One afternoon, while everything was still, the wardress heard her cry out suddenly and alarmingly, and with great and unmistakable passion, “Why in the name of goodness did I burn that twenty pounds?”
She sat regarding her dinner. The meat was coarse and disagreeably served.
“I suppose some one makes a bit on the food,” she said....
“One has such ridiculous ideas of the wicked common people and the beautiful machinery of order that ropes them in. And here are these places, full of contagion!
“Of course, this is the real texture of life, this is what we refined secure people forget. We think the whole thing is straight and noble at bottom, and it isn’t. We think if we just defy the friends we have and go out into the world everything will become easy and splendid. One doesn’t realize that even the sort of civilization one has at Morningside Park is held together with difficulty. By policemen one mustn’t shock.
“This isn’t a world for an innocent girl to walk about in. It’s a world of dirt and skin diseases and parasites. It’s a world in which the law can be a stupid pig and the police-stations dirty dens. One wants helpers and protectors—and clean water.
“Am I becoming reasonable or am I being tamed?
“I’m simply discovering that life is many-sided and complex and puzzling. I thought one had only to take it by the throat.
“It hasn’t got a throat!”
One day the idea of self-sacrifice came into her head, and she made, she thought, some important moral discoveries.
It came with an extreme effect of re-discovery, a remarkable novelty. “What have I been all this time?” she asked herself, and answered, “Just stark egotism, crude assertion of Ann Veronica, without a modest rag of religion or discipline or respect for authority to cover me!”
It seemed to her as though she had at last found the touchstone of conduct. She perceived she had never really thought of any one but herself in all her acts and plans. Even Capes had been for her merely an excitant to passionate love—a mere idol at whose feet one could enjoy imaginative wallowings. She had set out to get a beautiful life, a free, untrammelled life, self-development, without counting the cost either for herself or others.
“I have hurt my father,” she said; “I have hurt my aunt. I have hurt and snubbed poor Teddy. I’ve made no one happy. I deserve pretty much what I’ve got....
“If only because of the way one hurts others if one kicks loose and free, one has to submit....
“Broken-in people! I suppose the world is just all egotistical children and broken-in people.
“Your little flag of pride must flutter down with the rest of them, Ann Veronica....