H. G. (Herbert George) Wells.

Ann Veronica, a modern love story online

. (page 1 of 23)
Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnn Veronica, a modern love story → online text (page 1 of 23)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

B 3 flbS
















THE FUTURE IN AMERICA. Ill'd. 8vo. net $2.00

ANTICIPATIONS. Post 8vo net 1.80

THE WAR OP THE WORLDS. Post 8vo. . . 1.50

THE INVISIBLE MAN. Post 8vo i.oo

THIRTY STRANGE STORIES. Post 8vo . . . 1.50
WHEN THE SLEEPER WAKES. Ill'd. Post 8vo. 1.50


Copyright, 1909, by HARPER & BROTHERS.

All rights reserved.
Published October, 1909.

























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 conse-
quences 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 grand-
mother 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 note-
books, a fat text-book, and a chocolate-and-yellow-cov-
ered 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 let-
ter. At the sight of her he became rigid and a singularly
bright shade of pink. She made herself serenely un-
aware 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 alto-
gether, 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 rail-
way station into an undeveloped wilderness of agricult-
ure, 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 con-
gestion of workmen's dwellings. The road from Sur-
biton 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 again.

"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 altogether."

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 stead-
fastly 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 it.


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 pre-
occupied. 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 ex-
perience. 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 intima-
tion 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 under-
tones. .

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 develop-
ments, 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 ends.

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 x 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 matric-
ulated 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 censor-
ship, 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 com-
parative 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 instruc-
tress 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 issue.

In addition to the various business men, solicitors,
civil servants, and widow ladies who lived in the Morn-
ingside 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 morn-
ing, 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 pecul-
iarly 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 ex-
ploring 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 let-
ter, 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: 'Til have it out with
him somehow. I'll have it out with him. And if he

But she did not give even unspoken words to the
alternative at that time.


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 inatten-
tive; 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 prac-
tices of microscopic petrography.

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 mi-
croscopy 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 micro-
scopic accessories and in rubbing down slices of rock to
a transparent thinness and mounting them in a beauti-
ful and dignified manner. He did it, he said, "to dis-
tract 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 fel-
lows all sorts of distinctions. . . .

He read but little, and that chiefly healthy light fic-
tion 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 din-
ner, 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 won-
dered occasionally why his mind needed so much dis-
traction. His favorite newspaper was the Times, which
he began at breakfast in the morning often with mani-
fest irritation, and carried off to finish in the train, leav-
ing 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 creep'
ers 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 fre-
quently most undesirably desirably, 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

a II


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 bath-
room. 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 pur-
suing 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

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 lit-
tle 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 him-
self 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 con-
ception 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'^or UTe 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 assump-
tions. 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 dependants which is absurd. One mar-
ried 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 in-
describable 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 Sun-
bonnet, gone into his study, lit the gas fire, and written
the letter that had brought these unsatisfactory rela-
tions to a head.


"MY DEAR VEE," he wrote.

These daughters! He gnawed his pen and reflected,
tore the sheet up, and began again.

"My DEAR VERONICA, Your aunt tells me you have
involved yourselj 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

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.

"7 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 liave 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

1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

Online LibraryH. G. (Herbert George) WellsAnn Veronica, a modern love story → online text (page 1 of 23)