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Chapter 12

  • 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.