The arrangement for the morrow was that Angela and her father were to take a fly to Roxham, where the registry office was, and whither George was also to be conveyed in a close carriage; that the ceremony was then to be gone through, after which the parties were to separate and return to their respective homes. Mr. Fraser had been asked to attend, but had excused himself from doing so.
In pursuance of this programme, Angela and her father left the Abbey House about ten o’clock and drove in silence to the town. Strange as it may seem, Angela had never been in a town before, and, in the curious condition of her mind, the new sight of busy streets interested her greatly, and served to divert her attention till they reached the door of the office. She alighted and was shown with Philip into a waiting-room. And here, for some unexplained reason, a great fear took hold of her, a terror of this ceremony which now loomed large and life-like before her.
“Father,” she said, suddenly, after a moment of irresolution, “I am going home. I will not go on with this business.”
“What can you mean, Angela?”
“I mean what I say. I never realized how dreadful it all was till now; it has come upon me like a revelation. Come, I am going.”
“Angela, don’t be a fool. You forget that George will be here in a minute, and that the settlements are all signed.”
“Then he can go back again and the settlements can be torn up. I will not go on with it.”
Philip was by this time almost beside himself with anxiety. After having thus with thought and toil, and by the aid of a blessed chance, lifted this delicious cup to his lips, was it to be dashed from him? Were the sweet dreams so near approaching to realization, in which he had been wrapped for so many days, all to be dissipated into thin air? Was he to lose the land after all, after he had fingered—oh! how lovingly—the yellow title-deeds? For, alas! the sale depended on the marriage. It could not be, neither fate nor Angela could be so cruel. He turned upon her with the boldness of despair.
“Angela, you must not go on like this, after having agreed to the thing of your own free will. Think of what it involves for me. If you refuse to marry him now at the last moment, I shall lose the Isleworth estates. Heavens, to think that so much property should be dependent upon the mere whim of a girl! Cannot you have a little consideration for others beside yourself? Do you really mean to sacrifice the hopes of my whole life, to throw away the only opportunity I can ever have of righting my wrongs, in order to gratify a sentimental whim? For God’s sake, think a little first before you sacrifice me. You promised to do it.”
Never before had Angela seen her father so strongly excited; he was positively shaking with agitation. She looked at him steadily, and with such contempt that, even in his excitement, he quailed before her.