“I know,” said Mr. Manning, “I know. Don’t think I can’t sympathize and understand. Still, here we are in this dingy, foggy city. Ye gods! what a wilderness it is! Every one trying to get the better of every one, every one regardless of every one—it’s one of those days when every one bumps against you—every one pouring coal smoke into the air and making confusion worse confounded, motor omnibuses clattering and smelling, a horse down in the Tottenham Court Road, an old woman at the corner coughing dreadfully—all the painful sights of a great city, and here you come into it to take your chances. It’s too valiant, Miss Stanley, too valiant altogether!”
Ann Veronica meditated. She had had two days of employment-seeking now. “I wonder if it is.”
“It isn’t,” said Mr. Manning, “that I mind Courage in a Woman—I love and admire Courage. What could be more splendid than a beautiful girl facing a great, glorious tiger? Una and the Lion again, and all that! But this isn’t that sort of thing; this is just a great, ugly, endless wilderness of selfish, sweating, vulgar competition!”
“That you want to keep me out of?”
“Exactly!” said Mr. Manning.
“In a sort of beautiful garden-close—wearing lovely dresses and picking beautiful flowers?”
“Ah! If one could!”
“While those other girls trudge to business and those other women let lodgings. And in reality even that magic garden-close resolves itself into a villa at Morningside Park and my father being more and more cross and overbearing at meals—and a general feeling of insecurity and futility.”
Mr. Manning relinquished his cup, and looked meaningly at Ann Veronica. “There,” he said, “you don’t treat me fairly, Miss Stanley. My garden-close would be a better thing than that.”
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH
IDEALS AND A REALITY
And now for some weeks Ann Veronica was to test her market value in the world. She went about in a negligent November London that had become very dark and foggy and greasy and forbidding indeed, and tried to find that modest but independent employment she had so rashly assumed. She went about, intent-looking and self-possessed, trim and fine, concealing her emotions whatever they were, as the realities of her position opened out before her. Her little bed-sitting-room was like a lair, and she went out from it into this vast, dun world, with its smoke-gray houses, its glaring streets of shops, its dark streets of homes, its orange-lit windows, under skies of dull copper or muddy gray or black, much as an animal goes out to seek food. She would come back and write letters, carefully planned and written letters, or read some book she had fetched from Mudie’s—she had invested a half-guinea with Mudie’s—or sit over her fire and think.