Making A Splash

Shutterstock © Lady waving a votes for women flag in long skirts for romantic short story Making a Splash


A special romantic short story for International Women’s Day…

She was determined to do her bit for the Cause… but how to draw attention without hurting anyone?

Angela Compton sat amongst the sweet grasses, her elbows on her raised knees and her face held in her cupped hands. What could she do?

It was a question that had been occupying her mind for some weeks now. How could she advance the Cause in a way that hadn’t been done at least a hundred times already?

At first, chaining yourself to railings had been a good way to gain attention, but it had been done so many times now. Millie Jameson had chained herself to the railings outside the Town Hall and no one took any notice.

She’d sat there while everyone walked past her, except for a few small boys, who jeered and threw some rotten tomatoes they’d sneaked from the back of the greengrocers. Poor Millie had dirty brown streaks all over her face and down the front of her skirt, and Angela doubted the squashed tomato marks would ever come out of her new jacket.

Well, she’d warned her, hadn’t she?

“Wear something you don’t care about,” she’d said. “If they drag you off, it’ll get filthy.”

Millie tossed her head in defiance.

“I don’t want to look like a ragbag when they arrest me. I’ll have my picture in the newspapers. Anyway, it’s for the Cause,” she said. “Come on, Angela. What are you going to do to make a splash?”

Well, she wasn’t going to chain herself to railings, that was for certain. Millie had sat there nearly all the day, while people either pretended they hadn’t noticed her or sniffed disapprovingly as they passed. No one brought her a glass of water, let alone a nice cup of tea and a biscuit.

Cecil Browning, the policeman, hadn’t come to arrest her and the newspapers weren’t interested. PC Browning hadn’t even brought a pair of bolt-croppers to cut her free. He’d just left her there and when it began to get dark Millie had to bribe one of the small boys to fetch her the key to the padlock from where she’d thrown it.

She’d gone home dirty, hungry and seething with frustration.

No, Angela thought, that had been a total waste of a day and a humiliation for Millie. People still sniggered when they passed her in the street. That wouldn’t have mattered if it had made them think about Votes For Women – but it hadn’t, except as a joke.

There were things people definitely hadn’t laughed about, though. What about those Irish ladies who’d set fire to the Post Office in Dublin? And the Scottish ones who’d put phosphorous in the pillar boxes?

Angela winced as she remembered the article in the paper which had reported that several postmen had been badly hurt. No, she didn’t want to do anything like that. She didn’t want to endanger lives; she just wanted to be able to vote, to make her voice heard.

There were the ladies who’d borrowed catapults from their young brothers and peppered Mr Asquith’s car with stones, and one down in Bristol who’d taken a whip to young Mr Churchill’s shoulders. Nobody had ignored them, had they?

Yet neither the Prime Minister nor Mr Churchill would be likely to come to their small town and Angela rather thought that any attempt to throw stones at the mayoral car or whip the stout Mayor would be greeted with laughter rather than outrage.

As for that Emily Davison, who ran out in front of the King’s horse, at the Derby last month – what was she thinking of? They said she’d been trying to stick a Votes For Women poster on it.

Angela considered sticking a poster on Trusty or Troubadour, the two gentle giant plough horses, but she couldn’t see that would do any good. At the speed they went, she’d have time to stick slogans all over them. There’d be no risk to the horses, but the ploughman would just take the paper off and throw it away.

No. She had to do something that would make people sit up and take notice, but she didn’t want to put anyone’s life at risk. Not hers, and certainly not Trusty or Troubadour’s.

But what?

A rustling in the grass made her look up. Cecil Browning stood there, turning his cap round and round in his hands. How different he looked when he wasn’t wearing a helmet that hid his thick, wavy hair!

Angela shaded her eyes and looked up at him. She’d taken off her hat, which lay on the ground beside her, but this was 1913, not the Dark Ages.

“Hello!” she said. If he made any sort of a comment, she’d give him what for. If she chose to sit hatless on the grass, who was to say she couldn’t? Not Cecil Browning, that was for sure.

“Miss Compton. How do you do?”

She wasn’t going to let him see he’d rather taken the wind out of her sails.

“I’m well, thank you for asking,” she said in tones of unconcern. Her skirt had been pushed up by the wind, showing a sliver of stocking above her buttoned boot. She smoothed it down.

Not that she cared if Cecil saw her leg. It was just a bit draughty.

“It’s such a nice day, I thought I’d go for a stroll,” he said.

Oh, so you’re not on duty, then? I thought you might have come to arrest me for trespass.

He started to deny it, then saw the teasing look in her eye and relaxed.

“It’s common land. I think you’re allowed to sit anywhere you like here, Miss,” he said solemnly. “I haven’t got a cell booked for you, anyway.”

Angela laughed, got up and picked up her hat. She turned to walk beside him, dangling it by its ribbons.

“Have you been to see Pearson’s Field? It’s near finished now. There’ll be a Grand Opening next month,” he said. “Will you be going?”

“I should think so! Everyone will. The children have been practising their songs and dances for weeks and the Bransford Morris will be performing Bean Setting and Laudnum Bunches. And my friend Miss Jameson tells me the Athletic Club are doing a couple of Sword Dances and an exhibition of leap-frogging.”

“If they’re doing Sword Dances, it’s a good job the St John’s Ambulance Brigade will be in attendance. I’d better warn them to have plenty of bandages to hand!”

He looked quite handsome when he laughed, Angela thought, glancing sideways at him as he paced along beside her. If only he would arrest her! For the Cause, of course.

She didn’t want him to think she was a bad person. But women deserved to have a say in the government of the country, and she was going to do her best to make it happen.

They walked past Pearson’s Field. From the sound of saws and hammering, men were still labouring away but Angela could imagine what it was going to look like. And her Great Idea sprang into her head, fully formed.

“The Grand Opening’s going to be such fun. Will you be there?” she asked, all innocence. He smiled down at her.

“Yes, Miss Compton. But it won’t be fun and games for me and I shan’t bring my swimming costume. I’ll be in my uniform, on duty.”

“Oh, I shouldn’t think there will be any desperate criminals there, would you?” she said, making a business of putting her hat back on. “I’ll look out for you then, Constable.”

The sound of the accordion and the rhythmic tinkling of the Morris Dancers’ bells sounded across the water. The sun shone down and people wearing bathing suits reclined on the grass, waiting for the moment when they could plunge into the inviting pool. The Pearson’s Field Open Air Swimming Bath was only waiting for the Mayor to declare it open.

Angela peered around the corner of the Ladies’ Changing Room. Most of the swimmers eagerly awaiting their chance were men, but there were some women in the sort of daring costume made famous in The Water Nymph. Angela had been desperate to go and see the moving picture, but her father refused to let her.

“That Mabel Normand’s nothing but a shameless hussy,” he snorted. “No daughter of mine’s going around in a garment that shows her shape like that. Bare legs and arms – whatever is the world coming to?”

Angela thought it might be improving.

Her heart fluttered deliciously as the Morris troop finished their dance. A ripple of applause died away in expectation as there was a stirring on the VIPs bench and the Mayor rose ponderously to his feet.


She grasped her placard tightly and ran out from her hiding place.

“Votes For Women!” she shouted out as she sprinted as fast as her long skirts would let her. Every face was turned towards her as she ran around the pool. “Votes For Women!”

A pounding of feet made her glance over her shoulder. PC Browning was chasing after her. Angela ran faster.

“Yoicks! Tally-ho!” A number of the men had scrambled up with delighted yells and were joining in the chase.

“Votes For Women!”

That wasn’t her! She hadn’t enough breath left to shout. Looking round, Angela saw several female swimmers tackling the men. An entangled knot of them fell into the water with a tremendous splash. She eluded a grabbing hand and fled along the edge of the pool towards the deep end. But the pounding feet behind were getting closer and two of the male swimmers were converging on her from in front. There was only one way to go.

She dropped the placard, grabbed the rail of the steps that led up to the diving board and stumbled upwards. The steps shook violently as someone came up behind her and a hand clutched her arm. Off-balance, she swayed backwards. The hand clutched tighter, pulling her into a strong clasp as she teetered on the edge – and fell.

It wasn’t a high diving board. Angela just had time to thank heaven that she was wearing an old skirt and blouse before she hit the water and felt the arms let her go. Spluttering, she rose to the surface, but her sodden skirts were pulling her down. The swimming-bath could have been six feet deep or six hundred; she couldn’t feel the bottom. A wave of panic hit her.

A hand grabbed her and pulled her up. With all the dignity of a sack of coals, she was heaved out of the water and slapped hard on the back, making her cough up the water she’d swallowed. She shivered, despite the warm sun.

Clicking sounds indicated that the photographers who’d been poised to take pictures of the Mayor declaring the Pearson’s Field Swimming Bath Officially Open had all swivelled their cameras in her direction, while shrieks, giggles and splashing from the water showed that no one cared whether it was official or not.

Here. It’s sopping wet, I’m afraid, but it’ll keep you warmer than nothing.

A soggy policeman’s jacket was draped around her and PC Browning pulled her to her feet.

“Now, you just come along o’ me, Miss,” he said loudly. “I’m arresting you for disturbing the peace.”

“Thank you, Cecil,” whispered Angela as he led her away. His arm might be wet, but it was warmer than his jacket where it curved protectively around her shoulders. “Votes For Women!”

More uplifting and romantic short stories:

Read A Welcome Distraction, Behind Closed DoorsThe Midnight BakeryThe Right Choice and A Winter’s Kiss, plus many more in our archives.

Allison Hay

I joined the "My Weekly" team thirteen years ago and, more recently, "The People's Friend". I love the variety of topics we cover both online and in the magazines. I manage the digital content for the brands, sharing features and information on the website, social media and in our digital newsletters.