To respect her father’s privacy, Katherine did not enquire after her mother, and so the subject was left unspoken of within the household, save for a few older servants recalling memories or such. There was something in her father’s demeanour that meant that the usually very inquisitive Katherine (sometimes intrusively so, though she would never mean to cause offence,) never once asked him indiscreet questions, and so Katherine refrained from asking them, when her father was all too free to.
“Where have you been?” Mr Benson asked monotonously, not looking up from his papers that were on his desk to look at his daughter, who had just arrived back from wherever.
“I got lost, last night.” she paused. “Oh! father, did you see the fog; it so was terrible; I could hardly see one inch. I stayed at a friend’s house, on the common… I wonder if you will recognise the name – the Lintons, father. You own the land they live on – perhaps you will have spoken to the Mrs Linton.”
“Eliza,” said he, “Yes, I have spoken to her; very over-excitable and irksome. Yet obviously you think I have no concern of your whereabouts, and think it acceptable to stay the night at a woman’s house who is, in fact, a total stranger to you and perhaps may have brought you to harm. I am astonished – I always knew you were never too cautious, but this is plain recklessness.” he said in his low, quiet voice. His tone was scolding, harsh, and cold but not angry or raised. Perhaps it was his coolness that made his words more painful to her than they would have if they were raised. At this point he had leant back in his chair to observe his daughter, who stood with her head hanging in shame, and her posture showed she was uneasy; nervous – such a very different countenance to how she was around Mr Harlow and the Lintons, and any other of her friends, for that matter.
After a pause, she said timidly: “Father, I have been meaning to ask you something.” – A question! Hurrah!
Mr Benson’s brown creased with curiosity, and he replied “Ask away,”
Katherine straightened herself up; drew herself to her fill height and said: “I would like – I think that I am old enough now to go to a ball. I am near to twenty, father; in fact I think I have been old enough for quite some time now.”
“You want to go to a ball?” he asked, and when he saw her expectant expression, said – and it was more of a statement than a question, this time: “You would like to host a ball.” – and to this she nodded fervently.
Her father paused for a moment, his lips pursed, and he seemed to be in deep thought about something; but then, he sat up, looked his daughter right in the eye and said: “Then, you may have one. You are quite right – perhaps I have restrained you long enough. You may invite whom you like, so long as I may be at liberty to invite a few colleagues of mine, too. We shall set the date for two weeks.”
“Really?” exclaimed Katherine with her eyes all a-glow, and her cheeks flushed with excitement. And when he nodded shortly she rushed over to him and clasped her arms around his neck in sheer passion and happiness, only to then withdraw, blushing, but mumble: “Oh! father, I cannot thank you enough!”
“Yes, yes, you may run along now.” He said impatiently, but smiled fondly after her, when she left the room with a notable spring in her step.
Katherine found that all that could occupy her mind from that moment onwards was this ball. It was such a burden to her thoughts that she questioned what she had ever had to think of or look forward to before – it was true, she had often entertained herself with her music: she played the piano most soulfully and fluently; and sung with quite the voice of an angel. She also adored her sketching; she would sketch anything and everything: people; the common and the wonderful grounds of Southgate Manor. She would spend countless hours with Milo, and also visit all of the numerous friends in Chorley and on the common; and also sew, garden, and above all read. Reading was the most valued pastime that Katherine had – perhaps she found it as a form of escapism. Although she told herself the Common and all of its mystery were enough for her, she secretly longed for something big to happen – like in all of her thrilling books she’d read. So, she did entertain herself with reading a considerable amount!