Felix allowed Charlotte time to plead his cause; and then, on the third day, he sought an interview with his uncle. It was in the morning; Mr. Wentwort_as in his office; and, on going in, Felix found that Charlotte was at tha_oment in conference with her father. She had, in fact, been constantly nea_im since her interview with Felix; she had made up her mind that it was he_uty to repeat very literally her cousin's passionate plea. She ha_ccordingly followed Mr. Wentworth about like a shadow, in order to find hi_t hand when she should have mustered sufficient composure to speak. For poo_harlotte, in this matter, naturally lacked composure; especially when sh_editated upon some of Felix's intimations. It was not cheerful work, at th_est, to keep giving small hammer-taps to the coffin in which one had lai_way, for burial, the poor little unacknowledged offspring of one's ow_isbehaving heart; and the occupation was not rendered more agreeable by th_act that the ghost of one's stifled dream had been summoned from the shade_y the strange, bold words of a talkative young foreigner. What had Feli_eant by saying that Mr. Brand was not so keen? To herself her sister's justl_epressed suitor had shown no sign of faltering. Charlotte trembled all ove_hen she allowed herself to believe for an instant now and then that, privately, Mr. Brand might have faltered; and as it seemed to give more forc_o Felix's words to repeat them to her father, she was waiting until sh_hould have taught herself to be very calm. But she had now begun to tell Mr.
Wentworth that she was extremely anxious. She was proceeding to develop thi_dea, to enumerate the objects of her anxiety, when Felix came in.
Mr. Wentworth sat there, with his legs crossed, lifting his dry, pur_ountenance from the Boston "Advertiser." Felix entered smiling, as if he ha_omething particular to say, and his uncle looked at him as if he bot_xpected and deprecated this event. Felix vividly expressing himself had com_o be a formidable figure to his uncle, who had not yet arrived at definit_iews as to a proper tone. For the first time in his life, as I have said, Mr.
Wentworth shirked a responsibility; he earnestly desired that it might not b_aid upon him to determine how his nephew's lighter propositions should b_reated. He lived under an apprehension that Felix might yet beguile him int_ssent to doubtful inductions, and his conscience instructed him that the bes_orm of vigilance was the avoidance of discussion. He hoped that the pleasan_pisode of his nephew's visit would pass away without a further lapse o_onsistency.
Felix looked at Charlotte with an air of understanding, and then at Mr.
Wentworth, and then at Charlotte again. Mr. Wentworth bent his refine_yebrows upon his nephew and stroked down the first page of the "Advertiser."
"I ought to have brought a bouquet," said Felix, laughing. "In France the_lways do."
"We are not in France," observed Mr. Wentworth, gravely, while Charlott_arnestly gazed at him.
"No, luckily, we are not in France, where I am afraid I should have a harde_ime of it. My dear Charlotte, have you rendered me that delightful service?"
And Felix bent toward her as if some one had been presenting him.
Charlotte looked at him with almost frightened eyes; and Mr. Wentworth though_his might be the beginning of a discussion. "What is the bouquet for?" h_nquired, by way of turning it off.
Felix gazed at him, smiling. "Pour la demande!" And then, drawing up a chair, he seated himself, hat in hand, with a kind of conscious solemnity.
Presently he turned to Charlotte again. "My good Charlotte, my admirabl_harlotte," he murmured, "you have not played me false—you have not side_gainst me?"
Charlotte got up, trembling extremely, though imperceptibly. "You must spea_o my father yourself," she said. "I think you are clever enough."
But Felix, rising too, begged her to remain. "I can speak better to a_udience!" he declared.
"I hope it is nothing disagreeable," said Mr. Wentworth.
"It 's something delightful, for me!" And Felix, laying down his hat, claspe_is hands a little between his knees. "My dear uncle," he said, "I desire, very earnestly, to marry your daughter Gertrude." Charlotte sank slowly int_er chair again, and Mr. Wentworth sat staring, with a light in his face tha_ight have been flashed back from an iceberg. He stared and stared; he sai_othing. Felix fell back, with his hands still clasped. "Ah—you don't like it.
I was afraid!" He blushed deeply, and Charlotte noticed it—remarking t_erself that it was the first time she had ever seen him blush. She began t_lush herself and to reflect that he might be much in love.
"This is very abrupt," said Mr. Wentworth, at last.
"Have you never suspected it, dear uncle?" Felix inquired. "Well, that prove_ow discreet I have been. Yes, I thought you would n't like it."
"It is very serious, Felix," said Mr. Wentworth.
"You think it 's an abuse of hospitality!" exclaimed Felix, smiling again.
"Of hospitality?—an abuse?" his uncle repeated very slowly.
"That is what Felix said to me," said Charlotte, conscientiously.
"Of course you think so; don't defend yourself!" Felix pursued. "It is a_buse, obviously; the most I can claim is that it is perhaps a pardonable one.
I simply fell head over heels in love; one can hardly help that. Though yo_re Gertrude's progenitor I don't believe you know how attractive she is. Dea_ncle, she contains the elements of a singularly—I may say _trangely—charming woman!"
"She has always been to me an object of extreme concern," said Mr. Wentworth.
"We have always desired her happiness."
"Well, here it is!" Felix declared. "I will make her happy. She believes it, too. Now had n't you noticed that?"
"I had noticed that she was much changed," Mr. Wentworth declared, in a ton_hose unexpressive, unimpassioned quality appeared to Felix to reveal _rofundity of opposition. "It may be that she is only becoming what you call _harming woman."
"Gertrude, at heart, is so earnest, so true," said Charlotte, very softly, fastening her eyes upon her father.
"I delight to hear you praise her!" cried Felix.
"She has a very peculiar temperament," said Mr. Wentworth.
"Eh, even that is praise!" Felix rejoined. "I know I am not the man you migh_ave looked for. I have no position and no fortune; I can give Gertrude n_lace in the world. A place in the world—that 's what she ought to have; tha_ould bring her out."
"A place to do her duty!" remarked Mr. Wentworth.
"Ah, how charmingly she does it—her duty!" Felix exclaimed, with a radian_ace. "What an exquisite conception she has of it! But she comes honestly b_hat, dear uncle." Mr. Wentworth and Charlotte both looked at him as if the_ere watching a greyhound doubling. "Of course with me she will hide her ligh_nder a bushel," he continued; "I being the bushel! Now I know you like me—yo_ave certainly proved it. But you think I am frivolous and penniless an_habby! Granted—granted—a thousand times granted. I have been a loose fish—_iddler, a painter, an actor. But there is this to be said: In the firs_lace, I fancy you exaggerate; you lend me qualities I have n't had. I hav_een a Bohemian—yes; but in Bohemia I always passed for a gentleman. I wis_ou could see some of my old camarades—they would tell you! It was the libert_ liked, but not the opportunities! My sins were all peccadilloes; I alway_espected my neighbor's property—my neighbor's wife. Do you see, dear uncle?"
Mr. Wentworth ought to have seen; his cold blue eyes were intently fixed. "An_hen, c'est fini! It 's all over. Je me range. I have settled down to a jog- trot. I find I can earn my living—a very fair one—by going about the world an_ainting bad portraits. It 's not a glorious profession, but it is a perfectl_espectable one. You won't deny that, eh? Going about the world, I say? I mus_ot deny that, for that I am afraid I shall always do—in quest of agreeabl_itters. When I say agreeable, I mean susceptible of delicate flattery an_rompt of payment. Gertrude declares she is willing to share my wanderings an_elp to pose my models. She even thinks it will be charming; and that bring_e to my third point. Gertrude likes me. Encourage her a little and she wil_ell you so."
Felix's tongue obviously moved much faster than the imagination of hi_uditors; his eloquence, like the rocking of a boat in a deep, smooth lake, made long eddies of silence. And he seemed to be pleading and chatterin_till, with his brightly eager smile, his uplifted eyebrows, his expressiv_outh, after he had ceased speaking, and while, with his glance quickl_urning from the father to the daughter, he sat waiting for the effect of hi_ppeal. "It is not your want of means," said Mr. Wentworth, after a period o_evere reticence.
"Now it 's delightful of you to say that! Only don't say it 's my want o_haracter. Because I have a character—I assure you I have; a small one, _ittle slip of a thing, but still something tangible."
"Ought you not to tell Felix that it is Mr. Brand, father?" Charlotte asked, with infinite mildness.
"It is not only Mr. Brand," Mr. Wentworth solemnly declared. And he looked a_is knee for a long time. "It is difficult to explain," he said. He wished, evidently, to be very just. "It rests on moral grounds, as Mr. Brand says. I_s the question whether it is the best thing for Gertrude."
"What is better—what is better, dear uncle?" Felix rejoined urgently, risin_n his urgency and standing before Mr. Wentworth. His uncle had been lookin_t his knee; but when Felix moved he transferred his gaze to the handle of th_oor which faced him. "It is usually a fairly good thing for a girl to marr_he man she loves!" cried Felix.
While he spoke, Mr. Wentworth saw the handle of the door begin to turn; th_oor opened and remained slightly ajar, until Felix had delivered himself o_he cheerful axiom just quoted. Then it opened altogether and Gertrude stoo_here. She looked excited; there was a spark in her sweet, dull eyes. She cam_n slowly, but with an air of resolution, and, closing the door softly, looke_ound at the three persons present. Felix went to her with tender gallantry, holding out his hand, and Charlotte made a place for her on the sofa. Bu_ertrude put her hands behind her and made no motion to sit down.
"We are talking of you!" said Felix.
"I know it," she answered. "That 's why I came." And she fastened her eyes o_er father, who returned her gaze very fixedly. In his own cold blue eye_here was a kind of pleading, reasoning light.
"It is better you should be present," said Mr. Wentworth. "We are discussin_our future."
"Why discuss it?" asked Gertrude. "Leave it to me."
"That is, to me!" cried Felix.
"I leave it, in the last resort, to a greater wisdom than ours," said the ol_an.
Felix rubbed his forehead gently. "But en attendant the last resort, you_ather lacks confidence," he said to Gertrude.
"Have n't you confidence in Felix?" Gertrude was frowning; there was somethin_bout her that her father and Charlotte had never seen. Charlotte got up an_ame to her, as if to put her arm round her; but suddenly, she seemed afrai_o touch her.
Mr. Wentworth, however, was not afraid. "I have had more confidence in Feli_han in you," he said.
"Yes, you have never had confidence in me—never, never! I don't know why."
"Oh sister, sister!" murmured Charlotte.
"You have always needed advice," Mr. Wentworth declared. "You have had _ifficult temperament."
"Why do you call it difficult? It might have been easy, if you had allowed it.
You would n't let me be natural. I don't know what you wanted to make of me.
Mr. Brand was the worst."
Charlotte at last took hold of her sister. She laid her two hands upo_ertrude's arm. "He cares so much for you," she almost whispered.
Gertrude looked at her intently an instant; then kissed her. "No, he doe_ot," she said.
"I have never seen you so passionate," observed Mr. Wentworth, with an air o_ndignation mitigated by high principles.
"I am sorry if I offend you," said Gertrude.
"You offend me, but I don't think you are sorry."
"Yes, father, she is sorry," said Charlotte.
"I would even go further, dear uncle," Felix interposed. "I would questio_hether she really offends you. How can she offend you?"
To this Mr. Wentworth made no immediate answer. Then, in a moment, "She ha_ot profited as we hoped."
"Profited? Ah voila!" Felix exclaimed.
Gertrude was very pale; she stood looking down. "I have told Felix I would g_way with him," she presently said.
"Ah, you have said some admirable things!" cried the young man.
"Go away, sister?" asked Charlotte.
"Away—away; to some strange country."
"That is to frighten you," said Felix, smiling at Charlotte.
"To—what do you call it?" asked Gertrude, turning an instant to Felix. "T_ohemia."
"Do you propose to dispense with preliminaries?" asked Mr. Wentworth, gettin_p.
"Dear uncle, vous plaisantez!" cried Felix. "It seems to me that these ar_reliminaries."
Gertrude turned to her father. "I have profited," she said. "You wanted t_orm my character. Well, my character is formed—for my age. I know what _ant; I have chosen. I am determined to marry this gentleman."
"You had better consent, sir," said Felix very gently.
"Yes, sir, you had better consent," added a very different voice.
Charlotte gave a little jump, and the others turned to the direction fro_hich it had come. It was the voice of Mr. Brand, who had stepped through th_ong window which stood open to the piazza. He stood patting his forehead wit_is pocket-handkerchief; he was very much flushed; his face wore a singula_xpression.
"Yes, sir, you had better consent," Mr. Brand repeated, coming forward. "_now what Miss Gertrude means."
"My dear friend!" murmured Felix, laying his hand caressingly on the youn_inister's arm.
Mr. Brand looked at him; then at Mr. Wentworth; lastly at Gertrude. He did no_ook at Charlotte. But Charlotte's earnest eyes were fastened to his ow_ountenance; they were asking an immense question of it. The answer to thi_uestion could not come all at once; but some of the elements of it wer_here. It was one of the elements of it that Mr. Brand was very red, that h_eld his head very high, that he had a bright, excited eye and an air o_mbarrassed boldness—the air of a man who has taken a resolve, in th_xecution of which he apprehends the failure, not of his moral, but of hi_ersonal, resources. Charlotte thought he looked very grand; and it i_ncontestable that Mr. Brand felt very grand. This, in fact, was the grandes_oment of his life; and it was natural that such a moment should contai_pportunities of awkwardness for a large, stout, modest young man.
"Come in, sir," said Mr. Wentworth, with an angular wave of his hand. "It i_ery proper that you should be present."
"I know what you are talking about," Mr. Brand rejoined. "I heard what you_ephew said."
"And he heard what you said!" exclaimed Felix, patting him again on the arm.
"I am not sure that I understood," said Mr. Wentworth, who had angularity i_is voice as well as in his gestures.
Gertrude had been looking hard at her former suitor. She had been puzzled, like her sister; but her imagination moved more quickly than Charlotte's. "Mr.
Brand asked you to let Felix take me away," she said to her father.
The young minister gave her a strange look. "It is not because I don't want t_ee you any more," he declared, in a tone intended as it were for publicity.
"I should n't think you would want to see me any more," Gertrude answered, gently.
Mr. Wentworth stood staring. "Is n't this rather a change, sir?" he inquired.
"Yes, sir." And Mr. Brand looked anywhere; only still not at Charlotte. "Yes, sir," he repeated. And he held his handkerchief a few moments to his lips.
"Where are our moral grounds?" demanded Mr. Wentworth, who had always though_r. Brand would be just the thing for a younger daughter with a peculia_emperament.
"It is sometimes very moral to change, you know," suggested Felix.
Charlotte had softly left her sister's side. She had edged gently toward he_ather, and now her hand found its way into his arm. Mr. Wentworth had folde_p the "Advertiser" into a surprisingly small compass, and, holding the rol_ith one hand, he earnestly clasped it with the other. Mr. Brand was lookin_t him; and yet, though Charlotte was so near, his eyes failed to meet he_wn. Gertrude watched her sister.
"It is better not to speak of change," said Mr. Brand. "In one sense there i_o change. There was something I desired—something I asked of you; I desir_omething still—I ask it of you." And he paused a moment; Mr. Wentworth looke_ewildered. "I should like, in my ministerial capacity, to unite this youn_ouple."
Gertrude, watching her sister, saw Charlotte flushing intensely, and Mr.
Wentworth felt her pressing upon his arm. "Heavenly Powers!" murmured Mr.
Wentworth. And it was the nearest approach to profanity he had ever made.
"That is very nice; that is very handsome!" Felix exclaimed.
"I don't understand," said Mr. Wentworth; though it was plain that every on_lse did.
"That is very beautiful, Mr. Brand," said Gertrude, emulating Felix.
"I should like to marry you. It will give me great pleasure."
"As Gertrude says, it 's a beautiful idea," said Felix.
Felix was smiling, but Mr. Brand was not even trying to. He himself treate_is proposition very seriously. "I have thought of it, and I should like to d_t," he affirmed.
Charlotte, meanwhile, was staring with expanded eyes. Her imagination, as _ave said, was not so rapid as her sister's, but now it had taken severa_ittle jumps. "Father," she murmured, "consent!"
Mr. Brand heard her; he looked away. Mr. Wentworth, evidently, had n_magination at all. "I have always thought," he began, slowly, "tha_ertrude's character required a special line of development."
"Father," repeated Charlotte, "consent."
Then, at last, Mr. Brand looked at her. Her father felt her leaning mor_eavily upon his folded arm than she had ever done before; and this, with _ertain sweet faintness in her voice, made him wonder what was the matter. H_ooked down at her and saw the encounter of her gaze with the youn_heologian's; but even this told him nothing, and he continued to b_ewildered. Nevertheless, "I consent," he said at last, "since Mr. Bran_ecommends it."
"I should like to perform the ceremony very soon," observed Mr. Brand, with _ort of solemn simplicity.
"Come, come, that 's charming!" cried Felix, profanely.
Mr. Wentworth sank into his chair. "Doubtless, when you understand it," h_aid, with a certain judicial asperity.
Gertrude went to her sister and led her away, and Felix having passed his ar_nto Mr. Brand's and stepped out of the long window with him, the old man wa_eft sitting there in unillumined perplexity.
Felix did no work that day. In the afternoon, with Gertrude, he got into on_f the boats and floated about with idly-dipping oars. They talked a good dea_f Mr. Brand—though not exclusively.
"That was a fine stroke," said Felix. "It was really heroic."
Gertrude sat musing, with her eyes upon the ripples. "That was what he wante_o be; he wanted to do something fine."
"He won't be comfortable till he has married us," said Felix. "So much th_etter."
"He wanted to be magnanimous; he wanted to have a fine moral pleasure. I kno_im so well," Gertrude went on. Felix looked at her; she spoke slowly, gazin_t the clear water. "He thought of it a great deal, night and day. He though_t would be beautiful. At last he made up his mind that it was his duty, hi_uty to do just that—nothing less than that. He felt exalted; he felt sublime.
That 's how he likes to feel. It is better for him than if I had listened t_im."
"It 's better for me," smiled Felix. "But do you know, as regards th_acrifice, that I don't believe he admired you when this decision was take_uite so much as he had done a fortnight before?"
"He never admired me. He admires Charlotte; he pitied me. I know him so well."
"Well, then, he did n't pity you so much."
Gertrude looked at Felix a little, smiling. "You should n't permit yourself,"
she said, "to diminish the splendor of his action. He admires Charlotte," sh_epeated.
"That's capital!" said Felix laughingly, and dipping his oars. I cannot sa_xactly to which member of Gertrude's phrase he alluded; but he dipped hi_ars again, and they kept floating about.
Neither Felix nor his sister, on that day, was present at Mr. Wentworth's a_he evening repast. The two occupants of the chalet dined together, and th_oung man informed his companion that his marriage was now an assured fact.
Eugenia congratulated him, and replied that if he were as reasonable a husban_s he had been, on the whole, a brother, his wife would have nothing t_omplain of.
Felix looked at her a moment, smiling. "I hope," he said, "not to be throw_ack on my reason."
"It is very true," Eugenia rejoined, "that one's reason is dismally flat. It
's a bed with the mattress removed."
But the brother and sister, later in the evening, crossed over to the large_ouse, the Baroness desiring to compliment her prospective sister-in-law. The_ound the usual circle upon the piazza, with the exception of Cliffor_entworth and Lizzie Acton; and as every one stood up as usual to welcome th_aroness, Eugenia had an admiring audience for her compliment to Gertrude.
Robert Acton stood on the edge of the piazza, leaning against one of the whit_olumns, so that he found himself next to Eugenia while she acquitted hersel_f a neat little discourse of congratulation.
"I shall be so glad to know you better," she said; "I have seen so much les_f you than I should have liked. Naturally; now I see the reason why! You wil_ove me a little, won't you? I think I may say I gain on being known." An_erminating these observations with the softest cadence of her voice, th_aroness imprinted a sort of grand official kiss upon Gertrude's forehead.
Increased familiarity had not, to Gertrude's imagination, diminished th_ysterious impressiveness of Eugenia's personality, and she felt flattered an_ransported by this little ceremony. Robert Acton also seemed to admire it, a_e admired so many of the gracious manifestations of Madame Munster's wit.
They had the privilege of making him restless, and on this occasion he walke_way, suddenly, with his hands in his pockets, and then came back and leane_gainst his column. Eugenia was now complimenting her uncle upon hi_aughter's engagement, and Mr. Wentworth was listening with his usual plai_et refined politeness. It is to be supposed that by this time his perceptio_f the mutual relations of the young people who surrounded him had become mor_cute; but he still took the matter very seriously, and he was not at al_xhilarated.
"Felix will make her a good husband," said Eugenia. "He will be a charmin_ompanion; he has a great quality—indestructible gayety."
"You think that 's a great quality?" asked the old man.
Eugenia meditated, with her eyes upon his. "You think one gets tired of it, eh?"
"I don't know that I am prepared to say that," said Mr. Wentworth.
"Well, we will say, then, that it is tiresome for others but delightful fo_ne's self. A woman's husband, you know, is supposed to be her second self; s_hat, for Felix and Gertrude, gayety will be a common property."
"Gertrude was always very gay," said Mr. Wentworth. He was trying to follo_his argument.
Robert Acton took his hands out of his pockets and came a little nearer to th_aroness. "You say you gain by being known," he said. "One certainly gains b_nowing you."
"What have you gained?" asked Eugenia.
"An immense amount of wisdom."
"That 's a questionable advantage for a man who was already so wise!"
Acton shook his head. "No, I was a great fool before I knew you!"
"And being a fool you made my acquaintance? You are very complimentary."
"Let me keep it up," said Acton, laughing. "I hope, for our pleasure, tha_our brother's marriage will detain you."
"Why should I stop for my brother's marriage when I would not stop for m_wn?" asked the Baroness.
"Why should n't you stop in either case, now that, as you say, you hav_issolved that mechanical tie that bound you to Europe?"
The Baroness looked at him a moment. "As I say? You look as if you doubte_t."
"Ah," said Acton, returning her glance, "that is a remnant of my old folly! W_ave other attractions," he added. "We are to have another marriage."
But she seemed not to hear him; she was looking at him still. "My word wa_ever doubted before," she said.
"We are to have another marriage," Acton repeated, smiling.
Then she appeared to understand. "Another marriage?" And she looked at th_thers. Felix was chattering to Gertrude; Charlotte, at a distance, wa_atching them; and Mr. Brand, in quite another quarter, was turning his bac_o them, and, with his hands under his coat-tails and his large head on on_ide, was looking at the small, tender crescent of a young moon. "It ought t_e Mr. Brand and Charlotte," said Eugenia, "but it does n't look like it."
"There," Acton answered, "you must judge just now by contraries. There is mor_han there looks to be. I expect that combination one of these days; but tha_s not what I meant."
"Well," said the Baroness, "I never guess my own lovers; so I can't gues_ther people's."
Acton gave a loud laugh, and he was about to add a rejoinder when Mr.
Wentworth approached his niece. "You will be interested to hear," the old ma_aid, with a momentary aspiration toward jocosity, "of another matrimonia_enture in our little circle."
"I was just telling the Baroness," Acton observed.
"Mr. Acton was apparently about to announce his own engagement," said Eugenia.
Mr. Wentworth's jocosity increased. "It is not exactly that; but it is in th_amily. Clifford, hearing this morning that Mr. Brand had expressed a desir_o tie the nuptial knot for his sister, took it into his head to arrange that, while his hand was in, our good friend should perform a like ceremony fo_imself and Lizzie Acton."
The Baroness threw back her head and smiled at her uncle; then turning, wit_n intenser radiance, to Robert Acton, "I am certainly very stupid not to hav_hought of that," she said. Acton looked down at his boots, as if he though_e had perhaps reached the limits of legitimate experimentation, and for _oment Eugenia said nothing more. It had been, in fact, a sharp knock, and sh_eeded to recover herself. This was done, however, promptly enough. "Where ar_he young people?" she asked.
"They are spending the evening with my mother."
"Is not the thing very sudden?"
Acton looked up. "Extremely sudden. There had been a tacit understanding; bu_ithin a day or two Clifford appears to have received some mysterious impuls_o precipitate the affair."
"The impulse," said the Baroness, "was the charms of your very pretty sister."
"But my sister's charms were an old story; he had always known her." Acton ha_egun to experiment again.
Here, however, it was evident the Baroness would not help him. "Ah, one can'_ay! Clifford is very young; but he is a nice boy."
"He 's a likeable sort of boy, and he will be a rich man." This was Acton'_ast experiment. Madame Munster turned away.
She made but a short visit and Felix took her home. In her little drawing-roo_he went almost straight to the mirror over the chimney-piece, and, with _andle uplifted, stood looking into it. "I shall not wait for your marriage,"
she said to her brother. "To-morrow my maid shall pack up."
"My dear sister," Felix exclaimed, "we are to be married immediately! Mr.
Brand is too uncomfortable."
But Eugenia, turning and still holding her candle aloft, only looked about th_ittle sitting-room at her gimcracks and curtains and cushions. "My maid shal_ack up," she repeated. "Bonte divine, what rubbish! I feel like a strollin_ctress; these are my 'properties.'"
"Is the play over, Eugenia?" asked Felix.
She gave him a sharp glance. "I have spoken my part."
"With great applause!" said her brother.
"Oh, applause—applause!" she murmured. And she gathered up two or three of he_ispersed draperies. She glanced at the beautiful brocade, and then, "I don'_ee how I can have endured it!" she said.
"Endure it a little longer. Come to my wedding."
"Thank you; that 's your affair. My affairs are elsewhere."
"Where are you going?"
"To Germany—by the first ship."
"You have decided not to marry Mr. Acton?"
"I have refused him," said Eugenia.
Her brother looked at her in silence. "I am sorry," he rejoined at last. "Bu_ was very discreet, as you asked me to be. I said nothing."
"Please continue, then, not to allude to the matter," said Eugenia.
Felix inclined himself gravely. "You shall be obeyed. But your position i_ermany?" he pursued.
"Please to make no observations upon it."
"I was only going to say that I supposed it was altered."
"You are mistaken."
"But I thought you had signed"—
"I have not signed!" said the Baroness.
Felix urged her no further, and it was arranged that he should immediatel_ssist her to embark.
Mr. Brand was indeed, it appeared, very impatient to consummate his sacrific_nd deliver the nuptial benediction which would set it off so handsomely; bu_ugenia's impatience to withdraw from a country in which she had not found th_ortune she had come to seek was even less to be mistaken. It is true she ha_ot made any very various exertion; but she appeared to feel justified i_eneralizing—in deciding that the conditions of action on this provincia_ontinent were not favorable to really superior women. The elder world was, after all, their natural field. The unembarrassed directness with which sh_roceeded to apply these intelligent conclusions appeared to the little circl_f spectators who have figured in our narrative but the supreme exhibition o_ character to which the experience of life had imparted an inimitabl_liancy. It had a distinct effect upon Robert Acton, who, for the two day_receding her departure, was a very restless and irritated mortal. She passe_er last evening at her uncle's, where she had never been more charming; an_n parting with Clifford Wentworth's affianced bride she drew from her ow_inger a curious old ring and presented it to her with the prettiest speec_nd kiss. Gertrude, who as an affianced bride was also indebted to he_racious bounty, admired this little incident extremely, and Robert Acto_lmost wondered whether it did not give him the right, as Lizzie's brother an_uardian, to offer in return a handsome present to the Baroness. It would hav_ade him extremely happy to be able to offer a handsome present to th_aroness; but he abstained from this expression of his sentiments, and the_ere in consequence, at the very last, by so much the less comfortable. It wa_lmost at the very last that he saw her—late the night before she went t_oston to embark.
"For myself, I wish you might have stayed," he said. "But not for your ow_ake."
"I don't make so many differences," said the Baroness. "I am simply sorry t_e going."
"That 's a much deeper difference than mine," Acton declared; "for you mea_ou are simply glad!"
Felix parted with her on the deck of the ship. "We shall often meet ove_here," he said.
"I don't know," she answered. "Europe seems to me much larger than America."
Mr. Brand, of course, in the days that immediately followed, was not the onl_mpatient spirit; but it may be said that of all the young spirits intereste_n the event none rose more eagerly to the level of the occasion. Gertrud_eft her father's house with Felix Young; they were imperturbably happy an_hey went far away. Clifford and his young wife sought their felicity in _arrower circle, and the latter's influence upon her husband was such as t_ustify, strikingly, that theory of the elevating effect of easy intercours_ith clever women which Felix had propounded to Mr. Wentworth. Gertrude wa_or a good while a distant figure, but she came back when Charlotte marrie_r. Brand. She was present at the wedding feast, where Felix's gayet_onfessed to no change. Then she disappeared, and the echo of a gayety of he_wn, mingled with that of her husband, often came back to the home of he_arlier years. Mr. Wentworth at last found himself listening for it; an_obert Acton, after his mother's death, married a particularly nice youn_irl.