The Coldfall Sanction
Student of Science and intimate friend of Lt. Bradley McFarlane
Veronica Wells is a young lady whose family resides in a respectable house, in the entirely respectable south London suburb of the eminently respectable Morningside Park, who has in many ways given her widower father grief and her aunt considerable concern as to whether or not Veronica, at 22, was still a respectable young lady.
The youngest of Mr Wells five children, he was well aware that as a parent he had perhaps been a little too practised, a little too jaded and inattentive when it came to Veronica, especially after her mother had died. He gave her a fatherly smile and called her his “little Vee,” but perhaps he patted her a bit too unexpectedly and more than possibly a little too disconcertingly. But then he had no idea about daughters. A little girl was a delightful thing, they run about gaily, they play, they romp, they clamber up the stairs, they are bright and pretty, they have enormous quantities of soft hair, they feel so wonderful sitting upon ones lap, and they have more power of expressing affection than their brothers. But a little girl becomes a daughter. And a daughter was a woman, and women were sentimental and modest; they were creatures, he thought, either far too bad for a modern vocabulary, and were frequently most undesirably desirable, or, on the other hand much too pure and good for life. Women in his opinion were too much like a potter’s vessel— shaped either for worship or for derision. The truth be known, he had never wanted daughters. Far too uncertain about just what the right decorum should be when around them. And now, he had a suffragette. A “New Woman!" By God, the vixen had even been arrested. Which of course was entirely no more than what his Sister Agatha had expected – Veronica’s aunt – who had, seemingly endlessly, predicted there was nothing but a notorious future in store for his youngest daughter if he did not bring her about to understand a respectable reality.
Of course they blamed it on education. Too clever girl, her aunt muttered. For rather than accepting, as her aunt wanted, to settle into a respectable life of what Veronica saw as nothing more than a functionless existence consisting of afternoon teas, and tennis, and reading only very dull novels, when not taking long, useless walks, and the endlessly flittering about to dust her father’s house. Veronica longed for experience, an education. Education? Her aunt had replied. You mean a head full of nonsensical ideas concerning politics, and voting, and such; and this horrid idea of ‘ the New Woman ’. Education? The house was already cluttered with far too many books. Just how can any one young lady read so much? Especially those that Veronica left lying around for her aunt to find. Shamefaced curiosities so thinly disguised as literature and art. Art? Well maybe in France. As for her father, he had tried his best not to think of her at all. Of his daughters one had blessed him with marrying as he had wished, another against his wishes and as for Veronica, well, he did not want to even think of it – what with her rebellious discontent for his safe and respectable home. Her desire to be a ’ New Woman,’ to go to University. And so, between his daughters entreaties and his sisters endless complaints he had relented, for after all he just wanted the peace and solitude of his study.. And so, even though he felt further education ‘unsexed’ a woman, together he and Veronica settled upon a course in science at the Bedford College for Women.
Veronica had passed her general science examination with double honours. She had an especially acute aptitude and an unusual mental lucidity for science, finding in biology, particularly in comparative anatomy, a considerable interest. Her instructor complimented that she dissected extremely well, but in less than a year she found herself chafing at the limitations of the far too conservative woman instructress, who administered Bedford’s biological laboratory. A woman whom Veronica felt to be hopelessly foggy headed.
She longed to enter the Imperial College at Westminster.
With the continual inspection and attempted censorship of her reading by her aunt, as well as one dreadful row with her father, who had assumed she would just return home once she completed her courses at the university and then settle down to respectability, Veronica was ever more impatient with her life.
By chance, she had become acquainted with a gentleman on the train to Waterloo Station, a Mr Pym, who was an outside broker and the proprietor of a financial newspaper, who had apparently come up quite rapidly in the last few years. He became her confidante and quickly saw her dilemma. She could not move out of her father’s house owing to having no finances of her own. Thus he offered to extend her a loan, enough to establish rooms in London. When she graduated she could repay him. He said he considered it and investment in science.
Thus Veronica left her respectable home in Morningside Park and took rooms in North London on a quiet street near Hampstead Road. Of course, she explained to her father that her ability to finance even so small a two-room flat was from receipt of wages doing some nightly, freelance millinery work. She was putting to good use her aunt’s training.
Veronica was soon to find the kind and jovial Mr Pym, was not only her very sympathetic benefactor but an avowed supporter of suffrage as well. In fact he introduced her to several of his Socialist acquaintances – which is how she became involved with the radical WSPU and during one of their militant protests came to find herself arrested. Unable to bring herself to ask for her father’s help, she had contacted Mr Pym to secure her release. It was Mr Pym who had introduced her to Mrs Harriot Willingham, who upon introduction appeared to be as respectable a widow as her aunt, but was in fact an active Socialist. Mrs Willingham’s Georgian home, just North of Marylebone Road, was a treasure cove of tracts, and pamphlets, and newspapers, and radical magazines. It was there Veronica first read Emma Goldman and the far more radical Vladimir Lenin, as well as meeting the handsome Lieutenant to whom Mrs Willingham had let her second floor rooms.