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justice it deserves; he will picture the orderly evening scene about the
Imperial Legislature in convincing detail, the coming and going of cabs
and motor-cabs and broughams through the chill, damp evening into New
Palace Yard, the reinforced but untroubled and unsuspecting police about
the entries of those great buildings whose square and panelled Victorian
Gothic streams up from the glare of the lamps into the murkiness of
the night; Big Ben shining overhead, an unassailable beacon, and the
incidental traffic of Westminster, cabs, carts, and glowing omnibuses
going to and from the bridge. About the Abbey and Abingdon Street stood
the outer pickets and detachments of the police, their attention all
directed westward to where the women in Caxton Hall, Westminster, hummed
like an angry hive. Squads reached to the very portal of that centre of
disturbance. And through all these defences and into Old Palace
Yard, into the very vitals of the defenders' position, lumbered the
They travelled past the few idle sightseers who had braved the
uninviting evening to see what the Suffragettes might be doing; they
pulled up unchallenged within thirty yards of those coveted portals.
And then they disgorged.
Were I a painter of subject pictures, I would exhaust all my skill
in proportion and perspective and atmosphere upon the august seat
of empire, I would present it gray and dignified and immense and
respectable beyond any mere verbal description, and then, in vivid
black and very small, I would put in those valiantly impertinent
vans, squatting at the base of its altitudes and pouring out a swift,
straggling rush of ominous little black objects, minute figures of
determined women at war with the universe.
Ann Veronica was in their very forefront.
In an instant the expectant calm of Westminster was ended, and the very
Speaker in the chair blenched at the sound of the policemen's whistles.
The bolder members in the House left their places to go lobbyward,
grinning. Others pulled hats over their noses, cowered in their seats,
and feigned that all was right with the world. In Old Palace Yard
everybody ran. They either ran to see or ran for shelter. Even two
Cabinet Ministers took to their heels, grinning insincerely. At the
opening of the van doors and the emergence into the fresh air Ann
Veronica's doubt and depression gave place to the wildest exhilaration.
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