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Chapter 20

  • On the morrow, in the afternoon, she heard his voice at the door, and his ste_n the hall. She received him in the big, bright front parlour, and sh_nstructed the servant that if any one should call she was particularl_ngaged. She was not afraid of her father's coming in, for at that hour he wa_lways driving about town. When Morris stood there before her, the first thin_hat she was conscious of was that he was even more beautiful to look at tha_ond recollection had painted him; the next was that he had pressed her in hi_rms. When she was free again it appeared to her that she had now indee_hrown herself into the gulf of defiance, and even, for an instant, that sh_ad been married to him.
  • He told her that she had been very cruel, and had made him very unhappy; an_atherine felt acutely the difficulty of her destiny, which forced her to giv_ain in such opposite quarters. But she wished that, instead of reproaches, however tender, he would give her help; he was certainly wise enough, an_lever enough, to invent some issue from their troubles. She expressed thi_elief, and Morris received the assurance as if he thought it natural; but h_nterrogated, at first—as was natural too—rather than committed himself t_arking out a course.
  • "You should not have made me wait so long," he said. "I don't know how I hav_een living; every hour seemed like years. You should have decided sooner."
  • "Decided?" Catherine asked.
  • "Decided whether you would keep me or give me up."
  • "Oh, Morris," she cried, with a long tender murmur, "I never thought of givin_ou up!"
  • "What, then, were you waiting for?" The young man was ardently logical.
  • "I thought my father might—might—" and she hesitated.
  • "Might see how unhappy you were?"
  • "Oh no! But that he might look at it differently."
  • "And now you have sent for me to tell me that at last he does so. Is that it?"
  • This hypothetical optimism gave the poor girl a pang. "No, Morris," she sai_olemnly, "he looks at it still in the same way."
  • "Then why have you sent for me?"
  • "Because I wanted to see you!" cried Catherine piteously.
  • "That's an excellent reason, surely. But did you want to look at me only? Hav_ou nothing to tell me?"
  • His beautiful persuasive eyes were fixed upon her face, and she wondered wha_nswer would be noble enough to make to such a gaze as that. For a moment he_wn eyes took it in, and then—"I DID want to look at you!" she said gently.
  • But after this speech, most inconsistently, she hid her face.
  • Morris watched her for a moment, attentively. "Will you marry me to- morrow?"
  • he asked suddenly.
  • "To-morrow?"
  • "Next week, then. Any time within a month."
  • "Isn't it better to wait?" said Catherine.
  • "To wait for what?"
  • She hardly knew for what; but this tremendous leap alarmed her. "Till we hav_hought about it a little more."
  • He shook his head, sadly and reproachfully. "I thought you had been thinkin_bout it these three weeks. Do you want to turn it over in your mind for fiv_ears? You have given me more than time enough. My poor girl," he added in _oment, "you are not sincere!"
  • Catherine coloured from brow to chin, and her eyes filled with tears. "Oh, ho_an you say that?" she murmured.
  • "Why, you must take me or leave me," said Morris, very reasonably. "You can'_lease your father and me both; you must choose between us."
  • "I have chosen you!" she said passionately.
  • "Then marry me next week."
  • She stood gazing at him. "Isn't there any other way?"
  • "None that I know of for arriving at the same result. If there is, I should b_appy to hear of it."
  • Catherine could think of nothing of the kind, and Morris's luminosity seeme_lmost pitiless. The only thing she could think of was that her father might, after all, come round, and she articulated, with an awkward sense of he_elplessness in doing so, a wish that this miracle might happen.
  • "Do you think it is in the least degree likely?" Morris asked.
  • "It would be, if he could only know you!"
  • "He can know me if he will. What is to prevent it?"
  • "His ideas, his reasons," said Catherine. "They are so—so terribly strong."
  • She trembled with the recollection of them yet.
  • "Strong?" cried Morris. "I would rather you should think them weak."
  • "Oh, nothing about my father is weak!" said the girl.
  • Morris turned away, walking to the window, where he stood looking out. "Yo_re terribly afraid of him!" he remarked at last.
  • She felt no impulse to deny it, because she had no shame in it; for if it wa_o honour to herself, at least it was an honour to him. "I suppose I must be,"
  • she said simply.
  • "Then you don't love me—not as I love you. If you fear your father more tha_ou love me, then your love is not what I hoped it was."
  • "Ah, my friend!" she said, going to him.
  • "Do I fear anything?" he demanded, turning round on her. "For your sake wha_m I not ready to face?"
  • "You are noble—you are brave!" she answered, stopping short at a distance tha_as almost respectful.
  • "Small good it does me, if you are so timid."
  • "I don't think that I am—REALLY," said Catherine.
  • "I don't know what you mean by 'really.' It is really enough to make u_iserable."
  • "I should be strong enough to wait—to wait a long time."
  • "And suppose after a long time your father should hate me worse than ever?"
  • "He wouldn't—he couldn't!"
  • "He would be touched by my fidelity? Is that what you mean? If he is so easil_ouched, then why should you be afraid of him?"
  • This was much to the point, and Catherine was struck by it. "I will try not t_e," she said. And she stood there submissively, the image, in advance, of _utiful and responsible wife. This image could not fail to recommend itself t_orris Townsend, and he continued to give proof of the high estimation i_hich he held her. It could only have been at the prompting of such _entiment that he presently mentioned to her that the course recommended b_rs. Penniman was an immediate union, regardless of consequences.
  • "Yes, Aunt Penniman would like that," Catherine said simply—and yet with _ertain shrewdness. It must, however, have been in pure simplicity, and fro_otives quite untouched by sarcasm, that, a few moments after, she went on t_ay to Morris that her father had given her a message for him. It was quite o_er conscience to deliver this message, and had the mission been ten time_ore painful she would have as scrupulously performed it. "He told me to tel_ou—to tell you very distinctly, and directly from himself, that if I marr_ithout his consent, I shall not inherit a penny of his fortune. He made _reat point of this. He seemed to think—he seemed to think— "
  • Morris flushed, as any young man of spirit might have flushed at an imputatio_f baseness.
  • "What did he seem to think?"
  • "That it would make a difference."
  • "It WILL make a difference—in many things. We shall be by many thousands o_ollars the poorer; and that is a great difference. But it will make none i_y affection."
  • "We shall not want the money," said Catherine; "for you know I have a goo_eal myself."
  • "Yes, my dear girl, I know you have something. And he can't touch that!"
  • "He would never," said Catherine. "My mother left it to me."
  • Morris was silent a while. "He was very positive about this, was he?" he aske_t last. "He thought such a message would annoy me terribly, and make me thro_ff the mask, eh?"
  • "I don't know what he thought," said Catherine wearily.
  • "Please tell him that I care for his message as much as for that!" And Morri_napped his fingers sonorously.
  • "I don't think I could tell him that."
  • "Do you know you sometimes disappoint me?" said Morris.
  • "I should think I might. I disappoint every one—father and Aunt Penniman."
  • "Well, it doesn't matter with me, because I am fonder of you than they are."
  • "Yes, Morris," said the girl, with her imagination—what there was o_t—swimming in this happy truth, which seemed, after all, invidious to no one.
  • "Is it your belief that he will stick to it—stick to it for ever, to this ide_f disinheriting you?—that your goodness and patience will never wear out hi_ruelty?"
  • "The trouble is that if I marry you, he will think I am not good. He wil_hink that a proof."
  • "Ah, then, he will never forgive you!"
  • This idea, sharply expressed by Morris's handsome lips, renewed for a moment, to the poor girl's temporarily pacified conscience, all its dreadfu_ividness. "Oh, you must love me very much!" she cried.
  • "There is no doubt of that, my dear!" her lover rejoined. "You don't like tha_ord 'disinherited,'" he added in a moment.
  • "It isn't the money; it is that he should—that he should feel so."
  • "I suppose it seems to you a kind of curse," said Morris. "It must be ver_ismal. But don't you think," he went on presently, "that if you were to tr_o be very clever, and to set rightly about it, you might in the end conjur_t away? Don't you think," he continued further, in a tone of sympatheti_peculation, "that a really clever woman, in your place, might bring him roun_t last? Don't you think?"
  • Here, suddenly, Morris was interrupted; these ingenious inquiries had no_eached Catherine's ears. The terrible word "disinheritance," with all it_mpressive moral reprobation, was still ringing there; seemed indeed to gathe_orce as it lingered. The mortal chill of her situation struck more deepl_nto her child-like heart, and she was overwhelmed by a feeling of lonelines_nd danger. But her refuge was there, close to her, and she put out her hand_o grasp it. "Ah, Morris," she said, with a shudder, "I will marry you as soo_s you please." And she surrendered herself, leaning her head on his shoulder.
  • "My dear good girl!" he exclaimed, looking down at his prize. And then h_ooked up again, rather vaguely, with parted lips and lifted eyebrows.