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soit qui mal y pense. The change has given man one good thing he never
had before," he said. "Girl friends. And I am coming to believe the best
as well as the most beautiful friends a man can have are girl friends."
He paused, and went on, after a keen look at her:
"I had rather gossip to a really intelligent girl than to any man
"I suppose we ARE more free than we were?" said Ann Veronica, keeping
the question general.
"Oh, there's no doubt of it! Since the girls of the eighties broke
bounds and sailed away on bicycles--my young days go back to the very
beginnings of that--it's been one triumphant relaxation."
"Relaxation, perhaps. But are we any more free?"
"I mean we've long strings to tether us, but we are bound all the same.
A woman isn't much freer--in reality."
Mr. Ramage demurred.
"One runs about," said Ann Veronica.
"But it's on condition one doesn't do anything."
He looked interrogation with a faint smile.
"It seems to me it comes to earning one's living in the long run," said
Ann Veronica, coloring faintly. "Until a girl can go away as a son does
and earn her independent income, she's still on a string. It may be a
long string, long enough if you like to tangle up all sorts of people;
but there it is! If the paymaster pulls, home she must go. That's what I
Mr. Ramage admitted the force of that. He was a little impressed by
Ann Veronica's metaphor of the string, which, indeed, she owed to Hetty
Widgett. "YOU wouldn't like to be independent?" he asked, abruptly. "I
mean REALLY independent. On your own. It isn't such fun as it seems."
"Every one wants to be independent," said Ann Veronica. "Every one. Man
"I wonder why?"
"There's no why. It's just to feel--one owns one's self."
"Nobody does that," said Ramage, and kept silence for a moment.
"But a boy--a boy goes out into the world and presently stands on his
own feet. He buys his own clothes, chooses his own company, makes his
own way of living."
"You'd like to do that?"
"Would you like to be a boy?"
"I wonder! It's out of the question, any way."
Ramage reflected. "Why don't you?"
"Well, it might mean rather a row."
"I know--" said Ramage, with sympathy.
"And besides," said Ann Veronica, sweeping that aspect aside, "what
could I do? A boy sails out into a trade or profession. But--it's one
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