Chapter 28

Washington Square - Chapter 28The letter was a word of warning; it informed him that the Doctor had come home more impracticable than ever - She might have reflected that Catherine would supply him with all the information he needed on this point; but we know that Mrs Penniman's reflections were rarely just; and, moreover, she felt that it was not for her to depend on what Catherine might do. She was to do her duty, quite irrespective of Catherine. I have said that her young friend took his ease with her, and it is an illustration of the fact that he made no answer to the letter. He took note of it amply; but he lighted his cigar with it, and he waited, in tranquil confidence that he should receive another.' His state of mind really freezes my blood,' Mrs Penniman had written, alluding to her brother; and it would have seemed that upon this statement she could hardly improve - Nevertheless, she wrote again, expressing herself with the aid of a different figure.' His hatred of you burns with a lurid flame - the flame that never dies,' she wrote.' But it doesn't light up the darkness of your future. If my affection could do so, all the years of your life would be an eternal sunshine. I can extract nothing from C.; she is so terribly secretive, like her father. She seems to expect to be married very soon, and has evidently made preparations in Europe - quantities of clothing, ten pairs of shoes, etc. My dear friend, you cannot set up in married life simply with a few pairs of shoes, can you? Tell me what you think of this. I am intensely anxious to see you, I have so much to say. I miss you dreadfully; the house seems so empty without you. What is the news down town? Is the business extending? - that dear little business: I think it's so brave of you! Couldn't I come to your office? - just for three minutes? I might pass for a customer - is that what you call them? I might come in to buy something - some shares or some railroad things. Tell me what you think of this plan. I would carry a little reticule, like a woman of the people.'

In spite of the suggestion about the reticule, Morris appeared to think poorly of the plan, for he gave Mrs Penniman no encouragement whatever to visit his office, which he had already represented to her as a place peculiarly and unnaturally difficult to find. But as she persisted in desiring an interview - up to the last, after months of intimate colloquy, she called these meetings' interviews' - he agreed that they should take a walk together, and was even kind enough to leave his office for this purpose during the hours at which business might have been supposed to be liveliest. It was no surprise to him, when they met at a street corner, in a region of empty lots and undeveloped pavements (Mrs Penniman being attired as much as possible like a 'woman of the people'), to find that, in spite of her urgency, what she chiefly had to convey to him was the assurance of her sympathy. Of such assurances, however, he had already a voluminous collection, and it would not have been worth his while to forsake a fruitful avocation merely to hear Mrs Penniman say, for the thousandth time, that she had made his cause her own. Morris had something of his own to say. It was not an easy thing to bring out, and while he turned it over, the difficulty made him acrimonious.

'Oh yes, I know perfectly that he combines the properties of a lump of ice and a red-hot coal,' he observed.' Catherine has made it thoroughly clear, and you have told me so till I am sick of it. You needn't tell me again; I am perfectly satisfied. He will never give us a penny; I regard that as mathematically proved.'

Mrs Penniman at this point had an inspiration.' Couldn't you bring a lawsuit against him?' She wondered that this simple expedient had never occurred to her before.

'I will bring a lawsuit against you,' said Morris,' if you ask me any more such aggravating questions. A man should know when he is beaten,' he added, in a moment.' I must give her up!'

Mrs Penniman received this declaration in silence, though it made her heart beat a little. It found her by no means unprepared, for she had accustomed herself to the thought that, if Morris should decidedly not be able to get her brother's money, it would not do for him to marry Catherine without it.' It would not do,' was a vague way of putting the thing; but Mrs Penniman's natural affection completed the idea, which, though it had not as yet been so crudely expressed between them as in the form that Morris had just given it, had nevertheless been implied so often, in certain easy intervals of talk, as he sat stretching his legs in the Doctor's well-stuffed arm-chairs, that she had grown first to regard it with an emotion which she flattered herself was philosophic, and then to have a secret tenderness for it. The fact that she kept her tenderness secret proves, of course, that she was ashamed of it; but she managed

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