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Chapter 31

  • Though she had forced herself to be calm, she preferred practising this virtu_n private, and she forbore to show herself at tea—a repast which, on Sundays,
  • at six o'clock, took the place of dinner. Dr. Sloper and his sister sat fac_o face, but Mrs. Penniman never met her brother's eye. Late in the evenin_he went with him, but without Catherine, to their sister Almond's, where,
  • between the two ladies, Catherine's unhappy situation was discussed with _rankness that was conditioned by a good deal of mysterious reticence on Mrs.
  • Penniman's part.
  • "I am delighted he is not to marry her," said Mrs. Almond, "but he ought to b_orsewhipped all the same."
  • Mrs. Penniman, who was shocked at her sister's coarseness, replied that he ha_een actuated by the noblest of motives—the desire not to impoveris_atherine.
  • "I am very happy that Catherine is not to be impoverished—but I hope he ma_ever have a penny too much! And what does the poor girl say to YOU?" Mrs.
  • Almond asked.
  • "She says I have a genius for consolation," said Mrs. Penniman.
  • This was the account of the matter that she gave to her sister, and it wa_erhaps with the consciousness of genius that, on her return that evening t_ashington Square, she again presented herself for admittance at Catherine'_oor. Catherine came and opened it; she was apparently very quiet.
  • "I only want to give you a little word of advice," she said. "If your fathe_sks you, say that everything is going on."
  • Catherine stood there, with her hand on the knob looking at her aunt, but no_sking her to come in. "Do you think he will ask me?"
  • "I am sure he will. He asked me just now, on our way home from your Aun_lizabeth's. I explained the whole thing to your Aunt Elizabeth. I said t_our father I know nothing about it."
  • "Do you think he will ask me when he sees—when he sees—?" But here Catherin_topped.
  • "The more he sees the more disagreeable he will be," said her aunt.
  • "He shall see as little as possible!" Catherine declared.
  • "Tell him you are to be married."
  • "So I am," said Catherine softly; and she closed the door upon her aunt.
  • She could not have said this two days later—for instance, on Tuesday, when sh_t last received a letter from Morris Townsend. It was an epistle o_onsiderable length, measuring five large square pages, and written a_hiladelphia. It was an explanatory document, and it explained a great man_hings, chief among which were the considerations that had led the writer t_ake advantage of an urgent "professional" absence to try and banish from hi_ind the image of one whose path he had crossed only to scatter it with ruins.
  • He ventured to expect but partial success in this attempt, but he coul_romise her that, whatever his failure, he would never again interpose betwee_er generous heart and her brilliant prospects and filial duties. He close_ith an intimation that his professional pursuits might compel him to trave_or some months, and with the hope that when they should each hav_ccommodated themselves to what was sternly involved in their respectiv_ositions—even should this result not be reached for years—they should meet a_riends, as fellow-sufferers, as innocent but philosophic victims of a grea_ocial law. That her life should be peaceful and happy was the dearest wish o_im who ventured still to subscribe himself her most obedient servant. Th_etter was beautifully written, and Catherine, who kept it for many year_fter this, was able, when her sense of the bitterness of its meaning and th_ollowness of its tone had grown less acute, to admire its grace o_xpression. At present, for a long time after she received it, all she had t_elp her was the determination, daily more rigid, to make no appeal to th_ompassion of her father.
  • He suffered a week to elapse, and then one day, in the morning, at an hour a_hich she rarely saw him, he strolled into the back parlour. He had watche_is time, and he found her alone. She was sitting with some work, and he cam_nd stood in front of her. He was going out, he had on his hat and was drawin_n his gloves.
  • "It doesn't seem to me that you are treating me just now with all th_onsideration I deserve," he said in a moment.
  • "I don't know what I have done," Catherine answered, with her eyes on he_ork.
  • "You have apparently quite banished from your mind the request I made you a_iverpool, before we sailed; the request that you would notify me in advanc_efore leaving my house."
  • "I have not left your house!" said Catherine.
  • "But you intend to leave it, and by what you gave me to understand, you_eparture must be impending. In fact, though you are still here in body, yo_re already absent in spirit. Your mind has taken up its residence with you_rospective husband, and you might quite as well be lodged under the conjuga_oof, for all the benefit we get from your society."
  • "I will try and be more cheerful!" said Catherine.
  • "You certainly ought to be cheerful, you ask a great deal if you are not. T_he pleasure of marrying a brilliant young man, you add that of having you_wn way; you strike me as a very lucky young lady!"
  • Catherine got up; she was suffocating. But she folded her work, deliberatel_nd correctly, bending her burning face upon it. Her father stood where he ha_lanted himself; she hoped he would go, but he smoothed and buttoned hi_loves, and then he rested his hands upon his hips.
  • "It would be a convenience to me to know when I may expect to have an empt_ouse," he went on. "When you go, your aunt marches."
  • She looked at him at last, with a long silent gaze, which, in spite of he_ride and her resolution, uttered part of the appeal she had tried not t_ake. Her father's cold grey eye sounded her own, and he insisted on hi_oint.
  • "Is it to-morrow? Is it next week, or the week after?"
  • "I shall not go away!" said Catherine.
  • The Doctor raised his eyebrows. "Has he backed out?"
  • "I have broken off my engagement."
  • "Broken it off?"
  • "I have asked him to leave New York, and he has gone away for a long time."
  • The Doctor was both puzzled and disappointed, but he solved his perplexity b_aying to himself that his daughter simply misrepresented—justifiably, if on_ould? but nevertheless misrepresented—the facts; and he eased off hi_isappointment, which was that of a man losing a chance for a little triump_hat he had rather counted on, by a few words that he uttered aloud.
  • "How does he take his dismissal?"
  • "I don't know!" said Catherine, less ingeniously than she had hitherto spoken.
  • "You mean you don't care? You are rather cruel, after encouraging him an_laying with him for so long!"
  • The Doctor had his revenge, after all.