When Morris Townsend calls at Washington Square again a few days later, Aunt Penniman thinks, “That’s the sort of husband I should have had!” This time, though, Catherine sees him alone. Morris talks in a friendly way and asks Catherine about herself while admiring both Catherine and the room. Catherine thinks Morris looks like “a young knight in a poem.”
Morris’s courtship of Catherine is progressing. It appears that, while he’s attracted to her, he also has some interest in her home, and by extension, her material means. Meanwhile, both Aunt Penniman and Catherine romanticize Morris.
That night, Dr. Sloper teases Catherine, asking her if Morris proposed to her that day. Catherine wishes she had a readier comeback, and Dr. Sloper thinks to himself, “Decidedly, my daughter is not brilliant!” Dr. Sloper later asks his sister Mrs. Almond what more she knows about Morris. Mrs. Almond explains that Morris is descended from an inferior line of Townsends to his cousin Arthur. He is also reputed to have been “wild.”
Catherine does feel some self-consciousness around her father, realizing she doesn’t measure up to his standard of cleverness, and Dr. Sloper continues to nurse disappointment in Catherine. He starts asking around about Morris’s past, which suggests that Morris’ pursuit of Catherine is getting increasingly serious.
Mrs. Almond goes on to say that Morris had been in the Navy when he was younger, then “amused himself” by traveling abroad, squandering a small inheritance. He’s now about 30 and looking to “[begin] life in earnest.” Mrs. Almond thinks that Morris might well be genuinely interested in Catherine and that Dr. Sloper “[has] never done Catherine justice.” Dr. Sloper points out that Catherine is unattractive and has never had any suitors before.
According to Mrs. Almond’s report, Morris seems to be an unfocused, pleasure-seeking young man with no apparent plans, which suggests that he may be after Catherine for her inheritance. On another note, Mrs. Almond sees more potential in Catherine than her brother does, once again emphasizing how Dr. Sloper sees his daughter as a perpetual disappointment.
Mrs. Almond defends Catherine, pointing out that she has her own style, but that she seems older than her age, which puts off young men. She is not delicate and she dresses richly, which gives an impression that she has already been married. She suggests that, someday, a man of 40 will be delighted with Catherine. Dr. Sloper has little to say to this, but wonders about Morris’s means of supporting himself, as he reportedly lives with his widowed sister.
Mrs. Almond doesn’t share her brother’s view that Catherine is unmarriageable; she simply might not appeal to immature young men. This suggests the limitations faced by young women who departed from social norms in any way. Dr. Sloper is more concerned with possible ulterior motives on Morris’s part.