“You doubtless know why I have come,” said Stephen Foster, as he stepped into the room and closed the door. He looked penetratingly at the young man through a pair of gold-rimmed eye-glasses.
“I think I do, sir,” Jack replied, “and I am very glad to see you. I rather expected a visit from you. Take a seat, please.”
“Thank you—I prefer to stand. My business is very brief, Mr. Vernon. It is quite unnecessary to enter into discussions or explanations. You are aware, of course, that my daughter has told me everything. Do you consider that you have acted honorably—that your conduct has been what a gentleman’s should be?”
“It has, sir. Appearances are a little against me, I admit, but I have a clear conscience, Mr. Foster. I love your daughter with all my heart, and I have no higher aim in life than to make her my wife. I am heartily glad of the opportunity to tell you this to your face. Believe me, it was not from choice that I stooped to clandestine meetings.”
Stephen Foster laughed contemptuously.
“You took an unfair advantage of an innocent and trustful girl,” he said. “My daughter is young, ignorant of the world, and she does not know her own mind. You have cast a spell over her, as it were. She defies me—she refuses to obey my orders. You have estranged us, Mr. Vernon, and brought a cloud into what was a happy home. I appeal to you, in a father’s name, to release the girl from the ill-advised and foolish promises she made you.”
“I cannot give her up, sir. I fear you do not understand how much Madge—Miss Foster—is to me. If words could prove my sincerity, my devotion to her—”
“Her marriage to you is out of the question.”
“May I ask why?”
“My reasons do not concern you.”
“But at least I am entitled to some explanation—it is no more than my due,” said Jack. “Why do you object to me as a son-in-law? I am not a rake or an idler—you can easily satisfy yourself of my character, if you like. I am not a rich man, but I can offer your daughter a comfortable, even a luxurious, home. I have succeeded in my profession, and in another year I shall doubtless be making an income of two or three thousand pounds.”
“I am ready to admit all that,” was Stephen Foster’s curt reply. “It does not alter the position, however.”
“I suppose you have higher views for your daughter!” Jack cried, bitterly.
“Yes, I have,” Stephen Foster admitted, after a moment’s hesitation. “I don’t mind saying as much. But this interview has already lasted longer than I intended it should, Mr. Vernon. Have I appealed to you in vain?”
“With all proper respect to you, sir, I can answer you in only one way,” Jack replied, firmly. “Your daughter returns my affection, and she is a woman in ten thousand—a woman for whose love one might well count the world well lost. I cannot, I will not, give her up.”