Chapter 25

Washington Square - Chapter 25

The voyage was indeed uncomfortable, and Catherine, on arriving in New York, had not the compensation of 'going off,' in her father's phrase, with Morris Townsend. She saw him, however, the day after she landed; and in the mean time he formed a natural subject of conversation between our heroine and her aunt Lavinia, with whom, the night she disembarked, the girl was closeted for a long time before either lady retired to rest.

'I have seen a great deal of him,' said Mrs Penniman.' He is not very easy to know. I suppose you think you know him; but you don't, my dear. You will some day; but it will only be after you have lived with him. I may almost say I have lived with him,' Mrs Penniman proceeded, while Catherine stared.' I think I know him now; I have had such remarkable opportunities. You will have the same - or, rather, you will have better'; and Aunt Lavinia smiled.' Then you will see what I mean. It's a wonderful character, full of passion and energy, and just as true.'

Catherine listened with a mixture of interest and apprehension. Aunt Lavinia was intensely sympathetic, and Catherine, for the past year, while she wandered through foreign galleries and churches, and rolled over the smoothness of posting roads, nursing the thoughts that never passed her lips, had often longed for the company of some intelligent person of her own sex. To tell her story to some kind woman - at moments it seemed to her that this would give her comfort, and she had more than once been on the point of taking the landlady, or the nice young person from the dress-maker's, into her confidence. If a woman had been near her, she would on certain occasions have treated such a companion to a fit of weeping; and she had an apprehension that, on her return, this would form her response to Aunt Lavinia's first embrace. In fact, however, the two ladies had met, in Washington Square, without tears; and when they found themselves alone together a certain dryness fell upon the girl's emotion. It came over her with a greater force that Mrs Penniman had enjoyed a whole year of her lover's society, and it was not a pleasure to her to hear her aunt explain and interpret the young man, speaking of him as if her own knowledge of him were supreme. It was not that Catherine was jealous; but her sense of Mrs Penniman's innocent falsity, which had lain dormant, began to haunt her again, and she was glad that she was safely at home. With this, however, it was a blessing to be able to talk of Morris, to sound his name, to be with a person who was not unjust to him.

'You have been very kind to him,' said Catherine.' He has written me that, often. I shall never forget that, Aunt Lavinia.'

'I have done what I could; it has been very little. To let him come and talk to me, and give him his cup of tea - that was all. Your aunt Almond thought it was too much, and used to scold me terribly; but she promised me, at least, not to betray me.'

'To betray you?'

'Not to tell your father. He used to sit in your father's study,' said Mrs Penniman, with a little laugh.

Catherine was silent a moment. This idea was disagreeable to her, and she was reminded again, with pain, of her aunt's secretive habits. Morris, the reader may be informed, had had the tact not to tell her that he sat in her father's study. He had known her but for a few months, and her aunt had known her for fifteen years; and yet he would not have made the mistake of thinking that Catherine would see the joke of the thing.' I am sorry you made him go into father's room,' she said, after awhile.

'I didn't send him; he went himself. He liked to look at the books, and at all ,those things in the glass cases. He knows all about them; he knows all about everything.'

Catherine was silent again; then,' I wish he had found some employment,' she said.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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