The next Sunday evening at Aunt Almond’s house, the Slopers are visiting their relatives, and Morris joins the party. Catherine, aware that Dr. Sloper doesn’t like Morris, shrinks from his gaze as Morris sits by her, and Dr. Sloper almost pities her in her complete lack of defiance.
Catherine’s cowering discomfort before her father’s disapproving gaze is painful even for Dr. Sloper to see.
Dr. Sloper wonders if perhaps he hasn’t given Morris enough of a chance and starts a conversation with him about his search for work. He advises Morris to “choose his line with discretion” and wonders if he would consider leaving New York for opportunities elsewhere. Morris explains that he has obligations to his widowed sister, Mrs. Montgomery, helping to bring up her children. Dr. Sloper resolves to meet Mrs. Montgomery.
Dr. Sloper shows some willingness to give Morris a fair chance. However, the conversation is filled with double meanings, as Dr. Sloper is obviously trying to gain a sense of Morris’s intentions toward Catherine.
Meanwhile, Morris asks Catherine if she will meet him somewhere in private, as he has something particular to say to her. He explains that he can’t enter the Slopers’ house again because Dr. Sloper has insulted his poverty. Catherine replies that she doesn’t care who sees them and that she will meet him in the house. He consents. When Aunt Penniman hears of this, she is shocked by her niece’s unromantic preference for “a chintz-covered parlor” over “a sentimental tryst beside a fountain sheeted with dead leaves.”
Catherine shows her capacity for self-assertion when she insists on meeting Morris on her own terms, in an environment she is comfortable with. Aunt Penniman, amusingly, can only take from this that Catherine is shockingly unromantic.