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A Rogue's Life

Chapter 8
I WENT back to the fishing-place with a heavy heart, overcome by mournful
thoughts, for the first time in my life. It was plain that she did not dislike me, and
equally plain that there was some obstacle connected with her father, which
forbade her to listen to my offer of marriage. From the time when she had
accidentally looked toward the red-brick house, something in her manner which it
is quite impossible to describe, had suggested to my mind that this obstacle was
not only something she could not mention, but something that she was partly
ashamed of, partly afraid of, and partly doubtful about. What could it be? How
had she first known it? In what way was her father connected with it?
In the course of our walks she had told me nothing about herself which was not
perfectly simple and unsuggestive.
Her childhood had been passed in England. After that, she had lived with her
father and mother at Paris, where the doctor had many friends--for all of whom
she remembered feeling more or less dislike, without being able to tell why. They
had then come to England, and had lived in lodgings in London. For a time they
had been miserably poor. But, after her mother's death--a sudden death from
heart disease--there had come a change in their affairs, which she was quite
unable to explain. They had removed to their present abode, to give the doctor
full accommodation for the carrying on of his scientific pursuits. He often had
occasion to go to London; but never took her with him. The only woman at home
now, beside herself, was an elderly person, who acted as cook and
housekeeper, and who had been in their service for many years. It was very
lonely sometimes not having a companion of her own age and sex; but she had
got tolerably used to bear it, and to amuse herself with her books, and music,
and flowers.
Thus far she chatted about herself quite freely; but when I tried, even in the
vaguest manner, to lead her into discussing the causes of her strangely secluded
life, she looked so distressed, and became so suddenly silent, that I naturally
refrained from saying another word on that topic. One conclusion, however, I felt
tolera bly sure that I had drawn correctly from what she said: her father's conduct
toward her, though not absolutely blamable or grossly neglectful on any point,
had still never been of a nature to make her ardently fond of him. He performed
the ordinary parental duties rigidly and respectably enough; but he had
apparently not cared to win all the filial love which his daughter would have
bestowed on a more affectionate man.
When, after reflecting on what Alicia had told me, I began to call to mind what I
had been able to observe for myself, I found ample materials to excite my
curiosity in relation to the doctor, if not my distrust.
 
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