Part 3 out of 4
"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
"It will be only once, for the present," she added, lingering a
"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
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.
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
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
"Don't you wish also by chance to murder our child?" Mrs. Penniman
"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
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
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.
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
"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
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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"Well, it doesn't matter with me, because I am fonder of you than
"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
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
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
"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
"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
"Their number is infinite!" said Mrs. Penniman, in a tone which
seemed to suggest that this convenient faculty was one of her
"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
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
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
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.
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
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
"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
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
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
"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.
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
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
"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
"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
"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.
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
"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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"Oh, father, you will not lose me!" Catherine said, spilling her
"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."
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
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
"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!"
"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
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
"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.
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
"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
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 debut 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
"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 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.
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
"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
"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'hote."
"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
"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
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
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
"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