Mrs Penniman told Catherine that evening - the two ladies were sitting in the back-parlor - that she had had an interview with Morris Townsend; and on receiving this news the girl started with a sense of pain. She felt angry for the moment; it was almost the first time she had ever felt angry. It seemed to her that her aunt was meddlesome; and from this came a vague apprehension that she would spoil something.
'I don't see why you should have seen him. I don't think it was right,' Catherine said.
'I was so sorry for him - it seemed to me some one ought to see him.'
'No one but I,' said Catherine, who felt as if she were making the most presumptuous speech of her life, and yet at the same time had an instinct that she was right in doing so.
'But you wouldn't, my dear,' Aunt Lavinia rejoined; 'and I didn't know what might have become of him.'
'I have not seen him because my father has forbidden it,' Catherine said, very simply.
There was a simplicity in this, indeed, which fairly vexed Mrs Penniman. 'If your father forbade you to go to sleep, I suppose you would keep awake!' she commented.
Catherine looked at her. 'I don't understand you. You seem to me very strange.'
'Well, my dear, you will understand me some day' And Mrs Penniman, who was reading the evening paper, which she perused daily from the first line to the last, resumed her occupation. She wrapped herself in silence; she was determined Catherine should ask her for an account of her interview with Morris. But Catherine was silent for so long that she almost lost patience; and she was on the point of remarking to her that she was very heartless, when the girl at last spoke.
'What did he say?' she asked.
'He said he is ready to marry you any day, in spite of everything.'
Catherine made no answer to this, and Mrs Penniman almost lost patience again; owing to which she at last volunteered the information that Morris looked very handsome, but terribly haggard.
'Did he seem sad?' asked her niece.
'He was dark under the eyes,' said Mrs Penniman. 'So different from when I first saw him; though I am not sure that if I had seen him in this condition the first time, I should not have been even more struck with him. There is something brilliant in his very misery.'
This was, to Catherine's sense, a vivid picture, and though she disapproved, she felt herself gazing at it. 'Where did you see him?' she asked, presently.
'In - in the Bowery; I at a confectioner's,' said Mrs Penniman, who had a general idea that she ought to dissemble a little.
'Whereabouts is the place?' Catherine inquired, after another pause.
'Do you wish to go there, my dear?' said her aunt.
'Oh no.' And Catherine got up from her seat and went to the fire, where she stood looking awhile at the glowing coals.
'Why are you so dry, Catherine?' Mrs Penniman said at last. 'So dry?'
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