Chapter 5

Washington Square - Chapter 4

He learned what he had asked some three or four days later, after Morris Townsend, with his cousi~, had called in Washington Square. Mrs Penniman did not tell her brother, on the drive home, that she had intimated to this agreeable young man, whose name she did not know, that, with her niece, she should be very glad to see him; but she was greatly pleased, and even a little flattered, when, late on a Sunday afternoon, the two gentlemen made their appearance. His coming with Arthur Townsend made it more natural and easy; the latter young man was on the point of becom- ing connected with the family, and Mrs Penniman had remarked to Catherine that, as he was going to marry Marian, it would be polite in him to call. These events came to pass late in the autumn, and Catherine and her aunt had been sitting together in the closing dusk, by the fire-light, in the high back-parlor.

Arthur Townsend fell to Catherine's portion, while his com- panion placed himself on the sofa beside Mrs Penniman. Catherine had hitherto not been a harsh critic; she was easy to please - she liked to talk with young men. But Marian's betrothed, this evening, made her feel vaguely fastidious; he sat looking at the fire and rubbing his knees with his hands. As for Catherine, she scarcely even pretended to keep up the conversation; her attention had fixed itself on the other side of the room; she was listening to what went on between the other Mr Townsend and her aunt. Every now and then he looked over at Catherine herself and smiled, as if to show that what he said was for her benefit too. Catherine would have liked to change her place, to go and sit near them, where she might see and hear them better. But she was afraid of seeming bold - of looking eager; and, besides, it would not have been polite to Marian's little suitor. She wondered why the other gentleman had picked out her aunt - how he came to have so much to say to Mrs Penniman, to whom, usually, young men were not especially devoted. She was not at all jealous of Aunt Lavinia, but she was a little envious, and, above all, she wondered; for Morris Townsend was an object on which she found that her imagination could exercise itself indefinitely. His cousin had been describing a house that he had taken in view of his union with Marian, and the domestic conveniences he meant to introduce into it; how Marian wanted a larger one, and Mrs Almond recommended a smaller one, and how he himself was convinced that he had got the neatest house in New York.

'It doesn't matter,' he said; 'it's only for three or four years. At the end of three or four years we'll move. That's the way to live in New York - to move every three or four years. Then you always get the last thing. It's because the city's growing so quick- you've got to keep up with it. It's going straight up town - that's where New York's going. If I wasn't afraid Marian would be lonely, I'd go up there - right to the top - and wait for it. Only have to wait ten years - they'll all come up after you. But Marian says she wants some neighbors - she doesn't want to be a pioneer. She says that if she's got to be the first settler she had better go out to Minnesota. I guess we'll move up little by little; when we get tired of one street we'll go higher. So you see we'll always have anew house; it's a great advantage to have anew house; you get all the latest improvements. They invent everything all over again about every five years, and it's a great thing to keep up with the new things. I always try and keep up with the new things of every kind. Don't you think that's a good motto for a young couple - to keep "going higher"? What's the name of that piece of poetry - what do they call it? - Excelsior!'

Catherine bestowed on her junior visitor only just enough attention to feel that this was not the way Mr Morris Townsend had talked the other night, or that he was talking now to her fortunate aunt. But suddenly his aspiring kinsman became more interesting. He seemed to have become conscious that she was affected by his companion's presence, and he thought it proper to explain it.

'My cousin asked me to bring him, or I shouldn't have taken the liberty. He seemed to want very much to come; you know he's awfully sociable. I told him I wanted to ask you first, but he said Mrs Penniman had invited him. He isn't particular what he says when he wants to come somewhere. But Mrs Penniman seems to think it's all right.'

'We are very glad to see him,' said Catherine. And she wished to talk more about him, but she hardly knew what to say. 'I never saw him before,' she went on, presently.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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