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Chapter 33
Little by little Dr. Sloper had retired from his profession; he visited only those
patients in whose symptoms he recognised a certain originality. He went again to
Europe, and remained two years; Catherine went with him, and on this occasion
Mrs. Penniman was of the party. Europe apparently had few surprises for Mrs.
Penniman, who frequently remarked, in the most romantic sites--"You know I am
very familiar with all this." It should be added that such remarks were usually not
addressed to her brother, or yet to her niece, but to fellow-tourists who happened
to be at hand, or even to the cicerone or the goat-herd in the foreground.
One day, after his return from Europe, the Doctor said something to his daughter
that made her start--it seemed to come from so far out of the past.
"I should like you to promise me something before I die."
"Why do you talk about your dying?" she asked.
"Because I am sixty-eight years old."
"I hope you will live a long time," said Catherine.
"I hope I shall! But some day I shall take a bad cold, and then it will not matter
much what any one hopes. That will be the manner of my exit, and when it takes
place, remember I told you so. Promise me not to marry Morris Townsend after I
am gone."
This was what made Catherine start, as I have said; but her start was a silent
one, and for some moments she said nothing. "Why do you speak of him?" she
asked at last.
"You challenge everything I say. I speak of him because he's a topic, like any
other. He's to be seen, like any one else, and he is still looking for a wife--having
had one and got rid of her, I don't know by what means. He has lately been in
New York, and at your cousin Marian's house; your Aunt Elizabeth saw him
"They neither of them told me," said Catherine.
"That's their merit; it's not yours. He has grown fat and bald, and he has not
made his fortune. But I can't trust those facts alone to steel your heart against
him, and that's why I ask you to promise."
"Fat and bald": these words presented a strange image to Catherine's mind, out
of which the memory of the most beautiful young man in the world had never
faded. "I don't think you understand," she said. "I very seldom think of Mr.
"It will be very easy for you to go on, then. Promise me, after my death, to do the
Again, for some moments, Catherine was silent; her father's request deeply
amazed her; it opened an old wound and made it ache afresh. "I don't think I can
promise that," she answered.
"It would be a great satisfaction," said her father.
"You don't understand. I can't promise that."
The Doctor was silent a minute. "I ask you for a particular reason. I am altering
my will."