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Chapter 3
As a child she had promised to be tall, but when she was sixteen she ceased to
grow, and her stature, like most other points in her composition, was not unusual.
She was strong, however, and properly made, and, fortunately, her health was
excellent. It has been noted that the Doctor was a philosopher, but I would not
have answered for his philosophy if the poor girl had proved a sickly and
suffering person. Her appearance of health constituted her principal claim to
beauty, and her clear, fresh complexion, in which white and red were very
equally distributed, was, indeed, an excellent thing to see. Her eye was small and
quiet, her features were rather thick, her tresses brown and smooth. A dull, plain
girl she was called by rigorous critics--a quiet, ladylike girl by those of the more
imaginative sort; but by neither class was she very elaborately discussed. When
it had been duly impressed upon her that she was a young lady--it was a good
while before she could believe it--she suddenly developed a lively taste for dress:
a lively taste is quite the expression to use. I feel as if I ought to write it very
small, her judgement in this matter was by no means infallible; it was liable to
confusions and embarrassments. Her great indulgence of it was really the desire
of a rather inarticulate nature to manifest itself; she sought to be eloquent in her
garments, and to make up for her diffidence of speech by a fine frankness of
costume. But if she expressed herself in her clothes it is certain that people were
not to blame for not thinking her a witty person. It must be added that though she
had the expectation of a fortune--Dr. Sloper for a long time had been making
twenty thousand dollars a year by his profession, and laying aside the half of it--
the amount of money at her disposal was not greater than the allowance made to
many poorer girls. In those days in New York there were still a few altar-fires
flickering in the temple of Republican simplicity, and Dr. Sloper would have been
glad to see his daughter present herself, with a classic grace, as a priestess of
this mild faith. It made him fairly grimace, in private, to think that a child of his
should be both ugly and overdressed. For himself, he was fond of the good
things of life, and he made a considerable use of them; but he had a dread of
vulgarity, and even a theory that it was increasing in the society that surrounded
him. Moreover, the standard of luxury in the United States thirty years ago was
carried by no means so high as at present, and Catherine's clever father took the
old-fashioned view of the education of young persons. He had no particular
theory on the subject; it had scarcely as yet become a necessity of self-defence
to have a collection of theories. It simply appeared to him proper and reasonable
that a well-bred young woman should not carry half her fortune on her back.
Catherine's back was a broad one, and would have carried a good deal; but to
the weight of the paternal displeasure she never ventured to expose it, and our
heroine was twenty years old before she treated herself, for evening wear, to a
red satin gown trimmed with gold fringe; though this was an article which, for
many years, she had coveted in secret. It made her look, when she sported it,
like a woman of thirty; but oddly enough, in spite of her taste for fine clothes, she
had not a grain of coquetry, and her anxiety when she put them on was as to