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Chapter 24

  • 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."