Washington Square HTML version

Chapter 16
They had of course immediately spoken of Catherine. "Did she send me a
message, or--or anything?" Morris asked. He appeared to think that she might
have sent him a trinket or a lock of her hair.
Mrs. Penniman was slightly embarrassed, for she had not told her niece of her
intended expedition. "Not exactly a message," she said; "I didn't ask her for one,
because I was afraid to--to excite her."
"I am afraid she is not very excitable!" And Morris gave a smile of some
"She is better than that. She is steadfast--she is true!"
"Do you think she will hold fast, then?"
"To the death!"
"Oh, I hope it won't come to that," said Morris.
"We must be prepared for the worst, and that is what I wish to speak to you
"What do you call the worst?"
"Well," said Mrs. Penniman, "my brother's hard, intellectual nature."
"Oh, the devil!"
"He is impervious to pity," Mrs. Penniman added, by way of explanation.
"Do you mean that he won't come round?"
"He will never be vanquished by argument. I have studied him. He will be
vanquished only by the accomplished fact."
"The accomplished fact?"
"He will come round afterwards," said Mrs. Penniman, with extreme significance.
"He cares for nothing but facts; he must be met by facts!"
"Well," rejoined Morris, "it is a fact that I wish to marry his daughter. I met him
with that the other day, but he was not at all vanquished."
Mrs. Penniman was silent a little, and her smile beneath the shadow of her
capacious bonnet, on the edge of which her black veil was arranged curtain-wise,
fixed itself upon Morris's face with a still more tender brilliancy. "Marry Catherine
first and meet him afterwards!" she exclaimed.
"Do you recommend that?" asked the young man, frowning heavily.
She was a little frightened, but she went on with considerable boldness. "That is
the way I see it: a private marriage--a private marriage." She repeated the phrase
because she liked it.
"Do you mean that I should carry Catherine off? What do they call it--elope with
"It is not a crime when you are driven to it," said Mrs. Penniman. "My husband,
as I have told you, was a distinguished clergyman; one of the most eloquent men
of his day. He once married a young couple that had fled from the house of the
young lady's father. He was so interested in their story. He had no hesitation, and
everything came out beautifully. The father was afterwards reconciled, and
thought everything of the young man. Mr. Penniman married them in the evening,
about seven o'clock. The church was so dark, you could scarcely see; and Mr.