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flying and splashing on to the tablecloth. 'My God!' he said, 'I'll go
after them and kill him. I'll go after them and kill him.' For the
moment I thought it was a telegram from Gwen."
"But what did father imagine?"
"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.
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