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Chapter 8
If it were true that she was in love, she was certainly very quiet about it; but the
Doctor was of course prepared to admit that her quietness might mean volumes.
She had told Morris Townsend that she would not mention him to her father, and
she saw no reason to retract this vow of discretion. It was no more than decently
civil, of course, that after having dined in Washington Square, Morris should call
there again; and it was no more than natural that, having been kindly received on
this occasion, he should continue to present himself. He had had plenty of leisure
on his hands; and thirty years ago, in New York, a young man of leisure had
reason to be thankful for aids to self-oblivion. Catherine said nothing to her father
about these visits, though they had rapidly become the most important, the most
absorbing thing in her life. The girl was very happy. She knew not as yet what
would come of it; but the present had suddenly grown rich and solemn. If she had
been told she was in love, she would have been a good deal surprised; for she
had an idea that love was an eager and exacting passion, and her own heart was
filled in these days with the impulse of self-effacement and sacrifice. Whenever
Morris Townsend had left the house, her imagination projected itself, with all its
strength, into the idea of his soon coming back; but if she had been told at such a
moment that he would not return for a year, or even that he would never return,
she would not have complained nor rebelled, but would have humbly accepted
the decree, and sought for consolation in thinking over the times she had already
seen him, the words he had spoken, the sound of his voice, of his tread, the
expression of his face. Love demands certain things as a right; but Catherine had
no sense of her rights; she had only a consciousness of immense and
unexpected favours. Her very gratitude for these things had hushed itself; for it
seemed to her that there would be something of impudence in making a festival
of her secret. Her father suspected Morris Townsend's visits, and noted her
reserve. She seemed to beg pardon for it; she looked at him constantly in
silence, as if she meant to say that she said nothing because she was afraid of
irritating him. But the poor girl's dumb eloquence irritated him more than anything
else would have done, and he caught himself murmuring more than once that it
was a grievous pity his only child was a simpleton. His murmurs, however, were
inaudible; and for a while he said nothing to any one. He would have liked to
know exactly how often young Townsend came; but he had determined to ask no
questions of the girl herself--to say nothing more to her that would show that he
watched her. The Doctor had a great idea of being largely just: he wished to
leave his daughter her liberty, and interfere only when the danger should be
proved. It was not in his manner to obtain information by indirect methods, and it
never even occurred to him to question the servants. As for Lavinia, he hated to
talk to her about the matter; she annoyed him with her mock romanticism. But he
had to come to this. Mrs. Penniman's convictions as regards the relations of her
niece and the clever young visitor who saved appearances by coming ostensibly
for both the ladies--Mrs. Penniman's convictions had passed into a riper and
richer phase. There was to be no crudity in Mrs. Penniman's treatment of the