'My dearest Catherine,' stammered Mrs Penniman, 'just wait till you see him!'
Catherine had frightened her aunt, but she was also frightened herself; she was on the point of rushing to give orders to the servant, who was passing to the door, to admit no one; but the fear of meeting her visitor checked her.
'Mr Morris Townsend.' This was what she heard, vaguely but recognizably, articulated by the domestic, while she hesitated. She had her back to the door of the parlor, and for some moments she kept it turned, feeling that he had come in. He had not spoken, however, and at last she faced about. Then she saw a gentleman standing in the middle of the room, from which her aunt had discreetly retired.
She would never have known him. He was forty-five years old, and his figure was not that of the straight, slim young man she remembered. But it was a very fine presence, and a fair and lustrous beard, spreading itself upon a well-presented chest, contributed to its effect. After a moment Catherine recognized the upper half of the face, which, though her visitor's clustering locks had grown thin, was still remarkably handsome. He stood in a deeply deferential attitude, with his eyes on her face.' I have ventured - I have ventured;' he said, and then he paused, looking about him, as if he expected her to ask him to sit down. It was the old voice; but it had not the old charm. Catherine, for a minute, was conscious of a distinct determination not to invite him to take a seat. Why had he come? It was wrong for him to come. Morris was embarrassed, but Catherine gave him no help. It was not that she was glad of his embarrassment; on the contrary, it excited her all her own liabilities of this kind, and gave her great pain. But how could she welcome him when she felt so vividly that he ought not to have come?' I wanted to so much - I was determined,' Morris went on. But he stopped again; it was not easy. Catherine still said nothing, and he may well have recalled with apprehension her ancient faculty of silence. She continued to look at him, however, and as she did so she made the strangest observation. It seemed to be he, and yet not he; it was the man who had been everything, and yet this person was nothing. How long ago it was - how old she had grown - how much she had lived! She had lived on something that was connected with him, and she had consumed it in doing so. This person did not look unhappy. He was fair and well- preserved,
perfectly dressed, mature and complete. As Catherine looked at him, the story of his life defined itself in his eyes; he had made himself comfortable, and he had never been caught. But even while her perception opened itself to this, she had no desire to catch him; his presence was painful to her, and she only wished he would go.
'Will you not sit down?' he asked.
'I think we had better not,' said Catherine.
'I offend you by coming?' He was very grave; he spoke in a tone of the richest respect.
'I don't think you ought to have come.'
'Did not Mrs Penniman tell you - did she not give you my message?'
'She told me something, but I did not understand.'
'I wish you would let me tell you - let me speak for myself.'
'I don't think it is necessary,' said Catherine.
'Not for you, perhaps, but for me. It would be a great satisfaction - and I have not many. 'He seemed to be coming nearer; Catherine turned away.' Can we not be friends again?' he asked.
'We are not enemies,' said Catherine. 'I have none but friendly feelings to you.'
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