“The bridegroom, I believe,” said I.
“This is to quibble,” he cried. “You turn your back upon the facts. The girl, my daughter, has no choice left to exercise. Her character is gone.”
“And I ask your pardon,” said I, “but while this matter lies between her and you and me, that is not so.”
“What security have I!” he cried. “Am I to let my daughter’s reputation depend upon a chance?”
“You should have thought of all this long ago,” said I, “before you were so misguided as to lose her; and not afterwards, when it is quite too late. I refuse to regard myself as any way accountable for your neglect, and I will be browbeat by no man living. My mind is quite made up, and come what may, I will not depart from it a hair’s breadth. You and me are to sit here in company till her return; upon which, without either word or look from you, she and I are to go forth again to hold our talk. If she can satisfy me that she is willing to this step, I will then make it; and if she cannot, I will not.”
He leaped out of his seat like a man stung. “I can spy your manoeuvre,” he cried; “you would work upon her to refuse!”
“Maybe ay, and maybe no,” said I. “That is the way it is to be, whatever.”
“And if I refuse?” cries he.
“Then, Mr. Drummond, it will have to come to the throat-cutting,” said I.
What with the size of the man, his great length of arm in which he came near rivalling his father, and his reputed skill at weapons, I did not use this word without some trepidation, to say nothing at all of the circumstance that he was Catriona’s father. But I might have spared myself alarms. From the poorness of my lodging—he does not seem to have remarked his daughter’s dresses, which were indeed all equally new to him—and from the fact that I had shown myself averse to lend, he had embraced a strong idea of my poverty. The sudden news of my estate convinced him of his error, and he had made but the one bound of it on this fresh venture, to which he was now so wedded, that I believe he would have suffered anything rather than fall to the alternative of fighting.
A little while longer he continued to dispute with me until I hit upon a word that silenced him.
“If I find you so averse to let me see the lady by herself,” said I, “I must suppose you have very good grounds to think me in the right about her unwillingness.”
He gabbled some kind of an excuse.
“But all this is very exhausting to both of our tempers,” I added, “and I think we would do better to preserve a judicious silence.”
The which we did until the girl returned, and I must suppose would have cut a very ridiculous figure, had there been any there to view us.
* * * * *
IN WHICH I AM LEFT ALONE
I opened the door to Catriona and stopped her on the threshold.