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|The Suffragettes||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 2 of 2||
"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!"
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H. G. [Herbert George] Wells
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