“Hear me out,” the father said, patiently. “I don’t want to offend you, Gerty, but I wish to speak plainly. You have an amazing faculty for making yourself believe anything that suits you. I have not the least doubt but that you have persuaded yourself that the change in your manner toward Keith Macleod was owing to your discovering that their way of life was different from what you expected; or perhaps that you still had a lingering fancy for the stage—anything you like. I say you could make yourself believe anything. But I must point out to you that any acquaintance of yours—an outsider—would probably look on the marked attentions Mr. Lemuel has been paying you; and on your sudden conversion to the art-theories of himself and his friends; and on the revival of your ambitious notions about tragedy—”
“You need say no more,” said she, with her face grown quickly red, and with a certain proud impatience in her look.
“Oh, yes, but I mean to say more,” her father said, quietly, “unless you wish to leave the room. I mean to say this—that when you have persuaded yourself somehow that you would rather reconsider your promise to Sir Keith Macleod—am I right?—that it does seem rather hard that you should grow ill-tempered with him and accuse him of being the author of your troubles and vexations. I am no great friend of his—I disliked his coming here at the outset; but I will say he is a manly young fellow, and I know he would not try to throw the blame of any change in his own sentiments on to some one else. And another thing I mean to say is—that your playing the part of the injured Griselda is not quite becoming, Gerty: at all events, I have no sympathy with it. If you come and tell me frankly that you have grown tired of Macleod, and wish somehow to break your promise to him, then I can advise you.”
“And what would you advise, then,” said she, with equal calmness, “supposing that you choose to throw all the blame on me.”
“I would say that it is a woman’s privilege to be allowed to change her mind; and that the sooner you told him so the better.”
“Very simple!” she said, with a flavor of sarcasm in her tone. “Perhaps you don’t know that man as I know him.”
“Then you are afraid of him?”
She was silent.
“These are certainly strange relations between two people who talk of getting married. But, in any case, he cannot suffocate you in a cave, for you live in London; and in London it is only an occasional young man about Shoreditch who smashes his sweetheart with a poker when she proposes to marry somebody else. He might, it is true, summon you for breach of promise; but he would prefer not to be laughed at. Come, come, Gerty, get rid of all this nonsense. Tell him frankly the position, and don’t come bothering me with pretended wrongs and injuries.”
“Do you think I ought to tell him?” said she, slowly.