فصل 06

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فصل 06

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Catherine tries to be good

The Doctor was surprised, and even a little disappointed, to see that Catherine did not appear to be angry or upset about what had happened. He wanted to be kind to her, but she did not seem to want or need his kindness.

‘I am glad I have such a good daughter,’ he said, after several days had passed.

‘I am trying to be good,’ she answered, turning away.

‘If you have anything to say about Mr Townsend, I shall be happy to listen.’

‘Thank you,’ said Catherine. ‘I have nothing to say at present.’

He never asked her whether she had seen Morris again. She had, in fact, not seen him; she had only written him a long letter. ‘I am in great trouble,’ she wrote. ‘Do not doubt my love for you, but let me wait a little and think.’ But her thoughts were not at all clear. She could not really believe that her father would change his mind about Morris; she just hoped that in some mysterious way the situation would get better. Meanwhile, she felt she must try to be a good daughter, to be patient, and to search for a peaceful way out of their difficulty.

She received no help from her aunt in this search. Mrs Penniman was enjoying all the excitement of the romance and had no sensible advice to offer poor Catherine. ‘You must act, my dear,’ she said. ‘The important thing is to act.’

Mrs Penniman had also written to Morris, and had arranged to meet him secretly in a cafe on the other side of the city. She had not told her niece about this meeting, and so was a little embarrassed when Morris arrived and asked if she had a message for him from Catherine.

‘Not exactly a message,’ she said. ‘I didn’t ask her for one. But she will be true to you - until death.’

‘Oh, I hope it won’t come to that,’ said Morris.

‘My brother will not listen to argument.’

‘Do you mean he won’t change his mind?’

Mrs Penniman was silent for a moment, then she smiled at Morris. ‘Marry Catherine first, and tell him afterwards!’ she cried. ‘That is the way I see it: a secret marriage.’

The young man stared at her. ‘Do you advise me to do that? To marry her without her father’s consent?’

She was a little frightened, but went on, ‘If you marry Catherine, you will show my brother that he has been wrong about you. He will see that it is not just because you like - you like the money.’

Morris hesitated, then said, ‘But I do like the money.’

‘But you don’t like it more than Catherine. And when he realizes that, he will think it is his duty to help you.’

Morris looked for some moments at the floor. At last he looked up and said, ‘Do you think there is already a will leaving money to Catherine?’

‘I suppose so - even doctors must die,’ she replied.

‘And you believe he would certainly change it - if I married Catherine?’

‘Yes, but then he would change it back again.’

‘But I can’t depend on that,’ said Morris.

‘Do you want to depend on it?’ Mrs Penniman asked.

He blushed a little. ‘I do not want to injure Catherine.’

‘You must not be afraid! Be afraid of nothing, and everything will go well.’

Mrs Penniman told Catherine that evening that she had had a meeting with Morris Townsend, and for almost the first time in her life Catherine felt angry.

‘Why did you see him? I don’t think it was right.’

‘I was so sorry for him - and you wouldn’t see him, my dear,’ said Aunt Lavinia.

‘I have not seen him because my father has forbidden it,’ Catherine said, very simply.

This annoyed Mrs Penniman and she began to read the evening newspaper, so that Catherine would have to ask her about her meeting with Morris. But it was several minutes before Catherine finally spoke. ‘What did he say?’ she asked.

‘He said he is ready to marry you any day.’

Catherine made no answer to this, and after a few minutes Mrs Penniman added that Morris looked very tired.

Catherine got up from her seat and went to the fire.

Mrs Penniman hesitated for a moment. ‘He said he was afraid of only one thing - that you would be afraid.’

The girl turned very quickly. ‘Afraid of what?’

‘Afraid of your father.’

Catherine turned back to the fire again. After a pause, she said, ‘I am afraid of my father.’

Mrs Penniman got up quickly from her chair and went to her niece. ‘Are you going to give him up, then?’

For some time Catherine stared at the fire and did not move. Then she lifted her head and looked at her aunt. ‘Why do you make it so difficult for me?’ she said. ‘I don’t think you understand or that you know me. You had better not have any more meetings with Mr Townsend. I don’t think it is right. My father wouldn’t like it, if he knew.’

‘And you will inform him - is that what you mean? Well, I am not afraid of my brother. But I shall not try to help again - you are too ungrateful. I am disappointed, but your father will not be. Good night.’ And with this Mrs Penniman went off to her room.

Catherine sat alone by the parlour fire, lost in her thoughts, for more than an hour. She felt that to displease her father was a terrible thing, but she had made a plan and must go on with it. Her father was in his study, and it was eleven o’clock when she finally knocked on his door. Even when he answered her, she was too afraid to go in. After a while he came and opened the door for her.

‘What’s the matter?’ asked the Doctor. ‘You are standing there like a ghost!’

She went into the room, and her father looked at her for a few moments, waiting for her to speak. He then went back to his writing desk and sat down, turning his back on his daughter. At last she began: ‘You told me that if I had something more to say about Mr Townsend, you would be glad to listen to it.’

‘Exactly, my dear,’ said the Doctor, not turning round.

‘I would like to see him again.’

‘To say goodbye?’ asked the Doctor.

‘No, father, not that; at least not for ever.’

‘You have not finished with him, then?’

‘No,’ said Catherine. ‘I have asked him to-to wait.’

Her father, turning round in his chair, looked at her with his cold eyes, and she was afraid he was going to be angry.

‘You are a dear, faithful child,’ he said, at last. ‘Come here to your father.’ And he got up, holding his hands out towards her.

The words were a surprise, and they gave her great happiness. She went to him, and he put his arm round her gently, and kissed her. After this he said, ‘Do you wish to make me very happy?’

‘I would like to - but I am afraid I can’t,’ Catherine answered. ‘Do you want me to give him up?’

‘Yes, I want you to give him up.’

He still held her, looking into her face. She looked away and they were both silent for a long time.

‘You are happier than I am, father,’ she said at last.

‘I have no doubt that you are unhappy now. But it is better to be unhappy for three months, than miserable for the rest of your life.’

‘Yes, if that were true,’ said Catherine.

‘It is true, I am sure of that.’ When she did not answer, he went on, ‘Don’t you believe that I want the best for your future? I know how bad men can be - how false.’

She moved away from him. ‘He is not false! What has he done - what do you know?’

‘He has never done anything, that is the problem - he is lazy and selfish and thinks only of himself.’

‘Oh, father, don’t say bad things about him!’ she cried.

‘No, that would be a great mistake. You may do what you choose,’ he added, turning away.

‘If I see him again, will you forgive me?’

‘No, I will not.’

‘I only want to see him once - to tell him to wait.’

‘To wait for what?’

‘Until you know him better - until you consent.’

‘I know him well enough, and I shall never consent.’

‘But we can wait a long time,’ said poor Catherine.

‘Of course, you can wait until I die, if you like,’ said the Doctor, quietly. ‘Your engagement will have one delightful effect upon you; it will make you extremely impatient for my death. And think how impatient he will be, too.’

Catherine gave a cry of natural horror and stood staring. Her father’s words had a terrible ugliness, and she did not know what to say. Suddenly, however, an idea came to her.

‘If I don’t marry before your death, I will not after,’ she said. ‘But I think that one day Morris might persuade you.’

‘I shall never speak to him again. I dislike him too much,’ said the Doctor. ‘And you can tell Mr Townsend when you see him again that if you marry without my consent, I will not leave you a penny of my money. That will interest him more than anything else you can tell him.’

She looked at her father, and her eyes filled with tears.

‘I think I will see him, then,’ she murmured.

‘Exactly as you choose. But if you see him, you will be an ungrateful, cruel child; and you will give your old father the greatest pain of his life.’

The tears then ran down Catherine’s face, and she moved towards her father with a little cry. But he only took her by the arm, went to the door, and opened it for her to go out.

After she had left, he walked around his study for a while, a little annoyed but also amused. ‘My word,’ he said to himself. ‘I believe she will go on with it.’ He looked forward to seeing what would happen next.

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