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|The Morning Of The Crisis||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 4||
Mr. Ramage demurred.
"One runs about," said Ann Veronica.
"But it's on condition one doesn't do anything."
He looked interrogation with a faint smile.
"It seems to me it comes to earning one's living in the long run," said Ann Veronica, coloring faintly. "Until a girl can go away as a son does and earn her independent income, she's still on a string. It may be a long string, long enough if you like to tangle up all sorts of people; but there it is! If the paymaster pulls, home she must go. That's what I mean."
Mr. Ramage admitted the force of that. He was a little impressed by Ann Veronica's metaphor of the string, which, indeed, she owed to Hetty Widgett. "YOU wouldn't like to be independent?" he asked, abruptly. "I mean REALLY independent. On your own. It isn't such fun as it seems."
"Every one wants to be independent," said Ann Veronica. "Every one. Man or woman."
"I wonder why?"
"There's no why. It's just to feel--one owns one's self."
"Nobody does that," said Ramage, and kept silence for a moment.
"But a boy--a boy goes out into the world and presently stands on his own feet. He buys his own clothes, chooses his own company, makes his own way of living."
"You'd like to do that?"
"Would you like to be a boy?"
"I wonder! It's out of the question, any way."
Ramage reflected. "Why don't you?"
"Well, it might mean rather a row."
"I know--" said Ramage, with sympathy.
"And besides," said Ann Veronica, sweeping that aspect aside, "what could I do? A boy sails out into a trade or profession. But--it's one of the things I've just been thinking over. Suppose--suppose a girl did want to start in life, start in life for herself--" She looked him frankly in the eyes. "What ought she to do?"
"Yes, suppose I--"
He felt that his advice was being asked. He became a little more personal and intimate. "I wonder what you could do?" he said. "I should think YOU could do all sorts of things. . . .
"What ought you to do?" He began to produce his knowledge of the world for her benefit, jerkily and allusively, and with a strong, rank flavor of "savoir faire." He took an optimist view of her chances. Ann Veronica listened thoughtfully, with her eyes on the turf, and now and then she asked a question or looked up to discuss a point. In the meanwhile, as he talked, he scrutinized her face, ran his eyes over her careless, gracious poise, wondered hard about her. He described her privately to himself as a splendid girl. It was clear she wanted to get away from home, that she was impatient to get away from home. Why? While the front of his mind was busy warning her not to fall into the hopeless miseries of underpaid teaching, and explaining his idea that for women of initiative, quite as much as for men, the world of business had by far the best chances, the back chambers of his brain were busy with the problem of that "Why?"
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H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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