Chapter 16

Washington Square - Chapter 16

They had of course immediately spoken of Catherine. 'Did she send me a message, or - or anything?' Morris asked. Reappeared to think that she might have sent him a trinket or a lock of her hair.

Mrs Penniman was slightly embarrassed, for she had not told her niece of her intended expedition. 'Not exactly a message,' she said; 'I didn't ask her for one, because I was afraid to - to excite her.'

'I am afraid she is not very excitable.' And Morris gave a smile of some bitterness.

'She is better than that - she is steadfast, she is true.'

'Do you think she will hold fast, then?'

'To the death!'

'Oh, I hope it won't come to that,' said Morris.

'We must be prepared for the worst, and that is what I wish to speak to you about.'

'What do you call the worst?'

'Well,' said Mrs Penniman, 'my brother's hard, intellectual nature.'

'Oh, the devil!'

'He is impervious to pity,' Mrs Penniman added, by way of explanation.

'Do you mean that he won't come round?'

'He will never be vanquished by argument. I have studied him. He will be vanquished only by the accomplished fact.'

'The accomplished fact?'

'He will come round afterward,' said Mrs Penniman, with extreme significance. 'He cares for nothing but facts - he must be met by facts.'

'Well,' rejoined Morris, 'it is a fact that I wish to marry his daughter. I met him with that the other day, but he was not at all vanquished.'

Mrs Penniman was silent a little, and her smile beneath the shadow of her capacious bonnet, on the edge of which her black veil was arranged curtain-wise, fixed itself upon Morris's face with a still more tender brilliancy. 'Marry Catherine first, and meet him afterward!' she exclaimed.

'Do you recommend that?' asked the young man, frowning heavily.

She was a little frightened, but she went on with considerable boldness. 'That is the way I see it: a private marriage - a private marriage.' She repeated the phrase because she liked it.

'Do you mean that I should carry Catherine off? What do they call it - elope with her?'

'It is not a crime when you are driven to it,' said Mrs Penniman. 'My husband, as I have told you, was a distinguished clergyman - one of the most eloquent men of his day. He once married a young couple that had fled from the house of the young lady's father; he was so interested in their story. He had no hesitation, and everything came out beautifully. The father was afterward reconciled, and thought everything of the young man. Mr Penniman married them in the evening, about seven o'clock. The church was so

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