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

Chapter the Second

Ann Veronica Gathers Points of View

Part 1

“Are you coming to the Fadden Dance, Ann Veronica?” asked Constance Widgett.

Ann Veronica considered her answer. “I mean to,” she replied.

“You are making your dress?”

“Such as it is.”

They were in the elder Widgett girl’s bedroom; Hetty was laid up, she said, with a sprained ankle, and a miscellaneous party was gossiping away her tedium. It was a large, littered, self-forgetful apartment, decorated with unframed charcoal sketches by various incipient masters; and an open bookcase, surmounted by plaster casts and the half of a human skull, displayed an odd miscellany of books — Shaw and Swinburne, Tom Jones, Fabian Essays, Pope and Dumas, cheek by jowl. Constance Widgett’s abundant copper-red hair was bent down over some dimly remunerative work — stencilling in colors upon rough, white material — at a kitchen table she had dragged up-stairs for the purpose, while on her bed there was seated a slender lady of thirty or so in a dingy green dress, whom Constance had introduced with a wave of her hand as Miss Miniver. Miss Miniver looked out on the world through large emotional blue eyes that were further magnified by the glasses she wore, and her nose was pinched and pink, and her mouth was whimsically petulant. Her glasses moved quickly as her glance travelled from face to face. She seemed bursting with the desire to talk, and watching for her opportunity. On her lapel was an ivory button, bearing the words “Votes for Women.” Ann Veronica sat at the foot of the sufferer’s bed, while Teddy Widgett, being something of an athlete, occupied the only bed-room chair — a decadent piece, essentially a tripod and largely a formality — and smoked cigarettes, and tried to conceal the fact that he was looking all the time at Ann Veronica’s eyebrows. Teddy was the hatless young man who had turned Ann Veronica aside from the Avenue two days before. He was the junior of both his sisters, co-educated and much broken in to feminine society. A bowl of roses, just brought by Ann Veronica, adorned the communal dressing-table, and Ann Veronica was particularly trim in preparation for a call she was to make with her aunt later in the afternoon.

Ann Veronica decided to be more explicit. “I’ve been,” she said, “forbidden to come.”

“Hul-LO!” said Hetty, turning her head on the pillow; and Teddy remarked with profound emotion, “My God!”

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, “and that complicates the situation.”

“Auntie?” asked Constance, who was conversant with Ann Veronica’s affairs.

“No! My father. It’s — it’s a serious prohibition.”

“Why?” asked Hetty.

“That’s the point. I asked him why, and he hadn’t a reason.”

“YOU ASKED YOUR FATHER FOR A REASON!” said Miss Miniver, with great intensity.

“Yes. I tried to have it out with him, but he wouldn’t have it out.” Ann Veronica reflected for an instant “That’s why I think I ought to come.”

“You asked your father for a reason!” Miss Miniver repeated.

“We always have things out with OUR father, poor dear!” said Hetty. “He’s got almost to like it.”

“Men,” said Miss Miniver, “NEVER have a reason. Never! And they don’t know it! They have no idea of it. It’s one of their worst traits, one of their very worst.”

“But I say, Vee,” said Constance, “if you come and you are forbidden to come there’ll be the deuce of a row.”

Ann Veronica was deciding for further confidences. Her situation was perplexing her very much, and the Widgett atmosphere was lax and sympathetic, and provocative of discussion. “It isn’t only the dance,” she said.

“There’s the classes,” said Constance, the well-informed.

“There’s the whole situation. Apparently I’m not to exist yet. I’m not to study, I’m not to grow. I’ve got to stay at home and remain in a state of suspended animation.”

“DUSTING!” said Miss Miniver, in a sepulchral voice.

“Until you marry, Vee,” said Hetty.

“Well, I don’t feel like standing it.”

“Thousands of women have married merely for freedom,” said Miss Miniver. “Thousands! Ugh! And found it a worse slavery.”

“I suppose,” said Constance, stencilling away at bright pink petals, “it’s our lot. But it’s very beastly.”

“What’s our lot?” asked her sister.

“Slavery! Downtroddenness! When I think of it I feel all over boot marks — men’s boots. We hide it bravely, but so it is. Damn! I’ve splashed.”

Miss Miniver’s manner became impressive. She addressed Ann Veronica with an air of conveying great open secrets to her. “As things are at present,” she said, “it is true. We live under man-made institutions, and that is what they amount to. Every girl in the world practically, except a few of us who teach or type-write, and then we’re underpaid and sweated — it’s dreadful to think how we are sweated!” She had lost her generalization, whatever it was. She hung for a moment, and then went on, conclusively, “Until we have the vote that is how things WILL be.”

“I’m all for the vote,” said Teddy.

“I suppose a girl MUST be underpaid and sweated,” said Ann Veronica. “I suppose there’s no way of getting a decent income — independently.”

“Women have practically NO economic freedom,” said Miss Miniver, “because they have no political freedom. Men have seen to that. The one profession, the one decent profession, I mean, for a woman — except the stage — is teaching, and there we trample on one another. Everywhere else — the law, medicine, the Stock Exchange — prejudice bars us.”

“There’s art,” said Ann Veronica, “and writing.”

“Every one hasn’t the Gift. Even there a woman never gets a fair chance. Men are against her. Whatever she does is minimized. All the best novels have been written by women, and yet see how men sneer at the lady novelist still! There’s only one way to get on for a woman, and that is to please men. That is what they think we are for!”

“We’re beasts,” said Teddy. “Beasts!”

But Miss Miniver took no notice of his admission.

“Of course,” said Miss Miniver — she went on in a regularly undulating voice —“we DO please men. We have that gift. We can see round them and behind them and through them, and most of us use that knowledge, in the silent way we have, for our great ends. Not all of us, but some of us. Too many. I wonder what men would say if we threw the mask aside — if we really told them what WE thought of them, really showed them what WE were.” A flush of excitement crept into her cheeks.

“Maternity,” she said, “has been our undoing.”

From that she opened out into a long, confused emphatic discourse on the position of women, full of wonderful statements, while Constance worked at her stencilling and Ann Veronica and Hetty listened, and Teddy contributed sympathetic noises and consumed cheap cigarettes. As she talked she made weak little gestures with her hands, and she thrust her face forward from her bent shoulders; and she peered sometimes at Ann Veronica and sometimes at a photograph of the Axenstrasse, near Fluelen, that hung upon the wall. Ann Veronica watched her face, vaguely sympathizing with her, vaguely disliking her physical insufficiency and her convulsive movements, and the fine eyebrows were knit with a faint perplexity. Essentially the talk was a mixture of fragments of sentences heard, of passages read, or arguments indicated rather than stated, and all of it was served in a sauce of strange enthusiasm, thin yet intense. Ann Veronica had had some training at the Tredgold College in disentangling threads from confused statements, and she had a curious persuasion that in all this fluent muddle there was something — something real, something that signified. But it was very hard to follow. She did not understand the note of hostility to men that ran through it all, the bitter vindictiveness that lit Miss Miniver’s cheeks and eyes, the sense of some at last insupportable wrong slowly accumulated. She had no inkling of that insupportable wrong.

“We are the species,” said Miss Miniver, “men are only incidents. They give themselves airs, but so it is. In all the species of animals the females are more important than the males; the males have to please them. Look at the cock’s feathers, look at the competition there is everywhere, except among humans. The stags and oxen and things all have to fight for us, everywhere. Only in man is the male made the most important. And that happens through our maternity; it’s our very importance that degrades us.

“While we were minding the children they stole our rights and liberties. The children made us slaves, and the men took advantage of it. It’s — Mrs. Shalford says — the accidental conquering the essential. Originally in the first animals there were no males, none at all. It has been proved. Then they appear among the lower things”— she made meticulous gestures to figure the scale of life; she seemed to be holding up specimens, and peering through her glasses at them —“among crustaceans and things, just as little creatures, ever so inferior to the females. Mere hangers on. Things you would laugh at. And among human beings, too, women to begin with were the rulers and leaders; they owned all the property, they invented all the arts.

“The primitive government was the Matriarchate. The Matriarchate! The Lords of Creation just ran about and did what they were told.”

“But is that really so?” said Ann Veronica.

“It has been proved,” said Miss Miniver, and added, “by American professors.”

“But how did they prove it?”

“By science,” said Miss Miniver, and hurried on, putting out a rhetorical hand that showed a slash of finger through its glove. “And now, look at us! See what we have become. Toys! Delicate trifles! A sex of invalids. It is we who have become the parasites and toys.”

It was, Ann Veronica felt, at once absurd and extraordinarily right. Hetty, who had periods of lucid expression, put the thing for her from her pillow. She charged boldly into the space of Miss Miniver’s rhetorical pause.

“It isn’t quite that we’re toys. Nobody toys with me. Nobody regards Constance or Vee as a delicate trifle.”

Teddy made some confused noise, a thoracic street row; some remark was assassinated by a rival in his throat and buried hastily under a cough.

“They’d better not,” said Hetty. “The point is we’re not toys, toys isn’t the word; we’re litter. We’re handfuls. We’re regarded as inflammable litter that mustn’t be left about. We are the species, and maternity is our game; that’s all right, but nobody wants that admitted for fear we should all catch fire, and set about fulfilling the purpose of our beings without waiting for further explanations. As if we didn’t know! The practical trouble is our ages. They used to marry us off at seventeen, rush us into things before we had time to protest. They don’t now. Heaven knows why! They don’t marry most of us off now until high up in the twenties. And the age gets higher. We have to hang about in the interval. There’s a great gulf opened, and nobody’s got any plans what to do with us. So the world is choked with waste and waiting daughters. Hanging about! And they start thinking and asking questions, and begin to be neither one thing nor the other. We’re partly human beings and partly females in suspense.”

Miss Miniver followed with an expression of perplexity, her mouth shaped to futile expositions. The Widgett method of thought puzzled her weakly rhetorical mind. “There is no remedy, girls,” she began, breathlessly, “except the Vote. Give us that —”

Ann Veronica came in with a certain disregard of Miss Miniver. “That’s it,” she said. “They have no plans for us. They have no ideas what to do with us.”

“Except,” said Constance, surveying her work with her head on one side, “to keep the matches from the litter.”

“And they won’t let us make plans for ourselves.”

“We will,” said Miss Miniver, refusing to be suppressed, “if some of us have to be killed to get it.” And she pressed her lips together in white resolution and nodded, and she was manifestly full of that same passion for conflict and self-sacrifice that has given the world martyrs since the beginning of things. “I wish I could make every woman, every girl, see this as clearly as I see it — just what the Vote means to us. Just what it means. . . . ”

Part 2

As Ann Veronica went back along the Avenue to her aunt she became aware of a light-footed pursuer running. Teddy overtook her, a little out of breath, his innocent face flushed, his straw-colored hair disordered. He was out of breath, and spoke in broken sentences.

“I say, Vee. Half a minute, Vee. It’s like this: You want freedom. Look here. You know — if you want freedom. Just an idea of mine. You know how those Russian students do? In Russia. Just a formal marriage. Mere formality. Liberates the girl from parental control. See? You marry me. Simply. No further responsibility whatever. Without hindrance — present occupation. Why not? Quite willing. Get a license — just an idea of mine. Doesn’t matter a bit to me. Do anything to please you, Vee. Anything. Not fit to be dust on your boots. Still — there you are!”

He paused.

Ann Veronica’s desire to laugh unrestrainedly was checked by the tremendous earnestness of his expression. “Awfully good of you, Teddy.” she said.

He nodded silently, too full for words.

“But I don’t see,” said Ann Veronica, “just how it fits the present situation.”

“No! Well, I just suggested it. Threw it out. Of course, if at any time — see reason — alter your opinion. Always at your service. No offence, I hope. All right! I’m off. Due to play hockey. Jackson’s. Horrid snorters! So long, Vee! Just suggested it. See? Nothing really. Passing thought.”

“Teddy,” said Ann Veronica, “you’re a dear!”

“Oh, quite!” said Teddy, convulsively, and lifted an imaginary hat and left her.

Part 3

The call Ann Veronica paid with her aunt that afternoon had at first much the same relation to the Widgett conversation that a plaster statue of Mr. Gladstone would have to a carelessly displayed interior on a dissecting-room table. The Widgetts talked with a remarkable absence of external coverings; the Palsworthys found all the meanings of life on its surfaces. They seemed the most wrapped things in all Ann Veronica’s wrappered world. The Widgett mental furniture was perhaps worn and shabby, but there it was before you, undisguised, fading visibly in an almost pitiless sunlight. Lady Palsworthy was the widow of a knight who had won his spurs in the wholesale coal trade, she was of good seventeenth-century attorney blood, a county family, and distantly related to Aunt Mollie’s deceased curate. She was the social leader of Morningside Park, and in her superficial and euphuistic way an extremely kind and pleasant woman. With her lived a Mrs. Pramlay, a sister of the Morningside Park doctor, and a very active and useful member of the Committee of the Impoverished Gentlewomen’s Aid Society. Both ladies were on easy and friendly terms with all that was best in Morningside Park society; they had an afternoon once a month that was quite well attended, they sometimes gave musical evenings, they dined out and gave a finish to people’s dinners, they had a full-sized croquet lawn and tennis beyond, and understood the art of bringing people together. And they never talked of anything at all, never discussed, never even encouraged gossip. They were just nice.

Ann Veronica found herself walking back down the Avenue that had just been the scene of her first proposal beside her aunt, and speculating for the first time in her life about that lady’s mental attitudes. Her prevailing effect was one of quiet and complete assurance, as though she knew all about everything, and was only restrained by her instinctive delicacy from telling what she knew. But the restraint exercised by her instinctive delicacy was very great; over and above coarse or sexual matters it covered religion and politics and any mention of money matters or crime, and Ann Veronica found herself wondering whether these exclusions represented, after all, anything more than suppressions. Was there anything at all in those locked rooms of her aunt’s mind? Were they fully furnished and only a little dusty and cobwebby and in need of an airing, or were they stark vacancy except, perhaps, for a cockroach or so or the gnawing of a rat? What was the mental equivalent of a rat’s gnawing? The image was going astray. But what would her aunt think of Teddy’s recent off-hand suggestion of marriage? What would she think of the Widgett conversation? Suppose she was to tell her aunt quietly but firmly about the parasitic males of degraded crustacea. The girl suppressed a chuckle that would have been inexplicable.

There came a wild rush of anthropological lore into her brain, a flare of indecorous humor. It was one of the secret troubles of her mind, this grotesque twist her ideas would sometimes take, as though they rebelled and rioted. After all, she found herself reflecting, behind her aunt’s complacent visage there was a past as lurid as any one’s — not, of course, her aunt’s own personal past, which was apparently just that curate and almost incredibly jejune, but an ancestral past with all sorts of scandalous things in it: fire and slaughterings, exogamy, marriage by capture, corroborees, cannibalism! Ancestresses with perhaps dim anticipatory likenesses to her aunt, their hair less neatly done, no doubt, their manners and gestures as yet undisciplined, but still ancestresses in the direct line, must have danced through a brief and stirring life in the woady buff. Was there no echo anywhere in Miss Stanley’s pacified brain? Those empty rooms, if they were empty, were the equivalents of astoundingly decorated predecessors. Perhaps it was just as well there was no inherited memory.

Ann Veronica was by this time quite shocked at her own thoughts, and yet they would go on with their freaks. Great vistas of history opened, and she and her aunt were near reverting to the primitive and passionate and entirely indecorous arboreal — were swinging from branches by the arms, and really going on quite dread-fully — when their arrival at the Palsworthys’ happily checked this play of fancy, and brought Ann Veronica back to the exigencies of the wrappered life again.

Lady Palsworthy liked Ann Veronica because she was never awkward, had steady eyes, and an almost invariable neatness and dignity in her clothes. She seemed just as stiff and shy as a girl ought to be, Lady Palsworthy thought, neither garrulous nor unready, and free from nearly all the heavy aggressiveness, the overgrown, overblown quality, the egotism and want of consideration of the typical modern girl. But then Lady Palsworthy had never seen Ann Veronica running like the wind at hockey. She had never seen her sitting on tables nor heard her discussing theology, and had failed to observe that the graceful figure was a natural one and not due to ably chosen stays. She took it for granted Ann Veronica wore stays — mild stays, perhaps, but stays, and thought no more of the matter. She had seen her really only at teas, with the Stanley strain in her uppermost. There are so many girls nowadays who are quite unpresentable at tea, with their untrimmed laughs, their awful dispositions of their legs when they sit down, their slangy disrespect; they no longer smoke, it is true, like the girls of the eighties and nineties, nevertheless to a fine intelligence they have the flavor of tobacco. They have no amenities, they scratch the mellow surface of things almost as if they did it on purpose; and Lady Palsworthy and Mrs. Pramlay lived for amenities and the mellowed surfaces of things. Ann Veronica was one of the few young people — and one must have young people just as one must have flowers — one could ask to a little gathering without the risk of a painful discord. Then the distant relationship to Miss Stanley gave them a slight but pleasant sense of proprietorship in the girl. They had their little dreams about her.

Mrs. Pramlay received them in the pretty chintz drawing-room, which opened by French windows on the trim garden, with its croquet lawn, its tennis-net in the middle distance, and its remote rose alley lined with smart dahlias and flaming sunflowers. Her eye met Miss Stanley’s understandingly, and she was if anything a trifle more affectionate in her greeting to Ann Veronica. Then Ann Veronica passed on toward the tea in the garden, which was dotted with the elite of Morningside Park society, and there she was pounced upon by Lady Palsworthy and given tea and led about. Across the lawn and hovering indecisively, Ann Veronica saw and immediately affected not to see Mr. Manning, Lady Palsworthy’s nephew, a tall young man of seven-and-thirty with a handsome, thoughtful, impassive face, a full black mustache, and a certain heavy luxuriousness of gesture. The party resolved itself for Ann Veronica into a game in which she manoeuvred unostentatiously and finally unsuccessfully to avoid talking alone with this gentleman.

Mr. Manning had shown on previous occasions that he found Ann Veronica interesting and that he wished to interest her. He was a civil servant of some standing, and after a previous conversation upon aesthetics of a sententious, nebulous, and sympathetic character, he had sent her a small volume, which he described as the fruits of his leisure and which was as a matter of fact rather carefully finished verse. It dealt with fine aspects of Mr. Manning’s feelings, and as Ann Veronica’s mind was still largely engaged with fundamentals and found no pleasure in metrical forms, she had not as yet cut its pages. So that as she saw him she remarked to herself very faintly but definitely, “Oh, golly!” and set up a campaign of avoidance that Mr. Manning at last broke down by coming directly at her as she talked with the vicar’s aunt about some of the details of the alleged smell of the new church lamps. He did not so much cut into this conversation as loom over it, for he was a tall, if rather studiously stooping, man.

The face that looked down upon Ann Veronica was full of amiable intention. “Splendid you are looking today, Miss Stanley,” he said. “How well and jolly you must be feeling.”

He beamed over the effect of this and shook hands with effusion, and Lady Palsworthy suddenly appeared as his confederate and disentangled the vicar’s aunt.

“I love this warm end of summer more than words can tell,” he said. “I’ve tried to make words tell it. It’s no good. Mild, you know, and boon. You want music.”

Ann Veronica agreed, and tried to make the manner of her assent cover a possible knowledge of a probable poem.

“Splendid it must be to be a composer. Glorious! The Pastoral. Beethoven; he’s the best of them. Don’t you think? Tum, tay, tum, tay.”

Ann Veronica did.

“What have you been doing since our last talk? Still cutting up rabbits and probing into things? I’ve often thought of that talk of ours — often.”

He did not appear to require any answer to his question.

“Often,” he repeated, a little heavily.

“Beautiful these autumn flowers are,” said Ann Veronica, in a wide, uncomfortable pause.

“Do come and see the Michaelmas daisies at the end of the garden,” said Mr. Manning, “they’re a dream.” And Ann Veronica found herself being carried off to an isolation even remoter and more conspicuous than the corner of the lawn, with the whole of the party aiding and abetting and glancing at them. “Damn!” said Ann Veronica to herself, rousing herself for a conflict.

Mr. Manning told her he loved beauty, and extorted a similar admission from her; he then expatiated upon his own love of beauty. He said that for him beauty justified life, that he could not imagine a good action that was not a beautiful one nor any beautiful thing that could be altogether bad. Ann Veronica hazarded an opinion that as a matter of history some very beautiful people had, to a quite considerable extent, been bad, but Mr. Manning questioned whether when they were bad they were really beautiful or when they were beautiful bad. Ann Veronica found her attention wandering a little as he told her that he was not ashamed to feel almost slavish in the presence of really beautiful people, and then they came to the Michaelmas daisies. They were really very fine and abundant, with a blaze of perennial sunflowers behind them.

“They make me want to shout,” said Mr. Manning, with a sweep of the arm.

“They’re very good this year,” said Ann Veronica, avoiding controversial matter.

“Either I want to shout,” said Mr. Manning, “when I see beautiful things, or else I want to weep.” He paused and looked at her, and said, with a sudden drop into a confidential undertone, “Or else I want to pray.”

“When is Michaelmas Day?” said Ann Veronica, a little abruptly.

“Heaven knows!” said Mr. Manning; and added, “the twenty-ninth.”

“I thought it was earlier,” said Ann Veronica. “Wasn’t Parliament to reassemble?”

He put out his hand and leaned against a tree and crossed his legs. “You’re not interested in politics?” he asked, almost with a note of protest.

“Well, rather,” said Ann Veronica. “It seems — It’s interesting.”

“Do you think so? I find my interest in that sort of thing decline and decline.”

“I’m curious. Perhaps because I don’t know. I suppose an intelligent person OUGHT to be interested in political affairs. They concern us all.”

“I wonder,” said Mr. Manning, with a baffling smile.

“I think they do. After all, they’re history in the making.”

“A sort of history,” said Mr. Manning; and repeated, “a sort of history. But look at these glorious daisies!”

“But don’t you think political questions ARE important?”

“I don’t think they are this afternoon, and I don’t think they are to you.”

Ann Veronica turned her back on the Michaelmas daisies, and faced toward the house with an air of a duty completed.

“Just come to that seat now you are here, Miss Stanley, and look down the other path; there’s a vista of just the common sort. Better even than these.”

Ann Veronica walked as he indicated.

“You know I’m old-fashioned, Miss Stanley. I don’t think women need to trouble about political questions.”

“I want a vote,” said Ann Veronica.

“Really!” said Mr. Manning, in an earnest voice, and waved his hand to the alley of mauve and purple. “I wish you didn’t.”

“Why not?” She turned on him.

“It jars. It jars with all my ideas. Women to me are something so serene, so fine, so feminine, and politics are so dusty, so sordid, so wearisome and quarrelsome. It seems to me a woman’s duty to be beautiful, to BE beautiful and to behave beautifully, and politics are by their very nature ugly. You see, I— I am a woman worshipper. I worshipped women long before I found any woman I might ever hope to worship. Long ago. And — the idea of committees, of hustings, of agenda-papers!”

“I don’t see why the responsibility of beauty should all be shifted on to the women,” said Ann Veronica, suddenly remembering a part of Miss Miniver’s discourse.

“It rests with them by the nature of things. Why should you who are queens come down from your thrones? If you can afford it, WE can’t. We can’t afford to turn our women, our Madonnas, our Saint Catherines, our Mona Lisas, our goddesses and angels and fairy princesses, into a sort of man. Womanhood is sacred to me. My politics in that matter wouldn’t be to give women votes. I’m a Socialist, Miss Stanley.”

“WHAT?” said Ann Veronica, startled.

“A Socialist of the order of John Ruskin. Indeed I am! I would make this country a collective monarchy, and all the girls and women in it should be the Queen. They should never come into contact with politics or economics — or any of those things. And we men would work for them and serve them in loyal fealty.”

“That’s rather the theory now,” said Ann Veronica. “Only so many men neglect their duties.”

“Yes,” said Mr. Manning, with an air of emerging from an elaborate demonstration, “and so each of us must, under existing conditions, being chivalrous indeed to all women, choose for himself his own particular and worshipful queen.”

“So far as one can judge from the system in practice,” said Ann Veronica, speaking in a loud, common-sense, detached tone, and beginning to walk slowly but resolutely toward the lawn, “it doesn’t work.”

“Every one must be experimental,” said Mr. Manning, and glanced round hastily for further horticultural points of interest in secluded corners. None presented themselves to save him from that return.

“That’s all very well when one isn’t the material experimented upon,” Ann Veronica had remarked.

“Women would — they DO have far more power than they think, as influences, as inspirations.”

Ann Veronica said nothing in answer to that.

“You say you want a vote,” said Mr. Manning, abruptly.

“I think I ought to have one.”

“Well, I have two,” said Mr. Manning —“one in Oxford University and one in Kensington.” He caught up and went on with a sort of clumsiness: “Let me present you with them and be your voter.”

There followed an instant’s pause, and then Ann Veronica had decided to misunderstand.

“I want a vote for myself,” she said. “I don’t see why I should take it second-hand. Though it’s very kind of you. And rather unscrupulous. Have you ever voted, Mr. Manning? I suppose there’s a sort of place like a ticket-office. And a ballot-box —” Her face assumed an expression of intellectual conflict. “What is a ballot-box like, exactly?” she asked, as though it was very important to her.

Mr. Manning regarded her thoughtfully for a moment and stroked his mustache. “A ballot-box, you know,” he said, “is very largely just a box.” He made quite a long pause, and went on, with a sigh: “You have a voting paper given you —”

They emerged into the publicity of the lawn.

“Yes,” said Ann Veronica, “yes,” to his explanation, and saw across the lawn Lady Palsworthy talking to her aunt, and both of them staring frankly across at her and Mr. Manning as they talked.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/w/wells/hg/w45an/chapter2.html

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