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Chapter 10
Catherine received the young man the next day on the ground she had chosen--
amid the chaste upholstery of a New York drawing-room furnished in the fashion
of fifty years ago. Morris had swallowed his pride and made the effort necessary
to cross the threshold of her too derisive parent--an act of magnanimity which
could not fail to render him doubly interesting.
"We must settle something--we must take a line," he declared, passing his hand
through his hair and giving a glance at the long narrow mirror which adorned the
space between the two windows, and which had at its base a little gilded bracket
covered by a thin slab of white marble, supporting in its turn a backgammon
board folded together in the shape of two volumes, two shining folios inscribed in
letters of greenish gilt, History of England. If Morris had been pleased to describe
the master of the house as a heartless scoffer, it is because he thought him too
much on his guard, and this was the easiest way to express his own
dissatisfaction--a dissatisfaction which he had made a point of concealing from
the Doctor. It will probably seem to the reader, however, that the Doctor's
vigilance was by no means excessive, and that these two young people had an
open field. Their intimacy was now considerable, and it may appear that for a
shrinking and retiring person our heroine had been liberal of her favours. The
young man, within a few days, had made her listen to things for which she had
not supposed that she was prepared; having a lively foreboding of difficulties, he
proceeded to gain as much ground as possible in the present. He remembered
that fortune favours the brave, and even if he had forgotten it, Mrs. Penniman
would have remembered it for him. Mrs. Penniman delighted of all things in a
drama, and she flattered herself that a drama would now be enacted. Combining
as she did the zeal of the prompter with the impatience of the spectator, she had
long since done her utmost to pull up the curtain. She too expected to figure in
the performance-- to be the confidante, the Chorus, to speak the epilogue. It may
even be said that there were times when she lost sight altogether of the modest
heroine of the play, in the contemplation of certain great passages which would
naturally occur between the hero and herself.
What Morris had told Catherine at last was simply that he loved her, or rather
adored her. Virtually, he had made known as much already-- his visits had been
a series of eloquent intimations of it. But now he had affirmed it in lover's vows,
and, as a memorable sign of it, he had passed his arm round the girl's waist and
taken a kiss. This happy certitude had come sooner than Catherine expected,
and she had regarded it, very naturally, as a priceless treasure. It may even be
doubted whether she had ever definitely expected to possess it; she had not
been waiting for it, and she had never said to herself that at a given moment it
must come. As I have tried to explain, she was not eager and exacting; she took
what was given her from day to day; and if the delightful custom of her lover's
visits, which yielded her a happiness in which confidence and timidity were
strangely blended, had suddenly come to an end, she would not only not have
spoken of herself as one of the forsaken, but she would not have thought of