Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Washington Square
Author: James, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Washington Square" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



Transcribed from the 1921 Macmillan and Co. edition by David Price, email
ccx074@pglaf.org.  Proofed by Dimitri Papadopoulos, Lynn A. Weinberg,
Stuart Bennett and Mary Willard.

                          [Picture: Book cover]



                                WASHINGTON
                                  SQUARE


                                * * * * *

                                    BY
                               HENRY JAMES

                                * * * * *

                        MACMILLAN AND CO., LIMITED
                       ST. MARTIN’S STREET, LONDON
                                   1921

                                * * * * *

                                COPYRIGHT

                        _First published in_ 1881

                                * * * * *



I


DURING a portion of the first half of the present century, and more
particularly during the latter part of it, there flourished and practised
in the city of New York a physician who enjoyed perhaps an exceptional
share of the consideration which, in the United States, has always been
bestowed upon distinguished members of the medical profession.  This
profession in America has constantly been held in honour, and more
successfully than elsewhere has put forward a claim to the epithet of
“liberal.”  In a country in which, to play a social part, you must either
earn your income or make believe that you earn it, the healing art has
appeared in a high degree to combine two recognised sources of credit.
It belongs to the realm of the practical, which in the United States is a
great recommendation; and it is touched by the light of science—a merit
appreciated in a community in which the love of knowledge has not always
been accompanied by leisure and opportunity.  It was an element in Dr.
Sloper’s reputation that his learning and his skill were very evenly
balanced; he was what you might call a scholarly doctor, and yet there
was nothing abstract in his remedies—he always ordered you to take
something.  Though he was felt to be extremely thorough, he was not
uncomfortably theoretic, and if he sometimes explained matters rather
more minutely than might seem of use to the patient, he never went so far
(like some practitioners one has heard of) as to trust to the explanation
alone, but always left behind him an inscrutable prescription.  There
were some doctors that left the prescription without offering any
explanation at all; and he did not belong to that class either, which
was, after all, the most vulgar.  It will be seen that I am describing a
clever man; and this is really the reason why Dr. Sloper had become a
local celebrity.  At the time at which we are chiefly concerned with him,
he was some fifty years of age, and his popularity was at its height.  He
was very witty, and he passed in the best society of New York for a man
of the world—which, indeed, he was, in a very sufficient degree.  I
hasten to add, to anticipate possible misconception, that he was not the
least of a charlatan.  He was a thoroughly honest man—honest in a degree
of which he had perhaps lacked the opportunity to give the complete
measure; and, putting aside the great good-nature of the circle in which
he practised, which was rather fond of boasting that it possessed the
“brightest” doctor in the country, he daily justified his claim to the
talents attributed to him by the popular voice.  He was an observer, even
a philosopher, and to be bright was so natural to him, and (as the
popular voice said) came so easily, that he never aimed at mere effect,
and had none of the little tricks and pretensions of second-rate
reputations.  It must be confessed that fortune had favoured him, and
that he had found the path to prosperity very soft to his tread.  He had
married at the age of twenty-seven, for love, a very charming girl, Miss
Catherine Harrington, of New York, who, in addition to her charms, had
brought him a solid dowry.  Mrs. Sloper was amiable, graceful,
accomplished, elegant, and in 1820 she had been one of the pretty girls
of the small but promising capital which clustered about the Battery and
overlooked the Bay, and of which the uppermost boundary was indicated by
the grassy waysides of Canal Street.  Even at the age of twenty-seven
Austin Sloper had made his mark sufficiently to mitigate the anomaly of
his having been chosen among a dozen suitors by a young woman of high
fashion, who had ten thousand dollars of income and the most charming
eyes in the island of Manhattan.  These eyes, and some of their
accompaniments, were for about five years a source of extreme
satisfaction to the young physician, who was both a devoted and a very
happy husband.  The fact of his having married a rich woman made no
difference in the line he had traced for himself, and he cultivated his
profession with as definite a purpose as if he still had no other
resources than his fraction of the modest patrimony which on his father’s
death he had shared with his brothers and sisters.  This purpose had not
been preponderantly to make money—it had been rather to learn something
and to do something.  To learn something interesting, and to do something
useful—this was, roughly speaking, the programme he had sketched, and of
which the accident of his wife having an income appeared to him in no
degree to modify the validity.  He was fond of his practice, and of
exercising a skill of which he was agreeably conscious, and it was so
patent a truth that if he were not a doctor there was nothing else he
could be, that a doctor he persisted in being, in the best possible
conditions.  Of course his easy domestic situation saved him a good deal
of drudgery, and his wife’s affiliation to the “best people” brought him
a good many of those patients whose symptoms are, if not more interesting
in themselves than those of the lower orders, at least more consistently
displayed.  He desired experience, and in the course of twenty years he
got a great deal.  It must be added that it came to him in some forms
which, whatever might have been their intrinsic value, made it the
reverse of welcome.  His first child, a little boy of extraordinary
promise, as the Doctor, who was not addicted to easy enthusiasms, firmly
believed, died at three years of age, in spite of everything that the
mother’s tenderness and the father’s science could invent to save him.
Two years later Mrs. Sloper gave birth to a second infant—an infant of a
sex which rendered the poor child, to the Doctor’s sense, an inadequate
substitute for his lamented first-born, of whom he had promised himself
to make an admirable man.  The little girl was a disappointment; but this
was not the worst.  A week after her birth the young mother, who, as the
phrase is, had been doing well, suddenly betrayed alarming symptoms, and
before another week had elapsed Austin Sloper was a widower.

For a man whose trade was to keep people alive, he had certainly done
poorly in his own family; and a bright doctor who within three years
loses his wife and his little boy should perhaps be prepared to see
either his skill or his affection impugned.  Our friend, however, escaped
criticism: that is, he escaped all criticism but his own, which was much
the most competent and most formidable.  He walked under the weight of
this very private censure for the rest of his days, and bore for ever the
scars of a castigation to which the strongest hand he knew had treated
him on the night that followed his wife’s death.  The world, which, as I
have said, appreciated him, pitied him too much to be ironical; his
misfortune made him more interesting, and even helped him to be the
fashion.  It was observed that even medical families cannot escape the
more insidious forms of disease, and that, after all, Dr. Sloper had lost
other patients beside the two I have mentioned; which constituted an
honourable precedent.  His little girl remained to him, and though she
was not what he had desired, he proposed to himself to make the best of
her.  He had on hand a stock of unexpended authority, by which the child,
in its early years, profited largely.  She had been named, as a matter of
course, after her poor mother, and even in her most diminutive babyhood
the Doctor never called her anything but Catherine.  She grew up a very
robust and healthy child, and her father, as he looked at her, often said
to himself that, such as she was, he at least need have no fear of losing
her.  I say “such as she was,” because, to tell the truth—But this is a
truth of which I will defer the telling.



II


WHEN the child was about ten years old, he invited his sister, Mrs.
Penniman, to come and stay with him.  The Miss Slopers had been but two
in number, and both of them had married early in life.  The younger, Mrs.
Almond by name, was the wife of a prosperous merchant, and the mother of
a blooming family.  She bloomed herself, indeed, and was a comely,
comfortable, reasonable woman, and a favourite with her clever brother,
who, in the matter of women, even when they were nearly related to him,
was a man of distinct preferences.  He preferred Mrs. Almond to his
sister Lavinia, who had married a poor clergyman, of a sickly
constitution and a flowery style of eloquence, and then, at the age of
thirty-three, had been left a widow, without children, without
fortune—with nothing but the memory of Mr. Penniman’s flowers of speech,
a certain vague aroma of which hovered about her own conversation.
Nevertheless he had offered her a home under his own roof, which Lavinia
accepted with the alacrity of a woman who had spent the ten years of her
married life in the town of Poughkeepsie.  The Doctor had not proposed to
Mrs. Penniman to come and live with him indefinitely; he had suggested
that she should make an asylum of his house while she looked about for
unfurnished lodgings.  It is uncertain whether Mrs. Penniman ever
instituted a search for unfurnished lodgings, but it is beyond dispute
that she never found them.  She settled herself with her brother and
never went away, and when Catherine was twenty years old her Aunt Lavinia
was still one of the most striking features of her immediate _entourage_.
Mrs. Penniman’s own account of the matter was that she had remained to
take charge of her niece’s education.  She had given this account, at
least, to every one but the Doctor, who never asked for explanations
which he could entertain himself any day with inventing.  Mrs. Penniman,
moreover, though she had a good deal of a certain sort of artificial
assurance, shrank, for indefinable reasons, from presenting herself to
her brother as a fountain of instruction.  She had not a high sense of
humour, but she had enough to prevent her from making this mistake; and
her brother, on his side, had enough to excuse her, in her situation, for
laying him under contribution during a considerable part of a lifetime.
He therefore assented tacitly to the proposition which Mrs. Penniman had
tacitly laid down, that it was of importance that the poor motherless
girl should have a brilliant woman near her.  His assent could only be
tacit, for he had never been dazzled by his sister’s intellectual lustre.
Save when he fell in love with Catherine Harrington, he had never been
dazzled, indeed, by any feminine characteristics whatever; and though he
was to a certain extent what is called a ladies’ doctor, his private
opinion of the more complicated sex was not exalted.  He regarded its
complications as more curious than edifying, and he had an idea of the
beauty of _reason_, which was, on the whole, meagrely gratified by what
he observed in his female patients.  His wife had been a reasonable
woman, but she was a bright exception; among several things that he was
sure of, this was perhaps the principal.  Such a conviction, of course,
did little either to mitigate or to abbreviate his widowhood; and it set
a limit to his recognition, at the best, of Catherine’s possibilities and
of Mrs. Penniman’s ministrations.  He, nevertheless, at the end of six
months, accepted his sister’s permanent presence as an accomplished fact,
and as Catherine grew older perceived that there were in effect good
reasons why she should have a companion of her own imperfect sex.  He was
extremely polite to Lavinia, scrupulously, formally polite; and she had
never seen him in anger but once in her life, when he lost his temper in
a theological discussion with her late husband.  With her he never
discussed theology, nor, indeed, discussed anything; he contented himself
with making known, very distinctly, in the form of a lucid ultimatum, his
wishes with regard to Catherine.

Once, when the girl was about twelve years old, he had said to her:

“Try and make a clever woman of her, Lavinia; I should like her to be a
clever woman.”

Mrs. Penniman, at this, looked thoughtful a moment.  “My dear Austin,”
she then inquired, “do you think it is better to be clever than to be
good?”

“Good for what?” asked the Doctor.  “You are good for nothing unless you
are clever.”

From this assertion Mrs. Penniman saw no reason to dissent; she possibly
reflected that her own great use in the world was owing to her aptitude
for many things.

“Of course I wish Catherine to be good,” the Doctor said next day; “but
she won’t be any the less virtuous for not being a fool.  I am not afraid
of her being wicked; she will never have the salt of malice in her
character.  She is as good as good bread, as the French say; but six
years hence I don’t want to have to compare her to good bread and
butter.”

“Are you afraid she will turn insipid?  My dear brother, it is I who
supply the butter; so you needn’t fear!” said Mrs. Penniman, who had
taken in hand the child’s accomplishments, overlooking her at the piano,
where Catherine displayed a certain talent, and going with her to the
dancing-class, where it must be confessed that she made but a modest
figure.

Mrs. Penniman was a tall, thin, fair, rather faded woman, with a
perfectly amiable disposition, a high standard of gentility, a taste for
light literature, and a certain foolish indirectness and obliquity of
character.  She was romantic, she was sentimental, she had a passion for
little secrets and mysteries—a very innocent passion, for her secrets had
hitherto always been as unpractical as addled eggs.  She was not
absolutely veracious; but this defect was of no great consequence, for
she had never had anything to conceal.  She would have liked to have a
lover, and to correspond with him under an assumed name in letters left
at a shop; I am bound to say that her imagination never carried the
intimacy farther than this.  Mrs. Penniman had never had a lover, but her
brother, who was very shrewd, understood her turn of mind.  “When
Catherine is about seventeen,” he said to himself, “Lavinia will try and
persuade her that some young man with a moustache is in love with her.
It will be quite untrue; no young man, with a moustache or without, will
ever be in love with Catherine.  But Lavinia will take it up, and talk to
her about it; perhaps, even, if her taste for clandestine operations
doesn’t prevail with her, she will talk to me about it.  Catherine won’t
see it, and won’t believe it, fortunately for her peace of mind; poor
Catherine isn’t romantic.”

She was a healthy well-grown child, without a trace of her mother’s
beauty.  She was not ugly; she had simply a plain, dull, gentle
countenance.  The most that had ever been said for her was that she had a
“nice” face, and, though she was an heiress, no one had ever thought of
regarding her as a belle.  Her father’s opinion of her moral purity was
abundantly justified; she was excellently, imperturbably good;
affectionate, docile, obedient, and much addicted to speaking the truth.
In her younger years she was a good deal of a romp, and, though it is an
awkward confession to make about one’s heroine, I must add that she was
something of a glutton.  She never, that I know of, stole raisins out of
the pantry; but she devoted her pocket-money to the purchase of
cream-cakes.  As regards this, however, a critical attitude would be
inconsistent with a candid reference to the early annals of any
biographer.  Catherine was decidedly not clever; she was not quick with
her book, nor, indeed, with anything else.  She was not abnormally
deficient, and she mustered learning enough to acquit herself respectably
in conversation with her contemporaries, among whom it must be avowed,
however, that she occupied a secondary place.  It is well known that in
New York it is possible for a young girl to occupy a primary one.
Catherine, who was extremely modest, had no desire to shine, and on most
social occasions, as they are called, you would have found her lurking in
the background.  She was extremely fond of her father, and very much
afraid of him; she thought him the cleverest and handsomest and most
celebrated of men.  The poor girl found her account so completely in the
exercise of her affections that the little tremor of fear that mixed
itself with her filial passion gave the thing an extra relish rather than
blunted its edge.  Her deepest desire was to please him, and her
conception of happiness was to know that she had succeeded in pleasing
him.  She had never succeeded beyond a certain point.  Though, on the
whole, he was very kind to her, she was perfectly aware of this, and to
go beyond the point in question seemed to her really something to live
for.  What she could not know, of course, was that she disappointed him,
though on three or four occasions the Doctor had been almost frank about
it.  She grew up peacefully and prosperously, but at the age of eighteen
Mrs. Penniman had not made a clever woman of her.  Dr. Sloper would have
liked to be proud of his daughter; but there was nothing to be proud of
in poor Catherine.  There was nothing, of course, to be ashamed of; but
this was not enough for the Doctor, who was a proud man and would have
enjoyed being able to think of his daughter as an unusual girl.  There
would have been a fitness in her being pretty and graceful, intelligent
and distinguished; for her mother had been the most charming woman of her
little day, and as regards her father, of course he knew his own value.
He had moments of irritation at having produced a commonplace child, and
he even went so far at times as to take a certain satisfaction in the
thought that his wife had not lived to find her out.  He was naturally
slow in making this discovery himself, and it was not till Catherine had
become a young lady grown that he regarded the matter as settled.  He
gave her the benefit of a great many doubts; he was in no haste to
conclude.  Mrs. Penniman frequently assured him that his daughter had a
delightful nature; but he knew how to interpret this assurance.  It
meant, to his sense, that Catherine was not wise enough to discover that
her aunt was a goose—a limitation of mind that could not fail to be
agreeable to Mrs. Penniman.  Both she and her brother, however,
exaggerated the young girl’s limitations; for Catherine, though she was
very fond of her aunt, and conscious of the gratitude she owed her,
regarded her without a particle of that gentle dread which gave its stamp
to her admiration of her father.  To her mind there was nothing of the
infinite about Mrs. Penniman; Catherine saw her all at once, as it were,
and was not dazzled by the apparition; whereas her father’s great
faculties seemed, as they stretched away, to lose themselves in a sort of
luminous vagueness, which indicated, not that they stopped, but that
Catherine’s own mind ceased to follow them.

It must not be supposed that Dr. Sloper visited his disappointment upon
the poor girl, or ever let her suspect that she had played him a trick.
On the contrary, for fear of being unjust to her, he did his duty with
exemplary zeal, and recognised that she was a faithful and affectionate
child.  Besides, he was a philosopher; he smoked a good many cigars over
his disappointment, and in the fulness of time he got used to it.  He
satisfied himself that he had expected nothing, though, indeed, with a
certain oddity of reasoning.  “I expect nothing,” he said to himself, “so
that if she gives me a surprise, it will be all clear again.  If she
doesn’t, it will be no loss.”  This was about the time Catherine had
reached her eighteenth year, so that it will be seen her father had not
been precipitate.  At this time she seemed not only incapable of giving
surprises; it was almost a question whether she could have received
one—she was so quiet and irresponsive.  People who expressed themselves
roughly called her stolid.  But she was irresponsive because she was shy,
uncomfortably, painfully shy.  This was not always understood, and she
sometimes produced an impression of insensibility.  In reality she was
the softest creature in the world.



III


AS a child she had promised to be tall, but when she was sixteen she
ceased to grow, and her stature, like most other points in her
composition, was not unusual.  She was strong, however, and properly
made, and, fortunately, her health was excellent.  It has been noted that
the Doctor was a philosopher, but I would not have answered for his
philosophy if the poor girl had proved a sickly and suffering person.
Her appearance of health constituted her principal claim to beauty, and
her clear, fresh complexion, in which white and red were very equally
distributed, was, indeed, an excellent thing to see.  Her eye was small
and quiet, her features were rather thick, her tresses brown and smooth.
A dull, plain girl she was called by rigorous critics—a quiet, ladylike
girl by those of the more imaginative sort; but by neither class was she
very elaborately discussed.  When it had been duly impressed upon her
that she was a young lady—it was a good while before she could believe
it—she suddenly developed a lively taste for dress: a lively taste is
quite the expression to use.  I feel as if I ought to write it very
small, her judgement in this matter was by no means infallible; it was
liable to confusions and embarrassments.  Her great indulgence of it was
really the desire of a rather inarticulate nature to manifest itself; she
sought to be eloquent in her garments, and to make up for her diffidence
of speech by a fine frankness of costume.  But if she expressed herself
in her clothes it is certain that people were not to blame for not
thinking her a witty person.  It must be added that though she had the
expectation of a fortune—Dr. Sloper for a long time had been making
twenty thousand dollars a year by his profession, and laying aside the
half of it—the amount of money at her disposal was not greater than the
allowance made to many poorer girls.  In those days in New York there
were still a few altar-fires flickering in the temple of Republican
simplicity, and Dr. Sloper would have been glad to see his daughter
present herself, with a classic grace, as a priestess of this mild faith.
It made him fairly grimace, in private, to think that a child of his
should be both ugly and overdressed.  For himself, he was fond of the
good things of life, and he made a considerable use of them; but he had a
dread of vulgarity, and even a theory that it was increasing in the
society that surrounded him.  Moreover, the standard of luxury in the
United States thirty years ago was carried by no means so high as at
present, and Catherine’s clever father took the old-fashioned view of the
education of young persons.  He had no particular theory on the subject;
it had scarcely as yet become a necessity of self-defence to have a
collection of theories.  It simply appeared to him proper and reasonable
that a well-bred young woman should not carry half her fortune on her
back.  Catherine’s back was a broad one, and would have carried a good
deal; but to the weight of the paternal displeasure she never ventured to
expose it, and our heroine was twenty years old before she treated
herself, for evening wear, to a red satin gown trimmed with gold fringe;
though this was an article which, for many years, she had coveted in
secret.  It made her look, when she sported it, like a woman of thirty;
but oddly enough, in spite of her taste for fine clothes, she had not a
grain of coquetry, and her anxiety when she put them on was as to whether
they, and not she, would look well.  It is a point on which history has
not been explicit, but the assumption is warrantable; it was in the royal
raiment just mentioned that she presented herself at a little
entertainment given by her aunt, Mrs. Almond.  The girl was at this time
in her twenty-first year, and Mrs. Almond’s party was the beginning of
something very important.

Some three or four years before this Dr. Sloper had moved his household
gods up town, as they say in New York.  He had been living ever since his
marriage in an edifice of red brick, with granite copings and an enormous
fanlight over the door, standing in a street within five minutes’ walk of
the City Hall, which saw its best days (from the social point of view)
about 1820.  After this, the tide of fashion began to set steadily
northward, as, indeed, in New York, thanks to the narrow channel in which
it flows, it is obliged to do, and the great hum of traffic rolled
farther to the right and left of Broadway.  By the time the Doctor
changed his residence the murmur of trade had become a mighty uproar,
which was music in the ears of all good citizens interested in the
commercial development, as they delighted to call it, of their fortunate
isle.  Dr. Sloper’s interest in this phenomenon was only indirect—though,
seeing that, as the years went on, half his patients came to be
overworked men of business, it might have been more immediate—and when
most of his neighbours’ dwellings (also ornamented with granite copings
and large fanlights) had been converted into offices, warehouses, and
shipping agencies, and otherwise applied to the base uses of commerce, he
determined to look out for a quieter home.  The ideal of quiet and of
genteel retirement, in 1835, was found in Washington Square, where the
Doctor built himself a handsome, modern, wide-fronted house, with a big
balcony before the drawing-room windows, and a flight of marble steps
ascending to a portal which was also faced with white marble.  This
structure, and many of its neighbours, which it exactly resembled, were
supposed, forty years ago, to embody the last results of architectural
science, and they remain to this day very solid and honourable dwellings.
In front of them was the Square, containing a considerable quantity of
inexpensive vegetation, enclosed by a wooden paling, which increased its
rural and accessible appearance; and round the corner was the more august
precinct of the Fifth Avenue, taking its origin at this point with a
spacious and confident air which already marked it for high destinies.  I
know not whether it is owing to the tenderness of early associations, but
this portion of New York appears to many persons the most delectable.  It
has a kind of established repose which is not of frequent occurrence in
other quarters of the long, shrill city; it has a riper, richer, more
honourable look than any of the upper ramifications of the great
longitudinal thoroughfare—the look of having had something of a social
history.  It was here, as you might have been informed on good authority,
that you had come into a world which appeared to offer a variety of
sources of interest; it was here that your grandmother lived, in
venerable solitude, and dispensed a hospitality which commended itself
alike to the infant imagination and the infant palate; it was here that
you took your first walks abroad, following the nursery-maid with unequal
step and sniffing up the strange odour of the ailantus-trees which at
that time formed the principal umbrage of the Square, and diffused an
aroma that you were not yet critical enough to dislike as it deserved; it
was here, finally, that your first school, kept by a broad-bosomed,
broad-based old lady with a ferule, who was always having tea in a blue
cup, with a saucer that didn’t match, enlarged the circle both of your
observations and your sensations.  It was here, at any rate, that my
heroine spent many years of her life; which is my excuse for this
topographical parenthesis.

Mrs. Almond lived much farther up town, in an embryonic street with a
high number—a region where the extension of the city began to assume a
theoretic air, where poplars grew beside the pavement (when there was
one), and mingled their shade with the steep roofs of desultory Dutch
houses, and where pigs and chickens disported themselves in the gutter.
These elements of rural picturesqueness have now wholly departed from New
York street scenery; but they were to be found within the memory of
middle-aged persons, in quarters which now would blush to be reminded of
them.  Catherine had a great many cousins, and with her Aunt Almond’s
children, who ended by being nine in number, she lived on terms of
considerable intimacy.  When she was younger they had been rather afraid
of her; she was believed, as the phrase is, to be highly educated, and a
person who lived in the intimacy of their Aunt Penniman had something of
reflected grandeur.  Mrs. Penniman, among the little Almonds, was an
object of more admiration than sympathy.  Her manners were strange and
formidable, and her mourning robes—she dressed in black for twenty years
after her husband’s death, and then suddenly appeared one morning with
pink roses in her cap—were complicated in odd, unexpected places with
buckles, bugles, and pins, which discouraged familiarity.  She took
children too hard, both for good and for evil, and had an oppressive air
of expecting subtle things of them, so that going to see her was a good
deal like being taken to church and made to sit in a front pew.  It was
discovered after a while, however, that Aunt Penniman was but an accident
in Catherine’s existence, and not a part of its essence, and that when
the girl came to spend a Saturday with her cousins, she was available for
“follow-my-master,” and even for leapfrog.  On this basis an
understanding was easily arrived at, and for several years Catherine
fraternised with her young kinsmen.  I say young kinsmen, because seven
of the little Almonds were boys, and Catherine had a preference for those
games which are most conveniently played in trousers.  By degrees,
however, the little Almonds’ trousers began to lengthen, and the wearers
to disperse and settle themselves in life.  The elder children were older
than Catherine, and the boys were sent to college or placed in
counting-rooms.  Of the girls, one married very punctually, and the other
as punctually became engaged.  It was to celebrate this latter event that
Mrs. Almond gave the little party I have mentioned.  Her daughter was to
marry a stout young stockbroker, a boy of twenty; it was thought a very
good thing.



IV


MRS. PENNIMAN, with more buckles and bangles than ever, came, of course,
to the entertainment, accompanied by her niece; the Doctor, too, had
promised to look in later in the evening.  There was to be a good deal of
dancing, and before it had gone very far, Marian Almond came up to
Catherine, in company with a tall young man.  She introduced the young
man as a person who had a great desire to make our heroine’s
acquaintance, and as a cousin of Arthur Townsend, her own intended.

Marian Almond was a pretty little person of seventeen, with a very small
figure and a very big sash, to the elegance of whose manners matrimony
had nothing to add.  She already had all the airs of a hostess, receiving
the company, shaking her fan, saying that with so many people to attend
to she should have no time to dance.  She made a long speech about Mr.
Townsend’s cousin, to whom she administered a tap with her fan before
turning away to other cares.  Catherine had not understood all that she
said; her attention was given to enjoying Marian’s ease of manner and
flow of ideas, and to looking at the young man, who was remarkably
handsome.  She had succeeded, however, as she often failed to do when
people were presented to her, in catching his name, which appeared to be
the same as that of Marian’s little stockbroker.  Catherine was always
agitated by an introduction; it seemed a difficult moment, and she
wondered that some people—her new acquaintance at this moment, for
instance—should mind it so little.  She wondered what she ought to say,
and what would be the consequences of her saying nothing.  The
consequences at present were very agreeable.  Mr. Townsend, leaving her
no time for embarrassment, began to talk with an easy smile, as if he had
known her for a year.

“What a delightful party!  What a charming house!  What an interesting
family!  What a pretty girl your cousin is!”

These observations, in themselves of no great profundity, Mr. Townsend
seemed to offer for what they were worth, and as a contribution to an
acquaintance.  He looked straight into Catherine’s eyes.  She answered
nothing; she only listened, and looked at him; and he, as if he expected
no particular reply, went on to say many other things in the same
comfortable and natural manner.  Catherine, though she felt tongue-tied,
was conscious of no embarrassment; it seemed proper that he should talk,
and that she should simply look at him.  What made it natural was that he
was so handsome, or rather, as she phrased it to herself, so beautiful.
The music had been silent for a while, but it suddenly began again; and
then he asked her, with a deeper, intenser smile, if she would do him the
honour of dancing with him.  Even to this inquiry she gave no audible
assent; she simply let him put his arm round her waist—as she did so it
occurred to her more vividly than it had ever done before, that this was
a singular place for a gentleman’s arm to be—and in a moment he was
guiding her round the room in the harmonious rotation of the polka.  When
they paused she felt that she was red; and then, for some moments, she
stopped looking at him.  She fanned herself, and looked at the flowers
that were painted on her fan.  He asked her if she would begin again, and
she hesitated to answer, still looking at the flowers.

“Does it make you dizzy?” he asked, in a tone of great kindness.

Then Catherine looked up at him; he was certainly beautiful, and not at
all red.  “Yes,” she said; she hardly knew why, for dancing had never
made her dizzy.

“Ah, well, in that case,” said Mr. Townsend, “we will sit still and talk.
I will find a good place to sit.”

He found a good place—a charming place; a little sofa that seemed meant
only for two persons.  The rooms by this time were very full; the dancers
increased in number, and people stood close in front of them, turning
their backs, so that Catherine and her companion seemed secluded and
unobserved.  “_We_ will talk,” the young man had said; but he still did
all the talking.  Catherine leaned back in her place, with her eyes fixed
upon him, smiling and thinking him very clever.  He had features like
young men in pictures; Catherine had never seen such features—so
delicate, so chiselled and finished—among the young New Yorkers whom she
passed in the streets and met at parties.  He was tall and slim, but he
looked extremely strong.  Catherine thought he looked like a statue.  But
a statue would not talk like that, and, above all, would not have eyes of
so rare a colour.  He had never been at Mrs. Almond’s before; he felt
very much like a stranger; and it was very kind of Catherine to take pity
on him.  He was Arthur Townsend’s cousin—not very near; several times
removed—and Arthur had brought him to present him to the family.  In
fact, he was a great stranger in New York.  It was his native place; but
he had not been there for many years.  He had been knocking about the
world, and living in far-away lands; he had only come back a month or two
before.  New York was very pleasant, only he felt lonely.

“You see, people forget you,” he said, smiling at Catherine with his
delightful gaze, while he leaned forward obliquely, turning towards her,
with his elbows on his knees.

It seemed to Catherine that no one who had once seen him would ever
forget him; but though she made this reflexion she kept it to herself,
almost as you would keep something precious.

They sat there for some time.  He was very amusing.  He asked her about
the people that were near them; he tried to guess who some of them were,
and he made the most laughable mistakes.  He criticised them very freely,
in a positive, off-hand way.  Catherine had never heard any
one—especially any young man—talk just like that.  It was the way a young
man might talk in a novel; or better still, in a play, on the stage,
close before the footlights, looking at the audience, and with every one
looking at him, so that you wondered at his presence of mind.  And yet
Mr. Townsend was not like an actor; he seemed so sincere, so natural.
This was very interesting; but in the midst of it Marian Almond came
pushing through the crowd, with a little ironical cry, when she found
these young people still together, which made every one turn round, and
cost Catherine a conscious blush.  Marian broke up their talk, and told
Mr. Townsend—whom she treated as if she were already married, and he had
become her cousin—to run away to her mother, who had been wishing for the
last half-hour to introduce him to Mr. Almond.

“We shall meet again!” he said to Catherine as he left her, and Catherine
thought it a very original speech.

Her cousin took her by the arm, and made her walk about.  “I needn’t ask
you what you think of Morris!” the young girl exclaimed.

“Is that his name?”

“I don’t ask you what you think of his name, but what you think of
himself,” said Marian.

“Oh, nothing particular!” Catherine answered, dissembling for the first
time in her life.

“I have half a mind to tell him that!” cried Marian.  “It will do him
good.  He’s so terribly conceited.”

“Conceited?” said Catherine, staring.

“So Arthur says, and Arthur knows about him.”

“Oh, don’t tell him!” Catherine murmured imploringly.

“Don’t tell him he’s conceited?  I have told him so a dozen times.”

At this profession of audacity Catherine looked down at her little
companion in amazement.  She supposed it was because Marian was going to
be married that she took so much on herself; but she wondered too,
whether, when she herself should become engaged, such exploits would be
expected of her.

Half an hour later she saw her Aunt Penniman sitting in the embrasure of
a window, with her head a little on one side, and her gold eye-glass
raised to her eyes, which were wandering about the room.  In front of her
was a gentleman, bending forward a little, with his back turned to
Catherine.  She knew his back immediately, though she had never seen it;
for when he had left her, at Marian’s instigation, he had retreated in
the best order, without turning round.  Morris Townsend—the name had
already become very familiar to her, as if some one had been repeating it
in her ear for the last half-hour—Morris Townsend was giving his
impressions of the company to her aunt, as he had done to herself; he was
saying clever things, and Mrs. Penniman was smiling, as if she approved
of them.  As soon as Catherine had perceived this she moved away; she
would not have liked him to turn round and see her.  But it gave her
pleasure—the whole thing.  That he should talk with Mrs. Penniman, with
whom she lived and whom she saw and talked with every day—that seemed to
keep him near her, and to make him even easier to contemplate than if she
herself had been the object of his civilities; and that Aunt Lavinia
should like him, should not be shocked or startled by what he said, this
also appeared to the girl a personal gain; for Aunt Lavinia’s standard
was extremely high, planted as it was over the grave of her late husband,
in which, as she had convinced every one, the very genius of conversation
was buried.  One of the Almond boys, as Catherine called him, invited our
heroine to dance a quadrille, and for a quarter of an hour her feet at
least were occupied.  This time she was not dizzy; her head was very
clear.  Just when the dance was over, she found herself in the crowd face
to face with her father.  Dr. Sloper had usually a little smile, never a
very big one, and with his little smile playing in his clear eyes and on
his neatly-shaved lips, he looked at his daughter’s crimson gown.

“Is it possible that this magnificent person is my child?” he said.

You would have surprised him if you had told him so; but it is a literal
fact that he almost never addressed his daughter save in the ironical
form.  Whenever he addressed her he gave her pleasure; but she had to cut
her pleasure out of the piece, as it were.  There were portions left
over, light remnants and snippets of irony, which she never knew what to
do with, which seemed too delicate for her own use; and yet Catherine,
lamenting the limitations of her understanding, felt that they were too
valuable to waste and had a belief that if they passed over her head they
yet contributed to the general sum of human wisdom.

“I am not magnificent,” she said mildly, wishing that she had put on
another dress.

“You are sumptuous, opulent, expensive,” her father rejoined.  “You look
as if you had eighty thousand a year.”

“Well, so long as I haven’t—” said Catherine illogically.  Her conception
of her prospective wealth was as yet very indefinite.

“So long as you haven’t you shouldn’t look as if you had.  Have you
enjoyed your party?”

Catherine hesitated a moment; and then, looking away, “I am rather
tired,” she murmured.  I have said that this entertainment was the
beginning of something important for Catherine.  For the second time in
her life she made an indirect answer; and the beginning of a period of
dissimulation is certainly a significant date.  Catherine was not so
easily tired as that.

Nevertheless, in the carriage, as they drove home, she was as quiet as if
fatigue had been her portion.  Dr. Sloper’s manner of addressing his
sister Lavinia had a good deal of resemblance to the tone he had adopted
towards Catherine.

“Who was the young man that was making love to you?” he presently asked.

“Oh, my good brother!” murmured Mrs. Penniman, in deprecation.

“He seemed uncommonly tender.  Whenever I looked at you, for half an
hour, he had the most devoted air.”

“The devotion was not to me,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “It was to Catherine;
he talked to me of her.”

Catherine had been listening with all her ears.  “Oh, Aunt Penniman!” she
exclaimed faintly.

“He is very handsome; he is very clever; he expressed himself with a
great deal—a great deal of felicity,” her aunt went on.

“He is in love with this regal creature, then?” the Doctor inquired
humorously.

“Oh, father,” cried the girl, still more faintly, devoutly thankful the
carriage was dark.

“I don’t know that; but he admired her dress.”

Catherine did not say to herself in the dark, “My dress only?” Mrs.
Penniman’s announcement struck her by its richness, not by its
meagreness.

“You see,” said her father, “he thinks you have eighty thousand a year.”

“I don’t believe he thinks of that,” said Mrs. Penniman; “he is too
refined.”

“He must be tremendously refined not to think of that!”

“Well, he is!” Catherine exclaimed, before she knew it.

“I thought you had gone to sleep,” her father answered.  “The hour has
come!” he added to himself.  “Lavinia is going to get up a romance for
Catherine.  It’s a shame to play such tricks on the girl.  What is the
gentleman’s name?” he went on, aloud.

“I didn’t catch it, and I didn’t like to ask him.  He asked to be
introduced to me,” said Mrs. Penniman, with a certain grandeur; “but you
know how indistinctly Jefferson speaks.”  Jefferson was Mr. Almond.
“Catherine, dear, what was the gentleman’s name?”

For a minute, if it had not been for the rumbling of the carriage, you
might have heard a pin drop.

“I don’t know, Aunt Lavinia,” said Catherine, very softly.  And, with all
his irony, her father believed her.



V


HE learned what he had asked some three or four days later, after Morris
Townsend, with his cousin, had called in Washington Square.  Mrs.
Penniman did not tell her brother, on the drive home, that she had
intimated to this agreeable young man, whose name she did not know, that,
with her niece, she should be very glad to see him; but she was greatly
pleased, and even a little flattered, when, late on a Sunday afternoon,
the two gentlemen made their appearance.  His coming with Arthur Townsend
made it more natural and easy; the latter young man was on the point of
becoming connected with the family, and Mrs. Penniman had remarked to
Catherine that, as he was going to marry Marian, it would be polite in
him to call.  These events came to pass late in the autumn, and Catherine
and her aunt had been sitting together in the closing dusk, by the
firelight, in the high back parlour.

Arthur Townsend fell to Catherine’s portion, while his companion placed
himself on the sofa, beside Mrs. Penniman.  Catherine had hitherto not
been a harsh critic; she was easy to please—she liked to talk with young
men.  But Marian’s betrothed, this evening, made her feel vaguely
fastidious; he sat looking at the fire and rubbing his knees with his
hands.  As for Catherine, she scarcely even pretended to keep up the
conversation; her attention had fixed itself on the other side of the
room; she was listening to what went on between the other Mr. Townsend
and her aunt.  Every now and then he looked over at Catherine herself and
smiled, as if to show that what he said was for her benefit too.
Catherine would have liked to change her place, to go and sit near them,
where she might see and hear him better.  But she was afraid of seeming
bold—of looking eager; and, besides, it would not have been polite to
Marian’s little suitor.  She wondered why the other gentleman had picked
out her aunt—how he came to have so much to say to Mrs. Penniman, to
whom, usually, young men were not especially devoted.  She was not at all
jealous of Aunt Lavinia, but she was a little envious, and above all she
wondered; for Morris Townsend was an object on which she found that her
imagination could exercise itself indefinitely.  His cousin had been
describing a house that he had taken in view of his union with Marian,
and the domestic conveniences he meant to introduce into it; how Marian
wanted a larger one, and Mrs. Almond recommended a smaller one, and how
he himself was convinced that he had got the neatest house in New York.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said; “it’s only for three or four years.  At the
end of three or four years we’ll move.  That’s the way to live in New
York—to move every three or four years.  Then you always get the last
thing.  It’s because the city’s growing so quick—you’ve got to keep up
with it.  It’s going straight up town—that’s where New York’s going.  If
I wasn’t afraid Marian would be lonely, I’d go up there—right up to the
top—and wait for it.  Only have to wait ten years—they’d all come up
after you.  But Marian says she wants some neighbours—she doesn’t want to
be a pioneer.  She says that if she’s got to be the first settler she had
better go out to Minnesota.  I guess we’ll move up little by little; when
we get tired of one street we’ll go higher.  So you see we’ll always have
a new house; it’s a great advantage to have a new house; you get all the
latest improvements.  They invent everything all over again about every
five years, and it’s a great thing to keep up with the new things.  I
always try and keep up with the new things of every kind.  Don’t you
think that’s a good motto for a young couple—to keep ‘going higher’?
That’s the name of that piece of poetry—what do they call
it?—_Excelsior_!”

Catherine bestowed on her junior visitor only just enough attention to
feel that this was not the way Mr. Morris Townsend had talked the other
night, or that he was talking now to her fortunate aunt.  But suddenly
his aspiring kinsman became more interesting.  He seemed to have become
conscious that she was affected by his companion’s presence, and he
thought it proper to explain it.

“My cousin asked me to bring him, or I shouldn’t have taken the liberty.
He seemed to want very much to come; you know he’s awfully sociable.  I
told him I wanted to ask you first, but he said Mrs. Penniman had invited
him.  He isn’t particular what he says when he wants to come somewhere!
But Mrs. Penniman seems to think it’s all right.”

“We are very glad to see him,” said Catherine.  And she wished to talk
more about him; but she hardly knew what to say.  “I never saw him
before,” she went on presently.

Arthur Townsend stared.

“Why, he told me he talked with you for over half an hour the other
night.”

“I mean before the other night.  That was the first time.”

“Oh, he has been away from New York—he has been all round the world.  He
doesn’t know many people here, but he’s very sociable, and he wants to
know every one.”

“Every one?” said Catherine.

“Well, I mean all the good ones.  All the pretty young ladies—like Mrs.
Penniman!” and Arthur Townsend gave a private laugh.

“My aunt likes him very much,” said Catherine.

“Most people like him—he’s so brilliant.”

“He’s more like a foreigner,” Catherine suggested.

“Well, I never knew a foreigner!” said young Townsend, in a tone which
seemed to indicate that his ignorance had been optional.

“Neither have I,” Catherine confessed, with more humility.  “They say
they are generally brilliant,” she added vaguely.

“Well, the people of this city are clever enough for me.  I know some of
them that think they are too clever for me; but they ain’t!”

“I suppose you can’t be too clever,” said Catherine, still with humility.

“I don’t know.  I know some people that call my cousin too clever.”

Catherine listened to this statement with extreme interest, and a feeling
that if Morris Townsend had a fault it would naturally be that one.  But
she did not commit herself, and in a moment she asked: “Now that he has
come back, will he stay here always?”

“Ah,” said Arthur, “if he can get something to do.”

“Something to do?”

“Some place or other; some business.”

“Hasn’t he got any?” said Catherine, who had never heard of a young
man—of the upper class—in this situation.

“No; he’s looking round.  But he can’t find anything.”

“I am very sorry,” Catherine permitted herself to observe.

“Oh, he doesn’t mind,” said young Townsend.  “He takes it easy—he isn’t
in a hurry.  He is very particular.”

Catherine thought he naturally would be, and gave herself up for some
moments to the contemplation of this idea, in several of its bearings.

“Won’t his father take him into his business—his office?” she at last
inquired.

“He hasn’t got any father—he has only got a sister.  Your sister can’t
help you much.”

It seemed to Catherine that if she were his sister she would disprove
this axiom.  “Is she—is she pleasant?” she asked in a moment.

“I don’t know—I believe she’s very respectable,” said young Townsend.
And then he looked across to his cousin and began to laugh.  “Look here,
we are talking about you,” he added.

Morris Townsend paused in his conversation with Mrs. Penniman, and
stared, with a little smile.  Then he got up, as if he were going.

“As far as you are concerned, I can’t return the compliment,” he said to
Catherine’s companion.  “But as regards Miss Sloper, it’s another
affair.”

Catherine thought this little speech wonderfully well turned; but she was
embarrassed by it, and she also got up.  Morris Townsend stood looking at
her and smiling; he put out his hand for farewell.  He was going, without
having said anything to her; but even on these terms she was glad to have
seen him.

“I will tell her what you have said—when you go!” said Mrs. Penniman,
with an insinuating laugh.

Catherine blushed, for she felt almost as if they were making sport of
her.  What in the world could this beautiful young man have said?  He
looked at her still, in spite of her blush; but very kindly and
respectfully.

“I have had no talk with you,” he said, “and that was what I came for.
But it will be a good reason for coming another time; a little pretext—if
I am obliged to give one.  I am not afraid of what your aunt will say
when I go.”

With this the two young men took their departure; after which Catherine,
with her blush still lingering, directed a serious and interrogative eye
to Mrs. Penniman.  She was incapable of elaborate artifice, and she
resorted to no jocular device—to no affectation of the belief that she
had been maligned—to learn what she desired.

“What did you say you would tell me?” she asked.

Mrs. Penniman came up to her, smiling and nodding a little, looked at her
all over, and gave a twist to the knot of ribbon in her neck.  “It’s a
great secret, my dear child; but he is coming a-courting!”

Catherine was serious still.  “Is that what he told you!”

“He didn’t say so exactly.  But he left me to guess it.  I’m a good
guesser.”

“Do you mean a-courting me?”

“Not me, certainly, miss; though I must say he is a hundred times more
polite to a person who has no longer extreme youth to recommend her than
most of the young men.  He is thinking of some one else.”  And Mrs.
Penniman gave her niece a delicate little kiss.  “You must be very
gracious to him.”

Catherine stared—she was bewildered.  “I don’t understand you,” she said;
“he doesn’t know me.”

“Oh yes, he does; more than you think.  I have told him all about you.”

“Oh, Aunt Penniman!” murmured Catherine, as if this had been a breach of
trust.  “He is a perfect stranger—we don’t know him.”  There was
infinite, modesty in the poor girl’s “we.”

Aunt Penniman, however, took no account of it; she spoke even with a
touch of acrimony.  “My dear Catherine, you know very well that you
admire him!”

“Oh, Aunt Penniman!” Catherine could only murmur again.  It might very
well be that she admired him—though this did not seem to her a thing to
talk about.  But that this brilliant stranger—this sudden apparition, who
had barely heard the sound of her voice—took that sort of interest in her
that was expressed by the romantic phrase of which Mrs. Penniman had just
made use: this could only be a figment of the restless brain of Aunt
Lavinia, whom every one knew to be a woman of powerful imagination.



VI


MRS. PENNIMAN even took for granted at times that other people had as
much imagination as herself; so that when, half an hour later, her
brother came in, she addressed him quite on this principle.

“He has just been here, Austin; it’s such a pity you missed him.”

“Whom in the world have I missed?” asked the Doctor.

“Mr. Morris Townsend; he has made us such a delightful visit.”

“And who in the world is Mr. Morris Townsend?”

“Aunt Penniman means the gentleman—the gentleman whose name I couldn’t
remember,” said Catherine.

“The gentleman at Elizabeth’s party who was so struck with Catherine,”
Mrs. Penniman added.

“Oh, his name is Morris Townsend, is it?  And did he come here to propose
to you?”

“Oh, father,” murmured the girl for all answer, turning away to the
window, where the dusk had deepened to darkness.

“I hope he won’t do that without your permission,” said Mrs. Penniman,
very graciously.

“After all, my dear, he seems to have yours,” her brother answered.

Lavinia simpered, as if this might not be quite enough, and Catherine,
with her forehead touching the window-panes, listened to this exchange of
epigrams as reservedly as if they had not each been a pin-prick in her
own destiny.

“The next time he comes,” the Doctor added, “you had better call me.  He
might like to see me.”

Morris Townsend came again, some five days afterwards; but Dr. Sloper was
not called, as he was absent from home at the time.  Catherine was with
her aunt when the young man’s name was brought in, and Mrs. Penniman,
effacing herself and protesting, made a great point of her niece’s going
into the drawing-room alone.

“This time it’s for you—for you only,” she said.  “Before, when he talked
to me, it was only preliminary—it was to gain my confidence.  Literally,
my dear, I should not have the _courage_ to show myself to-day.”

And this was perfectly true.  Mrs. Penniman was not a brave woman, and
Morris Townsend had struck her as a young man of great force of
character, and of remarkable powers of satire; a keen, resolute,
brilliant nature, with which one must exercise a great deal of tact.  She
said to herself that he was “imperious,” and she liked the word and the
idea.  She was not the least jealous of her niece, and she had been
perfectly happy with Mr. Penniman, but in the bottom of her heart she
permitted herself the observation: “That’s the sort of husband I should
have had!”  He was certainly much more imperious—she ended by calling it
imperial—than Mr. Penniman.

So Catherine saw Mr. Townsend alone, and her aunt did not come in even at
the end of the visit.  The visit was a long one; he sat there—in the
front parlour, in the biggest armchair—for more than an hour.  He seemed
more at home this time—more familiar; lounging a little in the chair,
slapping a cushion that was near him with his stick, and looking round
the room a good deal, and at the objects it contained, as well as at
Catherine; whom, however, he also contemplated freely.  There was a smile
of respectful devotion in his handsome eyes which seemed to Catherine
almost solemnly beautiful; it made her think of a young knight in a poem.
His talk, however, was not particularly knightly; it was light and easy
and friendly; it took a practical turn, and he asked a number of
questions about herself—what were her tastes—if she liked this and
that—what were her habits.  He said to her, with his charming smile,
“Tell me about yourself; give me a little sketch.”  Catherine had very
little to tell, and she had no talent for sketching; but before he went
she had confided to him that she had a secret passion for the theatre,
which had been but scantily gratified, and a taste for operatic
music—that of Bellini and Donizetti, in especial (it must be remembered
in extenuation of this primitive young woman that she held these opinions
in an age of general darkness)—which she rarely had an occasion to hear,
except on the hand-organ.  She confessed that she was not particularly
fond of literature.  Morris Townsend agreed with her that books were
tiresome things; only, as he said, you had to read a good many before you
found it out.  He had been to places that people had written books about,
and they were not a bit like the descriptions.  To see for yourself—that
was the great thing; he always tried to see for himself.  He had seen all
the principal actors—he had been to all the best theatres in London and
Paris.  But the actors were always like the authors—they always
exaggerated.  He liked everything to be natural.  Suddenly he stopped,
looking at Catherine with his smile.

“That’s what I like you for; you are so natural!  Excuse me,” he added;
“you see I am natural myself!”

And before she had time to think whether she excused him or not—which
afterwards, at leisure, she became conscious that she did—he began to
talk about music, and to say that it was his greatest pleasure in life.
He had heard all the great singers in Paris and London—Pasta and Rubini
and Lablache—and when you had done that, you could say that you knew what
singing was.

“I sing a little myself,” he said; “some day I will show you.  Not
to-day, but some other time.”

And then he got up to go; he had omitted, by accident, to say that he
would sing to her if she would play to him.  He thought of this after he
got into the street; but he might have spared his compunction, for
Catherine had not noticed the lapse.  She was thinking only that “some
other time” had a delightful sound; it seemed to spread itself over the
future.

This was all the more reason, however, though she was ashamed and
uncomfortable, why she should tell her father that Mr. Morris Townsend
had called again.  She announced the fact abruptly, almost violently, as
soon as the Doctor came into the house; and having done so—it was her
duty—she took measures to leave the room.  But she could not leave it
fast enough; her father stopped her just as she reached the door.

“Well, my dear, did he propose to you to-day?” the Doctor asked.

This was just what she had been afraid he would say; and yet she had no
answer ready.  Of course she would have liked to take it as a joke—as her
father must have meant it; and yet she would have liked, also, in denying
it, to be a little positive, a little sharp; so that he would perhaps not
ask the question again.  She didn’t like it—it made her unhappy.  But
Catherine could never be sharp; and for a moment she only stood, with her
hand on the door-knob, looking at her satiric parent, and giving a little
laugh.

“Decidedly,” said the Doctor to himself, “my daughter is not brilliant.”

But he had no sooner made this reflexion than Catherine found something;
she had decided, on the whole, to take the thing as a joke.

“Perhaps he will do it the next time!” she exclaimed, with a repetition
of her laugh.  And she quickly got out of the room.

The Doctor stood staring; he wondered whether his daughter were serious.
Catherine went straight to her own room, and by the time she reached it
she bethought herself that there was something else—something better—she
might have said.  She almost wished, now, that her father would ask his
question again, so that she might reply: “Oh yes, Mr. Morris Townsend
proposed to me, and I refused him!”

The Doctor, however, began to put his questions elsewhere; it naturally
having occurred to him that he ought to inform himself properly about
this handsome young man who had formed the habit of running in and out of
his house.  He addressed himself to the younger of his sisters, Mrs.
Almond—not going to her for the purpose; there was no such hurry as
that—but having made a note of the matter for the first opportunity.  The
Doctor was never eager, never impatient nor nervous; but he made notes of
everything, and he regularly consulted his notes.  Among them the
information he obtained from Mrs. Almond about Morris Townsend took its
place.

“Lavinia has already been to ask me,” she said.  “Lavinia is most
excited; I don’t understand it.  It’s not, after all, Lavinia that the
young man is supposed to have designs upon.  She is very peculiar.”

“Ah, my dear,” the Doctor replied, “she has not lived with me these
twelve years without my finding it out!”

“She has got such an artificial mind,” said Mrs. Almond, who always
enjoyed an opportunity to discuss Lavinia’s peculiarities with her
brother.  “She didn’t want me to tell you that she had asked me about Mr.
Townsend; but I told her I would.  She always wants to conceal
everything.”

“And yet at moments no one blurts things out with such crudity.  She is
like a revolving lighthouse; pitch darkness alternating with a dazzling
brilliancy!  But what did you tell her?” the Doctor asked.

“What I tell you; that I know very little of him.”

“Lavinia must have been disappointed at that,” said the Doctor; “she
would prefer him to have been guilty of some romantic crime.  However, we
must make the best of people.  They tell me our gentleman is the cousin
of the little boy to whom you are about to entrust the future of your
little girl.”

“Arthur is not a little boy; he is a very old man; you and I will never
be so old.  He is a distant relation of Lavinia’s _protégé_.  The name is
the same, but I am given to understand that there are Townsends and
Townsends.  So Arthur’s mother tells me; she talked about
‘branches’—younger branches, elder branches, inferior branches—as if it
were a royal house.  Arthur, it appears, is of the reigning line, but
poor Lavinia’s young man is not.  Beyond this, Arthur’s mother knows very
little about him; she has only a vague story that he has been ‘wild.’
But I know his sister a little, and she is a very nice woman.  Her name
is Mrs. Montgomery; she is a widow, with a little property and five
children.  She lives in the Second Avenue.”

“What does Mrs. Montgomery say about him?”

“That he has talents by which he might distinguish himself.”

“Only he is lazy, eh?”

“She doesn’t say so.”

“That’s family pride,” said the Doctor.  “What is his profession?”

“He hasn’t got any; he is looking for something.  I believe he was once
in the Navy.”

“Once?  What is his age?”

“I suppose he is upwards of thirty.  He must have gone into the Navy very
young.  I think Arthur told me that he inherited a small property—which
was perhaps the cause of his leaving the Navy—and that he spent it all in
a few years.  He travelled all over the world, lived abroad, amused
himself.  I believe it was a kind of system, a theory he had.  He has
lately come back to America, with the intention, as he tells Arthur, of
beginning life in earnest.”

“Is he in earnest about Catherine, then?”

“I don’t see why you should be incredulous,” said Mrs. Almond.  “It seems
to me that you have never done Catherine justice.  You must remember that
she has the prospect of thirty thousand a year.”

The Doctor looked at his sister a moment, and then, with the slightest
touch of bitterness: “You at least appreciate her,” he said.

Mrs. Almond blushed.

“I don’t mean that is her only merit; I simply mean that it is a great
one.  A great many young men think so; and you appear to me never to have
been properly aware of that.  You have always had a little way of
alluding to her as an unmarriageable girl.”

“My allusions are as kind as yours, Elizabeth,” said the Doctor frankly.
“How many suitors has Catherine had, with all her expectations—how much
attention has she ever received?  Catherine is not unmarriageable, but
she is absolutely unattractive.  What other reason is there for Lavinia
being so charmed with the idea that there is a lover in the house?  There
has never been one before, and Lavinia, with her sensitive, sympathetic
nature, is not used to the idea.  It affects her imagination.  I must do
the young men of New York the justice to say that they strike me as very
disinterested.  They prefer pretty girls—lively girls—girls like your
own.  Catherine is neither pretty nor lively.”

“Catherine does very well; she has a style of her own—which is more than
my poor Marian has, who has no style at all,” said Mrs. Almond.  “The
reason Catherine has received so little attention is that she seems to
all the young men to be older than themselves.  She is so large, and she
dresses—so richly.  They are rather afraid of her, I think; she looks as
if she had been married already, and you know they don’t like married
women.  And if our young men appear disinterested,” the Doctor’s wiser
sister went on, “it is because they marry, as a general thing, so young;
before twenty-five, at the age of innocence and sincerity, before the age
of calculation.  If they only waited a little, Catherine would fare
better.”

“As a calculation?  Thank you very much,” said the Doctor.

“Wait till some intelligent man of forty comes along, and he will be
delighted with Catherine,” Mrs. Almond continued.

“Mr. Townsend is not old enough, then; his motives may be pure.”

“It is very possible that his motives are pure; I should be very sorry to
take the contrary for granted.  Lavinia is sure of it, and, as he is a
very prepossessing youth, you might give him the benefit of the doubt.”

Dr. Sloper reflected a moment.

“What are his present means of subsistence?”

“I have no idea.  He lives, as I say, with his sister.”

“A widow, with five children?  Do you mean he lives _upon_ her?”

Mrs. Almond got up, and with a certain impatience: “Had you not better
ask Mrs. Montgomery herself?” she inquired.

“Perhaps I may come to that,” said the Doctor.  “Did you say the Second
Avenue?”  He made a note of the Second Avenue.



VII


HE was, however, by no means so much in earnest as this might seem to
indicate; and, indeed, he was more than anything else amused with the
whole situation.  He was not in the least in a state of tension or of
vigilance with regard to Catherine’s prospects he was even on his guard
against the ridicule that might attach itself to the spectacle of a house
thrown into agitation by its daughter and heiress receiving attentions
unprecedented in its annals.  More than this, he went so far as to
promise himself some entertainment from the little drama—if drama it
was—of which Mrs. Penniman desired to represent the ingenious Mr.
Townsend as the hero.  He had no intention, as yet, of regulating the
_dénouement_.  He was perfectly willing, as Elizabeth had suggested, to
give the young man the benefit of every doubt.  There was no great danger
in it; for Catherine, at the age of twenty-two, was, after all, a rather
mature blossom, such as could be plucked from the stem only by a vigorous
jerk.  The fact that Morris Townsend was poor—was not of necessity
against him; the Doctor had never made up his mind that his daughter
should marry a rich man.  The fortune she would inherit struck him as a
very sufficient provision for two reasonable persons, and if a penniless
swain who could give a good account of himself should enter the lists, he
should be judged quite upon his personal merits.  There were other things
besides.  The Doctor thought it very vulgar to be precipitate in accusing
people of mercenary motives, inasmuch as his door had as yet not been in
the least besieged by fortune-hunters; and, lastly, he was very curious
to see whether Catherine might really be loved for her moral worth.  He
smiled as he reflected that poor Mr. Townsend had been only twice to the
house, and he said to Mrs. Penniman that the next time he should come she
must ask him to dinner.

He came very soon again, and Mrs. Penniman had of course great pleasure
in executing this mission.  Morris Townsend accepted her invitation with
equal good grace, and the dinner took place a few days later.  The Doctor
had said to himself, justly enough, that they must not have the young man
alone; this would partake too much of the nature of encouragement.  So
two or three other persons were invited; but Morris Townsend, though he
was by no means the ostensible, was the real, occasion of the feast.
There is every reason to suppose that he desired to make a good
impression; and if he fell short of this result, it was not for want of a
good deal of intelligent effort.  The Doctor talked to him very little
during dinner; but he observed him attentively, and after the ladies had
gone out he pushed him the wine and asked him several questions.  Morris
was not a young man who needed to be pressed, and he found quite enough
encouragement in the superior quality of the claret.  The Doctor’s wine
was admirable, and it may be communicated to the reader that while he
sipped it Morris reflected that a cellar-full of good liquor—there was
evidently a cellar-full here—would be a most attractive idiosyncrasy in a
father-in-law.  The Doctor was struck with his appreciative guest; he saw
that he was not a commonplace young man.  “He has ability,” said
Catherine’s father, “decided ability; he has a very good head if he
chooses to use it.  And he is uncommonly well turned out; quite the sort
of figure that pleases the ladies.  But I don’t think I like him.”  The
Doctor, however, kept his reflexions to himself, and talked to his
visitors about foreign lands, concerning which Morris offered him more
information than he was ready, as he mentally phrased it, to swallow.
Dr. Sloper had travelled but little, and he took the liberty of not
believing everything this anecdotical idler narrated.  He prided himself
on being something of a physiognomist, and while the young man, chatting
with easy assurance, puffed his cigar and filled his glass again, the
Doctor sat with his eyes quietly fixed on his bright, expressive face.
“He has the assurance of the devil himself,” said Morris’s host; “I don’t
think I ever saw such assurance.  And his powers of invention are most
remarkable.  He is very knowing; they were not so knowing as that in my
time.  And a good head, did I say?  I should think so—after a bottle of
Madeira and a bottle and a half of claret!”

After dinner Morris Townsend went and stood before Catherine, who was
standing before the fire in her red satin gown.

“He doesn’t like me—he doesn’t like me at all!” said the young man.

“Who doesn’t like you?” asked Catherine.

“Your father; extraordinary man!”

“I don’t see how you know,” said Catherine, blushing.

“I feel; I am very quick to feel.”

“Perhaps you are mistaken.”

“Ah, well; you ask him and you will see.”

“I would rather not ask him, if there is any danger of his saying what
you think.”

Morris looked at her with an air of mock melancholy.

“It wouldn’t give you any pleasure to contradict him?”

“I never contradict him,” said Catherine.

“Will you hear me abused without opening your lips in my defence?”

“My father won’t abuse you.  He doesn’t know you enough.”

Morris Townsend gave a loud laugh, and Catherine began to blush again.

“I shall never mention you,” she said, to take refuge from her confusion.

“That is very well; but it is not quite what I should have liked you to
say.  I should have liked you to say: ‘If my father doesn’t think well of
you, what does it matter?’”

“Ah, but it would matter; I couldn’t say that!” the girl exclaimed.

He looked at her for a moment, smiling a little; and the Doctor, if he
had been watching him just then, would have seen a gleam of fine
impatience in the sociable softness of his eye.  But there was no
impatience in his rejoinder—none, at least, save what was expressed in a
little appealing sigh.  “Ah, well, then, I must not give up the hope of
bringing him round!”

He expressed it more frankly to Mrs. Penniman later in the evening.  But
before that he sang two or three songs at Catherine’s timid request; not
that he flattered himself that this would help to bring her father round.
He had a sweet, light tenor voice, and when he had finished every one
made some exclamation—every one, that is, save Catherine, who remained
intensely silent.  Mrs. Penniman declared that his manner of singing was
“most artistic,” and Dr. Sloper said it was “very taking—very taking
indeed”; speaking loudly and distinctly, but with a certain dryness.

“He doesn’t like me—he doesn’t like me at all,” said Morris Townsend,
addressing the aunt in the same manner as he had done the niece.  “He
thinks I’m all wrong.”

Unlike her niece, Mrs. Penniman asked for no explanation.  She only
smiled very sweetly, as if she understood everything; and, unlike
Catherine too, she made no attempt to contradict him.  “Pray, what does
it matter?” she murmured softly.

“Ah, you say the right thing!” said Morris, greatly to the gratification
of Mrs. Penniman, who prided herself on always saying the right thing.

The Doctor, the next time he saw his sister Elizabeth, let her know that
he had made the acquaintance of Lavinia’s _protégé_.

“Physically,” he said, “he’s uncommonly well set up.  As an anatomist, it
is really a pleasure to me to see such a beautiful structure; although,
if people were all like him, I suppose there would be very little need
for doctors.”

“Don’t you see anything in people but their bones?” Mrs. Almond rejoined.
“What do you think of him as a father?”

“As a father?  Thank Heaven I am not his father!”

“No; but you are Catherine’s.  Lavinia tells me she is in love.”

“She must get over it.  He is not a gentleman.”

“Ah, take care!  Remember that he is a branch of the Townsends.”

“He is not what I call a gentleman.  He has not the soul of one.  He is
extremely insinuating; but it’s a vulgar nature.  I saw through it in a
minute.  He is altogether too familiar—I hate familiarity.  He is a
plausible coxcomb.”

“Ah, well,” said Mrs. Almond; “if you make up your mind so easily, it’s a
great advantage.”

“I don’t make up my mind easily.  What I tell you is the result of thirty
years of observation; and in order to be able to form that judgement in a
single evening, I have had to spend a lifetime in study.”

“Very possibly you are right.  But the thing is for Catherine to see it.”

“I will present her with a pair of spectacles!” said the Doctor.



VIII


IF it were true that she was in love, she was certainly very quiet about
it; but the Doctor was of course prepared to admit that her quietness
might mean volumes.  She had told Morris Townsend that she would not
mention him to her father, and she saw no reason to retract this vow of
discretion.  It was no more than decently civil, of course, that after
having dined in Washington Square, Morris should call there again; and it
was no more than natural that, having been kindly received on this
occasion, he should continue to present himself.  He had had plenty of
leisure on his hands; and thirty years ago, in New York, a young man of
leisure had reason to be thankful for aids to self-oblivion.  Catherine
said nothing to her father about these visits, though they had rapidly
become the most important, the most absorbing thing in her life.  The
girl was very happy.  She knew not as yet what would come of it; but the
present had suddenly grown rich and solemn.  If she had been told she was
in love, she would have been a good deal surprised; for she had an idea
that love was an eager and exacting passion, and her own heart was filled
in these days with the impulse of self-effacement and sacrifice.
Whenever Morris Townsend had left the house, her imagination projected
itself, with all its strength, into the idea of his soon coming back; but
if she had been told at such a moment that he would not return for a
year, or even that he would never return, she would not have complained
nor rebelled, but would have humbly accepted the decree, and sought for
consolation in thinking over the times she had already seen him, the
words he had spoken, the sound of his voice, of his tread, the expression
of his face.  Love demands certain things as a right; but Catherine had
no sense of her rights; she had only a consciousness of immense and
unexpected favours.  Her very gratitude for these things had hushed
itself; for it seemed to her that there would be something of impudence
in making a festival of her secret.  Her father suspected Morris
Townsend’s visits, and noted her reserve.  She seemed to beg pardon for
it; she looked at him constantly in silence, as if she meant to say that
she said nothing because she was afraid of irritating him.  But the poor
girl’s dumb eloquence irritated him more than anything else would have
done, and he caught himself murmuring more than once that it was a
grievous pity his only child was a simpleton.  His murmurs, however, were
inaudible; and for a while he said nothing to any one.  He would have
liked to know exactly how often young Townsend came; but he had
determined to ask no questions of the girl herself—to say nothing more to
her that would show that he watched her.  The Doctor had a great idea of
being largely just: he wished to leave his daughter her liberty, and
interfere only when the danger should be proved.  It was not in his
manner to obtain information by indirect methods, and it never even
occurred to him to question the servants.  As for Lavinia, he hated to
talk to her about the matter; she annoyed him with her mock romanticism.
But he had to come to this.  Mrs. Penniman’s convictions as regards the
relations of her niece and the clever young visitor who saved appearances
by coming ostensibly for both the ladies—Mrs. Penniman’s convictions had
passed into a riper and richer phase.  There was to be no crudity in Mrs.
Penniman’s treatment of the situation; she had become as uncommunicative
as Catherine herself.  She was tasting of the sweets of concealment; she
had taken up the line of mystery.  “She would be enchanted to be able to
prove to herself that she is persecuted,” said the Doctor; and when at
last he questioned her, he was sure she would contrive to extract from
his words a pretext for this belief.

“Be so good as to let me know what is going on in the house,” he said to
her, in a tone which, under the circumstances, he himself deemed genial.

“Going on, Austin?” Mrs. Penniman exclaimed.  “Why, I am sure I don’t
know!  I believe that last night the old grey cat had kittens!”

“At her age?” said the Doctor.  “The idea is startling—almost shocking.
Be so good as to see that they are all drowned.  But what else has
happened?”

“Ah, the dear little kittens!” cried Mrs. Penniman.  “I wouldn’t have
them drowned for the world!”

Her brother puffed his cigar a few moments in silence.  “Your sympathy
with kittens, Lavinia,” he presently resumed, “arises from a feline
element in your own character.”

“Cats are very graceful, and very clean,” said Mrs. Penniman, smiling.

“And very stealthy.  You are the embodiment both of grace and of
neatness; but you are wanting in frankness.”

“You certainly are not, dear brother.”

“I don’t pretend to be graceful, though I try to be neat.  Why haven’t
you let me know that Mr. Morris Townsend is coming to the house four
times a week?”

Mrs. Penniman lifted her eyebrows.  “Four times a week?”

“Five times, if you prefer it.  I am away all day, and I see nothing.
But when such things happen, you should let me know.”

Mrs. Penniman, with her eyebrows still raised, reflected intently.  “Dear
Austin,” she said at last, “I am incapable of betraying a confidence.  I
would rather suffer anything.”

“Never fear; you shall not suffer.  To whose confidence is it you allude?
Has Catherine made you take a vow of eternal secrecy?”

“By no means.  Catherine has not told me as much as she might.  She has
not been very trustful.”

“It is the young man, then, who has made you his confidante?  Allow me to
say that it is extremely indiscreet of you to form secret alliances with
young men.  You don’t know where they may lead you.”

“I don’t know what you mean by an alliance,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “I take
a great interest in Mr. Townsend; I won’t conceal that.  But that’s all.”

“Under the circumstances, that is quite enough.  What is the source of
your interest in Mr. Townsend?”

“Why,” said Mrs. Penniman, musing, and then breaking into her smile,
“that he is so interesting!”

The Doctor felt that he had need of his patience.  “And what makes him
interesting?—his good looks?”

“His misfortunes, Austin.”

“Ah, he has had misfortunes?  That, of course, is always interesting.
Are you at liberty to mention a few of Mr. Townsend’s?”

“I don’t know that he would like it,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “He has told
me a great deal about himself—he has told me, in fact, his whole history.
But I don’t think I ought to repeat those things.  He would tell them to
you, I am sure, if he thought you would listen to him kindly.  With
kindness you may do anything with him.”

The Doctor gave a laugh.  “I shall request him very kindly, then, to
leave Catherine alone.”

“Ah!” said Mrs. Penniman, shaking her forefinger at her brother, with her
little finger turned out, “Catherine had probably said something to him
kinder than that.”

“Said that she loved him?  Do you mean that?”

Mrs. Penniman fixed her eyes on the floor.  “As I tell you, Austin, she
doesn’t confide in me.”

“You have an opinion, I suppose, all the same.  It is that I ask you for;
though I don’t conceal from you that I shall not regard it as
conclusive.”

Mrs. Penniman’s gaze continued to rest on the carpet; but at last she
lifted it, and then her brother thought it very expressive.  “I think
Catherine is very happy; that is all I can say.”

“Townsend is trying to marry her—is that what you mean?”

“He is greatly interested in her.”

“He finds her such an attractive girl?”

“Catherine has a lovely nature, Austin,” said Mrs. Penniman, “and Mr.
Townsend has had the intelligence to discover that.”

“With a little help from you, I suppose.  My dear Lavinia,” cried the
Doctor, “you are an admirable aunt!”

“So Mr. Townsend says,” observed Lavinia, smiling.

“Do you think he is sincere?” asked her brother.

“In saying that?”

“No; that’s of course.  But in his admiration for Catherine?”

“Deeply sincere.  He has said to me the most appreciative, the most
charming things about her.  He would say them to you, if he were sure you
would listen to him—gently.”

“I doubt whether I can undertake it.  He appears to require a great deal
of gentleness.”

“He is a sympathetic, sensitive nature,” said Mrs. Penniman.

Her brother puffed his cigar again in silence.  “These delicate qualities
have survived his vicissitudes, eh?  All this while you haven’t told me
about his misfortunes.”

“It is a long story,” said Mrs. Penniman, “and I regard it as a sacred
trust.  But I suppose there is no objection to my saying that he has been
wild—he frankly confesses that.  But he has paid for it.”

“That’s what has impoverished him, eh?”

“I don’t mean simply in money.  He is very much alone in the world.”

“Do you mean that he has behaved so badly that his friends have given him
up?”

“He has had false friends, who have deceived and betrayed him.”

“He seems to have some good ones too.  He has a devoted sister, and
half-a-dozen nephews and nieces.”

Mrs. Penniman was silent a minute.  “The nephews and nieces are children,
and the sister is not a very attractive person.”

“I hope he doesn’t abuse her to you,” said the Doctor; “for I am told he
lives upon her.”

“Lives upon her?”

“Lives with her, and does nothing for himself; it is about the same
thing.”

“He is looking for a position—most earnestly,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “He
hopes every day to find one.”

“Precisely.  He is looking for it here—over there in the front parlour.
The position of husband of a weak-minded woman with a large fortune would
suit him to perfection!”

Mrs. Penniman was truly amiable, but she now gave signs of temper.  She
rose with much animation, and stood for a moment looking at her brother.
“My dear Austin,” she remarked, “if you regard Catherine as a weak-minded
woman, you are particularly mistaken!”  And with this she moved
majestically away.



IX


IT was a regular custom with the family in Washington Square to go and
spend Sunday evening at Mrs. Almond’s.  On the Sunday after the
conversation I have just narrated, this custom was not intermitted and on
this occasion, towards the middle of the evening, Dr. Sloper found reason
to withdraw to the library, with his brother-in-law, to talk over a
matter of business.  He was absent some twenty minutes, and when he came
back into the circle, which was enlivened by the presence of several
friends of the family, he saw that Morris Townsend had come in and had
lost as little time as possible in seating himself on a small sofa,
beside Catherine.  In the large room, where several different groups had
been formed, and the hum of voices and of laughter was loud, these two
young persons might confabulate, as the Doctor phrased it to himself,
without attracting attention.  He saw in a moment, however, that his
daughter was painfully conscious of his own observation.  She sat
motionless, with her eyes bent down, staring at her open fan, deeply
flushed, shrinking together as if to minimise the indiscretion of which
she confessed herself guilty.

The Doctor almost pitied her.  Poor Catherine was not defiant; she had no
genius for bravado; and as she felt that her father viewed her
companion’s attentions with an unsympathising eye, there was nothing but
discomfort for her in the accident of seeming to challenge him.  The
Doctor felt, indeed, so sorry for her that he turned away, to spare her
the sense of being watched; and he was so intelligent a man that, in his
thoughts, he rendered a sort of poetic justice to her situation.

“It must be deucedly pleasant for a plain inanimate girl like that to
have a beautiful young fellow come and sit down beside her and whisper to
her that he is her slave—if that is what this one whispers.  No wonder
she likes it, and that she thinks me a cruel tyrant; which of course she
does, though she is afraid—she hasn’t the animation necessary—to admit it
to herself.  Poor old Catherine!” mused the Doctor; “I verily believe she
is capable of defending me when Townsend abuses me!”

And the force of this reflexion, for the moment, was such in making him
feel the natural opposition between his point of view and that of an
infatuated child, that he said to himself that he was perhaps, after all,
taking things too hard and crying out before he was hurt.  He must not
condemn Morris Townsend unheard.  He had a great aversion to taking
things too hard; he thought that half the discomfort and many of the
disappointments of life come from it; and for an instant he asked himself
whether, possibly, he did not appear ridiculous to this intelligent young
man, whose private perception of incongruities he suspected of being
keen.  At the end of a quarter of an hour Catherine had got rid of him,
and Townsend was now standing before the fireplace in conversation with
Mrs. Almond.

“We will try him again,” said the Doctor.  And he crossed the room and
joined his sister and her companion, making her a sign that she should
leave the young man to him.  She presently did so, while Morris looked at
him, smiling, without a sign of evasiveness in his affable eye.

“He’s amazingly conceited!” thought the Doctor; and then he said aloud:
“I am told you are looking out for a position.”

“Oh, a position is more than I should presume to call it,” Morris
Townsend answered.  “That sounds so fine.  I should like some quiet
work—something to turn an honest penny.”

“What sort of thing should you prefer?”

“Do you mean what am I fit for?  Very little, I am afraid.  I have
nothing but my good right arm, as they say in the melodramas.”

“You are too modest,” said the Doctor.  “In addition to your good right
arm, you have your subtle brain.  I know nothing of you but what I see;
but I see by your physiognomy that you are extremely intelligent.”

“Ah,” Townsend murmured, “I don’t know what to answer when you say that!
You advise me, then, not to despair?”

And he looked at his interlocutor as if the question might have a double
meaning.  The Doctor caught the look and weighed it a moment before he
replied.  “I should be very sorry to admit that a robust and
well-disposed young man need ever despair.  If he doesn’t succeed in one
thing, he can try another.  Only, I should add, he should choose his line
with discretion.”

“Ah, yes, with discretion,” Morris Townsend repeated sympathetically.
“Well, I have been indiscreet, formerly; but I think I have got over it.
I am very steady now.”  And he stood a moment, looking down at his
remarkably neat shoes.  Then at last, “Were you kindly intending to
propose something for my advantage?” he inquired, looking up and smiling.

“Damn his impudence!” the Doctor exclaimed privately.  But in a moment he
reflected that he himself had, after all, touched first upon this
delicate point, and that his words might have been construed as an offer
of assistance.  “I have no particular proposal to make,” he presently
said; “but it occurred to me to let you know that I have you in my mind.
Sometimes one hears of opportunities.  For instance—should you object to
leaving New York—to going to a distance?”

“I am afraid I shouldn’t be able to manage that.  I must seek my fortune
here or nowhere.  You see,” added Morris Townsend, “I have ties—I have
responsibilities here.  I have a sister, a widow, from whom I have been
separated for a long time, and to whom I am almost everything.  I
shouldn’t like to say to her that I must leave her.  She rather depends
upon me, you see.”

“Ah, that’s very proper; family feeling is very proper,” said Dr. Sloper.
“I often think there is not enough of it in our city.  I think I have
heard of your sister.”

“It is possible, but I rather doubt it; she lives so very quietly.”

“As quietly, you mean,” the Doctor went on, with a short laugh, “as a
lady may do who has several young children.”

“Ah, my little nephews and nieces—that’s the very point!  I am helping to
bring them up,” said Morris Townsend.  “I am a kind of amateur tutor; I
give them lessons.”

“That’s very proper, as I say; but it is hardly a career.”

“It won’t make my fortune!” the young man confessed.

“You must not be too much bent on a fortune,” said the Doctor.  “But I
assure you I will keep you in mind; I won’t lose sight of you!”

“If my situation becomes desperate I shall perhaps take the liberty of
reminding you!” Morris rejoined, raising his voice a little, with a
brighter smile, as his interlocutor turned away.

Before he left the house the Doctor had a few words with Mrs. Almond.

“I should like to see his sister,” he said.  “What do you call her?  Mrs.
Montgomery.  I should like to have a little talk with her.”

“I will try and manage it,” Mrs. Almond responded.  “I will take the
first opportunity of inviting her, and you shall come and meet her.
Unless, indeed,” Mrs. Almond added, “she first takes it into her head to
be sick and to send for you.”

“Ah no, not that; she must have trouble enough without that.  But it
would have its advantages, for then I should see the children.  I should
like very much to see the children.”

“You are very thorough.  Do you want to catechise them about their
uncle!”

“Precisely.  Their uncle tells me he has charge of their education, that
he saves their mother the expense of school-bills.  I should like to ask
them a few questions in the commoner branches.”

“He certainly has not the cut of a schoolmaster!” Mrs. Almond said to
herself a short time afterwards, as she saw Morris Townsend in a corner
bending over her niece, who was seated.

And there was, indeed, nothing in the young man’s discourse at this
moment that savoured of the pedagogue.

“Will you meet me somewhere to-morrow or next day?” he said, in a low
tone, to Catherine.

“Meet you?” she asked, lifting her frightened eyes.

“I have something particular to say to you—very particular.”

“Can’t you come to the house?  Can’t you say it there?”

Townsend shook his head gloomily.  “I can’t enter your doors again!”

“Oh, Mr. Townsend!” murmured Catherine.  She trembled as she wondered
what had happened, whether her father had forbidden it.

“I can’t in self-respect,” said the young man.  “Your father has insulted
me.”

“Insulted you!”

“He has taunted me with my poverty.”

“Oh, you are mistaken—you misunderstood him!”  Catherine spoke with
energy, getting up from her chair.

“Perhaps I am too proud—too sensitive.  But would you have me otherwise?”
he asked tenderly.

“Where my father is concerned, you must not be sure.  He is full of
goodness,” said Catherine.

“He laughed at me for having no position!  I took it quietly; but only
because he belongs to you.”

“I don’t know,” said Catherine; “I don’t know what he thinks.  I am sure
he means to be kind.  You must not be too proud.”

“I will be proud only of you,” Morris answered.  “Will you meet me in the
Square in the afternoon?”

A great blush on Catherine’s part had been the answer to the declaration
I have just quoted.  She turned away, heedless of his question.

“Will you meet me?” he repeated.  “It is very quiet there; no one need
see us—toward dusk?”

“It is you who are unkind, it is you who laugh, when you say such things
as that.”

“My dear girl!” the young man murmured.

“You know how little there is in me to be proud of.  I am ugly and
stupid.”

Morris greeted this remark with an ardent murmur, in which she recognised
nothing articulate but an assurance that she was his own dearest.

But she went on.  “I am not even—I am not even—”  And she paused a
moment.

“You are not what?”

“I am not even brave.”

“Ah, then, if you are afraid, what shall we do?”

She hesitated a while; then at last—“You must come to the house,” she
said; “I am not afraid of that.”

“I would rather it were in the Square,” the young man urged.  “You know
how empty it is, often.  No one will see us.”

“I don’t care who sees us!  But leave me now.”

He left her resignedly; he had got what he wanted.  Fortunately he was
ignorant that half an hour later, going home with her father and feeling
him near, the poor girl, in spite of her sudden declaration of courage,
began to tremble again.  Her father said nothing; but she had an idea his
eyes were fixed upon her in the darkness.  Mrs. Penniman also was silent;
Morris Townsend had told her that her niece preferred, unromantically, an
interview in a chintz-covered parlour to a sentimental tryst beside a
fountain sheeted with dead leaves, and she was lost in wonderment at the
oddity—almost the perversity—of the choice.



X


CATHERINE received the young man the next day on the ground she had
chosen—amid the chaste upholstery of a New York drawing-room furnished in
the fashion of fifty years ago.  Morris had swallowed his pride and made
the effort necessary to cross the threshold of her too derisive parent—an
act of magnanimity which could not fail to render him doubly interesting.

“We must settle something—we must take a line,” he declared, passing his
hand through his hair and giving a glance at the long narrow mirror which
adorned the space between the two windows, and which had at its base a
little gilded bracket covered by a thin slab of white marble, supporting
in its turn a backgammon board folded together in the shape of two
volumes, two shining folios inscribed in letters of greenish gilt,
_History of England_.  If Morris had been pleased to describe the master
of the house as a heartless scoffer, it is because he thought him too
much on his guard, and this was the easiest way to express his own
dissatisfaction—a dissatisfaction which he had made a point of concealing
from the Doctor.  It will probably seem to the reader, however, that the
Doctor’s vigilance was by no means excessive, and that these two young
people had an open field.  Their intimacy was now considerable, and it
may appear that for a shrinking and retiring person our heroine had been
liberal of her favours.  The young man, within a few days, had made her
listen to things for which she had not supposed that she was prepared;
having a lively foreboding of difficulties, he proceeded to gain as much
ground as possible in the present.  He remembered that fortune favours
the brave, and even if he had forgotten it, Mrs. Penniman would have
remembered it for him.  Mrs. Penniman delighted of all things in a drama,
and she flattered herself that a drama would now be enacted.  Combining
as she did the zeal of the prompter with the impatience of the spectator,
she had long since done her utmost to pull up the curtain.  She too
expected to figure in the performance—to be the confidante, the Chorus,
to speak the epilogue.  It may even be said that there were times when
she lost sight altogether of the modest heroine of the play, in the
contemplation of certain great passages which would naturally occur
between the hero and herself.

What Morris had told Catherine at last was simply that he loved her, or
rather adored her.  Virtually, he had made known as much already—his
visits had been a series of eloquent intimations of it.  But now he had
affirmed it in lover’s vows, and, as a memorable sign of it, he had
passed his arm round the girl’s waist and taken a kiss.  This happy
certitude had come sooner than Catherine expected, and she had regarded
it, very naturally, as a priceless treasure.  It may even be doubted
whether she had ever definitely expected to possess it; she had not been
waiting for it, and she had never said to herself that at a given moment
it must come.  As I have tried to explain, she was not eager and
exacting; she took what was given her from day to day; and if the
delightful custom of her lover’s visits, which yielded her a happiness in
which confidence and timidity were strangely blended, had suddenly come
to an end, she would not only not have spoken of herself as one of the
forsaken, but she would not have thought of herself as one of the
disappointed.  After Morris had kissed her, the last time he was with
her, as a ripe assurance of his devotion, she begged him to go away, to
leave her alone, to let her think.  Morris went away, taking another kiss
first.  But Catherine’s meditations had lacked a certain coherence.  She
felt his kisses on her lips and on her cheeks for a long time afterwards;
the sensation was rather an obstacle than an aid to reflexion.  She would
have liked to see her situation all clearly before her, to make up her
mind what she should do if, as she feared, her father should tell her
that he disapproved of Morris Townsend.  But all that she could see with
any vividness was that it was terribly strange that anyone should
disapprove of him; that there must in that case be some mistake, some
mystery, which in a little while would be set at rest.  She put off
deciding and choosing; before the vision of a conflict with her father
she dropped her eyes and sat motionless, holding her breath and waiting.
It made her heart beat, it was intensely painful.  When Morris kissed her
and said these things—that also made her heart beat; but this was worse,
and it frightened her.  Nevertheless, to-day, when the young man spoke of
settling something, taking a line, she felt that it was the truth, and
she answered very simply and without hesitating.

“We must do our duty,” she said; “we must speak to my father.  I will do
it to-night; you must do it to-morrow.”

“It is very good of you to do it first,” Morris answered.  “The young
man—the happy lover—generally does that.  But just as you please!”

It pleased Catherine to think that she should be brave for his sake, and
in her satisfaction she even gave a little smile.  “Women have more
tact,” she said “they ought to do it first.  They are more conciliating;
they can persuade better.”

“You will need all your powers of persuasion.  But, after all,” Morris
added, “you are irresistible.”

“Please don’t speak that way—and promise me this.  To-morrow, when you
talk with father, you will be very gentle and respectful.”

“As much so as possible,” Morris promised.  “It won’t be much use, but I
shall try.  I certainly would rather have you easily than have to fight
for you.”

“Don’t talk about fighting; we shall not fight.”

“Ah, we must be prepared,” Morris rejoined; “you especially, because for
you it must come hardest.  Do you know the first thing your father will
say to you?”

“No, Morris; please tell me.”

“He will tell you I am mercenary.”

“Mercenary?”

“It’s a big word; but it means a low thing.  It means that I am after
your money.”

“Oh!” murmured Catherine softly.

The exclamation was so deprecating and touching that Morris indulged in
another little demonstration of affection.  “But he will be sure to say
it,” he added.

“It will be easy to be prepared for that,” Catherine said.  “I shall
simply say that he is mistaken—that other men may be that way, but that
you are not.”

“You must make a great point of that, for it will be his own great
point.”

Catherine looked at her lover a minute, and then she said, “I shall
persuade him.  But I am glad we shall be rich,” she added.

Morris turned away, looking into the crown of his hat.  “No, it’s a
misfortune,” he said at last.  “It is from that our difficulty will
come.”

“Well, if it is the worst misfortune, we are not so unhappy.  Many people
would not think it so bad.  I will persuade him, and after that we shall
be very glad we have money.”

Morris Townsend listened to this robust logic in silence.  “I will leave
my defence to you; it’s a charge that a man has to stoop to defend
himself from.”

Catherine on her side was silent for a while; she was looking at him
while he looked, with a good deal of fixedness, out of the window.
“Morris,” she said abruptly, “are you very sure you love me?”

He turned round, and in a moment he was bending over her.  “My own
dearest, can you doubt it?”

“I have only known it five days,” she said; “but now it seems to me as if
I could never do without it.”

“You will never be called upon to try!”  And he gave a little tender,
reassuring laugh.  Then, in a moment, he added, “There is something you
must tell me, too.”  She had closed her eyes after the last word she
uttered, and kept them closed; and at this she nodded her head, without
opening them.  “You must tell me,” he went on, “that if your father is
dead against me, if he absolutely forbids our marriage, you will still be
faithful.”

Catherine opened her eyes, gazing at him, and she could give no better
promise than what he read there.

“You will cleave to me?” said Morris.  “You know you are your own
mistress—you are of age.”

“Ah, Morris!” she murmured, for all answer.  Or rather not for all; for
she put her hand into his own.  He kept it a while, and presently he
kissed her again.  This is all that need be recorded of their
conversation; but Mrs. Penniman, if she had been present, would probably
have admitted that it was as well it had not taken place beside the
fountain in Washington Square.



XI


CATHERINE listened for her father when he came in that evening, and she
heard him go to his study.  She sat quiet, though her heart was beating
fast, for nearly half an hour; then she went and knocked at his door—a
ceremony without which she never crossed the threshold of this apartment.
On entering it now she found him in his chair beside the fire,
entertaining himself with a cigar and the evening paper.

“I have something to say to you,” she began very gently; and she sat down
in the first place that offered.

“I shall be very happy to hear it, my dear,” said her father.  He
waited—waited, looking at her, while she stared, in a long silence, at
the fire.  He was curious and impatient, for he was sure she was going to
speak of Morris Townsend; but he let her take her own time, for he was
determined to be very mild.

“I am engaged to be married!” Catherine announced at last, still staring
at the fire.

The Doctor was startled; the accomplished fact was more than he had
expected.  But he betrayed no surprise.  “You do right to tell me,” he
simply said.  “And who is the happy mortal whom you have honoured with
your choice?”

“Mr. Morris Townsend.”  And as she pronounced her lover’s name, Catherine
looked at him.  What she saw was her father’s still grey eye and his
clear-cut, definite smile.  She contemplated these objects for a moment,
and then she looked back at the fire; it was much warmer.

“When was this arrangement made?” the Doctor asked.

“This afternoon—two hours ago.”

“Was Mr. Townsend here?”

“Yes, father; in the front parlour.”  She was very glad that she was not
obliged to tell him that the ceremony of their betrothal had taken place
out there under the bare ailantus-trees.

“Is it serious?” said the Doctor.

“Very serious, father.”

Her father was silent a moment.  “Mr. Townsend ought to have told me.”

“He means to tell you to-morrow.”

“After I know all about it from you?  He ought to have told me before.
Does he think I didn’t care—because I left you so much liberty?”

“Oh no,” said Catherine; “he knew you would care.  And we have been so
much obliged to you for—for the liberty.”

The Doctor gave a short laugh.  “You might have made a better use of it,
Catherine.”

“Please don’t say that, father,” the girl urged softly, fixing her dull
and gentle eyes upon him.

He puffed his cigar awhile, meditatively.  “You have gone very fast,” he
said at last.

“Yes,” Catherine answered simply; “I think we have.”

Her father glanced at her an instant, removing his eyes from the fire.
“I don’t wonder Mr. Townsend likes you.  You are so simple and so good.”

“I don’t know why it is—but he _does_ like me.  I am sure of that.”

“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 any one!”

“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.”

“I know what you mean,” said Catherine, remembering how Morris had
forewarned her.  “You mean that he is mercenary.”

Her father looked up at her still, with his cold, quiet reasonable eye.
“If I meant it, my dear, I should say it!  But there is an error I wish
particularly to avoid—that of rendering Mr. Townsend more interesting to
you by saying hard things about him.”

“I won’t think them hard if they are true,” said Catherine.

“If you don’t, you will be a remarkably sensible young woman!”

“They will be your reasons, at any rate, and you will want me to hear
your reasons.”

The Doctor smiled a little.  “Very true.  You have a perfect right to ask
for them.”  And he puffed his cigar a few moments.  “Very well, then,
without accusing Mr. Townsend of being in love only with your fortune—and
with the fortune that you justly expect—I will say that there is every
reason to suppose that these good things have entered into his
calculation more largely than a tender solicitude for your happiness
strictly requires.  There is, of course, nothing impossible in an
intelligent young man entertaining a disinterested affection for you.
You are an honest, amiable girl, and an intelligent young man might
easily find it out.  But the principal thing that we know about this
young man—who is, indeed, very intelligent—leads us to suppose that,
however much he may value your personal merits, he values your money
more.  The principal thing we know about him is that he has led a life of
dissipation, and has spent a fortune of his own in doing so.  That is
enough for me, my dear.  I wish you to marry a young man with other
antecedents—a young man who could give positive guarantees.  If Morris
Townsend has spent his own fortune in amusing himself, there is every
reason to believe that he would spend yours.”

The Doctor delivered himself of these remarks slowly, deliberately, with
occasional pauses and prolongations of accent, which made no great
allowance for poor Catherine’s suspense as to his conclusion.  She sat
down at last, with her head bent and her eyes still fixed upon him; and
strangely enough—I hardly know how to tell it—even while she felt that
what he said went so terribly against her, she admired his neatness and
nobleness of expression.  There was something hopeless and oppressive in
having to argue with her father; but she too, on her side, must try to be
clear.  He was so quiet; he was not at all angry; and she too must be
quiet.  But her very effort to be quiet made her tremble.

“That is not the principal thing we know about him,” she said; and there
was a touch of her tremor in her voice.  “There are other things—many
other things.  He has very high abilities—he wants so much to do
something.  He is kind, and generous, and true,” said poor Catherine, who
had not suspected hitherto the resources of her eloquence.  “And his
fortune—his fortune that he spent—was very small!”

“All the more reason he shouldn’t have spent it,” cried the Doctor,
getting up, with a laugh.  Then as Catherine, who had also risen to her
feet again, stood there in her rather angular earnestness, wishing so
much and expressing so little, he drew her towards him and kissed her.
“You won’t think me cruel?” he said, holding her a moment.

This question was not reassuring; it seemed to Catherine, on the
contrary, to suggest possibilities which made her feel sick.  But she
answered coherently enough—“No, dear father; because if you knew how I
feel—and you must know, you know everything—you would be so kind, so
gentle.”

“Yes, I think I know how you feel,” the Doctor said.  “I will be very
kind—be sure of that.  And I will see Mr. Townsend to-morrow.  Meanwhile,
and for the present, be so good as to mention to no one that you are
engaged.”



XII


ON the morrow, in the afternoon, he stayed at home, awaiting Mr.
Townsend’s call—a proceeding by which it appeared to him (justly perhaps,
for he was a very busy man) that he paid Catherine’s suitor great honour,
and gave both these young people so much the less to complain of.  Morris
presented himself with a countenance sufficiently serene—he appeared to
have forgotten the “insult” for which he had solicited Catherine’s
sympathy two evenings before, and Dr. Sloper lost no time in letting him
know that he had been prepared for his visit.

“Catherine told me yesterday what has been going on between you,” he
said.  “You must allow me to say that it would have been becoming of you
to give me notice of your intentions before they had gone so far.”

“I should have done so,” Morris answered, “if you had not had so much the
appearance of leaving your daughter at liberty.  She seems to me quite
her own mistress.”

“Literally, she is.  But she has not emancipated herself morally quite so
far, I trust, as to choose a husband without consulting me.  I have left
her at liberty, but I have not been in the least indifferent.  The truth
is that your little affair has come to a head with a rapidity that
surprises me.  It was only the other day that Catherine made your
acquaintance.”

“It was not long ago, certainly,” said Morris, with great gravity.  “I
admit that we have not been slow to—to arrive at an understanding.  But
that was very natural, from the moment we were sure of ourselves—and of
each other.  My interest in Miss Sloper began the first time I saw her.”

“Did it not by chance precede your first meeting?” the Doctor asked.

Morris looked at him an instant.  “I certainly had already heard that she
was a charming girl.”

“A charming girl—that’s what you think her?”

“Assuredly.  Otherwise I should not be sitting here.”

The Doctor meditated a moment.  “My dear young man,” he said at last,
“you must be very susceptible.  As Catherine’s father, I have, I trust, a
just and tender appreciation of her many good qualities; but I don’t mind
telling you that I have never thought of her as a charming girl, and
never expected any one else to do so.”

Morris Townsend received this statement with a smile that was not wholly
devoid of deference.  “I don’t know what I might think of her if I were
her father.  I can’t put myself in that place.  I speak from my own point
of view.”

“You speak very well,” said the Doctor; “but that is not all that is
necessary.  I told Catherine yesterday that I disapproved of her
engagement.”

“She let me know as much, and I was very sorry to hear it.  I am greatly
disappointed.”  And Morris sat in silence awhile, looking at the floor.

“Did you really expect I would say I was delighted, and throw my daughter
into your arms?”

“Oh no; I had an idea you didn’t like me.”

“What gave you the idea?”

“The fact that I am poor.”

“That has a harsh sound,” said the Doctor, “but it is about the
truth—speaking of you strictly as a son-in-law.  Your absence of means,
of a profession, of visible resources or prospects, places you in a
category from which it would be imprudent for me to select a husband for
my daughter, who is a weak young woman with a large fortune.  In any
other capacity I am perfectly prepared to like you.  As a son-in-law, I
abominate you!”

Morris Townsend listened respectfully.  “I don’t think Miss Sloper is a
weak woman,” he presently said.

“Of course you must defend her—it’s the least you can do.  But I have
known my child twenty years, and you have known her six weeks.  Even if
she were not weak, however, you would still be a penniless man.”

“Ah, yes; that is _my_ weakness!  And therefore, you mean, I am
mercenary—I only want your daughter’s money.”

“I don’t say that.  I am not obliged to say it; and to say it, save under
stress of compulsion, would be very bad taste.  I say simply that you
belong to the wrong category.”

“But your daughter doesn’t marry a category,” Townsend urged, with his
handsome smile.  “She marries an individual—an individual whom she is so
good as to say she loves.”

“An individual who offers so little in return!”

“Is it possible to offer more than the most tender affection and a
lifelong devotion?” the young man demanded.

“It depends how we take it.  It is possible to offer a few other things
besides; and not only is it possible, but it’s usual.  A lifelong
devotion is measured after the fact; and meanwhile it is customary in
these cases to give a few material securities.  What are yours?  A very
handsome face and figure, and a very good manner.  They are excellent as
far as they go, but they don’t go far enough.”

“There is one thing you should add to them,” said Morris; “the word of a
gentleman!”

“The word of a gentleman that you will always love Catherine?  You must
be a very fine gentleman to be sure of that.”

“The word of a gentleman that I am not mercenary; that my affection for
Miss Sloper is as pure and disinterested a sentiment as was ever lodged
in a human breast!  I care no more for her fortune than for the ashes in
that grate.”

“I take note—I take note,” said the Doctor.  “But having done so, I turn
to our category again.  Even with that solemn vow on your lips, you take
your place in it.  There is nothing against you but an accident, if you
will; but with my thirty years’ medical practice, I have seen that
accidents may have far-reaching consequences.”

Morris smoothed his hat—it was already remarkably glossy—and continued to
display a self-control which, as the Doctor was obliged to admit, was
extremely creditable to him.  But his disappointment was evidently keen.

“Is there nothing I can do to make you believe in me?”

“If there were I should be sorry to suggest it, for—don’t you see?—I
don’t want to believe in you!” said the Doctor, smiling.

“I would go and dig in the fields.”

“That would be foolish.”

“I will take the first work that offers, to-morrow.”

“Do so by all means—but for your own sake, not for mine.”

“I see; you think I am an idler!” Morris exclaimed, a little too much in
the tone of a man who has made a discovery.  But he saw his error
immediately, and blushed.

“It doesn’t matter what I think, when once I have told you I don’t think
of you as a son-in-law.”

But Morris persisted.  “You think I would squander her money.”

The Doctor smiled.  “It doesn’t matter, as I say; but I plead guilty to
that.”

“That’s because I spent my own, I suppose,” said Morris.  “I frankly
confess that.  I have been wild.  I have been foolish.  I will tell you
every crazy thing I ever did, if you like.  There were some great follies
among the number—I have never concealed that.  But I have sown my wild
oats.  Isn’t there some proverb about a reformed rake?  I was not a rake,
but I assure you I have reformed.  It is better to have amused oneself
for a while and have done with it.  Your daughter would never care for a
milksop; and I will take the liberty of saying that you would like one
quite as little.  Besides, between my money and hers there is a great
difference.  I spent my own; it was because it was my own that I spent
it.  And I made no debts; when it was gone I stopped.  I don’t owe a
penny in the world.”

“Allow me to inquire what you are living on now—though I admit,” the
Doctor added, “that the question, on my part, is inconsistent.”

“I am living on the remnants of my property,” said Morris Townsend.

“Thank you!” the Doctor gravely replied.

Yes, certainly, Morris’s self-control was laudable.  “Even admitting I
attach an undue importance to Miss Sloper’s fortune,” he went on, “would
not that be in itself an assurance that I should take much care of it?”

“That you should take too much care would be quite as bad as that you
should take too little.  Catherine might suffer as much by your economy
as by your extravagance.”

“I think you are very unjust!”  The young man made this declaration
decently, civilly, without violence.

“It is your privilege to think so, and I surrender my reputation to you!
I certainly don’t flatter myself I gratify you.”

“Don’t you care a little to gratify your daughter?  Do you enjoy the idea
of making her miserable?”

“I am perfectly resigned to her thinking me a tyrant for a twelvemonth.”

“For a twelvemonth!” exclaimed Morris, with a laugh.

“For a lifetime, then!  She may as well be miserable in that way as in
the other.”

Here at last Morris lost his temper.  “Ah, you are not polite, sir!” he
cried.

“You push me to it—you argue too much.”

“I have a great deal at stake.”

“Well, whatever it is,” said the Doctor, “you have lost it!”

“Are you sure of that?” asked Morris; “are you sure your daughter will
give me up?”

“I mean, of course, you have lost it as far as I am concerned.  As for
Catherine’s giving you up—no, I am not sure of it.  But as I shall
strongly recommend it, as I have a great fund of respect and affection in
my daughter’s mind to draw upon, and as she has the sentiment of duty
developed in a very high degree, I think it extremely possible.”

Morris Townsend began to smooth his hat again.  “I too have a fund of
affection to draw upon!” he observed at last.

The Doctor at this point showed his own first symptoms of irritation.
“Do you mean to defy me?”

“Call it what you please, sir!  I mean not to give your daughter up.”

The Doctor shook his head.  “I haven’t the least fear of your pining away
your life.  You are made to enjoy it.”

Morris gave a laugh.  “Your opposition to my marriage is all the more
cruel, then!  Do you intend to forbid your daughter to see me again?”

“She is past the age at which people are forbidden, and I am not a father
in an old-fashioned novel.  But I shall strongly urge her to break with
you.”

“I don’t think she will,” said Morris Townsend.

“Perhaps not.  But I shall have done what I could.”

“She has gone too far,” Morris went on.

“To retreat?  Then let her stop where she is.”

“Too far to stop, I mean.”

The Doctor looked at him a moment; Morris had his hand on the door.
“There is a great deal of impertinence in your saying it.”

“I will say no more, sir!” Morris answered; and, making his bow, he left
the room.



XIII


IT may be thought the Doctor was too positive, and Mrs. Almond intimated
as much.  But, as he said, he had his impression; it seemed to him
sufficient, and he had no wish to modify it.  He had passed his life in
estimating people (it was part of the medical trade), and in nineteen
cases out of twenty he was right.

“Perhaps Mr. Townsend is the twentieth case,” Mrs. Almond suggested.

“Perhaps he is, though he doesn’t look to me at all like a twentieth
case.  But I will give him the benefit of the doubt, and, to make sure, I
will go and talk with Mrs. Montgomery.  She will almost certainly tell me
I have done right; but it is just possible that she will prove to me that
I have made the greatest mistake of my life.  If she does, I will beg Mr.
Townsend’s pardon.  You needn’t invite her to meet me, as you kindly
proposed; I will write her a frank letter, telling her how matters stand,
and asking leave to come and see her.”

“I am afraid the frankness will be chiefly on your side.  The poor little
woman will stand up for her brother, whatever he may be.”

“Whatever he may be?  I doubt that.  People are not always so fond of
their brothers.”

“Ah,” said Mrs. Almond, “when it’s a question of thirty thousand a year
coming into a family—”

“If she stands up for him on account of the money, she will be a humbug.
If she is a humbug I shall see it.  If I see it, I won’t waste time with
her.”

“She is not a humbug—she is an exemplary woman.  She will not wish to
play her brother a trick simply because he is selfish.”

“If she is worth talking to, she will sooner play him a trick than that
he should play Catherine one.  Has she seen Catherine, by the way—does
she know her?”

“Not to my knowledge.  Mr. Townsend can have had no particular interest
in bringing them together.”

“If she is an exemplary woman, no.  But we shall see to what extent she
answers your description.”

“I shall be curious to hear her description of you!” said Mrs. Almond,
with a laugh.  “And, meanwhile, how is Catherine taking it?”

“As she takes everything—as a matter of course.”

“Doesn’t she make a noise?  Hasn’t she made a scene?”

“She is not scenic.”

“I thought a love-lorn maiden was always scenic.”

“A fantastic widow is more so.  Lavinia has made me a speech; she thinks
me very arbitrary.”

“She has a talent for being in the wrong,” said Mrs. Almond.  “But I am
very sorry for Catherine, all the same.”

“So am I.  But she will get over it.”

“You believe she will give him up?”

“I count upon it.  She has such an admiration for her father.”

“Oh, we know all about that!  But it only makes me pity her the more.  It
makes her dilemma the more painful, and the effort of choosing between
you and her lover almost impossible.”

“If she can’t choose, all the better.”

“Yes, but he will stand there entreating her to choose, and Lavinia will
pull on that side.”

“I am glad she is not on my side; she is capable of ruining an excellent
cause.  The day Lavinia gets into your boat it capsizes.  But she had
better be careful,” said the Doctor.  “I will have no treason in my
house!”

“I suspect she will be careful; for she is at bottom very much afraid of
you.”

“They are both afraid of me—harmless as I am!” the Doctor answered.  “And
it is on that that I build—on the salutary terror I inspire!”



XIV


HE wrote his frank letter to Mrs. Montgomery, who punctually answered it,
mentioning an hour at which he might present himself in the Second
Avenue.  She lived in a neat little house of red brick, which had been
freshly painted, with the edges of the bricks very sharply marked out in
white.  It has now disappeared, with its companions, to make room for a
row of structures more majestic.  There were green shutters upon the
windows, without slats, but pierced with little holes, arranged in
groups; and before the house was a diminutive yard, ornamented with a
bush of mysterious character, and surrounded by a low wooden paling,
painted in the same green as the shutters.  The place looked like a
magnified baby-house, and might have been taken down from a shelf in a
toy-shop.  Dr. Sloper, when he went to call, said to himself, as he
glanced at the objects I have enumerated, that Mrs. Montgomery was
evidently a thrifty and self-respecting little person—the modest
proportions of her dwelling seemed to indicate that she was of small
stature—who took a virtuous satisfaction in keeping herself tidy, and had
resolved that, since she might not be splendid, she would at least be
immaculate.  She received him in a little parlour, which was precisely
the parlour he had expected: a small unspeckled bower, ornamented with a
desultory foliage of tissue-paper, and with clusters of glass drops, amid
which—to carry out the analogy—the temperature of the leafy season was
maintained by means of a cast-iron stove, emitting a dry blue flame, and
smelling strongly of varnish.  The walls were embellished with engravings
swathed in pink gauze, and the tables ornamented with volumes of extracts
from the poets, usually bound in black cloth stamped with florid designs
in jaundiced gilt.  The Doctor had time to take cognisance of these
details, for Mrs. Montgomery, whose conduct he pronounced under the
circumstances inexcusable, kept him waiting some ten minutes before she
appeared.  At last, however, she rustled in, smoothing down a stiff
poplin dress, with a little frightened flush in a gracefully-rounded
cheek.

She was a small, plump, fair woman, with a bright, clear eye, and an
extraordinary air of neatness and briskness.  But these qualities were
evidently combined with an unaffected humility, and the Doctor gave her
his esteem as soon as he had looked at her.  A brave little person, with
lively perceptions, and yet a disbelief in her own talent for social, as
distinguished from practical, affairs—this was his rapid mental _résumé_
of Mrs. Montgomery, who, as he saw, was flattered by what she regarded as
the honour of his visit.  Mrs. Montgomery, in her little red house in the
Second Avenue, was a person for whom Dr. Sloper was one of the great men,
one of the fine gentlemen of New York; and while she fixed her agitated
eyes upon him, while she clasped her mittened hands together in her
glossy poplin lap, she had the appearance of saying to herself that he
quite answered her idea of what a distinguished guest would naturally be.
She apologised for being late; but he interrupted her.

“It doesn’t matter,” he said; “for while I sat here I had time to think
over what I wish to say to you, and to make up my mind how to begin.”

“Oh, do begin!” murmured Mrs. Montgomery.

“It is not so easy,” said the Doctor, smiling.  “You will have gathered
from my letter that I wish to ask you a few questions, and you may not
find it very comfortable to answer them.”

“Yes; I have thought what I should say.  It is not very easy.”

“But you must understand my situation—my state of mind.  Your brother
wishes to marry my daughter, and I wish to find out what sort of a young
man he is.  A good way to do so seemed to be to come and ask you; which I
have proceeded to do.”

Mrs. Montgomery evidently took the situation very seriously; she was in a
state of extreme moral concentration.  She kept her pretty eyes, which
were illumined by a sort of brilliant modesty, attached to his own
countenance, and evidently paid the most earnest attention to each of his
words.  Her expression indicated that she thought his idea of coming to
see her a very superior conception, but that she was really afraid to
have opinions on strange subjects.

“I am extremely glad to see you,” she said, in a tone which seemed to
admit, at the same time, that this had nothing to do with the question.

The Doctor took advantage of this admission.  “I didn’t come to see you
for your pleasure; I came to make you say disagreeable things—and you
can’t like that.  What sort of a gentleman is your brother?”

Mrs. Montgomery’s illuminated gaze grew vague, and began to wander.  She
smiled a little, and for some time made no answer, so that the Doctor at
last became impatient.  And her answer, when it came, was not
satisfactory.  “It is difficult to talk about one’s brother.”

“Not when one is fond of him, and when one has plenty of good to say.”

“Yes, even then, when a good deal depends on it,” said Mrs. Montgomery.

“Nothing depends on it, for you.”

“I mean for—for—” and she hesitated.

“For your brother himself.  I see!”

“I mean for Miss Sloper,” said Mrs. Montgomery.  The Doctor liked this;
it had the accent of sincerity.  “Exactly; that’s the point.  If my poor
girl should marry your brother, everything—as regards her happiness—would
depend on his being a good fellow.  She is the best creature in the
world, and she could never do him a grain of injury.  He, on the other
hand, if he should not be all that we desire, might make her very
miserable.  That is why I want you to throw some light upon his
character, you know.  Of course you are not bound to do it.  My daughter,
whom you have never seen, is nothing to you; and I, possibly, am only an
indiscreet and impertinent old man.  It is perfectly open to you to tell
me that my visit is in very bad taste and that I had better go about my
business.  But I don’t think you will do this; because I think we shall
interest you, my poor girl and I.  I am sure that if you were to see
Catherine, she would interest you very much.  I don’t mean because she is
interesting in the usual sense of the word, but because you would feel
sorry for her.  She is so soft, so simple-minded, she would be such an
easy victim!  A bad husband would have remarkable facilities for making
her miserable; for she would have neither the intelligence nor the
resolution to get the better of him, and yet she would have an
exaggerated power of suffering.  I see,” added the Doctor, with his most
insinuating, his most professional laugh, “you are already interested!”

“I have been interested from the moment he told me he was engaged,” said
Mrs. Montgomery.

“Ah! he says that—he calls it an engagement?”

“Oh, he has told me you didn’t like it.”

“Did he tell you that I don’t like _him_?”

“Yes, he told me that too.  I said I couldn’t help it!” added Mrs.
Montgomery.

“Of course you can’t.  But what you can do is to tell me I am right—to
give me an attestation, as it were.”  And the Doctor accompanied this
remark with another professional smile.

Mrs. Montgomery, however, smiled not at all; it was obvious that she
could not take the humorous view of his appeal.  “That is a good deal to
ask,” she said at last.

“There can be no doubt of that; and I must, in conscience, remind you of
the advantages a young man marrying my daughter would enjoy.  She has an
income of ten thousand dollars in her own right, left her by her mother;
if she marries a husband I approve, she will come into almost twice as
much more at my death.”

Mrs. Montgomery listened in great earnestness to this splendid financial
statement; she had never heard thousands of dollars so familiarly talked
about.  She flushed a little with excitement.  “Your daughter will be
immensely rich,” she said softly.

“Precisely—that’s the bother of it.”

“And if Morris should marry her, he—he—”  And she hesitated timidly.

“He would be master of all that money?  By no means.  He would be master
of the ten thousand a year that she has from her mother; but I should
leave every penny of my own fortune, earned in the laborious exercise of
my profession, to public institutions.”

Mrs. Montgomery dropped her eyes at this, and sat for some time gazing at
the straw matting which covered her floor.

“I suppose it seems to you,” said the Doctor, laughing, “that in so doing
I should play your brother a very shabby trick.”

“Not at all.  That is too much money to get possession of so easily, by
marrying.  I don’t think it would be right.”

“It’s right to get all one can.  But in this case your brother wouldn’t
be able.  If Catherine marries without my consent, she doesn’t get a
penny from my own pocket.”

“Is that certain?” asked Mrs. Montgomery, looking up.

“As certain as that I sit here!”

“Even if she should pine away?”

“Even if she should pine to a shadow, which isn’t probable.”

“Does Morris know this?”

“I shall be most happy to inform him!” the Doctor exclaimed.

Mrs. Montgomery resumed her meditations, and her visitor, who was
prepared to give time to the affair, asked himself whether, in spite of
her little conscientious air, she was not playing into her brother’s
hands.  At the same time he was half ashamed of the ordeal to which he
had subjected her, and was touched by the gentleness with which she bore
it.  “If she were a humbug,” he said, “she would get angry; unless she be
very deep indeed.  It is not probable that she is as deep as that.”

“What makes you dislike Morris so much?” she presently asked, emerging
from her reflexions.

“I don’t dislike him in the least as a friend, as a companion.  He seems
to me a charming fellow, and I should think he would be excellent
company.  I dislike him, exclusively, as a son-in-law.  If the only
office of a son-in-law were to dine at the paternal table, I should set a
high value upon your brother.  He dines capitally.  But that is a small
part of his function, which, in general, is to be a protector and
caretaker of my child, who is singularly ill-adapted to take care of
herself.  It is there that he doesn’t satisfy me.  I confess I have
nothing but my impression to go by; but I am in the habit of trusting my
impression.  Of course you are at liberty to contradict it flat.  He
strikes me as selfish and shallow.”

Mrs. Montgomery’s eyes expanded a little, and the Doctor fancied he saw
the light of admiration in them.  “I wonder you have discovered he is
selfish!” she exclaimed.

“Do you think he hides it so well?”

“Very well indeed,” said Mrs. Montgomery.  “And I think we are all rather
selfish,” she added quickly.

“I think so too; but I have seen people hide it better than he.  You see
I am helped by a habit I have of dividing people into classes, into
types.  I may easily be mistaken about your brother as an individual, but
his type is written on his whole person.”

“He is very good-looking,” said Mrs. Montgomery.

The Doctor eyed her a moment.  “You women are all the same!  But the type
to which your brother belongs was made to be the ruin of you, and you
were made to be its handmaids and victims.  The sign of the type in
question is the determination—sometimes terrible in its quiet
intensity—to accept nothing of life but its pleasures, and to secure
these pleasures chiefly by the aid of your complaisant sex.  Young men of
this class never do anything for themselves that they can get other
people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the
superstition of others that keeps them going.  These others in
ninety-nine cases out of a hundred are women.  What our young friends
chiefly insist upon is that some one else shall suffer for them; and
women do that sort of thing, as you must know, wonderfully well.”  The
Doctor paused a moment, and then he added abruptly, “You have suffered
immensely for your brother!”

This exclamation was abrupt, as I say, but it was also perfectly
calculated.  The Doctor had been rather disappointed at not finding his
compact and comfortable little hostess surrounded in a more visible
degree by the ravages of Morris Townsend’s immorality; but he had said to
himself that this was not because the young man had spared her, but
because she had contrived to plaster up her wounds.  They were aching
there, behind the varnished stove, the festooned engravings, beneath her
own neat little poplin bosom; and if he could only touch the tender spot,
she would make a movement that would betray her.  The words I have just
quoted were an attempt to put his finger suddenly upon the place; and
they had some of the success that he looked for.  The tears sprang for a
moment to Mrs. Montgomery’s eyes, and she indulged in a proud little jerk
of the head.

“I don’t know how you have found that out!” she exclaimed.

“By a philosophic trick—by what they call induction.  You know you have
always your option of contradicting me.  But kindly answer me a question.
Don’t you give your brother money?  I think you ought to answer that.”

“Yes, I have given him money,” said Mrs. Montgomery.

“And you have not had much to give him?”

She was silent a moment.  “If you ask me for a confession of poverty,
that is easily made.  I am very poor.”

“One would never suppose it from your—your charming house,” said the
Doctor.  “I learned from my sister that your income was moderate, and
your family numerous.”

“I have five children,” Mrs. Montgomery observed; “but I am happy to say
I can bring them up decently.”

“Of course you can—accomplished and devoted as you are!  But your brother
has counted them over, I suppose?”

“Counted them over?”

“He knows there are five, I mean.  He tells me it is he that brings them
up.”

Mrs. Montgomery stared a moment, and then quickly—“Oh yes; he teaches
them Spanish.”

The Doctor laughed out.  “That must take a great deal off your hands!
Your brother also knows, of course, that you have very little money.”

“I have often told him so!” Mrs. Montgomery exclaimed, more unreservedly
than she had yet spoken.  She was apparently taking some comfort in the
Doctor’s clairvoyancy.

“Which means that you have often occasion to, and that he often sponges
on you.  Excuse the crudity of my language; I simply express a fact.  I
don’t ask you how much of your money he has had, it is none of my
business.  I have ascertained what I suspected—what I wished.”  And the
Doctor got up, gently smoothing his hat.  “Your brother lives on you,” he
said as he stood there.

Mrs. Montgomery quickly rose from her chair, following her visitor’s
movements with a look of fascination.  But then, with a certain
inconsequence—“I have never complained of him!” she said.

“You needn’t protest—you have not betrayed him.  But I advise you not to
give him any more money.”

“Don’t you see it is in my interest that he should marry a rich person?”
she asked.  “If, as you say, he lives on me, I can only wish to get rid
of him, and to put obstacles in the way of his marrying is to increase my
own difficulties.”

“I wish very much you would come to me with your difficulties,” said the
Doctor.  “Certainly, if I throw him back on your hands, the least I can
do is to help you to bear the burden.  If you will allow me to say so,
then, I shall take the liberty of placing in your hands, for the present,
a certain fund for your brother’s support.”

Mrs. Montgomery stared; she evidently thought he was jesting; but she
presently saw that he was not, and the complication of her feelings
became painful.  “It seems to me that I ought to be very much offended
with you,” she murmured.

“Because I have offered you money?  That’s a superstition,” said the
Doctor.  “You must let me come and see you again, and we will talk about
these things.  I suppose that some of your children are girls.”

“I have two little girls,” said Mrs. Montgomery.

“Well, when they grow up, and begin to think of taking husbands, you will
see how anxious you will be about the moral character of these gentlemen.
Then you will understand this visit of mine!”

“Ah, you are not to believe that Morris’s moral character is bad!”

The Doctor looked at her a little, with folded arms.  “There is something
I should greatly like—as a moral satisfaction.  I should like to hear you
say—‘He is abominably selfish!’”

The words came out with the grave distinctness of his voice, and they
seemed for an instant to create, to poor Mrs. Montgomery’s troubled
vision, a material image.  She gazed at it an instant, and then she
turned away.  “You distress me, sir!” she exclaimed.  “He is, after all,
my brother, and his talents, his talents—”  On these last words her voice
quavered, and before he knew it she had burst into tears.

“His talents are first-rate!” said the Doctor.  “We must find a proper
field for them!”  And he assured her most respectfully of his regret at
having so greatly discomposed her.  “It’s all for my poor Catherine,” he
went on.  “You must know her, and you will see.”

Mrs. Montgomery brushed away her tears, and blushed at having shed them.
“I should like to know your daughter,” she answered; and then, in an
instant—“Don’t let her marry him!”

Dr. Sloper went away with the words gently humming in his ears—“Don’t let
her marry him!”  They gave him the moral satisfaction of which he had
just spoken, and their value was the greater that they had evidently cost
a pang to poor little Mrs. Montgomery’s family pride.



XV


HE had been puzzled by the way that Catherine carried herself; her
attitude at this sentimental crisis seemed to him unnaturally passive.
She had not spoken to him again after that scene in the library, the day
before his interview with Morris; and a week had elapsed without making
any change in her manner.  There was nothing in it that appealed for
pity, and he was even a little disappointed at her not giving him an
opportunity to make up for his harshness by some manifestation of
liberality which should operate as a compensation.  He thought a little
of offering to take her for a tour in Europe; but he was determined to do
this only in case she should seem mutely to reproach him.  He had an idea
that she would display a talent for mute reproaches, and he was surprised
at not finding himself exposed to these silent batteries.  She said
nothing, either tacitly or explicitly, and as she was never very
talkative, there was now no especial eloquence in her reserve.  And poor
Catherine was not sulky—a style of behaviour for which she had too little
histrionic talent; she was simply very patient.  Of course she was
thinking over her situation, and she was apparently doing so in a
deliberate and unimpassioned manner, with a view of making the best of
it.

“She will do as I have bidden her,” said the Doctor, and he made the
further reflexion that his daughter was not a woman of a great spirit.  I
know not whether he had hoped for a little more resistance for the sake
of a little more entertainment; but he said to himself, as he had said
before, that though it might have its momentary alarms, paternity was,
after all, not an exciting vocation.

Catherine, meanwhile, had made a discovery of a very different sort; it
had become vivid to her that there was a great excitement in trying to be
a good daughter.  She had an entirely new feeling, which may be described
as a state of expectant suspense about her own actions.  She watched
herself as she would have watched another person, and wondered what she
would do.  It was as if this other person, who was both herself and not
herself, had suddenly sprung into being, inspiring her with a natural
curiosity as to the performance of untested functions.

“I am glad I have such a good daughter,” said her father, kissing her,
after the lapse of several days.

“I am trying to be good,” she answered, turning away, with a conscience
not altogether clear.

“If there is anything you would like to say to me, you know you must not
hesitate.  You needn’t feel obliged to be so quiet.  I shouldn’t care
that Mr. Townsend should be a frequent topic of conversation, but
whenever you have anything particular to say about him I shall be very
glad to hear it.”

“Thank you,” said Catherine; “I have nothing particular at present.”

He never asked her whether she had seen Morris again, because he was sure
that if this had been the case she would tell him.  She had, in fact, not
seen him, she had only written him a long letter.  The letter at least
was long for her; and, it may be added, that it was long for Morris; it
consisted of five pages, in a remarkably neat and handsome hand.
Catherine’s handwriting was beautiful, and she was even a little proud of
it; she was extremely fond of copying, and possessed volumes of extracts
which testified to this accomplishment; volumes which she had exhibited
one day to her lover, when the bliss of feeling that she was important in
his eyes was exceptionally keen.  She told Morris in writing that her
father had expressed the wish that she should not see him again, and that
she begged he would not come to the house until she should have “made up
her mind.”  Morris replied with a passionate epistle, in which he asked
to what, in Heaven’s name, she wished to make up her mind.  Had not her
mind been made up two weeks before, and could it be possible that she
entertained the idea of throwing him off?  Did she mean to break down at
the very beginning of their ordeal, after all the promises of fidelity
she had both given and extracted?  And he gave an account of his own
interview with her father—an account not identical at all points with
that offered in these pages.  “He was terribly violent,” Morris wrote;
“but you know my self-control.  I have need of it all when I remember
that I have it in my power to break in upon your cruel captivity.”
Catherine sent him, in answer to this, a note of three lines.  “I am in
great trouble; do not doubt of my affection, but let me wait a little and
think.”  The idea of a struggle with her father, of setting up her will
against his own, was heavy on her soul, and it kept her formally
submissive, as a great physical weight keeps us motionless.  It never
entered into her mind to throw her lover off; but from the first she
tried to assure herself that there would be a peaceful way out of their
difficulty.  The assurance was vague, for it contained no element of
positive conviction that her father would change his mind.  She only had
an idea that if she should be very good, the situation would in some
mysterious manner improve.  To be good, she must be patient, respectful,
abstain from judging her father too harshly, and from committing any act
of open defiance.  He was perhaps right, after all, to think as he did;
by which Catherine meant not in the least that his judgement of Morris’s
motives in seeking to marry her was perhaps a just one, but that it was
probably natural and proper that conscientious parents should be
suspicious and even unjust.  There were probably people in the world as
bad as her father supposed Morris to be, and if there were the slightest
chance of Morris being one of these sinister persons, the Doctor was
right in taking it into account.  Of course he could not know what she
knew, how the purest love and truth were seated in the young man’s eyes;
but Heaven, in its time, might appoint a way of bringing him to such
knowledge.  Catherine expected a good deal of Heaven, and referred to the
skies the initiative, as the French say, in dealing with her dilemma.
She could not imagine herself imparting any kind of knowledge to her
father, there was something superior even in his injustice and absolute
in his mistakes.  But she could at least be good, and if she were only
good enough, Heaven would invent some way of reconciling all things—the
dignity of her father’s errors and the sweetness of her own confidence,
the strict performance of her filial duties and the enjoyment of Morris
Townsend’s affection.  Poor Catherine would have been glad to regard Mrs.
Penniman as an illuminating agent, a part which this lady herself indeed
was but imperfectly prepared to play.  Mrs. Penniman took too much
satisfaction in the sentimental shadows of this little drama to have, for
the moment, any great interest in dissipating them.  She wished the plot
to thicken, and the advice that she gave her niece tended, in her own
imagination, to produce this result.  It was rather incoherent counsel,
and from one day to another it contradicted itself; but it was pervaded
by an earnest desire that Catherine should do something striking.  “You
must _act_, my dear; in your situation the great thing is to act,” said
Mrs. Penniman, who found her niece altogether beneath her opportunities.
Mrs. Penniman’s real hope was that the girl would make a secret marriage,
at which she should officiate as brideswoman or duenna.  She had a vision
of this ceremony being performed in some subterranean chapel—subterranean
chapels in New York were not frequent, but Mrs. Penniman’s imagination
was not chilled by trifles—and of the guilty couple—she liked to think of
poor Catherine and her suitor as the guilty couple—being shuffled away in
a fast-whirling vehicle to some obscure lodging in the suburbs, where she
would pay them (in a thick veil) clandestine visits, where they would
endure a period of romantic privation, and where ultimately, after she
should have been their earthly providence, their intercessor, their
advocate, and their medium of communication with the world, they should
be reconciled to her brother in an artistic tableau, in which she herself
should be somehow the central figure.  She hesitated as yet to recommend
this course to Catherine, but she attempted to draw an attractive picture
of it to Morris Townsend.  She was in daily communication with the young
man, whom she kept informed by letters of the state of affairs in
Washington Square.  As he had been banished, as she said, from the house,
she no longer saw him; but she ended by writing to him that she longed
for an interview.  This interview could take place only on neutral
ground, and she bethought herself greatly before selecting a place of
meeting.  She had an inclination for Greenwood Cemetery, but she gave it
up as too distant; she could not absent herself for so long, as she said,
without exciting suspicion.  Then she thought of the Battery, but that
was rather cold and windy, besides one’s being exposed to intrusion from
the Irish emigrants who at this point alight, with large appetites, in
the New World and at last she fixed upon an oyster saloon in the Seventh
Avenue, kept by a negro—an establishment of which she knew nothing save
that she had noticed it in passing.  She made an appointment with Morris
Townsend to meet him there, and she went to the tryst at dusk, enveloped
in an impenetrable veil.  He kept her waiting for half an hour—he had
almost the whole width of the city to traverse—but she liked to wait, it
seemed to intensify the situation.  She ordered a cup of tea, which
proved excessively bad, and this gave her a sense that she was suffering
in a romantic cause.  When Morris at last arrived, they sat together for
half an hour in the duskiest corner of a back shop; and it is hardly too
much to say that this was the happiest half-hour that Mrs. Penniman had
known for years.  The situation was really thrilling, and it scarcely
seemed to her a false note when her companion asked for an oyster stew,
and proceeded to consume it before her eyes.  Morris, indeed, needed all
the satisfaction that stewed oysters could give him, for it may be
intimated to the reader that he regarded Mrs. Penniman in the light of a
fifth wheel to his coach.  He was in a state of irritation natural to a
gentleman of fine parts who had been snubbed in a benevolent attempt to
confer a distinction upon a young woman of inferior characteristics, and
the insinuating sympathy of this somewhat desiccated matron appeared to
offer him no practical relief.  He thought her a humbug, and he judged of
humbugs with a good deal of confidence.  He had listened and made himself
agreeable to her at first, in order to get a footing in Washington
Square; and at present he needed all his self-command to be decently
civil.  It would have gratified him to tell her that she was a fantastic
old woman, and that he should like to put her into an omnibus and send
her home.  We know, however, that Morris possessed the virtue of
self-control, and he had, moreover, the constant habit of seeking to be
agreeable; so that, although Mrs. Penniman’s demeanour only exasperated
his already unquiet nerves, he listened to her with a sombre deference in
which she found much to admire.



XVI


THEY had of course immediately spoken of Catherine.  “Did she send me a
message, or—or anything?” Morris asked.  He appeared to think that she
might have sent him a trinket or a lock of her hair.

Mrs. Penniman was slightly embarrassed, for she had not told her niece of
her intended expedition.  “Not exactly a message,” she said; “I didn’t
ask her for one, because I was afraid to—to excite her.”

“I am afraid she is not very excitable!”  And Morris gave a smile of some
bitterness.

“She is better than that.  She is steadfast—she is true!”

“Do you think she will hold fast, then?”

“To the death!”

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

“We must be prepared for the worst, and that is what I wish to speak to
you about.”

“What do you call the worst?”

“Well,” said Mrs. Penniman, “my brother’s hard, intellectual nature.”

“Oh, the devil!”

“He is impervious to pity,” Mrs. Penniman added, by way of explanation.

“Do you mean that he won’t come round?”

“He will never be vanquished by argument.  I have studied him.  He will
be vanquished only by the accomplished fact.”

“The accomplished fact?”

“He will come round afterwards,” said Mrs. Penniman, with extreme
significance.  “He cares for nothing but facts; he must be met by facts!”

“Well,” rejoined Morris, “it is a fact that I wish to marry his daughter.
I met him with that the other day, but he was not at all vanquished.”

Mrs. Penniman was silent a little, and her smile beneath the shadow of
her capacious bonnet, on the edge of which her black veil was arranged
curtain-wise, fixed itself upon Morris’s face with a still more tender
brilliancy.  “Marry Catherine first and meet him afterwards!” she
exclaimed.

“Do you recommend that?” asked the young man, frowning heavily.

She was a little frightened, but she went on with considerable boldness.
“That is the way I see it: a private marriage—a private marriage.”  She
repeated the phrase because she liked it.

“Do you mean that I should carry Catherine off?  What do they call
it—elope with her?”

“It is not a crime when you are driven to it,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “My
husband, as I have told you, was a distinguished clergyman; one of the
most eloquent men of his day.  He once married a young couple that had
fled from the house of the young lady’s father.  He was so interested in
their story.  He had no hesitation, and everything came out beautifully.
The father was afterwards reconciled, and thought everything of the young
man.  Mr. Penniman married them in the evening, about seven o’clock.  The
church was so dark, you could scarcely see; and Mr. Penniman was
intensely agitated; he was so sympathetic.  I don’t believe he could have
done it again.”

“Unfortunately Catherine and I have not Mr. Penniman to marry us,” said
Morris.

“No, but you have me!” rejoined Mrs. Penniman expressively.  “I can’t
perform the ceremony, but I can help you.  I can watch.”

“The woman’s an idiot,” thought Morris; but he was obliged to say
something different.  It was not, however, materially more civil.  “Was
it in order to tell me this that you requested I would meet you here?”

Mrs. Penniman had been conscious of a certain vagueness in her errand,
and of not being able to offer him any very tangible reward for his long
walk.  “I thought perhaps you would like to see one who is so near to
Catherine,” she observed, with considerable majesty.  “And also,” she
added, “that you would value an opportunity of sending her something.”

Morris extended his empty hands with a melancholy smile.  “I am greatly
obliged to you, but I have nothing to send.”

“Haven’t you a _word_?” asked his companion, with her suggestive smile
coming back.

Morris frowned again.  “Tell her to hold fast,” he said rather curtly.

“That is a good word—a noble word.  It will make her happy for many days.
She is very touching, very brave,” Mrs. Penniman went on, arranging her
mantle and preparing to depart.  While she was so engaged she had an
inspiration.  She found the phrase that she could boldly offer as a
vindication of the step she had taken.  “If you marry Catherine at all
risks” she said, “you will give my brother a proof of your being what he
pretends to doubt.”

“What he pretends to doubt?”

“Don’t you know what that is?” Mrs. Penniman asked almost playfully.

“It does not concern me to know,” said Morris grandly.

“Of course it makes you angry.”

“I despise it,” Morris declared.

“Ah, you know what it is, then?” said Mrs. Penniman, shaking her finger
at him.  “He pretends that you like—you like the money.”

Morris hesitated a moment; and then, as if he spoke advisedly—“I _do_
like the money!”

“Ah, but not—but not as he means it.  You don’t like it more than
Catherine?”

He leaned his elbows on the table and buried his head in his hands.  “You
torture me!” he murmured.  And, indeed, this was almost the effect of the
poor lady’s too importunate interest in his situation.

But she insisted on making her point.  “If you marry her in spite of him,
he will take for granted that you expect nothing of him, and are prepared
to do without it.  And so he will see that you are disinterested.”

Morris raised his head a little, following this argument, “And what shall
I gain by that?”

“Why, that he will see that he has been wrong in thinking that you wished
to get his money.”

“And seeing that I wish he would go to the deuce with it, he will leave
it to a hospital.  Is that what you mean?” asked Morris.

“No, I don’t mean that; though that would be very grand!” Mrs. Penniman
quickly added.  “I mean that having done you such an injustice, he will
think it his duty, at the end, to make some amends.”

Morris shook his head, though it must be confessed he was a little struck
with this idea.  “Do you think he is so sentimental?”

“He is not sentimental,” said Mrs. Penniman; “but, to be perfectly fair
to him, I think he has, in his own narrow way, a certain sense of duty.”

There passed through Morris Townsend’s mind a rapid wonder as to what he
might, even under a remote contingency, be indebted to from the action of
this principle in Dr. Sloper’s breast, and the inquiry exhausted itself
in his sense of the ludicrous.  “Your brother has no duties to me,” he
said presently, “and I none to him.”

“Ah, but he has duties to Catherine.”

“Yes, but you see that on that principle Catherine has duties to him as
well.”

Mrs. Penniman got up, with a melancholy sigh, as if she thought him very
unimaginative.  “She has always performed them faithfully; and now, do
you think she has no duties to _you_?”  Mrs. Penniman always, even in
conversation, italicised her personal pronouns.

“It would sound harsh to say so!  I am so grateful for her love,” Morris
added.

“I will tell her you said that!  And now, remember that if you need me, I
am there.”  And Mrs. Penniman, who could think of nothing more to say,
nodded vaguely in the direction of Washington Square.

Morris looked some moments at the sanded floor of the shop; he seemed to
be disposed to linger a moment.  At last, looking up with a certain
abruptness, “It is your belief that if she marries me he will cut her
off?” he asked.

Mrs. Penniman stared a little, and smiled.  “Why, I have explained to you
what I think would happen—that in the end it would be the best thing to
do.”

“You mean that, whatever she does, in the long run she will get the
money?”

“It doesn’t depend upon her, but upon you.  Venture to appear as
disinterested as you are!” said Mrs. Penniman ingeniously.  Morris
dropped his eyes on the sanded floor again, pondering this; and she
pursued.  “Mr. Penniman and I had nothing, and we were very happy.
Catherine, moreover, has her mother’s fortune, which, at the time my
sister-in-law married, was considered a very handsome one.”

“Oh, don’t speak of that!” said Morris; and, indeed, it was quite
superfluous, for he had contemplated the fact in all its lights.

“Austin married a wife with money—why shouldn’t you?”

“Ah! but your brother was a doctor,” Morris objected.

“Well, all young men can’t be doctors!”

“I should think it an extremely loathsome profession,” said Morris, with
an air of intellectual independence.  Then in a moment, he went on rather
inconsequently, “Do you suppose there is a will already made in
Catherine’s favour?”

“I suppose so—even doctors must die; and perhaps a little in mine,” Mrs.
Penniman frankly added.

“And you believe he would certainly change it—as regards Catherine?”

“Yes; and then change it back again.”

“Ah, but one can’t depend on that!” said Morris.

“Do you want to _depend_ on it?” Mrs. Penniman asked.

Morris blushed a little.  “Well, I am certainly afraid of being the cause
of an injury to Catherine.”

“Ah! you must not be afraid.  Be afraid of nothing, and everything will
go well!”

And then Mrs. Penniman paid for her cup of tea, and Morris paid for his
oyster stew, and they went out together into the dimly-lighted wilderness
of the Seventh Avenue.  The dusk had closed in completely and the street
lamps were separated by wide intervals of a pavement in which cavities
and fissures played a disproportionate part.  An omnibus, emblazoned with
strange pictures, went tumbling over the dislocated cobble-stones.

“How will you go home?” Morris asked, following this vehicle with an
interested eye.  Mrs. Penniman had taken his arm.

She hesitated a moment.  “I think this manner would be pleasant,” she
said; and she continued to let him feel the value of his support.

So he walked with her through the devious ways of the west side of the
town, and through the bustle of gathering nightfall in populous streets,
to the quiet precinct of Washington Square.  They lingered a moment at
the foot of Dr. Sloper’s white marble steps, above which a spotless white
door, adorned with a glittering silver plate, seemed to figure, for
Morris, the closed portal of happiness; and then Mrs. Penniman’s
companion rested a melancholy eye upon a lighted window in the upper part
of the house.

“That is my room—my dear little room!” Mrs. Penniman remarked.

Morris started.  “Then I needn’t come walking round the Square to gaze at
it.”

“That’s as you please.  But Catherine’s is behind; two noble windows on
the second floor.  I think you can see them from the other street.”

“I don’t want to see them, ma’am!”  And Morris turned his back to the
house.

“I will tell her you have been _here_, at any rate,” said Mrs. Penniman,
pointing to the spot where they stood; “and I will give her your
message—that she is to hold fast!”

“Oh, yes! of course.  You know I write her all that.”

“It seems to say more when it is spoken!  And remember, if you need me,
that I am _there_”; and Mrs. Penniman glanced at the third floor.

On this they separated, and Morris, left to himself, stood looking at the
house a moment; after which he turned away, and took a gloomy walk round
the Square, on the opposite side, close to the wooden fence.  Then he
came back, and paused for a minute in front of Dr. Sloper’s dwelling.
His eyes travelled over it; they even rested on the ruddy windows of Mrs.
Penniman’s apartment.  He thought it a devilish comfortable house.



XVII


MRS. PENNIMAN told Catherine that evening—the two ladies were sitting in
the back parlour—that she had had an interview with Morris Townsend; and
on receiving this news the girl started with a sense of pain.  She felt
angry for the moment; it was almost the first time she had ever felt
angry.  It seemed to her that her aunt was meddlesome; and from this came
a vague apprehension that she would spoil something.

“I don’t see why you should have seen him.  I don’t think it was right,”
Catherine said.

“I was so sorry for him—it seemed to me some one ought to see him.”

“No one but I,” said Catherine, who felt as if she were making the most
presumptuous speech of her life, and yet at the same time had an instinct
that she was right in doing so.

“But you wouldn’t, my dear,” Aunt Lavinia rejoined; “and I didn’t know
what might have become of him.”

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

There was a simplicity in this, indeed, which fairly vexed Mrs. Penniman.
“If your father forbade you to go to sleep, I suppose you would keep
awake!” she commented.

Catherine looked at her.  “I don’t understand you.  You seem to be very
strange.”

“Well, my dear, you will understand me some day!”  And Mrs. Penniman, who
was reading the evening paper, which she perused daily from the first
line to the last, resumed her occupation.  She wrapped herself in
silence; she was determined Catherine should ask her for an account of
her interview with Morris.  But Catherine was silent for so long, that
she almost lost patience; and she was on the point of remarking to her
that she was very heartless, when the girl at last spoke.

“What did he say?” she asked.

“He said he is ready to marry you any day, in spite of everything.”

Catherine made no answer to this, and Mrs. Penniman almost lost patience
again; owing to which she at last volunteered the information that Morris
looked very handsome, but terribly haggard.

“Did he seem sad?” asked her niece.

“He was dark under the eyes,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “So different from
when I first saw him; though I am not sure that if I had seen him in this
condition the first time, I should not have been even more struck with
him.  There is something brilliant in his very misery.”

This was, to Catherine’s sense, a vivid picture, and though she
disapproved, she felt herself gazing at it.  “Where did you see him?” she
asked presently.

“In—in the Bowery; at a confectioner’s,” said Mrs. Penniman, who had a
general idea that she ought to dissemble a little.

“Whereabouts is the place?” Catherine inquired, after another pause.

“Do you wish to go there, my dear?” said her aunt.

“Oh no!”  And Catherine got up from her seat and went to the fire, where
she stood looking a while at the glowing coals.

“Why are you so dry, Catherine?” Mrs. Penniman said at last.

“So dry?”

“So cold—so irresponsive.”

The girl turned very quickly.  “Did _he_ say that?”

Mrs. Penniman hesitated a moment.  “I will tell you what he said.  He
said he feared only one thing—that you would be afraid.”

“Afraid of what?”

“Afraid of your father.”

Catherine turned back to the fire again, and then, after a pause, she
said—“I _am_ afraid of my father.”

Mrs. Penniman got quickly up from her chair and approached her niece.
“Do you mean to give him up, then?”

Catherine for some time never moved; she kept her eyes on the coals.  At
last she raised her head and looked at her aunt.  “Why do you push me
so?” she asked.

“I don’t push you.  When have I spoken to you before?”

“It seems to me that you have spoken to me several times.”

“I am afraid it is necessary, then, Catherine,” said Mrs. Penniman, with
a good deal of solemnity.  “I am afraid you don’t feel the importance—”
She paused a little; Catherine was looking at her.  “The importance of
not disappointing that gallant young heart!”  And Mrs. Penniman went back
to her chair, by the lamp, and, with a little jerk, picked up the evening
paper again.

Catherine stood there before the fire, with her hands behind her, looking
at her aunt, to whom it seemed that the girl had never had just this dark
fixedness in her gaze.  “I don’t think you understand—or that you know
me,” she said.

“If I don’t, it is not wonderful; you trust me so little.”

Catherine made no attempt to deny this charge, and for some time more
nothing was said.  But Mrs. Penniman’s imagination was restless, and the
evening paper failed on this occasion to enchain it.

“If you succumb to the dread of your father’s wrath,” she said, “I don’t
know what will become of us.”

“Did _he_ tell you to say these things to me?”

“He told me to use my influence.”

“You must be mistaken,” said Catherine.  “He trusts me.”

“I hope he may never repent of it!”  And Mrs. Penniman gave a little
sharp slap to her newspaper.  She knew not what to make of her niece, who
had suddenly become stern and contradictious.

This tendency on Catherine’s part was presently even more apparent.  “You
had much better not make any more appointments with Mr. Townsend,” she
said.  “I don’t think it is right.”

Mrs. Penniman rose with considerable majesty.  “My poor child, are you
jealous of me?” she inquired.

“Oh, Aunt Lavinia!” murmured Catherine, blushing.

“I don’t think it is your place to teach me what is right.”

On this point Catherine made no concession.  “It can’t be right to
deceive.”

“I certainly have not deceived _you_!”

“Yes; but I promised my father—”

“I have no doubt you promised your father.  But I have promised him
nothing!”

Catherine had to admit this, and she did so in silence.  “I don’t believe
Mr. Townsend himself likes it,” she said at last.

“Doesn’t like meeting me?”

“Not in secret.”

“It was not in secret; the place was full of people.”

“But it was a secret place—away off in the Bowery.”

Mrs. Penniman flinched a little.  “Gentlemen enjoy such things,” she
remarked presently.  “I know what gentlemen like.”

“My father wouldn’t like it, if he knew.”

“Pray, do you propose to inform him?” Mrs. Penniman inquired.

“No, Aunt Lavinia.  But please don’t do it again.”

“If I do it again, you will inform him: is that what you mean?  I do not
share your dread of my brother; I have always known how to defend my own
position.  But I shall certainly never again take any step on your
behalf; you are much too thankless.  I knew you were not a spontaneous
nature, but I believed you were firm, and I told your father that he
would find you so.  I am disappointed—but your father will not be!”  And
with this, Mrs. Penniman offered her niece a brief good-night, and
withdrew to her own apartment.



XVIII


CATHERINE sat alone by the parlour 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 misdemeanour
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 burned 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 parlour.  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 for ever.  I have not seen him
again, but I should like to see him,” Catherine repeated.

The Doctor slowly rubbed his under lip 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.

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

The words were a surprise, and they gave her an exquisite joy.  She went
to him, and he put his arm round her tenderly, soothingly; and then he
kissed her.  After this he said:

“Do you wish to make me very happy?”

“I should like to—but I am afraid I can’t,” Catherine answered.

“You can if you will.  It all depends on your will.”

“Is it to give him up?” said Catherine.

“Yes, it is to give him up.”

And he held her still, with the same tenderness, looking into her face
and resting his eyes on her averted eyes.  There was a long silence; she
wished he would release her.

“You are happier than I, father,” she said, at last.

“I have no doubt you are unhappy just now.  But it is better to be
unhappy for three months and get over it, than for many years and never
get over it.”

“Yes, if that were so,” said Catherine.

“It would be so; I am sure of that.”  She answered nothing, and he went
on.  “Have you no faith in my wisdom, in my tenderness, in my solicitude
for your future?”

“Oh, father!” murmured the girl.

“Don’t you suppose that I know something of men: their vices, their
follies, their falsities?”

She detached herself, and turned upon him.  “He is not vicious—he is not
false!”

Her father kept looking at her with his sharp, pure eye.  “You make
nothing of my judgement, then?”

“I can’t believe that!”

“I don’t ask you to believe it, but to take it on trust.”

Catherine was far from saying to herself that this was an ingenious
sophism; but she met the appeal none the less squarely.  “What has he
done—what do you know?”

“He has never done anything—he is a selfish idler.”

“Oh, father, don’t abuse him!” she exclaimed pleadingly.

“I don’t mean to abuse him; it would be a great mistake.  You may do as
you choose,” he added, turning away.

“I may see him again?”

“Just as you choose.”

“Will you forgive me?”

“By no means.”

“It will only be for once.”

“I don’t know what you mean by once.  You must either give him up or
continue the acquaintance.”

“I wish to explain—to tell him to wait.”

“To wait for what?”

“Till you know him better—till you consent.”

“Don’t tell him any such nonsense as that.  I know him well enough, and I
shall never consent.”

“But we can wait a long time,” said poor Catherine, in a tone which was
meant to express the humblest conciliation, but which had upon her
father’s nerves the effect of an iteration not characterised by tact.

The Doctor answered, however, quietly enough: “Of course you can wait
till I die, if you like.”  Catherine gave a cry of natural horror.

“Your engagement will have one delightful effect upon you; it will make
you extremely impatient for that event.”

Catherine stood staring, and the Doctor enjoyed the point he had made.
It came to Catherine with the force—or rather with the vague
impressiveness—of a logical axiom which it was not in her province to
controvert; and yet, though it was a scientific truth, she felt wholly
unable to accept it.

“I would rather not marry, if that were true,” she said.

“Give me a proof of it, then; for it is beyond a question that by
engaging yourself to Morris Townsend you simply wait for my death.”

She turned away, feeling sick and faint; and the Doctor went on.  “And if
you wait for it with impatience, judge, if you please, what _his_
eagerness will be!”

Catherine turned it over—her father’s words had such an authority for her
that her very thoughts were capable of obeying him.  There was a dreadful
ugliness in it, which seemed to glare at her through the interposing
medium of her own feebler reason.  Suddenly, however, she had an
inspiration—she almost knew it to be an inspiration.

“If I don’t marry before your death, I will not after,” she said.

To her father, it must be admitted, this seemed only another epigram; and
as obstinacy, in unaccomplished minds, does not usually select such a
mode of expression, he was the more surprised at this wanton play of a
fixed idea.

“Do you mean that for an impertinence?” he inquired; an inquiry of which,
as he made it, he quite perceived the grossness.

“An impertinence?  Oh, father, what terrible things you say!”

“If you don’t wait for my death, you might as well marry immediately;
there is nothing else to wait for.”

For some time Catherine made no answer; but finally she said:

“I think Morris—little by little—might persuade you.”

“I shall never let him speak to me again.  I dislike him too much.”

Catherine gave a long, low sigh; she tried to stifle it, for she had made
up her mind that it was wrong to make a parade of her trouble, and to
endeavour to act upon her father by the meretricious aid of emotion.
Indeed, she even thought it wrong—in the sense of being inconsiderate—to
attempt to act upon his feelings at all; her part was to effect some
gentle, gradual change in his intellectual perception of poor Morris’s
character.  But the means of effecting such a change were at present
shrouded in mystery, and she felt miserably helpless and hopeless.  She
had exhausted all arguments, all replies.  Her father might have pitied
her, and in fact he did so; but he was sure he was right.

“There is one thing you can tell Mr. Townsend when you see him again,” he
said: “that if you marry without my consent, I don’t leave you a farthing
of money.  That will interest him more than anything else you can tell
him.”

“That would be very right,” Catherine answered.  “I ought not in that
case to have a farthing of your money.”

“My dear child,” the Doctor observed, laughing, “your simplicity is
touching.  Make that remark, in that tone, and with that expression of
countenance, to Mr. Townsend, and take a note of his answer.  It won’t be
polite—it will, express irritation; and I shall be glad of that, as it
will put me in the right; unless, indeed—which is perfectly possible—you
should like him the better for being rude to you.”

“He will never be rude to me,” said Catherine gently.

“Tell him what I say, all the same.”

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

“I think I will see him, then,” she murmured, in her timid voice.

“Exactly as you choose!”  And he went to the door and opened it for her
to go out.  The movement gave her a terrible sense of his turning her
off.

“It will be only once, for the present,” she added, lingering a moment.

“Exactly as you choose,” he repeated, standing there with his hand on the
door.  “I have told you what I think.  If you see him, you will be an
ungrateful, cruel child; you will have given your old father the greatest
pain of his life.”

This was more than the poor girl could bear; her tears overflowed, and
she moved towards her grimly consistent parent with a pitiful cry.  Her
hands were raised in supplication, but he sternly evaded this appeal.
Instead of letting her sob out her misery on his shoulder, he simply took
her by the arm and directed her course across the threshold, closing the
door gently but firmly behind her.  After he had done so, he remained
listening.  For a long time there was no sound; he knew that she was
standing outside.  He was sorry for her, as I have said; but he was so
sure he was right.  At last he heard her move away, and then her footstep
creaked faintly upon the stairs.

The Doctor took several turns round his study, with his hands in his
pockets, and a thin sparkle, possibly of irritation, but partly also of
something like humour, in his eye.  “By Jove,” he said to himself, “I
believe she will stick—I believe she will stick!”  And this idea of
Catherine “sticking” appeared to have a comical side, and to offer a
prospect of entertainment.  He determined, as he said to himself, to see
it out.



XIX


IT was for reasons connected with this determination that on the morrow
he sought a few words of private conversation with Mrs. Penniman.  He
sent for her to the library, and he there informed her that he hoped very
much that, as regarded this affair of Catherine’s, she would mind her
_p’s_ and _q’s_.

“I don’t know what you mean by such an expression,” said his sister.
“You speak as if I were learning the alphabet.”

“The alphabet of common sense is something you will never learn,” the
Doctor permitted himself to respond.

“Have you called me here to insult me?” Mrs. Penniman inquired.

“Not at all.  Simply to advise you.  You have taken up young Townsend;
that’s your own affair.  I have nothing to do with your sentiments, your
fancies, your affections, your delusions; but what I request of you is
that you will keep these things to yourself.  I have explained my views
to Catherine; she understands them perfectly, and anything that she does
further in the way of encouraging Mr. Townsend’s attentions will be in
deliberate opposition to my wishes.  Anything that you should do in the
way of giving her aid and comfort will be—permit me the
expression—distinctly treasonable.  You know high treason is a capital
offence; take care how you incur the penalty.”

Mrs. Penniman threw back her head, with a certain expansion of the eye
which she occasionally practised.  “It seems to me that you talk like a
great autocrat.”

“I talk like my daughter’s father.”

“Not like your sister’s brother!” cried Lavinia.  “My dear Lavinia,” said
the Doctor, “I sometimes wonder whether I am your brother.  We are so
extremely different.  In spite of differences, however, we can, at a
pinch, understand each other; and that is the essential thing just now.
Walk straight with regard to Mr. Townsend; that’s all I ask.  It is
highly probable you have been corresponding with him for the last three
weeks—perhaps even seeing him.  I don’t ask you—you needn’t tell me.”  He
had a moral conviction that she would contrive to tell a fib about the
matter, which it would disgust him to listen to.  “Whatever you have
done, stop doing it.  That’s all I wish.”

“Don’t you wish also by chance to murder our child?” Mrs. Penniman
inquired.

“On the contrary, I wish to make her live and be happy.”

“You will kill her; she passed a dreadful night.”

“She won’t die of one dreadful night, nor of a dozen.  Remember that I am
a distinguished physician.”

Mrs. Penniman hesitated a moment.  Then she risked her retort.  “Your
being a distinguished physician has not prevented you from already losing
_two members_ of your family!”

She had risked it, but her brother gave her such a terribly incisive
look—a look so like a surgeon’s lancet—that she was frightened at her
courage.  And he answered her in words that corresponded to the look: “It
may not prevent me, either, from losing the society of still another.”

Mrs. Penniman took herself off, with whatever air of depreciated merit
was at her command, and repaired to Catherine’s room, where the poor girl
was closeted.  She knew all about her dreadful night, for the two had met
again, the evening before, after Catherine left her father.  Mrs.
Penniman was on the landing of the second floor when her niece came
upstairs.  It was not remarkable that a person of so much subtlety should
have discovered that Catherine had been shut up with the Doctor.  It was
still less remarkable that she should have felt an extreme curiosity to
learn the result of this interview, and that this sentiment, combined
with her great amiability and generosity, should have prompted her to
regret the sharp words lately exchanged between her niece and herself.
As the unhappy girl came into sight, in the dusky corridor, she made a
lively demonstration of sympathy.  Catherine’s bursting heart was equally
oblivious.  She only knew that her aunt was taking her into her arms.
Mrs. Penniman drew her into Catherine’s own room, and the two women sat
there together, far into the small hours; the younger one with her head
on the other’s lap, sobbing and sobbing at first in a soundless, stifled
manner, and then at last perfectly still.  It gratified Mrs. Penniman to
be able to feel conscientiously that this scene virtually removed the
interdict which Catherine had placed upon her further communion with
Morris Townsend.  She was not gratified, however, when, in coming back to
her niece’s room before breakfast, she found that Catherine had risen and
was preparing herself for this meal.

“You should not go to breakfast,” she said; “you are not well enough,
after your fearful night.”

“Yes, I am very well, and I am only afraid of being late.”

“I can’t understand you!” Mrs. Penniman cried.  “You should stay in bed
for three days.”

“Oh, I could never do that!” said Catherine, to whom this idea presented
no attractions.

Mrs. Penniman was in despair, and she noted, with extreme annoyance, that
the trace of the night’s tears had completely vanished from Catherine’s
eyes.  She had a most impracticable _physique_.  “What effect do you
expect to have upon your father,” her aunt demanded, “if you come
plumping down, without a vestige of any sort of feeling, as if nothing in
the world had happened?”

“He would not like me to lie in bed,” said Catherine simply.

“All the more reason for your doing it.  How else do you expect to move
him?”

Catherine thought a little.  “I don’t know how; but not in that way.  I
wish to be just as usual.”  And she finished dressing, and, according to
her aunt’s expression, went plumping down into the paternal presence.
She was really too modest for consistent pathos.

And yet it was perfectly true that she had had a dreadful night.  Even
after Mrs. Penniman left her she had had no sleep.  She lay staring at
the uncomforting gloom, with her eyes and ears filled with the movement
with which her father had turned her out of his room, and of the words in
which he had told her that she was a heartless daughter.  Her heart was
breaking.  She had heart enough for that.  At moments it seemed to her
that she believed him, and that to do what she was doing, a girl must
indeed be bad.  She _was_ bad; but she couldn’t help it.  She would try
to appear good, even if her heart were perverted; and from time to time
she had a fancy that she might accomplish something by ingenious
concessions to form, though she should persist in caring for Morris.
Catherine’s ingenuities were indefinite, and we are not called upon to
expose their hollowness.  The best of them perhaps showed itself in that
freshness of aspect which was so discouraging to Mrs. Penniman, who was
amazed at the absence of haggardness in a young woman who for a whole
night had lain quivering beneath a father’s curse.  Poor Catherine was
conscious of her freshness; it gave her a feeling about the future which
rather added to the weight upon her mind.  It seemed a proof that she was
strong and solid and dense, and would live to a great age—longer than
might be generally convenient; and this idea was depressing, for it
appeared to saddle her with a pretension the more, just when the
cultivation of any pretension was inconsistent with her doing right.  She
wrote that day to Morris Townsend, requesting him to come and see her on
the morrow; using very few words, and explaining nothing.  She would
explain everything face to face.



XX


ON the morrow, in the afternoon, she heard his voice at the door, and his
step in the hall.  She received him in the big, bright front parlour, and
she instructed the servant that if any one should call she was
particularly engaged.  She was not afraid of her father’s coming in, for
at that hour he was always driving about town.  When Morris stood there
before her, the first thing that she was conscious of was that he was
even more beautiful to look at than fond recollection had painted him;
the next was that he had pressed her in his arms.  When she was free
again it appeared to her that she had now indeed thrown herself into the
gulf of defiance, and even, for an instant, that she had been married to
him.

He told her that she had been very cruel, and had made him very unhappy;
and Catherine felt acutely the difficulty of her destiny, which forced
her to give pain in such opposite quarters.  But she wished that, instead
of reproaches, however tender, he would give her help; he was certainly
wise enough, and clever enough, to invent some issue from their troubles.
She expressed this belief, and Morris received the assurance as if he
thought it natural; but he interrogated, at first—as was natural
too—rather than committed himself to marking out a course.

“You should not have made me wait so long,” he said.  “I don’t know how I
have been living; every hour seemed like years.  You should have decided
sooner.”

“Decided?” Catherine asked.

“Decided whether you would keep me or give me up.”

“Oh, Morris,” she cried, with a long tender murmur, “I never thought of
giving you up!”

“What, then, were you waiting for?”  The young man was ardently logical.

“I thought my father might—might—” and she hesitated.

“Might see how unhappy you were?”

“Oh no!  But that he might look at it differently.”

“And now you have sent for me to tell me that at last he does so.  Is
that it?”

This hypothetical optimism gave the poor girl a pang.  “No, Morris,” she
said solemnly, “he looks at it still in the same way.”

“Then why have you sent for me?”

“Because I wanted to see you!” cried Catherine piteously.

“That’s an excellent reason, surely.  But did you want to look at me
only?  Have you nothing to tell me?”

His beautiful persuasive eyes were fixed upon her face, and she wondered
what answer would be noble enough to make to such a gaze as that.  For a
moment her own eyes took it in, and then—“I _did_ want to look at you!”
she said gently.  But after this speech, most inconsistently, she hid her
face.

Morris watched her for a moment, attentively.  “Will you marry me
to-morrow?” he asked suddenly.

“To-morrow?”

“Next week, then.  Any time within a month.”

“Isn’t it better to wait?” said Catherine.

“To wait for what?”

She hardly knew for what; but this tremendous leap alarmed her.  “Till we
have thought about it a little more.”

He shook his head, sadly and reproachfully.  “I thought you had been
thinking about it these three weeks.  Do you want to turn it over in your
mind for five years?  You have given me more than time enough.  My poor
girl,” he added in a moment, “you are not sincere!”

Catherine coloured from brow to chin, and her eyes filled with tears.
“Oh, how can you say that?” she murmured.

“Why, you must take me or leave me,” said Morris, very reasonably.  “You
can’t please your father and me both; you must choose between us.”

“I have chosen you!” she said passionately.

“Then marry me next week.”

She stood gazing at him.  “Isn’t there any other way?”

“None that I know of for arriving at the same result.  If there is, I
should be happy to hear of it.”

Catherine could think of nothing of the kind, and Morris’s luminosity
seemed almost pitiless.  The only thing she could think of was that her
father might, after all, come round, and she articulated, with an awkward
sense of her helplessness in doing so, a wish that this miracle might
happen.

“Do you think it is in the least degree likely?” Morris asked.

“It would be, if he could only know you!”

“He can know me if he will.  What is to prevent it?”

“His ideas, his reasons,” said Catherine.  “They are so—so terribly
strong.”  She trembled with the recollection of them yet.

“Strong?” cried Morris.  “I would rather you should think them weak.”

“Oh, nothing about my father is weak!” said the girl.

Morris turned away, walking to the window, where he stood looking out.
“You are terribly afraid of him!” he remarked at last.

She felt no impulse to deny it, because she had no shame in it; for if it
was no honour to herself, at least it was an honour to him.  “I suppose I
must be,” she said simply.

“Then you don’t love me—not as I love you.  If you fear your father more
than you love me, then your love is not what I hoped it was.”

“Ah, my friend!” she said, going to him.

“Do _I_ fear anything?” he demanded, turning round on her.  “For your
sake what am I not ready to face?”

“You are noble—you are brave!” she answered, stopping short at a distance
that was almost respectful.

“Small good it does me, if you are so timid.”

“I don’t think that I am—_really_,” said Catherine.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘really.’  It is really enough to make us
miserable.”

“I should be strong enough to wait—to wait a long time.”

“And suppose after a long time your father should hate me worse than
ever?”

“He wouldn’t—he couldn’t!”

“He would be touched by my fidelity?  Is that what you mean?  If he is so
easily touched, then why should you be afraid of him?”

This was much to the point, and Catherine was struck by it.  “I will try
not to be,” she said.  And she stood there submissively, the image, in
advance, of a dutiful and responsible wife.  This image could not fail to
recommend itself to Morris Townsend, and he continued to give proof of
the high estimation in which he held her.  It could only have been at the
prompting of such a sentiment that he presently mentioned to her that the
course recommended by Mrs. Penniman was an immediate union, regardless of
consequences.

“Yes, Aunt Penniman would like that,” Catherine said simply—and yet with
a certain shrewdness.  It must, however, have been in pure simplicity,
and from motives quite untouched by sarcasm, that, a few moments after,
she went on to say to Morris that her father had given her a message for
him.  It was quite on her conscience to deliver this message, and had the
mission been ten times more painful she would have as scrupulously
performed it.  “He told me to tell you—to tell you very distinctly, and
directly from himself, that if I marry without his consent, I shall not
inherit a penny of his fortune.  He made a great point of this.  He
seemed to think—he seemed to think—”

Morris flushed, as any young man of spirit might have flushed at an
imputation of baseness.

“What did he seem to think?”

“That it would make a difference.”

“It _will_ make a difference—in many things.  We shall be by many
thousands of dollars the poorer; and that is a great difference.  But it
will make none in my affection.”

“We shall not want the money,” said Catherine; “for you know I have a
good deal myself.”

“Yes, my dear girl, I know you have something.  And he can’t touch that!”

“He would never,” said Catherine.  “My mother left it to me.”

Morris was silent a while.  “He was very positive about this, was he?” he
asked at last.  “He thought such a message would annoy me terribly, and
make me throw off the mask, eh?”

“I don’t know what he thought,” said Catherine wearily.

“Please tell him that I care for his message as much as for that!”  And
Morris snapped his fingers sonorously.

“I don’t think I could tell him that.”

“Do you know you sometimes disappoint me?” said Morris.

“I should think I might.  I disappoint every one—father and Aunt
Penniman.”

“Well, it doesn’t matter with me, because I am fonder of you than they
are.”

“Yes, Morris,” said the girl, with her imagination—what there was of
it—swimming in this happy truth, which seemed, after all, invidious to no
one.

“Is it your belief that he will stick to it—stick to it for ever, to this
idea of disinheriting you?—that your goodness and patience will never
wear out his cruelty?”

“The trouble is that if I marry you, he will think I am not good.  He
will think that a proof.”

“Ah, then, he will never forgive you!”

This idea, sharply expressed by Morris’s handsome lips, renewed for a
moment, to the poor girl’s temporarily pacified conscience, all its
dreadful vividness.  “Oh, you must love me very much!” she cried.

“There is no doubt of that, my dear!” her lover rejoined.  “You don’t
like that word ‘disinherited,’” he added in a moment.

“It isn’t the money; it is that he should—that he should feel so.”

“I suppose it seems to you a kind of curse,” said Morris.  “It must be
very dismal.  But don’t you think,” he went on presently, “that if you
were to try to be very clever, and to set rightly about it, you might in
the end conjure it away?  Don’t you think,” he continued further, in a
tone of sympathetic speculation, “that a really clever woman, in your
place, might bring him round at last?  Don’t you think?”

Here, suddenly, Morris was interrupted; these ingenious inquiries had not
reached Catherine’s ears.  The terrible word “disinheritance,” with all
its impressive moral reprobation, was still ringing there; seemed indeed
to gather force as it lingered.  The mortal chill of her situation struck
more deeply into her child-like heart, and she was overwhelmed by a
feeling of loneliness and danger.  But her refuge was there, close to
her, and she put out her hands to grasp it.  “Ah, Morris,” she said, with
a shudder, “I will marry you as soon as you please.”  And she surrendered
herself, leaning her head on his shoulder.

“My dear good girl!” he exclaimed, looking down at his prize.  And then
he looked up again, rather vaguely, with parted lips and lifted eyebrows.



XXI


DR. SLOPER very soon imparted his conviction to Mrs. Almond, in the same
terms in which he had announced it to himself.  “She’s going to stick, by
Jove! she’s going to stick.”

“Do you mean that she is going to marry him?” Mrs. Almond inquired.

“I don’t know that; but she is not going to break down.  She is going to
drag out the engagement, in the hope of making me relent.”

“And shall you not relent?”

“Shall a geometrical proposition relent?  I am not so superficial.”

“Doesn’t geometry treat of surfaces?” asked Mrs. Almond, who, as we know,
was clever, smiling.

“Yes; but it treats of them profoundly.  Catherine and her young man are
my surfaces; I have taken their measure.”

“You speak as if it surprised you.”

“It is immense; there will be a great deal to observe.”

“You are shockingly cold-blooded!” said Mrs. Almond.

“I need to be with all this hot blood about me.  Young Townsend indeed is
cool; I must allow him that merit.”

“I can’t judge him,” Mrs. Almond answered; “but I am not at all surprised
at Catherine.”

“I confess I am a little; she must have been so deucedly divided and
bothered.”

“Say it amuses you outright!  I don’t see why it should be such a joke
that your daughter adores you.”

“It is the point where the adoration stops that I find it interesting to
fix.”

“It stops where the other sentiment begins.”

“Not at all—that would be simple enough.  The two things are extremely
mixed up, and the mixture is extremely odd.  It will produce some third
element, and that’s what I am waiting to see.  I wait with suspense—with
positive excitement; and that is a sort of emotion that I didn’t suppose
Catherine would ever provide for me.  I am really very much obliged to
her.”

“She will cling,” said Mrs. Almond; “she will certainly cling.”

“Yes; as I say, she will stick.”

“Cling is prettier.  That’s what those very simple natures always do, and
nothing could be simpler than Catherine.  She doesn’t take many
impressions; but when she takes one she keeps it.  She is like a copper
kettle that receives a dent; you may polish up the kettle, but you can’t
efface the mark.”

“We must try and polish up Catherine,” said the Doctor.  “I will take her
to Europe.”

“She won’t forget him in Europe.”

“He will forget her, then.”

Mrs. Almond looked grave.  “Should you really like that?”

“Extremely!” said the Doctor.

Mrs. Penniman, meanwhile, lost little time in putting herself again in
communication with Morris Townsend.  She requested him to favour her with
another interview, but she did not on this occasion select an oyster
saloon as the scene of their meeting.  She proposed that he should join
her at the door of a certain church, after service on Sunday afternoon,
and she was careful not to appoint the place of worship which she usually
visited, and where, as she said, the congregation would have spied upon
her.  She picked out a less elegant resort, and on issuing from its
portal at the hour she had fixed she saw the young man standing apart.
She offered him no recognition till she had crossed the street and he had
followed her to some distance.  Here, with a smile—“Excuse my apparent
want of cordiality,” she said.  “You know what to believe about that.
Prudence before everything.”  And on his asking her in what direction
they should walk, “Where we shall be least observed,” she murmured.

Morris was not in high good-humour, and his response to this speech was
not particularly gallant.  “I don’t flatter myself we shall be much
observed anywhere.”  Then he turned recklessly toward the centre of the
town.  “I hope you have come to tell me that he has knocked under,” he
went on.

“I am afraid I am not altogether a harbinger of good; and yet, too, I am
to a certain extent a messenger of peace.  I have been thinking a great
deal, Mr. Townsend,” said Mrs. Penniman.

“You think too much.”

“I suppose I do; but I can’t help it, my mind is so terribly active.
When I give myself, I give myself.  I pay the penalty in my headaches, my
famous headaches—a perfect circlet of pain!  But I carry it as a queen
carries her crown.  Would you believe that I have one now?  I wouldn’t,
however, have missed our rendezvous for anything.  I have something very
important to tell you.”

“Well, let’s have it,” said Morris.

“I was perhaps a little headlong the other day in advising you to marry
immediately.  I have been thinking it over, and now I see it just a
little differently.”

“You seem to have a great many different ways of seeing the same object.”

“Their number is infinite!” said Mrs. Penniman, in a tone which seemed to
suggest that this convenient faculty was one of her brightest attributes.

“I recommend you to take one way and stick to it,” Morris replied.

“Ah! but it isn’t easy to choose.  My imagination is never quiet, never
satisfied.  It makes me a bad adviser, perhaps; but it makes me a capital
friend!”

“A capital friend who gives bad advice!” said Morris.

“Not intentionally—and who hurries off, at every risk, to make the most
humble excuses!”

“Well, what do you advise me now?”

“To be very patient; to watch and wait.”

“And is that bad advice or good?”

“That is not for me to say,” Mrs. Penniman rejoined, with some dignity.
“I only pretend it’s sincere.”

“And will you come to me next week and recommend something different and
equally sincere?”

“I may come to you next week and tell you that I am in the streets!”

“In the streets?”

“I have had a terrible scene with my brother, and he threatens, if
anything happens, to turn me out of the house.  You know I am a poor
woman.”

Morris had a speculative idea that she had a little property; but he
naturally did not press this.

“I should be very sorry to see you suffer martyrdom for me,” he said.
“But you make your brother out a regular Turk.”

Mrs. Penniman hesitated a little.

“I certainly do not regard Austin as a satisfactory Christian.”

“And am I to wait till he is converted?”

“Wait, at any rate, till he is less violent.  Bide your time, Mr.
Townsend; remember the prize is great!”

Morris walked along some time in silence, tapping the railings and
gateposts very sharply with his stick.

“You certainly are devilish inconsistent!” he broke out at last.  “I have
already got Catherine to consent to a private marriage.”

Mrs. Penniman was indeed inconsistent, for at this news she gave a little
jump of gratification.

“Oh! when and where?” she cried.  And then she stopped short.

Morris was a little vague about this.

“That isn’t fixed; but she consents.  It’s deuced awkward, now, to back
out.”

Mrs. Penniman, as I say, had stopped short; and she stood there with her
eyes fixed brilliantly on her companion.

“Mr. Townsend,” she proceeded, “shall I tell you something?  Catherine
loves you so much that you may do anything.”

This declaration was slightly ambiguous, and Morris opened his eyes.

“I am happy to hear it!  But what do you mean by ‘anything’?”

“You may postpone—you may change about; she won’t think the worse of
you.”

Morris stood there still, with his raised eyebrows; then he said simply
and rather dryly—“Ah!”  After this he remarked to Mrs. Penniman that if
she walked so slowly she would attract notice, and he succeeded, after a
fashion, in hurrying her back to the domicile of which her tenure had
become so insecure.



XXII


HE had slightly misrepresented the matter in saying that Catherine had
consented to take the great step.  We left her just now declaring that
she would burn her ships behind her; but Morris, after having elicited
this declaration, had become conscious of good reasons for not taking it
up.  He avoided, gracefully enough, fixing a day, though he left her
under the impression that he had his eye on one.  Catherine may have had
her difficulties; but those of her circumspect suitor are also worthy of
consideration.  The prize was certainly great; but it was only to be won
by striking the happy mean between precipitancy and caution.  It would be
all very well to take one’s jump and trust to Providence; Providence was
more especially on the side of clever people, and clever people were
known by an indisposition to risk their bones.  The ultimate reward of a
union with a young woman who was both unattractive and impoverished ought
to be connected with immediate disadvantages by some very palpable chain.
Between the fear of losing Catherine and her possible fortune altogether,
and the fear of taking her too soon and finding this possible fortune as
void of actuality as a collection of emptied bottles, it was not
comfortable for Morris Townsend to choose; a fact that should be
remembered by readers disposed to judge harshly of a young man who may
have struck them as making but an indifferently successful use of fine
natural parts.  He had not forgotten that in any event Catherine had her
own ten thousand a year; he had devoted an abundance of meditation to
this circumstance.  But with his fine parts he rated himself high, and he
had a perfectly definite appreciation of his value, which seemed to him
inadequately represented by the sum I have mentioned.  At the same time
he reminded himself that this sum was considerable, that everything is
relative, and that if a modest income is less desirable than a large one,
the complete absence of revenue is nowhere accounted an advantage.  These
reflexions gave him plenty of occupation, and made it necessary that he
should trim his sail.  Dr. Sloper’s opposition was the unknown quantity
in the problem he had to work out.  The natural way to work it out was by
marrying Catherine; but in mathematics there are many short cuts, and
Morris was not without a hope that he should yet discover one.  When
Catherine took him at his word and consented to renounce the attempt to
mollify her father, he drew back skilfully enough, as I have said, and
kept the wedding-day still an open question.  Her faith in his sincerity
was so complete that she was incapable of suspecting that he was playing
with her; her trouble just now was of another kind.  The poor girl had an
admirable sense of honour; and from the moment she had brought herself to
the point of violating her father’s wish, it seemed to her that she had
no right to enjoy his protection.  It was on her conscience that she
ought to live under his roof only so long as she conformed to his wisdom.
There was a great deal of glory in such a position, but poor Catherine
felt that she had forfeited her claim to it.  She had cast her lot with a
young man against whom he had solemnly warned her, and broken the
contract under which he provided her with a happy home.  She could not
give up the young man, so she must leave the home; and the sooner the
object of her preference offered her another the sooner her situation
would lose its awkward twist.  This was close reasoning; but it was
commingled with an infinite amount of merely instinctive penitence.
Catherine’s days at this time were dismal, and the weight of some of her
hours was almost more than she could bear.  Her father never looked at
her, never spoke to her.  He knew perfectly what he was about, and this
was part of a plan.  She looked at him as much as she dared (for she was
afraid of seeming to offer herself to his observation), and she pitied
him for the sorrow she had brought upon him.  She held up her head and
busied her hands, and went about her daily occupations; and when the
state of things in Washington Square seemed intolerable, she closed her
eyes and indulged herself with an intellectual vision of the man for
whose sake she had broken a sacred law.  Mrs. Penniman, of the three
persons in Washington Square, had much the most of the manner that
belongs to a great crisis.  If Catherine was quiet, she was quietly
quiet, as I may say, and her pathetic effects, which there was no one to
notice, were entirely unstudied and unintended.  If the Doctor was stiff
and dry and absolutely indifferent to the presence of his companions, it
was so lightly, neatly, easily done, that you would have had to know him
well to discover that, on the whole, he rather enjoyed having to be so
disagreeable.  But Mrs. Penniman was elaborately reserved and
significantly silent; there was a richer rustle in the very deliberate
movements to which she confined herself, and when she occasionally spoke,
in connexion with some very trivial event, she had the air of meaning
something deeper than what she said.  Between Catherine and her father
nothing had passed since the evening she went to speak to him in his
study.  She had something to say to him—it seemed to her she ought to say
it; but she kept it back, for fear of irritating him.  He also had
something to say to her; but he was determined not to speak first.  He
was interested, as we know, in seeing how, if she were left to herself,
she would “stick.”  At last she told him she had seen Morris Townsend
again, and that their relations remained quite the same.

“I think we shall marry—before very long.  And probably, meanwhile, I
shall see him rather often; about once a week, not more.”

The Doctor looked at her coldly from head to foot, as if she had been a
stranger.  It was the first time his eyes had rested on her for a week,
which was fortunate, if that was to be their expression.  “Why not three
times a day?” he asked.  “What prevents your meeting as often as you
choose?”

She turned away a moment; there were tears in her eyes.  Then she said,
“It is better once a week.”

“I don’t see how it is better.  It is as bad as it can be.  If you
flatter yourself that I care for little modifications of that sort, you
are very much mistaken.  It is as wrong of you to see him once a week as
it would be to see him all day long.  Not that it matters to me,
however.”

Catherine tried to follow these words, but they seemed to lead towards a
vague horror from which she recoiled.  “I think we shall marry pretty
soon,” she repeated at last.

Her father gave her his dreadful look again, as if she were some one
else.  “Why do you tell me that?  It’s no concern of mine.”

“Oh, father!” she broke out, “don’t you care, even if you do feel so?”

“Not a button.  Once you marry, it’s quite the same to me when or where
or why you do it; and if you think to compound for your folly by hoisting
your flag in this way, you may spare yourself the trouble.”

With this he turned away.  But the next day he spoke to her of his own
accord, and his manner was somewhat changed.  “Shall you be married
within the next four or five months?” he asked.

“I don’t know, father,” said Catherine.  “It is not very easy for us to
make up our minds.”

“Put it off, then, for six months, and in the meantime I will take you to
Europe.  I should like you very much to go.”

It gave her such delight, after his words of the day before, to hear that
he should “like” her to do something, and that he still had in his heart
any of the tenderness of preference, that she gave a little exclamation
of joy.  But then she became conscious that Morris was not included in
this proposal, and that—as regards really going—she would greatly prefer
to remain at home with him.  But she blushed, none the less, more
comfortably than she had done of late.  “It would be delightful to go to
Europe,” she remarked, with a sense that the idea was not original, and
that her tone was not all it might be.

“Very well, then, we will go.  Pack up your clothes.”

“I had better tell Mr. Townsend,” said Catherine.

Her father fixed his cold eyes upon her.  “If you mean that you had
better ask his leave, all that remains to me is to hope he will give it.”

The girl was sharply touched by the pathetic ring of the words; it was
the most calculated, the most dramatic little speech the Doctor had ever
uttered.  She felt that it was a great thing for her, under the
circumstances, to have this fine opportunity of showing him her respect;
and yet there was something else that she felt as well, and that she
presently expressed.  “I sometimes think that if I do what you dislike so
much, I ought not to stay with you.”

“To stay with me?”

“If I live with you, I ought to obey you.”

“If that’s your theory, it’s certainly mine,” said the Doctor, with a dry
laugh.

“But if I don’t obey you, I ought not to live with you—to enjoy your
kindness and protection.”

This striking argument gave the Doctor a sudden sense of having
underestimated his daughter; it seemed even more than worthy of a young
woman who had revealed the quality of unaggressive obstinacy.  But it
displeased him—displeased him deeply, and he signified as much.  “That
idea is in very bad taste,” he said.  “Did you get it from Mr. Townsend?”

“Oh no; it’s my own!” said Catherine eagerly.

“Keep it to yourself, then,” her father answered, more than ever
determined she should go to Europe.



XXIII


IF Morris Townsend was not to be included in this journey, no more was
Mrs. Penniman, who would have been thankful for an invitation, but who
(to do her justice) bore her disappointment in a perfectly ladylike
manner.  “I should enjoy seeing the works of Raphael and the ruins—the
ruins of the Pantheon,” she said to Mrs. Almond; “but, on the other hand,
I shall not be sorry to be alone and at peace for the next few months in
Washington Square.  I want rest; I have been through so much in the last
four months.”  Mrs. Almond thought it rather cruel that her brother
should not take poor Lavinia abroad; but she easily understood that, if
the purpose of his expedition was to make Catherine forget her lover, it
was not in his interest to give his daughter this young man’s best friend
as a companion.  “If Lavinia had not been so foolish, she might visit the
ruins of the Pantheon,” she said to herself; and she continued to regret
her sister’s folly, even though the latter assured her that she had often
heard the relics in question most satisfactorily described by Mr.
Penniman.  Mrs. Penniman was perfectly aware that her brother’s motive in
undertaking a foreign tour was to lay a trap for Catherine’s constancy;
and she imparted this conviction very frankly to her niece.

“He thinks it will make you forget Morris,” she said (she always called
the young man “Morris” now); “out of sight, out of mind, you know.  He
thinks that all the things you will see over there will drive him out of
your thoughts.”

Catherine looked greatly alarmed.  “If he thinks that, I ought to tell
him beforehand.”

Mrs. Penniman shook her head.  “Tell him afterwards, my dear!  After he
has had all the trouble and the expense!  That’s the way to serve him.”
And she added, in a softer key, that it must be delightful to think of
those who love us among the ruins of the Pantheon.

Her father’s displeasure had cost the girl, as we know, a great deal of
deep-welling sorrow—sorrow of the purest and most generous kind, without
a touch of resentment or rancour; but for the first time, after he had
dismissed with such contemptuous brevity her apology for being a charge
upon him, there was a spark of anger in her grief.  She had felt his
contempt; it had scorched her; that speech about her bad taste made her
ears burn for three days.  During this period she was less considerate;
she had an idea—a rather vague one, but it was agreeable to her sense of
injury—that now she was absolved from penance, and might do what she
chose.  She chose to write to Morris Townsend to meet her in the Square
and take her to walk about the town.  If she were going to Europe out of
respect to her father, she might at least give herself this satisfaction.
She felt in every way at present more free and more resolute; there was a
force that urged her.  Now at last, completely and unreservedly, her
passion possessed her.

Morris met her at last, and they took a long walk.  She told him
immediately what had happened—that her father wished to take her away.
It would be for six months, to Europe; she would do absolutely what
Morris should think best.  She hoped inexpressibly that he would think it
best she should stay at home.  It was some time before he said what he
thought: he asked, as they walked along, a great many questions.  There
was one that especially struck her; it seemed so incongruous.

“Should you like to see all those celebrated things over there?”

“Oh no, Morris!” said Catherine, quite deprecatingly.

“Gracious Heaven, what a dull woman!” Morris exclaimed to himself.

“He thinks I will forget you,” said Catherine: “that all these things
will drive you out of my mind.”

“Well, my dear, perhaps they will!”

“Please don’t say that,” Catherine answered gently, as they walked along.
“Poor father will be disappointed.”

Morris gave a little laugh.  “Yes, I verily believe that your poor father
will be disappointed!  But you will have seen Europe,” he added
humorously.  “What a take-in!”

“I don’t care for seeing Europe,” Catherine said.

“You ought to care, my dear.  And it may mollify your father.”

Catherine, conscious of her obstinacy, expected little of this, and could
not rid herself of the idea that in going abroad and yet remaining firm,
she should play her father a trick.  “Don’t you think it would be a kind
of deception?” she asked.

“Doesn’t he want to deceive you?” cried Morris.  “It will serve him
right!  I really think you had better go.”

“And not be married for so long?”

“Be married when you come back.  You can buy your wedding clothes in
Paris.”  And then Morris, with great kindness of tone, explained his view
of the matter.  It would be a good thing that she should go; it would put
them completely in the right.  It would show they were reasonable and
willing to wait.  Once they were so sure of each other, they could afford
to wait—what had they to fear?  If there was a particle of chance that
her father would be favourably affected by her going, that ought to
settle it; for, after all, Morris was very unwilling to be the cause of
her being disinherited.  It was not for himself, it was for her and for
her children.  He was willing to wait for her; it would be hard, but he
could do it.  And over there, among beautiful scenes and noble monuments,
perhaps the old gentleman would be softened; such things were supposed to
exert a humanising influence.  He might be touched by her gentleness, her
patience, her willingness to make any sacrifice but _that_ one; and if
she should appeal to him some day, in some celebrated spot—in Italy, say,
in the evening; in Venice, in a gondola, by moonlight—if she should be a
little clever about it and touch the right chord, perhaps he would fold
her in his arms and tell her that he forgave her.  Catherine was
immensely struck with this conception of the affair, which seemed
eminently worthy of her lover’s brilliant intellect; though she viewed it
askance in so far as it depended upon her own powers of execution.  The
idea of being “clever” in a gondola by moonlight appeared to her to
involve elements of which her grasp was not active.  But it was settled
between them that she should tell her father that she was ready to follow
him obediently anywhere, making the mental reservation that she loved
Morris Townsend more than ever.

She informed the Doctor she was ready to embark, and he made rapid
arrangements for this event.  Catherine had many farewells to make, but
with only two of them are we actively concerned.  Mrs. Penniman took a
discriminating view of her niece’s journey; it seemed to her very proper
that Mr. Townsend’s destined bride should wish to embellish her mind by a
foreign tour.

“You leave him in good hands,” she said, pressing her lips to Catherine’s
forehead.  (She was very fond of kissing people’s foreheads; it was an
involuntary expression of sympathy with the intellectual part.)  “I shall
see him often; I shall feel like one of the vestals of old, tending the
sacred flame.”

“You behave beautifully about not going with us,” Catherine answered, not
presuming to examine this analogy.

“It is my pride that keeps me up,” said Mrs. Penniman, tapping the body
of her dress, which always gave forth a sort of metallic ring.

Catherine’s parting with her lover was short, and few words were
exchanged.

“Shall I find you just the same when I come back?” she asked; though the
question was not the fruit of scepticism.

“The same—only more so!” said Morris, smiling.

It does not enter into our scheme to narrate in detail Dr. Sloper’s
proceedings in the eastern hemisphere.  He made the grand tour of Europe,
travelled in considerable splendour, and (as was to have been expected in
a man of his high cultivation) found so much in art and antiquity to
interest him, that he remained abroad, not for six months, but for
twelve.  Mrs. Penniman, in Washington Square, accommodated herself to his
absence.  She enjoyed her uncontested dominion in the empty house, and
flattered herself that she made it more attractive to their friends than
when her brother was at home.  To Morris Townsend, at least, it would
have appeared that she made it singularly attractive.  He was altogether
her most frequent visitor, and Mrs. Penniman was very fond of asking him
to tea.  He had his chair—a very easy one at the fireside in the back
parlour (when the great mahogany sliding-doors, with silver knobs and
hinges, which divided this apartment from its more formal neighbour, were
closed), and he used to smoke cigars in the Doctor’s study, where he
often spent an hour in turning over the curious collections of its absent
proprietor.  He thought Mrs. Penniman a goose, as we know; but he was no
goose himself, and, as a young man of luxurious tastes and scanty
resources, he found the house a perfect castle of indolence.  It became
for him a club with a single member.  Mrs. Penniman saw much less of her
sister than while the Doctor was at home; for Mrs. Almond had felt moved
to tell her that she disapproved of her relations with Mr. Townsend.  She
had no business to be so friendly to a young man of whom their brother
thought so meanly, and Mrs. Almond was surprised at her levity in
foisting a most deplorable engagement upon Catherine.

“Deplorable?” cried Lavinia.  “He will make her a lovely husband!”

“I don’t believe in lovely husbands,” said Mrs. Almond; “I only believe
in good ones.  If he marries her, and she comes into Austin’s money, they
may get on.  He will be an idle, amiable, selfish, and doubtless
tolerably good-natured fellow.  But if she doesn’t get the money and he
finds himself tied to her, Heaven have mercy on her!  He will have none.
He will hate her for his disappointment, and take his revenge; he will be
pitiless and cruel.  Woe betide poor Catherine!  I recommend you to talk
a little with his sister; it’s a pity Catherine can’t marry _her_!”

Mrs. Penniman had no appetite whatever for conversation with Mrs.
Montgomery, whose acquaintance she made no trouble to cultivate; and the
effect of this alarming forecast of her niece’s destiny was to make her
think it indeed a thousand pities that Mr. Townsend’s generous nature
should be embittered.  Bright enjoyment was his natural element, and how
could he be comfortable if there should prove to be nothing to enjoy?  It
became a fixed idea with Mrs. Penniman that he should yet enjoy her
brother’s fortune, on which she had acuteness enough to perceive that her
own claim was small.

“If he doesn’t leave it to Catherine, it certainly won’t be to leave it
to me,” she said.



XXIV


THE Doctor, during the first six months he was abroad, never spoke to his
daughter of their little difference; partly on system, and partly because
he had a great many other things to think about.  It was idle to attempt
to ascertain the state of her affections without direct inquiry, because,
if she had not had an expressive manner among the familiar influences of
home, she failed to gather animation from the mountains of Switzerland or
the monuments of Italy.  She was always her father’s docile and
reasonable associate—going through their sight-seeing in deferential
silence, never complaining of fatigue, always ready to start at the hour
he had appointed over-night, making no foolish criticisms and indulging
in no refinements of appreciation.  “She is about as intelligent as the
bundle of shawls,” the Doctor said; her main superiority being that while
the bundle of shawls sometimes got lost, or tumbled out of the carriage,
Catherine was always at her post, and had a firm and ample seat.  But her
father had expected this, and he was not constrained to set down her
intellectual limitations as a tourist to sentimental depression; she had
completely divested herself of the characteristics of a victim, and
during the whole time that they were abroad she never uttered an audible
sigh.  He supposed she was in correspondence with Morris Townsend; but he
held his peace about it, for he never saw the young man’s letters, and
Catherine’s own missives were always given to the courier to post.  She
heard from her lover with considerable regularity, but his letters came
enclosed in Mrs. Penniman’s; so that whenever the Doctor handed her a
packet addressed in his sister’s hand, he was an involuntary instrument
of the passion he condemned.  Catherine made this reflexion, and six
months earlier she would have felt bound to give him warning; but now she
deemed herself absolved.  There was a sore spot in her heart that his own
words had made when once she spoke to him as she thought honour prompted;
she would try and please him as far as she could, but she would never
speak that way again.  She read her lover’s letters in secret.

One day at the end of the summer, the two travellers found themselves in
a lonely valley of the Alps.  They were crossing one of the passes, and
on the long ascent they had got out of the carriage and had wandered much
in advance.  After a while the Doctor descried a footpath which, leading
through a transverse valley, would bring them out, as he justly supposed,
at a much higher point of the ascent.  They followed this devious way,
and finally lost the path; the valley proved very wild and rough, and
their walk became rather a scramble.  They were good walkers, however,
and they took their adventure easily; from time to time they stopped,
that Catherine might rest; and then she sat upon a stone and looked about
her at the hard-featured rocks and the glowing sky.  It was late in the
afternoon, in the last of August; night was coming on, and, as they had
reached a great elevation, the air was cold and sharp.  In the west there
was a great suffusion of cold, red light, which made the sides of the
little valley look only the more rugged and dusky.  During one of their
pauses, her father left her and wandered away to some high place, at a
distance, to get a view.  He was out of sight; she sat there alone, in
the stillness, which was just touched by the vague murmur, somewhere, of
a mountain brook.  She thought of Morris Townsend, and the place was so
desolate and lonely that he seemed very far away.  Her father remained
absent a long time; she began to wonder what had become of him.  But at
last he reappeared, coming towards her in the clear twilight, and she got
up, to go on.  He made no motion to proceed, however, but came close to
her, as if he had something to say.  He stopped in front of her and stood
looking at her, with eyes that had kept the light of the flushing
snow-summits on which they had just been fixed.  Then, abruptly, in a low
tone, he asked her an unexpected question:

“Have you given him up?”

The question was unexpected, but Catherine was only superficially
unprepared.

“No, father!” she answered.

He looked at her again for some moments, without speaking.

“Does he write to you?” he asked.

“Yes—about twice a month.”

The Doctor looked up and down the valley, swinging his stick; then he
said to her, in the same low tone:

“I am very angry.”

She wondered what he meant—whether he wished to frighten her.  If he did,
the place was well chosen; this hard, melancholy dell, abandoned by the
summer light, made her feel her loneliness.  She looked around her, and
her heart grew cold; for a moment her fear was great.  But she could
think of nothing to say, save to murmur gently, “I am sorry.”

“You try my patience,” her father went on, “and you ought to know what I
am, I am not a very good man.  Though I am very smooth externally, at
bottom I am very passionate; and I assure you I can be very hard.”

She could not think why he told her these things.  Had he brought her
there on purpose, and was it part of a plan?  What was the plan?
Catherine asked herself.  Was it to startle her suddenly into a
retractation—to take an advantage of her by dread?  Dread of what?  The
place was ugly and lonely, but the place could do her no harm.  There was
a kind of still intensity about her father, which made him dangerous, but
Catherine hardly went so far as to say to herself that it might be part
of his plan to fasten his hand—the neat, fine, supple hand of a
distinguished physician—in her throat.  Nevertheless, she receded a step.
“I am sure you can be anything you please,” she said.  And it was her
simple belief.

“I am very angry,” he replied, more sharply.

“Why has it taken you so suddenly?”

“It has not taken me suddenly.  I have been raging inwardly for the last
six months.  But just now this seemed a good place to flare out.  It’s so
quiet, and we are alone.”

“Yes, it’s very quiet,” said Catherine vaguely, looking about her.
“Won’t you come back to the carriage?”

“In a moment.  Do you mean that in all this time you have not yielded an
inch?”

“I would if I could, father; but I can’t.”

The Doctor looked round him too.  “Should you like to be left in such a
place as this, to starve?”

“What do you mean?” cried the girl.

“That will be your fate—that’s how he will leave you.”

He would not touch her, but he had touched Morris.  The warmth came back
to her heart.  “That is not true, father,” she broke out, “and you ought
not to say it!  It is not right, and it’s not true!”

He shook his head slowly.  “No, it’s not right, because you won’t believe
it.  But it _is_ true.  Come back to the carriage.”

He turned away, and she followed him; he went faster, and was presently
much in advance.  But from time to time he stopped, without turning
round, to let her keep up with him, and she made her way forward with
difficulty, her heart beating with the excitement of having for the first
time spoken to him in violence.  By this time it had grown almost dark,
and she ended by losing sight of him.  But she kept her course, and after
a little, the valley making a sudden turn, she gained the road, where the
carriage stood waiting.  In it sat her father, rigid and silent; in
silence, too, she took her place beside him.

It seemed to her, later, in looking back upon all this, that for days
afterwards not a word had been exchanged between them.  The scene had
been a strange one, but it had not permanently affected her feeling
towards her father, for it was natural, after all, that he should
occasionally make a scene of some kind, and he had let her alone for six
months.  The strangest part of it was that he had said he was not a good
man; Catherine wondered a great deal what he had meant by that.  The
statement failed to appeal to her credence, and it was not grateful to
any resentment that she entertained.  Even in the utmost bitterness that
she might feel, it would give her no satisfaction to think him less
complete.  Such a saying as that was a part of his great subtlety—men so
clever as he might say anything and mean anything.  And as to his being
hard, that surely, in a man, was a virtue.

He let her alone for six months more—six months during which she
accommodated herself without a protest to the extension of their tour.
But he spoke again at the end of this time; it was at the very last, the
night before they embarked for New York, in the hotel at Liverpool.  They
had been dining together in a great dim, musty sitting-room; and then the
cloth had been removed, and the Doctor walked slowly up and down.
Catherine at last took her candle to go to bed, but her father motioned
her to stay.

“What do you mean to do when you get home?” he asked, while she stood
there with her candle in her hand.

“Do you mean about Mr. Townsend?”

“About Mr. Townsend.”

“We shall probably marry.”

The Doctor took several turns again while she waited.  “Do you hear from
him as much as ever?”

“Yes; twice a month,” said Catherine promptly.

“And does he always talk about marriage?”

“Oh yes!  That is, he talks about other things too, but he always says
something about that.”

“I am glad to hear he varies his subjects; his letters might otherwise be
monotonous.”

“He writes beautifully,” said Catherine, who was very glad of a chance to
say it.

“They always write beautifully.  However, in a given case that doesn’t
diminish the merit.  So, as soon as you arrive, you are going off with
him?”

This seemed a rather gross way of putting it, and something that there
was of dignity in Catherine resented it.  “I cannot tell you till we
arrive,” she said.

“That’s reasonable enough,” her father answered.  “That’s all I ask of
you—that you _do_ tell me, that you give me definite notice.  When a poor
man is to lose his only child, he likes to have an inkling of it
beforehand.”

“Oh, father, you will not lose me!” Catherine said, spilling her
candle-wax.

“Three days before will do,” he went on, “if you are in a position to be
positive then.  He ought to be very thankful to me, do you know.  I have
done a mighty good thing for him in taking you abroad; your value is
twice as great, with all the knowledge and taste that you have acquired.
A year ago, you were perhaps a little limited—a little rustic; but now
you have seen everything, and appreciated everything, and you will be a
most entertaining companion.  We have fattened the sheep for him before
he kills it!” Catherine turned away, and stood staring at the blank door.
“Go to bed,” said her father; “and, as we don’t go aboard till noon, you
may sleep late.  We shall probably have a most uncomfortable voyage.”



XXV


THE voyage was indeed uncomfortable, and Catherine, on arriving in New
York, had not the compensation of “going off,” in her father’s phrase,
with Morris Townsend.  She saw him, however, the day after she landed;
and, in the meantime, he formed a natural subject of conversation between
our heroine and her Aunt Lavinia, with whom, the night she disembarked,
the girl was closeted for a long time before either lady retired to rest.

“I have seen a great deal of him,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “He is not very
easy to know.  I suppose you think you know him; but you don’t, my dear.
You will some day; but it will only be after you have lived with him.  I
may almost say _I_ have lived with him,” Mrs. Penniman proceeded, while
Catherine stared.  “I think I know him now; I have had such remarkable
opportunities.  You will have the same—or rather, you will have better!”
and Aunt Lavinia smiled.  “Then you will see what I mean.  It’s a
wonderful character, full of passion and energy, and just as true!”

Catherine listened with a mixture of interest and apprehension.  Aunt
Lavinia was intensely sympathetic, and Catherine, for the past year,
while she wandered through foreign galleries and churches, and rolled
over the smoothness of posting roads, nursing the thoughts that never
passed her lips, had often longed for the company of some intelligent
person of her own sex.  To tell her story to some kind woman—at moments
it seemed to her that this would give her comfort, and she had more than
once been on the point of taking the landlady, or the nice young person
from the dressmaker’s, into her confidence.  If a woman had been near her
she would on certain occasions have treated such a companion to a fit of
weeping; and she had an apprehension that, on her return, this would form
her response to Aunt Lavinia’s first embrace.  In fact, however, the two
ladies had met, in Washington Square, without tears, and when they found
themselves alone together a certain dryness fell upon the girl’s emotion.
It came over her with a greater force that Mrs. Penniman had enjoyed a
whole year of her lover’s society, and it was not a pleasure to her to
hear her aunt explain and interpret the young man, speaking of him as if
her own knowledge of him were supreme.  It was not that Catherine was
jealous; but her sense of Mrs. Penniman’s innocent falsity, which had
lain dormant, began to haunt her again, and she was glad that she was
safely at home.  With this, however, it was a blessing to be able to talk
of Morris, to sound his name, to be with a person who was not unjust to
him.

“You have been very kind to him,” said Catherine.  “He has written me
that, often.  I shall never forget that, Aunt Lavinia.”

“I have done what I could; it has been very little.  To let him come and
talk to me, and give him his cup of tea—that was all.  Your Aunt Almond
thought it was too much, and used to scold me terribly; but she promised
me, at least, not to betray me.”

“To betray you?”

“Not to tell your father.  He used to sit in your father’s study!” said
Mrs. Penniman, with a little laugh.

Catherine was silent a moment.  This idea was disagreeable to her, and
she was reminded again, with pain, of her aunt’s secretive habits.
Morris, the reader may be informed, had had the tact not to tell her that
he sat in her father’s study.  He had known her but for a few months, and
her aunt had known her for fifteen years; and yet he would not have made
the mistake of thinking that Catherine would see the joke of the thing.
“I am sorry you made him go into father’s room,” she said, after a while.

“I didn’t make him go; he went himself.  He liked to look at the books,
and all those things in the glass cases.  He knows all about them; he
knows all about everything.”

Catherine was silent again; then, “I wish he had found some employment,”
she said.

“He has found some employment!  It’s beautiful news, and he told me to
tell you as soon as you arrived.  He has gone into partnership with a
commission merchant.  It was all settled, quite suddenly, a week ago.”

This seemed to Catherine indeed beautiful news; it had a fine prosperous
air.  “Oh, I’m so glad!” she said; and now, for a moment, she was
disposed to throw herself on Aunt Lavinia’s neck.

“It’s much better than being under some one; and he has never been used
to that,” Mrs. Penniman went on.  “He is just as good as his partner—they
are perfectly equal!  You see how right he was to wait.  I should like to
know what your father can say now!  They have got an office in Duane
Street, and little printed cards; he brought me one to show me.  I have
got it in my room, and you shall see it to-morrow.  That’s what he said
to me the last time he was here—‘You see how right I was to wait!’  He
has got other people under him, instead of being a subordinate.  He could
never be a subordinate; I have often told him I could never think of him
in that way.”

Catherine assented to this proposition, and was very happy to know that
Morris was his own master; but she was deprived of the satisfaction of
thinking that she might communicate this news in triumph to her father.
Her father would care equally little whether Morris were established in
business or transported for life.  Her trunks had been brought into her
room, and further reference to her lover was for a short time suspended,
while she opened them and displayed to her aunt some of the spoils of
foreign travel.  These were rich and abundant; and Catherine had brought
home a present to every one—to every one save Morris, to whom she had
brought simply her undiverted heart.  To Mrs. Penniman she had been
lavishly generous, and Aunt Lavinia spent half an hour in unfolding and
folding again, with little ejaculations of gratitude and taste.  She
marched about for some time in a splendid cashmere shawl, which Catherine
had begged her to accept, settling it on her shoulders, and twisting down
her head to see how low the point descended behind.

“I shall regard it only as a loan,” she said.  “I will leave it to you
again when I die; or rather,” she added, kissing her niece again, “I will
leave it to your first-born little girl!”  And draped in her shawl, she
stood there smiling.

“You had better wait till she comes,” said Catherine.

“I don’t like the way you say that,” Mrs. Penniman rejoined, in a moment.
“Catherine, are you changed?”

“No; I am the same.”

“You have not swerved a line?”

“I am exactly the same,” Catherine repeated, wishing her aunt were a
little less sympathetic.

“Well, I am glad!” and Mrs. Penniman surveyed her cashmere in the glass.
Then, “How is your father?” she asked in a moment, with her eyes on her
niece.  “Your letters were so meagre—I could never tell!”

“Father is very well.”

“Ah, you know what I mean,” said Mrs. Penniman, with a dignity to which
the cashmere gave a richer effect.  “Is he still implacable!”

“Oh yes!”

“Quite unchanged?”

“He is, if possible, more firm.”

Mrs. Penniman took off her great shawl, and slowly folded it up.  “That
is very bad.  You had no success with your little project?”

“What little project?”

“Morris told me all about it.  The idea of turning the tables on him, in
Europe; of watching him, when he was agreeably impressed by some
celebrated sight—he pretends to be so artistic, you know—and then just
pleading with him and bringing him round.”

“I never tried it.  It was Morris’s idea; but if he had been with us, in
Europe, he would have seen that father was never impressed in that way.
He _is_ artistic—tremendously artistic; but the more celebrated places we
visited, and the more he admired them, the less use it would have been to
plead with him.  They seemed only to make him more determined—more
terrible,” said poor Catherine.  “I shall never bring him round, and I
expect nothing now.”

“Well, I must say,” Mrs. Penniman answered, “I never supposed you were
going to give it up.”

“I have given it up.  I don’t care now.”

“You have grown very brave,” said Mrs. Penniman, with a short laugh.  “I
didn’t advise you to sacrifice your property.”

“Yes, I am braver than I was.  You asked me if I had changed; I have
changed in that way.  Oh,” the girl went on, “I have changed very much.
And it isn’t my property.  If _he_ doesn’t care for it, why should I?”

Mrs. Penniman hesitated.  “Perhaps he does care for it.”

“He cares for it for my sake, because he doesn’t want to injure me.  But
he will know—he knows already—how little he need be afraid about that.
Besides,” said Catherine, “I have got plenty of money of my own.  We
shall be very well off; and now hasn’t he got his business?  I am
delighted about that business.”  She went on talking, showing a good deal
of excitement as she proceeded.  Her aunt had never seen her with just
this manner, and Mrs. Penniman, observing her, set it down to foreign
travel, which had made her more positive, more mature.  She thought also
that Catherine had improved in appearance; she looked rather handsome.
Mrs. Penniman wondered whether Morris Townsend would be struck with that.
While she was engaged in this speculation, Catherine broke out, with a
certain sharpness, “Why are you so contradictory, Aunt Penniman?  You
seem to think one thing at one time, and another at another.  A year ago,
before I went away, you wished me not to mind about displeasing father;
and now you seem to recommend me to take another line.  You change about
so.”

This attack was unexpected, for Mrs. Penniman was not used, in any
discussion, to seeing the war carried into her own country—possibly
because the enemy generally had doubts of finding subsistence there.  To
her own consciousness, the flowery fields of her reason had rarely been
ravaged by a hostile force.  It was perhaps on this account that in
defending them she was majestic rather than agile.

“I don’t know what you accuse me of, save of being too deeply interested
in your happiness.  It is the first time I have been told I am
capricious.  That fault is not what I am usually reproached with.”

“You were angry last year that I wouldn’t marry immediately, and now you
talk about my winning my father over.  You told me it would serve him
right if he should take me to Europe for nothing.  Well, he has taken me
for nothing, and you ought to be satisfied.  Nothing is changed—nothing
but my feeling about father.  I don’t mind nearly so much now.  I have
been as good as I could, but he doesn’t care.  Now I don’t care either.
I don’t know whether I have grown bad; perhaps I have.  But I don’t care
for that.  I have come home to be married—that’s all I know.  That ought
to please you, unless you have taken up some new idea; you are so
strange.  You may do as you please; but you must never speak to me again
about pleading with father.  I shall never plead with him for anything;
that is all over.  He has put me off.  I am come home to be married.”

This was a more authoritative speech than she had ever heard on her
niece’s lips, and Mrs. Penniman was proportionately startled.  She was
indeed a little awestruck, and the force of the girl’s emotion and
resolution left her nothing to reply.  She was easily frightened, and she
always carried off her discomfiture by a concession; a concession which
was often accompanied, as in the present case, by a little nervous laugh.



XXVI


IF she had disturbed her niece’s temper—she began from this moment
forward to talk a good deal about Catherine’s temper, an article which up
to that time had never been mentioned in connexion with our
heroine—Catherine had opportunity, on the morrow, to recover her
serenity.  Mrs. Penniman had given her a message from Morris Townsend, to
the effect that he would come and welcome her home on the day after her
arrival.  He came in the afternoon; but, as may be imagined, he was not
on this occasion made free of Dr. Sloper’s study.  He had been coming and
going, for the past year, so comfortably and irresponsibly, that he had a
certain sense of being wronged by finding himself reminded that he must
now limit his horizon to the front parlour, which was Catherine’s
particular province.

“I am very glad you have come back,” he said; “it makes me very happy to
see you again.”  And he looked at her, smiling, from head to foot; though
it did not appear, afterwards, that he agreed with Mrs. Penniman (who,
womanlike, went more into details) in thinking her embellished.

To Catherine he appeared resplendent; it was some time before she could
believe again that this beautiful young man was her own exclusive
property.  They had a great deal of characteristic lovers’ talk—a soft
exchange of inquiries and assurances.  In these matters Morris had an
excellent grace, which flung a picturesque interest even over the account
of his début in the commission business—a subject as to which his
companion earnestly questioned him.  From time to time he got up from the
sofa where they sat together, and walked about the room; after which he
came back, smiling and passing his hand through his hair.  He was
unquiet, as was natural in a young man who has just been reunited to a
long-absent mistress, and Catherine made the reflexion that she had never
seen him so excited.  It gave her pleasure, somehow, to note this fact.
He asked her questions about her travels, to some of which she was unable
to reply, for she had forgotten the names of places, and the order of her
father’s journey.  But for the moment she was so happy, so lifted up by
the belief that her troubles at last were over, that she forgot to be
ashamed of her meagre answers.  It seemed to her now that she could marry
him without the remnant of a scruple or a single tremor save those that
belonged to joy.  Without waiting for him to ask, she told him that her
father had come back in exactly the same state of mind—that he had not
yielded an inch.

“We must not expect it now,” she said, “and we must do without it.”

Morris sat looking and smiling.  “My poor dear girl!” he exclaimed.

“You mustn’t pity me,” said Catherine; “I don’t mind it now—I am used to
it.”

Morris continued to smile, and then he got up and walked about again.
“You had better let me try him!”

“Try to bring him over?  You would only make him worse,” Catherine
answered resolutely.

“You say that because I managed it so badly before.  But I should manage
it differently now.  I am much wiser; I have had a year to think of it.
I have more tact.”

“Is that what you have been thinking of for a year?”

“Much of the time.  You see, the idea sticks in my crop.  I don’t like to
be beaten.”

“How are you beaten if we marry?”

“Of course, I am not beaten on the main issue; but I am, don’t you see,
on all the rest of it—on the question of my reputation, of my relations
with your father, of my relations with my own children, if we should have
any.”

“We shall have enough for our children—we shall have enough for
everything.  Don’t you expect to succeed in business?”

“Brilliantly, and we shall certainly be very comfortable.  But it isn’t
of the mere material comfort I speak; it is of the moral comfort,” said
Morris—“of the intellectual satisfaction!”

“I have great moral comfort now,” Catherine declared, very simply.

“Of course you have.  But with me it is different.  I have staked my
pride on proving to your father that he is wrong; and now that I am at
the head of a flourishing business, I can deal with him as an equal.  I
have a capital plan—do let me go at him!”

He stood before her with his bright face, his jaunty air, his hands in
his pockets; and she got up, with her eyes resting on his own.  “Please
don’t, Morris; please don’t,” she said; and there was a certain mild, sad
firmness in her tone which he heard for the first time.  “We must ask no
favours of him—we must ask nothing more.  He won’t relent, and nothing
good will come of it.  I know it now—I have a very good reason.”

“And pray; what is your reason?”

She hesitated to bring it out, but at last it came.  “He is not very fond
of me!”

“Oh, bother!” cried Morris angrily.

“I wouldn’t say such a thing without being sure.  I saw it, I felt it, in
England, just before he came away.  He talked to me one night—the last
night; and then it came over me.  You can tell when a person feels that
way.  I wouldn’t accuse him if he hadn’t made me feel that way.  I don’t
accuse him; I just tell you that that’s how it is.  He can’t help it; we
can’t govern our affections.  Do I govern mine? mightn’t he say that to
me?  It’s because he is so fond of my mother, whom we lost so long ago.
She was beautiful, and very, very brilliant; he is always thinking of
her.  I am not at all like her; Aunt Penniman has told me that.  Of
course, it isn’t my fault; but neither is it his fault.  All I mean is,
it’s true; and it’s a stronger reason for his never being reconciled than
simply his dislike for you.”

“‘Simply?’” cried Morris, with a laugh, “I am much obliged for that!”

“I don’t mind about his disliking you now; I mind everything less.  I
feel differently; I feel separated from my father.”

“Upon my word,” said Morris, “you are a queer family!”

“Don’t say that—don’t say anything unkind,” the girl entreated.  “You
must be very kind to me now, because, Morris—because,” and she hesitated
a moment—“because I have done a great deal for you.”

“Oh, I know that, my dear!”

She had spoken up to this moment without vehemence or outward sign of
emotion, gently, reasoningly, only trying to explain.  But her emotion
had been ineffectually smothered, and it betrayed itself at last in the
trembling of her voice.  “It is a great thing to be separated like that
from your father, when you have worshipped him before.  It has made me
very unhappy; or it would have made me so if I didn’t love you.  You can
tell when a person speaks to you as if—as if—”

“As if what?”

“As if they despised you!” said Catherine passionately.  “He spoke that
way the night before we sailed.  It wasn’t much, but it was enough, and I
thought of it on the voyage, all the time.  Then I made up my mind.  I
will never ask him for anything again, or expect anything from him.  It
would not be natural now.  We must be very happy together, and we must
not seem to depend upon his forgiveness.  And Morris, Morris, you must
never despise me!”

This was an easy promise to make, and Morris made it with fine effect.
But for the moment he undertook nothing more onerous.



XXVII


THE Doctor, of course, on his return, had a good deal of talk with his
sisters.  He was at no great pains to narrate his travels or to
communicate his impressions of distant lands to Mrs. Penniman, upon whom
he contented himself with bestowing a memento of his enviable experience,
in the shape of a velvet gown.  But he conversed with her at some length
about matters nearer home, and lost no time in assuring her that he was
still an inflexible father.

“I have no doubt you have seen a great deal of Mr. Townsend, and done
your best to console him for Catherine’s absence,” he said.  “I don’t ask
you, and you needn’t deny it.  I wouldn’t put the question to you for the
world, and expose you to the inconvenience of having to—a—excogitate an
answer.  No one has betrayed you, and there has been no spy upon your
proceedings.  Elizabeth has told no tales, and has never mentioned you
except to praise your good looks and good spirits.  The thing is simply
an inference of my own—an induction, as the philosophers say.  It seems
to me likely that you would have offered an asylum to an interesting
sufferer.  Mr. Townsend has been a good deal in the house; there is
something in the house that tells me so.  We doctors, you know, end by
acquiring fine perceptions, and it is impressed upon my sensorium that he
has sat in these chairs, in a very easy attitude, and warmed himself at
that fire.  I don’t grudge him the comfort of it; it is the only one he
will ever enjoy at my expense.  It seems likely, indeed, that I shall be
able to economise at his own.  I don’t know what you may have said to
him, or what you may say hereafter; but I should like you to know that if
you have encouraged him to believe that he will gain anything by hanging
on, or that I have budged a hair’s-breadth from the position I took up a
year ago, you have played him a trick for which he may exact reparation.
I’m not sure that he may not bring a suit against you.  Of course you
have done it conscientiously; you have made yourself believe that I can
be tired out.  This is the most baseless hallucination that ever visited
the brain of a genial optimist.  I am not in the least tired; I am as
fresh as when I started; I am good for fifty years yet.  Catherine
appears not to have budged an inch either; she is equally fresh; so we
are about where we were before.  This, however, you know as well as I.
What I wish is simply to give you notice of my own state of mind!  Take
it to heart, dear Lavinia.  Beware of the just resentment of a deluded
fortune-hunter!”

“I can’t say I expected it,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “And I had a sort of
foolish hope that you would come home without that odious ironical tone
with which you treat the most sacred subjects.”

“Don’t undervalue irony, it is often of great use.  It is not, however,
always necessary, and I will show you how gracefully I can lay it aside.
I should like to know whether you think Morris Townsend will hang on.”

“I will answer you with your own weapons,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “You had
better wait and see!”

“Do you call such a speech as that one of my own weapons?  I never said
anything so rough.”

“He will hang on long enough to make you very uncomfortable, then.”

“My dear Lavinia,” exclaimed the Doctor, “do you call that irony?  I call
it pugilism.”

Mrs. Penniman, however, in spite of her pugilism, was a good deal
frightened, and she took counsel of her fears.  Her brother meanwhile
took counsel, with many reservations, of Mrs. Almond, to whom he was no
less generous than to Lavinia, and a good deal more communicative.

“I suppose she has had him there all the while,” he said.  “I must look
into the state of my wine!  You needn’t mind telling me now; I have
already said all I mean to say to her on the subject.”

“I believe he was in the house a good deal,” Mrs. Almond answered.  “But
you must admit that your leaving Lavinia quite alone was a great change
for her, and that it was natural she should want some society.”

“I do admit that, and that is why I shall make no row about the wine; I
shall set it down as compensation to Lavinia.  She is capable of telling
me that she drank it all herself.  Think of the inconceivable bad taste,
in the circumstances, of that fellow making free with the house—or coming
there at all!  If that doesn’t describe him, he is indescribable.”

“His plan is to get what he can.  Lavinia will have supported him for a
year,” said Mrs. Almond.  “It’s so much gained.”

“She will have to support him for the rest of his life, then!” cried the
Doctor.  “But without wine, as they say at the _tables d’hôte_.”

“Catherine tells me he has set up a business, and is making a great deal
of money.”

The Doctor stared.  “She has not told me that—and Lavinia didn’t deign.
Ah!” he cried, “Catherine has given me up.  Not that it matters, for all
that the business amounts to.”

“She has not given up Mr. Townsend,” said Mrs. Almond.  “I saw that in
the first half minute.  She has come home exactly the same.”

“Exactly the same; not a grain more intelligent.  She didn’t notice a
stick or a stone all the while we were away—not a picture nor a view, not
a statue nor a cathedral.”

“How could she notice?  She had other things to think of; they are never
for an instant out of her mind.  She touches me very much.”

“She would touch me if she didn’t irritate me.  That’s the effect she has
upon me now.  I have tried everything upon her; I really have been quite
merciless.  But it is of no use whatever; she is absolutely _glued_.  I
have passed, in consequence, into the exasperated stage.  At first I had
a good deal of a certain genial curiosity about it; I wanted to see if
she really would stick.  But, good Lord, one’s curiosity is satisfied!  I
see she is capable of it, and now she can let go.”

“She will never let go,” said Mrs. Almond.

“Take care, or you will exasperate me too.  If she doesn’t let go, she
will be shaken off—sent tumbling into the dust!  That’s a nice position
for my daughter.  She can’t see that if you are going to be pushed you
had better jump.  And then she will complain of her bruises.”

“She will never complain,” said Mrs. Almond.

“That I shall object to even more.  But the deuce will be that I can’t
prevent anything.”

“If she is to have a fall,” said Mrs. Almond, with a gentle laugh, “we
must spread as many carpets as we can.”  And she carried out this idea by
showing a great deal of motherly kindness to the girl.

Mrs. Penniman immediately wrote to Morris Townsend.  The intimacy between
these two was by this time consummate, but I must content myself with
noting but a few of its features.  Mrs. Penniman’s own share in it was a
singular sentiment, which might have been misinterpreted, but which in
itself was not discreditable to the poor lady.  It was a romantic
interest in this attractive and unfortunate young man, and yet it was not
such an interest as Catherine might have been jealous of.  Mrs. Penniman
had not a particle of jealousy of her niece.  For herself, she felt as if
she were Morris’s mother or sister—a mother or sister of an emotional
temperament—and she had an absorbing desire to make him comfortable and
happy.  She had striven to do so during the year that her brother left
her an open field, and her efforts had been attended with the success
that has been pointed out.  She had never had a child of her own, and
Catherine, whom she had done her best to invest with the importance that
would naturally belong to a youthful Penniman, had only partly rewarded
her zeal.  Catherine, as an object of affection and solicitude, had never
had that picturesque charm which (as it seemed to her) would have been a
natural attribute of her own progeny.  Even the maternal passion in Mrs.
Penniman would have been romantic and factitious, and Catherine was not
constituted to inspire a romantic passion.  Mrs. Penniman was as fond of
her as ever, but she had grown to feel that with Catherine she lacked
opportunity.  Sentimentally speaking, therefore, she had (though she had
not disinherited her niece) adopted Morris Townsend, who gave her
opportunity in abundance.  She would have been very happy to have a
handsome and tyrannical son, and would have taken an extreme interest in
his love affairs.  This was the light in which she had come to regard
Morris, who had conciliated her at first, and made his impression by his
delicate and calculated deference—a sort of exhibition to which Mrs.
Penniman was particularly sensitive.  He had largely abated his deference
afterwards, for he economised his resources, but the impression was made,
and the young man’s very brutality came to have a sort of filial value.
If Mrs. Penniman had had a son, she would probably have been afraid of
him, and at this stage of our narrative she was certainly afraid of
Morris Townsend.  This was one of the results of his domestication in
Washington Square.  He took his ease with her—as, for that matter, he
would certainly have done with his own mother.



XXVIII


THE letter was a word of warning; it informed him that the Doctor had
come home more impracticable than ever.  She might have reflected that
Catherine would supply him with all the information he needed on this
point; but we know that Mrs. Penniman’s reflexions were rarely just; and,
moreover, she felt that it was not for her to depend on what Catherine
might do.  She was to do her duty, quite irrespective of Catherine.  I
have said that her young friend took his ease with her, and it is an
illustration of the fact that he made no answer to her letter.  He took
note of it, amply; but he lighted his cigar with it, and he waited, in
tranquil confidence that he should receive another.  “His state of mind
really freezes my blood,” Mrs. Penniman had written, alluding to her
brother; and it would have seemed that upon this statement she could
hardly improve.  Nevertheless, she wrote again, expressing herself with
the aid of a different figure.  “His hatred of you burns with a lurid
flame—the flame that never dies,” she wrote.  “But it doesn’t light up
the darkness of your future.  If my affection could do so, all the years
of your life would be an eternal sunshine.  I can extract nothing from
C.; she is so terribly secretive, like her father.  She seems to expect
to be married very soon, and has evidently made preparations in
Europe—quantities of clothing, ten pairs of shoes, etc.  My dear friend,
you cannot set up in married life simply with a few pairs of shoes, can
you?  Tell me what you think of this.  I am intensely anxious to see you;
I have so much to say.  I miss you dreadfully; the house seems so empty
without you.  What is the news down town?  Is the business extending?
That dear little business—I think it’s so brave of you!  Couldn’t I come
to your office?—just for three minutes?  I might pass for a customer—is
that what you call them?  I might come in to buy something—some shares or
some railroad things.  _Tell me what you think of this plan_.  I would
carry a little reticule, like a woman of the people.”

In spite of the suggestion about the reticule, Morris appeared to think
poorly of the plan, for he gave Mrs. Penniman no encouragement whatever
to visit his office, which he had already represented to her as a place
peculiarly and unnaturally difficult to find.  But as she persisted in
desiring an interview—up to the last, after months of intimate colloquy,
she called these meetings “interviews”—he agreed that they should take a
walk together, and was even kind enough to leave his office for this
purpose, during the hours at which business might have been supposed to
be liveliest.  It was no surprise to him, when they met at a street
corner, in a region of empty lots and undeveloped pavements (Mrs.
Penniman being attired as much as possible like a “woman of the people”),
to find that, in spite of her urgency, what she chiefly had to convey to
him was the assurance of her sympathy.  Of such assurances, however, he
had already a voluminous collection, and it would not have been worth his
while to forsake a fruitful avocation merely to hear Mrs. Penniman say,
for the thousandth time, that she had made his cause her own.  Morris had
something of his own to say.  It was not an easy thing to bring out, and
while he turned it over the difficulty made him acrimonious.

“Oh yes, I know perfectly that he combines the properties of a lump of
ice and a red-hot coal,” he observed.  “Catherine has made it thoroughly
clear, and you have told me so till I am sick of it.  You needn’t tell me
again; I am perfectly satisfied.  He will never give us a penny; I regard
that as mathematically proved.”

Mrs. Penniman at this point had an inspiration.

“Couldn’t you bring a lawsuit against him?”  She wondered that this
simple expedient had never occurred to her before.

“I will bring a lawsuit against _you_,” said Morris, “if you ask me any
more such aggravating questions.  A man should know when he is beaten,”
he added, in a moment.  “I must give her up!”

Mrs. Penniman received this declaration in silence, though it made her
heart beat a little.  It found her by no means unprepared, for she had
accustomed herself to the thought that, if Morris should decidedly not be
able to get her brother’s money, it would not do for him to marry
Catherine without it.  “It would not do” was a vague way of putting the
thing; but Mrs. Penniman’s natural affection completed the idea, which,
though it had not as yet been so crudely expressed between them as in the
form that Morris had just given it, had nevertheless been implied so
often, in certain easy intervals of talk, as he sat stretching his legs
in the Doctor’s well-stuffed armchairs, that she had grown first to
regard it with an emotion which she flattered herself was philosophic,
and then to have a secret tenderness for it.  The fact that she kept her
tenderness secret proves, of course, that she was ashamed of it; but she
managed to blink her shame by reminding herself that she was, after all,
the official protector of her niece’s marriage.  Her logic would scarcely
have passed muster with the Doctor.  In the first place, Morris _must_
get the money, and she would help him to it.  In the second, it was plain
it would never come to him, and it would be a grievous pity he should
marry without it—a young man who might so easily find something better.
After her brother had delivered himself, on his return from Europe, of
that incisive little address that has been quoted, Morris’s cause seemed
so hopeless that Mrs. Penniman fixed her attention exclusively upon the
latter branch of her argument.  If Morris had been her son, she would
certainly have sacrificed Catherine to a superior conception of his
future; and to be ready to do so as the case stood was therefore even a
finer degree of devotion.  Nevertheless, it checked her breath a little
to have the sacrificial knife, as it were, suddenly thrust into her hand.

Morris walked along a moment, and then he repeated harshly: “I must give
her up!”

“I think I understand you,” said Mrs. Penniman gently.

“I certainly say it distinctly enough—brutally and vulgarly enough.”

He was ashamed of himself, and his shame was uncomfortable; and as he was
extremely intolerant of discomfort, he felt vicious and cruel.  He wanted
to abuse somebody, and he began, cautiously—for he was always
cautious—with himself.

“Couldn’t you take her down a little?” he asked.

“Take her down?”

“Prepare her—try and ease me off.”

Mrs. Penniman stopped, looking at him very solemnly.

“My poor Morris, do you know how much she loves you?”

“No, I don’t.  I don’t want to know.  I have always tried to keep from
knowing.  It would be too painful.”

“She will suffer much,” said Mrs. Penniman.

“You must console her.  If you are as good a friend to me as you pretend
to be, you will manage it.”

Mrs. Penniman shook her head sadly.

“You talk of my ‘pretending’ to like you; but I can’t pretend to hate
you.  I can only tell her I think very highly of you; and how will that
console her for losing you?”

“The Doctor will help you.  He will be delighted at the thing being
broken off, and, as he is a knowing fellow, he will invent something to
comfort her.”

“He will invent a new torture!” cried Mrs. Penniman.  “Heaven deliver her
from her father’s comfort.  It will consist of his crowing over her and
saying, ‘I always told you so!’”

Morris coloured a most uncomfortable red.

“If you don’t console her any better than you console me, you certainly
won’t be of much use!  It’s a damned disagreeable necessity; I feel it
extremely, and you ought to make it easy for me.”

“I will be your friend for life!” Mrs. Penniman declared.

“Be my friend _now_!”  And Morris walked on.

She went with him; she was almost trembling.

“Should you like me to tell her?” she asked.  “You mustn’t tell her, but
you can—you can—”  And he hesitated, trying to think what Mrs. Penniman
could do.  “You can explain to her why it is.  It’s because I can’t bring
myself to step in between her and her father—to give him the pretext he
grasps at—so eagerly (it’s a hideous sight) for depriving her of her
rights.”

Mrs. Penniman felt with remarkable promptitude the charm of this formula.

“That’s so like you,” she said; “it’s so finely felt.”

Morris gave his stick an angry swing.

“Oh, botheration!” he exclaimed perversely.

Mrs. Penniman, however, was not discouraged.

“It may turn out better than you think.  Catherine is, after all, so very
peculiar.”  And she thought she might take it upon herself to assure him
that, whatever happened, the girl would be very quiet—she wouldn’t make a
noise.  They extended their walk, and, while they proceeded, Mrs.
Penniman took upon herself other things besides, and ended by having
assumed a considerable burden; Morris being ready enough, as may be
imagined, to put everything off upon her.  But he was not for a single
instant the dupe of her blundering alacrity; he knew that of what she
promised she was competent to perform but an insignificant fraction, and
the more she professed her willingness to serve him, the greater fool he
thought her.

“What will you do if you don’t marry her?” she ventured to inquire in the
course of this conversation.

“Something brilliant,” said Morris.  “Shouldn’t you like me to do
something brilliant?”

The idea gave Mrs. Penniman exceeding pleasure.

“I shall feel sadly taken in if you don’t.”

“I shall have to, to make up for this.  This isn’t at all brilliant, you
know.”

Mrs. Penniman mused a little, as if there might be some way of making out
that it was; but she had to give up the attempt, and, to carry off the
awkwardness of failure, she risked a new inquiry.

“Do you mean—do you mean another marriage?”

Morris greeted this question with a reflexion which was hardly the less
impudent from being inaudible.  “Surely, women are more crude than men!”
And then he answered audibly:

“Never in the world!”

Mrs. Penniman felt disappointed and snubbed, and she relieved herself in
a little vaguely-sarcastic cry.  He was certainly perverse.

“I give her up, not for another woman, but for a wider career!” Morris
announced.

This was very grand; but still Mrs. Penniman, who felt that she had
exposed herself, was faintly rancorous.

“Do you mean never to come to see her again?” she asked, with some
sharpness.

“Oh no, I shall come again; but what is the use of dragging it out?  I
have been four times since she came back, and it’s terribly awkward work.
I can’t keep it up indefinitely; she oughtn’t to expect that, you know.
A woman should never keep a man dangling!” he added finely.

“Ah, but you must have your last parting!” urged his companion, in whose
imagination the idea of last partings occupied a place inferior in
dignity only to that of first meetings.



XXIX


HE came again, without managing the last parting; and again and again,
without finding that Mrs. Penniman had as yet done much to pave the path
of retreat with flowers.  It was devilish awkward, as he said, and he
felt a lively animosity for Catherine’s aunt, who, as he had now quite
formed the habit of saying to himself, had dragged him into the mess and
was bound in common charity to get him out of it.  Mrs. Penniman, to tell
the truth, had, in the seclusion of her own apartment—and, I may add,
amid the suggestiveness of Catherine’s, which wore in those days the
appearance of that of a young lady laying out her _trousseau_—Mrs.
Penniman had measured her responsibilities, and taken fright at their
magnitude.  The task of preparing Catherine and easing off Morris
presented difficulties which increased in the execution, and even led the
impulsive Lavinia to ask herself whether the modification of the young
man’s original project had been conceived in a happy spirit.  A brilliant
future, a wider career, a conscience exempt from the reproach of
interference between a young lady and her natural rights—these excellent
things might be too troublesomely purchased.  From Catherine herself Mrs.
Penniman received no assistance whatever; the poor girl was apparently
without suspicion of her danger.  She looked at her lover with eyes of
undiminished trust, and though she had less confidence in her aunt than
in a young man with whom she had exchanged so many tender vows, she gave
her no handle for explaining or confessing.  Mrs. Penniman, faltering and
wavering, declared Catherine was very stupid, put off the great scene, as
she would have called it, from day to day, and wandered about very
uncomfortably, primed, to repletion, with her apology, but unable to
bring it to the light.  Morris’s own scenes were very small ones just
now; but even these were beyond his strength.  He made his visits as
brief as possible, and while he sat with his mistress, found terribly
little to talk about.  She was waiting for him, in vulgar parlance, to
name the day; and so long as he was unprepared to be explicit on this
point it seemed a mockery to pretend to talk about matters more abstract.
She had no airs and no arts; she never attempted to disguise her
expectancy.  She was waiting on his good pleasure, and would wait
modestly and patiently; his hanging back at this supreme time might
appear strange, but of course he must have a good reason for it.
Catherine would have made a wife of the gentle old-fashioned
pattern—regarding reasons as favours and windfalls, but no more expecting
one every day than she would have expected a bouquet of camellias.
During the period of her engagement, however, a young lady even of the
most slender pretensions counts upon more bouquets than at other times;
and there was a want of perfume in the air at this moment which at last
excited the girl’s alarm.

“Are you sick?” she asked of Morris.  “You seem so restless, and you look
pale.”

“I am not at all well,” said Morris; and it occurred to him that, if he
could only make her pity him enough, he might get off.

“I am afraid you are overworked; you oughtn’t to work so much.”

“I must do that.”  And then he added, with a sort of calculated
brutality, “I don’t want to owe you everything!”

“Ah, how can you say that?”

“I am too proud,” said Morris.

“Yes—you are too proud!”

“Well, you must take me as I am,” he went on, “you can never change me.”

“I don’t want to change you,” she said gently.  “I will take you as you
are!”  And she stood looking at him.

“You know people talk tremendously about a man’s marrying a rich girl,”
Morris remarked.  “It’s excessively disagreeable.”

“But I am not rich?” said Catherine.

“You are rich enough to make me talked about!”

“Of course you are talked about.  It’s an honour!”

“It’s an honour I could easily dispense with.”

She was on the point of asking him whether it were not a compensation for
this annoyance that the poor girl who had the misfortune to bring it upon
him, loved him so dearly and believed in him so truly; but she hesitated,
thinking that this would perhaps seem an exacting speech, and while she
hesitated, he suddenly left her.

The next time he came, however, she brought it out, and she told him
again that he was too proud.  He repeated that he couldn’t change, and
this time she felt the impulse to say that with a little effort he might
change.

Sometimes he thought that if he could only make a quarrel with her it
might help him; but the question was how to quarrel with a young woman
who had such treasures of concession.  “I suppose you think the effort is
all on your side!” he was reduced to exclaiming.  “Don’t you believe that
I have my own effort to make?”

“It’s all yours now,” she said.  “My effort is finished and done with!”

“Well, mine is not.”

“We must bear things together,” said Catherine.  “That’s what we ought to
do.”

Morris attempted a natural smile.  “There are some things which we can’t
very well bear together—for instance, separation.”

“Why do you speak of separation?”

“Ah! you don’t like it; I knew you wouldn’t!”

“Where are you going, Morris?” she suddenly asked.

He fixed his eye on her for a moment, and for a part of that moment she
was afraid of it.  “Will you promise not to make a scene?”

“A scene!—do I make scenes?”

“All women do!” said Morris, with the tone of large experience.

“I don’t.  Where are you going?”

“If I should say I was going away on business, should you think it very
strange?”

She wondered a moment, gazing at him.  “Yes—no.  Not if you will take me
with you.”

“Take you with me—on business?”

“What is your business?  Your business is to be with me.”

“I don’t earn my living with you,” said Morris.  “Or rather,” he cried
with a sudden inspiration, “that’s just what I do—or what the world says
I do!”

This ought perhaps to have been a great stroke, but it miscarried.
“Where are you going?” Catherine simply repeated.

“To New Orleans.  About buying some cotton.”

“I am perfectly willing to go to New Orleans.”  Catherine said.

“Do you suppose I would take you to a nest of yellow fever?” cried
Morris.  “Do you suppose I would expose you at such a time as this?”

“If there is yellow fever, why should you go?  Morris, you must not go!”

“It is to make six thousand dollars,” said Morris.  “Do you grudge me
that satisfaction?”

“We have no need of six thousand dollars.  You think too much about
money!”

“You can afford to say that?  This is a great chance; we heard of it last
night.”  And he explained to her in what the chance consisted; and told
her a long story, going over more than once several of the details, about
the remarkable stroke of business which he and his partner had planned
between them.

But Catherine’s imagination, for reasons best known to herself,
absolutely refused to be fired.  “If you can go to New Orleans, I can
go,” she said.  “Why shouldn’t you catch yellow fever quite as easily as
I?  I am every bit as strong as you, and not in the least afraid of any
fever.  When we were in Europe, we were in very unhealthy places; my
father used to make me take some pills.  I never caught anything, and I
never was nervous.  What will be the use of six thousand dollars if you
die of a fever?  When persons are going to be married they oughtn’t to
think so much about business.  You shouldn’t think about cotton, you
should think about me.  You can go to New Orleans some other time—there
will always be plenty of cotton.  It isn’t the moment to choose—we have
waited too long already.”  She spoke more forcibly and volubly than he
had ever heard her, and she held his arm in her two hands.

“You said you wouldn’t make a scene!” cried Morris.  “I call this a
scene.”

“It’s you that are making it!  I have never asked you anything before.
We have waited too long already.”  And it was a comfort to her to think
that she had hitherto asked so little; it seemed to make her right to
insist the greater now.

Morris bethought himself a little.  “Very well, then; we won’t talk about
it any more.  I will transact my business by letter.”  And he began to
smooth his hat, as if to take leave.

“You won’t go?”  And she stood looking up at him.

He could not give up his idea of provoking a quarrel; it was so much the
simplest way!  He bent his eyes on her upturned face, with the darkest
frown he could achieve.  “You are not discreet.  You mustn’t bully me!”

But, as usual, she conceded everything.  “No, I am not discreet; I know I
am too pressing.  But isn’t it natural?  It is only for a moment.”

“In a moment you may do a great deal of harm.  Try and be calmer the next
time I come.”

“When will you come?”

“Do you want to make conditions?” Morris asked.  “I will come next
Saturday.”

“Come to-morrow,” Catherine begged; “I want you to come to-morrow.  I
will be very quiet,” she added; and her agitation had by this time become
so great that the assurance was not becoming.  A sudden fear had come
over her; it was like the solid conjunction of a dozen disembodied
doubts, and her imagination, at a single bound, had traversed an enormous
distance.  All her being, for the moment, centred in the wish to keep him
in the room.

Morris bent his head and kissed her forehead.  “When you are quiet, you
are perfection,” he said; “but when you are violent, you are not in
character.”

It was Catherine’s wish that there should be no violence about her save
the beating of her heart, which she could not help; and she went on, as
gently as possible, “Will you promise to come to-morrow?”

“I said Saturday!” Morris answered, smiling.  He tried a frown at one
moment, a smile at another; he was at his wit’s end.

“Yes, Saturday too,” she answered, trying to smile.  “But to-morrow
first.”  He was going to the door, and she went with him quickly.  She
leaned her shoulder against it; it seemed to her that she would do
anything to keep him.

“If I am prevented from coming to-morrow, you will say I have deceived
you!” he said.

“How can you be prevented?  You can come if you will.”

“I am a busy man—I am not a dangler!” cried Morris sternly.

His voice was so hard and unnatural that, with a helpless look at him,
she turned away; and then he quickly laid his hand on the door-knob.  He
felt as if he were absolutely running away from her.  But in an instant
she was close to him again, and murmuring in a tone none the less
penetrating for being low, “Morris, you are going to leave me.”

“Yes, for a little while.”

“For how long?”

“Till you are reasonable again.”

“I shall never be reasonable in that way!”  And she tried to keep him
longer; it was almost a struggle.  “Think of what I have done!” she broke
out.  “Morris, I have given up everything!”

“You shall have everything back!”

“You wouldn’t say that if you didn’t mean something.  What is it?—what
has happened?—what have I done?—what has changed you?”

“I will write to you—that is better,” Morris stammered.

“Ah, you won’t come back!” she cried, bursting into tears.

“Dear Catherine,” he said, “don’t believe that I promise you that you
shall see me again!”  And he managed to get away and to close the door
behind him.



XXX


IT was almost her last outbreak of passive grief; at least, she never
indulged in another that the world knew anything about.  But this one was
long and terrible; she flung herself on the sofa and gave herself up to
her misery.  She hardly knew what had happened; ostensibly she had only
had a difference with her lover, as other girls had had before, and the
thing was not only not a rupture, but she was under no obligation to
regard it even as a menace.  Nevertheless, she felt a wound, even if he
had not dealt it; it seemed to her that a mask had suddenly fallen from
his face.  He had wished to get away from her; he had been angry and
cruel, and said strange things, with strange looks.  She was smothered
and stunned; she buried her head in the cushions, sobbing and talking to
herself.  But at last she raised herself, with the fear that either her
father or Mrs. Penniman would come in; and then she sat there, staring
before her, while the room grew darker.  She said to herself that perhaps
he would come back to tell her he had not meant what he said; and she
listened for his ring at the door, trying to believe that this was
probable.  A long time passed, but Morris remained absent; the shadows
gathered; the evening settled down on the meagre elegance of the light,
clear-coloured room; the fire went out.  When it had grown dark,
Catherine went to the window and looked out; she stood there for half an
hour, on the mere chance that he would come up the steps.  At last she
turned away, for she saw her father come in.  He had seen her at the
window looking out, and he stopped a moment at the bottom of the white
steps, and gravely, with an air of exaggerated courtesy, lifted his hat
to her.  The gesture was so incongruous to the condition she was in, this
stately tribute of respect to a poor girl despised and forsaken was so
out of place, that the thing gave her a kind of horror, and she hurried
away to her room.  It seemed to her that she had given Morris up.

She had to show herself half an hour later, and she was sustained at
table by the immensity of her desire that her father should not perceive
that anything had happened.  This was a great help to her afterwards, and
it served her (though never as much as she supposed) from the first.  On
this occasion Dr. Sloper was rather talkative.  He told a great many
stories about a wonderful poodle that he had seen at the house of an old
lady whom he visited professionally.  Catherine not only tried to appear
to listen to the anecdotes of the poodle, but she endeavoured to interest
herself in them, so as not to think of her scene with Morris.  That
perhaps was an hallucination; he was mistaken, she was jealous; people
didn’t change like that from one day to another.  Then she knew that she
had had doubts before—strange suspicions, that were at once vague and
acute—and that he had been different ever since her return from Europe:
whereupon she tried again to listen to her father, who told a story so
remarkably well.  Afterwards she went straight to her own room; it was
beyond her strength to undertake to spend the evening with her aunt.  All
the evening, alone, she questioned herself.  Her trouble was terrible;
but was it a thing of her imagination, engendered by an extravagant
sensibility, or did it represent a clear-cut reality, and had the worst
that was possible actually come to pass?  Mrs. Penniman, with a degree of
tact that was as unusual as it was commendable, took the line of leaving
her alone.  The truth is, that her suspicions having been aroused, she
indulged a desire, natural to a timid person, that the explosion should
be localised.  So long as the air still vibrated she kept out of the way.

She passed and repassed Catherine’s door several times in the course of
the evening, as if she expected to hear a plaintive moan behind it.  But
the room remained perfectly still; and accordingly, the last thing before
retiring to her own couch, she applied for admittance.  Catherine was
sitting up, and had a book that she pretended to be reading.  She had no
wish to go to bed, for she had no expectation of sleeping.  After Mrs.
Penniman had left her she sat up half the night, and she offered her
visitor no inducement to remain.  Her aunt came stealing in very gently,
and approached her with great solemnity.

“I am afraid you are in trouble, my dear.  Can I do anything to help
you?”

“I am not in any trouble whatever, and do not need any help,” said
Catherine, fibbing roundly, and proving thereby that not only our faults,
but our most involuntary misfortunes, tend to corrupt our morals.

“Has nothing happened to you?”

“Nothing whatever.”

“Are you very sure, dear?”

“Perfectly sure.”

“And can I really do nothing for you?”

“Nothing, aunt, but kindly leave me alone,” said Catherine.

Mrs. Penniman, though she had been afraid of too warm a welcome before,
was now disappointed at so cold a one; and in relating afterwards, as she
did to many persons, and with considerable variations of detail, the
history of the termination of her niece’s engagement, she was usually
careful to mention that the young lady, on a certain occasion, had
“hustled” her out of the room.  It was characteristic of Mrs. Penniman
that she related this fact, not in the least out of malignity to
Catherine, whom she very sufficiently pitied, but simply from a natural
disposition to embellish any subject that she touched.

Catherine, as I have said, sat up half the night, as if she still
expected to hear Morris Townsend ring at the door.  On the morrow this
expectation was less unreasonable; but it was not gratified by the
reappearance of the young man.  Neither had he written; there was not a
word of explanation or reassurance.  Fortunately for Catherine she could
take refuge from her excitement, which had now become intense, in her
determination that her father should see nothing of it.  How well she
deceived her father we shall have occasion to learn; but her innocent
arts were of little avail before a person of the rare perspicacity of
Mrs. Penniman.  This lady easily saw that she was agitated, and if there
was any agitation going forward, Mrs. Penniman was not a person to
forfeit her natural share in it.  She returned to the charge the next
evening, and requested her niece to lean upon her—to unburden her heart.
Perhaps she should be able to explain certain things that now seemed
dark, and that she knew more about than Catherine supposed.  If Catherine
had been frigid the night before, to-day she was haughty.

“You are completely mistaken, and I have not the least idea what you
mean.  I don’t know what you are trying to fasten on me, and I have never
had less need of any one’s explanations in my life.”

In this way the girl delivered herself, and from hour to hour kept her
aunt at bay.  From hour to hour Mrs. Penniman’s curiosity grew.  She
would have given her little finger to know what Morris had said and done,
what tone he had taken, what pretext he had found.  She wrote to him,
naturally, to request an interview; but she received, as naturally, no
answer to her petition.  Morris was not in a writing mood; for Catherine
had addressed him two short notes which met with no acknowledgment.
These notes were so brief that I may give them entire.  “Won’t you give
me some sign that you didn’t mean to be so cruel as you seemed on
Tuesday?”—that was the first; the other was a little longer.  “If I was
unreasonable or suspicious on Tuesday—if I annoyed you or troubled you in
any way—I beg your forgiveness, and I promise never again to be so
foolish.  I am punished enough, and I don’t understand.  Dear Morris, you
are killing me!”  These notes were despatched on the Friday and Saturday;
but Saturday and Sunday passed without bringing the poor girl the
satisfaction she desired.  Her punishment accumulated; she continued to
bear it, however, with a good deal of superficial fortitude.  On Saturday
morning the Doctor, who had been watching in silence, spoke to his sister
Lavinia.

“The thing has happened—the scoundrel has backed out!”

“Never!” cried Mrs. Penniman, who had bethought herself what she should
say to Catherine, but was not provided with a line of defence against her
brother, so that indignant negation was the only weapon in her hands.

“He has begged for a reprieve, then, if you like that better!”

“It seems to make you very happy that your daughter’s affections have
been trifled with.”

“It does,” said the Doctor; ‘“for I had foretold it!  It’s a great
pleasure to be in the right.”

“Your pleasures make one shudder!” his sister exclaimed.

Catherine went rigidly through her usual occupations; that is, up to the
point of going with her aunt to church on Sunday morning.  She generally
went to afternoon service as well; but on this occasion her courage
faltered, and she begged of Mrs. Penniman to go without her.

“I am sure you have a secret,” said Mrs. Penniman, with great
significance, looking at her rather grimly.

“If I have, I shall keep it!” Catherine answered, turning away.

Mrs. Penniman started for church; but before she had arrived, she stopped
and turned back, and before twenty minutes had elapsed she re-entered the
house, looked into the empty parlours, and then went upstairs and knocked
at Catherine’s door.  She got no answer; Catherine was not in her room,
and Mrs. Penniman presently ascertained that she was not in the house.
“She has gone to him, she has fled!” Lavinia cried, clasping her hands
with admiration and envy.  But she soon perceived that Catherine had
taken nothing with her—all her personal property in her room was
intact—and then she jumped at the hypothesis that the girl had gone
forth, not in tenderness, but in resentment.  “She has followed him to
his own door—she has burst upon him in his own apartment!”  It was in
these terms that Mrs. Penniman depicted to herself her niece’s errand,
which, viewed in this light, gratified her sense of the picturesque only
a shade less strongly than the idea of a clandestine marriage.  To visit
one’s lover, with tears and reproaches, at his own residence, was an
image so agreeable to Mrs. Penniman’s mind that she felt a sort of
æsthetic disappointment at its lacking, in this case, the harmonious
accompaniments of darkness and storm.  A quiet Sunday afternoon appeared
an inadequate setting for it; and, indeed, Mrs. Penniman was quite out of
humour with the conditions of the time, which passed very slowly as she
sat in the front parlour in her bonnet and her cashmere shawl, awaiting
Catherine’s return.

This event at last took place.  She saw her—at the window—mount the
steps, and she went to await her in the hall, where she pounced upon her
as soon as she had entered the house, and drew her into the parlour,
closing the door with solemnity.  Catherine was flushed, and her eye was
bright.  Mrs. Penniman hardly knew what to think.

“May I venture to ask where you have been?” she demanded.

“I have been to take a walk,” said Catherine.  “I thought you had gone to
church.”

“I did go to church; but the service was shorter than usual.  And pray,
where did you walk?”

“I don’t know!” said Catherine.

“Your ignorance is most extraordinary!  Dear Catherine, you can trust
me.”

“What am I to trust you with?”

“With your secret—your sorrow.”

“I have no sorrow!” said Catherine fiercely.

“My poor child,” Mrs. Penniman insisted, “you can’t deceive me.  I know
everything.  I have been requested to—a—to converse with you.”

“I don’t want to converse!”

“It will relieve you.  Don’t you know Shakespeare’s lines?—‘the grief
that does not speak!’  My dear girl, it is better as it is.”

“What is better?” Catherine asked.

She was really too perverse.  A certain amount of perversity was to be
allowed for in a young lady whose lover had thrown her over; but not such
an amount as would prove inconvenient to his apologists.  “That you
should be reasonable,” said Mrs. Penniman, with some sternness.  “That
you should take counsel of worldly prudence, and submit to practical
considerations.  That you should agree to—a—separate.”

Catherine had been ice up to this moment, but at this word she flamed up.
“Separate?  What do you know about our separating?”

Mrs. Penniman shook her head with a sadness in which there was almost a
sense of injury.  “Your pride is my pride, and your susceptibilities are
mine.  I see your side perfectly, but I also”—and she smiled with
melancholy suggestiveness—“I also see the situation as a whole!”

This suggestiveness was lost upon Catherine, who repeated her violent
inquiry.  “Why do you talk about separation; what do you know about it?”

“We must study resignation,” said Mrs. Penniman, hesitating, but
sententious at a venture.

“Resignation to what?”

“To a change of—of our plans.”

“My plans have not changed!” said Catherine, with a little laugh.

“Ah, but Mr. Townsend’s have,” her aunt answered very gently.

“What do you mean?”

There was an imperious brevity in the tone of this inquiry, against which
Mrs. Penniman felt bound to protest; the information with which she had
undertaken to supply her niece was, after all, a favour.  She had tried
sharpness, and she had tried sternness: but neither would do; she was
shocked at the girl’s obstinacy.  “Ah, well,” she said, “if he hasn’t
told you! . . . ” and she turned away.

Catherine watched her a moment in silence; then she hurried after her,
stopping her before she reached the door.  “Told me what?  What do you
mean?  What are you hinting at and threatening me with?”

“Isn’t it broken off?” asked Mrs. Penniman.

“My engagement?  Not in the least!”

“I beg your pardon in that case.  I have spoken too soon!”

“Too soon!  Soon or late,” Catherine broke out, “you speak foolishly and
cruelly!”

“What has happened between you, then?” asked her aunt, struck by the
sincerity of this cry.  “For something certainly has happened.”

“Nothing has happened but that I love him more and more!”

Mrs. Penniman was silent an instant.  “I suppose that’s the reason you
went to see him this afternoon.”

Catherine flushed as if she had been struck.  “Yes, I did go to see him!
But that’s my own business.”

“Very well, then; we won’t talk about it.”  And Mrs. Penniman moved
towards the door again.  But she was stopped by a sudden imploring cry
from the girl.

“Aunt Lavinia, _where_ has he gone?”

“Ah, you admit, then, that he has gone away?  Didn’t they know at his
house?”

“They said he had left town.  I asked no more questions; I was ashamed,”
said Catherine, simply enough.

“You needn’t have taken so compromising a step if you had had a little
more confidence in me,” Mrs. Penniman observed, with a good deal of
grandeur.

“Is it to New Orleans?” Catherine went on irrelevantly.

It was the first time Mrs. Penniman had heard of New Orleans in this
connexion; but she was averse to letting Catherine know that she was in
the dark.  She attempted to strike an illumination from the instructions
she had received from Morris.  “My dear Catherine,” she said, “when a
separation has been agreed upon, the farther he goes away the better.”

“Agreed upon?  Has he agreed upon it with you?”  A consummate sense of
her aunt’s meddlesome folly had come over her during the last five
minutes, and she was sickened at the thought that Mrs. Penniman had been
let loose, as it were, upon her happiness.

“He certainly has sometimes advised with me,” said Mrs. Penniman.

“Is it you, then, that have changed him and made him so unnatural?”
Catherine cried.  “Is it you that have worked on him and taken him from
me?  He doesn’t belong to you, and I don’t see how you have anything to
do with what is between us!  Is it you that have made this plot and told
him to leave me?  How could you be so wicked, so cruel?  What have I ever
done to you; why can’t you leave me alone?  I was afraid you would spoil
everything; for you _do_ spoil everything you touch; I was afraid of you
all the time we were abroad; I had no rest when I thought that you were
always talking to him.”  Catherine went on with growing vehemence,
pouring out in her bitterness and in the clairvoyance of her passion
(which suddenly, jumping all processes, made her judge her aunt finally
and without appeal) the uneasiness which had lain for so many months upon
her heart.

Mrs. Penniman was scared and bewildered; she saw no prospect of
introducing her little account of the purity of Morris’s motives.  “You
are a most ungrateful girl!” she cried.  “Do you scold me for talking
with him?  I am sure we never talked of anything but you!”

“Yes; and that was the way you worried him; you made him tired of my very
name!  I wish you had never spoken of me to him; I never asked your
help!”

“I am sure if it hadn’t been for me he would never have come to the
house, and you would never have known what he thought of you,” Mrs.
Penniman rejoined, with a good deal of justice.

“I wish he never had come to the house, and that I never had known it!
That’s better than this,” said poor Catherine.

“You are a very ungrateful girl,” Aunt Lavinia repeated.

Catherine’s outbreak of anger and the sense of wrong gave her, while they
lasted, the satisfaction that comes from all assertion of force; they
hurried her along, and there is always a sort of pleasure in cleaving the
air.  But at the bottom she hated to be violent, and she was conscious of
no aptitude for organised resentment.  She calmed herself with a great
effort, but with great rapidity, and walked about the room a few moments,
trying to say to herself that her aunt had meant everything for the best.
She did not succeed in saying it with much conviction, but after a little
she was able to speak quietly enough.

“I am not ungrateful, but I am very unhappy.  It’s hard to be grateful
for that,” she said.  “Will you please tell me where he is?”

“I haven’t the least idea; I am not in secret correspondence with him!”
And Mrs. Penniman wished indeed that she were, so that she might let him
know how Catherine abused her, after all she had done.

“Was it a plan of his, then, to break off—?”  By this time Catherine had
become completely quiet.

Mrs. Penniman began again to have a glimpse of her chance for explaining.
“He shrank—he shrank,” she said.  “He lacked courage, but it was the
courage to injure you!  He couldn’t bear to bring down on you your
father’s curse.”

Catherine listened to this with her eyes fixed upon her aunt, and
continued to gaze at her for some time afterwards.  “Did he tell you to
say that?”

“He told me to say many things—all so delicate, so discriminating.  And
he told me to tell you he hoped you wouldn’t despise him.”

“I don’t,” said Catherine.  And then she added: “And will he stay away
for ever?”

“Oh, for ever is a long time.  Your father, perhaps, won’t live for
ever.”

“Perhaps not.”

“I am sure you appreciate—you understand—even though your heart bleeds,”
said Mrs. Penniman.  “You doubtless think him too scrupulous.  So do I,
but I respect his scruples.  What he asks of you is that you should do
the same.”

Catherine was still gazing at her aunt, but she spoke at last, as if she
had not heard or not understood her.  “It has been a regular plan, then.
He has broken it off deliberately; he has given me up.”

“For the present, dear Catherine.  He has put it off only.”

“He has left me alone,” Catherine went on.

“Haven’t you _me_?” asked Mrs. Penniman, with much expression.

Catherine shook her head slowly.  “I don’t believe it!” and she left the
room.



XXXI


THOUGH she had forced herself to be calm, she preferred practising this
virtue in private, and she forbore to show herself at tea—a repast which,
on Sundays, at six o’clock, took the place of dinner.  Dr. Sloper and his
sister sat face to face, but Mrs. Penniman never met her brother’s eye.
Late in the evening she went with him, but without Catherine, to their
sister Almond’s, where, between the two ladies, Catherine’s unhappy
situation was discussed with a frankness that was conditioned by a good
deal of mysterious reticence on Mrs. Penniman’s part.

“I am delighted he is not to marry her,” said Mrs. Almond, “but he ought
to be horsewhipped all the same.”

Mrs. Penniman, who was shocked at her sister’s coarseness, replied that
he had been actuated by the noblest of motives—the desire not to
impoverish Catherine.

“I am very happy that Catherine is not to be impoverished—but I hope he
may never have a penny too much!  And what does the poor girl say to
_you_?” Mrs. Almond asked.

“She says I have a genius for consolation,” said Mrs. Penniman.

This was the account of the matter that she gave to her sister, and it
was perhaps with the consciousness of genius that, on her return that
evening to Washington Square, she again presented herself for admittance
at Catherine’s door.  Catherine came and opened it; she was apparently
very quiet.

“I only want to give you a little word of advice,” she said.  “If your
father asks you, say that everything is going on.”

Catherine stood there, with her hand on the knob looking at her aunt, but
not asking her to come in.  “Do you think he will ask me?”

“I am sure he will.  He asked me just now, on our way home from your Aunt
Elizabeth’s.  I explained the whole thing to your Aunt Elizabeth.  I said
to your father I know nothing about it.”

“Do you think he will ask me when he sees—when he sees—?”  But here
Catherine stopped.

“The more he sees the more disagreeable he will be,” said her aunt.

“He shall see as little as possible!” Catherine declared.

“Tell him you are to be married.”

“So I am,” said Catherine softly; and she closed the door upon her aunt.

She could not have said this two days later—for instance, on Tuesday,
when she at last received a letter from Morris Townsend.  It was an
epistle of considerable length, measuring five large square pages, and
written at Philadelphia.  It was an explanatory document, and it
explained a great many things, chief among which were the considerations
that had led the writer to take advantage of an urgent “professional”
absence to try and banish from his mind the image of one whose path he
had crossed only to scatter it with ruins.  He ventured to expect but
partial success in this attempt, but he could promise her that, whatever
his failure, he would never again interpose between her generous heart
and her brilliant prospects and filial duties.  He closed with an
intimation that his professional pursuits might compel him to travel for
some months, and with the hope that when they should each have
accommodated themselves to what was sternly involved in their respective
positions—even should this result not be reached for years—they should
meet as friends, as fellow-sufferers, as innocent but philosophic victims
of a great social law.  That her life should be peaceful and happy was
the dearest wish of him who ventured still to subscribe himself her most
obedient servant.  The letter was beautifully written, and Catherine, who
kept it for many years after this, was able, when her sense of the
bitterness of its meaning and the hollowness of its tone had grown less
acute, to admire its grace of expression.  At present, for a long time
after she received it, all she had to help her was the determination,
daily more rigid, to make no appeal to the compassion of her father.

He suffered a week to elapse, and then one day, in the morning, at an
hour at which she rarely saw him, he strolled into the back parlour.  He
had watched his time, and he found her alone.  She was sitting with some
work, and he came and stood in front of her.  He was going out, he had on
his hat and was drawing on his gloves.

“It doesn’t seem to me that you are treating me just now with all the
consideration I deserve,” he said in a moment.

“I don’t know what I have done,” Catherine answered, with her eyes on her
work.

“You have apparently quite banished from your mind the request I made you
at Liverpool, before we sailed; the request that you would notify me in
advance before leaving my house.”

“I have not left your house!” said Catherine.

“But you intend to leave it, and by what you gave me to understand, your
departure must be impending.  In fact, though you are still here in body,
you are already absent in spirit.  Your mind has taken up its residence
with your prospective husband, and you might quite as well be lodged
under the conjugal roof, for all the benefit we get from your society.”

“I will try and be more cheerful!” said Catherine.

“You certainly ought to be cheerful, you ask a great deal if you are not.
To the pleasure of marrying a brilliant young man, you add that of having
your own way; you strike me as a very lucky young lady!”

Catherine got up; she was suffocating.  But she folded her work,
deliberately and correctly, bending her burning face upon it.  Her father
stood where he had planted himself; she hoped he would go, but he
smoothed and buttoned his gloves, and then he rested his hands upon his
hips.

“It would be a convenience to me to know when I may expect to have an
empty house,” he went on.  “When you go, your aunt marches.”

She looked at him at last, with a long silent gaze, which, in spite of
her pride and her resolution, uttered part of the appeal she had tried
not to make.  Her father’s cold grey eye sounded her own, and he insisted
on his point.

“Is it to-morrow?  Is it next week, or the week after?”

“I shall not go away!” said Catherine.

The Doctor raised his eyebrows.  “Has he backed out?”

“I have broken off my engagement.”

“Broken it off?”

“I have asked him to leave New York, and he has gone away for a long
time.”

The Doctor was both puzzled and disappointed, but he solved his
perplexity by saying to himself that his daughter simply
misrepresented—justifiably, if one would? but nevertheless
misrepresented—the facts; and he eased off his disappointment, which was
that of a man losing a chance for a little triumph that he had rather
counted on, by a few words that he uttered aloud.

“How does he take his dismissal?”

“I don’t know!” said Catherine, less ingeniously than she had hitherto
spoken.

“You mean you don’t care?  You are rather cruel, after encouraging him
and playing with him for so long!”

The Doctor had his revenge, after all.



XXXII


OUR story has hitherto moved with very short steps, but as it approaches
its termination it must take a long stride.  As time went on, it might
have appeared to the Doctor that his daughter’s account of her rupture
with Morris Townsend, mere bravado as he had deemed it, was in some
degree justified by the sequel.  Morris remained as rigidly and
unremittingly absent as if he had died of a broken heart, and Catherine
had apparently buried the memory of this fruitless episode as deep as if
it had terminated by her own choice.  We know that she had been deeply
and incurably wounded, but the Doctor had no means of knowing it.  He was
certainly curious about it, and would have given a good deal to discover
the exact truth; but it was his punishment that he never knew—his
punishment, I mean, for the abuse of sarcasm in his relations with his
daughter.  There was a good deal of effective sarcasm in her keeping him
in the dark, and the rest of the world conspired with her, in this sense,
to be sarcastic.  Mrs. Penniman told him nothing, partly because he never
questioned her—he made too light of Mrs. Penniman for that—and partly
because she flattered herself that a tormenting reserve, and a serene
profession of ignorance, would avenge her for his theory that she had
meddled in the matter.  He went two or three times to see Mrs.
Montgomery, but Mrs. Montgomery had nothing to impart.  She simply knew
that her brother’s engagement was broken off, and now that Miss Sloper
was out of danger she preferred not to bear witness in any way against
Morris.  She had done so before—however unwillingly—because she was sorry
for Miss Sloper; but she was not sorry for Miss Sloper now—not at all
sorry.  Morris had told her nothing about his relations with Miss Sloper
at the time, and he had told her nothing since.  He was always away, and
he very seldom wrote to her; she believed he had gone to California.
Mrs. Almond had, in her sister’s phrase, “taken up” Catherine violently
since the recent catastrophe; but though the girl was very grateful to
her for her kindness, she revealed no secrets, and the good lady could
give the Doctor no satisfaction.  Even, however, had she been able to
narrate to him the private history of his daughter’s unhappy love affair,
it would have given her a certain comfort to leave him in ignorance; for
Mrs. Almond was at this time not altogether in sympathy with her brother.
She had guessed for herself that Catherine had been cruelly jilted—she
knew nothing from Mrs. Penniman, for Mrs. Penniman had not ventured to
lay the famous explanation of Morris’s motives before Mrs. Almond, though
she had thought it good enough for Catherine—and she pronounced her
brother too consistently indifferent to what the poor creature must have
suffered and must still be suffering.  Dr. Sloper had his theory, and he
rarely altered his theories.  The marriage would have been an abominable
one, and the girl had had a blessed escape.  She was not to be pitied for
that, and to pretend to condole with her would have been to make
concessions to the idea that she had ever had a right to think of Morris.

“I put my foot on this idea from the first, and I keep it there now,”
said the Doctor.  “I don’t see anything cruel in that; one can’t keep it
there too long.”  To this Mrs. Almond more than once replied that if
Catherine had got rid of her incongruous lover, she deserved the credit
of it, and that to bring herself to her father’s enlightened view of the
matter must have cost her an effort that he was bound to appreciate.

“I am by no means sure she has got rid of him,” the Doctor said.  “There
is not the smallest probability that, after having been as obstinate as a
mule for two years, she suddenly became amenable to reason.  It is
infinitely more probable that he got rid of her.”

“All the more reason you should be gentle with her.”

“I _am_ gentle with her.  But I can’t do the pathetic; I can’t pump up
tears, to look graceful, over the most fortunate thing that ever happened
to her.”

“You have no sympathy,” said Mrs. Almond; “that was never your strong
point.  You have only to look at her to see that, right or wrong, and
whether the rupture came from herself or from him, her poor little heart
is grievously bruised.”

“Handling bruises—and even dropping tears on them—doesn’t make them any
better!  My business is to see she gets no more knocks, and that I shall
carefully attend to.  But I don’t at all recognise your description of
Catherine.  She doesn’t strike me in the least as a young woman going
about in search of a moral poultice.  In fact, she seems to me much
better than while the fellow was hanging about.  She is perfectly
comfortable and blooming; she eats and sleeps, takes her usual exercise,
and overloads herself, as usual, with finery.  She is always knitting
some purse or embroidering some handkerchief, and it seems to me she
turns these articles out about as fast as ever.  She hasn’t much to say;
but when had she anything to say?  She had her little dance, and now she
is sitting down to rest.  I suspect that, on the whole, she enjoys it.”

“She enjoys it as people enjoy getting rid of a leg that has been
crushed.  The state of mind after amputation is doubtless one of
comparative repose.”

“If your leg is a metaphor for young Townsend, I can assure you he has
never been crushed.  Crushed?  Not he!  He is alive and perfectly intact,
and that’s why I am not satisfied.”

“Should you have liked to kill him?” asked Mrs. Almond.

“Yes, very much.  I think it is quite possible that it is all a blind.”

“A blind?”

“An arrangement between them.  _Il fait le mort_, as they say in France;
but he is looking out of the corner of his eye.  You can depend upon it
he has not burned his ships; he has kept one to come back in.  When I am
dead, he will set sail again, and then she will marry him.”

“It is interesting to know that you accuse your only daughter of being
the vilest of hypocrites,” said Mrs. Almond.

“I don’t see what difference her being my only daughter makes.  It is
better to accuse one than a dozen.  But I don’t accuse any one.  There is
not the smallest hypocrisy about Catherine, and I deny that she even
pretends to be miserable.”

The Doctor’s idea that the thing was a “blind” had its intermissions and
revivals; but it may be said on the whole to have increased as he grew
older; together with his impression of Catherine’s blooming and
comfortable condition.  Naturally, if he had not found grounds for
viewing her as a lovelorn maiden during the year or two that followed her
great trouble, he found none at a time when she had completely recovered
her self-possession.  He was obliged to recognise the fact that if the
two young people were waiting for him to get out of the way, they were at
least waiting very patiently.  He had heard from time to time that Morris
was in New York; but he never remained there long, and, to the best of
the Doctor’s belief, had no communication with Catherine.  He was sure
they never met, and he had reason to suspect that Morris never wrote to
her.  After the letter that has been mentioned, she heard from him twice
again, at considerable intervals; but on none of these occasions did she
write herself.  On the other hand, as the Doctor observed, she averted
herself rigidly from the idea of marrying other people.  Her
opportunities for doing so were not numerous, but they occurred often
enough to test her disposition.  She refused a widower, a man with a
genial temperament, a handsome fortune, and three little girls (he had
heard that she was very fond of children, and he pointed to his own with
some confidence); and she turned a deaf ear to the solicitations of a
clever young lawyer, who, with the prospect of a great practice, and the
reputation of a most agreeable man, had had the shrewdness, when he came
to look about him for a wife, to believe that she would suit him better
than several younger and prettier girls.  Mr. Macalister, the widower,
had desired to make a marriage of reason, and had chosen Catherine for
what he supposed to be her latent matronly qualities; but John Ludlow,
who was a year the girl’s junior, and spoken of always as a young man who
might have his “pick,” was seriously in love with her.  Catherine,
however, would never look at him; she made it plain to him that she
thought he came to see her too often.  He afterwards consoled himself,
and married a very different person, little Miss Sturtevant, whose
attractions were obvious to the dullest comprehension.  Catherine, at the
time of these events, had left her thirtieth year well behind her, and
had quite taken her place as an old maid.  Her father would have
preferred she should marry, and he once told her that he hoped she would
not be too fastidious.  “I should like to see you an honest man’s wife
before I die,” he said.  This was after John Ludlow had been compelled to
give it up, though the Doctor had advised him to persevere.  The Doctor
exercised no further pressure, and had the credit of not “worrying” at
all over his daughter’s singleness.  In fact he worried rather more than
appeared, and there were considerable periods during which he felt sure
that Morris Townsend was hidden behind some door.  “If he is not, why
doesn’t she marry?” he asked himself.  “Limited as her intelligence may
be, she must understand perfectly well that she is made to do the usual
thing.”  Catherine, however, became an admirable old maid.  She formed
habits, regulated her days upon a system of her own, interested herself
in charitable institutions, asylums, hospitals, and aid societies; and
went generally, with an even and noiseless step, about the rigid business
of her life.  This life had, however, a secret history as well as a
public one—if I may talk of the public history of a mature and diffident
spinster for whom publicity had always a combination of terrors.  From
her own point of view the great facts of her career were that Morris
Townsend had trifled with her affection, and that her father had broken
its spring.  Nothing could ever alter these facts; they were always
there, like her name, her age, her plain face.  Nothing could ever undo
the wrong or cure the pain that Morris had inflicted on her, and nothing
could ever make her feel towards her father as she felt in her younger
years.  There was something dead in her life, and her duty was to try and
fill the void.  Catherine recognised this duty to the utmost; she had a
great disapproval of brooding and moping.  She had, of course, no faculty
for quenching memory in dissipation; but she mingled freely in the usual
gaieties of the town, and she became at last an inevitable figure at all
respectable entertainments.  She was greatly liked, and as time went on
she grew to be a sort of kindly maiden aunt to the younger portion of
society.  Young girls were apt to confide to her their love affairs
(which they never did to Mrs. Penniman), and young men to be fond of her
without knowing why.  She developed a few harmless eccentricities; her
habits, once formed, were rather stiffly maintained; her opinions, on all
moral and social matters, were extremely conservative; and before she was
forty she was regarded as an old-fashioned person, and an authority on
customs that had passed away.  Mrs. Penniman, in comparison, was quite a
girlish figure; she grew younger as she advanced in life.  She lost none
of her relish for beauty and mystery, but she had little opportunity to
exercise it.  With Catherine’s later wooers she failed to establish
relations as intimate as those which had given her so many interesting
hours in the society of Morris Townsend.  These gentlemen had an
indefinable mistrust of her good offices, and they never talked to her
about Catherine’s charms.  Her ringlets, her buckles and bangles,
glistened more brightly with each succeeding year, and she remained quite
the same officious and imaginative Mrs. Penniman, and the odd mixture of
impetuosity and circumspection, that we have hitherto known.  As regards
one point, however, her circumspection prevailed, and she must be given
due credit for it.  For upwards of seventeen years she never mentioned
Morris Townsend’s name to her niece.  Catherine was grateful to her, but
this consistent silence, so little in accord with her aunt’s character,
gave her a certain alarm, and she could never wholly rid herself of a
suspicion that Mrs. Penniman sometimes had news of him.



XXXIII


LITTLE by little Dr. Sloper had retired from his profession; he visited
only those patients in whose symptoms he recognised a certain
originality.  He went again to Europe, and remained two years; Catherine
went with him, and on this occasion Mrs. Penniman was of the party.
Europe apparently had few surprises for Mrs. Penniman, who frequently
remarked, in the most romantic sites—“You know I am very familiar with
all this.”  It should be added that such remarks were usually not
addressed to her brother, or yet to her niece, but to fellow-tourists who
happened to be at hand, or even to the cicerone or the goat-herd in the
foreground.

One day, after his return from Europe, the Doctor said something to his
daughter that made her start—it seemed to come from so far out of the
past.

“I should like you to promise me something before I die.”

“Why do you talk about your dying?” she asked.

“Because I am sixty-eight years old.”

“I hope you will live a long time,” said Catherine.

“I hope I shall!  But some day I shall take a bad cold, and then it will
not matter much what any one hopes.  That will be the manner of my exit,
and when it takes place, remember I told you so.  Promise me not to marry
Morris Townsend after I am gone.”

This was what made Catherine start, as I have said; but her start was a
silent one, and for some moments she said nothing.  “Why do you speak of
him?” she asked at last.

“You challenge everything I say.  I speak of him because he’s a topic,
like any other.  He’s to be seen, like any one else, and he is still
looking for a wife—having had one and got rid of her, I don’t know by
what means.  He has lately been in New York, and at your cousin Marian’s
house; your Aunt Elizabeth saw him there.”

“They neither of them told me,” said Catherine.

“That’s their merit; it’s not yours.  He has grown fat and bald, and he
has not made his fortune.  But I can’t trust those facts alone to steel
your heart against him, and that’s why I ask you to promise.”

“Fat and bald”: these words presented a strange image to Catherine’s
mind, out of which the memory of the most beautiful young man in the
world had never faded.  “I don’t think you understand,” she said.  “I
very seldom think of Mr. Townsend.”

“It will be very easy for you to go on, then.  Promise me, after my
death, to do the same.”

Again, for some moments, Catherine was silent; her father’s request
deeply amazed her; it opened an old wound and made it ache afresh.  “I
don’t think I can promise that,” she answered.

“It would be a great satisfaction,” said her father.

“You don’t understand.  I can’t promise that.”

The Doctor was silent a minute.  “I ask you for a particular reason.  I
am altering my will.”

This reason failed to strike Catherine; and indeed she scarcely
understood it.  All her feelings were merged in the sense that he was
trying to treat her as he had treated her years before.  She had suffered
from it then; and now all her experience, all her acquired tranquillity
and rigidity, protested.  She had been so humble in her youth that she
could now afford to have a little pride, and there was something in this
request, and in her father’s thinking himself so free to make it, that
seemed an injury to her dignity.  Poor Catherine’s dignity was not
aggressive; it never sat in state; but if you pushed far enough you could
find it.  Her father had pushed very far.

“I can’t promise,” she simply repeated.

“You are very obstinate,” said the Doctor.

“I don’t think you understand.”

“Please explain, then.”

“I can’t explain,” said Catherine.  “And I can’t promise.”

“Upon my word,” her father explained, “I had no idea how obstinate you
are!”

She knew herself that she was obstinate, and it gave her a certain joy.
She was now a middle-aged woman.

About a year after this, the accident that the Doctor had spoken of
occurred; he took a violent cold.  Driving out to Bloomingdale one April
day to see a patient of unsound mind, who was confined in a private
asylum for the insane, and whose family greatly desired a medical opinion
from an eminent source, he was caught in a spring shower, and being in a
buggy, without a hood, he found himself soaked to the skin.  He came home
with an ominous chill, and on the morrow he was seriously ill.  “It is
congestion of the lungs,” he said to Catherine; “I shall need very good
nursing.  It will make no difference, for I shall not recover; but I wish
everything to be done, to the smallest detail, as if I should.  I hate an
ill-conducted sick-room; and you will be so good as to nurse me on the
hypothesis that I shall get well.”  He told her which of his
fellow-physicians to send for, and gave her a multitude of minute
directions; it was quite on the optimistic hypothesis that she nursed
him.  But he had never been wrong in his life, and he was not wrong now.
He was touching his seventieth year, and though he had a very
well-tempered constitution, his hold upon life had lost its firmness.  He
died after three weeks’ illness, during which Mrs. Penniman, as well as
his daughter, had been assiduous at his bedside.

On his will being opened after a decent interval, it was found to consist
of two portions.  The first of these dated from ten years back, and
consisted of a series of dispositions by which he left the great mass of
property to his daughter, with becoming legacies to his two sisters.  The
second was a codicil, of recent origin, maintaining the annuities to Mrs.
Penniman and Mrs. Almond, but reducing Catherine’s share to a fifth of
what he had first bequeathed her.  “She is amply provided for from her
mother’s side,” the document ran, “never having spent more than a
fraction of her income from this source; so that her fortune is already
more than sufficient to attract those unscrupulous adventurers whom she
has given me reason to believe that she persists in regarding as an
interesting class.”  The large remainder of his property, therefore, Dr.
Sloper had divided into seven unequal parts, which he left, as
endowments, to as many different hospitals and schools of medicine, in
various cities of the Union.

To Mrs. Penniman it seemed monstrous that a man should play such tricks
with other people’s money; for after his death, of course, as she said,
it was other people’s.  “Of course, you will dispute the will,” she
remarked, fatuously, to Catherine.

“Oh no,” Catherine answered, “I like it very much.  Only I wish it had
been expressed a little differently!”



XXXIV


IT was her habit to remain in town very late in the summer; she preferred
the house in Washington Square to any other habitation whatever, and it
was under protest that she used to go to the seaside for the month of
August.  At the sea she spent her month at an hotel.  The year that her
father died she intermitted this custom altogether, not thinking it
consistent with deep mourning; and the year after that she put off her
departure till so late that the middle of August found her still in the
heated solitude of Washington Square.  Mrs. Penniman, who was fond of a
change, was usually eager for a visit to the country; but this year she
appeared quite content with such rural impressions as she could gather,
at the parlour window, from the ailantus-trees behind the wooden paling.
The peculiar fragrance of this vegetation used to diffuse itself in the
evening air, and Mrs. Penniman, on the warm nights of July, often sat at
the open window and inhaled it.  This was a happy moment for Mrs.
Penniman; after the death of her brother she felt more free to obey her
impulses.  A vague oppression had disappeared from her life, and she
enjoyed a sense of freedom of which she had not been conscious since the
memorable time, so long ago, when the Doctor went abroad with Catherine
and left her at home to entertain Morris Townsend.  The year that had
elapsed since her brother’s death reminded her—of that happy time,
because, although Catherine, in growing older, had become a person to be
reckoned with, yet her society was a very different thing, as Mrs.
Penniman said, from that of a tank of cold water.  The elder lady hardly
knew what use to make of this larger margin of her life; she sat and
looked at it very much as she had often sat, with her poised needle in
her hand, before her tapestry frame.  She had a confident hope, however,
that her rich impulses, her talent for embroidery, would still find their
application, and this confidence was justified before many months had
elapsed.

Catherine continued to live in her father’s house in spite of its being
represented to her that a maiden lady of quiet habits might find a more
convenient abode in one of the smaller dwellings, with brown stone
fronts, which had at this time begun to adorn the transverse
thoroughfares in the upper part of the town.  She liked the earlier
structure—it had begun by this time to be called an “old” house—and
proposed to herself to end her days in it.  If it was too large for a
pair of unpretending gentlewomen, this was better than the opposite
fault; for Catherine had no desire to find herself in closer quarters
with her aunt.  She expected to spend the rest of her life in Washington
Square, and to enjoy Mrs. Penniman’s society for the whole of this
period; as she had a conviction that, long as she might live, her aunt
would live at least as long, and always retain her brilliancy and
activity.  Mrs. Penniman suggested to her the idea of a rich vitality.

On one of those warm evenings in July of which mention has been made, the
two ladies sat together at an open window, looking out on the quiet
Square.  It was too hot for lighted lamps, for reading, or for work; it
might have appeared too hot even for conversation, Mrs. Penniman having
long been speechless.  She sat forward in the window, half on the
balcony, humming a little song.  Catherine was within the room, in a low
rocking-chair, dressed in white, and slowly using a large palmetto fan.
It was in this way, at this season, that the aunt and niece, after they
had had tea, habitually spent their evenings.

“Catherine,” said Mrs. Penniman at last, “I am going to say something
that will surprise you.”

“Pray do,” Catherine answered; “I like surprises.  And it is so quiet
now.”

“Well, then, I have seen Morris Townsend.”

If Catherine was surprised, she checked the expression of it; she gave
neither a start nor an exclamation.  She remained, indeed, for some
moments intensely still, and this may very well have been a symptom of
emotion.  “I hope he was well,” she said at last.

“I don’t know; he is a great deal changed.  He would like very much to
see you.”

“I would rather not see him,” said Catherine quickly.

“I was afraid you would say that.  But you don’t seem surprised!”

“I am—very much.”

“I met him at Marian’s,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “He goes to Marian’s, and
they are so afraid you will meet him there.  It’s my belief that that’s
why he goes.  He wants so much to see you.”  Catherine made no response
to this, and Mrs. Penniman went on.  “I didn’t know him at first; he is
so remarkably changed.  But he knew me in a minute.  He says I am not in
the least changed.  You know how polite he always was.  He was coming
away when I came, and we walked a little distance together.  He is still
very handsome, only, of course, he looks older, and he is not so—so
animated as he used to be.  There was a touch of sadness about him; but
there was a touch of sadness about him before—especially when he went
away.  I am afraid he has not been very successful—that he has never got
thoroughly established.  I don’t suppose he is sufficiently plodding, and
that, after all, is what succeeds in this world.”  Mrs. Penniman had not
mentioned Morris Townsend’s name to her niece for upwards of the fifth of
a century; but now that she had broken the spell, she seemed to wish to
make up for lost time, as if there had been a sort of exhilaration in
hearing herself talk of him.  She proceeded, however, with considerable
caution, pausing occasionally to let Catherine give some sign.  Catherine
gave no other sign than to stop the rocking of her chair and the swaying
of her fan; she sat motionless and silent.  “It was on Tuesday last,”
said Mrs. Penniman, “and I have been hesitating ever since about telling
you.  I didn’t know how you might like it.  At last I thought that it was
so long ago that you would probably not have any particular feeling.  I
saw him again, after meeting him at Marian’s.  I met him in the street,
and he went a few steps with me.  The first thing he said was about you;
he asked ever so many questions.  Marian didn’t want me to speak to you;
she didn’t want you to know that they receive him.  I told him I was sure
that after all these years you couldn’t have any feeling about that; you
couldn’t grudge him the hospitality of his own cousin’s house.  I said
you would be bitter indeed if you did that.  Marian has the most
extraordinary ideas about what happened between you; she seems to think
he behaved in some very unusual manner.  I took the liberty of reminding
her of the real facts, and placing the story in its true light.  _He_ has
no bitterness, Catherine, I can assure you; and he might be excused for
it, for things have not gone well with him.  He has been all over the
world, and tried to establish himself everywhere; but his evil star was
against him.  It is most interesting to hear him talk of his evil star.
Everything failed; everything but his—you know, you remember—his proud,
high spirit.  I believe he married some lady somewhere in Europe.  You
know they marry in such a peculiar matter-of-course way in Europe; a
marriage of reason they call it.  She died soon afterwards; as he said to
me, she only flitted across his life.  He has not been in New York for
ten years; he came back a few days ago.  The first thing he did was to
ask me about you.  He had heard you had never married; he seemed very
much interested about that.  He said you had been the real romance of his
life.”

Catherine had suffered her companion to proceed from point to point, and
pause to pause, without interrupting her; she fixed her eyes on the
ground and listened.  But the last phrase I have quoted was followed by a
pause of peculiar significance, and then, at last, Catherine spoke.  It
will be observed that before doing so she had received a good deal of
information about Morris Townsend.  “Please say no more; please don’t
follow up that subject.”

“Doesn’t it interest you?” asked Mrs. Penniman, with a certain timorous
archness.

“It pains me,” said Catherine.

“I was afraid you would say that.  But don’t you think you could get used
to it?  He wants so much to see you.”

“Please don’t, Aunt Lavinia,” said Catherine, getting up from her seat.
She moved quickly away, and went to the other window, which stood open to
the balcony; and here, in the embrasure, concealed from her aunt by the
white curtains, she remained a long time, looking out into the warm
darkness.  She had had a great shock; it was as if the gulf of the past
had suddenly opened, and a spectral figure had risen out of it.  There
were some things she believed she had got over, some feelings that she
had thought of as dead; but apparently there was a certain vitality in
them still.  Mrs. Penniman had made them stir themselves.  It was but a
momentary agitation, Catherine said to herself; it would presently pass
away.  She was trembling, and her heart was beating so that she could
feel it; but this also would subside.  Then, suddenly, while she waited
for a return of her calmness, she burst into tears.  But her tears flowed
very silently, so that Mrs. Penniman had no observation of them.  It was
perhaps, however, because Mrs. Penniman suspected them that she said no
more that evening about Morris Townsend.



XXXV


HER refreshed attention to this gentleman had not those limits of which
Catherine desired, for herself, to be conscious; it lasted long enough to
enable her to wait another week before speaking of him again.  It was
under the same circumstances that she once more attacked the subject.
She had been sitting with her niece in the evening; only on this
occasion, as the night was not so warm, the lamp had been lighted, and
Catherine had placed herself near it with a morsel of fancy-work.  Mrs.
Penniman went and sat alone for half an hour on the balcony; then she
came in, moving vaguely about the room.  At last she sank into a seat
near Catherine, with clasped hands, and a little look of excitement.

“Shall you be angry if I speak to you again about _him_?” she asked.

Catherine looked up at her quietly.  “Who is _he_?”

“He whom you once loved.”

“I shall not be angry, but I shall not like it.”

“He sent you a message,” said Mrs. Penniman.  “I promised him to deliver
it, and I must keep my promise.”

In all these years Catherine had had time to forget how little she had to
thank her aunt for in the season of her misery; she had long ago forgiven
Mrs. Penniman for taking too much upon herself.  But for a moment this
attitude of interposition and disinterestedness, this carrying of
messages and redeeming of promises, brought back the sense that her
companion was a dangerous woman.  She had said she would not be angry;
but for an instant she felt sore.  “I don’t care what you do with your
promise!” she answered.

Mrs. Penniman, however, with her high conception of the sanctity of
pledges, carried her point.  “I have gone too far to retreat,” she said,
though precisely what this meant she was not at pains to explain.  “Mr.
Townsend wishes most particularly to see you, Catherine; he believes that
if you knew how much, and why, he wishes it, you would consent to do so.”

“There can be no reason,” said Catherine; “no good reason.”

“His happiness depends upon it.  Is not that a good reason?” asked Mrs.
Penniman impressively.

“Not for me.  My happiness does not.”

“I think you will be happier after you have seen him.  He is going away
again—going to resume his wanderings.  It is a very lonely, restless,
joyless life.  Before he goes he wishes to speak to you; it is a fixed
idea with him—he is always thinking of it.  He has something very
important to say to you.  He believes that you never understood him—that
you never judged him rightly, and the belief has always weighed upon him
terribly.  He wishes to justify himself; he believes that in a very few
words he could do so.  He wishes to meet you as a friend.”

Catherine listened to this wonderful speech without pausing in her work;
she had now had several days to accustom herself to think of Morris
Townsend again as an actuality.  When it was over she said simply,
“Please say to Mr. Townsend that I wish he would leave me alone.”

She had hardly spoken when a sharp, firm ring at the door vibrated
through the summer night.  Catherine looked up at the clock; it marked a
quarter-past nine—a very late hour for visitors, especially in the empty
condition of the town.  Mrs. Penniman at the same moment gave a little
start, and then Catherine’s eyes turned quickly to her aunt.  They met
Mrs. Penniman’s and sounded them for a moment, sharply.  Mrs. Penniman
was blushing; her look was a conscious one; it seemed to confess
something.  Catherine guessed its meaning, and rose quickly from her
chair.

“Aunt Penniman,” she said, in a tone that scared her companion, “have you
taken the _liberty_ . . . ?”

“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 recognisably articulated by the
domestic, while she hesitated.  She had her back turned to the door of
the parlour, 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 person, and a fair and lustrous beard, spreading
itself upon a well-presented chest, contributed to its effect.  After a
moment Catherine recognised 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 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 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 said.

“We are not enemies,” said Catherine.  “I have none but friendly feelings
to you.”

“Ah, I wonder whether you know the happiness it gives me to hear you say
that!”  Catherine uttered no intimation that she measured the influence
of her words; and he presently went on, “You have not changed—the years
have passed happily for you.”

“They have passed very quietly,” said Catherine.

“They have left no marks; you are admirably young.”  This time he
succeeded in coming nearer—he was close to her; she saw his glossy
perfumed beard, and his eyes above it looking strange and hard.  It was
very different from his old—from his young—face.  If she had first seen
him this way she would not have liked him.  It seemed to her that he was
smiling, or trying to smile.  “Catherine,” he said, lowering his voice,
“I have never ceased to think of you.”

“Please don’t say those things,” she answered.

“Do you hate me?”

“Oh no,” said Catherine.

Something in her tone discouraged him, but in a moment he recovered
himself.  “Have you still some kindness for me, then?”

“I don’t know why you have come here to ask me such things!” Catherine
exclaimed.

“Because for many years it has been the desire of my life that we should
be friends again.”

“That is impossible.”

“Why so?  Not if you will allow it.”

“I will not allow it!” said Catherine.

He looked at her again in silence.  “I see; my presence troubles you and
pains you.  I will go away; but you must give me leave to come again.”

“Please don’t come again,” she said.

“Never?—never?”

She made a great effort; she wished to say something that would make it
impossible he should ever again cross her threshold.  “It is wrong of
you.  There is no propriety in it—no reason for it.”

“Ah, dearest lady, you do me injustice!” cried Morris Townsend.  “We have
only waited, and now we are free.”

“You treated me badly,” said Catherine.

“Not if you think of it rightly.  You had your quiet life with your
father—which was just what I could not make up my mind to rob you of.”

“Yes; I had that.”

Morris felt it to be a considerable damage to his cause that he could not
add that she had had something more besides; for it is needless to say
that he had learnt the contents of Dr. Sloper’s will.  He was
nevertheless not at a loss.  “There are worse fates than that!” he
exclaimed, with expression; and he might have been supposed to refer to
his own unprotected situation.  Then he added, with a deeper tenderness,
“Catherine, have you never forgiven me?”

“I forgave you years ago, but it is useless for us to attempt to be
friends.”

“Not if we forget the past.  We have still a future, thank God!”

“I can’t forget—I don’t forget,” said Catherine.  “You treated me too
badly.  I felt it very much; I felt it for years.”  And then she went on,
with her wish to show him that he must not come to her this way, “I can’t
begin again—I can’t take it up.  Everything is dead and buried.  It was
too serious; it made a great change in my life.  I never expected to see
you here.”

“Ah, you are angry!” cried Morris, who wished immensely that he could
extort some flash of passion from her mildness.  In that case he might
hope.

“No, I am not angry.  Anger does not last, that way, for years.  But
there are other things.  Impressions last, when they have been strong.
But I can’t talk.”

Morris stood stroking his beard, with a clouded eye.  “Why have you never
married?” he asked abruptly.  “You have had opportunities.”

“I didn’t wish to marry.”

“Yes, you are rich, you are free; you had nothing to gain.”

“I had nothing to gain,” said Catherine.

Morris looked vaguely round him, and gave a deep sigh.  “Well, I was in
hopes that we might still have been friends.”

“I meant to tell you, by my aunt, in answer to your message—if you had
waited for an answer—that it was unnecessary for you to come in that
hope.”

“Good-bye, then,” said Morris.  “Excuse my indiscretion.”

He bowed, and she turned away—standing there, averted, with her eyes on
the ground, for some moments after she had heard him close the door of
the room.

In the hall he found Mrs. Penniman, fluttered and eager; she appeared to
have been hovering there under the irreconcilable promptings of her
curiosity and her dignity.

“That was a precious plan of yours!” said Morris, clapping on his hat.

“Is she so hard?” asked Mrs. Penniman.

“She doesn’t care a button for me—with her confounded little dry manner.”

“Was it very dry?” pursued Mrs. Penniman, with solicitude.

Morris took no notice of her question; he stood musing an instant, with
his hat on.  “But why the deuce, then, would she never marry?”

“Yes—why indeed?” sighed Mrs. Penniman.  And then, as if from a sense of
the inadequacy of this explanation, “But you will not despair—you will
come back?”

“Come back?  Damnation!”  And Morris Townsend strode out of the house,
leaving Mrs. Penniman staring.

Catherine, meanwhile, in the parlour, picking up her morsel of fancy
work, had seated herself with it again—for life, as it were.





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Washington Square" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home