“Spree!” exclaimed Nan. And again in a lower key, with a still finer disdain: “Spree! Well”—tearing the letter across impulsively, with the action of a passionate child—“you can go on the spree if you like, dad, but I’m going to stay at home. I’m not going to run after him to the ends of the earth if he is my husband. It wasn’t in the bargain, and I won’t do it!”
She stamped like a little fury, scattering fragments of the torn letter in all directions.
Her father attempted a feeble remonstrance, but she overrode him instantly.
“I won’t listen to you, dad!” she declared fiercely. “I tell you I won’t do it! The man isn’t living who shall order me to do this or that as if I were his slave. You can write and tell him so if you like. When I married him, he gave me to understand that we should only be out there for a few months at most, and then we were to settle in England. You see what a different story he tells now. But I won’t be treated in that way. I won’t be inveigled out there, and made to wait on his royal pleasure. He chose to go without me. I wasn’t important enough to keep him in England, and now it’s my turn. He isn’t important enough to drag me out there. No, be quiet, daddy! I tell you I won’t go! I won’t go, I swear it!”
“My dear child,” protested the Colonel, making himself heard at length in her pause for breath. “No one wants you to go anywhere or do anything against your will. Piet Cradock isn’t so unreasonable as that, if he is a Dutchman. Now don’t distress yourself. There isn’t the smallest necessity for that. I thought it just possible that you might like the idea as I was to be with you. But as you don’t—well, there’s an end of it. We will say no more.”
Nan’s arm was around his neck as he ended, her cheek against his forehead.
“Dear, dear daddy, don’t think I’m cross with you. You’re just the sweetest old darling in the world, and I’d go to Kamschatka with you gladly—in fact, anywhere—anywhere—except South Africa. Can’t we go somewhere together, just you and I? Let’s go to Jamaica. I’m sure I can afford it.”
“No, no, no!” protested the Colonel. “Get away with you, you baggage! What are you thinking of? Miss the cubbing season? Not I. And not you either, if I know you. There! Run along to bed, and take my blessing with you. I’ll send a line to Piet, if you like, and tell him you don’t object to waiting for him a bit longer under your old father’s roof. Come, be off with you! I’m going to lock up.”
He hoisted himself out of his chair with the words, looked at her fondly for a moment, took her pretty face between his hands, and kissed her twice.
“She’s the worst pickle of the lot,” he declared softly.
He did not add that she was also his darling of them all, but this was a perfectly open secret between them, and had been such as long as Nan could remember. She laughed up at him with tender impudence in recognition of the fact.