'And are you very fond of Mr Townsend?'
'I like him very much, of course, or I shouldn't consent to marry him.'
'But you have known him a very short time, my dear.'
'Oh,' said Catherine, with some eagerness, 'it doesn't take long to like a person - when once you begin.'
'You must have begun very quickly. Was it the first time you saw him - that night at your aunt's party?'
'I don't know, father' the girl answered. 'I can't tell you about that.'
'Of course; that's your own affair. You will have observed that I have acted on that principle. I have not interfered; I have left you your liberty; I have remembered that you are no longer a little girl - that you have arrived at years of discretion.'
'I feel very old - and very wise,' said Catherine, smiling faintly. 'I am afraid that before long you will feel older and wiser yet. I don't like your engagement.'
'Ah!' Catherine exclaimed, softly, getting up from her chair.
'No, my dear. I am sorry to give you pain; but I don't like it. You should have consulted me before you settled it. I have been too easy with you, and I feel as if you had taken advantage of my indulgence. Most decidedly you should have spoken to me first.'
Catherine hesitated a moment, and then - 'It was because I was afraid you wouldn't like it,' she confessed.
'Ah, there it is! You had a bad conscience.'
'No, I have not a bad conscience, father!' the girl cried out, with considerable energy. 'Please don't accuse me of anything so dreadful!' These words, in fact, represented to her imagination something very terrible indeed, something base and cruel, which she associated with malefactors and prisoners. 'It was because I was afraid - afraid - ' she went on.
'If you were afraid, it was because you had been foolish.'
'I was afraid you didn't like Mr Townsend.' 'You were quite right. I don't like him.'
'Dear father, you don't know him,' said Catherine, in a voice so timidly argumentative that it might have touched him.
'Very true; I don't know him intimately. But I know him enough; I have my impression of him. You don't know him either.'
She stood before the fire with her hands lightly clasped in front of her; and her father, leaning back in his chair and looking up at her, made this remark with a placidity that might have been irritating.
I doubt, however, whether Catherine was irritated, though she broke into a vehement protest. 'I don't know him?' she cried. 'Why, I know him - better than I have ever known anyone!'
'You know a part of him - what he has chosen to show you. But you don't know the rest.'
'The rest? What is the rest?'
'Whatever it may be, there is sure to be plenty of it.'
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