Chapter 14

Washington Square - Chapter 14

He wrote his frank letter to Mrs Montgomery, who punctually answered it, mentioning an hour at which he might present himself in the Second Avenue. She lived in a neat little house of red brick, which had been freshly painted, with the edges of the bricks very, sharply marked out in white. It has now disappeared, with its companions, to make room for a row of structures more majestic. There were green shutters upon the windows without slats, but pierced with little holes, arranged in groups; and before the house was a diminutive 'yard,' ornamented with a bush of mysterious ! character, and surrounded by a low wooden paling, painted in the same green as the shutters. The place looked like a magnified baby- house, and might have been taken down from a shelf in a toy-shop. Doctor Sloper, when he went to call, said to himself, as he glanced at the objects I have enumerated, that Mrs Montgomery was evidently a thrifty and self-respecting little person - the modest proportions of her dwelling seemed to indicate that she was of small stature - who took a virtuous satisfaction in keeping herself i tidy, and had resolved that, since she might not be splendid, she would as least be immaculate. She received him in a little parlor, which was precisely the parlor he had expected: a small unspeckled bower, ornamented with a desultory foliage of tissue-paper, and with clusters of glass drops, amidst which - to carry out the analogy - the temperature of the leafy season was maintained by means of a cast-iron stove, emitting a dry blue flame, and smelling strongly of varnish. The walls were embellished with engravings swathed in pink gauze, and the tables ornamented with volumes of extracts from the poets, usually bound in black cloth stamped with florid designs in jaundiced gilt. The Doctor had time to take cognizance of these details; for Mrs Montgomery, whose conduct he pronounced under the circumstances inexcusable, kept him waiting some ten minutes before she appeared. At last, however, she rustled in, smoothing down a stiff poplin dress, with a little frightened flush in a gracefully rounded cheek.

She was a small, plump, fair woman, with a bright, clear eye, and an extraordinary air of neatness and briskness. But these qualities were evidently combined with an unaffected humility, and the Doctor gave her hi$ esteem as soon as he had looked at her. A brave little person, with lively perceptions, and yet a dis- belief in her own talent for social, as distinguished from practical, affairs - this was his rapid mental résuméof Mrs Montgomery; who, as he saw, was flattered by what she regarded as the honor of his visit. Mrs Montgomery, in her little red house in the Second Avenue, was a person for whom Dr Sloper was one of the great men- one of the fine gentlemen of New York; and while she fixed her agitated eyes upon him; whi.le she clasped her mittened hands together in her glossy poplin lap, she had the appearance of saying to herself that he quite answered her idea of what a distinguished guest would naturally be. She apologized for being late; but he interrupted her.

'It doesn't matter,' he said; 'for while I sat here I had time to think over what I wish to say to you, and to make up my mind how to begin.'

'Oh, do begin!' murmured Mrs Montgomery. 'It is not so easy.' said the Doctor, smiling. 'You will have gathered from my letter that I wish to ask you a few questions, and you may not find it very comfortable to answer them.'

'Yes; I have thought what I should say. It is not very easy.' 'But you understand my situation - my state of mind. Your brother wishes to marry my daughter, and I wish to find out what sort of a young man he is. A good way to do so seemed to be to come and ask you, which I have proceeded to do.


Mrs Montgomery evidently took the situation very seriously; she was in a state of extreme moral concentration. She kept her pretty eyes, which were illumined by a sort of brilliant modesty, attached to his own countenance, and evidently paid the most earnest attention to each of his words. Her expression indicated that she thought his idea of coming to see her a very superior conception, but that she was really afraid to have opinions on strange subjects.

'I am extremely glad to see you,' she said, in a tone which seemed to admit, at the same time, that this had nothing to do with the question.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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