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|The Crisis||H. G. [Herbert George] Wells|
|Page 1 of 1||
At eight that evening Miss Stanley tapped at Ann Veronica's bedroom door.
"I've brought you up some dinner, Vee," she said.
Ann Veronica was lying on her bed in a darkling room staring at the ceiling. She reflected before answering. She was frightfully hungry. She had eaten little or no tea, and her mid-day meal had been worse than nothing.
She got up and unlocked the door.
Her aunt did not object to capital punishment or war, or the industrial system or casual wards, or flogging of criminals or the Congo Free State, because none of these things really got hold of her imagination; but she did object, she did not like, she could not bear to think of people not having and enjoying their meals. It was her distinctive test of an emotional state, its interference with a kindly normal digestion. Any one very badly moved choked down a few mouthfuls; the symptom of supreme distress was not to be able to touch a bit. So that the thought of Ann Veronica up-stairs had been extremely painful for her through all the silent dinner-time that night. As soon as dinner was over she went into the kitchen and devoted herself to compiling a tray --not a tray merely of half-cooled dinner things, but a specially prepared "nice" tray, suitable for tempting any one. With this she now entered.
Ann Veronica found herself in the presence of the most disconcerting fact in human experience, the kindliness of people you believe to be thoroughly wrong. She took the tray with both hands, gulped, and gave way to tears.
Her aunt leaped unhappily to the thought of penitence.
"My dear," she began, with an affectionate hand on Ann Veronica's shoulder, "I do SO wish you would realize how it grieves your father."
Ann Veronica flung away from her hand, and the pepper-pot on the tray upset, sending a puff of pepper into the air and instantly filling them both with an intense desire to sneeze.
"I don't think you see," she replied, with tears on her cheeks, and her brows knitting, "how it shames and, ah!--disgraces me--AH TISHU!"
She put down the tray with a concussion on her toilet-table.
"But, dear, think! He is your father. SHOOH!"
"That's no reason," said Ann Veronica, speaking through her handkerchief and stopping abruptly.
Niece and aunt regarded each other for a moment over their pocket-handkerchiefs with watery but antagonistic eyes, each far too profoundly moved to see the absurdity of the position.
"I hope," said Miss Stanley, with dignity, and turned doorward with features in civil warfare. "Better state of mind," she gasped. . . .
Ann Veronica stood in the twilight room staring at the door that had slammed upon her aunt, her pocket-handkerchief rolled tightly in her hand. Her soul was full of the sense of disaster. She had made her first fight for dignity and freedom as a grown-up and independent Person, and this was how the universe had treated her. It had neither succumbed to her nor wrathfully overwhelmed her. It had thrust her back with an undignified scuffle, with vulgar comedy, with an unendurable, scornful grin.
"By God!" said Ann Veronica for the first time in her life. "But I will! I will!"
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