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Chapter 7
He was, however, by no means so much in earnest as this might seem to
indicate; and, indeed, he was more than anything else amused with the whole
situation. He was not in the least in a state of tension or of vigilance with regard
to Catherine's prospects he was even on his guard against the ridicule that might
attach itself to the spectacle of a house thrown into agitation by its daughter and
heiress receiving attentions unprecedented in its annals. More than this, he went
so far as to promise himself some entertainment from the little drama--if drama it
was--of which Mrs. Penniman desired to represent the ingenious Mr. Townsend
as the hero. He had no intention, as yet, of regulating the denouement. He was
perfectly willing, as Elizabeth had suggested, to give the young man the benefit
of every doubt. There was no great danger in it; for Catherine, at the age of
twenty- two, was, after all, a rather mature blossom, such as could be plucked
from the stem only by a vigorous jerk. The fact that Morris Townsend was poor--
was not of necessity against him; the Doctor had never made up his mind that his
daughter should marry a rich man. The fortune she would inherit struck him as a
very sufficient provision for two reasonable persons, and if a penniless swain
who could give a good account of himself should enter the lists, he should be
judged quite upon his personal merits. There were other things besides. The
Doctor thought it very vulgar to be precipitate in accusing people of mercenary
motives, inasmuch as his door had as yet not been in the least besieged by
fortune-hunters; and, lastly, he was very curious to see whether Catherine might
really be loved for her moral worth. He smiled as he reflected that poor Mr.
Townsend had been only twice to the house, and he said to Mrs. Penniman that
the next time he should come she must ask him to dinner.
He came very soon again, and Mrs. Penniman had of course great pleasure in
executing this mission. Morris Townsend accepted her invitation with equal good
grace, and the dinner took place a few days later. The Doctor had said to himself,
justly enough, that they must not have the young man alone; this would partake
too much of the nature of encouragement. So two or three other persons were
invited; but Morris Townsend, though he was by no means the ostensible, was
the real, occasion of the feast. There is every reason to suppose that he desired
to make a good impression; and if he fell short of this result, it was not for want of
a good deal of intelligent effort. The Doctor talked to him very little during dinner;
but he observed him attentively, and after the ladies had gone out he pushed him
the wine and asked him several questions. Morris was not a young man who
needed to be pressed, and he found quite enough encouragement in the superior
quality of the claret. The Doctor's wine was admirable, and it may be
communicated to the reader that while he sipped it Morris reflected that a cellar-
full of good liquor--there was evidently a cellar-full here--would be a most
attractive idiosyncrasy in a father-in-law. The Doctor was struck with his
appreciative guest; he saw that he was not a commonplace young man. "He has
ability," said Catherine's father, "decided ability; he has a very good head if he
chooses to use it. And he is uncommonly well turned out; quite the sort of figure