“Of course he imagined! Any one would! ‘What has happened, Peter?’ I asked. He was standing up with the telegram crumpled in his hand. He used a most awful word! Then he said, ’It’s Ann Veronica gone to join her sister!’ ‘Gone!’ I said. ‘Gone!’ he said. ‘Read that,’ and threw the telegram at me, so that it went into the tureen. He swore when I tried to get it out with the ladle, and told me what it said. Then he sat down again in a chair and said that people who wrote novels ought to be strung up. It was as much as I could do to prevent him flying out of the house there and then and coming after you. Never since I was a girl have I seen your father so moved. ‘Oh! little Vee!’ he cried, ‘little Vee!’ and put his face between his hands and sat still for a long time before he broke out again.”
Ann Veronica had remained standing while her aunt spoke.
“Do you mean, aunt,” she asked, “that my father thought I had gone off—with some man?”
“What else could he think? Would any one dream you would be so mad as to go off alone?”
“After—after what had happened the night before?”
“Oh, why raise up old scores? If you could see him this morning, his poor face as white as a sheet and all cut about with shaving! He was for coming up by the very first train and looking for you, but I said to him, ‘Wait for the letters,’ and there, sure enough, was yours. He could hardly open the envelope, he trembled so. Then he threw the letter at me. ‘Go and fetch her home,’ he said; ’it isn’t what we thought! It’s just a practical joke of hers.’ And with that he went off to the City, stern and silent, leaving his bacon on his plate—a great slice of bacon hardly touched. No breakfast, he’s had no dinner, hardly a mouthful of soup—since yesterday at tea.”
She stopped. Aunt and niece regarded each other silently.
“You must come home to him at once,” said Miss Stanley.
Ann Veronica looked down at her fingers on the claret-colored table-cloth. Her aunt had summoned up an altogether too vivid picture of her father as the masterful man, overbearing, emphatic, sentimental, noisy, aimless. Why on earth couldn’t he leave her to grow in her own way? Her pride rose at the bare thought of return.
“I don’t think I can do that,” she said. She looked up and said, a little breathlessly, “I’m sorry, aunt, but I don’t think I can.”
Then it was the expostulations really began.
From first to last, on this occasion, her aunt expostulated for about two hours. “But, my dear,” she began, “it is Impossible! It is quite out of the Question. You simply can’t.” And to that, through vast rhetorical meanderings, she clung. It reached her only slowly that Ann Veronica was standing to her resolution. “How will you live?” she appealed. “Think of what people will say!” That became a refrain. “Think of what Lady Palsworthy will say! Think of what”—So-and-so—“will say! What are we to tell people?