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Night and Day

CHAPTER XXXIII
Considering that Mr. Hilbery lived in a house which was accurately numbered in
order with its fellows, and that he filled up forms, paid rent, and had seven more
years of tenancy to run, he had an excuse for laying down laws for the conduct of
those who lived in his house, and this excuse, though profoundly inadequate, he
found useful during the interregnum of civilization with which he now found
himself faced. In obedience to those laws, Rodney disappeared; Cassandra was
dispatched to catch the eleven-thirty on Monday morning; Denham was seen no
more; so that only Katharine, the lawful occupant of the upper rooms, remained,
and Mr. Hilbery thought himself competent to see that she did nothing further to
compromise herself. As he bade her good morning next day he was aware that
he knew nothing of what she was thinking, but, as he reflected with some
bitterness, even this was an advance upon the ignorance of the previous
mornings. He went to his study, wrote, tore up, and wrote again a letter to his
wife, asking her to come back on account of domestic difficulties which he
specified at first, but in a later draft more discreetly left unspecified. Even if she
started the very moment that she got it, he reflected, she would not be home till
Tuesday night, and he counted lugubriously the number of hours that he would
have to spend in a position of detestable authority alone with his daughter.
What was she doing now, he wondered, as he addressed the envelope to his
wife. He could not control the telephone. He could not play the spy. She might be
making any arrangements she chose. Yet the thought did not disturb him so
much as the strange, unpleasant, illicit atmosphere of the whole scene with the
young people the night before. His sense of discomfort was almost physical.
Had he known it, Katharine was far enough withdrawn, both physically and
spiritually, from the telephone. She sat in her room with the dictionaries
spreading their wide leaves on the table before her, and all the pages which they
had concealed for so many years arranged in a pile. She worked with the steady
concentration that is produced by the successful effort to think down some
unwelcome thought by means of another thought. Having absorbed the
unwelcome thought, her mind went on with additional vigor, derived from the
victory; on a sheet of paper lines of figures and symbols frequently and firmly
written down marked the different stages of its progress. And yet it was broad
daylight; there were sounds of knocking and sweeping, which proved that living
people were at work on the other side of the door, and the door, which could be
thrown open in a second, was her only protection against the world. But she had
somehow risen to be mistress in her own kingdom, assuming her sovereignty
unconsciously.
Steps approached her unheard. It is true that they were steps that lingered,
divagated, and mounted with the deliberation natural to one past sixty whose
arms, moreover, are full of leaves and blossoms; but they came on steadily, and
soon a tap of laurel boughs against the door arrested Katharine's pencil as it
touched the page. She did not move, however, and sat blank-eyed as if waiting
for the interruption to cease. Instead, the door opened. At first, she attached no
 
 
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