Author: Wells, H.G.
H. G. Wells (1866-1946), English author, futurist, essayist, historian, socialist, and teacher wrote The War of the Worlds (1898);
Yet across the gulf of space, minds that are to our minds as ours are to those of the beasts that perish, intellects vast and cool and unsympathetic, regarded this earth with envious eyes, and slowly and surely drew their plans against us. And early in the twentieth century came the great disillusionment.—Ch. 1.
The invasion of earth by aliens from Mars, tripods attacking with Heat Rays and Black Smoke and the evacuation of London while people were terrorised in the surrounding countryside became one of the first internationally read modern science fiction stories. Wells is often credited, along with Hugo Gernsback (1884-1967) and Jules Verne (1828-1905) as being one of the fathers of science fiction. Forty years after its publication, on the night of Halloween 1938, Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre on-air radio broadcast of the novel caused widespread panic in New York City. Wells’ masterpiece spawned more invasion literature and inspired numerous movie adaptations and print sequels.
The popular novel foreshadowed things to come for the human race: robotics, World Wars, warfare tactics including aerial bombing, use of tanks and chemical weapons, and nuclear power. Part prophet, part pessimist, Wells was a prolific author not just of science fiction but also fiction and non, utopian and dystopian short stories, travel sketches, histories, and socio-political commentary. While his most popular works tend to show a bleak future for humanity, he was not without his sardonic and wry wit; Every time I see an adult on a bicycle I no longer despair for the human race.
Herbert George Wells was born on 21 September 1866 in Bromley, Kent County, England, son of Sarah Neal, maid to the upper classes, and Joseph Wells, shopkeeper and professional cricket player. The Wells were quite poor and it was not the happiest of marriages; they would soon live apart though neither re-married.
At an early age Herbert was an avid reader but it would be some years before his talents as a writer were realised. He attended Thomas Morley’s Academy for a few years before financial hardship forced him to leave and seek practical employment. His father had broken his leg and not being able to play cricket anymore or pay for Herbert’s school, Herbert became an apprentice to a draper at the age of fourteen. The experience provided much fodder for his future works including Kipps (1905) wherein orphan and draper’s apprentice Artie Kipps gains a large inheritance and quick education on the ways of upper-class society and The Wheels of Chance: A Bicycling Idyll (1896);
Thus even in a shop assistant does the warmth of manhood assert itself....against the counsels of prudence and the restrictions of his means, to seek the wholesome delights of exertion and danger and pain.—Ch. 1.
When Wells won a scholarship in 1883 to the Normal School of Science in London he realised another area of interest that would serve him well in his writing; he began studies in biology and Darwinism under Thomas Henry Huxley, Aldous Huxley’s grandfather. The Island of Doctor Moreau (1896), another of Wells’ many stories to inspire movie adaptations, deals with themes of eugenics, the ethics of scientific experimentation, Darwin’s theories, and religion. Wells was not able to complete the requirements for his degree and lost his scholarship, so, faced with financial hardship he moved to Fitzroy Road in London to live with his Aunt and Uncle Wells. He tutored part-time and studied part-time at his uncle’s school. His cousin Isabel Mary also lived with them and they were soon married, in 1891. It lasted only four years; Wells left her for one of his students, Amy Catherine Robbins (Jane) whom he married in 1895 and had two sons with: George Philip (1901-1985) and Frank Richard (b.1903). Wells had liaisons with a number of other women, who became models for his characters, while married to Jane: writer Amber Reeves gave birth to their daughter Anna Jane in 1909 and in 1914 author and feminist Rebecca West gave birth to their son Anthony West.
For quite some time Wells had been writing stories and in 1895 he had several published; Select Conversations with an Uncle was his first, followed by The Time Machine (1895), The Wonderful Visit (1895), and The Stolen Bacillus and Other Incidents (1895). His collection of essays and stories, Certain Personal Matters (1896) was followed by The Invisible Man (1897);
The stranger came early in February, one wintry day, through a biting wind and a driving snow....He was wrapped up from head to foot, and the brim of his soft felt hat hid every inch of his face but the shiny tip of his nose; the snow had piled itself against his shoulders and chest, and added a white crest to the burden he carried. —Ch. 1.
When the Sleeper Wakes (1899) was followed by Love and Mr. Lewisham (1900), The First Men in the Moon (1901) and his first best-seller about what the world would be like in the year 2000, Anticipations (1901). A year after its publication Wells joined the socialist Fabian Society, although he left after a quarrelling with George Bernard Shaw. A Modern Utopia was published in 1905;
Man is the unnatural animal, the rebel child of nature, and more and more does he turn himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him.—Ch. 5.
Wells continued his prodigious output of fiction and non-fiction essays and articles on politics, liberalism, democracy, and on society including Tono-Bungay (1909), Floor Games (1911), The Great State: Essays in Construction (1912), An Englishman Looks at the World (1914), The War That Will End War (1914), and Mr. Britling Sees It Through (1916). After he published Outline of History (1920) he followed it up with A Short History of the World (1922) “to meet the needs of the busy general reader....who wishes to refresh and repair his faded or fragmentary conceptions of the great adventure of mankind.”(Preface).
Wells collaborated with his son, zoologist and author George P. Wells and biologist Sir Julian Huxley (Aldous’ brother) for The Science of Life (1930), the same year Wells met Rabindranath Tagore in Geneva, Switzerland. They discussed issues of modern civilisation, government and education, comparing them in the East and West. Wells was fast becoming a celebrity and he traveled extensively, meeting with world leaders and fellow authors. The Shape of Things to Come (1933) was followed by Wells’ examination of fascist dictators in The Holy Terror (1939). The New World Order was published the same year, Mind at the End of Its Tether in 1945. It would be the last book published during his lifetime. H. G. Wells died on 13 August 1946 at his home in Regent’s Park, London. In the Preface to the 1941 edition of The War In The Air (first published in 1908, then in 1921) Wells wrote: “Again I ask the reader to note the warnings I gave in that year, twenty years ago. Is there anything to add to that preface now? Nothing except my epitaph. That, when the time comes, will manifestly have to be: ‘I told you so. You damned fools.’ (The italics are mine.)”
“It is possible to believe that all the past is but the beginning of a beginning, and that all that is and has been is but the twilight of the dawn. It is possible to believe that all the human mind has ever accomplished is but the dream before the awakening”—24 January 1902, lecture given at the Royal Institute, London. “The Discovery of the Future”.
A MODERN LOVE STORY
By H. G. Wells
I. ANN VERONICA TALKS TO HER FATHER
II. ANN VERONICA GATHERS POINTS OF VIEW
III. THE MORNING OF THE CRISIS
IV. THE CRISIS
V. THE FLIGHT TO LONDON
VII. IDEALS AND A REALITY
X. THE SUFFRAGETTES
XI. THOUGHTS IN PRISON
XII. ANN VERONICA PUTS THINGS IN ORDER
XIII. THE SAPPHIRE RING
XIV. THE COLLAPSE OF THE PENITENT
XV. THE LAST DAYS AT HOME
XVI. IN THE MOUNTAINS
XVII. IN PERSPECTIVE
"The art of ignoring is one of the accomplishments of every
well-bred girl, so carefully instilled that at last she can even
ignore her own thoughts and her own knowledge."
CHAPTER THE FIRST
ANN VERONICA TALKS TO HER FATHER
One Wednesday afternoon in late September, Ann Veronica Stanley came
down from London in a state of solemn excitement and quite resolved to
have things out with her father that very evening. She had trembled on
the verge of such a resolution before, but this time quite definitely
she made it. A crisis had been reached, and she was almost glad it had
been reached. She made up her mind in the train home that it should be
a decisive crisis. It is for that reason that this novel begins with
her there, and neither earlier nor later, for it is the history of this
crisis and its consequences that this novel has to tell.
She had a compartment to herself in the train from London to Morningside
Park, and she sat with both her feet on the seat in an attitude that
would certainly have distressed her mother to see, and horrified her
grandmother beyond measure; she sat with her knees up to her chin and
her hands clasped before them, and she was so lost in thought that
she discovered with a start, from a lettered lamp, that she was at
Morningside Park, and thought she was moving out of the station, whereas
she was only moving in. "Lord!" she said. She jumped up at once,
caught up a leather clutch containing notebooks, a fat text-book, and
a chocolate-and-yellow-covered pamphlet, and leaped neatly from the
carriage, only to discover that the train was slowing down and that she
had to traverse the full length of the platform past it again as the
result of her precipitation. "Sold again," she remarked. "Idiot!" She
raged inwardly while she walked along with that air of self-contained
serenity that is proper to a young lady of nearly two-and-twenty under
the eye of the world.
She walked down the station approach, past the neat, obtrusive offices
of the coal merchant and the house agent, and so to the wicket-gate by
the butcher's shop that led to the field path to her home. Outside the
post-office stood a no-hatted, blond young man in gray flannels, who was
elaborately affixing a stamp to a letter. At the sight of her he became
rigid and a singularly bright shade of pink. She made herself serenely
unaware of his existence, though it may be it was his presence that sent
her by the field detour instead of by the direct path up the Avenue.
"Umph!" he said, and regarded his letter doubtfully before consigning it
to the pillar-box. "Here goes," he said. Then he hovered undecidedly for
some seconds with his hands in his pockets and his mouth puckered to a
whistle before he turned to go home by the Avenue.
Ann Veronica forgot him as soon as she was through the gate, and her
face resumed its expression of stern preoccupation. "It's either now or
never," she said to herself....
Morningside Park was a suburb that had not altogether, as people say,
come off. It consisted, like pre-Roman Gaul, of three parts. There was
first the Avenue, which ran in a consciously elegant curve from the
railway station into an undeveloped wilderness of agriculture, with big,
yellow brick villas on either side, and then there was the pavement, the
little clump of shops about the post-office, and under the railway arch
was a congestion of workmen's dwellings. The road from Surbiton and
Epsom ran under the arch, and, like a bright fungoid growth in the
ditch, there was now appearing a sort of fourth estate of little
red-and-white rough-cast villas, with meretricious gables and very
brassy window-blinds. Behind the Avenue was a little hill, and an
iron-fenced path went over the crest of this to a stile under an
elm-tree, and forked there, with one branch going back into the Avenue
"It's either now or never," said Ann Veronica, again ascending this
stile. "Much as I hate rows, I've either got to make a stand or give in
She seated herself in a loose and easy attitude and surveyed the
backs of the Avenue houses; then her eyes wandered to where the new
red-and-white villas peeped among the trees. She seemed to be making
some sort of inventory. "Ye Gods!" she said at last. "WHAT a place!
"Stuffy isn't the word for it.
"I wonder what he takes me for?"
When presently she got down from the stile a certain note of internal
conflict, a touch of doubt, had gone from her warm-tinted face. She had
now the clear and tranquil expression of one whose mind is made up. Her
back had stiffened, and her hazel eyes looked steadfastly ahead.
As she approached the corner of the Avenue the blond, no-hatted man in
gray flannels appeared. There was a certain air of forced fortuity in
his manner. He saluted awkwardly. "Hello, Vee!" he said.
"Hello, Teddy!" she answered.
He hung vaguely for a moment as she passed.
But it was clear she was in no mood for Teddys. He realized that he was
committed to the path across the fields, an uninteresting walk at the
best of times.
"Oh, dammit!" he remarked, "dammit!" with great bitterness as he faced
Ann Veronica Stanley was twenty-one and a half years old. She had black
hair, fine eyebrows, and a clear complexion; and the forces that had
modelled her features had loved and lingered at their work and made them
subtle and fine. She was slender, and sometimes she seemed tall, and
walked and carried herself lightly and joyfully as one who commonly
and habitually feels well, and sometimes she stooped a little and
was preoccupied. Her lips came together with an expression between
contentment and the faintest shadow of a smile, her manner was one of
quiet reserve, and behind this mask she was wildly discontented and
eager for freedom and life.
She wanted to live. She was vehemently impatient--she did not clearly
know for what--to do, to be, to experience. And experience was slow in
coming. All the world about her seemed to be--how can one put it?--in
wrappers, like a house when people leave it in the summer. The blinds
were all drawn, the sunlight kept out, one could not tell what
colors these gray swathings hid. She wanted to know. And there was no
intimation whatever that the blinds would ever go up or the windows or
doors be opened, or the chandeliers, that seemed to promise such a blaze
of fire, unveiled and furnished and lit. Dim souls flitted about her,
not only speaking but it would seem even thinking in undertones....
During her school days, especially her earlier school days, the world
had been very explicit with her, telling her what to do, what not to do,
giving her lessons to learn and games to play and interests of the most
suitable and various kinds. Presently she woke up to the fact that there
was a considerable group of interests called being in love and getting
married, with certain attractive and amusing subsidiary developments,
such as flirtation and "being interested" in people of the opposite sex.
She approached this field with her usual liveliness of apprehension. But
here she met with a check. These interests her world promptly, through
the agency of schoolmistresses, older school-mates, her aunt, and a
number of other responsible and authoritative people, assured her she
must on no account think about. Miss Moffatt, the history and moral
instruction mistress, was particularly explicit upon this score, and
they all agreed in indicating contempt and pity for girls whose minds
ran on such matters, and who betrayed it in their conversation or dress
or bearing. It was, in fact, a group of interests quite unlike any
other group, peculiar and special, and one to be thoroughly ashamed of.
Nevertheless, Ann Veronica found it a difficult matter not to think of
these things. However having a considerable amount of pride, she decided
she would disavow these undesirable topics and keep her mind away from
them just as far as she could, but it left her at the end of her school
days with that wrapped feeling I have described, and rather at loose
The world, she discovered, with these matters barred had no particular
place for her at all, nothing for her to do, except a functionless
existence varied by calls, tennis, selected novels, walks, and dusting
in her father's house. She thought study would be better. She was a
clever girl, the best of her year in the High School, and she made
a valiant fight for Somerville or Newnham but her father had met and
argued with a Somerville girl at a friend's dinner-table and he thought
that sort of thing unsexed a woman. He said simply that he wanted her to
live at home. There was a certain amount of disputation, and meanwhile
she went on at school. They compromised at length on the science course
at the Tredgold Women's College--she had already matriculated into
London University from school--she came of age, and she bickered with
her aunt for latch-key privileges on the strength of that and her season
ticket. Shamefaced curiosities began to come back into her mind, thinly
disguised as literature and art. She read voraciously, and presently,
because of her aunt's censorship, she took to smuggling any books she
thought might be prohibited instead of bringing them home openly, and
she went to the theatre whenever she could produce an acceptable friend
to accompany her. She passed her general science examination with double
honors and specialized in science. She happened to have an acute sense
of form and unusual mental lucidity, and she found in biology, and
particularly in comparative anatomy, a very considerable interest,
albeit the illumination it cast upon her personal life was not
altogether direct. She dissected well, and in a year she found herself
chafing at the limitations of the lady B. Sc. who retailed a store of
faded learning in the Tredgold laboratory. She had already realized that
this instructress was hopelessly wrong and foggy--it is the test of the
good comparative anatomist--upon the skull. She discovered a desire to
enter as a student in the Imperial College at Westminster, where Russell
taught, and go on with her work at the fountain-head.
She had asked about that already, and her father had replied, evasively:
"We'll have to see about that, little Vee; we'll have to see about
that." In that posture of being seen about the matter hung until she
seemed committed to another session at the Tredgold College, and in the
mean time a small conflict arose and brought the latch-key question, and
in fact the question of Ann Veronica's position generally, to an acute
In addition to the various business men, solicitors, civil servants,
and widow ladies who lived in the Morningside Park Avenue, there was a
certain family of alien sympathies and artistic quality, the Widgetts,
with which Ann Veronica had become very friendly. Mr. Widgett was a
journalist and art critic, addicted to a greenish-gray tweed suit
and "art" brown ties; he smoked corncob pipes in the Avenue on Sunday
morning, travelled third class to London by unusual trains, and openly
despised golf. He occupied one of the smaller houses near the station.
He had one son, who had been co-educated, and three daughters with
peculiarly jolly red hair that Ann Veronica found adorable. Two of these
had been her particular intimates at the High School, and had done much
to send her mind exploring beyond the limits of the available literature
at home. It was a cheerful, irresponsible, shamelessly hard-up family in
the key of faded green and flattened purple, and the girls went on from
the High School to the Fadden Art School and a bright, eventful life of
art student dances, Socialist meetings, theatre galleries, talking about
work, and even, at intervals, work; and ever and again they drew Ann
Veronica from her sound persistent industry into the circle of these
experiences. They had asked her to come to the first of the two great
annual Fadden Dances, the October one, and Ann Veronica had accepted
with enthusiasm. And now her father said she must not go.
He had "put his foot down," and said she must not go.
Going involved two things that all Ann Veronica's tact had been
ineffectual to conceal from her aunt and father. Her usual dignified
reserve had availed her nothing. One point was that she was to wear
fancy dress in the likeness of a Corsair's bride, and the other was that
she was to spend whatever vestiges of the night remained after the dance
was over in London with the Widgett girls and a select party in "quite a
decent little hotel" near Fitzroy Square.
"But, my dear!" said Ann Veronica's aunt.
"You see," said Ann Veronica, with the air of one who shares a
difficulty, "I've promised to go. I didn't realize--I don't see how I
can get out of it now."
Then it was her father issued his ultimatum. He had conveyed it to her,
not verbally, but by means of a letter, which seemed to her a singularly
ignoble method of prohibition. "He couldn't look me in the face and say
it," said Ann Veronica.
"But of course it's aunt's doing really."
And thus it was that as Ann Veronica neared the gates of home, she said
to herself: "I'll have it out with him somehow. I'll have it out with
him. And if he won't--"
But she did not give even unspoken words to the alternative at that
Ann Veronica's father was a solicitor with a good deal of company
business: a lean, trustworthy, worried-looking, neuralgic, clean-shaven
man of fifty-three, with a hard mouth, a sharp nose, iron-gray hair,
gray eyes, gold-framed glasses, and a small, circular baldness at the
crown of his head. His name was Peter. He had had five children at
irregular intervals, of whom Ann Veronica was the youngest, so that as
a parent he came to her perhaps a little practised and jaded and
inattentive; and he called her his "little Vee," and patted her
unexpectedly and disconcertingly, and treated her promiscuously as of
any age between eleven and eight-and-twenty. The City worried him a good
deal, and what energy he had left over he spent partly in golf, a game
he treated very seriously, and partly in the practices of microscopic
He "went in" for microscopy in the unphilosophical Victorian manner as
his "hobby." A birthday present of a microscope had turned his mind to
technical microscopy when he was eighteen, and a chance friendship with
a Holborn microscope dealer had confirmed that bent. He had remarkably
skilful fingers and a love of detailed processes, and he had become one
of the most dexterous amateur makers of rock sections in the world.
He spent a good deal more money and time than he could afford upon the
little room at the top of the house, in producing new lapidary apparatus
and new microscopic accessories and in rubbing down slices of rock to
a transparent thinness and mounting them in a beautiful and dignified
manner. He did it, he said, "to distract his mind." His chief successes
he exhibited to the Lowndean Microscopical Society, where their high
technical merit never failed to excite admiration. Their scientific
value was less considerable, since he chose rocks entirely with a
view to their difficulty of handling or their attractiveness at
conversaziones when done. He had a great contempt for the sections the
"theorizers" produced. They proved all sorts of things perhaps, but they
were thick, unequal, pitiful pieces of work. Yet an indiscriminating,
wrong-headed world gave such fellows all sorts of distinctions....
He read but little, and that chiefly healthy light fiction with
chromatic titles, The Red Sword, The Black Helmet, The Purple Robe, also
in order "to distract his mind." He read it in winter in the evening
after dinner, and Ann Veronica associated it with a tendency to
monopolize the lamp, and to spread a very worn pair of dappled fawn-skin
slippers across the fender. She wondered occasionally why his mind
needed so much distraction. His favorite newspaper was the Times, which
he began at breakfast in the morning often with manifest irritation, and
carried off to finish in the train, leaving no other paper at home.
It occurred to Ann Veronica once that she had known him when he was
younger, but day had followed day, and each had largely obliterated the
impression of its predecessor. But she certainly remembered that when
she was a little girl he sometimes wore tennis flannels, and also rode a
bicycle very dexterously in through the gates to the front door. And
in those days, too, he used to help her mother with her gardening, and
hover about her while she stood on the ladder and hammered creepers to
the scullery wall.
It had been Ann Veronica's lot as the youngest child to live in a home
that became less animated and various as she grew up. Her mother had
died when she was thirteen, her two much older sisters had married
off--one submissively, one insubordinately; her two brothers had gone
out into the world well ahead of her, and so she had made what she could
of her father. But he was not a father one could make much of.
His ideas about girls and women were of a sentimental and modest
quality; they were creatures, he thought, either too bad for a modern
vocabulary, and then frequently most undesirably desirable, or too pure
and good for life. He made this simple classification of a large and
various sex to the exclusion of all intermediate kinds; he held that
the two classes had to be kept apart even in thought and remote from one
another. Women are made like the potter's vessels--either for worship
or contumely, and are withal fragile vessels. He had never wanted
daughters. Each time a daughter had been born to him he had concealed
his chagrin with great tenderness and effusion from his wife, and had
sworn unwontedly and with passionate sincerity in the bathroom. He was
a manly man, free from any strong maternal strain, and he had loved his
dark-eyed, dainty bright-colored, and active little wife with a real
vein of passion in his sentiment. But he had always felt (he had never
allowed himself to think of it) that the promptitude of their family
was a little indelicate of her, and in a sense an intrusion. He had,
however, planned brilliant careers for his two sons, and, with a certain
human amount of warping and delay, they were pursuing these. One was
in the Indian Civil Service and one in the rapidly developing motor
business. The daughters, he had hoped, would be their mother's care.
He had no ideas about daughters. They happen to a man.
Of course a little daughter is a delightful thing enough. It runs about
gayly, it romps, it is bright and pretty, it has enormous quantities of
soft hair and more power of expressing affection than its brothers. It
is a lovely little appendage to the mother who smiles over it, and it
does things quaintly like her, gestures with her very gestures. It makes
wonderful sentences that you can repeat in the City and are good
enough for Punch. You call it a lot of nicknames--"Babs" and "Bibs" and
"Viddles" and "Vee"; you whack at it playfully, and it whacks you back.
It loves to sit on your knee. All that is jolly and as it should be.
But a little daughter is one thing and a daughter quite another. There
one comes to a relationship that Mr. Stanley had never thought out.
When he found himself thinking about it, it upset him so that he at once
resorted to distraction. The chromatic fiction with which he relieved
his mind glanced but slightly at this aspect of life, and never with any
quality of guidance. Its heroes never had daughters, they borrowed other
people's. The one fault, indeed, of this school of fiction for him was
that it had rather a light way with parental rights. His instinct was in
the direction of considering his daughters his absolute property, bound
to obey him, his to give away or his to keep to be a comfort in his
declining years just as he thought fit. About this conception of
ownership he perceived and desired a certain sentimental glamour, he
liked everything properly dressed, but it remained ownership. Ownership
seemed only a reasonable return for the cares and expenses of a
daughter's upbringing. Daughters were not like sons. He perceived,
however, that both the novels he read and the world he lived in
discountenanced these assumptions. Nothing else was put in their place,
and they remained sotto voce, as it were, in his mind. The new and
the old cancelled out; his daughters became quasi-independent
dependents--which is absurd. One married as he wished and one against
his wishes, and now here was Ann Veronica, his little Vee, discontented
with her beautiful, safe, and sheltering home, going about with hatless
friends to Socialist meetings and art-class dances, and displaying a
disposition to carry her scientific ambitions to unwomanly lengths. She
seemed to think he was merely the paymaster, handing over the means
of her freedom. And now she insisted that she MUST leave the chastened
security of the Tredgold Women's College for Russell's unbridled
classes, and wanted to go to fancy dress dances in pirate costume and
spend the residue of the night with Widgett's ramshackle girls in some
indescribable hotel in Soho!
He had done his best not to think about her at all, but the situation
and his sister had become altogether too urgent. He had finally put
aside The Lilac Sunbonnet, gone into his study, lit the gas fire, and
written the letter that had brought these unsatisfactory relations to a
MY DEAR VEE, he wrote.
These daughters! He gnawed his pen and reflected, tore the sheet up, and
"MY DEAR VERONICA,--Your aunt tells me you have involved yourself in
some arrangement with the Widgett girls about a Fancy Dress Ball in
London. I gather you wish to go up in some fantastic get-up, wrapped
about in your opera cloak, and that after the festivities you propose to
stay with these friends of yours, and without any older people in your
party, at an hotel. Now I am sorry to cross you in anything you have set
your heart upon, but I regret to say--"
"H'm," he reflected, and crossed out the last four words.
"--but this cannot be."
"No," he said, and tried again: "but I must tell you quite definitely
that I feel it to be my duty to forbid any such exploit."
"Damn!" he remarked at the defaced letter; and, taking a fresh sheet, he
recopied what he had written. A certain irritation crept into his manner
as he did so.
"I regret that you should ever have proposed it," he went on.
He meditated, and began a new paragraph.
"The fact of it is, and this absurd project of yours only brings it to
a head, you have begun to get hold of some very queer ideas about what a
young lady in your position may or may not venture to do. I do not think
you quite understand my ideals or what is becoming as between father and
daughter. Your attitude to me--"
He fell into a brown study. It was so difficult to put precisely.
"--and your aunt--"
For a time he searched for the mot juste. Then he went on:
"--and, indeed, to most of the established things in life is, frankly,
unsatisfactory. You are restless, aggressive, critical with all
the crude unthinking criticism of youth. You have no grasp upon the
essential facts of life (I pray God you never may), and in your rash
ignorance you are prepared to dash into positions that may end in
lifelong regret. The life of a young girl is set about with prowling
He was arrested for a moment by an indistinct picture of Veronica
reading this last sentence. But he was now too deeply moved to trace
a certain unsatisfactoriness to its source in a mixture of metaphors.
"Well," he said, argumentatively, "it IS. That's all about it. It's time
"The life of a young girl is set about with prowling pitfalls, from
which she must be shielded at all costs."
His lips tightened, and he frowned with solemn resolution.
"So long as I am your father, so long as your life is entrusted to my
care, I feel bound by every obligation to use my authority to check this
odd disposition of yours toward extravagant enterprises. A day will come
when you will thank me. It is not, my dear Veronica, that I think there
is any harm in you; there is not. But a girl is soiled not only by evil
but by the proximity of evil, and a reputation for rashness may do
her as serious an injury as really reprehensible conduct. So do please
believe that in this matter I am acting for the best."
He signed his name and reflected. Then he opened the study door and
called "Mollie!" and returned to assume an attitude of authority on the
hearthrug, before the blue flames and orange glow of the gas fire.
His sister appeared.
She was dressed in one of those complicated dresses that are all lace
and work and confused patternings of black and purple and cream about
the body, and she was in many ways a younger feminine version of the
same theme as himself. She had the same sharp nose--which, indeed, only
Ann Veronica, of all the family, had escaped. She carried herself well,
whereas her brother slouched, and there was a certain aristocratic
dignity about her that she had acquired through her long engagement to
a curate of family, a scion of the Wiltshire Edmondshaws. He had died
before they married, and when her brother became a widower she had
come to his assistance and taken over much of the care of his youngest
daughter. But from the first her rather old-fashioned conception of life
had jarred with the suburban atmosphere, the High School spirit and the
memories of the light and little Mrs. Stanley, whose family had been by
any reckoning inconsiderable--to use the kindliest term. Miss Stanley
had determined from the outset to have the warmest affection for her
youngest niece and to be a second mother in her life--a second and a
better one; but she had found much to battle with, and there was much in
herself that Ann Veronica failed to understand. She came in now with an
air of reserved solicitude.
Mr. Stanley pointed to the letter with a pipe he had drawn from his
jacket pocket. "What do you think of that?" he asked.
She took it up in her many-ringed hands and read it judicially. He
filled his pipe slowly.
"Yes," she said at last, "it is firm and affectionate."
"I could have said more."
"You seem to have said just what had to be said. It seems to me exactly
what is wanted. She really must not go to that affair."
She paused, and he waited for her to speak.
"I don't think she quite sees the harm of those people or the sort of
life to which they would draw her," she said. "They would spoil every
"She has chances?" he said, helping her out.
"She is an extremely attractive girl," she said; and added, "to some
people. Of course, one doesn't like to talk about things until there are
things to talk about."
"All the more reason why she shouldn't get herself talked about."
"That is exactly what I feel."
Mr. Stanley took the letter and stood with it in his hand thoughtfully
for a time. "I'd give anything," he remarked, "to see our little Vee
happily and comfortably married."
He gave the note to the parlormaid the next morning in an inadvertent,
casual manner just as he was leaving the house to catch his London
train. When Ann Veronica got it she had at first a wild, fantastic idea
that it contained a tip.
Ann Veronica's resolve to have things out with her father was not
accomplished without difficulty.
He was not due from the City until about six, and so she went and played
Badminton with the Widgett girls until dinner-time. The atmosphere at
dinner was not propitious. Her aunt was blandly amiable above a certain
tremulous undertow, and talked as if to a caller about the alarming
spread of marigolds that summer at the end of the garden, a sort of
Yellow Peril to all the smaller hardy annuals, while her father brought
some papers to table and presented himself as preoccupied with them. "It
really seems as if we shall have to put down marigolds altogether next
year," Aunt Molly repeated three times, "and do away with marguerites.
They seed beyond all reason." Elizabeth, the parlormaid, kept coming in
to hand vegetables whenever there seemed a chance of Ann Veronica asking
for an interview. Directly dinner was over Mr. Stanley, having pretended
to linger to smoke, fled suddenly up-stairs to petrography, and when
Veronica tapped he answered through the locked door, "Go away, Vee! I'm
busy," and made a lapidary's wheel buzz loudly.
Breakfast, too, was an impossible occasion. He read the Times with an
unusually passionate intentness, and then declared suddenly for the
earlier of the two trains he used.
"I'll come to the station," said Ann Veronica. "I may as well come up by
"I may have to run," said her father, with an appeal to his watch.
"I'll run, too," she volunteered.
Instead of which they walked sharply....
"I say, daddy," she began, and was suddenly short of breath.
"If it's about that dance project," he said, "it's no good, Veronica.
I've made up my mind."
"You'll make me look a fool before all my friends."
"You shouldn't have made an engagement until you'd consulted your aunt."
"I thought I was old enough," she gasped, between laughter and crying.
Her father's step quickened to a trot. "I won't have you quarrelling and
crying in the Avenue," he said. "Stop it!... If you've got anything
to say, you must say it to your aunt--"
"But look here, daddy!"
He flapped the Times at her with an imperious gesture.
"It's settled. You're not to go. You're NOT to go."
"But it's about other things."
"I don't care. This isn't the place."
"Then may I come to the study to-night--after dinner?"
"It's important. If I can't talk anywhere else--I DO want an
Ahead of them walked a gentleman whom it was evident they must at their
present pace very speedily overtake. It was Ramage, the occupant of the
big house at the end of the Avenue. He had recently made Mr. Stanley's
acquaintance in the train and shown him one or two trifling civilities.
He was an outside broker and the proprietor of a financial newspaper; he
had come up very rapidly in the last few years, and Mr. Stanley admired
and detested him in almost equal measure. It was intolerable to think
that he might overhear words and phrases. Mr. Stanley's pace slackened.
"You've no right to badger me like this, Veronica," he said. "I can't
see what possible benefit can come of discussing things that are
settled. If you want advice, your aunt is the person. However, if you
must air your opinions--"
"To-night, then, daddy!"
He made an angry but conceivably an assenting noise, and then Ramage
glanced back and stopped, saluted elaborately, and waited for them to
come up. He was a square-faced man of nearly fifty, with iron-gray hair
a mobile, clean-shaven mouth and rather protuberant black eyes that now
scrutinized Ann Veronica. He dressed rather after the fashion of the
West End than the City, and affected a cultured urbanity that somehow
disconcerted and always annoyed Ann Veronica's father extremely. He
did not play golf, but took his exercise on horseback, which was also
"Stuffy these trees make the Avenue," said Mr. Stanley as they drew
alongside, to account for his own ruffled and heated expression. "They
ought to have been lopped in the spring."
"There's plenty of time," said Ramage. "Is Miss Stanley coming up with
"I go second," she said, "and change at Wimbledon."
"We'll all go second," said Ramage, "if we may?"
Mr. Stanley wanted to object strongly, but as he could not immediately
think how to put it, he contented himself with a grunt, and the motion
was carried. "How's Mrs. Ramage?" he asked.
"Very much as usual," said Ramage. "She finds lying up so much very
irksome. But, you see, she HAS to lie up."
The topic of his invalid wife bored him, and he turned at once to Ann
Veronica. "And where are YOU going?" he said. "Are you going on again
this winter with that scientific work of yours? It's an instance of
heredity, I suppose." For a moment Mr. Stanley almost liked Ramage.
"You're a biologist, aren't you?"
He began to talk of his own impressions of biology as a commonplace
magazine reader who had to get what he could from the monthly reviews,
and was glad to meet with any information from nearer the fountainhead.
In a little while he and she were talking quite easily and agreeably.
They went on talking in the train--it seemed to her father a slight want
of deference to him--and he listened and pretended to read the Times. He
was struck disagreeably by Ramage's air of gallant consideration and Ann
Veronica's self-possessed answers. These things did not harmonize with
his conception of the forthcoming (if unavoidable) interview. After
all, it came to him suddenly as a harsh discovery that she might be in
a sense regarded as grownup. He was a man who in all things classified
without nuance, and for him there were in the matter of age just two
feminine classes and no more--girls and women. The distinction lay
chiefly in the right to pat their heads. But here was a girl--she must
be a girl, since she was his daughter and pat-able--imitating the
woman quite remarkably and cleverly. He resumed his listening. She was
discussing one of those modern advanced plays with a remarkable, with an
"His love-making," she remarked, "struck me as unconvincing. He seemed
The full significance of her words did not instantly appear to him. Then
it dawned. Good heavens! She was discussing love-making. For a time he
heard no more, and stared with stony eyes at a Book-War proclamation in
leaded type that filled half a column of the Times that day. Could she
understand what she was talking about? Luckily it was a second-class
carriage and the ordinary fellow-travellers were not there. Everybody,
he felt, must be listening behind their papers.
Of course, girls repeat phrases and opinions of which they cannot
possibly understand the meaning. But a middle-aged man like Ramage ought
to know better than to draw out a girl, the daughter of a friend and
Well, after all, he seemed to be turning the subject. "Broddick is a
heavy man," he was saying, "and the main interest of the play was the
embezzlement." Thank Heaven! Mr. Stanley allowed his paper to drop
a little, and scrutinized the hats and brows of their three
They reached Wimbledon, and Ramage whipped out to hand Miss Stanley
to the platform as though she had been a duchess, and she descended as
though such attentions from middle-aged, but still gallant, merchants
were a matter of course. Then, as Ramage readjusted himself in a corner,
he remarked: "These young people shoot up, Stanley. It seems only
yesterday that she was running down the Avenue, all hair and legs."
Mr. Stanley regarded him through his glasses with something approaching
"Now she's all hat and ideas," he said, with an air of humor.
"She seems an unusually clever girl," said Ramage.
Mr. Stanley regarded his neighbor's clean-shaven face almost warily.
"I'm not sure whether we don't rather overdo all this higher education,"
he said, with an effect of conveying profound meanings.
He became quite sure, by a sort of accumulation of reflection, as the
day wore on. He found his youngest daughter intrusive in his thoughts
all through the morning, and still more so in the afternoon. He saw her
young and graceful back as she descended from the carriage, severely
ignoring him, and recalled a glimpse he had of her face, bright and
serene, as his train ran out of Wimbledon. He recalled with exasperating
perplexity her clear, matter-of-fact tone as she talked about
love-making being unconvincing. He was really very proud of her, and
extraordinarily angry and resentful at the innocent and audacious
self-reliance that seemed to intimate her sense of absolute independence
of him, her absolute security without him. After all, she only LOOKED a
woman. She was rash and ignorant, absolutely inexperienced. Absolutely.
He began to think of speeches, very firm, explicit speeches, he would
He lunched in the Legal Club in Chancery Lane, and met Ogilvy. Daughters
were in the air that day. Ogilvy was full of a client's trouble in
that matter, a grave and even tragic trouble. He told some of the
"Curious case," said Ogilvy, buttering his bread and cutting it up in a
way he had. "Curious case--and sets one thinking."
He resumed, after a mouthful: "Here is a girl of sixteen or seventeen,
seventeen and a half to be exact, running about, as one might say, in
London. Schoolgirl. Her family are solid West End people, Kensington
people. Father--dead. She goes out and comes home. Afterward goes on to
Oxford. Twenty-one, twenty-two. Why doesn't she marry? Plenty of money
under her father's will. Charming girl."
He consumed Irish stew for some moments.
"Married already," he said, with his mouth full. "Shopman."
"Good God!" said Mr. Stanley.
"Good-looking rascal she met at Worthing. Very romantic and all that. He
"He left her alone. Pure romantic nonsense on her part. Sheer
calculation on his. Went up to Somerset House to examine the will before
he did it. Yes. Nice position."
"She doesn't care for him now?"
"Not a bit. What a girl of sixteen cares for is hair and a high color
and moonlight and a tenor voice. I suppose most of our daughters would
marry organ-grinders if they had a chance--at that age. My son wanted
to marry a woman of thirty in a tobacconist's shop. Only a son's another
story. We fixed that. Well, that's the situation. My people don't know
what to do. Can't face a scandal. Can't ask the gent to go abroad and
condone a bigamy. He misstated her age and address; but you can't get
home on him for a thing like that.... There you are! Girl spoilt for
life. Makes one want to go back to the Oriental system!"
Mr. Stanley poured wine. "Damned Rascal!" he said. "Isn't there a
brother to kick him?"
"Mere satisfaction," reflected Ogilvy. "Mere sensuality. I rather think
they have kicked him, from the tone of some of the letters. Nice, of
course. But it doesn't alter the situation."
"It's these Rascals," said Mr. Stanley, and paused.
"Always has been," said Ogilvy. "Our interest lies in heading them off."
"There was a time when girls didn't get these extravagant ideas."
"Lydia Languish, for example. Anyhow, they didn't run about so much."
"Yes. That's about the beginning. It's these damned novels. All this
torrent of misleading, spurious stuff that pours from the press. These
sham ideals and advanced notions. Women who Dids, and all that kind of
Ogilvy reflected. "This girl--she's really a very charming, frank
person--had had her imagination fired, so she told me, by a school
performance of Romeo and Juliet."
Mr. Stanley decided to treat that as irrelevant. "There ought to be a
Censorship of Books. We want it badly at the present time. Even WITH
the Censorship of Plays there's hardly a decent thing to which a man can
take his wife and daughters, a creeping taint of suggestion everywhere.
What would it be without that safeguard?"
Ogilvy pursued his own topic. "I'm inclined to think, Stanley, myself
that as a matter of fact it was the expurgated Romeo and Juliet did the
mischief. If our young person hadn't had the nurse part cut out, eh? She
might have known more and done less. I was curious about that. All they
left it was the moon and stars. And the balcony and 'My Romeo!'"
"Shakespeare is altogether different from the modern stuff. Altogether
different. I'm not discussing Shakespeare. I don't want to Bowdlerize
Shakespeare. I'm not that sort I quite agree. But this modern miasma--"
Mr. Stanley took mustard savagely.
"Well, we won't go into Shakespeare," said Ogilvy "What interests me
is that our young women nowadays are running about as free as air
practically, with registry offices and all sorts of accommodation round
the corner. Nothing to check their proceedings but a declining habit of
telling the truth and the limitations of their imaginations. And in that
respect they stir up one another. Not my affair, of course, but I think
we ought to teach them more or restrain them more. One or the other.
They're too free for their innocence or too innocent for their freedom.
That's my point. Are you going to have any apple-tart, Stanley? The
apple-tart's been very good lately--very good!"
At the end of dinner that evening Ann Veronica began: "Father!"
Her father looked at her over his glasses and spoke with grave
deliberation; "If there is anything you want to say to me," he said,
"you must say it in the study. I am going to smoke a little here, and
then I shall go to the study. I don't see what you can have to say. I
should have thought my note cleared up everything. There are some papers
I have to look through to-night--important papers."
"I won't keep you very long, daddy," said Ann Veronica.
"I don't see, Mollie," he remarked, taking a cigar from the box on
the table as his sister and daughter rose, "why you and Vee shouldn't
discuss this little affair--whatever it is--without bothering me."
It was the first time this controversy had become triangular, for all
three of them were shy by habit.
He stopped in mid-sentence, and Ann Veronica opened the door for her
aunt. The air was thick with feelings. Her aunt went out of the room
with dignity and a rustle, and up-stairs to the fastness of her own
room. She agreed entirely with her brother. It distressed and confused
her that the girl should not come to her.
It seemed to show a want of affection, to be a deliberate and unmerited
disregard, to justify the reprisal of being hurt.
When Ann Veronica came into the study she found every evidence of a
carefully foreseen grouping about the gas fire. Both arm-chairs had been
moved a little so as to face each other on either side of the
fender, and in the circular glow of the green-shaded lamp there lay,
conspicuously waiting, a thick bundle of blue and white papers tied
with pink tape. Her father held some printed document in his hand,
and appeared not to observe her entry. "Sit down," he said, and
perused--"perused" is the word for it--for some moments. Then he put
the paper by. "And what is it all about, Veronica?" he asked, with a
deliberate note of irony, looking at her a little quizzically over his
Ann Veronica looked bright and a little elated, and she disregarded
her father's invitation to be seated. She stood on the mat instead, and
looked down on him. "Look here, daddy," she said, in a tone of great
reasonableness, "I MUST go to that dance, you know."
Her father's irony deepened. "Why?" he asked, suavely.
Her answer was not quite ready. "Well, because I don't see any reason
why I shouldn't."
"You see I do."
"Why shouldn't I go?"
"It isn't a suitable place; it isn't a suitable gathering."
"But, daddy, what do you know of the place and the gathering?"
"And it's entirely out of order; it isn't right, it isn't correct;
it's impossible for you to stay in an hotel in London--the idea is
preposterous. I can't imagine what possessed you, Veronica."
He put his head on one side, pulled down the corners of his mouth, and
looked at her over his glasses.
"But why is it preposterous?" asked Ann Veronica, and fiddled with a
pipe on the mantel.
"Surely!" he remarked, with an expression of worried appeal.
"You see, daddy, I don't think it IS preposterous. That's really what
I want to discuss. It comes to this--am I to be trusted to take care of
myself, or am I not?"
"To judge from this proposal of yours, I should say not."
"I think I am."
"As long as you remain under my roof--" he began, and paused.
"You are going to treat me as though I wasn't. Well, I don't think
"Your ideas of fairness--" he remarked, and discontinued that sentence.
"My dear girl," he said, in a tone of patient reasonableness, "you are a
mere child. You know nothing of life, nothing of its dangers, nothing of
its possibilities. You think everything is harmless and simple, and so
forth. It isn't. It isn't. That's where you go wrong. In some things,
in many things, you must trust to your elders, to those who know more of
life than you do. Your aunt and I have discussed all this matter. There
it is. You can't go."
The conversation hung for a moment. Ann Veronica tried to keep hold of
a complicated situation and not lose her head. She had turned round
sideways, so as to look down into the fire.
"You see, father," she said, "it isn't only this affair of the dance.
I want to go to that because it's a new experience, because I think
it will be interesting and give me a view of things. You say I know
nothing. That's probably true. But how am I to know of things?"
"Some things I hope you may never know," he said.
"I'm not so sure. I want to know--just as much as I can."
"Tut!" he said, fuming, and put out his hand to the papers in the pink
"Well, I do. It's just that I want to say. I want to be a human being;
I want to learn about things and know about things, and not to be
protected as something too precious for life, cooped up in one narrow
"Cooped up!" he cried. "Did I stand in the way of your going to college?
Have I ever prevented you going about at any reasonable hour? You've got
"H'm!" said Ann Veronica, and then went on "I want to be taken
seriously. A girl--at my age--is grown-up. I want to go on with
my University work under proper conditions, now that I've done the
Intermediate. It isn't as though I haven't done well. I've never muffed
an exam yet. Roddy muffed two...."
Her father interrupted. "Now look here, Veronica, let us be plain with
each other. You are not going to that infidel Russell's classes. You are
not going anywhere but to the Tredgold College. I've thought that out,
and you must make up your mind to it. All sorts of considerations come
in. While you live in my house you must follow my ideas. You are wrong
even about that man's scientific position and his standard of work.
There are men in the Lowndean who laugh at him--simply laugh at him.
And I have seen work by his pupils myself that struck me as being--well,
next door to shameful. There's stories, too, about his demonstrator,
Capes Something or other. The kind of man who isn't content with his
science, and writes articles in the monthly reviews. Anyhow, there it
is: YOU ARE NOT GOING THERE."
The girl received this intimation in silence, but the face that looked
down upon the gas fire took an expression of obstinacy that brought out
a hitherto latent resemblance between parent and child. When she spoke,
her lips twitched.
"Then I suppose when I have graduated I am to come home?"
"It seems the natural course--"
"And do nothing?"
"There are plenty of things a girl can find to do at home."
"Until some one takes pity on me and marries me?"
He raised his eyebrows in mild appeal. His foot tapped impatiently, and
he took up the papers.
"Look here, father," she said, with a change in her voice, "suppose I
won't stand it?"
He regarded her as though this was a new idea.
"Suppose, for example, I go to this dance?"
"Well"--her breath failed her for a moment. "How would you prevent it?"
"But I have forbidden it!" he said, raising his voice.
"Yes, I know. But suppose I go?"
"Now, Veronica! No, no. This won't do. Understand me! I forbid it. I
do not want to hear from you even the threat of disobedience." He spoke
loudly. "The thing is forbidden!"
"I am ready to give up anything that you show to be wrong."
"You will give up anything I wish you to give up."
They stared at each other through a pause, and both faces were flushed
She was trying by some wonderful, secret, and motionless gymnastics to
restrain her tears. But when she spoke her lips quivered, and they
came. "I mean to go to that dance!" she blubbered. "I mean to go to
that dance! I meant to reason with you, but you won't reason. You're
At the sight of her tears his expression changed to a mingling of
triumph and concern. He stood up, apparently intending to put an
arm about her, but she stepped back from him quickly. She produced a
handkerchief, and with one sweep of this and a simultaneous gulp had
abolished her fit of weeping. His voice now had lost its ironies.
"Now, Veronica," he pleaded, "Veronica, this is most unreasonable. All
we do is for your good. Neither your aunt nor I have any other thought
but what is best for you."
"Only you won't let me live. Only you won't let me exist!"
Mr. Stanley lost patience. He bullied frankly.
"What nonsense is this? What raving! My dear child, you DO live, you
DO exist! You have this home. You have friends, acquaintances, social
standing, brothers and sisters, every advantage! Instead of which, you
want to go to some mixed classes or other and cut up rabbits and dance
about at nights in wild costumes with casual art student friends and God
knows who. That--that isn't living! You are beside yourself. You don't
know what you ask nor what you say. You have neither reason nor logic.
I am sorry to seem to hurt you, but all I say is for your good. You
MUST not, you SHALL not go. On this I am resolved. I put my foot down
like--like adamant. And a time will come, Veronica, mark my words, a
time will come when you will bless me for my firmness to-night. It goes
to my heart to disappoint you, but this thing must not be."
He sidled toward her, but she recoiled from him, leaving him in
possession of the hearth-rug.
"Well," she said, "good-night, father."
"What!" he asked; "not a kiss?"
She affected not to hear.
The door closed softly upon her. For a long time he remained standing
before the fire, staring at the situation. Then he sat down and filled
his pipe slowly and thoughtfully....
"I don't see what else I could have said," he remarked.
CHAPTER THE SECOND
ANN VERONICA GATHERS POINTS OF VIEW
"Are you coming to the Fadden Dance, Ann Veronica?" asked Constance
Ann Veronica considered her answer. "I mean to," she replied.
"You are making your dress?"
"Such as it is."
They were in the elder Widgett girl's bedroom; Hetty was laid up, she
said, with a sprained ankle, and a miscellaneous party was gossiping
away her tedium. It was a large, litt
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