“Submarines,” said Jacques after a moment’s thought.
THE HANDICAP OF SEX
I found myself in the same drawing-room with Anne the other day, so I offered her one of my favourite sandwiches. (I hadn’t seen her for some time, and there were plenty in the plate.)
“If you are coming to talk to me,” she said, “I think I had better warn you that I am a Bolshevist.”
“Then you won’t want a sandwich,” I said gladly, and I withdrew the plate.
“I suppose,” said Anne, “that what I really want is a vote.”
“Haven’t you got one? Sorry; I mean, of course you haven’t got one.”
“But it isn’t only that. I want to see the whole position of women altered. I want to see—”
I looked round for her mother.
“Tell me,” I said gently; “when did this come over you?”
“In the last few weeks,” said Anne. “And I don’t wonder.”
I settled down with the sandwiches to listen.
Anne first noted symptoms of it at a luncheon-party at the beginning of the month. She had asked the young man on her right if she could have some of his salt, and as he passed it to her he covered up any embarrassment she might be feeling by saying genially, “Well, and how long is this coal strike going to last?”
“I don’t know,” said Anne truthfully.
“I suppose you’re ready for the Revolution? The billiard-room and all the spare bedrooms well stocked?”
Anne saw that this was meant humorously, and she laughed.
“I expect we shall be all right,” she said.
“You’ll have to give a coal-party, and invite all your friends. ’Fire, 9—12.’”
“What a lovely idea!” said Anne, smiling from sheer habit. “Mind you come.” She got her face straight again with a jerk and turned to the solemn old gentleman on her other side.
He was ready for her.
“This is a terrible disaster for the country, this coal strike,” he said.
“Isn’t it?” said Anne; and feeling that that was inadequate, added, “Terrible!”
“I don’t know what’s happening to the country.”
Anne crumbled her bread, and having reviewed a succession of possible replies, each more fatuous than the last, decided to remain silent.
“Everything will be at a standstill directly,” her companion went on. “Already trade is leaving the country. America—”
“I suppose so,” said Anne gloomily.
“Once stop the supplies of coal, you see, and you drain the life-blood of the country.”
“Of course,” said Anne, and looked very serious.
After lunch an extremely brisk little man took her in hand.
“Have you been studying this coal strike question at all?” he began.
“I read the papers,” said Anne.
“Ah, but you don’t get it there. They don’t tell you—they don’t tell you. Now I know a man who is actually in it, and he says—and he knows this for a fact—that from the moment when the first man downed tools—from the very moment when he downed tools...”