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Chapter 28
The letter was a word of warning; it informed him that the Doctor had come home
more impracticable than ever. She might have reflected that Catherine would
supply him with all the information he needed on this point; but we know that Mrs.
Penniman's reflexions were rarely just; and, moreover, she felt that it was not for
her to depend on what Catherine might do. She was to do her duty, quite
irrespective of Catherine. I have said that her young friend took his ease with her,
and it is an illustration of the fact that he made no answer to her letter. He took
note of it, amply; but he lighted his cigar with it, and he waited, in tranquil
confidence that he should receive another. "His state of mind really freezes my
blood," Mrs. Penniman had written, alluding to her brother; and it would have
seemed that upon this statement she could hardly improve. Nevertheless, she
wrote again, expressing herself with the aid of a different figure. "His hatred of
you burns with a lurid flame--the flame that never dies," she wrote. "But it doesn't
light up the darkness of your future. If my affection could do so, all the years of
your life would be an eternal sunshine. I can extract nothing from C.; she is so
terribly secretive, like her father. She seems to expect to be married very soon,
and has evidently made preparations in Europe-- quantities of clothing, ten pairs
of shoes, etc. My dear friend, you cannot set up in married life simply with a few
pairs of shoes, can you? Tell me what you think of this. I am intensely anxious to
see you; I have so much to say. I miss you dreadfully; the house seems so empty
without you. What is the news down town? Is the business extending? That dear
little business--I think it's so brave of you! Couldn't I come to your office?--just for
three minutes? I might pass for a customer--is that what you call them? I might
come in to buy something--some shares or some railroad things. TELL ME
WHAT YOU THINK OF THIS PLAN. I would carry a little reticule, like a woman of
the people."
In spite of the suggestion about the reticule, Morris appeared to think poorly of
the plan, for he gave Mrs. Penniman no encouragement whatever to visit his
office, which he had already represented to her as a place peculiarly and
unnaturally difficult to find. But as she persisted in desiring an interview--up to the
last, after months of intimate colloquy, she called these meetings "interviews"--he
agreed that they should take a walk together, and was even kind enough to leave
his office for this purpose, during the hours at which business might have been
supposed to be liveliest. It was no surprise to him, when they met at a street
corner, in a region of empty lots and undeveloped pavements (Mrs. Penniman
being attired as much as possible like a "woman of the people"), to find that, in
spite of her urgency, what she chiefly had to convey to him was the assurance of
her sympathy. Of such assurances, however, he had already a voluminous
collection, and it would not have been worth his while to forsake a fruitful
avocation merely to hear Mrs. Penniman say, for the thousandth time, that she
had made his cause her own. Morris had something of his own to say. It was not
an easy thing to bring out, and while he turned it over the difficulty made him