The Doctor, during the first six months he was abroad, never spoke to hi_aughter of their little difference; partly on system, and partly because h_ad a great many other things to think about. It was idle to attempt t_scertain the state of her affections without direct inquiry, because, if sh_ad not had an expressive manner among the familiar influences of home, sh_ailed to gather animation from the mountains of Switzerland or the monument_f Italy. She was always her father's docile and reasonable associate—goin_hrough their sight-seeing in deferential silence, never complaining o_atigue, always ready to start at the hour he had appointed over-night, makin_o foolish criticisms and indulging in no refinements of appreciation. "She i_bout as intelligent as the bundle of shawls," the Doctor said; her mai_uperiority being that while the bundle of shawls sometimes got lost, o_umbled out of the carriage, Catherine was always at her post, and had a fir_nd ample seat. But her father had expected this, and he was not constraine_o set down her intellectual limitations as a tourist to sentimenta_epression; she had completely divested herself of the characteristics of _ictim, and during the whole time that they were abroad she never uttered a_udible sigh. He supposed she was in correspondence with Morris Townsend; bu_e held his peace about it, for he never saw the young man's letters, an_atherine's own missives were always given to the courier to post. She hear_rom her lover with considerable regularity, but his letters came enclosed i_rs. Penniman's; so that whenever the Doctor handed her a packet addressed i_is sister's hand, he was an involuntary instrument of the passion h_ondemned. Catherine made this reflexion, and six months earlier she woul_ave felt bound to give him warning; but now she deemed herself absolved.
There was a sore spot in her heart that his own words had made when once sh_poke to him as she thought honour prompted; she would try and please him a_ar as she could, but she would never speak that way again. She read he_over's letters in secret.
One day at the end of the summer, the two travellers found themselves in _onely valley of the Alps. They were crossing one of the passes, and on th_ong ascent they had got out of the carriage and had wandered much in advance.
After a while the Doctor descried a footpath which, leading through _ransverse valley, would bring them out, as he justly supposed, at a muc_igher point of the ascent. They followed this devious way, and finally los_he path; the valley proved very wild and rough, and their walk became rathe_ scramble. They were good walkers, however, and they took their adventur_asily; from time to time they stopped, that Catherine might rest; and the_he sat upon a stone and looked about her at the hard- featured rocks and th_lowing sky. It was late in the afternoon, in the last of August; night wa_oming on, and, as they had reached a great elevation, the air was cold an_harp. In the west there was a great suffusion of cold, red light, which mad_he sides of the little valley look only the more rugged and dusky. During on_f their pauses, her father left her and wandered away to some high place, a_ distance, to get a view. He was out of sight; she sat there alone, in th_tillness, which was just touched by the vague murmur, somewhere, of _ountain brook. She thought of Morris Townsend, and the place was so desolat_nd lonely that he seemed very far away. Her father remained absent a lon_ime; she began to wonder what had become of him. But at last he reappeared,
coming towards her in the clear twilight, and she got up, to go on. He made n_otion to proceed, however, but came close to her, as if he had something t_ay. He stopped in front of her and stood looking at her, with eyes that ha_ept the light of the flushing snow-summits on which they had just been fixed.
Then, abruptly, in a low tone, he asked her an unexpected question:
"Have you given him up?"
The question was unexpected, but Catherine was only superficially unprepared.
"No, father!" she answered.
He looked at her again for some moments, without speaking.
"Does he write to you?" he asked.
"Yes—about twice a month."
The Doctor looked up and down the valley, swinging his stick; then he said t_er, in the same low tone:
"I am very angry."
She wondered what he meant—whether he wished to frighten her. If he did, th_lace was well chosen; this hard, melancholy dell, abandoned by the summe_ight, made her feel her loneliness. She looked around her, and her heart gre_old; for a moment her fear was great. But she could think of nothing to say,
save to murmur gently, "I am sorry."
"You try my patience," her father went on, "and you ought to know what I am, _m not a very good man. Though I am very smooth externally, at bottom I a_ery passionate; and I assure you I can be very hard."
She could not think why he told her these things. Had he brought her there o_urpose, and was it part of a plan? What was the plan? Catherine aske_erself. Was it to startle her suddenly into a retractation—to take a_dvantage of her by dread? Dread of what? The place was ugly and lonely, bu_he place could do her no harm. There was a kind of still intensity about he_ather, which made him dangerous, but Catherine hardly went so far as to sa_o herself that it might be part of his plan to fasten his hand—the neat,
fine, supple hand of a distinguished physician—in her throat. Nevertheless,
she receded a step. "I am sure you can be anything you please," she said. An_t was her simple belief.
"I am very angry," he replied, more sharply.
"Why has it taken you so suddenly?"
"It has not taken me suddenly. I have been raging inwardly for the last si_onths. But just now this seemed a good place to flare out. It's so quiet, an_e are alone."
"Yes, it's very quiet," said Catherine vaguely, looking about her. "Won't yo_ome back to the carriage?"
"In a moment. Do you mean that in all this time you have not yielded an inch?"
"I would if I could, father; but I can't."
The Doctor looked round him too. "Should you like to be left in such a plac_s this, to starve?"
"What do you mean?" cried the girl.
"That will be your fate—that's how he will leave you."
He would not touch her, but he had touched Morris. The warmth came back to he_eart. "That is not true, father," she broke out, "and you ought not to sa_t! It is not right, and it's not true!"
He shook his head slowly. "No, it's not right, because you won't believe it.
But it IS true. Come back to the carriage."
He turned away, and she followed him; he went faster, and was presently muc_n advance. But from time to time he stopped, without turning round, to le_er keep up with him, and she made her way forward with difficulty, her hear_eating with the excitement of having for the first time spoken to him i_iolence. By this time it had grown almost dark, and she ended by losing sigh_f him. But she kept her course, and after a little, the valley making _udden turn, she gained the road, where the carriage stood waiting. In it sa_er father, rigid and silent; in silence, too, she took her place beside him.
It seemed to her, later, in looking back upon all this, that for day_fterwards not a word had been exchanged between them. The scene had been _trange one, but it had not permanently affected her feeling towards he_ather, for it was natural, after all, that he should occasionally make _cene of some kind, and he had let her alone for six months. The stranges_art of it was that he had said he was not a good man; Catherine wondered _reat deal what he had meant by that. The statement failed to appeal to he_redence, and it was not grateful to any resentment that she entertained. Eve_n the utmost bitterness that she might feel, it would give her n_atisfaction to think him less complete. Such a saying as that was a part o_is great subtlety—men so clever as he might say anything and mean anything.
And as to his being hard, that surely, in a man, was a virtue.
He let her alone for six months more—six months during which she accommodate_erself without a protest to the extension of their tour. But he spoke agai_t the end of this time; it was at the very last, the night before the_mbarked for New York, in the hotel at Liverpool. They had been dinin_ogether in a great dim, musty sitting-room; and then the cloth had bee_emoved, and the Doctor walked slowly up and down. Catherine at last took he_andle to go to bed, but her father motioned her to stay.
"What do you mean to do when you get home?" he asked, while she stood ther_ith her candle in her hand.
"Do you mean about Mr. Townsend?"
"About Mr. Townsend."
"We shall probably marry."
The Doctor took several turns again while she waited. "Do you hear from him a_uch as ever?"
"Yes; twice a month," said Catherine promptly.
"And does he always talk about marriage?"
"Oh yes! That is, he talks about other things too, but he always say_omething about that."
"I am glad to hear he varies his subjects; his letters might otherwise b_onotonous."
"He writes beautifully," said Catherine, who was very glad of a chance to sa_t.
"They always write beautifully. However, in a given case that doesn't diminis_he merit. So, as soon as you arrive, you are going off with him?"
This seemed a rather gross way of putting it, and something that there was o_ignity in Catherine resented it. "I cannot tell you till we arrive," sh_aid.
"That's reasonable enough," her father answered. "That's all I ask of you—tha_ou DO tell me, that you give me definite notice. When a poor man is to los_is only child, he likes to have an inkling of it beforehand."
"Oh, father, you will not lose me!" Catherine said, spilling her candle-wax.
"Three days before will do," he went on, "if you are in a position to b_ositive then. He ought to be very thankful to me, do you know. I have done _ighty good thing for him in taking you abroad; your value is twice as great,
with all the knowledge and taste that you have acquired. A year ago, you wer_erhaps a little limited—a little rustic; but now you have seen everything,
and appreciated everything, and you will be a most entertaining companion. W_ave fattened the sheep for him before he kills it!" Catherine turned away,
and stood staring at the blank door. "Go to bed," said her father; "and, as w_on't go aboard till noon, you may sleep late. We shall probably have a mos_ncomfortable voyage."