When the carriage was gone he re-entered the vestibule. Ida, who was going away much disturbed in mind, saw him come, and knew from the expression of his face that there would be trouble. With characteristic courage she turned, determined to brave it out.
THE SQUIRE SPEAKS HIS MIND
For a minute or more her father fidgeted about, moving his papers backwards and forwards but saying nothing.
At last he spoke. “You have taken a most serious and painful step, Ida,” he said. “Of course you have a right to do as you please, you are of full age, and I cannot expect that you will consider me or your family in your matrimonial engagements, but at the same time I think it is my duty to point out to you what it is that you are doing. You are refusing one of the finest matches in England in order to marry a broken-down, middle-aged, half-pay colonel, a man who can hardly support you, whose part in life is played, or who is apparently too idle to seek another.”
Here Ida’s eyes flashed ominously, but she made no comment, being apparently afraid to trust herself to speak.
“You are doing this,” went on her father, working himself up as he spoke, “in the face of my wishes, and with a knowledge that your action will bring your family, to say nothing of your father, to utter and irretrievable ruin.”
“Surely, father, surely,” broke in Ida, almost in a cry, “you would not have me marry one man when I love another. When I made the promise I had not become attached to Colonel Quaritch.”
“Love! pshaw!” said her father. “Don’t talk to me in that sentimental and school-girl way—you are too old for it. I am a plain man, and I believe in family affection and in duty, Ida. Love, as you call it, is only too often another word for self-will and selfishness and other things that we are better without.”
“I can understand, father,” answered Ida, struggling to keep her temper under this jobation, “that my refusal to marry Mr. Cossey is disagreeable to you for obvious reasons, though it is not so very long since you detested him yourself. But I do not see why an honest woman’s affection for another man should be talked of as though there was something shameful about it. It is all very well to sneer at ‘love,’ but, after all a woman is flesh and blood; she is not a chattel or a slave girl, and marriage is not like anything else—it means many things to a woman. There is no magic about marriage to make that which is unrighteous righteous.”
“There,” said her father, “it is no good your lecturing to me on marriage, Ida. If you do not want to marry Cossey, I can’t force you to. If you want to ruin me, your family and yourself, you must do so. But there is one thing. While it is over me, which I suppose will not be for much longer, my house is my own, and I will not have that Colonel of yours hanging about it, and I shall write to him to say so. You are your own mistress, and if you choose to walk over to church and marry him you can do so, but it will be done without my consent, which of course, however, is an unnecessary formality. Do you hear me, Ida?”