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Chapter 30
It was almost her last outbreak of passive grief; at least, she never indulged in
another that the world knew anything about. But this one was long and terrible;
she flung herself on the sofa and gave herself up to her misery. She hardly knew
what had happened; ostensibly she had only had a difference with her lover, as
other girls had had before, and the thing was not only not a rupture, but she was
under no obligation to regard it even as a menace. Nevertheless, she felt a
wound, even if he had not dealt it; it seemed to her that a mask had suddenly
fallen from his face. He had wished to get away from her; he had been angry and
cruel, and said strange things, with strange looks. She was smothered and
stunned; she buried her head in the cushions, sobbing and talking to herself. But
at last she raised herself, with the fear that either her father or Mrs. Penniman
would come in; and then she sat there, staring before her, while the room grew
darker. She said to herself that perhaps he would come back to tell her he had
not meant what he said; and she listened for his ring at the door, trying to believe
that this was probable. A long time passed, but Morris remained absent; the
shadows gathered; the evening settled down on the meagre elegance of the
light, clear-coloured room; the fire went out. When it had grown dark, Catherine
went to the window and looked out; she stood there for half an hour, on the mere
chance that he would come up the steps. At last she turned away, for she saw
her father come in. He had seen her at the window looking out, and he stopped a
moment at the bottom of the white steps, and gravely, with an air of exaggerated
courtesy, lifted his hat to her. The gesture was so incongruous to the condition
she was in, this stately tribute of respect to a poor girl despised and forsaken was
so out of place, that the thing gave her a kind of horror, and she hurried away to
her room. It seemed to her that she had given Morris up.
She had to show herself half an hour later, and she was sustained at table by the
immensity of her desire that her father should not perceive that anything had
happened. This was a great help to her afterwards, and it served her (though
never as much as she supposed) from the first. On this occasion Dr. Sloper was
rather talkative. He told a great many stories about a wonderful poodle that he
had seen at the house of an old lady whom he visited professionally. Catherine
not only tried to appear to listen to the anecdotes of the poodle, but she
endeavoured to interest herself in them, so as not to think of her scene with
Morris. That perhaps was an hallucination; he was mistaken, she was jealous;
people didn't change like that from one day to another. Then she knew that she
had had doubts before-- strange suspicions, that were at once vague and acute--
and that he had been different ever since her return from Europe: whereupon she
tried again to listen to her father, who told a story so remarkably well. Afterwards
she went straight to her own room; it was beyond her strength to undertake to
spend the evening with her aunt. All the evening, alone, she questioned herself.
Her trouble was terrible; but was it a thing of her imagination, engendered by an
extravagant sensibility, or did it represent a clear-cut reality, and had the worst
that was possible actually come to pass? Mrs. Penniman, with a degree of tact