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|The Morning Of The Crisis||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 1 of 2||
The Gwen affair happened when she was away at school at Marticombe-on-Sea, a term before she went to the High School, and was never very clear to her.
Her mother missed writing for a week, and then she wrote in an unusual key. "My dear," the letter ran, "I have to tell you that your sister Gwen has offended your father very much. I hope you will always love her, but I want you to remember she has offended your father and married without his consent. Your father is very angry, and will not have her name mentioned in his hearing. She has married some one he could not approve of, and gone right away. . . ."
When the next holidays came Ann Veronica's mother was ill, and Gwen was in the sick-room when Ann Veronica returned home. She was in one of her old walking-dresses, her hair was done in an unfamiliar manner, she wore a wedding-ring, and she looked as if she had been crying.
"Hello, Gwen!" said Ann Veronica, trying to put every one at their ease. "Been and married? . . . What's the name of the happy man?"
Gwen owned to "Fortescue."
"Got a photograph of him or anything?" said Ann Veronica, after kissing her mother.
Gwen made an inquiry, and, directed by Mrs. Stanley, produced a portrait from its hiding-place in the jewel-drawer under the mirror. It presented a clean-shaven face with a large Corinthian nose, hair tremendously waving off the forehead and more chin and neck than is good for a man.
"LOOKS all right," said Ann Veronica, regarding him with her head first on one side and then on the other, and trying to be agreeable. "What's the objection?"
"I suppose she ought to know?" said Gwen to her mother, trying to alter the key of the conversation.
"You see, Vee," said Mrs. Stanley, "Mr. Fortescue is an actor, and your father does not approve of the profession."
"Oh!" said Ann Veronica. "I thought they made knights of actors?"
"They may of Hal some day," said Gwen. "But it's a long business."
"I suppose this makes you an actress?" said Ann Veronica.
"I don't know whether I shall go on," said Gwen, a novel note of languorous professionalism creeping into her voice. "The other women don't much like it if husband and wife work together, and I don't think Hal would like me to act away from him."
Ann Veronica regarded her sister with a new respect, but the traditions of family life are strong. "I don't suppose you'll be able to do it much," said Ann Veronica.
Later Gwen's trouble weighed so heavily on Mrs. Stanley in her illness that her husband consented to receive Mr. Fortescue in the drawing-room, and actually shake hands with him in an entirely hopeless manner and hope everything would turn out for the best.
The forgiveness and reconciliation was a cold and formal affair, and afterwards her father went off gloomily to his study, and Mr. Fortescue rambled round the garden with soft, propitiatory steps, the Corinthian nose upraised and his hands behind his back, pausing to look long and hard at the fruit-trees against the wall.
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H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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