what you get
from us--taking refuge in purity and delicacy and such-like when
it comes to payment."
"Mr. Ramage," said Ann Veronica, "I want to go--NOW!"
But she did not get away just then.
Ramage's bitterness passed as abruptly as his aggression. "Oh,
Ann Veronica!" he cried, "I cannot let you go like this! You
don't understand. You can't possibly understand!"
He began a confused explanation, a perplexing contradictory
apology for his urgency and wrath. He loved Ann Veronica, he
said; he was so mad to have her that he defeated himself, and did
crude and alarming and senseless things. His vicious abusiveness
vanished. He suddenly became eloquent and plausible. He did make
her perceive something of the acute, tormenting desire for her
that had arisen in him and possessed him. She stood, as it were,
directed doorward, with her eyes watching every movement,
listening to him, repelled by him and yet dimly understanding.
At any rate he made it very clear that night that there was an
ineradicable discord in life, a jarring something that must
shatter all her dreams of a way of living for women that would
enable them to be free and spacious and friendly with men, and
that was the passionate predisposition of men to believe that the
love of women can be earned and won and controlled and compelled.
He flung aside all his talk of help and disinterested friendship
as though it had never been even a disguise between them, as
though from the first it was no more than a fancy dress they had
put quite understandingly upon their relationship. He had set
out to win her, and she had let him start. And at the thought of
that other lover--he was convinced that that beloved person was a
lover, and she found herself unable to say a word to explain to
him that this other person, the person she loved, did not even
know of her love--Ramage grew angry and savage once more, and
returned suddenly to gibe and insult. Men do services for the
love of women, and the woman who takes must pay. Such was the
simple code that displayed itself in all his thoughts. He left
that arid rule clear of the least mist of refinement or delicacy.
That he should pay forty pounds to help this girl who preferred
another man was no less in his eyes than a fraud and mockery that
made her denial a maddening and outrageous disgrace to him. And
this though he was evidently passionately in love with her.
For a while he threatened her. "You have put all your life in my
hands," he declared. "Think of that check you endorsed. There
it is--against you. I defy you to explain it away. What do you
think people will make of that? What will this lover of yours
make of that?"
At intervals Ann Veronica demanded to go, declaring her undying
resolve to repay him at any cost, and made short movements
But at last this ordeal was over, and Ramage opened the door.
She emerged with a white face and wide-open eyes upon a little,
red-lit landing. She went past three keenly observant and
ostentatiously preoccupied waiters down the thick-carpeted
staircase and out of the Hotel Rococo, that remarkable laboratory
of relationships, past a tall porter in blue and crimson, into a
cool, clear night.
When Ann Veronica reached her little bed-sitting-room again,
every nerve in her body was quivering with shame and
She threw hat and coat on the bed and sat down before the fire.
"And now," she said, splintering the surviving piece of coal into
indignant flame-spurting fragments with one dexterous blow, "what
am I to do?
"I'm in a hole!--mess is a better word, expresses it better .
I'm in a mess--a nasty mess! a filthy mess! Oh, no end of a mess!
Do you hear, Ann Veronica?--you're in a nasty, filthy,
"Haven't I just made a silly mess of things?
"Forty pounds! I haven't got twenty!"
She got up, stamped with her foot, and then, suddenly remembering
the lodger below, sat down and wrenched off her boots.
"This is what comes of being a young woman up to date. By Jove!
I'm beginning to have my doubts about freedom!
"You silly young woman, Ann Veronica! You silly young woman!
The smeariness of the thing!
"The smeariness of this sort of thing! . . . Mauled about!"
She fell to rubbing her insulted lips savagely with the back of
her hand. "Ugh!" she said.
"The young women of Jane Austen's time didn't get into this sort
of scrape! At least--one thinks so. . . . I wonder if some of
them did--and it didn't get reported. Aunt Jane had her quiet
moments. Most of them didn't, anyhow. They were properly
brought up, and sat still and straight, and took the luck fate
brought them as gentlewomen should. And they had an idea of what
men were like behind all their nicety. They knew they were all
Bogey in disguise. I didn't! I didn't! After all--"
For a time her mind ran on daintiness and its defensive
restraints as though it was the one desirable thing. That world
of fine printed cambrics and escorted maidens, of delicate
secondary meanings and refined allusiveness, presented itself to
her imagination with the brightness of a lost paradise, as indeed
for many women it is a lost paradise.
"I wonder if there is anything wrong with my manners," she said.
"I wonder if I've been properly brought up. If I had been quite
quiet and white and dignified, wouldn't it have been different?
Would he have dared? . . ."
For some creditable moments in her life Ann Veronica was utterly
disgusted with herself; she was wrung with a passionate and
belated desire to move gently, to speak softly and
ambiguously--to be, in effect, prim.
Horrible details recurred to her.
"Why, among other things, did I put my knuckles in his
neck--deliberately to hurt him?"
She tried to sound the humorous note.
"Are you aware, Ann Veronica, you nearly throttled that
Then she reviled her own foolish way of putting it.
"You ass and imbecile, Ann Veronica! You female cad! Cad! Cad!
. . . Why aren't you folded up clean in lavender--as every young
woman ought to be? What have you been doing with yourself? . .
She raked into the fire with the poker.
"All of which doesn't help me in the slightest degree to pay back
That night was the most intolerable one that Ann Veronica had
ever spent. She washed her face with unwonted elaboration before
she went to bed. This time, there was no doubt, she did not
sleep. The more she disentangled the lines of her situation the
deeper grew her self-disgust. Occasionally the mere fact of
lying in bed became unendurable, and she rolled out and marched
about her room and whispered abuse of herself--usually until she
hit against some article of furniture.
Then she would have quiet times, in which she would say to
herself, "Now look here! Let me think it all out!"
For the first time, it seemed to her, she faced the facts of a
woman's position in the world--the meagre realities of such
freedom as it permitted her, the almost unavoidable obligation to
some individual man under which she must labor for even a
foothold in the world. She had flung away from her father's
support with the finest assumption of personal independence. And
here she was--in a mess because it had been impossible for her to
avoid leaning upon another man. She had thought--What had she
thought? That this dependence of women was but an illusion which
needed only to be denied to vanish. She had denied it with
vigor, and here she was!
She did not so much exhaust this general question as pass from it
to her insoluble individual problem again: "What am I to do?"
She wanted first of all to fling the forty pounds back into
Ramage's face. But she had spent nearly half of it, and had no
conception of how such a sum could be made good again. She
thought of all sorts of odd and desperate expedients, and with
passionate petulance rejected them all.
She took refuge in beating her pillow and inventing insulting
epithets for herself. She got up, drew up her blind, and stared
out of window at a dawn-cold vision of chimneys for a time, and
then went and sat on the edge of her bed. What was the
alternative to going home? No alternative appeared in that
It seemed intolerable that she should go home and admit herself
beaten. She did most urgently desire to save her face in
Morningside Park, and for long hours she could think of no way of
putting it that would not be in the nature of unconditional
admission of defeat.
"I'd rather go as a chorus-girl," she said.
She was not very clear about the position and duties of a
chorus-girl, but it certainly had the air of being a last
desperate resort. There sprang from that a vague hope that
perhaps she might extort a capitulation from her father by a
threat to seek that position, and then with overwhelming
clearness it came to her that whatever happened she would never
be able to tell her father about her debt. The completest
capitulation would not wipe out that trouble. And she felt that
if she went home it was imperative to pay. She would always be
going to and fro up the Avenue, getting glimpses of Ramage,
seeing him in trains. . . .
For a time she promenaded the room.
"Why did I ever take that loan? An idiot girl in an asylum would
have known better than that!
"Vulgarity of soul and innocence of mind--the worst of all
conceivable combinations. I wish some one would kill Ramage by
accident! . . .
"But then they would find that check endorsed in his bureau. . .
"I wonder what he will do?" She tried to imagine situations that
might arise out of Ramage's antagonism, for he had been so bitter
and savage that she could not believe that he would leave things
as they were.
The next morning she went out with her post-office savings
bank-book, and telegraphed for a warrant to draw out all the
money she had in the world. It amounted to two-and-twenty
pounds. She addressed an envelope to Ramage, and scrawled on a
half-sheet of paper, "The rest shall follow." The money would be
available in the afternoon, and she would send him four five-
pound notes. The rest she meant to keep for her immediate
necessities. A little relieved by this step toward
reinstatement, she went on to the Imperial College to forget her
muddle of problems for a time, if she could, in the presence of
For a time the biological laboratory was full of healing virtue.
Her sleepless night had left her languid but not stupefied, and
for an hour or so the work distracted her altogether from her
Then, after Capes had been through her work and had gone on, it
came to her that the fabric of this life of hers was doomed to
almost immediate collapse; that in a little while these studies
would cease, and perhaps she would never set eyes on him again.
After that consolations fled.
The overnight nervous strain began to tell; she became
inattentive to the work before her, and it did not get on. She
felt sleepy and unusually irritable. She lunched at a creamery
in Great Portland Street, and as the day was full of wintry
sunshine, spent the rest of the lunch-hour in a drowsy gloom,
which she imagined to be thought upon the problems of her
position, on a seat in Regent's Park. A girl of fifteen or
sixteen gave her a handbill that she regarded as a tract until
she saw "Votes for Women" at the top. That turned her mind to
the more generalized aspects of her perplexities again. She had
never been so disposed to agree that the position of women in the
modern world is intolerable.
Capes joined the students at tea, and displayed himself in an
impish mood that sometimes possessed him. He did not notice that
Ann Veronica was preoccupied and heavy-eyed. Miss Klegg raised
the question of women's suffrage, and he set himself to provoke a
duel between her and Miss Garvice. The youth with the hair
brushed back and the spectacled Scotchman joined in the fray for
and against the women's vote.
Ever and again Capes appealed to Ann Veronica. He liked to draw
her in, and she did her best to talk. But she did not talk
readily, and in order to say something she plunged a little, and
felt she plunged. Capes scored back with an uncompromising vigor
that was his way of complimenting her intelligence. But this
afternoon it discovered an unusual vein of irritability in her.
He had been reading Belfort Bax, and declared himself a convert.
He contrasted the lot of women in general with the lot of men,
presented men as patient, self-immolating martyrs, and women as
the pampered favorites of Nature. A vein of conviction mingled
with his burlesque.
For a time he and Miss Klegg contradicted one another.
The question ceased to be a tea-table talk, and became suddenly
tragically real for Ann Veronica. There he sat, cheerfully
friendly in his sex's freedom--the man she loved, the one man she
cared should unlock the way to the wide world for her imprisoned
feminine possibilities, and he seemed regardless that she stifled
under his eyes; he made a jest of all this passionate insurgence
of the souls of women against the fate of their conditions.
Miss Garvice repeated again, and almost in the same words she
used at every discussion, her contribution to the great question.
She thought that women were not made for the struggle and turmoil
of life--their place was the little world, the home; that their
power lay not in votes but in influence over men and in making
the minds of their children fine and splendid.
"Women should understand men's affairs, perhaps," said Miss
Garvice, "but to mingle in them is just to sacrifice that power
of influencing they can exercise now."
"There IS something sound in that position," said Capes,
intervening as if to defend Miss Garvice against a possible
attack from Ann Veronica. "It may not be just and so forth, but,
after all, it is how things are. Women are not in the world in
the same sense that men are--fighting individuals in a scramble.
I don't see how they can be. Every home is a little recess, a
niche, out of the world of business and competition, in which
women and the future shelter."
"A little pit!" said Ann Veronica; "a little prison!"
"It's just as often a little refuge. Anyhow, that is how things
"And the man stands as the master at the mouth of the den."
"As sentinel. You forget all the mass of training and tradition
and instinct that go to make him a tolerable master. Nature is a
mother; her sympathies have always been feminist, and she has
tempered the man to the shorn woman."
"I wish," said Ann Veronica, with sudden anger, "that you could
know what it is to live in a pit!"
She stood up as she spoke, and put down her cup beside Miss
Garvice's. She addressed Capes as though she spoke to him alone.
"I can't endure it," she said.
Every one turned to her in astonishment.
She felt she had to go on. "No man can realize," she said, "what
that pit can be. The way--the way we are led on! We are taught
to believe we are free in the world, to think we are queens. . .
. Then we find out. We find out no man will treat a woman fairly
as man to man--no man. He wants you--or he doesn't; and then he
helps some other woman against you. . . . What you say is
probably all true and necessary. . . . But think of the
disillusionment! Except for our sex we have minds like men,
desires like men. We come out into the world, some of us--"
She paused. Her words, as she said them, seemed to her to mean
nothing, and there was so much that struggled for expression.
"Women are mocked," she said. "Whenever they try to take hold of
life a man intervenes."
She felt, with a sudden horror, that she might weep. She wished
she had not stood up. She wondered wildly why she had stood up.
No one spoke, and she was impelled to flounder on. "Think of the
mockery!" she said. "Think how dumb we find ourselves and
stifled! I know we seem to have a sort of freedom. . . . Have
you ever tried to run and jump in petticoats, Mr. Capes? Well,
think what it must be to live in them--soul and mind and body!
It's fun for a man to jest at our position."
"I wasn't jesting," said Capes, abruptly.
She stood face to face with him, and his voice cut across her
speech and made her stop abruptly. She was sore and overstrung,
and it was intolerable to her that he should stand within three
yards of her unsuspectingly, with an incalculably vast power over
her happiness. She was sore with the perplexities of her
preposterous position. She was sick of herself, of her life, of
everything but him; and for him all her masked and hidden being
was crying out.
She stopped abruptly at the sound of his voice, and lost the
thread of what she was saying. In the pause she realized the
attention of the others converged upon her, and that the tears
were brimming over her eyes. She felt a storm of emotion surging
up within her. She became aware of the Scotch student regarding
her with stupendous amazement, a tea-cup poised in one hairy hand
and his faceted glasses showing a various enlargement of segments
of his eye.
The door into the passage offered itself with an irresistible
invitation--the one alternative to a public, inexplicable passion
Capes flashed to an understanding of her intention, sprang to his
feet, and opened the door for her retreat.
"Why should I ever come back?" she said to herself, as she went
down the staircase.
She went to the post-office and drew out and sent off her money
to Ramage. And then she came out into the street, sure only of
one thing--that she could not return directly to her lodgings.
She wanted air--and the distraction of having moving and changing
things about her. The evenings were beginning to draw out, and
it would not be dark for an hour. She resolved to walk across
the Park to the Zoological gardens, and so on by way of Primrose
Hill to Hampstead Heath. There she would wander about in the
kindly darkness. And think things out. . . .
Presently she became aware of footsteps hurrying after her, and
glanced back to find Miss Klegg, a little out of breath, in
Ann Veronica halted a pace, and Miss Klegg came alongside.
"Do YOU go across the Park?"
"Not usually. But I'm going to-day. I want a walk."
"I'm not surprised at it. I thought Mr. Capes most trying."
"Oh, it wasn't that. I've had a headache all day."
"I thought Mr. Capes most unfair," Miss Klegg went on in a small,
even voice; "MOST unfair! I'm glad you spoke out as you did."
"I didn't mind that little argument."
"You gave it him well. What you said wanted saying. After you
went he got up and took refuge in the preparation-room. Or else
_I_ would have finished him."
Ann Veronica said nothing, and Miss Klegg went on: "He very often
IS--most unfair. He has a way of sitting on people. He wouldn't
like it if people did it to him. He jumps the words out of your
mouth; he takes hold of what you have to say before you have had
time to express it properly."
"I suppose he's frightfully clever," said Miss Klegg.
"He's a Fellow of the Royal Society, and he can't be much over
thirty," said Miss Klegg.
"He writes very well," said Ann Veronica.
"He can't be more than thirty. He must have married when he was
quite a young man."
"Married?" said Ann Veronica.
"Didn't you know he was married?" asked Miss Klegg, and was
struck by a thought that made her glance quickly at her
Ann Veronica had no answer for a moment. She turned her head
away sharply. Some automaton within her produced in a quite
unfamiliar voice the remark, "They're playing football."
"It's too far for the ball to reach us," said Miss Klegg.
"I didn't know Mr. Capes was married," said Ann Veronica,
resuming the conversation with an entire disappearance of her
"Oh yes," said Miss Klegg; "I thought every one knew."
"No," said Ann Veronica, offhandedly. "Never heard anything of
"I thought every one knew. I thought every one had heard about
"He's married--and, I believe, living separated from his wife.
There was a case, or something, some years ago."
"A divorce--or something--I don't know. But I have heard that he
almost had to leave the schools. If it hadn't been for Professor
Russell standing up for him, they say he would have had to
"Was he divorced, do you mean?"
"No, but he got himself mixed up in a divorce case. I forget the
particulars, but I know it was something very disagreeable. It
was among artistic people."
Ann Veronica was silent for a while.
"I thought every one had heard," said Miss Klegg. "Or I wouldn't
have said anything about it."
"I suppose all men," said Ann Veronica, in a tone of detached
criticism, "get some such entanglement. And, anyhow, it doesn't
matter to us." She turned abruptly at right angles to the path
they followed. "This is my way back to my side of the Park," she
"I thought you were coming right across the Park."
"Oh no," said Ann Veronica; "I have some work to do. I just
wanted a breath of air. And they'll shut the gates presently.
It's not far from twilight."
She was sitting brooding over her fire about ten o'clock that
night when a sealed and registered envelope was brought up to
She opened it and drew out a letter, and folded within it were
the notes she had sent off to Ramage that day. The letter began:
"MY DEAREST GIRL,--I cannot let you do this foolish thing--"
She crumpled notes and letter together in her hand, and then with
a passionate gesture flung them into the fire. Instantly she
seized the poker and made a desperate effort to get them out
again. But she was only able to save a corner of the letter.
The twenty pounds burned with avidity.
She remained for some seconds crouching at the fender, poker in
"By Jove!" she said, standing up at last, "that about finishes
it, Ann Veronica!"
CHAPTER THE TENTH
"There is only one way out of all this," said Ann Veronica,
sitting up in her little bed in the darkness and biting at her
"I thought I was just up against Morningside Park and father, but
it's the whole order of things--the whole blessed order of
things. . . ."
She shivered. She frowned and gripped her hands about her knees
very tightly. Her mind developed into savage wrath at the
present conditions of a woman's life.
"I suppose all life is an affair of chances. But a woman's life
is all chance. It's artificially chance. Find your man, that's
the rule. All the rest is humbug and delicacy. He's the handle
of life for you. He will let you live if it pleases him. . . .
"Can't it be altered?
"I suppose an actress is free? . . ."
She tried to think of some altered state of affairs in which
these monstrous limitations would be alleviated, in which women
would stand on their own feet in equal citizenship with men. For
a time she brooded on the ideals and suggestions of the
Socialists, on the vague intimations of an Endowment of
Motherhood, of a complete relaxation of that intense individual
dependence for women which is woven into the existing social
order. At the back of her mind there seemed always one
irrelevant qualifying spectator whose presence she sought to
disregard. She would not look at him, would not think of him;
when her mind wavered, then she muttered to herself in the
darkness so as to keep hold of her generalizations.
"It is true. It is no good waiving the thing; it is true.
Unless women are never to be free, never to be even respected,
there must be a generation of martyrs. . . . Why shouldn't we be
martyrs? There's nothing else for most of us, anyhow. It's a
sort of blacklegging to want to have a life of one's own. . . ."
She repeated, as if she answered an objector: "A sort of
"A sex of blacklegging clients."
Her mind diverged to other aspects, and another type of
"Poor little Miniver! What can she be but what she is? . . .
Because she states her case in a tangle, drags it through swamps
of nonsense, it doesn't alter the fact that she is right."
That phrase about dragging the truth through swamps of nonsense
she remembered from Capes. At the recollection that it was his,
she seemed to fall through a thin surface, as one might fall
through the crust of a lava into glowing depths. She wallowed
for a time in the thought of Capes, unable to escape from his
image and the idea of his presence in her life.
She let her mind run into dreams of that cloud paradise of an
altered world in which the Goopes and Minivers, the Fabians and
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