Washington Square HTML version

Chapter 25
The voyage was indeed uncomfortable, and Catherine, on arriving in New York,
had not the compensation of "going off," in her father's phrase, with Morris
Townsend. She saw him, however, the day after she landed; and, in the
meantime, he formed a natural subject of conversation between our heroine and
her Aunt Lavinia, with whom, the night she disembarked, the girl was closeted for
a long time before either lady retired to rest.
"I have seen a great deal of him," said Mrs. Penniman. "He is not very easy to
know. I suppose you think you know him; but you don't, my dear. You will some
day; but it will only be after you have lived with him. I may almost say _I_ have
lived with him," Mrs. Penniman proceeded, while Catherine stared. "I think I know
him now; I have had such remarkable opportunities. You will have the same--or
rather, you will have better!" and Aunt Lavinia smiled. "Then you will see what I
mean. It's a wonderful character, full of passion and energy, and just as true!"
Catherine listened with a mixture of interest and apprehension. Aunt Lavinia was
intensely sympathetic, and Catherine, for the past year, while she wandered
through foreign galleries and churches, and rolled over the smoothness of
posting roads, nursing the thoughts that never passed her lips, had often longed
for the company of some intelligent person of her own sex. To tell her story to
some kind woman--at moments it seemed to her that this would give her comfort,
and she had more than once been on the point of taking the landlady, or the nice
young person from the dressmaker's, into her confidence. If a woman had been
near her she would on certain occasions have treated such a companion to a fit
of weeping; and she had an apprehension that, on her return, this would form her
response to Aunt Lavinia's first embrace. In fact, however, the two ladies had
met, in Washington Square, without tears, and when they found themselves
alone together a certain dryness fell upon the girl's emotion. It came over her with
a greater force that Mrs. Penniman had enjoyed a whole year of her lover's
society, and it was not a pleasure to her to hear her aunt explain and interpret the
young man, speaking of him as if her own knowledge of him were supreme. It
was not that Catherine was jealous; but her sense of Mrs. Penniman's innocent
falsity, which had lain dormant, began to haunt her again, and she was glad that
she was safely at home. With this, however, it was a blessing to be able to talk of
Morris, to sound his name, to be with a person who was not unjust to him.
"You have been very kind to him," said Catherine. "He has written me that, often.
I shall never forget that, Aunt Lavinia."
"I have done what I could; it has been very little. To let him come and talk to me,
and give him his cup of tea--that was all. Your Aunt Almond thought it was too
much, and used to scold me terribly; but she promised me, at least, not to betray
"To betray you?"
"Not to tell your father. He used to sit in your father's study!" said Mrs. Penniman,
with a little laugh.