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Chapter 15

  • He had been puzzled by the way that Catherine carried herself; her attitude a_his sentimental crisis seemed to him unnaturally passive. She had not spoke_o him again after that scene in the library, the day before his intervie_ith Morris; and a week had elapsed without making any change in her manner.
  • There was nothing in it that appealed for pity, and he was even a littl_isappointed at her not giving him an opportunity to make up for his harshnes_y some manifestation of liberality which should operate as a compensation. H_hought a little of offering to take her for a tour in Europe; but he wa_etermined to do this only in case she should seem mutely to reproach him. H_ad an idea that she would display a talent for mute reproaches, and he wa_urprised at not finding himself exposed to these silent batteries. She sai_othing, either tacitly or explicitly, and as she was never very talkative,
  • there was now no especial eloquence in her reserve. And poor Catherine was no_ulky—a style of behaviour for which she had too little histrionic talent; sh_as simply very patient. Of course she was thinking over her situation, an_he was apparently doing so in a deliberate and unimpassioned manner, with _iew of making the best of it.
  • "She will do as I have bidden her," said the Doctor, and he made the furthe_eflexion that his daughter was not a woman of a great spirit. I know no_hether he had hoped for a little more resistance for the sake of a littl_ore entertainment; but he said to himself, as he had said before, that thoug_t might have its momentary alarms, paternity was, after all, not an excitin_ocation.
  • Catherine, meanwhile, had made a discovery of a very different sort; it ha_ecome vivid to her that there was a great excitement in trying to be a goo_aughter. She had an entirely new feeling, which may be described as a stat_f expectant suspense about her own actions. She watched herself as she woul_ave watched another person, and wondered what she would do. It was as if thi_ther person, who was both herself and not herself, had suddenly sprung int_eing, inspiring her with a natural curiosity as to the performance o_ntested functions.
  • "I am glad I have such a good daughter," said her father, kissing her, afte_he lapse of several days.
  • "I am trying to be good," she answered, turning away, with a conscience no_ltogether clear.
  • "If there is anything you would like to say to me, you know you must no_esitate. You needn't feel obliged to be so quiet. I shouldn't care that Mr.
  • Townsend should be a frequent topic of conversation, but whenever you hav_nything particular to say about him I shall be very glad to hear it."
  • "Thank you," said Catherine; "I have nothing particular at present."
  • He never asked her whether she had seen Morris again, because he was sure tha_f this had been the case she would tell him. She had, in fact, not seen him,
  • she had only written him a long letter. The letter at least was long for her;
  • and, it may be added, that it was long for Morris; it consisted of five pages,
  • in a remarkably neat and handsome hand. Catherine's handwriting was beautiful,
  • and she was even a little proud of it; she was extremely fond of copying, an_ossessed volumes of extracts which testified to this accomplishment; volume_hich she had exhibited one day to her lover, when the bliss of feeling tha_he was important in his eyes was exceptionally keen. She told Morris i_riting that her father had expressed the wish that she should not see hi_gain, and that she begged he would not come to the house until she shoul_ave "made up her mind." Morris replied with a passionate epistle, in which h_sked to what, in Heaven's name, she wished to make up her mind. Had not he_ind been made up two weeks before, and could it be possible that sh_ntertained the idea of throwing him off? Did she mean to break down at th_ery beginning of their ordeal, after all the promises of fidelity she ha_oth given and extracted? And he gave an account of his own interview with he_ather—an account not identical at all points with that offered in thes_ages. "He was terribly violent," Morris wrote; "but you know my self-control.
  • I have need of it all when I remember that I have it in my power to break i_pon your cruel captivity." Catherine sent him, in answer to this, a note o_hree lines. "I am in great trouble; do not doubt of my affection, but let m_ait a little and think." The idea of a struggle with her father, of settin_p her will against his own, was heavy on her soul, and it kept her formall_ubmissive, as a great physical weight keeps us motionless. It never entere_nto her mind to throw her lover off; but from the first she tried to assur_erself that there would be a peaceful way out of their difficulty. Th_ssurance was vague, for it contained no element of positive conviction tha_er father would change his mind. She only had an idea that if she should b_ery good, the situation would in some mysterious manner improve. To be good,
  • she must be patient, respectful, abstain from judging her father too harshly,
  • and from committing any act of open defiance. He was perhaps right, after all,
  • to think as he did; by which Catherine meant not in the least that hi_udgement of Morris's motives in seeking to marry her was perhaps a just one,
  • but that it was probably natural and proper that conscientious parents shoul_e suspicious and even unjust. There were probably people in the world as ba_s her father supposed Morris to be, and if there were the slightest chance o_orris being one of these sinister persons, the Doctor was right in taking i_nto account. Of course he could not know what she knew, how the purest lov_nd truth were seated in the young man's eyes; but Heaven, in its time, migh_ppoint a way of bringing him to such knowledge. Catherine expected a goo_eal of Heaven, and referred to the skies the initiative, as the French say,
  • in dealing with her dilemma. She could not imagine herself imparting any kin_f knowledge to her father, there was something superior even in his injustic_nd absolute in his mistakes. But she could at least be good, and if she wer_nly good enough, Heaven would invent some way of reconciling all things—th_ignity of her father's errors and the sweetness of her own confidence, th_trict performance of her filial duties and the enjoyment of Morris Townsend'_ffection. Poor Catherine would have been glad to regard Mrs. Penniman as a_lluminating agent, a part which this lady herself indeed was but imperfectl_repared to play. Mrs. Penniman took too much satisfaction in the sentimenta_hadows of this little drama to have, for the moment, any great interest i_issipating them. She wished the plot to thicken, and the advice that she gav_er niece tended, in her own imagination, to produce this result. It wa_ather incoherent counsel, and from one day to another it contradicted itself;
  • but it was pervaded by an earnest desire that Catherine should do somethin_triking. "You must ACT, my dear; in your situation the great thing is t_ct," said Mrs. Penniman, who found her niece altogether beneath he_pportunities. Mrs. Penniman's real hope was that the girl would make a secre_arriage, at which she should officiate as brideswoman or duenna. She had _ision of this ceremony being performed in some subterranean chapel—
  • subterranean chapels in New York were not frequent, but Mrs. Penniman'_magination was not chilled by trifles—and of the guilty couple—she liked t_hink of poor Catherine and her suitor as the guilty couple—being shuffle_way in a fast-whirling vehicle to some obscure lodging in the suburbs, wher_he would pay them (in a thick veil) clandestine visits, where they woul_ndure a period of romantic privation, and where ultimately, after she shoul_ave been their earthly providence, their intercessor, their advocate, an_heir medium of communication with the world, they should be reconciled to he_rother in an artistic tableau, in which she herself should be somehow th_entral figure. She hesitated as yet to recommend this course to Catherine,
  • but she attempted to draw an attractive picture of it to Morris Townsend. Sh_as in daily communication with the young man, whom she kept informed b_etters of the state of affairs in Washington Square. As he had been banished,
  • as she said, from the house, she no longer saw him; but she ended by writin_o him that she longed for an interview. This interview could take place onl_n neutral ground, and she bethought herself greatly before selecting a plac_f meeting. She had an inclination for Greenwood Cemetery, but she gave it u_s too distant; she could not absent herself for so long, as she said, withou_xciting suspicion. Then she thought of the Battery, but that was rather col_nd windy, besides one's being exposed to intrusion from the Irish emigrant_ho at this point alight, with large appetites, in the New World and at las_he fixed upon an oyster saloon in the Seventh Avenue, kept by a negro—a_stablishment of which she knew nothing save that she had noticed it i_assing. She made an appointment with Morris Townsend to meet him there, an_he went to the tryst at dusk, enveloped in an impenetrable veil. He kept he_aiting for half an hour—he had almost the whole width of the city t_raverse—but she liked to wait, it seemed to intensify the situation. Sh_rdered a cup of tea, which proved excessively bad, and this gave her a sens_hat she was suffering in a romantic cause. When Morris at last arrived, the_at together for half an hour in the duskiest corner of a back shop; and it i_ardly too much to say that this was the happiest half-hour that Mrs. Pennima_ad known for years. The situation was really thrilling, and it scarcel_eemed to her a false note when her companion asked for an oyster stew, an_roceeded to consume it before her eyes. Morris, indeed, needed all th_atisfaction that stewed oysters could give him, for it may be intimated t_he reader that he regarded Mrs. Penniman in the light of a fifth wheel to hi_oach. He was in a state of irritation natural to a gentleman of fine part_ho had been snubbed in a benevolent attempt to confer a distinction upon _oung woman of inferior characteristics, and the insinuating sympathy of thi_omewhat desiccated matron appeared to offer him no practical relief. H_hought her a humbug, and he judged of humbugs with a good deal of confidence.
  • He had listened and made himself agreeable to her at first, in order to get _ooting in Washington Square; and at present he needed all his self-command t_e decently civil. It would have gratified him to tell her that she was _antastic old woman, and that he should like to put her into an omnibus an_end her home. We know, however, that Morris possessed the virtue of self-
  • control, and he had, moreover, the constant habit of seeking to be agreeable;
  • so that, although Mrs. Penniman's demeanour only exasperated his alread_nquiet nerves, he listened to her with a sombre deference in which she foun_uch to admire.