WASHINGTON SQUARE

WASHINGTON SQUARE
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第31章

The doctor eyed her a moment."You women are all the same! But the type to which your brother belongs was made to be the ruin of you, and you were made to be its handmaids and victims.The sign of the type in question is the determination- sometimes terrible in its quiet intensity- to accept nothing of life but its pleasures, and to secure these pleasures chiefly by the aid of your complaisant sex.

Young men of this class never do anything for themselves that they can get other people to do for them, and it is the infatuation, the devotion, the superstition of others that keeps them going.These others, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, are women.What our young friends chiefly insist upon is that someone else shall suffer for them; and women do that sort of thing, as you must know, wonderfully well." The doctor paused a moment, and then he added, abruptly, "You have suffered immensely for your brother!"This exclamation was abrupt, as I say, but it was also perfectly calculated.The doctor had been rather disappointed at not finding his compact and comfortable little hostess surrounded in a more visible degree by the ravages of Morris Townsend's immorality; but he had said to himself that this was not because the young man had spared her, but because she had contrived to plaster up her wounds.They were aching there behind the varnished stove, the festooned engravings, beneath her own neat little poplin bosom; and if he could only touch the tender spot, she would make a movement that would betray her.The words I have just quoted were an attempt to put his finger suddenly upon the place, and they had some of the success that he looked for.

The tears sprung for a moment to Mrs.Montgomery's eyes, and she indulged in a proud little jerk of the head.

"I don't know how you have found that out!" she exclaimed.

"By a philosophic trick- by what they call induction.You know you have always your option of contradicting me.But kindly answer me a question: Don't you give your brother money? I think you ought to answer that.""Yes, I have given him money," said Mrs.Montgomery.

"And you have not had much to give him?"

She was silent a moment."If you ask me for a confession of poverty, that is easily made.I am very poor.""One would never suppose it from your- your charming house," said the doctor."I learned from my sister that your income was moderate, and your family numerous.""I have five children," Mrs.Montgomery observed, "but I am happy to say I can bring them up decently.""Of course you can- accomplished and devoted as you are.But your brother has counted them over, I suppose?""Counted them over?"

"He knows there are five, I mean.He tells me it is he that brings them up."Mrs.Montgomery stared a moment, and then quickly- "Oh yes; he teaches them- Spanish."The doctor laughed out."That must take a great deal off your hands!

Your brother also knows, of course, that you have very little money?""I have often told him so," Mrs.Montgomery exclaimed, more unreservedly than she had yet spoken.She was apparently taking some comfort in the doctor's clairvoyance.

"Which means that you have often occasion to, and that he often sponges on you.Excuse the crudity of my language; I simply express a fact.I don't ask you how much of your money he has had, it is none of my business.I have ascertained what I suspected- what Iwished." And the doctor got up, gently smoothing his hat."Your brother lives on you," he said, as he stood there.

Mrs.Montgomery quickly rose from her chair, following her visitor's movements with a look of fascination.But then, with a certain inconsequence, "I have never complained of him," she said.

"You needn't protest- you have not betrayed him.But I advise you not to give him any more money.""Don't you see it is in my interest that he should marry a rich person?" she asked."If, as you say, he lives on me, I can only wish to get rid of him; and to put obstacles in the way of his marrying is to increase my own difficulties.""I wish very much you would come to me with your difficulties," said the doctor."Certainly, if I throw him back on your hands, the least Ican do is to help you to bear the burden.If you will allow me to say so, then, I shall take the liberty of placing in your hands, for the present, a certain fund for your brother's support."Mrs.Montgomery stared; she evidently thought he was jesting; but she presently saw that he was not, and the complication of her feelings became painful."It seems to me that I ought to be very much offended with you," she murmured.

"Because I have offered you money? That's a superstition," said the doctor."You must let me come and see you again, and we will talk about these things.I suppose that some of your children are girls?""I have two little girls," said Mrs.Montgomery.

"Well, when they grow up, and begin to think of taking husbands, you will see how anxious you will be about the moral character of these husbands.Then you will understand this visit of mine.""Ah, you are not to believe that Morris's moral character is bad."The doctor looked at her a little, with folded arms."There is something I should greatly like, as a moral satisfaction.I should like to hear you say, 'He is abominably selfish.'"The words came out with the grave distinctness of his voice, and they seemed for an instant to create, to poor Mrs.Montgomery's troubled vision, a material image.She gazed at it an instant, and then she turned away."You distress me, sir!" she exclaimed."He is, after all, my brother; and his talents, his talents-" On these last words her voice quavered, and before he knew it she had burst into tears.

"His talents are first-rate," said the doctor."We must find the proper field for them." And he assured her most respectfully of his regret at having so greatly discomposed her."It's all for my poor Catherine," he went on."You must know her, and you will see."Mrs.Montgomery brushed away her tears, and blushed at having shed them."I should like to know your daughter," she answered; and then, in an instant, "Don't let her marry him!"Doctor Sloper went away with the words gently humming in his ears:

"Don't let her marry him!" They gave him the moral satisfaction of which he had just spoken, and their value was the greater that they had evidently cost a pang to poor little Mrs.Montgomery's family pride.

Henry James

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