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Mrs. Penniman even took for granted at times that other people had as much
imagination as herself; so that when, half an hour later, her brother came in, she
addressed him quite on this principle.
"He has just been here, Austin; it's such a pity you missed him."
"Whom in the world have I missed?" asked the Doctor.
"Mr. Morris Townsend; he has made us such a delightful visit."
"And who in the world is Mr. Morris Townsend?"
"Aunt Penniman means the gentleman--the gentleman whose name I couldn't
remember," said Catherine.
"The gentleman at Elizabeth's party who was so struck with Catherine," Mrs.
"Oh, his name is Morris Townsend, is it? And did he come here to propose to
"Oh, father," murmured the girl for all answer, turning away to the window, where
the dusk had deepened to darkness.
"I hope he won't do that without your permission," said Mrs. Penniman, very
"After all, my dear, he seems to have yours," her brother answered.
Lavinia simpered, as if this might not be quite enough, and Catherine, with her
forehead touching the window-panes, listened to this exchange of epigrams as
reservedly as if they had not each been a pin-prick in her own destiny.
"The next time he comes," the Doctor added, "you had better call me. He might
like to see me."
Morris Townsend came again, some five days afterwards; but Dr. Sloper was not
called, as he was absent from home at the time. Catherine was with her aunt
when the young man's name was brought in, and Mrs. Penniman, effacing
herself and protesting, made a great point of her niece's going into the drawing-
"This time it's for you--for you only," she said. "Before, when he talked to me, it
was only preliminary--it was to gain my confidence. Literally, my dear, I should
not have the COURAGE to show myself to- day."
And this was perfectly true. Mrs. Penniman was not a brave woman, and Morris
Townsend had struck her as a young man of great force of character, and of
remarkable powers of satire; a keen, resolute, brilliant nature, with which one
must exercise a great deal of tact. She said to herself that he was "imperious,"
and she liked the word and the idea. She was not the least jealous of her niece,
and she had been perfectly happy with Mr. Penniman, but in the bottom of her
heart she permitted herself the observation: "That's the sort of husband I should
have had!" He was certainly much more imperious-- she ended by calling it
imperial--than Mr. Penniman.
So Catherine saw Mr. Townsend alone, and her aunt did not come in even at the
end of the visit. The visit was a long one; he sat there--in the front parlour, in the
biggest armchair--for more than an hour. He seemed more at home this time--