Chapter 29

Washington Square - Chapter 29

He came again, without managing the last parting; and again and again, without finding that Mrs Penniman had yet done much to pave the path of retreat with flowers. It was devilish awkward, as he said, and he felt a lively animosity for Catherine's aunt, who, as he had now quite formed the habit of saying to himself, had dragged him into the mess, and was bound in common charity to get him out of it. Mrs Penniman, to tell the truth, had, in the seclusion other own apartment - and, I may add, amid the suggestiveness of Catherine's, which wore in those days the appearance of that of a young lady laying out her trousseau - Mrs Penniman had measured her responsibilities, and taken fright at their magnitude. The task of preparing Catherine and easing off Morris presented difficulties which increased in the execution, and even led the impulsive Lavinia to ask herself whether the modification of the young man's original project had been conceived in a happy spirit. A brilliant future, a wider career, a conscience exempt from the reproach of interference between a young lady and her natural rights - these excellent things might be too troublesomely purchased. From Catherine herself Mrs Penniman received no assistance whatever; the poor girl was apparently without suspicion of her danger. She looked at her lover with eyes of undiminished trust, and though she had less confidence in her aunt than in a young man with whom she had exchanged so many tender vows, she gave her no handle for explaining or confessing. Mrs Penniman, faltering and wavering, declared Catherine was very stupid, put off the great scene, as she would have called it, from day to day, and wandered about, very uncomfortably, with her unexploded bomb in her hands. Morris's own scenes were very small ones just now; but even these were beyond his strength. He made his visits as brief as possible, and, while he sat with his mistress, found terribly little to talk about. She was waiting for him, in vulgar parlance, to name the day; and so long as he was unprepared to be explicit on this point, it seemed a mockery to pretend to talk about matters more abstract. She had no airs and no arts; she never attempted to disguise her expectancy. She was waiting on his good pleasure, and would wait modestly and patiently; his hanging back at this supreme time might appear strange, but of course he must have a good reason for it. Catherine would have made a wife of the gentle, old-fashioned pattern - regarding reasons as favors and windfalls, but no more expecting one every day than she would have expected a bouquet of camellias. During the period of her engagement, however, a young lady even of the most slender pretensions counts upon more bouquets than at other times; and there was a want of perfume in the air at this moment which at last excited the girl's alarm.

'Are you sick?' she asked of Morris. 'You seem so restless, and you look pale.'

'I am not at all well,' said Morris; and it occurred to him that, if he could only make her pity him enough, he might get off.

'I am afraid you are overworked; you oughtn't to work so much.'

'I must do that.' And then he added, with a sort of calculated brutality, 'I don't want to owe you everything.'

'Ah, how can you say that?'

'I am too proud,' said Morris. 'Yes - you are too proud.'

'Well, you must take me as I am, 'he went on;' you can never change me.'

'I don't want to change you,' she said, gently; 'I will take you as you are.' And she stood looking at him.

'You know people talk tremendously about a man's marrying a rich girl, 'Morris remarked.' It's excessively disagreeable.'

'But I am not rich,' said Catherine.

'You are rich enough to make me talked about.'

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