“Well, we won’t go into Shakespeare,” said Ogilvy “What interests me is that our young women nowadays are running about as free as air practically, with registry offices and all sorts of accommodation round the corner. Nothing to check their proceedings but a declining habit of telling the truth and the limitations of their imaginations. And in that respect they stir up one another. Not my affair, of course, but I think we ought to teach them more or restrain them more. One or the other. They’re too free for their innocence or too innocent for their freedom. That’s my point. Are you going to have any apple-tart, Stanley? The apple-tart’s been very good lately—very good!”
At the end of dinner that evening Ann Veronica began: “Father!”
Her father looked at her over his glasses and spoke with grave deliberation; “If there is anything you want to say to me,” he said, “you must say it in the study. I am going to smoke a little here, and then I shall go to the study. I don’t see what you can have to say. I should have thought my note cleared up everything. There are some papers I have to look through to-night—important papers.”
“I won’t keep you very long, daddy,” said Ann Veronica.
“I don’t see, Mollie,” he remarked, taking a cigar from the box on the table as his sister and daughter rose, “why you and Vee shouldn’t discuss this little affair—whatever it is—without bothering me.”
It was the first time this controversy had become triangular, for all three of them were shy by habit.
He stopped in mid-sentence, and Ann Veronica opened the door for her aunt. The air was thick with feelings. Her aunt went out of the room with dignity and a rustle, and up-stairs to the fastness of her own room. She agreed entirely with her brother. It distressed and confused her that the girl should not come to her.
It seemed to show a want of affection, to be a deliberate and unmerited disregard, to justify the reprisal of being hurt.
When Ann Veronica came into the study she found every evidence of a carefully foreseen grouping about the gas fire. Both arm-chairs had been moved a little so as to face each other on either side of the fender, and in the circular glow of the green-shaded lamp there lay, conspicuously waiting, a thick bundle of blue and white papers tied with pink tape. Her father held some printed document in his hand, and appeared not to observe her entry. “Sit down,” he said, and perused—“perused” is the word for it—for some moments. Then he put the paper by. “And what is it all about, Veronica?” he asked, with a deliberate note of irony, looking at her a little quizzically over his glasses.
Ann Veronica looked bright and a little elated, and she disregarded her father’s invitation to be seated. She stood on the mat instead, and looked down on him. “Look here, daddy,” she said, in a tone of great reasonableness, “I must go to that dance, you know.”