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