Mrs Penniman even took for granted at times that other people had as much imagination as herself; so that when, half an hour later, her brother came in, she addressed him quite on this principle.
'He has just been here, Austin; it's such a pity you missed him.' 'Whom in the world have I missed?' asked the Doctor.
'Mr Morris Townsend; he has made us such a delightful visit.' 'And who in the world is Mr Morris Townsend?'
'Aunt Penniman means the gentleman - the gentleman whose name I couldn't remember,' said Catherine.
'The gentleman at Elizabeth's party who was so struck with Catherine,' Mrs Penniman added.
'Oh, his name is Morris Townsend, is it? And did he come here to propose to you?'
'Oh, father!' murmured the girl for an answer, turning away to the window, where the dusk had deepened to darkness.
'I hope he won't do that without your permission,' said Mrs Penniman, very graciously.
'After all, my dear, he seems to have yours,' her brother answered.
Lavinia simpered, as if this might not be quite enough, and Catherine, with her forehead touching the window-panes, listened to this exchange of epigrams as reservedly as if they had not each been a pin- prick in her own destiny.
'The next time he comes,' the Doctor added, 'you had better call me. He might like to see me.' Morris Townsend came again some five days afterward; but Doctor Sloper was not called, as he was absent from home at the time. Catherine was with her aunt when the young man's name was brought in, and Mrs Penniman, effacing herself and protesting, made a great point of her niece's going into the drawing- room alone.
'This time it's for you - for you only,' she said. 'Before, when he talked to me, it was only preliminary - it was to gain my confidence. Literally, my dear, I should not have the courageto show myself to-day.'
And this was perfectly true. Mrs Penniman was not a brave woman, and Morris Townsend had struck her as a young man of great force of character, and of remarkable powers of satire - a keen, resolute, brilliant nature, with which one must exercise a great deal of tact. She said to her self that he was 'imperious,' and she liked the word and the idea. She was not the least jealous of her niece, and she had been perfectly happy with Mr Penniman, but in the bottom of her heart she permitted herself the observation, 'That's the sort of husband I should have had!' He was certainly much more imperious - she ended by calling it imperial- than Mr Penniman.
So Catherine saw Mr Townsend alone, and her aunt did not come in even at the end of the visit. The visit was a long one; he sat there, in the front parlor, in the biggest arm-chair, for more than an hour. He seemed more at home this time - more familiar; lounging a little in the chair, slapping a cushion that was near him with his stick, and looking round the room a good deal, and at the objects it contained, as well as at Catherine; whom, however, he also contemplated freely. There was a smile of respectful devotion in his handsome eyes which seemed to Catherine almost solemnly beautiful; it made her think of a young knight in a poem. His talk, however, was not particularly knightly; it was light and easy and friendly; it took a practical turn, and he asked a number of questions about herself - what were her tastes - if she liked this and that - what were her habits. He said to her, with his charming smile, 'Tell me about yourself; give me a little sketch.' Catherine had very little to tell, and she had no talent for sketching; but before he went she had confided to him that she had a secret passion for the theatre, which had been but scantily gratified, and a taste for operatic music - that of Bellini and Donizetti, in especial (it must
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