'Cats are very graceful, and very clean,' said Mrs Penniman, smiling.

'And very stealthy. You are the embodiment both of grace and of neatness; but you are wanting in frankness.'

'You certainly are not, dear brother.'

'I don't pretend to be graceful, though I try to be neat. Why haven't you let me know that Mr Morris Townsend is coming to the house four times a week?'

Mrs Penniman lifted her eyebrows. 'Four times a week!'

'Three times, then, or five times, if you prefer it. I am away all day, and I see nothing. But when such things happen, you should let me know.'

Mrs Penniman, with her eyebrows still raised, reflected intently. 'Dear Austin,' she said at last, 'I am incapable of betraying a confidence. I would rather suffer anything.'

'Never fear; you shall not suffer. To whose confidence is it you allude? Has Catherine made you take a vow of eternal secrecy?'

'By no means. Catherine has not told me as much as she might. She has not been very trustful.' 'It is the young man, then, who has made you his confidante? Allow me to say that it is extremely indiscreet of you to form secret alliances with young men; you don't know where they may lead you.'

'I don't know what you mean by an alliance,' said Mrs Penniman. 'I take a great interest in Mr Townsend; I won't conceal that. But that's all.'

'Under the circumstances, that is quite enough. What is the source of your interest in Mr Townsend?'

'Why,' said Mrs Penniman, musing, and then breaking into her smile, 'that he is so interesting!'

The Doctor felt that he had need of his patience. ' And what makes him interesting? - his good looks?'

'His misfortunes, Austin.' ' Ah, he has had misfortunes? That, of course, is always interesting. Are you at liberty to mention a few of Mr Townsend's?'

'I don't know that he would like it,' said Mrs Penniman. 'He has told me a great deal about himself - he has told me, in fact, his whole history. But I don't think I ought to repeat those things. He would tell them to you, I am sure, if he thought you would listen to him kindly. With kindness you may do anything with him.


The Doctor gave a laugh. 'I shall request him very kindly, then, to leave Catherine alone.'

'Ah!' said Mrs Penniman, shaking her forefinger at her brother, with her little finger turned out, 'Catherine has probably said something to him kinder than that!'

'Said that she loved him? - do you mean that?'

Mrs Penniman fixed her eyes on the floor. ' As I tell you, Austin, she doesn't confide in me.'

'You have an opinion, I suppose, all the same. It is that I ask you for; though I don't conceal from you that I shall not regard it as conclusive.'

Mrs Penniman's gaze continued to rest on the carpet; but at last she lifted it, and then her brother thought it very expressive. 'I think Catherine is very happy; that is all I can say.'

'Townsend is trying to marry her - is that what you mean?'

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