He came abruptly back. “Are you aware, Mehetabel, that you have proposed a bargain to me? I do not bargain with my children: I expect obedience. Nor as a father am I obliged to give my reasons. But since you are leaving us, and I would not dismiss you harshly, let me say that I have studied this man for whom you avow a fondness; and apart from his calling—which I detest—I find him vain, foppish, insincere. He has levitas with levitas: I believe his heart to be as shallow as his head. I know him to be no fit mate for one of my daughters; least of all for you who have gifts above your sisters—gifts which I have recognised and tried to improve. Child, summon your pride to you, and let it help your obedience.” He broke off and gazed out of the window. “If,” said he more softly, “our fate be not offered to us, we must make it. If, while our true fate delays, there come to us unworthy phantoms simulating it, we should test them; lest impatient we run to embrace vanity, and betray, not our hopes alone, but the purpose God had in mind for us from the beginning.”
Hetty looked up. She might have thought that she was twenty-seven, and asked herself how long was it likely to be before a prince came across those dreary fields to the thatched parsonage, seeking her. But her heart was full of the man she loved, and she thought only that her father did him bitter injustice.
She shivered and lifted her face. “Good-bye, papa,” she said coldly.
He kissed her on the cheek, and took a step to follow her to the door; but thought better of it and returned to the window. He heard the door close upon her, and five minutes later saw her whisked away in the gig by Dick Ellison’s side.
He continued to stare out of the window long after the gig had disappeared over the low horizon: a small, nervous, indomitable figure of a man close upon his sixty-second birthday, standing for a while with his back turned upon his unwieldy manuscripts and his jaw thrust forward obstinately as he surveyed the blank landscape. He had the scholar’s stoop, but this thrust of the jaw was habitual and lifted his face at an angle which gave an “up-sighted” expression to his small eyes, set somewhat closely together above a long straight nose. Nose, eyes, jaw announced obstinacy, and the eyes, quick and fiery, warned you that it was of the aggressive kind which not only holds to its purpose, but never ceases nagging until it be attained. In build he was lean and wiry: in carriage amazingly dignified for one who (to be precise) stood but 5 feet 5 and a half inches high.