This text comes from the 1919 Duckworth edition of Richardson’s The Tunnel. It is reproduced with kind permission of the Estate of Dorothy Richardson.
When she came to herself she was in the Strand. She walked on a little and turned aside to look at a jeweller’s window and consider being in the Strand at night. Most of the shops were still open. The traffic was still in full tide. The jeweller’s window repelled her. It was very yellow with gold, all the objects close together and each one bearing a tiny label with the price. There was a sort of commonness about the Strand, not like the cheerful commonness of Oxford Street, more like the City with its many sudden restaurants. She walked on. But there were theatres also, linking it up with the west-end and streets leading off it where people like Bob Greville had chambers. It was the tailing off of the west-end and the beginning of a deep dark richness that began about Holywell. Mysterious important churches crowded in amongst little brown lanes ... the little dark brown lane.... She wondered what she had been thinking since she left Wimpole Street and whether she had come across Trafalgar Square without seeing it or round by some other way. They were fighting; sending out suffocation and misery into the surrounding air ... she stopped close to the two upright balanced threatening bodies, almost touching them. The men looked at her. ‘Don’t’ she said imploringly and hurried on trembling.... It occurred to her that she had not seen fighting since a day in her childhood when she had wondered at the swaying bodies and sickened at the thud of a fist against a cheek. The feeling was the same to-day, the longing to explain somehow to the men that they could not fight.... Half-past seven. Perhaps there would not be an A.B.C. so far down. It would be impossible to get a meal. Perhaps the girls would have some coffee. An A.B.C. appeared suddenly at her side, its panes misty in the cold air. She went confidently in. It seemed nearly full of men. Never mind, city men; with a wisdom of their own which kept them going and did not affect anything, all alike and thinking the same thoughts; far away from anything she thought or knew. She walked confidently down the centre, her plaid-lined golf-cape thrown back her small brown boat-shaped felt hat suddenly hot on her head in the warmth. The shop turned at a right angle showing a large open fire with a fireguard, and a cat sitting on the hearthrug in front of it. She chose a chair at a small table in front of the fire. The velvet settees at the sides of the room were more comfortable. But it was for such a little while to-night and it was not one of her own A.B.Cs. She felt as she sat down as if she were the guest of the city men and ate her boiled egg and roll and butter and drank her small coffee in that spirit-gazing into the fire and thinking her own thoughts unresentful of the uncongenial scraps of talk that now and again penetrated her thoughts; the complacent laughter of the men amazed her; their amazing unconsciousness of the things that were written all over them.
The fire blazed into her face. She dropped her cape over the back of her chair and sat in the glow; the small pat of butter was not enough for the large roll. Pictures came out of the fire, the strange moment in her room, the smashing of the plaque, the lamplit den; Mr. Orly’s song, the strange rich difficult day and now her untouched self here, free, unseen and strong, the strong world of London all round her, strong free untouched people, in a dark lit wilderness happy and miserable in their own way, going about the streets looking at nothing, thinking about no special person or thing, as long as they were there, being in London.
Even the business people who went about intent, going to definite places were in the secret of London and looked free. The expression of the collar and hair of many of them said they had homes. But they got away from them. No one who had never been alone in London was quite alive.... I’m free—I’ve got free—nothing can ever alter that she thought, gazing wide-eyed into the fire, between fear and joy. The strange familiar pang gave the place a sort of consecration. A strength was piling up within her. She would go out unregretfully at closing time and up through wonderful unknown streets, not her own streets till she found Holborn and then up and round through the Squares.