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Chapter 18
Catherine sat alone by the parlour fire--sat there for more than an hour, lost in
her meditations. Her aunt seemed to her aggressive and foolish, and to see it so
clearly--to judge Mrs. Penniman so positively--made her feel old and grave. She
did not resent the imputation of weakness; it made no impression on her, for she
had not the sense of weakness, and she was not hurt at not being appreciated.
She had an immense respect for her father, and she felt that to displease him
would be a misdemeanour analogous to an act of profanity in a great temple; but
her purpose had slowly ripened, and she believed that her prayers had purified it
of its violence. The evening advanced, and the lamp burned dim without her
noticing it; her eyes were fixed upon her terrible plan. She knew her father was in
his study--that he had been there all the evening; from time to time she expected
to hear him move. She thought he would perhaps come, as he sometimes came,
into the parlour. At last the clock struck eleven, and the house was wrapped in
silence; the servants had gone to bed. Catherine got up and went slowly to the
door of the library, where she waited a moment, motionless. Then she knocked,
and then she waited again. Her father had answered her, but she had not the
courage to turn the latch. What she had said to her aunt was true enough--she
was afraid of him; and in saying that she had no sense of weakness she meant
that she was not afraid of herself. She heard him move within, and he came and
opened the door for her.
"What is the matter?" asked the Doctor. "You are standing there like a ghost."
She went into the room, but it was some time before she contrived to say what
she had come to say. Her father, who was in his dressing- gown and slippers,
had been busy at his writing-table, and after looking at her for some moments,
and waiting for her to speak, he went and seated himself at his papers again. His
back was turned to her--she began to hear the scratching of his pen. She
remained near the door, with her heart thumping beneath her bodice; and she
was very glad that his back was turned, for it seemed to her that she could more
easily address herself to this portion of his person than to his face. At last she
began, watching it while she spoke.
"You told me that if I should have anything more to say about Mr. Townsend you
would be glad to listen to it."
"Exactly, my dear," said the Doctor, not turning round, but stopping his pen.
Catherine wished it would go on, but she herself continued. "I thought I would tell
you that I have not seen him again, but that I should like to do so."
"To bid him good-bye?" asked the Doctor.
The girl hesitated a moment. "He is not going away."
The Doctor wheeled slowly round in his chair, with a smile that seemed to accuse
her of an epigram; but extremes meet, and Catherine had not intended one. "It is
not to bid him good-bye, then?" her father said.
"No, father, not that; at least, not for ever. I have not seen him again, but I should
like to see him," Catherine repeated.
The Doctor slowly rubbed his under lip with the feather of his quill.