Mr. Stanley pointed to the letter with a pipe he had drawn from his jacket pocket. “What do you think of that?” he asked.
She took it up in her many-ringed hands and read it judicially. He filled his pipe slowly.
“Yes,” she said at last, “it is firm and affectionate.”
“I could have said more.”
“You seem to have said just what had to be said. It seems to me exactly what is wanted. She really must not go to that affair.”
She paused, and he waited for her to speak.
“I don’t think she quite sees the harm of those people or the sort of life to which they would draw her,” she said. “They would spoil every chance.”
“She has chances?” he said, helping her out.
“She is an extremely attractive girl,” she said; and added, “to some people. Of course, one doesn’t like to talk about things until there are things to talk about.”
“All the more reason why she shouldn’t get herself talked about.”
“That is exactly what I feel.”
Mr. Stanley took the letter and stood with it in his hand thoughtfully for a time. “I’d give anything,” he remarked, “to see our little Vee happily and comfortably married.”
He gave the note to the parlormaid the next morning in an inadvertent, casual manner just as he was leaving the house to catch his London train. When Ann Veronica got it she had at first a wild, fantastic idea that it contained a tip.
Ann Veronica’s resolve to have things out with her father was not accomplished without difficulty.
He was not due from the City until about six, and so she went and played Badminton with the Widgett girls until dinner-time. The atmosphere at dinner was not propitious. Her aunt was blandly amiable above a certain tremulous undertow, and talked as if to a caller about the alarming spread of marigolds that summer at the end of the garden, a sort of Yellow Peril to all the smaller hardy annuals, while her father brought some papers to table and presented himself as preoccupied with them. “It really seems as if we shall have to put down marigolds altogether next year,” Aunt Molly repeated three times, “and do away with marguerites. They seed beyond all reason.” Elizabeth, the parlormaid, kept coming in to hand vegetables whenever there seemed a chance of Ann Veronica asking for an interview. Directly dinner was over Mr. Stanley, having pretended to linger to smoke, fled suddenly up-stairs to petrography, and when Veronica tapped he answered through the locked door, “Go away, Vee! I’m busy,” and made a lapidary’s wheel buzz loudly.
Breakfast, too, was an impossible occasion. He read the Times with an unusually passionate intentness, and then declared suddenly for the earlier of the two trains he used.
“I’ll come to the station,” said Ann Veronica. “I may as well come up by this train.”