Mrs. Penniman told Catherine that evening—the two ladies were sitting in th_ack parlour—that she had had an interview with Morris Townsend; and o_eceiving this news the girl started with a sense of pain. She felt angry fo_he moment; it was almost the first time she had ever felt angry. It seemed t_er that her aunt was meddlesome; and from this came a vague apprehension tha_he would spoil something.
"I don't see why you should have seen him. I don't think it was right,"
"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 mos_resumptuous speech of her life, and yet at the same time had an instinct tha_he was right in doing so.
"But you wouldn't, my dear," Aunt Lavinia rejoined; "and I didn't know wha_ight have become of him."
"I have not seen him, because my father has forbidden it," Catherine said ver_imply.
There was a simplicity in this, indeed, which fairly vexed Mrs. Penniman. "I_our father forbade you to go to sleep, I suppose you would keep awake!" sh_ommented.
Catherine looked at her. "I don't understand you. You seem to be ver_trange."
"Well, my dear, you will understand me some day!" And Mrs. Penniman, who wa_eading the evening paper, which she perused daily from the first line to th_ast, resumed her occupation. She wrapped herself in silence; she wa_etermined Catherine should ask her for an account of her interview wit_orris. 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, whe_he 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 patienc_gain; owing to which she at last volunteered the information that Morri_ooked 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 _irst saw him; though I am not sure that if I had seen him in this conditio_he first time, I should not have been even more struck with him. There i_omething 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; at a confectioner's," said Mrs. Penniman, who had a genera_dea 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 sh_tood looking a while at the glowing coals.
"Why are you so dry, Catherine?" Mrs. Penniman said at last.
"So cold—so irresponsive."
The girl turned very quickly. "Did HE say that?"
Mrs. Penniman hesitated a moment. "I will tell you what he said. He said h_eared only one thing—that you would be afraid."
"Afraid of what?"
"Afraid of your father."
Catherine turned back to the fire again, and then, after a pause, she said—"_M afraid of my father."
Mrs. Penniman got quickly up from her chair and approached her niece. "Do yo_ean to give him up, then?"
Catherine for some time never moved; she kept her eyes on the coals. At las_he raised her head and looked at her aunt. "Why do you push me so?" sh_sked.
"I don't push you. When have I spoken to you before?"
"It seems to me that you have spoken to me several times."
"I am afraid it is necessary, then, Catherine," said Mrs. Penniman, with _ood deal of solemnity. "I am afraid you don't feel the importance—" Sh_aused a little; Catherine was looking at her. "The importance of no_isappointing that gallant young heart!" And Mrs. Penniman went back to he_hair, by the lamp, and, with a little jerk, picked up the evening pape_gain.
Catherine stood there before the fire, with her hands behind her, looking a_er aunt, to whom it seemed that the girl had never had just this dar_ixedness in her gaze. "I don't think you understand- -or that you know me,"
"If I don't, it is not wonderful; you trust me so little."
Catherine made no attempt to deny this charge, and for some time more nothin_as said. But Mrs. Penniman's imagination was restless, and the evening pape_ailed on this occasion to enchain it.
"If you succumb to the dread of your father's wrath," she said, "I don't kno_hat will become of us."
"Did HE tell you to say these things to me?"
"He told me to use my influence."
"You must be mistaken," said Catherine. "He trusts me."
"I hope he may never repent of it!" And Mrs. Penniman gave a little sharp sla_o her newspaper. She knew not what to make of her niece, who had suddenl_ecome stern and contradictious.
This tendency on Catherine's part was presently even more apparent. "You ha_uch better not make any more appointments with Mr. Townsend," she said. "_on't think it is right."
Mrs. Penniman rose with considerable majesty. "My poor child, are you jealou_f me?" she inquired.
"Oh, Aunt Lavinia!" murmured Catherine, blushing.
"I don't think it is your place to teach me what is right."
On this point Catherine made no concession. "It can't be right to deceive."
"I certainly have not deceived YOU!"
"Yes; but I promised my father—"
"I have no doubt you promised your father. But I have promised him nothing!"
Catherine had to admit this, and she did so in silence. "I don't believe Mr.
Townsend himself likes it," she said at last.
"Doesn't like meeting me?"
"Not in secret."
"It was not in secret; the place was full of people."
"But it was a secret place—away off in the Bowery."
Mrs. Penniman flinched a little. "Gentlemen enjoy such things," she remarke_resently. "I know what gentlemen like."
"My father wouldn't like it, if he knew."
"Pray, do you propose to inform him?" Mrs. Penniman inquired.
"No, Aunt Lavinia. But please don't do it again."
"If I do it again, you will inform him: is that what you mean? I do not shar_our dread of my brother; I have always known how to defend my own position.
But I shall certainly never again take any step on your behalf; you are muc_oo thankless. I knew you were not a spontaneous nature, but I believed yo_ere firm, and I told your father that he would find you so. I a_isappointed—but your father will not be!" And with this, Mrs. Pennima_ffered her niece a brief good-night, and withdrew to her own apartment.