Ann Veronica, a modern love story, by H. G. Wells

Chapter the Tenth

The Suffragettes

Part 1

“There is only one way out of all this,” said Ann Veronica, sitting up in her little bed in the darkness and biting at her nails.

“I thought I was just up against Morningside Park and father, but it’s the whole order of things — the whole blessed order of things. . . . ”

She shivered. She frowned and gripped her hands about her knees very tightly. Her mind developed into savage wrath at the present conditions of a woman’s life.

“I suppose all life is an affair of chances. But a woman’s life is all chance. It’s artificially chance. Find your man, that’s the rule. All the rest is humbug and delicacy. He’s the handle of life for you. He will let you live if it pleases him. . . .

“Can’t it be altered?

“I suppose an actress is free? . . . ”

She tried to think of some altered state of affairs in which these monstrous limitations would be alleviated, in which women would stand on their own feet in equal citizenship with men. For a time she brooded on the ideals and suggestions of the Socialists, on the vague intimations of an Endowment of Motherhood, of a complete relaxation of that intense individual dependence for women which is woven into the existing social order. At the back of her mind there seemed always one irrelevant qualifying spectator whose presence she sought to disregard. She would not look at him, would not think of him; when her mind wavered, then she muttered to herself in the darkness so as to keep hold of her generalizations.

“It is true. It is no good waiving the thing; it is true. Unless women are never to be free, never to be even respected, there must be a generation of martyrs. . . . Why shouldn’t we be martyrs? There’s nothing else for most of us, anyhow. It’s a sort of blacklegging to want to have a life of one’s own. . . . ”

She repeated, as if she answered an objector: “A sort of blacklegging.

“A sex of blacklegging clients.”

Her mind diverged to other aspects, and another type of womanhood.

“Poor little Miniver! What can she be but what she is? . . . Because she states her case in a tangle, drags it through swamps of nonsense, it doesn’t alter the fact that she is right.”

That phrase about dragging the truth through swamps of nonsense she remembered from Capes. At the recollection that it was his, she seemed to fall through a thin surface, as one might fall through the crust of a lava into glowing depths. She wallowed for a time in the thought of Capes, unable to escape from his image and the idea of his presence in her life.

She let her mind run into dreams of that cloud paradise of an altered world in which the Goopes and Minivers, the Fabians and reforming people believed. Across that world was written in letters of light, “Endowment of Motherhood.” Suppose in some complex yet conceivable way women were endowed, were no longer economically and socially dependent on men. “If one was free,” she said, “one could go to him. . . . This vile hovering to catch a man’s eye! . . . One could go to him and tell him one loved him. I want to love him. A little love from him would be enough. It would hurt no one. It would not burden him with any obligation.”

She groaned aloud and bowed her forehead to her knees. She floundered deep. She wanted to kiss his feet. His feet would have the firm texture of his hands.

Then suddenly her spirit rose in revolt. “I will not have this slavery,” she said. “I will not have this slavery.”

She shook her fist ceilingward. “Do you hear!” she said “whatever you are, wherever you are! I will not be slave to the thought of any man, slave to the customs of any time. Confound this slavery of sex! I am a man! I will get this under if I am killed in doing it!”

She scowled into the cold blacknesses about her.

“Manning,” she said, and contemplated a figure of inaggressive persistence. “No!” Her thoughts had turned in a new direction.

“It doesn’t matter,” she said, after a long interval, “if they are absurd. They mean something. They mean everything that women can mean — except submission. The vote is only the beginning, the necessary beginning. If we do not begin —”

She had come to a resolution. Abruptly she got out of bed, smoothed her sheet and straightened her pillow and lay down, and fell almost instantly asleep.

Part 2

The next morning was as dark and foggy as if it was mid-November instead of early March. Ann Veronica woke rather later than usual, and lay awake for some minutes before she remembered a certain resolution she had taken in the small hours. Then instantly she got out of bed and proceeded to dress.

She did not start for the Imperial College. She spent the morning up to ten in writing a series of unsuccessful letters to Ramage, which she tore up unfinished; and finally she desisted and put on her jacket and went out into the lamp-lit obscurity and slimy streets. She turned a resolute face southward.

She followed Oxford Street into Holborn, and then she inquired for Chancery Lane. There she sought and at last found 107A, one of those heterogeneous piles of offices which occupy the eastern side of the lane. She studied the painted names of firms and persons and enterprises on the wall, and discovered that the Women’s Bond of Freedom occupied several contiguous suites on the first floor. She went up-stairs and hesitated between four doors with ground-glass panes, each of which professed “The Women’s Bond of Freedom” in neat black letters. She opened one and found herself in a large untidy room set with chairs that were a little disarranged as if by an overnight meeting. On the walls were notice-boards bearing clusters of newspaper slips, three or four big posters of monster meetings, one of which Ann Veronica had attended with Miss Miniver, and a series of announcements in purple copying-ink, and in one corner was a pile of banners. There was no one at all in this room, but through the half-open door of one of the small apartments that gave upon it she had a glimpse of two very young girls sitting at a littered table and writing briskly.

She walked across to this apartment and, opening the door a little wider, discovered a press section of the movement at work.

“I want to inquire,” said Ann Veronica.

“Next door,” said a spectacled young person of seventeen or eighteen, with an impatient indication of the direction.

In the adjacent apartment Ann Veronica found a middle-aged woman with a tired face under the tired hat she wore, sitting at a desk opening letters while a dusky, untidy girl of eight-or nine-and-twenty hammered industriously at a typewriter. The tired woman looked up in inquiring silence at Ann Veronica’s diffident entry.

“I want to know more about this movement,” said Ann Veronica.

“Are you with us?” said the tired woman.

“I don’t know,” said Ann Veronica; “I think I am. I want very much to do something for women. But I want to know what you are doing.”

The tired woman sat still for a moment. “You haven’t come here to make a lot of difficulties?” she asked.

“No,” said Ann Veronica, “but I want to know.”

The tired woman shut her eyes tightly for a moment, and then looked with them at Ann Veronica. “What can you do?” she asked.

“Do?”

“Are you prepared to do things for us? Distribute bills? Write letters? Interrupt meetings? Canvass at elections? Face dangers?”

“If I am satisfied —”

“If we satisfy you?”

“Then, if possible, I would like to go to prison.”

“It isn’t nice going to prison.”

“It would suit me.”

“It isn’t nice getting there.”

“That’s a question of detail,” said Ann Veronica.

The tired woman looked quietly at her. “What are your objections?” she said.

“It isn’t objections exactly. I want to know what you are doing; how you think this work of yours really does serve women.”

“We are working for the equal citizenship of men and women,” said the tired woman. “Women have been and are treated as the inferiors of men, we want to make them their equals.”

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, “I agree to that. But —”

The tired woman raised her eyebrows in mild protest.

“Isn’t the question more complicated than that?” said Ann Veronica.

“You could have a talk to Miss Kitty Brett this afternoon, if you liked. Shall I make an appointment for you?”

Miss Kitty Brett was one of the most conspicuous leaders of the movement. Ann Veronica snatched at the opportunity, and spent most of the intervening time in the Assyrian Court of the British Museum, reading and thinking over a little book upon the feminist movement the tired woman had made her buy. She got a bun and some cocoa in the little refreshment-room, and then wandered through the galleries up-stairs, crowded with Polynesian idols and Polynesian dancing-garments, and all the simple immodest accessories to life in Polynesia, to a seat among the mummies. She was trying to bring her problems to a head, and her mind insisted upon being even more discursive and atmospheric than usual. It generalized everything she put to it.

“Why should women be dependent on men?” she asked; and the question was at once converted into a system of variations upon the theme of “Why are things as they are?”—“Why are human beings viviparous?”—“Why are people hungry thrice a day?”—“Why does one faint at danger?”

She stood for a time looking at the dry limbs and still human face of that desiccated unwrapped mummy from the very beginnings of social life. It looked very patient, she thought, and a little self-satisfied. It looked as if it had taken its world for granted and prospered on that assumption — a world in which children were trained to obey their elders and the wills of women over-ruled as a matter of course. It was wonderful to think this thing had lived, had felt and suffered. Perhaps once it had desired some other human being intolerably. Perhaps some one had kissed the brow that was now so cadaverous, rubbed that sunken cheek with loving fingers, held that stringy neck with passionately living hands. But all of that was forgotten. “In the end,” it seemed to be thinking, “they embalmed me with the utmost respect — sound spices chosen to endure — the best! I took my world as I found it. THINGS ARE SO!”

Part 3

Ann Veronica’s first impression of Kitty Brett was that she was aggressive and disagreeable; her next that she was a person of amazing persuasive power. She was perhaps three-and-twenty, and very pink and healthy-looking, showing a great deal of white and rounded neck above her business-like but altogether feminine blouse, and a good deal of plump, gesticulating forearm out of her short sleeve. She had animated dark blue-gray eyes under her fine eyebrows, and dark brown hair that rolled back simply and effectively from her broad low forehead. And she was about as capable of intelligent argument as a runaway steam-roller. She was a trained being — trained by an implacable mother to one end.

She spoke with fluent enthusiasm. She did not so much deal with Ann Veronica’s interpolations as dispose of them with quick and use-hardened repartee, and then she went on with a fine directness to sketch the case for her agitation, for that remarkable rebellion of the women that was then agitating the whole world of politics and discussion. She assumed with a kind of mesmeric force all the propositions that Ann Veronica wanted her to define.

“What do we want? What is the goal?” asked Ann Veronica.

“Freedom! Citizenship! And the way to that — the way to everything — is the Vote.”

Ann Veronica said something about a general change of ideas.

“How can you change people’s ideas if you have no power?” said Kitty Brett.

Ann Veronica was not ready enough to deal with that counter-stroke.

“One doesn’t want to turn the whole thing into a mere sex antagonism.”

“When women get justice,” said Kitty Brett, “there will be no sex antagonism. None at all. Until then we mean to keep on hammering away.”

“It seems to me that much of a woman’s difficulties are economic.”

“That will follow,” said Kitty Brett —“that will follow.”

She interrupted as Ann Veronica was about to speak again, with a bright contagious hopefulness. “Everything will follow,” she said.

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, trying to think where they were, trying to get things plain again that had seemed plain enough in the quiet of the night.

“Nothing was ever done,” Miss Brett asserted, “without a certain element of Faith. After we have got the Vote and are recognized as citizens, then we can come to all these other things.”

Even in the glamour of Miss Brett’s assurance it seemed to Ann Veronica that this was, after all, no more than the gospel of Miss Miniver with a new set of resonances. And like that gospel it meant something, something different from its phrases, something elusive, and yet something that in spite of the superficial incoherence of its phrasing, was largely essentially true. There was something holding women down, holding women back, and if it wasn’t exactly man-made law, man-made law was an aspect of it. There was something indeed holding the whole species back from the imaginable largeness of life. . . .

“The Vote is the symbol of everything,” said Miss Brett.

She made an abrupt personal appeal.

“Oh! please don’t lose yourself in a wilderness of secondary considerations,” she said. “Don’t ask me to tell you all that women can do, all that women can be. There is a new life, different from the old life of dependence, possible. If only we are not divided. If only we work together. This is the one movement that brings women of different classes together for a common purpose. If you could see how it gives them souls, women who have taken things for granted, who have given themselves up altogether to pettiness and vanity. . . . ”

“Give me something to do,” said Ann Veronica, interrupting her persuasions at last. “It has been very kind of you to see me, but I don’t want to sit and talk and use your time any longer. I want to do something. I want to hammer myself against all this that pens women in. I feel that I shall stifle unless I can do something — and do something soon.”

Part 4

It was not Ann Veronica’s fault that the night’s work should have taken upon itself the forms of wild burlesque. She was in deadly earnest in everything she did. It seemed to her the last desperate attack upon the universe that would not let her live as she desired to live, that penned her in and controlled her and directed her and disapproved of her, the same invincible wrappering, the same leaden tyranny of a universe that she had vowed to overcome after that memorable conflict with her father at Morningside Park.

She was listed for the raid — she was informed it was to be a raid upon the House of Commons, though no particulars were given her — and told to go alone to 14, Dexter Street, Westminster, and not to ask any policeman to direct her. 14, Dexter Street, Westminster, she found was not a house but a yard in an obscure street, with big gates and the name of Podgers & Carlo, Carriers and Furniture Removers, thereon. She was perplexed by this, and stood for some seconds in the empty street hesitating, until the appearance of another circumspect woman under the street lamp at the corner reassured her. In one of the big gates was a little door, and she rapped at this. It was immediately opened by a man with light eyelashes and a manner suggestive of restrained passion. “Come right in,” he hissed under his breath, with the true conspirator’s note, closed the door very softly and pointed, “Through there!”

By the meagre light of a gas lamp she perceived a cobbled yard with four large furniture vans standing with horses and lamps alight. A slender young man, wearing glasses, appeared from the shadow of the nearest van. “Are you A, B, C, or D?” he asked.

“They told me D,” said Ann Veronica.

“Through there,” he said, and pointed with the pamphlet he was carrying.

Ann Veronica found herself in a little stirring crowd of excited women, whispering and tittering and speaking in undertones.

The light was poor, so that she saw their gleaming faces dimly and indistinctly. No one spoke to her. She stood among them, watching them and feeling curiously alien to them. The oblique ruddy lighting distorted them oddly, made queer bars and patches of shadow upon their clothes. “It’s Kitty’s idea,” said one, “we are to go in the vans.”

“Kitty is wonderful,” said another.

“Wonderful!”

“I have always longed for prison service,” said a voice, “always. From the beginning. But it’s only now I’m able to do it.”

A little blond creature close at hand suddenly gave way to a fit of hysterical laughter, and caught up the end of it with a sob.

“Before I took up the Suffrage,” a firm, flat voice remarked, “I could scarcely walk up-stairs without palpitations.”

Some one hidden from Ann Veronica appeared to be marshalling the assembly. “We have to get in, I think,” said a nice little old lady in a bonnet to Ann Veronica, speaking with a voice that quavered a little. “My dear, can you see in this light? I think I would like to get in. Which is C?”

Ann Veronica, with a curious sinking of the heart, regarded the black cavities of the vans. Their doors stood open, and placards with big letters indicated the section assigned to each. She directed the little old woman and then made her way to van D. A young woman with a white badge on her arm stood and counted the sections as they entered their vans.

“When they tap the roof,” she said, in a voice of authority, “you are to come out. You will be opposite the big entrance in Old Palace Yard. It’s the public entrance. You are to make for that and get into the lobby if you can, and so try and reach the floor of the House, crying ‘Votes for Women!’ as you go.”

She spoke like a mistress addressing school-children.

“Don’t bunch too much as you come out,” she added.

“All right?” asked the man with the light eyelashes, suddenly appearing in the doorway. He waited for an instant, wasting an encouraging smile in the imperfect light, and then shut the doors of the van, leaving the women in darkness. . . .

The van started with a jerk and rumbled on its way.

“It’s like Troy!” said a voice of rapture. “It’s exactly like Troy!”

Part 5

So Ann Veronica, enterprising and a little dubious as ever, mingled with the stream of history and wrote her Christian name upon the police-court records of the land.

But out of a belated regard for her father she wrote the surname of some one else.

Some day, when the rewards of literature permit the arduous research required, the Campaign of the Women will find its Carlyle, and the particulars of that marvellous series of exploits by which Miss Brett and her colleagues nagged the whole Western world into the discussion of women’s position become the material for the most delightful and amazing descriptions. At present the world waits for that writer, and the confused record of the newspapers remains the only resource of the curious. When he comes he will do that raid of the pantechnicons the justice it deserves; he will picture the orderly evening scene about the Imperial Legislature in convincing detail, the coming and going of cabs and motor-cabs and broughams through the chill, damp evening into New Palace Yard, the reinforced but untroubled and unsuspecting police about the entries of those great buildings whose square and panelled Victorian Gothic streams up from the glare of the lamps into the murkiness of the night; Big Ben shining overhead, an unassailable beacon, and the incidental traffic of Westminster, cabs, carts, and glowing omnibuses going to and from the bridge. About the Abbey and Abingdon Street stood the outer pickets and detachments of the police, their attention all directed westward to where the women in Caxton Hall, Westminster, hummed like an angry hive. Squads reached to the very portal of that centre of disturbance. And through all these defences and into Old Palace Yard, into the very vitals of the defenders’ position, lumbered the unsuspected vans.

They travelled past the few idle sightseers who had braved the uninviting evening to see what the Suffragettes might be doing; they pulled up unchallenged within thirty yards of those coveted portals.

And then they disgorged.

Were I a painter of subject pictures, I would exhaust all my skill in proportion and perspective and atmosphere upon the august seat of empire, I would present it gray and dignified and immense and respectable beyond any mere verbal description, and then, in vivid black and very small, I would put in those valiantly impertinent vans, squatting at the base of its altitudes and pouring out a swift, straggling rush of ominous little black objects, minute figures of determined women at war with the universe.

Ann Veronica was in their very forefront.

In an instant the expectant calm of Westminster was ended, and the very Speaker in the chair blenched at the sound of the policemen’s whistles. The bolder members in the House left their places to go lobbyward, grinning. Others pulled hats over their noses, cowered in their seats, and feigned that all was right with the world. In Old Palace Yard everybody ran. They either ran to see or ran for shelter. Even two Cabinet Ministers took to their heels, grinning insincerely. At the opening of the van doors and the emergence into the fresh air Ann Veronica’s doubt and depression gave place to the wildest exhilaration. That same adventurousness that had already buoyed her through crises that would have overwhelmed any normally feminine girl with shame and horror now became uppermost again. Before her was a great Gothic portal. Through that she had to go.

Past her shot the little old lady in the bonnet, running incredibly fast, but otherwise still alertly respectable, and she was making a strange threatening sound as she ran, such as one would use in driving ducks out of a garden —“B-r-r-r-r-r —!” and pawing with black-gloved hands. The policemen were closing in from the sides to intervene. The little old lady struck like a projectile upon the resounding chest of the foremost of these, and then Ann Veronica had got past and was ascending the steps.

Then most horribly she was clasped about the waist from behind and lifted from the ground.

At that a new element poured into her excitement, an element of wild disgust and terror. She had never experienced anything so disagreeable in her life as the sense of being held helplessly off her feet. She screamed involuntarily — she had never in her life screamed before — and then she began to wriggle and fight like a frightened animal against the men who were holding her.

The affair passed at one leap from a spree to a nightmare of violence and disgust. Her hair got loose, her hat came over one eye, and she had no arm free to replace it. She felt she must suffocate if these men did not put her down, and for a time they would not put her down. Then with an indescribable relief her feet were on the pavement, and she was being urged along by two policemen, who were gripping her wrists in an irresistible expert manner. She was writhing to get her hands loose and found herself gasping with passionate violence, “It’s damnable! — damnable!” to the manifest disgust of the fatherly policeman on her right.

Then they had released her arms and were trying to push her away.

“You be off, missie,” said the fatherly policeman. “This ain’t no place for you.”

He pushed her a dozen yards along the greasy pavement with flat, well-trained hands that there seemed to be no opposing. Before her stretched blank spaces, dotted with running people coming toward her, and below them railings and a statue. She almost submitted to this ending of her adventure. But at the word “home” she turned again.

“I won’t go home,” she said; “I won’t!” and she evaded the clutch of the fatherly policeman and tried to thrust herself past him in the direction of that big portal. “Steady on!” he cried.

A diversion was created by the violent struggles of the little old lady. She seemed to be endowed with superhuman strength. A knot of three policemen in conflict with her staggered toward Ann Veronica’s attendants and distracted their attention. “I WILL be arrested! I WON’T go home!” the little old lady was screaming over and over again. They put her down, and she leaped at them; she smote a helmet to the ground.

“You’ll have to take her!” shouted an inspector on horseback, and she echoed his cry: “You’ll have to take me!” They seized upon her and lifted her, and she screamed. Ann Veronica became violently excited at the sight. “You cowards!” said Ann Veronica, “put her down!” and tore herself from a detaining hand and battered with her fists upon the big red ear and blue shoulder of the policeman who held the little old lady.

So Ann Veronica also was arrested.

And then came the vile experience of being forced and borne along the street to the police-station. Whatever anticipation Ann Veronica had formed of this vanished in the reality. Presently she was going through a swaying, noisy crowd, whose faces grinned and stared pitilessly in the light of the electric standards. “Go it, miss!” cried one. “Kick aht at ’em!” though, indeed, she went now with Christian meekness, resenting only the thrusting policemen’s hands. Several people in the crowd seemed to be fighting. Insulting cries became frequent and various, but for the most part she could not understand what was said. “Who’ll mind the baby nar?” was one of the night’s inspirations, and very frequent. A lean young man in spectacles pursued her for some time, crying “Courage! Courage!” Somebody threw a dab of mud at her, and some of it got down her neck. Immeasurable disgust possessed her. She felt draggled and insulted beyond redemption.

She could not hide her face. She attempted by a sheer act of will to end the scene, to will herself out of it anywhere. She had a horrible glimpse of the once nice little old lady being also borne stationward, still faintly battling and very muddy — one lock of grayish hair straggling over her neck, her face scared, white, but triumphant. Her bonnet dropped off and was trampled into the gutter. A little Cockney recovered it, and made ridiculous attempts to get to her and replace it.

“You must arrest me!” she gasped, breathlessly, insisting insanely on a point already carried; “you shall!”

The police-station at the end seemed to Ann Veronica like a refuge from unnamable disgraces. She hesitated about her name, and, being prompted, gave it at last as Ann Veronica Smith, 107A, Chancery Lane. . . .

Indignation carried her through that night, that men and the world could so entreat her. The arrested women were herded in a passage of the Panton Street Police-station that opened upon a cell too unclean for occupation, and most of them spent the night standing. Hot coffee and cakes were sent in to them in the morning by some intelligent sympathizer, or she would have starved all day. Submission to the inevitable carried her through the circumstances of her appearance before the magistrate.

He was no doubt doing his best to express the attitude of society toward these wearily heroic defendants, but he seemed to be merely rude and unfair to Ann Veronica. He was not, it seemed, the proper stipendiary at all, and there had been some demur to his jurisdiction that had ruffled him. He resented being regarded as irregular. He felt he was human wisdom prudentially interpolated. . . . “You silly wimmin,” he said over and over again throughout the hearing, plucking at his blotting-pad with busy hands. “You silly creatures! Ugh! Fie upon you!” The court was crowded with people, for the most part supporters and admirers of the defendants, and the man with the light eyelashes was conspicuously active and omnipresent.

Ann Veronica’s appearance was brief and undistinguished. She had nothing to say for herself. She was guided into the dock and prompted by a helpful police inspector. She was aware of the body of the court, of clerks seated at a black table littered with papers, of policemen standing about stiffly with expressions of conscious integrity, and a murmuring background of the heads and shoulders of spectators close behind her. On a high chair behind a raised counter the stipendiary’s substitute regarded her malevolently over his glasses. A disagreeable young man, with red hair and a loose mouth, seated at the reporter’s table, was only too manifestly sketching her.

She was interested by the swearing of the witnesses. The kissing of the book struck her as particularly odd, and then the policemen gave their evidence in staccato jerks and stereotyped phrases.

“Have you anything to ask the witness?” asked the helpful inspector.

The ribald demons that infested the back of Ann Veronica’s mind urged various facetious interrogations upon her, as, for example, where the witness had acquired his prose style. She controlled herself, and answered meekly, “No.”

“Well, Ann Veronica Smith,” the magistrate remarked when the case was all before him, “you’re a good-looking, strong, respectable gell, and it’s a pity you silly young wimmin can’t find something better to do with your exuberance. Two-and-twenty! I can’t imagine what your parents can be thinking about to let you get into these scrapes.”

Ann Veronica’s mind was filled with confused unutterable replies.

“You are persuaded to come and take part in these outrageous proceedings — many of you, I am convinced, have no idea whatever of their nature. I don’t suppose you could tell me even the derivation of suffrage if I asked you. No! not even the derivation! But the fashion’s been set and in it you must be.”

The men at the reporter’s table lifted their eyebrows, smiled faintly, and leaned back to watch how she took her scolding. One with the appearance of a bald little gnome yawned agonizingly. They had got all this down already — they heard the substance of it now for the fourteenth time. The stipendiary would have done it all very differently.

She found presently she was out of the dock and confronted with the alternative of being bound over in one surety for the sum of forty pounds — whatever that might mean or a month’s imprisonment.

“Second class,” said some one, but first and second were all alike to her. She elected to go to prison.

At last, after a long rumbling journey in a stuffy windowless van, she reached Canongate Prison — for Holloway had its quota already. It was bad luck to go to Canongate.

Prison was beastly. Prison was bleak without spaciousness, and pervaded by a faint, oppressive smell; and she had to wait two hours in the sullenly defiant company of two unclean women thieves before a cell could be assigned to her. Its dreariness, like the filthiness of the police cell, was a discovery for her. She had imagined that prisons were white-tiled places, reeking of lime-wash and immaculately sanitary. Instead, they appeared to be at the hygienic level of tramps’ lodging-houses. She was bathed in turbid water that had already been used. She was not allowed to bathe herself: another prisoner, with a privileged manner, washed her. Conscientious objectors to that process are not permitted, she found, in Canongate. Her hair was washed for her also. Then they dressed her in a dirty dress of coarse serge and a cap, and took away her own clothes. The dress came to her only too manifestly unwashed from its former wearer; even the under-linen they gave her seemed unclean. Horrible memories of things seen beneath the microscope of the baser forms of life crawled across her mind and set her shuddering with imagined irritations. She sat on the edge of the bed — the wardress was too busy with the flood of arrivals that day to discover that she had it down — and her skin was shivering from the contact of these garments. She surveyed accommodation that seemed at first merely austere, and became more and more manifestly inadequate as the moments fled by. She meditated profoundly through several enormous cold hours on all that had happened and all that she had done since the swirl of the suffrage movement had submerged her personal affairs. . . .

Very slowly emerging out of a phase of stupefaction, these personal affairs and her personal problem resumed possession of her mind. She had imagined she had drowned them altogether.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wells/hg/w45an/chapter10.html

Last updated Tuesday, March 4, 2014 at 12:30