Washington Square HTML version

Chapter 17
Mrs. Penniman told Catherine that evening--the two ladies were sitting in the
back parlour--that she had had an interview with Morris Townsend; and on
receiving this news the girl started with a sense of pain. She felt angry for the
moment; it was almost the first time she had ever felt angry. It seemed to her that
her aunt was meddlesome; and from this came a vague apprehension that she
would spoil something.
"I don't see why you should have seen him. I don't think it was right," Catherine
"I was so sorry for him--it seemed to me some one ought to see him."
"No one but I," said Catherine, who felt as if she were making the most
presumptuous speech of her life, and yet at the same time had an instinct that
she was right in doing so.
"But you wouldn't, my dear," Aunt Lavinia rejoined; "and I didn't know what might
have become of him."
"I have not seen him, because my father has forbidden it," Catherine said very
There was a simplicity in this, indeed, which fairly vexed Mrs. Penniman. "If your
father forbade you to go to sleep, I suppose you would keep awake!" she
Catherine looked at her. "I don't understand you. You seem to be very strange."
"Well, my dear, you will understand me some day!" And Mrs. Penniman, who
was reading the evening paper, which she perused daily from the first line to the
last, resumed her occupation. She wrapped herself in silence; she was
determined Catherine should ask her for an account of her interview with Morris.
But Catherine was silent for so long, that she almost lost patience; and she was
on the point of remarking to her that she was very heartless, when the girl at last
"What did he say?" she asked.
"He said he is ready to marry you any day, in spite of everything."
Catherine made no answer to this, and Mrs. Penniman almost lost patience
again; owing to which she at last volunteered the information that Morris looked
very handsome, but terribly haggard.
"Did he seem sad?" asked her niece.
"He was dark under the eyes," said Mrs. Penniman. "So different from when I first
saw him; though I am not sure that if I had seen him in this condition the first
time, I should not have been even more struck with him. There is something
brilliant in his very misery."
This was, to Catherine's sense, a vivid picture, and though she disapproved, she
felt herself gazing at it. "Where did you see him?" she asked presently.
"In--in the Bowery; at a confectioner's," said Mrs. Penniman, who had a general
idea that she ought to dissemble a little.
"Whereabouts is the place?" Catherine inquired, after another pause.
"Do you wish to go there, my dear?" said her aunt.