One was in the Indian Civil Service and one in the rapidly developing motor business. The daughters, he had hoped, would be their mother's care. Of course a little daughter is a delightful thing enough. It runs about gayly, it romps, it is bright and pretty, it has enormous quantities of soft hair and more power of expressing affection than its brothers. It is a lovely little appendage to the mother who smiles over it, and it does things quaintly like her, gestures with her very gestures.
It makes wonderful sentences that you can repeat in the City and are good enough for Punch. You call it a lot of nicknames—"Babs" and "Bibs" and "Viddles" and "Vee"; you whack at it playfully, and it whacks you back. It loves to sit on your knee. All that is jolly and as it should be. But a little daughter is one thing and a daughter quite another. There one comes to a relationship that Mr. Stanley had never thought out. When he found himself thinking about it, it upset him so that he at once resorted to distraction.
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The chromatic fiction with which he relieved his mind glanced but slightly at this aspect of life, and never with any quality of guidance. Its heroes never had daughters, they borrowed other people's. The one fault, indeed, of this school of fiction for him was that it had rather a light way with parental rights. His instinct was in the direction of considering his daughters his absolute property, bound to obey him, his to give away or his to keep to be a comfort in his declining years just as he thought fit. About this conception of ownership he perceived and desired a certain sentimental glamour, he liked everything properly dressed, but it remained ownership.
Ownership seemed only a reasonable return for the cares and expenses of a daughter's upbringing. Daughters were not like sons. He perceived, however, that both the novels he read and the world he lived in discountenanced these assumptions. Nothing else was put in their place, and they remained sotto voce, as it were, in his mind.
The new and the old cancelled out; his daughters became quasi- independent dependents—which is absurd. One married as he wished and one against his wishes, and now here was Ann Veronica, his little Vee, discontented with her beautiful, safe, and sheltering home, going about with hatless friends to Socialist meetings and art-class dances, and displaying a disposition to carry her scientific ambitions to unwomanly lengths.
She seemed to think he was merely the paymaster, handing over the means of her freedom. And now she insisted that she MUST leave the chastened security of the Tredgold Women's College for Russell's unbridled classes, and wanted to go to fancy dress dances in pirate costume and spend the residue of the night with Widgett's ramshackle girls in some indescribable hotel in Soho! He had done his best not to think about her at all, but the situation and his sister had become altogether too urgent. He had finally put aside The Lilac Sunbonnet, gone into his study, lit the gas fire, and written the letter that had brought these unsatisfactory relations to a head.
I gather you wish to go up in some fantastic get-up, wrapped about in your opera cloak, and that after the festivities you propose to stay with these friends of yours, and without any older people in your party, at an hotel. Now I am sorry to cross you in anything you have set your heart upon, but I regret to say—". A certain irritation crept into his manner as he did so. I do not think you quite understand my ideals or what is becoming as between father and daughter. Your attitude to me—". You are restless, aggressive, critical with all the crude unthinking criticism of youth.
You have no grasp upon the essential facts of life I pray God you never may , and in your rash ignorance you are prepared to dash into positions that may end in lifelong regret. The life of a young girl is set about with prowling pitfalls.
He was arrested for a moment by an indistinct picture of Veronica reading this last sentence. But he was now too deeply moved to trace a certain unsatisfactoriness to its source in a mixture of metaphors. That's all about it. It's time she knew.follow url
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A day will come when you will thank me. It is not, my dear Veronica, that I think there is any harm in you; there is not. But a girl is soiled not only by evil but by the proximity of evil, and a reputation for rashness may do her as serious an injury as really reprehensible conduct. So do please believe that in this matter I am acting for the best. He signed his name and reflected.
Then he opened the study door and called "Mollie! She was dressed in one of those complicated dresses that are all lace and work and confused patternings of black and purple and cream about the body, and she was in many ways a younger feminine version of the same theme as himself.
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She had the same sharp nose—which, indeed, only Ann Veronica, of all the family, had escaped. She carried herself well, whereas her brother slouched, and there was a certain aristocratic dignity about her that she had acquired through her long engagement to a curate of family, a scion of the Wiltshire Edmondshaws. He had died before they married, and when her brother became a widower she had come to his assistance and taken over much of the care of his youngest daughter.
But from the first her rather old-fashioned conception of life had jarred with the suburban atmosphere, the High School spirit and the memories of the light and little Mrs. Stanley, whose family had been by any reckoning inconsiderable—to use the kindliest term. Miss Stanley had determined from the outset to have the warmest affection for her youngest niece and to be a second mother in her life—a second and a better one; but she had found much to battle with, and there was much in herself that Ann Veronica failed to understand.
She came in now with an air of reserved solicitude. Stanley pointed to the letter with a pipe he had drawn from his jacket pocket. It seems to me exactly what is wanted. She really must not go to that affair. Of course, one doesn't like to talk about things until there are things to talk about. Stanley took the letter and stood with it in his hand thoughtfully for a time. 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.
They seed beyond all reason. 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.
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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. Her father's step quickened to a trot.
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If you've got anything to say, you must say it to your aunt—". Ahead of them walked a gentleman whom it was evident they must at their present pace very speedily overtake. It was Ramage, the occupant of the big house at the end of the Avenue. He had recently made Mr. Stanley's acquaintance in the train and shown him one or two trifling civilities.
He was an outside broker and the proprietor of a financial newspaper; he had come up very rapidly in the last few years, and Mr. Stanley admired and detested him in almost equal measure. It was intolerable to think that he might overhear words and phrases. Stanley's pace slackened. If you want advice, your aunt is the person. However, if you must air your opinions—". He made an angry but conceivably an assenting noise, and then Ramage glanced back and stopped, saluted elaborately, and waited for them to come up.
He was a square-faced man of nearly fifty, with iron-gray hair a mobile, clean- shaven mouth and rather protuberant black eyes that now scrutinized Ann Veronica. He dressed rather after the fashion of the West End than the City, and affected a cultured urbanity that somehow disconcerted and always annoyed Ann Veronica's father extremely. He did not play golf, but took his exercise on horseback, which was also unsympathetic. Stanley as they drew alongside, to account for his own ruffled and heated expression.
Stanley wanted to object strongly, but as he could not immediately think how to put it, he contented himself with a grunt, and the motion was carried. But, you see, she HAS to lie up. The topic of his invalid wife bored him, and he turned at once to Ann Veronica. It's an instance of heredity, I suppose.
Stanley almost liked Ramage. He began to talk of his own impressions of biology as a commonplace magazine reader who had to get what he could from the monthly reviews, and was glad to meet with any information from nearer the fountainhead. In a little while he and she were talking quite easily and agreeably. They went on talking in the train—it seemed to her father a slight want of deference to him —and he listened and pretended to read the Times.