"Why not? That's George Holland's mistake, I fear. Why should he work himself to a fury over the peccadillos of the patriarchs? The principle of the statute of limitations should be applied to such cases. If the world, and the colleges of theology, have dealt lightly with Samson and David and Abraham and Jacob and the rest of them for some thousands of years, why should George Holland rake up things against them, and that, too, on very doubtful evidence? But I should be the last person in the world to complain of the course which he has seen fit to adopt, since it has left you with me a little longer, my dearest child. I did not, of course, oppose your engagement, but I have often asked myself what I should do without you? How should I ever work up my facts, or, what is more important, my quotations, in your absence, Phyllis? On some questions, my dear, you are a veritable Blue-book--yes, an /edition de luxe/ of a Blue-book."
"And I meant to be so useful to him as well," said Phyllis, taking her father's praises more demurely than she had taken his phrases. "I meant to help him in his work."
"Ah, what a fool the man is! How could any man in his senses give up a thing of flesh and blood like you, for the sake of proving or trying to prove, that some people who lived five or six thousand years ago-- if they ever lived at all--would have rendered themselves liable to imprisonment, without the option of a fine, if they lived in England since the passing of certain laws--recent laws, too, we must remember!"
"Anyhow, you have done with him, my dear. A man who can't see that crime is really a question of temperament, and sin invariably a question of geography--well, we'll say no more about it. At what hour did you say he was coming?"
"Four. I don't think I shall break down."
"Break down? Why on earth should you break down? You have a mind to know, and you know your own mind. That's everything. But of course you've had no experience of matters of this sort. He was your first real lover?"
Phyllis' face became crimson. She retained sufficient presence of mind, however, to make a little fuss with the window-blind before letting it down. Her father stared at her for a moment, and there was rather a long pause before he laughed.
"I said 'real lover,' my dear," he remarked. "The real lover is the one who talks definitely about dates and the house agent's commission. As a rule the real lover does not make love. True love is born, not made. But you--Heavens above! perhaps I did an injustice to you--to you and to the men. Maybe you're not such a tyro after all, Phyllis."