Chapter 18

Washington Square - Chapter 18

Catherine sat alone by the parlor 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 misdemeanor 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 burnt 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 parlor. 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 forever. I have not seen him again, but I should like to see him,' Catherine repeated.

The Doctor slowly rubbed his underlip with the feather of his quill.'Have you written to him?'

'Yes, four times.'

'You have not dismissed him, then. Once would have done that.'

'No,' said Catherine;'I have asked him - asked him to wait.' Her father sat looking at her, and she was afraid he was going to break out into wrath, his eyes were so fine and cold.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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