"Besides, what am I to tell your father?"At first it had not been at all clear to Ann Veronica that she would refuse to return home; she had had some dream of a capitulation that should leave her an enlarged and defined freedom, but as her aunt put this aspect and that of her flight to her, as she wandered illogically and inconsistently from one urgent consideration to another, as she mingled assurances and aspects and emotions, it became clearer and clearer to the girl that there could be little or no change in the position of things if she returned. "And what will Mr. Manning think?" said her aunt.
"I don't care what any one thinks," said Ann Veronica.
"I can't imagine what has come over you," said her aunt. "Ican't conceive what you want. You foolish girl!"Ann Veronica took that in silence. At the back of her mind, dim and yet disconcerting, was the perception that she herself did not know what she wanted. And yet she knew it was not fair to call her a foolish girl.
"Don't you care for Mr. Manning?" said her aunt.
"I don't see what he has to do with my coming to London?""He--he worships the ground you tread on. You don't deserve it, but he does. Or at least he did the day before yesterday. And here you are!"Her aunt opened all the fingers of her gloved hand in a rhetorical gesture. "It seems to me all madness--madness! Just because your father--wouldn't let you disobey him!"Part 3
In the afternoon the task of expostulation was taken up by Mr.
Stanley in person. Her father's ideas of expostulation were a little harsh and forcible, and over the claret-colored table-cloth and under the gas chandelier, with his hat and umbrella between them like the mace in Parliament, he and his daughter contrived to have a violent quarrel. She had intended to be quietly dignified, but he was in a smouldering rage from the beginning, and began by assuming, which alone was more than flesh and blood could stand, that the insurrection was over and that she was coming home submissively. In his desire to be emphatic and to avenge himself for his over-night distresses, he speedily became brutal, more brutal than she had ever known him before.
"A nice time of anxiety you've given me, young lady," he said, as he entered the room. "I hope you're satisfied."She was frightened--his anger always did frighten her--and in her resolve to conceal her fright she carried a queen-like dignity to what she felt even at the time was a preposterous pitch. She said she hoped she had not distressed him by the course she had felt obliged to take, and he told her not to be a fool. She tried to keep her side up by declaring that he had put her into an impossible position, and he replied by shouting, "Nonsense!
Nonsense! Any father in my place would have done what I did."Then he went on to say: "Well, you've had your little adventure, and I hope now you've had enough of it. So go up-stairs and get your things together while I look out for a hansom."To which the only possible reply seemed to be, "I'm not coming home.""Not coming home!"
"No!" And, in spite of her resolve to be a Person, Ann Veronica began to weep with terror at herself. Apparently she was always doomed to weep when she talked to her father. But he was always forcing her to say and do such unexpectedly conclusive things.
She feared he might take her tears as a sign of weakness. So she said: "I won't come home. I'd rather starve!"For a moment the conversation hung upon that declaration. Then Mr. Stanley, putting his hands on the table in the manner rather of a barrister than a solicitor, and regarding her balefully through his glasses with quite undisguised animosity, asked, "And may I presume to inquire, then, what you mean to do?--how do you propose to live?""I shall live," sobbed Ann Veronica. "You needn't be anxious about that! I shall contrive to live.""But I AM anxious," said Mr. Stanley, "I am anxious. Do you think it's nothing to me to have my daughter running about London looking for odd jobs and disgracing herself?""Sha'n't get odd jobs," said Ann Veronica, wiping her eyes.
And from that point they went on to a thoroughly embittering wrangle. Mr. Stanley used his authority, and commanded Ann Veronica to come home, to which, of course, she said she wouldn't; and then he warned her not to defy him, warned her very solemnly, and then commanded her again. He then said that if she would not obey him in this course she should "never darken his doors again," and was, indeed, frightfully abusive. This threat terrified Ann Veronica so much that she declared with sobs and vehemence that she would never come home again, and for a time both talked at once and very wildly. He asked her whether she understood what she was saying, and went on to say still more precisely that she should never touch a penny of his money until she came home again--not one penny. Ann Veronica said she didn't care.
Then abruptly Mr. Stanley changed his key. "You poor child!" he said; "don't you see the infinite folly of these proceedings?
Think! Think of the love and affection you abandon! Think of your aunt, a second mother to you. Think if your own mother was alive!"He paused, deeply moved.
"If my own mother was alive," sobbed Ann Veronica, "she would understand."The talk became more and more inconclusive and exhausting. Ann Veronica found herself incompetent, undignified, and detestable, holding on desperately to a hardening antagonism to her father, quarrelling with him, wrangling with him, thinking of repartees--almost as if he was a brother. It was horrible, but what could she do? She meant to live her own life, and he meant, with contempt and insults, to prevent her. Anything else that was said she now regarded only as an aspect of or diversion from that.